Liars And Language — How Tongues Get “Forked”

Lying, by definition, is deliberate. That’s why liars choose their words carefully. They KNOW what they’ve done or aspire to do. They KNOW that, on some level, whatever it is, it’s absolutely wrong, immoral, unnecessary or illegal. If their aspiration was good for the commonweal, they’d crow it from the rooftops. Obviously, it’s not. Therefore the secret. Liars haven’t invented a “new language” to hide their deceit — that’d be too obvious. Instead, liars hang out their lies in plain sight, daring anyone to call it out.

Stone cold liars and sociopaths spew out and out lies as readily as they breathe. Take Donald Trump for instance. Trump’s inclination to lie is so deep-seated inside him — his connection to the truth so tenuous (because it’s so dangerous to him) — that it is possible that Trump “believes” his lies I’m not willing to give him a pass because of it — it’s just a curiosity worth noting is all. And it’s hard to give Trump a pass on anything when he’s so central to everything that’s happening to us. It beggars belief that he’s just an innocent authoritarian shithead caught up in events beyond his control. Trump’s lies are deliberate and big and deliberately big.

If at that very first moment where Trump — as an official candidate for the office of POTUS — rode down that gold escalator and insisted “Mexicans are rapists”, the news media had put down its foot and refused to move past this blatant, racist lie (most Mexicans are not, in fact, rapists — unlike Trump himself), Trump’s presidential campaign would probably have died right there. “Pussy grabbing” would have been the last nail in the coffin of Trump’s presidential aspirations. “But, her emails” would never have happened since the Kremlin wouldn’t have been involved anymore. without Russia’s active engagement to MAKE him POTUS, Trump would NEVER have gotten anywhere near the presidency.

The easiest lie — the one Republicans and Trump used and use constantly as a kind of bullshitty “Get Out Of Jail Free” card is “I was joking!” Donald Trump tries to wave off all kinds of awfulness with “It was a joke, can’t ya tell?” The problem is Trump has zero sense of humor. Not everyone has a sense of humor. The baseline requirement to have one is the ability to laugh at oneself. If you can’t laugh at your own foibles and flaws but can easily laugh at others’? That’s not “having a sense of humor”, it’s being a bully. Similarly, when current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked about a recorded conversation of a meeting of GOP leaders on June 25, 2016 (a month before the GOP made Trump their presidential nominee) where Kevin, upon entering the meeting said out loud “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!”, Kevin insisted HE was “joking”. In retrospect — and with THIS picture taken during Trump’s presidency in your head — tell us again, Kevin, that you were “joking”.

Take this to the bank and prepare for it to rain bigly on you: at the very least, the Republican leadership knew Trump was owned by Russia. At the worst — they said nothing because Russia already owned them too. That’s why they “kept it in the family” as then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan directed them to do. That’s Paul Ryan THEN third in line to the presidency. From that moment onward — there are whole mountain ranges of receipts — the Republican Party (Donald Trump especially) has done everything in its power to obscure the connections between Trump and Putin. Between Trump and Russia’s corruption.

Oh, the hairs we have split to avoid calling Donald Trump and the GOP traitors — even in the face of bold-faced treachery. Our news media to this day scratches its head so hard they’ve made divots in all their scalps trying to come up with a good explanation for why the Republican Party remains sooooooo loyal to Trump. They put it all down to Trump’s base. No one wants to get primaried is how that story goes. These public servants worry mostly about their job security not providing any “constituent services”. No argument — that IS part of the matrix. But there’s way more matrix than that.

There’s proof — stone cold proof that our news media has reported on and published itself — that Trump has behaved criminally. There’s proof he behaved treasonously. And, while, in America, everyone (supposedly) gets their due process, there is such a thing as “preponderance of the evidence” and journalists are allowed to extrapolate in their questions (such as “Mr. Trump, do you see running for POTUS again as a chance to govern or as a chance to avoid being prosecuted for election fraud, obstruction of justice and treason?”

Our news media won’t do that however. During the Trump years, the White House Press Corps regularly put on a craptacular of “both sides do it” brand journalism that equated Republican criminality with Democratic reaction to it. Though the Republicans were behaving criminally for a political purpose, our news media insisted that every time a Democrat reacted to a Republican’s criminality, the Democrat was just “being political”.

We expect liars to lie. We don’t expect our news media to hold their beer while they do it. We can’t blame liars for lying. Lying is what liars are good at. We can and should blame the news media for enabling not just lying but The Big Lie. We would never have achieved a Big Lie’s criminal mass without a swarm of little lies fusing together beneath it. And those little lies would never have gained traction if our news media hadn’t normalized them.

Our News Media Doesn’t Understand What “Integrity” Is (Or Why It Matters)

The Importance of Integrity in Business | FreshBooks Blog

Everyone is born with the same amount of integrity: one hundred percent. As we drop from the womb, we haven’t betrayed any principles yet, haven’t gotten lazy when intellectually challenged, haven’t let anyone down. If we “say” we’re hungry that’s what we mean. If we say we’ve pooped or peed ourselves, we have! If we’re sad or lonely or happy as a clam, we’ll broadcast that fact as loudly and clearly as we can. We are as honest as we’re ever going to be. Then we go out into the world and one of the first things we learn how to do is be less honest. Part of that’s just what it takes to get through a day filled with different kinds of relationships. A certain amount of truthiness goes with being human and living in a human society. But, there is a line. People who take on “important jobs”, work that could genuinely mean life or death to others (airline pilots, physicians, police officers for instance) can be less than honest with their romantic partners, but we need them to be totally honest with their passengers, patients or perps. Would you allow a surgeon with questionable integrity to slice into you?

Me neither.

Integrity is like a balloon made of platinum. As solid as it seems, it’s easily punctured. And once punctured. it’s irreparable. If Donald Trump had a radical change of heart (and character — let’s pretend okay?) and suddenly (on the inside) became absolutely honest, would we believe him? Certainly not. And, ironically, the more Trump pled his newfound honesty, the more dishonest we’d be sure he was. That’s what happens when you bust a cap in your integrity. It dies. And the world’s perception of you solidifies: you are a liar. If Trump could keep up the act, not just insisting he was honest but actually being that way, perhaps in a few years, our skepticism would begin to subside. To the degree that one’s integrity can be repaired, the process moves as slowly as nerve regeneration in humans. Glaciers can beat it in a foot race.

And yet, our news media regularly restores the broken integrity of the very least deserving. Richard Nixon was a criminal — full stop. At the very least, Watergate should have fixed Nixon in our collective understanding as a man with zero integrity. Of course Nixon himself would want to restore his integrity — or bamboozle others into thinking he (somehow) still had some integrity to trade on. Why would our news media want to help him though? Better question: why would our news media want to put ITS integrity on the line for someone their own reporting established had none? I don’t think it’s because our journalists don’t have integrity, I think it’s because they simply don’t know (or maybe even care) what it is.

“Both sides do it” brand journalism conflates skepticism with cynicism. Suddenly everyone becomes a variation on a theme : the lust for political power. Regardless of what they actually do or say, so goes the thinking, their motives are all exactly the same. From this vantage point, NO ONE has integrity. How can they when (per the journalist doing the reporting) everyone’s hedging or gaming everyone else? This simply isn’t the case. Progressives don’t want what conservatives want; they don’t want to live in a past where white, Christian men had all the power and money — the very thing conservatives want to conserve. Progressives will tell you openly that they want a rising tide to float every possible boat. Conservatives, on the other hand, will lie to you about just about everything because, they know, if they told America the truth about them — about their motives — they’d be in jail already.

When our news media gets up on its hind legs and insists that Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy or Mark Meadows or Devin Nunes or Bill Barr or Mike Pence or Chuck Grassley or Susan Collins or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene or Brett Kavanaugh or Steve Bannon or Ted Cruz or anyone in the Trump clan is an “honest actor”, they’re committing journalistic malpractice. They’re labeling criminals as honest then demanding why Democrats won’t negotiate with them. But, even when our news media reports actual acts of treason — based on hard evidence they themselves have vetted — they refuse to connect the dots their reporting suggests do connect.

Example: On June 25, 2016, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a meeting of GOP leaders — a month before the GOP will nominate Trump to be their presidential candidate. They know Trump’s candidacy is inevitable. McCarthy is worried however because he fears that Trump is corrupt: “There’s two people I think Putin pays,” he says, “Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room balks at the thought. There’s nervous laughter — that’s what motivates McCarthy to insist “Swear to God!” He wants to be taken seriously. He wants his news to be taken seriously. But, then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan asserts his “leadership”. He shuts down the conversation. They’re not going to discuss this secret; instead, they’re going to keep it — this knowledge that a hostile foreign government has compromised the man they’re going to nominate to be POTUS. “That’s how we know we’re family,” says Speaker Ryan, third in line to the presidency himself.

No one in the room questioned these accusations of Trumpian criminality. No one doubted that they were possible. And no one insisted they they should — per their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution — call the FBI to warn them. The total amount of integrity in that room by the time the conversation finished? Absolute zero.

Has anyone in the news media gone back to revisit these shocking accusations — and the even more shocking acceptance of them? To be fair, yeah — a few intrepid reporters have questioned Kevin McCarthy about “There’s two people I think Putin pays”. Kevin insisted he was just joking — and that (as always) ends the discussion even though it’s demonstrable that Kevin McCarthy (like Donald Trump) has no sense of humor. Bullies, as an absolute rule, NEVER have a sense of humor. It’s part of why they’re bullies. Oh, sure — bullies can laugh. But bullies (think Donald Trump) never laugh with others (except other bullies), they always laugh AT others. See the difference?

Since then, Kevin’s reported-upon statement has sat in the Trump-Russia evidence room, gathering dust. That’s a reflection of our news media’s integrity or lack thereof.

I’m old enough to remember how connecting Trump to Russia only ever got you rolling eyes in response. Same goes for describing Trump and the GOP as authoritarians and fascists. As we stand here today, those who correctly spotted the GOP’s authoritarian and fascist leanings were right: they still have their integrity on the subject. Those who shrugged off what the Republicans were/are doing? I’m not sure I’d ask their advice on a lunch order any more. I wouldn’t trust their taste as I wouldn’t trust they were telling me the truth. It’s not just Republicans whose integrity has been destroyed by Trumpism. Silence in the face of this attack is tacit complicity.

Anyone complicit in this coup d’etat blew up their integrity a long time ago.

When Trump openly told his four underlings NOT to cooperate with the January 6 Truth Commission, he openly committed a crime. Citizen Trump doesn’t have the authority President Trump had to say such a thing without criminal liability. It’s not a question whether or not Trump did this thing — he deliberately broadcast it as part of his strategy. That doesn’t legitimize it. It should, instead, make prosecuting this bloated orange pirate a thousand times easier. But, that would demand that our news media stop reporting Trump as a politician and start reporting him as what he is: a stone cold criminal in the middle of a treasonous crime spree.

I wish it were possible to buy our news media some integrity. Hell, they need it so desperately, I’d even steal it for them.

How Criminals (And Republicans) Think

Inside every criminal’s head is a scale upon which they balance their criminal behavior’s risks versus that behavior’s rewards. If the risk of stealing a six pack of beer is a decade plus in prison — and the risk of getting caught is high, it’s probably not worth it. But, if the risk of stealing a whole country is that two thirds of the people will despise you while cowering in your presence? No big deal. That’s the calculus that criminals and Republicans make as they contemplate the actions that make them criminals and Republicans. The only thing that will stop a career criminal from continuing in his career is law enforcement stopping him. That’s why one of the first things career criminals do is compromise law enforcement in any way they can. Mafia dons buy cops. Dark Money buys politicians. The point of the exercise is corruption. Corruption itself becomes a kind of currency that criminals either pass around like dividends to their pals or wield like a cudgel to keep the less “dedicated” to crime in line.

Because our news media still insists — despite the mountain ranges of information stacked in front of them — that “both sides do it”, they see Republicans as honest actors. This misrepresents them horribly. Even worse, by giving all information equal weight and validity (since it’s not up to the journalist to judge anything), in their reporting, these journalists knowingly equate bullshit and truth while refusing to qualify which is which. Back before the news media was shamed into refusing climate deniers any more air time, they regularly gave climate deniers all the air time they wanted! This happened regularly on NEWS channels and shows: News show host would set up a debate between a climate scientist or believer in climate science like Bill Nye and a climate science denier like David LeGates or Marc Morano (formerly Rush Limbaugh’s “Man in Washington”).

Notice how a NEWS channel set up its shot here? It’s a “50-50” image. In other words, both people — both arguments — get 50% of the screen. In visual language (which most of us understand quite implicitly), CNN is saying: “these two arguments have equal validity to them”. That’s not even remotely true but the visual image tells us it is. The same applies to when any news panel includes at least one person there specifically to lie. If the show presenting the news panel doesn’t make that fact explicit then that fact doesn’t exist for the news audience. And the truth-speaking panelists will find their truths being compared equally to the liars lies.

It gets worse! The “both sides do it” spewing news media — having equated truth and bullshit — set themselves to the task of “analyzing” what’s happening. With their skewed view of the universe and all the people in it, they attempt to characterize the players so as to explain them. But the lens these “journalists” use is their own experience, their own way of thinking. Problem is THEY’RE NOT CRIMINALS and don’t think like criminals. They end up normalizing criminal behavior by recasting it as political.

Or — as so many American journalists insist on doing — they put themselves inside Donald Trump’s mind and assume Trump acts like they act and thinks like they think. That’s how we ended up with a White House Press Corps that regularly gawped at Trump as he openly lied to them. They ascribed political motives to criminal behavior — then reported the whole thing through the non-criminal prism inside their own heads. Trump’s hold over the GOP became entirely political: it’s all about Trump’s ravenous base. Yes, that’s true — to a degree. But it’s not the real leverage Trump’s held the whole time.

Crime is. Criminals understand that the more people they compromise (including law enforcement), the harder it will be for anyone to stop them. Another tactic criminals use is normalization. If everybody’s doing what they’re doing, can it really be a crime? And (as with Trump), if you do your “criming” out in the open where everyone (the press included) cans see it, can that really be a crime? The answer to both questions is hell yes. Crime never stops being crime (the statute of limitations be damned!)

If I attempt to deny another American their right to vote — in any way — I am violating their rights and committing a crime. If I do it because I’m racist, that’s a whole other level of crime. And it is a crime to be actively racist in an E Pluribus Unum country.

White America wants the rest of America to overlook two hundred-forty years of consistently terrible behavior toward non-white Americans (or non-whites who, for whatever reason, came to live and “work” in America). They want every other American to forget about slavery or every deal our government made and then broke with a Native American tribe. They want the rest of us to deny the long term impacts of white racism on its victims (including the very real, generational impacts on its victims’ wealth). And then our news media gets all warm and cuddly with these racists by refusing to call out their racism. They go and ask the racists “Hey — you’re not a racist, are you?” And then they shrug inconclusively when the racist — news cameras in their face — insists “Me? No! I’m not a racist!”

Trust me, CNN, MSNBC, the rest of the news media — when Donald Trump says “I’m the least racist person in the world”, that’s bullshit. The last person you should ever ask “are you racist” is a racist since they have the least perspective on the subject. Same goes for the racist’s racist buddies. They can’t tell you if their friend’s a racist because THEY’RE so damned racist. The ONLY people who can honestly and accurately tell you if anyone is racist is that racist’s victim. They KNOW when someone’s being racist toward them. They’ve had a lifetime of experience with it, don’t forget. Their racism “spidey senses” are always cranked up to eleven.

Ah, but “both sides do it” says that a racist remark and the racist victim’s response are equally valid.

Racists are racist in everything they do. Literally. Same goes for rapists, by the way. When your view of the world allows you the freedom to infringe on other peoples’ personal space at will and without consequence — as a matter of personal power — you will act that way toward others until someone with more power rises up to stop you. Republicans? Exactly the same.

Donald Trump has been a criminal his entire life. Just because he’s never been prosecuted — that’s a technicality, really. That’s us failing to do right by ourselves and remind criminals their crimes are unacceptable to the rest of us and will be treated accordingly. The rule of law’s a wonderful thing but it can’t enforce itself. That’s our obligation. And it’s not hyperbole to say that Donald Trump is a criminal and that plenty of people have always known or suspected this to be true.

Case in point — as I’ve repeated in this space often — June 25, 2017, current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walks into a GOP leadership meeting to talk about their soon-to-be presidential nominee. He says — out loud (it was recorded and the recording played later for Washington Post reporter Adam Entous) “There are two people I think Putin pays, Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” Even in the context of the time — without four years of treasonous behavior toward Vladimir Putin — this is treasonous! One of the head muckety-mucks of the Republican Party is telling other muckety-mucks that their candidate to be POTUS is compromised by a hostile foreign government — AND THEY KNOW IT! And they — per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan — are going to keep this criminal secret a secret because “that’s how we know we’re a family”.

The instant you become a co-conspirator to commit treason — as everyone in that room did — you become a criminal! At the very least, you should become someone our news media (who reported the crime) suspects could be a criminal. But not just a “criminal”, a traitor. To report such a person as if there was no possibility they were a criminal or a traitor misreports them entirely and can’t possibly hope to report them accurately since it’s already detached their true motives from the story. Suddenly, treasonous behavior becomes something less — far less. It stops being a crime, for one thing.

And just like that, treason becomes normalized. Criminal behavior becomes political behavior. Crime becomes acceptable to the people who are supposed to be our last backstop against the abuse of political power. Nothing good can come of that — as our current situation proves.

Okay – What IF America Split Into Two Countries?

In a very real sense, we’re still fighting the Civil War. And, we fought the Civil War because, though we aspired to E Pluribus Unum, we tripped over “All men are created equal” because we didn’t mean “all” men and by “men”, we meant only “men”. America has always been a great idea poorly executed. Or… “not yet executed to its intended specs”. Let’s put it that way. “America is a country still aspiring to reach the potential of its aspirations”. And those aspirations can (and, I believe, will) be achieved if we simply hew to our own founding principle: through many, one.

This, really, is what America is now fighting about. Donald Trump’s presidency — the circumstances that made him president (they don’t include freely or fairly winning election) — exposed the Republican Party for the anti-democratic, permanent minority rule desiring thugs Newt Gingrich dreamed they’d be. In Germany, after WWII, it was against the law to display swastikas or any Nazi symbols because of what they represented. In America, OTOH, we never stopped glorifying treason: that’s what a confederate flag is — a symbol of treason. This is what happens when you compromise with evil (as America did when it cut a deal with slavery).

Our current chaos flows directly from the gross mistake of writing “All men are created equal” but only meaning “white, Christian, land-owning men”. Also, this is what happens when one side loses the war but wins the peace that follows. Whatever the Confederacy lost at Appomattox Courthouse, it regained not very long afterwards: they destroyed Reconstruction (and any chance America had to right a terrible wrong, level its racial playing field and demonstrate just how great an E Pluribus Unum America could be) and stole the narrative. A war exclusively about slavery (that’s according to every seceding state’s secession docs) was repackaged as a war about “states’ rights” — as if the Confederacy was actually fighting a “good fight” about freedom and liberty.

Not only was the Confederacy racist, it was incredibly full of shit.

So is that portion of America that still supports what the Confederacy was after. But then, it’s just conservative standard operating procedure to bullshit everyone including yourself. Right now, red states are howling how much they want to secede from the blue states. That’s so sweet: a bunch of impoverished red necks who can’t take their toothless maws from the federal money teat thinking they could do anything on their own other than fail. Okay, white supremacists — have at it! Show us what a white supremacist super state looks like here in reality!

Confederacy, The Sequel will probably include all the confederate states minus Virginia but plus Oklahoma and probably plus Missouri too. It will also include all those vast tracts of red real estate out west. Idaho, Wyoming, most of Montana and western Washington and Oregon. Far Northern California too perhaps. At first.

Even as the red-hatted yahoos fill the streets with drunken brawling and celebrations, a brain drain will begin. By the same token, plenty of blue state ultra conservatives also might look red-ward. Their blue dollars will be worth far more in those less economically dynamic red states where real estate and life are cheaper. The educated will abandon red America in droves. So, too, will the innovators and problem solvers. Women in those states unfortunately will face some hard choices that dictate staying versus going. Those that go will thrive while those that stay behind will sink deeper and deeper into despair, drudgery and depression because they live in a country that hates them — hates everyone not white, Christian, male and land-owning..

All Red America — The Confederacy, Part Two — can ever be is a poor man’s Gilead.

Being racist and paranoid and short-sighted, Red America will weapon up, their lizard brains aflame with bunker mentality run amok. They’ll see the “same-ification” of their country as success. The white faces all around them will reassure them that they really have achieved the white homeland of their wettest wet dreams. But, within weeks the brain drain will hit them as systems malfunction or break down and the few people capable of fixing anything get stretched thin. The power grid will go first, then other big pieces of infrastructure. Remember — the red states have always relied on the blue states to pay for them. Take the blue states and their money out of the equation and the red states will find themselves broke at the start. Failing roads and bridges on top of unreliable electricity will screw with Red America’s already sketchy supply chain.

Next thing ya know, Red State Americans aren’t just sitting in the dark, they’re hungry, too. And thirsty because the water systems also need maintenance and improvement. And — because their sewage systems also aren’t performing as needed anymore — Red State Americans are now swimming in shit. Still choosing “freedom” over vaccination or mask mandates, variants that, at most, inconvenience Blue State America kill Red State Americans by the refrigerated truckload. Because they refuse any sort of vaccination (or health care) protocols, Red State Americans aren’t allowed to travel to Blue State America — or anywhere for that matter.

Their isolation will increase their paranoia. They’ll saber rattle that much more but with that much less gravity (though they’ll still be Kim Yong-Un style dangerous). The divide between haves and have-nots will expand in Red State America. What remained of the middle class will finally collapse. Ninety-nine percent of Red State Americans will be poorer than they are now while the richer-than-rich one percent get richer still.

The rest of the world will view Red State America suspiciously because Red State America is so corrupt. Corruption will be why so little international money lands in Red State America. Also — the leadership of Red State America will be outlaws from justice in Blue State America where they’ve all been tried for election fraud, obstruction of justice and treason in abstentia. Red State leaders will be as welcome in Blue State America as Jefferson Davis.

Before long, Red State Americans will march toward their border crossings with Blue State America with the same grim determination that Central Americans and Haitians do today. Like those poor souls, Red State Americans will have literally nothing left to lose.

Meanwhile, across the border in Blue State America — where Joe Biden’s agenda got fully funded in large part because the moderates suddenly had nothing corrupt to compromise with — not only are Blue State Americans happier and healthier than Red State Americans, they’re living longer and they’re all wealthier. Every American will have full health CARE (not the health insurance we mistake for health care), free pre-school and community college. Affordable (if not entirely free) public colleges and universities will produce diverse problem solvers as will trade schools and other skunkworks that innovate away our challenges. Blue State Americans will see both the benefits of their citizenship but also its responsibilities — which they will embrace as a matter of civic pride and patriotism.

Give these two countries a decade — just to drive the point home — and two very different-looking countries will result. One will be a lot closer to realizing the full potential of our experiment in self-governance. The other will be an authoritarian shithole with a giant, fake-gold “T” over it. .

Our News Media Reports Corruption The Way Corruption Wants

Yesterday, Lawrence O’Donnell focused a segment of his show “The Last Word” on a tweet thread published by former Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times editor Mark Jacob. Having left the field of “official” journalism — the bubble in which most American journalists live, breathe and work — Jacob has come to see that the neutrality he thought was a hallmark of American journalism was actually a trap. Each and every time a reporter “balanced” something a Democrat said with something a Republican said, they weren’t actually presenting two equally valid points. The mistake “both sides do it” brand journalism makes automatically is in assuming that any two points of view — regardless of what they are — are equally valid even if one is based entirely on facts and the other entirely on feelings. It’s not for the journalist to judge validity, says the “both sides do it” school. That’s for their readers or viewers to decide!

Not a revelation: if you automatically give credence to bullshit, then bullshit instantly becomes credible when credible is the last thing bullshit is. But, if the news media is doing it, bullshit instantly gains at least a patina of Truth. So long as bullshit “could” be true, we’re all doomed. The moment you give bullshit the benefit of the doubt, doubt becomes the core operating principle and doubt is meat & potatoes to a fascist. Fascists, having created the doubt, step forward as its only real cure. That is precisely what the Republican Party is doing right here, right now.

For better or worse, Americans have short memories when it comes to history. At least, white Americans do. Our news media has always serviced white America’s short memory while insisting no other group’s memories (or stories) have equal validity or value. How many white Americans had ever heard of “Black Wall Street” before Black Lives Matter began to matter? Prior to the internet, the only people holding a megaphone were the media companies. They alone had the means to broadcast information far and wide. While there was less competition, at least most of the messages were relatively consistent and kept to a consistent narrative.

The advent of the twenty-four hour news cycle created both a new market for information and a monster. Filling that maw twenty-four-seven is a challenge. Or, at least it was until Donald Trump forced his way into the conversation and hijacked it. Our news media adore Trump. He’s driven their ratings to record levels. He’s made them richer than they were. And, as we all know, success teaches us only that our shit doesn’t stink when, in fact, it does. The word Jacob uses is “lazy”. Success makes people lazy. When you walk in the door lazy — as too many American journalists do, their laziness exacerbated by “both sides do it” thinking — you’re only going to get more lazy with time, as our news media has.

Donald Trump was demonstrably unethical in virtually everything he did and said. Hell, Trump’s projected most if not all of his criminality onto everyone else — a standard bully tactic. According to the Washington Post, Trump lied (or, in the WaPo’s softened version “mislead”) 30,573 times (as of January 24, 2021). You’d think after three or four times, journalists would “catch on” that Trump is “an unreliable witness” even to his own life. If you had even a modicum of analytical skills, surely you’d start connecting dots — adding verifiable information together to form a picture upon which you build an evolving narrative. After about five thousand lies, say, you’d stop giving this liar any sort of benefit of the doubt because the data says odds are, whatever just tumbled from Trump’s mouth, it’s not true. Rather than repeating everything Trump says verbatim — because he’s the POTUS — you’d contextualize this POTUS before any reporting began.

“While most presidents tell something like the truth most of the time, Donald Trump never tells the truth ever — even when confronted with it and — with that in mind — here’s what the liar-in-chief said today…”. Over the top, you think? Maybe in the olden days when Saint Ronnie Reagan was doing the lying. Today? It’s an understatement. Our news media set itself (and us) up for failure the moment they took up the “both sides do it” mantle. But it’s “both sides do it” thinking that caused our news media to quickly normalize “Mexicans are rapists” and “pussy-grabbing” because “But her emails!”

Stone cold fact: no one — no one — in the Republican Party (with two exceptions perhaps) is an honest actor. As I’ve squawked here time and time again, the GOP knew even before they nominated Trump in 2016 that he was owned by Russia. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said so out loud as he entered a meeting of GOP leaders on June 15, 2016 (the meeting was recorded and the recording played for Washington Post reporter Adam Entous a year later): “There’s two people I think Putin pays — Rohrbacher and Trump — swear to God!” No one in the room questioned the statement. No one rushed to Trump’s defense. No one doubt the statement’s veracity. No one called the FBI. Instead, per then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan’s demand, they all agreed to keep this secret a secret. “That’s how we know we’re family,” said Ryan.

Though this conversation was reported first by the Washington Post in 2017, virtually no one in the press has gone back to it — even with the perspective of everything that followed it (including Trump’s “odd” relationship with Putin). The one time the press did ask McCarthy about it, McCarthy issued the standard response: “I was joking”.

Take this to the bank and prepare to get rich: no, he wasn’t.

Not everyone has a sense of humor. That’s a fact. What marks the presence of a sense of humor in people is their ability to laugh at themselves. For real! If you can’t laugh at yourself (but can only laugh at others), that’s not having a “sense of humor”, it’s being a bully. Not the same thing, right? Bullies laugh plenty — but only at other people and at other peoples’ expense. Having no sense of humor, a person like Donald Trump can’t see irony. Literally. It’s like the rest of us trying to see x-ray and gamma ray light with our eyeballs — they’re not equipped to see those kinds of light. So, when a bully like Kevin McCarthy says “I was joking”, he’s not.

Ah, but when our news media assumes everyone’s doing it — and everyone has a sense of humor — then we get cruelty reported as “humor” in the interest of “fairness”. When our news media refuses to discern truth tellers from bullshit artists, we get the distorted view of ourselves the news media presents and calls “truth”.

How one frames a story IS the story. Journalism is storytelling in real time. It’s goal should be exactly the same: to get at the core “why” inside every human action. Even if someone can’t articulate why they do something, there is a very real “why”; no one ever does anything “just because”. Our news media — incapable of adding information to a narrative (especially if it contradicts “conventional wisdom”) keeps returning to a bizarre “square one” every day. Whereas the framing of the story we’re living through should START with Republican corruption front and center — with Donald Trump’s treasonous behavior in the middle of it — our news media starts each day scratching their heads about the perverse hold Trump has over the Republican Party.

Yeah, yeah — Trump’s base plays a part. But that’s only if you discount the possibility that people might do things for the right reasons and not the expedient ones. To understand Trump and his presidency, you must remove your “normalcy bias blinders”. You have to appreciate what Fusion GPS appreciated when — after doing their due diligence prior to beginning their oppo research on Trump (initially for the conservative owners of the Washington Free Beacon) — they became convinced that Trump had used his bankrupt Atlantic City casinos to launder Russian mob money (for which Trump was repeatedly fined!) That’s a crime!

Fusion subcontracted their research into Trump’s Russian connections out to Orbis, the company run by respected, former MI6 Russia Desk jockey Christopher Steele because Steele had solid connections inside Russia — the context being that we’re talking about the “secret world” where you have to discern any smoking guns through the fog of deception. If our news media had done the same due diligence Fusion did — if they had aggregated the Trump story (especially their own reporting!) — our picture of Trump would be entirely different from what it is right now. For sure we wouldn’t be asking if Trump’s a racist or a rapist — the facts say “yes, he absolutely is, stop asking about it!”

We wouldn’t wonder “is Trump corrupt?” or “Is the GOP?” We wouldn’t ask why Putin and Russia still have such a grip on Trump and the GOP. We wouldn’t ask “will Trump run in 2024?” like he was some “normal” presidential candidate. Instead — because our news media had been fulfilling its Constitutionally mandated role as our final check on power’s corrupting influence — we’d already be at the part where a treasonous POTUS and his equally treasonous political party were being called out for who and what they really are by our press, while our Department of Justice was actively prosecuting them for same — because what they’re doing is criminal (for a political purpose), not political.

Mitch McConnell Can Count Votes Too — So Long As They’re Corrupt

As we lurch toward a Republican-forced government shut-down on Thursday night, the media keeps reminding us how good Nancy Pelosi is at counting votes. She won’t put a bill on the floor that doesn’t have the votes to pass. If Joe Biden’s agenda doesn’t have the votes today, Speaker Pelosi will work her magic — it’s agreed she’s one of the best, savviest Speakers of the House in American history — and make that vote happen tomorrow. Bet against her at your peril. The news media — believing that “both sides do it” — also give Mitch McConnell mucho cred for being a great politician because he can count votes. But, the way Mitch counts votes — and the votes he’s counting — is entirely different from the way Speaker Pelosi works. Speaker Pelosi can only appeal to her caucus’ hearts. Public servants serving the public have hearts, ya see. And Democrats, by their nature (and by their hearts) are wild and unruly. Democrat Will Rogers said of us almost a hundred years ago “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat”. By contrast to Speaker Pelosi, Mitch McConnell has a far, far easier time.

Mitch knows his caucus — to a man — doesn’t have a heart. Instead, they have greed. Greed runs everything in their personal and collective worlds. Their bottom line is enrichment and power. Getting richer than they already are and (since this is what it will require), holding onto political power forever in order to do it. For Mitch then, life is simple so long as it’s as corrupt as he is. You can always count on corruption to come through because you can always blackmail corrupt people into compliance. Try blackmailing an innocent person — it’s much, much harder.

We’ve seen — live — what happens when Mitch can count all his corrupt votes but can’t count on his un-corrupt ones. Remember this — the night Senator John McCain literally voted a thumbs down to Mitch’s attempt to kill the ACA?

I betcha Mitch still gets himself into a mighty treason-turtle snit every time he thinks of it. I bet — same token — an uncorrupted John McCain stood between Lindsey Graham’s anti-Trumpism and his remarkable flip into the Uber-Trumpism.

Can anyone name a higher purpose any Republican is fighting for other than power for power’s sake? Mitch McConnell certainly isn’t interested in serving the needs of most Americans since he’s only about servicing a teeny-tiny slice of really rich white men. Who are all Christians.

When he’s not servicing his Russian clients (Oleg Deripaska, for instance), Mitch is Charles Koch’s Bitch. Tasked with seizing the judiciary from any possible Democratic grasp — that was the point of denying Barrack Obama more than a hundred hearings for federal bench judgeships and, of course, Antonin Scalia’s seat. Our news media depicted Merrick Garland not getting a hearing as Mitch McConnell being a clever, skilled (Machiavellian) politician. No, actually that was Mitch McConnell putting himself between the point of electoral politics — the majority getting what they voted for — and Mitch and his cohorts getting what THEY want. Our news media — convinced that “both sides do it” — have it in their heads that anti-democratic behavior and acts is just some “political opinion” as opposed to what it is: an affront to democracy and to individual voters’ right to vote.

But, hey — so long as rich, Christian white guys are doing it? How can it be bad, right?

This is the corruption Mitch McConnell relies on. It’s his oxygen now same as it’s always been. Make no mistake: Mitch and corruption go way back.

Mitch has been a political hustler since grade school. Being naturally unlovable, Mitch saw political power — even at the public school level — as a way to make people love him. Or, at least not hate him because of who he was. And Mitch has deep issues with who he is. Mitch graduated with honors from the University of Louisville with a B.A. in poli sci in 1964. He was student body president. Three years later, he graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law where was president of the student bar association.

Mind you, Mitch isn’t doing this to make anywhere he is a better place for him being there. He’s doing it because he adores political power and he’s figuring out how to get it and keep it. But then, Mitch’s perfect glide path goes awry.

He enlists in March or July 1967. But by August, Mitch has been discharged (honorably) for an eye condition that was treatable in 1967 with steroids. In other words, that was no basis for discharging Mitch. Mitch has been extremely closed-mouthed about the whole thing and his military records are now inaccessible if not destroyed — which only ever means one thing: Mitch is guilty of something. I have no idea whether the following is true but my sense is that were it libelous versus true, DKos would have taken it down. They’re not in the bullshit business. According to a sourced story, there’s a possible explanation for Mitch’s sudden exit from the military — and it has nothing to do with any eye infections. According to the story, Mitch was caught engaged in an act of sodomy and agreed to go away rather than face (what would have been an embarrassing for all) trial. Having political connections — as Mitch did — surely stood up for Mitch — out of corruption not because anyone cared about LGBTQ rights.

Plenty of people helped Mitch rise politically. Not all of them were as corrupt as Mitch — and came to regret backing Mitch later. In the New Yorker, Jane Mayer describes how John David Dyche, a conservative columnist, Louisville lawyer and former Mitch supporter, went from being an active Mitch supporter now sees Mitch’s standing by Donald Trump as proof that Mitch has “no ideology except his own political power”. In other words: corruption. Mitch’s former supporter looked back at Mitch’s political career — especially the part where despite the fact that he despised Trump, he stood by Trump — as proof that Mitch was and is corrupt. Per Mayer, even Mitch’s three daughters can’t stomach their father and his corruption.

Mitch sees Charles Koch (formerly the Koch Brothers) as his lord and master. The Kochs are the most powerful money in American politics. Charles Koch still intends to twist our democracy into something more pleasing to him and his needs — being a purveyor of dirty power and a climate terrorist. Koch thinks his money (which he inherited) makes him smarter than me or you. And Charles Koch thinks rich, white. Christian men should lead and everyone else should follow. The Kochs may be crooks but they aren’t stupid crooks. Charles and David (now just Charles) spent their dirty money wisely — buying pretty much every Republican and just enough Democrats (Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona) to stop Americans from ever getting the government (and government services) they keep voting for.

The Kochs recognized that the only reliable branch of government aside from the Senate (designed, like the Electoral College to empower racism and racists over urbanites and diversity) was the judiciary — the lifetime federal bench in particular and the SCOTUS especially. Control the judiciary, the Kochs realized and one can control the country — perhaps even force it to rewrite laws pushing America toward progressivism. One could even — by jiggering the law just so — cancel Roe v Wade without even actually canceling it.

We don’t know how deeply Russia has its hooks into Mitch McConnell, all we know is that every time Mitch burps, it tastes of stale rubles. We need to explore this with Mitch under oath — Benghazi-style. He needs to explain his relationship with Oleg Deripaska (the man to whom Paul Manafort passed proprietary polling data covering Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, three of which flipped unexpectedly in election 2016, throwing the election to Trump). Deripaska is Russian military intelligence and we KNOW that Russian military intelligence was actively engaged in throwing the 2016 election to Russia. Deripaska was sanctioned by our government for doing that — sanctions that Mitch got lifted so that Deripaska could drop $300 million into an aluminum factory in impoverished western Kentucky. That’s swell for those dirt poor Kentuckians, but awful otherwise for the rest of the country and our democracy.

We need to understand above all why Mitch refused to let We The People in on the Republican Party’s dirty little secret: that Russia wanted Trump to be president and they were actively engaged in making that happen. In September 2016, when Obama called a Gang of Eight meeting (four Democratic Congressional leaders and four republican leaders) to discuss telling America what Russia was doing on Trump’s (and the GOP’s) behalf, Mitch got up on his little treason turtle hind legs and insisted that if Obama did such a thing — told America the truth about Russia and Donald Trump — that he’d accuse Obama of “politicizing the intelligence”. Obama, unfortunately, caved.

I bet that if Obama had that moment to do over? He’d tell Mitch McConnell to go eff himself. But, first, he’d tell Mitch what he thought of Mitch’s corruption. Then he’d call Mitch a traitor.

And, of course, he’d be right.

Here’s a prediction. Some day — soon, I bet — Mitch McConnell’s name will replace Benedict Arnold’s as the epithet Americans use when they want to call someone a “traitor”.

AT&T Donating Money To Insurrectionists Equals Deutsche Bank Helping To Build Auschwitz

Even Concentration Camps Need Financing — And Bankers To Loan The Money

Someone should write a saying about how when people refuse to learn the lessons of history, they’re likely to repeat the same terrible mistakes. Hitler doesn’t become “Hitler” without the steadfast support of German industry. Fascism triangulates politics, business and religion. When Christianity and commerce work together at power’s behest, you get Nazi Germany (and make no mistake, institutional Christianity had zero problem with Hitler’s “final solution”). You get companies like Bayer, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Nestle, Porsche, Siemens and VW benefiting and profiting from SLAVE LABOR without so much as a thought. Every one of those companies has SLAVE LABOR in their past. Sorry, but that’s evil and I’m not entirely sure what any of those companies can actually do to disassociate themselves from the evil they willingly stood with and profited from. Even Jews were pretty quick to forget — as they happily bought Mercs and VWs and BMWs in the 1980’s –that not two generations before, their freakin’ RELATIVES were working for those same damned companies against their will and for ZERO PAY.

For the historical record, American companies also benefited from slave labor or happily did business with a regime they KNEW was authoritarian and repressive. General Motors, IBM, ITT, Standard Oil, Chase National Bank and Coca Cola all chose profits uber alles. A buck was a buck was a buck even if it came from fascists. But, some executives knew that Germany was up to other things than just the war effort. Some business executives knew that Germany had genocide in mind — and willingly helped the Nazis manifest those genocidal intentions.

Deutsche Bank may be one of the most corrupt enterprises ever to blacken capitalism’s eye. Over the course of their history, Deutsche Bank has financed multiple genocides.

During World War One, Deutsche Bank helped finance Turkey’s Armenian Genocide. WWI was the world’s first mechanized war. Mechanized wars need oil and Germany had access to oil in Iran. The only efficient way to transport that oil was via rail. Thus the Berlin-To-Baghdad rail line was imagined. To finance this enormous venture, Germany’s government turned to Deutsche Bank. But the rail line needed to travel through parts of Turkey where Armenian communities lived — and the Turks had always been dubious about the Armenians what with the Turks being Muslim and the Armenians being Christians. The Ottoman Empire, having no issues with cruelty and having even fewer issues with being cruel to the Armenians living within its borders, made no secret that part of its agreement to let Germany build its rail line would be the removal of any and all Armenians in its way — even if those Armenians lived nowhere near the rail line’s route. As no one spoke up for the Armenians (until recently), from Deutsche Bank’s point of view, genocide was good business. Good business emboldened them. That’s why Deutsche Bank had zero qualms about lending the German state construction loans for the specific purpose of building Auschwitz.

That is a true, true fact: Deutsche Bank helped build Auschwitz. Had the Third Reich lived the thousand years it promised, at some point early on, Germany would have repaid its debt to Deutsche Bank plus interest — and that interest would have been Deutsche Bank’s profit from helping to murder 1.1 million people (that’s how many people died at Auschwitz). Do you think that anyone in Deutsche Bank’s executive ranks felt the least regret about said future profits and how they’d be derived?

That’s the problem with corporations. They can be used to magnify a culture’s worst attributes. German culture made what it did to Jews and gay people and Romani people — and everyone it feared or didn’t like — acceptable. The neighborhoods surrounding Dachau (a medieval town inside Germany versus Auschwitz which was based inside Occupied Poland) could smell the human flesh burning in Dachau’s ovens. They had to brush the ashes of those same people from their heads and shoulders. As disgusted as they may have been, they did nothing. Makes one wonder what they were actually disgusted with.

A thousand plus years of evolution from various Germanic tribes into a Germany filled with proud Germans who felt deeply connected to their “German-nss” produced group think and compliance within the group. Sure, sure, there were plenty of “Good Germans” but, either there weren’t nearly enough of them or they simply weren’t good enough. They still turned a blind eye to something happening right in front of them, choosing to “not rock the boat” instead of demanding integrity and humanity from those governing them.

The slow creep of evil is insidious, isn’t it? Did anyone at Deutsche Bank directly murder a single Jew at Auschwitz? Not in the literal literal sense, no. Probably not. Would the Third Reich have looked elsewhere for their construction loan had Deustsche Bank turned them down? Absolutely. And they’d have found someone else to underwrite it all. But, when the very fascistic German government turned to their favorite financier, their favorite financier didn’t bat an eye despite knowing for a fact what ITS money was about to be used for.

Deutsche Bank has blood on its hands and always will. They’re Lady MacBeth to Hitler’s MacBeth and those damned spots will never come out.

Corporations must be held accountable for the evil they enable, abet or outright pay for. Any corporation that in any way helped perpetrate evil — that’s as opposed to produce things as part of the “regular” war effort — should be broken up. Corporations are human creations, don’t forget. In America, we now want to treat them like people whose opinions matter as much as an actual citizen’s opinion. Citizen’s United didn’t give corporations the vote, but it gave their money more power than votes. More power than voters.

When a big corporation like AT&T donates money to individual politicians, it’s doing it with the understanding that that money just bought that politician’s vote. If the corporation doesn’t get what it wants with its donation, if it’s clever, it’ll take its next political donation somewhere else. So, we can assume that when AT&T donates its money to any of the 147 Republicans who still insist that Joe Biden stole Donald Trump’s presidential victory, they are willing to stand by everything that politician comes with. They may pooh-pooh such complicity on their part, but that’s always how authoritarians their own terrible behavior — they see the “greater good” that makes all of fascism’s negatives worth it: the trains now run on time.

Under most circumstances where corporate bad behavior negatively impacts the citizenry, the citizenry can turn to the democracy of the marketplace where they vote with their dollars. In an age of social media where even silly, little kerfuffles can suddenly go nuclear, corporations manage their reputations like hawks mated with Tiger Moms. So — why are they willing to stand — as AT&T does — with politicians who’ve made it crystal clear that they no longer believe in the political system that supports the economic system corporations like AT&T rely on? These foolish corporations are setting themselves up for failure without even realizing it. But then, greed has never, ever, EVER made anyone smarter.

Least of all a “corporation”.

What makes AT&T’s donations to insurrectionists, seditionists and traitors — that is what they are and it is what they will be revealed to be — especially worth note is that the money being used sat, at one point, in the pockets of their customers. AT&T is turning some of its customers’ money against their customers’ own best interests! Any customer still using AT&T therefore (when there is competition) could easily be hurting their own future every time they pay their cable, internet or cell phone bill.

“TRUMPOCALYPSE: THE MINISERIES” Casting Office

U.S. Vice-President Biden smiles as he speaks with Croatian PM Milanovic in Zagreb

Back at the early days of the Trump madness — in the middle of his term — back when we thought our world had gone pretty much as bonkers as it could get, I wrote a post called “Trumpocalypse: The Movie”.  I smile now at my charming naivete — to think that the Trump madness could be contained within one measly feature film.  Re-thinkiing “Trumpocalypse” as a mini-series also threatens to be too small a vehicle to contain the “Trumpocalypse” story  but the thing about a mini series is it has an end point.  After the last episode, it’s done.  If we do this right, there should be no more — no sequels, no spin offs, nothing.  Whereas, if we made “Trumpocalypse” an on-going series with no end date in sight… You see what I mean?  We NEED this show to be finite because this can’t be our only show.  There’s great stuff – important stuff — on other channels that we need to get to and quickly.

Not only has the “Trumpocalypse” mini series got way more storylines in it, it’s got way more characters.  How do we organize our casting process so that, when we get to “the day”, we have not only a great cast but a great cast that will complement each other?  

I’d like to start by casting first the Trump family.  Then those immediately around it — the “inner circle” if you will.  Then, I would begin to cast the mini-series — going chronologically — major story by major story.  As this is going to be an ongoing project that’s changing on the fly, I’ve no doubt some stories will demand to be cast in the right here, right now.  Hey — welcome to life in a casting office!  Things change all the time.  Actors drop out and new characters and whole storylines suddenly get added.  If ya can’t stand the heat…

So, without any further ado, please welcome to our Casting Office! You’ll see where I’ve left the casting door open for everyone else to bring their suggestions and their casting notes…

CHARACTER

DONALD J. TRUMP

ALEC BALDWIN as Trump…

NOTES: Baldwin’s is probably the most familiar Trump. It’s an excellent caricature. And, considering that Trump IS a caricature of a human. playing Trump as a caricature makes a certain kind of sense. I wonder if there’s not a way to “multiple-cast” Trump since he worked in so many different ways on our psyche. Just a thought for later discussion…

BRENDAN GLEASON as Trump…

NOTES: Gleeson played Trump in “The Comey Rule” on Showtime.

WOODY HARRELSON as Trump

NOTES: I’ve always liked Woody Harrelson’s “interior” range. It’s amazing and we’re going to need an actor with incredible emotional range to play a character with VIRTUALLY NONE.  It’s like getting an actor to sing off key.  The ones who can actually sing will automatically do it better.  They even know where off-key is.

IVANKA TRUMP

SCARLET JOHANSSON as Ivanka Trump

NOTES: There’s a kind of irony in an actress great at playing Black Widow to play the part of a woman who acts like an actual black widow spider.

AMANDA SEYFRIED as Ivanka

NOTES: Some things just seem so natural…

DONALD TRUMP, JR

MIKEY DAY as Donald Trump, Jr

NOTES: Presently, the actor who’s gotten closest to nailing Don Jr’s unctuousness is an actor satirizing him. That’s probably not a coincidence. Still — we need some competition here. I’ll put my mind to it if you will…

ERIC TRUMP

Alex Moffat as Eric Trump

NOTES: As with Mikey Day’s Junior, SNL’s version of Eric — and I love Alex Moffat’s Eric — stands for the moment as “the” Eric. Competition’s good for everyone — Trump’s included.

MELANIA TRUMP

CASTING OPEN!

Awaiting Picture, so here’s the real Melania — in the one photo I can find of her smiling like she means it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Melania’s smiling this way at Putin. Not cos Melania respects international relationships but because she worked the whole damned time as Donald’s handler on Vlad’s behalf. Hey, how do you say “I don’t care, do you?” in Russian?

VLADIMIR PUTIN

MADS MIKKELSON as Vladimir Putin

NOTES: Mads played the Bond Villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. By all accounts, Vlad Putin is the Bond Villain America fully deserves.

RUDY GIULIANI

KATE McKINNON as Rudy Giuliani

NOTES: Personally, I’m not sure a human can play the entirely humanoid Rudy but my mind’s open. Kate McKinnon can do anything. I bet she could do a fully deep dive into Rudy and actually pull off an amazing, lifelike (without being cartoonish) characterization. But still — for the moment, the part’s wide open.

MORE CHARACTERS TO COME!!!!!

In Scriptwriting, We Call It A “Yes-No-Yes-No” Argument; In Cable News They Call It “Cable News”

A confession: though I write scripts for a living, I despise reading the damned things. It’s not necessarily the scriptwriter’s fault; the screenplay format itself defeats many a talented writer. But, storytelling itself can defeat writers too — especially when they’re mediocre at it. Journalists are storytellers first and foremost. Their canvas is the present or a deep dive into something from the past that helped shape and explains the present. But, regardless of when the story you’re telling takes place, the principles of storytelling remain the same. It’s all about adding information, scene by scene, to propel the story forward through all its good parts to a satisfying conclusion. Scenes that don’t add information don’t belong. Instead of moving the story forward, pointless scenes bring the story to a halt — or tell a different story — their own. Or, more likely, no story whatsoever.

The epitome of the utterly useless scene is two characters engaged in a “yes-no, yes-no” argument that literally goes nowhere. Scenes don’t necessarily have to have the words “yes” and “no” to be “yes-no” scenes. They just have to contain an argument that goes on and on without actually getting anywhere. You know, like the American news media reporting any story that isn’t a royal wedding.

With the Donald Trump story, the “yes-no, yes-no” scene often began with Trump doing something outrageous — like giving away secrets or backing Vlad Putin’s agenda over our own. The news media would look to the rest of the GOP, expecting them to be just as shocked as the press was pretending to be. Yet the Republicans never flinched. Their loyalty to Trump never faltered. “Why do the Republicans remain so loyal to Trump?” our news media talking heads would demand to know.

The talking head panel would then kick the question around — same as they did the day before and the day before that. That they kept having the same damned conversation wasn’t because an answer was so elusive and hard to tease out from the shadows. No, it was because our news media — insisting that “both sides do it” — have made themselves incapable of framing any story correctly. If you truly believe that “both sides do it”, it’s because you think that people are all, at the core, alike; the fact that they take differing sides is just them being “political” — which, of course, “both sides do”. But the two sides in this conversation — conservatives vs progressives — are entirely different in their vision for the future and for America.

Trust me on this — conservatives want one thing for the future (they want it to look like the past as much as possible — the thing conservatives want to conserve) while progressives want the diametric opposite. Unlike conservatives, progressives don’t fear the future. It’s the past that progressives want to get away from — our racist, misogynist, corrupt (and now treasonous) past. Of course, we want to prosecute all those the people who did these terrible things first (as we must). If cable news shows really wanted to, they could make these conversations on their air much more meaningful. But, first, they’d have to put down their cynicism and see the world they’re reporting on as it actually is.

In a movie or television script, the goal always is to move the story forward toward its conclusion. Every scene must both build upon the scenes that came before it and then add new information that will propel the story into the next scene. This requires the storyteller to continually aggregate all the new information into the story — baking it into the architecture in essence. Otherwise, every new scene would start — as cable news shows do — by returning to square one where we didn’t know the things we’ve subsequently learned. That’s how we get to a place where our news media can’t decide whether or not Donald Trump is/was/will always be a racist.

Anyone who says and stands by “Mexicans are rapists” is a racist. He’s telling us so. All we have to do is listen to the man. It’s stupid to ask racists if they’re racist to begin with. How the hell would they know? They have zero perspective on racism BECAUSE THEY’RE RACISTS. And racism, like beauty, isn’t in the racist’s eye, it’s in the “beholder’s”. In racism’s case, that will be the racist’s victim. THEY’RE the only people qualified to answer that question. They’re the only ones who actually know.

Our cable news talking heads can’t decide if Republicans are honest actors or not because they can’t aggregate the information that would tell them they’re not. Honest actors don’t obstruct justice the way Republicans do. They don’t stand with seditionists and traitors. They don’t do everything within their power to undermine our democracy because — being so regressive — no one will vote for them. But Republicans do. And we know that because they’ve been doing it for almost five years now. That’s a pretty reliable data set.

In a movie or TV show, the presence of a “Yes-no, yes-now” argument is evidence that the storyteller isn’t up to the job. In American politics, it’s evidence that a Republican is nearby. And so is corruption.

If There Was An Olympics For Mediocrity, America’s News Media Would Always Win Gold

If the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency proved anything (beyond the GOP’s jaw dropping criminality), it’s our news media’s inability to tell the most remarkable story any of them will ever get to report. To this day, they themselves remain in Trump’s thrall — and they remain oblivious of the fact. Even as the evidence of Trump’s criminality overflows the news environment like the warming oceans overtaking low-lying land, our news media keeps seeing Trump’s actions — and the GOP’s — in entirely political terms as if their manic compulsion to end America’s democracy was just their “opinion”, their “politics” — and not the intended end product of an overtly criminal enterprise. To this day — despite the consistency of their own reporting that shouts “Republicans are all lying, corrupt, treasonous scumbags!”, our news media insists that every one of those lying, corrupt, treasonous scumbags is an honest actor spewing a genuinely held political point of view based entirely on sound, logical, moral reasoning. Oh, FFS… . To be fair, if you take any profession, any endeavor that human beings pursue, while a small percentage of people will be truly exceptional at it, the overwhelming majority of people doing anything are going to be average at best — or, more accurately, mediocre at it.

That’s not a knock. It’s just a fact. And those people who ARE good at whatever they put their energies and skills toward are truly grateful that most everyone else isn’t as good. It makes being better than most people a hell of a lot easier. Even really talented people need to coast here and there.

There have always been journalists who stood head and shoulders above their colleagues. The reason Edward R. Murrow got to be Edward R. Murrow is because most of the other journalists working then simply weren’t as good as Edward R. Murrow. Great journalists — like great storytellers (since that’s what they are — storytellers relating the story of real events in real time) — need to have deep insight into how human beings work. That is so much harder than it sounds. For starters, you have to see every person in their own personal context against the larger Big Picture context in which that person lives. You cannot tell the story of a Donald Trump supporter without talking about their whiteness because their whiteness is deeply connected to what they’re doing as an individual and as a member of a larger group. The fact that “journalists” continue to ask racists if they’re racist betrays just how ignorant journalists are about racism itself. Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

When (if) we ever get to the end of this war for America’s soul, we owe it to ourselves to figure out where the hell “both sides do it” came from. The “both sides do it” brand of journalism confused skepticism (what every journalist should have in their arsenal) with cynicism. Skepticism is vital to a free press. It’s the press demanding that a subject of their focus back up their words with evidence. Yeah, yeah — we know you have feelings — but what are the stone cold facts that justify those feelings? It’s true that both sides have feelings — intense feelings. But, both sides don’t rely entirely on their feelings. One side consistently backs up their feelings with facts (real ones). That’s because the two sides in this conversation are not the same and do not think the same way.

Let’s set “pre-history” aside for a moment. Let’s forget that the GOP is “the party of Lincoln”. As historian Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent “To Make Men Free: A History Of The Republican Party” points out, the Democratic and Republican parties are not at all what they were when Lincoln was POTUS. Over time, the two parties have exchanged philosophical outlooks and even constituencies. Nixon’s “southern strategy” simply recognized that the Southern Democrats (the Dixiecrats) were still very much the opposition party to Lincoln. Hell, the Dixiecrats would be an opposition party to the contemporary Democratic Party. That’s because they started and remained a party dedicated to racism and white hegemony. Nixon simply incorporated them into the Republican Party. In a way, everyone suddenly got honest.

But, our news media only read each others’ books. Their idea of “history” begins with them and their times. Some are even worse. They’re like those giant goldfish that supposedly have no memory beyond right here and right now (that, apparently is a myth — those fish do have memories — but the idea’s still good). Some are even worse than that! Take NBC News’ Kelly O’Donnell.

Now, I’m absolutely certain that Kelly — out of her makeup, her hair let-down — is a lovely person, kind, genuine, open-hearted. But, when she picks up a microphone, she becomes a kind of zombie. Like many of her peers, she kicks into a “I’m a journalist and I don’t take sides” mantra. This is where “both sides do it” immediately goes off the rails. Kelly assumes that when she quotes Donald Trump, that Donald Trump is speaking truthfully. When Trump was POTUS, Kelly never qualified until AFTER the quote (if she did at all) that Trump might not be entirely trustworthy. Kelly didn’t want to judge him. That would be okay, perhaps, the very first time Trump said something then was caught lying. Kelly giving a president of the United States the benefit of the doubt would make sense. But, not after the third time or the fourth or the fifth or the five thousandth. Then Kelly wasn’t quoting a POTUS for her audience’s benefit, she was quoting a liar — but refusing to identify the lie as a lie. Or, when she did she softened the blow — using kinder, gentler, more understanding words to describe outright lies.

Sorry, Kelly, but that is you taking sides. With bullshit and against the Truth.

The moment a reporter like Kelly gives credibility to bullshit, bullshit becomes a player. Now, in order to report the story, we have to repeat the bullshit — and allow (because a president or someone on his team said it) that it “could” be true. Well, fact is bullshit is never true. Because it’s bullshit.

Another thing reporters like Kelly do — after they’ve quoted the bullshit — is to analyze the bullshit. It doesn’t get bullshittier than a mediocrity like Kelly applying how SHE sees the world to Donald Trump’s behavior. A pathological liar like Trump does not see the world or act in any way like Kelly O’Donnell. His reasons are not Kelly’s. So, when Kelly applies HER reasoning to what Trump or his allies do, she’s completely off base. She’s framing it all wrong.

If Kelly were the only reporter screwing this pooch, we’d be okay. But, alas, Kelly’s not alone. She’s got a ton of company — most of her fellow journalists. As an MSNBC regular, most of my ire is focused on their talent roster. Among the most mediocre — Hallie Jackson, Alex Witt, Andrea Mitchell, Craig Melvin and Garrett Haake. Hallie is a little girl struggling to do a grown woman’s job. Alex walks onto the set completely unprepared; no one asks less informed questions than she does. Except Craig Melvin and Andrea Mitchell. Andrea’s so deeply embedded inside the DC bubble, she can’t see reality anymore from her house. Her personal relationships with so many of the players blind her to what those players are doing and why. Garrett Haake isn’t an untalented journalist, he’s just incapable of connecting dots beyond his immediate environment. And even then, his lack of perspective prevents him from connecting some of the most essential dots. Don’t dare suggest Garrett has this problem: also like most of his fellow journalists, Garrett has zero capacity for self-analysis.

Especially awful: Chuck Todd. Chuck is the Clown Prince of Both Sides Do It. He’s neither a good journalist nor a good TV performer (seriously — watch Chuck — he’s got more tics than a Tourette’s ward). That Chuck is NBC News’ “political director” should be a constant source of embarrassment to them.

As we stand here today, the majority of America’s journalists see Joe Biden’s Afghanistan pull out as a travesty. Is it hard to watch? Yeah. Is it hard to stomach? Damn right. But if you watch it without the context of twenty years, of the trillions spent, of the lives lost, of the corruption that flowed like water, of the fact that the Taliban are NOT interlopers (like us), they’re Pashtun — an Afghani tribe (48% of Afghanis at that) — you’re going to report the story entirely from your heart and not from your head. If you either don’t know or don’t understand that the Taliban (the word means “student” in Pashto) do not naturally back terrorists, that they really did want to turn Osama bin Laden over to us — but not without proof (because to turn him over otherwise would betray their Islamic culture — then you do not know who the Taliban really is and why they do what they do. The Taliban are indeed brutal and Medieval in their outlook — but you cannot defeat a nemesis you don’t understand.

Witness the fall of Afghanistan. What the Taliban understood but our news media still doesn’t is that after we defeated the Taliban twenty years ago, they didn’t go away, THEY WENT HOME. To their part of Afghanistan. If you don’t understand that we’ve interceded in a civil war — with religious overtones — you’re reporting some other story taking place in some other country. It’s exactly like Kelly O’Donnell reporting on Donald Trump like he was some “other” president — a “normal” one other than the corrupt, racist, misogynistic, bigoted traitor he was.

One of mediocrity’s hallmarks is its capacity to normalize things that should NEVER be normalized. But that is exactly what our news media did at the very start of Trump’s candidacy. Yes, they were outraged by “Mexicans are rapists” same as everyone not a Trumpanista. But then they allowed Trump to move on. Yes, it was to a fresh outrage — “pussy-grabbing” — but because they stopped questioning Trump about “Mexicans are rapists”, Trump was allowed to think “Mexicans are rapists” was okay. Okay enough NOT to end his presidential bid. The same went for pussy-grabbing because, to our news media, “But her emails!” played bigger.

For that high jump alone — “But her emails” — our news media should win perpetual gold. Well, what they deserve is to have the shame hung around their necks forever.

They were 100% wrong about it. Like they are right now about Afghanistan. Our mediocre news media want Joe Biden to “admit he was wrong!” That’s in the context of twenty years of being in country with twenty years of waste, corruption and bullshit that the news media itself has reported. The one real gain America’s presence bestowed upon Afghanistan was equal treatment for Afghani women. Also, we engaged thousands of Afghanis to help us in our “mission”. After we took over the country, chased bin Laden and then killed him, our mission — the one we had in our heads when we invaded (throwing an Afghani tribe out of power) — ended. But, we stayed. And invented a new mission for ourselves — turning Afghanistan into America.

This was always folly. Arrogant folly. Cruel folly.

We set Afghanistan, its women and everyone who helped us up for failure. We did. It’s a fact. The notion that we could have stayed on forever — with a contingent of 2500 or so soldiers — denies the reality of the “country” we’re talking about, the Taliban’s motivation and the fact that the Taliban are Afghanis. They would win in the end regardless because they have time on their side. The Afghanis understood this; that’s why they all pre-negotiated their surrenders. The Taliban ARE Afghanis. Their culture is a more cruel version of the general culture they live in.

For comparison’s sake, let’s suppose some other country — its heart in the right place — took up the cause of all fundamentalist LDS women (even the Church of Latter Day Saints — the Mormons’ — have issues with their fundamentalist co-religionists). There are about 10,000 FDLS members spread across remote parts of Utah, Colorado and Arizona. What if that “do-gooder” country went at us relentlessly for not protecting those women and girls. What if they got so incensed that they sent in a team to snatch them all (knowing they’re not going to invade us). There’s nothing far-fetched here. Countries have actually done things like this — here in America. Ever hear of the Russian mafia?

We’d lose our minds, of course. People don’t impose their cultures on us, we impose ours on them.

Make no mistake: what the Taliban wants to do again to Afghanistan’s women is horrible in the extreme. I could call it unacceptable but, as we stand here today, there is nothing I (or anyone) can do to stop it. Unless we want to invade Afghanistan all over again. If America had chosen to keep 2500 boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect its women, not only would this war have continued, it would soon have escalated. Whenever the Taliban finally decided they’d had enough, they would have escalated their violence. Under current circumstances, the Taliban have good friends in Russia.

And we cannot remove Trump from the equation because he buried himself in it. We will yet learn (take it to the bank) that what is happening now in Afghanistan was set in motion while Trump’s fat ass still stank up the Oval.

Ah, but to see all that, you’d have to have perspective. You’d have to acknowledge that both sides don’t do the same things — and what they do do? They do for entirely different reasons. You’d have to see people for who they are versus who you’ve projected them to be. You’d have to expunge “both sides do it” from your brain.

You’d have to aspire to rise above your own mediocrity.