Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stop Expecting Shame To Do the Job Votes Will

By the framework of politics pre-Bush administration, most of this would have ended somewhere around “lock her up” or the pussy-grabbing tape or on day one where he called Mexicans rapists so the fact that it hasn’t should really tell you something:

There is no shame anymore. That was the real Bush doctrine. A woman named Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Bush’s bullshit war, asked to meet with the president and when he refused she parked herself outside his dumb fake ranch and said she was gonna sit there until he came to meet her.

He never did, and now he’s our lovely “even Bush wasn’t this bad” uncle who goes on talk shows and talks nicely about his paintings and we’re all nostalgic about him. Fuck him. We are where we are because he figured out that once in office, he could do whatever he wanted no matter how low his approval ratings got.

That’s it. That’s the whole damn secret. He killed Washington shame dead, and no scandal would force him out. Whole war is a lie? Ignored warnings about 9/11? Let hundreds of people die and drown because ya can’t be bothered during a hurricane and besides, government sucks? NONE OF THAT had to matter unless he thought it mattered and he didn’t.

There were thousands of people in the streets against him. I was one of them. And he didn’t care.

He didn’t have to. He was in office. So what if his approval ratings were bad? There’s no law that says if you dip below 40 percent you gotta call an election. There’s no law that says you have to answer questions from the press if they’re not kissing your ass.

If Congress is on your side, or cowed and weak, there’s no law requiring you to answer to anyone. Bush explicitly argued in court that the executive didn’t have to answer to the judiciary. In 2003. They’ve been setting things up this way for a long, long time.

And yet we keep expecting shame to reassert itself. Kids in cages: Anybody gonna quit over that? Nah. They don’t have to. Trump’s approval worse than Nixon’s? So what? We keep posting videos and repeating the very obvious facts that they have subverted our democracy and stole two presidencies and two Supreme Court seats and saying THIS IS A SCANDAL and they know. They’re not ashamed of themselves. They have no reason to be.

The only thing that matters is voting them out, from the state house to Congress. No shame will do the job the votes will. No shame will do the job unemployment will.

A.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Cave

I mentioned this book in my post about the Thai cave rescues. It’s one of those books that lodged itself in my consciousness when I read it many years ago. It’s the story of a young man trapped in a cave in Tennessee. I won’t tell you what happened since the book is well-worth reading for both the tale and the telling.

A point of order: my LSU friends are likely to object to a Warren book popping up in this feature. The Cave is literary fiction but the paperback covers are on the pulpy side. Besides, its my party and I’ll cry it I want to.

The War Isn’t Over

It amazes me that we make movies about wars like we know what they are, like we know all the stories already: 

A stash of wartime bank notes worth the equivalent of £1.5 million has been found under the floorboards of a shop that is believed to have been a branch of Winston Churchill’s tailors.

Bundles of decaying notes, dog-eared and caked in dirt, were discovered by builders renovating a shop in Brighton. There is speculation that the money was part of an escape plan in case of Nazi invasion.

Sussex police have taken the £5 and £1 notes with a total face value of £30,000 into safekeeping while they investigate the find.

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Tuesday Catblogging

Slade, living the life:

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Keep Bashing Craigslist, It’s Sure to Work Any Day Now

Just stop it:

So Craig Newmark gave a squillion dollars to CUNY’s J-school, which is more than any wealthy media organizations have ever done, and the Internet is full of Very Serious Journalists dunking on him like “thanks for destroying the industry and then giving us peanuts, asshole.”

IT IS 2018. It is the year of our lord 2018 and Craigslist went online in 1995 and in 23 years the only solution to online advertising that newspaper geniuses have come up with is bitching even LOUDER about it.

2003 called. It wants its blame game back, and also possibly those cropped cardigans because that was a nice look on long-waisted girls.

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Not Everything Sucks: Gandalf and Magneto Edition

Ian McKellen, human treasure: 

The younger Dumbledore isn’t explicitly gay in the new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ movie. Why do you think there are so few gay characters in blockbusters?
‘Isn’t he? That’s a pity. Well, nobody looks to Hollywood for social commentary, do they? They only recently discovered that there were black people in the world. Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history. Gay men don’t exist. “Gods and Monsters” [1998], I think, was the beginning of Hollywood admitting that there were gay people knocking around, even though half of Hollywood is gay.’

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Color Blindness

I remember the first time Kick directly identified someone’s race. It wasn’t long ago. I’d waved to a neighbor through the window while we were having breakfast and she asked who I was waving at.

“Mr. M-, honey. He’s out in his yard.”

She turned, waved to him, and asked, “He’s a black man, right?”

“Right,” I said, trying to within three seconds identify if her intonation implied she thought this was a negative, something to be afraid of, something to mock, that would need to be corrected. It sounded neutral, a descriptive, the way she’d say the baby next door was a boy or Grandma has brown hair.

She’s been around families of any number of races and ethnic backgrounds since she was born, and while she’d noticed differences — that man is tall, that woman has curly hair — she’d never before asked if someone was black or Hispanic or Asian. We’ve read books about Rosa Parks and Ella Fitzgerald and Maya Angelou, about Frida Kahlo, and most recent children’s books include depictions of children of color, though fewer of them as protagonists than they should.

It’s not enough that she has a diverse environment and lives and learns with students of all races, when in our house we’re all so Caucasian as to be nearly transparent. There are still conversations to be had, about why Rosa Parks couldn’t sit at the front of the bus, or why people were mean to Maya Angelou, or what we are protesting next Saturday, or what someone down the street said to someone else.

White parents don’t get to be lazy about marking and honoring the differences between people, not when so many people use those differences to divide. Not when kids notice EVERYTHING, all the time, including how we talk about people of other races when we think they aren’t listening.

That morning, Kick was attacking her toaster waffle with gusto and I’m not sure was paying much attention to my subsequent explanation that Mr. M- has a skin color people call black even though it’s more of a dark brown, and we have a skin color people call white even though it’s more pink. By the time I got to the part about how skin color can be passed down in families sometimes but not always, she was off playing with My Little Ponies and I was basically lecturing to the cats. Race Conscious has good advice but it doesn’t always track with a 4-year-old’s attention span.

What talks do you remember having with your parents about race, and what did they tell you?

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Basing Your Party on Misogny Has Consequences

It’s almost like three years of telling your voters that women should be in the kitchen making sammiches instead of running the country is … bad, or something: 

McMorris Rodgers is campaigning like she has a contest and a competitive one at that.

In addition to the strong fundraising numbers, she has held multiple town halls: four alone during the last Congressional recess, for a total of 38 since August 2013, according to her campaign.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a powerful GOP super PAC supported by Ryan, has opened an office in the district to aide McMorris Rodgers.

The non-partisan Cook Report recently changed the rating of the race from a solid Republican seat to a lean Republican seat. It may sound like a small change but it sent waves through the political community given the district’s previous deep red ranking.

“They’re either very prepared or very scared or both,” Ridout said of McMorris Rodgers’ campaign.

Aww, poor baby.

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Sunday Morning Video: Harry Anderson’s Hello Sucker

Here’s the late Harry Anderson in a 1986 Showtime special:

Tenure: Thanks for fucking it up for everybody else

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

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

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

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

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

barbara

She then followed up with this gem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will never be fired.”

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

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

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

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

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

And academics wonder why people hate us…

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

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

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

 

There Are So Many Stories We Don’t Know

It’s not too late to tell them: 

In her will, Lewis identified herself as a “Spinster and Sculptor.” She asked for a dark walnut coffin, and that a notice of her death be printed in the Tablet, a British Roman Catholic publication. The resulting announcement — a curt sentence fragment — made no mention of her myriad accomplishments, and did not reach those who sought her across the sea. Until, over a century later, it found Richardson.

Richardson sees her research as part and parcel with the efforts of other black women scholars: after all, she noted, Alice Walker found Zora Neale Hurston’s grave, “out in the long grass.” “So I’ve become a cemetery sleuth,” she told me.

Until recently, the grave was unmarked: a slab of stone flush with the earth, overgrown with moss, one among many in the stone forest of St. Mary’s. Last year, however, the town where Lewis was born chose to reclaim its native daughter.

A.

Every Day’s Just A Little Worse

No. Just no.

This is the point in that stupid story about the boiling water and the frog where the fucking smoke alarm goes off. Just in case you were confused.

It’s time, guys. It’s time to quit. It’s time to refuse to be a part of this anymore.

Forget fighting from the inside to change stuff. Forget whatever else you’ve been telling yourself about the kind of job you want to do versus the public perception of it. It’s time. Quit.

Yes, I realize what I’m saying. Yes, I’m sure you have kids to feed and a mortgage to pay. Yes, I know you got into this business to do the blah blah blah and you can still do that except for these six seconds. Yes, I know, another armchair revolutionary telling somebody else to go be broken and fight the power. I usually hate that shit.

But honest to God, you want to know who you’d have been in the war? You’d have been this: A person so afraid for their job that they’d read propaganda on-air. I can’t believe any of these people got into this business to read propaganda on-air, to read syndicated editorials bashing themselves.

Like forget your pride in any kind of truth-telling. Your boss tells you to go out there and say, “Fuck me, fuck me right in my fucking face the way I deserve to be fucked” and you do it with a smile? I thought I knew how far down this went, the depths of your abnegation, but apparently I was sounding the kiddie pool and you all were in the Mariana Trench.

Do I have far more contempt for the ownership of Sinclair Broadcasting than I do for these reporters? Of course. We should always have more contempt for the sellers of bullshit than for anyone else involved in the bullshit’s life cycle, but at this point if you work at a Sinclair-owned station you can no longer pretend you’re not at least a bullshit PROCESSOR.

We’re in fascist territory now and that means everyone who didn’t fight back is complicit. Even you, the nice traffic reporter in Kansas or whatever, just reading what he had to read to stay employed. This isn’t worth doing local profiles on the Senior of the Month and reporting on which cable company scammed some nice family out of $50. This isn’t worth getting to cover the Paris peace talks, for that matter.

