Category Archives: Epic Blogger Win

Time To Ring Some Changes

I assume everyone reading this read Athenae’s post announcing her departure from First Draft after 16 glorious years.  I first learned of her intentions in August. She asked if I wanted to become publisher and I agreed. I’ve been in mild denial ever since hoping that she’d change her mind and remain as a contributor. I respect and support her decision. I try not to tell people I care about what to do or think. I reserve that for public figures.

Allison invited me to join First Draft in September of 2009. I was honored by the invitation and have tried over the years not to disappoint her. I guess I haven’t since she’s passing the baton to me. I’ll try not to drop it.

I’ve often referred to the Athenae-Adrastos combination as fire and ice. That’s why it worked so well. Other writers came and went but First Draft went on. In my case on and on and on…

For the moment, it’s down to Tommy T, Michael F, and me. I don’t believe in change for change’s sake so any changes will be organic and gradual. I will frequently ask myself WWAD: What would Athenae do? Following her example should keep the doors open and the posts lively.

In the spirit of WWAD, I’d like to ask our readers for their help. If anyone out there is interested in becoming an occasional or even regular contributor, leave a comment or drop me an email at I’ve slowly but surely added some guest writers and hope they’ll contribute as well.

The goes for people who have written here in the past. If you want to dust off your blogging shoes, you’re always welcome to return. One thing is certain: I don’t want First Draft to become a boy’s club.

Finally, I’d like to thank Allison for all the great writing over the last 16 years. It’s been a thrill riding in the crack van and riding out various storms together. Thanks for entrusting me with your baby.

Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for Album Cover Art Wednesday. It’s playing hooky today.

The last word goes to Richard Thompson and the Albion Band:


Got this in the mail the other day:

(Yes, it’s a screenshot of the message on my phone, I switched computers recently and can’t figure out how to edit files yet, gimme a break, there’s a pandemic on.)

You guys are the best blog EVER.


Not Everything Sucks: YOU DID IT!

I gave you a week and you did it in almost a day: 

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?

You raised $500 for the St. Hyacinth Food Pantry. I’m handing over the cash this week and they’ll give out the gift cards during their annual gift-giving event. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving the families who really need one a very merry Christmas!



Ten Years Of Stuff & Nonsense

Ten years ago, I received an email from Athenae asking if I’d like to join the First Draft team. It was a no-brainer: I said yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes.

My first post landed on 9/19/2009 and was called Greetings From Debrisville. That was my nickname for post-K New Orleans, which given the whole car in the drainage canal thing may be ripe for a revival.

You know much I love self-quotation so here’s how I kicked off my tenure at First Draft:

Thanks to Athenae for the invite and the warm welcome. She just did something either foolhardy or semi-brilliant by inviting me to join the gang at First Draft. I’ll let you be the judge of that. For my own part, I’m happy to be here: I’m a longtime reader, occasional commenter and sporadic passenger in the crack van. Love that shag rug, A. I hope that Scout will still bring the ham…

I’ve lived in New Orleans (aka Debrisville) since 1987 and have been blogging as Adrastos since December 2005. I suspect you can figure out what inspired me to start bloviating on the internets: Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent federal flood.

To paraphrase the late, great Greg Peters that qualifies as lazy quoting of myself. It beats the hell outta self-dealing. I’ll leave that to the experts in the Trump regime.

A lot of excellent writers have come and gone since I sold my soul to First Draft: Scout Prime, Virgo Tex, Doc, and Jude to name a few. I linked to their work because they’re all fine writers even if Jude is incapable of writing a paragraph without using the word fuck. That inspired this fucking closing of my fucking introductory post:

The only thing that gave me pause about joining the First Draft krewe is that I don’t say fuck as much as Athenae or Jude. Once I was assured that there wasn’t a quota I said: what the fuck, why the fuck not? But just in case I’m expected to swear like a Greek sailor, here’s Warren Zevon with My Shit’s Fucked Up:

Our current krewe of writers may be motley but they’re equally wonderful: Michael F, Tommy T, and our awesome publisher, Athenae. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Tommy but I’ve hung out with both Michael and Allison. One thing that changed when we migrated First Draft to Word Press was that Allison and I revealed our “secret identities” which were lying in plain sight anyway.

Allison attended Rising Tide 6 and Dr. A took the obligatory picture of us with Michael F:

It’s not a particularly flattering picture but it’s all we’ve got so I won’t suppress it. Somewhere there’s a pretty good picture of Allison with the late great Oscar but I cannot find it. So it goes.

It’s been a helluva ride and we’ve only just begun to amuse, inform, and outrage you. We couldn’t do it without our readers. That brings me to the obligatory plug for our 2019 fundraiser. If you like what we do here at First Draft, please throw a few drachmas our way but do it in dollars: Greece adopted the Euro years ago. Click here for more information on how to donate from the boss lady.

Our plan is to go on and on and on; much like one of my windier posts. The last word goes to Neil Young and Stephen Stills:



Our Commenters are AWESOME

Let’s just turn today over to JTO, from my Sunday post, reminding me to get off my ass, shall we? 

The hour is running late, that is true, but it is also just as true that it is still early.

It is true that this is a frustrating, infuriating fight – but it is the fight that we have always had. It was the fight for the recognition of every working man’s humanity, of every woman’s suffrage and every POC’s equality. And those we fight are never defeated, they simply retreat, regroup and try again – just like we do. Just like we have to. Just like we have always done.

Will they first take, then corrupt our 4th Estate? Will they deny us the vote? Will they say our gigging economy is because of freedom and irresponsibly tasty avocado on toast brunches? Will they stack the Supreme Court, and start 4 month old children in kennels? Will they kill every single living thing on the planet – from microscopic plankton to Africa’s megafauna – for sport and a selfie?

Of course they will, or they will try.

And blast that crater we are all in – just a little bit bigger, deeper – even as we work to fill it in, and at the same time prevent them from making it worse.

Please, keep at it.

Go read the whole thing.

I was so tired before I read that, dude. And now I feel like I could run through a brick wall. THANK YOU.


So We Mailed Some LEGOs to Alaska, Guys!

Every time I ask you guys I think this time it’s not gonna make a dent and oh boy did you ever make a dent:

You’re all just so great.


In Loving and Awed Memory of Tom Butler, First Draft Krewe

You ever get shown up thoroughly by someone twice your age?

Tom Butler and his wife June did that to me in 2007 in NOLA. Longtime readers may remember we assembled a bunch of Internet people who’d never met (pictured above) to go to New Orleans to gut a house in the aftermath of Katrina. Tom, second from left up there, absolutely kicked my ass.

He and June, beside him as always, hauled out barrow after barrow, bucket after bucket, of filth from this roach-ridden rotting hulk of a flooded home in 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity, working dawn to dusk with hardly a break to make this busted thing a home again. I needed a long lie-down after about two hours of swinging a sledgehammer and all Tom did was keep working. He smiled the whole time.

Tom passed away this morning. He was generous, kindhearted and true, and helped where he could, always. Our condolences to June and her family, and Tom, I hope, is somewhere finally resting up.


Jon Swift Roundup 2018

It’s that time of year again: Listomania is in the air. One of my favorite bloggers, Batocchio is carrying on a tradition started by the late Jon Swift/Al Weisel: a roundup of the best posts of the year as selected by the bloggers themselves.

My contribution to the Jon Swift Roundup 2018 is a post about Hope Hicks’ departure from the White House: White Girl, White Lies. It’s also featured in the upcoming Best of Adrastos edition of Saturday Odds & Sods. My attempts to winnow it down to a top forty have come a cropper (akimbo?) so it’s a top fifty again. What can I say? I’m my own biggest fan.

Here’s the featured image for the post included in the roundup:

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.


Words To Live By

They come from Josh Marshall:

“But as I wrote a few days ago in a somewhat different context, we should have more faith in our values, our history and our country. America, in all its greatness, its variousness, its customs and history is far, far greater than any President. And that is not just some generic or abstract statement. A President has little power without popular support. I don’t believe that a President can change the country, on his own, the way many fear that he will.

Consider how much millions have done to preserve democracy in countries that have little heritage of democracy, few protections for democracy, no robust system of courts, press, and so forth. And then think what all Americans can do now. I just see no excuse for sulking or any feelings of powerlessness or resignation. This is America. It’s not Russia. It’s not a crippled and embryonic democracy in 1920s Germany. This is America.”

Vive les Maquis.

Friday Ferretblogging: This one’s for A

She always finds a way to turn lemons into a reason to help other people, as witnessed by the food drive. I figured she deserved something for herself, so I headed to the local pet store and shot this. Pay particular attention to the fat one near the end who gets his head stuck in a plastic toy and decides to try to get out of there by beating his head into the floor.

Love you, Chief.

300 families helped: Food Pantry Fund

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis

First Draft and the original Netroots blogosphere arose in opposition to George W. Bush and the Iraq War. I started blogging in opposition to how the Bush administration mishandled Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. On every level imaginable, Trump is worse than W. So bad, in fact, that the former President refused to vote for him. When President Obama and many others said Trump was unfit to serve as President, it was not just campaign rhetoric. It was a blunt statement of fact.

In the wake of continuing reports of Russian meddling in the election, it’s time to stop mourning and get angry. What form that anger should take is the question on the table. It should and must be non-violent. Undisciplined demonstrators smashing shit is playing into the enemy’s hands. Yes, I did say enemy. I plan to give  a Trump presidency the same respect Republicans gave President Obama. None.

The Never Trump Republicans were fond of using French Resistance analogies. It’s beyond ironic that some of the same people who mocked the French as “surrender monkeys” and wanted to rename frites “freedom fries” are invoking the French resistance BUT it’s a useful analogy nonetheless. Frank Rich recently summarized the categories quite well:

Mike Murphy, the GOP strategist who ran a PAC for Jeb Bush’s ill-fated campaign, divided his fellow Republican elites into three categories: “Vichy Republicans,” who went along with Trump and the party base enamored of him; “Survival Republicans,” who tried to remain as neutral as Switzerland; and “Resistance Republicans,” who actively battled his nomination.

Obviously, none of  us wants to link arms with even the Resistance Republicans, many of whom will become collaborators, but the imagery is striking, especially on Veterans Day. That’s why I like the term Maquis. Trekkies may remember it from DS9 and Voyager but they took it from the French Resistance during World War II. The Maquis or Maquisards were small, scattered but still mighty rural guerilla bands. They were slightly more effective than the urban resistance because the Allies could air-drop supplies to them in the dead of night.

I am not advocating using Maquis tactics but adopting their attitude. Non-violent legal and political resistance are called for. Congressional Democrats need to be every bit as obstructionist as the GOP has been during the Obama administration. Remember: we controlled the Senate until the 2010 teabagger wave election and have more votes than the GOP did at that time. Their initial focus should be on salvaging the ACA and saving Medicare from the not-so tender mercies of the Survival Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He’s collaborating with Trump to further his extreme Randian agenda. Trump has no ideas and Ryan has many bad ones.

The electoral college victory of Trump-Pence has unleashed a tidal wave of hateful shit. We’ve all heard reports of both verbal and physical attacks on minorities. Children are terrified and crying at school. Ponder that for a second. School is supposed to be a safe haven for learning, not a place that’s as scary as the world outside. What kind of country are we? We need to decide.

I feel older than I am right now. My main form of resistance to Trumpism in all its ugly manifestations is to do what I do best, write. Hence the post title: Confessions of a Keyboard Maquis. I think people should think about what forms resistance to the incoming regime should take. The great Al Giordano has shared his thoughts with the world beyond his subscribers, of whom I am one, and I’ll give Al the last word:

Those of us who have lived in countries under authoritarian rule have spent recent months having our own conversation about what is happening in the USA. We do it in whispers because most of you will not believe us no matter how loudly we shout about what a Trump election would bring down the ‘pike. We shake our heads and feel a great wave of pity for most Americans who have no idea what tyranny really looks or feels like. Tyranny – contrary to popular myth – is asymmetric. It hits from all sides, crevices, nooks and crannies, from the dark places, the shadows. The figurehead’s power above merely provides it cover. It has the same paramilitary logic of what was endured in Latin America’s dirty wars and the dictatorships across the sea that gave rise to the Arab Spring. When Donald J. Trump praises strongmen leaders across the globe he is giving his “tell” of how he would govern – with a clenched fist.

Worse, the response from that part of America that defines itself as “the left” (I am speaking of the white and academic “left” since so few organized people of color are foolish enough to claim an already discredited mantle) is totally unequipped to address it yet they will attempt once again to place themselves at the vanguard of resistance without any lived experience leading an actual resistance, much less winning one. Senator Sanders’ “Our Revolution” PAC will seek to fundraise off every injustice as aggressively as it has over the Native American resistance to the pipeline in the Dakotas. The remnants of “Occupy” now under a thousand new names will call for demonstrations without guidelines, training or discipline and that in the name of “diversity of tactics” allow any asshole who wants to call himself “Black Bloc” to don ski masks and toss trash cans through store windows. President Trump is gonna love those demonstrations because it will allow him to sell all kinds of repression to his base. White men will vault to the front of these groups saying, “follow me!” Yet they have not a clue as to how a real movement is built or won. They feel entitled to it anyway. It will be more of the same attempts to re-center whiteness and maleness with the cheerleading of Jacobin magazine, some writers at The Nation, Democracy Now and Reddit dudebro forums.

The election of Trump will mark the exact moment of failure of manhood in America. The only possible new leadership will have to come from women, especially women of color, who already live in Trump’s America and have more experience navigating such a world, far more than we guys can learn in the short time we’ll have to build an authentic resistance. Mexican-American and Muslim-American women will be the first hit and instead of letting the dudebro aspirants set the tone it will be up to all of us to follow those women into battle instead.

The only authentic resistance to the policies of a Trump presidency will make nonviolence its watchword, and unapologetically so. To participate, you’re going to have to get training in nonviolent civil resistance. I’m not speaking of the “express trainings” by dudebro groups like “Democracy Spring” with fawning celebrity dilettantes like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, but, rather, sessions that last a minimum of eight hours or, ideally, an entire weekend or more and are led and organized by women of experience at it and especially women of color.

I obviously have a problem with the whole last word concept. I hope you read Al’s entire piece and that it inspires you to organize and act in whatever way you see fit. I now think of it as the Manifesto of the American Maquis. First get mad, then get even.


Finally, thanks to Doc for that fascinating post. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Now where did I put my trench coat? And that’s the last, last, last word.

In Case You Missed the 7,000 Posts Last Fall

First Draft has a book finally! If you didn’t contribute to the Kickstarter, you missed all the updates about the shipping for the first edition, which is almost done (will you last group of lazy people please fill out your surveys?).

