Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Fog Of History: The GOP Wants A Cookie


No cookie for you Governor, not even a (Lindsey) Graham cracker. Photo via

Athenae and I don’t always agree on the issues of the day, but we *do* agree on the current debate about the Confederate battle flag. We both think it should be removed from public buildings, but do NOT think that it should be the focus of the national discussion after the domestic terrorist attack in Charleston:

I get frustrated when politicians are pressed to take a stand on things like this, because we have a finite number of hours in the day and if a presidential candidate spends all of them equivocating about a flag instead of being made to explain how his policies will improve the lives of poor minorities, we have spent a day doing absolutely nothing.

Symbols matter. I’m a writer. I would never say they don’t. But the flag doesn’t just make black people feel bad. It doesn’t just signify to black people that they’re conquered and that white people are the conquerors.

It is the public face of all the ways in which white people do treat black people like they’re still owned.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m just as interested in the Confederate battle flag discussion as your average fog of history guy, but I don’t think it should become a central focus of national politics. It’s mildly interesting to hear what various candidates think and to watch them squirm but I’d rather hear what they’d do to combat racism in our daily lives, especially economic racism.

Nikki Haley has come out in favor of removing the flag from the state capitol grounds in Columbia. That’s fine and dandy but it merely reflects a politician blowing with the wind; the prevailing breeze is from the “remove the damn flag” direction. I am more interested in learning whether she supports the  hate crimes legislation that was just proposed by two Democratic legislators. I know she’s against  many things that would make the lives of poor black folks better from the ACA to unionization and on and on and on. Haley is a Koch Brothers Republican just like Scott Walker. The main reason she’s jumped on the anti-flag bandwagon is that overt references to the Confederate past are bad for business. There you have it in a wingnutshell.

The other thing about Gov. Haley’s speech that people have glossed over was its extensive use of code words such as “heritage and pride.” Her real position is that the flag has been hijacked by mean old racists and should be removed for that reason. Ta-Nehisi Coates demurs:

This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.

Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.

Coates goes into glorious detail in support of his thesis that the Confederate battle flag, in any and all permutations, is an emblem of racism, white supremacy, and a war that was fought to preserve slavery. Dylann Roof and other neo-Confederate extremists take this legacy literally instead of using slick code words and dog whistles such as “heritage and pride.” The problem with political dog whistling is that sometimes the dog has a gun and massacres people in a church.

Back to symbolism mania: actually, it’s more like a virus, which is spreading  throughout the former Confederate states. I remain skeptical that the Mississippi flag will change now that Governor Phil Bryant has mashed on the brakes at the behest of the Godfather of Mississippi politics, Haley the Barbour of Yazoo.

Here in New Orleans, there are many streets, school names, and statues honoring the so-called heroes of the so-called lost cause. There’s a renewed call for their removal or changes to their names as detailed in a front page story in the Advocate. The most obnoxious memorial to me is the one for Jefferson Davis on-where else?-Jefferson Davis Parkway, which is one of the main drags of Mid-City New Orleans.

The cult of Jeff Davis has always annoyed me: he was an intemperate, inept politician who should be scorned as a Southern fried Buchanan or W. Now that I think of it, I’m glad the CSA had such bad leadership. I’d love for that monument to be removed from its prominent perch at the corner of Canal Street. Changing the street name, however, would be a nightmare for folks who live on it so I’m not sure what should be done there. I, for one, would not want that man’s name as a part of my address but I’d let the business owners and residents of that very long street decide.

The most prominent Confederate monument in New Orleans is the huge statue of Robert E. Lee at-where else?-Lee Circle, which was originally Tivoli Circle. It’s on St. Charles Avenue and visible to tourists as they ride on the streetcar. That means its days are numbered. City Hall quakes in fear at the mere thought of bad touron publicity.

I would prefer that any replacement monuments or new street names honor heroes of the anti-white supremacy/segregation struggles; to do otherwise is to provide ammunition to those who say this is a Soviet-style attempt to erase inconvenient or unfashionable historical facts. That’s why I think Lee Circle should become Homer Plessy Circle, named for the 1890’s Civil Rights pioneer. A fitting replacement for the Davis monument would be a statue commemorating PBS Pinchback, the lone black Governor in Gret Stet history. He was the hero of a lost cause: the Reconstruction era struggle for equal rights. A much nobler cause than that espoused by Jefferson Davis.

Back to the post title. Republicans like Gov. Haley want a pat on the back for grudgingly doing the right thing. Those who are bestowing fulsome praise on Haley should wake up and smell the coffee. Coffee and cookies may go together but the GOP shouldn’t get a cookie for talking about removing Confederate symbols or even for doing so. Give them a cookie when they do something substantive such as protecting their black constituents from police violence. That’s something worthy of words like heritage and pride. The rest is just talk. Nobody should ever get a cookie for saying the right things. Do something and we’ll talk about it then.

UPDATE: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is calling for the removal of the Lee statue. Mitch gets a cookie.

