Category Archives: Athenae

Tuesday Catblogging

I know it’s been a while. These two dumbasses are the best. They spent the recent polar vortex curled up basically on top of us and when I’m sick or otherwise incapacitated they’re on me at all times purring and kneading and grooming me. Slade eats constantly but also is constantly mewing to play fetch so he’s not gaining weight so much as getting swole. Ada disdains the very expensive cat fountain we bought for her and will sit on the counter yelling until we turn on the kitchen tap, then swats water at her brother. Kick picks them both up like a forklift and carries them around the house like stuffies and they never, ever bite her. There is fur just fucking EVERYWHERE and they disembowel their toys and stash the innards under the dining room table for us to find like some kind of horrifying CSI: KittyMurder.

We love them so so so so so much.

A.

Poynter Pearl-Clutching Train’s Never Late

How, HOW, is Sainted Jill Abramson dealing with the horrible trauma that is being accused of plagiarism after plagiarizing a bunch of people? 

“Over the weekend, I was mostly taking care of and playing with my grandchildren,’’ Abramson told Poynter on Monday afternoon. “And focusing on all that is right with my world.’’

Aww. It’s so nice that we checked in with her and not with, you know, all the people she ripped off or the ones she misgendered or called stupid uneducated kids with mohawks or whatever her problem was with Vice and BuzzFeed.

After all, Twitter was MEAN TO HER:

“Twitter is a savage environment, and at a certain point I just stopped going on Twitter,” Abramson said, “and had trusted friends and advisers to look at it and tell (me) if there is anything that I needed to know.”

“Twitter” is not a savage environment. The world is a savage environment when you screw up. Just ask any journalist not currently swanning around on apology tour of every major media outlet while promoting her book. Just ask the night cops reporter at any mid-size paper in the country. Nobody is nice to you when you fuck up.

So what happens now? Where does Abramson go from here?

She said she will continue teaching twice a week at Harvard. She expects to continue writing regularly for The Guardian and New York Magazine. She said she has no desire to ever run a newsroom again.

This story could not be more soft if Poynter actually smeared Vaseline on the lens. I don’t ask a lot of the outfit that mainly exists to run things like “do journalists swear too much” and “how fair is it to point out when people are lying liars who lie?” but I would expect the August Guardians of Standards and Practices to take a little more seriously when someone who should know better violates them flagrantly.

As far as the latest chapter in her career — a chapter that had her getting off Twitter, answering uncomfortable questions and retreating to the safety of her grandkids — Abramson refuses to let it consume her.

How brave.

How brave of her to continue to persevere by … literally not changing a damn thing and continuing to cash her checks. That must take a lot out of her. Again, the perspective that is presented here is Abramson-as-victim of the mean meanies on the Internet, and I hate to break it to the professional media observers but the Internet, like most of the world, is really really mean, sometimes to people who deserve it, sometimes to people who don’t.

I suppose since Abramson is a Very Important Person, she cannot ever really make an irredeemable mistake (after all, Brian Williams and Mike Barnicle remain employed) but it would be nice to see supposed standards applied in a … standard … way, and at least spare us the “I made mistakes, how dare you be mean and point them out” martyr act.

A.

Surely THIS Will Save Journalism

Horseshit: 

It’s easy to see why Apple favors the scheme. It gets a windfall of new revenue at a time when the decline in iPhone sales has made selling additional services a high priority. It gets to bring more high-quality publishers onto its platform, burnishing its reputation as a premium brand. And it gets to talk loudly about how much it loves journalism, as Apple vice president Eddy Cue did when announcing Apple’s acquisition of the subscription news app Texture last year. “We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users,” he said at the time.

Publishers, meanwhile, may need to hire new employees to manage the partnership, build the necessary product integrations, and address customer service issues. At a time when the industry is already laying off hundreds of journalists, asking them to build out their partnership and product teams in exchange for a potential revenue increase in the single digits appears laughable on its face.

Man, we are willing to do just about anything except take ad revenue and subscription money and spend it on journalism. We’ll spend it on pundits and cable-yellers, we’ll spend it on consultants and digital paradigm shifts and machine learning plans, we’ll spend it on rebrand after rebrand after rebrand, we’ll spend it developing spin-off companies within our news media company, we’ll spend it on hush money for victims of serial sexual harassers, we’ll spend it on developing software to write box scores for high school baseball games, we’ll spend it on real estate. We’ll spend it on glitter glue. We’ll spend it on regular glue.

Anything, ANYTHING, other than news.

It’s my forlorn hope that after the video pivot and the podcast boom and the hyperlocal experiments and the longform mega-wank and the Facebook bots and the Snapchat productions and the endless, endless, endless shitshow that is paywalls, publishers will just finally be so tired they’ll agree to do journalism. But the enthusiasm for this type of thing is just too stupid and predictable. Can a webinar be far behind?

A.

True Unity

Politics isn’t about feelings, you ambulatory turtlenecks: 

Obviously, no Democrat would talk like Trump anyway, because that kind of bigoted talk would get a person drummed out of the country’s multiracial party even as it got him celebrated and elevated in the country’s white ethno-nationalist party.

I am saying, though, that Democrats should stop pretending they can unite the country. They can’t. No one can. What they can do, what they must do, is assemble a coalition of working- and middle-class voters of all races around a set of economic principles that will say clearly to those voters that things are going to be very different when they’re in the White House.

Emphasis mine. Consensus, as Mr. A is fond of saying in stupid meetings we’re in, is not unanimity. You don’t get to have everyone agree with you, and everyone agreeing is not a sign of anything anyway. You get the balance of people to commit to something and the people who want to get on board afterward can, but the people who won’t? Fuck ’em, Bucky, we got work to do.

We forget this all the time because so much of our politics is about talking but as a politician you are supposed to DO STUFF. I know cable news has warped everyone’s brain to the point that we think if two people are yelling at each other that automatically makes both of them wrong, but it doesn’t. And I know our ignorance of history leads us to think that there was some indeterminate point in the past where “we” all rallied around the flag but “we” didn’t. As many people agreed with McCarthy as fought against him. Post-9/11 there were waves of hate crimes and paranoia and let’s not forget all the torturing. During our last glorious period of unity in World War II we locked up a bunch of Japanese-Americans who probably weren’t feeling like we wanted their unity at that point.

We confuse the way we need to remember things with the way they happened, and that’s where our need for unity comes from. It’s childish horseshit and we should be above it by now. People are dying.

Democrats took back the House and a bunch of state legislatures last fall because they said to the voters, here is what we are going to DO FOR YOU. Lots of people liked that. Because some people didn’t doesn’t mean Democrats somehow failed to “unite the country.” It means some people don’t want to get on board with where most of us are going and that’s fine, for them, they get to live their lives, but we don’t have to spend all our time freaking out about what they think or stressing because there are 12 people out there we ain’t converted yet.

Bemoaning the end of comity is good Sunday show ratings but I know of nobody sitting in the pain clinic twitching for an opioid fix who gives a damn if Ilhan Omar was rude. I know of nobody on the phone yelling at their insurance company about a test their doctor says they need to stay alive who worries about Amy Klobuchar being an asshole in the office that one time, or even Joe Biden challenging Trump to a monster truck rally or whatever believes-his-own-press shit Joey has going on today.

People will get united real fast if we stop talking about unity and start giving them clean water, good jobs and free health care. The ones that won’t, eh. The bleached suburban bookclub assholes currently making common cause with Nazi hicks in the hills, fine, you get invited to the party but don’t expect me to change the menu, the venue and the seating just to convince you to show up. Show up or don’t. The rest of us, we got kiddie concentration camps to close.

A.

Rally Round Getting Rid of the Flag

I was in a beach store in Florida in December the last time I saw confederate merch. It was the kind of place full of polished shells and mugs that looked like sunburned bodies, and I was trying to talk myself out of buying overpriced tchotchkes for Kick. Turned the corner and BAM, a bunch of beer coozies with the stars and bars. Like they were just another souvenir.

It felt like a slap, after the past couple of years we’ve had, and I’m whiter than a very white thing. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a family out to the county fair for a good time, only to be confronted with something that basically says, “My aesthetic is that I like owning people.”

Last summer, I contacted officials at the Essex County Fair about their vendor policy and got hung up on. The policy on their website makes no mention of offensive merchandise — same with the Franklin County Fair site. The Saratoga County vendor handbook refers to “offensive writing/pictures/graphics” in a list of prohibited products.

Letitia James said, “Confederate flags are a tribute to a dark, hateful and painful past and have no place in our society beyond the history books. State-funded fairs and events should not be peddlers and profiters of this, or any other hateful paraphernalia.”

I’d love to see the fairs adopt a clear statement of principle like that, or like this: “Racist products are banned at the fair.” That wasn’t hard. Why are some people making it hard?

A.

 

NOW we’re talking about the money

There’s a reason for this: 

While the companies’ reasonings behind mass layoffs aren’t identical, there is a common thread: The cuts have less to do with the talent of the workers, and more to do with financial imperatives and the whims of investors. THR reports that Nancy Dubuc, CEO at Vice, seeks to decrease spending and increase profitability. HuffPost spokesperson told CNN that the site is “investing its talents and resources to areas that have high audience engagement, differentiation and are poised for growth at a time when our mission means more than ever.” And according to BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, who reportedly suggested that employees bring dogs to work on Monday as a means of raising morale, BuzzFeed is “restructuring” to “focus in on the content that is working, and achieve the right cost structure to support our multirevenue model.” (There is also speculation that BuzzFeed is preparing for a sale or merger.)

Back in the early 2000s newspaper company owners could still get away with blaming kids on their phones for not paying for news. Shit, they’re still doing that to explain what happened to newspapers, but now that the layoffs are hitting digital shops some people are actually starting to notice that hey, the money WAS there, and it just wasn’t being spent on journalism.

There’s a reason I yell so much about the nonprofit model for legacy and new media: Because enough money can be enough. If you’re paying your bills and can sock a little away at a time in case of emergency, you’re okay. If you’re pulling down maybe a small profit, huzzah! You get to celebrate, possibly by hiring people or doing a kickass project. You don’t have to freak the fuck out and fire fourteen people because the profit margin went from five percent to four.

