Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave When We’re A Corrupt Treason Turtle

I bet Mitch McConnell woke up this morning in his turtle enclosure feeling on top of the world — just like his hero Yertl.

But, just as Yertl ended up in the mud, so too will Mitch and all his grand plans come to nothing. Well, the grand plans weren’t Mitch’s. Mitch McConnell doesn’t do grand plans. He’s a functionary. A politician working for Big Money Interests. The Big Money has the grand plans — an unfair world where they all get richer while the rest of us fall further behind, our debt growing, our health failing. Mitch is their bitch. His job — manifest these terrible grand plans in reality.

That’s why Mitch worked so hard to deny Barack Obama all those federal bench openings. It’s why Mitch denied Obama so much as a hearing for Merrick Garland. Mitch was in the middle of pleasing his masters — of hijacking the judiciary on the sly. Here’s the thing: the popular vote reflects the majority’s voice. Barack Obama was the majority’s voice and choice — to fill every judicial vacancy during his tenure. Our voice and choice was denied us by Mitch McConnell — for the benefit of his masters. That is not hyperbole.

And this is not how our democracy is supposed to work. Not according to the rules or the rule of law.

In addition to destroying the judiciary, Mitch also has destroyed the Senate. Anyone suggesting the Democrats aren’t showing enough comity toward their Republican co-workers needs to shut up. Comity will be reserved for whatever party replaces the Republicans. No one who calls himself “A Republican” can do so without also being a Trumpist. Trumpism & Republicanism are now equal in every way.

Mitch has operated in the shadows for most of his career. He’s about to end his career in the spotlight. That is, his corruption is.

The Democrats are about to retake the Senate. What was a likelihood before is now a dead certainty. RBG’s passing — even without all the additional political baggage — would have moved people to action. It would have motivated tens of millions of women at the very least. Now it’s a question of Legacy. And reproductive rights. And basic health.

What happened in 2018 — that massive blue “wave” — wasn’t a wave. It was the leading edge of a much larger wave. The Trump years have torn every last bit of cover off our various failings. Remember — we didn’t vote for this, this was forced on us. Donald Trump — with massive Russian assistance — stole the outcome of election 2016. Together they stole our intention — what WE wanted this country to do for our benefit and in our name. Their aim is to make that theft permanent.

Their problem: America’s women aren’t down with and aren’t going to be. Ever. That’s Mitch McConnell’s biggest miscalculation of all.

Mitch, when he’s done, will have finished the hard work of turning America’s women into the most potent, dynamic, unstoppable political force in America. He’ll be shocked by how socialist they are by nature. Of course women are more “socialist” — they care above all about their babies and they KNOW from pure experience that it DOES take a “village” to raise a child — of family members and community members and teachers and mentors and coaches and friends. The healthier and happier that village is, the healthier and happier their babies will be.

Women — and I’m generalizing, but biology does impact us in particular ways — think communally — and seek the group’s wisdom before making a decision while men think they alone can fix it. If we look at the current world leaders and how they’ve handled the pandemic, the women — Angela Merkle in Germany, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand — did especially well in both protecting their people but also protecting their economies.

I’ll go further onto this limb. Merkle and Ardern’s success relative to Trump’s stems in large part from their political and personal strengths and skills but also, to a measurable degree, from their chromosomes. They have a little more empathy baked into their genetics. That radiates in the form of humanity — and then policy.

America truly stands on the precipice. We will go one way or the other. There’s no middle route.

Either Mitch McConnell will see the rot he introduced succeed or Mitch will fail spectacularly with dire, terrible consequences for every single Republican legislator who had the least inkling what Mitch was up to. Keep in mind — Mitch is a traitor. That’s not hyperbole either. He’s taken gobs of Russian money into his campaign coffers (though legally via his PAC but not-so-legally with added perspective), denied We The People the knowledge that Russia was fixing the 2016 election for Trump, canned the sanctions Obama implemented BECAUSE of that election interference and TO THIS DAY has refused to spend a penny on election security.

Mitch McConnell is one of the biggest traitors in all American history. And THAT isn’t hyperbole.

Like Yertl, Mitch will end badly. Mud will seem like caviar to Mitch. Russian caviar.

It’s important — vitally important — that we not only punish Mitch McConnell for what he’s done but that we punish him to the very fullest extent the rule of law allows. We need to make an example out of Mitch for all time. We need to send the lesson that, perhaps, would have been sent had we punished Richard Nixon instead of pardoning him — abuse of power (especially at the executive level) is wholly unacceptable.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, listens during a news conference after a weekly GOP luncheon meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. McConnell said he’s delaying the Senate’s August recess by two weeks after divided lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to revise health-care legislation he proposed to replace Obamacare. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Mitch is already the architect of his own downfall. We owe it to Mitch to see those plans carried out all the way.

Scrunch Or Fold: How You Wipe Your Ass Is Who You Are

Back (about 25 years ago) when my good friend Johnny used to do stand-up, he had a great bit where he’d ask his audience if they scrunched up the toilet paper or folded it neatly before wiping. His point — how you wiped your ass said a “shitload” about who you were.

