Category Archives: Uncategorized

Not Everything Sucks: Writing Edition

People are good and kind: 

“I just found my happy writing place in a Tires Tires Tires waiting room and decided to tell people about it,” Amy said. “With all the sad stories in the news, the thousands of things that get us down in life, sometimes, you just need to open up Facebook and have a laugh at a weird author appreciating the little things in life.”


Sunday Morning Video: Van Morrison & The Chieftains Live

I can’t seem to let go of Saint Patrick’s Day. Here’s a 1988 set at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Tillerson Out


Most of the time I can’t get too het up about the ins and outs here, because wow, a burning dumpster is full of garbage that is burning all the time, but THIS MAN THOUGHT HE COULD SIT IN JOHN KERRY’S CHAIR AND I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THAT.


Choose Your Own Adventure

I used to stick my fingers in all the pages, trying to game the system, find the path that would get me home free.

I used to read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too: 

Yet you never quite escape completely. The lasting influence of Choose Your Own Adventure might be how it made us subtly reflect on traditional story-telling. It may be hyperbole to claim that books for kids planted a seed of doubt about our credulity in later life. And yet there is something of the alienation effect to a form of literature that continually suggested other paths, other possibilities. The senses of contingency and simultaneity that Choose Your Own Adventure suggested to attentive readers might have made three and five-act structures with their stock heroes and villains and tidy resolutions that much harder to fall for.


Good night, Jack Hamilton

(Posting a bit early because of a sad bit of news. Hope it’s acceptable. – Doc.)

Of all the baubles and trinkets I’ve collected over the years that adorn my office, one of my favorite ones is a baseball signed by Jack Hamilton, who died earlier today.


The reason I got it was that I taught one of his grandchildren during one of my many stops in journalism education. I still remember her approaching me during our introductory reporting course to ask for special dispensation when it came to her profile.

“I know you said that we can’t do this on family members, but…” she began.

I had heard all sorts of excuses over the years: “I don’t have time to find anyone else,” or “My mom is my hero” or “I don’t know who else I’d do.”

I kind of did that “Justify your existence” thing and said, “Who and why?”

The answer was “My grandfather and he used to pitch in the major leagues.”

I decided it would be OK. After all, I let some kid do a piece on her grandmother because she was Jerry “Beaver Cleaver” Mathers’ mom, so why not a pitcher? Besides, I liked baseball. It was only after she turned in the piece that I realized who this man was.

Jack Hamilton had a relatively pedestrian career record of 32-40 during the heart of the 1960s. He bottomed out with Cleveland and the White Sox in 1969, going 0-5 before retiring. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he wasn’t a giant, but a solid man who could mix his pitches well. His best season ended up being his most memorable one for all the wrong reasons.

In 1967, he started 2-0 for the New York Mets, who sent him to the Angels for Nick Willhite, who would retire from the game following a 0-1 campaign for New York that season. He was 8-2 and on the way to his only double-digit winning season on Aug. 18 when he threw the pitch that would define his career.

“It was a fastball that just got away.” I remember reading that line in my student’s profile. It stuck with me all these years and it hung with me today. I never heard the man’s voice, but I can hear it over and over in my head.

The one that “got away” smashed into the head of Boston’s Tony Conigliaro, a promising slugger who had already hit 100 home runs faster than any man in the game. The pitch fractured Tony C’s cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and damaged his retina. He sat out all of 1968 and would never really become the player everyone thought he would be.

Hamilton finished the season with an 11-6 record, but he too would never be the same.

“I had trouble pitching inside,” he told his grand-daughter. I didn’t blame him.

I remember reading that profile my student wrote, almost in awe and yet almost in shame. I felt like I was leering in on this man’s most difficult moment. I was thinking, Good God, man… you let this student ask her grandfather about all this? The hell is wrong with you? Still, I had to grade the thing so I kept on reading and I was glad I did.

He left baseball and settled in Branson, Missouri, where opened up several restaurants and raised a family. People liked him for who he was then, not because he was “a former baseball player.” He was just a great guy.

A year or two later, the student was working in the newsroom near Thanksgiving when we started chatting about something or other and she mentioned she was going home for the break.

“Are you seeing your grandpa?” I asked. “If so, tell him I loved reading about him.”

She said she was and that he’d be glad to hear that someone liked reading his story. I laughed a bit and tossed in a line: “Tell him I’d love to have his autograph.”

When she returned from Thanksgiving, she handed me a baseball. She had explained our exchange to her grandfather and my ask, he got this great big smile on his face and asked, “Really?” He then went out and actually bought a baseball so he could sign it for me. (I would have taken a turkey-stained napkin, for Pete’s sake.) His hand writing was a tad jittery, but right across the sweet spot, he inked his autograph for me.

I bought a plastic container to display it and subsequently found a 1968 copy of his baseball card. It was amazing but I could really see the family resemblance between that man on the card and his grand daughter in my class. I found it to be a nice reminder of a wonderful moment.

He also served as a reminder to me about how life can mix things up on you from time to time, but in the end, if you know who you are and you value the right things, everything will turn out OK. When I finished reading the profile on him, I felt I knew him and how he had become comfortable in his own skin.

He was just the kind of person you’d want as a grandpa.

So, good night, Mr. Hamilton. I hope you are at peace knowing you really were an incredible man.

‘a reprieve’

What the fuck is wrong with you? 

But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a rare crisis not of their own making. While the White House mourned the loss of life in Parkland, Fla., some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm.

A breather. A breather. A fucking breather. What kind of solipsistic asshole … you know, this is paragraph two of this story and I’m already longing for the better part of a bottle of scotch.

Press staffers cited the tragedy as a reason to cancel on-camera briefings for the remainder of the week, allowing them to avoid questions about the swirling controversies. The White House could hold its next briefing on Tuesday, a full week since press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last faced reporters.


“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

No one who says something so demonstrably horrifying gets to remain anonymous. The American people need to know who this is so that when they see him or her on the street they can throw rotten fruit. We should bring back the public stocks for people like this. You have got to be kidding me.

The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October 2017 gun massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

I’m sorry, would you like America to arrange a few more mass killings so that you can keep your focus off the pussy-grabber’s porn star problems? I just … how is this person still alive after saying this to another human being? Sometimes I cannot fathom covering this White House and not punting everyone in to the sun.

Now, I am Super Savvy and therefore know that of course the writers of this story aren’t endorsing the view these anonymous White House anuses are espousing. Of course they don’t agree, present the administration’s view, both sides, etc. But the tone of this thing is just … yes, that’s what Republicans are about now, hoping school massacres distract us from the treason.

“The national tragedy in Florida has really, for now, turned the page on some of these crises,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist close to the White House. “They’re going to come back, but what it does do is give the White House a chance to collect itself and, if they can, organize a communications strategy and get their ducks in a row.”

By conveying this viewpoint so dispassionately the story sends a message that this is just one outlook among many, rather than THE TEXTBOOK DIAGNOSIS OF A MOTHERFUCKING SOCIOPATH. These people should be straitjacketed, not quoted like they’re humans.

There are a thousand ways to approach this story that don’t wind up sounding like hey, a bunch of children died bloody but there’s a silver lining here folks! There are a thousand ways to turn this around, including but not limited to talking to people who think these officials are horror shows and should not only be shitcanned but sectioned.

I’m sure lots of people who don’t believe I’m Super Savvy and Serious will explain to me now that the paper can’t just be 72-point headlines that say EVERYTHING IS FUCKED AND ON FIRE, but that’s really the problem here. Adhering to the conventions of ordinary Washington coverage — while Democracy Dies in Darkness, natch — leads to opining that sure, a bunch of parents are planning funerals instead of graduations but at least Joe and I got to take a coffee break for once.


Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – two steps forward, one step back edition

Greetings, all – still recovering from the herniated disc thing, and every time I think it’s gone away, it comes back. In the immortal words of Joan Hackett in “Support your local Sheriff” :

“I’m sick and tired of all these stupid things that keep happening to me, and somebody’d better do something about it soon!

So  – a short “Obsession” today.

I won’t even go near the latest mowing down of schoolchildren, because the Freeperati response is exactly the same as the last 20 times it happened.

It did generate one interesting thread, though –  good for the Russian mafia!

Are you allowed guns in Russia?
16 Feb 18 | hapnHal

Posted on 2/17/2018, 10:52:12 PM by hapnHal

Are you allowed guns in Russia? Found this information.

Individuals are not allowed to carry guns acquired for self-defense; a license only serves as a carrying permit for hunting and sport firearms when these guns need to be transported. Russian citizens may not own guns that shoot in bursts or have magazines with more than a ten-cartridge capacity.

1 posted on 2/17/2018, 10:52:12 PM by hapnHal
I see a Cognitive Dissonance alert coming, as their new BFF Russia dare not be criticized!
To: billakay
As I understand it, the law was amended a couple of years ago to allow anyone who had a permit to own a weapon to carry it for self defense. 

Got to wonder how much the growth of the Russian mafia contributed to that.

Regardless, good for them!

7 posted on 2/17/2018, 11:09:20 PM by doorgunner69 (Give me the liberty to take care of my own security……….)


To: hapnHal


Just as I thought, the Democrats are trying as hard as insanely possible to turn America into Russia.

13 posted on 2/17/2018, 11:52:06 PM by American in Israel (A wise man’s heart directs him to the right, but the foolish mans heart directs him toward the left.)

So – Russia = bad?
To: American in Israel


“Just as I thought, the Democrats are trying as hard as insanely possible to turn America into Russia.”

Not in all ways. Russia today protects their kids against gay recruitment.

14 posted on 2/17/2018, 11:57:58 PM by BobL (I shop at Walmart and eat at McDonald’s…I just don’t tell anyone)

So – Russia = good?
To: hapnHal


Tell the liberals that, now that they hate Russia! Remember how they loved Russia when she was full commie?

15 posted on 2/18/2018, 12:09:25 AM by JimRed ( TERM LIMITS, NOW! Build the Wall Faster! TRUTH is the new HATE SPEECH.)

I’ll tell you what I remember:
One Freeper dares to go there:
To: billakay


What are your thoughts on….

“Russian citizens may not own guns that shoot in bursts or have magazines with more than a ten-cartridge capacity.”

Maybe the Russians are on the right track. Do we need these type of guns and if so, for WHAT PURPOSE ?

12 posted on 2/17/2018, 11:49:58 PM by hapnHal (B)

And is promptly reminded of how a fat fuck with an AR15 is going to hold off a drone strike:
To: hapnHal
Do we need these type of guns and if so, for WHAT PURPOSE ? 

To fight back against government forces that will be sent to take them away the next time we get an Obama or a Hillary.

18 posted on 2/18/2018, 12:11:41 AM by JimRed ( TERM LIMITS, NOW! Build the Wall Faster! TRUTH is the new HATE SPEECH.)
One more bit of stupid after the moron labe

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Back In Blecch edition

OK – back in the saddle. I’m going to TRY to ease back into this, but I have a horrendous backlog of bookmarks to plough through.

First up – SOROS’s FAULT!!

Holocaust Denier Likely to Represent GOP on Illinois Congressional Ballot KSBW ^ | 2/5 Posted on 2/5/2018, 4:48:13 PM by nickcarraway

A long-shot candidate with a history of anti-Semitic statements and Holocaust denial is primed to represent the Republican Party in a congressional race in Illinois.

The candidate, Arthur Jones, is running unopposed in the GOP primary for Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District,


His website contains sections such as “Holocaust?” which features a statement that says “there is no proof such a so-called ‘Holocaust’ ever took place anywhere in Europe, against the Jews.”


“I’m sorry I voted for the son of a b****, I really am,” Jones told the Guardian.


1 posted on 2/5/2018, 4:48:13 PM by nickcarraway
I’m sure this will provoke some deep soul-searching among the Freeperati as to why Nazis feel so at home in the GOP.
To: nickcarraway


This guy is so bad I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’s a Soros plant.

2 posted on 2/5/2018, 4:50:54 PM by rfp1234 (I have already previewed this composition.)

Just kidding. You need to have a soul to do any soul-searching.
To: rfp1234
This guy is so bad I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’s a Soros plant. 

This guy has run for the Republican nomination seven times since the 1990’s. You think Soros plans that far ahead?

5 posted on 2/5/2018, 5:03:29 PM by DoodleDawg
“LurkingLibertarian” tries to Freepsplain this one away :
To: Joe Dallas
The GOP dropped the ball on this one. 

More likely, no serious candidate from the GOP wanted to run in this district; it has voted Dem in 24 of the last 25 congressional elections and all four of the last four presidential elections. Bernie Sanders won the district by 8 points in the 2016 primary.

6 posted on 2/5/2018, 5:04:09 PM by Lurking Libertarian (Non sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege)

“Joe Dallas” ain’t buying it :
To: Lurking Libertarian


Then find a somewhat serious candidate that is not a Nazi.

8 posted on 2/5/2018, 5:05:37 PM by Joe Dallas

To: Joe Dallas 

Then find a somewhat serious candidate that is not a Nazi.

Well, you’d have to find one in the district.

Hard to find Republicans in a ghetto, even harder to find one that has the time and money to even run to lose.

11 posted on 2/5/2018, 5:15:45 PM by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge)

Um – about that “ghetto”…
To: piasa
Hard to find Republicans in a ghetto, 

The district is 74% white.

18 posted on 2/5/2018, 5:54:48 PM by Lurking Libertarian (Non sub homine, sed sub Deo et lege)
Of course, we all know who’s REALLY to blame, don’t we?
To: nickcarraway


This is classic media horseshiTe….badmouth a gop guy (who deserves it) and make it the headline.

22 posted on 2/5/2018, 6:49:41 PM by irish guard

One more short bit after the jumparoonie …

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Parsing the Medill #MeToo Debacle

Yes, even at the Jesus H. Christ School of Journalism Gods, people can be total dipshits:

Ten women released an open letter on Wednesday accusing Northwestern University Professor Alec Klein of persistent sexual harassment and bullying since he has been at the helm of the school’s “crown jewel” investigative journalism program.

Calling it the storied journalism school’s “#MeToo Moment,” the eight former students and two former staffers of the Medill Justice Project wrote that Klein’s “controlling, discriminatory, emotionally and verbally abusive behavior has to end.”

Klein, who has been at Northwestern for a decade and in charge of the Justice Project since 2011, has taken a leave of absence while the university sorts out all the allegations brought forth in the letter. This is likely to take some time, as a) digging into charges that range back five or more years isn’t easy and b) the women who signed the letter set up an email address for others to use if they want to add their stories regarding Klein and his behavior toward them.

Klein’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, issued a statement that really does a nice job of making him look guilty as hell:

“While Mr. Klein denies the allegations that are being made, he intends to respect the confidentiality and privacy of Northwestern University and its internal process,” Miltenberg wrote. “It is unfortunate that these allegations are being made in a rush to judgment, denying Mr. Klein of due process. We are confident that upon review, the allegations will be determined to have been unfounded.”

If you are playing “clearly guilty bingo jargon,” you probably got the cover-all here: “denies allegations,” “respect the confidentiality” “respect the… process,” “rush to judgment,” “due process” and unfounded allegations.

Klein, for his part, issued a letter that blamed all of this on a “disgruntled employee” and then pivoted to how great his teaching evaluations have been.

The university conducted an extensive investigation, interviewing current and former employees, former students and others, and reviewing emails, expenses and other records. The complaint was determined to be completely unfounded. I was cleared of any wrongdoing and the claim was dismissed. The university determined the complainant was not credible and documented, through records and her own words, several falsehoods in her charges.

Klein, a journalist, needs to be a little more accurate here. According to media reports, the claim was not “completely unfounded,” but rather it was a situation where the U declined to roll the dice on pursuing it because it didn’t think it had enough to get the goods on him. It’s like that line from “And the Band Played On,” about what do we think, what do we know and what can we prove? In this case, you couldn’t prove the situation was rotten but it did have some serious stank on it. The school paid Olivia Pera off and as part of the payoff, the rule was that she couldn’t reapply for a job, not that she would want to:


“I went through absolute hell,” Pera said. “My family saw me go through such personality changes. My son saw me crying every day. That’s not something your kid should see. I have nothing but bad memories of Northwestern.”

The allegations regarding Klein are problematic, and there is nothing I would like more than to jump up and down on this guy. I have frequently come out against professors who treat students like sexual canapes, the arrogance of the elitism that comes with places like the Med-Dildo land that is that journalism school and people who are generally sleazy fucksticks. That said, there are really two sets of allegations here and they need to be separated before hanging this guy from a yardarm.

First set: He’s a sexually sleazy, lecherous fuck:

And let’s be clear: Some of us have also experienced sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

  • He attempted to kiss a prospective employee, prior to hiring her. On the same occasion, he asked if she smoked marijuana and asked to smoke with her and ordered her several cocktails.

  • He asked a female employee to come to his hotel room “for drinks” on a business trip.

  • He gave unwanted neck massages while a female employee was trying to work.

  • He asked for a hug in return for giving an employee a requested day off.

  • He made other unwarranted physical contact, such as grabbing a student’s hand during conversations

  • He made sexually graphic remarks at work

  • He talked about his sex life and pressed for explicit details about others’

  • He frequently commented on employees’ physical attractiveness, appearances, attire and bodies

  • He told female students they would be good fits for broadcast journalism because they were “good-looking.

  • He asked if an employee was having another baby when she mentioned that her stomach hurt

  • He asked an employee if she was a stripper

  • He sent texts “intended for his wife” to a female


I’ll give him a pass on the text issue, as my Twitter followers have often been subjected to the, “So do we still need milk?” Tweets when I fucked up and hit the wrong button. Other than that… What the fuck? Your students are not a smorgasbord of pussy, so knock it off. And as for the asking the woman back to your hotel room thing, could you be any more sleazy while still being cliche? If you’re not with your wife and you suddenly have that pent up dick rage you seem to possess, there is nothing dumber than what you attempted to do. Here’s some advice: Go back to your room, find that little bottle next to the conditioner and go fly a solo mission.

Second set of allegations: He’s a fucking miserable human being:

Let’s start breaking these into “zones of danger.”

  • He repeatedly accused students of insubordination and reprimanded them to the point of tears over minor or perceived offenses, such as pushing back on an editorial misjudgment or offering an alternative method to pursue an investigation, or agreeing with a peer’s suggestion instead of what Alec Klein proposed. Several of us were summoned into his office individually, made to sit on a short cushion in a corner as he hurled accusatory vitriol about our mistakes and then refused to accept any apology. He sometimes retaliated by lowering students’ final term grades even though these disagreements had nothing to do with academics.

  • He retaliated against an employee by giving her a poor performance review after she defended herself against his verbal abuse.

  • He has yelled at employees and students and accused them of “ignoring him” for not immediately answering his phone calls or emails — at times, outside of working hours, or when one employee was on vacation, despite her returning his call within a few minutes.

  • He continued to show retaliatory behavior after discovering that students went to senior staff at Medill to voice their concerns about him.

  • He was openly dismissive in class to a student who struggled with English and made it apparent that he did not like her Middle Eastern accent. According to this student, he “killed” her confidence and made her feel like “nothing,” and he screamed at and hung up on her friend whom she had put on the phone with him for help.

The concept of retaliation, reprimand and dismissiveness are often in the eye of the beholder, especially in student-faculty relationships. Not saying these things didn’t happen, but on occasion students aren’t as amazing as they think they are and any attempt to demonstrate that is likely to lead to “melting snowflakes.” It also pains me to say this, but I have found that students at some of the best (as in most prestigious, highest ranked etc.) institutions are the ones that are the least able to deal with hearing that they don’t quite measure up. If I had a nickel for every time a kid blamed a bad grade on me or cried over not being told he or she was perfect in every way, I wouldn’t need a job any more. This group needs more cooking before it becomes soup.

Chunk two:

  • He has said: “You aren’t as smart as you think you are ”

  • He has said: “You will never be a journalist.”

  • He told one of us, after learning her mother is a professional writer: “Your mother is a writer, I’d expect you to be a better writer.”

  • He told one of us she needed an A- to earn his recommendation. He later promised a male student in the same class a recommendation in exchange for a B+.

  • He scolded employees for “taking too much credit” for their work and in one instance denied any credit until proof was provided.

When I hear back from students years later, I find out that a lot of shit came rolling out of my mouth that I can’t believe actually did. Part of it is working in a newsroom environment. Part of it is finding the need to buzz a kid with a fastball to back him or her off the plate a bit. Part of it was that I fucked up and learned that I needed to smooth off some of the rough edges. Part of it is that I’m just a dick sometimes, despite my best efforts.

I’ve said the first one, I’m sure. The second one was actually said to me when I was in high school, by a female teacher. She told me that not only would I never be a journalist, but that I’d never be ANYTHING and that I needed to go to a trade school if I wanted to be able to support a family. The third one is weird. The fourth one is something that I could easily see happening. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday as opposed to who I promised what to whom. The last one, again, some kids need to get backed off the plate or forced to prove stuff. Even students I’ve had dead to rights on plagiarism or other such things would deny it and threaten and bluster until I literally had to say, “You bring your proof and I’ll bring mine and we’ll see what the U has to say.” Then, they fucking crumbled. If these items alone were the basis for a complaint, I could see how the admin would wave this off and call it a day.


  • He often required excessive and unnecessary closed-door meetings during which he pressed several of us to divulge deeply personal details about our lives, only to later use this information against us as a tool of manipulation.

  • He questioned whether an employee had actually attended her grandfather’s funeral after she had requested and taken the day off.

  • He has said about and to female students that they are “too emotional” and “immature.”

This is really problematic stuff in that a) it shows a gender bias and b) it infuses him into the private lives of his students and employees. The gender thing is already discussed above. The other one is something that is an issue because we have to draw lines as faculty and prevent ourselves from crossing them. I have always told newsroom students that I don’t care who you’re sleeping with or what you’re drinking or where you threw up last night. That’s none of my business. However, if I can’t get photos for the front page because my design editor was sleeping with the photo editor, but now they broke up and they’re not talking… OK, NOW I have to care.

I think logically that a lot of this stuff in chunks one and two wouldn’t be as horribly problematic if it weren’t for the first set of allegations (stuff on the harassment) and the last chunk of section two (getting involved in their business). Yes, this isn’t nice workplace behavior in those other two subsections, but I found out something once about stuff like this: There’s no law that prevents people from being an asshole at work.

I had a long discussion with HR and with a harassment specialty lawyer when I was getting knocked around by a particularly shitty colleague in ways like those listed in the two  (non-sex stuff) chunks. I was told, “Look, this isn’t good and he shouldn’t be able to do this, but there is no law against him being a dick.” I wasn’t pleased with that answer, but I got it.

However, there ARE laws about getting your business into my private business. There ARE laws about keeping your fucking hands to yourself and not treating everyone like they’re a fuckdoll with a personality, installed at work for your amusement.

And those laws need to be enforced everywhere, including this situation.

Nobody’s Coming But Us

Lookit this.

Ain’t nobody saving journalism but journalism. Certainly not the corporate disaster artists who’ve gutted and skullfucked newspaper companies for the last 30 years while complaining about the Internet and blaming “market forces” for them not being able to get a paper on a porch before 7 a.m.

Ain’t nobody coming, and it’s long past time we stopped waiting and feeling shitty about the way things are going, and picked up our axes instead. There’s enough money there, if you’re not wasting it on flying your executives around and paying your board and worrying about shareholders’ quarterly returns.

I’ve always heard a lot of sarcastic cracks about journalists being unable to manage money, and God damn, journalists aren’t the ones who’ve upfucked this business. They’re usually the ones screaming about having to go without raises for five years while the higher-ups throw a fancy party. They’re usually the ones noting that the last CEO’s buyout would have paid them all three times over. They’re usually the ones on the phone listening to people bitch that the paper used to cover their neighborhood and doesn’t anymore.

So it’s about time they get to handle all of it, control their own destiny, and at least then if there’s no money they’ll know where they stand.

I backed it. You should too.


The law and justice in the life of a parent in the Larry Nassar case

On occasion, the law doesn’t do what we want it to do. It’s a byproduct of our attempt to remain civilized in the face of uncivilized behavior. It’s a byproduct of being “the more powerful force” or “the better person” when we are forced to confront something truly horrific. Without this level of decorum and rule of law, we would be no better than animals and tyrants, we are told.

And all of those things are right. All of those things are true. We can’t just attack people for what we perceive to be inappropriate or illegal actions that wrong us or others. The law is what protects the weakest and the most disenfranchised among us. Without the law, all of the positive strides made by people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants would be cast aside and only the white, rich and powerful would thrive.

I get it. I really, really get it.

And yet, sometimes… sometimes, polite society isn’t going to get us where we want to go. Sometimes, there isn’t enough years on a sentence or enough words to reveal our anger. Sometimes, we just can’t with the whole idea of “being a better person” or “knowing there is a special place in Hell for people like this.”

As pitcher Gene Brabender once noted in “Ball Four” about certain situations, “Where I’m from we talk for a while and then we start hitting.”

To say I condone the actions of Randall Margraves today would be difficult. I’m supposed to be more calm and rational than the monster that is Larry Nassar. I’m supposed to be more dignified than the scourge of anger or the fury of rage. I’m supposed to be better than this.

Unfortunately, I’m not. I totally get it.

My kid was in gymnastics for a short while and every day, I thought about the issues that are often associated with that sport. It carries a huge risk of injury, body dysmorphia, social awkwardness, biological alteration and more. It carries with it a huge commitment, both financial and physical. It draws on some of the worst instincts of parents and competitors (trust me, I sat in that observation deck and had to put on headphones to avoid the horrible things parents said about other kids and their own). I let it ride until she was about 7 when we decided to make her choose gymnastics or karate and we kind of nudged her toward karate.

I never once thought, “Hey, if she gets hurt I wonder if there’s a child-molesting asshole there ready to pop a couple fingers into the inner recesses of her body for his own sick pleasure.”

I never once thought, “I bet if there is a guy like that, he’ll be protected, covered for and overall allowed to do it to the point where CNN needs a goddamned scoreboard to keep track of the accusers.”

I didn’t think these things and that makes me terrified and it makes me understand guys like Randall Margraves. He knew all the “real” risks associated with this sport his kids loved. He understood the issues that come with this and how hard it is for people like his daughters to compete at the highest level. He accepted them and trusted the sport, the team and the support staff.

To be hit with something like a Larry Nassar is to be blindsided in a way that makes you question everything you are as a parent. To have to sit there and listen to lawyers parse the “degree” to which something happened or how the number of potential victims is really “not believable” has got to be more than even the most decent human being can withstand.

In a vacuum or in theory, we should condemn someone like Randall Margraves for his actions because, well, it’s just not what we do.

In practice, I’m surprised nobody tried this sooner.

Thome, my homie

Jim Thome made the Hall of Fame this week in the same way he began his career: As an afterthought.

Baseball pundits flocked to Larry “Chipper” Jones, writing stories about him “headlining” this class of inductees. Or, as one writer noted about him, he “feels” like a Hall of Famer. Vladimir Guerrero had more votes, so he deserved more attention. Edgar Martinez didn’t get ENOUGH votes, so people were talking about him as well. Oh, and let’s not forget talking about the steroid guys who we are somehow either too soft or too hard on.

Thome? Mmph. OK.

For all the bitching people do about how we don’t have any heroes left or how we are constantly a people distracted by scandal, it seems that we don’t pay enough attention to those things we pine for. Things like work-ethic, playing by the rules and remaining inside yourself are all deified but never recognized when they present themselves, which is one of many reasons why Jim Thome never really got his due until now.

Thome grew up in Peoria, Illinois where is father worked for the Caterpillar and his brother worked construction. Before Thome, Peoria’s most famous citizen was Richard Pryor, who used the city’s crime and brothel culture to evolve his comedy. Thome grew up a few blocks from that part of town, so while he may have grown up to be country strong, he wasn’t a country boy.

The Indians drafted Thome in the 13th round in 1989 and signed him for a bonus similar to what I paid for my first shitty car. Only one other player from that round even made the majors (Mike Oquist, a righthanded pitcher with a 25-31 career record). In his first minor league season, he didn’t hit a single home run.

It was Charlie Manuel, who would later be his hitting coach with the Indians and his manager with the Phillies, who found the power in the lefty’s swing. Manuel used Robert Redford’s habit from “The Natural” of pointing the bat at the pitcher before each delivery to help Thome calm down and focus. He added hip movement to the arm strength the young man possessed. The actual country bumpkin from Northfork, West Virginia and the perceived country bumpkin from Peoria bonded over the art of the swing.

Still, Thome wasn’t a lock for anything. He was up and down in his first few years. When he finally stuck with the Indians in 1994, he didn’t even make the Opening Day line up, sitting out in favor of the immortal Mark Lewis. The next year, Thome would hit 25 home runs as the Tribe captured its first AL pennant since the Eisenhower administration. He batted sixth in a line up just flat-out crushed teams. In a 144-game strike-shortened season, the Indians won 100 games but lost the World Series to the Atlanta Braves.

The problem for Thome was that he was always overshadowed by something. In that 1995 season, his teammate Albert Belle hit 50 homers to lead the league. The next season, Thome hit 38 dingers, only to be outdone by what seemed to be half the league. He barely cracked the top 20 in the MLB and guys like Brady Anderson, Jay Buhner and Vinny Castilla all out homered him.

The numbers for Thome never seemed to be big enough. In 1998, he crushed 30 homers, but that was the year in which Mark McGwire hit 70 and Sammy Sosa hit 66. Only once in his career did he lead the league in home runs: 2003 when he hit 47 for Philadelphia and tied with Alex Rodriguez at the top of the MLB. And the mentioning of those three guys brings to light some of the “why” when it comes to Thome’s relative obscurity in those years: Steroids.

MVPs, home run kings and even pedestrian players trying to make an extra buck found the Fountain of Youth at the end of a needle during Thome’s prime. McGwire, Sosa, Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Mo Vaughn and more… Powerhouse sluggers who rewrote the record books, gave pitchers nightmares and profited greatly back then will now have about the same chance of making the Hall of Fame as Thome did of making it out of Peoria. Thome’s name never once came up in the list of users of “the cream” or “the clear” or whatever shark piss people shot up their nose to get six more inches on a home run in those days.

Thome’s homers had the lack of majesty that McGwire’s had. His swing lacked the poetry that Ken Griffey Jr.’s had. And yet to watch him at the plate was something to behold.  I remember him pole-axing a grand slam that looked like it should have shattered the foul pole off some Red Sox pitcher in a playoff game. When he dropped the head of that bat on a too-slow fastball or a non-curving curve, it was like watching Paul Bunyan take out a giant redwood with a single swing of an axe.

Thome wasn’t perfect and his career didn’t end in the best of ways. I remember him leaving Cleveland to take more money in Philly, which broke my heart. I remember him coming back to Cleveland for a “farewell and thank you” tip of the cap to the fans. I forgot he played for the Dodgers for about 12 minutes or that he finished his career in Baltimore Orioles orange.

The biggest thing I remember was that this guy was always exactly who he was. He never took the easy way, didn’t make the game about him and he just kept doing his job.

Just like a blue-collar kid from Peoria would do.

There are always people like this.

Somehow, she thought this was OK.

Something, somewhere in her life convinced Harley Barber that it was OK to open her mouth and pour forth a river of vile, putrid, ignorant racism.

Somehow, she figured she’d get away with it. Maybe it was her “finsta” profile, a fake Instagram account that she erroneously thought would provide her with the anonymity to act with impunity. Maybe it was alcohol or the invincibility that comes with youth that told her nothing bad would happen because nobody knew her or nobody took this stuff seriously. Maybe it was a life of privilege or a “mob mentality” that gave her a sense of protection from whatever might be out there.

Maybe, she didn’t care who saw it or what they thought.

After all, as she pointed out multiple times, she’s in the South, where denigrating people based on the color of their skin seemed to be as normal as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. After all, she’s from NEW JERSEY, which gave us such greatness as Chris Christie’s bloated bravado and the anger-soaked rhetoric of “The Sopranos.”

After all, she has a fur vest from Nieman Marcus, bitches, so don’t fucking think of “snaking” her again.

Like many people, I watched the first video, and shook my head at the stupidity of her thoughtless words. What the fuck is wrong with her, I asked myself. I wonder how she’s going to try to get out of this.

Like many people, I watched the second video where she… whatever the infinity factor of “doubled down” is on her racist tirade, dropping n-bomb after n-bomb as a dare, shouting that she couldn’t give a fuck less if it was Martin Luther King Day. It was like watching a car wreck unfold in front of me on the highway: First a swerve, then a skid, then suddenly it was flipping over and over and over before catching fire and exploding in the ditch.

As she finished up and the video halted, my throat locked and my mouth filled with ashes. I thought about her parents. I thought of them because of the simple rule my father gave me when he sent me off to college: “Have fun, do whatever you want, but don’t bring shame on the family. It’s my name, too.” I lack the capacity to imagine what my father would have thought if a horrific personal failing on my part had made the family name the number one trending story on the Washington Post’s website for an entire day.

(Her estranged mother stepped forward today and said she completely agreed with the decision Alabama made to rid itself of her daughter. She said the child was not raised to be a racist, although with the few exceptions of those people in scary documentaries on the Klan, I can’t think of anyone who would state their child had been raised for such a purpose.)

What I do know is that various people will take various things from this incident. Perhaps those who view the Greek system as elitist and racist will have another exhibit in their case against it. Perhaps students will see that there is no fool-proof level of privacy in a digital age and once again, we have a fool who proved it. Perhaps social media users will understand that they are always playing with live ammunition and that consequences exist for every action taken in the public arena.

Unfortunately, few people will take away the one thing we all need to understand when it comes to our humanity and our ability to live and breathe as a nation. For every poverty-soaked redneck who sees their losses as the black man’s gains and for every person who professes love for the “history” of the Confederacy and for “fogey” who “just grew up in a different time,” we likely have at least one Harley Barber.

Harley Barber is 19. She is from the “union” side of the fight. She has the money to attend an out of state school and pledge a sorority. On the surface, she would lack any reason to harbor the racist resentments we can so easily ascribe to those fungible elements of time, place and deprivation listed above. And yet there she was, not “making a mistake” of using race as a costume or “failing to fully grasp” what it meant to appropriate another person’s culture, but rather defiantly displaying her racial animus.

The thing people need to understand is that there are Harley Barbers all around us, quietly lurking, politely nodding and peacefully existing. They “pretend to like black people” enough that on the surface, there’s no reason to think otherwise. They are the “least racist people” you would ever know. Until they reveal themselves with an n-bomb, a “Miss Housekeeper” comment or a general flinch of disgust about “those people.”

In each of those people, under that polite surface and those occasional dermis-level glimpses rests the heart and soul of that video: A rich, thick hatred that only lies dormant because to release it would be to their demise.

A nation of shitholes


This is my great-grandfather. A farmer by birth, a carpenter by trade, a factory worker by necessity.

He came to this country in his early 20s, leaving behind his family and everything he ever knew to start a better life in America. Shortly after he left Bohemia, it no longer existed, as it was swallowed up through the consolidation of what became Czechoslovakia. He lived to be 100 and died when I was 12. His wife, my great-grandmother, lived to be 96 and they were married for more than 70 years. They had four children who lived and never moved from the house he built for them shortly before my grandfather was born.


These are my mother’s grandparents, immigrants from Poland. I never knew them, other than through the tales my grandfather and mother would tell me. They would tell stories about family members back in the old country and have half the family rolling on the floor with side-splitting laughter. The other half? They didn’t speak Polish.

Factory workers, farmers, carpenters, barbers, artists and homemakers. These are my roots. Poland, Bohemia, maybe pre-1900s Germany. These are my lands.

These people were not the countries’ “best people” sent as emissaries, but rather as hard-working, hardscrabble people who wanted to make better lives for themselves. This country gave them hope. It gave them help. It gave them a new home.

Today? It never would have given them a chance.

A lot has been made of our president’s question about why we’re getting people from all these “shithole countries.” His indignation, venom and disgust flow freely in that two-word phrase and it represents how many people feel about these “Johnny Come Lately” immigrants who are just stealing from the “real Americans.” A lot of people believe this because they can’t see back far enough (or they just don’t want to) to understand that every, single person out there came from somewhere else (except for the Native Americans, who we shuffled around like the queen in a game of three-card monte). And every, single person who came here from elsewhere came from a shithole somewhere.

And the people who were here already had no problem letting them know that.

You had the “thieving wops and dagos.”

You had the “drunk, lazy Micks.”

You had the “stupid Poles.”

You name a group, you can guarantee the group that got here six minutes earlier already had a disparaging name for it and a “there goes the country” attitude about it.

People in this country essentially live this paradox:

I know where I came from and I know that it took a lot for us to get here and become who we are. My father, who in his later years has become more introspective, has noted to me a few times recent, “We were poor. I never thought about it at the time, but we were really poor.” My mother’s grandparents survived through the Depression because my great-grandmother rented rooms in her upstairs to workers from the slaughter house and the foundry. Her husband was a barber, and there wasn’t a lot of hair being cut at 25 cents a head back then.

They came at a time when I’m sure many in this country wanted to turn on the “No Vacancy” sign or at least they didn’t want “those people” here. To say now to the next group, “Sorry. We’re not taking any of you shithole immigrants” is unconscionable.

Those of us who came here from shithole countries need to stand up to this shit-talk from this asshole and speak to him in his native tongue.

“Pardon me, Mr. President, but fuck you.”

Not Just City Cops

Suburbs have a problem, too: 

They have shot at fleeing and unarmed suspects, wounded innocent bystanders and even fellow officers caught in a crossfire. They have fired from, and at, moving vehicles during high speed chases, ramped up confrontations with the mentally ill and tampered with evidence, the investigation found.

Still, in 113 police shootings in the Cook County suburbs since 2005, records show not a single case led to disciplinary action for an officer who made a mistake. Not one lost their job. Not one criminal case was filed against an officer.

The attention is on city departments because that’s where the media attention is concentrated.


A rep makes it hard to Wolff down this book

As much as I want to, I really don’t believe what Michael Wolff has written about President Donald Trump in the book “Fire and Fury.” The excerpt that has made its way around the internet is full of the kinds of things I traditionally believe about our president (or as one person referred to him “Dolt 45,” a term I’m planning to steal.) Examples include:

  • Trump never really thought he would be president and now that he is, he has no idea on how to handle things.
  • He has the temperament of a toddler and he is among other things, “semi-literate” “dumb as shit” and “a fucking moron.”
  • He is remarkably thin-skinned and will take out his rage on people who he knows can’t fight back, like cleaning staff and underlings.

That said, I’m just waiting for someone with half a brain and a conservative bend to pull a copy of this thing and gut the shit out of it. I’m sure the core tenets of the book (Trump? He cray.) are true, much in the same way that Sabrina Erdman’s main assertion in “A Rape on Campus” was true. However, in that same vein, I’m sure the “Jackie” elements of Wolff’s book are lying in wait, ready to undermine the volume’s essential premise.

If you want to know WHY I tend not to believe Wolff’s over-the-top recounting of the Trump Train to Hell, you can look at various media coverage of him over the years. He has used unethical techniques to gather information, glazes over basic facts for more glamorous innuendo and essentially told people, “Hey, reporting is for pussies.” The profile The New Republic (a place once rocked by its own inbred arrogance and fraudulent storytelling) did on Wolff provides a picture of him as more of a carnival barker than a truth-teller:

Much to the annoyance of Wolff’s critics, the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created–springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events. Even Wolff acknowledges that conventional reporting isn’t his bag.

