We Can Always Find a Reason Not to Care

I don’t know where we get the idea that our capacity for compassion and empathy, that our desire for justice and our pursuit of it by whatever means we have, is finite.

I don’t know where we get the idea that there is only so much.

I don’t know where we get the idea that there’s a bottom to it. That we have to guard it jealously, and only use it in the right times, the most right times. That if we spend it on you, we will have nothing left for anyone else.

As if love is a bowl of sugar. As if we’ll use it up.

As if even if that were true, it would change the task in front of us.

Because here’s the thing. We can always find a reason this time is not the right time to care. We can always find a way out of wasting our precious give-a-shit on someone who doesn’t “deserve” it. We can always find a mistake, a problem, a turning point at which somebody chose the wrong (to us, comfortable us, in hindsight) path, and use that as our excuse to turn away.

One of the police officers involved in Freddie Gray‘s death headed to trial in Baltimore on Monday. Several media outlets have reported on it. But only CNN, it seems, decided to bring up a totally unrelated fact in its story (emphasis added):

The April 19 death of Freddie Gray, the son of an illiterate heroin addict, made him a symbol of the black community’s distrust of police. His name is now invoked with those of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Eric Garner in New York; and other black men who died during encounters with white police officers. In Gray’s case, three of the officers charged are white; three black.

To be clear, whatever Gray’s mother did has nothing to do with Gray’s death or the trial it led to. Gray was arrested for allegedly carrying an illegal knife, and he died in police custody from a fatal spinal cord injury after he thrashed around the back of a moving police car without a seatbelt. His mother never came into the picture, much less her literacy or drug addiction.

So Freddie Gray isn’t worth caring about because his mother was a drug addict who couldn’t read. So Michael Brown smoked weed. So Eric Garner was selling cigarettes. So Tamir Rice had a toy gun.

So we don’t have to care this time. Let’s save it up.

God almighty, what does that get you? You don’t get more compassion by keeping it all for yourself. You don’t get more kindness and you don’t get more justice and you don’t get more anything because you cower in the corner and you say not this time, I’ll join the chorus next time, I’ll wait for a better parade. I’ll wait for the right protest. I’ll keep my powder dry. I’ll care when a truly innocent, truly perfect, truly worthy victim presents himself.

(Maybe like a baby, or something. If the cops shoot a baby. Who doesn’t have his fists balled up like he’s gonna fight them.)

Like what are you scared of? That you’ll wake up tomorrow having said that the state should not have the power to execute people on sight because they might be acting shady? You’re afraid that’s going to be a thing you’ll regret saying? You’re afraid that might come back to haunt you? You’re afraid that will send you to hell?

That, and not your silence?

Because here’s the other thing: There will always be more misery.

There will always be more injustice. There will always be more work to be done. We will never get to lay down our burdens. We will never attend the One True Protest that will change everything forever after which we can all go home.

That’s not a condemnation. That’s not a threat. It’s not even a promise.

That’s the world. That’s the way it’s designed. So there can’t be only so much compassion, so much caring, so much outrage, so much justice, so much fight. There can’t be a bottom to the sugar bowl. It can’t be like that unless it’s nothing and it’s not nothing, I don’t believe that, I won’t. Stop looking for a reason not to care. Stop acting like you’re going to spend your ration card. Stop being so afraid.

There’s no bottom to fear, either.


Malaka Of The Week: Joe Alleva


LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva frowns as Coach Les Miles holds a post-game presser on 11/28. Alleva is the silver-haired malaka with the blazer and purple tie.

It’s been a wild and crazy few weeks inside the LSU football bubble. Athletic Director Joe Alleva tried and failed to oust head football coach Les Miles. Alleva’s leaks, lies, and intrigues finally blew up in his face as LSU beat Texas A&M in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night. And that is why Joe Alleva is malaka of the week.

It all began when the Tigers hit the wall after overachieving their way to a 7-0 start.  After consecutive SEC rival losses to Alabama and Arkansas, Malaka Alleva swung into action and leaked a story to columnist Scott Rabalais of the Advocate. Alleva has denied being the source but his klutzy fingerprints are all over it. The gist of the story was that Miles would be fired if his team didn’t win its last 2 games.The leaker implied that Miles spent too much time coaching and too little time blowing prominent boosters. If you’re unfamiliar with big-time sports boosters, they’re essentially fan boys with money and big mouths.

The plot accelerated as the pro-Alleva forces leaked stories that Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher was headed to Red Stick. There was a problem: the rumors were just that, rumors. When Fisher began denying the reports, the anti-Miles coup began to collapse. Miles was greeted as a conquering hero by fans before the Tigers final home game and Alleva was booed. Tiger Stadium was full of pro-Miles and anti-Alleva signs. This is not what happens when an unpopular coach is about to be fired: Jerry DiNardo was nearly booed off the field during his last game as LSU head coach in 1999.  In contrast, Miles was carried off the field by his team. The coup had fizzled, primarily because of overconfidence and general malakatude. Miles was informed that he’d be retained in the bowels of the stadium right after the game.

I watched the game and the post-game presser and saw the coup unravel in real-time. It was a thing of beauty. Here’s what I had to say as it unfolded:

The coup failed, in part, because of a huge backlash from the University community. After years of savage budget cuts, a $15 million buy-out was a gigantic fuck you to faculty, students, and alumni. Additionally, Alleva and his fan boy plotters mistook kvetching over the eccentricities of Lesball for a fan base ready to revolt against the Coach with the best winning percentage in school history.

Alleva was played for a fool by Jimbo Fisher’s agent Jimmy Sexton who used Alleva’s lust for Fisher’s services as a way to squeeze concessions out of Florida State. It’s what agents do: they’re sharks in expensive suits. Alleva was the perfect mark for Sexton’s con game. Gullibility is often an essential component of malakatude. It certainly is in this instance.

I’m uncertain if this farce resembles a Marx Brothers film or a Three Stooges short. Now that I think of it, since low comedy was involved, it’s more the latter. Alleva thought of himself as Moe and goofball Coach Miles as Larry. Instead, Les went all Curley on his ass and turned the tables on the hapless AD.

