The tumbrels are coming.

When I rule the world, here’s who we’re sending to the guillotines:

Jeff Zucker
Mark Burnett
Sheldon Adelson
Roger Ailes
Rupert Murdoch

That’s just the beginning of the list. I know Ailes is dead and Adelson and Murdock will likely follow him before too long, but we’ll dig up their corpses and decapitate whatever is left of them. In cases of cremation, we’ll accept a close family member.

But Burnett — that guy really rankles, especially after reading the Apprentice part of the NYT tax package:

Mark Burnett, a British television producer best known for the hit series “Survivor,” approached him with an idea for a different reality show, this one based in a boardroom. In Mr. Burnett’s vision, a cast of wannabe entrepreneurs would come to New York and compete for the approval of the Donald, with the winner to work on a Trump project. Mr. Trump eagerly agreed to host “The Apprentice” and went on to ham it up as the billionaire kingmaker, yelling “You’re fired” each week until one contestant was left.

Some of Mr. Burnett’s staff members wondered how a wealthy businessman supposedly running a real estate empire could spare the time, but they soon discovered that not everything in Mr. Trump’s world was as it appeared.

“We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture,” Bill Pruitt, one of the producers, told The New Yorker in 2018. “We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.”

Mr. Burnett wasted no time spinning the illusion of a successful and high-minded Mr. Trump, telling The Times in October 2003 that the new show was all about “Donald Trump giving back” by educating the public on how his can-do spirit had provided jobs and economic security.

“What makes the world a safe place right now?” Mr. Burnett said. “I think it’s American dollars, which come from taxes, which come because of Donald Trump.”

And that led to the licensing, the multilevel marketing schemes, and the full unleashing of hucksterism. Although I found this paragraph amusing:

Bayrock proposed to bring the Trump brand to hotels around the country and overseas, where Mr. Trump’s flamboyant taste for gold and glitz played well among wealthy foreigners with a caricatured notion of American success.

So sorry, Mark. No appeal for you. Cigarette while we wait for the tumbrel?

That was honestly one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I’m going to sit back and wait for my absentee ballot to arrive. You can read something I wrote for yesterday’s Deadline, if you like. But now I have to get to work.

Posted at 9:34 am in Current events | 88 Comments
 

One for you, 19 for me.

To answer the question on everyone’s lips: Yes. Yes, the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere paid more than $750 in federal income taxes last year. I think our daughter, the penniless struggling musician, paid more than that. Virtually everyone did.

Which is, of course, not going to make an immediate, titanic difference in the polls or anything else. Because this is the stupidest country.

But it is instructive, if you have seventh-grade reading skills:

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.

I can’t fucking stand it. But maybe we don’t have to stand it forever. Or even much longer.

Census-ing tonight was more of the same: Lots of dead-ender cases, with occasional glimpses of joy. One such case: I knock on the front door. After a few moments, the side door flies open with a loud WHO’S HERE, but not with a question mark. I peeked around the side, and there was a massive man, the size of a bison, advancing with an angry expression. I told him why I was there. WHAT’S THAT, he demanded. I explained the census and he immediately chilled. OK, we can talk about that, and we had a very productive survey.

I’ve enjoyed this interlude, but I’m looking forward to the end. I need to clean some bathrooms.

Tomorrow, more election training. Let’s get the week underway.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments
 

Dregs.

Stems and seeds and census: We’re down to the dregs these days, the houses where the case notes are likely to have four versions of subject said he wouldn’t participate or subject said he doesn’t care who gets counted or subject slammed the door in my face. All of these are, obviously, proxy cases. But even these proxy cases are long shots, in neighborhoods where all the nearby properties are vacant or boarded or have That Look that says, eh, you’re not going to luck out here.

Kate had a couple drug houses in one day last week. There was a sign on the door that read I DO NOT ACCEPT COINS OR SHORTS and she took that for a turn-around-and-head-back-to-the-car. Can’t say I blame her.

Yes, Kate is also working as an enumerator. Good money while she waits for her world to reopen. We’re all still waiting.

Two pieces of bloggage today. First, a thoughtful piece in Slate on why women, especially young women, are the new QAnon evangelists, gathered mostly via Instagram:

These accounts are growing quickly, even as Instagram tries to shut down some of the bigger players. The appeal is morally unambiguous, simultaneously frightening and reassuring, and perfectly crafted to draw in a certain slice of suburban women. There’s the psychology of the approach: Leftist discourse on these platforms can have a preacherly aspect that asserts moral truths without giving the listener the option of disagreeing. This can strike the not-yet-persuaded as condescending, bossy, or dismissive of their right to form independent judgments. Q-proselytizing folks err in the opposite direction: They tell tantalizing stories about their heartfelt conversions that are extremely light on detail and almost invariably conclude by saying, “Do your own research.” Of course this has power. It has the frisson of secrecy—find out what they’re not telling you. Most of all, it’s flattering: It expresses full faith in the reader’s abilities to discover the truth, promises a light at the end of the tunnel, and appears to invite independent verification and free inquiry. In practice, searching those hashtags tends to lead people into closed information ecosystems (and, yes, lectures) that are every bit as didactic as any “woke” explainer. The key is this: The new recruits feel that they have discovered these things.

Interesting theory. But this is dwarfed, of course, by the Barton Gellman doomscroll scare-a-thon in the Atlantic, i.e. What if Trump refuses to concede? It’s terrifying and infuriating and I can’t take out a few paragraphs to summarize. It’s all in the URL.

For a palate-cleanser, enjoy the video with this clip.

Into the weekend, the last of September. How’d that happen?

Posted at 8:49 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

Two clips, short shrift.

It’s a tired night, but I have two videos to share that I think you’ll dig.

First, a grizzly kills an elk in the Yellowstone River. It’s not as gross as you might fear. It’s just Wild Kingdom: The Director’s Cut.

Second, here’s the video for Kate’s band’s new single, and of course this is mom talking, but I think it’s pretty great. Fingers crossed — they already got a great email from KCRW, so if you’re in L.A., maybe you’ll hear them there.

Wednesday awaits.

Posted at 9:10 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Homestretch.

The census is coming down to the last 10 days, and the cases are getting harder. The way it works is: Most people respond to the form that went out in the spring. The ones who don’t get a home visit from someone like me, who, if they don’t answer the door, leaves behind a notice with a code where they can go online or call a toll-free number and do it there.

And if they still don’t respond, they become “proxy eligible,” i.e., we enumerators are obliged to knock on their neighbors’ doors, asking nosy questions about who lives next door, etc.

You can imagine how well this goes over in Detroit, especially when the questions are posed by a Karen like me.

Almost everything I had today was a proxy-eligible case. Rarely they’re easy; mostly they’re not. But the job is taking me onto some blocks where you can really see how fragile a neighborhood really is. Blight is a metastasizing cancer. I once shadowed a neighborhood manager in Detroit for a day, and he theorized that if you don’t get there early — if you don’t tear stuff down when there are maybe two rotten teeth in a row of houses — you risk being too late. Two bad houses can be cleared, and it’s a block with a couple of vacant lots, which in a still-stable neighborhood will be mowed and cared for and maybe turned into garden plots by the people who live adjacent. But if all the houses go bad, quickly, all you’re left with are those little-house-on-the prairie blocks.

Which can be very pleasant, I hasten to add. The people who stick it out often find themselves quite content, listening to pheasants and watching other natural scenes out their windows. The other day I was pulling out of a condo complex near Lafayette Park and a red fox trotted right across my path. I know they can become quite comfortable in urban environments, like their coyote cousins, but it is still startling to see.

Anyway, today I had one of those blocks. A weird one, too — one whole side of the street was 90 percent boarded, the other was maintaining. One address was easy, a godsend even, as it was being restored and the owner was there. The other was partially boarded, but not entirely. No answer to the knock, of course. A neighbor, a proxy, said he “saw people going in and out,” but only sometimes, and probably they were squatters. I stared at the app on the phone. I figured something out, but not sure what it was.

On the other hand, there were delights, the best being a 12-year-old boy, alone in the house, one year too young to be officially interviewed, who stunned me by saying, “Oh yeah, the census. We only got until the end of the month, right?” I asked how he knew that.

“I read everything,” he said. “I play video games and I read.”

“So what did you learn today?” I asked.

“The Chinese are test-driving a flying car,” he answered, instantly. You don’t say.

Ten more days of this.

I’m grateful to be busy. Friday night’s news, combined with one slice too many of pepperoni pizza, had me staring at the ceiling until past 2 a.m. If eyeballs could shoot death rays, I’d have burned a hole in the roof. I stopped reading about it by Saturday morning; I just can’t stand it anymore.

And now the week yawns before us. God, let it be not-too-terrible. I can’t take another like this one.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Some days, away.

Back home, back to the grind. It was a nice mini-break during which very little happened. I cooked all but one of our meals. Read two books (“Passing” by Nella Larsen, and “Squeeze Me,” Carl Hiaasen’s latest) and got a good start on a third (“Evil Geniuses,” Kurt Andersen). At one point I got bored and went into town, hoping for another slight novel from a used bookstore, a Friends of the Library pile, even a drugstore revolving rack. Discovered even the magazine selection at the latter was confined to fish, deer and, of course, weaponry:

Well, it is northern Michigan, after all. I found an InStyle, and bought that. Waste of money.

I also checked out, from our local library, the second season of “The Knick,” a Steven Soderbergh drama I — and hardly anyone else in the whole world — really liked. I cut the cable cord when that season, which was also its final one, was still playing, and I needed, what’s the word, closure. It reminded me how much I liked the damn thing, but alas, it is no more. At least I got my closure.

The last day we floated a few miles of the Au Sable:

Alan got skunked on midday fishing. The car-spotter cost $30. But that was the night we went into town for a barbecue dinner at a breezy, socially distanced restaurant, and that was OK.

Of course I had to peep at the news during our fleeting moments of connectivity. It was like looking through your fingers at a gory movie. Oh, we’re doing sterilizations on women in ICE camps now? A HHS communications aide is cracking up on Facebook Live? Who was it who said here that we’ll be cleaning up after the Trump disaster for the rest of their lifetime? That’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t leave a fresh turd in the Oval Office privy on his way out the door.

And that brings us up to date. A short shift of census-ing this evening, but I bagged some pelts, and that was good. Even got one from a household where a previous enumerator had been told to get off the property, so that’s good. And one nice lady had a two-month-old Rottweiler puppy that I got to pet. He was as soft as a stuffed animal. She said he already has a bond with her grand baby. I advised her to buy the “Good Dog Carl” books.

Now the weekend awaits.

One final photo, speaking of peeking through fingers at gory things. This is what Ivanka must know her future looks like. Imagine what that must be like:

Well, Halloween is coming…

Posted at 8:50 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 105 Comments
 

Six months.

Friends, I’m going to be away for a few days next week, so you have to play nice. We’re going up north for another half-week of vacation, and that’ll be the end of mine in this insane year.

I was looking through my recent photos when it occurred to me we’re coming up on six months of everything changing in Detroit, in Michigan, in the country, in all of our lives. Of course the virus marked that milestone a few weeks ago, but March 15 was when the stay-home orders began and it all hit home. So for my final post until late next week, here are 19 images from my life these past six months.

It begins:

This was actually March 6, but the last night out like this we had, at Shadow Show’s set at Third Man Records. The girls were worried no one would come because of the big Bernie rally at Cobo, but they eventually showed. This was a Friday night. The Michigan primary was the following Tuesday, and that night, after the polls closed, the governor announced the first cases had been diagnosed in Michigan.

Pretty soon, this is what the toilet paper and cleaning products aisle looked like at my local grocery. We had about a dozen rolls left at this point.

But you could still get cleaning wipes, if you were willing to pay $50 for this industrial-strength (80 percent alcohol) variety. And people did.

The checkout line at the still-no-TP grocery store was not, shall we say, reassuring.

Hey, everyone remember their first virtual cocktail hour? God, my hair was short.

Then we all settled in to wait for spring. I told Kate this would surely be contained by Memorial Day. But we were still close enough to the beginning that sights like this seemed worth a snap:

My trainer tried a socially distanced outdoor workout for a couple weeks. Soon it was derailed by stricter stay-home orders, though:

Then it seemed we all just settled in for the long haul. I went for a bike ride and found this cardboard customer at a closed bar. (Is that Conor McGregor?) At least one person was having a good time.

Oh, fuck you:

Ran this before, but a sign of the early-spring times: A socially distanced teen hang.

Yes, I too had a baking phase.

Because this is Grosse Pointe, this was inevitable:

Then, in the midst of everything, this happened:

Thank god the bars opened again — for about five days before one place in East Lansing became a super spreader and the whole sector had to shut again, at least indoors. Dig that plexiglas:

Oh, fuck you II:

And then the weather got warm and it almost seemed normal again, given that you could eat and drink outdoors with friends. Masks became commonplace. And sights like this seemed to blend into the scenery:

Drive-through Covid testing.

If Michigan were a more temperate climate, we could maybe live like this for a while. But summer is dwindling, so no more meals al fresco:

May this all end soon, and may all your tests be…

Posted at 8:00 pm in Current events | 166 Comments
 

A vulnerable moment.

Today’s census factoid: On any given day in Detroit, 72 percent of the population is smoking weed.

Actually, that’s true of the rest of southeast Michigan, too. It’s legal, so no biggie, but it’s still a little surprising for anyone who remembers the illegal days. Some people open the door and it’s just: Whoa. The good news is, it sometimes works to my advantage. I closed two cases the other night with people who were glassy-eyed. Others are plainly in fuck-off-Karen mode. I try not to have hard feelings. Sometimes that, too, is hard.

But the days pass, the shift ends, the dinner arrives.

So much news. So much, much news. In just the last few hours, the Justice Department decided that when the president said, well, it seems to go like this:

In a highly unusual legal maneuver, the Department of Justice moved on Tuesday to replace President Trump’s private lawyers and defend him against a defamation lawsuit brought in a New York state court by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

Lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Ms. Carroll and thus could be defended in court by government lawyers — in effect underwritten by taxpayer money.

Citing a law called the Federal Tort Claims Act, the department lawyers asserted the right to take the case from Mr. Trump’s private lawyers and move the matter from state court to federal court. The law gives employees of the federal government immunity from lawsuits, though legal experts said that it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president.

Unbelievable. And yet: Believable. The corruption isn’t even slightly under wraps anymore.

Bigger post planned for later in the week. Stay tuned.

Posted at 9:58 pm in Uncategorized | 85 Comments
 

Save our ship.

Oh, I have been neglectful of you, haven’t I? I’m trying to squeeze all the summer out of summer, while also doing a little census moonlighting and prepping for the next election. I find myself, at the end of the day, staring blank-faced at the wall, often.

But here’s a few minutes before I have to make dinner, so here goes.

Also, from time to time something like the Trump boat parade in Texas happens, and I might have to be convulsed with laughter for 24 hours or so. I forget how few people have done much boating, and don’t know how something like this happens. If you’re among them: Big boats make big wakes. As Alan sometimes says when a big ol’ cruiser passes us, “Man, imagine how much gas it takes to move that much water out of the way.” Lots of big boats together make lots of big wakes. Wakes are just waves, and when they hit other waves, they “reflect,” or are bounced back. Sometimes it happens naturally, via a big wind shift — sailors call these conditions “washing machine” waves, but it also happens when wakes crash together.

Now add a bunch of small boats, driving into this washing machine. It’s difficult to steer through them safely, and given the skill level of many boat owners, well, you see what happens. A smaller boat can take a big wave over one quarter, then another, and pretty soon it’s swamped and it’s everybody into the PFDs (which they probably weren’t wearing to begin with) and try to grab something that floats.

To put it more simply: There are reasons narrow channels, harbors and other crowded areas are often designated no-wake zones.

But you can’t have a big celebration without some speed! Get them MAGA flags flapping! Also, in probably the most-used news photo from Saturday…

…notice the forward blue flag on the one boat looks like it’s about to dip into the water. That’s not exactly a sea anchor, i.e., a small underwater parachute to stop a boat quickly, but it would probably be destabilizing. Anyway, whoopsie! Hope everyone can swim.

No one was hurt, although at least five boat owners are probably asking themselves whether this was the best idea they ever had.

This looks like the same boat from a different angle. Yeah, that’s a big ol’ nope from me.

Otherwise, the weekend is…going. Saw friends Thursday and Friday, did the grind on Saturday, ground some more today, and tomorrow? Ribs on the grill because why not. Also, potato salad. It’s not really the end of the summer, but it’s the end of a big part of the summer, so I’m here for every bit of it.

The weather is shifting, as it does at this time of year. Nice. Cooler nights, warm-but-not-miserably-so days. This is my time, brief as it is.

Now, to work on other things. Happy week ahead.

Posted at 8:05 pm in Current events | 83 Comments
 

Good news.

After a few days, weeks or months like we’ve had, would you be interested in reading an entirely pleasant story that may even make you smile?

Then have at it: How Nancy Faust and her organ set the tone for America’s pastime, a feature about Comiskey Park’s former organist.

We need more good stories about Nancys, in my opinion.

Long days, a night out. I’ll try to be back end of the week, but for now, Nancy Faust and a fresh thread.

Posted at 10:07 pm in Popculch | 100 Comments