Category Archives: Urban Hellhole


Mr. A is nesting.

Mr. A, bless him, is always possessed of an endless list of things about our current domicile that annoy the living daylights out of him. The door squeaks. You have to kick that cabinet or it won’t close. The light switch doesn’t dim, or doesn’t dim properly. The local handyman and I exchange glances (from 6 feet away, masked) as he is explaining his projects: a label on every switch, motion-sensor lights, ceiling fans in every room.

The handyman is there because, although Mr. A has a list of endless things to fix, he doesn’t trust himself to fix them correctly. This distrust is not unfounded.

“Do YOU want this,” the handyman asks me, as I am “the wife” and presumed to be “the boss,” though I really “don’t care” as long as it isn’t going to “bankrupt us.” There are things I do for my mental health, after all, around the house and outside of it. Usually the projects are small: one day, perhaps two.

Since the lockdown started Mr. A has begun obsessing. We’ve never had a washer and dryer in this house; when we bought it, we were pretty broke, and the laundromat was nearby. The laundromat was always skeezy, and now that skeeziness is unacceptable. A washer and dryer arrive next week. The basement is being reconfigured. The cats’ litterboxes and food bowls have been moved and they are UPSET.

Our backyard is fenced on one side by a massive stockade built by one neighbor, a rusty metal contraption on the other side, and has no back gate, Would a simple gate do, to enclose our stamp-sized yard? Of course not.  A fence fellow showed up last week to measure and estimate for our own stockade.

We are building shelves for our storage space. We are, daily, examining the drainage on our tiny lawn. There are seeds growing on every windowsill and I have ordered enough plants from the pick-up nursery to feed an entire village for a month. Kick does scavenger hunts and work sheets and sounds out the word “symmetrical” and I ponder ordering her a trampoline.

A playhouse. A swingset. Golf clubs. An archery range. She has so few outdoor toys, why does she have so few outdoor toys?

We have never needed our home to be enough before.

I always looked askance at families with mountains of complicated outdoor toys because — the park’s like right there, dude, what do you need a whole ass teeter-totter of your own for? The park has caution tape around it now and every time I drive past I want to stop, put my head against the steering wheel, and cry.

Why would we need a chest freezer to buy a quarter of a cow, there’s 4 grocery stores and a bulletproof bodega by the bus stop. Sometimes people acted surprised when we said we’d never go back to two cars: the bus picks up two blocks from my house, drops me at the train, drops me two blocks from my office.

We didn’t need to be secret and self-contained. We had a whole world: a park district with a million programs, open fields, miles of trails, hell go out on the block on any day above freezing and there’s a million playmates. Oh, you can’t get your kid off the iPad? I can’t get mine ON IT, there’s too much other stuff to do. We’re barely in our house, even on the weekends. Just because the world wasn’t ours alone doesn’t mean we didn’t think of it as ours.

We just didn’t think of it as a luxury. We thought of the people with the enormous stockade fences and massive private playground equipment as living in luxury. Privacy was luxury, and it was loneliness, and we wanted no part of it.

I struggled, during one of our endless discussions about house projects, to explain to Mr. A why everything he did to make us more safe made me feel less. It never occurred to me that I felt safest with the doors wide open, and always have, ever since childhood: neighbors within shouting distance, people who shared what they had so that there would always be enough, friends upstairs and down or at the office or around the block, and I am purposely, recklessly, deliberately unafraid to go anywhere in this city any time, day or night, to find help or deliver it.

I so carefully built a life with, I thought, a thousand backup plans, all a block or a drive or a bus or a train or a quick bike ride away. Friends, family, backups to the backups to the backups. People I could call on. I always joked that I should handle the start of the apocalypse because I knew how to organize an escape and a rebuilding. I thought well, we’ll need a vehicle. We’ll need supplies (I’ve always hoarded yeast and flour, take that Instagram bakers), old people who can read paper maps, ways to hunt and fish, I can put a team together.

I never considered we might be the team. Just the three of us. That there might not be anything to escape. That this house might be the only vehicle.

And we might need a tall fence around it. We might need supplies to last a year.


Today on Tommy T’s obsession with NextDoor. com – barbarians at the gates edition

Well, people – since I’ve had about enough of Gladys Kravitz’s favourite site (NextDoor) and people who live in a town (Carrollton) that made the list of the safest cities in Texas  constantly complaining about “intruders”, so I decided to post the following in the Nob Hill NextDoor group :

Late last night (around 8:00) I noticed suspicious activity in my back alleyway. First, a probable coyote was walking along on the other side of my fenceline, obviously up to no good. If you ignore these vicious predators, they will form gangs and lurk on street corners.

Knowing this, I activated my Ring-a-ding-ding camera’s optional emergency alert system (connected to twin locomotive air horns) to frighten the probable coyote away. This worked, but less than a minute later, someone I didn’t recognize came sauntering down the alleyway calling out for his obvious fellow gang member, “Spot”.

Since the air horns need time to recharge from the air compressor, I called the Carrollton Police department. They took their own sweet time getting here, and approached the probable gang member just as the probable coyote came running to him and lept into his arms and either started eating or licking (lighting was bad) the gangster’s face.

The police started laughing – I assume at me, although I was safe in my fortified danger room monitoring this on the multiple monitors of my Ring-a-ding-ding system. I addressed them through the PA system speakers and demanded that both of these interlopers (obviously in league with each other) be either apprehended or put down immediately.

They replied that it was just a nearby neighbour out looking for his dog, and that Carrollton is one of the safest cities in Texas.

Obviously, the police have been infiltrated by the Deep State, and can no longer be trusted.

I’ll be redoubling my watch, and will be booby-trapping my back gate, garage door, and of course, my front door,

You can’t be too careful these days.

Sorry about no Freeperati post this week, but the lumbar radiculopathy thing has taken a turn for the worse, including a backwards fall off some porch steps. Nothing broken but my pride, but my contribution to the opioid epidemic has increased dramatically.

My contrast MRI is scheduled for Thursday, so hopefully the neurosurgeon will know which nerve roots to burn, and how deep, and do it bloody quick.

Also, “Best Of NextDoor” is now my fave Twitter destination.

And to close out – a real post from my NextDoor group :

Wait for it…..

This guy came by our house around 4:30 on Thursday. The guy was selling security systems. We have one of the city yard signs that warns solicitors about permits and to stay away, so my husband simply told the guy that he better read that sign, then closed the door.

Catastrophe narrowly averted!





A Presidential Candidate Should Run on Doubling The Number of Building Inspectors

This is my goddamn TED talk and the only plank in my policy platform: 

Placed at about 40 randomly assigned public-housing developments across the city, the lights led to as much as a 59 percent nighttime decrease in serious crime, according to a working paper circulated this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

For context, the drop is about the scale researchers would expect from a 10 percent increase in police staffing. It suggests that spending on improved living conditions may be a more effective way to reduce crime than spending on increased police presence.

The researchers placed an average of seven mobile light towers in each development, affecting an estimated 40,000 residents total. Even when they considered a larger two-block radius around each development, in case criminals shifted their activity to avoid the lights, they found a reduction of at least 36 percent.

City neighborhoods that emptied out of white people in the 60s and 70s also emptied out of services. Cities don’t repair potholes as fast and they don’t plow as much and they certainly don’t pick up litter in places where the residents are unlikely or unable to complain or organize, or be noticed. Where other places get more and brighter lights, more and better services, the streets … look better. Perception, when buying or selling or even just visiting, is everything and half the places that get tagged as “bad” are just … lacking landscaping.

A landlord in my neighborhood would never be able to get away with letting a house rot with plywood and graffiti on it, for example. Why is a landlord six blocks east allowed to? Why do the banks that own half the vacant lots along the train tracks not have to keep them clean and secure and trim the weeds thereupon?

If the streets are dark, covered in trash, the fences are rusting and people who are working three jobs don’t have enough time to be on the phone every day yelling at the city to fix it all, that creates conditions for people to feel like nobody gives a shit about them. Putting more cops on the street to hassle them about sitting on their porches or selling cigarettes or whatever it is we’re shooting people for these days isn’t going to help. Investing is.

Investing in more than just one shiny patch of play equipment, or one nice new building. Investing in the grinding, average, day-to-day stuff that government really has to do because nothing else is big enough. Charity drives and block-club cleanup days are nice but this isn’t a special-occasion thing, this is a “we pay our taxes, pick up the garbage on time” thing.

Increasing the number of building inspectors and adequately lighting dark places and supporting the things that create community elsewhere — libraries, parks — would do what we think rolling up with the Third U.S. Army would. Resurfacing every alley that floods when it rains. Fixing the stoplights. Making it clear: People care about this place, so think twice about tearing it down.

And yes, city services are also often weaponized against the poor, so hardship exceptions to things like “peeling paint” should be made when the owner of the home is a 90-year-old whose grandson said he’d fix it three weeks ago and can’t get off work until Sunday. But there’s no reason to let some out-of-town management company skimp on mowing the lawns of the apartments they own. There’s no reason to allow long-term vacant properties to become eyesores without extracting the kinds of fines and fees usually aimed at people whose nosy neighbors are mad they don’t mow the lawn enough.

This isn’t just cosmetic. People die in house fires when cities don’t crack down on occupancy limits in apartments and require landlords to upgrade their fire safety plans. Heat and cold kill people every summer and winter because there’s no safe place to go to warm up and cool off. If I can’t walk down the street without stepping over a hundred pieces of broken glass then the next person who doesn’t see one is going to cut their foot open. Have to go to the hospital. Miss a day of work. Get fired. Lose their home.

There are all these tiny things that cause cascading waterfalls of misery and we can fix some of them by just goddamn cleaning the place up.


Families Belong Together: Chicago

Fifty thousand strong in the streets yesterday, including Mr. A and Kick and I, in the 100-degree heat. I took this photo from my friend Amy’s office window just before the march itself.

For longtime immigrant and labor rights organizer Jorge Mujica, the call to end family separation from non-immigrant sectors of the population is an opportunity to create change at the policy level.

“Today’s march is a reflection of the general disgust at separating families, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We need to retake discussion of immigration reform and take advantage that public opinion is on our side.”

This was my favorite sign:

#FuckJeff needs to be trending every day

Our children — including those in detention — need to know that people fought back for them. They need to know that people stood up. Tens of thousands of us everywhere. And yeah, it’s not enough to just “get in the streets,” and it’s not enough to yell on Twitter and call our reps and nothing is enough, right now. I think that’s why this week was awful, it just seemed like nothing was enough.

I heard this over and over as we marched, as we sang, as we cheered the firefighters spraying us with cold water around the second turn of the march route: “It just feels like nothing’s getting through.” Of course it feels like that. Nothing is.

November, though. November. All fifty thousand strong and millions more besides, for Parkland and the families who’ve lost their children and for the Supreme Court theft and the grifting and the puss-grabbing and the Muslim ban, for all of it and all of us.

We open the doors of the cages we built and we let ourselves out, however we can, as many times as we have to until everybody’s free. It was blindingly hot on Saturday as we walked through the streets. A pair of Native American artists in full regalia danced next to a sign that read, “No one is illegal on stolen land.” Of course it feels like nothing’s getting through.

It should feel like that. So we keep marching. So we keep moving forward, no matter how hot it gets, no matter how many people try to push us back.


Love at First Spite or, An Offer to Trump Supporters in the Spirit of the Season

In the spirit of the holidays, I have a proposition for our Trump-supporting friends.

Go ahead.

Say it.

Say, “Fuck you.” Say it to my face.

Say it to my liberal, city-dwelling, higher-educated, Democratic-Party-voting, Starbucks-swilling, Whole-Foods-shopping, Heather-Has-Two-Mommies-reading face.

Say it morning, noon and night.

Say it as often as you want. As loud as you want. Say it in front of my husband, my daughter, and all my friends. Say it over and over and over again.

Get it out of your system. So that the rest of us can GO BACK TO WORK.

That’s my present. That’s my gift to you, Trump supporters. That’s my extension of empathy and generosity and understanding, based on everything I’ve heard and everything I’ve read about you since the election.

You see, I understand you have been left behind by the economy. I understand you have been struggling for a while, even before the dot-com boom and bust, before the 2008 crash, before the anemic “recovery” that didn’t help you recover from anything.

But I understand something else, too.

The very smart Kathy Cramer, who I’m proud to have briefly shared an office with at one time, explained it for people who, unlike me, didn’t grow up next door to you: 

Racism is certainly a part of the story when these people make calculations about deservingness and who is or is not working hard. People would talk about opposing social programs because the recipients were lazy and not hardworking like themselves; those were often dog-whistle racist claims. But, at times, they were also talking about the laziness of desk-job white professionals like me.

So racism is a part of this resentment, but we are failing to fully understand these perspectives when we assume that racism is more fundamental than calculations of injustice. The two elements are intertwined. The way these folks described the world to me, their basic concern was that people like them, in places like theirs, were overlooked and disrespected. They were doing what they perceived good Americans ought to do to have the good life. And the good life seemed to be passing them by.

It’s worth noticing that Trump’s appeal to these folks is not about facts or particular policies. It is instead the act of delivering a message that resoundingly resonates with the perspective of someone identifying proudly as a resident of a type of place that the dominant urban society does not care about or respect.

I can’t do much about the location of the state capitals or the legislative schedule. I can’t make people’s representatives listen to them or interact with them, nor can I make people show up to the community meetings their reps might have. I can’t make anyone feel more comfortable in his or her skin any more than I can give anybody a job right now.

But maybe I can do something about the deep, abiding, burning need to tell someone who exemplifies what you hate to go straight to hell.

You want to prove you’re an underdog who tells the libtards who don’t respect you to go straight to hell, people?

You want to give the middle finger to everything that bugs you, including Happy Holidays at Macy’s, someone speaking Spanish on her cell phone at the restaurant, an ethnic scholarship at your high school, a gay storyline in your favorite police procedural?

Do it.

Make that stupid Hillary “KFC” joke ten times. Tell me the story about Michelle Obama putting crack pipes on the Christmas tree at the White House. Talk about how Bill Clinton is the biggest sex offender the world has ever known. Offer your opinion that “we” have “banned” God from “the schools.”

Ooh, call me a babykiller. That one never gets old.

Send me a hundred memes just like this one:


I’ll post them on my Facebook timeline. I’ll nod and agree with anything you say. I’ll feel very, very bad about myself and everything I stand for. I may even cry, if that’s what it takes.


I am more than willing to take one for the team.



In exchange, you vote for health insurance for your sick neighbors. You expand Medicaid for your state’s poorest residents. You don’t fight about food stamps and subsidized housing, in fact, you support them.

In exchange, you vote for punishment for companies that poison your water. You support jury awards of damages for corporations convicted of harm to the environment and the people who live in it.

In exchange, you vote for lowering the Social Security retirement age. You vote for increased funding for public education. You vote for restoring the Voting Rights Act and you vote for expanding it to every state in the union: No one gets to fuck with anyone’s vote without review or check.

You vote for honest-to-God campaign finance reform, and consideration of judicial appointees in a timely manner so that the fucking courts can do their job.

You vote for all that shit, and you can tell me to my face that I’m a lazy liberal who doesn’t understand the real world, and I will agree with you.

You make your life better, you make my life better, you make our country better, and you GET WHAT YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING, which is to say fuck you.

I mean it. I’m sick of people I love suffering because you want to make a statement. Because you want to have feelings about your place in the world. Because deep down you get mad and sad that you are not being given a parade for showing up every day. Because you resent.

I’m offering you a way out. Go ahead.

Take it.



Don’t Talk to Me About Bubbles

I’m going to tell you a story and I swear every single word is true.

I work downtown in Chicago at least two days a week and on at least one of those days I eat lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant right near my office.

This place is owned by a Vietnamese family.

On the menu, which is on the wall, they advertise that some of the food is halal.

They serve Chilean wine.

Yesterday, when I was there, the older and younger cooks were yelling at each other in Spanish over what kind of music they were going to play in the dining room.

The younger cook won. Biggie. Big Poppa.

I’ve read a lot in the past week about how I live in a “liberal bubble.” How I don’t understand the world outside, the concerns of others, different from myself. How I need to do everything from “get out more” to “just move to a red state” to “talk to more people.”

Do you know how often I would LOVE to live in a bubble? When my upstairs neighbors are yelling about the Cubs game or a guy is trying to sell me video games on the street corner or the entire train car is engaged in ignoring-down someone who should really be getting mental health services or even another drink somewhere. (Nobody wants to call the cops, because we don’t want to hurt this guy further.) Do you know how often I think to myself, I’m tired of working this hard to live here?

There is no isolation here. No shield from difference. No ignoring the “other.” I can throw a rock from my house and hit four drug dealers and so can everyone else in my neighborhood.

It’s all in your face, all the time, everything that has led us where we are: Poverty. Inequality. A lack of help. An education system that is broken by racism and meanness about money. Gloriousness. Music. Food. History. Something new to learn every single second. Art in museums and on street corners, books stuffed to the rafters in the libraries.

And people. People people people.

I was at a wedding once in a small town in Kansas and the mother of the bride cornered me in the bathroom and talked about how lucky she was to live where she lived. There was, she said, no real community in the big city.

My next-door neighbor had called the week previous, in hysterics. She was hyperventilating and for a moment I thought something had happened to her son.

There was a dead mouse in her kitchen. She wanted my husband to come get it.

Same neighbor, the week Kick was born, left homemade chili and a supportive note at my front door. The woman who used to live upstairs pet-sat the ferrets and I walked her dog. Mr. A travels for work for weeks at a time and I’m never worried; there are half a dozen people in my building who’d come if I called. There are half a dozen people on the street at any given time: safety in numbers.

Kick was baptized at the church down the block. I’m an inconsistent attendee, but they welcomed us as if I parked in those pews full time. They extended their hands to our new, fragile little family and they blessed us, and I felt it in a way I’ve never felt faith before.

They have a food drive the first weekend of every month. People pile bags of food and envelopes of cash on the altar to feed the hungry.

I understand my way of life isn’t for everybody. Like I said, sometimes I’m not sure it’s for me and mine, not always. But the values that make it worth living are those in every community, large and small, across this country, values the “white working class,” the “small town America,” the “heartland,” instilled in me: Generosity, connection, joy. A profound sense of place, of knowing. A love of God, and of difference. A constant reaching out, over and over and over, in the face of every rebuff, knowing that we are more together than we are apart. Values that were so cruelly betrayed last week.

Don’t tell me I live in a bubble. Don’t tell me I don’t experience difference. It’s at the next desk in my office, talking about teaching kids to read. It’s my Iranian downstairs neighbors playing country music; you really haven’t lived until you’ve heard an elderly Persian woman yelling enthusiastically along with Kenny Chesney.

(And not for nothing, but some of us live in “bubbles” because we couldn’t get work in our red states of origin. I’ve read a lot of commentary in the past week about shallow liberals who just want to eat ethnic food to show off. For some people it’s about eating, period.)

This “bubble” is the wide world, the same one everyone lives in. We are all as isolated as we want to be. If you have three neighbors and you know them, good. If you have three thousand and you know as many of them as you can, good.

Nobody lives in a bubble, not unless they want to.


Where “Goddammit you fuckin’ guys” got us…

“You’re listening to me but you’re not understanding me.”
“No I’m disagreeing with you. That doesn’t mean that I’m listening to you or understanding what you’re saying. I’m doing all three at the same time.
– West Wing, In This White House


If we are going to get anywhere in this post, we need to start with a few basic understandings:

  • I do not like Donald Trump as a person, a candidate, a businessman, a leader or a human.
  • I voted for Hillary Clinton and it would be a cold day in Hell before I ever vote for Trump.
  • Anything said from this point forward should not be in any way construed as support, excuses, justification or approval for Trump or any action he has ever taken, including, but not limited to his sexist rants, his racist comments, his proclivities for sexual assault, his borderline-incest fascination with his daughter, his financial horrors or his moral compass.
  • Anything said from this point forward should not be construed as support, excuses, justification or approval for anyone who voted for him.


I spent the past few days trying to wrap my head around this election outcome and I figured out that I can’t. That bothers me because a) I’m an intellectual so I like knowing things and b) I’m a tinkerer, so I like solving problems.

Everyone who has written every concern about Donald J. Trump and the potential he has to fuck up every single institution in this country and turn us into Wolfenstein: The New Order is right. As far as journalism goes, these people have done everything perfectly in terms of explaining the Who, What, When, Where and How. What I’m trying to dig into is the “Why” aspect of this.

The problem with looking at “Why” is that it can be interpreted as agreement with or justification for choices.

I will be doing neither.

That said, if you don’t understand why something broke, you can’t figure out how to fix it. If you don’t take a look at the underlying aspects of something, you won’t understand its nature. Since most of the analysis has tried to look at the rural vote, I’m going to spend a lot of time picking at that.

And just like we would tell people who spent the last 19 months chanting “Lock Her Up,” we can’t get by with slogans or bumper-sticker answers.

This is going to hurt.


“I’m sure that’s important but I don’t want to tell some 8-year-old kid he has to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their car. Do you want to tell him that?”
– Dave


John Scalzi did a fantastic post titled, “The Cinemax Theory of Racism.” In it, he explains the fact that even people who say, “I’m not racist, but I voted for Trump” were essentially aiding and abetting racism anyway. The analogy is outlined here, but here’s the short-course version of it:


You want HBO, but the cable company says you can’t get it without buying Cinemax as well. You decide to purchase HBO and then you’re upset when people say you are also a Cinemax subscriber.

You can make all the arguments you want that you don’t plan to watch Cinemax, that you didn’t want Cinemax and that you have no love for Cinemax, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re a Cinemax subscriber.

Same deal with Trump: You may have bought him for the supposed economic policies and Making Greatness for Beloved State of America, but you also are a racism subscriber.


He’s right in both the analogy and the outcome: People who bought Trump have to live with being called out for it, no matter how unpleasant the word “racist” is to them. I wouldn’t like being called a lot of “ists” out there either. However, in looking at the rural vote that came out for Trump, it might be more instructive to try a second analogy along those same lines:


You are trapped on an island for 10 days with no outside help or system of support. On this island is a single bird that is the only source of sustenance that will allow you to survive.

Unfortunately for you, this is a rare bird, a one-of-a-kind, and by killing and eating it, you will be causing the extinction of this species and will be helping to destroy an ecosystem.

So, you eat the bird and live.

For the rest of time after your rescue, people tell you that you destroyed the environment.

But I was just trying to survive, you say.

The others say back, Uh huh… but you killed off a species. You destroyed an ecosystem.

But I didn’t have a choice, you say.

The others say back, I understand you feel that way, but you still eliminated the animal from our world and we’ll never see it again. Our world will never be the same again.

But it was do this or die, you say.

The others say back, well, you still made that choice. You better own it.


This is rural America. They feel isolated from the broader whole. They feel desperate to survive. They are trying to weigh out an immediate, real need against what they perceive to be an ethereal broader consequence. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that starvation is going to trump higher-order thinking every day of the week.
I see three basic reasons for this:

  • Loss of local media: You can make the argument that the people in rural America get their information from Fox News and that assholes like Bill O’Reilly and Rudy Giuliani have fed them lies, distortions and false narratives. However the problem isn’t in what the national media is feeding them, but rather what local media isn’t anymore.
    Local newspapers are dying as paper costs more, journalism people don’t want to go out there and education is being shredded. You see buyouts, consolidation and other things that are eliminating newspapers throughout the rural areas. Those that remain are understaffed and overworked, leading to “easy” coverage on things like school plays and local parades.
    When local media in these towns meant something, people there learned from “people like them” what was going on with the local government, the school district and other similar things. They found out where their money was going and they could read about how things were in their area. That was all stuff they could get behind and at least understand: “My money will build a new school or buy a new fire truck. My kids can get a better education and my home won’t burn to the ground.”
    Now, these places get grouped into a larger “metro market” and get whatever Gannett paper is out there. None of the local news matters to them and the national news sucks, what little there is of it. So they turn to Fox or whatever Facebook feed their friends find interesting and, bam, you get a sense that nothing good is happening out there.
  • Realistic Conflict Theory and intergroup relations: Both analogies above (as well as thousands of others) create a dichotomy: You get X or Y. You buy the whole meal, no substitutions. In a broader view of this, it basically becomes a function of Realistic Conflict Theory: If you and I want the same cookie and either I get it or you get it, one of us is going to get something and the other isn’t. Trump did a brilliant job (and I hope to God that’s the last time I ever use the words “Trump” and “brilliant” in the same sentence…) of putting this out there for the voters who live in the rural areas. Kathy Cramer’s work on the rural people of Wisconsin makes this clear: People in the smaller towns and villages all over this state feel like all the good stuff goes to the Madisons and Milwaukees of the state while they get shit on. Can you make that argument? Absolutely. Is it perfect? Not at all. However, when you paint an “us versus them” picture, people will always close ranks with the “us folks” and research for generations has demonstrated that perfectly.
  • The lack of broader privilege: When we discuss privilege at the broader level, we talk about things like “white privilege” or “male privilege” and I’m not discounting or dismissing either of those. However, here’s an example of what I’m talking about:On a ballot a few elections ago, there was a referendum to raise property taxes locally for repairs and additions to the local high school. My child doesn’t attend the local school. None of her friends attend the local school. Nobody I know teaches or works at the local school.
    I voted for it anyway.
    My way of thinking was not about the $10 a year per thousand dollars of assessed value or whatever meant to my pocketbook. I saw value in the project, knew it would help people and just said yes. That’s a privilege I possess that a lot of people don’t.

    I would never cast my grandmothers into the “basket of deplorables,” but I know for sure they voted against helping schools, improving the library, paving some streets and a dozen other things that would have benefitted their small cities. They were fucking destitute, living on a tiny fraction of what I spend on car parts and furniture for the year.
    Every time I vote, I look at my vote in two ways: “How does it help me personally/my close family network?” And “How does this impact the bigger picture?” If I’m lucky, there’s a lot of overlap between the two and the vote is easy. In some cases, the Venn Diagram doesn’t really provide a lot of AB crossover, so I have to think about what I should do. I have that privilege. I can say, “Sure, Hillary might fuck me over a little here and there, but I can’t put a racist, sexist, homophobic asshole in charge of a hot dog cart, let alone the goddamned country.”
    Not everyone can look past immediate self-interest and buy the bigger picture.
    And Trump found a lot of those people.



“Don’t press your luck, funny man. And stop thinking everyone between Fifth Avenue and the Hollywood Bowl just stepped barefoot out of the cast of ‘Hee Haw.’ Tell your friends about it.”
– Studio 60, Nevada Day, Part II


Kathy Cramer has done some incredible work in Wisconsin as a political scientist, digging into the rural communities throughout the state and doing something that most of the pollsters and data crunchers don’t: She talked to people.

Researchers will argue that they talk to people all the time. So will journalists. Here’s the problem: They tend to parachute in, ask a bunch of questions, get some answers that support their ideas and evac out.

Cramer kept going back and going back and going back. She was like the Jane Goodall of the farming community in places that have fewer people than my high school.

This interview with her is spellbinding in so many ways, but the part that sticks with me right away is this quote:

“People felt that they weren’t getting respect. They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists.”

Most of the talking heads spent the 48 hours after the election trying to parse one issue: Was this racism or classism? If you were on the Left, it was usually racism. If you were on the Right, it was usually classism.

