The gratitude attitude.

Well, happy Thanksgiving to all. The holiday seems to expand every year, doesn’t it? I’ve read about young people, mainly women, referring to their “birthday month,” and expecting regular tributes throughout. That seems to be happening to this one, although who can complain, really? If you’re at work, you won’t be getting anything important done, unless you’re a police officer or an unlucky cashier at a grocery store. The white-collar world is phoning it in, or else shopping the Black Friday sales online, as I spent a chunk of yesterday doing. Like the holiday itself, they’ve expanded to the whole week. I can dig it.

So what are you thankful for? I’ll start with the trivial: I’m thankful for all the excellent shopping columns that have popped up in recent years, which help a person who doesn’t want to spend all day on the internet find the best deals. And yeah, I know they’re affiliate arrangements, but I don’t care. I’ve found several handy items I never would have even known about thanks to the Strategist, to name but one.

Also: Twitter, simultaneously a reason to get up in the morning and the bane of my existence (so hard to put down), a 24/7/365 cocktail party that, for all its infamous awfulness, also reassures me daily that I am not the only person who thinks X, not by a long shot. Kinda like this commentariat, actually.

What else? I have a new job, which is good news. It’s half-time, which is less-good news, but it’s a start. I’ll tell you more in a few days. This means I have to restart freelancing, a task that fills me with Ugh, but once it gets rolling, it’ll be easier.

No one is sick. Kate is investigating a study-abroad opportunity, and we have the money to pay for it. Our mortgage balance is down to a figure that doesn’t freak me out – thank you, 15-year loans. There’s a lot wrong with the world, but there’s still a lot that’s right. You can go online and, with a few clicks, and find dozens of videos showing turkeys attacking people. Turkeys were reintroduced to Michigan some years back, and they have thrived, not just here, but everywhere. Alan had to wait for a flock of about 25 to cross the road, the last time he went fishing up north.

So, on to the bloggage before I take a few days off, because Saturday is my birthday, and I won’t be back until Sunday/Monday. My first post-college job gave you a birthday personal day, and I try to keep that flame alive when I can.

There’s a Pulitzer Prize waiting to be mined from stories about how powerful forces are harnessing the internet for malign purposes. Here, the New York state AG explains:

In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules. In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue. Worse, while some of these fake comments used made up names and addresses, many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale.

I have some thoughts about the John Conyers story, most of which I’ll keep to myself for now. But this one I won’t: How BuzzFeed colluded with a notorious right-wing troll to bring you the story. Mike Cernovich’s role wasn’t revealed until paragraph 18, and his name mentioned only twice, within that paragraph. I have a problem with that.

So, then, happy holiday and long weekend to all. Go Lions. Go turkeys. Go have a nice meal.

Posted at 10:25 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 87 Comments
 

Exit Charlie.

I woke up a few minutes before the alarm this morning and reached for my bedside iPad, to catch up on the mayhem overnight. Learned Charles Manson had shuffled off the mortal coil, as all of us will, one day. For some reason, my sleepy brain took a hop and a skip to a newspaper in southern Indiana somewhere, whose editors used lurid headlines to describe the deaths of Soviet leaders: HELL’S POPULATION RISES BY ONE AS ANDROPOV KICKS THE BUCKET, for instance.

No, I don’t know if they did the same thing for criminals like Manson. Wouldn’t surprise me. As Charlie’s body reaches room temperature, it’s worth looking back on that crazy time in 1969-70 when the Manson family really and truly brought the peace-and-love part of the ’60s to a crashing end. I had an editor once tell me he went to bed at night convinced it was only a matter of time before John Dillinger came creeping through his bedroom window. Manson had nearly that effect on kids my age, almost-teens enthralled with the romance of the counterculture but too young to participate. The Manson crimes were so awful, in their randomness and savagery, that the bloodstain seeped from California all the way to Ohio and beyond.

Why that house? Why that other house? (Light a candle for the often-unmentioned second night of the spree, when Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, a couple of L.A. nobodies, were stabbed to death with bayonets.) Was Sharon Tate’s fetus really sliced from her body? The group at that house in the middle of the night revealed it as some sort of upmarket crash pad, with a hairdresser, an actress, an heiress and some random visitors in attendance when doom arrived. And the killers themselves were mostly women, with Manson not even in attendance at the Tate home. So many details to pore and obsess over. I took our household copy of Time magazine to my bedroom for weeks, reading about the crimes and, later, the manhunt, arrests and the insane trial. Manson initiated girls into the family with daylong sex marathons, I read, which sounded simultaneously intriguing and terrifying. (All day? Really? How does that work?)

And then, just when you thought you’d heard all you could hope to know or even handle about the case, the acts continued to reverberate, as when un-convincted Manson girl Squeaky Fromme pointed a gun at President Ford. (The other would-be Ford assassin, also a woman, that same month, was Sarah Jane Moore, who had her own weird attachment to California subculture; she is a minor character in the Patty Hearst kidnapping saga. You could look it up.) Of course, by then, the crimes had become a touchstone of late 20th-century American culture. Joan Didion’s essay about the case, in “The White Album” connection, gets it as right as anyone did, or ever will.

Manson was the bogeyman behind so much free-floating fear, even after he was revealed as another shitbird criminal, who chose the Tate-Polanski house because it had once been rented by Terry Melcher, a music producer Manson believed had stunted his destiny as a rock star. His infamy has transcended time and place; I chuckled when I watched an old Sopranos episode recently and Tony tells an angry mobster giving him the stinkeye to turn off “the Manson lamps.” Everyone knows what he’s talking about.

Manson is the rare case where I can come closer to agreeing with people who claim criminals commit lurid crimes to become famous. He was your basic white-trash west-coast sleazebag, who had the gift of attracting broken souls, at least for a while, and in horror gained a sort of permanent infamy that he thought was his due. We won’t forget him anytime soon.

This where are they now is instructive, if you haven’t kept up.

Did Charlie scare you? Or is it just me?

Posted at 11:08 am in Current events | 70 Comments
 

That’s funny.

So all of our nerves are a little…raw right now, amirite? So I asked Siri, “Siri, tell me a funny rape joke.”

She replied: “I can’t. I always forget the punchline.”

Which is pretty funny, when you think about it. So I googled “funny rape jokes,” and here’s what I got (by no means a complete list; this is Google, after all):

A 2016 article from Splinter, one of the Gawker Media sites, with this headline: Meet the woman making rape jokes that are actually funny. It’s about Adrienne Truscott, who does a one-woman stand-up show about you-know-what. She performs it in a denim jacket, push-up bra and platform shoes. No pants:

Truscott tells her audience that she understands why people didn’t believe Bill Cosby, the stand-up dad of America, could rape anyone because a rapist is usually someone you know and trust. She jokes about how ironic it is that Tosh is “the poster child for rape jokes” because “he looks exactly like a date rapist: college educated, white and clean cut.” She role plays with men in the audience, putting cream in their coffee and milk in their cereal even when they tell her no over and over again. She says that while women are blamed for wearing clothes that lure a rapist in, all a rapist has to wear is “pants and a blind look of entitlement.” She forces members in the audience to not only laugh at her jokes, but to laugh at the ignorant philosophy of everyone from men in Congress to men catcalling on the streets.

“The one thing [women] don’t ever want to do is fuck that guy on the corner,” Truscott says.

I’d see that show. I bet I’d laugh. Back to Google:

More stand-up comedy, this time in Canada. Tip to the writer: If you report a whole story about comedians exploring rape and can’t find one joke worth including, turn in your press card. Unless this was the best you can do:

Cooper told the audience about a love note left for her by a man who, after consensual sex, proceeded to remove the condom and reinsert himself.

In the note, he had spelled the word “beautiful” wrongly. “Which made me realise that I need to get standards,” she joked. “Rapists’ standards. I want a smart rapist who can understand and spell hard words like, ‘communication’, ‘consent’ and ‘coercion’.”

Not funny, but this is Canada, after all. The Nation tried harder, and found some; I like Wanda Sykes’:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our pussies were detachable? Just think about it. You get home from work, it’s getting a little dark outside, and you’re like, ‘I’d like to go for a jog…but it’s getting too dark, oh! I’ll just leave it at home!’… [There’s] just so much freedom—you could do anything. You could go visit a professional ball player’s hotel room at two in the morning. Sex? My pussy’s not even in the building!

See, here’s what I believe: Like Jon Carroll, I think nothing is not funny. Rape, pedophilia, Alzheimer’s disease – all are funny, or can be, in the right hands. It’s all in how you tell it, and who tells it. This is Humor 101, the section in the textbook called The Duh Intro.

Today, Rod Dreher got his knickers in a twist over the Uncle Roy sketches on “Saturday Night Live,” back when it was edgy and much, much funnier. Maybe you remember them? Gilda Radner and Laraine Newman played two little girls being babysat by their dad’s creepy friend, played by Buck Henry. Dreher was trying to link them to Al Franken, but it turns out they were written by two women, alas. I remember watching them and being simultaneously squicked out and laughing my ass off, which makes them pretty successful as humor. I won’t make excuses for them if people who actually went through that were re-traumatized; I get it, but I still laughed.

Nothing is not funny. Because humor is how we cope with tragedy and pain. Humor is a victims’ prerogative, though, not the perpetrator’s. That might be my rule. Or, as Nora Ephron put it in “Heartburn”:

Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.

Good weekend, all.

Posted at 12:48 pm in Current events | 62 Comments
 

A loud chorus.

Over the years, I’ve had many opportunities to teach writing, from classroom visits to fourth-graders to adjunct gigs at the local U. I’ve “taught,” so to speak, everything from fiction to journalism, with most falling in the personal-essay category, thanks to my long stint as a columnist. And if I had to boil down the best single bumper-sticker piece of advice I have, it’s this: Tell the truth. If you’re writing in your journal, tell the truth about your day and feelings about it. If you’re writing journalism, don’t make shit up. Fiction uses make-believe to tell truths that readers recognize. If you make the 17 syllables of a haiku paint a particular picture, make sure every brushstroke is correct.

Journalists are big believers in facts, but facts do not always add up to truth, and it’s this that’s been bothering me in recent years. It’s a fact that propagandists have set up vast informational networks that look like journalism, but aren’t. Consumers are too busy, distracted, ignorant or angry to insist on anything better. I don’t think it’s any mystery why I started watching MSNBC during the worst of the Iraq war; as I said of Twitter recently, I needed something that validated the angry voices in my head, and Keith Olbermann filled the bill. (For a while, anyway. Now he just chaps my ass.) Imagine being old and confused and fearful of death, and you can understand the appeal of Fox News pretty clearly.

Add to that the both-sides thing, in which it reporting on Something Bad being done by one politician must be matched by Something Bad done by someone on the other side. So you end up with Donald Trump’s buffet table of outrages contrasted with a private email server, or Uranium One.

Hey, at least we got some memes out of it. But her emails!

I was thinking about how traditional reporters can work better, smarter, without becoming beholden to one side. Because even though “both sides do it” is trite crap, both sides – all sides – definitely do stupid and newsworthy things that have to be reported on. It’s just that one side is doing so much more of it at the moment. But the pendulum will swing, as it always does.

These thoughts were pinging around my head when I heard this story explained on the NYT morning podcast.

On Sunday afternoon, when Elmer T. Williams’s wife told him that a mass shooting had taken place at a church in Texas, he leapt into action. First, he skimmed a handful of news stories about the massacre. Then, when he felt sufficiently informed, he went into his home video studio, put on his trademark aviator sunglasses, and hit record.

Roughly an hour later, Mr. Williams, 51, a popular right-wing YouTube personality who calls himself “The Doctor of Common Sense,” had filmed, edited and uploaded a three-minute monologue about the Sutherland Springs church shooting to his YouTube page, which had roughly 90,000 subscribers. Authorities had not yet named a suspect, but that didn’t deter Mr. Williams, who is black, from speculating that the gunman was probably “either a Muslim or black.”

… YouTube has long been a haven for slapdash political punditry, but in recent months, a certain type of hyper-prolific conspiracist has emerged as a dominant force. By reacting quickly and voluminously to breaking news, these rapid-response pundits — the YouTube equivalent of talk radio shock jocks — have successfully climbed the site’s search results, and exposed legions of viewers to their far-fetched theories.

It so happens I follow a disgraced former state rep on Facebook, a guy who started out far to the right and since his downfall, has drifted deep into these weeds. And I see this sort of thing on his page all the time. I don’t know if he’s weighed in on the Texas shooting, because he may still be hashing over the Las Vegas shooting. Did you know there was a second shooter? You don’t? You need to stop listening to the lamestream media, then, and here, allow me to show you a bit of video the authorities don’t want you to see.

