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Poor Tax
Tax breaks for the rich. The concept seems just plain wrong on its face. And yet, they keep passing both houses of Congress and getting signed into law by (Republican) presidents. It’s just so stupid.

In fact this whole tax thing in general, where money is amassed in huge quantities, then taken away, then given back — it’s an enormous drain on our economy. Wouldn’t it be better just to let the rich keep all their money?

I mean, really. If it weren’t for rich people — and those other great people our, country’s great corporations — where would we all be? Jobless, hopeless, utterly screwed.

And so, here is my modest proposal: Forget tax breaks! Forget taxes! Instead, eliminate the middleman and simply have the poor make direct payments to the rich. Like a tribute, sort of, or a special “thank you” for all those jobs? It would be voluntary, of course, because we live in a free society. Or, if not voluntary, then at least withheld from wages so we’d hardly miss it.

Everyone would benefit…eventually. Or their next of kin, if it came to that.
Pips Out
Oh, bring it on
My friend
Please give it
Your best shot
But keep
That weak shit
Out of here
‘Cause just a game
It’s not

You may think
That this is fun
Oh, you couldn’t
Be more wrong
‘Cause his is war
My friend
…or what
Others call
Ping pong
Both Sides
Both sides do it, they say. That’s not always the case, but when it comes to practicing the low art of denial, it is certainly true.

In fact, you might say that denial is the default position of anyone whose beliefs are questioned. When some wise guy offers evidence, even proof, that we are misinformed or illogical or just plain wrong, our first impulse — admit it — is to reject that testimony out-of-hand. And just for good measure, we might toss in some personal animus and a few dark suspicions about the character of the messenger. Except for those of us who are truly evolved (please don’t bother raising your hand), it is simple human nature to respond this way.

It’s not the prettiest room in the rambling estate of human nature that I’m talking about here, but it is there — a dark chamber cluttered with defensiveness, laziness, and self-doubt. What is important, however, is what we do after this initial gut response subsides. Our actions at that point are what will divide us up into different subspecies of humans. I can’t speak for others (or for any particular subspecies), but I really do try to circle back and check the assertions of the person who had the gall to disagree with me. You know, just in case he might be right.

An image I once saw in a nature documentary comes to mind here. It showed a coyote in the wild taking a much-needed meal. This coyote is not the kind we see in my neighborhood, well-fed on the pets of my neighbors and on all the other foodstuffs that are so readily available in proximity to human beings. This creature, by the looks of him, was living on the edge of starvation. When he finally got the square meal he was looking for, however, his desperation had led him to the worst possible solution: skunkmeat. He was tearing into that carcass with ravenous gusto, but the expression on his face clearly showed how he felt about the situation: utter revulsion.

I know how he felt. Whenever I watch Fox News — or even when I read some thoughtful conservative thinkpiece — I experience the same gag reflex. Still, I have to do it or I am giving into my own lowbrow instinct for denial. If I truly believe that we all need to exercise our own independent judgment about the world, then I have to eat the skunk, too — like it or not. If I don’t, my claims to intellectual honesty will wither and die.

I confess that I have been only partially successful in this quest. I can only take Fox for five minutes at a time. I forsake full readings in favor of light skimming. I take shortcuts to judgment based, not on the arguments and evidence presented by the writers, but on what I see as their self-righteousness or faux outrage or willful ignorance. I should really be more faithful in my search for truth, but sometimes the taste of the skunk is just too much.

I can’t feel too proud about my efforts at intellectual honesty, but I do sort of try…and, when I’m at my best, I try to try harder. But I am imperfect. In fairness, then, the most I can ask from others is the same level of imperfection. When I look at the Trumpers, though, I don’t see any effort at all. Not only are they not trying, but they seem to be quite content with their denial. That’s a full third of my fellow voters who are completely impervious to any truth or logic outside their chosen belief system.

This is the thing that has perplexed me from the beginning about these folks. I am not asking for even my own modest effort at self-examination, but I would like to see something. Some evidence of independent thought, some sign of participation in meaningful dialogue, some indication that we could find common ground in an agreed-on set of facts. But no. I’m willing to investigate the possibility that they are right, but they will not reciprocate, not even a little bit.

It’s been suggested that the Trumpers are examples of the authoritarian mindset. They want a strong leader who will tell them what is true and what to do. Okay, but how does this analysis help me? I don’t want anybody telling me what to do, and I would have thought that all the Libertarians in Trump’s camp might share that attitude. But they don’t, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out why. Two years into this phenomenon, and I am still no closer to understanding how it works and how it can possibly persist.

I don’t know, maybe I’m going about this all wrong. Maybe it’s not about facts and logic at all. To be intellectually honest about the views of Trumpers, perhaps I need to submerge myself in their mindset. Who knows? I might be missing something profound and meaningful. Maybe Donald Trump is a great man, and I am too hung up on “truth” to see it.

And maybe skunk butt is a rare delicacy.
No Sale
When Matthew McConaughey makes himself comfortable behind the wheel of his big new Lincoln MKZ, we see an odd expression come over his face. It’s a smile, but a smile that speaks volumes (we are expected to believe) about what this car makes him feel. It’s a knowing smile, with a hint of superiority, as if he has something on all the other poor chumps out there on the road. It seems that we drive cars incapable of inspiring such emotions.

Lincolns are not alone in this respect. Other cars (judging from their advertising) seem to grant their drivers the same feelings of superiority. In the Cadillac XT4 commercial, we see an attractive young woman with the same sly, sardonic smirk on her face as she drives through a series of fantastical maneuvers on city streets somehow devoid of traffic. We find out later that she’s a wholesome mother of three who’s out picking up her kids.

What is going on here? I have never had any car that evoked anything like these feelings. I’ll cop to feelings of superiority over other drivers, but that’d more about their driving, not my car. The niftiest car I’ve ever owned was a freshly-minted ’69 (that’s 1969) Triumph Spitfire. It made me feel kind of cool, but not because it was better than other cars. In fact, I am proud to report that none of the cars and trucks I’ve owned has ever asked to be compared to other rides as a test of its own worthiness. They all stood (or rolled) on their own, cool or not.

Perhaps I am misjudging the expressions on these actors’ faces, including Mr. McConaughey’s. It could be that their dark smiles denote a pleasure so delicious that it sets their entire persona ablaze. But how? And why? It’s just a car, after all, and nothing that fancy, really. No De Tomaso Mangustas here, no Rolls Royce Phantoms — just big, overbuilt American boats. And even in the case of the Lexus UX (a “luxury crossover”) or the BMW X7 (a “sport activity vehicle”), the snazziness of the vehicle still doesn’t warrant that self-satisfied expression on the drivers’ faces.

I certainly don’t want to cast aspersions on the abilities of these commercial actors, especially Mr. McConaughey. As we have seen in such productions as True Detective and The Dallas Buyer’s Club, Matthew knows how to play crazy…so much so that you might think he’s a little crazy himself. That would explain his weird relationship with that high-end tank he drives. But these other actors…why do they look like they know something that we don’t? What is their dirty little secret?

These commercially-generated characters are young, affluent, and nice (with the possible exception of Mr. McConaughey). They love kids. They obey the law, even traffic laws. So what is their trip? What’s with the dark, mocking expression? I can’t help feeling that it is directed at me in particular, but if it is meant for all of humanity, that is even more alarming. Behind their pleasant, normal appearances, are these drivers cold-blooded sociopaths?

I suppose it’s possible that I might be taking all this too personally. In any case, it is not the actors I have a quarrel with here. It is the automobile manufacturers themselves. They seem to think that this brand of psychopathy is a selling point. My experience, however, tells me the opposite. People don’t like it when you act superior. I know I do. And I don’t think that people long to be that kind of jerk themselves. At least I hope not.

Let me say to those manufacturers, right here and right now, that I am not interested in buying their products. Furthermore, to illustrate my conviction in this matter, I am establishing a one-man boycott against all of these vehicles.

I know this is a hollow threat (and just another entry on the long list of hollow threats I have made against products I would never buy anyway), but I want my voice to be heard on this important matter. I am foursquare against highways full of sociopaths driving at top speed in giant hunks of metal. Apologies to Matthew, but foregoing ownership of that Lincoln MKZ is a small price to pay for such a world.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon