Graduation Day

“Scars are souvenirs you never lose. The past is never far.”
– Goo Goo Dolls, “Name”

“My parents’ basement.”

Those three words kept coming up this week as I met with student after student who planned to graduate Saturday.

The phrase has become a metaphor that indicates success or failure, with fear driving 20-somethings desperately away from it.

Am I going to find a job or will I have to live there?

Will this job pay me enough or will I have to stay there?

My dad keeps telling me I can’t move back in there, so I need to figure something out fast.

I visit my parents’ basement once a month, as Dad and I pack up our tubs for the monthly card show. I limbo my way under and over stacks of bobble heads, posters, cards, statues and other sports monstrosities that my mother would love to see us set on fire, as I help him pack our wares. My parents’ basement is full of nothing but good thoughts and wonderful vibes for me now.

Dad will often say, “You got a minute? C’mon down to the basement.” The rough translation of that statement is: “I bought some more shit we can sell at the show, but I had to hide it from your mother.”

However, half a lifetime ago (literally), that fucking basement terrified me.

Finishing school and looking for a job wasn’t easy. It was impossible.

EVERYONE else already had a job or had a line on one while I seeing rejections pile up in my mailbox every day.

EVERYONE else was coasting through some bullshit yoga class to complete their degree requirements while I was working at the student paper, working at the city paper and finishing up ridiculously difficult courses I managed to put off somehow.

EVERYONE else had a career path and a life plan. I had a job back at the garage whenever I wanted it and no real life to speak of.

My path seemed to lead to my parents’ basement.

No matter how old I get or how well I do or where I go in life, I will never forget that fear and how it eats away at everything around it. It’s why my door is always open this time of year and why I mentor students on everything from how to avoid looking like Mike from “Swingers” when they are pursuing a job to how to explain to their parents how the hiring process works.

It’s why I have a stash of napkins in a drawer behind me, so I can snag one and hand it to the sobbing kids who get rejection after rejection, as their friends celebrate what are seemingly perfect jobs that just dropped out of the sky on them.

It’s why I tell them the story of the guy who fell in the hole, even though I probably already told it to them once before and I’ve told it five times already that day.

It’s why I don’t understand the consternation of faculty who mutter about the “kids today” or the politicians who refuse to support either group because “when I was a kid…”

Every year, the gap in age between me and my students increases. The distance between us never does.

I never forget: My parents had a basement too.

“Is the view pretty good from the cheap seats, A.J.?”
“I beg your pardon.”
“Because it occurs to me that in 25 years, I’ve never ONCE seen your name on a ballot. Now why is that? Why are you always one step behind me?”
“Because if I wasn’t you’d be the most popular history professor at the University of Wisconsin.”
-The American President

If you ever felt the need to be murdered by a frenzying septuagenarian, just tell my mother, “You know, those who can’t do, teach.”

She spent 45 years in grades 3 through 8 teaching kids in a factory town. She taught poor kids, broken kids, kids nobody thought of. She taught literal generations of kids, with students becoming parents of her students and then becoming grandparents of students.

The kids who never left Cudahy.

She taught mostly reading and social studies, history and English. Math and science really weren’t her thing. She poured her time and energy into engaging projects, plays, musicals and more, just to give those kids a chance to love learning and take a bow.

The role of administration was never beyond her reach or ability. She had a wide array of talents that went beyond the classroom. She just never wanted to do any of them.

She knew what she was supposed to be doing: Teaching kids.

When I got the chance to teach a class of my own, I found that feeling. I was 22 years old and I was standing at the front of that room and I just felt it.

I was still working as a journalist, so I didn’t have to make a decision to leave the field at that point. I was just trying to pay tuition and rent. One job did one thing, the other did the other.

My first “grown-up job” was at Missouri, where I would work with students in the newsroom and teach in the classroom.

The next gig: advise a student newspaper, teach in the classroom.

Every job, I split the baby. Stay attached to the field in which I taught and yet teach students desperate to enter the field.

And yet I knew and I still know.

I’m a teacher, no matter what else I do.

“Gunny, I fucked up. I got Profile killed.”
“It was his time and when it’s your time I don’t give a damn how fast you run, your time is up.”
“I could have gotten them all killed.”
“But you didn’t, so just don’t make the same mistake twice.”
– Heartbreak Ridge

The kid showed up in the doorway of my office in a rush, his face still red from the cold outside. He had a look of fear and his physical anxiety manifested itself in what could charitably be called a “pee-pee dance.” The student who was in my office shooting the bull with me recognized the worried look and departed with a, “So, I’ll see you Saturday after graduation, right?”

She knew I would and I also knew that I’d be seeing this nervous young man there as well. Even more, I had no idea why he had this look of a kid who got caught stealing a porn mag by his parish priest.

This guy had it made. His grades were good enough to sail through the final week with no worries. He had a job lined up to start after the first of the year doing news and sports on TV in one of the better broadcast markets in the state. He had been ready for this since his sophomore year where I taught him the difference between facts and opinion and why using the word “very” was just as useful as using the word “damned.”

“I really fucked up that last assignment for you and I need to know how not to let that happen again,” he said.

I pulled up the file and, sure enough, a robust grade of 45 percent sat at the bottom. The cause for most of the point loss? He misspelled two proper nouns in his story.

That grade didn’t matter to him in any meaningful way as far as the university, his degree or his GPA was concerned. It was that idea of failing something in a way that could REALLY cost him.

We talked at length about fucking up. I relayed a few of my own, including a doozy where I managed to make two fact errors in the first sentence of an “exclusive” story.

Fucking up happens, I told him. The point is to avoid fucking up when you could have easily avoided fucking up.

Don’t assume you know how to spell the name.

Don’t guess that it’s a street, not an avenue.