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Album Cover Art Wednesday: News Of The World

Queen’s 1977 album News Of The World was a monster hit with a monster robot on the cover. In this instance, the cover art is as interesting as the music.  The Wikipedia entry for the LP is one of the best I’ve run into and it does a fine  job of discussing the artwork and its genesis:

The album’s cover was a painting by American sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas. Taylor had an issue of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953) whose cover-art depicted a giant intelligent robot holding the dead body of a man. The caption read: “Please… fix it, Daddy?” to illustrate the story “The Gulf Between” by Tom Godwin.[12] The painting inspired the band to contact Freas, who agreed to alter the painting for their album cover, by replacing the single dead man with the four “dead” band members (Taylor and Deacon falling to the ground). The inner cover (gatefold) has the robot extending its hand to snatch up the petrified fleeing audience in the shattered auditorium where the corpses were removed.[13] Freas said he was a classical music fan and did not know Queen, and only listened to the band after doing the cover “because I thought I might just hate them, and it would ruin my ideas”, but eventually liked their music.[12]

Since the magazine cover art preceded the LP by 24 years, we’ll start with it:


How’s that for a little taste of Pulp Fiction Thursday on a Wednesday? Here’s the evil robot bothandling the guys in Queen. Brian May is a goner, y’all:


More News Of The World natterings after the break. Guaranteed to rock you.

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More Poor Kid Shaming

The Irish get in on the action: 

Child poverty almost doubled in the austerity years. In 2008, just before the crash, 6.8 per cent of Irish children were living in consistent poverty – a shameful figure in itself. By 2013, that proportion had almost doubled to 11.7 per cent.

That’s 138,000 children – pretty much an entire Galway city plus an entire Limerick city of consistently poor kids. Obviously, much of this increase was driven by the wider economic collapse, and especially by unemployment. But direct Government decisions have knowingly made things worse.

To take just one of the most egregious examples, the Back to School allowance for clothes and shoes was savaged. This is a very small payment, with a negligible effect on the public finances. (It’s €45 million from a welfare budget of almost €20 billion.) But it matters a lot to struggling families and especially to the children in those families who are trying to look like normal kids in normal schools.

It’s a very small payment but it is EVERYTHING, when you’re a kid who already feels different. It’s everything when you’re feeling at a disadvantage already, and like everyone is looking at you even if they’re not, and NEWS FLASH THIS IS HOW EVERY KID FEELS.

So naturally we need to kill it to make a point, which is that poor people should feel worse about being poor.


It’s a Brand New Grand Old Party Flag!

The flag comes down, and we’ve all had our national moment of healing and we can all go on, right? 

Republican presidential candidates are supporting South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the removal of the Confederate flag on the state capitol grounds following last week’s church shooting in Charleston.

“Kudos to @nikkihaley and all the SC leaders standing with her for doing the right thing,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush posted on Twitter.

“I fully support Governor Haley’s leadership today in calling for the flag to come down,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. “This is a decision for South Carolina to make and they are now starting that process. Like Governor Haley, I believe the flag should come down.”

“The decision to remove the Confederate flag needs to be made by the people of South Carolina, and Gov. Haley’s leadership today honors the people of Charleston, and the families of the victims of last week’s horrific hate crime,” former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.

Make no mistake. This marks no fundamental shift in Republican politics. This turnabout required only the self-awareness God gave a bucket of KFC and it will last about as long. The party that for years has prospered by the Confederate flag’s aficionados may be abandoning the colors but they’ll never shake the creed. What they are really saying, when they take that banner down, is that from now on we should stick to the racism of economics, which is only visible to those who suffer by it.

From now on we should stick to the racism that says if one black person at a protest wears a rude T-shirt, the entire protest is invalid.

From now on we should stick to the racism that says that if black children didn’t want to get shot walking to school, they should just move out of that neighborhood.

From now on we should stick to the racism that says that “parental involvement” would fix a school with a hole in the roof and chains on the doors.

You know, the cultured racism. The refined racism. The racism that doesn’t call itself racism because hey, it’s not like it’s flying a Confederate flag or anything. It’s not some Duck Dynasty Whiskey Tango trailer park hoedown and because of that, it’s so much more vicious.

Taking down a flag, well, you can see the flag. It’s there for all to see. That’s wrong and it’s crazy and nowhere else on earth would a nation that won a war allow its vanquished foe to pretend it had any claim to glory because we just keep repeating this bullshit over and over, but the flag is out there. The redlining, the block panics, the shifting of a résumé from one pile to another, the founding of a school in one place versus the next, those are not as obvious as something flying high above the statehouse.

Those glorious causes will last. Republican politicians will continue to champion them, and the South will rise again.


The GOP’s Alternate Reality: Jindal Campaign Edition

I’m feeling unoriginal today. I’m not exactly sure why but it *is* Monday so perhaps that’s it. The evidence is overwhelming that the Republican base doesn’t view the world in the same way that rational people do. Their reluctance to admit that Dylann Roof was racially motivated and not an “anti-Christian lunatic” is merely the latest example of this. Jeb Bush claims to be a centrist who will speak the truth to the base when it’s wrong. It took him almost 16 hours to admit that Roof was a racist who thought the massacre would cause a race war. Mustn’t offend the people who think Cliven Bundy is John Wayne instead of a fathead in a cowboy hat or that the Duggars are moral exemplars instead of members of a cult. When the Bushes pander, they pander big.

Another example of Republican magical thinking comes from an article about Bobby Jindal’s campaign plans in the Sunday Advocate. In a rare bow to reality, they concede that PBJ is a long shot but claim he’s used to being an underdog:

But neither Jindal, who says he doesn’t worry about polls, nor his longtime campaign consultant, Timmy Teepell, seems terribly concerned about the odds.

Both point to Jindal’s performance in his first try for office, when he led the open-primary field for governor in 2003. (He lost the runoff, but his strong showing propelled his later career.)

“Gov. Jindal went from an asterisk to 33 percent to win his first primary,” Teepell said in an email. “He is unafraid of a race where he only has to go 11 points to get ahead,” he said, referring to the frequent inability of even the leading Republican contenders to register more than that.

