The God That Failed

I’m going to make a bold guess: If you asked most liberals a month ago what the reaction would be to the Mueller Report’s release, they probably wouldn’t have said, “Trump supporters literally dancing in the streets and waving Confederate flags.”

And yet that is exactly what happened over the weekend, when Robert Mueller ended his lengthy investigation into the president’s shenanigans by more or less saying, “The guys looks shady, but I can’t definitively prove it.”

Yes, the president was neither indicted, nor forced to testify (and almost certainly perjure himself). The fact that the GOP somehow celebrates these developments as a "victory" shows how abysmally low the bar has been set for Trump.

In any case, for nearly two years, liberals have been hoping — even predicting — that Mueller would uncover nefarious crimes so appalling, so brazen and shocking, that even the president’s die-hard enablers in Congress would be forced to admit, “You’re right. This lunatic has got to go.” And just like that, we would be rid of Trump forever, and every guy wearing a MAGA hat would fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness, while promising to never, ever question progressives again.

Instead, smug right-wingers are shrieking, “exonerated!” — even though the report summary clearly says it “does not exonerate him.”

Yeah, the GOP isn’t so good with the details.

What Republicans are excellent at, however, is whipping up racial animosity, tapping into authoritarian impulses, and smothering objective facts under a frothy mix of conspiratorial thinking and anti-intellectual disdain.

Because of this, many commentators have pointed out that “Mueller's report was never going to deliver easy justice, because even if it somehow got Trump kicked out of office, the factors that put him there in the first place, or what has been unleashed since his malice-laced campaign, wouldn't suddenly evaporate.”

If it’s true that the fabled white working class needed a savior in the form of Trump, then it is also true that many progressives cast Mueller in the same role. Perhaps it is a human need, therefore, to believe that one white knight in shining armor will ride over the mountain, vex our idealogical enemies, and make everything right and pure again.

But let’s be honest — when has that ever been reality?

In truth, “Trump won the 2016 election largely because of deep problems with the U.S. and American democracy that all preceded his candidacy,” and even if this xenophobic meglamaniac “vanished from the White House tomorrow, none of these problems would go with him.”

Next year, Americans will vote for president. Currently, about 40 percent of Americans approve of a guy who has coddled dictators and neo-Nazis. They like the man who has denigrated every demographic other than white men. They admire the chief executive who still doesn’t know how the government works, and whose own advisors regularly question his sanity, intelligence, and competence.

Clearly, no white knight is coming to convince those 40 percent of Americans that they are wrong.


Something in the Air

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of catching even a split second of oldies radio, you may have heard a terrible song by the Hollies that contains the following chorus:

Sometimes all I need
Is the air that I breathe

And to love you 

However, for ethnic minorities, the air that they breathe is often filled with crap, so I guess they just have to settle for the ability to love you.

You see, a recent study has shown that “pollution, much like wealth, is not distributed equally in the United States.”

Specifically, “air pollution is disproportionately caused by white Americans' consumption of goods and services, but disproportionately inhaled by black and Hispanic Americans.”

Basically, white Americans have more money and therefore buy more stuff. This consumer demand for products, in turn, increases air pollution. However, the shitty air doesn’t linger in white neighborhoods. It tends to concentrate in poorer neighborhoods, where ethnic minorities often live.

The result is that “minority communities are exposed to pollution that they bear less responsibility for.” In fact, when the researchers crunched the numbers, they found that “whites experience about 17 percent less air pollution than they produce … while blacks and Hispanics bear 56 and 63 percent more air pollution, respectively, than they cause.”

The inequity and murderous irony of this situation can be summed up thusly: blacks and Latinos are less likely to buy junk they don’t need, but they are far more likely to inhale the toxic garbage that comes from creating that junk.

Now, certain commentators — such as the overprivileged offspring of ignorant bigots — have mocked these results by claiming that the study has created the ludicrous concept of “racist air.”

Of course, it’s a well-known conservative ploy to dismiss complex concepts with short, catchy phrases that mislead and misinterpret the data, which also has the convenient effect of provoking distrust and even contempt for facts, science, and anything resembling fancy book learnin’ by bleeding-heart eggheads.

Remember “death panels”?

However, as many real-life experts have pointed out,such smug condescension “contradicts what we know, and it’s based in ignorance.” Furthermore, such a dismissive attitude “is no joke,” except to rich jerks who “think structural inequality and environmental racism aren’t real because they are as invisible to them as the air they breathe.”

In the reality-based world, “scientists and policymakers have long known that black and Hispanic Americans tend to live in neighborhoods with more pollution of all kinds than white Americans.” In addition, “because pollution exposure can cause a range of health problems, this inequity could be a driver of unequal health outcomes across the U.S.”

Those are the facts of the matter. And smirking about “racist air” will not make them go away.

So will the propagators of such lies, misinformation and scientific illiteracy ever stop embracing this vile tactic?

Hey, don’t hold your breath.


Haters Gonna Hate (A Lot)

It’s worth discussing how much the social fabric of this country has been altered — perhaps shredded permanently — by a bigoted ignoramus whose chief claims to fame before snagging the presidency were a third-rate reality TV show, gag-inducing self-aggrandizement, and boorish public behavior.

For example — in a development that Republicans will call pure coincidence — the number of hate groups in America has reached “an all-time high,” according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Yes, there are now more than 1,000 U.S. organizations dedicated wholly to the abuse of people who don't look like their members, and this is “the most the SPLC has ever counted.” 

Now, it’s fair to ask if this surge in bigotry is in any way related to the current occupant of the White House, a man who, as we all know, could not get through the speech announcing his candidacy without slurring Latinos and who believes every non-European nation is a shithole.

Well, the SPLC dispels any doubt about cause and effect. The researchers state that “white nationalist groups have been particularly electrified by Trump’s presidency.” In fact, the number of white supremacist groups increased by nearly 50 percent last year. New members “are often motivated by fear of demographic changes these extremists falsely believe is causing ‘white genocide.’”

In essence, through word and deed, the president has normalized racial animus, and this has provoked mild racists into becoming active storm troopers in a theoretical race war that — if the neo-Nazis get their way — will soon be coming to a city near you.

But it’s not just angry white men targeting ethnic minorities. No, in a truly bizarre backlash, many black nationalist hate groups have used Trump’s disparaging remarks about African nations and black football players to recruit members. So their numbers are increasing as well.

However, the SPLC points out that these groups, while just as bigoted and crazy as their white peers, do not pose the same threat. Not only are their numbers smaller, but they are “very different than white hate groups” because they have “no supporters in mainstream politics.”

Basically, there are no African American Steve Kings or Tucker Carlsons spewing epitaphs and cajoling their supporters to get their hate on.

And the numbers support the idea that white nationalists are becoming stronger and more violent. The SPLC found that “domestic terrorism has also been on the upswing,” with 40 people murdered in the U.S. and Canada by radical right extremists, including the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the killing of two black people in a Kroger's grocery in Kentucky

Of course, let’s not forget that a Coast Guard lieutenant who espoused extremist and white supremacist views was recently arrested, allegedly before he could conduct a mass killing. His hit list included journalists and Democratic politicians — basically, the enemies of his idol Trump.

By the way, just in case you thought only ethnic minorities should fear tiki-torch-wielding lunatics chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” keep in mind that the SPLC says, “rabid misogyny is [also] an integral part of America’s hate scene.”

Yeah, it’s come to this. Our country now has a “hate scene.”




So last weekend, a group of thoughtful conservatives got together to discuss limited government, business deregulation, and tax rates.

Ha — just kidding. Maybe that is what the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) used to be. 

But in Trump’s America, the conference “has become a political circus filled with conspiracy theories, cranks and far-right extremism.” Yes, it’s now a place where wanna-be neo-fascists, pissed-off lunatics, and scheming racists get together to shriek about liberals, rant about hamburgers, and slander a dead manwho was their hero just 10 years ago.

Good times.

In any case, unless you are inexplicably a Trump fan, you likely viewed the CPAC gathering with a mixture of anger, disbelief, and/or befuddlement.

But you probably weren’t disgusted — or at least not truly nauseated in a queasy, stomach-churning way.

That’s because, “numerous studies have found that high levels of sensitivity to disgust  tend to go hand in hand with a ‘conservative ethos,’ which is defined by characteristics such as traditionalism, religiosity, support for authority and hierarchy, sexual conservatism, and distrust of outsiders.”

Basically, if you get grossed out easily, you are more likely to be a Republican.

Yes, this seems silly. For starters, how could scientists possibly measure someone’s level of disgust?

Well, one study placed people in an MRI machine, showed them nauseating imagery, and then analyzed their brain scans. 

You’ll be interested to know that “just by looking at the subjects’ neural responses,” the scientists “could predict with more than 95 percent accuracy whether they were liberal or conservative.”

Other studies have found that this “disgust sensitivity is related to conservatism across a wide variety of cultures, geographic regions and political systems.”

Researchers are saying, therefore, that whether you are American or Chinese, rich or poor, love Maroon 5 or hate Maroon 5, it doesn’t influence your political beliefs nearly as much as whether or not you gag when you smell dog shit.

OK, that’s all pretty compelling. But even if someone is more likely to get wobbly kneed at the sight of vomit, why would this make them clamor for lower taxes on the rich or an end to gay marriage?

Well, according to the researchers, “disgust sensitivity may also help shape beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil.”

Now, keep in mind that other studies have found that conservatives tend to be more fearful than liberals. 

Put it all together, and you can see how a conservative could view, for example, a transgender person as not just a rarity, but a terrifying harbinger of change, an “impure” person who provokes disgust.

But for the most striking example of how fear and disgust comingle to conjure political belief systems, look no farther than our favorite hot-button topic: immigration.

It’s undeniable that the president’s most fervent supporters are petrified at the idea of more brown-skinned people moving in next door to them. The hatred— and the fear — of Latinos is a major characteristic of the Trumpist.

Now add disgust to the mix. Or better yet, let a scientist do it for you.

Researchers found that opposition to immigration “increased in direct proportion to a participant’s sensitivity to disgust — an association that held up even after taking into account education level, socioeconomic status, religious background, and numerous other factors.”

The reasons for this have to do with “negative stereotypesabout foreigners common throughout history — the notion that they’re dirty, eat bizarre foods, and have looser sexual mores.”

The myth that Hispanics are crossing the border and bringing disease is perpetrated on multiple conservative outlets. This idea provokes a strong sensation of disgust. In fact, many “scientists think germ fears piggyback” upon a fear of immigrants, causing a powerful loop of repulsion, especially among those who are most terrified of contamination.

By the way, Trump is a well-known germaphobe.

It’s all starting to make sense now — isn’t it?


Yeah, They Made a Few Mistakes

Last week, I wrote about wealth inequality in this country, which has reached levels not seen since just before the Great Depression and which is largely unique to America among industrialized nations.

Basically, over the last few decades, the “richest Americans have reaped a disproportional amount of economic growth while worker wages have failed to keep pace.” And for some unknown, truly bizarre reason, millions of working-class Americans keep voting for people who only make this situation worse

Now, at the risk of generating class warfare, let me point out that this situation is — in the words of leading economists — completely fucked up. 

We simply cannot go on shoveling money to rich people, hoping that they will magically invest in dying factory towns and crumbling inner cities, when all they do, in actuality, is horde more shit for themselves.

Disbelieve me at your own peril, because there are historical precedents for powerful nations that adopted hero-worship of the rich, and it did not turn out well for them.

For an example close to my heart, let’s take a look at the Maya. Hundreds of years ago, their mighty empire covered parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and my family’s homeland of El Salvador. Hey, there is at least a slight chance that I am descended from Mayan royalty.

Yes, let’s go with that idea.

In any case, between about 300 and 900 A.D., “the Maya were responsible for a number of remarkable scientific achievements— in astronomy, agriculture, engineering, and communications.” These were the people who were “producing rubber products about 3,000 years” before Americans figured out how to do it.

So yeah, they were the powerhouse of the era — the most advanced civilization on Earth at the time 

And then they were gone — just like that. 

The Mayan empire “went from bustling cities to abandoned ruins over the course of roughly a hundred years,” creating “one of ancient history’s most intriguing mysteries: Why did the Maya, a remarkably sophisticated civilization made up of more than 19 million people, suddenly collapse?”

Well, historians have pinpointed two chief reasons for the Mayan’s abrupt demise.

The first is — you guessed it — the “increasingly parasitic role of the elite” in rotting the empire from the inside out. In essence, the richest Mayans were obsessed with building wealth, and their insatiable appetites “forced peasants and craftsmen into making a critical choice, perhaps necessary to escape starvation,” which was to abandon their farms and towns. 

As a result, the rich people weren’t rich for much longer, because everybody who had knocked themselves out to serve the wealthy finally said, “To hell with this,” and took off, causing the cities to crumble.


Does this setup sound remotely familiar to anybody who has spent time in Manhattan or San Francisco — places that are so far beyond the means of the middle class that they have become enclaves of pure wealth? And all while the homeless population has surged, and working-class wages have stagnated?

Do you really have to think about the answer?

By the way, the other chief reason for the Mayan empire’s implosion is climate change.Even though “the Maya were no fools” in that they “knew their environment and how to survive within it,” they still “continued deforesting at a rapid pace, until the local environment was unable to sustain their society.”

Well, it’s a good thing nobody in a position of power today denies the severity of climate change— nope.

Historians point out that these twin factors caused the Mayan civilization to shatter, and that “the results are the ornate ruins that stretch across” Latin America today.

So let’s ask ourselves the following: Are these among the last ornate ruins that this hemisphere will see, or will another mighty civilization soon destroy itself?