Don’t presume you know which of the guys robbed the bank and which one caught the robber.

Make sure the guy is actually dead before you write his obituary.

I could tell he was getting it, but then he asked another important question: Even if I do all that, I’m going to fuck up at some point. What then?

Learn from it.

Every time you fuck up, you pay a price. It might be physical, it might be mental, it might be financial, but it is a price you must pay. You get something in return for your payment, and that’s wisdom.

Thus, in perhaps the least wizening way I could, I explained to him the truth:

“You’re going to step on your dick from time to time. I’d rather you do it here, on an assignment than out there where you might get fired or worse. The reason I put such a high penalty on certain things is because I want those things to hurt so bad that you never do them again. The reason I spread your grades out in this class so widely is that when you do fuck up that badly, the fuck up won’t kill you. That’s how you learn.”

He smiled.

“You going to graduation on Saturday?”

“Yep. See you there.”

“Did Chris Columbus say he wanted to stay home? No! What if the Wright brothers thought only birds should fly?…”
“I’m not any of those guys! I’m a kid from a trailer park!”
“If that’s what you think, then that’s all you’ll ever be.”

The first time I heard someone called a “fig” or a “Figgie,” it was spat in such a way that I honestly thought the “I” was actually an “A” lost in dialect. The term was based on the “FG” notation next to students’ names in their enrollment and it stood for “first-generation.”

At that university, the idea was that you should come from a lineage of people that had all gone to college, particularly that college. If you at least had some semblance of educated parentage, well, OK, but figgies?

Fuck ‘em.

Had it not been for my mother’s passion for teaching and almost vengeful determinism to disprove her father’s statement she’d “never be anything more than a housewife,” I would have been a fig. Dad picked up an associate’s degree at some point, but my grandparents were factory workers, police officers, “steno gals” and homemakers. They came from immigrant homes where learning English was a massive accomplishment and feeding the off-spring was almost always a challenge.

Mom told stories of her grandmother sifting rat droppings out of the government flour she received during the Great Depression. Dad told stories of his grandfather picking mushrooms on the way to church and packing a postage-stamp-sized garden full of sustenance for the family.

My wife’s grandparents dropped out of school to work jobs, one of them doing so about the same age my daughter is now.

To be a fig in those days would have been bragging rights mixed with a pipe dream.

George Carlin once noted that he loved seeing a blade of grass that pushed its way through a crack in the sidewalk. It’s so fucking heroic, he noted. Against all odds, pushing against an immovable force, this little speck of life wove its way out from the ground beneath and refused to quit until it saw the sun on its face.

This is why I always tell the kids I teach that they need to walk at graduation. Sure, you can make the argument that it’s 20 seconds on a stage where someone mangles your name, someone else hands you an empty diploma case and a third someone shakes your hand, but misses the point.

You did it. You beat the odds. You worked for this.

It wasn’t a given or a birthright. It wasn’t an item you threw in your grocery cart: Eggs, milk, diploma.

Every blade of grass that gets through the concrete deserves at least a moment of sunlight.

“He was a small horse, barely 15 hands. He was hurting, too. There was a limp in his walk, a wheezing when he breathed. Smith didn’t pay attention to that. He was looking the horse in the eye.”
– Seabiscuit

Saturday morning, I’ll be sitting in my office overlooking the relatively paltry arena that serves almost all of our indoor sports teams. The parking lot will fill and people will wander toward various entries in the building.

Parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.

They come from the various outposts of our state, places you don’t think about when you hear the name “Wisconsin.”

Crivitz and Cadott. Oconomowoc and Oconto Falls. Fall River and River Falls. The closest you get to “foreign students” around here are the kids who cross the Illinois or Minnesota border to play sports for the institution.

It’ll be the first time in nearly a decade that I’m not going to be at that ceremony. The doctor says my back is too bad from a recent injury to sit for three hours. So, I’ll watch them go in and wait.

I’ll grade papers, write book chapters and make sure to get up and stretch every half hour. Then, when one of the students who almost cried when I told him I couldn’t sit through the event texts me that things are wrapping up, I’ll don the ridiculous regalia I break out a couple times a year and trek across that parking lot.

I’ll shake hands with parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. They’ll tell me about the times the graduate came home or called home and wouldn’t stop talking about me or something weird I did and we’ll all laugh.

The parents will worriedly look me in the eye and ask if I think their son or daughter will get a job or they’ll thank me for helping the kid find post-graduation employment.

They’ll marvel at the grandeur of the ceremony or the pomp and circumstance that surrounds them, never mind it’s far less than I’ve seen at most places and the whole place still smells like last night’s basketball game.

And they’ll ask me questions and tell me stories about this freshly minted college graduate we both know.

But before we part company, I’ll look them in the eye and I’ll tell them the truth.

It was an honor to teach their loved one.

Friday Guest Catblogging: Ornamental Kitty

It’s time for the Other Scout to play a return engagement here at First Draft. She was a mere kitten when last we featured her; now she’s old enough to be messed with by her humans, Christy and Greg.

 

Only A Memory: Pat DiNizio, R.I.P.

The Smithereens: Pat DiNizio, Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, Dennis Diken.

I typically take celebrity deaths in stride. This one is different and not just because Pat DiNizio disliked being called a celebrity. As far as Pat was concerned, he was a regular guy who was lucky enough to have lived his dream singing his songs and playing with his best friends, The Smithereens. Pat’s luck finally ran out at the age of 62. He was never too old to rock and roll but he was too young to die.

I first heard the Smithereens on MTV back when they played videos and were where the cool kids hung out. I never gave a shit about being cool but I enjoyed the music and Behind The Wall Of Sleep blew me away. It’s a perfect rock song with some of Pat’s best lyrics:

“Well, she held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band. And she stood just like Bill Wyman. Now I am her biggest fan.”

Rock and roll genius pure and simple.

The Smithereens were one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. It was why I kept going back for more. Their live sets were as fun as their lyrics were thoughtful. At the center of it all was Pat and his supple and marvelously expressive voice.

Pat and his bandmates prided themselves on being regular guys who enjoyed engaging with their fans. The first time I saw the Reens, I talked to them after the show. They were so warm and friendly that I asked if they were really from Jersey. Pat’s reply: “Fuckin’ A, we’re from fuckin’ Jersey.” It’s hard not to like a guy like that.

Pat had a place in New Orleans at one point during a fallow period for the Reens. He and I frequented the same bakery/coffee shop in the Quarter, La Marquise. It was catty-corner from Jackson Square. (La Marquise ain’t dere no more, alas.) We spoke a few times but I have the New Orleanian’s reticence about bothering well-known people when they want to be ordinary. I wish I’d tried a bit harder. Oh well, it’s Only A Memory:

One of the most interesting of Pat’s many side projects were the house concerts. That’s right, you could hire him to come and play a solo acoustic show in your living room. The late Ashley Morris and I kept talking about doing one either in his backyard or my living room. We never got around to it before Ashley died. This is one of the tunes we wanted Pat to play:

Pat’s voice and his songs always had a dash of sadness amidst the exuberant and flashy playing by the Smithereens. That’s why their music has resonated with me for all these years. Additionally, one can say without a trace of irony that they were a band of brothers as you can see from this statement from Dennis the drummer:

One reason that I’m gutted by this news is that the Reens were my peers. We grew up on opposite ends of the country listening to the same British rock music: the Beatles, Stones, Who, and the Kinks. The Beatle influence is obvious but the way the Smithereens carried themselves was more like the Kinks: regular guy rockers with a chip on their shoulders. Here’s a clip wherein Pat tells a funny story about the first time he heard a Beatles classic:

The thing I admired most about Pat and his bandmates is how they stayed together and stuck it out in good times and bad. A  2004 piece in the Failing New York Times tells the story of a rough gig as an opening act:

Their first major gig was opening for ZZ Top at William and Mary College in Virginia on July 4, 1986. As Mr. DiNizio tells it, the audience was 25,000 strong and drunk with anticipation. Problem was, they were anticipating Ted Nugent, who had canceled. Upon taking the stage, the Smithereens were pelted with insults, shoes, batteries, underwear and gallons of cheap beer for the better part of an hour.

“I was completely soaked from head to toe,” Mr. DiNizio said. “But we had the will and experience not to leave that stage. That was the strength of the band. That’s been the credo of the band. You never give up. You never give up.”

Pat never gave up. He just ran out of time. Something Reens lead guitarist Jimmy Babjak said in that same article rings true on this sad week:

“We have the same mentality as the old blues singers. You do what you do, until you die with a guitar in your hands.”

And nobody did it better than Pat DiNizio. I’ll give him the last word with an appropriately titled song from the band’s last studio album:

Long live rock, be it dead or alive.

When The Law AND The Facts Are Against You…

poundtable_gohmert copy

time to pound the table, as the saying goes. So, while we’re all pretty relieved that at some point Roy Moore presumably will announce he wants to spend more time with his children, the wingnuts march on…a net neutrality vote by the FCC is scheduled for today, a deal is in the works to move the mother of all horrible tax legislation out of the conference committee…and in the House Judiciary Committee, die hards are pushing their latest nothingburger, a bizarre claim that a couple of FBI agents who were removed from Robert Mueller’s investigation last summer managed nonetheless to irreparably taint the investigation because, heaven forbid, they thought Donald Trump was…a pretty appalling human being.

Appalling…In other news, they agreed the sky is blue. And that grass is generally green.

I’m a little young to really remember Watergate as it happened, but can vaguely recall — and my memory is helped by books, television retrospectives, etc. — a few Nixon defenders stuck around to the bitter end, offering ever more desperate, implausible theories, explanations…anything to, if not exonerate Dick, at least excuse him, or excuse him enough. Until the tapes removed all doubt.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth by the likes of Louis Gohmert and others yesterday is starting to have that same sound if not same smell. And with the special election in Alabama…well, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but maybe, hopefully, enough people are finally getting it.

Besides, the FBI agents dismissed from the Mueller investigation were exchanging anti-Trump text message on or around the time when, on national television, he quite literally defended the size of his penis. Eww.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Saddlebum

Watching Roy Moore astride Sassy inspired this week’s selection. I suspect that the Saddlebum was a better rider than Judge Pervert.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Less is Moore edition

Hi, people – I got permission to do my post quite a few days early – I’ll take off next Monday as penance.

Let’s drop in on last night’s Freeperville live election thread, shall we?

Vanity – Turnout, Turnout, Turnout….vote for Judge, Roy Moore. [LIVE THREAD]
Posted on 12/12/2017, 4:00:51 AM by JLAGRAYFOX

It’s really quite simple…..An American citizen, woman or man, is innocent until proven guilty by a judge, jury of their peers and a solid conviction of said accused crime.

Allegations & Accusations carry no meaning whatsoever, until they are duly proven to be true & factual in a recognized court of law.

FrankenNoShit

Alabama, voters, cast your votes today for Judge, Roy Moore, a good, honorable, religious man, an American patriot, who loves his country and all the people in it. This, my friends is a “Critical Path Election”!!!

You, your family, your loved ones, your great state of Alabama, your country, the USA, POTUS, Donald J. Trump and your “Future” rests in the hands of your vote today!!! Go, Judge, Roy Moore, Go, POTUS, Donald J. Trump, Go, Steve Bannon…on to victory over those politicians, Democrat, “Doug Jones”, etc., whose policies would hurt & destroy this great American Republic!!

