Category Archives: Athenae

Tuesday Foodblogging

Everything doesn’t suck.

So in 2004, some Eagle Corn seeds were sent to Nebraska. “The Pawnee had grown this corn here for 600 years, and they’d been trying to save it since they were forced to Oklahoma in the 1870s. Now we were trying one last time to see if it would grow here again,” O’Brien says.

The first crop didn’t take, but the next year, the last 25 seeds were sent in a desperate effort to keep the Eagle Corn from extinction. That time, O’Brien watched in astonishment. “It was just amazing—I’ve never seen plants just burst from the land like they did; they jumped out of the ground.”


Marry Me, Steve

This is a glorious evisceration of Chicago’s worst newspaper columnist, who’s typical of so many old middle-class scolds in that Kass thinks it’s just fine if people in “those neighborhoods” die so long as it doesn’t happen near him:

“Chicago police commanders aren’t supposed to be shot to death, not there, not at the heart of city business and politics.”

As with so many John Kass columns in this stage of his career, I can only wonder: Where to start?

1. Ignore the stats. Go by feel – perhaps the feel you get from Fox News.

2. People’s sense of safety is shaken by what happened Tuesday because it was downtown. What people? Downtown people, the only people who are actually people, in Kass’s construction, because a lot of other people have had their sense of safety shaken – if it ever existed – long ago.

Perhaps what Kass means is that his sense of safety has been shaken, because the killing of a cop happened so close to the office he has commuted to for decades from the suburbs.

3. Police commanders aren’t supposed to be shot to death. Who is? Thugs. They’re supposed to be shot to death.

It’s so predictable. Since, well, forever, the media expresses shock over terrible events that happen in places where they aren’t supposed to. The accretion of those events doesn’t seem to teach us that they actually happen everywhere, to all kinds of people.Certainly not with the same regularity, but then, that’s an equation the media ought to continue to examine with renewed vigor and compassion.

Go read the whole thing. The only possible response to “this shouldn’t happen here” is to ask, “Then where should it happen?” And somehow these sheltered pricks never do have an answer to that one.



Your Sons and Your Daughters Are Beyond Your Command

I spent Saturday night in a crowded hot room above a coffee shop, writing notes to Paul Ryan and Donald Trump.

I know, right? But listen to this girl, Emma Gonzalez:

I watched an interview this morning and noticed that one of the questions was, do you think your children will have to go through other school shooter drills? And our response is that our neighbors will not have to go through other school shooter drills. When we’ve had our say with the government — and maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something.

Listen to her, and be ashamed of your cynical assumption that nothing’s going to change.

I got tired of listening to people talking about how there’s nothing we can do, that this is just the way we live now, and when a meetup popped up near me offering the chance to write postcards to elected officials, I signed up. When I did, there were three people committed to come.

By the time I got there, there were 20.

There weren’t enough chairs. People shared lists. Everyone brought food. Lots of people brought their kids. A man walked around pouring glasses of water and wine. The room, above a coffee shop, was warm.

An elderly woman couldn’t make it up the stairs and sat down at the door writing postcards. To Paul Ryan. To Donald Trump. To Mike Pence. To John McCain and every other senator who took money from the NRA. To our senators. To everyone else’s.

Would they read them? someone asked. That’s not our problem, the organizers answered. We do what we can.

A group of kids sat at one table, and by kids I mean girls and boys too young for PG-13 movies, and they wrote things like, “I don’t want to be here tonight but because of you I don’t have a choice.” They wrote things like, “Save my friends. Save me.” An adult asked if there had been any communication from their school about what had happened, remembering bulletins about Columbine and Virginia Tech, asking if the school had offered counseling.

“Nothing,” one of the girls replied. “They didn’t tell us a thing.”

How dare we tell children like these that nothing’s going to change? How dare we tell them nothing IS changing? How dare we disappear the everyday work that is being done by activists at every level, from the township on up? How dare we act like our glib, snide asides are written in stone?

Listen to Emma Gonzalez. This isn’t over. It’s barely begun. Our surrender is an insult to their rage.

One of the kids offered to help with the postcards I and the women at my table were making. Carefully, onto each one, they glued tiny pictures of victims of school shootings, their small fingers pressing down on faces that could have been their own.



That Michael Lewis piece starts badly and gets worse: 

Back when he was president, Barack Obama told me that only two people treated any interaction with him as a zero-sum game. One was Vladimir Putin, the other congressional Republicans. Both behaved as if there was no such thing as a win-win situation: Any gain for Obama was a loss for them, and any gain for them must also entail a loss for Obama. The moment that the Russian president or congressional Republicans saw he wanted something, they went to work trying to keep him from getting it — even if it was something they might otherwise have approved of.

Approaching any aspect of life as a zero-sum game has obvious practical costs: Deals that leave some people better off without making anyone else worse off suddenly don’t get done, because making some people better off now, by definition, makes other people worse off. It also comes with some psychological side effects. It cripples your imagination. It blinds and deafens you, as you sort of know what your adversary is going to do or say before they do or say it. Or, rather, you know how you are going to make sense of it: uncharitably.

The zero-sum approach in politics has since spread, as it tends to do wherever it takes hold. It has infected congressional Democrats and parts of the news media, and is seeping into everyday political discourse.

Really? WHERE? HOW has it affected Congressional Democrats similarly? How has it just crept in and taken over their minds, like poison gas in a vent? SHOW ME, motherfucker, how both sides are the same.

I know it’s fashionable to pretend that everybody bears some blame for the currently gridlocked Congress, but until you can give me an example of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi passing legislation just to fuck with Republicans, sponsoring bills like the We Have No National Language Act and the Actually Let’s Expand Medicaid Nationwide Act and the Rename All the Reagan Buildings After McGovern act, you won’t convince me Congressional Ds are on the zero-sum train.

I mean, they have no power. None. They haven’t had any really since the 2010 midterms and they sure as hell have even less now. So how have they been “infected” by this mindset? Show your work or don’t show up at all.

I see no sign that Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi want to protect Dreamers just to piss Paul Ryan off, or preserve Obamacare because it makes McConnell squirm. Congressional Dems did not block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee simply because they could, meanwhile Merrick Garland of noble name is sitting on a couch someplace. Shit, Congressional Dems confirmed far more of Trump’s nominees than their base is really comfortable with so if there’s a zero sum game it’s not between Dems and Republicans, it’s between Dems and their own fucking voters.

They are occasionally corrupt and often deeply stupid but they do actually have policy goals involving helping people, which is more than I can say for their opposition, which shut down the government rather than confront the operational reality of immigration.

This is a throwaway paragraph, the kind of nut graf boilerplate you put into a story to kind of paint the walls blue so everyone knows they’re looking at the sky, and that’s exactly why it’s so damaging. The lazy shorthand is all anybody hears and so all anybody hears is that both sides are at fault. They’ve been infected. It’s seeped into them.


Tuesday Fuck It Whenever Catblogging


They’d both rather sleep on a gnarly snagged up blanket in the basement generally, but Slade sometimes condescends to use the ridiculously fancy cat bed I bought him.


2018: Anyone But An Elephant

If the checks won’t check then nothing balances: 

For White House and the National Security Council staff veterans, the revelation that Porter did not have a full security clearance raises a number of real questions that must be answered. Those questions speak directly to the safety of America’s most sensitive intelligence officers and most dangerous operations.

Having worked at the White House — including both at the National Security Council and alongside the staff secretary – I believe Porter-gate has all the markings either of a very high security breach or a highly unusual staff structure. It also raises real questions about how Trump White House staff under both Reince Priebus and John Kelly managed sensitive information, and what both of them knew about the allegations against Porter and when they knew it.

So? Oh, dear God, so what? I am having the hardest time right not getting het up about this or that scandal because it’s all a scandal and until November none of it is going to stop. Republicans are not going to do anything about this and until we elect lots and lots and lots more and better Democrats and/or Anyone But An Elephant, we can be as scandalized as we like but nothing’s gonna change.

The Founders planned for Trump. Hell, they’d just overcome rule by an unchecked and uncheckable manbaby so they explicitly planned for a tyrant with two whole other branches of government for the people to call on.

What they didn’t plan on was one party controlling everything, and that party being so craven it would allow ANYTHING if only it didn’t have to lose any power. Anything. Illegal wars in the Middle East, warrantless spying on Americans, an epidemic of gun violence without recourse for the victims, starving children of education and safe housing and clean drinking water because they weren’t white, deporting people who’ve lived here for decades …

Oh, plus everything Trump and his cronies have done.

