The GOP’s Ultimate Goal Is To Avoid Being Prosecuted As Traitors

Stone cold fact: we are in the midst of an undeclared cyber war, launched against us by Russia which, itself, is being aided and abetted by almost the entire Republican Party. Members of the GOP’s hierarchy suspected more than a month before they nominated Donald Trump that he was more than just corrupt, he was treasonously corrupt; they nominated him anyway. Walking into that strategy session, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said out loud (it was recorded and the recording was heard later by a Washington Post reporter): “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump!” When that got a few uncomfortable chuckles (as in “Dude — you’re not supposed to say it out loud!”), Kevin doubled down: “Swear to God,” he added. Hindsight tells us it wasn’t just idle banter. Kevin really thought something that made everyone present uncomfortable. Good thing then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan was there to keep them all in line. Their secret would not leave the room. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Ryan.

This moment matters. Especially in light of the four years that followed. “Putin pays Trump” (never mind Rohrbacher). Yeah, I absolutely buy that — just based on this photo from Norway. Putin OWNS Trump.

We already know from press reporting that Putin had his financial hooks into way more Republicans than just Donald Trump. Putin’s tried to get his hooks into a few Democrats, too. We know that he tried multiple times in multiple ways to compromise Bernie Sanders. Sanders (as far as we know) ultimately responded responsibly; he ended his associations with compromised individuals. The Republicans, on the other hand, have embraced those associations. Putin funneled money to Republicans via the NRA (and his brilliant, talented agent Maria Butina who, all by herself compromised countless Republicans), via Russian retirees living in America (they suddenly found their retirement accounts flooded with cash that they “donated” to Republican candidates, and via other benign-seeming entities who took advantage of Citizens United’s allowance for anonymity and poured money into who knows how many Republican PACS. Mitch McConnell could tell us all about it — under oath.

But for Putin, Trump would never have been president. That is the bottomest line of all. Russia MADE Trump president. Though the Republicans resisted Trump at first (the Steele Dossier exists because of the Republican money that started Fusion GPS on the oppo research that uncovered the likelihood that Trump had used his Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money), when they ultimately did succumb to him, they succumbed willingly. The Kochs (both brothers were alive in 2016) KNEW that their goal to undermine our elections and Russia’s goal to do the same thing dovetailed neatly in Trump’s candidacy. That corruption would make both Russia and the Republican Party happy.

Cyber war IS war. Just because Russia hasn’t formally said “Hey, we’re at cyber war with you!” doesn’t mean they aren’t. Cyber war, by its nature, is quieter than normal “bombs-n-bullets” war. It’s way, way cheaper too. Its asymmetry levels the playing field; even little guys can knock out big guys. Putin uses both official channels (Russia’s various intelligence agencies and secretariats) and unofficial. All those malware attacks coming from Russia? They may not be official Russian government, but the Russian government thinks of them as “theirs”. Their work product is meant to support Putin’s work.

Bill Barr — we already know — deliberately lied to America about the Mueller Report’s conclusions. Team Mueller’s scope was deliberately limited. Acting AG Rod Rosenstein was responsible for that. He also was responsible for telling Team Mueller that the FBI was continuing the counter intelligence investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia that had begun while Obama was POTUS. The FBI was doing no such thing. They believed that Team Mueller was picking up the counter intel investigation because that’s what Rosenstein told them. No more work on the counter intelligence investigation got done (as far as we know).

Guilty behavior is guilty behavior is guilty behavior. People unafraid of the truth are happy to shine a light on it. Criminals? Not so much. Criminals obstruct justice because it’s in their best interest. They KNOW they’re guilty of a crime but do NOT want to suffer any consequences. The longer they go unpunished, the more brazen they become. A Republican of one kind or another has interfered with We The People getting to the bottom of Trump-Russia from the get-go. That’s not a coincidence. It’s a clue.

I’m old enough to remember when associating the word “treason” with Trump was considered left wing craziness. Hell, I’m old enough to remember when invoking Russia got peoples eyes rolling at you. Or fascism. Remember when calling out Republicans for acting like Nazis was “no-go”? Yet, here we are. The same will go for “treason”. We WILL get there and maybe sooner than the GOP likes. The reason Republicans want no part of any January 6 Truth Commission is because they KNOW what some of that truth will be: that many, MANY Republican Congresspeople (and their staffs) had a hand in planning and executing the insurrection. People inside the White House also worked with the insurrectionists. Journalism professor and news media aggregator Seth Abrahamson has pointed to two meetings on January 5 that make it abundantly clear how deep Trumpian involvement was in the insurrection’s planning. Team Trump was intimately involved. So was Donald Trump himself.

And so was Russia. Hey, considering all the other ways Russia had its hooks set, it would be out of character for them to NOT involve themselves in the planning of an insurrection that — if it succeeded — would absolutely destroy American democracy for good? Of COURSE Russia’s fingerprints are all over January 6. While that’s not what scares the Republicans obstructing the investigations — they take it for granted — spotlighting Russia’s involvement will spotlight the GOP’s complicity in that involvement. Once that nut gets cracked (and it will be), expect the deluge to follow. Trump;s hard core followers won’t care that Trump betrayed the country. THEY are betraying the country. Just like the Kochs and their money, they’ve never been that “into” democracy since democracy’s never really been that in to them.

Our news media spends a lot of its days scratching its head over why Trump is/was so loyal to Putin and why the Republican Party is still so loyal to Trump. If you refuse to look out the window before walking outside, don’t be shocked if you get rained on. The information is out there; all anyone has to do is open their eyes. THEY reported Kevin McCarthy’s assertion about Putin paying Trump (and Rohrbacher) yet THEY seem incapable of taking in their own reporting and aggregating it into the larger narrative. The Republican Party’s treason shouldn’t be “Breaking News”. It’s been breaking the whole time Trump ran for POTUS, was POTUS and now seeks to be “reinstated” as POTUS.

The same goes for the GOP’s staggering corruption.

Our news media keeps telling itself — and its audience — that nothing criminal happened here. Have they cracked a law book to ascertain that or is that just the wind flowing from their asses? Treason is absolutely illegal. So’s conspiracy to commit treason.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” should have been the end of Donald Trump’s presidential ambitions. In fact, THAT fact, was its starting point. If the treasonous shoe was on the other foot, the Republicans would already be howling for every Democrat’s head — and rightfully so. But then, Democrats aren’t as cynical as Republicans; Democrats are cynical but not the way Republicans are. Democrats are cynical because they fear Republicans always get away with everything — including treason.

That unbroken record ends now. Once We The People fully grasp not just THAT the Republicans are traitors but how many are traitors and how “creatively” they’ve betrayed us, the rage will build until every Republican gets what’s due them. In most cases, the cover up of the crime turns out to be worse than the crime itself. Treason will be the exception. Treason will fuel our rage. The Republicans know this. It truly scares them.

It should.

Dear America: Can We PLEASE Stop Coddling Corruption?

I will never forget that feeling of dread that kicked in the instant that Donald Trump was declared the winner of election 2016. It wasn’t just losing an election. This felt different from just losing an election. It felt different, in fact, from Antonin Scalia stepping outside all precedent to MAKE George W. Bush president. That, if we’re honest with ourselves, was incredibly corrupt. Scalia inserted himself between We The People and our choice — the majority’s choice — in order to send America in the direction HE wanted us to go instead of the one WE wanted to go in. That is the essence of corruption. Corruption authored “Bush v Gore”. We paid the price. We’re still paying it and will continue to pay it into the future because that’s what happens when corruption “wins”. But, the fact is,, corruption doesn’t have to win. At any and every point along corruption’s route, we can stop it.

In a sense, America opened shop already corrupt. Well, the white, Christian men who founded America aspired to a great idea that “All men are created equal” but could not overcome their own misguided, misinformed tribal prejudices. They corrupted this grand idea by making it exclusive. By “All men”, they meant them. Just them. And yet — at the same time, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (the slave-owning outlier here) were insisting that “E Pluribus Unum” become our national motto. Out of many, one.

The “many” are hard to corrupt. The “one”, on the other hand…

All corruption begins with the getting of money. Modern humans lived for two hundred thousand years as hunter-gatherers, accumulating nothing. There wasn’t much to be greedy over. The agricultural revolution bound us to the land. Its output had value both to the community and the individual growing what the community needed. Supply and demand were invented. The natural hierarchies that evolved over the course of our hunter-gatherer years became monetized — literally. Work evolved from being a strictly communal enterprise (hunting, gathering, child-rearing) into being “an enterprise”. Who “owned” the land that was being farmed? Who “owned” that farmed output? After a while, bartering couldn’t keep up — especially as the scale increased. As cities grew (grew more populated), so too did the need for another form of equity that people could trade in place of straight good-for-goods swaps. Enter money.

Money itself has never been “the root of all evil”. It’s THE WORSHIP of money. The compulsion to acquire wealth beyond all real need. Greed is a mania. The greedy become convinced that money will protect them from all of Life’s hardships and challenges. To a degree, the greedy are right. Having money gives one options that NOT having money doesn’t. I say this from experience, having been both comfortable and bankrupt.

My family probably wouldn’t have gone through a bankruptcy following the 2008 financial meltdown if we’d been forced to sell our house instead refinancing it to the point where keeping it was beyond our reach. Each of those refi’s was based on a lie — that we could afford to pay the escalating mortgage. But, corruption starts with a lie. Our financial system was lying (because it was corrupt) and rather than look at my situation honestly (which is what I should have done), I bought into the “hope” that “somehow”, I would turn my situation around and make everything whole. I wasn’t being greedy so much as being stupid. I knew damned well I was lying on those forms. I was going along with the corruption because (I thought — wrongly) that it was benefiting me. In the end, it did not. My participation in this corruption did far more long term harm to me personally (and to my family) than any sort of short term good.

But, that’s if I’m being honest with myself.

The first step toward releasing corruption’s hold on us collectively is to acknowledge its hold on us personally. No one has to run to the FBI to confess anything. We just have to be honest with ourselves.

Once we grant that corruption has touched us personally, it gets easier to see it touching other people — and how those other people either are being victimized by corruption or are becoming victimizers. The eaters versus the eaten. Some people take to corruption naturally like ducks to water or Republicans to bullshit. At corruptions heart is the rubbish notion that any person gets rich because of something they alone have done. The same idea wants us to believe that some families have magical, “royal” blood that makes them and their spawn better. They even get it into their heads that money and power flows to them from the divine.

If that never happened — if a sky deity never actually anointed said family then their assertion that such a thing happened is a lie. Anything that furthers that lie is corrupt. In time, we bake all that corruption of the truth into our cultural architecture. The point is, it’s not shocking that we coddle corruption. We grow up with so much corruption already normalized that it’s a wonder we still know what the truth is.

When Mitch McConnell gets up on his Treason Turtle hind legs — as he did yesterday — to burble about how he “doesn’t believe” all the Republican attempts to restrict voting are racist, he’s lying through his turtle beak. He’s being corrupt. But then, EVERYTHING Mitch McConnell does is corrupt. Literally. The fact that Mitch keeps winning elections in a state where he’s less popular than cancer, suggests that Mitch and corruption know each other well. Yet, instead of sitting in prison, Mitch gets to stand in the way of America’s future. And, instead of marching to Mitch’s front door with torches alight and pitchforks raised, we shrug. “What can we do?” we sigh. “The people of Kentucky elected him.”

But, did they? What if that’s never been the case and the solution to the Mitch McConnell problem has always been a “simple matter” of calling Mitch out for the corrupt criminal he is?

It would help, of course, if our news media would stop coddling people whose corruption they’ve already reported. To treat Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy as honest actors is, in itself, dishonest. But then, our news media — having reported on Trumpian corruption for four plus years STILL refuses to see Trump himself as corrupt as if Trump was an anomaly of honesty surrounded by corruption. They scratch their heads relentlessly as they wonder what binds the GOP to Trump despite the fact that he lost them the White House, the House and the Senate. They blame the base and fear of being primaried — as if was all about the horse race and not the horses doing the racing. It never occurs to our NEWS media to blame the corruption.

The Republican Party, seeing electoral extinction in their near future, hitched their wagon not only to Trump but to Russia. They KNEW before they nominated Trump how completely Vlad Putin owned him. They even talked about it out loud. “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” said Kevin McCarthy upon entering a room of GOP leaders A MONTH BEFORE NOMINATING TRUMP in 2016, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” In response, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan made everyone present promise to keep what Kevin McCarthy thought a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” he reminded them.

He might as well have added, “That’s how we know we’re all corrupt”.

Everyone in that room accepted the corruption. It’s incumbent on us however to just say “no”.

Dear News Media: You Cannot Compromise With Evil So PLEASE Stop Asking The Democrats To Do It

America’s news media is what happens when journalism trades in perspective for access. On the one hand,, it’s understandable that a journalist denied access to a news maker will be handicapped. On the other, if gaining access means the journalist will have to compromise their integrity — a la the New York Times’ Judith Miller did to maintain access with George W. Bush and Maggie Haberman did with Donald Trump — the perspective gained from such access is instantly dubious. At least it should be. Alas, our news media is utterly incapable of self-analysis. That’s what happens when healthy skepticism — what should be every reporter’s stock in trade — hardens into flat out cynicism, a core belief that “both sides do it” — that both sides are exactly the same and therefore require no further distinction. They both act exactly alike for the very same reasons.

In other words, from the perspective of American journalism, Republicans gerrymander and suppress Democratic voters for the very same reason Democrats GET gerrymandered and have their votes suppressed. The Republicans — acting out of purely political ambition (to force America into a state of permanent minority rule) — are exactly the same as the Democrats who are, in fact, the victims of a crime. Voter suppression of ANY stripe is an attempt to violate another American’s most essential right — the right to vote. It’s the very worst kind of thievery in a democracy. But, that’s not how American journalism sees it — no matter what they say in their reportage.

It’s not that American journalists don’t see what Republicans are doing — it’s pretty hard to miss. But, “both sides do it” means you never have to aggregate a story’s emerging details into its evolving narrative because narratives never evolve. America’s news media not only knew Trump lied to them every day, they kept track of it! They tabulated his lying to them AND YET, every time Trump said something, their first impulse was to assume it was true BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT SAID IT.