He has lots of company. I followed a bunch of them back when I was trying to understand them better, and man — there’s a lot of them. And one thing these YouTube people are doing is blanking out the voices of the sane and the professional. You might think, big deal, they’re nuts. And they are, no doubt, or close to it. But their work is surprisingly effective at spreading misinformation at a critical time, in both how the event is processed in real time and in this moment in history. I promise you, you know someone who believes this shit:

His hit productions have included fact-challenged videos like “Barack and Michelle Obama Both Come Out The Closet,” which garnered 1.6 million views, and “Hillary Clinton Is On Crack Cocaine,” which had 665,000. He was admitted to YouTube’s partner program, which allows popular posters to earn money by displaying ads on certain types of videos, and claims to have made as much as $10,000 a month from his channel.

“I like to call myself a reporter who reports the news for the common person,” Mr. Williams said.

Real reporters don’t respond to this, for the same reason you don’t invite the crazy people who send you letters and leave 3 a.m. voicemails on your office phone to lunch. Maybe they should.

Oh, well. Related: How American politics went batshit crazy, an instructive timeline.

And finally, in case you wanted to be made even angrier today, let’s check in with Omarosa, shall we? A great read.

And I live in Wayne County. My previous permanent or semi-permanent addresses were in Franklin, Athens and Allen counties. BOR-ring.

Posted at 12:14 pm in Current events, Media | 105 Comments
 

The defiant ones.

I’ve been thinking lately, about sparky malcontents. That is to say, not just the people who complain, but do something about it.

I’m thinking specifically of the workplace, mainly because a sparky malcontent makes work more interesting, at least when they confine their spark to mischief and not gunfire.

The guy who deleted the president’s Twitter account is sort of the perfect example. On his way out the door, he clicked Delete and then Are You Sure? and whatever else next step a Twitter admin needs to take, thus depriving the world of Donald Trump’s favorite social-media profile for 11 minutes and making his unnamed self momentarily famous. This is perfect because it sent a definite message to management, and for that matter the whole world, but didn’t do any real harm.

The woman who flipped off the presidential motorcade is another. No harm done – the president was probably looking at his phone – but again, big message sent. No middle fingers were hurt in the making of this colorful gesture. (If she hadn’t confirmed it later, it’s entirely possible she was just another cyclist being muscled by a lot of drivers in SUVs and reacting accordingly.)

There was a guy who was fired from a newspaper I heard about. He worked in Sports. Back then, most newspaper sports pages published a page of two of what’s called agate, that being typographer’s lingo for very small type, where the paper posted things like box scores, standings, that sot of thing. Example here. Five-point type. When I was proofing sports copy, my boss admitted a scan was about the best I could do, at least with the current staffing levels.

This sparky malcontent, on his way out the door, got his hands on the agate page before it was typeset and seeded it with obscenities, and I mean deeply seeded, with f-bombs and suchlike embedded in names. Derek Jerkoff, that sort of thing. The presses stood a long while past start time before editors were satisfied they’d caught them all.

We may be entering a new age of the malcontent. One more makes a trend!

I know we have a few IU grads in the commentariat, and I wanted to pass this along, because it’s so dispiriting: Students are asking the school to “remove” the glorious Thomas Hart Benton murals in one of its lecture halls, because they depict, in one portion, a KKK cross-burning. That Benton insisted on including the seamier details of American life, as opposed to simple pastorals, is apparently lost on these 20-year-old art critics. I hate to hear this. They simply aren’t getting it.

But oh well. As I’m writing this, yet another woman has come forward to detail Roy Moore’s unique courting technique. Let’s discuss.

Posted at 5:53 pm in Current events | 68 Comments
 

The list lengthens.

I had a few notes tucked into a draft post, but once again, the week has been overtaken by events – both breaking just this afternoon.

I’m thinking specifically of Roy Moore and Louis C.K., of course. The Moore story is the grossest, of course, for a number of reasons. Some are obvious, but to me, it was noting the age of consent in Alabama (16, of course). Because it’s not enough to point out that a 32-year-old man was trying to date a girl literally half his age and barely able to drive. You have to note that it could be, technically, legal.

Man, Alabama is a weird place:

Wendy Miller says that Moore approached her at the mall, where she would spend time with her mom, who worked at a photo booth there. Miller says this was in 1979, when she was 16.

