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SAY WHAT? - Given....everything, it's not much. But in a glimmer of good news, the Lost Cause lost again earlier this month when Nashville TN finally took down the moral and aesthetic "abomination" that was its deranged fiberglass statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a millionaire antebellum slave trader, Confederate general and war criminal who later served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Long deemed "a blight" on a city that sees itself as a symbol of "the new South" - albeit in a state where a black man just won a new trial after being convicted by an all-white jury in a room named for the daughters of the Confederacy and hung with a Confederate flag - the "objectively hideous," 27-foot-high statue stood a few miles south of Nashville in plain view of the highway for over 20 years, a  rare Confederate monument as ugly as the racist history it marks.

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SAY WHAT? - Ohhh....So that's why the Repubs didn't want a Jan. 6 Commission. It's taken almost a year for the glacial, creaking wheels of justice to gear up, but lawmakers, legal officials and even penitent rioters have finally begun unveiling a mountain of sublimely damning evidence on the whos and hows of the "gutless attack" that was the Capitol Riot. With subpoenas still dropping for unnamed witnesses, this week's most sensational moments featured Liz Cheney - as the daughter of Lord Voldemort, really, who'da thought? - reading aloud eye-popping text messages Mark Meadows received during the riot from unlikely correspondents who never imagined one day they'd be unwittingly thrown under the bus by a guy so dumb and indecisive he turned over all this incriminating stuff and only when the shit hit the fan thought, oh wait, maybe not.

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SAY WHAT? - Symbolically merging the inequities and indignities of late-stage capitalism with the gladiatorial efforts of underfunded, overworked educators to do their vital job, ten South Dakota teachers gamely clambered around an ice rink on their hands and knees this weekend grabbing as many $1 bills as they could from a $5,000 heap to help buy basic school supplies as spectators hooted and cheered. The tawdry Dash-For-Cash, held during a Sioux Falls Stampede hockey game, was funded by CU Mortgage Direct as "an awesome group thing to do for the teachers," because “with everything that has gone on for the last couple of years" - like, say, their struggling to wrangle up to 30 kids into order or at least onto Zoom amidst an ongoing pandemic that's seen burned-out teachers leaving in droves and rabid anti-mask-or-mandate-or-CRT parents harassing and assaulting them just for trying to keep their kids and themselves alive and in pencils on the lowest teacher pay in the country in a state with one of the lowest rates of education spending despite a budget surplus last year of $85.9 million, which is maybe why they walked out last year  - with all that, "they deserve whatever the heck they get," which in this case was a lousy few hundred bucks in exchange for being part of a cheap spectacle with a touch of degradation thrown in, which evidently nobody thought might not be a good look.

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SAY WHAT? - Coinciding with Senate hearings finally, tentatively underway to close the "stain on the moral fiber of America" - among, it must be said, many, many others - that is Guantánamo Bay, a new documentary was just released chronicling the life, incarceration, abuse and CIA-decreed fate "he will remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life" of Abu Zubaydah, widely deemed "patient zero for the CIA’s torture program." This week's hearings, "Closing Guantánamo: 20 Years of Injustice," brought back to the discomfiting limelight the reality of the barbarous, "most expensive prison on Earth," where, at $13 million a wretched head, 39 men and boys out of almost 800 held over two decades remain rotting there with no due process, despite two-thirds having never been charged with a crime and almost a quarter cleared to leave.

Advocates argue the abiding presence of this "human rights atrocity," emblematic of America's deeply immoral, hubris-driven Forever Wars and denounced even by survivors of those killed on 9/11, is also a  reminder of America's other, longtime, oft-denied crimes reflecting the hard truth  that "racialized/colonial torture and liberal democracy are not strangers (and) Western human rights do not easily include those deemed not to be white." Within that historic context, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney's "The Forever Prisoner," released this week on HBO, offers a grim parable for "how the rule of law was upended" in a betrayal of alleged ideals that asks, "Are we prepared to abandon our principles in order to defend them?"