Oy.

Our news media should never have moved on from “Mexicans are rapists”. But they did. Granted, their shock at Trump’s repellant racism turned into their shock at his repellant misogyny when he was caught bragging about “pussy grabbing”. Neither of those two shocks however could stand up to “But, her emails!” That is what happened. That is what our news media did: they gave far, FAR more weight to “But her emails” than they did to “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy grabbing” put together. Racism, can we agree, is EVIL. Same goes for misogyny and sexual assault and rape and anyone who does them. But, our news media made peace with that evil because a larger evil — “But her emails” threatened.

The Republican Party — our news media tells us every day — are restricting voting rights in every state they can because of The Big Lie. Democrats aren’t doing this, but Republicans are. The whole point of the Big Lie is to deny the majority their will — again — but, this time, with the intention of making minority rule a permanent fixture of American politics. Atop this sits the fact that we KNOW that the people who planned and carried out the insurrection on January 6 acted with the express approval and outright involvement of Republicans in Congress and numerous people on Team Trump — up to and including Donald Trump himself. This isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s a federal crime and it demands prosecution from the top of the treason food chain all the way down to the very bottom.

But, let’s go further. The insurrection wasn’t an isolated incident. Considering everything Russia had invested in Trump, getting him into the White House and keeping him there, it doesn’t pass the smell test that Russia had zero involvement in the insurrection meant to KEEP Trump in the White House, the exact place Russia wants him. The moment we uncover THOSE connections, we’ll have broken through to this story’s “bottmest” line: treason. Donald Trump and the Republican Party have all committed treason — and they know it — which is why they will do literally anything now either to put Trump back into power or undermine the Democrats attempts to reveal the GOP’s treachery to the nation.

The hard core Republicans will not care that their party and its leader are traitors. Let’s stop worrying about them — except for the fact that they’re dangerous. Instead, let’s start prosecuting every single one of these criminals. That is our only choice now just as it’s the Republican Party’s only choice to destroy our democracy: if they don’t, the rule of law will finally come for them. They WILL be prosecuted not just for election fraud and obstruction of justice but for treason itself or for conspiring to commit treason.

Hey, let’s not forget — the Republican hierarchy KNEW a month before they even nominated Trump in 2016 that (as current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy put it to a roomful of GOP leaders), “Putin pays [Rohrbacher and] Trump — swear to God!” Per then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the Republicans sided with corruption over patriotism. Did they go to the FBI with this unsettling information? No, they “kept it in the family”. That wasn’t just garden variety corruption they were keeping secret (it wasn’t just Spiro Agnew collecting literal bags of cash in the White House basement), it was a hostile foreign government’s direct OWNERSHIP of an American politician and his political party’s refusal to let America in on the fact that they knew.

How many times must the GOP negotiate with the Democrats in totally bad faith before journalists see a pattern? How many instances of corruption must they see before they accept that the person they’re reporting on IS CORRUPT? How many times will America’s news media allow itself to be lied to without demanding receipts in advance — or at all?

American news media still can’t fathom why the Republican Party can’t quit Trump. Every damned day, they scratch their heads and ask themselves: “why, even though Trump LOST THEM the White House, the House and the Senate, do Republicans like Lindsey Graham insist that, without Trump, they’re nothing? The reason American journalists settle on is “just because”. Republicans back Trump despite everything “just because” — “just because” Trump’s a Republican and the Democrats aren’t… “just because” Republicans always do what they do and Democrats always do what they do. As they contemplate the rage of possible explanations, of course they include “Cos Trump’s innocent but misunderstood”. That’s the one journalists wish were the case because it would be the easiest to report.

It’s not the American electorate clamoring for “bi-partisanship”, it’s the news media — a fact the news media itself reported on repeatedly. American voters — both Democratic and Republican — have expressed approval for most of what Team Biden is doing or proposing. Biden’s overall approval sits at 63% FFS! “Bi-partisanship” in Congress is not the same as bi-partisanship outside of Congress. Don’t forget, the structure of the Senate, like the Electoral College, is meant to over-represent conservative, rural states at the expense of populated, urban states. Why do you suppose there are TWO Dakotas? Because there are too many Dakotans for one Dakota? The only thing standing between Washington,, DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and statehood is who lives there (and who doesn’t).

Our news media insisting the Democrats “make a deal” with Republicans is like insisting that James Bond cut a deal with Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Does Bond really think Blofeld will keep to his part of the bargain? The second Blofeld blows up the deal — which he will — Bond will look like a moron. By then, the news media will have moved on; they will miss the point of the story entirely. Instead, they’ll whine some more about how Democrats and Republicans should “find” a way to be bi-partisan because that’s what everyone (meaning they themselves) want.

An example of compromising with evil and what it will get you is the Judenrat. These were councils of Jews — formed by Jews during Nazi occupation of Poland mostly — who chose to work WITH the Nazis. They told themselves and the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto that Jews choosing Jews for transportation to the camps was better than Germans choosing Jews. When you’re being loaded onto a cattle car like you were cattle? That distinction’s probably not gong to satisfy. As for the Jews ON the Judenrat? They all got sent to the camps, too. Sure, making a deal with Nazi Evil bought the guys making the deal a little more time — of living in hell and doing the Devil’s bidding.

Most of our news media still can’t or won’t connect the Donald Trump and Russia dots. Because they won’t do that, they can’t imagine that 1) Trump is a traitor, 2) the GOP has always known about it, and 3) the GOP has worked feverishly to obstruct justice right in the news media’s face. Their inability to see Donald Trump for the criminal he is could yet cost us the republic. Every time they follow him down another rabbit hole, they legitimize bullshit.

Whatever it takes to wean American journalism off the “both sides do it” teat, we gotta do it if only because it might finally pull the blinders from American journalism’s eyes. Both sides don’t “do it” and never, ever have.

One side is behaving like democracy-hating authoritarians and the other side isn’t. To compromise in any way with authoritarians is to give authoritarianism credence — as if it’s point of view and way of doing things deserved our consideration. The only thing that ever happens when you encourage criminals to act like criminals is criminality.

Or modern American Republicanism.

Netflix Broke Hollywood But, Then, Hollywood Had It Coming

The end of the pandemic means entertainment can finally get back fully onto its feet and start entertaining us. For Hollywood however, getting back onto its feet is already proving a challenge. That’s because what Netflix had started to break before the pandemic slammed into Hollywood, the pandemic finished breaking for good. If you now subscribe to HBOMax, for instance, you’re part of the whole new way the entire entertainment business must think of itself, its products, the audience and how to satisfy that audience with its products. Not only does your HBOMax give you access to HBO’s content, it gives access to the Warner Bros Studio (part of HBO’s larger family) who, as of now, will be releasing all their feature films to HBOMax on the same day they release them to theaters. This is important because it means one of Hollywood’s biggest studios sees that an end to the feature film exhibition business is in sight and this distribution model is probably going to replace it. Sorry, folks, but movie theaters will be where we go to see super hero movies, giant action and sci-fi movies and maybe the occasional musical (a la “In The Heights”). Event movies will be what we think of as “movies”.

Everything else will come to us via our TVs, our computers, our smart phones and our tablets — where they’ll stream to us whenever we want.

THAT idea — streaming — landed via Netflix.

Streaming disrupted TV viewing the way Napster disrupted how we acquire and listen to music. In Napster’s case, it provided a way to file-share music. Instead of everyone going to a record store and buying their own copy of an album, Napster let one person (having bought the music) share it with the world. Good for the world (if they like that song), bad for everyone who created the song and hoped to live off the royalties it would generate from people buying it. Back then, musical artists made their money via record, tape or CD sales. They toured in order to support their physical releases. Any money made touring was gravy. File-sharing destroyed that paradigm. In very short order, the whole music business flipped on its head. Album & CD sales having tanked (and, with people more and more buying songs rather than whole albums), musical artists turned to touring to make money, using their CDs, downloads and physical products as the “cost of doing business”.

TV in America, prior to HBO and then Netflix, was always driven by a number rather than by any storytelling idea: 65. Back in the day, the entire television business was built upon syndication as the profit generator. Syndication is when a show, like “Friends” gets sold to a broadcaster (often local) who wants to fill a recurring slot in their daily broadcast schedule. Say, every week day from 5:30 to 6:00 pm just before their local news broadcast begins. Those blocks can be very profitable for a small broadcaster. It costs them relatively nothing and they sell the advertising time to whoever they can. The TV ratings companies organized these syndication periods into “blocks of time” that they published as “ratings books”– periods of 13 weeks that measured how much audience any show got. Thirteen weeks of shows times five shows a week equals 65 episodes.

For a show to reach syndication then, it had to be able to generate a minimum of 65 different stories. That’s 65 different variations on the same theme. The Big Three Networks and Fox had two on-air “seasons” to fill each year: a fall season and a spring season. That’s why network orders were usually in the 22 – 25 episodes range. That’s a lot of air time to fill with non-connecting story. Roomfuls of writers rack their brains to fill that time. Frankly, from a creative perspective, it’s back-breaking. It’s simply impossible (with all the time and money pressures) to create 22 great shows per season. When I did Tales, our seasonal orders were for twelve episodes. Of that twelve, two or three would be excellent Two or three more would be very good and the rest would be mediocre if we were lucky. On orders of 22? The numbers break exactly the same.

For comparison’s sake: the BBC paid for its shows via TV license fees paid by viewers. That was their production fund. They did not even think of syndication. That’s why there are only, say, six episodes of great British shows like “Fawlty Towers”. They made as many as the idea warranted and then, most of the time, they stopped. Yeah, sure, some shows ran a season or two past their prime (“Ab Fab” comes to mind), but, for the most part, English shows rarely jumped the shark because they never had the time.

People who watch shows in syndication aren’t necessarily watching them in sequence which makes syndicating a continuous story pointless as too few viewers would be able to follow it that way. Consequently, syndication forced storytellers to avoid any sort of serialized storytelling whatsoever. There might be some sort of character evolution over the course of a season but it wasn’t going to be any sort of “arc” that altered the character profoundly. They sure weren’t going to die in a Red Wedding in the middle of a season.

This meant that if you wanted to try and sell a TV series, the idea had to be non-serialized and broad enough that you could think of at least 65 different ways to tell what was, more or less, the same story. If you stop to think about it, what audiences tuned in for back then wasn’t a show where every episode was a different watching experience, it was all the exact same experience from week to week. The sameness and lack of evolution was the whole point — and that was the engine that drove HOW anyone thought of TV and what might make a good, salable TV show concept.

Good quality TV shows are expensive to make — especially if you have stars attached to them. The license fee NBC payed to broadcast each new episode of “Friends” did not cover the full cost of making the episode. It didn’t come close to paying the six stars salaries. To offset those costs, each TV production was obligated to find a “deficit partner” who’d take a risk — gambling that the ownership they acquired by cash flowing the unpaid for part of production would pay them back handsomely when the shows finally reached syndication.

The wheels started to come off the TV syndication wagon when HBO turned from being strictly a broadcaster of recent feature films to a provider of original content, too. HBO’s business model didn’t require syndication to pay for a show’s production costs. HBO did that. Working for HBO (as I did when I made Tales From The Crypt), didn’t pay as well as the networks but then, at HBO you were creatively free while, at the networks, you weren’t. As we finished production of Tales, HBO (and Showtime) were beginning to put their shows up for Emmys. In their minds, they were now openly competing with the networks. Being unrestricted by network standards, creative people (as I can attest) began looking to premium cable as a preferable outlet for their storytelling. When AMC let Vince Gilligan stay true to Breaking Bad’s bad self, even basic cable was going places — with serialized fare — that CBS, addicted to closed-ended, CSI-type shows, would never, ever do.

But, HBO and Showtime and AMC all still released their episodes conventionally, one-a-week. Netflix threw that idea away. When Netflix released the entire first season of “Man In The High Castle” on the same day, refusing to string its audience along while also allowing them to watch the however they wanted — in bits and pieces or in one, big, streaming bite.

Hello, disruption.

This is not a small thing. From a creative point of view, how you think of a close-ended, syndication-friendly show that needs a minimum of sixty-five variations is entirely different from how you tell a ten-part serialized story that plays out over the course of one season.

To be fair, Hollywood’s never wanted to play by anyone else’s rules. One of the reasons the film business started in Los Angeles (apart from the weather) was its remoteness. Before the transcontinental railroad reached LA in 1876, it was “an unremarkable settlement producing wines and brandy along with meat, hides and soap from cattle.” When William Mulholland arrived from Belfast a year later in 1877, a mere 9000 called the place “home”. While LA’s population would surge to 300,000 within thirty years, it wouldn’t become “Los Angeles” until Mulholland’s vision for the city — fueled by water he was going to steal from the Owns Valley to the north — came to fruition. The truth is, LA should not be a major city; it doesn’t have enough water to sustain it. When the film business landed here in the first decade of the 1900’s, just before water started flowing through the aqueduct Mulholland was building for the city of Los Angeles, LA was still hard to get to and, considering the size of the space, unpopulated.

When the film business started, if you wanted to be IN the film business (what little of it there was), the first thing you needed was a camera. That meant you needed one of Thomas Edison’s kinetoscopes. Edison wasn’t in the business of giving away his inventions for free. If you wanted to use a kinetoscope to make a movie, you needed to pay a license fee to Edison. That license could be expensive. Some clever burgeoning movie makers found a way to get ahold of kinetoscopes. Not wanting to have to pay for them however (Edison had ways of finding out and hunting people down), many of these renegades headed west, settling in Los Angeles because it was remote, hard to get to and, for a little while anyway, safe from Edison’s reach.

In the end, Edison caught up with everyone.

It’s a strange but glorious time to be in the TV business. Disruption is everywhere. So is hyper-creativity. Back when the networks ran things, storytelling was limited to likeable characters sailing through predictable situations. A character like Walter White could NEVER have made it past standards and practices intact. Everything that made Walter great would have been watered down so that he always stayed likeable. The networks could never have imagined a “Fleabag“. They would all have called security on Phoebe Waller-Bridges if she’d walked in the door to pitch it to them. Even “Fleabag” owed its ability to push the envelope to Netflix’s impact on the entire storytelling environment.

Netflix — by destroying syndication — reinvented storytelling. The death of 65 as an organizing principle meant storytellers were now free to just tell their stories as fully and as faithfully as they wanted. We can all see the result: TV has never been this good, not just in America, but across the world. What’s even better? Netflix has internationalized the whole TV-viewing experience. It’s made shows that, by all rights, should have been happy to be moderate successes inside their own countries full-on international successes. Take Netflix’s “Schtisl” about a Chasidic family in Jerusalem.

Back when I started in the TV business, everyone’s goal was to get a show “on network”. That’s how you’d know you’d arrived: you had a show on primetime on ABC, CBS or NBC. I was happy to have “Tales” on HBO but I knew it wasn’t the same as having “Friends” on NBC. These days? The thought of selling a show to any of them would feel like defeat — like the idea I had simply wasn’t good enough. Or big enough. Or worthy enough…

For Netflix.

Cyber War IS War And WE Have Been Under A Cyber War Attack For Five Years Now

It sucks to be the second person to discover that you’re in a fight. Better to be the first. Especially when the first has attacked the second unexpectedly. Ask the folks who lived at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941. As far as they knew — as they slept in on a Sunday morning or peacefully started their day — America (having so far successfully navigated the rest of the world’s growing hostilities) wasn’t at war with anyone. The idea that a modern armada was coming, the tip of its deadly spear pointed directly at them, would have seemed absurd paranoia. And then the zeroes plunged from the clouds and rained death and destruction on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 U.S. personnel (including 68 civilians) and destroying or damaging 19 U.S. Navy ships, including 8 battleships. From the Japanese perspective? A state of war existed. From ours? It didn’t. Alas, our point of view became meaningless; the Japanese argument won. The next day, President Franklin Roosevelt told the country what the residents of Pearl Harbor, HI already knew: we were at war.

During World War II, if one country wanted to spy on another — or turn off its power supply — it had to do it practically. It would have to send actual humans into enemy territory, risking their lives against terrible odds. These days? A roomful of computer hackers can break into our power grid and put us in the dark unless we pay them ransom. The various Russian actors who’ve held our petroleum, meat processing, Information tech and transportation industries hostage may not “officially” be the Russian government, but that’s a nicety — “official”. Anyone operating a business larger than a borscht-n-perogy stand in Russia needs Vlad Putin’s approval. The smoking gun that Putin runs them is the fact that they exist.

Putin, let’s not forget, is a spy by profession. And a good one. He plays by intelligence agency rules where black and white really don’t exist. The end justifies all means including murder. Including mass murder. Think Putin doesn’t have a significant say in EVERYTHING that happens inside Syria? Putin has troops in Russia. He has air force bases. He has a naval base. The last one’s huge: Putin has a NAVAL BASE on the Mediterranean. Take that away? He’s still stuck in the Black Sea. Putin doesn’t think of Syria as “the country Syria”, he thinks of it as “Russia-South” with his pawn Assad minding the store. If Assad poisons or gasses his own people? It’s with Putin’s full and complete approval.

Putin famously drew up cyber war plans against us. We know who he is and we know what he wants. He’s a Russian nationalist who dreams of Greater Russia’s “glory days”. Though he was raised a “God-less Communist”, Putin’s connection to his Russian nationalism ran directly through a latent Russian Church Orthodoxy. As Steve Bannon can tell you, Putin is a religious man. That is, he believes in magic when it suits him (especially when it justifies or enables his criminality). He believes in Christian mythology just enough to see himself as a modern day crusader bent on re-taking the Holy Land from the infidels.

Anyone who thinks you need bombs and bullets flying in order for a real “state of war” to exist is going to lose every single war they ever fight going forward. While they wait to step onto a battlefield somewhere, the cyber warrior will have eaten their lunch, taken all their weapons and left them standing by a road side somewhere bare-assed naked. Building armies costs a bomb. Sic-ing a dozen computer nerds on another country’s power grid costs virtually nothing. If Russia were to do that? Shut off our power while threatening to keep it off indefinitely? We’d be forced to sue for peace — as the LOSERS — in a quick, cheap, nasty CYBER WAR.

If we think of Donald Trump as a Russian intelligence asset (you might as well — that’s what he is), then the mission he’s on has been staggeringly successful: easily the most successful intelligence mission ever in the whole history of the world. The biggest anti-democratic country managed to place its intelligence asset atop the biggest democratic country’s democracy with the express purpose of WRECKING it. Which that intelligence asset did with remarkable success! Trump repeatedly betrayed America’s interests out in the open — with Vladimir Putin visibly on the receiving end!

Trump has projected his guilt from the get-go. He’s told us he works for Putin with his words and demonstrated his fealty with his actions. Or lack of actions. Everyone knew Paul Manafort was dirty when Trump hired him to be his campaign manager in 2016. Those who really knew Manafort understood how craven he was: he owed Russian oligarch, Putin pal and Russian military intelligence agent Oleg Deripaska $17 – $20 million from a business deal that went sour. Manafort knew that he couldn’t outrun Deripaska forever and found a way to square things with his former client. Having manipulated his way into running Trump’s presidential campaign, he now had multiple ways to “pay back” what he owed Deripaska. Rather than money, Manafort offered something Deripaska could take to Putin and look like a hero: proprietary polling data from four blue states (Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) that Russia’s military intelligence could turn into effective propaganda that they could focus with laser-like intensity on individual Democratic voters.

We don’t know whether or not Putin tried to do in Minnesota what he did in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, but in those three states, in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Putin’s military intelligence turned the valuable information Manafort had provided (ILLEGALLY!) into weaponized Facebook ads that popped up on the Facebook pages of actual Black Democratic voters. The ads painted Hilary Clinton as a closet racist who didn’t deserve any Black Democrat’s vote. Don’t lose sight of this key fact: THIS IS ILLEGAL. This action violates a ton of US law. If these criminal efforts resulted in just ONE Black voter staying home? It’s a crime. It doesn’t take a “certain number” of voters to be impacted by voter suppression tactics launched by a hostile foreign government aided and abetted by Americans to “become a crime”. One does it. And, we know, there was way more than one.

Betcha we could find those Black voters today — and interview them under oath. Betcha we could convince them to walk into a court of law and state unequivocally that the end result of Paul Manafort handing Oleg Deripaska (via Konstantin Kilimnik) proprietary polling data was them staying home instead of exercising their right. If you’re trying to blame the voter here for staying home? You’re already playing for the enemy. Stop.

Before the Republican Party even nominated Trump to be their presidential candidate, the Republican Party KNEW for a fact that Russia owned him. They talked about it OUT LOUD at a meeting a month before their convention. As reported (a year after the fact) in the Washington Post, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of Republican leaders and said, “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in that roomful of GOP leaders reacted with surprise. No one said, “Whaaaaat? Kevin, dude — are you SURE about that? Jesus, what would make you say such a crazy thing?” We know this because the whole conversation WAS RECORDED and played for the Washington Post reporter.

Not only didn’t anyone wonder if it was true that Putin owned the man they were about to nominate to be their presidential candidate, no one thought to do anything about it. No one rushed from the room to call the FBI. No one slinked from the room later to do that either. Instead, everyone present — GOP leadership, don’t forget — agreed with then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan to keep this terrible secret to themselves. “That’s how we know we’re family,” Ryan said. “Family” as in “crime family”.

Even before that, Trump’s criminality and his vulnerability to being compromised by Vladimir Putin was a publicly available fact. Remember the Steele Dossier? Remember why a Steele Dossier even exists? During the 2016 primaries, the conservative Washington Free Beacon’s backers hired a company called Fusion GPS to do oppo research. Backing Marco Rubio, they wanted to get their hands on any information they could that would damage Trump. Nothing new about that in American politics. Fusion was started by two former Wall Street Journal reporters, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch. On Tuesday August 22, 2017, Simpson testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee (then run by the Republicans who had the majority) that the first thing Fusion did upon being hired was their “due diligence”. Simpson was called to testify because the Republicans on the committee — at Trump’s behest — were doing everything in their power to undermine Fusion and the research they did.

As part of their due diligence, Simpson testified, Fusion got their hands on every piece of publicly available material about Donald Trump that they could. They got ahold of every book, magazine article or newspaper piece about Trump. They watched every video, listened to every radio broadcast. They went to physical book stores looking for it, and to the library even. They visited Amazon and every other web site that had anything whatsoever about Trump, his world, his businesses. What Fusion found, Simpson testified, gave them pause. There, in publicly available source material, was clear evidence that Donald Trump likely used his (now bankrupt) Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money.

Wanting to pursue that lead further — but not having the Russia chops themselves — Fusion hired the best person in the world to answer those questions for them: an English company called Orbis which was run by a former British spy named Christopher Steele. Steele’s bona fides in the intelligence world were rock solid. Not only did Steele work for MI6, Britain’s equivalent of our CIA (their MI5 is like our FBI), he ran its Russia desk because no one outside of Russia had better contacts inside Russia. When the FBI, a few years prior, had gone after corruption at FIFA, they hired Chris Steele. Though by the time Steele got hired the Free Beacon was no longer paying for Fusion’s work (the tab had been picked up by Hilary Clinton supporters), Steele had no idea whatsoever who he was really working for. He was, really, a former intelligence player suddenly made aware of the biggest intelligence event of his life — the ongoing attempt by Russia to seize control of America’s government.

Cyber war doesn’t look like bombs n bullets war. It looks more like a TV show. It’s no less deadly to a democracy. But for Russia, Trump would never have become POTUS. That’s a stone cold fact. It’s the very bottom line to this story. Russia made Trump president. He knows it. Every single Republican (on some level) knows it. The important part is they ACCEPTED IT. Even though (to be kind) they “suspected” Trump was owned by a long-time enemy, they went along with it because they could merge their desired end result — permanent minority rule — with Putin’s — an America diminished.

Does it really matter if Putin never fired a shot to achieve his war’s objectives?

This fact sits at the core of everything the Republican Party has done in the “Age Of Trump”. This has always been about treason. Oh, sure — all along the way, each Republican, as they fell in line, probably wasn’t thinking “Well, here I go committing treason!” They had power in mind. How they got their hands on power or kept power — those were mere details. The bottom line is treason, treason, TREASON.

Want to know why the Republicans won’t abandon Trump? They can’t — because of treason. Because they’re all traitors and they know it. Donald Trump (and, by association Vlad Putin) remind them of this fact every single day.

Republicans & Dead Ends

What does the Republican Party and a dead end have in common? Pretty much everything. The “modern” Republican Party (there’s an oxymoron if ever one existed) just isn’t that “into” democracy probably because democracy’s just not that into them. In the marketplace of ideas, Republicans are selling the past as what should be our future. By that they mean the future should look exactly like our past — predominantly white. That IS the whole point of conservatism after all — CONSERVING things. Politically, conservatives want to conserve the status quo or, preferably, the status quo as it was. The problem is, we really can’t live in the past. We all know people who try — those sad dudes who could never let go of high school. Sucks to peak early, I guess. That’s Republicans’ big problem: they peaked already. There’s no more “there” there where they’re concerned. The whole reason Republicans are resorting to voter suppression in the extreme is because they know they can’t appeal to those voters with their terrible, regressive ideas.

The GOP is gambling that their angry, violent minority can overpower the rest of us and cow us into compliance. Historians and talking heads point to all the places where this behavior has lead directly to authoritarian rule. That’s not encouraging but few of those places had America’s history of and with democracy. I don’t think it’s a given that people in this country roll over the way people in other countries have. It might take us a while to spark to revolt but the white minority doing this is such a minority — and, it’s America, EVERYONE has guns. Whatever that country turns into, it’s not going to be “America”. It’s not going to be the counter balance to Russia and China. It’s not going to be any kind of economic powerhouse because it will break down quickly.

What we’re witnessing is the Republican Party (the “Party of Lincoln”) attempting to re-start the Civil War so as to bring back slavery. The Republicans may not call what they have in mind “slavery” but, in time, it won’t differ (where the stolen labor is concerned) from what Black people had to endure in this country. If the Republicans could have their way, there’d BE no “minimum wage”. There’d be child labor and no such thing as “striking”. If Republicans could get everyone else to work for free (at its core, slavery is stolen labor), they’d think “Mission Accomplished”! — especially if all the extra profits ended up in their pockets.

The problem is, we all know this now. The news media still has it in its head that — because next year’s Biden’s first off-year election, norms say the Democrats will lose the House and Senate. That assumes we live in normal times. We don’t, of course. Not only is the electorate woke, we’re hyper woke. We’re keenly aware of what the Republican Party is doing; it’s the press that’s running miles behind.

The sum total of Republican ideas: how can they get richer than they are and hold onto power. Literally nothing else matters. Except maybe not going to prison for being traitors. The fact that Donald Trump was and is a traitor will be a fact of life — sooner than everyone thinks. The DoJ’s prosecution of the January 6 insurrectionists will, at some point, stumble over one very basic fact: Russia had a hand in it. Don’t think so? Don’t think Russia knew EVERYTHING that Team Trump and everyone around them was thinking? Once we break through to even the small acts of treason, the larger acts will become plain as day.

Want to talk about a dead end? Try treason. It’s a dead end for a country — as we nearly learned. But, now that the traitors have failed, their failure needs to be a dead end for every other perpetrator, too. They should have read the signs (posted and otherwise) and stopped. They knew what they were doing when they pressed on. They expected to win. How unfortunate for them.

Letting Donald Trump take over their party will be not just a dead end for the Republican Party but a cliff behind it.

Fact: The Republican Party Are All Koch Whores

According to Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Charles Koch (pronounced “coke”) is the 15th richest person in the world with a fortune estimated at 63.1 billion dollars. Koch Industries, the privately held company he and his brother David ran (David died in 2019 — which, I bet, shocked him; David thought he was rich enough to outrun death) and which Charles still oversees did an estimated $115 billion in business in 2020. As we know, rich as he is, rich as his company is, for a Koch, there’s never enough where money is concerned. The Kochs were never just in it for the money. They’re in it for the power too. The Kochs — believing that they’re rich because God wants them to be rich — intend to save America “from itself”. That is, they intend to stop America from becoming the great country it could become in favor of the slowly dying white elephant Republicans want us to be.

The Kochs have never made a secret of their intention to alter American politics to their liking. That means fewer Americans will get to vote since most Americans don’t really want what the Koch brothers want. The Kochs (and the Mercers and the rest of the RW Money Monkeys) saw something post Reagan. While Newt Gingrich declared a loud, angry culture war on the left, the Kochs quietly went about literally altering America’s political landscape. They recognized that the GOP faced real demographic peril. A rapidly diversifying America would soon undermine white peoples’ hold on political power. Unwilling to share that power, the Kochs and the rest of the RW’s money decided to put their money on thievery. They might not be able to win elections on the strength of their ideas but they could definitely win on the persistence of their cheating.

The Republicans put money into voter suppression efforts to support their work gerrymandering districts so that they could pick their voters (rather than the other way around). The Republicans knew the White House was lost for good (except for cycles where they could manipulate the Electoral College). The House of Representatives, with its elections every two years was way too hard to control. The GOP could live with that. The Senate was always more important to Republicans because of the Senate’s strange, arcane rules including the filibuster. Even if they didn’t control the Senate majority, the filibuster gave outsize power to a minority so long as they could keep their filibuster going. So long as there weren’t 60 Democrats in the Senate, the Republicans felt they had nothing to fear from the Democrats.

The biggest fish to the Koch Brothers thinking was the judicial branch, especially the Supreme Court. Control the SCOTUS and the rest of the lifetime appointed federal judiciary and a minority party like the republicans could throw their weight around like they owned the place. The Kochs tasked Mitch McConnell — who’s received a lot of Koch money over the years — with seizing the judiciary. To that end, Moscow Mitch denied Obama more than a hundred judges including a SCOTUS seat. Funny irony? As we (now) know, Attorney General Merrick Garland has begun to investigate and prosecute Republicans for their involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Republicans are going to regret that Garland is AG, ready and willing to prosecute the snot out of them. He’d have been far less dangerous to them if only the Republicans had given him a hearing and even voted on whether or not Garland should be AG.

The one question that remains is WHEN did the Kochs suspect that Russia was working toward the same goal — the end of American democracy? At some point, the Kochs had to know that they and Vladimir Putin were working together. At some point, the Kochs KNEW what they were doing was flat out treasonous.

The Kochs spread their money around with corrupt intent. If you think America will be better if fewer Americans vote — especially if they’re Black or brown — you’re un-American. If you think you’re better just because you’re rich? You’re a flaming asshole. And you’re wrong, too.

Our news media keeps ascribing Joe Manchin’s reluctance to get rid of the filibuster to his “love of tradition”. Horse shit! Joe Manchin couldn’t give a rat’s ass about tradition. He’s a pirate. He’s looking to get rich however he can. The reason Manchin can’t quit the filibuster is because he can’t quit Koch money either.

Joe Manchin doesn’t have a soul or anything like that. He does have a bank account however. And plenty of corruption to spread around. The GOP is riddled with Koch whores just like Joe Manchin. It’s long past time we expose every last one of them.

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

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

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

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

Or, would I…?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On This Memorial Day: Let’s Consider What Treason Is Doing Before Treason Gives Us More Memorials

I’m old enough to remember when calling someone a “traitor” in public discourse was as frowned upon as invoking Nazis when describing “the other side”. I’m also old enough to remember how — during the early years of Trump’s presidency — people rolled their eyes at you when you tried to connect Donald Trump to Russia or, for an even bigger eyeroll, when you insisted that Trump and the Republican Party not only had to pay for their crimes but were going to. Now, at least, more people are fully on board with the idea that Trump really is a criminal who really does deserve to go to prison and (miracle of miracles!) just actually might. But, right this second, the crime(s) Trump could realistically do time for are 1) state crimes and 2) financial crimes having to do with things Trump and his business did BEFORE he became POTUS. That’s good but it’s not nearly good enough. Trump needs to be fully investigated, tried, convicted and punished for every last crime he perpetrated against and upon We The People. Were this just Trump, our problem would have been solved long ago. THAT is the problem. It isn’t just Trump and never was.

The entire Republican Party can now be accused either of treason or conspiracy to commit treason.

It’s simple: “see something, SAY something; see something, say NOTHING?” We have to ask “why?” WHY say nothing — especially in the face of clear, evident treason? Why protect treason when you should be protecting America? The GOP’s leadership knew at least a month before they nominated Trump in 2016 that Putin owned him. They said so OUT LOUD! Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a room of GOP leaders a month before the nominating convention and said OUT LOUD: “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room — the whole conversation was recorded and that recording was played for reporters a year later) — either contested McCarthy’s claim or asked how such an outrageous idea got into his head in the first place. In fact, they seem to have understood that it was possible if not likely. Then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s concern wasn’t that their about-to-be nominee might be owned by a hostile foreign government, it was that their collective knowledge of that fact needed to remain a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” Ryan said.

Committing treason is a Rubicon you can never un-cross. The traitor needs to know it and We The People need to know it. Traitors can never, EVER be trusted ever again. Certainly not with access to political power.

Our news media, utterly incapable of either doing their due diligence or of aggregating the very information they’re reporting into an evolving, cohesive hole, scratch their heads every day as they contemplate the continuing Republican devotion to Donald Trump — who lost them the White House, the House AND the Senate. Trump never came close to winning a popular vote and, as we’ll see soon enough, even his one Electoral College win in 2016 is likely a mirage achieved by a democracy-destroying tag team of Russian propaganda and the Republican-owned and controlled electronic voting machines made by ES&S — the paper trail-less, internet accessible, backdoor vulnerable e-voting machines most of the country uses .

The sequence in 2016 went like this: Rudy Giuliani, the FBI’s Trump-loving NYC bureau and then Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz from Utah make “The Comey Letter” happen. The rogue FBI agents in NYC know there’s a laptop computer with emails on it; they know the emails are copies of “but her emails” they’ve already exploited (though they came to nothing). Their boss, James Comey, has asked them a question: are these NEW “but, her emails” or copies of old that the FBI had already seen? The answer was “old” but the rogue agents in the NYC bureau — under Rudy G’s guiding hand — managed to keep that question alive throughout the summer and into the fall. When they finally replied “We don’t know, let’s pop the top!” it was October. Everything about the Comey letter was bullshit. The point of the exercise was to create a huge moment of doubt at the last moment.

The Comey Letter cost Hillary Clinton significant polling points. She went from a safe lead outside the margin of error to an unsafe lead within the margin of error — especially in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. At the same time, throughout the fall, Russia had been inundating the personal Facebook pages of individual Black Democratic voters with ads insisting that Hillary Clinton was a raging racist on the downlow. How did Russia know to target these very voters? That’s where Paul Manafort comes in.

As we know — he went to prison for it (though he was pardoned) — Manafort handed Konstantin Kilimnik proprietary polling data for four states: Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Consider that Trump won the EC by winning Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by a combined 77,000 votes. It is flatly against the law, what Manafort did. Considering his motives (he owed Kilimnik’s boss Oleg Deripaska seventeen million dollars and was desperate to pay him back or risk physical violence to his family!), it’s impossible not to see Manafort’s actions as treasonous. That dot connects directly to the “Russia pays Trump” dot.

Not only did the Republican Party know that Trump was a Russian asset, they deliberately covered it up every step of the way. Bill Barr could just as easily have told the truth about what he read in the Mueller Report. Except he never read it because he KNEW what it said: Team Trump and the entire Republican party were all traitors. Instead, Barr lied about Mueller’s work product. He completely misrepresented it. We’ve also learned recently that in addition to quashing the counter-intelligence investigation into Trump begun under the Obama admin, then acting AG Rod Rosenstein lied to Team Mueller when he told them not to wander into a counter-intel investigation because the FBI was doing; he told the FBI not to bother with it because Team Mueller was doing it. In the confusion (and because everyone trusted Rod Rosenstein to be an honest actor), the counter intel investigation never happened — and no one ever asked about it. Until recently.

Treason is behind every terrible thing the Republican Party is doing. Fearing demographic extinction, the RW money (the Kochs, the Mercers etc) hitched their wagons to Russia and Putin. Guys like Steve Bannon — who’s a religious zealot aching for the rapture — saw common purpose with Putin whose Russian nationalism is tied deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. Republicans saw so much common purpose with Russia that on July 4, 2018 EIGHT Republican Congresspeople (Sens. Richard C. Shelby of AL, Steve Daines (MT), John Hoeven (ND), John Neely Kennedy (LA.), Jerry Moran (KS.), John Thune (SD) and Ron Johnson (WI), plus Rep. Kay Granger (TX.) flew to Moscow for DINNER. On a date when they should have been strutting their patriotic bona fides back home, these eight were being wined and dined by Vladimir Putin. We need to know what marching orders Putin gave them all that night. What did he demand of these useful idiots? What did he threaten them with if they dared deny him?

Our news media goes to work every day, the biggest story of their lifetimes in front of them and yet most of them, though they know the story’s big, can’t get anywhere close to wrapping their minds around it. It’s bigness defies their limited imaginations. As they contemplate all the reasons Republicans might be so crazy loyal to Trump, they’re quite happy to go with “just because”. They apparently believe that Republicans are loyal to Trump “just because” but not because they might all be guilty of conspiracy to commit treason. They don’t have to accept it as the explanation until it passes all journalistic muster but, once it does? They’ll have to accept it.

These same journalists, convinced that “both sides do it”, have also convinced themselves that “bi-partisanship, no matter how you achieve it, is worth more than anything — even if that “bi-partisanship” completely undermines the nation’s integrity. Even if the “bi-partisanship” in question exists everywhere except the Senate chamber. Even if the people the media want Democrats to be bi-partisan with are flat out traitors. For some reason, the news media can report one second how Republicans are trying to undermine democracy by passing vile, anti-democratic new voter suppression laws then demand to know why Democrats aren’t trying hard to “work with” those very same Republicans.

They want to know why Democrats are so reluctant to “bi-partisan” with out-and-out TRAITORS.

Let’s also remember, this Memorial Day, those soldiers who were killed by Afghanis promised cash for shooting American soldiers. That, too, was another Russian instigation.

There is no middle ground here. Either you stand with treason or you stand against it. We know how progressives feel about treason. We also know how conservatives feel about it.

The Problem With Conservatives Is WHAT They Want To “Conserve”

I call myself a “progressive” instead of “liberal”. I’m extremely liberal in most ways but the word’s got too much damned baggage. It’s been abused and misused and neo-ed to the point where, to my mind, it’s become too imprecise to describe how my mind sees the world. I want the American commonweal to progress into the future with gusto. I want us to embrace our challenges. I want us to go as far outside the box as we need to to solve those challenges. I want America to live up to the motto on our Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum”. Out of many, one. I want America to live UP to its ideals — even the ones it didn’t fully embrace at its creation like ALL “men” are created equal. Here’s the irony — in a way, conservatives WANT America to live up to the same ideal — but EXACTLY how the founders meant it: “all white, Christian men are created equal — so long as they’re landowners.”. That is what too, too many conservatives have in mind when they take up conservatism — America circa 1850.

A debate now rages in conservative circles, started by longtime Republican strategist Stuart Stevens. In his book “It Was All A Lie”, Stevens (who has been instrumental in crafting the messages that elected hundreds of Republicans to office) unabashedly accepts responsibility for having contributed to the deeply cynical enterprise that, he now sees, was always the GOP’s true self. Stevens even sees Saint Ronnie Reagan in this harsh, new light. As satisfying as it may have been hearing Reagan deride “welfare queens” for living off the government, what Reagan really was doing was spewing racism.

Racism and white supremacy have nested at the core of Republican intent at least since Barry Goldwater, Stevens says, and it disgusts him. He now understands: the Republican Party stands for nothing today. They exist to hold onto power however they must. If that means destroying the republic? So be it. This isn’t Trumpism, insists Stevens, it’s pure Republicanism screaming at the very top of its racist, bigoted, misogynistic, ignorant voice. This is conservatives making it crystal clear WHAT exactly they want to conserve.

Obviously, no conservative wants to conserve the future. The future’s the thing conservatives are trying to keep at bay. They want to hold onto as many of their conservative values as possible so as to slow, mitigate or prevent the future from ever happening. The conservative ideal, after all, is to make the future look as much like the past as possible. If the future could BE the past? So much the better (from the conservative POV)!

This isn’t rocket science (a thing conservatives fear because rocket science causes innovation and innovation causes change). Look at anything most conservatives want to legislate. The goal is to keep white people in power. To keep money in their hands. To give them advantages versus the rules that non-white people won’t get. Conservativism, by design, wants to maintain the status quo. To conserve it. The present contains as much of the future as a conservative can tolerate. They want to preserve as much of the past as they can in the present.

If every conservative was honest, that’s what they’d tell you. That’s why you should vote for them — because, unlike the progressive who’s unafraid of the future, they, the conservative, will take you back in time to when it was safer to be white. To when white people felt more assured that the future belonged to them just like the past did. One of the reasons to scream about Critical Race Theory is that CRT demands that we tell the FULL story about the past. The reason so few Americans even knew that a “Black Wall Street” existed (only to be wiped out by a race riot 100 years ago) is because “we” never reminded ourselves that it was part of our story. White people never want to hear stories about white people acting like monsters regardless of how true the stories are. They don’t want to see themselves that way.

That, too, is part of conservatism’s nature. Conservatism cannot look itself in the eye. It can’t self-analyze. It cannot stand being judged (judgmental as it is toward everyone else). It has no sense of humor. Oh, conservatives can laugh — but they never laugh WITH anyone (except other conservatives) while they’re collectively laughing AT someone else. Conservatism regards those not conservative with cynical distrust. It assumes the very worst about the rest of us — that we’re out to destroy the thing they love; for them, even freedom is a zero sum game. It’s not possible, they think, for others to have rights without white people “losing” rights. Power sharing just ain’t in their DNA.

And, so, conservatives gerrymander and voter suppress and even conspire with Russia in order to win elections that they know they can’t win fairly — all in order to conserve a version of America that never existed in the first place except in their minds. That’s the nutshell our problem sits inside of — conservatism can’t even be honest with itself about its intentions. About what IT wants and why.

Good thing the rest of us are here to explain it to them.