Friday Guest Catblogging: Can’t Let Go

This week Carnival withdrawal and catblogging collide in a repeat appearance by my friends Holly and Paul’s feline Boris. Holly is a member of the Krewe of Nyx who are known for their decorated purses. Quite naturally, Holly made a purse honoring Boris:

I’m not sure if Boris approves. At least she didn’t cough up a hairball on it:

Since I used a Roxy Music tune for the title, I am obligated to post it regardless of whether Boris approves:

UPDATE: Boris celebrates her return to First Draft. I’m glad she doesn’t drink vodka.

Quotes Of The Day: Muslim Ban Edition

Things are not going well for the revised Trump Muslim travel ban. Two federal judges have ruled against it thus far. The opinion by Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii was particularly scathing:

The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed. … It is undisputed, using the primary source upon which the Government itself relies, that these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7% to 99.8%. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam. Certainly, it would be inappropriate to conclude, as the Government does, that it does not.

It’s no surprise that Trumper bragging is one reason that the ban has lost in court. Ignoring Kellyanne Conway’s admonitions,  Judge Watson took the president’s* words literally in his ruling. Here are a few more choice excerpts:

The Government appropriately cautions that, in determining purpose, courts should not look into the ‘veiled psyche’ and ‘secret motives’ of government decision-makers and may not undertake a ‘judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts’.

The Government need not fear. The remarkable facts at issue here require no such impermissible inquiry.

For instance, there is nothing ‘veiled’ about this press release: ‘Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’

Nor is there anything ‘secret’ about the Executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the Executive Order:

Rudolph Giuliani explained on television how the Executive Order came to be. He said: “When [Mr. Trump] first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban.’ He called me up. He said, ‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.’”

<SNIP>

In an interview on January 25, 2017, Mr. Trump discussed his plans to implement ‘extreme vetting’ of people seeking entry into the United States. He remarked: ‘[N]o, it’s not the Muslim ban. But it’s countries that have tremendous terror. . . . [I]t’s countries that people are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.’ …

When signing the first Executive Order [No. 13,769], President Trump read the title, looked up, and said: ‘We all know what that means.’ President Trump said he was ‘establishing a new vetting measure to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America’, and that: ‘We don’t want them here.’

Words matter to thinking people like Judge Watson. In Philip Roth’s memorable phrase, the Insult Comedian may speak “jerkish” but his gibberish translated into English has gotten him into trouble. The Muslim ban word salad was overdressed and too vinegary even if the Brown House describes it as “watered down.”

I begin to wonder if they even care if the ban goes into effect: they’ve made their propaganda points and placated their feral, unneutered base. If they want it to happen, the Trump-Bannon regime would be well-advised to heed this message from our country’s past:

This is a preliminary victory but I, for one, am thrilled that Trumpian braggadocio sank this particular ship. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Trumper incompetence may yet save the Republic. Keep up the bad work, y’all.

UPDATE: Trump continues to shoot off his mouth:

“Remember this, I wasn’t thrilled that the lawyers all said, ‘Oh, let’s tailor it.’ This is a watered-down version of the first one,” he told the crowd. “This is a watered down version, and let me tell you something. I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way, which is what I wanted to do in the first place.”

Trump vowed to defend his order.

“This ruling makes us look weak. Which by the way, we no longer are, believe me. Just look at our borders. We are going to fight this terrible rule,” he said at the rally.

Thanks, Donald.

A Feature, Not A Bug

steve_king_scalise_herrenvolk

Steve King’s lately been telling the world what he really thinks (and though a different Steve — Scalise — hasn’t, his prior record was no impediment to being selected Majority Whip). I’ve wondered whether this could be a broader trend in right wing, um, for lack of a better term, thinking — a degree of economic stability allowed otherwise anxious wingers the luxury of letting their inner racist freak flag fly. Zack Beauchamp (via Paul Krugman) explains:

…a lot of data suggests that countries with more robust welfare states tend to have stronger far-right movements. Providing white voters with higher levels of economic security does not tamp down their anxieties about race and immigration — or, more precisely, it doesn’t do it powerfully enough. For some, it frees them to worry less about what it’s in their wallet and more about who may be moving into their neighborhoods or competing with them for jobs.

