Tag: climate change

The End Is Near… Supposedly

 

Is there anything more gauche than quoting yourself? Well, maybe starting an article with a rhetorical question is worse, but…

In any case, here is an excerpt from something I wrote last summer: “If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.”

I was writing about the latest polls at that time, which showed that Donald Trump had as much chance of winning the election as Noam Chomsky did of landing a triple salchow to clinch the gold.

I mean, it was absurd to think Trump might capture the Electoral College — just ludicrous. Ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha.

Ha…

Yes, we’re all still laughing five months into this monstrosity of a presidency. Our laughter is not joyous, of course, nor is it resigned or world-weary. It’s more like the collective lunatic howling of the damned, which I guess still counts as laughter nonetheless.

 

Regardless, my point in that article was to be skeptical of all the experts who assured us that Trump would flame out in spectacular fashion and that America would never hand over the car keys to a man who isn’t even qualified to be the assistant undersecretary in the Federal Bureau of Weights and Measures, much less the fucking chief executive of the nation.

No, we were all a little too relaxed about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And I’ve written before about the liberal tendency to insist that this time — really, really, really this time — it’s all over for Trump.

As you recall, he wasn’t going to win the nomination, he wasn’t going to win the election, rogue electors were going to deny him the presidency, he would get impeached on his first day, he would resign in disgust immediately, and so on and so on. He would this, that, and the other thing.

All of this would prevent us from living in a world where the president of the United States repeatedly insults an ally just hours after that ally has suffered a terrorist attack, or makes America the undisputed bad guy in the history of climate change, or just in general resembles an evil, sputtering old man planning to slip razor blades into apples next Halloween.

And just today, we have confirmation of what we all knew, which is that this president is even more corrupt than Nixon and thinks “obstruction of justice” is some kind of fancy French dessert.

Well, here’s the truth: None of this really matters, because Trump’s base doesn’t care about any of this.

Hell, white supremacists and conspiracy nuts and right-wing hatemongers are all for the man, more than ever. And until just about everyone else in America says, “Enough of this shit,” his supporters are numerous enough to keep Trump’s wobbly, haphazard administration upright. The alt-right and the bigoted will not be dissuaded. They are a multitude of furious fire ants keeping the anthill from toppling over, even after repeated sprayings from the flummoxed homeowner.

And so, none of these scandals are nearly enough to end our nightmare.

Of course, the impeachment-o-meter is hovering around 40%, so what do I know?

 


A Question of Motivation

Once again, I have unintentionally created a trilogy of posts. You see, my last two articles were about the conservative mindset regarding the deep state and climate change, respectively.

So in this post, we get right to the heart of the conservative struggle — the whole basis of the right-wing worldview.

And that basis is this: Liberals are evil bastards who want to destroy America and instill a globalist empire that enslaves humanity.

At least, that’s the gist of it, as far as I can tell.

Oh, I know plenty of conservatives are all about tax cuts or small government or traditional values (whatever those are), or some combination of Republican talking points. I’m not talking about the moderates or the dabblers.

I’m referring to the increasingly powerful right wing of the Republican Party. You know, the guys (and a few women) who spout crazy shit that would have gotten them kicked out of Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 but that today leads to leadership positions in the GOP.

We don’t need to go into the details of blatant xenophobia and misogynistic displays and neo-fascist overtures and actual physical violence.

Yes, let’s please skip the details.

Instead, we can look at science, which is not terribly popular with Republicans, but we’re going to embrace it anyway.

First, there is a wealth of data that implies “conservatives are more sensitive to threat,” making them more prone to a “bias that can distort reality, fuel irrational fears, and make one more vulnerable to fear-mongering politicians.”

So if a fear-mongering politician who distorts reality just happens to come along, well, he will find a highly receptive audience within the conservative base… ahem.

But you know what seals the deal with such individuals? That’s right — a common enemy.

Because according to science, conservatives also “emphasize patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority and moral purity.”

