DON’T KISS ME, I’M DEAD

[Excerpt #2 from what I hope to be the upcoming book on The Quite Ordinary But Mildly Interesting Historical Adventures of The Actor Known to Many As Ralph Puke]

 

DON’T KISS ME, I’M DEAD

“I’ll come no more behind your scenes, David, for the silk stockings and white bosoms of your actresses do make my genitals to quiver.” –Samuel Johnson to his friend and actor, David Garrick

When I stepped onstage at Long Prairie High School at the age of sixteen under a bank of lights in front of an audience of family, friends and neighbors, no part of the experience had anything to do with art.

Galloping adolescent hormones and the pleasant discovery that high school girls liked dressing up and doing plays drove my decision to audition for the spring production. A chance to hang with the ladies after school? Yes. Definitely yes. It didn’t hurt that my best friend Larry, the hard-nosed fullback on our football team, had the same idea. Who would question our choice to dabble in the “arts” if he was involved?

To my surprise I was cast as the city dad in a “farm life vs. city life” play, filled with standard gags about an urban family adapting to new lives on the farm. The play required actual baby pigs and chickens onstage. Lots of manure jokes. I had the lead male role and some of the best lines. Getting laughs from the generous audiences of parents and friends was like the Simpson’s episode where Barney guzzled his first beer with Homer: “Where has this been all my life?”

I hadn’t been in a play since a traumatic grade school appearance as one of the three kings in the Christmas pageant. The long terrifying entrance from the back of the classroom, down the long aisle to the stage, all eyes on me (or so I thought) as I tried desperately to quit tripping on my robe while I sang my solo– “Myrhh is mine its bitter perfume…” And as I handed her my gift, Mary threw up in the manger. Enough to permanently drive a boy away from the theater.

Over many years of watching late night TV, we’ve all seen and heard the stars tell their backstage stories: tales of missed entrances, falling sets, disappearing props, inebriated King Lears, guns that fail to fire, actors falling into the front row during blackouts, unforeseen disasters that at the moment may have seemed career-ending, but in the fullness of time are just amusing. This high school drama stuff was all new to me, the memorization, rehearsals, the sets and props, the costumes, the makeup. It seemed complicated, lots of moving parts. And since no one else in the cast had any theater experience, it was communal discovery at every step, so no one felt out of his depth. Our director, Bernie Peterson, a gentle and infinitely patient English teacher, made it fun and let us explore the process to come up with our own versions of these one dimensional characters. It was a grand time and we all dove right in.

I made a quick costume change one night as the city dad, running onstage to start the scene, and before I could say my first line, chuckles and laughs bubbled up from the crowd. Thought I: “You’re good at this acting thing—you’re funny before you even say a word.” Seeing Larry staring at me, I glanced down and saw that in the frenzy of the quick change backstage I had tucked my pantlegs into my socks, my fly was open, and I was now standing center stage making an unintended fashion statement. If I’d have known what a “dresser” was—besides the place in my bedroom where I stashed my socks and underwear—I’d have asked for one the next day.

By the time the senior play rolled around the following year, I saw myself as a veteran lead actor, and I went to auditions cocky and convinced I’d play the meaty male lead as the Inspector in the murder mystery Meet A Body. Instead I was cast as the unsympathetic rich guy who gets killed in the first act and spends the rest of the play in an open coffin. I was to be The Body. The good news: I got the title role. The bad news: I died at the end of act one. Other than remaining deathly still for the entirety of act two, my work was essentially done by intermission. I shrugged off my disappointment and decided to make this the most intriguing and memorable corpse anybody in that little town had ever encountered.

Rehearsals chugged along, by opening night I was comfortable in the role and at peace with my limited stage time. My coffin was actually fairly cozy, with a clean and firm pillow, and I was able to work on my shallow breathing and keep the corpse quite motionless and believably dead. At one point in the second act, my “wife,” who was being played by a classmate I barely knew and didn’t much like, is overcome with emotion and leans into the open casket to plant a farewell kiss on the cold remains of her beloved. According to Director Bernie it was to be a simple, mimed kiss that didn’t actually make contact, an agreeable solution to my reluctance at being involved in anything resembling necrophilia. My grieving wife was to be positioned upstage between the deceased and the audience, they couldn’t see the kiss, so there was never a need for anything physical.

On opening night the scene went grotesquely awry. My distraught wife, emitting howling, Shakespearean grief (far more than any of us had seen at any rehearsal), leaned over the casket and gave me a huge, open-mouthed lip-lock that seemed to go on for minutes. Her breath was broccoli-esque. I couldn’t breathe. Worse, I couldn’t protest without breaking character and coming back to life. So I let her have her way with me. My disgust was palpable, but my self-control and cadaver-like stony acceptance was the best acting I’d done in two years.

I learned something important about the theater that night, about the need to get to know your fellow actors and establish a level of trust, so if things get weird at least you’ll have a relationship with the person who’s trying to stick her tongue down your throat.

If I could time machine myself back to that night, knowing what I know now about improvisation, I would lurch upright in the coffin and scream “It’s ALIVE!” Then stalk off the stage and let the chips fall where they may. That little town on the Minnesota prairie would still be talking about it.

AS I WAS SAYING

[2018 marks the 44th year that the Puke & Snot Show has been annoying renaissance festival visitors and comedy clubs everywhere. 2018 will also introduce Snot Version 3.0, Mr. Scott Jorgenson stepping into the stained, sweaty and overstretched tights worn the past ten years by John Paul Gamoke, who saw the error of his ways last fall and gracefully retired. John replaced the Original Snot, The One and Only Joe Kudla, who abruptly picked up his sword and went home ten years ago in August. The one common thread through all this loopy frivolity has been me. Ralph Puke. I don’t know how I’ve made it to this point, but the audiences still show up and the laughs are still loud and long in all the wrong places. John and I had just finished a performance at the Royal Fox Stage in Maryland last October, we were standing by the merchandise cart when a group of twenty-somethings strolled by. One of the guys trailing the group, clutching a beer, turned around and said merrily, “You guys are hysterical.” I was touched. “Thanks,” I replied. He took three more steps, stopped, turned around and finished his thought: “You’re older than fuck, but you’re HYSTERICAL.”  

So as Henny Youngman told Joe and me at dinner one night at Jimmy Hegg’s in South Minneapolis back in the 70s, “If they want to pay you for it, and it’s what you love doing, you don’t have a choice: just go do it.” Henny was still doing malls and club dates well into his 80s. Just doing it.

I’m working on a second book, the sequel to CALL ME PUKE: A Life on the Dirt Circuit. For the next few months I’ll be posting excerpts from what I hope will eventually be book #2. It doesn’t have a title yet, but given my penchant for rambling on about my curiously long career working in the open air in front of heavy-drinking, over-fed, over-stimulated festival crowds, I’m sure whatever I come up with will be appropriately colorful. For now, it’s AS I WAS SAYING]

PROLOGUE

How do you convince a couple of home grown Minnesota actors to leave their flyover city and take their odd little comedy act on the road? Why would you do that? What’s wrong with you? Leave them alone.

Ever since the Phoenicians invented money, there’s only been one way to convince an actor to go anywhere and do anything. But if you’re trying to get a job at a renaissance festival, don’t put the word “dignity” on your resume. That isn’t part of the deal. Just pack up the Nash Rambler, get out of town and take your chances.

There will be costs. The home life may suffer. (If only one of you has a home life, it’s a bit easier) Sharing a hotel room to save money can be a poor choice when one of you has a diet that would give pause to a Kalahari goat. And it can be particularly disturbing late at night in humid Miami when the air conditioning isn’t working and the shark steak, french fries and Bloody Marys begin to work their gastric magic on your roommate.

Festival producers, a sub-category of humanity that can be found listed just above mattress salesmen and one step below meth dealers, can be unreliable about contracts. Staging can be dicey. One show in Toronto had us working under a roller coaster. While it was in operation. Audiences can be testy and unpredictable, like the Shriner’s Kickoff party where we were sandwiched into the program between the beer-drinking contest, a guy playing three trumpets while bouncing on a pogo stick in and around pools of spilled beer, and just ahead of the stripper. Five minutes into our show an unimpressed, well-oiled guest yelled, “Where’d ya get the tights, Romeo?” I know my limits. I’ve never paid any attention to them, but I know them. I’m an artist, goddammit. I hissed to Joe “Cut to the final swordfight.” He gave me a startled look, we did, took a bow, and walked offstage.

JOE: “What are you doing? We only did five minutes, they won’t pay us.”

ME: “Oh yeah? Watch.”

We quickly changed clothes, I found the guy who hired us talking to the stripper’s bodyguard. I stuck out my hand and with great relief he handed me the $500 check. He was overjoyed that we’d bailed out. The revelers wanted to see the dancing lady, and our little costume comedy was an unnecessary distraction. This was an early lesson: before booking a show, always find out who the audience will be, how long the bar is open, and if anybody on the bill is going to be naked.

Road life for an actor is a continuous and unpredictable series of encounters and skirmishes that, at the time they were happening, we both knew would make for excellent stories around the campfire at the next festival when the newbies were eager to hear some rip-roaring tales from the wily road warriors.

 In this series of posts, I hope to reveal not only some of the delightful and terrifying surprises we encountered in our years entertaining crowds from New York to Florida, Vancouver to San Diego and lots of places in between, but how it came to be that a conservatively raised Catholic boy, the son of small town Minnesota parents– who knelt with their boys on the cold linoleum floor of their drafty farm house every night to say the rosary, thereby causing their eldest son, fifty-eight years later, to undergo knee replacement surgery and blame his parents for it—how that boy ended up as Uncle Puke, a political liberal with a well-honed skepticism of most forms of authority, carving out a strange career as an actor and comedy performer at renaissance festivals, just the kind of pure, exuberant joy conservatives have always warned us about.

Part 1: DON’T KISS ME, I’M DEAD [to be continued]

–Mark Sieve/Uncle Puke

puke in frame.jpg

If You Voted For Donald Trump, You Owe My Children An Apology

by John Pavlovitz

If you voted for Donald Trump, you owe my children an apology.

You owe them an apology for making them grow up with a hateful, incompetent, petulant, predatory monster as their President.

For placing their safety in the hands of an impulsive child, who trolls world leaders with nuclear weapons and wields our military like an insecure coward brandishes a gun at a party.

For unleashing the fierce tide of bullying, racism, bigotry, and homophobia they have to see in their classrooms and ball fields and neighborhoods—because the man you chose has repeatedly encouraged and legislated it.

For making them do “shooter drills” at school, because you’ve sanctioned a man who is fully in bed with the NRA, who removes barriers to mentally ill people getting guns, and who does nothing to prevent military grade weapon proliferation into our streets.

For the terrifying images of a crowd of emboldened, violent, torch wielding Nazis terrorizing a town—and of a President who coddled them afterward.

For the inexplicable disconnect they see in a man claiming to be Christian—while being so devoid of anything remotely resembling Jesus.

You owe my daughter an apology for excusing his reprehensible words about women when voting for him; for ignoring the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, for placing a man with such clear disregard for her at the highest level of leadership in the country she calls home.

You owe my son an apology for taking someone with a lifetime resume of filth and misogyny, and asking him to look up to that man as a leader; for rewarding the very sexist, ignorant, repugnant behavior we implore him never to engage in or abide in those around him.

You’ve let my children down by thrusting them into an America that is far less secure, less compassionate, less decent, more fractured, and more violent than it was a year ago—and because that truth alters children immersed in it.

But lest you think this is just about me, about my family, about my children—be assured it is not.

Yes, you’ve surely failed my children with your vote, and more so with the way you’ve doubled down on the toxicity released over the past year—but you don’t owe an apology to them alone.

You owe your children an apology too.

They too are inheriting this jagged, hateful, angry nation you’ve co-created with your vote. They too are reminded every day by their President, that honesty and integrity and empathy and kindness are of little value; that going low gets the intoxicating applause of the crowd and the affection of the ignorant.

They too will have their personalities, their priorities, their sense of safety, and their very identities formed in the crucible of this scalding hatred Donald Trump presides over and continually cultivates.

If your children one day become ill, they too will have a difficult time affording care or staying alive without going broke.

They too will have to breathe the air and drink the water and reside on the planet that this President leaves to rot.

They too will be saturated in the enmity and the callousness of this country—and make no mistake it will change who they are. It will change the way they perceive truth and the way they respect differences and the way they value people’s bodies and well-being. 

And not just my children and not just your children.

You owe an apology to every child who has to spend their formative years in an America that is defined by:
fear of the other,
an epidemic of cruelty,
a poverty of decency,
a deadly allergy to facts,
a Christianity of coercion and malice,
a defiant resistance to diversity.

You owe an apology to every young woman growing up in an America where celebrity preachers vilify assault victims and defend predators, where accusers are tried and offenders elected.

You owe an apology to every young man who forms his identity in a culture where men can do whatever they want to women and they will rarely be held accountable; where gentleness is a liability and brutality an asset.

Yes, this horrible stuff existed long before this year, but it’s never had such a powerful and uncontested cheerleader with such an ability to ratify it all—and that’s something that’s on you and that you’ll have to own. That’s just how it is.

So yes, you can puff out your chest online, and posture and boast all you want.
You can cling to the fading lie that you’ve won anything here, or that you’ve somehow struck a blow for America or Jesus or patriotism.
You can tell me to suck it up and to let it go and to f*ck off—which I’m now quite used to.
But at the end of the day you’ve simply let a lot of people down:

My children.
Your children.
The children of this country and the planet.

They all have lost because you were irresponsible with one of the greatest responsibilities you’ve ever had in their lifetime, and now they have to live with the terrible fallout—and you owe them all an apology.

I’m well aware of what your likely response to all this will be. I don’t imagine an apology will be forthcoming—so I’ll apologize to them on your behalf.

Then, I’ll spend every day living that apology.

I’ll remind my children your children and all children, that there are lots of adults who still believe that people are inherently valuable and stunningly beautiful—that not all adults fear brown people and gay people and foreigners and immigrants.

I’ll remind them that there are still people committed to the truth and to equality, and the richness found in diversity.

I’ll do my best to make them feel safe and loved and hopeful here, even on the days that I don’t.

I’ll even teach them to forgive people who fail and hurt them, because I know how difficult that it is right now.

And I’ll remind them that even when bad people are rewarded, doing the right thing is still the thing most worth doing.

I’ll teach them that when hatred seems the most treasured currency, that love is still worth more than gold.

I’m just sorry that they have to live with something (and someone) far less than they deserve—and they didn’t have to.

Surmounting Trump Derangement Syndrome

by Richard North Patterson

 

[Richard North Patterson is the New York Times best-selling author of 22 novels, a former chairman of Common Cause, and a member of the Council On Foreign Relations.]

Our president poses an unprecedented challenge to America’s national equilibrium. His insatiable hunger for attention subjects us to a relentless fusillade of lies, accusations, distortions, braggadocio, threats, bigotry, misogyny, conspiracy theories, reversals of course and half-baked notions spewing from an unbalanced man empowered to start a nuclear war. Silence terrifies him; only an audience makes him real to himself.

 

That’s the purpose of his presidency ― compelling us to hear his ceaseless ringing in our ears. Metastasized by media, his oppressive omnipresence fractures families, ruins friendships and sours social gatherings. Buffeted without surcease, we risk becoming jittery gerbils on his hamster wheel, unable to distinguish his infinite vulgarities from his gravest harms. His constant din demolishes perspective and obliterates reason. To scour Donald Trump’s behaviors for a coherent philosophy or strategy is to visit our own need for order on his pathological disorder, deepening our disorientation.

 

In truth, his persona defies all explanation but a self-absorption so consuming that it eviscerates human norms. Trump’s world is a suffocating Orwellian hothouse wherein he expects us to become as bereft of critical thinking as Pavlov’s dogs, reflexively salivating to his latest stimuli regardless of truth or fact ― or whether it contravenes what he said the day before. The presidency empowers him to make his sickness ours.

Thus does Trump derangement syndrome become debilitating.

 

The challenge for citizens is how to think about him. The challenge for analysts is how to separate idiotic excess from the very real systemic and societal wounds he deepens with every passing day. Without such rigor, we become Trump’s parrots, reacting to what, in his singular presidency, is relatively trivial. Did he lie about Stormy Daniels? No kidding. Does he believe that Canada burned down the White House in 1812? Surprise – Trump is an historical illiterate. Does he want his own military parade? Of course – he’s grotesquely grandiose. Is his marriage shaky? How could it not be? Yet such subjects consume precious print and airtime.

 

Nor does it serve to emulate his worst behaviors by resorting to mindless insults or public shunning – such inarticulate expressions of rage, however understandable, are a gift to Trump which gratify the most committed while repelling those whose votes we need. The only gratification which lasts is to rip control of Congress from his hands 2018, and expel him from the White House in 2020.

 

One need not care about Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ tender feelings to eschew tactics which, remarkably, transform her from mendacious mouthpiece to afflicted mom.

Rather, the indispensable imperative in combating Trump is to clearly and rationally identify his gravest underlying offenses. Absent that, we can neither analyze or persuade; to others, we may seem mired in hysteria and trivia.

 

Thus it is paramount to find an organizing perspective by addressing foundational values and cumulative effects. What makes Trump so destructive is less his day-to-day transgressions, however noxious, but a substantive damage to America and the world which transcends politics or ideology. Consider these.

 

Subverting our democratic institutions and rule of law. He charges that our electoral systems are rigged, yet refuses to protect them from Russia. He asserts that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies are conspiring to frame him. He attacks judges who displease him. He demeans his attorney general as insufficiently craven. He claims that Robert Mueller is a political operative.  He fires or intimidates law enforcement professionals to thwart investigation of his own misconduct.

Demolishing ethical standards. He commingles negotiations with foreign governments and financial assistance to Trump businesses. His family leverages influence to gain financing from foreign sources and concessions from foreign authorities. He steers political spending to his resorts. He countenances petty grifters in his cabinet. He “drains the swamp” by placing lobbyists and industry insiders in key positions at agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Education.

 

Dividing America for political gain. He routinely traffics in racist tropes and white identity politics. He accuses blacks and Hispanics of massive voter fraud, and falsifies the crime rate for undocumented immigrants. He exploits xenophobia by stereotyping Muslims, shafting Dreamers and separating children from their parents.

He transforms immigration policies to spurn nonwhite immigrants and refugees fleeing murder and oppression. He labels black athletes who protest unjustified police shootings and violence as unpatriotic. He turns diverse Americans against each other to scavenge votes.

 

Degrading his office and the public discourse. He lies incessantly and flagrantly. He dismisses science and denies objective fact. He demeans and slanders anyone who displeases him. He bullies subordinates. He vilifies political opponents. He erodes our ability to conduct the civil discourse vital to democracy. He trashes honest journalism and attacks the media for truthful reporting. He treats dissent as an insult and reality as a threat. He views the presidency not as a sacred trust, but as a personal satrapy. He exudes a craving for autocratic powers.

 

Eroding America’s global leadership and national security. He flatters autocrats and panders to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He disdains allies and coddles adversaries. He disparages nonwhite countries and rejects immigrants of color. He abandons human rights. He scorns international institutions. He shreds trade agreements and environmental cooperation. He shuns democracy and democratic values. He mocks and insults Western leaders. He parades his ego and ignorance on the world stage.

