How many people are upset about the violence in Berkeley last night? For the record, I disapprove. Violence is only the answer when it’s Richard Spencer taking a … nope, not even then. That was a sucker punch, and sucker punches are cowardly. Call him out, tell him to put his hands up, and then punch him. Not upsetting.

Wednesday night, though — that was a trap. Why is this so hard to see? This is exactly what the Young Americans for Wearing Rep Ties, or whatever their name is, did in Grosse Pointe, when they invited sparking intellectual Rick Santorum to come speak at one of the high schools, and insisted it be during school hours. The administration waffled, and then it became whassamatter, don’t you believe in free speech? and Game Over for the grownups.

Milo what’s-his-name doesn’t have anything to say. He’s a troll. He styles himself as a “dangerous faggot,” goes onstage and calls Trump “daddy,” all that lame shit, and that’s his act. If you’re willing to go onstage and say women, boy they stink at math and I bet their pussies stink, too, then you’re going to get attention. But sensible people shouldn’t allow themselves to be baited so easily. When I woke up this morning, all the liberals were tweeting about the presidential insults to Mexico and Australia — I’m still stunned to write that — and the conservatives were acting like the Berkeley demonstration was the sack of Rome, and not a few scuffles and vandalism in a city most of them wouldn’t visit at gunpoint.

So yeah, I agree with this: Don’t give him what he wants.

God, this shit is exhausting. It’s all Tom & Lorenzo for the rest of the evening. Have a great weekend, all, and let’s hope the world doesn’t end before Monday.

Posted at 9:12 pm in Current events | 77 Comments

The current situation.

Every time I try to settle my mind, to think about something other than That Thing, to write about something other than That Thing, then – you know how this sentence ends. That Thing happens.

Jerry Falwell Jr. leading a higher-ed task force — that thing was this morning’s thing.

Len Stevens, the university’s chief spokesman, told NBC News that Falwell would bring a focus on “overregulation and micromanagement of higher education” to the task force.

I expect this means Trump University will rise again. Among other “colleges.”

This was this afternoon’s thing. The Black History Month remarks:

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

And then there was this evening’s thing. Which may be the worst thing of all:

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

Every night I wake up and wonder what the new day’s things will be. I’m not sleeping well.

So you can maybe see why the one bright spot of the day was realizing my new phone software update finally contains a shaka emoji. And then I learn it happened more than a month ago.

I think I need therapy. The whole world needs therapy.

Posted at 9:42 pm in Current events | 62 Comments

Three days in TO.

Oh, Canada. What a country you’ve got there. We spend the weekend walking around without ever once thinking about being robbed or ‘jacked or whatever, and what happens as we’re almost literally boarding the train home? A mass shooting.

By one of these guys, because of course.

But I can’t argue with our weekend, not at all. We stayed in West Queen West, the same neighborhood we were in the last time, where dogs in fancy coats and sweaters outnumber actual children by about five-to-one. It’s January, so you don’t expect it to exactly be balmy. I thought I’d packed well, but when we came across a team handing out free — free! — long underwear from Uniqlo, I was happy to snatch it up. Of course long underwear is now known as “base layers,” for good reason — they’re not the waffle-knit separates you’re used to, but close-to-skin and undeniably-warm …base layers, I guess. They go on under the skinniest jeans and are just what the weatherman ordered.

A memory was just jostled loose: A winter weekend in the Upper Peninsula, when I learned of the one-piece base layer known as the union suit — flannel on the inside, wool on the outside, in heather gray or bright red. I bought one in bright red from L.L. Bean and wore it through some fearsome winters, with a pair of Levi’s 501s and maybe a sweater. A strange ensemble for a young woman to choose in the late ’70s, yes, undeniably, but I was very warm. Eventually it collapsed under the strain of my bustline and I retired it forever, the union-suit-bursting-its-buttons look being better-suited for bawdy postcards about deer camp or maybe cocktail napkins. It sure was warm, though.

What did we do? Walked around. Shopped. Caught part of the Chinese New Year observance. Drank cocktails and coffee, discovering that sub-niche of the cosmopolitan economy, the gay coffeehouse. (There used to be one in NYC called the Big Cup.) The waiter was very nice, but the best part was sneaking looks at a trans individual who had some really striking stick-and-poke dotted facial tattoos, with a little cloud on each temple and a line running up the bridge of the nose.

I love big cities. They’re where magic happens.

On Saturday, chilled and a little burned out on walking, we debated taxiing down to the TIFF Lightbox for a midday movie. Alan, looking at the listings, said, “‘The Silence’ is playing near here.”

“You mean ‘Silence,’ the new Martin Scorsese movie. I’d see that,” I said.

“It’s like, a block away. Starts in 12 minutes,” he said. We paid our bill, bundled up and walked the block to the theater, which was tucked in the back of an art gallery specializing in photography.

Strange place for a first-run movie to be playing, but whatever. Stranger still was the admission price of $0. But when the lights went down, the screen darkened and “The Criterion Collection” appeared on the screen, I knew we’d made a critical mistake, because we weren’t watching “Silence,” Oscar contender of 2016, but “The Silence,” an Ingmar Bergman film from 1963, all that black-and-white Sven Nykvist cinematography. You watch a 54-year-old film and marvel at how ahead of its time it was, with its frank depictions of sexuality — actual semi-shadowed fucking and a scene of female masturbation, not to mention a woman bathing with her 9-year-old son — and what Annie Hall called “that Scandinavian bleakness.”

(“I thought that shot where you see her boob while she’s washing her armpit was pretty hot,” countered Alan.)

So that was Saturday afternoon.

Here’s Sunday morning: First daughter dressed as a baked potato. (HT: TBogg)

You know what was in every furniture store window? This lamp, although I imagine most were knockoffs. Wouldn’t want to bring that through customs in this dark era.

Speaking of dark eras, more paranoia about Russia appears to be called for. And a related billboard defacing in Kalamazoo.

With that, it’s time for 55 minutes of innocuous telly. See you tomorrow, all.

Posted at 8:58 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments

The mangle awaits.

Guys, I’m back, but we got back late and, of course, there was too much to do late last night and this morning to put a proper post together. So just a few quickies so we can start a new comment thread, as the last one is getting unwieldy.

1) Canada is paying attention to us. My highly unscientific eavesdropping/taxi drivers poll, which has a +/- Everything margin of error, reveals that no one sees our position as enviable, moral or even smart. So there’s that.

2) Toronto is on a Great Lake, like Chicago, and is windy, like Chicago. Fortunately there are coffee houses and cocktail bars about every seven or eight doors, for warming purposes.

3) I watched the news from home obsessively. And this, while far-fetched, is disturbing.

Very full plate today. Best start eating.

Posted at 10:22 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 31 Comments

By the time I get to Toronto…

…you’ll be reading this. Because friends, I have to disconnect for a couple of days. I’ve been trying to finish three novels since Christmas, and can’t, because I keep checking Twitter like a rat in a Skinner box. I have to keep up with the latest news — IT’S MY JOB — but this is simply wearing me out.

So Alan and I are off to a sophisticated Ontario city before the border closes or we start a trade war with them. Like we apparently already have with Mexico.

Peeps, I can’t even. We may have to assume protective coloration up there. You’ll know we mastered our accents if we don’t come back. But plans are to be back on Sunday.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay sane and can anyone else rustle up another women’s march? I need something to calm my nerves. Maybe some Canadian whiskey will help.

Posted at 4:07 pm in Current events | 97 Comments

Bridges, all sorts.

Greetings, good people of NN.c land. Sorry I missed the update last night, but I was in a January kinda mood. Seriously, yesterday I told Alan he needed to start with the Vitamin D along with me, because like Johnny Cash, we haven’t seen the sunshine since I-don’t-know-when.

But I’m rested and I’m between phone calls, so here goes, quickly.

First up, a question for LA Mary: Is this the bridge near your neighborhood that we drove over?

There’s just something about it that rang a bell in my head.

And yeah, that’s from “La La Land,” which you may have heard got a few Oscar nominations Tuesday.

In December, I did a story on this guy, who has done that rare thing – figured out a way to make news on the internet pay. Admittedly, only a narrow slice of news (the Iraqi oil market), but still. His readers pay about $2,000 a year to subscribe, and if you’re in the oil bidness, I bet it’s worth every penny. Anyway, one of the things they do is a daily, or near-daily, update from Mosul, which is still partially held by ISIS. It’s so smartly organized, with incidents exhaustively detailed, categorized and sourced (anonymously, for obvious reasons). I wish I could link, but valuable information isn’t something you just give away.

Anyway, I thought of this because apparently POTUS is talking about “taking the oil” again, and even as a casual reader of Iraq Oil Report, I can’t even.

Here’s a roundup of the remarkable leaks coming out of the Oval on, what? Day five? Man, we have a long road ahead.

