How did we get here?

Although it came up by surprise, I’ve been thinking about the blogversary lately. When I started this in January 2001, I never, ever, ever thought it would go on this long. I feel like I started skiing down a very long hill and haven’t reached the bottom yet. Blogs hadn’t even gotten hot yet, then. I was an early adopter. Then 9/11 happened, and everybody had a blog – remember? The “warblogs,” every other one written by an asshole? Then the warbloggers beamed up to what was then called the MSM, or moved on to their own companies like, what was that? Pajamas Media? Yeesh.

Then blogs pretty much went away entirely, and it was all about social media. Now it’s Substacks and newsletters, which are just blogs in different form.

And on and on, NN.C grinds. As Laura Lippman once wrote, I never met a rut I couldn’t love.

Not that it’s been a rut. Now that there are, whoa, 21 years of archives over there on the left rail, I have an imperfect record of them. It’s not a journal; I can’t live entirely online. But it’s interesting to see how things change, what was upsetting me in…2007 or so. I admit that from time to time I think about chucking it all, maybe writing a book. But if I did write a book, I’d need a place to promote it, so…on I plug.

Glad you all who are here still show up to check it out. Admittedly, I haven’t checked my analytics in more than a decade. This might be a very thinly attended cocktail party, after all.

I should have more to say, but I’m out of gas. It’s been a long week, and now it’s cold again. For 10 days it’ll be like this, we’re promised. Ugh.

Something to read: Me, on the No. 1 asshole car in Metro Detroit — and many other cities.

Have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:25 pm in Housekeeping | 60 Comments

Schedule wonked out.

Greetings, somewhat late today. I had my second shot yesterday, then came home to write something (for work) before the dread second-shot side effects set in, and that ate up my blogging time.

You can read the thing I wrote here. It’s a local story, but those of you who follow HGTV — hi, Pam! — might recognize one of the parties involved. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out; it’s a both-sides condemnation that actually seems justified.

And with that, I will dip out. You have a fresh thread for the weekend now. I should also add a couple housekeeping notes:

Sorry for those of you who have had comments hung up in moderation. I don’t always get to them immediately — email issues not worth getting into — and if you’d like to avoid them in the future, this is what lands you in that particular holding pen:

Posting from a different IP address, posting from a different email address or name, or putting too many links in your comment. I thought it was set at two links, but maybe just keep it to one to be safe. And if you end up there, feel free to comment again, double-checking the stuff I just mentioned.

Let’s all hold hands and have a little cry for Prince Philip, too. I’ll be back Sunday/Monday, on schedule, I devoutly hope.

By the way, I’m still waiting for the side effects. Sore arm is it, so far, at 25 hours post-shot.

Posted at 2:01 pm in Detroit life, Housekeeping | 55 Comments

Happy anniversary to us.

Wednesday — or maybe it’s Thursday — will be the 20-damn-year anniversary of this stupid blog. Why am I still here? What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve been doing this so long that I was ahead of the curve to even start a blog, plowed through when they collapsed, and now anticipate another swell, now that the psychopaths are being kicked off the social-media platforms.

J.C. got me into this. His blog is still alive, but it has gone into hibernation for months at a time, hell, maybe years. He recently resurrected it, but the last entry was a month ago, so: I guess I win.

I mention J.C. because in my estate folder, there’s an envelope with his name on it. It contains the passwords to all my social media accounts, and bequeaths the millions and millions of words here to him. If he survives me, I ask that he kill my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever other social-media foolishness I get myself into, and in return, he can do whatever he wants with this thing. Publish it as the world’s longest book, download it to a hard drive and fire it into the sun, whatever he thinks best.

But who knows when that will happen? For now, we celebrate! Open the champagne! Put on some peppy tunes! And let’s hope we’re still here in 2021. Alan will be around shortly with the canapés.

But I guess most of you would rather discuss the other momentous event happening Wednesday. I gotta say, every photo I see of Trump looking defeated and pouty is like sweet sweet her-oyne going right up the main line. I expect at least one network I can get via Hulu will cover it live, and if not, there’s always the internet. But I want to see this on a wiiiide screen. It’s not porn; porn would be any Trump or cabinet member taking a perp walk in handcuffs. But it’ll do.

Speaking of deep satisfaction, check this out: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran an editorial calling for Sen. Ron Johnson to resign. He bitched and demanded a response, which they allowed him to submit. But! The editors footnoted it. It’s hilarious.

Oh, and this: The just-released 1776 report? Has a major cut-and-paste section.

Read it between swearings-in. Our long national nightmare is…not over, but not quite as awful as it was maybe yesterday.

Posted at 9:00 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 140 Comments

Road trip ahead.

Housekeeping note: Posting next week will be light, as I’ll be taking off on Wednesday to visit J.C. and Sammy in the U.P., where the cell coverage — with our carrier, anyway — is very very sketchy. As I recall, if you position your phone just so in a particular corner of the cottage, you can maybe conduct a short chat if you don’t mind getting your call dropped.

But that’s fine. I could use a little break. It’s very hot here.

Before I head out, though, I got a COVID test. Just to be sure. I went to the city of Detroit’s drive-through testing center, and besides the setting — the ruins of the state fairgrounds — it was an entirely pleasant experience. The whole thing ran like a Swiss watch.

It was sad to see the fairgrounds, though. I grew up in a state-fair town, and looked forward to it all summer, even as I knew that the arrival of the state fair meant summer was in its final stretch. But what a stretch — it was like the finale of a fireworks show, full of corn on the cob and Tom Thumb donuts and grandstand shows and barns full of blue-ribbon livestock and…so much more. Admittedly, the Michigan state fair was never a match for Ohio’s, but I was an adult by then. I took Kate a few times, and got to go through the Poultry, Rabbits and Pigeons building, among many others.

But the state subsidy was cut off during the financial crisis, and what remains of the state fair now meets in a horrible exurban convention center, while the O.G. fairgrounds slowly decay.

The test was…pretty much as expected. A swab goes a mile up your nose, and just at the point you’re knocking your shoes together and ready to scream, it comes out and you’re on your way. Hope to get the results before I roll north.

So I wish you a good weekend, and maybe you’ll be ready to read this: An oral-history retelling of the first Gathering of the Juggalos, 20 years ago this month. It was quite something, got the band banned from the Novi convention center, and sparked this recollection, among others:

We arrived that morning of the Gathering, our bus pulled in at like 7 or 8 in the morning. And we got down to the venue and the line was already 3.5 miles long. I thought we were going to get there and there would be 300 people, it was a pleasant surprise to see that I wasn’t the only one, and to see that wow, there’s people all over the world that are just like me. As different as we are, we have that common band, and it felt like a family.

It’s not like a family. It is a family. A dysfunctional one, but still.

Posted at 8:51 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 61 Comments

Some thoughts at week’s end.

OK, then! Back-to-back 12-hour days, my legs are sore, I feel fat as hell and now, god help me, I’m taking advantage of the next hour or so by watching a Tyler Perry movie on Amazon.

I don’t think I’ve ever watched a Tyler Perry movie. Some people I kinda-sorta knew when the film tax credits were going strong in Michigan now work a lot in Georgia, and they work in Perry’s film factory quite a bit. And a factory it is, pumping out morality plays, but what the hell, it’s a living. The people I know who work on films have a different measure of whether one is any good. Do the checks clear? Then it’s good. Good enough, anyway.

Boy, does this movie suck. Have you ever heard of a simple car accident not bad enough to crinkle a bumper giving a woman “ruptured ovaries?” Yeah, me neither. “Acrimony” — look it up. Even Taraji P. Henson can’t save it.

So now the weekend is approaching. It feels like breaking a tape, but mainly it’s just a matter of making lists of things to do, then doing them, then starting it all again next week.

I hope there will be some reading.

Some things you might be able to read:

I know you’re sick of Roseanne Barr — so am I. Worth reading, anyway.

A friend posted this on her Facebook, and the first comment was, “Nikki Haley can go fuck herself.” Headline: What it’s like living in a country where giving birth costs $60. Second graf:

It started when presidential candidate and longtime Medicare for All advocate Bernie Sanders tweeted that it costs an average of $12,000 to have a baby in the United States, compared to just $60 in Finland — at which point former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley decided to weigh in. “Alright @BernieSanders, you’re not the woman having the baby so I wouldn’t be out there talking about skimping on a woman when it comes to childbirth. Trust me! Nice try though,” she replied, adding, “Health care costs are too high that is true but comparing us to Finland is ridiculous. Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer.”

You know how it went, right? Finnish maternity care is superior in every way, going well beyond the famous baby box. I’m so sick of this bullshit. Nikki Haley can absolutely go fuck herself.

Here’s something I wrote the other day, about a Detroit R&B oddity who died Sunday. Deadline Detroit appreciates the clicks.

(All of the above was written Thursday night. Friday morning addendum below.)

Neil Steinberg, most definitely a top-five blogger, wrote something the other day that kinda chilled me. After a discussion of how things end, with some elegant snatches of poetry, he dropped this:

Honestly, I read the poem and, inspired, thought of posting it here and quitting the blog cold after five years. Here, figure this out, good-bye. Because whatever the world wants, this obviously is not it. Five years is plenty.

Spoiler alert: He decides to go on. But every January I pass the anniversary of this blog, which has been going on since 2001. Not every goddamn day, but most goddamn days until recently, when I shortened it to three days a week and lately it’s coming in at two. Honestly, this has been a tough winter for me, and there have been days, many of them, when I just want to pack it in. This makes me worry that I’m losing some essential edge, some drive; doesn’t a writer write because they have to? I mean, because it’s an urge, not an obligation? If I’m dry, then this is it, right? Retirement, a rocking chair, Social Security and a final wave en route to the grave? My friends are starting to retire, and an amazing number of them (which is to say, two or three) have expressed a desire to never, ever do what they did all their careers. No hobby journalism for them. They’re out, and happy to be out.

It has to end sometime. Steinberg’s been doing this five years, I’ve been at it for 18. Eighteen years when I should have been writing books, right? But so many of the people I know who write books don’t have an audience at all — they’ve dropped their work into a well of sorts, all that work for one or two respectful reviews and then, nothing. At least here I have feedback. And it’s a discipline, and that is very important for writers. Laura Lippman does 1,000 words a day. You can fritter away a lifetime intending to write, but not doing it. It’s a muscle. It needs exercise.

But man, am I tired. And it’s snowing.

I’m not quitting. And I’m not fishing for encouragement. I’m just giving you an update on why I’ve been scarce here. The blog will go on, but one day it won’t. (I’ve actually added a short letter to our estate paperwork, bequeathing the contents of this blog, all XX years of blather, comments, links, dustups, changes, all of it – to J.C. Burns, who can do with it whatever he likes. That’s assuming he outlives me. I hope he does.)

What a merry ending, eh? I am off to the gym, to re-sore my legs. Have a great weekend, all. I will be back. Promise.

Posted at 9:33 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 36 Comments

A personal slide show.

I spent part of a busy weekend migrating my photos to Google’s photo app. I’m trying to extend the life of my phone a while longer; at four, it’s apparently ancient, at least according to the tech writers covering the new generation of iPhones, who assume everyone in the world wants a new phone every year.

Anyway, with G-photo doing auto backups at the default quality, I can delete all the ones on my phone and free up some space for more crap, like scooter-rental apps. Twice in the last week I’ve wanted to grab a scooter and spare my aching feet (plantar fasciitis acting up), only to find the available ones were from the company I don’t have the app for, dammit.

But that’s a tangent. Google photos are amazing. As soon as it synced with my phone, it started sorting everything, with almost terrifying accuracy. It recognized Kate’s face in pix taken from age 3 to present day. It recognized our old neighbor Allie with a full set of dreadlocks and a shaved head. At first it thought Spriggy and Wendy were the same dog, but once I corrected it, boom, two folders. Then, sometime overnight, it got into “things.” There are 41 Things folders; and I’m sure more are coming. It sorted food pix into Baking and Cooking. Landforms are divided by Beaches, Cliffs, Waterfalls, Caves, etc.

It’s not 100 percent accurate — it put all my sunrise pix into a folder called Sunsets, which bugged me, because what, it can spot my daughter’s eyebrows in a group picture from a homecoming dance six years ago, but not read a time stamp? The Flowers folder includes shots of a birthday cake for J.C., which included a frosting flower on top. But that cake is also in Baking, so no biggie.

It got me to spend some time with old photos this weekend, which most of us don’t do. It also dug up pix I thought had long been deleted, including this one, which I’m calling “selfies are stupid:”

(There are about three dozen selfies in my G-photo account.)

Here’s the view from the top floor of Michigan Central Station, after the official launch event Ford put on in June:

That’s going to be nice when it’s finished, assuming it gets finished.

It was a pretty good weekend — dinner with friends, a bike ride, and a Saturday-night stop at an after-hours party, whoop di do for a person who’s generally asleep by 11. I regret to say the after-hours was nothing much, though — fun enough, but I’ve been to a million of these so far, and the only difference between the legal, before-closing variety and this one was: Open marijuana smoking and nitrous balloons for recreational gas-sipping. Not my thing, although I do remember a party in Fort Wayne where a friend offered that particular canapé, and ran into his landlord when he was carrying the tank in — “Carl, I didn’t know you were a scuba diver!,” etc.

I don’t really have any bloggage today. I stopped reading Kavanaugh takes Friday afternoon, because I’m full-up and only awaiting the inevitable confirmation vote. And Kavanaugh takes were all there were to read this weekend.

Well, there was Tom & Lorenzo on Lady Gaga. I generally agree, although I think her boobs look like they’re in pain.

So let’s face the week ahead with strength and honor. It beats cowardice and scandal.

Posted at 6:45 pm in Current events, Housekeeping | 59 Comments

So long, suckers.

Another week where the news has pretty much defeated any effort to keep up with it, make sense of it, put it in context. I woke up about an hour ago and reached for my iPad to scroll Twitter and see what happened overnight. I learned:

There is potentially another Trump in the world, Qanon lunatics got into the Oval Office for photo ops this week and Infowars is telling the world that John Kerry is connected to an Antarctica energy beam that split a hurricane apart.

We booked the ticket a while back, but it appears the train has arrived in Crazytown. Please check around your immediate area for any small items you may have brought on board before you exit.

So I’m going on vacation. We’re spending a few days in Toronto. It’ll be nice to visit a sane country for a while. I intend to see Lake Ontario, eat some good food, maybe check out the racks at the big Uniqlo store, perhaps buy some skin-care serums at The Ordinary shops there. Beyond that, no plans. I will post some photos, depending on the quality of the wifi at our rental.

Haven’t had a vacation in a year. This will be nice. If they shut down the country in our absence, we will come as far as Windsor and wave at y’all. Or maybe we’ll stay in TO. Such a nice city — it’s “New York as run by the Swiss.” You ever hear that one?

I actually think about that sometimes. How I might behave in a national emergency, that is. The Handmaid’s Tale got me considering borders and the crossing thereof in a martial law-type situation. I can’t run anymore, so I’m glad we have a boat. I’m glad we have a kayak. I’m glad I can swim. I know the narrowest point in the Detroit River. Of course it’s all the sort of paranoid fantasy one considers on a long bike ride, or while turning laps in the pool, but you know, World War II wasn’t that long ago. Europeans had to decide which side they were playing for, and how they might resist if they opted to go that way. One thing I know is, if anything like that were to happen here, it would be a lot stupider, because we’d have Twitter and Fox News.

Before I leave, a few items:

The Michigan State alumni magazine, Spartan, tried to address the Larry Nassar situation in its summer issue. It was overruled from the president’s office. The student newspaper — God bless student newspapers everywhere — got a copy of one of the scratched covers. It’s remarkable. So is this passage:

The original teal-laden version of the summer 2018 MSU alumni magazine, aiming to “build a path to a better future,” was stripped down and changed to Spartan green.

The State News obtained the original special issue of the MSU alumni magazine from someone close to the administration of Interim President John Engler. This version, solely focused on ex-MSU doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse and issues surrounding it, was not distributed to alumni.

Engler scrapped the three potential covers, according the Detroit Free Press, of a woman donning teal lipstick, a single teal ribbon and a wall of 60 teal ribbons all bearing the title “Finding Our Way” from a special issue of the MSU alumni magazine.

A Spartan green background, with a quote from Engler praising the university for having emerged from its “most difficult challenge in its history,” replaced these covers.

Propaganda is everywhere. Always.

A ProPublica essay to consider: Why Manafort and Cohen Thought They’d Get Away With It. Here’s some yup-yup-yup right here:

But how anomalous are Mssrs. Manafort and Cohen? Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the IRS? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement. The FBI shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of 9/11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s. The IRS’ criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition. The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Cohen and Manafort were so brazen. They must have felt they had impunity.

Finally, I imagine John McCain will no longer be with us by the time I post again. So farewell to a man who aspired to greatness, achieved it fleetingly, was as flawed as any of us and unleashed Sarah Palin upon us. Requiesicat in pace.

When I see you again, I’ll be using plastic money. (Not a card. Canadian cash is plastic. For reals. Another innovation that, in this country, would first be blocked by the vending-machine industry and then by paranoid lunatics.)

Posted at 7:53 am in Current events, Housekeeping | 124 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

Happy holidays to all.

Hey, it’s the end of the week and I haven’t blogged for a while. Didn’t mean to blow you guys off, but I was wrapping presents and working my way through “High Maintenance,” my new favorite HBO show. Those of you who have a subscription, start with the web series of shorts, then start the main, 30-minute episodes. They’re wonderful.

I don’t really have much to say other than that. We’re off to Ohio and then back to Michigan, and as I pass by some of you, I send you greetings for whatever holiday you are celebrating. We’re past the solstice, so hey, longer days!

Here’s a Christmas photo, from the Santa Speedo Run a while back. One mile through downtown and back to the only gay sports bar in Detroit, and in fact, the only one I’ve ever been to, period. While I was there, they were showing years-old MMA fights on some of the big screens, and Janet Jackson videos on others. My kinda place:

Stay warm! I’ll be back next week.

Posted at 3:19 pm in Housekeeping, Same ol' same ol' | 44 Comments

Fear of everything but God.

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

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

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

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

It did not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a strange time to be alive.

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

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

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

The homestretch to the holidays is on.

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