Rendering unto Caesar.

I’ve been following the talk in the comments about the price of car insurance wherever everybody is. People? In the words of Jame Gumb, you don’t know what pain is. Michigan has the highest-priced auto insurance in the nation, and Detroit has the highest in Michigan. We’re not in Detroit proper, but we are in the same county, and man, do we pay.

My no-collision-coverage premium on the old-ass Volvo is double what an entire year’s worth of coverage was on my brand-new VW back in Indiana. Most younger people around here pay for their coverage monthly, because a couple thousand in a six-month premium is too much for a lot of people to handle. A monthly insurance premium that costs more than a car payment is very common around here; in fact, I think I just read about a guy who surrendered his lease on a new Cadillac (payment: $540/month) because his premium was something like $560 a month — FOR INSURANCE — and he couldn’t swing it anymore.

Our premiums are due in August and March, and I DREAD August and March. Now that Kate has a car, it’s…about $2,500 extra in those months.

And Alan wonders why I want to give up my car entirely.

Oh, well. Another weekend in the books. I just paid our taxes, and I’m about to make a cherry clafoutis for the “Game of Thrones” watch party we’re attending tonight. There was actually quite a bit of discussion about how the menu should be structured — medieval-ish, with a touch of dragon fire? At one point I was committed to individual savory hand pies, because it seemed very Kingsroad Inn and Hot Pie, but finally the host decided he’d smoke a pork shoulder, so that’s the plan. I’ve never seen a pig on “Game of Thrones,” but the cruel boys at the Wall called Samwell Tarly a pig when he arrived at Castle Black, so…

Wait, you’re not into it? Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s fine. You don’t have to be in on the fun. I don’t even think this is the greatest TV show of all time, but it does have actual dragons, and I’m totally there for that. Also, it is SUCH an improvement on the books, it’s in the ‘Godfather’ Hall of Fame for Adaptations That Transcend Their Source Material, and that’s a plus. Five or six more books I won’t have to read.

I’m really — as in really, really, really — hoping next week is an improvement on the last, which sucked. It was a stung-by-gnats thing, mainly, just a thousand things piling up and conspiring to make me crazy and late and under-rested. All this is balanced by the fact we have some milestones coming up soon, too, and happy ones. Kate graduates from Michigan in just about two weeks, huzzah. We have two separate ceremonies to attend, one for her school (she’s up for an award) and the one for the whole university, in the Big House the following day. I was hoping they’d get Michelle Obama for a speaker, but it’s the governor, and I guess I’m fine with that. I hope her speech is a good one.

Friday was the open house for the senior theses, and we went to that. Kate’s thesis project was an album-length recording of her new band, recorded, mixed and mastered by her. (Here’s their Bandcamp page, with only two tracks on it, both recorded by someone else.) Her boyfriend had a show, too, featuring a dancer with sensors stuck all over her body. The sensors were tracked by cameras that triggered music, so she was essentially dancing to music her body was composing in real time. That was pretty cool, even though one of the sensors flew off in the final frenzied minutes of the performance, and landed at my feet. It was the one on her forehead; when we first saw her, Alan whispered, “What a weird piercing.”

So. On to the clafoutis. In the meantime?

“Fox brain” is a thing, and it has victims. I have many friends whose parents went from nice moderates to angry, fearful racists in a matter of months. I’m sure you do, too.

Ivanka! Everybody’s favorite Trump, discussed here. This is what a person with cotton where their brains should be does:

When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”

Has anyone told her that cultivating authenticity is an oxymoron? Guess not.

Finally, I’m finding Bernie tiresome in the extreme. That is all. Talk soon.

Posted at 5:41 pm in Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 85 Comments
 

With the swamp-drainers.

You guys. What a week. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s even possible to have two half-time jobs, but I like both of them, so I guess I’m just going to have to figure it out. But my world is a series of spinning plates. This week, it culminated with this event, which I covered, and you can read the story here, and I’d appreciate it if you did.

