Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bricks in The Wall

The general consensus among those of us who are vehemently opposed to Donald Trump’s coronation as our new Pharaoh has been that those who rabidly support him are either evil or stupid, or some combination of both.  Even though this analysis seems to fit, when looking at the body as a whole, our “better angels” have been whispering to us all along that maybe there’s something more to it.  While it’s somewhat comforting for us to think that we don’t belong to either of the described demographics, it is concurrently disconcerting to think that practically half of the population does. We don’t want to believe that.
A deeper examination of the phenomenon provides some relief when we first realize that Mr. Trump’s current approval rating, one week after he took office, is at 36% - if the “fake news” outlets we have previously depended upon for information are to be believed over the 140 character bulletins issued from the palm of the despot, himself. The fact that it’s not really “half” of the people is somewhat reassuring. Since it’s only the first “approval” poll, and given that not everyone polled actually voted in the election, it’s difficult to determine whether this figure represents an increase or decrease in his support since the election. But we’ll start with that as the foundation for this essay.

The first questions we must ask ourselves are “Who are the 36 percent?” and “What attracts them to a man that over half of America finds repulsive and dangerous?”
This is only an educated assumption, based upon personal observation of social media and reports from what has now been deemed “fake news,” but consider that at least 10% of them are simply going along with the crowd. Peer pressure. While they may answer to polls with approval, they don’t really care one way or the other, because they don’t think that government makes all that much difference in their lives. They just don’t want to be ostracized by their friends. Even though they may, in the course of conversation with their friends, be inclined to lean toward their friends’ perspectives, they refrain from initiating battle with the opposition through social media. These people need not be included among the hard-core supporters of Trump for this discussion; thus reducing those ranks to 32.4% of Americans.

Now comes those among the rabid supporters who are uninformed; too disinterested or lazy to look into the matter themselves; depending wholly on what they are told by their trusted friends and family members on all political issues.  “If Joe says Trump is the man for the job, then because I agree with Joe on other things, I agree with him on this.” This 10% of the overall 32.4% could, in fact, be considered “stupid,” rather than simply “ignorant” – not because of their strongly-held political opinions so much as the fact that they base them on nothing at all. Those political positions are quite often contrary to their own best interests and those of their families.  There remains a chance, however small, that these people will miraculously come to their senses once Trump’s policies begin to make discernible negative changes in their daily lives. However, it is more likely that they’ll continue to depend on those they consider to be better informed to tell them what they think, why their lives are actually getting worse, and who they support. So 3.24%: stupid.
We’re now left with 29.16% of American voters to categorize. “Stupid” has been assigned. So are all these people simply evil? There are still arguments to be made in defense of this charge, depending upon your definition of “evil.”

“Vindictive,” may be a better description for roughly half of them.  Think high school.  Studies of Political Socialization have shown the six agents with the most influence on the formation of our political opinions. They are, in order: Family, Schools, Peers, Mass Media, Political Leaders & Institutions, and Churches & Religion. Where do most of those agents converge for the first time in the lives of most Americans? While you may have had sufficient exposure to Family, Schools, Peers and Churches prior to then, you’ve only now come of age to pay any attention at all to Mass Media and Political Institutions.  You may have changed your position on matters since then, but high school is likely where you first gave some (possibly) serious thought to what kind of national government you wanted.
Bring up a mental picture now of your most enthusiastic Trump supporter; the guy who, without hesitation, assaults you for the opinions you express on social media with sophomoric taunts like “Snowflake,” “Suck it up, buttercup,” and “We won. Get over it!” (Or various, equally brash citations of the same message – usually displaying inadequate grammar and spelling skills.)  You’ll note that, even though your subject matter is concerning the performance of the president, in-office, this person will invariably respond from the perspective of a gloating winner of a contest. He/She will insist that your dissatisfaction is with losing the election and that you simply won’t accept the results.  Consider here that, perhaps, this person experienced what were perceived as great losses during these most formidable years. Never accepted into the “cool kids” clique because he was overweight or otherwise unattractive; because she came from a poor family who couldn’t afford fashionable clothing; was socially awkward due to mistreatment, even abuse, at home; not good at sports - or not good enough to satisfy a domineering father; lacking the intelligence to keep up, scholastically, and ridiculed by the mean kids who could. These are the kind of things that stick with some people through life. They grow up and see a man who – even though he physically represents every despised “winner” they ever encountered – claims to be acting on their behalf, forming a “union,” of sorts, of all those previously considered “losers” to make them winners just like him.  And they bite.

