Paris

Superman is dead, and it looks like the Justice League is on its own.

The American Century is over. We’re going to get a lot of hate for saying that, but the way we see it, it’s a little like climate change: It’s a global shift that is big, has a lot of moving parts, is uncomfortable to think about, and will definitely be something that Trump supporters will deny. When it comes to Europe, the Paris Accords, NATO and more, the world is on its own. We seceded our position as world leader the moment that a minority of us elected a self-invested, egotistical, narcissistic, car salesman with questionable mental stability as President. Most people thought our decline would be gentle and gradual, like an old dog slowly dying in the comfort of its home, but last week Donald Trump brought that old dog out behind the shed and decided to put it out of its misery.

Justice League of Nations
The United States’ position as a superpower and a leader in the free world has been in decline for a while. Factors like globalization, the rise of the European Union, our drop in STEM related fields and education, the accessibility of information and technology, and many many other factors -many of which we initiated or put into motion- have doomed our sole position of dominance. Donald Trump did not cause the decline of American power and influence in the world. That was going on long before he ever put his tiny hands on any piece of legislation, but the factors that got him elected are inexplicably linked to that decline: ignorance, fear, bigotry, scapegoating, corruption, ignorance, and ignorance.

It has become abundantly clear that our of President no longer deserves the title of “Leader of the Free World,” nor does he seem to want it. He wants to be the leader of “Pittsburgh not Paris,” but by doing so he has made America less safe… again. Global cooperative treaties, like NATO or the Paris Climate Accord loose some of their power without the United States, and our country will not survive as a lone ship on the sea of coming change. In the past two weeks, The Donald has gone out of his way to alienate allies, embrace global controversy, and deny even the most basic niceties of international diplomacy. Unsurprisingly, the only country still applauding his efforts is Russia.

We could make some joke where we compare Trump to Lex Luthor, but that would be an unfair comparison. At least Lex Luthor had a plan. Trump is led solely by his impulses and his need for complete self-importance. He berated NATO allies for owing “massive amounts of money,” –which is untrue– and made several statements that prove he may not fully understand what NATO is or how it works. He then made sure to physically push aside the Prime Minster of Montenegro, refused to listen to advice from other world leaders, and forgot to reaffirm Article 5 of the NATO treaty… which is kind of the point of the NATO. Article 5, is the article that assures mutual defense of all allied countries. Of course it came out later, that he may only have failed to endorse it because he just made up his own speech as he went along.

Paris Climate According to Trump
After Trump spent a week arm wrestling our closest allies, and posing like a real-freaking-to-life-super-villain, he then announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. He cited several misleading and incorrect statements about the historic international accord, but basically admitted that he pulled out of the Paris Agreement because he thought people were laughing at us. For the record, Paris is a non-binding agreement that held no penalties or international sanctions, and was signed by almost every country in the world, including China, Russia, and North Korea. Despite what Trump claims, experts believed it would have actually grown the US job market. There are currently 374,000 people in America employed in solar energy, compared to the 160,000 currently employed in the coal industry. Trump is mistakenly focused on saving an industry that employs less people in America than Arby’s restaurants.

By snubbing Paris and the EU, Trump is only hurting American leadership in the world. China, has already begun to take the lead on green energy initiatives, and that is great for the environment, but bad for the US economy. Renewable technologies, resources, and energy are going to be the industries of the future, and by clinging to old ideas, the US is conceding future jobs and influence. One of the reasons for America’s success has always been our ability to invent the future. Planes, cars, telephones, the Internet, smartphones, and a thousand other common everyday items were all first created in America. We created the modern world and that put us firmly in charge of it. Now, we will be playing catch-up, and in ten years the world may be buying solar panels manufactured and invented in China.

The Last Moron of a Dying World
Trump has this fascinating -and dangerous- ability to make decisions in service to two personal deities: narcissism and greed. Any choice he makes seems aimed at stroking his ego or padding his wallet. Yet, he only has a rudimentary understanding of diplomacy, politics, and history. He operates with a very narrowed perception, mostly focused on himself, and that is a dangerous way for any leader and diplomat to make decisions. Take his withdrawal from Paris as an example. He incorrectly perceived it as an economic sanction, and failed to weigh all the other factors surrounding the agreement: environmental, defense, political, and more. Europe and the world will now turn toward China for leadership, which is something that American Presidents have been trying to avoid for decades.

Remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty? Think what you will of the TPP, it was not perfect, but it also was not the terrible deal that Donald Trump made it out to be. First of all, it was very good for American farmers, but part of the power of the TPP was not in its economics. It strengthened trading alliance between friendly Pacific nations, while keeping westernized Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea, from needing to rely heavily on China for imports. The TPP weakened China’s economic hold and social influence over Asia, but without it our allies have no where else to turn, which makes them more susceptible to Chinese influence in international political and military decisions. The TPP is also a little moot, as it was dead in Congress before Trump ever took office, but that did not stop him from signing his jagged name to a worthless piece of paper to confirm it, all for some cheap applause… which he loves.

A lot of Trump’s grandstanding on his past international trip seems aimed at his supporters back home: his tough talk with NATO, his pulling out the Paris Agreement, and even his manhandling of world leaders. He was not thinking about what those things would do on the global landscape, he was thinking about how they would play to Joe and Jane Smith at his rally in Ohio, or Missouri, or Mar-a lago. Do you know what other world leader talks tough, rattles sabers, and threatens other nations, all in the sole name of domestic popularity? Kim Jong-un -also any strongman dictator in history- but North Korea is the most obvious modern-day example.

The Daily Planetary Crisis
FDR once said that Americans have nothing to fear, but “fear itself.” Donald Trump tells us we should be afraid of everything, terrorists: the news media, refugees, and basically the rest of the world, but that is absolute bullshit. The United States of America is not a country built on fear. We are the risk-takers, the home of the brave, the land of the rebel. When did we become a country that jumps at its own shadow? When did we become a country that hides behind bans and border security? When did we become a country that kicks our friends and throws out the “huddled masses,” all because we are afraid? That is not America. That is not the America we want to live in, but that is the American vision that Donald Trump offers: A paranoid, fearful America who only sees the rest of the world as enemies or suckers.

Trump has no understanding of “cause” and “effect.” To him it is like the world began on November 9, 2016. We need a leader who brings people together, and not one that gets into fights with city mayors who just suffered terrorist attacks. We can no longer survive with an “every man for himself” attitude, nor can we survive by being petty and mean-spirited toward our allies or our enemies. Superman is not a hero if he only considers his own interests -as we saw in Batman v Superman- because when that happens the Justice League is better off without him. So, maybe -for the time being- the world is better off without us.

In the comics Superman dies a noble death and comes back again a hero. We are suffering an ignoble death, but if we continue on this path there may be no coming back for us.

Designated Survivor

We don’t normally comment on brand new shows at The NYRD, but it is worth talking about Designated Survivor, the Kiefer Sutherland political thriller about how a terrorist organization blows up the Capitol building killing most of the American government and leaving an earnest and inexperienced Housing and Urban Development Secretary as President of the United States. It is not the plot or the characters that we want to discuss but the deeper implications that such a show offers about the current American mindset and the fun-house mirror reflection that it casts on our current Reality-Star-in-Chief.

Mr. Kirkman Goes to Washington
It is worth remembering that Designated Survivor, premiered in the Fall of 2016, two full months before the election of Donald Trump. Yet the issues that the show tackled with casting the unassuming Tom Kirkman as President were very present in the political landscape of the election and the aftermath. We have mentioned before how our fictional Presidents often seem to be created in response to our actual Presidents, but with Kirkman and Trump there is something more going on. Not only did Kirkman precede Trump, but the turmoil surrounding his Presidency shares tones with The Donald’s ascent to power.

The most important correlation comes from the fact that both Kirkman and Trump are more or less Independents. Yes, Trump has an (R) next to his name, but there are also several asterisks next that too -and there will probably will be several more before the year is up. There is something about a man who holds no allegiance to any particular political party that is appealing to the American voting and viewing public, at this moment in history. Of course, that was evident in the campaigns leading up to the election, with the rise of candidates like Trump and Bernie Sanders. The difference -of course- is that Kirkman leans left, and Trump leans somewhere right of Stalin, but they are still both non-political outsiders who inexplicably found themselves in the most powerful seat in the world.

TV shows, like Designated Survivor, shoot their episodes several months before airing, and are written at least a few months before that. Stunt shots, location scouting, even craft services need to be set up well ahead of premiere time. Story-arcs and plot lines are developed so far in advance of air dates that it is hard for TV shows to really make concise comments about breaking news -except if you’re South Park. Still, even with that lag time it is obvious that the writers and producers were aware of this trend in American politics, -primaries seem to go on for years and years in advance of the actual election- and decided to capitalize on it for their show. Yet, we cannot imagine even they realized how cogent and timely some of their themes would end up being past November 9, 2016.

Spoilers in Politics
There has been criticism of the heavy-handed way in which Designated Survivor sometimes goes out of its way to criticize Trump, and we cannot argue that. This is Hollywood after all, and the second half of the first season -filmed after the November election- definitely made more than a few coy winks and nods at the idiocy of our actual President. Filming for Designated Survivor, began in July 2016, but did not wrap-up for the season until April 2017. Though we doubt it altered the overall story-arc of the show, the course of our real elections did give writers plenty of opportunities to tackle issues such as Supreme Court nominees, a politically motivated congress, refugee bans, military operations, and other C-plot political crises that demonstrated how well the serious and academic-minded Kirkman was able to handle governing as opposed to other current Presidents who will remain nameless… except if you look at one of his buildings.

The haters will call it “liberal Hollywood commentary,” and the cheerleaders will call it, “screw you President Orangeman,” but regardless of intent, comparisons will always be drawn between fictional and non-fictional Presidents. So, let’s go ahead and just do that right now: Tom Kirkman is a former architectural college professor who does not naturally seek the spotlight, and values his family above everything else. He is level-headed, rational, and fully cognizant of the weight and complexity of the office he must burden and the issues he faces on a daily basis. On the other side is Trump, a former building tycoon, a consummate con-man and reality star, who has had so many wives he has stopped counting. He is ruled by his emotions and his Twitter thumbs, and -for some reason– believed that being President was going to be easier than being a trust-fund baby who played golf all day and drove casinos into the ground. Kirkman shows a firm understanding of history and civics. Meanwhile it is questionable if Trump even understands the basic layout or function of the three branches of our government.

One of those is a description of a Presidential character so unrealistic that the pitch for it would have been laughed out of every TV executive’s office in Hollywood… the other is a character played by Kiefer Sutherland. However, these forced comparisons and the show’s obvious commentary are not really what we want to talk about. After all, anyone could write a show to overtly criticize the President -we’re pretty sure that is still legal. Anyone can write a scene where President Kirkman goes to a NATO summit and is articulate, well-meaning, and measured among our allies… you know, like an adult, and set it up in opposition to a real-life NATO meeting where our allies have to keep their comments to below four minutes to keep The Donald’s attention from wandering… you know, like a child. No, we do not want to focus on those obvious constructed moments. What we really want to talk about is the deeper implications.

The Unconscious Current
TV Presidents, like Designated Survivors‘ Tom Kirkman often arise as unconscious desires and feelings driving the American viewers. These same currents also drive us at the voting booth. They are worth examining. The rise of Kirkman and Trump show that America is looking for an Independent, someone new who is not beholden to the old political machinations of Washington. However unlike Trump, Kirkman is an every-man, Sure he is an academic, but his views on issues tend to reflect the majority opinion of Americans. Moreover, Kirkman inherited a country that was in an actual life-or-death crisis, as opposed to Trump -who only thought that, and- actually inherited a relatively peaceful country in the midst of an economic upturn and record low crime rates. Yet, we can also not deny that there is still some sense of overwhelming dread in the factual America. It is a sense that we have gone through some great tragedy in Washington, a perspective shift in how we see ourselves and our country. For Designated Survivor this comes in the form of an actual terrorist attack, but for us it something more subtle: foreign cyber-hacking, immigration issues, or just the felt affects of globalization. Designated Survivor manifests our feelings in a tangible and knowable way, and it sets up a competent -but not perfect- President to deal with it.

The overall plot of the first season deals with defeating the terrorist organization responsible for the bombing, but it is not an Islamic one. In the end, we learn that the terrorism that most affects the nation are not from Islamic extremists, but from crazy white people believing what they read on Twitter, all the while believing that they were doing the best thing for America. There can be an argument made that the make-up of the final conspiracy/terrorism group was altered a bit to more closely resemble Alt-Right ideals, but Designated Survivor did a pretty good job in the first half of the season -the pre-election half- of illustrating that the perpetrators of the bombing were always going to be an organization very similiar to what we think of as Alt-Right nationalist groups. The show’s Pax Americana group are extremists who ultimately believe that America had fallen from grace. They are authoritarians who follow a strongman leader that believes that the country is faltering in the light of refugees, globalization, and other “liberal” ideals. In a sense they want to return to an idealized past, in an attempt to make America… something… Again. You get the point.

The great attack perpetrated against America in Designated Survivor does not come from without, but from misguided patriots manipulated through false dogma. In the fictional America of the show, this group uses their influence and power to blow up the Capitol building, and throw a megaton brick through the window of the Washington establishment. Meanwhile, in our world a group of very similarly minded individuals spread false news and inflamed Facebook and Twitter to set off a bomb in the halls of Washington by the name of Donald Trump. In essence, Donald Trump is our national crisis, except unlike Designated Survivor we do not have a Tom Kirkman to guide us through.

Now, we are not making the explicit claim that all of this was done without forethought. On the contrary, some TV writers and producers are very good at anticipating the next big thing, and by the time of July 2016 it was hard not see the orange iceberg on the horizon -even if we thought we were going to miss it. The writers of Designated Survivor are semi-conscious humans living on this planet, so it is no surprise that they grasped at least some of the underlying tensions of the past Presidential race. However, the comparisons, the reflections, and all the rest would not resonate with the American viewing public unless there was not a majority of viewers ready to accept the reality and concepts of the show. The success of Designated Survivor comes from the fact that it touches a relevant nerve in us, and really that says more about the reign of Donald Trump than anything else we ever could.

Civil War

“Why was there the Civil War? Why couldn’t that one have been worked out?”

This question has never been asked before. It took the biggest best genius and the most successful President of ever to actually think to ask such a meaningful and poignant question. But, of course, it makes sense that Donald Trump would be the one astute enough to ask the hard questions of history, questions that college professors, historians, and third graders would never think to ask. So we, here at The NYRD, will attempt to do our civic duty and be the Google that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have. So, why did we “Civil War?”

Slavery. It’s Slavery.
Case closed, right? It was slavery. The Civil War was fought over slavery. Any idiot not sitting in an a round shaped office in some whitish building would know that, right? The quick answer is: “Yes,” and the longer answers is: “Yes, but…”

Slavery was certainly the main catalyst, despite what Confederate reenactment actors tell you. In fact South Carolina’s Declaration of Succession, mentions slaves or slavery 18 times in one form or another. In contrast, it only mentions the word “Union” or the words “United States” 16 times combined. A lot of South Carolina’s grievance can be distilled down to this line: But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. Mississippi wrote: A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. When Texas seceded they wrote: That the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations… Which is pretty screwed up.

As you can see, Mr. Trump, it took some hard-investigative digging, but we were able to come up with a passable answer, slavery. -If anyone asks you, in the future, just say slavery– However, we do need to acknowledge that the Civil War was not just an open and closed case of the North saying, “Slavery is bad,” and the South going “God doesn’t care.” As the quotes above suggest there were other factors coming into play, States rights versus Federal rights, economics, and even religion. So, this leads us into that “Yes, but…” territory we were talking about earlier.

It’s Still Slavery, But…
One the eve of the Civil War some 4 million African Americans were enslaved in the Southern States. This represented a significant economic factor for Southern elites and their plantations. The ruling class of the South needed to keep slavery in order to keep their wealth. Meanwhile, Northern States had abolished slavery one by one, mostly because it was just no longer financially reasonable. Industrialization and a wave of immigrants -specifically from Ireland and Germany- made slavery obsolete in the North. Abolitionist movements grew in the cities and urban centers, and publications like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Dred Scott Case further influenced politics of the region. As such this drove a division between Northern industrial states and Southern slave states.

As America grew, Southern States and their congressional representatives wanted to expand slavery into the new western territories, which Northern States opposed. It is worth mentioning that this was not so much about morality, as it was about political power. Creating more slave states would tip the balance in Congress toward the South, but creating more non-slave states would tip the balance toward the North. Slavery became the lightning rod of American politics, and by the mid-1800’s everyone was forced to pick a side. There were attempts at reconciliation, like the Missouri Compromise, where Missouri was allowed entry into the US as a slave state, but only when Maine was admitted as a non-slave state, but they often didn’t last long. Ultimately the question of slavery was irreconcilable. As Abraham Lincoln said, I believe this Government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

Lincoln was an anti-slavery northerner. Our first Republican President –Most people don’t even know he was a Republican. Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that– won without a single southern electoral vote, and once in office he made it clear that the institution of slavery would not be allowed in the western territories. On top of that, many Northern States and abolitionist disregarded laws, like the Fugitive Slave Law, and others that were passed as a further compromise to keep balance between the North and the South. States like South Carolina and others saw all this as a violation of their State’s rights. Yet, we need to acknowledge that at the core these issues was slavery. It was a financial, class-based, and even religion-based institution that was ingrained in the Antebellum culture of the Southern States.

Think of the Civil War like a McDonald’s hamburger. First of all, we didn’t really want it and it wasn’t really good for anyone’s health. -The Civil War had a terrible calorie count- Yet, in the end, it doesn’t really matter what sort of bread or other dressing we try to apply to hide the real meat of the issue. Slavery, the meat-byproduct patty, is always at the center of it. It’s the main reason we buy a hamburger, and slavery is the main reason we had the Civil War. Without that cause it would have been just been a lot of salad and State-Rights-Mystery-Sauce.

Jacksonian Promises
In a lot of ways, the tensions of the 1800’s mirror today’s tensions. Today we don’t argue over slavery, but other key and majorly divisive issues -one of which is still race relations. Our country is split, not along northern and southern borders, but along class, gender, and economic lines. Today’s “Civil War” is more about the city versus country, or the coasts versus the center, or Progressives versus Conservatives. Mr. Trump, it is a little ironic that you so often paint yourself as a Jacksonian figure. -Most people don’t even know he was a Democrat. Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that- Jackson was an embattled and impatient President who rode a populace wave into the White House, and wound up hurting the American economy and hardening relations between whites and other races, specifically Native Americans… Hmm.

Yet, like Lincoln you find yourself faced with a divided nation, and since you like to equate yourself to Jackson, it is worth wondering then how you would have negotiated away our Civil War? What would you have done if you had been you in the power instead of Abraham Lincoln? Would you have let the South keep their slaves? Would you have allowed 4 million human beings, and their descendants to remain in bondage just to keep a tense peace? Would you have allowed slavery to expand into the West? Would you have let the Southern States secede? Would the United States of America, today, be bordered on its south by the Confederate States of America? What would the world and our nation look like had you been at the helm?

You claim Andrew Jackson -and by proxy, yourself- would have handled the Civil War better, but how? Jackson was a man who pledged support and troops to Aaron Burr when he tried to build his own Empire. He invaded Spanish territory without authorization, and nearly started a war between Spain and the United States. He started a banking war that strangled American business interests. He was a proud slave owner, and even placed advertisements for the capture of a runaway slave. He forcefully removed 125,000 Native Americans from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Florida. He forced them to march the Trail of Tears, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. He was responsible for the largest holocaust in American history. Is that who you wanted in charge in our nation’s darkest hour? Is that who you claim to be, Mr. Trump?

Anyone who does not know history is doomed to repeat it, and if there is one thing you have made abundantly clear, it is that with you in charge we might be doomed to repeat a lot of it.

Science Denial

Kypton was a planet of peace and prosperity. It’s technology was unrivaled, its philosophy beyond thought. It was truly a paradise for the just and a haven for the curious. Yet, among all that knowledge and advancement there was still a blindness. Jor-El, one of their greatest scientists warned of the chain reaction collapsing the planet’s core. The people of Krytpon had pushed their home to the limit. Their utopia was built upon sand and denial, and when Jor-El pointed out their imminent doom they chose to close their ears to the truth. A society that values science chose to deny the findings of their most prominent scientist because they were inconvenient. Krypton paid the price for their silencing of science, so what chance does our planet have?

The Ranting Zone
As you may or may not be aware, this past week Donald Trump and his administration imposed a gag order on several US Government agencies, prominently the EPA, USDA, and the National Parks Service. The order prevented the agencies from sharing things like science findings and climate data with the public. Almost intermediately, most of -if not all of- the gagged agencies created unofficial twitters and rebelled against the order, but that is not the point we are talking about. What is worrisome here is the unprecedented and coordinated move by General Zod… err Trump and his conspirators to silence the scientific community. In fact, the order was so egregious that enough scientists actually rebelled. Now, we do not want to paint all scientists with a broad brush, but politics is not exactly something most scientists willingly engage in. This newest move, however, does not exist in isolation. It comes on the heels of the Trump transition team’s McCarthyian call for the names of people at the Department of Energy who had worked on Climate Change.

What all of this paints is a picture of a Presidential administration that is actively and personally opposed to science. Unfortunately, this tacit and willful misunderstanding is not anything new in American politics. Politicians have been known to deny everything from evolution to Climate Change, but what this new administration brings is a sort of denial-first policy, as if Donald Trump is immune or indifferent to objective facts. This stance would be an incredibly dangerous one for a high school teacher to take, let alone the leader of the free world.

The leaders of Krypton denied the findings of Jor-El, when he brought them proof of the planet’s imminent destruction. They, instead, chose to silence him, and disregarded his findings and his recommendations. When it turned out he was right, it was too late, and only one person survived -well maybe more depending if we’re counting Supergirl, or Krypto, or that stupid monkey. The point is that denying verifiable and quantifiable data has the potential to lead to disaster. Ignoring science and silencing scientists is a road toward ruin and bad SyFy spinoffs. Having a President that doesn’t even want the public to hear the opinions of science agencies because it might contradict what he believes to be fact is the first step toward a scientifically uniformed society. By the way, it is also the first step toward a society that is easily controllable.

The Bottle City of Denier
So, why would an administration or a planetary society want to ignore science? What would they gain from doing so? For Krypton, the answer was peace of mind. According to Paul Applebaum, former head of the American Psychiatric Association, “Denial is the deliberate, often psychologically motivated, neglect of information that would be too upsetting or anxiety-proving to allow into one’s belief system.” For example, look at climate denial. The idea of Climate Change is incredibly scary and an incredibly large issue. As one person, living a comfortable life, it is almost mind-mindbogglingly daunting to think about, let alone begin to make sacrifices for. It is the sort of nebulous boogeyman that most people would simply rather pretend was not hiding under their bed, because the alternative would be too incomprehensible and terrifying. Quite frankly, it is also hard to blame people for their denial. If you’re mind is full of momentary worries: paying the bills, keeping your journalism job, making sure the government doesn’t find out you’re secretly an alien visitor from another planet, etc… It’s hard to keep such larger and uncontrollable worries straight in your head. Its much less taxing to deny that they even exist.

The rulers of Krypton didn’t deny Jor-El’s findings because they were stupid or they hated him. No, they denied what he said because to do otherwise would have meant being force to change from their daily routine. Remember Krypton was a paradise. The people were happy. There was no want or discomfort. It was a utopia and that’s a hard thing to give up, especially in the face of vague threats you can barely perceive. Jor-El wanted the Kryptonian people to evacuate to the Phantom Zone, to leave their luxurious and easy life behind for the harsh unknown of a hostile dimension. When faced with those two choices the Kryptonian rulers chose to simply reject Jor-El’s findings. “He’s highly overrated. Very Sad,” they might have said. “He is not smart. I’m the smartest. I think the best thoughts. I know better,” another might claim. It’s easier to discredit the source than integrate the findings into your own mindset. That is just how denial works. It has nothing to do with intelligence.

The Last Son of a Denying World
Of course, intelligence is hardly a concern in Trump’s America. Anti-intellectualism has been on the rise in this nation ever since Thomas Jefferson proclaimed a fondness for the “wisdom of the common man,” then through the administration of the barely literate Andrew Jackson, and now culminating with the Trump presidency. There has been a myth in America that the college educated elite somehow do not have the best interest of the country at heart, and this label of “elites” very much includes scientists. That is why Trump is now able to do as he wants, including ban Muslim immigration and refugees, which also include foreign scientists and doctors.

Now, we are not saying there is anything wrong with the folksy wisdom of the common man, but there also must come a point where we acknowledge that the prominence of the United States is not built upon the gleeful deniers of science. No, the promise of America -our technology, our accomplishments, our prosperity, the fact that we were able to land humans on the moon- was made possible because of science. In fact, the very concept of America, our Revolution, our way of life is a product of the Age of Enlightenment. We are a country created by college educated elites, and in some ways we have been running away from that fact ever since.

Trump’s attack on the US government science community -and Climate Change in particular- is just another in a long line of science denial. Heck it is almost an America tradition, but it is one we can no longer sustain. This particular tradition needs to be discarded if we are to break the bonds of our self-imposed ignorance. Krypton ignored the findings of their top scientist and it cost them dearly. Their people died along with their planet, but for the United States the end will not be that quick or that painless. No, our fall will be much slower and more prominent. We will slide from the national stage, our leadership and innovation replaced by that of Germany or China. We will become more insular and less willing to accept the criticism of others, holding desperately to the belief that we alone are correct, and that we alone hold the answers to all questions. We will delude ourselves into believing that we are the bearers of absolute truth and anyone who says otherwise will be ridiculed and demonized. In a sense, the country will come to embody our thin-skinned, barely literate President. That will be the new orange face of America if we continue silencing scientist and denying what is in front of us.

Yet, unlike Trump our willful ignorance will catch up with us. The world will warm whether we believe it or not. Sea levels will rise regardless of how much we hide our heads. Then we will finally become like Krypton, nothing but a memory written in the stars of a distant world… With Donald Trump in charge maybe its time we start investing in rocket technology for our infant children.

Protests

Saturday was an historic day in the United States. 2.9 million people across the country got out and made their voices heard in protests from New York City to Los Angeles to Washington DC. The NYRD was present for it all. We took a trip down to the nation’s capital to make our voices heard in the largest single protest ever in American history. However, it has also left us wondering, what was accomplished? After all, Donal Trump is still President. His cabinet nominees are well on their way to being confirmed, things like Climate Change and Immigration Reform are still missing from the White House website. So why do we march? Why do we even bother?

“Get Over It…”
There has become this prevailing myth in America that protests, such as the Women’s March that took place over the weekend are simply about rejecting Donald Trump as President or lamenting the failure of Hillary Clinton. The conservative right enjoys likening protests to temper tantrums by children who refuse to eat their vegetables, but making that kind of a generalization is a disservice to the people and the process of our democracy. We cannot disagree that there are plenty of people out there who are still frustrated over the outcome of the election -As Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote by 2.9 million more people- but that is not the whole story. These protests are not so much about rejecting the election results as they are about rejecting the policies and questionable actions of Donald Trump himself.

Time and time again, you have an educated electorate watching a man denigrate women, spew hatred toward immigrants and Muslims, disregard constitutional law because he finds it inconvenient, and set forth a wholly pessimistic and isolationist viewpoint toward what America is and what it should become. No, the protests are not about the past. They are very much about the future, and there are a lot of people anxious about that future. Humans fear what they can’t control, and protesting feels like a way to take that power back. For the critics out there, yes, sometimes that has meant isolated violent incidents, but on the whole those seem to be the exception and not the example.

“You’re Not Going to Change Anything…”
Protesting alone will not change anything. Trump and his team will ignore, deflect, and lie as they have throughout the election process. The Donald seems impervious to truth, reason, and logic, like some sort of delusional Superman. However, the protests are not really about getting Trump to change. They are about showing unity and putting anyone who is paying attention on notice. Senators, congressmen, local legislators, and more now know that people are willing to fight and they are willing to fight in large numbers. Democracy is not just about voting, but about showing up and making your voice heard. That is why the the right of peaceable assemble is enshrined in the First Amendment.

Protests such as the Women’s March have another purpose too. The world’s eyes are on America. Such giant displays of spectacle and protest go a long way to assuring the international community that the American people will not go quietly. It tells our friends, our allies, and even our enemies that the people of this country still have a voice and we are still fighting. That message is more important than any we can send. We are a country of the people, for the people, and by the people.

There are many nations out there who have become saddened and afraid by the election of Donald Trump. Make no mistake, the international community is now a less stable place than it was on January 19. Trump’s call for isolationism, and “America First” is a return to a diplomatic policy we haven’t espoused since the end of World War I. Yet, the world needs America, and -despite what our new Dear Leader believes- America needs the world too. Shutting our doors and shutting our eyes is only going to make everyone less safe and less prosperous. However, letting the American people’s voice be one of unified dissension gives hope, and proves the real reason why are still one of the greatest countries out there.

“There is More Work to Do…”
The NYRD has felt very privileged and honored to be a part of these historic protests, even in our small way. Yet, we have to recognize that our job is not done. We can take hope from our small victory, but we cannot let it be the end. Protests are only the first step toward standing up against what is alarmingly wrong. Now that we have put people on notice we need to follow through. Write letters to your Congress-people. Support the causes you believe in: Women’s Rights, Climate Change, Fair Immigration, Refugees, Minority Rights, and more. There are plenty to choose form. Research organizations that are doing the most good, and if you cannot support them financially then get out there and volunteer. Make sure you support the free press. Make sure you are well-informed. Make sure you build bridges to people with different views. AND make sure you can identify the real information from the propaganda -or the “alternative-facts” as they are now being called.

The bottom line is that we can no longer sit on the sideline. We can no longer trust the government to do what needs to be done. It is now up to us to change the world and not simply rely on the people we voted for. Yes, in a way that is sad, but it is also an opportunity. We are entering into a time of great change and we now get to define what that change is, not Washington, not Congress, and certainly not Donald Trump. So great job to all 2.9 million protestors, but now the real work begins.

inauguration

Donald Trump’s inauguration is tomorrow, and there is a persistent question that has been popping up around here the past few weeks. “Would you rather live in the rise of an empire or the fall of an empire?” It’s a fundamental question about personal preferences and ideals. Would you rather live at a time when your deeds and thinking might matter, a time where your actions might shape the very fabric of your world? OR would you rather live at the height of luxury, enjoying the fruits of all the laborers that have come before you? Your civilization might be on the decline, but at least you will be personally comfortable… well unless you’re living at the very end of the decline than things might get a little, “barbarian-y.”

When Rome Burns
We would be lying if we pretended this question was not related to the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump. However, we are also not implying that Trump himself is solely responsible for the decline of what was once called the American Century. There have been indications all along that America’s place as the world’s last superpower has been coming to an end. The election of Trump is just a prominent signpost on that road. We also don’t want to indicate that we think the United States will be any less powerful militarily, politically, or otherwise in the world, but we need to acknowledge that we’ve lost a step or two in our old age.

