Tag Archives: Humor

A Strong and Belated Opinion About the Lucas Museum

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Urbs in horto

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art isn’t coming to Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is very angry about this. Rahm wants you to think he’s angry because Chicago lost a great opportunity for a new public cultural attraction. He also wants you to think that a small group of killjoys ruined Chicago’s chances to accept a very generous gift from George Lucas, the very same man who very generously gave the world Jar Jar Binks.

I love this story. I love that our bullying mayor and the billionaire behind Howard the Duck  could line up the Chicago City Council, the Illinois Legislature, and the Park District, and then get whupped by a troubled advocacy organization, Friends of the Parks. Score a win for the little guys!

mayor1percent-600Or..the little guys didn’t win, and nobody got beat.  Rahm isn’t angry about missed opportunities. Rahm is angry because he needed a win, and he lost. There is one thing our racially divided city agrees on: Rahm sucks. The only thing interrupting news stories about the dire state of our schools are news stories about gun violence and police brutality. He invested his last two ounces of prestige for a legacy project and blew it.

Worse for Rahm, he sided with a raging egomaniac who likes to take his toys and go home. Here’s what got overshadowed in the coverage of the museum: George Lucas, the chinless former wunderkind writer of Willow, quit. Was there a lawsuit to stop the museum? Yes, but it never actually went to trial.  All of the legal action in the case was the city trying to get the case dismissed, and a federal judge allowing it to proceed. The city tried to get the case thrown out twice, and then engaged in some extravagant legal tricks to argue that the case shouldn’t be in court in the first place. Chicago is pretty good about keeping things out of court, usually by paying huge settlements to people brutalized by cops. So I guess you could see why Rahm thought this would work.

The mayor and the writer of Captain Eo insist that the case was about Friends of the Parks preserving a parking lot. Who would want to do that? Surprising answer: no one. The mayor wanted to get his 9.5 fingers into lakefront property that is protected as a public trust. Friends of the Parks argued, and the judge agreed, that building the museum would primarily benefit a private entity, namely George Lucas’ Death Star-sized ego in edificial form. It’s not about a parking lot – it’s about preserving the lakefront for public use. And Friends of the Parks hoped that the parking lot could be returned to public use sometime before the 297 year lease on the museum ran out.

Let’s talk about the ego of the man who brought us Strange Magic.  Who offers a museum with the huge condition that it be built on a waterfront? Even if you think it was dumb to preserve a parking lot, is it any less dumb to offer to build a museum and be completely inflexible on the location?   As the Tribune pointed out “We wonder whether Lucas appreciates the irony that he could hold his 2013 wedding on Promontory Point only because Chicago for nearly two centuries had protected that stretch of lakefront from the kind of development he now demands for himself at another lakefront site.” Not surprisingly, San Francisco rejected this sort of ultimatum, which is why Lucas brought his toys to us in the first place.

Yes, three other museums make up the “campus” on the lakefront, and when the Bears play at home Soldier Field becomes the Museum of Minorities Concussing Themselves. Tiny Dancer said, “museums belong on a museum campus,” apparently forgetting about the non-campused Museum of Science and Industry. And the Art Institute. And the Chicago History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. He really wants to forget about the Chicago Children’s Museum. That museum caused all sorts of controversy when it wanted to move onto public land in Grant Park until – wait for it – it was quashed by Mayor Emanuel in 2012. At the time, he reasoned that it was better to keep the museum in Navy Pier “as a strong pillar in the redevelopment vision” for Chicago’s best place to get shit on by seagulls.

Perhaps Rahm could’ve stuck with this idea for redevelopment when the genius who brought you Tucker: The Man and His Dream came knocking. The mayor could have suggested building the museum on the Michael Reese Hospital site. There are two big advantages there: it’s not far from Lucas’ fantasy site, and the city has owned it for seven years. Just look what we’ve done with it:

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The property was bought when Chicago’s previous petit autocrate, Mayor Daley, decided that we really needed the 2016 Summer Olympics. We dodged that bullet, but taxpayers are left holding the bag for the original $91 million plus another $43 million in interest if isn’t sold soon. Instead, Mayor Emanuel came up with a different plan to build the museum on the site of the current McCormick Place. This plan would have required $1.2 billion in state funds. In Illinois. In case you haven’t noticed, state funds in Illinois aren’t easy to come by. And oddly enough, this violated one of the rules of the original site selection committee: that it not cost any money to Chicago taxpayers. 

Let’s pretend that Father Michael Pfleger forgot about the $200,000 George Lucas gave his church in 2014 when he questioned the motives of Friends of the Parks.  Why not move the museum to a site the city already owns and give a boost to development in area south of downtown for a change? It can’t just be because the idea man behind Red Tails had his heart set on being near the water, can it?

Now that the project is dead, we’re supposed to bow our heads at the lost tourists, tax dollars, and jobs the museum would’ve brought. Boosting tourism, taxes, and jobs sounds a lot like the argument Daley used to hype the Olympics and the one used to build sports stadiums, both of which rarely work out well for cities.  First, people have a finite amount WattoHSof money. The dollars spent buying a replica Hayden Christensen Oscar at the Lucas Museum can’t also be spent on whatever the hell it is you buy at Navy Pier. Second, all the traffic caused by the whimsical Phantom Menace: Racist Alien Caricatures exhibit will probably keep other people from going to the Shedd Aquarium. This is already true: visiting the museum campus is a nightmare during a Bears game. But Soldier Field is a Park District building, and the Bears lease it for $6 million a year. The Park District can use it or lease it out for other things the rest of the time. Chicago could wait until 2313 for the same access to the Lucas Museum.

I’m not the sort of creative genius who could bring you Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, like George Lucas, and 70% of Black Chicagoans don’t think I suck. But I have an idea: what if Rahm redirected all of his docile allies and the cajoling, bullying, and lawyers, into repairing Chicago’s infrastructure and making people less afraid of being shot? I bet tourists would like that. You know who else would like that? Chicagoans. We could also go for having enough police on the streets and having a reasonable expectation that they were accountable. A new museum would be nice; nicer still would be families not fleeing to the cultural desolation of the suburbs because our schools might not open in the fall. It wouldn’t be as visible a legacy as a new museum, but it would be a great story about the failing Mayor who fixed Chicago – the guy I voted for twice. Maybe Rahm could get George Lucas to chip in – the guy wrote an ok story long, long ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Costco Has 12 Days of Twosies for Your Favorite Candidate!

There’s only a week before Christmas, and you still don’t know what to get for the Republican Presidential candidate on your list? Don’t worry! Costco is here to help. These candidates have been working hard most of this year, excreting their feculence all over America. Isn’t it time to thank them for dropping deuces on immigrants, Muslims, climate scientists, gays, Mexicans, common sense, good taste, and decency? We think so, too! Lucky for you and them Costco is number one for number twos!  Here are just a few suggestions to keep their back doors swinging all the way to the election:

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Ted Cruz: 144 Preparation H Medicated Wipes
Look at that pinched face and that forced smile. The guy is clearly uncomfortable. Is it the cognitive dissonance of being a Princeton and Harvard alumnus and former Supreme Court clerk running as an everyman populist?  Or is it being an being an anti-immigration Cuban-Canadian? Maybe. Or maybe he’s just got the fire down below. Preparation H is the trusted name in taking care of flaming assholes. But careful! If Senator Cruz uses all 144 at once, he might disappear!

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Marco Rubio: (2) 2 oz tubes of Preparation H Ointment
Rubio and Cruz are two sides of the same coin: young, inexperienced Latino senators from big southern states. Until Cruz finishes ripping Rubio a new one, his old one has got to be plenty sore: pushing out a steaming pile like a massive tax cut for the wealthy and finding $4 trillion to pay for it has got to burn. Get him the two pack – one for now, and one for when he has to explain why he thought George W. Bush did a “fantastic” job.

Ben Carson: 400 Kirkland Signature Brand Anti-Diarrheal Caplets
Most people would rethink many of their choices when realizing they needed to buy anti-diarrheals by the crate. But most people are not Ben Carson. The good doctor is squirting stools faster than his aides can wipe them up! Is China fighting in Syria? Were the Egyptian pyramids for storing grain? Did he actually stab a guy?  Ugh. This is getting disgusting. Act now to get this guy some anti-diarrheals before he smears his drawers like he smeared the reputation of neurosurgeons.


Jeb Bush: 200 Dulcolax Laxative Tablets
Hey! Remember Jeb?! We’re shocked to find out he’s still running. The electorate just isn’t ready for a gentle, predictable candidate this time around. But Bush is definitely ready for the gentle, predictable relief of Dulcolax – helping him drop the twin loads of his brother’s execrable Presidential record and his own failed education reform.  Jeb’s going to a need all the “comfort coating” he can get when the job he thought was his slips through his fingers all warm and wet like when your niece blew out her Huggies.

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Chris Chrstie: Economy Pack of Preparation H Suppositories
Where would gift givers be without Costco’s incredible variety of Preparation H products? Finding the perfect one for the governor of New Jersey is tricky. Christie has been talking from his ass for so long, it’s gotta be sore: he was for gun control, Common Core, and immigration reform until he decided he wasn’t. Show the big guy you care with this supersized pack of suppositories: he can stuff ’em up there side by side.

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Carly Fiorina: Trunature Digestive Probiotic.
Women don’t get constipated or irregular. They get “bloated” and need help restoring “digestive balance.” This is just the kind of euphemistic language perfect for Fiorina, who has turned her destruction of Hewlett Packard and disaster at Lucent into “qualifications” to be CEO of the US. Her “record of success” includes firing 30,000 people and the lack of a real job since 2005. Even through that weirdly botoxed face, you can see she’s straining under the weight of those giant BMs.

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Donald Trump: Fleet Enema Six Pack
We had a great summer with Trump: every shart about Mexicans, women, and POWs was reported on like the embarrassing noise it was. It’s winter now, and The Donald is full on dropping ’em down his pant leg. There’s plenty more dookies in him – and this six pack is just the thing to get it all out at once.  Fleet enemas have a patented “comfort tip” – but that’s only for losers and cowards. Just wedge ’em in there, and let it all wash out at once. One big, stinky flow of fascism, racism, and misogyny. Just the kind of shit that should help keep his poll numbers strong. C

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pentagon: Mistakes Were Made. Zany, Zany Mistakes.

Last week, we learned that the Pentagon accidentally sent live anthrax to nine states and a US military base. One day later, we learned that it was actually 11 states, 2 countries, and a military base. A few days later, they upped the number to 51 labs in 17 states and three foreign countries. A spokesman said they the Defense Department is certain that there are states that did not receive live anthrax spores, but they can’t confirm which ones. They’re pretty sure they might have sent live anthrax to themselves, though.

Oh, Pentagon, Pentagon, you’ve done it again! The Defense Department’s hijinks, mistakes, and inability to learn from them are what make it our most beloved and adorable government bureaucracy. We’re like Ricky and the Pentagon is our Lucy, with all the naive hijinks and mischief-making. Americans invest a kajillion dollars a year hoping that someone will keep us safe from biological weapons, and those same people end up shipping them out like AOL CDs? You have to laugh. The most expensive military in the world has lost three of their last four wars? We can just can’t stay mad at their cute little faces.

Top Pentagon Officials Meet

Remember a couple of months ago, when the Pentagon misplaced $500 million in military aid in Yemen? It was just a few things: 200 pistols,  200 rifles, 1.2 million rounds of ammunition, and 250 suits of body armor. Also, 160 Humvees, four helicopters, and two boats. You’ve probably never heard of a CN-235 airplane. There’s a picture of one below. Each one is 70 feet long and weighs 22,000 pounds. The Defense Department misplaced two of them in Yemen. Whoops!

