Open your eyes and see.

I remember something medical ethicist Art Caplan once told me in an interview, which I’ll paraphrase here: “Americans are great at saving the baby from the well.” (This was not long after the Baby Jessica story, which most of you will recall.) He went on: “We’re not so great at buying her a pair of glasses so she can see the well in the first place.” In the disaster in Texas — in every disaster — a lot of people have valiantly, heroically, pitched in to save the baby from the well.

That link goes to a WashPost story on the “Cajun Navy,” the assemblage of mostly Louisiana people who turn out with their low-draft boats to save people left in dire straits by floodwaters. I believe they first came to national prominence in the northern Louisiana floods last year, and they’ve turned out to help in Houston, of course. And that is a great thing, because lives are in acute danger. What’s much harder is caring about people when they’re not in danger, when they’re not wading chest-deep through the wreckage of their lives, holding their pets on their shoulders, or their children, or each other.

It’s harder — for some people, anyway — to admit that climate change is having a direct effect on these storms, and maybe we should swallow hard and make some difficult decisions. Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses.

During the 1993 Mississippi floods, some towns were so inundated that after the waters receded the hard decision was made to actually relocate them, to rebuild on bluffs instead of bottomland. This wasn’t 100 percent popular — history blah blah blah 500 year storms blah blah blah — but cooler heads prevailed. Or maybe they were cash-register heads, because the argument was pretty plain: If we want to rebuild on this soggy plain, we will be uninsurable, period. The next flood will take what it wants with no hope of recompense. And so the town trudged up the hill, and rebuilt there.

The floods in Houston are said to be similarly rare, a once-in-five-lifetimes thing, even though other no-way storms and damage have hit with more yes-way frequency in recent years – Katrina, Sandy and the the 2016 Louisiana floods, to name but two. Just in my little corner of the world, we have inches-in-not-many-hours rain events nearly every year, filling basements, closing freeways and overwhelming infrastructure that once could handle anything. We had one last night, in fact. We had one last summer. In 2014, Detroit got four to six inches of rain in four hours one night in August, doing a cool $1 billion in damage. And chances are, you didn’t even hear about it.

Maybe it’s time to buy the baby some glasses. Climate change is a done deal, southern Louisiana is nearly lost, but perhaps we can start acknowledging that this thing our modern age did to the planet exists, and plan or modify our infrastructure accordingly. At the very least. Something.

Otherwise, it’s just us and the Cajun Navy, CNN, and the rest of this televised pathos-porn we love so much. Which is not enough.

So, bloggage:

This week also marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. A complicated woman, a tabula rasa for the princess fantasies of millions of young women, who were collectively flattened by her violent end in a traffic accident, as a drunk-driving chauffeur tried to outrun a pack of photographers. I stuck with that story three days before I couldn’t watch another minute, but it went on for three weeks, maybe more. It was a rare case of worldwide hysteria. I mostly remember snapshots:

My local Borders bookstore had a table set up with a blank notebook, where customers could write their thoughts and condolences, with the promise it would be sent to the royal family. The pen was one of those with a feather glued to a ballpoint, I guess because it seemed more princess-y. There was a bud vase with a single flower and a box of Kleenex. This was an exercise that would arouse strong emotions; you needed a tissue. I wonder whether the book was ever sent, and if so, which mail clerk in the royal retinue fed it to the furnace and whether he laughed over it first: “Nigel, it says ‘ere, ‘Charles U R a monster and U deserve that horseface hag.’ Ha-ha!”

The classic-car auction in Auburn, Ind. a couple days later featured a Rolls-Royce with a single claim to fame — it had been used to carry Charles and Diana around on one day of a years-earlier trip to the U.S. Which is to say, she had sat in it for… maybe an hour? Two, tops? Sounds about right. The auctioneer treated this thing like it was the jawbone of a saint with centuries worth of provenance to back it up. The dumbasses at the auction lined up to fling some gladiolus stems into the back seat, like they were seeing on TV in London. I’m sure some tissues were dampened there, too. That they were bestowing near-religious significance on a car, to commemorate the death of a woman who had just died in a car? This seemed lost on them.

I wrote a column after 10 days or so wondering if maybe we weren’t all getting a little overexcited. I received a letter from a woman accusing me of hating Diana for her beauty, because I was so plain. That’s the word she used — plain. I’ve been on Team Camilla ever since, because Plain Girls Rock, or at least Survive. Plain girls don’t date vapid playboys and entrust themselves to their private-sector chauffeurs, anyway. At least I hope not.

My favorite single detail of the whole tawdry affair: Four people were in that car, three of them unsecured, all of whom died. The fourth, the princess’ palace-issued bodyguard, was sitting in the passenger seat. He fastened his seat belt, and survived. Let’s all lift a glass to Trevor Rees-Jones, and remember to buckle up.

Oh, and here’s a Hilary Mantel essay about Diana.

Finally, I remember Alex met an earlier partner at an event in Huntington, Ind., called the Nut Fry. Apparently nut fries are a thing in Indiana, and no less an authority than Rex Early, aka a “GOP power broker” used to host one.

And now you know.

Posted at 8:45 pm in Current events | 71 Comments

Saturday night, special.

Sunday morning as I write this, a coolish one that reminds us of what lies ahead, but frankly, delightful to enjoy after weeks of swelter. I slept late because I stayed up late last night. The Schvitz, currently undergoing renovation, hosted a fight night party for the McGregor/Mayweather matchup. Ladies admitted free, freewill offering toward the construction fund appreciated.

I went alone, but met friends old and new, including the owner of a marijuana dispensary. The law is in flux here, with a new city ordinance and a state licensing system set to go online later this year. The old dispensary was closed, but a new one is planned. The owner was optimistic and promised it would be something fantastic. I forget the exact language he used, but he implied a Walmart of weed crossed with Nordstrom-level customer service, or something. Should be amusing to see, once it’s finished.

Was the fight worth staying up late for? Meh. Of course the outcome was foreordained, but McGregor delivered, staying upright for 10 rounds and only fouling his opponent with MMA-ish moves about a million times. I wish I could have enjoyed the memory of watching it a little longer, before reading somewhere — can’t recall where, so no link, sorry — that McGregor was the rooting choice of White America, and they’re taking his brave stand as a victory. Well, bully for those rednecks then. I’m feeling a little cranky these days, and I’m blaming it on TAJ, or Trump-adjusted terms, as the new phrase goes. McGregor won in Trump-adjusted terms.

I miss the days when our president didn’t impose himself into my consciousness so often. But that is the world we live in now.

Honestly, Friday’s events left me feeling discouraged and depressed. The more you learn about Joe Arpaio — and I encourage you to follow this Twitter thread, and click the links — the more repulsed, sad and insert-bad-emotion-here I got. And that was only one of the awful things that happened Friday. In an optimistic moment, it’s possible to see this shitshow as the last gasps of a dying corpse. When I’m feeling less so, I think: 60 million people voted for this shit.

Right now I have to get the house in order. We’re having guests for the “Game of Thrones” finale, and I need to do some prep work. In the meantime…

Remember Kirk Jones, the guy who went over Niagara Falls to his death that I wrote about a while back? The Detroit News did a deep dive — so to speak — on him. Nothing about his life is particularly surprising, and he fits the pattern of so many Niagara “daredevils,” who really should be called desperados, in the truest sense of the word. I still owe you guys a story about the Toby Tyler Circus, Jones’ brief employer. One of these days.

A good NYT piece on the best and worst places to be gay in America. I’m not spoiling things to note that most of the best places are in urban America.

Someone was looking for a book recommendation recently, can’t recall who. I can recommend “Mrs. Fletcher,” Tom Perrotta’s new novel over there on the nightstand. It’s funny and seemingly slight, but it has some interesting things to say about contemporary sex and sexuality. I guess I also have to read Joshua Green’s “Devil’s Bargain,” although I don’t want to, but I probably have to. I’ve heard good things. It’s going on the list.

And with that, off to whip up dessert, then do a little more shopping. Enjoy this lovely day, and give thanks you’re not Conor McGregor, who this morning probably feels like he was in a car accident. See you in roughly 48 hours.

Posted at 11:32 am in Current events, Detroit life | 67 Comments

Last weeks.

A shortish day, a longish week, and I am so ready for it to be over. How’s your Thursday/Friday/Saturday?

Oh, but what am I talking about? This is one of the fleeting final weeks of summer, and we should savor every minute of it.

That said, I still need a vacation.

I’m planning to do another version of last year’s Sunrises of Summer post, as I can’t seem to stop myself from taking a photo every day I see it. That’ll be for Labor Day. Today was the last day I’ll swim at the Shores pool, overlooking the lake. It’s such a lovely spot, and never lovelier than at sunrise, which comes later and later. In another month, it’ll be the equinox, then the slog to the solstice, and then we start our trip back into the light. This fourth-grade science lesson is brought to you by Got Nothing to Say.

So let’s skip to the bloggage.

Charlotte posted this the other day, but it took me a while to get through it and I’m here to tell you it’s worth your time — GQ’s odyssey in search of Dylann Roof. It’s, um, a powerful piece:

In Charleston, I learned about what happens when whiteness goes antic and is removed from a sense of history. It creates tragedies where black grandchildren who have done everything right have to testify in court to the goodness of the character of their slain 87-year-old grandmother because some unfettered man has taken her life. But I also saw in those families that the ability to stay imaginative, to express grace, a refusal to become like them in the face of horror, is to forever be unbroken. It reminds us that we already know the way out of bondage and into freedom. This is how I will remember those left behind, not just in their grief, their mourning so deep and so profound, but also through their refusal to be vanquished. That even when denied justice for generations, in the face of persistent violence, we insist with a quiet knowing that we will prevail. I thought I needed stories of vengeance and street justice, but I was wrong. I didn’t need them for what they told me about Roof. I needed them for what they said about us. That in our rejection of that kind of hatred, we reveal how we are not battling our own obsolescence. How we resist. How we rise.

Reporters know about outfits like the Congressional Budget Office. Most states have a local version of these wonk-nests, where apolitical number-crunchers estimate the financial implications of legislation proposed by politicians, and then attach it to bills, just so everybody knows what they’re voting for. Trump doesn’t like the CBO, says Steve Rattner:

Developing long-term projections — particularly for complex policies like health care — is exceptionally difficult. And by no means do C.B.O. analyses invariably prove correct.

But passing sweeping legislation without input from the budget office would be like planning a picnic without checking the weather forecast. Meteorologists are not always right either but imagine what life (and businesses such as agriculture) would be like without them.

Finally, my old newspaper is more or less folding — they’re dropping the paper-paper and going all-digital. I don’t even care. Shit happens.

But I hope it doesn’t happen on your weekend. Enjoy.

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

Before and after.

I found some fascinating pictures online the other day:

Portraits of the first lady as a young woman, and as a young model, compared with today. I believe they were offered in the course of a Quora forum on what sort of plastic surgery she’s had, but I find them fascinating for other reasons. The first left-hand shot, I have to think, is Slovenia Melania, a pretty young woman hoping to become a model. Bottom left, Model Melania, already dating her share of wealthy pigs in hope of a permanent life here, but still hopeful in some way; maybe she’ll snag a hedge-fund manager closer to her age, one who stays in shape and remembers her birthday without having his secretary remind him.

And on the right, Melania Trump. I’m sure some combination of surgery and fillers and god knows what other witch-potion has given her that perma-squint, but even if we could see all the way past those flat brows and through the prickly hedge of her lashes, we’d find…maybe nothing? I’d love to put together a timeline of her modeling photos — because a model should have a zillion of them, right? — and see if we could find the exact moment when her soul left her body.

Midweek, feeling…midweek. The humidity is blowing out as we speak and will be replaced by clear, low-humidity, moderate-temperature loveliness, so I guess I will be enjoying it. Summer won’t last forever. Maybe an early-morning bike ride or something. Summer is fleeting; best enjoy it.

I was checking in on this and that today when that and this sent me over to Condoleeza Rice’s argument for why we should leave Confederate monuments where they are:

“I am a firm believer in ‘keep your history before you’ and so I don’t actually want to rename things that were named for slave owners,” she said Monday on Fox News.

“I want us to have to look at those names and recognize what they did and to be able to tell our kids what they did and for them to have a sense of their own history. When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better it’s a bad thing,” she said.

Huh. I remember when the Oklahoma City bombing memorial opened, an architecture critic noted how hard you have to look to find the name “Tim McVeigh” and there certainly isn’t a bronze rendering of him in that memorial. I haven’t been there, but I suspect he’s right, as someone who’s read approximately 10 million letters to the editor wondering why newspapers put the name of accused killers on the front page, WHEN THAT’S WHAT THEY WANT.

Is there a statue of Osama bin Laden at the 9/11 memorial? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Ignore the typos in this post to get a sense of just how ridiculous the Kid Rock for Senate campaign really is:

The July poll that went viral on the Internet, lifting Kid Rock as a serious contender for U.S. Senate, may have been created by a fake polling firm to cash in on lucrative bets related to the 2018 Michigan elections.

According to FiveThirtyEight, numbers from a mid-July poll incredulously showed the raunchy musician from Romeo (Mich.) leading Democratic incumbent Debbie Stabenow by a 30-26 percent gap. That raised questions among political pros whether this whole episode was a scam.

First, the so-called polling firm, Digital Analytica, had existed for about a week prior to the highly publicized poll of July 14-18. Second, there are some indications that this shadowy group may be engaged in cashing in on an online gambling website, PredictIt, which offers the opportunity for betters to make wagers on political matters relating to future elections and the advancement of political figures.

People around here are still click-whoring on this nonsense. I hope it can stop now.

Happy middle of the week to you. Next week’s a short one. Whew.

Posted at 8:47 pm in Current events | 100 Comments

Just because…

This was my eclipse view:

Not entirely. One of my neighbors had an extra pair of glasses and generously shared them, so three of us stood in her driveway and alternated looking at the sky with looking at the pavement, along with that weird, slanty light that eclipses bring on.

It was a lovely afternoon.

Posted at 8:07 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 42 Comments

Just keep swimming.

When some of the people I swim with started signing up for an open-water race this summer, I hesitated, then thought what the hell. The thing I always liked best about riding was getting away from the schooling ring circles and doing what the discipline called for — jumping fences, hacking out in the countryside, whatever.

So why not get out of the pool? In entering, I chose a distance other than the shortest one (1.2 miles, with the other choices being .5 mile, 5K and 10K), and set some goals, in order of escalating ambition and reverse order of likelihood of achievement:

1) Don’t drown.
2) Finish.
3) Don’t finish at the back of my age group.
4) Win my age group.

The swim was Sunday, and I made it to No. 3. It was way harder than I anticipated, mainly because open-water swimming layers on another skill neglected in the pool: Staying on course. Also, navigating a start, when a zillion people all plunge into the lake and start swimming for the first buoy. An older woman I was chatting with beforehand advised starting toward the back of the pack, but we still had a scrum before the faster people surged to the front and the rest of us strung out behind. At one point I reached forward for a stroke and my hand landed flat on some woman’s ass. Sor-reee! But then the hard part started, i.e., figuring out why I’d sight the buoy and start off in that direction, and check again in a hundred yards and discover I was headed in a different direction. Nothing seemed to work, and I think I probably added a big chunk of yardage just zigzagging all over the place, trying to stay on course.

But the turnaround finally came, and as I started back, I thought, man, this is taking a long time. After I finished and collapsed on the grass to recover, a guy eating a banana next to me said he’d been wearing a swim watch, and the course was 2,800 yards, or nearly 1.6 miles. Oh, well. My time was atrocious — 1:05, but I finished fourth in my age group, which I believe was Pre-Medicare Crones. Three other crones were behind me. The age-group winner was 15 minutes faster, however, so better luck next year.

The distance group first-place finishers were 13 (M) and 27 (F). They were probably eating ice cream in Ann Arbor by the time I dragged my ass up the beach. But I’m glad I did it. The weather was perfect and I finally got to experience the culture of the professionally run amateur sporting event. Which is to say, I got a T-shirt, a medal and a new swim cap.

So. Monday is Eclipse Day, and in filling the nation’s pages, feeds and airwaves with related garbage masquerading as journalism, NBC News went with the Scrooge angle: The eclipse will cost America almost $700 million in lost productivity. Please join me in a hearty fuck-you to whichever economist pulled that number out of his butt. Americans really love this sort of self-laceration, which in its own way beats anything ever put on a Soviet propaganda poster. I once read a lost-productivity analysis of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. OMG the carnage in the bottom line. I can’t even.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the path of totality and have clear skies, I hope you leave your work station, go outside and have the human experience of marveling at our cosmos. I plan to.

Some more bloggage, then? Sure:

I know what whattaboutism is, but I didn’t know it was a Cold War tactic, only that it has in my experience been wielded mainly by certain conservatives I’ve known, who couldn’t acknowledge the mistake of one of their own without saying, “But what about Bill Clinton? Huh?” Here’s an explainer on the history of whattaboutism.

And just to tie up last week’s threads, I’m not the only one who has noticed the peculiar influence of the College Republicans on the greater party:

The pool of people the Republican Party will be drawing from when selecting candidates a generation from now will contain these men and hardly anyone else. Cvjetanovic wasn’t the only marcher photographed with a current Republican elected official. Allsup, the erstwhile WSU College Republicans president, was photographed with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “I communicate with people from their office on a fairly regular basis,” he told his student paper a few months ago, also mentioning that members of his organization had earned internships and jobs in her office.

This is the state of the GOP leadership pipeline. In a decade, state legislatures will start filling up with Gamergaters, MRAs, /pol/ posters, Anime Nazis, and Proud Boys. These are, as of now, the only people in their age cohort becoming more active in Republican politics in the Trump era. Everyone else is fleeing. This will be the legacy of Trumpism: It won’t be long before voters who reflexively check the box labeled “Republican” because their parents did, or because they think their property taxes are too high, or because Fox made them scared of terrorism, start electing Pepe racists to Congress.

Hey, even the National-goddamn-Review has noticed.

Man, am I beat. “Game of Thrones,” then off to bed for me. This girl is going to sleep well tonight. Hope you do, too.

Posted at 9:31 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 50 Comments

Who are these jerks?

Today’s question: What’s wrong with the College Republicans?

Two of the tiki-torch marchers ID’d by the general public are College Republicans, and anytime I hear about that group, I’m reminded of a Fort Wayne story from 2002. I finally tracked down a copy of it, and since I can’t link, I’ll post larger-than-normal chunks of it here:

A Fort Wayne woman with dementia wrote nearly $50,000 in checks within six months, mostly to political organizations. She doesn’t recall making the donations, but her family wants the money back.

The more Mary donated, the more money the organizations pleaded for. They told the 82-year-old our nation is in danger of communist takeover and implied the letter writers had close ties with President Bush and other high-ranking government officials.

All the solicitations were through the mail.

…It’s a family’s worst nightmare, said niece Jan Rediger of Leo, who asked that her aunt’s full name not be published.

Last summer, her aunt told her, “The bank has stolen $30,000.”

“I knew things were going downhill when I stopped by to see her and there were stacks of mail everywhere, especially from Republican groups.

“There were hundreds of letters, most of them addressing her by her first name. She thought they were letters to her personally. She didn’t realize they were form letters. They all asked for money,” Rediger said.

…Last year, she began getting more letters from the College Republican National Committee, which is affiliated with the Republican National Committee.

Mary also received 20-30 letters a day from lesser-known GOP groups, including the National Republican Victory Campaign, Republican Strategy Headquarters, Republican Headquarters 2001 and the National Republican Leadership Committee.

All her checks were deposited and cashed, including several Mary made out to individuals listed as directors of the organizations.

One of the letters said:

“I need you to send your $200 contribtuion immediately. If I don’t hear back from you, I will be forced to shut down several critical Republican programs.” The undated letter was signed Scott Stewart, chairman of College Republican National Committee.

In another letter:

“I feel that we have gotten to know each other well enough that I may write to you using your Christian name …It always brings a smile to my face when I open a letter from Fort Wayne, Indiana because I know that it is from you. Mary, I am writing to you and sharing all of this with you because I have nowhere to turn. I am writing to you to ask you if you will make a major commitment to Republican Strategy Headquarters now to help President Bush in the amount of $25,000…

“This is the true amount that I need within the next three weeks if I am to help the president’s proposals pass through the Senate …I beseech you, send $25,000 now. Or if you cannot send it all at once, perhaps $5,000 now and the rest in a little while.” The letter, dated June 15, 2001, is signed: “Your sincere friend, David Harris, director of Republican Strategy Headquarters, PO Box 4442 Salisbury, MD 21803.

Although Mary did not send the requested $25,000, within a few months she did send nearly $13,000 to Republican Strategy Headquarters, which listed a different Washington, D.C., post office box on some letters.

…The College Republican National Committee “is not in any way connected” to Republican Strategy Headquarters, said committee Chairman Stewart.

But the family wonders why, in the June 15 letter, Harris writes: “You have been enormously generous toward me in the past and also to Chris, Scott and others.” Chris Tiedeman is general chairman of the National Republican Victory Campaign, a project of the College Republican National Committee.

Stewart said he had no explanation and “is going to be seriously looking into it.”

He said the national committee “does not ask for large sums of money,” adding solicitations usually are for $25 to $50.

In a March 28, 2001, letter, Stewart urges Mary to “rush me back $300 right now. …If we delay then the Rule of Law may be dead and America may turn into a Communist police state.”

There’s more, but you get the idea. A little Googling shows Stewart seemed to be cut from the usual College Republicans cloth — an early sexual harasser who rose like cream to the remunerative top layers of corporate America. And, of course, Mary wasn’t the only one. This was part of a national fundraising strategy, and most of the money went to pay vendors, not elect Republicans.

I had to chuckle over this passage in the last link:

College Republicans serve as the party’s outreach organization on college campuses. The group has been a starting place for many prominent conservatives, including Bush adviser Karl Rove, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and former Christian Coalition executive director Ralph Reed.

Elite company, right there. But seriously, given this history, wouldn’t you think job one would be to rebuild the brand? Rhetorical question, because of course, this is the brand – take-no-shit aggression in pursuit of party over all. Bilk a bunch of seniors? Hey, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few bank accounts. March with racists? A few bad apples, heavy hearts, thoughts and prayers, etc.

Blegh. Enough.

I want to leave you with something delightful after this grim week, I’ve found it, and it isn’t a kitty video, but this breezy history of true-confessions magazines, from their founding to today. Yes, today — they still exist!

The magazines are staple-bound and always 64 pages long—ten stories, two “Inspirational Mini-Stories, and one recipe, released once a month. The paper inside is newsprint, the photos all stock images, and the prose leans toward Kindle single. They’re not exactly the kind of magazines that anyone would describe as “venerable” at a glance, but the goofy covers belie the publications’ age and legacy. The first women’s confessional magazines, True Story and True Confessions are now approaching their centennial.

I think I’m going to have to seek one out. In the meantime, have a great weekend.

Posted at 9:18 am in Current events, Popculch | 83 Comments

The word of the week.

The word of the week is emboldened. That is, to make bold, or bolder. I’ve heard it so much in the last six months, and at least half of that in the last 72 hours, that I can’t even. Use it in a sentence? Sure: The new administration has emboldened white supremacists to march in front of cameras without the usual hoods and robes.

After which many whine like little bitches, I might add.

I don’t like words like emboldened. No one uses it in casual conversation. It’s a journalese word/phrase, like solons or controversial or racially charged. And yet I’ve heard it over and over this week, because racists be emboldened. Make of that what you will.

With that, I offer this advice to an emboldened president: Keep digging, and make the grave big enough for two. My alma mater “reluctantly” endorsed Trump, on the grounds that Mike Pence would be both a moderating influence and a steady hand at the helm of the good ship Conservatism. Perhaps this was based on the fact Pence looks like the captain of a cruise ship, or at least the guy in gold epaulets that they send out to schmooze with the paying customers while autopilot and the first mate keep the ship away from icebergs, but man, talk about an ignominious choice. They were one of only a tiny handful of papers to endorse Trump, and that gasbag from Hillsboro, Ohio keeps getting the Washington Post platform to explain Trump love to the nation. And they’re still writing witless editorials about Pence, their great white hope for a less embarrassing presidency. As if he weren’t clapping and smiling and nodding along with every damn crazy-ass thing that’s happened since November. As if he didn’t call serving President Many Sides the greatest honor of his life. As if, as if, as if.

Enough. At least for the next paragraph. I kick off the bloggage with a heartbreaking story from Bridge which is still worth your time, about what really happens after the plucky girl attorney gets the wrongfully accused man released from prison. A sobering look at what our misguided judicial and incarceration policies can end up costing us in the end. Read. It’s really good.

Where is the country’s nastiest GOP primary? In the Hoosier state, says Politico, Rokita v. Messer for the U.S. Senate. Guess who’s the bad guy with the Indiana GOP:

Rokita ran particularly afoul of the state Legislature — where Messer had quickly risen up the ranks during a stint several years earlier — in 2009, as lawmakers began preparing for the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. Then in his second term as secretary of state, Rokita proposed making it a felony for lawmakers to consider politics when drawing political boundaries. He toured the state promoting his idea and drew up sample maps with new boundaries.

The Legislature bristled at Rokita’s suggestion, which would have given his office new power and disrupted lawmakers’ safe seats. The state Senate president — a fellow Republican — said Rokita had “crossed the line.”

Oh, and a small tech note, via J.C.: The company at the center of this story, resisting a warrant for lots of user data on visitors to an anti-Trump site, is the same one that hosts the site you’re reading now. Courage, DreamHost! I’m with you, anyway.

Into the midweek hump we go. I’m still digesting lunch. Damn shwarmas — they lure you in with their deliciousness, and stick around all. Damn. Day.

Posted at 5:49 pm in Current events | 59 Comments

Notes from well outside the perimeter.

I guess I picked the wrong weekend to try to stay away from the news, eh? I was happily plowing through an overpriced granola/yogurt breakfast at the Eastern Market when I checked Twitter out of boredom and saw the first reports from Charlottesville, of the tiki-torch march. Had a feeling nothing good would come of it. Was right.

A few thoughts:

James Fields, the young man who was apparently behind the wheel of the car that plowed into the crowd is, as you might expect, yet another young man already in life’s clearance bin. Fatherless, directionless, quiet, “kept to himself,” etc. A lot of these kids find themselves in the Army. As did Fields, until he found himself out of it:

Military records show that Mr. Fields entered the Army on Aug. 18, 2015, around the time his mother wrote on Facebook that he had left for boot camp. Less than four months later, on Dec. 11, his period of active duty concluded. It was not immediately clear why he left the military.

I’ll leave it to you vets to speculate on what might have cut his service short. I saw some Twitter commentary on an interview with his mother, whose own affect seemed a bit flat. She stays out of his politics, she said. No part of this was surprising to me; I have met a thousand versions of this woman, an older, wearier version of her son. They’d been living in Toledo for about a year, in one of those townhouse developments where a person could, if they were so inclined, more or less disappear from the face of the earth. (He had moved out a while ago, however.) The video showed her sitting next to a silver car. You’ve passed a dozen of her on your way into work today. Silver cars blend in. Middle-aged women blend in. Townhouses are pre-blended in housing. Just a reminder you never know. About anyone.

Meanwhile, this oxygen thief (thanks for that one, FDChief!) thinks the whole thing was staged. And some of his oxygen-thievin’ listeners probably believe it.

By the way, if you’re not reading Will Sommer on the various tribes of the right, you’re missing out. Here’s his C’ville report in The Hill. Here’s his Twitter. And here’s a link to his weekly-ish newsletter roundup.

You should also read Roy on this subject, as well.

So. Other than that, how was the weekend? Tiring. I spent most of Saturday cleaning the kitchen, but then cleaned myself up and went out with Alan to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We went to the proverbial chic downtown hotspot, which was crowded and loud and where Alan got the surprise of his life when he ordered a rye manhattan and was charged $19 for it. Yes, $19. For one drink. But that was just for cocktail hour. We went later to a different place for dinner and I’m not sure what manhattans were costing there, but I bet it was less than $19. It was a nice evening. Kathryn Bigelow stayed at the hotel connected to the $19-manhattan place when she was in town last month, but I’m sure the studio was paying.

Sunday was more cleaning, but the house is no longer a Den of Shame and Dust, and we managed a graduation party in the afternoon. The host had a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and was pouring summer refreshments for anyone who wanted more than a beer. “Here you go,” he said to Alan, fortifying his lemonade. “I’ll make it a double and it won’t be $19.”

Have a swell week ahead, all. Let’s hope everybody simmers down.

Posted at 8:36 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments

Cricket time.

Did we talk much about Glen Campbell? I don’t think so. Of course his death was coming, everybody knew it. (Yours is coming too, and if you don’t know it, you should.) I took the opportunity to run through a few Jimmy Webb-written classics on YouTube, and thought what I always do: Jimmy Webb is an astonishing songwriter.

“By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Wichita Lineman” are two of the best songs ever written about adult heartbreak and loneliness, and Webb was barely out of his teens when he wrote them. He’s only 71!

I just said this again, at dinner. Alan pointed out that Billy Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” when he was 17, and that song is even more knowing and sophisticated and world-weary. But then, Strayhorn was gay; some of those guys have that stuff baked into their bones. I love those lyrics as much as I do anything by Webb:

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis
Of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails

The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces
With distingué traces
That used to be there
You could see where
They’d been washed away
By too many through the day
Twelve o’clock tales

I snuck a “Wichita Lineman” reference into a Bridge story, because I could. Here’s to Glen, a great artist.

Man, it’s been a long week. Long for the usual reasons (work), long for the newer reasons (Trump), short for more poignant ones (ah, fleeting summer). I want to take two full days to myself this weekend; I think I deserve it.

In the meantime? Some bloggage:

Someone said on Twitter a while back that everything you need to know about dietary supplements can be seen in the fact that so many grifters find their way to them. Alex Jones is no exception, and Buzzfeed sent away for a few of his branded products and had them tested. The good news is, they’re basically what they claim to be. The bad news is, they cost about 200 percent more than they should, but of course, only Alex Jones is sending you Alex Jones-branded patent medicine. For something called Anthroplex, for instance:

Claimed ingredients:​ Zinc Orotate, Horny Goat Weed, Tribulus Terrestris, Tongkat Ali-Longjack, Fulvic Powder

Test results: Labdoor found that Anthroplex passed a heavy metal screening but noticed a discrepancy in the reported amount of zinc in the capsules. According to Labdoor, there’s 31% less zinc than advertised. “When we look into the zinc dosage, it’s so ridiculously low that you’d basically be buying a worthless product for $40,” the report reads.

Review snippet: “This product is a waste of money. The claim that ‘Anthroplex works synergistically with the powerful Super Male Vitality formula in order to help restore your masculine foundation and stimulate vitality with its own blend of unique ingredients’ is fluff on multiple fronts.”

Can’t get upset by this. If you’re dumb enough to believe Jones, someone’s going to get your money. Might as well be him.

From Philip Kennicott at the Washington Post, an essay about his border collie, a rabies scare, and some thoughtful thoughts about how we behave in a crisis:

In a serious pandemic, in a country full of people not just skeptical about scientific consensus but also deeply hostile to government authority, what chance is there that people will abide by basic public health mandates during an emergency? What if the Ebola virus scare of 2014 happened today and was managed from the White House by tweet? Even if you understand the idea of risk intellectually, the words “There’s a very low risk” aren’t comforting when it’s your health in the balance, which is one reason it is so difficult to contain costs in our medical system.

Finally, how you-know-who and his right-wing pals latched onto the death of Kate Steinle and rode it across the finish line. Good policy is based on fact. What is based on distortion of fact?

You tell me. And have a good weekend.

Posted at 9:05 pm in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 97 Comments