The United States is marked by far more racial division than its European peers. Poverty, in the minds of many white Americans, is associated with blackness. Redistribution is seen through a racial lens as a result. The debate over welfare and taxes isn’t just about money, for these voters, but rather whether white money should be spent on nonwhites. “Hostility between races limits support for welfare,” Alesina, Glaeser, and Sacerdote conclude flatly in the paper.

This isn’t to argue that progressive ideas should be abandoned. But it does suggest trying to appeal to certain blocs of voters might be less of an option than…getting our voters out. And let’s continue to remember we outvoted them. Which offers some hope.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Terror Tales

It’s pulp magazine time here at First Draft. Terror Tales specialized in damsels in pulp distress covers. Here are two good examples:

The Americans Thread: Trouble In Paigeland

Americans Pests

You know things are bad when the man whose best friend is a KGB illegal notices there’s something wrong with a teenage girl. Of course, Stan Beeman is alternately clueless and perceptive about life in general. He’s right: there *is* trouble in Paigeland. I have an alternative theory as to why: I blame that dreadful brown geometric wallpaper in her bedroom. It looks as if Piet Mondrian  projectile vomited on the wall. No wonder Paige is sleeping in the closet at the beginning of this aptly titled episode. Pests abound this week but we’ll get to that after my feeble attempt to make this thread spoiler proof.

Before the break, let’s get in a 1984 mood by paying a brief visit to Heartbeat City:

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1040 Blues: From Sizzle To Fizzle

I’m uncertain how to best characterize the Rachel Maddow-David Cay Johnston 2005 tax form story. It was hyped as a bombshell but was greeted as if it were a dud or damp squib. I missed the build-up on social media so I’m sort of in the middle: we learned a few things but it didn’t live up to the advance hype about tax forms plural. The most interesting thing was Johnston’s speculation that Donald may have leaked the form itself. Otherwise it was all sizzle and no steak; not even a overcooked Trumpian steak with ketchup slathered all over it.

The main reason people are so disappointed is that they’re hoping for a magic, nay a silver bullet to slay the monster. This is real life, not fantasy fiction. The Insult Comedian’s downfall won’t be caused by an hour-long cable news program. It’s not “fake news” but it’s not a major breakthrough either. If Trump is brought down by his cartoon villain corruption, it will be by the accumulated weight of his criminality, not by one year’s 1040. As Slate’s Willa Paskin put it, Rachel “had the goods but oversold them.” Believe me.

Since we all have the 1040 Blues, I’ll give Robert Cray the last word:

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Rocket Cottage

I’m not sure if I love or hate the cover of Steeleye Span’s 1976 album Rocket Cottage. The folk rock veterans were aiming at mainstream commercial success with this record but it didn’t happen. The cover qualifies as either geek chic or ridiculous, my opinion changes with each viewing. It’s certainly memorable.

The back cover is more cottagey and less rockety:

Musically, Rocket Cottage is a mixed bag but it’s quite listenable:

No One Ever Is To Blame

Have you noticed how fucking allergic we are to saying who did what to who and why?

Jesus H. J. Giles Band Christ:

I mean SEEN AS?

He basically said, “White women need to have more white babies so that we can have a nation of white people,” and we are so … I don’t know, what, pussified we can’t say, “This was some breed-for-the-Reich straight-up eugenics shit, son?” What on EARTH? How did we as a nation ever manage the Paris peace talks if right now we can’t put together a definitive headline? Eighty-seven people work  in this newsroom or something. How many said, “Erm. Seen as?”

King put it on the tee for you. You don’t have to say the part about eugenics, even. You can just say, “Iowa Congressman repeats racist rhetoric of the past.” “Racist” is not an insult, it’s a descriptive. Steve King, bless the pile of rusty nails that passes for his heart, is arguing for a distinction based solely on race. That is RACIST. Objectively, if that matters to you while the fucking world burns.

Is it shocking and upsetting to say that? FUCK YES IT IS. It’s shocking and upsetting that it happened. It’s shocking and upsetting that a member of Congress, a job I used to actually think you had to not be a total jello mold to get, thinks there aren’t enough white babies for America to look like his vision of it.

It’s shocking and upsetting that that exists in the world. The very least our nation’s elite media can do is come up with a headline that reflects the shock and the upset.

It is not the newspaper’s job to keep everyone from getting upset. Sometimes it is the newspaper’s job to make sure everyone IS upset, and if everyone is not upset, to fucking deliberately upset them. With every word, you set an agenda, and this agenda says there is no collective interest worth being disturbed about. It’s all an abstract discussion between David Brooks and Thomas Friedman at the Aspen Ideas Festival and who can really know the truth?

Meanwhile King is out here flat-out telling my fellow white people we need to breed out the savages.

Or so it’s being “seen,” anyway.

A.

Malaka Of The Week: Keith Smith

Flags

Photograph by Jim Otey.

You’re probably asking yourself, who the hell is Keith Smith? I had never heard of him until ninety minutes ago when I first read about his flag flying exploits in Indianapolis.  One in particular, and his explanation of why he flies it, has caused a furor, pun intended. It’s always intended. And that is why Keith Smith is malaka of the week.

Smith is just an ordinary Joe with an ordinary name. He’s also the sort of collector you’re unlikely to see featured on the Antiques Roadshow:

Smith said the Nazi flag is about history, not race. He bought the flag from an antique dealer, and he’s been collecting neo-Nazi memorabilia since he was 14. He has badges, military pins and other commodities.

“It’s a part of history,” he said. “Someone sacrificed their life fighting and brought the flag back as a trophy.”

I suspect the folks at the Indy Star mean that he collects Nazi memorabilia. I doubt that there’s a market in George Lincoln Rockwell gee-gaws and tchotchkes. The bigger problem with Malaka Smith’s collection is how he displays one of his prized items: the flag you might have noticed at the top of the post.

For Keith Smith, flying the Nazi flag makes a point about how he’s being slowly stripped of his freedom.

The 58-year-old Indianapolis man has flown the flag three times in front of his house before, joining the Confederate flag and the Gadsden flag that reads “Don’t tread on me.”

“Everything is being stripped from us, everything is being turned into an issue,” Smith said. “I mostly flew it because I’m tired of seeing stuff across the U.S. Some want to cry about their hurt feelings, but this is a part of history being taken down.”

Does anyone understand Smith’s reasoning? I certainly don’t. It strikes me as the essence of malakatude. Flying the flag of one of America’s greatest enemies, one of the worst dictatorships in history, is an affirmation of freedom? That’s just plain nuts even in the era of alternative facts and neo-newspeak.  That’s also how the man who posted a picture of Smith’s flag on Facebook sees it:

Mr. Otey further elaborated on his sentiments to the Indy Star but I think fucking Nazi flag sums it up succinctly:

Jim Otey, a 51-year-old who lives in Smith’s neighborhood, said the flag represents an overall symbol of hate for him. He drives past Smith’s house daily and always saw the Confederate and Gadsden flag, and just shook his head. But the Nazi flag went too far.

“It’s the ultimate symbol of all the evil and bad things that are in this country,” Otey said. “It’s frightening to see that in your neighborhood.”

He made the original post on Facebook about the flag, and said he was astounded to see how far it spread.

“It makes me feel good that everyone is getting on board here,” Otey said. “That’s not going to fly here.”

The people who carried that flag plunged the world into the bloodiest war ever waged. It’s a symbol of genocide and war criminality, not a quaint relic. I have no issue with Smith owning the flag but displaying it flies in the face of simple human decency; something that seems to be in short supply among Trumpers in the heartland. Our country fought the Nazis; many of us lost relatives in Hitler’s war of aggression. It’s a symbol of repression, not freedom. And this bozo’s Confederate battle flag is a symbol of slavery, not freedom. It’s all so simple. Perhaps too simple for the likes of Keith Smith.

Trump’s electoral college victory gave the green light to bigots and racists; both famous and obscure. They have friends in high places such as Steves King and Bannon. The latter has been busy turning the White House into the Brown House while the former proudly parades his  fascist ethno-nationalist views without rebuke from fellow Republicans. Those who think of themselves as “decent” Republicans own the Steves and their ilk. I’m done cutting them any slack whatsoever.

As to Keith Smith. If he were a WWE wrestler, we might call him the Hoosier Hater. I have my own word for it: malakatude.  And that is why Keith Smith is malaka of the week.

King Of The Bigots

Our old “friend” Congressman Steve King of Iowa used to claim that he wasn’t a racist. Now that white ethno nationalism is fashionable among the deplorables, those days are gone, gone, gone:

Guess who applauded King:

The Wilders mentioned by King is far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders whose ironically named Party for Freedom is running first in the polls in that nation’s upcoming election. A headline in the “failing” NYT captures the horror of what’s happening in the Netherlands: How The Dutch Stopped Being Decent and Dull. I’d like to throw another D word in the mix: depressing.

The good news is that, thanks to Holland’s multi-party system, Wilders is unlikely to be the next Prime Minister BUT his party has gone from being cranks to contenders. That’s bad news for those of us who have admired the Dutch for their political common sense and cultural tolerance. The French presidential election is next up and Marine LePen may lead in the first round. The conventional wisdom is that her opponents will unite against her as they did against her father in 2002 but the CW has taken a beating in the last few years. Stay tuned: if France leaves the EU, it’s as dead as the Weimar Republic.

Back to Steve King. The Iowa cornholer is standing by his statements. It’s now safe in certain circles for an elected official to sound like David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Geert Wilders. King was on CNN this morning and went into a rhapsody about his horrendous views:

“I’ve been to Europe and I’ve spoken on this issue and I’ve said the same thing as far as ten years ago to the German people and to any population of people that is a declining population that isn’t willing to have enough babies to reproduce themselves. And I’ve said to them, you can’t rebuild your civilization with somebody else’s babies,” King said on CNN. “You’ve got to keep your birth rate up and that you need to teach your children your values.”

There you have it, we’re not “making” enough babies. It’s what happens when women get uppity and think they can do other things and not just be baby factories as in The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s a new teevee version of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic and it couldn’t be timelier. Make sure you read Ms. Atwood’s essay about The Handmaid’s Tale continuing relevance in the “failing” NYT.

In addition to supporting the King of Bigots, the erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer is bragging about his own fertility. Duke only has two kids whereas his role model Joseph Goebbels had six. Of course, he murdered his children in 1945. Some hero. Some role model.

Remember when mainstream conservatives ran away from David Dukkke? Now they sound just like him: Steve King is merely a canary in the coal mine. That’s life in the 21st Century, which is starting to feel like the 1930’s with memes. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland recently had a great deal to say about that, so I’ll give him the last word:

If there’s a common thread linking 21st-century European nationalists to each other and to Trump, it is a similar, shared contempt for the structures that have bound together, and restrained, the principal world powers since the last war. Naturally, Le Pen and Wilders want to follow the Brexit lead and leave, or else break up, the EU. And, no less naturally, Trump supports them – as well as regarding Nato as “obsolete” and the UN as an encumbrance to US power (even if his subordinates rush to foreign capitals to say the opposite).

For historians of the period, the 1930s are always worthy of study because the decade proves that systems – including democratic republics – which had seemed solid and robust can collapse. That fate is possible, even in advanced, sophisticated societies. The warning never gets old.

But when we contemplate our forebears from eight decades ago, we should recall one crucial advantage we have over them. We have what they lacked. We have the memory of the 1930s. We can learn the period’s lessons and avoid its mistakes. Of course, cheap comparisons coarsen our collective conversation. But having a keen ear tuned to the echoes of a past that brought such horror? That is not just our right. It is surely our duty.

Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – GET TO DA CHOPPA edition

Good morning, everyone – let’s spin that airlock door and see what’s in the room, shall we?

Remember “Da Governator”? (from 2003)

To: ambrose

Dang, I’m gonna be so happy with a guvinator who can stand up under pressure.Vote Arnold

34 posted on 8/30/2003, 9:27:48 PM by 68 grunt (3/1 India, 3rd, 0311, 68-69)
14 years later:

Report: Arnold Schwarzenegger Considering Senate Bid Daily Caller News Foundation ^ | March 9, 2017 | Juliegrace Brufke Posted on 3/9/2017, 11:23:41 PM by kevcol

Schwarzenegger spokesman Daniel Ketchell told Politico that the former governor hasn’t ruled out the possibility of seeking a seat in the upper chamber

“Right now Gov. Schwarzenegger’s focus is on using his platform to bring some sensibility and coherency to Washington by fighting for redistricting reform, like we did in California,’’ Ketchell told the publication. “We are keeping all of our options open as far as how we can accomplish that.”

