Political Animals

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Inside Mae Beavers: A Parody Arises

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 4:04 PM

Soul windows
  • Soul windows
Your PeskyFly was considering a soft-core parody of Tennessee's puritanical, porn-busting gubernatorial candidate Sen. Mae Beavers. The premise: Me and May would destroy millions of innocent young lives with passionate acts of slippery abandon. Awesome so far, right? Catch was, I couldn't come up with the right title. Should it be Around the World with Mae Beavers? 69 Things I Know About Mae Beavers? Strangers in a Strange Beaver? Butt Slammers Vol. 4? So many choices, none of them quite right.

Like they say, when you snooze you lose. While I was dithering, some industrious person was busy crafting a Mae Beavers parody that's so much better than anything I might have come up with because, presumably, this call's coming from inside "the House."
Artist's fantasy.
  • Artist's fantasy.

The entire text, typos and all, as originally shared by the Nashville Scene.

How to be The Ultraconservative Candidate
Nothing is more important when running for office in Tennessee than getting the conservative vote – and it is the ultraconservative who will probably win the election. So how can you appear to be the ultraconservative candidate?

Preeminence: Make yourself the preeminent conservative in the state. Remember, it is a competition, and by passive aggressively one-upping all other politicians, you can appear to be really nice but in reality, you are crushing the reputations and political futures of potential opponents. Which is good to do because self-centered, attention-grabbing is a useful skill to ensure your future political success.

Secure your superiority through negative contrasting; unnecessarily make comparisons that negatively contrast other elected officials with you. This will present you in the most positive light. Should an official try to claim that they are conservative, what they are really doing is claiming to be more conservative than you. Put an end to this by calling them a RINO, and inferring that they secretly support an income tax.

The key to being the preeminent conservative is control. Control is the glue that holds conservatives who lack critical thinking skills together. It is also a passive aggressive technique you can use against other Republicans; it is really the best way to ensure that you receive the constant attention and admiration from the public that you deserve.

Remember, being in office for 25 years doesn’t mean you are an establishment politician as long as you always call other conservatives who have been in office for a shorter amount of time than you establishment politicians. This helps you assert your dominance in the lives of everyone around you, and dominance helps to improve your life. If anyone doubts you, simply recite your impossible dogmatic standards or your rabid deep-seated feelings of victimization.

Public Speeches: Supplying detail in your public speeches is bad, and may cause you to have to answer actual questions; so speak in vague generalities and platitudes at all times. People will read between the lines and respond with total adoration and obedience. If political insecurities necessitate wild claims about ISIS infiltration or constituents – sweep the room for mics first.

Be sure to call all other Republicans RINOs, that way these officials will learn that they have done something wrong, and because you should be speaking in vague generalities, people will just assume you are the only real conservative without any way to actually measure. They will also believe that all other legislators are simply RINOs at the core of their being.

Further, each time you make negative accusations about the legislature, it is encouragement for them to be more conservative.

Statesmanship: Emphasizing your own statesmanship through snarky comments has the added benefit of shaming other legislators – communicating your own statesmanship through misdirected shame is a direct way to communicate that you are preeminent, and don’t forget – they deserve it.

Legislation: Be legislatively savvy. File bills that appear so conservative that they are actually unconstitutional. Then issue a press release that takes advantage of the blind support of people who don’t know the difference. Insist on running these bills in committee; when the Attorney General opines that the bill is constitutionally suspect this is your big chance to issue a second press release that labels the AG and your Republican colleagues as RINOs – which makes you appear to be the only real conservative in the legislature.

Paint your record as something completely different than what it is. Your oath to uphold the Constitution should never get in the way of your own narcissistic desire for preeminence. Only a true freedom fighter would file an unconstitutional bill, and your refusal to fix your bill by making it constitutional can easily be justified by a plain folks’ appeal that encompasses name calling and proper over simplification of the actual legal issues.