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                                                                                                                            SAY WHAT? - Kentucky Really Knows How To Pick 'Em Dept: Last week, days after the Oxford school shooting, Rep. Thomas Massie reached a foul new low in the GOP's race to the bottom and basest when he posted an incendiary "holiday" photo showing him and his pasty, vacuous, glassy-eyed, Stepford-smiling spawn and wife all holding hefty weapons of war - he hoists a $69,000 M60 belt-fed machine gun, the others have Uzis and assault rifles, each worth many times what Kamala Harris' infamous French cookware cost - with the caption, "Merry Christmas! P.S: Santa, please bring ammo" to prove he won't let a silly little thing like a few dead kids in Michigan, not yet buried, stop him from owning the libs. "And wow, I didn't just kick a hornet's nest, I aggravated every hornet in the world," he later gloated, like a bratty 10-year-old who'd put a whoopee cushion on his homeroom teacher's chair and rushed to happily tell his leering little buddies about it after an hour in the principal's office, for some reason referencing Ghostbusters en route. "I crossed guns with family and Christmas, and those are three things that really could trigger the leftists, and I didn't realize that it would be such an explosive cocktail when you put it together. But it adds up to freedom."

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SAY WHAT? - In Michigan, the freakish, all-American horror and anguish of the latest slaughter of children by children continues to unspool after the Oxford High School shooting, which left four dead and eight wounded. On Saturday, wayward parents James and Jennifer Crumbley were found hiding in an industrial building after going on the lam, charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, and held on $1 million bail; if they manage to post bail, they will have to wear ankle monitors because, noted prosecutor Karen McDonald at their arraignment,

“These are not people that we can be assured are going to return to court on their own.” These are also evidently not people you should trust to take care of your pet fish, or otherwise display the barest modicum of decency or smarts. Four days before the massacre, they bought their 15-year-old son Ethan an early (and, as a minor, illegal) Christmas present: a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun. Ethan went with James to buy it; he boasted about his "new beauty" on Instagram that night; the next day, his mom proudly posted a picture of the gun with, “Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present." Mom had already evinced she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed: She had an arrest record for minor offenses - DUI, passing bad checks - and she wrote a gushing, rambling 2016 open letter to Trump for "making history," though he "sucked at debating" - "I like that you have failed." Declaring, "I have NEVER had this much belief in one person," she hopes he'll cure cancer - "You're the one to do it" - and supports the wall but isn't racist "because my grandfather came right off the boat in (sic) Italy...What makes me sick is people that come here from other countries and get free everything." Thanking him for "my right to bear arms," she signs off with, "A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy." James chimed in on Facebook: "My wife can be spot on. Sometimes."

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SAY WHAT? - Earlier this month, the United States was for the first time demoted to the status of a "backsliding" democracy by global think tank International IDEA, which cited a “visible deterioration” of our civil liberties and checks on government indicating "serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy.” (Thanks Josh Hawley, right-wing media, MAGA insanity, all the perpetrators of hoax claims and all the blithe defenders of creeping fascism.) Amidst that bleak progression, the wingnut war on (alas, often unlovely) reality goes on apace. These days, its frenzied battles are increasingly fought in schools - all those wee malleable minds to shape! - where right-wing targets have morphed from masks and mandates to (imaginary) CRT to, in fine totalitarian tradition, books, ranging from "pornographic" (queer) to "divisive" (historical) to "communist" (whatever makes right-wingers uncomfortable).

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SAY WHAT? - For Thanksgiving, two modest steps toward a justice devoutly to be wished: Ahmaud Arbery's killers go down, and after a landmark, month-long civil trial, a federal jury has found two dozen neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other squalid groups of "very fine people" liable for over $26 million in damages for race-related violence against nine plaintiffs in 2017's infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The rally, dubbed Woodstock for Fascists, saw a ragged, ugly coalition of white nationalists descend on the University of Virginia that August, with tiki-torch-bearing white goons in khakis and polos screaming "Jews will not replace us" and hurling their torches at anyone who disagreed.

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SAY WHAT? - Hoping an(other) almost-all-white jury would like them be "very scared" to see fearsome black man Ahmaud Arbery jogging down the street in placid Satilla Shores, defence attorneys for the three good-ole-boys who shot Arbery down like a dog last year spent Monday unspooling closing statements so incendiary, vituperative, nonsensical and staggeringly racist they drew gasps in the courtroom, where spectators had already heard a lot.

They'd heard prosecutors demolish claims by the defendants - Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William 'Roddie Bryan - that they suspected Arbery of theft after they'd seen him walking through an unfinished construction job; it turns out Arbery had taken nothing, the owner had already said Arbery was just getting a drink of water from a faucet, the state's "citizen's arrest" law the yahoos cited has been repealed, in any case three thugs with two guns and two trucks attacking a guy on foot so unarmed he doesn't even have a cell phone is pretty rarely as in never "self-defense," and in truth they "made assumptions" that day in all their dumb racist glory because Arbery was "a Black man running down the street."

In a final hail-Mary, the defense also called one more time for a mistrial, with Kevin 'Too Many Black Pastors' Gough charging that a group of protestors and, yes, black pastors outside constituted "a woke left mob" and "a public lynching (in) the 21st century, with all due respect." After the judge, with all due respect, again rejected his call, the ignoble defence then started in with their own public lynching.

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SAY WHAT? - So pudgy little blank-eyed sociopath Kyle Rittenhouse walked, an outcome both deeply disturbing and woefully unsurprising given the right-wing noise, the broken jury, the hack bigot of a judge, and don't forget the bedrock white supremacism that an American so-called justice system is designed to uphold. Thus, the unanimous verdict that a dumb-as-a-rock 17-year-old punk who took it upon himself to cross a state border toting an ill-begotten assault rifle to "protect" businesses was not guilty of anything in a country where you face harsher consequences for offering water to thirsty voters in line than murdering two BLM protesters; where a skateboard is deemed a deadly weapon and an AR-15 is a "first aid kit"; where, "Ha, let the boy be black and it would've been life." Swiftly and repulsively cheering on the implausible finding of young Kyle's "innocence" were multiple sick, white, damaged, insecure yahoos and bullies masquerading as alleged GOP members of Congress. A gleeful Madison Cawthorn intoned, "Be armed, be dangerous and be moral" - no cognitive dissonance there - and neo-Nazi Paul Gosar funned (his specialty) that he'll arm-wrestle Matt Gaetz to hire Kyle for an intern if he somehow manages to graduate high school, and quizzed constituents whether Kyle should get a Congressional Medal of Honor - options "Yes" and "Yes again." Also former guy praised Kyle as "a law-abiding...CHILD." One patriot spoke for us all: "Fuck the Republican Party."

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SAY WHAT? - Yale historian Timothy’s Snyder’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning was published in 2015. It was a book on a subject that had already received vast attention from historians, but it stood out for its novel thesis: it was traditional bureaucratic state structures which protected persons under their aegis. This applied even during the Holocaust. It was the destruction of the state apparatus or the stripping of persons’ citizenship that made the worst horrors possible.

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SAY WHAT? - This week we saw two dueling shitshows of egregious ineptitude, bias, WTF havoc and (likely) injustice in the high-profile trials of fake-crying idiot goon and hapless vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse, who randomly gunned down two protesters during BLM protests in Wisconsin with an AR-15 he got 'cause it "looked cool," and three vicious, racist Georgia good ole boys who somewhat more pointedly chased and gunned down Ahmaud Arbery for jogging while black in their lily-white Jim Crow neighborhood.

The trial of the baby-faced "Vile Shittenhouse" has gotten far more press coverage, likely because he's been shamefully embraced as a heroic victim by a thug-loving right-wing that raised millions for his bail, insisted he went to Kenosha to "clean up the filth left by the rioting Biden voters,” and argued he “should walk away a free and rich man after suing for malicious prosecution" - never mind the leering photos of him in bars with Proud Boys giving a White Power sign in a T-shirt that gloats, "Free As Fuck."

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SAY WHAT? - LGBTQ Republicans made a video about their love for Melania Trump that has the internet cringing.

“Let’s be honest: the gays love First Lady Melania Trump!” a man in a rainbow MAGA T-shirt says in the video produced by the Log Cabin Republicans.

“Now don’t get me wrong, we loved President Donald Trump too,” he says, as if there’s some kind of contradiction, “but MAN has she made him look GOOD.”

The video, which features former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, was made to celebrate the Log Cabin Republicans’ gala in Mar-a-Lago where Melania Trump was presented with their annual “Spirit of Lincoln Award.” They claimed that she had “dedication to our principles.”

But the testimonials in the video are getting more attention than Trump herself. Many speakers, who are almost all white men, go over-the-top with effusive praise of her, many of them just repeating over and over how fashionable she is, because apparently they think “the gays” love fashion more than equal rights.

“She is without a doubt the most fashionable, the most beautiful, the most classy and charismatic and just fashion-forward first lady,” one Republican said, making sure to mention fashion twice.

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SAY WHAT? - Okay, so the effort to replace Minneapolis' brutish police department with a community-minded Department of Public Safety failed. But almost half the city voted for it, marking, amidst a national conversation about change, race and power, what organizers called "a consensus that the status quo is not an option." And in a taste of Raymond Carver's "small good" things, that shift was reflected across the country: In police reform measures passed in Austin and Cleveland; the re-election in Waterloo, Iowa of its first black mayor - despite the opposition of cranky back-the-blue retired cops mad the city was replacing their longtime, KKK-dragon-like emblem - and the election of its first majority black city council; and the election in three Michigan towns of their first Muslim and Arab-American mayors newly giving voice to their communities.

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SAY WHAT? - Bearing merch with their wholly incomprehensible motto, "Where We Go One We Go All," hundreds of QAnon devotees gathered Tuesday at Dallas' ignominious grassy knoll to await the resurrection of John F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy Jr. - who was slated to appear to declare Trump president again - even though JFK was assassinated in 1963 at the age of 46 and his son died in 1999 at 38 after crashing his small plane into the Atlantic Ocean.

Representing a JFK-Jr.-obsessed "splinter faction of a splinter faction" within the otherwise entirely rational QAnon world Trump famously countenanced, devotees were drawn to the assassination site by obscure online chat channels; citing numerology, they argue the Kennedys are descendants of Jesus, JFK Jr. has been in hiding for 22 years, and it's time for him to return as Trump's vice-president. Others argue JFK Jr. is "Q," or that, once Trump is re-instated, he'll step down, JFK Jr. will be president, Michael Flynn will be VP, and Trump will become "the king of kings." It's a lot, we know. And so they came, some spending the night and from as far away as New York and California, to stand in the rain - waving at cars, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, insisting we never landed on the moon, and eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of the lunatic prophesy at 12:29 p.m. 

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SAY WHAT? - Hoo boy. Big week for the corrosive politics of eliminationism - wherein democratic discourse is shunned in favor of pursuing "outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, ejection, or extermination" - and the resultant, increasingly malevolent shredding of our democracy. With the outing of phantasmal hate once confined to the dank corners of the Internet and fringers' paranoid fever-dreams - thanks former guy and your gruesome very fine people - the ugly is now out there hitting the once-placid purveyors of all-American services: school board members, health care workers, election officials. On Tuesday - after the GOP ranted at Merrick Garland about "the feds siccing the FBI" on innocent anti-mask parents acting like domestic terrorists at school board meetings - election officials testified to a Senate Rules Committee hearing about the insane threats they've faced for, and since, trying to run a fair election whose results delusional MAGA jackasses didn't like. It was brutal- "You should be hung from a tree...Jesus thinks you're a piece of shit...This envelope is licked with COVID spit...You are evil fucks damned for eternity" - which may be why it's getting hard to find election workers. Arizona's (Dem) Secretary of State Katie Hobbs described, weeks after the election, armed protesters outside her home chanting, "Katie, come out and play. We are watching you." Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt got messages saying "Cops can't help you...Heads on spikes... Tell the truth or your three kids will be fatally shot," with more his family asked him not to share "because they are so graphic" - and he's a Republican. "This is domestic terrorism," he said. "(These people) were lied to (and) deranged by those lies. And for what? To discredit an election that wasn't even close."

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SAY WHAT? - Failed Republican politician Caitlyn Jenner defended comedian Dave Chappelle’s right to make transphobic jokes on Netflix.

In a tweet posted Tuesday morning, Jenner wrote, “Dave Chappelle is 100% right. This isn’t about the LGBTQ movement. It’s about woke cancel culture run amok, trying to silence free speech. We must never yield or bow to those who wish to stop us from speaking our minds.”

Her tweet included a two-minute, 20-second clip of Chappelle addressing the controversy over his transphobic Netflix stand-up special The Closer. The clip came from a five-minute video that Chappelle shared via his Instagram on Monday.

In the clip, Chappelle said that Netflix’s transgender employees had never invited him to discuss their concerns about his stand-up special. Netflix’s trans employee group had previously said Chappelle had turned down their invitation to talk.

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SAY WHAT? - And lo, the permutations of anti-mask/vax/reason/science crackpottery have been many, from world-wide hoax to heathen attack on godly bodily autonomy to conspiracy by Nazis and/or Commies, and yes, it's ongoing. In Iowa, after the Ankeny School Board voted to reinstate a mask mandate, tomahawk-toting QAnon freak Scott McKay, aka "Patriot Streetfighter," threatened "you forkin' scumbags will not walk away from this clean," even though his 81-year-old father died of COVID after attending one of his rallies; he blames the death on "deep-state motherfuckers." Orange County, CA. just saw its first trial of someone for refusing to don a mask - though she did wear a Trump skirt - in a grocery store while proclaiming her "freedom." California's also home to assorted madmen, a right-wing radio host who says he just got COVID on purpose to "walk the walk," and anti-vaxxers who've taken to stalking masked kids and parents en route to school.

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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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