Category Archives: Current Affairs

What Can You Do?

Children are dying in our camps: 

The purpose of the quote, from the commissioner’s point of view, was to establish that the Border Patrol has no choice about this. There are too many migrants for the existing system, at existing funding levels, to detain the children in safe, uncrowded conditions.

What Sanders was describing, however, was a choice. If the law requires the Border Patrol to detain migrants in safe and clean conditions, and if it is impossible to provide safe and clean conditions with current funding and current facilities, then the Border Patrol can let the migrants go.

The law that says the migrants must be detained is no more binding than the law that says people must be kept in humane conditions. The question is which part of the law the Border Patrol will ignore: the part of the law that is killing children, or the part of the law that would allow the children to live.

Before we begin: No, Democrats are NOT complicit in this for not stopping it, they are NOT just as bad as Trump for not stopping it. That’s some hysterical victim-blaming bullshit designed to stoke “no difference between the parties” nonsense in advance of the election and I’m seeing way too many smart people falling for it and repeating it online. Knock it off. If you think for one hot second President Hillary would be building kiddie concentration camps at the border you need all kitchen implements removed from your vicinity immediately. For your own safety. Butter knives included.

HOWEVER.

Not enough is being done to stop this.

I don’t mean impeachment. I mean STOPPING THIS.

I mean, what can honestly be done? Can you barricade the doors? This is state-sponsored murder and you are the state, can you walk up to the guards who are holding rifles and stand there until they stand down? Can you pull a Tiananmen Square? How does any of this work? We know where most of these facilities are, where the children are. What would it take to free them?

We muster the might of nations for a baby fallen down a well, for miners trapped in a cave, we have round-the-clock coverage and infographics and analyses and everyone thinks, what can I do to help? And we can’t get these children out of their child prison camp and settle them with their families? What would it take? A march? A barricade? Another thousand thousand lawsuits? How do you get the children out before more of them die? Before all of them die?

Maybe there is no way, but I refuse. I refuse to believe there’s no way. “There’s no way” is something you say when you don’t want to do anything and we can’t not want to do anything.

I don’t know if any of that would work. I don’t know how much of that is even legal. And I don’t fucking much care either way because holding hearings and passing bills and talking to people about health care is not ending the goddamn child concentration camps where baby prisoners live in filth.

The Republican obstruction of the past 15 years has had the effect of conditioning us to expect that nothing will be done about anything. The GOP domination of the news has made us used to the idea that government is bad and dumb and broken and can’t address problems it is specifically designed to address. We’ve come to expect paralysis from one another and so we’ve come to excuse it in ourselves: There’s nothing we could do.

Except that’s almost never really true.

There’s nothing we could do without inconveniencing ourselves. There’s nothing we could do without upsetting someone. There’s nothing we could do without potentially doing the wrong thing, or getting in over our heads, or etc etc etc. But there’s always something. As long as we’re alive there’s something.

So what is it? What’s the thing that will stop this not in 8 months when the number of dead children doubles but right now today? And then can we yell at Democrats until they do that thing? I’ve got stacks of blank postcards, let’s go.

A.

Everything Pretty Much Does Suck, Actually

Serwer:

Black Americans did not abandon liberal democracy because of slavery, Jim Crow, and the systematic destruction of whatever wealth they managed to accumulate; instead they took up arms in two world wars to defend it. Japanese Americans did not reject liberal democracy because of internment or the racist humiliation of Asian exclusion; they risked life and limb to preserve it. Latinos did not abandon liberal democracy because of “Operation Wetback,” or Proposition 187, or because of a man who won a presidential election on the strength of his hostility toward Latino immigrants. Gay, lesbian, and trans Americans did not abandon liberal democracy over decades of discrimination and abandonment in the face of an epidemic. This is, in part, because doing so would be tantamount to giving the state permission to destroy them, a thought so foreign to these defenders of the supposedly endangered religious right that the possibility has not even occurred to them. But it is also because of a peculiar irony of American history: The American creed has no more devoted adherents than those who have been historically denied its promises, and no more fair-weather friends than those who have taken them for granted.

The camps, and that’s what they are, camps:

I don’t have any answers anymore. I don’t have any more words. Maybe telling you all that will help me come up with some.

Not that that’s like at the top of the list of anybody’s problems, but if you’re coming here for me to tell you what to do, I can’t do it. Maybe I never should have. Because we fought and fought and fought and I sympathize profoundly with those who are asking what the fucking bloody hell for, right now.

Jesus Christ, if I have to listen to one more internet bro yell at liberals for not fighting, yell at the American people for not fighting … 3 million more of us than there are of those assholes tried to fight, and between voter suppression and gerrymandering and plain old slavery-curious electoral abuses it wasn’t enough. How insane is that, it wasn’t enough. Don’t tell me people didn’t fight.

Women told you and people of color told you and you’re out here all WHY DON’T WE STAND UP motherfucker … we did stand up. And we’re still standing up, and we’re still fucking losing, and we’re not gonna stop losing until Mitch and all his fellow GOP senators are unemployed so unless we’re talking about that I’m about done hearing that we’re losing the wrong way.

I’m sick of hearing comparisons to Hong Kong and exhortations for mass protest. We did that, too. I spent last summer every night and weekend in the goddamn streets, don’t tell me people didn’t protest and fight. People are outside the White House every night if you’re looking for a protest or a focal point for your rage. Should there be a national march on Washington? Probably, but then cometh a thousand of the same fucking bros telling us that protests are silly and pussy hats are embarrassing and all that money should go to progressive candidates, there’s no way to win here, no way to satisfy our own poisonous version of the 101st Chairborne, the people who always have a plan. I don’t have a plan.

And no, I don’t know if Nancy Pelosi does or not, but nihilistic bullshit doesn’t help us there. Every hearing house Dems have held, every fiery speech given on the campaign trail, every MR. PRESIDENT HAVE YOU NO DIGNITY SIR moment that has happened and they happen DAILY are covered by jack and his brother network dick because Democrats doing something right isn’t a narrative anyone’s willing to work with. Not even our allies; Jesus, that Jon Stewart thing that went around, calling on “Congress” as though it’s Democrats who are holding up help for 9/11 first responders.

A pox on all our houses, is the best we can hope for, never mind one house is a little run down while the other one is infested with bedbugs and also on fire.

The only people I’ve seen doing anything right are working through the states, on a scale small enough to make a difference. Moms Demand is getting gun laws signed even by Republican governors. Local abortion funds, local incarceration reform efforts … I know it feels like nothing’s happening but nothing breaking through doesn’t mean nothing’s happening. The same people who always fought are fighting. I don’t know how we get them to critical mass. I don’t think anyone who wants that even knows what it looks like. The Parkland students came closest.

I’m rambling, I know, but a friend texted me yesterday morning asking what do we do, and … we raised money for food pantries and libraries and gutted a house and saved some pelicans and filled a classroom in Alaska with LEGOs and wrote to our reps and senators and protested and voted and … what would make the most difference right now? I don’t want to tell you to throw bricks through windows if I’m not willing to pick one up myself so I’m asking. I don’t know.

A.

Suffering Isn’t Noble if It’s Not Your Suffering

This is a lot to unpack, so let’s begin early: 

Pointing to recent failed bills in several Republican-led states that equated abortions with murder, they wrote, “Pro-life legislation that creates the right to DIY abortion and fails to categorize abortion as murder does not deserve our support.” In a hearing for the Texas bill, which would have equated an abortion with homicide, a crime that can lead to the death penalty in the state, Jim Baxa of West Texans for Life bluntly stated his support: “A woman who has committed murder should be charged with murder.”

Also on Tuesday, Charlotte Pence, the daughter of Vice President Mike Pence, penned an op-ed in the conservative Washington Times celebrating Alabaman’s draconian abortion ban, writing, “Personally, I would not encourage a friend to get an abortion if she suffered the horrendous evil of rape or incest, because I care about her child—and her. I do not believe abortion provides healing.”

And here: 

I had a second trimester abortion. Our son never formed an airway. Had he survived birth he would have been brain dead. That wasn’t the life I wanted for him. It was the first true parenting decision I ever made. I am not a monster or a criminal.

Here as well:

“We’ve got people all over the United States that can’t have children. They want to adopt children. There are great opportunities there.”

Consider the arguments being made, and the gods they’re being made in service to.

Consider whose suffering is being offered up.

I’ve been a practicing — not skilled, mind — Catholic my whole life, I’m not gonna tell anybody here not to kiss the Cross. Pucker up if that’s what turns your crank. You imagine you would gladly struggle through a non-viable pregnancy, deliver that stillborn child and risk all — future infertility, lethal infection, possible death — that that entails?

You see yourself suffering nobly in order to fulfill God’s plan, which is of course unknowable, because we all play a small part in someone else’s story and maybe your child’s horrific painful death or your own will be a catalyst that leads someone else to the Lord or sets something else in motion? You’re ready to do that?

Fine. Go do it, but do it you, yourself, alone.

You cannot choose martyrdom for another. Imagining that my stillbirth is your butterfly wings flapping the world into a hurricane of God’s glory is not a basis for legislation, it is cosmic chaos theory, the sort of coping mechanism employed by a child praying for good weather on circus day. It’s embarrassingly solipsistic, and it’s not a good reason to be against abortion, or for anything else, either.

I’ve written before about how so much of anti-abortion activism is a pose, a way of BEING instead of a set of solutions. If you seek a great battle in which to distinguish yourself, again, okay, but it’s a lot of pressure to put on the world, to give you a proper stage.

And as far as infertile couples yearning for your unwanted baby are concerned, if you genuinely think that your desire for a child means some other woman should bear one for you, then you can pony up the 40 grand for a volunteer surrogate, instead of asking a stranger about whom you know nothing to endure misery so that you can have joy.

What a horrifyingly selfish argument. What a sociopathic thing to say.

Before we had Kick Mr. A and I heard a LOT of anti-abortion rhetoric from fellow childless couples. One adoption agency we visited lamented the lack of available infants because “abortion exists now,” the implication being that back in the good old days we’d just send the whores to a pregnant girls’ home and then coerce them into giving up their babies which was SO MUCH MORE MORAL. The whole supply-demand argument is extremely gross.

My rights as a lady who wants a baby do not supersede the rights of a person who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be. This shit isn’t hard.

Is there nobility in suffering so that someone else can benefit? There can be. Is there meaning in bearing a child you know will die? Again, perhaps. But I don’t get to write a pretty story about how your pain is valuable because it sends me a message. That’s not for me to decide.

A.

Don’t Tell Me We Weren’t Vigilant

I got mad and wrote a pitch e-mail to an editor this week that was basically THERE IS A SWARM OF HORNETS COMING OUT OF MY FACE and this is the result: 

Women did not cause the current clusterfuck by “taking our rights for granted,” and we don’t get any further along in a fight we are already expected to fight alone by implying that if we’d simply been more vigilant, Republican men wouldn’t have been so evil.

I want to reinforce that point again and again and again. Women, especially poor women, women of color, young women, were never unaware that these were the stakes. If you’re mad at middle agedwomen, white women, then say that, because OH BOY IS THERE STUFF TO BE MAD AT US ABOUT, but stop lumping the people who tried to stop this in with the people who did it.

A.

A Reckoning with Age

I spent the past few days at a gathering at which the shortcomings of young people was a frequent topic of conversation.

Or if not a topic of conversation, an aside. An easy joke.

A tour guide pointed out a painting of a figure from classical mythology holding a book. “Kids think she’s got an iPad.” Everyone laughed.

A librarian displays a beautifully handwritten letter and everyone laments the way kids today can’t read cursive script anymore because they aren’t taught it, nor are they able to write letters.

Young people also often stare at their phones at the dinner table. They seek out confirmation of what they already know instead of new information. They don’t read newspapers. And they don’t value the past.

Of course one could refute such nonsense point-by-point. I tended to change the subject, as this was an Official Outing at which I could not ask people outright to stop being the way they are. I could go chapter and verse on why people read and write more now than they have in a century, or ask if Gilgamesh bitched this much when kids abandoned cuneiform. But that’s beside the point.

The point is: Young people aren’t the problem.

It’s not “young people” voting for divisive, uncivil, crass politicians.

It’s not “young people” crowding onto Facebook to share poorly sourced screeds about Michelle Obama putting crack pipes on the White House Holiday Tree.

It’s not “young people” scolding activists and hating on protesters and resurrecting the least fashion-forward of the Nazi trappings with “America First” and concentration camps for migrant refugee kids.

Young people aren’t watching Fox. Young people aren’t watching cable news 24-7 nor demanding their podiatrist and gastroenterologist put it on in the waiting room for everyone to suffer through.

Young people aren’t segregating schools or closing mental health clinics or demanding tax cuts for the uber-wealthy at the expense of public parks. Yes, they’re taking selfies in superblooms and trampling on plants but twas ever thus.

The complaints of totebaggers about the world being difficult and contentious and loud and rude are just that. They aren’t the failings of America’s youth. They’re not the result of smartphones or a lack of media literacy or Common Core Math or not reading cursive or “divisive politics” or anything else we’ve convinced ourselves is the problem.

They’re the faults and failings of nice stable middle class people who are absolutely refusing to admit that they are old and not cool anymore and maybe never were. Not long after Trump’s election someone described this era as the Going Out of Business sale for the Baby Boom and while I don’t disagree, it’s more than that.

This country’s midcentury honkies never fully reckoned with their whiteness and they never fully reckoned with their aging and they’re being forced to do both now and it’s just as ugly and violent as any other reckoning through which America has had to go.

They’re reckoning with gender, too, or rather throwing temper tantrums about pronouns as if it’s some kind of new onerous burden to call people that which they’d like to be called.

All these things — whiteness, age, gender — are things they didn’t think about for five or six decades. They did what everyone does: They lived their lives and expected that to be important someday and it isn’t. They did everything right, and things still suck.

They — we, I am past 40 now and I see shit like this from people my own age as well as my “elders” — are just old, and white, and cisgender, and straight, and not all that smart, and some of us having made money through sheer dumb luck doesn’t make us better or geniuses, and the only thing wrong with any of that is defending it like it’s under attack by the existence of people who are not any of those things.

The only thing wrong with the reckoning is the horrible things we’re doing to avoid having it happen. Being old doesn’t make you old. I have friends from the Greatest Generation who get up every day absolutely fucking stoked to have outlived all the great bastards of their time, and they seem eons younger to me than people I went to school with crabbing about not knowing the names of artists on the VMAs. Being uninterested in the world makes you old, that’s all that makes you old. Google some shit, stop talking about how you don’t watch TV, and quit acting like liking bacon is a personality.

Being unwilling to ask questions makes you old. Not just questions about “what’s Zendaya all about” but questions about your own stuff. What if my music sucks? What if my books suck? What if my clothes were stupid? What if the things I fought for don’t in fact live forever? What if the fight I told myself for years is won isn’t over?

What if I don’t get a parade the way I thought I would? What if nobody’s grateful? What if nobody even remembers? These are terrifying things to think about so for years people just, like, didn’t. Believe me, I know how scary these thoughts are. I have them every day. Writing a book or two about how Bush sucked shit was something I used to think was a powerful statement, dear God.

