Wednesday
Apr242019

Masters of Delusion

If we’ve learned anything from the release of the full (heavily redacted) Mueller Report, it is this:

Don’t trust William Barr to summarize anything.

Seriously, our attorney general would summarize Lolitaas a novel about a guy who has a harmless crush on a younger woman. Then Barr would add that you don’t have to read the book yourself, so just trust him. 

Of course, the full Mueller Report is far more damningof the president’s fumbling, inchoate, fantabulist style of leadership than Barr’s quick dismissal a few weeks ago led us to believe. 

However, we don’t need the Mueller Report to tell us that Trump lives in a universe where his word is law, his ideas are heaven-sent, and his policies never, ever backfire in spectacularly cataclysmic ways.

You see, for most of his life and all of his presidency, Trump has ignored reality in favor of his own simplistic, hate-filled vision of how the world supposedly works, and in the process, he’s created a bizarre self-fulfilling prophecy of his worst fears.

For example, the president has been declaring — shrieking, actually — for years now that there is a crisis at the border. These declarations came despite the fact that immigration was down, with multiple experts saying the border was the safest it had been in years.

But now, in a feat that would be impressive if it weren’t so darkly ironic and disastrous, Trump’s own policies have provoked an actual crisis at the border.

Currently, thousands of migrants are caught in a hellish purgatory that sickens all but the most reactionary among us. This is because Trump's decision to suspend aid to Central American countries, combined with “his determination to build a wall and his grand gestures to demonstrate his desire to cut off illegal immigration” have incentivized migrants “to get to the border as fast as possible.”

The president has “sent the signal that this may be the last best chance to find safe harbor in the United States, and existing laws make handling migrants from Central America — as opposed to Mexico — much more complicated for the administration.”

The result is a humanitarian crisis that Trump is unable to alleviate until “he stops creating more reasons for migrants to come to the U.S., and starts treating them more like human beings.”

Good luck with that.

The president’s delusion has continued, unimpeded, with his idea of sending undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, despite the fact that this grade-school-level taunt to liberals has “previously been rejected by administration lawyers in internal White House deliberations, as probably illegal and emblematic of the administration’s failure to conceive of a fair and coherent immigration policy.”

And the president’s insistence that reality bend to his will has infected his most fervent followers, such as the right-wing militia members who have been illegally detaining migrants at the border. These fun-loving vigilantes have kidnapped thousands of migrants in a xenophobic, Gestapo-like maneuver that is not even vaguely legal or ethical. 

By the way, these nativist goons, who often put on full military fatigues… with handguns strapped to their sides, wearing gloves and black facemasks” were also training “to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”

Yes, someone clearly needs a hobby.

Finally, let us examine the Trump supporters who are trying to build that mythical wall on the border by themselves, without that pesky U.S. Congress getting in the way.

These rugged go-getters have so far raised about $7 million for their quixotic cause, which sounds semi-impressive until you realize that this would finance the construction, at best, of a half-mile of the wall.  This means any migrants arriving at the midpoint of this privately funded structure would have to walk upwards of ten minutes to get around the barrier.

It’s true that the wall backers could give their money to charity, or fund years of chemotherapy for cancer patients, or provide more than 100 kids with free college.

But it is far more crucial to inconvenience a migrant undertaking a treacherous journey, in the hopes that those extra minutes of walking will convince him to turn around.

In the world of the Trump supporter, this is not insane or delusional. In fact, it all makes perfect sense. 

Friday
Apr122019

Saviors on the Horizon

Yes, we’re all surprised that America’s economy is still doing well, considering that we’re two years into the reign of a president who doesn’t understand basic financial systems, seems determined to destroy whole industries, and has had more bankruptcies and failures than anyone should be allowed, to say nothing of the zealots and incompetents who staff his corrupt administration.

Seriously, how are we all not starving to death in abandoned towns and fighting for scraps in hollowed-out cities right now? 

In any case, the economy will inevitably turn sour soon. And when it does, we may all rely on, you guessed it, Latinos to bail out America.

You see, researchers have found that “the Hispanic community in the United States has contributed significantly to U.S. economic growth in recent decades and will continue to do so over the next 10 to 20 years.” In fact, the “outsized contribution of Hispanic immigrants to U.S. economic growth results from thequality of the workforcenot just quantity.” 

In other words, Latinos are one of the main influencers of the American economy, even if certain individuals, media figures, and political parties deny it.

Studies have found that within five years, Latinos will make up about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce and that “the increase in employedHispanic laborcould contribute more to U.S. GDP growth than non-Hispanic labor.” 

Of course, these numbers assume that America will still be around in five years. And if Trump wins a second term… well, it’s best not to finish that sentence.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “Sure, there are a lot of Hispanics out there, stealing jobs left and right. But the only occupations those swarthy immigrants can handle are the low-level, menial gigs.”

OK, maybe you’re not saying that. But trust me, someone in the White House or on Fox News is saying that even while you read this. 

The immediate rebuttal to this sad mode thinking is another data point that research has uncovered, which is the following: “Hispanic arrivals have exceeded contemporary native-born Americans… in their entrepreneurial capabilities and integration into economically relevant parts of the workforce.”

That’s right — when it comes to starting new businesses and creating new jobs, Latino immigrants are far more important than your ninth-generation white working class voter waving an American flag. In fact, “foreign-born and Hispanic populations have become engines of U.S. entrepreneurshipespecially since the Great Recession.”  

Let’s emphasize this again: “The growth rate of Latino businesses in the United States has outpaced the growth rate of all other groups,” and Latino-owned firms “compose a significant — and still growing — percentage of U.S. businesses.”

The reasons for this include the growth of the Hispanic population, the fact that Latinos tend to be younger than the general population, and the truth that throughout American history, there has been a “universal positive benefit that immigrants have on theeconomy and entrepreneurship.”

Of course, if you really want to get exact, Americans should drop to their knees and thank the strong Hispanic women among us. 

That’s because according to a Stanford University study, Latinas are the leading entrepreneurs in United States. Specifically, immigrant Latinas “start businesses at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white women,” despite the unpleasant fact that they often struggle to obtain credit and have “the lowest rate of financial institution-based loans among all other groups of employer firms.” In addition, “the wage gap for women who identify as Hispanic or Latino is larger than that of any other racial or ethnic group.”

Does any of that institutionalized nonsense stop Latinas?

That would be a resounding no.

So when the economy inevitably tanks, and the coal mines don’t magically reopen, and jingoistic Americans across the nation keep repeating, “Who could have possibly foreseen this disaster?” over and over again, just keep one thing in mind:

Ultimately, it will be the Latinas who save us.

Wednesday
Apr032019

We Are All Mexicans Now

I had a friend in high school who thought my mom came from San Salvador. I corrected her a few times by pointing out that the mi madre’s homeland is actually El Salvador. But eventually I just gave her partial credit for at least naming the nation’s capital city.

As annoying as my friend’s misstatement was, it’s important to note that she was a teenage girl living in the pre-internet era.

What excuse do we have for paid journalists in 2019 who think El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — three Central American countries —  are more or less Mexico? Of course, I’m talking about Fox News’ infamous chyron screw-up that recently blared, “Trump cuts aid to 3 Mexican countries.” 

As many people have pointed out, the perplexing statement illuminates a right-wing mindset that is more than just simplistic and laughably ignorant. It is also highly disrespectful, in that this thinking homogenizes all of Latino culture under the term “Mexican.” 

Oh yeah, it’s also a bigoted ploy to dismiss all Hispanics as “a race of ‘others’ who can easily be scapegoated for a whole slew of structural problems.”So I’m pretty sure that counts as racist bullshit as well.

You see, once you’ve decided that all Latinos are Mexican, it’s just an illogical, prejudicial jump or two to deduce that all Mexicans are undocumented immigrants, and that all undocumented immigrants are drug-dealing rapists and murderers.

This is all very A=B=C.

However, maybe we are being too hard on Fox News and its right-wing fan base. After all, these are people who routinely confuse opinion with fact.

We’re talking about people who believe that cutting off aid to those aforementioned “Mexican” countries will reduce immigration, when in reality, it would have the opposite effect

We’re talking about supporters of a president who believes shutting the border is a viable strategy, when all it will do is bludgeon the American economy. 

We’re talking about people who desperately, obsessively want a massive new infrastructure project (i.e., a wall built on the Mexican border — or three walls for the three separate Mexicos). But they don’t care that our existing infrastructure is collapsing, and that our country’s bridges are falling down. 

We’re talking about people who are genuinely confused about why Latinos don’t vote Republican in overwhelming numbers, even as the GOP routinely demeans and threatens Latinos (or just dismisses all Hispanics as “Mexican” as Fox News did).

In short, we’re talking about people who are either not too bright or who engage in willful delusion. So maybe they can’t help but say bizarre, insulting things and then stumble around half-ass apologies.

Perhaps they deserve our sympathy.

Of course, there is one more explanation. Our country’s educational system pales in comparison to just about every other industrialized nation. So maybe people who work at Fox News just didn’t learn basic geography.

Along those lines, just in case you thought our nation’s ignorance is confined solely to Latin America, let me tell you about a recent conversation I had. 

I was talking to a fellow American, and I mentioned that I had once lived in Minneapolis. She furrowed her brow and asked, “Is that anywhere near Minnesota?”

And I had no idea how to answer that. But I should have told her that it was in Mexico.

Tuesday
Mar262019

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.

Tuesday
Mar192019

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.