Discover more from Eric Zorn: The Picayune Sentinel
An unfair slam at mothers-in-law?
and the weirdest sentence ever just got three words longer
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Eric Zorn is a former opinion columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Find a longer bio and contact information here. This issue exceeds in size the maximum length for a standard email. To read the entire issue in your browser, click on the headline link above. Become a paid subscriber to receive each Picayune Plus in your email inbox each Tuesday and join our civil and productive commenting community.
Old school selfies
I posted this to Facebook the other day with the note that we have it easy these days with our camera phones with front facing lenses.
Teri Wilson Piechocki commented “Hey if you have been on any dating sites, men are still taking selfies like this. Usually there is a toilet in the background.”
Colleen Coughlin replied, “And usually that's because the picture they're using on their dating profile *was* taken in 1992.”
Notes and comments from readers —lightly edited —- along with my responses
There is a robust to acrimonious discussion in the comment thread of last Tuesday’s Picayune Plus that would take up this entire issue if I reprinted it, but to summarize: The question is whether racism in the hearts of police explains why they kill Black people at disproportionate levels or if other factors explain it.
My view is this: The link between poverty, inequality, community disinvestment and violence crime is fairly well established — indeed it’s an animating belief in the long-range anti-crime initiatives embraced by Chicago’s progressive mayor Brandon Johnson. And the fact that such problems afflict the Black community more than other ethnic/racial communities due to the pernicious effects of long-term, systemic racism against African Americans in our society is an equally well established view. So the increased frequency of police interactions with Black people, like the disproportionately higher incarceration rates for Black people, seems understandable and far less the result of the racism of individual police officers than of historical, systemic racism.
Though that doesn’t mean that individual police officers don’t sometimes act on racially prejudicial thoughts and impulses. That’s tough to prove in individual cases and tough to disentangle from a broad range of assumptions that police officers, being human, bring to any situation.
All of us respond to certain cues when making judgments about others — those cues include age, attire, physical and gender presentation as well as perceived ethnicity. Most of us have time to weigh those initial judgments against the reality of the individual and deal fairly and generously with those we encounter. The best of us do so. Police officers don’t always have the luxury of that kind of time.
Jeff B. — Regarding your item on the debt-ceiling wrangling, “Relax! The big chickens are too scared of the big babies to put the nation into default:” A law of economics states that when a society doesn’t control wealth, then wealth controls society. This is proven in every civilization in which wealth was not taxed enough, Rome, Babylon, Feudal Europe, the Mongol Empire, etc.. The implementation of the income tax and ever increasing upper marginal tax rates grew our middle class to include working people, wage laborers and others who had traditionally been excluded. It wasn’t unions — although they did help promote workers’ rights and increase pay — but progressive taxation that controlled wealth such that the wealth flowed back to those whose labor created it — the workers. Reducing that rate — cutting upper marginal tax rates and lowering the taxes on capital gains — increased the flow of wealth back to the wealthy.
Taxes pay for things people consider important and necessary. Taxation also controls wealth and thus moderates the power of the wealthy. Taxation is necessary. Wake up people.
Bill L. — I'm with you in your support of laws allowing for and regulating “human composting” as a means of burial. But given that the proposal died in committee in Springfield this year, why don’t you get behind a movement to get people to donate their bodies to medical schools. The human body is an amazing thing (especially the brain!) and I hate to see it just laid in the ground to rot.
Zorn — You make good sense. Becoming a classroom project for medical students isn’t an idea that appeals to me personally, but I wonder why all the people who say they find human composting so degrading aren’t campaigning to forbid cadaver research and experimentation.
A.K — I liked this tweet in the most recent poll: “A week ago my mother-in-law began reading “The Exorcist.” She said it was the most evil book she ever read. So evil she couldn’t finish it. She took it to the beach and threw it off the pier. I went and bought another copy, ran it under the tap and left it on the bedside table in her room.” But I hate mother-in-law jokes.
Can we just take a pause on the misogynistic MIL jokes while we think about what we're really suggesting about women? Older women?
Zorn — Nothing would be lost in “The Exorcist” tweet if the victim of the prank were a father-in-law, a brother, an uncle or a friend of any gender presentation. The joke invokes no stereotypical “annoying mother-in-law” traits and does not rely on a shared , implicit contempt for her. Which is probably why I didn’t see it as one of those “mother-in-law jokes” that, yes, we should be careful about telling.
Angela B. — It’s hard to take the Satanists who want to deliver an invocation at the Chicago City Council meeting seriously when they go to great lengths insisting that they don’t actually worship Satan, yet what they are in fact fighting for is the right to say “Hail Satan.” Basically they are saying, “we don’t actually mean what we say, but we are deeply attached to our right to say ‘fuck you, sheeple!’ and call it religion.
Zorn — I don’t know that they’re insincere. And I don’t know what a neutral, functional definition of “religion” is if not an attitude or belief about the supernatural. I don’t particularly want government in the position of taking sides about what a valid or respectable belief is about God or gods or a lack thereof.
Marc. M — I find it hard to believe that anyone on the City Council is taking any guidance from, or even paying attention to, the religious invocations that begin the meetings. The ritual is archaic virtue signaling to curry favor with religious leaders who have influence with voters and with people of certain faiths.
Zorn— Yeah, it’s funny to me how so many members of the right-wing indignati huff and puff about liberal “virtue signaling” while also engaging in ostentatious displays of their patriotism and religiosity.
Tom T. — I agree that it would be nice to see the Denver Nuggets win the NBA title. Their best player, Nikola Jokić, is a joy to watch. He's a 7 footer who can handle the ball like a point guard, and it seems like he would rather make a pass than take a shot. It is rare to see such an unselfish player in the NBA. Go Nuggets!
Zorn — I agree, tempting though it is to root for the underdog, Cinderella Miami Heat starring former Chicago Bull Jimmy Butler. But it’s Denver’s turn. And Jokić is indeed amazing and entertainIng
Greg W. — It was great to see “Mighty Mighty” as the tune of the week. It has always been my favorite Earth, Wind and Fire song and one that I feel is mostly overlooked.
Mark McD — Regarding your item explaining how ‘Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo’ is a coherent eigh-word sentence, I must point out that "buffalo" is also a color — HTML Hex code #6f4404 — so that sentence could be expanded by three words to 11, if describing the color of each buffalo from the city of Buffalo: "Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."
Zorn — My head is spinning here, but yes. I will bracket the use of buffalo as a color to help clarify: "[Buffalo Buffalo] buffalo buffalo [buffalo Buffalo] buffalo buffalo [buffalo Buffalo] buffalo."
Marge C. — I’ve enjoyed your columns over the years and the Picayune Sentinel recently, but find I don’t have time to read and engage with it. I don’t want to renew my subscription, and I didn’t see a place to do that.
Zorn — Sorry to see you go! As with many newsletters and mass mailings , the “unsubscribe” link is at the very bottom. Here it is, though, for your convenience.
Regarding Laying out the case for lying out
Wendy C. wrote, “Long before the dangers of unprotected sun exposure were known, ‘to lay out’ or ‘laying out’ (as we called it when I was young) was very popular. I think it is the correct term when describing that particular activity.”
I replied, “I wouldn't say ‘correct.’ I would concede that idiomatic incorrect usage has made it standard and therefore acceptable by most lights. Like starting a sentence with ‘hopefully’ or referring to a person with the pronoun ‘that,’ as in, ‘Zorn is the guy that writes the best newsletter on the internet.’"
Regarding the use of British spelling:
And I was stunned by this lack of support for what I thought was a very popular dessert treat:
A reader wrote in to say that this sign just popped up by a school in his Northwest Side neighborhood. He asked if I'd ever seen anything like it. I had not, but I’m told such zones are relatively common around city schools.
I'm not generally a fan of permit parking zones for residents, but I'm really opposed to permit parking zones on public streets for non-residents. Most people who drive to work have to hunt up a space to park; why not school personnel?
Yet some commenters on Facebook made a reasonable point that such zones allow schools not to turn their playgrounds into parking lots while also making life easier on teachers, whose work we greatly value. And reserved parking is are particularly important for specialists to must travel from school to school.
Ya gotta see these tweets!
I often run across tweets that rely on visual humor and so can’t be included in the Tweet of the Week contest (the template I use for that poll does not allow me to include images). Here are a few good ones I’ve come across recently:
Vote for your favorite. I will disqualify any tweets I later find out used digitally altered photos. I’ll share the winner in Thursday’s main edition.
There’s still time to vote in the conventional Tweet of the Week poll!
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