Democrats vs. socialist Democrats

Sometimes it takes a leftist-ish commentator to figure out what the left is up to, particularly when lefties are fighting among themselves.

Matt Taibbi:

The Democratic Party is not known for its sense of humor, but news that Joe Biden will appoint longtime Center for American Progress chief Neera Tandento his government qualifies as a rare, well-earned laugh line.

Tanden is famous for two things: having a puddle of DNC talking points in place of a cerebrum, and despising Bernie Sanders. She was #Resistance’s most visible anti-Sanders foil, spending awe-inspiring amounts of time on Twitter bludgeoning Sanders and his supporters as a deviant mob of Russian tools and covert “horseshoe theory” Trump-lovers. She has, to put it gently, an ardent social media following. Every prominent media figure with even a vague connection to Sanders learned in recent years to expect mud-drenched pushback from waves of “Neera trolls” after any public comment crossing DNC narratives. No name in blue politics is more associated with seething opposition to Sanders than Tanden.

Biden is making this person Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Sanders is the ranking member (and, perhaps, future chair) of the Senate Budget Committee. Every time Bernie even thinks about doing Committee business, he’ll be looking up at Neera Tanden. For a party whose normal idea of humor is ten thousand consecutive jokes about Trump being gay with Putin, that’s quite a creative “fuck you.”

As friend and former Sanders aide David Sirota put it:

The Democrats still have to reckon with Trumpism in both the short and long term, but the Sanders movement on their other flank has at least temporarily been routed as a serious oppositional force. The Democrats know this, which is part of the joke of the Tanden appointment. While the party’s labors to oppose Trump have been incoherent at best, the campaign to kneecap Sanders has been, let’s admit it, brilliant.

The Blue Apparat has always despised Bernie and his various precursor movements far more than it hated Republicans, and for good reason. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Clintonite hacks in cushy Washington sinecures who would have retained their spots in the event of a loss to Trump. A Sanders win would have put them all out of the politics business for a while. It was unsurprising to see the party mainstream marshaling all of what passes for its brainpower to devise a long game to crate-train Sanders, who in less than a year went from oppositional favorite to seize the Democratic nomination to obedient afterthought.

In hindsight, the key blow against the Sanders movement was delivered way back on February 13th, 2016. Sanders at the time was making a primary race expected to be a blowout competitive, mostly via simple juxtaposition of Wall Street misbehavior and Hillary Clinton’s amazing aptitude for wolfing down corporate speaking fees. In the lead-up to the Iowa caucus, Sanders ran an ad blasting Goldman, Sachs for its role in trading “toxic” mortgage securities, and asked: how does Wall Street get away with it? Answer: “millions in contributions and speaking fees”:

The Clinton campaign for weeks struggled to come up with an answer for why it was okay for her Super PAC, the ironically-named Priorities USA, to take the bulk of its money from Wall Street, or why Clinton and her husband in fifteen years had racked up an incredible $153 million in speaking fees, at an average of $210,795 per speech, including $600,000 from Goldman. The first effort at a defense was to blast Sanders for using what she called an “artful smear,” claiming he couldn’t come up with a specific example of how all that special interest money had affected her.

“If you’ve got something to say, say it directly,” she said in a debate, adding that she objected to the idea that “anyone who’s ever taken donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.”

This argument worked for Sanders, though, as Clinton was essentially repeating that she was taking gobs of special interest money. She moved off the “I strenuously object on behalf of those who’ve collected massive speaking fees” defense soon enough and shifted to another, arguing on February 8th, 2016 that Sanders, too, had taken some Wall Street money — through the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee! For obvious reasons, this argument, that Sanders had been corrupted “indirectly” through her own party’s campaign apparatus, fell flat as well.

The true Eureka! moment came in a speech in Henderson, Nevada in that second week of February. Clinton told supporters that, of course — hand on heart — she’d be more than happy to break up the banks, “if they deserve it.” At the same time, she wondered what that would really accomplish:

Would breaking up banks end racism, she asked the crowd? No! came the answer. Sexism? No! Discrimination against the LGBT community? No! Would punishing banks make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight? Or fix problems with voting rights for people of color, the elderly, the young? No, no, no, and NO!

None of this made sense, of course. Raising the minimum wage, curtailing carbon emissions, lowering student debt, curing cancer, securing world peace, or any of a thousand other worthwhile things wouldn’t have solved the parade of meta-problems Clinton listed. There was no logical reason to depict the two sets of things — economic and racial justice aims — as contradictory goals. But Clinton’s “Not everything is an economic theory!” speech stuck, with the media most of all. From that point forward, everything Sanders said about inequality was spun by party messengers as half of a zero-sum equation that somehow punished disadvantaged groups on the other end.

The brilliant innovation was adopting the language of intersectionality to beat back the party’s populist flank. In March of 2016, in the middle of a debate with Sanders in Flint, Michigan, the Clinton campaign posted a jargon-crammed chart depicting the “intersectional challenges” that “we” face, noting that “real plans” were needed. This was classic Clintonian politics, mastering the lexicon of social progressivism to mask a lunge rightward on economic questions:

Hillary Clinton @HillaryClinton

We face a complex, intersectional set of challenges. We need solutions and real plans for all of them. #DemDebate

The 2016 rip of Sanders as a “pie in the sky” candidate who didn’t offer “real” solutions to “intersectional” problems was an echo of 2008, when Bill Clinton denounced Barack Obama as a “fairy tale” candidate. In that year, and really in all previous cycles, the Clinton strategy had been to push back against progressive challenges by depicting themselves as realists who eschewed “purity” to “get things done.” In 2016, though, the DNC priesthood ripped off the language of “purist” activists to fend off Sanders, an unvarnished underdog character straight out of Capra the Party would now recast as the reactionary representative of the patriarchy.

As Democratic speechwriter Jon Favreau put it in one of the Wikileaks emails:

This idea that class is the only divide and economic issues are all that matter is a very white male centric view of the world (a Bernie Bro view, if you will). It also reminds me of the hilarious joke that Brian Buetler keeps making every time some asshole says something horribly racist about Obama or sexist about Hillary or prejudice about immigrants and Muslims– oh, let’s not blame them, they’re just economically anxious.

In that same letter culled from the Podesta Wiki dump, Favreau said aloud the taboo truth that “economic anxiety” was, of course, real. However, he said Trump’s emergence made “divisiveness” a more important issue than “inequality” …

Years later, an anonymous Clinton aide would spell all of this out even more, telling Vox that Bernie’s status as a “cis white man” gave him “privilege” that disqualified him from talking about political strategy choices in the Trump era.

The irony was the Clinton brand was built on the opposite strategy. Bill Clinton-Dick Morris politics revolved around the relentless working of wedge issue math, with the candidate constantly veering right and attacking left to steal away Republican advantages. Bill Clinton passed the infamous 1994 crime bill (which formalized the equally infamous “100-1” sentencing disparity for crack versus cocaine users), introduced the “Defense of Marriage Act” to undercut gay marriage, passed NAFTA, and implemented the welfare reform law long sought by the likes of Ronald Reagan, among countless other examples of regressive policy choices designed to steal Republican thunder.

All of this, the New Yorker wrote back in 1996, allowed Clinton to:

Deploy the wedge issues of economic populism against the Republicans while blunting the Republicans’ ability to use the wedge issues of social populism against him… On issues of criminal rights and liberties — what might be called Willie Horton issues — [Clinton] has… gone so far to the right that he has been willing to back measures of dubious constitutionality.

With Sanders, this script was flipped exactly backward. This time, Democrats used “wedge issues of social populism” to fight back against “economic populism.” The same political sect that leaked photos of Barack Obama in African garb, implied South Carolina wasn’t a meaningful primary state because Jesse Jackson had won there, and went out of its way to execute mentally impaired Ricky Ray Rector as a seeming campaign stunt, was now draping itself in racial sanctimony. Meanwhile, the rumpled Vermont socialist Sanders was cast — by Clintons — as the icon of white liberal racism! It would all be laughable, if it didn’t also work.

With the aid of enormous quantities of hype and bull artistry, opinionmakers heading into the 2019-2020 election cycle crafted a new vision of the intellectual “controversy” that divided Democrats, and described the difference between Sanders and the field of mainstream challengers like Biden. The crucial question, supposedly: was the road to solving America’s problems a matter of erasing class inequities? Or did a “class only” analysis insufficiently highlight the special disadvantages faced by communities of color and other disadvantaged groups?

A third possibility — that mainstream Democrats as a rule ignored both questions and primarily whored for corporate donors — was ignored. Democratic politics was presented as a binary proposition, where the two choices were an enlightened approach stressing racial justice, or a “class determinism” that was really just a fetish of rich white kids dabbling in leftist politics because they felt guilty about their inheritances. There was a trickle of this rhetoric in 2015-2016, but by 2019, feature after feature pondered the “stubborn economism” of the Sanders campaign, wondering aloud if Bernie had the goods to answer the all-important question, “Is it race or class?”

In truth the schism within the Party had nothing to do with any fictitious Sophie’s Choice between tackling racism or economic inequality, as if the two were mutually exclusive. The real issue was money. Sanders refused to take corporate donations. Clinton Democrats refused to “unilaterally disarm,” and did take them. This was the entire debate and it wasn’t complicated. Pundits however were able to muddy these waters pretty easily, in large part because they knew the intellectual weaknesses of left-leaning media audiences, as well as Sanders himself.

This ingenious campaign against “Bernie Bros,” led in significant part by online trolls like Tanden, was a success for predictable reasons. Sanders on his touchiest day is not the most confrontational of personalities. He doesn’t enjoy the bloodsport of politics and preferred to try to win in 2016 and 2020 though what aides grumblingly described as the “rock concert.” Before massive adoring crowds, Bernie would recite a gospel about the evils of corporate influence, hoping that sheer righteous enthusiasm would carry the day. He rarely stressed about his opponents’ efforts to caricature him. When Bernie did get mad, like for instance at the coverage of the Washington Post, it often worked. But these episodes were rare, as he tended to reserve his ire for systemic villains, and rarely seemed motivated to answer personal insults.