1 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:23:41 PM by kevcol
Responses?
To: kevcol

 

Austria has a senate?

3 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:25:46 PM by 2ndDivisionVet (You cannot invade the mainland US. There’d be a rifle behind every blade of grass.)

Heh.
To: kevcol

 

Arnold.

A long long time ago, I supported you. I thought you were someone, different from who you are, apparently.

You really seemed to be more Donald Trump at first.

Now, not so much.

4 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:26:07 PM by cba123 ( Toi la nguoi My. Toi bay gio o Viet Nam.)

Don’t be too hasty.
.
1. Serial groper.
2. Rich.
3. Good at implementing stupid policies that fail (because they’re stupid)
4. Once a media star, who’s now in the process of collapsing.
.
Sounds pretty bang-on to me.
.
GetToDaChoppsh
 .
To: dp0622

 

GO AWAY = ESAD

9 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:29:03 PM by Kickass Conservative ( Democracy, two Wolves and one Sheep deciding what’s for Dinner.)

I see the Freeperville  ban on cursing is continuing to erode…
To: Kickass Conservative

 

Looked it up on urban dictionary 🙂

That’s pretty funny!

12 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:31:29 PM by dp0622 (The only thing an upper crust conservative hates more than a liberal is a middle class conservative)

If you didn’t already know (like from 1990 or so) what the acronym for “eat shit and die” was, perhaps you should stay away from the internets.
One Freeper tries to rally the once-faithful with the old “he’s the best of a bad lot” defense :
To: Kickass Conservative

 

Come on people! After 24+ years of Boxer/Fienstein I would think that you could open your eyes! He’s the best we could get unless you are blind. The ‘most conservative who can win’ applies here. Consider it good Buckley news. Besides it’s better than peddling war games.

14 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:32:31 PM by DIRTYSECRET (urope. Why do they put up with this.)

Rebuttal?
To: kevcol

 

ummm, GAG.

Arnold now makes me puke!!

18 posted on 3/9/2017, 11:37:17 PM by Conserv

So – not voting for him in the General, then?
To: kevcol

 

“Report: Arnold Schwarzenegger Considering Senate Bid”

Which party will he running for?

27 posted on 3/10/2017, 12:25:49 AM by catnipman ( Cat Nipman: Vote Republican in 2012 and only be called racist one more time!)

Ouchie.
More praise for sieze-her below the fold…

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Work’s Never Done

I wonder if she’s mad about it.

I would be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A.

If Only There Was Money for Journalism

Jesus H. Tits: 

Tronc (TRNC) , the third-largest U.S. newspaper company, is closing in on a deal to buy Us Weekly from Jann Wenner’s Wenner Media. The purchase price likely would be in the $85 million to $95 million range, sources said, with Tronc chairman Michael Ferro believing the acquisition will move Tronc toward becoming a major player in the celebrity news business and add both to its digital earnings and its digital transformation credibility.

NOTHING says credibility like Us Weekly.
Air Ferro: Latest financials show $2.7M in leased jet charges, equiv of 317 hrs at $8500/hour, = entire retail ad increase in 2016
So, an hour = roughly a month and a half of an experienced reporter’s salary.
I don’t want to hear anymore about how the Internet is killing newspapers, please.
A.

Sunday Morning Video: Oasis Live In 2000

I wrote about Oasis: Supersonic yesterday. Here are those zany, madcap boys playing a hometown gig in Manchester.

Saturday Odds & Sods: Top Of The Pops

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

Swing Landscape by Stuart Davis.

It’s time for the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day parade later today. This year’s route is so long that it should be renamed the Uptown/Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day. We’re fleeing to our friends Greg and Christy’s annual shindig, which puts the bang in shebang or some such shit. And I know the parade isn’t happening on the day itself. This is New Orleans, we do things our own way. Y’all should know that by now. There will, however, be drinking involved. We’re not that bloody different: walk me out in the Tullamore morning dew…

The big local story is that the Fifth Circuit has lifted an injunction against removing the white surpremacist monuments. They’ll be gone pecans soon enough. The erstwhile Gret Stet Fuhrer has been relatively silent this time around. He’s too busy fluffing Trump on Twitter to get worked up about it. For now. I guess that makes him a fluffer nutter. I hereby apologize to others out there who love marshmallow fluff, which recently celebrated a somewhat sticky centennial.

This week’s theme songs qualify as benign earworms. My mind keeps drifting back in their direction, which is why I’m taking you to the top, top, Top of the Pops.

We’re going in reverse chronological order with the 1991 Smithereens tune first. The video was filmed in Atlantic City. I looked for Chalky White but didn’t see him.

This week we’re back in same title, different song territory with the Kinks who were the band that most influenced the Reens. I’ve always preferred this loose live version of Top of the Pops to the more buttoned down studio track:

Now that I’ve rocked your world, it’s time to insert the break. This post grew like Cat’s Claw vines on an abandoned shotgun double so one is in order. See you on the other side.

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Uncle Tack

His given name was Thedrick Emerson Wright, but nobody ever called him that.

To anyone who worked with him, played softball for him or just spent time with him, he was just “Tack.”

Or if you were a kid like me, he was “Uncle Tack.”

It was never clear to me, or my dad who befriended Uncle Tack through his work at Ladish, where that name came from. Ted, Thed, TE or even “Big Man” would have made more sense that “Tack.” What was clear was that he was an integral part of my life growing up and loving man-child who always made us laugh, even as he fell apart.

Depending on who was around or how much beer had begun to flow, the stories about Uncle Tack were as legendary as they were outlandish. His supposed height was somewhere between 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-8, depending on the length of his Afro and who was telling the story.

When you are 5 years old, the truth of the matter tends to matter very little, as he was simply a giant to me.

His weight fluctuated from a lean and powerful 270 to what he often called “a biscuit,” as in “I’m just a biscuit off of 300” or “a biscuit off of 320” in his later years. Dad used to tell me that Uncle Tack was short-waisted, so when they sat down together, my 5-foot-9 father and Uncle Tack looked to be about the same size. Only when he rose did he unfurl the towering figure he truly was.

I remembered how he would wear those 1970s outfits, including short shorts and long athletic tube socks in the summer. His legs reminded me of a frog’s: long and muscular with a sense that he could leap over anything. I also never forgot his hands: he would envelop my tiny paw with his giant ebony mitt, wrapping his narrow fingers all the way around it as he would say, “How you doin’ there, Little Man?”

Growing up where I did and when I did, I had little concept of the issue of race or how divisive of a topic it truly was. We moved into my parents’ new home when I was 4 and Uncle Tack came to visit. I remember yelling, “Uncle Tack! Uncle Tack!” and rushing up to hug him. Neighbors looked over at us quizzically and asked my parents in an almost “hope against hope” tone, “Uh… UNCLE Tack?”

My parents explained that it was a term of respect for family friends to be designated as “aunt” or “uncle” as opposed to “mister” or “missus.” That part never trickled down to me at that age. He was just as much of a family member as anyone else with that familiar moniker. It’s probably why when I was 7 or so, I asked my parents quite loudly at a McDonald’s, “What color will I be when I grow up?”

Uncle Tack, however, dealt with a lot of the racism of the day, even though he never seemed to let it impact him when he was near us.

One time, Mom and Dad went to Las Vegas with Uncle Tack and wandered around the strip in those halcyon days of the early 1970s. Dad and Uncle Tack went to the bar to order a drink. The bartender served Dad, but skipped Uncle Tack. Dad called the guy back and ordered a drink for Mom, giving the guy another shot to do the right thing.

He skipped Uncle Tack again.

“Hey,” Dad barked at the guy. “Aren’t you going to get my buddy’s drink?”

“Oh,” the barkeep replied. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t see him standing there.”

