Venting

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Great White Shark: How Does Donald J. Trump Pay His Debts?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 1:25 PM

Hail to the Chief
  • Hail to the Chief
Houston, we have a white people problem.

The rush to determine the big story of the 2016 election is on. Some folks will get stuck on the rural/urban divide or Florida’s love of third party candidates. Other’s will focus on the failure of polling, vote suppression, and Comey’s bogus email letter while Bernie fanfic spreads like polio in a libertarian anti-vax dystopia. But no matter which way you spin, this cycle's only got one really big story — Honkies, WTF?

The Times’ Nate Cohn didn’t say it in so many letters, but he tweeted a helpful rubric for thinking about the election.
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They’re also a scared 40% of the electorate, and between craven irresponsibilities of TV-News, and urban/suburban development that’s been hiding poor people since WWII ended, it’s not strange that Trumpian tales about cities where residents mostly just get shot, ring true. Americans are heavily networked thanks to social media, that doesn’t mean we’re connected a bit.

Within the framework of disconnected connectivity, legacy media — particularly broadcast media with its steady slide toward reality programming — was instrumental in building the bleak fantasy world of Comment Section America. Night after night TV-news links images of brown skin and crippling poverty to criminality, while making the “inner city” synonymous with "urban slum." Day after day, for decades, talk radio and cable news re-enforced those scary images, while railing against affirmative action, public assistance, and other things brown people might be getting that they might not deserve. Meanwhile, rural white poverty, extreme and pervasive as it is, goes comparatively unexamined, giving a lot of lost people plenty of non-hateful reasons to feel screwed and forgotten.

The twilight of American manufacturing happened more than 20-years ago now, and those jobs aren’t coming back. Since then the working class— every segment— has taken hit, after hit. The middle class withered, organized labor failed, and slowly but surely white people went fucking insane. The Atlantic chronicled some of this back in January, in a feature about life-expectancy-shortening spikes in suicide, and substance abuse in white, anxiety-wracked America:

From The Atlantic:

“Free trade and automation undercut the bargaining positions of the working class. Political leaders, bankrolled by the wealthy, rolled back the interventionist policies of the New Deal and postwar period. Corporations, once relatively tolerant of unions, tapped a cottage industry of anti-union consultants and adopted unseemly tactics to crush any organizing drives in their workplaces.

Problems of mental health and addiction have taken a terrible toll on whites in America—though seemingly not in other wealthy nations—and the least educated among them have fared the worst.”


At this point a lot of smart people are probably (hopefully) making the jackoff motion with their dominant hand because, “Oh, boo hoo!” things are tough for working people everywhere, and when we’re talking about life expectancy and and disease, African Americans and Latinos still win the booby prize. Unfortunately, nobody experiences the relativeness of poverty, only the privation, which brings us back to that reactionary thing that happened last night, and the chilling message it should send to women, whose bodies remain a battleground, communities of color, still plagued by systemic racism, immigrants (especially darker ones who don’t look like someone a Trump might breed with), Muslims (of course), Jews (that last ad was scary), journalists generally, Katy Tur specifically, Hillary Clinton, and, at long last, Graydon Carter.

Trump’s poll-defying performance had nothing to do with religious piety, family values, being a pretend cowboy, or any of the old conservative bedrock about silent and moral majorities. His Russian linkage is positively surreal for so many of us who saw Red Dawn and Rocky IV at the Drive In. Racketeering charges combined with Trump’s billionaire status, and adamant refusal to disclose income tax documents, make the Donald an unlikely champion of the fabled Occupy/Tea Party nexus. So whither this pale coalition of patriots, evangelicals and ordinary average guys?

Angry white bros are always with us. When people are so disaffected, prejudices pour in and grow to fill the void. Everybody needs somebody to blame, and this horrible drama plays itself out everywhere, all around the world. The bigger the void, the bigger the prejudice, and there’s no reason it has to be logical or make any kind of sense at all as Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi showed so deftly in his 2009 description of a Kentucky Tea Party rally — “A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries.”

Nous sommes au Mississippi. (You too Moscow).

If there is a bottom line, it’s this. A large, mostly homogeneous, reliably wrong, and often truly deplorable chunk of America feels the political system’s failed them. And, whether they're thoughtfully protesting neoliberal empire, or lashing out at all the wrong people over self-inflicted loss, and the absence of good paying jobs, they aren't wrong about feeling reamed. Because, unless you’re connected to that fabled 1% we’ve all been badly used. Americans spent the last half century divided six ways to Sunday, fighting culture wars one battlefield at a time, and seeming to win some important fights (one at a time), while everybody on all sides conceded one collective economic defeat after another. It's a cliche, but there’s no I in “we the people.” Sadly, nobody bothered to tell a huge swath of America, including all those angry Trump supporters out in the land of meth labs and lottery tickets.

It’s tempting, on the day after the unthinkable thing got thunk, to look to similar elections for answers. But in spite of some superficial resemblances to Bush/Gore 2000 and Truman/Dewey, 1948, there’s no good precedent for an outcome that amounts to a sniffly national temper tantrum. So the questions turn in a different direction What can satisfy this newly awakened white nationalism? And what happens if President Trump can’t deliver?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Russian Roulette: The Resistible Rise of Donald Trump

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2016 at 9:01 AM

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And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!


— The Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime.”

To borrow one more line from David Byrne, “How did I get here?” How did we stagger to the place where a commie rag like Mother Jones breathlessly reports on Russian ops, while real Americans root against the Wolverines? How did I go to bed in a country that elected Barack Obama, and wake in a world where a non-story about Hillary Clinton's emails might put Donald Trump into the Oval Office?

I can answer that question with a video I shot at Memphis’ first Tea Party rally in 2009. None of this started in Shelby Co., of course, and the machinery responsible for this year’s election has been grinding away for 40-years, at least. But this is the period when gloves came off. When it became okay for America to stop pretending it wasn’t bigoted at the core. So, return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when it was okay to go out wrapped in the flag, wearing a t-shirt depicting Obama caught in gun sights, with a face full of bullet holes.
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Often, though not always, the Tea Party was portrayed as a patriotic, Christian movement, and you’ll hear that point of view repeated even today in places like American Family Radio — an allegedly Christian family of stations that, interestingly enough, began its foray into political programming in 2009. In retrospect, it’s difficult to see this movement as anything but a backlash to the election of America’s first African-American President, creating unusually lopsided momentum going into the typically sleepy midterm. And not just any sleepy round of midterms either, but elections that determined which party would get to redraw congressional districts, gerrymandering for maximum advantage.

In the video I’ve embedded audiences will thrill to the same white nationalist urges Trump taps into, and witness unfocused anger at every turn. Viewers will be amazed by anti-regulation speech built to leverage job insecurity against fair wages and worker protection.

What happened in 2009 was a kind of Right Wing tent revival — a renewal of vows exchanged long ago between America’s white working class and industry tools with no history of reciprocity. It’s a queer relationship with roots in the 60’s, when college draft deferment made education suspect — a class signifier separating those who fought for America (regardless of how they felt about it) from those protesting America.


Ironically, the seed that blossomed into Trumpism sprouted in 1968, while the Donald was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. To make desegregation meaningful, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected freedom of choice in the case of Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, ordering the board to end racial discrimination, “root and branch.” Urban bussing policies that followed created backlash among a newly middle class (and newly suburban) set of former New Deal Democrats, bringing them first under the influence of segregationist Dixiecrat George Wallace, then into the trajectory of Richard Nixon, who made good use of America’s oldest cultural fault lines.

Nixon’s not known for being stylish, but he was a smart strategist. When his people observed that acting like a tough guy increased his support among the white working class, he ran with it, pitting America’s conflicted labor force against a crumbling New Deal, setting the stage for Reaganism, and the not-so-subtle messaging of “Morning in America.” And pretty much everything that's happened since, including a pair of two-term Democrats with Nixonesque tendencies to answer the Left and Right with Conservative core policies.
It’s ridiculous how much Hillary Clinton hurt herself in this election cycle with her infamous “basket of deplorables” comment. While it’s undeniable, that the right side of our political spectrum, is responsible for a lot of clearly deplorable stuff, and tends to feel victimized whenever somebody stops them from victimizing others, America’s fucked up white working class isn’t completely wrong about feeling wronged. They’re just terrible at identifying the real enemies. Labor — which should have been a great progressive unifier — failed them in the 70’s, which is important for two reasons. First, it marked the end of anything like solidarity in a nation that was never that united, and always unable to account for class, factoring in the confounding variables of race and gender. This also relates directly to Clinton’s relentlessly uphill battles going all the way back to her 90’s-era work on universal healthcare since Labor’s historic failures frequently illustrated how sexism was more ingrained in American culture than virtually any other ism. Even in the relatively progressive UAW, multiracial coalitions for fairness on the shop floor crossed picket lines and openly mocked women striking for the same basic reasons. To this day women’s apparent advances are misleading, being more related to declines in male earning power than evidence of changing attitudes.

