Thursday
Jun082017

The End Is Near… Supposedly

Is there anything more gauche than quoting yourself? Well, maybe starting an article with a rhetorical question is worse, but…

In any case, here is an excerpt from something I wrote last summer: “If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.”

I was writing about the latest polls at that time, which showed that Donald Trump had as much chance of winning the election as Noam Chomsky did of landing a triple salchow to clinch the gold. 

I mean, it was absurd to think Trump might capture the Electoral College — just ludicrous. Ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha.

Ha…

Yes, we’re all still laughing five months into this monstrosity of a presidency. Our laughter is not joyous, of course, nor is it resigned or world-weary. It’s more like the collective lunatic howling of the damned, which I guess still counts as laughter nonetheless. 

Regardless, my point in that article was to be skeptical of all the experts who assured us that Trump would flame out in spectacular fashion and that America would never hand over the car keys to a man who isn’t even qualified to be the assistant undersecretary in the Federal Bureau of Weights and Measures, much less the fucking chief executive of the nation.

No, we were all a little too relaxed about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And I’ve written before about the liberal tendency to insist that this time — really, really, really this time — it’s all over for Trump.

As you recall, he wasn’t going to win the nomination, he wasn’t going to win the election, rogue electors were going to deny him the presidency, he would get impeached on his first day, he would resign in disgust immediately, and so on and so on. He would this, that, and the other thing.

All of this would prevent us from living in a world where the president of the United States repeatedly insults an ally just hours after that ally has suffered a terrorist attack, or makes America the undisputed bad guy in the history of climate change, or just in general resembles an evil, sputtering old man planning to slip razor blades into apples next Halloween.

And just today, we have confirmation of what we all knew, which is that this president is even more corrupt than Nixon and thinks “obstruction of justice” is some kind of fancy French dessert.

Well, here’s the truth: None of this really matters, because Trump’s base doesn’t care about any of this.

Hell, white supremacists and conspiracy nuts and right-wing hatemongers are all for the man, more than ever. And until just about everyone else in America says, “Enough of this shit,” his supporters are numerous enough to keep Trump’s wobbly, haphazard administration upright. The alt-right and the bigoted will not be dissuaded. They are a multitude of furious fire ants keeping the anthill from toppling over, even after repeated sprayings from the flummoxed homeowner.

And so, none of these scandals are nearly enough to end our nightmare.

Of course, the impeachment-o-meter is hovering around 40%, so what do I know?

 

Thursday
Jun012017

A Question of Motivation

Once again, I have unintentionally created a trilogy of posts. You see, my last two articles were about the conservative mindset regarding the deep state and climate change, respectively.

So in this post, we get right to the heart of the conservative struggle — the whole basis of the right-wing worldview.

And that basis is this: Liberals are evil bastards who want to destroy America and instill a globalist empire that enslaves humanity. 

At least, that’s the gist of it, as far as I can tell.

Oh, I know plenty of conservatives are all about tax cuts or small government or traditional values (whatever those are), or some combination of Republican talking points. I’m not talking about the moderates or the dabblers.

I’m referring to the increasingly powerful right wing of the Republican Party. You know, the guys (and a few women) who spout crazy shit that would have gotten them kicked out of Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 but that today leads to leadership positions in the GOP.

We don’t need to go into the details of blatant xenophobia and misogynistic displays and neo-fascist overtures and actual physical violence.

Yes, let’s please skip the details.

Instead, we can look at science, which is not terribly popular with Republicans, but we’re going to embrace it anyway.

First, there is a wealth of data that implies “conservatives are more sensitive to threat,” making them more prone to a “bias that can distort reality, fuel irrational fears, and make one more vulnerable to fear-mongering politicians.” 

So if a fear-mongering politician who distorts reality just happens to come along, well, he will find a highly receptive audience within the conservative base… ahem.

But you know what seals the deal with such individuals? That’s right — a common enemy.

Because according to science, conservatives also “emphasize patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority and moral purity.”

So a right-winger sees a liberal mouthing off about Norway’s healthcare system or daring to question whether American is truly the greatest country in the world. The conservative views this as unpatriotic, disloyal, and disrespectful. And if the liberal happens to be gay too, well that’s just plain morally impure.

As such, the progressive doesn’t just have a different opinion. He or she stands against everything that the conservative believes in, and is therefore an irredeemable enemy.

Of course, this works the other way too, in that plenty of liberals believe every conservative is a racist who kicks puppies just for fun (and it is indeed bizarre that so many Republicans seem happy to live up to this stereotype).

But keep in mind that “conservatives tend to be more structured, rigid, and to prefer clear answers.” In addition, “Conservatives approach the situation from the start with greater reactivity to threat, a greater prior belief to the level of danger in the world.”

This combo makes them more prone to conspiracy theories, where one tidy explanation, rooted in fear, ties up everything. In fact, “conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe conspiracy theories that align with their beliefs.”

And that’s how we get to today’s America, where many conservatives sincerely believe that progressives have a secret plot to destroy the country, and only Trump can preserve the nation.

Of course, there is no answer as to why exactly liberals want to destroy America. After all, liberals are supposedly a bunch of rich elitists, so one would think they would want to preserve the system, not upend it. Also, studies imply that “liberals tend to value equality, fairness and protecting the vulnerable,” which indeed sound like the priorities of a progressive. But they don’t sound like the traits of a power-hungry cabal. 

Along those lines, I can state that as a progressive, I have always been mystified why conservatives believe that liberals are hell-bent on one-world government. This is not even remotely on my list of utopian goals, but according to many right-wingers, I’m willing to assassinate people to make it come true.

Clearly, it is soothing to the conservative mind to demonize progressives and attribute vile motives to them. Granted, I don’t see how liberals can be both shadowy evil geniuses and idiotic libetards, but conservatives find a way to make it work.

Now, it may seem like a new development that conservatives are insisting progressives want to wreck the country just because… well, just because. However, this attribution of nefarious, ill-defined motives is more blatant than ever before. But it is not new. 

For example, a dozen years ago, we liberals were asked, in all earnestness, why we wanted the terrorists to win. Many conservatives truly believed that progressives were rooting for Al Qaeda. Much of this was because we didn't think invading Iraq was such a great idea.

Today, just about everybody agrees that going into Baghdad was a bit of a booboo. Yet, I’ve never heard a conservative apologize for the smear job on progressives, or even state, “I guess liberals weren’t trying to sabotage America after all.”

Years from now, when everyone agrees that Trump was a horrific mistake, I imagine liberals will receive a similar non-acknowledgement of their concerns in the present-day.

But it won’t matter, because we’ll be too busy, you know, plotting to rule the world.

 

Thursday
May252017

The Ultimate Scam

One thing that you may not know about me — among many dark secrets — is that I love documentaries. I’ll check out films about forgotten rock bands or miscarriages of justice or thematically intertwining stories or just about anything that sounds remotely interesting, as long it’s truthful.

One of my favorite documentarians is, of course, the legendary Werner Herzog, who narrates each of his movies in a weary, existentialist tone that sounds even more nihilistic in his German accent. The guy is a genius.

Two of his films are sort of bookends — one dealing with Antarctica and the other with volcanoes, the obvious interplay of fire and ice.

What the two films have in common — aside from Herzog’s causal observation that humanity is doomed and that Mother Nature will most likely kill us all someday — is that scientists are the heroes of the story.

And this got me thinking. In my last post, I talked about the conservative obsession with the deep state, and the mental hoops that one must jump through in order to excuse Trump’s obviously incompetent behavior.

Nowhere is the conservative mind more tested than when it comes to climate change. Yes, we know the statistic that 97% of climate scientists believe that humans have a negative impact on the environment, and that every year brings another heat record, and that many of the predicted consequences of climate change are already happening.

And yet, “majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists,” and some Americans literally do not believe their own eyes when it comes to changing weather patterns.

Conservatives dismiss climate scientists as elitist phonies who make up data, exaggerate their conclusions, and bury the evidence that there is no such thing as global warming. The scientists’ motivation, apparently, is to justify their existences and/or get more funding. Well, either that, or they are working for some leftist global cabal (is there any other kind?) with an insidious plot to enslave us all.

But of course, to believe that, you also have to believe that the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are unethical bastards (a view we don’t even hold for politicians). You also have to believe that their vile manipulation of the data is so ingenious that no one has been able to pinpoint exactly how they have pulled off — and yet it is simultaneously so obvious that even high school dropouts can tell that they faked it.

You also have to believe that thousands of extremely smart people have decided, en masse, that telling a lie and fighting over a limited amount of grant money makes more sense than simply telling the truth (“global warming is a lie!”) and rolling in the cash that Exxon would no doubt throw their way.

Speaking of which, you also have to believe that so few climate scientists have come forward to reveal this deception, even though scientific reputations are made on overthrowing convention and standing apart from your peers.

Finally, you have to believe that some of the brightest, best-educated people in the world have devoted their lives to one subject, and as we see in Herzog’s documentary, often endure brutal and dangerous conditions, for months at a time, all in service of some elaborate hoax.

Damn, there must be an easier way to make a buck.

 

Friday
May192017

Deep, Like Really Deep

No, it’s not your imagination.

The Trump Administration really is that chaotic, incompetent, reckless, arrogant, and bizarre. It’s a wonder that this gang of hate-filled lunatics hasn’t destroyed the country already.

But of course, if you are a true Trump fan, none of this matters. Either you deny that there are any issues, and everything is going more or less according to plan, or you admit that there are real problems, but it’s not the president’s fault. In the latter case, a natural follow-up is, whose fault is it then?

I’m glad you asked.

According to the most ardent of right-wingers, Trump is not a blithering, easily confused gasbag who is in way over his head (I can see why you might think that). 

No, all of his self-inflicted wounds are actually the mechanizations of the fabled “deep state.”

For your edification, the deep state is “a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy.”

This belief in a secret government means that “with varying degrees of credibility and credulity, conservatives have fed stories that Mr. Trump is the victim of sabotage by an adversarial intelligence community full of Trojan horse holdovers from the Obama administration.”

You see, it’s not that the Republicans have horrific ideas and terrible execution, it’s that the deep state — often with a sinister liberal agenda — is thwarting them.

But there are a couple of problems with this hypothesis.

First, despite acres of exposés and essays and think-pieces about the deep state, no one seems able to pinpoint exactly who is in charge of it — or even who the exact members of this cabal are. 

Second, if the deep state is so damn efficient — and again, is also determined to crush conservative ideas — then why couldn’t it have, I don’t know, fixed the fucking election in the first damn place?

For that matter, how is that shadowy liberals are able to trip up Trump, without leaving any fingerprints, and yet they can’t implement any truly progressive ideas on a nationwide level?

I mean, if you can frame the president for false crimes and get away with it, it should be a snap to, say, repeal oppressive voter-registration laws, or keep public education intact. For that matter, whatever happened to that liberal-socialist conspiracy to steal everyone’s guns? When is the deep state going to get going on that one?

The truth is that liberals are mocked as wimps, as powerless, as perennial losers at the ballot box — right up until conservatives start fucking up. Then all of a sudden, progressives have this vast reservoir of influence and secret strength, which they dish out wildly against overwhelmed, heroic conservatives.

In this scenario, the Republican Party is not an uneasy alliance of corporate apologists, religious nuts, xenophobes, and crazies, who can’t agree on anything other than their hatred of liberals. No, it is a virtuous organization of (overwhelmingly) men who are too good and decent and pure to be a match for those backstabbing, cheating, and unbelievably powerful progressives.

Sounds reasonable to me…

Thursday
May112017

Your Barrio Isn’t Worth Saving

Let’s say that you live in, once lived in, or otherwise have a fondness for a traditional Latino neighborhood in your city.

No doubt, you are aware that gentrification is a powerful force that is either the worst cataclysm in the history of urbanization, or a mighty godsend that will rescue every blighted neighborhood on the planet. Opinions vary.

But let’s sidestep that very real issue for now and address something we can all agree on: Many Hispanic neighborhoods have economic problems that need to be tackled, and improving the quality of life in Latino areas should be a top priority. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to happen. Because your neighborhood, your barrio, is not going to improve.

You see, we have only so many resources — and more importantly, only so much empathy — in this country. And currently, both are being used up in the effort to rescue small-town America and the white working class.

Now, you might ask, “Hey, isn't the white working class synonymous with ‘Trump voter’? And isn’t there lots of proof that many of them are racists who have sold out our country because of their fear, hatred, and ignorance?”

Ha, no. I have it on good authority (i.e., the mainstream media) that the WWC are actually the salt of the earth, and they have been cruelly left behind by economic elites, and they have suffered greatly due to myriad other injustices that curiously never get mentioned whenever we talk about ethnic minorities (but that’s a mere coincidence).

In essence, we have unlimited sympathy for poor whites, and vast reservoirs of excuses for why they are free of responsibility for their problems and/or questionable decisions. For those Latinos who live in struggling urban neighborhoods, however, the message is clear: This is all your fault, so quit your whining.

For example, that opioid epidemic devastating rural America? It’s a full-blown crisis. But drug problems in the inner city? Just the moral failures of black and brown people.

Aren’t you glad that I cleared that up?

Oh sure, you might point out that based upon every statistical fact, lower-class white people actually have many advantages over Hispanics, and in some cases even over those Latinos who don’t live in poverty.

It doesn’t matter, because the image of the proud but destitute coal miner — the embodiment of the white working class — is stronger than any silly little facts or figures you could throw around.

For example, during the presidential campaign, Trump was rewarded when he insisted that he could rescue the coal industry, even though that’s virtually impossible. Meanwhile, Clinton talked about coal’s inevitable death, and she lost votes, even among people who don’t work in the industry. That’s how damn important it is.

Naysayers point out that more people work for Arby’s than work in the coal industry. And others bring up the fact that other, even bigger industries are facing destruction, and that nobody gets worked up about, say, the decline of photofinishing jobs.

But that misses the point.

The bottom line is that white working class jobs are sacred and must be saved. All other jobs and people suck.

So you see, striving to improve your barrio is a futile endeavor. The political and cultural headwinds are just too strong.

And that’s why we tell any ambitious young Latinos with impressive grades — you know, the good minorities — that they have to get out of those neighborhoods. They need to abandon the barrio. Moving to the suburbs is the only way they can prove that they have succeeded. Just leave the city to rot.

In contrast, we tell people who live in dying small towns that they are fine to stay put. In fact, don’t change a thing. Because we — that is, the American people and government — won’t rest until we make Main Street booming and amazing and wholesome again.

We never (and I mean never) advise rural people to leave their shitty little towns — or for that matter to learn new skills or otherwise adapt to inevitable societal changes. 

Once again, it is up to immigrants to learn a new language, adapt to a new culture, go to college, open a business, and so on. 

The white working class doesn’t even have to graduate high school, and they are entitled to rage against anyone speaking Spanish in their presence.

Everybody got that? 

By the way, it might seem absurd to dismiss urban neighborhoods that need a little help, particularly when they are population centers, contain more young people who will be the workforce and taxpayers of the future, and provide more economic and cultural activity than other sections of the country. 

But that shows how little you know. Rural America is coming back, damn it.

Of course, the only reason that certain small towns still even exist is because so many Latinos are moving in. I would say that this is ironic, but that’s one of those fancy urban words that have no place among real Americans.

The point remains that America has no interest in saving your barrio. So get used to it.

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