Monday, February 8, 2016

Donald Trump is a Political Necromancer With an Army of Right-wing Zombies Under His Command

Donald Trump is a political cult leader. In that role, he is also a political necromancer, beating a drum of nativism and fear to control the right-wing political zombies that follow him.
The Republican Party’s base of voters is rapidly shrinking. Contemporary conservatism is a throwback ideology that is unpopular with a large and growing segment of the American public. The result of these two factors is a Republican Party and American conservative establishment that is under threat, obsolescent and in a deep existential crisis.
These are the conditions that have catapulted Donald Trump to the forefront of the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Trump’s most strident supporters are found among the alienated, disaffected, fearful, white working class. This is a cohort whose members are facing greatly diminished life chances in an age of globalization, extreme wealth inequality, neoliberalism and a reduction in the unearned material advantages that come as a result of white privilege. As recent research by public health experts, sociologists, economists and others has detailed, the white American working class and poor are, quite literally, dying off. They are killing themselves with pills and alcohol, committing suicide with guns, and dying of despair.
For many decades, if not centuries, racism (and sexism for white men) artificially buoyed the life prospects of the white working class in American society. With those palliatives and aids removed, the white working class and poor are left exposed and vulnerable to the realities of the American neoliberal nightmare and the culture of cruelty. They are ill-equipped for life in this new world.
Donald Trump knows that a crisis is an opportunity: he is transforming the fear and anxiety of the white American working class into political capital and energy.
To that end, Trump is leveraging what social psychologists have termed “terror management theory.” If “Trumpmania” is a puzzle, then terror management theory is a decoder ring or cipher. In many ways, the logic of terror management explains almost all of Trump’s popularity.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Forget the "Lanes" in Iowa, We Should be Talking About the Republican Party's Highway to Hell

The Iowa caucuses were a bump in the road for Donald Trump’s presidential primary campaign. Trump, a man who is always a “winner,” finished second. Marco Rubio, the so-called establishment Republican candidate, landed in third. Ted Cruz, a theocrat firebrand for the Christian right, emerged as the winner.
Iowa’s Republican voters essentially split their support equally among the three leading candidates.
The political chattering class is largely obsessed with the “horse race” aspect of the Iowa caucuses (which historically have not done a very good of predicting the eventual Republican presidential nominee) and what the results there portend for New Hampshire and beyond. The dominant narrative is that the winnowing process has begun and that Trump, Cruz and Rubio represent three distinct parts of the Republican Party’s electoral coalition. From this perspective, there are various “lanes” to the presidential nomination for the leading Republican candidates.
This is an important type of granular analysis. However, such a focus risks obscuring as much as it reveals about the Republican Party’s policies, specifically, and movement conservatism, more generally.
The Iowa caucuses ended in what is in essence a three-way tie with 4 percentage points separating Cruz (first), Rubio (last) and Trump. While the differences at the margins are important, this outcome indicates a Republican Party that is cannibalizing itself internally, where no clear front-runner had truly emerged, and whose candidates are largely much more alike than they are different.
“What have you done for me lately?” is one of the most basic questions that voters use to evaluate a politician. How voters answer, “What do you plan to do for me in the future?” is at least as important a decision rule.
A focus on the horse-race narrative and an obsessive parsing of the differences between the 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates—and the reasons for their varying levels of success in Iowa—is potentially very dangerous because it risks overlooking the extreme, radical and dangerous right-wing policy proposals that unite the field.
Almost all of the 2016 Republican presidential primary candidates share the following beliefs:

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Conversation With Tim Wise About the Color Line, White Privilege, Politics, and Life

Anti-racism activist, author, and scholar Tim Wise is the guest on this week's edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Tim Wise is the author of numerous books including his most recent Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America. He is also the subject of a great new documentary called White Like Me.

Tim Wise is a great friend of the podcast and Chauncey's other online work. During this, his second sit down at the virtual bar and salon, Tim Wise does not disappoint.

Tim and Chauncey talk about maintaining balance and mental health even while they spend a great deal of time working on issues related to the color line, discuss Donald Trump and alienated white voters, how to deal with white racial fragility and deflection, and adding new tools to the metaphorical toolbox for talking with folks about questions of justice and human rights.

In this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey also talks about this weekend's Super Bowl, the Iowa caucuses, and how The New York Times' resident conservative "borrowed" his analysis of Trump and professional wrestling. Chauncey is also brought to bliss by a new soda discovery and shares some scary facts about the horrible state of food safety in the United States.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be downloaded from Libsyn and also listened to here. Chauncey DeVega's conversation with Tim Wise can also be "watched" on Youtube at this link.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher as well.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Why Do Cities Like Chicago Spend Millions and Billions Protecting Rogue, Thuggish, Incompetent, Killer Cops?