What if I am just, after all, a person who did some stuff and maybe I wasn’t all that great at it? Maybe I didn’t try as hard as I could have. Maybe I failed. Maybe I convinced myself it’s too late to try again. People will do ANYTHING to avoid that question. To avoid that feeling you occasionally get where you realize you’re looking out of your own head, you know?

But we’ve got to stop making this all somebody else’s problem. Language is fluid and the world is ever-ending and people are inventing new ways to read and write CONSTANTLY and maybe Miley Cyrus isn’t our thing but luckily we’re not contractually obligated to bring her up. We are as much citizens as we’ve ever been, and the only thing that ages us is hating the young.

A.

Axis Of Assholes

In his 2002 State of the Union speech George W. Bush denounced Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” an inflammatory turn of phrase authored by David Frum. That’s right, the Frum who can be seen on your teevee as an anti-Trump conservative. He writes for the Atlantic Weekly now and still hasn’t topped the line that began life as “axis of hatred.”

In 2019, we face a corrupt, malevolent, and egomaniacal axis of assholes. They’re scattered across the globe, but the bull goose assholes are Bibi Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and Crown Prince MBS aka Mister Bone Saw seen above holding hands. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The United States may be the most powerful country in the terrible troika, but Netanyahu is the powerhouse; both mentoring and setting a bad example for the Insult Comedian who aspires to Bibi’s level of malevolent malakatude. That makes Bibi  the Mr. Bad Example of the axis of assholes:

Netanyahu just won a scorched earth re-election campaign in which he demonized his opponents, the media, and the Israeli Arab minority. As depressing as it is for those of us who remember the Israel of Ben-Gurion, Meir, Rabin, and Peres: it’s Bibi’s country now. The Israeli left is dead as is the two-state solution. Netanyahu continues to transform Israeli democracy into a system akin to apartheid era South Africa or Jim Crow era America.

The Kaiser of Chaos aspires to Bibi’s level of strongman dominance. What’s not to love about a guy who was re-elected while under threat of indictment? Mercifully, Israel’s multi-party system makes that feat difficult to replicate elsewhere but the Trumpers are hoping to follow in Bibi’s sleazy footsteps.

New Yorker honcho David Remnick wrote a perceptive and must read post-election piece, The Trump-Netanyahu Alliance. These excerpts capture the zeitgeist of the axis of assholes. The he in question is Netanyahu but it could just as easily be Trump:

Practicing a politics of division, he targets enemies in the press, the academy, and the courts. Increasingly, he finds his global allies in the ever-growing club of the Illiberal International, from the Sunni Arab leaders in his own region to Viktor Orbán, in Hungary; Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil; and Vladimir Putin, in Russia. He has determined that the world no longer cares very much about the Palestinians or about democratic niceties. He has marginalized the left––even the center-left. The “peace camp” that [Bibi’s father] Benzion loathed now barely exists.

<SNIP>

Just as Netanyahu provided Trump instruction on the political possibilities of right-wing populism, Trump has provided Netanyahu with instruction on the possibilities of outrageous invective, voter suppression, and disdain for the law. Netanyahu now delights in the use of such phrases as “fake news.” Investigations into his financial adventures are “witch hunts.” To suppress the Arab vote in last week’s election, his supporters mounted more than a thousand cameras at polling places where Arab citizens ordinarily vote, the better to intimidate them. And, of course, both men like a wall. As Trump put it, “Walls work. Just ask Israel.” To which his proud mentor tweeted, “President Trump is right. I built a wall along Israel’s southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.”

The axis of assholes sticks together. Neither Trump nor Netanyahu found the murder of Jamal Khashoggi objectionable and took MBS at his word that his regal hands were clean, not blood-stained. Liars tend to believe other liars.

There’s a lot of saber rattling in the direction of Iran right now. Since distraction is the only thing Trump is good at, there are well-founded fears of a “wag the dog” attack on Iran. I think the Trump regime is likely to sub-contract any such attack to the Israelis and Saudis because bombs are expensive and the president* is a cheapskate. Iran is why the leadership of those once bitter foes have converged. The Bibi-MBS nexus of the axis of assholes almost makes one nostalgic for bad old/good old days in the Middle East. The Palestinians must be.

It’s beyond ironic that the leader of the Jewish state has formed such close bonds with two anti-Semitic leaders but “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is the rule in that region. It should matter that Saudi Arabia was rhetorically pro-Nazi, but it doesn’t. It should matter that Donald Trump’s Archie Bunker-style philo-semitism is fundamentally anti-Semitic but it doesn’t. All that matters is power.

The only good thing about the axis of assholes is that it’s likely to be ephemeral. People like Bibi, the Kaiser of Chaos, and Mister Bone Saw invariably turn on one another. Cannibalism is part of assholery at this level of malakatude.

Speaking of cannibalism, the last word goes to Paul Kantner and Grace Slick:

This ISN’T HELPING, Guys

Ugh, division and disagreement are so ugly, why can’t we all just get along on important issues like babies in cages and destroying the world? 

Contempt makes political compromise and progress impossible. It also makes us unhappy as people. According to the American Psychological Association, the feeling of rejection, so often experienced after being treated with contempt, increases anxiety, depression and sadness. It also damages the contemptuous person by stimulating two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In ways both public and personal, contempt causes us deep harm.

While we are addicted to contempt, we at the same time hate it, just as addicts hate the drugs that are ruining their lives. In an important study of political attitudes, the nonprofit More in Common found in 2018 that 93 percent of Americans say they are tired of how divided we have become as a country. Large majorities say privately that they believe in the importance of compromise, reject the absolutism of the extreme wings of both parties and are not motivated by partisan loyalty.

Our country did not “become” divided. A 24-hour propaganda network for the Republican party told half of us the other half hated them and they were being persecuted and put-upon by, in order, the Clintons, the Obamas, Democrats generally, liberals, women, gay people, people in cities, people who drank Starbucks I think, imaginary communists, and everybody younger than 30.

When liberals tried to say, erm, not really, we don’t actually think about you all that much, we’d just like to have health care, there was an 11-year screaming fit known as the Tea Party that was covered like it was the spontaneous emergence of a new species of humanity hitherto unknown.

Plus a bunch of racism, and Fox News cashed the checks.

This wasn’t a weather system that swept in. Errbody didn’t just wake up one day and say GOLLY GEE WHILLIKERS I FEEL LIKE HATING ON YOU TODAY. Facebook and Twitter have not helped, but if you think this strain of misery didn’t exist before we all started wringing our hands about it, you haven’t been home for Christmas with a bunch of relatives who want to shit on your humanities degree.

That a few liberals, sick and tired of being dumped on constantly, have now started saying HEY QUIT TALKING SHIT is not evidence of a divided country. It’s evidence that you can only kill so many of us (and Reagan and Bush killed quite a few) before we start, you know, objecting.

I mean, all weekend we’ve been hearing about how deranged and hateful CPAC is NOW, as if the 1990s rhetoric around the AIDS crisis was compassionate, or 9/11 wasn’t followed by a wave of hate crimes, or the Civil Rights movement wasn’t greeted with fire hoses and guns. As if Kent State was a peaceable meeting of equal opposites just trying to understand each other. As if Father Coughlin never took up the mic.

We did not “become” divided. Many many more of us just became heard, and this newfound insistence on civility in communication is the response to that, and it doesn’t serve anyone but the wealthy and powerful who “divided” us in the first place.

This is exhausting:

Finally, we should see the contempt around us as what it truly is: an opportunity, not a threat. If you are on social media, on a college campus or in any place other than a cave by yourself, you will be treated with contempt very soon. This is a chance to change at least one heart — yours. Respond with warmheartedness and good humor. You are guaranteed to be happier. If that also affects the contemptuous person (or bystanders), it will be to the good.

