In Which I Converse With My Dearly Departed Father About a .207-Hitting Muppet And His Son…


A scenario in which one can reasonably assume that the dead can interact with the living, but can’t get ESPN. 

Bob: Hey!

Me: Whoa! Oh, hey.

Bob: Isn’t it a little early for a beer?

Me: It’s uh…I don’t think…I mean

Bob: (laughs uproariously, in surround sound)

Me: (laughs uproariously)

Bob: So, how are our beloved White Sox doing? How do they look this year?

Me: Well…they’re the talk of spring training! Every news outlet is doing a story on them. Even People magazine!

Bob: Well, that’s great! They must have gotten some powerful lumber-wielders and slick leather-slingers to complement their already fearful coterie of flamethrowers. 

Me: Well…actually, it’s about a 14-yr-old boy.

Bob: …

Me: Yeah

Bob: I assume he’s some kind of phenom? A Griffey-esque prodigy who the suits at MLB won’t let play, due to some kind of rules against taking kids too early- a policy, by the way, about which I’ve been meaning to complain to Management, that we don’t have here. 

Me: Nope. Just a kid whose dad wants him in the locker room all the time. It’s sort of tearing the team apart. It’s all anyone can talk about. So yeah, big news. Big, big news.

Bob: …

Me: …

Bob: I gotta go. I’m having dinner with Groucho. 

Me: Oh, tell him I said hi!

Bob: Nope.


Bold Political Prediction


Marco Rubio



That’s the face of a soon-to-be-unemployed 44-yr-old with no real political prospects. This is what having zero real beliefs or ideals other than ambition and the lifelong desire to be the fetchservant of plutocracy get you.  You know, if it wasn’t for the know-nothing demagogue and the hateful theocrat, seeing Rubio, Jindal, Huckabee, Santorum, Walker, Christie, Jeb, Rand, etc be completely humiliated would have made for a wonderful year. But this is like seeing the Bears beat Green Bay twice in a 2-14 season when the Pack  still wins the Super Bowl. Some high points, yeah, but still the worst thing ever.

Regardless. Enjoy this.

“While it is not God’s plan that I be President in 2016 or maybe ever, and while today my campaign is suspended, the fact that I’ve even come this far is evidence of how special America truly is,” Rubio said.

I’m going to go with “ever”.

2016, Non-Political Nutshell

Re/Code has a interesting short interview with a professional “influencer”, someone who has mastered new media and has brands and companies clamoring for her to talk about them. There’s no snark here- these people work hard, understand the way the world works, and have created their own niche. Any curmudgeonliness that seeps through is due only to my inability to do any of those three. It’s just interesting how what even 10 years ago would have seemed like gibberish is now increasingly important.

Re/code: Hi, Taryn! Tell me what it is you do, exactly.

Taryn Southern: I’m a content creator, digital strategist and “internetainerpreneur.”[Ed. note: This is what it says on her business card.]

So what does that mean?

I create video content from development to execution to marketing. I do it for my personal channel, for media companies and brands.

From Fast Eddie To The Donald: Chicago’s Trump Supporters

The story over the weekend was of anti-Donald Trump protestors, particularly young students from UIC, forcing Trump to cancel one of his beer-hall rallies taking place on their campus. Trump’s people either feared a terrible scene (going so far as to lie about the police telling them to cancel) or were hoping to provoke one. Either way, they got what they want, as violence broke out when livid Trump supporters turned on the protestors. It was a watershed moment in this increasingly-terrifying campaign, as brutality has become part and parcel of Trump 2016.

As for the protests themselves, ideas are mixed. Charlie Pierce thinks that they should stay outside and not give the Trump people what they want, and Digby, taking the logic a step further, argues that the media will coalesce around these images, in a bout of “both sides are bad” idiocy. Already, as she points out, the right is muddying the waters, and if there is one thing the Republican party can coalesce around, it is painting themselves as victims of the elite (in this case defined as college students).

That leads us our main question: we’ve had days of asking who the anti-Trump people are, but not enough of asking who the huge contingency of pro-Trump people in Chicago are. It was satisfying to see that what worked in some cities didn’t fly here, but that didn’t mean no one showed up. Leaving aside the mix of the celebrity happy and addled curious, who in this Democratic city came to see this authoritarian blowhard? The answer can be traced to a former alderman and career crook named Eddie Vrodolyak.

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An Untrue But Fun Defense of Hillary Clinton on Reagan and AIDS

So, everyone is rightly going nuts at Hillary Clinton stating that the Reagan’s- especially Nancy!- started a national conversation on HIV and AIDS in the 80s. This is shockingly, grotesquely untrue. The Reagan administration was deeply callous toward it, soaked as they were in the idea that anything outside the American “norm” was evil and should be disdained, which was baked into the notion that homosexuals deserved it. They laughed during a plague, and of all the crimes of that treacherous admin, that’s one of the highest.

Hillary has since said she misspoke, and since I can’t even begin to parse out the politics of this, I’ll believe her.

But then…what if she didn’t? What if this was intentional. After all, it created a huge firestorm where every left or center publication is practically breaking their fingers to chronicle Reagan’s disgusting response. Which leaves Republicans either defending Hillary Clinton (god forbid!) or agreeing with the accurate history. It basically boils down to this:

Hillary: Reagan was great about AIDS!

Right wing press: Wrong again, Hildebeast! He was terrible and didn’t care. Take that!

At the worst, it brings up a conversation reminding us just how terrible Reagan was, during a time of funerary nostalgia (in this case, sepia-by-proxy), and that every time a Republican says they are the true standard-bearer of his legacy, this is part and parcel of what they mean.

I don’t think that’s why she said what she did. It was probably a combination of muttering praise at a funeral, he ability to reach out to Republicans no matter what is right and good (triangulation!), or just a simple brain freeze. But isn’t it pretty to think so?


The Obama Foreign Policy Doctrine: Tragic Radicalism

Of every way President Obama frustrates opponents and supporters alike, it is his stubborn refusal to fit into a narrative. In the Age of Takes, trying to piece together a grand theory based on one or two stories is to be quickly refuted by another narrative. Think of the glee the winger press had when Obama turned out not to be great at throwing a baseball- he’s weak, un-American, etc- but conspiciously silent about his basketball prowess.

This is especially true in foreign policy (though honestly, I could write “especially true in domestic policy” as well: he’s an tyrant, or a weakling, or a compromiser, or a canny operator, or someone who keps getting played). Obama’s critics on the left and on the right see two vastly different Presidents. On the left he is essentially a war criminal, reckless with drones and all-too-willing to engage in wars on every continent, vastly overstepping his power. On the right, he is the weak and feckless appeaser, letting our enemies run roughshod over us, at best. At worst, he is deliberately handing over the store.

In a long piece based on a series of interviews at The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, who for years has been kind of Obama’s foriegn policy father-confessor, tries to piece together some kind of doctrine that goes above the fabled “don’t do dumb shit”. If there is a grand narrative of the Obama years, it is someone with a tragic sense, who believes that people can be rational if the conditions are right, but who have a wild atavistic past just lurking in the background, and can revert to irrational behavior at any moment. That our first African-American president seems to be guided by Conrad- “we live in the flicker”- is material enough for generations of grad students to parse out.

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The Chicago Tribune Has Lost Its Damn Mind



His ghost rests easy…

For decades, throughout its entire history, the Chicago Tribune was maybe the newspaper world’s towering bastion of Republicanism. It made the transition from Lincoln’s radicalism to Coolidge-ian Babbitry to Goldwater radicalism to Nixon/Reagan hippie-bashing (its editorials in praise of the police in ’68 were legendary), all the way through to George Bush. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first Democrat it ever endorsed, and they did so again in 2012. This, of course, was enough for its white revanchist commentariat to proclaim it the most liberal rag this side of Pravda. So it seems that the Trib is trying to erase the stigmata of reasonableness, and let the bewildered ghost of Colonel McCormick nap peacefully in his grave.

This morning, the Tribune gave us its endorsements in the primaries: Marco Rubio in the GOP side, and no one for the Democrats. Its reasons for doing so are a master class in absurdity.

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An Ontological Political Question

If there are negative numbers- which there are, even though it makes no sense- can there be negative weight?  As near as I can tell, negative mass is hypothetical, and basically impossible. But suppose it could exist- there are more things, etc.  Can something that is weightless still somehow weigh less than something else weightless? After all, a negative number- a number less than zero- can be lower than another negative number, even though they seem like they shouldn’t exist at all. It’s a quandary: are all items lower than absolute zero equal, or is it possible to be even less than something that is nothing?

This line of questioning has nothing to do with trying to figure out if Carly Fiorina’s endorsement of Ted Cruz is more or less important than Johnny Damon endorsing Donal Trump.

(h/t BMK)

Obama’s Drone Legacy


An outstanding editorial in the New York Times today about President Obama’s drone legacy by the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman. The gist of the editorial is that Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones while creating a sketchy and mostly-hidden legal regime that justifies their use. Jaffer and Kaufman argue that the President should publish the Presidential Policy Guidance, release the justifying legal memos, acknowledge the all drone strikes “not just those carried out on conventional battlefields”, and “establish a policy of investigating and publicly explaining strikes that kill innocent civilians, and of compensating those victims’ families.”  All of these seem to me to be reasonable, and entirely compatible with living in a democracy.

(Disclosure? Brett is one of my best friends, the kind of stand-up fellow that everyone should know. That’s not why I like this article of course, but it’s goddamn exciting to see your friend’s name in the Times.)

The heart of the article is a stark reminder of what Presidential power does, and how it is nearly impossible to restrain once unleashed. Even if you think that Obama is justified to use drones (in which a case can be strongly made) or he has used them judiciously and wisely (a much harder case to make overall), anyone should be scared of what happens when someone neither as wise nor judicious takes over.

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Mississippi Bending: The Michigan Convergence



Image via The Chicagoist and Seth Brown


If you were standing on the Lake Michigan’s eastern shores late this February, on a day unusually warm and clear for that bitter month, you would have seen the Chicago skyline, distorted and strange, rising up over the far horizon. Nearly 60 miles of lake separate these two shorelines, and visibility is essentially impossible. But due to a temperature inversion that caused a bending of light and water, the skyline rose up from the depths, grotesque and squat, but still visible, in a place where it manifestly should not be.

If you were to stand in the same place today and turn your gaze southward, you might see a similar, though distinctly more frightening illusion: that of the country folding in on itself, bending at some Mason/Dixon line of the national soul, and falling forward, imposing a grim Mississippi on Michigan. It isn’t just that the two states have primaries today. It’s that the vision of one of the parties is to create a deracinated owner’s paradise, the kind found in the south, and impose it on America’s working heartland.

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