Q: Where Do Trump Votes Come From?

2-Minutes-Hate-1984-Movie

This is a biology question  – not a sociology or demographic one – and I’ll give you a hint: it isn’t the neocortex. Some people have accused Trump supporters of lacking in brains, but I think that’s unfair. Trump voters have brains, but those (later, primate) areas involved in reason, advanced learning, and analytic thought are somehow disconnected from the (earlier on the evolutionary scale) parts of their brains that generate aggression, hate, and fear.  So whence Trump votes?

the limbic system

A: The Limbic System

The limbic system is a convenient way of describing several functionally and anatomically interconnected nuclei and cortical structures that are located in the telencephalon and diencephalon. These nuclei serve several functions, however most have to do with control of functions necessary for self preservation and species preservation. They regulate autonomic and endocrine function, particularly in response to emotional stimuli. They set the level of arousal and are involved in motivation and reinforcing behaviors. Some of these regions are closely connected to the olfactory system, since this system is critical to survival of many species.

Hark, I smell a Trump!

steadman draws trump

Coming soon: A Combover in the Crowd (Fear and Loathing on the Trump Trail, Part I).

Steve Jobs – Villain or Villain?

Steven PaulSteveJobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011)

How do I hate thee, Steve Jobs? Let me count the ways.

Yes, I know it’s his birthday – Jobs would have turned 60 today – and therefore churlish, but let  me count them anyway. I’m four years too late to send him an exploding cake.

exploding cakeMost Jobs haters would start with the fact that he was a complete prick: he screwed over his business partners, fucked over his handful of friends, refused to acknowledge paternity of his first daughter and support her until forced, engaged in a felonious stock swindle because his sorry entitled ass hadn’t been feeling “special” lately, and made his employees feel both unappreciated at work and miserable at home for no reason other than Jobs’s own need to feel powerful and important. Apple products would have been just as successful – possibly more so – with half the mishegoss and none of the sociopathology.

A recent just-okay documentary and a hyperventilated feature (by Danny Boyle) portrayed these and Jobs’s other personal transgressions reasonably well, but none of that matters to me in the least. I didn’t work for Steve Jobs or know him personally, so his prickness is water cooler gossip – nothing more – and doesn’t make me “think different” about the products he supervised and marketed. Things that do matter (because they have impact beyond one businessman’s inner circle) include the following: an already rich Apple used virtual slave labor in China to make a rich Jobs and the company’s rich stockholders exponentially richer; Apple shipped countless other jobs overseas that could have stayed home, again to make the filthy rich filthier; Apple (and Jobs personally) used tax dodges and other morally indefensible behavior to make sure the United States government and its people enjoyed sparse benefit from this made-in-America company’s success.

Some of the the above, fairly standard Robber Baron stuff (worthy of a lesser Koch brother, Bill maybe) wouldn’t bother me as much if Jobs hadn’t pretended to be this real spiritual dude, an acid-dropping hippie dude, the Sad-Eyed Dylan of the Microchips. No, Steverino, you weren’t any of those things. You weren’t even an inventor, man. You were just Henry Ford in designer jeans. And, for a few years – the NEXT years, after the Board of Apple sent you into exile – you were Edsel Ford in Target-wear.

think_different_2-wallpaper-1280x800A lot of business guys – even narcissistic possible sociopaths such as Jobs – would settle for Henry Ford on a casual Friday with unimaginable wealth, but not the guy who used to pass out hand-written Dylan songs to potential girlfriends as if to say: “See, this is who I really am.” No, Steve, that is who Bob Dylan was and is and who you never could be.  You were a little better at writing code than song lyrics, but not by much. And you don’t belong in a photo alongside important people of history – some of whom were geniuses – any more than whoever is currently president of McCann Erickson.

apple cartoon

One of the worst things about Steve Jobs’s delusion that he was a creator, a visionary, a genius on a par with his Much Betters and More Importants was that he persuaded so many others … mostly young people … to share it. Thereby cheapening (possibly forever) the idea of what it means to be those things. And popularizing the notion that you can acquire them – and just about any quality, really – through the purchase of the right technology. You can download creativity. Sample vision. Remix yourself into a genius. At least for a moment. In your own mind. And on your screensaver.

think different

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been an Immigrant?

The correct  answer to the above question, at least if you’re Ted Cruz – who I now believe will be the GOP nominee when all is said and Trump is done – is “yes, sir, I am  an immigrant, but don’t tell anybody, k?” And The Donald is finally factually correct about something – besides, of course, his ratings in the presidential polls, he’s on that shit – Ted Cruz is not a “natural born citizen” and is thereby disqualified to become President of the United States. Or, as I like to call it, Ted Cruz’s adopted home.

NaturalBornCitizenClauseWatch the strict constructionists spin this one … well, “natural born” could mean a whole lotta things, you know? Just like strict constructionists – faced with the need to please rightwing sponsors and a Higher Power called the NRA – decided  that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” must’ve been a misprint and the 2nd Amendment actually confers an inviolable individual right to bear arms. All arms, apparently, up to and including AK-47s, mortars, and nuclear suitcase bombs.

In the present instance – Cruz was born in Canada – purist jurists and the GOP will deconstruct the Constitution to add words such as “born outside the United States but to an American citizen.” Just like they added the words “or in a military hospital in Panama” when John McCain was the GOP nominee. Or, even farther back, when Barry Goldwater (who was born in Arizona before it became the 48th state) ran for President and they added the words “or in a Territory of the United States.”

See how strict constructionism works? When the Constitution works in favor of the political positions you already hold, you declare it the ultimate and only authority and leave it alone. When it works against your politics, you can add words or take out words to make the Constitution the ultimate and only authority.  And the best thing is that you don’t have to physically change the words of the Constitution – through the Amendment process – you can just pretend the words are there. And be “strict” about it.

And how funny is it that the crowd who gave us eight years of Birther Bullshit is now poised to nominate its third national candidate who is not Constitutionally qualified to be President AND has the birth certificate to prove it? But if you’ve watched one of the GOP debates this year … or tuned into FOX news lately or should I say ever? … you know what I’m just learning: that the Republican Party is now ENTIRELY populated by voters who are a) capable of believing almost any fool thing if it confirms their preconceived notions and satisfies them emotionally; and b) incapable of believing anything that is evidence-based and demonstrably true. Has the GOP  been kidnapped and brainwashed to become a sort of Manchurian Candidate programmed to assassinate American intelligence and reason?

scarecrow pistolI finally got around to watching the last GOP so-called debate and all I can say is: “Lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!” It was this debate that convinced me Ted Cruz is going to win the nomination and that Donald Trump will be happy to support him, despite the fact that Trump is the one who most recently pointed out that Cruz is not qualified. But what’s a little thing like a Constitution between political allies?  Not to mention that Trump – if he doesn’t let Teddy slide – might have to also advocate building a wall between us and Canada “to keep all the Cruzes out.”

And here’s what I think Candidate Cruz will campaign on … after he gets done providing lip service to Job Creators, Bad Taxes and Badder Regulations, Making America Great again post-Kenyan, and putting Jesus in charge of the Fed … the creation of a new HUAC. Only he will change the name from the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee to the House on UnAmerican Assimilation Committee. The new HUAC will investigate everyone even suspected of being an immigrant – except Ted himself, of course, and possibly Marco Rubio’s parents – and will hold them, among other things, in contempt of English, in support of ISIS, and guilty of working three minimum wage jobs a week that natural-born Americans have all turned down.

Hmm … where have I seen this guy before?

Cruz McCarthy 423

The Party of Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is today, was the first Republican President. The party that for more than a century afterward became known as the “Party of Lincoln” did not exist when Lincoln was born. It was founded – six years prior to his receiving its nomination – by Horace Greeley and other abolitionists in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and to prevent the spread of slavery into new states and territories.

Abraham Lincoln is widely considered by historians to be our greatest President, certainly our greatest Republican President. His only major competition on the greatest lists is FDR, who was a) a Democrat; and b) got to serve two more full terms than Abe. Lincoln is also the “favorite” President of the majority of Americans (i.e., winner of the People’s Choice Award), popular enough to be the subject of a Spielberg movie and countless other biopics, so popular his head is on both the penny and the five dollar bill. Show me the money!

Surprisingly, however, almost none of the current Republican candidates for the top office list Abraham Lincoln as their favorite President.  These days, among the Tea Party of Lincoln, he gets almost no love at all.

I suppose this might be due, in part, to a lingering resentment of our 16th President in certain parts of the South, deemed key to their election by GOP candidates as far back as Nixon in ’68 with his so-called Southern Strategy. Lincoln didn’t respect property rights and he insisted on calling the Civil War the Civil War instead of the War of Southern Secession. A lot of current Republicans also view the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution as egregious examples of judicial overreach and the work of Congresses that would have been well-advised to focus instead on budget deficits and putting pushy women in their place. Sorry, in two places … kitchen and bed.

So who are the favorite Presidents of the current leaders of the Party of Lincoln?

John Kasich’s favorite President is fellow Ohioan Warren G. Harding, who proved that public service didn’t have to prevent you from continuing to earn a good living. Recent dropout Chris Christie is a big fan of another Ohioan, William Howard Taft.