Newspapers, yes the dead trees on which information is printed and distributed to the masses, are STILL profitable enterprises. Online news outlets can still be profitable. They’re just not profitable ENOUGH for Wall Street analysts, and it’s infuriating to see people fired to make a spreadsheet look better. That’s an insane reason for stories to not get done. It’s absurd. It’s laughable, but dismantling that entire system is harder than screaming at Facebook and Google so here we go:

“This isn’t happening because of market inefficiencies or consumer preferences or social value,” HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter tweeted. “It’s happening because two very large companies have taken the advertising revenue that journalism outlets rely on and replaced it with nothing.”

YOU WERE NEVER ENTITLED TO ADVERTISING MONEY. Nobody owed you their dollars and Facebook and Google didn’t set out to kill journalism, they set out to suck up all the cash. They don’t care about you at all. It wasn’t maliciousness, it was indifference, the same indifference with which, say, hedge funds run papers. This was all foreseeable three damn years ago and the way I know that is that people saw it. They were, of course, laughed off in favor of making promotional videos for machine learning plans. 

And instead of building something good in the meantime, your bosses decided to pivot and pivot and pivot. They’re ones to be mad at, not techbros in San Fran and Seattle. They’re the ones who owed you their loyalty and hard work and they threw it away on plans to blanket the Internet in videos and endless podcasts. Because Facebook and Google told them to and laughed all the way to the bank.

I can’t sympathize with people who didn’t listen when we said they were gonna get taken. I feel bad for the journalists who tried to do good work and I hope that now, finally, finally, that we’re talking about money and where it goes we can start understanding who has journalism’s best interests at heart, and build some systems that serve them instead of pivoting some more.

Via Maximillian Potter.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

There are people sending books to kids in prison: 

Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to the outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal justice system.

Go, learn, and donate if that’s within your power.

A.

Signs of the Times

FINE, let’s talk about that idiot Ralph Northam and how this whole flaming fustercluck could have been avoided had he been like, “Look, once upon a time I was an asshole, here is a picture of it, and here is how I have worked to remediate that and how you should do so as well.” Instead of waiting for someone to get mad enough to find it and do what was done with it. God.

(The fuckin’ moonwalk thing. Can someone please tell all white men everywhere during this Black History Month that there’s no particular virtue in saying every single thought that is in your head? I mean, Michael Jackson? STOPPIT.)

What I’d mainly like to talk about, besides the unending self-own that is Northam’s entire existence at this point, is the idea that “everybody” just did this in “the South” once upon a time. Everybody meaning white everybody, and the South being everything below the Canadian border apparently. Because it’s horseshit and we hear it all the time.

Yes, there was a time when fewer white people side-eyed you for putting on blackface and saying the n-word or having waiters cosplay as enslaved people or whatever. That doesn’t mean that time was okay. In fact, it pretty explicitly means that that time was garbage, and you’re not supposed to be proud of what you did back then.

“Literally everyone around me was also in blackface pretending to be in the Klan” is not an exoneration of you, in other words, it’s an indictment of everyone else along with you. The only way you think that shit’s exculpatory is if you exclude “everyone who isn’t white” from your definition of the people around you.

As Robyn so wisely points out:

It also obscures the fact that polite “white” society wasn’t as unified as we like to think around the concept of racism as an unequivocal YAY. If there’s one thing I’d like my fellow honkies to put to bed it’s this idea that there was a time when all white people considered racism to be okay and awesome, and then along came Martin Luther King and something something something, and the Civil Rights Act ended racism forever.

And everyone instantly knew that racism was no longer wrong, and this entire process took five minutes!

Because that means racism would be solved now completely (erm, no) and also that there were no abolitionists in the first place nor activists nor just people who recognized racism for what it was before the tide of public opinion in polite circles turned.

It erases the Freedom Riders, and people who worked for human rights before 1968 (hell, before 1900), and people who were just generally decent and didn’t have it in them to mock and degrade other human beings.

It makes overcoming racism something you can only do when it’s polite to do so, rather than when it’s hard, and it seems like everyone else in the very white room you’re in is looking the other way.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

There’s a roller rink: 

There once were dozens of places to roller skate in Chicago, but today only a handful remain.

The Rink is one of the survivors.

The South Side venue has become a staple in the Chatham community — some skaters have met their spouses at skate nights, while others now bring their grandchildren there.

“It just signifies what black culture is: family, love, pride, passion, and enjoyment,” long-time skater Patrice Jackson said.

A.

Nobody’s Gonna Have Your Revolution

I got into it this week with the usual tired bullshit that “America” had normalized violence against women and gun violence particularly, based on a lack of wall-to-wall TV coverage of one such incident recently.

We’ve talked before about the very hard work anti-gun groups are doing on the state level, and how it plays into the NRA/GOP to throw up our hands and say NOTHING HAS CHANGED OR WILL EVER CHANGE. But spin that out and apply it to our current “political climate,” which is a polar vortex wrapped in a hurricane season plopped down on top of a wildfire.