Related, and nifty: Red feed, blue feed, or what Facebook looks like, depending on how your friend network shapes up. Illuminating. I wish Bridge had the budget to do stuff like this. Instead, we have to rely on good old legwork. Here’s our red/blue project, Divided Michigan, which kicked off this week. Feedback welcome.

Phone just rang. Back to work and see you tomorrow, I hope.

Posted at 3:26 pm in Current events | 87 Comments

The alternative fact is, this is genius.

Well, this is what you call a weekend. I’m sitting here bathing in the news firehose, and I think I need to just do the shotgun thing, just write stuff down, whaddayacallit? Stream-of-consciousness, yeah. See what pops up.

My autocorrect keeps changing “Melania” to “Melanie,” so I think the first lady needs a new name. I choose Natasha.

Sean Spicer definitely needs a new suit. Although maybe badly fitting suits are a Thing now.

Is Barron Trump on the autism spectrum? I know speculation has been going around on that topic, and yeah — no one’s business and leave the kids alone. I’m only curious, as it would explain much, including why Andrew Wakefield attended the inaugural celebrations and the new president supposedly plans to put a vaccine questioner on a committee investigating them.

That march. Whew. I had no idea so many people I knew were going, and now I feel like I should have at least come down to take some pictures. My favorite single march? Antarctica.

I’m not the first person to observe that when people who believe the government can’t do anything right rise to power, they put in charge people who can’t do anything right. Self-fulfilling prophecy. Still, a week doesn’t go by that I’m not astonished by how much regular people distrust their government. Two quick examples drawn from that bottomless pit of stupidity, my Facebook feed:

We’ve had some sewer line problems in an adjacent county, and a lot of rain, and some raw-sewage overflows into the lake have occurred. It happens, it’s not good, all freely acknowledged. Crews are working on it. On Facebook, a movement is rising: BOIL YOUR WATER. A person with an adequate understanding of how water systems work steps in to point out that the overflow is into the water source, “raw” water, and it is all treated at the plant before it goes out as potable. So you’re fine, this person said, which only prompted a torrent of how stupid do you think we are? Do you think they’d TELL us the water was unsafe to drink? Boil your water! As though water-plant management, with absolutely zero reason to lie because the problem wasn’t theirs in the first place or to fix, would just lie to nearly 3 million people who drink it. Because GOVERNMENT.

The next day, a person inexperienced with eggs reported getting a double yolk in one. “I threw it away, just to be safe,” she wrote. Smart! replied one of her network. You never know what the government is doing with these chickens! Of course a double yolk is a perfectly natural, if unusual occurrence in laying hens, but please: Blame the government.

Of course, water and food safety in the U.S. are two triumphs of government oversight, with one notable exception.

I could be amused by this stuff if the stakes weren’t so high.

A copied cake? What’s HAPPENING???!!?

Sherri posted this Rick Perlstein piece, low in yesterday’s comments. You should read.

And with that, I gotta scoot. Happy Monday, all.

Posted at 8:26 pm in Current events | 98 Comments

Last day/first day.

We all know what day it is. The outgoing president has been generous with his time this week, with his presser, various other interviews and one I’m halfway through on Pod Save America, the podcast that succeeded Keepin’ it 1600.

You can read/listen/watch those, or you can join me in Tom & Lorenzo’s retrospective of FLOTUS’ style, which I’m enjoying. Daywear, parts one and two, plus separate posts on the gowns and the coats.

So many pretty clothes to look at. I’m so sad. I’m going to look at the pretty clothes and try not to think of the incoming administration’s extended family trying to cadge free haircuts.

Here we go, America. Try to have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:32 pm in Current events | 70 Comments

Last days of this.

One of those days, folks. Long and not terrible, but one that didn’t yield much material. Did a radio thing at 9 a.m. about the governor’s state of the state address. Fortunately, the other guest had taken very detailed notes, and can say that Flint didn’t come up until 34 minutes in. My notes read, “says ‘shoutout’ incessantly.” Which he did, enough that I looked up “shoutout” on Google Ngram. It’s hiphop slang, now over deployed by our nerd governor.

Then I came in to the office. Had soup for lunch. Had soup for dinner. Didn’t get enough done; my bullet journal will scold me tomorrow.

But I got some bloggage! It’s a bit infuriating.

Another one of those Vox things — I voted for Donald Trump, and I already regret it. Oy, these people:

Since that 60 Minutes interview when Trump went back on his promise to investigate Clinton, I haven’t been able to look at him the same way. Witnessing his open admittance that he made promises simply because they “played well” during the campaign was disturbing. He has shown himself to be guilty of all of the same things he accused Hillary of — lying to the public, refusing to do press conferences, putting himself and his business interests above the American people.

Since the election, Trump has repeatedly spat in the faces of those that cast their ballots for him. I did not cast my vote for his Cabinet members, many of them rich millionaires and billionaires, despite Trump’s lambasting of Hillary Clinton on her association with Wall Street. I did not cast my vote for his sons who sat next to him during his meeting with tech titans, potentially representing the vast business interests of the Trump company that they now run. I did not cast my vote for Ivanka, whose clothing brand was working out an ongoing deal with a Japanese clothing company when she sat in on a meeting with her father and the Japanese prime minister. I did not cast my vote to enrich the very swamp that Trump promised he would drain.

Today’s talker will be this NYT piece on Rick Perry, which made the blood drain from my face:

When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.

In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.

Two-thirds of the agency’s annual $30 billion budget is devoted to maintaining, refurbishing and keeping safe the nation’s nuclear stockpile; thwarting nuclear proliferation; cleaning up and rebuilding an aging constellation of nuclear production facilities; and overseeing national laboratories that are considered the crown jewels of government science.

“If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy,’” said Michael McKenna, a Republican energy lobbyist who advised Mr. Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign and worked on the Trump transition’s Energy Department team in its early days. “If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.”

It’s fashionable these days to go around muttering “we’re so fucked,” and it’s easy to see why.

Finally, this Bridge story goes live at 6:20 a.m. Thursday, and I’m eager to hear what people think of it. It’s very strange, and there’s a twist at about the three-quarter mark that I’d rather not spoil until more people have a chance to read it. But I want to hear opinions.

Onward to the week’s downside. And…Friday.

Posted at 9:37 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments

What’s unspoken.

As a card-carrying member of the evil media, I’ll acknowledge being a little out of touch, but there’s one thing you civilians do that has always bugged me. And that’s the insistence that when terrible crimes are committed, it’s somehow wrong to pay any attention to those who perpetrate them.

Seriously, I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people claim that it was wrong to put O.J. Simpson on the cover of some newsmagazine, or Tim McVeigh, or anyone other than, oh, Osama bin Laden. (Funny how this rule is suspended for certain terrorists.) Sometimes this goes to extremes; one of the best criticisms I read about the Oklahoma City memorial was that McVeigh is barely mentioned, and his cause not at all. We wouldn’t want to offend the families of victims, who don’t want to see him mentioned.

How such an unspeakable tragedy can happen in a vacuum escapes me. And I don’t think O.J. killed his wife and another man to get on the cover of Time magazine. But that’s how people think, and all I can do is argue.

This came up because Alan and I watched “Tower” on Saturday, an interesting and excellent documentary on the sniper shootings from the University of Texas tower in 1966. (Last year was the 50th anniversary.) The film uses actors, and the animation technique known as rotoscoping. This gives you the effect of hearing young people describe a 50-year-old incident, which gives it a sense of immediacy. It also covers up for the lack of contemporary footage – contemporary with 1966, that is. There’s some of that, but it being the era before cell phones and video, there’s not enough to make a whole movie from it.

But here’s what’s missing: Charles Whitman. I believe his name is mentioned once, and there’s zero discussion of his motivations, admittedly oblique. So what? So this: As these hideous incidents pile up, an amazingly consistent throughline is emerging – domestic violence. In fact, Whitman’s first act, before he climbed the tower, was to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

So when you say you don’t want to “glorify” killers, consider what else you’re doing, i.e., turning your back on knowledge that may be valuable in the future.

Last year I did a story on human trafficking, and one of the advocates made a comment that’s stuck with me; that is, that human trafficking is, in terms of public awareness and understanding, approximately where domestic violence was 30 years ago. The better we understand the link between domestic and mass violence, the better prepared we’ll be to put a stop to the next one.

But we can’t do that if we act like it’s somehow wrong to talk about the men — and it’s always men, at least so far — who perpetrate these things, that won’t happen.

Just sayin’.

It’s a good movie. On iTunes. Recommended.

Man, this week started at a gallop, and it’s still galloping. Worked last night, worked a little tonight, gonna work on the usual schedule all week because you all know what comes on Friday, right?

And today I drove back and forth to Ann Arbor. In a driving rain. I listened to a Chapo Trap House podcast, a Pod Save America podcast, and missed the day’s big news – the pardon commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. What should we think of this?

The Obamas have started their move, evidently.

And that’s all I got. Back to work.

Posted at 8:31 pm in Movies | 42 Comments