She says that Moore’s face was familiar because she had first met him two years before, when she was dressed as an elf and working as a Santa’s helper at the mall. She says that Moore told her she looked pretty, and that two years later, he began asking her out on dates in the presence of her mother at the photo booth. She says she had a boyfriend at the time, and declined.

Her mother, Martha Brackett, says she refused to grant Moore permission to date her 16-year-old daughter.

“I’d say, ‘You’re too old for her . . . let’s not rob the cradle,’ ” Brackett recalls telling Moore.

Miller, who is now 54 and still lives in Alabama, says she was “flattered by the attention.”

“Now that I’ve gotten older,” she says, “the idea that a grown man would want to take out a teenager, that’s disgusting to me.”

It’s times like this I can almost thank God for Twitter, which gives such an immediate voice to the ones screaming in my head. Right now, I’m reading that some Breitbart guy is on the radio defending Moore because three of the four girls were “legal” and Moore himself was single at the time. Good to know!

Oh, and here’s the Alabama state auditor:

Moore began dating his wife Kayla around this time, according to Ziegler. “He dated her. He married her, and they’ve been married about 35 years. They’re blessed with a wonderful marriage and his wife Kayla is 14 years younger than Moore.”

Asked whether or not the report would upend Moore’s campaign, Ziegler predicted that Alabama voters would be angrier at the Washington Post for “desperately trying to get something negative” than Moore for his dalliances with teenage girls decades ago.

“He’s clean as a hound’s tooth,” Ziegler claimed, before relying on Scripture to defend Moore.

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler said choosing his words carefully before invoking Christ. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

Yes, that’s true, but as I recall from my catechism class, Joseph kept his hands to himself and they both died virgins. So there’s that.

And then there’s Louis C.K., whose thing was whipping it out. Whipping it out and polishing the bishop in front of women, while they…sat in frozen horror? Tried to leave the room? I imagine the reaction is part of the fun for these creeps.

Glad to see some nuance noted here:

For comedians, the professional environment is informal: profanity and raunch that would be far out of line in most workplaces are common, and personal foibles — the weirder the better — are routinely mined for material. But Louis C.K.’s behavior was abusive, the women said.

“I think the line gets crossed when you take all your clothes off and start masturbating,” Ms. Wolov said.

Yes, I’d say so.

Men! Are we going to have to go over the rules again? Apparently so. They’re almost identical to the ones for whether you should ever send a lady a dick pic, and they boil down to this: No. With a trusted partner who has expressly given consent to watching you do that? Sure. With everyone else? No.

OK, then. I have an evening thing tonight and then a housecleaning date with myself tomorrow. Best hop to it. Have a great weekend, all, and may no one appear before you in tighty whiteys unless you’ve asked them to.

Posted at 4:41 pm in Current events | 136 Comments
 

The survivors.

I’m not in the best frame of mind these days and really shouldn’t do this to myself, but if you want to get depressed about this fucked-up country we live in, go to GoFundMe.com and search the term “shooting.”

I’ll wait.

What you learn there, and actually learn more quickly when we’re in a rare lull between mass shootings, as opposed to still mopping the blood from the floor from the last one, is that there are two kinds of victims of these things. There are the ones we carry out in body bags, and the ones left behind, and it’s these unfortunates we collect money for. That they survive is only the first step in a recovery that may not fully happen. They’re maimed, some seriously, left paraplegic or quadriplegic or in chronic pain forever. They have post-traumatic stress equal to that of any veteran of a war zone, because that’s what they are, with the added insult that they never enlisted in any army, never were trained for war, and simply had the misfortune of thinking they were going to a movie or to church or to the office Christmas party when they met up with our unique brand of national madness.

We always say life can change in an instant. But no one signed up for that one.

Anyway, dig down in those search results, past the big-goal campaigns, and find out how many of these people are simply…well, fucked seems to fit. Many have no or little or not-worth-shit health insurance to begin with, and are left with thousands in bills for treatment of all kinds, loss of income, whatever you need to make you whole when all you can do is lie on the couch and tremble.

