Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’


There have been many attempts to explain why Trump voters remain loyal to him. Given that Trump is an obvious bully, con man, hypocrite, boastful sexual predator, overt racist, pathological liar, and a rich kid who’s never done a day’s work in his life, many “analyses” get stuck at the “what in hell is wrong with these people?” stage. There are, however, some common analyses that make sense in part. We’ll get to them shortly.

But let’s first take a look at the best psychological explanation I’ve seen of why Trump voters haven’t fled him in horror. It’s “A Neuroscientist Explains What Could Be Wrong with Trump Supporters’ Brains,” by Bobby Azarian, a scientist affiliated with George Mason University. Azarian cites four reasons why many of Trump’s voters stick with him. (We’d encourage you to read the entire article.)

  1. Azarian quotes psychologist David Dunning as follows regarding how woefully misinformed many Trump voters are: “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” Azarian adds, “Essentially, they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.” (Obviously, not all Trump voters fall into this category. Azarian doesn’t add, but should, that desperation and frustration will often lead people to take a chance, even a remote chance, on damn near anything that promises relief.)
  2. The second component in loyalty to Trump is fearfulness: A great many of Trump’s followers, especially die-hard conservatives, are fear driven. As Azarian puts it, “Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. . . . These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch.”
  3. Fear of death increases the effectiveness of Trump’s fear mongering. Azarian notes, “[W]hen people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis . . . By constantly emphasizing [supposed] existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric.”
  4. The fourth reason for Trump’s hold on his core voters is his showmanship: he’s a master at keeping his audience engaged. As Azarian says, “His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level. . . . He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.”

There are other factors in Trump’s support that Azarian doesn’t mention, though many others have; the following are all commonly cited, and all have some validity.

An important factor is that conservatives, more so than progressives, tend to live inside a media bubble, that is, they seek out news and opinion outlets that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, fears, and prejudices, and “cluster around,” as a 2014 Pew report put it, a small number of news sources or, often, a single news source: Fox News. Not coincidentally, Fox and other right-wing media outfits, such as Breitbart and Sinclair Broadcasting, deliberately and consistently trigger Trump supporters’ fear response. Trump supporters tend to live in a news/opinion echo chamber where it’s “all fear all of the time.”

Another factor in Trump’s continuing support is that a great many Trump voters are in real economic distress; many are stuck on or near the lowest level of need: basic survival. Economic insecurity is the rule in the United States now — as an example of this, approximately 60% of Americans say they couldn’t handle an unexpected $500 expense without going into debt. Billionaire trust fund baby Trump talks about “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and pretends that he’s a friend of those who work for a living, and many working people are so stressed and desperate that they grasp at the straws he throws them as they sink ever further into the economic quicksand.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if the Democrats weren’t controlled by corporatists (those funded by and serving the interests of the corporate world and the 1% who by and large own it). The corporate Democrats have controlled the party for roughly four decades, and when in power (Clinton and Obama) have done essentially nothing to address the ever-more-urgent problem of economic inequality and the despair and anger it spawns, even when they’ve had huge majorities in Congress. Instead, they’ve focused on identity politics issues that do not in the slightest threaten the financial interests of their corporate backers. (Of course, issues such as LGBT and women’s rights must be addressed — but it’s absolutely crazy to make them your primary focus while ignoring the 800-pound gorilla of economic inequality.) The corporate Democrats appear to be (and to a great extent are) elitists who are unconcerned about the economic well-being of average people, and who have been skating by for decades on the anemic message that “we’re not as bad as the Republicans,” while standing for essentially nothing.

That explains the astoundingly low rate of voter participation in American elections. In 2016, only 59% of those eligible voted — in a presidential election; in midterms the percentage is much lower — and a good majority of those who didn’t vote were low-income people, many of whom could have been reached with a message about jobs  and reducing economic inequality. The corporate Democrats wouldn’t even touch those and related issues, such as healthcare for all, and as a result huge numbers of people sat on their hands or voted for third-party candidates — or voted for Trump. (In the 2016 election, 41% of those eligible didn’t vote; Clinton received the votes of 28% of those eligible; Trump 26%; and about 5% went to minor party candidates.)

