Category Archives: Athenae

Tuesday Catblogging: Them Idiots

Ada figured out how to open the doors to Mr. A’s office closet and the other night, looking for them, I found them both filed under F for FER CHRISSAKES HOW DID YOU GET IN THERE:

A.

The One Constant of the Trump Administration

Is that they are all very bad at doing crimes: 

Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements, and an S.E.C. fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history. . . . Ross “was like a kid in a candy store,” says one of his former employees. “He pilfered it.”

Seriously, I’m offended by how bad they are at this.

It’s one thing to lose one’s country to a skilled operator, who does things with efficiency and even with style.

It’s another to lose it all to a bunch of people so bumbling and befuddled that you hear them defend themselves by saying they were too stupid to know the laws and you think to yourself, “Yeah, that’s plausible.” Like I actually do believe Junior was dumb and met with Russians thinking that it was legal. It’s not a defense, exactly, but it is an explanation: They’re all just idiots.

I can’t believe these people get to run America. Just cannot.

A.

Want to Save Journalism? Do It Yourselves.

For serious, nobody’s gonna save you: 

Even before it was officially announced, The Daily Memphian had become an open secret within an increasingly small coterie of Memphis print journalists.

For the first time in years, high profile reporters were leaving the Commercial Appeal, not because of layoffs, which had become semi-regular events at the Gannett-owned paper.

They were just walking away: food writer Jennifer Biggs, sports columnist Geoff Calkins, popular blogger Chris Herrington. Others followed; the mystery of their departures a source of growing speculation.

They left for a new web-based newsroom now being built from scratch by a nonprofit funded by philanthropists, many of them anonymous. The Daily Memphianwas the result of wealthy citizens’ frustration over the gutting of local news.

And look, I know there’s griping about the philanthropic model, like is it enough, and won’t you then be beholden to donors, etc etc something something ethics-cakes, but this is the conversation currently happening in the for-profit world:

Journalists: We need money. To pay us, and hire photographers, and do research, and travel, and produce stories. We need money to cover the news. Will you give us some money?

Media company owners: How about a redesign?

J: Nope, money.

MCO: We’re re-branding and pivoting to video!

J: Give us some money. Our interns are eating their household pets to survive. Our lights got shut off last week for six hours, on deadline.

MCO: What if we launched a spinoff publication? We’ll call it “WHOOMP THERE IT IS.” The kids love it.

J: MO. NEY.

MCO: You’re always asking for money. You can’t just throw money at a problem.

J: Let’s try it, just once.

MCO: We’ve renamed the company. Your e-mail address now ends in “wheeze.com.”

J: …

MCO: It’s gonna be great.

Faced with THAT, I will take the ethical minefield that is “wealthy citizens” who actually want to fund the news. Because at least they’re not gonna take the money and light it on fire. One hopes.

A.

This Isn’t About Manners

Bruni interviews a Republican governor in a blue state (Maryland) and listens to him talk about how he doesn’t really feel the need to speak out about anything Trump does other than, you know, the whole “tweeting” thing: 

You said, regarding Trump, I don’t want anything to do with this.” Anything to do with what?

He wasn’t the type of guy who I thought should be president. I didn’t like the tone during the campaign. There were a lot of people running, and I didn’t think he was the most qualified. I didn’t think he was going to win, either.

I’ll say this: One on one, he’s a different person than the persona you see out there. But I don’t like the tweeting. I don’t like the name-calling. The divisiveness really is not good for the country. But he’s not the only one to blame.

In what ways do you think he’s doing the most damage?

I wish he would stop tweeting.

I’ll be the first person to say that the inside of Donald’s head is like the third Port-a-Potty from the main stage on Lollapalooza weekend but that’s not, in and of itself, a disqualification from being president.

If FDR had needed to grab some pussy to win WWII and pass the New Deal I’m sure we could have found some volunteers. Lyndon Johnson’s mouth makes Donald Trump’s sound at home in the Sistine Chapel. John F. Kennedy was putting a dude on the moon while actually inside a Mafia prostitute. We have no IDEA the sorts of things Rutherford B. Hayes got up to.

The tweeting isn’t the problem. The name-calling isn’t the problem. Donald Trump’s issue isn’t that he’s a shitty human being. It’s that he’s a shitty president, corrupt and incompetent in equal measure, and the party that nominated and elected him is being all EWWWW GROSS when he’s not actually veering from their chosen path all that much.

What matters to them, really? Pointless belligerence on the foreign stage, judges who oppose abortion rights, and tax cuts. He’s satisfied all those requirements, like any Republican president would have, so this is all just goddamn dinner theater. Not the good kind. The kind where you gum your boiled beef and watch a former member of the Monkees warble his way through Oliver.

Republican candidates are going to start coming out and trying to challenge Trump for 2020, and they’re going to have to be asked the question none of these garden weasels could answer in 2016: How are you any different?

Because, you know, Ted Cruz might not have been an actual fascist but he certainly would be nominating judges off the same Christianist pecksniff cheat-sheet. John Kasich, that voice of moderation and reason, is actually wandering the wilderness to the right of Trump on abortion, and not just the kind for one’s mistresses. Mitt Romney ran against his own health care program after Obama took it national.

The only thing these personifications of whiskey-dick can offer is the idea that they will be nicer about their regressive, segregationist positions than Trump is. Their conventions will feature “Blue Lives Matter” segments instead of physically humping the flag. They’ll deny women medical care, but won’t call them cunts. They’ll leave insinuations about opponents’ patriotism to their surrogates and think-tank partners, and deny any relationship when questioned.

How refreshing.

The problems we’re having under Trump are not because Trump is weird and gross and probably a rapist, and spends too much time on Twitter. The problems we’re having under Trump are the problems we’ve had under Republican rule in 30 plus states and the federal government: exacerbation of economic inequality and segregation, gerrymandering and vote suppression, encouragement of racism and/or punitive patriotism, contempt for education and labor, I could go on.

Trump disappears tomorrow, and that baloney pony Bruni’s interviewing up there or someone just like him will breathe a sigh of relief, get elected president by yelling the word UNITY a thousand times, and quietly deregulate some more giant banks that foreclosed on widows and orphans. All without a tweet.

A.

Sunday Catblogging: And Thank You!

You all were amazing with the fundraiser this week, have some Slade toesies.

Every year we try to raise what we need to pay our hosting fees, whatever wear and tear there is on our laptops, sometimes a project or two, and every year I think well, this is it, they’re all gonna tell me to fuck off and they don’t care anymore and it’s time to shut this pop stand down and go do whatever it is people do when they’re not glued to the news.

And every year, every ask, every project, you all come right through. For FOURTEEN YEARS goddamn I am old and we are old and it remains one of the best things in my life, the idea that we do something here that you value.

Thank you. Thank you to every single one of you.

Now, next crisis.

A.

Speaking of the State of Journalism

Bugs Bunny should saw it off the country and let it fall into the sea:

But I’ve evolved. It’s been 11 years since we launched PolitiFact, and I think it’s time to move beyond my beloved meter. I am heading a project at Duke University that is developing ways to automate fact-checking—including new ways to present the conclusions. I think the Truth-O-Meter’s ratings (which now range from True to Pants on Fire) are still effective for many readers. But I have come to realize that in our polarized environment, the meter I invented is not reaching everyone, and not reaching conservatives in particular.

BECAUSE THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN FACTS JESUS CHRIST THEY’RE IN A DEATH CULT OF COURSE A FUCKIN’ TRUTH-O-METER (this was always so goddamn dumb anyway) DOESN’T “REACH” THEM. To reach someone they have to be reaching back, not macing you backwards as they run from the life preserver you’re throwing them.

The stupid ratings system (FOUR PINOCCHIOS! THIS WILL SHOW THEM!) with its stupid cartoon illustrations was always garbage. People smart enough to care where someone’s statements fell on the meter were insulted by the childishness of it, and people who needed the info resented being told their favorite fanboy’s pants were on fire.