Have You Seen Me?

Have You Seen Me?

Perhaps It’s not fair to single out the Department of Defense. It’s hardly the only giant federal bureaucracy to make darling little mistakes. They weren’t the ones who accidentally give 1,400 guns to drug gangs in Mexico. That was the ATF. The Pentagon also didn’t once lose 449 guns and 184 computers. That was the FBI. And then those lovable screw-ups did it again!  And it wasn’t Defense that failed to keep explosives and weapons off of planes 95% of the time. That was the adorable TSA. Soliciting Colombian prostitutes? The Secret Service. Seems like there’s lots of agencies looking to be Ethel to the Pentagon’s Lucy.

Still, who can forget last year when the military accidentally airdropped weapons and supplies to ISIS? That was really funny. Then the  Pentagon was then nice enough to let US weapons go to the Iranian-backed militias who are fighting ISIS, so it’s probably a wash. Did you that Hezbollah was so grateful for receiving an M1A1 Abrams tank that they posted a picture of it on Facebook (below)?

hezbollah tank

Most of the weapons the Department of Defense distributes probably go to the right place.  Except for that one time in 2012, when it let $200 million worth of weapons go to Islamist rebels in Libya. In 2011, the weapons sent to Uganda to fight al-Shabaab in Somalia accidentally ended up being used by the al-Shabab militants themselves. But they were probably going to blow up malls and commit massacres anyway. Bygones, right?

At least we know where those weapons ended up. We have no idea what happened to a bunch of weapons in Afghanistan. That’s not as bad as in 2004-2007, when we couldn’t account for 30% of the weapons we gave to Iraq. But let’s be positive: not being able to account for 30% means they could account for 70% of the weapons. If this were baseball, they’d have a .700 average! Sports similes are awesome! (Side note: the general that failed to account for the Iraqi weapons was David Petraeus, famous for the failed “surge” strategy in Iraq and successful “let’s have sex” strategy with his biographer).

By the way, there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about the $90 billion worth of weapons we sold to Saudi Arabia from 2010-14. We have no better repressive, theocratic friends than the Saudis. And it’s not like we’re selling Predator drones to the UAE. Oh, actually, we are. But don’t worry, it’s been at least a couple of weeks since a Middle Eastern country collapsed and rebels seized all of their weapons. And why would they go to all that effort, when the Saudis are generously sending them American weapons already?

Nothing can stop our dear, sweet, befuddled defense establishment. I still smile at the time an arms dealer was caught buying surplus F-14 parts to sell to Iran. The parts were confiscated by customs agents and returned to the US. Then, five years later, they were on the market again. And headed to Iran again. When customs agents seized them the second time, the fighter jet parts still had the evidence tags on them from the first incident. I’m crying over here!

Between 2003 and 2011, the sweet, ditzy Army lost track of 5.8 billion dollars worth of supplies. That’s small beans in an annual defense budget just shy of half a trillion dollars. Still, you’d think someone would want to provide some oversight. But that someone would be Congress, and it’s hard to provide oversight when you go cross-eyed pleasuring yourself at the mention of the words “defense,” “security,” or “troops.”

Senator Graham Readies His Hand for the Mention of

Senator Graham Readies His Hand for the Mention of “Troops”

The Pentagon was supposed to be audited in 1996. It wasn’t. Between then and when Reuters reported on their lack of accounting in 2013, Congress gave the Defense Department $8.5 trillion. That’s a big number, so think of it this way: all 8.5 million residents of New York City would have to win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? to come up with that amount of money. Late last year, the Pentagon finally said it was ready for an audit – just 24 years after the law calling for one passed.

It will be interesting to see what the audit reveals – if it’s ever done. Last month, an audit of just the Pentagon’s travel credit cards found that in a single year, $952,000 was spent at casinos and $97,000 at “adult entertainment establishments.” Maybe they were paying for dancers to dress up like Senators. Oh, Pentagon.

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I F%&cking Love Standardized Tests. And So Do You.

This spring, Illinois and a bunch of other states rolled out a new standardized test: PARCC. PARCC and, it seems, the very idea of standardized testing has become controversial, with organizations actively organizing against them.  When I asked my son how it went, he said “fine.” This week, my son took another test, the NWEA MAP test. I also asked how it went. He said, even more anti-climatically, “fine.” He shrugged, then launched into a lengthy discourse about Fennekin, a fire-type that evolves into Braixen.

Given that my son’s feeling about testing was identical in intensity to his daily feelings about his lunch, it’s surprising how many parents choose to opt out of the exams on their child’s behalf. This is particularly curious, because -full disclosure- most people I know are privileged white people. Which means that:

(1) we likely chose our school based on the scores for tests that now we don’t want our kids to take
(2) our children will do well on these tests, since standardized test results track heavily to socioeconomic level
(3) we’re screwing the teachers we profess to love by removing our high-performing kids from the test results on which they’re evaluated
(4) we’re forcing the administrators  to find something else to do with our non-test taking kids, which won’t be classroom learning because everyone else in the classroom is taking the test.

But let’s leave all that rationality aside. We’re well-off white people. Being privileged means not having to be rational (see for example not eating bread). But I am throwing off the shackles of my socioeconomic class to say this:

I F%$CKING LOVE STANDARDIZED TESTS.

I f%$cking love standardized tests because they prepare my kids for college. We’re only seven or so years away from my third grader taking the ACT or SAT so that he can go to a college everyone has heard of. A few years after that, he will take the MCAT, the LSAT, or the GMAT so he can get a good job, drive a late model import, and fill his open floor plan house with Pottery Barn. In the evenings, he’ll be on the junior leadership board of an organization that gives food or money to adorable minority children. Or badminton lessons to the homeless. I f%$cking love standardized tests because I want what every privileged white person wants for their children: to be happy. That is, to be happy with commonly recognized symbols of prosperity. 

