Monday, May 29, 2017

Week of 05/29/2017

Ben Carson And The Poverty Fallacy
There is not a week that does not go by without someone from the Cult of Donald Trump doing something stupid.  If there was a counter for the number of days that those in the Cult of Trump do not do something stupid or say something stupid, it would remain either in the low single digits or stay at zero.  For those of you in the Cult of Trump, just a little hint: that is not a good thing.
And while this past week’s moments of stupid were clearly off-the-charts, there was one that was rather innocuous in comparison that, I think, has as much potential to cause damage to our nation as, say, physically assaulting a reporter.
Dr. Ben Carson is reportedly a good neurosurgeon.  However that does not translate into being good at other things.  He certainly could not translate that into a successful run for the White House in 2016.  Hell, he had a hard time staying awake, and so did his supporters.  But loyalty is rewarded, and Carson’s loyalties to now-President Donald Trump translated into him being appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  In other words, he’s in charge of helping poor people.
You would think that this would be a good fit, since Dr. Carson supposedly came up from poverty to make a name for himself.  He supposedly knows how to get out of that kind of situation, right?
Except our new HUD secretary thinks that his department – and, by extension, the federal government in general - should only “help” those who help themselves.
In a radio interview last week (as of this column’s posting date), Dr. Carson said that poverty is “a state of mind”.  He says that there are some people that can have nothing and become successful, and those that could have everything and still end up with nothing.
In other words, he believes that success, wealth, being able to support and sustain ourselves and our families is all in our heads.  We are poor because we supposedly “choose” to be poor.
His words bolster those from Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, who plans on gutting social programs like a marlin over the next ten years, including viciously slashing money for food stamps and disability insurance. 
"If you're on food stamps,” career politician Mulvaney said, “and you're able-bodied, we need you to go to work. If you're on disability insurance and you're not supposed to be — if you're not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.”
In other words, all you poor people are just lazy according to pampered career politician Mulvaney.  And Dr. Carson says that it’s all in your heads!  You just have to try harder!  You know, like how Texas got out of their drought by “praying harder”.
Now I know that bit of news has some of you pissed off at both of these gentlemen.  It’s sort of expected that pampered career politician Mulvaney would say something like that.  He’s a stereotypical white male GOP politician from the South who knows just what to say to pander to his conservative and neo-conservative base.  But Dr. Carson?  He must have snoozed through his past just like he snoozed through his failed presidential bid.
And yet what pampered career politician Mulvaney and Dr. Carson espouse about poverty is really nothing new or shocking.  This has been the standard mindset of both the GOP and of conservatives in general at least since the days of Ronald Reagan.  They truly believe that poor people are just lazy and they “choose” to be poor.
This delusion of poverty being a “state of mind” is rooted in a few fallacies regarding the poor.  The first is the delusion that work brings wealth.  It’s based on a certain mindset from our old religious extremists, the Puritans. 
You remember the Puritans, right?  The ones that couldn’t take care of themselves when they arrived in America and needed help... you know, welfare... from those “savage” Native Americans, and thus they created the first Thanksgiving celebration to remember that.  The sadomasochists that actually outlawed Christmas because it was “too secular” and tortured and killed people based on rumors from teenaged girls and killed cats simply because.  Yeah, those Puritans.
The Puritans believed that work in and of itself was a virtue.  “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground,” according to the old saying.  Thus brings the fallacy that hard work would be “rewarded”, and while the original intent was for a reward in the “spiritual sense”, it’s not too much of a stretch for certain people (i.e. rich people) to translate that into physical “rewards”.  This led to the shortened idea that “work equals wealth”.  If you supposedly “worked hard”, you would be successful and wealthy.
There have been several books over the years that embrace this very fallacy.  “Rich Dad Poor Dad” quickly comes to mind.  They spread the message that “rich” people are so because they supposedly do “rich” things.  They don’t “think like poor people”.  They supposedly “make sacrifices” and don’t “waste money”.  They “work hard” and supposedly don’t take vacations or sick days and they don’t “clock out and go home” like other people.
All of these, I can tell you from personal experience, are a lie.
There are untold millions of Americans over the years that have worked long hours doing grueling tasks.  A lot of people work two or even three or four jobs per week just trying to make ends meet.  Remember the “Uniquely American” divorced mother from 2005 that was working three jobs and President George W. Bush joked if she got any sleep?  If “work equals wealth”, as the fallacy goes, then there should be an extremely large number of wealthy people in America.  In fact, that supposed “Uniquely American” divorced mother shouldn’t even have to work more than just that one job if she put everything she had into it, if the fallacy were true.
But it is *not* true.  It is, by its very nature, a lie, a delusion, a falsehood designed to wrongly convince the masses that someone’s success came from something other than a combination of nepotism, social connections, opportunity, and a lot of blind stinking doo-dah luck.  Oh, and maybe a little bit of fraud here and there.  Just ask Bernie Madoff if you don’t know what I mean.
That’s not to say there isn’t a mindset at play regarding wealth and poverty.  Only it’s not coming from the poor and huddled masses.  Rather, it’s coming from the “top” of the economic pyramid down.  It’s the mindset of obligation and consumption.
It’s the message that people “have” to get an education, and they “have” to get married, and they “have” to make babies, and they “have” to work so they can buy that new car and get that new house that they “have” to have.  They “have” to buy that new wardrobe, and they “have” to buy that new bedroom set, and they “have” to buy that new HDTV with the 4K display and the curved screen, and they “have” to buy that new iPhone and that new 5G cellphone service and that new gigabit Internet service.  And they “have” to go on vacations too.  They “have” to go on that cruise on ships owned by other nations, and fly on those abusive airlines that treat you worse than cattle.
They “have” to do these things in order to keep the economy going.  Because that’s on our heads too, don’t you know?
And if they can’t afford to do these things, don’t worry; there are plenty of institutions that will be more than happy to “help” people get these things that they “have” to get.  And by “help” they really mean put you in debt so you’ll have to work even harder and work even more hours at the expense of sanity and sleep and any sense of self.
And who are telling you these things?  Who is saying that we “have” to do all these things?  Why it is the very wealthy and the very powerful in society.  The ones already on top.  The ones that profit from all of this consumption and obligation.  And if they aren’t saying it directly, then they’re saying it through advertising messages in the mass media and through proxies in government.  Go ahead, take the week off.  Where will you be going on your time off?  You should be going somewhere!  We have a few suggestions for you.  How’s that car of yours?  When will you get a new one?
Let’s not forget the “trickle-down” mindset.  As in you give the wealthy and powerful everything they want so they can be even more wealthy and more powerful and maybe they’ll trickle some of that success down to the little people.  Maybe.  At some point in the future.  Just not right now.  And don’t quote us on it or ask for a timeline when these things will happen.  These things are tricky.  Who knew these things could be so tricky?
Let’s get brutally honest here… when you have Wal-Mart managers instructing their hard-working employees on how to apply for food stamps just so their shareholders will enjoy bigger profit margins, and McDonald’s executives churning up fairy-tale “instructions” on how you can supposedly budget in pet grooming on minimum wage, it’s pretty damn clear that the “poverty mindset” is not coming from the poor and struggling masses.  It’s coming from the friends of Doctor Ben Carson and pampered career politician Mick Mulvaney.
If these gentlemen, and I use the term in the generic sense, were truly and genuinely concerned about the number of people on social and economic assistance and are still struggling to make ends meet, then they have no business chastising and preaching lies and falsehoods to those same struggling people.  They would, instead, be turning their attention to the big corporations and to the big financial institutions, the ones that created the economic problems in the first place, and tell them to clean up their act.  To stop putting profits ahead of their own employees, never mind ahead of people in general.  To actually pay their own employees a wage that would keep them off of economic assistance.  To build houses and homes for people of all incomes, not just the one-percenters and the people they can scam into risky mortgages.
Then again, that’s not what got them to where they are today, is it?  No, they don’t bite the hand that feeds them and puts them in positions of power and authority.  They don’t lecture *to* Corporate America… they lecture *on behalf of* them.
This is the truth of the Cult of President Trump.  More than just a gang of thuggish self-important people throwing their weight around and calling it “winning”, it’s an old elitist mindset that says: “We deserve to be where we are and it’s really your own fault that we made you where you are and you just have to work harder at staying there and not complain about it.” 
