Political Animals

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Remember When Memphis Comment Trolls Wanted to Remove Public Art?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 11:31 PM

This art will be the end of us!
  • This art will be the end of us!
The year was 2002 and five little words had white Memphis Conservatives frothing at the mouth: "Workers of the World Unite."

From a cover story I wrote at the time:

In 1934, the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers adopted the principle that art should promote only a rigid slate of political and social ideals established by the state. This movement was dubbed Soviet realism.
In November 2001, Memphis City Councilman Brent Taylor, and Shelby County Commissioners Marilyn Loeffel and Tommy Hart, took umbrage at one of nine public artworks sponsored by the UrbanArt Commission (UAC) for the new $70 million Central Library. Their aim was to have an offensive quotation removed from a public walkway because it expressed a sentiment which they deemed to be out of step with wholesome American values.

The irony grows sweeter considering that the offending "Workers of the world, unite!" is excerpted from The Communist Manifesto, which sparked the revolution that eventually birthed the school of Soviet realism whose precepts were unknowingly co-opted by Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart.

A pious group of Memphians led by one William W. Wood of the hastily organized Shelby County Coalition to Save the Memphis Library began a biweekly vigil to pray over the wicked artwork. The same group sent out scorching mass e-mails comparing the presumably elusive UAC with Osama bin Laden and labeling the board and administration of the Memphis/Shelby County Library "a special branch of the CIA."

Toss in the eccentric patriot in a red, white, and blue suit who makes regular protest pilgrimages to the site and you have all the ingredients for an old-fashioned dog-and-pony show. Even The New York Times got in on the action, noting that "The cold war may be over, but Marx and Engels have nevertheless managed to create a small political furor in this old river city."

The backlash came as a complete shock to Brad and Diana Goldberg, the Dallas-based husband-and-wife team responsible for designing the artwork. They intended that their piece function as "a metaphoric record of important events and knowledge that have shaped Memphis, the Mississippi River Valley Region, and the rest of our world" since the beginning of recorded history.

It was less of a shock to local political columnists who practically stumbled over one another to spank Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart for striking such a provincial pose. Susan Adler Thorp aptly observed in The Commercial Appeal that "Tearing down the Iron Curtain and destroying communism were simple tasks compared to accommodating [their] need for political opportunism, and logic."

CLICK HERE FOR THE REST OF THE STORY.

Why mention this vintage kerfuffle? Because debate over the removal of Confederate monuments rages on in comment sections across the World Wide Web. It's nasty, getting nastier, and even the President of the Comment Section himself, Donald J. Trump, weighed in on the side of White Supremacy. I'm revisiting it because there was a time, not so very long ago, when white Conservative Christians — spearheaded by elected officials — thought it was wrong to memorialize the enemies of America.

Thing is, the library sculpture aimed to reflect world-changing ideas generally, and wasn't political in nature. It certainly wasn't ideologically aligned with Communism, and guess what? Memphis didn't transform into a hotbed of socialism. The hullabaloo blew over. People mostly forgot it was a big deal and the piece just kind of blended into the landscape, as it was intended to — like concrete and granite shrubbery nobody ever had to water.
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But let's not kid ourselves. It wasn't JUST the Communist history upsetting the easily upsettable. It was also the out of context message, divorced as it was, of its Marxist origin. Nothing's more terrifying to the unreconstructed set like the idea of a united working and underclass or any unified threat to the hegemony.  This has always been true.

Public response to public art is directly and proportionally-related to public values and the degree to which those values are reflected in the work. That's why modernism in the public sphere met with so much backlash at the end of the last century. As one heartland critic noted in the 1970's: "I think people are tired of New York Arty-art. You can keep it in museums where it won't bother anybody." Coming full circle, abstract work becomes attractive in the public sphere again for the exact same reason — people can't ascribe values, making it harmless. We tend to divorce the Confederate memorials from similar conversations about public art. Probably because it clears the fog of war and makes the question of values (or negative values) so apparent.

 All art speaks to the future, and public art speaks with authority. That's why this battle has been so bitter. It's not about the past, it's for the future. As the City of Memphis, spurred on by united activists, creeps forward with plans to execute this long-overdue removal (a process gummed by Tennessee's regressive and cowardly state legislature) I thought it might be interesting to remember when all those people down in the comments today screeching, "history," and "heritage," were out in the street chanting (okay, praying) "tear it down!"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Remember The Time Andy Holt Said Nathan Bedford Forrest Was a Civil Rights Leader?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 1:18 AM

Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest. Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.

Hey kids, sometimes current events make old news relevant again. So let's all hop in the way-back machine and chart a course for July, 2015 when Tennessee Rep. Andy Holt declared an abiding love for Confederate General and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Holt encouraged people who really care about ending racial strife to get in touch with the gentle, loving Civil Rights leader he knows.
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Forrest made millions of dollars as a slave merchant before achieving the rank of General in a hostile army in open rebellion against the US government and fighting to preserve the institution of Southern slavery. But the Butcher of Fort Pillow did soften a bit near the end of his life and after white Southerners established political victory and supremacy the KKK he led was indeed disbanded. But Civil Rights Champion Nathan Bedford Forrest never needed anybody to speak for him. He knew exactly who he was and what he stood for.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet the Tennessee Lawmakers Who Think Running Over Protesters Should Be Protected

Matthew Hill and Bill Ketron foresaw tragedies like what happened in Charlottesville, VA and attempted to make the world a safer place -- for terrorists

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 8:47 AM

Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
  • Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a nazi sympathizer killed one person and injured many more when he drove his car into a group protesting the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. With that in mind, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look a pair of Tennessee politicians who were farsighted enough to imagine just such a scenario and introduced legislation to make drivers immune from civil liability for doing something similar.
MATTHEW HILL
  • Matthew Hill
Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Chumpsville) is a "firebrand Southern conservative." Swipes right for tort reform, the Ten Commandments and good old-fashioned nullification; left for abortion and taxes. Hill's the owner of Right-Way marketing and the host of Bible Buddies Radio. He's super against child rape but favors fear-mongering legislation and thinks sometimes rolling over protesters in your SUV is totally justifiable. Hill has been a vocal proponent of birtherism, the racist conspiracy aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama's presidency. (For fun, here's a recording of our Bible Buddy interviewing birther gadfly Orly Taitz.) In 2010 Hill introduced HB2685,[24] requiring employees to only speak English in Tennessee workplaces. Hill was called out by media for taking a "dangers of Islam"  fact-finding trip courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a designated hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HB0668 failed in Civil Justice committee.
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Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
  • Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
Bill Ketron (R-Suckertown) has sponsored many bills but, apart from making it okay to run over protesters if you're using due caution, the Senator from Murfreesboro is probably most famous as the national laughingstock who mistook a mop sink for Muslim prayer basin. And had a spell about it.

When he's not hard at work pushing legislation crafted by white supremacist David Yerushalmi to criminalize Sharia Law, Ketron has also made time to see the world courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a hate group that dines well, apparently.

Ketron wasn't the only Tennessee Senator who thought this idea had merit. SB0944 Passed on first and second consideration and was assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Friday, August 4, 2017

Shelby Co. D.A. Has Twitter Meltdown, Internet Watches

Posted By on Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 12:34 PM

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Boy Scouts are Political Props

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 11:43 AM

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There's no real point in recounting a story that's been all over social media since yesterday. We all know the President told a lurid story to to the Boy Scouts of America who were gathered at their annual Jamboree, turning his opportunity to inspire young America into a deeply weird political rally. Regardless of one's political leanings, nobody needs an opinion columnist to tell them that's uncommonly bad form, even for this Chief Exec. But there's another question we already know the answer to that may be worth asking: Why didn't somebody cut Trump's mic?

I know — "You don't cut the mic on the leader of the free world, it's just not done, ever." Undeniably true.  Then again, a lot of things just aren't done, ever. Like using the fine young men of the BSA as political props. Only, that IS done, I suppose, and maybe more often than folks realize. I can share at least one example in the form of this video from Memphis' first Tea Party where conservative Mid-Southerners sporting anti-immigrant signs and pictures of former President Obama with bullet holes in his face, got themselves good and radicalized.

4/15/09

I'm not offering this as any kind of evidence that the BSA is overtly political — I know too many Lefty Eagle Scouts who've kept themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. But for anybody wondering why the scouts cheered Trump's political message, there's plenty of not-so-ancient history to consider.

Scouting of all kinds took a membership nosedive during the 1970's. Girl Scouts USA reversed that trend, while the BSA continued to lope forward, declining all the while. Why? University of British Columbia political science professor Barbara Arneil may be on to something:

"A younger civil rights generation, informed by a new set of post-materialist values, did not join traditional organizations like the BSA and GSUSA because their values were deemed to be outdated. The challenge for traditional organizations therefore was how to respond. Using path dependency theory, I argue that BSA and GSUSA—shaped by their own unique origins and identities—responded very differently to the critical juncture of the civil rights generation, which in turn explains the subsequent divergence in membership patterns from the 1980s onward. While the BSA rejects such changes in order to defend traditional values, the GSUSA, which established a commitment to challenging gender norms from its birth, embraces the new values and adapts virtually every aspect of its organizational identity to this new generation."

In spite of its melting-pot image, the BSA's history of racial justice has ranged from spotty to poor. The organization only reversed policies allowing discrimination/segregation in the middle-1970's, and only because they found themselves on the losing end of legal action. Signs of progress appeared in 2015 when the BSA appointed its first Chief Diversity officer and just this year the BSA reversed a century-long ban of transgendered scouts. That doesn't add up to welcoming, and one has to believe that, all real exceptions and exceptional leaders considered, the organization's dug heels, and hard fought battles against acceptance and diversity, have shaped membership and culture.

#notallscouts, of course. And #notallscoutleaders, obviously. But there's a reason why the kids cheered the immoral President, and nobody cut his mic that has nothing at all to do with decorum.  This moment wasn't an anomaly as the BSA's subsequent press release suggests. It was a culmination.

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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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?
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