It is true that in an argument between me and another middle-class white lady I should keep my temper and smile for the sake of peace in our well-appointed neighborhood where everyone contributes to the block party bake sale. In an argument between two middle-class white college students at debating podiums, certainly, by all means let’s be nice.

But in an argument between a middle-class white lady and the man who thinks she deserves to make a third less than an equivalent male colleague?

In an argument between trans people who want to live their lives and those who want to define them out of existence?

In an argument between a black mother whose son was just shot by police and the city government that covered it up?

In an argument between a Muslim traveler and the authorities who stop him at the airport with no pretext and no explanation?

In an argument between kids who want to live free of war and persecution and people who want them gassed at the border?

I would posit there is not enough contempt for the powerful on the part of the powerless in these conversations. In these situations, where lives are weighed against social comfort, lives should always win. There are worse things than division. There are worse things than conflict. There are worse things than saying mean things on Twitter.

Babies in cages, for example. Death from preventable disease. Schools with holes in the roof. Bullets, bombs and all the other horrible things our need for comfort make possible.

If calling someone who is trying to prevent me and mine from living our lives in peace a monster is divisive, then let division reign along with freedom, forever and ever amen.

A.

On Judging The Dead

Maybe it’s the Catholic in me. Maybe it’s being raised in a world perpetually on the brink of nuclear warfare, as most of my generation were, or being raised by people who were raised by people who grew up during the Depression, when everything you have can be gone in an instant.

Maybe it’s the small-d depression, taking all the ugliness of the world and swallowing it whole and letting it sit in my stomach like a marble.

Maybe it’s all of those things together, but when I die I fully expect to be judged by the worst things I’ve done, not the best.

This isn’t a contest. You don’t tally everything up and decide that the book I edited for the WWII veteran and the bread I baked for the refugees next door make up for the friend I hurt by calling them out in public, or the times I yelled at my kid, or the way I detonated a relationship on purpose. I can give all the change in my pockets to the homeless. It doesn’t somehow cancel out the things I said to my parents when we were fighting.

I have fucked up aspects of my life flatter than hammered shit and I don’t expect forgiveness for any of it. I don’t expect the good things to balance the bad things out. I’m not okay with anything I did to anyone — forgiving yourself gets used too often as a way to avoid just not sucking, far as I’m concerned — but I am completely, entirely, 100 percent okay with being judged by it.

We do this thing where we don’t want people to be complicated. We all do it, personally, in our own lives, making our great-uncle out to be some kind of saint when we have no idea how he treats his wife behind closed doors, making it impossible to mourn honestly the entirety of someone’s life once they’re gone. What if your asshole relative was a war hero and there are statues in his honor? Where do you put your grief then, when people are throwing him a parade?

Those complications are confounded a thousand times when it’s a national leader we’re mourning. Those people should be judged by the trail of the dead they left in their wake. Obama should be judged by the children of Yemen and Pakistan. It’s not rude or anything to say that the smoking road to Baghdad is George H.W. Bush’s legacy, as are the dead of AIDS who couldn’t wait for the GOP to pivot to basic humanity and curing diseases.

Bringing those things up inevitably brings the defense of “oh yeah, would you like to be judged by the worst things you did?” So let’s answer that: yeah. I’d be okay with that. It seems fair to say she rescued two cats but Christ, she was a dick to people a lot of the time. Any idiot can have a high point.

How low was your low, though? That’s the question should be asked, you show up at the gates of Heaven or Hell.

A.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “How now, down DOW?” edition

Quickie today (yeah – I know I said that LAST week) as Freepers declare “I’ll tumble for ya”.

Dow tumbles 650 points to new low on day, bringing 2-day losses to more than 1,400 points
CNBC ^ | 10/11/2018 | Fred Imbert

Posted on 10/11/2018, 1:57:57 PM by BradtotheBone

Stocks fell in volatile trading Thursday, a day after the major indexes suffered steep losses sparked by higher rates and a sell-off in tech shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 650 points lower, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,400 points. The S&P 500 dropped 2.1 percent and was on pace for a six-day losing streak. The broad index also broke below its 200-day moving average for the first time since May. The Nasdaq Composite pulled back 1.5 percent and entered correction territory.

The major indexes fell after some of the major tech names failed to recover from steep losses in the previous session. Netflix fell more than 1.5 percent after briefly trading higher. Apple also declined 0.8 percent, erasing earlier gains.

Tech shares fell more than 4.5 percent on Wednesday, marking their worst day since 2011. The sell-off led to the Dow sinking more than 800 points and the S&P 500 dropping more than 3 percent. It was also the 28th time since 2011 the S&P 500 posted a more than 2 percent decline, according to data from Birinyi Associates.

“It’s a momentum correction, not a portfolio correction,” said Joe Terranova, chief market strategist at Virtus Investment Partners. “While we have a bias to believe 2008 could happen again, I don’t think this is the case.”

“Less is more in this environment,” Terranova added. “I think you need to be an observer of the guidance you get in earnings.”

Stocks tried to rebound earlier in the day after the release of weaker-than-expected inflation data. The U.S. government said the consumer price index rose 0.1 percent in September, well below the expected gain of 0.2 percent.

**********************

Not Good!!!
1 posted on 10/11/2018, 1:57:57 PM by BradtotheBone
Thanks for that cutting-edge analysis.
So – who’s to blame??
To: BradtotheBone

Soros.

2 posted on 10/11/2018, 1:59:04 PM by cowboyusa (America Cowboy UP!)

I don’t know why I bother.
To: BradtotheBone

The Dow is getting crushed.

3 posted on 10/11/2018, 1:59:23 PM by tatown

SO much winning!!

To: BradtotheBone

Billionaire RATs trying to crash it before the mid-terms.

Yep – because nothing says “billionaire” like losing 1400 points on your investments.

IF only evidence of it could be found.

4 posted on 10/11/2018, 2:00:25 PM by lgjhn23 (It’s easy to be liberal when you’re dumber than a box of rocks.)

AliensItWas
.
More at the “continue reading” clicky link thingy.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Keep Going

The war’s not over. It’s barely begun:

“Now wouldn’t it be splendid for us to be free & equal citizens, with the power of the ballot to back our hearts, heads & hands,” Anthony wrote, envisioning a time when women could also fight for “the poor, the insane, the criminal,” armed not just with moral suasion but “with power too.”

“I can hardly wait,” she continued. “The good fates though are working together to bring us into this freedom.”

The older I get, the shorter a hundred years sounds. Susan B. Anthony was jailed and threatened. Alice Paul went on a hunger strike behind bars, and today white women vote for men who hate women, because then, they think, those men won’t hate them. She made prison guards force-feed her. Emily Davison threw herself beneath the King’s horse. Businessmen beat Clara Lemlich in the streets. Dred Scott sued for his freedom and was told, you are not a person, you have no standing, you do not stand here.

Friday night, driving home, as police warned on the radio about riots and robberies that never happened, I saw a young man teaching a child to ride a bike in the parking lot beside a shabby convenience store. That store gets held up, once a month or so. The young man pushed the child and shouted with joy when, wobbling, he righted himself and rode, rode, rode.

I have great good fortune, just at the moment. Work I love, friends I love, abundance in many things. Two soft cats, a warm snug house, new shoes for the winter. Soup and bread and books and a circle of arms around me: husband, daughter. I completed a fundraising project that may prove significant for decades. This year, after a long hiatus, I started writing for publication again.

I have great good fortune, just at the moment and I am incandescently angry, all the time. It feels like whiplash, the contrast between these moments of victory and warmth, and the reality that faces many, a reality I’ve been taking in since starting work as a journalist 20 years ago, when our guiding principle was the instruction never to close our eyes to suffering and injustice.

Oh, but you get bummed out? TOUGH SHIT. Land hard, roll left, and get back up.

I go into Kick’s room at night, after a late work event or watching The Handmaid’s Tale or reading another news story about a little kid in a cage, a little kid in the morgue. I go into Kick’s room and lay down next to her sleeping small body. I do not touch her. I listen to her move around in her warm, safe bed. I sweep her hair off the back of her neck and I listen to her breathe.

Mothers rocked their children, lay down beside them, watched their chests move in and out. Just like this, in times like these, knowing everything they have can be taken away from them. How do you hold onto anything, knowing everything that happens? How do you remember the war when the war isn’t over? How do you survive the next one, when the war isn’t over?

We’re fast coming on to the dark, when we’ll be draping our homes in strings of stars and inviting strangers to come inside by the fire. How do we do that, when there aren’t enough fires, or enough rooms, or enough stars?

On Friday it felt like the world holding its breath: Here in Chicago, to see if a white cop who murdered a black teenager would be convicted, and he was. In DC, to see if the words of women would be enough to keep a rapist from a throne, and they weren’t. This time of year always feels like something to push through, and every time we lose a few people. I have great good fortune just at the moment and I am watching it from the outside, with unearned dread.

Like maybe it won’t be enough this time. Light the candles anyway. An immigrant family comes over for Halloween and their children laugh with mine, a cousin’s wedding brings together family too infrequently all in the same place, and last night I discovered that my daughter loves it when I talk in a silly voice like a robot, read her stories clipped and stilted to make her laugh. Our finest hours are always at someone else’s expense and it’s not a bummer to say that, it’s not a slur. Accounting isn’t blaming. Recognition isn’t erasure.

Susan, writing to her friends up there, didn’t dream of the ability to lay down her burdens and rest. She didn’t dream of a time without conflict, a far-off day of comity and comfort. She dreamed of a time when she and her sisters could do the work they wanted to do, without the fetters of prejudice. They wanted to fight, and were told they couldn’t, and every single day they screamed in frustration that they deserved to be able to. It was the worst feeling in the world.

I say this all the time, and most of the time I believe it, guys: The work’s never done. Earlier this year I rejoined a cause I’d left out of exhaustion and frustration and put my hands to it in a way I’d never done before, no holding back, no hesitation over looking ridiculous. And I felt so much better than I had in the two years since I’d left it, so much better working my fingers into callouses and driving hours by myself at night to get things done. Even the horrible hard parts felt better than the rest and relaxation.

That’s what we’re longing for right now, not a break from the world, but to find a handhold in it, a wheel to which we can lay our shoulders. These four weeks, these few days, under shrinking daylight, are us all holding our breath. Not waiting, not still, but burning through to something that feels like the humming of a rail miles before the train arrives, a current beneath the sandy floor, coming, coming, coming.

It’s always dark. There’s never enough room. Shove over a little, this time, will you? See if we can’t make some more.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Cate Blanchett Edition

I’ve been madly in love with her since Veronica Guerin (if you’re thinking a lot about press freedom these days, go watch that NOW), but between this and Ocean’s 8 it’s become very special recently: 

Like you, I have heard the gut-wrenching accounts. Stories of grave torture, of women brutally violated, people who have had their loved ones killed before their eyes. Children who have seen their grandparents locked in houses that were set alight.

I am a mother, and I saw my children in the eyes of every single refugee child I met. I saw myself in every parent. How can any mother endure seeing her child thrown into a fire?

Their experiences will never leave me.

People will occasionally ask on Twitter for a list of celebrities who aren’t garbage and she’s always on mine.

A.

Self taught, self made, bet, self styled

This, pretty much:

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

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

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

A.

Not Everything Sucks: The Thai Cave Rescues

One thing y’all might not know about me is that I’m fascinated with cave rescues. It may have something to do with an overactive imagination or reading Robert Penn Warren’s novel The Cave or repeated viewings of Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole. Whatever the reason, I find them fascinating as well as creepy since I’m mildly claustrophobic.

The tale of the twelve trapped Thai boys has been riveting. I’ve been reading as much coverage as I can lay my eyes on. The Guardian has been all over the story with ace Asia reporter Michael Safi on the scene.

The news as of this writing is good: a total of 8 boys have been rescued by the skilled and courageous dive team. And they’re going back in to finish the mission.

I don’t know about you but I really needed this rare good news. This week is gonna be another downer with the Supreme Court pageant tonight and Trumpy’s trip to Europe to browbeat and bully our allies and suck up to our adversary.

Back to Michael Safi in Mae Sai. My favorite detail in this morning’s story was this:

The boys who were rescued on Sunday were strong and safe but needed to undergo detailed medical checks, the interior minister, Anupong Paojinda, had said earlier on Monday.

“This morning they complained that they were hungry and they asked for khao pad krapow [basil chicken with rice].”

Who among us doesn’t like comfort food? Hell, who among us doesn’t like Thai food?

For instant updates, follow Michael Safi on twitter.

Repeat after me: Everything doesn’t suck.

Where They Cross, The Place is Holy

Civility, restaurants, and what we expect in society: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which is funny, but is also about time stopping.

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

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

Around “our” country.

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

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

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

A.

Tenure: Thanks for fucking it up for everybody else

I’ve written before here about the fundamental misunderstanding most people have about tenure, including why it matters, how it works and what it’s supposed to provide. The simplest explanation is that tenure guarantees educators and scholars at institutions of higher education the right to fearlessly challenge convention within a field, seek scholarship in areas that might not jibe with social norms and conduct research in ways their expertise dictates is necessary and valuable.

It’s not meant to protect you when you act like a dick.

Unfortunately, the public seems to think that tenure does this, which is why they’re constantly looking for ways to eliminate it. The term “life time employment” is bandied about whenever tenure is discussed, as is the idea of ivory towers, elitism and generally haughty assholes.

And, again, when people like Randa Jarrar and John McAdams are in the news, it’s easy to see why the public thinks this way.

Jarrar, a creative-writing professor at Fresno State, took to Twitter in the wake of Barbara Bush’s death to call her “racist” and accuse her of having raised “a war criminal.” (I’m assuming she meant Millie, but I could be wrong.)

barbara

She then followed up with this gem:

In another tweet, the professor wrote: “I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeee.”

Of course, everything is subtle and nuanced on Twitter, so she completely solved the problem of a grieving nation in less than 280 characters…

Or, a large group of angry Twitter users started spreading this dung pile like Nutella all over the place, allowing CAPS LOCK NATION to come flailing at this educator.

And of course, because Twitter is a place of reason, logic and decency, Jarrar said she understood their point, she did not wish to continue the argument and she quietly let the issue die…

OR, she decided to fuck with each and every one of them over and over again, including posting what was supposedly her private phone number, but actually turned out to be a suicide prevention hotline in Arizona. This led to CAPS LOCK NATION flooding the center with threatening calls and preventing actual work from getting done, so that was helpful…

Still, of all the stupid shit that came out of this, the one that really had me considering a CAPS LOCK NATION MEMBERSHIP CARD was her mention that she had tenure and then this:

“I will never be fired.”

Fresno State says it’s “looking into the matter” which means that six people are now in a room going, “So… that happened…” Still, it’s better than what Marquette University is dealing with this week, thanks to an angry tenured professor on the other end of the political spectrum.

John McAdams is the poli sci prof and “everybody’s asshole grandpa in every bad comedy film” who used his blog as a cudgel against colleagues and foes alike. The university had a stack of paper on this guy dating back to the Clinton administration, all of which basically demonstrating he’s the exact reason people think tenure is a “Designated Asshole Pass.”

The U apparently found the straw that broke the camel’s back in McAdams’ post about a grad student teaching a class, in which a conservative student voiced an opinion the instructor found to be homophobic. McAdams posted about her by name and apparently encouraged people to “let your voice be heard,” which is a great code phrase for “break out the caps lock and call her a whore.” He apparently also was hostile to her, to the point where she dropped out of her program and finished elsewhere.

MU suspended McAdams and he’s now at the state’s Supreme Court, suing to get his job back. His argument is that tenure protects him and that his “free speech” on the blog should not allow for retaliation. (Point of order: Marquette is a private school, so this gets even weirder, as the court is clearly figuring out…)

So, to recap, two people who have diametrically opposing belief systems and who teach in two fields that just scream to John Q. Public “If my kid majors in this, he’s never getting a fucking job,” are espousing their rights to be assholes. They also are arguing their dickish behavior is protected by tenure so, “neener, neener, neeeeennnerrr…”

And academics wonder why people hate us…

Tenure is supposed to be a shield against the encroachment of external forces as we use our expertise to find out greater truths and research complex problems that may go against the societal grain. Running your mouth on social media and then hiding behind your “big friend” isn’t what anyone had in mind for this thing. Even more, all it does is really fuck over the rest of us who are actually doing those things and understand there is a concept called objective reality, something you bypassed long ago.

We’re like the people who are in a fraternity who have good GPAs, do good philanthropy work and then have to explain, “No, we’re not those idiots from Syracuse.” No matter what we say, people are still giving us the stink eye.

So, on behalf of the actual working scholars, academics and people who teach without managing to say shit like “y’know what’s wrong with the Coloreds these days,” I’d like to thank professors Jarrar and McAdams and others who think tenure is a lifetime “get out of fuckups free card,” thank you for fucking this up for the rest of us.

 

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – “If you’ve got it, flout it” edition

Sorry – all out of “Stormy” puns.  (Adrastos already used the best ones).

Soooooo…..

Stormy Daniels, Flouting NDA, Details Trump Affair To ‘60 Minutes’
Yahoo! ^ | 26/3/18 | Rebecca Shapiro

Posted on 3/25/2018, 6:28:18 PM by Eleutheria5

…..

Though the adult film star previously denied the affair, she’s now arguing that she should be released from the agreement and be free to speak publicly of her former relationship with Trump as the president did not sign the document.

Cohen has admitted to paying Daniels $130,000. Trump’s lawyers are threatening to make her pay $1 million every time she violates the nondisclosure agreement. The White House has denied any affair occurred.

“He knows I’m telling the truth,” Daniels said of the president.

The adult film star and her lawyer Michael Avenatti have claimed before she has photographic evidence of her affair with Trump.

Just so you know the latest MSM ploy.
So now The Darnold fucking a porn star while his wife sits home with their young son is a “ploy”. Good to know.
I don’t care if he did.
Yeah – we’ve kinda figured that out already.
I don’t care if he didn’t. But we have to keep abreast of all the latest sleazoid tactics, so we know what not to give a sh!t about.
1 posted on 3/25/2018, 6:28:18 PM by Eleutheria5
Oh – and now you can type “shit” on Free Republic as long as you replace the “i” with an exclamation point.  Also good to know.
To: Eleutheria5

 

This world has become a Jerry Springer show.

3 posted on3/25/2018, 6:30:12 PM by lilypad

Well, when you vote for a reality show schmuck, exactly what did you expect?
To: Eleutheria5 

Do I care if she slept with the President?

So you don’t care if she did?

Except he wasn’t President when it allegedly happened.

So you do care if he did, but you don’t because the election hadn’t happened yet?

If I want to watch porn, I’ll go to Pornhub.

Apparently, you’re not the only one.

.

TrumpStormyPorn

.

Stormy Daniels’ account is yesterday’s news. Yawn.

7 posted on 3/25/2018, 6:34:05 PM by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)

Nope.  I just looked, and it’s still today’s news.  Even on FOX.
To: Eleutheria5

 

This issue is not what did or did not happen
The whore sold her story for $130K and now wants to break the contract
If courts let this happen, NDA’s are useless

11 posted on 3/25/2018, 6:36:33 PM by silverleaf (A man who kneels for the national anthem doesn’t stand for much of anything)

“The NDA took my baby away…..”
To: Eleutheria5 

Her story is preposterous. She had to have sex because she made a bad decision going to his room alone.

She HAD to have sex? Or he HAD to ask her to?

The woman is a PORN star.

32 posted on 3/25/2018, 6:44:56 PM by Williams (Stop tolerating the intolerant.)

How dare you! She’s a porn-again christian.
To: Bogie 

I’m not buying a word she says.

So you don’t believe her?

She’s worried about her daughter?

So you DO believe her?

Maybe she should of(sic) thought of her daughter when she chose her career,

Her career wasn’t fucking The Darnold, as I recall. Nobody from the porn industry came up to her and threatened her family if she ever made another film.

She’s just not credible.

54 posted on 3/25/2018, 6:52:49 PM by surrey

Read more after the “read more”…
.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Equivalents

During CPAC a lot of people asked where the Left’s CPAC was, and people offered up options, like maybe Netroots Nation had been at one point something like that, and lots of wingnuts think college campuses are basically CPAC every day.

And people are asking, now, what the equivalent of the NRA is for the Left, like what is the lobby that’s bought most of our congressmen and is presumed so powerful that nobody can cross it. Planned Parenthood? But there are anti-abortion Democrats as well as those who favor SOME abortion restriction, and so far as I know there are no anti-gun Republicans in any way at all so they’re only equivalent if you ignore the role of power.

And I know saying that makes me sound like some kind of insane sophomore Marxist poser but making college kids who don’t want to listen to that Milo creature out to be the equal opposite of a national news network is insane. Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon may say the occasional dumb thing but they’re not on TV coast-to-coast every single night. PETA doesn’t command the phones of every member of the U.S. Senate.

So who’s the opposite of the NRA? Children who don’t want to be shot?

I forget who said this first: Our society is so structured on binaries that we think cats are the opposite of dogs. We put two things next to each other and decide that because they’re both there, they must be in conflict.

“SJWs” on college campuses have killed exactly nobody and lack government sanction even if they had. In living memory the National Guard of the United States of America has marched onto campus and shot protesters dead.

Black Lives Matter is not the opposite of the police. Black people are not the opposite of the police. Gay people are not the opposite of guns.

It’s not just a question of if they’re actually saying things that oppose one another, with equal strength and coherence.

It’s whether what they say, what they do, what they stand for, will have equal consequences. Carry equal weight.

Murder the same number of people.

Until the body count of the Weathermen reaches that of Richard Nixon & Henry Kissinger I don’t want to hear about how the anti-war movement “went too far” and nobody who marched on Washington in 2003 blew off the limbs of any Iraqi schoolchildren. Black Lives Matter want cops to stop shooting black people without consequences.

There is no equivalent conference on the Left hosting the President of the United States while selling “rope. tree. NRA lobbyist” shirts on the side. And while I’m glad of that, for our immortal souls, it’s easy to lament the difference.

But only if you remember that the difference is the power of who shows up.

A.

Good night, Jack Hamilton

(Posting a bit early because of a sad bit of news. Hope it’s acceptable. – Doc.)

Of all the baubles and trinkets I’ve collected over the years that adorn my office, one of my favorite ones is a baseball signed by Jack Hamilton, who died earlier today.

Hamilton

The reason I got it was that I taught one of his grandchildren during one of my many stops in journalism education. I still remember her approaching me during our introductory reporting course to ask for special dispensation when it came to her profile.

“I know you said that we can’t do this on family members, but…” she began.

I had heard all sorts of excuses over the years: “I don’t have time to find anyone else,” or “My mom is my hero” or “I don’t know who else I’d do.”

I kind of did that “Justify your existence” thing and said, “Who and why?”

The answer was “My grandfather and he used to pitch in the major leagues.”

I decided it would be OK. After all, I let some kid do a piece on her grandmother because she was Jerry “Beaver Cleaver” Mathers’ mom, so why not a pitcher? Besides, I liked baseball. It was only after she turned in the piece that I realized who this man was.

Jack Hamilton had a relatively pedestrian career record of 32-40 during the heart of the 1960s. He bottomed out with Cleveland and the White Sox in 1969, going 0-5 before retiring. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, he wasn’t a giant, but a solid man who could mix his pitches well. His best season ended up being his most memorable one for all the wrong reasons.

In 1967, he started 2-0 for the New York Mets, who sent him to the Angels for Nick Willhite, who would retire from the game following a 0-1 campaign for New York that season. He was 8-2 and on the way to his only double-digit winning season on Aug. 18 when he threw the pitch that would define his career.

“It was a fastball that just got away.” I remember reading that line in my student’s profile. It stuck with me all these years and it hung with me today. I never heard the man’s voice, but I can hear it over and over in my head.

The one that “got away” smashed into the head of Boston’s Tony Conigliaro, a promising slugger who had already hit 100 home runs faster than any man in the game. The pitch fractured Tony C’s cheekbone, dislocated his jaw and damaged his retina. He sat out all of 1968 and would never really become the player everyone thought he would be.

Hamilton finished the season with an 11-6 record, but he too would never be the same.

“I had trouble pitching inside,” he told his grand-daughter. I didn’t blame him.

I remember reading that profile my student wrote, almost in awe and yet almost in shame. I felt like I was leering in on this man’s most difficult moment. I was thinking, Good God, man… you let this student ask her grandfather about all this? The hell is wrong with you? Still, I had to grade the thing so I kept on reading and I was glad I did.

He left baseball and settled in Branson, Missouri, where opened up several restaurants and raised a family. People liked him for who he was then, not because he was “a former baseball player.” He was just a great guy.

A year or two later, the student was working in the newsroom near Thanksgiving when we started chatting about something or other and she mentioned she was going home for the break.

“Are you seeing your grandpa?” I asked. “If so, tell him I loved reading about him.”

She said she was and that he’d be glad to hear that someone liked reading his story. I laughed a bit and tossed in a line: “Tell him I’d love to have his autograph.”

When she returned from Thanksgiving, she handed me a baseball. She had explained our exchange to her grandfather and my ask, he got this great big smile on his face and asked, “Really?” He then went out and actually bought a baseball so he could sign it for me. (I would have taken a turkey-stained napkin, for Pete’s sake.) His hand writing was a tad jittery, but right across the sweet spot, he inked his autograph for me.

I bought a plastic container to display it and subsequently found a 1968 copy of his baseball card. It was amazing but I could really see the family resemblance between that man on the card and his grand daughter in my class. I found it to be a nice reminder of a wonderful moment.

He also served as a reminder to me about how life can mix things up on you from time to time, but in the end, if you know who you are and you value the right things, everything will turn out OK. When I finished reading the profile on him, I felt I knew him and how he had become comfortable in his own skin.

He was just the kind of person you’d want as a grandpa.

So, good night, Mr. Hamilton. I hope you are at peace knowing you really were an incredible man.

Parsing the Medill #MeToo Debacle

Yes, even at the Jesus H. Christ School of Journalism Gods, people can be total dipshits:

Ten women released an open letter on Wednesday accusing Northwestern University Professor Alec Klein of persistent sexual harassment and bullying since he has been at the helm of the school’s “crown jewel” investigative journalism program.

Calling it the storied journalism school’s “#MeToo Moment,” the eight former students and two former staffers of the Medill Justice Project wrote that Klein’s “controlling, discriminatory, emotionally and verbally abusive behavior has to end.”

Klein, who has been at Northwestern for a decade and in charge of the Justice Project since 2011, has taken a leave of absence while the university sorts out all the allegations brought forth in the letter. This is likely to take some time, as a) digging into charges that range back five or more years isn’t easy and b) the women who signed the letter set up an email address for others to use if they want to add their stories regarding Klein and his behavior toward them.

Klein’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltenberg, issued a statement that really does a nice job of making him look guilty as hell:

“While Mr. Klein denies the allegations that are being made, he intends to respect the confidentiality and privacy of Northwestern University and its internal process,” Miltenberg wrote. “It is unfortunate that these allegations are being made in a rush to judgment, denying Mr. Klein of due process. We are confident that upon review, the allegations will be determined to have been unfounded.”

If you are playing “clearly guilty bingo jargon,” you probably got the cover-all here: “denies allegations,” “respect the confidentiality” “respect the… process,” “rush to judgment,” “due process” and unfounded allegations.

Klein, for his part, issued a letter that blamed all of this on a “disgruntled employee” and then pivoted to how great his teaching evaluations have been.

The university conducted an extensive investigation, interviewing current and former employees, former students and others, and reviewing emails, expenses and other records. The complaint was determined to be completely unfounded. I was cleared of any wrongdoing and the claim was dismissed. The university determined the complainant was not credible and documented, through records and her own words, several falsehoods in her charges.

Klein, a journalist, needs to be a little more accurate here. According to media reports, the claim was not “completely unfounded,” but rather it was a situation where the U declined to roll the dice on pursuing it because it didn’t think it had enough to get the goods on him. It’s like that line from “And the Band Played On,” about what do we think, what do we know and what can we prove? In this case, you couldn’t prove the situation was rotten but it did have some serious stank on it. The school paid Olivia Pera off and as part of the payoff, the rule was that she couldn’t reapply for a job, not that she would want to:

 

“I went through absolute hell,” Pera said. “My family saw me go through such personality changes. My son saw me crying every day. That’s not something your kid should see. I have nothing but bad memories of Northwestern.”

The allegations regarding Klein are problematic, and there is nothing I would like more than to jump up and down on this guy. I have frequently come out against professors who treat students like sexual canapes, the arrogance of the elitism that comes with places like the Med-Dildo land that is that journalism school and people who are generally sleazy fucksticks. That said, there are really two sets of allegations here and they need to be separated before hanging this guy from a yardarm.

First set: He’s a sexually sleazy, lecherous fuck:

And let’s be clear: Some of us have also experienced sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.

  • He attempted to kiss a prospective employee, prior to hiring her. On the same occasion, he asked if she smoked marijuana and asked to smoke with her and ordered her several cocktails.

  • He asked a female employee to come to his hotel room “for drinks” on a business trip.

  • He gave unwanted neck massages while a female employee was trying to work.

  • He asked for a hug in return for giving an employee a requested day off.

  • He made other unwarranted physical contact, such as grabbing a student’s hand during conversations

  • He made sexually graphic remarks at work

  • He talked about his sex life and pressed for explicit details about others’

  • He frequently commented on employees’ physical attractiveness, appearances, attire and bodies

  • He told female students they would be good fits for broadcast journalism because they were “good-looking.

  • He asked if an employee was having another baby when she mentioned that her stomach hurt

  • He asked an employee if she was a stripper

  • He sent texts “intended for his wife” to a female

 

I’ll give him a pass on the text issue, as my Twitter followers have often been subjected to the, “So do we still need milk?” Tweets when I fucked up and hit the wrong button. Other than that… What the fuck? Your students are not a smorgasbord of pussy, so knock it off. And as for the asking the woman back to your hotel room thing, could you be any more sleazy while still being cliche? If you’re not with your wife and you suddenly have that pent up dick rage you seem to possess, there is nothing dumber than what you attempted to do. Here’s some advice: Go back to your room, find that little bottle next to the conditioner and go fly a solo mission.

Second set of allegations: He’s a fucking miserable human being:

Let’s start breaking these into “zones of danger.”

  • He repeatedly accused students of insubordination and reprimanded them to the point of tears over minor or perceived offenses, such as pushing back on an editorial misjudgment or offering an alternative method to pursue an investigation, or agreeing with a peer’s suggestion instead of what Alec Klein proposed. Several of us were summoned into his office individually, made to sit on a short cushion in a corner as he hurled accusatory vitriol about our mistakes and then refused to accept any apology. He sometimes retaliated by lowering students’ final term grades even though these disagreements had nothing to do with academics.

  • He retaliated against an employee by giving her a poor performance review after she defended herself against his verbal abuse.

  • He has yelled at employees and students and accused them of “ignoring him” for not immediately answering his phone calls or emails — at times, outside of working hours, or when one employee was on vacation, despite her returning his call within a few minutes.

  • He continued to show retaliatory behavior after discovering that students went to senior staff at Medill to voice their concerns about him.

  • He was openly dismissive in class to a student who struggled with English and made it apparent that he did not like her Middle Eastern accent. According to this student, he “killed” her confidence and made her feel like “nothing,” and he screamed at and hung up on her friend whom she had put on the phone with him for help.

The concept of retaliation, reprimand and dismissiveness are often in the eye of the beholder, especially in student-faculty relationships. Not saying these things didn’t happen, but on occasion students aren’t as amazing as they think they are and any attempt to demonstrate that is likely to lead to “melting snowflakes.” It also pains me to say this, but I have found that students at some of the best (as in most prestigious, highest ranked etc.) institutions are the ones that are the least able to deal with hearing that they don’t quite measure up. If I had a nickel for every time a kid blamed a bad grade on me or cried over not being told he or she was perfect in every way, I wouldn’t need a job any more. This group needs more cooking before it becomes soup.

Chunk two:

  • He has said: “You aren’t as smart as you think you are ”

  • He has said: “You will never be a journalist.”

  • He told one of us, after learning her mother is a professional writer: “Your mother is a writer, I’d expect you to be a better writer.”

  • He told one of us she needed an A- to earn his recommendation. He later promised a male student in the same class a recommendation in exchange for a B+.

  • He scolded employees for “taking too much credit” for their work and in one instance denied any credit until proof was provided.

When I hear back from students years later, I find out that a lot of shit came rolling out of my mouth that I can’t believe actually did. Part of it is working in a newsroom environment. Part of it is finding the need to buzz a kid with a fastball to back him or her off the plate a bit. Part of it was that I fucked up and learned that I needed to smooth off some of the rough edges. Part of it is that I’m just a dick sometimes, despite my best efforts.

I’ve said the first one, I’m sure. The second one was actually said to me when I was in high school, by a female teacher. She told me that not only would I never be a journalist, but that I’d never be ANYTHING and that I needed to go to a trade school if I wanted to be able to support a family. The third one is weird. The fourth one is something that I could easily see happening. I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday as opposed to who I promised what to whom. The last one, again, some kids need to get backed off the plate or forced to prove stuff. Even students I’ve had dead to rights on plagiarism or other such things would deny it and threaten and bluster until I literally had to say, “You bring your proof and I’ll bring mine and we’ll see what the U has to say.” Then, they fucking crumbled. If these items alone were the basis for a complaint, I could see how the admin would wave this off and call it a day.

CHUNK 3:

  • He often required excessive and unnecessary closed-door meetings during which he pressed several of us to divulge deeply personal details about our lives, only to later use this information against us as a tool of manipulation.

  • He questioned whether an employee had actually attended her grandfather’s funeral after she had requested and taken the day off.

  • He has said about and to female students that they are “too emotional” and “immature.”

This is really problematic stuff in that a) it shows a gender bias and b) it infuses him into the private lives of his students and employees. The gender thing is already discussed above. The other one is something that is an issue because we have to draw lines as faculty and prevent ourselves from crossing them. I have always told newsroom students that I don’t care who you’re sleeping with or what you’re drinking or where you threw up last night. That’s none of my business. However, if I can’t get photos for the front page because my design editor was sleeping with the photo editor, but now they broke up and they’re not talking… OK, NOW I have to care.

I think logically that a lot of this stuff in chunks one and two wouldn’t be as horribly problematic if it weren’t for the first set of allegations (stuff on the harassment) and the last chunk of section two (getting involved in their business). Yes, this isn’t nice workplace behavior in those other two subsections, but I found out something once about stuff like this: There’s no law that prevents people from being an asshole at work.

I had a long discussion with HR and with a harassment specialty lawyer when I was getting knocked around by a particularly shitty colleague in ways like those listed in the two  (non-sex stuff) chunks. I was told, “Look, this isn’t good and he shouldn’t be able to do this, but there is no law against him being a dick.” I wasn’t pleased with that answer, but I got it.

However, there ARE laws about getting your business into my private business. There ARE laws about keeping your fucking hands to yourself and not treating everyone like they’re a fuckdoll with a personality, installed at work for your amusement.

And those laws need to be enforced everywhere, including this situation.

The law and justice in the life of a parent in the Larry Nassar case

On occasion, the law doesn’t do what we want it to do. It’s a byproduct of our attempt to remain civilized in the face of uncivilized behavior. It’s a byproduct of being “the more powerful force” or “the better person” when we are forced to confront something truly horrific. Without this level of decorum and rule of law, we would be no better than animals and tyrants, we are told.

And all of those things are right. All of those things are true. We can’t just attack people for what we perceive to be inappropriate or illegal actions that wrong us or others. The law is what protects the weakest and the most disenfranchised among us. Without the law, all of the positive strides made by people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and immigrants would be cast aside and only the white, rich and powerful would thrive.

I get it. I really, really get it.

And yet, sometimes… sometimes, polite society isn’t going to get us where we want to go. Sometimes, there isn’t enough years on a sentence or enough words to reveal our anger. Sometimes, we just can’t with the whole idea of “being a better person” or “knowing there is a special place in Hell for people like this.”

As pitcher Gene Brabender once noted in “Ball Four” about certain situations, “Where I’m from we talk for a while and then we start hitting.”

To say I condone the actions of Randall Margraves today would be difficult. I’m supposed to be more calm and rational than the monster that is Larry Nassar. I’m supposed to be more dignified than the scourge of anger or the fury of rage. I’m supposed to be better than this.

Unfortunately, I’m not. I totally get it.

My kid was in gymnastics for a short while and every day, I thought about the issues that are often associated with that sport. It carries a huge risk of injury, body dysmorphia, social awkwardness, biological alteration and more. It carries with it a huge commitment, both financial and physical. It draws on some of the worst instincts of parents and competitors (trust me, I sat in that observation deck and had to put on headphones to avoid the horrible things parents said about other kids and their own). I let it ride until she was about 7 when we decided to make her choose gymnastics or karate and we kind of nudged her toward karate.

I never once thought, “Hey, if she gets hurt I wonder if there’s a child-molesting asshole there ready to pop a couple fingers into the inner recesses of her body for his own sick pleasure.”

I never once thought, “I bet if there is a guy like that, he’ll be protected, covered for and overall allowed to do it to the point where CNN needs a goddamned scoreboard to keep track of the accusers.”

I didn’t think these things and that makes me terrified and it makes me understand guys like Randall Margraves. He knew all the “real” risks associated with this sport his kids loved. He understood the issues that come with this and how hard it is for people like his daughters to compete at the highest level. He accepted them and trusted the sport, the team and the support staff.

To be hit with something like a Larry Nassar is to be blindsided in a way that makes you question everything you are as a parent. To have to sit there and listen to lawyers parse the “degree” to which something happened or how the number of potential victims is really “not believable” has got to be more than even the most decent human being can withstand.

In a vacuum or in theory, we should condemn someone like Randall Margraves for his actions because, well, it’s just not what we do.

In practice, I’m surprised nobody tried this sooner.