So this story from Slate caught my eye today. It takes note of the infuriating Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed in 2005, which shields the firearms industry from any legal liability related to their products — thanks, Washington! The piece suggests a new tax on sellers and manufacturers of guns, to be pooled for the care and treatment of people whose lives are forever changed by them, the people at the center of all those GoFundMes:

Every state already has a crime victim compensation program, although not all victims are eligible and states impose strict caps on payouts. The average cap is $25,000, and most states impose lower limits on specific benefits like counseling. That $25,000 ceiling is much lower than the average jury would award to a victim of negligence, so these programs cannot plug the gap created by the PLCAA. Nor can civil suits against the shooters themselves, who are almost always too poor to pay jury awards. (By contrast, the American firearm industry made about $13.5 billion in revenue in 2015.)

Instead, states should consider the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act as a model. Congress passed the NCVIA in 1986 in response to a raft of lawsuits against vaccine companies. It created a compensation fund for individuals injured by vaccines and was funded by a tax on vaccine sales. A special court now hears claims and awards compensation to victims. In addition, the NCVIA allows victims to maintain their rights to sue manufacturers under traditional tort law.

Sounds good to me. Of course it’ll never happen. America!

And in other massacre-related news, there’s this, which I’m filing under Why I Hate the Internet:

About an hour’s drive from the carnage in Sutherland Springs, five women gathered after sundown outside an emergency room where victims of the morning shooting were still being brought in.

The women knew some of the victims, they said. Several sounded upset because authorities wouldn’t let them see any bodies. One wondered aloud if a victim who had been declared dead by officials that day actually still lived. “We have to get to the bottom of this,” one woman said.

“False flag,” said another, and then another, and another.

The story’s about the proliferation of this “false flag” nonsense so popular in Wingnuttia, the same lunacy that leads some people to harass the Sandy Hook parents who lost their children, and now, to stand outside a hospital and get upset because they’re not allowed into view bodies.

I’m really feeling sour at the moment, if you haven’t figured it out yet. Or as today’s Twitter meme goes:

But what is this week about? Looking back at the same week a year ago. Some good stuff to read on those lines:

Neil Steinberg:

Sometimes terrible occurrences can have good results. Something awful happens, but then you become aware of it, and change and things get better. And if there is one thing that is true about Donald Trump, as I’ve said before, he’s a symptom and not a cause. He is the same lying, bullying fraud he has always been, subtle as a brick, obvious as can be.

Nearly half of America voted for him anyway.

That is the terrible part. America elected him. He spread his goods—xenophobia, malice, deceit, delusion, ignorance—and 63 million of us signed on up.

The question now: is Trump our rock bottom? Or are there hells below this one?

From the Boston Globe, a stubborn and hardening rift in York, Pa.:

Tonya Thompson-Morgan has found herself blocking some of her old high school classmates and other Facebook friends. She struggles with the competing emotions of telling her 12-year-old daughter why it’s wrong to say she “hates” Trump, but also why it’s wrong for Trump to call the NFL players she respects “sons of bitches.” When she walked around the York Fair this summer and saw people handing out signs that read “Trump is still my president,” she felt turned away from the only community she’s ever known.

“When can we heal? When is there a healing process?” she says, taking a long pause to compose herself and wipe away tears.

“Unless I turn off the lights, go in my bedroom, shut the door, and turn off the TV, there is no way to escape,” Thompson-Morgan says. “I feel like we eat, sleep, and breathe Trump. Trump for breakfast, Trump for lunch, Trump for dinner, and Trump as a midnight snack.”

(Man, did I identify with that one.)

A final one, non-election related, on Harvey Weinstein’s repulsive behavior as he tried to stop the various investigations into his earlier repulsive behavior.

OK, then. Night is settling in and after a trip to the dog park, the day seems less grim. Time to wind it up with a little leftover soup. A good Wednesday to all, and let’s discuss the election results from around the country as they become available.

Posted at 7:02 pm in Current events | 77 Comments
 

Body counts.

And as the weekend winds up here in November 2017 in the year of our Lord, 26 people are dead in yet another mass shooting, this one in a church; a U.S. senator is nursing five cracked ribs after an assault by a neighbor; and the second season of “Stranger Things” is a disappointment.

However, it serves as a pretty good distraction from the news of the day, so there’s that.

How was your weekend? Cool, then warm and rainy here. Miss Kitty came home for a couple days. We ate tacos. I went to Windsor. That was about it. It was a good weekend to be outer-directed, to turn one’s attention to, say, Hawaii:

Protesters in Hawaii mocked Donald Trump with signs that said “welcome to Kenya” as the President touched down on the first leg of his Asia-Pacific tour.