It seems like every week there’s a new Monday Morning Resistance Quarterback who knows just how the wars should be won, if only everyone around him wasn’t such a worthless pussy. Why isn’t America in the streets, he cries from his Twitter feed, which he presumably isn’t updating from said streets. Why isn’t America shutting down the banks, the immigration camps, the military bases, the schools?

Oh, I DUNNO, BRO, maybe because whenever America does that shit (like they literally, in recent memory, called it OCCUPY WALL STREET in case you missed the memo) there’s an army of cynical assholes JUST LIKE YOU talking about how giant puppets are counterproductive to the cause and shutting down busy intersections is just going to make people mad.

And we have A FEW THINGS GOING ON RIGHT NOW. Should America shut down the streets over immigration jails or mass incarceration or police violence or school closings or sexual abuse or Trumpism in general or the banksters again or Russia or all the stealing and screwing and general wtf-like conduct of government on every level? Who gets to pick what’s big enough to be mad about today?

Mostly, though, quit critiquing everybody else’s damn actions. Quit measuring their outrage and deeming it insufficient to your standards. We have for maybe the first time in history the ability to be painfully aware of all human struggles everywhere at once. As somebody who used to mainline misery, you gotta learn to triage and yours might not look like mine.

Nobody else is ever gonna do your thing. You have to do your thing. It’s hard and thankless and infuriating and you are screaming into the wind and one celebrity can get a thousand people in the street to, I dunno, bring back Crystal Pepsi, but bitching people out for not caring about what you care about is not going to get them to care about it.

A.

It’s Not the Tools, It’s the Talent

I can’t anymore with this:

Much has been made of the way Twitter serves as a megaphone for popular anger that’s made more intense by the speed of the news cycle and the distinctive malice and ineptitude of the Trump White House. But too little attention has been paid to what may be the most potent facet of the social media platform: its ability to feed the vanity of its users. There’s always an element of egoism to intellectual and political debate. But Twitter puts every tweeter on a massive stage, with the nastiest put-downs, insults, and provocations often receiving the most applause. That’s a huge psychological incentive to escalate the denunciation of political enemies. The more one expresses outrage at the evils of others, the more one gets to enjoy the adulation of the virtual mob.

We are not having a problem with Twitter and we are not having a problem with “fake news” and we are not having a (political) problem with Facebook. We are having a problem with Republican money and that is ALL we are having a problem with.

But but but bot-farms and share networks and lies and deceptive headlines! Yes, and isn’t it fucking amazing how none of that resulted in landslide Democratic elections? Isn’t it all super-weird that networks of bots don’t harass Republican men on Twitter but liberal women? Isn’t it a goddamn chickenfried magic coincidence that this supposedly nonpartisan crisis of fact-free nonsense has ONLY EVER BENEFITTED REPUBLICANS?

“Fake news” didn’t descend upon us from out of the sky. It was something a GOP presidential candidate screamed at his supporters and they screamed it at the press. “Twitter” isn’t destroying liberal democracy. GOP and GOP-aligned activists swept across every platform from Twitter to old-fashioned direct mail to whip up anger against black people, brown immigrants, women, gay and trans people, and environmentalists in an effort to keep and expand their power.

They took Russian money and looked the other way while Russian operatives acted like chaos-causing shitlords because they knew it would only hurt Democrats and help them, and they didn’t care what damage they did to “our democracy” because they don’t care about that and never have.

That they CLOAKED IT in this language of “both sides” and made it seem like a weather system that just somehow moved in, like old/er America woke up one day and started spontaneously sharing stories of Obama putting a basketball hoop in the Oval Office or whatever it is they’re mad about today, isn’t on the medium.

It’s on the editors and producers who, seeing what was happening but fearing their eviction from the realm of Sensible Centrists, ran editorials about “right- and left-wing extremism” and our country “becoming” divided.

It’s on our goddamn Congress out there having hearings about “shadowbanning” on Facebook and racist/sexist/anti-Semitic Facebook ads, without emphasizing who paid for those ads, and who got elected because of them.

And if the entire internet just up and quit tomorrow (a decision I’m not sure I’d mourn, given all our fucking givens) and disappeared except for the cat subreddit and one knitters’ message board, the same GOP ratfuckers moaning about the future of the white race would be revving up their radio shows and fake-bestselling publishing imprints again.

The way I know this is that the same kind of “fake news” said Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and John Kerry shot himself, and Jill Carroll was carrying her terrorist abductor’s baby, and Saddam had WMDs, and who did all THAT benefit? Who got elected on the back of all that?

WELL FUCK SHIT JESUS, IT WAS THE GOP!

I mean, this is Rush Limbaugh’s party, it has been since forever, and we’re all out here going oh goodness me wherever did this thirst for sensationalistic horseshit come from? 

I mean look at this crap:

These are the things they’re putting in the mail. It’s the same stuff that’s on the internet, the same xenophobic fearmongering bullshit. At a certain point you stop oohing and ahhing over the newfangled ways they spread their slime and start asking from whence the slime emanates, right? RIGHT?!

At a certain point we have to stop calling this a fake news crisis, a Twitter crisis, and call it a Republican crisis. They’re the only ones who win here and they’ve got no incentive to try to stop it, and it’s poisoning the well the rest of us drink from. We need to name them as the ones who have been pouring venom into the discourse, and stop listening to anything they have to say.

A.

P.S. If you’re going to throw the Covington kids in my face, as the first linked article does, you’d better be ready to answer for Richard Jewell, who was tried and convicted by the social media mob known as the NEWSPAPER. And let’s not forget the ENTIRE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR.

P.P.S. William Randolph Hearst called, he said he left his telegraph machine at your mom’s and while you’re there he wants his change. Schmucks.

‘Just’ Adopt

One of the many things that made me crazy when I was trying to have a baby was the people who said, “have you ever thought about just adopting?”

There’s nothing “just” about it: 

It also needs to amplify the perspectives of adoptees and birth families, especially when they raise uncomfortable issues that challenge the prevailing adoption narrative. “Children are cute, children are acceptable. Everybody likes babies,” McKee notes. “When these babies grow into adults like myself, an adoptee who also studies adoption, we’re less cute.” The idea of adoption as “a blessing for all involved” is a narrative that serves ethically dubious adoption facilitators, while pulling double duty as an anti-abortion talking point.

Mr. A and I did meet with a local adoption agency, one that did a lot of transracial and open adoptions, and might have gone further down that road if I hadn’t gotten pregnant. We have friends who’ve adopted children and others who are adopted, and being flip about it like you can just run down to the store and get a baby erases the work everybody involved does to make adoptions happen.

A.

Stop Electing CEOs

They’re bad at this because government isn’t a business: 

Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO, says in a 60 Minutes interview already recorded but airing on Sunday that he is thinking very seriously about a presidential run—but he stops short of a full announcement.

He makes clear, however, that if he moves forward, he will do so as an independent.

Of course, because parties and principles and coherent platforms are just, like, bullshit, man, and he alone can see that the true way forward is to split the baby: Half of it in an immigration cage.

We just recently rid ourselves, in Illinois, of the odious Bruce Rauner, who believed he could abuse teachers into doing his bidding because as head of a company all he had to do was say, “Do it” and people would jump. When you’re the sole guy in charge you can do that.

Trump’s the same way: I can yell at my employees the right way to make them do what I want. Well, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t work for you, Brad, and frankly neither do any of the Republicans, not that they remember that. In government there are all these other little fiefdoms to navigate and they require negotiation, not just giving orders.

A governor, a senator, shit even a state rep knows nothing works like that, so next time around let’s elect somebody who has experience in the system they want to run.

A.

Five, and Faster

Dear Kick,

You’re five years old today, so let’s get this out of the way:

You are not growing up too fast.

Like a lot of harmless parenting small talk, like a lot of women’s magazine shorthand, this sentiment makes my back go up and you’re attuned to that now. Let me explain why Mama says the sharp things to the nice ladies at parties: “She’s growing up too fast” is not a harmless thing to say.

It implies you’re doing something wrong by becoming a person. It implies I don’t want to see you taller, stronger, faster, smarter. To lament your growing up seems to me to lament your progress, or say that you’re not delightful now. If I nod and say the expected oh I know, where does the time go, I’m agreeing that there is a way I prefer you, and it is not the way you are.

I understand why people say things like this. It’s presumed to be a neutral sentiment. There are things I miss about baby-you. There is less snuggling now than there used to be. Your noises are louder. Your falls are harder. Your successes involve more work on all our parts.

But you don’t have any choice here. You can’t stop growing up, so what is the point in bemoaning it in front of you? 

Plus, the alternative really sucks.

I have friends whose children have rare or lethal illnesses. I have friends and relatives who’ve lost children, who’ve miscarried, who are estranged and don’t know if their children are alive or well. Their children won’t grow up, fast or at any other speed. I see their faces in my own nostalgia for your ratty baby blankets and am ashamed.

You are supposed to grow up. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I’m supposed to see it, take joy in it, cheer you on. I have to run faster to keep up with you but that doesn’t mean you need to slow down. Our conversations get more involved as your questions get more difficult — what is God, when do people die, what does it mean to “get busy in the Burger King bathroom,” why do you have to keep taking skating lessons if the first one was a disaster — but I don’t wish you less curiosity, less appetite for the difficult things like religion and hip-hop and hockey. This is how it goes.

If we’re lucky.

And we’re so very, very lucky. We have such good fortune, the three of us. We sit at the dinner table and laugh and laugh and I wonder if I am allowed to enjoy another person this much. You’ve started reading words on your own and doing chores. You do simple math and count in Spanish and call Ada “peanut butter cup” and you and your father build Lego sets together and you and I take nature walks and read books and do crafts about space.

You copy what we say and do and we are not always as careful as we should be, which leads to our talks about the lyrical stylings of the Digital Underground and why Donald Trump is such a “toilet animal.” It’s clear which of your enthusiasms — sparkles, fashion — are from your friends and from TV, but some of your ideas are so completely your own I wonder if they’ve sailed into your head from the ether fully formed.

We frequently run into a homeless fellow who takes shelter by an abandoned store. He’s known to be friendly but has rejected various appeals to help him find shelter, housing or services, and so the neighborhood looks after him in the ways that he’ll let it. You became somewhat fixated on “the man who lives outside” and decided you wanted to buy him a Christmas present, so we purchased a warm fleecy blanket and tucked some money and cookies and juice inside.

I warned you before we left the house that he might not want to talk, but he was awake and wearing a festive Santa hat and grinned when you gave him his present. When he asked if you’d picked it out you said yes, and wished him a merry Christmas. Then you skipped away down the road, alight with the joy of doing something small and kind.

You are growing up just the way you should.

Not too fast at all.

Love,

Mama

He Doesn’t Care Who He Hurts

The shutdown, and food stamp recipients: 

What’s left after that is an approximately $3 billion contingency reserve that’ll be dipped into to ensure benefits continue into February. What happens next—will the remainder of that reserve be used up to distribute money to these low-income households in March?—isn’t clear.

An expert in the field confirms to Delish there’s no precedent for a situation like that and that it’s only the Department of Agriculture and the administration who’d be able to answer that question. There is a world where if there is no appropriation for the programs, there is no program at all. Even after the government re-opens, if the law that re-opens it doesn’t include funding for SNAP, there would just not be any authority for the government to fulfill those benefits, though the source hesitates to say so.

If you have a local food pantry and have been holding off giving, now would be a good time. They’re going to be slammed from this with no help in sight. Trump doesn’t care about any of these people and he and McConnell are all too happy to sacrifice them if it means “winning” in this mess.

And while we’re here, JUST ONE MORE GODDAMN PERSON please write a column about how both sides need to come to an agreement. Democrats have offered approximately everything BUT a giant border wall in order to reopen the government, and since they now have the House, we OUGHT to be due a few hundred thousand words on how Republicans need to reach across the aisle and compromise but no, it’s all “this is happening because we are so partisan and divided” and “both sides” and just generally give me all the fucking breaks. It’s too stupid to believe, most days, where we are.

A.

The Women Have Always Been Here

Yep: 

Before lifelong activist Florence Reece took the stage to sing her now-iconic labor anthems, she sat at the kitchen table writing those songs from the perspective as a mother and wife—and as a union agitator. “Unofficial social worker” Edith Easterling leveraged her local knowledge, and the federal resources she gained access to as a staffer for the anti-poverty program known as Appalachian Volunteers, to launch her own personal war on poverty at home in Pike County, Kentucky, with the Marrowbone Folk School—and saw her daughter Sue Ella follow her footsteps straight into the civil rights movement via multiracial youth organizing efforts. When Appalachian health activist Eula Hall opened the Mud Creek Clinic and Dr. Elinor Graham taught mountain women how to self-administer breast and pelvic exams and provided information on birth control, they were enabling poor women to take control of their own bodies and make their own childbearing decisions.

Discussions of women’s movements that leave out poor and lower-middle-class women who have always had to work and fight and scrap and “resist” for what they needed drive me bonkers. We have these “lean in” moments where it seems like it’s all about our personal fulfillment and our private desires, instead of about the baby eating or the roof getting fixed. Women have had to fight for those things long before (and will long after) the slogan-embossed tote bags wear out.

A.

Just Kids

I was eight, maybe? Nine?

At the shopping mall, because it was the 1980s. With my aunt.

We were sitting by some kind of fountain or courtyard. There were lots of little kids jumping and playing, chasing each other, their voices echoing off the tile floors and metal furniture. I don’t remember why some of them bothered me, whether they bumped into me or I just saw them and didn’t like them, but they bothered me somehow.

And I turned to my aunt — both of us so white as to be transparent, in case you’re new here — and I said, “Look at those little colored boys running around.”

I’d heard older relatives use that word. I’d heard the tone of contempt in their voices when they did it. I mimicked both, no, I said it. I was old enough to know better and I said it meanly.

“WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”

My aunt grabbed me by the shoulder. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She dragged me to a chair and got down to my level and she asked me a question I couldn’t answer then and certainly can’t now.

“Who do you think you are? You think you’re better than them? Why, because they’re black and you’re not?”

She was fuming. Exasperated. But somehow sad, too.

“You don’t call people ‘colored.’ That’s a terrible thing old people said a long time ago. They prefer African-American. And you don’t talk about people that way, ever, no matter what they look like or what they’re doing.”

She adored me. I was her tiny little princess who she spoiled and indulged. I’d never seen her angry at me before but she was angry then.

It’s been more than 30 years and I think about that moment all the time.

I thought about it again yesterday: 

In video footage that was shared widely on social media, one boy, wearing the red hat that has become a signature of President Trump, stood directly in front of the elder, who stared impassively ahead while playing a ceremonial drum.

Some boys in the group wore clothing associated with Covington Catholic High School, an all-male college preparatory school in Park Hills, Ky., near Cincinnati.

High school kids surrounded and intimidated an elderly Native American man and laughed while they did it.

