Donald Trump, Florida’s Wild Hogs, and Capitalism’s Final Triumph

Left: the non-native wild hog that inhabits Florida’s remaining brush. Right: a Trump-Pence campaign sign in Pasco County, Florida. Trump is also a species of fauna that is non-native to the Sunshine State.

The hogs seemed terrified that night. A few days after Christmas 2016, I decided to take an evening walk in the balmy December air that, for a few weeks a year, makes the state of Florida a bearable place to inhabit. The problem is that Wesley Chapel, the Pasco County census-designated place (CDP) where my in-laws live, isn’t especially hospitable to the notion of pedestrian traffic. There are some sidewalks, but not enough of them, and most of the time you’d be hard-pressed to see them populated by anything but the odd Acura RL piloted by one of the state’s billions of confused retirees.

Nevertheless, there’s a long stretch of sidewalk snaking alongside Wesley Chapel Blvd., the multi-lane thoroughfare that connects the town’s residents with their sacred auto dealerships, buffet chains, and a Wal-Mart Supercenter the size of Estonia. I decided to make use of this sidewalk for a bit of evening exercise. With my iPod blaring the synthwave sound of 80s retro-future act Gunship, I ambled along as the gas-guzzlers blew past until I arrived at a bridge that separated the marshy natural bushland from the seemingly endless sea of new pavement and big boxes. Suddenly, along the roadside where cement gave way to scrub grass and treeline, two wild hogs — a common wildlife sight in Florida and throughout the South — scurried from the roadside brush and disappeared back into the trees.

Those hogs were as lost, scared, and confused as America was in 2016.

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How New Democrats and Old Republicans Fueled the Rise of Trump

Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Committee (DLC) embodied right-leaning "New Democrats" that Trump ended up eating for lunch.

Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) embodied right-leaning “New Democrats” that Donald Trump ended up eating for lunch.

Note: The following is long-form guest piece by Alex Hamilton.

We are now over three weeks into debating why and how the most powerful nation in human history elected as president a fascist orange man with a childish intellect — previously best known for a reality show — who ran a publicity stunt that went horribly wrong. One seriously wonders if Donald Trump actually wanted to be president.

This marks a seminal and possibly apocalyptic culmination in American politics. The presidency was the last thing the Democrats had left: the GOP will soon control the Presidency, House, Senate, fill a vacant Supreme Court seat, and dominate 33 of 50 statehouses. They are one statehouse away from being able to pass constitutional amendments. The Republicans are at their zenith, while the Democrats are at their absolute historical nadir. Not since since the height of the New Deal Coalition, when the Republicans were in exile, has a party been so weak.

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Ducks on Fish and Donald Trump

A Trump yard sign stuck in a yard in Meadville, PA, the county seat of western Crawford County.

A Trump yard sign in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the county seat of western Crawford County.

There’s a country called America. It’s a place where amber waves of grain dance along the horizon like so many sprouting capitalist entrepreneurs. It’s a country that built an impressive interstate highway system to provide weary travellers with easy access to Cracker Barrel restaurants. It’s a place that might elect as its next president a filthy-rich, xenophobic, muskrat-domed can of sentient Spray Tan.

Not every corner of America is Donald Trump country, of course. But if you wanna know what pockets of this great nation embrace the Great Orange Demigod, then look no further than the small towns and boroughs of William Penn’s old stomping ground. Referred to derisively or proudly as “Pennsyltucky,” the swath of ‘Murica that sits between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia like a super-sized Norman Rockwell diorama loves itself some Trump. In particular, there’s a region in western Crawford County (straddling the border of Ohio’s Ashtabula County) where you can watch ducks and geese traverse the wet backs of thousands of Wonder Bread-chomping carp. Here, amidst all the fish and fowl, Trump signs abound.

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The Return of Nationalism in a Trump-Brexit World

Donald Trump talks ethnic nationalism in Scotland, seemingly unaware that Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU.

Donald Trump talks ethnic nationalism in Scotland, seemingly unaware that Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU.

Remember when the sun never set on the British Empire? Remember when political decisions made by dentally challenged limeys on some dank Atlantic island had far-reaching implications for the entire globe? Of course you don’t, but that might change in the very near future.

When the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016 (a move popularly designated as “Brexit,” as in “Britain + Exit,” get it?! Yes, yes, very droll indeed), global markets shook, and badger-bouffanted blowhard Donald J. Trump went to Scotland to congratulate the Highlands’ heroic William Wallaces who “took their country back,” even though the Scots voted to stay in the EU. As he does about every world event about which he knows nothing, Trump has an opinion about Brexit, and like most of his opinions, it’s spectacularly wrong.

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The Panama Papers and Capitalism’s Perpetual Myths

"Bosses of the Senate." by Joseph Keppler, 1889. At the height of the Gilded Age, private oligopolies in cahoots with the state controlled much of society.

“Bosses of the Senate.” by Joseph Keppler, 1889. At the height of the Gilded Age, private oligopolies became as powerful as, if not more so than, states.  The more things change…

Alas, capitalism, we hardly knew ye! Actually, we’ve known ye all along, and we know that you can sometimes be a real sumbitch.’ But thanks to the not-surprising-yet-still-infuriating revelations highlighted in the Panama Papers, we know at lot more about the world’s most notorious open secret: global capitalism has allowed private interests to thrive unencumbered by the whims of states, democratic or otherwise.

In fact, you might say that capitalism as practiced by the neoliberal global order is really just a front for perpetuating a modern feudal system. The Road to Serfdom indeed.

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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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Gun Nuts, Militias, and American Extremism in a Globalized World

Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh speaks incoherently while possibly sweating profusely.

Alabama militia leader Mike Vanderboegh speaks incoherently while possibly sweating profusely.

Do you ever get the feeling that the world is a vast, exceedingly complex entanglement of random chance occurrences, flawed human decision-making, and constant disruption brought about by the break-neck pace of technological change and ideological formulations that create a series of interconnected problems immune to any and all simplistic solutions? If so, then it’s likely that you’ve never been a militia member.

It seems that these days, America’s home-grown breed of Far Right, paranoid nutballs known variously as “patriots,” “gun nuts,” “sovereign citizens,” and “militia members” are occupying way too many headlines. And if anything unites this otherwise diverse and motley crowd of barrel-stroking bubbas, it’s their proclivity towards exceedingly simple responses to a very complex world. They tend to shoot first and ask the wrong questions, particularly when it comes to the issues of government power and how American society is organized in an globalized world where corporations, not states, are pulling the levers of power and the notion of national loyalty seems hopelessly antiquated.

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Horatio Alger’s Long Shadow: Blaming the Poor in American History

Upon viewing this sign, Jesus Christ, a guy who once told people to

Upon viewing this sign, Jesus Christ, a guy who once told people to “sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven,” was reported to have metaphorically spun in his empty grave.

Have you ever been poor? Have you ever lived in a state of poverty where the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, shelter, and income security barely existed? If not, then count yourself lucky. Really lucky. Because being poor is awful. It’s not just damaging to every aspect of your physical health and well-being; it’s also psychologically damaging in that being poor tends to reinforce a sense of despair that leads to viewing poverty as an inescapable trap. In a column for Pacific Standard, Paul Hiebert recently reported on a new Harvard study that explains how poverty reinforces itself:

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