A harrowing look inside the apocalyptic Evangelical cult around Donald Trump

I have kind of an unhealthy fascination with the cultishness of Christian Nationalist American Evangelicals. I was raised Catholic; before I went to high school, my mom actually worked at the local church, and later taught "family and life skills" at a private Catholic school. But she was always more interested in the Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa side of Catholicism. Later, in life, a family friend and child of Irish immigrants replaced his drug addiction with a Jesus addiction, and exposed us to a whole new world of hellfire-and-brimstone American Authoritarian Christianity that sharply conflicted with the Jesus I'd grown up with.

That family friend has now blocked me out of his life after I called him on his xenophobic and Islamophobic bullshit one too many times. But not before he tried one last time to get me to convert and accept his version of Jesus as my personal savior; apparently, my Agnostic view of "Idunno just be a good fucking person, and if there's Heaven, then you're set" is not enough for that wrathful, vengeful, Old Testament God that these people believe in.

But I thought of as I listened to a recent article from Rolling Stone written by a recovering Evangelical named Alex Morris. Morris dives deep into the ways that Trump has specifically courted the Christian Nationalist base, and why they fail to see any moral conflicts with his language, behavior, or beliefs. Over the course of 45 minutes (via Audm), she effortless weaves this political story with her own personal narrative of growing up in, and ultimately escaping from, this cultish movement:

For the God-fearing evangelical, gay marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism — as opposed to racial injustice, family separation, or income inequality — put America squarely in the path of the wrath of God.

Read the rest

Homeland Security labelled a group of volunteer doctors as "radical political activists"

The Trump administration's brazen propaganda game has always been strong, and always finds impressive new ways to out-horrible itself.

So this is really just the latest example of dehumanizing language presented in an official context.

The Washington Examiner article linked to in the tweet is hardly objective, but even it still holds back from this kind of labelling.

Left-wing organizations that have called for the closing of immigrant detention facilities said they were turned away from a Border Patrol facility in Southern California after showing up to provide what they said were flu vaccines for detainees.

Members from Doctors for Camp Closures, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action arrived at the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station in San Ysidro, California, Monday saying they wanted to vaccinate adults and children in temporary custody. The organizations said employees from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who oversee station operations, turned them away.

Which part of this is "radical," exactly? Is it the belief in vaccines? Treating immigrants like human beings? Trying to prevent disease from spreading? Or handing out free healthcare?

I'm even willing (begrudgingly so) to overlook the CBP policy that allegedly required these Border Patrol agents to turn the doctors away. Maybe there's a reason for that policy that's not inherently xenophobic and authoritarian (maybe); the Examiner article does note that, "Detainees at Border Patrol facilities are not supposed to be kept for more than 72 hours, and people can get flu vaccines after they are transferred out of CBP custody to other agencies."

But Trump still built his campaign on accusations that Mexicans and other migrants from South and Central America were bringing "tremendous diseases" with them into the US. Read the rest

It's not just you — social security scam phone calls are 23 times more common this year

I think we can all agree that the endless plague of robo-calls has spiraled out of control. But the folks at the public data directory  BeenVerified wanted to quantify exactly how much worse this onslaught has gotten. They collected data from more than 200,000 spam call reports from across the country, and crunched the numbers to see what they could find.

And while the results aren't really surprising, per se, they're certainly harrowing.

The frequency of Social Security spam calls has multiplied 23 times, from 0.4% of all spam calls in 2018, to 9.5% in 2019.

BeenVerified does acknowledge that their data does not necessarily reflect a complete picture. They actually suspect that things might be worse. "The Spam Complaint Monitor is a canary in the coal mine showing broad spam and robocall topic trends," said spokesperson Justin Lavelle. "As the data is self-reported, the total numbers of complaints related to each of these spam call topics are almost certainly higher."

They add:

The results from the BeenVerified Spam Call Complaint Monitor mirror broader trends, as more than 76,000 Social Security scam calls were reported to the Federal Trade Commission in the 12-month period ending in March 2019, with losses totaling $19 million. Losses related to IRS scams peaked at $17 million for the 12 months ending in September 2016, the FTC reports.

Less than 3.5% of Social Security scam complaints to the FTC resulted in lost cash, but when victims take the bait, the losses are comparatively high. The median reported loss was $1,500 in 2018, more than four times higher than losses from all other frauds, the FTC reports.