The wingnutsphere is in full cry already, and the kids’ “defenders” are out there talking about how somehow the old man started it, or that the video doesn’t tell the whole story, or that they’re just stupid kids and everybody was a shithead in high school.

Public shaming is getting out of hand in this country and more often than not, we aren’t getting the full story. Anyways, it’s time we as a nation learn not to judge others when you and I are nowhere near perfect. We need to forgive because we’ve all said and done dumb things in our lives, especially when we were their age.

Probably lots of kids are stupid. Lots of kids are shitheads.

But that’s the point.

When they do shit like this, you correct them and you educate them and you for the love of God don’t make excuses for them and then turn around and scream about how the elderly Native American man they were taunting “started it” because then they learn nothing.

Yelling at adult MAGA chuckleheads is beyond pointless. They’re out there cheering for this, they’re past changing. But some of the kids might not be.

Unless the only response by the adults in their lives is to pretend their kids did nothing wrong.

This is bad reporting. Those that were there said the man approached the kids beating his drum and even joined into the kids as well as they did to his beat. Disgusting what the AP did with this. If you notice the man is smiling as the Indian does the “stare down” done during the ritual. Jeez.

I think about my aunt and the mall when kids do stupid, racist things. I think about the time I came home from school laughing because somebody called somebody else a faggot and I thought that word sounded funny and my mom explained why it wasn’t. I think about the people who took the time to knock my ass down when I spoke out of turn or presumed or overstepped.

I think about how long it took me to be grateful for those times.

Would she have done me any favors, my aunt, had she simply shushed me? Had she made sure nobody heard, and then muttered darkly about the “PC police” and “the media” setting up “good kids” to look bad? Would that have, in any way, prepared me for the world we live in now?

 

If they’re “just kids” that means there’s a chance they could turn back from this.

The adults in their lives egging them on and defending them are the ones who are irredeemable.

A.

Blogger Ethics Train’s Never Late

Our august journalism elders are wanking away about unqualified diversity hires who ARE NEITHER: 

Now on top of those errors, the graf above says VICE wanted ppl with “the look.” “But” it hired “very young” reporters w/ “scant experience.” I’m the 1st example of this. Elements of the graf paint me as an “edgy” but inept diversity hire, rather than a competent journalist.

To attempt to explain what’s happened to journalism:

Jill Abramson follows four companies: The New York Times, The Washington PostBuzzFeed, and VICE Media over a decade of disruption and radical adjustment. The new digital reality nearly kills two venerable newspapers with an aging readership while creating two media behemoths with a ballooning and fickle audience of millennials. We get to know the defenders of the legacy presses as well as the outsized characters who are creating the new speed-driven media competitors. The players include Jeff Bezos and Marty Baron (The Washington Post), Arthur Sulzberger and Dean Baquet (The New York Times), Jonah Peretti (BuzzFeed), and Shane Smith (VICE) as well as their reporters and anxious readers.

Merchants of Truth raises crucial questions that concern the well-being of our society. We are facing a crisis in trust that threatens the free press. Abramson’s book points us to the future.

Meanwhile this shit is happening: 

I’ll keep saying it until I’m dead but you are not talking about what’s happened to journalism unless you’re talking about money.

Hedge fund money. Billionaire money. Corporate money and the slavering greed that called 17 percent profit margins “struggling” and pissed away every ounce of customer loyalty that media brands spent centuries building.

Media company bosses fired experienced reporters and hired younger ones, counting on the old hands to yell at their replacements and not their bosses and for 20 years that’s been the response, along with screaming at “millennials” to stop being so hip and edgy and getting their news “for free.” You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about that.

For that matter, you are not talking about what’s happened to journalism unless you’re talking about the consolidation of production and delivery that doomed people who wanted information to getting it irregularly, incorrectly or not at all.

You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about systematically attacking customers by redirecting them to bloated, heaving websites that drop 35 ad trackers on you while screaming at you to subscribe even after you log in three times.

You are not talking about what happened to journalism unless you’re talking about running a sports team and a TV station and an events production company and a luxury high-rise with the money you’re supposed to be spending on DOING THE FUCKING NEWS.

If you’re talking about the content, and taking potshots at the hip hairstyles of people who ACTUALLY WANT TO BE REPORTERS IN THIS GODFORSAKEN MEDIA HELLSCAPE (people you should be mentoring and nurturing and encouraging, not smacking around for violating your antique gender norms), you are already so far behind the 8-ball that locating Charlottesville in North Carolina is the least of your problems.

And let’s not even get started on supposedly surveying everything the light touches in American journalism without centering Fox and its media and cultural imitators, who are responsible for the parts of the slaughter hedgies haven’t gotten to yet.

In the year of our Lord and Savior Nellie Bly 2018, we cannot possibly still be saying the problem is young people with partially shaved heads. In the year of endless hearings into misinformation on Facebook shared over and over by elderly MAGAtroids, our pundit class cannot still be obsessed with the blogger ethics panic that seized the entirety of the early oughts, right?

RIGHT?

A.

The Dental Lobby

Got into a discussion the other day about the infuriating cost of dental work and the near-total uselessness of dental insurance and a friend pointed my way to this story, which explains in some ways why my dentist acts like money doesn’t exist:

On a recent Friday, Michael Hanson, 54, a lobsterman who went 15 years without seeing a dentist, was sitting in the community health clinic near Maine’s Acadia National Park. Over time, lack of care and poor health ruined Hanson’s teeth. In February, they were all pulled. He sat toothless, talking about eating soft food for months while he awaits his dentures.

Hanson said his daughter, too, skips annual exams because it is hard to come up with the money.

The dental system is broken, he said. “You go to the hospital and they give you time to pay your bill. But you go to the dentist and they want you to pay right there, and people just don’t have the money.”

The sickest I’ve ever been was from a botched root canal that abscessed. No pain was like that in my life, not the C-section, not the burst ovarian cyst, not the herniated back disc. At 3 a.m. I was begging Mr. A to either pull the tooth out with pliers or put me immediately to death. But in calling around to emergency rooms to try to find someone to shoot me like a horse we realized almost none of them consider dental care health care at all.

I have a decent dentist now, but my teeth are genetically horrible and if I tilt my head just right I can get radio signals, I have so much metal in my head. Every time I go in it’s $200 with head-shaking advice to spend approximately 10 grand (I’m exaggerating but only a little) on veneers, replacing all my old fillings, getting implants and/or bridges, and they get downright SHIRTY when I say flat-out that I can’t afford what they want to do.

“When are you going to get these implants?” the dentist asked, noting the four holes in my mouth where adult teeth never came in.

“When they’re free.” She stared at me like I’d suggested paying her with my body. At $3,500 times four, it would be the only way to get it done.

If we had a decent government and not a dumpster fire overseen by a fascist lunatic, we’d be adding to Obamacare a few levels that let us get our teeth fixed before we all died of blood poisoning or had to get dentures in our 30s.

A.

Breaks Don’t Fix Burnout

I’ve been following this conversation with interest because the way I respond to burnout is really specific and goes against the standard advice — just take a break! learn to breathe again! — and plays into the specificity of millennial burnout, as opposed to my late-GenX crabbiness:

My own behavior didn’t make sense to me because I didn’t recognize it as burnout. But everyone’s burnout works differently — which is why my immediate follow-up to the piece was to collect 16 different accounts of how burnout accumulates differently for people from different backgrounds, with different life conditions, with different contexts. As I said last week, no one’s “bottom half of their to-do list” — the things they avoid and find themselves incapable of completing — are exactly the same, and the consequences of the inability to complete them are different. If I don’t get my knives sharpened (still haven’t! the sharpener guy wasn’t at the store!) I might accidentally cut myself while cutting onions, but no huge deal. But if one of the things on my list was my inability to go renew my driver’s license, or make a doctor’s appointment, or find shoes that are comfortable for walking, or have a conversation with my kid’s teacher, or tell my boss about a coworker who makes my life hell — the consequences are different.

In the mid-oughts I had the work I always wanted to have, and it was making me fucking miserable. I’m not talking about a bad job, or a bad boss, or even a few rough days at the office. I’m talking the thing I wanted to do since I was six years old literally wasn’t working for me on any level at all. I would have incredible successes and go home feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. It was all I ever wanted to do and I hated doing it so much I started smoking.

Take a vacation! You need a break! That was everybody’s advice. Take a day off! Okay, but when I get back and I don’t feel refreshed, then what? Because I took days off, days and days off. And I spent them curled up on the bed hyperventilating.

I don’t need a break, I would say. I need this not to suck. Breaks just delayed the suck, and then anticipating it was another level of suck entirely.

I read Anne’s first piece thinking “all these people need a combination of psychiatric medication, lots of it, and to read Unfuck Your Habitat with their therapists” because “errand paralysis” is one of MY danger signs of depression. I stop making haircut appointments and mailing shit and then I stop sleeping, eating and taking my meds. It’s a slippery slope from not emptying the dishwasher to talking to myself on the train is what I’m saying, but when I got done wishing everyone could afford to see a decent doctor I started wishing everybody could have work they felt good about.

Burnout to me isn’t about being tired. I worked something like 60 hours a week this past fall and I didn’t even FEEL any of them. Sure I was exhausted, caffeine toxicity is a real thing and I’ve had it twice in my life, once when Kick was a newborn and once in October, but I wasn’t burned out. I was just tired. Tired is easy. Tired, you take a nap.

Feeling like nothing matters and you can’t bring yourself to participate in the world, that’s burned out.

So many people not only can’t take a break, can’t catch their breath, but also so many people’s work fucking sucks. We devalue work a lot in this country even as we chain ourselves to it, with our catchy little “nobody ever died wishing they spent more time at work” plaques and aggressive marketing of “work-life” balance, implying as that does that work isn’t part of your life. So many people’s work doesn’t make them feel like they’re part of anything, or pay them enough to be able to invest significant parts of themselves, or make them feel like it’s worth it, all the ass-busting they have to do.

And we can’t fix that with a “break” from something that’s just gonna suck as hard when we return to it.

A.