Author Archives: Allison Hantschel

Emojis, Journalism, and Why Being Cute Isn’t Work

We’re all clowning on this dumbass today, but I want to point out a few things:

It’s not just the sociopathic detachment that says a smiley face is for people losing their health insurance, getting kicked out of their nursing homes, or having their chemo suspended. It’s that in addition to being monstrous, it’s bad journalism. It does not accomplish what journalism is meant to accomplish. It doesn’t adequately inform the public. (I know, but wiser-than-thou cynicism is not a plan.)

This has bothered me for a long damn time, the “pants on fire” and “four Pinocchios” and “our truth-o-meter says” trend by which we rate politicians’ statements. When we put a fucking cartoon character next to things the president of the United Goddamn States says out loud in front of God and everyone, we’re conveying that this is only worth a snippet of your attention, that you can put a stamp on it and forget it.

It doesn’t tell us what the motivation is for lying, who profits by the lies, who is likely to be hurt. It doesn’t cover the patterns and histories and relevant constituencies of the lies, or their consequences. It’s imprecise, and it’s lazy.

We’re also assuming that these “ratings” have any effect on the politicians whatsoever. Now I don’t subscribe to the idea that calling someone out has to change them to be “worth it;” that way a madness of calculating your own influence lies. You call someone out because you see bullshit and you have a voice (and a camera). But I think we seize on these “ooh, his policy proposal was rated PANTS ON FIRE” and assume it’ll leave a mark. It hasn’t. It won’t. This isn’t holding liars accountable. It’s just putting them in categories and sticking a sticker on the boxes.

So if it doesn’t inform the public, it doesn’t hold liars accountable except in the most academic sense, it’s imprecise, AND IT MAKES YOU SOUND LIKE A FUCKING MORONIC SECOND GRADER WHO HASN’T LEARNED THE CONCEPT OF EMPATHY, why are we still doing this, journalists? Knock it off.

Schmucks.

A.

‘if we all are willing to be okay with helping others and being helped’

There’s a whole thread here worth reading but this is the part I want to talk about, as a way of addressing with the sensitivity our GOP masters demand the shortcomings of their latest attempt at legislation:

Every night, as a lullaby, I sing Kick Forever Young.

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others and let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung
And may you stay forever young

In the dark sleepless nights, I often pondered that third line. Its latter half. I know the rationale behind doing for others. Why would you wish to have someone let others do for them? Why would you want that for them? And what I settled on in those thin hours was that accepting help without fear of it was a grace we make far too little of.

You have to be able to reach your hand out. You have to know your own powerlessness if you’re going to survive it. You have to know that you can be at others’ mercy, utterly, and that you will be okay. You have to know that you will not be okay, and you will be okay.

How many of us are afraid to reach out, to not just help but be helped? How many of us have told ourselves, have been told, over and over, for years, that we have to wall ourselves up, wall ourselves off? That nobody’s gonna help us, that nothing’s gonna change? I mean it, how many? The whole world’s out to get us, that’s the message on every TV screen every night, so stay inside and be afraid.

It’s no wonder we’ve rationalized it. Otherwise you’d look at the world — traffic accidents, guns, carcinogens in the air, a sidewalk crack sticking up for your foot to catch — and go stark raving mad inside a second.

If an illness is not something bad that happens to anyone, but some deep inner flaw, some error in judgment or planning or faith, then your illness cannot happen to me, a virtuous hard-working person who Is Good. If you can be made to somehow deserve what happened to you (and injuries do just happen; two years ago I could run three miles a day) then nothing will happen to me.

I think a lot of the rank-and-file GOP “personal responsibility” rhetoric you hear from people who are likely to be hurt by the same policies of austerity they voted for comes from that fear. I think a lot of them are convinced that if they just shove the suffocation that is knowing human frailty into a suitcase and bury it in the yard, they will be fine. I think a lot of them quake with the knowledge that this is all a crap shoot, we are all one phone call away from disaster, all the time, always.

No one, a very wise friend once explained to me patiently, wants to think of themselves as having benefitted OR suffered from a system beyond their control. They’re afraid to help others because they’re afraid to be helped. Being helped means being weak, and being weak means losing. I think a lot of them are afraid.

Some of them, of course, are just horrific motherfucking assholes who’d sell their own fucked mothers for a tax cut and the chance to kick a hobo. However, I am trying to have the compassion our GOP critics want us to have for their feelings and sincere beliefs, for their philosophies and needs and wants. I am not being mean; this is the most generous possible view: They are cowards.

Cowards won’t let others do for them. Cowards don’t put themselves at the world’s mercy. Cowards don’t admit to the randomness of fate. Cowards lock their doors and pretend that there is a slavering horde out there and that a door or a lock will stop it. Cowards can’t admit they need help. Cowards can’t accept it, and cowards certainly can’t offer it. Cowards think alone protects them. Cowards think they’re alone.

There is no way to live your life without others. There is no way to be alone. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. Every story ever told is a hand reaching out to another, saying see, I too am here. It’s not that no man is an island; you can set yourself apart. But you’ll do it in the most strenuous opposition to your every human instinct. We are built to love and care for each other. That’s all we’re for. We forget that at our peril.

When we forget it, this is what happens. We take the only thing that is all of us together taking care of each other — government, as those filthy hippies like to call it — and we just decide to fail it on purpose. We turn on our own, on ourselves, and we make up lies about imperfect systems being worse than us all being together and trying to fix things. We vote for people who promise to drown us in the bathtub, burn us to the ground, make us disappear.

We’re so afraid of doing for others, letting others do for us. We build a ladder, but it isn’t to the stars.

A.

Get Out of the Nursing Home, Grandma!

I thought we revered the Greatest Generation: 

ORANGE, Va. — Alice Jacobs, 90, once owned a factory and horses. She has raised four children and buried two husbands.

But years in an assisted living center drained her savings, and now she relies on Medicaid to pay for her care at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit, county-owned nursing home here.

“You think you’ve got enough money to last all your life, and here I am,” Ms. Jacobs said.

Medicaid pays for most of the 1.4 million people in nursing homes, like Ms. Jacobs. It covers 20 percent of all Americans and 40 percent of poor adults.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.

Add “caring for the generation that punched Nazis IN PERSON” to the things we can’t afford anymore.

A.

People Live Here

Our real estate agent looked around our condo and sniffed. I’ve never actually seen someone sniff, in real life, in the dismissive, Edith Wharton Disapproves Of Your Social Status sense. She sniffed, this woman, and said, “This is terribly cluttered.”

She was standing in the living room I’d just spent four hours cleaning, the room which also serves as “the room where Kick keeps all her toys” and “occasionally, my office” and “a recovery room from all my major back injuries of which there have been many” and she was looking dismayed. There were toys in colorful bins, antique typewriters on the fireplace mantle, books on all the shelves, a large rug we’d just had cleaned.

“You’ll have to get rid of a lot of things.”

What this disapproving woman didn’t realize was that we had spent the past two months paring down our collection of books, stuffed animals, clothes, furniture, dishes, travel coffee mugs and just about everything else we owned. We had filled an entire storage space with my grandmother’s furniture and the contents of three closets. We thought we HAD gotten rid of a lot of things.

She shook her head. In order to sell a small condo for a reasonable price in our neighborhood, one has to STAGE it. It must be freshly painted, impeccably finished, with two perfect polished apples upon the sideboard. There can be books on the shelves, but not too many, and nothing “divisive.” Two or three towels in the linen closet at most and those, brand new and unused. Photos are fine, but nothing personal.

People need to picture themselves in your space, the agent explained. Not you.

It must appear that no one lives here at all.

So we spent the next two months painting, and packing, and harrying people into helping us bring even more of our stuff over to storage. We shopped for neutral colored bedding. We made a game of it with Kick: Stand in the corner and try to throw all the stuffies into the box! We’re not getting rid of them, they’re just going on a trip! We preened and primped the place. We staged.

Our condo went on the market five weeks ago. People come in for showings, for open houses, and leave feedback about issues we cannot address. The bathroom is too small, there is no central air, a parking space is not included in the fee. Where is the washer and dryer, they ask, and upon hearing it is in another section of the building they blanch and back away. NOT THAT. First-time buyers don’t want to fix things, the real estate agent said, trying to get us to do more repairs before we listed. They want everything done. When we moved into this place we stripped miles of woodwork, painted and repainted and tiled and refinished.

Every weekend we clean and stage again. And every weekend I think about how ridiculous it is to expect people to act like their lives are an HGTV episode, like anyone with a toddler is able to have thin-stemmed crystal just lying around, or keep the walls free of fingerprints.

People live here, I keep saying to the real estate agent, who by now treats us like juvenile delinquents in need of tough love. Is it really a drawback to know that? People live here.

I feel like most people would get that. Life isn’t perfect. Life is disorderly. Life is persistent; it will find a way to make a mess five seconds after you’ve cleaned one up, and the more life you have around you, the messier it is. Friends, family, kids, pets, hobbies, dreams, work, love, entertainment, joy, rest, they all take up space. They all make clutter that isn’t easily confined to underbed boxes and back-of-closet bins. They’re inconvenient and sometimes gross. They can’t be staged.

And oh, have we had life in this house.

If I staged my house the way I want to stage it, I would leave some of the stuffies lying around, the stray puzzle pieces, some apple peelings on the counter. I would unpack my pasta machine and the toaster. And I would leave photos of us: Me, Mr. A, Kick. Photos from her christening, when we shook off our sleep deprivation and packed 30 people into the house for cake and champagne. Photos from the orphan Thanksgiving we threw one year for a dozen colleagues of Mr. A’s who came from all over the world and were stuck with nothing to do during the holiday. Photos from our tenth anniversary party, which spilled out of the house and off our deck and out into the alley because so many people came.

I would leave a note, too, next to the inoffensive flower arrangement in its recently purchased pitcher-vase.

The note would say, I know this house is messy and the bedding isn’t fashionable. I know it isn’t like the gleaming new construction towers you see down the road. I know if you stretch out your arms in both directions you can touch all four walls of the bathroom. I know the air conditioner rattles and sometimes you have to smack the microwave just right to get it to start. I know you probably want a blank canvas on which to project your dreams of home and I don’t begrudge you that. I would give it to you if I could.

But people live here. They had a guest room for people to crash in when they were done with college or between jobs or detoxing from political campaigns, when they needed advice or to recover from a hangover or a good laugh. The people who live here needed things, and people came here to give them.

They had pets and loved them. They gained friends and lost them. They learned here. They suffered here, too, and grieved losses, licked wounds. A child took her first steps here, and art was made here, and three of the five neighbors are truly stellar human beings. If they opened their windows they could hear music being practiced and played, trucks rumbling past, the rush and hum of the trains going over the viaducts.

People live here. They should leave marks on a place. A life should leave deep tracks, one of my favorite poems begins, and we see all tracks as damage. We see every nick as as indication of something wrong, something bad, an omen, a terrible sign. We don’t see it as a sign that this is a place where real things took place. Where real people lived.

A.

Legislation Needs to Actually Do Stuff

For shit’s sake, THIS: 

The Senate bill, like the House bill, has two aims: to complete the final act of the Republicans’ six-year-long performance art piece, “Repeal and Replace Obamacare,” and to cut taxes for the very rich.

[snip]

Now that they have it all, though, the only thing they’re missing is an actual plan. Rather than push for a viable alternative like Medicare for All, or concede the ACA represents the best solution for insuring more people in a private insurance system and work to remedy its flaws, Republicans have decided to insure fewer people while shoveling money towards the rich. But they will be able to say that they finished their greatest work: They repealed and replaced. That’s why House Republicans passed their repeal largely without reading it, and before its effects could be scored by the Congressional Budget Office. And no one captured the sentiment better than President-elect Trump in January. When asked at a press conference what his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare was, he offered the perfect answer: “It will be repeal and replace.”

But CNN will indulge them if this blobfish of a bill passes, with a FINALLY A WIN FOR TRUMP AND RYAN AND MCCONNELL, as if they’re the dumbass kid on the team who finally hit a run in T-ball. That’s all they know, and it’s all that matters to them now.

The abortion fights taught them this. Say what you like about the movement pro-lifers and I will say plenty, but on their laziest days they work harder at supporting their cause than do the politicians they elect.

To get voters, and donors, and get re-elected, the GOP didn’t have to address any societal problems related to women’s bodily autonomy or the economic realities of bearing children or the thorny medical issues that arise in trying to balance the life of a woman and the life of a fetus. They just had to show up at church and bleat about IT’S A CHILD STOPS A BEATING HEART IRRESPONSIBLE SLUTS PUNISHMENT ARGLE BLARGE FLAP. That was all they needed to do to win, and it worked, for the past 40 years. They won.

There’s going to be so much winning.

We’re tired of it, that’s for sure. We’re tired of people in office who don’t know how to do anything, these know-nothing Teawads who primaried actual adults (evil adults, but still) and need to have recent history explained to them like they’re children. Who think withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement is good because fuck you. Who think you can yell North Korea into becoming another country. And who don’t have to care about what’s in health care legislation, to vote for it.

We’re tired of all the winning.

A.

Someone Told People to Resent Others

This thread is worth reading, referencing as it does the ongoing “resentment politics” that have devastated Scott Walker’s Wisconsin:

As I keep saying, people do not independently come to the conclusion that all minorities are T-bone buying welfare cheats dragging on the system and burning down the ‘hood. Someone TELLS them that. We can’t just accept that outlook as the reality and address it with policy without squarely facing who is pushing the message and how they are doing it.

Because until we counter the voices yelling at them through their speakers, it won’t matter if Democrats DO come out strongly in favor of Medicare for All, if they remind people they were the only ones who gave even half a fuck about reining in rapacious health care companies, if they run ads every other second touting free community college and support for organized labor. It won’t matter if they all turn into St. Bernie Sanders, or for that matter St. Hillary Clinton as she was instead of as she was portrayed. It won’t matter if we run Obama 12 more times.

So long as there is a chorus of wingnut dickbags on Fox and talk radio (and talk radio, in Wisconsin especially, is a mental cancer) telling them Democrats want to give all your hard-earned money to lazy black women who are having too many babies, that will always drown anything else out. So long as cable news continues to poison the well of public discourse and define the narrative as “politics is broken, everybody is bad, just give up,” so long as local papers run four pages on a good day and three of those are syndicated columns talking about “Washington” being the problem, the only thing people are going to hear is what Republicans want them to hear.

It’s understandable, sure, to my fellow palefaces. Give me a choice between studying and shooting heroin, I’m gonna show you my veins. I know these people, I meet them on the regular, and you do not have to dig very far under the surface to find the jokes about people getting fat on soda and public assistance while they, the virtuous, just marvel at the destruction of their neighborhoods by “those” elements.

They side-eye every low-hanging-pantsed dude they see on a trip to the mall because THAT is who they picture taking everything away from them. It’s all one thing. They don’t separate their contempt into rural vs. urban vs. black vs. white boxes. I’m not making a joke. You can’t counter vagaries like that with specifics of policy.

You have to counter it with entertainment and right now we have no show.

A.

Why Don’t They Just Move?

Because this, you dipshits: 

Activists took to the streets in the summer of 1967 for 200 consecutive days of fair housing protests, and were sometimes greeted with racial slurs, eggs and rocks as they crossed the Menomonee River, via the 16th Street Viaduct, into the white South Side.

The Common Council eventually ratified a fair housing law in 1968, weeks after the federal government passed its landmark measure.

The racial dividing lines were already drawn, however, and barriers to black upward mobility remained. Even the neighborhood where the baseball slugger Hank Aaron moved in the late 1950s could not avoid a downward spiral. While the black population in the Rufus King area grew from 0.4 percent in 1960 to 89 percent in 1980, its median home value dropped from 9 percent above the city’s median to 23 percent below it, according to “Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods,” a book by John Gurda.

Those historic dynamics of race and housing have not disappeared, either. As recently as 2006, a city government report found that affluent, nonwhite Milwaukeeans were 2.7 times likelier to be denied home loans than white people with similar incomes.

So the bank wouldn’t give your grandparents a home loan, so they had no money to use to lift other family members up, so those family members couldn’t lift up others, and by the way even if they DID bootstrap and such, they’d have had rocks thrown through their windows. For shit’s sake, this is in living memory, this isn’t an ice age ago, so let’s stop with the “why does everything have to be about race anyway” nonsense. It has to be about race because it is about race.

A.

They Could Have Stopped It Long Before Now

I know it seems ridiculous to think about it being over, but I want to start thinking about this being over.

Because it will be, eventually. Trump’s presidency will end either with him being impeached or voted out in 2020 (three more years of this please no), and it will be over.

And then we have to start remembering it, which is hard. Look at the presidency of George W. Bush. People who were actually alive during that shitshow treat it now like it was a goddamn ethics symposium and it drives me nuts. Oh, he’s painting and his former spokesmen are saying anti-Trump things on Twitter right now? How great, I’m sure 100,000 dead Iraqis are thrilled. Let’s call them up and ask them, right after we make sure the NSA can hear us loud and clear.

Remembering anything is hard. Our minds fade things out for a reason; they’re designed that way. There’s no room for the shining joy and pain of everyday life. You have to blur the edges so you can go on seeing.

We don’t remember something the way it happened. We remember it the way it had to happen for us to survive it. And for the GOP to survive Trump, America has to remember him as an aberration, and the GOP as helpless before him.

It’ll be tempting to go along with it, to nod along with whatever hazy remembrances are put forth with platitudes like, “it was a different time” and “no one could have known how bad it was going to get.” It’ll be tempting for everyone to exonerate themselves and each other, have a drink, and go home.

We did it, after all, after Watergate and Vietnam, pretending apologies outweigh the dead. We did it after W, looking forward and not back. We turn things into documentaries and tell ourselves we’ve learned from them, when if we truly had learned, we never would have let Trump happen.

For the GOP to survive Trump America has to remember him as an aberration, but for AMERICA to survive Trump, America has to remember all the ways the GOP could have stopped it.

Knowing he was a corrupt, morally bankrupt, venal old asshole who had no interest in their party beyond using its racist members to support his family’s grift, the GOP could have excluded him from the debates.

They could have denied him their media, making it known that featuring Trump on your show was a good way to get your news organization (or conservative jerkoff butthole podcast, whatever) blacklisted.

They could have kept him off the ballot, or at least fought to do so. They could have demanded he stop using their name. They could have told every surrogate who praised his rise to sit down and shut up and quit fucking helping him.

They could have blocked his convention. Every single person in that hall had bodily autonomy and human free will. They could have all walked out. The electors could have turned, en masse. Following his convention, they could have stood united, instead of dithering around one by one, supporting but not really supporting.

Don’t tell me they couldn’t have. They managed unanimity in their opposition to a president who for the past eight years passed pretty solidly moderate Republican legislation, just because said president was black and liked by many liberals. They managed to hold the caucus together against THAT.

Sure, Trump might have won anyway, had they done all these things. He might have won even bigger, given the electorate’s overpowering need to say fuck you last year, to OWN YOU LIBTARDS and make a great big noise. Trump might have profited even more from the enmity of the GOP than he did from its lukewarm public support.

But at least we all would have been spared the coming embarrassment of every single Republican in Congress who, after Trump is brought up on charges, will deny him thrice before the cock crows. At least we wouldn’t have to listen to them all insist they weren’t even THERE, man, like they didn’t even really know the man. At least then we wouldn’t have to watch them crawl.

Crawl they will, all of them. They bet the lives of the working people about whom they pretend to care that Trump’s crazy racist xenophobic sideshow wouldn’t outweigh the chance to cut their own taxes. It will be amazing how many of them knew all along Trump was garbage but were powerless in his thrall.

And we’ll have to say, as many of us have been saying about former wingnut speechwriters and former wingnut bloggers and former wingnut talk radio hosts who’ve recently found their spines and want a fucking parade for it: Don’t tell me you didn’t know, and don’t tell me you couldn’t have stopped it anyway.

You did, and you could have. A thousand times.

A.

 

You Never Thought

Really? You never thought? 

WASHINGTON – “I never thought I’d go to baseball practice and get shot at,” said Rep. Rodney Davis R-Ill., who was at bat Wednesday morning when a gunman started shooting at GOP lawmakers practicing for their annual charity congressional game.

“I was at bat. I was hitting. I heard a loud bang,” Davis said, talking at the Capitol, still in his scoffed practice clothes.

“It felt like somebody…dropped a big piece of metal. The next thing I heard was ‘everybody run, he’s got a gun. And we immediately ran and got into the dugout.”

You never thought, Rep. Davis?

You never thought you’d be subject to violence at baseball practice?

You never thought a madman with a gun would be staring YOU down?

You never thought you’d be running from bullets?

That was nice. That you never thought.

Nice for you to be safe. Nice for you to be protected. Nice for you to feel secure. Nice for your colleagues. I mean that sincerely. I don’t begrudge you that sense of safety. I think a lot of people like you share it. I think that’s a good thing.

You should feel safe. Everybody should.

I don’t want you to feel endangered. I don’t want to join the chorus of “see, don’t you get it now?!” going on on social media today. You shouldn’t have been scared to be in public, enjoying yourself. Enjoying your life. Feeling able to do that.

You shouldn’t have been afraid of a random hail of bullets. Nobody should.

Children in elementary school shouldn’t have had to feel that way, either.

Families on city streets. People at a shopping mall, attending a football game, going to work, coming home on the train, walking to church, playing soccer, swimming in the community pool. None of those people should have to be afraid.

None of them should have to expect, because of where they live or who they are or what they love, that they will be in mortal peril, just for going outside. Just for living in the world. Just for living their lives.

None of them should have to think about getting shot at.

None of them, none of us, should have to spend every day cowering in fear of a culture of armed paranoia that makes ordinary acts into reckless endeavors. None of us should have to delude ourselves — and we all have to, to a certain extent — that we can’t be touched by violence. Violence should not be so common that we have to lie to ourselves in order to avoid going mad.

I am not glad you were afraid, Rep. Davis. Your fear doesn’t make anyone else less fearful. Your actions could. Because you shouldn’t have to think you’ll go to baseball practice and get shot at.

I’m sorry that now, you do.

A.

Never a Dollar for Journalism

OMG, are all these nonprofits doing journalism too expensive for the MAGICKAL FREEMARKET ™ to bear? 

Nonprofit news organizations are staking out Chicago for hot national stories—and increasing the competition for funds. ProPublica is setting up a regional bureau here, and others, including the Marshall Project and Chalkbeat, are mulling a move into the Chicago media ecosystem.

All are drawn to critical stories—on crime, finances, education and other issues—engulfing the city, and philanthropic sponsors, such as the McCormick Foundation, are giving the organizations millions of dollars for what they see as the evolution of journalism. Still, there are fears that some media could be squeezed by the multiplying outstretched hands, despite the nonprofits’ collaborative rivalry.

Yeah. Those greedy nonprofits, outstretching their hands for the journalism money of which there is clearly not enough: 

Departing can be very sweet sorrow in corporate America, according to securities filings by Tribune Publishing that detail recent severance and other deals.

Former CEO Jack Griffin will receive $2 million, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He was ousted by new key shareholder Michael Ferro last month after Griffin convinced him to invest $44 million in the company.

That is in addition to $3.2 million in total compensation received by Griffin in 2015, according to the filings in advance of the company’s annual meeting. His tenure generally saw a sharp drop in stock price, feuding with the then-publisher of his largest paper, the Los Angeles Times and a dismal performance in luring digital-only subscribers (the company’s papers have a combined total of 88,000, compared to about 1.1 million for The New York Times alone).

Other executives shown the exit with Griffin did rather well, despite the sharp industry decline impacting the company’s major properties, including The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant and Baltimore Sun, among others.

Sandra Martin, the former chief financial officer, will get a severance equal to her $367,500 salary and unpaid incentives bonuses for the previous year, an a prorated incentive bonus for this year. Her total compensation last year was $1,004,755.

There was a similar farewell package for Denise Warren, the former head of the company’s digital operation, whose base pay was $336,539 but had total compensation of $1,151,200 last year.

Meanwhile, Austin Beutner, the former Los Angeles publisher who was dismissed last year after wrangling with Griffin, received severance that includes a lump sum equal to his base pay of $675,000. His total compensation in 2015 was $1,924,806.

The SEC documents also indicated that Tony Hunter, until recently the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and now the president of “national revenue and strategic initiatives,” earned $1.4 million last year after earning $2.1 million the year before.

That compensation, by the way? A total of more than $13 million, or nearly as much as PRO PUBLICA’S ENTIRE BUDGET. That’s right, supposed media companies paid their top executives — who presided over epic failures on every level from subscription losses to branding flops — almost as much to get the fuck out as Pro Publica paid everybody to do journalism. Yet somehow I’m supposed to worry we’re gonna run out of money here?

The problem we have in journalism isn’t a lack of funds. It’s a lack of funds for journalism. There’s always a million or two laying around when you have an asshead exec you need shitcanned but somehow when it comes time to pay reporters to spend night after night after night at crime scenes we get long wanky pieces about how expensive it all is and oh my GARSH we just might run bankrupt because of the 66 cents we pay him.

Let’s have another blogger ethics panel, though. Let’s invite another know-nothing old centrist pundit dude to wax nostalgic for a time before iPhones, when every kid had a paper route and everybody read the funnies to each other on Sunday. Let’s keep solving problems that don’t exist by creating aggregator networks and website re-launches and worry, worry, worry that nonprofit journalism is somehow suspect.

Wheel another barrel full of cash to the guys cooking the books. That’ll solve everything.

A.

We All Need This, I Think

This sounds like heaven.

A fourth-generation book owner, Hamzeh describes his work as a calling. “I run an emergency room for the mind,” he explains, while sipping coffee near the entrance of the shop late one morning. He wants to ensure there is always a place in Jordan where one can access the healing power of books, no matter the hour or the price. Hence the mattress in the back. Hamzeh keeps his store open 24/7, a practice he inherited from his father, who moved the family bookstore from Jerusalem to Amman before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. He’ll occasionally get late-night relief from two former employees, a pair of Syrian brothers who fled their native Homs. All of his prices are negotiable, and he has both a generous loan policy and a robust book exchange program, where patrons can swap any book they bring in for one in the store.

A.

WHO CAN KNOW THE TRUTH ANYWAY?

Being right doesn’t matter when there’s a “partisan divide:”

But to Trump, many Republicans and a broad constellation of surrogates and conservative media outlets, the takeaway is much different: exoneration.

“Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication,” the president tweeted early on the morning after Comey’s testimony.

That point of view has ricocheted across the conservative media world, both organically and in coordination with a hastily organized rapid-response operation at the Republican National Committee. The result is a parallel narrative — reinforced by the president himself on Twitter and at a Friday news conference — that spun Comey’s testimony as a clear victory and, publicly at least, cast aside any potential dangers that may lie ahead.

That Trump’s fans will defend him to the end of time isn’t really, you know, a thing that matters. John O’Neill has been carrying Richard Nixon’s luggage for four decades now and shows no sign of stopping, and the strength of his devotion makes him no less a son of a bitch who is going to hell.

If the marker of ultimate truth these days is the inexplicable size and duration of a fan club we’re going to have to replace the U.S. Constitution with a Seinfeld VHS tape and half a bag of kale chips.

I also love the passive language that persists in letting everybody involved here off the hook. That “point of view has ricocheted” and the “result is a parallel narrative,” which has apparently developed all by itself OH WAIT:

On Friday morning, a segment on “Fox & Friends” about the reaction to Comey’s testimony bore the headline: “Mainstream Media Misfire.” Minutes later, Trump, an avid viewer, sent a Twitter message of praise: “Great reporting by @foxandfriends and so many others. Thank you!”

“Comey gives early Christmas gift to GOP,” tweeted conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.

So instead of characterizing the story as “party-run media push false narrative through coordinated attacks on FBI director,” we have a “parallel narrative” that has “resulted” as if by magic. We don’t get to this meat until halfway through the story, and the headline just erases it all in advance.

The starkly different interpretation of Comey’s testimony on the right provides another illustration of the deepening national divide over Trump, whose approval ratings are mired in the mid- to high-30s amid the Russia probe and other controversies and whose agenda has bogged down in Congress with relatively few major accomplishments so far.

So between six and seven out of ten people in America think Trump is a miserable failure, and we characterize this as a “deepening divide.” Between two equal opposites. This is why I can’t have complete contempt for Trump’s ordinary fans. If this is the story being sold by the liberal media, what on earth are they hearing from Fox?

By the way, Trump’s fans? The ones we’re told in the headline agree with the Republican operatives’ version of events?

They’re not quoted in the story.

Not a one.

A.

Can’t Imagine Why Everything’s Going to Shit

Wonder if this has something to do with it: 

States have been racing to the bottom to try to attract corporations to their state, and as a result businesses are paying fewer taxes in states during a time of record corporate profits. On average, the state corporate tax rate is 6.25%, but these profitable companies paid just 2.9% of their profits. From 1986 to 2013, state and local corporate tax rates declined 30%, the report says. And yet states continue to compete with one another to offer tax giveaways to corporations.

The report looks into 17 companies headquartered in Illinois and finds that some of the biggest companies are paying very little. Take Boeing, which has earned over $40 billion in profits during the period studied—and only paid 0.1% of that to Illinois. This comes at a time that some of the most vulnerable in the state—people with disabilities, the homelessness, opioid addicts, rape victims, low-income seniors—are watching their safety net being slashed. (And in the meantime, Illinois homeowners are paying higher property rates than anyone except New Jersey homeowners.)

Mr. A and I are currently looking for a house, which leads to lots of people assuming we want to hear them bitching about their taxes and how awful it is to pay so much. My considered opinion is that I don’t mind paying taxes because in my ‘hood it’s very obvious what I get out of it: roads that get fixed, a park district-run preschool where Kick is thriving, cops who respond to complaints promptly, and services all over the place.

If I lived somewhere else, and was paying the same amounts in taxes, and the neighborhood looked like The Hurt Locker and the public schools were crap and the bus ran once a month between two places I never wanted to go, I might be more inclined to complain, but still, what I could contribute is a drop in the bucket compared to the corporate profits that SHOULD be fueling the state’s economy.

The bribery and up-sucking to companies to get them to come here and stay here drives me wild, too. Shower them with tax incentives, as Illinois once did to Sears and others, but if they don’t pay those taxes, is it really a benefit having them here at all? Creating jobs is very good, but adequately funding schools and municipalities creates a shitload of jobs and also a pretty nice life for any employees you might have.

A.

The Environment Is For Pussies

When did not wanting to strip-mine Mt. Rushmore become a tacit offer of same-sex fellatio?

The answer? AS SOON AS IT NEEDED TO BE FOR REPUBLICANS TO MAKE BANK.

The president himself said it on Twitter, in a message aimed not at anybody in real life but

And the thing is, like most of what came out of Trump’s mouth during the campaign, of course it seems sensible to care more about Pittsburgh than Paris, more about yourself than the rest of the world. I myself like the polar bears fine, and I recycle and take public transit to work, but environmental causes aren’t my nearest and dearest, so if you ask me if I should take away somebody’s job for a polar bear of COURSE I’m gonna say no. Those furry fuckers have claws, let them fend for themselves.

But come on. Do we really not know this by now? This isn’t about jobs. If it was we’d be building factories to manufacture solar batteries and funding scientific research like we pay for soccer stadiums. Cities and towns across America would be competing to offer the best programs for environmental research in their public universities, and making the results part of our cultural heritage so that no one company could own them. If this was about jobs we would spend on jobs like we once spent on the WPA and the Tennessee Valley Authority and the interstate highway system and the Marshall Plan.

If this was about creating jobs or literally anything else we cared about at all, we’d pretend it was a ground war in the Middle East and we’d fund it forever.

This isn’t about jobs, and to keep arguing that yes, the GOP wants to burn down the world but the Democrats need to be less faggy about it is a dumbassed (and not a little homophobic) waste of our time.

So let’s not climb down in the muck with them and argue that we came to fuck fat-bottomed big-tittied American girls also, just as much if not MORE. We will fuck them more! Harder! Possibly we will recycle the bottle of beer we break off to jam into our own foreheads to prove our manliness, but we’ll still cut ourselves just to show you our red blood! Look at the size of our trucks!

Let’s not do that. It’s gross.

Worse, it’s ineffective.

Let’s dismantle the propaganda network that says this is what we have to talk about in the first place, that this is the only way to have an argument. I’ve gotten just absolutely full up the past year on listening to people I mostly agree with talking about how Democrats and liberals and city elites look down on “working people.” Let me ask you this: Who told those working people Democrats and liberals and city elites look down on them? 

Who said, you are forgotten, and the Republican Party will remember you?

Who said, you’ve been counted out, in favor of the environment, and we’ll count you back in?

Someone must have. I doubt Middle American white people just all woke up one day and intuited that all universities and large cities are full of egghead liberal treehuggers who hate them. That sort of seems like the kind of thing a 24 HOUR “NEWS” NETWORK ON TV AND TALK RADIO would have to tell them.

So we can change our messaging all we want. We can talk about how if we see a polar bear, we’re gonna beat it senseless and then bite its dick off in a show of manly dominance. We can go up to the ice shelf and stage Burning Man.

Or, in the opposite direction, we can propose policies (we had a presidential candidate who did quite a bit of that, actually, in our recent past) that will help the ever-loving shit out of working poor people, stuff like free college and higher minimum wages and strengthening organized labor and rebuilding public schools and oh yeah, a health insurance plan to at least help a few people not go bankrupt.

It’s not gonna matter until we break the stranglehold Fox and its cowardly enablers in cable news have on information in this country. Nothing we’re saying is getting out NOW. What’s the point of continuing to re-write the position papers if it’s all gonna come down to who’s yelling the loudest. Anyone who wants anything lasting to change has gotta fight like hell not just to change politics but to change who talks about it on TV.

I don’t see any other way out of this. Do you?

And if you do, can you tell the polar bears? They’re getting kind of freaked out.

A.

Profanity = State Sanctioned Violence Against Minorities

Every time I think we’ve reached Peak Both Sides, another mountain rears up in the distance: 

But now it isn’t just Mr. Trump. In their new “resistance” mode, Democrats have become just as nasty. Tom Perez, the Democrats’ new national chairman, has already earned notoriety for his use of profanity at rallies. At some of them, he has trouble speaking because the anti-Trump heckling is so loud.

Does no one have an editor anymore? Doesn’t someone in the newsroom say something like, hey, I read your piece, and I was just thinking that the power differential is so vast between “heckler at a rally” and PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED FUCKING STATES that applying laughably malleable “standards” to both is like asking your 8th grader and your dog to do math homework and getting mad when Fido pisses on the long division? I mean what the SHIT.

Whoops. More profanity. It’s just like I herded two dozen foreigners into a concentration camp with my filthy word hole.

For those of you not lucky enough to live through this during the early days of both the Iraq War and liberal political blogging, this was the entirety of the argument against us: Yes, you may be right, but you are right in a way that makes me feel bad, so therefore you are wrong. Because you smell. Hippie.

Like there were entire protests that got invalidated because someone wore the wrong T-shirt.

It was infuriating then and it’s infuriating now, for lots of reasons the very least of which was that nobody was chiding wingnuts to stop burning Obama in effigy and making birth certificate jokes and waving Confederate flags around because it would make THEM look bad, albeit for actually being bad, not for being right. Just fuck these people, is my point. Fuck them for a lot of things, but mostly for only being able to get offended by the word fuck.

A.

‘This is someone’s child’

It’s important to know that somebody fought back: 

“I was saying, ‘Creator – provide comfort to his family who don’t know you’re here,” she recalled.

An officer called out to her: “You did what you could, it’s time to come off the train.”

[snip]

The next night, Macy met Namkai-Meche’s mother and father at a vigil held by the train stop. She handed his father a purple-painted, heart-shaped rock, her prayer rock.  She said the victim’s parents thanked her for being with their son, telling her that she was “a mamma to our boy in that moment.”

Macy, a single mother of five children who rides the MAX to and from her community college courses at least three times a week, said she just did “what had to be done.”

“I just kept thinking this is someone’s child,” she said.

I read this right after Trump’s election, the idea that if you’re one of those people who loudly fantasizes about killing baby Hitler or whatever, you don’t need to go back in time to figure out who you would have been in the war. You’re in the war. Whatever you’re doing right now is what you would have done then.

(‘Twas ever thus, of course. The world has always been burning. I felt like this after 9/11, all those people talking about how a crisis made them realize what they wanted to be, like the fuck is wrong with you you don’t know what you want to be already? Sometimes my inner pissed-off 19-year-old gets the talking stick.)

So if you’re writing letters, calling reps, volunteering, working, creating spaces for people to think and breathe and be free, if you’re using your power to help others with less, if you’re trying every single day to be kind, to overcome paralysis and exhaustion and worry and reach out to someone else, if you’re doing even a little more than you think you can, that’s who you are in the war. You’re someone’s child too.

A.

The Gods Lift Those Who Lift Each Other

Two quick hits.

One: 

Oklahoma stands out for the velocity with which districts have turned to a shorter school week in the past several years, one of the most visible signs of a budget crisis that has also shuttered rural hospitals, led to overcrowded prisons and forced state troopers to abide by a 100-mile daily driving limit.

Democrats helped pass bipartisan income tax cuts from 2004 to 2008. Republicans — who have controlled the legislature since 2009 and governorship since 2011 — have cut income taxes further and also significantly lowered taxes on oil and gas production.

“The problems facing Oklahoma are our own doing. There’s not some outside force that is causing our schools not to be able to stay open,” said state Sen. John Sparks, the chamber’s top Democrat. “These are all the result of a bad public policy and a lack of public-sector investment.”

Two:

I’ve been thinking about the latter since first reading it, because it articulates so perfectly what we’ve lost in the last 60 years (lost, never forget, at the hands of racist rich men who found the GOP eager to provide a political “philosophy” to sell their hate and selfishness). We’ve lost not the idea of kindness but the ability to clearly articulate the benefits of community. Not that helping others is some abstract good for which we will be rewarded in heaven, but that it directly benefits us right now today.

White Male America didn’t succeed in the 1950s as a result of keeping black men and women down. White Male America succeeded because of public policies designed to enhance the lives of many. The GI Bill, robust and widespread public schooling, infrastructure improvements that started before WWII and affordable public college provided by land grant universities all lifted vastly more people than tax cuts ever would have. Wild amounts of government spending, union jobs, pensions, and honest-to-god public assistance without ponderous and intrusive means-testing bullshit, all provided a framework for everyone to succeed.

And then a bunch of people came along and said this can’t continue, because it’s starting to benefit black and brown people, and if they win you lose. If you talk about the collective good you’re a commie. If you want to be fairly paid you’re a feminazi. If you criticize foreign wars you’re an egghead elitist SJW coastal fifth columnist who loves terrorism and hates America. If you’re different in any way, you’re a threat.

Who did that? Who’s responsible? Who sold that line, and who bought it? We still can’t identify the perpetrators in public. We talk all day long about how “Washington” is “broken,” how “politics” is “broken.” We talk about “the age of Trump” like it’s a tornado that just descended from the clouds. Someone MADE US THIS WAY and made money from it, and we can’t even bring ourselves to name the force that did it.

If Democrats are going to articulate a policy that is about helping ourselves, instead of helping “others,” because of course they’re the same thing, then they need to get real about what they’re fighting and why. A return to New Deal/Great Society rhetoric isn’t going to cut it in the face of the GOP puke funnel. I don’t think the concept of pity is the main problem here.

A.

Journalism Wants the Status Quo More Than the Truth

Something an editor told me once, when we were digging into a story about public malfeasance:

“It is always worse than you think it is.”

At the time, the story we were in the middle of, I thought it was pretty bad.

“Always. It’s always worse.”

He was right. Every story’s an iceberg; for every single sharp thing you see there are a thousand others below the surface waiting to gouge holes in your boat.

I thought of that when I read this thread today, about Trump and Russia, though to be honest it could be about Trump and just about any other thing:

A lot of people will say “biased” instead of “hesitant” and some of that’s true, but mostly it’s “lazy,” instead of “hesitant.”

See, if there are two parties, and they’re both equally righteous but just disagree about the role of government, then when you’re doing A Politics Story you call them both, and you get Both Sides, and you’re done. You’ve done your job, and you get to go home. It’s not about political bias, it’s about ass-covering. Have you seen journalism lately? There are six reporters left and three of them cover People and the other three cover Stuff, while their 57 corporate imagineer synergizers write memos about feeding content into a fucking funnel. Things are not good, so if there’s an easy way to get out of every week alive, generally people are gonna take it.

We’ve Offended Everyone So We Are Good, which kind of worked as long as you genuinely had two parties who disagreed about the fundamental role of government. We haven’t had that since about 1964, however, but it was getting worse slowly. If you were the kind of white, middle-class, generally male kid who went to journalism school, you saw things getting worse slowly, until 2016 when everything got a lot worse very fast.

And by that point the laziness had become paralysis, on almost every journalistic front. You know depressive avoidance behaviors, how sometimes you don’t do the dishes and you spend three days walking past the pile of dishes and it just keeps getting bigger and you feel worse and worse and less and less capable of doing the dishes and why are you such garbage why can’t you do the dishes and you spend hours more worrying about the dishes than it would take to do them? Like that, but a whole industry. A whole country, unable to wrap its mind around what it had elected.

Every story out now is the result of one or two or six people overcoming that just-keep-walking impulse and doing the damn dishes. Taking the fiction that makes it possible to go home at 5 and have a drink and exist in the world absolutely apart until every ugly machination on the part of the GOP is exposed and raw and of COURSE it’s all just too outrageous, that’s how things usually are under their skins. What made journos skeptical wasn’t reluctance to believe the breathtaking scope of Trump’s venality. What drove their skepticism was a sober assessment of the amount of work it would take to prove it, weighed against a desire to get away on the weekends.

When you get right down to it, journalism as an industry wanted the status quo more than it wanted the truth. That’s not a condemnation; all our systems are made up of people and people are what inertia eats. It makes it all the more laudable that there are journalists who are able to overcome the desire to sink into the couch for the next four years binge-watching Call the Midwife, because this is gonna get worse than we can even imagine.

It always does.

A.

Really Disabled

When you get right down to it everybody is just mooching off the system, right?

Everybody on welfare’s driving Cadillacs and everybody on food stamps is buying candy and everybody in Section 8 housing is just dealing drugs. The homeless by the highway are scamming you and kids who need lunch money are scamming you and that woman speaking Spanish in the grocery store might be talking about you and a guy who was panhandling once had a cell phone and oh my Cylon god, basically.

WHO HAS TIME FOR ALL THIS SHIT?

I mean it, who? The other day I was trying to figure out if I could make a haircut appointment for after my kid went to bed so I wouldn’t miss any more time with her because all I do is work and we’re selling our house and moving to a new house we haven’t found yet so we go to house showings and clean our own house for showings, and I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, and I’m emotionally involved with no less than 14 TV shows right now, and seriously at the moment a mani-pedi takes more time than I have free. Every night I am almost too tired to brush my teeth, and I threw my back out again so I’m limping around trying to quote Richard III like it’s funny.

The very last thing I can do is track if some person on disability could take a shift on the factory line or not.

I’m not being deliberately dense, I know there is an entire propaganda machine dedicated to convincing elderly white folks that this is the case, and I know it’s like candy for your brain, the idea that you are Not King because of some minority person or chick and not because you suck, but when you get right down to it half these loony things only take hold because people have time to pay attention to them so I ask you, can we get America a hobby or something?

Do we need classes to teach everybody to paint and crochet or tell them it’s okay to just ignore the homeless guy instead of inventing a whole story about how that guy is scamming you? You don’t have to give him money but you do have to find something else to talk about, you know? My cousin’s brother’s friend saw a homeless guy by the roadside get into an SUV and drive away, so they’re not really homeless, why is that something you need to tell me? I knew someone who knew someone who’d heard of someone who wasn’t disabled, who just had a headache and lived on disability his whole life because SCAMMERS, and we need to stop paying for programs for which we’ve already taxed people.

How broken in the head do you have to be, sure, to think like this, but also how fundamentally intellectually bankrupt and disinterested in life do you have to be that this takes up this much space in your head?

A.

Veterans Skinning Squirrels to Survive, But Should Get To Work!

From their McMansions, Trump’s base looks down on people like these: 

The Navy veteran was one of several thousand former food stamp recipients who lost benefits when Maine, in 2015, declined to renew its waiver and reinstated statewide work requirements. He has spent much of the last year living in a tent.

“I don’t wanna worry no one,” said Keefe, who recently testified to Maine’s Committee on Health and Human Services about the impact the work requirement had on him. But, he added: “I hope they understand that people fall through the cracks.”

If Paul Ryan or Donald Trump had to spend 30 seconds living this guy’s life, they’d shit themselves and die. But they’re gonna lecture him, and people like him, about hard work, about deserving, about handouts?

A.