I f%$cking love standardized tests because they prepare my kids for life. Life is full of having to do long, stupid tasks because someone in charge tells you to. Do these opt out parents not have jobs? Have they never had a boss ask them to develop a bunch of SMART goals, then tell them to put them in a spreadsheet, not a Word document, then ask them to save it in the 97-2003 Excel format because they’re working off an old laptop at home, and then come back a day later and say they actually want SMARTER goals,because “evaluate” and “revise” are important steps as well, but not as important as the fact that she read a Lifehacker article on SMARTER goals on the elliptical that morning and thought it sounded cool? What skills learned in school will teach my kids to deal with this? Do “fact triangles” prepare you for the over-promoted? No. Does “chunking” words help you remain calm when dealing with the functionally illiterate HR person? Absolutely not. And what about dealing with the cable company, the county records office, or going to the Post Office?

I want my kids to know that life is about getting through 40 hours a week of inane, meaningless tasks for the few glorious evening hours on the weekend you get to spend farting on the couch playing Arkham Origins before you fall asleep. I f%$cking love standardized tests because there really is no better preparation for the endurance and endless humiliations required of an adult life.

I f%&cking love standardized tests because they turn your kid into a number. I read a parent’s complaint once about how standardized tests don’t tell you anything about the “real” child. That’s true. But do you really want anyone to know the “real” child? My real children, if left to their own devices, would eat cream cheese with their fingers, wash it down with Capri-Sun squirted in the direction of their face hole, wipe their hands on their shirts, and then sit pantsless on the floor staring at comic books until their eyes crusted over. The whole point of school is to keep my kids from being “real” kids! To give them a common knowledge base, something that resembles a universal set of skills, and the rules in which to live in a polite society. You know, standards. 

But mostly, I f%&cking love standardized tests because with that number, I can achieve the one thing that all parents want: to know if my kid is better than yours. Remember when we compared our kids’ birth weights?  Then we compared where they fell on the height and weight percentages. Plus, we could compare them on months to rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking. And then school started, and, what? We’re too polite to do that any more? Bullshit. Grades only tell me if they’re meeting the teachers’ expectations, and who cares about the expectations of people who took low paying jobs to be public punching bags? What do they know? Worse, I don’t know what grades your kid got. so they’re not relative. Standardized tests are. With standardized tests, I get to know that in a room of 100 peers, my kid can read better than some number of them and do math better than some other number. That is a black and white number issued by the government telling me precisely how good my kid is.  It’s parent crack. I want these numbers every day.

I f%&cking love standardized tests. And so do you.

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Should I Vote for Chuy Again?

I didn’t vote for Rahm “Tiny Dancer” Emanuel Tuesday night. I don’t like his lack of transparency, his fondness for privatizing public education, and probably dozens of other things. I generally just don’t like him. So I voted for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and made lots of jokes about throwing my vote away. Ha ha. It turns out that Tiny Dancer is going to face Chuy again in a run-off in April. Tiny Dancer failed to convince 51% of Chicagoans to vote for him. Let me say that a different way. Tiny Dancer failed to convince 51% of the 32.7% of registered voters that showed up– or ~237,000 of ~464,000 – to vote for him.

He usually only extends one finger

He usually only extends one finger

Here’s one thing the voters did agree on: Chicago should have an elected school board. Close to 90% of voters supported the idea. Well, 90% of the voters in the 37 of 50 wards that had the issue on the ballot. Not all of them did, because the Chicago City Council prevented the issue from appearing across the city.  Nevertheless, surveys show that the idea is popular among Chicagoans.

Let’s set aside the fact that changing the nature of school board is a matter of state law. And we should set aside the fact that Bruce Rauner, who is enjoying  the Governor’s seat he bought last year, is against it. Let’s also set aside that this is Chicago, home of the Cubs. We like hopeless wastes of time. Oh, also: the irony of wanting to vote for another local office when we’re barely bothering to turn out to vote for the current offices in the first place.

I get the idea: an elected school board would put a check on the power of the Tiny Dancer.  We need an elected body in Chicago that could reign in his autocratic ways and give a voice to the people! Time for a civics lesson, neighbors. We have an elected body. It’s called the City Council. It has 50 aldermen, each of whom are elected every four years. It’s a giant rubber stamp for the mayor. In the first two years of Tiny Dancer’s term, the council voted with him 93% of the time. From April 2013 until November 2014, this slipped – to 89%! At the time, his approval rating among Chicagoans who weren’t aldermen was at around 35%. Does the City Council know something we don’t?

My former alderman, confused about what “tabling” meant

No, they don’t. Let me explain. Have you ever met a Chicago alderman or seen them speak in public? I have. These aren’t the most articulate people in the world. They’re not the smartest. They’re not the people you’d want setting economic or fiscal policy. Probably wouldn’t want them working on issues of criminal or social justice. They’re also not strong on issues of ethics, leadership, or vision. If they walk and chew gum, they might trip. What are they good at? Inheriting their father’s seat. Also, if there’s an abandoned car in front of your house or the muffler shop on the corner didn’t shovel the sidewalk, they can help with that. Oh, collecting big pensions. They’re great at that.

Mostly, though, they’re good at getting re-elected. Even with Tuesday’s record number of run-offs, I’d bet that most of the incumbents will win. Because, you know, there’s an abandoned car. Why would anyone think that another elected body in Chicago would behave differently than the one we currently have? Are candidates for elected office suddenly not going to need to raise money, be subject to the influence of special interests, or not need a job (or lawyer) for their kid? Since we’re going to have to change the state law anyway, can we mandate that candidates for the school board not be dissembling, mendacious, pocket-lining windbags?

