In A Negotiation, All The Power Lies In “No” As In “NO, Donald Trump, You AREN’T POTUS Anymore Cos We FIRED YOU

Democrats are, historically, poor negotiators because they’re too willing to compromise. They ache to use the word “yes”. Republicans, OTOH, are good negotiators — not because they’re good at negotiating (they’re not), but because there’s one word in their vocabulary that’s not in the Democrats’: “NO”. The Republicans are perfectly happy to say “no” and refuse to budge regardless of the pain it causes or even how it undercuts their own best interests. Republicans think they’re being Machiavellian. They’re not. They’re being assholes. It’s not the same thing.

Take Mitch McConnell. Is Mitch a great negotiator? No — he’s a guy good at saying “No.” It doesn’t make him a great negotiator because he gets what he wants while all the Democrats around him don’t — especially when you consider what Mitch wants and what the rest of America isn’t getting. We The People are the point of the exercise in self-government. Mitch is always negotiating against us — using our needs (and the urgency of those needs) as a tool. Again — in the context of a government of the people, by the people and for the people — that makes Mitch a pirate, not a deal-maker.

Donald Trump — also a terrible, terrible negotiator. Has anyone had more tells in the whole history of terrible negotiating?

Trump’s one reliable tool — the only tool on his belt: the word “no”. “No, America isn’t a democracy anymore”… “No, America isn’t going to be the greatest experiment in human self-government ever anymore”… “No, America isn’t going to be a place anybody except white, Christian, racist bigots wants to live in anymore”.

Or, to put it the way Trump’s used to hearing it: “Nyet”.

The news media definitely doesn’t understand the concept of saying “no”. That’s why Trump has all the power in his relationship with the press while they have literally none. Like a belligerent five year old who refuses to climb out of his car seat, Trump is holding us up while all we want to do is go back inside our house. Meanwhile, traffic behind us is backing up. Horns are blaring. Tempers and temperatures are spiking.

Now that Trump has no more cards to play — he will no longer be POTUS come none Eastern time January 20, 2021 — the only play left is to toss the cards in the air, rip them up as they land and then, on the way out of the room, turn over the whole card table. Trump has no choice but to take this train to the end of the line. The moment he stops being president, his legal troubles will begin in earnest. So too will legal issues begin to haunt every single Republican. See something, say something. See something, say nothing?

That’s the glaring issue facing the GOP: they’ve known since the get-go that Trump had an unnatural relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said so out loud during the 2016 Republican convention when he walked into a room of Republican muckety-mucks and said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Good citizenship would have demanded that someone in the room get the FBI on their cell phone to report what they just heard. No one did. Instead, as then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan put it, we “…keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

If Paul Ryan had been an honest man, if the Republicans had been an honest political party, no one in that meeting would have thought such a thing. But they aren’t so they didn’t. The Republicans surrendered the power in their relationship with Trump a long, long time ago.

The press did, too. They surrendered the power of “no” when they stopped asking Trump what he meant by “Mexicans are rapists”. Had the news media dug in its heels right then and there — and said “NO, WAIT!” and then refused to follow Trump (into “pussy grabbing”) — then THEY might have gained the power of “no”.

Americans need to learn this valuable lesson from the Republicans. Yes, we all want to and need to get along together. But compromising with the very people who have betrayed you is a fool’s errand. That’s why Republicans never do it. They may be ignorant, deranged and dangerous but they’re not fools.

We The People have got to stop negotiating with Trump — especially when it’s not even a genuine negotiation. It’s a hostage-taking which means we only ever wind up negotiating with ourselves. The last person we ever want to negotiate with is ourselves.

We don’t need to negotiate with Trump anymore. We fired him. By a lot. It’s over.

The correct answer therefore to literally anything Trump does or says about staying in power a second longer than necessary is “what are you even talking about, old man? NO”.

Remember this look on Moscow Mitch’s Treason Turtle face when the late Senator John McCain stuck a shiv in him when he thought he had Obamacare defeated?

That’s Mitch reacting in real time — with actual human emotions — to having the word “no” shoved down his throat. Let’s promise ourselves to make Mitch revisit that moment repeatedly throughout the rest of his treasonous life. Every time Mitch dreams of being a free man again? “NO, Mitch, NO.”

Trump loves saying “You’re fired” because it’s the ultimate “no”: “no, you don’t work here anymore”.

Hey, Don-Don, this is America speaking: “You’re fired. YOU DON’T WORK HERE ANYMORE”. Wow… saying “no” to Donald Trump could be habit forming. That’s a habit I’ll gladly take up.

Election 2020: Prediction Time

From the second Donald Trump first stole the presidency in 2016, the only remedy available to We The People was going to be We The People. Barack Obama pretty much told us that in his farewell speech. As we speak nearly 100 million Americans have voted already. Considering how apathetic most Americans are come election time? That’s not insignificant.

Maybe being at war has inspired us to take our most sacred right as citizens more seriously. On the one hand, there’s the cyber war that Russia launched against us. On the other, there’s the Culture War launched by the snowflakey right wing against the diverse rest of us. Seeing all those Americans lining up to vote gives me hope — and it’s proving Obama right.   

If I go back and look at things I prognosticated before Trump was elected (going back to Facebook posts and tweets and blog posts), I’ll admit: I was wrong about Trump.  I wasn’t wrong about what he would do, I was wrong about how completely he’d get away with what he was doing.

I was wrong about Trump lasting four years.  I did not see that.  I did not see him pulling us out of the Paris Accords or treating Kim Jong-Un like a brother.  I didn’t see him betraying the Kurds or opening vast tracts of the Arctic to pollution.

I figured, by the time he got around to that stuff?  He’d be gone.

I was wrong, you see, about the complicity of the people around him.  It never occurred to me that the entire Republican Party would close ranks around Trump entirely out of party loyalty — in the face of the fact that he is a clear and present danger.

That’s not ME talking, that’s David Laufman, Former chief of the Department of Justice’s National Security Division’s Counter Intel & Export Control Section (that’s how real and technical this guy is):

This is not an ordinary election between two competing political sides.  Victory by one side will result in a very different America from what will result — sorry, what could happen — should the other side claim and get to experience their victory.

In 2016, don’t forget, the majority of Americans voted against Trump but got Trump anyway!  It feels kinda… un-democratic.  In fact, it feels kinda suspect — especially considering as the majority — by a lot — voted for the diametric opposite of what we’re living through.

That’s the thing — while life may appear to go on should Trump “win”, that will only be on the surface.  And for some.  For others, life stopped going on the moment Trump “won” the first time.  For plenty of people, life began to stop.  Literally. 

Pandemics are not political.  Why is ours?  Oh, right… 

The problem is, Trump did not “win” the 2016 election.  We still need to deal with that fact; in fact, Trump’s illegitimacy is at the heart of the question we’re asking today — or the predictions we’re making.  

In one sense, every American presidency is like a four-year story cycle with that president as the story cycle’s hero.  If we like the story cycle (and the hero), we’ll put our money down for a sequel.  If we don’t, we’ll start a new story cycle with a new hero.

Some of us understood what the Donald Trump story cycle was really about from the get-go: corruption.  His “politics” have been all over the place because he’s not a political creature.  He’s a guy looking to make a deal and if being a Democrat in NYC makes dealmaking easier than Trump’s not just a Democrat, he’s the most passionate pro-abortion Democrat of all!  Trump’s not political.  He’s flat out cynical.  He thinks everyone else is as corrupt as he is.

If only Democrats were accusing the Trump admin of corruption, an argument could be made that the accusation was political in nature.  But, there’s the Lincoln Project.  And a growing list of other Republicans — politicians, public servants and military people — who have come out and openly stated that they are voting for Joe Biden as should you because Trump’s so corrupt.  This list is amazingly long!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Republicans_who_oppose_the_Donald_Trump_2020_presidential_campaign

When literally hundreds of important, knowledgeable people from Trump’s own political party openly speak of how dangerous he is to the republic itself, I’d say that deserves our attention.

This is not an ordinary election.  The choice isn’t between two variations on a theme.  It’s between two diametric opposites.  With very real consequences for either side when the other side wins.

Very, very real consequences will ensue.

The best indicator of future events is past events.  When humans consistently behave a certain way in the past, we can make an informed guess about their future behavior.  A person with a history of getting violent when triggered in the past will probably get violent when triggered in the future (unless he does something to stop it).  If we can’t assess future risk based on the past, we’re left to face the future blind.

It comes down to what we KNOW empirically based on the past.

Part of our problem with Donald Trump — and predicting what he’ll do — is that our idea of him is tainted by television.  An awful lot of Trump’s voters voted for him because they believe to this day that Trump IS the character he played on The Apprentice.  Except he’s not.  Trump the “master negotiator” and “great businessman” was an invention of Mark Burnett’s.  

Master negotiators and great businessmen don’t declare bankruptcy as many times as Trump has — and they don’t owe over a billion dollars — AS TRUMP DOES — a fact he does not deny!

Before I make my predictions, one story.  From the moment the Steele Dossier first came to life, everyone around Trump worked overtime to trash its credibility.  The news media never understood it in its proper context — it’s raw intelligence data.  

Let’s be clear: Steele’s work product has proven to be almost (not entirely) accurate.  There are still questions about it but the overwhelming majority of Steele’s observations and notes pan out or have since panned out.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-inside-story-of-christopher-steeles-trump-dossier

https://www.lawfareblog.com/steele-dossier-retrospective

First, you have to understand how the dossier came to be in order to understand what it is and why it’s important.

During the 2016 primaries, the owners of the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative newspaper, hired Fusion GPS to do oppo research work on Donald Trump.  The Beacon’s owners were Jeb Bush supporters and they wanted dirt on Trump.  

Fusion was a research firm co-created by Glenn Simpson, a journalist who’d written most recently for the Wall Street Journal (hardly a bastion of liberal idealism).  When hauled before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017 (the Republican-led committee was trying to undermine the dossier’s integrity), Simpson testified that, having gotten the assignment from the Free Beacon, the first thing Fusion did was its “due diligence”.

They got their hands on every piece of publicly available material about Trump.  They got newspaper clippings, books and magazine articles.  They watched every video they could find, every radio show interview he did.  They went to Amazon and actual book stores.  They even went to the public library so as to exhaustively find every piece of publicly available material — just so they’d have a STARTING PLACE on Trump to work from.

And their STARTING PLACE, Simpson testified, was the absolute certainty that Trump had used his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos to launder copious amounts of Russian mob money.  In order to answer that question (and other questions about Trump’s strange relationships over the years with shadowy Russians), Fusion sub-contracted out the work to Christopher Steele, former head of the MI6’s Russia desk (MI6 is Britain’s CIA).  Steele had the best contacts inside Russia bar none.

The dossier is simply Steele using his sources to provide a picture of all the intel currently floating around inside Russia about Trump — and his relationship with the country’s leaders.  And its criminals — since, really, Russia is run by criminals.  

Okay, okay — I’m getting there!

My predictions come loaded down with baggage — they’re informed by a lot of reading.  There are journalists and other informed writers of this story who’ve brought remarkable insight to how I see what’s happening here: Sarah Kendzior, Seth Abramson, Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace (Sarah Palin’s former handler!), Andrew Weissman, Mary Trump and Glenn Simpson himself (in Crime In Progress, his book about the Steele Dossier and Fusion’s own investigation of Trump).

Another thing I got wrong: like many people, I thought somewhere between Robert Mueller and the FBI, there was an ongoing counterintelligence investigation that was going to connect all the dots between Trump and Russia.  We learned recently however that assistant AG Rod Rosenstein, a Trump supplicant, told Team Mueller to stay in the Wikileaks lane.  They were under the impression that the FBI was handling the counterintel op.  But Rosenstein never told the FBI to pursue the counterintel op.  Deliberately.

In other words, the most important investigation into what happened behind the scenes in 2016 to explain the strange relationship between Team Trump and Russia never happened.  Those questions remain unanswered though they must be asked.