The only rays of hope are that there’s a revolt in the Democratic Party against the corporatists; Trump’s hardcore supporters are a minority of, at most, 35% to 40% of those most likely to vote; Trump is so loathsome, vicious, and dangerous that people opposed to him can’t wait to get to the polls; and Trump’s economic policies will screw his working class supporters in short order, and some of them will realize it — eventually.

These are small rays of hope, but they’re better than none.

 


Thomas Frank

“I don’t like Amazon, and I don’t like Donald Trump either. I would approve enthusiastically if a president started enforcing antitrust laws, but that’s not what Trump is proposing to do. What we are being offered instead is a choice between the worst president of our lifetimes and one of the most rapacious corporate enterprises in the country. And, eagerly, we are lining up with one or the other.

“This in turn seems to me an almost perfect representation of the wretched choices available to Americans these days, as well as the megadoses of self-deception we are swallowing in order to make them. It is everything that is wrong with our politics, and it extends from the most sweeping matters of state right down to the individual reader.

“. . . [T]his [is] where we are now in the world’s greatest democracy. We have the billionaire Republicans, with their bigotry and their war on all things public, and the billionaire Democrats, with their oblivious ideology of globe and technology. To the common people, assembled in all our majesty, the momentous question is posed: who do you hate more?”

Thomas Frank, in his wonderful piece in The Guardian,Trump’s enemy is not your friend

(U.S. readers might not be aware of this, but The Guardian [formerly  The Manchester Guardian] is the single best news source on the Internet, including sources hidden behind a paywall [e.g., New York Times or Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post]; The Guardian is the best source, period. I like them enough that I occasionally contribute money to them. The only other news outlet that I would unreservedly recommend is The Intercept, which due to lesser financial resources posts fewer stories than The Guardian, but whose journalism is arguably of even higher quality. For opinion mixed with news, you won’t do better than Truthdig.)


This morning I had coffee with a friend who’s a CPA, and we talked for over an hour about the economy, and especially about how those of us who work for a living are getting screwed. There are almost innumerable ways — pick an area, any area — but for now we’ll stick to the purely economic. Here are few of the things we talked about:

  • Dividends and capital gains (basically profits from selling stocks and bonds) are only taxed at about half the rate of money earned through work. If you work for a living in the USA, you’re probably paying about twice the amount of income tax (as a percentage of income) as a trust fund kid who’s never worked a day in his life.
  • If you work for a living and have to spend all, or nearly all, of the money you earn, you’ll pay a much higher effective tax rate on the necessities of life than wealthy people. Here’s why (to keep things simple, we’ll only talk about sales taxes here): If you live in an area with an 8% sales tax rate, make $2,000 a month, and spend $1,000 of it on such things as clothing, food, car parts, and beer (mustn’t forget the beer), you’ll end up paying 4% of your income in sales taxes. If you’re a trust funder with an income of $20,000 a month from dividends and capital gains (i.e., income not derived from useful work), and similarly spend $1,000 on clothing etc., your effective tax rate on those necessities will only be .4% of your income — one-tenth the rate of a $2,000-a-month wage earner.
  • If unemployment is low, and wage growth starts to outstrip the rate of inflation, the Federal Reserve Board will raise the prime rate to create more unemployment and keep wages down (as it’s doing at present). How does an increase in the prime rate do this? It “cools the economy” by making it more expensive for businesses to borrow and then spend the borrowed money on new facilities, machinery, or wages for new workers. It also raises the cost of consumer borrowing, especially as regards home mortgages. And the higher the mortgage interest rate, the fewer mortgages are taken out; this puts a damper on new construction and so decreases the number of construction jobs and also jobs in the industries that supply construction firms. Hence “economy cooled” and wages held down.
  • If you work for a living, have little or no savings (as is typical), and have to borrow money for a medical or other emergency, you’ll likely do so on a credit card, on which you’ll be paying sky high interest, probably in the 15% to 20% range, if not higher. If you’re wealthy and decide to borrow money, you’ll likely pay an interest rate in the low to mid single digits.
  • Under Trump’s much vaunted tax cut, 83% of the benefits go to the wealthiest 1% of Americans.  The rest of us get crumbs and will have to pick up the tab in fairly short order, in the form of goods-and-services price inflation and higher interest rates on credit cards and mortgages. In essence, Trump’s tax cut is a massive wealth transfer from those who do useful work to the ultra-rich, who don’t. (Disgustingly, some working class people are happy to scarf up crumbs and lick their masters’ boots and grovel like dogs.) And if you think giving the rich ever more money is somehow a good idea, that’s been de facto federal policy since the time of Reagan; and how has that worked out for you? Yes, it has! Good boy! What a good boy! Lick up those crumbs! Good boy!

I could go on, but won’t.

To put it simply, the economic deck is stacked against those who work do useful work, especially those who do useful work, won’t exploit others, and have some self-respect.

 


(API) — The White House announced today that, following his prolonged search for legal representation, President Trump has retained as chief legal counsel veteran litigator Saul Goodman. Trump, after tweeting, “I hire nothing but the BEST people,” praised Goodman as “very incredible, very fantastic, a bigly talent and an amazing patriot. NO COLLUSION! JOBS!”

Republican commentators were quick to heap praise upon Trump, with Sean Hannity saying that this “bold choice” showed what “a different kind of president” Trump is, and that it exemplified his “out of the box thinking” — remarks almost identical to those Hannity made after Trump strangled a Miniature Schnauzer on Christmas Eve and sodomized it’s corpse on live national television.

Several Fox News pundits were equally effusive about Trump’s other new “out of the box” appointees: Gustavo Fring as DEA administrator;  Walter White as Science Adviser; Jesse Pinkman as National Institute of Health administrator; Skyler White as Treasury Secretary; Tuco Salamanca as Press Secretary; and an individual known only as “Todd” as Secretary of State.

Laura Ingraham enthused about Walter White’s appointment as Science Adviser, noting White’s extensive “hands on scientific expertise”; Neil Cavuto praised new DEA czar Fring’s  “executive experience,” and noted that Fring would conduct America’s drug policy “like a business”; and Tucker Carlson extolled Salamanca’s appointment as Press Secretary, saying that he “really knows how to deliver a message.”

The day’s only sour note was the refusal of security expert Michael Ehrmantraut to accept appointment as Homeland Security chief. While pointedly refusing to cite Trump by name, Ehrmantraut stated that while he had the “highest respect” for some of the new appointees, citing Fring’s “coolness” and “professionalism,” he refused to endanger the nation by taking orders from a “moron.” Following Erhmantraut’s refusal, Trump tweeted that “Mummified Mike” was “a LIAR! LIAR,” “really, really bad at his job,” and that he had “never offered it to him in the first place. NO COLLUSION! JOBS!”


The Water Will Come front cover(The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, by Jeff Goodell. Little Brown, 2018, 340 pp., $28.00)

 

It’s easy, even if you accept the science, to think of global warming as an abstraction, because, as regards the human perception of time, it’s a long term trend. That’s true even in many places which are already being affected, such as Southern Arizona, which is projected to suffer the highest temperature increases of anywhere in the lower 48.

We’re already experiencing drastic warming. Last year was the warmest ever here, we had our hottest June ever, with three days at 115F or above (46C), and we had almost no winter (well, what passes for winter down here: It’s below 70? Break out the parkas!).

The change in the weather is already affecting vegetable and fruit tree planting seasons here: What I and other gardeners used to plant in October, we now tend to put off until November (hottest ever last year). Or December. (It was so warm this winter that I’ve put off buying and planting a peach tree until this fall, hoping for cooler weather then.)

So, I’m already affected by long-term temperature increases, if only as a minor annoyance. But most people here don’t garden, are caught up in daily life, and find it easy enough to ignore gradually warming temperatures — at least until the next 116 or 117F day, which they’ll promptly forget once it cools down even slightly.

But it’s not so easy to ignore global warming in other places, specifically low-lying coastal areas and islands.

Hence the value of Jeff Goodell’s latest book, The Water Will Come. It serves as a timely reminder to those of us who live inland, those who are climate-change deniers, and those with head-in-the-sand attitudes living in low-lying coastal areas, that climate change (with a focus on ocean warming and sea level rise) is all too real, is already having drastic, destructive effects in some areas, and that the destructive effects will get worse, especially if we don’t do anything to mitigate them, while we still can.

Goodell, in plain, “just the facts, ma’am” prose, explores what’s already happening in places as diverse as Alaska (Inuit villages falling into the rising sea), Miami (ever-worse flooding), and the very low-lying Marshall Islands (which will disappear). Goodell does this through not only presenting the scientific facts, and through descriptive passages, but also through interviews with many local people who provide graphic illustrations of the effects of sea level rise on daily life.

While that’s valuable, I wish Goodell would have spent more time on mitigation efforts and ways of reducing CO2 emissions in the short term. But that’s not the point of The Water Will Come — those are topics for other books. Goodell’s point is that we have a real problem, and we need to start addressing it now.

If there’s one real fault with The Water Will Come, it’s that Goodell gives the Obama Administration, and Barack Obama himself, a complete pass in regard to dealing with climate change (and everything else). There are several passages in the book dealing with Goodell’s interviews with Obama Administration officials, and one with Obama himself, and the tone in those passages borders on worshipful.

Given how awful Donald Trump is, there’s a tendency on the part of liberals to venerate Obama while ignoring the fact that he was a lousy president who betrayed those who voted for him.

When he had real power, with big majorities in both houses of Congress during his first two years, what did Obama do? He produced a grossly inadequate stimulus package that was just large enough to save the big banks, but not the millions upon millions who’d lost their jobs and homes — for them, he did next to nothing; he pushed through a grossly inadequate healthcare measure (Michael Moore called it a “quarter of a loaf” measure) that was designed to preserve the parasitic healthcare insurance industry and big pharma; and beyond that, he didn’t even try to accomplish anything significant regarding climate change or much of anything else. (For more on Obama’s betrayal of the people who voted for him, see “Obama and His Base: An Abusive Relationship, part 3.“)

(I mention all this for two reasons: 1) one always suspects, generally correctly, that when writers treat politicians reverentially, it’s because they’re not fully doing their jobs — as Frank Kent famously said, “The only way a reporter should look on a politician is down”; and more importantly 2) because, if we elect another business-as-usual, corporate Democrat in 2020, it’s a good bet that his or her response to the climate crisis will be, as usual, very inadequate.)

But aside from the Obama worship, there’s little to dislike in The Water Will Come. The book is a useful reminder and illustration of the seriousness of the global warming problem, how bad its effects already are in some places, and how much worse those effects are likely to get — especially if we don’t start making real changes now.

Recommended.


Why does some music sound so relaxed? It’s real simple — the musicians are playing behind the beat (almost invariably in swung time).

That means that they’re playing a few thousandths of a second after the beat falls. That’s common in blues, jazz, soul, and (less so as the decades go on) funk. Not at all in country, hard rock, metal or punk.

In those styles, everything is pretty much right on the beat — exact to the thousandth of a second. Some metal moves beyond that to being ahead of the beat.

Here’s how to think of all this: 1) Ahead of the beat: Nazis jacked up on meth and running meth labs in Kingman or Fresno, or half-a-block down from yours truly in years past (about 15 years ago, I came home one afternoon to find DEA agents in flak jackets and bearing automatic weapons busting a lab in the apartments across the street) — ahead of the beat is simply frenetic; 2) On the beat: common rock or 4/4 country — excited, but nothing to get excited about here folks, nothing to see, move along (please!); 3)  Anything behind the beat: Ah yes! Relax, groove into it. Enjoy it!

The best example of behind-the-beat playing I can think of is James Brown’s 16-minute masterpiece, “Papa don’t take no mess,” off of his otherwise awful “Hell” CD. Everyone playing on that tune is way behind the beat.

The best example of yours truly playing behind the beat is on the first Pinche Blues Band EP, with the cut Postal; I’m way behind the beat (on guitar), as is everybody else.

