Banter M Issue 64

In this issue of Banter M:

The 'Fuck You' Election - "At no other time and place since, perhaps, the South in the 1860s have Americans been so inclined the make the wrong choices based solely on saying "fuck you" to everyone else," argues Bob Cesca. Is there anything we can do to stop this madness?

It's Been Real, and It's Been Fun - Tommy Christopher says goodbye to his spiritual home at The Daily Banter

Trumped Out - Ben Cohen discusses the mental burnout he is feeling having to cover Donald Trump relentlessly, and what steps he is taking to feel like a human again. 

The 'Fuck You' Election

by Bob Cesca

When I was seven years old, my grandmother gave me five dollars and, even though she immediately regretted it, my Mom assured me we could go to the toy store later that day where I could spend my newly attained revenue. It was 1978 and I was fully ensconced in the throes of Star Wars fever, and so I simply couldn't wait to go to Toys 'R Us and pick up the latest couple of action figures (they were only $2.10 in 1978). 

I had to have them. Had. To. Have. So, naturally, I pestered every grownup within earshot all day long, nagging them about when exactly we'd be leaving.

As the day wore on, I grew more impatient until finally, just 15 minutes before the store was ready to close, we finally piled into the car -- probably because my parents and grandparents desperately wanted me to stop with the relentless hectoring. I was a kid with a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket, goddammit, and I was determined to spend it that day

But when we arrived at the store, with scant minutes remaining before closing time, I lapsed into the uncontrollable throes of sensory bombardment and simply couldn't choose which Star Wars toy I wanted. With pressure mounting, my reasoning and decision-making skills went bye-bye and, after all that pestering, I failed to choose anything and, instead, as my Mom urged me toward the main doors, I collapsed on the floor in what can only be described as a meltdown. The words "bloody murder" could've easily applied here. I couldn't deal with the time pressure and the myriad choices available. And that goddamn five dollar bill had to be exchanged for Kenner-brand awesomeness. But I couldn't decide so, instead, I just freaked my shit. It was one of those hyperventilating cries where I couldn't catch my breath quickly enough to sob.

And so, toy-less, my Mom dragged me out of the store and into the car where I was told in no uncertain terms that my five dollar fortune would remain in my pocket for three more days until I learned some self-control. (My choice three days later happened to be "Small Head" Han Solo and a Stormtrooper, both of which melted to smithereens when my house burned down in 1981.)

That's a true story. Sadly.

I'm throwing myself under a bus here to illustrate a point about American voters. Like irrational children faced with complicated choices, too many of us either freeze or choose the wrong path. At no other time and place since, perhaps, the South in the 1860s have Americans been so inclined the make the wrong choices based solely on saying "fuck you" to everyone else. 

What we're enduring currently is yet another "fuck you" election.

We're being hammered every day with a constant intravenous geyser of politics and current events, much of it individually cultivated to exclude as much dissent as possible while also confirming all of our preconceived biases. A not insignificant cross-section of American voters following along on social media or via cable news and talk radio don't have the background or sensibilities to properly evaluate this sensory bombardment every day, be it the finer points of superdelegates or of immigration policy.

There's a sense of entitlement that's emerged from childhoods featuring participation trophies; there's technology-propelled instant access to the Twitter feeds of our favorite celebrities; there are comment sections and social media jihads that ignorantly bend news narratives based exclusively on bogus "facts" culled from misleading clickbait headlines; we have the misused power to effectively shout down the speech of anyone who farts the wrong way; we have complicated issues being distilled into 140 characters and scrambled against the existence of deliberately fake news stories; and we have a major political party that has abandoned public policy in lieu of merely saying the opposite of what the (incongruously rational and pragmatic) Democratic president says.

So, along comes Donald Trump: a reality-show tabloid celebrity equipped with an extensive background in manufacturing hype and manipulating both the media and media consumers, and he's using every shit-bomb in his arsenal to exploit this era of deep, rudderless confusion among the people. 

Faced with demographic extinction on top of the aforementioned media cacophony, Trump's people have been undeservedly gifted with the go-ahead from their branded master -- they've been offered, from a place of leadership and celebrity, the latitude to screech "fuck you" in public, literally manifesting itself in primitive displays of white male domination and a complete lack of regard for complicated ideas or complicated people. The world is confusing and there are brown and transgender "others" here to take our power and mock our undersized genitals, so we must hurl as many racist, violent tantrums as we want, fellow Trumpers. Our guy says it's not only acceptable behavior, it's patriotic! 

And fuck you.

Poll after poll tells us that Trump voters don't care that he lies. They don't care that he says horrendous things. They don't care that he flip-flops. They don't care that he doesn't have the knowledge or experience, nor the motivation to acquire the knowledge and experience with which to do the job. Like Sarah Palin before him, it's all about the cult of personality -- the pied piper who indulges the mini-devils on our shoulders. He's an enabler of our inner darkness. Like any anonymous troll online, the cortex of his brain responsible for truth, fairness and integrity was damaged long ago allowing him to deceive and pander without guilt or hesitance. 

Hilariously, Trump likes to think he's reached this point based on merit. It's not. He's simply tapped into the preexisting pipeline of mayhem and reflected it back on us, and he's capable of anything as long as it supercharges his brand and massages the reptilian brains of his legion.

Rather than thinking clearly about how best to continue the democratic experiment, 45 percent of the voting public is merely voting because "fuck you." Trump isn't qualified, but fuck you. Trump might use nuclear weapons, so what? Fuck you. Trump doesn't have any political, governmental, foreign policy chops -- or any policymaking experience at all, but whatever. Fuck you.

Oh, and by the way, there's a growing strain of "fuck you" on the left as well. Trump might destroy the world? Fuck you, I'm voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. You say neither of the third party candidates can win and, indeed, have questionable experience and policy ideas? Fuck you, I'm voting for them anyway because fuck you again. You say voting for third party candidates takes votes away from a candidate, Hillary Clinton, who's the only human standing between Trump and our nuclear arsenal? Fuck you, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and a hearty fuck you to the fucking thieves at the DNC. You say voting isn't about vendettas but, instead, about shaping policies that closely align with yours? Fuck you, it's my sacred vote. You say a Trump presidency would overturn Obama's entirely legacy while inaugurating a million horrible, unpredictable things? Fuck you, you asked for it by nominating Hillary. Oh, and fuck you -- my personal pride is more important than the stability of the world.

This is America in 2016.

We've once again gone fucking nuts. We're all, to a certain degree, victims of our collective knack for replacing common sense with fuck you kneejerkery. In this election, nearly half of us are about to cast horrible votes because we're children who can't handle the fucked up world and sensory bombardment we're solely responsible for creating. 

Next: It's Been Real, and It's Been Fun - by Tommy Christopher

The Banter's Tommy Christopher at the White House

The Banter's Tommy Christopher at the White House

It's Been Real, and It's Been Fun

by Tommy Christopher

As regular readers and Daily Banter members know, I like to cook, and there are a few of cooking shows I like to watch. Very few these days, unfortunately. Every weekend, I DVR The Kitchen, which mixes just enough actual cooking in with the peppy banter and crafting tips to make it worth my while, Brunch @Bobby's, which captures the old-school Food Network vibe of a really good cook (Bobby Flay) actually cooking. and Top 5 Restaurants, which features two of The Kitchen hosts hamming it up over a bite-sized visual listicle that usually features at least one thing that I'd like to try at home

 And so it was that, this past weekend, I found myself watching the latter program, which featured a segment on bacon-maple doughnuts from Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken in Washington, DC, a product which, it turns out, I have tried before. 

It was with bittersweet Proustian detail that I recalled those sweet, savory, and pricey treats, because I tried them on a very momentous day, my last as an active White House correspondent. I had just come from the White House, feeling good because I had reestablished some good sources, and was looking to kill a few hours while I waited for traffic to subside before I headed out of town, back to New Jersey.

It was always my custom, in such situations, to either find some company for a meal, or to hit someplace cheap and get a slice of pizza. On this day, I was feeling good, so I decided to treat myself to dinner at The Laughing Man Tavern, which is next to Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, and right next to where I'd been parking my car for going on six years. 

I'd never tried the doughnuts there, though, mainly because they're an inefficient way to cheat on my already-loose dietary regimen, but on this day, I though I'd go ahead and give it a shot. I was sitting outside at the tables that the two establishments quasi-share, waiting for my dinner companion, and the allure of the place was just too strong, so I ordered one each of the bacon and maple and some other flavor I can't remember, and it ended up being, like, six bucks for two donuts, which I then saved for dessert.

My dinner companion had to bail on me that night because of the riots in Baltimore, so I proceeded to order dinner for myself at The Laughing Man, and between ordering my food and getting my light beer delivered to my table, I got a phone call telling me that in 60 days time, my full-time gig was no longer going to be full-time. 

So then I sat outside under the awning, in a light rain, methodically downing an assortment of sliders, reckoning with what was sure to be a major change.

My new job, writing part-time for TDB and full-time elsewhere, no longer afforded me the familiar and fulfilling duties of the White House beat, but it turned into an even more rewarding experience, in many respects. MY writing here, since then, has been intensely personal at times, and always candid in the most therapeutic way. I hope it has been even a tenth as rewarding for our readers as it has been for me.

But as I watched that segment, and remembered the decent yet underwhelming doughnut (which, itself, served mainly to remind me of a bacon ice cream I'd had at a WHCD party that was life-changingly good), I did mist up a little over all the years I'd spent covering the White House, and essentially living in front of that shop whenever I was in town. As exhausting and excruciating as it could be, I missed it, but I reminded myself how much better everything else is now. 

The point of all this, as you may have guessed, is that the day after I saw that show about the doughnuts, I got an offer that will, unfortunately, take me away from my second second home, The Daily Banter. I tried to work it out so I could still be here, but it wasn't in the cards, so at the end of this month, I'm gone from these pages.

This is probably a good time to thank our publisher, Ben Cohen, for believing in me enough to make me a part of his diabolical plan to un-fuck the internet, and Bob Cesca and Chez Pazienza for putting in a good word for me, and for making this site such a great place to write. Along with Robert Covington and the other writers here, they have been great company in which to be.

That's what attracted me to this site, because I've always considered myself a writer first, and a journalist second. Ask any of them and they'll tell you, we all disagree a lot, and a lot more than I ever thought we would when I started here, but these guys can fucking write. 

That's why no matter what happens, I will always be here in spirit, and as a reader, and I will always be here for them, and for you, in any other way I can be. You can all keep in touch with me on Twitter at @TommyXtopher, or email me anytime at TommyXtopher@Gmail.com, and if you have any burning questions you'd like me to answer in these pages before next Friday, let me know.

Until then, accept my thanks, and know that you are better than bacon doughnuts, and at least as good as bacon ice cream. 

Next: Trumped Out - by Ben Cohen

Trumped Out

by Ben Cohen

If Donald Trump wins the presidential election this November, there's a good chance I will retire from running The Daily Banter for good. I simply cannot fathom mustering the will to continue covering his atrocious behavior over the next four years and will either pack up shop, or leave the site for someone else to run while I go and live in Costa Rica and plot my next move. 

And I am only half kidding about this. 

While news about Trump has been tremendously good for business, the relentless coverage of what has to be the most dangerous candidate in US history has left me feeling drained. Every day is consumed with covering whatever monumentally dumb shit he has said, unraveling the truly insane number of lies he has told, and explaining why this man is a threat to all life on planet earth. Despite the huge traffic we're getting this election season, this gets old after a while, and I've often felt like throwing in the towel and doing something else with my life. There are many, many other subjects I would like to write about, and spending hours parsing the lunacy of a halfwitted reality TV star with an ego the size of a small country is not one of them. 

And yet here I am, banging away at my computer doing just that and hoping with all my heart that some of what I am saying will encourage someone, somewhere to get off their armchair in November and vote for the only serious candidate for president, Hillary Clinton. 

I am not claiming my sacrifice is particularly praiseworthy -- it is very small when compared to the activists and organizers hitting the streets to get the vote out -- but I genuinely underestimated the psychological toll of spending most of my waking hours battling against the non-stop stream of lies and extraordinary negativity coming out of the Trump campaign. While America has been through high stake elections before, none are quite as important as this one. And as we have been saying over and over and over again here at the Banter, it is extremely important that people understand this in no uncertain terms. I literally cannot count the number of articles we have published uncovering the breathtaking lies Trump tells on a daily basis, and to be quite frank, I am sick to death of it. 

So what to do?

In response to overwhelming negativity, the only thing I've found combats the feelings of utter helplessness is to focus on the positive. While I spend a lot of time covering what is going wrong with the world, there is of course a tremendous amount of good going on. I've started a weekly podcast called 'The Meaning of Life Podcast' with a friend of mine where we discuss how to survive modern life, and I am making a concerted effort to find positive things to write about.  Because when you do this, there is actually an astonishing amount of good happening in the world -- we just don't hear about it too often. 

For example:

Israel has finally nailed desalination techniques to the point where they have an actual surplus of water. This could have enormously positive benefits for the region's political stability if the Israelis use the water to ease tensions with their drought ridden neighbors. 

Then, there's the eruption of electric cars and car sharing services that could radically change the face of transport by drastically reducing CO2 emissions and taking millions of cars off the roads. There have been major medical breakthroughs this year, with potentially life changing treatments for alzheimer's patients, and radically individualized and advanced cancer treatment. France has taken the incredibly progressive move in banning all plastic cups and plates in an effort to curb the pollution of our oceans. The world is also becoming markedly less dangerous and less violent, with decreasing poverty levels and more access to health care than ever before. And on and on and on. 

For as much as there is bad in the world, there is also good, and sometimes it is worth taking a moment to remember that Donald Trump does not embody who we are as a species, and that there is much to be hopeful about. 

As for me, I'll likely be here no matter what happens this election (although it might well be in Costa Rica!). And even if Trump becomes president, I am going to make a concerted effort to not only shine light on the darkness, but shine light on the light too -- because while uncovering what is wrong with the world has its place, so too does highlighting what we do right. And furthermore, it might just save my sanity.