I’m going to guess not. So why did the guy I did vote for, Chuy Garcia, support the idea? Because it’s what a city that increasingly dislikes its current mayor wants to hear. It’s what the teachers’ union wants. And it’s an easy position for Chuy to take, because it’s a state issue. You know what else is an easy position for Chuy to take? He supports keeping the city council at its current size. Chicago has one of the country’s largest city councils, and we could save millions if we cut it in half. But Chuy isn’t going to say that, because to do so might threaten the jobs of Chicago aldermen, and if he becomes mayor, he’s going to want some of that hot, hot, rubber-stamp action. Chuy told the Sun Times that the current size is important to the body “functioning” as a legislative body. I don’t know what one has to do with the other, nor if the guy with an outside chance of being our next mayor knows what “functioning” means.

You know what else is an easy position for Chuy to take? He wants to hire 1,000 more police. Tiny Dancer said the same thing in 2011, but didn’t do it. Chuy hasn’t said how he’s going to pay for it. But it’s what many in the city that’s suffered an appalling number of shootings wants to hear. And it’s what the police union wants. Chicagoans probably don’t want to hear — as this article points out – that more police not only means more money, it also means more arrests. Neither mayoral candidate wants to talk about measures that also might reduce crime: more intrusive policing and more people ratting out their friends, neighbors, and family members.

Then I go like this and $35 billion appears

Then I go like this and $35 billion appears

I voted for Chuy. But here’s the thing: Chicago has an unfunded pension obligation of $35 billion, or as I like to think of it, a per capita obligation of almost $13,0000 per person. I spent two days looking, and I can’t find anything concrete about Chuy’s plan to fix it  – to say nothing of how he plans to pay for the Christmas morning he’s planning for Chicago if he gets elected.

This matters — not because I’m some conservative that thinks government should run like a business – but because I’m a parent and a property owner in Chicago with two kids in public schools. I want lower crime, more jobs, better schools and infrastructure that moves better than an old man’s urethra. I want them for today, and I want them 20 years from now. But more than anything else, I want to live in a city that realizes these things cost money. A giant debt and an abysmal credit rating threaten our future. Being billions of dollars in the hole means life as a taxpayer is going to get even more expensive and we’re going to experience fewer city services, not more. The pension problem is there precisely because let elected officials make promises they couldn’t fulfill based on math they didn’t (or more likely, couldn’t) do.

I guess what I’m asking for our is that our candidates be realistic. But then I realize, why bother? Our citizens aren’t interested in being realistic. Go Cubs.

 

*thanks for reading this blog. I hope you’ll subscribe and use the comments section below to tell me why I’m wrong about Chuy. Because I hope I am. 

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The Huey Academy: A Unique Option for your Special Student

Who We Are

The Huey Academy is a non-denominational, co-dependent, not-for-profit school serving the gifted, exceptional, or singular student. Though we draw on the Montessori, Dewey, and Rhythm methods, we are not constrained by them. At the Huey Academy, we seek to develop the whole child with a focus on their intellectual and emotional growth, as well as their financial potential and procreative success. Our children will enter the diverse globalized workforce of the 21st century, and we know that a carefully selected, homogenous cohort is the only way to prepare them for success.

The Gifted/Exceptional Child

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your child is more creative, talented,  or special than the children of your friends or relatives. Indeed, parents are often the first to notice that their child is gifted. We believe that every child has a right to education that is appropriate to his/her potential. The advanced cognitive abilities of the gifted child and their heightened intensity combine to create experiences, awareness, and chemical dependencies that are different from the norm.

As a precondition for admission, the Huey Academy requires that your child scores above the 95th percentile on a state-sanctioned standardized test. These tests are developed by consultants, political appointees, and bureaucrats and are an excellent way to confirm the gifted specialness of your child. In lieu of standardized test scores, families may confirm their exceptional student through submission of an IRS 1040 for the previous three years (1040EZ not accepted).

Your Experience at the Huey Academy

The Huey Academy does not believe in tests. Standardized tests are developed by consultants, bureaucrats, and political appointees, and are a poor indicator of student performance. Some are surprised to learn that there is no homework in grades K-6. The reason is simple: the first 12 years of your child’s life are an important adjustment period for parents. Learning to commit up to 30 minutes a day to working together is a burden that many aren’t ready for.

We are committed to stimulating learning experiences and a problem-solving/inquiry approach to instruction. We know that tomorrow’s leaders require a firm footing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Quite simply, their future at a private East Coast university requires it.

Our outdoor classroom in North Dakota

Experiential learning is an important part of the Huey Academy experience. Students are offered unstructured time throughout the day to work with their hands, just like members of society without higher education. Our biological and physical sciences classes are conducted at outdoor field stations, offering students an opportunity to explore the many resources that can be extracted from nature.

High School students are encouraged to participate in one of our two week exploration programs abroad. These intensive programs bring students to Africa and Latin America to witness firsthand endemic poverty and other global problems. Many alumni tell us that it was their experience abroad that encouraged them to participate in gala dinners as adults.

Beyond the Classroom

Our 4th Grade Investment Club

A full range of extra-curricular activities are available. We have varsity sports teams for our students of color, and team ownership programs for our other students. In addition, students in all grades are encouraged to form clubs, teams, and interest groups around the activities most appealing to them.  These offer important opportunities to nurture the students’ interests in literature and the visual and performing arts, forming a basis for lifelong hobbies and endowment interests.

Statement on Diversity and Disabilities

We are committed to a diverse learning environment. Your child will be working alongside the children of doctors, lawyers, and businesspeople from around the world. A recent survey of our students’ home life showed that Huey Academy pupils speak 22 different languages to their domestics.  Of course, our doors are open to students with physical disabilities and other imperfections. We find that many of these students enjoy the challenges of our long staircases, highly polished and sloped marble hallways, and open floor grates.