Jeb Bush’s favorite President is George Herbert Walker Bush and he hopes you’ll forget that he is also related to the other President W. Marco Rubio’s favorite President was Fulgencio Batista and he’s hoping to make Cuba the 51st state. The favorite President of failed candidate Paul Ryan is Ayn Rand … somebody break it to him now that Paul has more time to read. Ben Carson liked President Jesus. And the favorite of Donald Trump won’t take office until 2017 … President Donald Trump.

And that just leaves us Ted Cruz, the only candidate who lists Lincoln as his favorite President, but it isn’t Abe Lincoln, it’s some other Lincoln guy.

Which is maybe why that every time I see an elephant these days, he’s crying.

Tom Paine: Not Invited to the Tea Party

Thomas Paine (January 29, 1737 – June 8, 1809) – America’s 1st Democratic Socialist?

Contemporary America’s sunshine soldiers and Tea Party patriots like to occasionally drag out Thomas Paine quotes – accompanied by an airbrushed drawing of his ravaged, dour, pockmarked face – and pretend like Thomas Paine would have been their buddy if he’d only lived another 200 years. The quotes are usually along the lines of “no taxation without representation” and government “being a necessary evil at best.” Stuff like that. Never mind that Americans have taxation with representation (at least they did, before most of Congress and the majority of state legislatures got completely bought off by the filthy rich and the big corporations) and that the government Paine was usually talking about – in his Revolutionary propaganda pamphlets – was the government of England.

(They stop short of claiming Paine as a fundamentalist Christian, one of the founders of the Christian Nation, because … you know, The Age of Reason.)

The most vehement pretend-populists among American conservatives also like to talk a lot about “common sense” – sometimes ascribing their deep meditations on the subject to Thomas Paine or was it Thomas Jefferson? … somebody named Tom – and they like to say how common sense is the only qualification a person really needs to do this government stuff. The inference being, I suppose, that Joe the Plumber could have written the Declaration of Independence if he’d just gotten around to it and hadn’t been so busy doing real American work like unclogging toilets and drinking beer.

(Speaking of which, where is Joe the Plumber this election cycle? Shouldn’t Trump and Cruz and company be vying for his endorsement to go along with Sarah’s? Is he Joe the Senator now and nobody told me? Is he the Fox News American history correspondent?)

But I don’t want you to think I have anything against plumbers … when my drain is clogged, they’re the first people I call … I don’t just stop some guy off the street at random and pay him to fix it. Because knowledge and experience actually do count for something. And you need more than common sense to unclog a drain. Uh-oh, does that fancy opinion make me an “elitist”? Sacre bleu, does it make me French?!

Let’s consider this common sense stuff a moment longer … what dictionaries say it is, what some folks mean when they say it, and what Thomas Paine meant. Here are three general dictionary definitions of common sense:

  1. The ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions.
  2. Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
  3. Sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.

You get the idea and I think you’ll agree with me that when Sarah Palin or Trump or Cruz or some other pseudo-populist Republican talks about common sense, their idea most closely resembles definition 3 and they broaden its application to just about everything. All that book learning just screws you up. Messes with your common sense. We were all born knowing more than Barack Obama. And Trump was born knowing more than everyone else.

When Thomas Paine used the term common sense, however, he was mostly referring to definition 2 and he was also joining a philosophical discussion that dates back as far as Aristotle. And the judgment that Paine thought common sense would assist his fellow Americans in reaching (based on a simple perception of the situation and facts) was that Britain was in violation of the Colonists “natural rights” and, not to put too fine a point on it, had to go.  I hasten to add, however, that Paine believed there was a learning curve attached to simple perceiving and that it was necessary to use your brain to reason your way toward a conclusion. You couldn’t just “know” stuff. You had to learn the situation and facts. You still had to think.

Based on this analysis, I conclude that, if Thomas Paine’s drain had ever been clogged, he would have called a plumber (i.e., someone with specialized knowledge and training). Maybe Joe the Philadelphia Plumber in waistcoat and powdered wig.  Which I guess makes Paine an elitist. And possibly means he is French.  He did, after all, journey to France to foment revolution there – Paine was sort of the Che of American liberty – but landed in prison and nearly ended up on the guillotine because he opposed the Reign of Terror.

Activists participate in a tax revolt rally in Santa Barbara, CaliforniaHere are a few more of Thomas Paine’s beliefs that would disqualify him from Tea Party membership.  I present them in no particular order and imagine that a few might come as a surprise, particularly if you think Paine was a no-tax nut or an antigovernment guy:

  • A maternity benefit for poor children that amounted to a kind of Head Start program
  • Public education for all up to and including higher education
  • Public assistance and training for young people seeking work
  • Health benefits for the poor
  • Other welfare programs that amounted to a guaranteed minimum income
  • Extensive veterans benefits, starting with veterans of the Revolutionary War
  • Social security (beginning at age 50, but people died earlier then)
  • Public burial (and we’re not talking a plywood pauper’s coffin in a kiln)

And how did Tom Paine propose that we pay for all this stuff? Uh, by taxes. Specifically by heavy taxes on the rich and propertied classes.  And, as far back as the American Revolution, Paine proposed a federal tax to pay for the war and its expenditures.

Thomas Paine had done his research on his “social agenda” for America – he’d thought long and hard about his ideas – but he also decided they made good common sense.

To which the Tea Partiers don’t have a whole lot to say … except maybe “Oops.”

That time I read a book

That time I read a book …

Then got in a heated discussion over coffee with three old friends about what the author meant. Then started another book. Then took a date to a play and talked to the actors after. And picked up fliers in the lobby for another friend’s production and one for the revival house showing German New Wave films. Then stopped at a used bookstore right before it closed and bought two more books. Then met six friends at a bar where we went to hear another friend sing. And everyone (including some people we’d just met) went back to the singer’s apartment and talked through the night.

That time before the internet and laptops and cell phones and TV on demand in your pocket. That time before men (and women) became islands.

That time when I still had a brain.

young people talking

Hey, Hey, NRA …

“Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?”

vietnam-protest-monument-ap691115062
A crowd of demonstrators gather at the Washington Monument for a rally to protest the Vietnam War on Nov. 15, 1969.

At the height of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, U.S. casualties numbered 11,000 to 16,000 per year. Gun homicides now account for 11,000 deaths per year in the United States. When you add in accidental deaths and suicide, you’re looking at over 30,000 plus gun deaths annually or more than half of the TOTAL U.S. casualties in Vietnam (58,220).

During the Sixties, there were widespread, continual, and quite large protests against the Vietnam War. And the protestors had no problem assigning blame where it belonged: on U.S. Presidents and our other political leaders who supported the War. Along with corporations such as Dow Chemical, who supplied the napalm and other weapons of war.

The young protestors weren’t polite. They accused Lyndon Johnson and other American officers of murder and it got to LBJ , cost him sleep, was a major factor in his deciding not to seek a second elective term. Nobody wants to be called a baby killer.

WayneLaPierrewithrifles

Wayne LaPierre is a baby killer. So are other advocates from the NRA gun lobby and their supporters in the general public. After the most recent Senate vote to defeat gun control legislation, Mitch McConnell has the future blood of children on his hands. So does Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Richard Shelby, Orrin Hatch, Max Baucus, and another 40 Senators who took contributions from the gun lobby to vote against the bill.

Not that their hands – and those of a myriad other Presidential aspirants, Congresspeople, and state and local politicians – aren’t already bloody enough. And let’s not forget the Roberts Supreme Court, which set two centuries of Constitutional precedent aside (google Justice Warren Burgher and “fraud” for context here) to please their political backers and friends. Blood is the new Black for Supreme Court robes.

So where are the pickets outside each of these politician’s offices? Outside NRA headquarters and its every branch? Outside the Supreme Court? Where are the rude signs and the ugly chants? Why haven’t we filled the streets of our bloodied cities with marchers?

When are we heading to Washington? How about next week? By then, only a few hundred more innocent Americans will have died from gun violence. By next month, only another nearly 3,000. Including, of course, kids.

And here’s the best part. If you defeat the politicians in the gun lobby, make their elective lives miserable, you also win on Planned Parenthood, climate change, criminal policing, raising taxes on the rich, and most of the other important issues. The men and women with gun blood on their hands are on the wrong side of those issues, too. And they’re also the ones who are always so anxious to send our young men and women off to die in foreign wars.

Young people, I’m staring right at you. You guys are always on the lookout for something fun and interesting to do. How about starting a Revolution? Or at least an organized, non-violent, protest movement to take America back from the gun lobby. Put down your cell phones and pick up signs. Get your exercise in the streets instead of at 24 Hour Fitness.

And it’s not like there are all these great jobs waiting for you. You got screwed there, too. By the same assholes who raised your tuition and jacked up your student loans. And, while you were busy ducking and covering or in lockdown, they stole your future and gave it to the rich.

C’mon, young folks, you can do it! And we old folks will help. With advice and guidance and funds. And we’ll join your marches, too. I promise. Limp along beside you.

Maybe it’s not time for another Revolution. Not quite yet. Maybe we won’t even need one if we do these other things. But it’s definitely time to hit the streets again. And not leave them until they’re safe.