Thursday
Aug092018

Breakdown in the Boardroom

So I’ve managed to go a couple of weeks without commenting on how the president is mangling America into a twisted, charred homunculus of bigotry and hatred. 

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been distracted by my hometown’s embrace of a bigot, as well as my brush with death (when all I wanted to do was go grocery shopping).

In any case, completing this trilogy of non-Trump stories, we have the sad tale of  

Paramount Television President Amy Powell, who was recentlyfired “after allegedly making racially insensitive remarks in the workplace.”

Powell, who apparently “made statements about black women being angry for various reasons“ during a conference call, denies the accusations and is considering legal action.

Hey, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what was said in this specific case.

What I do know is that Powell is the “latest exec to be fired over alleged racist remarks.”

Apparently,it is too much to ask of white corporate titans to make it through a meeting without denigrating ethnic minorities or, you know, casually dropping the n-word.

This recent trend of powerful white people getting canned over bigoted statements provokes two thoughts.

First, if this is so commonplace today, just imagine what executives said behind closed doors in previous decades, when prejudice was more overt, ethnic minorities were even less represented, and racist statements just flowed out sans social condemnation. 

Second, keep in mind that ethnic minorities — especially Latinos— are still incredibly underrepresented in film and television. Is it hard to imagine why, when top execs feel they have every right to slander non-white people in open meetings? And these are so-called Hollywood liberals too.

No, it will most likely be awhile before I get to pitch my idea for a Latino-themed television show (it’s a killer, trust me). And when I do, I have to hope that the powerbroker sitting behind his desk doesn't just sneer at me and make a dumb joke about Hispanics.

But he probably will.

 

Thursday
Aug022018

Balk

One thing I don’t understand:

Why would anyone jump on Twitter and post a racial slur or homophobic tirade?

What is the upside? You rile up a dozen of your followers for 30 seconds?

Because the downside is that you look like a total fucking asshole to millions of people years from now, when your idiotic tweets are uncovered, and your career is threatened and your reputation is ruined. 

That is a really bad return on investment.

Recently, major league baseball has had to deal with the fallout of several of its players who have had their old bigoted tweets unearthed.

Among them is reliever Josh Hader, an All-Star who pitches for my hometown Milwaukee Brewers.

Hader, like his fellow misguided tweeters, has apologized profusely for his words and insisted that his hateful outbursts are not indicative of who he is today.

OK, sure. Let’s go ahead and give the guy the benefit of the doubt. He was a dick when he was a teenager, but now he’s older and wiser, and not a racist jerk. 

But this issue goes beyond a couple of pitchers who may or may not have issues with ethnic minorities.

You see, when Hader took the mound in Milwaukee for the first time after his apology, Brewers fans gave him a standing ovation.

I can’t be the only one who found that distasteful. I’d like to think that most of my fellow fans were just trying to be supportive of Hader’s quest for redemption.

But I also know my hometown. Milwaukee has long had problematic racial issues, even by the problematic standards of the USA.

I can’t help but think that some of those fans were cheering for Hader because he wasn’t “politically correct” or because they wanted to stick it to the libs or some bizarre motivation like that. And some of them, unfortunately, were cheering for Hader’s original tweets and wanted to indicate that he nothing to apologize for.

If that sounds paranoid or accusatory, let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine that Lorenzo Cain, also a Milwaukee Brewer and also an All-Star, had old tweets surface in which he denigrated people of a different race. The catch (and I’m sure you saw it coming) is that Cain is African American, and let’s pretend that he slurred white people.

In such a scenario, it’s difficult to“imagine thousands of white fans rising to their feet and giving him a standing ovation, even after he apologizes and blames youthful indiscretion.”

It’s not just about my hometown, of course. You see,  “baseball has the oldest (average age of an MLB viewer in 2016: 57) and one of the whitest (83 percent in 2013) viewerships of any major American sport.”

It means that baseball — despite its prominence in Latino culture — has a fan base that is more likely to be both more socially conservative and more forgiving of white athletes who screw up.

And this means that young white fireballers who tweet vile things are more likely to get standing o’s, whether they are deserved or not.

By the way, I do indeed have a Twitter account. You can check it out here.

Go ahead and dig around. You won’t find any racist tweets.

 

Thursday
Jul262018

Ten Minutes

“Why are those helicopters circling?”

Our five-year-old son asked us that as we drove toward the grocery store. I answered that I didn’t know why all those helicopters were hovering overhead.