Because if you’re spending every waking day and every waking moment of your life working just to make ends meet and to keep other people happy, then you really don’t have the time to complain about it, do you?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Week of 05/22/2017

Impeachment Fantasies Versus Political Reality
In the Oliver Stone movie “Nixon”, Paul Sorvino’s Henry Kissinger laments on President Richard Nixon’s troubles prior to his resignation from office.  With impeachment threats becoming more and more real, Kissinger speculated that Nixon was who he was because he wasn’t loved by the people he needed the most.
“Imagine what he would have been like had anyone ever loved him”, he said.
I keep that particular scene in mind when it comes to separating Nixon from our current elected leader.
Donald J. Trump, our orange-skinned-wacky-man in the White House, has been in office not even half-a-year as of this column’s posting date, and people are not only spinning fantasies of removing him from office, but are even getting used to saying the words “President Mike Pence” and are trying to convince themselves that our current Vice President would somehow be better for the country than ol’ Orange Stain.  Hell, even the Vice-President has started his own Super PAC to prepare for it!
Every day the media and the Internet bring some new headline, some twist and turn involving Trump or the people connected to him, and the liberals and progressives and the rest of the anti-Trump crowd cheer and say “This is it!  This is the final straw that will break the man-child’s back!  He’s done!  He’s finished!  This will get him impeached and out of office!”
And people complain that pornography is unrealistic!
I can understand when conservatives and neo-conservatives and the rest of the red-hat freedom-hating fascists did it with President Obama for eight years; spinning delusional fantasy after delusional fantasy that they could somehow undo his election.  These are the same folks that watch professional wrestling and think that it’s real.  That explains how Trump can appoint Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment as head of the Small Business Administration and nobody batted an eyelash over it.
But, liberals?  Progressives?  Free-thinking people?  I expected more from you!  I mean, you guys are supposed to be the smart ones in the bunch!  You’re supposed to be the intellectuals!  What the hell are you doing jumping at clickbait headlines and acting like a bunch of red-hats when it comes to Trump stuff?
Yes, the actual “fake news” people who made their money off the sheer stupidity and extreme confirmation bias of the Trumpets are back and they’re finally able to make money off the liberals and progressives now that Trump is in the White House.  They couldn’t before, when it was believed that Hillary Clinton would win.  They tried.  They really tried, but they said that you liberals and progressives just didn’t take their bait.  You were supposedly “too smart” for them!
But now that our Narcissist-in-Chief is in the Oval Office, the liberals and progressives are clicking away at their clickbait headlines, eager to get any kind of reassurance that Trumpaconallus will be impeached and/or indicted and/or hoisted from his Twitter petard and sent packing to Mar-a-Largo for good.
Why, liberals?  Why, progressives?  Why do this?  Why indulge yourselves in these poli-porn fantasies?
Let’s get really, really, brutally honest here...
None of what you have seen or heard so far will get President Donald Trump impeached anytime soon.  At all.  Even with a special council appointed to investigate Trump’s possible connections to Russia.  Even with now-former FBI Director James Comey talking with members of the U.S. Senate and willing to testify in open hearings.  And even if former National Security advisor Michael Flynn sang like Beyoncé over what he knows, it still would not result in impeachment, never mind indictment, never mind getting any nearer to getting Trumpaconallus removed from office.
Why?  Because politics.
In order for the Congress of the United States to impeach Trump, the House of Representatives must bring up articles of impeachment, which they must actually vote on and pass.  Then they have to go to the U.S. Senate for a special trial presided over by the United States Supreme Court, where the senators have to vote to convict or acquit the President with a two-thirds majority for conviction.  Go ahead and look it up.  It’s spelled out in the United States Constitution.  We just went through all this twenty years ago with your buddy, President Bill Clinton.  (And who would have thought that *he* would look like a saint in comparison?)
I’ll remind you that the House of Representatives is currently under the iron grip of the GOP and run by “Mister Budget”, Speaker Paul Ryan.  They do not want to impeach Trumpaconallus.  At all.  Ever.  Period.
I’ll also remind you that the United States Senate is currently under the iron grip of the GOP and run by the slack-jawed turtle dick, Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Bitch” McConnell.   They do not want to convict Trumpaconallus of any articles of impeachment.  At all.  Ever.  Period.
None of them will ever want to do anything to remove Trump from office because he represents all of those red-hat-wearing cult-like supporters that they and their friends in talk radio and Fox News and Breitbart and the rest of the conservative groups have been cultivating over the decades.  They created the crowds that voted for Trump and also keep themselves in power.  Those red-hat masses are the bumper crop of the seeds of discord that they sewed a long time ago.  To remove Trump is to go against those masses, and you do not go against the cult that keeps you in office.
I mean, you liberals should know all about that.  Why the hell do you think Nancy Pelosi is still around and still serving as the bane of your faction’s collective political existence?
On top of that, the United States Supreme Court is being dominated by conservative-leaning justices.  They do not want to do anything to challenge the status quo or upset the government.  At all.  Period.  The days of actual freedom-loving justices like William O. Douglas are long since gone.
Remember when Trump made the campaign claim that he could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose a single voter?  For once, he was not exaggerating about that!  That actually is a valid claim to make given what we know about his red-hat supporters!
But the scary part is that the same holds true to those in Washington now that he is the government.  At this point, Donald Trump could hypothetically have a dead hooker in the Lincoln Bedroom and hypothetically be found with blood on his clothes and be hypothetically holding the bloody knife in his hand and those in Washington will do everything in their power to excuse, justify, and validate it.  And it wouldn’t be because they like him or because they think he’s some kind of political savior.  They would do it because that is the nature of politics.
The impeachment poli-porn fantasies all rely on the members of the GOP suddenly “coming to their senses” and deciding that enough is enough.  It presumes that “Mister Budget” and “Mitch The Bitch” would actually “keep Trump in check” like they promised in 2016 when they first pledged to support him as their party’s nominee.  I would have a far better chance of spending the night with my favorite muse than to see the GOP leaders suddenly hold themselves true to their word.
Yes, Nixon resigned rather than be impeached, but that was because Nixon was a political creature and the people in charge of Congress were Democrats.  In other words, politics.  Plus Nixon was legitimately concerned about the nation and how it would handle such a divisive subject.  That’s actually a rare trait that we don’t see in today’s politicians  Bill Clinton was actually impeached because the GOP was in charge of the Congress so they just needed an excuse.  Again, politics.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, lives in his own narcissistic world of alternative facts, surrounded by myrmidons and soothsayers, with a political party that enables him and a dedicated group of red-hat-wearing cult members that live in that same alternative reality.  Again, politics.  And there is nothing at all to suggest that the GOP is willing to go against him, no matter what he does short of trying launch an all-out nuclear war.  Because, you know, it’s hard to govern a nation when it has become a nuclear wasteland. 
That brings us to that “other option” as provided in section four of the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  It’s a little confusing, but basically it gives a way out for Pence and the rest of the Trump lackeys to nudge Trump out of the way without an all-out coup d’état or having to go through the enablers in the GOP-controlled Congress.  It also presumes that Trump would have to be so deranged that nobody has any confidence in him anymore.  I’m not saying that it is not a possibility, but I will say that Trump will have to do something so extreme that his acolytes would have no choice but to invoke that option in order to save the world, and so far they’ve been keeping him from going that far.  I mean we’re talking “finger-on-the-button-screw-it-I’m-nuking-the-whole-world” extreme.
So my message to the impotent Dems and the liberals and progressives and free-thinkers and other anti-Trump people is this: Stay frosty.  Stay on point.  Don’t indulge in the poli-porn fantasies.  Certainly don’t fall into the clickbait traps.  Don’t presume that every twist and turn in our ongoing real-world soap opera “As The Trump Tweets” will lead to your much-desired reward.  Soap operas instinctively detest happy endings, especially when it comes to the real-world variety. 
Donald Trump is not Richard Nixon.  He isn’t even Bill Clinton.  He is surrounded by enablers, not opponents, and they will not help you in the least.  And as long as you engage in those poli-porn fantasies of impeachment being “right around the corner”, then Trump will be staying right where he is at least until 2021, if not 2025.  That’s a really long time to live in delusion.
The movie version of Kissinger wondered what Nixon would have been like if was loved.  Well, now we sort of know the answer to that.  He’d probably be like Donald J. Trump.