Or perhaps this was the school bully, who once had total power and control over his own domain, only to grow up and lose it all to the boss down at the factory. He wants it back so badly that he’s willing to do most anything to get it. He instinctively recognizes the bully in Trump (as-if that is difficult) and seizes the opportunity. He’s now among like-minded people who can actually appreciate the fine art of humiliating less fortunate human beings – something he always thought he did so well.  And he’s going to make others pay for those years he spent on the hot end of the poker.
The most popular kids in high school who became nameless faces in the crowd once they got to college, and then into the real world. The jock who wasn’t good enough to play at the next level. The Homecoming Queen who ended up marrying that older guy who hung around the pool hall on Main Street, selling a little weed to the school kids – because she was pregnant with his second baby and she managed to convince him that it was time. The president of the Future Farmers of America who realized too late that the plants in his post-high school farm really did need water instead of electrolytes. Resentful. Wanting again to belong to any group where they might have a chance to regain that status they so enjoyed. Here’s one. A big tent. There’s room. 

“Vindictives” = 14.16% of American voters. (If for no other reason than to get us back to a nice round number; 15% remains.)
Then, there were the “snobs.” Remember them? They actually did have everything going for them: looks, money, popularity.  They were most selective about who they allowed into their clique; and they didn’t change over the years. It carried through high school, into college, and then in their country clubs. They see in Trump the ultimate snob. Who else could they identify with? Snobs account for 10% of the remaining 15% of Americans; leaving 13.5%, and really screwing up the round number thing we had only just repaired.

“Wannabes,” aka “the bootstrap people,” make up a good chunk of the remainder, at 8.5% of Americans. (Fixed again.)  These are the people, regardless of whatever trauma they underwent in high school; and regardless of what advantages they had to begin with (daddy who could “loan” them money to get started, etc.), actually managed financial success. They have what they consider successful careers, nice houses and cars, positions of authority in their chosen professions.  While they are nowhere near the 1 percent in their financial portfolios, they’re so far ahead of that classmate who’s still pushing carts at WalMart that they feel like they are moguls. Wannabes come from all walks of life, including all of the categories above, so the 8.5% considers the overlap from those groups – except for “snobs.”  They are certainly snobs now, in the classic sense of the word, but they did not become such until they reached a certain rung on the societal ladder. Now that they are there, they will do everything within their power to keep those below them from catching up. These are the ones who complain so loudly about people on welfare and others living off the taxes they pay. Food, shelter, healthcare and human dignity aren’t “rights,” as far as they’re concerned – they must be earned. And people, of whatever creed and color, who are unwilling or unable to earn them should just wither and die, diminishing the burden of their kind on society. They have evil tendencies, but they can’t truly be considered evil, because they honestly believe that because they managed to make it this far, every other person, regardless of circumstance, should be able to do the same. Due to the fact that they feel like bigshot moguls, these bootstrappers mistakenly think the economic policies pursued by oligarchs like Trump will help them fight off those climbing the ladder beneath them. So their outlook is one derived from fear, rather than evil.  The Wannabe category includes preppers and survivalists who figure (hope) the end of civilization might as well come now, while they are better prepared to deal with it than most everybody else. It’s the natural progression of things. The law of the jungle. It shuffles the deck for them and those guys a few rungs up the ladder who keep kicking them back down.
The real 1%: the only people who will actually benefit in the long run from Trumpian policies. They don’t really fit into any other category. They simply are who they are. They have never known any other way of life, and there’s no way any of them are going to willfully abandon their ivory towers. They know they wouldn’t be able to exist outside. So in a way, theirs is a fight for their very survival.

Really evil? There’s only 4% left. There’s no excuse for them. They hate everybody who isn’t exactly like them (many who are) and are eager to see people suffer. Children, the sick and the elderly. It doesn’t matter to them.  Some of these people graduated from other categories to achieve full-blown evil. But it was in their DNA to begin with. They would have ultimately arrived here no matter what path they took. They are from bad seed.
So, there it is: Trump’s 36% broken down. It’s definitive. It’s mathematics. It can’t be disputed.

But, other than belonging to the 1%, does Trump himself cross over into any of the other categories? The answer may be bewildering to some. Trump, the man, doesn’t exist. He is merely the product of the imagination of the combined 36%; a cross section of all of them, manifested into the vulgar megalomaniacal creature with expensive suits and comical hair. He is the monster under our beds. The boogieman. And whether or not this carnation is able to succeed in destroying a once-great county, the soul of the monster will remain.

© Rick Baber, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

FOUR THINGS (Why Bart Hester is right)

In the early ‘70s I worked as a front-end loader operator on the overnight shift at a rock quarry. During planting season the place was open 24/7, mostly to crush and sell ag-lime. But there really weren’t that many trucks that came in after midnight so there was plenty of time to kill. A lot of that was spent in the scale house, playing cards, planning the perfect bank robbery, and telling lies with my best buddy, another heavy equipment operator named Slisher, and our guru – a bald headed welder we called Eli.
Through much philosophical discussion and introspective investigation, we arrived at the conclusion that there were only three things in the world that a man truly needed: beer, women and money; and, if a man had any two of these, he could easily obtain the third.

Now, in today’s world, this may come off as insulting to some, and even misogynistic. But I don’t think that word was yet invented then. If it had been, I’d never heard it; and if I had (being a teenager who ran a loader in an Arkansas rock quarry overnight in the early ‘70s – as previously revealed), I wouldn’t have cared. We all knew we liked the womenfolk.
In all the 45 years since those days, I have never had the occasion to sit down and re-examine this philosophy. Three things.

Now comes an Arkansas lawmaker named Bart Hester who has determined that there is a fourth necessity.  He’s introducing a bill into the legislature to provide a “Second Amendment Weekend,” allowing for the sale of guns without any state sales tax. Given that pretty much everything else in Arkansas is subject to sales tax – including food, clothing, used automobiles – it can only be assumed that ol’ Bart has identified guns as that fourth thing that all men must have to survive.
Guns? Who’dda thunk of that back in the day? That was a given. We all had guns. Everybody had guns! Once one guy had all the poker money; and we’d figured out how to get away with robbing a bank; there was nothing left to do but go out into the quarry and shoot stuff. Guns weren’t as dangerous back then as they are now, so it was OK. And we knew that little house where we kept the dynamite and blasting caps was bullet-proof, because we’d spent a whole OSHA-mandated weekend making it that way. So it was cool.

Thinking it over, though, Bart may have a point. Using the same rationale with which we arrived at our own philosophy, it does make sense. If you had a gun, you could get any of the other three necessities, the same way you could use any two from the previous list to get the third. So, the gun, it could be concluded, has more power than any of the original three items. With a gun, you could actually get anything you wanted without paying sales tax!
Food? Humbug! Sure, you need it to survive, but with a gun you can just go out and shoot you some food, like Jed Clampett. See, it doesn’t work the other way around. It’s almost impossible to take a gun away from somebody by using a pork chop. Believe me, I tried. And don’t get me started on peanut butter sandwiches.

Clothing? Walk into practically any apparel shop in the state holding a loaded hogleg and I bet they’ll give you anything you want … even a new belt so you can strap that bad boy on your hip when you walk back out. New jacket. Nice hat.
A used car? No problem! They do it in Little Rock all the time. Not one dime in sales tax! Hell, go ahead and get a new one. You can load it up with all the beer, money, and women you can haul, drive out to the rock quarry, and see if the boys in the scale house will let you play poker with ‘em!

Thanks, Bart. You’re a gem!

© Rick Baber, 2017

Monday, January 16, 2017

Horror has a Face. And it's orange.

Colonel Walter Kurtz, in “Apocalypse Now” has, years after his soliloquy, made it clear to me: the reason Donald Trump will be the next president. The plan was genius. So simple in its complexity. A work of art; a thing of beauty. 
They put forth a candidate who had, quite literally, so much going against him that there wasn’t enough time to spend on any one, or two, or seven of the potential scandals. And anyone who tried to keep up with them looked like a raging conspiracy theorist in the process. It's like a lawyer flooding you with so much information that you can't go through it all before you go to trial.

In order to keep this piece somewhat smaller than the Bible, let’s just look over the hundreds of merely tacky and distasteful actions from his pouty mouth and his Twitter account before the "Golden Shower" revelation (which would also have faded into the yellow cesspool) and go with just the really yuge stuff; the greatest stuff; the stuff that would have singularly derailed the campaigns of anybody else:

1.      Multiple rape allegations, including the rape of at least one 13 year old girl in 1995.

2.      The “grab ‘em by the pussy” comment, undeniably made on the video that everybody saw.

3.      Married to a Russian soft-porn actress. (3rd wife)

4.      Encouraging Russia to hack and publish Hillary Clinton’s emails.

5.      Refusal to pay countless contractors and others for services rendered.

6.      Funneling income into his charitable foundation to avoid paying taxes.

7.      Never releasing his tax returns because he was “under audit.”

8.      Saying John McCain wasn’t a war hero, because he was captured.

9.      Proposing to ban Muslims from the USA

10.   Encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies.

11.   Making fun of a disabled reporter at his rally.

12.   Bilking Trump University students.

13.   Pam Bondi

14.   Megyn Kelly

15.   Family ties to the Ku Klux Klan

Is there really any need to continue?

The Republicans deserved to win, because, as evidenced by the lengths they went to do so, they had the strength to carry it out. The country be damned. The winning was all that mattered.
Maybe I’m the only one who sees the Republicans’ determination in this quote from Colonel Kurtz. Here it is. You decide.

“ I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror... Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies! I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do! And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it... I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, my God... the genius of that! The genius! The will to do that! Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we, because they could stand that these were not monsters, these were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment! Because it's judgment that defeats us.”
(Thanks to IMDb for the quote.)                                 

“It’s judgment that defeats us.”

© Rick Baber, 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Mango and the Wolf

CNN is Chip Diller (Kevin Bacon), clad only in a diaper, assuming the position so Neidermeyer (Donald Trump) can tee up and take another swing at his sitting part. Every time the paddle lands, ol’ Chip responds with “Thank you sir, may I have another?!” Let’s put Wolf’s face on Chip.
Somehow, in this bizarro atmosphere in which we have been cursed to live, it is broadly accepted that “the media” has come to dictate politics in America. Put that thought on the face of a clock, at 12; and don’t worry about the fact that it belongs at 6 – or maybe even on that Russian clock over on the other wall.  As is the case with what alt-America believes about … pretty much everything … it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The first thing a wannabe dictator needs to do in order to control the populace is to hijack their sources of information and manipulate them to achieve his desired goals.  It’s almost as-if this first quarter of the 21st Century was custom made for such a thing. So easy a child could do it. Literally everybody has access to instant information, right in the palms of their hands. Wannabe Dictator, for the first time in history, now has the capability of transmitting his thoughts – no matter how wrong, incoherent, or drug-induced – directly to his potential subjects. The only thing that stands between him (let’s give this hypothetical character an appropriate face by naming him “Mango”) and total domination of the people is that entity, mentioned as numero uno in the Bill of Rights, called “the Press.”
The basic problem with “the Press,” from the perspective of Mango, is that they don’t always report what one wants to hear. By demonizing and discrediting them, Mango conditions his subjects to rely on him, and him alone, for their information; and he always tells them what they want to hear.  The first, and most important, thing he tells them is “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the truth except through me” – meaning anything said or written that doesn’t concur with what he has said, or what he wants the masses to believe, is simply false. A lie. He has told them before what they wanted to hear, and the Press has told them things they did not want to hear. Who do they chose to believe now? Their own first-person observations have shown them things before that they didn’t want to believe. Now here is Mango, telling them what they do want to believe. Him, or their lying eyes?  Problem solved.

