Stuff Life Teaches You — California Earthquake Edition

Every time a temblor rumbles somewhere other than where you are in California, something inside heaves a sigh of relief. And disappointment.

The 5.8 temblor that rattled California today struck mostly remote wilderness out in the Owens Valley, not far from Mr. Witney (California’s highest peak). A storekeeper in Lone Pine — the closest town to the epicenter — described it as sounding like an explosion. He went outside to see if a truck hadn’t hit the building.

Earthquakes are like no other natural disaster. Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions even — they ll announce themselves well ahead of their arrival. Earthquakes hit the ground running as it were. That’s pretty much what they feel like — like the ground was “running”.

My first quake was the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake. Measuring in at 5.9 on the Richter Scale, it struck at 7:42 in the morning. My wife and I were renting a bungalow in West Hollywood — off the street and hidden behind a high fence with a swimming pool even. My German shepherd Sophie heard it first and ran outside, acting strangely.

As I went to ask her what was wrong, the temblor struck.

Every earthquake, I’ve learned, has its own sound signature. There’s a low, gutteral growl the earth makes. The shaking depends on a lot of factors: how strong the quake is, where the quake is (relative to where you are) and what the earth is like beneath your feet. A little rock beneath your feet is good. Too much sand is not. Structures, too, have a sound signature as they heave and vibrate.

There’s some famous footage of local NBC News anchor Kent Shockneck — on the air during one of the larger aftershocks — diving for cover —

Brings back memories… Throw in the sound of things falling, some breaking. You really can’t compare the experience to anything else. Then, finally the shaking stops.

Our WeHo bungalow did okay. No discernible damage aside from plenty of water lapping over the sides of the pool.

The 1994 Northridge Quake made much more of an impression. That stuck a little after 4:30 am. We owned a house in Los Feliz — in the hills. And our bedroom window looked out over the LA basin — a very nice view. I remember sitting up as the house started to rock (the initial quake hit a 6.7 on the Richter scale) and seeing most of the lights in the basin suddenly go dark as the power failed.

Our house was a 1927 Spanish that — being mostly stucco — cracked in plenty of places but didn’t fall down the way brick structures do during intense shaking. As the quake itself roared and the house shook, we heard glass breaking in other rooms. Things began to smash to the floor in our bedroom.

That’s when I learned by biggest earthquake lesson. Yes, running for a doorway is important. You don’t want to be sitting in your bed as the roof falls on you. That won’t look good when they go to dig you out later. But, when you leap out of bed, you better know where your shoes are. That broken stuff on the floor? It hurts when you step on it.

Ever since that quake — through all the subsequent ones that have rolled through LA while we’ve been here, — I’ve made it a point to put a pair of shoes by my bed — just in case.

There’s a life lesson in there — about being prepared. Every Californian should have an earthquake kit on hand. I don’t mean one of those silly backpacks filled with useless junk army-navy surplus stores sell for $50 (that “space blanket” is especially useless). I mean 3 – 5 days of food that won’t spoil including pet food. Adequate water. Working flashlights and a hand-crank radio (that you can use also to charge phone, computer & surplus power supplies.

Every Californian also should keep their shoes by their bed.

A confession: as much as earthquakes terrify me, they fascinate me too. The dread I feel for them is matched by the sheer coolness of the whole experience. The earth is shaking beneath your feet. You can feel the planet’s physical power. You are nothing to it.

If I were the earth and humans were messing with me constantly? I might never stop earthquaking.

How Did “Do Unto Others” Become “Do What We Say”?

Ya know the game “telephone”? A person whispers something into the next person’s ear — who then whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear and so on until we get to the last person. Usually, the original message gets wildly corrupted into total gibberish which makes everyone laugh when they hear it — especially the first person. Their simple message has been turned into something totally unrecognizable.

Jesus would totally get how they feel.

“Do unto others”.

That was Jesus’s simple message. It’s actually one of the core messages of Judaism. Jews are obligated to fix the world. Not through proselytizing others — conversion really isn’t a thing for Jews and never has been — but through moral acts. Act morally toward others and, one hopes, they will act morally toward you. Act kindly, respectfully, helpfully, lovingly…

Nowhere in there is judgment. Jesus didn’t say “Do unto others — or else” or “Do unto others — the way I tell you to”. He didn’t even teach how to speak to Yahweh. He just taught his followers that they could speak to him directly; they didn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests to speak to Yahweh on their behalf. Also pretty simple.

So, how did it get so freakin’ complicated where — in order to speak to this supposedly loving god — you, first, have to subjugate yourself? How did “Do unto others” become a complicated story of a man-god born of a virgin who was put here to die for everyone’s sins? Where is THAT in “Do unto others”?

The problem is Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. The bulk of the NT is made up of Paul’s communications with the burgeoning Christian communities forming across the Roman world. Paul didn’t know Jesus. Never met him. And, since Jews weren’t buying Paul’s version of Jesus (and his message), Paul took his message to the gentiles — all the communities he was writing to.

Paul was selling a way to beat death: believe in the story I’m telling you and you can, like Jesus, rise from the dead albeit in the afterlife where you’ll get to live happily ever after with everyone you loved. Sounds perfect! Who wouldn’t want that, right? Never mind that it’s nonsense. Never mind that it’s got nothing to do with Jesus, his message or even any sort of Jewish message. It’s pure invention — and genius. But it’s invention all the same.

There’s a gigantic difference between spirituality — how one relates to things larger than oneself — and religion — the codification of ritual designed (in theory) to help one realize one’s spirituality. It’s literally the opposite of what Jesus taught. That’s what made Jesus so radical — he taught reject the institutionalization of your spiritual quest, not dive deeper into the ooga-booga.

Paul, don’t forget, was relating a messiah story as the basis for how one was going to beat death. The messiah, the story says, was prophesied. It’s all “foretold” so there’s no point resisting it. If Jesus was the messiah, he needed to fit the prophesy to a “t” — even if the real Jesus didn’t. For Paul, the real, historical, “Do Unto Others” Jesus became both inconvenient and irrelevant.

And, so, Paul (and the church he was inventing) ditched Jesus. They kept his name (well, they kept the name they’d assigned him; Jesus’s real name was some version of Joshua ben Joseph per the culture’s nomenclature not “Jesus” which meant “savior”. Paul was pitching his evolving mythology to gentiles — unfamiliar with original texts he was talking about. Paul could twist what the texts said or meant into anything he wanted — no one was going to contradict him in the gentile world.

Jesus and “Do Unto Others” became mascots — early but clever marketing that had very little to do with the actual product being sold. Because “Do Unto Others” was too, too simple a message, the early church invented “original sin” to justify Jesus’s dying in their storytelling.

Quick — if Jesus’s purpose in being born to begin with was to die for every human being’s sins going back to Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, then why is it a problem (from a storytelling point of view) for Judas to betray him? If Judas doesn’t betray Jesus and Jesus lives on, dying peacefully in his bed, an old man, doesn’t that screw up Jesus dying for humanity’s sins? Either Jesus is put here for a purpose (like the prophesy says) or he’s not. You can’t have it both ways.

Unless you’re making it up, in which case you can say whatever you want. Like believe what I’m telling you or die.

The history of the Catholic church especially may be the most un-Jesus-like story imaginable. The various Protestant churches haven’t done unto others any better.

But then, churches are all about self-preservation. They have to be. Churches are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. It takes money and to keep the money flowing to it, every church needs members — the more the better. And to make sure the church members donate regularly and adequately, it’s important to make them understand their choices. Give or die. Belong to the church or die. Follow the church’s rules — or die.

“Do what we say — or die”.

Jesus had the uber-religious pegged. If Jesus were to rise from the dead and come a second time, he wouldn’t last long. Take this to the bank: the churches would lead the charge to arrest Jesus, charge him with some sort of crime and put him to death — because his message is so dangerous.

Some things never change.

When Is A Fact Not A Fact?

Let’s start with basic math. We can all agree that one plus one equals two, right? We can all agree that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun. Keep in mind — we can’t actually “see” the moon revolve around the earth — or the earth revolve around the sun. We have to extrapolate these things based on the available evidence.

We’re connecting dots in order to “see” the bigger picture and draw reasonable conclusions. We’re using a bunch of smaller facts to understand a larger fact.

Donald Trump is a criminal. Funny thing? We don’t have to connect any dots to see it. He happily commits plenty of his crimes in plain view. Hell, reliable, informed people keep telling us that Trump’s a criminal — likely a traitor, too. Plenty of dots that a scientist would connect.

Yet, our journalists do not.

In storytelling, if you’re doing it right, each scene adds new information to what the audience knows. Scenes don’t have to add a ton of info to justify being in a story, but they have to at least add a nuance or shading to a character or how the story might break. The point is, the scene that follows? It can’t go back to the story as it was BEFORE the previous scene. The audience knows too much now.

When fictional storytellers do that — keep going back to story points the audience already knows? They lose their audience. Why, unless it’s Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” which deliberately and brilliantly tells its story backwards, would a storyteller do that? Most wouldn’t. It’s horrible storytelling.

So why do our journalists — storytellers albeit of true stories — do it?

Our accumulated picture of Donald Trump — from “Mexicans are rapists” & “pussy-grabbing” all the way through to Trump’s continuing embrace of Confederate flags tells one completely consistent story. Even outside of his presidency, Trump is a study in multi-generational racism. Fred Trump, don’t forget, was a card-carrying member of the KKK. Father and son were nailed for refusing to rent to black people. Everyone with ears on the set of “The Apprentice” has a story of “Donald Trump: Big League Racist”.

If we were telling any other story, the audience would understand (because the storytellers made it explicit) that the subject — in addition to all his other hard, fast biographical data — IS A RACIST. Each story would begin along the lines of “Oh, and here’s what that racist Donald Trump just said on the subject of race…”.

The news audience would begin their understanding of the story from a “Oh, what did the racist-in-chief say now about race?” platform.

Instead, our news media begins their reporting every day as if Trump was a “normal” POTUS saying normal POTUS things. Except he’s saying abnormal things for a POTUS to say so therefore THAT must be the “new normal”. Um, no. There is no “new normal”. That’s the press normalizing what should never be normalized. It’s the storyteller doggedly dragging the story backward, while it kicks and screams all the way.

We’ve seen and heard (the press has reported) ample evidence that Trump is a security risk. That he says things to the Russians in particular that — let’s not tiptoe — are flat out treasonous. Oh, sorry — there I go again, connecting the dots sitting there that clearly connect. Instead, our news media continues to report Trump as a man with an “odd fixation” with Russia or a “different kind of relationship” with Putin.

Oy.

When is a rapist not a rapist?

When is a racist not a racist?

When is a traitor not a traitor?

Apparently when our news media “reports” it.

A scientist looking at the evidence would probably say “Ya know, though a jury’s never said it — they’ve never been asked — the evidence all says clearly, without viable contradiction, that Donald Trump is a rapist/racist/traitor.

In a civil trial, the obligation is 51% — the preponderance of the evidence. I once sat on a jury that decided an ageism case. We had to decide if the preponderance of the evidence said LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority fired an older employee because he was older. There was no direct evidence — someone saying “Let’s fire the old guy cos he’s old”. We had to deduct it to reach our verdict. Anyone, we felt, would have reached the same conclusion looking at the same evidence.

A journalist, for instance. Nothing we saw at trial was unavailable to the press pre-trial (it wasn’t that big a case; what I mean is — had the victim gone to the media first, they would have had access to most of the same information). The preponderance of the evidence spoke loudly.

“Both Sides Do It” journalism has put the ludicrous notion in our news media’s head that it must be strictly neutral. Yes, one must report the news from as even-handed a point of view as one can — even-handed in that it represents the facts up to that moment. It’s no good being “even-handed” based on old information. If we’re reporting on a child molester, it would be malpractice to ignore that fact to report on what a fabulous Halloween display he put on.

Both Side Do It journalism ignores facts in favor of the cynical insistence that everyone behaves with the same motives. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If we were all the same, we’d all be Republicans or Democrats. There’s not much common ground between real conservatives and real progressives. They don’t “do” things the same because they don’t think the same. Socialists who believe in the greater good and that the group’s freedoms always supersede the individual’s do not act the same way as “rugged individual” conservatives who think “you’re not the boss of me” is what freedom’s all about.

And they don’t do things for the same reason.

But, every time an American journalist asks “Are they just being political?” they’re ignoring facts. Odds are the question’s NOT being asked about Mitch McConnell blocking every bit of legislation cos he’s the Grim Reaper but it IS being asked about every Democrat calling him out for it.

Indeed — when are facts not facts? I repeat — OY!

Unfortunately, There’s Really No Such Thing As “Fair”

“Fair” is kind of like the Buddhist notion of “Bodhisattva”. A Bodhisattva is someone on the road to enlightenment. But they’re not there yet. If they think they’re there? They’re definitely not “there”. Enlightenment is as hard a goal to achieve as “fair” is. It’s more surreal than real, more abstract than plastic.

And it’s so personal. What’s fair to me might not be fair to you. Even when we compromise (the goal, really), if the compromise is “fair”? Neither of us will like it much; it’s not “fair”.

“Fair” gets harder when there are multiple competing interests whose concept of “fair” contradicts one another. Maybe the problem is we value “fair” to the individual over “fair” to the group. Assuming everyone’s rights are being respected (a big assumption), it’s hard to justify being fair to one person at the expense of a large chunk of everyone else.

When we say “All men are created equal”, we better mean “everyone” is created equal — before the law (which is what it means). If the Law treats everyone fairly — that is, “equally”, there’s a better chance we’ll feel that we’ve been treated fairly. That’s all we can ask. It’s the consistency that creates a basis for “fairness” in our minds. That’s why the Rule Of Law — as a concept — gives us the best possible chance to experience the most “fairness” for the most people.

Racism is inherently unfair. Ditto bigotry, misogyny and every other form of irrational, ignorant hatred.

But, just like “fair” is a human construct, so’s the Rule Of Law. We invented it. And though we want to think it’s “automatic” or autonomous, it isn’t. It does not self-perpetuate. It’s not some perpetual motion machine. We have to care for these ideas and nurture them. We have to renew both the ideas and our passion for them.

As the Trump years have taught us, if you start taking “fairness” for granted, you’re doomed to a life of perpetual unfairness. Minority rule — as an example? Not fair. Mitch McConnell hijacking the judiciary — to give hard core conservative judges power over an increasingly progressive majority? Not even remotely fair. Committing treason to win the presidency in 2016? Don’t get me started…

“Fair” is a muscle we have to exercise every single day. We have make sure we’re being fair — despite the unfairness around us. If we don’t exercise our own sense of fair — that is, fair for the group — our “fairness” muscle will atrophy, wither and die. Before long, we’ll become like every Trump supporter. Their idea of “fair” begins and ends with them.

You want fair? Be fair. Have receipts ready to demonstrate what real fairness looks like. Be prepared to persist. “Unfair” is the bully’s preference and there are plenty of bullies around.

The Majority Of Us Did Not Vote For Trump Or What He’s Doing. So, How Come He’s Doing It Anyway?

It’s strange to live in a democracy (well, a democratic republic) where the majority does not get its way. Apparently by design.

It’s kind of hard for a democracy to continue being a democracy when too few of its citizens take part in the very process that makes a democracy work: voting. The whole point is “self-government”. We do the work.

As I’ve argued here before, too many Americans (on the right) have a 5 year old’s notion of freedom. They think freedom means “You’re not the boss of me”. Everyone can do what they like. Since freedom comes with zero responsibilities or obligations, it doesn’t matter if your “freedom” infringes or obliterates somebody else’s. So long as your freedom “wins”? Who cares?

For starters, those whose freedoms are being infringed upon or ignored. They care.

But then, right-wing people only ever think of their own freedom when they think of that word. Everyone else’s freedom is secondary at best.

That includes their freedom to vote.

At its core, this election, this fight — it is about freedom: the group’s freedom over the individual’s freedom (to undermine the group’s freedom).

That’s what racism is — it’s the racist asserting that their rights supersede their victims’ rights. If their victims’ rights were automatically respected, the racist would lose instantly — because we’d “baked in” our intolerance of racism. But we’ve done the opposite — and baked in our tolerance of racism.

Racism exists because we let it exist — no other reason.

That changed. Americans are taking to the streets every single day to protest racism and all the terrible thing it’s done to specific people. But, also we’re protesting the fact that We The People tolerated it for so long. We allowed statues of racists and traitors to go up. We allowed them to remain in place. We accepted their “messaging” — that some peoples rights are better than other peoples’.

The times in my life when I’ve been proud to be an American had everything to do with accomplishments (the moon landing) and nothing to do with our “system”. I’ve been taught that our system is superior — with the words “freedom” and “liberty” being liberally tossed in — but never specifically “why” we were better.

I don’t know when Americans lost interest in our process or if we ever had any interest in it. Maybe the problem is democracy’s damned hard to pull off. You can’t ever take it for granted. You can’t just throw money at it.

Hmmmmm… maybe that’s another of our problems. We’ve confused money with democracy. The more money you have, the more “democracy” you have. That is, the more your vote counts.

The RW money — the Kochs, the Mercers — had a huge advantage going in to this. They had money of course. But they also had “passion”. They cared enough about what they wanted to do something. The Kochs have been behind gerrymandering and the hijacking of the judiciary. When people vote repeatedly but never get their way — or feel the ominous pressure of judges who disapprove of who they are (so, it doesn’t really matter what they’ve done) — they get cynical. They stop taking part in the process because what’s the point?

They stop voting.

They begin to act like victims expecting their victimization to go on forever.

Rapists rape because they don’t care about the word “no”. It means nothing to them. It’s not a coincidence that every sexual deviant in office (that we know of — to be fair) has an “R” next to their name. That’s why child molesters like Roy Moore can run as Republicans. They’re the “Rights Of The Rapist Over The Rights Of The Rapist’s Victim” party.

That’s the answer to “how come Trump’s doing it anyway?” He’s a rapist. Rapists do what they want. He’s gotten away with it because his party is complicit. And they are — for the moment — getting away with it because WE were complicit for so long — tolerating more and more of our rights being trampled (with the caveat that they were always being trampled).

Progressives want as many people as possible to thrive and flourish. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. The more there are in the “many”, the better the “one” will be. That is American Exceptionalism — our diversity. That is the majority that voted against Trump in 2016 and 2018 and who will again vote against Trump this year.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by around 3,000,000 votes. That were counted. I bet someone could do some research and come up with a more accurate number that included all those votes that DIDN’T get counted. Or got flipped by electronic voting machines. Or were denied at their polling place. Or were dissuaded from even showing up by propaganda that filled their Facebook pages (propaganda send specifically to them from Russia via Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort). Or were “taught” from early on that there was no point in their voting to begin with.

I bet a more accurate assessment of 2016 would have Hillary Clinton and We The People decimating Donald Trump. Take Russia out of the picture and Trump certainly does not win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin — and therefore the Electoral College (a whole “institution” meant to limit the freedom of the voters to have their say and way).

What scares Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Mikes Pompeo, Flynn & Pence more than anything? Aside from how guilty they are, it’s how small a minority of Americans they represent. Seeing the majority suddenly rise up — taking to the streets every day — terrifies them.

I wonder if Donald Trump realized last night — as he gazed at all those empty blue seats in Tulsa — if the end was near. He’s gotten away with murder. Literally.

And that’s about to stop.

The majority has had enough.

Since “Republican” Is Now Toxic, What Should “New” Republicans Call Themselves?

From a purely branding point of view, it really sucks to be Republicans right now.

If you’re still a card-carrying member of the GOP, think of all the awful things your brand is now co-branded with — joined at the hip and head like the most freakish conjoined twins ever: overt racism, religious extremism, self-destructive intolerance, backwoods misogyny, Bond Villain corruption and the worst kind of treason — purely cynical treason without an ounce of ideology.

Wow. Pick a side of history and it’s guaranteed the Republicans will run toward the wrong side. That’s also the Republican Brand now: being wrong about everything. But then, this isn’t news to the GOP. Whenever it was that the Koch Brothers decided to use their money to alter American politics — the Will Of The People be damned — that’s really when 2016’s coup d’etat formally began. The extreme Right Wing Money saw demographic extinction on the horizon — white guys would become such a minority that even rich guys and their money couldn’t stop them from losing power. Rich white guys weren’t having it. They got the poor white guys riled up against all those “others”.

Been there, done this. Again and again and again.

The “Republican Party” is about to check into the sarcophagus in the History Of American Political Parties Graveyard right next to the Whigs’ moldy pavilion. I hear the view sucks.

It’s a “Republican Party” as a brand is finished. Its luster won’t improve between now and November 3. In fact, I’ll wager, the worst is yet to come.

Plenty of people with living, breathing consciences have shredded their Republican Party membership cards. In the media, there’s Nicolle Wallace, David Jolley, Steve Schmidt and Jennifer Ruben among others. They’ve all vocally disassociated themselves. They, somehow, can’t comfort themselves with the tax breaks they’ve gotten while the rest of the country is betrayed.

As much as those on the left might love to have a free ride here — where everything we want becomes a wish granted — that’s as unhealthy as letting the right run riot. We know what that feels like. This isn’t a question of compromising with lunatics. We’re talking to reasonable people after all. Even when we disagreed with them vehemently, they were still reasonable people.

This blog is called “How To Live Bullshit Free”. The trick to living bullshit free is understanding that each and every one of us has a mountain of our own bullshit to deal with before we even think about looking at anyone else’s. Some of us have whole mountain ranges of bullshit in front of us. And dealing with your own bullshit isn’t a “one n done” proposition. Bullshit’s like zombies: damned hard to kill. But if you don’t deal with your bullshit, your bullshit will deal with you.

No one wants to be at bullshit’s mercy. It has none. I don’t want to be at yours and, believe me, you do not want to be at the mercy of mine.

I wouldn’t recommend “conservative” because, like “Republican”, the brand’s been destroyed by the people who swore by it. We get it — as their name says, conservatives want to conserve. The problem is what conservatives want to conserve — America circa 1850 when white Christian men (especially those with money) did what they wanted to anyone they wanted.

We’re back to the America Republicans want us to be. Sucks that it’s an America the overwhelming majority of Americans reject out of hand. Throw in a stolen election and this is why even “Conservative Party” would just result in good people dealing with bad marketing when they should be defending their ideas and ideals.

What should these good people call themselves? Normally, I’d be brimming with “helpful suggestions”. Something about this assignment fails to inspire. “Moderate Party”? Sounds dull as dishwater — like a party that hates enthusiasm about anything. “Heal America Party”? Sounds too sanctimonious already — and the moment they craft a platform, they’ll contradict themselves because someone won’t feel “healed”.

What does one call modern “people without a country”? Immigrants.

Mmmmmm… Not seeing “The Immigrant Party”. Not that there shouldn’t be one — and not that such a party (if it really spoke from the heart of the immigrant experience) wouldn’t be a welcome addition as we attempt to make our politics more reflective of us. And it’s not to say that this new party couldn’t speak to or represent people wanting to come here and be new Americans.

This new party is more diverse than that. I bet guys like Michael Steele would join it (he used to run the RNC). If it was moderate enough, I bet a fair number of conservative Democrats would check it out — and feel a fair amount of camaraderie.

The truth is, plenty of older African American voters are “conservative”. That is, they’re skeptical first. They want change but they want to make sure it’s the right change; they’re willing to be patient. They, too, might like this new party.

The same is true of Latinos and Chinese Americans and pretty much every group I can think of. It’s this diversity thing. Politics wouldn’t divide along racial lines if racism hadn’t been one of the country’s founding principles. Not that we can ever completely vent racism’s stink, but now that we’re all staring at it, we stand a better chance of not succumbing to its poison.

You see what I’m seeing here? A party as diverse on the “right” as we’ll have on the “left”.

But I still haven’t answered the question I started with: what to call them?

Maybe it’s not on us to name them. Maybe that’s something they need to do for themselves — pick a word, a short phrase, an icon — that tells us who they are. That speaks from their hearts to ours.

That’s what they’re going to need above all — the capacity to speak to the rest of us because they relate to the rest of us. This new party, I suspect, will better understand that all Americans (minus the 30% – 40% who are Trumpian) understand that we’re pulling the cart in the same direction. The differences are far less than everything we have in common.

And often, our differences are more like “framing” issues. Perspective helps those.

Whatever this new party calls itself — whatever their mission statement — I look forward to sitting down with them and getting down to the hard, serious business of fixing what Donald Trump and the Republican Party did to America.

We’ve got a mountain ahead of us.

America’s Gun Laws Are Racist

That’s not a revelation. No one should read that headline and think “You know, I never thought of that.” They should think: “Damn right they are!”

That’s how obvious it is.

This is not virgin territory. Not even remotely. Plenty of ink — electronic or otherwise — has been spent on the subject.

Consider that policing in America began as “slave patrols”. Armed men rounding up runaways. Slaves — even ex-slaves — were prohibited from owning guns. “Slave Codes” they were called — then “Black Codes” after Emancipation. Only the name changed.

Gun control existed — in the sense that the gun laws controlled black people getting them. Brown people too. In fact, anyone who wasn’t white was the law’s target.

We just need to remind ourselves of the fact now — as we watch armed white militias enter statehouses — intent on intimidating lawmakers not with their ideas or passion but with their WEAPONS.

May 14, 2020 — White supremacist militias — unable to use their words — wave their dicks & guns around instead.

We need to remind ourselves how racist our gun laws are as we watch white supremacists confront peaceful protesters.

Charlottesville August 12, 2017 — White supremacist James Alex Fields, Jr drives his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing Heather Heyer. How clever to use a car instead this time.

We need to remind ourselves as white looters attempt to co-opt legitimate rage.

Black Lives do not Matter to white looters there solely to cause chaos & get stuff for free.

We need to remind ourselves as white cops — and white guys in general — use their guns to hunt people of color.

Rednecks Travis McMichael & his father Gregory hunt black jogger Ahmaud Arbery while co-conspirator William “Roddie” Bryan videos.
Rayshard Brooks (r) is shot in the back by Atlanta PD Officer Garrett Rolfe – June 17, 2020

It’s not a coincidence that the same people who are most vociferous about clutching their guns to the bitter end are the same people who harass black and brown people in public spaces. Their lizard brains are on fire. They adore Donald Trump because his racism is their racism.

Where Jim Jones used kool-aid, Donald Trump uses violence. Each drop of bitter drink is replaced by a bullet.

Donald Trump Cheated To Become POTUS — Here’s How He Did It

It’s entirely possible that Donald Trump has lived his entire life without ever winning anything either fairly or squarely.

That includes the presidency. I wonder if that’s why he keeps projecting his illegitimacy.

We knew as the results came in election night 2016 that something wasn’t right. Yeah, losing always sucks. But election night 2016 transcended merely sucking. Something deep in our animal nature sensed it. It smelled off. Our animal nature was right.

Donald Trump cheated throughout the primaries and the general election. He had foreign help every step of the way: that’s illegal. It’s also not a question. The Mueller Report (contrary to Bill Barr’s lying) did not exonerate Trump, rather it damned him — and said it could damn him no further because of 1) a silly DoJ rule that says you can’t indict a sitting POTUS and 2) everyone around Trump perjured themselves and obstructed justice so relentlessly it was impossible to fully investigate whether or not Trump’s campaign had cooperated with Wikileaks — a known Russian player.

But, how did they DO it? How did they pull it off? Wasn’t it really “Hillary was a bad candidate?”

Yeah, Hillary Clinton had baggage. She also won by 3,000,000 more popular votes. She probably won by way more — but plenty of Democratic votes never got counted. Plenty of Democratic voters were stopped from voting or their votes were destroyed or not counted.

Let’s start with the voting machines. Nobody knows if voting machines were hacked, manipulated or altered; to my knowledge, no one’s ever done a forensics on the voting machines in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — the three states that handed Trump the victory. We do know that any machine — voting or otherwise — that hooks up to the internet can be hacked.

It’s not a coincidence that all the major manufacturers of voting machines are republican-owned. That’s how Republicans think — it’s multi-dimensional cheating.

To my knowledge, no one’s ever done any forensics on any of the voting machines used in 2016. As far as I know, no one’s even thought of doing it — not in an official capacity that is. But we know that any machine that hooks to the internet is hackable. There are, essentially, three voting machine makers: ES&S. Dominion Voting Systems & Hart Intercivic.

All the voting machines those Republican-owned companies manufacture are as unregulated as the companies who make them. They eschew producing paper trails — you know, those things one could follow to assure oneself the voting machines haven’t been tampered with and their results altered. Why, one must ask, would one not want back up — if only to prove how reliable your voting machines are?

We also know from even recent experience, even if people can get through a five-hour line and vote, there’s no guarantee their vote will be counted.

We don’t know and can’t say whether or not Trump directly cheated by screwing with machines in any way. We do know that Trump cheats. We know that Trump has no compunction about cheating. We know that he cheated in myriad other ways in 2016. We know that all the machine makers are Trump backers — and anyone backing Trump is open to corruption — that’s just a stone cold fact.

We can’t say machines for sure, but we can feel damned good betting the ranch on it.

Second, there was that old school cheating method — voter suppression. We’ll note, going in, that Democrats never, ever, EVER even try to suppress Republicans from voting. It just never happens. Why’s that, do ya suppose? Republicans do everything they can short of a literal poll tax to keep Democratic voters from voting. If Republicans thought the terrified people fleeing north from American-caused drug wars in Central America were reliable Republican voters, they’d limo every last one of them across the border to the American city of their choice, stopping along the way to get them all well-paying jobs, passports and pensions.

Republicans have been suppressing Democratic votes for a long time now. Remember though that (per Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent book “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party”), Lincoln’s Republican Party is not the current Republican Party. The GOP’s mission statement and founding policy positions sound an awful lot philosophically like modern day Democrats. The modern Republicans are more connected to the Dixiecrats — the southern Democrats who harkened back to the Democrats who hated and opposed Lincoln.

Whether it’s picture ID laws or assigning too few voting machines to mostly African American or Latino voting places, Republicans regularly make it hard for Democrats to vote. They must know that virtually none of the voters they’re inconveniencing or preventing from voting entirely are voting Republican. Republicans are inept — except when it comes to getting away with shit.

Gerrymandering was just reaching its zenith in 2016. Wisconsin is so badly gerrymandered that in 2018, Republicans won just 46 percent of the overall popular vote for the U.S. House, but 63 percent of the seats — 5 out of 8. Get that? They won a MINORITY of the votes but got a MAJORITY of the seats? A minority position “became” a majority one — because of gerrymandering. That means the will of the majority won’t be met, it will be contradicted.

Why does that seem so “un-democratic”?

In 2016, old fashioned voter suppression met Facebook. It was love at first sight. Facebook, after all, owed its existence to Russian money. Putin has always had a warm place in his pocket for Zuck & his glorified girl-rating app.

Russia focused its efforts on three states — Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — three guaranteed blue states with a combined 46 electoral college votes. After California, Texas, New York and Florida (55 electoral votes, 36 votes, 29 & 29) are the big three. Keep in mind — the Russian play involved lots of moving parts. It was happy to create utter chaos and mistrust in our elections. Scoring the White House was a bonus.

We know these things happened: Paul Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik proprietary polling data covering four states: Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. We don’t know what came of the Minnesota data but there’s significant evidence that Kilimnik took that data back to the GRU where the data was “weaponized”. Meaning — it was turned into attack ads that — based on the voter data — went through Facebook directly to the pages of individual American voters — in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

That those voters happened to be primarily African American was not an accident. Again — proprietary polling data! They were the point of the exercise. The GRU inundated those Americans’ FB pages with tons of ads about how Hillary Clinton was a closet racist.

The majority of African American voters knew better. They may not have loved Hillary but they were going to vote for her. Except for the African American voters who — seeing the Facebook ads about Hillary being a racist on the down low — let their cynicism take over. Everyone’s a racist, they thought to themselves — and stayed home.

Voter successfully suppressed.

I bet if we did even a little bit of investigating, we could find at least one Democratic African American voter who was swayed by what Manafort & Kilimnik did — and threw up their hands in weary disgust. Why bother? Both sides do it.

Trump won those three states by a combined 77,000 votes.

If we could add back in the suppressed votes (we’ll let go of the machines for now), Trump doesn’t squeak out a win, he loses. Maybe it’s close, but he loses.

On election day 2016, if you recall, Donald Trump had moved to within the margin of error in plenty of places — having risen sharply in the polls after the release of the Comey Letter.

It’s a fact. The Comey letter cost Hillary Clinton the election. The three to four percentage points Clinton lost was all Russia needed to make its various other efforts exponentially more fruitful. The Comey Letter added to the voter suppression going on — and Russia capitalized — pushing toxic Facebook ads and other social media propaganda through to the very last day.

The Comey Letter, if you recall, was all bullshit. Comey naively hoped his letter would explain why a bunch of rogue, Clinton-hating FBI agents in the Bureau’s NYC office refused to answer his simple question posed throughout the summer: were the emails discovered on still another Anthony Weiner computer copies of emails or brand-new emails the Bureau had never laid eyes on?

The rogue FBI agents — all fans of Clinton Cash, the Breitbart-published “expose” about Bill & Hillary — knew the answer to the question (they were copies) but refused to tell Comey. They were waiting — and waited throughout the summer. Meanwhile, backstage, Rudy Giuliani was in contact with the rogue FBI agents. He and (then Utah Republican Congressman) Jason Chafetz began to exert pressure on Comey — to reveal the presence of these new, “possibly unseen” emails.

James Comey wrote his letter — 5 days before election 2016 — to try and head off what Giuliani was doing. Comey was out of his depth. He got steamrollered. So did Hillary Clinton. So did America.

The Comey Letter made every Russian play more viable. It made squeaking out a 77,000 vote victory in three blue states acceptable — if only as a possibility. The Comey letter minimized the amount of cheating required on election day to steal the election.

As we all know, it worked.

Nothing about Trump’s 2016 election was “pre-planned” per se. Russia probably didn’t think it could pull it off until the Comey letter began to hurt Clinton’s numbers.

We know from reporting that no one in the Trump camp expected to win. Melania was especially upset. Trump had assured her it was an impossibility. He must have done because — as we just learned — after the “win”, Melania re-negotiated her pre-nuptial before moving into the White House.

Now that Trump is POTUS, he needs to stay POTUS — from his perspective. He’s already “unindicted co-conspirator Number One” in the Michael Cohen legal case. You just know there are a shit-ton of other legal cases just waiting for Trump to NOT be POTUS any longer — and no longer protected by that ludicrous DoJ rule that says you can’t indict a sitting president. The instant Trump stops being president, his legal troubles begin in earnest — and they won’t stop.

It’s entirely possible — I know my fingers are crossed — that Trump could lose every building, every hotel, every golf course he owns and end up either living in a cardboard box on the street (sweet!) or a federal prison for the rest of his life (sweeter!) He deserves to lose everything. The pain from that experience should endure as long as Trump lives.

I’d even be open to keeping Trump alive by whatever means possible — zapping his bloated orange chest with however many volts it takes to bring him back — just to keep in prison that much longer.

The good news is, Trump’s not having the easy time he had in 2016. Most of the American public grasps who Trump is now. More and more of us grasp that he’s not now — and has never been — the legitimate president of the United States.

We see him for the racist con artist and traitor that he is.

Freedom Has NEVER Been “Free”; It ALWAYS Comes With Responsibilities

“Freedom”, like “liberty”, is one of those words everyone thinks they understand. If I’m free, I get to do whatever I want. Anyone who tries to restrict my “liberties” is restricting my civil rights!

Horse shit. Horse shit on steroids.

Most Republicans have a 5 year old’s understanding of freedom. They think freedom means “you’re not the boss of me”. But then, plenty of Republicans believe THEY are rugged individuals, conquering heroes of the free market there to make themselves rich at everyone else’s expense. They believe they should be free to pollute to their heart’s content, own every weapon imaginable — which they can carry in public so as to intimidate everyone else. They believe their freedom is more important than your freedom — whatever you think your freedom is.

That — right there — is the problem.

“Freedom” on a personal level is more “self indulgence” than “freedom”. A person who thinks their freedom includes infecting me with their coronavirus conflicts with my freedom. My freedom, you see, doesn’t work that way. Which of our two freedoms gets to dominate here? They can’t co-exist.

That’s where the group’s freedom comes in. The group — American society — also is “free”. But our collective individual freedoms have to live together. If two freedoms can’t exist together then both have to compromise or cease to be considered “freedoms”. How can freedom benefit one person while harming another? Thinking that THAT is “freedom” is exactly what got us into this mess.

America pays lots of lip service to “freedom”. But we don’t know what it is. Perhaps if we educated our young people in exactly how our government works, we could fix that. The most basic freedom we need to teach future citizens is the importance of voting itself as the foundation for freedom. Voting — and the politics that result — are how we negotiate our freedoms — balancing my needs against your needs and our needs against the larger public’s needs.

The simple fact is, there’s no such thing as “complete freedom”. Want that? Go live by yourself on an island. You’ll soon begin to experience freedom’s practical imitations. You by yourself aren’t free. It’s like keeping a gun in a gun locker. Sure, it’s “safe” there — but the gun wasn’t designed to sit in a gun locker — it was designed (from the ground up) to send a hot piece of metal flying at great speed into a live target, killing it. “Responsible gun ownership” isn’t what happens when the gun’s not being used. A bad idea is just a bad idea until somebody tries to “do it”. Then it becomes something else entirely. Freedom isn’t what you do on your own, it’s how you interact with others: what are we free to do as individuals in a society and as that society?

If you don’t show up to vote even, you haven’t exercised your most basic freedom. If you’ve “chosen” not to vote, you’ve in essence voted to shrug off your freedom. What other people choose to do with their freedom is how you’ll deal with yours. That’s their freedom in play, not yours which means they’re free and you’re not. You’re just pretending to be free.

Like a child.

Freedom and democracy are way harder than they look. But — if we can manage the responsibilities and obligations, the self-government is superior to any other form of government. People, in general, are far happier living in democracies. They’re way more productive. Imagine how much happier more Americans would be — how much more productive we’d all be — if only we’d get better at being “free”.

If You Arm People As Part Of Their Job, You’re Inviting Them To Shoot People

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in show biz. I’ve run TV shows. Written & produced feature films. I’ve cast thousands of actors.

After hiring them, I wardrobed those actors.

It’s amazing what happens when an actor goes into their trailer, takes off their street clothes and dons the outer layer of a person sorta like them but not them. They change. If the wardrobe is unlike their street clothes? They change even more.

When you outfit a person for their work in a uniform, something changes inside that person when that uniform goes on. You belong to something bigger than yourself. Even if you’re working at McDonald’s and you hate it — the uniform changes you. At the very least, it tames your rebellious streak. You’re still there working, wearing the uniform.

Now add a gun to the uniform. Yeah, sure, we’ve “trained” this uniform-wearer into “best practices” for using that gun but let’s be real: a gun is a death machine. It’s been designed from the ground up to send a piece of hot metal flying very fast into a live target, killing it. It’s not designed to sit in a holster (or gun safe). The holster (and gun safe) were designed around them. To put them somewhere when not being used.

A gun’s safety vs unsafety has to be measured against zero gun while the gun is in someone’s hand. No gun = zero chance anyone will get killed, maimed, wounded or disabled by the gun. Gun = yeah, all those things could happen. It’s a roll of the dice whether they do or not. And let’s be really, really real: “responsible gun ownership” is a myth gun owners (who want to be responsible) tell themselves.

Nancy Lanza — mother of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza — thought she was a “responsible gun owner” right up to the very moment her son blew her brains out with one of her guns. We know what he did afterwards. With those “responsibly owned guns”.

I’m not arguing second amendment yes or no. If we’d just abide by the amendment — the words AS WRITTEN say “gun control” (the militia gets to decide who gets to “keep and bear” — not own — those arms). I’m just saying guns are damned dangerous. I have receipts.

And if you put a dangerous object at the hip of even a very well-trained person (a “responsible gun owner” type), the dangerous object remains dangerous and unpredictable. Putting literal Live & Death into anyone’s hands invites them to play with Life & Death. Throw emotions into it and it’s hyper volatile. Consider how racist a lot of those emotions are — of course there’s a killing spree. We set everyone up for that exact failure.

But then, policing began as a racist endeavor in America. The first police forces evolved from slave patrols formed in the 1820’s. They’ve always been armed — and those arms were meant to kill, maim or cower.

Nothing has changed.

If, inside your head, you’re a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Rayshard Brooks died because two Atlanta cops woke him (he was asleep, drunk, in his car outside a Wendy’s) then, when he ran, shot him. They shot him because he’d grabbed one of their tasers. He fired it — over his shoulder — as he ran at them. Tasers, even police have routinely argued in court, are not deadly weapons.

The Atlanta police returned a non-deadly (and wildly fired) taser shot with deadly fire. Into Rayshard’s BACK.

If you hand a racist a gun, the gun will find its way into the racist’s hand at the worst possible moment. And the racist — justified by his wardrobe — will use that gun to splatter another sidewalk with his racism’s result: more death, most of it black or brown.

Why on earth would the people being subjected to such horrific violence want to keep PAYING for it through their tax dollars? Why on earthy would anyone disgusted by such behavior be forced to pay for it — when it’s not the “policing” we want.

We need to (metaphorically) defund how we think about policing. That will cause us to de-fund the myriad ways we’ve militarized policing. That, in turn, will finally turn policing away from its racist roots in America and toward something genuinely fair, community-based and entirely productive. There are civilized countries where police walk among the people they’re policing without guns at their hips.

It’s do-able. It’s being done.

That needs to be us now.