Your occasional ‘Judge Parker’ update


I don’t know what to make of today’s “Judge Parker.” Is that Sophie? I’ve already forgotten what she looks like. I guess it could be that cunning Honey. But isn’t Honey a blonde?

And how did she end up in the hospital? Weren’t the cops still going through the woods?

Well, I know it’s not Neddy. She’ll soon be hauled up on felony charges of negligence and skirting the permit process, since an upstanding corporate honcho wouldn’t have placed their factory — a shipping container! — over a sinkhole. Looks like money can buy you a lot of things, Spencer-Driver clan, but it can’t buy you ethics.

And then there’s that whole mess with the hitman and the mercenaries and …

Somebody tell me, why do I keep reading this strip? Hmm. Maybe it’s all a dream.

Sunday read: ‘We’re just being the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol’

Image from
Who’s watching the border?

If it’s the Mexican border, it’s not just U.S. government agents. It’s also local militias like the one Shane Bauer of Mother Jones joined.

In his article “Undercover With a Border Militia,” today’s Sunday read, Bauer talks about his experiences with the Three Percent United Patriots (3UP), named for the belief that 3 percent of colonists overthrew the British in the American Revolution — and 3 percent of today’s Americans will be responsible for the “restoration of the Founders’ Republic.”

They don’t believe it will be long before that day comes.

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Revenge of the nihilists


I’ve seen a lot of talk about Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg’s BloombergBusinessweek story, “Inside the Trump Bunker.” Much of the attention has been focused on the campaign’s plan to shrink the electorate, not expand it:

Instead of expanding the electorate, Bannon and his team are trying to shrink it. “We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

But I was more struck by the overall thrust of the piece — that the Trump campaign is simply a launching pad to bring the insular hard-right (or alt-right) message to an ever-greater group of people.

GOP consultant Steve Schmidt nails the numbers:

“Trump will get 40 percent of the vote, and half that number at least will buy into his claim that the election was rigged and stolen from him,” says Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign chief and an outspoken Trump critic. “That is more than enough people to support a multibillion-dollar media business and a powerful presence in American politics.”

Now, it’s not like the forces the Trump campaign unleashed were going to be stuffed back into the places from which they came. The anger and hatred is out there, and now as a country we must deal with it. But I still find it frightening that such anger will be cultivated and even celebrated. How do you fix your house when there’s a group dancing around it with gasoline and matches?

I don’t have the answers. I’m not sure anybody does.

Yelling and screaming on the news makes me want to holler (quietly)

Screen grab from CNN, via

Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce on another knock-down drag-out, or as they call it on cable news, Tuesday:

Item: Don Lemon of CNN, whose fuse for nonsense can burn for days before he explodes, has quite clearly had enough of Scottie Nell Hughes, who probably can hear the clock tick-tick-ticking as she gets to about 14:39 on the Warholian countdown. On Tuesday night, he just about voted her off the nightly panel discussion on the topic of What Fresh Hell Is This? At the same time, Charles Blow of The New York Times nearly popped Corey Lewandowski’s cork. If they don’t change the name of this show to CNN Raw before the election, then Zucker’s really missing a golden marketing opportunity.

These kinds of arguments aren’t just on CNN. Newt Gingrich mixed it up with Megyn Kelly on Fox News, and I’m sure MSNBC has hosted a panel or two that quickly degenerated into something less than civil debate. At least Question Time comes with a dose of acidic wit.

And yet, I kind of admire these episodes.

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Bobby Vee, 1943-2016

Bobby Vee died Monday. He was 73.

He’s often lumped in with the teen idols of the so-called fallow period of rock ‘n’ roll, the period between Buddy Holly’s death in 1959 and Beatlemania in 1964. That’s a mischaracterization in itself: Dave Marsh, among others, has pointed out how much vibrant music came out of these years, whether it was Roy Orbison or the girl-group classics. But it also underrates Vee, whom even the New York Times’ obituary called a “pop idol,” mentioning him among a group of singers that includes Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell.

Vee was better than that. He gave his Brill Building songs — including the Goffin/King-penned “Take Good Care of My Baby,” which hit No. 1 — more depth and energy than some of his fellow idols. Moreover, he was versatile: After his own fallow period, when he went three years without a Top 40 hit, he came back in 1967 with “Come Back When You Grow Up,” and managed another couple in 1967-68.

He still hadn’t turned 25.

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Playing Cubbies and Indians

My wife is upset.

My wife is upset because she is a hardcore Cleveland Indians fan and her team is in the World Series.

