False Narratives, The GOP And The News Media: How Bullsh*t Goes Nuclear

How in the hell did America’s news media get it into their heads that “both sides do it”? Nothing has been more destructive both to journalism and journalists than this idiotic, deeply cynical, perspective-free point of view. Do both sides do it because they’re the same? Or is it just a freak of nature that “both sides do it” despite being nothing like each other? What’s the “it” both sides are “doing” anyway? For starters, no — both sides aren’t the same. If Democrats were “like” Republicans they’d BE Republicans. But Democrats (that’s modern Democrats, not the Democrats of the Democratic Party that opposed Lincoln and ultimately became the Dixiecrats which ultimately became the Southern Strategy oriented “modern” Republican Party) are utterly incapable of marching in lock step like Republicans. Republicans are capable of all believing one thing right down to the chorus and response. Democrats, on the other hand, suck at marching in lock step. They can’t even agree on what “lock step” actually is.

The modern Democratic Party is still every bit the group about which Will Roger famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. When you’re the party of diversity and inclusion, you don’t exclude anyone. You simply don’t think that way. Put ten Democrats in a room, you’re likely to get ten different opinions. The trick, as always, is negotiating a compromise that everyone can live with while quietly hating. Democrats are idealist but pragmatic. That’s the nature of progressivism: it lives in the real world of data points while never surrendering its aspirations. How do we get ‘there’ from ‘here’? That’s the question.

Also worth noting, the Democrats, being diverse, are not the doggedly dogmatic “Christian” party Republicans are. That’s why Republicans so good at goose-stepping together: they can all agree on the same dogma.

Democrats do not do things for the same reasons Republicans do. Democrats, by their nature, favor people over profits. Republicans, by their nature, do the exact opposite. They always favor profits over people. Modern Republicans are very much the Democrats who opposed Lincoln. They haven’t changed a bit; down deep, plenty of people who proudly stick that “R” next to their names would probably vote to bring back slavery if they could only find a way to get it onto a ballot. The only difference is, this time, they’d make a point of enslaving more of us.

As we stand here today, the Republican Party has declared open war on our democracy. Can’t blame them, really… what good is democracy to you if no one will vote for you? But then, who except for white, Christian men see the 1850’s as a “Golden Age”? The RW money grasped in the post Reagan years that the Republican Party faced demographic extinction. It was never a question of adaptation to changing circumstances. Change is anathema to conservatism. Instead of changing themselves, they set out to change the rules. That is not the same thing as “governing”.

But, “Both Sides Do It” refuses to “judge” anyone. It divorces itself from taking sides in any way — even when taking sides is necessary. “Both Sides Do It” assumes that everyone has a point of view. Fair enough — in fact, I agree. Everyone does have a “point of view”. But not everyone point of view has “a point”. I have a point of view about being molested twice by the religious director at the temple my family attended when I was a kid. So does the guy who molested me. If you sat us both down and asked us: “What happened?”, we could both tell you a different side of the story. BUT — just because my molester has a point of view here, that does not mean he has a point. That’s a completely different thing.

Not every point of view is justified. In other words, not every point of view has a “point”.

Hey, remember how our NEWS MEDIA used to entertain discussions about “the climate debate”? Remember when it WAS a “debate”? It shouldn’t have been, of course. Still, because of “both sides do it” and the compulsion to invent false narratives, our news media would put a climate scientist on one side of the screen and a science denier on the other — presented visually as a total “50-50”. Regardless of the information flowing, VISUALLY, the image says both sides have the same validity. Who’s telling the truth? Don’t know — it’s a 50-50.

That happened because our news media refused to “take sides” and call obvious bullshit what it was: BULLSHIT. Instead, our news media regularly gave bullshit credence.

When you automatically give every argument, sight unseen, the benefit of the doubt, you are setting yourself up for failure. Inevitably, some of those arguments benefitting from your largesse are total bullshit. When you ask the question — as too many American journalists do (in their own way) “Yeah, but what IF bullshit was true…?”, you automatically give bullshit credence it does not deserve. It didn’t give itself legitimacy, the journalist supposing it “could” have legitimacy did that.

Once you spray bullshit with the patina of legitimacy, it never goes away. That bit of bullshit might supersede reality. Next thing you know, bullshit rules everything. And everything is bullshit. Every time a journalist sticks a mic in a Republican’s face, they treat that Republican as an honest actor; it’s what they’re supposed to do. But when you stick your mic in a liar’s face — and they lie to you as expected — it doesn’t serve anyone to act as if the lie is true. Now, either the reporters giving Republican arguments credence know they’re being lied to — and allowing their Republican interview subjects to get away with it — or they’re ignorant that they’re being lied to in which case, they’re too ignorant to be working as journalists.

There is good news on the horizon. Slowly, more and more members of America’s Fifth Estate are opening their eyes not only to the actual story they’ve been mis-reporting now for five years but to the fact THAT they’ve been mis-reporting it because they repeatedly treated Republicans as honest actors when, clearly, they’ve been nothing of the sort.