Since that’s just about done, additional copies are on sale at, where you can read all about the bad early days of political blogging from me and our benevolent blogfather, relive the time Tena and I got wasted and liveblogged (there WAS NO TWITTER, YOUNGS) a presidential debate, and the origins of the whole “our fate is your fate” thing, which was all Scout.

Buy your copies up! If people want autographs maybe we’ll do a meetup in Madison or something in the fall, when hockey starts up again and life is therefore worth living again.


Living Life, Chip by Chip

I always know where it is, unlike almost every other object I own. I rarely, if ever, however, go looking for it.

And yet occasionally, you find yourself doing something that you know will evoke a response that you hate because you need to have that response.

So, this morning, I opened the door to my night stand and extracted the battered shoe box. Beneath the “Thank You” notes from past students, the love letters my wife wrote me over time and surrounded by the pin-based honorifics I received or inherited throughout the years, I found it where I always found it.

My grandmother was an inexplicable part of my life. Before I could go to all-day school, I often spent time at her home. Occasionally, we would get an early morning phone call, which sent my mother into a spin: Grandma couldn’t watch me. She didn’t want me there. Mom would make six other calls and I’d land at another relative’s home. I never knew why.

Grandma during my earlier days could be happy or moody. She married her second husband, the irrepressible Uncle Harry, who spent much of his life on the open road as a truck-driving Teamster out of Detroit. They argued constantly, but there was always a love there. Mom loved to say they reminded her of the bickering couple from the comic strip “Pickles.” One of the few things they agreed on was a good pot of coffee at the kitchen table while they chain-smoked a seemingly unending supply of cigarettes.

As a trio, we took trips to Rice Lake for summer vacations. Because of them, I had a tree house (really a tree stand where I read book after book all summer) and a dog that lived at their house. I had a place to sleep when Mom and Dad had to work and I had a day off of school. I had the chance to learn how to make Bologna Loaf (a delicacy made with an assortment of onions, pickles and mayo mixed into bologna ground by hand).

Christmas morning, when I was 10 years old, we got a call from Uncle Harry. Grandma was sick so we couldn’t come over. I was irate, as I wanted to see my out-of-state cousins at her house and besides, she seemed OK the night before. Mom told me it was the way it was, her anger palpable. It would take me several more years to find out what happened that day.

Grandma had a bad night and spent most of it in the kitchen, drinking straight from a bottle of brandy. Uncle Harry got her to bed and up and told her it was time to get help. When a guy who drank the world’s shittiest beers at some of the best dive bars throughout Cudahy could see it, the issue was clear.

Grandma was an alcoholic.

The wide white ring box had paper sticking out of the edges of it, two photos of an ultrasound that told my wife and I our first child had died in utero. It was surrounded by two holy cards, one for Grandma, the other for my wife’s grandmother. In the ring slot was Uncle Harry’s wedding ring. When he died, Grandma gave me his most treasured items: His father’s watch, his grandfather’s pocket knife and his own wedding ring. In the top of the box was the item I sought: A bronze coin about the size of a dollar.

Grandma’s 14-year chip from AA.

The legend of these chips goes back into the 1940s, according to AA historians. They were totems to mark time and help recovering alcoholics hold their own against the pressures of the outside world. Days and months would be marked on chips of various colors. At a single year of sobriety, a bronze coin with a Roman numeral became the reminder of how far you had come.

When Grandma died, about a month after my wedding, Mom spent time going through her things and dealing with the sale of the house. Grandma had very little at the end of her life. Uncle Harry had died of cancer about a year earlier and she was holding onto her house with almost no money. Each year, we held a garage sale for her, where we sold more and more of her items. The cash helped keep food in the fridge and the lights on.

In her jewelry box were a few small items, mostly costume pieces and things she inherited. However, in that box was a line of coins, stacked like you would roll quarters. 14 in all.

I didn’t understand what it was or why they were there at the time, but when Mom asked me to take anything I wanted, I took the final coin. In retrospect, I wish I had taken them all, as they are now gone somewhere and I can never get them back.

Years later at a college media convention of all places, the folks from AA set up a vendor booth and I stopped by. I asked the nice woman about the coin I found and if it had any significance to her. She slipped her hand into her pocket and produced a coin with XXV on it.

“Did it look like this?”

I reflexively gasped.

She explained about the coin and the process and how these worked. I broke down in tears and this stranger consoled me, as I’m sure she had consoled so many others during her 25 years of sobriety.

She looked at me after I composed myself and said, “Your grandmother was an incredible woman.”

I later learned that Grandma had more years in than coin indicated, 28 by my estimation. When the cancer began to get her, she couldn’t make the meetings and she would rarely get visitors. More chips weren’t coming. Still, she kept to that promise, reciting the serenity prayer.

The items in that small white box were not put there by accident.

The two funeral cards held vigil. I asked those grandmothers to watch over the soul of our little lost one, the older brother or older sister who was supposed to be there for The Midget.

The ring was that piece of Uncle Harry that always captured his goodness for me. He was a tough, gruff, cantankerous bastard and my father used to tie himself in knots when he had to deal with Harry. Still, he loved me. I knew it every time I saw him. I knew it in every effort he made to connect with me in a way his “real” grandchildren refused to.

The coin? That was resolve.

Once I was old enough to understand, Grandma explained how every day was a challenge. She knew of people who went from 10 years to a single day of sobriety in a blink. A bad day, a spousal squabble, a moment of celebration turned wrong all could lead to the bottom of the ladder and the slow climb back. One chip at a time. Nothing was really a given to people afflicted with this disease.

If there ever was a certainty in her life, however, it was that cancer would take her. The sheer volume of cigarettes she and Uncle Harry consumed throughout their lives would inevitably lead to it.

She was hospitalized multiple times, the disease taking her ability to walk or control her own bowels. She had a colostomy, a walker and more. The reaper’s scythe took her one piece at a time, gathering her in with the emotionless rake of a boxman at a craps table.

The one thing she was bound and determined to do was live to see my wedding. It was at least three years between the time my loving wife and I knew we would wed, the engagement and the actual day. In that span, she went from bad to worse, her husband died and her house continued to atrophy. One Mother’s Day, shortly after Uncle Harry died, my parents decided to do a big get together for all the mothers. It was his mom, mom’s mom, my betrothed and her parents along with Mom and Dad at a big fancy restaurant. The love in that room was something I’ll never forget.

However, it was what Grandma told Mom later that still sticks with me.

My lovely wife ordered a martini, as was her custom. Grandma later told mom, it was the first time in forever she felt just a little jealous.

When she heard this, my wife was crushed and guilty, but Grandma told her she should never, ever feel that way. Grandma was strong enough and there was never a doubt that this would be a problem.

All those years in. One day at a time.

I never carried the coin with me. Other representations of Grandma are everywhere I look. The ashtray she made of a bear swiping at a salmon in a stream. The plastic canvas “Wisconsin Badgers” candy holder she made. The wooden monk that reads from a bible, which once sat on a stereo speaker or something in her living room.

Never the chip.

I couldn’t do it because it wasn’t mine. It wasn’t my resolve that earned it. I would have just as soon worn a Bronze Star that I bought at an estate sale than carry that chip. So I put it away where it would do the most good and left it there. Maybe once per year, I find it for one reason or another.

In this case, it was to see if I could still feel.

Life has been horribly difficult this year, and I thank you all for indulging me as I told you that week after week on this site. I’m sure nothing says “Hey here comes the weekend” like Doc Downer’s missives about failure and work trauma.

The volume of bad things has always seemed to reach a critical mass for me, especially when it comes to the actions of a bad actor within our department. It has gotten progressively worse over the past four months, for reasons I cannot comprehend. Everything was fine for almost a year. I left him alone, he reciprocated.

Then, WHAM, the beatings began, gaining in speed and frequency. It got to a point where I realized entire weeks were lost, answering emails and filing reports in response to his accusations against me and my students.

Another thing that increased was medication. My doctor feared for my safety and sanity. I went from occasionally taking a pill to being on a regiment of four or five medicines per day, not counting the over the counter pills she recommended.

It was the only way to keep me from losing it, and that alone made me feel like a loser. Despite her assurances that NO ONE could put up with the sheer volume of crap being shoveled in my direction with out SOME help, I just felt weaker.

And then, suddenly, I didn’t feel anything.

My boss popped into my office day after day, noting another bizarre action or demanding request of me from that colleague. It was my boss who would now be animated or irate about this. Before, I would share his anger and bile. Now, I would listen, comply and complete the task. It seemed the angrier this colleague got and the more exasperated my boss got, the more I just flatlined.

The shrink started to worry about me for the first real time. “We don’t want you flattened out. You need some emotional range.” Yet, any alteration he made to the meds, he feared, would lead me to a spiral, so he told me to hang on and keep an eye on things.

This week, the man finally pushed past the edge. He told several students they couldn’t attend a field trip he had long known about because he “had to investigate” whether it was an excused absence or not. In our field, it’s mostly a courtesy when one professor gives another professor a note saying, “Kid isn’t going to be here, here’s why, do me a solid.” Not in this case. In addition, he was on them about something that happened in the paper. Wednesday night, I had four editors in a room, hurt beyond belief. One kid was sobbing. Another said she had made a counseling appointment. A third told me she was on medication. Even the one “non-target” of his insanity told me she constantly felt pressure and tension. She did her best to hide from him that she worked with me on the newspaper.

They told me all the things I had been telling the shrink for months: How empty is this guy’s life that he has to do this? Why can’t he just leave us alone? Can’t anyone do anything about this to make him stop? Please…

Normally, I would have felt the pain, too. I would have decided to go to a batting cage and beat baseballs until my hands went raw. I would have screamed and hollered and cursed. I wanted to do all of those things.

It just wouldn’t come.

I told the kids to write down all their concerns and email our chair. I told them I would talk to him in the morning and it would be OK.

That was a measured, solid and reasonable response and it scared the shit out of me.

How much medication should have to take to be able to go to work and tolerate someone? How much of who you are has to be medically beaten out of you so you don’t feel constant anger, fear, sadness, anxiety or anything else? How much of that is OK?

I don’t know, but there I was. I could no longer tolerate the insanity, so I became emotionless.

I let this happen to me.

I flattened out.

The moment the chip hit my hand, I knew two things: I could still feel and I still had something in the tank.

The tears came pouring out. Honest emotion, loss and grief all coalesced in salty drops that fell freely. It was all there. I was never more grateful to feel sadness.

The medicine had flattened me out and made me smooth, but I could still break through when it really had to happen. There was still something inside of me that told me I was going to be OK.

But that wasn’t the incredible thing. I had planned, or at least hoped, for that.

The chip reminded me of something else.

In the final months of her life, Grandma was going downhill painfully fast. She rarely got out of her chair-bed-thing in her living room. She was on stronger and stronger doses of painkillers.

At one point, she couldn’t swallow so the doctors put her on liquid morphine. Mom told me that she went to get the prescription filled and found out it was only available at five pharmacies in the state. When Mom found one, she had to show more ID than she did when she went overseas. It was apparently an incredibly powerful narcotic.

After my wedding, we had a gift opening at the house. Grandma was there and saw me open the wonderful blanket she knit for me. Afterward, my wife and I took her home. We each gave her a hug and as we left, I started to cry.

“I have the feeling,” I told my bride, “I have just seen my grandmother for the last time.”

I was right. She died a month later.

Clean and sober.

The thing that I never understood before was why. In her final days, the pain was incredible, even with access to pretty much everything in the Michael Jackson Pharmacy of Fame. She had nothing prove. She had nothing to give. The finality of a “drink before dying” is something even shitty Westerns saw as a noble offering to the departed.

And yet, there she was, refusing to be tempted and refusing to say, “Fuck it.”

Every day was a chance to fail. Each success was measured in minutes and hours of avoiding the demon.

She had one thing left that was hers and hers alone: Sobriety. She wasn’t going to give it up, no matter what.

As I look at each day I have spent, dealing with an increasing level of hostility and harassment, I don’t feel that I can persist. “Better” jobs come along with offers of more pay, shorter hours and the absence of Sling Blade McGee constantly riding my ass.

In an ironic twist, the best explanation I can give to how this person operates is to say this is like living with a true alcoholic: Some days are quiet, others are loud, others lead to beatings. Occasionally, there are those happy days, which leave everyone on edge, wondering when the other shoe will drop and we won’t see the backhand coming.

I often tell my students that the only two things that are truly mine are my scars and my resolve. Every beating I take increases both of them. Yet, each day, I wonder if this will be the beating that will finally finish me. The one that makes me say, “Fuck it. We’re moving to Boise.”

I kept that chip next to me when I wrote this and from time to time, I would hold it. The strength of that 14 years balanced against the frailty of each day that got her there.

Even as I carefully rewrap it with those photos and cards, close the box and place it back with the other items, I think about that incredible woman who just refused to give up.

And now I understand that to make it, I have to do it her way.

Day by day.

Chip by chip.


Headline Of The Day: Josh Marshall Edition


Unsolicited advice for Donald Trump from Chris Difford.

I have a soft spot for Talking Points Memo. It was the first political blog I ever read and was my gateway to the blogosphere. That’s right, you can blame Josh for my blogging career. Don’t be too hard on him, he’s a nice fella.

Josh wrote a swell post yesterday about the Insult Comedian’s claim that he’s going to run against a certain former President’s penis. Trump says it’s fair game but has his own share of zipper issues so it strikes me as an unwise strategy, especially in the event he’s the GOP nominee. Of course, the Insult Comedian has no strategy he’s just winging it.

Anyway, here’s the much hyped and ballyhooed headline:

Please Proceed, Plutocrat.

A sweet reminder of the second Obama-Romney debate in 2012. You know, the one where the Oval One set a trap for Willard Mittbot Romney and he fell for it. I still think of it as the Please Proceed, Governor debate.

Maybe some of Trump’s evangelical pals should school him on the whole “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” thing. Words to live by.

While we’re on the subject of the Insult Comedian’s big mouth, this would make an excellent theme song for his campaign. Chris Difford knows his shit, y’all.

Louisiana Politics: Of Gumshoes, Gobshites, and Goobers

It’s nut cutting time in the Gret Stet Goober race. We’re headed to the homestretch in one of the weirdest and most exciting elections I’ve ever experienced. This is one of those times where events are in the saddle. We’re in for a helluva ride, y’all.

There’s a whole lot of gobshitery and malakatude going on. So, I think the best way to break down recent events is by slicing them up in segments like a satsuma or an Odds & Sods post:

Gumshoes, Spyboys, and Sheriffs, Oh My: After a few quiet weeks on the shamus front, things have exploded again. This time Bitter Vitter struck the first blow at a forum on Monday in Red Stick. As usual it was below the belt and disingenuous at best:

Vitter came closest to making news on this front, when he linked his suspicions about John Cummings, the wealthy trial lawyer and Edwards donor taped by a Vitter p.i. at a Metairie coffee shop, to Danny DeNoux, a private investigator who was also at the table along with Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. DeNoux has admitted he found a source for a blogger who’s been investigating Vitter’s past, and at the forum Monday, Vitter said Denoux also was a target of the Vitter campaign’s surveillance, which he deemed neither illegal nor improper.

“That person was researching what I believe is an illegal scheme” to “pay for false testimony for witnesses against me,” Vitter said. He said he had already contacted federal authorities over the matter.

This is vintage Vitter. He’s always been fond of the lie, deny, and deflect approach to scandal management. Vitter’s vacuous claims of victimization, however, resulted in Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand holding a presser just in time to make the news *before* the goober debate last night:

Normand said the videotaped interview in his possession — which was captured on one of the same cameras used to tape Normand and his pals in the coffee shop — ends with the woman signing the affidavit the Vitter camp wanted.

He said it was shot at an IHOP in Hammond on Oct. 20 — precisely when Wendy Cortez, who in 2007 claimed that Vitter had paid her regularly for sex, was resurfacing with even more salacious claims about the senator to a New Orleans-based blogger that the Vitter campaign wanted to quash. Normand said the Vitter operative was particularly concerned about keeping the woman’s claims out of the “mainstream media.”

Normand said the Vitter operative brought an affidavit to the woman that already included her claims.

“It was one of the most obnoxious interviews I’ve seen in my 38 years of law enforcement,” Normand told reporters. “He came in with a prepared affidavit to sign and spent probably 30 minutes suggesting what she should write in between the lines and put her initials on as it related to trying to discredit the story of Wendy Cortez.” (Cortez also goes by the last name of Ellis.)

Normand said he will meet with FBI officials on Thursday to discuss the videos and other findings. He did not say what he thinks the federal interest in the materials might be.

Normand’s account shows why Vitter claimed that nefarious Obama liberal forces were paying people to lie about him. It’s what his own operatives were up to. It’s political jiu-jitsu at its sleaziest, and I’m not IHOPPING to conclusions either…

The whole Normand-Vitter dispute is unlikely to result in charges before the November, 21st runoff, but it could down the road. Politically, it has the desired effect of keeping Vitter on the ropes. A good thing because I think it’s going to be closer than the polls currently indicate. One thing I know for sure: If you’re still discussing your gumshoe-hooker issues this late in the campaign, you’re losing.

I think we’ll be discussing the legal and political ramifications of Team Vitter’s Nixonian malefactions for quite some time after the runoff. Diaper Dave has a Senate seat to defend if he loses, after all. According to Deep Blog, some of his associates may have even more to lose. Stay tuned.

Jason Brad Berry On The Latest Developments: One thing that’s exciting to me about the Gret Stet Goober race is how many of the players I know. Mongo no need scorecard. Here’s the world’s only investigative Zombie’s instant reaction on Facebook to Normand’s press conference. (I cannot figure out how to insert a FB status update in the blog, so I cut and pasted the comments with Jason’s permission.) He’s quoting a story by David Hammer:

“Normand said the owner of the private investigation firm tried to coerce the friend to sign an affidavit saying Ellis had lied about Vitter and her relationship with Vitter in an interview with blogger Jason Berry.

“He goes on to say, ‘I’d like you to say that Jason Berry has made payment to several witnesses,'” said Normand. “‘That would be kind of true too. If I could show them that Jason Berry is paying people off, that would kill this story.'””

Bearden thinks I am paying women to lie to me, I’m pretty sure he had me mixed up with his client, David Vitter.

Here’s what I want to know, was Bearden paying this woman to lie and say I was paying women to lie? You understand that?

He’s trying to get a woman I’ve never met to say I’m paying her to get her to lie? He’s asking her to lie, himself. How is this even legal?

Here’s what Jason had to say an hour later:

Let me try to straighten this out for you.

After I published my story, Vitter’s camp freaked out and sic’d his high dollar, republican, oil-industry P.I. firm from Texas on me…Bearden and Associates. This asshole went around trying to find former acquaintances of Wendy Ellis and coerce them to say I was paying Wendy to lie and even other people to lie in support of Wendy’s story.

This is patently false….I never paid anyone for anything nor was I paid by anyone for anything.

In other words, the guy was trying to get people to provide false testimony against Wendy and me in order to discredit the story I published.

My first question is…did Bearden pay this woman or anyone else for this false testimony? Did he pay them to lie and say I had paid them to lie?

My second question is this….Bearden Associates were paid by David Vitter for “legal services” not private investigative services according to Vitter’s campaign finance reports. If that’s what they were doing when they were prodding this woman to lie (providing legal services) then was Bearden coercing false testimony which he may have turned around and delivered to the FBI in an affidavit?

That’s…well….that’s fucking huge. Criminally and civilly.

If he is going to claim he was not acting as a lawyer but instead he was acting as a P.I…..then David Vitter has filed false campaign finance records.

Which is also fucking huge.

Which one is it? Either way, someone has broken the law here….says the “shady” blogger.

Here’s the deal: I know Jason and can vouch for his honesty and integrity. There is no fucking way that he would have EVER paid a witness to lie about David Vitter’s sleazy escapades. Suborning perjury is not his style. Shrinks have a word to describe Bitter Vitter’s specious allegations: PROJECTION. Or as Philip Marlowe might have said at this point: If the gumshoe fits, wear it.

LPB Wonkery: After the wild events of the past few days, the Gret Stet Goober debate on Louisiana Public Broadcasting was an anti-climax. John Bel Edwards started and finished strong, but Vitter rather adeptly played rope-a-dope in the middle of the debate. I’d score it a narrow victory for Edwards but perception is everything in these matters. And I’m not exactly an unbiased observer. I’ll take Gomer for Goober over the Gobshite Goper any day.

Some of Vitter’s whoppers made me yell at the teevee and post on the Tweeter Tube. He kept claiming that he had a “balanced” approach to budgetary matters. WTF? He’s a down-the-line supply-side taxcutting Republican of the sort that drove the economy into the proverbial ditch. He also claimed to have NOT signed the infamous Grover Norquist no-new taxes pledge. It’s another example of Vittery slipperiness: he’s signed the Federal pledge but not the Gret Stet one. It’s a distinction without a difference. Or is that slippery Vitteriness? Another distinction without a difference.

It looks as if the OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA attack ads may not be working. Vitter did take the President’s name in vain, but not as often as expected. He trotted out some new Democratic straw men to set ablaze: the Landrieus and Dollar Bill Jefferson. That’s right, the former klepto Congressman who’s currently in the slammer. It’s a two-fer slur: race and corruption. Mentioning Dollar Bill shows how desperate Diaper Dave is; voters have short memories and most don’t remember who Dollar Bill is, or that he ran and lost for Gret Stet Goober in 1999. That’s so 20th Century.

The questions were on the wonky side, which meant that the Vitter sleaze factor was only alluded to in the first 50 or so minutes of the debate. I was impressed at what a cool customer John Bel Edwards was when under assault by Bitter Vitter. He was a paratrooper in the Army so I guess that comes with the territory. I was less impressed with his ability to pivot and counterpunch. He spent too much of the debate on the defensive, and the moderators allowed Vitter to drone on and on and on. I guess Vitter wanted to run out the clock before his diaper starting leaking…

There *were* a few memorable exchanges during the debate.  Here they are via Elizabeth’s Crisp account in the Advocate:

But the final minutes of Tuesday night’s debate were peppered with direct hits and personal digs.

“You are a liar, a cheater and a stealer, and I don’t tolerate that,” Edwards told a visibly agitated Vitter.

Vitter accused Edwards, a military veteran, of not living “by the Honor Code.”

“You are completely disingenuous,” he said.


Asked about the negative tone of the campaign, Vitter pointed to the constant stream of negative attack ads he’s faced.

“There’s nobody who has been the target of more negative campaigning than me,” he said, noting that several political action committees have been created to attack him. He only alluded to the central theme of those ads and a recent one from Edwards’ campaign: Vitter’s prostitution scandal.

“You act holier than thou,” Vitter said. “You have the most vicious negative ad up right now.”

He was referring to Edwards’ recent ad that claims Vitter put “prostitutes over patriots” because cell phone and voting records put him in contact with the D.C. madam the same day he missed a vote honoring fallen soldiers in Congress.

“If it’s a low blow, then that’s because of where you live, senator,” Edwards said, alluding to what he called Vitter’s “extracurricular activities.”

The debate was not as exciting as it sounds, but there were nuggets to be mined. Overall, I doubt that many votes were changed. It was Tuesday night on public broadcasting, after all.

The candidates will play what my friend Jeffrey calls debateball one more time next Monday. Since Vitter only appeared in two televised forums during the primary, his very participation means that he knows that he’s in trouble. Here’s hoping more shit hits the fan between now and then. Given how this campaign has gone, the odds are *much* better than Fifty Fifty:


Lagniappe Catblogging: Thanks For Kicking Into Our Kickstarter Kitty

I suspect you’ve heard already that our Kickstarter campaign was a great success. But I wanted to add my thanks. Our readers are the best.

It means that I can stop using Oscar, Della, and movie characters to shill for the anthology. I did, however, promise people that they would be rewarded with more Devil Eyed Della snaps. Here’s the latest:


Devilish butt-lifter. Photograph by Dr. A.

UNRELATED NEWS UPDATE: The Veep has stopped Biden his time and is NOT running for President. I never thought he would, so to the folks who insisted he would be a candidate: I TOLD YOU SO.

Friday Catblogging: Oscar Stands Up For The Anthology

Rumor has it that we’re having our annual fundraiser here at First Draft. Oscar is ready, willing and able to help with the begging. He’s an expert, after all.

Anthology Boy

For a mere 25 bucks you can get a copy of the First Draft anthology.If you like seeing Oscar, Della Street and their feline friends every week, please consider chipping in some extra dosh.

And now for some catblogging lagniappe. Somehow a cat was in attendance at the Super Dome to see the Saints beat the Falcons. Ladies and germs, I give you #SaintsCat: