One letter too far, for now.

So, here in Michigan, this happened:

Lansing — The Michigan Department of Education has generated a GOP backlash and complaints of “social engineering” by recommending that public schools adopt transgender-friendly policies but refrain from unilaterally telling parents if students identify with a gender they didn’t have at birth.

A House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday stripped from a budget bill all travel and per-diem funding for the Democrat-dominated State Board of Education, a move the Republican chairman called “a message” to members who will consider the draft recommendation on May 10.

The amendment, approved in a party-line vote, came one day after House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, blasted the Education Department’s draft guidance memorandum as “a poorly written and poorly thought-out proposal that takes away the rights of parents and upsets the privacy and safety of Michigan’s children.”

Of course, hardly anyone knew about this until the Daily Caller did their usual subtle aggregation, virality happened, and then things got to a full boil.

Honestly, I don’t blame parents for being upset. In the LGBT movement, there needs to be a lot more education before the general public, which is finally pretty-much OK with the LGB part, figures out the T part, and gets comfortable with it. Believe me, there are plenty of nice parents who are perfectly cool with gay uncles and aunts and close family friends, who are not going to be cool with transgender locker rooms for middle schoolers.

I asked a gay friend of mine the other day, what does transgenderism have to do with gay people? If Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, has always been a woman, was born in the wrong body but is now free to be the full expression of womanhood, including dating men, then what does that have to do with homosexuality? He replied:

It is a divisive issue in the LGBT community for the reasons you suspect. There are plenty in the community, myself included, who struggle to understand what it means to see yourself as different from your physical gender. I think added to this is the fact that transgender folks have been so stigmatized and suffered so much mental anguish that they commonly struggle to be functional in daily life.

I honestly don’t know how true that is. Surely there are well-adjusted trans people in the world. And I know the locker-room assault thing is total bullshit, as are even the less-alarmist fears about trans women showering, dongs out, next to cis women. (If ever there was a group condemned forever to the middle-school experience of having a body, it’s them.) But understanding this isn’t going to happen overnight, and I wish someone would acknowledge that.

Meanwhile, on bathrooms: I bet most trans people just use the one they feel most comfortable in already. Like this man, who apparently was born a woman. Like same-sex marriage, this issue will eventually work itself out. I just wish we didn’t walk into these buzzsaws time after time. Change strategy.

In other cranky news at this hour, Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted Thursday. You probably don’t know who he is, but his CBC show, Q, runs in Detroit, and I was a listener. A year or so ago, he was fired, after it came out that he was …pretty much a creep, sexually speaking. He was fond of S&M and rough sex, and didn’t always clear it with his partners first. A few testified that casual encounters turned into smacking or choking, but the judge chose to discount them. He had a good lawyer:

The Crown’s witnesses were firm in their testimony and appeared ready for Henein’s notoriously aggressive mode of cross-examination. But when Henein began to lay out emails, letters, and photo evidence that she said contradicted their testimony, the women and Crown prosecutors seemed equally thrown.

She startled the first witness with an email the woman sent to Ghomeshi containing a photo of her in a bikini. The email, sent months after Ghomeshi allegedly punched her and yanked her hair, appeared to contradict the woman’s testimony that after Ghomeshi assaulted her, she was too traumatized to even hear his voice.

The second witness to testify was Lucy DeCouture, an actor who claimed Ghomeshi choked and slapped her. Henein confronted DeCoutere – who waived the publication ban on naming witnesses – with a photo showing the two of them “cuddling” in a park the day after the alleged assault. In a moment of high drama, Henein asked DeCoutere to read a handwritten letter she wrote to Ghomeshi following their encounter. The letter read: “I love your hands.”

Consistency. It’s what the world needs now. Or better witnesses.

I will be glad to put this week in the books and hope for better next week. Happy Easter, everyone.

Posted at 12:14 am in Current events | 63 Comments
 

Potholes.

The week is one pothole after another, but my shock absorbers are handling it. The weather needs to break; somehow I think a few open windows might make everything a little easier to take. (Pause.) Said every cabin-fever sufferer at this latitude since time immemorial.

This is spring-break time for the local schools, starting with Good Friday and continuing through next week. Strange to be divorced from that schedule for the first time in a decade. Of course, the only question I have of Holy Week is this: When is “The Ten Commandments” on TV?

And also, Passover.

Then jelly beans go on sale and the daffodils bloom. Hurry, please.