Cramer’s research says it’s probably neither, but more of tribalism.

City Mouse versus Country Mouse.

Cramer talked at length about how her naiveté allowed her to start her work because had she known of the chasm of this divide, she probably would have been too scared to go to these places. Even as a white, Midwestern woman, she said there was a sense of “other” that emerged when she explained what she was doing and why:

They’re asking questions like, how often do I teach, what am I doing driving around the state Wisconsin when I’m supposed to be working full time in Madison, like, what kind of a job is that, right?

It’s not just resentment toward people of color. It’s resentment toward elites, city people. …

Part of where that comes from is just the overarching story that we tell ourselves in the U.S. One of the key stories in our political culture has been the American Dream — the sense that if you work hard, you will get ahead.

Well, holy cow, the people I encountered seem to me to be working extremely hard. I’m with them when they’re getting their coffee before they start their workday at 5:30 a.m. I can see the fatigue in their eyes. And I think the notion that they are not getting what they deserve, it comes from them feeling like they’re struggling. They feel like they’re doing what they were told they needed to do to get ahead. And somehow it’s not enough.

Oftentimes in some of these smaller communities, people are in the occupations their parents were in, they’re farmers and loggers. They say, it used to be the case that my dad could do this job and retire at a relatively decent age, and make a decent wage. We had a pretty good quality of life, the community was thriving. Now I’m doing what he did, but my life is really much more difficult.

I’m doing what I was told I should do in order to be a good American and get ahead, but I’m not getting what I was told I would get.


At one point, I was forced to calculate how many hours a day I “worked” as part of my job here at the U. Counting the newspaper, night-time grading, emails to kids off hours and other things like that, it came to something like 60-65 hours per week. Maybe it was a little more or less, but that was what I was coming up with for a month worth of counting.

Here’s the thing: I wouldn’t trade that for anything the people I live near do, no matter what.

I get to wear what I want to work. I can’t remember the last time I had to wear a uniform.

I can eat or pee whenever I feel like it. I don’t need to ask permission or have someone approve it.

I don’t have to punch in or punch out. As long as the work gets done, nobody gives a shit.

The biggest thing, though, is that I don’t come home dirty. Some days I feel mentally shot or brain dead, but I can sit on the couch right away without hearing, “Change your pants before you sit on the good sofa!”

When I worked in the garage, Mom used to make me strip in the yard and march my clothes down to the basement every day. They had to run my clothes through the wash without anyone else’s and we had to run an extra rinse cycle before we did the next load, for fear of damaging the rest of the laundry. I can’t tell you how many days I scarfed down my night meal in the kitchen in my skivvies and socks with clean hands, dirty arms and a naked torso.

When I go into the Kwik Trip in town for gas or a snack on the way to work, I see a lot of people I know do the same thing. The guys with dirt-caked boots, grease-stained Dickies and a worn-out baseball cap. The difference is, this is their life, not a summer job.

The other difference? I probably make three or four times what those guys make and the only surgery I’ve had to endure because of it was bilateral carpal tunnel.

I have friends with fused necks, fake knees and mangled fingers, courtesy of a life on a farm or in a garage.

This election, they came out for the promise of a better personal experience, even as those of us who make our livings on keyboards and televisions told them that Trump wasn’t their guy.

The Country Mouse roared.



“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.”
– Gene Krantz, Apollo 13


I had a chance to sit down Thursday with one of the most insightful and emotionally worldly students I ever taught. She ticks almost all the boxes of things Trump has pissed on this election: She’s black, she’s gay, she’s from a large city, she’s been poor, she has relied on government assistance and she “doesn’t know her place.”

She is my fucking hero. She’s also on the verge of a mental breakdown.

We talked about all sorts of things today in hopes of getting her untracked as she comes ever closer to a December graduation.

Things got better for her at the end of the talk and so I said this:

“I want to ask you a question because you have a better sense of the world than I could ever hope to. If you don’t want to answer it, don’t. And don’t worry about it ever coming up again, but I need to know something if you can tell it to me.”

“Go ahead,” she said, not even flinching for a second.

“OK.” Deep breath. “In your lifetime, have you ever dealt with a straight-up moment or attack from an “ist?”

“Yes. Many times.”

“So here’s the question: How does that compare to how you felt Tuesday watching the election results?”

“A thousand times worse.”

That was exactly how I felt, a sense of betrayal. A sense that I thought I knew all these people who ended up perpetrating the one unforgivable sin.

The truth is, we didn’t.

The reason she felt worse, she told me, was because that old-fashioned, straight-up racism was at least honest. When you saw the guy with the Confederate Flag belt buckle, the “Go back to Africa” shirt and the words “White Power” tattooed down the backs of his arms, you knew that guy was an asshole. You could pick him out, and you stayed away from him. You had no expectations.

This election, we looked at people who we thought were “good people” and found out they cast a vote for someone who embodies everything that guy with the belt buckle displays.

Trump wasn’t a con in that regard. He didn’t hide it. It wasn’t like a JFK-like rumor about Marilyn Monroe or Angie Dickenson.

He told you he was going to grab your pussy before those Mexican rapists got to it.

No ambiguity there.

As Cramer noted, these people weren’t “hoodwinked” into a vote they didn’t understand.

So that’s the problem. How do we solve it?

No fucking clue.

That said, here are a few thoughts to consider before 2020:


  • The thing that hurt my student and me (and probably a lot of you) is that these people who voted for Trump were always here. They lived among us. It wasn’t like Trump took a container ship some place and imported 50 million voters from Asshole-istan and took over the country. These people shop with you, eat with you and work with you. Your kids go to the same schools (I found that out when the mother of one of my kid’s friends turned up on a Ron Johnson commercial, bitching about Feingold and Obama.) and you probably wave to each other when you pass on the road.
    They’re not going anywhere. We just figured there weren’t as many of them out there as there turned out to be.
    Let’s assume for a minute that Hillary Clinton was right when she made her “basket of deplorables” comment: Half of Trump voters are racists, sexists, homophobes and other horrible, vile things. That leaves us with slightly more than 30 million Trump voters outside that basket.
    What do we want to do with them?
    If the answer is, “Get out the vote next time” that’s akin to seeing a leak in the ceiling and fixing it by using a bigger bucket to catch the drips. Trying to get more of “us” to vote to counteract the surge in “them” doesn’t solve the “they’re here” problem.
  • For all the talk about pulling rural knuckle-draggers out of East Shithole-ville, we need to consider the converse. No, I’m not talking about learning the words to “Deutschland erwache” or getting fitted for a white sheet. It’s that kind of thought process that put us in this mess in the first place.
    Barbara Ehrenreich touched on this concept in her book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” when she went to work for $7 an hour to see what poverty was like. Linda Tirado took this a step further in “Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America,” as she actually lived the life Ehrenreich visited. However, in both cases, you were looking at survival in larger metro areas.
    What’s it like hauling lumber, milking cows, running the town’s only diner or teaching in its only school? How many people out there have never met a person of color, a gay person or any of the other things Trump is shit-talking? I have a hard time believing anyone on the New York Times editorial board goes home smelling like pig shit at the end of the day or waking up unable to move their right arm. It’s easy to say, “You should come to my way of life” if you have never experienced someone else’s.
  • Vilifying and castigating people have never, ever led to improvements. When someone tells me I’m bad or stupid, the next thought in my head isn’t usually, “Hey, this guy might be on to something! Let’s listen more closely!” Instead it’s “Fuck you and everyone who looks like you.” I have no idea how best to reach people before the next time we have to play, “Let’s Save the Republic,” but I do know what is happening now sure isn’t it. Telling people “We know better” or “Your way is the wrong way” got us here. It’s that self-assured smugness we all hate in Trump and fans of the New York Yankees. We might be right that we know better or that one way is better than the other. That said, that’s not the answer. We have gotten into a pattern that isn’t helping us connect: We wait for our turn to speak. We don’t listen.

Now, we have to at least consider lending our ears.


A Morality Play Between the Foul Lines

When the Cubs punched their first World Series ticket since 1945, I got a text from my wife:

“Your cousin is at the game. I saw a picture on Facebook.”

My cousin is a familial strain that reached into Illinois somewhere after my grandparents divorced. When her father couldn’t get a job in education in Wisconsin, my grandfather made “a few calls” back in the day when that was a standard practice and helped him land a teaching/coaching gig south of the border.

It was my aunt and uncle, three cousins, my grandfather and his wife who all took up residence in the Greater Chicagoland Area.

They always lived “around” Chicago, but never IN Chicago. No L stops or delis where you needed to speak Polish to get served. They were basically the exemplar of what drove my wife nuts in discussing Illinois geography with people:

Her: “So where are you from?”
Burb Kid: “I’m from Chicago!”
Her: “I grew up on Hermitage Avenue. What street are you?”
Burb Kid: (blank stare) Uh… I’m from Wilmette…

As a child, I looked forward to trips down there. I always left disappointed, as she seemed to exude what became known around these parts as “Just THEIR Way.”

Aloof. Self-absorbed. Dismissive.

Maybe it was that I was the little cousin (she being three years older than I) who was always forced on her. Maybe it was that we just sat on opposite sides of the gender pivot at all the wrong times. Maybe it was just irreconcilable differences in regard to upbringing (My uncle, the coach, was like the dad in “Pitch.” My parents encouraged me to do things I liked, as opposed to whatever obsession fueled them.)

Mom always assured me that eventually we’d grow out of those awkward phases and become closer. Mom was wrong and almost diametrically so.

When she got married the first time, I was required to serve as a reader. I protested against going, as the student newspaper was starting back up after a seven-month shutdown. This was going to be our crowning moment.

Mom basically slammed the door on that one and although I was an adult who could do whatever I saw fit, I needed to do things for the betterment of the family.

So I went. She never even noticed. Neither did any of the other “Illinois Family.”

The only perverse pleasure I took out of the whole thing was that about three years later, my cousin divorced. I would commonly snipe that at least the paper survived longer than the marriage.

She was in and out of college and blew through money like water, leaving behind her a party trail and a ton of debt. Her father throwing around his sizable weight to get her gigs here and there. Eventually she became a teacher, although I have no idea how the hell this is even possible. Of all the people I thought of as being kind and decent toward childhood betterment, she was the last one I’d imagine that would fit that bill.

I often felt like this scene in “The Ref” in dealing with her:

Eventually, she remarried to a man who had been adopted by a wealthy family as a child. He’d been divorced once as well and really never found anything that was his calling. Thus, he schlubbed along until my uncle helped make him a coach as well. When his parents died, he inherited extremely well and thus my fuck-up cousin and her doughy husband were suddenly able to live the life she always thought she deserved.

Concert? All of them and the best tickets.
Casinos? Black Jack for hours on end.
Travel? Florida, Vegas, whatever feels good.
Sports? Season ticket to the Badgers (my uncle emphasizes his ties to the UW to the point of absurdity; his kids never even sniffed Madison’s admission standards, but they are constantly adorned in Bucky-wear and participating in the “traditions” of sport).

The Cubs games are the latest extension of the way in which her family (all but my aunt, who seems to almost take pride in being a Milwaukee-rooted South-Side Polack who grew up over a tavern and just happened to move south) approach life. Truth be told, I can’t remember ever seeing anything Cubbie-related in their house or hear of a passion for the Northsiders. Still, now that this is a thing, she’s into it as are the others in her family.

It’s “the place to be” so they are there. It’s “the thing to do” so they do it.

When it comes to the nouveau riche and the inheriters, the baseball metaphor often applied is that they think they hit a triple but they were actually born standing on third base. I think a more apt description here would be that she thinks she hit a triple, but she landed on third thanks to a three-base error.

Over the years I’ve been accused of playing the “city mouse/country mouse” card on this blog: I perpetuate idea that Chicago is a vast urban hellhole with nothing that doesn’t reek of bus exhaust or homeless people’s pee.

OK, I’ll cop to that, but that’s not what this is.

When I see the Cubs fans they tend to put on TV in this World Series, I tend to see two groups of people featured:

  • 103-year-old fans who get wheeled into the stadium valiantly fending off death for at least one more game in hopes of seeing the Cubs win it all before they die
  • Fuckheads like my cousin: Loud, belligerent, assholes who view things as their birthright and will never condescend to consider others.

The first group, I have no problem with at all and if my team can’t win this year, I’m glad they’ll at least get that moment for themselves. When the Red Sox got it in 2004, I was happy for all the people who lived long enough to see it and even those who took Red Sox caps to the cemetery for their departed loved ones.

(As for my stake in this, I said it even before the playoffs started: I asked God for one championship in my life for one of my teams. I got it. I’m happy either way this pans out.)

As for the second group, I know many Cub fans and I know they’re not all like this. I’ve been there with them when we had to produce the 2003 coverage of the Cubs coverage for our paper. I’ve been with them when we both said, “Maybe next year for one of us” in hopes that we could either end with an “Indian Summer” or a “Goat-buster” in October.

But it’s like Jeff Foxworthy once said about Southerners: “We just can’t keep the most ignorant among us off of TV. When there’s a natural disaster, they never find a doctor or a lawyer. It’s always the woman in the sponge rollers and the muumuu.”

Still, if you want to see what happens when they don’t get what they want, just watch “Catching Hell.” They eat their own.

The Cleveland slogan this post season has been #RallyTogether. LeBron James has shown up repeatedly at the playoff games and called for support for the Tribe during his own crowning moment. Even in the worst of times, Clevelanders have always exuded that “We’re in this together” vibe.

For Cub fans, #FlyTheW has been the calling card. For those like my cousin, though, I think a better one might be #FuckYouImGettingMine

Your Country Didn’t Go Anywhere. It’s Here. It’s Right Here.

I am getting tired of describing the divide as city [government] mouse vs. country [individualist] mouse here: 

Think of America as a set of stories. Not as a set of policies. Not as a set of ideals, even. But as a set of stories we tell about ourselves and who we want to be.

This, I think, is where my fellow progressives fall down. We can argue until we are blue in the face about what the data proves, or what the facts say, and we will usually be right. But what we offer isn’t a mythology of the self. What we offer is a collection of figures meant to add up to an identity, and that never works.

The place I come from has a story of itself that is centuries old. It has a series of traditions and beliefs that barely waver. Many of those beliefs can hurt and destroy. But some of them are still beautiful ideals. My little town still comes together to bear up its own who have fallen ill, will raise funds to make sure they can be well, or at least comfortable as they wait for the inevitable.

If you say we should have a social safety net to do that, I would agree with you, but the social safety net doesn’t have a name. You didn’t graduate from high school with it. You can’t name all of its kids. We are still social animals, and kindness still goes best with smiles and casseroles, not paperwork.

I find this profoundly reductive.

We can be kind to each other individually, or in small towns, but if you do it on a large scale it becomes anonymously bureaucratic and paperworky and cold? That’s all a social safety net IS, that casserole-and-kindness impulse writ large enough to encompass everyone, instead of just the people you know at church.

Instead of talking about how liberals don’t pay enough lip service to part of America, perhaps we should say that nobody in America is paying enough attention to America at all. Because this — “My little town still comes together to bear up its own who have fallen ill, will raise funds to make sure they can be well, or at least comfortable as they wait for the inevitable.” — is America.

This is government, by any other name.

That’s it. That’s all it is. Your town comes together to bear up its own who have fallen ill. Your community has decided to take care of its own. All government says is that the circle is wider. Your “own” is everybody you see and lots of people you don’t.

Look, we all break off the world in little pieces because loving it all is so expansive that we have to call it God, and that’s not some kind of flaw. I care about my neighbors more than I do about yours. That’s a human impulse.

The entire reason we have government is contained in that impulse. If I care about my circle and you care about yours, we end up with a bunch of vicious little gated communities suspicious of one another, unable to step outside our boundaries when the times demand.

Oh boy do the times ever demand we examine our boundaries. Wars, guns, poverty even in widespread abundance, violence on the part of the state towards its citizens and no way to check it, the ability of one man with a weapon to inflict harm on dozens at peaceful protests — this is a time when we are all retreating to our circles. We are all thinking we should just take care of our own small towns.

But we don’t WANT to limit ourselves. We WANT to take casseroles to everybody. If we know about an injustice we want to correct it. Ninety percent of our anger and our frustration right now is based on thinking ourselves powerless. We hear our own cynicism — gun control will never pass, the state will never be held to account, terrorists will never stop killing — and it exhausts us even as we utter it.

Our “leaders” for the past 30 years have specialized in telling us our problems are too big to solve, and giving us wonderful excuses not to give a shit. We can’t give anyone food stamps because some asshole found a way to use them for vodka on time. We can’t build decent schools and pay teachers fairly because my cousin’s girlfriend’s uncle knew a teacher that couldn’t be fired and anyway it’s the parenting. We can’t support cures for diseases or health care for anyone because it’s all too expensive and have you seen your tax bill lately?

And we can’t care about unarmed black people being shot dead by police over loose cigarettes or jaywalking or headlights, because there are too many of them, or one of them was rude, or we don’t really know the facts, or all lives matter, or by God if we let ourselves be hurt by this we will never stop hurting so close your eyes up tight.

We stay in our houses and we stay scared and we stay alone and we tell ourselves this is how it has to be, and we talk talk talk talk talk about how divided we are. We describe the canyon that separates us and we wish there was a bridge.

There is.

It’s called government. It’s called the goddamn system we built before some of us figured “system” could be used as a pejorative, it’s called the way we come together to make decisions about all of us, city mice and country mice alike. The thing we blame for creating the divide is the only thing that we have to heal it and instead of mocking it as inferior to a church social hour maybe we start using it.

Maybe we see how many people we can take casseroles to, if we pool our money. That’s taxes.

Maybe we decide to lift up the widow and the orphan, our own, and who and how and when. That’s elections.

Maybe we build roads and run wires and send our music out into the cosmos, and maybe we pull people from the floodwaters and try to put the fires out. That’s our national budget and our national debt and I don’t just mean the financial kinds.

Maybe we reach out over and over and over, and maybe our hand gets slapped back sometimes, and maybe some people figure out that they can make money by pitting the helpers against one another, and maybe instead of letting them get away with it we tell them to fuck themselves and keep doing the work anyway.

Maybe we let ourselves get taken advantage of. Many a small town benefit has raised funds for the less than perfect. Maybe we get braver, and stop acting like we need a perfect beautiful story in order to risk loving one another. Maybe we remember this is what we’ve been all along, writ large in the New Deal and unemployment and Social Security.

My little town still comes together to bear up its own who have fallen ill, will raise funds to make sure they can be well, or at least comfortable as they wait for the inevitable.

The social safety net doesn’t have a name? You didn’t go to school with it? You don’t know its kids?

For God’s sake, that’s America. That’s its name. That’s what we’ve called it all along.


All the Times Nothing Happens

I started a new job in April, one that necessitates my taking the L downtown each day. I’ve been riding the train off and on since we moved here, and never had a problem except when with out-of-town friends or family members who already think I am about to be raped and murdered every day here in the urban hellhole.

Like I bring my mom on the very touristy Red Line, and of course that day there’s a guy peeing off the end of the platform and singing.

Yesterday the train was crowded, rush hour bodies crammed next to one another as we all tried not to notice the closeness and the coffee breath and the summer sweat. I could see, over a young woman’s shoulder, that she was reading Game of Thrones. Beside her a little girl was reading Harry Potter.

At every platform, we crushed in closer.

If you thought about what holds the world up, you’d go stark raving mad inside a second.

Passengers on the train called 911 to report the stabbing, and an officer was already near the 47th Street Red Line stop as the train pulled up, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

The suspect stepped off the train, saw the officer and surrendered, Guglielmi said.

Police still are conferring with prosecutors on charges. The weapon was recovered at the scene.

It’s not how often something happens here, I tell out of town friends and family. It’s how often something doesn’t. We gather in ways that would make us targets all the time here. Every morning commute is the next packed nightclub floor. Anyone with a gun could … anyone with a bomb could … anyone with a knife.

This many people, this close together, this often, and nine times out of ten the worst thing that happens is someone’s wallet gets lifted.

I’ve seen musicians jam on the train, total strangers dancing along. I’ve seen a whole car, Mr. A included, get involved in an argument about the precise ethnicity of Jesus, and collectively ignore a ranting panhandler into calming down, and help a woman whose stroller got stuck in the gap between the car and the steps. People have offered me water when I was hot and when it’s below zero everyone huddles under the warming lights and makes the why the hell do we live here face.

This isn’t me saying it isn’t that bad. It’s me saying that we exist in a state of fragile truce, at all times. If you thought about it too much, if you saw it moving past you, you wouldn’t be able to stand it.

We exist, in this country, in every country, in inescapable interdependence. Contact is inevitable, leading to information bleed. I make accommodations, every day, for others. So do you. We do it without knowing it, looking past things, moving over, bending down.

What happens if that just stops?

This happens:

The first time I watched that video I looked at the two assholes yelling abuse at a dark-skinned man, in front of a woman wearing a hijab.

The second time I watched it, I looked at everyone else.

Yelling back. Saying stop. Saying this a disgrace. Saying that’s not fair. Saying that’s not right. Saying we’re not like this.

And it’s easy to say we are, because we are. I know the same Trump supporters you know. I’m a middle-class white chick and I don’t know all of the America you know, but three days after 9/11 I saw unemployed shitheads paint their chests red, white and blue and yell about “dune coons” up and down the street, and threaten good people, and do more than threaten.

It’s not that we’re not like this. It’s that we’re like this. And we’re like the people who yell back, too.


Kids Today Just Don’t Want to Save Money!

Buy a house, young’uns! 

“A lot of folks said that millennials would go off and just rent,” said Jonathan Corr, chief executive of Ellie Mae in Pleasanton, Calif. “But as they hit those life-event years in terms of getting married, having children, they’re starting to make that transition.”

That doesn’t mean they’re ready to sign a check. Millennials in about half of large metropolitan areas are underestimating how much they’ll need for a down payment on their first home and are not saving at a fast enough pace.

I see “incredibly screwed by the service/gig/contract economy and paying too much for every aspect of their health care and saddled by student loans from STATE SCHOOL and until recently nobody was working at all” is the new “not saving enough to buy a house.”
When the median damn home price in any neighborhood that is not a demilitarized zone is $300,000, you tell me where to get 20 percent.

Look at this:

Surveyed millennials reported current savings at $14,469, monthly savings of $360 and help from outside sources of $8,264, on average. At that pace, it’ll take them nearly 28 years to save enough money for a down payment, even though 37 percent of millennials said they’re planning to buy between three and five years from now.

So they have that much in savings and WHOOPS STILL CAN’T LIVE IN SAN FRAN because they are not the Rich Kids of Instagram:

In the San Francisco region, a 20 percent down payment on a median starter home (based on price data from Trulia) runs at about $142,800, more than double what respondents to Apartment List’s poll estimated.

That is insane. Even if you are making, let’s say 60K, in your twenties which is a dubious proposition in the “work for the ‘exposure’ and the ‘opportunity'” economy, the DOWN PAYMENT is more than twice your annual income. “Well, just move somewhere cheaper!” Okay, and the jobs there are … just as good? At least acknowledge that some places deliberately — through government policy — price out the people who work there, mandating those people have long commutes in from affordable locations, creating wear and tear on both the roads and their lives.

Mr. A and I, in our early 40s, have no problems anyone should care about, and we still look around where we live and say, well, if we moved someplace where our jobs wouldn’t be as good, we could afford a much bigger place … if only we were making as much money as we are with the jobs we have here which we couldn’t necessarily. Which makes no fucking sense, and we attended college in the glory days when you could either self-fund most of your tuition or your parents could pay for it without mortgaging THEIR house. Like I said, we ain’t poor and this is still a whackadoodle equation, so what if you’re just starting out and have 100K in debt on your back?

I would not be a 19-year-old again if you put a gun to my head.


‘multiple family members said they think police shot through the door’

Police respond to a 911 call, shoot the subject of that call, and wind up killing an innocent grandmother: 

Bettie Jones, a mother of five and grandmother of six, had worked full-time at the Alpha Baking bread factory before being diagnosed with ovarian cancer earlier this year, according to her brother, Robin Andrews. After a successful surgery, Andrews said, Jones was looking for an all-clear from her doctor so she could get back to work.

“She was the kind of person who would come home after a 16-hour shift and then ask you if you needed anything,” Andrews said. “She was always trying to help, sharing whatever little food she had in her fridge. She was one of a kind like that.”

Jones’ other brother, James Reynolds, said he was furious with the way police had handled the 911 call.

“We’re talking about a kid here with a baseball bat. How are you then justified in coming in here, raining down bullets like it’s the wild west?” Reynolds said. “This is about discipline — when you go to a job, you’ve got to do the job right. They didn’t, and now a life has been lost.”

For chrissakes. Yes, we should be talking about racism and we should be talking about over-militarization of police and we should be talking about the response to people with mental illness in general but can we also talk about apparently these people are seriously lousy shots, trained by Dirty Harry movies and their own paranoid imaginations?

You want to get all amped up at me about BLUE LIVES MATTER and how the cops are our last line of defense of the rights of property against the mob or whatever we’re on about now? You need to grant they really ought to be able to take out “the bad guy” without spraying the whole damn place with bullets. Otherwise it’s a toss-up if people should take their chances with the criminals, who don’t seem to have much worse aim.


Your Inconvenience Versus Someone’s Life

Oh, boy are we concern trolling HARD right now in Chicago: 

The protest did bother some shoppers, many of whom said they were from out of state and only had the day to check out Chicago’s Mag Mile stores. There were confrontations between protesters and frustrated shoppers, who in some cases enlisted the help of nearby police to get into stores.

“I understand the protest, but there’s got to be a better way,” said Sue Hahn, who came with her family from Southwest Michigan. She was turned away from American Girl Place.

“It’s inconvenient. We planned this for two months,” she said. “But what can you do.”

There’s got to be a better way? Yeah, there is. STOP SHOOTING UNARMED YOUNG ADULTS WHO ARE NOT THREATENING YOU AT ALL, BECAUSE YOU ARE ASKEERED OF BLACK PEOPLE AND/OR HAVE HOPPED YOURSELF UP ON SOME KIND OF RACE WAR OF THE WORLDS EMOTIONAL METH FUMES AT THE F.O.P. DINNERS. That’s the better way. Like I’m sorry your shopping day was bummed out but there are dead people, and the dead people win, and the people who look like the dead people get to decide who gets inconvenienced right now and just shove your inconvenience generally.

A better way. Yeah, tell everybody else how to do it. Tell everybody else how to protest just right, so that no one is inconvenienced. That’s the POINT. If you are not inconvenienced, you do not notice, and if you do not notice, then smug comfortable jerksticks can keep writing columns about how nobody’s protesting enough or in the right way, forever and ever amen. The people who are inflicting harm are not the ones who get to lecture here. They’re not the ones in danger:

In many cases, police had already blocked off the stores and ordered stores to not let anyone in or out. Many shoppers inside American Girl Place and Macy’s at Water Tower Place could be seen pacing by the closed front doors of the store, not able to leave.

A security guard at Water Tower Place said management made the decision to temporarily close the building with shoppers inside. It would open up its doors when police deemed it safe, he said.

Barricades were erected outside of the Macy’s at Water Tower Place.

If the city spent a fraction of the time protecting the homes and streets of poor African-Americans as they do protecting the goddamn American Girl Place, if we literally declared a federal emergency over the lives of poor African-Americans the way we do over Americans at risk from imaginary Syrian refugee terrorists, and debated for days in Congress about how nothing was too much if it kept “our people” from harm, there wouldn’t be any protests to critique.