It’s good someone can keep a sense of humor at times like this. Probably helps to be in a place with such nice weather all the time. Has there been a president in anyone’s memory so often mocked like this? Nixon, maybe, but nothing like Trump. The few people I know who admit voting for him are quiet these days; the only rigorous defense I see anymore comes from the batshit cheering sections, and even there the air seems to be leaking from the balloon.

Or we can turn to London, last stop on earth before Adnan Khashoggi departed for Hell:

Adnan Khashoggi, the flamboyant Saudi arms trader who rose to spectacular wealth in the 1970s and 1980s while treating the world to displays of decadence breathtaking even by the standards of that era, died on Tuesday in London. He was 81.

…Mr. Khashoggi had several brushes with the law but was never convicted of a crime. He was involved in many of his era’s highest-profile scandals, including Iran-contra and the Marcos family’s effort to spirit money out of the Philippines.

I can never hear his name, even in my head, without hearing it in Robin Leach’s voice, as Ad-nan Hah-shogi was constantly popping into “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” and my old buddy Tarek did a killer Robin Leach impersonation.

Or we can look to home, where Eastern Standard time returned right on schedule, and now it’s dark as hell early, which makes a mass shooting and everything else going on this weekend probably something we just deserve.

So while we wait for news to come in on the latest mass killer, let’s try to have a good start to the week.

Posted at 9:13 pm in Current events | 72 Comments
 

Coalflakes.

Today I will be sticking close to home. Those of you who are over 50 and have decent health insurance can probably figure out why I will be sticking close to home, so I don’t need to go into details, do I? The timing of this will be tricky, as I have a car in the shop and a very nice loaner. I need to turn it in before the rocket fuel kicks in, because those are some sweet leather seats. It’s funny, how we talk of these things in code. I was buying the rocket fuel earlier this week, and pushed it over the counter to the cashier along with a giant bottle of fruit-punch Gatorade.

“If this is what I think it’s for?” the clerk said. “You can’t use the red Gatorade.”

That wasn’t on my instructions, but it made perfect sense. I went back for a bottle of lemon-lime. At times like this, we need to take care of one another.

Today I am grateful for a) health insurance; and, to a far lesser extent, b) the idle hours to get all these tests done before it runs out. The new patient reports on this particular procedure, the one they hand you at checkout, include photos. I shudder to think.

So, for the huddle today, two stories of the Albion’s Seed variety. (I’m sure Coozledad will provide an amusing, obscene footnote.) First, via Reuters:

WAYNESBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – When Mike Sylvester entered a career training center earlier this year in southwestern Pennsylvania, he found more than one hundred federally funded courses covering everything from computer programming to nursing.

He settled instead on something familiar: a coal mining course.

”I think there is a coal comeback,” said the 33-year-old son of a miner.

Despite broad consensus about coal’s bleak future, a years-long effort to diversify the economy of this hard-hit region away from mining is stumbling, with Obama-era jobs retraining classes undersubscribed and future programs at risk under President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget.

Peak Coal passed a while ago. Natural gas killed it, not the Obama administration. This is the broad consensus the story references. Yet many in coal country continue to clap for Tinkerbell, setting up this conundrum:

What many experts call false hopes for a coal resurgence have mired economic development efforts here in a catch-22: Coal miners are resisting retraining without ready jobs from new industries, but new companies are unlikely to move here without a trained workforce. The stalled diversification push leaves some of the nation’s poorest areas with no clear path to prosperity.

Ta-da! Yes. You have to be willing to change to actually change, although admittedly, I share their cynicism about the “new industries” that might move to coal country once a “trained workforce” assembles itself at whatever critical mass they require. So I sympathize, to a point. But any coal miner who can’t see the forces that took away his or her livelihood — automation and fracking, mainly — simply isn’t paying close enough attention.

Which brings us to this laughter-through-tears piece beb pointed out late in yesterday’s thread. Remember “rolling coal,” i.e., modifying exhaust systems on big-ass trucks to blow thick clouds of black smoke into the atmosphere? Sometimes with amusing rear-window stickers warning of “Prius repellant?” Some states are passing laws to ban the practice. And yeah, well:

Entire dissertations could be written about rolling coal. Even more than Trump’s ascension, it seems to perfectly capture a moment in time, an inarticulate yawp of protest from angry white men. They feel disdained and overlooked and they will blow thick black smoke in your face until you pay attention.