Read the rest

My music distribution service is now offering automated memes

I release music sometimes, under my own name, or with my rock band, the Roland High Life. And in order to get our songs onto all the major music services, I pay an annual fee to DistroKid. They're an affordable company, with an easy-to-use interface that handles all the licensing stuff and makes sure we're getting paid that one-one-bazillionth of a cent every time someone plays our songs on Spotify or YouTube or hell, even Tik-Tok, whatever that is.

And now, for some inexplicable reason, they've added a new feature: automated memes. Like this:

And this:

And of course, this:

On one hand: why? Who really needs this feature? Will the commodification of memes push us that much further towards the brink of some disastrous culture climax?

On the other hand: this is stupidly delightful and I'm having too much with it so I really don't care. Read the rest

Hollywood assistants are the latest group to come together, share their salaries, and demand better working conditions

Back in October, TV writer Liz Alper started posting on Twitter about her harrowing experience as a writer's assistant in LA, hoping to break into the industry. Alper had spent more than a decade being overworked and underpaid, and, well, rightly had enough. Over the course of several weeks, she got the #PayUpHollywood hashtag trending, inspiring other film and TV professionals to share the stories of the less-than-glamorous lives they led in order to maybe, finally "make it" (whatever that entails).

Since then, Alper and her friend Deirdre Mangan, another TV writer, have surveyed more than 1500 support staff members from the LA entertainment industry about their incoming and working conditions. As they explain in a press release about the data they compiled:

“Hollywood has created a paywall around the industry that keeps out anyone who doesn’t come from money or who won’t put up with absurd, unsafe and potentially illegal working conditions,” said #PayUpHollywood co-founder Liz Alper. “We need to move past the tired myth that ‘this is just how it’s always been’, because it’s not true. Hollywood did not always negligently add to the income inequality, housing and mental health crises our country is facing. We can and must do better.”

Like the recent list of journalism salaries, the survey revealed a lot of people making $50,000 a year or less while struggling to survive in an expensive city where they're expected to live in order to do their jobs. And of course, there's racial and gender inequality a-plenty, and no clear path for upwards mobility for anyone, really. Read the rest

We need to close the North Pole tax loopholes to pay for Universal Elfcare

Santa Claus holds a monopoly on Christmas spirit that prevents fair competition in the free market. The time has come to break up his oligarchical empire and free the reindeer from the shackles of slavery. Universal Elfcare now!

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by jeremybgg (@jeremybgg) on Dec 6, 2019 at 9:25pm PST

Image via Danny Howard / Flickr Read the rest

I have so many questions about this new video game where you play as Jesus

Yes, this is real. Someone actually made a first-person shooter for the New Testament. From the game's Steam page:

"I am Jesus Christ" is a realistic simulator game inspired by stories from the New Testament of the Bible. Get into old times and follow the same path of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago. Game is covering the period from Baptizing of Jesus Christ and to Resurrection. Have you ever wondered to be like Him - one of the most privileged and powerful people in the world?

Check if you can perform all famous miracles from the Bible like Jesus Christ. It is a simulation game and you can try to save the world as He did. Are you ready to fight with Satan in the desert, exorcising demons and curing sick people? Or calm the storm in the sea?

I have a lot of questions. Like, why is it possible to beat the game without dying? Can you change the outcome of Bible stories, or do you just have to recreate it step by step? Does that mean you get to kick the crap out of a bunch of greedy bankers in the game? Do you actually get to fight Satan, too? Like physically? Does that mean Jesus has attack skills? Are there power-ups to boost the abilities with which you've already been divinely bestowed? Why is Jesus taking Polaroid pictures of everyone he helps? Why isn't Jesus shaking his Polaroid pictures to help them develop before placing them in the Bible? Read the rest

A gin company already made a sequel to that dystopian Peloton ad

Looks like "Grace from Boston" has fallen on some hard times. It's not clear if she's pounding back that smooth Aviation gin during her year-long exercise binge, or after she realizes that her husband's seeming-generosity is actually some terrifying voyeurism. But at least she has some friends looking out for her, right?

(Also, props to this actress and to Aviation gin for getting this out so fast) Read the rest

A new court battle over the Ramones' legacy goes back to a song about the KKK

The Ramones were never a happy family. They never gave much of a crap for the political idealism that would come to be associated with the sound that they defined, either. This is especially of guitarist Johnny Ramone, a notorious conservative who celebrated the bands' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by declaring, "God bless President Bush."

That was in 2002, but frankly, no one was surprised. Because the Ramones had already been singing about Johnny's brand of conservatism for more than 20 years at that point. Joey Ramone allegedly wrote the lyrics to "The KKK Took My Baby Away" after his then-girlfriend, Linda Daniele, cheated on him with Johnny.