“The sun sets in the west,” Lester Holt said while delivering the keynote address at the 45th Murrow Symposium while achieving the Murrow Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism, “Any contrary view does not deserve our time or attention”. Abso-tutely, Lester! Your duty “is to be fair to the truth” first not every dumbass argument spewed by dumbasses.

Donald Trump is what happens when bullshit becomes not only pervasive but president. Our news media is what happens when bullshit becomes mistaken for journalism.

The Slippery Slope Into Bullsh*t

A huge chunk of America believes bullshit is true. Literally. You could hold up the truth and bullshit — side by side — and they’d gobble the bullshit right up without even thinking about it. Hmmmmm… Without even thinking about it. How is it so many Americans do things — like vote for Donald Trump — without even thinking about it? Sure, sure — there are tribal Republicans for whom the American flag means everything while the Constitution it supposedly stands for means nothing. They’d worship the flag even if we ditched the Constitution and became an official authoritarian shithole instead. Let’s set them aside (please!) I’m talking about that still sizeable slice of Americans who’ve been genuinely bamboozled by a news media incapable of doing the job it’s been entrusted with.

To be fair, America has always had a flair and a talent for “outside the box” thinking. You can’t accomplish big if you don’t dream big. And when it comes to manufacturing bullshit, ordinary Americans have to contend with bullshit that’s been created by “outside the box” bullshit artists. How good are they? They convinced America that keeping slavery was a good thing. That’s some serious bullshit.

White people have a remarkable talent for inventing bullshit, living according to bullshit, dying because of bullshit and passing bullshit on to the next generation so they can proliferate it too. Take “Manifest Destiny”. Does bullshit get any whiter or bullshittier?

White, Northern European culture — the spawning pool for white supremacy — took the good fortune of living where it lived (I’m all in with historian Jared Diamond’s excellent “Guns, Germs & Steel”) and assuming it meant they were anointed by God to manifest their destiny. The irony was that the continent on which the Europeans landed (some Southern Europeans — not an improvement on the Northern ones) had been eons ahead of them culturally and developmentally. Check out Charles C. Mann’s excellent “1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus”. When Paris and London were shithole adjacent — glorified villages at best — sizeable metropolises thrived in North America. For real.

Strange how we still haven’t incorporated that into our history. To this day, America has it in its head that European culture is a “superior” culture to all others. It isn’t. It’s just one of many cultures. What gives American culture an edge is DEMOCRACY and the fact that so many cultures are part of American culture. Diversity is what makes America exceptional.

It’s just natural to believe in “Manifest Destiny” once you believe God smiles upon you especially when the “God” you’re talking about is yours. An African American’s God probably doesn’t want them to be enslaved — that includes the Christian God that was shoved down the African slave’s throat. But then, a good, strong case can be made that plenty of ardent theists aren’t all that theistic actually. Dig a little, ask them some questions, and you’ll realize: they don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God. That’s monotheism’s trap — the God you hear inside your head is YOU!

And once you start believing the stuff you believe was inspired by “The Divine”, you’re just a heartbeat away from giving Jesus (or God) “the wheel”. It ain’t YOU doing “it”, it’s God! This, right here, is bullshit’s spawning ground. Regardless of whether there is a God or not, you’re convinced now that there is — and that YOU’RE version of God is THE version of God.

I convinced myself that I was responsible for my own molestation when I was fourteen. I was wrong, of course — it wasn’t my fault. But that bullshit — that’s what it was — tormented me for the 45 years I kept it a secret, mostly from myself. The bullshit undermined my confidence without me even understanding that bullshit was my problem. That’s how effective bullshit is lying to you. That bit of bullshit led to a suicide attempt four years ago.

But, in the aftermath, while recovering, I realized not only how dangerous that one piece of bullshit was, I realized that my little secret about me wasn’t the only bullshit impacting my life. Bullshit was contorting me into pretzels, giving me whiplash. Some bullshit — you need it frankly, just to get through a day. It’s the small stuff you need to let go of but can’t, so you bullshit yourself about it — keeping to a diet, for instance, whether for weight or health reasons. Sometimes, a piece of bacon just won’t be denied.

Sometimes, frankly, bullshit tastes good. Sometimes it feels good. Until it becomes one too many. Ah, bullshit…

The trick is learning to judge which bullshit you can tolerate living with and which you can’t. If we all dealt with our own bullshit first — before even thinking of looking at anyone else’s, that’s all we’d do — manage our own bullshit. As I began to recover from the decade-long depression that came to a head when Trump became POTUS, I actually felt better for addressing my own bullshit while forgetting about everyone else’s. I recommend it.

The Donald Trump presidency was a kind of “Golden Age Of Bullshit”. Trump personally took bullshit to bold, new heights almost every time he opened his mouth. You could hear the bullshit soaring in his voice — and his voice sailing aloft, lifted in turn by the bullshit. The news, just from repeating Trump, felt like a daily bullshit tsunami.

