If We Were Honest With Ourselves, We’d Admit That Alcohol And Pandemics Simply Do Not Mix

Pandemics don’t sit well with social creatures. Covid19 would be a lot easier to beat if humans were more like snow leopards — exceptional at self-isolating from other snow leopards. But, humans mostly crave each others’ company. We like socializing. We especially like drinking while socializing. Sometimes, in fact, we like the drinking more than we even like the socializing. If we socialized without drinking, we’d feel like we didn’t really quite “socialize” properly. Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with either self-medicating or self-medicating together. But the last thing we need is a “medicine” (alcohol) that makes us more susceptible to a pathogen by encouraging stupid behavior.

I stopped drinking alcohol four years ago. I didn’t mean to. The mood stabilizer I started taking to treat a suicidal depression gives all alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. Even a big, inky red loaded with fruit and depth suddenly became grapefruit skin on the finish. Given the choice between not being suicidally depressed and not drinking alcohol because of the aftertaste, I turned my back on a collection of lovely reds, single malt scotches and all sorts of interesting alcohols. I walked away from bracing, ice cold gin martinis and sumptuously malty IPAs. I didn’t just drink alcohol, I savored it. I collected it. I celebrated it.

These days, I self medicate almost exclusively with cannabis. I could not be happier. Literally.

Being a non-drinker opened my eyes to both my own excessive drinking and — sorry, guys — everyone else’s too. Don’t take this personally. It’s just a stone cold fact: you all drink too much. You think about alcohol too much. You don’t appreciate how much it impacts you because you haven’t the (non-drinker’s) perspective. It’s fascinating to go to a bar or party (back when we used to do things like that) and, over the course of a few hours, watch everyone you’re with become less coherent. Or worse. I can’t tell you how many times, over the last four years, I’ve watched friends and loved ones become painfully silly the more they drank and thought “There but for the grace of alcohol go I”.

We know this to be true: the more alcohol you drink, the more your motor skills diminish. The more your thoughts blur together. The more your emotions — anger especially — spark to life. Alcohol obliterates our capacity to edit ourselves. In vinas veritas? Bullshit. In vinas stuff you shouldn’t say. Not because it’s “true” but because however you’re going to say it, you’re going to say it inelegantly. You’re not going to articulate the nuances of your feelings, you’re going to take a huge emotional dump all over the person you’re focused on.

How much trouble has alcohol caused at sporting events around the world? How much rioting? How many championship celebrations have morphed into street violence? Take alcohol out of those equations and — I betcha — those equations all end differently.

Imagine for a second that instead of serving alcohol at sporting events they served cannabis. Think there’d be any violence at the end of a soccer match? Hell, no! Cannabis doesn’t work in our brains the same way alcohol does. Not even remotely. Ever see gangs of people hopped up on cannabis rioting? No? There’s a reason for that. Cannabis does not compel you to do anything like that.

Cannabis (especially sativas) focus the mind while drenching you in feelings of mild euphoria. One can appreciate nuances of the game one would miss on alcohol. And there’s no anger. Oh, yeah, sure — if your team’s playing badly, it’s not nearly as much fun as when your team’s winning. But a stadium filled with fans high on pot would never turn violent. They might hug each other a little too tightly. They might praise each other a little too effusively. They might be asleep.

I had the pleasure of going (only once unfortunately) to LA’s first cannabis cafe. It was awesome. At the time I went they didn’t serve alcohol; I’m not sure if that ever changed; I hope it didn’t. A couple of quick takeaways: the most striking thing to me was how the place sounded. For starters, the profit-driving product for sale wasn’t alcohol — served in glasses — it was cannabis — served in joints or as ground flower or concentrate. One heard lighters flicking a lot. But very little clinking of glass. Cocktails weren’t be mixed. Beer bottles weren’t being opened. Toasts weren’t being made.

And what happens after the drinking begins — that wasn’t happening either as my friend Johnny and I sat there, enjoying first the giant sativa joint we bought to share and then a very good lunch: people getting louder. People getting high on cannabis may laugh a lot more — and there was abundant laughter in the room (joyful, delighted, high-as-a-kite laughter), but no one got boisterous the way alcohol makes people boisterous. Cannabis, by contrast, draws people inward.

They get a little quieter actually, more thoughtful. Johnny and I — the THC from the sativa (I don’t recall what strains were blended into it) drenching our brains — had a very good, very intense conversation about what we were experiencing. We couldn’t help noticing how many of the tables around us were doing the same thing — in the same normal tone of voice. That’s the thing, ya see: unless you’re (deliberately) wasted? Most people on cannabis don’t change much from when they’re NOT on cannabis.

So — the Cannabis Cafe was quieter because less glass clinking, more conversation using indoor voices exclusively, more focus and euphoria. Cannabis, by the way, makes food taste awesome. And the menu was created with a clear understanding of the ways pot makes you hungry and what it makes you hungry for. The Korean tacos would have been good anyway. On pot, they were transcendently good.

One other relevant observation. The cafe has a parking lot right next to it — with valet service. Johnny and I both parked on the street and walked a half block or so to the cafe. When our ninety minutes were done (that’s all the time you get — there’s a line of people waiting for your table after all), Johnny and I paid our bill and headed for the door. Like everyone else, we’d just spent 90 minutes eating and getting high.

Just outside the cafe’s front door, Johnny and I watched the other diners get their keys from the valet, climb into their cars and drive off. Johnny and I then said our good-byes (and how much we enjoyed ourselves) and headed off to our cars — which we both got into and drove off. Having — all of us — just smoked dope. Know how many traffic accidents happened just outside the cafe (as “high” drivers, oblivious because they’d smoked weed turned into oncoming traffic)? Zero.

There’s a reason. Alcohol and THC do not act on our brains the same way. Though we treat them like they do, they simply do not. While alcohol impairs your motor skills almost from the get-go, THC doesn’t. There’s data from the National Highway Transportation that makes the point. It states in fact:

“…Most marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on actual road tests.3738 Experienced smokers who drive on a set course show almost no functional impairment under the influence of marijuana, except when it is combined with alcohol.”

It does not matter how experienced a drinker you are. You will always be impaired by a certain amount of alcohol. It’s just math — and blood-alcohol chemistry. The same simply is not true of marijuana.

Hell, I take a hit or two of Durban Poison (a wonderful classic sativa) before playing tennis because it improves my timing. The THC slows my thought process down (I’m hypomanic) just enough so I can focus on the ball. I see it far better WITH the THC in me than without. I know where I have to be to put the ball where I want it to go. Another benefit I’ve noticed? My timing is better because I become more “coachable”.

I listen to myself. I make the necessary adjustments in order to play better. And then I do.

Alcohol, by contrast, causes terrible decision-making. People say things they shouldn’t. They have sex they shouldn’t have with people they shouldn’t have sex with. They get into their cars and turn on the ignition.

Or they go out drinking with friends during a pandemic.

If there was more of me and less of you, I’d try to stage an intervention on your behalf. Alas, there’s not so I can’t. I totally get our obsession with drinking. It used to be my obsession. But, these days, if I get hurt or die in a drunk driving accident, I know going in I won’t be the cause. Neither will my medication. I can’t control drunk drivers.

Neither can I control assholes who won’t wear a mask. I wouldn’t even try.

They’re probably drunk.

If Team Biden Succeeds With Their Pandemic Response – Which They Will – The Rest Of Their Mission Gets Easier

The headline says it all: If Team Biden — Joe, the Pandemic Response Team he’s already formed plus the rest of his remarkable brain trust — succeeds in its pandemic response, the next steps in healing America will be easier. Team Trump have set the bar remarkably low. Even “success bordering on failure” will look like total success by comparison. That’s not fair so we’ll forget we even mentioned it. Consider the optics. Job One — stop the pandemic from sickening us while also getting the economy up off its knees. It gets done. Would that build at least a modicum of trust in at least some of the more reasonable Trumpanistas? If even one puts down the Trump kool aid and returns to the fold, we can call it “success”.

I knew I couldn’t help myself. Think of the direction we’re headed in. Think of the direction we’re already turning toward. Think of the timing of it all — and I mean “it all”. Donald Trump made Joe & Kamala’s success here a sure thing. Unless Covid-19 suddenly mutates in some bizarrely, horror movie, “Bidenesque” fashion, the worst of the epidemic’s impacts on our lives will have Trump’s fingerprints all over them. There will be a clear demarcation point from when “we started to get better”. That demarcation point will be January 20, 2021 — the day Joe and Kamala and the rest of Team Biden went to work ON America’s behalf instead of AGAINST it.

Project forward with me. It’s now late April 2021. The numbers reveal a devastating winter but an improving spring. At the very same time that Team Biden has been putting science to work taming the pandemic, it’s also flooded the economy with cash — aimed to work from the bottom up. Now cash-flowed for the near-term while the epidemic releases its grip, confidence grows in the American consumer.

And also meanwhile — Team Biden has returned the Department of Justice to being a Department of Justice instead of a corrupt president’s consigliere. Suddenly subpoenas are being issued. People are being made to speak under oath. Important people. Important Republican people. Suddenly all that oversight that never got done starts getting done. But most important of all, there’ll be the matter of the counter-intelligence investigation that We The People assumed was being handled somewhere between Team Mueller and the FBI. You know — the one Rod Rosenstein killed dead on the downlow? THAT counter-intel investigation? Well, it’s back on now.

And we’ll KNOW it’s back on and the speculation in the press will be the new, exciting, talk-about-it-24/7 parlor game that every talking head can play. Who will get touched by charges of treason? Maybe it’ll be “Who WON’T Get Touched?” Either way, THAT will be entertainment.

This, too, will be part of the backdrop against which Team Biden’s success with the pandemic will play as they finally turn toward the next parts of their agenda — healing on their minds. Remember: success is virtually guaranteed. Donald Trump made it so.

Who knows? Some of us may even stop to thank Donald — who, remember, will be deep in his own personal nightmare, his legal bills through the roof, the charges and lawsuits piling up like lies in a news conference. Thirty percent of this country will never come around. They just won’t. We need to stop chasing them and, instead, start thinking of how to mitigate their damage. Every benefit coming to us will go to them. They don’t have to say “thank you”. They won’t.

Nothing in life is perfect. Can’t be. Our union isn’t perfect but, fortunately, it’s designed to be made more perfect as needed. Like now. Timing is everything. So’s framing.

We’re about to stop thinking one way about the world and start thinking another. That’s how big a moment in History this is. The problem with journalists is they live too much in the moment. It’ll take historians to point out what those moments all meant.

It isn’t rocket science to project what will happen. It’s just a grasp of the actual facts that have already been reported. The election, the pandemic, Trump’s impeachment, Bill Barr’s criminal obstruction of justice, the lies about the Mueller Report, the fact that there even IS a Mueller Report, the fact that we still don’t know just how deeply connected Donald Trump, his family, his circle, the Republicans around him and every Republican around them are to Russia (or any other foreign player in our politics). But those things are all out there.

And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. While healing from the pandemic’s hold, we will be treated to a steady diet of stunning criminality on one party’s part.

Make no mistake. The Progressive wing of the Democratic Party is going to have to produce returns and early. It won’t be fair. It never is. But progressivism is going to get an unusual tail wind behind them. They should enjoy it but not take it for granted. And they should not for two seconds take credit for it — the successful pandemic response. That’s what our government is supposed to do, ya see.

They’d be taking credit for doing the jobs they get paid to do. THAT, ya see, is going to be what makes Team Biden’s job easier. Pure, unadulterated competence. The bar is soooooo low.

Ah, hell. I did it again. I gave Trump credit.

Our news media, as they often do, keep asking the wrong questions. How can Team Biden succeed? No, no, no, sillies!

The correct question is, post Donald Trump, “HOW CAN THEY FAIL?”

Things We Can Do To Protect Ourself From Coronavirus Infection: COPPER!

I’m not a scientist. I’ve never played one on television or anywhere. But there’s this — real, scientific information from reputable sources that all says the same thing: copper is almost uniquely qualified to “fight” viruses. We should be taking advantage of that fact as much as we can — especially if it costs nothing (relatively speaking).

Here’s the paper in its entirety. ScienceDirect has been judged highly factual by the Journal of the Medical Library Association. Here’s the abstract:

Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient for both pathogens and the hosts during viral infection. Cu is involved in the functions of critical immune cells such as T helper cells, B cells, neutrophils natural killer (NK) cells, and macrophages. These blood cells are involved in the killing of infectious microbes, in cell-mediated immunity and the production of specific antibodies against the pathogens. Cu-deficient humans show an exceptional susceptibility to infections due to the decreased number and function of these blood cells. Besides, Cu can kill several infectious viruses such as bronchitis virus, poliovirus, human immunodeficiency virus type 1(HIV-1), other enveloped or nonenveloped, single- or double-stranded DNA and RNA viruses. Moreover, Cu has the potent capacity of contact killing of several viruses, including SARS‐CoV‐2. Since the current outbreak of the COVID-19 continues to develop, and there is no vaccine or drugs are currently available, the critical option is now to make the immune system competent to fight against the SARS‐CoV‐2. Based on available data, we hypothesize that enrichment of plasma copper levels will boost both the innate and adaptive immunity in people. Moreover, owing to its potent antiviral activities, Cu may also act as a preventive and therapeutic regime against COVID-19.

All highlights are mine.

The paper states that while most people get an “adequate” amount of copper from their diets, absorption can be compromised by a dietary imbalance of other minerals or metals — zinc in particular. The more copper there is in your diet, the better as copper is so critical to our immune systems functioning at their best.

As the paper’s authors put it: “We hypothesize that copper supplementation can help fight COVID19, especially in older people where marginal or severe deficiency of Cu is a strong possibility.” Eating more copper will boost your immune system — for real. More than that, the presence of copper in your blood and gut make it far harder for the coronavirus to make you a host.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when the people running the country ignore science because it’s politically and financially inconvenient. They think sticking their heads in the sand and pretending there isn’t a problem will make the problem go away. As we all know — they’ve got that wrong.

We pretty much have to save ourselves by ourselves for now — same way we have to save our government from the monstrous greed machine it’s been turned into. We can help defend ourselves via diet. Since we’re all going to be wearing masks for a while, we might as well make them as effective as possible in both keeping others safe from our spew and us safe from theirs.

Foods that deliver a solid copper-load: beef liver (the king — by a long shot), oysters, dark chocolate, potatoes, mushrooms…

So — diet really is one thing we can do to help ourselves (which, in turn, helps everyone else). Now let’s talk masks — unless you’re wearing medical grade, none of these masks is virus proof. Viruses are tiny and the weave holding a mask together not so tiny. But if cloth masks can prevent 85% of virus particles from getting to your face, then a trip through that includes copper might make that last 15% less dangerous and more susceptible to your high-in-copper diet.

For a few dollars more — if those dollars are available (not a certainty these days), putting copper in your mask adds one more inexpensive way to protect yourself — if you’re of a mind to.

Another of copper’s benefits is its constancy. Not much degrades its pathogen-fighting qualities. Even if worn down, copper still works. In theory, a handful of pennies should work as a makeshift hand sanitizer — provided the pennies are clean, of course — and provided you could get pennies into all your hands’ nooks and crannies.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to weave more cotton into more places. On the plus side, it works. On the double plus side, copper’s so cheap, we use it in pennies so adding copper thread to a fabric shouldn’t break the bank.

Will copper prevent anyone from getting sick? I have no idea. Will doing nothing prevent anyone from getting sick? I still have no idea. All I know is I do NOT want this virus anywhere near me. If adding a little more copper to my life is what I gotta do?

Where’s the hard part?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sopranos” closed the deal.

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

And how could a gangster have emotional problems?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something else happened that was important. Order sizes changed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capitalism Doesn’t Have To Crush People — Only CRONY Capitalism Does That

Like all ideas, capitalism itself is neither good nor bad. It’s just an idea — a foundational notion of how a society might live, using capital as a motivator for innovation. Capitalism, by its nature, looks to the future. It depends on tomorrow being better than today — it needs new ideas, new inventions, new ways of doing things constantly churning in order to succeed. Money chases ideas because a good idea can make someone rich but also benefit a wide swath of humanity because capitalism has also innovated how to mass produce, market and distribute that good idea.

The trick, as always, is who is at the helm of the idea. Who’s driving it?

Capitalism plus greed — unfortunately the easiest combination of all — produces chaos and corruption and blight. Greed — the compulsive getting of money (or anything) for its own sake — though it seems to run alongside capitalism — actually is an impediment to it. Greed kills innovation. It’s rarely the greedy people who do any of the actual innovating. But damn if they’re not first in line when the money starts flowing. And damn if they don’t refuse to budge when it happens.

We associate capitalism with conservatism — the getting of huge piles of money seems like something old people, landed people, already-wealthy people, greedy people would associate with happiness. But conservatism never thinks about the future. Conservatism wants to conserve — just like it’s name says. It wants to conserve the past (what else?) and the present (because the present still contains elements of the past). Innovation poses a direct threat to that way of thinking. How could it not? Innovation innovates because it sees problems in how we do things now. How can we improve upon past ways? How can change them?

See the problem for conservatives?

The truth is, capitalism and progressivism have far more common purpose than capitalism and conservatism. Crony capitalism is greed perverting markets. It isn’t actually a form of capitalism, it’s a distortion of it.

The more fair capitalism is, the better it is — because it gives more people the chance to both innovate and benefit. That means regulating it. Over-regulation can stifle capitalism as much as corruption does — there is a fine balance. Ain’t nothing perfect in this world — not if humans are involved. Let’s stop thinking it exists.

Social democracies resting upon the Rule Of law (so that everyone is indeed treated equally before the law) and a reasonably regulated capitalism would give more people the chance to live better, happier, healthier lives.

Regulated capitalism puts more money into peoples’ hands. When more people have money — a healthy, functioning middle class — they spend that money on goods and services — the basis for a consumer driven market economy. They may even save a buck or two. Our version of capitalism here in America hasn’t done that. As we know — it’s done the opposite. The rich have gotten way richer, the poor can’t even afford to go to a hospital if they have Covid-19.

And — ironically? That fact is what makes the pandemic so much worse here in America. Our health system is a giant billboard advertising everything wrong with crony capitalism. It’s not a health CARE system, it’s a health INSURANCE system. The first question we ask anyone walking in the door isn’t “How can we fix you?”, it’s “How’re you gonna pay for this?” That’s wrong every which way you look at it.

Think of all the people who lose their houses, go bankrupt, destroy their family’s finances for generations all because they got sick. That doesn’t happen anywhere else but here. It’s because capitalism sits inside our health “care” system — where it does not belong. Capitalism can innovate myriad ways to do health CARE better, more efficiently, more effectively.

That’s if we use capitalism — this idea — as a tool. To help as many human beings around the globe as possible. Capitalism has been good for mankind. It has made life better for us as a species. We’ve prospered under it. That’s just historical fact speaking.

It’s caused profound misery too.

But — if we’re fair — little of that was capitalism’s fault.

Dear Rich Guys: Learn From History! If You Kill Off Too Many Workers, The Workers Will Control The Labor Market!

The current crop of Republicans would have felt right at home in Feudal Europe — all of them vassals to corrupt king Donald who, himself, sold out the Kingdom to the Kingdom’s chief rival, King Vlad The Impaler.

Feudalism relied on having lots of peasants to work the lord’s fields. The Black Plague gutted Europe, killing 60% of its population. In the aftermath, when it came time to plow again, there were now far fewer peasants to do the work. That was true for pretty much every lord around — they needed a hundred plebes, they had twenty. Next thing you know, the lords are fighting over laborers, trying to “grab” their neighbors’ peasants by offering them better deals. Bigger plots of land. A better percentage of whatever the peasant farmed to keep for himself and his family.

For the first time, maybe ever, labor sat atop the seesaw.

The economic system that Europe had lived under for hundreds of years disappeared virtually overnight — because the next harvest had to come in. People were starving. That change in the balance of power killed feudalism dead.

The Trump White House aches to send America “back to work” even as our numbers shoot upward alarmingly. The Trump WH’s own projections call for horrifying numbers that should make the idea of opening the country unthinkable. Yet here we are.

Trump needs to restart the economy because it’s the only argument he (thinks he) has for re-election. It was never a good argument to begin with. It’s even more laughable now. You simply can’t make people want to spend money and buy things when they’re in fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. You’ll bankrupt them all first.

Trump doesn’t care about killing Americans. He cares about remaining POTUS.

If he loses this election (he’s going to lose it), he’ll stop being POTUS and the moment THAT happens, his legal problems begin. And once they begin, they may never stop. And the moment Trump’s legal problems begin, so do the legal problems of everyone around him. Right now, that pretty much includes the entire Republican Party.

The Republicans aren’t working toward any grand vision here. They’re on a Permanent Minority Rule Or Bust trip. It’s all or nothing now. When they threw in with Trump, they threw in with Russia (which some of them, it turns out, had already done via Maria Buttina or the NRA). The GOP is in it to win it. There’s no other option for them.

They will go down with this ship — the SS Trump-tanic.

On the other side of this crisis — eighteen months from now, give or take — the RW will get the thing they feared most. Their greed and lust for power is now being revealed. There’s no way to pretty up what the Republicans did and are doing. But there’s also no conservative way out of this. We can only go deeper into the shit by listening to them.

We can fall into a deep, deepening depression that takes longer from which to recover.

THAT’S the conservative way out. Everybody dies except them and their money — they hope. That’s not hyperbole. What else does “There’s more to life than living” mean?

We will emerge from this far more socialized. Of necessity. We must expunge profit incentive from our health CARE system. We need to turn our health CARE system into a care system instead of the health INSURANCE system it now is. As the pandemic makes crystal clear, we are only as healthy as the least healthy person among us.

We will also emerge far more unionized. What the meat packing workers and Amazon workers and others being “essential worker-ed” into the coronavirus’ maw have to endure is horrifying and (if it’s not, it should be) illegal. The Republican Party piling on by insisting that workers refusing to work because of the threat to their lives cannot collect any benefits — in addition to being expected, it’s disgusting.

The lag time between a person’s initial infection with coronavirus and the symptoms it gave the person covid-19 can be about two weeks. Or longer. It’s like when people drink but don’t feel tipsy or happy or drunk right away. They think, “Hey, the booze didn’t work this time — what’s up with that? I better have a lot more right now!”

The issue isn’t the booze, it’s the lag time. Now, in addition to being regular drunk when the lag time finally ends, you’ll be extra drunk because of the chaser you threw down. Ah, but Republicans never learn anything. That’s because they don’t want to. What’s in it for them to learn things? They’re conservatives, remember? They want to conserve — keep things as they are now or, better yet, make them how they were back when white people ruled everything.

Conservatives always have a great sense of history — in that there’s a time in history they want us all to return to. They don’t see history as a teacher of anything. That’s why they keep repeating it.

Dear Conservatives: Thank You For Making Democratic Socialism Inevitable

A thousand years of great explainer videos couldn’t have done what a couple of months in Coronavirus World did: compellingly and undeniably make the case for democratic socialism over crony capitalism.

Make no mistake: crony capitalism brought us here. Conservatism brought us here. The two are flip sides of the same corrupt coin. We have only just begun to feel the hurt coronavirus and covid-19 are going to put on us. We’re the Whack-A-Mole who’s just stuck his head out. We haven’t gotten hit yet so we must be good, right?

At the end of the day, the “joke” will be on conservatism. There is literally no “conservative” way out of this mess. None.

If we force everyone back to work in some ignorant stab at “herd immunity”, we’ll sacrifice millions of people with no guarantee that, as the virus mutates (viruses are very good at mutating and quickly), that herd immunity will carry on. We don’t even know for sure whether people who survive covid-19 and develop covid-19 antibodies become genuinely immune. We think they might. But we don’t have a whole lot of data yet.

But then, conservatism doesn’t put much stock in data. Too much data equals too much information and too much information undermines the credibility of all their bullshit — which was never based on data. Conservatism wants to live in the past. Not a real past, but an idealized past where everything was good for them and less good for everyone else. The playing field conservatism dreams of is tilted horribly in their favor.

That is why conservatives always look askance at too many facts & figures. Climate science is good example. It’s expensive to deal with. It’ll be more expensive if we don’t, says science. Day traders that they are, conservatives will point at the bottom line as if it were a person. We can’t hurt money’s feelings, they say. What they mean is THEIR money. We can’t impact THEIR money — even if THEIR money is killing everyone else.

Conservatives don’t care if millions of Americans get sick and die with no real access to health care. Their in it for the for-profit insurance companies and the for-profit hospitals and the for-profit pharmaceutical companies. While we’re here — no one (repeat NO ONE) loves their “health insurance”. Health INSURANCE is not health CARE. Insurance companies have inserted themselves into our relationships with our health care providers as GATE KEEPERS. We don’t need any stinking gate keepers.

The gate keeper here has segmented the world of health care providers into people we’re allowed to see (cos they have a contract with them that pays an agreed upon price) vs providers we’re NOT allowed to see (unless we want to pay retail-retail entirely out-of-pocket). Other countries don’t have this problem. They don’t have doctors they can see and doctors they can’t — because the gate keeper says so.

Other countries don’t pay premiums (the cost of their health care is built into their taxes — they will absolutely pay more in taxes but the peace of mind alone in knowing you can never go bankrupt and lose everything just because you get sick more than makes up for the difference. In fact, socialized medicine is less expensive overall — by a lot — with far, far better outcomes.

In America, we pay more to get far less and think we’re effin’ brilliant. No, we are not.

But, again, that’s how conservatives “think”. They can’t back up “ours is the best health care system in the world” with data, so they go with “cos I said” instead. They think it therefore it must be.

There’s no conservative way out of here. Good thing there are Progressive ways out. If we had Progressive leadership at the start of this fiasco, the response would have been entirely different (Bill De Blasio’s lead-from-behind “leadership” notwithstanding). We would have followed the science wherever it took and whatever it advised us to do.

That would have put us in lockdown sooner — with all the same economic issues. But, Progressive leadership would have made staying at home a no-brainer by giving everyone a UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME for the duration of their inability to make a living. We would have already been well on the road to socialized medicine — a single payer, medicare for all environment where everyone gets solid health care regardless of who they are, what they earn or who they love. That would have prevented the hesitation anyone had to USE the health CARE part of the system (the non-insurance part).

Progressives recognize that we are only as healthy as the least healthy person among us. I know — pretty Jesus-y. Do unto others and everything.

Progressives also would have federalized our response to the virus — using the federal government the way its supposed to be used — organize our various strengths into a unified strength, not like a mob boss keeping his underlings guessing.

Though we didn’t start out solving this progressively, we will, in the end. Or we won’t survive at all.

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 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.

How To Put This Nicely… “Hey, Everyone — Life As We Know It Just Changed COMPLETELY — For Real”

Think of how hard it was to convince the world that Donald Trump was elected POTUS because Russia interceded in our election on his behalf. Think of how hard it was just to get “serious people” to view any Russian involvement in Trump’s election as a possibility. Hell — there are STILL lots of “fair-minded people” who insist it’s impossible to change an election’s outcome EVEN IF TONS OF PROOF shouts that the outcome doesn’t actually reflect how We The People actually voted.

The idea of a treasonous POTUS is monstrous. It’s hard to wrap one’s mind around. It’s too far outside our concept of “normal” for us to process it as possible. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

I bet an HOUR before the first plane hit the Twin Towers that most Americans would have said that wasn’t possible. I bet the residents of Pearl Harbor — as they slept soundly in their beds the morning of December 7, 1941 — would have said it was impossible for their Sunday to be ruined by a surprise attack by Japan.

And yet…

World War II changed the course of human events. One way or another, it touched every human life. This will do the same thing.

Countries don’t shut down out of ordinary fear. This isn’t a political conversation, it’s a biological one. As good as we’ve gotten at dealing with pathogens, pathogens still have it over us. Even the pathogens we have wiped out might not stay wiped out because anti-vaxxers connect dots that simply do not connect. Pathogens like polio and measles don’t give a shit why a human DOESN’T protect themselves from them. To a pathogen, we’re meat. They need us to be. Viruses, for instance, lacking DNA, use our cells like cheap-assed sex motels in order to reproduce.

If anti-vaxxers could SEE the pathogens, perhaps they’d feel differently. If all those young people refusing to “buy in” to the seriousness of Covid-19’s threat could themselves experience the virus’s worst effects (or watch a loved one struggle for breath, their lung function compromised by the virus), maybe THEN they’d get it. Live how we used to live and lots of us could not just die but suffer long-term effects that THEMSELVES change our lives going forwards.

Social distancing isn’t an affect. It’s the one tool in our collective belt to stop coronavirus from spreading. We can’t help ourselves in any meaningful way until we STOP the virus from infecting new people and vectoring off into the unknown. We can’t do that until we’re monitoring ourselves relentlessly just so we know who has it and who doesn’t. Being as that won’t happen any time soon, all that’s left to us is personal isolation.

This may be the hardest thing for Americans to adapt to — thinking of the group — though it’s there in our makeup. We need to put down the ludicrous notion of the “rugged individual”. He doesn’t really exist anyway. In a pandemic? He’s utterly useless. He alone can’t fix anything — and he never could. Chances are it’s HIS selfishness that’s helping spread the virus far and wide.

Unless you KNOW for a fact that you’re virus free, you need to assume that you’re infected and could infect others. We are obligated to each other to do everything possible to NOT infect each other — to NOT be the cause of them getting sick or worse.

Doing the right thing is easy when the choices are easy. Not abusing a puppy because it’s horribly wrong is an easy moral choice to make. Knowing your neighbor and friend is abusing a puppy — and someone needs to intercede — THAT’S when doing the right thing gets hard. And real.

The fact is we don’t know what happens next because no one’s been here before. We don’t know how much this will impact the world’s economy because the circumstances that got us here have never happened before. The Spanish Flu was bad but, in 1918, people still couldn’t travel around the world like they do now — spreading a pathogen far and wide without even knowing it. Kinda like what probably happened last night in Chicago’s O’Hare and Dallas’s Love Field when all those Americans returning from Europe (cos of possible coronavirus exposure) were subjected to hours of waiting in packed lines while waiting (after they’d got their bags) to be “screened” for coronavirus.

Stupid doesn’t get more stupid than that.

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/coronavirus-airport-screening-sunday/index.html

We will — in the coming weeks — look back on certain interactions that we used to take for granted (like shaking hands) with a start. Whoa — touching another person’s hand like that — never again! The longer the coronavirus endures, the longer a safer alternative to hand-shaking will have to set in and become the new norm.

We have no idea how long countries will be down. We don’t know if a summer reprieve will lead to an even more ferocious second wave in the fall (like the Spanish flu did). If our outcome is anything like Italy’s? There’s a huge shock coming our way.

The PTSD alone will cause us troubles.

The quicker we adapt and self-isolate when necessary while socially-distancing ourselves as “ordinary behavior”, the quicker we’ll all get our “ordinary lives back”. The truth is, we may never get our “ordinary lives” back.

The quicker we adapt to that fact, the better.