Why Is Connecting Dots Sooooooo Effin’ Hard For Our News Media?

If you obsess on just one or two dots (even three) of a connect-the-dots picture, you’ll never know what the big picture is. To make matters worse, having no sense of a bigger picture, you’ll probably take that “small picture” view of a much larger thing and project all kinds of conclusions that, no surprise, get everything utterly wrong because, well — you had no perspective! America’s news media, to this day, have not connected the dots on their picture of Donald Trump. Actually, they haven’t connected a single dot — not from the instant Trump oozed down that golden escalator and announced his candidacy by insisting “Mexicans are rapists”. At that point, one shouldn’t have had to ask “Is Donald Trump a racist?” He told us unequivocally that he was. All the news media had to do was listen to him. Quick side note: it’s not up to a racist or the racist’s friends or even the media to decide “who’s a racist”. It’s up to the racist’s victim. If someone says, “That person was racist towards me”? then whoever they’re pointing at IS A RACIST. See how the dots connect?

But you have to want to connect dots to see the pictures they form. “Both sides do it” journalism insists it’s not journalism’s job to connect dots — that’s for journalism’s audience to do. Okay, fair enough. But, asking for the audience, is journalism presenting the stone, cold, literal truth or are they presenting a “truth” already compromised by mis-framing? In the current climate, to claim Republicans are honest actors in a debate about American democracy is horribly, HORRIBLY mis-framed. They’re not and haven’t been for a generation — at least going back to Newt Gingrich and the open culture war he declared on the left and Democrats when he was Speaker of the House. Yet, every day, the news media frames every debate — about immigration, about the pandemic, about the economy — about the The Big Lie itself — as if the Democrats and their desperate battle to protect every American’s right to vote was just “another point of view” one could have — as is the Republicans’ blatant attempts to restrict voting for everyone — but especially for Black people, brown people and young voters. “Both sides do it” journalism insists on seeing a criminal attempt to infringe on voting rights as “just another way to run a campaign” as if everyone could or might do it. It’s perverted our viewpoint to such an extreme that we now think of Republicans openly CHEATING to win elections as “just another way to ‘win” elections”.

No, it’s not.

How the hell did we get to a place where we shrug off the GOP’s relentless attempts to seize political power from the majority? It doesn’t help that the news media asks why but, either doesn’t stick around for the answer or, worse, assume (cos lazy) that Republicans behave the way they do “because it’s just how they are”. For five years now, through darkening circumstances including losing the White House and the Senate (having driven the economy into a ditch in large part by totally mismanaging the pandemic), Republicans have become not less devoted to Trump and Trumpism, not more. For five years, our NEWS MEDIA has stared at that fact while scratching its head, unable to CONNECT THE DOTS. Why, they wonder, scratching so hard now they’re carving literal furrows into their skulls, is Trump sooooooo beholden to Vladimir Putin? Why, oh why, doesn’t Trump ever stand up to Putin? Why did Trump always seem more interested in protecting Russia’s interests instead of our own?

Is it really so hard to connect those dots? Really?

How much EVIDENCE does a “journalist” need before they’ll draw a conclusion, say, about how Donald Trump bankrupted his Atlantic City casinos even though he had all those Rich Russian oligarch pals “giving him money”? Hmmmmmmm… can’t imagine why… . Faced with those facts, Fusion GPS (when hired to do oppo research on Trump for the Marco Rubio-backing Washington Free Beacon) became so alarmed (being ex-journalists with some experience reporting money laundering) that they hired Christopher Steele because his bona fides inside Russia were so rock solid. These former journalists wanted to know the truth behind what their due diligence had uncovered (their due diligence being a survey of every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material on Trump) and whether Trump, having laundered money for Russian mobsters (all with strong ties to Putin), was now fully owned by them.

Dishonest scumbag though he is, Donald Trump can be shockingly (if unintentionally) forthright. He projects literally everything terrible about himself usually onto other people. It’s hardly difficult to spot. He keeps telling us who and what he is. The news media refuse to take him at his word — to this very day.

On the one hand, it could just be mediocrity at work. In any given profession, the majority of pros will be good enough to be pros but, otherwise, unremarkable. Mediocre. It’s probably a good thing most people are mediocre. It’s their mediocrity that helps the good performers stand out. Watergate attracted a lot of Woodward & Bernstein wannabes to journalism. That’s swell so many people were so aspirational. Too bad 99% of them simply didn’t and don’t have the chops. That doesn’t stop them from thinking they do — every day when they do the thing they call “journalism”. On the other hand, if it’s not mediocrity, that means it’s probably a total failure of imagination.

If you can’t “imagine” that Republicans are being entirely disingenuous when they wonder if Joe Biden really is POTUS then you can’t imagine Republicans. You’re thinking of some other group — “normal Republicans” from some time in your past. You definitely don’t have THESE pirates on your radar. If you can’t imagine that Vladimir Putin literally OWNS Trump, literally RUNS Trump and literally has his hooks in the entire Republican Party, then maybe you’re in the wrong line of work. Hell, even if those things weren’t true — that Putin owns Trump and the GOP — it would simply be good journalistic practice to definitively rule them out. Not just because you can’t imagine it but because, like Fusion GPS, you did your due diligence.

What’s most frustrating about American journalism’s inability to see Trump clearly is that they’re doing this despite their own reporting! All along, American journalists have written stories about Trump and his circle that, all by themselves, should have been the end of, first, Trump’s candidacy and then his presidency. The GOP knew before they nominated Trump to be POTUS that Russia owned him. They said so — OUT LOUD — and that got reported on — IN THE WASHINGTON POST! Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks a month before their convention and said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacker and Trump – swear to God!” This story was reported in 2017 — in the Washington Post and the Guardian (among plenty of other papers). No one in the room expressed either outrage or shock. Outrage that Kevin would say such a thing and shock at the fact that it might could be true.

No journalist (to my knowledge) has revisited that reporting? Why? Isn’t it good enough? Isn’t it valid? Isn’t it, maybe, revealing of something pertinent to now? Imagine if American journalists were to aggregate the Donald Trump story… imagine if — instead of returning to a weird ‘square one’ ever day, they BUILT a portrait of not only Donald Trump but his circle and the Republican Party as a whole that shifted and changed and evolved as more and more new information got added. The point of the exercise would be a truthful, realistic picture of what is — of what we know.

When we get to the part of the story (and we will) where the indictments and subpoenas and charges start raining like fire onto the hapless Republicans, the news media will act as if it was shocking. It shouldn’t be. Any real journalist or storyteller worth a damn should have seen it coming from a thousand miles off. Because it was there; in fact, they already reported it.

Oh, by the way, American news media? The connect-the-dot picture up top? It’s a dinosaur…

“Karma’s A Stone Cold Bitch: Mitch McConnell Thinks He Can Kneecap Democracy Edition”

Gulp! Moscow Mitch McConnell looks behind — sees Karma gaining on him fast! Inside his turtle head, he thinks “Please, Turtle feets, don’t fail me now!

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell got up on his turtle hind legs and insisted that he is 100% all-in with stopping the Biden Administration from doing what THE MAJORITY OF AMERICANS elected them to do. That’s not because Mitch McTreasonTurtle has a better vision for America. He most certainly does not. Mitch is all about money and power. Those are his constituents and the people of Kentucky can go eff themselves as far as Mitch is concerned. Same goes for the rest of We The People. Mitch McConnell wants to save the filibuster and stop Americans from voting and become majority leader one last time before he shuffles off not for any philosophical reason. Mitch’s problem is he doesn’t want to die in federal prison. Mitch knows he’s guilty of multiple instances of public corruption, obstruction of justice and outright TREASON. He’s always counted on getting away with it all — as white, Christian men of privilege always have in America.

Unfortunately for Mitch, that’s about to change. When we get to the end of this sorry-assed saga, Mitch McConnell will stand as one of American history’s uberest Uber-Villains. His name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet hurled when you want to call someone a “traitor”. If you want to know just how severely damaged Moscow Mitch is — he’s a lonely bully having his revenge on the rest of the schoolyard — read Jane Meyer’s excellent piece on Mitch in the New Yorker. The schoolyard is about to put an end to that.

Even so, the schoolyard isn’t Mitch’s biggest problem. THAT would be Karma. And Karma has big, BIG plans for Mitch because Mitch has created so much horrible Karma himself. At the end of the day, it will be Karma that has the very last laugh where Mitch is concerned. I think it’ll go something like this…

The end comes… Mitch dies and finds himself reincarnated as “Mitch McConnell:  Toilet Brush” —

A Toilet Brush or Mitch

Poor Mitch. What a come down! Ah, but that’s not the worst of it… ‘MITCH THE TOILET BRUSH‘ lives HERE —

WORST TOILET

Mitch is the “Official Toilet Brush” for the most horrible toilet in the world. Ah, but even that isn’t the bottom. Mitch’s toilet lives at a REFUGEE CAMP where CHOLERA just broke out!

Refugee Camp

And there’s already a LINE to use Mitch’s Toilet (and every last person in line has EXPLOSIVE DIARRHEA) —

line of refugees 1

  And that line goes on…

Line of Refugees 2

And on…

Refugees3

And on… And STILL, it gets worse for Mitch — Cos THIS is the creature at the very end of that line…

Monster at end of line

And it doesn’t make ‘dainty’ piles like THIS —

pileofcrap

Nope — it produces an endless stream of foul-smelling poison as toxic as Mitch’s ‘soul’. And just as Mitch sees how massive and unending that STREAM OF LIQUID SHIT IS

He wakes up — and realizes it was all in his head — A DAYDREAM!

And that makes Mitch happy (even happier than Koch Money does when it lines his pockets — and that’s a lot of happy).

Happy Mitch

Everything, Mitch realizes, is back to normal.  And he turns to go about what he was doing (before that awful daydream) and he reaches out TO SHAKE THE HAND of THIS MAN —

THE HANDSHAKE

And the KARMA TREE starts all over again…

Forever and ever and ever… Hey, Karma: Three, two, one — GO!

Anyone Who Thinks The Republicans Will Take Back The House Or Senate In 2022 Is An IDIOT!

Our news media keeps proving that conventional wisdom is long on convention but short on wisdom. They also keep proving that most of them suck at storytelling even worse than they suck at journalism. And, make no mistake, the majority of American journalists really aren’t that good at journalism. It’s not entirely their fault. Somewhere along the way, a mentor or a professor or a boss put it into their heads that “both sides do it”. From that point on, whatever talent they had for journalism was screwed. They permanently perverted their sense of perspective. Skewed it & screwed it for good by confusing skepticism (what every journalist should practice) with cynicism — a terrible, dark, judge-y way of thinking that assumes the very worst of people. All people — hence “both sides do it”.

It’s “both sides do it” that caused American journalists to normalize “Mexicans are rapists” — and then “pussy-grabbing” because “But, her emails!”. In hindsight, that decision to follow one lead over the other looks even worse, doesn’t it? Not that in the face of everything that’s happened since, America’s news media got any savvier about Donald Trump. They haven’t. Our news media is remarkably incapable of aggregating any part of the Trump story. If they were capable of aggregating everything we know about Trump into a constantly evolving narrative, Trump would NEVER have become president in the first place. As Fusion GPS did when first hired in 2016 to do oppo research on Trump (for the benefit of Marco Rubio backing The Washington Free Beacon), every member of the press would have done their due diligence so that they fully understood the man they were reporting on. Like Fusion did, the press would have BEGUN its narrative about Trump with Trump already being a Russian mob money-laundering criminal.

Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson demanded that the Department of Justice release the communications behind Bill Barr’s false assertions that the Mueller Report cleared Donald Trump of wrongdoing — the basis for the Bill Barr DoJ to NOT indict Trump. Apparently (shocking!) there WAS NO “communications”, there was a foregone conclusion that the evidence in the Mueller Report be damned, Bill Barr’s DoJ was NOT going to follow the law and indict Donald Trump. Remember — the Mueller Report itself represents a teeny-tiny tranche of the full Trump Treason Pie. What Bill Barr was covering up was both Obstruction of Justice and insufficient evidence to prosecute Trump for conspiring with Russia BECAUSE OF THE OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE. Why do you think team Trump was working so hard to obstruct justice?

Because “Treason”, of course.

A month before nominating Trump to be their presidential candidate, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy famously walked into a meeting with Republican leadership and said — out loud (it was recorded and the recording was heard by a Washington Post reporter) “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” There was laughter in the room but no shock. But there must have been a degree of concern because then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan felt compelled to rein in any discomfort. No one, Ryan counseled, should speak of the matter outside that room. That, he said (it’s recorded), is “How we know we’re family”. A mafia crime family, more like…

Nothing about the Trump presidency was “normal”. Not a single second of it. And yet — the press worked overtime to normalize the story and Trump no matter how outrageous. To this day, most members of the news media scratch their heads hard enough to carve out a trench in their skulls as they try to figure out why Trump is so chummy with Vladimir Putin. Why, they wonder — like it was the mystery of existence — are the Republicans so friendly toward Russia? In their journalistic way, they’ll consider all the possibilities — well, they’ll consider all the possibilities but one. Giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, they’ll happily assume Trump could be innocent of everything. Being serious journalists, they’ll also assume that maybe Trump could be guilty of some sort of bad behavior (but he insists he’s innocent so, obviously that can’t be the case). They’ll NEVER assume the third choice: Trump is guilty as can be which means, yeah — he’s a rapist and a thief and a racist and an anti-Semite and a traitor.

Donald Trump IS all those things — that’s just what the aggregated story says, all of which the news media itself reported but, apparently, never bothered to read.

Our news media doesn’t know what to do with The Big Lie because “both sides do it” causes them to knee-jerk acceptance of it: if someone says a thing, it must be so because they said it. They confuse someone having a point of view (which even a thief or a rapist has) with having a point (which neither the thief nor the rapist has). There’s no defense for rape and unless we’re talking Jean Valjean stealing bread), there’s no defense for thievery either. Both a rapist and a thief have their “point of view”. That’s not the same as having a “point”. When Trump — as he did last night — insists that Joe Biden’s presidency is “The Big Lie”, he’s not just lying, he’s deliberately speaking utter rubbish. When the news media reports Trump’s assertions without completely contextualizing them first as rubbish, they give bullshit credence. That can never end well for anyone.

Trump WILL BE indicted and prosecuted in Georgia. He WILL be indicted and prosecuted in New York. He WILL be sued successfully by E. Jean Carroll who Trump raped in a Bergdorf’s dressing room in the mid-90’s and then defamed as too ugly to rape.

A direct link will be drawn between the January 6 insurrection, the Trump White House and Donald Trump himself.

And, of course, a direct link is about to be revealed that connects Donald Trump TO Russia and reframes what happened in November 2016 not as a free and fair American election but as a very real coup d’etat carried out by the Republican Party in concert with Russia, the goal being permanent minority rule. The GOP’s relationship with Trump may not have been part of some long-term master plan, but there was a kind of “master plan”; even before Trump’s nomination, Mitch McConnell had done the Koch Brothers bidding and quietly seized control of the judiciary by denying Obama hundreds of lifetime appointments including the SCOTUS seat Merrick Garland should be occupying instead of Neil Gorsuch.

Even now as the GOP eviscerates itself — casting Liz Cheney as an apostate because she won’t spew the Big Lie — they are painting themselves into a corner. Fealty to Trump is about have an even more dire cost than before.

How does one campaign while defending oneself against charges of treason? That will be the GOP’s challenge. That and trying to convince Americans (the majority of whom are finally healthy, back to work (in a booming economy) and happy for the first time in years that instead of the path they’re on, what they REALLY want is more Trumpism. THAT is what the Republican Party is selling — and, to be honest, I’m not sure how one does that — except to the very small clique of hard core Trumpanistas (which, all told, is at most SIXTEEN PERCENT of all Americans).

This is the sliver of corruption that the news media INSISTS will — because it always happens — retake the House and the Senate and dash all of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s dreams.

In order to see how ludicrous a forecast that is, however, one MUST see Republicans for who they really are and Trump for who he really is. You’d have to stop normalizing things that should never be normalized. You’d have to stop thinking “both sides do it” and that everyone, no matter what, is always doing it for “political” reasons. Finally, you’d have to get your cynicism in check.

That might be more than American journalism is capable of right now. While outside the mainstream journalists like Sarah Kendzior and Seth Abrahmson write compellingly because they’ve taken a holistic approach and aggregated the story all along, American journalists — especially the broadcast ones — return diligently every day to a kind of “square one” where everything we’ve learned along the way stops existing; all we know now is what we knew when we set out — nada.

The American news media didn’t see the Blue Wave of 2018. They insisted till they really couldn’t anymore that the 2020 race was close; it wasn’t. Yeah, sure — from an Electoral College pov, it got squeakerish at times. But the EC is slavery voting. It over-represents rural Americans and under-represents the urban majority — same as the Senate. “The Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half.” Senate Democrats represent. That’s a huge advantage for the Republicans. Why do you think there are two Dakotas — because there were too many Dakotans for one? Why two Carolinas? Why two Virginias?

To this day — as far as I know — no American journalist has even thought to ask Kevin McCarthy what made him think Putin paid Trump in the first place. If you accept Kevin as an honest actor (when he tells you Liz Cheney needs to go because she won’t pitch The Big Lie), you have no idea who Kevin is. You have no idea who any of the Republicans are or why they’re doing anything. You really don’t know anything. It makes your prognosticism dubious.

Okay, I’ll say it: it makes you an idiot.

Beware The “Franken-Christian”

In my time, I’ve written a few horror movies. I’ve written or produced (or written AND produced) franchises like Freddy Krueger, Children Of The Corn, Tales From The Crypt… I’ve helped create really good monsters and some really crap monsters. After all, in a horror movie, the whole point IS the monster.

Good monsters endure, bad ones get forgotten instantly. Back in the late 80’s, I co-wrote a bunch of episodes of the “NIghtmare On Elm Street TV series. Freddy, of course, is a great movie monster. Great mythology. Great character nuances (which, in a movie monster, are pure gold).

I also co-wrote “Children Of The Corn II: Deadly Harvest”. In typical Hollywood sausage-making fashion, we made Children Of The Corn II — and re-launched a failed franchise — not because anyone wanted that movie made but because of a deal. That was a crap monster, that one. Vague and mealy-mouthed (corn-meal of course). Creepy but not very compelling (in my opinion).

I also had a hand in the very good monster in “Tales From The Crypt Presents Demon Knight”, the first Tales feature film. Billy Zane gets full credit for turning what was, on the page, a fairly pedestrian monster into what was, on the screen, a very good monster: fun, funny yet nasty & believably vicious.

Then there was Lilith — the monster of “Tales From The Crypt Presents Bordello Of Blood” — a good idea for a good monster that got turned into a pedestrian idea for a monster because if you cast a movie for all the wrong reasons, you’ll screw up your movie. I worked with the “Walking Dead” team (briefly) when they tried to turn their show into an interactive arena event so I speak fluent “zombie”. While working on Tales From The Crypt, one of my bosses was Richard Donner, the director of horror classic “The Omen” whose wisdom about good monsters I drank like the finest, Jim Jones-iest kool aid. Yeah… I know a thing or two about monsters.

And We The People have one right in our faces: The Franken-Christian!

How else to explain the mind-bending trip from “Do unto others” to this — the above picture. Or this —

What’s a non-Christian to make of American Christianity when it paints itself the way it paints itself? There’s no Jesus in any of this whatsoever. And yet, THIS monster has what it claims is Jesus’s face. Reminds me of a really good “Tales” episode directed by a talented guy named Bill Malone and starring a really terrific actress named Sherrie Rose: “Only Skin Deep”. A confident alpha male picks up a mysterious, masked woman named Molly at a costume party. Goes back to her place (in a funky warehouse space) where they have great sex — except she never takes off her weird mask. As the confident alpha male will learn, that “mask” is the face of Molly’s last lover — and she’ll be wearing HIS face when she goes out to party next time.

Molly was a very, very good monster.

Maybe the problem with too many American Christians is that they don’t celebrate Jesus’s life nearly as much as they celebrate his death. They’re less interested in “doing unto others” than they are in the ooga-booga and magical thinking that the Apostle Paul created out of whole cloth as he took his version of Jesus — and Jesus’s teaching — out to the Gentile world. The Jews rejected Paul’s version of Jesus because many of them, unlike Paul, had actually MET Jesus and heard him teach. Also — the Jews knew their mythology and knew that what Paul was trying to do with it simply didn’t conform to their understanding of it. Paul had little use for a living Jesus. He would have had no use for a Jesus who lived to a ripe old age and died in his bed, surrounded by loved ones. Paul needed a Jesus who was dead but (most importantly) who ROSE from the dead. Paul needed a Jesus who beat death as the basis for the church he imagined. It’s a genius invention — but that is what is: an invention. Jesus has nothing to do with it.

Ah, but “Franken-Jesus” does. Put together from disconnected parts, the Franken-Jesus preaches “do unto others” while practicing no such thing.

His followers, by design, are all Franken-Christians. They worship the falsest of idols.

And thus, the horror movie of American life fades in…

Everyone Has A “Point Of View”; That Doesn’t Mean They Have A “Point”

One of the worst aspects of “both sides do it” brand journalism is that it gives credence to bullshit. BSDI says that it’s not for a journalist to judge whether or not someone is lying to them — that lie is just the liar’s point of view. They, the journalist, are obligated (they say) to present that point of view without editorializing. But, that assumes the point of view has legitimacy beyond just one person’s way of seeing things. A car thief — sitting in your car, outside your house, honking the horn because he wants you to see what he’s done — has a thief’s point of view. The thief’s victim — you — also have a point of view.

The cops show up just in time. They catch the car thief inside the stolen object, steering wheel literally in hand.

You tell your story — your side. The cops look to the thief — who they saw stealing your car. What “side” does the thief have in this story? That you gave him your car and instantly forgot?

“Nuh-unh,” you say to the cops when they shoot you a look. Back to the thief. Unless he has a long, sad tale of why he’s a thief, he better keep his mouth shut. He doesn’t have a “side” here — meaning, no point justifying what he did exists. He has no point and never did; there is no justifiable explanation for why he stole your car.

Neither “I felt like it” nor “I dunno why” are acceptable or justifiable. A bully may not be able to articulate what compels him to bully but there’s something compelling him. Regardless, his emotional emptiness does not justify his actions. He may think he has a “side” equal to his victim’s, but he doesn’t. What “side” did Donald Trump possibly have for backing Vladimir Putin time and time again?

What “side” could Lindsey Graham have for ferociously backing a man he said would be the destruction of the Republican Party — and clearly is going to be? What “side” could current GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan have for NOT reporting their suspicions (stated out loud a month before the Republicans nominated Trump as their POTUS) that “Putin pays Rohrbacher and Trump”?

What “side” could anyone have for insisting upon The Big Lie?

What “side” could anyone possibly have for putting children in cages?

What “side” could anyone possibly have for turning mask-wearing into a political statement?

What “side” could any of the eight Republicans have for spending July 4, 2018 in Moscow?

What “side” could Jeffrey Epstein possibly have had? What side could Ghislane Maxwell or any of Jeff’s other pervy friends have had? What side could Bill Barr possibly have — in ANYTHING?

What “side” did Mitch McConnell have for refusing to let We The People in on the secret that Russia was actively backing Donald Trump in the 2016 election?

What “side” did any Republican have for backing the January 6 insurrection?

What “side” did any Republican Senator have for refusing to convict Trump and remove him from office?

What “side” does anyone have for keeping that “R” next to their name?

As we know — they’re happy to tell us — Republicans always have their point of view. But, being as it’s the point of view of corrupt, racist, bigoted, misogynist traitors, no “side” goes with that.

People Who Can Laugh At Themselves Never Become Bullies

The joke was on Trump at the 2011 WH Correspondent’s Dinner; It’s been on us ever since

Think of a well-known bully: Donald Trump, for instance. While Trump loves being an entertainer and making people laugh, he’d never entertain his followers by making them laugh at him. Trump’s notorious for his inability to laugh at himself or to be the butt of anyone’s joke (as Barack Obama learned when he poked fun at Trump during the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner). Barack Obama, for comparison’s sake, CAN laugh at himself; in fact, he’s as notorious for being able to laugh at himself as Trump is for not being able to. No one considers Barack Obama a bully. That’s not a coincidence. Even a cursory glance at history proves the point. Hitler didn’t get famous as a painter — or as a guy good at telling jokes. Stalin wasn’t known to poke fun at himself. Nor was Pol Pot or Mao or Mussolini or any of North Korea’s ruling Kim family. Had any of them had a sense of humor, they would never have become monsters. Their sense of humor would have kicked in first; they would have laughed so hard at themselves for even thinking such a stupid thing that the idea would have died right there. Having a sense of humor is essential to having a healthy psyche.

When bullies like Trump or Vlad Putin laugh, it’s always AT someone, never with them. Trump savors other peoples’ pain and hardship. Others’ suffering excites him. His niece Mary Trump has personally experienced it.

Think about the ways Trump thinks one “gets” a laugh. He infamously mocked journalist Serge Kovaleski (who he knew and who’d interviewed Trump many times)

Back when Trump was president, occasionally his people would insist that some awful thing Trump said was just him “joking”. That was always especially galling. The press can’t get it through their heads that it’s not up to Trump or any racist whether or not they’re racist; racism is in the eye of the beholder, not the racist. Racists think their racism is justified; that’s why they’re the worst people to ask! Along those lines, allowing a bully to mischaracterize an act of bullying (that got caught) as him just “joking” — that also demands to be called out.

For starters, the evidence says clearly that Donald Trump has zero sense of humor. It goes without saying since he can’t laugh at himself — and if you can’t laugh at yourself, that’s the proof that you have zero sense of humor. As a matter of fact, it was probably Trump’s not having a sense of humor that prodded him over the line to run for president.

Trump hit the ground already compromised by Putin (a fact the entire GOP leadership knew was true — they even discussed it OUT LOUD a month before nominating Trump!) Putin’s another bully with no sense of humor — although Putin’s pretty good at sounding like he’s funny. Like all bullies, Putin and Trump surround themselves with lesser bullies. The world in their heads is all dog eat dog; humans are just different flavors of Alpo. But, what does an alpha bully di tutti bullies do when all the beta bullies suddenly turn on him? Surely the Big Bully can’t be too surprised when the lesser bullies turn on him or simply abandon the sinking ship. That’s what they would do.

Unfortunately for Vlad and Don, in their bully world, bullies who lose power often lose their lives either in the process or in its aftermath. Putin knows this for a fact. Trump’s about to learn that lesson the hard way. Trump would have been far happier had he lived out his days as the ordinary, bankrupt bully he was, a petty tyrant running a mom & pop money laundering & corruption shop. Playing with the big bullies will not end well for Trump. When his actions cause the downfall of all those other bullies? They won’t be happy until they’ve had a moment or two to personally tell Trump just HOW angry they are.

Unlike Putin, Donald Trump WILL face justice. There’s not stopping it now. It’s ludicrous for our news media to think Trump or the GOP has any political future. The FBI’s raid this morning on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office was the beginning of the Big Reveal. While the feds are going after Giuliani because of his relationship with Ukrainians, those Ukrainians are all Putin backers — which means they’re all assets owned outright by Putin. Like all roads, this one too LEADS TO RUSSIA.

Russia is the ultimate punch line here. It’s the payoff to the sick, awful joke that was the Trump presidency. The Trump presidency was the sick, awful culmination of the Republican Wet Dream of permanent minority rule. And what, after all, is the Republican dream of permanent minority rule than the biggest joke of all on the majority?

“The Big Lie” And “The Giant Secret”

We all know what “The Big Lie” is — Donald Trump’s insistence that, despite literally all evidence to the contrary, he “won” the 2020 election. Stop for a second to savor the sheer lunacy of the fact that this is even a question. We have followed a criminal down a rabbit hole of his making by indulging him. Everything about this question — including the fact that I’m even writing here about it — is bullshit on steroids. FFS, Trump did not even win his first election, as we will absolutely learn — take that to the bank and count on getting rich. That’s where “The Giant Secret” comes in. Trump has to insist upon The Big Lie BECAUSE OF The Giant Secret. We know for a fact that the Republican Party’s hierarchy KNEW The Giant Secret at least A MONTH before the GOP nominated Trump to be their standard bearer. As THE WASHINGTON POST put it — “A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.” The assertion? “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump… swear to God!”

The WaPo reported this conversation, having listened to it because it was recorded! As far as I know, not a single journalist has revisited this story to ask anyone who was in that room – with the retrospect we’ve gained in four years – what exactly current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy meant by “I think Putin pays Rohrbacher and Trump… swear to God!” What made Kevin think such a thing — that Putin was paying Rohrbacher and Trump? Wouldn’t that be interesting to know? Even more interesting to know? Why NO ONE IN THE ROOM freaked out. Not a single person — according to the report — questioned Kevin’s outrageous assertion including then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan. Ryan, at the time, was one of the most powerful members of his party. Another important leader had just said — out loud — that their likely nominee for POTUS was financially compromised by a hostile foreign government — a government their very party had spent decades screaming about!

Instead, Paul Ryan made sure that everyone in the room — who’d heard this — would keep it “within the room”. “No leaks,” the Speaker Of The House told his fellow travelers, “This is how we know we’re a real family here.” A real “family”? Like an organized crime family?

Those same Republican leaders knew what Trump’s hiring Paul Manafort to run his campaign meant. They all knew Manafort’s resume. They knew who Manafort’s friends and associates were (including Roger Stone — a former business partner). They knew his relationship with Russia and with pro-Russian Ukranians because they were all on Paul’s resume! No one had a delusion about who Paul Manafort really worked for. They just didn’t want to know about it. Plenty of Republicans, it turns out, ALSO had relationships with Russia they preferred the rest of us not know about. Plenty had taken money from Russia through quasi legal means (into various PACS so as to distance candidate from illegal contribution). The NRA, we’ve learned, was deeply penetrated by Russian influence — a lot of it in the person of intelligence agent par excellence Maria Butina.

Manafort, as we’ve known for years, handed proprietary polling data (about Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota) to Konstantin Kilimnik which landed with Oleg Deripaska, Manafort’s former client (to whom Manafort owed $17 million!). Deripaska, like Kilimnik, was a Russian Military Intelligence agent. They turned that polling data (Paul handing it to the Russians was illegal) into weaponized Facebook ads that showed up on the pages of Black voters in PA, WI and MI, blue states where the polling had slipped to within the margin or error because of the Comey Letter. Additional voter suppression — via these Facebook ads — reduced Black voter turnout in those three states. That (and here, for the moment, I’m speculating) made spiking the Republican vote tallies (easily done through a line or two of computer code delivered via the internet to every ES&S electronic voting machine or tabulator whose back doors ES&S refused to shut. If, say, such malicious code told these ES&S machines (ES&S is the largest maker of electronic voting machines in America) to “for every ten republican votes add one”, Trump and the Republicans could have padded their numbers by just enough to “eek out” the victories they seem to have eeked out in PA, MI & WI.

Trump’s total winning margin for those three blue states was 77,000 votes!

If you don’t think that stinks, you’re probably a Republican.

From the get-go, Trump’s Justice Department went into overdrive to protect The Big Secret. They did everything they could to narrow the scope of Robert Mueller’s investigation then, it turns out, they (acting AG Rod Rosenstein) killed the counter intelligence investigation into The Big Secret that Trump’s campaign had broad ties to Russia. That Trump himself was… how did Kevin McCarthy put it? Being paid by Putin?

“See something, SAY something”. That’s how we’re all supposed to respond to hearing about someone else’s illegal behavior. Hear about criminals, report the bastards! No one in that roomful of Republican leaders called the FBI. Hell, they all VOTED FOR the man they KNEW was owned by Russia. They told the rest of the country to do the same thing. See something, SAY something? Not like that!

Our news media continues to scratch its head at the question: why, oh why, is Trump so tied at the hip to Putin? ASK THE REPUBLICAN PARTY — they know the answer to the question! Why, oh why, they wonder, are the Republicans still so devoted to Trump. Yes, yes — there’s racism in the mix. But that’s not what’s driving the criminal behavior. We ARE talking about TREASON here. And treason still carries the death penalty. The traitors in question KNOW what they’ve done. They KNOW what it will cost them — cost their families — should they get caught, prosecuted and punished. The rule of law stands completely against them. That’s why the GOP is doing everything it can to undermine the rule of law.

The Republican Party leadership knows the end is nigh. Mitch McConnell knows his time in the barrel is coming. Mitch also has a problematic relationship with Oleg Deripaska. Mitch personally interceded to get the sanctions we’d put on Deripaska lifted so Deripaska could stick a $300 million Russian aluminum factory in poverty-stricken Western Kentucky. Those sanctions, remember, were applied to Deripaska because he took that proprietary polling data from Paul Manafort. Talk about a vicious circle…

Mitch also, don’t forget, refused to let We The People in on The Big Secret when President Obama wanted to let us in — in September 2016 — TWO MONTHS before the 2016 election. Obama had called a Gang of Eight meeting because the intelligence community wanted to inform Congress (so they could inform US) that they had good, rock solid info that said Russia was actively engaged on multiple fronts to try and make Donald Trump president. Instead of allowing Obama to tell us what we NEEDED TO KNOW, Moscow Mitch got up on his Treason Turtle hind legs and insisted that if Obama tried to inform us of the truth, that HE would insist that Obama was “politicizing the intelligence”. Perhaps being overly sensitive to what was actually BLACKMAIL, Obama acquiesced and agreed to make a far less damning, LESS TRUTHFUL statement.

We The People remained in the dark about the cyber attack we were already under. Because the co-conspirators in this massive crime insisted.

“That’s how we know we’re family.”

There’s something even bigger behind The Giant Secret that terrifies the GOP. It’s what will happen AFTER We The People learn The Giant Secret. First, the Republicans fear for their own asses — as they absolutely should. They’ve all committed treason! But, strangely, they also fear for the large cause they’ve all committed to: destroying our democracy and installing a state of permanent minority rule that vaguely “looks like” a “democracy” while it’s really an authoritarian shithole. The Republicans have been marching in lockstep to try and make this happen, Republicans being really, really good at marching in lockstep (being authoritarians).

The Even Gianter Secret that terrifies every Republican is the knowledge that the 2016 election “victory” was fraudulent. But for Russia, Donald Trump would NOT have “won” the presidency and an awful lot of Republicans would not have “won” either. That cannot stand. Russia cannot make someone POTUS and if they do? That POTUS is — as Trump kept telling us he was — “illegitimate”. If Trump’s victory was illegitimate than the authority to govern us that flows from winning elections freely and fairly never, in fact, flowed to him. You cannot get our authority under false pretenses like, say, you’re doing it at the behest of a hostile foreign enemy engaged in cyber war against us. That is strictly verboten.

And a presidency “won” that way is not a “presidency”.

The RW money (the Kochs, the Mercers) are counting on keeping what they stole — the judiciary, those three SCOTUS seats especially. Gorsuch’s seat belonged to Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh’s seat was achieved via perjury during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings (and that cannot stand!) Barret’s seat — formerly RBG’s — was stolen from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — from We The People yet again. This was the whole point of the exercise. The GOP is hoping, praying, that their stolen SCOTUS seats will yet save them.

Here’s hoping prosecution of their crimes prevents that from happening. Oh, the irony… if Merrick Garland was sitting on the Supreme Court, he would not today be the newly confirmed Attorney General. The nation’s top law officer is an honest man who’s committed to making the rule of law a “thing” again. The “thing” about the rule of law? As AG Garland knows, you can’t kind of do it, you have to completely do it. And if applying the rule of law equally (for once!) means you do not cut ANYONE slack, then AG Garland will be obligated to not only pull every single Republican corruption thread, he’ll be obligated to pull those threads until the entire corrupt Republican sweater falls apart — which it absolutely, positively will.

White collar criminals may talk tough but they’re all soft white underbelly. They have everything to lose — and, as the cost of their criminality suddenly crashes down on them, each and every Republican co-conspirator will realize just how expensive this is going to get — and the evidence is going to bury them. The cost of defending themselves will threaten to bankrupt every Republican for a generation. They won’t want that to happen and will begin to cut deals — as the January 6 insurrectionists are starting to.

What will We The People do once WE know the Giant Secret? Will we let the Republicans keep their toys? I, for one, say no effin’ way! If a guy steals my car, he doesn’t get to keep after we catch him. He has to “give it back”. It doesn’t belong to him and never did. The same goes for what Trump and the GOP stole — the correct OUTCOME of the election — the officials we actually elected crafting the legislation we voted for and nominating the kinds of judges WE approve of. That’s the product of our Will — what the will of the majority should have resulted in. We got something else entirely and that cannot stand.

Every single judge Trump appointed must be tossed. Trump never had the authority to nominate them. That authority actually belonged to Hillary Clinton, the election’s actual winner. We may not be able to go back in time and make HRC president, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept what Trump did — and allow him to keep what he deliberately and with malice aforethought perpetrated against us.

How To Beat Tribalism? Be Even MORE “Tribal”

Humans are tribal by nature; it’s a survival instinct. Since reproduction is one of our key “primal directives”, our genome has built into it behaviors that give our personal DNA every chance to create a next version of “us”. After our own precious ass, our family’s ass comes next in the pecking order. Then our extended family. Or, for some people, their friend circle. The block they live on. Their neighborhood. The school district they live in. The PTAs at their kids’ schools. The social issues that matter to them. Their city. The football or basketball or soccer or baseball team they love — and every other fan of that team. If you think about it, we form tribes with anything and everything we can — because we’re social creatures and this is what social creatures do.

White supremacists are no more tribal than anyone else. They just seem that way because they put all their emphasis on being in a limited number of tribes rather than as many as possible. “Jews will not replace us” — the rallying cry and tribal grievance of the Charlottesville Fascists Club — represents a particularly odd bit of tribalism. The whole “replacement culture” thing is bizarre because it assumes that those with the grievance are “replaceable” to begin with. Replaceable how exactly? In their jobs? In their marriages? In their lives? Being replaceable by “others” to whom you are supposedly “superior” is a strange way to think of yourself and your tribe. If your tribe excelled at something then that fact would make your tribe irreplaceable. Why don’t these “white supremacists” excel at anything other than having grievances? Why do THEY think THEY are replaceable?

In a competitive job market — in a competitive, capitalistic system — one MUST compete in order to stay in the game. Every group arriving here (aside from white people) have accepted that fact and worked their asses off to achieve some degree of success (and they’ve had to do that in the face of relentless white resistance). In that sense, EVERYONE is “replaceable” if they don’t continue to contribute to the group’s effort or hold up their end of the social bargain. Ah, but that’s where white privilege asserts itself. White people have gotten it into their heads that, since white men got together and wrote the Constitution – and framed it entirely to their advantage (as the “men” who were created equal”) – that this is set in concrete. That’s the whole point of “originalism” — to falsely assert that the flawed thinking of a group of (French) enlightened racists and misogynists is America’s bottom line. The country can only be exactly how the framers framed it.

Bullshit. The men who imagined this democratic republic made it changeable. They understood that this bold idea would need plenty of room around it to expand. They seemed to grasp, on some level, the incompleteness of their ideation — that “all men” was a bigger tribe than just white men. Congress approved of “E pluribus unum” as America’s motto (they put it on our Great Seal) in 1782. Out of many, one.

Out of many tribes, ONE TRIBE.

White supremacists can’t abide that. They think their TRIBE is replaceable. That, right there, is the problem.

I’m not sure there is a solution to white supremacy. Centuries of thinking one way about themselves versus everyone else has convinced white Europeans that their whiteness makes them superior. No, white people, it does not. White people are a minority of people on earth. If not for the greater lethality of the pathogens that evolved inside white Europeans over a thousand or so years (versus the pathogens evolving inside other human groups scattered across the globe), perhaps even their guns and steel would have faltered when they went exploring. A big piece of white people even thinking they’re “superior” comes from the relative ease with which white Europeans seized the Americas. The European colonizers told themselves their Christian faith — their god Yahweh — made them superior. Again, NO! Smallpox, measles and influenza — introduced into the Americas by European explorers — wiped out 90% OF NATIVE AMERICANS. If not for fleas — which carried the bubonic plague from China to Europe, bubonic plague might not have wiped out half of Europe in the fourteenth century. If not for Europeans and THEIR bugs, Europeans would have faced far more resistance when they landed on these shores.

How do we defeat tribalism? We don’t deny it; we can’t. It’s just too hard-wired into us. Why do you think there are soccer riots? Instead, we go at it, full bore. We make everyone “hyper-tribal” but not in that they see their exclusivity as a tribe. Rather, like two people who love the same song, they forget all their other potential differences and begin with that thing they have in common. Building from there (something as simple as a song), I bet those two people will surprise themselves with all their commonalities. Yes — there are differences. But, now there’s context for the differences.

Those two people might come to blows all the same; they just don’t like each other. But once you start talking together about how and why a song touches you, you will unlock pieces of your soul (such as it is) to that other person.

It’s a lot harder to feel tribally defensive toward someone whose soul you understand.

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.