 The Huey Academy: A Solutions-Oriented Approach

We believe that life is a series of races, and the race chosen determines where we finish.  While other schools can offer your children amateur races, the Huey School is committed to the master race.  We train tomorrow’s leaders to be bold, decisive, and visionary – adults that will not look to a world offering terminal problems, but a world offering final solutions.

 

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How I Went Through the 5 Stages of Grief on Facebook

Drew
I woke up last week to the news of the shooting in Paris, and was just horrified. I felt like I couldn’t look away, and ended up switching between Twitter and EW.com to keep up with what was going on. Finally, I was like “Drew, you’ve got to get yourself together,” so I went to Facebook. It’s like a week later and I realize that I totally went through the five stages of grief right there on my wall. I’m sharing them with you guys as part of my healing process.

1. Denial. I will deny myself posting this cool video of a dancing cockatiel so I can share WKQX’s awesome image showing our solidarity with  the victims. I do this because I don’t want anyone thinking for even one minute that I am on the side of the terrorists. I know there are some people out there who think the terrorists were justified or that sometimes terrorism is ok or whatever, but I think that it’s terrible. Have they forgotten 9/11 or Sandy Hook or Hurricane Katrina? Just awful. (But seriously guys? That cockatiel is really, really, rocking out).

2. Anger. I always find myself getting super angry about one small detail of a tragedy. With the Charlie Hebdo attack, I am crazy angry about the murder of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman. The terrorists were Muslim and they killed a Muslim? What is up with that? How can you say that you’re fighting the enemies of Islam and then kill an actual Muslim? I want all my friends to know that I stand with Mr. Merabet’s family. Plus, it’s important for all of us to remind the haters that many Muslims don’t even like terrorists. They’re just like normal people!

charlie hebdo mug

3. Bargaining. Oh God! There is a Groupon available for 2 for 1 admission to Key Lime Cove, the Chicago area’s greatest indoor water park! I have to let everyone know about this bargain! Also, I promise to God that I will pray more often and be a more loyal servant to Him. I am so grateful to be part of a faith that doesn’t have any taboos and no history of violence. If I could just remind more people of our beautiful history, there would be less terrorism in the world.

4. Depression. There is so much evil in the world, and I feel so powerless to do anything about it. Those attacks in Paris were just like the attacks in Austria or wherever a few months ago, or maybe it was last year. You know, the one where all those people were killed and I think they took those poor school girls. God, that was terrible. And now it’s all happening again. Even worse, while we were all talking about the attack in Paris, I saw that there was an attack in Africa – I think it was Uruguay – where all those people died. It’s just awful. I can’t stop thinking about it.

5. Acceptance. It’s like Vice President Cheney once said: we’re all going to be victims of terrorism some day. I think we just have to deal with that. So for now, I’m just going to be happy to live in the greatest country on earth and enjoy all of our freedom. You know what? I feel bad for the terrorists. They come from such a violent culture, where everyone has a gun and people are killed by their neighbors or the police for totally stupid reasons.

Guys, I feel totally better after sharing this, and want to leave with a famous quote: “Can’t we all get along?” Dr. Rodney King said that, and I think it’s ironic that these attacks happened right before the world celebrates his birthday.  I think if more of us tried to follow his words and his example, the world would be a better place.

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Toby Keith and the Changing Nature of Ass-based Violence

Toby-Keith4It’s probably been some time since you thought about the song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” by country music star and last man in America to wear a ‘do rag, Toby Keith. For a song that Keith allegedly wrote in 20 minutes, it was a huge hit – it went platinum and reached #1 on the country charts in 2002. It also sparked a feud between Keith and Peter Jennings and Keith and the Dixie Chicks, as well as between Toby Keith and people who like good songs.

The video for the song features Keith with the four Gs of a patriotic country song: goatee, guitar, gun, and grotesquely oversized cargo pants. With those locked down, the video was given a “Flameworthy” award by Country Music Television in 2003. When this was first pointed out to me, I honestly thought it meant that people wanted to set fire to it. That’s still more understandable than the truth, which is that there remain enough people carrying cigarette lighters that waving them around at concerts is something that is done.

I was thinking of this song recently, and not because I spend a lot of time thinking about terrible jingoistic country songs with lyrics a first grader could compose. I was thinking specifically of the climax of the song, where Keith sings “…you’ll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A / ‘Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass / It’s the American way.” Watch that moment in the video, at about 2:07:

Keith gives a little smirk as he gets to the line, then pauses just before delivering it. The soldiers in the video go crazy. And not the kind of crazy you might go knowing that you just invaded Iraq on behalf of an Administration that has no idea what to do next, is going to send you on multiple tours to secure the same place, and then screw you on benefits. That’s bad crazy. This is good crazy. Good, patriotic, high-fiving, fist-pumping crazy. Coming so soon after 9/11, it’s hard to resist the sentiment. It’s simple, forceful, and very American. The song makes me want to load up an F-350 dualie with apple pie, baseballs, and AR-15s and go invade somewhere myself.

“Courtesy” and that line in particular make me a little nostalgic for the clarity of purpose and muscular patriotism we shared in the aftermath of September 11th. It all eroded some time ago, and the last remnants were surely swept away last week with the publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture. We were once the country that, if messed with, would put a boot in your ass. Yeah! That’s what tough guys do! And the reality? Well, according to page 115 of the report’s executive summary:

Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was ‘pureed’
and rectally infused. Additional sessions of rectal feeding and hydration followed”

How did we go from a country that assaults the behinds of our enemies with leather clad feet to one that commits these assaults by “get(ting) a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag – let gravity do the work” (p. 100).  This is some sick, depraved stuff. When Toby Keith was singing about the “whole wide world raining down on you,” I can’t imagine he was thinking about rectal rehydration. Would Keith change his tune if he knew what “Mother Freedom” was doing in his name? Probably not. He posted this image to his Twitter account on July 4th:

tobykeith

But back to the point. What if the CIA had only been kicking America’s enemies, as Keith’s lyrics suggest they should? Funny thing. In June of 2013, CIA director Michael Hayden said that the use of punches and kicks were not authorized. And yet, the report cites internal CIA records finding that CIA officers punched and kicked a detainee repeatedly. A detainee who was of course naked and bound with Mylar tape (p.489). What’s great about the CIA is that it has to take even run of the mill brutality and make it sick and weird.

With the release of the report, the country seems to be debating not whether or not these acts constitute torture, but if the torture is justified. Survey data actually shows that Americans are growing more supportive of torture, which is encouraging. Whatever terrible things the CIA is doing to people now won’t require them wasting so much time obstructing oversight by the Executive Branch, Congress, and its own inspector general. Checks and balances and accountability? Boring. We’ll put a tube in your ass – it’s the American way!

I think that anyone surprised by public support of torture against our enemies wasn’t paying enough attention to Toby Keith in 2002-03. Peter Jennings and the Dixie Chicks criticized “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” for its simpleminded advocacy of violence. That’s not all Keith was advocating for back then. In 2003, he released the song “Beer for my Horses,” which some suggested was pro-lynching. Toby Keith sharply pointed out that nowhere in the lines “Find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys/ Hang them high in the street for all the people to see that” does it say the word “lynching.” He’s right. The song isn’t justifying lynching. It’s justifying extra-judicial executions and mob violence. Eleven years ago, Toby Keith knew just where we would be in 2014.

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Should You Be Outraged? A Guide to Religious Conflict

Early this year, the Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project published a study claiming that religious hostilities worldwide reached a six year high. Fully a third of the countries in the world had a significant amount of religious hostility during the reporting period, whether it was on the part of the government or the citizenry.

You could believe that inter-religious violence and hostility is only something that happens “over there.” You could believe that, but only if you don’t spend any time on the Internet. Members of faith communities not only want you to know about the appalling and disgraceful attacks on their co-religionists abroad, but also about anti-religious activity right here at home. Why are they sharing all these terrible things with you? Is it because stories of persecution accomplish the three major goals of organized religion in America (fostering community through shared victimhood, justifying antagonism towards other groups, and fundraising)?

No, it’s because they want you to share in their indignation and outrage. Unfortunately, each of us has only have so much outrage to spare. We can’t go blow our entire outrage wad on religious violence and persecution. We have to save some to direct at Roger Goodell, President Obama, and Kim Kardashian. Also, maybe grand juries. Yet we want to support our friends in the various faith communities. To help you find direction for your indignation, I’ve carefully researched this handy guide that outlines the struggles of five of the world’s major religions. Included is who they are fighting with internationally as well as their challenges closer to home. There is also a handy infographic at the end, outlining just who is fighting with whom.

Religion: Christianity
Percent of World’s Population: 31.5%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Hindus. Buddhists. JewsOther Christians. Also, Communists.
Victimized in America By: 
Homosexuals. Secularists. Atheists. Alsoby a society that gives into hypersensitivity and insists that Christmas displays be taken down. This apparently fuels the hatred and intolerance that lead to persecution, according to Dr. Ben Carson.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Fanatical enemies of Christendom are everywhere, whether they go by the name of Boko Haram in Nigeria or cower under whatever “Political Correctness” is in America.

Six reasons for anti-Semitism

Religion: Judaism
Percent of World Population: .2%
Victimized Internationally By:
Muslims. Other JewsChristians. Worse, per the ADL, over a billion people worldwide harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. This is staggering! Slightly less staggering is a survey that purports to represent world opinion by asking eleven binary questions of people who live in countries where they’ve never met or heard of a Jew, but still!
Victimized in America By: Mean jerks who say nasty things about Israel, preventing the Jewish state from ever taking military action or constructing settlements. Also, a major American television network has aired two seasons of a “sitcom” perpetuating the worst possible stereotypes of Jews.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! Because of Schindler’s List.

Religion: Islam
Percent of World Population: 23.2%
Victimized Internationally By: Christians. Jews. Hindus. Buddhists. Also, an alarming number of Muslims are killed by other Muslims.  And who could possibly do anything to stop it when something as confusing as that happens?
Victimized in America By: The FBI. NSA. Congress. The State of Oklahoma, which acted decisively to thwart a nascent Islamic state in their backyard by banning Shar’ia law. The ban was overturned by the secular and politically correct courts last year. See anti-Christian victimization, above.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! But you already posted that picture of Mala Yousafzai to your Facebook wall, so you’ve done enough.

Religion: Hinduism
Percent of World Population: 15%
Victimized Internationally By: Muslims. Buddhists. Other Hindus. Also, American academics who write dangerous books about Hinduism and sexy, sexy, sex.
Victimized in America By: We are all complicit in the theft of yoga from the Hindus. Also, prominent Hindus on TV only pursue non-Hindu men and others talk in affected accents and lack machismo.
Should You Be Outraged?: Yes! The flashbacks in Slumdog Millionaire are very upsetting.

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The Embarrassing Face of American Buddhism

Religion: Buddhism
Percent of World Population: 7%
Victimized Internationally By:  Muslims. Communists. Other Buddhists. Also, evangelical Christians believe that the biggest problem facing Tibet is that they aren’t Christian enough.
Victimized in America By: It’s bad enough that every liberal arts student becomes a Buddhist for four months after finishing their comparative religion class.  It’s quite another to for Buddhism to be appropriated by countless celebrities, so that the face of American Buddhism is the fat, stupid face of Steven Seagal.
Should You Be Outraged! Yes! Do you want a washed up B-movie action star representing your religious community?

