Why can’t you be true: the best of Chuck Berry

I understand recoiling from “Sweet Little Sixteen” knowing that Chuck Berry was accused of sticking video cameras in women’s bathrooms. The further we examine the rock tradition, the worse the male pioneers look. I’m fairly certain the brown-eyed handsome man writing this post would have had his ass kicked for being a gay man around any male pioneer not Little Richard. Who knows? Maybe Richard would have too. Setting biography aside, I regard “Sweet Little Sixteen” as wish fulfillment: brutish only if listeners concentrate on the lyrics, closer to fantasy when you listen to Berry’s inflections and guitar.

1. Johnny B. Goode
2. Tulane
3. You Never Can Tell
4. Sweet Little Sixteen
5. No Particular Place to Go
6. Roll Over, Beethoven
7. Maybellene
8. Brown Eyed Handsome Man
9. Too Much Monkey Business
10. Drifting Heart
11. Rock and Roll Music
12. School Days
13. Back in the U.S.A.
14. We Wee Hours
15. Run Rudolph Run
16. Nadine
17. Jo Jo Gunne

Chuck Berry — RIP


“When I first heard Chuck Berry, I didn’t consider that he was black. I thought he was a hillbilly. Little did I know, he was a great poet, too. And there must have been some elitist power that had to get rid of all these guys, to strike down rock ’n’ roll for what it was and what it represented –not least of all being a black-and-white thing” — Bob Dylan

“When I put my foot down, start. When I put it down again, stop” — Chuck Berry

I’ll forgive listeners for thinking he died twenty years ago. Hell, when “You Never Can Tell” zoomed off again in the spring of 1995 on the fumes of Pulp Fiction’s unleaded Chuck Berry already seemed a strange voice from a distant star, a titan not banished so much as absorbed. For my generation he was the glowering star of 1987’s Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Taylor Hackford’s documentary about Keith Richards scared shitless by an idol — a moment captured on film that no one is likely to see repeated (how can anyone quake at Mick Jagger after Chuck Fucking Berry scolds you?). I can’t imagine Berry, a man of fearsome intelligence, and how he responded to Back to the Future, in which very Canadian and hence white Michael J. Fox invents rock and roll by playing “Johnny B. Goode” several years before Berry purportedly shook the complacency out of suburbanites listening to the Penguins’ “Earth Angel.”

Chuck Berry invented the idea that a singer-songwriter could play shit-hot guitar. He invented the idea that a singer-guitarist could write songs. He dispelled the notion that only Cole Porter wrote sharp lyrics. Until Bob Dylan he was the wittiest singer-songwriter in rock and roll, the lyrics sung in a suave, assured burr and put over by the ineluctable momentum of his guitar. As integral to the Berry sound was pianist Johnnie Johnson, who after Little Richard invented rock and roll piano: those rolling lines, born of gospel, pounded by knuckles, meant for staking out rhythm. Melody came second (that’s where Berry’s voice and guitar came in). So integral was Johnson that Richards darkly suggested he deserved credit for the music. It’s possible — does Al Kooper deserve a songwriting credit for “Like a Rolling Stone”? Inventing rock guitar came as naturally as narrative; he wrote his narratives around the hairpin turns of his guitar lines. See “Brown-Eyed Handsome Man,” still my favorite Berry moment, reflexive and homoerotic. And the lyrics — well. “Tulane” boasts the couplet “We gotta get a lawyer in the thick of politics/Somebody who can win the thing or get the thing fix,” which Elvis Costello spent a career bettering — and trying to sing!

At ninety, with a full life and even fuller paper bags of money, an extensive rap sheet of questionable and legitimate legality, Chuck Berry needs no mourning. Still — it’s like learning that T.S. Eliot died.

Best films of my life



The films I most look forward to rewatching, along with my plain ol’ favorite films that year.

2016: Being 17
2015: Girlhood
2014: Stranger by the Lake
2013: Something in the Air
2012: In The Family
2011: Certified Copy
2010: Carlos
2009: Two Lovers
2008: The Witnesses
2007: Zodiac
2006: Miami Vice
2005: Kings and Queens
2004: Moolaadé
2003: Unknown Pleasures
2002: Y Tu Mama Tambien
2001: Mulholland Ddrive
2000: Yi-Yi
1999: The Dreamlife of Angels
1998: The Apostle
1997: Jackie Brown
1996: Secrets and Lies
1995: Before Sunrise
1994: Three Colors: Red
1993: The Long Day Closes
1992: Husbands and Wives
1991: My Own Private Idaho
1990: Goodfellas
1989: Enemies, A Love Story
1988: Dead Ringers
1987: Housekeeping
1986: Le Rayon vert
1985: Lost in America
1984: Stop Making Sense
1983: Fanny and Alexander
1982: Tootsie
1981: Atlantic City
1980: Dressed to Kill
1979: Apocalypse Now
1978: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1977: New York, New York
1976: 3 Women
1975: Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
1974: Chinatown

Of keggers and cutting benefits



In a conversation with Rich LOLwry, the man who got hard at the thought of Sarah Palin sending starbursts of joy for the TV screen in 2008, Speaker Paul Ryan admitted to why he shouldn’t be allowed to roam the streets except to sell bottled water on the corner of Oak and Elm.

“So Medicaid,” Ryan told Lowry, “sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

Yet morning talk shows continue to believe that a miserable creep who in college fantasized about stripping benefits from the poor deserved the vice presidential slot in 2012 and is the serious player in negotations with Donald Trump. The Ayn Rand fuckboy who benefited from Social Security survivor benefits doesn’t think others deserve the government’s largesse.

‘You think the score’s set but you can’t truly see’: the best of Spoon



I didn’t own my first Spoon album until 2005. The first you own is the first to which you feel allegiance, but even if it were my fourth Gimme Fiction‘s dub experiments, cool use of keyboards, and the way Britt Daniel’s opaqueness comes across as sexy would put it on top. By this point they boast an impressive catalog, the last act to wring unexpected variations on Wire’s sound (I named my blog after a line in “Black Like Me”).

In 2017 I have little patience for guitar rock but I like Spoon. And they still respect tension as much as tunes. 2014’s They Want My Soul had “Outlier,” “Do You,” and “New York Kiss,” the latter as indelible an ear worm as “The Way We Get By.” Hot Thoughts is ragged, more lacquered. I’ve already added a couple favorites.

1. Don’t Make Me a Target
2. Small Stakes
3. NY Kiss
4. Black Like Me
5. They Never Got You
6. Jonathon Fisk
7. The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine
8. The Fitted Shirt
9. Don’t You Evah
10. They Want My Soul
11. Was It You
12. Paper Tiger
13. The Mystery Zone
14. The Way We Get By
15. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
16. I Summon You
17. Anything You Want
18. Can I Sit Next to You
19. I Turn My Camera On
20. Written in Reverse
21. Everything Hits at Once
22. Outlier
23. Lines in the Suit
24. Ain’t the One
25. The Beast and Dragon, Adored

Derek Walcott — RIP



Allusive but demotic, Derek Walcott was Robert Lowell’s truest heir and often surpassed the American poet in using geographic points to populate a topography of the soul. Walcott set many of his poems in St. Lucia, but during the late seventies, his powers growing, the work mediated between the cultures of the colonizer and the occupied. Where Eliot’s The Waste Land assembled the flotsam of several centuries worth of literature and the jetsam of popular entertainment, Walcott’s middle period adopted the suppleness of the verse forms he’d assimilated into self-referential meditations. In the grand, capacious lyrics and odes collected in The Fortunate Traveler, he reached the apex of his art. “Now I have come to where the phantoms live,” he writes in the title poem, dedicated to Susan Sontag, which does him credit because unlike Sontag his line is light on its feet. Like Lowell, he was expert at figures so correct that I can’t think of any other way to evoke the object described: “a sunbeam dances through brown rum bottles/like a firefly through a thicket of cocoa” from “The Liberator,” for example.

No joke: I reach for my frayed copy of Collected Poem 1948-1984, a regular of college bookstores, every few weeks. “A Far Cry from Africa,” another college favorite (shades of Norton anthologies!) has kept its luster, as complete in its way as early triumphs like Yeats’ “Who Goes with Fergus?”, Thomas Hardy’s “Neutral Tones,” and Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish.” From the perfect iambic tetrameter of its first line (“A wind is ruffling the tawny pelt)” the poem is the distilled Walcott, a poised, chiselled victory over incoherence and mixed feelings. As a reminder that he wasn’t always the grand conceptualist who wrote a novel in verse and collaborated with Paul Simon, turn to this fragile beauty indebted to George Herbert called “Love After Love”. Speaking of Yeats, the shattering “Early Pompeian” rewrites Yeats’ “A Prayer for My Daughter” as an elegy:

As for you, little star,
my lost daughter, you are
bent in the shape forever
of a curled seed sailing the earth,
in the shape of one question, a comma
that knows before us whether death
is another birth

Honored earth, receive thy guest.

Tunesmiths: Sunny Sweeney and The Magnetic Fields



The Magnetic Fields – 50-Song Memoir

Read student work often enough and the maxim “say what you mean” acquires the force of scientific law. But when Stephen Merritt writes “masterpiece of catastrophic love/In a small New England town” and, in a song about Edith Wharton’s brittle high school English class classic, sets it to a cornflakes jingle, he might as well be quoting the blurb on the Bantam Books dust jacket. Elton John set Bernie Taupin doggerel to cornflakes jingles too.

Sprinkled over this five-disc collection, a song for every year of his life, are tunes as powerful and full of pathos as their cousins on 1999’s epochal 69 Love Songs; some, like “’93: Me and Fred and Dave and Ted,” about a triad living amid cockroaches and sexual tension, and “’03: The Ex and I,” about good, fraught post-breakup sex, even share ideas of living that queers and straights could stand paying attention to. I’m taken with “’92: Weird Diseases,” whose year should indicate its subject; “’01: Have You Seen It in the Snow?”, mechanized clanking emulating the street noises of the New York he loves; the infinitely terse dismissal/daily affirmation “’77: Life Ain’t All Bad,” a dozen more.

The problem: Merritt sings them. All of them. Claudia Gonson didn’t always sing the sweet ones, nor did Dudley Klute always sing the sardonic ones. While practice has helped Meritt manipulate an inflexible baritone — check out “’99: Father in the Clouds” — he’s still not Philip Oakey, and Oakey has never insisted on releasing fifty tunes at once. A project to visit, hang out with for a while, abandon, and revisit, like Me and Stephen and Claudia and John.

Sunny Sweeney – Trophy

On her fourth album the Houston native wavers, poised between rejecting the standard tropes of female independence from the Nashvile sceme and embracing them with an subtlety that would change the “from” to “in” Nashville. Yet another song about pills bends its guitar in the usual neotrad shapes around the unexpected line “I only call my husband ‘baby’ cuz I love the word.” Elsewhere she leads with a piano-anchored “One For My Baby” plea to a bored bartender, waxes defensive about Texas, and looks to Hank Williams when Gretchen Wilson and Freedy Johnston sound like closer forebears. To return to my first point, listen to the title track, a spirited assertion of spousal exclusivity that, thanks to co-writer Lori McKenna, de-fangs the opprobrious metaphor: she‘s the prize, thank you. But her fulfillment depends on triumph over another woman. I squirmed when Miranda Lambert clung to this approach a few years ago. In a song as rich, inhabited so fully, in which Jacob Clayton’s fiddle and Fred Eltringham’s drums are special stars, not a crippling flaw. Besides, McKenna and Sweeney have earned the right to compose what they please, and for all I know the “you” who’s “so full of jealousy” might be another dude. On “Grow Old With Me” they give it a go at writing a standard — and may damn well have done it.

‘How much of a troll do you want to be’?



One of the least reported elements of the Reagan presidency was the nexus between rightist macho posturing and homosexuality. Reporting by the late Christopher Hitchens and Thomas Mallon’s 2014 novel Finale are the only places where the circle of Carl “Spitz” Channell, chief fundraiser for Oliver North while he was making flesh his “neat idea” to sell arms to phony Iranian moderates and funneling the profit to the Contras of Nicaragua, has received any attention. The brief flurry inspired by Milo Yiannopoulous last month reminded me that we will always find homosexuals, once marginalized but power-hungry, who for the sake of contrarianism will embrace the grotesque elements of conservatiism, almost as if it were expiation.

In an article about White House press conferences, Adam Marantz of The New Yorker uncovers the sordid Lucas Wintrich, a self-described Twink for Trump hired, to use Donald Segretti’s term, to ratfuck traditional media (he calls it trolling). What a name — he could be a villain or duped her of an Evelyn Waugh novel, while the following exchange between Wintrich and Gateway Pundit editor Jim Hoft could have come from Bret Easton Ellis:

Over dinner at a nearby steakhouse, Hoft and Wintrich brainstormed about what they might ask the next day. “Just make sure it has ‘fake news’ in it, Lucian,” Hoft said, passing him a notepad. “Every question you ask with the words ‘fake news,’ you get a ten-dollar bonus. We’ll add that to your contract.”

Wintrich, sipping a Martini, jotted a few notes. “Sean! Over here, Sean!” he said, pretending to raise his hand. “In the past month alone, there have been at least twenty fake-news stories in the failing New York Times. Does fake news like this get in the way of the President’s ability to proceed on policy?”

Hoft cackled loudly enough to startle a woman at a nearby table. “That’s fucking hilarious,” he said. “Should we do something about ‘S.N.L.,’ maybe?”

“A follow-up, Sean, if I may?” Wintrich said. “Do you think that the failing show ‘Saturday Night Live’ will be cancelled, or can it be made great again?”

“That’s hard-core,” Jeremy Segal, one of the filmmakers, said.

“Genius,” Hoft said. He finished his steak, ordered a slice of banana cream pie, and asked Wintrich whether he wanted another Martini. “Lucian, when we’re out together, I pay for everything. You know that, right?”

“That’s very kind of you,” Wintrich said.

Andrew Marcus, the other filmmaker, said, “The big decision you have to make is how much of a troll you’re willing to be.”

“He’s there to troll,” Hoft said.

For a moment, Wintrich seemed to get cold feet. “Should we have a couple of backup questions that are specifically about policy?” he asked, tentatively.

“Policy schmolicy,” Hoft said.

I can’t imagine Mallon reading these exchanges and restraining himself from burning every copy of Finale. Those whose conservative relatives still post on their walls know Gateway Pundit, a sewage line pumping some of the internet’s worst political clickbait (I actually saw “Breaking: Creepy New Video Released of Joe Biden Groping Little Girls” last December).

Yet when the Trump administration flails ever more noticeably, I don’t see sycophants like Wintrich heading for the hills. Trump needs applause like cats need litter boxes.

Revisiting Trump in Chicago a year later



A year ago this week, on March 11, the most promising event of the 2016 elections took place: Donald Trump was successfully no-platformed by protesters in Chicago. An article by Keith O’Brien in Politico Magazine  paints a fantastic picture of a successful model of protest.

Hanging over everything was a recent string of assaults against protesters at Trump rallies.

At that first meeting on Monday, which I did not attend, finding consensus on an actual protest plan sputtered in the lecture hall. “People had too many agendas,” UIC student Brian Geiger said later. “We didn’t get much accomplished.” There were supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and even one guy in a Ted Cruz shirt, but the students were intent on keeping the protest nonpartisan.

Students couldn’t agree how—or where—to protest. Angry over recent news of activists being physically assaulted at Trump events, some felt they shouldn’t be passive if attacked on Friday night. But others like Geiger—an African-American senior majoring in political science and an honors student at UIC—countered that non-violence was the only approach they could take. Anything else, he said, would reflect badly on them, the university and the cause. “What I’m fearful of,” he said, “is folks who are coming to this campus and want to start violence. That’s what scares me.”

But the students’ biggest concern, by far, was their own safety. Mateo Uribe Rios, a UIC senior and undocumented immigrant who came to the United States from Colombia as a child about 15 years ago, felt anxious just thinking about being on campus with a large Trump rally in the works. “I’m scared down to my bones,” Rios said. “We are the direct targets here. We—the students of color and undocumented students—are the targets of Trump’s narrative. If there’s violence, it will be focused on us.”

The following insights into the makings of the protest stands in stark contrast with the center-left takes over the following days that the protests were rooted in violence or standing in opposition to free speech.

Lewis and Robledo would help oversee the group of students interested in going inside. The goal: get in line long before the doors opened at 3 p.m. so they could claim center stage, between Trump’s podium and the media’s television cameras. “We will take the floor,” Lewis said. “I’m not even concerned about that.” Rojas was thinking about an exit strategy. He wanted to make sure the students inside the arena got out – either escorted by security, or on their own before the end of the event when tensions might be most strained.

“For safety concerns,” Rojas told the group. “We don’t want to be in direct conflict with anyone. We don’t want it to be Us vs. Them. It’s about unity and respect and tolerance.”

The seldom-remembered fact of it all was that the main event planned never actually happened.

The plan was straightforward. Once Trump began speaking, Lewis would begin sending messages to the groups around the hall—and, so prompted, they would each stand up, chanting, and disrupt the speech. It would then build to a crescendo: right there, in front of Trump’s podium. Lewis and the other protesters in front were going to link up—“arm in arm,” he instructed the students around him—and make their presence known in a silent, but conspicuous, circle. “It will speak louder,” Lewis said, “than anybody who interrupts Trump’s speeches.”

That would have been something. What happened was a little more violent, and the instigating event was actually Trump’s own cowardice.

They never got that chance. Just after 6:30 p.m. on Friday, a Trump official appeared on stage and abruptly told the crowd that the event was off. Trump would not be appearing. The crowd was shocked; the protesters spontaneously erupted in cheers. The official cited “safety” concerns, though both Chicago law enforcement and university police said they had reported none. In the coming hours, Trump would appear on television, calling the cancellation a “wise decision,” given the threat of what might have happened. “I don’t want to see anybody getting hurt,” he would tell CNN. On Twitter, he would blame “an organized group of people, many of them thugs” for what happened in Chicago, and assert that Bernie Sanders’ campaign had orchestrated the protesters. Protesters themselves – and even Trump’s GOP rivals – would denounce Trump for fomenting the violence that has flared at his rallies with increasing frequency over recent days, leading up to Friday night’s dramatic cancellation – the single most electric moment for the growing anti-Trump protest movement.

“Please go in peace,” the official told the crowd from the stage Friday night.

And that was the exact moment when the violence began, pitting Trump supporters against protesters, whites against blacks. An event—teetering on the edge until that moment, but still calm—devolved quickly into an angry scrum, and Lewis and his fellow students found themselves in the middle of it. They were standing near the podium where the candidate would not be appearing—with an increasingly angry crowd around them that knew exactly who had prevented Donald Trump from showing up.

“Stay together!” Lewis urged his fellow protesters.

The Trump supporters surged toward them, shouting and swearing. The confrontation the student protesters had hoped to avoid was coming, and there was nothing any of them could do to stop it.

Daniel O’Sullivan, for Rolling Stone, also offered his personal account, but editorializing his personal takes more bluntly. He begins by painting a portrait of the feelings creating tension at both ends of the confrontation.

I’ve been outside the UIC Pavilion for about 10 minutes when I first hear someone shout it from a passing car. It’s about 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon. The heckler, in a silver sedan, has come to a rolling stop to yell at the line of rally attendees — now long enough to snake along the length of the arena and a parking garage. The doors to Trump’s rally won’t open for another hour, and already at the south entrance, the maximum-capacity line has been shut off to any stragglers.

Ever since Trump announced he’d be coming to the University of Illinois at Chicago, it hadn’t made sense to me — Chicago writ large isn’t natural Trump territory, much less UIC, with its young, diverse student body. This wouldn’t be one of his barn-burning romps through the Deep South; this would be a pitched drive onto enemy territory, for Trump as well as his supporters — almost uniformly suburban or out-of-staters. Worse, the Trump camp seemed to have a ready-built opposition in formation: the coalition of largely black and Latino activists who had lately rocked Rahm Emanuel’s mayoralty, amidst the compelling evidence his administration had covered up the police murder of unarmed teenager Laquan McDonald.

O’Sullivan successfully captures what it meant when it was announced that Trump would not be speaking.

I look at the Trump supporters around me. They’ve gone totally silent.

To see many people in the same place stunned into silence — shock being slowly absorbed, pain being processed — is, it turns out, an unsettling experience.

It’s like looking at one of those photos from a baseball game, capturing the exact moment a rogue, flying bat lands in the crowd — each face frozen in a different, unnatural expression of panic.

The first sign any of the Trump supporters have processed what’s happening comes when an older couple wordlessly stand up and rush up the stairs past me. The backcourt on the general admission level is filling with protesters, endless protesters, Bernie signs now ringing the auditorium.

A man in camo pants stands with his mouth frozen in a snarl.

Make no mistake what it felt like to the people in that room: unconditional humiliation of the Trump faithful — some of whom had been waiting there since the previous day — at the hands of the black and Latino and Muslim men and women who were mocked and scorned and sucker-punched and kicked out of other rallies, and arrested at other protests, and called garbage and rapists and terrorists and scum, in Chicago and around the country.

I had expected violence, I had expected arrests — both of which were now happening in the arena — but it had not occurred to me that Trump could be backed down. But he has been, and everyone in that room knows it. Trump had been bested, his shtick as a tough guy corroded, his assets stripped.

The name “Trump,” emblazoned in garish gold two stories high on his glass tower on the Chicago River, has come to symbolize some orange-glazed Mussolini who just turned tail and ran back to his jet — all because enough people showed up to give him hell and force-feed him consequences.

These events would fuel our factory of take-making for the next week or so. Trump got the crap scared out of him the next day and the whole thing was clearly in his head. Those most vulnerable to Trump’s policy proposals and all-around atmosphere of hate felt more empowered than ever.

His general election opponent offered this statement.

It’s a social infection: the best of Pere Ubu


Here’s to a combo that combined what looks on paper like irreconcilables: some of the most forbidding noise committed to tape and some of the friendlies and most Muppet-friendly vocals and approach. David Thomas, the shaggy and uncategorizable lead singer, was like a politician organizing coalitions, a couple of which fought in his febrile imagination. Only one band could plot the journey from the self-loathing and horror of “Final Solution” (talk about a song that realizes its title) to “Bus Called Happiness”: the three men who recorded Joy Division’s “Decades” and the three men and one woman who recorded New Order’s “Fine Time.” The early results were the closest American approximation to early Roxy Music: Allen Ravenstine manipulating tape samples and synthesizers around the junk guitar styling of Tom Herman while a batshit lead singer was oblivious to the clamor.