Pundits like to talk about a "values based" urban/rural divide. But that’s not right. When you break down the pieces, Donald Trump’s brand doesn’t align with anything uniquely rural or urban. His values, as they align with supporters, are best understood as, “classy casino” values” and Saturday Night Live brilliantly illustrated this with the “scratch off,” bit in its widely shared Black Jeopardy sketch. Forget about guns, god, and gays — The 3-G issues, framed and cultivated by talk radio, and cable news to suck consumers into a state of daily outrage, quite unable to explore common cause. The culture stuff is still simmering, but it was all pretext and prelude. People are finally ready to go to war for their God-given right to be as bad off as they are now forever — and the remote chance of inheriting a billion dollars from a rich cat lady they never met, but who greatly admired their work in the local newspaper's comment section.


Speaking of comments, few things from this year’s election reveal more than Donald Trump’s double-pronged scare campaign painting undocumented workers as potential rapists, and the “inner city” — an outdated Morning in America euphemism for “urban slum” — as a place where you can’t walk to the store without being shot. This is the fantasy world of TV news and “comment section America,” where everything exists without context and, in the flyover world of bedroom communities and interstates , often without contact.

Please forgive this momentary theater critic’s aside. But the more I ask myself how we got here, the more I’m reminded of the Vampire play Cuddles, a gruesome hit in New York and Great Britain, currently enjoying its first American production outside New York at TheatreWorks on Overton Square. In addition to being many other things, this nightmare before the apocalypse, is also a special kind of class satire. It tells the story of a joyless caregiver who lives in a lonely castle and locks her life’s biggest embarrassment away, feeding it a steady diet of fantasy, jelly sandwiches, and, on special occasions, a few drops of precious bodily fluids. The embarrassment — a young, deplorably dirty girl —  is kept in an old, deplorably dirty place to insure her safety. She's a vampire, you see. Or we’re told so. And true or not, the small, pale girl's demeanor changes eventfully when the caregiver — a person responsible for everything the little bloodsucker consumes, from a normalized polluted environment, to information that’s almost exclusively fiction — decides she’s no longer willing to open an occasional vein. It’s not a terrible metaphor for the relationship of mainstream politics Left and Right to base voters. But it’s an especially fine reflection of the GOP and its cultivation of the “Silent Majority,” the “Moral Majority,” and the “Tea Party.”

Eventually, the monsters we make assert themselves. Which reminds me of another line from SNL’s Black Jeopardy, about animals that won’t hurt you — “What kind of dogs don’t have teeth?”

If you want to know how Trump happened, just watch the 2009 video and maybe you can take some small comfort in realizing we aren't recently horrible. It’s short, so there's no big time investment. And it's full of revealing moments like when Conservative talker Mark Skoda starts preaching like John the Baptist, about the evils of regulation, and the need to support big Oil. He says all the right things to scare miners into not noticing nobody gives damn about the quality of jobs they may or may not lose anyway, or their place in a viable future economy. Skoda, who says he “loves being radical,” was absolutely paving the way for the unsuccessful person’s twisted image of a successful person to come along — a real man’s man, tough enough to look into the eyes of people who won't abide anybody running down their country — and tell them he’s going to make America great again.

That's how we got here. That's the easy part. How we get out's another story entirely.

Having said all that, go see Cuddles. It's not perfect, but it's not bad. I'm pretty sure the Halloween-loving New Moon didn't intend to stage the season's most prescient political satire. But boy, did they.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bob Corker Has Tiny Feet And It's Funny When He Stamps Them

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 1:05 PM

Sitting in a tree.
  • Sitting in a tree.

Last night Senator Bob Corker took to Twitter — like so many brave keyboard commandos — saying it was "imperative" for Trump to accept election results, even if the outcome is unfavorable. It was the yappy lap-dog definition of "all bark," since Corker's endorsement stands. Like so many Republicans this cycle Mr. Corker, a smallish man, and adorable in his junior-sized suits and cute little shoes,  has been rendered almost entirely ridiculous by a candidate he's clearly embarrassed by, but upholds as America's only hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Enough of that. I'm not here to bash Corker — silly as he is — or to criticize Trump either. If anything, I want to express some sympathy for a poor devil, so deep into his own narcissism he couldn't think beyond who was wronging him and who was crediting him long long enough to realize the debate moderator, Chris Wallace, was tossing him softballs made out of pure red meat. Guns? Abortion? Grand bargains— the ultimate Republican Viagra? A reasonably versed Conservative could have grabbed hold of all these opportunities and owned the night. But, unfortunately for both the GOP and America, that candidate didn't show up.

What happened last night wasn't a debate, it was an informercial for Hillary Clinton. When a candidate — in this case Trump — opens with "Nobody has more respect for women than me," then hisses, "Such a nasty woman,"  in the drama's falling action, this is what we in the storytelling business call a narrative arc. Over the course of that arc Clinton was able to talk about policy using clear, connecting language. She was able to make powerful statements directly to women, all of whom know what it's like to be dismissed and belittled by a man. And she was able to get away with a lot of stuff that needed challenge and critique. The new border technologies she was talking about? Probably drones, not forcefields. And can we have more particulars about "no fly zones" that bring us into close quarters with the Russian army? Instead of thoughtful comment pushing his opponent into deeper conversation, the best we got from Trump was, "wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong." Sniff. 
There's no real point in parsing the details of last night's debate — though I could go on for pages about Trump's inner city comments, with all the blacks, and the Latinos, where you can't walk to the store without getting shot. But at this point in the race particulars aren't all that relevant. Trump's trailing. Worse, his downward trend suggests he had to do more than just show improved discipline. He had high benchmarks to hit in terms of clarity and temperament. He never got close, undermining all improvement with his refusal to accept an unfavorable election outcome. That's the thing Corker took him to task for. On Twitter. In his little suit and shoes. While still endorsing the man. While still supporting the man. While, presumably, still voting for the man. 

"Imperative." Ha!

Maybe it's not fair using Corker as the stand in for a Republican party that's failed America by standing steadfastly behind a lazy-minded candidate who doesn't know the difference between a challenge and a threat. But somebody needs to tell him, and all the rest of these little boys using big boy words and playing big boy games, that fake tough is the weakest hand you can play.

I wish I could say America deserves better, but to borrow a line from the comparatively competent Romney campaign, we built this. So stamp away little Bobby. Stamp away. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Andy Holt to Give Away AR-15 Rifle, Would Hand Out More

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 3:08 PM

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You know, it's getting easier to see things through the lunatic eyes of Tennessee Rep. Andy Holt, (R)-Duh.

Every unhinged missive he fires off sheds a little more light on the pig farmer's thought process, and finally it's clear to me, per Holt, that the Second Amendment exists, in part, to insure bad guys have access to immense firepower. Because that, in turn, furnishes good guys with deserving targets for their own, even immenser firepower. It's pretty obvious, really — right there in the constitution between the words, "well regulated," and "militia," and not all that hard to see if, like Andy, you squint. 

Holt's been out of the spotlight lately. According to a Facebook post, he's been "toiling away in the dirt," just trying to provide for his family. That honest endeavor provided the  legislator with an opportunity to think, pray, and commune with his Lord. You see, a man with a history of hate and abusive behavior walked into a gay bar in Orlando, Florida Sunday morning and, in no time at all, gunned down 50-innocent people with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon. Holt had planned to give away one of those deadly, fast-shooting rifles at a campaign fundraiser and turkey shoot called HogFest. But now, in the Orlando massacre's horrific wake, Holt's so consarn mad about the dadgum liberals, he wishes he could give away more.

"I'm furious," Holt writes and — oh hell, I'm just going to copy the whole thing right here.

"I'm furious over the fact that our government literally refuses to recognize the threat of radical Islam. I'm furious that it is no longer an insidious threat; but has been allowed, and even encouraged, to become an all out blatant attack due to the inaction of our irresponsible government "leaders." I'm furious over the fact that reckless 'leaders' like Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) rush to blame the 2nd Amendment rather than radical Islam. I'm furious over the fact that so many are too ignorant to understand that the Twin Towers were not brought down by a firearm, but we're instead brought down by radical Islam. Do you think these people care if they use a gun, bomb or an airplane? I'm furious that so many like Cohen cannot wait to leave us defenseless in the face of such great risk. I'm furious that I get phone calls from the media asking me if I'm still going to give away an AR-15 at our HogFest, rather than asking me how many extra firearms I'll be handing out to ensure people can protect themselves. After all, it was a bullet that stopped the terrorist. Amazing how so many seem to miss that fact. I'm furious that the NSA continues to spy on ordinary Americans like you and me, yet allows suspected terrorists to easily walk away. I'm furious that I see elected liberal democrats rushing to literally blame Republicans for this tragic attack on the LGBT community. While I am a conservative Christian, my heart literally breaks for these women and men on so many levels. I'm furious that these same liberal democrats rushing to condemn conservative Christians that may disagree with a lifestyle, simultaneously rush to defend a religion that readily hangs and massacres gays and lesbians. Ever been to a country where Muslims are the majority? If you have, you'll find gay men hanging in the streets. This is disgusting in so many ways. The media, our government, it's all literally disgusting. I say all this to say that I understand how angry you all are. You have every right to be.

