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Great moments in syphilis

[ 17 ] December 8, 2016 |

Today being the last teaching day of fall semester, I finally get to reveal to my students the outcome of the American Civil War. Ordinarily, I would resort to boring clichés about how the Union won the war only to squander the aftermath, or how blood drawn by the lash was repaid with blood drawn by the sword. This year, however, I will depart from mindless tradition and explain that the war’s true victor was (as always) venereal disease, and that every drop of blood drawn by the lash was repaid by lymphatic fluid lanced from infected your comrade’s syphilitic pustules. Apparently, there are hidden risks in trying not to die of smallpox.

During the American Civil War, vaccination was not easily achieved—though it was highly desirable. It was difficult to either find a cow or a suitable person with an active pustule that could be harvested to vaccinate others. Smallpox outbreaks were common on both sides, as were resulting deaths. According to the The Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine by Glenna R Schroeder-Lein, the most accepted method was to look for small children to infect with cowpox. Once infected, doctors would wait seven or eight days for a pustule to fully form, puncture it, and take the lymph (fluid) from it. Alternatively, they would wait for a scab to form and then take it out.

Though you were probably hoping, as I was, to learn that Civil War armies toted with them small batches of scabby Irish orphans who would be kept in tiny plague wagons and harvested as needed for their scabs and pus, history is not here to gratify your desires. Instead, soldiers simply jabbed one another with rusty knives, nails, and metal clothespins to release the sweet, infectious nectar within. If this sounds like a win-win for everyone, alas, there was a catch.

. . . . In the transmission of lymph into the bloodstream, soldiers would often get infected by their fellow soldier’s diseases, particularly syphilis. . . . [T]here is an unfortunate similarity between smallpox and syphilis. This meant that some soldiers, untrained in medical matters, could easily confuse a syphilis pustule with a cowpox one. Thinking they could be immune to the terrifying smallpox, many Civil War soldiers accidentally infected themselves with syphilis.

I will note that my browser history now includes Google Images searches for “syphilis pustules,” which I suspect is quite nearly the most 2016 thing I can imagine.

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Talking Nonsense

[ 59 ] November 16, 2016 |

Rumors that Ted Cruz is being considered for the Attorney General’s position, or to soak up the urine stains left in Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court chair, ought once again to settle the ridiculous notion that Trump is somehow “friendly” to gay rights. Given the widespread credulity shown in recent days over Trump’s insistence on 60 Minutes that gay marriage is “settled,” it’s worth remembering that Donald Trump has literally no idea how the various branches of government operate. His insistence that anything is “settled” is a reflection partly of his baseline intellectual deficits, partly of the time lag since his last bump of dexedrine, and almost entirely because he is an arrogant buffoon who believes his will — empty of content or consistency — governs all.

But as your high school friends keep pointing out on Facebook, Donald Trump hoisted an LGBTQ flag a few weeks ago, so it’s pretty much a wash.

In the meantime, I’m wondering what the odds are that Trump — choosing the path of true loyalty — taps Scott Baio for AG. He’s likely to need him in the coming years.

American Shitshows: The Presidential Election of 1912

[ 18 ] November 11, 2016 |

My original election shitshow post was supposed to be followed up a few hours later with a second part consisting of five more entries that would happily culminate with a Clinton victory. I stopped writing, however, as soon as the numbers in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina began looking worrisome. Soon after, I stopped thinking rationally and simply watched the unraveling horror with my dumbfounded children. Now that I am somewhat able to write sentences again, I will continue posting about election shitshows of the past until I grow sick of the gimmick. Also, fuck this fucking shit.

***

Following the example set by the Democrats a half century earlier, the Republicans in 1912 decided to amputate the hindmost segment of its human centipede and see if both organisms might survive.

They did not.

Instead, the party’s delegates in Chicago divided their affections between two perfectly capable mustaches. Theodore Roosevelt, having returned to national politics after several years of strangling giraffes and fretting over the breeding habits of the barbarian races, won nine of 12 state primaries and arrived at the convention with a plurality of delegates, falling a mere five shy of the majority he would need to stop Taft and the party stalwarts who bore him aloft, strenuously, on the sedan chair of sound currency and sensible tariff policy.

Embittered, Roosevelt’s supporters bolted the convention and formed a third party in opposition to the incumbent. The Progressive Party was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party, largely because Roosevelt, misunderstanding the rules of an emerging parlor game, had fucked, married, and killed one of each. With clean consciences and sturdy hymns to inspire them, Progressives campaigned on a promise to rid the nation of corporate corruption, extend basic social insurance to working people, let the lady folk vote, and return bare-knuckle boxing to its rightful place at the center of American sporting life.

In the end, however, the Republican divide only cleared the way for the Democrats to elect the first Southern president since Southern presidents were legally permitted to own black people. Woodrow Wilson defeated a beard and three mustaches and won the nomination based on the promise to remain clean shaven and create a trust fund for libertarian conspiracy theories by establishing the Federal Reserve. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously for the office, so much so that when someone inevitably shot him in the chest a month before the election, he simply removed the bullet and used it to bring down a passing hippo before departing the stage in search of a good surgeon. Buoyed by Roosevelt’s energetic tirades, the Progressives were nevertheless dragged down by vice presidential candidate Hiram Johnson, who could never quite explain his preference for needlessly wide, short ties. Meantime, Taft lingered in Washington, spending his days bathing quietly and drawing giant penises on photographs of Roosevelt, congratulating himself privately for doing all he could to keep most species of deadly bacteria from the nation’s supply of canned pork.

As Woodrow Wilson coasted to victory, the Socialist Party earned its highest popular vote percentage ever in an American Presidential election. Although Eugene Debs did not take a single electoral vote that year, his supporters were totally fucking stoked about getting those federal matching funds and looked forward to breaking the fake-progressive duopoly forever.

Ten Presidential Election Shit Shows, Part I (1800-1876)

[ 62 ] November 8, 2016 |

Our long national cake fart is nearly over.

I was reflecting yesterday on the magic of the previous 18 months, and it occurred to me that history usually helps bring clarity to the present, except when it doesn’t, which is pretty much always the case. Can the elections of the past teach us anything? Probably not. Indeed, most of us will probably not live to comprehend the place of 2016 in the roster of American presidential shit shows. If Trump wins (an outcome I am not worried about at the moment, because I’m mildly drunk and limiting my reading to self-affirming Pantsuit Nation posts on Facebook), it will easily vault into the shit show top tier as the nation quickly degenerates into a eviscerating horror that will likely draw a curtain upon history itself. A Clinton win, by comparison, will almost certainly trigger a long spasm of misogynistic, xenophobic Trumpian reaction that will leave our civic life blighted and choking for oxygen. So as you can see, both sides do it, and there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the major parties.

All that aside, let’s take a few moments and soberly assess the ten greatest shit show elections in the whole stupid history of this country.

1800. The Original Shit Show.

Remarkably, it took a mere three presidential contests before Americans devolved into engorged, ragefully-partisan baboons. The election that year offered Thomas Jefferson, the sitting Vice President, and his Democratic-Republican coalition the opportunity to put a slaveholder back at the head of the executive branch, where everyone knew they properly belonged. Although the Federalist John Adams had emerged victoriously from a close 1796 election, its sequel largely took place amid a lingering, undeclared naval war with France, a conflict that Federalists had used as a pretext for cracking down on foreign rabble-rousers and the Jeffersonian press. As Federalists continued to warn that the Francophile Republicans would, if elected, lubricate their guillotines with the arterial blood of the well-born, their adversaries were equally convinced that John Adams, if re-elected, would continue to jeopardize the liberties of the people and steer the nation toward a diet of boiled vegetables and organ-meat pastries.

Because the Constitution incentivized slave ownership by granting additional representation to states where it was especially pronounced, Thomas Jefferson received eight more electoral votes than John Adams. And because Alexander Hamilton was a scheming, overly-clever hack who cocked up nearly everything he touched, his long-standing rivalry with Adams helped drag the party to defeat and eventual oblivion.

But because the Democratic-Republican electors failed to properly coordinate their efforts, Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 votes. After drinking away the early winter, members of the House of Representatives devoted a week in February 1801 to breaking the deadlock. Federalists in the House, behaving like defeated juveniles, refused to elect Jefferson and thus held the proceedings in limbo for 35 ballots. On the 36th try, however, key Federalists from Vermont and Maryland abstained from voting, giving Jefferson majority he needed and returning the presidency to a Virginian. As a reward for their abstention, Federalists insisted that Vice President Aaron Burr someday try to shoot Hamilton in the dick.

1824. Fuck your (Era of Good) Feelings.

After eight years of James Monroe, the nation’s political elites decided it was time to set everything on fire and start over. Without a logical successor to a third consecutive Virginia presidency, the election turned into a murderous free-for-all, with four presidential candidates (John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and William Crawford) and six vice presidential candidates eventually earning electoral votes after a campaign that mostly oriented around important questions like, “Should the federal government spend money on roads?” and “Do you even tariff, bro?”

In the end, Jackson won pluralities in both the popular vote and electoral college, but nearly 3/5 of the electoral tally was cast for candidates who believed Jackson was a belligerent, half-literate, jingoistic cockfighter who ought sooner be tied to a tree than allowed to blow his nose on the tablecloths in the Presidential Mansion. And so the House of Representatives sorted shit out amongst themselves and awarded the executive branch to Adams, who had only just begun to cultivate the sideburns that would eventually govern his entire face. Jackson, convinced that Adams and Clay had engaged in CORRUPTION and RIGGERY, gave birth to a 9-pound baby grudge that suckled dryly at his shaved teat for the next four years until he avenged himself upon a hateful world.

1844. Birney or Bust!

Pulped from the offsourcings of various anti-Jackson coalitions of the 1830s, the Whig Party posed a credible challenge to the Democrats on a number of crucial economic issues during the late 1830s, including the highly important question of whether people enjoyed living in an era of soul-scraping depression. Unfortunately for the Whigs, however, the party was a highly unstable coalition that lacked a discernible ideological core — unlike the Jacksonian Democrats, whose ideological core was almost entirely comprised of racism and conspiracy theories about banks.

The Whigs would also prove incapable of electing presidents who might survive longer than a year in office. And thus it was, after a landslide win in 1840, the new President William Henry Harrison decided to plunge the country into turmoil by perishing and handing over the executive branch to John Tyler, an expansionist, pro-slavery Southerner who wanted few things more than to inflict Texas statehood upon the union. Though Whigs might have entertained opinions on controversial issues like slavery and territorial expansion, they preferred not to discuss them openly. Belonging to the Whig Party, then, was much like eating an awkward Christmas dinner with your alcoholic relatives every day of your goddamn life.

Expelled after five months from a party he never truly belonged to, Tyler focused all of his attention on securing an annexation treaty with the erstwhile Americans running the Texas Republic. The fight over Texas emboldened Southerners like Secretary of State John Calhoun, who defended slavery as a positive good and promised to expand its reach as far as humanly possible. Heading into the election of 1844, these sorts of pronouncements would have been good news to Whigs (both North and South), who believed Manifest Destiny was a stupid fucking notion that would lead inevitably to war with Mexico. The Democrats, who eventually unified behind James Polk, were openly promising to fight everyone in the bar if that’s what it took.

Sadly, the Whig nominee Henry Clay — the Buffalo Bills of 19th century presidential politics — refused to just shut the fuck up and eat his baked ham and boiled corn like a good boy and STOP ASKING DADDY ABOUT HIS FEELINGS. After ferociously denouncing annexation earlier in the year, Clay wrote a pair of conciliatory letters to a newspaper in Tuscaloosa. Worried that Southern Whigs might confuse him with an abolitionist, Clay’s “Alabama Letters” explained that he had no personal thoughts about the annexation question and would be “glad to see it” so long as the nation was united in its favor and nothing bad ever came of it — something that Clay could, of course, safely assume would never happen.

Recoiling from Clay’s campaign, however, tens of thousands of northern snowflakes turned to James Birney, a reconstructed slaveholder-turned-abolitionist who headed the obscure Liberty Party ticket. A vote for Birney was important for them, because it eased their consciences and made them feel special, and it meant that their tummies did not hurt from casting a strategic vote against a party clearly in the grips of its belligerent, pro-slavery Southern faction. Alas, support for Birney in New York and Michigan likely cost the Whigs 41 electoral votes, more than enough to deliver the presidency to Polk.

Without Polk, we don’t get war with Mexico; without a war with Mexico, our border with Mexico looks different and we don’t have a pile of real estate over which the nation can argue about the extension of slavery; without the argument over slavery’s extension, we don’t get the Civil War; without the Civil War, we don’t get the Klan; and without the Klan or a long Southwestern border with Mexico, we don’t get Donald Trump. So fuck off, James Birney.

1860. Lincoln defeats every swinging dick.

The election of 1860 gave the nation one of its greatest presidents and set into motion a series of events that obliterated slavery from the ground up. That’s super. But it also gave birth to the stem cell lines of white grievance that animate Trumpism, and since you can’t spell “Neoconfederate” without “Confederate,” this election has a well-earned place on the list.

Had the Democratic Party remained even nominally united behind Stephen Douglas, it might have stood a modest chance of retaining the presidency within the custody of slave-defenders, slave-apologists, and the merely slave-curious. Their chances would have improved had the Republicans nominated William Seward, which they would quite likely have done if the Democrats had not shit their pants in Charleston, tossed their underwear in a rubbish bin, and gone home early. Instead, Lincoln and the Republicans carried the reliably Democratic Illinois by a mere 12,000 votes, while in Pennsylvania (also carried by Democrats four years earlier) Lincoln won 56 percent of the vote in races against Not Lincoln, because the state parties were simply unable to decide which of the other three major candidates (Douglas, John Breckenridge, and John Bell) ought to be on the ballot. This paved the way for Lincoln’s ascent and the treasonous bloodbath that followed, opening a slave-sized wound in the hearts of degenerate racist throwbacks ever since.

After the contest was over, Douglas — exhausted and demoralized by the campaign and life itself — redoubled his efforts to drink himself into an early grave, a goal he accomplished within three months of Lincoln’s inauguration. In so doing, he set an example that we can only hope Donald Trump will emulate with a winter diet of KFC Bucket Meals and raw cookie dough, eaten directly from the freezer and over the kitchen sink with his bare, tiny hands.

1876: The beard prevails, but for how long?

The presidential election of 1876 was about more than monetary policy or government corruption, or whether the Catholic Church was conspiring against the republic’s public schools, or whether white people would be allowed to murder and terrorize freedpersons with impunity to win elections in the South. It was — in addition to these other things — a struggle over the next generation of presidential facial hair. Abraham Lincoln had introduced the chin curtain to the White House, shocking the sensibilities of a nation unable to imagine anything beyond the billowy horizon of Martin Van Buren’s sideburns. After the smooth-shaven, race-baiting catastrophe of Andrew Johnson’s administration, Ulysses S. Grant restored the nation with eight years of bearded but scandal-ridden glory.

In 1876, the Republican field boasted an array of contenders, including three beards (Rutherford Hayes, James Blaine, and Roscoe Conkling), two goatees (Benjamin Bristow and Marshall Jewell), two mustaches (Oliver Morton and the impossibly-named John Hartranft), and two suspiciously smooth faces (William Wheeler and Elihu Washburn, the latter of whom at least had the decency to sport a mullet). The Democrats, by contrast, fielded only a single mustache (Winfield Scott Hancock) and a lone chin curtain (from Joel Parker) out of a field of seven aspirants. After careful deliberations, the party nominations went to Hayes for the Republicans and Samuel Tilden (who was rumored never to have sported facial hair) for the Democrats.

The stakes of the campaign were immense. Among other things, the future of Reconstruction policy (or what was left of it) hung in the balance. The Hayes campaign reminded voters that Democrats had launched the Civil War and routinely shaved Union faces at Andersonville Prison; for their part, the Democrats enlisted the aid of racist militias to discipline black voters, and they reminded whites that abolitionists had once used their beards to smuggle fugitive slaves into Canada.

When the votes were at last counted, three states — Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina — provided two sets of contested returns, with Democrats and Republicans each claiming victory. With the addition of a disputed electoral vote in Oregon, the votes from all three former Confederate states would have been enough to elect Hayes and the Republicans to a third consecutive term in the White House. Leading 184-165, however, Tilden and the Democrats needed only one more vote to restore the party of treason and disunion to the White House. To resolve the disputed electoral votes, Congress designated the task to an ad hoc Electoral Commission comprised of beards, mustaches, goatees, neck beards, and clean shavens. Divided equally between Democrats and Republicans, the Commission also included a lone independent, the chin-curtained Illinoisan David Davis. Davis, however, quickly resigned his commission when offered the opportunity to take a seat in the US Senate. He was replaced by the smooth-faced Republican Joseph Bradley, who ultimately followed his party rather than his straight razor; with the rest of the Commission voting along partisan lines, Bradley ruled that all 20 disputed electoral votes properly belonged to Rutherford Hayes’ beard.

Following the 1876 contest, Republicans all but abandoned their Southern Black constituents to the peculiar whims of Southern white Democrats, who took power in the states they’d momentarily lost in that election year. The great political debates that followed in the 1880s — consisting mostly of arguments over tariff policy, the proper methods for murdering union organizers, and whether the Pope was in fact the Antichrist — offered little room for a healthy discourse about black civil rights. Meantime, facial hair ceased being a partisan matter; for the next two decades, every presidential candidate from every major (or third) party endorsed to the consensus. Was this ultimately good for the nation? Views differ.

Come back, McCain Girls! All is forgiven!

[ 22 ] October 9, 2016 |

If you were thinking that Jill Stein’s campaign could really use a boss white hippity hopper who supplies you with abundantly mad rhymes and ill beats on the Victrola, your burnt offerings and scattered poultry entrails have been answered by the sky gods. Behold the guy you want to see in a dick-punching contest with Martin Shkreli:

Matt Orflea — who looks like a guy who would hold up the beer pong tournament to explain how the 2016 Nevada Democratic Party caucuses were nothing but total fucking riggery — opens this four-minute saga by nodding in a mostly def fashion in front of the World War II and Franklin Roosevelt memorials, perhaps to remind us of a time when Democrats weren’t corporate whores. Then he reminds us that Jill Stein is the only candidate left who is not a “corporate whore,” all of which goes to prove that it’s still possible for some people to use the term “corporate whore” in earnest, and that it’s 1936 and Matt Orflea hasn’t yet received the Comintern memo declaring FDR the lesser evil. After vouching for Stein’s authenticity by noting that she’s “the only candidate who doesn’t use hair dye,” Orflea — who might like to speak with you about how you can run your car on a salt water battery — spends the next several minutes statue-molesting Roosevelt, invoking Optimus Prime and orcs, and figuring out that “legalize weed” and “TPP” sort of rhyme, bro. Your mileage may vary, but for me, the rhyme peaks like Mt. Rainier at the start of the second verse:

Her purpose is urgent, Jill’s the doctor to call
She’s more green and appealing than Kermit the frog!
No more corporate control, make healthcare universal
Jill’s green and radical like a ninja turtle….

This guy is so sick he ought to wear a surgical mask and take large doses of zinc.

Unfortunately, Orflea — who probably wonders if children are receiving too many vaccinations too soon in their lives — does not provide a trigger warning about the auto-tuning freeware app he used to record this epically dope shit. So at roughly one-minute intervals starting at 1:05, you’re going to want to mute the audio. The rest of it is just too good to describe.

Put another log on the dumpster fire

[ 77 ] October 6, 2016 |

trump-klanJamelle Bouie has an excellent piece in Slate about the historical echoes and contemporary roots of Trump’s effort to cast advance doubt on the results of next month’s election, one that he will in all likelihood lose.

By urging his supporters to be alert to devious activity in “certain areas” of Pennsylvania, for example, or by insisting that ever-unskewed polls deserve more legitimacy than the votes actually cast on (or before) November 8, Trump is doing more than simply undermining his supporters’ confidence in the election. A candidate who previously warned of “riots” if things didn’t go his way — and whose rallies have included transparent endorsements of intimidation and abuse toward protestors (many of whom have been persons of color) — is playing around with dangerous, and potentially lethal, hypotheticals.

As Bouie reminds us, Trump’s rhetoric is the unmongrelized progeny of the abhorrent political violence that afflicted freedpersons in the Reconstruction-era South, where seasonal body counts tallied in the hundreds over the course of at least a decade following the war. It’s worth adding that over time, the ongoing denial of black suffrage was linked to pieties about “reforming” the political system and purging elections of “corruption.” For Southern whites, “corruption” was almost inseparably associated from the charge that white political opportunists were using the black vote to secure advantages for themselves while undermining social stability. These arguments were not only used to condemn the work of carpetbagging Republicans in the 1860s and 1870s, but they were revived in subsequent decades by Southern Populists like Rebecca Latimer Felton, who accused the Democratic Party of plying black men with cash and whiskey that unwittingly fueled election day rape binges. To the degree that whites accused one another of manipulating the black franchise, arguments for cleansing the voter rolls could be framed as gestures on behalf of orderly government. It hardly needs to be pointed out that claims like these have barely been modified in the service of contemporary voter ID laws and condescending theories that the Democratic Party has merely exploited the false consciousness of black voters.

This is all dangerous stuff, and it further puts the lie to Trump’s transparently disingenuous appeals for black support, to say nothing of his promise last week to accept the November 8 verdict (one he will accept only if he wins). No matter what happens, we’ll be faced with an avalanche of new bigoted conspiracy theories that will require you to unfriend your shithead uncle on Facebook. Beyond that, I’m more than a little concerned that thousands of white people — the same ones who yowl madly when others protest cops who murder black folks — will freak the fuck out when their Racist Corn Dog Emperor ungraciously loses to a woman.

Chastised for dickishness, Trump buoyed by invisible black friends in Flint

[ 57 ] September 15, 2016 |

fat-albert-the-junkyard-gang-stock1388It’s often not easy for black folks at a Trump event, though he occasionally spots a friendly face in the crowd and wonders for a moment if he might, in fact, actually own him somehow.

Yesterday, the racist corn dog currently angling for the White House dropped by a black church in Flint, where he cracked wise about Mexican water and got his knuckles rapped by the female pastor for being such an unbearably self-absorbed tool. This morning, nimble-witted as George Constanza, Trump finally came up with his best jerk store comeback and simply made up a bunch of shit that didn’t happen. (NPR, observing the Trump Rule, merely noted that he “misstated” the facts, which is more or less like claiming that someone “mispronounced” a word that does not actually exist.)

In any event, his appearance on Fox News this morning was revelatory. Aside from describing Rev. Faith Green Timmons as “nervous” when she plainly was not, Trump hinted strongly that wherever he goes, he is apparently joined by a crew of imaginary black people who cheer him on. Via TPM:

“It doesn’t bother me. I’ll tell you what really made me feel good, the audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak.’ The audience was so great and these are mostly African-American people, phenomenal people and they want to see change.”

Of course, video of the gathering disproves everything about Trump’s version of events. Indeed, NPR notes that several audience members, far from being hungry for Trump’s word, began questioning him about his treatment of black tenants during the 1970s. Regardless, we need to take very seriously the possibility that Trump has been accompanied throughout the campaign by invisible friends who just happen to be phenomenal African-American people with terrible jobs and nothing to lose, chuckling about his fucked up tweets, reminiscing about that time he went lynch mob on some kids, and shaking their heads over the goofballs at Stormfront who love him so. No wonder he’s going to earn 95 percent of their vote.

Hot takes on Clinton’s health

[ 214 ] September 11, 2016 |

(1) It’s now obvious that a Clinton presidency will almost certainly resemble the final, ghastly days of Konstantin Chernenko’s brief reign. Although I was prepared to vote for Clinton, the fact that she’s not completely immune to viruses and/or bacteria reminds me that true progressives always have the option of casting their ballots for the crazy lady who thinks Wi-Fi causes brain cancer.

(2) Broadly speaking, human beings are fucking gross and should only touch one another for as little time as needed to maintain the demographic vigor of the species. As a veteran of sorts, Donald Trump possesses sound judgment on this issue, and while we can barely predict what he’ll do or say from one moment to the next, we can be sure that his personal aversion to normal-sized human hands will protect him from pneumonia, noroviruses, or enteric fever.

(3) This entire episode raises important questions, including “Do I really know what pneumonia actually is?” and “How long until the alien incubating in Clinton’s lungs destroys New York like the monster in ‘Cloverfield?'” The answers, of course, are “no” and “soon.”

(4) OMFG, this actually existed for real before I started writing a lame joke about it.

Trump in Roanoke

[ 103 ] July 26, 2016 |

Donald Trump, racist whoopie cushion, appeared this afternoon in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, where I’ve relocated my insomnia for the past few weeks. Because I’m pathologically incapable of avoiding cheap and writable discomfort, I stood in line for several unwhiskeyed hours in 100-degree heat to experience the least-amusing civic joke in recent American history. At this point, one could assemble a pretty decent anthology of “I Went to a Trump Rally” narratives, so there’s nothing particularly special about the experience or about anything I might offer here. But today’s event was goddamn predictable and boring in a way that I actually found somewhat horrifying. There’s no question that the Trump campaign remains an ambling shitshow, and his “speech” reminded me of a somewhat less-cranked Spud from Trainspotting, but the normalization of Trump’s weirdness strikes me as more deeply troubling than what we all witnessed earlier in the year, when he was simply tugging his dick and yodeling while career patrons of the local Kum & Go punched hippies and black people. Adding to what Erik observed earlier, conditions like these underscore the horror of recognizing that Trump might actually win.

*

The two-hour wait outside the Hotel Roanoke was for the most part innocuous. It was hot and humid as Lucifer’s taint this morning, which might explain why no one in line near me was particularly chatty. My companion and I spent most of our time getting to know “Austin,” a 20-year-old future alimony delinquent from a nearby town who — if his odyssey was to be believed — had worked a 16-hour shift at a tire factory before driving several hours to spend time in the same room with Donald Trump, a humanoid pimento cheese tub. We talked about his family for a while before detouring into an extended review of his achievements on Call of Duty, interrupted by his occasional hoots of “TRUMP!” and “BLUE LIVES MATTER” when the local constabulary generously rolled by with another cooler of bottled water. When I asked if his parents shared his enthusiasm for politics, he ruefully shook his head, paused for a moment as if to relive an angry moment with Pop over the burn barrel, and explained that his folks preferred Ted Cruz. During a lull in the conversation, he showed me a recent match he’d earned on Badoo; “Scarlett,” as it turned out, was transgender, a deal-breaker for the young rake Austin.

While everyone waited for the hotel doors to open, journeymen plied their trade along the line. Every single one of them was a person of color, engaged in a secondary grift layered atop the primary grift that had drawn people like Austin to Roanoke in the first place. For $20, vendors offered shirts emblazoned with Elizabethan insults like “If you don’t bleed red, white & blue take your bitch ass home” or “If you build it, they won’t come” (featuring Trump waving through the fissure in a nearly-finished brick wall — an image that incongruously puts the shirt’s observer on the other side of the wall from Trump, implicating all of us as Mexican rapists and drug dealers.) In any event, I didn’t know what to make of the fact that literally the only black people in sight were fleecing white folks and selling them new church clothes; it’s difficult to cheer the continued circulation of dumb Lewinsky blowjob jokes (e.g., “Hillary sucks, but not like Monica”), but at least the proceeds were flowing away from the Trump campaign.

*

After gaining entry at long last to the air-conditioned hotel ballroom, we lingered for another two hours before the event began. During the last half-hour, the listless Trumpkins distinguished themselves mostly by failing to sustain any of the predictable chants — “USA,” “Build the Wall,” and “Lock Her Up” — for longer than about ten seconds. It’s been years since I spent much time in Roanoke, and while it may be somewhat less amped than the irate cornholes that seem to populate the campaign’s itinerary, I was mildly surprised that the self-assigned pep-squad deputies scattered around the room were unable to whip up some stiffer peaks of fury before the arrival of TrumpPence. Alas.

While the millennials in front of me Tweeted and Snapchatted and swiped left and right, the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played unironically in the background. The song reminded me of The Big Chill, which reminded me of how much I hate The Big Chill, before I remembered that the song plays during the opening scene the first part of The Big Chill, which involves the dressing of a a funeral for corpse who had filleted his goddamn wrists so his friends could come smoke dope and fuck each other for a few days. It’s not the first tune that would come to mind if I were assembling a “Make America Great Again” playlist, but no one asked me.

Finally, the Indiana tube sock known as “Mike Pence” emerged to introduce Trump, who apparently developed his “big heart” toward and “understanding” of Americans by building things with them — “skyscrapers and skylines,” Pence explained, which Trump completed by “standing shoulder to shoulder” with the people he employed. No, really. After some armpit fart noises about how Trump would get better trade deals from other countries and how we need a president “who digs coal,” Pence welcomed the man that the better-liberals-than-you in your Facebook feed regard as a threat no more worrisome than Hillary Clinton. It took Trump all of about five seconds to mention all the beautiful property he owns in Virginia and how he signs lots of paychecks in the commonwealth, before he proceeded into a distracted, 45-minute vortex that consisted mostly of scattered commentary on the sectarian drama unfolding within the Democratic Party. He cracked wise about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, made fun of Tim Kaine for being a “weird little guy,” invoked BENGHAZI! and Pocahontas, and accused Clinton of being a “low-energy” candidate who needs to take lots of naps. I wasn’t aware that this was a thing with Clinton, but evidently Trump believes napping is detrimental to national security, a point he ought to take up with Ronald Reagan someday. The entire speech was an incoherent mess, as if Donald Trump’s brain were a Firefox window, and he sits at his desk every day shuttling between various Breitbart sites, YouTube, and Craigslist Casual Encounters, never bothering to wonder how he managed to wind up with 75 open tabs.

But the audience today didn’t care. In his own distracted way, Trump is a genius who understands that his supporters are simply bundles of dopamine receptors. All he needs to do is invoke BENGHAZI!, or the Second Amendment, or the importance of repealing the Johnson amendment, and he earns a room full of ecstatic eyerolls and jazz hands. During the “town hall” portion of the event — which consisted of three questions and a prayer — someone asked if Trump would promise to support Israel “100 percent” (whatever that means). Trump simply nodded and said “yes,” and the entire room went fucking bazonkers. He barely even needed to mention The Wall, except to promise that it would keep heroin out of New Hampshire and that it would be “as good looking as possible.” His biggest applause line, in fact, came when he griped about the fact that an enclosed hotel ballroom packed with 1200 bodies might get a little warm after two hours. Because he evidently doesn’t understand physics, Trump blamed the hotel itself for being inept — blurting out that he didn’t even know its name — before announcing that the owners “should be ashamed of themselves” and that if he were staying there, he’d skip out on the bill. That’s right: A man who aspires to live in the White House is now trying to earn Bad-Ass Points with his supporters by fantasizing about something equivalent to a dine-and-dash. And at the moment, this is a man who stands a 40 percent chance of winning in November.

Twitter person finds silver lining in the looming heat death of the universe

[ 66 ] June 4, 2016 |

A day rarely passes in which I don’t congratulate myself for abstaining from Twitter, but fuck me with a roasted gerbil, today offers a special reminder that whatever time I might devote to that everlasting dumpster fire remains better spent gazing hopelessly into the middle distance, sipping Early Times from a half-pint mason jar, and weeping softly as I rank my faults. Rania Khalek — an independent journalist who apparently can’t count and was recently spotted repeating the conspicuously stupid argument that Clinton is “clearly to the right of Trump” on trade issues — now supplies us with the ingenious observation that Trump’s candidacy has actually worked out well for immigrant rights.

To her credit, Khalek is at least consistent in her understanding that heightened contradictions always end up well. While ignoring my children’s pleas for affection and food this afternoon, I spent some time combing through her past “tweets,” as I believe they are known. Here are some of my favorites:

A friend who works on Cherokee rights told me Jackson’s election has been a boon for anti-removal fight. National Repubs will galvanize.

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) December 2, 1828

Opponent of war with Mexico told me Polk’s all bluster. Liberty Party will teach the Whigs a lesson! #NeverClay #BirneyOrBust!

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) October 7, 1844

Lincoln assassination, though tragic, will be a boon to freedpeople, Radical Repubs. On treason issues, AJohnson way to the left of Abe!

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) April 15, 1865

A friend who works on civil rights told me Wallace’s teaching liberal warmonger establishment stooges a lesson. I truly fear Humph > Nixon.

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) October 22, 1968

So disappointed Nader only got 685,000 votes. Clintons, neoliberals everywhere rejoice, no lessons this year. *Eyeroll*

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) November 6, 1996

2.9 m for Nader/LaDuke! Might have thrown Florida to Bush, but friend who hates neolibs tells me W will be weak prez. No fear!

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) November 8, 2000

I you aren’t following her already on the Twitter machine, now’s your chance!

Meditations on reading the transcript of Donald John Trump’s meeting with the Washington Post

[ 59 ] March 23, 2016 |

Donald Trump is that kid who shows up in your basement and wants to play your electric guitar even though he doesn’t know a single chord. He insists that he’s awesome and can totally rock out better than anyone ever, “better than Jimmy Hendrix, even” — and when he says the name you know he’s thinking “Jimmy” and not “Jimi,” because that’s how goddamn dumb he is. But he won’t shut up about your guitar — seriously, he goes on about it for, like, two hours.

Finally, you roll your eyes and placate the mulleted intruder, because he’s eating all your cereal right out of the box with his gross little hands, and you have no idea where they’ve been (but really you do, you just can’t think about it anymore), and you realize it’s only a matter of time before he gets bored and tries to fuck your sister again or your mom or something worse. So you give him the guitar, show him a couple of power chords, and tell him to “take it easy” as you plug him into the amp.

He ignores you, of course, and attacks the guitar like it owes him $20 and a handjob. The breakfast sausages that pass for fingers bend the strings unreasonably, and he’s got that white guy Blues Face going on, and his hair is bobbing like a worn 7-11 mop, and you can’t even look because you’re suddenly embarrassed for the entire human race. Meanwhile, your amp is spitting out black clots of noise that sound like what self-loathing would sound like, or like the audio track to a crush fetish video. You don’t know it yet, but upstairs, your dog is shitting on the kitchen floor.

Trump, the stupid dicknose, actually does a windmill and totally misses the strings, and the pick goes flying across the room, but he’s like, “Nah, fuck it, I meant to do that,” so he drops down to his knees and shoves his fist in the air and screams “Yeah!” like he’s that guy from Metallica and not the absolute worst person in the world at that moment and most moments bracketing either end of that moment. The feedback scrapes the basement walls for another ten seconds or so, and upstairs, another dog turd drops.

Trump stands up as you’re reaching for the bleach bottle, swoops his pig knuckles through his hair, and grunts, “Heh. Fucking awesome, I’ve gotta get one of these,” as you drop the cap and take your first swig.

Salchicha oaxaqueña.png

By Nsaum75 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10580772

Ah, memories.

[ 16 ] May 31, 2014 |

I started blogging on a lark back in March 2005, mostly out of an interest in doing some non-professional (or unprofessional, if you prefer) writing; within a few weeks, more people—and by that I mean “a few dozen”—had read my blog than had, or ever would, likely read all of my academic publications combined. Everything was horrible and stupid in the spring of 2005. The war in Iraq was a gruesome stew of death and fuckery, Pope John Paul II was weeks away from realizing that God does not in fact exist, and wingnuts aplenty were camped behind the Kum & Go, huffing sacks of glue over Terri Schiavo’s dissolving brain. At some point that month, James Wolcott offered some approving words for a blog called “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” and—lacking all three—I decided to drop by and see what the big deal was.

Within a few weeks, this blog was probably at the top of my daily reading list; the authors and readers were meditating on important questions, including “who is America’s Worst Blogger?” and when would the Mariners call up Felix Hernandez? (Note: Rob was off by three weeks, but accurately predicted four wins. Though I have no data to back this up, I’m reasonably sure that no one at LGM has ever since predicted anything quite so accurately.) Over the next year, I commented regularly and unctuously linked to LGM at my own blog, doing so at a pace that ought to have raised stalker warnings. Charitably, Rob, Scott and DJW would from time to time link to something I’d written; most touchingly, Rob linked to a series of rather gloomy “This Day in History” posts I wrote in anticipation of my first child. In part because of those posts (and some later, related writing I did at my own place), the OG asked me to join this blog later that summer. I was beyond honored. I have always admired the quality of the writing here by everyone who’s ever participated, and though I don’t quite know what the straight line is that connects me to the vastly superior brains who keep this operation afloat, I don’t exaggerate when I sad that the existence of this blog has been an important part of my intellectual life for the past decade.

Since 9 October 2006, I’ve made some rather eccentric contributions to LGM. I provided us with arguably our most important feline mascot; I wrote a shitload of happy birthday posts to horrible people (especially this monster); there was the Althouse tiny prick fiasco; and of course the internet traditions, about all of which you are doubtlessly aware. Over the years, my writing here has conspicuously tailed off. The challenges of parenthood, combined with a series of unforced personal and professional errors, combined with the fact that I am an agonizingly slow writer prone to fits of undermedicated and over-whiskeyed self-loathing, have from time to time conspired to fuck my life up flatter than hammered shit. I remain grateful, however, to everyone here—co-bloggers and especially commenters with long memories—for indulging my long absences and to return from time to time like a plague of locusts to pester and annoy.

At some point, I will (I hope) return to a more regular schedule of contributions. One idea I’m toying with is a series called “The 25 Percent True Erotic History of the American Presidency,” which would detail the assorted preferences and perversions of the nation’s chief executives. If you’re curious about the famous necrophiliac Millard Fillmore, who hauled his dead wife around in a wheelbarrow for six months after pneumonia took her life in 1853, this series will not disappoint.

Also: There were many reasons George Washington hated wearing dentures. What you learn will shock you!

Also: Though Woodrow Wilson tried to remain neutral on the issue of war in Europe, he was never in doubt about butt plugs.

But, like, don’t hold your breath or anything.

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