Let’s remember something: Donald Trump was impeached for cheating in the very election he’s running in.  And the thing he was impeached for was cheating in THIS election the same way he cheated in the last election.

That is my starting point.  This is not an election between two political ideologies.  

It is between right and wrong (let’s avoid good v evil, wink-wink).  

I’m not alone in thinking this.  The most prominent, forceful, brutally honest voice in the pre-election mix just might belong to THE LINCOLN PROJECT.

https://lincolnproject.us

The Lincoln Project is made up of Republicans (some now former Republicans) including George Conway (Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway’s HUSBAND!), Rick Wilson & Steve Schmidt — John McCain’s campaign manager.  These are serious Republicans.  Patriotic Americans. Good people.  Good people with whom people on the left disagree politically.  But we can all live with that because good people can argue amongst themselves and find compromises they all hate equally.  The stone cold truth is: the left needs the balance of the right as surely as the right needs the balance of the left.  Our success does indeed lie somewhere in the middle.  

To get there from where we are — swinging violently to the right against the majority’s will — to where we need to be — a more moderate “center” — requires more than just a jerk to the center.  That’s not what’s coming.  And a jerk to the far left is coming.  The Lincoln Project Team understand that.

This is from THEIR mission statement: “We do not undertake this task lightly nor from ideological preference. Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain. However, the priority for all patriotic Americans must be a shared fidelity to the Constitution and a commitment to defeat those candidates who have abandoned their constitutional oaths, regardless of party. Electing Democrats who support the Constitution over Republicans who do not is a worthy effort.”

Further, their web site states: “… sectionalism in the country and factionalism in government has led to ever uglier examples of how our political system is failing. President Donald Trump and those who sign onto Trumpism are a clear and present danger to the Constitution and our Republic. Only defeating so polarizing a character as Trump will allow the country to heal its political and psychological wounds and allow for a new, better path forward for all Americans.”

The have produced some breathtakingly brutal ads that point directly at their problem with Trump and Trumpism: it’s sheer immorality. 

An example:

https://lincolnproject.us/video/cruel

Remember as you watch — this is Republicans addressing what other Republicans have done.  They’re advising the undecided to vote for Joe Biden not for political reasons but for moral ones.

I repeat: though I have deep and profound issues with Trump politically, my deepest issue with him transcends politics completely.  My core issue with Donald Trump (as candidate and now as president) has always been with his total lack of moral character.  His sexism.  His constant houndogging outside his marriage.  His blatant racism.  His creepy sexuality toward his own daughter.  It almost doesn’t matter what the man’s politics are.  Even if I agreed with his politics, I’d object to him as a human being.  I am not alone in feeling this way.

I believe (based on copious receipts provided by good, competent, genuine journalists) that Trump and those around him knowingly committed multiple crimes in order to “win” election 2016.  One of the protections Trump is hiding behind is that DoJ rule that says you can’t indict a sitting president.  THAT is what Trump must avoid at all costs: being indicted.

That’s what every republican has to avoid — the legal consequences of their criminal actions up till now.

You have to have this in your mind when you turn to the future — and what will happen should Trump “win”.

MY PREDICTIONS

Trump won’t “win”.  He literally can’t.  He literally never did.  

The only way Trump “wins” this election is because he’s stolen it.  Again.  Trump has no intention of governing this country in the way it was designed to be governed.  He and his party are actively engaged in preventing other Americans from voting — because they don’t want those Americans to vote them out of office.

Sorry, that’s not how this country works.  Not THIS country, not yet.  

This desperation speaks to what will happen when We The People (not the Democrats or Joe Biden) throw Donald Trump and a huge swath of the Republican Party out of power.  People are coming out to vote who have never voted before.  Young people are voting as never EVER before — and they’re voting, most of them, in one direction: for something and against the other — because of what the other is and not because of its politics.

  1. Donald Trump will get blown out by the biggest margin ever.  More Americans will vote in this election than, perhaps in any other election ever. That’s for a reason: the overwhelming majority of Americans are done, done, DONE w Donald Trump and what he’s doing to America.
  2. IF Trump claims victory, it will be through manipulating the courts and the vote count.  As Trump himself has said OUT LOUD: the problem with letting too many Americans vote is it’s always bad for Republicans.  (“They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again” — that’s Trump during an appearance on Fox & Friends.) Again, Trump may claim victory but he will not have legitimately won.  He “got away with it” last time; he won’t this time.
  3. Joe Biden will win handily.  The Democrats will increase their lead in the House and they will flip the Senate.  Then, here is what (I predict) they will do
    1. The Democrats will increase the size of the Supreme Court — from 9 seats to 13 or 15 at a minimum in order to make the SCOTUS look more like We The People and less like just one segment of our population.  
    2. The Democrats will make Puerto Rico and Washington DC states — giving them two Senators each — helping to bring some balance back to the Senate and how it “represents” Americans and their interests.  
    3. The pandemic (as much as the Democrats) will make socialized medicine and universal basic income done deals. They’ll launch a massive infrastructure project even bigger than Roosevelt’s WPA — all in order to help get the economy out of the ditch it’s in — the ditch Trump and his coronavirus response put us and the economy in.
    4. As Joe Biden said, it won’t be up to him what “happens” to any Republican who might have behaved illegally over the last four years, it will be up to a newly rejuvenated Department of Justice — as per our Constitution and the rule of law.  If the rule of law dictates the Justice be visited upon all the Republicans now fallen from power then so be it.  They knowingly violated the rule of law which is what brought us here.  Behold The Day Of Judgment.

In neither case will life go on as it was.  

Life will go on but we are about to experience the kind of profound political and social change that followed the Black Death.  In the same way that bubonic plague ended feudalism, the coronavirus pandemic will undermine crony capitalism and usher in a more socialistic approach to life and governance.  

My big prediction? Change is coming!

NOTE: this post was also published at https://faitheismproject.com/.

In A Fight Against Evil — Like Now — You HAVE TO Take A Side

In a time as immoral as ours, moral choices matter. MSNBC is about to broadcast an interview with a “non-voter”. That’s a strange concept in an environment as morally clear as this one. Even if you don’t love Joe Biden, the other choice — Donald Trump — has taken the country to a moment of genuine existential peril. That is not hyperbole. The choice isn’t so much between two men as it is between two diametrically different directions for the country to go in. This isn’t between two variations of beige paint for the living room walls. It’s actual life and death. Who the hell is STILL having a tug-of-war in their heads about which one they’d prefer?

The non-committed voter is not being careful, they’re being indecisive. It’s not the same thing. Where a careful person is weighing the information, the indecisive person is weighing their own fear of being wrong. They have no moral convictions to guide them. Their compass reacts to how the group perceives them. The last thing on earth they want is to be unpopular. They need to be accepted and they’ll do ANYTHING to be accepted — like change their mind. Or make their mind your mind.

If being accepted means hating Black people or Jews (even if on the quiet), they’ll do it even if Blacks and Jews mean nothing to them. Even if they actually like Blacks and Jews. The undecided are utterly spineless. Utterly empty.

And yet MSNBC just made the case — by “yeah, but what if-ing” a “case” for the undecided: “Yeah, but what if the undecided are right and there isn’t a clear case between Biden and Trump?” Yeah, but what if there isn’t a clear case between Hitler and whoever is running against him? What if there isn’t a clear case between throwing children in cages or separating them from their parents forever and not doing those criminal things? What if there isn’t a clear case between protecting the nation from the pandemic and NOT doing it?

It’s not just a stupid question, in the current context, MSNBC, it’s offensive. And journalistically irresponsible.

It’s the kind of question a practitioner of “both sides do it” journalism would ask because that kind of journalism, steeped in cynicism (instead of skepticism), assumes the worst of everyone. It assumes that everyone does what they do for the exact same reasons. The thief and his victim, the murderer and the murdered, the rapist and his victim. In a both sides do it world, no one is truly innocent because everyone is guilty of something. We just don’t know what.

That’s how a Donald Trump can get away with literally everything — including rape, treason and murder. He says “Don’t blame me — blame the other guy!” — his version of both sides do it. The “both sides do it” press hears the dog whistle and falls right in line. “Yeah, but what if THIS TIME Trump’s telling the truth?” they think in their heads — and they give Trump the benefit of the doubt he long ago stopped deserving.

If America’s news media were capable of aggregating the Donald Trump story, he’d already be in a federal prison — along with his whole family and the entire Republican Party. Oh, we WILL get there. We absolutely will. It’s the only place this country can go if they ever want to get healed. First things first: wrongs must be undone as much as they can be. What Donald Trump and the Republicans have done — in order to hold onto power indefinitely — must be UNdone. Or changed completely.

The big irony of our story is that the RW Money, in their desperate attempt to establish a state of permanent minority rule, will have caused America to go the very socialized places they most feared. Socialized medicine. Socialized secondary education. Universal Basic Income. Higher taxes for the wealthy (heading back toward the 1950’s when America’s economy boomed) and a bigger, broader, more compassionate social safety net. The fact is, we have no choice. There are no conservative ways out of this. They simply do not exist.

The pandemic has driven one point home: it always starts with ONE PERSON. Patient Zero. We are all susceptible because one person can infect all humanity. Therefore we must be able to treat every single person inside our borders for our own collective good. If we charge them money for it, it may be an obstacle to them seeking the care they need and we need them to seek. It would be self-destructive therefore to charge money for something essential both to each individual and to us as a society. We can only ever be as healthy as the least healthy among us.

Freedom works the exact same way. We can only really be as free as the least free among us. Freedom can’t be “everything”. That’s how children think. Freedom in a free society is weighted — the individual vs the group. Too much freedom for any individual that infringes on the group’s freedom — say, to not get shot while going to school — cannot be. One person’s perceived freedom (to own all the guns they want and fire them at will) cannot cancel another person’s freedom to live securely within their own body. Something has to give. Guess who?

I hope that’s not a hard decision. If it is — and choosing between obvious good and obvious evil — challenges you, it just so happens MSNBC just did a segment about you.

You Are The Voice Inside Your Head

For Donald, even inside his head, it’s “outdoor voice” all the time.

What must the voice inside Donald Trump’s bloated orange head sound like? If the one driving US nuts is bad, the one driving Donald must be exponentially worse. I imagine it sounds even more like him than he does. And as undisciplined, erratic, illogical, hateful and disgusting as “Public Trump” is, “Trump Unbound” has got to be a whole other kind of hell none of us wants to be anywhere near.

Think of it: no one except you will ever get to hear what your inner voice sounds like. You can repeat what it says (as we do), but you can’t reproduce its voice outside your head. When you consider how much our inner voices are there, backing us up, putting words to our thoughts, that’s a big piece of us that we know but that no one else can ever know.

My inner voice is much nicer to me now than it used to be back when I was in the throes of a deep, dark depression. Back then, darkness poisoned my inner voice and convinced me that I deserved every rotten thing that was (at the time) happening to me. That’s the thing about our inner voices: they can and do lie to us.

Maybe Donald Trump’s problem is he’s broadcasting his inner voice more effectively than almost anyone else ever has. What shocks us almost daily is that, mental decline aside, this guy’s a stone cold racist. And a bigot. And a misogynist pig. And corrupt in myriad ways. And a traitor. And an asshole.

All those qualities, I’m dead certain, come through to Donald Trump loud and clear via his inner voice. They tell him: Donald, go be these things. Be them bigger and louder than even YOU think is appropriate. Then be them some more and be them bigger and worse.

Trump’s inner voice loves the sound of itself. It’s damned sure we all love it just as much.

And Trump trumpets that voice so we all can hear it.

Lucky us.

I Grew Up In The Shadow Of The Holocaust And I Feel That Shadow Growing

According to Donald Trump, “Jews” are a “nationality”. That’s not the first time a country’s leader has started down that road. Throughout most of Europe’s history, Jews were kept apart. In Venice, Italy, they put them on their own little islands and called that area — where the Jews lived — “ghetto”. That’s where the word comes from.

Historically, when people see Jews as a “nationality”, it doesn’t end well for us.

I was born in 1959, 14 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated then grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s in a Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Pikesville was so predominantly Jewish that “clever people” called it “Kikesville” instead. My public high school was so predominantly Jewish that even the non-Jewish kids took the Jewish holidays off — cos they knew NOTHING was happening in school those days since 90% of the students would be gone.

You might think growing up in a place so culturally Jewish would shield one from the Holocaust’s awfulness. You might think such an awful memory — so close in our rear view mirror — would have horrified my community into a stone cold refusal to discuss it.

We went completely in the other direction. I wouldn’t say we “embraced” the Holocaust so much as we “owned it”. The end of WWII — the end of the Holocaust — didn’t end anti-Semitism the same way the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t actually end slavery.

As my community tends to do, we turned what happened to us into a teachable moment. There were some essential lessons still to be learned. There’s a famous photo of a group of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw Ghetto by the occupying Nazis –

From the first time I saw the photo, I became that boy in the lower right. I bet a lot of Jews my age did.  We saw and felt that boy’s terror, his helplessness.  His confusion: how can they be doing this to you just because you were born Jewish?  You’ve done nothing wrong to anyone on the planet – yet the planet wants you dead. 

“Never Again” became as integral a part of my “religious education” as chanting the ‘Shema’.  The past hurt.  That was not going to be our future. 

In our guts, my community has always known this was lurking somewhere in the American Character. Turns out, the Nazis were admirers of how racists in America codified and amplified their racism. The Nazi’s method of industrialized murder found significant inspiration in America’s brand of Christo-fascism: slavery

You can’t cram peoples’ heads with tons of bullshit and not expect the bullshit to screw them up. Bullshit always screws people up – cos it’s bullshit. When you cram nonsensical, logic-free, hateful mythology into peoples’ heads, it screws them up. It’s worse when the logic-free, hateful mythology also runs counter to your religion’s core message (and its core messenger).

It sucks being despised because of a total fiction. It sucks worse being killed over it. But that’s what’s coming to America: death & destruction because bullshit.

In fact, “death & destruction because bullshit” is Trump’s entire re-election strategy.

And How Exactly DOES One “Compromise” With Evil?

Too much of the American news media still has it in their heads that “both sides do it”. Whatever rotten things Republicans do, plenty of reporters, before they get to the rotten things, will remind their audience that it’s not just Republicans who do this rotten thing, “both sides do it”. Got proof?

Do both sides work tirelessly to suppress the other sides voters? No, actually, only one side does that.

Did both sides visit Russia on July 4, 2018 as 8 Republicans did, inexplicably spending America’s Independence Day not with their families but with Russians — for no apparent reason that no one’s ever explained?

Do both sides put children in cages?

Do both sides stand with racists and bigots and misogynists?

Do both sides politicize the wearing of masks?

Do both sides stand by Donald Trump regardless of the clear and evident danger he presents?

Do both sides openly ignore the rule of law & the Constitution? Do both sides happily pour our tax dollars into the pockets of their rich friends while regular Americans spend hours in line at food banks?

Take the current fracas over unemployment benefits to all the Americans who’ve been crushed economically by the pandemic and by our government’s thieving, contradictory, inept & flat out corrupt response to it. Democrats want to maintain the $600/week most Americans receiving that money are now relying on to pay their bills. Republicans wanted to knock it down to $200/week.

Trump, in his executive “whatever’s” signed last night at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ to a room of cheering, maskless golf buddies (well, maskless before the press complained), wanted to give everyone $400. Looks like a compromise, right?

It’s not. A person who needs $600 to pay their bills needs $600. Every bill not paid remains unpaid — and the pressure to pay it mounts.

The Republicans scream that paying people more in unemployment than their unemployment pays disincentivizes them to go back to work. That’s the slave master screaming about his slaves not wanting to be slaves. The fact that $600 means so much to so many people isn’t about people being lazy, it’s about people being horribly underpaid. What Republicans are really afraid of — and they should be — is the lab experiment America is now conducting about economics and reality.

Americans are getting a first hand look at how Universal Basic Income (UBI) works. Unlike a bank, when sustenance income lands in the pockets of a regular person, they spend it. They buy groceries or pay their electric bill. They pay for their kids’ braces or ballet classes. They pay to fix the car or repair the leaking roof. The thing regular people don’t do with UBI? They don’t bank it like banks do.

They don’t hoard it. They use the money and that, in turn, cash flows the economy from the bottom up. Because other regular people are getting paid — their jobs are supported by all that UBI — they pay their taxes and use their money to pay other people for goods and services. UBI is dynamic. UBI — paid at the federal level because only the federal government can do this — is how America will finally get the coronavirus pandemic under control. We need to incentivize people to stay home without fearing they’ll end up homeless.

In a non-pandemic environment, UBI allows people to wait for employment that suits them, suits their skill sets, suits their needs. It makes for happier people, more productive people. Wealthier people. Everywhere they’ve experimented with UBI or systems like it, it has succeeded.

Why would one oppose such a thing? Usually, it’s greed. Greed plus ignorance — especially after one gets to eyewitness all UBI’s obvious benefits. As we now know — also from experience — greed + ignorance = evil. Greed + ignorance also equals authoritarianism. That means authoritarianism = evil. No one with half a brain disputes that the Republican Party has gone full authoritarian.

So — when the yakking heads at CNN & MSNBC get Democrats on their air to interview them about things like the economic support packages the Democrats are pushing vs the packages the Republicans are pushing, those “journalists” go right to the politics of it. They “both sides do it” an argument about regular Americans putting food on their tables. They equate Democrats wanting to maintain the $600/week Americans need with the $200/week the Republicans wanted in the deal as if these were two sides to two legitimate arguments.

Except they’re not. The $600 is a legitimate attempt to deal with real people having real problems.

The $200 (and even the $400) aren’t trying to address anything. They’re just numbers being thrown down on the table as part of a negotiation — AWAY FROM what struggling Americans need and toward what would cause them greater hardship. Never mind the fact that the money in question? IT BELONGS TO THOSE AMERICANS. It does not belong to the politicians trying to withhold it.

What kind of compromise do these reporters have in mind? If THEY needed that money to pay THEIR families, would they feel so “you should compromise because compromise is good”? Would they be cool with looking their children in the eyes to explain that they’re going hungry tonight because “both sides do it”? Would THEY be down with compromising — especially when they know they’re not compromising with a legitimate argument but with a specious, corrupt, cynical attempt to stiff them?

Of course they wouldn’t.

So, why do they think We The People should compromise with evil?

Once we scrub our body politic clean of Republicans and Republicanism, we’ll need to turn our focus on the news media. They have failed us spectacularly. Worse, most of them still don’t see it or acknowledge it. They’re like addicts who still refuse to acknowledge their addiction.

No worries. We’ll throw an intervention.

When they try to make us compromise? We’ll say no.

It’s Time To Admit It — Europeans & European Culture Are BULLIES

There are protests now all over the world in support of Black Lives Matter and their mission to end police violence. That’s remarkable if you think about it. Three months ago, Black Lives Matter couldn’t, um, “get arrested”.

What’s even more remarkable? The protests happening outside America aren’t just protesting what happened to George Floyd and everyone who looks like him, they’re protesting their own contributions to the flourishing of racism across the planet.

In Bristol, England, a statue of slaver Edward Colston was torn from its place and pitched into Bristol Harbor. Colston (1636 – 1721) was, by the standards of his time, a great man. He was a merchant and Tory member of Parliament. He got wealthy (per Wikipedia) “initially trading in wine, fruits and cloth, mainly in Spain, Portugal and other European ports.” When he started trading in slaves — after 1680 — as Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company (the English company that held the monopoly on the English trade in African slaves) — that’s when Colston got rich.

But, Colston also was charitable. He (again, per Wikipedia) was also “a philanthropist, donating money to charitable causes which supported those who shared his political and religious views.” Most of those people lived in Bristol. I wonder if any of the slaves Colston bought and sold ever felt touched by Colston’s charity… The people of Bristol on the other hand felt so touched that they put up a statue of Colston after he died. They put it in a very prominent place — right there by the Bristol Harbor.

The kicker to the story is, someone clever moved the statue’s location on Goggle Maps from where it had been on their map to where it now lies — at the bottom of Bristol Harbor.

In Antwerp Belgium, Black Lives Matter protesters (most of the Belgian, I assume because of the lockdown) tore down a statue of Belgian King Leopold II. Leo was notorious as a colonizer for brutalizing the Congo. The city authorities of Antwerp got a jump on the protesters. They took down Leo’s statues before anyone even asked them to.

As we know from European history, the Europeans have always been incredibly competitive with each other. Though they’ve shared the same continent for a thousand years (and before that as all the scrubby little tribes that “became” French people and Italians and Spaniards), most European countries don’t get on that well with their neighbors.

The English have always hated the French. The French have hated the English and everyone else. The Swiss don’t hate anyone — they just don’t want to get involved. The Italians are only a country because we say they are; they’re really a reluctant grouping of Italian tribes who want nothing to do with each other. Jared Diamond in his brilliant Guns, Germs & Steel postulates that Europeans held an advantage over everyone else because Europe had, under it, the material needed for humans to expand successfully beyond their borders: steel.

Steel allowed Europe to industrialize first. And weaponize. Chinese explorer Zheng He set sail to expand China’s view of the world almost 100 years before Columbus did. He sailed ships that, legend had it, would have dwarfed Columbus’ scurvy little armada. He (per Wikipedia) “commanded expeditionary treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433.

He visited other cultures without dominating them. Without attacking them. Without bullying them.

Chris Columbus? To be fair, Columbus didn’t know he was carrying pathogens more lethal to the people of the New World than any weapon he possessed. Had he have known, he could have saved the brutality — though I bet that wasn’t a bug of European exploration, it was a feature.

Bad enough Europeans brought their germs, guns and steel to the New World (and everywhere else they went exploring). Worse, they brought the faith they’d all taken up — conflicted as they were as to which version was the “true” version. The Europeans didn’t let the supposed core message of their church — “Do Unto Others” — dissuade them from doing unto others what they absolutely did not want being done unto them: massacres.

Europeans massacred native peoples mostly for greed. But also they murdered them because the locals didn’t want to accept the Europeans’ ooga-booga. They had their own ooga-booga, thanks — and it had served them just fine. They didn’t need the Europeans and their hack job on “being good”.

Hey, I grew up Jewish. I know what it’s like to have (European) Christians insist their faith is the superior faith and if you don’t go along, their imaginary friend will beat the living shit out of my imaginary friend. I’ve had those conversations.

Europeans bully because they believe they are divinely entitled to do so. They think their faith — screwy and hostile as it is — is superior to any other faith and that the culture that flowed from their faith — Western Culture — is superior to any other culture. But European Culture started from a false premise — that its faith was “the true faith” and that everything they did was ordained by God himself.

The more intense monotheistic faith gets, the more monotheists seem to think they hear and grasp the word of God. They believe they understand what most others do not. That’s incredibly dangerous because the “God” they’re thinking about exists solely inside their head. There’s a lot of transference that happens there. The ideas of the deity become fused with the self — since the self understands and hears and obeys the deity.

The more intensely some people believe in God, the more likely they are to think they are God. Maybe not out loud. Maybe not even to themselves. But if you think you have a “personal relationship” with the deity who created everything? That’s not coming from him, it’s coming from you. YOU think you have that relationship. Unless you can provide emails or texts — you are alone in this relationship.

When Donald Trump shoved those peaceful protesters out of his way so he could get to a church he wasn’t invited to, he demonstrated every aspect of European bullying live on TV. He lied about why he was doing it. He lied about how he was doing it. He lied about who he was doing it for.

And then — the icing on the bully cake — HE got all bent out of shape when everyone called him on it.

The best way to deal with a bully is to say “No!” to him. “No, you may not bully me”. Bullies hate that — as the fascists among the Europeans always prove. But “No” is the only way. No is all bullies understand.

But they do understand it. It’s time for the Euro-bullies to get their damned knee off of everyone else’s neck.

I’m Pretty Sure Republicans Don’t Grasp Yet How Incredibly Angry America Is At Them, But They Will…

Donald Trump trailing toilet paper as he boards Air Force One. Could the symbolism be any clearer?

Trump’s the poster boy for people incapable of self-reflection. “I alone can fix it” is his own personal testament to the depths of his narcissism. Silly us — we misunderstood what Trump meant by “fix it”.

The Democratic Party is guilty of helping to maintain institutional racism. The GOP on the other hand is guilty of the full spectrum of racism.

Let’s not forget how we got here. Fearing demographic extinction (a shrinking pool of Christian, white male voters vs a growing pool of everyone else), the RW money (the Kochs & Mercers among others) initiated a deliberate attempt to seize political power from the majority and invest it PERMANENTLY in the minority. Though Donald Trump was not the RW Money’s vehicle of choice, the simple fact was Russia had compromised so much of the Republican Party that the money simply threw in with Trump — figuring they’d deal with him later.

Except later never came — and was never going to. The RW Money had learned to hold its nose and ignore all the things they hated about Trump because tax cuts and gutted regulations and crony capitalism run amok. Literally everything Trump has done has benefited himself or his criminal circle and made life harder for every other American including those who support Trump.

We will learn — take this to the bank — that Election 2016 was neither free nor fair. We will learn that the proprietary polling data that Paul Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik did, in fact, impact the outcomes of the elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan & Wisconsin. We will learn that cyber attacks did occur on machines in those states. We will learn that if not for cheating in myriad ways (both with Russia and without), Donald Trump would not be president today.

We sorta kinda knew this election night 2016. That feeling in our gut wasn’t just the agony of defeat. It was something “animal”. Something that knew we’d just been buried neck deep in bullshit. Trump has consistently worried about his legitimacy. He’s not a complicated man that way. When he worries about shit — out loud? It’s because he’s “legitimately” worried — as he is about his legitimacy.

He’s not worried “about” his legitimacy, remember, he’s worried about us finding out he’s not legitimate. It’s a subtle difference but important.

I’m the survivor of a sexual assault when I was 14. The survivor of two assaults actually — by the same man. My sense of “feeling violated” is cranked a little higher consequently. My sense of feeling violated is screaming at me. It’s screamed at me since Trump “won”. The man who assaulted me did it while we were doing something else. He continued to assault me WHILE WE DID SOMETHING ELSE — and we carried on doing that other thing as if the assault wasn’t happening.

14 year old me didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t wrap my 14 year old mind around the juxtaposition of religions education with sexual assault. So I pretended the sexual assault wasn’t happening — and then continued to pretend it didn’t happen for 45 years. But it did happen — and it did kick the shit out of me psychologically regardless of whether or not I admitted it. The assault quietly drove me to the brink of suicide. For real.

I had turned the anger I should have felt toward the man who assaulted me on myself. And then I got healthy. Well, healthier…

I see America going through the exact same process. Our anger goes way, way back. We deserve to be angry at ourselves for allowing slavery to remain acceptable after we became a country where “All men are created equal”. Injustice never goes away. It festers and metastasizes. The anger exploding across America now is the anger we deserve.

But, lets remind ourselves. Both sides don’t do it. Democrats are already making legislative moves to structurally change America in ways that will address those injustices directly. Republicans meanwhile (we haven’t seen their plan as of this moment but we can pretty well guess) will do everything to appear concerned while clearly maintaining the status quo.

What the Republican Party has done and is doing to America is abominable. Their naked racism has blown past the point where everyday Americans can tolerate the institutional racism that feeds the naked racism. But it isn’t just racism at play. Underneath it all is a foundation of greed. The Republicans grabbed for power because they’re greedy.

Having attended more than a few protests where no more than a handful of people showed up, we really did wonder if there even was a point where things got bad enough that everyone else would join us. I’m glad to see there was a point. It sucks that George Floyd had to pay for our reluctance with his life. It sucks that every victim of racist police violence had to pay because we were too comfortable in our privilege to take to the streets and demand that it stop right now.

But America has taken to the streets. Young Americans especially. If they show up at the polls on election day with the same zeal, we might get out of this okay. But, in the meantime, their anger at the world being handed them will suffice. Their anger is our anger. Perhaps it was time we got this angry and this committed to doing something about it beyond just flapping our jaws.

The Republican Party seized America by soft force in 2016. They got away with a coup d’etat that denied the Will of The People. They’ve done things since then that are the diametric opposite of what we voted for. They’ve stripped away rules and norms and ways of doing things that we had no problems with. They’ve put in place conservative lifetime judges that don’t even pass the law business’s smell test (never mind ours). They’ve put their money on using our volunteer military to suppress us into silence.

Good thing the military told them “No!”

Former prosecutor Glenn Kirshner advocates for holding every Republican accountable and i absolutely agree. He advocates also that we look at every single judge that Mitch McConnell fast tracked down our throats. Plenty of them were unqualified. Plenty perjured themselves too during their hearings. That means they’re impeachable. If the Rule Of Law really becomes a thing again? It will insist that we impeach these criminals.

It will insist that we investigate, prosecute, convict & punish them too. Not for any sort of political reason — but because they egregiously violated the Rule Of Law.

Americans are, by and large, fair. We like fairness. Our favorite movies are all about it. And yet, we tolerate unfairness with shocking regularity. Good thing we’re adaptable.

Republicans simply do not grasp just how intensely angry Americans are at them. We’re so forgiving that we forgave Richard Nixon FFS. But you have to “come to Jesus” first. You can’t restore to grace someone who thinks they never fell from it.

But you can get angry as hell at them.

In A Way, The Rule Of Law Is “Do Unto Others” With Teeth

The genius of our Constitution for all its failings — and it’s got some serious failings (it gave all the political power to white men and we’re still dealing with slavery ffs) — is its establishment of the Rule Of Law as its organizing principle. The bottom line for law-making isn’t the whim of some Donald-Trump-like king, it’s a mutually agreed-upon set of rules that go to great lengths to spell out what we can — and cannot — do to each other.

Put another way, the Rule Of Law describes what we can and cannot “do unto each other”.

Do something unto your neighbor that you legally shouldn’t (like, say, murder her?) — the Law will do unto you. The Law — striving for fairness (and wanting to give each of us the chance to do the right thing) — doesn’t look to see what’s in our hearts unless we violate the Rule Of Law. And then it wants to know “why?”

In asking “why” we broke the Rule Of Law, the Law wants to prescribe a cure — not just for the crime itself but for the motivation. Did you kill someone deliberately or accidentally? That’s an important distinction. And if you killed someone deliberately, was violating their rights part of your goal — because violating someone else’s rights is as bad as stealing from their house. You took something of theirs that was theirs. In other words — killing someone is one crime and killing them because of who they are — a thing they have the right to be — is another crime.

You didn’t just kill them, you killed their right to be them.

The overwhelming majority of us want the Rule Of Law standing between us. Our problem isn’t with the Rule Of Law after all, it’s with its unequal application. Like integrity, the Rule Of Law is an all or nothing proposition. You can walk around with 99% of your integrity intact, but eventually that 1% will catch up to you. It won’t say 1%. Corruption grows with coronavirus ferocity. Just like a virus, corruption reproduces inside of us; it needs to infect our cells so completely that we spew its darkness, infecting others.

And a lot of that infection goes on undetected. It’s the most dangerous part of the iceberg, lurking under the surface.

The majority of us want others to do unto us as we do unto them. We want to be treated fairly because we want everyone to be treated fairly and we want everyone to be treated fairly because we want to be treated fairly.

As I often say here, devout atheist though I am, I consider myself a big Fan Of Jesus. He is not the church that Paul built out of the idea of Jesus — the idea of Jesus as Messiah as opposed to Jesus as Teacher with a simple but profound message (Do Unto Others). Even a simple atheist like myself can manage to Do Unto Others without hurting ourselves — or compromising ourselves.

The moral outrage we all feel now like our skin was on fire is our “Do Unto Other” way of thinking colliding with hypocrisy. The people clutching onto power have always preached “Do Unto Others” without every practicing it themselves. Actually, they practice their own perverse offshoot — “Do unto others before they can do unto you”.

One place where the Rule Of Law differs slightly with Jesus is in its approach to “turning the other cheek”. The Rule Of Law says that if someone violated the Rule Of Law at your expense, you don’t have to turn the other cheek. You don’t get to seek revenge on them but you do get to instruct them — by pointing out in great detail what they did wrong — what that will cost them in time and heartache and financial loss — and how they might get better (so as not to do it again). Being human, we haven’t gotten everything about the Rule Of Law right.

As we know — we still haven’t gotten anywehre close to applying it equally.

But, as Jesus would have us do — we strive to be better. No one — Jesus included — ever said doing unto others was easy.

We’re ALL Greedy In One Way Or Another; Our Obligation — Keep “Our” Greed In Check

[NOTE: This blog post is being shared with our sister site “The Faitheism Project“]

Not everyone is greedy for money.  Some people are greedy for love and couldn’t care less about money.

Some of us are greedy for credit.  We’ll take ownership of work and labor that we did not do.

Some are greedy for other peoples’ joy.  They can’t bear to see any one else experiencing pleasure when they’re not.

Some people are greedy for power.

We still live in the shadow of the movie “Wall Street”‘s Gordon Gekko.  “Greed is good”.  Funny thing, for a while there, America believed him.  The Republican Party still does.   I won’t get political here; that’s what my “How To Live Bullshit Free Blog” is all about.  But greed is the bottom line in America right now.  We now know that the Trump Administration made a “trade deal” with China that 1) lets them off the hook for covering up the fact that the coronavirus was achieving pandemic status inside China (that virus broke into humans is a whole other question), 2) gives Trump much more favorable terms on the rents the Chinese pay him in his various real estate ventures (this is so corrupt it’s breath-taking!), 3) gives Trump leverage on the giant balloon payment he personally owes the Chinese shortly (our foreign policy is based on who Trump owes money to!) and 4) had Trump sending all our PPE’s to CHINA in February & March — while OUR front line health care workers begged for them AND DIED because they DIDN’T have them.

Greed is literally lethal.

And we’re all guilty of it — in one way or another.  The trick is — most of us learn how to keep our greed (whatever it’s for) in check.  At least, we keep it in check enough so that our loved ones don’t strangle us.  Still — it’s our obligation.  And it starts with recognizing that we’re “guilty as charged”.

Greed, at its root, is a survival strategy.  If you don’t know what tomorrow brings and you may never eat again — that whole woolly mammoth carcass is staying right here, pal!  But we know, most of us, where our next meal is coming from.  Those at the top have the least cause to be greedy.  And yet — they always seem to be the greediest.

Our coronavirus pandemic experience will change us profoundly.  There’s no way around it.  The only way out, going forward, is “progressive” in nature.  America will have to become more socialized.  As we now know — it only takes ONE sick individual to infect the whole world.  And if no one knows that it’s happening — because the sick person can’t afford health care?  We’re off to the pandemic races again.

And — don’t forget — the damage we’ve already done to the environment via climate change will itself introduce pathogens into the human environment that humans have never encountered — those pathogens having been frozen into the permaforst for tens of millions of years.  It will be like Jurassic Park — except the prehistoric creatures rampaging will be microscopic and the place they’ll be raging through will be our bodies.   We need to plan for pandemics being a “way of life”.  That flat out demands a socialized medical system.

America, right now, doesn’t have a health CARE system.  We have a health INSURANCE system.  It’s not the same thing.  When anyone walks in the door, needing help, our first question isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?”  That’s because we have profit incentive at the heart of our “health care system” and profit incentive & health care are mutually exclusive propositions.  There are reasons no other civilized country has profit incentive in its health care system.  Covid-19 is the reason.

The reason WE still have profit incentive in our health care system?

Let’s all say it together: GREED.