Anthony Bourdain’s Passing – Three Years Ago Today – Reminds Us How Important Our Mental Health Is

Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. I was at the deepest point in a decade-long depression. I got lucky in the aftermath. I got well. But, even as I finally got my depression under control — the mood stabilizer I take moderates my emotions which allowed me to get to the root cause of my depression (I’d kept a secret from myself that I was sexually molested twice when I was fourteen by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged) — I understood that my darkness, though being kept at bay, always knew how to get to me. I feel a certain perverse kinship with others driven to such despair. The arguments inside their heads might not be the same as mine in their details, but thematically — we all sang the same song of self-loathing. Our darkness is wrong. It’s lying to us. It doesn’t care that our demise will be its demise. But then, no one ever said depression knew what it was doing.

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide came out of the blue for those of us outside his immediate sphere. I’m sure those closer had a different perspective. His past struggles aside, he was in the middle of shooting an episode for his CNN series when his darkness reached up from deep inside him and took him. That’s some potent darkness. It convinced a person that talented, that loved by other people, that on top of his game that he didn’t belong here anymore. You have to take that kind of persuasion seriously. Only Anthony Bourdain knew his demons the way he knew them. That’s true for all of us. But, we have to hold one essential fact about our demons above all others — whoever we are: our demons lie. Anthony Bourdain’s demons lied to him.

It’s just a stone cold fact: life is hard and living it is filled with hardships and pain. There is beauty, too. And joy. And bliss. I know this to be so because I now walk around in a state of perpetual bliss. Oh, I’m keenly aware of how dire our situation is. Read my blog? What makes my life blissful is knowing that I’ve freed myself from bullshit’s shackles. I call this blog “How To Live Bullshit Free” because that really is my mission in life. I do not want to live another moment in bullshit’s thrall. Other peoples’ bullshit is off limits to me. I only can worry about mine — because I’m really the only person who can call me out on it. Sure, other people can do it but, if you’re like me (and you are), you completely ignore when other people call you out on your bullshit.

There’s no one way to keep one’s demons at bay. Talking about them helps a lot. Medication can help — it can put “breathing room” between you and your emotions. Sometimes, that’s all one needs to begin healing. In my case, medication gave me the chance to confront a terrible truth I’d been denying. But that truth explained a lot of what happened to me — in particular why my bullshit had such a hold on me. Confronting what happened to me when I was fourteen was hard but I was never going to be happy unless I confronted it and stopped holding myself responsible for what an out of control adult did to me.

In the end (long story short), I came to understand Yehuda — my molester. I don’t forgive him. I will never do that. But I now see what he did in its proper context. Perspective. That’s the game changer. Gain it and you get healthier. Lose it and the opposite happens. It hurts when anybody leaves here before their time. It hurts a little bit more when super talented people go ahead of time. They still owed us the full benefit of their being here.

That’s how I feel about Anthony Bourdain. We had not yet gained the full benefit of his being here. We all got cheated. That’s why it’s incumbent on every one of us to live the fullest lives we can. It’s the only shot at cosmic revenge we’ll ever get. Sure, it’s good to live a long life (so long as you’re healthy), but it’s even better to live a rewarding life filled with purpose and passion.

Alcohol On Airplanes Was NEVER A Good Idea Actually; Now, Cannabis, On The Other Hand…

On May 29, American Airlines joined Southwest Airlines in suspending alcohol sales on their aircraft. Southwest did it because its passengers were becoming increasingly abusive over mask issues and when those abusive passengers started drinking… . We live in alcohol culture’s thrall the same way we used to live in Big Tobacco’s thrall. It wasn’t that long ago that people smoked on airplanes. There were “smoking sections” and “non-smoking sections” (as if the smoke could read the damned signs). In retrospect, it sounds even stupider. The non-smokers were lucky to get that — a row or two where the smoke wasn’t directly in their faces and eyes and all over their clothes. I’ve never gotten tobacco’s appeal. It eludes me completely but I appreciate how addictive nicotine is. Addiction will cause the addict to use any justification they can think of no matter how silly. The sky was blue that day so I “had to”. Looking back at old movies, I’m always amazed by who smoked and where and when. Everyone did — and everywhere. Smoking was ubiquitous. Kinda like how drinking is now.

Until I started taking a mood stabilizer to deal with a massive depression, I drank every single day of my life. I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. But, I drank every day of my life. Kinda like an alcoholic. See how I lied to myself? That’s what alcohol does. It encourages you to lie to yourself. Alcohol does not improve anyone’s decision-making just as it doesn’t improve their motor skills. My mood stabilizer gave all alcohol an unpleasant. grapefruit skin-like aftertaste that simply made it unpalatable. Just like that, I stopped drinking. Fortunately, I had cannabis to fall back on — and we all need something to fall back on.

When you no longer drink, you get cut off from a big piece of American culture. A lot of our socializing is built around drinking alcohol together. That’s been the case for a long, long time. I have experienced more exquisite, alcohol-fueled conversations than I can count that rambled from cocktails to red wine to grappa or desert wine or scotch over the course of many, many hours. I wouldn’t trade them in for anything.

Or, would I…?

It used to be habit when I traveled long haul (from LA to the East Coast or out of the country) to anticipate certain alcohol moments: the bloody Mary at the departure lounge bar, the bloody Mary on the airplane followed by the little bottle of crap red wine on the plane followed by whatever liqueur miniatures they might have. The goal was to pass out and sleep as much as one could so as to awaken “fresh” on the other side. I don’t think in my entire life that ever happened — where I drank and drank — then slept — then awoke more focused than a Tiger Mom. That includes the many trips I got to make flying First Class for business. Getting liquored up is even more fun when flying up front where the alcohol is served in actual glass.

The reason I never arrived anywhere in the best shape I could be in was because I drank before and during those flights. I arrived everywhere dehydrated. Dehydrated brains don’t think nearly as well as hydrated brains. In fact, dehydrated bodies don’t do anything better than hydrated bodies. Both flying and alcohol dehydrate you. To do them together is — every which way you look at it — counter-intuitive. It’s not even that the alcohol one drinks on an airplane is great, craft alcohol. So many things are interfering with your ability to accurately taste or smell anything — there just wouldn’t be any point to it. I say that as someone who loved alcohol — and the craft that went into making it.

Using cannabis, for the record, does not dehydrate you like alcohol does. THC works very differently in our brains and on our brain chemistry than alcohol does. In fact, alcohol’s impact and THC’s impact bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever. THC does not diminish one’s motor skills. It just doesn’t. Does it impact your motor skills? Absolutely! It improves them. Now, I can only speak for myself (though other cannabis users will tell you the exact same thing): when I use sativa strains like Durban Poison (instead of, say, indicas like Northern Lights), my motor skills improve appreciably. I use Durban Poison when I play tennis.

Within about a minute or two of smoking a little Durban Poison on the tennis court, I feel my mind slowing down — not in a foggy way but, rather, in a calm way. If I allow myself the opportunity, I can see the spin on the tennis ball coming at me. I can see its fuzz even. My timing improves. My ability to see the ball coming off my opponent’s racket improves as does my ability to track the ball to the exact place where I need to be — attacking that ball — if I want to win the point we’re playing. With Durban Poison in my brain, I become very coachable. I see the mistakes I’m making and grasp the adjustments needed. Now, I’m not a pro athlete. And I’m in my 60”s so I don’t have the energy I had when I was 25 and I do tire a little more quickly. Aside from that? I’m playing far better now than I have in my life.

Part of that is because I’m no longer depressed — thanks to the mood stabilizer. It’s also thanks to the cannabis.

Being depressed and drinking alcohol is a terrible, fraught, perilous combination. Alcohol cannot improve your depression. “In vino veritas”? No, in vino whatever’s in your head right this second. The veritas part is highly debatable. I know for a fact — my wife told me all about it afterwards — that on multiple occasions, liquored to my gills — I went on a tirade that killed a social evening. I couldn’t even tell ;you what “veritas” I was spewing at the time. That doesn’t speak well for it.

While my mood stabilizer has successfully dealt with my depression, I’ve used THC to handle the other part of my bi-polarity, my hypomania.

The inside of my head feels like a “black box theater” (a non-traditional theater space that can be converted into virtually anything with audience and performers virtually anywhere within that space). At any one time, a dozen or so things are being projected onto the walls, flor and ceiling. Lasers of various colors blast this way and that. Holographs come and go amid the music and movie sound tracks and running Marx Brothers routines. It’s exquisite chaos. But, trying to work with all that going on can be challenging even to an experienced hypomaniac. Cannabis, again, works wonders. And, again, Durban Poison epitomizes what cannabis can and does do for me. All cannabis has the effect of dropping scrims in front of most of that sound and fury. Sativa, hybrid or indica, cannabis has the effect of bringing a pervasive sense of calm and control. While indicas will slowly develop a feeling of sleepiness, sativas will (more quickly) evoke a feeling of mental focus. In the midst of the calm, I see more, hear more, taste more. And I think more.

Our thoughts occur as electricity moves from synapse to synapse inside our brains. Our synapses operate a lot like digital circuits: they’re either open or closed. THC causes more of our digital circuitry to be “open”. We process more information, more input, more thought. That’s why food tastes so good when you’re “high”. You literally are tasting the food more. That’s my music sounds soooooo good when you’ve got THC in you. That’s why things seem funnier. In a way, you’re seeing how much funnier things really are. It’s also why some people get paranoid on strong pot: they, too, are processing more information. They’re thinking more deeply about it all, too. That crush of information can create feelings of paranoia.

Is cannabis right for everyone? Hell no! But then, neither is alcohol.

No one gets violent on marijuana. That was the most perverse part of “reefer madness” — it portrayed cannabis users in exactly the opposite way that cannabis was causing them to feel or act. It was screamingly uninformed.

If, for example, they stopped serving beer at sporting events and, instead, served cannabis, no one would erupt in violence at the end of a soccer match or football game. Rather, people would be hugging or high-fiving each other, saying “great game, dude!” Some (in the stands) would probably be asleep — not drunk off their asses, just asleep. Easily roused and sent on their way, too.

Out in the streets beyond the sports stadium? No one would burn a storefront or overturn a car. They’d be too mellow — because that’s what cannabis does.

Now, imagine for a second, that we let people (or, better, ENCOURAGED people) to use cannabis. Its understood we can’t have people smoking their dope at the airport. That means we’ll have to get much better at dosing ourselves with edibles. But that ain’t rocket science, is it?

I’ve flown stoned. It’s wonderful. You put in your ear buds, crank up the tunes and nothing bothers you. You’re entirely compliant (going along to get along) and happy as can be when the plane finally lands and you get to move on with your life. It’s a pleasure, actually — and no one knows you’re doing it. Unless someone uses too much of an edible, it’s pretty hard to overdose on pot. You certainly can’t poison yourself as you can with alcohol.

No college students ever die from a hazing incident where they got too stoned and fell asleep.

No one on an airplane (and, trust me, I’m not the only one flying with loads of THC in me) has ever gotten rowdy because they had THC in them.

They got to their destination and got on with their lives. Had they been drinking the whole flight? They would have done the same thing — but, oh, the headache that would have accompanied it.

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…

The Only Confession Booth Anyone Needs Is Their Own Bathroom Mirror

No confessions required. We all do this. We just do. We stand in front of a bathroom mirror and we get real with ourselves — realer than we get with anyone else because the person we’re getting really, really REAL with is US. When we look into our own eyes, we see a version of us that no one else sees because no one else can (or ever will) — the you YOU know. The you you are. We speak to ourselves with a voice we don’t use for anyone else. It’s the most honest voice we have; maybe the only honest voice. Don’t think we can’t bullshit ourselves. We most certainly can and do. But we know, deep down, that we’re bullshitting ourselves even as we do it. We see that lack of belief in our own eyes.

I named this blog after a book I’m writing — “How to Live Bullshit Free: A Practical Guide To NOT Killing Yourself” — in which I tell my personal story — how a secret I kept hidden from myself for 45 years finally achieved a kind of critical, self-destructive mass inside my head and tried to kill me. Between a great therapist, a mood stabilizer that successfully mitigates my depression and copious amounts of THC to mitigate my creative hypomania so I can be creative, I beat back depression’s grip on me. The thing about one’s darkness — the thing causing one’s depression — is that it knows you better than you because it is you. It knows where all your bodies are buried because it helped you bury them. The more you listen to your darkness, the less perspective you hold onto. That’s depression’s MO — it robs you of perspective, convincing you that the whole world is the ever-shrinking misery-nubbin you live on. There’s nothing else out there so why bother going on?

Except that’s not true. There’s plenty out there. Hell — there’s EVERYTHING out there, beyond the reach of your darkness. If only one could figure out how to open one’s eyes to it.

My darkness had me convinced that I was responsible for being sexually molested twice when I was 14 — by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged. The man who molested me put me on an island with him — an island built upon the secret we shared about what he did to me (and the fact that I never reported him). If you didn’t know that secret about me, I told myself as I grew up, you didn’t really know ME. And since I wasn’t sharing that secret with anyone (I was even keeping it from myself, remember), there was NO WAY for anyone to get to know me. My molester condemned me to 45 years of self-destructive isolation where long-lasting, deep, trusting friendships were hard to come by because I had no idea how to forge and maintain those bonds.

I remember looking in the mirror at myself wondering why I was so unhappy. I would stand there, searching my eyes for a clue while, ironically, all the clues I needed were right inside my own head. If I had to describe the inside of my own head, I’d call it a black box theater. Think a shoe box, painted all black on the inside then turned over. Anything can happen inside that space. You can put the audience anywhere, the lights anywhere, the actors anywhere. You can have as much or as little set as you like. Meanwhile, in addition to the performances going on inside the black box theater that is my mind, there are a dozen or so projections — movies in black and white, color, technicolor, sepia. There are lasers and lightning flashes of black light. There’s music and sound and… what I think of as a wonderful kind of chaos.

But there’s also a stairway — attached to the theater’s back wall. The stairs lead up to a platform up in the rafters just beneath the black box’s roof. On the platform, there’s an office. Go in the door and you’ll see there’s a closet in the back of the office. In the closet (open the door), there’s a filing cabinet. Open the top drawer and you’ll find a memory, glowing white hot: my molestation. It was always like I stood in the black box theater’s doorway, down on the ground, but I was always keenly aware of that light burning up in the corner, unseen but not unknown.

Between therapy, the mood stabilizer and the cannabis, I was finally able to confront my demon — the fact that I was molested. It happened as I stood, late one Friday night, in the bathroom, gazing at myself in the bathroom mirror. “You know what happened, right?” I said to myself, “You know what that man did to you.” I nodded. And then I broke down and sobbed on that bathroom floor for hours, crying not so much for me as for that 14 year old boy who felt so alone and isolated from the world.

That first confession was brutal. But, damn if it didn’t set me free.

Confession isn’t easy. It’s hard. Harder still to confess your deepest, darkest “shouldn’t have’s” to yourself: “I shouldn’t have had that last glass of wine… shouldn’t have said that… shouldn’t have betrayed that confidence or violated that trust”. But, also — shouldn’t have taken the blame. Unfortunately, part of getting mentally healthy is doing a lot of heavy lifting. There’s no easy route to it — but there’s a route. That’s key. There IS a route and we all deserve to be on it.

Use it like a mantra: “the truth WILL set you free”. And being free is the first step to being happy. Living a lie and living happily are mutually exclusive propositions.

Go on — look yourself in the eyes. Tell yourself the truth the way you know it is. In the end, you will thank yourself.

America Has A Health INSURANCE System, Not A Health CARE System; They’re NOT The Same Thing

Repeat: America does not have a health CARE system. What we have is a health INSURANCE system. They are not the same thing. The first question we ask anyone who walks in the health system’s door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s deplorable. It’s disgusting. We are the only civilized country on earth where that happens. Correction — because that happens here? There is no way we can claim to be “civilized”. Civilized people don’t put profit incentive at the core of their health CARE system

It’s a testament to how thoroughly the insurance companies have bamboozled Americans that most Americans don’t even realize what they’re fighting for when they insist they want to keep the health insurance they have no matter what. Insurance companies don’t provide health care. They provide “GATEKEEPING” services. That’s it. Their job is to stand between us and our health care providers, deciding whether to let us see them or not. A “good health insurance plan” will let us see the health care providers we want — provided they’re “in-network”. A crap plan doesn’t cover anything so why bother figuring out which doctors you like; you aren’t seeing them regardless.

The health insurance companies — like for profit hospitals — are not in the business of curing patients so much as they are in the business of charging them maximum dollars for minimum services. For profit health insurance companies LOSE money every time they have to pay for an insured’s medical expenses. In their ideal world, everyone’s paranoid about their health — paying in — but incredibly healthy — requiring no paying out. Keep in mind, a publicly traded company has a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders, not to any “patients”. Patients (that cost money) and profits are mutually exclusive propositions.

That’s why Americans have to worry every time they get sick even IF they have decent insurance. The insurance might not cover what they need — and they won’t know about it or know how desperately they need it until it’s already happening. And that’s IF they have insurance. Without the insurance, they’d be completely at the system’s mercy — and our health insurance system has zero mercy.

How the hell did we get into this mess? To a degree, it started during WW Two. In order to direct as much money as possible to the war effort, we made it verboten for big companies to give good employees raises or to raise the salary being paid to new, skilled hires. Big companies still wanted to incentivize their best employees to stay or to motivate new, quality employees to hire on, so they started offering “hospital insurance”. The new hires seemed to like it.

In time, the war ended. So did the moratorium on raises. But, the employer-provided health insurance didn’t end. In fact, it became the “state of the art”. Though the logic behind employers providing their employees health INSURANCE (not the actual care) no longer held, the idea flourished. That was the beginning of our national health care nightmare.

While more big, medium and (now) smaller companies were forced to offer health INSURANCE to their employees, they didn’t have the ability or desire to administer the policies and their implementation. They turned to the newly burgeoning “health insurance business” to do that. The insurance companies, once empowered, were not going to give up that power easily — because that power (to decide what they’d pay for and what they wouldn’t) was the source of their money. The unions — as they should have — took full advantage of their negotiating power to carve out the best health insurance plans with the most coverage for the least out of pocket for their members. Of course they don’t want to lose that!

But even so — what the unions have isn’t the health CARE, it’s the commitment of the insurance company to cover more care. To be a “good gatekeeper” instead of a “mean one”. That is, after all, what insurance companies are: GATEKEEPERS — standing BETWEEN Americans and their actual health CARE. The reason some Americans got angry about Obamacare is because their gatekeepers refused to play along — and deliberately kept Americans from the health care providers they preferred.

I’ve joked here about the kind of health “care” coverage Republicans would create if they were honest about their intentions. I called it “TrumpCare Pick-An-Organ” because the concept was why insure organs that might never go bad on you? Why not gamble a little and save some money. You’ve got two lungs, two kidneys, two kinds of intestines — who needs it all? More to the point, who needs to waste money insuring it all? Why, nobody, of course! It went something like this…

Ask yourself — why are Republicans so opposed to universal health coverage — where every American, as their right, receives excellent health CARE. Who pays for it is never a question because WE DO. Through out tax dollars.

One of the problems Americans have with paying taxes is that we see all that money as wasted — like it was deliberately shoveled down a black hole. Throw waste atop that and the whole idea of paying taxes feels like theft. But, what if every citizen was given an itemized statement every year that showed to the penny where THEIR tax dollars went, what they were spent on and what they bought FOR that taxpayer.

We’d see clearly where our money was being wasted, for sure! But we also could point to things that our tax dollars bought for us — that we wanted — that our tax dollars could provide far more economically than via the private sector? Health CARE, for instance… Every other civilized country on earth does this more cheaply than we do and with far better outcomes.

That’s because socialized medicine is better medicine. Yes, profit incentive creates an environment conducive to innovation. One could get rich. But, in the health care environment, getting rich is counter productive. The need for profits and the need for good patient outcomes are not natural allies. In our insurance-based system, the profits always win out. The people almost always lose.

Or end up with medical bills that, ultimately, will kill them.

Universal single payer is the only answer. Personally, I’m with Bernie Sanders here — to keep the health insurance companies around is to invite abuse and just more stratification of services. Money will attract those more interested in greed than health care. The promise of health care is merely the bait in the “bait and switch”.

What Soccer (Football To The Rest Of The Civilized World) Can Teach Us About Life

Soccer’s a simple sport. That’s why it’s universal. Kick the ball into the other guy’s goal more than he kicks it into yours and you win. Now, throw a few off side rules into the mix, some great strategic thinking and some talent to pull it off and that simple sport becomes exactly what they call it: the beautiful game. Few things are as sublime as when eleven players hitch their collective will to putting a ball into the back of the other team’s net and then do it with surgical precision. Achieving that collective perfection might not be as hard as hitting a Major League fastball, but it’s not far behind. It’s absolutely do-able. But only by a few.

And yet — perfection aside — almost anyone can play this game and enjoy it for its own sake.

I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan, I thing I came into being via marriage to a Brit whose family were Spurs supporters (well, my wife is and her brother is; their sister is a Liverpool supporter — splitter!). I’ve always loved soccer, back to when I first learned to play it at sleepaway camp when I was six. Growing up in Baltimore, I even attended Bays games (they played in the National Professional Soccer League for three seasons 1967 – 1969) at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium.

When my son wanted to play rec center soccer here in LA (he was five), I didn’t just sign him up, I volunteered to coach. Then I created a club team (Silver Lake FC). By the time I stepped aside (my son unfortunately got injured), SLFC had six teams and almost a hundred players. So, soccer has already informed my life in plenty of ways.

But, something that happened Saturday drove home (a baseball metaphor being apt as the LA Dodgers are about to start the World Series today against the Tampa Bay Rays) a particularly important lesson at a particular time. On Sunday, the Spurs counted their chickens before said chickens had hatched. They put three points in the win column before finishing the game they were playing in.

That will almost always bite you in the ass.

After years of struggling to figure out who it was, Spurs have got an amazing new stadium, a new top tier coach (Jose Morinho) and, after picking eight new pieces in the transfer window (they just acquired Welsh international defender Joe Rodon from Swansea for eleven million pounds — when they could have gotten as much as twenty million), seem two-deep at every position for the first time ever. Two weeks ago, Spurs thumped Manchester United 6-1 (after thumping Tel Aviv Maccabee 7-1 in a Europa League game). With Gareth Bale now back in the squad (and with the other new signings finding their feet), Spurs walked onto their pitch to face West Ham this past Sunday, feeling a little like football’s next gods.

When they had West Ham down 3-0 within fifteen minutes, they were convinced: they WERE gods. And, being gods, they could rest on their laurels instead of playing the rest of the game. That worked out to a 3-3 tie, West Ham shocking Spurs with 3 goals in the last ten minutes including a dunderheaded own goal by Spurs defender Davinson Sanchez.

When West Ham took the field in the second half, they played as if the game still mattered. Having nothing to lose, they pressed Spurs — and Spurs let them. They figured, why spend any more energy than necessary? Their three point lead was insurmountable.

And therein is the Life Lesson. You still have to PLAY the game. Talent without effort is worthless. Assuming you have anything in the bag will end up with you IN the bag.

Donald Trump is not going to win this election. If he finds some way to “win” it, it will not be a legitimate win in any way, shape or form. Just like the “win” in 2016 was illegitimate. FFS, Trump himself kept telling us it was illegitimate; our news media to this day refuses to believe him.

The Democratic primary process drew from a deep, deep bench with plenty of philosophical heft. The candidates (for the most part) were authentic, their public servant bona fides genuine. While Joe Biden may not have been the embodiment of Progressive aspirations, the Progressive’s aspirations have already become the embodiment of the party’s ideals. The door will be open to the full Progressive agenda — socialized medicine, debt-free education, UBI; the only way out of this fiasco will BE through Progressive policies like those.

Conservatism after all is what brought us to the cliff’s edge.

The first goal West Ham scored against Spurs came during a set play — a free kick into the box that West Ham converted via a beautiful header. Set plays into the box — usually in the form of corner kicks — are perfect examples of how random chaos works. In essence, you can have twenty-one players moving in various directions, trying to anticipate the flight pattern of a ball and where it might land or bounce. Balls ricochet. Even a mis-directed kick can re-direct into the back of the net.

Our current situation, two weeks before perhaps the most important election in America’s history, is a lot like the chaos inside the goal box — as a corner kick flies toward it — as an important match expires.

Turns out We The People have way more players in the box than the Republicans do — and we’re poised to score and take the points. But the Republicans aren’t playing fairly. Their pal Vladimir is hiding another ball that he plans to introduce just as the official ball reaches the box.

Vladimir — and the Republicans — will insist that THAT ball’s the real ball and the one we’ve been chasing — the real ball — isn’t.

Vlad, Don and the Re-thug-licans plan to run their fake ball to the other end of the field and literally throw it into our net, claiming an incredible shock-victory. They’ll insist that they absolutely followed the rules to a “T”.

Unfortunately for them, that “T” also stands for Trump. To borrow again from baseball, America needs to keep its eye on THE ball.

Dear American News Media: Stop Asking The Democrats To Compromise With Republicans; No One Should Compromise With Evil

“Evil” is a loaded word. It’s a little like “Nazi” or comparing people to Hitler. Back when Donald Trump was sworn in — and some of us noticed how evil and Nazi-like Trump was already behaving — “Godwin’s Law” was invoked (Godwin’s Law says that “as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1”) to poo-poo any such comparisons. Donald Trump — per the news media — was just a “different kind of potus”. You know, the kind that doesn’t follow rules. Or the law. Or the Constitution.

Donald Trump is not a “different” kind of president, he’s a criminal. He’s a rapist and a thief and a money launderer and a traitor (not necessarily in that order). That’s all in the public record. It would be how we already think of Trump — except the news media keeps setting side all the details they learn about Trump in order to start each day’s reporting from that “he’s a different kind of potus” perch.

Oy.

If Donald Trump walked into the house of each of those journalists who can’t put the proper names to Trump’s criminal, corrupt, treasonous behavior and deliberately infected them and their whole families, I bet those brave journalists would call out Trump for being not just evil but Evil. I guess once their families are in the game, shit gets too real. But what about other families?

Evil is evil is Evil. Raping women is evil. Donald Trump is a rapist. Money laundering is evil. Trump has laundered copious amounts of Russian mob money. Separating children from their parents and putting them in cages is evil. Trump has done that. Committing treason is evil — as is stealing an election (then trying to steal your re-election) and lying about a pandemic because it hurts your electoral chances.

Mitch McConnell — he’s evil, too. Where to begin?

Mitch’s pandemic relief proposal is designed to be too little to do anyone any good. Remember: it’s Mitch’s game plan to kill off any possibility of “socialized” government. Pandemic relief — to the RW money behind Mitch — is the same as UBI (universal basic income). That’s even worse than socialized medicine to these crony capitalists. As horrified as Mitch is by Nancy Pelosi’s $2.2 billion dollar demand for relief, he was even more horrified by Trump spitting and spewing how he wants to shell out way more (he’s at that desperate “buy all the votes you can!” place).

The point: Mitch isn’t negotiating. His starting point was meant as his end point — and he was reluctant to be that generous. By design, Mitch’s proposal won’t pay anyone nearly enough to stay home and wait out the pandemic (like most other countries have done). Like Trump, he’s happy with everyone rushing into the pandemic’s maw — so long as he gets to stay safely at home.

Quick reminder: In the leadup to election 2016, Mitch refused to let We The People in on the dirty secret that Russia was weighing in to the election, bent on making Trump president. It was Mitch who tossed aside the sanctions against Oleg Deripaska so he could score a $400 million Russian aluminum factory in Kentucky. Deripaska, remember, was sanctioned for his role in subverting the 2016 election.

Mitch McConnell is evil — with a turtle face.

The news media — and a few wavering Democrats — want Nancy Pelosi to compromise with Mitch and the Republicans. They want us to take Mitch’s bullshit proposal seriously. They want us to make a deal with bullshit. With evil bullshit.

While some very desperate people will get relief the desperately need, that very short term fix won’t solve their long term problem. In fact, it will exacerbate their long term problem. Evil will have gained greater leverage.

How might the Jews have compromised with the Holocaust hunting them? How might the Armenians have compromised with the Turks hell bent on slaughtering them? How about the Croats being snipered by the racist Serbs? I could go on.

The people urging compromise with evil have never been subjected to evil. Or, if they have, they’ve sold out as a response — hoping like hell that by selling out, they can avoid the slaughter. Like the Jewish capo’s who worked with the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto — offering to fill the railroad cars bound for the camps themselves. These Judenrats — Jewish councils — did all of Hitler’s dirtiest work for him — and then got tossed onto the same pile of bodies anyway.

All compromise bought was a little time — at the expense of one’s soul.

That’s a terrible deal.

It’d be like compromising with Donald Trump — and letting him inside your house to harangue you (while infecting you and your entire family).

Only a fool — or, apparently, an American journalist — would do such a thing.

Breaking News: Having Experienced COVID-19 For Himself, Trump Reveals His New, Trump-Style Health Care Plan: It’s Called “TrumpCare PICK-AN-ORGAN”

Finally – a health “care” plan that thinks like Donald Trump does — and “takes care” of people the same way. That is, it picks their pocket with one hand while taking their temperature with the other. Or it behaves like a super spreader’s super spreader.

Donald can relate to COVID-19 — now that he’s had it. Now that the coronavirus has paid the very house call he dared it to. Why, having feared for his mortality, suddenly Trump has gone all George Bailey and suddenly wants to make the world a better…– Oh, puh-lease! Who are we kidding? Donald Trump will always be “It’s A Wonderful Life’s” Mr. Potter — except a kajillion times worse and a far, far bigger asshole.

Speaking of assholes — the problem with normal health insurance is you end up paying to insure stuff that probably doesn’t need insuring. Like your asshole. Or your gall bladder. What are the odds either will go bad on you. Hell, you probably don’t even know what your gall bladder does (hint — it doesn’t gall you). So, how could you miss it?

With “Trump-Care ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN”, you’re in “full control” of which organs you insure and which you’re willing to gamble on. C’mon — when was the last time you gave a flying crap about your spleen? Hey — better question: when was the last time your spleen gave a flying crap about you?

Who wants to pay for health care YOU won’t ever get — or “might not” ever need?  Only a schmuck pays for other peoples’ healthcare, amiright?

Think of it THIS WAY:  You have lots of organs.  What are the chances any will ‘go south’ on you during your lifetime?  Your lungs?  Probably not — unless you smoke.  Your kidneys — You have two — you’re playing with house money.  Your heart?  Well, okay — that one could be a problem but at TrumpCare, we assume you don’t have a heart so what are we even talking about?

The point is, Trumpanistas are too smart to INSURE organs they don’t need to — or are worth the risk NOT to insure.  And that’s why they (and everyone! will love “TrumpCare PICK-AN-ORGAN”!

LUNGS

07_Organs_Lungs_Front.pdf_1600x

Odds are nothing will happen to either of em.  But you want to play it safe — so we offer options to allow YOU to decide:  Insure Neither Lung, One Lung or Both Lungs!

See?  Easy!  Now, of course, the trick is, if you insure just one?  Ya better hope like hell you insured the correct Lung — the one that’s gonna be needing insurance…

LET’S TALK INTESTINES!

human-intestines-sciepro

If you’re like the average Joe, you have LOTS of this stuff inside ya.  You have intestines to spare.  In fact, you have so much intestine you even have two kinds (I know — weird, huh?)   But do you really need to insure both?  Do you really need to insure ‘ALL’ of it?

And what about your APPENDIX?  You don’t even use it — hell you haven’t used it in millions of years.  Only an idiot insures something he can’t use — amiright?

I KNOW THAT’S MY LIVER BUT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ‘GREEN’ THING?

cartoon-of-human-liver-and-gallbladder-vector-7563173

The Truth is — Outside of your heart and lungs, your stomach and your anus, you haven’t a clue how any of your plumbing works.  You know you HAVE a Liver and you remember somebody lecturing you once about alcoholism while you were passed out in a drunken stupor but that was so long ago.

Be that as it may — This is probably you:  “What in hell’s name is that green thing — and please don’t say I have one…!”

Yeah, you have one all right — and it costs a BOMB to insure it — IF you insure it…

YOUR SPLEEN — 1-2-3-ANSWER QUICKLY:  ‘WHAT’S IT DO?‘

human-spleen-visceral-surface-synthesizes-antibodies-53319933

Not a goddamned clue, amiright (and “The spleen ‘spleens’ ain’t it”)?

Here – we’ll even show you a spleen and point out all its bits.  Does THAT help?  No?

And you want to insure this WHY?

AND THEN THERE’S THIS ORGAN…

cerebro-humano

Insuring brains is expensive.  In fact, it’s SO expensive, you’d have to be crazy to pay the freight.  So why bother.

TrumpCare ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN’: ‘Hey — look at all the money YOU just saved!’

Breaking News: Trump HAS Been Working On A Health Plan: It’s called “TrumpCare PICK-AN-ORGAN”

Finally – a health “care” plan that thinks like Donald Trump does — and “takes care” of people the same way.

The problem with normal health insurance is you end up paying to insure stuff that probably didn’t need insuring. Take your gall bladder. What are the odds that’s going to go bad on you. Hell, you probably don’t even know what your gall bladder does. So, how could you miss it?

With “Trump-Care ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN”, you’re in “full control” of which organs you insure and which you’re willing to gamble on. C’mon — when was the last time you gave a crap about your spleen? Hey — better question: when was the last time your spleen gave a crap about you?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pick-an-organ-front-card-revised.jpg

Who wants to pay for health care YOU won’t ever get — or “might not” ever need?  Only a schmuck pays for other peoples’ healthcare, amiright?

Think of it THIS WAY:  You have lots of organs.  What are the chances any will ‘go south’ on you during your lifetime?  Your lungs?  Probably not — unless you smoke.  Your kidneys — You have two — you’re playing with house money.  Your heart?  Well, okay — that one could be a problem but at TrumpCare, we assume you don’t have a heart so what are we even talking about?

The point is, Trumpanistas are too smart to INSURE organs they don’t need to — or are worth the risk NOT to insure.  And that’s why they (and everyone! will love “TrumpCare PICK-AN-ORGAN”!

LUNGS

07_Organs_Lungs_Front.pdf_1600x

Odds are nothing will happen to either of em.  But you want to play it safe — so we offer options to allow YOU to decide:  Insure Neither Lung, One Lung or Both Lungs!

See?  Easy!  Now, of course, the trick is, if you insure just one?  Ya better hope like hell you insured the correct Lung — the one that’s gonna be needing insurance…

LET’S TALK INTESTINES!

human-intestines-sciepro

If you’re like the average Joe, you have LOTS of this stuff inside ya.  You have intestines to spare.  In fact, you have so much intestine you even have two kinds (I know — weird, huh?)   But do you really need to insure both?  Do you really need to insure ‘ALL’ of it?

And what about your APPENDIX?  You don’t even use it — hell you haven’t used it in millions of years.  Only an idiot insures something he can’t use — amiright?

I KNOW THAT’S MY LIVER BUT WHAT THE HELL IS THAT ‘GREEN’ THING?

cartoon-of-human-liver-and-gallbladder-vector-7563173

The Truth is — Outside of your heart and lungs, your stomach and your anus, you haven’t a clue how any of your plumbing works.  You know you HAVE a Liver and you remember somebody lecturing you once about alcoholism while you were passed out in a drunken stupor but that was so long ago.

Be that as it may — This is probably you:  “What in hell’s name is that green thing — and please don’t say I have one…!”

Yeah, you have one all right — and it costs a BOMB to insure it — IF you insure it…

YOUR SPLEEN — 1-2-3-ANSWER QUICKLY:  ‘WHAT’S IT DO?‘

human-spleen-visceral-surface-synthesizes-antibodies-53319933

Not a goddamned clue, amiright (and “The spleen ‘spleens’ ain’t it”)?

Here – we’ll even show you a spleen and point out all its bits.  Does THAT help?  No?

And you want to insure this WHY?

AND THEN THERE’S THIS ORGAN…

cerebro-humano

Insuring brains is expensive.  In fact, it’s SO expensive, you’d have to be crazy to pay the freight.  So why bother.

TrumpCare ‘PICK-AN-ORGAN’: ‘Hey — look at all the money YOU just saved!’

Every Story May Have Two Points Of View, But It Doesn’t Necessarily Have Two “Sides”

“Both Sides Do It” journalism (an oxymoron really) wants to insist that truth & lies have the same weight; it’s not for them to tell their readers which to believe — lies or truth.

That’s not journalism, it’s malpractice justifying its intellectual laziness and lack of moral conviction.

A thief and his victim both have “points of view” on their interaction. But — if the thief gets caught and both thief & victim tell their stories, the thief lying about how he ended up with his victim’s possessions should not get the same respect as the victim’s version — especially if the thief’s lies are apparent. The thief stole for whatever his reasons were — greed probably. There aren’t many Jean Valjean’s stealing bread out there because of hunger.

Yes, yes — we can’t rush to judgment. We need to know the whole story first. But when we say “the whole story”, we don’t mean every last detail.

There may be two points of view in everything Donald Trump says — his and everyone else’s — but there aren’t two “sides”. Having a “side” assumes you have a legitimate argument and having a legitimate argument assumes you’re sincere. Texas Lt Governor Dan Patrick, for instance, is not sincere and does not have a legitimate argument when he says wearing face masks during a pandemic that is eating through his state is unnecessary because the virus isn’t really a problem. People eschewing science and insisting herd immunity will eventually, some day shut down the coronavirus aren’t even espousing a legitimate, fact-based point of view. It doesn’t represent a “side” in any argument.

The man who molested me twice when I was fourteen had a point of view. What he wanted to do to me as I walked in the door wan’t his “side” of our relationship. It was a crime he intended to commit upon me.

Our press — in reporting this story — would drop into its “Well, we have to hear both sides first” stance. Fair enough. But then, look at who you’re talking to — a middle aged man and a 14 year old boy. The only defense the man has is “the boy is lying”.

One side aches to tell the truth. The other aches to cover it up. Two points of view.

Not two “sides” however.