What Is It About Donald Trump That The WHOLE WORLD (Except For 70 Million Americans) Recognized?

What happened yesterday — after first NBC News then the rest of the world finally got on board and declared Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the winners — has never happened before. The result of an American election caused outbreaks of spontaneous joy to erupt not just in America but throughout the world. Church bells pealed in Paris. Fireworks exploded over London. In America, from coast to coast, people felt compelled to take their celebrations from in front of their TV screens to the streets. Sometimes you just feel so good, you have to share it with people.

Now, to be fair, I live in the Highland Park section of LA. It’s Silver Lake Adjacent. In Tuesday’s election, LA (no bastion of right wing sentiment) leaned even further to the left than where we were. We have a homeless problem, you see and LA has decided to lead with its humanity. My point is, while there are parts of LA that did not celebrate yesterday (I hear it was quiet as a tomb in Torrance), most of LA took a massive sigh of relief and felt the need to take that massive sigh together.

Here’s a snippet of the celebration in the Silver Lake neighborhood —

Now, I want to point out one thing about the celebrations: their nature. There was gloating. Absolutely yes there was and I will confess to doing my fair share of it. Boy, did it feel good! And I do not feel one bit guilty. That’s because of the nature of our celebration. It was focused squarely on one person and, for the most part, one person only: Donald Trump.

When I called to celebrate with my 84 year old mom, my first words to her were “Ding dong, the witch is dead”. I wish I knew the number of other people who heard that trill in their head the instant they knew the Age of Trump had reached its end. Ding dong, the witch IS dead — and good bloody riddance!

Take the loathing of Donald Trump that will be eternal out of the celebration and all you have is joy. Pure joy. It felt — being part of it — like a breath of fresh air. A massive invisible weight had been lifted from our head and shoulders. When the news first broke yesterday, I’m not ashamed to say that I wept. It was cathartic. I wasn’t alone in that either.

Aside from Trump, there was no “And let’s rub their noses in it!” Not even after three Hell’s Angels-looking guys on Harleys roared into the crowd on Sunset Boulevard — we were intermittently blocking the street — intent not on hitting anyone, but on scaring people. The crowd — having leapt out of the way — watched the Trumpanistas drive away indignantly. But they did not turn the moment into a “Hey, let’s get them!” That never occurred to the crowd because, well, they were feeling too good about what just happened.

Why wasn’t one hundred percent of America celebrating? Why, — how — could anyone live through the past four years, the pandemic especially with Trump’s calamitous response fresh in your mind, and NOT pull the lever on animal instinct alone for Joe Biden? Ah, well… never forget that on the day Richard Nixon resigned because of Watergate, his approval rating still sat at 29%. That “silent majority” is still out there, seething, hating the rest of us.

Well, aside from their shitty attitude, we’ve never hated them back. We’ve always wanted a way to talk to them without them spitting at us. In the history of modern American politics, the onus has always been on Progressives to compromise — even if it’s with out-and-out fascists. The playing field here has never been level. That’s the thing. Our perspective started out skewed. Hell, our founding document says plainly “All men are created equal” by which they meant if you were a white, Christian, land-owning male, the playing field was level. If you weren’t, tough luck.

But, fortunately, while enshrining their racism, America’s founders allowed for constant revisions to their blueprints. And so we’ve updated the structure as best we could. But you can’t update a foundation with flaws. You have to revisit the foundation — fix it — then build from there.

That’s what America has to do. That’s what they said with their votes. That’s what their joy said. We suddenly saw that an outrageous aspiration maybe possibly could happen.

We were out in the streets celebrating the return of America’s potential yesterday. We’ve got miles to go before we sleep where achieving that potential is concerned. But we demonstrated — clearly — that, when engaged, the real America (diverse and woke as hell) has the potential to realize America’s potential. America and Americans can do anything in part because of who we are: the whole world.

America is the product (once you subtract the Native Americans who the Europeans decimated with their germs) of just about every other country on Earth “sending people” to help build it. Even the English were invaders before they were inhabitants. The English instilled two things — a strong European sensibility (for what it’s worth) and a strong commercial sensibility. From England’s point of view, the colonies weren’t meant to produce freedom, they were meant to produce a solid return on an investment.

Money has always been the draw of America. Money and the potential for self-reinvention. This really was (once emptied of the locals) a wide open space. A blank canvas waiting to be filled with humans and their ideas. That’s the dynamic tension at our core — the struggle between a magnificent idea and the blind spot that racism (among other “isms”) causes. Unless and until the magnificent idea applies equally to everyone, it might as well apply to no one.

Donald Trump was the epitome of what happens to America when love of money drives everything and love of people drives nothing. He epitomizes money’s corrupting influence and power. Money will always corrupt. But, when completely disassociated from all principles — that’s Trumpism. Donald Trump epitomized Republican, profits-above-people ideas taken to their extremes. That’s profits-above-principles, too.

More than half of America hated that that was how America was representing itself when it wasn’t anything like how the MAJORITY of Americans felt. Former Republican Rick Wilson may actually be wrong about one thing. “Everything Trump Touches Dies” with one exception: America. We’re wounded — no argument — but we might yet back back up off the floor and fight our way out of this.

Americans chose by a sizeable majority to deny money’s corruption in favor of human beings: we voted for and on principle.

That’s what the world saw and that’s why they cheered for us.

The 30% of Americans who still love Nixon will never play nicely with the rest of us. We will do everything we can to demonstrate how much we want to include them in every bit of success we want every American to experience. We’ll include them even. Quick reminder — plenty of those Trump lovers also love their ACA (so long as you don’t call it Obamacare). They haven’t thought through what will happen when the SCOTUS guts the ACA and leaves all them all wondering who’ll help them with their heroin addiction now?

We need to be patient. Very, very good things are coming but only after a lot more hard work. We’ve achieved the first goal. That’s it. This is the platform from which we have a chance to launch a better America.

A lot of Americans feel exactly the same way. In fact, they felt so good about the idea as it occurred to them that Americans… if you weren’t there, you shoulda been.

It was AWESOME!

The Best Thing One Can Say About Originalism Is That It’s Total, Utter Nonsense

Antonin Scalia — the King of Originalism — should have taken originalism to the grave with him. Not that the worms deserve either. Intellectually, originalism is the quintessential make-it-up-as-you-go-along, “White Guy” argument. “But the rules! But the rules!” says the one who wrote the rules, then broke them repeatedly then got upset when others threatened to write the rules instead. Even on its surface, originalism stinks. Scratch that surface and you unleash a whole sewage system of awfulness.

Never mind the fact that the King of Originalism, Scalia, set originalism aside to write the decision that will most define him: Bush v Gore. Not only did he set originalism aside to write that bit of flaming horse shit, he made Bush v Gore a one-time deal. It followed no rules then made itself unique — all in one neat, corrupt, decision.

Originalism insists the Constitution is stuck in time; therefore so is America. If not for those nasty amendments, America would still be a bastion for rich, white, Christian land owners. Like in the 1780s. The opposite view sees the Constitution as a living, breathing, dynamic document (designed) to serve America’s living, breathing, dynamic population. You know, what that famous Republican president called “Government OF the People, BY the People and FOR the People.”

Originalism is about controlling the mythology and pretending it’s the law. It’s Magical Thinking written in lawyer font.

It’s about pretending words say things they don’t.

It’s all about cynicism.

The only correct response when some right wing nitwit hauls originalism onto the table is “Oh, shut up”. The goal is to make you chase them down their rabbit hole because that’s what originalism is: a damned rabbit hole.

“Oh, shut up.” See? Easy!

What If We Told Our Story Backwards, Starting With: “Donald Trump Is A Corrupt Traitor”?

If I had a ranch, I’d bet it: we will establish beyond all doubt that Donald Trump did not “win” the 2016 election. It was STOLEN for him in large part by Russia who OWN Trump to the tune of $422 million or so — a loan that’s about to come due. We know Trump owes someone — and whoever it is, it poses an existential threat to our democracy. But, our problem’s bigger than that — bigger than just Trump. We need to know who the whole Republican Party is indebted to. We need to know how they thought they could get away with pulling off a coup d’etat.

That’s where this story will land and IS landing: the Republican Party, recognizing they faced demographic and therefore political extinction, hitched their wagon to Donald Trump despite the fact that (they knew) he was compromised, owned flat out by Russian military intelligence. If we think of what we’re experiencing as a story rather than real life, there’s going to be an ending where questions get answered and most of the loose ends get neatly tied. The villains of the piece will get fingered. Most will get punished as they deserve. A few will seem to get away but a further tidying up as the credits roll will tell us that they, too, came to terrible ends.

On that day — when our story gets fully revealed — our news media will stand astride this monster like THEY brought it down. Don’t be fooled. We The People will have saved ourselves from doom. We’ll have done it despite our news media making it nearly impossible — because they never saw the ending coming.

Even with all we already know about how Russia “influenced” the 2016 — that’s according to the news media’s own reporting — our news media still persists in saying that Donald Trump “won” election. No, those are mutually exclusive propositions. A foreign country can’t legally “influence” ANY American election. The whole idea that Russia “influenced” our election should send shockwaves and flares rumbling and flying in every direction.

There’s a famous and apocryphal story from the 2016 GOP convention. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a meeting of Republican muckety-mucks and announces “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump”. Kevin was so convinced, he threw in a “Swear to God”. “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.”

“No leaks,” the Speaker famously replied, “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The correct response should have been “Whaaaaat? Kevin, dude — are you SURE about this?”

“Swear to God,” says Kevin.

“Somebody — quick — get the FBI on the phone,” Paul should have said, “We have a patriotic duty here as citizens and leaders”.

They didn’t.

We know why. Let me repeat that WE KNOW WHY. We KNOW THE ENDING.

Donald Trump and the Republican Party have betrayed America, betrayed We The People and betrayed everything we stand for. They’ve betrayed our future and our children’s future. These are true now — as our news media finally feels secure enough to report them — as when the crimes were being freshly committed. Meaning — the Republicans in that room with Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan were as guilty THEN of committing criminal acts as they will be on the day the news media finally reports the fact.

The only problem — four years have elapsed between the act and the reporting of it as a crime. The fact was reported on in May 2017, nearly a year after it happened. That is, a year after it became a KNOWN fact. It was a FACT long before that. In other words — a crime was being committed long before anyone recognized that fact. It doesn’t change the fact that a crime was being committed. Our lack of knowledge of that crime doesn’t excuse the crime.

Harold Pinter’s play (and then feature film) “Betrayal” literally tells its story backwards — in reverse chronology. It’s about how an affair destroys a relationship. The story begins with the aftermath of the destroyed relationship. We see the wreckage. Then we march backward through time, scene by scene. Whereas normal storytelling relies on adding information learned in the previous scene, in “Betrayal”, we see instead where that information came from. At the end, we see the moment when the affair began — the spark that preceded the affair — and how that spark smoldered then suddenly ignited a blaze that burned through everything.

What if we told the Donald Trump Destroyed America story that same way? What if our news media began with all the facts laid out neatly then deconstructed the story, scene-by-scene, detail-by-detail back to the very moment (or moments) where this crisis really began. For one thing, we’d get to see the story in context — in its proper context. We’d understand from that context that Donald Trump is not (and never was, as the news media kept reporting) a “different kind of POTUS”. In fact, he’s always been a criminal, guilty of laundering Russian mob money in exchange for solvency.

He’s also guilty of tax fraud and election fraud and treason.

We don’t have our ending yet. It’s our saving grace. It’s still to be written. But our ending will include all those facts because they ARE facts. Donald Trump and, now, the entire Republican Party are guilty of treason. The sooner our news media starts reporting these facts AS FACTS — as established parts of the narrative — the sooner we’ll stop this charade of an election. The sooner we’ll start solving our problem instead of exacerbating it.

Dear American News Media – Stop Acting Like The Dance Band On The Titanic

The Dance Band on the Titanic went down with the ship. America, like the Titanic, is sinking. The difference is we don’t have to. Our ship of state can still be saved.

America’s news media can’t be blamed for Donald Trump. Fred and Mary Trump deserve that credit (oh, that we could go back in time and tie Mary’s tubes while also delivering a good, swift kick to Fred’s family jewels). But Donald Trump’s resiliency — the fact that he’s still POTUS and not a federal prisoner — THAT falls almost entirely on the news media and their remarkable inability to convey the story in front of them. The story they themselves have reported.

As we stand here today, Donald Trump is the first person EVER to run for re-election as POTUS having been IMPEACHED — for cheating in the very election he’s running in.

That’s not a small thing. It’s a huge, HUGE thing. And yet, our news media never reminds its news audience that THAT is the context in which Donald Trump is running for re-election. He does it — overtly cheating — having already been impeached for cheating!

But, not just cheating — committing TREASON while cheating.

The news media — what else can we conclude? — has accepted and normalized not only cheating but treason. It’s now just another facet of “Trump’s a different kind of potus” — that toxic confection the news media keeps feeding itself to explain away Trump’s lawlessness. No, he’s not “different”, he’s a criminal. He’s always been a criminal — and it’s always been there for all to see because the news media itself reported on it!

Among the stories our news media can’t seem to 1) get straight or 2) comprehend is Christopher Steele and the dossier of raw intelligence he put together and then desperately tried to get into the right hands. As an example of what I’m talking about — if (as our news media does) you simply assume that Chris Steele’s dossier dropped from the sky by magic — it’s easy to dismiss. It could just as easily be the work product of a crank.

Except it’s not. If we trace the story back to how we GOT TO the Chris Steele part of the story, we suddenly discover not only that there IS a story but there’s a story that the news media has already reported on — and seemingly forgotten. As the 2016 Republican primaries got under way, every Republican who wasn’t Donald Trump hated and feared Donald Trump. That included Republicans who supported Jeb Bush’s campaign.

Among them was The Washington Free Beacon (financed by hedge fund magnate Paul Singer). They funded oppo research into multiple Republican candidates but their research on Trump proved the most compelling. The Beacon hired the firm Fusion GPS — a commercial research and strategic intelligence firm founded by two former Wall Street Journal reporters. One of them, Glenn Simpson, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017. The committee — under Republican control, don’t forget — was attempting to undermine the Steele Dossier’s integrity by undermining the integrity of those who hired Steele.

Why was Chris Steele hired in the first place, the Committee wanted to know — assuming, I guess, that they could imply something nefarious where nothing nefarious existed? Simpson explained how, after Fusion was hired, they did their due diligence. They got their hands on every piece of PUBLICLY AVAILABLE material on Trump that they could — newspaper articles, magazine pieces, radio interviews, TV shows — everywhere Trump’s name appeared or was spoken. They went to Amazon and actual book stores. They combed the internet. They even went to the public library.

What Fusion found — in publicly available material that anyone (including the press) could just as easily have found — convinced them that Donald Trump was likely a criminal who laundered Russian mob money through his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City Casinos. They saw other possible connections between Donald Trump and Russia, too. They were so concerned, in fact, that they sub-contracted the research out to the Westerner with, perhaps, the connections inside Russia — former head of MI6’s Russia Desk Chris Steele.

Did you follow that, American News Media? Publicly available material suggesting Trump’s likely criminality is what motivated the Steele hire. That means anyone — any journalist — could have, at any time, have done what Fusion did: the due diligence.

By the time Fusion got to Chris Steele, the Free Beacon had stopped funding the work; Trump had become the presumptive nominee. Steele’s work was paid for by Marc Elias, the lawyer for the D.N.C. and Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. That doesn’t in any way disqualify it. Steele — with his excellent connections inside Russia — had no idea who was underwriting his work product.

Ah, but Trump says… The Republicans say. It’s like reporting what the iceberg says. “Go ahead — hit me! I promise nothing bad will happen to ya…”.

The Titanic’s dance band was great at dying nobly. For the purposes of argument though, what if Sam, the band’s talented sax player, possessed knowledge that could have saved the ship? What if Sam — in a previous life — had worked in a shipyard, building ships and new of a way that might stem the flow of water into the six forward watertight compartments that the iceberg exposed. What if another of the band — Val, the Violinist — recognized that if he could get the passengers to rush to the back of the ship, it would aid Sam’s plan and, perhaps, save them all? And what if all the others in the band immediately pitched in to do whatever they could to help.

Our news media has knowledge that could save our ship of state from sinking. They know the iceberg we’ve hit — they’ve reported on it. They also know how the ship works. How its engines work. While, like with the Titanic, time is short, our news media can still stem the flow of water into our tanks. Or, in this case, the flow of bullshit, propaganda and disinformation.

For starters, the news media needs to stop running around the deck like Chicken Little. They need to see themselves as PASSENGERS on this vessel with a rooting interest in not sinking. They need to stop seeing this story from the iceberg’s point of view — or the ocean’s. They need to see it entirely from the passengers’ point of view — because that’s who’s going to suffer the consequences.

Donald Trump & the Republican Party are our democracy’s iceberg. In collusion with their Russian friend, they intend to sink us and raise a Jolly Roger over the remains. That isn’t crazed left wing lunacy. It’s all been reported by our press. You’d think our press wouldn’t be so reluctant to read their own stuff.

The journalism professor turned journalist Seth Abramson hasn’t done any original reporting. Rather, he’s aggregated all the reporting that’s been done — all in one place: his three Collusion books. The portrait Abramson’s work portrays is beyond devastating. Like Fusion GPS mining what every other journalist could mine, Abramson demonstrates how journalism is supposed to work. We already know an awful lot about how exactly Donald Trump became POTUS. We know how corrupt Trump is and how vulnerable to blackmail because of it. Our news media reported it.

Our news media can still save the day. All they have to do is adhere to a few basic principles while seeing themselves as citizen journalists instead of corporate journalists. They might as well since anyone who doesn’t go full corporate, access journalist if Trump “wins” (cheats to win actually — which is not the same thing as actually “winning”) is going to end up in a gulag. Here are a few actions they need to take —

  • Stop Normalizing Everything Trump Does. Mexicans still aren’t rapists (despite the news media’s apparently accepting it) and pussy-grabbing is absolutely not acceptable, no matter how rich you are.
  • Access Journalism is stone cold bullshit. Stop running for the next Judith A Miller ‘It’s All About Access” Award.
  • Listen to Maya Angelou’s wise words: when someone (like Donald Trump) tells you (repeatedly and ad nauseum) who they are? BELIEVE THEM!
  • Whatever you have to do to get it, GET SOME PERSPECTIVE!
  • Words matter. A lie is a lie. Call it what it is, not some euphemism. And trust that your audience is at least as adult as you are. Swear words aren’t nearly as offensive as corruption.
  • Both sides don’t do it. That’s you generalizing — and badly. John Q. Citizen under-reporting his taxes is not the same as Bernie Madoff though both are committing fraud. Proportion and scale matter. So does motive.
  • No one does anything “just because”.
  • When you repeat bullshit without saying it’s bullshit, you validate the bullshit. Once bullshit has credence, it doesn’t give it back.
  • Learn to aggregate. Storytelling builds one scene atop another, each scene (ideally) adding information to the information added in the previous scene. It’s monstrously stupid — and bad storytelling — to keep returning to square one, as if you don’t know the very things you’d already reported on.
  • Recognize your Constitutional obligation. Look, you chose journalism. You choose to pursue it, regardless of the myriad challenges and difficulties. Journalism is the one non-governmental job mentioned in the Constitution — as the final check on governmental power. Tasks don’t get more sacred than that. Take yours seriously FFS!

C’mon News Media — career-minded as you are, you still have souls (religious or otherwise). Most of you got into journalism because you wanted to change things. You wanted to tell truths that stopped villains, rewarded heroes and made the world a better place because of it.

Great! Live that ethos, News Media! Report it. Our ship’s going down with all hands on deck otherwise.

Mind you — we’ll be on deck listening to YOU play us out. Glug, glug, glug…

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.

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.