What George W. Bush figured out is that once you are elected president nobody can do shit about shit, not if Republicans are venal and Democrats are scared. The rules might as well not even exist. Security clearances? HAH! Warrants for wiretapping? Why bother? Weapons of mass destruction? Who gives a shit? There are no rules. You can just ignore it all.

So following the ins and outs of this or that horror seems to me to be indulgent when all that matters is winning a whole shitload of elections on the backs of whatever donkey, red rose, turtle, toaster, or VW beetle we can hump across the finish line.

Let the elephants rot.


Tuesday Foodblogging

By and large, Kick prefers her father.

It’s not all that surprising. He is warm, patient and personable whereas I am prickly and exacting (look, if there’s a saving grace to living inside my head it is that I know the territory intimately). He is also around a hell of a lot more than I am, since I started a demanding job last year. His days with Kick lend themselves to routine, whereas she and I are feast or famine: An all-Mama weekend at the nearby nature center versus the regular “pop into Dad’s home office any old time to say hi.” Kick prefers the latter.

In certain things, however, I am her chosen partner in crime. Books? Oh, yes. Fantastic feats of daring from great heights? I’m her girl. And food? We may not look anything alike but damned if she doesn’t eat like me. Salty, spicy, sour — she’s all over it. When she was two she demanded an egg roll and I handed one over thinking sure, this’ll work, toddler + cabbage. She horfed it down and ate half of mine. Pickles with Tabasco sauce? WHY NOT. We diverge on olives but she agrees with me that mushrooms are the devil.

Two months ago I put a plate of shrimp in front of her. Her father does not like shrimp and therefore we rarely ate them all together; he was out of town and I was taking full advantage. She was in a picky, persnickety place so I didn’t have hopes. She ate one, considered the experience, and then hoovered up the rest of the plate so fast I was frightened for her windpipe.

Since then she’s been my “scrimp” buddy and I deliberately plan recipes so that we might outnumber Mr. A the shrimp-hater, who just eats some chicken on the side.


Sunday Catblogging: Ada Byron Lovelace

As the kittens grow we’re seeing more and more of their personalities. Slade is basically a dog. He’ll play fetch for HOURS. He’s vocal and tells us when he wants attention and when something’s wrong. The other day he wouldn’t shut up and I figured he was just bitching about his food, but his bowl was full and he’d already snarfed half a can of his disgusting wet food. I tried ignoring him but after a while he started nipping at my ankles so I did a quick round of the house to see if anything was the matter and who do I find but his sister, trapped in a room because I’d closed a door behind her without knowing she was there. So Slade acquired another nickname: Lassie.

Ada’s quieter and more shy. Kick threw a rager of a preschool birthday party last weekend and Ada hid under the dresser the entire time, glaring at all these new people in her house. She prefers cuddling to playtime and loves best to snuggle up under or in something furry. We bought a cheap furry skin-rug from IKEA and she made passionate kitty love to it all afternoon.

She’s also a bread thief. I came downstairs one day to find the half a loaf of bread I’d been planning to use for French toast scattered all over the basement, with Herself looking innocent whilst surrounded by crumbs. We own a breadbox now.


‘An Apparent Casualty of the #MeToo Movement’

I love how he’s a victim of those mean women, and not, you know, a CASUALTY OF HIS SHITTY CHOICES AND BEHAVIOR: 

HARRISBURG — Marcel Groen, chairman of Pennsylvania’s Democratic Party, has resigned at the request of Gov. Wolf, he said in a letter released Friday morning, an apparent casualty of the #metoo movement.

The linked article has been updated to remove this language but … da fuq were you thinking in the first place? How is the #MeToo “movement” (if women not wanting to have dicks shoved at them in the workplace is a movement and not just, you know, LIFE) taking casualties now? It’s not like this guy stepped in front of a bus.

Every day I’m astonished anew by the number of people who think it is somehow difficult to avoid being accused of sexual harassment and that this “movement” will somehow “take them down.” Bros, it is your own behavior that is taking you down. Don’t touch your secretary’s tits and she will not sue you for touching her tits. Knock it the fuck off.


Oh, NOW It’s Trump’s Party

This is an honest-to-tits headline in the Washington Post, labeled “analysis.”

This is the week that the GOP truly became the party of Trump

Silly me. I thought a party became someone’s party when it NOMINATES HIM AND ELECTS HIM PRESIDENT.

I guess Republicans got a pass for 12 months to figure their shit out.

This was the week when the Republican Party finally went all in with President Trump. What once seemed unlikely is now reality. The Republican establishment — there are a few dissenting voices, of course — has succumbed to the power of the presidency, and this president in particular.

Let me ask this, at the end of this first paragraph. What precisely was the Republican “establishment” (meaning who, but let’s do that later) doing prior to This Magical Week? I mean, all they were doing was voting in lockstep with everything Trump wanted. Was that somehow not succumbing to the power of the presidency?

For shit’s sake, this Congress approved Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and girlfriend is — let’s put this nicely, I’m sure she’s lovely — a pretty hideous dumbass. If that wasn’t succumbing to the power of the presidency …

There was the enthusiasm Republicans in the House chamber displayed when Trump delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday. There was the all-in-the-family chitchat when a conversational and relaxed Trump spoke at the Republican retreat in West Virginia on Thursday.


Dating back to the 2016 campaign, Trump presided over a divided, even hostile, Republican establishment. Ryan’s awkward relationship with Trump during the presidential campaign came to symbolize the plight of a party captured in a hostile takeover by a candidate operating outside the boundaries.

Ryan did not have an “awkward” relationship with Trump. Ryan had an opportunistic relationship with Trump that has largely benefitted Ryan and the donors he courts.

The party did not have a “plight.” They had a choice. They made one. Trump spent his entire primary campaign shit-talking the other GOP nominees. It was the only pleasant thing about his campaign. He clowned on them nonstop. Self-interest is not some kind of moral quandry.

This is well-compensated, widely read political analysis without which we are told Democracy Dies in Darkness and the author does not seem to understand that his job is to see through the bullshit maneuvering, not describe it like it’s the weather.

For those in the leadership, there seemed to be no good place to land.

On the side of America, one imagines, was a pretty solid spot, but the party picked the intersection of fascist and Juggalo and hasn’t moved an inch.

The turnaround in the relationship came from two directions.

The first was pressure from the outside. Party leaders began to recognize that rank-and-file Republicans wanted the GOP to be the party of Trump rather than for leaders to keep their distance from the president.

Since 1968 this has been true. Sixty-five million people tried to warn you.

The other major turning point came from the inside, with the passage of the tax cut in late December. Finally, the president had a big legislative achievement, thanks to congressional Republicans. The victory party Trump staged at the White House became an extravagant love fest. The president heaped praise on all the members of Congress who engineered the bill’s passage. In turn, they lavishly praised the beaming president.

So they’re a bunch of transactional pricks with no values beyond enriching themselves. That’s what you’re telling us? You’re gonna get to that soon, right?

The Nunes memo moves the relationship to a different place. Its release puts much of the Republican leadership fully behind the president in his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and possibly remove more officials at the top of the FBI.

IT’S ALMOST LIKE THEY’RE MOTIVATED BY SOMETHING OTHER THAN HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND RESPECT FOR AMERICAN DEMOCRACY. I mean oh, my God, this is a party that impeached Bill Clinton over an employee beejer, a party that smeared the legacy and lives of multiple war heroes, a party that fully embraced stealing a Supreme Court seat from a sitting president because that president was black. A party that enshrined a culture of lawless surveillance and illegal war that will be handed down to every executive from George W. Bush until the end of fucking time.

And we’re just now noting that they’re kind of not in favor of the whole “check and balance” thing?

The fact that the memo’s release came with the imprimatur of the House speaker and many other leading Republicans only adds weight to what has become a Trump-led effort to muddy the eventual conclusions of the investigation. With public opinion among Republicans likely to follow, Mueller’s goal to deliver a report that will be seen as legitimate has become materially more difficult.

Mueller’s goal is not to deliver a report that is seen as legitimate. Mueller’s goal is to follow the law. If the report is not “seen as” legitimate, that has absolutely no bearing on anything but that the GOP is a death cult bent on disavowing anything that makes them feel icky no matter how real it is. Mueller, I’m sure, thanks God every night his job is just to jail lawbreakers and not to convince Republicans of reality.

Now, a political “analyst” might want to take a different position.

Still, GOP dissenters remain among a distinct minority, largely the handful of Republican elected officials who long ago broke from the president, along with the “Never Trump” cadre loyal to the old GOP but estranged from the party of Trump.

For the Republican Party, this has been an extraordinary transformation in a remarkably short time.

Or nah.


‘a jobs program for disgraced white supremacists’

You don’t owe Steve Bannon your stage.

We keep hearing this from our elite totebag liberals, that we simply must invite the most cancerously dishonest wingnuts we can find into every place we can fit them, so as to promote the free speech which will eventually lead to the downfall of these human tumors.

If we do not, of course, we are Just As Bad because “not wanting to listen to someone scream about the master race” is Exactly The Same as “let’s put all members of this ethnic group in an oven.”

And it’s just such fucking crap I can’t even engage with it anymore. Look, if Bannon is owed a speaking opportunity at the University of Chicago, why isn’t he owed one at UIC as well? At Northwestern? At Loyola? At IIT? Why isn’t he required to speak at the Art Institute? At the Field Museum? At Brookfield Zoo? At NASCAR? At my kid’s birthday party? Wouldn’t that just be the height of enlightened discourse, and prove once and for all my commitment to free speech, letting him spew his nativist crap while a bunch of confused preschoolers eat blue-frosted cupcakes?

Institutions book speakers to send a message about what those institutions are about. Classical opera houses don’t do Fiddler on the Roof. Shakespeare companies are not doing Death of a Salesman. I don’t go to the Art Institute to look at live pandas and the zoo is under no obligation to hang Picassos. Private universities do not have to book in people like Bannon or Milo or Coulter. They do so to tell their students, faculty, staff and communities what they consider worthy of a hearing.

They can jaw on all they want about presenting all kinds of free thoughts on the issues of the day, but the stage on which they propose to put Bannon is not available to everyone. It’s not available to the people Bannon’s work in the White House displaced, terrorized and silenced, for example.

Look, it’s 2018. We have a whole Internet now, which happens to include several thousand sites which are just absolute buttholes of white supremacist nonsense where these people can get together and sing their little songs and talk about how much they hate black and Mexican people. Bannon had the entire goddamn White House from which to speak.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives him the sidewalk and the open air. That’s all he’s owed, and it should be all he’s given.


Tuesday Catblogging

Yeah, it was supposed to be Sunday. Figured we could all use a little kittums before the SOTU tonight.

Ada has that baby thing of falling asleep anywhere, including directly on top of me while I’m trying to write on the Internets.


Giving Away the Store to Get the Store

Back when I covered local government this was beyond routine: Jewel wants to build a store to make money off of (and employ a few of) our residents! Let’s give them tax breaks to come here because if we don’t, they’ll build 10 feet down the road in a town that will!

Thus ensuring that any economic development doesn’t benefit the schools or the residents, which is … the entire rationale behind encouraging economic development in the first place.

I’m seeing more pushback against this in the Amazon discussion than I ever did previously:

Critics of Amazon’s “race to the bottom” as it searches for a home for its second headquarters said on Thursday that the company’s newly released shortlist of 20 cities highlights a crisis in the U.S. economy—one exemplified by the huge incentives offered to Amazon in the bidding war among potential hosts.

When politicians talk about incentives for businesses people assume they mean giving Jane and Joe a break on their water bill while they’re opening an ice cream shop, not giving Jeff Bezos a free pass to rebuild their whole city for rich white people.


The Rule of Law Without Lawyers

You tell me how this works out well for anybody: 

John Anderson’s weeks blur together as the lone judge in Bayfield County. The largely rural county sits at the top of Wisconsin and is home to hundreds of miles of trails, some of the Apostle Islands, and 15,000 residents. But there are just 14 active attorneys.

In Anderson’s courtroom, one scenario unfolds over and over: Nonviolent drug offenders file into court without a lawyer, Anderson tells them to contact an attorney and then they are released on a signature bond. They’re due back in court in two weeks for another hearing, and possibly an offer for treatment if they’re able to find a lawyer.

But they often don’t last that long. The offender often ends up back in Anderson’s courtroom in a week on bail-jumping and more serious felony charges, with no representation. Now the opportunity for treatment is gone.

“That happens every week,” Anderson says. “Somebody is put back into the community with a serious drug or alcohol problem, waiting to get their lawyer, and then they reoffend.”

Like much of the state, Bayfield has faced serious, and worsening, problems with meth and opioid addiction, leading to many overdoses a year.

But unlike Wisconsin’s more affluent counties, Bayfield is also facing a shortage of lawyers to take up public defender cases, resulting in a backlog that lengthens delays for treatment and leaves people in jail awaiting trial.

Instead of people getting assigned a public defender within days of being arrested and charged, it can take four, six or even eight weeks. This gap in defense leaves people addicted to opioids or meth in a high-stress situation, without treatment options. If they do get assigned representation, it can be from an inexperienced attorney.

Other than the for-profit prisons, I mean.



Kick, today you are four, and I am ready.

I am ready to give up.

I have had fights about food and fights about toys and fights about TV and fights about books. I have listened to you argue convincingly that you should not wear a hat when it is five below, that you should wear your boots to bed, that we should find a Lego Moana figurine for you in the bottom of the car upon arriving home at 10:30 p.m. after an absolutely bitching 3-hour drive in the snow. I have listened to you argue that you did NOT just promise to pick up your crayons when you DID, I have listened to you argue for another story after we’ve read five, and I have listened to you argue that baths are for staying in until they’re almost outdoors-cold.

It’s impossible to justify the cost of the fight any longer. I can’t do it. I’m done.

These are the terms of my surrender:

First, you will not give the kittens any peanut butter. Or any chicken. Or any peas. Or any bacon. Or any human food at all. Nor will you entice them onto the table, inside the dishwasher, into your room, under the bed or anywhere else you know they are not supposed to be.

You will not instigate bad behavior with the kittens. They are not soldiers in your resistance army. You’re going this alone.

Second, you will go to bed on time. I don’t care what you do while you’re in bed. You can sing to yourself, play with your stuffies, have one hand tell stories to the other hand, whatever. You can launch the space shuttle from your rocking chair for all I care, so long as you are in your room. I cannot make you sleep, but I can make you go to bed, so you’ll do that at a time of my choosing.

Third, you will not be rude to people, nor rude to me in front of people, especially if you are hilarious about it. The other day we were at your Nana and Papa’s house and I asked you to help clean up the toys there because we were getting ready to leave. At the top of your considerable lungs you yelled, “I’m BUSY!” I would prefer you rephrase to something like, “May I please have a moment to finish what I’m doing first, mama,” because your grandmother almost choked to death laughing and we’d like to have her around a bit longer.

Fourth, and most importantly, you will stay approximately this age forever. FOREVER. This age is awesome.

Let me tell you something about you right now, as you drive me absolutely up a wall: You are so freaking happy. You are delighted, as always, by everything, but now you are old enough to poke holes in the dirt with a stick by yourself, and run past me up trails and down hills, and you are a mere HALF INCH from being my roller coaster buddy (your father being, as I’m sure you’ll one day learn, a chickenass about rickety carnival rides).

You are not a chickenass. You are afraid of nothing. Oh, you pretend you are sometimes, to get attention, to get snuggles, to get an extra story or a treat or some time with the kittens, but really nothing scares you. This past summer you and I rode in a Ferris Wheel so high I could see the lake from well inland, and I was clutching the sides of the tiny bench we sat on, and you looked around serenely confident that that which had lifted you up high would set you safely down. You patted my hand condescendingly and then told everyone we met that afternoon how scared your mama had been but not you, you had been brave.

You’ve learned so much in the past year: how to write your name, how to dress yourself, how to play games that involve counting and turns, how to play almost half of hide and seek (you tend to wander off, leaving your poor friends hidden waiting for you long after you’ve forgotten them), how to pet cats gently and talk to littler kids sweetly and hang up your backpack each day, clear your place at the table, put your coat on its hook.

You like ponies and princess things and dinosaurs and books, but your ongoing and violent lack of interest in “playing mommy” never fails to warm my heart. The other day one of your little friends really wanted you to play with her baby doll. She kept trying to hand it to you. “Hold the baby,” she kept saying, shoving the (naked, natch) (mangy, kind-of) doll at you, until finally you lost it and slapped it out of your hand and said forcefully, “I DON’T WANT A BABY.”

“Use your words and say ‘no, thank you'” I told you.

ATTAGIRL, I thought.

That’s my fourth condition. Stay this age forever, cuddled up under my chin as we read in your rocking chair, your tiny hands always in motion, making shadow puppets and butterflies and now and then reaching up to twine through my hair the way you did when you were a baby, both a moment and a thousand years ago. Stay this age, rolling out of bed all sleepy and confused, asking why the bears in your dreams have such big feet and don’t like flowers in their hats.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s all I need.

Beyond that, have at it, kid.


Cave Diving

This, pretty much: 

So Democrats staved off the worst effects of a government shutdown. They prevented a turn in public opinion against their party for this shutdown, as well as Dreamers. They got CHIP. They got a commitment from McConnell to bring up immigration legislation. And they gave up none of their leverage.

It may be tempting to insist that Democrats should have pressed on with the shutdown strategy until they got everything they wanted. But Congress works slowly ― barely ― until the moment that it all comes together in an instant.

Democrats took a step toward that moment.

I know they should have held out for DACA, sure, but you tell me how that was going to happen. I don’t believe Schumer trusts McConnell and I don’t believe McConnell is going to do the right thing and I don’t believe Paul Ryan is anything other than the vaguely sentient sexbot Ayn Rand wishes she had built. Of course they’re not going to bring up DACA again. Of course Lucy’s gonna pull the football away. Of course we’re just gonna have to do this again in three weeks.

Three more weeks for DACA recipients to be deported. That’s monstrous. That’s not in any way all right.

And there was no way for the Democrats to stop it. They don’t have the House, the Senate, the White House. They don’t have a majority of statehouses and they’re never gonna take the streets.

But in 10 months they can take two of those things back. Ten months from now they can take back the House, take back the Senate, and fix DACA for good. Authorize CHIP for a hundred years. Impeach the orange motherfucker whose chaos-enabling shitlord underlings engineered this whole mess. I believe this is the answer:

Conservative Dems are infuriating. Republican-lite Dems are infuriating. But it’s their disproportionate representation in Congress that makes them powerful. Elect 70 Dem senators and the four assholes we all hate don’t matter. Elect a few dozen more Dem House members and the 12 gutless pricks that drive us crazy every time lose all their leverage. Elect Democrats to hold every statehouse in the land AND NO REPUBLICAN POLICIES WILL EVEN COME UP FOR A VOTE.

You know who’s yelling loudest that Democrats are CAVING and it’s all terrible for Democrats?


So shout at your senators if you want. Tell them they should have held out for DACA. Shit, primary them if you want (though you come for Tammy Baldwin First of Her Name, you’re gonna have to go through me). That’s your right, and maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe in 3 weeks it’ll all go tits-up and you can all say I TOLD YOU SO NEOLIBERAL SHILL.

That’s your right, too.

But don’t add your voice to the Republican spin machine that would have said ANY outcome was terrible for Democrats, who are always In Disarray and always Letting True Progressives Down. Absent Republicans, absent ALEC, absent Koch/Murdoch/Fox, none of this would be happening at all.

Tell your senators they made a terrible compromise. And let’s try to get rid of the reason for terrible compromises in the first place.


Sunday Catblogging

Caption Slade here:



Let’s talk about these conscience clauses, shall we? 

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it was expanding religious freedom protections for doctors, nurses and other health care workers who object to performing procedures like abortion and gender reassignment surgery, satisfying religious conservatives who have pushed for legal sanctuary from the federal government.


“President Trump’s promises are becoming a reality,” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council. “Americans should not be forced to choose between their faith and their desire to help patients.”

It has been a bugaboo in the religious wingnut community for 20 years now that someday a gay-hating pastor would be forced to marry two dudes. Like two dudes, who want to get married, are hunting around for an officiant, and are gonna walk into the Westboro Baptist Church and be like “I know your sign says ‘God Hates Fags’ but WE WOULD LIKE TO GET VERY GAY MARRIED HERE PLEASE.”

Because that’s a thing that happens a lot.

The gay-hating pastor would refuse, of course, because of JAYSUS, and the two would-be grooms would then sue, claiming their rights had been violated. Churches would be shut down, religious leaders imprisoned, dogs and cats living together, etc etc. All the gold crosses would be melted down to make into urinals to install at The Man-Hole.

This is the nightmare with which wingnuts whipped up their flocks in the early 2000s and its the nightmare they expanded in recent years to predict anti-abortion doctors sued for refusing to provide abortion services, and anti-birth-control pharmacists forced to handle the unholy demon Pill.

It’s not just the backwoods snake-handlers claiming this. I once sat at lunch and listened to a now-deceased Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago proudly declare to a roomful of rich bigots that he was prepared to go to prison rather than marry a same-sex couple. He got a standing ovation, because everybody’s ready to climb up on the cross until they see the box of nails.

Now our great religious leaders themselves know no such thing is about to happen, because they understand the difference between the First Amendment and the shit they put in their sermons. They’re not idiots and they have entire legal departments advising them for a reason, and those lawyers are not earning their cash if they’re not saying, “Your Eminence, no way in FUCK is anybody ever going to make you hitch ’em. Nobody wants to get married by a sour-faced old prick what don’t wanna be there.”

Their followers, though, accustomed as they are to respecting the church’s authority and taking what their spiritual leaders say seriously? (Which by the way, I don’t actually think is a terrible thing in the absence of this kind of bullshit?) Those followers believed it, and spread the word, and pretty soon we were one performative atheist protesting a city hall Nativity away from a full-on religious war.

Now we’re expanding the nightmare scenario yet again. Now a doctor who doesn’t want to provide surgeries for transgender people is somehow going to be forced to do so.


Never mind that Jesus says exactly nothing in the Bible about gender transition and somehow this all got lumped into that one bit of Leviticus which bans same-sex blowies but also seems to prohibit football and polyester. Never mind, also, that to provide these types of surgeries you have to volunteer to be trained and then receive extensive training in, you know, how to actually do the surgeries in question. Never mind all that.

Just for funsies, let’s take the bigots at face value and play their little scenario out here.

You, a person who wishes to have genital sex-reassignment surgery: “Hello there, I would like you to operate on me please.”

A doctor who has Sincerely Held Religious Beliefs: “I am against such a thing and will not do it as it would violate my contract with God. I am strongly opposed to doing this. You are an abomination.”

You, an idiot: “I can think of no better person to be my surgeon for this insanely expensive, not-at-all-fraught, difficult operation than a person who hates the very idea of it, me, etc. I DON’T CARE IF YOU REFUSE, YOU’RE HIRED!”

Like in what universe do we imagine this is a commonplace occurrence? A doctor is out there advertising he or she will provide this surgery and then when an actual person comes in to request a surgery the doctor says LOL JUST KIDDING? Do religious conservatives think you can get these services at the Kwik Trip, like walk into any small-town ER and be like, “Time for my surgery now, Unlucky Intern on Duty!”

And don’t throw the bakery thing in my face unless you really want a lot of bad frosting analogies regarding the difference between purporting to offer services to the public and then gotcha-ing unsuspecting members of that public.

Forced. I mean.

What these jackholes really think is that they’re being forced to consider the lives of people not like them. They’re being forced to realize that where they are is not all the world. They’re being forced to justify the way they live based solely on the way they want to live and not on the absence of difference, and being forced to stand on their own ground and make their own arguments scares the shit out of them.

And that’s something they should very much be FORCED to do.



Sunday Night Catblogging

After a brief hiatus of hissing and chasing, Slade and Ada remembered they were brother and sister, and have spent the past couple of weeks tearing through the house after one another, fighting over the same toy even though there are three identical versions of it one foot away from them at all times, and biting me when I try to use the phone or computer.


They’re settling in well and we’re having a lot of fun with them. Ada’s a bit more shy than her brother. He’ll trot right up to new people and introduce himself, while she likes to hide under a chair for a while. She also holds a grudge; I accidentally stepped on her foot while cleaning one day and she hid under the TV stand for an HOUR until it was time for dinner.

We’ve tried to set ground rules, like having them sleep in the basement where there are ample pet beds and food/water/litterboxes, and not giving them human food, but Kick has already tried to feed them things she doesn’t like without us seeing, and they blew her cover by meowing loudly for MOAR.

Furry little snitches.