After all, Nero fiddled while Rome burned, or so the story goes -the fiddle would actually not be invented for another 1000 years. Yet, Nero stand as a good example of Trump. The Roman Emperor was the last of the Julian-Claudian line, last blood Emperor of Augustus. He was very popular among the common people and he was a noted land developer… We’re talking yuuuge gymnasiums and theaters. He was also a performer and grew up in the lap of luxury. His reign was fraught with scandal and frivolity. And eventually Rome and the Senate turned on him, declared him a public enemy, and impeached him… from life. Now, we are not saying anything like that is going to happen again, but the parallels are worth thinking about. Nero ruled during a very troubled and polarized time in Rome, and that rule did not end well. However, Nero was not the end of the Empire. In fact, Rome lasted another 400 years, but Nero certainly showed the cracks in the system.

We have to wonder if that is what Trump’s inauguration is doing, showing us the cracks in our system. He will not be our end, but he certainly is an indication that things are changing. The United States has enjoyed nearly a century of dominance on the global stage, but the election of Trump and his isolationist policies show that we may be heading toward a world where America does not stand up as a global leader, not on terrorism, not against Russia, not on human rights, and certainly not on climate change. Maybe in 2000 years people will remember how Trump fiddled as the world warmed, but this editorial is not on Trump so much as is it on America and how we deal with these tests to our national identity and our most sacred ideals.

When Romulus Burned
Maybe, we are approaching our first question in the wrong way. Maybe, concepts like “rise” and “decline” are just arbitrary ways humans use to measure time and history. After all the Roman Empire did not entirely fall over night. The Byzantium Empire lasted centuries longer, and When Rome fell others were able to rise. History continued. It’s not like the world exploded, unless of course you are the Romulan captain, Nero. The Star Trek villain gives us another good and possible representation for the aftermath of Trump’s inauguration. For many on Friday, our world will seem like it is literally exploding, literally collapsing. Captain Nero watched his planet burn, and he went crazy. For him there was no road to take, but revenge and death. He burned Vulcan and attempted to burn Earth. He choose to succumb to despair and anger. He gave into the pessimism of his situation, but Star Trek has never been about pessimism, so he lost.

We need to remember that, because we can choose to look at the bigotry-misogyny-ignorance-isolationist-wave of super-heated orange gas that is coming toward our world, and accept defeat. We can stand by just share mean tweets, funny memes, and spew our frustration and hate on Facebook and Twitter. We can try to burn down the worlds of other people as our has been burned. Yet, Star Trek give us a different option on how to view this inauguration. It is a franchise built upon the hope that humanity will one day become something greater than it is. It is a series that tells us that humans are their best at their darkest hour, and we at The NYRD choose to believe that. Maybe it is some kind of fatalistic flaw, or some evolutionary benefit, but when things get bad humans have the ability to band together, fight together, and come out stronger on the other side. Take World War III for example.

We know what you’re thinking, “Whoa, WWIII? Slow down. That won’t happen for at least two weeks after the inauguration.” Maybe… but in Star Trek history World War III is the absolute worse thing that happens to humanity. We are talking nuclear war, biological warfare, fracturing nations, human savagery. Earth literally descends into hellish chaos for decades. Yet it is from that darkest time in humanity that humans develop the warp drive, and finally learn to work and live together toward something greater. They graduate to the next step, but even then all of humanity’s problems and fears are not solved. We see again in the lightly-watched Enterprise series starring Scott “Quantum Leap” Bakula, that before Earth can become the founding world of the United Federation of Planets they must compete with the Terra Prime movement. It is an isolationist and bigoted movement that opposes non-human immigration, promotes Earth as being more important than the rest of the galaxy, and wants to close Earth off to all alien contact. Its leader even mimics and reveres the rhetoric of another famous genocidal leader. -Actually, now that we put it into words that is sounding eerily prophetic for a series that aired in 2005-

This Will Be on the Final Exam
Regardless, our point is that Terra Prime, like the ghosts of World War III are eventually overcome by humanity. Then we create the Federation, the embodiment of tolerance, peace, and science. Earth becomes a utopia, but it doesn’t happen over night. There were a lot of challenges to overcome, and a lot of times when things looked bleak. However, this “future-history” is built on the idea that sometimes it is always darkest before the dawn, and that we cannot move on till vanquish our demons. Racism, sexism, poverty, inequality, corruption, and many other demons still exist in America today. Trump has embodied them all in one form or another over his life, but maybe there is a reason this inauguration is happening.

Trump is our Terra Prime. He is our final test before we can move forward, the last dying gasp of an extreme form of conservatism predicated on the irrational fears and hatreds of our past. Donald Trump is our sins made manifest, and we must force ourselves to look them in the face. He is the Nero of our time, except he is not an alien conquer, or an Emperor, only a President, and as powerful as the POTUS is, he is not America. We -the people- still have the ability to do what is right even if our leader does not. So now -with the impeding inauguration- we find ourselves, again wondering about that first question. Maybe it is not the right question. Maybe we are not living in the decline of America, but simply just another another bump in the road. Maybe it is all about perspective.

So, we need to decide: Do we accept Donald Trump and his inauguration into the halls of power as the indicator of our decline, the first step toward the barbarian hoards that will one day come to our gates? Or do we take him as our greatest challenge to overcome before we get to move onto something better. Before Trump, it was assumed that liberalism had won the culture war. It was assumed that America and the world would just progress toward equality and justice. We know now that that was a lazy assumption.

After all, there is always a final exam before you get to graduate. So take out your No. 2 pencils and begin. You will have four years to finish the test.

electoral college

It’s time to pack your bags, get your books, and load up the car, because we are off to college. No, we’re not talking about the type of college where you sit in a classroom, live in a dorm, and get up to outdated stereotypical 90’s hi-jinks. We are talking about the Electoral College. We can only assume that there is less drinking… though maybe not this year. Our Electors have been in the news a lot recently, but before we judge them on their actions or inaction it will probably be beneficial to go back and look at the system as a whole, from a historical point of view.

Keg Stands for Democracy
According to Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the US Constitution: Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

It may not have escaped your notice that there is nothing in there about popular election. That is because the Framers were not crazy about the American population voting directly for the President of the United States. Instead, they saw the President being elected more like how the Pope is elected, through the College of Cardinals -Go Fighting Cardinals!- Electors were meant to be the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State, and they were meant to select the President regardless of state or party loyalties. Before we go any further, you need to understand that this process was established not because the Framers thought the American population was stupid, -Well, everyone but Hamilton anyway- but because the Framers were dealing with different issues and fears that we don’t even consider today.

We have talked before about how our Founding Fathers were more concerned about issues we don’t even think about anymore. The Electoral College was set up because the Framers were dealing with thirteen colonies all jealously guarding their own power and fearful of a federal government. Our system was therefore meant to be a balance between states’ rights and federal authority. It was believed that if the President was elected through a popular vote, the public would not have enough information to make an informed decision. After all, at the time the the population of the US was 4 million people, all spread down a thousand miles of Atlantic seaboard. The fastest form of communication was a man on a horse. So the Founding Fathers believed that people would just end up voting for the “favorite son” of their own state, and nothing would get accomplished, or the vote would always go toward the states with the most people. So the Electoral College was created as a way to safeguard the rights of smaller states and assure the governors and legislators of all the states that they had a say in picking the President.

Now, you may still think it is a stupid system, but remember that you are looking at it through 21st Century eyes. When the Constitution was written, the world was a different place. Back then, the President did not have the kind of power he has today. In fact, until the 1930’s the President’s power was limited. Aside from a few exceptions, such as Lincoln and Roosevelt, Congress was seen as the more powerful entity. It is also worth mentioning that people like Washington hated the idea of political parties. Madison and Hamilton believed they were inevitable, but thought they would still be amicable toward one another. They created the Electoral College to be a tool of state’s rights, not for the benefit of political parties. The Framers did not anticipate the hyperpartisan world of 2016, and they did not foresee America being split by red and blue states.

Learning in College
Here is the thing, the system never really worked, even in the beginning, and the cajoling and backdoor politicking it encouraged had some pretty poor consequences. The Electoral College had a hand in the Election of 1824 where John Quincy Adams was elected over the more popular Andrew Jackson, and it may even be -at least- partially responsible for getting Hamilton killed. By the 19th Century it was pretty clear that the Electoral College needed to be changed, and it was. After the Election of 1800, and the rise of political parties, the 12th Amendment empowered the Electors to cast only one vote for a political ticket, instead of the two individual votes -for President and VP- they originally cast. Also, electors became selected by the voters, as opposed to the state legislators. By the mid-century all the states were voting for their electors making it a permanent tradition in US elections, but still not technically a law. Currently, 29 states have laws that force electors to vote based upon the popular election result, making the electors all but honorary positions.

As you can see, the Electoral College has never been static. It has been shifted and amended to deal with many new aspects of the growing nation, but it is still not the same as a populist election. Even during the debacle of 1800, the idea of moving to a popular vote system was not really considered. The horrors of the French Revolution tainted the idea of populist rule for a lot of the founders. In fact, even as early as 1788 people like Alexander Hamilton were rapping about the dangers of a populist movement: The process of [electoral college] election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union. Hamilton envisioned the Electoral College as a place where the most qualified political thinkers gathered and had a serious discussion over who was best suited to be President, so as to avoid demagogues from being able to ride into office on a swell of ridiculous promises made to an overly-zealous electorate. In France, that sort of populist movement led to the guillotine, but in America it has now led us to something far more dangerous and with much worse hair.

It is also worth mentioning that slavery played a part in the continued existence of the Electoral College -because of course it did. This is America and our demons haunt every institution we own- At the nation’s founding, James Wilson from Pennsylvania proposed and argued for a direct vote over the Electoral College, but James Madison of Virginia argued against it, The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. In other words, the Northern states had more free-white men of voting age than the Southern states did, and a direct election would result in more Northern victories. However, when counting non-voting slaves as two-fifths of the electorate population -even though they were not allowed to vote directly- than that gave Slave states an advantage when it came to the number of Electors they received. Thus, the slave state of Virginia became more power in the Electoral College system than the free state of Pennsylvania. That might also be why four out of our first five Presidents were from Virginia.

Final Exams in History
So what is the point, professor? Well, think about this: four times in our history this system has put the unpopular candidate in office over the popular one. By almost ever metric the Electoral College is broken. It does not even protect small states or low population areas from the power of big cities and large states. If anything it encourages candidates to spend most of their time campaigning in just a few swing states, while neglecting the larger country. If we had direct elections, than candidates could not afford to miss the “fly-over” states anymore than they could afford to miss New York or Los Angeles. Even worse, the system disenfranchises voter turnout. Voting Republican in California or Democrat in Texas feels like throwing your vote away, because it is. That is bad. People don’t show up to vote in national elections don’t vote in local elections either, and those are arguably more important. In a direct system, every vote would matter, no matter where you live, and that is a lot more incentive to go to the polls.

After the 1800 election, the 12th Amendment irrevocably changed the way we elect our President. Among other things, it openly acknowledged the influence of political parties and empowered them to select one candidate for President and one candidate for Vice-President. This idea literally ushered in the possibility for a populist President. It laid the ground work for the Electoral College we know today, not Hamilton’s idea of a room full of thoughtful electors, but just people nominated by political parties to rubber-stamp the predetermined election results. It created the idea of a popular vote in all but practice. Perhaps even more ironic, in 2016 the Electoral College system functioned exactly opposite as Hamilton intended. It did not prevent the election of a populist demagogue, but instead ensured it. If we had been using a direct vote system Donald Trump would have lost by over 2 million votes.

But this article is not really about Donald Trump. No, it is about Hamilton and Washington and Madison and Adams and all the rest. We have to remember that our Framers empowered us with the ability to change the constitution as we saw fit, because they may have gotten the Electoral College wrong but they still knew what they were doing. They lived in a world of 4 million Americans spread across thirteen colonies with only a few dirt roads connecting them. They could not envision the rise of the Internet, or transportation, or cable news networks, or even political parties -which only took less than 8 years to fully form. Yet, they gave us the tools to amend our founding document because the world changes and our needs inevitably change with it. That was why we ratified the 12th Amendment, and maybe that is why we need to change the Constitution again to do away with the Electoral College.

trump

We know that you believe you did the right thing. We know that you didn’t cast your vote out of racism or hatred, but because there was something there that you believed.  Maybe you sincerely believed that one candidate was going to make your own life better, or maybe you were just mad as hell at the system. Maybe you voted for the candidate you wanted or maybe you voted against the candidate you hated. Maybe you felt ignored. Maybe you felt angry. Maybe you believed that it was better to burn it all to the ground than work within the system we had. So, you voted for Trump, and we can respect that.

That was what you believed. Now we ask to respect what we believe, because it is not that at all. We believe that Donald Trump embodies everything we fear. There are many people in America who are afraid today, not angry, not sore losers, but actively and physically afraid. Our new leader threatens everything we hold dear, and even everything you hold dear.

You think Trump will help get your manufacturing jobs back? Trump doesn’t even use US manufacturing in his own company. And here’s the kicker, US manufacturing jobs have been back on the rise 2012. The Presidential candidates -all of them- have very little power in controlling the globalized market. Yes, they can tax and tariff, but in the end that will only do more harm than good. Putting tariffs on manufactured goods from overseas and Mexico will only raise the price that everyday Americans pay on items by that same amount, some estimates put the price hike on products as high as 45%. Paying that much on products does not help the average American, whether they voted Democrat or Republican.

You think Trump has a tax plan that’s going to fix our economy? He will for the wealthy and the corporations. His plans will cut taxes on the rich, reducing their tax burden from 39% to 33%. Most middle-class tax rates will remain the same -about 25%. However he is going to standardized exemptions and deductions, which means that most middle to low income families will get less exemption and less deductions on their annual income tax. He is also going to do away with Estate Tax, meaning that money inherited will no longer be taxed. All of this benefits the people in his tax bracket. The kicker is that low income families will feel the worst of the squeeze, with their lower tax rate being offset by a larger loss in exemptions and deductions. His plan is going to reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over the next decade, and 47% of those tax cuts and relief will go to the top 1%… to the Trumps of the country. Even worse, according to the Tax Policy Center his plan could increase the national debt by nearly 80 percent of gross domestic product by 2036.

You think he believes in good family values? You think he respects Christian values? When has he ever acted as Jesus would act? When has he ever showed compassion? When has he ever acted humble? When has he ever appealed to love instead of fear and anger? No. You may have small town values, but not Trump. He lies, constantly. He does not love thy neighbor, especially if they are an immigrant, a minority, or a woman. He brags about his sexual exploits. He treats women as objects. He has never shown an ounce of charity or altruism. He cares nothing for the poor or needy -refer back to his tax plan. He is an adulterer, and does not value the sacraments of marriage. He is as far from a good Christian as you can get.

You think Trump will close our borders and make us safer? His polarization, his us versus them attitude, will not keep us safer. His fear mongering has been wrong from the start. America was the safest it had been since the birth of this nation, but like some self-fulfilling prophecy his very candidacy has made us less safer. Bullying and hate speech have been on the rise for the past year. His candidacy has been used by terror groups as recruitment propaganda. An isolationist attitude toward the world is only going to make America even more hated and feared. Its not going to fix the problems. Closing our borders and withdrawing from international politics is only going to cause more problems, especially amidst the resurgence of Russian power and aggression. Its not going to stop terror attacks, it will only make us less informed in fighting and preventing them. Our society -like it or not- is a global society. Isolationism for any country is a daydream at best and a dangerous and misguided principal at worst.

We’re going to do what? Ban all Muslims? Because the terrorists who sneak into our country would obviously never lie about their religion to serve their greater purpose. We’re going to build a wall? Because forget that 40% of illegal immigrants actually arrive by plane, but they can’t can fly over walls. Right? How about in the inner cities? Are we going to crack down hard on criminals and lock them all up? Because that has been working so well in the past. We need to fear people who are different than us? Because building bridges between people of different races, sexual identities, national backgrounds, or even political opinions is… what? stupid?… No, no its not.

Listen folks, normally we would make some jokes, maybe relate this topic to some pop culture reference like Hunger Games or the Star Trek mirror universe, but not today. We can’t today. Everything about what just happened has been absurd enough and the only thing we can think to do is write about it.

The truth is that women’s rights are in serious dangers. Trump’s supreme court nominee will have the ability to overturn Roe v Wade, and he’s promised to do it too. That means women are going to face tougher uphill battles to gain access to their own reproductive rights. In a Trumptopia, women will have no right to control their own bodies. It is darkly comical that Trump talks so much about hating Islamic extremists, yet he shares that particular value with them. This is a disaster for half the American population.

The truth is that programs like healthcare are going to be cut. Obamacare will almost certainly be killed. You may rejoice but that means 24 million Americans will lose their health plan. That is a national disaster.

The truth is that not taking in Syrian refugees is very very dumb. The USA already has one of the most stringent vetting process to accept refugees, and that goes doubly for Syrian refugees. Not doing our fair share to help people in need not only makes us look bad, but it hurts us economically and politically. Refugees bring in economic wealth and growth to areas that they are resettled in. You have a greater chance of being shot by a toddler with a hand gun than a Syrian refugee. This is a humanitarian disaster.

The truth is that science programs are in legitimate danger, including NASA. However, we should take it as a given that The Paris Climate treaty is ruined. Trump will do everything he can to back out of that deal. He has repeatedly called climate change a hoax. He will not implement any of the desperately needed changes that this country needs to become energy independent and green. They are bad for business, especially his business. This is a global disaster.

The truth is that almost every person knowledgeable in economics, politics, science, military, international relations, domestic relations, national security, humanitarian rights, and common human decency said Trump was a bad bet. But we showed them… Trump now has the Presidency, and is the head of a populace movement. The Republicans control the House and the Senate, but even the more moderate and level-headed of them will not oppose his will for fear of facing his disapproval and losing their seats. We are facing the legislative equivilant of the French Revolution, guillotine and all.

With that said. America has pulled through worse. We have overcome far dire consequences. As a people, as a nation, as a brotherhood of humanity if we come together we can endure and we can thrive as we always have. Maybe today isn’t a day for despair. Maybe today is a reminder that we need to be better versions of ourselves and come together to help each other. This country’s strength has always resided in its ability to put partisanship aside and do what is best for everyone. We sincerely hope and believe that we can do that now.

We have to…

trump-voters

This Presidential race is closer than you might think or hope… “Do’h!” And the reason is: that despite the hatred, bigotry, and sexism of Donald Trump, his voters are NOT all idiots or closet racists. -Don’t get us wrong, some very much are- but support for The Donald goes deeper than that. So we wanted to take a look at Trump’s strongest demographic and what our research unveiled was that they look a lot more familiar than you think, especially if you watch cartoons on Fox. No, not Fox News, just the Fox Network on a Sunday night. Because the ideal Trump voter looks kind of like someone who might live in Springfield, Quahog, or Arlen, Texas.

President of the Hill
Thanks to polls and demographic studies conducted by the Washington Post, ABC News, Nate Silver, and 270towin.com we are able to get a much clearer picture of what a typical Trump supporter looks like, and they are exactly what you might expect. Please know that this is just a statistical average, as we realize that there are others who support The Donald who may not fit one of these categories. However, if you are voting for the Republican nominee it means that you are most likely to be: White, Male, Identify as Conservative, Heterosexual, Between the Ages of 40 and 65, Do Not Have a College Degree, Do Not Live In or Near a Major Metropolitan Area, and Are Making Around the Medium Household Income -AKA Middle-Class.

We know these aren’t exactly shocking statistics, however they are representative of a kind of common American, an Average Joe. It is the kind of representation we see every week on TV, especially in the form of Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin, Hank Hill, and hundreds of other animated and non-animated typical TV father types, and that says something. We do not hate these characters, -well, most of the time- but at the very least we see them as well meaning buffoons. Hank Hill, for instance, is a true-blue Texan-American who like trucks, Reagan, and propane. In fact, the main conflict of his story is often that his conservative ideals must cope with the changing landscape of things like immigration, sexuality, and other uncomfortable topics. He doesn’t always handle them right, but we do not see him as the bad guy. He might be a little obtuse, but we know he is well meaning, and that would probably not be an unfair assessment of many Trump voters.

As fun or comforting as it might be to believe that all of Trump’s supporters are toothless raving racists or backward sexists stuck in a idealized 1950’s fantasy, these generalizations don’t help the contentious climate or the progress of our country. Don’t get us wrong, Donald Trump has certainly captured the white supremacists demographic, but we can’t believe that 39% of likely voters are just in it for the cross burning. These cartoon dads are upset over something and simply dismissing their votes as simple fear or protest is too simplistic. It also diminishes the possibly legitimate concerns of two-fifths of America’s voting population. So maybe there is more going on here.

Lost in Springfield
We, here at The NYRD, have lambasted Trump in the past, and proven why he would make an unfit President, but this article is not about The Donald, himself. It is about his voters and why people have chosen to follow him. There are several factors, but if you really look at the statistics the most undeniable conclusion is that a lot of Trump voters are people who feel voiceless. Most of them are low to middle class white men, over the age of 40 who feel as if the country has left them behind. They are the Homer Simpsons of the world, living in some generic Springfield and wondering why their American dream means going from paycheck to paycheck while the Mr. Burns of the world rule over them from a super-villain-like position of power. The irony is that they have basically chosen a “Mr. Burns” to combat the rest of the Mr. Burns out there, but for them the choice does still makes some amount of sense. They believe no one is paying attention to them, and they’re not exactly wrong.

According to survey form the RAND Corporation, likely voters who agreed with the statement: “people like me don’t have any say about what the government does” were 86.5% more likely to be for Trump, and we kind of get it. Listen, we are born and bred New Yorkers, living in a liberal bastion of progress and sewer rats, but if you are Homer Simpson living in a -presumably- Midwestern small town you understand that there are no TV shows or movies that take place where you live. The celebrities, politicians, and wealthy 1% don’t always share your values, and the sources of your media and entertainment come mainly from LA or NY. To rural America, the cities get all the attention and control all the culture. For our part, the coasts export our ideals as if they are universal, but maybe Ned Flanders or other fundamentalist might disagree. Right or wrong, Trump supporters are the ones who feel sandwiched in the middle and lost in the mix. After all, it can be incredibly frustrating when it feels like you aren’t even being heard at all. So without a voice they have seemingly decided to pick the loudest person in the room to speak for them, which is not all bad because they do have some legitimate complaints.

A lot of the small towns around the United States have fallen on hard economical times. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 61% of the total job losses under NAFTA were relatively high paying manufacturing jobs, centered heavily in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California. In small town ares, like Springfield, if the main source of employment dries up or moves to foreign soil that can be devastating for residents. If Mr. Burns were to close the nuclear power plant a lot of Springfield would be out of a job, and towns like that -with low populations- cannot simply shift to a service-based economy, like what has happened in New York, Chicago, or other big US cities. There is a reason that Trump usually scores the highest in debates when the candidates are talking about trade agreements or economical issues. Those are some of the most important things for those disenfranchised voters. Unfortunately, their justifiable grievance are often lost in the rhetoric of racial tension also spewed by The Donald, not that most of them mind. To them, that tension is also a direct result of some of the other things we have been discussing.

Buttscratcher! Buttscratcher!
Now, let’s be clear we’re not saying they are right, but for a lot of Trump voters their economic troubles tie in with the questions of race and immigration. A lot of the Peter Griffins of the world look at the top 5% of American earners and see that their income has doubled, while minimum wage has barely moved. They can look at Washington and see a place that looks like it is doing everything it can to improve the lives of African Americans in the “inner cities,” but wonder why no one is doing the same for them. After all, it is usually politically savvy to at least talk about how you will improve the “inner cities,” -even if nothing gets done- but some poor rural white communities don’t even get that kind of lip-service. Meanwhile, they also watch as politicians talk about immigrants and refugees coming into the country, and to the person barely making end’s meat for their family, that could mean more workplace competition and a feeling that someone else might be getting something without putting in the same effort that they did. It is the beginning of resentment and misunderstanding, and Donald Trump -for all his many faults- understands how to harness that frustration.

Peter Griffin does not see himself as a racist, after all he has Cleveland as a friend… and that counts… right?… In their mind, even if people like Peter blame Mexicans for certain things or those “other” black people for things they are not going to self-identify as bigots. That is important to understand too, because when people and the media portray Trump supporters as hatred spewing Klan members a lot of them -ironically- feel as if they are being stereotyped, and that turns them off to any thoughtful engagement of the issues. It doesn’t help that Trump often sets up the media as being unfairly out to get him -despite the fact that they have given him at least $2 billion in free advertising and counting. This feeling of persecution only further hardens the resolve of Trump voters and drives them away from active engagement. In a sense, even the most reasonable people can start to become hardened to reasoning when they feel as if everyone from journalists to the Republican leadership is turning them into some ignorant, hillbilly, backwater cartoon parody, which is something movies and TV have done for years. After all, even in Rhode Island, a liberal state, there are still plenty of Peter Griffins and plenty of disenfranchised Trump voters.

Two-Dimensional Voters
And maybe you have noticed that is part of the problem. You see, while discussing the topic of not reducing all likely Trump voters to stereotypes or caricatures, we have done just that. We are comparing them to cartoon dads, like Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson, and though that comparison is wildly clever and comical, it is also a reduction of real people and the issues they care about. So why do we do it? Mostly because it is funny. While we here, at the NYRD, pride ourselves on being inclusive and examining the major topics of the day in thoughtful and complex ways, we have also found that we are not above making generalizations when it comes to making jokes, and Donald Trump and his followers sometimes make that too easy. Remember, that the statistically average supporter of The Donald is also the last demographic that America has agreed is still okay to make fun of: white, middle-aged, middle-class, men. That is why we have the stereotype of the stupid and fat cartoon dad to begin with, and that is also one of the reasons why these voters feel as if they have been pushed to the fringe.

For some, Donald Trump is a flare fired off in a crowded room. He is the loudest and most obnoxious thing they could find to make everyone notice them. Yes, he might be dangerous and others might get hurt, but at least -for them- something might change. Still for others, they may recognize he is crass, abrasive, and more than a bit myopic, but at least he is talking to them. Two-fifths of likely voters will cast a ballot for Donald Trump. So maybe instead of reducing their views as being crazy or racist, we need to do more to understand why they feel the need to vote for an orange misogynistic demagogue, even if he is not someone they would ever leave their daughters alone with. Nothing is going to change if, after this election, we just reduce Trump voters to cartoons and shuffle on with another 4 years as if nothing happened. We love people like Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson, and Hank Hill, but they are stuck in a perpetual state of animation. They and their families don’t even age, and they often have little to no lasting character development. We can’t afford to let so many in our country feel the same way for even another season.

Trump Pokemon

“I wanna be the very best. Like no one ever was…” No that’s not part of some Donald Trump campaign speech, it is actually the opening lines to the Pokemon theme song. Both The Donald and Pokemon Go saw a huge popularity at the height of the summer, but like the augmented reality phone app that lets you catch pocket monsters by sneaking into your neighbor’s backyard, the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States has begun to decline in popularity. However, it is unfair to compare Trump to Pokemon Go, because the truth is he is more like an actual Pokemon. Not only is Trump a wild shade of orange, but he enjoys repeatedly hearing his own name and he is constantly evolving into new and terrifying forms.

Egomogul
A capitalist-type Pokemon, Egomogul enjoys the spotlight. This creature is a buffoon by nature, often starring in reality shows and making its mark on the world by writing its name in gold on the side of buildings it doesn’t actually own. As a political candidate it is mostly a joke, involved only to promote its next book or next season of television… Its main attacks are Childish Insults and Facebook Arguments.

It’s hard to remember now, but in the beginning of his campaign Donald Trump was a man on a mission, a mission to get as much free publicity as humanely possible. So he announced his candidacy by descending a golden escalator and spouting off whatever the heck came to mind at the time. This is where the famous line, “When Mexico sends its people… They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” The sad part is that it was that one terrible and very false statement by Trump which changed the US political landscape forever. It drew national media attention and -like an expensive and racist car crash- America couldn’t seem to look away. The Donald spent most of his nomination campaign playing the fool, making outrageous statements, and even making remarks about his own penis size during a Presidential debate, and worst of all it was “super effective.”

Trump being outrageous meant that he basically got about 2 billion dollars worth of free advertising. Suddenly, Donald Trump, became a name you heard every night on the news. He was given front and center positions at the debates. Everyone from Stephen Colbert to Matt Lauer to actual journalists were talking about the walking-talking-Internet-comment-section-come-to-life. Featuring his latest crazy remark or rally violence was a way to improve their own ratings, but it also improved his notoriety. Maybe the old adage is true, “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” Trump spent only $10 million in advertising during his Republican nomination campaign, as opposed to Jeb Bush who spent $82 million. Guess who dropped out in shame, because it wasn’t the one who called for the American military to commit war crimes against Muslims. You see, that was the real power of The Donald. In the beginning he was a running joke, an Internet meme, a late night punchline, but much like the initial cute and non-threatening form of most Pokemon, something more terrifying was just waiting to emerge.

Egomeleon
The evolved form of Egomogul, Egomeleon is an opportunist-type Pokemon. Weaker than its initial form, it is much more unsure of itself, often flip-flipping to try and mimic more mainstream political-type Pokemon. This form is also a lot less popular than Egomogul, but a lot more dangerous, especially to women, minorities, and immigrants… Its main attacks include Incite Riot and Racist Tweet.

Like a Pokemon fed a bad candy treat, Trump was forced to evolve from his buffoonish persona to one that was supposed to be more “mainstream.” Unfortunately, the transformation was not exactly what his Republican Poke-Masters had hoped for. So instead, we were given a candidate who he is constantly spouting off impossible to believe remarks as his handlers desperately try to recant them. On the issues, Donald Trump has changed his plan on dealing with illegal immigrants: 6 times, his plans for tax reform: 6 times, his plans for defeating ISIS: 5 times, his plans for “fixing” Obamacare: 4 times, his ideas on gun control: 7 times, and the list goes on. Of course, this might have been avoided if Trump had actually started out having some sort of initial policy -aside from his “secret” plans to magically solve these problems- but that wasn’t the case. The real irony is that the candidate who is famous for “saying exactly what he means,” is having real trouble saying what he means.

However, there is something a lot more terrifying about RNC Nominee Trump as opposed to Candidate Trump.  When many news personalities and journalists predicted that he would pivot toward a more mainstream centralism appeal, he did the opposite. His campaign doubled down and decided to ramp up the fear factor. Instead of the usual flag waving and chants of “USA… USA,” which are so expected at the RNC Convention, Trump’s people pushed a narrative that made America seem dangerous and dirty, like New York in the 1980’s or Pallet Town during the Pokemon Gang Wars. Even worse, Trump’s own acceptance speech contained dozens or bold-faced lies about the state and safety statistics of America, because the Egomeleon cares little for actual facts, just the narrative that it knows it can get away with. The Republicans spent a week telling Americans that they were in danger from terrorists, criminals, and generally anyone who had a darker shade of skin than printer paper. It was a narrative aimed at people who enjoyed Pokemon White, to exclusion of those who enjoyed Pokemon Black, Red, Yellow, and even Blue… if you get our meaning.

This is the true danger of Trump. With his numbers looking like they are, it is unlikely he will claim victory in November, but his campaign has proven itself to be ugly and dangerous in its own right. It is giving a strong voice to a small minority of prejudice, violent, and bigoted Americans, and it is making their ideas more mainstream again. It is giving permission for hate speech to be said in public, on a podium, from a position of media-backed authority. The moment that The Donald stepped on stage at the RNC Convention was the moment he stopped being an odd political curiosity and became a major threat to American ideals, security, and constitutional rights. We have fought so long and so hard to get to a point in history where we have come to see the value in diversity and the moral principal of freedom of religion and speech and so much more. We are not saying the road has been easy or that we are anywhere close to its end, but we cannot let an orange hate-breathing creature gain power or we might face its true and hideous final form.

Egotator
The Egotator is the evolved form of the Egomeleon and the final form of the Egomogul. A demigogue-type Pokemon, it is considered the most power hungry form of any creature. The world has only seen a half-dozen or so Egotators in the past century, most of which have resulted in wars and genocides that have cost millions of lives… It’s main attacks are War Crimes and Nuclear Launch Codes.

There are many jokes about a world under President Donald Trump, but the reality may be no laughing matter. The biggest problem with President Donald would be that he is first and foremost a reactionary man whose sole purpose in life seems to be to convince everyone of how great he is. We have seen him often rise to cheap insults and go out of his way to aggrandize his own accomplishments and power. That is fine for a reality star, but it is dangerous in a man charged with representing the international interests of the United States. Vladimir Putin has already demonstrated that he knows how play the Republican candidate like a cheap fiddle. You need to wonder how much negotiating power is really going to come from a man that is so easily flattered. Will he really be willing to “talk tough” with Iran, or China, when their leaders start off meetings by showering him with praise about his “genius” intellect or his big “hands?” Will he even really care about the interests of the country if he is offered a deal that benefits him personally?

He has also shown a distaste for the press, a disregard for the rules of warfare, and a tendency to play to the passions of a crowd. More to the point, Trump has shown very little understanding of constitutional rights and a willingness to use power to feed his own ego. We know for an almost absolute certainty that he would look to maximize the power of the Imperial Presidency. He has proven that he is willing to do what is convenient and expedient, regardless of legality or morality. That is why so many people have become concerned about Trump having his small finger on the proverbial button. By his own admittance he does not often confer with advisors before making decisions, and nuking a small Asian country is usually the kind of decision you want to talk out before you do it.

In all likelihood, most of his more outlandish campaign promises -like a certain wall- would be attempted and then quietly backed down when the true financial, political, and common sense implications come to bear. Most experts do seem to agree that he is probably going to start a trade war with Asia, which will be very very bad for the common American. Yet, the real problem with predicting a Trump Presidency is that we seem to have no solid policy basis from which to do so. Other than generalized and hyperbolic statements about how something something is bad and something something is good, the Republican candidate usually gives very little detail about how he hopes to “Make America Great Again.” That makes him both confusing and possibly even more dangerous than you might believe. We will not be able to pin a lot of solid positions on Trump by the time he would take office, and that means he could do almost anything, even things that are are counter-intuitive to the Republican base that elected him.

Regardless of your opinion on Donald Trump -and if you can guess we have a low one of him- you have to admit that he is not the same man who started this campaign so many months ago. He has changed and evolved, gaining more experience, radicalized followers, and more CP than anyone thought possible. In many ways he is a magikarp that transformed into the biggest meanest and scariest gyarados you can imagine. We don’t know for sure what the world might look like if America collectively screams, “Donald Trump, we choose you!” but we do know one thing for sure… His pokeball is probably solid gold and inscribed with thirty foot tall letters that spell out his name.

Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. No, it’s a flying illegal immigrant. Immigration, both legal and illegal, has been a hot topic issue for over a decade, but with the upcoming election it is gaining new prominence, thanks in part to our own toupee-wearing version of Lex Luthor. Donald Trump has proven his obsession with immigrants in much the same way that the bald CEO of Luthor Corp both hates and fears a certain undocumented worker at the Daily Planet. Both men even enjoy putting their names on the side of buildings, but this article isn’t about Trump or Luthor or any other super-villain running for President. This is about looking at how modern immigration works for both legal and non-legal residents, because when you start to look at the paperwork, the rhetoric, the costs, and the red-tape, you begin to understand that even the Man of Steel would have problems leaping through them all in a single bound.

The Golden Age of Immigration
The immigrant story has always been a core part of who Superman is, a being come to live in a place where he never feels as if he belongs, but striving to do all he can to help his new home prosper. There is a reason for this. Both Joel Shuster and Jerry Siegel were the sons of Jewish immigrants. In fact Shuster himself was originally from Canada. They created Superman in the late 1930’s, at a time when Jewish immigrants were trying to escape Germany and the encroaching horrors of the holocaust. America -still emerging from the Great Depression- was torn on whether or not accept them. Thus, in 1938 Superman arrived on the scene, an immigrant with extraordinary abilities. We’re not claiming that Superman was created as some sort of political statement about immigration policies, only to point out that we are not the first nor the last generation of Americans to struggle with questions of immigration.

SupesChart

For much of the 18th and 19th century, this country had a fairly open policy when it came to migrants, whether they be German, Irish, or Kyrptonian. It was not until after the Civil War when economic hardships forced states to pass their own immigration laws that things started to become more complicated. In response, the Supreme Court ruled that only the Federal Government could regulate immigration, and regulate it they did. They created laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which did exactly what it sounds like. From that point forward laws governing citizenship and immigration grew more convoluted and biased, until 1965 when Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act. It ended a 1924 quota system, which heavily favored Western European immigrants over all others, and aimed at bringing skilled workers to the United States whatever their ethnic backgrounds.

The Migrant of Steel
Essentially, the 1965 law ended immigration preferences based on race, sex, or place of birth. It also heralded a rapid decline in white European immigrants. In 1965 European and Canadian immigration made up 60% of the migrants entering the USA. By 1970 that number had dropped to 20%. The total non-Hispanic white population in America declined from 85% in 1965 to 62.2% in 2014. Certain politicians -like Lex Luthor and his orange real-world counterpart- use fear and bigotry as a justification for closing our borders, often claiming Mexicans and other illegal immigrants are coming to take Americans’ jobs, but really we have not been talking about illegal immigration up to this point. The changing racial and ethnic make-up of America is not due to people here illegally, but because of those that came through the proper channels. In fact, undocumented residents make up a very small proportion of the people who enter the United States every year, but you would never know that by the rhetoric of some politicians.

Would it also surprise you to know that only 81% of illegal immigrants are from Latin America? Did you know that the illegal migrant population has actually declined from 12.2 million in 2009 to 11.3 million and has remained steady ever since, or that Mexicans only make up 49% of the undocumented population? When most people think of illegal immigrants they have a clear picture in their heads, and the Lex Luthors of the world often exploit those stereotypes to put blame particularly on Mexico for sending us their “criminals and rapists,” who burden the good people of America.

Superman is an illegal immigrant, and far worse Clark Kent lives each day under a forged birth certificate and a falsely issued social security number. Most undocumented migrants do not have that luxury, but the Man of Steel, on the other hand, is eligible for healthcare -not that he really gets sick- and social security benefits, -not that he really ages- but we don’t think of people who look like Kal-El when we think of undocumented residents? Maybe we forgive Superman because of his abilities, but what if that is not the only reason? What if it has less to do with his heat vision and more to do with the color of his skin? There has always been an ugliness to the American immigration system, one that is often lessened for white immigrants. The more you examine the history of US Immigration policies the more racial and regional biases become apparent, and that is doubly so when it comes to illegal migrants.

Faster Than a Speeding Green Card
You might be saying, “Why don’t they just come here legally, like everybody else?” Current American laws are complex and take a lot of time and money. Not everyone has access to either of those things, especially when trying to escape violence, drought, or starvation. In many cases the people that would benefit most from immigration are the ones that simply cannot do it.

The legal immigration process is fraught with more obstacles than a deathtrap designed by the Riddler. There are only four conditions under which a person is allowed to legally immigrate to the United States:

  1. Already have a family member who is a citizen;
  2. Marry a citizen;
  3. Have a valuable skill set; or
  4. Be a refugee fleeing from a country.

Each of those four criteria come with their own host of problems. For example, marrying an American citizen is not the “easy-street” process that movies and hilarious sitcoms make it seem. Not only do you still need to go through the regular channels of immigration, but your marriage will be evaluated and tested by the government at every turn. Being a refugee is not much easier either. America accepted less than 80,000 refugees last year and the paperwork, inspections, and background checks could take years, even for people in urgent need of relocation. Normal immigrants could wait literally decades to be allowed to enter into the country, and the process takes a lot of money. Medical examinations, interviews, legal consultation, and more interviews. The process is far from straight-froward and the paperwork is often confusing. Mistakes are common and that could mean delays, more legal fees, and even starting again from scratch. Most people will find themselves paying thousands of dollars and could be left waiting for up to 20 years to be accepted. There are over 1.3 million Mexican immigrants waiting on backlog to come to America legally, right now.

We at the NYRD are not excusing illegal immigration, but when your home planet is exploding you don’t always have the time to fill out the proper paperwork. When you live in a place where drug cartels behead people and your child has to subsist on diseased water you probably cannot afford to wait two decades. Where does that leave Clark Kent? An argument could be made for refugee status, or foreign adoption, or even that he has a unique skill set. After all, the immigration policy literally says that they are looking for “aliens with extraordinary abilities.” Yet, Jonathon and Martha Kent followed no legal channels. They forged documents and created false records, offering sanctuary to a literal illegal alien. Does that put them in the wrong? What about Jor-El? Should we demonize that Marlon-Brando-wannabe for not going through the proper channels before sending his baby to Earth? Is the plight of Kal-El so much different than the plight of a child from Honduras or Mexico, whose parents can only hope that they are doing everything they can to send them away to a better world?

Believing a Man Can Fly
Lastly, it is worth dispelling certain notions that people have about illegal immigrants. First off, 69% of Americans, are actually against deporting the undocumented whom are already in this country, and maybe that is because those people understand that illegal immigrants are not “taking American jobs” or “sucking dry the welfare system.” When you logically think about the argument, it seems more absurd than that time Superman flew backwards around the planet. By definition undocumented immigrants are undocumented. That means they do not have a social security numbers or even a birth certificate. They don’t have the proper paperwork to get a driver’s license let alone apply for unemployment, food stamps, medicare, or any of the other systems that certain people claim they are overburdening. Illegal immigrants are already here and they are already contributing. In fact, illegal immigrants only make up 3.5% of the US population, but they make up an estimated 5.1% of the US labor force, and not because they are taking people’s jobs as doctors, lawyers, or journalists with the Daily Planet. Many have to work multiple low-income, highly physical, and hour intensive jobs just to support their families. Another recent study found that illegal immigrants actually pay about 11.8 billion in taxes, with no chance of receiving any of that money back through refunds or services.

Of course, this situation does hurts the rest of us as well. Some estimates say that illegal immigrants cost Americans residents 100 billion each year, but not in the way you think. Illegal immigrants can’t drive because they don’t have driver’s licenses, but on the rare occasion they are forced to drive -whether for work or due to an emergency- and they hit your car, then guess who will have to pay for all the damages. Undocumented residents also tend to avoid hospitals because they are afraid of being deported, which means they only seek medical help for the most dire of problems. Unfortunately, they are not eligible for healthcare, so the cost is shouldered by the hospital who then shifts that burden to other patients. Deporting Clark Kent and other illegal immigrants is not the solution either, as the deportation process is lengthy and costly. The irony here, is that the best course of action is to actually give these 11.3 billion migrants legal status so they can contribute and work in our nation in legal and meaningful ways, because if Superman is meant to teach us anything it is that people can be extraordinary if they are given the right chance.

There have been more than a few studies to prove that immigration works. Immigrants, of any color or creed, help revitalize areas like Detroit. Many do work that native residents often shun, while others start business and bring fresh ideas to boost the economy. Migrants also help keep our country young at a time when modern and developed countries are facing an aging crisis. Places like China and Japan are looking at an aging population, while we will continue have a fresh workforce and young taxpayers. Immigration has shaped this country for the better, but we need to move beyond those old fears and bigotries. America has always been about taking in the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free the rays of a yellow sun that will make them stronger here then they were at home.

Yes, we 100% need to reform the immigration system, but we cannot close our borders, nor forget the people who are already here. To do so would mean a chance on missing out on the next Einstein, Shuster, Siegel, or maybe even the next Superman.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled NYRD articles so that we can talk about the elephant in the room, the one wearing the bad toupee and worth several billion dollars. Donald Trump is still leading in the Republican Primaries, with 24% of registered Republicans saying they will vote for him as their candidate. Make no mistake, this lead is not happening despite the horrible and shocking things he has said about immigration, Mexicans, women and other topics. No, his current lead is very much because of those things. Even worse the “Trump Effect” is now something that other GOP candidates are trying to embrace in order to get noticed, and we here at The NYRD are looking for someone to blame. Thankfully -like the answers to all great questions in life- we only have to look to our television sets to find it.

The sad truth is that we are no longer watching a serious public debate on policy and issues. Instead, we are watching America’s Top Candidate, a reality show being orchestrated and run by none other than the Celebrity Apprentice himself, Donald “Screw You and Your Ovaries” Trump. There is a reason that the media and the public cannot seem to get enough of Trump, no matter how much we try. It is because our brains are now hardwired to be dangerously addicted to reality TV, and The Great Orange Blowhard knows how to give everyone exactly what they want, fake reality.

Celebrity Rehab
Reality shows and the drama they give us are a drug. According to studies conducted at Ohio University people watch reality TV to feel better about themselves, and to escape the pressures of their own world. The same could be said about chocolate, but like chocolate, too much is a bad thing, and we might all be heading toward sugar overload. No, that is a bad analogy. Reality TV is not like alcohol or drugs, two substances we indulge in to forget our troubles, they are more like an addiction we use to reinforce our own self image.

As human being you have a few tactics for feeling better about your life. You can exercise, learn something, help someone in need, or make some other positive change in your world. However, another and quicker way to get a self-esteem boost is to compare yourself to someone who may not have it as “together” as you do, and unless you are actually staring on the next season of The Bachelor, than that’s probably 95% of all people on reality TV. Thus, watching reality TV is not so much about entertainment as it is about a quick fix of superiority, mixed with the same sort of morbid fascination you might have while watching a slow train derailment.

Reality TV is like potato chips. There is not a lot of nutrients but it still fills a hole. You do not even need to leave the couch, but know that this “hole” is something that only reality TV can fill. Shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Breaking Bad, will never satisfy the same need. Even worse, like any addiction, the more you feed into the hole, the bigger it gets.

In other words, when watching contestants eat bugs for money stops being satisfying, you may then have to graduate to two middle aged women fist-fighting, then to two washed up celebrities screaming at one another, because sometimes both Terrell Owens and Gilbert Gottfried want to work for Donald Trump. That last sentence, by the way, is so unfathomably against the laws of nature, that somewhere a kitten just died. The point is, that watching reality shows is more about the strange satisfaction we get, than it is about any substance that might be within the show.

Even shows like House Hunters which is not about seven Italian stereotypes being way too Italian on the shores of New Jersey, still has elements of this. There is something strangely satisfying about watching a placid pale couple make totally outrageous demands, or be unrealistic in their expectations, or even make a decision to buy a house that is out of their price range. We know that you, our dear viewer, would probably never spend more on a house than you could afford, except that 52% of you do. Well, at least you can still judge them for that stupid haircut they have.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Humans become numb to new experiences pretty quickly. It’s why we keep building faster roller-coasters, bigger movie explosions, newer iPhones, and Charlie Sheen. Similarly, reality TV feels the same pressure to keep topping itself, but we are reaching a point of absurdity. Compare the two commercials below:


In case you hadn’t guessed it, the one on the top is a fake reality show from 30 Rock. The second one  is an actual reality show from… sigh… the Discovery Channel. There were also numerous other examples we could have shown you, including a reality show on WE TV where couples have sex in a box in front of a live audience, aptly titled Sex Box. We also could have point to a reality show where thirty women are tricked into thinking they are competing for a chance to marry Prince Harry in I Wanna Marry Harry, because apparently making all the bad guys in Star Wars have British accents wasn’t quite insulting enough. We could also mention Sister Wives, a reality show that follows a family that boasts three wives and one husband, because polygamy is still a thing and apparently warrants its own TV show. The real reality shows are beginning to look more absurd than the fake reality shows that other TV and movies come up with to make fun of them. When did we start living in a Mel Brooks’ movie?

The Biggest Loser
Remember when we brought up It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Breaking Bad? You may have noticed that those are also shows about people who make less than moral choices in their lives. Yet, we do not get the same self-esteem boost from them as we do from reality TV shows. Our brains react to fictional shows different than supposed “reality” shows. We see those dramas or comedies and we learn to “suspend our belief.” We willingly enter into an agreement where everyone involved agrees that it is fake. Thus, self-esteem-wise, we do not compare ourselves to Mac, Dee, Charlie, and Dennis because even though they are horrible human beings, our brains still understand that they are fictional. We look at their antics and say, “That’s funny because no real person would act like that.” Reality shows, on the other hand, give an illusion of truth even when most of them have a credited writer attached.

Reality shows are just as fake as fictional shows. Most episodes are constructed from careful editing combined with producer prompted answers and situations. If you don’t believe us, read Cracked’s account of one of the stars on the show, Kid Nation, which was basically TV’s attempt at making Lord of the Flies. Producers had to goad the kids into turning on each other, basically teaching them how to aim for the little knee caps. This blurring between fiction and reality can be dangerous, and the amount of violence and aggression on reality shows is only rising. Producers may not always directly instigate the problems but they certainly know how to exploit things like alcohol and other situations to gently nudge people and situations in the direction that will get the most ratings.

Remember how there was always someone on TV claiming that their child put his eye out because he was imitating Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or GI Joe? Remember how parents protested that kids imitated violent video games and comic books? Remember when people raised hell over others imitating reality TV shows? Oh, you don’t remember that? Us neither, but it turns out that reality TV show imitation is way more dangerous than a six year old swinging around a dish rag and calling it a nunchuck.

A study conducted between 2002 and 2006, showed that crime rates rose in Laguna Beach during the years the reality show Laguna Beach was airing, as opposed to a demographically similar California beach town which saw crime rates fall in accordance with falling national crime rates during the same time period. Similarly, between 2008 and 2011, the crime rate of the Jersey Shore town, Seaside Heights, rose steadily. Coincidently, MTV’s Jersey Shore aired from 2009 to 2012. The basic assumption becomes, “Those people on TV get away with it all the time, in the same town. So why can’t I?”

When a show aims to convince people that what they are watching is the “truth,” then those people start seeing their own lives very differently. Now, we are not claiming that sixteen year old girls are going out to get pregnant so they can be the next Teen Mom, except that they might be, but more and more people are starting to glamorize and sympathize the self-indulgence and bad behavior witnessed on these shows. Other studies have even linked reality TV with an increase in fighting and an increase in plastic surgery, with “87% of all first time plastic surgery patients… influenced by reality TV.”

The Real World
Reality TV warps people’s perceptions. Let’s go back to the example of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In that fictional show, whenever Charlie and the gang do something horrible it often ends up having consequences, as do most fictional shows. Even Seinfeld and the gang went to jail because they were basically all horrible people, but what are the consequences of reality TV?

The biggest schemer often wins the prize, whether that be immunity or the Bachelor. The more a horrible a “real housewife” you are, the more likely you will find some modicum of celebrity status in the real world. The Teen Moms are now rich tabloid celebrities. In a world of Facebook and Twitter there is no more bad press. Sex tapes are not something to be ashamed of anymore, they are springboards to stardom, riches, and your own perfume line.

So what message do people get when they see all this? “Behave badly. Get Noticed,” A study done at the State University of New York crunched the numbers and found that there is a significant correlation between the amount of reality TV consumed by a person and the amount of “self-disclosure” that person posts to the Internet. Reality TV tells people that airing their dirty laundry in public is not only normal but be beneficial. So in a way, we have begun to associate poor behavior with not just success and celebrity, but the traits of a winner.

American Idol
Enter Donald Trump, a man who is never been afraid of the limelight or of making himself look like a fool. The man is no stranger to reality TV. The Apprentice has been on the air for 14 seasons, giving Trump a platform for his own special brand of obnoxious buffoonery. The GOP Primary is just the next step up in a larger arena of public spectacle, and perhaps even the next logical one.

Maybe it was only a matter of time before our reality TV influenced our reality. After all, what is a Presidential race, other than one long reality show. Maybe Trump is just giving everyone what they secretly want. He insults Mexicans and everyone takes notice. He insults women and all the other candidates get pushed aside. He acts like a clueless idiot and he takes over the GOP debate. He is playing right into the kind of expectations we would have for a contestant on shows like Survivor or Big Brother and that is bad. It lowers our national conversation, makes us look like idiots on an international stage, but worst of all, keep in mind that when it comes to reality TV, those are the type of people who often win.