He launches ill-considered trade wars which damage us at home and abroad. He speaks cavalierly of nuclear war.  He abandons the Iran nuclear deal with no considered alternative. He treats complex negotiations with the shrewd and murderous leader of nuclear North Korea like an episode of reality TV. He has no grasp of history or sense of consequence.

 

Compared to such comprehensive damage, so corrosive and profound, it hardly matters that he is an adulterer and ignoramus.  For where leadership counts most, Donald Trump is the most dangerous and destructive president in U.S. history.

 

That is why Americans must call him to account where it matters most ― at the polls.

FACT VS MYTH on the Zero Tolerance Policy

by Michelle Martin, Cal State University

There is so much misinformation out there about the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy that requires criminal prosecution, which then warrants the separating of parents and children at the southern border. Before responding to a post defending this policy, please do your research…As a professor at a local Cal State, I research and write about these issues. I wrote the following to make it easier for you:

Myth: This is not a new policy and was practiced under Obama and Clinton – FALSE. The policy to separate parents and children is new and was instituted on 4/6/2018. It was the “brainchild” of John Kelly and Stephen Miller to serve as a deterrent for undocumented immigration, and some allege to be used as a bargaining chip. The policy was approved by Trump, and adopted by Sessions. Prior administrations detained migrant families, but didn’t have a practice of forcibly separating parents from their children unless the adults were deemed unfit. https://www.justice.gov/…/press-rele…/file/1049751/download…

Myth: This is the only way to deter undocumented immigration – FALSE. Annual trends show that arrests for undocumented entry are at a 46 year low, and undocumented crossings dropped in 2007, with a net loss (more people leaving than arriving). Deportations have increased steadily though (spiking in 1996 and more recently), because several laws that were passed since 1996 have made it more difficult to gain legal status for people already here, and thus increased their deportations (I address this later under the myth that it’s the Democrats’ fault). What we mostly have now are people crossing the border illegally because they’ve already been hired by a US company, or because they are seeking political asylum. Economic migrants come to this country because our country has kept the demand going. But again, many of these people impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy appear to be political asylum-seekers. https://www.npr.org/…/arrests-for-illegal-border-crossings-…

Myth: Most of the people coming across the border are just trying to take advantage of our country by taking our jobs – FALSE. Most of the parents who have been impacted by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy have presented themselves as political asylum-seekers at a U.S. port-of-entry, from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Rather than processing their claims, according to witness accounts, it appears as though they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the US Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. The ACLU asserts that this policy is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible. https://www.nytimes.com/…/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool…

Myth: We’re a country that respects the Rule of Law, and if people break the law, this is what they get – FALSE. We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though many of the people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do. https://www.upi.com/…/Donald-Trumps-wall-ign…/2621477498203/

Myth: The children have to be separated from their parents because the parents must be arrested and it would be cruel to put children in jail with their parents – FALSE. First, in the case of economic migrants crossing the border illegally, criminal prosecution has not been the legal norm, and families have historically been kept together at all cost. Also, crossing the border without documentation is typically a misdemeanor not requiring arrest, but rather has been handled in a civil proceeding. Additionally, parents who have been detained have historically been detained with their children in ICE “family residential centers,” again, for civil processing. The Trump administration’s shift in policy is for political purposes only, not legal ones. See p. 18: https://www.aclu.org/…/ms-l-v-ice-plaintiffs-opposition-def…

Myth: We have rampant fraud in our asylum process, the proof of which is the significant increase we have in the number of people applying for asylum. FALSE. The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. While some people may believe that we shouldn’t allow any refugees into our country because “it’s not our problem,” neither our current asylum law, nor our ideological foundation as a country support such an isolationist approach. There is very little evidence to support Sessions’ claim that abuse of our asylum-seeking policies is rampant. Also, what Sessions failed to mention is that the majority of asylum seekers are from China, not South of the border. Here is a very fair and balanced assessment of his statements: http://www.politifact.com/…/jeff-sessions-claim-about-asyl…/

Myth: The Democrats caused this, “it’s their law.” FALSE. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats caused this, the Trump administration did (although the Republicans could fix this today, and have refused). I believe what this myth refers to is the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which were both passed under Clinton in 1996. These laws essentially made unauthorized entry into the US a crime (typically a misdemeanor for first-time offenders), but under both Republicans and Democrats, these cases were handled through civil deportation proceedings, not a criminal proceeding, which did not require separation. And again, even in cases where detainment was required, families were always kept together in family residential centers, unless the parents were deemed unfit (as mentioned above). Thus, Trump’s assertion that he hates this policy but has no choice but to separate the parents from their children, because the Democrats “gave us this law” is false and nothing more than propaganda designed to compel negotiation on bad policy. https://www.independent.co.uk/…/trump-democrats-us-border-m…

Myth: The parents and children will be reunited shortly, once the parents’ court cases are finalized. FALSE. Criminal court is a vastly different beast than civil court proceedings. Also, the children are being processed as unaccompanied minors (“unaccompanied alien children”), which typically means they are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). Under normal circumstances when a child enters the country without his or her parent, ORR attempts to locate a family member within a few weeks, and the child is then released to a family member, or if a family member cannot be located, the child is placed in a residential center (anywhere in the country), or in some cases, foster care. Prior to Trump’s new policy, ORR was operating at 95% capacity, and they simply cannot effectively manage the influx of 2000+ children, some as young as 4 months old. Also, keep in mind, these are not unaccompanied minor children, they have parents. There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back because we are in uncharted territory right now. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see below), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers. The report covers earlier years, but I’m including it here to highlight that there are problems with keeping children in large residential centers, even if they are run efficiently and supervised by licensed social workers and counselors. There is an abundance of empirical evidence that shows that residential care, even highly efficient ones, are no place for children, particularly very young ones: https://www.aclu.org/…/aclu-obtains-documents-showing-wides…

Myth: This policy is legal. LIKELY FALSE. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on 5/6/18, and a recent court ruling denied the government’s motion to dismiss the suit. The judge deciding the case stated that the Trump Administration’s policy is “brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.” The case is moving forward because it was deemed to have legal merit. https://www.bloomberg.com/…/aclu-suit-over-child-separation…

I Don’t Need to ‘Understand’ Anyone Who Still Supports This President*

by Charles Pierce, ESQUIRE

The New York Times had a story on Friday that should’ve brought shame and derision upon anyone who voted for the racist monster in the White House, and upon the racist monster that the other racist monster installed at the head of the Department of Justice.

The United States government is now committing human rights atrocities within its own borders and against the most vulnerable people it can find. I don’t need to “understand,” much less take seriously, anyone who still supports this president* and his administration* because, if you do, you’ve taken the idea of America and run battery acid through its veins.

An American government escort handed over the 5-year-old child, identified on his travel documents as José, to the American woman whose family was entrusted with caring for him. He refused to take her hand. He did not cry. He was silent on the ride “home.” The first few nights, he cried himself to sleep. Then it turned into “just moaning and moaning,” said Janice, his foster mother. He recently slept through the night for the first time, though he still insists on tucking the family pictures under his pillow. 
José’s separation from his father is part of the Trump administration’s latest and most widely debated border enforcement policy. Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the government would criminally prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally, a directive that is already leading to the breakup of hundreds of migrant families and channeling children into shelters and foster homes across the country.

Does it get worse? Trick question.

Among other children recently fostered by Bethany families is an 18-month-old girl separated from her father, who has been detained. The child cries frequently, especially when she changes settings, such as leaving her foster family’s home to attend a doctor’s appointment. 
Dona Abbott, Bethany’s refugee program director, said that these newly separated children frequently have nightmares, anxiety and stomachaches. A 3-year-old boy taken from his mother at the border was inconsolable during his flight to Michigan and cried incessantly on arrival at his new home last month, she said. He recently has begun to bond with his foster mother, from whom he is now reluctant to be apart. “He seems fearful of losing yet another attachment,” Ms. Abbott said.

What in the hell are we doing calling ourselves civilized, let alone a free nation?

The one thing that animated him was discussing his “photos,” as he called the family drawings. He introduced “mi familia,” pointing to the figures of his parents, brother and younger sister. Staring intensely at the sketch of his father, with a slight mustache and a cap, he repeated his name out loud again and again. It was “just me and him” on the trip from Honduras, he told Janice one night as he lay in bed shuffling the pictures, taking turns looking at one and then the other. 
“He holds onto the two pictures for dear life,” Janice said, through tears. “It’s heart-wrenching.”… When sirens pierced the quiet of the night last week, José’s eyes widened with fear. “La violencia, la violencia,” he said. The family assured him that it was not violence; it was fire trucks.

Fire trucks. Jesus. Janice, the foster mother in the story, is practically the only person in it with whom I’m happy to share a planet.

“It’s incredibly conflicting for me as a parent to watch this little boy begin to just have fun and experience joy in simple pleasures,” Janice said. “His dad doesn’t get to see him being joyful. It’s as if these moments with his son have been stolen from him. I am no substitute.” 
For sure, the boy’s family always seems to be on his mind. 
At bedtime one night last week, he announced: “I am going with my papa on Saturday.” 
To which Janice responded, “You know, mi amor, I don’t think it will be Saturday. First we have to get more information about where your dad is so that we can call him, and then we’ll see.” 
He listened, and then asked her to remain in the room. “I don’t want to be alone,” he said.

So, thanks to this president* and his 63 million enablers, and his acolytes in the media, and all the people who didn’t care enough to stop him in 2016, and all the people who don’t care enough to stop him now, we have our own American variations on the Tuam babies and the Magdalene Laundries.

Children are being punished, cruelly and mindlessly, for the perceived sins of their parents and, because we are a secular republic, it is not being done in the name of God but, rather, on the behalf of everybody in this country. That does not make this better. Not by a longshot.

god:kids.jpg

 

 

 

 

Number of detained immigrant kids, ‘begging and screaming not to be taken from parents,’ surges

[It is U.S. Federal Law that any person from any country has the right to petition for asylum at our borders. Your government’s official policy now ignores that law and is literally kidnapping children as some sort of evil, misguided “deterrent” to keep people from even asking. This is your country. These things are being done in your name. Resist in any way you can.]

The number of migrant children locked up by the federal government has surged by more than 20 percent and left designated detention facilities at near-capacity, following a new, barbaric Trump administration policy ripping kids from the arms of their parents at the U.S./Mexico border:

Although the government has not disclosed how many children have been separated from their parents as a result of the new measures, the Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that it had 10,773 migrant children in its custody, up from 8,886 on April 29.

Children kidnapped from their parents are placed in “an existing network of approximately 100 shelters in 14 states” run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—and those are now quickly filling up with frightened, confused children who should be with their parents. Those shelters are at 95 percent capacity, an HHS official said Tuesday, and the agency is preparing to add potentially thousands of new bed spaces in the coming weeks. HHS also is exploring the possibility of housing children on military bases but views the measure as a “last option,” according to the HHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the agency’s preparations.

An internment camp for brown kids disguised as a military base is still an internment camp for brown kids. “It’s as bad as anything I’ve seen in 25-plus years of doing this work,” said Lee Gelernt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “Little kids are begging and screaming not to be taken from parents, and they’re hauled off. Parents are telling their older kids, ‘Be brave, be brave.’”

The safest place for kids is with their families and in supportive communities. Yet this barbaric policy has resulted in 2,000 children as young as 53 weeks being torn from parents and thrust into an abusive system that is wholly unfit to care for them. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago School of Law, have run over, punched, and sexually abused children:

In one complaint we obtained, a Border Patrol agent grabbed a girl he claimed was running away, handcuffed her to someone else and dragged them together along the ground, causing “two bruises on her neck, scratches to her shoulders and arms, and thorns in her head.” A 16-year-old recounted that a Border Patrol agent threw him down before he used his boot to smash his head into the ground.

Other children allege that agents assaulted them with their feet, fists, flashlights, and Tasers. In one case, an agent ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then got out and punched the child in the head and body. Often, children noted that other agents witnessed the abuse or saw the injuries but refused them medical attention. In one case, agents accused a pregnant minor of lying about the pain — which turned out to be labor contractions preceding a stillbirth.

There are countless more stories of this violence and mayhem being visited on children daily. It has to stop.

–Daily Kos

For the Love of God, You Gigantic Babies, Shut Up.

[A POINTED RESPONSE TO THE HAND-WRINGING AND COMPLAINING AND WHINING AND SULKING BEING PERFORMED BY CONSERVATIVES ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AFTER MICHELLE WOLF’S TEN MINUTES OF VERBAL GYMNASTICS AT LAST NIGHT’S WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT’S DINNER]

By HUNTER, Daily Kos diary

Every year, there is outrage when a famous comedian invited to host the self-gratifying political orgy known as the White House Correspondent’s Dinner uses the opportunity to crack jokes about the participants. As is the custom. Every year, the assembled journalists proclaim themselves outraged at the comedy routine making fun of journalists; every year, conservative politicians proclaim themselves terribly hurt by the lack of deference given to the worst of them. The problem, according to the gathered most powerful people in America, is that comedians are mean to them.

This year the fainting couches were rolled out in reaction to Michelle Wolf, who used a snippet of foul language—in front of baseball stars—and who insulted the White House’s principal propagandist, a woman who lies openly and freely in service to deflecting criticism of a president’s racist statements, racist actions, lies, more lies, still more lies, scandals, more scandals, failure to abide by even rote ethics expected of the presidency, vulgarities, potential criminalities, and take-your-pick, by pointing out that the liar was a liar, but one with fabulous eye shadow.

And all the people who stared blankly into the abyss as the now-president demonized immigrants, and non-Christians, and the last president, and his political opponents, and federal investigators, and the press, and the rule of law itself, on any occasion in which it caused him the slightest injury, and all the people who stare blankly at the Sean Spicers and Sarah Sanderses of the White House and wrote down, dutifully and punctually, the flagrant lies that the White House wanted disseminated on that particular day, pretended that this was the one incident of impropriety that shook them. The comedy routine.

And the conservatives, including the ones who host conventions in which the speakers regularly suggest that their political enemies are traitors to the nation who need to be expunged, with violence if necessary, and who demand mass purges of immigrants, rally around white nationalists and white supremacists, talk about what should be done with those that enable abortions, and so on, and so on, and so on, pretend to be outraged at the incivility of it all. For about twenty minutes. Not enough to forgo the after-dinner wine, of course.

White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, conservative activist Matt Schlapp, walked out early. “Enough of elites mocking all of us,” he tweeted. (Still, the Schlapps later attended NBC and MSNBC’s after party).

Here is my hot take on the matter: Shut up.

For the love of God, you gigantic babies, shut up. You control the levers of power, but it is not enough. You control, to a larger extent than any other Americans in any other locations, the direction and speed of every political wind. You have the power to trivialize scandal, and scandalize trivialities, and you use it every day, against famous targets and against private citizens alike. You are the press. You are the government. You are at the peak of your profession; you are at the center of what America is and will be, if your town has any say at all over it. You determine what the papers will report tomorrow, and what they will ignore. And it is still not enough; there is never a point at which any other American, anywhere, will be able to do a tenth as much to you as you do to them without dozens upon dozens of the most powerful figures in America bursting into false tears and wringing their hands at the incivility of it all.

You show contempt for “Hollywood” daily, and promote that contempt; the same for sports stars in encroach upon your political turf; the same for high school students not wanting to be shot; the same for striking teachers, or whoever else attempts to dip their toes into your wading-pool.

But insulting one of the most flagrant propagandists America has seen within the White House in modern times—that is a bridge too far? That does not even rise to the level of maudlin. That is simply, for at least half of you, rote.

If a single night of barbs is too much, end it. Go home, you babies. Go back to your column-spaces and write about all the other people who are not allowed to encroach on your domain of explaining which professional liars are decent and which outrageously cruel ideas are perhaps not cruel at all, if you turn your morals off. Go to your conferences and whine bitterly, conservatives, that a movement predicated on contempt for all others receives contempt itself. Go, and let us never have these ostentatious, masturbatory, celebrity-adjacent self-promoting events again.

Just end this stupidity already. Go on, end it. Next year, have no comedian at all, rather than one who might wound the fee-fees of the most powerful men and women in the nation. Next year, have no event at all; content yourself with the after parties, where you can drink and brownnose in peace without having to hear a single barbed word other than the ones you dish out behind each other’s backs. We dare you. We dare you to abandon this one glittering party.

Go on, do it. Put up or shut up.

Ya babies.

No, He Lied. Say it: HE LIED.

by Jim Wright

American journalism is dead.

Or it might as well be.

They just can’t do it. They just can’t use the word. Just can’t do it.

Trump openly brags that he “made up facts” in a meeting with a foreign leader and the press just plays along.

Made up facts.

Made up “facts.”

In the context of information, a fact is defined as: a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article, a thing that is indisputably proven to be the case, information based on evidence.

You can’t make up facts.

If you’re making it up and presenting it as fact, you’re lying. By definition.

The word is “lied.”

Not alternative facts.

Not made up facts.

Not facts.

Lies.

HE LIED. THE WORD IS LIED. LIED. LIED. LIED.

Now, this morning, when I said something to that effect on Twitter, someone responded with, “They can’t! They can’t say ‘lied’ because libel laws.”

And you know what? That’s bullshit.

Look at how many times the conservative media has said, “Hillary Lied!” this week alone.

If you can safely say “Hillary Lied!” you can safely say “Trump Lied.”

More importantly, Journalism shouldn’t be about what you can and cannot SAFELY say.

And it’s not libel laws that prevent the press from using the words, from saying Trump lied.

It’s cowardice.

Then, somebody else asked, “does it matter?”

Does it really matter if the press says “lied?” Do you really think it would perceptibly move the needle [of public opinion]?

Does it matter?

Does it matter what terminology the press uses?

Yes. Yes it does. It matters a hell of a lot.

Why? HISTORY.

The press is the record of not only our time, of not only FACT, but how we as a people regard the world around us. The press is a record our views, our perception, our civilization in gestalt. It not only records our viewpoint, it helps to shape it. MOREOVER, it shapes history’s perception.

For context, look at how the press of the 1930s enabled Hitler and used vague euphemisms for genocide and fascism.

We ask ourselves, how could they have let Hitler happen? How could they have let the Holocaust happen? How could Germany have gone so insane? How? How is that possible?

How? Well, you’re looking at it. You’re looking right at it.

Do I think how the press records TODAY will alter our perception of Trump? Yes, no, maybe. It depends on the journalism, see Watergate for example. The truth, the ability to use the words, lied, stole, crook, directly moved the needle of public perception regarding Nixon — both in that time and IN HIS FUTURE. When we (that future) look back on that time, our judgement of our own nation in that moment is shaped in very large part by the press OF THAT TIME.

So, do I think how the press records TODAY will determine how future generations see US as a people?

Yes I very much do. Q.E.D.

This ongoing refusal to use the words, to describe Trump and this failed Congress in bald terms, reflects our inability as Americans to face our failure as citizens of the Republic.

It reflects a profound cowardice in not only the Press itself, but also in us as citizens, as a people, and as a nation.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

The Founders must have believed this too. They must have. Because the Press is the ONLY private institution, the ONLY private business, specifically called out in the Constitution and given enumerated rights.

That was for a very specific reason.

Because in a free society, the Press is THE watchdog of liberty.

This continued and repeated inability to use the words, to speak the truth no matter the cost, is an utter betrayal of that duty to the Republic.

This is cowardice pure and simple.

Cowardice of the press.

Cowardice of the people.

Cowardice of the nation.

And THAT is what the future will know of us.