I’m All For Compromise But The Question Is Who Or What Are We Being Asked To Compromise With?

Relationships are all about compromise. No marriage can survive without copious amounts of it. The bottom line is incredibly simple: if you want any relationship to survive, be prepared to compromise pretty much everything. That means whoever (or whatever) you’re compromising with better we worth the compromise. You will be living with that compromise’s results for some time — for better or worse. Ideally, a great compromise makes no one happy because everyone had to give so much to get a piece of what they wanted. If that something is a successful marriage or business relationship, the compromise will (hopefully) be entirely worth whatever was sacrificed. But not all compromises work like that. Some compromises aren’t compromises at all because one of the two sides never had any intention of giving up anything to get what it wants.

Evil never compromises. Never, ever, EVER. That means when you negotiate with it? You’re the only one compromising. Evil will have remained where it is while you will have moved yourself a little closer to it. No compromise is a bad compromise (from the other side of the negotiating table’s point of view). Our news media, insisting that both sides do it because (presumably) both sides are exactly the same, insist that Democrats negotiate with (and, of course, compromise with) Republicans. In normal world, that makes sense because (at least on the surface) it’s always made sense. But the Republican Party of Saint Ronnie Reagan is deader than Lee Atwater’s soul (which is even deader than Lee Atwater – former business partner of Paul Manafort). The remaining Nixonians coalesced around Donald Trump as did the rest of the GOP as Trump slowly rolled them all up into a massive web of compromise.

While the RW money has never loved Trump, they hitched their wagon to him regardless — even though they KNEW that Trump was owned outright by Russia. As current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it back in 2016 a month before the GOP nominated Trump — as he strode into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks: “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in a position of authority in the Republican Party can honestly say they had no idea Russia had compromised their presidential candidate. They discussed his being compromised openly. The conversation was recorded even (and heard by the Washington Post writer who wrote the piece!) It is inconceivable if not impossible that the Republican Party hierarchy did not know that Trump was being controlled by a hostile foreign government. If the Republican hierarchy knew then pretty much everyone at least suspected. Secrets of that kind don’t stay secret in DC no matter how hard some people try to “keep it in the family”.

One thing Republicans are good at that Democrats aren’t is marching in lock step. Like right now. Republicans are marching in lock step as they try to destroy our democracy. They march in lock step as they gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters because if they relied on selling their ideas to win elections, they’d lose every election. Republicans march in lock step as they strip away reproductive rights from every woman in Texas. They march in lock step as they rape the environment, ditch all regulation, make peace with COVID-19 and openly plot insurrection. They march in lock step as they try to shove permanent white minority rule down a rapidly diversifying America’s throat.

When our news media clicks its tongue at Democrats for refusing to be “bi-partisan”, what they’re saying is Democrats should negotiate with Republicans even if Republicans are terrorists, seditionists and traitors. Even if everything the Republicans are trying to accomplish was demonstrably evil (as it pretty much is).

In the Warsaw Ghetto — the German Army’s collecting point for trips to Auschwitz — a group of Jews insisted they could “negotiate” with the Nazis. The Judenrat — this council of traitors — took over the job of “governing” the ungovernable ghetto which meant 1) selecting who’d be collected from the ghetto and sent to the camps or 2) betraying any Jews inside the ghetto who were plotting against the Germans (because every time the Jewish resistance acted, killing German soldiers, the Germans retaliated). To the Judenrat, keeping the peace — compromising with absolute evil — was preferable to resistance even if both led to the same terrible conclusion.

I would not compromise with a Nazi, nor with a white supremacist, nor with a Republican. Those three things could all walk into a bar inside one person — and they frequently do.

Show Me A Republican, I’ll Show You A Koch Whore

Here’s a dirty, little secret: having money doesn’t make you smarter than anyone — even if your money bought you a first class education. Harvard and Yale graduate plenty of morons — most of them white — who got in on the strength of their name and connections, got graded on a curve because of donations and graduated because it was always a fait accompli. Being smart and having great ideas is incredibly important , the caveat being that different people are smart in different ways (we don’t value their smarts the same but that’s our failing, not theirs). But not even the greatest idea can get from idea to the idea’s profitable exploitation without plenty of other people making that exploitation possible via their direct contributions. There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism. There’s everything inherently wrong with crony capitalism. Our democracy is being threatened as much by crony capitalism as by racism (and racism is at the core of everything wrong with America). And atop the corruptest of the corrupt of crony capitalists, the capo di tutti capo himself is Charles Koch.

Corruption, thy name is Koch

Koch Industries — the engine that powered the Koch fortune — was started by Fred Koch who opened shop as an oil refinery and chemicals business. When Fred Koch died in 1967, his sons David and Charles INHERITED the business. The Koch Brothers expanded into other industries including pollution control equipment and technologies, polymers and fibers, minerals, fertilizers, commodity trading and services, forest and consumer products, and ranching. The businesses produce a wide variety of well-known brands, such as Stainmaster carpet, the Lycra brand of spandex fiber, Quilted Northern tissue, and Dixie Cup. Having been born into oil money, the Kochs have always been generous funders of think tanks that lobby to oppose environmental regulation. In a world that’s rapidly overheating because of all the carbon the Kochs’ businesses have put into the air, it’s beyond disgusting that Charles Koch continues to insist he’s entitled to do what he wants because he’s rich.

Charles and his brother are both libertarians. That means they think Ayn Rand can write — the first giveaway that they have terrible judgment. Libertarianism is all about stroking the individual’s ego. It’s not shocking that the overwhelming majority of libertarians are men. It is a profoundly selfish way of seeing the world. A profoundly self-delusional way too. The rugged individual is nothing more than an overgrown ten year old who thinks “freedom” is “you’re not the boss of me”. He wants all the benefits of freedom but has zero interest in any of the responsibilities.

That’s the thing most conservatives don’t want to talk about when it comes to freedom — the part of freedom that’s NOT free — the responsibilities. There will always be and must be dynamic tension between individual freedom and collective freedom. While the goal is to have as much individual freedom as possible, individual freedom must always be balanced with collective freedom. Too much collective freedom will harm personal freedom. But too much personal freedom will destroy collective freedom completely. That’s where “personal responsibility” comes in. Our freedoms rely on other people respecting ours. If we don’t respect theirs then ours are already compromised.

For the record, “owning” a gun is not an enumerated freedom. Citizens — per the Second Amendment — can “keep and bear” arms if the well-regulated militia says they can. If the militia says they can’t, they’re shit outta luck.

It is a stone cold fact that Koch money is making our environment uninhabitable. It’s killing wildlife and destroying ecosystems. It’s denying the very factors that are costing not just Americans but people all over the globe their property, their hopes and dreams, their lives. Environmental disasters are going to create a diaspora unlike any other humans have ever seen before or inflicted on each other.

And Charles Koch wouldn’t have it any other way. He’ll tell you he “knows better”. The basis for his knowing better (he thinks) is that he’s got more money in his bank account than you. It’s the only fact he’ll set down on the table. He thinks it makes his opinion more right than yours.

Too few people get into public service to make the world a better place. Too many get into it because they see it as the first stop of a money train. They see public service as a way for the public to service them. Ask yourself — how did public servant Mitch McConnell get to be such a wealthy man. Yeah, sure, his rich wife (Elayne Chao) brought plenty of dough to the marriage, but Mitch was a rich man before that happened and Mitch did not come from any kind of wealth. Mitch didn’t invent anything or come up with ideas that could go viral. Even Mitch’s military service was truncated (and why does mentioning Mitch’s military service record and the word “sodomy” make Mitch go quiet?) How did Mitch McConnell become wealthy enough that Elaine Chao didn’t pre-nup a wall around all her dough? The question stands exactly the same if Elaine did pre-nup that wall.

The Koch Brothers and the Mercers (Robert and daughter Rebekah) have always had it in for democracy. It’s simply too unreliable a vehicle for aspiring authoritarians and establishment white supremacists (and there most definitely IS a wide beam of quiet white supremacy in the Republican Party). Their preference is for politicians to choose their voters and not the other way around. As money does in a political system that gives money all the advantages, Koch money has always bought all the influence it needed. As big a problem as all that Koch money is, the much bigger problem by far is the willingness of all those Republicans and too many Democrats to stuff that money into their pockets.

We’re all clear, I hope, that every penny of that Koch money comes with strings if not ropes. It comes with greedy (albeit legal) expectations and none of them is concerned with the common good. They’re concerned with the Kochs getting their way — forever if possible. As the Reagan years waned, the right wing money saw a rapidly diversifying America which meant looming demographical extinction for white power. Being as pragmatic with their politics as they are with their money, the Kochs and their think tanks saw that the presidency was almost entirely beyond Republican reach. Minus Bush v Gore and Russia cheating on Trump’s behalf, the GOP couldn’t win a presidency if their lives depended on it — and that’s even WITH the Electoral College’s heavy tilt toward rural voters and away from urban voters. In the Legislative branch, the right wing money saw hope. The House is too mercurial what with having to run for office constantly. The Senate — also heavily weighted away from the majority of Americans (Senate Democrats represent 41.5 million more Americans than do Republican Senators) — would be easier to dominate. The Koch dollars have flowed accordingly — buying pretty much every Republican vote.

Ah, but Koch dollars — like the Koch Brothers — are very pragmatic. The Kochs always know which Democrats are approachable and which aren’t. Figuring it out isn’t rocket science. They’ve always seen Joe Manchin, despite the “D” beside Joe’s name, as one of “their guys”. As far as we know, Joe has never let his benefactors down. Joe has always behaved like the “Koch whore” the Kochs pay him to be.

“Drop down on all four, Joe! Now bark, bitch — and bark like ya mean it.”

Didja hear that barking sound?

That was Joe Manchin being the dog in the Koch Brothers Dog & Pony show. That was him being a dirty, little whore.

Recipes For Disaster: A Republican Cookbook

The Republican Party wants to force feed permanent minority rule down America’s throat. They couldn’t care less what this will do to America, American democracy or the majority of Americans. The only thing that matters to them is separating every non-white American from their right to vote — like a chef separating an egg yolk from the egg white. This chef has no use for the yolk because it’s “colored”. In fact, if the Republican Party were to publish a cookbook, it’s a guaranteed fact that every recipe in it would be made entirely from inorganic, artificial ingredients that taste like crap, have zero nutritional value and work on our body politic like poison. Every last recipe would be toxic.

The meal the GOP wants to serve up America is a meal America does not want. We don’t want its hatred, its ignorance, its determination to politicize everything or its treachery anywhere near us. We despise how Republicans cook our books and think only white ingredients count. Here then, is a sampling of the Republican “Cookbook For America”, their “recipes” for our future. If ever there was a good reason to stick one’s finger down one’s throat and puke something back up, this is it.

Mitch McConnell’s Southern Fried SCOTUS Hash

When is a SCOTUS seat too fresh to fill? Is it when there’s a year left in a president’ term (as Barack Obama had when he tried to nominate Merrick Garland to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat) or can you fill a SCOTUS seat whenever — even if it’s mere weeks before the newly elected (by a landslide) POTUS takes over? Is it Kosher to shop only judges recommended by the Heritage Foundation when, clearly, those judges couldn’t pass a smell test?

Republicans love turning everything possible into hash. Democracy, for instance, makes a fine hash. So does religion. What makes Mitch’s version of SCOTUS hash especially noteworthy is its distinct Treason Turtle overtones. Some day, Mitch’s name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use when they want to call someone a “traitor”.

Kevin McCarthy’s Treason Tidbits

From all reports, Kevin McCarthy wasn’t automatically a fan of Donald Trump’s Treason Platter when he walked in the door and announced to a meeting of other Republican leaders that “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” Clearly, Kevin wasn’t entirely sure what he was serving up. Did the rest of the Republican leadership have the same warm feelings toward treason as Kevin did?

To Kevin’s delight, it turned out EVERYONE IN THE ROOM loved Trumpian treason just as much as he did. In fact, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan insisted that in order to keep the treason tidbits coming, they would have to collectively agree not to talk about their tidbits outside that room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said the Speaker Of The House, apparently unaware how strong the treason was on his breath.

Kevin’s not alone among Republicans in his adoration for treason tidbits. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson famously went to Moscow with seven other Congressional Republicans and had dinner there July 4, 2018. Apparently it was an awesome meal! The vodka was iced cold, the borscht was incredibly fresh and the treason was piping hot. It all went down perfectly for every Republican there, dining. They they returned to America and began to shit out the poison — all over the rest of us.

Think of Kevin’s dish as a pu-pu platter made of actual poo.

Republican Rig-atoni

This Trump-inspired recipe doesn’t require any preparation, any ingredients or any even a serving dish to put it in. The whole point of Republican rig-atoni is to insist even before an election’s taken place (as with the Republican-inspired recall in California) that the election was “rigged”. By insisting that every election is rigged — even the ones they win — Republicans hope to create an environment where the flavor of mistrust dominates.

Republican rig-atoni goes perfectly with a rich bullshit sauce.

Barbecued Rights, Texas Style

There’s nothing a Texan loves more than barbecue and there’s nothing a conservative Texan loves more than barbecuing other Texans’ rights — especially if those Texans are other than white, male and Christian. Texan Republicans have had trouble however getting some of their barbecued rights out of the kitchen. “Lib-tard” judges keep sending it back cos it’s not even half-baked.

Ah, but leave it to Texans to get creative about barbecue. They cleverly took “official” judges out of the mix (because official judges can get sued in court and stopped) and made ordinary people not only the “judges here but, in a way, the jury and executioners too. A few other states — having sampled what Texas did — are trying to open their own “barbecued rights” stands.

The goal is overcook everything. Flame it past the point of recognizability. Or logic. Or law.

Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons You Had a Cook Out Fail | Big Wayner's BBQ Blog

David Koch’s Overly Rich Vanilla Sauce

David and his brother Charles used to run the biggest, most well-funded conservative kitchen of all then Charles croaked and now it’s just David overseeing the Koch Industries Corruption Kitchen. The Kochs borrowed most of their recipes from Ayn Rand. That’s a problem because not only couldn’t Ayn Rand cook, she couldn’t write either. I bet even her typing sucked. But conservatives love Rand’s cooking because it’s so old fashioned. A good batch of libertarianism smells of smug, white self-satisfaction. You’ll smack your lips as you eat it, thinking “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!”

Vanilla sauce is all about its whiteness. Step one — remove all color except white. Whisk in more whiteness than let it settle. Whiteness doesn’t like to be shaken or stirred (though it loves erupting violently). It just wants everyone to be exactly how they were back in the 1850’s — when whiteness dominated America, when “All men are created equal” meant just white (Christian, land-owning) men. Republicans dream of the day when they can coat everything forever in vanilla.

Why Being An Atheist And A Jew At The Same Time Isn’t A Contradiction

It took me a while to figure out why I’ve gotten strange looks most of my life when I claim to be both an atheist and a Jew.

Every one of those strange looks comes from non-Jews who have it in their heads that Judaism is equal to Christianity is equal to Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or any other world faith. And, indeed, one can convert from whatever faith one practices to any of those other faiths — Judaism included. But the only thing one can convert into — where Judaism is concerned — is the religion. One can change one’s way of thinking to to see the world from a Jewish perspective. That doesn’t make one Jewish though in the cultural sense. And that’s what separates Jews from nearly every other ethnic group. We’re not just a religious affiliation, we’re a distinct cultural group whose religion is part of the group’s culture but far from its entirety.

A Baptist may have Baptist roots and the culture they live in can be Baptist out the wazoo. But those Baptists could convert to Methodism or Calvinism tomorrow and that’d be the end of them being Baptists. A Jew can quit Judaism and never walk into a synagogue again for the rest of her life. In the world’s eyes, she’ll never stop being a Jew however. Because what makes her a Jew — what makes any Jew a “Jew” — isn’t their version of God, it’s something deeper than that. God, after all, is just an idea of how we all got here.

In addition to this blog, I have a few others. There’s Mulligan Jesus (which I neglect and shouldn’t) and there’s The Faithesism Project Podcast which I do with my good friend Randy Lovejoy who’s also a Presbyterian Pastor. A few podcasts back, Randy and I had a guest named Dave Wertlieb. Randy and Dave are related by marriage which is how they know each other. Randy wanted Dave to be a guest because (in addition to being Jewish), Dave is an avowed agnostic. Whereas theists insists that “absolutely, there is a God!” and atheists insist “absolutely there is not!” agnostics insist that neither theists nor atheists know what they’re talking about. That is, they cannot literally “know” anything here and both the theist’s faith and the atheist’s un-faith are based on incomplete information. Randy and I both expected the podcast to focus on a discussion of agnosticism (their point of view really is the most honest), it ended up more a discussion between Dave and I about what it is to be “Jewish”. More specifically, about how Dave and I could both insist we’re Jewish while neither of us practices the Jewish religion.

Randy grew up in Texas but then traveled the world as a religious missionary. His attachment to Christianity — though it’s the faith he grew up in — isn’t cultural at all. Christianity is an ideal that appeals to Randy, a vision of the world he agrees with. Of all the Christians I know, Randy has more Jesus in him than most. But, Randy found himself befuddled by both Dave and myself. For starters, though I had never met Dave before the podcast, Dave and I hit it off instantly. That is, we had plenty to talk about including a huge pool of common experience: we’re both Jewish. Randy, at the conversation’s start, couldn’t understand how I could claim to be an atheist — and yet Jewish — while Dave could claim to be agnostic and yet Jewish. Randy was assuming that the bottom line for “being Jewish” was following the Jewish faith.

The reasons WHY Jews were treated as pariahs across two thousand years of European history is a whole set of blog posts unto themselves. Christianity grew on the back of multiple untruths — all of them Paul’s creation. Paul took various Jewish ideas and mythologies and repurposed them for the gentile communities he was grooming across Asia Minor. These communities had no knowledge of Jewish mythologies or prophesies. Whatever Paul created went unchallenged. After Justinian made Christianity the state religion and, as the Catholic Church began to assert its primacy, Jew hatred became a focus because “feelings over facts”.

For fifteen hundred years, Jews were excluded from European society, forced to live separate lives in separate communities. The word “ghetto” is Italian. The first place it ever referred to was the Jewish Ghetto in Venice — that fenced off part of town where the Jews were forced to live. Living apart from Christian Europe for fifteen hundred years, marrying and having babies only with other Jews — not a huge community begin with — caused a Jewish genetic disorder: Tay Sachs disease. Tay Sachs was born in the shtetls of Europe. And Tay Sachs can live inside a Jewish person regardless of how dedicated they are to the Torah.

I recommend the podcast Randy and I did with Dave. Okay — I’m biased. But it really is a worthwhile conversation both because of what was said about being a Jew and about being a person of “un-faith”.

When I say (and I say it at the start of each podcast) that I’m “grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today”, I am absolutely not being sarcastic or even mean. I am genuinely grateful because Hebrew school taught me to question even fundamental ideas like where we all came from. To be honest, I’m pretty convinced I dropped from the womb an atheist. Except for a twenty-four period when I was eight and thought I was in big trouble for taking a Playboy magazine to school one day? I have never looked skyward expecting a shoulder to cry on.

History says any shoulder up there is too cold to cry on anyway.

Everyone Has Their Point Of View But Not Every Point Of View “Has A Point”

Does a raging, racist a-hole have a point? We know they have a point of view; they’re happy as hell braying it. But do these guys have a point to make? Do they? Is their racist, ignorant point really one we should take seriously?

Consider the professional criminal. He knows what he’s doing is completely against the law yet breaks the law anyway. The possibility of punishment is just part of the cost of doing criminal business. As the professional criminal — let’s say he’s a car thief with his eyes on your car — deliberately commits a crime (stealing your car) — he has a point of view in this scenario. So do you — now, a car thief’s victim. But the only point the car thief is making here is that your possession can be his. It’s a bully’s way of thinking. Your point of view is a crime victim’s. From the rule of law’s point of view, a wrong has been done you. The rule of law then has a “good point” to make here. Justice must be done. You, the crime victim, also have a “good point”. The injustice was done to you and that injustice needs to be fixed in whatever way we can. As for the perp? He’s the odd man out. The only one here who’s “point” was “bad”. In a court of law? His point describes a criminal.

How the hell did we get to a place where any point of view — regardless of how bad (meaning counter productive, incorrect or just plain illegal) — can be held up as being equally valid to a good point of view? The answer’s the same as why our news media used to present climate science and climate denial as equally valid points. Our news media all did that but no one did it with less self awareness and more counter productivity than our TV news media. At some point, when this is far enough in our rearview mirror that democracy can breathe a little more easily, we will have to give the news media its report card. A few will have passed the course with honors. But only a few. The overwhelming majority of American journalists have failed America completely because they drank the “both sides do it” Kool Aid.

“Both sides do it” insists that journalists be completely “neutral”. Theirs is not to judge anything. If the person in front of them is a cannibal, it’s not for the “both sides do it” journalist to judge the cannibal for being a cannibal. Cannibal and human victim have equal points of view here. The eater and the eaten are exactly the same. The cannibal’s point is as valid as his dinner’s.

The press is quite clear on what the Republican Party are doing to America. Between the breaking news (that’s always breaking) and the talking heads with their hair very much on fire, the point gets made over and over again: the Republicans are no longer interested in democracy because democracy is no longer interested in them or their ideas. The Republicans have a political problem on their hands that the Democrats don’t. Having become almost exclusively a white grievance party, the Republican agenda is focused on retaining power that a rapidly diversifying America is actively voting away from them. E Pluribus Unum (Out of many, one) is not a political cause, it’s a cultural safe space. It is the real promise of “All men are created equal” (so long as we understand that “all men” means literally “everyone”).

“Both sides do it” journalism insists that since Republicans do everything for political reasons, Democrats must therefore do everything for political reasons, too. So, when a Republican suppresses a Democratic voter’s ability to vote, the thinking goes, both the vote suppressing Republican and the suppressed Democratic voter are BOTH behaving politically. That is utter bullshit. The Republican is openly violating the Democrat’s Constitutional right to vote. They’re committing a literal crime albeit for a political purpose. It’s a crime all the same.

The Democrat here is NOT behaving politically regardless of what “both sides do it:” journalism says. Just like the car thief’s victim isn’t behaving like a criminal when they go to the police, neither is the suppressed democratic voter acting politically when they report the crime being committed against them. But, because our news media assumes both sides do everything for the very same reasons, they fail to see the Republicans’ actions as criminal (since, perversely, the Democrats’ reaction isn’t!) In this instance, they’re flipping “both sides do it” back onto itself. If the Democrats aren’t criminals then neither are the Republicans.

I was sexually molested twice, when I was fourteen, by the religious director of the large northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged. I’ve written about it here. Those criminal acts rippled across my life for forty-five years, causing profound havoc. Fortunately, this demon no longer haunts me — in large part because I stopped seeing it in a “both sides do it” way. I held myself responsible for having been molested. I equated attacker and victim. That, I can tell you, was a bullshit point though it was my point of view.

If I had been so lucky as to have seen my attacker prosecuted for what he did, and if my attacker had been put on trial, both our “points” would have been presented at trial. My point would have been from the victim’s point of view — and it would have been valid. My attacker? What “point” would he make to try and impress the jury that he didn’t do anything wrong? That a fourteen year old boy wanted his attention? The fourteen year old boy would absolutely refute that. That the fourteen year old boy deserved it? The adult version of that boy can tell you absolutely that he did not. The only point my attacker can have or make is that, as he stood behind me on those two occasions, he decided to go with his urges — despite the fact that he knew those urges were wrong and, in fact, illegal.

Stone cold fact: not every point of view has a point. Let’s tweak that to “not every point of view has a VALID point”. And, when our news media — towing the “both sides do it” line — gives validity and credence to points of view undeserving of that validity, they empower bullshit and give bullshit the very real potential to completely overwhelm Truth. That’s how you get a Nazi Germany. A North Korea. A Vladimir Putin.

A Donald Trump and the entire Republican Party.

America Is Literally Sick To Death With Republican Corruption

The most frustrating aspect of watching cable news is when the cable news people ascribe normal, political motives to whatever the Republicans are doing — whether it’s standing with insurrectionists, openly restricting other Americans’ voting rights or committing treason (which is what Trumpism is). For Republicans, the new normal is whatever new low Trump has achieved. That means that for our news media, whatever Trump’s new low is — no matter how anti-democratic or anti-American — that’s the GOP’s new low too. Trump started nailing new lows the day he declared for the presidency. “Mexicans are rapists” should have been the end of his campaign. If not for “pussy grabbing”, maybe it would have been. But, if not for “But, her emails!”, maybe “pussy grabbing” would have done more to finish what “Mexicans are rapists” started.

We’ll never know the answer to that. What we do know is that the majority of Americans are done with Republican corruption. We’ve been done with it for a long time, but — finally — circumstances have pushed them to such an extreme that they’ve pushed us to an extreme. The 2018 election should have made the point to our news media that ours is now a woke electorate that appreciates American politics for the contact sport it is. Americans standing in line for hours in 2020 should have been a sign (along with the growing number of Americans actually voting) that we are not living in the past when less than half of America voted — and Black, brown, Asian, LGBTQ and women voting for women’s issues weren’t a collective force to be reckoned with.

Our news media reports the past to explain the future because it’s easier than looking at what’s happening in the present. And the present says something entirely different will happen.

Because the American news media began and existed mostly as yet another bastion for white, Christian men, its over-riding view of the world remains a white, Christian male view. To them, that is a level playing field — a field filled with just them. The power shift away from their level playing field to one that’s actually level is happening albeit too slowly for our collective good. That’s why “Mexicans are rapists” and (especially) “pussy grabbing” didn’t end Trump’s presidency. The news room sensibility is still male above all. If it was female, I bet “Mexicans are rapists” would have gotten a much bigger reaction. I know “pussy grabbing” would have ended Trump right there.

And “But, her emails!”? That wouldn’t even have registered.

Republican corruption is white, male and Christian. It serves the needs of white, Christian men — and, at the moment, is driven to give white, Christian men permanent power over American politics and American lives. Keep in mind, if the majority of Americans wanted the same thing? These white, Christian men wouldn’t have to gerrymander, suppress Democratic voters or conspire with Russia in order to win an election. But, alas, the GOP DOES have to gerrymander, suppress Democratic voters and it HAS conspired with Russia in order to make Donald Trump president in 2016.

It cannot possibly get more corrupt than that.

Still, our news media insists that 2022 — being an off year election — whatever happens in every off year election will happen in this off year election because this year is no different than any other year. Except, of course, this year is literally like no other. A few weeks ago, our news media insisted that Larry Elders would soon enough be California’s next governor. The news media insisted that Californians not running around like crazed zombies meant they wouldn’t show up on election day and vote down this anti-democratic horse shit recall election. But, Californians did show up in large numbers and they decisively told the Republican Party to go eff itself. California is deep, deep blue — not for political reasons but because our values are progressive and we vote accordingly.

Progressives have a much harder time being corrupt than conservatives do. That’s because conservatives are trying to hold onto something — the past. They’re trying to hold onto power and money. That is what motivates corruption — a fear of losing money and power. Corruption means to hold onto both forever.

Literally everything on the Republican agenda is corrupt, starting with their criminal determination to ignore the results of election 2020. It is corrupt to say that any election you lose is corrupt. It’s corruption projecting.

Any day now, a legal bomb could drop on Donald Trump’s head. Georgia could indict him for election interference. New York could indict him for tax evasion and other financial crimes. At any moment, the DoJ could pierce the veil protecting Congress members from indictment for their roles in the January 6 insurrection. Those charges are coming — we all know it. So do those members of Congress. And charges will come shortly thereafter connecting Trump himself to the insurrection’s planning. End of the day? What happened on January 6 depends on what happened during the planning that went on January third, fourth and fifth.

That’s more corruption.

The reason our news media isn’t sick of corruption is that corruption is their meal ticket. You’d think they’d be better at sniffing it out and covering it. Of course, some are — and we as a nation are grateful. It’s all the others who should quit the profession. They’re simply not suited to journalism — or storytelling in general. They think everyone’s corrupt.

We’re not, of course. That’s why corruption is such a problem for those who aren’t corrupt. Not being corrupt, we detest what corruption and the corrupt do to our normal lives.

As goes California, so will go most of America. We used to be deeply red. Now? Republicans can’t get arrested in most of California. They definitely can’t get elected as governor — even under the bizarro-world rules of a California recall election.

Being Republican Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

Anyone’s who’s ever raised a child knows what can happen when a five year old gets crazy belligerent. Trying to reason with them is pointless on steroids. They act and argue like five year old’s because that’s what they are. Republicans can’t claim the same excuse though that doesn’t stop them from arguing like five year old’s anyway. It’s how five year old’s think. Especially five year old boys. That doesn’t get any better with age. By the time they’re ten, they understand control of their lives this way: “Are YOU the ‘boss’ of me?” Or, as it’s stated in context, usually with lower lip thrust forward, “You’re not the boss of me!” That’s something they’d never say to a parent because their parents ARE the boss of them. So’s their boss and anyone above them in the pecking order as they perceive it. Someone with more money, a better car, hotter arm candy — those people are the boss of every sniveling Republican.

The ultimate bottom line for our story — the thing driving all the worst behaviors — is corruption. Ours is a story of what happens when corruption threatens to overwhelm everything good. Republicans want to overturn every election they lose — in other words, toss democracy entirely. Oh, sure, we can have mock elections that look like the real thing, but the outcomes would always be pre-determined with whole blocks of voters simply dropped from the system because they’re not white and won’t vote for Republicans. One does not gerrymander voting districts or suppress Democratic voters because you believe in your cause. You do it because you’re a criminal intent on circumventing the will of the people.

Part of our problem here is that, all along, Republicans have helped us define what “normal” is or what “acceptable corruption” is. It’s remarkable what white people get away with compared to everyone else. Lanisha Bratcher was on parole in North Carolina when she voted in 2016, unaware that she was ineligible because she was still on probation. Her vote never counted anyway. A Black woman, Lanisha faces two felonies and years in prison. Crystal Mason (also Black) faces five years in prison if her appeal loses for voting in Texas, also while under probation. In fact, the kind of voting fraud Republicans rail about is extremely rare while Republican voting fraud goes on like a bad habit. Republican election fraud actually changes election outcomes.

There’s not a single issue facing America where the Republicans stand upon sound logic and reasoning — or legal logic and reasoning. Not on voting, not on the economy, not on climate change, not on Russia’s takeover of our country which the January 6 insurrection was very much a part of. Considering how deep Russia’s tentacles run throughout the Trump White House, it would beggar belief that that Russia played zero part in this particularly war-like action. It is a simple fact of life that Russia helped make the insurrection happen. Perhaps some of their money paid for it. If I’m right in any way, shape or form, that means the insurrection isn’t just sorta, kinda treasonous, it’s one hundred percent treasonous.

Well played, Republicans!

The point of this disgusting exercise is permanent minority rule — a thing for which Republicans feel no need to apologize. They want US to apologize to them for being here in America and for not being them. They will never say “Sorry for racism — building an economy on stolen labor and destroyed lives was no way to build a country.” They will never say “We apologize deeply for the whole offensive idea of “manifest destiny”; seriously, how could grown adults with even a lick of perspective have gone along with that horse shit? Ah, but when you’re invented god tells you you’re entitled to anything you want — cos God says so — that’s not really God smiling on you, that’s you smiling on you and calling it “God”. Which means it’s you speaking as God.

As I’ve written here, monotheism is damned dangerous. Republicans prove the point. Monotheistic gods, being “perfect” and “divine”, don’t make mistakes and if they do, their mistakes aren’t mistakes. They make up rules as they go along and change them on the fly just because they can. They get to make up prophecies that justify their continuing hold. When a believer thinks God — a powerful deity who, the mythology says, created everything — speaks to them or that they (better than others) understand what this fundamental universal force wants, it’s not just because they’re “special”. Oh, they are “special” but it’s not because this God character speaks to and through them. It’s because, if you peel off the “lives in the clouds” window dressing, the “God” you arrive at is them.

It galls white people more than they can bear to watch 3oo years of white hegemony finally slip away as it should have long ago. There never should have been any sort of white hegemony on this continent. If not for the success of our pathogens (much more than the success of our guns and steel), white people may have never gotten much more than a toehold in the Americas. A trading hub.

Thinking you’re God is a massively corrupt way to think but plenty of people do it. To think your hold on America is justified simply because white people came up with a good idea that they executed poorly is, well, soooooo “white people”.

Republicans feel entitled to undermine the rule of law in service of themselves. They feel entitled to run America. That’s what “originalism” really is — a statement of white entitlement.

Frankly, I’d prefer it if not a single Republican ever apologizes or takes real and true ownership of their diabolical behavior. That way, when we get to the punishment phase, we can throw the book at them, hard. The fact is, Republicans feel entitled to do whatever they need to to hold onto power. They’ve always felt that way. That’s why they never apologize for anything and why the press never asks or expects them to apologize. Because Republican entitlement is baked into our architecture.

“TRUMPOCALYPSE: THE MINISERIES” Casting Office

U.S. Vice-President Biden smiles as he speaks with Croatian PM Milanovic in Zagreb

Back at the early days of the Trump madness — in the middle of his term — back when we thought our world had gone pretty much as bonkers as it could get, I wrote a post called “Trumpocalypse: The Movie”.  I smile now at my charming naivete — to think that the Trump madness could be contained within one measly feature film.  Re-thinkiing “Trumpocalypse” as a mini-series also threatens to be too small a vehicle to contain the “Trumpocalypse” story  but the thing about a mini series is it has an end point.  After the last episode, it’s done.  If we do this right, there should be no more — no sequels, no spin offs, nothing.  Whereas, if we made “Trumpocalypse” an on-going series with no end date in sight… You see what I mean?  We NEED this show to be finite because this can’t be our only show.  There’s great stuff – important stuff — on other channels that we need to get to and quickly.

Not only has the “Trumpocalypse” mini series got way more storylines in it, it’s got way more characters.  How do we organize our casting process so that, when we get to “the day”, we have not only a great cast but a great cast that will complement each other?  

I’d like to start by casting first the Trump family.  Then those immediately around it — the “inner circle” if you will.  Then, I would begin to cast the mini-series — going chronologically — major story by major story.  As this is going to be an ongoing project that’s changing on the fly, I’ve no doubt some stories will demand to be cast in the right here, right now.  Hey — welcome to life in a casting office!  Things change all the time.  Actors drop out and new characters and whole storylines suddenly get added.  If ya can’t stand the heat…

So, without any further ado, please welcome to our Casting Office! You’ll see where I’ve left the casting door open for everyone else to bring their suggestions and their casting notes…

CHARACTER

DONALD J. TRUMP

ALEC BALDWIN as Trump…

NOTES: Baldwin’s is probably the most familiar Trump. It’s an excellent caricature. And, considering that Trump IS a caricature of a human. playing Trump as a caricature makes a certain kind of sense. I wonder if there’s not a way to “multiple-cast” Trump since he worked in so many different ways on our psyche. Just a thought for later discussion…

BRENDAN GLEASON as Trump…

NOTES: Gleeson played Trump in “The Comey Rule” on Showtime.

WOODY HARRELSON as Trump

NOTES: I’ve always liked Woody Harrelson’s “interior” range. It’s amazing and we’re going to need an actor with incredible emotional range to play a character with VIRTUALLY NONE.  It’s like getting an actor to sing off key.  The ones who can actually sing will automatically do it better.  They even know where off-key is.

IVANKA TRUMP

SCARLET JOHANSSON as Ivanka Trump

NOTES: There’s a kind of irony in an actress great at playing Black Widow to play the part of a woman who acts like an actual black widow spider.

AMANDA SEYFRIED as Ivanka

NOTES: Some things just seem so natural…

DONALD TRUMP, JR

MIKEY DAY as Donald Trump, Jr

NOTES: Presently, the actor who’s gotten closest to nailing Don Jr’s unctuousness is an actor satirizing him. That’s probably not a coincidence. Still — we need some competition here. I’ll put my mind to it if you will…

ERIC TRUMP

Alex Moffat as Eric Trump

NOTES: As with Mikey Day’s Junior, SNL’s version of Eric — and I love Alex Moffat’s Eric — stands for the moment as “the” Eric. Competition’s good for everyone — Trump’s included.

MELANIA TRUMP

CASTING OPEN!

Awaiting Picture, so here’s the real Melania — in the one photo I can find of her smiling like she means it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Melania’s smiling this way at Putin. Not cos Melania respects international relationships but because she worked the whole damned time as Donald’s handler on Vlad’s behalf. Hey, how do you say “I don’t care, do you?” in Russian?

VLADIMIR PUTIN

MADS MIKKELSON as Vladimir Putin

NOTES: Mads played the Bond Villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. By all accounts, Vlad Putin is the Bond Villain America fully deserves.

RUDY GIULIANI

KATE McKINNON as Rudy Giuliani

NOTES: Personally, I’m not sure a human can play the entirely humanoid Rudy but my mind’s open. Kate McKinnon can do anything. I bet she could do a fully deep dive into Rudy and actually pull off an amazing, lifelike (without being cartoonish) characterization. But still — for the moment, the part’s wide open.

MORE CHARACTERS TO COME!!!!!

Cannabis Culture V Alcohol Culture

A Shift in Cannabis Culture

All self-medication is not created equal.

Alcohol culture and cannabis culture come from two distinctly different places. Their hold on Americans are both distinctly different. One has always been incredibly unhealthy (fun as hell — make no mistake — but damned unhealthy). The other is cannabis culture. Both inspired prohibition but cannabis’ prohibition endured long beyond alcohol’s. That wasn’t a coincidence. It had to do with who, in the early days, was using cannabis — which was why the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics under its first Commissioner Harry Anslinger flip-flopped on “marihuana”; the FBN stopped seeing it as a very minor, innocuous Mexican habit brought across the border by Mexicans fleeing the Mexican Revolution and, instead (almost overnight, in fact) started seeing it as an invented crisis with racism at its core: “reefer madness”.

The very reason Harry Anslinger hated marijuana and declared war on it was because white people started to smoke it. The vector between Mexicans smoking it and white people smoking it was Black people smoking it. And the Black people who drove marijuana’s growing popularization — as it literally travelled up the Mississippi from New Orleans — were the musicians who’d invented jazz, many of them while smoking marijuana. Anslinger was both a die hard racist and a brilliant bureaucrat. Turns out, he also fancied himself a good pianist with a passion for European classical music. Jazz was anathema to Anslinger. He hated the musicians who created jazz. He hated the Blackness of their music. He hated the marijuana they smoked before and during their playing. But, he especially hated the fact that this Mexican and now Black habit was spreading from non-white usage to white usage.

Harry Anslinger personally invented “reefer madness” — that bizarre way of seeing and thinking about cannabis, divorced from any sort of practical cannabis experience. But Harry had a problem. He may have hated marijuana because of the people he saw smoking it in his mind’s eye, but no one else did. The law didn’t hate marijuana, quite the contrary. The law was rather pro-hemp. It didn’t care whether or not anyone smoked it. And the Constitution gave Harry no openings either. Nothing in our Constitution supports marijuana prohibition whatsoever.

That’s what everyone told Harry as he tried to formulate a law that would give him the power to arrest and prosecute people he hated because of racism.

But, as I said, Harry was also a great bureaucrat. Instead of quitting, he went bureaucratic. Our federal government didn’t nail Al Capone for being a gangster. It nailed Capone for being a tax cheat. That was Harry’s tack.

First, he seeded the ground with racist bullshit. Harry would go to the press and tell them — with all the gravity and authority of the Commissioner of the FBN — that Black men were smoking marijuana and then getting sexed up and raping white women. Or getting white women to smoke marijuana themselves — and then getting so sexed up that they’d give themselves to these Black men! Oh, the horror! The press — and in their defense, why would they doubt Harry? — printed Harry’s bullshit in their newspapers which Harry would then hold up as proof that what he was saying was absolutely true.

This collection of clippings grew quickly into what Harry called his “Gore files”. Slowly, but surely, Harry’s racist magic worked its way through Congress. Now, the law was still the law; no one was going to indulge Harry by writing law that would get them laughed at. But, being a clever bureaucrat who understood how to catch a mobster, Harry proposed a tax instead. Every time anyone bought or sold cannabis — and, just to be safe, Harry through hemp into the mix, too — they would have to pay a tax. In order to prove they’d both paid the tax, both would have to get a stamp designed just for this purpose. Here’s where it got complicated. No organ was set up to collect any such tax — and none was going to be created. And (the cherry on top), no actual stamp was ever created either. The stamp was literally unattainable.

Any time anyone bought or sold marijuana or hemp, they were going to violate the tax code. The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 sailed through Congress (despite considerable opposition to it by organizations like the AMA who were keenly aware of marijuana’s considerable positives as a medication). Interesting story? Within twenty four hours, the Stamp Act had its first criminals. In Denver.

Samuel Caldwell got arrested on October 2, 1937 for possessing marijuana for which he could not provide the stamp as evidence that he’d paid the tax in order to possess that marijuana. Now, to be fair, Caldwell was no prince; he was a criminal with a fair-sized rap sheet. But that simply made it easier to prosecute Caldwell and establish a precedent.

For the record — a Mexican man named Moses Baca would have been the first arrestee except his arrest happened two weeks before the Tax Law was enacted. It was only after the law was enacted — and Baca couldn’t produce a stamp to prove he’d paid the tax — that he became a “drug criminal”.

Everything — literally everything — about cannabis prohibition was based on racist bullshit. For contrast, as stupid and doomed to failure as alcohol prohibition was, at least it was based on reality. While we think of the teetotalers and Temperance Society wackos who drove prohibition as old fashioned and repressive, in fact, they were being very progressive about a very real social problem: drinking. Then, as now, alcohol addiction ruined lives. Ruined whole families. Whole communities. Prohibition’s misguided aim was a better society. It used a sledge hammer when micro-surgery was in order.

When prohibition finally met its well-deserved end, America made damned sure such a thing could never, would n ever happen again. They put the liquor manufacturers in charge. And the distributors. They began the process of indoctrinating Americans from a very young age into thinking that alcohol is a right of passage. It’s the organizing principle around which most socializing revolves. A restaurant will almost never be profitable without alcohol sales to make it profitable. Bars are built on selling alcohol. The more, the better. Being big, corporate businesses now, alcohol manufacturers think globally. And they dutifully invest in keeping America’s youth fixated on that key rite of passage — legal drinking. That’s why alcohol manufacturers invest so much in creating products that make alcohol seem innocuous, fun, and candy-flavored.

No one reads a warning label on a beer bottle (or a packet of cigs) and thinks “Oh, wait — I hadn’t thought of that!” A better warning would be to point out something practical: “After consuming this alcoholic beverage, please wait at least twenty minutes before deciding you need another because you probably won’t”. It’s one of the weird things about alcohol and drinking. It’s like drinkers forget (after drinking) how alcohol works inside their own bodies. They drink — and keep drinking — like they’ve never had a drink before. Like they’re surprised to find themselves as over-the-limit as they are.

That’s a big part of our collective problem with alcohol: it screws with our memory. Screwing with our memory screws with our perspective. We keep forgetting all the dumb things we do when alcohol is inside us. We get it into our heads that they’re all isolated incidents rather than tiles in a mosaic that says: your relationship with alcohol isn’t what you think it is and alcohol’s the alpha.

I stopped drinking alcohol in early 2017. The mood stabilizer I started taking to deal with a decade long depression that was literally killing me gave alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. That was heartbreaking at first. I loved the taste of a perfect gin martini (depending on the gin). I loved every aspect of a glass of big, dark, inky red — from first tentative sniff to last, satisfying swallow. An aversion to alcohol wasn’t one ofA the possible side effects the literature warned about. Lamotrigine was developed as an anti-seizure medication; its mood stabilizing effects were a ridealong. From the first moment that grapefruit skin aftertaste hit, I turned away from alcohol and never, really, looked back.

I’ve felt better since I stopped drinking. I sleep better. I work better. Let’s be clear however — alcohol was never my problem; I was. Now — to be fair — have I merely swapped one self-destructive bad habit for another? Isn’t cannabis just as bad in its way as alcohol is in its?

I’d answer it this way: there’s a very good reason we actually think of cannabis as a medicine while we only jokingly think of alcohol that way. It’s just a stone cold fact — alcohol and THC are entirely different chemicals that act in entirely different ways inside our bodies and especially our brains. Alcohol depresses our inhibitions by uniformly suppressing our motor skills and our ability to process information. Our reaction times slow and then our vague motor skills fudge the rest. THC, on the other hand, isn’t a depressant. Our thoughts are caused by electrical impulses flowing across our synapses. THC causes more of those synapses to be open (they’re a lot like digital circuits).

The reason everything seems a little more intense (colors, tastes, smells) is because our brains are literally processing more information than we’d be processing without the THC. That’s what some people experience as paranoia. They’re conflating that awareness of more information with someone outside of them. Because of cannabis’s bad boy past, that “someone” is inherently threatening because they “know”. That negative aside, for most cannabis users — especially those who recognize the difference between sativas, hybrids and indicas — the whole point of using cannabis is to achieve a particular effect. For instance, when I wake and bake every morning, I light up from a collection of sativas that I know will focus my brain and get it ready to write coherent thoughts. When I get to the end of my writing day and it’s time to chill, I’ll break out my hybrid collection (though some hybrids –Trainwreck especially — are excellent for work). When the evening is coming to its end and bedtime approaches, out come my indicas. I know that not only will indicas put me to sleep, they’ll give me a good, solid, restful night’s sleep from which I’ll awake the next day ready for battle.

Once I wake n bake, of course.

Alcohol culture isn’t going anywhere. There’s way too much money in it. And humans really like alcohol. But cannabis culture is on the come. The moment our government removes cannabis from schedule one — and the banks can finally invest their money in it? The cannabis business will boom like nothing before it. This is not a terrible thing except for the corruption that will ride shotgun alongside it. And it will suck when Big Cannabis becomes the power vortex and all the mom n pop operations get run out of business.

But, I believe, the culture cannabis will slowly impress upon us will be much more civilized than alcohol culture ever could be — because of alcohol’s nature. Think about it: if we stopped serving beer at sporting events and sold cannabis instead (hybrids, let’s say), violence would NEVER break out at sporting events ever again. Instead of screaming at each other at game’s end, opposing sides would be hugging, telling each other how well they played (regardless of the final score). Some fans might be dozing peacefully. No one would spill out into the streets ready to rumble.

People who smoke cannabis do not go home and beat their loved ones. They don’t get argumentative. They don’t get belligerent or combative. They do get funny though. And they do get the munchies.

Harry Anslinger hated jazz because Black people invented it. But — here’s the key — guys like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton all used cannabis as part of their creative process. These musicians were attempting to draw an abstract idea — jazz — out of their heads and into the air via their instruments. And they did this while ON CANNABIS. They knew from experience that no one can create music or play it well with a drink inside you. Heroin? Forget about it. Heroin turned the amazingly talented, handsome Chet Baker into a hollow shell of himself. It did not make him better at anything other than self-destruction. If only he’d been exclusively a dope fiend, he may have come to a happier ending.

Long before Big Alcohol turned to Big Advertising to improve its image, people had it in their heads that “in vino veritas” — that alcohol would lead to truth. I can only speak from personal experience. Alcohol, at best, leads to angry truthiness. That’s baked into its culture.

If I want real veritas? I’m tapping some Durban Poison into my Genius pipe and sparking it to life!

God Goes On A Job Interview: A Sketch

SETTING: A long, featureless, fluorescent lit hallway that seems to go on forever. Approaching footsteps and heavy breathing. Whoever’s approaching must be late — and worried about it. God steps into frame, a slip of paper clutched in his powerful (to hear him talk about it) hand. He peers at the number scribbled on it. It matches the room number above the doorway. This MUST be the place.

God straightens his tie. Gives his mighty (him again) head a shake as he clears his throat in a long roll of thunder. The timbre seems right. Reminding himself that he’s the one who created all this in six days damn it, he reaches for the door knob and steps into the next room like the monotheistic deity he is.

God comes up short on the other side of the door though. He wasn’t sure what to expect here. A respected bible scholar trying to make sense of unfathomable times or a world leader struggling with a terrible choice. Or a pope maybe. He definitely wasn’t expecting the attractive but business-like young woman seated across the very plain desk, a clutch of papers in her hands. From the look of the papers — the extensive wear on them, the young woman has gone over them relentlessly.

Like she was looking for answers on them. “Sheila,” she says, extending her hand toward God like he wasn’t the deity who created literally everything.

“Erm,” says God, uncomfortable but trying not to show it, desperate to do anything but shake her hand. The Young Woman has seen his discomfort. She withdraws her hand, never taking her eyes from his face. Finally his eyes meet hers.

“Sheila,” she repeats. “I’m Sheila.” She points to the folding chair on his side of the desk. Sits in the much more comfortable rolling desk chair on her side. The one with lower lumbar support.

God looks again to the folding chair, not quite sure how to fit his enormous, glowing magnificence into it. But, he’ll try. He reminds himself again, he’s the deity here. “Nice to meet you, Sheila,” he says, smooth as the Red Sea before it parted, “I’m God”. He sits, knowing it’s just a matter of time before he wins over Sheila–

“I know what job you’re here for,” she’s halfway through saying as God snaps to, “But god’s just your job description. It’s not actually your name.”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, over time, I’ve gotten used to it. We all have–“

Sheila’s looking at her smart phone. She’s found a source. “Says here your name’s Yahweh.” Sheila focuses on the fine print. “Yeah,” she says confidently, “Yahweh’s your name, not ‘God’.” She points her phone’s screen (with the “receipts” on it) toward God. “God’s” just your job description,” she says. “Is that true?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, I did create everything,” he says, a little less ironically than he’d hoped to. “And that,” he says, leaning forward, “Is why I think you’d be crazy to believe in anything else but me.”

Sheila stares back, hard to read. Finally — “You probably know that members of my family believe in you”.

God leans forward even further, seizing the opening. “Of course I do. They’re great people. That’s why I love them–” He knows immediately: too much.

“Do you think my family believing in you speaks well of you?”

God hesitates. He’s sure of it: that was a trick question. “Perhaps,” he says, hedging, “We could agree that being a deity is hard and sometimes you have to move in mysterious ways?”

“Uh huh,” says Sheila, unimpressed. “Did you tell my Tanta Louise that she got cancer because she fooled around so much when she was younger?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Erm,” he says (looking as uncomfortable as he feels), “Was I supposed to get some sort of notes about this?”

“You’re God, aren’t you?” says Sheila, making God feel much more like he was on a witness stand instead of a job interviewee’s chair.

“Is that a question?” asks God.

“Then you’re all-knowing, right?”

God knows exactly where this is going. He rolls his eyes. “There’s ‘all-knowing‘ and there’s “ALL-KNOWING“, know what I mean?” He hopes like hell the extra boom in his voice took a little of the wind from Sheila’s sails.

“So you don’t know my Tanta Louise or, at least, you don’t remember her, is that right?”

God studies his hands. They don’t feel very mighty right this second. His cuticles are looking rough. “What was that again your…”

“Tanta. Tanta Louise. She was my favorite aunt. She taught me how to live. But, smart as she is in some ways, she makes no sense in others. Like believing you gave her the cancer that nearly killed her.”

God squirms despite himself (flashes of lightning shoot this way and that). “Can we… talk about… you?”

She stares back, a little incredulous.

God presses on. “Things were different back when your beloved auntie was trying to figure things out. It’s true. People weren’t as broad-minded as they are now.”

“By ‘broad-minded’, you mean they don’t believe in you?”

God looks down. Stepped in it. “Now that door’s open,” he starts to tell himself–

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” says Sheila. God raises a hand to object. “Don’t,” says Sheila crisply. Down goes God’s hand. “Do you honestly think if no one mentions atheism that no one will think it?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” God looks down. Clears his throat — this time holding back on the rumble. “Know what special dispensation is, right?” He knows she does. She’s Catholic. “I’m taking it,” says God. “Different time and place.” He catches Sheila’s eyes. Holds them. “I, uh — I think I might remember this aunt of yours and, yeah — I might have said something along those lines — but there was context!”

Sheila and those damned eyes.

“She needed an explanation.”

Did you give her the cancer?”

“What? No!” Suddenly God’s all knowing: “The office building she worked in was on a super fund site. Honestly, it wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry I said anything–“

“You couldn’t tell her the truth?”

“Nobody knew it then — Google it!” God sits back a little. Feels the first hint of breathing room. “Google it”, he chuckles to himself, “Man, that was genius.”

Again with those damned eyes.

“Are you all knowing or aren’t you?”

God’s been in this minefield. Doesn’t make it any easier. “Depends”.

“When my Tanta Louise asked you why she got cancer, did you tell her it was because of the building she worked in? No. You told her a lie — even though you knew the truth.”

God sits back in his metal folding chair. He tries to. Finally, he fixes Sheila with a stare of his own. “You’re very good, know that?”

“I’ve thought about it, yeah,” says Sheila. “I’m thinking about it now. What should I believe? What seems most true to me?”

“And that is why — if you’re looking for Truth, you can’t not go the monotheism route — sticking a pin in your Tanta Whatever — not literally of course!” Her eyes say “continue”. “Go with me here,” he says, kicking into full salesman mode, “Take it from a deity — all those other deities? They’re not deities. The don’t think they’re better than you, for one thing!”

He turns up his palms. Slowly realizes his faux pas. “What I meant was polytheism’s small because all its gods are small. You don’t want to believe in a small god, do you?”

“Why should I believe in any god?”

“First cause,” says God, throwing down the words like it ended the argument.

“Bull-shit”, says Sheila. “Where’d YOU come from then? Who created you?”

“Nothing did, don’t you get it?” says God. “I’m the first cause. The alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the peanut butter and the jelly.”

“I’m allergic to peanuts”

“Figures,” God starts to say, catching himself immediately. “What I meant was I know you’re allergic to peanuts because I know everything.”

“What’s on the other side of a black hole?”

God hesitates. “What’s–“

“On the other side of a black hole. You know what a black hole is, right?”

Pride a little wounded: “Yes, I know what a black hole is, I invented them, right?”

“If you invented them then you know what’s on the other side of one, right?”

“Well…” God stammers, “Some of these inventions of mine — they’re works in progress, know what I mean?”

“They ‘evolve’, you mean?”

“Exactly,” says God, not catching himself in time, “They evolve.”

To God’s surprise, Sheila smiles. “I’ve come to a decision,” she says, standing. God, feeling like he’s being led here, stands as well. “I’m not hiring you,” says Sheila.

Not the first time this has happened (especially not recently). God lets it roll off his shoulders. “You don’t have to decide anything today,” he says — having answered this objection a few kajillion times before.

“I don’t have to decide anything ever,” says Sheila. She sits back. Studies God. Starts to laugh — not at God, not at anything in particular. Finally, the laugh peters out. “Even if, some day, I decide to look you up,” says Sheila, “It wouldn’t be you that I’d be looking up. It’d be someone better. Something better — a better God, know what I mean? But that’s only if I felt like I needed to believe in a God to begin with.”

“Can I tell you how sorry I am that I lied to your auntie?”

“If I was going to invent a god,” Sheila says, indicating the door behind God, “I’d hope like hell I could invent a better god than you.” Sheila extends a hand. “Good luck in the future.”

God looks at her hand. He knows that she knows he isn’t going to take it. And just like that, he knows: he made her point again.

“Thanks for coming in.”