Category Archives: Big Damn Heroes

A Golden Anniversary Explained

Fifty years ago tomorrow, two scared 20-somethings gathered with family and friends in a cathedral-esque church on the south side of Milwaukee to pledge their lives to one another. Her father thought the man wasn’t good enough for his daughter. His father thought the woman was far too strident and interested in a career to be a good wife.

Nobody, least of all these two kids, knew if they’d make it, if they’d be OK.

Still, there they were in front of a three story slab of pink and white marble with a giant crucifix, saying they would live together in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death shall they part. When they emerged onto a set of concrete stairs that led to East Plankinton Avenue and slipped into a borrowed 1965 Plymouth Roadrunner, they were on the way to the rest of their lives.

Husband and wife.

Mr. and Mrs.

A married couple.

The fact that my mom and dad remain married and relatively happy often amazes me, given that almost everyone I knew as a kid had divorced or miserable parental units. When they fought or yelled, I never once thought, “Wow, this is the end.” Things would calm down, peace with honor would emerge and life would move on.

When I considered marriage, I asked them how they made it work. “What keeps you together, even when things are bad or when you are really pissed?” I would ask. Neither of them could really put a finger on it, so I kind of “observed a lot by watching,” to quote the late Yogi Berra.

Here’s what I figure makes them tick:

See the problem, fix the problem: My parents had a very “work the problem” approach to life when it came to the day-in, day-out stuff that confronts married people. When they realized they were often broke early in their marriage, the looked at where the money went. Granted, there wasn’t a lot to go around, but they were able to find a couple things that ate into their budget. On Sundays, they’d get the newspaper, look through the circulars and go to the store to buy “a bargain.” Turned out, they tended to not need the stuff they bought and it cut into other things they did need, so they stopped going to the store. The same thing was true for groceries, linens and other things. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it just because you think you should.

 

Commit to it: Promises and commitments ran deep in our household. Dad loves to tell the story about how he and Mom would make envelopes for all the monthly expenses and put their pay into those envelopes. Whatever was left over was for fun, and usually that wasn’t much. Still, they found a process that worked for keeping the lights on and the rent paid, so they committed to it.

They also stuck to the commitments regardless of if they were positive or negative. When they said, “We’re doing X,” I knew we were doing it. That’s how I ended up getting to see my first Brewers game, even though it was on a Friday night, in the heat of a pennant race and on bat day. It was the worst game to attend for traffic, crowds and generally everything else my dad hated. Still, he committed to it. Same was true with punishments. When I got caught for speeding, he and Mom agreed I lost car privileges for a month. That meant he had to drive me to and from after-school commitments and I had to take the bus to school, which cut into other plans. It sucked as much for them as it did for me (or at least sort of), but they stuck with it because they said so.

 

Have a united front: Agreement wasn’t always the first word that came to mind when it came to my parents. They argue about half of everything, from what we should do for dinner to who was the lady who ran the corner store on Packard Avenue in the 1950s. However, when they had to make a decision about something important, they never threw one another under the bus. This made life difficult for me as a child, since you couldn’t play Mom off of Dad. Whenever I screwed up badly enough that life and limb became a potential punishment, they would send me to my room and talk things over. When they figured out what they were going to do to me, they both came and told me. Together. At the same time. No bullshit.

 

No grudges: Even with the arguments, I never saw them hold a grudge. Whatever arguments happened before bed were settled before the kiss goodnight. In the morning, life moved on. I imagine that over 50 years of marriage, there could be plenty of the “Y’know in 1978, that thing you did REALLY pissed me off” conversations that could emerge on any given day. They never did. It was, “OK, what’s next?”

 

Laugh: Humor, even some truly crude stuff, always flowed through the house. If Dad wasn’t telling a bad joke, he was telling a weird story. Mom always found humor in the dumb things her students did that day and loved to share with the family. I spent my allowance on joke books, trying to find the one joke that neither of them had heard before but would still make them laugh.

In some of our darkest hours, humor became the thing that kept us going. I remember when Dad’s mom died, something that hit us out of the blue. We never saw it coming. It was the first time I ever saw my father really cry. I wondered if he would ever snap back from this or if his whole sense of being would merely crumble away. The funeral home was a hatchet-job of a place that charged him in advance for everything, going so far as to interrupt the visitation to tell my dad his credit card wasn’t going through. They charged him time and a half for everything done on Saturday as well. We drove in silence from the funeral home to the cemetery, passing by the very spot along the road where my grandmother would be interred. Dad looked over past me, out my window and took a deep breath. I was waiting for him to come up with some deep, dark sense of mortality and love. Instead, he muttered, “They better’ve dug that fucking hole already if they’re charging me time and a half for it.”

After that, I knew he’d be OK.

Saturday marks 50 years of marriage for two of the most incredible people I know. They always knew to talk and to listen to one another, even if they didn’t fully understand or agree. However, when it came to a vow renewal, they both saw this as something to behold.

Thus, they will once again be in that church, standing in front of that giant slab of marble, pledging their love to one another. They will be surrounded by the family and friends who remain, telling each other and anyone who will listen that they will stay together, through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until death do they part.

One thing that is different now, however, is they already know they’re going to be just fine.

‘This is someone’s child’

It’s important to know that somebody fought back: 

“I was saying, ‘Creator – provide comfort to his family who don’t know you’re here,” she recalled.

An officer called out to her: “You did what you could, it’s time to come off the train.”

[snip]

The next night, Macy met Namkai-Meche’s mother and father at a vigil held by the train stop. She handed his father a purple-painted, heart-shaped rock, her prayer rock.  She said the victim’s parents thanked her for being with their son, telling her that she was “a mamma to our boy in that moment.”

Macy, a single mother of five children who rides the MAX to and from her community college courses at least three times a week, said she just did “what had to be done.”

“I just kept thinking this is someone’s child,” she said.

I read this right after Trump’s election, the idea that if you’re one of those people who loudly fantasizes about killing baby Hitler or whatever, you don’t need to go back in time to figure out who you would have been in the war. You’re in the war. Whatever you’re doing right now is what you would have done then.

(‘Twas ever thus, of course. The world has always been burning. I felt like this after 9/11, all those people talking about how a crisis made them realize what they wanted to be, like the fuck is wrong with you you don’t know what you want to be already? Sometimes my inner pissed-off 19-year-old gets the talking stick.)

So if you’re writing letters, calling reps, volunteering, working, creating spaces for people to think and breathe and be free, if you’re using your power to help others with less, if you’re trying every single day to be kind, to overcome paralysis and exhaustion and worry and reach out to someone else, if you’re doing even a little more than you think you can, that’s who you are in the war. You’re someone’s child too.

A.

Amazing Grace

At this time of year, most of us educators give up all hope on humanity. Between the students who are “just starting” the final projects they had six weeks to finish and the constant stream of “So, I was looking at my grade and…” pandering bullshit, it’s impossible to not want to just run away screaming.

That’s why the email I got yesterday was one of those little flecks of light in the darkest of rooms.

A fellow media adviser is in the shit at her institution. It has a lot to do with overreaching administration, bullying assholes and a general sense that the student publication should be 95 percent fluffy PR and 5 percent Sudoku. Instead, it’s a quality publication that asks questions about shady stuff and speaks truth to power.

Therefore, obviously, the problem is the adviser, who is now under fire.

The adviser’s daughter, Grace, is 10 years old. She overheard her parents talking about all this darkness and it really bothered her. She wants to be a journalist and what she heard “hurt her feelings because writers should always be able to write.”

At the age of 10, I also loved to write, but I had no idea what a journalist was. My writing was mostly confined to banging out short stories on my mom’s old manual typewriter that she’d set up for me in the dining room. The stories were my escape and my adventure and the thought that they might be taken away never occurred to me. I can’t imagine what was going through this kid’s head when she heard terms like “prior review” and “legal issues.”

Grace loves Star Wars and she loves journalism so she sat down at the computer and built a shirt to explain that journalism matters:

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Her goal was to sell 10 shirts with about $150 in profits going directly to the Student Press Law Center, which was working on her mom’s situation. When I found myself getting killed last year, it was Frank LoMonte and his SPLC crew who waved the biggest red flags and really helped bring some clarity to the situation. If nothing else, he did scare the shit out of the student government twerps who wondered why this “organization in Virginia,” as one of them called it, was suddenly setting up camp in their rectal tract.

I bought one and immediately pimped it out to at least a dozen other people. Apparently others did the same because by the time Grace got home from school, she had sold almost 90 shirts. Her mother had to write the thank you to our group because Grace was so overwhelmed, seeing how her little idea had resonated with so many other people.

For every bad story we get, and there are a lot of them out there thanks to our governmental mandate to fuck over anyone with a pulse who doesn’t have a 850 credit score and a Black Card, we get an occasional reminder of what is good out there.

I have friends on Facebook who are terrified by the Trumpcare bill and what it will mean for their kids who have pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, cancer and crohn’s disease. I have family members who are slowly giving way to the constant march of time. I have what I can only imagine will be the worst day of my year coming up in two hours.

A T-shirt won’t solve those problems.

However, just thinking about Grace makes me smile a little bit more and telling her story gives me hope.

Because maybe if we get enough kids like Grace and we show them that society can reward them for doing the right thing, maybe we will have fewer problems later and a brighter day in the future.

(Her link is open through the weekend. If you want a cool shirt to support a great kid, feel free to click here.)

Work’s Never Done

I wonder if she’s mad about it.

I would be.

I’d also be glad that I could still get out there in the street.

I spent 2o years working for an organization I’ll visit again in two weeks. In the time I spent there, people said thank you once. More often they said, “What have you done for me, today?” or “Who are you again?” or “I’ve never really been clear what this group is about, anyway, so screw you and yours.” I could only get a little mad about it, honestly. I couldn’t sign up for any more of it but I also couldn’t make the case that anybody involved owed anybody anything.

Yet we hear this whenever there’s a damn protest, that young people are Doing It Wrong either because they are protesting Like We Did and it didn’t work, or they are not protesting Like We Did and that is why shit is still fucked up and bullshit. Or we hear that if young people had Appreciated All Our Hard Work, maybe they wouldn’t need to protest at all because Everything would be Perfect.

If you are doing what you are doing for a parade someday, I got news. It ain’t coming. Young protesters do not owe The Sixties a genuflection before they get out in the street their own selves, the Third Wave can tell the Second Wave to suck it if they want to, and for the love of Peter G. Christ, younger activists are not insulting you by existing and caring about different things because, you know, born in a different millennium.

You know how you know your history? Someone TEACHES it to you. Someone puts aside that you’re young and a fuckwit and they get over how tired they are of teaching young fuckwits how to think, and they teach you how to think. If they all took their syllabi and went home the first time someone was like, “Who is James Baldwin?” in a snotty voice, no one would ever know anything.

And if everybody who got in the street got in the street once and then went home like OKAY DID MAH JOB NOW IT’S YOUR TURN WHIPPERSNAPPERS there’d never be another protest because nobody would know about things like “permits” and “what you can actually be arrested for versus a cop being a dickhead.” You don’t get to lay down your burdens, says one of my favorite writers on the planet, the hard parts are all you ever have. You work not because you’re gonna get applause or things are gonna be perfect and finished but because you’re alive. You work to stay alive.

That woman up there? Rosemary? It is infuriating she’s still holding the same sign. She’s gotta be exhausted. And it’s brave, and perfect, that she’s still holding the same sign. If your goal is to make the world better that’s not something you ever want to have to to stop.

A.

“Keep it”

I was 12 years old when my great-grandfather died and my experiences with him were limited to Christmas events, birthday parties and the occasional times we watched a parade from his porch. Most of what I know comes from family legends and stories others told. Two things sat at the core of each tale:

  • He worked hard all his life.
  • He was an immigrant.

I thought about him this week with the immigrant ban, the Muslim ban or whatever the hell “anti-terrorist” spin the alt-White House is putting on this. His life spanned exactly 100 years and there was a lot of life in those years.

He came from a country that no longer exists: the “Kingdom of Bohemia” which later became squished into Czechoslovakia. Bias was pretty clear in that area of the woods as the Czechs and Slovaks didn’t have a lot of love for one another. The Bohemians were kind of the Stu Sutcliff of that area, but after World War I, they got stuffed into this new set of boundaries and that was that.

Great-grandpa was long gone by then, setting off for America on ship of some kind. How he got the ticket or how much money he had on him never made it into the family story, but he came from a family of farmers in the Old Country, so the answers were probably “No clue” and “Not much.” What did make it into the mix was that he met my great-grandmother when he got here, another Bohemian refugee. They were in the early 20s when they got married, or “spinsters” in the language of the time. Nobody thought it would last or that any future generations would spring forth.

They stayed married 72 years, until great-grandma died at 96, and produced four children (“Joe, Doc, Pa and Aggie,” my father would say.) So much for conventional wisdom.

They landed in a small Wisconsin town abutting Milwaukee, where my grandfather found work at the local factory, like most immigrants. He was a carpenter by trade, however, so each summer he would quit the factory job and build houses in the area to earn a better living. When his own family had reached a critical mass, he built one for them, finishing it up right around the time my grandfather was born. He lived there, raised four kids in that tiny building, outlived all of them and died in his own bed a month after he turned 100.

The backyard was the size of a two-car garage, but it sported a plum tree that produced enough fruit to eat, can and squeeze into a liquor-based form. When he sensed the plum tree was coming to the end of its useful life, he’d plant a half dozen seeded saplings and wait for one to assert dominance. He’d then destroy the others and chop down the old tree. The plum wood served to heat the house and cure meat.

He had a postage-stamp sized garden that was crammed to the hilt. Every time he picked something, he planted a new item to squeeze more food out of his patch of land. He also went to church every morning with a small paper bag, a useful item to collect the mushrooms he found along the way. By noon, great-grandma turned his find into a soup. That would be lunch.

Of all the stories I remember, this one always stuck with me:

Somewhere around between the World Wars, he got an official letter from a government agency in the old country. It explained that his father had died and that as the oldest son, he had inherited the family farm. It was a reasonably decent enterprise and during that era (the Great Depression), the farm would provide him a nice financial boost. The letter said he had to go back to fill out some papers and it was his. He could even sell it right then and there if he wanted.

My great-grandmother, who never really bothered to learn much English, wanted to go back. She missed her homeland and she also wanted to show off how well the family was doing. My great-grandfather, a practical man who knew how tenuous life could be in unstable times, scrawled a word in Bohemian on the letter and sent it back.

The mystery of that letter and the farm and the family remained part of frequent discussions around the family. We never really knew what happened or why until somewhere around his 90th or 95th birthday, where my father and his siblings managed to get great-grandpa to sit down at the kitchen table and tell stories. He eventually got around to the story about the farm and revealed what he had  written:

“Keep it.”

My great-grandfather saw himself as living the American dream. He came here with very little, found love, started a family and set down roots from which future generations could grow. He knew that if he went elsewhere, he might not get back or might not get let out. The whims of others would dictate his situation if he decided to reconfigure his life. So, he stayed put, built a life and never stopped working to improve things around him. (Another legendary family story was when my father stopped by to wish him a happy 97th birthday, only to find him on a rotten wood ladder climbing onto the roof. “Grandpa, what are you doing?” my dad shouted. “I cleaning rain gutters,” he said in his broken English. “But Johnny (a 30something cousin of mine) just cleaned those last week!” Great-grandpa shook his head. “You kids… You never do good enough job.”)

For generations, people who ARE here have always come up with reasons that THEY are OK being here, but THOSE GUYS shouldn’t be. It’s a continual series of, “Go back where you came from!” We can make weak arguments about potential terrorism, but that’s all they are: weak arguments by irrational people hoping to keep others from taking something they believe is essentially theirs. It’s less of a “Give me your tired” crowd and more of a “Go back where you came from!” contingency that makes the noise.

Great-grandpa never mentioned outright bias or hatred. He wore it on his face: A grim, tight-lipped determinism seemed to be his resting pulse. Dad heard stories second and third hand about how if it weren’t for a particular supervisor who liked great-grandpa, he’d have been out on his ass several times, simply because he wasn’t “one of us.”

What Trump and his supporters tend to forget is that every point in time, all of us used to be “one of them.”

Thank You, Mr. Secretary, Senator, and in a better world Mr. President, too

I will never forget what the GOP did to this man. Never. 

Kerry stared hard at the man in the white ball cap standing before him, the river’s water reflecting off his sunglasses as he peppered Tam with questions and eagerly gobbled up details about a defining incident in his life. Tam told Kerry the Viet Cong could hear the Swift boats coming from 3,000 feet away, and he gently suggested the lumbering Americans never stood a chance.

“We were guerrillas,” he said. “We were never where you were shooting.”

“I’m glad we’re both alive,” Kerry told him as they shook hands, each putting two hands into the gesture.

I think I am sicker about Tillerson standing where Kerry stood than Trump occupying Obama’s office. Kerry was my president. And still is. 

A.

 

300 families helped: Food Pantry Fund

THANK YOU ALL! This is a message from the St. Hyacinth Pantry’s director to everyone who donated:

I want to thank you and all of your generous friends for their overwhelming support. With the money already raised, we can provide emergency food for over 300 families this month, which is especially important during this very busy holiday period, our busiest time of the year. Separately, if anyone is in the Milwaukee area, and would like to visit the Pantry to see our facility or see us in action, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully submitted – Steve Pollock, Acting Director, St. Hyacinth’s Food Pantry

300 families. That’s something, guys. Great job.

Continue reading

Who Are We?

Two more days.

I’ve been telling people it seems like this election will never be over, or like the world will end on Tuesday because it’s so hard to make plans until we know IF THE WORLD IS GOING TO END. I have major life decisions to make this week and I keep thinking, “Well, maybe I should just hold off in case it all burns right down.”

I’m not going to come here today and make the case for Hillary, or against Trump, because what would be the point? We’ve talked about both of them for hours and hours. There’s nothing I can tell you that would be new to you about either of them.

I want to make the case for somebody else.

Us.

There’s been entirely too much talk about the candidates this election season. Of COURSE I have a favorite, and hint hint, it’s not the minority-bashing sex predator with no policies, no plans, and no ability to listen to anyone but the high-as-balls carousel horses in his head.

But this isn’t about deciding which candidate you like the best, not this time, not in this election. It’s about deciding who we want to be.

On Tuesday, we’re not making a choice about Hillary versus Trump. That’s ridiculous. We’re making a choice about us. About whether we’re bullies who hate minorities for existing, who hate women with brains and ambition, who hate anyone who worships a different god, who hate that life is changing and don’t trust that they can keep up, who hate poor kids in poorer schools and everybody on food stamps and anybody who got screwed over by something they couldn’t control.

It’s about whether we turn our anger outward and break shit, or accept that we have work to do, and do it.

“But but but … e-mails! Corruption!” Yup.

“But but but … centrism! Hawkishness! Triangulation!” That too.

But but but … I DON’T ACCEPT HE HIT ME FIRST FROM A PRESCHOOLER AND I WON’T ACCEPT IT FROM AMERICA.

We’ve got the candidates we’ve got, even batshit Jill Stein and dumbass Gary Johnson. This is no longer about them.

They’ve done what they’re going to do by this point. This is about what we do with the power we have, all of us.

We have the power to stand up one by one and say, not me.

I’m not afraid.

I’m not a bully.

I’m not going to be cowed by an unhinged monster who screams white power slogans and chuckles through calls for his opponent to be executed and pretends he’s too dumb to know better.

I’m not going to sign on to an ideology based entirely on wanting to say “fuck you” to everything that bothers me.

I believe we can, because I’ve seen grace and kindness in this election. I’ve seen generosity, courage, warmth. I’ve seen people who shouldn’t have to stand up stand right up, and that’s never wasted, never. I’ve seen people wait in line for hours, fight like dogs, to get the chance just to vote. I’ve seen people having tough conversations with people they love: Don’t do this, if you love me back. People have walked and talked and worked and phone-banked and driven people to the polls and written letters and given money.

In the end, all we are responsible for is our own vote. One by one. Ourselves, alone, with the pen and the ballot. That’s the only weight we carry now. That’s what we have to do. That’s what’s on us, no matter what anyone has or hasn’t said.

That’s the decision in this election. Who are we?

I don’t think we’re bullies. I don’t think we’re afraid. I don’t think we’re mean and hopeless and unkind to one another. I don’t think we’re really hungering for a loud voice to tell us to sit down and shut up while he fixes everything.

I think we’re this: 

May it please your honor, I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty. All the stock in trade I possess is a $10,000 debt, incurred by publishing my paper—The Revolution—four years ago, the sole object of which was to educate all women to do precisely as I have done, rebel against your man-made, unjust, unconstitutional forms of law, that tax, fine, imprison and hang women, while they deny them the right of representation in the government; and I shall work on with might and main to pay every dollar of that honest debt, but not a penny shall go to this unjust claim. And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”

I think we’re this:

I think we’re this:

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I think on Wednesday morning, that is who we’ll decide to be.

A.

Not Everyone Sucks at Halloween

Apropos of the last post, try this instead:

A.

A Stronger Letter Will Follow…

Angelo Drossos, who owned the San Antonio Spurs during their ABA days, was a hard-charging Greek businessman who was known to have an incredibly bluntness about him, especially when he knew he was right.

The most famous story about him, retold in his own words in Terry Pluto’s classic book “Loose Balls,” involves his purchase of future-Hall-of-Fame shooter George “Ice” Gervin. Drossos had purchased Gervin from the failing Virginia Squires, only to have the team’s owner (Earl Foreman) come down with a case of seller’s remorse. The league president, Mike Storen, sided with Foreman and demanded Gervin be returned to Virginia. He threatened Drossos with a number of unsavory penalties in a series of telegrams and letters.

Drossos responded in a telegram only he could have written:

“Fuck you. A stronger letter will follow.”

I thought of Drossos and his way with words today when I read the NY Times’ legal response to Trump’s demand that the paper retract a story that accused him of groping two women.

Trump is no stranger to the legal system, nor is he unwilling to sue at the drop of a hat. My favorite Trump suit is the one he filed against comedian Bill Maher, who accused him of being fathered by an orangutan. It wasn’t a libel suit, however, as Trump was actually suing for a breach of contract. Maher had jokingly noted that he’d give $5 million to the Hair Club for Men in Trump’s name if he could produce a birth certificate that proved Trump’s mom wasn’t fucking a simian in the zoo.

(Shockingly, the case never got very far.)

However, the concept of libel is one that scares even the best journalists. Nobody wants to be sued in general, but libel suits are often dicey because you often have legal interpretation meeting issues of “polite society.” Judges can often be offended by content and thus take it out on the messengers.

When I teach libel to my reporting kids, I often point out that truth is the ultimate defense against libel. Sure, if you report that the governor stole money from the state to buy Corvettes for underage prostitutes the guy is going to look bad and want to sue you. However, if you can prove this is all true, you should be OK in court.

Most people use the “truth shield” as the safest venue for fighting a suit like this.

David McCraw decided to go at this a different way, which is why he is now my new personal legal man-crush.

McCraw instead doubles down on the idea of libel in his letter, pointing out that “the essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of one’s reputation.” He then goes on to point out how there is virtually no way to ruin Trump’s reputation, because he’s such a vile, stupid, sexually fucked up nut wad. He lists a series of items that demonstrate Trump’s own statements basically paint him as exactly the kind of guy who is likely to grope women, and thus the article is essentially par for the course.

As one of my good friends pointed out, it’s not every day that a lawyer gets to write the phrases “libel per se” and “piece of ass” in the same letter.

The letter then takes on a more conventional approach, in which McCraw notes that the paper did what the law allows by publishing “newsworthy information about a subject of deep public concern.” He also states that if Trump doesn’t like it and thinks he can use the law to crush his critics, “we welcome the opportunity to have a court set him straight.”

In other words: Fuck you.

And in deference to the late Angelo Drossos, I don’t think even HE could write a stronger letter that could follow this.

We Make Decisions

It’s important to remember that the choice to go along to get along is still a choice: 

The national headlines emerging from San Francisco’s current rental crisis paint a picture of wealthy landlords pushing old ladies out of units they’ve inhabited for decades in order to quadruple their profits housing techies. While that happens, a sizable portion of the city’s rental stock exists in landlord-occupied buildings like the one I grew up in. In many cases, these landlords are like my mom: teachers, carpenters, small business owners, etc., who bought their homes before prices exploded. Now, they’re suddenly presented with the opportunity to make a profit on their homes’ extra units. For my mom, like many of my friends’ parents, this opportunity presents an ethical quandary: is it right to charge what the market will bear, even if that price seems absurd?

For years, my mom’s answer to that question was no. She rented to friends of friends, charging between $500-$1000 a month below the market rate.

It’s easy to bag on people for being followers, for blaming “market forces” or “changing tastes,” because using those excuses allows them to escape blame for shitty situations. Here’s what else it does: It denies them credit for creating good things.

Acting like the society we live in is like the weather, and we have no power over what rent is any more than we have power over whether it will rain on circus day, erases the agency of people who are NOT assholes, who DON’T do the terrible things everyone else is doing, who REFUSE to victimize people just because it’s cheap and easy.

It makes their stories absurd.

I can’t think of anything we need less right now.

A.

Gret Stet Flood Notes

Baton Rouge debris photograph by Carolyn Scofield.

Baton Rouge debris. Photograph by Carolyn Scofield.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who has donated to Gret Stet flood relief causes, either via this First Draft link or elsewhere. Dr. A and I gave money to the Denham Springs Animal Shelter. They exceeded their target and received matching funds from the Petco Foundation. I checked out them rather carefully since it was a gofundme appeal. Two friends who are active in animal rescue causes vouched for them. I mention this because the scamsters are using online flim-flammery to rip people off. Please be careful who you give to, especially if it’s a gofundme thing. At some point, we’ll be posting more links but I want to be sure that they’re reputable first. Besides, recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

President Obama visited the Red Stick area yesterday. He shrugged off the critics and gave a nuts and bolts speech about how FEMA is not the same organization that it was in 2005. The people who hate him continue to carp and complain but that’s not helping anyone. Anybody who confuses Craig Fugate with Heckuva Job Brownie is an ignoramus.

POTUS stressed the importance of Congressional action to supplement FEMA’s emergency assistance. Unfortunately, three members of the Louisiana House delegation voted against Sandy Relief: Steve Scalise, John Fleming, and Baton Rouge’s very own Bill Cassidy who is now an empty suit in the Senate. And Fleming is running for Bitter Vitter’s seat. The good news is that New Jersey and New York Democrats believe in guvmint and will vote for Gret Stet flood relief according to Rep. Bill Pascrell:

“They don’t get it until they get hit on the side of the head themselves by a two-by-four and everything’s supposed to stop. All of a sudden it’s, ‘This is different; this is oranges and apples,’ ” said U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat from Paterson, New Jersey.

<SNIP>

Pascrell, who said he’s going to do “everything as a congressman I can to help the people of Louisiana,” said he wished that state’s delegation had taken a similar approach when it was his state that needed assistance.

“Not one dime is going to be delayed to the Baton Rouge area or to Louisiana. I can’t say the same thing about 2013. Money was delayed,” he said. “We had to fight from the beginning for the dollars. While that’s not going to color my response, I’m not going to forget it. I don’t forget. There’s always a day of reckoning. That’s Jersey style.”

Messsage received loud and clear. In 2013, conservative ideology trumped disaster relief. The errant Louisiana pols deserve to be reminded of their hypocrisy before we move on.

In other Gret Stet flood related news, it remains unclear if or what Donald Trump donated to flood relief. He seems to have lied about the 18-wheeler he claimed to have brought with him to the flood zone. He *may* have donated money to a right-wing church favored by “family values” creep, Tony Perkins. As is so often the case with the Insult Comedian, the truth is elusive. But we all know that the truth is not his middle name:

There’s been much talk of the exploits of the ‘Cajun Navy.’ I put the term in quotes because it’s an informal group of people with boats who help during disasters. As my friend and post-K blogger comrade in arms Troy Gilbert put it on the Tweeter Tube:

Troy ought to know: he’s one of this informal group, which is most impressive to this landlubber. There have been several scams involving the ‘Cajun Navy,’ so beware, take care.

There’s a legislator who wants to regulate the activities of these public-spirited citizens:

Republican State Senator Jonathan “J.P.” Perry of the Vermilion-Lafayette area said he is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit to allow these Good Samaritans to get past law enforcement into devastated areas.

In a radio interview on News Talk 96.5 KPEL in Lafayette, Sen. Perry said it comes down to two main points for law enforcement officials.

“At the end of the day, there are going to be two things that are going to be the hurdle when you approach it from the state’s standpoint,” Sen. Perry said. “Liability is going to be number one for them. They don’t want the liability of going out to rescue them and then not being able to find them, and secondly, there’s a cost.”

Perry continues by saying the liability issue could be solved by something like a waiver that boaters sign prior to a natural disaster.

Clouarte and other members of the ‘Cajun Navy’ said they do not understand the regulations.

“How can you regulate people helping people? That doesn’t make sense to me,” Clouarte said.

I’m not quite sure what I think of this very lawyerly idea. Regulating the ‘Cajun Navy’ is like to trying to regulate the wind. It’s amorphous and spontaneous. I don’t think people should be discouraged from helping one another but a waiver of some sort *might* be a good idea. One person’s Good Samaritan is another person’s officious intermeddler. That’s one of my favorite Tort law terms: it’s legalese for buttinski.

Finally, I’m having horrible allergy problems so I’m unable to do much in the way of hands-on volunteer work; all I can do right now is donate money and write about the Gret Stet flood of 2016. But many of my friends have pitched in and helped people in the flood zone. I’d like to give a brief shout out to Brett, David, Jonathan, Julia, Troy, and Desier. I know I’m forgetting someone; inflamed sinuses impair my little gray cells.

Below is a picture of my friends Carolyn and Kyle who have been house gutting with the United Saints Recovery Project who *are* a reputable group.

Photograph by Kyle Melancon.

Masked house gutters. Photograph by Kyle Melancon.

New Orleanians are used to masking, after all. Since volunteering in the Gret Stet heat can be funky, I’ll give the last word to Sylvester Stewart and his combo:

How To Help South Louisiana

South Louisiana is having one of the worst floods in its history.  Our readers are well-known for opening their hearts and wallets to help people in need. Here are a few ways you can help the victims of the Gret Stet flood of 2016.

Second Harvest Food Bank.

United Way of Southeast Louisiana Flood Relief.

Finally, Denham Springs is one of the hardest hit communities. Here’s a link to a gofundme to support the Denham Springs Aminal Shelter.

Thanks in advance for helping. Our readers rock as well as rule.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Domino

domino players

Domino Players by Roald Schotborgh. Via Curacao-art.com.

It was diabolically hot last month in New Orleans: the hottest July in recorded history. August has followed suit thus far. What can a poor boy do? Huddle in my study, which is the smallest room in our house, and luxuriate in the air-dish and ceiling fan. We’re all big fan fans here in the Big Sweaty, especially when it’s not fit for man or beast outside in the heat. That’s life in the big city, y’all.

I’m not into to the whole Pokemon Go thing but many people are. So much so that a guerilla artist put a fiberglass statue of Pikachu at Coliseum Square here in New Orleans. My friend Jessica tweeted about it:

It’s a great picture. I’ll just have to forgive her for all the vexatious exclamation points. Twitter makes many people excitable. In my case, it tends to make me irritable, but what do I know from Pokemon? I never played the original game unless it was Pikachu peek-a-boo or some such shit.

I bent my rules with this week’s theme songs. I’m using different songs with the same title but they’re by artists, Squeeze and Van Morrison, I’ve already featured on the Saturday post. I make no apologies because they fit one of my themes of the week. Every time a prominent Republican says they’re voting for Hillary Clinton I say:  Another domino tumbles.

We’ll begin with Squeeze since Chris Difford’s lyrics use the image of falling dominoes to make the song’s point:

Now that we’ve gone “down like a domino,” it’s time for some free-association word play from Van the Man:

Van just wants to hear some rhythm and blues music on on on the radio. Who can argue with that? If you care to, let’s duke it out after the break.

Continue reading

DNC Day Three Wrap Up: Don’t Boo, Vote

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Photograph via CNN.com

It was another good day at the DNC. Buster heckling continues to be more of an annoyance than anything else. The MSM is fixated on them, and MSNBC specializes in finding sour faced Busters since that’s *their* storyline. It’s one reason I’m watching on C-SPAN this year. MSNBC’s coverage is different from past conventions as if its top priority is rebuilding Brian Williams’ image at the expense of reporting what’s going on. People I know at the convention report that the vast majority Sanders delegates are cordial and plan to vote for the nominee. Less dramatic but true.

Since the day belonged to President Obama, let’s start there. He is the best convention speaker of my lifetime and this was his best convention address ever. His focus was on defending his record, passing the baton to his successor, and making Donald Trump look small and petty. Tim Kaine brought the mockery but POTUS made Trumpism sound like what it is: a fever from which the American people will eventually recover. Hopefully, the fever will break by election day.

Here are a few HRC-related highlights:

And most of all, I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together — black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance, under the same proud flag, to this big, bold country that we love. That’s what I see.  That’s the America I know!

And there is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, has devoted her life to that future; a mother and a grandmother who would do anything to help our children thrive; a leader with real plans to break down barriers, and blast through glass ceilings, and widen the circle of opportunity to every single American — the next President of the United States, Hillary Clinton.

<SNIP>

Let me tell you, eight years ago, you may remember Hillary and I were rivals for the Democratic nomination.  We battled for a year and a half.  Let me tell you, it was tough, because Hillary was tough.  I was worn out. She was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels. And every time I thought I might have the race won, Hillary just came back stronger.

But after it was all over, I asked Hillary to join my team. And she was a little surprised.  Some of my staff was surprised. But ultimately she said yes — because she knew that what was at stake was bigger than either of us.  And for four years — for four years, I had a front-row seat to her intelligence, her judgment, and her discipline.  I came to realize that her unbelievable work ethic wasn’t for praise, it wasn’t for attention — that she was in this for everyone who needs a champion.   I understood that after all these years, she has never forgotten just who she’s fighting for.

The President’s speech was a rousing affirmation of the center-left creed that I believe in as well. Once again, his personal qualities are as important as his policy positions. Time to say something I said a lot at my eponymous blog in 2007 and 2008: Barack Obama is the Sidney Poitier of American politics. I firmly believe that he’s one of the finest human beings ever to serve as President.

President Obama is committed to HRC’s attempt to become our first woman President. Pioneers gotta stick together, y’all. The main reason that Donald Trump may not lose as badly as he deserves to is the change factor. It is difficult for a party to win three consecutive terms in the White House. Plus, while there are fewer people willing to say it in 2016, there are many voters who cannot bring themselves to vote for a woman. Many of them are the same people who cannot abide having a black President. I still foresee victory in the fall but it could be a squeaker. The joker in the deck is the Insult Comedian’s belief that all publicity is good. Hence, his visit to the Russia House yesterday. It still has the potential to blow up his candidacy when the whole world, as opposed to the GOP base, is watching.

I promised a wrap up so let’s get on with it, but first a painfully obvious musical interlude:

If you were hoping for a surprise ending, you were sadly mistaken.

I watched more of the convention yesterday than on previous days. The programming was strong and the best of the early speakers were 2016 also-ran Martin O’Malley, and Nutmeg State US Senator Chris Murphy. On the other hand, Jesse Jackson looked bloated and ill. I hope he’s okay: he ,too, was a pioneer as a candidate who paved the way for Barack Obama. Funny story time: my late Meemaw-in-law was over 90 when the 1984 Democratic primary campaign was raging.  She was a Yellow Dog Democrat but not exactly a high information voter. We were watching  highlights of the DNC and she saw all the black faces and asked me, “Is that the Republican convention?” I lied and said yes. Hell, I wanted her to vote for Fritz Mondale, after all. I am a bad. bad person, but arguing race with a woman born in the 19th Century was ridiculous. It was literally a white lie…

Harry Reid gave a short and characteristically feisty speech. He got a nice round of applause but not the ovation that the best Senate Democratic leader since Lyndon Johnson deserved. Despite his kind words about Bernie Sanders, some of his supporters judge everybody in relation to him. It’s rather feline, Della Street insists that I judge everyone in relation to her. Fortunately she’s an internet rock star…

It was also great to see civil rights veteran and DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton who inspired this tweet:

The gun violence segment was the emotional highlight of the evening. The speech by Christine Leinonen whose son was gunned down at the Orlando massacre was particularly poignant. It’s always good to see Mark Kelly and Gabby Gifford. She’s both a testament to the human spirit and the ravages of gun violence. She inspired this tweet:

That concludes the Twitter inspiration part of the program. Let’s move on to the main event. In addition to President Obama, there were three main speakers. I’ll take them in the order they appeared.

Vice President Biden: Joey the Shark gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever seen him give. It was alternately emotional, funny, and passionate. As man known for his ability to work across the aisle in Senate, the Veep seemed personally offended that the Republicans nominated Donald Trump. I know the feeling.

As always when Biden appears and I’m on the Tweeter Tube, I had to deal with some Biden related ignorance. Just because he’s an Irishman who looks like a shot and a beer guy doesn’t make him one. The Veep grew up around alcoholic relatives and as a result does not drink. He’s not the Onion Joe. I prefer the real guy.

Michael Bloomberg: The diminutive plutocrat and former New York Mayor is NOT one of my favorite people but he gave one of the most politically effective speeches of the DNC thus far. Here are a few memorable lines:

Throughout his career, Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders, and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off. Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s run his business. God help us.

I’m a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a con when we see one! Trump says he’ll punish manufacturers that move to Mexico or China, but the clothes he sells are made overseas in low-wage factories. He says he wants to put Americans back to work, but he games the US visa system so he can hire temporary foreign workers at low wages. He says he wants to deport 11 million undocumented people, but he seems to have no problem in hiring them. What’d I miss here?!

Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy. He wants you to believe that we can solve our biggest problems by deporting Mexicans and shutting out Muslims.

One of the best lines in Bloomberg’s speech seems to have been ad-libbed:

“Let’s elect a sane, competent person with international experience.”

As opposed to an insane, incompent Insult Comedian with cotton candy piss hair. I think wooing decent Republicans and Independents is important in this election. The Obama/Clinton coalition is expansive enough to encompass everyone who thinks Donald Trump is a menace.

Tim Kaine: I’m on the record as a Tim Kaine fan and he performed well night. He showed off his sense of humor thereby establishing that he’ll be the nicest attack dog ever. He nipped at Trump repeatedly during his speech and drew some blood with his impression of him. I believe Tim may now own the word believe. Like the Monkees, I’m a believer:

Since Twitter must stereotype everyone, Tim Kaine is now a lovably nerdy, pesky dad type to the Twitteratti. What the young ‘uns don’t get is that sort of dad is usually deliberately messing with their kids. They’ll learn. Dylan was wrong: nobody is forever young,

Tim Kaine has the potential to become the latest in a long line of Democratic Happy Warrior Veeps. It’s good company as it includes Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Joe Biden

I was relieved that the Buster heckling was de minimis during Tim’s speech. Heckling someone so manifestly nice is apparently a bridge too far even for them. It’s tweet time. One that neatly sums up his liberal bona fides:

I didn’t plan to go on as long as a Bill Clinton speech today but what can I tell ya? But it’s almost a wrap. In the words of President Barack Obama, “DON’T BOO, VOTE.”

UPDATE:  Charlie Pierce watched the President’s speech with the Gret Stet delegation and wrote a piece about Obama’s coolness. 

DNC Tuesday Wrap Up: It’s About Time

History or herstory, whatever you want to call it, was made yesterday in Philadelphia as Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman nominated by a major party for the Presidency. In this case, by my party, the Democratic Party. I’ve always loved the roll call but it took on special meaning this year. It was ended with grace by Bernie Sanders who called for the nomination to be made unanimous. There were few nays on the floor as Team Sanders whipped the hell out of its delegates. I will get to the Busters in a few minutes. I’d rather not harsh my buzz right now.

It took far too long for this to happen. There have been strong, tough, and smart women leaders in many countries across the globe, but it took until 2016 for the world’s oldest constitutional democracy to put a woman in a position to become President. And what a woman. Pioneers have to be tough and wary as their lessers shoot at them, trying to bring them down. One thing we know for certain about Hillary Clinton is that she has a remarkable capacity to get knocked down and bounce right back up. In short, she knows how to rope-a-dope and take amazing amounts of punishment. It’s hard being a pioneer.

Is she perfect? Hell no, she’s human. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else reading this post. She’s been denounced for being ambitious; no one considers that a bad quality in a man. Pioneers have to deal with a pernicous double standard: nothing they do is good enough for some people. Fuck that and them. If we were looking for perfection we’d elect a robot, cylon, or android. Here’s what I said on Twitter in the wee hours as the waves of snark washed across my timeline:

I obviously have nothing against snark, sarcasm, or cynicism  but there’s a time and a place for everything. Last night was the time a woman was nominated to be our 46th President and the place was Philadelphia.

I thought the do-gooder portion of program was well done. We learned a lot about how HRC has helped people over the course of her life, and it took guts to  have the mothers of the movement onstage to tell their stories. Btw, Elizabeth Banks should consider running for office, she was that good as the Emcee.

Another high point was Howard Dean’s self parody. The reaction to his “scream” in 2004 was MSM silliness at its worst as well as one of the earliest viral memes I can recall. I like anyone who can laugh at themself. Good on ya, Dr. Dean. Just one more tweet before I get specific:

 In a word: historic. If there’s an afterlife,  her friend, the great Molly Ivins, is celebrating with her.

Let’s move on to the inevitable sub-headers:

The Supporting Role Of A Lifetime: There was churlishness and downright derpitude by MSM pundits about Bill Clinton’s speech. I was *almost* gobsmacked by the fact that they didn’t get it: Bill Clinton gave the spouse’s speech.  He was there to talk about the woman he’s known and loved as well as infuriated for some 45 years.

It was a terrific spouse’s speech. I love colloquial Bill and he was as folksy as all get out last night. By his standards, at 42 minutes, it was a short speech. I believe his first State of the Union address is still going on in an alternate House chamber in an alternate universe.

The most politically effective part of the speech was where the former President drew a distinction between Cartoon Hillary and Real Hillary:

How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention, what’s the difference between what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can’t. One is real and the other is made up. You just have to decide which is which my fellow Americans, the real one, the real one, has done more positive change-making before she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime in office. The real one, if you saw her friends…has friends from childhood from Arkansas where she has not lived in more than 20 years who have gone all across America at their own expense to fight for the person that they know. The real one has earned the loyalty and respect and the fervent support of people who have worked her in every stage of her life, including leaders around the world who know her, respect her, and know her to be completely trustworthy. The real one calls you when you’re sick or when your kid’s in trouble.

 The real one repeatedly drew praise from prominent Republicans from when she was a senator and the secretary of state. So what’s up? Well, if you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two-car parade, a real change-maker, represents a real threat. So your only option is to create a cartoon, a cartoon alternative. Cartoons are two-dimensional they are easy to absorb. Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard and a lot of people even think it’s boring. Good for you, because earlier today, you nominated the Real One.

I think President Obama can identify with that second paragraph. The same thing has happened to him. It’s hard being a pioneer.

Bill Clinton loves the spotlight and has not always been an asset to his wife’s campaigns. He was last night. His speech was a self-effacing act of love much like the spouse’s speeches that didn’t become regular convention features until 1996. Eleanor Roosevelt was the first in 1940 and the speaker in 1996 was then FLOTUS, Hillary Rodham Clinton. To give credit where it’s due, 1996 was the first year both spouses addressed their conventions. It was Elizabeth Dole for the GOP.

One of the few clichés I believe in is “you have to take the bitter with the sweet.” It was in effect last night.

The Busters Go Bust: I’m not sure if the Busters are oblivious to the historic nature of what happened or they’re so caught up in their own butt-hurt to understand how bad the walk-out looked. It was another example of the Busters disregard for women, gays, and people of color. One might call it pyrrhic purism. Either way, it’s not a good look.

I like the term Busters. It applies to all genders and excludes the millions of decent, genuinely progressive Sanders supporters who understand the stakes of this election. Senator Sanders has shown genuine leadership in his willingness to take on the Busters and their nihilism. I wish he had begun the process of talking his supporters down earlier but better late than never.

All the stolen DNC emails prove is that Debbie Wasserman Schultz couldn’t organize a two-car funeral let alone a vast conspiracy against Bernie Sanders. Repeat after me: the DNC runs neither primaries nor caucuses. The states take care of that. It’s called federalism. If one wants to changes the system, one needs to know how it works. The Busters need to do some reading…

In the end, I’m glad the Busters walked out. They’re a small, noisy group and the vibe in the hall was much better for their absence.

There were a few complaints on the internets that an insufficient amount of anti-Trump red meat was served last night. It’s part of the ebb and flow of the convention. I suspect POTUS will give us an earful about the horrible man the GOP has nominated to replace him.

It’s about time that my party has nominated a woman to be the next President. Now the hard part begins, ensuring that Donald Trump will not be the first Insult Comedian elected President. I have a different first in mind.

UPDATE: Southern Beale has a must read post up about Hillary hate.

‘Jim Robinson lived in a Friendfield Plantation slave cabin. His great-great-granddaughter lives in The White House.’

Michelle Obama, last night:

That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done. So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters —two beautiful intelligent black young women — played with the dog on the White House lawn.

And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all of our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country is not great. That somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth.

If the person before you gave up, where would you be?

A lot of Michelle Obama’s excellent speech last night was about her children, her two lovely daughters and the future she is trying to build for them. I don’t think you have to be a parent to want the world to be better for others than it has been for you. You just have to be a human being with some measure of generosity and empathy, and parent to child is just the easiest way for people to make that argument: That you want to ensure the future for someone you care about.

This is the future Jim Robinson ensured by staying alive.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsIf he had given up, where would Michelle Obama be now? Where would any of us be, without the examples and the endurance of those who came before us? Sometimes we need to look at what we survived, to remind us what we can survive. It’s been such a horrible year.

From four days last week of people telling us we can’t afford to be open, we can’t take the risk of being generous, we can’t love the stranger or lift up the widow and orphan, we can’t we can’t we can’t, it’s all too much, close the blinds and lock the door and yes build the damn wall already, we get here. To people telling us we are better than this every day, because every day we open our eyes and our arms and we throw ourselves back out into the world again.

A war widow, taken in by a con man, rebuilds her life. The daughter of immigrants becomes a shining star. The first Muslim elected to Congress, whose religion is the target of so much hate and fear these days, says retreating from society isn’t a protest, it’s a surrender.

And defeated Bernie Sanders tells his supporters that their heartbreak can only be overcome by risking their hearts again, over and over and over again.

If that is all we can claim, it is enough. I tell myself and others this, a lot: You don’t have to be bigger or faster or smarter or stronger. You do have to get back up one more time than they can knock you down. You do have to stack your life back up again when the storm blows it over. And you have to do it over and over and over and over again, when you’re tired and you’re sick and you hate everything and it seems like finally, finally, you can’t go on like this anymore.

So that your great-great-granddaughter wakes up every morning in a house built by slaves, and her children play on the lawn with their dog.

A.

Lock Her Up, or Okay, We’re Done Screwing Around Now

We’re done, guys;

I’m with her, I’m there for her, I’m ready to bake her cupcakes and have her political babies and shred her fuckin’ e-mails, because we have pro-choice, pro-gun-control, pro-goddamn American candidates at the top of the ticket and if what it takes is me quitting my job and following her and Tim Kaine around in a panel van for the next four months then that is what I will do.

Let’s be clear, though: If all we had was two MAMMALS at the top of the Democratic ticket that would be enough to counter the four-day hatefest that was the Trump convention. Adrastos covered that admirably and Doc stuck a stake in its heart so it would not rise again. I watched a lot of it while on chat with some folks and on Twitter, and it was straight-up white supremacy, the 18 black delegates in the room notwithstanding, and I heard every single thing they meant.

Law and order? That’s the dogs and the fire hoses, beating men and women for thinking they are people, demanding they be respected. That’s turning the law from shelter to bludgeon, and cheering it is cheering hate.

Lock her up? That’s the Occoquan workhouse, and being prevented by law from owning property, or being fired from your job for being married or not being married, or having your children taken away because you talked back to your husband, and cheering that is cheering hate.

A photo with only white kids in it. How many of those kids will be glad in later life that that photo exists?

A convention hall that FOUR YEARS AGO called a multi-ethnic CNN crew “animals” and probably this year said much, much worse to people who get up every day and try to show the world what it is, a hard enough job when the earth isn’t actively caving in.

This isn’t “the lesser of two evils” but you know what, Rudy Giuliani, it also isn’t “the last election ever” or whatever apocalyptic shit you were yelling on Night One. It’s just a choice, between a monster who screams at you by torchlight that you are the master race, and an experienced, messed-up, human politician who is telling America to have courage and have faith and have hope. It’s a stark choice. It’s a real one.

So I’m sorry if you’re a Bernie person and you’re mad (I voted for your dude in the primary, guys) and I’m sorry if Hillary is not “exciting” and Tim Kaine is not “exciting” and neither of them is spending enough time tickling your prostate just right. You’ve got to get up and do something you don’t want to do, and that’s hard.

You know what’s probably harder?

Being a non-white, non-straight, non-male person and hearing a crowd of thousands cheering for your subjugation and your imprisonment and maybe even your death. Being poor, and working your ass off every single day, and hearing rich guys joke about how you want “free stuff.”

It starts now, today. So enough with the stupid “Joker vs Two-Face” memes and enough with the “Killary” crap. Enough with the “lesser of two evils.” There weren’t two evils up on that stage. I only heard one.

A.

We Used to Fight for Better

I’m stuck at work right now, at a nonstop event that won’t end until Sunday morning, so I haven’t been able to watch the entirety of the RNC, and I’ll likely not be able to see much beyond tonight. I thought I would be sorry, but after 12 minutes of watching Melania (meh) and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (WTF POLAR BEAR) I wanted very badly to be drunk on any kind of substance whatsoever.

I managed to see five seconds of Bob Dole standing up to be applauded, though, and that was worse, maybe, than anything that came out of the mouths of the fascists and fools who followed. Bob Dole is 457 years old now, and one of a vanishing few Republicans Of Name to attend this convention. There’s no George W. Bush, no Mitt, no McCain. It’s just Bob Dole, listening to a guy whose biggest firefight was in Grenada, talking about America’s enemies and war.

And something about the dazed and tired look on his face, the smile at the weak applause that passes for enthusiasm in that heinous mosh pit in Cleveland, sent me searching for this: 

It is for the people of America that I stand here tonight, and by their generous leave. And as my voice echoes across darkness and desert, as it is heard over car radios on coastal roads, and as it travels above farmland and suburb, deep into the heart of cities that, from space, look tonight like strings of sparkling diamonds, I can tell you that I know whose moment this is: It is yours. It is yours entirely.

And who am I that stands before you tonight?

I was born in Russell, Kansas, a small town in the middle of the prairie surrounded by wheat and oil wells. As my neighbors and friends from Russell, who tonight sit in front of this hall, know well, Russell, though not the West, looks out upon the West.

And like most small towns on the plains, it is a place where no one grows up without an intimate knowledge of distance.

And the first thing you learn on the prairie is the relative size of a man compared to the lay of the land. And under the immense sky where I was born and raised, a man is very small, and if he thinks otherwise, he is wrong.

I come from good people, very good people, and I’m proud of it. My father’s name was Doran and my mother’s name was Bina. I loved them and there’s no moment when my memory of them and my love for them does not overshadow anything I do — even this, even here — and there is no heighth to which I have risen that is high enough to allow me to allow me to forget them — to allow me to forget where I came from, and where I stand and how I stand — with my feet on the ground, just a man at the mercy of God.

And this perspective has been strengthened and solidified by a certain wisdom that I owe not to any achievement of my own, but to the gracious compensations of age.

Now I know that in some quarters I may not — may be expected to run from this, the truth of this, but I was born in 1923, and facts are better than dreams and good presidents and good candidates don’t run from the truth.

I do not need the presidency to make or refresh my soul. That false hope I will gladly leave to others. For greatness lies not in what office you hold, but on how honest you are in how you face adversity and in your willingness to stand fast in hard places.

Age has its advantages.

Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth. Let me be the bridge to a time of tranquility, faith and confidence in action.

And to those who say it was never so, that America’s not been better, I say you’re wrong. And I know because I was there. And I have seen it. And I remember.

I don’t blame Bob Dole for being at the convention. It might be his last one, and the Nazis shot him in the Appenines in 1945 so he’s earned a trip to the most expensive hookers Cleveland has to offer him along with whatever drugs he might want to sample. Get it, Grandpa.

I went looking for that speech because I remembered reading it in the wake of the Romney convention, and how “even this, even here” rang out true. If you love words, you have to love those, and “by their generous leave.” I mean, Bob Dole. Not who anyone would consider a great orator. And yet.

If there’s a yearning for the past that could be considered admirable — as a middle-class white chick let’s say parts of the 1940s would have been kinder to me than to, say, a black or gay person — it’s that in our politics even as we were calling things screwed up, we were not implying the end times.

We could figure it out. We could fight about it, but we could figure it out, and if we lost this one, we would keep fighting.

Now, though, this might be the last election, said Rudy Giuliani, sputtering into the microphone. This might be the end of it. For the Republican party, one dearly hopes, but for America? Are they running on a platform of “fuck it, this is too hard and Chachi’s sister said they were gonna get a keg?”

I can see Republicans being despondent, but that’s a little over the top even for them. This is what they’re going with, in 20 years, from “Let me be the bridge to an America than only the unknowing call myth,” to “this is the last election, this is it.”

I get that we are tired. Everyone is tired. Probably Bob Dole is tired too. He didn’t seem thrilled to be yanked upright at this shitshow, but again, whatever he wants he gets at this point. The point is that you don’t get to give up. Even a hateful ideology doesn’t get to give up. It has to fight for itself, too. Instead this convention seems to be longing to lie down.

A.

It’s Only Poetry: #NoBillNoBreak, Gun Control, and What We’re About

The concern troll fu was STRONG with the Internet today, as Democrats led by certified badass and current sex symbol of the Athenae household Rep. John Lewis said oh, you don’t want to vote on gun control legislation? OKAY. Watch this.

Immediately other liberals and professional contrarians pointed out that the watchlist was garbage, itself a violation of all kinds of due process, and not something we should be in favor of making tougher.

The Democratic proposal has been catch-phrased and hashtagged as “no fly, no buy,” because it would prevent people who end up on government terrorism watchlists, including the “no fly list,” from purchasing firearms. This would do little to reduce gun violence, but it would add an additional layer of surveillance and government scrutiny to a particular class of people.

Which is true, and not the point at all. The watch list and the no-fly list are horrific GOP garbage.

The GOP won’t even vote in favor of its own garbage if that garbage is disapproved of by the NRA.

The GOP won’t even ALLOW a vote to expand their own bills if the NRA doesn’t want them to.

There is no principle they hold to that they will not abandon if the NRA asks them to.

There is nothing they won’t block if the NRA asks them to to.

They are run by the NRA, lock stock and about a thousand smoking goddamn barrels. And that is the point of forcing votes on legislation the GOP should be roundly in favor of. That is the point of sitting in.

It’s to say, what chance does actual gun control legislation have if we can’t even get this garbage through?

It’s to say, we are giving them everything they should want, and they are throwing it back in our faces for no real reason, so you tell us what else we’re supposed to do? You tell us how we’re supposed to work with people who won’t even work with us on stuff they used to work on!

For the past 8 years the GOP has lied and abused and obfuscated and postured. They shut down the government for the second time in history (the first time was their fault, too) out of spite at not being able to keep people uninsured. They are blocking a Supreme Court justice from having his nomination even considered.

For 8 years we’ve heard stories about how “Washington” or “Congress” is gridlocked, about how “politicians” don’t get anything done, how “both parties” are responsible for America “becoming polarized” and other nonsense that makes it sound like this is the weather and not the end result of electing Tea Party-sexual hairdos without two brain cells to rub together.

Tonight the story is that Democrats are demanding votes on gun control legislation, and are willing to put their bodies on the floor until those votes happen, and Republicans are blocking those votes and turning off the cameras and walking out of the chamber. That’s the story now.

America has been really hard to love, lately.

Between the ongoing violence in the city and the seemingly neverending stream of nonsense coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth, between the perpetual debate about how mean we should be to poor people and the fact that people genuinely think yelling on the internet is like having your head busted in at a protest, America has been a really prickly, unloveable place.

But tonight, hearing about the sit-in John Lewis and his fellow Dems were staging, people started gathering at the Capitol. People came and held signs and yelled that they were with those inside, that they were watching, that they cared.

Inside, on the floor of the People’s House, a bunch of men and women in suits sang We Shall Overcome.

A lot of people are calling this posturing. Calling it theater. But it’s not. It’s poetry. And there are worse things than poetry. People have sat on hard floors all night for worse things than poetry. People have died, for worse things than poetry. And nobody is poorer or dumber or hungrier because of poetry.

And if tonight  we are one iota less alone, in our fear and our anger, because of that poetry, then sing on.

A.