The reason became apparent a moment later as we turned the corner and saw the police closing off the street. A dozen or so cop cars, with lights flashing, were parked in front of our neighborhood Trader Joe’s. Bystanders milled about, and I recognized a few employees of the store who sat on the curb, heads in their hands or just sobbing.

Yes, it was that Trader Joe’s, the one where a deranged gunman crashed his car, exchanged gunfire with the police, and then ran inside to take people hostage.

My wife and I have been going to this particular Trader Joe’s ever since our son was an infant, and the place has earned a spot as a neighborhood hub. We’ve gotten to know many of the employees, and one of the cashiers even became our son’s babysitter. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s part of our little environs.

But on this Saturday, a young man who was pissed off at the world, and who had easy access to a gun, decided that his problems were everyone’s problems. And he did what so many American males do, which is shoot the women who are making them angry, then unleash violence on random strangers.

And at the end of it all, one of the Trader Joe’s employees — a woman my wife and I knew, although not well — was dead. A cop’s bullet caught her as she tried to flee the crossfire.

Some will say that a fabled “good guy with a gun” would have stopped the carnage. But of course, more people firing more bullets means, logically, more people getting hit, not fewer. In fact, the woman who died was killed by the ultimate good guy with a gun: a police officer. If a trained cop who has received untold hours of marksmanship, and who works full-time at stopping bad guys, wound up shooting an innocent civilian, it defies belief that a regular dude with a conceal-and-carry permit could bring down a running, armed madman without even grazing anybody else. 

No, in a sickeningly repetitive scenario — virtually unique to America among all industrialized nations — an angry man grabbed a gun and started shooting.

They have angry young men in England and Japan and Denmark and all the other first-world nations. But those furious losers have trouble getting firearms and destroying strangers’ lives. This is only a serious, reoccurring problem in the United States.

But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. 

In any case, I’m feeling a little closer to this particular gun tragedy, not only because the sole fatality was an acquaintance and because it happened in my neighborhood.

You see, my wife and I were running late on Saturday. Our son, the master of the stall, had delayed us. So we got in the car to drive to Trader Joe’s later than usual.

We found out later that, if we had been just ten minutes earlier, we would have been trapped in the store when the gunman arrived. We would have been hostages. And my five-year-old would have had to duck gunfire.

That scenario should not be a concern when all you want to do is go shopping.

And it doesn’t happen anywhere else but America.

 

Friday
Jul202018

Kompromat

Hey, remember when Obama gave a little bow to that Saudi king, and conservatives lost their minds about the president of the United States coming across as weak and subservient to a foreign ruler?

Yeah, I wonder how they would have felt if Obama had "abased himself … abjectly before a tyrant” and committed "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

We will never know, of course, because regardless of what you thought about Obama, no sane person ever speculated that the man was actually a double agent for an evil dictator.

However, in the nightmare of Trump’s America, serious journalists and earnest politicians are openly assessing whether the president is secretly working for a hostile foreign power. Think about that.

Did anybody ever accuse Bush of being an Al Qaeda sympathizer? Did anyone believe that Reagan was a communist mole? Did anyone ever contemplate, for a moment, that Roosevelt was an undercover Nazi or that Washington was plotting with the British?

This moment is, like so many moments over the past two years, unprecedented and horrifying.

Currently, the odds makers are bickering over possible motivations for Trump’s pathetic sell-out of America. The possibilities include the following: 

Trump is an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Trump isn’t an idiot, just arrogant and delusional.

Trump is a genius who has formulated some kind of unfathomable master plan.

Trump has a fixation with dictators and wants to be just like them.

Trump is doing anything he can to discredit Mueller.

Trump has financial deals in place with Moscow and doesn’t want to insult the Russians.

Trump is being blackmailed by the Russians.

Trump has been recruited to work for the Russians.

Trump has been an asset for the Russians for the last 30 years, and it’s all just coming out now.

 

In this way, every American has now become a detective, desperately trying to sort through the twisted, contradictory logic of a man who clearly has little grasp on reality. And the best part is that we are unlikely to ever uncover the whole truth.

But of course, what many of us are missing is that Trump’s motivations don’t really matter.

You see, whether Trump has gone crazy, or Putin has videotape of the guy in an orgy with Russian teenage boys, the fact remains that the president of the United States has delivered a haymaker to America’s jaw, and recovery is far, far away.

And it doesn’t matter in one other way. Trump remains incredibly popular with Republicans. A full two-thirds of Republicans think it’s fine that Putin owns the president and will soon receive a personal tour of the White House.

Trump’s bizarre news conference with Putin lead to cries of treason, even from some of his most ardent conservative supporters.

But in a stunning display of cowardice, "Republicans are grumbling but seem resigned to inaction." Clearly, Trump could give Alaska to Putin, piss on the American flag, and slap all of the Republican Senators' children. The GOP would still say he’s a patriot and a great leader.You almost have to admire their honesty, if not their lack of patriotism and total absence of shame.

Other conservative commentators haven’t even bothered to pretend that they are annoyed at a little thing like fucking over the nation in favor of a murderous thug. Many conservatives have sidestepped Trump’s overt betrayal to blame liberals and the media and (my favorite) Latinos for this chaos.

And as for Trump’s fabled base, well, they thought he would put America first, and bring the hammer down on foreigners. The joke, as is so often the case with Trump voters, is on them. Because Trump is helping foreigners — specifically, the Russians — and has done absolutely nothing to improve their situation.

Trump’s disaster in Helsinki shows us that he is not a strong leader, not a good negotiator, and certainly not concerned with putting America first. Basically, all the things his supporters said he was? He is none of those. But he is still a racist narcissist who can't speak full sentences. So there's that.

Keep in mind that"Trump won the election with just under 78,000 votes in three states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It is unlikely that those voters were betting on an abandonment of American values in favor of Russian interests.” 

But that’s how it has turned out.

So when will Trump’s base finally give up in this cyclone of corruption and incompetence? The answer is never.

After all, the man could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose support.

Or he could commit blatant treason in front of millions of people.

Either way, he’s fucking golden.

 

Wednesday
Jul112018

The Disconnect

After much deliberation, President Trump has narrowed down his list of white, right-wing judges and came up with Brett Kavanaugh, who is most likely headed for a seat on the Supreme Court.

As we know, Mitch McConnell basically stole one seat on the Supreme Court, and with Kavanaugh’s confirmation, we will be looking at a solid majority of reactionary justices who will rule over the nation for decades to come.

Yes, anywhere from a few weeks to a few years from now, Trump will no longer be president, and his name will be fully ensconced on the short list of presidential abominations like Buchanan, Harding, Nixon, and Bush 2.

However, even then, we will still have to live under the rulings of out-of-touch conservatives and people who long for the 1950s.

Many Republicans held their noses and voted for Trump because they wanted the GOP to load up the Supreme Court with its kind of judges. They got their wish, of course, so maybe they will finally be happy and stop feeling so persecuted and perpetually furious (note: not very likely).

Of course, those Republicans who know Trump is a disaster will say that his judicial choices justify their backing. To be fair, it is quite a bargain. The GOP gets its agenda advanced, and all it costs America is the loss of our values and our standing in the world. Oh, and every ethnic minority, gay person, and immigrant now feels the icy grip of fear constantly, and there will most likely be some kind of economic disaster soon. But hey, it all evens out — right?

However, if the establishment GOP is happy, what about those fabled working-class conservatives who propelled Trump to victory?

After all, we heard stories of “economically anxious” farmers and unemployed factory workers who wanted to shake up the system, and while they were at it, maybe get their small town’s opioid crisis under control.

It’s hard to believe that these hardscrabble folk feel vindicated because, for example, the Supreme Court has “sided against workers’ rights in an important arbitration case.” Is that really what they wanted?

Along those lines, keep in mind that only 29% of Americans want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Yet 46% of voters picked Trump.

That’s at least a 17-point gap in reality.

Of course, we should know by now that many people didn't vote for Trump because of an allegiance to GOP goals. They voted for him because he shared their hostility toward foreigners and swarthy people. Maybe they were unemployed coal miners, or maybe they were rich Manhattan lawyers. The only thing they had in common was that they never — and I mean, never — wanted to hear Spanish.

And today, a lot of those heartland conservatives see their precious leader screwing them over because of some insane drive to start a trade war. Or their tiny town is exactly as messed up as it was two years ago, with no signs of help from the Trump Administration.

And yet they continue to pledge their eternal loyalty to him. And they will continue to support an agenda that is focused on making rich people richer. And their pain will never end. But of course, they will blame the liberals for that, and the cycle will continue.

By the way, assuming that Kavanaughis confirmed, four of the last six Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote.

That, apparently, is democracy.