You could hurt somebody with that much projection, fella

Wow. This is Eric Trump on Hannity, explaining how the Democrats have no morality — they aren’t even people — while defending his virtuous pussy-grabbing father.

Well, I guess Eric is supposed to be the dumb one…oh, wait, or is it supposed to be Donald Jr.? When the intelligence scale is jittering down somewhere around the floor, it sometimes gets hard to tell.

No! Totally unacceptable!

A performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar featured the titular character in contemporary dress.

In this summer’s rendition in Central Park, Caesar is “dressed in a business suit, with a royal blue tie, hanging a couple inches below the belt line, with reddish-blonde hair,” according to Laura Shaeffer, an audience member who spoke to a local radio station.

Then there was the murder scene, with blood spurting everywhere. People were very upset at the scene with a character looking a heck of a lot like Trump. So am I.

Julius Caesar was brilliant and competent, maybe too competent, as he ruled Rome with the force of his will, his dignitas, his armies, his history of victory. Any comparison with Donald Trump is intolerable and inappropriate. I demand that the company cease besmirching the memory of a truly intelligent and historically important man.

Petty and stupid is no way to go through life, son

I ask your forgiveness in advance: this is a video of two of the most unpleasant, least intelligent people in show business, Donald Trump and Piers Morgan. I’ll understand if you don’t click on play.

He actually challenged London mayor Sadiq Khan to compare IQ scores! I am torn. On one hand, IQ scores are overrated and culturally biased, so I’d rather not grant them an unearned validity; on the other, Trump is a profoundly stupid man, and I’d kind of like to see the result of a fairly given IQ test (that is, not the crap you see in online surveys on Facebook).

I’d also like to see his tax returns.

There are a lot of things Trump likes to brag about but doesn’t want actually scrutinized because he’d be exposed as a lying liar.

Don’t you dare break my heart, Al

It’s hot out there, and today I had to run some errands, only not “run”, more of a sweaty amble, and I ended up over-extending myself a bit. You see, I noticed while my wife was away last week that we had no family memorabilia on display, and as I get older, I’m gradually forgetting what they look like, and what their names are, and all that sort of thing, and as I looked up from my laptop one evening to this wide blank wall on the other side of the room, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t a normal human being have pictures of their kids right there?” And then I thought, “Am I a normal human being?” and then “Do I want to be a normal human being?” and pretty soon I was having one of those philosophical arguments with myself in an empty house, which was a bit embarrassing.

So I decided I would put up some family photos, just to shut myself up.

I ordered some frames, and went through our digital photo collection, and picked out an assortment, and today I ran (“sweaty ambled”) out to the Thrifty White Pharmacy, where they have one of those fancy Kodak photo machines. Load in your digital images, punch a few buttons, and out pops your enlargements to the size you want. They’re nice. Also popular. It seems their is always a line backed up waiting to print out their photos, and do you know who always has lots of photos they want to print? People with families. And they bring their kids with them, which always seems beside the point — you have your little hellions jumping up and down and crawling all over you all the time, why do you need photos of them? Unlike me, who has been abandoned by his children, and is in peril of forgetting their names (I’m joking. I’d never forget Dweezil, Moon Unit, and Diva Muffin. It was entirely to end that stupid argument with myself.)

Knowing the likelihood of delays, however, I wisely brought a book along with me. That book was Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

In case you’re ever traveling through Minnesota (I don’t know if it works elsewhere), I have to tell you that this book is a magnificent ice-breaker. So many women walked up to me and asked, “What do you think of that book?” or declared their love of Al Franken, which meant, of course, that they approved of me and my excellent taste in humor and/or politics. These were all women who had offspring pogoing by their side or dismantling the greeting card rack or just moaning in boredom, but that was fine, since all I was doing was killing time with conversation. Alas, though, I had to lie to them. I told them I was enjoying the book.

Which was only half a lie! Really, I’m thoroughly enjoying the wit and humor, the dedication to progressive politics, the jabs at the many cretinous personalities in the Senate, the decent humanity of the man. It is a delightful read.

As I read it, though, I noticed that I was…admiring Al Franken. There was respect. I had this feeling like finally, someone was saying and doing the right things. Most places in this country, you’re looking at your local politicians and wondering how that thing crawled out of cesspit and got itself elected, but here in Minnesota we at least got ourselves some decent senators to give us a tiny glimpse of hope.

I knew what that means, though.

Al Franken is going to break my heart someday. He’s going to get caught with his hand in the pocket of some slimy corporate assweasel — like Jared Kushner. He’s going to be tempted into a dalliance with some flirty 19 year old Hitler Jugend. He’s going to die in a flaming jet crash. He’ll bury the hatchet and become good buddies with Ted Cruz. It’s inevitable. All of my heroes disappoint me needlessly. It’s one piece of evidence that there is a god, and that god’s primary joy in its immortality is to notice when I’m feeling a faint flicker of hope in someone, so that they can strike them down with a thunderbolt of ignominy.

So I feel like I’m betraying the guy when I say I’m finding his work admirable and his goals laudible. It’s like painting a big bullseye on his back, and then waiting for the ineluctable betrayal.

Don’t you do it, Al. I bought your book. Stick to your principles. Live a long life and do good.

The cynic in me is still bracing himself for doom, though.

Do not praise the heroes of slavery

If you know anything about Robert E. Lee, it’s probably a mythic image, constructed by apologists for the Confederacy. He’s a heroic figure mounted on a horse, and at least in my head, his story is narrated in the honeyed voice of Shelby Foote, and he spins a story about a noble, courtly, gentle man, beloved by his troops, who only made the decision to lead the southern army because of his strong principles and love for his native Virginia.

He’s defended even now.

Nevertheless, I do not believe Lee deserves only censure and denunciation. I am not an expert on Lee, but to the extent I have read and learned about his life, I cannot object to the admiration many believe he earned as a man of dignity, honor, reserve, and duty. He was a devoted husband and father, an accomplished engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, a hero in the Mexican-American War, a competent superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a man who earned the esteem of his contemporaries because of his competence, his accomplishments, his seriousness of purpose, and his overarching aura of personal dignity and honor. His superior during the Mexican-American War, General Winfield Scott, stated that Lee was ‘the very best soldier I ever saw in the field.’

That’s the standard myth. Maybe you ought to take a clue from the phrase I highlighted, and look to people who are experts on Lee. Maybe you ought to be suspicious when a human being is so thoroughly deified. This is why you have to respect honest historians, because they expose the truth. Lee was not a good man.

Lee’s heavy hand on the Arlington plantation, Pryor writes, nearly lead to a slave revolt, in part because the enslaved had been expected to be freed upon their previous master’s death, and Lee had engaged in a dubious legal interpretation of his will in order to keep them as his property, one that lasted until a Virginia court forced him to free them.

When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

He may have respected his men, but only when they were white.

Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading The Man, historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

Reminder: the Father of our Country, George Washington, and his wife Martha, were also horrible people who kept slaves, but they weren’t quite as vile to them as Robert E. Lee. We praise them all with faint damns.

In summary, then, rather than the courtly gentleman, he was a terrible racist who treated human beings like animals. Worse than animals; we don’t condone abuse of farm animals, but he was a man who thought his black slaves needed brutal corrective discipline.

Lee had beaten or ordered his own slaves to be beaten for the crime of wanting to be free, he fought for the preservation of slavery, his army kidnapped free blacks at gunpoint and made them unfree—but all of this, he insisted, had occurred only because of the great Christian love the South held for blacks. Here we truly understand Frederick Douglass’ admonition that “between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

But then he lost his war. He was ‘punished’ for his treachery by being allowed to return to private life, and was even rewarded by an appointment to the presidency of a university. Surely he was chastised and softened his views? No, that’s not how psychology works.

Publicly, Lee argued against the enfranchisement of blacks, and raged against Republican efforts to enforce racial equality on the South. Lee told Congress that blacks lacked the intellectual capacity of whites and “could not vote intelligently” and that granting them suffrage would “excite unfriendly feelings between the two races.” Lee explained that “the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power.” To the extent that Lee believed in reconciliation, it was between white people, and only on the precondition that black people would be denied political power and therefore the ability to shape their own fate.

Lee is not remembered as an educator, but his life as president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee) is tainted as well. According to Pryor, students at Washington formed their own chapter of the KKK, and were known by the local Freedmen’s Bureau to attempt to abduct and rape black schoolgirls from the nearby black schools.

There were at least two attempted lynchings by Washington students during his tenure, and Pryor writes that “the number of accusations against Washington College boys indicates that he either punished the racial harassment more laxly than other misdemeanors, or turned a blind eye to it,” adding that he “did not exercise the near imperial control he had at the school, as he did for more trivial matters, such as when the boys threatened to take unofficial Christmas holidays.” In short, Lee was as indifferent to crimes of violence towards blacks carried out by his students as he was when they was carried out by his soldiers.

Why were statues erected to this bigot in the first place? There’s always the danger of lapsing into a Whig view of history, judging people by our modern enlightenment rather than the by the primitive standards of their own time, but this was a traitor who fought for slavery at a time when people were willing to fight a bloody war to end that oppressive institution, in which 2% of the population would die, which says that he was not simply a man of his time. It was also a time when the views of those black slaves were discounted, and they clearly thought he was a monster.

If you want to believe in a real conspiracy theory, here it is: defeated Southern leaders engaged in a successful campaign to rewrite the history books and venerate the villains in the Civil War, and they’ve largely accomplished their goals. They don’t say “Hail Hydra”; it’s “The South will rise again.” They also don’t whisper it to only their confederates; they shout it out loud, proudly.

In the wake of yet another terror attack

Juan Cole has sensible ideas about what to do. You respond by strengthening the bonds within your nation in positive ways. Lashing out against your own citizens because they share a skin color or religion with the attackers is exactly what the terrorists want, while responding with empathy and bringing together targeted communities frustrates their goals. Terrorist organizations like ISIL thrive on alienation — it’s how they recruit.

You know what is a truly, deeply terrible idea?

The alt-right, under the banner of Pepe the Frog, are raising money to buy boats to intercept refugees fleeing Africa and the Middle East for Europe. They want to block a humanitarian mission — these are people who are desperate and likely to drown, and the Right says, let ’em drown.

We want to get a crew, equip a boat and set sail to the Mediterranean ocean to chase down the enemies of Europe.

I think the “enemies of Europe” are the people who want to let human beings die, and are unable to see that rescuing people and supporting them is a way to make friends, not enemies.

Meanwhile, in America, jingoistic buffoons are staging a pro-fascism rally in Portland. It seems the prerequisites to being a “star” of that movement are to be loud and inarticulate, and wear a goofy, attention-grabbing costume: “Based Trojan”, “Based Stick Man”, etc., where you can see that another prerequisite is to use 4chan-style memes. These people are my enemies, who are aiding terrorists. Who are terrorists themselves.

Two comedians

Good comics challenge those in power. Hacks suck up to power.

Here’s a hack for you: Bill Maher. Bill got together with a Republican, Ben Sasse, and as privileged and oblivious white people are wont to do in conversation, yucked it up by mocking the black and the underprivileged, making light of slavery and using a word white people should never, ever use. I shall refer you to Damon Young, a Very Smart Brotha, for the definitive ruling.

Nigga and nigger are two separate words with two separate meanings and connotations, and White people — regardless of how “down” or woke” they want to be — aint allowed to say either. Sorry, y’all. (And by “Sorry, y’all” I mean “LOLOLOL not fucking sorry at all get the fuck out of here and go kick some gluten-free rocks.”)

It’s a really simple rule. And no, you don’t get an exemption when you’re kicking it back with a chummy conservative senator from a conservative state. Actually, that’s about the worst time you can feel free to get a laugh about black people.

Young has more to say.