All that being said, I want you all to do 3 things for me.

1.) I want you to call the ones you love most and let them know how important they are to you. I want you to hold onto them for dear life. I want you to cherish every last moment.
2.) I want you to arm yourselves and learn to shoot with deadly accuracy should the need arise. Protect your family. Protect yourselves. Protect your friends. Our government has made it quite clear that it is incapable of doing so. At the end of the day, it's your responsibility anyways.
3.) I want you to pray. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for our country. Pray for the followers of a deadly, merciless religion. Pray for leadership. Pray for mercy and grace.
Dear media,
You want to know if I'm still giving away an AR-15? You bet the farm I am. And to those that have a problem with it, ‪#‎MolonLabe‬!
How about asking liberals when they plan on banning gun free zones?
Holt, who's introduced his share of faith-based anti-gay legislation, burned his traffic tickets on YouTube, and shown support for antics perpetrated by the Bundy Ranch militia, seemed particularly upset by gun-hating Democrats like Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen, who would "leave us defenseless."

The question, of course, is who Holt means by "us."  

If memory (and Google) serves, Senate Republicans joined together (on the day after the San Bernardino massacre no less) to block a D-supported bill that would have prevented people on the terrorist watch list from buying guns legally. Cohen vocally supported that measure. He's also co-sponsored legislation regulating large capacity ammunition, and closing fire sale loopholes. And yet, somehow, in spite of all that reckless Democrat behavior, even the NRA Political Victory Fund graded Cohen a gentleman's C. Not perfect, but not too shabby for somebody trying to leave Americans all defenseless and shit.

But let's not forget that "a bullet... stopped the terrorist," Omar Mateen, who was picked up and questioned about ISIS ties, but still able to pick up an AR-15 like it was a quart of milk. 

See. The system works. 



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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tennessee Psycho

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 1:19 PM

Nashville Tennessee
  • Nashville Tennessee
My name is Nashville. I am the state capital of Tennessee, located right on the Cumberland River. Reese Witherspoon has a home in my Belle Meade neighborhood. Jack White has a club here too, and although his early albums with the White Stripes were a little too punk for my taste, I can't get enough of the excellent 2012 single "Love Interruption." I especially admire the line "Stick a knife inside me/And twist it all around."

I believe in looking out for myself and, even for a handsome "it-city" with an NFL franchise and a massive music industry, that's no easy task. I use an expensive deep pore cleanser and a fine honey almond exfoliating scrub. And I start my morning routine by absorbing nearly all film and television subsidies allotted for the entire state in order to prop up my universally acclaimed namesake TV show.

Each morning over a cup of coffee at The Frothy Monkey I read the newspaper. Just yesterday, as my labyrinthine mind contemplated things like RCA Studio B, the Hermitage, The Parthenon in Centennial Park, Cheekwood, the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and Yazoo beer, I discovered that, in spite of having terrible jobs, difficult lives, and low access to healthcare, Memphis, that fat, economically devastated city on the Mississippi, is somehow much happier than I am. Now I cannot stop looking west and wondering what else I need to take in order to change this.

There is an idea of Nashville, some kind of abstraction. You can visit the gift shop at my Country Music Hall of Fame and take in a concert at Robert's Westernwear. You may even get the sense that you know me. But the fact is, no matter what the maps may say, I simply am not there.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sinkholes and You

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2013 at 9:19 PM

The infamous I-240 Sinkhole of 2010... and what emerged from it
  • The infamous I-240 Sinkhole of 2010... and what emerged from it

A lot of people have their attention on the skies above, afraid of unmanned government predator drones, unpredictable weather, or even alien invasions. But it's not the sky you have to worry about it's the ground beneath your feet. No, I'm not talking about mole people. I'm talking about my greatest fear...sinkholes.

You might be thinking, "Mike, what's so scary about sinkholes?". I dunno reader, what's so scary about a portal to HELL opening up in the middle of your city?!?

Oh Im sure its not that.. OH MY GOD I CAN SEE CHINA
  • Honey don't overreact. I'm sure it's not that... OH MY GOD I CAN SEE CHINA!!!

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