But if you’re rushed: It was the We Build the Wall Town Hall, a traveling grift-a-palooza that stopped in Detroit last night. A sad event. It was originally scheduled for a church in Warren, which for you out-of-towners is most definitely MAGA country, but was relocated to Detroit when they outgrew the space. The organizers claimed they had more than a thousand people registered; maybe 300 showed up. They were dwarfed by one of Cobo’s zillion-square-foot halls, but what the heck, the energy was about as high as a crowd with a median age of maybe 52 could drum up. I thought what I’ve thought many times in crowds like this: This issue is resolving itself, one funeral at a time. So many gray heads, so many canes, so many of those rolling walkers. The Bikers for Trump looked like the crowd at last summer’s Steppenwolf concert, with a titanium hip for every Harley-Davidson.

Maybe the rest were scared off by having to come to Detroit, who knows.

I went because Bannon was on the bill. I originally figured he’d be a no-show, “called away by vital business,” but there he was. You’d think he’d elevate such an event, but not really, not when he’s up there with as grifty a bunch as this. Here’s the scenario: This “We Build the Wall” GoFundMe has already raised $20.6 million. People are being given the chance to back out, but — they say — few have. But let’s say have $10 million to spend. For this sum, they intend to put up parts of a wall, on private property. How easy would it be to slip away with a big chunk of that? I say not very.

Bannon is independently wealthy; he doesn’t need to hustle old people for $5 contributions. He still considers himself a person of ideas and vision. What is he doing up there with Sheriff Clarke? Just organizing? Someone with a more devious political mind, chime in. I’m really interested.

One of the books I’m reading these days is Michael Lewis’ “The Fifth Risk,” about the Trump administration’s abandonment of a critical job — staffing the parts of the government people don’t think about until they fail. It’s terrifying. Lewis concentrates on one department — Energy — but I thought of the FAA when I read this headline: Trump wanted his personal pilot to head the FAA. The critical job is still vacant amid Boeing fallout.

Lewis makes the case that not only do these departments do what everybody hates, OMG REGULATION, but play critical roles interacting with private industry in guiding that which they oversee. Running a major federal agency is not the same as flying a plane, but I guess that’s too hard to see.

Man, what a week. I’m outta here. Have a great weekend, and back on Sunday/Monday.

Posted at 12:29 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 32 Comments
 

And now, the shadow.

A big local-news talker dropped Friday morning, and bear with me, because I’m going to try to make my comments about it universal. So here goes, the first five grafs:

Former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell had a Hall of Fame career and a marriage to match.

Friends and strangers alike marveled at the love he and his wife, Lulu, shared for almost 70 years.

But their fairy-tale family included a large dose of heartache, most of it unseen and much of it unseemly.

Oakland County court records show that for years, the couple’s four children have been beset by infighting and impatience for their inheritance from parents often unable to say no.

The children point fingers at family lawyers. The lawyers point back with allegations of unpaid bills, missing money and alleged mistreatment of Lulu, who battled dementia for years before dying March 1 at age 99. She was more or less broke.

It’s hard to overstate what a beloved figure Harwell was in Detroit. Mitch Albom, no stranger to lavish print-smooching, can hardly restrain himself when he writes about him. Of course, like another dead old man, Harwell has been good for Mitch’s bottom line — he wrote a play, “Ernie,” that runs every year through baseball season at a theater across the street from the ballpark. I saw it a few years back; it’s not terrible, but Mitch only paints in primary colors, and only pretty-pretty ones. The play works for what it is, a nostalgia-wallow that makes everyone cry, then time for a beer before the first pitch. (Almost everyone cries, that is; this was me.)

To give you a taste of how he handles all things Harwell: His column upon Lulu’s death earlier this month may out-Mitch even Mitch.

And like I said, Harwell was beloved.

He had a Georgia drawl and an easy patter, plus a bottomless well of folksy expressions he could summon at the crack of a bat. (No, I’m not going to look them up for you; that’s what the internet is for.) Plus he did seem, from all accounts, to be genuine and modest and charming. He was one of those personalities made for a time when baseball was coming out of the transistor radio on the back steps as you washed the car.

But even though he is routinely called a saint, no mortal actually is a saint. Everyone has flaws. Everyone. What’s more, our flaws are what make us interesting — the tension between light and dark, how we reconcile the two. If I were teaching feature writing, I’d do a whole unit on how to balance the good stuff with the less-good stuff, how to ask about it, that sort of thing. How to add, with words, what the Italians call chiaroscuro, the shadows that give the light dimension.

Conversely, this is also something to remember when considering straight-news stories, especially those about people who have suffered a misfortune: There are no perfect victims, either. When you find yourself detaching from the plight of a person screwed over by a corrupt system because she worked as a stripper or smoked weed or whatever, you’re forgetting what the greater sin is.

The Harwell marriage, so recently aired in Lulu’s obituary, was close and loving and long-lived. Assuming this story is correct, it also gave the world what seem to be four terrible children, or at least three. While Ernie left a tidy estate, it was hardly substantial, and he devoutly wanted his widow cared for after his death. That was expensive, and ate the money one bite at a time. But his children? One nickel-and-dimed his elderly mom to cover his own financial failings. One billed her conservator for “caregiving,” 24 hours a day, whenever he traveled to Michigan to visit her. Another was emotionally abusive. The fourth seems a cut above the rest, but who knows.

From the tweeting around this, I get the feeling this was an open secret among sports journalists. And yet, this appears to be the first reporting on it. That’s…not good. But also not surprising.

The weekend is nearly upon us, but I still have some work to do, so best get to it.

So much to blog about, but who has the time? Manafort, Fox News, all of it. Let’s stick with this, headlined, “Melania chooses spaghetti.” In which we learn a Fox host referred to FLOTUS as “Lady M” throughout their interview, a very strange thing.

Supposed to rise well above freezing Saturday. Here’s hoping. Have a good weekend, all.

Posted at 2:01 pm in Detroit life, Media | 78 Comments
 

Dirty.

In my haste to be a big smartypants about Jussie Smollett, I forgot to tell you about the Dirty Show. It’s an art show that runs over two weekends and is, surprise surprise, dirty. Erotic, I guess you’d call it, although dirty probably fits better.

About 15 percent of the art was decent, most was campy/mediocre/whatever and the rest was porn, but artistic. I guess this would fall in the first category:

But you don’t go to the Dirty Show to look at the art on the walls, scratch your chin and say hmm, interesting. You go to see the other stuff, and to people-watch. It rarely disappoints in that area; half the burlesque dancers in the Midwest show up, and the crowd tries to keep up. When I was getting dressed for the evening, I thought, what the hell, let’s do something fun, so I picked a crimson bra out of the drawer and, first, thought to wear it alone under a blazer, ’70s-supermodel style. But it was cold, and I chickened out, and added a rather sheer top. I felt scandalous leaving the house, but within five minutes of scanning the crowd, realized I was wearing the Dirty Show equivalent of a navy polo shirt and mom jeans. As I often say after Theatre Bizarre: “I had no idea so many women in Detroit own corsets.” Corsets galore, as well as pasties, bare-ass thongs with fishnets, all that stuff. A guy led a woman in a wheelchair around with a leash. A woman led a man around on a leash. I waited in line for the restroom behind a woman in bondage gear and a nun’s wimple.

It was quite the crowd. No John Waters this year, but a good time just the same.

So.

Not long after I wrote Monday’s entry about spotting bullshit, it occurred to me where I’ve read quite a few unbelievable stories in recent years: Accounts of human trafficking. I read a piece about a sex trafficking victim, who described her ordeal: Kidnapped at 15, thrown into an attic with two other women, chained by the ankle, and forced to stay there, sleeping on a pallet and using a bucket for elimination, for a year. A year. No baths, no breaks, “15 to 40 men a day,” just brought in one after another to rape the girls on their pallets. It’s possible. But it doesn’t pass the smell test, and I’ve heard verified stories about chained women. A year? It’s hard to believe that not one guy wouldn’t feel a pang of post-coital remorse and drop a dime to the police, that word wouldn’t spread.

And how often these stories are detail-free, so none can be verified with family or law enforcement, everyone mysteriously dead or gone somehow. And how often these stories are published by Christian presses, and feature redemption/conversion narratives late in the story. And how often these stories are only about sex trafficking, when we know that labor trafficking is just as big a problem, but somehow it’s all white girls forced into prostitution, never brown girls forced into agricultural labor, or domestic servitude.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said often: Human trafficking is real, and a serious problem. But it can’t be addressed without good data about the extent of the problem. And we’re nowhere close to understanding it.

OK, all. More snow expected overnight, followed by ice, followed by rain. Just another day in paradise. Stay warm.

Posted at 9:17 pm in Detroit life, Popculch | 102 Comments
 

The edge of NyQuil.

Excuses, excuses. Insert your favorite here, as all are true: I’ve been busy I’ve been tired I’ve been listless it’s been cold it’s going to be colder and now? NOW? I’m getting sick. Just a cold, but I don’t get them often, so it feels like ebola.

Also, I’m the self-pitying sort. But you all know that.

But people? Any day you can wake up to the news of Roger Stone’s indictment is a pretty good day.

I’m disappointed in the CNN-exclusive video, however. I wanted to see him frog-marched out in his Hugh Hefner smoking jacket and bunny slippers, but I guess you take what you get.

I’m going to suck down some Dayquil and prepare for the day. A longer read today, for the weekend:

My friend Bill, retired but a storyteller to the bone, crafts a great one in the course of retirement-editing the Dearborn Historian, a quarterly published by the city of Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit. Locals and the better-informed may know it as the home of Ford Motor Co., and the longtime home of its founder, Henry Ford. People who know their history know Ford was an anti-Semite, as well, a common prejudice for his time.

Anyway, 2019 is the 100-year anniversary of Ford’s purchase of the Dearborn Independent, a failing weekly newspaper, which he then transformed into an amplifier of his beliefs. This passage, early on, amazed me:

In 1931, two years before he became the German chancellor, Adolf Hitler gave an interview to a Detroit News reporter in his Munich office, which featured a large portrait of Ford over the desk of the future führer. The reporter asked about the photo.

“I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” Hitler told the News.

What makes this relevant today is this wrinkle: Ford and his confederates published the Independent’s contents in three books, known collectively as “The International Jew.” And they did so without copyright, so anyone could republish them. And they did, and do, to this day. Ford’s name and ideas (which he almost certainly didn’t write himself) turn up time and again on white-nationalist websites like Stormfront, and “The International Jew” is still in print and available for purchase via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, et al.

It’s a good read, on the longer side but not that bad. Take you half an hour, tops.

Oh, and one more by me, after I attended a press conference featuring John Sinclair, a Detroit radical from back in the day. Was going for a certain Talk of the Town voice here; don’t know if I succeeded.

On to the Dayquil. Fortunately, I have this to read and chortle over:

Republican senators clashed with one another and confronted Vice President Pence inside a private luncheon on Thursday, as anger hit a boiling point over the longest government shutdown in history.

“This is your fault,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at one point, according to two Republicans who attended the lunch and witnessed the exchange.

“Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?” McConnell snapped back, according to the people who attended the lunch.

And this. OK, gotta scoot. Good weekends, all.

Posted at 8:50 am in Current events, Detroit life | 49 Comments
 

Sequins dead ahead.

We were hit by the same snowstorm y’all were hit by this weekend, but fortunately it was a) under 6 inches; and b) waited until Saturday, which is a good thing. Hate commuting during a major snowfall.

Regrettably, it was followed by a temperature plunge, so out of the closet comes the Parka of Tribulation for an unknown period of time. It was 3 above zero when I got up this morning, and while it will get into the high 20s during the week, next weekend looks pretty grim, too.

But this is winter. Make soup.

Fortunately there was no snow when women had to get to Cobo in heels for the auto show Charity Preview, so let’s get to the pix, eh?

This is an Infiniti concept something-or-other. Alan notes that it cannot be left outdoors in the rain, because it will fill up like a bathtub. Very nice design, though:

And right next to it, another Infiniti concept, this one a sedan. Because every back seat needs a bud vase, don’t you agree? Also love the suicide doors and the steering — thing, because it’s not a wheel — that retracts into the dash. I assume this is a concept for the autonomous era.

On to Kia’s new concept-but-bound-for-production model, the Telluride, its three-row SUV. J.C., please be advised that the video wall had all that falling water animated, to remind you of the streams you will be able to ford in your rugged machine:

But you probably won’t want to use this one, because you’ll mess up the fine bespoke leather work on that spare-tire cover. Note the ladder, so you can get on the roof and glass the distant lions on the savannah. Again, mind the leather and those million-dollar suitcases.

Not to spend too much time in Kia-ville, but I liked the color juxtapositions here:

We were making our way steadily to Subaru, having heard from a reliable source that their display featured puppies. Nope. Only one dog, reppin’ a Subaru trait as popular as the gay-friendly thing — they’re beloved by those who own big-ass dogs.

The dog came courtesy of the Michigan Humane Society, of course. She wore a pink bow tie on her collar, because it was a formal event.

This will be the last show in January, and it showed — besides the disgraced VW, there were no European brands on the floor. This freed up space for what Alan derided as “used-car lots,” although they were extremely luxury-focused lots, with Lambos and McLarens and all those rich-D-bag models, including this BMW.

Remember Miss Michigan? She made a splash last fall when she introduced herself at the Miss America pageant like so. She was there, and mobbed by people wanting selfies, but I was able to get a few words in with her. She’s not only a badass, she has a nose ring and TWO tattoos. She said she was having a blast now that Miss A is over and she can just “do the fun stuff, like this.” Miss Michigan, Emily Sioma:

I entertained Alan’s young colleague with stories of covering the Miss A pageant back in the early ’80s. A very different time, in so many ways.

Everybody loves a sexy-ass Corvette, so here’s a Corvette with a sexy ass. Alan said, “They don’t cost as much as you might think.” He pulled out his phone, scrolled for a minute, and said, “They start at $56,000.” The turntable brought the product specialist into view, and I said, “What does this one cost, as equipped?”

“$135,000,” she replied. OK, then.

Here’s that color again, this time on a Camaro. At least you can find it in a parking lot:

And here it is reflected in the amazingly shiny dress of one of the floor photographers. Year after year, I notice the real risk-takers, fashion-wise, are African Americans. I missed a lot of good outfits because I couldn’t deploy the camera fast enough, but this lady will have to do. She had matching boots, too.

And that’s it for your car-show roundup. Signing off with a self-portrait, because Alan only took one picture of me and it was terrible. Guess I’ll have to wear the dress again soon.

Until June 2020! Although this stupid blog will be back later in the week.

Posted at 12:26 pm in Detroit life | 92 Comments
 

The gallop at midweek.

It’s still Wednesday, isn’t it?

Crazy beginning of the week, but at least it went pretty fast. Lots of work makes for flying hours. Two links you might consider hitting, before we start, both by me: A visit to the “Harvard of Santa schools,” with a former Hoosier; and some strict inside-baseball stuff for Detroiters, a quick-turnaround piece on a local scandalette.

Traffic is important in this job, and we’re trying to build a readership. So click and then come back. We’ll wait.

The Santa piece was fun. Ann, the woman at the beginning and end, used to read my column back in the Fort, her hometown. If you went to the Holly Trolley this past weekend, you saw her around town. She connected with me on Facebook a while back, and when this chance to go to Santa school in Michigan came up, she dropped a line. Serendipity.

So, hope you all are doing fine. I’m trying to get my Christmas ducks in a row, with the idea of having my shopping 90 percent done after this weekend. Then, to do the baking, although based on how my waistbands feel after this past weekend, maybe it’s best to delay that a while and go for roasted vegetables for a few days. Alan got me a sous vide for my birthday, and I made my first ribeye the other night. It was good, but too rare, even though the meat thermometer said it was ready. I ground the leftovers the next day and made shepherd’s pie for one (Alan had to work late). Very good. I look forward to exploring the wonderful world of eggs this weekend.

I also committed to my first swim meet, sometime in January. I’m not a fast swimmer, so I expect utter humiliation, but I will power through, as that is my sole virtue — doggedness. I show up, I put in the time, but I just don’t get any faster. Ah, well. The Olympic team needn’t call me up.

Which reminds me: If you’re a podcast listener, I highly recommend “Believed,” which dropped a few weeks ago from Michigan Radio. You can find it in the usual places. It’s about the Larry Nassar case, which I followed closely, but I’m still learning things I didn’t know from these stories. It’s very good at delving into some of the psychology behind these stories, particularly questions like, how could these young women not realize they’d been assaulted? How could this happen with their own parents in the room? And how could so many parents hear their daughters trying to tell them what happened, and still not respond appropriately? You’ll leave with more compassion for the flawed people in the world. (Although not for Nassar.)

As long as we’re back to bloggage, two more quick recommendations, and then I’m out.

Funny: Alexandra Petri on Melania’s bloody Christmas forest. Very funny.

Not funny at all: Laura Trujillo’s account of her mother’s suicide and its aftermath. Painful enough to read that if this issue is painful for you, it might be too painful. My grandfather committed suicide when my mother was 10, and it’s an act that I believe reverberates in our family to this day. But I learned a lot about suicide, and it’s absolutely beautifully written. Thanks to Hank for recommending it.

Time to draw the curtain on Wednesday and maybe eat some pizza. Talk later.

Posted at 7:11 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 82 Comments
 

The balm of b.s.

Believe it or not — and I had a hard time believing it myself — I saw David Brooks speak yesterday, and I enjoyed it.

One of the organizations I work for, the policy group, wrapped its pre-election work, and yesterday was an uncharacteristically light day. So I decamped for the CityLab conference downtown. There wasn’t much news being made, but the speakers moved through quickly and some were interesting, and then, whaddaya know, here’s David Brooks, and he’s talking about mending the social fabric.

Apparently he’s joined the Aspen Institute as some sort of adjunct, and his initiative is called Weave — get it? Fabric? — and he gave the 20-minute version of his speech about it. There were a lot of impossible-to-verify statistics (35 percent of Americans are lonely), and some heartwarming anecdotes about communities coming together to lift up children, but at the end, you couldn’t help but think: Mensch. I mean, yeah, you can pick it apart and think we need a truth and reconciliation commission before we can start weaving, or whatever. But on a Monday afternoon, after a gruesome week? I was happy to let it wash over me.

Maybe a balm of bullshit. But it beat the alternative, i.e., reality.

So, a few items of bloggage today:

When I heard Whitey Bulger was dead in prison at 89, of course I figured he’d had a heart attack or stroke or something. Nope, a beatdown. Mercy. What does it take to kill at 89 year old man? I wouldn’t think much. Tough old bastard to last that long in the first place.

Did you ever think you’d see a time when the president of the whole damn U.S. of A. would arrive in a city, and the usual bigwigs would pass on even meeting him? Remember Jan Brewer’s finger in Obama’s face? Seems like a kiss on the cheek.

Two women from Detroit were raped in a Jamaican resort last month. Today, the reporter who wrote the story in the Freep followed it up with a piece on how often that happens in Jamaica, even in gated, all-inclusive resorts, where guests presumably feel safe. A terrifying story that I’d consider if I were planning a Caribbean vacation.

Posted at 9:49 pm in Current events, Detroit life | 77 Comments
 

Overnight sensations.

Late update today — sorry. Been a rather busy week, but as often happens when we gallop through Monday and Tuesday, things are improving.

