Banter M Issue 58

In this week's edition of Banter M:

The RNC Doom Show: The Real Reason You Should Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid - "It's rare that I can't make materialize on the digital page the thoughts that are in my head and rarer still that I'm left completely at a loss for a worthwhile and fitting description of a situation or event," writes Chez Pazienza. "And yet, try as I might I can't even begin to figure out how to properly describe the gruesome, surreal, endlessly batsh*t crazy spectacle that's unfolded in Cleveland over the past few days."

Get Up When You Want To - Ben Cohen has some career and lifestyle advice for you. But before you read it, bear in mind he is probably the last person you want to listen to given his own track record....

Hillary Clinton is the Only Antidote to America's Political Road Rage - Bob Cesca argues that despite her imperfections, Hillary Clinton is the last line of defense against the unbridled rage currently sweeping the country. "It's unlikely she'll fix it," write Bob of Clinton. "But by providing a sense of familiarity, steady leadership and a dutiful respect for the traditions of the office, at least in contrast with Trump, she'd very likely thwart a slide into popular anarchy."

The RNC Doom Show: The Real Reason You Should Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

by Chez Pazienza

I write for a living. I like to think this makes me pretty good with words. It's rare that I can't make materialize on the digital page the thoughts that are in my head and rarer still that I'm left completely at a loss for a worthwhile and fitting description of a situation or event. And yet, try as I might I can't even begin to figure out how to properly describe the gruesome, surreal, endlessly batshit crazy spectacle that's unfolded in Cleveland over the past few days. The best single word I can come up with has maybe been overused in nerd criticism but I'm not sure it's ever been attached to a political convention: Lovecraftian. The Republican National Convention is utterly Lovecraftian. It's the sort of thing that's so perverse and terrifying in every conceivable way that it's actually hypnotic, slowly drawing you in and lulling you into a trance as it begins to spin your brain on its axis, scrambling your thoughts and ultimately driving you to chaos and madness. 

This year's RNC is a nightmare that's positively literary, even biblical, in scope. Edgar Allen Poe, in the throes of his darkest opium delirium; Clive Barker, at his most gleefully depraved and sacrilegious; Cormac McCarthy, reveling in every last ounce of casual sadism -- none of them could even begin to conjure something as relentlessly insane as the party currently being thrown for Donald Trump's coronation. There's honestly never in my lifetime been a tableau of pure psychosis quite like this thing. It feels like every single aspect of it is in the service of one giant, Joker-level gag. Moment to moment, it's simply impossible to process the symphony of apocalyptic rage and square it with the steady drip, drip, drip of moments that display such political incompetence that they just have to be on purpose. There's no other explanation for their existence.

In just the past 72 hours we've witnessed: a delegate revolt on the convention floor; Z-list nobody Scott Baio doubling-down on calling Hillary Clinton a cunt; fellow Z-list nobody Antonio Sabato Jr. declaring Barack Obama a Muslim merely because he believes it to be true; Steve King actually touting white supremacy; Rudy Giuliani going full fire-and-brimstone and literally shouting about how there won't be an America left if we don't vote Trump; Melania Trump plagiarizing Michelle Obama during her speech and, God help us, Rick-rolling the crowd; Chris Christie holding a mock banana republic show trial in which both he and the audience bellowed with eliminationist bloodlust that Clinton be thrown in jail; Ben Carson accusing Clinton of conspiring with Lucifer; Lou Holtz insulting soccer as a means of saying that he shouldn't have to bend to immigrants, they should bend to him; members of the crowd shouting "no Islam" at what has to be the lone member of American Muslims for Trump; a Trump advisor declaring that Clinton should be shot for treason (and the Trump campaign essentially shrugging it off); Newt Gingrich taking the stage to The Who's Eminence Front, a song about excessive wealth, the chorus of which actually repeats the words, "It's a put-on," over and over; Ted Cruz being humiliated by Trump one last time as the latter reportedly whipped the frenzied audience up to boo him, a moment followed by Trump actually appearing onstage to steal the spotlight away from his former rival -- again; Laura Ingraham appearing to literally sieg heil Trump at the end of her speech.

 And so on and so on, I say with the acknowledgment that in reality this barely scratches the surface of the lunacy and white reactionary fury the Quicken Loans Arena has played host to over the past three days.

To the Republicans who've dutifully fallen in line behind Trump, this may be nothing more than a lesser of two evils (as the GOP has proven, if nothing else, that it despises Hillary Clinton with the intensity of a star going nova). But to those who elevated Trump to this victory, the rabid animals rending their garments on the floor of the convention and frothing at the mouth with every mention of Clinton or the already well-encroached threat she represents, this truly is -- as Giuliani said -- a last stand. It is, put simply, the final battle for a way of life that's already slipped away. For years now the GOP and the fading white, Christian majority that's been its almost sole constituency have been staring down the barrel of demographic extinction. And they know it. A black president, the codification of gay marriage, the rise of the Latino population and its political power, and an overwhelmingly liberal new generation of Millennials spells doom for the traditional Republican way of life -- and conservatives know it. That's why they're so angry. This is it for them. This is their Alamo -- or maybe their Waterloo.

But even with that knowledge, the assurance that their time is nearly up, it's essential that sane people everywhere resist the urge to get complacent. To you and I, the Republican National Convention looks like a gift from the gods -- a complete Norovirus-infected shit-show -- but while it most certainly is by any rational standard, not everyone in America is rational. While national polling typically isn't truly reliable until after both parties have had their conventions, the fact remains that Donald Trump -- in spite of all the offensive, unbridled lunacy we've seen throughout his campaign and over the past three days -- is still a threat. Nate Silver currently has Clinton ahead -- he gives her a 61% chance of taking the election -- but that means Trump has a 39% chance. Have five elections and Trump would win two of them. Those odds a little too close for comfort. 

In the coming days, Clinton is likely to fully take the wind out of Trump's giant sails made of his own withered, orange skin, first by announcing her running-mate and then by being part of a convention that will make the RNC look like what it is: an embarrassing clown show. But Clinton only wins if we don't get too happy and if we do get out and vote. Trump's historically high unfavorable numbers, coupled with a Washington Post poll that finds that even a majority of those who don't like Clinton still believe she's qualified for the presidency, whereas Trump isn't, will likely doom him. But never forget that there's a method to this madness and what Trump and the GOP are attempting is to play up Americans' recent fears that violence -- both foreign and domestic -- is right at their doorstep. Trump is giving them someone to blame for it -- and that's how authoritarians rise to power.

As it stands right now, Trump hasn't pivoted in the least toward the usual general election stance. He's still throwing red meat to the angry, ass-backward racists, misogynists and xenophobes that are the roiling base of the Republican party. But there's still always the chance that his fear-mongering will resonate beyond that, at least enough to tighten the race. Because traditionally, when Americans are terrified it's the party promising "law and order" who benefits -- and that's what the GOP is trying to do right now. Will it work? It's doubtful given that neither "law" nor "order" should even be in the same sentence as Donald Trump, but it's not impossible. Sure, you can revel in Clinton's likely dominance of him, but remember that that dominance is always tenuous. That's how politics work, especially in the age of social media, where a single event can shift the narrative and fortunes can change in an instant. 

I don't think Trump stands a chance. I think he and his entire crazy train are going to get pounded into the ground. But I'm not 100% sure of that -- and I think that's a good state of mind to maintain. If there's one more thing the last few days have taught us it's that a Donald Trump presidency would be a nonstop catastrophe, a lightning fast jump from one disaster to the next, all the result of Trump's own incompetence and self-evident temperamental unfitness for higher office. We can't under any circumstances allow Trump to be victorious in November. Because what he and his maniacal disciples don't understand is that when it comes to the bad news that's seemed to consume 2016, they're not the solution -- they're a very big part of the problem.      

Next: Get Up When You Want To - by Ben Cohen

Get Up When You Want To

by Ben Cohen

Before we get started, I'd like to preface this article with a disclaimer: I am probably the last person you want to go to for career advice. I have never really believed in the concept of a career, have never held a full time job for more than four months, and struggle with any form of authority. In other words, feel free to discount much of what I am about to say.

Despite my obvious lack of credentials, for some reason I seem to spend much of my free time counseling other people on their careers and what they should be doing with their lives. Perhaps this has something to do with me having my own business and am seemingly relatively stress free most of the time. I certainly understand that my current position in life may seem enviable, but despite all the benefits of being my own boss, it comes with considerable drawbacks -- think being on call almost 24/7, having no job security, no health benefits, no corporate perks and being liable for the livelihood of everyone who works for you. It's a big responsibility that I have certainly struggled with. But I do it for a reason, and can't see myself going into full employment any time soon. Why? We'll get to that in a bit. 

Generally, my advice to anyone seeking my counsel follows a pretty familiar script -- firstly the disclaimer: Don't do what I do, and certainly don't listen to me. 

If they are still listening after that, the second part of the script has not changed for as along as I have been responsible for paying my own bills: Screw your job if you don't like it, find freelance jobs if you can, work remotely, cut down hugely on your expenses if you have to, or start your own business. Do exactly what you want to do -- whether that is working in a flower shop, making artisanal sandals, selling haircare products online, or becoming a Shaman -- I say go the fuck ahead and do it. You have one life (as far as we can tell) so you might as well spend it doing something you actually enjoy. I have used this rule religiously, and while there have been some incredibly difficult times, I wouldn't go back and do it any other way and I wouldn't trade my current lifestyle for any other (and that includes being astronomically wealthy). 

The freelance/entrepreneurial lifestyle is not for everyone, but I can guarantee you that once you make some serious efforts to do exactly what it is you want to, the universe conspires to help you. And I don't mean that in a New Agey spiritual type way, I mean that it actually does. How? In short, the people around you will see your efforts and start to help you, because deep down they will admire you for taking a risk and want to see you succeed where perhaps they wished they had. Sure there will be people who want to see you fail, but any entrepreneur (and I know a lot of them) will tell you that friends, family and even strangers emerge to help you on your journey. And you'd be surprised at just how many do. 

Personally, I make a living doing things I like to do -- writing and teaching Martial Arts. I don't have a grand vision for the future, don't want to be the next Bruce Lee or for the Banter to be the next Huffington Post -- I just enjoy the process of writing and love to train and share my concepts of Martial Arts. 

Above all else though, I value my health. Early on in adulthood, I tried working 9-5 jobs, and I found myself constantly tired, anxious and stressed out. I could never get enough sleep because my most productive hours are in the evening and late at night, making me exhausted in the mornings. Without enough sleep and no control over my own working day, I felt like a half human being and concluded fairly quickly that this was an unsustainable path. While branching out by myself guaranteed poverty and instability, at least I'd get some sleep, and for me, the trade off was more than worth it. 

The scientific studies are unequivocal in their extreme advocacy of sleep -- it has been shown that a lack of sleep effects the immune system, creates massive amounts of stress, can make you gain weight, develop serious depression, and even catastrophic mental illness. Here's what the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has to say about what not getting enough sleep can do to your health:

Sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don't get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you're well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you're sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

How many people do you know who exhibit many of these symptoms? How many of these symptoms do you exhibit yourself? If it is a lot, then I'd suggest having a long hard think about what you are doing with your life. 

Again, not that my opinion means much, but I don't buy into the whole concept of getting better at managing your life around your job. I say manage your job around your life, and more specifically, your sleeping patterns. Going to bed early, coming up with sleep strategies, napping at the office etc etc are all bullshit short term fixes that do not address the actual problem. How many early nights have you spent trying to get to sleep? How many mornings have you felt like crap because despite going to bed early, you couldn't get enough sleep? 

Studies have shown that the stress hormone cortisol is markedly higher early in the morning (it's called the 'cortisol awakening response'), so traveling to work, having early morning meetings and having to deal with office politics can be incredibly stressful and anxiety inducing. My advice in reducing this relentlessly corrosive effect on your body is to figure out a lifestyle where you don't need to do much in the mornings and have nothing urgent to get up for. If you love mornings and feel super happy and positive, then there's nothing to worry about. But for the majority of people, I'd guess you hate mornings as much as I did. 

I go to sleep when I feel tired and get up when I've had enough sleep, and as a result I have remarkably little stress and can be enormously productive. Occasionally I have things I need to get up early for, but I don't stress out about it too much as I will simply make up the sleep later in the day with a nap. This has taken me many years to nail down (and it still needs tweaking), but it is more than worth it if you truly value your health and long term productivity. Because what good are you if you burn out at 50 and can't work any longer? I aim to be making a living doing what I enjoy well past the traditional retirement age, not because I need to, but because I want to. 

I have had a lot of luck and help on my journey and I certainly do not discount it. But the luck and help came after I made up my mind to do my own thing, so there's no way I could known how much luck and help I was going to get. You have to take that leap to find out, and if you don't you can be assured you'll never, ever find out. 

If I had to summarize my advice, it would be as follows: Figure out what you need to do so that you can get up when you want to. The rest will work itself out after that. 

Next: Hillary Clinton is the Only Antidote to America's Political Road Rage - by Bob Cesca

Hillary Clinton is the Only Antidote to America's Political Road Rage

by Bob Cesca

Earlier today, I watched a video featuring Alex Jones and his gaggle of paranoids marching through the streets of Cleveland, near the site of the Republican National Convention, and if nothing else did, it clarified in my mind how badly we need Hillary Clinton to be the next president. We'll circle back to specifically why.

The video showed the broadcaster of conspiracy-fanfiction and marketeer of gibberish, Jones, chanting into a bullhorn about the Globalists and the Communists using Black Lives Matter protesters as a means of, I think, implementing martial law in the United States. Again, I think this is what he was saying. It's difficult to know sometimes, since Jones' rants are generally just lists of proper names that sound evil but which probably aren't as bad as he thinks they are. You might recall how last year, by the way, Jones said the Jade Helm military exercises were supposed to spark martial law, but fine. It's also Black Lives Matter. Somehow.

Anyway, in the video, Jones arrives at his destination, which appeared to be a group of anti-Trump protesters who, much to my disgust, played directly into Jones' strategy by shouting down Jones with the refrain, "Nazi scum! Nazi scum! Nazi scum!" Then -- allegedly, and I underscore allegedly -- the protesters accosted Jones. 

Later, in the safety of his van, Jones described what happened: "A bunch of communists kept punching me... That was crazy, though, man. A bunch of guys with red flags came up and started hitting me and slapping me and saying, you know, I was a Nazi." Jones continued by saying that he fell forward and shoved the protesters, denying that he fought back. I don't know what this means, but Jones, his egg-shaped head lathered in sweat and capped with a rumpled wick of thinning brown hair, added, "God, those communists are amazing." Sure, and on cue, no less.

It's difficult to know what specifically happened at the scene, and who-attacked-whom is kind of irrelevant. What's truly germane to the state of politics and the mood of the country is that it happened in the first place: that both the Jones cabal and the anti-Trump protesters were so filled with screeching rage that they had no problem whatsoever lashing out at each other on the streets of Cleveland, as if any of it would make a flying shit's worth of difference. Ultimately, both sets of protesters, including Jones himself, were more or less engaging in masturbatory activism. It might feel good, and it might make for good video, but it won't move the Overton Window. Ever. What each group illustrated, though, is a broader point that's being played out both inside and outside the convention hall.

What's become abundantly clear since the launch of this presidential election cycle is that America needs the continued leadership of a stable, centered, reliable president, and the only candidate who can provide such qualities, short of President Obama himself, is, naturally, Hillary Clinton.

Whether it's the epidemic of shootings, one after another, or the inchoate rage being exhibited by Trump supporters, the United States is suffering from a virulent case of brain worms. Everyone's going nuts. Which is bizarre given how much things have improved since the depths of the Great Recession. Yes, I understand that more needs to be done in order to resolve many of the systemic issues that caused the recession in the first place, but in terms of the most reliable economic indicators most Americans are considerably better off than they were in 2008 and 2009 when it looked like the world economy would collapse, and the dreams of Tyler Durden would soon be reality.

It could be a societal reaction to the first African-American president, or it could be the toxic broadcasts ejaculated twenty-four-seven by Fox News and AM talk radio, or it could be factors that haven't been quantified yet. It's difficult to know for sure, but the last thing that'll correct our skewed trajectory is a President Trump, who would surely worsen matters by legitimizing a psychotic Alex Jones approach to just about everything. The irony of Jones' support for Trump is that Jones comports himself as one of the leading crusaders against tyranny, while Trump is the most likely tyrant of the two major party candidates. Far and away. Regardless, the current climate of mayhem and, with it, this self-destructive hero-worship of Trump indicates that people are drunk on their own sense of anger and resentment against... something?

Again, the election of Donald Trump would only feed the beast. Around 44 percent of voters today think Trump is the antidote to their rage, but he's actually the manifestation of it. His ascendancy to the Oval Office would legitimize their flailing indignation, rather than ameliorating it. Worse, Trump would feel obligated to react to domestic and world events by pandering to the rage and channeling it into policies that would only infect the wounds and further incite these displays of fear and white male entitlement playing out in Cleveland.

Hillary Clinton, for all her faults, would represent a stabilization -- a containment of the mayhem. It's unlikely she'll fix it, but by providing a sense of familiarity, steady leadership and a dutiful respect for the traditions of the office, at least in contrast with Trump, she'd very likely thwart a slide into popular anarchy. To repeat: this isn't to suggest that President Obama is responsible for this national ungainliness. On the contrary, Obama has done a fine job providing steady, pragmatic leadership under fire. In fact, it's his unwillingness to play into the GOP's efforts to stereotype him that's stirred much of the older white rage at the center of the national condition.

By now, there are millions of mostly white, mostly older Americans who've spent the last eight years glued to Fox News like their own personal security woobies, and they've all been indoctrinated with ideas that don't bear out in objective reality. They believe unemployment is rampant, even though the unemployment rate has been cut in half. They believe Obama hasn't done enough to stimulate rapidly ascending economic growth, even though 1) such a thing would involve another bubble economy, and 2) I thought the Republicans believed the president alone can't grow the economy. They believe the Black Panthers are still a thing. Hell, they believe brown-skinned immigrants are going to explode their dreams of a 1950s Utopia, backsliding it into a third world banana republic. They believe the budget deficit and the national debt are interchangeable terms, and therefore they fail to grasp that, under Obama, the deficit has dropped by more than a trillion dollars. This list goes on and on, and the upshot is a lot of pissed off white people.

And clown-haired Donald Trump is the antidote? That's rich.

If nothing else, the American presidency is about providing a touchstone for how we should comport ourselves amid harrowing news events and changing times. It's unclear just how steady a president Hillary will turn out to be, but based on her service as Secretary of State and, before it, as a U.S. Senator, we know that she's capable of providing a strong sense of reliability in the face of both controversy (see her 11-hour Benghazi testimony) and conflicts.

In that regard, at the end of the day, your vote should come down to one simple decision, determined by the following. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis Test. 

Ask yourself which candidate would best handle the circumstances surrounding those 13 terrible days in October, 1962. Contemporaneously, it's obvious to most historians that President Kennedy handled the crisis with deftness and, while imperfect, managed to resolve it without a nuclear exchange against the Soviets. Nixon, on the other hand, would've absolutely precipitated the launch of nuclear weapons, if not an outright World War. 

Now, superimpose Hillary and Trump into the equation. If your conclusion is anyone but Hillary, you need to spend more time with a thick book about history and international affairs. You also need to look again at the syllabus of nincompoops Trump has hired as his closest advisers (the most visible one today just admitted to inserting plagiarized lines into Trump's wife's RNC speech), as well as the fact that as recently as December, Trump didn't even know what the "nuclear triad" was. (Short answer: the triad is the three delivery methods of our nuclear arsenal: silo-launched nukes, air-launched nukes and submarine-launched nukes.)

There's no other conclusion. Hillary Clinton has to be the next president. The alternative, Trump, is too terrifying to contemplate.