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SAY WHAT? - Having banned abortion, trans athletes, COVID vaccines - and, increasingly,  any vaccines in "a very, very, very bad" trend we're calling "Let's Bring Back Polio!" - Texas is going full, crazed "Very-Fine-People-On-Both-Sides" by not only refusing to acknowledge this country was founded on systemic racism, but taking it easy on genocide, which they suggest was maybe not so bad. Alas, the move to whitewash history isn't going so well in one of the last states to tell slaves they were free, perhaps due to their lingering belief in a secession a few years earlier that declared, “We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race."

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SAY WHAT? - Fulfilling their sonorous, longtime mission to "explore strange new worlds...To boldly go where no man has gone before!", Starship Enterprise's intrepid Capt. James Tiberius Kirk, 90, has finally gone to "the final frontier" - albeit briefly, on a penis-shaped rocket, in a somewhat tacky marketing ploy by a gazillionaire plutocrat whose catastrophic greed, hubris and hypocrisy represent all the worldly ills an admirably Utopian-themed Star Trek sought to overcome. In one small irony among many, William Shatner's 11-second ride into space Wednesday on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rocket - a trip the last passenger reportedly paid $28 million for - came free to a guy who for years has been hawking affordable travel on Priceline. If he was still with us, some Trekkies might have preferred the anti-war Leonard Nimoy, whose Mr. Spock was the cerebral, stoic "conscience of Star Trek." But the Canadian, determinedly apolitical Shatner is viewed fondly for his portrayal of the iconic, decisive commander who bravely undertook - in fact insisted on - one of television's first inter-racial kisses. Preaching the way to survive was mutual trust and a faith in beauty, his deeply human Kirk, flawed but decent, reflected a belief in "man, that lofty spirit." As such, he got some of the best, often Shakespearean lines: "The prejudices people feel about each other disappear when they get to know each other...I've tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing...A species that enslaves other beings is hardly superior...The greatest danger facing us is ourselves."

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SAY WHAT? - A scary heads-up: Almost a year after Joe Biden won the election (really, he did) and nine months after thousands of lunatic yahoos threw a tantrum about it at the Capitol, they and their squalid  kingpins are still out there freely raving, lying, browbeating, fantasizing, subpoena-defying and spreading like foul mold. As is often the case, justice has been slowly coming for the low-level reprobates - at least 671 Jan. 6 rioters have been charged in what's officially deemed the Capitol Breach - but their ignoble puppet masters remain disconcertingly untouched by the whole let's-overturn-democracy-and-install-a-mad-king-in-an-insurrection phenomenon, in part because said king has found his role as "Pope of the Church of Perpetual Grievance" works so well with his infamous we-love-the-poorly-educated audience.

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SAY WHAT? - The hateful crazy goes on apace. Of course it's everywhere: On Monday in New York City, which just mandated vaccines in schools, a marching mob of anti-vaxxers destroyed a mobile COVID test site as cops blithely waved them away but took no further action, which was def not because they were all white. Still, at this point Tennessee might take the lunatic cake. Last month, the state ranked first in the nation for both new COVID cases - up daily since August by nearly 90% to almost 12,000 new cases a day - and COVID-related school closures even as GOP Gov. Bill Lee has stubbornly resisted mask or vaccine mandates in favor of opt-out policies and wishing on a star.

"We're beginnng to see what we think and hope, cautiously optimistic, we're hopeful is a plateau," he said recently. "We do not know. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it spikes back up" - especially in a state with a mere 38% vaccination rate. Meanwhile, over 400 schools have at least temporarily shuttered due to COVID infections, deaths of school employees arerising, ICUs are full of "vaccine refusal regret" and a record number of hospitalized children, the National Guard has sent 215 members to support 20 struggling hospitals, and after being fired this summer their top vaccination official charged officials have "jumped off a vaccination cliff" by halting all vaccination outreach for kids, even for measles, warning, "People will continue to become sick and die from this vaccine-preventable disease because they choose to listen to the nonsense spread by ignorant people."

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SAY WHAT? - With the right to choose on the line and a possibly decisive December 1st legal battle looming, thousands planned to march Saturday for reproductive rights in the fifth annual Women's March even as right-wing idiots like Marjorie Taylor Greene were shrieking that in "Biden's Communist takeover" House Democrats "are evil and will kill unborn babies all the way up to birth & then celebrate." The week marked one month since passage of Texas' depraved anti-abortion bill, complete with for-profit public-shaming; it's already prompted multiple legal challenges, a DOJ hearing that saw several female Democrat lawmakers tell the painful stores of long-ago abortions, and two as-expected lawsuits against a doctor challenging the law that en route also exposed its insanity, leading its author to complain they're only "self-serving legal stunts."

The Texas law went into effect, of course, thanks to an uber-right-wing-majority SCOTUS - thanks Susan Collins - whose public approval rating has plunged as much as 20 points since anonymously overturning a 50-year legal precedent in the dark of night with a ruling opposed by over two-thirds of Americans, and even many Republicans. In several recent polls, just over half of Republicans view the court as fair, a dismal 12% of Democrats do, and over a third of Americans say the Court is too conservative - mostly 'cause it's packed with extremist ideologues who, raged Sonia Sotomayor in her Texas dissent, just committed "a breathtaking act of defiance – of the Constitution, this court’s precedents, and the rights of women seeking abortions."

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SAY WHAT? - A video posted online reportedly shows a pack of rats dashing in and out of a kennel at a Los Angeles animal shelter while a dog sits inside.

The video was one of several images showing that the East Valley Shelter has been overrun by packs of rats, according to a Sunday report from CityWatch Los Angeles. The website noted that the images were taken in the daytime during a recent weekend while members of the public were present, although rats are typically far more active in the night because they are nocturnal.

The silent footage posted to YouTube appears to show at least a half dozen different rodents skittering through gaps in a kennel cage to reportedly steal food from the dish of a dog sitting inside. It is not clear how widespread the problem is at the shelter, which is one of six run by Los Angeles Animal Services (LAAS).

"The health, safety, and well-being of the animals in our care are our top priority," LAAS spokesperson Agnes Sibal-von Debschitz said in a statement to Newsweek. "This is a concern and we have been working with the City and the contractors on a number of methods to reduce the population of rats." 

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SAY WHAT? - The battle for democracy, woefully under-reported, lumbers on. The bad news is that the crazed orange guy is still out there, raving and lying. At a Saturday night "rally" in Georgia, he obsessively parroted  "The Big Lie" yet again, telling a rabid crowd of cranks that Arizona's just-completed, $6-million, bamboo-fiber-seeking "full forensic audit" was "a big win for us" that revealed"huge findings!" and "a major criminal event" the commie Fake News is now villainously covering up, when in fact, here on unaccomodating Planet Earth, it found that - duh - Biden won, again, though by 300 more votes than was originally thought. "Truth is truth, numbers are numbers," conceded the GOP Senate head who approved the bonkers charade. Nope, insisted the crowd that gathered outside a hearing after release of the audit to frenziedly chant "De-certify!" and "USA!" Their lunatic calls echoed around the Internet, with conspiracy theorists trumpeting what's "gonna be the beginning of their end" and a Melania Trump (Official) site hawking Trump coins to honor "President Trump’s victory and success” - $7.95 to $4.95 or one free coin (plus $8.95 for shipping) in a “complementary plastic case” or multiple for "only 130$! (and) in a year the value will skyrocket and you'll be able to buy a house with only 25 coins!". Ok, maybe a really, really teeny one. Regardless, after the audit will definitely come "the storm, the rapture, salvation."

Appearances notwithstanding, notes Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson, the Jan. 6 riot and its ensuing "Stop the Steal" delirium "was not some crazy plot of some obscure dude in a shack in the mountains; this was a plan of the president of the United States." She details other horrors: a Trump lawyer's six-point plan to overturn the election and “kill the Biden presidency in the crib”; staff members of GOP A.G.s meeting for "war games" to consider strategies if Trump lost; MAGA wingnuts using the language of authoritarianism, from a Texas gubernatorial challenger saying the state "deserves a leader" like Brazil strongman Jair Bolsonaro to white nationalist Charlie Kirk echoing Nazi "replacement theory" by charging Democrats back "an invasion of the country" to bring in brown people who'll vote for them; and the bizarre, little noted news that next year's CPAC confab will be held in....Budapest, Hungary, where Viktor Orbán, Tucker Carlson's fave new fascist, is busy dismantling democracy. Given the current fundamental battle "to prove that democracy actually works," writes Richardson, "If this is not a hair-on-fire, screaming emergency, what is?"

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SAY WHAT? - Cassandra Peterson, who has played the character Elvira Mistress of the Dark since the early 1980s, came out in her new memoir, released yesterday, discussing her 19-year relationship with a woman.

“Often, when I was doing my preworkout warm-up on the treadmill, I couldn’t help noticing one particular trainer — tan, tattooed, and muscular — stalking across the gym floor, knit cap pulled so low over his long brown hair that it nearly covered his eyes,” Peterson wrote in Yours Cruelly, Elvira. “Dark and brooding, he gave off such intense energy that when he crossed the enormous gym floor, the waters parted and people stopped in their tracks to stare.”

Then she ran into the trainer in the women’s restroom and learned that she was in fact a “beautiful, androgynous creature” named Teresa “T” Wierson.

Peterson and Wierson became close friends while she was still married to Mark Pierson. When her 25-year marriage to him ended in 2003, she grew closer to Wierson.

And then Wierson needed a place to stay.

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SAY WHAT? - At 3 a.m. Tuesday, in what its creator likens to a much-needed "collective sigh," volunteers began planting the first of 662,000 white flags on D.C.'s National Mall in mournful tribute to America's staggering, unholy, largely preventable COVID death toll, which just passed the record mass casualties of the Civil War and is now surging to over 1,800 deaths and 170,000 new cases every day. The numbers confound: Over 42 million Americans, or one in seven, have had COVID, one in every 500 have died, and experts agree those confirmed numbers drastically under-report the dire reality. Today's pandemic of the stubbornly, stupidly unvaccinated, fueled by Delta and maskless kids going back to school, is concentrated in southern GOP-run states widely seeing severe staff and bed shortages, ICU units at or over capacity, and hospitals "at the brink of collapse in many communities." In Kentucky, where 70% of hospitals have reported critical shortages, doctors lament that, thanks to anti-science idiocy, "Most of the education happening now is based on tragedy, personal tragedy.” And the stories of it keep coming.

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Because irony isn't quite dead yet, SCOTUS Judge Amy Coathanger Barrett gave a Very Earnest speech Sunday about the integrity of the Supreme Court at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center, which was founded by Mitch McConnell, who gave Barrett a glowing introduction after having last year rammed her nomination through the Senate before the body of RBG was cold - protest signs at the time declared "Respect Her Dying Wish Mother F**kers" and "Supreme Farce" - and mere weeks before the election though he'd nefariously blocked an Obama SCOTUS confirmation for over a year, but that was then when it only seemed like an increasingly right-wing Court was working hand-in-sweaty-hand with the GOP, and this is now, when we know they are.

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SAY WHAT? - After 131 ignoble years, officials in the former capital of the Confederacy have finally taken down the massive 12-ton statue of loser, traitor and slavery zealot Robert E. Lee, who led hundreds of thousands of young Americans to their misbegotten deaths to defend the dubious right of white people to own black people as property. Wednesday's overdue action removed the country's largest monument to the Lost Cause, the last Confederate statue along Richmond’s historic Monument Avenue, and the longtime, incendiary symbol of a southern white nationalism that birthed Jim Crow, the KKK and all the sordid tenets of systemic racism that followed.

For many, both Lee and Richmond represent "Ground Zero" for the fight against racism. Contrary to a popular myth of the "kindly general," Lee didn't just viciously beat his own slaves; he also massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender at the Battle of the Crater, paraded survivors through the jeering streets, and refused to accept Ulysses Grant' condition for a prisoner exchange that black soldiers - aka “negroes belonging to our citizens" - be exchanged just like white soldiers, thus leaving his own men to suffer. Like other Confederate monuments to white supremacy, Lee's statue - because "a big lie requires a big statue," 21 feet tall atop a 40-foot pedestal - took shape a generation after the war. Erected in 1890, 25 years after his surrender at Appomattox, it told both southern white bigots their fight wasn't over, and southern blacks who was still in charge. Hint: Not them.

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SAY WHAT? - Grisly milestones, one after the other. On Tuesday, the U.S. hit 40 million COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with four million in the last four Delta-inundated weeks, over a quarter of them kids. This Labor Day weekend, the number of hospitalized COVID patients was nearly 300% higher than the same time last year, and the number of deaths was over 86% higher.

Today, some 100,000 Americans are hospitalized, almost as many as during January’s COVID peak; we are at over 1,500 deaths per day - almost a 9/11 a day - and climbing. Surges are still spreading across GOP states, many of them southern, where vaccination rates are about 40% lower than in the Northeast and malignant "stooge hack dickdrip" idiots like Gym Jordan are still saying things like, "Vaccine mandates are un-American," never mind George Washington ordering smallpox vaccines for the Continental Army. With Delta now spreading into western and Midwestern states, COVID-swamped Idaho officials on Tuesday announced they'll start rationing health care - aka GOP death camps - by activating protocols for "crisis standards of care." Meanwhile, the usual GOP suspects continue to infect and kill their constituents at unfathomable rates. 

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