What follow is a more restrictive list than usual. I don’t own The Art of Walking and Song of the Bailing Man, nor have I heard David Thomas’ solo albums. I lament the end of an era when I could buy Pere Ubu reissue at Best Buy, as I did in 1998. Fifteen years after purchasing I still haven’t penetrated Dub Housing (I’d love to read good writing about it and them); ten years after purchasing Cloudland I’m impressed by the manipulation of gloss for sinister ends — imagine crunching on a razor stuck into a chocolate mint.

1. Final Solution
2. Street Wave
3. Navvy
4. Bus Called Happiness
5. The Modern Dance
6. 30 Seconds to Tokyo
7. Non-Alignment Pact
8. Codex
9. Life Stinks
10. Happy
11. Say Goodbye
12. Laughing
13. Waiting For Mary
14. We Have the Technologoy
15. Kathleen
16. Breath
17. Louisiana Train Wreck
18. My Dark Ages
19. All the Dogs Are Barking!
20. Caligari’s Mirror

Watch out, Medicare and Medicaid — they’re coming for you



When Reagansaurus roamed the North American continent, he was clear about distinguishing between keeping Social Security and eliminating what he said were the “excesses” of the Great Society. He meant Medicare and Medicaid, which for the GOP represent in the case of the former unearned help for people who can’t pay for their senescence and in the case of the latter free health care for the indolent, worthless, and what the British call the redundant. The lucky include those fortunate enough to use Social Security survivor benefits to pay for copies of The Fountainhead read in college.

With the evisceration of the Affordable Care Act promised by the House GOP plan, the more sinister probability emerges that “the excesses” of the Great Society” are precisely what Ryan and Alabama’s Mo Brooks want to destroy, according to Tierney Sneed’s reporting:

But the bill’s major pay-for, to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars, is its overhaul of Medicaid and that’s where most of its coverage losses come from too. The Congressional Budget Office said this week that 14 million people would lose their coverage due to the legislation’s Medicaid provisions, though it’s unclear how many of those are a result of the phase out of Medicaid’s expanded eligibility versus its transformation of the larger program into a per-enrollee block grant.


With the feds offering a smaller and smaller share of the total costs to cover a state’s Medicaid program, the state will have the choice of either finding new revenue — via tax hikes or cuts elsewhere in their budgets — or making cuts to the program, such as offering fewer benefits or imposing cost-sharing or work requirements (which the Department of Health and Humans Services, under Secretary Tom Price, is already practically begging states to do.

On Chris Hayes’ show last night, Brooks said with the certainty of the converted and the insouciance of the psychopath comfortable in his own skin that he “absolutely” supports rescinding protections for preexisting conditions, supports a lifetime gap in benefits, keep lifetime cap, and would prevent children from remaining on their parents’ plan because in 2009 we had the “best healthcare system in the world.” Brooks’ honesty was refreshing.

The meat of an argument


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A Mississippian of Cuban descent, I cast a cold eye on sauces of any sort. Marinate or rub chickens and meats, therefore sauce are unnecessary. I allow mustard because at least one can make it. Ketchup, though — what is its purpose. Most store brands have high fructose corn syrup; slathering crimson lab-created sugar on a burger will kill the taste and, likely, you. As a result, I’m glad that liberals and conservatives can reach consensus:

In what is easily the most important survey finding of the early days of the Trump administration, the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds that Americans are generally united in their disdain for ketchup on steak. Over half (56 percent) say they disapprove of the practice. Only 27 percent are okay with it. And another 17 percent don’t seem to care either way.

Even more surprising, disapproval for putting ketchup on steak cuts across lines of race, gender, age and politics — with even a slim majority of ardent Trump fans declining to back their champion on this one.

PPP found majority disapproval for ketchup on steak across literally every demographic group it surveyed. Men (55 percent) and women (57 percent) see eye-to-eye on this. Democrats (56 percent) find bipartisan consensus with Republicans (54 percent). There’s no racial divide between black (59 percent) and white (56 percent).

I’m waiting for the next Howard Dean’s fifty-steak strategy.