There’s no faux nostalgia involved. Unlike with, say, hunting, there’s no tale of rugged rural self-sufficiency to draw on. This is not some sturdy heartland tradition with which meddlesome elites want to interfere.

Rolling coal is new; it just caught on a few years ago. It does not improve the performance of a truck. It has no practical application or pragmatic purpose of any kind. It is purely aggressive, a raw expression of defiance: I can pollute your air, for no reason, and no one can stop me.

Lots of writers love Hunter Thompson, and I’m one of them, at least before he became a human cartoon and general wrecking ball. “Hell’s Angels” is a fine piece of new journalism, and there’s a long passage in there about the Angels, and the rest of California biker culture, having their roots in American Appalachian/Okie/poor-white culture. I read it when I was 16 or so, and it opened my eyes to class issues as a companion to racial ones. Their flag is the Gadsden. Their motto: “It’s a free country,” sometimes spoken through a belch while crushing a beer can against one’s forehead.

Anyway, the Vox piece is pretty good, and I recommend it.

I keep coming back to something I said often when the auto industry was collapsing, southeast Michigan was contracting and workers everywhere were on the park bench, so to speak: What are we going to do with these people? Retraining was part of the answer. But when retraining itself is resisted, then what do you do?

OK, shower time, then my final solid food for a while, and a few hours after that? Rocket fuel!

Final thing I wanted to share: This photo.

Last Saturday night was a monthly dance-party pop-up my younger friends enjoy, so I tagged along this month, mainly because of the venue, an obscure bar that sits almost literally in the shadow of the Marathon refinery in southwest Detroit. From the outside, it looks like a somewhat more upscale version of the thousands of workingmen’s bars all over Detroit’s less-glamorous districts, shot-and-a-beer places where you can prepare for, or wind down from, your shift. But step inside, and it’s the most neon-y neon lounge you ever saw.

“Oh my god, it’s ‘Miami Vice,'” I said as I showed my ID to the doorman.

“I was gonna say ‘Scarface,’ but yeah,” he replied.

Every surface that didn’t have a neon fixture had a mirror, making photography a little tricky. This welcome-to-hell glow was hard to expose for:

But it was so much fun. I saw one of my old Wayne State students. “I always knew you were a badass,” he said. Kids these days — gotta love ’em.

Posted at 10:06 am in Current events, Detroit life | 101 Comments
 

A mash.

Well, what a couple of days, eh? At the end of it, I only know one thing for sure: “Putin’s niece” is a real dime, and George Papadopoulos was desperately hoping for that London meeting, so they could, y’know, have a drink, get to know each other better. I’m sure they’d exchanged pictures. Hers emphasized her Slavic cheekbones, his a certain Hellenic moodiness.

And I don’t have much to offer beyond that. There are hundreds of thousands of words of analysis, and I’ve only gotten through a few thousand. Plus, this story has now been overtaken by a terror attack in New York.

Still, is this the beginning of the end? Or the end of the beginning? Odds on a) firing Mueller; and b) pardons for convicted aides? Anyone?

I woke up today with a sore throat, which sent me into a reflexive panic for a moment – how will I do all the things I have to do while operating at .75 power? – before I remembered that I can call in sick, so to speak, and I did. Still applied for three jobs, two of which I could do in my sleep. I won’t get any of them, because this is a run of bad luck I’m just going to have to get through. And it sucks.

But a few the celebrity world: Stop calling Kevin Spacey a pedophile. He is — or apparently is, if recent revelations are to be believed — and ephebophile. The difference is the one between pre- and post-pubescent, but still underage, children. Pedos go for kids, ephebes for young teens. Both are terribly damaging in their unique way. Sexuality is a continuum, and ephebophiles no doubt see themselves as wise father/older brother figures, initiating the young into the world of adulthood. But it’s revolting just the same. Spacey’s going to have a long climb back.

It’s raining creeps. Still.

And Halloween is a wrap. I’m getting weary of the days-long candy thing. I give out candy on Halloween, to anyone who rings the doorbell, until it’s gone. I decline to participate in special trick-or-treat carve-outs — the special just-for-the-neighborhood hours, the business-district things, all of it. Halloween is one day, and it’s a good day, but that’s all it is. Or used to be. Adults ruin everything.

Back to nursing the ol’ throat.

Posted at 9:40 pm in Current events | 58 Comments