Here’s the deal: I’ve had reservations about Les Miles for years. He’s an erratic game coach whose offense is a throwback to the days of his mentor Bo Schembechler’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” running game. But he wins and is one of the best recruiters in college football history. The players and their parents love Miles. Superstar running back Leonard Fournette chose the Tigers over Alabama because he didn’t like Nick Saban, and found Les to be “warm and fatherly.” Not a bad thing for an athlete to say about their coach.

Alleva’s failed attempt to oust Les Miles has left his reputation in tatters and there are now calls for him to be fired. Holy schadenfreude, Batman. Alleva’s minions are floating the preposterous notion that the real reason to fire Miles was “insubordination.” Supposedly, Miles went over his boss’ head to the Governor. Funny thing it’s the first time we’re hearing of this. The problem with this postulation is that PBJ has shown no interest in sports and his indifference to LSU is the stuff of legend. My hunch is that Team Alleva is trying to pander to the incoming Governor, but it’s just another piss poor attempt at spin and damage control.

It’s been an entertaining few weeks but I’m glad it’s over. The new Governor has pledged to support higher education so the LSU community can heave a sigh of relief that the worst is over. Les Miles can get back to chewing grass, faking kicks, and making marginally coherent comments. Joe Alleva can go fuck himself and admit that he’s a Larry, not a Moe. And that is why Joe Alleva is malaka of the week.


Quote Of The Day: Piercing Insight Edition

Another day, another quote from Charlie Pierce. This time about the rampant mendacity, fabulism, and truthiness that is depressingly ubiquitous on the American Right:

As with so many things, this all began with Ronald Reagan. Those people who claim that Donald Trump is sui generis in this regard are very much the same as those people who find him a unique political phenomenon, instead of the logical end product of almost 40 years of conservative politics. Reagan was as full of crap as the Christmas goose, and in the same way that Trump and Carson are. Trump has dancing Muslims. Reagan had the fictitious welfare queen in Chicago. Carson had his attempt to stab a classmate. Reagan had his march into Auschwitz to liberate the death camp there. The difference is that Reagan slung his hooey with a smile and a wink. Trump has weaponized Reagan’s fabulism and that seems to make a difference to some people. But nothing that has happened in this campaign, up to and including the latest spasm of outright bigotry and fear-mongering, is new in the recent history of Republican politics. It always is the person who tells the best ghost stories who wins.

Word, Charlie. The best contemporaneous account of Reagan’s bullshittery is Garry Wills’ 1987 book, Reagan’s America. He digs deep into some of the Gipper’s whoppers and mines some gold.  I cannot believe I used that analogy. My only excuse is that it’s Monday and I’ve seen The Treasure of  the Sierra Madre too many times as opposed to the fool’s gold dispensed by Reagan and his uncharming inheritors.

I don’t think the Insult Comedian, Dr. Sleepy, or Tailgunner Ted would care for the message of that 1948 cinematic classic: greed is bad and money is the root of all evil. They might, however, like the way Walter Huston danced. I bet Ronnie did:

I’ll be back later with the Malaka of the Week.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “everything must go” edition

Good morning, everyone! I promised some oldies, but first – a nugget of absolute pure Freepitude:

In a thread about Dead Breitbart’s assertion that The Darnold didn’t REALLY say what he said:

Donald Trump Corrects the Record: Media Proposed Muslim Database, Not Me
Breitbart ^ | 11/20/15 | Charlie Sperring

Posted on ‎11‎/‎20‎/‎2015‎ ‎1‎:‎47‎:‎54‎ ‎PM by BigEdLB

Donald Trump corrected reports from the media suggesting that he actually wanted a government database for all Muslim Americans to be registered in order to stop terrorism.

“I didn’t suggest a database , a reporter did”, he wrote on Twitter moments ago. “We must defeat Islamic terrorism and have surveillance, including a watch list, to protect America.”

The media spent most of the day reacting to Trump’s positive reaction to a question posed by reporters as to whether he supported a plan to register American Muslims.

1 posted on 11‎/‎20‎/‎2015‎ ‎1‎:‎47‎:‎54‎ ‎PM by BigEdLB

….which he positively did!

Let the spin begin!

DiogenesLamp (which has apparently gone out) is furious. At Trump? No, for some reason, at the Democrat Propaganda Agents (another good band name, BTW) :

To: BigEdLB

Donald Trump Corrects the Record: Media Proposed Muslim Database, Not Me

Democrat Propaganda agents were criminally lying again? They need to be brought up on Federal Election Commission charges for attempting to tamper with an election by deliberately promulgating known falsehoods.

We need to hammer these media bastards every chance we get. We need to be working on ways to put these Democrat agents in prison for election tampering.

4 posted on 11‎/‎20‎/‎2015‎ ‎1‎:‎56‎:‎31‎ ‎PM by DiogenesLamp (“of parents owing allegiance to no other sovereignty.”)
Then, “GrandJediMasterYoda”
warns of another subversive truth-teller :
To: DiogenesLamp


I wrote to Trump on Twitter yesterday saying that same exact thing and also asked him to considering suing. This is outrageous where the media can just make stuff up like this then spread it like wildfire throughout social media. That idiot George Takei yesterday spread that story yesterday…This is was on Facebook, so I wrote him and told him “Calm down old man, you’ve been scammed” That guy has I believe 9 million followers, so that’s a potential 9 million people that saw that false story. This stuff ain’t no joke, this is absolute pure slander what they are doing to Trump.

Yes here is what he wrote………

George Takei
22 hrs
In an interview, Donald Trump refused to rule out requiring all Muslims to carry special religious identification, or to rule out warrantless searches of their homes and places of worship. Said Trump, “We’re going to have to do things that we never did before. We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” Many recall, with horror, how Jews were forced to wear special religious identification in Nazi Germany—a yellow star of David. In the U.S., my own family, and over a hundred thousand other Japanese Americans, were tagged like mere pieces of luggage, with no charges, with no trial, with no due process, before they shipped us off to prison camps.
Mr. Trump, unto my last dying breath, I shall oppose this madness. I shall continue to speak out, whether on social media or from our stage in Allegiance on Bway, against the dangers of racial or religious profiling and its dehumanizing effect. Yours is the first step toward the destruction of all we hold dear, and to that I and all good people must say, “Never again, never again, never, never, never again.”

18 posted on 11‎/‎20‎/‎2015‎ ‎2‎:‎10‎:‎50‎ ‎PM by GrandJediMasterYoda (B. Hussein Obama: 20 acts of Treason and counting.)

And this prompts the aforementioned nugget of perfect Freepitude :
To: GrandJediMasterYoda; All
George, you should be glad that you and your people WERE shipped off to those detainment camps because America was so pissed off with your ancestral warlords in Japan, that your safety and the safety of your family and friends could not be guaranteed in the post-Pearl Harbor world of 1941+.
The only possible complaint you might have, would be if you would admit or confirm that it was in your own detainment camp that you were first introduced to the homosexual practice of sucking d–k. If you were coerced into being a peter puffer, you might even today, have a claim against the U.S. government. But as for this 21st century threat of Islamofascism from ISIS and their ideological brethren, you DO realize don’t you, that if they did manage to take over our Nation and institute sharia law, that YOU and your sexual ilk would be among the first ones to be decapitated in the name of ‘allah’, have you thought about that?
Get back to me on that.

Wait for it….

PS – Captain Sulu would NEVER suck d–k!

36 posted on 11/20/2015, 3:08:59 PM by mkjessup (Trump & Cruz are the ONLY candidates to which we can trust America’s security.)

Some older stuff after the fold…

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A Hard Year and a Cold One

Kick crawls into my lap and she whispers to me, “Shhh, dark out” in the very early morning when she wakes up.

She wakes at 6, almost every day (when she doesn’t wake up at 5:30) and she wants toast and milk and yogurt and to watch cartoons with the sound almost off. She shouts “up, up, up” in her crib until I go and get her, but if I dare speak in a normal voice she reminds me, “Dark out. Daddy sleeping.” She is the keeper of her father. If his office door is closed, it’s “Daddy working.” If it’s dinner time for her, “Daddy too?” She is the keeper of her father and enlists me in the task, and in the mornings we conspire for silence. I pour myself coffee and grab my phone and we cuddle up on the couch, watch Daniel Tiger and Curious George and this weird Canadian show about animals.

If being thankful is knowing you are lucky — we call a store of riches a fortune, after all — then knowing you are lucky is knowing of unluck. Of bad fortune. I’m not saying you have to burn in order to shine; that’s bullshit tea towel wisdom. I’m saying you can’t have contrast without darkness. It’s not a gift or a virtue or anything other than fact.

This time of year is frightening. My grandfather, the best person that I knew, died just before Thanksgiving. My grandmother, a safe place in human form, died the day after Christmas and I’ve had a hard time forgiving Christmas for that. I lost friends this year, to death and disagreement, and I’m watching the Facebook feed and the inbox with trepidation: No one else. No one else can go.

We’re all tired, right? I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired. How are you? I’m tired. I have too much to do and not enough time to do it and somebody’s in the hospital and somebody’s disappeared off the face of the planet and somebody died and somebody’s not talking to me anymore and somebody’s getting fired. Everybody has too much to handle. I offer weak attempts to help, and fail to follow through on too many fronts.

I have this, too. In the early morning when she’s sleepy, Kick reverts to infancy, rubs her face into my shoulder and her hair is soft on my cheek.

Another mother’s child is sleeping outdoors, in the rain, while politicians debate if he deserves their protection. Another mother’s child is dead in the street, with 16 bullets in his body, while commentators talk about the drugs he was on. We are unable to call liars liars anymore, and watching and reading the news has started to feel like taking poison on purpose.

Our national election next year will be about how mean we should be. We have decided to be mean, and now it’s just a matter of degrees. We can’t, it seems, be kind. We can’t take in everybody, we can’t afford it. We can’t hold power accountable, the world will collapse. We think difficulty is inevitability and that the only thing that matters is keeping the people who watch the morning talk shows from having to work. People are telling us over and over it’s impossible to be a better country, because of expenses or risks or … this is not an insurance coverage calculation. This is our immortal goddamn souls, and there’s no such thing as too hard or too much.

I’ve never been afraid for the world my daughter walks, not before this. I want us to think about the past as if it’s not the past but the way forward: The times we did good, the times we did big, the times we took the system apart and built it back up better. I want us to be inspired instead of afraid and energized instead of exhausted. It’s hard when it’s cold like this, when we’re mean like this, when any kind of optimism feels like a joke and everybody’s so goddamn convinced they’re too tired.

I want to shush the world right now, give it a moment to rest.

Because: It’s dark out.



If You Vote There’s Nothing They Can Do

There’s a lesson in here for everyone, horrifying as the Trump show has become: 

The political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers has no plans to take on Trump. American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by strategist Karl Rove, is steering clear and fixated on Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton instead. Right to Rise, the super PAC backing Jeb Bush, is not gearing up to attack Trump either. And major Republican donors, such as hedge-fund manager Paul Singer and the Ricketts family, have shown no interest in supporting the few organizations trying to undercut him.

“It is probably accurate to say there is very little money for these endeavors,” said Liz Mair, a Republican consultant who recently started an anti-Trump group called Trump Card. “Our group has donors and money, but it’s not like we have hundreds of people.”

It’s not like they have hundreds of people. It’s not like they have voters. They just have money. They just have their own conviction that if they sit on their asses this will fix itself.

I remain convinced that if Trump is what GOP primary voters want, Trump is what they should have. The horror and hand-wringing and whining that this is some kind of perversion of the political system is elitist nonsense no matter its egomaniacal subject; this is how the system was designed to work. There’s no fixing this because as long as more people vote than they expect to vote, their money is useless.

There’s a lesson in this, and it’s not just to watch out for squirrel-haired xenophobes whose time has come. It’s that money can still be scared of people, if enough of the latter show up.


Sunday Morning Video: Huey Long

Huey Long was Ken Burns’ third documentary feature and helped make his reputation as a filmmaker. Huey was, of course, the most colorful Gret Stet Goober of them all.

Your Inconvenience Versus Someone’s Life

Oh, boy are we concern trolling HARD right now in Chicago: 

The protest did bother some shoppers, many of whom said they were from out of state and only had the day to check out Chicago’s Mag Mile stores. There were confrontations between protesters and frustrated shoppers, who in some cases enlisted the help of nearby police to get into stores.

“I understand the protest, but there’s got to be a better way,” said Sue Hahn, who came with her family from Southwest Michigan. She was turned away from American Girl Place.

“It’s inconvenient. We planned this for two months,” she said. “But what can you do.”

There’s got to be a better way? Yeah, there is. STOP SHOOTING UNARMED YOUNG ADULTS WHO ARE NOT THREATENING YOU AT ALL, BECAUSE YOU ARE ASKEERED OF BLACK PEOPLE AND/OR HAVE HOPPED YOURSELF UP ON SOME KIND OF RACE WAR OF THE WORLDS EMOTIONAL METH FUMES AT THE F.O.P. DINNERS. That’s the better way. Like I’m sorry your shopping day was bummed out but there are dead people, and the dead people win, and the people who look like the dead people get to decide who gets inconvenienced right now and just shove your inconvenience generally.

A better way. Yeah, tell everybody else how to do it. Tell everybody else how to protest just right, so that no one is inconvenienced. That’s the POINT. If you are not inconvenienced, you do not notice, and if you do not notice, then smug comfortable jerksticks can keep writing columns about how nobody’s protesting enough or in the right way, forever and ever amen. The people who are inflicting harm are not the ones who get to lecture here. They’re not the ones in danger:

In many cases, police had already blocked off the stores and ordered stores to not let anyone in or out. Many shoppers inside American Girl Place and Macy’s at Water Tower Place could be seen pacing by the closed front doors of the store, not able to leave.

A security guard at Water Tower Place said management made the decision to temporarily close the building with shoppers inside. It would open up its doors when police deemed it safe, he said.

Barricades were erected outside of the Macy’s at Water Tower Place.

If the city spent a fraction of the time protecting the homes and streets of poor African-Americans as they do protecting the goddamn American Girl Place, if we literally declared a federal emergency over the lives of poor African-Americans the way we do over Americans at risk from imaginary Syrian refugee terrorists, and debated for days in Congress about how nothing was too much if it kept “our people” from harm, there wouldn’t be any protests to critique.

So spare me the “but black people kill more black people than … but he was on drugs … but his family is probably scamming …” You do not get to excuse yourself from caring by citing Wikipedia or a thing your cousin told you he heard from the friend of a friend. And YOU ARE NOT BETTER BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE SUCKS. This is a basic rule of being a human. You are responsible for you. And if you genuinely think that a nice day you had planned downtown is equivalent to a 17-year-old with 16 bullets in him, go back to people school.


Saturday Odds & Sods: Pocket Of A Clown


I had a long week and was away from the computer for much of it. I also had a drink or five on Thanksgiving. In short, I didn’t have the requisite time to lavish on this feature this week. Strictly my bad. Feel free to call me a clown as long as I’m a semi-scary clown like the one played by Lon Chaney in Laugh, Clown, Laugh. Of course, that was a silent film and I’m rarely silent.

I may not have a full-tilt Odds & Sods post in my own pocket, but I do have a theme song. It poses the eternal question of what it’s like to be inside the pocket of a clown. It beats the hell outta me but Dwight Yoakam seems to know:

Since clowns appear to be the theme of this truncated post, there’s only one Bat character to bid you adieu:

Joker meme

Heroes often fail

A young woman from my feature writing class sat in my office and stared at me long and hard. She halted for a moment before saying something I knew to be true:

“I’ve never seen you like this before.”

We were sitting in my office during perhaps the worst stretch of my professional life, discussing how the concept of feature writing relies on both factual reporting and observation. She was probably one of the best kids I’ve had in a long time and she wasn’t off by much in what she was observing.

I looked back at her with a grimacing smile. I then said something I unfortunately knew to be true as well:

“No one has seen me like this in 20 years.”

The past month has included a seven-year battle with a jealous colleague lead to a promotion snag and a memo of reprimand being placed in my file. In addition, a group of students called for me to be fired, a series of errors blew up at the paper and a financial debacle led to threats that the newspaper I advise would be closed.

A year ago, I debated whether I should take a job offer to move south. This month, I really wondered why I hadn’t.

The truth of the matter was that almost none of things really mattered to me. I hated the guy before he wrote what was essentially a false hatchet-job on my character. I hate him now, so no real change there. The students who want me fired are idiots and have been told that their efforts will not lead to change, despite them doing everything short of walking into my building with pitchforks and torches. The errors will always happen, no matter how much you try to avoid them. I often go back to a scathing editorial my college newspaper once wrote eons before my arrival. The paper was one of the few that thundered against Joe McCarthy during his rise, but in this case the writer noted “In this country you are guilty until proven innocent.”


The financial problem at my current paper, though, was something I saw as untenable.

Debt built over the past decade and eventually a flashpoint for both the student government and the administration. Despite our best efforts to turn a profit, we couldn’t stanch the bleeding until we had amassed an almost-six-figure debt. Now, the university “bank” was calling in the loan and we lacked the funds or collateral. What started as a “You guys need to get your house in order” became a deadline with a financial ultimatum. After a month of panicked fundraising, official meetings and essentially a Cuban Missile Crisis in a basement, the staff members were reassured by administrators that the paper would live, investments would be made and that things would become “normal” at some point.

The collateral damage was the mental state of about a half-dozen editors, a top administrator being thrown under the bus and just about everyone I know having some sort of beef with me. I had managed to piss off even people who I didn’t even know knew me.

How did this happen? Why did this happen? The answers were insanely complex and yet relatively simple.


When I was 20 years old, our student newspaper closed amid a six-figure debt and financial malfeasance. Our beloved A details how this happened so brilliantly in her book that it’s not worth explaining here. Sufficient to say, when all the debts were tallied and all the assets were calculated, it would take a miracle on par with the loaves and fishes to bring it back to life.

In seven months, we did just that. In the 20-plus years since that day, the paper has continued to print, day in and day out. I poured 70-plus hour workweeks into that place. I gave up everything for the singularity of that outcome, including work, class and more. In the end, it worked but the cost was almost incalculable.

With something like this happening, most outsiders would imagine that I would have been hoisted onto shoulders. There should be a monument or a statue or at least a “There goes Roy Hobbs” discussion of who I am and why I mattered.

Instead, I have exactly two friends from that era: A and Mr. A. Beyond that, a few people still acknowledge me on Facebook.

Everyone else pretty much fucking hates me.

It took a long time, but I came to totally understand why. I was a major asshole at that point and the following years as I tried to make sure that what I built didn’t die. There was only one way to do it and it was my way.

Myopic. Brutal. Angry.

In the years that followed, I left the state behind and was able to start over. I tamped down the anger, worked on the brutality and attempted to broaden my worldview. I worried less about what I thought was right and attempted to be more of a “we’re all God’s children” kind of guy.

It didn’t always work and the internal “Wolverine” that people often associated with me flared at some of the worst times. The combination of stress and sleeplessness, coupled with massive amounts of anxiety exposed the raw nerve and rubbed it into a frenzy.

During one such bout of anxiety over something or other, I got a call from my mother at the newsroom where I was working.

“It’s grandma,” she began. “She died…”

I had long dreaded this, figuring it was my mother’s mom. The woman smoked upwards of a half-carton of cigarettes per day. She was a recovering alcoholic and a cancer survivor. I wasn’t really ready, but I understood.

I asked her something about her and grandma when she stopped me.

It wasn’t that grandmother. It was dad’s mom.

This just floored me. I never saw it coming. She wasn’t even sick.

I was going to get in the car and drive out that night. 500 miles in the dark, just to get there, to be there, for something. Mom pleaded with me to promise that I’d call and get an airline ticket the next day for later in the week. I was a wreck, but I promised.

I couldn’t leave the newsroom, as I was the only night editor. Stories were still coming in. I was in a haze.

I ended up working with a master’s student that night who was, and probably still is, an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk. He had a law degree and a Porsche. For reasons past my understanding, he was coming back for a journalism degree. I had long held my tongue about him and his work: He thought he was perfect at everything, I knew better.

I sat down to edit and it wasn’t going well. I changed something, he changed it back. I questioned something, he questioned me. I forgot what he finally said that broke me, but I remember what I said back:

“This is the worst fucking thing I’ve ever seen, you stupid fucking prick. I’ve taken shits that I’d be more proud of than this story.”

He just sat there stunned.

When I got back from the funeral, I was called on the carpet about this. The guy apparently filed an open records request to find out anything ever said about him in any of my “night notes” to the boss. I didn’t get fired, but I never felt right again.


In the subsequent years, I found the balance I needed. Nothing was too hard, nothing was too easy. Nothing really ever forced me to fight that hard again.

It was a worthwhile outcome for someone who had been forced to let time and friction smooth off the rough edges.

During my last stop, I found myself, once again, battling against the financial deterioration of a publication. The previous adviser had spent the six-figure surplus into a razor-thin margin and there I was again trying to figure out how to make this work. I fended off the financial crises for about five years, each time telling people above my pay grade that the center couldn’t hold. We needed a different model. We needed more investment. We needed something.

The last year I was there, I was granted an audience with the provost or someone who could really make a difference. When I laid out the situation, discussed the flat-line investment the U had made since the 1980s and proposed something more amiable, he just glared at me.

“We give you a lot,” he said. “You have space and we keep the lights on…” At that point, I knew things weren’t going to work.

I had a choice: Go back to who I was or leave. An offer came available from a school close to home and I took it.

It was easier than the other option.

And then suddenly, decades after that first “near-death” experience, came this shit show… A meeting where I was told someone was going to close us down. That the people responsible for trying to help us really seemed to have little interest in doing so.

And this time, I couldn’t just leave. I was where I was going to have to stay, no matter what.

Rock, meet hard place.

And with that came that feeling…

That feeling that you will lose.

That feeling that you will fail people who are counting on you.

That feeling… Feeling.

You fall to one knee, gasping for air. You feel yourself reaching upward for something. All you get is a beating. You can’t curl up because you know you’re going to die if you do. You can’t unfurl because you know the beating will kill you.

You have no goddamned hope at all.

I forget where I read it but I heard about a nerve that sits way deep within each and every one of us. It’s that last life force that won’t allow us to die quietly.

It’s the flurry of fury. It’s the unleashing of whatever is left. Whatever we have in the tank.

When it’s spent, if we haven’t fought off that which would take our life, we end.

When that meeting ended and the gauntlet was thrown down, I wasn’t sure if I felt it until I looked into the eyes of those two kids who came with me. Two editors, not much older or younger than I was all those years ago, scared 20-somethings who never really realized that everything could come to an end so suddenly.

I asked them, “What did you just hear in there?”

They told me, “If we don’t have the money they want by Feb. 1, they’re shutting us down.”

I looked at them and something happened to me. The only equivalency I have been able to articulate was when my child looked at me in terror over some sort of fearful event, begging, “Please, Daddy. Don’t let it hurt me.”

The look. It was there.

But unlike when I spoke to my kid, I couldn’t guarantee that things would be OK. I couldn’t promise that bad things wouldn’t happen. I couldn’t find that answer that would tell them, “It’s OK. We’ll be fine.”

And that nearly broke me.


The last time I felt this broken and wounded and lost, things were so much different, I thought.

Many, many years ago, I was much younger and much braver. I watched too many 1980s movies. I fell in love with too many underdogs. I didn’t know that things don’t always work out because you want them to.

I was the living embodiment of the Samuel L. Jackson line from “The Great White Hype,” “You have a blind, stupid belief in yourself.”

This time around, I didn’t know what I could do or couldn’t do. I didn’t know what I had left in the tank. I didn’t even know if I remembered how I did it the first time. The odds were worse. The enemies were stronger. The general sense of who I was had faded.

I was no longer that guy. I was an old man who had given up much and lost too much. I didn’t like being unlikable. I didn’t want to cause collateral damage any more. I wanted to remain that even-keel person who everyone thought was about two good jokes from chucking this all and doing stand-up on the open road.

These people had never seen the darkness. They never saw the Wolverine. They were better for it.

And yet, sometimes, circumstances don’t allow you to dictate terms. You just become who you are. You realize that inside, you are who you always were: broken, damaged, angry, determined, vile.

The evil inside forces cracks the façade and the wickedness seeps out. The determination and grit become razors and scythes. You emit some sort of energy, fueled by rage and horror.

It’s what allows you to work twice as hard as even you thought was possible.

It’s what eliminates your ability to be undignified as you essentially do anything for anyone, just for a promise of help.

It’s what turns shame into pride, as you wear your lack of pretense as a badge of honor.

A long-time friend from another institution meant well when she said this, and for anyone else, this would have been crippling. She met me at a convention shortly after this financial gun was loaded and cocked and placed next to my head on a timer. She said, “I have something for you!” She then proudly handed me a can with a slot on the top of it, a mini-bank, something you would give to a child for storing pennies and nickels. “Now you can go fundraise for your paper!”

Think about that for a moment.

I once ran a ¾ of a million dollar publication. I pulled one other publication out of a six-figure debt with nothing but smoke and mirrors and gumption. I have a doctorate from one of the most prestigious universities in the country in my field and I have written a half-dozen books.

And here was this woman, handing me a can, offering a simple message:

“Go beg for life.”

So I did.

I put a sign on the thing and walked around a convention of my peers, begging for change. I offered services for quarters and dollars.

I was a whore.

Given the chance to do it all over again, I would do it again.

Because the one thing I learned in all my time working with these kids is that they get it. The world doesn’t owe you a Snickers bar because you showed up. You have to grind it out, every day, regardless of your circumstances.

I have kids who have to worry that their mother is in a mental institution, or should be forced to return there.

I have single mothers who will have people watch their kids so they can come down and ply their trade in hopes of getting an internship, a job and a better life.

I have kids who see their cousins get shot and then debate if they should go to the funeral or stick around for production night.

I have the kids who didn’t have a “first choice” or a “safety school.” Instead, they came here because they could afford it and they could get in and they are so goddamned stubborn that they refuse to fail.

Who the hell am I to tell these kids my mealy mouthed bullshit?

“I’m sorry, but I’m too tired.”

“I’m too old and I would risk too much.”

“I did this once before and it nearly cost me everything.”

“If I do this, you probably won’t like what you see emerge. It might damage my reputation.”

“I can’t do this because I might fail. Who would I be then?”

As Gordon Lightfoot once wrote, “Heroes often fail.”

And when they do, they have a choice:

They can apologize for their actions. They can cower in the corner. They can tell the world, “You were right. This isn’t possible. The costs are just too high. I’m sorry I offended you.”

Or they can accept their fate: That they will fall to the ground. They will take the beating, the beard-plucking, the buffets and spitting. They will realize that there will be more collateral damage and that this will become that next story of darkened lore. They cast an angry and violent shadow upon everything they encounter.

They can then get up, spit out the blood in their mouth and say, “You don’t get the best of me, even if that means you will kill me.”
It’s funny, but every time I think I’m the former, something comes along and makes me realize, I’d prefer the latter.

There are days I wish that weren’t the case. That I were smarter, more reasonable, more decent and more willing to acquiesce to the norms of polite society.

The only saving grace I have is that I’ve never had those days on the days that counted the most.

So I grit my worn teeth. I rub my grayed beard. I glare through eyes creased with crow’s feet. I become that which I have sworn to forsake because that’s who I am at the core: An angry, damaged, broken man who refused to fail because that’s just not fucking allowed here.

I reach back to that time when I was too dumb to quit and I say, “I will get you out of this. I don’t know how but I do know why and I know that this doesn’t end here and now.”

Happy Chandler, the commissioner of baseball in the late 1940s, once went against all common sentiment when he agreed to allow a man of color into the white man’s game. When he explained himself in later years, once his decision had cost him almost everything he held dear, he noted, “I’m going to have to meet my maker some day and if he asks me why I didn’t let (Jackie Robinson) play and I say ‘Because he’s black,’ well, that might not be a satisfactory answer.”

Chandler knew what I know all too well: There is a certain brevity to life and you will have to answer to a power higher than yourself for who you are and what you have done. That power knows what you are capable of and what you were set on this Earth to accomplish.

When you fail to give what you have been provided and you choose to take the easier path for the sake of simplicity, you have failed not only yourself, but also your maker.

And even though it would be so much easier to do it that way, that’s not the life I choose to live.

Friday Ferretblogging: Ferrets Are Responsible for All Good Things

Thanks, ferrets! 

One day in 1930, 16-year-old Boyce Lane was out indulging in a favourite pastime — rabbit hunting.

The Tantanoola teenager was wandering around a local spot known as Hanging Rocks and was calling for his ferret, which had disappeared chasing a rabbit down a small hole in the cliffs.

After some time, Boyce went home and grabbed a torch and his brother, and returned to the small opening with the intention of retrieving his wayward pet.

Mount Gambier newspaper the Border Watch reported at the time that the teenagers squeezed through the small hole, shone their flashlight about and saw a row of hanging stalactites, the first hint that something quite incredible lay beyond.

After the brothers dashed home to tell their father George about their discovery, a group of men returned later that day to investigate, armed with ropes, lamps and torches.

Illuminated by the bare light of their torches, what the men witnessed was spectacular.

Chasing bunnies out of burrows is actually what Claire would do in the wild, if she hadn’t been bred instead to be a fancy princess who needs to be hand-fed.


Friday Guest Catblogging: The Amazing Acro-Cats

Oscar and Della are too tuckered out from turkey day to make an appearance this week. Instead, here are the deeply silly Amazing Acro-Cats on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert:


Now Be Thankful

I like Thanksgiving and I like ritual, which is why I’m posting this song for the fourth year in a row:

Just remember to never cut the toikey without me:

Who Needs Facts When Myths Will Do?

From Album 5

If you haven’t already seen it, Matt Taibbi looks at what happens when an entire generation or so buys into “facts are stupid things,” an-empire-versus-the-reality-based-community, Sarah Palin as somehow qualified to run for high office, etc., … and now the traveling clown show that is the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. Take a look if you’d like an easy read before or after a holiday nap or if you need a break from whatever is happening where you are.

Otherwise…I guess reflecting on today’s celebration, I feel thankful that despite my conservative parents, I never bought into the mythology, and at my relatively advanced age I’m beginning to understand why.

Have a Happy Holiday.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Thursday Turkey Murders

If your crazy right wing Uncle who watches too much Fox News goes off on you today, please do not re-enact this book.

How about some cheesecake for dessert?

Thursday Thanksgiving Murders

Wingnuts: The Musical

Apparently, Buckley’s brain child, the National Review is celebrating its 60th Anniversary of spewing nonsense. They decided to celebrate with a deeply silly animated video featuring Buckley doing the old soft shoe with Reagan, Goldwater, Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. I am not making this up:

What? No Tricky Dick, Strom Thurmond, or Jesse Helms? They’re the real patron saints of your movement.

Via Charlie Pierce.  Oy, just oy.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Introducing The Eleventh House

The Eleventh House with Larry Coryell were an early jazz-prog-rock fusion band. They were also one of the best because of guitarist Coryell, trumpeter Randy Brecker, and the funky drum stylings of Alphonse Mouzon. Their first LP also has a swell cover by surrealist artist, Jacques Wyrs:


Here’s the LP in the YouTube playlist format:


It’s Never About the Bad Apples

A Chicago police officer shot a guy, has been charged with murder, and people are going full ALL LIVES MATTER on it, natch: 

Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release.  Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van Dyke unloaded his service revolver, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said.  “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”  To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

And everybody is urging “the black community” to remain calm, as if “the black community” shot a guy 16 times while he lay on the ground. The state’s attorney, during her press conference, mentioned “a few bad apples” to assuage the ONLY COPS MATTER crowd, not that anything will:

Which is beyond the point. Which is about 400 miles beyond the point. Of course there are bad apples who go too far and break the law. The point is that the law is then supposed to stop them. The law is not then supposed to delete security video from a nearby Burger King, intimidate witnesses, buy silence, and then act as if its sacred honor is being impugned when called on its shit.

“This was an incredible test of leadership, a major challenge to [Emanuel’s] leadership,” Kalven said.  “Think how different the situation would be right now if the city had acknowledged the reality of what happened in the days or weeks after it happened. That would have built confidence.”

And instead of vague and politically self-serving calls for “healing,” it could have begun a real process of accountability of the kind necessary to start addressing the extreme alienation between police and wide segments of our communities.

Instead, with only Van Dyke indicted, it looks like he’s being sacrificed in order to protect the system that created him.

Any entrenched power structure will protect itself, first last and always. This is one of those rules of the world that once you see it, you see the strings that suspend everything, and you never ask how could this happen.

How could this happen, when you make a club, tell everyone in it they are virtuous in ways those outside it are not, create oaths of allegiance and make people swear them, create secret rituals and forbid talking about them, cloak your daily activities in the language of the wars of civilizations and make it plain the penalty for questioning this entire bucketload of bullshit is ostracization from what you have become convinced is the only family that truly cares for you?

How could this happen? How could it not? The Catholic Church, Penn State, political parties that hide members’ malfeasance, universities that chastise rape victims … they’re all power protecting itself. How could this happen? It happens over and over, all the time, and once you see it you see it everywhere. It happened in this case. It happened here.


Poor White People Don’t Vote Against Their Interests Because They Don’t Vote

An important point as we all sit around and talk about why the dumb hicks are being dumb hicks: 

Meanwhile, many people who in fact most use and need social benefits are simply not voting at all. Voter participation is low among the poorest Americans, and in many parts of the country that have moved red, the rates have fallen off the charts. West Virginia ranked 50th for turnout in 2012; also in the bottom 10 were other states that have shifted sharply red in recent years, including Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.

In the spring of 2012, I visited a free weekend medical and dental clinic run by the organization Remote Area Medical in the foothills of southern Tennessee. I wanted to ask the hundreds of uninsured people flocking to the clinic what they thought of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, whose fate was about to be decided by the Supreme Court.

I was expecting a “What’s the Matter With Kansas” reaction — anger at the president who had signed the law geared to help them. Instead, I found sympathy for Mr. Obama. But had they voted for him? Of course not — almost no one I spoke with voted, in local, state or national elections. Not only that, but they had barely heard of the health care law.

Nobody is talking to them. Nobody. I’m goddamn sick of hearing the condescending crap that poor white people vote against their own best interests. NO THEY DON’T. They don’t vote, period, because nobody has made them a priority. Not Republicans and not Democrats who are trying to act like Republicans, not for the last 40 years at least. Nobody has given a shit about these people since RFK and we’re gonna sit here and talk about how they’re just too dumb to know they’re going to get screwed? Thank you, no.

Where exactly are they supposed to get their information, by the way? If these people have been abandoned by politicians they’ve also been abandoned by news organizations that are supposed to be making a good faith effort to inform them. Who covers poor communities? I used to do it and I’ll tell you who does it: No one. Unless there’s a shooting, a convenient lesson to package up as a cautionary tale for scared rich suburbanites, no one covers the poorest communities in America. There’s no advertising to be sold there, no subscriptions, and certainly nobody there is signing up for the newest hyperlocal app, so fuck those places and those people, they don’t deserve the news.

This ignorance isn’t about anything other than we threw these people out and we get mad that they don’t care about what we care about. It’s nonsense. When is the last time a presidential candidate spoke to them? When is the last time a campaign put resources where it never had before and got poor people to vote? When is the last time anyone fought for them?

I mean it. When?


The Political Obituary Of David Vitter


Screenshot from a GumboPac ad.

I don’t usually take politics personally. I did as a young political junkie but it was too painful when my candidate lost. I’ve always made an exception for David Vitter. This FB status I posted yesterday sums it up:

David Vitter has been media shy since 2007. I cannot imagine why. Before that he was a local media whore. He was on the New Orleans stations so often as a State Rep and a Congressman that I called him Live Shot. It was when my hatred for him grew like poison ivy. He was a sanctimonious dweeb who went on and on about “conservative reform” and how he planned to clean up the Gret Stet of Louisiana. He was strident and annoying albeit in dorky way. Very little has changed in that regard. Vitter never owed his political success to his oratorical prowess.

Vitter is the sort of politician who went hunting for witches and burned them whenever possible. It’s the root of his epic dispute with Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and his predecessor and mentor Harry Lee. I’ll let Stephanie Grace clue you in:

Vitter was first elected to the state House in 1991, the same year ethically compromised Edwin Edwards returned to the Governor’s Mansion for a fourth term. The young, ambitious legislator from Metairie wasted no time positioning himself as a prominent adversary to the governor, largely on issues surrounding the state’s fledgling gambling industry and other ethical matters.

Vitter also aimed his ammunition closer to home, including at the parish’s then-sheriff, the late, larger-than-life Harry Lee. Lee was a member of Edwards’ circle, a supporter of gambling and a man who saw no conflict in his job as chief law enforcement officer and, say, his personal friendship with a convicted felon. Lee viewed Vitter as little more than a self-righteous grandstander. He and Vitter clashed repeatedly and wound up in court several times, and it was Vitter who inspired one of Lee’s most memorable quips.

“My job is to catch crooks,” Lee said, and “my hobby is to expose hypocrites.”


It wasn’t just Vitter’s habit of targeting fellow politicians, his push for term limits and sunshine on their cozy Tulane scholarship insider deals, and his habit of filing ethics complaints that made him an outcast, his enemies would say. It also was his personality, his adversarial attitude, his willingness to do anything to grab a headline or simply to win. When Vitter ran for Congress in 1999, most of his colleagues opposed his bid…

That’s Bitter Vitter in a wingnut shell. A hypocrite who specialized in burning bridges all the while lecturing his colleagues about how pure and noble he was. I’ll give him credit for his willingness to take on someone like Harry Lee who was the most popular figure in Jefferson Parish for most of time as Sheriff. It’s fitting that taking on the current Sheriff was part of his undoing. Here’s a 2007 picture of Lee and Normand:

STAFF PHOTO BY RUSTY COSTANZA Sheriff Harry Lee announced today, Thursday, August 16, 2007, that his cancer has returned.He maintained his usual sense of humor and also announced that will run for re-election. Chief Deputy Newell Normand, second in command at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, is on the right.

TP staff photograph by Rusty Costanza.

If there’s an afterlife, I’m sure that Harry danced a Chinese Cowboy jig on Diaper Dave’s grave. I hear that Sheriff Normand had a helluva time at the Edwards victory party. Hope he had one for Harry.

One of the main reasons Vitter got skunked in the runoff is the way he treated his fellow Republicans. He was as arrogant and patronizing to them as he was to everyone else. The attack ads he ran in the primary against fellow GOPers Scott Angelle and Jay Dardenne alienated scores of Gret Stet Republicans. It was too much for many of them to swallow. Vitter violated the first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging. It’s an appropriate image since Vitter dug his own political grave by running the wrong campaign at the wrong time. 

In addition to Vitter’s political death, there’s something else to celebrate. His anti-Syrian refugee scare tactics did not work. Edwards’ lead held up under the assault even though he was not exactly a profile of courage on the issue. The most important thing was to defeat Vitter.

David Vitter is the only politician I’ve ever compared to Richard Nixon as a human being. Nixonian lies and dirty tricks are staples in the political pantry of the current Republican party. It’s Tricky Dick’s party, not Ronnie’s. It’s more personal than that: like Nixon, Vitter is a loner who seems consumed with resentment over his treatment by the media and political establishment. Like Nixon, Vitter’s life seems to be an ongoing pity party. And like Nixon, Vitter is a paranoid motherfucker. They both had a vice that contributed to their undoing, for Tricky it was booze. We know what it was for Diaper Dave:

BOOM ad.

The BOOM ad screenshot via CenLamar

The whole spygate saga opened a window into Bitter Vitter’s style and personality. He is a vengeful and vindictive person, which is why it’s such a relief that he won’t control the State Police. We’ll never know if Vitter would have tried to use the LSP as a political tool but I, for one, am glad that it’s not even a possibility.

While we’re walking the scandal beat, I’d like to give Jason Brad Berry and Lamar White props for their role in Diaper Dave’s downfall. Jason kept pursuing the hooker story and Lamar used it as cudgel against Vitter. Well played, y’all.

I take great personal satisfaction in writing Vitter’s political obituary, but I know that his NOT running for re-election will make it easier for the GOP to hold his seat in 2016. I think it would have gone to a Goper in any event. Once again, the priority was taking out Bitter Vitter. When he lost Jefferson Parish to a Democrat, his political career was over. I must admit that I’ll miss having David Vitter to kick around but I am relieved that he will not be my Governor.

Deep Blog and I have spent quite a bit of time talking about Vitter’s political demise so I’ll give him the last word:

I think his legacy is two-fold: First, he did more than any other individual to make Louisiana a solidly Republican state through party building at the grass roots level, precise messaging, very successful fundraising and unrelenting criticism of the opposing party.

Second, he proved that fear, anger and intimidation are still powerful political weapons, especially in the hands of someone without a conscience, but the oldest rule in politics is still “What goes around comes around,” and if you spend an entire career fucking over people you’re supposed to work WITH, sooner or later you’re going to be hoist on your own pee-tard–probably in a very ugly and public manner


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