A Reality Star’s Lie, Cloaked in Violence

Donald Trump and his cable news sock puppet Sean Hannity have been trumpeting the claim that Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians for election meddling “vindicates” Trump (pictured) and his campaign in the collusion case.

Again, this is not true, but it’s worth noting I think that while the 1640 definition of “vindicate” is “to clear from censure or doubt, by means of demonstration,” the word’s 1620’s root is much more violent, “to avenge or revenge,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

In Trump World, even a claim — or, rather, lie — like “Trump cleared” becomes bloodthirsty and ugly. He and his ilk are incapable of not seeing red. “SAD!”

(For more Fun with Words, aka Etymological Adventures, click here.)

Two Stories, One Topic

Just passing along two stories I wrote recently, both related to my book, The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History.

The first, for The Daily Beast, is all about the iconic cabin’s dark side, i.e. its use in slave trade and to demolish Indian traditions. Cheery stuff.

The second piece, written for Salon, revolves around dead presidents and why we idolize their mythical cabins.

More TK!

Found in the LOC: 28 Pics from WEB DuBois’ 1899 Show

In 1899, WEB DuBois, a man many of us associate with writing, traveled around America, compiling a collection candid pictures of African Americans living their lives at the turn of the century; these images were then sent oversea to Paris, where they were displayed at the  Exposition Universelle of 1900, under the name “Exhibit of the American Negroes.”

It’s a harsh name, but where similar shows in the past had othered black people, trying to denote their “difference” from white people, DuBois’ show both showed diversity among black people — a revolutionary concept for some people back then and, sadly, today — and exhibited the stunning banality of everyday black life. Of course, we Americans know that in the background there was hideous racism and the ever-present threat of violence, which makes the composure in and of these pictures all the more remarkable.

Here are 28 of the nearly 400 in DuBois’ show; many of these were taken by DuBois collaborator Thomas E. Eskew, and all were shot in and around Atlanta, some, I believe, not far from where I live now… All were found over at the Library of Congress.

(And for more Found in the LOC, click here.)

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The NRA Knows What It Does

This pattern of behavior is proof that the NRA understands its actions are part of America’s gun problem.

From Business Insider:

The National Rifle Association  deleted a tweet on Wednesday evening encouraging people to buy guns for their loved ones on Valentines Day after news of the Florida school shooting broke.

The post, originally tweeted out Wednesday morning by Kimber Firearms, featured a heart-shaped pillow with two guns resting on it. The caption read: “Give your significant other something they’ll appreciate this Valentines Day.”


The NRA has attracted criticism for its social media posts in the past.

In July 2012, an NRA-affiliated account tweeted “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” shortly after a shooting at a Colorado movie theatre where 12 people died and at least 70 were wounded.

An NRA spokesman told CNN the poster was unaware of the shooting and swiftly deleted the tweet.

In November, the NRA stirred outrage after one of its Twitter accounts tweeted a link to a blog post detailing the differences between various gun parts, in the wake of a shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas which killed 26 and injured several others.

That tweet was also quickly deleted.

Short Post on Two Short-Lived Magazines, 1741

Today marks the 277th anniversary of Boston-based publisher Andrew Bradford releasing American Magazine; or Monthly View of the Political State of the British Colonies.

Meanwhile, three days from now, February 16, marks the same amount of time since Bradford’s protégé and later rival, Benjamin Franklin, published his The General Magazine, and Historical Chronicle for all the British Plantations in America.

Neither publication lasted very long: American Magazine shuttered after three months and Franklin’s in six. Media in America, and in general, has always been a tough gig – and that’s putting it nicely.

Foreign Shlock Shock at Lincoln ‘Birth’ Cabin, 1936

It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and we should only be sharing happy memories of the sixteenth president, the Great Emancipator, the Honest One, but I don’t know when I’ll next receive the opportunity to share this random, tangentially-related fact I learned while writing my book, so, you know, indulge me….

In 1936, the interwar period, Americans were aghast to learn that a shop adjacent to the “Lincoln birth cabin” in Hodgenville, Kentucky, was selling foreign-made wares: products described as “relics of Lincoln’s day,” but which the Chicago Tribune revealed to be as “cheap in material and theme,” constructed in far-off lands like Japan or Germany, and all “exploiting the patriotic sentiments of the American public.”

From the Tribune’s 1936 report:

“The articles…sold for 25 cents each and are cheap in construction, material and theme. One of a black and white china ash tray in the shape of a dog. This was made in Japan. Another, made in Germany, is a small wooden box labeled ‘Hope Chest’ and ornamented by a stenciled rose. Within are a nude kewpie doll and a square of cloth.

Still another of these souvenirs stamped with the words ‘Lincoln’s Birthplace, Kentucky,’ is a miniature wooden spinning wheel. This, according to the label, was made in Czechoslovakia.”

And this so close to a place the Cincinnati Enquirer described in 1909 as a “mecca for all patriotic men and women,” a place the Wisconsin Daily Northwestern called “a mecca for all Americans,” a place President Wilson himself said “expresses so much of what is singular and noteworthy in the history of the country”?! What a travesty!

Now, can only image what these people would say if they learned this “Lincoln birth cabin” was itself an elaborate ruse erected as much to honor Lincoln as to glorify America’s broader rags-to-riches/logs-to-luxury myth. And, more importantly, what would they say about Americans electing a president whose oft-licensed — and etymologically appropriate — last name and well-branded family are tied to dozens and dozens of shoddy products produced overseas, all created precisely to exploit American patriotism?