As a result, Sanders never found a way to call bullshit on the “But will it end racism?” line. If anything, he was paralyzed by it. The difference between 2016 Bernie and 2020 Bernie is that the latter version seemed deeply troubled by charges that he was “out of touch” on issues like race, which, frankly, he was, at times. It was true that the aging Senator of a white agricultural state often tensed up over race questions or used outdated language, in episodes that allowed press wolves to depict him as a secret unreconstructed bigot (his use of the word “ghetto” in 2016 was an example). There were times when he seemed at a loss on racial issues in ways he was not on economic matters.

Of course, relatively speaking, Sanders had a terrific record on racial justice — he had marched with King when Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater girl and Joe Biden was chain-fighting Corn Pop, and had advocated for the working poor his whole life — but he agonized over the criticism in ways more shame-immune opponents did not. The DNC and its messengers were counting on Bernie’s decades of residence in the weeds of fringe-liberal politics, where winning obscure doctrinal arguments in interminable (if sparsely attended) meetings and fighting pitched battles over things like who is and is not a sellout can be more important activities than, say, winning anything. With the “Bernie Bro” narrative, the party went after Bernie’s rep as a real progressive, and he was constitutionally incapable of ignoring such a provocation.

It was the same with charges that he was a favorite of the Russians, another regular theme of Tanden. Rather than recognize from the start that the Russia issue was being used as a club against opposition voices across the spectrum, including the antiwar left, Sanders tiptoed around the question, often giving lip service to the most absurd Russiagate theories. He didn’t show a hint of anger until a fresh dump of “Secret Sources Say Putin Loves Bernie!” reports hit the news about ten minutes before the Nevada caucus.

Bernie at least saw through that one. “I’ll let you guess about one day before the Nevada caucuses,” he quipped last February. “The Washington Post? Good friends.”

Even in that case, though, Sanders couldn’t take the next step. Instead of taking aim at the conniving bund of reporters, DNC pols, and intelligence sources driving these McCarthy-style attacks, Sanders after the Nevada incident dutifully denounced the Foreign Menace. “I unequivocally condemn such interference,” he said, essentially conceding that Russia was helping his campaign.

Just like Jeremy Corbyn, who looked weak when he dignified both the red-baiting claims that Russia was helping him and the breathless accusations of anti-Semitism cooked up as a last-ditch effort to delegitimize his coalition, Sanders helped shovel dirt on his own movement by failing to strike back in anger at these multitudinous bogus propaganda campaigns. Now the Democrats have the White House back, and it’s already pretty clear that Sanders voters are going to be rewarded for this timidity with four years of the High Hat.

How bad is it? Appointments like Janet Yellen, John Kerry and, yes, even Tanden are being lauded as picks likely to be “welcomed by progressives.” The rest of Biden’s team feels like absolute continuity with the last three decades of Wall Street-friendly Democratic politics, with the appointment of Black Rock veteran Brian Deese to serve as chief economic adviser being just one example.

The difference between conventional Democrats and the Sanders movement is that Democrats never allowed themselves to view Sanders and his followers as anything but threats that needed squashing. They were never tempted, even for a moment, to take the idea of a Sanders presidency seriously. Sanders was loyal in the end to the party that made a mission of destroying him, and now gets Neera Tanden up the keister as the first installment in what is sure to be a long program of repayment for the sin of running without permission. Welcome to the eternal law of American politics, where no crime is punished more harshly than being a good loser.

Presty the DJ for Dec. 1

The number one single today in 1958:

The number one British single today in 1966:

The number one single today in 1973:

Today in 1987, a Kentucky teacher lost her U.S. Supreme Court appeal over her firing for showing Pink Floyd’s movie “The Wall” to her class over its language and sexual content.

The school board that fired the teacher apparently figured that they don’t need her education.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Dec. 1”

Postgame schadenfreude, edition number 100 (wins)

As long-time readers know, big wins over rivals get the postgame schadenfreude (defined as gaining pleasure from others’ misfortune) treatment.

It’s particularly fun to watch Chicago media eviscerate Da Bears when they disappoint, even if the Packers’ 41–25 (and it wasn’t that close) throttling Sunday, the Packers’ 100th win over Da Bears, wasn’t really a surprise.

The Chicago Sun-Times begins with a very pointed headline and subhead:

Hot seat heats up for Bears coach Matt Nagy after humiliating 41-25 loss to Packers

The Bears have been absolutely awful on offense the last two seasons, and it’s hard to see an alleged offensive guru keeping his job when they start cleaning up this mess at the end of the season.

As losses accumulate and the Bears drift further from being a contender, the thrill of coach Matt Nagy’s debut season fades into forgetfulness. The team has plunged since then, plodding along with one of the NFL’s worst offenses and minimal cause for optimism.

Their latest humiliation came in the most painful way possible: A thoroughly devastating and decisive 41-25 defeat by the Packers at Lambeau Field. It’s their fifth consecutive loss, and they’ll go into December sitting outside the playoff field for the second season in a row.

The Packers have been snuffing out Bears coaches for years now, and Nagy must wonder if he’s next after this one. He’ll certainly get the rest of the season, but the case is stacking up against him lasting beyond that. A game like this should make him very concerned about his job.

“No, I’m not,” he said.

A lot of people are, though.

When asked to defend where the Bears are right now, Nagy went back to a well-worn soliloquy about sticking together. He’s right to think that way, but it doesn’t change anything about how far the Bears have fallen.

“We understand where we’re at, and when you have games like this, you’ve gotta soul search,” he said. “You’ve gotta be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go.

“But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that. Obviously the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It’s not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that’s the test of true character.”

This felt like the most desperate game of Nagy’s time with the Bears as he tried to fight off the longest losing streak of his career and keep them above .500. The Bears actually would’ve overtaken the Cardinals for the seventh playoff spot with a win.

He went back to Mitch Trubisky, his original choice as starting quarterback this season, and the offensive came to life with a 57-yard run by David Montgomery on its first possession.

For a fleeting moment, the Bears were an exciting offense — the very thing the organization hired Nagy to create. They quickly spiraled into the same bad habits — no run game, mindless penalties, disastrous turnovers by Trubisky — and the game was out of reach late in the second quarter with the Packers ahead 27-3.

They ran it to 41-10 by the end of the third, and that was it. Anything the Bears did after that was of no consequence. They get no award for technically making it a two-score game putting up their third-highest point total of the season. By the way, the league average this season is 25 points per team per game.

“They got after us the entire game, from the first quarter to the very end,” Nagy said. “That’s basically where we’re at right now.”

The only good thing about Sunday was that it was the last time America had to sit through a Bears game on a national broadcast this season.

Nagy’s offense, with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays for the second game, fell flat, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It was a complete meltdown for the Bears as their defense, which had been the only thing keeping them afloat, withered against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers scored on their first three full possessions and added another touchdown when Trubisky fumbled at his own 11-yard line.

If Nagy doesn’t have the safety net of an elite defense, he’s got no shot.

Over the last two seasons, cumulatively, the Bears had the second-fewest points and total yardage in the NFL going into Sunday. They’ve averaged the third-fewest yards per carry and put up the sixth-worst passer rating. Only two teams have been worse on third downs.

Nagy has great leadership qualities, but how does any offensive guru keep his job with those numbers?

The number in Nagy’s favor has always been his record, which has gotten considerably dimmer since going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018. The thumping by the Packers dropped him to 25-18.

That includes a 5-0 mark against the Lions team that can’t beat anybody, plus seven wins when his team scored fewer than 20 points. Marc Trestman would’ve won if he’d been supplied this defense.

There’s been a lot more Club Flub than Club Dub lately. It takes a minute to even remember the last time the Bears won a game. It was their most lopsided victory of the season, an error-riddled 23-16 escape against the Panthers 42 days ago.

This mess isn’t entirely Nagy’s fault as he works with a completely mismanaged roster from general manager Ryan Pace. He was holding his breath hoping this would be just a Nagy column.

He’s got his coach trying to rebuild an engine with spare parts from a bicycle.

There’s no offensive line and no quarterback. And, worst of all, no plan to fix it. Nick Foles is under contract for two more seasons, salary-cap concerns will prevent them from fully overhauling the o-line and they’ll be light on playmakers if wide receiver Allen Robinson walks in free agency.

Pace bears more of the blame than Nagy. He did exceptional work crafting one of the NFL’s best defenses, but totally undercut that with his poor judgment on offense. There’s no way the Bears can rationalize letting him try to rebuild the offense again, and firing Pace likely means the end for Nagy as well.

Pace has had it coming ever since he whiffed on Trubisky in the draft and allowed Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to land elsewhere.

Remember when the Bears went 8-8 last season and the whole city was furious about it? That was their second-best record of Pace’s six-year span as general manager.

During his tenure, the Bears are 39-52 — worse than the Dolphins and Raiders; barely ahead of Washington and the Lions.

That kind of mess requires a deep cleaning, and it’ll be difficult for Nagy to avoid getting swept out.

The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs has 10 thoughts, including …

  1. At the midpoint of the 2014 season, the Bears made their trip to Lambeau Field after their bye week and were absolutely humiliated, pummeled by the Packers 55-14 in a stunning beatdown before a Sunday prime time audience.
    Green Bay bolted out to a 42-0 lead at halftime that year and the Bears became the first team since the Rochester Jeffersons in 1923 to allow 50-plus points in consecutive games, as they had melted down two weeks prior in a 51-23 loss at New England.The Bears had an extra week before the 2020 game as well, although that extra time is hardly normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic as the NFL ratchets up protocols and policies on what seems like a weekly basis now. And wouldn’t you know it, the Bears got kicked around once again, falling behind 27-3 in the second quarter and then trailing 41-10 after three quarters. Aaron Rodgers did pretty much whatever he wanted to, the Bears struggled to do so much as lay a hand on him and the defense showed minimal interest in playing run defense. The offense? Well, it looked a little bit better than it had while flatlining with Nick Foles at the controls, but it’s going to be tough to beat any opponent at minus-three on turnovers — and damn near impossible to beat Rodgers.I reference the 2014 loss at Lambeau Field as I really think that was the beginning of the end for the Marc Trestman era. He was fired after only two seasons — a move that came at the end of the season — and with each frustrating week that passes, the chatter will only become louder about the future of those currently in charge at Halas Hall.

    General manager Ryan Pace is the architect of the Bears roster and in his sixth season. He’s had one winning season to date and the Bears have not won a playoff game since Jerry Angelo occupied that office. Matt Nagy is the coach, the guy hired because of his acumen on offense and brought in to turn things around after the dreary and non-imaginative John Fox. Neither is excelling and will come under scrutiny as this season unravels. The Bears were paper tigers when they were 5-1 early in the season and now they’re battling injuries and the pandemic, and they’re going to be exposed just about every time they face an opponent with a high-powered offense. They can’t keep up. It’s that simple.

    I don’t necessarily buy the idea that the horrid loss to the Packers got Trestman fired. Not on its own. That season was spiraling out of control and while the team managed wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following weeks, it went on to lose the final five games. In all, Trestman lost eight of the final 10 games, and he and GM Phil Emery were fired the day after the 2014 season ended.

    Sunday’s loss was ugly, but not nearly as gruesome as the 2014 debacle. What’s really interesting is that there are now four teams with GM openings around the league. Jacksonville fired Dave Caldwell on Sunday, a day after the Detroit Lions blew out GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia. There are numerous coaching vacancies annually. Usually, there are five or six teams pressing the reset button with a head coach. GM jobs don’t turn over quite as often and of the three front office folks I reached out to Sunday night, none could ever recall four spots being open during a season before. The Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans will also be hiring a GM and coach after the season.

    What’s that mean for Pace and Nagy? I don’t know just yet, but I get the distinct impression things are trending badly for both. A longtime agent who represents coaches said he wasn’t too surprised about the four openings around the league right now and said he doesn’t think there will be too many more.

    The pandemic has cost countless millions of people around the world employment or earning potential. It’s had a stunning impact. You get the feeling that while COVID-19 has cost so many people their jobs, it could wind up saving a few coaching staffs around the league. That’s the economic part of the equation that few want to acknowledge, especially when they’re frothing mad at the team they follow. Will this come into play for the Bears? I don’t know that, but I do know is the NFL is a business for the McCaskeys. They haven’t sold a single ticket at Soldier Field this season and it certainly doesn’t look like they will. It’s anyone’s best guess what stadium attendance will look like in September 2021, meaning the bottom line could still be taking a hit at the start of next season. I can say with relative confidence that the financial impact of the pandemic is going to be a major factor for football coaches at the NCAA level and I suspect it will also come into play at least somewhat in the NFL.

    1. Matt Nagy said he’s not worried about losing his job — and he shouldn’t be right now.

    The Bears are 5-6, which isn’t good enough, and they’re a franchise that has never previously fired a coach during the season. But Matt Nagy is in a heck of a battle right now and I’m not sure how much he has in his background to help navigate his way out of it. The last time Nagy was part of a five-game losing streak was in 2015 when he was the quarterback coach in Kansas City. The Chiefs won the season opener, then dropped their next five games before winning 11 straight, including one in the wild-card round of the playoffs before being eliminated. Before that, Nagy was a quality control assistant in Philadelphia in 2012 when the Andy Reid era came to a crashing end.

    Nagy is a positive guy and sometimes he can lean on some corny sayings. Fortunately, he didn’t do this after the Week 12 loss. It still can come across as word salad though, but at some point, however it’s framed really doesn’t matter, right?

    “It’s about fighting adversity, it’s about building cultures and staying together,” Nagy said. “That’s where we’re at. So that’s what I do, that’s what our coaches do, that’s what our players do. We stay together and we understand where we’re at and that when you have games like this, you’ve got to figure out, you’ve got to soul search and you’ve got to be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go. But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that.

    “Obviously, the last five weeks has been extremely difficult. It’s not fun because we all want to win and we know that. The one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. And when you go through these times, how do you respond and I think that’s the test of true character.”

    He loses me when he launches into a discussion of culture. Yes, I’ve covered Bears teams with worse cultures in the locker room. No question about it. But this team’s culture, no matter how much better it might be, isn’t making much difference when it comes to on-field performance.

You know what improves a locker room culture? Winning.

The contrast has been made numerous times between the Packers and their two starting quarterbacks over the past quarter-century and Da Bears’ 252 quarterbacks over that time. When you lack a capable quarterback (and there are more NFL quarterbacks than there are capable NFL QBs), you do dumb things like sign a quarterback with part of one good season to a stupidly large free-agent contract (see Glennon, Mike) and then trade draft picks to move up to get a quarterback (see Trubisky, Mitch) the same offseason.

(Yes, the Packers have the ignominy of the John Hadl trade. Of course, it’s not as if Da Bears had better QB play during the ’70s either.)

For Bears fans unfamiliar with stability under center, the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer writes what it’s like:

Third-and-long. Against the NFL’s stingiest red-zone defense.

Aaron Rodgers knew a play was needed on the opening drive Sunday night at Lambeau Field, and he dialed in accordingly. With the Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears 12-yard line and trying to finish off a tone-setting march that already had covered 63 yards in 13 plays, the quarterback whom Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likened this week to Picasso and Michelangelo went to his palette, whipped out his brush and gracefully painted his newest masterpiece.

The play that ended with Rodgers pinpointing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams took 9 seconds from snap to score. It was another dazzling off-script magic trick and a definitive closing argument — if there is such a thing less than 8 minutes into a game — that the Packers remain the class of the NFC North.

Still, Rodgers’ comprehensive postgame description of that touchdown pass proved even more striking to anyone in Chicago who might have been listening, just one more reminder of the master class on quarterbacking he has been teaching for the last 13 seasons as the Packers starter, so often at the Bears’ expense.

So, Aaron, about that TD …

“I saw that they dropped eight at the snap,” Rodgers began. “So I knew I’d have a little bit of time. We ran a two-man concept to that side with Davante and Robert (Tonyan). And I was about 50-50 as to whether ‘Te was going to stop his route and break it off at the top of the stem, which actually wasn’t in the plan. But I thought he might make that reaction. He didn’t. So I went to (Tonyan). And right when I was about to throw it, he slipped.

“So I reset back in the pocket because we had done a nice job on the right side and doubled Khalil (Mack) over there. And as I reset back in the pocket, I saw Davante kind of roll behind (Danny) Trevathan. And I knew based on the presnap, they probably wouldn’t have anybody on the left side who would disrupt a throw in that area. So I just tried to put it high knowing Davante has such great leaping ability. Obviously he came down with it.”

The Packers were ahead to stay.

Be honest, Bears fans. When’s the last time you heard your starting quarterback describing surgery with that level of detail? Heck, when’s the last time you had a quarterback do what Rodgers did Sunday night, drilling touchdown passes on his first three possessions, adding a fourth in the third quarter and carving out the Bears’ heart in a 41-25 gutting?

Think about it. The Packers scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to open Sunday’s bright-lights, big-stage game. During the Bears’ current five-game skid/collapse/free fall, the offense has scored only two touchdowns before the fourth quarter. The Bears offense remains consistently unreliable in the first half and downright awful in the third quarter.

That’s what made Sunday’s biannual check-in on the Packers so jarring and distressing and, if you can bring yourself to appreciate the brilliance of a rival, sort of refreshing.

“So that’s what an NFL offense is supposed to look like.”

As the Bears season accelerates down the garbage chute with a fan base screaming for heads to roll ASAP at Halas Hall, the Packers are coasting to another division title and eyeing another run deep into January and possibly beyond.

While Rodgers and his offense consistently creating iconic artwork, the Bears seem to be stuck in a first-grade project gone bad, covered from head to toe in acrylic and sheepishly apologizing for the mess.

“This is the stuff through the season that you go through,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s about fighting adversity.”

Rodgers, by contrast, was cheerful but characteristically low-key in the afterglow of his team’s win, relishing what he called “a fun day of milestones.” Follow along for some of the most prestigious.

  • Adams recorded his 500th career reception on that first-quarter touchdown, becoming the fifth Packer in that fraternity. (For perspective, the Bears’ all-time leader in catches is Walter Payton with 492.)
  • Rodgers became the 11th quarterback in league history to surpass 50,000 passing yards, doing so in style in the third quarter with a well-designed and all-too-easy 39-yard play-action touchdown pass to tight end Tonyan. (Again, for perspective, Rodgers’ passing yards total is greater than that of Jay Cutler, Sid Luckman and Jim Harbaugh — the Bears’ three career leaders — combined.)
  • And — oh, yeah — Rodgers was sure to point out that Sunday’s victory was the Packers’ 100th over the Bears in the historic rivalry, giving them a five-game lead in a series that was once tilted heavily in the Bears’ favor. Before Brett Favre and Rodgers, of course.

“I’m proud to be just another one of the guys in the lineage of Green Bay quarterbacks who have had the opportunity to lace them up against Chicago,” Rodgers said, “and we’ve obviously won a good deal of my starts.”

When the Bears offense faces gritty, nasty defenses, we tend to hear about it for a month afterward with explanations for why the running game can’t get going or why the third-down failures were so extreme or how an untimely turnover or red-zone stall-out led to another maddening loss.

The Packers, meanwhile, sized up a normally rugged Bears defense, decided they had the right combination of playmaking ability and schematic wrinkles and then went out and dominated the night.

Rodgers’ four touchdown passes were certainly headline-worthy. But Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams also combined to run for 163 yards on 34 carries.

So while the Bears spent their latest postgame therapy session with Nagy calling for teamwide “soul searching” and an urgent quest to “stop the bleeding” and another wave of appreciation for his team’s fight, the Packers suddenly believe they’re light years ahead of where they were at this time last year. Remember? When they went 12-4 and fell one victory short of the Super Bowl?

When the 2019 season began, there was leaguewide curiosity about how Rodgers and Packers coach Matt LaFleur would coexist, whether a 15th-year veteran on his way to the Hall of Fame would jell with a green head coach barely four years older than him.

On Sunday night, Rodgers was in a full gush about how LaFleur has worked to refine and improve this high-powered offense, praising “the subtleties of simplicity” that the Packers coach implemented over this past offseason.

“That’s really allowed me to feel super comfortable with the plan every week, with my responsibilities and my checks,” Rodgers said. “And I think that’s why I’ve been playing well.”

Simplicity. Comfort.

The Packers offense had a near-perfect first half. Touchdowns on three of their possessions. Zero penalties. None of their 37 plays lost yardage. Eighteen of them produced first downs.

Rodgers believes LaFleur has “settled into his role as head coach.”

“Him and I have really been on the same page all season,” Rodger said. “There’s just a beautiful trust that has blossomed even more this year between him and I.”

LaFleur, meanwhile, paid the praise forward to the effort of an offensive line that has been sturdy all year and helped jump-start Sunday night’s beatdown. (The Bears not only never sacked Rodgers or forced a turnover, but they also weren’t credited in the final game book with a single quarterback hit.)

“It makes it a lot easier, no doubt about it, when you have your whole playbook open and you can call plays that are complementary,” LaFleur said.

None of this sounds at all familiar to Bears fans, who are left to continue envying the Packers’ success as they try to unsee interceptions forced into double and triple coverage. Bottom line: Week after week, the Bears make it clear they have few if any answers on offense.

As so many feared, Nagy’s midweek praise of Mitch Trubisky’s “different focus” and his impressive week of practice and the offense’s oh-so-encouraging “huddle mechanics” didn’t mean much on game night.

The Bears stalled in the red zone on their opening drive, settled for a field goal and never led. Trubisky threw two picks and fumbled twice, losing one that Preston Smith scooped up for a 14-yard touchdown return.

Trubisky short-hopped throws to open receivers on multiple occasions. He also threw high and away at times.

The Bears’ fifth straight loss — and the franchise’s third winless November in the last five seasons — brings amplified questions about Nagy and the quarterback situation and general manager Ryan Pace and a genuine curiosity about how many current players, coaches and front-office members still will be here the next time the Bears win a playoff game.

“Right now, this is a very, very difficult time that we’re going through,” Nagy said.

Meanwhile, the Packers rolled on, satisfied but hardly surprised by Sunday’s blowout.

“It says a lot about who we are as a team,” Adams said.

Added Rodgers: “I like where we’re at. … I said before the game and I believe it: If you want to be a great team, these are the kind of games you have to win.”

In this series, the Packers usually do.

Who would have thought Bears fans would pine for Dick Jauron and Jay Cutler?

ESPN Chicago’s Jeff Dickerson continues the theme of future firings:

The Chicago Bears (5-6) seem like a team headed toward massive offseason change.

Sure, the Bears technically remain in the hunt for one of three NFC wild-card spots — the NFC North Division race effectively ended with Green Bay’s 41-25 victory on Sunday night — but coach Matt Nagy’s team is so much worse than its record indicates.

With an extra week to prepare, the Bears played their most egregious and lethargic opening half of football of the year and fell behind 27-3 in front of a prime-time audience.

In an epic reversal, the Bears’ defense — considered the bedrock of the team — pulled a complete no-show against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who carved up Chicago. The Bears’ defense — minus lineman Akiem Hicks — failed to stop the run, pressure Rodgers (zero sacks, zero hits) or cover open Green Bay receivers downfield. At one point in the second quarter, the Packers’ offense had 15 first downs and were 5-of-5 on third down. The lone time the Bears stopped Green Bay on third down, the Packers went for it on fourth down — and converted. Go figure.

Speaking of the Bears’ offense, not much has improved there, either, as the team’s losing streak reached five games.

Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s return produced the results most expected — average-to-slightly-below-average play and nowhere close to special.

Trubisky appeared to establish a rhythm within the offense at times but committed three costly turnovers, including a fumble that Green Bay scooped up and returned for a touchdown.

What cannot be ignored is on another day when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dazzled the nation (462 passing yards, three touchdowns), Trubisky cruelly reminded everyone the Bears have no long-term solution at quarterback. What happened in the 2017 NFL draft (trading up for Trubisky over Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) cannot be undone.

Because of that singular blunder, there is no clear path to unseat the Packers. There is no obvious plan of attack to a playoff berth in 2021. Who’s the quarterback? Who’s the head coach? Who’s the general manager? Who’s the playcaller?

The entire organization needs to be reexamined when the season comes to a close.

We know who the owner is. That may be the problem, but that’s up to the McCaskeys to fix.


Who’s in charge here?

Ann Althouse:

“The Obama staffers are now cutting out the people who got Biden elected. None of these people found the courage to help the VP when he was running and now they are elevating their friends over the Biden people. “

“It’s fucked up…. There’s real doubt about whether they will be taken care of…People are pissed…. I think I’m going to be taken care of but I have not been taken care of yet. I am really interested to find out how you even find out how you got a job in this White House.”

Said a Biden adviser quoted in  “‘People are pissed’: Tensions rise amid scramble for Biden jobs/Veterans of the Democratic primary campaign fear they’re being squeezed out of plum posts by later arrivals” (Politico).

The current fears about the transition being taken over by the previous generation of Obama staffers who make up Washington’s permanent establishment are coming from a younger set of Biden true believers who chose to work for him in early 2019 even when all of the cool young operatives were flocking to Beto and Bernie and Warren. Even then, there was a disconnect between the brain trust at the top of the campaign, which is now seamlessly moving to the top of the White House, and the Biden proletariat that made up the bulk of the campaign operation. The fear from the proles is that the brain trust doesn’t understand that they are being left behind.

Why wouldn’t they be left behind? They’re not cool.

ADDED: The real trick will be Phase 2 — leaving Biden behind. He’s not cool.

Presty the DJ for Nov. 28

The number one single today in 1960:

The number one (for the second time) single today in 1963:

The number one single today in 1964:

The number one British single today in 1970:

Today in 1991, Nirvana did perhaps the worst lip-synching effort of all time of its “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the BBC’s “Top of the Pops”:

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Nov. 28”

An old fashioned post

Finally public radio gives us information that is of interest to the public, from Audrey Nowakowski:

The brandy old fashioned, bloody mary with a beer chaser, Tom & Jerrys — Wisconsin has laid claim to many cocktails, or perhaps just made them better. In a state that continuously ranks in the top margins for alcohol consumption, Wisconsin’s drinking traditions aren’t just cherished, they’ve rarely changed.

Freelance writer Jeanette Hurt’s latest book, Wisconsin Cocktails, contains the recipes, history, and traditions surrounding most of the Dairyland’s favorite drinks. But she says perhaps the most important part of this book is setting the record straight on exactly why Wisconsinites drink brandy old fashioneds.

The common story of why Wisconsin drinks so much brandy is credited back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. It’s there that Captain Pabst displayed his beer, Aunt Jemima demonstrated her pancake mix, and people tasted the Californian brandy.

Since Chicago was only a train ride away, many Wisconsinites came to the exposition. And it’s been told that German Wisconsinites, in particular, loved the Korbel brothers’ brandy, which then popularized drinking brandy in the state.

“Now that sounds really interesting and that’s the story that I even wrote about at one time,” admits Hurt. “But when I was working on this book, every time I’ve talked to the folks at Korbel they’d say, ‘Well, we can’t confirm that.’ So, I’m like well what is really going on?”

This question led Hurt down a long investigative historical research road, where she looked at more than 200 years worth of newspaper microfiche for every printed reference for “brandy,” “Wisconsin,” and “cocktails.”

Hurt discovered that in 1894 there was a cocktail revolution in Milwaukee among the young German men, and one cocktail that was popular was “the Old Fashioned,” but it’s not the one Wisconsin prefers.

“Once upon a time, we drank old fashioneds like everybody else [with bitters, sugar and whiskey]. So what happened between 1894 and now?” asks Hurt.

She eventually found a Milwaukee Journal article where a reporter, who was asking the same question, discovered a man who had been in the Wisconsin liquor distribution business from post-Prohibition to the ’70s, says Hurt.

This distributor notes that there was a lot of bad booze being served during post-World War II, in part due to distilleries being shut down to send grain to Europe. “But Wisconsin distributors found a cache of something, like 30,000 cases of really good, aged Christian Brothers brandy and they bought it up,” notes Hurt.

“So in Wisconsin, if you could get bad whiskey or good brandy, rotgut rum or good brandy — what were you going to drink? You were going to drink brandy. So, people started drinking their cocktails with brandy,” she adds.

Once we started drinking brandy, brandy makers naturally started marketing to Wisconsin and the rest is bitter and muddled history. So while it’s not as romantic as brandy getting popularized by the Wisconsin Germans who visited the Chicago Exposition, Hurt says it also gives a nod to Midwestern habits of finding a good product and sticking with it.

“It’s hard to figure our the origin of some of our cocktails, but this one I feel very solid about and I feel really good setting the record straight,” Hurt admits.

I come from a long line of brandy drinkers. My grandfather drank brandy and Coke. My father drank brandy and seltzer. (Which to me has no taste.) I started drinking Old Fashioneds once I got to Southwest Wisconsin.

Presty the DJ for Nov. 26

Today in 1967, the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” promotional film (now called a “video”) was shown on CBS-TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. It was not shown in Britain because of a musicians’ union ban on miming:

One death of odd note, today in 1973: John Rostill, former bass player with the Shadows (with which Cliff Richard got his start), was electrocuted in his home recording studio. A newspaper headline read: “Pop musician dies; guitar apparent cause.”

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Nov. 26”