So a right-winger sees a liberal mouthing off about Norway’s healthcare system or daring to question whether American is truly the greatest country in the world. The conservative views this as unpatriotic, disloyal, and disrespectful. And if the liberal happens to be gay too, well that’s just plain morally impure.

As such, the progressive doesn’t just have a different opinion. He or she stands against everything that the conservative believes in, and is therefore an irredeemable enemy.

Of course, this works the other way too, in that plenty of liberals believe every conservative is a racist who kicks puppies just for fun (and it is indeed bizarre that so many Republicans seem happy to live up to this stereotype).

But keep in mind that “conservatives tend to be more structured, rigid, and to prefer clear answers.” In addition, “Conservatives approach the situation from the start with greater reactivity to threat, a greater prior belief to the level of danger in the world.”

This combo makes them more prone to conspiracy theories, where one tidy explanation, rooted in fear, ties up everything. In fact, “conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe conspiracy theories that align with their beliefs.”

And that’s how we get to today’s America, where many conservatives sincerely believe that progressives have a secret plot to destroy the country, and only Trump can preserve the nation.

Of course, there is no answer as to why exactly liberals want to destroy America. After all, liberals are supposedly a bunch of rich elitists, so one would think they would want to preserve the system, not upend it. Also, studies imply that “liberals tend to value equality, fairness and protecting the vulnerable,” which indeed sound like the priorities of a progressive. But they don’t sound like the traits of a power-hungry cabal.

Along those lines, I can state that as a progressive, I have always been mystified why conservatives believe that liberals are hell-bent on one-world government. This is not even remotely on my list of utopian goals, but according to many right-wingers, I’m willing to assassinate people to make it come true.

Clearly, it is soothing to the conservative mind to demonize progressives and attribute vile motives to them. Granted, I don’t see how liberals can be both shadowy evil geniuses and idiotic libetards, but conservatives find a way to make it work.

Now, it may seem like a new development that conservatives are insisting progressives want to wreck the country just because… well, just because. However, this attribution of nefarious, ill-defined motives is more blatant than ever before. But it is not new.

For example, a dozen years ago, we liberals were asked, in all earnestness, why we wanted the terrorists to win. Many conservatives truly believed that progressives were rooting for Al Qaeda. Much of this was because we didn’t think invading Iraq was such a great idea.

Today, just about everybody agrees that going into Baghdad was a bit of a booboo. Yet, I’ve never heard a conservative apologize for the smear job on progressives, or even state, “I guess liberals weren’t trying to sabotage America after all.”

Years from now, when everyone agrees that Trump was a horrific mistake, I imagine liberals will receive a similar non-acknowledgement of their concerns in the present-day.

But it won’t matter, because we’ll be too busy, you know, plotting to rule the world.

 


The Ultimate Scam

One thing that you may not know about me — among many dark secrets — is that I love documentaries. I’ll check out films about forgotten rock bands or miscarriages of justice or thematically intertwining stories or just about anything that sounds remotely interesting, as long it’s truthful.

One of my favorite documentarians is, of course, the legendary Werner Herzog, who narrates each of his movies in a weary, existentialist tone that sounds even more nihilistic in his German accent. The guy is a genius.

Two of his films are sort of bookends — one dealing with Antarctica and the other with volcanoes, the obvious interplay of fire and ice.

What the two films have in common — aside from Herzog’s causal observation that humanity is doomed and that Mother Nature will most likely kill us all someday — is that scientists are the heroes of the story.

And this got me thinking. In my last post, I talked about the conservative obsession with the deep state, and the mental hoops that one must jump through in order to excuse Trump’s obviously incompetent behavior.

Nowhere is the conservative mind more tested than when it comes to climate change. Yes, we know the statistic that 97% of climate scientists believe that humans have a negative impact on the environment, and that every year brings another heat record, and that many of the predicted consequences of climate change are already happening.

 

And yet, “majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists,” and some Americans literally do not believe their own eyes when it comes to changing weather patterns.

Conservatives dismiss climate scientists as elitist phonies who make up data, exaggerate their conclusions, and bury the evidence that there is no such thing as global warming. The scientists’ motivation, apparently, is to justify their existences and/or get more funding. Well, either that, or they are working for some leftist global cabal (is there any other kind?) with an insidious plot to enslave us all.

But of course, to believe that, you also have to believe that the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists are unethical bastards (a view we don’t even hold for politicians). You also have to believe that their vile manipulation of the data is so ingenious that no one has been able to pinpoint exactly how they have pulled off — and yet it is simultaneously so obvious that even high school dropouts can tell that they faked it.

You also have to believe that thousands of extremely smart people have decided, en masse, that telling a lie and fighting over a limited amount of grant money makes more sense than simply telling the truth (“global warming is a lie!”) and rolling in the cash that Exxon would no doubt throw their way.

Speaking of which, you also have to believe that so few climate scientists have come forward to reveal this deception, even though scientific reputations are made on overthrowing convention and standing apart from your peers.

Finally, you have to believe that some of the brightest, best-educated people in the world have devoted their lives to one subject, and as we see in Herzog’s documentary, often endure brutal and dangerous conditions, for months at a time, all in service of some elaborate hoax.

Damn, there must be an easier way to make a buck.

 


No Need for a Retrospective

Look, no one disputes that 2016 was an abysmal, horrific monstrosity of a year. It was the hottest year on record, we elected a sociopathic narcissist to the White House, and 1,893 of our favorite celebrities died. That’s bad.

But perhaps 2017 will be better.

Ha-ha, we’re just kidding. Because as everyone knows, the first year of the Trump presidency means, at best, pain and agony. At worst, it foretells the end of all civilization, and we will not debate whether 2018 will be any better, because none of us will exist, and all of America will look like this:

Still, let’s gather together to kick 2016 to the curb. I wish I could say that my hopes are high for 2017, but I would have to be on heavy narcotics to issue such an absurd declaration.

All I can say is thanks for reading, keep fighting the good fight, and see you next year.


Strike Two

So we’ve established that Republicans have trouble attracting younger voters, and as a highly related tangent, we’ve pointed out that a lot of those pesky Millennials are Latinos. Hence, young Hispanics are not exactly lining up to vote Republican.

But as is often the case for the GOP, things are never so bad that they cannot get worse.

You see, when Trump crowed about how much he loved the poorly educated, he was just speaking the truth. Less-educated people make up an important constituency for the Republican Party.

In fact, “highly educated adults — particularly those who have attended graduate school — are far more likely than those with less education to take predominantly liberal positions across a range of political values. And these differences have increased over the past two decades.”

Basically, the more fancy book learnin’ you get in ya, the more likely you are to start talking more of that lefty commie crap.

welleducated

And who are these well-educated liberals? Well, we all know about the education gap. White people are more likely to have advanced degrees and attend prestigious universities.

But Latinos are making tremendous progress. No doubt you know that Hispanics are the largest ethnic minority group on U.S. university campuses, and that by some measurements, Latinos are even more likely than whites to attend college.

Although this comes with the caveat that Hispanics are more likely to be attending community colleges or two-year institutions, it is undeniable that Latinos are making huge inroads in education. In fact, over the last twenty years, the number of Hispanics enrolled in some kind of college has surged more than 200 percent.

So we have yet another reason why Latinos are not feeling the love for the GOP. We are becoming better educated and more likely to align with liberal values.

Hispanics go off to college and discover that climate change isn’t a hoax and that the gay people in their dorm are actually pretty cool and that the wealth gap can be analyzed in Econ 101.

All that gives conservatives the heebie-jeebies. And once again, it is Latinos who are doing the heebie-jeebing.

But is there a final reason why young Hispanics are dismissing the Republican Party? Hey, it wouldn’t be much of a trilogy of posts if I didn’t have a concluding chapter.

That’s coming next week.


Going Green, Staying White

Lots of people lost their minds recently — I mean, really went bugfuck loco — when Pope Francis said climate change is a real and grave threat to humanity.

popefranics

Yes, a position that is supported by 97% of the world’s scientists and most of the industrial world’s citizens is somehow controversial. But then again, I’m not Catholic — at least not anymore — and of course, I’m Latino.

But why should the fact that I’m Hispanic matter on something as racially neutral as climate change?

Well, as I’ve written before, Latinos are more likely to revere nature and to support efforts to combat global warming. In fact, one study says that “54 percent of Latinos see climate change as something that is extremely or very important to them personally, much higher than the 37 percent of whites who answered in the same way.”

And Hispanic Catholics, who are naturally among Pope Francis’ biggest fans, are twice as likely as white Catholics to be concerned about climate change.

There are, of course, several reasons for this discrepancy. For starters, environmental racism is a factor. Toxic waste sites, landfills and polluting industries are located disproportionately in minority communities.

Basically, Latinos care more about the environment because they are more likely to be breathing in all that carcinogenic shit.

But there is more to it than simple self-preservation.

Some studies find that Latinos’ are more likely to be environmentalists because of beliefs that “grew from connections to their ancestral homelands and an understanding of nature as inseparable from God.” In addition, Hispanics’ concern about environmental degradation often arises “from values like love and respect — values they’d learned through their families, culture, and religion, which are inextricably linked.”

Well, that all makes sense. But there is even more to this complex relationship.

Some commentators have speculated that being part of a minority — any minority — makes you more empathetic to environmental concerns. For example, one survey found that 55 percent of gay people care greatly about the environment, compared to just one-third of heterosexuals.

The idea is that you are more likely to care about the planet if you don’t feel like you own the world.

Still, groups like the Sierra Club tend to “remain predominately white in part because they are not connecting with the actual concerns of minorities.”

So we have a situation where the people who are most passionate about environmentalism, and have the most to lose in a warming world, aren’t being heard.

How messed up is that?

 


A Bad Term

Marketing is everything.

For example, witness the well-documented phenomenon of many Americans despising Obamacare while still liking the Affordable Care Act (fyi: they are the same damn thing).

Or consider the worst branding decision of all time: “global warming.” As we all know, climate deniers just scoff and say, “Then why was it so cold this winter?” Such idiotic assertions are easier to dismiss with a new and improved term (i.e., “climate change”).

We are seeing the same pushback, the same dismissal of reality with the phrase “white privilege.” Now, for those who are unclear about this concept, white privilege refers to societal privileges that benefit white people beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people. We can nitpick this definition, but that would be a whole other article.

The problem with white privilege is that the concept is painfully easy to refute. I’m not talking about right-wingers who insist that racism is dead or that white people are actually the disadvantaged class in America. There’s just no reaching those people.

No, I’m referring to white individuals who hear the word “privilege” thrown at them and interpret it as an individual attack rather than as a societal fact. Their reply is frequently, “There’s nothing privileged about my life.”

Indeed, as the wealth gap increases, plenty of white people are being left behind. And many of those struggling individuals come from ethnicities that endured their own struggles in the past (and occasionally, in the present). Under such circumstances, it’s galling — even ludicrous — to be told that you are privileged.

And what have good liberals done when confronted with this response? We stammer that privileges are often invisible, or that white people are less likely to be harassed by the cops, or that we’re not implying white people have had everything handed to them on a silver platter.

SilverPlatterSized-300x274

 

That’s all true of course. But it’s also true that if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

And that’s why we need to drop the whole thing — not the concept, mind you, which is crucial to our understanding of racial inequalities and American culture itself. We need to rebrand.

This has been pointed out before, but so far we have failed to come up with a good alternative.

So let’s begin the discussion in earnest. Let’s make it a real goal to replace the needlessly confrontational term “white privilege.”

I’ll get it started. How about “white advantage”? It’s still racially loaded, but the idea of “advantage” is much easier to accept than “privilege.”

Hey, just take it as a first draft. I’m sure working together, we can come up with something better.

Because we really need to.

 


The Even Greater Outdoors

Few demographics are more environmentally conscious than Latinos. I mean, we are more likely to lead green lifestyles, buy green products and support efforts to fight climate change. And on a personal note, let me remind you that I was once a Boy Scout, and I can still start a fire without using matches… probably.

Anyway, the point is that we really love nature. So maybe it’s not a big surprise that Latinos are also taking the lead in creating new national landmarks and preserving natural spaces.

When President Obama declared part of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California to be a national monument, it was with the hearty support of Latinos. Polls showed that almost 90% of local Hispanics supported the San Gabriel Mountains designation. You can’t get 90% of Hispanics to agree that salsa is better than ketchup. But when it comes to nature, we’re overwhelming in our agreement.

Cook_Lake_Bridger_Wilderness

Yes, there are even organizations like Latinos Outdoors, Green Latinos, and HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors), and they have worked for the protection of areas like the San Gabriel Mountains and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.

So why do Hispanics show all the love for mountains and streams and lakes and trees and such? Well, one theory is that our legendary focus on family drives our desire to maintain the environment for future generations. Another is that because we tend to be recent immigrants, or the offspring of recent immigrants, we have more of a connection to the pristine environs of Latin America.

That certainly makes sense. But I also think it’s because we’re less likely to be right-wing industrial polluters who only care about the bottom line and think climate change is a left-wing conspiracy.

But maybe that’s just me.

 


More Than Skin Deep

What Latino doesn’t love President Obama? Well, what Latino who hasn’t had a family member deported?

But I kid.

In the last presidential election, Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama, and their affiliation with the Democratic Party is well-established. Now, it didn’t help much yesterday, when Democrats were trounced by a political party whose leaders include a hog-castrating nutjob.

But maybe some Latinos are jumping on the GOP bandwagon after all. You see, a new study implies that there is a “relationship between skin color and partisan preferences among Latinos.”

black to white
The research found that Latinos with the darkest skin showed a 98% chance of voting Democrat, while those with the lightest skin showed just a 43% chance. Put another way, “lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely than darker-skinned Latinos to identify as Republican and to vote for Republicans.”

So apparently, the lighter skinned you are, the more likely you are to believe that climate change is a myth created by gay socialists who are trying to force everyone to have abortions. And that’s true even if your last name is Rodriguez.

 


TNG

A year ago (actually, 16 months ago), I became a father.

I have purposely avoided writing too much about my son because that gets into, shall we say, less modest territory (the kid is awesome!).

In addition to my desire to avoid being a braggart, I also presumed that the last thing people want to read is another blogger ranting about how his/her kid is a supergenuis who will cure cancer and solve climate change before hitting kindergarten. Basically, it doesn’t make for good posts.

Also, there’s something a little creepy about putting your kid’s personal life out there on the internet, no matter how innocuous or anonymous.

So for all those reasons, you have not heard much about the little guy. Still, I will mention that my wife and I recently took him back to the Midwest to meet his extended family.

At one point, Cousin #3, ace photographer, took a picture of my son, my mom, my grandma, and me. The shot captured four generations, which I imagine is a pretty rare image.

The photo also captured the direct line from a tiny village in El Salvador to a bustling metropolis in America. And it will serve as reminder to my son that no matter what he accomplishes, and no matter how comfortable his life is, he should remember that he is descended from people who walked dirt roads barefoot, and who still have ties to a poor country that, except for a little bit of luck, could have been his home.

With hope, this will serve as a lesson in humbleness for him.

dirt road

But of course, he doesn’t really need it, because the kid is awesome.


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