Our news media is split on the subject. Some of them assert it’s no their job to sort bullshit from truth — that’s our job. But, when you present bullshit as a possible alternative to truth (without labeling them so), bullshit gains credence. Until only recently, the NEWS MEDIA regularly hosted discussions pitting climate scientists against climate deniers. They’d put these two “points of view” (as if bullshit could HAVE a “point of view”) side by side in a fifty-fifty shot that gave both speakers & both points of view equal screen real estate. In the visual language (and it is a language), a 50-50 screen says “these two points of view have equal heft, weight and likelihood of being true”. See how that works? Because they didn’t understand the language they broadcast in, American journalists regularly had conversations on their air where they were determined to equate bullshit and truth.

It’s a strange thing about humans — it’s sooooooo easy to sell them bullshit yet sooooooooo hard to sell them truth — even as they’re zooming down that slippery slope, unable to stop themselves. Bullshit is what makes that slope so damned slippery.

Maybe Our News Media Shouldn’t Take Its Audience — US — For Granted…

Of all the things Team Biden must accomplish pronto on January 20, 2021, atop the list must be setting the Department Of Justice back onto a course of justice and away from its role as a mob boss POTUS’ consigliere. Had our news media not normalized a thousand terrible Trumpian behaviors as “different” rather than “objectionable” or “illegal”, we might not be facing a Constitutional crisis on January 6. Too much of our news media still aspires to be the next Judith Miller — the New York Times’ access whore who sold her sole out so that Dick Cheney might whisper lies into her ear. Even more take it on faith alone that “both sides do it” and will willingly tie themselves in knots to avoid asking white conservatives the same impertinent questions they automatically burp at progressives.

Our news media assumes we’re as stupid, vacuous and intellectually incurious as they are. Boy, are they wrong. The rise of citizen journalism has saved professional journalism from itself. Now, let’s understand — as it destroyed every other business it touched, the internet is destroying the business model for journalism. Has destroyed it already, in fact. The pandemic then came along and demonstrated how anyone with a Zoom account is now just as much a TV talking head as the most experienced TV talking head.

Hell, in my other incarnation — as The Faitheism Project — I do a podcast every week now just like every other podcaster out there. I may not be much competition right now for the big players, but we’re still competing nonetheless. The internet levels all playing fields — for better and worse. The news audience — and I consider myself just another piece of it — is far more sophisticated and savvy than it was in the days when all we had was ABC, CBS and NBC. We sit down in front of our monitors or TV sets more conversant in the visual medium, it turns out, than the people we’re watching and listening to.

TV news media truly don’t understand the language of the medium they’re working in. Example — back when it was still kosher to put climate deniers on the air, the TV news networks would, as a matter of course, put climate scientist and climate denier into a “50-50” shot that splits the screen right down the middle. That’s great. It appears incredibly fair. And it IS being fair — to bullshit. It’s being incredibly unfair to the Truth however.

The problem is the climate scientist has mountains of hard data to back up what he’s saying. The climate denier has stuff he pulled (almost literally) from his ass. They are NOT the same thing. Yet there they both are, being presented in what’s called a “50-50” shot. Fifty percent of the screen to science and fifty percent of the screen to bullshit. See the problem? A truer, more accurate representation would give more like 99% of the screen to the climate scientist and maybe one percent to the climate denier. And the climate denier would be somewhere in the corner of a frame, virtually impossible to see.

A lot of us live in a constant state of war with the press — not on the press itself but on its utter failure of imagination and it’s stone cold refusal to see or acknowledge that failure of imagination. In fact, most of the press does not see itself as culpable in any way. They arrogantly hold themselves “above the fray”, never taking sides even when taking sides is demanded. One only worries about being seen to take sides if one hasn’t the courage of one’s convictions (or, more likely, no convictions to begin with).

I’m not alone in watching cable TV news not so much for the news as for the constant assurance that we’re just as screwed up today as we were yesterday — maybe a bit more screwed up in fact. Donald Trump has turned most of America into the world of Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”. That’s not a good thing. Logic is that world’s kryptonite. If America’s journalists weren’t trying to convince themselves that Democrats and Republicans are all really the same person (which we absolutely are NOT!), they’d be banging away at some other story already.

America’s J-schools all need to take a break from producing journalists. They need to sit back and truly see what they’ve done to the rest of us: a party that feels compelled to explain everything and a party compelled to explain nothing. After a certain point, the trains will become physically incapable of being on time.

A few years back, the 21st Century Fox board of directors chose to end their relationship with Bill O’Reilly at a time when O’Reilly was their biggest draw, their cowiest cash cow. And yet — the 21st Century board of directors understood and agreed that O’Reilly had zero future at Fox News. The reason? Fox News’ advertisers were signaling from afar. The big advertisers were the first to grasp that, as women were more and more becoming the buying-decision decision makers in American households, it no longer behooved the big advertisers to ignore them. If America’s women — out of disgust — were likely to vote with their pocketbooks, then how and why they voted was going to become vitally important.

Fox News cannot survive without big companies advertising on it. Money drives every decision they make. Never mind what anyone on Fox ever says. Watch what they do. Their actions speak every dirty secret their words refuse to betray.