It was a hilarious bit. I’ve started to wonder suddenly if my friend Johnny wasn’t on to something.

Personally, I’m a fold guy. Scrunching the paper is too much of a “crap shoot” if you know what I mean. I won’t go into the details of “how” I fold — some secrets must die with me — but I know this: Johnny’s right. Me folding my TP — and the way I do it — reflects my inner psychology perfectly.

Being a storyteller, I need craft order out of chaos. Scrunched TP is chaos. Worse, it’s chaos in a place where I really don’t want chaos. There’s a “dark side of the moon” quality to this part of one’s toilet habits. A touch of blind guys trying to make sense of an elephant.

Beginning, middle, end. That’s how my mind works. The thought of all that formless, undisciplined, unscrunched paper horrifies me. I want to look into the eyes of scrunchers and ask what they’re thinking. Surely they don’t think they’re being more efficient! Is it that they trust their hands to “see” what to avoid or do they just not care?

I want to know that they wash their hands even more thoroughly.

I bet Donald Trump scrunches. In fact, I’m certain of it. A mind as disorganized and chaotic as his couldn’t possibly fold. It requires too much attention to detail. Hell, it requires too much attention from a guy who’s never paid any to anything.

The current state of America reflects (what I’d call) a scruncher’s touch.

We’ve wasted a ton of paper but there’s still shit everywhere — not just in and around our ass but all over our hands now and the toilet and the walls. The whole house is caked in shit in fact. Donald’s gonna be right for once — it will take multiple flushes to make this mess go away.

We don’t need to know whether Joe Biden folds or scrunches. But, I bet we’ll be able to make a good, educated guess based on how he governs.

Just So We’re Clear — America Doesn’t HAVE TO Go Along With What A Bunch Of Treasonous Thieves Want Us To Do

By “Treasonous Thieves”, of course, I mean Republicans. Republicans are treasonous — because they conspired with Russia to undermine the integrity of an American election — a thing Russia was doing as an act of Cyber War.

Cyber War is war. Undeclared war is war. Undeclared Cyber War is no different from sitting in Pearl Harbor the moments before the Japanese fleet arrives to surprise attack us. Just because we don’t know war has started doesn’t mean it hasn’t started. Quick note to selves: it always sucks to be the last to know you’re at war.

Thieves. Republicans are also thieves. Treason was the tool they used to steal the true 2016 election result from We The People. It wasn’t just Hillary Clinton who got cheated of the result she won, We The People got cheated too. We got cheated of the policies Clinton would have executed that would have been the diametric opposite of what Trump has done. We got cheated of hundreds of lifetime judicial appointments — reflecting OUR values. That’s THE MAJORITY’S values, not the values of the shrinking white, Christian male minority.

Being the survivor of two sexual assaults when I was 14, I’m kinda hyper sensitive to rapey behavior. I’ve come to realize — now that I’ve put what happened to me into its proper perspective — that rapey people are rapey in everything they do. It’s subtle sometimes, not-very-subtle otherwise. Yet we either look past it or, strangely, don’t recognize it for what it is. Donald Trump, for example, behaves like a rapist in literally everything he does. Everything is about exerting his will upon others. That’s how rapists think and operate.

Well, we don’t have to go along with it. In my mind’s eye, I now turn on the man who sexually assaulted me. I put two hands firmly in his chest and I shove him backwards. I explain to him — simply, directly — that will not be happening. I will not be his victim.

Had I been empowered then, I would not have put up with his shit. Well, I am empowered now — and I’m not putting up with Donald Trump’s shit.

You cannot violate the rule of law to become president. You can’t violate the rule of law to become or do anything. I know: Trump and the republicans don’t give a shit about the rule of law. Doesn’t matter. And it’s beside the point.

WE care about the rule of law. It’s important that we recognize it has always been in effect. That fact’s going to be important for what comes next.

Not only do we NOT have to accept what Donald Trump and the GOP are doing to us now, we don’t have to accept what they did to us in the past. Meaning: we don’t have to accept its legitimacy. We don’t have to accept the intended outcome — because that outcome was achieved ILLEGALLY. See how that works?

We The People did not make Trump president. Russia did. Russia and a criminal Republican cabal that was operating well outside the rule of law.

As we just learned — Rod Rosenstein personally kept We The People from INVESTIGATING what Donald Trump had done to become POTUS. You can’t get much more outside the rule of law than that. First you violate the rule of law, then you do everything you can from preventing us from learning that you violated the rule of law. And all at the service of a hostile foreign power.

Wow. Just wow.

I have no intention of going along with this. You?

Helsinki, July 16, 2018 — Trump sides with Russia over the FBI on the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Sins Of The Father

I’m only about halfway through Mary Trump’s fascinating analysis of her stunningly dysfunctional family. She pulls no punches: if her uncle Donald Trump wins a second term, she writes, “It would be the end of American democracy”.

I absolutely believe her. Not only does Mary Trump bring an insider’s knowledge of the Trump family, she bring a trained clinical psychologist’s eye to the subject too. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a good writer, too, with a good eye for telling detail.

In her preface, Ms. Trump quotes a line from the 1984 movie version of Frankenstein which hewed more closely to Mary Shelley’s original. The Monster is filled with both passion and rage. If he cannot be loved to his liking, he’ll make up the difference in rage. That’s Donald Trump, says his niece. But the monster does not make itself. Someone else does that. In Trump’s case, it was his father Fred who truly birthed this bloated orange beast.

Imagine — America is teetering on the brink of catastrophe because Fred Trump was a shitty father. But that seems to be the case. Fred Trump’s terrible parenting skills — which went along with his greed, ignorance, lack of empathy, corruption, racism and cruelty — created the monster that is Donald Trump.

This is not to apologize for Donald Trump, but to explain why he is how he is. Our news media keeps asking the same dunderheaded question: WHY does Donald Trump behave this way. They seem to think it’s just how he “is”. But no one just “is”. We’re all a product of forces mostly beyond our control. Especially while in childhood.

It’s incumbent on us to punish Donald Trump to the fullest extent the law allows — and for EVERYTHING he’s done that violates the law. Same goes for everyone in Trump’s family. They’re all co-conspirators (in addition to being members of a crime family). The entire GOP are also co-conspirators — how can they not be? These pirates aren’t hewing to Trump entirely out of brand loyalty. They’re hewing to Trump because they’re guilty of all the same crimes and face the exact same legal jeopardy.

The majority of us did not vote for Donald Trump. We definitely didn’t vote for Fred Trump — yet that’s who we’re really dealing with here. The sins of the father have been visited upon us.

A (Minor) Celebration Of My Native Tongue: “Baltimorese”

I wasn’t born in Baltimore, Maryland, but I grew up there. Back in the 60’s, it was a lot less cosmopolitan than it is now (not that it’s “cosmopolitan” now). It wore its blue collar a lot more prominently then. Racism has always been alive and well in crab town.

I remember when Randy Newman wrote his song “Baltimore”.

“Beat up little seagull on a marble stair… Man, it’s hard — just to live”. Baltimore got upset…

We shouldn’t have. Randy Newman was being kind to the city.

Something about me and Baltimore never quite got along. There was nothing wrong with growing up in Crab Town. There was nothing especially right with it either — except maybe the crabs. For whatever reason, I could not wait to get away from Baltimore. I went to school in New York. Lived there for a while before heading west to LA — my home for 35 years.

I would have run further from Baltimore but I ran out of real estate.

Baltimoreans speak a particularly distinctive patois (you can hear examples of Baltimorese at the link). Watch most any John Waters movie and you’ll hear it — especially his more raw early work (“Pink Flamingos” or “Female Trouble”) with his original all Baltimore casts (Divine, Edith Massey, David Lochary). That mushy-mouthed approximation of English? That’s Baltimorese.

I was going through some old files the other day and found this “Fairly Compleat Lexicon of Baltimorese.

Now, please excuse me while I go “downy ocean” to eat some urshters with a nass, cold Natty Bo.

Donald Trump Has Never Been Legitimate POTUS Which Means NOTHING HE’S DONE Is Legitimate Either

I don’t know about you, but I look forward to the Rule Of Law’s return. It won’t sit well with any Republicans — they won’t even recognize it.

But it’s returning and when it’s back in its rightful place — we’re going to treat it like the jewel that it is. The first thing the Rule Of Law will do, once it’s back in force, is obligate us to actually DO something about the Trump years other than just feel grateful that they’re over.

Moving on — without prosecuting or punishing the Republican Party for what it did — would be disastrous. Showing mercy will only start the clock running on the Republicans doing it all over again. Roger Stone, don’t forget, is a Nixonite. If, instead of pardoning Nixon, Gerald Ford had screwed him to the wall — punishing him good and hard for his criminal behavior — guys like Roger Stone wouldn’t be so smug now about finishing what Nixon started.

The whole point of the exercise for the Republicans was to undermine the Rule Of Law — which they’ve done. Our first action upon taking power back from these pirates can’t be to forgive their piracy. We need to make the whole idea of being a pirate unacceptable.

The Rule Of Law doesn’t equivocate — if you cheat in order to become POTUS, it means your campaign behaved illegally. You did not actually win.

If this was one of Trump’s stupid beauty pageants (putting aside that they’re rigged), if one of the contestants, say, slept with or compromised all the judges (or both even) then blackmailed them all into voting for her, her “win” would not be accepted as legitimate — once everyone was allowed to say what they knew. Not only would the title of “Beauty Queen” get taken away, so would all the privileges that went along with being queen.

If, say, the Beauty Queen was given a key card with access to the Beauty Pageant offices, they’d take that away from her. She didn’t actually earn the access.

If she got a tiara? It’s gone. If she got money? It’s going back. Nothing that came with the office will stay — because it’s not hers and never was.

Good thing beauty queens don’t get to nominate lifetime judges to the federal bench. They’d all have to go back too.

Take Russia out of the 2016 equation and Donald Trump is not president. He doesn’t even run — and if he does? It ends quickly. The Republican Party may have hated Trump — they hate him still — but they made a deeply cynical choice when they decided to go with Trump — despite what they knew about him and his relationship with Russia.

And they KNEW. Current GOP Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy to a roomful of GOP muckety-mucks DURING the 2016 Republican national convention: “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

The correct answer would have been “What? Kevin — are you SURE about this? Putin’s paying TWO of our guys including the one we’re running for President? Someone – quick – call the FBI!” Instead, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) “…immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.”

The piece continues: “Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: ‘No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.’ The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.”

They’re a family all right — without an ounce of legitimacy to them.

You know how in football if a team runs a kickoff all the way back for a TD — but there was a penalty along the way? The TD comes off the scoreboard. The whole runback gets treated as if it never happened. The only thing it did was take time off the clock.

We, too, have lost considerable time. But every bit of Trump’s & the GOP’s “score” needs to come back. The points must come off the board and there must be penalties.

A Democratic blow out will put the White House, more of the House and the Senate in Democrat’s hands. But when those Democrats take their oaths of office, they need to be crystal clear — forgiveness and mercy are off the table. The Rule Of Law must be allowed to do what it does. We will try every single Republican fairly — and it must be every single Republican because we need to know: did THEY know what Trump was doing? When did they know? How much did they know? Why didn’t they say anything?

If they even suspected something was amiss — WHY DIDN’T THEY SAY ANYTHING?

Co-conspiracy will take out pretty much the entire GOP. There’s no other option if the Rule Of Law is functioning. If we do try to show the Republicans mercy, we’ll immediately undermine the Rule Of Law all over again.

That means everything Trump did comes back. E V E R Y T H I N G .

In particular, the judges. Those that perjured themselves during their hearings will immediately be impeached for having committed perjury. The others — we’ll argue over for a while — can we really undo what a sitting POTUS did?

That’s when we’ll need to remind ourselves: he was never actually POTUS. He was the guy who stole the keys to the POTUS-MOBILE then took our country for a joy ride that ended in a catastrophic collision.

If we don’t toss everything Trump did — despite its evident illegality & illegitimacy — we will start the clock running on “Slavery: The Sequel”. Not outlawing the ownership of human beings at our founding haunts us to this day. Allowing a criminal to keep any of what he and his co-conspirators deliberately took from us would have the exact same outcome.

It will haunt us forever.

Will Covid-19 Be The End Of Feature Films & Movie Theaters?

I’ve been writing & producing feature films & TV shows for 35 years. Boy, has this business changed. And then changed again.

In 1985, when I arrived in Los Angeles from the East Coast, the feature business and the TV business were strangers to each other. One did not cross over freely from one to the other. If one went from TV to features — that was you graduating to “stardom”. If you went from features to TV — that was you dying a slow death.

Back then there were 3 major TV networks and Fox — more still a novelty as a network than an actual network. There was cable TV and a smattering of satellite.

Cable was the low rent district of TV. If you couldn’t sell your idea to ABC or CBS or NBC (or Fox), you went the syndication route that distributed shows to mostly independent stations that played your show at two a.m. sandwiched between bleak reruns and even bleaker ads.

There was also HBO and a newish rival called Showtime. HBO was slowly evolving away from being purely a premium movie channel. Their big hit show at the time was called “Dream On“. It was an okay situation comedy chock full of TV references and occasional nudity.

That was it. That was the landscape. The goal — become the next William Goldman (who wrote one of the best screenplays ever “Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid” in addition to “The Princess Bride“, the screenplays for “All The President’s Men” and “Misery“. TV was not in any way on my radar.

Why would it be? In feature films, you could do anything. Write anything. Use whatever language you felt your characters and story needed to speak. If one was lucky enough to score a feature deal (either with a studio or an independent producer with development cash), you’d get notes. But you wouldn’t ever have to deal with a Standards & Practices department. You’d never get lawyers telling you to change things in your script on the off chance that you might get sued.

HBO was the first game changer. They became a must-have premium service when they transitioned into a content provider. One of the shows that convinced HBO to keep-a-going down that road was Tales From The Crypt — which I took over and co-ran from its third season onward. Tales ambitiously pursued feature film talent — and got some pretty big names to bite: Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Tom Hanks, Kirk Douglass, Dan Ackroyd, Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig among other. Tales helped change Hollywood’s perception of TV as a place where big named talent simply couldn’t go.

The Sopranos” closed the deal.

David Chase took his mob show to every network — and everyone said no. Their problem? Who could sympathize with a mobster? How could a traditional “bad guy” be our hero? How could an audience like a guy who cheats on his wife, steals things and murders people in cold blood?

And how could a gangster have emotional problems?

HBO had both nothing to lose and everything to gain from being both open-minded and ambitious. They weren’t throwing their money at crap. But they weren’t bound by traditional TV’s traditional way of thinking either.

I worked for HBO for 5 years on Crypt. I got a total of three script notes the whole time. That’s across almost 50 episodes! You can’t imagine what that kind of creative freedom is like. Creative executives who let you be creative is rarer than you realize. At least it used to be.

Plenty of other shows on other outlets moved the ball forward.

Meanwhile, at the majors, CBS was solidifying its reputation as a network for senior citizens. Fox rose on the success of a reality show — “American Idol” but also a bit more edge: “The X-Files” and “Married With Children“. To their credit, they were pushing the envelope. But they were still handing creative people notes from Standards & Practices.

I sold a pilot to Fox — a cool show called “Fear Itself” about a group of researchers tasked with investigating why certain peoples’ worst fears were being manifested out in reality (example — an arachnophobe’s heightened fear of spiders was manifesting their nightmarish, over-sized spiders into reality where they were killing and terrorizing people). The plug got pulled however when the network head at the time (a guy named Peter Roth) feared our show would step on a show that Chris Carter (he created “X Files“) was developing for them. That’s the biz.

Game Of Thrones” finished the transformation in the public’s mind. TV was no longer the ugly duckling. Netflix made TV a Golden Goose.

Like HBO, Netflix realized that the money was in providing content, not being a glorified movie rental house. And, because Netflix had no schedule, they released their shows in their entirety. Whole seasons that their audience could binge on. The whole world changed its TV viewing habits.

Something else happened that was important. Order sizes changed.

Back before HBO and then Netflix changed the business model for TV shows, the entire financial structure was based on getting a show into syndication. Syndication was both second life for a show and (as with “Seinfeld” and “Friends“) perpetual life. Syndication worked via a 13 week schedule that “stripped” a show (broadcast it at the same time every day) during the regular week. The math’s simple: 5 episodes a week times 13 weeks equals sixty-five episodes.

“65” was the magic number. A show idea had to have at least 65 possible episodes in it to be financially viable and therefore worth pursuing. Another important facet of stripping a show — the audience must be able to drop in and drop out without feeling like they have no idea what’s going on. That means each episode must be “closed-ended”. No “continued’s”. No serialized storytelling.

American series producers went all in for the 65-episodes or bust model. The BBC, for comparison’s sake, never did. That’s not to say that the Beeb didn’t follow that model when they had a show that could fit the mold but it wasn’t their guiding principle. That’s why they only made a handful of episodes of great shows like “Fawlty Towers“. They were taking them as far as the creators thought they’d go — not to the bank regardless of how empty the idea had become.

The network model was orders of 22 episodes and up. For a while, Showtime was in the “firm 22’s business”. When I co-executive produced “The Outer Limits“, we had an amazing amount of job security. Showtime had ordered TWO 22-episode seasons. It wasn’t quite like working for IBM one’s whole career but it felt great knowing one had a job after a season finished.

And while some shows were serialized of course, closed-ended storytelling was the norm until Netflix and its full-season release concept pretty much killed it dead. From a creative standpoint, it’s the difference between writing short stories vs writing novels. A self contained episode is a short story (same as a feature film). A series (now) is a novel — sprawling and dense and expansive as it wants to be. As dark and compelling as it wants to be too.

Breaking Bad” was another game changer because it broke the rule of who a TV “hero” could be.

Look at the story of Walter White. It’s epic yet intimate. It’s scope yet exquisite detail. That’s what having “time” to tell a story does for a storyteller.

These days, the norm is anywhere from eight to twelve episodes though ten’s pretty standard. If the show’s roughly 30 minutes, that’s a five hour story we’re telling (broken up into 10 chapters). If it’s an hour — that’s a ten hour feature to plot out and write. That’s a lot of stretching out a story gets to do.

To judge by the world’s reaction, they love it. Amazon, Hulu,

Features meanwhile have stagnated creatively. They’re are an expensive risk even under the best of circumstances and movie studios are nothing if not risk averse. The sad fact is, big movie studios don’t know how to do little movies. In the early 90’s, Miramax was putting the studios to shame at Oscar time. The studios hated that (even though they had no idea how to make the kind of movies Miramax made) and bought up the little independents thinking they could simply put out arty movies under a more respected banner they owned.

But the studios — being risk averse — couldn’t keep their hands off the independent studios they’d just bought. Like network Standards & Practices censors, they immediately inhibited every bit of creativity — then wondered why there was so little creativity on the pages they were given. Within a few years, the little independents like Miramax were toast.

The studios threw in with the only thing they know how to make: spectacle and super hero movies. How many times has Warner Bros remade Superman & Batman so far?

If we took Marvel off the table, would there even be a movie business at present?

When Covid-19 closed the movie theaters, it drove a stake into the exhibition business’s failing heart. Netflix had already experimented with releasing its own features (like the Coen Brothers The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” both on its platform and in limited theatrical release so it could still be Oscar-worthy). While other studios were forced to push back releasing the latest James Bond movie or the latest Batman movie, Netflix released its new Will Ferrell comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga” straight onto its platform — at no additional charge to its subscribers.

These days, even Meryl Streep will do TV shows. That’s like God coming to your house to hang out just because. Television has continued to mine subjects and characters it never dreamed of before. Think “Fleabag” or “Killing Eve” or even “Mrs. America” with its deep dive into the history of modern American feminism.

I admit to being biased against superhero movies. I can’t bear their sameness.

The thought of writing a feature is unappealing these days. What would be the point, really? Aren’t there already more than enough lost causes?

Aside from producing spectacle bigger than a home theater set up could create, there’s not much business left for the movie business. They gave up on intimate storytelling at least a decade ago. Intimate storytelling is finally giving up on it.

We’ll miss movie theaters — for the spectacle of course but also for the group experience. Comedy especially works better in a big house filled with people laughing uproariously. I learned that the first time I ever saw a Marx Brothers movie in a theater (as opposed to on my little TV). I’ve been a Groucho fan since the first time I saw “Horse Feathers” at 14. One of the local TV stations in Baltimore — WJZ — played classic comedy films between 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm every weekday back in the 1970’s (boy, have things changed!)

I knew “Horse Feathers” and “Duck Soup” and “Monkey Business” and “A Night At The Opera” and “A Day At The Races” were funny movies. I didn’t get how funny until I saw “Duck Soup” at college (for the umpteenth time) albeit with a big audience that howled with genuine delight from start to finish.

Yeah, comedy plays better with a big audience. But it plays well to a smaller, quieter audience too.

It’s going to be a while before movie theaters open and stay open. They’ll need to be “staying open” before any of the studios go to the trouble and expense of distributing product to them. The stone cold reality is, we don’t know when that will be.

There was time, believe it or not, when movie makers were certain that talkies would never succeed.

My hero William Goldman nailed it in his wonderful book “Adventures In The Screen Trade“. When it comes to making the best possible decisions, it’s simply a lost cause because “nobody knows anything”.

We’re living that dynamic every day now — not just the movie business but America. “Nobody knows anything”.

I bet the movie version will be good. The TV version will be better.

So, What If — In This Transformational Moment — We “Could” Get It Right? What Would “Getting It Right” Look Like?

America’s dirtiest secret is out: we have never lived up to the ideals on which our country was founded. In part, that’s because the European men who founded America couldn’t themselves live up to the ideals. Some compromises should never be made. After all, how can you compromise with evil? What’s the outcome — semi-evil?

We “compromised” with slavery. But slavery never compromised with us. Evil never does.

Another compromise at the start — women were not granted equal rights. I guess the founders were being literal by “All MEN are created equal”.

Getting great ideas to the finish line in one piece is tough. And, democracy, as we’ve learned, has a lot of “sausage-making” to it. That’s compromise for you. And that’s making compromises with ideas that deserve to be compromised with. They’re not evil like, say, slavery.

We’ve now come face to face with our most original sin — the racism that compromises all men being created equal. Equal people cannot own each other.

But it’s not just racism that’s bedeviled us. Greed has had a go at us too. Greed and racism rut like demonic weasels. Here in America it’s produced a value system that’s completely ass backwards. We pay social influencers a ton while paying teachers so little that some have to take second jobs to pay their bills.

We think a high school “education” is so essential that we automatically pay for it. But try to add four more years — where we begin to refine those minds so as to make them genuinely useful? Suddenly it’s “socialism”. I guess it’s just a coincidence that — to pay for that part of our childrens’ educations — we’ve set up a whole for-profit business of lending kids money to pay for those educations. Corporate socialism is okey-dokey, as always. That’s greed talking.

Blue sky here. We don’t need to sledgehammer our system, we need to re-focus it — away from “me” and toward “we”.

That means we need to completely and forever disabuse ourselves of the notion that any one person can fix anything by themselves. To fix anything — or raise a child — it DOES take a village. And that village needs to be well-funded and well-organized. We want everyone to be the best and most individual “they” that they can be. But never, ever at the expense of the “we”. No “me” can ever have more weight before the law than any other “me” or the whole collection of “me’s” that produce “we”.

We need to win every argument with me. If we start from there, it’s almost assured that we’ll get it right because our focus and framing will be correct. Part of my blue sky here takes into consideration the fact that more and more women (and women of color) are pouring into American politics. If there’s any salvation to be had — that’s where it will come from. It would not be a terrible thing if just about every white male got out of politics for an election cycle or two.

We would do the following things: we would value education and educators over just about anyone and anything.

We would value health CARE over health INSURANCE (they are not the same thing).

We would teach our young people not how to memorize (so as to pass tests) but how to think analytically. We’d teach them how to write and express themselves articulately. We would teach them how to communicate — both directly and honestly. We would teach them to be respectful of everyone.

We would teach them how America works and that freedom is not “free” — it comes with huge responsibilities and obligations. Voting, for example.

We would give every single child the same benefits and advantages, the same access to health care and opportunity. We need to be almost maniacal about this — getting every kid the same chances. America has a remarkable brain trust that no other nation has because no other country is the product of every other country on earth creating it, in essence.

America isn’t a perfect melting pot. Parts of the pot never get the same heat as other parts do. And the different elements don’t melt together into a homogenized end product of indeterminate origin. America and Americans are a hybrid. Nothing like us has ever existed before.

That really should be our goal — to recognize 1) that America IS exceptional though 2) not for the reasons we’ve told ourselves but 3) now that we understand what makes us exceptional, we intend to do everything we can to nurture every last drop of our exceptionalism.

If we can pull that off, the sky’s the limit.

How Did “Do Unto Others” Become “Do What We Say”?

Ya know the game “telephone”? A person whispers something into the next person’s ear — who then whispers what they heard into the next person’s ear and so on until we get to the last person. Usually, the original message gets wildly corrupted into total gibberish which makes everyone laugh when they hear it — especially the first person. Their simple message has been turned into something totally unrecognizable.

Jesus would totally get how they feel.

“Do unto others”.

That was Jesus’s simple message. It’s actually one of the core messages of Judaism. Jews are obligated to fix the world. Not through proselytizing others — conversion really isn’t a thing for Jews and never has been — but through moral acts. Act morally toward others and, one hopes, they will act morally toward you. Act kindly, respectfully, helpfully, lovingly…

Nowhere in there is judgment. Jesus didn’t say “Do unto others — or else” or “Do unto others — the way I tell you to”. He didn’t even teach how to speak to Yahweh. He just taught his followers that they could speak to him directly; they didn’t need a temple or its corrupt priests to speak to Yahweh on their behalf. Also pretty simple.

So, how did it get so freakin’ complicated where — in order to speak to this supposedly loving god — you, first, have to subjugate yourself? How did “Do unto others” become a complicated story of a man-god born of a virgin who was put here to die for everyone’s sins? Where is THAT in “Do unto others”?

The problem is Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. The bulk of the NT is made up of Paul’s communications with the burgeoning Christian communities forming across the Roman world. Paul didn’t know Jesus. Never met him. And, since Jews weren’t buying Paul’s version of Jesus (and his message), Paul took his message to the gentiles — all the communities he was writing to.

Paul was selling a way to beat death: believe in the story I’m telling you and you can, like Jesus, rise from the dead albeit in the afterlife where you’ll get to live happily ever after with everyone you loved. Sounds perfect! Who wouldn’t want that, right? Never mind that it’s nonsense. Never mind that it’s got nothing to do with Jesus, his message or even any sort of Jewish message. It’s pure invention — and genius. But it’s invention all the same.

There’s a gigantic difference between spirituality — how one relates to things larger than oneself — and religion — the codification of ritual designed (in theory) to help one realize one’s spirituality. It’s literally the opposite of what Jesus taught. That’s what made Jesus so radical — he taught reject the institutionalization of your spiritual quest, not dive deeper into the ooga-booga.

Paul, don’t forget, was relating a messiah story as the basis for how one was going to beat death. The messiah, the story says, was prophesied. It’s all “foretold” so there’s no point resisting it. If Jesus was the messiah, he needed to fit the prophesy to a “t” — even if the real Jesus didn’t. For Paul, the real, historical, “Do Unto Others” Jesus became both inconvenient and irrelevant.

And, so, Paul (and the church he was inventing) ditched Jesus. They kept his name (well, they kept the name they’d assigned him; Jesus’s real name was some version of Joshua ben Joseph per the culture’s nomenclature not “Jesus” which meant “savior”. Paul was pitching his evolving mythology to gentiles — unfamiliar with original texts he was talking about. Paul could twist what the texts said or meant into anything he wanted — no one was going to contradict him in the gentile world.

Jesus and “Do Unto Others” became mascots — early but clever marketing that had very little to do with the actual product being sold. Because “Do Unto Others” was too, too simple a message, the early church invented “original sin” to justify Jesus’s dying in their storytelling.

Quick — if Jesus’s purpose in being born to begin with was to die for every human being’s sins going back to Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, then why is it a problem (from a storytelling point of view) for Judas to betray him? If Judas doesn’t betray Jesus and Jesus lives on, dying peacefully in his bed, an old man, doesn’t that screw up Jesus dying for humanity’s sins? Either Jesus is put here for a purpose (like the prophesy says) or he’s not. You can’t have it both ways.

Unless you’re making it up, in which case you can say whatever you want. Like believe what I’m telling you or die.

The history of the Catholic church especially may be the most un-Jesus-like story imaginable. The various Protestant churches haven’t done unto others any better.

But then, churches are all about self-preservation. They have to be. Churches are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. It takes money and to keep the money flowing to it, every church needs members — the more the better. And to make sure the church members donate regularly and adequately, it’s important to make them understand their choices. Give or die. Belong to the church or die. Follow the church’s rules — or die.

“Do what we say — or die”.

Jesus had the uber-religious pegged. If Jesus were to rise from the dead and come a second time, he wouldn’t last long. Take this to the bank: the churches would lead the charge to arrest Jesus, charge him with some sort of crime and put him to death — because his message is so dangerous.

Some things never change.

The Majority Of Us Did Not Vote For Trump Or What He’s Doing. So, How Come He’s Doing It Anyway?

It’s strange to live in a democracy (well, a democratic republic) where the majority does not get its way. Apparently by design.

It’s kind of hard for a democracy to continue being a democracy when too few of its citizens take part in the very process that makes a democracy work: voting. The whole point is “self-government”. We do the work.

As I’ve argued here before, too many Americans (on the right) have a 5 year old’s notion of freedom. They think freedom means “You’re not the boss of me”. Everyone can do what they like. Since freedom comes with zero responsibilities or obligations, it doesn’t matter if your “freedom” infringes or obliterates somebody else’s. So long as your freedom “wins”? Who cares?

For starters, those whose freedoms are being infringed upon or ignored. They care.

But then, right-wing people only ever think of their own freedom when they think of that word. Everyone else’s freedom is secondary at best.

That includes their freedom to vote.

At its core, this election, this fight — it is about freedom: the group’s freedom over the individual’s freedom (to undermine the group’s freedom).

That’s what racism is — it’s the racist asserting that their rights supersede their victims’ rights. If their victims’ rights were automatically respected, the racist would lose instantly — because we’d “baked in” our intolerance of racism. But we’ve done the opposite — and baked in our tolerance of racism.

Racism exists because we let it exist — no other reason.

That changed. Americans are taking to the streets every single day to protest racism and all the terrible thing it’s done to specific people. But, also we’re protesting the fact that We The People tolerated it for so long. We allowed statues of racists and traitors to go up. We allowed them to remain in place. We accepted their “messaging” — that some peoples rights are better than other peoples’.

The times in my life when I’ve been proud to be an American had everything to do with accomplishments (the moon landing) and nothing to do with our “system”. I’ve been taught that our system is superior — with the words “freedom” and “liberty” being liberally tossed in — but never specifically “why” we were better.

I don’t know when Americans lost interest in our process or if we ever had any interest in it. Maybe the problem is democracy’s damned hard to pull off. You can’t ever take it for granted. You can’t just throw money at it.

Hmmmmm… maybe that’s another of our problems. We’ve confused money with democracy. The more money you have, the more “democracy” you have. That is, the more your vote counts.

The RW money — the Kochs, the Mercers — had a huge advantage going in to this. They had money of course. But they also had “passion”. They cared enough about what they wanted to do something. The Kochs have been behind gerrymandering and the hijacking of the judiciary. When people vote repeatedly but never get their way — or feel the ominous pressure of judges who disapprove of who they are (so, it doesn’t really matter what they’ve done) — they get cynical. They stop taking part in the process because what’s the point?

They stop voting.

They begin to act like victims expecting their victimization to go on forever.

Rapists rape because they don’t care about the word “no”. It means nothing to them. It’s not a coincidence that every sexual deviant in office (that we know of — to be fair) has an “R” next to their name. That’s why child molesters like Roy Moore can run as Republicans. They’re the “Rights Of The Rapist Over The Rights Of The Rapist’s Victim” party.

That’s the answer to “how come Trump’s doing it anyway?” He’s a rapist. Rapists do what they want. He’s gotten away with it because his party is complicit. And they are — for the moment — getting away with it because WE were complicit for so long — tolerating more and more of our rights being trampled (with the caveat that they were always being trampled).

Progressives want as many people as possible to thrive and flourish. E Pluribus Unum — out of many, one. The more there are in the “many”, the better the “one” will be. That is American Exceptionalism — our diversity. That is the majority that voted against Trump in 2016 and 2018 and who will again vote against Trump this year.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by around 3,000,000 votes. That were counted. I bet someone could do some research and come up with a more accurate number that included all those votes that DIDN’T get counted. Or got flipped by electronic voting machines. Or were denied at their polling place. Or were dissuaded from even showing up by propaganda that filled their Facebook pages (propaganda send specifically to them from Russia via Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort). Or were “taught” from early on that there was no point in their voting to begin with.

I bet a more accurate assessment of 2016 would have Hillary Clinton and We The People decimating Donald Trump. Take Russia out of the picture and Trump certainly does not win Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin — and therefore the Electoral College (a whole “institution” meant to limit the freedom of the voters to have their say and way).

What scares Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bill Barr, Mikes Pompeo, Flynn & Pence more than anything? Aside from how guilty they are, it’s how small a minority of Americans they represent. Seeing the majority suddenly rise up — taking to the streets every day — terrifies them.

I wonder if Donald Trump realized last night — as he gazed at all those empty blue seats in Tulsa — if the end was near. He’s gotten away with murder. Literally.

And that’s about to stop.

The majority has had enough.