I am blessed by the company of the very smart and insightful folks who frequent this site. I am working on something longer about the issues discussed below, but I first wanted to ask for your thoughts and insights on the topic.

Several days ago, The Chicago Tribune ran a great piece on the city's corrupt cops, violence, and the money spent to protect the thugs in blue who have the State's permission to kill people of color, the poor, the working class, the mentally ill, and the broadly defined Other without consistent or real negative consequences.

A key passage from the story, "Small group of Chicago police costs city millions in settlements":
Officers Sean Campbell and Steven Sautkus were patrolling their quiet beat on Chicago's Southwest Side in April 2014 when they saw the driver turn without flashing his signal early enough. 
They stopped Jonathan Guzman, then 18, ordered him out of his car and cuffed him while they searched his Chevy Malibu. They were so thorough, Guzman alleged, that they used a drill to dismantle the sound system in the trunk. In the end, the officers found only a marijuana cigarette butt, worth $5. They charged Guzman with misdemeanor drug possession, wrote three traffic citations and impounded his Chevy. 
It wasn't his first encounter with Campbell or Sautkus, Guzman alleges. The two officers and several colleagues in the quiet Garfield Ridge neighborhood where Guzman lives had stopped him numerous times in recent years, he said, for minor traffic infractions or as he hung out in the community of tidy lawns, squat brick cottages and city workers.
The stops occurred so often that Guzman filed a lawsuit in 2014 alleging ongoing, racially charged harassment by the officers. The case was settled last year for $35,000.
Although the settlement was small compared with multimillion-dollar sums the city sometimes pays, a Tribune investigation found that it nonetheless represents a pernicious, stubborn problem: that of officers whose alleged misconduct, while perhaps minor, leads to legal settlements that eventually cost city taxpayers greatly. 
The city since 2009 has settled seven lawsuits against Campbell, a 17-year veteran officer. He ties for second among officers named in the most lawsuits settled by the city during those past six years, the Tribune's analysis of available data shows. His partner during the Guzman arrest, Sautkus, was named in four settled cases.
The Chicago Tribune continues:
Of the more than 1,100 cases the city settled since 2009, just 5 percent were for more than $1 million. Many of those involved fatal shootings, wrongful prosecutions and the sort of brutality allegations that have drawn the attention of the U.S. Justice Department, which recently launched an investigation into the Chicago Police Department's use of force. 
The bulk were settled for less serious incidents, including officers allegedly injuring arrestees during traffic stops, making false arrests, uttering racial slurs or other alleged misconduct while officers were off-duty. 
Still, those lawsuits cost the city millions of dollars, the Tribune's analysis shows, but underwent little scrutiny. A vast majority, 85 percent, were settled for $100,000 or less, which meant the deals did not require City Council approval. And Chicago officers accused of misconduct are rarely disciplined, data show.
Both are part of a small group of officers — just 124 of the city's police force of roughly 12,000 — who were identified in nearly a third of the misconduct lawsuits settled since 2009, suggesting that officers who engaged in questionable behavior did it over and over. The Tribune's investigation also found that 82 percent of the department's officers were not named in any settlements. Still, the conduct of those 124 officers cost the city $34 million, the Tribune investigation found.
I am a pragmatist and a realist. I also believe, like many others do, that politics is fundamentally about the management of resources and power to the advantage of some groups over others. That having been said, I am still struggling with why America's major cities would spend millions (and billions over time) to protect murderous, rogue, thug cops. Could not the same level of social control be accomplished far more cheaply, and with far less negative attention, than what is done by subsidizing killer cops?

Of course, these monies could be better spent on schools, job programs, healthcare, and other outputs, outputs that collectively do far more to reduce crime than the punishing and punitive state. Please share. What am I missing in my calculus? How do you make sense of this apparent puzzle?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

David Brooks, Donald Trump, Professional Wrestling, and Me

Back in August I wrote a piece about Donald Trump and professional wrestling at Salon. I am not the only person to have made the connection between Trump and the theater and spectacle of the action inside the squared circle. But in the last few weeks, more folks, in even more prominent places, have been "borrowing" from my argument in some pretty direct ways. There are few truly original ideas. However, there are ideas that are more original than others.

Imitation is flattery. Yes. But am I overreacting and this is all just mere coincidence of like minds connecting through the ether?

David Brooks has a new editorial on Donald Trump. His narrative centers itself on professional wrestling. One of his observations:
This is an anxious and angry nation. Many people have lost faith in its leadership. Somewhere in his marketer’s brain Donald Trump intuited that manners are more important than laws and that if you want to assault the established powers you have to assault their manners first. 
By shifting the cultural language Trump initiated a new type of culture war, really a manners war. He seemed fresh, authentic and resonant to a lot of people who felt alienated from the way elites govern, talk and behave. 
Professional wrestling generates intense interest and drama through relentless confrontation. Everybody knows it’s fake at some level, but it is perceived as fake and real at the same time (sort of like politics). What matters is not so much who wins or loses, or whether you are good or evil, but the aggressiveness by which you wage each mano-a-mano confrontation. 
Trump brought this style onstage at the first Republican debate, and a thousand taboos were smashed all at once. He insulted people’s looks. He stereotyped vast groups of people — Mexicans and Muslims. He called members of the establishment morons, idiots and losers. 
Trump was unabashedly masculine, the lingua franca of pro wrestling. Every time he was challenged, he was compelled by his code to double down the confrontation and fire back. 
Social inequality is always felt more acutely than economic inequality. Trump rose up on behalf of people who felt looked down upon, made them feel vindicated and turned social conduct on its head. 
But in Iowa on Monday night we saw the limit of Trump’s appeal. Like any other piece of showbiz theatrics, Trump was more spectacle than substance.
You tell me. Is imitation the highest form of flattery? Or am I overreacting? It is good to know that one's arguments are circulating in the ether. However, it is also nice to receive acknowledgement as one of the wellsprings from with they flow.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Donald Trump in Iowa and Beyond: The Professional Wrestler, The Confidence Man, and The Magician

The political chattering classes are all aflutter today. The Iowa caucus is the first big dance of the presidential campaign season. They have prognosticated, analyzed, theorized, and found new ways to say the same things ten times. Ultimately, the political chattering classes are in it for the horse race. Alas, if an accident occurs at the track and a horse has to be shot then so be it. The whittling down of the field is the whole point of the contest.

The competition between Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is one of idealism versus political pragmatism and realism. Both candidates are acceptable. Neither would truly bring ruinous destruction to the United States.

By comparison, the Republican presidential primary candidates are a human zoo. If the 2016 Republican primary season has been a nadir in modern politics, its stars are political brutes and freaks, one ever the worse than the other. They are a hydra that does not cooperate; instead the Republican Party's political monsters attack and bite each other while their public, the propagandized Fox News zombie, lets forth guttural noises that too many foolishly confuse with intelligent speech.

And of course, Donald Trump is sits at the center of the Republican spectacle; he is the master of ceremonies at the monsters ball.

Donald Trump has many faces. He is a political cult leader. Trump's performance also borrows from professional wrestling.

[As I wrote about some months ago, Donald Trump is a professional wrestling "heel", a world champion who has gone into business for himself, refusing to drop the belt to the designated "face" challenger.]

Trump's oeuvre has other inspirations as well.

He is a Mark Twain-like version of the 19th century American "confidence man".

In that role, Factcheck.org has given Trump the dubious distinction of being "King of the Whoppers":
It’s been a banner year for political whoppers — and for one teller of tall tales in particular: Donald Trump. 
In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen his match. 
He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong...But Trump topped them all when he claimed to have seen nonexistent television coverage of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 — and then topped himself by demanding that fact-checkers apologize for exposing his claim as fantasy. And that’s only one example. 
Here we’ve assembled, as we do every year at this time, a generous sampling of the most far-fetched, distorted or downright fallacious claims made during 2015. 
In past years, we’ve not singled out a single claim or a single person, and have left it to readers to judge which whoppers they consider most egregious. 
But this year the evidence is overwhelming and, in our judgment, conclusive. So, for the first time, we confer the title “King of Whoppers.”
Trump is also a professional con artist who greatly exaggerates his success as a businessman (inheriting and losing vast sums of money from one's father is an indicator of luck and entitlement not genius acumen). His lies about "knowing how to win" and his "greatness" are a version of the con artist tricks such as the "pigeon drop", "rain making", or the "fiddle game" for the Right-wing authoritarians who are attracted to such speech and imagery.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Semi-Open Thread: The Furries are in a Sexual Civil War While Sergey Kovalev Punishes Jean Pascal and the Japanese Get an Anime Inspired Stealth Fighter Plane

As is our habit and tradition, please do consider this our Sunday semi-open thread.

The Iowa caucuses are this week. This gives the commentariat something to talk about. I have little interest in the opinions of a small number of people in a sparsely part of the United States. Moreover, there is an on-going debate about how and if success in Iowa is predictive of a given candidate being their respective party's presidential nominee. And to be honest, the political scientist part of my brain has never found campaigns and elections very interesting.

Ultimately, there are other matters that hold far more entertainment value for me on a rainy and 50 degree Chicago winter afternoon.

There is apparently a civil war of sorts within the online "furry" community about the relationship(s) between social media, harassment, sexuality, and comportment. Lovers of Tony the Tiger and Chester the Cheetah are not of the same mind. Tony is a bit of a prude it seems; Chester is a cheesy, sticky, dirty boy. Sometimes, I just have to smile and admit that I love these Internets and how they have provided a space for folks to fly their freak flag.

What follows are two of my favorite paragraphs in recent memory. From Slate:
In 2014, Salon called furry culture a “craze,” though it’s more like social media and a burgeoning convention scene has helped it become more visible to people outside its limits. In earlier years, furries had to be deeply committed to the scene to even find it; now that it’s mainstream accessible, it can be a casual hobby or one-time-only affair. It’s not a fetish, some furries told Buzzfeed in 2014—it’s a community, and a community that thrives online. Tony Tiger-gate is what happens when that community grapples with its own definition and its members’ diversity of opinions on respectability, protest, and degree of public sexuality.

It’s easy to see why furries landed on Tony as a favorite “daddy”: He’s got a hulking upper body, a catchphrase perfect for sexual wordplay, and a red hanky that’s flagging for fisting partners. Chester is a different kind of dreamboat: a wily sleazeball with ‘90s-era sneakers and cheese all over his fingers. But to the willing go the spoils.
Remember, this is why ISIS and Al-Qaida hates America!

There was a boxing match last evening. Sergey Kovalev beat the hell out of Jean Pascal. This bout also had a great build up with Pascal lobbing accusations of racism at Kovalev. Sergey Kovalev is a very tough and bad man. I like him. After he brutalized Jean Pascal, he mocked him during the post fight interview, explained that he punished Pascal for being disrespectful, and said that Pascal was not a real man. Sergey Kovalev is Ivan Drago from Rocky IV...except he keeps winning.

The Japanese have a "new" "stealth" fighter plane. And double cool points, the X-2 looks like its designers were inspired by Gatchaman or Gundam. The Americans will soon have Star Wars stormtrooper inspired battle armor. The Japanese draw on their manga and anime roots. Will the Mexican military and police have luche libre inspired uniforms and training?

[Random professional wrestling factoid. Che Guevera was rumored to be a huge fan of Mexican professional wrestling and ordered his commandos to be trained in that style of "combat".]

I love shilling for great podcasts. If you are a serious fan or aficionado of hip-hop culture--or popular music, more generally--you should be listening to Combat Jack. His interviews with hip-hop legends DJ Kool Herc and DJ Red Alert are graduate level Hip-Hop Studies seminars. Combat Jack also has a 3 hour conversation with Ice T. Again, amazing storytelling about the early years of hip hop, gang culture, "crossing over", Hollywood, and the music business. I was also reminded by Combat Jack's conversation with "Uncle" Luke Campbell that the latter is one hell of a businessman, all around smart person, and more of a "race man" than many of us suspected.

What interesting, curious, important, or other matters of public or private concern do you have to share?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Conversation With Filmmaker Sofian Khan About His Recent Movie "The Dickumentary"

Documentary filmmaker and writer Sofian Khan is the guest on this week's edition of The Chauncey DeVega Show. Sofian's films include The Dickumentary and his newest project The Interpreter.

During this fun and educational episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Sofian does some great sharing about the history of the penis, making The Dickumentary, and the interesting personalities he encountered while doing research on male genitalia. Chauncey and Sofian do some sharing about about the great Ron Jeremy, porn, male insecurity, circumcision, and the man who supposedly has one of the largest penises in the world.

In this week's episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show, Chauncey also talks about the New England Patriots' playoff loss, last week's WWE Royal Rumble, and the Feds taking down the Bundy Brigands. Chauncey also shares some interviews with racist--and very honest--Donald Trump supporters that were featured in a very revealing CNN story.

This episode of The Chauncey DeVega Show can be downloaded from Libsyn and also listened to here. It can also be "watched" on Youtube at this link.

The Chauncey DeVega Show is available on Itunes and at Stitcher as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More Fun With Sharing Right-wing Hate Mail: Be Very Weary of Fox News' Little Eichmanns

I am in the process of editing the podcast and working on some new essays that I will be sharing here and elsewhere. I also have a very compelling bit of news analysis that offers a great insight into "Trumpism" from the perspective of one of America's greatest social scientists. I am very surprised said intervention has not gotten the attention it deserves among the talking head commentariat smart people types.

As friends and fans of the site know, I love to share some of the angry, bitter, grumpy, and at times funny emails I receive from white supremacists and conservatives (to the degree they are different in today's American political culture).

The Right-wing sewer Twitchy is upset about my recent essay at Salon where I state in plain and direct terms that the GOP and its candidates should finally call Obama the racial slur that they have publicly spoken around for years. Apparently, for me to say such a thing has given some conservatives a case of the sads. The truth hurts.

I am sharing the following email for purposes of analysis, mockery, and laughter. What follows is an ideal typical example of "polite" white supremacy where racism and bigotry is somehow justified if people do not treat a given racially resentful white (or white identified) conservative in a manner that satisfies them. There is also lots going on here with the cognitive map and life worlds that are created and nurtured by the Right-wing news entertainment hate media among those who are stuck in its epistemically sealed chamber.

The mouth-bloviating and raging conservative is a beast to be avoided, made fun of, and shamed. The sincere Right-winger--one whose tone seems sincere--is a more pitiable and pathetic soul. I would not call them "victims" per se, but there is something sad about them. And in many ways their sincerity (and more likely than not decent behavior in other areas of life) make them the most dangerous foes of the Common Good. "Kind" and "reasonable" movement conservatives are Fox News' "little Eichmanns". Be very wary of them.

****

I was trying to understand what you wrote in Salon about Republicans wanting to refer openly to President Obama as the N Word. There were a couple of discrepancies in the article I wanted to point out.

First off, you claim that referring to him as a child or being childish is racist, but yet the article you linked to did not say that. It clearly stated that the term boy was used as a racist insult and I am thinking we all can agree on that. Those candidates did not refer to Obama as "boy"-they said he acted childish. How is this racist? Can one not refer to how a black person acts as childish without being perceived as racist? We are all capable of acting childish and it has nothing to do with one's race.

Second, I'm no birther but I am fairly certain that the origins of birtherism had to do with his father being Kenyan and the fact that up until well after Obama was elected he offered no proof of his country of birth. In 1991, one of his publishers stated that he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia-and nothing was ever done to correct this claim. In addition, Ted Cruz is now subject to attacks about his status as a natural born citizen. So how is this line of attack only meant as an attack against blacks to show they aren't "real Americans"? Is Ted Cruz black?

If you don't know it, there are a fair amount of white Americans who'd like nothing better to get along with all of our peers no matter what color their skin is or what religious background they hail from. And yes, some of us are Republicans who don't like Obama much at all. Whether you believe it has anything or nothing to do with his ethnicity is up to you; I know why I don't care for him and don't have to prove it to anyone.

With that said, it makes it REALLY hard to get along and treat each other well when some people throw out blanket accusations against people they don't know based only on specious reasoning and a feeling that someone means something other than what they say. Perhaps less rush to judgment and more intellectual honesty on your part would help us all to find some common ground. That is, if that's what you want in life. If not, don't be surprised by how people react to you.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Fascism Set to So-Called Music: 'The Official Donald Trump Jam' is No Laughing Matter


Donald Trump has been gifted with a theme song for his 2016 presidential campaign.The Official Donald Trump Jam is sung by a Pensacola, Florida-based children’s singing and dance troupe called The USA Freedom Kids.

The song is a failure on both aesthetic and musical grounds.

Rolling Stone was spot-on in its mockery of The Official Donald Trump Jam:
The surreal, saccharine song boasts the finest in Midi drum loop technology and a pulsing synth melody that Blondie might want to consider taking to court… The crowd was suitably enthralled and jazzed by the performance. In fact, approximately 52-seconds in, a woman in the second row was thrown into such a patriotic fit that she — bless her heart — started clapping on beats one and three.
The song is horrible. But the political vision it signals is no laughing matter. Humor is a universal human experience. However, what a person finds humorous, entertaining, or pleasurable—and how they choose to express those feelings—is shaped by specific social, political, and cultural practices.

The Official Donald Trump Jam’s superficial embrace of empty “Americana” is easily mocked by liberals and progressives (beyond any questions of personal taste) because it signals to a vacuous myth-making about the past and present that they have rejected.

In the United States, conservatives are much more likely to embrace Americana and a belief in “American Exceptionalism.” As a political value system, conservatism reveres and embraces the past. In most political contexts, conservatives are typified by their authoritarian personalities. Together, those elements generate a deep anxiety and hostility toward social change.

Due to a combination of brain structure, insular news media and information sources, child rearing practices, and other cultural habits, American conservatives have constructed their own alternate reality. Phrases such as “red state,” “blue state,” and the “purpling” of America are not empty talking points for the political chattering classes: Said language captures a real social and political phenomenon.