This is relevant not only because of my personal passion for weird underground rock trivia. But also because Linda Daniele went on to marry Johnny, and the woman now known as Linda Ramone is now embroiled in a lawsuit with Joey's brother, Mickey Hyman, over the rights to the Ramone legacy.

Joey and Johnny are both dead now, of course. But Mickey has taken issue with the fact that Linda named her sprawling LA home "The Ramones Ranch," as if claiming it to be the official commemorative estate for a band that was quite famously from Queens. From Page Six:

Under [private arbitrator Bob] Donnelly’s decision, Linda must use a less band-specific name for her home, such as “The Johnny Ramone Ranch” or “The Linda Ramone Ranch,” according to the filings.

She must also go by Linda Cummings-Ramone, as opposed to Linda Ramone, in promoting future iterations of the tribute show if she wants it to include the work of the whole band.

Read the rest

BREAKING: A quantity of those who labor in police departments are the same as those who ignite crucifixes

Oh look. A bunch of American police cadets giving a Nazi salute. Whom ever could have seen this coming?

From the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

Several West Virginia state employees have been suspended after a photo emerged depicting a training class of roughly 30 correctional officers performing a Nazi salute.

Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director Jeff Sandy sent a letter to all employees Wednesday describing the photo as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.”

The photo, on state letterhead, shows almost all of Basic Training Class No. 18 displaying the Nazi salute. Text above the photo reads: “HAIL BYRD!” [a reference to the trainees' instructor]

This reminds me of something. It almost makes me feel a certain … animosity towards an automated contrivance.

While it's good to know that a "number" of these employees have been "suspended," it would be far more comforting to know that they were all fired, along with all the other officers who condone such activity. But I'm not actually expecting much more than a few slaps on the wrist and one or two high-profile Fall Guys before the whole thing gets brushed aside and these Neo-Nazis end up patrolling the streets.

WV employees suspended after photo emerges of correctional officers' Nazi salute [Jake Zuckerman / Charleston Gazette-Mail]

Image via West Virginia state officials Read the rest

Bill Barr's police speech proves the GOP doesn't actually care about "small government."

On Tuesday, December 2, the current Attorney General and former Iran-Contra fixer gave a speech at the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing in which he threatened to take away police protections from communities who refused to bow down and respect worship law enforcement.

American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officer. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves ― and if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.

There's the obvious problem here, which is that serving and protecting the public should not be contingent upon the public's lavish praise. That's not a service; it's blackmail. If police truly covet public veneration, then they should be selfless enough to serve and protect without the expectation of reward, and simply because it's the right thing to do.

But the other, more ironic issue is about government dependency. Conservatives in the modern GOP love to give lip service to independence — to by-your-bootstraps self-determination. "People need to stop relying on the government, and take care of themselves!" they say. But here's Bill Barr, threatening to take away a government service as if it's a bad thing. We all know what "communities" he's referring to in this speech; they're the same ones that have been historically targeted, bullied, and oppressed by police. That's why these communities don't respect the police. Read the rest

Leah Moore, Alan Moore's daughter, offers a compassionate defense of her father's infamous crankiness

Alan Moore is one of the most well-known names in modern comics. Even if you're not a comic book fan, you've probably at least heard of the guy. There's a good chance you have at least a passing familiarity with his wild, unkempt mane, or the fact that he's a practicing wizard.

He's also known for being, erm, not the happiest person on the planet. He even voiced a parody version of himself on an episode of The Simpsons, reveling in the glory of his own crotchety reputation.

This year, Moore celebrated his 66th birthday by announcing his plans to vote in a general election for the first time in 40 years, in order to stop "this ravenous, insatiable Conservative agenda before it devours us with our kids as a dessert." But the meaningfulness of his actions was largely overshadowed on social media by the fact that Moore is still a miserable old witch and did you know there's a great new Watchmen show out.

Moore's voting pronouncement was made on the social media accounts of his daughter, Leah, who's a successful comic book creator in her own right. So Leah had to deal with a lot of these comments. And she made clear, she's had enough of people slagging on her father. Sure, she's aware of his faults. But if you understand where he's coming from, it will absolutely break your heart — just like his heart was repeatedly broken by the superhero comics he loved so much.

Read the rest

"The Mandalorian" as a wacky 80s sitcom

My only complaint is that it doesn't end with "And introducing Baby Yoda as…THE CHILD!"

 

  Read the rest

A janitor at a detention center saved immigrants' belongings and turned them into art

In 2003, artist Tom Kiefer took a part-time job as a janitor at a Border Patrol facility in Ajo, Arizona. It was just something to subsidize his creative work. But he watched first-hand as things got more crowded, and policies became more cruel. He saw canned food taken away from migrants and donated to a food pantry, then later thrown away entirely, even though it was still good. The same thing happened with water bottles. Then there were the personal possessions deemed "non-essential" — the toothbrushes, rosaries, medication, and toys. Some things — like shoelaces — were thrown away as potential weapons.

So Kiefer began to collect these discarded items and photograph them. He gathered more than 100,000 items over the course of a decade or so, and saved them in his studio to photograph.

He's barely made it through the pile. But now the photographs are on display at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, providing a compassionate insight into migrant lives, and how the things that we discard might matter to some people.

You can learn more in the video, or check out the gallery website below.

 

El Sueño Americano | The American Dream: Photographs by Tom Kiefer at the Skirball Cultural Center Read the rest

George Zimmerman is suing Trayvon Martin's mother for $100M in order to promote a movie

It takes a special kind of person to randomly assault a black teenager, murder him, and claim it's self-defense, and then continuously find ways to be even more heinous after your acquitted for that crime. But George Zimmerman has a truly remarkable skill for being the grossest kind of grifter when he's not otherwise engaged in domestic violence, road rage, or other acts of aggression that clearly demonstrate an unstable of behavior.

Now, after selling off the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin, he's suing Martin's family as well as the prosecuting attorneys—who, recall, lost the case—for civil damages, alleging defamation, abuse of civil process and conspiracy.

But somehow, it gets worse.

Zimmerman's attorney in this case is Larry Klayman, a right-wing activist who helped found Judicial Watch. And their case is largely based on "new evidence" that has "been exposed" in a new documentary that was conveniently scheduled for a promotional screening in Florida this week, during which Zimmerman and Klayman planned to hold a press conference.

That documentary is called the "The Trayvon Hoax," and it accompanies a book of the same name, both of which were created by noted conspiracy theory grifter and frequent InfoWars guest Joel Gilbert. Like Gilbert's previous documentary film efforts — which include exposés on the "real" Paul McCartney who died in 1966, and Barack Obama's "real" father who was actually a famous American Communist (which even pissed off right-wingers because it undermined their Birther bullshit) — "The Trayvon Hoax" claims to uncover some incredible evidence about Trayvon's phone records, and his girlfriend, who was apparently hired as part of some epic false flag operation to spark a race war in America. Read the rest

What would Noam Chomsky think about the linguistic development of Baby Yoda?

It's frankly shocking that in more than 40 years since Yoda first debuted on the big screen, no one has asked the anarcho-linguist Noam Chomsky to explain the Jedi's syntactical idiosyncrasies. But now that Baby Yoda has stolen everyone's heart, someone has finally taken him to task.

Or, well, maybe.

Given the fact that this is the first tweet from the account, I sadly suspect that this isn't real. I even messaged the woman who wrote it for verification, but she didn't respond. A quick Google search reveals that there is a Jessica Yu in Australia who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. If it is the same Jessica Yu from Australia, and this turns out to just be a fun creative writing experiment—well then hey, good on her. She captured Chomsky's voice here impressively well, along with his well-documented disdain for humans projecting linguistic meaning onto Koko the gorilla. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure that "'No thoughts on memes' — Noam Chomsky" is poised to become a meme now on its own.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, altered.

  Read the rest

Famous comedians have turned to the same sleazy tactics as CEOs and politicians to protect their in-progress jokes

Consequence of Sound was the first to report that Pete Davidson has begun handing out NDAs to all audience members at his recent comedy gigs. Imagine buying a ticket, then showing up at a performance, where they give you a paper full of dense legalese threatening a $1 million dollar fine if you share anything about it anywhere in your life. This isn't just limited to videos on your phone; you're prohibited from even talking about the jokes you heard.

And if you refuse to sign? Here's a refund, there's the door. (Although hey, at least they're nice enough to offer you a refund.)

It's a ridiculous idea, one that reeks of the same entitled financial bullying that have kept people like Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump, and Harvey Weinstein in power, doing what they do. It's a tough guy act, saying "Respect my authority, or pay the consequences." In those other situations, however, someone might feel pressured into going along with the NDA to save their job or reputation; in Davidson's case, the only thing you lose is the privilege of seeing a live comedy show, I guess.

On one hand, I know that if I did sign the paperwork, I probably wouldn't be able to enjoy the show, knowing that I was there under duress, and that any comment about it that came attached to that little blue checkmark on my Twitter account might completely ruin my life.

On the other hand, the NDA's not going to work anyway. Read the rest

More posts