To anybody who hasn’t read this crap yet? Quit. Fuck being employed if this is what it means. Burn some shit down on your way out. Ron Burgundy this shit. Put on your “what will I tell my kids someday” clothes and go to town.

I’m not just mouthing at you; I will personally run a fundraiser on this very blog for anyone who blows their pop stand up with prejudice. There are people who can’t speak up, but if you’re one of the ones who can — and chances are if you’re headlining a newscast with your hair all done, you can — and you don’t? Then you’re a part of it. It’s your face. It’s your name. The minute you speak those words you own it.

Maybe you want to. Fine. But don’t come to us later and say you wish you could have stopped it. We’ll have you on tape.

A.

Not Everything Sucks: Writing Edition

People are good and kind: 

“I just found my happy writing place in a Tires Tires Tires waiting room and decided to tell people about it,” Amy said. “With all the sad stories in the news, the thousands of things that get us down in life, sometimes, you just need to open up Facebook and have a laugh at a weird author appreciating the little things in life.”

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Sunday Morning Video: Van Morrison & The Chieftains Live

I can’t seem to let go of Saint Patrick’s Day. Here’s a 1988 set at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.

Tillerson Out

Classy:

Most of the time I can’t get too het up about the ins and outs here, because wow, a burning dumpster is full of garbage that is burning all the time, but THIS MAN THOUGHT HE COULD SIT IN JOHN KERRY’S CHAIR AND I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THAT.

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Choose Your Own Adventure

I used to stick my fingers in all the pages, trying to game the system, find the path that would get me home free.

I used to read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too: 

Yet you never quite escape completely. The lasting influence of Choose Your Own Adventure might be how it made us subtly reflect on traditional story-telling. It may be hyperbole to claim that books for kids planted a seed of doubt about our credulity in later life. And yet there is something of the alienation effect to a form of literature that continually suggested other paths, other possibilities. The senses of contingency and simultaneity that Choose Your Own Adventure suggested to attentive readers might have made three and five-act structures with their stock heroes and villains and tidy resolutions that much harder to fall for.

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Good night, Jack Hamilton

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

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

Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘a reprieve’

What the fuck is wrong with you? 

But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a rare crisis not of their own making. While the White House mourned the loss of life in Parkland, Fla., some aides privately acknowledged that the tragedy offered a breather from the political storm.

A breather. A breather. A fucking breather. What kind of solipsistic asshole … you know, this is paragraph two of this story and I’m already longing for the better part of a bottle of scotch.

Press staffers cited the tragedy as a reason to cancel on-camera briefings for the remainder of the week, allowing them to avoid questions about the swirling controversies. The White House could hold its next briefing on Tuesday, a full week since press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders last faced reporters.

THANK GOD FOR THOSE DEAD KIDS, THEY GOT US A BREAK FROM THE WIFE-BEATING.

“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”

No one who says something so demonstrably horrifying gets to remain anonymous. The American people need to know who this is so that when they see him or her on the street they can throw rotten fruit. We should bring back the public stocks for people like this. You have got to be kidding me.

The official likened the brief political calm to the aftermath of the October 2017 gun massacre in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured. That tragedy united White House aides and the country in their shared mourning for the victims and their families.

“But as we all know, sadly, when the coverage dies down a little bit, we’ll be back through the chaos,” the official said.

I’m sorry, would you like America to arrange a few more mass killings so that you can keep your focus off the pussy-grabber’s porn star problems? I just … how is this person still alive after saying this to another human being? Sometimes I cannot fathom covering this White House and not punting everyone in to the sun.

Now, I am Super Savvy and therefore know that of course the writers of this story aren’t endorsing the view these anonymous White House anuses are espousing. Of course they don’t agree, present the administration’s view, both sides, etc. But the tone of this thing is just … yes, that’s what Republicans are about now, hoping school massacres distract us from the treason.

“The national tragedy in Florida has really, for now, turned the page on some of these crises,” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist close to the White House. “They’re going to come back, but what it does do is give the White House a chance to collect itself and, if they can, organize a communications strategy and get their ducks in a row.”

By conveying this viewpoint so dispassionately the story sends a message that this is just one outlook among many, rather than THE TEXTBOOK DIAGNOSIS OF A MOTHERFUCKING SOCIOPATH. These people should be straitjacketed, not quoted like they’re humans.

There are a thousand ways to approach this story that don’t wind up sounding like hey, a bunch of children died bloody but there’s a silver lining here folks! There are a thousand ways to turn this around, including but not limited to talking to people who think these officials are horror shows and should not only be shitcanned but sectioned.

I’m sure lots of people who don’t believe I’m Super Savvy and Serious will explain to me now that the paper can’t just be 72-point headlines that say EVERYTHING IS FUCKED AND ON FIRE, but that’s really the problem here. Adhering to the conventions of ordinary Washington coverage — while Democracy Dies in Darkness, natch — leads to opining that sure, a bunch of parents are planning funerals instead of graduations but at least Joe and I got to take a coffee break for once.

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