I can always tell I’m getting twitchy when I start obsessing on certain current events. This week: Trump and Brussels. I wish the world would stop giving these gifts to me, because I’d like to return both to the service desk. However, let’s use them to kick off the bloggage. Neil Steinberg on the Trumpian response to Brussels:

Because really, after the Brussels bombing, short of wrapping himself in explosives and setting himself off in some crowded public place, nobody could do the terrorist’s bidding with such alacrity as Donald Trump, running from station to station to spread the ISIS gospel.

“Frankly, we’re having problems with the Muslims,” he told Fox News. “These attacks are not done by Swedish people. That I can tell you. We have to be smart. We have to look at the mosques and study what’s going on. There is a sick problem going on.”

In other words, “Muslim = Terrorist.”

Which is exactly the reaction terrorists are looking for when they commit these atrocities. Like Donald Trump, they are uncomfortable with the idea of a tolerant Western society that welcomes all faiths. Like Donald Trump, they don’t think it’s wise for the West to include Muslims either. Like Donald Trump, they’d prefer the cultures remain separate and apart.

So eloquent. Ed and Gin and Tacos is a little harsher. Yesterday we talked about word salads? His post is called Word Cannon:

“What would you do?”

“Something.”

“What’s something?”

“I don’t know, I’ll have to ask someone else.”

About a third of the country is really excited at the prospect of this person getting in the White House.

This is reacting to the WashPost editorial-board meeting, of course. I wonder how many more of those he’ll be doing. Based on the reaction to this one? Not many, I’d wager. No upside.

The WashPost is pretty brutal on Belgium’s culpability in failing to spot the vipers in their midst:

BRUSSELS — The bomb attacks in Belgium offer new evidence of its security forces’ shortcomings in monitoring violent Islamist radicals, a failure that has allowed this country at the heart of Europe to become an incubator of terror.

One glaring example: Belgian authorities knew that at least one of the two siblings accused of blowing themselves up in Tuesday’s attacks — Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, 29 — had entered Turkey with the apparent intent of joining Islamist militants in Syria, according to a senior Turkish security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Bakraoui was stopped by Turkish authorities last summer at the Syrian border and sent to the neighboring Netherlands. But Belgian officials now say that at the time, they did not equate his attempt to join the fighters with a possible terrorist threat.

Pop culture news. Guess who died recently?

Clare Alden MacIntyre-Ross’ death on March 9 in Falls Church, Virginia, might have gone largely unnoticed by the larger world if she hadn’t been a Fresh Air Fund camp counselor in 1960 — and if her parents had let her take the subway.

The Scarsdale native was the daughter of former Scarsdale Mayor Malcolm MacIntyre, who was also the former president of Eastern Air Lines and under secretary of the Air Force under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Clare’s claim to fame was that she inspired Harry Chapin to write the love song “Taxi,” about former lovers who meet after years when he picks her up in his cab.

Finally, I really admire people who can turn Twitter into a form of dada art. Like this woman. Not for everyone, but I laughed out loud.

Man, doing the taxes this weekend is going to feel like a massage. Beginning, middle, end. Enjoy the week’s downslope.

Posted at 12:12 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 43 Comments
 

Tuesday’s roundup.

I can’t be the only one who saw this picture of the Obamas in Old Havana, and thought of this painting in the Art Institute, can I?

Late update today, sorry. Last night was the inaugural meeting of a new movie club some friends and I are trying to get going, and I didn’t get home until late. The theme was Shot in Detroit, and we watched “Only Lovers Left Alive.” I think I was the only one who really liked it, but then, I’m a sucker for Tilda Swinton in pretty much everything, and my husband is a Jim Jarmusch fan, so I’m predisposed. In the discussion afterward, one guy made an amusing point about scenester vampires and their quest for authentic food. That was funny.

Always nice to see old friends, this being the old filmmaking crew. One of the guys is the poster boy for Michigan’s changing economy, having gone from autoworker to special-effects makeup artist. When the tax incentives were cut, he got way less movie work, but now he’s hooked up with a guy who makes prosthetic limbs, a perfect fit for a guy who used to make prosthetic zombie limbs. He said one of their clients recently tripped a metal detector and when she told the guard she was wearing an artificial leg, he couldn’t tell which one.

So now it is Tuesday, and all is better than it was on Sunday. I think I do need a vacation, but not until June.

The president went to Cuba, and Donald Trump went to Washington. Trump met with the Washington Post editorial board and talked about his hands again. He also dodged a few questions:

RYAN: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?

TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?

[CROSSTALK]

TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

Keep your fingers crossed, America. One lump in Hillary Clinton’s breast, and this guy is your next commander in chief.

We have talked about trolls here before, but this Bloomberg reporter’s troll story is way worse than mine, or Lindy West’s: A vengeful Chinese businessman made her a target for two years, heaping vile abuse upon her head via his “news” website. Her and others, actually:

I wasn’t the first person accused of racism on TheBlot. Before me, there was Michael Emen, a Nasdaq official. In 2011, Nasdaq delisted a Wey client called CleanTech Innovations. (The decision was overturned by the SEC in July 2013 after the company appealed.) A piece labeled “opinion” appeared on TheBlot focusing on Emen’s role, alleging abuse of his powers, discrimination, and racial profiling. “Michael Emen Reveals Racism at Nasdaq” is still at the top of a Google search on his name.

Similar “investigations,” as they were tagged, began to appear regularly on TheBlot. The attacks reflected Wey’s obsession with what he saw as the unfair treatment of Chinese companies by the U.S. media and regulators. TheBlot went after Roddy Boyd, a freelance reporter who’d doggedly analyzed accounting irregularities at U.S.-listed Chinese companies; Jon Carnes, a short seller; Francine McKenna, who wrote about AgFeed on her accounting-focused blog; and a pair of Barron’s reporters who’d covered reverse-merger companies and Wey’s business. The accompanying graphics grew coarser and coarser, including photos of toilet bowls full of feces.

It’s a long piece, but this, THIS is the money quote:

Decades into the Internet Age, there’s no surefire method to get defamatory material taken down if the person responsible for it is ready to put up a fight.

So, so, so true. It’s hard to get stuff taken down even if the person doesn’t fight. Hey, Google is just the messenger, doncha know.

Finally, more bloodshed, this time in Belgium. A developing story, as they say. We’ll see how it develops.

Posted at 9:14 am in Current events, Movies | 82 Comments
 

Self-critical Sunday.

Sunday afternoon. Time for clouds in my coffee, fat Sunday papers, mimosas. What am I doing? Staring at a screen. Not for the first time this year, I’m struck by a thought, Girl, you have GOT to get your shit together.

From the outside, my shit is mostly together, but it never feels that way. I put my tax documents in one place, I do my laundry, unfailingly, every weekend. My house is rarely surgical-theater clean but equally rarely a disaster area. And yet I never feel organized. I never can sit down without thinking that I should be doing something else. One deadline is met, another one looms in the great steeplechase of life and I feel like Velvet Brown, hanging on to the Piebald’s mane for dear life. All is chaos, where is the theory? And so on.

But as the kids say: Consider the alternative.

Argh. Oh, for a life of fewer distractions, but it’s not like I’m overwhelmed; my kid has flown the nest (more or less), and I’m no longer scrambling gig to gig. I’m just lazy, with the attention span of a fruit fly. Today, ladies and gentlemen readers, I am falling very short.

(Tomorrow will likely be fine, of course. It’s just one of those I-need-a-break days.) So with that! Cheerful! Greeting to the week! Let’s get to the bloggage, because there’s some good stuff here.

You like photo essays? Have I got a photo essay for you, via the NYT: Cuba on the edge of change. They induce the same uncomfortable feeling, located somewhere around the thrill of voyeurism, that Detroit ruin-porn pictures used to arouse in me. And there are some spectacular images in there.

I have a Cuba picture in my upstairs hallway, and I look at it often. (It’s next to the linen closet, so I have to.) Sometimes, when people ask me what Flint is like, I say, “All of the decay of Detroit, none of the faded grandeur.” Cuba is nothing but faded grandeur. Grandeur was its stock in trade, once upon a time. It has faded magnificently.

Remember what I say, often, about trusting local sources? Some fine reporting from Oregon Public Broadcasting about the elected officials, from Oregon and other states, who aided and abetted the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover. Will they be indicted? I wouldn’t bet on it.

An interesting column about Bernie Sanders’, um, personality problems:

Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.

I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

They weren’t. Sanders was always full of himself: pious, self-righteous and utterly humorless. Burdened by the cross of his socialist crusade, he was a scold whose counter-culture moralizing appealed to the state’s liberal sensibilities as well as its conservatives, who embraced his gun ownership stance, his defense of individual rights, an antipathy toward big corporations and, generally speaking, his stick-it-to-them approach to politics.