Others have also noted his ability to create a scene by having a concept of how something “should be” kind of just pass through his mind and emerge as reality. When he spent time writing about media moguls and the upper-crust NYC East Side crowd, those scene setters were both entrancing and yet immaterial. Whether someone cried or someone else demanding a particular type of vodka wasn’t the end of the world. Here, however, it actually matters if the future first lady who had been promised, “Don’t worry. We’re never going to win this thing” was sobbing at the concept of becoming the country’s “leading lady.”

And this is where we have trouble in journalism: You’re only as good as your reputation and once you set it, make it, kill it or whatever, it is what it is. Michael Wolff might come up with a cure for cancer at some point, but I’m not taking that shit until someone with a better overall rep comes by to prove to me this works.

This isn’t just Wolff’s problem. Other people have fucked up their reputations in the minds of readers and thus have them trapped in a conundrum. Case and point hit my email this week when I got this story sent to me about UW-Milwaukee and its record on sexual harassment claims. The story itself doesn’t read all that well, but the core of it rings true: Professors trying to grope, fondle or fuck students is happening and the U is trying to cover it all up over many years. This isn’t a difficult premise to conceptualize.

After reading the story, I was ready to pass it along to a bunch of people I know and support the journalists as I had been asked to. However, just before I got into the mix, I got a quiet email on the side about this. The concern wasn’t necessarily about the students, but the faculty instructor leading the project: Jessica McBride.

I’ve written about her issues here before and my concern about the ethics associated with them, so I’m not going to rehash them here other than to say this issue reemerged in the subsequent years. I know people who worked with her at various stops in her career from college through her stops in Milwaukee and they relayed various anecdotes that gave me pause about the quality of her reporting and her methods in getting stories. The person who emailed me gave me the “Why don’t you give this a couple days to breathe before saying anything” head’s up, which usually means to be careful of lavishing praise or criticism on something until more stuff comes out.

I wanted to pump that story up and push it out to more people because I really BELIEVE the core concept and I think it’s an atrocious abuse of power, both on the part of the professors who do it and the part of universities who hide it. However, given this individual’s connection to it and prior concerns that emerged about her work, I just couldn’t do it. And that really bothered me.

Reputations carry far and wide. Some aren’t fair while others are well earned. I have always worried about about this kind of stuff ever since I was a kid getting ready to go to college. My father’s only admonition to me, as I headed to the land of beer and vomit (AKA UW-Madison) was, “Don’t bring shame on the family. That’s my name, too.”

Fair or unfair, the source colors the lens through which we will see the work.

Not Everything Sucks

We want to help, always, from the earliest age on: 

“If my mom asked me what do you want for Christmas, I’d be like, lead,” Gitanjali said.

That’s right, lead, which Gitanjali needed for an invention.

“Imaging living day in and day out drinking contaminated water with dangerous substances like lead. Introducing tethys, the easy to use, fast, accurate, portable and inexpensive device to detect lead in water,” Gitanjali said in her presentation for the Young Scientist Challenge. She won the national competition for her invention.

These are the instincts we should be nurturing.


If Jesus had been born in Wisconsin…

On this hallowed Christmas Eve, everyone in my house is pretty much asleep or trying to pretend to be in hopes of getting out of work in preparation for the Wigilla celebration tonight. As my wife and I kind of muttered our way awake, we ended up on a riff about traditions and food and Wisconsin and suddenly, we were into “What if Jesus were born here?” I did my best to document the answers (and augment with a few additional thoughts), so enjoy regardless of your faith, creed or lack thereof:

If Jesus had been born in Wisconsin:

  • He would have been swaddled in a green and gold blanket, cuddled in a Packer onesie and photographed wearing a cheesehead. Like this poor kid.


  • The three kings would have shown up last, having been stuck in construction on I-94 and finding out too late that the Illinois toll booths don’t take gold, frankincense and myrrh.


  • The little drummer boy would have been replaced by a kid with an accordion playing this little ditty. (“He’s really big in Sheboygan Falls,” my wife added.)


  • His middle name would have been “Bart,” “Brett,” “Aaron” or “Vince.”


  • Most of the gifts would have come from the Mars Cheese Castle. Curds. Lots and lots of curds.


  • Joseph would have been found two hours later at a local tavern, drinking really shitty beer with about a dozen of his new “best friends.” In other news, Blatz would have immediately made a comeback as “The official beer of the birth of our Lord and Savior.”


  • He would have been born in June so Christmas didn’t interfere with hunting season or the NFL playoffs.


  • He still would be born in a manger, as we have plenty of farmland, but only because the Motel 6 was overbooked.


  • Chicagoans would immediately start explaining how the 1985 Bears Superbowl team is somehow better than this.


  • Some drunk uncle would have tried to photograph him clutching a Miller Lite can.


  • Joseph’s mother would have immediately asked when they plan to have another one. Mary’s mother would have immediately tried to feed everyone who showed up.


  • Had he been born on a Friday, two words: Fish Fry. Also, kids would have started bitching, “Do we have to go to church TWICE this week?”



  • Only about one-fourth of the businesses that use “Packerland” or “Badgerland” to describe their moving companies or HVAC services would have changed to “Saviorland.”


  • Christmas Carols would all be polkas.


  • The shepherds would have missed the birth because nobody had plowed Highway 41 yet.


  • The manger would have been buried under three feet of snow, taking the family about three days to dig out at which point, some old codger would have shown up and said, “Snow? You call this snow? You should have been here for the blizzard of ’47…”


Have a great holiday season.