Category Archives: Do Something

Disbar Hawley & Cruz

Josh Hawley’s pasty white fist is one of the indelible images of the Dipshit Insurrection. I’ve promoted it from uprising to insurrection since hearing reports of how violent it was. Heckuva job, Hawley.

There’s much discussion about how to punish the ringleaders of the attempted electoral college negation: Senators Hawley and Cruz who doubled down on their assholery after the sack of the Capitol. I suggested that the senate censure them yesterday since the chances of an expulsion are slim and none and slim is hiding out with the dipshit rebels.

A friend sent me a link to a petition that is circulating in legal circles urging me to urge my lawyer friends to sign it. It has a delightful name: Petition To Disbar Senators Hawley and Cruz:

In leading the efforts to undermine the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election, Senators Hawley and Cruz attacked the foundations of our democracy. Nearly 160 million Americans exercised their right to vote in the November 2020 election. Dozens of courts rejected unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, and the Electoral College formally ratified President-elect Biden’s victory on December 14, 2020. Despite these clear expressions of the will of the people—and with full knowledge of the implications of their actions—Senators Hawley and Cruz publicly announced their intentions to object to Congress’s certification of the Electoral College’s votes set for January 6, 2021.

In doing so, Senators Hawley and Cruz directly incited the January 6th insurrection, repeating dangerous and unsubstantiated statements regarding the election and abetting the lawless behavior of President Trump. A violent mob attacked the U.S. Capitol. Five people have died. The nation and the world watched as rioters took over the very halls and chambers that embody our democracy. Yet after the violence and terror of the day’s events, Senators Hawley and Cruz still chose to stand in the chamber of the U.S. Senate and persist in their baseless objections to the will of the people.

I originally didn’t plan to sign it as I’m on the Louisiana Bar Association’s inactive list but decided to go for it after disclosing my current status. I’ll let the folks behind the drive decide how to handle it.

Any lawyers reading this should sign even you’re not admitted in Missouri, Texas, or the District of Columbia. This hits Hawley and Tailgunner Ted where they live. Both are fond of bragging about their Ivy League legal bona fides. Yale or Harvard cannot rescind their law degrees, but this would be a kick in the ego for both men.

Try as they might they cannot wash off the insurrection stink.

Update: YOU DID IT!! First Draft Food Pantry Fund

Update: YOU DID IT YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARDS!

Yesterday I had the rockin’ job of calling up the directors of the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry (who happen to be my aunt and uncle) and telling them I was sending them a check for $1,500 so that every single family that gets a Christmas food basket from them this year will also get a gift card to buy presents for their kids.

In a normal year the pantry would run a MASSIVE toy drive and distribute everything from stuffed animals to bikes, but it involves multiple volunteers, hours of going in and out of places to collect donations and drop them off, and families lined up to choose things at a time when the virus is out of control in their neighborhood. Everyone’s been really understanding about it, but it’s hard on the little kids to have nothing to put under the tree.

You’ve made it so that they can. You’ve given hundreds of families a terrific holiday season. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Two Weeks

Two weeks, cats and kittens. Increasingly I have nothing, due to the sheer avalanche of bullshit and my own pressing need not to lose my grip on reality. Clench your fists, sharpen your teeth and get ready.

 

In no particular order:

  1. If we want everything to get back to “normal” we need to close down stadiums, restaurants, bars and performances, and pay all those people what they’d be making anyway. I don’t give a fuck, okay, about the owners of restaurant chains but if it takes a giant bailout for whoever owns six IHOPs to pay the people who clean those IHOPs then fine, do it.
  2. If we want schools to reopen then game this out for me: However much it would cost to send, basically, the Army Corps of Engineers to every school in America tomorrow to install state-of-the-art rich-lady-hospital quality HVAC with UV filters or whatever the hell in every single school in the land, we should pay that. It’ll have the added benefit of schoolkids not needing to wear parkas indoors and/or suffer heatstroke in June, but mostly it will help ensure kids can go back to school safely. Because …
  3. NOTHING gets better until the kids go back to school full-time. I’m sorry, childfree people, I was one of you and it blows to be held hostage to breeders like this, but our entire lives depend on doctors and bus drivers being able to work a full day. You can’t do that with part-time, hybrid, half-the-week-here, half-the-week-there schedules that throw everything into chaos. Kick’s school district keeps sending out emails that are like “what about a rotating once-a-full-moon day in class” and that’s fine for me, but a firefighter can’t just, like, blow off the rest of the shift and work from home and I’m pretty sure they don’t let kindergarteners actually ride in the ladder truck.
  4. NATIONAL MASK MANDATE. I don’t know how “staying alive by wearing a small piece of cloth over your face during the time you have to leave your house” became something only liberal pussies do, I really don’t. It’s not that hard to rally America to do something. The GOP managed to do it for two unwinnable wars and the election of Donald Trump, you’d think they could get their own feral caucus under control on the side of “even if we hate the governors of blue states we can work with these dicks just once so that our voters survive.” It’s not like they even have to stop being pricks. Be as mean as you want, wear a mask that says “Hillary’s a cunt,” that’s your free speech, just wear a mask so you don’t get any of it on me and mine.
  5. Once and for all time we are one country, not a collection of safe areas and danger zones. I can accept there are things Colorado has to deal with that Florida doesn’t and vice versa but if we all have a disease that crosses state lines we need solutions that do, too. This shouldn’t be complicated. This shouldn’t be hard. And the people who are making it difficult need to be identified and voted out.

So like this is the shit Joey B. Shark has to deal with on day one. Which necessitates the Senate, and not just a one- or two-asshole majority in the Senate. If Joe Manchin or some other dickhead can hold the whole place hostage every time someone doesn’t give him a rub and a tug just right then that’s not a majority, not the kind we need. Joe is 77 years old, I know Kamala’s right there but we do not exactly have a lot of time for the kind of cheap shit that went on during Obama’s two terms. Vote with your caucus or GTFO.

THEN we have to fix literally every agency and re-hire all the civil servants who quit, if they even want to come back, like would you. That’s if we have a clear decision on election night and a peaceful smooth transition STOP LAUGHING IT’S NOT FUNNY.

If, in two weeks, the cities are on fire and Trump is declaring victory, well, then, we will still have to do these things, and then I don’t see any way out of this that doesn’t involve jail time. I said this in 2004 and I meant it then, but I really mean it now, we’ve got two weeks. Whatever you’ve been doing, do it more.

A.

What Joe Biden Hasn’t Done

Hasn’t condemned looting and property damage that follow protests.

Hasn’t put the flag in the background of the Democratic Convention or in any commercials or campaign events.

Hasn’t mentioned God and/or took God out of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Is going to take away people’s guns.

“You are actively trying to amend your Second Amendment right and take away our guns,” the man said.

“You’re full of s—,” Biden replied, adding that “I support the Second Amendment.”

Opposes law and order. 

Hates police.

I can do this all day, you know. I can line-by-line refute what’s being shared around various circles and pages that might be owned by people you know or might be run out of a Fox shop or might be backed by Daily Caller pieces or might just be horseshit of the worst possible kind. I can show everyone where they’re wrong.

Are they going to listen to me? Or am I just some liberal loudmouth who hates their freedom and wants to destroy America? Or is there going to be another list full of other items that are terrible, of things Joe Biden has done and not done? And after I fact-check that list, another?

I’m not sure it matters what Joe does or doesn’t say. The past 7 days have been an object lesson in the power of Fox News, Facebook and other right-leaning partisan media in driving a false narrative about what Joe Biden and the Democrats do and don’t do.

I’m honestly not sure if the truth matters to people who are looking to express defensiveness and belligerence instead of honest political views. I’m honestly not sure there’s any profit in handing out Pinocchios to people who are still “for” their team and “against” the other one, citing issues that don’t exist and can’t be proven beyond a copypasta from your neighbor who knows a guy who heard from someone.

I’ve been tired of the meme wars since 2016 and my exhaustion has tipped over into aversion.

I don’t actually disagree with Michael Moore here: 

“I’m warning you almost 10 weeks in advance. The enthusiasm level for the 60 million in Trump’s base is OFF THE CHARTS! For Joe, not so much,” he later added.

He continued to voters: “Don’t leave it to the Democrats to get rid of Trump. YOU have to get rid of Trump. WE have to wake up every day for the next 67 days and make sure each of us are going to get a hundred people out to vote. ACT NOW!”

That I can give you those links, that I can check every fact, verify every statement, plus name four people who won’t be able to stay in this country if he has his way, that I can name 10 directly affected in verifiable personal ways by this administration to the adverse effect, holds no water with anyone when there’s a 24-7 propaganda network blaring that all violence is leftist violence. That Joe Biden would make it worse. That we have no choice but to re-elect Trump in some act of aggression against all the forces of the 21st century “ruining” America including some, let’s be honest, over which not even Trump has control.

Trump cannot make athletes play if they don’t want to. He cannot make the movies show the stories you want them to show. He cannot dictate that everyone be nicer to the cops. Don’t you think he would have if he could? The things people are so angry about — that the world doesn’t look like our past ideas of it, that nothing is the same anymore and the world is full of indignities and nonsense that drive us insane in a million little ways — those aren’t even all his fault.

But they’re part and parcel, aren’t they, of voting for him, since the same people who like the athletes and the movies like the Democrats? Isn’t it all just one big morass? Isn’t that the thing we liberals fail to get, over and over and over, through loss after loss after loss? That it’s not this or that percent, it’s God and the flag and traditional American values against … against. That’s what we don’t understand, right? That’s why we keep losing to him?

I haven’t felt so tired or scared since this all started. Not even in the early days of the pandemic. We lose this and we lose it all. And I’m not going to yell at protesters for protesting or even violent looters for violently looting because if they listened to me would be the first time that train ever showed up and who the fuck am I anyway to tell someone who’s angry at decades of subjugation to just put that aside? I am going to say, and I am not usually THIS pessimistic, that if we do nothing but fact-check and post memes and yell on Facebook, Michael Moore’s going to be right.

ACT NOW means register voters. It means volunteer to drive people to the polls. It means continue to post information about how to vote by mail. It means vote by mail if you can. The lines have to be out the door. The mail has to be an avalanche. It can’t be contested. It can’t be close. It has to be overwhelming and beyond dispute. It has to be a landslide the likes of which we don’t even think are possible anymore. It has to be something we ain’t ever seen in all our livin’ lives.

Can we do that? I don’t know. I look at what’s arrayed against us and honestly, until this week I would have said we’ll be okay. I would have said we’ve got a prayer. Now? I’m looking at maps to find a crossroads and I’m stocking up on salt and shovels.

ACT NOW means if you have five bucks and you haven’t given it to a candidate who needs it you need to do that. ACT NOW means sign up to text and send postcards and make your friends and kids do it too. ACT NOW means get the fuck off your social media and stop fighting the meme wars, it’s stupid, it’s unproductive, and it’s fueling the despair that, once and for all time, is NOT A PLAN.

Make a plan. Because those things up there, that Joe Biden did and didn’t do? On election day they don’t mean anything. True or false.

A.

Another Mutual Aid Thread

All right.

It’s pretty definitively up to us, right? 

 America’s prodigious infection rates are also a testament to our own national failure — and therefore a source of existential ghastliness, of sheer perversity: Why on earth were so many of us sacrificing so much in these past four and a half months — our livelihoods, our social connections, our safety, our children’s schooling, our attendance at birthdays and anniversaries and funerals — if it all came to naught? At this point, weren’t we expecting some form of relief, a resumption of something like life?

 

We did this back at the start. What do people need? A connection, help with rent and groceries, what? People were pretty hosed before this dragged on for months and now it’s not going to be better until months from now, so how can those of us who can help help those of us who need it?

If you need something drop a note in the comments. If you can offer something drop a note in the comments. Don’t be ashamed or reluctant, everybody needs help sometimes, and those who can provide it and have read here this long know that our fate is your fate.

A.

New Orleans Needs Your Help

Dear First Draft Readers:

New Orleans needs your help again. The situation here is dire and getting worse. We have the 6th highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. It’s hard not to feel helpless in these terrible times but there are people trying to make a difference.

My friend and fellow Bayou Brief writer Troy Gilbert and local food writer Robert Peyton have a great idea about how to help our beleaguered restaurant industry. (Troy is one of the OG NOLA bloggers as well as one of the founders of Rising Tide.) Last week, Troy ran their idea by me, I was immediately impressed and urged them to go for it. Last weekend, Chef’s Brigade NOLA was born.

I’ll let them explain the details to you via two Facebook posts:

There’s a GoFundMe link at the bottom of the second post. Please join me in donating to help our restaurants survive and do what they do best: feed people.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

Thanks in advance,

Adrastos who is trying to keep the Spirit of ’05 alive.

Updates can be found after the break.

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First Draft Community Help Thread

On my way to work this morning I got on my usual bus, which was carrying its customary assortment of metropolitan itinerants in varying stages of consciousness and togetherness. At the next stop a young woman got on with a baby, maybe a little less than a year, and sat down, baby on lap. It was 8 a.m. and she had a look I’ve seen so many times in the mirror since I became a parent: The day has barely started and I am already so completely done.

The baby gummed fingers and pacifier and waved tiny hands in the air, and the homeless fellow across the bus took notice. Started talking to the baby. Leaning into the baby’s face, making silly noises, praising the baby. “Ooh, you’re a beauty. So pretty, so pretty!” The baby babbled happily back, and he started singing. The mother leaned back, head against the window, and closed her eyes. A moment’s peace. We can give that to each other.

Lots of us are going to be worn out by this, and not just emotionally, not just mentally. Lots of us are going to be, or already are, on the edge financially. On unpaid leave from jobs we can’t afford to stay away from, laid off because a conference or festival or expected customer doesn’t appear. I’d like to give us this thread as a way to help.

Are you in need? Can you help someone who is? Can we talk to each other, here, reply to a comment, post someone’s Venmo or CashApp or Paypal from another site, draw attention to a GoFundMe, ask if anyone knows anyone at such-and-such to help smooth the way?

Post it below. Don’t worry about asking, or if you can’t reply, but I thought it might be useful, while we’re all on this bus together, to offer a few words of encouragement to each other and maybe sing a song.

Giving Tuesday, Get On It

I know all y’all’s favorite nonprofits are all over you today because it’s Giving Tuesday but I wanted to find out if we, The Blog, could get together and raise some funds for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry this year.

Remember the pantry? It’s the one we started boosting back in 2016 to help out the folks most likely to be hurt by what we’re all now just calling The Way Things Are Nowadays.

Every year they do a MASSIVE toy drive for the little kids so they can have some holiday presents and they’re well-supplied, but need $500 for gift cards for the 50 or so older kids. Think about how in high school your buds want to go out for a burger, or over to the Starbucks to study, and you don’t have any money to buy anything. Wouldn’t you like to be able to give some kid the ability to feel normal for Christmas?

The pantry, run by my uncle and aunt, runs on a shoestring and this year has been serving a large community of refugees, so they could really use this boost to give everybody a happy holiday.

Can we get this done by Friday? HIT UP THE FD PAYPAL LINK HERE AND LET’S FIX SOMETHING WE CAN FIX. 

A.

Signal This Virtue

Of all the dismissals of protest and outrage that we’ve heard from conservatives over the past two years I think the one that makes me the craziest is the accusation of “virtue signaling.” 

Expressions of moral outrage are playing a prominent role in contemporary debates about issues like sexual assault, immigration and police brutality. In response, there have been criticisms of expressions of outrage as mere “virtue signaling” — feigned righteousness intended to make the speaker appear superior by condemning others.

Clearly, feigned righteousness exists. We can all think of cases where people simulated or exaggerated feelings of outrage because they had a strategic reason to do so. Politicians on the campaign trail, for example, are frequent offenders.

So it may seem reasonable to ask, whenever someone is expressing indignation, “Is she genuinely outraged or just virtue signaling?”

I thought about this over the usual two-protest summer weekend, and following a work discussion about audiences for stories, because it’s really easy to accuse someone of showing off when you don’t understand why what they’re doing is important.

Or when you’re used to not being opposed.

Trump was supposed to win the argument, right? He was supposed to be the ultimate fuck-you, the ultimate OH YEAH HOW DO YOU LIKE THIS THEN? It was the ultimate defeat for us dastardly liberals and our terrible identity politics, for people who talk about bathrooms and pronouns, about segregation and sexual assault.

We were supposed to be so humiliated and sad and scared and ashamed of losing that we’d never show our faces again.

Yet here we are. Singing.

And that pisses them off so much. They accuse us of showing off because they’re mad we’re still here.

Too bad, assholes.

The accusation of “virtue signaling” implies that we shouldn’t live our lives in public, that we shouldn’t show what we believe.

Living your life in a way that honors American values when no one is rewarded (and no, Twitter likes are not rewards, I don’t care what the hashtag-resistance says) for doing so is a radical fucking act. Do you know how much money the right throws around? Ben Shapiro has a whole media empire for being a halfbright douche when friends of mine are dying broke and broken for writing about unjust wars and cowardly politics, don’t you dare act like there’s something in this for us. I’m as mad about the #NeverTrump rebranding as you are but few people getting book deals while the rest of us hook for ho-hos is not a system that rewards people for speaking out and speaking up.

In defense, let us remember always, of such controversial ideas as “it is legal to seek asylum in the richest country in the world” and “maybe let’s not take babies away from their mothers.” It’s not immaterial WHAT virtues we are demonstrating. It matters what the gesture IS.

So we’re just “virtue signaling,” Republicans? OKAY. I’m pretty okay with signaling the virtue that all men are created equal and so were the founding fathers whose legs you hump, not that you can even spell their names.

Is it useless to stand in a circle beneath a memorial to the War to End All Wars, one hundred years and seven wars later, with candles in our hands and inadequate words in our mouths? No one’s liberated from the camps and no one’s given asylum and no one’s safe because a few people in a few places lit candles and sang. No one’s free because of the light.

That we know of.

Yet.

But no one’s imprisoned because of the light. No one’s separated and no one’s tortured and no one’s poorer or hungrier because of the light.

And maybe someone inside the walls of a prison somewhere heard the singing outside.

At a time when we’re being told not to believe what we can see, at a time when we’re being told we’re not Real Americans and don’t live in the Real World, signals are how we get to one another. How we let one another know what’s happening, who needs help, how to find them. I have it tattooed on my left goddamn arm, the line from Serenity: Can’t stop the signal.

Is that enough by itself? Of course not, but I don’t know anyone at a protest on the weekends who isn’t working during the week to make this better in a thousand small ways from calling Congress to helping their neighbors to volunteering at a food pantry to just goddamn not voting for monsters.

You take every chance to stand up because never in this world are you ever going to know for sure which one is going to be the one that makes the change.

And literally nobody posting a cute protest selfie on Instagram or buying a Ruth Bader Ginsburg pin is making the world worse, unlike Mike Pence, the creature. So if you can do nothing else, signal.

A.

LET’S MAIL SOME LEGOS TO ALASKA

I dunno if anybody else is struggling right now but I AM. Holy balls, am I ever.

The world is a dark miserable shitass place and being on Twitter is losing its goddamn charm as all I ever see is people attacking each other over who’s really a Bernie bro and who humped their cat and who has the WORST ideas for revamping local news and who I used to love yesterday who now has to be cancelled because he has revenge or rape or race-war fantasies.

And I do not have a hot take on any of it. I’m just annoyed by everything. Once upon a time I would have enjoyed laughing at Cat Humper Twitter as much as I did David Cameron Dead Pig Humper Twitter, but lately my overarching reaction is just to be really, really tired by everyone’s antics. Which is not productive. Or helpful.

You know what is?

MAILING LEGOS TO ALASKA. 

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Lookit What You Did!

Thanks to your generosity, First Drafters, you paid for Christmas gifts for 85 KIDS. The money you raised for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry bought gift cards, toys, games, mittens and other necessary stuff for the children whose parents shop there each month.

I’m heading up tomorrow to help them sort through some more donated things, but this is the nicest part: They’ll all get something new and nice for the holidays, thanks to you!

They’ll be able to go get a snack or a treat or something frivolous with their friends without having to worry about it for once. That kind of freedom is delicious when you don’t always have it.

You rock, all y’all.

A.

DO SOMETHING Merry Edition

UPDATE WE DID IT HOLY CRAP GUYS! $750 raised for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry!

You did it again! So many kids are going to have a wonderful holiday because of you all. Our Internet is the best Internet.

OH HAI remember the food pantry we raised money for after the 2016 election? Remember how many families you helped to feed? IT WAS 300 FAMILIES.

The pantry’s been working hard and serving even more families in the past 2 years, and now they have a new project.

Every year at the holidays they put together a bunch of gift packages for the kids who come through, and these are often the only presents these kids get. Toys and books get donated all year round for the little ones, but the pantry would like to buy gift cards for the older kids, though, so they can go to a coffee shop or see a movie or get a treat without having to worry about paying for it.

I said I thought the Internet could help with that.

They need $750 to get a gift card for every kid. Can we do that in a week?

Hit up the Paypal link, and I’ll cover the fees, and let’s make a bunch of tweens and teenagers happy this Christmas. 

(And if you have gift cards to donate, or can get some from your workplace or whatevs, I can provide you with an e-mail address to send those, so let me know in the comments!)

A.

Do Something Right Now

Well, who DOESN’T feel helpless this morning?

Friend of Blog Jude points us to this fundraiser being held in Madison, Wis. for the Trans Law Help Center, a volunteer legal aid clinic helping people dealing with the Trump administration’s ever-erupting volcano of bullshit.

If you can’t attend, I’ll match the first $100 in donations to the center, run through Community Justice Inc, just link to a pic of your receipt in the comments. Fuck the fascists.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Help the Teachers Edition

If you’re looking for a way to help those affected by Hurricane Florence and the attendant flooding/water damage issues, Donors Choose is on it:

You’ll recall we used that site to help classrooms targeted by the NRA’s goons and those with underfunded journalism programs. Let’s see if we can do it again.

A.

Not Everything Sucks

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

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

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

Donate here.

A.

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor Candidates

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

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

You can donate to her here.

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

A.

Cages

They’re trying to make us fight about the place we keep the children we steal from their parents, the children we lock up:

And it’s too easy to reach for the Ursula K. LeGuin, today:

In a basement under one of the beautiful public buildings of Omelas, or perhaps in the cellar of one of its spacious private homes, there is a room. It has one locked door, and no window. A little light seeps in dustily between cracks in the boards, secondhand from a cobwebbed window somewhere across the cellar. In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting.

They’re trying to make the fight about the cages. It isn’t the cages that make a prison.

Anything can be a prison. Anything can be a cage. It doesn’t need concrete and barbed wire, gun towers and checkpoints. Is that what you think a prison is? A quiet street in a city neighborhood can be Pelican Bay. A luxury condo in a skyscraper. A well-kept house in the suburbs.

You don’t need a cage to make a prison.

You just need a guard.

And oh, does this administration have guards. Say what you like about deportations under previous presidents, say that they, too, were callous or cruel types of separation. Fair. They were not capricious, and they were not done to teach someone who isn’t listening a lesson he or she can’t hear. They weren’t done to shove the law in anyone’s face, to score points in Florida or Ohio or some other racism-blasted swing state full of resentful, angry white people; to make the talk radio listeners cheer.

This administration knew its people and their uses. They elected this president. They chanted “lugenpresse” and “fake news” at reporters. They put them in cages, too, and spit at them and yelled and threatened. They beat protesters and chanted “lock her up.” They longed to inflict human misery, gleefully, on anyone they were told had taken from them, on anyone they were told would take from them. And this administration saw that and said that it was good. It said yes. It said more.

These people have made prisons for decades. Prisons of war, drawing borders and bombing inside them, and out, to make a point with their voters. Prisons of poverty, making food and health care conditional on where you lived and worked. Prisons of redlined racist ghettos, where police patrol one side of the street, pull you over if you cross. Sundown towns and poll taxes and schools segregated in all but name, whites-only fountains and colored sections on the bus. These people know how to make prisons. They know how to do it without building walls.

So don’t come at us now and talk about how the cages aren’t cages and cages aren’t a prison. Anything can be a prison if there are people there who keep you in. Who keep you quiet. Who keep you awake or asleep or fed or starved depending on how you behave and how they prefer it. They can bang on the doors every fifteen minutes, and it doesn’t matter if the doors are chain link or solid steel or polished thick American oak.

If they can lock them, and let you out only when they say, you’re in prison.

Call it a partition instead of a cage, if it makes you feel better. It doesn’t matter.

Not to the children inside, or the guard standing at his post, keeping them there.

A.

WHAT ARE THE DEMOCRATS DOING?!!?

I’ve been seeing variations on this theme all week, like the party that isn’t in power right now should somehow magically gain power and stop family separation.

Well, they’re sitting in. They’re marching. They’re giving speeches. They’re fighting with the only fight they have. If you want them to be able to mount real opposition, we need more of them. 

Could one of them filibuster? Sure. Stand on the floor all night telling refugee stories. Could one of them start a hunger strike, mount civil disobedience over and above what’s going on already, could they find a creative way to shut shit down? Sure.

And then, as ever in the past two years, it’ll be over, the TV hairdos will either ignore it or call it a stunt and have 12 Republicans on a panel to talk about how protest is stupid, and nothing will change because THERE AREN’T ENOUGH DEMOCRATS IN OFFICE.

I know you’re sick of hearing me say nothing matters except November, but nothing matters. Except November.

Democrats can’t mount any meaningful opposition because there are six assholes who always give us a hard time. They’re from conservative states, they’re always endangered, etc, etc, they’re weak and scared and it’s infuriating.

What gives those six or so assholes who always give us a hard time their power is that they are necessary to overcome Republican regressiveness and opposition. Put 60 Dems in the Senate and 350 in the House and that handful of dickheads from red states don’t matter anymore.

They can’t hold their critical votes over people’s heads if their votes aren’t critical anymore. And if we have enough Democrats that their voices don’t matter, then we have enough to stop things like this. Things like Trump and his enablers. Things like Pence.

November, bitches. Write and call and yell and make it unpleasant for Republicans to exist in public while this is going on, and then, in November, fucking kick their fucking asses as hard as you possibly can.

In the meantime, if you want to do something, this is a great organization that needs help.

A.

Rise Up

We forget, all the time, what we’re capable of.

How often, how many times a day, do we tell ourselves won’t, can’t, doesn’t? How many times do we say inevitable, impossible, never?

And then a girl stands in front of the whole world and she shakes their windows and she rattles their walls.

Do you know what it takes to hold a stage, to hold a crowd in your hands, for even one minute? To have them breathing with you, every indrawn breath yours to control? There are veterans of Broadway who can’t do that, not on nights when they’re visited by God himself.

I get the cynicism. I get the fear. I get the worry that somebody else will succeed where we’ve failed and I get the shame that drives us to push that away and I don’t care about any of it anymore, I reject it wholeheartedly, I shaven’t it, you can see what I see. Something happened there and when the world brings you a moment like that you thank God you were alive to witness it and you put your feet flat on the ground and you stand up.

We have been telling these children stories, telling ourselves stories, all our lives about those who rise above, about becoming heroes, about fighting back, and we’re still so astonished, almost offended, when someone listens. You told me I could be anything, so I became, and you don’t believe? How dare we?

We have eight months, and then the rest of our lives. Listen to that silence, and I don’t want to know you if you don’t hear the roar.

A.

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.