And it comes to pass that minstrels write songs of the Mango’s achievements; and fables are told:
Outside, in the cold snowy night, the Wolf looks through the window into the warm fire-lit room, wondering why he’s locked out there in the blizzard, alone and hungry. He had done everything he could to appease Mango. He gave him every opportunity to speak. He put on the diaper and assumed the position while Mango gleefully swung the paddle; and he asked for another. Why now was he not tossed even a morsel of that feast being consumed by Mango and his soldiers, sitting upon their golden thrones, laughing and singing ballads of stars and bars, paper roses and red solo cups? A Cheeto, perhaps?  What, oh what had he done to deserve such treatment after his own inaction had been so instrumental in preparing this bounty for them?

Mango sees the Wolf peering through the window. With his tiny hand he picks up his golden shower-proof decree machine and his miniscule fingers go to work. In a moment, Mango opts to drop the machine in order to take hold of a female cat being carried by one of the dancing gypsy women beside him. The yellow rain falls upon the crowd and they dance the dance of the victors. Mango smiles and winks at the Wolf as a little blue bird lands upon the Wolf’s shoulder and whispers into his ear, “Wolf, you have no teeth. You had every chance to bite me…” Then the little blue bird flies away and another little blue bird lands upon the Wolf’s other shoulder and continues … “But you were either a coward or you had no …” And then that little blue bird flies away and yet a third little blue bird lands on the Wolf’s nose and continues … “…teeth. How can we respect you? Loser! Pathetic.”
And, finally, the Wolf realizes the error of his ways. He knows that he should have bitten the Mango when he had the chance! And he runs through the snow to warn the pack. But it’s too late now. He finds them in their den, listening to the little blue birds that are sitting upon their own shoulders. The Wolf tells his story. And the members of the pack look at their own decree machines and then back to the Wolf, shaking their heads. “It never happened,” they say, “So says the Mango, and so it is.” And they enjoy their own bounty of Cheetos and tangerines and carrots and pumpkin pie while the Wolf goes hungry.

The Wolf runs to his mountaintop and he howls through his toothless snout. But nobody hears him over the sounds of the construction of the wall by foreign men with hammers and sickles.
And it is nighttime in America. And the yellow rain falls upon us all.

© Rick Baber 2017

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nothing Rhymes with Orange. A poem.

Peepee and hookers

Hookers and pee

I grabbed her by that

And she squirted bigly

Peepee and hookers

Russian hookers and piss

They’ll surely try to make

A scandal of this

She peed on my head

And I peed on her back

I taught her to squeal

And she taught me to hack

With my fingers too short

To type on the keys

She called Uncle Vlad

And asked for help, please

He took off his shirt

And sent out his spies

To help his friend Donne

With an October surprise

Peepee and hookers

Hackers and reds

They make my hair yellow

When they pee on my head

But I owe lots of money

To Vlad and the boys

He thinks that it’s funny

And he gives me no choice

I’ll be his orange puppet

And he’ll pull the strings

Lest he leak to the Wiki

All my really sick things

Peepee and hookers

Got me now in a trap

At least that kid that I raped

Didn’t give me the clap

Peepee and hookers

University suits

Nazis and Klansmen

In black leather boots

Handicapped mocking

Big concrete walls

Wife still in the Tower

A Press with no balls

Three million voters

Disgruntled and scared

I pissed on them all

But my fans they don’t care

Now it’s me and Ivanka

In that big White House bed

Doing lines off the mirror

As if we were wed

Peepee and hookers

Caligula’s life

The boys run the business

Vlad talks to my wife

He’ll tell her just what

He wants me to do

And I’ll be tremendous

As I do it to you

Fake news and losers

They can’t bring me down

And I’ll go down in history

As Vladimir’s clown.

Peepee and Hookers

Brash talk and big bucks

No private server

Rednecks in trucks

Peepee and hookers

All coke and no beer

Big Oval Office

Four goddamned years
(c) Rick Baber, 2017