Category Archives: Athenae

Poison in the Water

When I was in college I became friends with a much older man who was in a position of authority where he could snap his fingers and give me a job. I’d gone to him with a project in which he saw value and promised to see through. We had meetings in his office. He took me to lunch a bunch of times. Talked to me like I was people, told me jokes, laughed at mine.

Because I’m an arrogant asshole it never occurred to me that I wasn’t on his level. I thought I had every right to be his peer. And a lifetime of not being considered pretty led me to think that men couldn’t be interested in my body anyway.

He never tried anything. Never moved too close or talked too soft, never touched me but to shake my hand. Never so much as opened a door for me.

But as he promised over and over to find me a job in his department, his assistant, who he kept asking me to talk to, kept steering me away. That job’s been filled. I don’t think that will work out. Let me talk to him about what’s really suitable for you. We don’t have anything there. I’m not sure this is going to pan out. 

I thought she was just being a jerk. I needed a job, after all, and I believed people kept their promises. He wants me hired, so get over yourself and do what your boss wants.

Now I wonder. I wonder if she was protecting me.

Like I said, he never treated me as anything less than an equal. I thought he liked me. Like as a person.

I wonder how he would have treated me if I worked for him.

If I owed him something.

Thinking like this might be deeply unfair to a good person trying to help out a broke college student in whom he saw something promising. Thinking like this might be maligning, in retrospect, a friend.

Thinking like this might save the next young woman who sincerely believes a septuagenarian authority figure respects her mind.

I hate that this is the calculus. I hate that this is the math we all do in our heads. It’s not fair to us, in our working weeks, and it’s not fair to the relationships we try to nurture and the networking we try to do and the things we’re taught from day one are essential to our professional lives. It’s not fair to women. It’s not fair to men. It makes me angry and it makes me sad.

Grow the fuck up, everyone.

A.

Who Teaches

A while back I asked some family members and white childhood friends who they remember as the first person of authority — a person whose opinions they were expected to respect even if they didn’t agree — who wasn’t white, in their lives.

Very few remembered anyone at all.

I grew up in a fairly segregated town and went to Catholic schools. All my elementary school teachers were white. In high school I had one black teacher and one Hispanic teacher. In college (state school) I had two professors of color, though there were more professors of color teaching, mostly in ethnic studies courses, who I didn’t encounter. It wasn’t until 10 years ago that I had non-white, non-male bosses. Mr. A started working for a woman of color for the first time two years ago.

An under-covered aspect of the Obama freakout (and then the Clinton freakout afterward) was the idea that a lot of white people living segregated lives — the only black people they ever saw were on TV, probably playing football — had to confront the idea of a black person having authority over them. Blah blah, I know, the president works for us, but there was a huge swell of rage at “having” to listen to a black man. They’d never “had” to do that before, and damn if it didn’t piss them off.

Segregation of AUTHORITY matters as much as segregation of housing, jobs, amenities and everything else. It matters tremendously to children of color: 

Gershenson, Hart, Lindsay, and Papageorge demonstrate that if a black male student has at least one black teacher in the third, fourth, or fifth grade, he is significantly less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to aspire to attend a four-year college (as proxied by taking a college entrance exam). They find that these effects are especially pronounced for economically disadvantaged black male students. For instance, they find that a disadvantaged black male’s exposure to at least one black teacher in elementary school reduces his probability of dropping out of high school by nearly 40 percent. This estimated effect is not just statistically significant, but also highly educationally relevant.

We are long overdue for so many corrections in this country, and this is the last one coming for myself and my fellow white folk: That people who don’t look like us have something to teach us, and that we should shut up and learn.

A.

Bulbs

Kick and I read books about gardening. We lived in a condo the first three and a half years of her life, but we read books about planting seeds, about training vines to twist and grow upwards, about roots reaching deep for water and branches arching overhead. When we moved to a house last August, I ordered bulbs from a catalog.

Blue hyacinths, because my grandmother loved them. Purple tulips for my mother. Crocuses, so we would know when winter was over by their green shoots pushing upward. Kick and I talked about them over breakfast, how we’d pick the flowers and put them in vases all over the house so it would smell like springtime.

When the package came in the mail, I looked at the label and discovered that what was delivered wasn’t what I’d ordered.

No blue hyacinths. No purple tulips. No crocuses.

Instead I had been sent a box of red, white and blue flowers called a “patriotic garden.” All sales are final, said the customer service rep. It was only $12, and the nights were getting colder.

I could send them back, but then I might not have anything to put in the ground.

The brilliant Brit Bennett wrote this recently, about the world we live in now: 

Last November on election night, I boarded a cross-country plane from my hometown, Los Angeles, to Boston. Up in the air, I disappeared inside two novels on my iPad, happy to be free of all distractions. That is my favorite thing about air travel: For a few hours, at least, you can exist outside of time.

When I landed, I turned on my phone and discovered that while I was floating through the sky, the country had entered a new reality. I rode to my hotel, stepped into my room, and called my mother. It was late in Massachusetts, maybe one in the morning. I felt childish for making the call, as if my mother could fix anything. But I was lonely and distraught, and besides, hadn’t she lived through worse times than this new presidency could possibly bring?

“I thought it would be better for you,” she said softly. I felt foolish for having thought the same. The street outside was dark and quiet. I stared out the window, realizing I had no idea where I was.

The house we moved into in August was built in 1934, renovated extensively last year — a new second floor, a total gut job on the inside. In the front and back yards, the flower beds are filled with stones and chunks of brick, pockets of sand and blobs of discarded cement. The builders took out the fireplace and left large limestone slabs where I imagined tomato plants and herb plots. We moved in too late for a summer garden or an early harvest, so bulbs would have to do.

The spade clinked against the rocks as I dug.

The frost was thick that morning and it had dissolved into a miserable cold rain. It was my only free day for the next five weeks, with daylight precious, so now or never. When the rain abated for half an hour, I dashed outside.

I put my hands into the soil. I pushed the bulbs down.

I am not good at hope, nor built for optimism, and the last year has not helped. The last two, really; a minor downward spiral started in 2015 with a friend breakup that was entirely my fault and continued with the unavoidable separations from a job I once loved and an organization to which I’d devoted more than 15 years of my life. One person I loved was dying, and a hero was dead. By the time Trump’s election came around I was deeply numb.

People keep asking me about things for next year, or even the year after, and I could not think: How to look that far ahead, when every day things seem to be getting worse? What fresh hell, we joke, but every single one of us knows that each fresh hell is one of our lives. Health care, media, war, violence, and overlaying it all the sense that none of our problems are solvable anymore.

I roll my eyes at my own despair: I am going to be fine. I am white, a citizen, living in a city, with a job and a spouse and a healthy child. The roof over my head is brand new and in no danger of caving in, whatever may be buried in the ground beneath my feet.

Still, planting seems like a reckless act. Waving a flag to the world: Look at this hole in the ground, look who thinks we’ll all be here in April.

I covered the bulbs with the soil, with the brick, with the rocks and sand, and patted down the earth. Not hyacinths, but red and white and purple-blue tulips. That’s what the package promised, anyway. I once ordered some flowers for my mother for her birthday, or maybe it was Mother’s Day. Purple ranunculus, beautiful in the photograph, but when the flowers came up they were reedy, orange and red, not what she expected at all.

Who knows what will come up in the spring?

A.

Starbuck Speak

You listen: 

 “In this business as a woman I was trained to always keep my mouth shut. I was trained that a woman speaks up she’s a bitch and she’s difficult, if a guy does it he’s strong.”

Sackhoff shared her insider’s experience of having been told numerous times to never open her mouth or have an opinion. “I have fought back against it, but I’ve done it terrified,” she said bluntly, “I can’t tell you how many times I was told by my team, ‘Katee don’t be difficult.’ I think we have to face the reality of what the world and business we’re in looks like.”

 

A.

The Myth of a Reckoning

I don’t think I find anything as exhausting as I find the constant expectation that Republican voters will realize who and what they are, who and what they vote for, and awake in horror from what is presumed to be a fever-fog to come back to reality.

Trump’s election was gonna do it, hold a mirror up to these decaying segregationists and show them what they are now. They’d recoil, and correct, and behave themselves forthwith, swinging back to the center like the grown-ups we know they secretly are.

Yeah.

That’s happened.

And now Roy Moore is going to be the thing that does it.

If they elect a pedophile, and they seat a pedophile, then oh then we’ll be able to show the world what they’re really like. Never mind that nominating a pedophile should have been the last straw. Never mind that nominating and then electing and then seating an accused rapist as president should have been enough. Roy Moore is gonna be the final nail in the GOP coffin!

Tell it to the zombies smashing coffee makers on YouTube because Sean Hannity told them to. Tell it to the zombies booing football teams they’ve loved since childhood because Pence flounced out of a stadium. Tell it to the zombies gleefully chittering lies all day about Malia Obama being questioned by the FBI.

We all thought BUSH was so bad the GOP couldn’t nominate someone lower and then Sarah Palin came strutting across the stage.

What if the reckoning doesn’t come? What if there is no tipping point? What if they elect Roy Moore and seat Roy Moore and he votes for tax cuts and confirms Trump’s judiciary picks like all the other unsuitable motherfuckers currently fucking mothers up and down the aisles of the U.S. Senate every single day? What then? What’s the next thing that’ll cause this great imaginary self-reflection? What’s the next rung down on this bottomless ladder?

Don’t say they can’t get worse than this. Don’t cheer each act of destruction as getting us closer to some kind of apotheosis. You have no idea how far down this goes.

A.

Art Isn’t Worth It

This drives me into the same kind of rage I feel when people talk about how writers write because they’re depressed, because dark and twisty equals talented, because misery is so so so productive. Maybe YOURS is. My mental illness generally takes the form of either lying in bed catatonic or hyperventilating in my car on the way to wherever I need to be while my brain screams that I am worthless and no one will miss me if I just go away. Not the best environment for creative work.

It gives me the same tweak as did the “but we’ll get some really bitchin’ music out of this” sentiment after Trump’s election, as if the lives of mostly poor people of color are acceptable sacrifices for already wealthy musicians to write a banger protest song or a powerful poem. Is it … like … not possible to put your shoulder into your work without people dying as material?

Is it remotely within the realm of possibility that people create in the darkness not because the darkness is so awesome but because they’re creators and they work no matter their conditions and we don’t KNOW what they would have created in the light?

Stop romanticizing untreated mental illness. Stop rationalizing shitty behavior. Stop justifying terribleness by pointing to the very meagre coping mechanisms people have developed as some kind of … just fucking stop it. No song is worth this. No book is worth this. No poem is worth this. No art is worth perpetuating misery you can stop.

A.

If She Was Your Daughter

Do you know how many women I know, who told their fathers? Who told their mothers, their friends, a “trusted adult” that they were being hurt or had been hurt? Do you know how many of these people, who have daughters, did nothing?

Homeless shelters are full of girls and boys whose parents chose their abusers over them. It happens every day.

Let me tell you what they’d do, these upstanding Republican congressmen, if it was their daughters.

They’d say to their girls, their beloved girls who they taught to throw a ball just like a boy and who they said could do anything a man could do and whose report cards they pinned to the fridge, they’d say:

You’re making that up.

They’d say:

He didn’t really mean it.

They’d say:

You led him on.

 

They’d say:

You should forgive him.

You know why they’d say those things to the girls they read bedtime stories to every night? You know why they’d back down in the face of someone who bullied their own flesh and blood?

Because nothing matters more than the status quo.

Do you know how many of these men have already faced the fact that it was their daughters?

Do you know how many of them did nothing?

I can even understand it, you know. It’s a human instinct to protect your relationships, and so you gamble: You call out a man for hurting your child, he might leave. He might cause trouble for you. He might get you fired or fight you or find a way to make you less, turn all your friends against you, refuse to work with you, tell others and embarrass you.

Your daughter? She will probably stay. She will probably quiet down. She will probably stop talking about it.

She will probably minimize what happened in her own mind and minimize it for you, so that her relationship with you can stay intact. Nothing’s worth destroying your relationship with your family, after all. She’s been socialized since birth to provide for men’s comfort and that means comfort of mind as well as body.

You can hear her telling herself: She survived it. It wasn’t that bad.

It’s a much safer bet, to discount her version of events, so that’s your solution. It keeps everything the same. It keeps everybody comfortable. And she stays. And she feels just a little less important to you, and a little less real, because whether you think about it in these terms or not, you’ve demoted her. She was your daughter.

Now she’s just another woman, another wicked female, who you don’t believe.

So when someone who looks just like her goes on the news and tells everyone that a member of a political party you admire and identify with, or a celebrity you like, tried to assault her, hurt her, rape her, you don’t see your daughter.

You see someone who’s trying to do what your daughter tried to do. Upset everybody. Get attention. Get something out of this.

And if you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to this stranger, this girl you don’t know on TV who’s accusing a man who looks and acts just like you, is in politics just like you, if you say out loud that someone should have stood up for her, should have done something?

Then you face the facts and say out loud that this didn’t have to happen to your daughter, and you should have stood up for her. You should have done something.

And oh, then doesn’t the whole nice polite reasonable world come crashing down?

I said back when Trump and Billy Bush were cackling about grabbing women by the pussy that the most insidious person on that bus wasn’t Trump but Billy, because lots of of guys wouldn’t be the bully but they would be the coward who laughed at his jokes.

They wouldn’t react differently if Roy Moore had hurt their daughter. Chances are someone like him already did, and they didn’t believe her.

A.

Nazi Nazi Nazi, Out Out Out!

Well, I was pretty prepared to be angry and disappointed but wouldja look at that tonight? 

Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam will be Virginia’s next governor, fending off a challenge from Republican Ed Gillespie that embraced the tactics of President Donald Trump in the final weeks of the campaign.

The crowd at the Democratic Party watch party at George Mason University’s student center roared as CNN announced he had won the race based on unofficial results of Tuesday’s voting. The call happened so early in the night that many supporters were still making their way through security at the time.

Virginia had the only competitive statewide race in the country, and drew national interest as both parties looked to the commonwealth as a potential early referendum on Trump’s presidency and for momentum going into the 2018 congressional midterm elections.

Don’t stop. Every statehouse. Every single one. Trump can’t do shit if we hand him his ass in every city and every neighborhood and every goddamn rural township from sea to shining sea. The federal government has a lot of power and should with utmost power be opposed but we don’t have to wait three more years to do that, we can do it tomorrow.

Make ’em fight for every seat. Make ’em fight for every inch. Make them pay for everything they take and then when you get the chance, you take it back.

We should never have let this party back up after Watergate. We should never have let this party back up after Iran-Contra, after Clinton’s impeachment, after W. We shouldn’t let this party back up after Trump. Let the word ring forth: You wanna put an R after your name now, you answer for Trump. You answer for all his works.

Answer for the Muslim ban and the gay-bashing, answer for the health care debacle and the budget impasses, answer for the endless wars and the “very fine people” and “our heritage” and “our monuments.” Answer for it, you wanna stand election in this country. Stand up for your beliefs, your sacred sincerely held goddamn beliefs in the superiority of your white skin and the way you think everyone who isn’t you is gaming the system somehow. Answer for it, cowards, or stand aside.

And by the way, screw everyone on social media bitching people out for celebrating because “all” we did was take back a few statehouse seats, a couple governorships. Celebrate this to the rooftops, sing it to the heavens, because you opposed the great on behalf of the powerless and every inch you win in that fight, you deserve to dance on. I’ll never tell you the work is done but you can dance tonight.

A.

Guns Are About Fear and Fear Is About Race

Someone pointed me at this thread and I can’t believe I missed it amongst the steaming piles of garbage flying around last year: 

After accounting for all explanatory variables, logistic regressions found that for each 1 point increase in symbolic racism there was a 50% increase in the odds of having a gun at home. After also accounting for having a gun in the home, there was still a 28% increase in support for permits to carry concealed handguns, for each one point increase in symbolic racism. The relationship between symbolic racism and opposition to banning handguns in the home (OR1.27 CI 1.03,1.58) was reduced to non-significant after accounting for having a gun in the home (OR1.17 CI.94,1.46), which likely represents self-interest in retaining property (guns).

Why does everything have to be about race, I can hear you asking, and BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS ABOUT RACE. People don’t fear Chicago because it’s full of guns, they fear Chicago because it’s full of guns in the hands of young black and Hispanic men.

I can’t tell you the number of people who think I’m about to be raped and murdered every time I step out my door because my neighborhood is like 60-40, black-white, and that’s a signifier of violence. Never mind I live in Mayberry, the presence of non-white people is presumed to be a threat to white people. Which I can tell you until the cows come home is bullshit, but there’s a whole media-gun-industrial-complex devoted to making people askeered of the terrible brown threat coming for your white women.

Which is why I keep harping on the media disparity. Right now we’re having lots of hearings and all kinds of angst about Facebook and Google and Twitter bots and if they’re really Russians and all of that is fine but none of it matters if every podiatrist’s office in the Midwest is blaring Fox News and a CNN panel of five Republicans is debating which Democrat is the biggest pussy.

Fix that or all our worries about Bernie vs. Hillary vs. Keith vs. Tom vs. Whoever The Fuck don’t matter.

A.

Tuesday Foodblogging

I used to think I couldn’t make bread. Then I got this book. Bread and pasta are the best things to make because everyone assumes they’re really hard and you must be some kind of genius if you make them from scratch, when if you have the right recipe they’re so, so easy.

(It’s not really five minutes a day, and you have to babysit it a bit in the oven, but overall it’s much easier than most bread recipes.)

A.

Mistaken Identities

This is one of the loveliest meditations on style — and everything else — that I’ve ever read. 

I want to show you this photo of an old man walking out of a building into the street with his hands full. He seems to lean to his right-hand side, which holds the bigger piece of luggage. In his left hand he holds a slightly more compact suitcase whose handle he hooks with his three smallest fingers so his thumb and forefinger can pinch some kind of stick—a broom maybe or baston. I love his bright panama hat with its clean flat brim and dark band. His pants are black, with a straight crease pressed down the front. Even with one foot forward, the hem doesn’t ride too high.

For this man, it is still 1977. Not a week before this picture was taken, officers of the City of San Francisco broke down the doors of Manilatown’s International Hotel in the middle of the night with a battering ram, then woke this old-timer and the 40 other residents on order of eviction, despite a decade of negotiations, resistance, marches, actions, and protests by thousands of folks from all around the Bay. The I Hotel residents were mostly Asians, most of them manongs, a term of respect for Filipino laborers who worked in America’s canneries, fields, and boats . . . They were poor, working-class folks and this was their home since the 1920s, the one place they could afford. Four days after the midnight raid and eviction, the manongs were allowed to go back and retrieve their belongings—like this gentleman in the photo—though their units had been ransacked and vandalized.

Look again at the picture, the high shine of his shoes’ leather. There’s something so familiar about this man. Too easy to say he could be uncle or cousin. One of my dad’s poker buddies in the 70s. When I look carefully at the man’s attire, I think of the wish that attire can make.

A.

The News Business Was Always Run By Rotten Bastards

Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst walk into a bar.

In hell, of course. What kind of story do you think this is?

Pulitzer and Hearst walk into a bar in hell and order the finest whiskey they have, and proceed to get gloriously, exuberantly, luxuriously shitfaced. Like, undergraduate drunk, the kind of drunk where you not only make out with a co-worker but declare your undying love.

Stumbling back to the cave where they dwell together in torment, they pass a pay phone and, giggling, ask the operator to ring up Joe Ricketts. They leave him a one-word voicemail:

“Amateur.”

HamNo:

It is worth being clear about exactly what happened here, so that no one gets too smug. DNAinfo was never profitable, but Mr. Ricketts was happy to invest in it for eight years, praising its work all along. Gothamist, on the other hand, was profitable, and a fairly recent addition to the company. One week after the New York team unionized, Mr. Ricketts shut it all down. He did not try to sell the company to someone else. Instead of bargaining with 27 unionized employees in New York City, he chose to lay off 115 people across America. And, as a final thumb in the eye, he initially pulled the entire site’s archives down (they are now back up), so his newly unemployed workers lost access to their published work. Then, presumably, he went to bed in his $29 million apartment.

News of the shutdowns spread across Chicago Twitter, where Chicagoist and DNAinfo are beloved, in part because they covered urban communities and stories often overlooked by downtown/TV media focused on the suburbs. And we all read a lot of this:

Which approaches, but doesn’t explicitly state, a structural problem. For years we’ve been hearing about how journalism needs a new revenue stream. It doesn’t need a new revenue stream, it needs a whole new ecosystem.

You all reading here know that subscriptions have never paid for news. And back when ads paid for media companies, that money rarely, if ever, made it to the city desk, even before the dastardly internet came along.

Smug business analysts like to chide journalists for not understanding how to run a business, but you tell this clueless journalist something: If you enjoy double-digit profit margins and times of plenty the likes of which even Wal-Mart can only dream, why would you not bank some of that cash in case (I know this is far-fetched) the good times don’t last forever?

Okay, you’re not in the money-warehousing business. Why would you not invest it in marketing your product, expanding and then solidifying your distribution network, shoring up your customer base, rewarding brand loyalty?

(I’m not even bothering to suggest you reward your employees. That’s just crazytalk.)

Why would you, instead and in order: blow all the money you’re not actively stealing on multiple levels of corporate functionaries doing “branding studies,” invest your profits in things that have nothing to do with your core business, weaken your product with acquisitions and load your company up with debt? Why would you make your product worse and shit on customers who object?

All the subscription money in the world, all the new revenue streams in the world, don’t matter if the money goes into the same contaminated sewage plant.

You give a guy like Joe Ricketts a profitable enterprise, he will find a way to fuck it up.You give a guy like Joe Ricketts an unprofitable enterprise that serves the public good, he will find a way to fuck it up. We’re letting the wrong people run this.

There are a lot of models out there that can work, subscription revenue or no. Nonprofit, employee ownership, co-ops, etc. These have existed for years before corporate owners got involved. There are people out there who keep saying they want democracy to live in the light instead of dying in darkness.

Time for them to put their money where their small-d democratic mouths are.

A.

Food Pantries and State Legislatures

That’s what I’ve come to believe is the answer, no kidding: 

Let’s say Trump disappeared tomorrow, and all his creatures with him. (We’d be short one pussygrabbing racist warmonger, and I’d never say that’s nothing, but let’s keep our eyes on the ball here.) A president Mike Pence or a President Paul Ryan would still have a GOP Congress set on making life worse for anyone who isn’t the owner of a corporation. Gerrymandered congressional districts mean their power is relatively assured; Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million and still carried 25 more congressional districts than Clinton.

How do we fix that? The same way it got broke—in statehouses across the country.

A.

Don’t Watch Mueller

Mueller’s not here to save us.

He’s not here to overturn the election. He’s not here to hand back the spine the GOP willingly ripped out of its party and tossed into the landfill of history.

He’s not gonna fix this, for the very simple reason that this isn’t how it got broke.

America didn’t get broke because Donald Trump is up to his eyeballs in Russian mob money.

America got broke because Republicans decided to take over the country 20 years ago and Democrats, with the exception of Howard Dean First of His Name, mostly said okay as long as we can keep our committee chairmanships. America got broke because keeping our powder dry and not looking like filthy hippies was more important than standing up for Americans and American values.

“We’ll give you the blanket ability to wage war across the globe however you see fit, grant retroactive immunity to anyone who spies on anyone,” Congress said, “and by the way here is a tax cut or two because we, also, love ‘business,’ but for God’s sake stop calling us commie traitor pedophiles on Fox News.”

That’s worked out well.

America got broke because we decided to fetishize “taxpayer money” over “American lives.” Mueller isn’t here to fix that.

I’d never tell anyone not to pop popcorn and champagne right now. I’m not saying we shouldn’t celebrate criminals and traitors — especially ones this dumb — turning on each other and going to jail. The members of this administration that aren’t going to die in federal prison will die in WitSec under the names of Pete and Martha, a nice couple in southeastern Utah who have four beagles and always bring salad to the church picnic. That’s something to cheer for. One less scumbag on the street always is.

But the GOP can turn around and do this to us again tomorrow if they keep the statehouses and Congress and the way I know that is that they’ve done it before. Richard Nixon should have been the end of this party but here we are again, with a bunch of dumb bagmen fighting over who is the biggest butthole. Roger Stone’s even here.

We keep letting them back up because we think law enforcement, the goddamn FBI, is here to save us. I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing but then you’d better get back to figuring out who represents you in your state legislature and if it’s a Republican figuring out how you can change that.

Don’t watch.

Don’t sit.

Don’t wait.

Keep going.

A.

The Grossest Thing About Halperin

Will always be this: 

A team of journalism students will take a page from Halperin and offer analysis of his remarks on Twitter, as well as produce a streaming video feed that will allow people watching on the Web to ask Halperin questions.

Look, let me just stipulate up front that I am a dumb girl who makes dick jokes on the internet, and therefore am not the arbiter of What Is Journalism, especially since I often start sentences with conjunctions. But even I, a dumb girl who makes dick jokes on the internet, think that anyone who thinks Mark Halperin and his merry band of blithering asslicks offer any insight worth listening to is a deluded famefucker.

I am annoyed that he has been exposed as a gigantic pig who rubs his wiener on young girls who work with him, because if that’s the thing that takes him down it’s bad for journalism.

What should take him down is his conflation of being an “insider” and his “must-read status among political junkies” with journalism. We’re parading this guy, and Chris Cillizza, the creature, around like they’re Woodward and Bernstein just because they call themselves journalists and make a shitload of scratch. If Halperin and Heilemann had to cover cops in a middle-class suburb for just one week they’d go bugass crazy nuts by Tuesday afternoon at the latest. The first time the scanner blew up they’d pee themselves.

What they do is write a gossip column for ugly people, and that’s fine, I have nothing against that. Everybody needs a hobby. But we are running around in this industry with our hair on fire screaming about how nobody wants to pay for the news and consumers are in danger of becoming congenitally unable to discern truth from falsehood and there’s no money for anything, yet here comes this asshole. Getting paid millions to not only be a disgusting pig but to be dumb as all hell.

I mean Jesus H. Ranch Dressing Christ.

And if you read the press releases issued by journalism schools they are the fucking arbiters of the future. They’re the molders of young minds and the creators of the journalists of tomorrow, and so they encouraged their students to take a page from this guy’s fucking book, and … tweet.

Sometimes I wonder if this industry deserves to be saved.

A.

NOT GREAT, BOB

Oh look, someone else with nothing at risk is doing less than nothing and getting all kinds of praise for it! 

Not pictured in CNN’s jerkoff session above: The 48 Democratic Senators who were never under the delusion that Trump was gonna be okay, the 65 million people who were right about him all along and VOTED FOR THE CHICK INSTEAD, or any one of the thousands of people who’d already been fucked over by this guy before he ran for president and tried to warn us.

But sure, let’s keep lionizing Republicans who “stand up to” Trump, as if saying mean things about a racist old asshole whose own staff hates him is something brave. You know what would have been brave, Corker? Standing up to the party when it nominated Trump in the first place. Standing up for your constituents when Trump intimated it was okay to deport them, ban them, grab them by the pussy. Standing up for the powerless back when you had power.

All these newly enconscienced Republicans who are so, so scared of Trump (for the cameras) should have stood up to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who seized all the executive power you’re now worried about Trump wielding. Trump has the unlimited capacity to direct the military, spy on Americans, drone-bomb civilians, and do just about anything else he wants without the interference of those pesky checks and balances because you all decided that yelling NATIONAL SECURITY TERRORISM 9/11 was the same as judicial oversight.

For what it’s worth, they might have contested Obama on these issues too, since he was terrible on them. But they were too busy screaming about health care and tax cuts and being a Seekirt Muslin, so spare me the swooning now about the great traditions of our democracy. You assholes slept on it til now. I’ll save my credit for those who were awake.

A.

Stop Publishing Things You Don’t Believe In

I think, aside from the “both sides” fetish, this is my least favorite journalism Thing:

Every newspaper editorial page hauls this out when someone calls the paper out on publishing racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise utterly bullshit: Oh, we’re just contributing to the Great Marketplace of Ideas Where We Debate Everything Civilly. Leaving aside that bullshit isn’t an idea, I could almost let this go at a time before TV and the internet, back when newspaper editorial pages were, you know, the main places ideas were debated.

When it was either the Opinion Section of the Beaver County Tidbit or literally yelling on a street corner to the passing omnibuses, I could see the editors of the Tidbit feeling obligated to present as many views as possible. In the interests of traffic control if nothing else.

Now, though? When there are approximately 31 squillion places ideas get debated, and a medium for every message, and newspapers are struggling to differentiate themselves from every other information source?

Now this is just chickenass and lazy. We publish stuff we don’t agree with. Why? Like why do you?

Do you sincerely believe there’s some kind of enlightened debate happening? Because your own voicemails should have convinced you otherwise like 20 years ago. Do you think publishing one conservative wanker every other week will shield you from criticism in your reporting? Because again in things you should have learned in the past two decades: Nobody gives you points that you can redeem when you trip on your journalistic dick. That’s not how anything works.

Why publish stuff you have to disavow the second it comes out? Why not publish what you DO believe? Why not publish what you do agree with? What, the online frogboys will howl? They’re already doing that no matter how many tired contrarians you run. Do you think the Journalism Police will come take your Cracker Jack badge away if you don’t run One A Conservative and One A Liberal each week? You’re not under any legal obligation, nor any moral one either.

Publish what you think people should know. Publish what you think is important. Publish underrepresented voices, on understudied topics, and celebrate them instead of distancing yourself from your own content. Set an agenda with the limited pages that remain in your august publication, and make the editorial choices you make work for you instead of hoping they shield you from criticism. Put something out there you can be proud of. Quit apologizing.

Stop trying to not suck. Because it ain’t working.

A.

They’re The Economy, Stupid

It’s fashionable to describe public universities as money-sucks that educate the elite and prop up liberalism, but they also, you know, CREATE JOBS: 

Trump’s cuts would affect all research universities, but not equally. The problem is more pronounced at public universities than private ones, and especially at public institutions in the Midwest, which have historically conducted some of the nation’s most important research. These schools are desperately needed to diversify economies that rely disproportionately on manufacturing and agriculture and lack the wealthy private institutions that fuel the knowledge industries found in Silicon Valley or along Boston’s 128/I-95 corridor. Yet many flagship Midwestern research universities are being weakened by deep state budget cuts. Threats to pensions (in Illinois) and tenure (in Wisconsin) portend an exodus of faculty and their all-important research funding, and have already resulted in a frenzy of poaching by better-funded and higher-paying private institutions, industry, and international competitors.

This story focuses on the economic benefits of research at public universities, but I’d like us to think about the custodians at Your State U. The receptionists. The food service workers. The hundreds of thousands of people who have to work in order for hundreds of thousands to learn. Those are JOBS. Steady jobs, in some cases even still union jobs, that pay if not well then at least consistently, and let people earn money to spend in grocery stores and gas stations and bars.

You can’t tell me they’re not important to the life of a place. All we focus on anymore is the cost of public things, and we never talk about the benefits. Oooh, that pension is expensive! Yes, but it’s keeping a person in his home so he can take care of that home and mow the lawn and buy soap and cereal and go to church and subscribe to the local paper and do all the stuff we say we want people to do, that people did back in the Good Old Days When America Was Great.

So maybe some of the cities currently competing to suck Jeff Bezos off could consider putting those billions into public education. Maybe instead of building a stadium for a billionaire or throwing money at a big-box retail store that doesn’t need it, these communities could show a little financial appreciation for the places that actually do give back to someone other than the Walton family. After all, these places create jobs, no? And isn’t that what we’re all about at the moment?

A.