It’s apropos that he’d catch this heat — and possibly lose his show — for saying this word, as it provides a convenient intersection for two similar issues: White people vexed that they’re not allowed to say this word, and privileged White people — privileged White men, specifically — lamenting on how political correctness and “outrage culture” has made us too sensitive. Both issues are issues because of (some) White people’s unfamiliarity with the concept of “No.” Where they’re so used to being able to do and say what they want — believing they possess some sort of manifest destined dominion over literally everything — that saying “Yeah, you can’t do this one thing” contradicts their personhood and their Whiteness. “What do you mean I can’t do this one thing? I’m White! I can do everything! I thought the life-long “Do Everything” pass came with the membership package! I need to see a manager!“

I have two objections.

  1. This is Bill Maher. He’s kind of the epitome of neo-liberal white obliviousness. It’s a good characterization, but humility and respect for others ain’t how he got his show.

  2. “possibly lose his show”…I am laughing over here. He won’t lose his show! He’s a white male comedian with a reputation for “edginess”, which covers a multitude of sins! Also, it’s not as if he made a Republican uncomfortable.

But you know who is going to lose a show? Kathy Griffin. This one is more complicated.

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Another demonstration of the destructiveness of dogma

This is where 4chan, Reddit, and YouTube comment sections have gotten us: the murderer who was arraigned in a Portland court shouted stupid memes at the press.

FREE SPEECH OR DIE, the asshole shouted. Ah, yes, the self-righteous cry of every jerk who gets blocked on twitter or on a blog. He believes he has a right to harass others, and that this is an American right enshrined in the Constitution. Free speech is absolute, and trumps every other privilege, including the right to live. He also doesn’t mean that he’ll die if you abridge his right to say any dumbass thing to anyone, anywhere, any time — he means that he’ll kill you if you don’t respect his right to compel you to listen to him.

YOU CALL IT TERRORISM, I CALL IT PATRIOTISM, he claimed in response to nothing at all. You know, every terrorist kills out of a sense of loyalty to a faith, a country, an ethnic group. You can be a patriot without punching people in the neck with a knife.

He hoped his victims all died, and THAT’S WHAT LIBERALISM GETS YOU. Incorrect. That’s what decades of demonization of liberal thought gets all of us, it breeds mindless haters who recite cant to justify their crimes, who kill people in righteous indignation at being argued with, who go to prison convinced that they are in the right after committing horrible uncivilized acts.

If you’re wondering where he got radicalized, it wasn’t in a mosque.

Please, no more martyrs

Two good men gave their lives in Portland to defend innocent women from a right-wing hate-monger.

Ricky John Best was a father of four and an army veteran. He ran for political office, saying, “I can’t stand by and do nothing”, something we should all be saying.

Taliesin Namkai-Meche was a college student. His last words as he was taken away by the medics were, “Tell everyone on this train I love them”.

The survivor of the attack, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, opposed prejudice against Muslims and said “I just hope that people are listening and try to do something about it.”

The women are horrified.

Republican party representatives, on the other hand, are looking at this situation and suggesting that maybe they ought to hire more white nationalist religious fanatics as security guards.

Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal, however, told the Guardian that recent street protests had prompted Portland Republicans to consider alternatives to abandoning the public square.

I am sort of evolving to the point where I think that it is appropriate for Republicans to continue to go out there, he said. And if they need to have a security force protecting them, that’s an appropriate thing too.

Asked if this meant Republicans making their own security arrangements rather than relying on city or state police, Buchal said: Yeah. And there are these people arising, like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters.

Asked if he was considering such groups as security providers, Buchal said: Yeah. We’re thinking about that. Because there are now belligerent, unstable people who are convinced that Republicans are like Nazis.

Hmm. Maybe if you don’t want to be thought of as like Nazis, you shouldn’t be identifying with murderous fascist kooks and suggesting that far right white nationalist groups and rabid anti-government militias like the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters are legitimate supporters of your political party.

But please, no more deaths of good people. Let’s destroy these goons at the ballot box.