I have a story in Deadline Detroit today; it turns out the filmmakers who made that video for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are not only Detroiters, but I already know one of them. She used to work for the advocacy firm where Bridge had its Lansing office for a spell, so I mainly recall her as one of the young people who worked in the bullpen, who I sometimes chatted with on my way to the coffeepot or giant vat of peanut butter-stuffed pretzel nuggets. (That is a disgusting-sounding snack, I know, but I tried one and soon was filling a bowl with them to furtively carry back upstairs. I’d never buy them, however, because I’d fear the disapproval of others in the checkout line.)

Anyway, Naomi’s reaction to the 2016 election was to start attending socialist-feminism discussion groups, which led in a more or less linear fashion to her quitting her job and starting a new media company for socialist candidates. And that led them to make the Ocasio-Cortez video, which is fantastic and partially credited for her success.

Predictably, the comments on the story are whack. I thought of contributing to the discussion, drafted a comment, then trashed it because why engage, and on the internet of all places. I’ll paste it here, just to get it out of my system:

Hi, everyone. As the writer of this piece, I think some of you are overlooking an important point: It’s easy to make fun of socialism. So many spectacular failures, yes. But you are also forgetting what led to it, and why it’s appealing to so many younger people. The Gilded Age and industrial revolution after the Civil War led to an era of great wealth for the few, while the working class toiled in backbreaking labor, for little money and with few to no protections, as a nervous middle class looked on and wrung their hands.

(Yes, an oversimplification. Bear with me.)

Many of these young people talking up Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others are graduating from college — if they went to college — with mortgage-size debt into a gig economy with a shrinking middle class, exploding wealth for the top tier, and a political class that simply *does not hear them.*

You look at her platform and say it’s crazy. Medicare for all? Every Western democracy has some form of universal health care that won’t impoverish those who need it. Free public college? Maybe not four years’ worth, but a two-year associates degree wrapped into a slightly longer term in high school — all paid for from the school aid fund — is called middle college, it’s happening in Michigan, and you should google it.

Judicial reform? When poor people sit in county jails for nonviolent offenses because they can’t afford $500 bail, that doesn’t seem crazy. Housing as a human right? Good news, kids! All the decent jobs are in those cool big cities you like so much. Bad news, kids! Rent is a zillion dollars a month, and even your decent-job salary won’t cover that. Also, those cool cities need bartenders, teachers, waiters and so on, so that Ivanka’s apartment can be kept clean and her children minded while mom’s at work. But for those people? Womp-womp.

My point: This doesn’t sound crazy to people who are dealing with these realities. And what is the reaction? Sneering at those who didn’t major in STEM fields, because if you studied art history you *deserve* to be poor, losers! (One of the most successful people I know, a C-suite vertical blur, majored in English lit. He says analyzing poetry and novels taught him problem-solving skills he employs every day.) Health insurance for those gig employees? You can’t have that, because Obamacare = tyranny. Help with housing? Get a couple roommates, or move to the ex-ex-exurbs and enjoy the 90-minute commute. Judicial reform? You should have thought of that before you rode your bike on the sidewalk, or talked back to a policeman (Blue lives matter!!!) or sold a couple joints to an undercover officer.

And so on. I’m not taking a stand here, and I realize that wading into any internet comment section is a waste of time. (I’m also not going to engage with any of you further, because see previous sentence.) I’m only making a plea for empathy, to try to step out of your own shoes and into someone else’s. You can learn a lot.

It wouldn’t have done any good, of course. Which is why I deleted it.

God, the last 48 hours have been a blur. Clemency for the Oregon rancher/arsonists. NATO. Kavanaugh. Where to start? I don’t think I will. Instead, let’s be stupid on this fine July afternoon. A screen cap from the Axios newsletter a couple days ago, because I don’t have a Wall Street Journal subscription:

There’s a restaurant around the corner that does this with hot chocolate, inserting skewers laden with doughnuts, cookies, gigantic marshmallows and stuff like that, drizzled with chocolate syrup. I see a lot of kids in there who seem to be celebrating birthdays; maybe next they’ll balance an entire chocolate cake on top. But adults are supposed to know better. A $55 bloody mary! Surely we’re in the end times.