Never let anyone else’s conservative efforts be good enough for you. Remember, if another legislator asks for your support for their ultraconservative idea, they’re not trying to be friendly, they are trying to overthrow your tyrannical reign of control and dominance. You can’t let that happen. You’ll want to play the trump card of filing a nearly identical bill, except, make it a little more outrageous. Then issue a press release containing a directly indirect passive aggressive message that the first legislator has stolen your work. This clearly puts you back in the driver’s seat.

This technique works for dead ultraconservative bills too. If another legislator’s ultraconservative measure died because it came smack dab up against legal realities, you can steal that bill next year and announce to the world that because that legislator was such a RINO and pathetically decided not to get the job done, you will justly assume your natural position of conservative preeminence. When you come up against the same issues as the prior legislator, you can thoroughly enjoy the renewed sense of purpose that floods into your life while you sit on top of your moral high ground calling the committee members who can’t vote for your unconstitutional bill RINO's.

Budget: Take advantage of the fact that the state budget is so large that no one can possibly know off hand all that it contains. This fact alone creates a lot of suspicion and skepticism among ultraconservatives. In this way, year after year, you can receive statewide attention for being the lone conservative vote against the budget. When media ask why you voted no, supply a simplistic platitude, “There is too much pork in that budget”, an explanation so simple that even a democrat can understand. Pork works because people identify pork with fat, and fat makes people think of indulgence and waste.

Supreme Court: Ignoring Supreme Court cases that have already been decided is another good way to lock down your support from a statewide ultraconservative base while at the same time unmistakably signal your disrespect for the judiciary.

Security: You are entitled to your feelings of needing special treatment, and requiring security makes you appear important enough to protect. But what if no one has actually threatened your life? No problem – your paranoia can assist you in just making something up. Also, by pleading, a wealthy conservative businessman is likely to pay for you to have the constant presence of security whenever you are out in public – this has the added benefit of making you look really important and worthy of protection.

Look the Part: Drive a conservative vehicle. It may be tempting to develop a Lexus nexus with other candidates but that’s really sketchy and y’all in Tennessee … a pickup truck is your best bet.

The Constitution: If you’ve gotten this far, understanding constitutional facts isn’t necessary for you so don’t spend any time on this subject. You’ll want to spend most of your time creating new unconstitutional bills that appear ultraconservative but in reality, will rigidly control people’s lives or help them to realize that they are going to spend eternity in hell.
Since being an ultraconservative is a political philosophy that doesn’t have an actual platform or rule book, you don’t need to know what constitutes an ultraconservative and neither does anybody else. This also means that you have zero knowledge of what may or may not be constitutional in your ultraconservative sense. But don’t worry about that, to fill this small little loop-hole, you only need to publicly preach with conviction that any views you hold are truly ultraconservative, and if anyone else who may actually know something about the constitution raises the specter that you are incorrect, it will be crystal clear that they are actually a RINO and you can call them out on that fact.

These suggestions are a really good start towards your goal of ultraconservative preeminence. Good luck with your political future. 

Hot.
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

US Military to Weaponize Alligators Trump Announces

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 11:38 AM

Artist's rendering by POTUS
  • Artist's rendering by POTUS
"It's just a tremendous thing you can do with these animals," President Donald Trump told a hastily assembled group of top military officials. "They're like living dinosaurs, it's just the most amazing thing you've ever seen."

Inspired by a half-remembered song about former president Andrew Jackson's victory at the Battle of New Orleans, Trump laid out a plan to expand the American military by rounding up alligators and turning them into rocket launchers.

"It's an incredible natural resource," the President said of the threatened species. "What Jackson did with them — amazing really — is he'd fill their head with cannon balls. Such a good idea. One of the best I've ever heard. Then he'd take the gunpowder and — well, I'm sure everybody can guess where that went. Little fire. Bam! Japanese never knew what hit them."

Trump asked an aide to lower the room lights then asked the assembled group to close their eyes and imagine with him. "Imagine you're North Korea," he said. "And one day you look up and all you can see is alligators falling from the sky shooting rockets out of their mouths.

"That's Jackson for you," the President concluded, admiringly. "Ahead of his time. Fine looking head of hair too." 
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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Musical History of Labor Hero Joe Hill at First Congo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:11 PM

Regular Joe.
  • Regular Joe.
And when Joe looked back at the sweat upon his tracks
He had nothing to show but his age
He
had nothing to show but his age - Phil Ochs - "Ballad of Joe Hill."

This week at First Congo, Nashville's Shelby Bottom String Band provides the music for a multimedia history of early 20th-century folk singer and union organizer Joe Hill and a discussion about art and activism in the Trump era.

Hill was an immigrant, but in the early decades of the 20th-Century there wasn't a native-born worker in America who couldn't relate to the stories he told in his songs. In addition to giving American labor its marching music, Hill became the movement's patron saint when he was cut down by a firing squad for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit.

Last words: ""Fire — go on and fire!"


It's a pay what you can event, Wednesday, March 15th at 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper. For additional details, click here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Conservatives Have an Identity Problem. It's Called Their Identity

CPAC Rejects Spencer and Yiannopoulos, not their values

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 7:10 PM

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I see shit-bag CPAC speaker Richard Spencer had his convention credentials revoked and won't be addressing the annual gathering of white tribes. I guess, some smart person finally figured it out — a guy who advocates for peaceful ethnic cleansing is still way into ethnic cleansing.

"Very bad," to borrow a line from Boss Trump.

As if to highlight how insane things are on the right side of the dial, on his way out the door Spencer denounced his fellow "alt-right" excommunicate Milo Yiannopoulos, who went from rising star to "Who?" when some other smart person realized the controversial Breitbart journo advocated man/boy love. "I totally reject Milo and I’m glad that he was disinvited," Spencer said, making it abundantly clear, that even a no-account Jew-hating Nazi knows it's wrong to have GAY sex with children.

Watching all this barely figurative crap smacking the fan, it's tempting to believe there's a Republican reset happening— that Main Street conservatism's getting woke, chasing the rats out, and getting back to the business of bad business. But really it's just the same old gray suits slicking back their wildest hairs, and covering up the iron cross tattoos they picked up on some hazy Florida spring break, all those years ago. See kids, there's no such thing as an "Alt-Right." That's a buzzword used to describe a variety of rotten threads woven, not so loosely, into the broadcloth of contemporary American conservatism.  As one of the internet's more influential early bloggers recently noted, mainstream Righties have been doing a perfectly fine job carrying the banner for "white nationalism, bigotry, contempt for the poor, corporate immunity, environmental destruction, rigid unequal gender roles, homophobia, [and] xenophobia" all by themselves. They don't need a bunch of blingy, goose-stepping cheerleaders with fancy haircuts.

I'm quoting the laconic Dr. Duncan Black (AKA Atrios), because the current hullabaloo reminds me, just a bit, of the wild and wooly days at the dawn of social media, when most fake news showed up in your inbox with "Re:Re: Re" in the subject field, and "citizen journalism" was a brand new bag. For some reason there was this broadly accepted idea that bloggers— especially political bloggers — in an effort to stay above the fray, should, "strive mightily but eat and drink as friends." We would meet in public places to hoist beers! We'd listen to listen to one another's well-reasoned arguments, and debate only the points we could support with hyperlinks. One problem with this idea: So many of the serious, open, modern, digitally savvy conservabloggers also carried the banner of white nationalism, bigotry, contempt for the poor, corporate immunity, environmental destruction, rigid unequal gender roles, homophobia, xenophobia," etc.


Somehow, inside this new Platonic ideal (tweely dubbed "the blogosphere"), anybody to the left of Reagan became a dangerous extremist. Liberal bloggers, like liberal politicians, were always described as being, "far out of step" with a Main Street better represented by conservative voices.  Liberals were always America-haters, crippled by their inability to reach just far enough across the aisle to fall on their faces. They were shouted down, and shamed by Godwin's law for pointing out anybody's similarities to Hitler even, on rare occasions, when hyperbolic comparisons might also be instructive. Progressive impatience with racism, sexism, classism etc. was always attacked as another fine example of hypocrisy and "liberal tolerance."

That's where the goalposts were set, way back when, as legacy media stumbled awkwardly onto the Internet, and trolls discovered the joys of pooping in comments.

So what was a liberal blogger to do when one of his esteemed adversaries, whose bold ideas you're supposed to engage without resorting to the logical fallacy of ad hominem attack, writes a column about white feminism — an evil that has to be destroyed to insure pale-skinned beauties start getting pregnant younger, and more frequently. Because — as the post stated — we must, "fearlessly re-establish the hegomony of Euro-American WLD as rapidly as possible."

WLD=Western Liberal Democracy. None of these things were racist or sexist, of course. Or, it was unfair and intolerant to call it that. Or something. More from the post in question:

America thinks we're not experiencing this problem, but we are. The "native" population of white women are no longer reproducing at the replacement rate. Our nation's growth is coming from immigration, birthrates of immigrant populations, and the birthrate of African American women... we are in a clash of civilizations — Western liberal democracy v. Arab Muslim theocracy — and in a rush to get the Arab Muslim world converted to Western liberal democracy (WLD) before their numbers overwhelm ours... I'm finding myself becoming less concerned with high immigration than I used to be. (Though border control is very important!) What we need to do is reform feminism and its ills, reform how we approach abortion and pregnancy, and fearlessly re-establish the hegomony of Euro-American WLD as rapidly as possible. It's literally a fight for the future.

In other words, catch them gals young fellas, let's fuck our way to victory! For the future.

Obviously, the author was just another fringe element with an internet connection, right? Well, of course, but he also became a frequent contributor to, and online editor for The Main Street Journal, a now defunct glossy publication positioning itself — as the name suggests — as the respectable voice of "main street" Conservatism. Because, again, there is no fringe. There is only the Right.

This is a personal anecdote— just a memory from the glorious digital revolution, when news delivery was by god democratized! But this kind of thing happened everywhere, all over, and at every scale. Nobody mainstreamed scary, shocking values, scary, shocking values were already mainstream. They're still mainstream. It's just uncivil and intolerant to call it out. We should have beers and be considerate of one another's deeply-held values, instead.

So Richard Spencer the Nazi punching bag, and his gang-rape-obsessed frenemy Milo Yiannopoulos won't be hobnobbing at CPAC. Yay, I guess. But that's not really the story, is it? Because you cant revoke an invisible empire's credentials. And the shared values — all the little things that put these fine men on the marquee in the first place —  those aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Corker Describes Trump as a "Wrecking Ball"

Day Officially Ruined

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 11:28 AM

Yes, “Wrecking ball.” That’s the expression Tennessee Senator Bob Corker used to describe President Donald Trump, in a recent interview for Politico. Corker’s intention was to describe the flailing President as a powerful leader wrestling with destructive foreign policy urges. He didn’t mean to make us all imagine what Trump might look like naked in a Miley Cyrus video.

Thanks, Bob. 
If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.
  • If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winning: You Can't Blame Trump for Selling the Sizzle

Okay, you totally can

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2017 at 5:23 PM

The asking continues
  • The asking continues
From "alternative facts" to the claque of shills and yes-persons planted to energize President Trump's rambling address to U.S. Intelligence, it seems fairly evident that years of political punditry telling Americans the country should be run like a business, paid off with a chief executive who believes every piece of it.

I confess to a bit of shock that "alternative facts," a concept recently injected into the American conversation by Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway, shocks so many people. It's like nobody with an internet connection has ever worked in marketing or advertising.  AlternaFacts aren't some exotic Soviet-style plot. (Or, maybe it's better to say they aren't only an exotic Soviet-style plot). They're an American staple, as common as cornbread. Branding is unquestioned in business, and pervasive in government, no matter how adult and dignified. Anybody who's ever held a job marketing, even if that job was just making coffee and answering phones, can tell you, when the facts are unfavorable, it's time to roll out the new improved model. Good salespersons know language is incantatory— a witchy-sounding word for reality altering. Or, as the nonthreatening guy-in-an-ugly-sweater hired to lead trust exercises at the company retreat is more likely to put it, "Winners tell better stories."
President Trump made clear in a murky address, winning is the goal. Not achieving or progressing. But domination in trade and war. And Memphians know — or should know — what it means when Donald Trump wins. Now, instead of taking down Holiday Inn he's coming after NATO and the EU — realigning the axis because, as the man said, "to the victor belong the spoils." Plunder to the people! Or to the right ones, anyway.

Did you hear? (Oh, of course you must have heard, the new administration babbles like Jersey Shore 2.0). Your new Chief Executive has a cropped photo of his inauguration crowd. He's hanging it where the press can observe a mighty failure to tell better stories for the Trump brand. Kinda like how they hang beautiful pictures of sandwiches in BigBox meat departments to make bologna look amazing. Similarly, he's cropping another, much bigger picture by ordering USDA research scientists and other federal agencies to cease public communication. That's called getting ahead of the message. He's also put a freeze on government hiring, and executive orders are coming hard and fast. To some — okay, to many — it looks like we've handed nuclear codes to a thin-skinned extremist who likes to sign his name but would frankly rather be watching television or feuding with Meryl Streep. Isn't it all just a big ol' editorial cartoon of business as usual (in business)? Isn't it the same crummy stuff you hate about dealing with your cable provider? With just a little extra hint of, "I can't believe Bryce prefers Van Patton's Card to mine."

Business serves brand interests and investment. Government serves people. Nothing's quite that cut and dry, but that's the general idea. When the screenplay gets flipped certain words get looked up in the dictionary. And we're not even a week into this horror movie.

Applause sizzles like a nice cut of meat on the grill. As a walking brand Trump knows instinctively what master salesman Elmer Wheeler preached to anybody and everybody who wanted to add to their bottom line — the sizzle sells shitty meat.

Eat it, America.

via GIPHY


Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Strange Case of Marsha Blackburn and the Exploding Cigar

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 1:54 PM

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exploding_cigar_vintage_retro_novelty_ad_postcard-r29de00ca2.jpg
Evil scientist Marsha Blackburn lit up a fat cat Twitter cigar yesterday and BAM! Right in the face.

Obviously, it's not hard to troll online polls and Democrats are motivated. But, as previously uninsured folks stare down the very real chance of losing their recently insured status, it's hard to say the soot and tobacco all over Blackburn's pinched, bitter face is completely devoid of meaning.

How can it be that Republicans, after opposing the Affordable Care Act tooth and nail for six years, haven't got an alternative? I mean, aside from the obvious fact that none of them care if Uncle Phil gets his medicine or not because he should have worked harder when he was healthy. Duh.

It's because Obamacare was the workable Republican plan, they only hated it because — Obama. And no matter how hard the kleptocracy scrambles, they can't come up with something just as conflicted and industry forward that looks completely different to consumers who'll experience zero value from less Medicaid or potentially disastrous tort reform.

So, as the great unraveling gets underway, let's all have a good laugh at Marsha's exploding cigar. It'll be her turn to laugh when we're all crawling with something expensive and incurable.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"KKK More American than Obama" — Deputy Director of Finance for Shelby County Corrections.

Posted By on Tue, Nov 15, 2016 at 10:52 AM

Phones are buzzing in the halls of Shelby Co. government this morning because of a Facebook post shared by David Barber, Deputy Director of Finance for the Shelby County Department of Corrections. According to the accompanying status, the KKK is more American than two-term US president Barack Obama. Get ready, this story's just starting to crank up, and will probably be everywhere, shortly.

Here's the offending post from Nov. 7.
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Also, this.

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And, in case you're wondering who the guy is, it's all in his profile. 
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UPDATE: David Barber has resigned.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump Taps Prince Mongo For Secretary of the Interior

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 8:01 AM

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In a surprise 3 a.m. announcement President-elect Donald J. Trump said notorious alien/Memphian Prince Mongo would  join his cabinet as Secretary of the Interior.

"Oh spirits, this was such a wonderful surprise," says Mongo, who's dabbled in Memphis politics for much of his life on Earth, but never held office. "The President-elect said he was looking around on Facebook, just killing a little time, and he saw my new profile picture, and knew I was the spirit for the job."

Mongo admits he was surprised to discover that, while the position is called "Secretary of the Interior," much of his job concerned land management, parks, and the the great outdoors.

"All I know is we're gonna do some decorating," Mongo said excitedly. "I've already got plans for the Grand Canyon that involves miles and miles of clothesline, and some really beautiful underpants designed for larger women."

According to Mongo his conversation with Trump was short but good.

"He asked where I saw myself in 5-years," Mongo says. The answer: "Working closely with the administration in its second term, of course. Only this time I'm Rubber Chicken czar."
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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. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Marsha Blackburn Tries Out New Supervillain Catchphrase

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 11:11 AM

"It is not in a warming trend!"
  • "It is not in a warming trend!"
Recent comments by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have been taken out of context by a mainstream media that refuses to acknowledge that Blackburn — long dismissed as an intellectual lightweight — is an evil genius hellbent on destroying the solar system with her new, improved weather gun.

"Is climate change manmade?" Blackburn asked rhetorically in a short phone interview. "No! For I am WOMAN!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" And then she hung up.

For years Blackburn's anti-science positions have functioned as cover for her own abominable experiments and an opportunity to divert funds away from potential evil rivals and NASA.
Blackburn has been criticized for recent comments to Huffington Post. Although "I think the Earth is in a cooling trend," was spoken in response to questions about Donald Trump's debate performance, it was essentially the Tennessee Legislator trying out the line she plans to shout when she finally zaps President Obama with her blizzard ray.

Comic book nerds agree it's bad science and worse policy but, as a catchphrase, it's kitschy and kind of delicious. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Scent of a Woman President

Donald Trump Sniffs His Way to Irrelevance

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2016 at 9:35 PM

Kinda seemed real.
  • Kinda seemed real.
A moment of silence for Donald Trump. The “blue collar billionaire,” brought a knife to a shootout, and we all know how that sort of thing turns out, according to the NRA. It was a small knife too, and not very sharp, and yet somehow the poor fellow cut himself with it repeatedly.

The first debate was a self-inflicted bloodbath for the TV-freakshow turned presidential contender, and you can bet good money we’ll see all the best auto-carnage in commercials through November. The Don bragged about not paying taxes. In an aside that calls to mind a classic SNL skit about caveman politics (and a notorious tax cheat), he said not paying a fair share, “makes me smart.” Ogre-like, he equated good “business” with inflicting human misery, in regard to the housing crisis. He may have even violated Federal law by revealing classified information about a shadowy, bedridden hacker with a terrible eating disorder. 

The man lied a lot, but of course he did. It's what he does. That’s beside the point, which is, he lied about deeply silly things only a genuine moron loser would lie about because none of it’s complicated and Google’s a thing. Now, if you sincerely love Donald J. Trump none of this matters because read what I just typed: “You sincerely love Donald J. Trump.” Unfortunately for you (and Donald J.), the decideds don't matter so much anymore.

This home stretch is all about the Undies, who can’t make up their mind, Indies not fully committed, and an enormous group of white men and women (but mostly dudes), who know Trump’s terrible, and are embarrassed by him, but have invested so much of their political identity in a hodgepodge of “Hillary Clinton is evil” narratives, even vindictive attempts to damn the bitch with faint praise stick in their throats.
I’m not enough of a crank (yet) to say all this tight race polling we’re seeing right now is wrong. But I’m just crank enough to believe this year’s contest between two purportedly unpopular candidates creates unique weather conditions — a kind of Bermuda triangle where perfectly good instruments malfunction. I’m calling it the Shame Vortex, and it’s why I think there’s a real chance for Clinton to outperform her numbers everywhere.

“Crooked Hillary,” isn't just Trump's mantra, it's a cottage industry. It’s been a cottage industry for the better part of three decades. She’s a murderer, and real estate sleaze with fat thighs, two tiny breasts, and a pair of left wings. How can a bro tell his best bros, or even a disembodied robot voice on the phone he’s, “with Her,” when he called out all his Libtard cousins last Thanksgiving, and the previous Thanksgiving, and maybe the Thanksgiving before that, and everybody at the office Christmas party LOVED the Hillary-themed nutcracker he brought for the Dirty Santa game. And man, you know...

Right between the thighs. (Somebody thought this was a good idea).
  • Right between the thighs. (Somebody thought this was a good idea).
The social internet’s full of all kinds of “Trump’s awful, but I just can’t vote for Her” threads, but with cover provided by high profile Republicans coming out for the Democratic candidate, purity will be tested in the booth. Private life, as we all know, and as the Clintons have demonstrated repeatedly, sometimes awkwardly and not as honestly as they might, is a complicated place. But in a debate that turned more on style than substance, a different, expectation-defying Clinton emerged. And this Clinton, in addition to being competent and thorough, was unusually relatable as she countered rude interruption, shouting, fabrications, and crazy accusations with calm, candor, confidence and something that looked like joy.

“As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11-hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton said of her famously orange opponent who was, by that point in the game, a wheezing, dry-mouthed blob of unprepared stress and flop sweat. Everybody saw it. Everybody heard the schlurpy sniffing. Nobody honest with his/herself thought he "did great." 

There are two more debates, obviously. A Texas-sized asteroid might hit Earth any day. All kinds of Trump redemption narratives (sure to be forthcoming) might actually pan out. Heck, the same "shame vortex" I mentioned above might front a silent Trump constituency poised to give him keys to the White House. But all that weird, loud inhalation sounded like a death rattle — a raspy, indignant echo of the Dean scream. It sounded like a lot of undecided voters deciding all at once, and a lot of Hillary haters grabbing hold of their own noses with both hands.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Former TN Legislator Jeremy Durham Kicked Out of UT Game for Hitting

Posted By on Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 4:21 PM

Jeremy, in happier times.
  • Jeremy, in happier times.
Notorious sleeze Jeremy Durham (R-Loserville) can't stop getting kicked out of things. Once hailed as a rising star in the Tennessee Republican party, Durham's office was moved out of the State House in April, amid accusations of sexual harassment. He was defeated at the polls and finally expelled from the state's General Assembly by a vote of 70-2. Now the man Full Frontal host Samantha Bee called the worst person in Tennessee has been thrown out of the UT/Florida game for hitting a Gator fan in the face.


So far this is all dog bites man because, obviously, a jackass with impulse control issues is going to do stupid stuff. But what about the guy who's hanging out with the guy with impulse issues? Sen. Brian Kelsey, the pride of Germantown, was sitting with his pal Jeremy when the boisterous Florida fan got his glasses knocked off, but didn't witness anything unusual.
Brian Kelsey's selfie.
  • Brian Kelsey's selfie.
"I didn’t witness anything unusual," Kelsey was quoted as saying. "But it was obvious the officer had asked questions of a Florida fan behind us."

According to The Tennessean Kelsey sent a clarifying text: "If that behavior did occur, it's totally unacceptable and it's unbecoming of a Vol fan."

Totally. 
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