Timmy gives good spin. He neglects to mention that popular sitting Governor Mike Foster was a full-throated Jindalista at that point. Big Daddy Mike’s  support was the main reason that no-neck brat PBJ did so well in that primary. As I’ve said before, 2003 was the only closely contested election PBJ has ever been involved in and he lost the run-off. He faced only token and comically inept opposition in the 2007 and 2011 Goober races. Additionally, in his 2004 Congressional race, the GOP establishment cleared the field for the then whiz kid to win against token opposition. Current House whip Steve Scalise was told to wait his turn even though he had been around longer. Remember that the next time the Jindalites claim he’s an insurgent candidate. Insipid is more like it…

Back to the Advocate’s piece wherein DC bureau chief, Gregory Roberts, compares PBJ’s candidacy to that of Jimmy Carter in 1976:

Jindal’s rise to the top from near nullity in 2003 is hardly the only time a politician has pulled that off, even on the vastly bigger scale of a presidential race. In 1976, a Georgia peanut farmer who had served a single term as governor, Jimmy Carter, emerged from near-obscurity to capture the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House.

Like Carter, Jindal comes from a Southern state without a large population or contributor base. And like Carter, Jindal is a born-again Christian whose religious convictions form a significant part of his political profile.

In a speech Friday to the Faith & Freedom conference of religious-right activists in Washington, Jindal, 44,recounted his journey from the Hinduism of his childhood — his parents emigrated from India to Baton Rouge shortly before he was born — to his embrace of Christianity as a teenager; the story is a standard element of his public appearances. He identifies now as an evangelical Catholic.

In 1976, Carter made his first big splash in Iowa, home to the caucuses that kick off the nomination process. He shrewdly exploited the Democratic Party’s revised rules giving more power to grass-roots state nomination contests instead of party bosses.

This is a genuinely bizarre and laughably ahistorical analogy. The only thing I like about it is the comparison to someone who is loathed by the GOP base and still subjected to ridicule by them even though the big blow out was 35 years ago. The GOP spent many years casting Carter as Herbert Hoover to Reagan’s FDR and they can’t let go. End of oddly relevant digression.

The political circumstances are radically different in 2016 than 1976, let me count the ways. First, George McGovern was blown out by Tricky Dick in 1972. Democrats were desperate for a winning candidate and Carter was able to capitalize on that. He also wooed Wallace voters by positioning himself as a white collar, respectable version of their hero. That’s something forgotten about Carter: his victorious Florida primary campaign that year was a masterpiece of  proto-triangulation. Carter picked up Wallace votes and earned some gratitude from party liberals for slaying the populist peckerwood dragon. I’m uncertain if the Jindalistas are capable of such cunning. Back to modern times: Willard Mittbot Romney got 48% of the vote and 206 electoral votes. Carter had a much, much easier act to follow.

Second, 1976 was the post-Watergate election and Carter positioned himself as an outsider in contrast to *most* of his primary opponents. The Carter campaign set the template for all the Washington outsider candidacies to follow, including the one that ousted him. In short, it was a very unique year, and the two most popular national Democrats at the time, Ted Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, did not run. In contrast, the 2016 GOP field is a large and deep one. It is the why not me campaign, after all.

I suspect many Republicans will employ magical thinking and claim that, by merely existing, the Obama administration has been worse than Nixon’s, and that Beghazi, Benghazi is worse than Watergate. Whatever. Nixon resigned with 2 years and 4 months left in his second term and President Obama will finish out his; all the magical thinking in the world cannot eradicate that.

Another major difference between Carter and Jindal is that the former left office with high poll ratings whereas PBJ is the most unpopular Gret Stet Governor of the polling era. That’s right, less popular than Edwin Edwards during his *first* corruption trial. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Bobby-n-Timmy. The unreality based GOP answer to that would be something like this: the poll ratings show that he took tough decisions and was a manly, man worthy of the support of Phil Robertson and his family band of bearded phonies.

Finally, Jimmy Carter was a better campaign product than PBJ. He was a fresh faced, squeaky clean alternative to a field of veteran pols to his left and George Wallace to his right. Carter positioned himself in the centrist sweet spot and rode that to the nomination. In contrast, PBJ is appealing to the hard right evangelical wing of his party. It’s a crowded space that includes past Iowa caucus winners Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum as well as fiery, charismatic Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It’s hard to see PBJ finishing ahead of any of those guys. Nobody’s ever called Bobby Jindal fiery or charismatic. He may serve up raw meat to the base but in an unseasoned and bland fashion.

Bobby Jindal will be announcing his candidacy on Wednesday in Kenner, brah. Remember the whole Facebook flash mob protest thing? The Facebook page has 3,500 likes but limited activity, which once again shows the limits off online/hashtag activism. It’s easy to retweet something, sign an online petition or like a Facebook page, but much harder to schlep out to suburban Kenner and protest in the 90+ degree heat. There do not appear to be any concrete plans for the protest. No surprise there.

I’m going to close on an unoriginal note and predict the following: PBJ will not get a bump in the polls from his announcement, will not make the cut for the Fox debates unless the criteria change, and will end up with the “job he wants” as a fat cat lobbyist or head of some wingnut pressure group.

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It’s Not Enough To Take Down a Flag

Steve Chapman reminding us of when St. John McCain’s early campaign went off the rails: 

It arose in the 2000 GOP presidential primary, when George W. Bush and John McCain refused to utter a bad word about the capitol flag, insisting it was something for South Carolinians to decide.


After losing the 2000 primary, McCain admitted he was dishonest in defending the flag. But he didn’t just abandon the position he had taken to win votes in South Carolina.

The Arizona senator said his Confederate ancestors “fought on the wrong side of American history. I don’t believe their service, however distinguished, needs to be commemorated in a way that offends, that deeply hurts, people whose ancestors were once denied their freedom by my ancestors.”

He admitted he was dishonest. And then he basically said, “Sorry if the flag pisses you off.” Because this is about people being pissed off. That’s the real problem here. This is about people’s feelings.

I get frustrated when politicians are pressed to take a stand on things like this, because we have a finite number of hours in the day and if a presidential candidate spends all of them equivocating about a flag instead of being made to explain how his policies will improve the lives of poor minorities, we have spent a day doing absolutely nothing.

Symbols matter. I’m a writer. I would never say they don’t. But the flag doesn’t just make black people feel bad. It doesn’t just signify to black people that they’re conquered and that white people are the conquerors.

It is the public face of all the ways in which white people do treat black people like they’re still owned.

It is a symbol of approbation to all the Dylann Roofs of the world, a wink and a nod that says sure, we can’t SAY outright anymore that we agree with you (PCPOLICEFEMINAZICOLLEGELIBERALS) but we do, in our secret hearts.

And if we take down that flag, and white people still act as conquerors, still treat black people as the conquered, what then? If all this incident leads to is the lowering of that traitor’s banner, if that is all that changes — if we still put a bulletproof vest on a white mass murderer to protect him and choke a black man selling cigarettes to death — then not enough will have changed, when weighed against the lives lost.

Take down the flag, erase the lionization of those traitors to America from every monument and byway in the USA, strike their names from the public buildings and cross them out of the history books. And then, the very next day, begin to act like race and poverty deserve more honest airtime than how a particularly dimwitted congressman or two feels about the symbol of all those things.

Otherwise, lowered flag or no, people will just keep winking and nodding, knowing the resentful, paranoid, angry Dylann Roofs of the world are still watching.


What Can Be Said About Charleston

We act like this is some special case, right?

Like wow, Jon Stewart is righteous! He’s brave! He’s the only one who can tell us the truth! Tell it like it is, man!

We act like he’s some outlier. Like he’s got some unique ability to cut through the crap and put the rest down on the floor.

Like every journalist everywhere, like every talking head on TV, like every columnist trying to justify his existence, could not open up his fucking cakehole and say something exactly this cutting, exactly this accurate, exactly this true, every single goddamn day of his life.

Like this couldn’t be everywhere, every night.

“But … but … he’s on cable! He’s on Comedy Central! He can do whatever he wants!”

So can you.

Yes, yes you can. No, shut up. I said shut UP, God, you pathetic whiners. You can do whatever you want to do. What you WANT is to keep doing what you’re doing, and yet be pissily resentful of how much attention and acclaim Stewart gets because you don’t like how he makes you feel, what with him being a grown-up on earth and all. You WANT to have a job where you have a job.

Which is fine, but let’s not confuse being stationary with being paralyzed.

“He doesn’t have a responsibility to be objective and present both sides of everything!”

Neither do you.

Yeah, you heard me. Neither do you. Sack up.

You get that you’re blaming a system that is entirely constructed by you, right? You get that you built the cross to which you’re nailing yourself so firmly? You know who decided journalists had to be “objective” and that “objectivity” was a synonym for “toothless?” JOURNALISTS DID THAT. Journalists draw the circle and decide who is inside it and who is out, and they do that every day.

Journalists created “fact-checkers” so they wouldn’t have to sort out which politicians were lying and when, nor face those politicians after rating their bullshit themselves. Journalists have idiotic arguments over whether bloggers can be journalists even if they don’t have Very Special Journalist Camp patches on their fucking sleeves. Journalists created those badges and man, journalists are mad that lots of people doing journalism don’t give a fuck about them.

Journalists laid back and took it when year after year after year wingnut after wingnut after wingnut called for their outright assassinations, and considered themselves beholden to politely stating that that was just one point of view.

And journalists set an agenda, every single day, with what they cover and don’t cover. With how they present the virulent racism and staggering paranoia in which most of this country marinates, with who they quote and when they quote them, with the stories they can’t see and the stories they don’t want to see, and then those same journalists, those same editors and producers, act like they are powerless to affect the conversation.

It’s a dodge. It’s a way of getting out of doing work and taking responsibility for that work. (I never ascribe anything wrong with journalism today to bias when there is so much laziness and stupidity and bad thinking to get through first.) You don’t have to do what Stewart did here, but admit it’s because you don’t want to, not because you can’t.

Journalists can tell any story they want to tell, any way they want to tell it. And the rest of us can stop acting like we have to accept anything less than the very best they can give us. Whether that’s a monologue like this, or an editorial calling for a stand with the powerless against the great, or a decision to stay with a difficult story long after everyone else has piled in the news vans and gone home, we need the very best journalism can give us and when we get less and we get whining about it, we need to do less shrugging about it.

Nobody’s ironic detachment and low expectations are doing them any good anymore.