Boy! That is a a lot of violence, persecution, and oppression. It’s almost as if some members of religious groups will always find a reason to fight other religious groups and if that gets boring, they turn on members of their own faith in a neverending cycle of attacks and retaliation. Actually, that pretty much sums it up. Here’s a handy summary chart that you can clip out and carry with you for a handy reference for the next time a person of faith tells you that theirs is a religion of peace.

religious violence

It’s probably too easy to get depressed by all the violence and strife in the world caused by intra- and inter-religious conflict. Look at it one way, and it’s like the NFL – pointless barbarity for the sake of score settling based on manufactured rivalries where young men face all the risk, recruited by wealthier folk who somehow never get their hands bloody.  Look at it another way, religious groups are like the NFL – if they didn’t have their rivalries, what would they do with their time?  Look at it a third way, and it’s like the NFL – to people who don’t follow it, the stakes seem incredibly low. All that struggle for a lousy ten yards or that stupid patch of dirt where a guy supposedly saw something he couldn’t explain.  That might be the biggest outrage of all.

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Thanksgiving and Why Barbecue Isn’t Restaurant Food

Let me say up front: I don’t come from an old southern family. I come from the opposite of an old southern family, raised in a kosher home by parents who didn’t particularly enjoy cooking. If you’re not from the tribe, traditional celebratory cooking for Jews involves large amounts of chicken fat, salt, and onion soup mix. And when I was a kid, having “a barbecue” meant burning the bejeezus out of kosher hot dogs on a Weber grill cleared of cobwebs for the occasion. In my fondness for cooking pork, I’m not an originalist when it comes to cooking Jewish food, and I’m not an originalist when it comes to barbecue.

I have no hipsterish claim whatsoever to having smoked meat before it was cool.  My wife bought me a smoker (pictured) for a wedding/birthday present in 2003. It is the greatest gift she ever gave me. Well, aside from the marrying me thing and the two kids. The smoker is the greatest gift that didn’t involve pain and questionable decision-making on her part.  I still have the smoker (and the kids, and the marriage, surprisingly) and have never felt the need to upgrade or replace it – just like me, it’s older, crustier, and more fragrant than it was in 2003. Unlike me, the smoker sometimes oozes black goo from its lower openings. I still have a few years before that happens.

Weber Smoker

My circa 2003 Weber Smoker. Note black goo.

The great thing about a smoker is that it’s a device that attracts people to your home. It’s a reason to come together whether or not there is an actual holiday. You can’t – or least I can’t – barbecue a piece of meat small enough for my family of four – anything that small cooks too quickly to come out right. If I’m using the smoker, it means I need to have a few people over to enjoy whatever charred hunk of beast I just made.  It’s what I think of as a “real” barbecue: an amicable humans eating together, interrupted only by the occasional panicked search for napkins.

Recent Brisket

A recent brisket

Here’s what rains on my parade: some well meaning person, grease dripping from their chin, will ask if I’ve been to Schmo’s for their brisket. Or Smookie’s. Or whatever the new barbecue restaurant is in Chicago. A new one opens every week. And the answer is almost always no. I don’t believe in restaurant barbecue. I can’t separate the food from the experience – to me, barbecue is barbecue because it’s served at a barbecue.

Maybe that’s not true with smallish idiosyncratic shacks in Texas. But in Chicago, a restaurant is an expensive business to run.  The goal must be to turn out an abundance of food consistently, serve you, and then turn over the table to serve the next people. They have to do this, or they couldn’t make their lease payments. No room for idiosyncrasy. Boring. What if they ran out of apple and used oak? Or the smoker ran cool because it was 29 degrees outside? What if the drippings that were supposed to go into the sauce ended up on the kitchen floor? I realize not everyone is going to make their own barbecue, but everyone who likes to eat barbecue should be friends with someone who makes it.

I’m not trying to convince anyone of this argument, because I don’t think I’m  likely to win. After all, investors are supporting all of these new barbecue places, so there’s obviously a market for sweet, damp protein. Probably people looking to step up from making “BBQ Pork” with a bottle of KC Masterpiece and a slow cooker.

For the record, I don’t understand those people.

The other day, I was picking up a brisket from the guy, and I asked if he was going to carry turkeys for Thanksgiving. He wasn’t going to and explained that he only carries meat and poultry restaurants use, and restaurants don’t really use turkeys. Flash! There it was: why I love Thanksgiving. Because like barbecue, Thanksgiving dinner is only Thanksgiving dinner when it’s served on Thanksgiving. It’s food made by amateurs for other amicable humans. Aside from the odd diner, there aren’t a lot of restaurants popping up all over trying to sell ol’ timey “traditional” roast turkey and mashed potatoes. You definitely aren’t getting cranberry sauce or challah stuffing. Yes, there’s Boston Market. And ok, there’s probably a food truck somewhere doing this. Or doing it in a donut. Because some people place a huge value on food handed to them out the side of a colorful van. Those people can also learn to push a bar with their nose to get sugar water.

Last year’s model

I have had some terrible turkey. It was like eating the heel of a cadaver. But it was cadaver heel prepared according to someone’s own SPECIAL recipe. I don’t care if it splinters when you cut it. It’s still awesome.  If your family tradition is serving dessicated poultry with a box of Stove Top and one of those Costco pumpkin pies the size of a tractor tire, that’s  a family tradition! It doesn’t even need to be turkey. Even people serving spaghetti carbonara or some sort of textured soy protein are having a Thanksgiving meal. And every family has a different one. When I finally mastered the Jewish Holy Trinity of schmaltz, salt, and  soup mix, I then had to incorporate my wife’s family traditions. She is a refugee from Oklahoma, and holiday food for her involves cheese, heavy cream, and sausage. Thus, we have both challah stuffing and sausage and cornbread dressing side by side on our table. And we have a ton of it, because just like barbecue, it’s not anything you can make for a small amount of people.

It’s the second decade of the 21st century, and there are what, two things that are still great about America? You can argue whether the second one is our tremendous capacity for self delusion or John Hodgman.  But the first one is that we have a national holiday that both traditional and evolving and remains rooted in giving thanks for our many gifts and eating with loved ones. Or eating parts of loved ones, depending on how the turkey tastes.

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