Black Panther movie poster KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA

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Wakanda isn't real, but neither is direct democracy in America, so why not freely devote ourselves to the Black Panther nation, anyway?

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Devin Nunes' Mom Is Actually Really Proud of His "Butt Licking"

As the #DirectorOfButtLicking trend suggests, he has a real knack for it.

Twitter and PBS

Sometimes it can be hard to tell real news from steaming piles of gossip.

As a top-tier journalist—a muckraker, if you will—it's my job to get my hands dirty sifting through the raw, unprocessed stream of cultural output in order to help readers like you distinguish solid, well-digested nuggets of fact from the sloppy messes that aren't worth the paper they're smeared on. So when I hear a claim that a Congressional Representative's own mother is on Twitter insulting him and describing herself as his "not-so-proud" mom, I know I have a lot of work to do. Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to have some help from a fellow enthusiast in the task of licking a mess.

Enter Devin Nunes, a man who recognizes crap when he sees it, and who has zero tolerance for leaving it where it is. He cleans it up, and he has a serious appetite for the process. In this day and age, when social media provides a pedestal for anyone to release their torrents of loose, fluid rumors—spewing improvised nonsense like a bunch of jazz singers scatting—Devin Nunes is the Congressman who has committed himself to diving headfirst into that never-ending stream of scat. He's not one to turn away from anything that doesn't pass the sniff test. He'll find his opening and dig in. Gossip and rumors are the tempting but filthy morsels that are left dangling after all the solid news has issued forth from between the twin muscles of journalistic vigor and integrity, and Devin Nunes eats those morsels for breakfast.

So you can bet your behind that when some fool on Twitter calls herself @DevinNunesMom and uses that platform to insult him, Representative Nunes will take notice. He will sue for defamation, and he will get that account suspended. And when that same fake mom gets an alt account and starts the rumor pipeline churning with the hashtag #DirectorOfButtLicking—claiming that Nunes is in charge of licking butts for the Trump administration—you can rest assured that they picked the wrong Congressman to go up against in that game. Devin Nunes will not be bested in a battle of tongue wagging.

Is it true that he has shown a level of subservience to Donald Trump throughout his presidency and the impeachment hearings which you could characterize as "obsequious and fawning?" Absolutely. Is it further true that Donald Trump sometimes promotes whatever story casts him in the most favorable light in a process that could be summed up as "talking out of his ass," and that his pet theories about Democratic corruption are sometimes so false that you could call them "a load of sh*t?" Of course.

And in that sense, yes, Devin Nunes eagerly awaits the questionable material that issues from the president's "ass" and laps up that "sh*t" with an enthusiasm that most of us can't muster for Thanksgiving dinner. Does that make him a "butt licker?" I can't answer that question, because I don't want to be sued for $250 million. But whatever you call it, I can tell you that Nunes' mother—who has served as the treasurer of his congressional campaigns since 2002, is absolutely proud. She was also proud when he co-sponsored a bill to discourage frivolous lawsuits.

As for the rumors that his cow hates him, the jury is still out.


A$AP Rocky Was Namedropped During Trump's Impeachment Inquiry, and That's Beautiful

"I think we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky," said an old white guy.

Why A$AP Rocky was mentioned in the impeachment inquiry

A$AP Rocky, hip-hop's current patron saint of Russian headwear, has had quite a tumultuous past few months.

Not that you needed us to tell you this, but President Trump's been having a rocky time (pun intended) recently, too: He's currently facing potential impeachment because he asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to do the U.S. "a favor" by investigating Trump's political rival, 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. The House of Representatives have been holding public hearings of testimonies from various White House staff. Rocky's name just keeps coming up in the conversation, which is utterly amusing.

Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, testified to Congress today (November 20) and mentioned a short phone call he had with Trump following his conversation with Zelensky. "I have no reason to doubt that this conversation [between Trump and Zelensky] included the subject of investigations," Sondland said, before detailing his own evidently riveting chat with Trump: "I think we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky."

In July, Rocky was charged with assault after getting in a fight in Stockholm with two men who appeared to be following and harassing him and his entourage. Trump, ever the prompt social media poster, didn't shy away from intervening and sharing his thoughts: "Just spoke to @KanyeWest about his friend A$AP Rocky's incarceration," read an actual tweet from the president. "I will be calling the very talented Prime Minister of Sweden to see what we can do about helping A$AP Rocky. So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!" No matter how many times #FreeRocky was tweeted, unfortunately, Trump couldn't collude with Sweden enough to keep Rocky from being found guilty.

It will always be equal parts hilarious and awkward when old white dudes in politics rub elbows with notable rappers, but a rapper being mentioned so casually in what could be only the third impeachment in American history is the kind of strange coalescence that could only happen in 2019.

When Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last Wednesday on the topic of Facebook's planned cryptocurrency, Libra, the consensus was more or less what we've come to expect: Zuckerberg sucks.

From his awful new haircut to the way he began every response with "Congressman" or "Congresswoman" to his inability to answer basic questions about the inner workings of his company, he came out of the hearing just as he came out of high school—as the resounding loser.

He failed to make a strong case for Libra, and he also made it clear that he is not taking Facebook's role in politics seriously. He likes the current business model, because it keeps making him richer, and he'd much rather keep it the way it is than try to make it into something beneficial for society—or even just less detrimental.

AOC grills Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Cambridge Analytica and campaign

There were a number of congresspeople whose adversarial interactions with the wax-model-turned-CEO earned them praise online. Perhaps none more so than freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose sharp, relentless questioning left Zuckerberg blinking even more blankly than usual. But the true beauty of this moment was not fully understood until Twitter user @peepsalum posted a still from the hearing wherein AOC's passion showed in her face as well as her hand gestures.

Twitter was soon overtaken by Italian AOC memes that spilled onto Reddit and the rest of the internet.

They primarily play on stereotypes of Italian culture, food, and speech patterns—with some politics and Godfather mixed in. And as soon as every Italian on Earth comes together to tell me that they're offensive, I'll stop laughing...

So whatever else you do with your life to contribute to the downfall of society, thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for bringing me a new favorite meme.


Why Music Hates Trump: Prince's "Purple Rain" and Pop's War with the President

Using "Purple Rain" is a particularly low blow. Did anyone really expect anything different from Trump?



Donald Trump used Prince's music at a campaign rally, and Prince's estate is not happy about it.

Over a year ago, Trump promised Prince's estate that he would not use any of the late artist's music for his campaign events. But yesterday, "Purple Rain" boomed across the crowds as Trump took to the stage in Minneapolis. In response, Prince's estate posted a photo of a letter that confirmed the President's vow to refrain from using the songs.

Prince fans are as outraged as his estate. As the song played in Minneapolis, protests broke out in the theatre across the street from the rally, which is where the song's original music video was filmed. Now Twitter and the Internet are ablaze with anger, though as usual, the President will likely face no consequences for his blatant disregard of the law and all moral decency.

Prince died in April 2016, months before Trump was elected, but one would imagine that the singer—who openly discussed AIDS, criticized the machismo of the space race, supported Black Lives Matter, and relentlessly fought corporate interests in the music industry—wouldn't approve of 45, to say the least.

Using "Purple Rain" is a particularly low blow. The Trump team's decision to play the song is arguably as insensitive as the time the president played Pharrell Williams' "Happy" mere hours after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

"Purple Rain" is Prince's number one hit, inextricable from his legacy and persona. It's a song about forgiveness and love and the expansive force that truly great music can be. One needs only to watch the first moments of the song's music video to comprehend the force of the song's meaning; you can see it written all over Prince's face.

Prince - Purple Rain (Official Video)

On the other hand, Trump—as an entity, a symbol, and a politician—is fundamentally hollow, a cheap mutation of garish American greed and corruption. He never fails to dig his claws deeper into all that seems to mean something in this world, and he never expresses an ounce of remorse or empathy.

Using "Purple Rain" in a campaign rally is far from the worst thing Trump has done—encouraging white supremacy and xenophobia, imprisoning innocent children, and denying climate change are contenders for that prize—but it does symbolize something powerful. It also reveals exactly why Trump and music exist in polar opposition to each other. Music is about truth, connection, artistry, and empathy, all of which Trump lacks the ability to understand.

What makes Trump so incompatible with music? Perhaps it's that Trump as an entity is essentially atonal and dissonant. There's no harmony to his way of operating, no beat or rhythm or reason to the spaces he and his administration and supporters occupy. There's no emotional consistency and no resonance to his existence. He stands in opposition to everything that music is and all that musicians tend to stand for (unless you're Kid Rock or Kanye West, tragically). It can't be a coincidence that in The Art of the Deal, he wrote that in second grade, "I punched my music teacher because I didn't think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled."

Is anyone surprised that this man doesn't respect Prince's legacy enough to refrain from using his work against his will? Has Trump ever granted anyone that decency?

In general, musicians want nothing to do with the president. Who could forget the struggle he underwent to garner support for his inauguration, and everything that's happened since? Just this week, in her Vogue cover story, Rihanna attacked Trump in a discussion about gun violence in America. She said, "Put an Arab man with that same weapon in that same Walmart and there is no way that Trump would sit there and address it publicly as a mental health problem. The most mentally ill human being in America right now seems to be the president."

So many other musicians have asked Trump not to use their music that it would be impossible to list them all here. Adele, Elton John, R.E.M., Pharell Williams, Axl Rose, The Rolling Stones, and many more have told him to keep his paws off their work, and hundreds of others have denounced him in their music and personal statements.

Even if Trump did possess an atom of musicality or knew how to listen to a sound other than the grating industrial noise that certainly fills his own brain, "Purple Rain" would be a strange song choice to use for a campaign rally. When describing the song, Prince said that "'Purple Rain' pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain." In another song, "1999," he associated a purple sky with a kind of final apocalyptic revelation, singing, "Could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple."

It sometimes does seem that Trump is a steward of some kind of apocalypse, indicative of some sort of breaking point. It's likely that his rise represents a rupture in American democracy as we know it, marking a final ending to what we knew and the beginning of something else. This could be a very positive thing, if the anger he's churned up carves out space for new visions of justice and equity in the form of the downfall of corrupt corporate interests, or it could mark our further descent into the end times. Either way, none of this makes Trump's use of "Purple Rain" any less troubling. All we can hope for is that Trump and all he stands for faces Judgment Day sooner rather than later.