Sunday Morning Video: MST3K- The Castle Of Fu Manchu

The late Christopher Lee made a lot movies during his long career; some good, some not so good. The Castle Of Fu Manchu was bad enough to be riffed by Joel and the bots during season three of MSTK:

Saturday Odds & Sods: Tell The Truth


The Charleston church massacre cast a pall over the end of the week. I remain astonished at how many people shied away from the term hate crime. A white guy who’s a Rhodesian fan boy opened fire in a historically black church in South Carolina. What else does one call it? Charlie Pierce wrote the best thing about it that I’ve seen. No surprise there:

We should speak of it as an attack on history, which it was. This was the church founded by Denmark Vesey, who planned a slave revolt in 1822. Vesey was convicted in a secret trial in which many of the witnesses testified after being tortured. After they hung him, a mob burned down the church he built. His sons rebuilt it. On Wednesday night, someone turned it into a slaughter pen.

This week’s theme song has been in my head since I wrote the Rachel Dolezal post the other day.  It’s one of my favorite Clapton tunes; guaranteed to make you walk around singing: “Tell me who’s been foolin’ you, you, you” or “who, who, who” for that matter. We’ll start with the studio version from Layla with Duane Allman on slide guitar:

Since I’m a  huge Steve Winwood fan, here’s a live version with him on Hammond B-3 and singing the second lead:

More truth telling, truthiness, and other tangents after the break

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Raging at Emptiness.

Floyd Matson and Ashley Montagu wrote the book “The Dehumanization of Man” back in the early 1980s, attempting to explain the way in which narcissism and lack of social awareness were deadly in ways that we could never see coming. Anyone who has spent a minute in a debate tournament over the past three decades has been subjected to the “Dehum Card” that calls dehumanization the “Fifth Horseman of the apocalypse.”

However, a deeper read of the book reveals many other subtle explanations that have long gone ignored, including the analysis of the “common man” they refer to as “Edmund.” He’s a regular guy who feels lost and out of control due to the lack of attention he feels he is due. He can’t get a grip on what he feels or why he feels it, so he feels the need to lash out through a variety of wild, careening acts of fitful vengeance. Taint a Tylenol, kill a pop star or look at your wife and feel the blind, dark rage building, they write. He then sinks into the dark hole of nothingness, having felt as though nothing else remains.

After I finished my doctorate, with the outside area in psych, I went back and reread that passage and it started to make more sense. It came back to me today because it was the only way to make sense of both Dylann Roof’s attacks and why so many of us feel the way we do in its wake.

Not to do an “I am Dylann Roof” thing, like the chucklehead who did so in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, but most people feel an inner-sense of helpless anger at some point in time. Maybe it’s being stuck in traffic. Maybe it’s not being able to get a job. Maybe it’s the “hand to mouth” approach they have to take to survive. The loss of self-determination makes people lose hope and then lose equilibrium. It’s why we see road rage, office attacks and other forms of explosive behavior that defy logic. It’s why we see two women beating the shit out of each other in an aisle of Walmart, with one of them telling her kid to punch the other woman in the fucking face.

The loss of control. The loss of everything. It suddenly frees people from the strictures of reality and yields unreal consequences.

Friends of Roof’s said he had become increasingly agitated about African-Americans and how they were “taking over.” In the coming days and weeks, it’s likely we will see some building blocks that led him down this path. It could be anything, and speculation is stupid at this point. However, he had that “click” in his head that Brick used to describe during “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” where the switch flipped and everything just went cold.

He went to the church. He sat there. He waited. Then, with cool deliberation, he executed nine people.

He was quickly captured and returned to South Carolina, where he will almost certainly be tried, convicted and executed.

The problem with what happens next is that so many of us enter our own “Edmund” stage and we’re in an even worse situation.

Roof remains with us in body only, an empty shell that that we can’t touch. We want him to be hurt or remorseful or suffering or something.

He won’t.

We want him to feel what his victims felt in some microscopic way: Fear, panic, anxiety, something.

He can’t. And that only infuriates us further.

Perhaps the perfect example of this came in the mid-1990s, when serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was being sentenced. Rita Isabel, the sister of one of Dahmer’s victims, was testifying at his sentencing when she just lost it and went after him. She was flailing and cursing and trying to get away from the bailiffs.

Dahmer remained stone cold and silent. It was as if this wasn’t even happening.

Because to him, it wasn’t. And that only served to infuriate Isabel more.

Since we can’t get a reaction out of people like this, we seek to lash out elsewhere. Do I think the Stars and Bars should be flying over anything, other than the roof of the General Lee in reruns? No, but it’s not like if it weren’t there, this never would have happened. Give this symbolic bullshit a rest for now.

Do I think the gun laws in this country suck? Absolutely. We got rid of 48-hour waiting periods recently in Wisconsin because, I mean, Jesus, when you really need a gun, why should you have to wait? Think about this: The fucking BANKS will limit how much cash you can take out of an ATM in a day for “safety” reasons, but you can get a gun without any similar barriers. Still, if the murder of grade school kids by a whack job toting an arsenal didn’t get the NRA to stop sucking, this sure won’t. In fact, at least one of these assholes is doubling down on the “they had it coming” argument.

Do I hate the way in which media organizations covered this? Duh. They went back and forth between the “nothing could be done” handwringing to the “lone wolf” idea about this kid. Anyone ever notice that when a white kid goes on a shooting spree, we hear about one kid and one incident and how it’s so random but when a black kid gets killed by a cop or shoots someone, it’s indicative of a “culture of (FILL IN THE BLANK)” that really is the problem? I’m half surprised that CNN didn’t have “representatives of the white community” on for interviews or that Fox News didn’t spend half the day digging into the past of the nine victims, looking for petty theft arrests and parking tickets that might explain how “the victims are no angels themselves.”

We want S O M E T H I N G here. We struggle for whatever it is. We comb through every strand and every speck of this looking for something. We don’t even know what it is or why it matters, but something has to happen.

Cry, Dylann! You owe us that!

Give up, NRA! Your shitty lack of awareness MUST collapse this time!


No. Nothing is going to happen that will give anything to us.

All that will come is the next time.

Friday Catblogging: Sunbeam Me Up

The summer heat is making our cats languid.  As you can see, Della Street still likes a good sunbeam:

Sunbeam Me Up

I considered calling this Cool Cat By The Coolers, but my inner Trekkie came bursting out. Actually, I nearly called it Sunbeam Me Up, O’Brien after the Colm Meany character in TNG and DS9 but wasn’t sure how many of you would get the joke. Make it so, motherfucker.

Wingnut Mailbag: Bad Timing Edition

 Remember Rob Maness aka Col. Mayonnaise? He ran in the 2014 Louisiana Senate primary as a Tea Party candidate. He’s gone on to form something called GatorPac. I guess he’s not much of a sports fan or he’d know that Gators are Tiger Bait in the Gret Stet of Louisiana.

Anyway, he proves yet again why his name rhymes with anus. A fundraising email landed in my in-box earlier this afternoon. Col. Mayonnaise is raffling off a rifle. The  funds will go to protect good Mericans from gun grabbing libruls. The rub is that it arrived on the day the country is reeling from the Charleston church massacre. Way to go, GatorPac.

You can see the email after the break.

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The Passing Truth

I’ve been avidly following the Rachel Dolezal story.  I wanted to think through my reaction to the whole mishigas since it doesn’t actually require instant analysis despite the predictable outrage on Twitter and elsewhere on the internets. Most of the reaction, even when  justified, has been expressed in cliches, hashtags, and slogans.

It’s a tricky story for me because I firmly believe that race is primarily a social and political construct. I did extensive research on the subject of passing when I was writing a law school paper on anti-miscegenation laws in Louisiana. Additionally, living in New Orleans, I’ve heard many tales of Creoles who moved out of town, especially to Los Angeles, and vanished from the family story by passing.

In short, I was prepared to be sympathetic to Ms. Dolezal until she started doing interviews. If she had replied to the question “are you black?” with a straightforward “culturally, yes,” I would have more sympathy but her tortured answers have left me cold. Many people dislike their parents but very few question their own birth certificates. That makes Rachel Dolezal a self-birther or something equally wacky, which makes it difficult to take her seriously.

We all know people who have, in the British colonial phrase “gone troppo,” and identify with another culture. I have a friend in New Orleans who’s ethnically Italian-American but culturally African-American with racially mixed children but she would never say that she was black. She’s secure in who she is, which is something that Dolezal cannot say. I feel sorry for her. She didn’t initially invite all the attention but once it came she’s floundered. Wishing that you were someone else is not being someone else even in a country full of people who recreate themselves all the time.

This whole pitiful episode, however, has inspired some good and thoughtful writing. One of the best pieces was by Daniel F. Sharfstein in the New York Times Magazine wherein he pointed out that whites passing as blacks isn’t as uncommon as one might think:

The history of people breaching social divides and fashioning identities for themselves is as old as America. These stories were never exclusively about blacks who “passed” for white or Jews who, as my grandparents would say, “got over it” and found their way to the Episcopalian side of the ledger — people who felt compelled to shed their birth identities to reap the full rewards of white privilege. From the beginning of the American experience, the color line bent and broke in many directions, and for many reasons.

In 17th-century Virginia, as the genealogist Paul Heinegg has documented, most of the first free families of color descended from white women who had children with slaves or free black men. Because a 1662 Virginia lawclassified people as “bond or free only according to the condition of the mother,” the status of these families depended on the women’s affirming their whiteness as an official matter. But in everyday life, white mothers of black children were creating new ways for their families and themselves to parse slavery, freedom and race, akin to James McBride’s account in his memoir, “The Color of Water,” of how his mother described her own identity while raising 12 African-American children. When McBride asked her about her parents, she would respond, “God made me.” When he asked if she was white, her answer was, “I’m light-skinned.”

Over time, as racial categories ossified and state legislatures criminalized interracial sex and marriage — an idea that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1960s — people continued to define themselves outside the law’s oppressive reach. White people who fell in love with African-Americans could avoid sanction if they asserted that they, too, were black. In 1819, a Scottish immigrant named James Flint described witnessing a black man’s attempt to marry a white woman near Jeffersonville, Ind., just across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky. The local justice of the peace refused to marry them, citing a legal prohibition, but then had second thoughts, suggesting, Flint wrote, “that if the woman could be qualified to swear that there was black blood in her, the law would not apply.” In a scene anticipating “Showboat” by a hundred years, the groom promptly took a lancet to his arm, and according to Flint, “the loving bride drank the blood, made the necessary oath and his honour joined their hands” and married them.

White people have claimed African-American identity across time, region and class. The historian Martha Sandweiss has documented the case of Clarence King, a celebrated explorer from an elite Newport, R.I., family who could trace his ancestry back to three signers of the Magna Carta. At the end of the 19th century, he led a double life as James Todd, a black Pullman porter whose wife was born a slave. It is not hard to find other examples, all the way up to the present.

The story of Clarence King is particularly fascinating for history buffs as he was a close friend of  Henry Adams and John Hay. (I first encountered King in Gore Vidal’s great novel Empire;  he’s a principal  in Patricia O’Toole classic group biography, The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and his Friends, 1880-1918. End of this brief reading list) In King’s case, it was all about loving the wrong person for someone of his class and time, which is the story of most white folks who reversed passed. In Dolezal’s case, it’s passing as a way to recreate herself and to escape from a family that seems remarkably unpleasant. Her parents were the ones who exposed her, after all.