Conservatives vs Progressives Can Be Summed Up As “Me vs We”

Trumpism is conservatism on steroids (plus copious amounts of snorted powdered Adderall). If one had to sum up Trumpism in one word, it’d be “me”. “Me” is the one country Donald Trump has fealty toward. Well, “Me” and Vlad Putin. But that’s not ideological fealty. Trump isn’t loyal to Putin because he believes in “Putinism”. Rather, it’s the fealty that a crime boss (Putin) demands from his underlings and capos (Trump). “Me” is the core weakness Putin holds over Trump. Putin is exploiting Trump’s absolute adoration of “Me”, Trump’s willingness to indulge “Me”, make “Me” richer even if doing it is illegal or downright treasonous.

Trumpism = Me-ism. And now, so, too do Republicanism and conservatism.

To be fair to conservatives, they do come by their Me-ism honestly. That is, it’s completely organic to who they are. Conservatives love the Libertarian notion of the “rugged individualist” — that “I alone can fix it” guy. They all see themselves as “rugged individualists”. This dovetails nicely with the conservative, institutionalist idea of religion — a neat twist that turns “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”. Conservatives all claim to know God’s will better than you (so you better shut up!) That’s because conservatives don’t believe IN God, they believe they ARE God. So, how could anyone be the “boss of them”?

See how that works?

Conservatives, as their names says, want to conserve. Fair enough. The next logical question: WHAT do conservatives want to “conserve”? Since one can’t conserve the future (it doesn’t exist yet), one is left conserving the present which means conserving the past since that’s what the present reflects — what’s left of the past. THAT is what conservatives want desperately to conserve — as much of the past conserved in the present as possible. Why? Was the past better?

For them, yes. Yes, it was. In the past, conservative values (white, Christian, male) dominated all conversations. “All men are created equal” didn’t mean “all men”. It didn’t mean “all people” either.

For conservatives, the past was infinitely better than they fear the future might be. Which is why they resist change. And progress. Change and progress are antithetical to conservatives and conservatism. That’s not a rap or a judgment. It’s simply a fact. It’s part of the DNA of any conservative argument — resistance to change because of a preference for how it was before.

“How it was before” is a problem for Progressives because “how it was before” was racist, bigoted, misogynist and ignorant. And it’s entirely antithetical to democracy because the majority of Americans aren’t those things. We keep voting against those things but getting the opposite result. It’s like someone was constantly getting in the way of change — of the progress toward real fairness, real justice and a truly level playing field that the majority of Americans want.

Donald Trump pointed out a basic truth that every Republican knows: when more Americans vote, they vote against Republicans and for Democrats because they don’t want what Republicans are selling. Democracy is a marketplace of ideas. In the binary marketplace that is American Democracy, more Americans want to buy Progressive ideas than conservative ideas: a vigorous social safety net, socialized medical CARE (not insurance; insurance doesn’t provide care, it’s a payment mechanism for it) that won’t bankrupt a person (or their family) just because they got sick, UBI, a healthy climate, women’s and minority rights, full LGBTQ participation in American life, a clear separation between Church and State. As Trump put it, if every American voted, Republicans would never win another election.

Exactly so, Donald, exactly so. It’s a testament to how good most Americans are. We want our individual rights respected. But we also recognize that there will always be a dynamic tension between “me” and “we”. If not everyone in the “we” is getting the same “me” treatment? Then it’s like NONE of “we” is getting the “me” treatment. We can’t be truly free until we’re ALL free. Otherwise, we’re just pretending to be “free”.

Even the nature of our protests is different. Most Progressives protests were masked and, at least, had the pandemic’s toll and impact in its head.

Conservative protests?

They’re masked when they must be but you can see “You’re not the boss of me!” burning in their eyes. They’re armed to the teeth. They’re not there to protect anything — other than the scared little boy inside them. As Kyle Rittenhouse was shooting those two UNARMED protesters to death, was he striking blows for freedom? Or was he, down deep, saying “Eff you, man, you’re not taking away whatever it is that I’m so desperately afraid of losing!”

The reason most conservatives fear “we” is because it doesn’t look like them — or what they think “me” should look like: Northern European white people. Christian. Rich.

That’s what conservatives think “American Exceptionalism” is. Them. And their money. They couldn’t be more wrong. American Exceptionalism is spelled out in our motto: “E PLURIBUS UNUM”. Out of many, one. America is the product of diversity. That’s the “PLURIBUS”. The “UNUM” isn’t a bunch of unums making one giant “unum”, it’s an unum borne of the pluribus. “We” has always been essential to the American ideal.

Our mistake thus far has been that we’ve EXCLUDED so many Americans FROM that ideal. Good thing We The People stepped in at the very last second to pluck our democracy back from the selfish, greedy, corrupt conservatives who, frankly, never had much use for it anyway.

