Banter M Issue 40

In this issue of Banter M: 

Why I Love Donald Trump - "I want America to take the test." writes Tommy Christopher. "I want to know, once and for all, if the things we tell ourselves about our country are true, if people are basically good, if the American people are smarter than that"

War Gods and the Myth of Invincibility - Ben Cohen analyzes MMA superstar Conor McGregor's devastating loss to Nate Diaz last weekend, and argues that McGregor disrespected the War Gods by believing he was invincible -- a cardinal sin for anyone familiar with the brutal realities of the fight game. 

No, CNN, the KKK is Not a "Leftist Organization" - Bob Cesca demolishes CNN's Jeffrey "Jeff" Lord who has been spreading the myth that liberals are responsible for the KKK, and gives the decrepit Reaganite a much needed civics lesson. 

Why I Love Donald Trump

by Tommy Christopher

Anyone who has read these pages with any regularity knows that I'm rooting hard for Donald Trump to win the Republican presidential nomination, for reasons that I have thus far only hinted at. The short answer is that he is delivering Republicans the comeuppance they so richly deserve for decades of sick race-baiting and white power policies, but the more I think about Trump, the more deeply I wish for November's showdown.

Since I was born and raised in New Jersey, Donald Trump has been a fact of life since the mid-eighties, but I never really thought about him in political terms until I met him. It was at CPAC in 2011, and I was power-walking with my head down, angrily texting someone. I did a lot of that, walking around CPAC without paying attention to where I was going. In fact, the last time I spoke to Andrew Breitbart, I was coming up off the escalator reading my phone, and he was getting on it to go down. We almost knocked each other over, and I jokingly said "Watch it, motherfucker."

We both laughed, and that was the last thing I ever said to him. Sorry to bring the room down.

This time, I was striding along toward the ballrooms, not looking where I was going, when I almost ran smack into Donald Trump and his entourage. I think someone said "Whoah!" or maybe I just sensed danger, so I stopped just short of Trump, looked up, and said "Sorry! Pardon me," and stepped aside to let them pass.

Trump just said "It's okay," and as he passed, his security guys gave me the evil eye. Behind Trump's entourage, though, was a growing Pied Piper phalanx of CPAC attendees trailing him. I was taken aback. What the fuck is Donald Trump doing at CPAC?

I had never thought of Trump as a conservative, or really as a politically-engaged person at all. As a businessman, it wasn't all that surprising that he'd be attracted to the GOP's tax-cutting ways, but after watching him on TV for years, I had him pegged as a cultural liberal who thought about politics as much as the next average American, which is not much. This was before he started his Birther crusade against President Obama, and so to see him at CPAC, a hub for hardcore conservative activists, was surprising to me.

I immediately took out my video camera and started shooting footage, and after a few feet, Trump stopped at the entrance to the hall where all the ballrooms were and started talking to attendees. The whole thing was so random to me, though, that I couldn't think of a single question to ask him, so after a few minutes, I shut the camera off and went on my way. 

This was back before it was easy to store video footage that I was never going to use, so I wound up deleting it, which is a shame. I have no recollection of what he was talking to them about, but there was something fascinating going on nonetheless. 

As Trump stood there chit-chatting and glad-handing, the crowd continued to grow, like space junk accumulating in orbit around a planet. I had already been to three CPACs and seen every Republican luminary and "celebrity" you can imagine, and never had I seen anything like this.

But the fascinating thing was that this enormous, growing crowd stood perfectly still, gazing in awe at Trump like the dog in the old RCA Victor "His master's voice" ads. It was fucking creepy. Knowing nothing of what was to come, it immediately reminded me of the only other person I'd seen have even remotely that sort of an effect. 

Every year at CPAC, there's a moment when everyone in the hotel suddenly stops in unison and stares at the nearest TV screen for half an hour like androids downloading a software update, and it's when Ann Coulter delivers whatever hate-filled rant she has cued up for that year. It is also super-Jonestown-weird.

But at that point, Trump wasn't the avatar of white resentment he was about to become, he was just a reality TV star who projected tacky wealth like a zircon-encrusted IMAX theater. To me, he was the reality TV star I had once loved to hate.

That's right, I was once a voracious viewer of The Apprentice, along with a raft of other "reality" shows. In particular, I was fascinated by programs in that much-maligned genre that exposed truths about human behavior, and the original Apprentice was a case study in trading dignity for the attentions of a charlatan. 

I never cottoned on to the celebrity editions because the low stakes made the results too pure a contrivance, but watching materialistic douchebags bow and scrape for the completely random and arbitrary approval of the King of Douchebags was dark, cynical entertainment at its best. It was like The Hunger Games for Dicks.

At the time, I didn't give Trump the credit he deserved, because I was fooled by his blunt whirling-dervish pronouncements, but it occurs to me now that Trump, either through natural talent or quirk of circumstance, is the ultimate lie detector. His absurd reality show exposed the worst in pretty much everyone who played it, and as he stood in his cashmere overcoat and Trump power tie gathering greed-worshiping CPACers, he exposed something about them.

Now, Donald Trump is exposing a whole new set of lies, chief among them that the last several decades of conservatism are powered by anything other than white resentment. It's something we've all always known, but which millions of decent Republicans have pretended not to notice, or rationalized away as a few bad apples, or chosen to accept as the price paid to advance their other principles. 

They've denied the Southern Strategy and the badly-coded racism of everyone from Ronald Reagan to Mitt Romney, but when Trump becomes their nominee, all of that cover will be ripped away. 

But Trump has also exposed another big lie, the oft-repeated maxim that "Nobody likes a bully."

This is only ever said by people who have either never actually seen a bully at work, or who just don't want to deal with bullying, because there has never been a bully picking on some poor soul who wasn't surrounded by a crowd. Nobody likes to be bullied, but almost everybody likes to watch one work. That's why I wish Democrats would stop calling Trump a bully, because that only works on liberals. to everyone else, it's a feature, not a bug, as long as they think the bully is on their side.

Unlike most liberals and Democrats, I'm not at all convinced that Trump will be easy to defeat in November. I can easily envision a scenario in which Democratic turnout is depressed by any number of factors, including dejected Bernie-or-Busters, and several negative media narratives dog Hillary, driving independent voters away, while tens of millions of new voters, the kind who watch The Apprentice and don't usually vote, show up to vote for a guy whose name they recognize, and whose gold-painted existence they admire. 

Meanwhile, as soon as he wins the nomination, you'll never hear Trump say another bad word about Mexicans or anyone else, and when people bring it up, he'll say "Sure, maybe I was out of line, but shouldn't we be free to speak our minds, to not be so careful about everything we say?"

The answer to that isn't even clear among liberals, many of whom yearn to stomp out "outrage culture," and to average Americans, it's a freedom they yearn for at lest a little, on some level. 

He'll also pivot on some positions, but it won't matter to Republicans. They talk a big game now, but if you think they're not going to turn out in droves to sink Hillary Clinton, you've been living in a cave since 1994. 

So, yeah, we could wind up with a President Trump, and I really, really don't want that to happen. As it happens, I think he would be a less harmful president than any of the other guys running, because I don't think he believes anything he's saying, aside from his views on trade. 

I think that first trip to CPAC was market research. I think when he saw that throng of rapt lemmings surrounding him, a light bulb went off, and he began to think about what he'd have to say to sell himself to them, and started testing products. The Birther thing was a big hit, but the market for it collapsed before he could capitalize on it.

Now, it's Mexicans and Muslims and scary blacks and bat-faced womens and Chinese who have helped him carve out the niche market he needs to take this thing national, but once the sales job is done, he'll mellow the fuck out. If Trump wins the presidency, I'd bet money that amnesty would be on the table within his first hundred days. 

But even so, even if it were less disastrous than a Cruz or Rubio presidency, a Trump presidency would still be a nightmare that no one should want to live through.

Why, then, am I still rooting for Trump to win the nomination? Because I want America to take the test. I want to know, once and for all, if the things we tell ourselves about our country are true, if people are basically good, if the American people are smarter than that, if we really are a nation dedicated to values of freedom and equality, or is that all just a thin, golden mane combed over a gleaming white dome of resentment and hate?

Next: War Gods and the Myth of Invincibility - by Ben Cohen

Nate Diaz (left) beat up UFC superstar Conor McGregor (right)

Nate Diaz (left) beat up UFC superstar Conor McGregor (right)

War Gods and the Myth of Invincibility

by Ben Cohen

Before I started The Daily Banter back in 2007, I worked as a Martial Arts instructor and a freelance boxing and MMA journalist in Los Angeles. As a lifelong fan of the fight game, it was immensely exciting to immerse myself in what is generally regarded as the Martial Arts Mecca of the world, and a place where boxing was starting to take off. Oscar DeLaHoya's LA based company Golden Boy promotions was emerging as a force in the fight game, and a young Manny Pacquiao was conducting regular training camps at famed trainer Freddie Roach's gym in Hollywood, a couple of miles away from my own neighborhood. I would go to boxing gyms in LA, interview fighters and coaches and watch them train for major fights. 

After cutting my teeth on the local boxing scene and writing for some independent websites and magazines, I began reporting on MMA fights for ESPN -- a subject I was more than familiar with given I was training MMA pretty much full time myself. I would attend press conferences, interview fighters before their matches to interview them, and report on the rapidly expanding MMA promotion outfit -- the UFC. 

Being around some of the legendary names, gyms and promoters in the sport imbibed me with a real sense of boxing and MMA culture and just how brutal the game could be. Given I was also training with some pretty decent fighters myself (although nowhere near UFC level!) it also gave me insight into the minds of professional fighters -- a topic I have always found fascinating. While I enjoyed sparring at the gym, the few actual kick boxing fights I had as a college student was more than enough to satiate my appetite for fighting and thirst for competition. While I enjoyed the technical aspects of the game, the competitiveness, and the mental focus needed to operate at a high level, I couldn't deal with the psychological consequences of seriously hurting people as I got older. As my skills improved, it became easier and easier to cause damage to people, and while it didn't bother me during sparring, it would haunt me badly afterwards. The idea of doing it for a career seemed completely insane, and I struggled to understand how the people I trained with and interviewed for the magazines I was writing for could do it without serious emotional consequence.

I would later learn that most of them didn't -- it was just something they lived with, until they couldn't anymore. 

"I don't have the guts to stay in this sport anymore," said Mike Tyson after he quit on his stool from exhaustion after his last fight with unknown Kevin McBride in 2005. "I don't want to disrespect the sport that I love. My heart is not into this anymore."

Tyson would then turn vegan and renounce violence completely, stating he didn't even have the heart to kill insects in his house any more. "I don't have the desire to hurt anyone anymore," he said. "I see a fly, but I don't have the nerve to get up and kill it."

When a fighter stops loving fighting, there is a serious chance he or she could get hurt by someone who does -- a brutal truth every fighter learns at some point in their career. “Boxing is 90% psychological," famed trainer Cus D'Amato would say. "The physical side has very little to do with it." 

Falling out of love with combat is not the only psychological pitfall in the fight game, as Irish UFC megastar Conor McGregor found out last weekend.  McGregor's meteoric rise was ruthlessly extinguished by veteran California native Nate Diaz last Saturday in Las Vegas as he was taken into deep water and drowned by a man he had called a "skinny, fat Mexican," with "repetitive foot patterns" who he would knock out "by the end of the first round". Like all of his other opponents, McGregor had verbally abused Diaz who had stepped in the fight with 11 days notice after UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out with a broken foot, dismissing him as a slow, stiff, uncreative Martial Artist with no business being in the same ring as him. 

"You're like a gazelle, all bunched up together, hoping that you get spared," McGregor told Diaz at the pre-fight press conference. "I'm a lion in there and I'm going to eat you alive. Your little gazelle friends are going to be staring through the cage, looking at you getting your carcass eaten alive and they can do nothing. All they gonna do is say 'We're never going to cross this river again'.

Strong words from a man who told anyone who would listen that he was the face of the UFC, the first billion dollar fighter who would completely dominate the game and lay waste to any man in any division. It was a claim many believed given his domination of the featherweight division and 13 second knockout of champion Jose Aldo, a man who gone unbeaten for 10 years before facing McGregor. Unfortunately for McGregor, Nate Diaz had not read the script and simply told McGregor that he was too big, too experienced and too tough for the Irishman who had been "knocking out midgets" in a lower weight division. 

In the first round of their fight, McGregor came out swinging for the fences, stalking his opponent and landing phenomenally hard punches that would have felled most men in McGregor's original featherweight class. But Diaz did not wilt despite a bloodied face and battered body. A triathlon athlete who trains with world class boxers and Jiu Jitsu competitors, Diaz had seen it all before, and came out in the second to put it on McGregor, who seemed rattled he had not put his man away in the first five minuts. As Diaz found his range, McGregor seemed unable to cope with being hit back, and began to look extremely unsure of himself. Sensing a wounded animal, Diaz upped the pressure and began to manhandle McGregor who was breathing extremely heavily. After being rocked by a stinging left hand, McGregor got desperate and took Diaz down -- a fatal error against a man with impeccable Jiu Jitsu credentials. Diaz quickly reversed McGregor's top position, mounted him and began pounding on his head as McGregor lay flat on his face on the floor. McGregor had no idea what to do, and Diaz quickly wrapped his arm around McGregor's neck and strangled him like a Boa constrictor. McGregor tapped quickly, and just like that, a seemingly invincible powerhouse and million dollar brand evaporated in front of millions of people worldwide. 

Asked to sum up his victory over McGregor by UFC host Joe Rogan, Diaz succinctly replied: "I'm not surprised, motherfuckers."

To his credit, McGregor was humble in defeat, telling Rogan that Diaz "kept his composure. He went into almost autopilot mode with the shots. His face was busted up. And I went into panic mode. It was just a shift of energy and he capitalized on it."

To those of us who have followed the fight game and studied its history for a number of years, McGregor's defeat was surprising, but not a shock. While McGregor insisted that the laws of gravity did not apply to him, what goes up must inevitably come down, no matter how persuasive your argument is. Hubris is just as dangerous as apathy in the fight game, a fact former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones reminded everyone of when his hero Anderson Silva -- a fighter considered to be the greatest Mixed Martial Artist of all time  -- was unceremoniously knocked out by Chris Weidman in 2013 after dropping his hands and clowning his opponent:

"I think that he [Silva] has an extraordinary gift," said Jones when asked about the fight.  "I think he's gotten to the point where he really believes in his gift and he's comfortable with his gift. He abused his gift, disrespected his gift, by disrespecting his opponent. Martial arts is a sport that is traditionally based around honor and integrity. You treat people with respect. He somehow lost sight of that and paid the ultimate price for it. He was fighting at a masterful level, he just got disrespectful and the War Gods made him pay for it."

Many fighters have met the same fate as Silva and McGregor. Ronda Rousey was head kicked into oblivion by Holly Holm late last year, the great Roberto Duran was starched in two short rounds against Tommy Hearns in 1984, and the legendary Joe Louis was knocked out in the 12th round by Max Schmeling in their first fight in 1936. The greats all lose when they fight the best, and there is no shame in it. 

Conor McGregor is a unique, once in a generation fighters who is genuinely special -- but not so special that he is unbeatable. All fighters lose their appetite for violence at some point, and all fighters lose if they begin to believe their own hype. As I learned years ago from my own experience in Martial Arts and speaking with the legends of the fight game, the laws of the War Gods are immutable, and no man or woman is beyond them. 

When asked about an earlier statement that he could "whoop" Jesus's ass in an MMA match, McGregor told the press that "Me and Jesus are cool. I'm cool with all the Gods. Gods recognize Gods."

While Jesus may be cool with McGregor, the War Gods evidently were not. 

Next: Dear CNN: The KKK is Not a "Leftist Organization" - by Bob Cesca

Van Jones and Jeffrey Lord Duke it Out

Van Jones and Jeffrey Lord Duke it Out

Dear CNN: The KKK is Not a "Leftist Organization" 

For reasons defying comprehension, CNN continues to invite conservative hack-pundit and former Reagan administration operative Jeffrey "Jeff" Lord to appear on its election coverage in spite of the fact that he's twice spread falsehoods about liberals. 

You might recall how, last week, Lord referred to the Ku Klux Klan as "a leftist organization," precipitating a not-heated-enough debate between Lord and liberal analyst Van Jones.

No, no, no, no, no. A thousand times no. The KKK has never been a "leftist" organization. This is objectively false. Lord lied on CNN. And yet he was invited back for the post-debate coverage following Wednesday night's fracas between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. 

Naturally, he went there again. According to Media Matters, Lord demanded that Hillary Clinton apologize for the Democratic Party's support for slavery. Okay, this one wasn't as glaring as the KKK nonsense, and, yes, the Democratic Party at one time supported slavery. 150 years ago. Somehow, Hillary is responsible for a regional party policy from the 19th Century, and this is a valid deflection from Donald Trump's racism today -- right now.

Lord is marketing in a tragically common fallacy on the far-right that conservatives were responsible for freeing the slaves. You've probably heard this from other pundits like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

It's a big myth. Of course.

Yes, a Republican president freed the slaves. Yes, Democrats from the South were the instigators of secession in the name of slavery. So, in a broad sense, the Republican Party can ballyhoo the fact that its first president, Lincoln, issued the Emancipation Proclamation and ratified the 13th Amendment. However, conservatives had little or nothing to do with it.

The entire discussion hinges on the concept of ideological and platform shifts between the two major political parties. High school level history and civics classes (insofar as they exist any more) should've taught us that the parties and their respective ideology makeup have changed and evolved significantly throughout our post-revolutionary history. Some platform planks took shape within one party, then slowly and in small pieces shifted to the other side. Realistically, the parties have been, at various times, a melange of ideas that were both liberal and conservative. In fact, some conservatives would break ranks and adopt progressive ideas and vice versa. Party loyalty was often based on regionalism or even family tradition as opposed to a vice-grip around strict ideological dogma. Voters would also swing wildly between the two parties. Only in the last 30 years has party identification and voting trends become increasingly entrenched and polarized, with some notable exceptions. More on that presently.

During the Abraham Lincoln administration in the early 1860s, the Republican Party, as defined by its first candidate and president, was chiefly driven by the task of maintaining a strong federal government. Lincoln was so committed to this idea that he raised an army to enforce it, and then passed the income tax and the creation of the IRS to pay for it (the Revenue Act of 1862 created the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which later became the IRS). To this day, a strong central government and a reliance upon progressive tax revenue remains a core tenet of liberal orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party was animated by states' rights and the preservation of slavery as the driving force of its economy. The mere notion of preserving a traditional means of prosperity, no matter how dubious, is inherently conservative. Today, who do we identify with small government, tradition and states' rights? Conservatives. Conversely, "big government" is a purview of liberalism. Ron Paul, formerly the most conservative member of Congress in the last 80 years, has a stock answer to every policy question he's asked: "Leave it up to the states." Conservatives hold sacred the archaic 10th Amendment, which grants state governments all of the powers not specifically enumerated in the Constitution. In 1860 and following the war, supporters of this concept identified with and voted for the Democratic Party.

In the South, party identification became locked down until the Civil Rights Act over 100 years later. Yet the South continued to be marked by conservatism. Yes, there were anti-black racists all across the political spectrum, and this was further cemented by propaganda meant to unite the North and South following the end of Reconstruction. Instead of shooting at each other across the battlefields of Gettysburg and Antietam, political leaders characterized freed slaves and their descendants as a common enemy of white America. Whites from Texas to New Hampshire were offered something upon which they could agree: black people were the enemies of American society and prosperity.

Throughout the 103 years between the 13th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act, liberal values shifted to the Democratic Party and conservative values shifted to the Republicans. Some Democrats in the South would remain conservative into the 1960s, even though much of the party had shifted to the liberalism of FDR, Kennedy and LBJ. Again, party identification wasn't necessarily about the platform. The core values of Strom Thurmond's old school Southern Dixiecrats had nothing in common with Kennedy's New Frontier. Segregation laws all across the country were simultaneously created, enforced and opposed by both Republicans and Democrats, even though liberals tended to oppose them.

If I had more space in which to continue with the history, I'd get into Teddy Roosevelt's progressive movement in spite of his Republican Party affiliation. I'd get into Democratic President Woodrow Wilson's support for segregation. I'd get into liberal Rockefeller Republicans. I'd get into Truman's desegregation of the military. Sadly, most Americans, save for liberal civil rights activists, were racists to some extent and were perfectly comfortable with "separate-but-equal" as the best way to deal with racial tensions. No one wanted another Civil War, so it was easier to ostracize, demonize and oppress an entire race of Americans.

Back to 2016.

Revisionist hacks like Lord, along with their easily-misled fans, believe that the Republican Party of 1860 possessed exactly the same platform and ideology as the Republican Party of today. To reinforce this lie, they employ the words "conservative" and "Republican" interchangeably even though they're historically exclusive. They'll claim Lincoln as their own because he was a "Republican," but then they'll rapidly refer to "the conservative" who freed the slaves. Actually, it's not shocking they would conflate and misrepresent party platforms and history, given how they've tried to convince their people that fascists can be socialists and that a mixed-race liberal born in Hawaii could be a Nazi.

Today, we continue to see liberal Republicans like, say, Clint Eastwood who considers himself a social liberal in support of same-sex marriage and the rescue of Detroit, but also considers himself to be a fiscal conservative and Romney supporter. There are Reagan Democrats and Obama Republicans. There's Bob Casey who's a "pro life" Democrat. There's the late Arlen Specter, a pro-choice Republican who switched party affiliations soon after the 2008 election. President Bill Clinton not only passed welfare reform, but he also repealed Glass-Steagall by signing the conservative Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation. There's Rand Paul who's -- hell, I don't think he even knows what he is. And don't forget "blue dog" Democrats like Gabrielle Giffords. Nothing is as simple as a label, even if the Republicans deliberately troll Democrats by erroneously identifying the name of the party as the "Democrat Party," to separate it from the word "democratic."

Someone needs to pull Jeff Lord aside and explain 8th grade American history to him. America of 1860 or 1760 or 1660 is extraordinarily different from America in 2016, so it stands to reason the parties that govern the nation would evolve and change as well. And of all large scale American institutions, none is more adept at moving whichever way the wind blows as our two major political parties.