Commentary

  • Why everyone's talking about 'Lady Bird,' and why you should be too

    Why everyone's talking about 'Lady Bird,' and why you should be too

    I went to see Greta Gerwig’s movie “Lady Bird” the other day and this is my three-word review: What a relief. What a relief to see a movie that so genuinely reflects a woman’s experience and viewpoint, and what a contrast to the trailers that preceded it in the theater on the day I was there. “Lady...

      • The dance of Luis, Chuy and Rahm is no coincidence

        The dance of Luis, Chuy and Rahm is no coincidence

        When it comes to Chicago mayoral politics, do you believe in coincidences? Some of you who’ve been watching the recent public dance of Luis, Chuy and Rahm may believe in coincidences. That’s unfortunate. Because only children believe in coincidences, and a few opium-smoking poets, and perhaps the...

        • Emanuel takes next step toward O'Hare express train

          Emanuel takes next step toward O'Hare express train

          Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking another step in his plan to build an express train from downtown to O'Hare International Airport by putting out a government version of a casting call. The city on Wednesday will issue a Request for Qualifications, or RFQ, for respondents to offer their credentials...

            • Pelosi's double standard: Naked, shameless partisanship

              Pelosi's double standard: Naked, shameless partisanship

              It's amazing how complicated simple principles can become when they're inconvenient to your team. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi created a mess for herself by insisting on NBC's “Meet the Press” that Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., deserves “due process” in the face of a series of accusations...

                • Trump's petty feuds with Warren, LaVar Ball are the true offense

                  Trump's petty feuds with Warren, LaVar Ball are the true offense

                  Here’s a question that, back in the days when we had a president who cared about such quaint old traditions as manners, we never thought we would be asking ourselves: Should the White House decide whether we should be offended by something that the president has said? That question came up Monday...

                • Actual experts confirm that the GOP tax plan is a dud

                  Actual experts confirm that the GOP tax plan is a dud

                  “Have you no sense of economics?” demanded an angry reader, objecting to my nine-point critique last Wednesday of Republican plans to overhaul the federal tax code. Well, I do have some sense. I have a sense that economics is in part a faith-based social science in which political and ideological...

                • Getting excited about royal weddings is a betrayal of the American Revolution

                  Getting excited about royal weddings is a betrayal of the American Revolution

                  In an essay Monday, my friend and editor Alyssa Rosenberg posited, "Enjoying Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's romance doesn't make you a bad American." And, at the risk of wearing out my welcome here, I have to disagree in the most vehement terms possible. My buddies' ancestors didn't die face...

                • How I dumped cable, saved money and lived to watch plenty of TV

                  How I dumped cable, saved money and lived to watch plenty of TV

                  I finally cut the cord. I did it a few weeks ago after realizing that I was watching a lot more television via my Amazon Fire device than my cable box. Partly, I wanted to save a little money. But I also wanted to see how easy — or hard — it would be to cobble together some streaming services that...

                • How Democrats and Republican can avoid moral hypocrisy

                  How Democrats and Republican can avoid moral hypocrisy

                  Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said everything he could say — even that there were no words to wipe away the sexual conduct he has already apologized for. ("I know there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust and that it's going to take time.") He sounded remorseful, not defiant. He said...

                • Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act. Will she be charged?

                  Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act. Will she be charged?

                  The special counsel is facing the biggest test of his career. I'm referring not to Robert Mueller but to Henry Kerner of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the small agency that investigates Hatch Act violations. That law prohibits executive branch employees from using their government positions...

                • I'm on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality.

                  I'm on the FCC. Please stop us from killing net neutrality.

                  Right now, you can go online and connect with friends, watch videos and read the news. There’s a good chance you are reading this online right now. We do much more on the internet than consume content, however. Increasingly, the internet is also where we create. We use online platforms and digital...

                • In defense of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

                  In defense of Sarah Huckabee Sanders

                  Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied about baking a chocolate pecan pie for Thanksgiving. The White House press secretary further ruined the national holiday by humiliating the press corps by asking them why they are grateful. While none of this is true, attacking Sanders personally has become the media's...

                • Outrage further divides us — and doesn't drive positive change

                  Outrage further divides us — and doesn't drive positive change

                  Tony Hovater, the Ohio man whose profile in The New York Times caused much indignation last weekend, would have been in jail or at least under close police surveillance if he lived in Germany. In the U.S., Hovater is free to keep posting swastika-filled pictures on Facebook — but the writer and...

                • How the Supreme Court could keep police from using your cellphone to spy on you

                  How the Supreme Court could keep police from using your cellphone to spy on you

                  The cellphones we carry with us constantly are the most perfect surveillance device ever invented, and our laws haven't caught up to that reality. That might change soon. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a case with profound implications for your security and privacy in the coming years....

                • This is what it’s like to win the lottery?

                  This is what it’s like to win the lottery?

                  For years as a child, I struggled to make my parents hear me when I told them my tennis coach was crazy. I knew something was wrong with him, but I didn’t have the words to describe the icky feeling he gave me inside. At 13, I somehow found the strength to fire him. My parents did not support my...

                • How worried should Trump be about Michael Flynn?

                  How worried should Trump be about Michael Flynn?

                  The juiciest possible meaning of a decision by Michael Flynn's legal team to cut off communication with President Donald Trump's team is that Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, is about to roll over and provide incriminating information about Trump or members of his inner...

                • The bodies finally caught up with the 'Butcher of Bosnia'

                  The bodies finally caught up with the 'Butcher of Bosnia'

                  “They are lying! You are lying!” Those were the words Nov. 22 of former Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, a defendant who could not contain his anger at being held to account for his crimes. As a judge read aloud the final trial judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,...

                • What happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'?

                  What happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'?

                  I want to praise Jeremy Piven. That’s a risky thing to do, I know. Piven is one of Those Men. One of those big entertainment figures who has fingers pointed at him. He has joined Harvey Weinstein, James Toback and many others in facing accusations that he abused his power to sexually abuse women....

                • Donald Trump is pathetically insecure

                  Donald Trump is pathetically insecure

                  Just how deep is President Donald Trump's well of narcissistic neediness? Well, The Washington Post reported Friday: "President Trump says that Time magazine was contemplating naming him the 'Person of the Year' for a second year in a row but that he pulled himself out of the running because he...

                • Constitution is on Trump's side in CFPB fight

                  Constitution is on Trump's side in CFPB fight

                  Lawsuits against President Donald Trump for abuse of executive power are an important tool for preserving the republic. But the newly filed suit by Democratic appointee Leandra English for the right to serve as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is not helping the cause....

                • Let's change our thinking on sex

                  Let's change our thinking on sex

                  The backlash to the #MeToo movement has begun. As the parade of post-Weinstein exposés marches on, so do the unhappy reactions to a sexual landscape suddenly turned on its head. There's the skittish colleague ("If I ask a woman out at work, am I going to be reported for harassment?"). The nervous...

                • Fill in the blanks to excuse your party's alleged pervert

                  Fill in the blanks to excuse your party's alleged pervert

                  Recently, I made the grave and irresponsible mistake of suggesting that bad is bad, and that the degree of one person’s badness doesn’t make another person’s lesser-badness OK. That was foolish of me, and I apologize. My flawed thinking went something like this: Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican...

                • How vinyl fills a generation’s need for human interaction

                  How vinyl fills a generation’s need for human interaction

                  The record player and the Polaroid camera, both antiquated technology, are making a comeback within my younger generation. These modernly useless machines have been embraced by “hipsters” and have assumed their own spot in a sort of new counterculture. But what makes people willing to pay for such...

                • Tesla on the wrong path with its driverless truck

                  Tesla on the wrong path with its driverless truck

                  The push for driverless and electric trucks, evidenced by the recent gaudy rollout of the Tesla semitrailer truck, is a fool’s errand. These “innovations” are akin to improving eight-track and cassette tapes in a world of streaming services. The move to driverless cars, however, makes sense because...

                • The first atomic furnace

                  The first atomic furnace

                  The atomic age began 75 years ago this Dec. 2, when a group of scientists gathered at the University of Chicago to determine whether they could achieve a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Their experiment, conducted in an unheated squash court underneath a defunct football stadium, was pursued...

                • Luring Amazon: A guide on how not to behave like a dunce

                  Luring Amazon: A guide on how not to behave like a dunce

                  The Amazon "HQ2" auction is in full swing, so prepare to witness some reckless behavior out of the reported 238 bidder states and localities. Like groupies in a 1960s rockumentary, public officials will be throwing themselves at the stage trying to catch the star's attention for its proposed $5...

                • Impeach Trump? Why top Democrats say it's too soon

                  Impeach Trump? Why top Democrats say it's too soon

                  Billionaire Tom Steyer was outraged that Fox News stopped running his ads that call for the impeachment of the network’s most famous fan, President Donald Trump. Fox claims the ads received “strong negative reaction” from viewers. That’s not hard to believe for Trump’s favorite network, especially...

                • 50 years ago, Francis Brenton sailed a canoe from Lake Michigan to Senegal

                  50 years ago, Francis Brenton sailed a canoe from Lake Michigan to Senegal

                  In November 1967, Francis Brenton was feared lost at sea. “I don’t know what to do — say prayers or what,” Lois Lundy, an official at the Field Museum, responded to the news. Brenton, an adventurer who acquired artifacts from around the world and sold them to the Field Museum, had departed Chicago’s...

                • Taking harassment seriously requires serious distinctions

                  Taking harassment seriously requires serious distinctions

                  There's a consensus aborning: There should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment, exploitation and violence of any kind. Enthusiasm for the new dawn varies widely. Some think it's a great feminist or moral awakening. Others see an era of witch hunts, prudery and weaponized politics in our future....

                • The miracle of an ordinary day?

                  The miracle of an ordinary day?

                  For a wildly popular worldwide phenomenon, social media certainly gets a lot of bad press — and often, it’s for good reason. The latest “conscientious objector” to humanity’s insatiable craze for digital oversharing is none other than Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and Facebook’s founding...

                • Species die, people. Deal with it.

                  “Evolution loves death more than it loves you or me. This is easy to write, easy to read, and hard to believe.” — Annie Dillard, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” Near midnight, during an expedition to southwestern Ecuador in December 2013, I spotted a small green frog asleep on a leaf, near a stream by...

                • Thanksgiving: A list of reluctant thank yous

                  As I was walking into a White Castle recently, a young man around 19 years old and wearing a Cubs hat skipped ahead and held the door open for me. Healthy and able-bodied, I was irked. I’m not some doddering old-timer, I considered telling him. But I stopped myself, realizing I should not allow...

                • I am President Trump, and I think women are very special

                  I am President Trump, and I think women are very special

                  "Women are very special. I think it's a very special time, a lot of things are coming out, and I think that's good for our society and I think it's very, very good for women, and I'm very happy a lot of these things are coming out. I'm very happy it's being exposed." - President Donald Trump -...

                • I'm thankful Hillary Clinton is not president

                  I'm thankful Hillary Clinton is not president

                  This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things — but when it comes to politics, I am especially thankful that Hillary Clinton is not sitting in the Oval Office. I am thankful that Neil Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court and that President Donald Trump has secured a conservative majority that will...

                • Remembering everyone who ever shared your Thanksgiving feast

                  Remembering everyone who ever shared your Thanksgiving feast

                  Imagine the Thanksgiving table of your life. It’s a long table, populated by all the people who have ever sat down with you at a Thanksgiving meal. It’s a heavy table, groaning with every great and awful Thanksgiving dish you’ve ever eaten or avoided. Here’s to you, green-bean-mushroom-soup-and-potato-chip...

                • 9 reasons not to be thankful for the GOP’s tax plans

                  9 reasons not to be thankful for the GOP’s tax plans

                  Let us pause, as we prepare to consider gratefully the blessings and bounties of life, to review what’s to dislike and fear about the various Republican plans to reshape the tax system. 9. They’re anti-education. The House plan eliminates the deduction for student loan interest and the exemption...

                • On Thanksgiving eve, CTA serves up budget — including 25-cent fare hike

                  On Thanksgiving eve, CTA serves up budget — including 25-cent fare hike

                  As many Chicagoans were traveling or baking pies in preparation for Thanksgiving and the long holiday weekend, city officials announced a proposal to raise CTA bus and train fares by 25 cents next year in what would be the first across-the-board hike since 2009. The 2018 fare increase is intended...

                • Charlie Rose, the time for honoring yourself is at an end

                  Charlie Rose, the time for honoring yourself is at an end

                  Creepy old Charlie Rose has been fired, another in what appears now to be a never-ending line of older, more powerful men sexually harassing young women. Rose, famed but now terminated PBS and CBS broadcaster, is of a generation of celebrity geezers who thought status could shield them from consequences....

                • Trump's sickening decision to stand by Roy Moore

                  Trump's sickening decision to stand by Roy Moore

                  Remember these words: “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat.” They mark a moment of immorality from which the Republican Party may not return. They were spoken, of course, by President Donald Trump, a man who long ago surrendered his own morality to make room for more ego. He was...

                • The fairy godmother stumper: I like to imagine I'd be much more generous, if I only had more to spare

                  The fairy godmother stumper: I like to imagine I'd be much more generous, if I only had more to spare

                  It was more than 100 degrees that day. I didn’t eat breakfast, slept poorly the night before, and nearly passed out at the Brewery ArtWalk in downtown Los Angeles. A stranger came to my aid. She brought me water and held ice to the back of my neck. She murmured encouraging words and stayed at my...

                • Elephants, yes. And also halt trophy imports of polar bears, lions ...

                  Elephants, yes. And also halt trophy imports of polar bears, lions ...

                  Days after the Trump administration ignited a public uproar by moving to allow hunters to bring the remains of dead elephants "bagged" in Zambia and Zimbabwe back into the United States, President Donald Trump unexpectedly changed his tune and vowed to review "the conservation facts" and provide...

                • 'Santa's Husband' — A Christmas book that celebrates how normal it is to be different

                  'Santa's Husband' — A Christmas book that celebrates how normal it is to be different

                  There’s a new children’s Christmas story on bookshelves this year, and it begins, wonderfully, like this: “This is Santa Claus.” There’s a drawing of a happy St. Nick. He’s black. It continues: “This is Santa Claus’s husband, Mr. Claus.” There’s a drawing of a cheerful, portly white man with a...

                • Mr. Thanksgiving Advice Man returns with some last-minute tips

                  Mr. Thanksgiving Advice Man returns with some last-minute tips

                  Mr. Thanksgiving Advice Man is back, but not by popular demand. He’s back by urgent necessity, so your Thanksgiving celebrations aren’t ruined by shrieks of pain when your guests — who’ll no doubt insist on talking politics — begin stabbing each other in the forehead with forks. Forks in the forehead...

                • What a just OK Uber rating says about you

                  What a just OK Uber rating says about you

                  A few days ago, I got a phone call from a puzzled friend who had just received an email from Uber detailing her interactions with the ride-sharing service, which she had joined in 2014. One number stood out: 4.5 out of a possible 5. How, my friend wondered, could this rating bestowed by Uber drivers...

                • When bosses are bullies

                  When bosses are bullies

                  Policymakers have enjoyed a free pass in discussions over what to do in response to the sexual harassment allegations taking down Hollywood producers, news media titans and actors. Because the worst of the transgressions already are illegal, lawmakers seem satisfied to call for culprits to be fired...

                • Charles Manson’s depravity was regrettably human

                  Charles Manson’s depravity was regrettably human

                  Charles Manson died on Sunday night after being admitted to a hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., on Wednesday. The infamous cult leader, who was convicted along with three of his followers in 1971 of the murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others, was 83 years old. How do we assess Manson? If...

                • Give yourself a holiday gift — less time with your phone

                  Give yourself a holiday gift — less time with your phone

                  I was on my way to the airport one day recently when I reached into my pocket for my phone. The “L” train was approaching, headed to Midway, and, obviously, I would need to distract myself on the ride by checking out Facebook, Twitter, two email accounts and assorted news sites. I might also need...

                • A glimmer of hope for embattled engine that powers preservation of historic buildings

                  A glimmer of hope for embattled engine that powers preservation of historic buildings

                  The word “conservative” comes from the same linguistic root as “conserve,” which means to protect an environmentally or culturally important thing from harm or destruction, according to my online dictionary. So there was a striking dissonance in last week’s House vote, championed by conservative...

                • This is a new day for feminists, I reckon

                  This is a new day for feminists, I reckon

                  As we chatted about Sen. Al Franken’s embarrassing photo, a male friend acknowledged being unsettled by it. “I wouldn’t want to be remembered forever,” he said, “for the worst 20 seconds of my life.” Right. Who would? Yet that may well be the Minnesota Democratic senator and former “Saturday Night...

                • The complicated history of Gen. Philip Sheridan

                  The complicated history of Gen. Philip Sheridan

                  In Chicago, it is possible to view the dispute over monuments that honor the leaders of the Confederacy with a righteous detachment. Sure, Chicago has a grand memorial to nearly 4,000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas. And sure, Chicago has a street (and a column) bearing the name of...

                • Why Democrats should tell Al Franken to resign

                  Why Democrats should tell Al Franken to resign

                  When it comes to sexual harassment and misconduct, it's safe to assume that when one accusation is made against a prominent man, there will be more to follow. And so it is now, as CNN reports: "A woman says Sen. Al Franken inappropriately touched her in 2010, telling CNN that he grabbed her buttocks...

                • Mannequins are malnourished. This holiday season, let's aim for healthier goals.

                  Mannequins are malnourished. This holiday season, let's aim for healthier goals.

                  As we dive into the holiday season, I’d like to share some news that might make the celebrations more festive. Go ahead and have that second glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve. There’s no need to try to look like a mannequin. As it turns out, the female dummies modeling those skinny jeans in...

                • It's Thanksgiving. Be happy.

                  It's Thanksgiving. Be happy.

                  For evolution, the Constitution, And the ATMs of banks, The Times and Post and the whole West Coast, I want to give sincerest thanks. A Mozart sonata, my inamorata, And a first-rate BLT. For Silverman (Sarah) and the Obama era, I give thanks most thankfully. I'm a fraud, a fake, a big mistake,...

                • It's always been our duty to report the truth. So why'd it take so long?

                  It's always been our duty to report the truth. So why'd it take so long?

                  Back in the ’70s I was attending an annual editors meeting when I was asked in a confidential session what I was working on. At the time I was a managing editor for investigations for Scripps-Howard Newspapers. I replied that I didn't feel comfortable with providing many details at that point but...

                • City explains lights on unfinished Navy Pier flyover; holiday train rides again

                  City explains lights on unfinished Navy Pier flyover; holiday train rides again

                  Today’s column is a hodgepodge, offered in the hope that leaping from subject to subject will help provide some post-holiday exercise. We’ll start with a small mystery about the unfinished Navy Pier Flyover on the Lakefront path — why are the lights on? The path will not open until 2019, five years...

                • Al Franken's 'Saturday Night Live' era was full of jokes disparaging women

                  Al Franken's 'Saturday Night Live' era was full of jokes disparaging women

                  The photo that emerged last week of the senior senator from Minnesota pawing at the breasts of a sleeping woman was heinous, but it wasn't unfamiliar. Nor was the mugging grin on Al Franken's face as he grabbed at her or his initial response that he was trying to be funny. Sexist jokes have long...

                • A middle-class tax cut? Oh, puhleeze!

                  A middle-class tax cut? Oh, puhleeze!

                  President Donald Trump and his Republicans are still trying to sell their tax bill as a “middle-class tax cut.” The middle class isn't buying it — but that won't stop Congress from passing some version of the plan. The GOP's tax proposal was always going to be a hard sell. Its centerpiece is a...

                • Bill and Hillary Clinton should be investigated

                  Bill and Hillary Clinton should be investigated

                  President Donald Trump's critics are arguing that GOP calls for the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton and Democrats' ties to Russia are an effort to distract from the real Russia investigation, into potential Trump-Russia collusion. No, they are not. Ever since Watergate, the mantra...

                • Stop using language of mental health to criticize President Trump

                  Stop using language of mental health to criticize President Trump

                  The claim that President Donald Trump is mentally unwell has a particular valence in today’s charged political environment. It isn’t supposed to sound like a partisan criticism. It’s supposed to sound like an objective statement of medical fact. That’s especially true when it’s uttered by mental-health...

                • The 'Crying Indian' ad that fooled the environmental movement

                  The 'Crying Indian' ad that fooled the environmental movement

                  It’s probably the most famous tear in American history: Iron Eyes Cody, an actor in Native American garb, paddles a birch bark canoe on water that seems, at first, tranquil and pristine, but that becomes increasingly polluted along his journey. He pulls his boat ashore and walks toward a bustling...

                • A Bill Clinton 'reckoning' for Democrats? Don't hold your breath.

                  A Bill Clinton 'reckoning' for Democrats? Don't hold your breath.

                  The word has gone forth that a "reckoning" is due. Democrats are preparing to come to terms with Bill Clinton's sexual transgressions. Sort of. Depending on what you mean by "reckoning." Last week, in a conversation with a male Democratic consultant about the extraordinary wave of sexual harassment...

                • New architecture books with Chicago ties are food for the eye and mind

                  New architecture books with Chicago ties are food for the eye and mind

                  ‘Tis the season for eating Thanksgiving leftovers and buying architecture books that delight the eye and engage the mind. Here are three new titles, each with strong Chicago connections: “How to Build a Skyscraper,” by John Hill, Firefly Books, 192 pages, $24.95 hardcover William Le Baron Jenney’s...

                • What GOP values? Republicans will back an alleged child predator if it means they can win

                  What GOP values? Republicans will back an alleged child predator if it means they can win

                  If you want to see the state of the GOP these days take a gander at Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. Asked about her vote for Senate, she had this to say: "I'm going to cast my ballot on December the 12th, and I do believe the nominee of the party is the one I'll vote for. I believe in the Republican...

                • Trump's obsession with Hillary Clinton should scare everyone

                  Trump's obsession with Hillary Clinton should scare everyone

                  During his presidency, Barack Obama was under considerable pressure to initiate prosecutions against officials in the George W. Bush administration. Even before taking office, Obama strongly signaled that he would not do this, suggesting that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”...

                • Thanksgiving is dreadful, but giving thanks? That part is good.

                  Thanksgiving is dreadful, but giving thanks? That part is good.

                  I’m something of a Thanksgiving Scrooge. (I apologize for mixing holiday references. Feel free to throw gravy at me.) Growing up, my paternal grandparents lived down the street. All our other family members lived far away and never came around, so Thanksgiving would just be my mom and dad and the...

                • Illinois' looming battle over the bankrupting ‘blue model'

                  Illinois' looming battle over the bankrupting ‘blue model'

                  Not without thy wondrous story, Illinois, Illinois, Can be writ the nation's glory, Illinois, Illinois. — Official state song This state's story, which lately has been depressing, soon will acquire a riveting new chapter. In 2018, Illinois will have the nation's most important, expensive and strange...

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