Some commenter-community news: Snarkworth has published a book – “Same River Twice,” available in the usual places. I haven’t read it, so I have no opinions about it other than Books Are Good, and Writing Books Is So Hard That They Should All Be Celebrated. (Unless we’re talking about Dick Cheney’s memoirs, or whatever.) Congratulations, Snarkworth. Now go write the next one.

Posted at 3:36 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Housekeeping | 77 Comments
 

Substitute grandma.

Hello from Sunday, the last day of what has been a perfect summer weekend — the heat blew out, the sun remained, and the humidity has been low and tolerable for three whole days now.

Tomorrow it will be 90 again. Sigh.

I hope you all had a good one. I spent Saturday seeing friends from Ohio, in town for a wedding. I babysat their grandson while they all danced the night away at the Detroit Athletic Club. Ezra is nine months old, and quite the little charmer, as you’d expect. He was really getting his crawl on, and as even a high-end hotel suite is not baby proof, it was a few hours of following him around, cupping my hand around the razor-sharp edges of tables, redirecting his urge to pull on electrical cords and improvising toys out of things like empty water bottles. (It’s a great toy — lightweight plastic can be intriguingly crushed by even an infant, and it makes a great crackling sound. If you feel inclined to lecture me about BPAs shedding or some such, keep it to yourself. He found it delightful.)

As it’s been a while since I went through this, I was amazed by all the changes in child-rearing customs and technology. Ezra is still pretty much entirely formula-fed, eating mushy vegetables only as “practice food,” his grandmother said. Rice cereal? Has been shown the door by contemporary mothers. Something about arsenic; I had no idea. But the real revelation was the Baby Brezza, aka the Keurig for infant formula. You dump the powder in the top, the water in a reservoir on the side, select a temperature and amount, stick the bottle under the spout and press a button. You get a warm bottle in seconds. Screw on the top, give it a shake and serve. Amazing.

But Ezra, being curious as all babies are, was happiest when I plopped him into his stroller and took him outside. We started at a community garden outside the hotel, but what really made him happy was to get into the thick of things down around Campus Martius, in the heart of downtown. And with a Tigers game and various summer activities in full swing, it really was the thick of things — it was like the old D-Day photos down there. The fountains! The music playing on restaurant patios! People everywhere! He was thrilled. So we walked, and walked, and walked, and today my feet are sore. But he was a happy little guy.

Of course, even New Detroit has a certain amount of the Old in it:

I’ll tell you one thing Saturday did — I checked out of the news for almost 18 whole hours. That made absorbing the NYT this morning a little more like times of old. I’m now following the Thai cave rescue, which is, if you can believe this, a pleasant break from paying attention to ol’ what’s-his-name. At least four out as I write this, with fingers crossed for all of them, soon. How nerve-wracking that must be for all involved. Every one of those Ezras has a mom who is worried to the edge of hysteria. All hopes for a good outcome to the last one.

Happy start of the week to all. Heat notwithstanding.

EDIT: OK, so given today’s topic, I have to include this jaw-dropper, about the U.S. upending a U.N. resolution encouraging breast-feeding. Is there anything this horrible bunch won’t do? Ahem:

American officials sought to water down the resolution by removing language that called on governments to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” and another passage that called on policymakers to restrict the promotion of food products that many experts say can have deleterious effects on young children.

When that failed, they turned to threats, according to diplomats and government officials who took part in the discussions. Ecuador, which had planned to introduce the measure, was the first to find itself in the cross hairs.

The Americans were blunt: If Ecuador refused to drop the resolution, Washington would unleash punishing trade measures and withdraw crucial military aid. The Ecuadorean government quickly acquiesced.

Every day, a new nightmare. Sigh.

Posted at 11:36 am in Detroit life | 81 Comments