Crash and Bern: The 2016 Iowa Caucuses

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz crusied to victory in IOwa by Trumping Trump.

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz cruised to victory in Iowa by Trumping Trump.

Every four years, the Iowa Caucus allows Iowa to be just a little bit more than that Field of Dreams state. The 2016 Iowa Caucus was an interesting affair, to say the least.

First off, there was the not entirely unsurprising second-place finish of marmot-domed billionaire braggart Donald Trump. The Donald got thwomped fairly decisively by immigrant Ted Cruz, proving that the universe does indeed have a sense of humor. Trump’s defeat was predictable: his entire campaign has been long on foamy-mawed resentment but short on real-deal, right-wing meat and potatoes. The policies he’s mouthed – building a Mexican border wall; banning Muslim immigration, and shoring up Social Security for cranky old honkies – have ranged from the absurd to the frankly liberal, hence the disdain he’s engendered among GOP establishment Grand Poobas.

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American Conservatism’s Authoritarian Streak

A really big chunk of Americans really like to be told what to do.

A really big chunk of Americans really like to be told what to do.

What do you look for in a political leader? Do you value intelligence? Religious faith? Commitment to national security? An assertion of family values? Or, do you find yourself drawn to leaders that separate the weak from the strong; that promise to use all of their accumulated power to advance the interests of the U.S.A. as the most dominant country on earth? If you find yourself identifying with the former description, then you just might be attracted to the presidential campaign of a certain billionaire braggadocio with a gnarled squirrel on top of his noggin.

That’s right, of all of the qualities that have transformed Donald Trump’s presidential run from a seemingly Quixotic national experiment in the limits of extreme narcissism into a viable path to the White House, few are more important than his appeal to conservative voters’ authoritarian instincts. While not necessarily interchangeable, conservatism and authoritarianism go together like peas and carrots, like bread and wine, like trigger-happy white police officers and unarmed black dudes.

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The Ahistorical Anti-Government Ideology of the Bundy Militia

Ammon Bundy, a guy tasked with an incoherant, ahistorical ideology laced with the occassional legitimate grievance.

Ammon Bundy, a guy promoting an incoherent, ahistorical ideology laced with the occasional legitimate grievance.

It never should have come to this, but the cause of freedom doesn’t rests on its laurels. On January 2, 2016, a gaggle of armed, babbling Bubbas decided to re-launch the American Revolution by taking over the remote Malheaur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service administers the refuge, which is now serving as the unofficial Alamo of the Pacific Northwest for a loose collection of Far-Right Militia goonies who have decided to take a stand against the Federal Government, ostensibly to protest the incarceration of father-son ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond at the hands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Led by Ammon “Son of Cliven” Bundy, the Militia members have declared their intentions to occupy the refuge for multiple years, even as they evidenced a fair amount of short-term planning when their social media call for snacks got them boxloads of dildos instead and earned them the unflattering Twitter designation as “Y’all Qaeda.” But for all of the media attention that Bundy’s antics have garnered, the real issue at hand here isn’t the Hammonds’ imprisonment, it’s the ahistorical ideology behind the modern Militia movement itself, a movement that operates under a bizarro world interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that renders any legitimate grievances the movement has with the Federal Government difficult to take seriously.

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Trump and the Revenge of the Middle-American Radicals

Donald Trump greets a mob of deranged Middle-American radcials in Alabama, a state where crazy is a prerequisite for political office.

Donald Trump greets a mob of deranged middle-American Radicals in Alabama, a state where crazy is a prerequisite for political office.

American politics has always stood as the ultimate confirmation of the notion, roughly quoted from Winston Churchill, that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. In 2015, no phenomenon better demonstrated this truism than the rise and impressive staying power of bellicose billionaire Donald J. Trump, who floated like a piece of solid waste to the bubbling surface of the Republican Party septic tank and has remained there ever since.

With a brazen combination of Tourettes-like “straight talk,” anti-immigrant nativism, bone-headed “kiss me, I’m rich” charm, and the seemingly inherent gift of never overestimating the intelligence of the average white American slob, Trump turned what many Washington pundits dismissed as yet another political ego-stroke by an eccentric billionaire into a full-throttled run for the GOP presidential nomination. Indeed, much to the dismay of Republican Party elites, 2015 was the Year of the Trump, and his uncouth dominance of the early presidential race has many party king makers worried that The Donald’s low-brow moron style of campaigning simply won’t play well outside of the bone-strewn pit of Middle American Radicalism.

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The Reactionary, Materialistic World of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: A Holiday Satire

Rankin Bass's curiously cruel yet relentlessly classic take on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Rankin/Bass studios created a curiously materialistic, yet relentlessly classic take on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Not long after the television established itself as a common sight in American homes in the 1960s, the annual Christmas special became a seasonal staple of manufactured yule-tide cheer. Faced with the prospect of spending unwanted time with unwanted relatives, Americans found that they could bear the unbearable December reunions by gathering around the glowing cube of faux-escapism and enduring the company of kith and kin while drowning in the cheerful seasonal bliss embodied in what we now consider cherished holiday tv classics. Classics such as the beloved stop-motion chestnut, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Produced by Rankin/Bass productions, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired on December 6, 1964, and in the 51 years since this original airing, it’s become a well-established part of many viewers’ Christmas traditions. The special eventually became a cultural icon, but there’s equal parts darkness and light in this seemingly charming holiday tale. While Rudolph is undoubtedly an enduring tv classic, it’s also a disturbing showcase of isolationism, unrestricted capitalism, patriarchy, sexism, and stifling conformity overcome not by the gifts of uncompromised individuality, but by the cajoled assimilation of thoughtless materialism. Continue Reading

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Trump and the Pungent Politics of Exclusivity

Donalnd Trump trumpets the politics of exclusivity in Richmond, VA. Former capital of the Old Confederacy.

Donald Trump trumpets the politics of exclusivity in Richmond, VA, the former capital of the Old Confederacy.

Donald Trump is a boorish, brash, braggadocious blowhard. He’s the kind of guy who’s richer than — and therefore better than — you, and if you don’t agree, then you’re an idiot. He’s tailor-made for the shame-drained slime bucket that is American politics. This fact ought to be a no-brainer at this point in the 2016 presidential campaign, but America’s over-paid beltway media fluffers still can’t comprehend why the GOP voting base laps up Trump’s uncouth stew of xenophobia, bigotry, sexism, and overt plutocrat sanctification like a St. Bernard who’s jowls-deep in a bowl of gravy-slathered kibble.

In an article for Reuters, for example, Bill Schneider claims that Trump is a new kind of candidate, an unholy, Frankensteinian daemon cross between “the political outsider and the fringe candidate.” This makes the blustery, ball-capped billionaire all the more perplexing to Schneider, who observes that, “Trump is a multibillionaire running against the establishment. He’s a candidate with no coherent political philosophy running as a conservative champion. It doesn’t make sense. But, so far, it’s working.” Trump’s conservative grass-roots appeal confuses the American punditocracy because they don’t want to admit that the secret to U.S. politics is exclusivity: that those with their grubby white maws already stuck in the national cookie jar will always vote to exclude other groups who are demanding some crumbs of their own.

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The Very Real Death of White Working-Class America

The NEw Deal labor policies of Frankline Deleno Roosevelt were a mixed bag, but his understanding the needs of those who work is sorely missing in 21st-century America.

The New Deal labor policies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt were a mixed bag, but his recognition of the Forgotten Man is sorely missing in 21st-century America.

On June 28, 1934, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the nation in one of his regular “Fireside Chats.” The Great Depression had left millions of Americans languishing in unemployment and despair, and with these circumstances heavy on his mind, FDR used his Fireside Chats to offer some level of comfort by informing the citizenry on the progress of his New Deal recovery plan.

On that particularly sweltering late June day, the subject was, among other things, conservative criticisms of Roosevelt’s policies. After rattling off some parched statistics about how his programs were boosting the economic recovery, FDR ceased the dusty policy wonkery and went right for the emotional jugular. “The simplest way for each of you to judge recovery lies in the plain facts of your own individual situation,” the President stated. “Are you better off than you were last year? Are your debts less burdensome? Is your bank account more secure? Are your working conditions better? Is your faith in your own individual future more firmly grounded?”

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Why Gender Identity Gives American Conservatives Headaches

I get it: lots of things seem to be black and white, but , believe it or not, the color gray does exists, people!

Lots of things seem to be black and white, but, believe it or not, the color gray does exist, people!

It must be downright maddening when things that you perceive to be so straightforward, so intuitively obvious in their apparent “naturalness” instead turn out to be way more complicated and multifaceted than that you could ever imagine.

Things like gender. I mean, “gender” is a fairly black-and-white concept, no? There’s boys and there’s girls, right? Well, it turns out there’s actually way more to the concept of gender than mere “male” and “female.” This has always been the case historically. But Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, Batman! For some cultural conservatives, the idea that “gender” isn’t a cut-and-dry, black-and-white (insert-other-hackneyed-phrase) concept is an injustice that will not stand, man!

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The Murderous Difference Between Gun Rights and Gun Culture

When you're a nation that worships instruments of death, don't be surprised at how often the Gun Reaper visits.

When you’re a nation that worships instruments of death, don’t be surprised at how often the Gun Reaper pays you a visit.

Americans like to believe that they’re a special people. Every waking hour in the U.S. of A., we try to spin new yarns into the gargantuan American mythology quilt, trying to add new patches that somehow reiterate the idea that America is a better place than anywhere else in the world. We’re the Land of the Free;™ the Home of The Brave.™ But the reality is that the United States of America is prone to many of the same vices that have characterized humanity for centuries, especially violence. If you want evidence of this, you need look no further than the blood-consecrated national death cult that is American gun culture.

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Pope Francis vs. the Conservative Marxists

Pope Francis has rankled American right-wing toadstools by daring to place human rights over profits.

Pope Francis has rankled right-wing toadstools because American conservatives are Marxists when it comes to the issue of economic materialism.

Break out your Papal Tiaras, rock your rosaries, and stoke your stigmatas, because the one-and-only steward to the sanctified seat of Saint Peter; the Internationally Infallible Grand Poobah of Apostolic awesomeness himself — Pope Francis — is touring America.

This fall’s papal visit marks the first time that the Argentine-born Francis (née Jorge Mario Bergoglio) has placed his slippered paws onto U.S. soil, and he’s causing quite a stir, especially among American wingnuts who haven’t taken kindly to Francis’ refusal to act like Ayn Rand in a white beanie.

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