So spare me the “but black people kill more black people than … but he was on drugs … but his family is probably scamming …” You do not get to excuse yourself from caring by citing Wikipedia or a thing your cousin told you he heard from the friend of a friend. And YOU ARE NOT BETTER BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE SUCKS. This is a basic rule of being a human. You are responsible for you. And if you genuinely think that a nice day you had planned downtown is equivalent to a 17-year-old with 16 bullets in him, go back to people school.


On Evil in the City

Mark Konkol, putting responsibility where it belongs: 

Emanuel made it clear he was talking about the unidentified shooter who fatally gunned down 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee the night before in an Auburn Gresham alley.

“Whoever did this, there is a special place for them,” the mayor said.

Hell or someplace like it, I suppose the mayor means — where good people wish we could lock up evil and throw away the key.


What if generations of Chicagoans — the majority of voters, the mayors they crowned, the ward bosses who followed orders, the city planners, the policymakers, the red-lining bankers and the conspiring real estate brokers who kept our city segregated, first by ethnicity, then by race and now by economic class, and herded poor descendants of slaves into public housing towers that became killing fields only to tear the towers down and leave entire neighborhoods to suffer in desperation, poverty and hopelessness while rebuilding the city’s center into a monument to the rich — helped create the socioeconomic conditions that fostered the evil we blame for the busted morals of Tyshawn’s killer and folks who protect the shooter by keeping silent?

Economics is a weapon, deadly as a gun.

More efficient, in some ways. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with economics.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with geography. With living here, and not there. With a map.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with home inspections, or the lack thereof. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds with absentee landlords, and occupancy violations, and broken boards, and rusty nails.

You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds when the city doesn’t tear down the derelict buildings or clear the vacant lots. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds by shutting off their heat. Maybe their water, too, if their parents can’t pay. You can kill a lot of 9-year-olds by denying food stamp claims.

How many 9-year-olds have died of poverty, over the years?

Do we call that evil?

Or do we talk about choices, and “if they don’t want to live there they should just move,” and “stop snitching” and “they should do this, that or the other thing” instead? Or do we shrug our shoulders, because that’s too much for us to worry about, we who worry about so little? Is that just the cost of living, the way of life we accept for others, so that we may keep this way for ourselves?

Do we talk about selling bling, and pulling up pants, and what Al Sharpton said? Do we make cracks about “the black community” and talk about what we think they think and feel, without asking a single person, without looking at a single picture? Do we scribble nihilistic, sarcastic, nasty things about how they’re not angry enough for us, as if proving themselves to us is what matters to them?  Do we presume to know what matters to them, and presume to know it falls short of our expectations?


That is evil. A thousand thousand glib dismissals, that is evil. To look only to condemn, only to excuse oneself from responsibility, that is evil. That is killing, like a gun.


Post-Racial America Continues to Be Post-Racialicious

Church opines that Black Lives Matter, gets exactly what you’d expect: 

While many people posted comments supporting the church’s message, several others posted profane rants, accusing the church of being racist and anti-police.

“Your sign out front shows support for an organization that supports and promotes the killing of others. This is in the Bible where? I’ve never read to hate one another, but, to love one another instead,” Elizabeth Onesto wrote in the review section of the church’s Facebook page.


Several reviewers accused the “Black Lives Matter” movement of being a terrorist group that promotes violence against whites and police officers.

“A terrorist organization matters? The chanting for cops deaths and so forth is godly like?” Facebook user Yvonne Chavez wrote in a review of the church that has since been removed.

After receiving several complaints both online and in person, the church said it decided to change the message.

“A message left on our answering machine, asking us to think about how these words make a police officer feel, gave us the most pause,” the church wrote. “We had no intention of aligning ourselves to a specific organization that is maligning people who offer us security – AND we still believe the premise of this statement.”

One would imagine that they would make a police officer feel that he or she should think twice before shooting an unarmed black person in the back from a distance of 20 feet and then writing it up as a suicide, maybe. One would imagine that they would make a police officer feel that if he or she was black, and off duty, and walking down the street, a white cop should not roll up on them like something out of a bad movie and start yelling in their face, tase them half a dozen times, strangle them and put out to the press that they were thugs anyway.

One would imagine that hearing the words “black lives matter,” a police officer might be expected to be of the average intelligence of a bucket of chicken and say “huh, yeah” and go on about his day.

One would be blindingly wrong, of course, because wingnuts dominating the airwaves saw a movement actually gaining some traction and started screaming about terrorism and a “war on cops” and other staggeringly dishonest horseshit, and knew from extensive experience that their horseshit would be reported as just another side of the story.

As an equal opposite to “police should not kill unarmed black people as much as they do, which is a lot.” Which, lest we forget, is what Black Lives Matter is about.

This church is in a neighborhood where there is no racism at all, natch: 

Beverly has had problem with white supremacists in the past. One Beverly man put up a “white power” yard sign in 2010. In 2011, three white teens put a noose around the neck of a black teen, yelled racist epithets at him and threatened to kill him. And swastikas appeared on the trash cans of Beverly neighbors earlier this year.

Beverly doesn’t just have a problem with “white supremacists.” Beverly has a problem with racists of the type who are just as nice as pie to your face and then turn around and tell their neighbors to make sure the house sells to “the right family.” The kind of people who would say All Lives Matter, or talk about a certain kind of “black culture” or post signs about sagging pants not being allowed, and deny to their last dying breath that they are racist.

Beverly has the same problem a lot of the city has, a lot of America has, which is that people who were suckered by real estate agents and abandoned by the city blamed black people for ruining “their” neighborhoods. The people who live in Beverly, whose families came from those “ruined” neighborhoods, were raised on tales of the slavering hordes who drove Grandma out of her beautiful house and trashed it the way kids today were raised on Sesame Street.

These are the places Martin Luther King marched through. And these are the people who held up signs reading, “The Zoo Wants You.” 

I don’t know where we get off acting like this was all a thousand years ago. It was a moment ago. Some of us are still living in that moment. Those people are still alive, the ones who held the signs.

As for the complaints that police brutality doesn’t need to be addressed because politics, well, that’s been around a while, too: 

Allegations such as these and disturbances that broke out after a black man was shot in the head by an arresting police officer earlier this month led the City Council to hold hearings on the brutality issue Thursday and Friday.

Daley and Police Supt. LeRoy Martin asserted before the council meeting Thursday that they will not stand for Chicago police officers abusing their authority. Then Daley made a plea that his political opponents not use the brutality issue for political purposes.

“I ask every leader in this city to work toward building public trust in the police department rather than undermining that trust for narrow political purposes,” Daley said.


Saturday Odds & Sods: You’re With Stupid Now


Sideshow Banner by Fred G. Johnson.

This week has been a bottomless pit of stupid. We’ve seen an obscure county clerk treated as a hero by the Right and as a villain by the Left. She’s neither, she’s an outlier who’s best ignored. #MLKim my ass. We interrupt this rant with a message from Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys:

Back to the week in stupid. We’ve seen Ted Cruz and a Huckabee staffer have a physical confrontation at the Eye of the Tiger event in Palookaville, KY. Who knew that the guys in Survivor were litigious libruls? We’ve seen a man in a suit try to wrest a sign away from a Code Pink protester at a Dick Cheney event. Stay classy, neo-cons…

Speaking of empty suits, the dullest Greek in history, New Orleans Advocate owner John Georges, teased the media and Twitteratti with the possibility he might enter the Gret Stet Goober race. In the end, he didn’t run but a lot of bandwith was wasted on a boring rich guy who ran and lost for Governor in 2007, and Mayor of New Orleans in 2010. In that time span he’s been a Republican, Independent, and Democrat. Some decider; he can’t even make up his mind as to what he believes in, other than himself.

In New Orleans, we’ve seen Mayor Mitch Landrieu threatened with house arrest if he doesn’t settle an endless lawsuit with the Firefighters Union. This dispute seems to have been going on since the Louisiana Purchase. It may be time to resurrect Gen. Wilkinson or Gov. Claiborne to settle the issue. They’re long dead but still have more life than John Georges as well as better hair than Mitch Landrieu…

A friend asked me the other day why I haven’t done a Malaka of the Week post for a few weeks. It’s because there’s too bloody much malakatude to choose from. There’s a wealth of stupid, which brings me to this week’s theme song. It comes from Aimee Mann’s ab fab 1995 album I’m With Stupid. We’re all with stupid this week, y’all:

Okay now that I’ve vented, on with the Saturday post, which does involve some stupid but not this much:


Now that you’ve consumed some empty calories, join us after the break. Fast…

Continue reading

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Plague On Humanity edition

Morning everyone – of course, I’m referring to Republicans, but living in Ebola Ground Zero Dallas, I just had to see what the Freeperati had to say about this whole thing.

I’d like to say I wasn’t disappointed, but that’s hard to quantize.


Health officials tracing Dallas Ebola patient’s path (Dallas ambulance was in use 2 more days)
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ^ | September 30, 2014 | Judy Wiley and Monica Nagy

Posted on 10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎1‎:‎07‎:‎38‎ ‎AM by 2ndDivisionVet

A man in a Dallas hospital has Ebola, the first human case of the deadly virus diagnosed in the United States, doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

The patient, who is in an isolation unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, did not develop symptoms until four days after he arrived from West Africa, officials said at a hastily called press conference at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta.

“He was checked for fever before getting on the flight,” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden. “There is no reason to believe anyone on the flight was at risk.”

The Ebola virus is not spread through the air, but through contact with bodily fluids of victims — sweat, blood, saliva and other secretions.

The patient, whom officials would not identify, flew to the United States on Sept. 20, and began feeling ill on Sept. 24, Frieden said.

He sought care at the Dallas hospital on Friday and was sent home with antibiotics, Dr. Edward Goodman of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital said at a separate press conference in Dallas. Goodman said the hospital is looking into why the patient was discharged….

1 posted on ‎10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎1‎:‎07‎:‎38‎ ‎AM by 2ndDivisionVet


What response is 2ndDivisionVet going to get?

Some doomsday prepper “I told you so”s?  A rational discussion of how Ebola is transmitted? Some revealing survival stats?

To: 2ndDivisionVet
The corrupt hussien regime is doing all it can to destroy the Texas economy. The Ebola outbreak in Dallas will mean that businesses will be reluctant to expand their numerous corporate headquarters located in the area. The vendors who work the Great State Fair will see their profits vanish due to the sparse crowds. Even Jerry Jones, while not beloved by many, will suffer since games will be canceled at AT&T Stadium. Yes, this is the October surprise orchestrated by the DemonRAT party.Plausible? Yes, I think so. The hussein/holder/jarrett trio hate the Christian Conservative values of Texas and this is their way to inflict a horrific punishment on the people of the Lone Star State.
6 posted on 10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎1‎:‎22‎:‎20‎ ‎AM by re_nortex (DP – that’s what I like about Texas)
To: re_nortex
The corrupt hussien regime is doing all it can to destroy the Texas economy. You think this is going to stay in Texas?
39 posted on 10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎3‎:‎54‎:‎26‎ ‎AM by Drew68
Certainly at least one Freeper has something intelligent to say?
To: 2ndDivisionVet

The entire ebola false flag is a CIA – new world order sponsored false attack.

If it was real it would not be receiving THIS much attention in press.



Drudge is filled with it,

I would have said “full of it”, but to each his own.

top line links.

The propaganda machine spins away…

Give up your guns, rely on the government, you need the government, you’re helpless, the boogie man is coming for you, give the government the power to have military-enforced lockdowns – it’s for “homeland security” ! See, there were zombies on TV the past couple years – now it’s coming true in real life ! You need the government to save you !

What crap.

47 posted on 10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎5‎:‎21‎:‎05‎ ‎AM by PieterCasparzen (We have to fix things ourselves)

Come on – you can’t ALL be this bugfuck nuts?
To: Darksheare

Could Obamao be tacitly using germ warfare against his state political rivals?

Interesting question. But even this, if proven, wouldn’t motivate our treasonous “R” congress to impeach him.

48 posted on 10‎/‎1‎/‎2014‎ ‎5‎:‎26‎:‎14‎ ‎AM by fwdude (The last time the GOP ran an “extremist,” Reagan won 44 states.)

More after the False Flag…

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,

What’s To Be Done After

Let’s start here: 

A 2012 report from University of Missouri–St. Louis criminologist David Klinger found that, from 2008 to 2011, St. Louis police officers fired their weapons 98 times. “Any comparison across cities right now is still missing the lion’s share of circumstances in which people are shot by the police,” Klinger saidto the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There are only a smattering of cities that report their officer-involved shootings, and when compared against them, St. Louis is on the high end.” The data on police violence is incomplete, as there is no federal effort to pull together information on unjustified homicides.

Well, I think first of all, we should be mandating that cops keep track of how many times they shoot someone to death. The next step of course would be to get them to shoot people to death less often but let’s be generous. Baby steps. Find out how many people they shoot to death now.

As of 2010, 42 years after Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, greater St. Louis was one of the most segregated areas in the United States. And segregation comes with a familiar set of problems. Middle-class neighborhoods—and thus middle-class services—are few and far between, with most wealth concentrated in the farther, whiter reaches of the county.

Politicians love to promote racial healing and equality by holding come-together sessions in churches and eating dinner with leaders from various communities and whatnot. You know what they don’t like doing? Talking about building inspections and street-sweeping schedules.

But when you think about a “ghetto,” what do you think about? Boarded up houses, vacant storefronts, cracked sidewalks, gutters that haven’t been cleaned in months and Cheeto wrappers clogging up the sewer drains. You think of trash-strewn lots with rusted fences and graffiti on train platforms.

You know what keeps that stuff in check? Code enforcement. Requiring landlords to maintain property standards. Crackdowns on absentee ownership of apartment buildings and violations of occupancy limits.

That kind of investment is hard  and it is expensive and it is boring and nobody wants to talk about it because it doesn’t come with a photo-op of smiling children learning to crochet or whatever, but it does more to improve the reputation of a community than a thousand listening sessions.

Double the number of building inspections in a city and people will start to understand that that city cares about how they live.

Moreover, as New School professor (and former St. Louis politician) Jeff Smith explained for the New York Times, overwhelmingly white labor organizations and other groups run effective get-out-the-vote operations, which bring thousands of voters to low-turnout elections and ensure white dominance in local political bodies. It also helps that area municipal elections are held in the spring, on off years, a Progressive-era election reform that dramatically lowers turnout. In the 2012 presidential elections, turnout for Ferguson blacks was 54 percent. The next year, in municipal elections, turnout had dropped to 6 percent.

Voter registration drives have already started and need boosting and money. It would behoove the national party not currently quoting George Wallace to take what it normally blows on lunch and send it to the chapter office nearest Ferguson. Possibly some interns as well.


Soon enough, demonstrators will be chanting the name of another young black man killed by another agent of the state charged with containing blacks, not protecting them.

Which is a harder nut to crack, since “keep them over there” is practically our national motto.


Chicago’s TIF Welfare Queens

Speaking of getting played:

The property tax you pay is basically determined by multiplying the tax rate by your property’s value. If your property’s value is $100,000 and the tax rate is 10 percent, then you pay $10,000 in property taxes.

In a TIF district, a portion of the property taxes is diverted to bank accounts controlled by the mayor. He’s supposed to use that money to generate development in blighted, low-income communities.

But the law’s so riddled with loopholes that he’s pretty much free to spend it wherever he pleases. Which is why he gets to spend at least $55 millionon a hotel for Marriott in a gentrifying South Loop neighborhood.

Generate development by paying a gazillion dollar corporation to … make more money. I would get a TIF district that gave funds to, say, genuine small businesses or infrastructure improvements needed to make large-scale development happen, but too often this nonsense ends up subsidizing major corporations that could afford to pay for such improvements themselves.

It’s absurd to pay a business to make money where it’s going to make money anyway. Making money is what they do. A hotel is not a nonprofit organization. A hotel company doesn’t seek to site a new building where there’s no cash to be found. Yes, these things create jobs, and that’s valuable, but for fuck’s sake, let’s stop acting like the jobs are why the company’s there. They’re there because stacks of money are there.

It’s absurd to continue having idiot conversations about pension “reform” and how “broke” municipalities are, too:

Remember, the mayor says he’s cutting benefits for geezers cause Chicago’s dead broke and he wants to limit the burden on beleaguered taxpayers.

Who are still getting a little more beleaguered.

But, as I like to point out, there’s “broke” as in “We gotta make some retired Water Department clerk live on less” and broke as in “Ah, what the hell—might as well add a little more slush to the pile.


Chicago’s TIF Welfare Queens

Speaking of getting played:

The property tax you pay is basically determined by multiplying the tax rate by your property’s value. If your property’s value is $100,000 and the tax rate is 10 percent, then you pay $10,000 in property taxes.

In a TIF district, a portion of the property taxes is diverted to bank accounts controlled by the mayor. He’s supposed to use that money to generate development in blighted, low-income communities.

But the law’s so riddled with loopholes that he’s pretty much free to spend it wherever he pleases. Which is why he gets to spend at least $55 millionon a hotel for Marriott in a gentrifying South Loop neighborhood.

Generate development by paying a gazillion dollar corporation to … make more money. I would get a TIF district that gave funds to, say, genuine small businesses or infrastructure improvements needed to make large-scale development happen, but too often this nonsense ends up subsidizing major corporations that could afford to pay for such improvements themselves.

It’s absurd to pay a business to make money where it’s going to make money anyway. Making money is what they do. A hotel is not a nonprofit organization. A hotel company doesn’t seek to site a new building where there’s no cash to be found. Yes, these things create jobs, and that’s valuable, but for fuck’s sake, let’s stop acting like the jobs are why the company’s there. They’re there because stacks of money are there.

It’s absurd to continue having idiot conversations about pension “reform” and how “broke” municipalities are, too:

Remember, the mayor says he’s cutting benefits for geezers cause Chicago’s dead broke and he wants to limit the burden on beleaguered taxpayers.

Who are still getting a little more beleaguered.

But, as I like to point out, there’s “broke” as in “We gotta make some retired Water Department clerk live on less” and broke as in “Ah, what the hell—might as well add a little more slush to the pile.