Another fine piece of writing is Bliss Broyard’s sympathetic piece for the Guardian on Monday 6/15. Ms. Broyard’s book about her late father Anatole’s passing, One Drop, is a classic of the genre and sums up my reaction *before* Dolezal’s NBC interviewpalooza:

How do you determine who is black? Is it simply a matter of inheritance – you are what your parents are? Does having a black grandparent make a person black? Must she have been raised as black, in a black community? Is one black ancestor, one drop of blood, enough?

These were the kinds of questions asked during the legal trials undertaken in the late 19th and early 20th century throughout southern and midwestern US states, to determine a person’s “true” racial identity. Then, as now, ancestry trumped lived experience. In Ohio the courts ruled that having 50% black ancestry, a single black parent or two mixed parents, made a person black – and hence socially and politically inferior – while in Louisiana, the “one drop” rule prevailed, and any traceable amount of Negro ancestry denied one certain legal rights, including the right to vote and the right to marry a person of another race.

It was possible to be legally white in one state and legally black in an adjacent one. The line dividing racial categories has never been a clear or constant one. It takes someone trying to cross that line to illuminate its current coordinates.

In the end, Rachel Dolezal is an erratic, confused, and rather pitiful person who should inspire compassion, not scorn. She doesn’t seemed to have financially benefited from passing: her former position at the NAACP was voluntary and unpaid. She seems sincere in her empathy for black folks and black culture, which is not the mark of a con artist. If it’s at all possible at this point, she should exit the spotlight and try to deal with the complexities of her life and identity in private. The spotlight is an unkind and unforgiving place in the 21st Century and is best avoided by people who have complex problems to work through.

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Today on Tommy T’s Obsession with the Freeperati – Ramadan Bomb-a-thon edition

This is going to have to be posted today – Dunno about next Monday yet.

OK, Freepers – you have got to stop blaming Muslims for EVERY FUCKING THING, got it?

Button up, folks – it’s gonna get nasty.



Charleston shooting: Reports of shooting at church
Fox News ^ | 6-17-2015 | web staff

Posted on 6/17/2015, 9:45:57 PM by Duke of Milan

Charleston shooting: Reports of shooting at church


Breaking, shooting at church, possibly 8 dead.
1 posted on 6/17/2015, 9:45:57 PM by Duke of Milan
Freeperati – can you just for once not…
To: Duke of Milan

It’s the beginning of Ramadan.

3 posted on 6/17/2015, 9:48:21 PM by lightman (O Lord, save Thy people and bless Thine inheritance, giving to Thy Church vict’ry o’er Her enemies.)

To: lightman



4 posted on 6/17/2015, 9:50:40 PM by ButThreeLeftsDo (You Don”t Need To Wait For The Next FReepathon To Make A Donation.)

To: ButThreeLeftsDo

You are not aware of the Ramadan Bombathon?

5 posted on 6/17/2015, 9:53:27 PM by LukeL

I give up.
To: Duke of Milan
Shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston, police said.Police described the gunman as a white male wearing a gray sweatshirt and blue jeans. Police said he was approximately 21 years old.

7 posted on 6/17/2015, 9:55:54 PM by Drew68
Ya don’t say.
OK – aren’t any of you asswipes even a little sorry about the conclusions you jump to? Or has cognitive dissonance worn your alleged brains down to shiny little marbles?
To: Drew68

So presumably a white-on-black crime in a black neighborhood.

That’s an unusual one.

16 posted on 6/17/2015, 10:05:49 PM by FreedomPoster (Islam delenda est)

To: PghBaldy

Probably a white hispanic or a white Arab.

28 posted on 6/17/2015, 10:24:35 PM by demshateGod (The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.)

To: demshateGod

Or most likely, a black. Very rarely do whites harm blacks in this country.

31 posted on 6/17/2015, 10:29:29 PM by PghBaldy (12/14 – 930am -rampage begins… 12/15 – 1030am – Obama’s advance team scouts photo-op locations.)

Well, at least you collective heads of knuckle haven’t started blaming the victims yet.
To: Duke of Milan

Sorry to hear this.

I am a bit curious why so many people as that are at a church this late.

Could be some staff needing to do work, but reports of this starting at quarter to 11 just make me wonder what was going on there.

41 posted on 6/17/2015, 10:37:28 PM by the OlLine Rebel (Common sense is an uncommon virtue./Federal-run medical care is as good as state-run DMVs.)

To: Hillarys Gate Cult

The politics keeps on coming. Jeb Bush has ‘cancelled’ campaign appearances in Charleston scheduled for later today due to shooting.

74 posted on 6/17/2015, 11:11:08 PM by Nextrush ( FREEDOM IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS, DON’T BE PASTOR NIEMOLLER)

To: Nextrush

Can’t say I blame him. If this is 9 people dead, last thing you would want to do is campaign there tomorrow.

75 posted on 6/17/2015, 11:14:22 PM by rikkir (Anyone still believe the 8/08 Atlantic cover wasn’t 100% accurate?)

To: Nextrush

Good for Jeb. The last thing you want is for a politician to brag about himself when an entire congregation is mourning. This is just awful and hopefully the shooter turns out to be a liberal somehow.

…because liberals are famous for shooting up black churches…

If now, we will hear about this for a long time.

79 posted on 6/17/2015, 11:22:33 PM by napscoordinator (Walker for President 2016. The only candidate with actual real RESULTS!!!!! The rest…talkers!)

Gee – I wonder why that might be?
“Hear about this”?
This is just one more result of your famous Southern Strategy, and I personally want the GOP to do the Cersei Lannister walk of shame all the way into the pits of irrelevancy.
More slut-shaming after the jump…

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Well…So Much For That Idea, Mr. LaPierre

From Album 5

Because once again, the proverbial good guy with a gun wasn’t in place, armed and aiming, when the bad guy began shooting. Because that’s how tragedies like this occur in the real world, not Wayne LaPierre’s churlish, puerile fantasyland.

Unfortunately, this latest example of the effect from LaPierre and the other gun nuts’ cause is no more likely to bring about any meaningful change than any of the other horrors resulting from full-on gun fetishization. Hell, if the cold blooded gunning down of schoolchildren can’t shame the gun fondlers, killing folks attending a Bible study class isn’t any likely to either…though in any sane world, all the talk about good guys with guns saving the day would be dismissed as Easter Bunny-level of childish fantasy, unsuited for people who’ve done at least a modest amount of growing up.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Nightstand Books

It’s sleaze time here at First Draft. Nightstand Books wasn’t in business all that long but they ground out a shitload of potboilers. The titles frequently included the words sin and lust, and the tag lines were spicy and suggestive. Interestingly enough, the noted sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison was briefly one of Nightstand’s editors and even wrote this book under the pseudonym of Paul Merchant:

465 Paul Merchant (Harlan Ellison) Sex Gang Nightstand 1959

More tawdry book covers after the break.

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Trump-Winfrey Won’t Be Rockin’ In The Free World

As Athenae pointed out yesterday, the entire Trump “campaign” is an epic troll. It makes the freak show that is the GOP nomination process even more farcical. Call me sick but I love it, especially the thought of Trump in a debate going all Noo Yawk on Jeb, Rubio, and whoever else he feels like pounding on. I may even watch myself in the way that some rubberneck at car wrecks. The 2016 Republican race is God’s gift to satire. It almost gives me religion..

The announcement wasn’t Trump’s only act of blatant trollery, he also stated who he wants as his running mate:

After declaring his run for the White House Tuesday, Trump appeared on ABC and said Oprah Winfrey would complete his presidential dream ticket.

“I think Oprah would be great. I’d love to have Oprah,” Trump said. “I think we’d win easily, actually.”

Trump had suggested Oprah as a potential sidekick once before — while considering a bid for the presidency in 1999.

Now that he’s officially running, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that she’s a perfect fit.

“She’s great, she’s talented, she’s a friend of mine,” he said.

“She’s a good person. I’ve been on her show. In fact, I was on her show last week, she said, could I be on her show with the whole family?”

The Republican hopeful emphasized that everybody loves Oprah.

Well, I don’t but she has more than enough self-love to compensate. I love the thought of the two biggest egomaniacs in American public life as a team. Who would do the listening? Can you imagine Trump telling Oprah she’s fired? Trump’s style is to throw shit against the wall and see how much of it sticks. Oprah deserves this since she’s on speaking terms with this bilious birther blowhard. There’s been no response from Winfrey World as the odious Mark (Pilates with Romney) Halperin would surely call it.

A quadrennial ritual has occurred early thanks to Trump’s trollery. I’m referring, of course, to a right wing Presidential candidate appropriating a song from a left wing rock star who doesn’t want to be associated with said wingnut. This time it’s Neil Young:

When Donald Trump strode on to the stage at Trump Tower on Tuesday to announce that he would enter the Republican race for president, a rock and roll anthem blared: Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World.” It was an odd choice, given that the 1989 song seemed to slam a Republican administration for not giving a damn about the poor. And Young has taken exception to Trump’s appropriation of his tune. A statement issued to Mother Jones for Young by his longtime manager Elliot Roberts suggests Young was not pleased by Trump’s use of the song:

Donald Trump’s use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” was not authorized. Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders.

In other words, it may be a free world, but you’re not free to steal my song.

I suspect Trump saw this and said: “Hey, I made Mother Jones whatever the hell that is. All publicity is good.” Here’s the 1989 Neil Young video, which doesn’t look very Trumpian to me:

Finally, I stumbled into a wonderful separated at birth picture that was tweeted yesterday showing blowhard London Mayor/Tory MP Boris Johnson side-by-side with the blowhard Yank troll candidate:


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Tweet Of The Day: Gret Stet Politics Edition

I missed this one until it showed up in Gambit’s Y@Speak Tweeter Tube feature. Oh well, better late than never. It comes from Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson:

The only good thing about the parlous state of the Gret Stet party is that it allows me to use the old Will Rogers quote: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Since we’re on  the subject of the late, unlamented legislative session, here’s a link to Clancy DuBos’ regular post-session feature da winnas and da loozas. Hint: a certain fast talking, delusional Governor with the initials PBJ is the biggest loser.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: The Fifth Dimension

At their best, the Fifth Dimension were one of the best non-Motown pop vocal groups of the 1960’s and ’70’s. They were best known for working with swell songwriters such as Jim Webb and Laura Nyro. I went looking for a representative album cover and found two.

First, the group’s debut album Up, Up and Away, complete with hippy dippy Fillmore poster style graphics:


We’ll take you to a Stoned Soul Picnic after the break. If you behave, we might even drink some Sweet Blindness... Continue reading