1 posted on 12/12/2017, 4:00:51 AM by JLAGRAYFOX
popcorn
To: dontreadthis

 

Let’s hope. We need a win. We have been losing seats right and left since the election. Many in Oklahoma and other red areas. That needs to stop and hopefully today will be the win we need to stop the bleeding.

32 posted on 12/12/2017, 7:59:30 AM by napscoordinator (Trump/Hunter, jr for President/Vice President 2016)

…or open up the wound a lot wider.

To: JLAGRAYFOX

 

I love the smell of liberal tears!

44 posted on 12/12/2017, 11:52:00 AM by Boardwalk

DO you, now?
To: Boardwalk
57 posted on 12/12/2017, 12:28:51 PM by Enchante (FusionGPS “dirty dossier” scandal links Hillary, FBI, CIA, Dept of Justice… “Deep State” is real)
That is SO precious!
To: JLAGRAYFOX
Wish I could vote.Praying for a Moore landslide.

64 posted on 12/12/2017, 12:50:05 PM by lysie
“Suffer the little (female) children to come unto me”?
To: JLAGRAYFOX 

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

That’s easy for you to say…

This election has me more on edge than I was in November. Lots of sleepless nights and higher Blood pressure.

Good thing they can’t deny you insurance now for your pre-existing conditions, huh?

Unfortunately if Moore loses there will be a push to moderate and abandon the MAGA agenda even more, especially with Amnesty. So this really could be another make or break election for the country.

109 posted on 12/12/2017, 4:05:29 PM by qam1 (There’s been a huge party. All plates and the bottles are empty, all that’s left is the bill to pay)

Follow me below the fold for the good stuff.
You know you wanna….

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Fuck Yeah, Alabama: A Perfect Political Storm

Doug Jones campaigns with Corey Booker. Photo via NY Magazine.

I never thought that I’d write the phrase “fuck yeah, Alabama,” but it fits the morning after Doug Jones’ remarkable upset victory in the Alabama special election. The key word in that sentence is special; everything came together in a perfect political storm to give Democrats their first victory in an Alabama senate race since 1992 when Richard Shelby won before switching parties after the GOP wave election of 1994. Shelby’s refusal to vote for Moore was part of the perfect political storm. It signaled that it was okay for business conservatives to write in Nick Saban or even vote for Doug Jones.

I had a good feeling about the race for the last few weeks. I knew it was going to be close and hoped it would turn out well, which gives me the right to say I told you so to people who *assumed* a Moore win was inevitable. Repeat after me: nothing is written.

It took a perfect political storm for this to happen. I think some bullet points are in order. I promise not to  go power point on your asses.

  • Doug Jones was the perfect candidate to run against Roy Moore. It reminded me of the contrast between John Bel Edwards and David Vitter in the 2015 Gret Stet Goober race. Jones was Mr. Clean facing off against Judge Pervert. It was perfect casting: Hollywood couldn’t have done better.
  • Doug Jones ran as a liberal, not as either a Blue Dog or a Berniecrat. Jones staked out advanced positions on gay rights, criminal law issues, CHIP, and abortion. BUT he didn’t make specific commitments on other issues that might have cost him the election in Crimson Tide country. Alabamians did not suddenly become liberals last night but they opened the door a crack for Doug Jones to walk in and prevail.
  • Roy Moore was a dreadful candidate. He’s extreme even by Alabama standards and lacks the sort of charm or charisma that could smooth off his rough edges. The sex scandal fatally wounded his campaign with voters suffering from Trump fatigue. One might call them Romney voters: suburban business Republicans who don’t like the Insult Comedian’s style and tone.
  • Donald Trump is an orange anchor who will sink GOP hopes in surprising places in 2018. His full-throated support for Judge Pervert did not pay off. Trump is now o-2 in this Alabama senate race: both Big Luther and Big Pervert lost. His support is not transferable and will sink enough Republican candidates in 2018 for Democrats to take control of both houses of Congress. Most people *really* do not like the Insult Comedian and his rude, rude ways.
  • The big winners last night were black voters, especially women. They turned out at presidential election levels to support Doug Jones and take a stand against president* Pussy Grabber and Judge Pervert. Thanks for helping to save the Republic, y’all.
  • The much derided “identity politics” works. Team Jones was able to assemble a coalition that could win in other southern states. The Fifty State strategy lives.
  • It was a victory for investigative journalism. The WaPo story crippled the Moore campaign and left him afraid to campaign. Wuss.
  • Richard Shelby’s intervention helped defeat Judge Pervert. Write-ins constituted 1.7% of the vote. Jones’ margin was 1.5%. Repeat after me: it was a perfect political storm.
  • Is Steve Bannon on suicide watch? If so, does anyone give a shit?

Judge Pervert’s election eve appearance was typically tacky and characteristically cowardly. He refused to concede and muttered ominously about a recount after the military votes are counted. An automatic recount kicks in at 0.5% and Jones’ winning margin is 1.5%. If there’s a recount, Judge Pervert and his army of delusional bible thumpers will have to pay for it. They should also pay for riding lessons:

Last night was clearly a turning point in the battle against Trumpism. It shows that, given the right circumstances, a Democrat can win in the reddest of states. It should not, however, be over-interpreted: it took a perfect storm to make it happen.

It’s been a good news, bad news sort of morning for me. I woke up to the terrible news that Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens had died. I’ll write about Pat’s passing later today or tomorrow. I tried not to let it harsh my post-Jones victory buzz but it put music on my mind. I’m going to close this celebratory post with some songs with Alabama in the title.

Fuck yeah, Alabama.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Cheesy Swedish Christmas Covers

Tis the season for bad album cover art and this is the place for it. In fact, this week we feature crappy Swedish album covers. I am not making this up. Why the hell would I?

We begin with a meat focused cover. If you’re a vegan, please avert your eyes:

This one could be subtitled Three Awkward Swedes In Santa Suits:

Dueling accordions? Crazy, Santa Baby.

That is all.

You Fight Every Fight Because Sometimes You Win

Douglas Jones, First of His Name, Senator of the State of Alabama, Scourge of Klansman, Rightful Owner of Roy Moore’s Horse and Protector of the Realm, come sit on the Iron Throne, you glorious brave motherfucker: 

Alabama Senate election 2017 live updates: Democrat Doug Jones wins Alabama Senate race

Unlikely victories in the face of impossible odds are unlikely because the odds are impossible; still, isn’t it so much better to have fought?

I was yammering away on Twitter earlier today about John Kerry and 2004, and oh boy have I backed losers in campaigns before then (McCain in 2000) and since (Chris Of All People Dodd in 2008), but never once have I voted for someone I was ashamed to vote for, nor been sorry I was on the losing side. We’re not in this for peace. We’re not in this for victory. We’re in this because we’re in this, cats and kittens, every single day.

Helluva job showing up for it, Alabama. Helluva job.

A.

Fight Like You’re Gonna Lose and It Don’t Matter

Go on now, Alabama. Do this:

And as always, as ever, by the Holy Hand of Howard Dean, First of the 50 State Strategy, this is how every Senate seat held by a Republican should be fought. If you don’t show up for every fight, for every seat, every time, everywhere, how on earth can you possibly ask people to vote for you? For your party? If you don’t contest every one — and don’t give me the dry powder, for what you pay management at think tanks you could cure death — how are any upsets supposed to happen ever?

You’re supposed to fight every fight, even the ones you’re gonna lose. You’re supposed to fight like you know you’ve lost and YOU DON’T GIVE NO FUCKS NO MORE. You’re supposed to fight like the fight is all you’ve got, and lose and lose and lose and lose and lose until you win.

Until everybody sees you fighting and everybody knows.

So go on, Alabama and everything decent in it. Go out there and lose if you have to. Sharpen your teeth and make the GOP pay dearly for anything they manage to take. And if they take this one, fight the next one and the next one and the next.

A.

Tuesday Foodblogging

I love sweet potato fries and kept fucking them up in the oven until I found this recipe. I made them for Thanksgiving and even Kick, who will not suffer a sweet potato to remain in her presence, gobbled them right up. They actually crunched.

Tangentially related: I cannot abide a thick, mushy french fry. I know people love those big fat steak fry things and I don’t get you, steak fry people. It’s a baked potato, basically, so why not just eat that? I like a baked potato but I do not like a large baked-potato-basically thing masquerading as a french fry on a menu. Give me the thin ones, and make them super crunchy, and call the steak fries something else besides fries.

A.

Quote Of The Day: Judge Pervert Edition

It comes from columnist Gail Collins in the Failing New York Times:

Suppose your state was having a very important U.S. Senate election and one of the candidates was an upstanding family man who was going to vote against all the things you most want Congress to do. And the other was an awful slimeball who you could count on to support all the things you believe in. Which way would you go?

No fair answering “to another state.”

Yeah, I know it’s a rhetorical question, not a quote. Sue me.  If the answer is vote for the slimeball, Judge Pervert wins tomorrow. The wonder is that it’s as close as it is. Alabama is redder that the clay in the northeastern part of the state. White Republicans seem to regard Democrats as space aliens in Birkenstock’s. Nativism is a big part of Judge Pervert’s appeal such as it is.

I feel for the respectable, educated people of Alabama. The gret stet of Louisiana had to deal with David Dukkke in a run-off in consecutive years. In the 1990 senate race, Dukkke faced long-time Conservative Democratic senator Bennett Johnston. He was neither wildly popular nor unpopular, he also had the support of the then-Republican President and his predecessor. The Goober race of 1991 was scarier but economic arguments sank Dukkke. At that point in time, we were still a purple state so Dukkke went down both times.

There have been attempts by sane Alabamians to use economic issues against Judge Pervert. It doesn’t appear to have worked that well but there could be shy Doug Jones voters. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow. I think embarrassment over perviness and Moore’s views on slavery could cause *some* mortified suburban GOPers to vote for Jones or write-in irascible Crimson Tide football coach Nick Saban but it’s anyone’s race as of this writing.

If I were asked at gunpoint who’s going to win tomorrow, I’d say Judge Pervert.  BUT I really don’t know: Roy Moore is an extreme candidate even by the standards of ultra-conservative Alabama. Once again, as a Democrat it’s a win-win proposition whether Moore wins or loses tomorrow but it’s uneighborly for me to wish that on Alabama.

Lose, Roy, lose.

Still Winging It With The Insult Comedian

I wrote a post about you know who in December, 2015 that I’m inordinately proud of. It was written when nobody thought Trump had a chance to secure the Republican nomination let alone steal the general election. I did not get that right in Winging It With The Insult Comedian but I nailed his essentially nihilistic and chaotic nature. For some reason, people still do not get it and think that Trump has some sort of nefarious master plan. There is no plan: he’s still winging it.

My belief that Trump is a walking id (a nickname bestowed upon former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin by my pal Liprap) is confirmed yet again in an epic piece in the Sunday edition of the Failing New York Times. Here’s the money quote:

“For most of the year, people inside and outside Washington have been convinced that there is a strategy behind Mr. Trump’s actions. But there is seldom a plan apart from pre-emption, self-defense, obsession and impulse.”

There you have it in a wingnut shell. Those who confidently predict that Trump will fire Robert Mueller seem to base it on a wave of recent attacks in right-wing media. They see it as a concerted effort akin to bombing an enemy during wartime before sending in the infantry. There may be a concerted effort but it’s more about convincing the president* to do something stupid and impulsive by firing Bobby Three Sticks than a White House driven strategy. Trump may admire generals but does not govern like one. He lashes out on impulse; usually while watching cable news with his tiny fingers hovering above his phone’s twitter app. Donald don’t do strategy.

Do I think Trump might fire Mueller? Yes I do. In the immortal words of Frank Zappa, “I figure the odds be fifty-fifty.” But it would be stupid and self-defeating because the probe will continue. There’s precedent: Leon Jaworski finished Archibald Cox’s work during Watergate. This sort of complex federal investigation has a life of its own as some of Trump’s less deranged advisers have surely told him. Will he listen? Beats the hell outta me. I don’t know and neither does anyone else.

Trump is still winging it. If he fires Bobby Three Sticks, it will be on impulse after being overstimulated by a specific event such as the inevitable indictment of Slumlord Jared. He’s not going to do so as part of a concerted campaign. He will do it on a whim, which is why he’s so dangerous.

The Insult Comedian’s mercurial nature led to another Adrastos nickname: the Kaiser of Chaos. There’s disorder in the court of the Kaiser. How that’s for a lead in to my Three Stooges test?  Here we go: Trump is 2/3 Moe and 1/3 Curly.  Anyone who says they know what this inherently unstable and unpredictable figure will do might as well poke themselves in the eyes. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk.  It’s why he’s so dangerous.

Since I hearkened back to an earlier post, let’s close with the featured image I used for it. It still fits:

2015 Cartoon by Steve Bell of the Guardian.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – bytes and pieces edition

Morning, all – a short one today.

Starting with – Truth In Typos!

rump References Clinton’s Slam on His Supporters During Rally: ‘We’re Proud Deplorables’

Posted on 12/9/2017, 3:51:12 AM by EliRoom8

(Video Clip at Link) President Donald Trump relived Hillary Clinton’s infamous comments slamming his voters last year, telling a crowd of supporters on Friday that “we’re proud deplorables.”

Trump spoke at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, where he touched on a variety of subjects, including urging Alabamas to vote for Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct.

He also got around to one of his favorite subjects: rehashing his election victory in 2016 over Clinton. Clinton referred at one point on the campaign trail to half of Trump’s supporters as being in a “basket of deplorables,” calling them racist, sexist, and homophobic.

Clinton later apologized for the remarks.

“We won because of people like you,” Trump said to the crowd, saying he took the job on behalf of the “forgotten men and women” of the country. “Guess what? They are forgotten no more.”

People didn’t think voters like them existed, Trump said.

1 posted on 12/9/2017, 3:51:12 AM by EliRoom8
So now he’s bragging that racist, sexist, homophobic people like you DO exist?

To: EliRoom8

Please proofread titles carefully. I prefer to call the President of the United States “Trump” rather than “rump”.

Tomato, tomahto….an ass is an ass is an ass.

Also, I don’t see a link.

3 posted on 12/9/2017, 4:06:54 AM by Pollster1 (“Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed”)

That would be because he forgot to add it.  Deplorable, no?
Next up –  Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money!

TrumpDonor.com https://trumpdonor.com/ ^ | 12-002-2017 | Who Knows Posted on 12/2/2017, 3:57:18 AM by KJC1

I just googled myself, which I don’t often do, then I found this. Who the hell are these people? Yeah, I’m a “Trump Donor” so I’m on these crazies’ list.

Irony_strikes

Are you? I know political donations are public but this is…fill in the blank.

1 posted on 12/2/2017, 3:57:19 AM by KJC1
Data? Deplorable? Dumbfuck?

To: KJC1

Buy guns, ammo.

Go to Las Vegas and get a really nice room.

Reinforce all doors and windows, and bulletproof them.

(local homeowners association rules may apply)

Buy chainsaw and clear all your fields of fire out to 400 yards.

2 posted on 12/2/2017, 4:04:36 AM by LibWhacker

I just had a vivid mental picture of this asshole’s wife screaming at him as he saws down her favourite maple in the front yard.
Also, your next-door neighbours might have something to say about that 400 yard field of fire-clearing thingy…
To: LibWhacker

Buy chainsaw and clear all your fields of fire out to 400 yards.

I don’t think my suburban neighbors would appreciate me hacking down their rosebeds.

12 posted on 12/2/2017, 5:43:55 AM by Yo-Yo (Is the /sarc tag really necessary?)
In that case, alternate plan – sell everything, buy gold, and move to a deserted missile base.  Set up a 4,000 yard perimeter. Stock up on cyanide capsules.
A WHOIS search gives the Freepers no love:
To: KJC1
Domain Name: TRUMPDONOR.COM
Registry Domain ID: 2040429597_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.enom.com
Registrar URL: http://www.enom.com
Updated Date: 2017-07-01T05:38:53.00Z
Creation Date: 2016-07-06T15:29:00.00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2019-07-06T15:29:50.00Z
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Registrar IANA ID: 48
Reseller: NAMECHEAP.COM
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Registry Registrant ID:
Registrant Name: WHOISGUARD PROTECTED
Registrant Organization: WHOISGUARD, INC.

16 posted on 12/2/2017, 6:55:55 AM by kanawa (Trump Loves a Great Deal)

Which sets up – the post of the thread!

Looks like the cowards don’t want their own name revealed.

17 posted on 12/2/2017, 6:59:38 AM by kanawa (Trump Loves a Great Deal)

Click on the thingy to go to the other thingy…

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They’re Always Gonna Hate You. That’s Not Gonna Change.

Stop thinking these people are persuadable, interested in your process, or possessed of any good will of any kind at all:

You can do that. Sure. It’s pointless, but so is everything else. God almighty.