Now, why would this be upsetting, you ask? She should be thrilled. It’s been 19 years since the Indians have made it. They’ve won their postseason series with guts and guile, a tribute to their bullpen and Terry Francona’s management.

Well, my Cleveland-born wife is upset for one reason: their opponent.

The Chicago Cubs.

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Sunday read: The meaning of patriotism

“Three Flags” (1958) by Jasper Johns.
My friend John Blake has a knack for taking on thorny issues and examining them in clear, plainspoken, nonjudgmental language. The CNN reporter and author of “Children of the Movement,” a collection of profiles about the sons and daughters of civil rights figures, particularly likes to look at the nexus of history, politics and race.

In his most recent story for CNN, “How the Obama era gave us dangerous patriotism,” he immerses himself in a particularly contentious subject: how the changing racial demographics of the country are affecting our ideas of loyalty — from “love it or leave it” to Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the National Anthem.

He writes:

The definition of what it means to love America will expand. The browning of America won’t just change how the country looks in the future; it will change how Americans express patriotism, because racial minorities bring different histories to this notion of America as the “land of the free.”
I know I do. I’ve long felt ambivalent when people tell me I should love America. I wonder what America are they talking about. Should I just be happy, as one white man once told me, that my ancestors were rescued from the jungles of Africa and brought to the greatest country in the world?

I find it hard, as another white man, to read that last sentence without flinching.

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Sympathy for Brad Pitt


Overheard in a supermarket checkout line the other day:

“I knew that was going to bust up,” says one woman, looking at a gossip magazine with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on the cover.

“Oh yeah,” replies another woman.

“He never should have left her,” the first woman says, referring to Pitt’s first wife, Jennifer Aniston.

They express some sympathy for Aniston and move on to other subjects.

I don’t know why this conversation bothered me. I don’t know Brad Pitt. I don’t know Angelina Jolie, for that matter. I don’t know their kids, or their friends, or the people Pitt worked with in New Orleans.

Perhaps their marriage was doomed. To look at the gossip magazines — who make their living off crap like this — you’d certainly think so, going all the way back in 2004-05 when they met.

And I also know that schadenfreude over stars’ misery is as common as air kisses at a Hollywood party, and Lord knows I’ve partaken of it. I understand the fascination with celebrities, who appear to be living the lives of attention and wealth that many of us desire, and thus I understand the secret glee when they fall off their pedestals and are revealed as being “just like us,” as the Us magazine feature says.

But I can’t find any joy in divorce, even among really famous people I don’t know. Maybe they’re shrugging it off as long overdue; maybe they’re in anguish. Either way, I’m not going to wag a finger and say, “I told you so.”

OK, I got that off my chest. Now, has something happened to the Kardashians?




Last night’s debate: Lukewarm take

It’s been more than 12 hours since the debate, so all the hot takes have been taken. Consider this, then, a lukewarm take:

  • Hillary Clinton was her usual self — usually focused, occasionally dodging, definitely prepared. Of all of her answers, I was most impressed with her response to abortion and women’s rights. You could hear this was an issue she not only knew inside and out but also felt in her soul. This was not the cautious and technocratic Clinton. Slate is right: This is why we need more women in politics.

This is about women, about us. It’s one of the major differences between this presidential election cycle and every other one. When men discuss abortion among themselves, as they do in far too many policy discussions, it takes on a detached air of philosophical principles. When Clinton’s on the stage, it becomes about flesh and blood: women’s bodies and their most private, sacred rights to determine the courses of their own lives.

  • Donald Trump started strongly — you could tell he’d actually prepared for this debate — but the man is incapable of letting a slight go. As with previous debates, when Clinton inserted the needle, Trump reacted. He even responded when Clinton pointed out that he was upset that he hadn’t won an Emmy for “The Apprentice.” Does he have a sense of humor about anything?

Though not the one in “A Sound of Thunder.” Please.

Review: ‘Three Men in a Boat’ by Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat (Three Men, #1)Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some things never change.

In Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men in a Boat,” the author rails against travelers who pack for a brief voyage with a month’s worth of clothes and belongings. He talks about how he’d love to get up early for a refreshing dip, only to wake up in the dark and decide it’s better to stay asleep. He fights with a tent. He receives a series of ever-more-unlikely fish stories from a series of locals, only to find out they’re ALL lying.

This book was published in 1889, but there are passages you could have sworn were written yesterday. And, despite the passage of more than a century, it’s still laugh-out-loud funny.

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