All posts by Dujie Tahat

Tahat Takes: Kaeperknickers in a twist and the milquetoast Seahawks

Full disclosure: up until a few weeks ago. I didn’t care for Colin Kaepernick. I hadn’t thought about him in a hot minute mostly. And at the height of his powers, I projected my dislike for the 49ers and Pleated-pants Jim “McHandshove” Harbaugh and thought Kapernick arrogant, overrated, and self-centered.

I was the guy who gleefully posted the differences between Kap and Dangeruss’ Instagram on your timeline.

I was a PETTY AF sports fan.

I made him a character acting out a role in the theatre of the NFL.1

I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick is a full person containing multitudes and deserves all the respect I can afford—and that’s before he sat down during the national anthem and demonstrated that he has a curious, working mind engaged in one of the most challenging national issues of our time.

I’ve never bought an NFL jersey in my life, but if I do it’s gonna be Kaepernick’s2.

Some would delegitimize Kap’s efforts by saying he’s rich and doesn’t “have a plan.” But his wealth doesn’t make him less Black nor are protests required to “have a plan” to be on the right side of history.

There’s also a notion floating around that Kap is doing some sort of activism lite, and that he hasn’t achieved much of anything. But he has created space for a conversation in a league that isn’t interested in having this conversation despite the fact that it’s good for business.3 That’s a BFD.4

Enter the Seahawks.

Last week, Doug Baldwin spoke up, promising that the whole team would do some sort of demonstration of solidarity. I, for one, got hella excited. Unleashing ANGRY DOUG BALDWIN on Black Lives Matter and police reform on opening day is an activist’s wet dream.

Giving Baldwin and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt, I think they meant to do a really meaningful thing—to show solidarity for a movement that prioritizes the lives of black people, that ending racism and oppressive systems require the collective work of many people. The team-wide act, also worked to address the criticism that Kaepernick’s protest was an attention grab by eliminating the individual-ness of it. But at some point, the reality of their demonstration has to take precedent. And in the space of social movements, rhetoric and symbolism are everything.

On its face, a show of unity is an honorable, valuable thing. Who’s against unity?

But the call of unity has long been used to soothe people out of frenzy, as a band-aid for an amputation. But history shows us that to correct injustice—especially systemic injustice, which is more lubricious to grasp—requires anger and unrest so as to manifest into social movement.

Baked into our civic code is the idea we don’t need everyone to agree to something to make it happen; we only need enough to make a majority. That’s how we make change in a democracy. Calls for unity–specifically in response to a movement calling for change–is, at best, a moving of the goal post and, at worst, a blatant effort to cut a movement’s knees from under it.5

I have no interest in unifying with members of the Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazis, or anyone who thinks my interracial marriage and our mixed race kids are abominations.6

Now there’s a case to be made that overhyped histrionics of unity aren’t entirely the Seahawks fault. The media hyped it, not just Doug Baldwin. It’s not purely the Seahawks fault that mine and so many other’s expectations were Ezekiel Elliot-high. But Baldwin and others on the team have been around and have enough media savvy to know the type of coverage and reaction that was coming.

I am also tremendously sympathetic to NFL players not interested in engaging in public forms of protest. For many, professional football represents their only path to social mobility. The NFL is highly regimented and historically conservative. Their earning potential isn’t guaranteed and every time they suit up, they’re risking their health AND their careers.

Protect that. No one should feel like they have to pit their livelihood against what’s right in the world. That makes the choice even riskier. But in the event you face that impossible decision, protect yourself and provide for your family.7

But there’s a real, insidiously inflicted damage made in the milquetoast #alllivesmatter half-measure that the Seahawks proposed. In what is surely an unintended consequence of expressing broad support, their actions validated the misdirected conversation surrounding Kaepernick and other player’s method of protest.

Jesse Williams, in what may be the most woke moment of 2016,8 said, “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

Applied here: y’all that are up in arms about Kaepernick sitting but don’t have a valid criticism of the systems of oppression that drove him to sit9 need to examine y’alls priorities.

Many woke people tried to keep the focus of their coverage of Kaepernick on the racial inequity of our policing that he was trying to point out, however, 99.9% percent of the coverage around Kaepernick centered on his methods of protest—an insidious way of delegitimizing his point in the first place.10

This is wrong. Full stop.

It’s no different than our presidential election coverage eschewing policy for the horse race. It’s just wrong.

Now none of this is the fault of the Seahawks and what I’m sure is a well-intentioned leadership group the face of which has become Doug Baldwin. And I hope against all hope that this was the start of something bigger—that Doug Baldwin’s efforts to connect with the Mayor of Seattle yield real, substantive discussions and outcomes.

But standing together and locking arms has forced even the most progressive people into a debate about the methodology and efficacy of protests when we should all be talking about the inherent racial inequity and injustice in policing as presently constructed.

Let me say that again: WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED.

All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams!

 

 

 

The church of chance: Creating space, making worlds between the lines of Coloring Book

“You are growing into consciousness, and my wish for you is that you feel no need to constrict yourself to make other people comfortable.” –Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

“If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” –James Baldwin

“You might not know what it’s like to live your life inside a burning housing, holding your rifle just so that you can continue to hold onto your daughters.” –Ashley Jones, “Chiraq

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This year alone, 200 people in Chicago have been shot and killed with another 1,088 injured. Nearly half of the city’s homicide victims1 were between the ages of 17 and 25. Gun violence disproportionately affects and is perpetrated by Blacks and Hispanics. Black-on-black or brown-on-brown crime has oft been the boogie man for “tough on crime” politicians. Recent work, however, has deepened understanding and is beginning to reframe the issue as a manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 40% of patients to go through Chicago’s Cook County Hospital showed symptoms of PTSD. Childhood development makes PTSD in kids difficult understood and unpredictable. Programs around the Chi have recently sprouted to address youth PTSD like the Urban Warriors program, which partner kids “who live in high-violence neighborhoods, with veterans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan and who might understand what they’re going through.

It’s impossible to remove Chance the Rapper’s music from the context of gun violence and the psychological effect it’s had on the generation of Chicagoans he represents or the city of Chicago itself— and the conditions of the city’s southside that raised him.

Chicago is the most racially segregated city in America. Racist housing policy, irresponsible city planning, and a culture of incarceration2 has collectively lent itself to a generation of fatherless kids who regularly lose childhood friends to gun violence but still give thanks for not getting shot today, wanting nothing more than to simply grow up to be alive.[/note] What are we even doing here? There is no place for this in America.[/note]

Coloring Book is a remarkably grounded exercise in world-building. In the mixtape’s universe, it/he/we are lucky, blessed, consecrated, fortunate, exalted, glorified, all the above to even see the light of day. The unlikely endeavor of being, breathing, and creating is made remarkable and remarked upon.

The album and its creative force Lil Chano have breathed dazzling horns and insurmountable energy into an unprecedented sound coming from a Chi-town hip hop scene still shaking its recent drill music past. As the dominant type of Chicago rap,3 Drill has often been—rightly or wrongly—scapegoated as a primary reason for Chicago’s violent youth culture. It may or may not be, but Coloring Book4 offers a whole other world filled with love, self-reflection, and faith.

Art is either a reflection or a forecast of the culture it represents. With murder rates rising in Chi-town, I hope that that’s the case here.

<<>>

One of Chano’s most obvious retreats was and is church. For a boy on the come up, church is a place full of contradictions. Heaven and hell. Sermons and serpents. Jeremiah and Job. The sole pursuit of faith balanced with the need for communion. The holiness of God and the lascivious world of temptation.

Listening to Chance’s latest drop for the first time, you knew to expect church. Coloring Book, it turns out, is cathedral of a mixtape filled with echoes and confession, celebration and sin, supplication and rapture. It’s the highest form of what he’s been reaching for to date.

Chance greets us in “All We Got” as cheerful as ever. The song serves as a life-update,5 a dedication6 and celebration.7

To hear Kanye West say “music is all we got”—and mean it—is an echo of an earlier Kanye. The pink-poloed-All-Falls-Down-backpack-slangin Kanye. We need more of that Kanye, which we caught a glimpse of in The Life of Pablo. The pairing of Ye and Chano is an echo of that opening salvo too. Midway through Chances first verse, he even snatches a rhythm from the earlier tune. At the same time, the song is an open confession that the music isn’t everything—that work must still be done:

Wish I could tell you it’s ready
Tell you it’s ready today
They don’t give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
And that don’t take nothing away
Cause at the end of the day

We may not have much, but this is all we got. This music that you’re bumping to with the windows down, hauling ass down the turnpike. This love, this family, this song—it all confesses to the miracle of being.

To prove Chano still cares about a mixtape, you don’t have to look farther than the next song “No Problem.”8 Mixtapes and the ubiquity of free music have been a yacht-sized thorn in the side of the industry. “No Problem” is a celebratory fuck you to record labels and their A & R’s. And while they foreshadow a choir of upcoming features, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne represent two of the biggest rappers to have built their careers releasing 36 combined mixtapes.

Chainz stays weird,9 funny,10 and humbled.11 Weezy turns in one of his best verses in years,12 reminding everyone he is the undisputed champ of the mixtape class and culture.13 In a 40-bar romp, he weaves through the perks of being king and packs a dozen rhymes into two different four-bar stretches. Add Weezy F to the list of rapper resurrections Chance has presided over.14

Church needs faith, and Chance puts faith in the self-evident. I woke up this morning. My life is perfect. You’re special. On “Summer Friends” we see that that faith and enthusiasm emanates from tragedy and loss. Under the weight of layers and auto tune, Jeremih reaches for something incredible. Chance cuts through that suppression with a fun story about growing up in the Chi that turns into an all too real experience for most kids in the summer:

First day, nigga’s shooting
Summer school get to losing students
But the CPD getting new recruitment
Our summer don’t, our summer, our summer don’t get no shine no more
Our summer die, our summer time don’t got no time no more

Tragedy and loss are no strangers to youth of Chicago. Through the heat of a thick August, you can hear Lil Chano crooning, “Summer friends don’t stay.”

>><<

As a new father surrounded by this tragic inevitability, family has clearly taken on new meaning for Chance. This isn’t any clearer than in “Same Drugs,” a tender song about the moment the yellow marble turns a partly blue.15 It’s about growing up, not just for yourself but for the one you knew, the one you love, and the one you raise.

In a clever reframing of the Peter Pan, Chance becomes the boy who never grows up—who Wendy is, on the other hand, has many possibilities. Obviously, she’s the eldest Darling child with a “motherly” personality who eventually chooses to abandon childish things.16 Then there’s Wendy from Kanye’s “Homecoming”—a girl you’ve known since three who you loved and lost but still calls to talk about the kids wanting to be like Kanye.17 Through watching Wendy grow old, it exposes Chance as a proxy for yourself growing old too. “Don’t forget the happy thoughts” turns into a plea for Wendy and self.

Collapse the artist Chance with the person Chance,18 Wendy is both his fiancée and daughter. Despite an emotional proximity, Chance and his fiancée live vastly different day-to-day lives19 that have to be reconciled when they come home together.20 Wendy is the little one you don’t want to grow any older.21

Not unlike “Summer Friends,” “Same Drugs” is fun and easy to sing along to—because drugs—but implicit in the “We don’t do the same drugs no more” is the realization that growing up sucks. Wendy is that girl in elementary school I sold the crack pipe to at the gas station. Wendy is my little sister. Wendy is my 1-year old daughter learning to fly. All you need is happy thoughts.

Wide eyed kids being kids
When did you stop?
What did you do to your hair?
Where did you go to end up right back here?
When did you start to forget how to fly?

The end of childhood is tragic. It’s at that precise moment—the inflection point of every childhood—that “We don’t do the same drugs no more” turns from a fun, meme-able refrain into a chilling diagnosis for how we got here and how we ended up so far apart.

<<>>

 Coloring Book is simultaneously responding to its environment while closing the trilogy. Chano has a real sense of scope and legacy, and he’s spoken on the desire to complete a holy mixtape trinity. He told Complex recently, “Everything you write as an artist is about your legacy and your catalog, and how you would look in a museum.”

If you hung up the cover art of Chance’s mixtapes like it were a museum installation, you’d get an indication of how much each of Chance’s works speak to each other.22 The tryptic gives us a small arc of Chance’s career and growth as an artist. A young rapscallion on 10 Day, Chano was fixed on something higher—warm while the world remained cold.

On Acid Rap, he’s looking right23 at you, eyes wide open, straight ahead. He becomes purple24 as he seeks balance throughout the mixtape. He is the color of an august album that learns to celebrate not in spite but exactly because of the “kid’s toetagging” and “everybody dying in the summer.”

In the three years between Chance2 and Chance3, he became the first independent artist to perform on Saturday Night Live then did it again. He negotiated a rare deal (for a friend) with the largest music distributor in the world that guaranteed his music remained not just free but for freedom. He lectured at Harvard. He starred in a VICE short film.  He graced tracks for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, West, Madonna and Mike Tyson, Busta Rhymes, James Blake, Lil Wayne, his actual brother Taylor Bennet, and like 20 other folks. He put on free shows all over his hometown and surprise-chaperoned Chicago Public School field trips. He constantly raised up his community. He had a daughter.

It’s no wonder that on the cover of Coloring Book, he is now cool one, and all that warmth, he’s imposed upon the world.

>><<

Chance makes the music I wish I had. Not just because it’s genre-bending but because it has a force of faith and enthusiasm I wish I had the tenth of to put into any work I’ve ever made. To do and create a Great Thing requires not only imagining it but a full-hearted belief that it is achievable and that I am the only one capable of making it so. In the deeply personal space of creating art, it is an act of faith in one’s self. Being and doing and acting on that faith is a radical form of self-love, and now is the time for self-love in Chicago and across a country dealing with the worst political identity crisis in a hot minute. This is all we got.

Part of Chance’s gift is his comfort and conviction of metaphors like serpents and mustard seeds, but what makes him truly special is the sweeping world he’s able to build out of his faith. Chance is the master of the cold reference and uses them to create worlds—pulling as easily from Western literary canon25 to modern black street art26. He’s just as comfortable calling on Harry Potter27 as he is speaking Hebrew.28

We expect from art—and especially faith—to be whole and irreproachable, but Chance admits freely that it’s all broken, fragmented, and rarely purely his. Instead, he arranges and rearranges until it rhymes. He’s the kaleidoscope, the unity of disparate things that refracted against each other make something else entirely.

But it doesn’t end with the end. The work of Coloring Book is constantly in motion, drawing and redrawing spaces for folks to believe in a not-too-distant world filled with grandmothers and childhood friends, a world of summer schools and rolling rinks, a world where loss leads to enlightenment. For doing that, this mixtape is more church than church.29

It’s not the intro it’s the entrée to something bigger. It’s a deeply personal connection to something higher, but just as church is not complete with faith alone, making a better world means doing better things. It’s always been yours and mine to fill in. It’s a Coloring Book, after all, and the book don’t end with Malachi. It’s a call to action, and now, finally, we have a musical language—at least a soundtrack—to sing and dance about the fruition of hope and change. This is a god dream. Welcome to the Church of Chance.

 

 

**

Bing bing bong: The identity politics of Donald Trump supporters and the security of the free world

“Ultimately, they don’t recognize other people. They suffer from a form of political narcissism, in which they don’t accept the legitimacy of other interest and opinions. They don’t recognize restraints. They want total victories for themselves and their doctrine.” – David Brooks, New York Times

>><<

Donald Trump had a great week. Ted Cruz dropped out Tuesday night. Jon Kasich dropped out Wednesday morning. And a +184K romp in Indiana punctuated a 15-day, seven-state streak of winning majorities of the popular vote1 Within the span of 24 hours, Trump became the head of the Grand Old Party.

This is the natural point of a presidential cycle when new-found coalitions are forged, overtures of party unity are made, and a certain strain of politics that respects and desires to preserve the polity are called upon.

Naturally, it being 2016 and all, reactions were mixed. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus did everything he could to seem conciliatory, delaying the moment he sets himself on fire:


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems kerfuffled by the whole affair. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still refuses to hump Trump.

And defacto Maester Aemon of the Republican Party, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is chugging 40s, hurling molotovs, and riding the wrecking ball from the Miley Cyrus music video while flipping off the whole world:

23 candidates. 1 and half years of campaigning. Hundreds of Best Westerns and Quality Inns. 10 months of conservative self-loathing. 8 months of fighting for the soul of the Democratic primary. Thousands of cans of Red Bull. 79 primaries and caucii. The table is set for the matchup we’ve been waiting for our whole lives: Trump v. Hillary Clinton.

<<>>

Now that we’ve completed the race for who gets to be in the race for president, who’s excited for more race stuff?

Donald Trump becoming the second most likely person in the world to be president is the type of shit that happens when you let evil in. As David Brooks of the New York Times writes, “Trump is the culmination of the trends we have been seeing for the last 30 years: the desire for outsiders; the bashing style of rhetoric that makes conversation impossible; the decline of coherent political parties; the declining importance of policy; the tendency to fight cultural battles and identity wars through political means.”

That broiling intransigence/machismo/xenophobia bubbling beneath the surface broke through in 2008 when America elected its first Black president during the toughest economic hardship of the modern era. White Americans—mostly blue collar conservatives in manufacturing and energy—felt economic pain in muscles they didn’t even know they had. The transgression of economic frustration into hateful rhetoric and bigotry is not a new idea. Politicians have been using it for centuries to win elections, however, a concurrently shrinking White citizenry contributed to the unprecedented levels of steaming vitriol hurled at President Barack Hussein Obama.2

Of course Obama being America’s first black president, it’s all unprecedented.

The Obama White House was seen as an immediate and direct threat to the way of life that had built the socioeconomic landscape and set of values we call America today. That’s because it was—and remains—a direct threat to the white-heterosexual-middle-class-nuclear family that has been the main body in that interminable national ideal of ours—the American Dream.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

In 2010, with the help of major donors, ordinary people suddenly had a way to turn their very real frustration into action against the specter of the “hopey changey stuff”—the tea party movement. That rhetoric, agitation, and social movement gave way to a real political entity, the Freedom Caucus, hell bent on slowing the advance of the federal government, thereby feeding the dissatisfaction of the federal government and the man at the head of it.3

And as the Republican Party fed the Tea Party beast—accentuating Obama’s blackness, stripping him of his citizenship, making him other—it was inevitable that a vapid figure like Trump would emerge as its leader. If you actively characterize of the leader of the free world, then of course it’s conceivable to elect a caricature as the leader of your party. If you make people believe the president is a fool, then every fool begins to look like a candidate for president, and when it’s time to pick the next one, people won’t have to look all that hard.

>><<

We are in the midst of a perpetual culture shift. The plurality promised in the melting pot of America is only becoming more apparent because melanin is involved. Before, it was Irish and Italian and Polish immigrants, and communities of color were more easily segregated. Now, the browning of America has become obvious. It’s even harder to ignore when the President is an example of it.

If Obama is the changing complexion of the American body politic, Trump is the bile we vomit as we overcome the infection of hate.

Does this mean America is racist? Yes. But being a racist is a losing proposition. We have a biracial president. And for the first time ever, White Americans will make up less than 70 percent of the American electorate. Soon, White Americans will make up less than 60 percent, and eventually, less than 50 percent. Something about the moral arc of the universe being long and bending towards justice.


Averting a Great Depression. 14M new jobs over a 74-month streak of job growth. Healthcare for 15M more Americans. Repositioning America as global leaders on energy. Strengthening the force of diplomacy through focused relationship-building. A federal government equipped for the digital age. Government and policy victories aside, this video illustrates the most important part of the Obama presidency—his impact on an American psyche undergoing a violent demographic shift.

Demographically, he’s literally the perfect man for the perfect time.

America is squarely in the midst of a cultural identity change. Identity politics are violent acts, constantly breaking lines and redrawing them.

  Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

The heterosexual nuclear white middle class family 4 has long been the symbol upon which we hang our aspirations of socioeconomic opportunity. As either a destination or a step on the way to becoming a self-made Rockeffeler, Morgan, or Carnegie, it has come to be the most powerful political evocation.

The power of that symbol persists, but it’s waning. And we are seeing the very last throes of it.

For the first time ever, white voters make up less than 70% of the electorate. Romney won 59 percent of the white vote and still got whacked 332-206 in the Electoral College. For comparison, Reagan won a similar 60 percent of the white vote in 1980 and went on to claim the one of the largest Electoral College victories in history.

If Trump should barely win the white vote at 59%, he will win no states. If he meets the eternal conservative threshold that is Ronald Reagan and hits the 60% mark of all white voters, Trump wins the 16 whitest states in the union5 for a total of 88 electors, coming up short by 182.The only way Trump hits the magic 270, is if he wins an unimaginable 75% of white voters. If he somehow managed to do that, suddenly 36 states are on the table along with their 295 electors, and this country ceases to be the country my parents thought they’d moved their family across the world for.6

Trump and the exclusionary politics he forebears have to find a path to the presidency despite a shrinking white voter share. On top of that, the coalition he has managed to cobble together is an over-performing bunch.

In the Republican primaries, Trump has 11M supporters. If you bore out Hispanic favorable/unfavorable across the whole demographic population, for comparison though, you’d find 44M Hispanics opposed. That’s the type of sentence that leads you to post something so stupid as:7

This is the face of a Republican Party who has realized they’ve been cow-towing to a shrinking demographic in the basest way possible, that white people will never again, alone, deliver them the White House, that exclusion and self-preservation doesn’t work.

Donald Trump won’t be the next President of the United States. Trump may be the first presidential candidate to lose all 50 states. We will have to continue to have the long, difficult discussion about who we are and where we’re headed. Welcome to the world of identity politics my white friends. This stuff is hard, but good news: America is browner and more educated than we ever have been, so I like our chances.

I still believe in a politics of optimism and inclusion—the kind a younger, more naïve Junior Senator from Illinois promised, begged for us to hope for, and leaves for us to carry forward.

There can be no other way.

 

4/8/16 – #PodGoals: This week on the Luckswing Podcast Channel

 It’s been a busy podcasting week for the squad.1 Keep up to date on what the squad’s been up to with our weekly round up of podcasts. Don’t forget to rate and share. You can find us on iTunes, PodOmatic and Soundcloud.2 #PodGoals

Ep. 17 ‘The Feed’ w/ Hari Raghavan, Joey Kern, and Dujie Tahat

the feed podcast logo

 ‘The Feed’ where we talked about things you’ve probably already heard about.

This week, Hari joins us to discuss Kim Kardasihan’s latest naked selfie (2:30), the US Women’s Soccer Team’s petition for equal pay (14:35), and #BirdieSanders (28:18).

#KimsGotBalls

Intro credit: Katy Perry – ‘Roar’

Ep. 16 ‘SPORTS!’ w/ Joey Kern and Dujie Tahat

sports podcast logo

‘SPORTS!’ is the our pod where we talk about SPORTS!, which makes sense sinse Luckswing started as a SPORTS! blog.

This week, we discuss our NCAA Tourney picks in preparation of the NBA playoffs, the major NBA themes and narratives of the year (read: Steph and the Warriors), and whether or not there’s any hope to be had for Mariner’s fans.

Intro credit: Drake + Future – ‘Big Rings’

Ep. 15 ‘Welcome to Luckswing’ w/ Joey Kern, Dujie Tahat, and Stephen Toyofuku

welcome to lucskwing podcast logo cropped

‘Welcome to LuckSwing’ the flagship program of the Luckswing Channel.

This episode the boys talk about (2:00) The 2016 James Beard Award Nominees/ Netflix cooking programming, (13:55) Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice and Superheroes in general, (31:21) Election Update!, (38:22) The removal of the statutes protecting special groups in North Carolina.

Notes:

The sounds of cocktails can be heard in the background.

Joey spent a lot of time commenting on Stephen’s in studio physical gestures.

We love you Clare

Ep. 14 ‘Screens’ w/ Stephen Toyofuku and Bill Goatskey

screens podcast logo

‘Screens’ LuckSwing’s home for all things TV and Film.

This episode Stephen and Bill “The Goat” talk about the many facets of first two seasons of Steven Soderbergh and Jack Amiel’s “The Knick,” general period television, and how ‘content’ is a shit word.

Notes: Bill Goatskey may or may not be an alias.

WATCH THE KNICK

CLIVE OWEN

Nice caucus, (Bernie) Bro: Lessons from the biggest, brownest caucus in the contiguous US

This past weekend, Bernie Sanders picked up 55 delegates with three victories in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington state caucuses. The big wins round out a nice 5-0 run of small states that have seen the Sanders Camp finally put up the big numbers that they they’d previously been beaten by on Super Duper Tuesday.

This is good news for Sanders and his supporters. Keep an eye on the scoreboard though, as Hillary Clinton still has a 263 delegate lead: 1,243-980.

Coming out of this weekend, there are two pieces of national political conventional wisdom, as they relate to caucuses, that haven’t dominated the national narrative but are still worth re-examining: First, that Washington1 is white and rural but it also has Seattle so it’s white more than rural. Secondly, higher voter turnout has long favored progressives/liberals, but then why does Sanders keep crushing caucuses—a voting apparatus that, riddled with barriers, stifles turnout?

A plurality of diversity

All jokes aside, Washington state’s caucus is actually the biggest caucus in America as determined by state population2 and delegates available.3 Of all the 12 cauci,4 it also happens to be the second most diverse, next to Hawaii. In fact all three of this past weekend’s cauci were the most diverse of the cycle thus far.

The national press tends to brush Washington5 with the same Titanium White broad brush stroke.6 Washington gets a bad rap for being very white.7 It is. But so is America. Relative to the rest of the Union though, Washington is among the most diverse. Wallethub put out the a list 2015’s Most Diverse Cities in America, and 3 of the top 10 hail from the Evergreen State.8. And several websites that track this stuff and put out top 10 most diverse states9 have Washington as mainstays on their lists.

Despite Washington’s diversity, the Clinton campaign’s lock on Black voters was not tested at our caucus.10 Certainly, Washington’s less than four percent Black population is less than a third of the national average—12.6%.11 For context, states like Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi have Black populations represented at 10 times our rate—31.4%, 32.4%, and 37.3%, respectively. Clinton has done tremendously well in these states, crushing Sanders with the Black electorate to the tune of 60, sometimes 70 points.

Clinton’s success with Black voters has, in turn, fueled a narrative that Bernie Sanders’ supporters are—and more insidiously, must be—hella white. They’re not. We’re not. I’m not.

Perhaps that’s why we saw this week the rise of #BernieMadeMeWhite. A trending Twitter meme that, for the first time in this election gave voice,12 to the exclusion felt by non-White, non-Black, non-Hispanic voters. Do I imagine we’ll get another moment? No.

Let’s not forget, my socially progressive friends and industry peers13 that write, cover and read political stuff, that when we talk about diversity, it is not so black and white.

Washington state results

So how did all these brown people that we’ve established actually do live in Washington actually vote? I couldn’t tell you. No one conducted exit polling during this weekend’s cauci.14 At the state level, caucus-goers voted overwhelmingly in favor for Birdie Sanders, 72.7% casting a vote his way.

Since we don’t have exit polling from which to fabricate relevant narratives, I’ve correlated county-by-county Democratic caucus with 2008 and 2012 election results and 2010 US Census data so that we can paint each county by slightly-smaller-but-probably-still-too-broad brushstrokes.

First of all, some throat-clearing: Sanders swept all 39 counties. The most populous county—King, court of liberal stronghold and our hometown Seattle—handed Sanders the third least ideal victory at 67.3%. Garfield and Asotin Counties were the only other counties to show less approval of Sanders with 60% and 67.2%, respectively.15 The ham-handed impact of King County—which holds nearly 10,000 delegates, four times the next largest county—should not be understated.

Of the nine most conservative counties,16 seven were above the state average.

Of the nine most Hispanic counties,17 seven voted for Bernie at above the state average. Chelan and Walla Walla were the only counties to fall below the 72.7% threshold, but nearly all have been reliably Republican in previous cycles.18

Of the four most Asian counties,19 half voted above 72.7%

All of Washington’s eight most millennial counties20 voted above the state average for Sanders.

In these demographic slices, we see old ground covered. King County, the seat of the Democratic Party, comes through in a big way for Clinton. Young people in Washington love Sanders.

The force of strength shown by reliably conservative counties is unique though. There is a strange slice of conservative voters that—by virtue of his anti-establishment campaign and unwavering commitment to equitable domestic economic policy—support Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders. Many are from Eastern Washington. A strange cycle in deed.

Arriving to a conclusion about what this data says about race and the Sanders campaign in Washington State is near impossible without visibility into the demographics of caucus turnout by county. The fundamental question remains: Was the racial makeup of each caucus reflective of its county?

Probably not.

Caucus problems

Caucuses suppress turnout, disproportionally affecting poor and brown voters who otherwise work on Saturdays and can’t take at least half a day off to stand in a school gym to debate the merits of Clinton’s environmental policy. Caucuses require an investment of human organization and resources. There’s confusion about whether or not voters have to be in person to cast a ballot, which is the exact opposite of an all-mail ballot system that the electorate just got used to in a state like Washington.

Conventional campaign wisdom says higher turnout portends positive outcomes for the most liberal candidates. So why does Bernie do so well in caucus states? 3 reasons:

  • Caucuses rely on enthusiasm, a characteristic Sanders’ supporters have in spades. Washington is a state that favors activism and has a strong history and culture of governing by the ballot.
  • Caucus states are smaller. Washington is the second most populous state Sanders has won. The only two caucus states the Clinton camp really cared about were Iowa and Nevada, both strategic to the campaign narrative, not the math.
  • Caucus states aren’t very diverse. With the exception of this past week’s cauci, we’re talking about states like Utah, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, and Minnesota that rank somewhere in the pure undriven snow category of whiteness with over 90% white people. More pointedly, caucus states have very small black populations

For more real insight on Sanders caucus victories, check out FiveThirtyEight’s take on it.

Where do we go from here?

The establishment media v. the will of the people has been an undercard narrative for much of the campaign. In the last week, we’ve seen it emerge and become a real force. As Sanders’ victories get under-reported,21 it riles up his base on social media even more.22 Let’s be clear, Sanders has never had a greater chance at a primary victory than he does today, but time—and in many ways, the electoral structure of the Democratic primary—is certainly not on his side.

From a communications point of view, the worst thing that could happen right now is that the press overhype Sanders ability to come back and snatch up the nomination. It would invite complacency at a time where Sanders needs the utmost zeal from his supporters in states like New York and California. 23

Immediately up next, is Wisconsin though, which puts its 86 delegates up for grabs on Tuesday. Sanders has pulled ahead of Clinton in recent polling, but remains within the margin of error. A big win is needed to eat into the delegate deficit, but in a slow primary month, any victory will keep the momentum—and more importantly, the momentum story—strong for a solid two weeks before New York, New York.

 

Beware the ides of March: This is where it stops being funny

The first wave of primaries1 is now over. Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders in the delegate count 766-576 (465-25 superdelegates), and Trump has nearly a triple digit lead on the field—459 to Ted Cruz’s 360, Marco Rubio’s 152, and John Kasich’s 54.2

States have been voting for six weeks now. The narratives that drive political momentum have been baked—Trump is made of Teflon and very electable, Clinton has a lock on minority voters and probably the nomination—and as we approach the ides of March, shit is getting real. Clinton and Trump both took big leads on Super Tuesday, and have, by and large, ran the table since. At some point in each cycle though, the math takes over. Enter the March 15th primaries—which include four of the 10 most populous states: Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. A strong showing from both frontrunners in those states could sew up their respective nominations.

At this time, it’s only natural that Trump and Clinton pivot towards the general election—trying out their messages aimed up and across, squarely at each other.

Pandering or Pampering?: Democrats hone in on the Black and brown vote

“I can’t help Trayvon at this time, but there are other Trayvon Martin’s I can help.” –Sabrina Fulton

The tone of the Democratic campaign has shifted. Sanders shocking victory in Michigan exposed that perhaps Clinton doesn’t have the Warriors-esque hold on the minority vote we had initially surmised from her Super Tuesday performance in the South. The Sanders camp worked hard to make sure Michigan grabbed all the headlines, but let’s be clear: the math is squarely still in Clinton’s favor. It’s easy to forget that Clinton won the delegate count the Tuesday after Super Tuesday. She whopped Sanders in Mississippi, winning over 82% of the vote and 30 of the state’s available 34 delegates.

Many3 called Sanders’ win in Michigan the greatest primary upset in modern political history. 70% of Michigan Democratic primary voters were white,4 and Sanders won whites 56-42—in line with national polls and anecdotal evidence. Sanders still lost the Black vote,5 but chipped away at the astronomical leads Clinton’s been putting up in southern states. Sanders won nearly a third of Black Democratic Michigan voters, giving the Clinton camp a dose of anxiety.

On Friday, Clinton released an emotional “Mothers of the Movement” ad that features the mothers of slain young Black men and woman Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Sandra Bland, and Trayvon Martin. Both endorsement and heartfelt narrative, the mothers tell their story in this three minute ad that is perhaps most notable for its near complete lack of Clinton screentime. She has a 15-second soundbite at the end and only appears on stage with the mothers at a campaign rally—a brilliant move.

 

 

Earlier in the week, during a debate hosted by Univision in Miami, Florida aimed at Hispanic voters, both candidates promised to not deport children or criminals.6

During the debate, Sanders unveiled a beautifully shot, emotionally fraught ad almost entirely in Spanish about a small agriculture town in Florida, Imokalee, and the plight of its undocumented farm workers who were paid poorly and treated worse.

 

 

The ad is clearly meant to show Sanders’ history of devotion to and success on behalf of workers’ rights—and by extension, the Hispanic community. The format of the Imokalee ad presages the candidates’ presence in the Clinton ad—minimal.

Cynics will surely call what Sanders and Clinton are doing pandering. Sure. It might be, and if these ads were the only evidence of minority engagement, then both Sanders and Clinton could rightly be called phonies. Instead, these ads reflect a deep history and relationship with Black and Hispanic issues. Sanders, with his civil rights record, and Clinton, with her deeply entrenched relationships with Black leaders in the South.7

The Democratic Party could do a lot worse than make the remainder of the primaries about minorities and the issues we face. Coming off of the first ever Black president whose campaign expanded the Democratic Party and turned out the greatest number of primary voters ever, the two white Democrats running for the nomination need to demonstrate that they care about minority issues to keep us invested.

The percentage of non-white voters has been steadily increasing, so the decision to pivot on minority issues isn’t just good primary politics, it’s a foreshadowing of the general election.

Courtesy of United States Election Project
Courtesy of United States Election Project

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that minority and immigrant issues are fundamentally American issues. That fact only becomes more salient as America becomes browner and blacker. As the Republican Party seemingly doubles down on a white electorate afraid of the teeming mass of melanin, this is a good long-term strategy that will factor in in 2020 and beyond.

Violence begets hate begets clownshoes

 “I cannot believe how civil it’s been up here.” – Donald Trump

Thursday night’s GOP Presidential debate was by many accounts unspectacular. These performances have come to represent the highest form of reality television. The combination of personal ego, utter disregard for fact, and highness of stakes have made them must-watch television.

This past week though, neither Ted Cruz nor Marco Rubio tag-teamed Donald Trump. No dick jokes were made. Even the absence of Ben Carson was felt8 The crowd was post-Burning Man blood-thristy.9 The debate offered the same old policy but without the fireworks of ad homonym attacks.10

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve suspended my generally high expectations for presidential-level policy debates in lieu of something baser that appeases the animal part of my brain. Hell, they’ve been fun to watch and the candidates don’t seem to give a shit about higher political discourse. Why should I?

I and so many others have willfully blinded myself to the glib and glamour of the last dozen GOP debates. Every one of the candidates have dazzlingly misstepped and gaffed right into a Twilight Zone of ineptitude.11 With the lights dimmed down to a level that we could actually see the substance of their positions, it was sparse and uninspired.

Trump struck a civil tone. Rubio denied global warming in his home state.12. Cruz had a moment in one of the very few attacks on Trump, but it didn’t do anything to make him any more likable.13 Kasich got nearly the same screen time as Cruz and Rubio.

Buried somewhere in there was a blip of a moment that, in the grand scheme of things, will be forgotten by April.

 

 

Did you miss it? It was that moment Rubio–the reasoned, well-mannered wunderkid–didn’t categorically deny racism and xenophobia because it’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong.

Instead, Rubio pivoted to Christian Missionaries, a married couple14 that chose to go into a culturally rich, economically poor Bangladesh leveraging a lack of resources for blind devotion to their church.15 Rubio posited” don’t be mean to the angry Muslims because they’ll be mean back, especially to the16 Christians who consciously went into a Muslim-heavy country with the explicit purpose of telling said angry Muslims that their religion is wack.17  Following it up by saying, “But the military is great and there are Muslims in the military so those Muslims are great too!” does not make it better. If anything, Rubio is assigning them a value based on their willingness to defend and die for a cause he supports politically but not in reality.

By all appearances, Rubio should be a conservative worthy of disagreement rather than abject disrespect.18 There are even elements of his personal narrative that resonate strongly with liberals and immigrants.19 However, his willingness to consistently belittle and denigrate a group of people in order to score political points is a character flaw unworthy of the office of President.

Speaking of unworthy of the office of the president, a Trump rally was cancelled in Chicago the day after the GOP Debate in Miami. A group of largely Black and brown protesters descended on the University of Illinois at Chicago where the event was supposed to take place and shut that ish down. They even chanted some Kendrick:

 


This was an inevitable outcome. Protest and violence are increasingly becoming frequent occurrences at Trump rallies.

Earlier in the week, a North Carolina Trump supporter John “Whitey” McGraw was charged with assault for sucker punching a Black protestor who was already being escorted out. He later told Inside Edition,20 “Next time, we might have to kill him.”

Even earlier in the same week Breitbart21 reporter Michelle Fields was grabbed and bruised by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Washington Post reporter Ben Terris corroborates Fields’ story. The Trump camp has categorically denied the claim, saying both Fields and Terris are making it up and that Fields has a history of histrionics.22 Fields has since filed charges.

Trump’s rallies have a history of violence, one perpetrated by the vitriolic rhetoric the GOP frontrunner employs to rally his base. When the more-often-than-not Black and brown protestors are escorted out of Trump’s eyesight, he’s said things like “I’d like to punch them right in the face,” or “Back in my day, they’d be taken out on a stretcher.”23

On Saturday, an Ohio man jumped a fence during a Trump rally in Dayton. He never made it to the stage. The commotion it caused gave Trump the opportunity to compose himself while whipping his supporters into a fever-pitch.

 

 

Trump is practically rabid. I see foam coming from his mouth24 We’ve seen xenophobia in the context of a presidential election cycle for so long, we’ve just come to accept it.

Race: The most important issue in America, American politics

On the one hand, Democrats are side fighting for minority votes. On the other, we’ve come to normalize racism. America is becoming browner and it’s scaring the shit out of low-income, poorly educated white people. They’re turning out in Republican primaries in record numbers, and observers like myself have vacillated between being awestruck or actively cheering on the Hindenburg-level GOP catastrophe in the spirit of entertainment25.

Whether overtly stated or not, race is quickly becoming the most critical issue of this presidential election. Sanders and Clinton will continue to position themselves as the most in tune with and natural inheritor of race relations. All while reasonable conservatives watch Trump26 dance around the dumpster fire masked as a racial divide masked as an effort to make America great again.

We can rationalize it away. We could pretend that this is just the nature of campaigning and election cycle politics. We can accept that maybe this is just an aberration.27 At this point, we’re just waiting until the general election, which will show that the racists hijacking the GOP are actually a subset of a subset.28 With sublimated aggression after sublimated aggression bringing us to this point, the circus of American politics eventually stops with the fun and games, the grip and grins, the rallies and baby-kissing.

Whether dramatically bringing new minority and immigrant issues to center stage or feeding anger with hate, the tone coming from both sides are becoming decidedly more serious. This is where it stops being funny.

 

 

What a Super Tuesday it was! But what does it mean?

And the circus continues. The weeks following Super Tuesday,1 are when see the shape of the general election beginning to form. Smarter folks than I start drawing out narratives. Here are some stories.

The singular and inescapable takeaway of Super Tuesday is that the stage is set for a Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump general election. Both won seven out of 11 states and American Samoa. Both didn’t exactly surprise observers in the states won column, but the strength of the respective coalitions Clinton and Trump have coalesced is truly eye-opening.

It turns out both can win in the south—but that means dramatically different things on each side. It’s important to keep in mind when we talk about primary voters, especially in the south, that their demographics vary wildly.2 A tale of two electorate bodies, if you will.

More stark in the south than any other, Democratic primary voters don’t only have different values from their Republican counterparts, but they look very different too. In Georgia for example, the African American community makes up less than a third (31%) of eligible voters, however, they cast over a majority (51%) of 2008 ballots. Turnout numbers from that election cycle are by no means a good corollary for this year, 3 however, the numbers still point to the major racial chasm that underpins our parties’ polarization.

Great Orange Porpoise (GOP)

Trump has a hefty delegate lead (316-226-106 according to RCP early Wednesday morning) but a lot critics are quick to point to the fact he didn’t win the majority of the vote or even a majority of the delegate count. The inevitable outcome of Trump’s inability to pull together a majority coalition is a brokered convention4—painted by critics as the last possible stand to stop the Great Orange Porpoise. An open convention doesn’t shut Trump out of the decision making process though. By virtue of numbers and representation an open convention is less populist for sure,5 but it’s not inconceivable that he offers John Kasich or even Ted Cruz a spot on the ticket or in his cabinet in exchange for their delegates.

An open convention would be good television—and, right in the weird vortex of 2016 presidential election cycle wheelhouse, an incredible opportunity for Trump to flex his deal-making skills. That’s right, his candidacy may very well rest on his ability to close a deal.6

In the meantime, Trump’s lack of a majority coalition and others’ inability to pull fundamentally alter the course of the campaign keeps the GOP field fractured and all the candidates in the race.7 So a plurality of ego will maintain the status quo, and Trump won’t ever need to win more than 40% of the primary vote to ride into the convention with proportionally the same lead he has now.

To celebrate his Super Tuesday victory, Trump’s campaign declined the typical rally and victory speech made by nearly every candidate since Hoover.8  Instead he opted for a brief statement and a press conference. It was strange. Trump was conciliatory but on fire. Reporters were on the attack. Chris Christie was silently trapped in a living nightmare. Cable news carried it for forty-plus minutes. Trump supporters were absent. On the whole, it was a magnificent piece of performance art.

My one gripe is that I wish Trump had gone longer. If he’d chosen to run a 90-minute to two-hour presser, CNN and MSNBC would have stuck with him. I cannot iterate enough how novel the choice was to hold a q and a with reporters on Super Tuesday night. Compared to the other candidates—who looked like candidates at a campaign trail rally—standing behind a podium backing off radical positions, weaseling a bit more to the center, and generally captivating the national conscious for nearly an hour was a feat that looked downright presidential.9

Dems the Yams

Hillary Clinton crushed the South, like bless-her-heart-and-these-stars-and-bars-by-the-good-grace-of-Dixie steamrolled to a 543-349 delegate lead (according to RCP early Wednesday morning). And where the republicans relied on older, conservative and evangelical white voters, Clinton won on the back of black and brown voters.

She absolutely dominated the African American vote, thumping Sanders routinely by 60-point margins and creeping into 90% territory for several states.

Clinton also dispelled any notion that Nevada augured trouble with the Hispanic vote.

Bernie wins 4! Is a semi-popular narrative pushed out by the Sanders’ campaign and its acolytes, but that still also points to a state-focused—not precint-, district-, and delegate-focused—campaign strategy. Whether by design or nature, the middle to upper-middle class white coalition that Sanders has such a firm hold on will not deliver him the Democratic Party nomination.

Without a retail politics approach applied at full-court press intensity in black churches and community organizations across the South, Sanders now relies on a Ray-Allen-corner-three-in-the-last-game-of-the-NBA-Finals-but-on-the-grace-of-a-fortunate-offensive-rebound-type wild finish.10

It almost certainly won’t happen.

Ironically, despite a stronger civil right record, the Jewish organizer from Brooklyn, New York just couldn’t break through. Sanders fundraised a whopping $42M in February though, all but ensuring that he’ll be around till the end, acting as the liberal conscience11 of the party.

Clinton is already using the message of togetherness12 to pit herself against Trump. Unity will be a word continues to use more and more as she positions herself as the elder stateswoman that is the only real choice in the general election.

As long as Sanders sticks around and progressives continue to rally, she’ll have to do some unifying of the Democratic party too. Looking forward, Clinton will have to tap Sanders or at least someone in the liberal flank of the party13 as her running mate.

For a guy who was polling at 3% a year ago, that’s a pretty significant impact to make on one of the craziest presidential election cycles ever.

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 3: Antonin Scalia’ death, the South Carolina GOP primary, and a losing type of politics

This thinkpiece1 is my final toast to Saturday. Quick recap of the crap that I couldn’t let go all week: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

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“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” –George Washington

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia threw the entire political world out of focus. The haze had barely set in before the lights were up for the South Carolina GOP debate, and CBS moderator John Dickerson opened the show with the politics of nominating a replacement.

“If you were President, and had a chance with 11 months left to go in your term, wouldn’t it be an abdication to conservatives in particular, not to name a conservative justice with the rest of your term?”

It might as well have happened at this point that the audience started booing. South Carolina has a reputation for dirty, Real Housewives of Raleigh-type politics, and for the last two election cycles, the audiences at the debates have done their part to carry on that proud tradition.2

The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.  

The debate experience itself was wild. Less a group interview for the most important jobs in the world, it was reminiscent of an antebellum saloon brawl somewhere along the Mason-Dixon. The presidential hopefuls ran headlong into each other with onlookers swinging from the rafters and the barkeeper3 ducking out of sight. The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the whole affair was how quickly the crowd got involved and, how even quicker, the GOP candidates—being as impressionable as they are to political convenience—indulged the mob. The debate devolved into “Liar, liar, pants on fire!,” “No, your pants are on fire!” exchanges. The moderators let it.

In an sudden show of one-upmanship,4 Ted Cruz started shouting in Spanish5 at Marco Rubio in an apparent effort to court the Hispanic vote by out-Latinoing each other.6 It’s unclear which candidate more solidified their bona fides, but it was clear who tried the hardest.

And we haven’t even gotten to the circus and utter lack of governing or policy detail that is Donald J. Trump’s campaign.7

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“I have never known a peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers condemned as injudicious or corrupt. “Blessed are the peacemakers” is, I suppose, to be understood in the other world; for in this they are frequently cursed.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s easy to go there for a laugh—to make jokes, to indulge in the vitriol. Hairdos make for easy punchlines after all. Pettiness is cheap and self-reinforcing. There’s a case to be made—and more people should be making it—for elevating the level of public discourse, but what I don’t understand is the GOP’s embrace of a losing political strategy.

It’s not news that the GOP has been bending to its radical wing since for most of this century. Cow-towing to radical elements of any party through anger and fear is thoroughly untenable, and the Republicans’ inability to craft a coherent statement not involving prejudice or exclusion will come back to bite them.

A politics of negation only has one outcome—disagreement, which is not a position from which you can govern. The choice to govern comes with an implicit agreement to come together with whoever else is there8 in the common spirit of doing some goddamn good.

  The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.

The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.9 As a whole, the party has seemingly doubled down on that demo. As white middle class voices get pushed to the margins and mainstream America more resembles the cast of Hamilton, GOP adherence to a that demo ensures diminished votershare. They’ve set the course to be on the outside of the White House looking in for a long time.

Kasich did well throughout Saturday’s SC GOP debate—at least insofar as he was the only candidate who mentioned the word togetherness. There’s tinge of bipartisanship to him, and in 2016, that’s enough to make him look like a Roosevelt. At minimum, Kasich would be so uninspiring so as to not raise the ire or fervor of the crazy, hateful people that the GOP is committing suicide over right now. So, that is something to consider.

On Thursday, Marco Rubio picked up a trio of endorsements from SC Congressman Trey Gowdy, Senator Tim Scott and Governor Nikki Hailey. Hailey called the final photo op a “Benetton commercial.”[/note]Or a prospective students brochure cover from an exclusive liberal arts college. Although, I still can’t get the cast of Hamilton out my mind.[/note] Good for them. If they turn out to be the next ruling class of the GOP, I’ll hold some hope for a responsible opposition. Don’t underestimate a diverse electorate as a force to drive political will, and the class of Rubio, Hailey, and Scott may wind up with the keys.

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“Americans have one of the greatest legal systems, but not a monopoly of the sense of justice, which is universal; nor have we a permanent copyright on the means of securing justice, for it is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.” –Earl Warren

Public grief is a crappy phenomenon, and the social media spaces carved out by liberal millennials in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death were riddled with its most self-indulgent form. It was off-putting, if not shocking, two scroll through the argle-bargle. There were primarily two strains of responses: 1) “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” 2) “Stop cheering the death of a human being, asshole.”

Ultimately, this dialectic is self-indulgent and not even really about the person that died. Participating in the discussion and taking one of these positions becomes a proxy for the type of person you want to signify to the world that you are.10

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.

Scalia was an important11 figure in American life. You didn’t have to agree with him to appreciate his impact. When he came to the high court, Scalia changed the dynamics of oral arguments. The question and answer section of proceedings used to be a fairly blasé affair, but Scalia arrived on fire and turned this part of the process into a line of questioning as a proxy for debate. Lines were drawn and feelers were dispatched. The intensity and insistence he brought to the bench made the whole affair a spectator sport and gave us a sliver of a window into closed door debates.

To the crowd who would dance on his grave, I would point out that liberal lion that she is, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg12 counted Scalia as her “best buddy.” There’s even an opera centered on their friendship.

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.13

In today’s discussion on what and how much government can and should do, the US Supreme Court sits on a largely unexamined perch, wielding a tremendous amount of influence. And while the political side of American government has turned into a circus of flash and mob mentality, the Scalia-Ginsburg professional and personal relationship reflected a deep kind of affection forged out of fundamental disagreement.

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“[D]emocracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with use are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.” –Barack Obama

The GOP-controlled Senate will have to nominate a Supreme Court Justice—this year or next. Maybe Senate Republicans don’t want to give anything more to the Obama legacy, maybe they actually think they’ll get to vote on a nominee of their party’s own choosing. Either way, their decision to stall is a refusal to do a job.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among others has gone even further, demanding that POTUS not fulfill his constitutional duty.14 I get it. The GOP doesn’t want the balance of the court to shift away from them. But that’s why there’s a process—supported by will of the people. Let the senate vote. Let senators run re-election campaigns on that vote. Republicans may win their primaries with obstructionism, but the calculus changes significantly in a general.

  Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

In some ways, not taking up the vote is playing at good short-term politics—fighting to preserve a conservative court while not being able to hang the senate vote around Senate Republican necks. It’ll help keep McConnell and others in office this November, but selectively doing their job combined with a shrinking votershare spells a long presidential drought for this incar party.15

In my whole adult life, I’ve never known a responsible opposition.

If you lose an election over a position or vote, that’s confirmation that you’re not suited to represent that constituency. If the people want obstruction then stand for it and let them validate your position. That’s the ball game.

Alternatively, if you have to raise barriers to vote and redistrict yourself into a more favorable electorate, then you’re really not doing your job and you’re not doing democracy and favors. If Rubio and Hailey become the central figures in the GOP, gerrymandering becomes obsolete. A little less pettiness offers a little more room for real issues.

Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

Fighting pettiness with pettiness yields only pettiness. When there is no substance to confront, no real ideas to engage with, you get the SC GOP debate,16 and an opposition party that’s alienated damn near everyone and now they’re looking at the date that brung ‘em, wondering how the hell they ever ended up here.

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 2: Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Chance’s better angels, and Kendrick’s Grammy performance

This thinkpiece1 is the second of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

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“What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye?

Called “I Miss the Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye” – Kanye West, “I Love Kanye”

“[T]he mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of “personality,” not being necessarily more interesting, or having “more to say,” but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations…The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the [oxygen and sulfur dioxide] are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. – TS Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

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Of course the tragedy that is Kanye West would ensure that The Life of Pablo was always going to be disappointing, but fortunately, Kanye brought Chance the Rapper with him on SNL, lifting him and us up to new heights. TLOP has proven to be a decent album peppered with near-genius production, largely held up by a simulacra of emotional and intellectual depth that ultimately kept it coming up short and out of water.

Produced by any other hip hop artist, TLOP would be a fine work worthy of much praise. But Kanye is not merely another hip hop artist. Kanye is influential. Kanye is genre-defining. Kanye is enigmatic as hell, and Kanye, through Kanye’s sheer force of will, changed hip hop.

Kanye spends most of his time waxing about how Kanye is all these things.

I think I’m over Kanye.2

Alas, Kanye wasn’t the only thing to happen to hip hop since Saturday. The Grammy’s came and went. They weren’t the train wreck the Oscars3 were. Still stifled by its own injustices, we at least got to witness Kendrick Lamar perform one for the ages and hopefully the first of many cute, clever way to take shots at Kanye.

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I miss the old Kanye,

Straight from the go Kanye

Perhaps more than any other rapper since the turn of the century, the experience of listening to Kanye’s music matters. I remember a 15-year-old me falling onto my pillow with Late Registration pumping through the lightweight headphones of a JVC CD player. I spent the months after college playing pickup in the heat of a summer sun, blasting Yeezus to the displeasure of unsuspecting straight-laced park patrons.

Kanye was all about experiences back then too—even when his albums became more self-centered.4 Kanye didn’t just care about the experience of struggling and ultimately failing to keep a promise to his mother or the experience of turning that failure into an advantage or the experience of imposing your identity politics on a world so shockingly prepared to embrace you. He cared about the experience of listening to his story; old Ye wanted to make sure you heard yourself in him.

Ya. I miss the old Kanye. I miss the catalyst and product Kanye, the platinum and acid Kanye. I miss the “more finely perfected medium” Kanye.

I miss the old Kanye who cared about the people around him—not because he was a philanthropist or represented the struggle—but because that was his pallet, the subject matter he rapped about. For old Kanye, those stories mattered, and he was giving them voice. Kanye’s focus on fashion, and most recently, tech, has come to consume him. As a result, his singular vision—centered on what Kanye can do, what Kanye should do—has replaced what was truly remarkable about him in the first place.

Finally listening to TLOP after midnight, in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day, was unremarkable and flat. The album was supposed to drop Feb 11 after his fashion show. He added six new tracks though—in large part thanks to Chance. Fine. This pushed the release date to the 12th. Which meant I spent the day periodically checking his website, Twitter, Tidal5 to no avail.

Then somewhere on one of my timelines, the SNL performance popped up:

 

First impressions are dangerous. I kept asking myself, What the hell, Kanye? This is what you made me wait for? This is what you’ve been perfecting? But then the whole tone and texture of the performance changed when the other voices came in—the choir, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Chance the Rapper—to lift him and the rest of us all up somewhere we’ve never been.

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I hate the new Kanye

It’s not the misogyny in the music, the bumbled release, or the sheer hubris it takes to say and believe “I am a God.”6 It’s not even the pre-pubescent lack of focus, which is, in large part responsible for the expansiveness and underlying disorder of TLOP. I don’t care that his words aren’t saying anything we haven’t heard before. 7 At least he’s saying enough to not tank the whole damn production.

   West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways.

If there is brilliance in this latest iteration of Ye, it’s that TLOP is his first real synthesis. Each project before was distinct in its style8 and for the first time, he pulls together those influences in a single album. TLOP is a good album—an A-/B+ by Ye’s standards.9 He even captures and expands on the syllabic tripling made popular by Migos and now Future to set a pace which largely been unheard to this point.

What’s most striking about this Kanye project is that Kanye is at his best when Kanye’s not at the center. It’s no coincidence that the best parts of TLOP are when Kanye’s not rapping.10 West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways. TLOP is the ultimate manifestation of this skill. Only Kanye could so convincingly tie the myriad of loose ends that are the samples, features, bloops and bleeps of his latest album into something semi-lucid enough to be considered whole. Kanye as composer. Kanye as fulcrum. Kanye as medium.

If that proved to be Ye’s legacy from here on out, that would be enough to crown him GOAT. If he remained the catalyst that pulled these previously disparate voices together, he’d be platinum for life. Think about the opportunity to continually influence the next wave of rappers and producers and then bringing them onto the next project to influence the next cadre of hip hop artists. Kanye’s own personal self-fulfilling echo chamber. What irony is this that the lack of Kanye’s presence could amplify Kanye’s impact.

He’ll never figure this out though. Tragic Kanye continues to hold GOAT Kanye back.

More insidious than anything is the work Kanye’s done to mar the window into Kanye’s creative process—a perspective I am always grateful for across any genre.11 Kanye, by being Kanye, has ruined Kanye’s music for so many who would otherwise adore Kanye and Kanye’s music, and that sad-ass fact is starting to impact my own perception of Kanye’s music12

There’s an established school of thinking in art and literary criticism that says any work is and should be independent from the biographical information of the artist. I wholly abide by this. We are all creatures of consumption, and if we had to question the morality, judgement, and character of every author of the things we consume, the whole world’s economy would seize into paralysis. I hate that Kanye makes me want to abjectly reject such a fundamental theory that’s underpinned my whole conception of art—largely on the weight of disgust. It’s not the type of questioning of assumptions Kanye should be proud of.

Kanye needs a break from Kanye—at least a breather or a step back.

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See I invented Kanye.

It wasn’t any Kanyes.

Now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes

“Ultralight Beams” is one of Kanye’s rare gems that rely on heavily on pace and layers.13 This is in large part due to all the features. Even the song title foreshadows the ambivalence between utter lack of substance and beam-me-up-Scotty transcendence. Which makes sense if you accept UB as a conversation with and within church. Within communion and congregation, in song or in practice, you accept the range of voices from the small-minded to the stoic to the soaring. This is in-the-room music for every room.

When they come for you, I will shield your name.

I will field their questions. I will feel your pain.

They don’t— they don’t know.

They don’t know. (Chano on 79th)

It’s no coincidence either that UB features more artists than any other track on TLOP. Each new voice represents an incremental tonal shift that traces the arc of rapture. First, Kanye’s trepidation as his “dream” falls out of pitch. Then enter The-Dream’s quiet restraint that sets the foundation for Kelly Price’s flight to a higher plane. And of course mid-air, Chance swoops in to reframe the very thing you were listening to, plucking these wings made for flight, pointing out you’ve been swimming this whole time.

Chance, who’s spent his entire waking life looking up to Kanye, casts his Lot with Genesis, imagining himself a righteous man of God. Generations above Jesus, he skips across the surface of genealogy like it ain’t no thing in the service of a lighthearted pun, a sincere dig at young love.14

I’m just having fun with it.

You know that a nigga was lost,

I laugh in my head because I bet that my ex lookin back like a pillar of salt.

Ughhhhh. (Chano on 79th)

In rhyme, rhythm and spirit, this 22-year old layers remarkable resonances until they falls back on themselves. A cascading kaleidoscope of shimmering light playing with our ears, signaling something about the way we listen: texture.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke, and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

In the shadow of Price’s reassurance, “that you’ll take good care of your child…we look to the light.” Enter Chance the Ultralight Beam. Throughout his verse, Chano reflects and imbues his relationship with a higher spirit with the love of daughter. At once, he is both father15 and child,16 teacher17 and student,18 at home19 and abroad.20 and the rest of him freewheeling into the present,21 Chance finds himself at liberty, squarely in the tradition of crafting new combinations. South side of Chicago folk hero Kanye West sets the stage for Chance—literally, in the case of the SNL performance. When Chano stops rhyming in the middle of the song, he insists that it’s his time to speak. He takes, occupies, and fills up the space Kanye once held while the old head looks on, smiling and struck by the spirit.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke,22 and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

One of hip hop’s loudest voices in 2016 croons in full-throated invocation of a higher power—full of rainbows and gosh darns, awe and power, soda fountain musicals and grand mama’s hands.

Ya, for sure, I love Chano like Kanye loves Kanye.

Every Chano cut pushes forward the boundaries of hip hop, this thing that we always thought we knew so well. He indulges fully—an approach ripped straight from his predecessors23—his better angels. And for that,24 we owe a great debt to Kanye.

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Still no one likes jazz rap

Kendrick Lamar gave a Grammy performance for the ages on Monday night. In nine minutes he compressed the sweeping expression of modern black culture that is To Pimp a Butterfly. He even added an air of theatrical plot development—yet another genre-bending move worthy of music’s highest honor.

The performance was painful, celebratory, and relentless.

It stole the coming days’ conversation but the Grammy voters stole his award.

After all, no hip-hop song has won record or song of the year at the Grammy’s. Only two hip hop artists have ever won Album of the Year, and one them beat out none other than your boy Kendrick. The institutional racism that uses a Kdot performance to boost ratings and credibility while denying him it’s top honor for a universally acclaimed album that skewers institutional racism among other things is an irony I cannot bear.

Taylor Swift is nice, happy, and marketable. I wish her all the commercial success in the world.25 I also wish her a fierce rebellious phase that rejects the comforts she’s been afforded.26 I wish the self-awareness and courage to recognize and publicly address that she wasn’t the underdog this time, probably wasn’t really ever27 and won’t be anytime soon.

I’d like to scream into the wind and whip up a fervor. I’d like to foam at the mouth. I’d like to disabuse ourselves of this duplicitous notion that the Grammy’s are about high art and not the safe, commercially successful alternative. But I’ll save it for next year when Kendrick loses AOY to the next Adam Levine.

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 1: The Slam Dunk Competition and other takeaways from NBA All-Star weekend

This thinkpiece1 is part one of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

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“Man, did you hear what Drake just said? He said this is the game with the 24 best players in the world. You’re one of those guys. Embrace it all, because you never would have thought that when you were at Michigan State, and I never would have thought that when I was coaching Division II, but we’re here.” –Coach Gregg Popovich [to Draymond Green pre-tipoff]

“I’m not a role model…just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” –Sir Charles Barkley

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But who’ll raise the kids dunking basketballs?

If the world ever figures out how to put a gif on a tombstone, let it be known at this time in this place, this is the one for me:

Quick breakdown: You’re watching fingers-crossed-heir-apparent Andrew Wiggins’s brain melt into the same fluorescent color as his metallic jacket, while the rest of his body perfects the platonic form of the hold-me-back-but-prop-me-up-DAYUMMMM-I’ve-just-been-struck-by-the-spirit pose. Karl Anthony-Towns’ look of absolute disbelief then sudden and extreme joy reminds me too much of my son when I pretend to take his sister’s nose. Demarcus Cousins has to help his Kentucky running mate John Wall, whose legs have apparently lost the ability to perform a routine standing up maneuver. Thank god for DeMarre Carroll who actually blinked during the dunk in question, but looks so damn fly it doesn’t even matter.

The dunk contest might well have been worth it for giving us this gif alone. Alas, there were some jaw-dropping, dope dunks to go along with it. 2

Aaron Gordon’s mission was to give us four dunks we’d never seen before. He did that, and in the service of originality, he helped uplift this withering event to new heights, recast a banal event into must-see television, and reframed the very limits of what is humanly possible on a basketball court.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

For years, basketball fans have been lamenting the absence of marquee names—a departure from decades-previous competitions that featured Michael, ‘Nique, Clyde, Kemp, Kersey, Vince and Tracy. Zach Lavine did well enough last year to abate that criticism, and with Gordon’s help this year, slayed the detractors.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

The value of the slam dunk competition has been historically misregarded. Conventional wisdom says you need the biggest and best superstars to restore the Slam Dunk competition to its former glory, but the truth is: we never needed star power; we just needed great, mind-bending dunks.

The slam dunk competition, after all, is about awe, wonder, and capturing the child-like imagination.3 It distills, in its most potent form, what is humanly possible on a basketball court and acts as the perfect metaphor for the “I believe I can fly” narrative. It’s actually better that the dunk contest be stocked with young guys that casual fans have barely heard of; the relative anonymity of the dunkers only makes their rise more unlikely, dramatic, and, in some ways, relatable. It breathes life into this kid’s hoop dreams and dusted off my own, which I’d shelved years ago.

Unless it’s still unclear, Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon gave us the. Greatest. Dunking. Duel. Ever. Reminiscent of Travolta-Cage or Westley-Inigo or Iago-Othello or Travolta-Slater, Lavine and Gordon went at it old school mano y mano in double dunk-off, but in the freshest, most post-millennial way possible.

We used to worship human highlight reels, but this peerless duo gave us YOLO Snapchat dunks that’ll live forever on Vine in the era of we’ve seen it all already on seven different streaming services. Lavine and Gordon demolished the idols of old and did it rudely. They didn’t leave a farewell note or even bother to look back at the mess.

Seriously these guys are both 20.4 Meaning they can’t even legally drink and also that they don’t remember Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in 2000, which means they don’t remember that dunk contest being compared to the all-time greatest faceoff between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in 1988. So perhaps they don’t fully realize the magnitude of their place in slam dunk history, but hey, they broke Twitter.5

Zach Lavine’s airy hangtime made human flight seem possible, and Aaron Gordon’s carved-from-marble strength made you think you were witnessing a previously undiscovered force of nature.

Everyone forgot pretty exciting Skills and Three-point Shooting Competitions

Karl-Anthony Towns, rookie and owner of the absolute disbelief mug above, won the Skills Competition! Not only is he talented. He’s tall, really tall—like seven feet tall. In fact, he’s the tallest dude to ever win the Skills Competition. To match the hype and the height, KAT snatched the title from the smallest competitor Isaiah Thomas in final-round-of-48, first-one-to-hit-a-three-wins-the-game dramatic fashion. Bullyish ball, baby.

Klay Thompson beat out Stephen Curry and Devin Booker to take home the three-point shooting title. Thompson is the best pure shooter in the NBA and deserves it. He had to sink just two corner threes on the final rack to win, and he drilled every. Single. One. Of. Them.6

Mama, there goes that man.

Now the Splash Brothers have matching shooting titles and that silly moniker is for reals something to be feared across the league. They’re adorable. The whole damn Warriors phenomena is adorable.7

Speaking of adorable. Devin Booker was included in a conversation with Steph Curry and Klay, and he’s like super adorable. I mean:

devin booker 1

C’mon man.

devin booker 2

Devin, you have to stop.

devin booker 3

Studs.

His inclusion in this conversation of best three-point shooters in the NBA is further testament to a surprisingly deep draft class. This baby face assassin was taken 13th overall and is barely 19 years old. I can’t wait to see him develop into a faster, stronger Ray Allen, as well as star on ABC’s The Bachelor season 23.

Drake’s hosts and posts some sartorial game

It’s well documented that that NBA players wear some ridiculous outfits off the court. 2016 All-Star MVP Russel Westbrook leads the pack in this regard. As de facto Toronto ambassador to everything and host of this year’s festivities, Drake took the opportunity to get in on the action.

Do Right And Kill Everything:

Drake coach

Noted Kentucky fan Drake channeled his inner Coach Calipari as he led Team Canada to victory in the celebrity game.

drake pink vest

Noted Furby fan that he is, Drake channeled every millennial’s favorite elementary school toy as he watched Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon defy the laws of physics in this cool pink fluffy vest that says, “Go on, pet it. You know you want to.”

drake mamba

Noted Kobe fan Drake dons a Farewell Mamba jacket from a 90s-style sweatshop that zapped Kobe of his killer instinct. What possible other reason did he go 4 of 11?

All-star game sets a record for points

The West scored 196 points and the East scored 173 points in regulation making the 2016 All-Star Game the most All-Star Gamiest—setting records for individual team and overall points scored in an ASG.

Five free throws were attempted, two blocks recorded on 286 field goals attempted 8 and exactly zero defense played—even when Lebron squared up against Kobe and slapped the floor Michael Jordan-style.9

Yes, it was a record, and yes, it was tons o’ fun.

I only wish Kobe had completed his triple double so he could have been in serious consideration for ASGMVP. Kobe deserves everything, and if you don’t think so, you’re ignoring the fact that the NBA—and basketball and ball-like objects getting thrown at hoop-like objects in general10—is better because of his career.11

Lebron James changes up his free throw routine

Lebron James, perhaps the most scrutinized athlete in the world, changed up his free throw routine last week and no one noticed! To be fair, Lebron didn’t shoot any free throws this weekend on the biggest stage, etc.,12 so I suppose we can forgive the basketball media elite for this oversight.

Top Luckswing researcher Phi Phan,13 however, noted James’ new routine during the February 10th Cavs-Lakers game. In a thoroughly filed report Phan noted, “He now steps back with his left foot while spinning the ball in his left hand.14 More importantly, James has also added a right shoulder shimmy a la Kevin Durant before he squares up for the release.”

The sample size is small, but since incorporating this new routine, James has gone 40% on 2 of 5 free throw attempts. Sources close to the situation say, we’re about to have a crisis on our hands.

This isn’t the first time he’s changed his routine or his mechanics at the charity stripe. It was noted twice last year and in 2013 when he was with the Miami Heat. Which begs the question: where are the pundits?15 Where’s the outrage? Who’ll be the first to cry, “THUG!”? Why aren’t the media heads spinning in the back with their grinning gun slinging god fearing swinging blinging top of the ninth inning bringing winning outrage machinery-ing?

Even NBA Reddit is quiet on this, which is like your drunk racist uncle downing a fifth of Knob Creek at Thanksgiving then proceeding to not have an opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s weird.

My only hope is, everyone’s noticed but is choosing to remain silent because there are more important things in sports to cover.16 In which case, I’m the only asshole writing about it.17