I know in the minds of the tote-bag audience there is a massive vast unwashed group of people out there who are “on the fence” about whether the president and his sycophantic cult members are correct that journalists should die quickly, and these types of transparency audits would really persuade those persuadable people and get them to become informed and vote in their own interests and value democracy and American values. I think that is the biggest pile of horseshit I have ever seen and you can dig in it if you want but I’m done looking for the pony here.

Just stop wasting time. We can have a thousand ethics panels. We can have daily seminars on How Journalism Really Works. We can be Totally Transparent and Completely Honest and Prostrate Ourselves Before the People, and you know what’s going to happen?

A bunch of Pepe-wearing Nazi sympathizers are going to show up at our doors in “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” t-shirts and demand our swift demise in the ovens of Auschwitz because THAT’S WHAT THEY FUCKING DO. It is all they do. It is all they want to do. It’s not based on a lack of transparency and it’s not based on a lack of understanding and it’s not based on anything we do anymore than the actions of a schoolyard bully are on the attributes of his victims.

That’s been the Republican Party since at least 2004. Since 2001, really, when the party wasn’t openly yelling about “dune coons” but found ways to get right with the votes of those who did. Since the rise of CPAC as the anointing ground of True Conservatives, they’ve been hating on “the media.” Since Fox News reared its rabid head and started telling everybody that Fox and only Fox was “far and balanced” they’ve been wondering out loud if maybe they really ARE liberally biased and very, very, very bad boys and girls.

Since then, a thousand ethics conferences. A thousand sincere attempts at outreach. A thousand thousand mea culpas and conservative hires and columns about how maybe it’s all really our own fault they’re hitting us. Fifteen embarrassing fucking years of knuckling under to the viewpoints of dishonest chucklenuts screaming about secret liberal agendas. The triumphs of Bernie Goldberg and Ann Coulter, of James O’Keefe and Bill O’Reilly, and where are we now?

THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES ATTACKED A REPORTER BY NAME ON TWITTER YESTERDAY.

During the campaign, he did it from the podium. He put reporters in a cage and encouraged his followers to shout obscenities, and he got elected, and those reporters gave him the benefit of the doubt, and yesterday he sent his millions of followers after Dave Weigel, for making a simple mistake.

That’s where we are, after all that lying down and staying still and being quiet. After all that acquiescence. After all that being good. They’re still hitting us, and you think the lesson we should learn is to be NICER? In 2017, with Donald Fucking Trump as president, with friends of mine who can’t Google their own names because of what he and his people have done, you think the lesson here is that we need to act right?

I will keep saying this until I am dead: Do not give an inch to people who hate you. Do not give a single inch. Do not take a single step back. Do not let them in. Do not let them pass. Do not change a single thing you are doing to mollify the bully. The bully doesn’t want you to change. The bully doesn’t care what you do. Give him your lunch money Monday through Friday and he’ll kneecap you Saturday for your carnival tickets.

Those of us who back in the day tried to warn media bosses that nothing good would come of paying people to opine in the editorial section that the entire paper should be set on fire so Real Americans can dance around the flames? Lots of us are unemployed now and a few of us are dead and it’s a matter of time until somebody’s murdered and I’m not scared of anyone telling me I’m being hysterical because that’s what you said in 2005, and Donald Trump is president. The balls on all of you, to be astonished now, to be shocked. To still equivocate after all you’ve seen. Fuck you.

It’s sickening, the weakness that people behind the press continue to display. It’s reprehensible. It’s irresponsible. And worse than that, it’s ineffective.

The people who most need to be educated and would benefit from that transparency will instead be listening to some blow-dried Fox-lite anchor asking if the news today is fake, really fake or totally fake and by the way here’s the FUCKING TWITTER HANDLE OF SOMEONE FOR ALL TEN MILLION OF YOU TO GO YELL AT.

A.

Has Your Mom’s Book Club Read JD Vance’s Fishwrap?

If so, make them hork this down: 

I’m not sure about you, but I’m fairly certain that I’ve already witnessed the social transformation wrought by titans like the Waltons, Jeff Bezos, and the Koch Brothers. I already live in the world of their making. It’s inhabited by 70-year-old grandmothers stocking shelves for $8.00 an hour, spending what could be their last holiday ringing up Wal-Mart doorbusters while investors suck up resources from struggling communities. My world is filled with back braces and wrist wraps and time is measured out in double shifts and mandatory unpaid overtime. It’s a world where workers nurse life-long injuries after their supervisors force them to lift heavy boxes while pregnant. It’s a world where elderly adjunct instructors sleep in their cars in the shadow of Google’s corporate headquarters. It’s a world where people who have already burned down the barn think they should be trusted to poke around in the hay.

I know it’s not as bitchin’ as DISRUPTING all the DINOSAUR INDUSTRIES THAT NEED DISRUPTION but maybe just maybe people should just do their jobs and pay their taxes and provide their workers pensions and it will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN?

I mean, if you buy the nonsense that there really WAS some kind of utopia in the 1950s (for white people, but still) in which the system worked, then you have to grant that it was happening at a time when corporate profits weren’t completely king, when people could retire at 60 and keep their homes for the next 20 years, when they could spend their money at the grocery store down the street and mow their lawns and live their lives because government DID do things like pave the roads and inspect the buildings.

I’d never knock charity, but I would knock the idea that a few bucks at this level makes any difference when the problems are at this level. The only thing big enough to fix this is what we all pay into, and somewhere along the line we gave ourselves the idea that we didn’t have to do that anymore. It’s well past time for that idea to die.

A.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Cold Rain and Snow

It snowed yesterday in the surrounding parishes but not in New Orleans. We just had sleet and gloomy skies. Baton Rouge and rural Tangiapahoa Parish had sustained snowfall. Here’s a message from Mike the Tiger:

The New Orleans media had a snow boner all day long. It was all they talked about. All the teevee people got gussied up in their anoraks and boots. They looked like models in the LL Bean catalog. My favorite snow boner moment came on the WWL morning news:

Repeat after me: snow boner.

The featured image is a venerable postcard showing the 700 block of Canal Street after snowfall in 1895. The last time it snowed in the city was 2008, everyone took pictures of the streetcar in the snow as you can see from this tweet from my friend Katy:

She’s from Minnesota. Say no more.

Repeat after me: snow boner.

This week’s theme song is a “tribute” to the weather. I hate the snow, especially when it falls in a place without any snow removal equipment. I am not an ice person. I do not have a snow boner either.

Cold Rain and Snow is a traditional folk song best known as a staple of the Grateful Dead’s live shows. We have two versions for your amusement. First, the Dead at the 1980 Halloween show emceed by Al Franken and Tom Davis. Sigh. Second, a bluegrass rendition by Del McCoury using an alternate title. I like it with Cold better since I am, in fact, cold right now. I still do not have a snow boner.

Boy howdy. Yeah, boy as the bluegrass types are wont to say.

It’s time to jump to the break. If you have one, be careful not to trip over your snow boner. I should apologize for, uh, beating that joke to death but I won’t. Go ahead and jump.

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Friday Catblogging: When You Awake

Dr. A took this picture of Della Street on her lap early one morning. Della is all like “what the hell is wrong with you, human? I need my beauty rest.”

Speaking of waking up, here’s another tune from The Band:

Melancholia

I woke up feeling sad this morning. We’ve had a cold snap and along with a 40 degree temperature drop-off in a 24 hour period, it’s been gloomy and rainy. It was pitch black when I first stirred and the space heater was purring in the bedroom. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed but I did albeit slowly and hesitantly.

The word depressed is over used in the 21st Century. I’m not depressed: I’m melancholy, which is a word that needs reviving. It’s on my list, just like a kiss is on Daryl Hall’s list. I have not, however, seen the Lars von Trier film of that name. Not sure that I want to trier out at this point in time…

In addition to nothing but gray skies (to paraphrase Irving Berlin) another reason for my melancholia is the departure from the arena of John Conyers and Al Franken. I understand that the venerable Civil Rights icon had to go but I’m still sad about it. Social media is full of people who know nothing about Conyers and his lifetime of achievement in and out of Congress. In fact, one person I follow on twitter blasted Conyers and in her next missive celebrated Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks was a member of John Conyers’ staff from 1964 to 1988. Conyers, like most of us, is complicated and his life should be placed in context. Some nuance is required.

I’m also sad that Al Franken has announced his plans to resign his Senate seat “in the coming weeks.” He’s made me laugh for many years and has been a good and thoughtful Senator. Once some thirty of his Democratic colleagues called for his resignation, it was time for him to go. But I’m still sad about it because his offenses are loutish at worst, and not comparable to the Weinsteins, Trumps, and Moores of the world. A slap on the butt is not the same thing as dating underage girls. Some nuance is required.

We need to devise a spectrum of misbehavior when dealing with our allies in particular. There are obviously things that require banishment and others admonishment. I’m not sure how to come up with such a spectrum but we need to differentiate the clumsy pass from sexual assault and worse. The latter term is maddeningly vague: simple assault is any unwanted touching by another person. It’s being used as an all-encompassing term when some specificity and nuance is required.

I hope that Senate Democrats are acting strategically, not tactically. But they have a long track record of focusing on short-term goals instead of the big picture. Like Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, I’m concerned about the effects of unilateral disarmament:

Who knows why the GOP has lost its last ethical moorings? But this is a perfectly transactional moment in governance, and what we get in exchange for being good and moral right now is nothing. I’m not saying we should hit pause on #MeToo, or direct any less fury at sexual predators in their every manifestation. But we should understand that while we know that our good faith and reasonableness are virtues, we currently live in a world where it’s also a handicap.

Unilateral disarmament is tantamount to arming the other side. That may be a trade worth making in some cases. But it’s worth at least acknowledging that this is the current calculus. It’s no longer that when they go low, we get to go high. They are  permanently living underground. How long can we afford to keep living in the clouds?

I’ve been reluctant to weigh in on this topic because I’m a middle-aged white dude whose ethnic culture is a touchy-feely one. Once again, I believe some nuance is required whereas the public discussion has been all black and white without much attention to the gray areas. We have to figure it out before it comes back to bite us in the ass. If we’re going to discard valued allies there had better be a damn good reason for it, especially when Donald Trump remains in office.

All of this is reason for melancholia. And the sun is still obscured by clouds. The last word goes to  a sad song from The Band songbook complete with the appropriate line “and the sun don’t shine any more…”

 

Another Day, Another Facepalm

trump_jerusalem_2_facepalm

Pretty much keeping with everything else the pretend president has done over the last year…

Yesterday’s announcement managed to both little more than emptily symbolic as a practical matter while also being gratuitously mean-spirited and unnecessarily callous. In other words, par for the course.

There was the odd conclusion where Trump clearly stumbled over words, leading to speculation about whether he’s hiding a full lower dental plate or maybe a bridge…just me, but…nah, probably not. I do wonder, though, if it’s starting to get to him, at least a little. Even pretending to be president requires a lot more effort than anything I can think of him having done in the last couple of decades. Trump may believe (or get told) he’s a modern day Andrew Jackson, but my own .0000002 cents worth has me leaning more towards Warren Harding, another guy in way-over-his-head who preferred golf to leading the nation.

And Trump is both older and less healthy than Harding…