It could have been an honest mistake, although I somehow doubt it was easy to miss a 6-foot-5 black man standing at an empty bar sporting a fire-engine red three-piece suit.

Other stories came home of people at the factory tossing around what we would now call “casual racism,” but back then they called it “teasing” or “pranking.” One such case happened after Uncle Tack shaved his head. Some guy put five Milk Duds in a row on his desk with a sign that read, “Tack’s family.” Instead of filing a complaint or blowing up in a rage, Uncle Tack simply ate the Milk Duds. Why let them go to waste?

He always was that “gentle giant” in the most clichéd terms possible, but there were also legendary stories of him dispensing justice, or at least putting people on notice that he would.

In one such case, he was attending a Kool and the Gang concert at some local venue when a guy behind him kept kneeing him in the back. Uncle Tack asked the guy to stop, and the man kind of mumbled something in return. A few minutes later, the guy was back at it. Uncle Tack became slightly more firm in his request as the guy gave him kind of a look like, “Hey buddy, I paid for this seat.” A third time, the kneeing returned, so Uncle Tack rose from his seat, turned to face the man and in an even voice declared:

“If you knee me in the back one more time, I’m kicking the shit out of your whole row.”

The man quickly stopped.

Even when he was older, he had no compunction about evening the odds when he felt his family or friends were in a rough spot. My freshman year of college, I had a roommate who was making my life hell with drug use and other shitty behavior. Repeated requests to the hall association to try to fix this fell on deaf ears. When Dad shared the news with Uncle Tack, my protector replied, “So when are we driving up to Madison to take care of this kid?” Uncle Tack had to be in his 50s at that point, but he still was ready to go.

Above all else, I remember laughter surrounding Uncle Tack. He would sit in our kitchen and tell stories and Mom and Dad would howl with laughter. He would even tell stories about things they had all experience, but he did so in such a way that made you think, “Man, I wish I had been there…”

There was the time he came over to meet with my folks around dinnertime: He had just polished off two Big Macs, fries and a Coke, but my folks were eating supper, so he sat down and joined them. He ended up eating almost two-thirds of a full pot roast that was supposed to be sandwich meat for the week.

Nobody minded. It was Uncle Tack.

Each spring, he’d come to the house and coax my mother into joining his softball team. He was a hell of a recruiter and a great motivator, but my mother was getting on in years and each season he asked, it took a little more to get her to bundle up for those frigid March games and play for him.

She had to be in her 40s near the end of his coaching career and he had tons of younger players from which to choose. Still, he always told Mom he needed her left-handed bat and her speed to make the team complete.

I remember hunkering down on those freezing cold bleachers at Beulah Britton Park and watching my mom play each season. I still remember the other players on the team: Sharon, the giant guard from the factor who could crush a homer on to the tennis courts. Joyce (also known as Ice), a sharp short-stop with a quick first step, a wicked bat and a glare in her eyes that would just cut you in half. Steady Betty was there in left, catching everything hit to her and hugging Uncle Tack each time she came in from the field. Carol, the pitcher who was the only one about my mom’s age, who we still see from time to time around Cudahy.

The hard part for me is understanding now that Uncle Tack wasn’t the saint I always remembered. Laughter often covered pain. The “dapper” outfits often hid financial problems. Other positives painted a thin coat of cover on top of the negatives.

He was divorced from his wife, which rumor had it, was because he had been fooling around with some of the younger softball players on his team. He had trouble at work, as he often missed a day or two with no real reason for doing so. His kids were at odds with him and somewhat wandered aimlessly, based on the chatter I overheard.

The biggest problem, though, was his inability or unwillingness to take care of his diabetes. When he retired from Ladish, he headed back to Tennessee to be near family. By then, he was a massive man who loved sweets more than anything. A few years after he left, his health really began to fail. Recently, he had both legs amputated at the knee. Always the joker, Uncle Tack explained in a phone call to my father how he looked:

“I’m the same but now you’re as tall as me.”

That was the last thing Dad heard from him and that was several years back.

When I called home last night, Dad was talking about the weekend card show and other such things, when Mom shouted something from the living room to him. He then told me that he’d just heard from a friend of his that Uncle Tack died earlier this week. He was about 68, Dad said, although that was as much of a mystery as everything else surrounding the man.

It’s hard to write this, not just because it’s so hard to capture the essence of who Uncle Tack was and what he meant to me, but also because I’ve learned that writing like this is often seen as an affront to “more important discussions” of race and human interaction. That makes me worry people will overlook the man I know for the broader picture I have no intention of painting.

Uncle Tack wasn’t the “magical Negro” in my life, to borrow a term from Spike Lee. He wasn’t the “black friend” that got rolled out to counter claims of racism. Even though I hadn’t seen him in quite some time and I’m in my 40s, he will always my Uncle Tack.

He hugged me as a kid. He stood up for me as a young man. He danced with my wife at my wedding (albeit under the watchful gaze of his new protective girlfriend). He made me laugh all the time.

He was family and I’ll miss him something awful.

Friday Catblogging: Krewe du O

This week’s catblogging features a snapshot of Oscar snoozing next to my Krewe du Vieux costume a few weeks ago. The bag he’s sleeping on contains a krewemate’s costume. All Oscar knows is that it’s comfortable and that’s all the matters to a cat:

Oscar Spank

 

The Fog Of History: George Orwell On Trumpist Autocracy

I’ve avoided discussing all the 1984 references people are making because I’m a genuine admirer of George Orwell, especially the collected essays.  As you can see from the Time cover above, the last wave of Orwell chic took place, well, in 1984 when the Reaganites and Thatcherites tried to claim him. It was a poor fit: Eric Blair was a man of the left who had slowly moved to the social democratic left as he observed what was going on in *his* world. He chose the title 1984 for his oft-cited, little understood novel by simply flipping the last two digits. The book was about Stalin’s Soviet Union, not some dystopian future state, and Animal Farm was about the false egalitarianism of Leninism. He was a political writer, not a sci-fi guy.

Having said that, there are some quotes from 1984 that are applicable to life in 21st Century ‘Merica. Plus, I had a lot of fun quoting Sam Clemens and Henry Mencken not long ago, so why not Eric Blair? Obviously, Orwell wasn’t writing about Trumpist autocracy but these quote work quite well by analogy. In fact, Trump puts the anal in analogy.

The first quote reminds me of Steve Bannon’s admiration of  Tailgunner Joe McCarthy:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

I thought of the next quote when reading about how Obamacare repeal is about freedom. You know, the freedom to die without medical care:

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”

Orwell, of course, was a fan of  Britain’s NHS. He knew that good health is freedom.

We’ve heard a lot about newspeak but what the Trumpers specialize in is doublethink.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

I don’t know if the average Trumper understands the big words, but the concept is surely not alien to Spicy as he spews lies from his gum hole.

As a veteran of the Spanish Civil War-he fought alonsgide the far-left  POUM militia-Orwell even has advice for today’s resistance:

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.”

Unconsciouness seems to be a Trumper trait; that and believing whatever nonsense comes out of their dear leader’s big bazoo.

In one of his essays, Orwell warned the world about how history was being twisted.

The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.

He specifically had Stalinist rewriting of history in mind. Did you know that everything good was invented by a Russian? Me neither, but that’s what they taught in schools in the USSR. It explains Putin’s national chauvinism rather well.

Finally, Orwell’s classic essay, Politics and the English Language, has been posted in its entirety online. Make sure you read it. Here’s how it concludes:

Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs.

No Real Surprises

allstate-vlogo_trump

So, just shy of two months into the the regime of the digitally-challenged-Tweeter-in-Chief (maybe his tiny fingers make it easier to type on telephone keypads)…and…it’s all pretty much what you’d expect. Epic ineptitude combined with gratuitous ugliness and bullying. No wonder he still scores well with the GOP base.

I guess we could lurch along like this for a while. Hell, Reagan spent a good bit of his second term (and possibly some of his first) more than a little, um, disengaged. However, with the present occupant, you’ve got to wonder/worry: What happens if there’s a real crisis? And, in the absence of a crisis, how much damage/looting can they do?

In other words…goddamn, it’s bad…but…goddamn, it could be even worse.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Rodent Mutation

A friend of mine has a vexatious critter in her attic. I hope it’s not one of these suckers: