Why Did We Ever Criminalize Drug Use To Begin With? Because Judging People Is Easier Than Helping Them…

The “war on drugs” was never a war on “drugs”. Like the drug laws it was meant to epitomize, the drug war was always entirely focused on drug users. And not just the users because they were using, but on their race.

First Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger spells it out: our drug laws are all about racism, racism & more racism.

The first drug law in America was written in 1875 in San Francisco — aimed at stopping the spread of opium dens. A noble idea. No one wants to live near an opium den. And, it’s a fact, opium is highly addictive. It needs to be approached with care; even doctor’s get prescribing it horribly wrong. But the law itself — as written — wasn’t concerned with anyone’s neighborhood getting ruined. It wasn’t concerned with anyone getting addicted. In fact, it had no data on hand to justify any concerns it might have about opium’s impact on its users’ health — if it had had any such concerns which it didn’t.

This is from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy via Wikipedia

The reason cited was “many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”

This law and virtually every opium law that followed drew an important distinction that would ripple through history.

“Though the laws affected the use and distribution of opium by Chinese immigrants, no action was taken against the producers of such products as laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, commonly taken as a panacea by white Americans. The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.

Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Sound familiar? Depending on whether you snorted cocaine as most white people did or smoked it as crack as lots of black people did, the drug laws treated you differently. The laws punished smoking coke far more harshly than snorting it. Same drug, same basic impact on the user — but different law and (especially) different, harsher penalty. And still not a single concern for the user him or herself and the drug’s impact on their well-being.

The very illegalization of drugs has always been about judging the drugs’ users. Let’s face it — white Europeans are the biggest bullies on the planet. They’re professional hegemonists — spreading their culture and “true faith” like an STD. But, even when the Europeans weren’t judging others because they were “others”, they were judging other Europeans for being “weak” and punishing them for their weakness.

In America, prior to enactment of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, there were no federal laws regulating drugs of any kind. The very real health concerns about opioids aside, the drug laws simply didn’t consider them or even refer to them in its legislation. It wasn’t the point. Here’s the key to the Harrison act: “The courts interpreted [it] to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction.”

What that means for this highly addictive drug — doctors could prescribe it to relieve pain but once the cause of the pain stopped (and who is to say whether another person is feeling pain or not?), so did the opioid — regardless of what cutting it off did to the user. The law willfully condemned people to suffer. It denied their physical pain — and then wanted to punish them for ever experiencing pain to begin with.

Where does that come from?

Look to your bible. America has always had a strange love for religion — especially a twisted form of Christianity that perverts “Do unto others” to “Do what we say”. The Puritans may have been seeking religious freedom in the Massachusetts Colony, but that was only for themselves. There were reasons no one back in England liked them (and so made them feel despised): they were judgmental. And, while the Salem witch trials were an anomaly, they did reflect Puritanism’s witchcraft-fearing id running wild.

The witchcraft trials were to women what drug laws would later be to black and brown people.

Jesus taught simply “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t say “judge them” or “force your way on them”. The meek, Jesus said, shall inherit the earth. He didn’t say they’d have to do it drug-free. Just as well, as drugs go, there are few as terrible as religion.

Marx got it wrong. Religion isn’t the opiate of the people. If all it did was sedate them, that would be bad enough. It incites them — like angel dust or meth — to mean, dangerous, soulless behavior. Religion (vs spirituality — a very different thing) doesn’t care about what’s hurting them, what’s causing them pain. It’s got its own rules and regs to push. It’s followers are there to do what they’re told not be attended to. They’re a flock of sheep after all. And no one wants an “uppity” sheep.

The painful irony is that alcohol prohibition sprang from a very progressive ideal. It was Europeans judging how Europeans behaved when effected by a European-approved intoxicant: alcohol. And alcohol was a very real problem for a lot of Americans in the latter part of the 19th century when support for prohibition began to grow. But, as we know, in the whole history of human beings, prohibition has never worked — not as intended.

In America, alcohol prohibition criminalized virtually the entire adult population and turned organized crime from a local problem to a national one. Criminal syndicates suddenly had a product to sell — alcohol — that everyone wanted but only they had. We’re still dealing with the mess.

Prohibition may stop people from using a substance because getting it is hard — but it won’t stop them from wanting it. It won’t stop them from gerryrigging ways to either get it or craft a replacement of dubious safety. In general, prohibition wants a grey world to be black & white regardless of how grey it’s always been and always will be.

In America, there was a twist: prohibition wanted the world to be white only. The opium laws (first written in San Francisco) were meant to punish Chinese people brought to America to work — who dared relax in the way they liked. Using the same racist playbook, the first marijuana laws were written to first punish “Hindoos” who “…started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast; the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit.”

“Initiating our whites into this habit”. There you have it. No one cared about the Hindoos as people — just as later laws wouldn’t care about individual Mexicans or blacks using marijuana. The laws cared about the white people — about white people doing something “black” or “brown” or “yellow” did. And that was entirely unacceptable.

America’s drug laws have never, ever, EVER been about anyone’s health and always about racism with a side of hatred for “the weak”. Our drug laws mirror something demented in our religious fervor. They speak for it.

Racism is fear. Drug laws are that fear’s manifestation in the law. They’re legalized forms of institutional racism. Period.

In America, Christianity was used more as a cudgel than as a sanctuary. Slavers pointed to the bible to justify their cruelty. Bible thumpers continued pointing at their “good book” to justify miscegenation laws that prevented black people from marrying white people. They used their book to justify all sorts of racist claptrap.

Imagine the audacity of judging love. It’s as stupid and heartless as judging another person’s pain.

No wonder everyone fleeing religion needs a drink.

“Me” v “We”

That, in a nutshell, is the argument we’re having in America today: the rights of “ME” v the rights of “WE”.

I hesitate to call anything “Republican thinking” anymore. That’s an oxymoron. Republicans don’t think, they perpetrate. They’re criminals engaged in a criminal enterprise — the overthrow of the legitimate American government by a devil’s brew of RW money (the Kochs & Mercers), corrupt Republican politicians (Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham) and Russian intelligence carrying out a literal plan of operation hatched by Putin himself.

Ask yourself — why are the Republicans doing this? They’re a minority — and getting “minority-ier”. They’re tossing the Constitution and rule of law overboard to hold onto power. What could be more “ME” than that?

What could be more “ME” than a dwindling white minority staring a diverse and diversifying majority in the eye and insisting “ME” while they insist “No, WE”?

Racism is an implied right to hate. No such right exists except in the racist’s mind. Racist thinking and contemporary conservative thinking are a horrifying conjoined twin. They both aspire either to keep America right where it is — a place still simmering in multi-faceted institutional racism or (better yet, to them) a place where nobody talks about racism because it’s that baked in. You, like in the good ol’ 50’s — the 1850’s.

Conservative thinking values property (theirs) over life (yours). Proudly Christian, it’s taken “Do unto others” and turned it into “Do what we say”.

The most glaring example of conservative thinking in our everyday life occurs any time someone walks into a hospital or doctor’s office needing health CARE. The first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”

Before you can get well, we need to know that someone’s gonna make a buck.

That’s slavery thinking where everyone below “Boss Man” is expendable.

Conservatives will tell you all about how the “rugged individual” has any and every right he needs to do what he wants — even if that right tramples other peoples’ rights. When conservatives & libertarians picture that “rugged individual” in their minds? He’s as white as they are. Not only don’t conservatives believe “all men are created equal”, they don’t believe “all rights are created equal” either.

Their rights will always be able to “beat up” our rights (same way their imaginary friend can beat the snot out of yours).

Gun laws aren’t about “rights” per se, they’re about fear — that shrinking white-male-Christian minority legitimizing their bunker mentality. When they think of “people owning all the guns they want”, they aren’t including people of color in that. If they thought for two seconds that the black guy living cross town was arming himself with the same intensity? They’d shit-can that law in a heartbeat.

Donald Trump isn’t the only delusional male telling himself “I alone can fix it”. That disease afflicts plenty of Republicans. You know how pretty much every Republican takes every opportunity to tell us how “God-fearing” they are? Well, that’s bullshit. They don’t “fear” God, they think they “ARE” God. That’s why they alone can “fix it”.

How much more “ME” can ya get?

Progressives view the world through a more “socialized” lens. Having sampled crony capitalism now — and found it wanting — it’s long past time that we try a more legitimate form of capitalism. While we intuitively assume that the people with the most money are “the best capitalists” who know better than the rest of us how capitalism works, if that capitalist is corrupt (they are), they’re actually undermining capitalism, not nurturing it.

Capitalism relies on innovation to focus capital where it needs to go to 1) do the most good and 2) return the most on its investment while doing the most good. Smart capital knows that things that do the most good spread wealth around — which then puts that capital back into the system so it can continue to inspire new innovation. Progressive capitalism self-perpetuates the flow of capital.

Corrupt capital directs all available wealth to its own pocket. The only thing that trickles down is misery. Nothing gets innovated. Everything slowly grinds to a halt as the rich get richer and no one else can afford to buy anything.

“ME”, again.

It’s hard to have a consumer driven economy that depends on consumer confidence when the consumers have no confidence in the economy. But then, crony capitalists — like conservatives — never think that far into the future. That’s because the future is what they’re trying to avoid.

Progressives make better capitalists. Progressives also govern better — because they’re automatically more concerned with “WE” than “ME”. Progressives aren’t perfect. There’s no such thing. But progressives — because it’s how we think — naturally look for solutions that work for the greatest number of people over solutions that work for fewer people.

Progressives understand that “fair” needs to apply to everyone equally. It’s tricky. That’s why the rule of law is so important. Progressives stand by, behind and with the rule of law because it’s the very best way to assure “WE” are treated equally.

Progressives understand that as important as the rights of the individual are, they cannot supersede the rights of the group. A gun owner’s right to stand at his front door, beer in hand, blasting away at his neighbors just for fun cannot supersede his neighbors’ rights to not get shot at by a drunken yahoo.

Progressives really and truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats.

That’s “all boats” as in “WE”.

Blunt Truth — Marijuana Prohibition Was ALWAYS About RACISM And Nothing But

From the get-go, every impulse to regulate cannabis has been based on racism.

When the California Pharmacy Board amended the state’s Poison Act in 1913 to include marijuana in the “poisons” under its control, they were simply piling onto the racist legislation that began in 1875 when California passed America’s first anti-narcotics laws to “combat” opium dens. Translation: to legalize anti-Chinese racism and bigotry. Up until 1910, no one had an issue with marijuana because no one in America knew what it was.

But, a keen-eyed California racist named Henry J. Finger — a prominent member of the Pharmacy Board — saw something that needed to be stamped out quickly.

I wrote a series — Blunt Truths — for Weedmaps News (back when they were a going concern) about this very subject. I’m biased but I recommend it. At the time, Weedmaps News was being run by journalists including the former LA Times journalist who hired me to write for them — so long as I adhered to journalistic standards. In other words — I couldn’t rely on bullshit to tell the story I wanted to tell. Among the sources I relied on because of their reliability was Dale Gieringer, PhD., a NORML board member. I highly recommend his The Forgotten Origins Of Cannabis Prohibition In California. It’s loaded with fascinating information that will change the way you think about cannabis.

Considering the radical shift in how we see race relations in America that’s happening right this second — Gieringer’s insights take on greater resonance.

For a taste. Here’s Gieringer citing a correspondence between Henry Finger and Hamilton Wright (in 1911 when Wright is the chief architect of US narcotics policy) —

“Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast…the fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit…”

Gieringer notes: “The “Hindoos,” actually East Indian immigrant of Sikh religion and Punjabi origin, had become a popular target of anti-immigrant sentiment after several boatloads arrived in San Francisco in 1910. Their arrival sparked an uproar of protest from Asian exclusionists, who pronounced them to be even more unfit for American civilization than the Chinese.” Immigration authorities quickly cut off the flow. The roughly 2000 “Hindoos” apparently became a threat. They were “widely denounced for their outlandish customs, dirty clothes, strange food, suspect morals, and especially their propensity to work for low wages… no one complained about their use of cannabis. To the contrary, their defenders portrayed them as hard-working and sober. “The taking of drugs as a habit scarcely exists among them,” wrote one observer.”

Henry Finger persisted. “By this time, another menace had appeared on the horizon: “marihuana” had begun to penetrate north of the border from Mexico, carried by immigrants and soldiers during the revolutionary disorders of 1910 – 1920 [aka The Mexican Revolution]. Though hardly known to the American public, marihuana or “loco-weed” was noticed by the pharmacy journals.”

And there you have it. The Pharmacy Board — a supposedly scientific body — was crafting legislation without an ounce of science in it. But there sure was plenty of racism.

Thus marijuana prohibition began. The legislation that followed — most of it with actual “Reefer Madness” in its heart — was driven by America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Narcotics Bureau Harry J. Anslinger — our first “drug czar”. And Anslinger behaved like a drug CZAR. Anslinger — once he came around to the “marihuana is a scourge” point of view (he started out insisting it was harmless) — invented most of what we still think about cannabis. He literally pulled it out of his ass.

His very RACIST ass.

Let’s be clear. Harry Anslinger is a villain not just because he was a racist. He’s a villain because he was also an excellent bureaucrat who knew how to manipulate the system to get what he wanted. Anslinger knew how to go to the press — as the respected, trustworthy Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — with lies (Mexicans and blacks are selling marihuana to our children) that the press would then print — which Anslinger would then hold up as proof that Mexicans and blacks were selling marihuana to our children.

Neat trick, huh?

It’s important to understand what turned Anslinger. What convinced him that cannabis was more dangerous than opium? It was the exact same thing that bothered Henry Finger — not the what, the WHO. WHO was using marijuana. So long as Mexicans and black jazz musicians kept marijuana to themselves, racists like Anslinger might have been able to tolerate it to a degree.

The trouble was white people started taking up the habit — and that was totally unacceptable to Anslinger. Cannabis was illegalized in America to keep white people from using it and to punish black and brown people for “poisoning Americans” with it.

In the 1950’s, after 20 years of selling marijuana prohibition with racism, Anslinger expanded the franchise. World War Two caused profound physical pain to a staggering number of people. In response, opioids exploded in availability. So did opioid addiction. With fear of “Reefer Madness” waning, Anslinger invented “the gateway theory” to reinvigorate the public’s passion for prohibition.

The “gateway theory” — that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin — is based on zero research. It’s an abuse of statistics and nothing more. But, when the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics says it, so the public thinks, it must be so! The gateway theory gained traction and acceptance. And, racist bully that he was, Anslinger used the occasion to increase the punishments for drug-related crimes — knowing full well on whose backs these new, even more cruel punishments would fall most: black people and brown people.

Anslinger retired in 1962 — on his 70th birthday. But the racism Anslinger had instilled remained. In the late 1960’s, with American soldiers returning from Vietnam with cannabis in their duffel bags, Richard Nixon declared a “War On Drugs”. Nixon — a drinker — didn’t declare a war on alcohol (though he abused it). He declared a war on everyone else’s medication — marijuana especially.

The War on Drugs was (and remains) a war on People Of Color. When Anslinger went to legislate marijuana prohibition, he bumped into a problem: there’s no constitutional basis for making marijuana illegal. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 does not, in fact, make marijuana illegal (because it couldn’t). Instead, the act imposes a very steep (in fact onerous) tax every time one bought or sold marijuana or hemp. In order to prove you’d paid the tax, you needed a stamp.

Problem was — the stamp was not available. By design. Everyone who bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) would therefore break the rule 1) by not paying the tax (who were you supposed to pay it to anyway?) and 2) by not getting the stamp. The first two arrests for “tax evasion” — occurred within 24 hours of the act’s signing — two men from Denver (Sam Caldwell and Moses Baca) were caught, one for selling, the other for buying. They both went to prison.

Our drug laws are morally wrong because they’ve got nothing to do with drugs — and never ever have.

Dear Conservatives: Thank You For Making Democratic Socialism Inevitable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Simply Is No Conservative Way Out Of This Mess; Conservatism Put Us Here

How do pandemics happen? After the pathogen gets revved up — and finds its entree into human hosts — the next important event is denial.

China denied it had a problem. That made their problem exponentially larger — and then made their problem EVERYONE’S problem. Coronavirus became OUR problem because we’re humans sharing the planet with authoritarian liars. It became a bigger problem than it needed to be because Donald Trump knows he must remain president at all costs; the instant he stops being potus, a shitload of legal problems will begin. Trump is such a day trader that he thinks not testing anyone will solve his problem — because if there aren’t test results saying Americans have or are dying from the coronavirus (and Covid 19 the disease it causes). it means the coronavirus problem isn’t happening.

Just like if the stock market is up, it means “Trump good” and if the stock market is down, it means “Democrats bad”.

Conservatives are especially good at denial. Remember — conservatives want to “conserve”, just like their name says. What do they want to conserve? It can’t be the future — you can’t conserve what doesn’t exist, right? But you can conserve the present — which is what conservatives think of as a “compromise”. In their minds, too much of the past has already been lost. If we just keep things as they are forever — conserving them — they’ll be happy.

Never mind that “how things are now” is still grossly unfair to a whole lot of people — many of them black, brown, LGBTQ, immigrant or undocumented. The playing field is not now nor has it ever been level.

Conservative values are inherently racist values. The America conservatives want to conserve caters to white, male Christians. It cedes all primacy to them because they’re white, Christian and male. White, Christian male conservatives — the rich ones — declared war on the rest of us. The Kochs, the Mercers et cetera saw the demographic handwriting on the wall: they weren’t just going to be a minority, they were going to be a powerless minority unless they did something. Having money — and power in their hands — they did something.

They gerrymandered. They suppressed votes. They hitched their wagon to Russia and Donald Trump. Anything and everything to make conservatism — via minority rule — a permanent fixture in American politics. Conservatism has no intention of compromising. Newt Gingrich even said that part out loud, remember? What Democrat would ever say “I alone can fix it” and expect a huge chunk of those listening to nod along in agreement?

Conservatism is greed. And greed never makes anyone smarter.

If a million Americans succumbed to Covid19, that would not make Republicans unhappy. They’re hoping that the overwhelming majority of the dead are Democrats — completing the coup d’etat they launched in 2016 with their Russian pals. What a shame for them that Trump-loving Republicans will fill most of those body bags because they believe Trump and refuse to quarantine or social-distance themselves from others.

The conservative response to Trump’s relationship with Russia was to shrug. Of course — it’s THEIR relationship with Russia. They can’t “solve that”, can they? They’re owned — and want to be.

The conservative response to the coronavirus pandemic is to insist the economy is way ore important than anyone’s health. As always, conservatives frame everything from the point of view of a false choice. The world has to be this way or that way. Wrong question.

Ours is a consumerism-based economy. It works when people buy things. Demand rules. If there’s no demand? There’s no economy. And consumers afraid that a restaurant meal may be fatal will not dine in restaurants. They won’t go to gyms or barber shops or yoga classes or night clubs or bars or stadiums. They won’t have CONFIDENCE in their own personal safety. They won’t “buy” anything

And if people don’t buy then no one can sell. There will not be any sort of “economy”. The conservative “way out” is not a way out at all. It’s a way in deeper. As we’re already experiencing. See? We ARE the receipts to the conservative argument. Remember how trickle down economics resulted in zero trickling down? Same thing. We’re the lab rats.

What scares the shit out of conservatives — aside from the fact that they got us here — is the fact that even THEY know the only way out is via Progressive policies and approaches. The fact is, the federal government COULD cash flow Americans for a period of time — Universal Basic Incoming EVERYONE. That money won’t sit in anyone’s pocket (except maybe the already wealthy). Instead it will flood the economy with cash as people buy the goods and services they need (and want).

Does this come at a cost? Of course it does. We will pay higher taxes — but what’s the alternative? Total ruin? The people who WILL bear the brunt of the tax burden are those who can already afford it — the 1% who now hold 80% of the wealth. They did not “earn” that money. They took it. Not the same thing.

Let’s remember one other thing: those tax dollars We The People will use to cash flow us out of this mess that conservative thinking did to us? It’s OURS. We paid it in via our tax dollars (that includes every tax we pay in addition to just federal income tax). That money isn’t conservatives’ to parcel out. It’s OURS. And if we say WE need it now to help us — we’ll take and we’ll use it.

Conservatives now stand for racism, sexism, bigotry, corruption, treason, propaganda and death. How in hell’s name does one compromise with any of that? One can’t, of course.

That means there’s really no room at the table for moderation either. After all — what are we moderating between? Progressivism and corruption?

We will get through this. We’re the majority — by a lot. And Americans have no history of giving in to fascism — especially the more diverse parts of us — the majority that conservatives are so afraid of. We will not stand for this. We just won’t. And the increasing number of women running for office? They won’t stand for it either.

We will emerge from this a very different nation with different values. Not “different” actually — more honest. More human. More humane. More socialized.

We can’t continue on with a health system based on insurance rather than care. If only one person catches the virus again and they can’t afford to be treated? They won’t get treated. Instead, they’ll start the whole infection cycle all over again. We can only ever be as “healthy” as a nation as the least healthy among us. That’s so “Jesus-y”, isn’t it? All “Do unto others”.

When Republicans are swept from political office all across the country — they absolutely will be (and EVERY American’s vote is required to make that happen) — Progressive values and legislation will take hold and take off.

And it will all be because conservatives got to have their way.

The irony is already delicious.

Dispatches From The Apocalypse (Well, Los Angeles During Coronavirus)…

Of all the places to sit out the Coronavirus Apocalypse, Los Angeles may be one of the better places. The weather should be reliably good by April. We’ll have some June gloom in May but that just means the marine layer takes a little longer to burn off in the morning than the rest of the year.

We’ve always been east siders, my wife and I. The furthest west I’ve ever lived in LA is West Hollywood (when I first arrived back in 1985). Starting in 1987, I began migrating east — to Hollywood… then Echo Park… then Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Glassell Park and now Highland Park.

By far, Highland Park’s the most “urban” LA neighborhood we’ve lived in. We can walk to a cool old movie theater (the Highland Theater), lots of great bars & restaurants (all or most of which, hopefully, will return when this nightmare ends), a large grocery store and lots of great mom & pop shops (hardware, florist, produce, bakery). We can even walk to the Gold Line (part of LA’s Metro). It’s kinda like living in an actual city.

Out walking today, it breaks my heart that so much is closed. A lot of those places might not make it to the other side of this.

I still bump a little on seeing people lined up outside a food store (in this case a little upscale produce store) — six feet apart, heading down the street (because only one or two people are allowed in to shop at a time). A few weeks from now, I bet, that will seem normal.

The corner store had lots of napkins today. They had no idea when they’d be seeing toilet paper or paper towels again.

Why, I’d like to know, when coronavirus suddenly reared its head — threatening a pandemic of respiratory failure, did so many people think first about wiping their asses?

People buying up all the tissue — that I get (though the hoarding is offensive). But ass-wipe? What up with that?

Our two kids are driving down from their colleges north of here. Lots of mixed feelings there — and that’s strange.

I look forward to seeing my kids of course. But I’m a little concerned about them coming here, too. They’re college kids who’ve both just been on large University of California campuses. I have no idea if they’ve followed any safe practices at all. I have no idea if they’re carrying coronavirus (they could be completely asymptomatic but spreading the virus) — and have no way to test them of course.

We now live in times where a kiss can kill. Literally.

Both LA’s mayor (Eric Garcetti) and California’s governor (Gavin Newsom) both put stay in place orders yesterday. There are loads of exceptions (for now). Food stores and pharmacies of course but also hardware stores and (like San Francisco) dispensaries — it doesn’t get more essential than having cannabis when the coronavirus is upon you.

How To Put This Nicely… “Hey, Everyone — Life As We Know It Just Changed COMPLETELY — For Real”

Think of how hard it was to convince the world that Donald Trump was elected POTUS because Russia interceded in our election on his behalf. Think of how hard it was just to get “serious people” to view any Russian involvement in Trump’s election as a possibility. Hell — there are STILL lots of “fair-minded people” who insist it’s impossible to change an election’s outcome EVEN IF TONS OF PROOF shouts that the outcome doesn’t actually reflect how We The People actually voted.

The idea of a treasonous POTUS is monstrous. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around. It’s too far outside our concept of “normal” for us to process it as possible. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

I bet an HOUR before the first plane hit the Twin Towers that most Americans would have said that wasn’t possible. I bet the residents of Pearl Harbor — as they slept soundly in their beds the morning of December 7, 1941 — would have said it was impossible for their Sunday to be ruined by a surprise attack by Japan.

And yet…

World War II changed the course of human events. One way or another, it touched every human life. This will do the same thing.

Countries don’t shut down out of ordinary fear. This isn’t a political conversation, it’s a biological one. As good as we’ve gotten at dealing with pathogens, pathogens still have it over us. Even the pathogens we have wiped out might not stay wiped out because anti-vaxxers connect dots that simply do not connect. Pathogens like polio and measles don’t give a shit why a human DOESN’T protect themselves from them. To a pathogen, we’re meat. They need us to be. Viruses, for instance, lacking DNA, use our cells like cheap-assed sex motels in order to reproduce.

If anti-vaxxers could SEE the pathogens, perhaps they’d feel differently. If all those young people refusing to “buy in” to the seriousness of Covid-19’s threat could themselves experience the virus’s worst effects (or watch a loved one struggle for breath, their lung function compromised by the virus), maybe THEN they’d get it. Live how we used to live and lots of us could not just die but suffer long-term effects that THEMSELVES change our lives going forwards.

Social distancing isn’t an affect. It’s the one tool in our collective belt to stop coronavirus from spreading. We can’t help ourselves in any meaningful way until we STOP the virus from infecting new people and vectoring off into the unknown. We can’t do that until we’re monitoring ourselves relentlessly just so we know who has it and who doesn’t. Being as that won’t happen any time soon, all that’s left to us is personal isolation.

This may be the hardest thing for Americans to adapt to — thinking of the group — though it’s there in our makeup. We need to put down the ludicrous notion of the “rugged individual”. He doesn’t really exist anyway. In a pandemic? He’s utterly useless. He alone can’t fix anything — and he never could. Chances are it’s HIS selfishness that’s helping spread the virus far and wide.

Unless you KNOW for a fact that you’re virus free, you need to assume that you’re infected and could infect others. We are obligated to each other to do everything possible to NOT infect each other — to NOT be the cause of them getting sick or worse.

Doing the right thing is easy when the choices are easy. Not abusing a puppy because it’s horribly wrong is an easy moral choice to make. Knowing your neighbor and friend is abusing a puppy — and someone needs to intercede — THAT’S when doing the right thing gets hard. And real.

The fact is we don’t know what happens next because no one’s been here before. We don’t know how much this will impact the world’s economy because the circumstances that got us here have never happened before. The Spanish Flu was bad but, in 1918, people still couldn’t travel around the world like they do now — spreading a pathogen far and wide without even knowing it. Kinda like what probably happened last night in Chicago’s O’Hare and Dallas’s Love Field when all those Americans returning from Europe (cos of possible coronavirus exposure) were subjected to hours of waiting in packed lines while waiting (after they’d got their bags) to be “screened” for coronavirus.

Stupid doesn’t get more stupid than that.

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/coronavirus-airport-screening-sunday/index.html

We will — in the coming weeks — look back on certain interactions that we used to take for granted (like shaking hands) with a start. Whoa — touching another person’s hand like that — never again! The longer the coronavirus endures, the longer a safer alternative to hand-shaking will have to set in and become the new norm.

We have no idea how long countries will be down. We don’t know if a summer reprieve will lead to an even more ferocious second wave in the fall (like the Spanish flu did). If our outcome is anything like Italy’s? There’s a huge shock coming our way.

The PTSD alone will cause us troubles.

The quicker we adapt and self-isolate when necessary while socially-distancing ourselves as “ordinary behavior”, the quicker we’ll all get our “ordinary lives back”. The truth is, we may never get our “ordinary lives” back.

The quicker we adapt to that fact, the better.

Looming Lessons From A Pandemic — Money Won’t Save You; Community However Will

It’s definitely premature to say “here’s what we’ve learned from living through a pandemic…”. But a few lessons are already crystal clear. They’ll only get crystal clearer.

For starters: in a real crisis — like a pandemic — the flow of accurate information is essential. Screw with that? You just made the pandemic exponentially worse. People can’t judge how best to protect themselves, their families and their communities when the information coming at them is bogus or worse. It’s like we’re all trapped inside a building that’s on fire. One exit leads to safety. The other doesn’t — and our current leaders keep insisting that 1) there’s no fire but 2) if there is, run to toward that “other” door — the one that leads AWAY from safety.

Government should not be some foreign, faceless nemesis. In essence, it’s US. We are our own government — that’s the whole point of democracy. It has been a deeply cynical right wing talking point that government is to blame for all our ills. No, actually, GREED is to blame for most of our ills. Ignorance, racism, bigotry and (especially) misogyny account for the rest.

As the coronavirus keeps proving to us, pathogens couldn’t care less how famous we are, how rich we are, how special we are. Viruses need human cells in order to reproduce. They use us like a cheap sex hotel — only to take over the whole hotel once they start having sex in it. Throwing money at it won’t stop it.

Ironically — community will stop it. Provided we keep our distance from our community for a while. But the point of the exercise is to keep the community safe — which means we have to acknowledge that our community is automatically more important than any one individual in it. That’s an important distinction to make — especially going forward.

The Pandemic of 2020 has brought the human world to a virtual stand-still. Our economies — tied together as they are — are about to experience something unprecedented. We’re about to become cash-starved as our incomes stop while our expenses don’t. To survive this — we’re going to have to look each other in the eye and say “people matter more than money does”.

Because Trump’s crony-capitalism has gutted so much of the government we built to protect us — or, at least, create a structured framework in which we can work — we’ll HAVE TO rely on ourselves to survive this. We won’t be able to do what China did — live in our homes like prison cells until we’re told we can go out again. It’s just not in our nature. But — as China is proving — it’s the only way to stop Kovid-19 from spreading.

And until we stop the coronavirus from spreading, we can’t do anything to stop it. Good thing China’s now offering test kits. We need em.

The other Big Lesson we should already be taking from Pandemic 2020 — a for-profit health “care” system will fail everyone using it. Because not everyone can afford to be in the system, a huge chunk of us are unhealthy. Pathogens fly past expensive walls. A pathogen that takes root in a homeless encampment on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles can take out whole blocks of rich Beverly Hills residents just like “that”.

We don’t, at present, have a health CARE system, we have a health INSURANCE system. Not the same thing. When anyone walks in the door, our system’s first question isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”

There’s a reason no other industrialized country does it our way: it’s stupid. It’s inhumane. And, in the face of a pandemic — it’s actually self-destructive.

Humans will see the Pandemic of 2020 as one of those epic events that took over the planet — like a world war. Ironically, the pandemic will have to share space with the OTHER epic event taking over our planet right now — the successful cyber war Russia has waged and still IS waging against America.

The reason the Pandemic of 2020 will be so extraordinarily terrible for the United States is because Donald Trump is president. And Donald Trump is president because Vladimir Putin MADE him president.

Just like in HG Wells’ “War Of The Worlds” — where a humble pathogen takes out the Martians that none of earth’s armies can put a dent in — a germ (okay — a virus) will take down the monster — in our case, Donald Trump. Covid-19 will do what the Truth could not.

Here’s a prediction — and it’s based on the lessons the Pandemic has already taught us — in the Pandemic’s aftermath, America will head to the left. Health care in America will come socialized — made a fact of life by the pandemic. To pay for that health care, Americans will have to rethink their taxes — how much they pay, yes, but more importantly, how much they GET for their taxes.

Social democracy is coming to America — riding on the back of the coronavirus. The rich won’t like it much — until they realize how, when all boats rise on the tide, theirs rises even higher. The rest of us? Well, our boats will be rising on the tide, right? That tide is our community. The one that’s always been there for us.

The one we’ll need to be there for us now.

Dear American News Media — The Way You Deal With A LIAR Is The Same Way You Deal With A DRUNK — You REFUSE To Argue With Em…

I stopped drinking alcohol about two years ago. I didn’t have to but the mood stabilizer I’m on gives alcohol a terrible aftertaste. It was an unexpected side effect — and, frankly, I’m grateful for it.

When I say I didn’t “have to” stop drinking, what I mean is, I didn’t stop because I perceived I had an alcohol problem. I did — I just didn’t perceive it. Ironically, alcohol (and my denial that I had a problem with it) contributed significantly to the depression that drove me to within literal inches of killing myself. Alcohol’s pretty powerful that way. It gives bullshit crazy power over you.

Not drinking, I’m cut out of a big part of what we think of as a “social life’. I go out with my wife and friends to bars or parties — where nearly everyone but me drinks. Over the course of an evening, conversation goes from crisp and sparkling to… well, a little less crisp. A lot less sparkling. The irony (there’s loads of irony) — when you’re drinking, you’re convinced that the alcohol is making everything crisper and more sparkling.

That’s alcohol lying to you.

Over this past weekend — just before California and Washington State and lots of other places started calling states of emergency because of the coronavirus — alcohol turned a casual conversation about masks into an argument that nearly ended a friendship.

A friend was talking to their college-going son about masks. He was relating how he’d told his son to run to CVS to buy masks.

“Don’t bother,” I said. They’re sold out. Everyone’s sold out. CVS, Target, Amazon… “And anyway,” I said, “The masks in question won’t do anything to stop the virus”.

That wasn’t the point to my friend — who was halfway through his third glass of wine. The point was his kid had anxiety issues and wearing the mask would help them.

I started to tell him that — just for clarity’s sake — the mask was only useful if you had the virus and wanted to minimize the chances of infecting others. BUT — this was the crux of my point — there were more PRO-ACTIVE things even someone feeling anxious could do…

I never got there. My drunk friend had grabbed onto “MASKS” with both hands and was not going to let go. For the next ten minutes, we argued about masks and the relative value of thinking you’re protected when, in fact, you are not. I pointed out that not telling his son the stone cold truth about masks could reverberate negatively when his son learned the truth — and also learned that he’d been lied to about the masks’ efficacy. By his dad.

My friend got louder because louder means more right when you’re drunk. That’s alcohol lying to the drinker again.

Alcohol convinces you that the emotion you’re feeling right that second is the most intense, most valid feeling you’ve ever experienced. That’s why people who’ve been drinking argue like obsessives. They can see their one point and literally nothing else. The truth is, they can’t even “see” their one point. They can repeat the point endlessly — their form of “arguing”, but they can’t actually articulate it.

When I caught myself pitching deeper into the rabbit hole, I bailed. I told my friend three times that I was not going to continue arguing with someone who’d had too much to drink. Like a cliched person who had too much to drink, my friend got all insulted about my calling out their drinking. They insisted — slurring their words — that they were not, in fact, slurring their words.

It got heated and then it ended. My friend said he didn’t want to talk about it any more — and maybe he didn’t want to talk about anything with me ever again.

That stung. But I knew one thing — and, the next morning, when my friend called to apologize, I brought it up immediately. The first thing he said as we started talking was “I think I’ve had too much to drink…”.

“I agree with you,” I told my friend. “You had too much to drink”. As far as I was concerned, nothing else happened after that. Nothing that mattered — not to me anyway. My friend needed to look closely at their drinking. That was my takeaway.

By the end of the day, my friend had come around. They were still pissed at me (no one likes to be called out for drinking too much; I know this from experience) but they didn’t drink that evening. The next morning, we talked it through. I wasn’t calling my friend an “alcoholic”. I was simply telling him that when he drank too much, it altered his personality in troubling ways. What he did about that was his deal, not mine.

And then my friend and I “kissed and made up”. It seemed ludicrous to let an argument begun while one of the two arguers was drinking to undo a good, solid friendship. Irony? Within 36 hours, it was common knowledge that wearing a mask would protect you from nothing. My friend’s whole reason for now questioning our friendship was blown up by a news cycle.

In the same way that it’s madness to chase an alcoholic’s argument down a rabbit hole, it’s equally mad to chase a liar’s argument. It’s hard to throw facts at something that has no basis in reality. Watching our news media chase Donald Trump down HIS rabbit holes is especially depressing. They’re so obviously bullshit, concocted on the fly in order to deal with the crisis of the moment. That’s a crisis of Trump’s own making.

To argue with bullshit & bullshitters is to give bullshit & bullshitter credence. “Okay,” you’re saying, “What if bullshit “WERE” true?

Problem is, bullshit is NEVER true. It’s a nonsensical question but — because you asked it — you gave credence to something that did not earn it or deserve it. You engaged with bullshit on its terms — and nothing good can ever come of that.

The time has come (it passed eons ago actually) to stop accepting a liar’s words as true first. No, liars should be told to back up everything they say — or it’s bullshit. The press needs to stop respecting a POTUS who has no respect for them, the office of the president, the rule of law, the Constitution — any of it. They need to refuse to accept anything he says without his providing receipts.

No receipts? YOU DON’T REPEAT IT. Who cares if “the president said it’? The president is a LIAR.

Imagine that first time journalists refused to engage with Trump’s lies. What if instead of repeating it verbatim they shook their heads and said “No. Not going to report that. It’s bullshit”? What if the White House Press Corps demanded truth from the White House — and if they don’t get it? THEY DON’T REPORT WHAT POTUS SAYS.

Trust me, CNN & MSNBC, Donald Trump needs YOU waaaaaaaaaay more than you need him. You just need to trust that fact — it’s true.

It’s time for all of sane Washington to hold an intervention for Trump & the whole GOP. Drinking and lying aren’t that far apart as vices go.

Just Like In HG Wells’ War Of The Worlds, A Pathogen Will Save OUR World — In Our Case, From TRUMP

If you don’t know HG Wells’ “War Of The Worlds”, here’s the thumbnail — Martians launch from their planet and aggressively take over Earth, easily throwing aside all the puny earthlings. What saves humanity’s bacon? Pathogens. The Martians’ bodies can’t handle the same pathogens our immune systems handle regularly.

Big bad monsters are brought down by teeny-tiny creatures.

Welcome to the Trump version.

Yesterday, Trump — to no one’s surprise — contradicted science and logic and truth because all those things predict that coronavirus will ripple across the world’s economy in unpredictable (but probably negative) ways and Trump needs a strong economy (that he pretends he created) to stand a chance at reelection.

The ONLY thing the pundit class can point to as a positive talking point is the “strong economy” (never mind who it’s strong for and who it’s NOT strong for) as proof that Trump is a normal candidate selling normal POTUS candidate things. What will Trump do when the halt to China’s supply chains brings everything it touches to a halt, too? That will happen. Magical thinking & bullshit pronouncements can’t stop it from NOT happening.

Maybe Trump thinks he can pass the blame to Mike Pence — because he gave Pence the title of “Fix The Coronavirus Guy” . It wouldn’t be above Trump to think he can spare himself the responsibility that’s rightfully his as he runs for re-election (the first IMPEACHED POTUS to ever do so). Of course, considering Mike Pence doesn’t believe smoking tobacco causes cancer and his refusal to deal with science caused an upsurge in AIDS in Indiana while Mike was governor there, giving him the job of “Fix The Disease” guy is like handing over disaster response leadership to the disaster itself.

Yeah, yeah — Trump’s said & tweeted stupid shit before and, yeah, Trump never paid a price for it (other than mockery on Twitter). But, aside from our military and asylum-seeking immigrants desperately in need of help, Trump’s tweets haven’t gotten anyone killed. When Americans start watching Trump spew bullshit and lies about coronavirus from their sick beds — those tweets WILL start to matter to Americans. Trump’s lies have impacted them personally. Physically. Memorably.

Every moment of Covid-19 induced misery will be like the biggest political ad imaginable. And not a one will be a pro-Trump ad.

Donald Trump — with the aid of his sycophants, surrogates & co-conspirators — has blown through our Democracy. He’s nearly blown it apart. The apprehension we all felt election night 2016 mirrors exactly the trepidation many of the earthling characters in Wells’ classic experience as they gaze on the mysterious pods that just landed from outer space.

Unlike in Wells’ story though, OUR news media has been slow to respond as the monsters emerged from their pods — revealing their true selves and purposes — and attacked us. In a sense, our press is the equivalent of the story’s military: our last line of defense. Just like in the book though, our defense was defenseless.

Good thing we have coronavirus to save us.