This is the journalism headline right now. This is what we’ve all decided collectively to give a shit about. Journalism employment is in the toilet and executive bonuses are through the roof and every time some reporter asks for more money to cover something the entire company gets rebranded to “wheeze.biz” so a consultant can talk about feeding content into a funnel.

But please, do let’s jerk ourselves off about the stupid cartoon names we use to designate politicians lying, because no matter how dumb they are some conservatives will FEEL VERY ATTACKED BY PEOPLE FLAUNTING THEIR INTELLIGENCE AND ABILITY TO KNOW THINGS AND READ WORDS.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Iraqi Edition

People will always try to save each other. Always: 

‘My 15-year-old son, one of the best students in our province, decided to take up arms and go to battle without informing me or his father. It was a big shock for me. I thought that my son would go to battle and die. For around 20 days I searched for him.’

Fatima al-Bahandly was able to convince tens of other young men to disarm, along with her own son. She is the director of Al Firdaws Society, an NGO founded in 2003 in Basra, Iraq. She works to demobilise and reintegrate young people and children who have been recruited by militias. She has overseen a number of projects in a range of areas, including issues of literacy, conflict resolution, women’s political participation, and violence against women.

A.

Sunday Catblogging: FEEEEEEEEED

FEED THE KITTY.

Ada is sad because she’s hungry. Click here to hit the tip jar and feed her. 

A.

GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!!!

UPDATE THE THIRD: We did it! Thank you to everyone who contributed. This Sunday look for special Kick-and-cats-blogging in joyful celebration, and we really, really appreciate the ability to keep the lights on around here for another year!

Update II: CRAZYTOWN WE ARE ONLY $400 AWAY FROM OUR GOAL. You guys get a Kick and Catz video if you put this thing away by midnight! 

Update: WE ARE HALFWAY TO OUR GOAL AFTER 2 DAYS. You guys are amazing. Thank you all so much. Click here to keep it going! 

Hey, the earth is caving in, help us keep the lights on until it does! 

Here’s what we’d like to do this year, in addition to covering our hosting fees and getting my laptop a new battery: Continue to deal with the general stupidity of the state of government and chronicle the trash fire that is American journalism. Pay the electric bill. Keep Paul, Della, Slade, Ada and all our other asshole pets in Fancy Feast. Continue Kick’s education by buying poster board for her to spell our protest signs. COVER THE DANG MIDTERMS.

For 14 years (JESUS) we’ve only ever asked once a year for your support. Our goal this year is $1,650. Can you help us get there by next Sunday? I have something special planned if you do.

A.

Nimble. Agile. Digital First.

These justifications are always such fucking crap:

They have no idea what they’re doing, journalistically, and they have no idea in any other sense besides making the quarterly earnings report look slightly less shitty. That’s as far ahead as TRONC! (see previous examples of fuckery here, here, here, here and here) can manage to think.

Let’s review how we got where we are, shall we? 

In the late 1990s/early 2000s, media companies bought up newspapers. They then took those newspapers, profitable operations mostly and profitable by double digits, and tried to make them profitable by triple digits.

They did this by cutting the stuff that made them profitable in the first place because that stuff was expensive.

Journalists are not expensive. Journalists are cheap.

First they cut the distribution, or pared it down. They cut out printing popular sections. They cut out delivering on people’s porches, and eventually, to people’s homes. They cut in-house distribution and farmed it out to non-union mouthbreathers who were as likely to throw the paper in the bushes as get it to the customer.

They cut marketing, too, at a time when the housing market was booming and people were moving place to place at accelerated rates, so that you had no idea when you moved into a community what papers was yours.

What else could they combine or cut? Editorial design. Centralize it and put it in the hands of people who wouldn’t notice if a place was misidentified or spelled wrong. Copy editing! Who cares about spelling, anyway? Local opinion coverage, because syndicated columns about how young men need to pull up their pants are obviously more relevant to readers!

Shockingly, these things didn’t magically make the papers more money. In fact, they started bleeding readers, and the advertisers followed. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about THE DASTARDLY INTERNET yet. That’s because while all this was going on the Internet barely existed.

When it finally came to be, and mobile devices brought news to people wherever they were, news organizations were enfeebled, directionless creatures wounded by so many years of mistreatment that they couldn’t take advantage of a new medium even if they wanted to. And let’s be honest, a lot of the people involved didn’t want to take advantage of the Internet. They wanted to take a damn nap, and could you blame them really.

So the flailing began. Let’s be hyperlocal! Let’s have a paywall! Let’s not have a paywall! Let’s have a paywall that can be hacked by a halfway competent barn cat and put nothing behind it but wire copy and comic strips! Let’s do “longform,” whatever the fuck that is. Let’s do Facebook bots!

LET’S RENAME OURSELVES FUCKING TRONC.

When none of that worked because they’d squandered every ounce of goodwill and every drop of brand loyalty built over decades, they started cutting again. And this time there was nothing left to cut but newsroom jobs. So they cut those, and kept cutting, and kept cutting.

That’s where we are right now. None of it has diddly shit to do with the Internet, which some in the industry are just now, 20 fuckin years in, waking up to. All of it has to do with viewing a public goddamn service as just another piggy bank to be smashed when you need change for penny candy.

A.

Racism. It’s Racism. It’s Always Racism. (Sometimes Abortion, But Mostly Racism.)

In which the Washington Post twists itself into a pretzel trying to understand what’s in like the third paragraph of their own goddamn story:  

At the same time, many have acknowledged the awkwardness of being both self-proclaimed followers of Jesus and the No. 1 champions of a president whose character has been defined not just by alleged infidelity but accusations of sexual harassment, advancing conspiracy theories popular with white supremacists, using language that swaths of Americans find racist, routinely spreading falsehoods and an array of casual cruelties and immoderate behaviors that amount to a roll call of the seven deadly sins.

The predicament has led to all kinds of reactions within the evangelical community, from a gathering of pastors in Illinois described as a “call to self-reflection,” to prayer meetings with Trump in Washington, to hours of cable news reckoning in which Southern Baptists have taken the lead.

There are two reasons for these so-called Christians to vote for Trump:

Racism.

The idea of putting in place a Supreme Court that will outlaw abortion, which isn’t about ending abortion but is about denying it to sluts, which isn’t even about that so much as it’s about performing to your fellow churchgoers that you are moral. Narcissism, basically, then.

That’s it. That’s all this is but let’s have another 5,000 words about how difficult the dilemma these white people face. I mean, come on:

A few leaders have publicly dissented from such views, aware of the Southern Baptist history of whiffing on the big moral questions of the day — such as during the civil rights era, when most pastors either defended segregation or remained silent.

I wonder what the common thread here is?

To her, this was a moral threat far greater than any character flaw Trump might have, as was what she called “the racial divide,” which she believed was getting worse. The evidence was all the black people protesting about the police, and all the talk about the legacy of slavery, which Sheila never believed was as bad as people said it was. “Slaves were valued,” she said. “They got housing. They got fed. They got medical care.”

It’s a mystery.

This story, by the way, is beautiful and compassionate and loving toward the people being quoted, and it’s wonderfully written, and I wish literally any other group of political constituents got this kind of humanizing on a daily basis. I wish the people making truly hard moral choices were lionized the way those failing them are.

A.

Everything The GOP Says is Crap

And it was always crap, but using kids as excuses for their homophobic horseshit was particularly galling, and now we can say FUCK YOU with science: 

The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has been following a contingent of lesbian families since they first started to plan to have kids in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Those children are now about 25 years old, and the researchers have confirmed that they’re doing swimmingly.

Compared to their peers who were not raised by same-sex couples, researchers found no significant differences with respect to “adaptive functioning (family,  friends, spouse or partner relationships, and educational or job performance), behavioral or emotional problems, scores on mental health diagnostic scales, or the percentage of participants with a score in the borderline or clinical range.”

Maybe next time they come to us and tell us something’s gonna destroy the world and cause a horrific breakdown in traditional values we can suggest they look in the mirror, because I’d vote for any one of these women or their perfectly normal kids over anything Republicans currently have on offer.

A.

Self taught, self made, bet, self styled

This, pretty much:

I always feel like at least part of it’s projection, like if you did it all yourself then nobody can take it from you. If you did all this yourself, and you weren’t beholden to any system you didn’t control, then not only do you get to give yourself credit but you get out of fear-jail free. It’s all you, and you know what you can handle, right?

And you want your work to be enough. If you’ve been busting your ass, since high school or before, you want that to have been enough to make you because it was so fucking hard. Even people who have it relatively easy — born white and middle class in America — can still work their comfortable honky asses off and get to middle age thinking goddamn, I hustled this shit hard. Thinking of the ways you benefitted from things — public libraries, good schools, books in your house, parents with the leisure time to take you to plays and museums — seems to diminish that.

It doesn’t have to, though. If you look at the way you were made, the parts you did yourself and the parts other people helped you do, as a model for what you have to give others instead of a list of what others should be denied, it multiplies your work instead of dividing it: Yes, I started on second base, but I made it home, and you’re gonna make it home, too, no matter where you started from.

A.

How DID the GOP Become the Party of White Supremacy So Fast?

It’s an eternal mystery.

IRWINTON, Ga., Jan. 21— G. Harrold Carswell, President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominee, during a campaign for the Georgia Legislature in 1948, made a speech in which he said that he would always be governed by the “principles of white supremacy.”

A.

Caucus with the Democrats

Hey, Jeff Flake.

Hey, John McCain.

Hey, Susan Collins. Lisa Murkowski. Ben Motherfucking Sasse.

Hey, Bob Corker, probably. I mean, I haven’t looked, I assume he’s still a disingenuous attention-whoring shitbag like the rest of them.

Hey, all you assholes.

STFU. Get off Twitter. Get off TV. And start making phone calls.

Because until you caucus with the Democrats to stop this bullshit, I don’t want to hear another word out of your cheeto-dusted mouths.

In the early days maybe this shit was cute, this whole “the president of the United States is a traitor I am powerless to stop although I am uniquely empowered to stop him” dodge you’re pulling where you can handle some treason if it comes with abortion bans and guns.

It wasn’t cute to me or anyone else whose life was on the line but I could see where if you were some kind of reality-impaired solipsistic DC douchemook, you found that kind of thing amusing. You got to give important speeches and people clapped.

It hasn’t been cute for some time. The solution to the problem of your overwhelming angst and this country’s ongoing shame is pretty damn simple. In fact, it’s so easy people have already started wondering why you haven’t done it.

Caucus with the Democrats.

Yes, the hated Democratic Party, we of abortion on chipper demand and two-gay-weddings-for-the-price-of-one, we the gun-grabbing black president-electing welfare queens who want to take all your tax dollars and use them to kill cops. The people you’ve been telling your base for years are amoral fifth columnists. Those Democrats. Caucus with us.

Because we may want to put condoms in every happy meal. We may want you to be able to get Plan B at Kwik Trip. We may tell you your “Hillary’s a Cunt” t-shirt is a little bit sexist.

Sometimes we even listen to rap, but motherfucking shit goddamn we are not standing next to someone who attacked this country and saying, basically, “whatevs.” 

Yes, that’s a low bar. But you’re #NeverTrump Republicans. Baby steps.

You caucus with us, and this all stops. Tomorrow. Today. You caucus with us and the Senate shuts down. The unchecked madness comes to an end. You hold hearings. You draft censure resolutions and you vote for every single goddamn one.

You impeach everyone you have to impeach until you find someone untainted by this disaster even if it’s Bill Clinton’s last fucking tailor. That guy gets to be president before anyone Putin’s nasty withered fingers touched.

Oh, your base will howl? Fuck ’em. Your state voted for Trump? Fuck them too. You didn’t swear an oath under your state flag with your hand on the legal code of Nebraska — or whatever the fuck — to serve your constituents.

You swore it under the Stars and Stripes with your hand on that Bible you like to say is so important to you. You swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

You won’t be able to work once your mouthbreathing Hills-Have-Eyes-casting-call voters drum you out for this? TOO FUCKING BAD. You don’t get to make bank on MSNBC deploring the president and wink at the human detritus as you float above them on some kind of whiskey-tango life raft made of four meth lab couches zip-tied together.

You stand for what you stand for all the time, so until you actually stand for it, and caucus with the Democrats, you can keep your sternly worded statements and your oh-so-weary denials. You can shove them in the dark hole where you put things you don’t want to think about, like immigrant children, Merrick Garland, your humanity, and the entire basic motherfucking concept of the Land of the Free.

Schmucks.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

Those of you moaning that nothing will ever change? Read this before you tape your pieholes shut: 

Love is a lawyer tirelessly devoted to an immigrant sector most in need of legal aid: the rural one. In 2014, she launched the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which serves immigrant families where there is traditionally no legal aid. Love and her team of three other lawyers go out to the people—via a roaming RV office, community center, and church pop-ups, and by organizing community leaders.

The whole thing is amazing. We are saving one another every single day, and always will.

Donate here.

A.

10 Ways to Cover a Trump Rally

In today’s installment of “mild criticism on Twitter necessitates a nuclear hissyfit,” Beltway journalists act like being asked to not air Trump’s unhinged racist ranting live is tantamount to telling them to all quit their jobs and make butter in the country:

(They should all quit their jobs and go make butter. Butter is useful and has hurt nobody. Then we can give their jobs to people who aren’t so easily butthurt and don’t throw whiny hissies on Twitter.)

Since America’s Most Important Journalists have apparently run out of ways to cover something, other than pointing a camera directly at a podium and listening in respectful silence in real time, I have some suggestions.

Ten of them, in fact.

Ten ways to “cover” a Trump rally that don’t involve repeating word-for-word what the president said or airing it live uncritically. These are in no particular order, though the first one is something I’ve suggested in good faith to journo friends/students.

Ready?

Here we go:

  1. Stick around after the event is over. Interview the cleanup staff. What did they (likely low-wage employees of a contractor or venue, likely also non-white) think about what they overheard?
  2. Related: What gets left behind after a Trump rally? Empty out a garbage bin and write a list of everything inside there.
  3. Pick one person, just one, inside the rally and stick with them the entire time. Tell the story of the rally from their perspective. Now pick a person outside the rally. Do the same. Tell the two stories in turn, without judging either.
  4. Real-time fact check, a la Daniel Dale.  Preferably without using any cutesy “four pants-on-fires” bullshit.
  5. Count the number of times Trump repeats himself. He doesn’t just say untrue shit, he says the same untrue shit, over and over and over. Find a line he’s used a thousand times and list all the times he’s used it and in what contexts.
  6. Trump goes into a community for one of these things. What does it cost that community? Police, fire, security, cleanup, setup, traffic, etc. How many people locally get pressed into service?
  7. Find the person who would be affected the most by Trump’s message that day. If you know where he’s going to be, a local organization can find you somebody to talk to. You know what his bugaboos are: immigrants, veterans, etc. Have somebody local in these places on call for those topics in case he goes off.
  8. Change your perspective. If he’s gonna be on about the military, watch the speech from a VFW. Watch the speech from a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, public library, anyplace where people are the farthest from public policymaking but most impacted by it.
  9.  Get genuine response. Don’t just ask the chairman of the local Dem organization for a perfunctory “what a complete load of bullshit, say some critics who may or may not be right because we have no ability to tell” obligation-graf. Get a response that presents an alternate reality to what you heard from Trump. Say to someone, “If you had given a speech here tonight as president, what would you have talked about?”
  10. Trump clock: Note when he makes a promise of something happening there in the town you’re in. Return to it when that deadline passes. Keep returning to it.

These are all things that can be done while feeding neither Trump’s ego nor, honestly, the Resistance. Nobody’s asking you to stand there screaming YOU LIE every second, which is what you’d have to do, because he lies every second.

What we are asking are perspectives that don’t involve simply repeating what he said with his title after it and giving it the same credence as you would a pronouncement from a normal president.

Though I suppose that makes us just as bad as people who want to put journalists in concentration camps and hang them from the sour apple tree.

And if you’re reaching for that argument, maybe pick up a butter churn instead.

A.

‘Live faithfully, fight bravely, and die laughing.’

My ‘hood had been setting off fireworks for like two weeks straight. I raised Kick the first three years of her life across the alley from a crack house, so she was used to loud random bangs and yelling and the occasional 3 a.m. garbage-dump-recliner inferno. Not to mention the night somebody turned said crack house into a drive-thru with his Buick. It gave her an extravagant tolerance for noise. When she’s asleep you can set off a hundred M80s and she won’t even stir.

This was our first 4th in the new house, though, and it was intense.

Last year we were out of town visiting friends for the holiday; the two years before that we declined to keep her up late enough to see the fireworks. This time we crowded into the car and joined the throngs of people at the high school’s football stadium to watch them up close with her.

She was tired. She hadn’t napped. I was tired. I hadn’t napped. I was overheated and Mr. A knew he’d wind up carrying Kick most of the way home on his sore shoulders and neither one of us is crazy about sweaty, unruly crowds. We’d been in a sweaty, unruly crowd that morning at the local parade and were sunburnt. Everyone had been drinking since 9 a.m. so the stadium was rowdy.

The ‘hood’s Facebook groups had been muttering resentfully for several days, as they do before Halloween, about people from “outside our community” coming into “our” neighborhoods and watching “our” fireworks. As if your view is diminished by someone else watching the same thing. As if anyone owns the sky.

The people behind us were from the next town over, asked polite questions about if we did this every year and how long the display would last. Some kids were smoking weed on the stairs. I hadn’t brought enough water nor any cleverly concealed alcohol. Kick shared her animal crackers and she and the stranger behind us debated whether the one she picked out for him was a squirrel, a skunk, or a cat. A few rain drops fell and the tarps went over the field of unlit pyrotechnics.

When the police chief stepped forward with a microphone and said the words “severe weather,” everyone groaned. But then the tarps were lifted off, and a procedure we’ll just call HURRY UP SET THEM ALL OFF NOW BOB DO IT BEFORE IT PISSES DOWN began.

I saw a lot of tweets yesterday excoriating people for celebrating the 4th of July this year, when children are in cages and the courts seem hopeless and November feels too far away, when all legitimate outcomes for our words and work seem lost to us. I saw a lot of this:

And so the anthems play and the flags wave and the bottle rockets ascend and the M-80’s go off—and Fascism quietly enters in the side door while everyone is distracted by the spectacle.

This is the paradox Americans find ourselves in. Our essential liberties have never been more at risk, our national sovereignty never more tenuous, our elemental freedoms never more assailed—and yet the patriotic fervor at the top and in its flag-waving rank-and-file has never been greater.

Yes, the ship is going down quickly but the music is still playing to convince them all we’re still the Land of the Free, and they are dancing wildly into the abyss, waving flags.

I know why everybody felt that way but it’s just not possible, cats and kittens, to live without light. They made art in the trenches in France, carved shotgun shells and missile casings into vases and crosses and lamps. They celebrated Christmas at Bastogne.

Those in bondage sang songs of freedom. Bondage has never once been an argument against singing.

We hold our ideals up because of their defilement, not in spite of them. We hold our promises up not to distract from our deaths but to defy them. We celebrate what we should be, not what we are.

We celebrate all our birthdays, after all, at the beginning of that new year’s life, not the end.

When the local fireworks started, the crowd screamed like we’d just won the World, Stanley and America’s Cups all at once. Sousa marches blared from the speakers. And my tiny, angry, sweaty, exhausted kid turned her face to the sky. 

That morning we’d walked in the parade with a local Democratic group, carrying signs that said things like NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL and ROE V WADE IS THE LAW OF THE LAND and IMMIGRANTS MAKE AMERICA GREAT. Even in the white, wealthy parts of town, people waved and cheered.

Kick colored our sign, that read on one side ALL ARE WELCOME and on the other THERE ARE NO STRANGERS HERE. She helped me carry it. She eagerly collected candy and high-fives and dragged one of her baby-friends off the curb to march along with us.

It was our family’s fourth political action in the past two weeks. It was a two-mile route and it was hot and she was dog-tired.

But as the first explosions bathed her face in light, she lifted both hands over her head and shouted for joy.

A.

Where They Cross, The Place is Holy

Civility, restaurants, and what we expect in society: 

“You’ve been paying about 50 bucks a night to stay in a D.C. condo that’s connected to an energy lobbying firm, while approving their dirty sands pipeline,” Mink continues, reading from notes. “We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously, for the benefit of all of us, including our children.”

Mink concluded: “So, I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out.”

The video does not show Pruitt getting up and leaving the restaurant, but according to Mink, Pruitt and his two security guards left the restaurant before she returned to her seat.

At a certain level, they expect it to not matter to other people.

Kristjen Nielsen expects it to not matter that she’s advocating putting children in cages.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders expects it to not matter that she stands up at a podium every day and lies to the American people in service to Donald Trump.

Scott Pruitt expects it not to matter that he’s wasting money and rescinding regulations and helping corporations pollute the water and the air.

Mitch McConnell expects it not to matter that he’s abdicated all Congressional oversight and stole a Supreme Court seat.

And your MAGA-troid relatives expect it to not matter to you that the red hat they’re wearing and the Confederate flag they’re defending and the policies they’re voting for expose how much contempt they have for you.

They expect it to not matter enough to upset their dinner plans. Their coffee breaks. Their working weeks and Sunday rests. They expect you to subjugate your humanity to their — not even comfort, to their convenience. They’re shocked when you don’t. When you won’t. When who you are and how you live matters more than the poor sick human instinct to avoid conflict.

They accused everyone who didn’t want any of this of living in a bubble, as if they weren’t in one themselves, these people who expect to break their daily bread undisturbed by disagreement. As if that’s how anything works.

It’s the most fundamental thing about them, the entire MAGA tribe, even more so than the racism: the avoidance of the new, the different, the advancing of time and changing of the world. Someone on Twitter the other day made this joke:

Which is funny, but is also about time stopping.

These are people — within the administration, and supporting it — for whom time has in a real way stopped in the late 1980s. It’s why they’re obsessed with “black on black” crime and imagine cities as hellholes and rant about people needing to pull up their pants. It’s why the culture war is the only war they care about: They don’t want to hear any new music. They don’t want to learn the names of any new actresses. They’re on Facebook bitching about hip-hop music coming from cars at night.

On some level they know the world’s going on without them and instead of engaging with it, instead of learning who that person is who all the kids are talking about, instead of just shutting the everloving fuck UP about what’s new that they hate, they expect us to build a wall around them.

Around “our” country.

Around our nice restaurants and our Sunday shows and our status quo editorials that never use naughty words. They can’t imagine anything big enough, anything that MATTERS enough, to shove them out of their comfort zone, so they get rage-roided when they see that something’s pushed us out.

They expect it not to matter that people are dying, that irreplaceable natural resources are being destroyed, that we fear for our families and our kids, that we can’t live our lives without their interference, and they expect their preferences to be as respected as our lives.

They call it uncivil when they can’t order a cheese plate in peace, when they can’t remain walled up in their own minds at a time when they felt powerful, as if that’s how anything on earth has ever stayed.

A.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Candidates

Gimme your people nobody’s paying any attention to right now who deserve more attention, lest they shock the New York Times and actually, you know, get elected to represent their districts/people.

Jude will start, with Arvina Martin, who’s running to become Wisconsin’s first Native American Secretary of State.  

You can donate to her here.

Post yours in the comments and peruse, those of you with means, so as to give your dollars to races not already swimming in money.

A.