And do it yourself. It ain’t all that hard. Just find a tune where the musicians are playing behind the beat, and imitate it.

Seriously, it really isn’t all that hard: All you need to do is to play at the last moment you can stand it, just before it’d be wrong.

Enjoy! Make it funky, y’all. Or as Jones would say, “Whoa!” (If you’ve never read A Confederacy of Dunces, you’re in for a treat.)


It’s been a while since we put up an installment in our ongoing “interesting an marginally useful internet crap” series. Well, wait no more. Hold onto your hats and enjoy. We’ll start with the mind-bogglingly sick:

  • Let’s says you’re a religious organization with a history and ongoing problem of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. How do you deal with it? Well, the first step is easy: you continue to present yourself as a paragon of virtue, the ultimate moral authority. But beyond that? If you’re the Catholic Church, you transfer the problem to another parish. If you’re evangelical, you forgive the transgressor and welcome him back (and keep sending him “prayer offerings” or voting for him) as long as he says he repents — never mind his actually doing anything about his transgressions. (Among innumerable examples, see former U.S. Senator David “Diaper Man” Vitter and Jim “Weasel Jesus” Bakker.)
  • But what do you do about abuse if you’re the squeaky clean Mormon Church? Let’s say your clergy (in most cases bishops) get requests from wives for counseling about violent physical abuse from their husbands? What to do? If you’re a Mormon bishop, the answer is obvious: tell the women that the abuse is their fault, that they should stay in the abusive relationship, and that if they leave they’re risking their eternal salvation.
  • Speaking of creepy things Mormon, it’s a normal practice in that church for grown men, Mormon bishops, in one-on-one “worthiness” interviews, to grill and shame prepubescent and pubescent boys and girls about their sexual fantasies and masturbation. Lately, victims of this abuse have recorded some of these disgusting sessions and have then taken the recordings to a Mormon whistleblower site, Protect LDS Children, where they’ve been posted online. The Mormon hierarchy’s response? Are they ending this horrible, abusive practice? Nope, far from it: they tried to get the Utah legislature to change the state’s wiretapping law so as to prohibit the recording of the invasive interviews.
  • And while we’re on the topic of disgusting things . . . Donald Trump. (Apologies to Steven Colbert for stealing that joke.) Trump famously bragged that he could kill someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and get away with it. We’d go further: Donald Trump could strangle a dog and then sodomize its corpse on national TV, and his followers would praise him for it, speaking admiringly of how “out of the box” and what a “different kind of president” he is. So, even though Trump’s minions seem immune to reason and allergic to objective reality — in fact, they seem proud of being willfully ignorant — if you have friends or relatives who are Trump supporters but don’t yet have that glassy-eyed, thousand-yard stare, you might point them in the direction of “101 Ways Donald Trump has Betrayed his Populist Agenda.”
  • As well, James Risen, the former New York Times journalist Obama’s “justice” department came close to jailing in Obama’s anti-whistleblower jihad, has a lengthy, highly detailed and well worth reading series on The Intercept titled, “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?
  • While we’re on the topic of assholes, Deadspin recently put out its annual post compiled from emergency room reports, “What Did We Get Stuck In Our Rectums Last Year?
  • In the “please, please, tell me this isn’t true” category, a right-wing Swiss politician, Daniel Regli, has blamed gay suicides on “incontinence due to weakened anal muscles” rather than on homophobia, discrimination, and gay bashings.
  • We can’t think of a good transition to this one, so we’ll just say that for once an Onion piece is not only amusing but has useful and timely information: how to delete your Facebook account.
  • If you’d like some good news (yes, there actually is some), TechXplore has a short article explaining energy-source economics, “Fossil fuels blown away by wind in cost terms“; the piece also covers photovoltaics in addition to wind.
  • Finally, every now and then a news item just makes you want to smile. The BBC recently published such an item: “South African lions eat ‘poacher’, leaving only his head.” The BBC quotes Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe as saying of the victim, whose head was found next to a loaded hunting rifle, “They ate his body, almost all of it, leaving only his head and some remains.”

And, other than saying Bon appetit! . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig