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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe It’s Time To Make “Stupid” A Verb — As In “Donald Trump & The GOP Are ‘Stupiding’ America To Death”

The very worst part about going down the shitter the way we are is how stupid we are for going down the shitter. Watching other countries not go down the shitter because they weren’t as stupid — it’s salt in the wound.

But, Republicans aren’t just being stupid here. They’re being very deliberate. They still hold most of the political power; they’re stealing even more as we watch. Ironically, even with all their thievery up to this point, had the Republicans seized the marketing high road — and demonstrated incredible efficiency at knocking the coronavirus down, they would have made it much harder for Joe Biden to clean their clock the way he’s going to. To have seized that high road however, Republicans would have had to have acted like Democrats — and cared more about people than profits.

The Trump White House knew it was profiting from our failing pandemic response. That was the point. Helping anyone? If that happened, too, okay. Whatevs.

On the one hand, Donald Trump is not even remotely stupid. He’s got the smarts any bully has — for terrorizing people. He knows a thousand ways to get you to do what he wants you to do. None of them are good for you. Like he cares. But, on the other hand, Donald Trump knows nothing. Being a sociopath, he’s incapable of learning anything from another human being. He simply can’t relate to us enough to do it. But Trump also is genetically predisposed toward criminality. Google the Trump family. I ain’t lying.

Trump lives to serve his own greed. End of story. Everyone else, everything else he comes across is just a means to his end. Do what he wants — even if what he wants is stupid. Donald Trump has forced America to be stupid. He has stupided us into where we are. He’s also treasoned us into where are but one could argue that committing treason is stupid so — can we stick a pin in that?

Donald Trump responded politically to the pandemic. He didn’t see it as a public health crisis, he saw it as a political crisis – for him. That’s actually more than stupid, it’s ignorant (stupid on steroids) but for our purposes — let’s just say that was a really stupid thing to do regardless of what the motivation was.

Donald Trump committing treason — in addition to being greedy and criminal — was stupid. He was going to get caught at it eventually if only because he’s bad at it. If not for the complicity of the entire Republican Party, this dumpster fire of treachery would be out already. The entire Republican Party is stupid — for thinking they would get away with this. For still thinking they’ll get away with it.

They’re stupidity blinds them — as stupidity does. We can say therefore that any Republicans stupidity will, ironically, stupid them even as they stupid other people.

For the moment, Donald trump stupids us every day. He has stupided us every day up until now. He will stupid us again tomorrow regardless of how much he already stupided us today.

We would have to be stupid — to stupid ourselves — to let this go on.

In Order For Us To Get That Cheap Pair Of Gym Socks, Some Other Human Has To Suffer

Our market-driven economy has taught us all to continue searching out the things we want for the cheapest possible price. Why not get the thing you want while keeping a few more kopeks in your pocket? Seems totally reasonable.

But, that assumes that the things we want — a good pair of white gym socks, say (currently available from Walmart at $6.99 for a package of 6) — can actually be created from start to finish and delivered to us for the price we’re paying. Obviously it can — we’re holding the package of gym socks in our hands. But what did those socks really cost — not just us — but the people who made them? What did growing, manufacturing and shipping those socks to us do to the planet? What did our cheap package of gym socks cost everyone else?

Organic, non-destructive farming methods are more expensive than normal factory farming methods. Our cheap pair of gym socks weren’t grown organically — count on it. The cotton in them was farmed elsewhere under environmental laws more lax than ours. We don’t know (as we pay for our socks) what sorts of pesticides were used. We don’t know how responsibly (or, more likely, irresponsibly) those pesticides were used. We don’t know if they ended up in a stream or a river — or someone’s drinking water.

Farmers and business people doing things for cheap tend to cut corners — like worrying about other peoples’ drinking water. That’s just experience and history talking.

Likewise, we don’t know what, if any, air pollution regs the factory that made our socks followed. It is entirely possible that making our socks contributed (in some small way) to global warming. Bravo, us.

The biggest cost in making our socks is the labor. Or should be. It isn’t. That’s the real problem. For us to get that cheap pair of gym socks, it’s simply a fact that the human beings who actually make them will have to get paid next to nothing. If they can be slave labor — that’s even better.

Cheap, cheaper, cheapest comes at a considerable cost.

As we all stumble forward now into our coronavirus-flavored Brave New World, we’ll have the chance to re-imagine a lot of how we did things. More people working from home all around the world will have a direct economic impact on lots of other businesses. Fewer people will now travel for business. That will mean fewer flights — that are more full (as full as social distancing will allow) — and cost more. The airlines won’t have a choice if they want to remain in business.

Fewer people commuting will mean fewer people need to buy cars. That’s fewer cars bought, financed and serviced. That will mean fewer cars made — not that people will be making them anyway.

Think about your job and what you get paid for it. None of us wants to be told that our labor isn’t worth much — that we’re lucky to have a job so shut up and do it. That’s what we’re telling every laborer who has anything to do with our cheap pair of socks.

Make my socks, bitch. Then die.

We’re going to need to readjust our thinking. Things will cost more than they do because, well, they cost more. We’re going to need to see the deep, profound connections between our economic circumstances and everyone else’s.

Greed never makes anyone smarter.

Coronavirus Has Revealed All The Things America Sucks At — Health Care, Food Supply, Emergency Response; We Can Officially Add CAPITALISM To The List

The coronavirus pandemic has ripped the bandage off a thousand flaws in how Americans do things.

Health care was the first thing we were destined to slam into because we don’t HAVE a health CARE system, we have a health INSURANCE system. Not the same thing. As I’ve often said here, when people walk in the door of any part of our health system, the first question we ask isn’t “How can we fix you”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” Can’t pay? Sorry, pal.

That’s not health care speaking, it’s profit incentive. And while having profit incentive in our health care system may be profitable (the capitalism part), it was deadly to a staggering number of Americans before coronavirus. Think of all those Americans who couldn’t even think of getting tested — if they felt like shit — because they feared that if covid-19 didn’t kill them, the hospital bill surely would.

That’s the crony part.

Watch Mitch McConnell. He is dead set against doing anything even remotely “socialistic” to save America. The idea of UBI is anathema to him — even if it means saving ordinary Americans from ruin. Mitch even thinks letting New York or California go broke is the way to go. Never mind the fact that states like NY & CA are the economic ENGINES of the economy. The consumers in those states — they POWER the consumer demand that fuels the engines. People with actual expertise in economics are already saying that what Mitch is thinking wouldn’t just drive us into an economic depression, it will plunge us there. What part of capitalism is that good for?

It turns out America is especially bad at capitalism. There’s nothing inherently wrong with capitalism in the abstract. If we accept the fact that — if humans are involved — there are no perfect ways of doing anything — then one can argue that compared to everything else humans have tried, capitalism can give more humans more opportunities to enjoy a decent standard of living. The “social democracy” brand — where the commonweal always has a good seat at the economic table — makes capitalism fairer (though never ever fair enough).

Crony capitalism — what America calls capitalism — is bad for everyone ultimately — as the coronavirus is demonstrating relentlessly. It set us up for failure and damn if we’re not failing.

While the pandemic was descending upon us, Donald Trump and Jared Kushner were selling OUR supplies for profit and cornering the market on everything that was left. Rather than taking profit out of the picture — because this is a national emergency — Trump made profiteering and even outright price gouging part of the process!

Trump and the Republican Party don’t care if opening the economy kills hundreds of thousands of Americans (so long as it’s not them — then they’ll care plenty). Their bottom line, as always, is the money. And the power.

They have no idea how much rage against them is building outside their bubble. It was already building because of three years of lawlessness and treason. Throwing a daily death list into the mix is not going to expand Trump’s base. In fact — because it’s mostly Trump voters who are refusing to social distance or in any way behave safely — two weeks from now, it will be Trump voters who start dying in droves.

And Trump — as I said — won’t be adding voters. He needs every voter he can get. Or keep from dying.

As we know, Donald Trump is a horrible president just like he was a horrible businessman, a horrible father, a horrible husband, a horrible son, a horrible friend, a horrible associate, a horrible citizen, a horrible human.

He’s also a horrible capitalist. Just like every other Republican.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conservatism is greed. And greed never makes anyone smarter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The irony is already delicious.

What If We Could Make Sports As Virtual As We’re Making Everything Else?

Back in the day, I was a Co-Executive Producer for two years on a Showtime sci-fi series called The Outer Limits (it was a re-boot of the sci-fi show that ran on ABC in the 1960’s). Thinking “sci-fi” comes naturally. Not being a hard core sci-fi guy though (like everyone else on the staff was), I tended to think character first, technology second (my favorite episode was sci-fi lite — it was about a neurotic, nosy woman who’s suddenly able to hear what all her neighbors are thinking; Jane Adams played the role & Helen Shaver directed the episode).

I once wrote a short story about a future world where war has been taken off the real battlefield and put into a virtual battlefield. By international agreement, the world’s countries have agreed to make their armies “imaginary”. They reflect all the manpower, machinery and dynamism that their country can realistically produce — and in what amount.

The threat of losing virtually — and being forced to either cede territory as a result or sue for peace (and have to negotiate a surrender) has made war rare except among rogue states. Among the first world nations though — virtual war is the only war. When America is forced to fight such a war — and loses, the General responsible commits an act of murder in the aftermath — an ironic (if heavy-handed) reflection of just how civilized humans can ever really be.

In a sense, the architecture already exists to make all war (old-fashioned bombs n bullets war, that is) virtual. The same goes for sports.

We know how to turn real world data into a virtual player whose skill sets and animation accurately reflect that data. With some tweakage to accuracy — and ways to bring in all the real-time data points that would reflect real time action (in a football game, that would be a minimum of 100 data points — 2 teams with 40-man rosters + coaching staffs + officiating crew) all producing real time assessments, predictions and animations that — with some additional tweakage to the humanization of the players characters — look and feel almost like the real thing.

So — in real time — both coaching staffs would call virtual plays in real time to virtual huddles from which the virtual players would all break to go run — or audible out of. Each player would be responsible for his own character (even if his character is sitting on the bench). If the Quarterback character runs an audible and calls the snap — all his players will have to do what they were going to do — which the massive server being used will animate in real time for a world-wide audience to see. All 22 virtual players (being run by their real counterparts) will have to react to the ball (which will have its own set of virtual real time rules to follow).

Now, keep in mind — the players won’t be able to live on their laurels. They’ll be training the whole time between games — just like they were going to do. There will be metrics and measurements that they’ll have to input (via devices that actually measure the data) so that their data and all opposing players’ data is always completely up-to-date and “real”.

Because the computer knows instantaneously what the play’s outcome will be, the computer also can visualize the play and how it plays out with perfect coverage that “just so happens” to always be in the right place at the right time — with multiple perfect angles. Because the computer knows for a fact what happened on the field and what didn’t — with its physics pretty much always perfect — there won’t be any call for “field officiating”. Refs will be left in (at first) mostly for nostalgia purposes. I’m not sure yet what (if anything) game related they could do, but — in time, their role, too, will be automated. You know Major League Baseball wants to go here already, don’t ya?

Want to watch the game? That will cost ya. We could do this in tiers. The more you pay, the more inside dope ya get. The closer to the actual flow of data you get. Perhaps there’s even virtual interaction with the players. Perhaps we create virtual stadiums with tweaks to view you get (and, at any time, you can also watch the basic “here’s the game” view the general, cheapest-tier-buying pubic will get.

The cheapest tier would be exactly like what we have today. It’s free — except there are ads. Buy a subscription and the ads go away — replaced by actual content.

The Giant “What-if” we’re going to have to solve — “what if we could never feel safe again in huge crowds where anyone in it could literally kill everyone else — without even knowing?” The venues, the teams, the networks broadcasting the games — everyone will have to worry about getting sued for contributing to all that death. It won’t matter how long it takes to snake through the system, the nuisance of it, the cost — it will all be burdensome and it will hang over everything.

Two years from now (at a minimum) when not only is a viable, safe vaccination created but is distributed and given in sufficient numbers to get us all headed back to whatever normal is, then we may begin to fill stadiums again. But, sci-fi being what it is, by then another unintended consequence may be threatening our health. Climate change has already melted parts of the perma frost, releasing organisms into the present that have been literally frozen into the past. We have no idea how our bodies will react to or handle these things.

Maybe that’s more horror movie than sci-fi. I’ll put my Tales From The Crypt hat on later.

What If Lying Were Physically Impossible? Could Donald Trump — Or Any Republican — Still Exist?

No one ever has to lie. That’s just by definition. A lie is something we do deliberately with the absolute intention of misleading whoever we tell it to.

You can argue whether a sociopath like Donald Trump knows he’s lying but the fact is he KNOWS there would be consequences to telling the truth — or letting the truth get out. Trump says whatever he has to say in any particular moment. He knows he does he does this. He knows why. He knows what the accumulated effect is on people. He knows he can lie repeatedly and get away with it because people now expect him to lie.

“What’d ya think Trump was gonna do — tell you the truth?”

But, what if a second virus broke out at the same time as coronavirus. While coronavirus causes Covid-19, what if this second virus causes a “disease” called “telling the truth about yourself”? What if it spread just as easily — and silently — as coronavirus does. But, unfortunately, while the majority of people who catch the coronavirus from other people remain asymptomatic and, at worst, experience mild, cold symptoms, EVERYONE who catches “telling the truth about yourself” can’t help but tell the truth about themselves.

Talk about a nasty pathogen.

Donald Trump would suddenly gush truth-telling like an ebola patient gushing vomit. “I’m the biggest liar in the world! No one lies more or bigger than me! THAT, I can PROVE!” You can hear Donald Trump shouting it, can’t you?

And you can hear the press finally doing what he’s always wanted — agreeing with him.

“You want to know if I laundered Russian money? Is the Pope Catholic? Of COURSE I laundered Russian money! I’m OWNED by the Russian mob!”

Okay, Donnie — we hear you.

“I’ve molested my daughter, too. A lot. Just like I more or less told Howard Stern that I did.”

Maybe, Don, you want to quarantine yourself a little here. You’re giving everything away — and apparently there’s a lot to give.

Imagine Mitch McConnell coming clean — because he can’t lie: “Well, of course I’m corrupt as shit! Of COURSE I’m owned lock, stock & turtle shell by the Kochs! Of COURSE I made it my purpose to circumvent the will of the majority of Americans to deny Merrick Garland so much as a hearing while shoving a RAPIST (Brett Kavanaugh) down the nation’s unwilling throat.”

“Oh,” Mitch would remind us — “Those stories about me and my army discharge? All true, I’m afraid. Sodomy was at the heart of it. I’ve lived a secret my whole life. I’m not just a turtle…”.

Imagine Bill Barr: “Yes, I lied to America about what the Mueller Report says — just like I lied all those years ago about Iran-Contra. Don’t you get it? I’m a fixer. I’m a straight Roy Cohn who believes the president has full and complete power — so long as he’s a Republican. I’m the guy who’ll make permanent minority rule a “thing”. That’s why I’m here.”

Imagine Ivanka Trump: “If you think my dad’s rotten to the core, you haven’t been paying attention to me. My dad thinks he’s going to stick it to me before I stick it to him. Boy is HE in for a nasty surprise.”

The fact is, pretty much every Republican HAS been telling us the truth all along. They haven’t been confessing — not out in the open. But their body language has confessed. Their silence has confessed. Their false patriotism, sanctimony and hypocrisy have all confessed on their behalf. As George W. Bush so famously put it: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Yeah… what he said.

If I’m Coronavirus, Donald Trump Is The Best POTUS Evah!

Think of this pandemic from the coronavirus’ point of view. It has one, ya know.

Coronaviruses have been around — infecting humans — for at least 10,000 years. Possibly longer. Ironically, most life on earth may have started out with viruses — simple strands of RNA that, eventually, evolved into us — an incredibly complex, DNA-based organism susceptible to something as simple as a virus.

On the one hand, viruses aren’t exactly “alive” as we humans define it. But then, humans always see things from our limited point of view and assume that’s all there is to see. We see and hear limited light and sound spectra while lots of other light and sound pinballs all around us regardless of how oblivious we are to them. Viruses may not be “alive”, but they have a very specific purpose “in mind”. They don’t exist simply to “be here”, they have an imperative — a purpose that drives them. They need to reproduce.

But, in order to reproduce, viruses need a host. They need some other creature’s DNA. They need to sneak in to their host completely uninvited. Not wanted, in fact.

Once inside, their goal is to make as many copies of themselves inside your cells as they can. They don’t care if they kill you because they can still spread via your dying tissue and ooze. You, the host may die, but the virus will not. It will simply live on in your festering, rotting remains. Viruses are like zombies — brainless and yet single-mindedly driven to turn you into them.

If ever a human being bore all the qualities of a virus, it’s Donald Trump. As former Republican Rick Wilson so aptly put it in his book title — Everything Trump Touches Dies. Trump invades space like a virus. He needs to turn any space he walks into into a celebration of him. He’s remarkably adept at adapting. That’s the advantage to always lying about everything. You can switch directions on a dime without fear of people calling you a hypocrite. Of COURSE you’re a hypocrite. It’s not even worth mentioning anymore!

The moment the press accepted “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy-grabbing”, we were well and truly infected. Trumpism took out most of the press and it took out the entire Republican Party. Looking back now, all those Republicans running to Trump are a lot like Stay-at-home protestors. They’re incredibly cynical and lot of them are more infected than they know. Worse, they’re spreaders — spreading it to their own.

If I put myself inside a coronavirus’ perspective — I look at those Trump-loving protestors in their protesting clumps with a smile that never quits. It’s not just proximity that’s a problem but duration. Spend a few moments in the presence of an infected person — you may get away with it (so long as you didn’t inhale any of their droplets). Spend an hour in an infected person’s presence — in a confined space — and you’re playing Russian Roulette with a gun with one chamber in it. And the chamber’s loaded.

The reason so many health care front-liners are getting hit and getting hit hard is because in addition to the proximity that allows coronavirus access to them and their bodies, there’s the size of the viral load hitting the front-liners. It’s massive and sometimes relentless. It’s like water pouring into a boat. You can bail and keep the boat from sinking. But if the water coming in is more than the water going out, you won’t keep the boat from sinking for very long.

If I’m a coronavirus, I look at China’s initial reaction (lying about me) with glee. But I look at what Donald Trump did with outright delirium. That’s how happy Donald Trump makes me. China eventually got its shit together and locked its citizens down in a way America couldn’t ever. A third of Americans don’t “do” selfless. They need their haircuts and bars. They need everyone else to know that we’re not the boss of them. If they want to get sick from a pandemic-strength pathogen, that’s their business, not ours.

If WE get sick though, because THEY infected us?

Sounds kinda “viral” in its thinking, no?

Here’s The First Great “Life In The Time Of Coronavirus” Horror Movie

I have to be honest. The idea wasn’t mine — it was my wife’s. But the moment she said the premise, the rest of it played out almost instantaneously in my head.

That happens with me. I’ve written a few horror movies (“Children Of The Corn II”, “Tales From The Crypt Presents Bordello Of Blood”) and wrote/produced “Tales From The Crypt” for HBO. I mention this “only” to lay down my bona fides. I’m not just a garden variety psychotic — I’ve actually made money at it.

What my wife pitched was a play on “Blow Up” (London photographer inadvertently photographs a murder in progress — but only after looking more closely — blowing up — the photo).

Her idea was this: someone watching a zoom meeting — a group of girlfriends, say — sees something in the background of one of those friend’s screens that makes them thing something bad’s going to happen.

That was it. The rest of the movie (with a few variations) came to me. Since no one knows when anyone will get to shoot such a movie — and figuring that by then this will be too faint a memory to mean anything anymore, I’m spending it here.

Here’s the horror movie — the thumbnail version: grab some popcorn.

There’s a group of girlfriends — 18 – 20 year olds. A few are quarantined alone for various reasons. A few are quarantined in small family groups — mom & dad plus a sibling. Normal family tensions.

But one of the girls — let’s call her Sophie — her family situation was strange to begin with. This is not a family you’d want to be quarantined with in the best of times. Let’s say there’s a bit of insanity in the family gene pool, the one exception being Sophie — who sees her friends and her Zoom connection to them as her only “lifeline”.

Did we mention that just as states and cities were ordering everyone into quarantine, Cousin MORGAN came to stay. In a family of crazies, Morgan’s the one all the other crazies won’t fuck with. He’s that crazy. And, having just gotten out of jail because of the approaching threat of coronavirus — he’s landed here because it was closest.

Did we mention also that Sophie’s family lives in a run-down old mansion (Grey Gardens style) — up a hill, around a bend — on the other side of the tracks from where all her friends live.

All Sophie’s friends adore her. They’ve all “taken care” of her, in part because she 1) came from the other side of the tracks but 2) was cool about it. All Sophie’s friends love Sophie — and are incredibly afraid of Sophie’s family — especially Cousin Morgan who they’ve always heard about.

Now — the fact is (back story here — we’ll learn all this as we go but, this being narrative — and a thumbnail — I’m dropping it here) most of Sophie’s family though eccentric and weird are harmless. But Cousin Morgan’s the real deal. And Sophie, her friend and the audience have every reason to be genuinely afraid of him. As far as we know.

Remember — our point of view in to Sophie’s family is Sophie.

The group has a Zoom call as the movie begins. We get how everyone’s quarantine is going day 1… day 5… day 15. For most of them, it’s a matter of muddling through — which they are. For a few others, the family dynamic is wearing them down. No one’s a child here. They’re all young adults and the ones forced back into their “high school bedrooms” (physically and emotionally) are beginning to bristle.

In Sophie’s case, it’s gone way beyond “bristling”. And that’s where — as Sophie’s friends begin to realize what’s happening in Sophie’s house (and what could happen to Sophie), the horror movie conventions begin to play.

What worries Sophie — the virus might be spreading inside her house. Her dad quarantined himself in his bedroom a few days ago. Locked the door too. Said he took in enough food and has water (there’s a private bathroom off his bedroom) to keep the door shut and the rest of the family safe. He won’t talk to them. Says hearing their voices is too hard. Only texts the others. He’s texted how exhausted he feels. Hard to breathe.

Problem is, Dad was the only thing in the house to balance Uncle Morgan — and what Sophie’s friends have seen are “hints” in the background of Sophie’s Zoom window that suggest she’s more a hostage than anything else.

And then, one night, Sophie doesn’t answer the Zoom invitation.

The horror movie is “what do Sophie’s friends do”. They’ll have to get to Sophie’s house, of course. One will at first — and give us a scary first-person, “Blair Witch” style creep-through of the carnage that’s already there.

She finds Sophie — tries to get her out — only to get killed by Uncle Morgan. A few more friends arrive. They get dispatched too. So does the cop who shows up.

Social distancing becomes an issue. The town’s on lockdown, say — because it’s suddenly a hot spot. The cops are stopping everyone who’s out and about — which will slow down Sophie’s friends at crucial moments just when Sophie needs them most.

One last friend (the one we’ve rooted for most) tries to save Sophie and nearly does when she realizes the terrible, terrible secret at the heart of it all — the real monster of the piece? It’s Sophie. SHE’S the one who, because of the quarantine, flipped out and massacred her whole family.

Sophie’s worse than a contagion. And, as the movie ends — she walks away — right into the sequel.

As we say in the business — “Scene”.

What Do You Do When The Reality Of A Pandemic Contradicts What Your Religious Faith Wants You To Believe?

I draw a very clear distinction between spirituality and religion. But then, I would — I’m an atheist. A spiritual atheist. I commune regularly with the cosmos though I’m quite sure the cosmos does not commune back. The cosmos couldn’t give a rat’s ass about me. I accept that.

I stand in awe of the cosmos regardless.

Your “Spirituality” is how you relate to things outside of you that are far bigger than you. It does not require any sort of magical thinking. The question is — how do you respond to uncertainty? People of Faith (it’s in the word “faith”) can’t abide uncertainty. They need to know why we’re here, how it started, where it all ends. A God character works well for them because He explains everything. In the beginning, there was just Him.

The rest of us — those with “no faith” to speak of — “believers in science” — are much more willing to accept uncertainty. Important caveat: no one “believes in science”. We believe in the “scientific method” which underscores how science arrives at its view of the world. We believe that a rigorous, testable, repeatable process willing to accept failure, willing to evolve as new information becomes available, gives us the widest possible context in which to make judgments about how the world works and what our functions and obligations are within it.

“Believers in science” are willing to accept — when we arrive at a question to which we DON’T have an answer — “I don’t know”.

“I don’t know yet.”

“I’m still working on that — give me time.”

“I don’t know.”

Those are all things people of faith can’t accept that people of “no faith” can.

Jesus said (quite simply) “Do Unto Others”. He said nothing whatsoever about doing what your priest says over what your gut says. No wait — I take that back — Jesus said quite explicitly that you don’t need a temple, don’t need priests. Talk directly to God. In point of fact, Jesus said IGNORE the priests, they’re corrupt.

Also in point of fact, Jesus (whoever he was in reality) did not invent any of the born-of-a-virgin, son-o-god, risen-from-the-dead stuff that fills the gospels. Paul did that. He started it anyway. The church took the ball from Paul and went to town with it. It’s all there in black and white. It’s just history — how the Christian Church evolved its mythology over time, starting with Paul. And Paul, too, evolved his sales pitch over the course of all the epistles he wrote to all those burgeoning “Christian” communities across the Roman world.

Paul invented Christianity. He invented the whole idea of a “Christian Church”. He invented the idea of Jesus, The “Do Unto Others” Mascot.

Inside most churches, that’s who Jesus is: a mascot. Beyond the pretty white boy framing though? Most churches have absolutely no use for that guy. He’s too socialist.

The problem with churches are that they’re all self-serving. They have to be. In order to continue to exist, a church has to pay for itself. Though they may teach magic INSIDE the church, they know damned well magic won’t be building that church. It’s going to take money.

And then, once the church is built? It will require MORE money. That’s why churches NEED followers — who pay tithes. Those tithes pay for the church building. And the priests. And the whole rest of the church institution. And all those buildings and the people who work inside them.

On the way to building that church organization, that church had to create rules. That’s the big difference between spirituality and religion. Spirituality just “is”. It has no rules or regulations. It doesn’t need them — except in that, ideally, your spirituality should guide you in your relationships with every other human being — who has their own spirituality. That’s where Jesus’s very simple “Do Unto Others” solves the problem spiritually. Who needs any ten commandments?

Commandments are very “churchy”. “Synagogue-y too”. It smacks of patriarchal nonsense. Don’t piss off dad. Or else.

Jesus would NEVER have told his followers to go to church — despite the risk of coronavirus — simply because some PRIEST said “do it”. Jesus would have thought “I don’t want to be given coronavirus by someone who has it but might not know it, so I will not give it to someone else (if I have it but don’t know it).” He would have done unto others as he would have had them do unto him.

No one would have been told “Go to church”.

The problem with so much religious faith is that it’s misplaced. That’s not the fault of those seeking spiritual enlightenment. Their need is their need. But they’re told early on that a church can handle that enlightenment when, in fact, enlightenment is NOT what any church is about: continuing as a church is.

Churches teach nonsense because that’s how they hold onto followers. The rules and regs — the exclusivity of a church (us v them) — they all become shackles.

So — what does one do when one’s church preaches death but calls it something else?

This humble atheist suggests looking deeper — into yourself. You know you far better than any church ever will.

Our universe is like the most amazing art museum imaginable — filled with remarkable works of staggering beauty. Church followers are like museum-goers who can’t see any of the art around them because they’re now worried that one of the museum guards is looking at them funny.

Ignore the guard. Savor the cosmos.