Thursday
Nov092017

Q4 Blues

Among the many torturous reasons that Trump supporters give for their ill-considered votes is that, supposedly, only a businessman can steer the mighty ship known as the US economy.

Yes, conservatives will grant you that our two most recent economic surges occurred when a pot-smoking draft dodger and a secret Kenyan communist, respectively, were masquerading as president while secretly plotting to destroy America. But in Republican eyes, the economy would have been even hotter during those time periods if a fine patriotic businessman had been in charge.

In any case, the idea of running government like a business “has been tried again and again, only to fail again and again.”

This is because “business has a convenient bottom line, called ‘profit,’ which can readily be measured.” But “not everything that is profitable is of social value, and not everything of social value is profitable.” In essence, there are many crucial aspects of our society that are for the public good, but that defy easy cost analysis. Things like the military, the police department, fire department, libraries, parks, and public schools “could not exist if they were required to be profitable.

Furthermore, businesses and corporations “exist for the purpose of maximizing shareholder value — to produce profit and returns on the investments of owners and shareholders. Government in a democracy, by contrast, exists to protect the rights and improve the lives of its citizens.”

So please understand that running the government as if it were a business is a very bad idea, and it is a truly horrible justification for your vote.

And even if you find this overarching argument unpersuasive, realize that the last businessman you should put in charge of the nation is Trump. After all, he led a relatively small “family-owned company over which he held total control and operated in secrecy, without oversight or the need to report to shareholders.” That’s certainly not how the presidency works. 

In addition, Trump’s myriad failures, bankruptcies, and lawsuits are well known, as are the tales of the stiffed contractors and discontented business partners he left strewn behind him like capitalist debris. Indeed, Trump has been “a walking disaster as a businessman for much of his life” and there is a vast disconnect between the “perception of Mr. Trump as a self-made mogul and the reality of his being a rich kid who lost other people’s money and made far less for himself than he claims.”

However, if you still believe that the government should be the ultimate business operation, and you inexplicably think that Trump is the man to run it, I have good news for you.

You got your wish.

After less than a year in office, we have “a self-absorbed CEO leading the nation through a divisive political era intent on dismantling the very structure of government itself. 

We have a leader whose chief motivation is to enrich himself quickly and then leave with a golden parachute.

We have an executive who relies on nepotism and cronyism, rather than actual competence, when it comes to filling important jobs.

We have a narcissist who surrounds himself with sniveling yes men, and who demands total loyalty (but offers none in return).

We have an administration that pursues its goals with cutthroat tactics and an almost sociopathic disdain for anyone who gets in the way of perceived success. 

We have bureaucrats and middle managers who display a ruthless drive to cut unprofitable lines (even if that line is, say, sick children).

We have a corporate plan where profits go to the top, while the workers settle for scraps.

We have the cult of the leader, where everything the great man says is wise and profound (even of it’s clearly idiotic). 

These aren’t hyperbolic examples. This is indeed how a lot of corporations work. 

Now, I didn’t say Trump’s America was a good or efficient company. In fact, it illustrates the very worst of capitalism.

And such a business is, of course, doomed to fail. But don’t worry, because when it all collapses, it won’t be the CEO who suffers.

It will be you. 

Thursday
Nov022017

Wait Until Next Year

As entertaining as it was to see Trump’s flunkies flail and/or plead guilty, there was another cultural asteroid hurtling across the American stratosphere this week. 

I’m talking, of course, about the World Series. 

Unfortunately, my hometown Milwaukee Brewers have yet to win the championship trophy. In fact, their sole appearance in the Fall Classic was over 30 years ago, and the wait is beyond frustrating.

So I understand how happy and relieved Houston Astros fans are now that their team has finally won the big game. I’m just bummed that it came at the expense of my adopted hometown Los Angeles Dodgers.

And although it was a wild series (what was with all those homeruns?), the incident I want to analyze took place not on the field but in the dugout.

If you recall, Yuli Gurriel, the Houston Astros first baseman, made a racist gesture and spat out a slur at Dodger pitcher Yu Darvish in Game 3. That ugliness is hard to hide, and Major League Baseball responded quickly by suspending Gurriel for five games… starting next year.

Gurriel, who fled Cuba last year, expressed remorse and apologized to Darvish. The pitcher graciously accepted this.

But before we move on from this tacky situation, it’s worth asking what we have learned from this incident.

Well, for starters, we’ve learned that Latinos can be just as bigoted and hate-filled as anybody else, which is not exactly a heartwarming insight. 

We’ve also found out that some people still use the term “chinito,” which I haven’t heard since my childhood. I guess that word doesn’t make it into national discourse too often.

We’ve also learned that life doesn’t follow a movie script. Because if it did, Darvish would have been brilliant in his return to the mound, snagging the win in pivotal Game 7. Instead, the guy got hammered again, didn’t make it out of the second inning, and finished the World Series with an ERA of 21.60… ouch.

We’ve also discovered that Darvish, who was born in Japan, has really adapted to the California lifestyle. I mean, read the guy’s response to Gurriel. Darvish talks about “living in such a wonderful world” and says we need to “stay positive and move forward instead of focusing on anger.” He wraps up his hippie manifesto by saying, “I’m counting on everyone’s big love.” Yeah, the guy’s a Californian all right.

We’ve also realized that Major League Baseball is truly serious about punishing racist or bigoted behavior. Ha, I’m just kidding about that one. Gurriel got suspended, but if MLB really wanted to send a message, they would have expelled him from the World Series. That shit would have resonated.

Finally, we’ve also learned that you can win 104 games, tops in your league, and still fall one game short.

Baseball is funny that way.

 

Friday
Oct272017

Um… Thanks?

We have all heard the adage “better late than never.”

It’s a quaint concept, indicating that there is always time to correct a wrong, and that forgiveness is a virtue. Yeah, it's all very uplifting. 

But here’s another adage you may not have heard: “Deathbed confessions will not be accepted.”

Well, that one is not so much an adage as a dire warning. You see, in certain sects of both Christianity and Islam, a person cannot live a vile life, and then right before they kick off, get to say, “I repent.”

Sorry, you don’t get into paradise that way. The idea is that redemption doesn't come cheap.

However, many Americans are fine with the political equivalent of deathbed confessions.  That is the only way to explain the lusty cheering and teary-eyed thanks that many liberals are shouting at those few Republicans who are finally admitting that Trump is a disaster.

I mean, it has been perfectly obvious — after almost a year of nonstop presidential degradation — that the GOP standard bearer is less elder statesman and more vindictive racist liar in over his head who may get us all killed.

And yet the GOP is only now getting this.

It’s too bad nobody ever pointed it out to them.

In any case, before we trip over ourselves proclaiming how sanity is finally returning to the Party of Lincoln, let’s keep a few things in mind.

First, it’s worth noting that “the only elected representatives of the Republican Party in Washington who are willing to speak out against the dangers posed daily by Trump are either suffering from brain cancer or retiring from office.” No, standing up for your principles doesn’t mean as much when you do it while running out the door. 

Second, even those Republicans who despise Trump’s malevolence tend to agree with his agenda. So they’re not terribly upset about, say, Muslims getting harassed or banks being allowed to screw over consumers or millions of Americans losing their health insurance.

They just wish that Trump would be a little more low-key about it, so he doesn't scare off the average American by revealing the truth about the GOP’s brand of right-wing nuttiness. Oh, and many Republicans also don’t like it when Trump personally insults them, but they’re willing to come crawling back anyway.

Finally, and most important, it’s not like any Republican is prepared to actually do anything about the lunatic they gleefully put in charge of the nuclear weapons. After all, they are “not advocating Trump be removed from office.” Nor have any Republicans “shown any signs that they'll stand in the way of the Trump administration's agenda.

Yes, even after this most mild of public rebukes, Trump is still the man in charge of the GOP, and that will not change any time soon.

So forgive me if I refrain from applauding.

 

Thursday
Oct192017

Pick a Side

Good news — there is a 35 percent chance that the country will descend into open civil war within the next decade.

Now, you may ask, why is that good news?

Well, personally, I thought the odds of a second Battle of Antietam erupting within the year were around 50/50. So a risk of just 35 percent is positively optimistic.

Hey, nearly four out of five Americans “believe the nation is divided on the most important values.” And some experts claim that the nation is really a mash-up of almost a dozen different cultures where peopleincreasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.” And, of yeah, in recent years, residents of both Texas and California have sincerely endeavored to secede from the union. 

Naturally, we’re all wondering about the root causes of this internecine madness. Well, as is usual when nations start rotting from the inside, the main problem is the age-old malady of bigotry.

Yes, many social scientists have concluded that America is “vulnerable to racism, tribalism, and conflicting visions of the way forward for our nation.” And it certainly doesn’t help that our deranged president “modeled violence as a way to advance politically,” which feeds right into the narrative of the hardcore right wing and fuels talk of armed conflict.

Indeed, ever since the protests at Charlottesville, it should be perfectly clear to even the most idealistic person that “white fear of demographic change is a powerful force” and that “there are several lines of evidence converging on the idea that America is becoming a more hostile place for immigrants and outsiders.”

