The Senate — With Its Weird Rules — Was The WRONG Place To “Try” Donald Trump; A 9-11 Style “Truth Commission” Will Be More Satisfying & Productive

Politics and Justice don’t play nicely together. Politics rarely plays by “the rules”. Justice, on the other hand, is a kind of “prisoner” of them. For a moment, we told ourselves yesterday, when it appeared the House Managers would call witnesses before Donald Trump’s Senate trial, that the Truth would, at long, long last, have its day in court. Then, after negotiations with the Senate and Trump’s defense, the House Managers backed off that call. They entered Jaimie Herrera Beutler’s statement — relating GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s desperate call to Trump to stop the riot — into the record and let it stand there. In that moment, it certainly felt like, again, Democrats were letting Republicans get away with their corruption. That wasn’t what happened. We need to appreciate the perspective the House Managers had when they sought witnesses (it was their right to demand so they demanded it) and when they chose NOT to actually call any. Perspective is the thing we’ve lost sight of over the last four years. Perspective says that what the House Managers did yesterday was as spot on as pretty much everything else they did.

Trust them, America. TRUST THEM. Trump’s Senate trial was entirely POLITICAL. That’s a vital distinction. Being a political process, Truth was not the goal; appearances — THAT was the goal for Republicans. The appearance of loyalty to Donald Trump. The fact that Trump’s defense could spew so many blatant lies on the Senate floor with zero fear of repercussions speaks volumes. For starters, even when you’re certain you know what a witness will say on the stand — under oath — you cannot control it one hundred percent. The recorded, written statement will not change. For the moment, that sufficed. Appearances and politics were satisfied. But not Justice — because Justice doesn’t live in the Senate. It never has, never will and wasn’t going to start yesterday.

Keep this in mind: the Democrats in the Senate represent 45 million more Americans than the Republicans in the Senate do. The Senate is a variation on the Electoral College theme — where white men get over-represented and everyone else gets under-represented. Ask yourself — why are there TWO Dakotas? Is it because there were way too many Dakotans for ONE Dakota? Or is it because TWO Dakotas adds TWO conservative, white, Christian Senators to the mix. Between the TWO Dakotas there aren’t two million people. 1.7 million Dakotans (North & South) have 4 Senators to represent them. Here in California just south of 40 MILLION AMERICANS get just 2 Senators. See how that gives way more political power to rural Dakotans and their desires over literally every single Angeleno? That’s not a level playing field — and it’s by design. It’s also why it’s essential that we make DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands ALL separate states with two senators each and the right to vote for president.

The Electoral College is slavery voting in our elections. The filibuster is slavery interfering with the Congress actually governing America.

Had the House Managers gone down the “witnesses” road, the Senate trial would have gone into a period of recess while the process to interview witnesses began. While the truth would have gotten out into the public record, it would have taken a while to get there — and the Republicans would have used the time to take every bit of wind from the Democrats’ sails, add to the chaos, spew more lies and all without ever opening their minds. The Senate remains a minefield — too unpredictable, too political.

A better idea — and this was the House Managers’ thinking: don’t do this “here”, form a 9-11 style “Truth Commission” give it ample power and oversight. Having a functional Department of Justice with Merrick Garland at its helm will help make it happen. And — an important distinction — while the newly formed and empowered Truth Commission is doing its work, Merrick Garland also will be doing what We The People are paying him to do — seek, prosecute and deliver JUSTICE. Ignore Garland’s well-known moderation. He’s a prosecutor. All we want from AG Garland is for him to FOLLOW the rule of law and FOLLOW the Constitution. If he does that? The Republicans and Donald Trump are screwed.

Even if he sucked as a prosecutor, once Garland pulled the first Republican corruption thread he saw, Republican corruption is so massive, so pervasive, so unavoidable that Garland couldn’t help stumbling over it. We have to stop thinking that four years of Trumpian Justice are “justice”. They aren’t — and bet the ranch that all those dedicated DoJ-ers who hung on for dear life while Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr ran the department are just aching to set their ship aright. That will mean cleaning house of Trumpian corruption both within their department and everywhere they find it.

The State of Georgia is going to prosecute Trump for election fraud. The SDNY is going to prosecute Trump for HIS role in the same case that sent Michael Cohen to prison. All they have to do there is flip Trump’s status from “POTUS” to “Former-POTUS” and indict away. He’s already on their books as “Unindicted co-conspirator #1”. Then there’s E. Jean Carroll’s civil suit. And all the other civil suits about to rain down on Trump, his company, his former charity, his everything.

And, hey — remember that counter-intelligence investigation we all thought was happening? The one Rod Rosenstein told Team Mueller the FBI was doing but also told the FBI that Team Mueller was doing but that, in reality, NO ONE WAS DOING? That’s back on the menu — and that is the bottomest line there is here. Russia. Russia, Russia, RUSSIA.

It all comes down to Russia. “But for Trump”, there wouldn’t have been an insurrection. “But for RUSSIA”, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS.

Deep breath, everyone. Now, take another. And another. Let go of your cynicism — it’s not serving you. Instead, embrace skepticism. Embrace perspective. Embrace Justice — REAL Justice, not the kind of “justice” the US Senate can “deliver”. Until we use REAL Justice to clean every bit of Republican corruption from the Senate, any trial’s a show trial.

Patience is always a virtue. Just a teensy bit more patience on our part and that virtue will begin to feel deeply satisfying too.

Dear RW-ers: No, Freedom Is NOT Free; It Comes With Responsibilities

Listening to most RW-ers defend their ideals is starting to sound like a ten year old bully defending himself. “You’re not the boss of me” is what “freedom” sounds like in his ears. That might work as freedom if you live alone on an island. Put one other person there and “you’re not the boss of me” will cause problems almost immediately. Politics begins the instant two people have to negotiate with each other just so they can get through the day. Even two people trying to decide what to have for dinner are engaged in a political conversation. If both those people have “you’re not the boss of me” in their heads? They’ll never make good decisions together. They’ll never be happy. The fact is, they’ll never be free.

Freedom is imaginary to begin with. So is democracy. So are rights.

Each and every one is a human invention. No deity has bestowed any of this upon us. Trust me, if there IS a deity and that deity (with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about!) is worrying about piddly stuff like this? This universe needs a new deity with more deity-like priorities. Geez, whose mediocre idea of a god is this anyway? While we’re at it, unless anyone can demonstrably prove otherwise, God or gods are all human creations, too. The proof? That we think a deity with a whole freakin’ cosmos to worry about would worry about whether or a bunch of little, tiny humans “believe” in him. That’s not a deity, that’s a male in need of psychotherapy.

We have rights because we finally realized that we could give them to ourselves — that we didn’t need a god-appointed king to grant them. Like maintaining a republic (as Franklin said “If we can keep it”), maintaining our rights will demand vigilance, grit and resolve. There were forces then that sought to shut down what had just been created. The slavers always hated democracy because democracy and slavery are mutually exclusive propositions. Slavery cannot exist in a democracy. It can’t. That it did wasn’t a reflection on democracy, it’s a reflection on us — and our continuing willingness to compromise with evil.

America is still fighting about slavery. That’s a stone cold fact. Cotton and sugar cane were labor intensive businesses. They were all the south had to run their economy. The most expensive component? Labor — but only if you’re forced to pay for it.

Hey, what if you could get all that expensive labor “for free”? Okay, so the labor costs you nothing, but you’ll have to feed and clothe and house your free labor. Considering as you can feed them garbage, clothe them in rags and house them in squalor, the costs will be negligible compared to the profits. And that’s why slavery exists. Free labor. All the rest — the inhumanity, the families and lives destroyed, the murder and mayhem — those are all ripple effects. Stuff that “happens”.

The slaver sits on his verandah, believing he is living the “dream of democracy”, a free man making money. He’s confused. No, he’s wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. Being a pig or a bully isn’t freedom. It’s being a pig or a bully. Being a slave owner is the opposite of freedom — because everything the slave owner does contradicts other peoples’ freedom. That’s the problem — right there.

We have rights because we gave them to ourselves (well, white men, at first, gave them to other white men. Fortunately, we’ve begun to wise up to the scam the white men have been running. The genius of America is the thing that makes it unique among nations. Aside from Native Americans, America was not formed by tribes that lived here for a thousand years like the countries of Europe were. We are the product of all those European tribes — plus tribes from EVERYWHERE ELSE on the planet. THAT’S what makes America exceptional — we’re the only country that was formed from all the other countries. It is unfortunate (but fixable) that white people commandeered this country for its first 240+ years. White people are very clever — but they’re not the only clever people on earth. Pretty much every other tribe? They’re clever, too. And when you put all that multi-cultural, approach-problems-from-every-conceivable-angle kind of thinking to work — as we have, here in America? The results are like nothing else humans have created. As experiments in human self-government go? We’re worth preserving — but, adjustments are needed, urgently.

Already the idea of “civic education” is finding purchase. Good. America needs that. We need to stop thinking that flag-waving is patriotism. No, knowing and understanding how the Constitution works — THAT’S patriotism. Under Trump, we could have turned into a fascist shithole just like that — without changing our flag. The Constitution would have ceased to be despite the stars n stripes’ endurance. See how that works? The piece of colored cloth is actually quite meaningless whereas the Constitution…

Among the first things we’ll need to teach the generations of Americans to follow is how valuable their rights are — how special. But, we’ll also need to teach them that those rights do NOT come without caveats. Everything costs something. Nothing is truly “free”. Just as rank has its privileges and obligations, so do rights.

The right to vote demands that you exercise it. Voting is every American’s OBLIGATION, not just their right. I kinda like Australia’s approach. You cannot be made to actually vote and Australians don’t have to vote come election day. BUT, Australians do have to show up. Regardless of whether or not they actually vote, Australians are obligated by law to at least go to their polling place.

Americans are equally responsible for paying for our democracy and freedoms. These things do cost money. Living costs money. Unless we all revert to being hunter-gatherers, feeding ourselves costs money. Our problem in America is that we see taxes as a black hole of inefficiency and corruption. It’s money out and virtually nothing back. Of course Americans see the tax man as the enemy!

What if Americans received a yearly statement though — an accurate accounting of exactly how the govt spends every single dollar it collects? What if Americans could see, every year, what their money bought them (bought the country), what it should have bought them and what it could never buy them? What if Americans — instead of seeing their taxes as money lost forever — saw them as a fair, accurate accounting of what their tax dollars are buying for them?

If Americans got something they could point — like guaranteed health CARE (as opposed to health INSURANCE — which is the focus of our debate) that could never bankrupt them or their families, they might look at those tax dollars (plus the out-of-pocket savings) a little differently. If Americans could point at the good public university or skills training education their children could have — again just because they pay taxes here — they might look at those tax dollars a little more open-mindedly. If Americans viewed their government as theirs, as their elected intermediary tasked with getting their collective problems solved, they might not see government as “the enemy”.

Again, this is framing — how we think of things (and how we don’t). This is entirely up to us.

If everyone in a family insisted they had to do things their way, the family would collapse in less than a heartbeat. Even relatively happy families have their issues. Welcome to being human and living at cross purposes with each other. Successful families learn to negotiate with each other. If they want something, they’ll probably have to give something to get it. Hello, politics.

A country like ours is just a giant family with a giant closet filled with giant skeletons. Families that don’t acknowledge their skeletons devolve into chaos. Families that at least try? They can’t do worse than chaos. Just like surviving a family takes work, so, too, does surviving a country. Balancing conflicting needs isn’t easy but the alternative is authoritarianism. For what it’s worth, living in an authoritarian state — provided you follow the rules — is a hell of a lot easier than living in a democracy.

That’s part of fascism’s appeal — you don’t have to think. The state does that for you. All you have to do is march neatly in lock step.

In November 1947, Winston Churchill put it this way: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. Democracy is hard, bloody work. The alternatives may be “easier” but only on the surface.

That is, if your idea of freedom isn’t a ten year old’s.

Dear Pundit Class — You Don’t Get Why Bernie Is Succeeding Because You Still Think Everything’s “Politics”

Say what you will about Bernie Sanders, one thing he is — consistent. I think of myself as a socialist — well, a social democrat in the European sense. That’s what Bernie Sanders is, too. A social democrat who believes government’s biggest responsibility (outside of defending us from outside harm) is to level the playing field so that as many citizens as possible can realize their full potential — which will benefit us all in myriad ways.

Democratic socialism is very aspirational. It wants something better than what is. Will it cost more than what we’re doing now? It depends on how you total it all up.

The average middle class American — even with a half-way decent employee-provided health INSURANCE plan — still spends a small fortune out of pocket to get the actual health CARE they need. And nothing in their insurance will save them if they get really, REALLY sick and blow past the insurance coverage’s caps. Hello, bankruptcy. When that average middle class American’s kid gets out of college or university (they’ll need a degree still to compete both here and abroad), they’ve got a whole mountain range of debt to get past before their lives can really begin.

Those are two examples of what we currently think is “acceptable”. Funny thing? Most other modern, industrialized, democratic countries? They don’t agree.

One of the things that never gets mentioned in the apples to kumquats comparisons we get of democratic socialism vs what we have now is that although Europeans pay more in taxes than we do, they GET a whole lot of things that they WANT & NEED in return. Things they can point at. Things that they know make their lives better.

Reminder — no one in a country with that boogeyman “socialized medicine” ever goes bankrupt or loses their family home because they or someone they love dared to get sick.

My opposition to that isn’t “political”, it’s moral. Our system is flat out IMMORAL. Fight me on that — I double dog dare ya.

The idea of giving every one of our children either a (public) college education or technical training “for free” (it’s paid for by tax dollars) isn’t a political idea, it’s a philosophy: we educate our children because it makes US better & smarter as a society. Billing ourselves exorbitantly to accomplish that is stupid on steroids.

That’s why other countries don’t do it. That’s why other countries are competing better than we are. We think it’s all about money and politics.

For us, it is. For all those European Democratic Socialists? It’s a philosophy.

The notion of the “rugged individual” is a fabulous fiction. A very MALE fiction at that. Rugged individuals “alone can fix it”, right?

Bullshit. Even as a philosophy — that’s bullshit. But, ironically, in order to make that philosophy a reality “I alone can fix it” — you have to get political. Because THAT’S a philosophy no one believes and no one (with a brain) will buy. So you have to turn to politics — manipulation (that’s the goal of politics — to manipulate towards an end) — in order to have your way.

Our pundit class still thinks the House Democrats impeached Donald Trump because of politics. That was not the case. Though the Democrats are, indeed, a different political party — and were acting as a group — what motivated them was NOT politics. Yes, Democrats oppose Trump on political grounds, but the actions the Democrats were citing were violations of the law and the Constitution. They weren’t reacting politically, they were reacting patriotically. Not the same things.

Keep in mind — if it’s so that Russia impacted the OUTCOME of election 2016 in in any way (and we KNOW that Republicans not only accepted MILLIONS from Russia into their campaign accounts but handed Russia proprietary polling data on top of it all) then we have to ask — for real — whether we can accept the outcome of an election that was neither free nor fair. Worse — the election’s outcome was Russia’s desired outcome. They put their choice into the White House and have had full control of him ever since.

Between now and the election, Trump’s Russia problem will not go away — no matter what Bill Barr does or tries to do. There will never be a day when Trump gets good news on that front — unless it’s Bill Barr successfully obstructing justice. The PR horse is out of that barn and it’s not coming back.

Our pundit class — like the news media that feeds them — still can’t get the idea that Trump isn’t a normal POTUS out of their heads. They can’t get it INTO their heads that lies and truth don’t have equal weight. When a person lies to you, you IGNORE what they say. You don’t ask “But, what if that’s true…?” because it ISN’T true. It was NEVER true.

You’ve just wasted your time — and our time — running down a rabbit hole you should have avoided. Because it was complete bullshit. A person (a reporter even) who calls out a lie in real time, isn’t acting politically. They’re calling a lie a lie.

Can Bernie accomplish everything he says he wants for America? Probably not. But aspirationally, it’s a far better direction than where Donald Trump and the Republican Party want to take us — permanent minority rule. At least Bernie’s version of America doesn’t divide the way Trump’s America does.

At the end of the day, what Bernie’s really selling — it’s what Obama sold — is HOPE. Hope for something better than what is (and aiming for the middle of the road is aiming for a slightly better version of what is). Bernie’s not selling “Hope Adjacent”, he’s selling full on Hope — while Trump sells the diametric opposite.

Ya see, Pundits — it ain’t about politics. It IS about philosophy, And it is about darkness vs light.

If you don’t think even the dumbest Democrat on the planet can sell that? You’re blinded by politics.

Dear MSM — No, It ISN’T About POLITICS

This picture is not political. It depicts a crime happening en flagrante. A CRIME against the Constitution & We The People.

The most insidious form of “Both Sides Do It” journalism is its insistence that, no matter what, it’s always about politics.

Democrats objecting to Republicans suppressing Democratic votes (they never do seem to suppress votes evenly between Republican voters and Democratic voters) is — in this view — political rather than legal. Those stolen votes are… what? Collateral damage? When a Democratic voter loses their right to vote — because a Republican TOOK it from them — the only politics being played are by the REPUBLICAN. The Democrat here is the VICTIM OF A CRIME.

That little analogy goes Big Time with Donald Trump. It’s the exact same deal. Trumpified.

What most Democrats objected to as Trump plowed his way through the Republican field back in 2016 was his racism, his misogyny, his corruption. We objected to hearing a presidential candidate say that “Mexicans are rapists”. Our objection, MSM, wasn’t POLITICAL, it was MORAL.

The fact that we were Democrats (while most Republicans stayed silent or quickly bought in) was relevant. Not because of our political affiliation but because of our morality. As usual, the MSM ate the icing and forgot that a cake even existed.

Even today, a cable news show could play thirty seconds of Trump talking about anything. The talking heads would get their shot — and the Democratic Congressperson on the panel will state the obvious: Trump lied, lied, LIED.

The news panel’s host will (with one or two exceptions) flip it to whatever Republican Talking Head is there — “Is that true? Did the president lie?”

The rest of the conversation is irrelevant. The Talking Head Host just assumed (on the audience’s behalf?) that the Democrat’s take wasn’t motivated by the truth, it was motivated by politics. To get to the truth? We need to hear the other side, too.

Both sides DO NOT DO THIS. Both sides do not commit treason to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not suppress the other side’s votes to win elections. They don’t.

Both sides do not wage political campaigns based on fear and outright hatred of the other to compel their voters. They don’t.

Both sides do not obstruct justice as easily as they breathe. They don’t.

Both sides do not put forward ludicrous explanations that couldn’t pass smell test in a shit factory. They don’t.

Both sides do not make excuses for a president who consistently behaves in ways that would get any other citizen arrested. They don’t.

Both sides do not have a relationship with Vladimir Putin that is so flagrantly, obviously, how-in-our-faces-does-it-have-to-be TREASONOUS that it boggles the mind we don’t call it TREASONOUS yet. Both sides absolutely, positively do not.

What the MSM cannot get through its titanium skull is that one can object to Donald Trump, to Republicans and their outright corruption, as a concerned citizen first and a Democrat second. It’s possible to think country over party. Why, we should be demanding, does our Main Stream News Media think every single American thinks like a goddamned Republican?

Both sides do not do it. Both sides do not always — ALWAYS — play politics.

And, while we’re at it – Chuck Todd is an idiot.

I Made A Terrific New Friend Yesterday — My Diametric Opposite

I am not making this up. I met my diametric opposite a few days ago. We kinda it it off. By yesterday, when we parted ways, I couldn’t get him out of my head.

Come the fall, my daughter will matriculate at UC-Davis. Despite the havoc Prop 13 wreaked upon California’s educational system, our state universities remain a shining example of what public education can be. For two days, we were both plunged into the University’s culture — my daughter off with the students, me off with the parents. As this isn’t my first time at the UC Rodeo, I was familiar with the tropes. The nuggets of good, UC-Davis-specific info were massively outnumbered by well-meaning-but-generic suggestions about dealing with our freshman angst and our own.

My new friend Gary and I started chatting — just because we were sitting near each other while waiting for one of the information sessions to start. We all wore badges with our names, our student’s first name and their intended major. That way, all the parents had a way to break the ice with each other — just by reading each others’ badges.

I’m not subtle in a room. Gary saw me immediately for what I was — a progressive. Gary did a little “lawyerly” poking around. He showed me a picture of a Remington rifle he was interested in buying. It was a nice-looking rifle. Not my thing but, still, my under-reaction surprised Gary.

The subject of marijuana had come up. I forget why. It seems to come up a lot around me. Gary had recently developed type 2 diabetes. When he and I and the two other hookey-playing dads sat down for an off-campus beer, Gary and I were the only non-drinkers. I asked if he ever used cannabis instead. Gary said he almost did once (at UC-Davis — he was a very proud alum) but hadn’t since — and really couldn’t because of his work.

Gary, ya see, is a judge. A very conservative judge from a very conservative part of California. The instant I heard Gary was a judge, I was captivated. I grew up a surgeon’s son. While I thought of my dad as “dad”, other people revered my dad because of what he did — and did for them. Working as I have in show business, I’ve seen people be revered because they can memorize dialogue and act it out on cue. But, perhaps because I grew up being unimpressed, I became immune to being impressed. Gary being a judge (never mind his politics) made him a guy with a job I wanted to know more about. The perfect basis for a friendship.

Now, I hope Gary will forgive me for this. I’m about to give away his secret. He’s a profoundly decent man. His care and compassion for drug addicts — his work on their behalf to keep them out of the penal system (but with the penal system’s threat very real) makes him a hero. There’s a saying in the Talmud: “Save one life, you save the world”. I told Gary that’s what he was doing. He downplayed it. The last laugh is mine — I’m shouting it from the rooftops here.

The truth is, because Gary isn’t a doctrinaire conservative — and I’m a pragmatic progressive — we found an amazing amount of, if not common ground, then ground where structures could be built where we both could live. It’s funny how when you put politics — even differing politics — inside decent people, one hears the differences but one also sees a way to get past them. Decency is a remarkable thing, I tell ya!

Decency means you have to listen sometimes — and wait your turn to counter. You have to argue facts and not feelings. You have to stay reasoned and reasonable.

I have a confession to make. I used what my new friend Gary told me about himself against him. And he let me. The subject of Donald Trump came up. The subject of Russia came up. The subject of Robert Mueller and The Mueller Report came up.

Gary said he hadn’t read the report, didn’t intend to, and thought it was a waste of time. That’s when I played dirty. I talked to my new friend Gary as the compassionate, law-abiding judge I knew he was — there was video, news reporting — testimonials from drug addicts who’d been saved from their own demons. Gary is especially fond of his time in drug court. He’s put more than a few demons to the sword there.

I put Robert Mueller into Gary’s courtroom,. Was Mueller a “good witness”? Purple Heart War Hero… Second longest-serving FBI Director… a man who’d spent his whole career as a public servant — whose reputation even now remains sterling. I asked — if the evidence presented in the 488 page Mueller Report was evidence presented in HIS courtroom, how would Gary feel about it?

I told you — Gary is a very decent man. He did not disagree that AG Bill Barr misrepresented Robert Mueller and his work product. The more we talked about the subject, the quieter Gary became. I don’t argue feelings. I argue facts (and I can back up everything with receipts if needed because I’ve learned the hard way — it sucks being humiliated by someone who does bring proof that they know whereof they speak). But feelings are part of the equation and depending on how intense those feelings are, the facts can easily get de-contextualized. A fact out of context is a statistic waiting to be abused.

Gary and I talked about the 2nd amendment too. We talked about how it’s worded. We talked about guns and gun culture. Though it pains me to say it, i don’t see how we’d ever make America a giant gun-free zone. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward it. My bet is the more women flood the political system, the tighter gun restrictions will be because mothers hate the thought of anyone’s baby getting shot.

Guns will be a series of conversations we’ll have over time, I bet. I believe we will have those conversations. And though we won’t see eye-to-eye, I believe we’ll begin to see ways to bridge the chasm. Decency, I believe, will make the chasm harder to maintain. I hope that Gary’s decency was a reflection of my own. Having someone listen to you — really listen — changes things.

I bonded with Gary. I found a compadre (and a partner in crime). I found someone whose world fascinates me — as my world fascinates him. I doubt we’ll ever have the same war stories.

As someone who rages against political opponents like a fool shrieking into the void, I found it incredibly satisfying to listen. To ask questions. To understand the perspective that made another person who they are.

I guess that’s what happened. I looked inside the heart of another person — and saw them beneath what they thought.

I can’t say for sure if this new friendship will endure. I want it to. I already come away from it enriched by it.

The ‘Good News’ Is The Bad News: We’re ALL Making It Up As We Go Along…

What “is”?

Maybe the better question is: “What ISN’T?”

What isn’t TRUE?

Every single one of us faces that question multiple times every single day.  We base the success of a day on how well we navigate that question.  “What should I wear today?  The weather forecast said rain but they’re wrong so often…?”  In our home lives and our business lives, we need to feel as connected as possible to what we think is so — the concrete of existence: what “is”.  That leaves our “spiritual lives”.  How do we approach the question of “is” in this less certain realm?

Some of us go for all the information we can handle.  I’m a string theory guy myself — at least I think I am; I may not grasp its mathematical nuances and complexities but there’s something satisfying about its core logic — as I understand it.  It’s not necessarily a given that the Universe works in a way we can easily comprehend.  I guess that “mystery” becomes “God” in other peoples’ minds.

And that cuts right to the chase: how do you explain the nuts & bolts of the universe?  Do you choose astrophysics or faith?  Do you trust math or do you trust wonder?

Even the astrophysicist will get to a place where her equation doesn’t quite balance.  Something is missing.  Dark matter perhaps?  The astrophysicist will suggest one or two theories based on what she does know and then, if she’s any good as an astrophysicist, she’ll say: “I don’t know.  Yet.”  It’s the “yet” that really matters.  As an answer to a question, it’s a blank space.

The other path — faith — couldn’t care less about science.  It’s got its own story to tell.  A story that looks a lot like reality but isn’t bound by it.  To explain the “I don’t know yet’s” it doesn’t worry about proof or evidence, it’s perfectly happy to accept MAGIC as an explanation: “Let there be light”.

The biggest mystery that faith tries to answer — it’s the draw, really, for most people: what happens after we die?  Aside from physical rot, science offers nothing; not a jot of hope.  Faith offers nothing but HOPE.  Faith offers an “Afterlife” where you get to live a better version of your current life, surrounded by all your loved ones in a lovely place that you’ll get to be in forever!  Sounds awesome!  Sounds phony, too.

Faith can’t offer postcard views of this after life. The can’t point to all the great ratings on Yelp.  No one, as yet, has sent back any sort of verifiable communications from The Undiscovered Country.  It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it?  But, in fairness, it’s the biggest “I don’t know” we have.  Well, it’s the one with the most emotional baggage.  It’s the one where the answer — the REAL answer — we’re not going to like it.  So we invent a better one — one that assuages the terror of knowing that the very fact of “being” is all any of us has.  When that’s taken from us — the fact of our “being” — we’re done.

Our terror is justified.  But the part where we make up a kinder, gentler story to make us feel better — that’s bullshit. We’re making it up.  Doesn’t matter why.  We’re MAKING IT UP.

Let’s zoom in a little closer to quotidian life.  Set aside, for a moment, what’s true and what isn’t.  We humans live in complex, stratified societies built on a myriad of rules, laws and habits.  Some things we’ve done a certain way for so long that we assume it’s as permanent a thing as a mountain.  A weekend, for instance.

We all look forward to our weekends, right?  We need them.  Without them, we’d go bonkers.  We’d work ourselves to death.  Good thing we invented weekends to solve that problem.  Weekends are a human fiction.  They don’t exist in time.  They’re an invention — that we made up to frame time off from work.

Work, too, is something we made up.  We do it, most of us, to afford living.  We work to get the money we need to pay rent or mortgage and all our other financial obligations (it’s complicated and expensive living in a complex society).  We need more money!  Money, of course, is a made-up thing.  Humans invented money because bartering in a complex society is hard.  How many unstopped toilets should the plumber charge to get a pound of ground meat?

Humans invented Democracy as a way for people to govern themselves (in theory) — without a king or ruler.  American humans invented a Constitution to guide that self-governance. They made it all up.  Before they did — it “wasn’t”.  Ever since this country’s founders did invent Democracy though — it’s fallen on those who’ve followed to maintain this invention — making it better (by amending it) as needed.

Law, too, is a fiction.  It’s a vital fiction — but it’s a fiction we all agree to go along with.

At least, that’s the theory — that we’ll all go along with the same fiction — follow the same rules — and agree to be constrained by the same laws.  Constrained from doing harm to other people, that is.  Experience continues to teach and re-teach us: a certain percentage of human beings are outright rat bastards.  They can’t be trusted to maintain the fiction. They think or act like the fiction doesn’t apply to them.

They’re criminals.

Right now, as we stand here today, the United States of America is in the hands of criminals.  For real.  Criminals have seized control of our Ship Of State.  But not just criminals — traitors.  The very worst kind of criminal.  Donald Trump and the Republican Party have placed themselves squarely outside the rules (made-up as they are) that the rest of us live by.

That has to stop.

But how?  How do you stop someone operating outside the rules while you’re constrained by them?

The quickest way — We admit to ourselves that we’re living inside made-up rules.  We agree that we want to continue living under these rules.  If that’s so then we agree to reconsider the rules in the context of criminal behavior bent on destroying those rules. We don’t have to be led to our own political slaughter just cos the rules we invented say we have to.

That is utter bullshit. And all we have to do is “confess”: we’re making it all up as we go along.

If America’s Going To Heal Itself, FIRST, It Needs To Ditch The “Magical Thinking”

Believing in Magic is fun. It’s the deus ex machina side door out of anything hard and overly challenging. Like Life.

In the theater, it’s “god from machine” — an ending that doesn’t actually add up or make sense but — it was time.

It’s why religion proliferates still — even in the face of cold, hard facts that contradict it. Cold, hard facts aren’t nice. Facts aren’t in the “nice” businesses. They couldn’t give a rat’s ass whether you “like” them or not. Hell — “You” don’t even exist to them.

Facts just are. They’re a-political. They don’t ascribe to any particular faith. To look at them, and interpret them, you don’t need a church. You need a mind. When you refuse to use your mind, a church will quickly step in and do the thinking for you. But churches don’t base THEIR worldview on the world, they base it on their foundational texts — written kajillions of years ago by well-meaning but uninformed men.

If the scribes who wrote what eventually was assembled into the Pentateuch (the Old Testament) — including Genesis — had known that microbes and pathogens exist (therefore explaining sickness and disease) or that earth was NOT at the center of creation (in fact, we’re nowhere near it’s center — if there even is one), they would NOT have written the texts they wrote. Their texts would have been informed by their knowledge. It’s kinda how knowledge is supposed to work.

Instead of the “Book Of Genesis”, perhaps there’d be the “Book Of String Theory” or “The Book of Quantum Physics”.

If that were the case, there’d BE no Magical Thinking.

America has always been extremely friendly to Magical Thinking though. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that a bunch of offshoot, whackadoodle religions were born here. You can think of Protestantism as an offshoot of Catholicism (and Christianity as an offshoot of Judaism), but what the hell is Scientology an offshoot of — other than Chicanery? At least Mormonism pretends to be an offshoot of Christianity (though it takes Christianity to crazy bullshit places even Paul would have called it “over the line” and “beyond anyone’s capacity to believe it”. I’m sorry — Jesus visited North America? Um, no — if he existed, he most certainly did NOT.

The reason nonsense like Mormonism & Scientology (and a host of other to-silly-to-speak-their-names beliefs) finds purchase here is that Americans have always had a “thing” for Magical Thinking. We believed, for instance, that not outlawing slavery in our foundational document — our Constitution — would work out for us. The Civil War and its aftermath says we got that wrong.

Magical Thinking starts early. We force it on every single kid. Some of it — sure, it’s endurable: fairy tales, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny… But the rest of it is just pure ignorant masquerading as something else. It’s what adults tell kids when they (the adults) don’t know the answer: it must be god. It must be ooga-booga. It must be MAGIC.

No — it’s not Magic. It’s NEVER Magic. Magic does not exist.

If a surgeon or pilot stepped out to say hello before getting down to work — and they said they had decided to forgo science today; instead they’ve placed the outcome of YOUR surgery or YOUR airplane journey in the hands of MAGIC (better hope it works!), I don’t think YOU would want them to continue.

There’s a reason.

Quick side note. I differentiate between “religion” and “spirituality”. I don’t equate spirituality with magic — though the relationship between them is fraught. Spirituality is awe. It’s wonder at what we don’t know yet. I also don’t necessarily equate magic with any religion’s core message — so long as the core message isn’t its magic. Take Jesus, for instance. One can laugh at Magical Thinking all while happily Doing Unto Others. You don’t need the magic to take a little good advice.