Alpha Dogs Don’t Have To Be A-holes

Scott Rudin

Larger-than-life show biz alpha dog SCOTT RUDIN announced publicly today that he’s “stepping back”, having suddenly realized apparently that decades of acting like the biggest asshole in every room he was in has a downside. In my 35+ years in the show biz trenches, I’ve worked with and for many creative people equal in stature to Rudin — both as producers and as creatives. While writing and producing “Tales From The Crypt” for HBO and Fox, two of my executive producer bosses were action movie producer JOEL SILVER and genius director ROBERT ZEMECKIS. Both Joel and Bob are alpha dogs but very different kinds of alpha dog. Night and day. Joel was very much an alpha dog from the same part of the kennel as as Rudin — these guys are screamers. They’ve gotten it into their heads that they can say whatever they want to whomever they want without fear of consequence. They don’t need to show another human being an ounce of respect — but every other human better look at them with not just respect but fealty. That’s the alpha dog as asshole — the kind of alpha dog we expect. But Bob Z’s alpha-ness was just as apparent — even more apparent in many ways — because, when working with Bob, one felt his “alpha-ness” without Bob ever seeming to project it. Bob Z’s alpha dog is what actual leadership looks like.

My partner at the time Gil Adler and I took over “Tales” at the end of its second season on HBO. The third season, it was understood, was going to be the show’s last; everyone from HBO to the executive producers believed the show had run its course. Gil and I didn’t agree. I especially didn’t. I was a fan of the whole EC Comics world — Mad Magazine’s predecessor — since I was a kid. One of my biggest thrills ever was getting to meet EC’s & Mad’s publisher and organizing spirit William F. Gaines on set of Lethal Weapon II. After our first season running Tales not only turned the series around but gave it a future — HBO ordered two more seasons — our executive producer Joel had invited Bill Gaines out to LA to talk about a whole larger arrangement between the Crypt Partners and EC — and Joel graciously invited Gil and I to meet Bill in Joel’s trailer on the LWII set while he and Bill had lunch. This is the thing about Joel — he could absolutely be as mean and heartless as any ratty alpha. He also had grace and generosity within him. I personally experienced it. Joel may not be facile with these things — but has at least some semblance of these elements in his emotional makeup.

That’s what makes his acting like the other alpha so head-scratching. In the long run, being a screamer has not benefitted my old boss. Pissing people off and alienating them eventually makes your world teeny-tiny. Joel’s world got so small, he was forced to cohabitate with some very unsavory types — like Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman.

Joel Silver (on the left) w Ari Emmanuel

Alpha dogs in the Joel vein create a culture around them that mirrors their exact alphaness. Alphas like Joel find that appealing — and, so, endure the pettiness, abuse and tyranny because, in their minds, some day THEY will rule over a fiefdom just like this — in just this way.

On the other extreme was my executive producer Bob Z — the antithesis to the asshole alpha. I’ll get to Bob momentarily. In the middle was my EP Richard Donner, his company and its exec assigned to Tales SCOTT NIMERFRO. Scott was both a cynical studio creature and a true artist. I had the pleasure of working with both up close. A mid-westerner with a deliciously twisted, Coen-Brothers type sense of humor (they, too are mid-westerners), Scott loved, celebrated, mocked and used as inspiration that oddly mid-western way of seeing things. He loved bowling culture. Same goes for Bingo game culture. Scott hosted Friday evening “get togethers” back in the day where a bunch of us would suddenly “descend” like elite locusts on a bingo parlor out in the San Fernando Valley. It was incredible fun — if mildly disruptive for a night to the regulars. I wrote a bunch with Scott — loved every second of it — and I miss the guy; Scott died in 2016 from angiosarcoma, a rare kind of cancer.

Bob Zemeckis is every bit the alpha Joel and Scott Rudin are. Bob owns every room he walks into. Except Bob isn’t trying to do that. He’s just walking into the room. His alpha is confident in its own alpha-ness. It has no need to denigrate others to feel alpha. Bob’s a collaborative alpha whose own success rests on his ability to marshal others’ work and passion toward something he’d like to do. The trick is to make others take ownership in what you are doing. It’s Me vs We. Bad alphas turn everyone around them into variations of them all focused on “me”. Good alphas make everyone part of their “we”.

Bob Zemeckis

It was a pleasure working for and collaborating with Bob in part because of the kind of alpha he is but also because Bob loves to challenge those who work with him. Bob’s always looking for ways to tell stories filmicly in ways that haven’t been done yet because they haven’t been imagined. Remember “Forrest Gump”? Intermingling film characters from two different places has been going on from film’s beginning as an art form. The trick is integrating them seamlessly so you can’t see how they’ve been integrated. Woody Allen (whose films sadly are now dead to me) did it in “Zelig” in 1983; his Zelig character seems to interact with historical figures in newsreel photos. There’s a bit of interaction but it’s all physical. There’s no dialogue.

Zemeckis goes much further in integrating Forrest’s world and our world. In 1988, Bob integrated a fully-functional animated world into ours in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. I’m proud to say that Bob fine-tuned the integration he had in mind on “Forrest Gump” when he prepped for “You, Murderer”, the last episode of Crypt he directed. I won Bob’s trust toward the end of my first season on Crypt — the one that was supposed to be the show’s last. AS Crypt’s final episode (that wasn’t in the end), the Crypt Partners (Joel, Bob, Dick Donner and director Walter Hill) and HBO had agreed to splash out on something epic. Bob wanted to pay homage to one of his favorite movies ever, Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths Of Glory”, a World War One story starring Kirk Douglass.

Bob wanted to shoot a World War One story also starring Kirk Douglass. The trick: getting Kirk Douglass to do this episode of Tales From The Crypt. There’s a lot to balance here: Kirk Douglass was at the tail end of an illustrious film career. He was a true Hollywood God. Bob was A Hollywood God with the whole Back To The Future franchise to his credit. Crypt was a show that had made a big splash with big names (Arnold Schwarzeneggar had directed an episode, his first time behind the camera) but those days seemed well behind the show — which HBO was ending anyway. Like all our episodes, “Yellow” was based at least loosely on a comic from the EC canon. The story in “Yellow” was based entirely on the comic book’s story: a WWI general is forced to court martial and condemn to death his cowardly son whose cowardice killed a good soldier. The problem: the teleplay that had been written by the normally reliable Thomas Brothers was one-dimensional. It couldn’t update its way of thinking from the 1950’s source which made the script feel, well, dated. The trick with a franchise like Crypt is to keep all the good, nostalgia-inducing qualities while mitigating the bad. Bob knew he could never get Kirk Douglass with the script we had. He turned to me to fix it — as I started on Crypt as the story editor.

Most TV shows have a staff of writers. Up until the very last season (the one we shot in London) where we finally had ONE writer on staff (Scott Nimerfro), Crypt had never had any writers on staff. There was no writing staff except for me (though his name is on many scripts, my friend Gil did not actually write anything; do not get me started on how dumb I was out of friendship and loyalty). I wrote a bunch of my own scripts for the show and rewrote everyone else’s until it was camera ready. Except for Nimerfro’s. After the first time I tried to re-write Scott (he disabused me of that quickly) — and I understood that Scot got the show in the exact same way I did — I’d simply ask him how many episodes he wanted to write at the beginning of the season. He’d write them and essentially produce them. Scott’s episodes are easily some of the series very, very best.

My revision to the script got us Kirk Douglass. It got me a fan in Bob Z. So — when, many seasons later, Crypt contemplated ending its run again, they turned to Bob Z to direct the finale. Side note: news of our demise had, yet again, been premature. Crypt ran for one more season which we shot in London. Bob had chosen a comic story as source material: “You, Murderer” — a very noir murder tale told entirely from a subjective point of view — all the characters treat the reader as a character in the piece. As with every episode, the source comic was good for a title (mandatory), maybe the story idea in broad terms. Most likely the twist ending. Crypt stories are all little morality tales where, most of the time, the bad guy gets his comeuppance in the most graphic, horrifying, literal way possible. The guy who kills everyone else to be “head of the company”, say, will end up with his head on a spike outside the company’s HQ. Frequently however, aside from the title, the comic was utterly useless (with even the title feeling dated). All we could really take was the anarchic, laugh in your face, EC Comic sensibility. So — when Bob set up a lunch to discuss his final episode, I honestly had zero idea where he might take the comic.

I drove up to Bob’s Montecito estate (this was in 1995). We had lunch. We pushed the dishes aside and Bob looked across the table at me with a smile.

Now, here’s where working with Bob Z gets good. It’s the moment where he poses an impossible question but asks “How’re we gonna do this?” In every piece Bob ever makes, there’s at least one moment that — unbeknownst to the audience — is filmicly impossible. The shot or shots either cannot happen or cannot happen in any produce-able way — at least, that’s what we think watching the scene: how the hell did they do that? Every creative partner in the process was asked the same question at whatever point they entered the creative process — seeing what Bob wanted us to achieve, “how were we going to achieve this thing?”

That — right there — is Bob’s alpha dog genius. It’s where we can see that his focus is “we” and not even remotely “me”. An example — in “Castaway”, Tom Hanks’ Chuck Noland has been stranded on the deserted island he’s on for a while before finally climbing the island’s central hill in order to survey both the island and the reefs that surround the island. As Chuck climbs the hill, the camera “perches” just behind, following. It uses the side of Chuck’s face, his neck and his shoulders as a kind of framing device. The camera keeps Chuck in the shot the whole time. At last, Chuck reaches the summit — a very, VERY narrow piece of real estate hardly big enough for Chuck to stand on as he slowly (his face, neck and shoulders still very much in the shot) turns, surveying the island, its reef and his chances of getting past the reef to rescue.

Here’s the problem: that’s a great shot but who shot it? This was well before the all digital Red Camera was invented. Bob was shooting film, not video. 35 mm film cameras, by comparison, were behemoths There’s nowhere for the crew to be and without the crew, Bob can’t get this amazing shot. So, to put it simply, where’s the damned crew? Where did Bob hide the crew that got this amazing shot? Nowhere as far as we can “see” — which makes the shot impossible. Which means, at some point as he first described to his collaborators the very cool, never-been-seen-before shot in his head, Bob asked them all “Guys, how’re we gonna do this?” Now, Bob wasn’t asking the question like a tourist to the set. He’d already thought long and hard about it.

Bob had some answers of his own. But, Bob also knew his might not be the best answer. The best answer might be someone else’s but Bob knew how to get other people to not just give him their ideas but insist he have them because whatever Bob was doing was what they were now doing too.

“All I really know,” said Bob, as we contemplated the comic’s title, “You, Murderer”, “Is I want to do a completely subjective single-camera camera point of view.” That’s already a challenge if the goal is stay inside that single-camera point of view. That means we won’t shoot the show how we normally would — master shot plus coverage for emphasis as needed. In a single camera point of view, there IS NO coverage. There are no other camera angles to consider, only the one. That meant there’d be nothing to cut away to. If the episode felt draggy, there would literally be no way to fix it via editing. What we saw would be what we had.

Bob added the first complication. The guy whose point of view we’d see the whole episode from? He’s a dead guy! And part of our story will be how he got to “be” a dead guy. Cool concept but how does one tell such a story? Never mind that — here’s one more creative complication: the dead guy? Bob wanted Humphrey Bogart to play him. To make that work, Bob had identified about a dozen places in the script where the “dead guy” passes a reflective surface — and sees himself — and then says something out loud. Bob was already well down the road to doing “Forrest Gump”. To Bob — who was using the Crypt episode to experiment — these little set pieces were the whole point of the exercise.

On the first day of prep — with the whole crew at his disposal (a thing that never happened because no director ever got the crew when they were prepping because the crew was too busy shooting the last episode), Bob invited the entire crew onto our “four wall set”. Most sets are three walls — with the fourth missing because that’s where the camera and crew are theoretically. But, because Bob wanted to have a subjective camera, the camera had to be able to look anywhere at any time — as if it was a corpse being dragged around, trying to figure out how to intercede on its own behalf. Walking from place to place, kneeling occasionally, Bob described how he saw the scene — and its one shot — unfolding. From one side of the set to the other and then back again. It seemed utterly impossible.

Of course it did! Bob chuckled delightedly as he looked out at our crew, ready to get to work. “Guys,” he said, “How’re we gonna do this? How’re we gonna get this shot?” The gantlet was thrown. It was up to us as a unit to rise to the challenge. Getting people to rise to a challenge instead of having a challenge imposed upon them is far healthier and far more productive for all concerned.

The truth is, guys like Joel Silver and Scott Rudin are physically incapable of treating others with the respect due them. Is it nature or nurture that makes them this way? I’m much more inclined to say “nature”.

If Russia Made Donald Trump President (They Did) Then Donald Trump Was NEVER The Legitimate POTUS

I’m not sure when exactly we got it into our heads that cheating to win was merely one more “way” to win. It’s not. The moment one cheats to win, one cannot win. One might appear to “win” at the time of the contest but if further examination reveals clear evidence of cheating — and that’s ANY cheating (where exactly would we draw the line between acceptable cheating and too much cheating?) then the contest is decided by default: cheaters can NEVER win; therefore the victory goes to the non-cheater. In 2016, that would have made Hilary Clinton POTUS. It is a profound understatement to say that Trump & the Republican Party cheated massively in order to “win” in 2016. Surely, the Republicans would not still be working their bloated butts off to hold onto power now if they hadn’t cheated to get that power four years ago. They did cheat — and for that they’re legally liable. But, as we know, the GOP did more than just “cheat”. They committed TREASON as part of their cheating. For that, they must pay a price.

As we’re learning finally — now that the Trumpanistas can no longer obstruct investigations into every rotten, corrupt, treasonous thing Trump did while in office — the Trumps, in fact, perpetrated a shitload of rotten, corrupt treason. We know now for a certainty that Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik proprietary polling data for Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan for him to pass onto Oleg Deripaska. Both Kilimnik and Deripaska are oligarchs and long time friends of Vladimir Putin’s. Both are Russian military intelligence. Why on earth would Manafort hand sensitive data about American voters to a hostile foreign intelligence service?

As we know — have known for years now (it’s only our “news media” that’s finally getting hip to what’s been happening the whole time) — that proprietary polling data went straight to Russian Military Intelligence where they turned it into weaponized Facebook ads accusing Hilary Clinton of racism. Those ads — using the proprietary polling data as a guide — were then targeted at Black, Democratic voters, the intent; cause enough Black voters to stay home to further destroy Clinton’s electoral advantage in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. At the same time, other parts of Trump’s corrupt, treason machine had caused then FBI Director, the painfully out-of-his-depth Jim Comey to write the “The Comey Letter” which re-opened the whole “But, her emails!” discussion ten days before the election. On election day, Trump’s and Russia’s various ops had brought those three key states — PA, MI & WI — to within the margin of error.

That — put your money on it — is when ES&S and Diebold went to work. Most of the electronic voting machines in America are made by ES&S, a company run by Republican sympathizers who donate to Republican candidates and where Republicans sit on the Board of Directors. They have consistently refused to close internet-accessible back doors on their machines. Gosh, I wonder why…

We already know that but for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have been president. That means that Trump was never actually president since the power of the office flows from our authority — which we grant to the winner of free and fair elections. However — if the election isn’t free or fair then the authority that flows from it does not flow. We assume the authority flows — we certainly pretend it does. But the stone cold truth is Donald Trump NEVER had the authority to be president because We The People never granted it to him — because WE voted for Hillary Clinton.

Trump — always happy to project — told us from the start that his presidency was not legit. Our news media, of course, refused to listen to him.

But, we should. This will be a challenging revelation but we can’t just shrug it off as “something that happened”. How can we really go on as a sovereign nation if OTHER nations get to pick our leaders? We can’t. And the moment we prove beyond the shadow of a doubt — and we absolutely will — that Russia chose Donald Trump to be our POTUS, we’re going to have to confront what that means in practical terms. None of the judges Trump appointed can remain judges — Trump never had the authority to nominate them. None of the “hard” changes Trump made to the government — the ones requiring plenty of hoop jumping to put them back to normal — can stand. None of the legislation — including the tax break for billionaires — can remain on the books.

Throw into this growing tumbleweed of terribleness all the other corruption the Republican Party brought to the table the last four years.

Most damaging, of course, is what Trump (and Mitch McConnell) did to the judiciary. For years, McConnell refused to give Obama’s judges (including his SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland) the time of day (never mind a hearing). The whole point of the Republican power grab was to use the Judiciary and the Senate to leverage their way to permanent minority rule.

Mitch also has “treason” vulnerabilities. Mitch needs to explain — under oath Benghazi-style — his relationship with oligarch, Putin Pal and Russian intelligence officer Oleg Deripaska. Mitch will insist he has no relationship with any Russians! But, Mitch would be lying again. Mitch refused to let We The People in on the big secret that Putin was behind a massive scheme to defraud American voters of their choice. At a notorious meeting of the Gang Of Eight in September 2016, Mitch got up on his little Treason Turtle legs and told Obama that if Obama told Americans that Russia was trying to make Trump president, he, Mitch, would drop that on America — that the Democrats were “politicizing the intelligence”.

In the election’s aftermath, Deripaska got sanctioned for his role in attacking the election. Mitch however saw to it that those sanctions on Deripaska got lifted so that Deripaska could “gift” Mitch with a Russian-owned aluminum factory in Western Kentucky. Something’s rotten in the state of Kentucky — and the stink is coming from Mitch McConnell’s turtle pond.

The reason the Republicans have fought so hard to obstruct all investigations into Trump’s involvement with Russia is because Trump was deeply involved with Russia. So is most of the Republican Party. A month before nominating Trump as their “guy” in 2016, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of Republican leadership. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said McCarthy, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room dropped what they were holding and had to scrape their jaw off the floor. No one asked McCarthy why he’d say such a terrible, damning thing? No one said “Geez, guys, I feel like we ought to call the FBI!” Instead, per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan insisted they were all family — meaning, all secrets stay secret.

It will take a long, long time for America to get over what Trump and his Republican co-conspirators have done to America. The instant we stop granting him — and anything he did — legitimacy? The faster we’ll get over Trump.

Prosecuting Trump For His Coronavirus Failures First Might Be The Quickest Way To Nail Him For Betraying Us To Russia

Fact: Election Day 2016 was a crime scene more than it was an election. On that day, Russia pulled off the greatest intelligence coup of all time: they made their fully owned asset — Donald J. Trump — President of the United States. Assisting in that act of unmitigated treason from start to finish was the entire Republican Party. The GOP knew even before they nominated Trump that Russia owned him. A month before the nomination convention, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of Republican muckety-mucks and said, out loud: “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one gasped in surprise. Quite the contrary. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — one of the highest ranking people in his political party — demanded omerta, gang loyalty. “We’re family”, is how he put it. You know — like a CRIME family?

As the results rolled in election night 2016, how many Republicans watched with a hand to their mouths — shocked by what their Russian co-conspirators had pulled off for their mutual benefit? How many Republicans — understanding what had just happened and why — also appreciated that this seizure of the American Peoples’ will that Russia was gifting to the GOP came with significant strings that, like it or not, now bound them together — Russia and the Republican Party. I bet more than a few understood completely. Take Lindsey Graham. A former anti-Trumper, suddenly — after a round of golf with Trump — Lindsey became Trump’s loyal fluffer. We all remember how the DNC and its emails were hacked. Well, the RNC got hacked too. They used a company called Smartech to handle their emails. Russia hacked Smartech — and you can bet the ranch and everything else you’ve got that Russia has used what they hacked to maximum effect.

The Republican Party will stand with Donald Trump to the bitter end. They have no choice. Having committed treason together, they know what their jeopardy is. If they’re lucky, they’ll end their days in federal prison. If they’re unlucky, they’ll face the death penalty (of which I’m no fan but, where they’re concerned, I’m open to making an exception). That is precisely why the Republicans will do literally anything to avoid being punished for what they did and why they’re so intent on destroying our election process.

The Republicans know The Big Lie is A Big Lie. Put under oath, each and every one of them would swear on a stack of Bibles (a book none of them have ever read) that of course Joe Biden won the election. The point of this exercise isn’t really to question the election’s actual outcome, it’s to change that outcome entirely because, if they don’t, they’ll lose everything. The stakes for pretty much every Republican is now all or nothing. This is why the Republicans have not only NOT refuted the Big Lie, they’ve been nurturing it. An Ipsos Poll published a few days ago found that “55% of Republicans believe his 2020 election loss resulted from illegal voting or election rigging.” 81% of Republicans — according to the poll — still view Trump favorably while 35% of them think that the January 6 insurrectionists were just there to be “peaceful”, it’s the violent left who caused all the death and destruction.

Merrick Garland as AG scares every Republican because he’s what they’re not: honest and fair. They know — it’s why they slow walked his nomination and hearings — the moment AG Garland begins pulling threads on the massive Republican corruption sweater in front of him, it’s just a matter of how quickly the whole rest of the sweater simply falls apart. The dots absolutely will connect the Proud Boys’ planning to Roger Stone and then in to Trump’s White House. Russia also will tie in. How could they not? But, the Russia tie-ins will take time. While we don’t know for certain that Merrick Garland re-started the counter-intelligence probes into Trump’s relationship with Russia that fill in AG Rod Rosenstein ended, we can make an informed guess that he did. .

The Republican Party has worked overtime to deny any connections between themselves and Russia though they all seem to have relationships with Russia. Plenty of Republicans received Russian money into their campaign coffers through various means including Russian retirees who receive monthly pensions from the Russian government — pensions that were plumped up by Mother Russia during the campaign. Or, more famously, lots of Republicans received cash from the NRA which, itself, had already been seduced by “Russian gun rights advocate” Maria Buttina. Know what they call a Russian “gun rights advocate” in Russia — especially one with her hooks deeply set into the NRA’s soft, white flesh? A spy. A good one, too. Working for Russia.

The GOP has known who Trump was all along.

This, for them is a literal death match. They have nothing to lose. Because our news media failed to disabuse Republicans of their dishonesty — granting even blatant lies as “one side (theirs) of the story” — a chunk of the country thinks Trump is a victim here rather than THE criminal. At the end of the day, we WILL make that stick. Russia will be a huge part of how we understand the Trump years: Russia took over America. It is damned tempting, I admit, to nail Trump and every single Republican for betraying us during a time of cyber war.

But, we must act much faster than that will take. We desperately need to move now to mitigate Trump and the GOP’s betrayal. Fortunately, these same pirates left us multiple openings.

The Democratic Congresspeople who joined the civil suit against Trump — citing his actions and speech of January 6 as clear incitements to attack — will put Trump into a corner. He can’t negotiate his way out of this; he can’t settle. He’ll have to go through the “discovery” process — under oath. For Trump, just being “under oath” is filled with very real peril. He’s a walking-talking “perjury trap”. This could work well! But, there’s yet another story angle here with even less politics to it: Trump’s blatantly terrible handling of America’s Pandemic Response.

Team Trump didn’t just “get it wrong”. They didn’t just “plan badly” or underperform. In a sense, Team Trump over-performed, planned perfectly and got it absolutely right — from Russia’s point of view. If I’m wondering this, it’s a dead certainty others are wondering it too: how connected were Trump’s criminally inept pandemic responses and the idea that a nation sickened by a pandemic would be easier to roll over in a soft coup d’etat than a healthy population?

There will, no doubt, be layer upon layer of Trumpian criminality including in Trump’s response to the pandemic: hundreds of thousands of Americans are now dead because of Trump’s actions. As encouraging as the story’s trendline is, We The People need a little concrete beneath our feet. We need the punishment phase to become as real as the crime phase.

Dear Merrick Garland — Welcome Aboard! Now That You’re Officially America’s AG, Here Are A Few Helpful Suggestions…

First and foremost, Mister Attorney General, can I say what a pleasure it is to finally call you our ATTORNEY GENERAL. Frankly, I’d rather we’d been calling you Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland for years already, but that’s a conversation for another day — one where the GOP begins to realize the terrible, terrible mistake they made denying you so much as a hearing. You would have been far less dangerous to them all as Supreme Court Justice Garland than you will be as Attorney General Garland. This was a day some of us feared might never come. Joe Biden winning the presidency was key, of course. Nothing happens if Donald Trump manages to steal another presidential election. But, Americans showed up in such massive numbers in 2020, that even Donald Trump’s overtly criminal attempts to flip the election in advance failed. For four very long years, we watched Trump and a breath-takingly corrupt Republican Party literally get away with EVERYTHING. It sucked. Yes, it was unpleasant from a political perspective. But, despite the news media’s insistence that our hatred of Trump was entirely political, the fact is our hatred flowed from the feeling in our gut on election day that Trump “winning” the presidency was an illusion — the product of a massive criminal conspiracy that saw the Right Wing’s Money (the Kochs & the Mercers) find common purpose with Russia.

During your confirmation, Mr. Attorney General, you said that among your very first priorities upon becoming AG would be to fully investigate every aspect of the January 6 insurrection. I have no doubt you will do exactly that — in addition to addressing every other pressing concern. Hell, you probably don’t need me handing you a laundry list of things “to do”, but that’s just how it is in a democracy — We The People get to stick our noses into your business. The last occupant of the WH was unclear on that concept. Good thing you’re there now to begin cleaning up the mess that made.

  1. THE JANUARY 6 INSURRECTION

It ain’t so much the foot soldiers that should concern us — though each and every one of them needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent the rule of law allows because they violated the law — as it is those who organized and coordinated them because they WERE organized and coordinated. The Proud Boys and Roger Stone are as tight as Roger’s Nixon tattoo is to Roger’s back.

In fact, on January 5, the day before the insurrection, Roger was hanging with the Proud Boys — they’re his personal bodyguards, don’tcha know! You don’t suppose the subject of what everyone was doing the next day came up a few times, do ya? Surely these pirates weren’t so silly as to communicate with each other about it… or were they that arrogant? I bet you already know the answer to that question, Mr. AG. And, if Roger Stone was involved (he IS that arrogant), he was doing it on Donald Trump’s behalf. And if you don’t think Roger and Donald talked about it, you haven’t been paying attention to this story. Our news media would be shocked by it, but not you, Mr. AG. Not you.

The deeper you dig into the insurrection’s back story, the more dots you connect, the clearer it will become that what happened at the Capitol on January 6 was hardly spontaneous. It was planned,, organized and paid for by the Trump White House, it’s intention the final coup de grace of the coup d’etat that Trump, the Republican Party and Russia pulled off together on Election Day 2016. But, Russia being Russia and its goals being what they are, it would hardly be surprising if Russia also had a hand in planning the insurrection — that Trump and company executed.

That would mean the insurrection wasn’t just seditious, it was genuinely treasonous too. Let’s not kid ourselves: we ARE at war. We’ve been under attack for at least four years, the unwitting victims of a cyber war. Just because Russia didn’t formally declare cyber war against us doesn’t mean they didn’t launch it — clearly they did! Let’s also not kid ourselves about what “war” is. Anyone who thinks you need bombs and bullets to win a war will lose every war they ever fight going forward. Russia could still shut down our power grid tomorrow. If they did that, we’d have to seriously consider suing for peace — on the wrong end of that surrender document. You can also think of us as being like the inhabitants of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 BEFORE the Japanese Imperial Navy arrived to actualize the declaration of war they’d made (to themselves apparently) several days before.

As the bombs rained down on Americans at Pearl Harbor, they must have been baffled as hell to find themselves in mortal peril on a lovely Sunday morning. Just because you don’t know you’re at war doesn’t mean you aren’t at war. Ask Poland how it feels to be surprise attacked by Germany or the Trojans by the Greeks.

I bet you’ll even find connected dots between the January 6 insurrection and Team Trump’s criminally inadequate pandemic response. But, remember, for Team Trump, the bottomest line was staying in power because of the legal consequences of losing power. Did anyone on Team Trump ever think “Hmmmmm… I bet an America weakened by the coronavirus would have a harder time defending itself from an authoritarian coup d’etat”? Did anyone think that “out loud” via a tweet, email or other social media?

If they did, add “their negligent pandemic response” to the list of evidence that literally everyone on Team Trump is a traitor.

2. MITCH MCCONNELL

Mitch needs to explain his relationship with Russia. He needs to explain WHY he refused to let We The People in on the little secret that Barack Obama wanted to share with us prior to election 2016 — that Russia was actively trying to make Donald Trump president. Mitch’s threat to accuse Obama of “politicizing the intelligence” was bullshit on steroids. Obama was doing nothing of the sort and Mitch knew it. Mitch was protecting the GOP’s Russia connections.

We need to know how much money Mitch took from Russia and how long that went on. Russia does not EVER give money without expecting something in return. We need to know what Mitch promised “in return”.

There’s one relationship in particular we need to deep dive into: Mitch’s & Oleg Deripaska’s. We know for a fact that, in the lead up to election 2016, Paul Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik proprietary polling data for four states: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We don’t know what, if anything, became of the Minnesota data but we do know that the work product Manafort handed Kilimnik — the goal, to get it into Deripaska’s hands — was turned over to Russian military intelligence who weaponized the data and created personalized ads (suggesting Hillary Clinton was a closet racist) that they put on the personal Facebook pages of Black voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

This is flat out illegal. We need to establish that fact and make it a permanent part of our thinking.

In fact, what Deripaska did was so illegal that we sanctioned him! We attacked him financially with great success — until Mitch lifted the sanctions. His reward? A $300 million aluminum factory in dirt poor western Kentucky. It’s swell and all that the Russian factory created jobs where there weren’t any, but this is bad in a thousand different ways. For starters, as Deripaska now controls a big piece of western KY’s economy, he can also exert pressure upon the politicians who’ll rely on Deripaska’s largesse to remain in office.

Not only did Mitch betray America in the past and present, he’s arranged to betray us in the future too.

May I suggest you look into it? Thans!

3. KEVIN McCARTHY & THE REST OF THE GOP LEADERSHIP

A month before nominating Donald Trump as president, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of GOP leadership. Upon entering, McCarthy said (out loud) “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” Had the GOP an honest bone in their collective bodies, the correct answer would have been “What? Kevin — why do you think that? Holy shit, someone — get the freakin’ FBI on the phone! Houston, we have a problem here!” But, no one in that room of GOP leaders said any such thing. Instead, they bent to then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s will and agreed NOT to speak of it outside the room. As Ryan put it, by keeping mum about it, that’s how they’d all know they were “family”.

You know, a CRIME family?

Everyone within earshot of Kevin McCarthy’s claim must be interviewed under oath. We need to know — did THEY suspect the same thing? If they did, why didn’t they call the FBI themselves already?

I know I don’t have to explain to you how conspiracy works: “See something, SAY something; see something say nothing? Why?” One does not have to be actively engaged in the conspiracy to get swept up into it. Even suspecting — and not doing anything about your suspicions — puts you in the legal system’s cross hairs. We need to know WHY no one in GOP leadership said anything. WHO were they protecting (and, again, WHY?)

4. BILL BARR

Why would an Attorney General (of all people) lie relentlessly about his department, his department’s work, employees, work product and intentions?

Trump-Russia was not Bill Barr’s first go-around at the “Clean Up Republican Mess on All Aisles” rodeo. He did the exact same thing during the Iran-Contra fiasco, making what should have been prosecutable corruption disappear into the fog of “let bygones be bygones”.

Bar lied about the Mueller Report. He personally interceded repeatedly to interfere with legitimate criminal investigations into Trump, his family and his associates. Why?

BONUS INVESTIGATION: Rod Rosenstein. We need to know WHY Rod told Team Mueller “don’t bother with the counter-intelligence investigation into Trump, the FBI’s got that!” and the FBI “don’t bother with the counter intelligence investigation, Team Mueller’s all over it!” Why did Rod Rosenstein kill the investigation into Trump’s complicity with Russia?

5. THE ENTIRE TRUMP FAMILY

Do bears shit in the woods? The Trump family is a living, breathing pile of bear shit. That’s probably deeply unfair to bear shit; I apologize.

At this point, I’d even open a file on Barron Trump. Sorry, but the kid’s got Trump blood in him. That’s going to warp a person though, to be fair, Mary Trump has Trump blood in her and her humanity and integrity survived. Barron may be too close to the source however; Mary is the daughter of Donald’s older brother Fred, Jr — very much the less greedy black sheep in the greedy-as-hell Trump clan.

Tiffany may be unconnected to the worst of it, but, “see something, say something”. She knows what she knows, suspects what she suspects. She didn’t pick up a phone. Book her.

Eric Trump may be less of a monster than his brother Don, Jr but a monster’s a monster and a corrupt scumbag is a corrupt scumbag. Eric is neck deep in the “Seven Springs” estate investigation that the prosecutors in Manhattan have drawn a bead on. That’s good — on a state level. But, we need to know what Eric knew in its entirety. Seven Springs wasn’t the only criminal behavior Eric was perpetrating. I bet you could find a veritable shitload without even breaking a sweat.

Same goes for DONALD TRUMP, JR. Let’s put Junior under oath and grill him Benghazi style about that Trump Tower meeting in 2016. Let’s drill deeper into this, Jr’s claim that they were deeply in bed with Russia and Russian money; in fact, Jr even bragged about it.

Finally, there’s Ivanka — the feckless cherry atop the corrupt, treasonous Trump empire. How much money did Ivanka make last year? A shitload. Every dollar of it better be legal, know what I’m saying? We also need to understand how deeply Ivanka is connected to the Russian hub. Even before Trump was POTUS, Ivanka was friends with likely Russian intelligence asset Wendi Deng, former wife of Rupert Murdoch.

BONUS INVESTIGATION — JARED KUSHNER.

Jared, as I’m sure you’ve already assessed, is a whole inquiry unto himself. Light that match, please. Let it burn.

6. DONALD TRUMP

Undo this knot — right at the center of everything — and the whole corrupt construct will crash to the ground. The fact that Trump has avoided prosecution his entire life needs to change now. You know that. The fact that Trump avoided prosecution while POTUS because of that silly DoJ “rule” — this, too, must be addressed. That rule needs to go the hell away. You know that, too.

How far back does Trump’s relationship with Russia go? We need to know everything. And we will.

Here is where your integrity will most come into play. Nothing about these prosecutions can be or should be political. We need to apply not just the letter of the rule of law, but its spirit. We may have to go a little bit outside the box to actually do that, but these are extraordinary times; extraordinary measures are required. We can’t allow the rule of law to be the cause of its own undoing (because one side felt compelled to follow it while the other felt no compunction about violating it even to the point of completely destroying it). The rule of law can’t defend itself. It needs us to do that for it.

Your investigations will, at the end of the day, reveal a treasonous criminal conspiracy involving one of our two political parties. While “White Guy’s Rules” might dictate that we let it slide, the rule of law says otherwise. If the GOP deliberately set out to steal the actual result of election 2016 (they did), then we need to see that fact not as a vile political act (which it was) but as a CRIMINAL act demanding harsh punishment. If the GOP in fact conspired with Russia (they did), that, too, must be understood for what it is. There must be consequences — for Russia and for the stolen result. How can Russia “win” an American election (especially if its winning is flat out ILLEGAL? Hint: it can’t. How can a thieving Republican Party be permitted to keep election results it did not earn? How can they be allowed to hold onto judges their president never had the authority to nominate BECAUSE HE WAS NEVER LEGITIMATELY PRESIDENT?

The authority to govern doesn’t fall from the sky. It isn’t given to American leaders by a deity who thinks the sun shines out their asses. It flows from us — We The People. We grant that authority to those who legitimately win the elections in which we vote for them. If you didn’t win legitimately, you did not acquire that authority legitimately. Cheating to win cannot be “one way to ‘win’.” It can’t be. So — if the GOP cheated in any way, shape or form to win the 2016 election, then by definition they did not “win”.

Having the Department of Justice back in the hands of Justice will cause the earth to shift beneath America’s feet — but, finally, in a good way. There’s a lot of pressure on you, AG Garland, to “rescue us”. Indeed, your mandate is as much to deal with the past — and all the criminal conspiracy — as the future: virtually every bit of Republican voter suppression legislation violates the rights of American voters.

On the one hand, it’s going to be hard work being you for the next four years. On the other though, I think you’ve been waiting for this moment your entire life. Just as Joe Biden, it turns out, was exactly the right man for the moment, you, too, will achieve a kind of time & place perfection. You would still make a great SCOTUS judge. Let’s stick a pin in that.

For the moment, there’s more than enough on your plate.

Of Republicans, Rabbit Holes And Russia

If the last four plus years of Trumpism feel like anything recognizable, it’s Wonderland. Before Team Biden could begin to effectively govern — the thing we elected them to do — first, they’ve had to confront, reverse, strip out or defuse the myriad ways Donald Trump and his corrupter-than-corrupt admin went about destroying our ability to self-govern. From the first instant Trump cruised down that golden escalator in Trump Tower — “Mexicans are rapists” simmering in his ape brain — he was on a mission to destroy American democracy at the behest of Vladimir Putin. Any journalist in America (or the world) could have figured that out even before Trump got nominated. Proof was there that, as current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it as he walked into a meeting of GOP muckety-mucks, “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” No one in the room disputed Kevin or demanded he produce proof. No one called the FBI to report their suspicions either. In fact, plenty of the GOP leadership (like then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan) demanded they all keep that knowledge — that their soon-to-be presidential nominee was likely compromised by a hostile foreign power engaged in a cyber war against us — “in the family”.

Imagine that: you are deeply suspicious that your presidential nominee is compromised by a country at cyber war with us and yet you do nothing about it. Why’s that exactly?

The truth-telling part of the story has begun. It will accelerate the instant Merrick Garland clocks in at the rejuvenated Department of Justice and the Department commits itself to uncovering all the players in the January 6 Insurrection. Pull one thread and the whole corrupt sweater will (pretty quickly, I bet) begin to fall apart. We don’t want or need Merrick Garland to be partisan to anything other than the rule of law. If he and his DoJ can just do that — enforce the rule of law evenly for the first time in the country’s history — it’s all over but the shouting for the GOP. And there’s already plenty of shouting, banging the table and making a nuisance because grievance and self-pity are the only arguments for staying in power the Republican Party has anymore.

Remember Fusion GPS — the company that first hired Chris Steele and set the “Steele Dossier” ball rolling? When Glenn Simpson (one of Fusion’s two founders) testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 22, 2017 (the Republican-run committee was trying to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity), he pointed out how, when they were hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon to examine Trump, the first thing they did was their “due diligence”. They got their hands on every piece of publicly available material they could find on Trump — from his birth certificate to his youthful indiscretions, to being kicked out of school for being a cheater and an asshole to the claptrap about his being a “self-made man” to the money laundering fiascos that were his Atlantic City casinos. Fusion’s team got ahold of every book, every newspaper piece or magazine article, every radio sit-down or TV interview. Every time he farted in public. The Donald Trump on exhibit in publicly available material was so clearly an international criminal laundering Russian mob money that Fusion hired Chris Steele to back it all up.

The Steele Dossier — for the record — was proven mostly correct and that’s quite an accomplishment for a collection of raw intel (which is what the Dossier is). Intelligence rarely deals in black and white. There are few “smoking guns” but that doesn’t mean one can’t intuit them. It’s a little like accepting that a star we can’t see really does exist; our proof is all the light moving around it and through its gravity. We use what we know to prove what we don’t.

After the Reagan years, the Republican money (mostly the Kochs and the Mercers) saw that any future “hoorahs” would have to be entirely manufactured. The key to the future — to their future — lay in controlling one branch of government: the judiciary. The House is too mercurial and unpredictable to be a good partner. The Senate, the Republicans figured, would stay in their hands for a good while longer. The executive branch — take away Antonin Scalia dancing like a Geisha atop a pin to make Bush v Gore work logically — and Republicans haven’t had a legitimate shot at the White House in forever. The only branch really still keep-able, the RW money saw, was the judiciary. Keep the judiciary in your pocket and nothing much can or will change in America.

That was the whole point.

Beneath everything, “staying in power” is the guiding principle for everything Republicans do. It’s their Machiavellian justification for resorting to gerrymandering and voter suppression since, they know, selling their “dreams for America” in the marketplace of ideas can’t work out for them because no one but them wants to live in 1850’s America where everyone “knew their place”. It was their justification for flirting with than climbing completely into bed with Russia. Take this to the bank — it isn’t just Trump who’s compromised out the wazoo by Russia. Russia understands cynicism. They appreciate how useful useful idiots can be to their cause. They poured money into Republican campaign coffers through quasi-legal means (via Republicans’ PACs); it was legal in the abstract but throw in conspiracy to commit treason charges and that money stops being anything like “legal”.

Every journalist in America could just as easily have done what Fusion did. Hell, even if they just read Glenn Simpson’s Congressional testimony, they’d get smarter and better informed.

The Republican Party has obstructed all investigation into their relationships with Russia. It’s not much to ask “why?”, is it? Rod Rosenstein personally halted the counter-intel investigation begun by James Comey’s FBI, telling the FBI that Team Mueller was doing it as part of their work and telling Team Mueller that the FBI was doing it, no need for them to focus on such nastiness. Donald Trump has repeatedly behaved toward Vlad Putin like a lap dog. Not a single Republican has wanted any of that investigated.

The Republican Party is a criminal enterprise, not a “political party”. Donald Trump is so clearly a traitor, it should be tattooed on his forehead.

At the end of the day — and the story — it will all come down to Russia, Russia, RUSSIA. Take that to the bank. Donald Trump’s “win” was never a legitimate “win”. If the authority to do things presidential flows from We The People then when a president does things WITHOUT our authority, they are UNAUTHORIZED and therefore illegitimate. It’s this simple: but for Donald Trump, there would have been no insurrection, But for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS.

That’s the mother of all Rabbit Holes.

The Difference Between Icing And Cake

Icing: “Both sides have decent people on them!” Cake: one side is racist, violent and reactionary, the other isn’t. The whole trick to getting propaganda to work is convincing as many people as possible that icing is what matters. If the outside is pretty, sparkly and distracting enough, hopefully no one will notice that the cake underneath the icing is rotten. And yet, some people have no idea that the cake even exists. All they perceive is the icing. Those people are called “journalists” here in America. Back when this all started, one day they’d get whipsawed in one direction by “Mexicans are rapists” colored icing, then whipsawed inn the complete other direction by “pussy-grabbing” colored icing. Then, suddenly, it was some other colored icing and the news media could hardly keep up with it. Of course, if they’d been able to forget about the icing and look directly at the cake — as Fusion GPS did when they were hired to do oppo research on Donald Trump for the conservative, Marco Rubio-backing Washington Free Beacon — they would have seen with their own eyes that every bit of the Donald Trump cake mix was vile, pernicious, corrupt, compromised and (likely) treasonous.

Icing: “Donald Trump is our nominee for POTUS”. Cake: “There are two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!”

A month before the GOP nominated Trump to be their presidential candidate, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks and said the above. The room did not erupt in chaos with people angrily demanding how Kevin got such an outrageous idea into his head. No one said, “Hey, if that’s even remotely possible, we need to get the FBI on the phone right NOW!” On the contrary, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — one of the most powerful Republicans in office at the time — made it emphatically clear that what Kevin had just said was not going to be discussed outside that “room”. That little secret — no one questioned that Trump (and Rohrbacher) were taking money from Moscow — was going to stay “in the family”. That’s cake right there — Treason Cake. How can it not be if 1) you know or suspect that your PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE is already compromised (or easily compromise-able) by a hostile foreign power and 2) you accept that fact as “who he is” and therefore “who YOU are”?

Cake is the aggregated reality we all live in. It’s four years of watching Donald Trump and everyone in his orbit take corruption to bold new heights even corruption never thought it could attain. The Republican Party — seeing demographic extinction in their future — deliberately hitched their wagon to Trump despite knowing he was owned outright by Russia. They’d set themselves on a course toward permanent minority rule years before. The Kochs and the Mercers (and the other big RW donors) directed Mitch McConnell to seize the judiciary and use it as the basis for the soft coup d’etat that started during the 2016 election. The whole point of denying Merrick Garland so much as a hearing was to hijack the Supreme Court. That’s some serious cake.

Cake is the racism underlying the Republican Party’s bottom line. The former “Party Of Lincoln” is now the “pro-slavery party”. If they could bring slavery back, the GOP most assuredly would. Keep in mind — first and foremost, slavery is stolen labor. The slaver will eat the cost of clothing, housing and feeding a slave because the slaver knows he’ll make way more money from the slave’s work output. While Republicans know they can’t be that blatant anymore, the desire for slavery (free labor) drives their resistance to a livable minimum wage. People who can pay their bills and thrive economically (and therefore politically) can’t be enslaved. But, if one compromises their ability to pay their bills and thrive economically — and then make it impossible for them to ever acquire the wealth required to really thrive in America — one can “enslave them” without actually seeming to.

The restaurant business in America survives on the icing that diners should pay a significant portion of their servers’ wages. The cake is “no, the economic success of people in the food service industry should not rely on the kindness of strangers.”

Icing: America has the best health care in the world Cake: America doesn’t have a health CARE system, it has a health INSURANCE system — not the same thing. Whenever anyone walks in the door of our health system, the first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you” — the proper question — it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s unconscionable. It’s barbaric. It’s wrong.

Beware the icing eaters! They have a way of getting things really, really wrong…

You Say “To-May-To”, I Say “To-Mah-To”; You Say “Republican”, I Say “Criminal”

Actually, no matter which way you “pronounce” their names, Republicans are criminals. They’re racists, too. And anti-Semites. And misogynists. They’re corrupt — almost every one of them. And, bottom line, traitors. Even if each Republican in question isn’t 100% corrupt or 100% anti-Semitic (they like Jews roughly 30% of the time, when a Jew is doing their taxes or defending them in court), the fact that they stand with anti-Semites (guys who wear “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirts) MAKES them just as anti-Semitic. Hate spreads like cooties. We have to assume, being a hater, you refused to socially distance yourself and won’t wear a mask. It’s a pretty safe bet you’ve caught the whole suite of diseases. The Republican Party’s leadership knew even before they NOMINATED Donald Trump as their presidential candidate that he was CORRUPT — owned outright by Russia.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” said current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy upon entering a meeting of the Republican leadership a month before their 2016 convention. A discussion broke out. No one said “What? Kevin — dude, are ya SURE about this?” No one said “Whoa — that’s a problem! Somebody, quick — get the FBI on the phone — it’s our patriotic duty!” No, instead, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan corralled the troops. They were going to keep their KNOWLEDGE (even their suspicions) to themselves. “That’s how we know we’re family”, said Paul Ryan.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan aren’t hounded by that question — WHY DIDN’T ANYONE CALL THE FBI? Considering how impactful Russia’s been in retrospect? It seems like a question that needs answering. Why was it acceptable to them that Trump (and Rohrbacher) were being paid by a hostile foreign power? What was acceptable about even chancing it that a man compromised by Russian intelligence might win the presidency? At that moment, the GOP should have dug in its heels and said “STOP!”

The second that happened, the Republican Party crossed the line from being a legitimate political party to being criminals — traitors who themselves were already compromised by the same hostile foreign power. See something, SAY SOMETHING, see something, say nothing? WHY? Why say nothing? Who are you protecting with your silence? One does not have to be an active participant in the crime in question for the law to see you as a co-conspirator in it. Your silence — if you even suspected what the criminals were up to — damns you. WHY DIDN’T YOU SPEAK UP? There are no “good” reasons.

Even Lindsey Graham understood what would happen if the Republican Party continued down the road of making Trump their nominee: “I think he’s a kook“, said Lindsey, and “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed… and we will deserve it.” Yeah, Lindsey — you WILL deserve it. The thing that terrifies Republicans more than anything right now is the idea of Merrick Garland finally punching the clock at the Department of Justice. That’s the “newly refurbished” DoJ (the one no longer functioning as a corrupt gangster president’s consigliere). Garland’s DoJ will rededicate itself to Justice. As Joe Biden has correctly insisted, whether or not the DoJ goes after Trump — or anyone — isn’t up to him. It’s a function of whether or not they might have broken the law. If they did? They now have a legal problem.

As all Trump’s insurrectionists are learning the hard way, defending yourself against federal charges is a very expensive proposition. Those billable hours cost a bomb — and there’s going to be a kajillion of them. I sure hope all those insurrectionists are independently wealthy. This could bankrupt their families for a generation otherwise. The GOP also is beginning to learn the cost of being pro seditionist. It’s really bad for business. America’s economy is a consumer economy. We rely on consumers buying our goods and services. But, when Americans don’t like your politics, they can be motivated to stop buying your products. The reason Bill O’Reilly no longer has a show on Fox’s air is because Fox News was told by its advertisers that women — who make most of the big buying decisions in American households these days — would not buy products that advertised with O’Reilly because they felt O’Reilly was a sexist pig. Even though, at the time, Bill O was Fox News’ biggest cash cow, they sacrificed him.

The Republican Party has lost most of its big corporate sponsors. Ford and Coca Cola don’t want to co-brand with sedition. A political party that refuses to acknowledge the peaceful transfer of power presents a problem to corporate money — that’s why they’ve suspended donating to the GOP (in some cases until the party stops insisting that Trump’s “2020 victory” was “stolen from him” Just wait till Merrick Garland’s DoJ begins exposing how Trump’s 2016 victory also was stolen — from Hillary Clinton and from We The People. The election result we voted for is not the result we got because Russia literally HANDED TRUMP the win. We The People are crime victims here. Our will has been denied. It was OUR RESULT that got “stolen”.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays” said Kevin.

Hmmmmmmmm… On second thought, you say “Republican”, I say “traitor”.

“But For” Donald Trump, There’s No Insurrection; “But For” Russia, Trump Is Never POTUS

The genius of the House Manager’s artfully crafted argument for Trump’s conviction in the Senate is its utter simplicity: “But for Donald Trump, there is no insurrection”. Take Trump out of the equation and the insurrection never happens. Cause and effect. Its Truth is undeniable. The same goes for the fact that Trump ever got to be POTUS in the first place. That’s the Big Reveal yet to land on us. “But for” Russia’s direct involvement, Trump would NEVER have been President of the United States. Let’s be clear: Trump did not ‘win” the presidency. One cannot “cheat” and “win legitimately”. On can “cheat” and win “illegitimately” but those aren’t the same thing — and we need to be crystal clear on that fact: winning via illegal means (and winning via treason is absolutely illegal!) does not and cannot ever be the same thing as “winning legitimately”. In fact, why don’t we stop calling it a “win” and call it what it is: a crime.

Take Russia out of the Trump equation — take its money out of his pocket — and Trump does not (CANNOT!) win the presidency. Take Russia out of Trump’s failing Atlantic City casinos and his casinos go down the toilet. Take the tens of millions that Russia funneled to Trump via Deutschebank — the ONLY BANK STILL WILLING TO LEND TRUMP MONEY — our of Trump’s pocket and his real estate empire crashes and burns. Russia has used real estate to launder money it’s been feeding to Trump all along. You don’t get to be or stay an oligarch in Russia without Vlad Putin’s blessing. He’s far less a “head of state” than he is a literal crime boss. Every time an oligarch gives Trump money, he’s not doing it for himself.

Every Russian condo purchase in a Trump building no matter where in the world is money being laundered. Trump gets his cut and the oligarch gets a little richer. Hey, remember that crazy Russian real estate purchase in Florida — where the “crazy Russian” paid $95 million bucks in 2008 for a house Trump purchased at auction in 2005 for $41 million? That Russian must have been crazy to pay a $54 million premium for a house, right? I mean — who does that? Ummmmmmmmm… international criminals maybe?

The Republican Party KNEW from the get-go that Trump was OWNED by Russia. They said so — out loud — to themselves — in a meeting that was recorded and then reported on by the news media. A MONTH before the GOP nominated Trump to be their presidential candidate, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a Republican leadership meeting and said “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” Did anyone in the room — in GOP leadership — question the accusation’s veracity? NO! They understood that, yeah — Putin WAS paying Rohrbacher and Trump. They understood it, some of them, because they, too were being PAID BY RUSSIA. They’d been taking Russian money into their campaign coffers forever. In the end, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan, spoke for the Republican Party when he got everyone to agree: they’d know they were “family” if everyone kept this terrible secret “In the family”.

Donald Trump could be one of the worst negotiators ever in the whole history of negotiation. He’s all tells. He’s been telling US since the beginning how corrupt he is. How tied to Russia he is. How much of a traitor he is. Maya Angelou would be ashamed of us. How loudly does Trump have to tell us who he is before we’ll listen to him?

Trump’s Senate trial is a political process, not a criminal process. The Republicans in the Senate aren’t so much Trump’s jury as Trump’s co-conspirators (which is odd since they were also Trump’s potential victims, too). As Trump’s own lawyer, Bruce Castor suggested, when the political trial ends perhaps a criminal trial should begin. That suggestion must have horrified the majority of Republicans sitting in the chamber. But then, so does the idea of Merrick Garland hanging out his shingle as AG. There’s a reason Mitch McConnell has slow-walked Garland’s hearing (can Mitch actually look Garland in the eye considering how criminally abusive Mitch has been toward Garland?) For four years, under L’il Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr, the Department of Justice served as Trump’s consigliere, enabling rather than prosecuting Trump’s various crimes. All that criminal activity is about to get exposed. And, remember the counter-intelligence investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia — the one Rod Rosenstein told Team Mueller the FBI was handling and told the FBI that Team Mueller was handling while, in reality, no one was handling it (by design) and it died? Yeah, well — if that’s not back on the books and chugging forward already, it WILL BE.

Take this to the bank: when a rejuvenated Department of Justice under Merrick Garland begins issuing subpoenas with teeth and puts certain Republicans under oath and questioning them about THEIR strange relationships with Russia, the ground will shift beneath our feet. A whole lot of Republican Congresspeople will suddenly have to lawyer up. They’ll grow less concerned with legislating and doing their jobs than staying out of prison forever. Guys like Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan will finally have to explain WHY neither of them — or anyone else in that room — called the FBI after learning that someone IN THEIR LEADERSHIP feared that Donald Trump was corrupt and, likely, a TRAITOR. Guys like Senators Ron Johnson and John Kennedy of Louisiana will have to explain WHY they chose to have dinner IN MOSCOW July 4, 2018 instead of here in America. Lindsey Graham will have to answer for his amazing change of “heart” from “Trump’s a kook!” and “If we make him our nominee then we deserve to be destroyed as a party” to “I will go down with the Donald Trump ship and nothing anyone can do will stop me”. Mitch McConnell will have to explain his relationship with Oleg Deripaska — the oligarch SANCTIONED for his part in skewing the 2016 election to Trump (he received the proprietary polling data from Paul Manafort that Russian military intelligence repurposed into weaponized Facebook ads placed on the pages of Black voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan meant to suppress their votes by convincing then that Hilary Clinton was a closet racist). Mitch got those sanctions LIFTED so that Oleg could put a $300 million aluminum factory in western Kentucky. There are a thousand reasons why that was a terrible, TERRIBLE idea regardless of Trump.

All roads will lead to Russia. Okay, maybe a few will lead to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and Turkey. But only Russia really owns Trump. I bet that’s how Putin feels about Donald. Others may own a piece of Trump, but Putin owns his “soul”.

And always, ALWAYS has.

Dear Corporate America: Integrity Needs To Be Your New “Bottom Line”

Know who believes in democracy? Corporate America. They sort of believe in American democracy. But, the “democracy of the marketplace”? That, they believe in, unabashedly. Corporate America has to — they need consumers to “vote” with their wallets and pocketbooks as “early and often” as possible (like they supposedly used to vote in Chicago when the Democratic machine ran it). Remember New Coke? Remember how fast it disappeared from shelves when Americans resoundingly “voted against it”? Product launches are no different from candidate launches; candidates in American retail politics are no different from laundry detergent. Except some will destroy your clothing, wreck your marriage and burn your whole house down. There’s a reason Mitch McConnell fought so hard to keep Americans from getting financial support during the pandemic but insisted that companies never have to face any sort of liability for forcing their employees back to work, damn any and all risk to their lives.

Already, companies like Airbnb, Amazon, American Express and AT&T have cancelled all political contributions to any politician questioning the results of election 2020. And those are just a few of the “A’s”. They all know how easy — and likely — it is for their customers to turn on them should their customers suddenly find the companies’ political stances offensive. Remember Bill O’Reilly — Fox News’ one-time cash cow? The reason Bill doesn’t work for Fox anymore — despite how lucrative his bullshit was to the company — is because Bill lost all his advertisers. This was a boardroom decision! The 21st Century Fox board of directors were told, flat out, by the companies they needed to cash flow them that none of their customers would support their advertising on O’Reilly’s “The O’Reilly Factor” any longer because he was such a sexist, racist pig.

Just like that, Bill O’Reilly became expendable. And just like that, he was gone. The democracy of the marketplace is harsh. But fair.

American consumers don’t like giving their hard-earned dollars to companies that do not respect them. They like it even less when those companies are ripping them off or doing things that could literally hurt them by, say, polluting the air and water. And the airwaves. And companies that want to overthrow our government? We REALLY hate those guys. And we ain’t buying whatever they’re selling…

The Truth — literal, empirical, this-is-what-happened-NOT-that, replete-with-receipts Truth — is about to get its day in court (the court of public opinion which is what really matters in America). On one side are Republican sweethearts like Marjorie Taylor Greene — an affront to logic and decency every time she speaks. On the other are Democrats, the rule of law, the Constitution and the majority of Americans. When the Democrats announced they’d introduce witness testimony (under oath) before the Senate “jury” during Trump’s SECOND impeachment trial, Lindsey Graham threatened to have the FBI testify, too. The Democrats, frankly, would LOVE IT if the FBI showed up and testified. What’s the point of Lindsey’s bluff here? Bring the Truth, Lindsey! Make it rain Truth! The only person needing an umbrella if that happens is YOU — and every one of your Republican co-conspirators.

I still won’t shop at Home Depot because the company’s ownership was so vociferously pro-trump. My hardware store dollars have a choice where they go to be spent. I prefer to use my local hardware store. But, sometimes, they don’t have what I need. A big box hardware store is where I’ll have to go. Ah, but which one? My dollars will vote for ANYONE but Home Depot. If too many other curmudgeons follow my lead? Home Depot’s bottom line will suffer. Pinch, OUCH!

Mitch feels that “ouch” like a cannonball rolling around his Treason Turtle shell, flattening his guts. He’s worked his whole political career to service the Big Right Wing Money and its various political needs. He’ll let all of America down before he even thinks of letting his paymasters down. Hell, Mitch is so cynical, he bought into the whole Donald Trump-Russia connection without batting a bloodshot eye. Ya don’t think Mitch had heard — same as every other Republican in the loop in 2016 — that “There’s two people (I think) Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump”? When current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy posed that question to a roomful of GOP leadership (was Mitch there perhaps?) a month before the 2016 GOP convention, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan made everyone present agree to keep this… suspicion/fact “in the family”. If Mitch wasn’t there, take it to the bank –he heard all about it.

Take this to the bank too. No one who heard that conversation live, took part in it or heard about it afterwards called the FBI as they absolutely should have done. This was the guy they were about to nominate as their candidate for POTUS. And they wondered about his loyalties and whether or not he might be compromised by a very hostile foreign enemy who we already knew were engaged in cyber war against us. The more we learn about this abomination — and we will once Merrick Garland punches the clock and a rejuvenated Department of Justice begins to behave like the defenders of the rule of law they’re supposed to be — the worse it will get for anyone still sporting that “R” next to their name.

That “R” will begin to stand more and more for RUSSIA.

Nobody wants that trademark next to their corporate image. Nobody wants their company to be co-branded in the buying public’s mind with traitors or treason or sedition or anything Marjorie Taylor Greene has to say. It always, always, ALWAYS comes down to money. And, for now, it’s money ironically that will keep corporate America from giving to their favorite enablers, the Republican Party. Whoever baked this irony cake knew just how long to keep it in the oven.

America is at the very beginning of a Great Moral Reckoning. We’ve needed this for a long, long time. As much of a treasonous shit as he is, on a certain level, we owe Trump a thank you — for causing the Republican Party membership to finally expose itself for the cynical, racist, authoritarians they all are. They’re the biggest, drunkest, angriest, whitest, stupidest frat party ever.

See those guys? Big companies don’t care what they want to buy. Not anymore. How long, do you suppose, will it take America’s news media to catch up with what its boardrooms figured out eons ago?

Whatever ya do, don’t bet on America’s news media. They still can’t even spell “integrity”.

Of Sharks And Perspective — We’re Gonna Need A MUCH Bigger Boat, America

Quick — what’s the worst way to die imaginable? Not a nice question, I agree, but surely we’ve all contemplated the possibilities and one always comes up “worst”: being eaten, right? Being “consumed” by something isn’t just “dying”, it’s being reduced to another creature’s “food”! Everything you think you are — a husband, a wife, a friend, a lover, a son or a daughter, a rogue or a scholar — no, fool — you’re roughage, hopefully without too much cholesterol or sodium. From a shark’s point of view, you’re shark shit pre-shark. You just don’t know it. Yet.

Our news media thinks perspective is what happens AFTER the shark eats you. “Hey, don’t jump in that water,” they think journalism is, “We know there are sharks in it!” Yes, the news is important — but we all saw what happened. News of a shark might have been MORE helpful BEFOREHAND.

Was there evidence of a shark swimming around before the story even started? “Well,” the news media says, “We didn’t see any dorsal fins, so we assumed the coast was clear!” Ah, but “didn’t see any” and “so therefore they weren’t there” don’t necessarily hook up. Hey, news media — didja look? Did you LOOK for sharks in water known to be infested with them? The truth is — where Donald Trump is concerned, for instance, you didn’t!

The news media didn’t report Trump as a “shark in the water” because they didn’t realize that that’s what he was — despite the fact that they’d reported him behaving that way forever! The Steele Dossier exists because such reporting existed — that Trump was a shark who’d used his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money. That’s what Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, the research firm hired by Republicans backing Marco Rubio (the owners of the conservative newspaper The Washington Free Beacon) testified to before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. Before engaging in the actual assignment, Fusion did its “due diligence” first. They got ahold of every bit of publicly available material they could on Trump — every newspaper story, magazine article, TV or radio appearance, every book, every video, every everything if it happened in a way that anyone could look at it or hear it.

What Fusion found there — in publicly available material — Simpson testified, convinced them that Donald Trump was likely an international criminal. They approached Christopher Steele (and his company Orbis) because Steele, former head of the MI6’s Russia desk, had the very best contacts inside Russia. And Steele was reliable. When the FBI wanted to go after FIFA’s Sepp Blatter for corruption, they hired Steele. Fusion hired Steele because he offered unparalleled PERSPECTIVE.

What Chris Steele found — and put into his collection of raw intel — the Dossier — convinced HIM that Trump wasn’t just an international criminal, he was an out-and-out TRAITOR.

The further one pulls back the camera on Trump, on the Republicans, on what they’ve done here, on how clearly they’re owned by a hostile foreign power engaged in a literal cyber war against us, the clearer one sees treason. Treason, treason and nothing but treason.

Yeah, America — we’re gonna need a much bigger boat here. If only our news media had done what Glenn Simpson did — THEIR DUE DILIGENCE. If only they would have screamed and shouted “SHARK!” when they reported (a year after it happened but, still — they reported it!) how the Republican leadership KNEW for a fact that Trump was owned by Russia but deliberately kept that fact a secret. This really happened: current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of GOP leadership a month before their convention and said — out loud: “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” No one said “Say, what? Are you sure, Kevin? Hey, someone — get the FBI on the phone — WE have a problem — our candidate is probably compromised by Russia!” No, instead, the Republican leadership — then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — insisted that everyone there “keep it in the family”.

The GOP chose omerta over patriotism.

If our press could aggregate a story the way stories are supposed to be aggregated — where you keep adding information and then building upon what you know (instead of tossing it as if it never happened and returning to a kind of “Square One of Ignorance” every damned day) — we would already equate Donald Trump and Republicans with extreme corruption. We’d already have connected the Donald Trump dot and the Russia dot — and connected them to the Republican Party dot and the Elections 2016 and 2020 dots.

If our news media didn’t accept as gospel truth everything that tumbles from a Republican’s mouth — Bill Barr, say — they might have READ the Mueller Report rather than ACCEPTING what Bill Barr said it said. Jesus, even AFTER they’d read the report, the majority of American journalists STILL go along with Barr’s take that it says “Trump didn’t do anything”. No — that’s NOT what it says. And, we now know, even what it says was squeezed and compromised and limited to a very small question — concerning Trump’s direct communications with Julian Assange and Wikileaks. We know that then acting AG Rod Rosenstein deliberately lied to both Team Mueller and the FBI — ending the counter-intelligence investigation into Trump and Russia while allowing Team Mueller and the FBI to think the other was doing that work.

Hey — how often did anyone in our news media point out the cool historical fact that Donald Trump was the first president ever to run for re-election in the very election he’d been impeached for cheating in? Not many. And yet — Trump continued to cheat every single day — in front of everyone — as if he’d never been impeached for doing the very same thing! Imagine if our press had aggregated even a fraction of what they themselves had reported!

I’m a fan of the journalist, lawyer, professor Seth Abrahams. Abrahams’ method is to aggregate what the press has reported so as to present the fullest possible picture of what we KNOW (because it’s been sourced by the press) with the widest possible perspective. In essence, he’s doing what Fusion GPS did — using what we know to paint a picture of what we should be using as the BASIS for our thinking. By simply reporting what’s been reported — a kind of massive due diligence — Seth Abrahams isn’t just a canary in a coal mine, he’s the closest thing to “Absolute Truth” we have.

What is v what is not. The more perspective we have, the better! And even the perspective we have — now that we’re using it to see the world — tells us the boat we chose won’t be good enough. The shark’s already chewing on it.

This shark won’t go quietly. There’s no point negotiating with it. It’s going to come down to a simple question of Him or Us.

While we decide however, can we do ourselves one kindness — yeah: a bigger boat.