I hate to say it, but I’ve met a million of him through the years. And I never trust a person without a sense of humor.

Finally, this piece from New York magazine, about the problems in Kansas and Louisiana, who have followed the GOP policy prescription to the letter and now find themselves circling the drain:

In 2010, the tea-party wave put Sam Brownback into the Sunflower State’s governor’s mansion and Republican majorities in both houses of its legislature. Together, they implemented the conservative movement’s blueprint for Utopia: They passed massive tax breaks for the wealthy and repealed all income taxes on more than 100,000 businesses. They tightened welfare requirements, privatized the delivery of Medicaid, cut $200 million from the education budget, eliminated four state agencies and 2,000 government employees. In 2012, Brownback helped replace the few remaining moderate Republicans in the legislature with conservative true believers. The following January, after signing the largest tax cut in Kansas history, Brownback told the Wall Street Journal, “My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, ‘See, we’ve got a different way, and it works.’ ”

As you’ve probably guessed, that model collapsed. Like the budget plans of every Republican presidential candidate, Brownback’s “real live experiment” proceeded from the hypothesis that tax cuts for the wealthy are such a boon to economic growth, they actually end up paying for themselves (so long as you kick the undeserving poor out of their welfare hammocks). The Koch-backed Kansas Policy Institute predicted that Brownback’s 2013 tax plan would generate $323 million in new revenue. During its first full year in operation, the plan produced a $688 million loss. Meanwhile, Kansas’s job growth actually trailed that of its neighboring states. With that nearly $700 million deficit, the state had bought itself a 1.1 percent increase in jobs, just below Missouri’s 1.5 percent and Colorado’s 3.3.

In Louisiana, there’s no longer money for indigent defense.

And with that, I’m going to go make dinner. Have a good week, all. I’ll try to show up where I’m expected.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 43 Comments
 

Birdwatching for lazy people.

If it’s spring – and it almost is – it must be time for various bird cams. I could go on a big long web search for my favorite – peregrine falcons – but in the meantime, there’s the spectacular, high-def, night vision DC Eagle Cam, featuring Mr. President and the First Lady, whose two eggs are being well-cared for. One is pipping right now. You chicken-coop keepers know what pipping is, right? No? It’s when the eaglet starts to peck its way out of the shell; in larger avian species, it can take a few days.

So that’s where we are. They seem to be good parents so far. Happy birdwatching.

Not quite spring, but it feels like it around here. Birdies singing their springtime songs, and this action in the back yard:

snowdrops

I made it the lock screen on my phone. Because I’m feeling a little starved for color.

Feeling also a little starved for sleep. So this may not last too long today. It’s been a long-ass, tough week. Lots of driving, lots of stress, and a husband with a cold. And I don’t know about you, but I cannot read another word about Donald Trump for at least 48 hours.

In other words, welcome, Friday.

Here’s a little bloggage, then I’m heading upstairs, OK?

The usual Onion genius:

WASHINGTON—Declaring that the president had been warned about naming a justice during an election year, a defiant Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly held up the severed head of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland this afternoon while standing in front of the Capitol building.

And on the same subject, a little more straight-arrow, Dahlia Lithwick on the GOP’s treatment of Merrick:

He is Scalia’s polar opposite. A careful writer, an infrequent dissenter, a true believer that judges interpret law and don’t make it. That Obama chose to take identity politics off the table with the selection of another Harvard-educated white man will disappoint many of us who had desperately hoped for a court that looks more like America. But at a moment when people are quite literally fighting in the streets about what America should look like, the idea of Obama seeking to turn down the temperature isn’t all that surprising. By picking a “judge’s judge,” Obama has tried to steer the conversation from one about politics to one about courts. Right or wrong, he still believes there’s a difference.

Interesting stuff about DNA and bones and Ireland:

Radiocarbon dating shows that the bones discovered at McCuaig’s go back to about 2000 B.C. That makes them hundreds of years older than the oldest artifacts generally considered to be Celtic — relics unearthed from Celt homelands of continental Europe, most notably around Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

For a group of scholars who in recent years have alleged that the Celts, beginning from the middle of Europe, may never have reached Ireland, the arrival of the DNA evidence provides the biological certitude that the science has sometimes brought to criminal trials.

And with that, let’s start a weekend, eh?

Posted at 12:22 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 56 Comments
 

Early bird.

I generally work out around 6 a.m. at one place or another, and today, a late cancellation meant I was the only one in boxing class. Woo, personal training! Two rounds on the speed bag, three on the mitts, two on the heavy bag and the usual grueling 12 minutes of core work, and I feel ready to kick anyone’s ass right now.

Actually, strike that. I feel calm and focused. Say what you will about this ghastly sport, but practicing its skills leaves me far more relaxed than yoga does.

So, late update today. I was out last night with a friend, seeing Sam Quinones speak about his book, “Dreamland.” I haven’t read it, but I will, after hearing his riveting tale of how heroin took over America, about the entrepreneurial youth of Xalisco, Mexico, who single-handedly built a ruthlessly efficient distribution network in cities like Columbus, and of course, of the tragedy of Portsmouth, Ohio, ruined first by globalization and later by junk. He talked for more than an hour and basically told the story of the whole book, but I’ll still buy it. It’s an important piece of work.

One of the things he did in that hour was explain his theory of how heroin (and prescription opiates) came along at just the right moment in this country, the key to a lock we didn’t know we had, salving our pain and soothing our anxieties about pretty much everything. He didn’t take questions, but I might have asked him how Donald Trump fits into his harmonic-convergence theory, as he’s doing the same thing. I see he got to it in some fashion on his blog recently, so that’ll have to do.

I also might have asked him about economics, because that’s the other part of our rot, and far more important than us just getting soft and pouty and achy. Portsmouth would likely not have a heroin problem if it still had a functioning economy, a shoe factory and steel mill and the other businesses that kept people working and providing for their families. But some questions don’t have easy answers.

The community center where the event was held exists in a cell-phone dead zone, so it wasn’t until I left that I learned John Kasich had won Ohio, depriving Trump of a coronation, at least for a little while. I heard part of his victory speech on the radio, driving home. Surely he knows he’s dead meat everywhere else, and it seemed to reflect a certain ruefulness over the ultimate result of this charade.

I’m not looking forward to November, not one bit. Who is?

Do I have any linkage for you? Let’s see…

A lot of talk on the national front about the big salvo by the National Review (can’t link to that, paywall), taking aim at the po’ whites of Portsmouth and other members of the GOP base. You can read about a million words about it elsewhere — Google Kevin D. Williamson + gypsum — but I prefer Roy’s, because they’re so amusing.

Stephen Henderson, locally, is more measured, and quotes one of the original essay’s say-amen-brothers:

“Simply put, Americans are killing themselves and destroying their families at an alarming rate. No one is making them do it. The economy isn’t putting a bottle in their hand. Immigrants aren’t making them cheat on their wives or snort OxyContin. Obama isn’t walking them into the lawyer’s office to force them to file a bogus disability claim.”

The economy isn’t putting a bottle in their hand? Spoken by a man with a sinecure at the National Review.

Rubio’s out, but I’m still glad I read this piece about him, in a home-state newspaper. A very small man in many ways, it turns out.

OK, time to make the donuts. Happy hump day, all.

Posted at 7:44 am in Current events | 60 Comments
 

Another election day.

Lately there have been stories in the papers that Michigan (and much of the country) may be in for a literal long, hot summer, to go with the figurative one promised by the presidential campaign. Oh, how fun it’s going to be.

So vote wisely, Ohioans and Floridians and Illinoisans and whoever else I’m forgetting. And consider this: The enemy of your enemy is…well, he’s something. You can figure it out.

Another taxing Monday, so have just this one piece of bloggage, a dive into Ohio Trump country via the WashPost, where people are so dedicated they open ad hoc campaign offices, on their own dime. That should tell you something right there. This goes along with the Thomas Frank piece from last week, about trade policy. Here you go:

On a Friday a year ago, he might have been fixing a gutter. On this Friday, a day before the rally, he was setting up a phone bank in the former tanning salon in North Canton, becoming part of something that felt larger every day, more like an important, even historic, struggle.

Republican elites were flying to a fancy resort in Georgia for a strategy session on how to defeat Trump. Millions were being spent on negative ads. Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had just made a nationally televised speech calling Trump a bully and a con man.

It seemed to Ralph that the whole political world was mobilizing against Trump, and by extension, people like him — an everyman with an 11th-grade education, aching knees and chronic ailments requiring four prescriptions and a monthly IV infusion to keep him going.

All of it only affirmed Ralph’s instinct: that Trump was an outsider telling the truth about America’s decline. “He’s honest,” said Ralph. “And the truth hurts.”

“Hey, Ralph,” said a volunteer named Mike, arriving at the office to pick up signs. “You see what the Republicans are trying to do to us? It’s just sad. They will never get another vote from me.”

Gotta run, sorry. Have a better Tuesday than I did Monday.

Posted at 9:04 am in Current events | 26 Comments
 

Tax time.

Sometimes we must screw our courage to the sticking place. We must take advantage of a rainy day that promises to stay all day. We must dive into the pile of bills on the desk (and pay them) and then we must dive into the pile in the dusty shoebox on top of the bookcase and do the taxes (and pay them).

I use TurboTax, and I love it, but I often wonder if I’m making a terrible mistake, or leaving a grievous amount on the table, as they say. Love that metaphor of “the table,” which reminds me not of polished mahogany in a law-firm conference room, but the 3-by-6-foot plastic ones, with collapsible legs, an image I retained from an article I read years ago about what it’s like to sell to Walmart. No business lunches, not that there are many places to go in Bentonville, Ark., but a whole lot of windowless rooms with those tables in them. You go in, lay your goods down, and Walmart tells you what it will pay you for them. Then you outsource your labor to a sufficiently cheap third-world market to restore your profit margin, and drink your pain away at Applebee’s before flying back to wherever you came from.

Anyway, the table. All I want is to get my taxes off of it, and I’m 80 percent of the way there, with only a smallish sum to still be paid; thank you, higher-ed tax credits.

And in my world, these days, that’s what shapes up to be a fairly good weekend. Of course, it beats the alternative of going to Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Here’s one of the guests, Mr. T.:

misterT

Wearing his best outfit, as you can see.

Now. I know I am wading into treacherous waters here, that there are people out there who can make cogent and compelling cases for dressing down, as it were, but I’ve about had it up to here with them. The slobification of America may not be at a critical stage, but if this is the best you can do for the funeral of a former First Lady, you should consider staying home and sending a card. Mr. T. doesn’t stand astride a pile of money the way he once did, but surely he has one suit in his closet, and if he doesn’t, he’s famous enough to borrow one. Hell, he could rent one.

Last year we went out to dinner on our anniversary, to a nice place here in Detroit. It wasn’t nice-nice, but nice enough that I wore a dress and Alan a tie, and we fit in. I looked up halfway through the appetizer course to see two couples being seated at a nearby four-top. They were young, in their 20s, and the women looked spectacular, heels and hair and makeup and clothes, the sort of turnout that suggested at least an hour of prep work, on top of a lot of regular maintenance.

The men? Looked like boys. Sports jerseys, saggy jeans and sneakers, plus that ubiquitous young-male accessory, the baseball cap. Which they kept on throughout the meal. They sat down with women on one side of the table and men on the other, and if the girls had started holding hands and left together, I couldn’t have blamed them. They looked more like a couple than they did with their male partners.

I see this dynamic everywhere, and I don’t know where it comes from. Most of the sharp, Don Draper-level male dressers I know anymore are gay.

I’m not against casual dressing; I do it all the time. I’m for appropriate dressing, and again – the funeral of an important public figure, carried on national television in a beautiful setting, requires at the very least a business-level turnout, dark suit and tie for men and dark suit or dress for women, although some more vivid colors are fine if they have some connection to the guest of honor; Mrs. Reagan was known for her fondness for red, so sure, wear red if you like. I’ve heard of funerals where the deceased actually asked, in his or her advance directives, that guests dress a certain way, in Hawaiian shirts or Lilly Pulitzer or the colors of his or her favorite sports team. OK, fine – I’m not a hard-liner on this.

But surely you can do better than camo and a flag do-rag. Even if you are “colorful.” It’s not about you, dude.

Rant over. Speaking of baseball caps, here’s one I saw Saturday night:

metallica

Ha ha. I’m about reaching Peak Trump myself, especially after Friday night’s events in Chicago. But here’s another one, with a certain THANKS OBAMA theme to it. It’s about Trump’s bottomless need for affirmation:

Donald J. Trump arrived at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April 2011, reveling in the moment as he mingled with the political luminaries who gathered at the Washington Hilton. He made his way to his seat beside his host, Lally Weymouth, the journalist and socialite daughter of Katharine Graham, longtime publisher of The Washington Post.

A short while later, the humiliation started.

The annual dinner features a lighthearted speech from the president; that year, President Obama chose Mr. Trump, then flirting with his own presidential bid, as a punch line.

He lampooned Mr. Trump’s gaudy taste in décor. He ridiculed his fixation on false rumors that the president had been born in Kenya. He belittled his reality show, “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump at first offered a drawn smile, then a game wave of the hand. But as the president’s mocking of him continued and people at other tables craned their necks to gauge his reaction, Mr. Trump hunched forward with a frozen grimace.

After the dinner ended, Mr. Trump quickly left, appearing bruised. He was “incredibly gracious and engaged on the way in,” recalled Marcus Brauchli, then the executive editor of The Washington Post, but departed “with maximum efficiency.”

Kind of a meh story about a meh topic – how Ben Carson came to endorse Trump – contains this delicious detail that I can’t get out of my head:

On several occasions, Trump and his wife Melania hosted Carson and his wife Candy for dinner at (Mar-a-Lago).

Mercy. Imagine the sparkling conversation at that table.

A little less levity, then? Josh Marshall on the violence at Trump rallies, with a warning.

One thing the Flint disaster may lead to is the end of the “let’s run government like a business” stuff, because as we know all too well, it doesn’t always work out.

And that wraps it up for me. Tip your waitresses and enjoy your week.

Posted at 12:15 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

Cut from the same cloth.

Up dark and late working/studying, up bright and early to head out to Macomb County — I’m moderating their monthly “political hot topics” breakfast. Just flyin’ the flag for Bridge.

So this is really all I have. I was struck by the obvious symmetries in this photo at first glance — the colors, the pose, the height of the two men, all of it, down to the smallest details (each has a flag pin and a visible wedding band) — but with a second look my only question is, “So younger men are wearing three-piece suits again?”

A photo posted by The New York Times (@nytimes) on

Obama was his usual witty self at the state dinner.

Enjoy your weekend.

Posted at 7:13 am in Current events | 62 Comments
 

Talk me down.

I try not to get too upset over politics in…what, March of a presidential election year. Lots and lots and lots can change in the next few months. So we’ll stipulate all that.

But that said, Wednesday was the first day I woke up and really-really realized that at this time next year, the first-light radio could be murmuring at me about President Trump. I once felt this was merely a high-wire joke. But the odds have dropped from 500-to-1 to 100-to-1, maybe lower.

Admittedly, the Thomas Frank piece I linked to in yesterday’s comments had something to do with it. He could clinch the nomination and do what all candidates do – move to the center – but do it in a way that soft-pedals the racism and increases the populism. Hillary has the world’s hardest job: To transform her eminently qualified self into something more…likable. Which, as any woman who has to be simultaneously tough and kind and smart but not-too-smart and honest but a Clinton can tell you is, well, it’s a tall order.

Maybe I’m panicking. Someone talk me down.

A second day at the office this week. We moved from the place closer to the center of town, which was informally called “the FEMA office” for its charmlessness, which admittedly, we did little to mitigate. But we were there little enough that we decided it wasn’t worth the money, so we relocated to a co-working space a few miles up the road – New Center, for you Detroiters.

I have a feeling co-working is the next great sitcom opportunity, but it isn’t widespread enough for the population at large to get it. Everybody goes to one space? But hardly anyone works together? But they do? And there are man-buns and anxieties over noise and courtesy? And there are popups in the common kitchen? And the usual office stuff about who makes the next pot of coffee?

Yes, there are all these things. We have only begun to explore the possibilities. Yesterday I moved between four or maybe six different seats. I felt like Goldilocks, looking for the one that had just the right combination of light, back support and noise level, but I’m figuring it out. And I’m enough of an extrovert that just being around people who are working — even if they’re working quietly, murmuring into the inline microphones on their phones and tap-tap-tapping on their Mac keyboards — invigorating.

And today’s popup was sublime:

popup

I had the tacos and the carrot salad. Clashing flavor profiles for sure, but I needed the vegetables. And both were wonderful. Of course I spilled one on my shirt, but missed my silk scarf, so #winning.

Just a little bloggage:

My friend and former Knight-Wallace Fellow Yavuz Bandar sounded enough of an alarm to wake me from my Trump preoccupation with this. Did you know what’s happening to journalism in Turkey? I didn’t. I need to keep up better.

Roy, as usual, has a great take on the conservatives’ reaction to Tuesday’s elections.

And with that, I’ll bid you a pleasant Thursday.

Posted at 12:23 am in Current events, Detroit life | 36 Comments