There will always be dynamic tension between “me” and “we”. That’s not a bad thing. It’s baked in to our experiment in human self-government. Our duty is to keep the tasting spoon handy. Don’t let the mix get TOO “we” (that will undermine the “me” and we don’t want to do that either).

Maybe we need to reframe our differences. Maybe conservatism isn’t the political opposite of progressivism. Maybe conservatism is an island unto itself. What if we think of “moderation” as the political opposite of progressivism. Rather than “forward v backwards”, what if we thought of the future in terms of “forward v forward with greater deliberation”? After all, whether we like it or not, the future is coming at us. We will face problems in the future that we haven’t even considered yet.

If we don’t anticipate them — by building the future into our plans — then we’ll be caught out when the future arrives. Kinda like the Trump White House prepared America for the pandemic.

See? We are living in a live “Me v We” test tube. “Me” thinking produces sickness and death. “We” thinking does not.

Like there’s really a choice here?

American Television News Sucks In Large Part Because They Don’t Understand How Their Own Medium Works

To listen to Donald Trump speak, you’d think he had no idea how to speak English. Whatever lie he’s trying to convey can’t survive the whirling word salad of death spewing from his bloated orange pie hole. He’s a liar who can’t get that the rest of us won’t buy into his lies because he tells them so badly. America’s news media has a similar problem but with the visual language. Just as words befuddle Donald Trump so badly that they’ve limited his vocabulary, the visual medium befuddles American news producers so badly that they, too speak with a limited vocabulary. Trump’s inability to communicate reveals every single flaw in his character. That’s a good thing. The visual media’s inability to use their medium correctly undermines their ability to convey the truth — the very thing they’re supposedly in the business of conveying.

That’s a really, really bad thing.

Last night — the woman seated behind Trump — the one circled — repeatedly nodded and gave Trump’s ludicrous answers an enthusiastic thumbs up. The town hall concept NBC News insisted, would surround Trump with “uncommitted voters” whose questions he’d answer. Except Mayra Joli, the woman, was NOT an uncommitted voter. In fact, she’s an immigration attorney and pro-Trump activist. I’d love to know how SHE got THAT seat.

I didn’t watch NBC’s town hall live by the way. On principle. I switched between watching Joe Biden behave like an adult and the LA Dodgers behave like a minor league team facing major league pitching. Despite taking heavy fire for a very, VERY poor decision, NBC News and its apologists insist that they performed a public service.

I suppose if you focus entirely on Trump and his inability to communicate, you might think NBC News is right. But then, we knew this going in — that Trump isn’t a great communicator just like he isn’t a great businessman. You have to swallow a whole lot of bullshit before you can think Trump is either of those things. But then, that’s been the story the last four plus years — the news media’s stunning inability to see Donald Trump for who and what he is — despite all the evidence of it.

On television, the visual matters. The contemporary audience is incredibly sophisticated in its understanding of and ability to use the visual language. Anyone and everyone can be a filmmaker these days. Close ups and tight shots create a feeling of intimacy. Wide shots create a feeling of space. And 50-50 shots — where two people are presented in the frame with the exact same amount of screen space — suggest a discussion of two equal points.

It doesn’t matter if one person is arguing that the world is round while the other insists it’s flat or that climate change is absolutely real while the other insists it’s not or that the “science still isn’t complete”.

While our ears are hearing a nonsensical argument, our eyes are seeing something else entirely — a more equal argument between two equally valid points. They must be of equal value because that’s how they’re being presented onscreen — 50-50. That’s how our brains read it. That creates a conflict in our heads because we’re being fed two conflicting pieces of information. Bullshit is being given the same visual weight as the Truth — and we know intrinsically that that cannot be.

In a way, our news media is like a well meaning nitwit who uses high-falutin’ words that they really don’t understand. While they wrestle with the language, their audience grows increasingly frustrated with them and stops believing them. That’s already Donald Trump’s operating principle — make the news media unbelievable. The news media really doesn’t need to help him accomplish it.  

At the bottom of it all sits “both sides do it” journalism and its cynical, perspective-free assertion that everyone’s the same.

No, we’re not. Too bad our news media can’t see it.

Not Hyperbole: Portland Is The GOP’s Attempt To Turn 2016’s Soft Coup D’Etat Into A HARD Coup D’Etat

Since election day 2016, America has been living through an on-going soft coup d’etat. If the point of an election is to measure & then respond to the will of the people, what happened in 2016 accomplished the exact opposite. The election’s outcome represented the will of a white, Christian minority to exert permanent minority rule over a diverse and diversifying majority.

How did that happen? Let’s be clear about one thing up front: this was not some master plan drawn up in a boardroom somewhere. Well, part of it was — the part where the Koch’s & the Mercers made a conscientious effort to use their money to deny the majority of Americans the government they wanted. They spent their money to deny climate change and to keep the playing field in America tilted entirely toward white, Christian males. To do that, the Kochs, Mercers & the rest of the RW money put Mitch McConnell to work denying Barack Obama — and by extension We The People who voted PBO into office twice by significant majorities — the judges PBO would have nominated.

See how that worked? Mitch McConnell was actively standing in the way of what the majority of Americans voted for. Remember this — Mitch vowed (when he expected Trump to lose) that he would deny President Hillary Clinton a single SCOTUS judge — even if it left the Supreme Court with nobody on it.

This was the beginning of the soft Republican coup d’etat.

The rest of the GOP strategy pre-Trump was a perpetual stalemate — a perfectly acceptable conservative solution to their problem. No progress meant things stayed the same. It’s not quite as good as literal regression but maintaining a status quo that continues denying people of color political power or any means to acquire and build wealth will did for now. The whole point of voter suppression is to reduce the number of Democratic voters to a manageable opposition. The point of gerrymandering was to divide that manageable opposition into bite-sized tranches that can never vote Republicans out of power.

The whole point of gerrymandering is to deny the majority it’s voice by over-representing the minority. That, too, is a kind of soft coup d’etat against the Will Of The People.

Trump’s arrival changed the game. Plenty of Republicans knew from the get-go that Trump had Russian connections. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously said out loud during a meeting of muckety-mucks at the 2016 GOP convention that “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan replied (almost as famously): “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Plenty of Republicans — Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, John McCain — have taken Russian money (via legalized means) into their campaign coffers. Money always comes with strings. Russian money comes with actual rope. “The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC run by Sen. McConnell’s former Chief of Staff, received a total of $3,500,000 ($2,500,000 in 2016 and $1,000,000 in 2017) via Access Industries and a subsidiary. Len Blavatnik is a Russian oligarch with US and UK citizenship who owns Access Industries and donated to Sen. McConnell’s 2016 Senate campaign vehicles.” International criminals (like Vladimir Putin) understand how to create layers between their crimes and themselves. Everyone seems to be following the letter of the law while violating the hell out of its spirit.

The Republic’s saving grace up until Bill Barr became Attorney General was that Jeff Sessions — corrupt as he was — recognized that recusing himself from the Russia investigation was sure to put him in prison (if not today then surely tomorrow). But then, that was still the early days of the coup when the Republicans were just beginning to reformat their thinking.

The GOP — like Trump — expected to lose in 2016. They knew damned well that their taking Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had nothing to do with “Secret Trump Voters” suddenly showing up in just enough numbers to eek out a 77,000 vote win between the three states and everything to do with a full on Russian propaganda assault aimed at dissuading African American voters from going to the polls and pulling the lever for Hillary. Meanwhile the old Republican playbook of too few voting machines at Democratic precincts plus all sorts of other fraud (see North Carolina) did its part to literally steal the election’s outcome — the one the majority of Americans (by a lot) wanted.

The Russians played the Electoral College and its racist roots against us.

Their one shot in 2020 is to travel that road again — hoping Russian propaganda (now improved by Chinese, Saudi & Israeli propaganda) will make up the difference in a muddied election where some variation on the Comey Letter will have made the polling close enough for the election day cheating to work its magic. What’s happening in America’s streets is making that harder to pull off.

The Black Lives Matter movement stole a marketing march on the Republicans. The Trumpian non-response to the coronavirus stuck a shiv in the heart of Republican electoral hopes. But Republicans are living in a nightmare of their own making. The pundits — ever lacking in perspective — continue to deny that the GOP is as guilty of high crimes & misdemeanors as Trump is. They think a worsening Covid19 situation will force more and more Republicans — especially those in the Senate — to openly deny Trump as August drags toward the fall and the election.

But they can’t deny Trump because their connection to him isn’t philosophical (unless you consider corruption a philosophy). It’s criminal. If they turn on Trump, they know Trump will turn on them.

The second Trump stops being POTUS, he will be indicted. And indicted some more. And investigated and sued and then convicted and punished. And so will every one of them.

Bill Barr is sending a private army into Portland — and other cities because that’s the new election strategy: no election. Or some attempt to assert martial law because “violence”.

That’s horse shit. I’m being kind.

When Trump announces the next phase of sending law and order to our cities, the only response should be Americans taking to the streets en masse.

Go ahead, Donald — arrest us all. Tear gas us all. Beat us all.

Good luck running on that.

Good luck winning on that — in the long run or the short run.

This coup d’etat ends now.

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.

In Order For Us To Get That Cheap Pair Of Gym Socks, Some Other Human Has To Suffer

Our market-driven economy has taught us all to continue searching out the things we want for the cheapest possible price. Why not get the thing you want while keeping a few more kopeks in your pocket? Seems totally reasonable.

But, that assumes that the things we want — a good pair of white gym socks, say (currently available from Walmart at $6.99 for a package of 6) — can actually be created from start to finish and delivered to us for the price we’re paying. Obviously it can — we’re holding the package of gym socks in our hands. But what did those socks really cost — not just us — but the people who made them? What did growing, manufacturing and shipping those socks to us do to the planet? What did our cheap package of gym socks cost everyone else?

Organic, non-destructive farming methods are more expensive than normal factory farming methods. Our cheap pair of gym socks weren’t grown organically — count on it. The cotton in them was farmed elsewhere under environmental laws more lax than ours. We don’t know (as we pay for our socks) what sorts of pesticides were used. We don’t know how responsibly (or, more likely, irresponsibly) those pesticides were used. We don’t know if they ended up in a stream or a river — or someone’s drinking water.

Farmers and business people doing things for cheap tend to cut corners — like worrying about other peoples’ drinking water. That’s just experience and history talking.

Likewise, we don’t know what, if any, air pollution regs the factory that made our socks followed. It is entirely possible that making our socks contributed (in some small way) to global warming. Bravo, us.

The biggest cost in making our socks is the labor. Or should be. It isn’t. That’s the real problem. For us to get that cheap pair of gym socks, it’s simply a fact that the human beings who actually make them will have to get paid next to nothing. If they can be slave labor — that’s even better.

Cheap, cheaper, cheapest comes at a considerable cost.

As we all stumble forward now into our coronavirus-flavored Brave New World, we’ll have the chance to re-imagine a lot of how we did things. More people working from home all around the world will have a direct economic impact on lots of other businesses. Fewer people will now travel for business. That will mean fewer flights — that are more full (as full as social distancing will allow) — and cost more. The airlines won’t have a choice if they want to remain in business.

Fewer people commuting will mean fewer people need to buy cars. That’s fewer cars bought, financed and serviced. That will mean fewer cars made — not that people will be making them anyway.

Think about your job and what you get paid for it. None of us wants to be told that our labor isn’t worth much — that we’re lucky to have a job so shut up and do it. That’s what we’re telling every laborer who has anything to do with our cheap pair of socks.

Make my socks, bitch. Then die.

We’re going to need to readjust our thinking. Things will cost more than they do because, well, they cost more. We’re going to need to see the deep, profound connections between our economic circumstances and everyone else’s.

Greed never makes anyone smarter.

What “Both Sides Do It” Journalism Gets Especially Wrong: Both Sides Don’t Always Act “Politically”

It’s a simple fact: American journalism has, by and large, failed America. The press is the only job mentioned in the constitution. It’s obligated there to be the final check on power. Too bad they abdicated that responsibility eons ago.

I’d love to know at which J-School this virus first started. “Both sides do it” is the basis for every false equivalence that brought us to this catastrophe. It replaces healthy skepticism with outright cynicism — a very conservative thing to do. The only outcome is a bad outcome (it says) — so assume the worst of everyone regardless of the truth.

“Both sides do it” says that Bernie Madoff is a thief. And, so is Jean Valjean (the hero in Les Miserables). Madoff stole billions because he’s greedy. Valjean stole bread to feed the hungry. But — under “Both Sides Do It”, both men are thieves. So — both sides do it. The difference in scale and context means nothing. All information has equal weight — regardless of whether it’s true or false.

That’s the framing our press insists on. Fortunately, they’ve stopped giving air time to climate deniers (though they put Trump on their air, so I take that back). But, when they put climate deniers on their air regularly, they always sat the denier next to a climate scientist in a 50-50 shot. In the visual language, that means those two points of view are equal.

It’s true. We interpret visual images in very distinct ways. If you present two points of view in a way that says they’re equal regardless of whether they are or not, your framing has already undermined the truth.

Same token — if you present anything Donald Trump says without the context that he’s probably lying, then YOU are lying to your audience. You’re implying via your silence on the matter that, of course, he’s telling the truth. When he says things that (you know) are outright lies and you DON’T correct them immediately? They BECOME the truth. How can they not? No one contradicted their UNtruthfulness.

Each time a “Both Sides Do It” journalist gives the benefit of the doubt to someone or something undeserving (MSNBC’s Stephanie Rhule is especially guilty of this), they give credence to something that had none. “Yeah, but what if total bullshit were true…?” is not “journalism”. It’s indulging liars, fabulists and frauds.

“Both Sides Do It” journalists get suckered by job titles. It’s as if the moment Trump became POTUS, he became “infallible” to some of the press. NBC’s awful Kelly O’Donnell comes to mind. She’ll quote anything Trump says without an ounce of context. The president said it, Kelly insists. She’s just there to report what he says.

I’m curious… if Trump (for shits n giggles one day) said “And I know for a fact that Kelly O’Donnell kills puppies and eats them for breakfast every day”, would Kelly O repeat those words without comment — words that SHE KNOWS are not true? Would she suddenly decide then to be a little less “neutral”?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Kelly O would do. She’s that terrible at being a journalist (hell, an open mic on a stand could do what she does).

When Mitch McConnell refused to give Merrick Garland so much as a hearing — THAT was a political act. Any Democrat reacting to Mitch’s abuse of his power is NOT acting politically. They’re pointing to an inappropriate political act.

Similarly — when Donald Trump violates the Constitution (say, by openly violating its emoluments clause every single day), it’s not a political act to point out that fact. It’s somewhere between law enforcement and patriotism. Similarly — when the Democrats called out the Republicans for working with the Russians to steal election 2016, that was not a political response.

It was a CRIME VICTIM trying to report that a CRIME had been committed — against them, against the American People, against democracy itself. FFS — it’s like a robbery victim calling the police — only to have them come and arrest HIM for being the crime’s victim.

That’s the most frustrating part of “Both Sides Do It” journalism. It constantly mischaracterizes what Democrats do, say and think.

Trust me, American Journalism, while my opposition to Donald Trump has a massive political element to it, another big element is purely patriotic. Both sides do not conspire with hostile foreign governments to undermine the integrity of an American election.

Both sides do not then cover up every aspect of that conspiracy in every way they can — out in the open even.

Both sides do not aspire to permanent minority rule.

Both sides do not — like the Kochs — intend to use their money to direct American politics how THEY want it to go.

Both sides do not think there are more important things (the economy) than living.

Both sides do not aspire to open up America’s economy — however many deaths it causes — because they need to win an election.

When this is all done and dusted — and we’ve buried the Republican Party alongside the Whigs — we must then turn our attention to the press.

We need to bury “Both Sides Do It” in the same cemetery.

Dear Conservatives: Thank You For Making Democratic Socialism Inevitable

A thousand years of great explainer videos couldn’t have done what a couple of months in Coronavirus World did: compellingly and undeniably make the case for democratic socialism over crony capitalism.

Make no mistake: crony capitalism brought us here. Conservatism brought us here. The two are flip sides of the same corrupt coin. We have only just begun to feel the hurt coronavirus and covid-19 are going to put on us. We’re the Whack-A-Mole who’s just stuck his head out. We haven’t gotten hit yet so we must be good, right?

At the end of the day, the “joke” will be on conservatism. There is literally no “conservative” way out of this mess. None.

If we force everyone back to work in some ignorant stab at “herd immunity”, we’ll sacrifice millions of people with no guarantee that, as the virus mutates (viruses are very good at mutating and quickly), that herd immunity will carry on. We don’t even know for sure whether people who survive covid-19 and develop covid-19 antibodies become genuinely immune. We think they might. But we don’t have a whole lot of data yet.

But then, conservatism doesn’t put much stock in data. Too much data equals too much information and too much information undermines the credibility of all their bullshit — which was never based on data. Conservatism wants to live in the past. Not a real past, but an idealized past where everything was good for them and less good for everyone else. The playing field conservatism dreams of is tilted horribly in their favor.

That is why conservatives always look askance at too many facts & figures. Climate science is good example. It’s expensive to deal with. It’ll be more expensive if we don’t, says science. Day traders that they are, conservatives will point at the bottom line as if it were a person. We can’t hurt money’s feelings, they say. What they mean is THEIR money. We can’t impact THEIR money — even if THEIR money is killing everyone else.

Conservatives don’t care if millions of Americans get sick and die with no real access to health care. Their in it for the for-profit insurance companies and the for-profit hospitals and the for-profit pharmaceutical companies. While we’re here — no one (repeat NO ONE) loves their “health insurance”. Health INSURANCE is not health CARE. Insurance companies have inserted themselves into our relationships with our health care providers as GATE KEEPERS. We don’t need any stinking gate keepers.

The gate keeper here has segmented the world of health care providers into people we’re allowed to see (cos they have a contract with them that pays an agreed upon price) vs providers we’re NOT allowed to see (unless we want to pay retail-retail entirely out-of-pocket). Other countries don’t have this problem. They don’t have doctors they can see and doctors they can’t — because the gate keeper says so.

Other countries don’t pay premiums (the cost of their health care is built into their taxes — they will absolutely pay more in taxes but the peace of mind alone in knowing you can never go bankrupt and lose everything just because you get sick more than makes up for the difference. In fact, socialized medicine is less expensive overall — by a lot — with far, far better outcomes.

In America, we pay more to get far less and think we’re effin’ brilliant. No, we are not.

But, again, that’s how conservatives “think”. They can’t back up “ours is the best health care system in the world” with data, so they go with “cos I said” instead. They think it therefore it must be.

There’s no conservative way out of here. Good thing there are Progressive ways out. If we had Progressive leadership at the start of this fiasco, the response would have been entirely different (Bill De Blasio’s lead-from-behind “leadership” notwithstanding). We would have followed the science wherever it took and whatever it advised us to do.

That would have put us in lockdown sooner — with all the same economic issues. But, Progressive leadership would have made staying at home a no-brainer by giving everyone a UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME for the duration of their inability to make a living. We would have already been well on the road to socialized medicine — a single payer, medicare for all environment where everyone gets solid health care regardless of who they are, what they earn or who they love. That would have prevented the hesitation anyone had to USE the health CARE part of the system (the non-insurance part).

Progressives recognize that we are only as healthy as the least healthy person among us. I know — pretty Jesus-y. Do unto others and everything.

Progressives also would have federalized our response to the virus — using the federal government the way its supposed to be used — organize our various strengths into a unified strength, not like a mob boss keeping his underlings guessing.

Though we didn’t start out solving this progressively, we will, in the end. Or we won’t survive at all.