If you need further proof, “research does find that in the age of Trump — the age that started with an assertion that Mexicans were sending rapists to the US — it’s becoming more acceptable to be outwardly prejudiced." 

It’s all very depressing, of course, and we are correct to wonder how America has so quickly devolved into a nation where racists feel pretty good about themselves, and hatred toward Muslims is shrugged off a conservative value.

Hell, there was a time (not so very long ago) when “psychologists feared that ‘social desirability bias’ — people unwilling to admit they’re prejudiced, for fear of being shamed — would prevent people from answering questions about prejudice truthfully.” But in this terrible new America, “people will readily admit to believing all sorts of vile things. And researchers don’t need to use implicit or subliminal measures to suss it all out.” 

This willingness to be horrible only verifies what progressives and ethnic minorities have been saying for years about a large subsection of America.

And yet, many media outlets still indulge in delusional thinking about Trump and his supporters. Despite mountains of anecdotal evidence — and in some cases, actual data-driven research — many commentators still dance around the issues of racism and xenophobia that characterizes Trump’s most ardent fans.

I mean, how many more studies do we need that show fictional “discrimination against whites was a core concern of Trump’s base”? No, it wasn’t a weak correlation or a side issue. It was a “core concern” of Trump’s support.

How often do we have to hear that “changing racial demographics of America contributed to Trump’s success as a presidential candidate among white Americans whose race/ethnicity is central to their identity”?

The truth is that there are millions of Americans who dream of an all-white country, one that is presumably 100 percent straight and Christian as well.

These are people who have never faced governmental or cultural oppression, and “who sat through the unit on the Second World War in their history class and looked at images of concentration camps and gas chambers and burning books and Anne Frank’s attic and still thought, well, hang on, maybe those Nazis had some interesting ideas. 

And they are all for Trump — to the point that he can no wrong and will never lose their support.

Now, in contrast to the bizarre enthusiasm that Trump supporters have of their man’s performance so far, more than half of all Americans and more than two-thirds of Latinos disapprove of the guy.

These are fundamental differences. One might even say that they are irreconcilable.

And since we’re using that kind of language, let’s admit a basic fact — one that may help us avoid open warfare. 

We’re 240 years into this marriage, and maybe it’s time to admit that we’re no longer happy in the relationship. We have clearly grown apart. In fact, it’s worth asking if we ever really got along, because after all, there have been more than a few rocky times and bumps in the road over the decades.

Perhaps everyone would be happier if we called it quits and promised to stay in touch — you know, to negotiate intercontinental trade deals and stuff like that. But this whole idea that we are a unified nation and a cohesive culture… well, come on.

Who are we kidding?

 

Thursday
Oct122017

It’s the Economy, Estúpido

Of course, it’s still too early to know if Trump will destroy the American economy the way that he has destroyed the lives of thousands of immigrants, portions of the environment, and America’s image and reputation.

But certainly it is a bit disquieting that for the first time in seven years, the United States is losing jobs. To be fair, much of that has to do with the devastation that a cataclysmic (yet somewhat predictable) series of hurricanes has inflicted on the country.

In any case, if one is striving to boost economic growth, it is not a good idea to piss off Latinos. After all, the “U.S. Latino GDP is growing 70 percent faster that the country’s non-Latino GDP.” Furthermore, Hispanics have higher rates of entrepreneurship than other groups, and remain one of the fastest growing demographics in America.

So a sane leader would look at those facts and say, “Damn, these guys are the future, and our nation’s economic growth is intrinsically tied to their financial well-being.” 

But come on, we’re talking about a small-fingered, narrow-minded, black-hearted demagogue who doesn’t even understand basic economics. Therefore, it’s little surprise that he has continued to focus his ire on Latinos, with devastating consequences.

For example, “retail sales to Hispanics are tumbling, as immigrants fearful after the election of President Donald Trump stay home and hoard their cash.”

In addition, many labor market measures show that Latinos “have not totally recovered from the Great Recession.”

And when it comes to confidence (consumer or otherwise), keep in mind that “67 percent of Latinos disapprove of the job Trump is doing. By comparison… 54 percent of all adults in the country disapprove of Trump’s job in office.”

Taken together, we see a president who is determined to alienate Latinos, who are of course, crucial to the economic functioning of this country. And we see Hispanics unable to fulfill their true potential because they are too busy fending off the political and cultural assaults of a man so unstable that even his fellow Republicans believe that he is “unraveling.”

All of this could help to sink the economy. And we’re not even talking about the price tag for his idiotic wall that will never happen.

But don't get me started on that.

 

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