“Winners” vs. “Losers”

One of the more destructive myths that rule our thinking and behavior here in America, and much of the world, is the idea of “Winners” and “Losers”. Winners, the myth goes, are rugged, brave, determined and unconquerable, they have the character to fight on and win no matter what the odds are against them. Losers are weak, lack any will at all, are lazy, greedy and terrified of hard work and competition. There is no other possibility for human experience, in a free society you have to fight and you either win or you’re a fucking loser. Which means that the vast majority of human beings are, clearly, losers.

How is winning defined? Having so much money you can tell anyone you like to go fuck themselves. Losing? Not having enough money to survive, let alone tell people to fuck off. A loser angrily telling people to fuck off is seen as pathetic (and, in bad cases, worthy of jail time), a winner doing it is just, well, availing herself of part of the privilege of victory.

Why this myth is so destructive is pretty easy to grasp. For one thing, much of “winning” and “losing” is out of our individual hands. The accident of our birth, into wealth or poverty, is probably the single biggest determinant of whether we will win or lose at the American game of life. Most American children born in poverty, to parents who were born in poverty, will grow up to be poor, their children doomed to a similar fate. These people are all, according to the myth, incorrigible losers. It is hard for a child born to great inherited wealth, even the greatest fuck up, given every advantage throughout his life, to blow through an entire family fortune. For one thing, that’s what trusts are for, to protect inter-generational wealth from the stupidity of one heedlessly greedy heir.

Take all the things that flow from being born poor or being born rich: education, physical safety, health care, optimism about life, the ability to buy things, opportunity, life expectancy. The poor who are lucky get one shot, at most, to emerge from their life-shortening predicament. The rich typically get many chances to redeem themselves, even after massive fuck ups that would mark most others as irredeemable losers.

Think of the several self-inflicted bankruptcies of the Orange Polyp, not to mention the criminal schemes and frauds the creature is currently under investigation for committing, the many he’s done openly and paid no price for. A prep school boy who rapes a girl will often get a discreet second chance, his life shouldn’t be destroyed by one youthful mistake, the custodians of wealthy boys agree. A public school boy who gets in a fight in the cafeteria is a menace to society who will have the rest of his life set in stone almost immediately.

I think of this pernicious myth of Winners and Losers whenever I see the face of Swanson TV dinner heir Tucker Carlson, screwed into various expressions of contempt and disbelief. Carlson is undoubtedly what many Americans think of as a winner, he’s rich, influential, has a great job, is a celebrity, gets to opine at great length and influence millions of angry citizen viewers. His employer forced him to take the vaccine, and booster, and he goes on the air urging the 20% of American never-vaxxers that they are 100% right to resist tyranny, this rapey coercion by the Deep State. Every one of that 20% (who have a 20X higher chance of death from the disease than. fully vaccinated Americans) watch Carlson’s act regularly, getting comfort from the supremely confident confirmation of their feelings that this great winner gives them nightly.

Winners are easy to list. Forbes publishes a big list of them every year. Time Magazine gave one Man of the Year for 2021, a year when Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman saved Mitt Romney’s life during a riot and single-handedly prevented a possible massacre on the floor of the Senate. Losers, on the other hand, tend to be anonymous.

My father, who died without an obituary in the paper, died tormented by the fact that even after escaping dire poverty, and raising his children in a middle class home on a tree-lined street (about a mile, and across the tracks, from where little Trumpie grew up), he still felt like a loser. His emergence from poverty was a triumph few today have any hope of experiencing. He knew that he had emerged from poverty as a result of generous veteran’s programs that allowed him to go to college tuition free and get a low rate mortgage when he was finally able to buy a home. The sale of this house, forty years later, was the bulk of the wealth he was able to pass on to his children. He was among a large number of World War Two veterans who made this transition from lower to middle class, thanks to government programs (programs that did not apply to Black veterans). He knew Black veterans had been fucked out of the chance he had, and that bothered him too, very much so, at one point.

I know it won’t happen any time soon, but think of how much better this threatened world would be if all of us losers got together, across all artificial boundaries, and set out to get rid of the dangerous myth that supremely greedy, hyper-competitive psychopaths are the winners the rest of us need to revere. For one thing, look at how happy all these grim-faced, constantly brawling winners seem to be…

The supremacy of a story

As illustrated by the NY Times framing of the rash of Omicron in Puerto Rico (see previous two posts) the way you tell a story makes all the difference in what the people who hear your story believe and what they take away from it.

One frame on the spike in covid cases in PR might focus on the poverty and lack of humane and efficient health care for millions of American citizens, including, conspicuously, natives of Puerto Rico. One frame might, as my doctor friend does, stress that Omicron is rarely a serious health threat to vaccinated people and that breakthrough infections are to be expected with a strain so infectious. There are multiple ways to tell the same story. Which version of the story you believe will determine how you feel about the things described by the storyteller.

Nothing humans do is done without a convincing story behind it. We have a strong need to believe in our good intentions, pure motives, righteousness, that we are doing things for a good and sometimes even noble reason. Only a sociopath acts without the need to justify himself. For the rest of us, a story we believe in is necessary for any action or inaction we take. Some stories speak to our best impulses, others to our worst, but any story we truly believe can motivate us, for better or worse.

People who storm the Capitol, battle the police, chant about hanging the Vice President, shooting the Speaker of the House in the head, defecate in the halls of Congress, do it because they truly believe the intolerable story that they’ve had their legitimate presidential choice stolen from them. The supremely infuriating story of a stolen election, a rigged system in state after state riddled with widespread systemic fraud, massively fraudulent results — a stolen landslide victory — hidden even by corrupt, smelly, traitorous RINOs, is told to them over and over by everyone they trust.

It is not even a matter for them of suspending disbelief, or asking how so many Republicans won in 2020 on the same ballots Joe Biden and his co-conspirators rigged to steal only the presidency from the rightful winner. They will never ask why Republican state officials and federal officials appointed by Trump confirmed that the election with the largest turnout in American history was also one of the most secure, that the incidence of voter fraud was, as always, infinitesimal.

The story you believe as you gather with fellow faithful patriots, watching a blood curdling betrayal video on a giant screen and getting fired up to storm the Capitol and Stop the Steal, covers all of that. The lack of actual evidence for your point of view, or that it may appear illogical in light of the facts, is only the final proof of how cunning and vicious the evil, inhuman, traitorous enemy is!!!

We humans are simply this way, and we are probably the only creatures who act based on a story that tells us how to see things and what our duties are. Few other species march off in long columns to kill and die based on a fervent belief in the story that Jesus died on the cross to cleanse the world of sin and violence.

I’m reading a fascinating book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, by a psychiatrist of mysterious origins who wrote as Alice Miller. It is in part about the stories told to justify all sorts of harmful things done to children, often by generally well-meaning parents. Depending on who’s point of view you look at things from, you will emerge with very different stories about a family dynamic. This framing inevitably reminds me of my father’s story about me. Here’s a snapshot, told to me from my father’s pre-deathbed point of view:

You are a very angry person with an explosive fucking temper and a mouth like a fucking toilet bowl. You’ve always been troubled and challenging and had an irrational hatred of authority. From the time you came home from the hospital as a newborn you stared at me with those big, unblinking, black, accusing eyes, you judged me harshly from the very beginning. Nothing I ever did was right, no sacrifice I made was ever appreciated, you always just angrily attacked me. You were “born with a hard-on against the world”, and since people can’t change their essential nature, no matter how much they delude themselves that they can, it was preordained that you and I should have been lifelong adversaries engaged in an existential war that could never end.

A hard story to swallow for me. It always was and always will be. It leaves out many important parts of my character and personality, any progress I’ve made in my life, any valuable lesson I’ve ever learned, reduces me to one intolerable trait justifying an angry reaction in turn. More ridiculous still is the self-prophecy aspect of this story, the more forcefully the story is told the more it comes true. Anger is predictable for a child insistently told that even as a newborn baby he was simply an angry, challenging little bastard and will always be treated as such.

Telling me variations on this story over and over did nothing to help my father, outside of making him always feel justified in fighting me on everything. The simplistic story did nothing to help me. It only hurt us both, and it hurt my mother and my sister. But there it was, preferable, by a million miles, to the awful story my father finally told me as he was dying:

My life was basically over by the time I was two. I never experienced love as a child, only brutal punishment for things I didn’t do and fear. I grew up in terror, hungry all the time, for food and for things I didn’t even know what they were. I finally exceeded the low expectations placed on me as a stupid boy and started a family of my own. The anger I expressed toward you, you have to understand, it was really nothing personal. I’d have done the same to any child of mine. Nothing you could have done would have changed the story I believed, and I am so sorry to have put that burden on you and your sister, the burden of having an immature, angry horse’s ass as a father.

Imagine how painful and threatening that would have been for any father to feel and try to work through prior to having a few final days to consider his life as he was dying.

On the other hand, and contradicting my father’s undisturbed fifty year story about me, I was a peaceful and supportive listener as my father was speaking his last few hours of thoughts. As he catalogued his regrets I told him that he should have no regrets, that he’d done the best he could, that if he could have done better he would have.

My calmness was possible only because I’d gone through a course of sometimes excruciating psychoanalysis that left me at times feeling like all my skin had been peeled off and I was only nerve endings. The only memorable benefit of this painful process was that, at a certain point, only months before my father discovered his death was less than a week away, I was able to concretely grasp that my father’s unyielding story about me had been told because he needed to tell it. He told it for his benefit, needed to believe it in order to live, that he could not change it and that if he was capable of doing any better he surely would have. This understanding allowed me to take a step away from my anger at my father, since I finally understood he couldn’t figure out how to do any better, pitiful as that also is, and that my understandable anger toward him was most painful to myself. I was able to let some of it go, and not a moment too soon.

I sometimes think of this calm ending of the long war with my father as a kind of mutual blessing. I thought so more at the time than I do now, fifteen years later. His admission, hours before he died, that he felt me reaching out many times over the years to try to make peace (I had), but that his emotional immaturity had prevented him from taking a step toward me, gave me valuable validation that I had not been the belligerent cartoon he always insisted I was. He saw his inability to ever compromise or admit fault as the mark of an unforgivable asshole, but he hoped for forgiveness anyway. Easing his suffering however I could, short of lying, helping make his death as gentle as possible, was my main thought as I listened, so it was easy to make him feel forgiven, for whatever help that might have been to him at the end.

Knowing all this about myself, and having lived how an insane story can be pressed quite rationally and reasonably, stated as fact and embraced by others with cult-like fealty, I accept my own strong, uncomfortable feelings when someone unfairly blames me entirely for something that is only, in small part, my fault.

Here’s my story now: I take the burden of things I do wrong and do my best to make amends, but I don’t carry the burden of a story that paints me as the entire problem, to make someone else feel better about their story. That shit, you understand, is for the birds. I simply can’t do it. Neither should anyone else.

Brave New World

Comedy Monster Jim Gaffigan made an interesting distinction that illuminates a lot about our current social crisis. He differentiated between being old and being like “no cellphone in high school” old. I am both, as anyone born before about 1990 is. To prior generations, the idea of having a super computer in your pocket, capable of Flash Gordon-style video conferences, was something out of 1950s science fiction, yet there it is, in my shirt pocket as I type.

Has the smart phone changed the world? You betcha. More than the printing press, telegraph, telephone, radio and television changed the world? You betcha, since it makes irreversible changes instantly, simultaneously, in real time, constantly tweaked and updated for billions of us puny earthlings.

The technology of smart phones has released limitless wealth for many smart business people, many of them now powerful, influential billionaires, their fortunes derived from selling targeted ad demographics based on what they learn about the preferences and personal habits of actual individuals.

Printers made a lot of money selling new printed books, and some newspaper owners got very rich, the latter from ad dollars as much as from people buying newspapers. Telegraph and telephone magnates surely got rich. Radio, a populist game changer, was another gold mine. TV made many people very rich, also based on massive ad dollars spent on this powerfully influential new entertainment technology that instantly reached millions. But none of these was on the scale of these current day billionaires who get rich by monetizing the private needs, wants and weaknesses of billions of people using the internet and the smart phone.

How the technology, carried around in a pocket by billions of us, changes the way we interact is what I am thinking of. There is little chance for real nuance in a text, LOL! The loss of this nuance, to me, is a big deal. I spent years making myself a better writer, learning to choose and rearrange my words carefully. I’ve spent a lot of time making my writing a clear and accurate expression of my thoughts, feelings and observations. It is a certain kind of satisfying work, though unappealing work to many, sitting over something you’re writing and methodically revising it to make it clearer and clearer.

An average writer sending an informational or opinionated text dashes off some words, and an acronym or two, with every expectation of being understood. ROTFLMAO is one you used to see, instead of hearing the sound of your friend laughing, watching her rolling on the floor, you know, her ass literally falling off she’s laughing so hard.

Facial expressions, eye contact, body language, tone of voice, irony — all impossible to discern in any but the most skilled text message. The world of interpersonal communication, the world itself, has radically changed, in less than twenty years.

I know, I’m an old fart and there is probably not even a point to registering the things I am trying to express now. It is surely the kind of nuance that we’ve lost that makes no difference at all to anyone raised without it.

Why quibble about a thumbs up being the same as saying “I like the way you phrased that, very sly” with a wink, a pat or an eye roll? Thumbs up! Like. Nothing ambiguous about it, I thought it was cool.

I text and email my friends all the time, sometimes it’s the only contact we have outside of seeing each other at long intervals (now that we have this endless Democrat [sic] plague upon us, a new Trump-resistant variant of the original “Kung Flu”) but to me, even without the eye contact, body language, facial expressions, talking to them on the phone is almost always preferable to the linear process of sending notes back and forth.

In third grade we passed notes, written on slips of paper, to people we wanted to talk to. During lunch break we got to talk. Back in class we passed notes that were not allowed to be passed. We’d be busted for passing notes sometimes, and would have to pretend to be sorry.

Today it seems to be largely passing notes, purely linear back and forths instead of conversations that can turn into discussions where we actually learn something new about somebody or something else. The other regrettable feature is the linear nature of texts, they focus solely on the matter at hand. It strikes me like the difference between googling a source for a term paper, and including a link as a footnote, and reading a book that leads you to other books that give you information you didn’t know was important.

I am old school, I know, a dying breed. I like to listen, I like to talk, I like to bring in divergent topics related to something I hear someone say. I like the idea of learning, shedding light, having it shed for me, gaining what used to be called insights.

Insight is in short supply in a knee jerk world of instant thumbs up or thumbs down. That business is from the Coliseum when the mob indicated if they wanted a vanquished gladiator killed or spared. It is the same today, friend, “unfriend”, have a nice day.

I love a good talk. I understand that conversation is a dying art, in an age when it is so much easier to tap a few keys and wait for a usually instant reply. We are programed to respond to our phones right away. It saves time, yes, but saves it for what? Time with those we care about is really the only real wealth we have.

To me, a conversation can be magic. A text is only a parlor trick that more than a billion people do billions of times a day. We can see what happens to the world when conversation, and the ability to discuss nuance, and problems that are complex, is flattened into a yes/no computer process that ends in a thumbs up or a thumbs down. LOL!

Rolling on the floor laughing…hey, wait! Where the hell’s my ass??!!!

We are all crazy with anxiety now

I don’t say this judgmentally, we’d have to be crazy not to be feeling a bit crazy right now. We don’t talk about it much, but we are all stretched to the breaking point from two years (and counting) of a politically weaponized (talk about insanity…) highly infectious pandemic that began toward the end of the angrily divisive reign of a malignant narcissist troll, who came to power in the final act of a well-organized, almost complete, decades-in-the-making radical right wing coup that now defends white mob violence, justified by bold, insane lies. The shit storm blows not only here, but there and everywhere. We puny earthlings are facing scary uncertainties related to interlocking global crises, as the great state of Texas sets new records for Christmas temperature (a balmy 82 degrees F) and rolling back constitutional rights.

The newspapers and TV don’t dwell on the cascading crisis of mental health, an unaddressed epidemic of anxiety, depression, loneliness, grief, loss, fear, moodiness, hopelessness, anger and aggression as deadly as any of the other crises facing all of us these days.

Every so often an article is published laying out the scope of our observable epidemic of mental health troubles. The New York Times found, after surveying more than a thousand therapists, that therapists are starting to burn out (though the survey didn’t ask that), like Covid overwhelmed doctors, nurses and hospital staff, and are very concerned about their freaked out patients (and, presumably, the masses of freaked out mental health deniers). Read the Grey Lady’s article to find out Why 1,320 Therapists Are Worried About Mental Health in America Right Now. The survey respondents reported that demand for therapy has surged, waiting lists are long, medication needs have increased, children’s mental health issues are intensifying, couples are struggling, the outlook for 2022 remains bleak. Here’s a slice:

While there were moments of optimism about telemedicine and reduced stigma around therapy, the responses painted a mostly grim picture of a growing crisis, which several therapists described as a “second pandemic” of mental health problems.

“There is so much grief and loss,” said Anne Compagna-Doll, a clinical psychologist in Burbank, Calif. “One of my clients, who is usually patient, is experiencing road rage. Another client, who is a mom of two teens, is fearful and doesn’t want them to leave the house. My highly work-motivated client is considering leaving her career. There is an overwhelming sense of malaise and fatigue.”

The Washington Post recently chimed in with an article called The pandemic has caused nearly two years of collective trauma. Many people are near a breaking point. The article begins:

An airplane passenger is accused of attacking a flight attendant and breaking bones in her face. Three New York City tourists assaulted a restaurant host who asked them for proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, prosecutors say. Eleven people were charged with misdemeanors after they allegedly chanted “No more masks!” and some moved to the front of the room during a Utah school board meeting.

Across the United States, an alarming number of people are lashing out in aggressive and often cruel ways in response to policies or behavior they dislike.

“I think people just feel this need to feel powerful, in charge and connected to someone again,” said Jennifer Jenkins, a school board member in Brevard County, Fla., who said she has faced harassment.

Most people I know are near the breaking point, not that my circle is given to busting up tyrannical restaurants, assaulting flight attendants or giving Nazi salutes at school board meetings. I’m closer to the breaking point than I like to be. Are you as calm and dispassionate, and filled with gratefulness and occasional joy, as you like to be? If so, my hat’s off to you, though I’m also leaving the door open in case you suddenly pick up a weapon.

Then, as we know, since fear and uncertainty are such terrible emotions to sit with, many turn to anger and the certainty of righteousness a good, boiling rage always brings. Check out this Washington Post headline (and the article is a gift to you from the ever generous Jeff Bezos) Anger at Covid drives GOP lawmakers in Red States, which has since been re-titled: Anger over mask mandates, other covid rules, spurs states to curb power of public health officials (tendentious subtitle: Republican lawmakers pass laws to restrict the power of health authorities to require masks, promote vaccinations and take other steps to protect the public health.)

And really, who among us does not have the right to be fucking furious at a persistent disease that keeps morphing and spreading, with deadly effect, among people who find it as enraging as being told what to do? And, also, you know, as bad as the disease itself, and as infuriating — fuck those fucking so-called public health official Nazi fucks and their goddamned liberty-infringing “mitigation strategies.”

It is good to keep in mind, as we walk through this shattered landscape we are all living in today, that we are all at a breaking point and every one of us needs to treat each other with an exceptional amount of mercy. Few of us are at our best during prolonged, draining periods of terror and uncertainty.

Yes, crisis is supposedly viewable as opportunity (I think that Chinese ideogram meme has been debunked) but it is also a high wire act we’re forced to perform, without a net, over broken glass and everything that ever caused a nightmare. Remember very few of us were ever taught how to deal with fear, with anger, with terror. We learned by example: pretend to be fearless, deny anger (and attack the fucking accuser) and as for terror, the word speaks for itself.

This horror show too will eventually pass. Most likely. Denying the scope of our mutual suffering helps nobody. Of course, the mainstream right-wing/corporate bloc in the Senate will block debate on any proposed government efforts to fund mental health care, or any kind of health care, for that matter ($100,000,000 in this year’s military budget for bands to play John Philips Sousa marches is one thing — your fucking personal problems are another).

Being aware of the fearful situation we are all in, as we try to understand the suddenly intensified insanity of everyone around us, can only help. It certainly can’t hurt. And every little act of mercy, and everything else that doesn’t hurt, tends to help.

Reminds me of what a kindly old drug dealer told me, many years ago on a Greyhound bus in Boston, after I declined his offer of a selection of drugs. Seeing my crutches on the seat next to me, and my bandaged foot, he asked if my foot hurt. I told him it did. He handed me a single percoset, on the house, which I thanked him for. “Enjoy it, baby. Like I said, if I can’t help, I don’t hurt” and he smiled, heading up the aisle to his seat.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas

On the eve of the birth of Jesus, believed by many millions worldwide to be the Messiah, Son of God, Prince of Peace, I’d like to wish the baby a very happy life. His story is an awesome, terrible story. He was born into a world stubbornly impervious to his wisdom, angry about his preaching on love, treating his best ideas for a moral life as revolutionary heresy and nailing him to a cross for a slow, cruelly painful death. It is hard to feel anything but great empathy for a baby born to live this life. To all who celebrate, a very merry Christmas, a happy, healthy Christmas to you, as my grandmother would say. Now a few words on how the teachings of Jesus have been wielded for evil purposes by cynics whose love of Jesus is highly suspect.

There is regular ignorance, which is simply not knowing anything about something. If the conversation suddenly turns to ballet, I will be mostly listening, since I’m basically ignorant about the subject. I know nothing about ballet, aside from the names of a few superstar dancers from many decades ago. There was a photo of one of them, Edward Villella, in LIFE magazine, that impressed me when I was a skinny adolescent, and caused me to increase my number of daily pushups. The guy was captured at the height of his leap, suspended in air, high above the ground, torso a knot of muscles, legs strung with what looked like steel cables. Here you go:

Edward Villella - Founding Artistic Director of Miami City ...

So there is ordinary ignorance, which is nothing to worry about, really, since you can always ask questions, learn about something and cease being ignorant, if you ever feel the need. Then there is a much more destructive kind of ignorance, pugnacious ignorance. It is ignorance with an attitude, provocative fighting ignorance that wants to make you mad enough to say or do something stupid so they can beat the snot out of you or kill you.

Pugnacious ignorance is supremely useful for guys like Charles Koch, or Donald J. Trump, who use crowds of excitable, pugnaciously ignorant people like I use kleenex when I have a head cold. Koch, it turns out, just like he did with the “spontaneous” “grassroots” radical right Tea Party-Freedom Caucus that arose to angrily oppose the last Democratic president, funded anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine and anti-mask rallies all over the country, to galvanize resistance to government “tyranny” and get traffic flowing on the highways again, burning oceans of lucrative gasoline [1]. Most of the thousands of Americans currently dying of Covid every week embrace this freedom to resist “tyranny.” In every “anarchist jurisdiction” where a damned Democrat radical had the final say, the pugnaciously ignorant story is that these freedom-hating, anti-religious Commies were forcing tyrannical so-called health mandates on people that were really all about depriving them of their God-given liberty to do whatever they feel like doing. Bring God and Jesus into it, you know, and you can really seal the deal, as our top psychopaths have learned.

Jesus, of course, it is widely believed, was God’s son, is God’s son and the world celebrates his birthday tomorrow. In the New Testament Jesus is a gentle friend of the poor and the meek and protector of the helpless. Not a very useful Jesus for obscenely wealthy autocrats to weaponize for their own ends, not at all! So now tens of millions of Americans faithfully believe that Jesus loves freedom, the right to carry assault weapons, the right to defy health precautions, a strong military, militarized police and paid firemen. The rest of the government, for the most part, Jesus believes, according to wealthy American preachers, is a bunch of anti-freedom haters who won’t even let you say “Merry Christmas” to each other any more because, and this is a key point, they hate Jesus Christ. Just like the Jews hated Jesus, just like the Muslims, who took up swords against good Christian defenders of the faith who went on crusades to Muslim lands to put infidels to the sword.

I’m not here to pick a fight with anyone on the eve of the birth of the Prince of Peace. I am a big fan of Jesus, the man of peace who, as he was being arrested, to be crucified, told his followers to put down their swords. This was right after one of the Romans who came to arrest him had his ear slashed off by one of Jesus’s followers. Jesus picked up the ear and miraculously reattached it to the Roman’s head. On this detail all of the Gospels agree (even though they vary widely in most other details). Hard not to love that Jesus, I’d say. Talk about practicing what you preach and loving thine enemies.

The problem with any religion is not the highest ideals of the religion, which can be mobilized among the faithful to do wonderful things, but the lowest impulses that can be called forth in the name of defending the holy. It’s not a religion, of course (though in a way it is) but corporatism, embraced by many of our wealthiest, most influential Americans, believes corporations have the same rights as all other persons. They have immortal souls, you understand.

Corporatism is another massively influential belief system that encourages humanity’s lowest impulses. A corporate “person,” though brilliant and strategic, has no conscience, therefore is capable of anything in pursuit of profits. Think of the difference between an armed human sentry and a deadly robot sentry who instantly directs deadly force at any movement. Dead workers, a ravaged ecosystem, child cancer clusters downstream from a factory? Externalities. This is the unfortunate downside of corporatism, some must die that others may live very, very, very well. You must factor these externalities into your budget, since sometimes they will cost the corporation a pile of copeks. Otherwise, like Jesus always said, wealth is the only true blessing of God. Health? Not as much. Wealth is the real test of a blessed life. Hallelujah.

As a teenager wrestling with the question of the existence of God in a world of massive brutality and injustice, a world that ends in death for each of us, and wondering whether God is merely “a concept by which we measure our pain,” I thought of an image that resonates with me still. If we defend God’s goodness in the face of evil, and evil there is in this world, aplenty (why else crucify a teacher instructing people to love each other as they love themselves?) then here is an explanation as likely as it is not.

God gave us all Free Will [2], defenders of God’s mercy in the face of murderous greed, genocides and hate crimes teach, and if we use it for evil ends, the fault is our’s, not God’s. Still, why doesn’t an all-powerful, loving God simply stop shit like the regular slaughter of innocents?

God is now very, very old, and He has watched for millennia as the most evil humans persecute everyone else out of their own lust for unlimited profit and power. At seventeen I concluded that humanity had finally broken God’s heart, that He was now in heaven weeping, unable to even look at what has become of His loving creation.

What does God do on Christmas Eve? He weeps, with Jesus, no longer a baby, but a full-grown man who was killed in the most vicious way imaginable. For the unpardonable crime of teaching love, you understand.

Merry Christmas.


A new report titled “How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On COVID” reveals how a right-wing network linked to billionaire Charles Koch has played a key role in fighting public health measures during the pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates, contact tracing and lockdowns. The groups include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), Donors Trust, the Hoover Institution and Hillsdale College. We speak about the contents of the report with co-author Walker Bragman, who says the right-wing network’s attack on public health is designed to “maintain corporate profit at the expense of human life.”



I can’t help but think of Free Will as the same sort of term as Free Market. In each case, we possess as much freedom as the accident of our birth allows for.

Fear vs. Anger

It’s an obvious point that fear makes us feel vulnerable and weak and anger makes us feel righteous and strong. When you are afraid you are at your most helpless, an extremely hard feeling to sit with. Anger, on the other hand, makes you feel mobilized against an intolerable threat. Frustrated by feeling helpless in the face of terror, or shame, it is common to lash out in anger. The nice thing about anger is that it makes you feel justified, and it is much easier to feel than fear. The object of anger is not as important as the certainty that you’re right to be mad, a safe target of anger is often selected, even if that person has little to do with why you’re angry, or afraid.

Neuroscientists have done research into how anger works on a biological level. There is a center of the brain, the insula, that is engaged whenever you have a strong emotion. The insula is what makes you unable to find fault in the person you are infatuated with. It glows when you have a creative idea or are doing something you love to do. It is a very important part of the brain. It lights up when you’re angry. So they attach electrodes, get people angry, and watch their ability to analyze reality become disabled. All the angry person can see, while the insula is engaged, is their anger. It is literally impossible, while angry, to see another person’s point of view, to take in an explanation, to see any gradations in human experience. You are certain of only one thing– that you are completely right to be mad as hell.

The most widespread form of human genius is our ability to rationalize anything we feel strongly about. A glance at politics shows us this in an instant. If you supported a candidate who lost, that loss had to have been because of massive fraud and you have every right to be mad as hell and do whatever it takes to restore justice. Anything can be weaponized, it turns out — science’s best precautions against a new, highly infectious, deadly disease can be turned into infuriating provocations, designed by evil people solely to tyrannize and having nothing to do with public safety. When anger rules fear seems to disappear and the world becomes black and white, simple, good vs. evil. The thing you are afraid of does not go anywhere, but your fear is masked by the energetic righteousness of anger.

Demagogues have always known this and used it to get and keep power. I think of the nobility of eastern Europe, born booted and spurred to mercilessly ride the peasants, the serfs, the poor and the powerless. Whenever the mood of the masses was turning ugly the lords and barons set the mobs on the Jews, who were said to be to blame for all evil in the world. A nice drunken pogrom makes the mob feel much better, stronger, more powerful. It allows them to blow off steam by beating, raping, burning, killing and looting. It does nothing to give them any measure of control over their own miserable lives, but for a while it is apparently intoxicating to join others to do violence to people you hate. Think of mobs in this country, doing the exact same thing to a succession of immigrant groups (and indigenous ones), most commonly and consistently to Blacks. Think of the myth of White Supremacy, the massive pogrom in Tulsa, Oklahoma a hundred years ago, the popular rage of local powerless whites incensed that a prosperous Black middle class had emerged in that oil boom town.

Think of someone you love, who is seized by fear. Fear of death is a big one at the moment, and it is entirely rational to fear death right now, during a deadly pandemic that is the perfect accompaniment to the worldwide rise of angry autocrats who lead violent mass movements. Was Berlin in 1932 a fearful place? Our moment in history is not that different, but let’s focus on the personal. Take any fear, the fear of not being loved. It hurts like hell to feel it, and it feels unfair, like a betrayal, when someone close to you withdraws empathy. What did we do to deserve having sympathy and consideration taken from us? Painful as hell. The predictable response to fear and loss is anger. There is a theory, that sounds reasonable to me, that depression is anger turned against the self. Anger and depression is a cocktail as potent as a deadly pandemic amid a worldwide march toward fascism. Don’t drink it, though, it will fucking kill you.

Loneliness, anyone?

A recent pre-pandemic survey found that 61% of Americans reported feeling lonely. The epidemic of loneliness is painful in its own right, plus, it leads to destructive attempts to escape the pain of feeling isolated and eternally alone in the universe.

Lonely people look for community on-line and find “social media” groups where their worst suspicions are confirmed in sickening detail: fucking Tom Hanks drinks the blood of children he has kidnapped, after doing sexually perverse things to them!

Words on a page, even those written by our most skilled users of language, almost never contain the nuance conveyed by a wry twinkle in the eye, a shrug, a sarcastic body movement in concert with the words spoken — a pregnant pause.

Lonely people staring at screens take the words they read, words they hope will somehow bind them to others, at face value. Of course George Soros, Barbara Streisand and fucking George Clooney had something to do with those vile accusations against innocent, humble, nonpartisan, never a black out drunk, Brett Kavanaugh!

Aside from an epidemic of suicide caused by loneliness and despair, aside from the political chaos, the literal madness, it has unleashed among desperate people looking for simple answers to complicated, vexing issues, aside from the outward rippling misery loneliness causes, loneliness is, at its heart, a very painful condition.

A writer named Steven Petrow published a thoughtful essay called I’m not alone in feeling lonely. There are ways to fight loneliness. It appeared in today’s Washington Post and has been generously “gifted” to you by a supremely generous man of the people, the illegally anti-unionist Jeff Bezos.

A thoughtful essay by Mr. Petrow, I thought. When a painful condition is stigmatized, and those who talk about it are treated as pathetic losers, the pain of that condition is greatly compounded. The first step to dealing with anything painful is to acknowledge that it hurts and talk to others about it, tough guy.

It helps nobody you care about, and yourself least of all, to pretend you’re fine when you have the cold arrow of loneliness stuck in your chest.

If you feel lonely, or know lonely people, this article is worth a read, especially during this time of year, the “holiday season” when the days grower shorter, expectations for merriness soar and suicides spike.

Parent and child

I recently spent two years, every day, writing about my troubled, troubling father. Many of the sessions were spent in a kind of dialogue with the skeleton of my dead father. We had some excellent and revealing chats, picking up where he left off the last night of his life. Most days our talk seemed genuinely like an actual conversation with a wiser version of the droll, insightful person I’d been raised by, reflecting the realizations he’d had right before his death. The skeleton was humbled by his death, and looking for reconciliation.

I did this every day for two solid years, thinking about the project when I was not writing, imagining my father’s earlier life, trying to get to the bottom of how damaged my father was and the often subtle, but in many ways disabling, harm he inflicted on my sister and me. It was a great project and I actually learned a lot, whether or not I eventually rewrite the pages into a marketable book. The most amazing and unexpected outcome is that now I can see everything from his point of view, though I still disagree with most of the harmful things he did.

The other day I suddenly realized that some of the best men I’ve ever known have struggled (though much more successfully than my father) to be good fathers, some of the best women struggle with being unfailingly good mothers. Children who have wonderful parents and enviable childhoods sometimes grow up to be tormented, anxious, selfish, insecure, vain, perplexed. This point likely seems too obvious to make, perhaps, to anyone who has raised a child, who lives as a parent, but to me, having no children, it was a long time dawning on me what difficult, sometimes thankless work it is to always strive to be generous, to do one’s best, and still experience that sharper than a serpent’s tooth-inflicted pain that comes from an ungrateful, angry or oblivious child. We all have better days and worse days, and there is no real training on how to be a parent or how to be a child.

I knew a young mother, who’d been raised by difficult, immature parents, who decided to be the opposite of the way she saw her own mother. During her pregnancy she fell under the influence of a group of women called the La Leche League. According to her, their theory is that babies never manipulate a parent, they only ask for what they truly need. A child who is breast fed whenever they ask, and given every bit of affection and attention they seek, will grow up to be strong, confident and self-motivated. She breast fed her first child until the baby was three or so, then weaned her when the little brother arrived. He nursed until he was able to say things like “mom, I need to nurse now, if that’s OK with you.” It was a great bonding experience for the mother, and I have read that the oxytosin released during breast feeding can be quite addictive. What’s not to love about perfect love?

This young mother was fond of pointing to how wonderful her children were, the proof that she had learned mighty lessons from her own childhood and become the kind of 100% nurturing mother she never felt she’d had. “The proof is in the pudding,” she would say with a proud smile, pointing at her perfect children, who had never wanted for unconditional love and were clearly both amazing children as a result. I lost track of the family after a while, but the last I heard, the daughter is, according to the mother, a fearless genius and the son, also a genius, is a very insightful young man and something of a saint.

This young mother once spent the day with her husband and two year-old daughter, visiting old friends of mine. The next time I saw my friends I asked how they’d gotten along (I’d introduced them). They told me it had been an extremely long couple of hours, that they’d found the young parents’ zealous belief that they’d created the perfect child hard to bear. “Parents are one factor, one factor in dozens, as to how your child turns out, parenting doesn’t have that kind of one-on-one correlation with how the kid turns out in the end,” my friend told me. “To think otherwise is a kind of madness bordering on megalomania,” the other friend added.

I think of this now in connection to my own father, and his often problematic parenting. He was one factor among many in how I turned out, though he always loomed as a supremely difficult one. A parent who is often angry, and takes out their frustrations on their child, tends to be a large factor in how the kid grows up to see the world. Just as I am sometimes unable to disentangle myself from the abuse I suffered at his hands, in his life, and the reason he often lashed out at his own children like an injured two year-old, is that he had actually been a deeply injured two year-old.

One of the first things he told me when I returned to his hospital room around 1 a.m. that last night of his life, in that weak, croaking voice dying men often seem to have, was “my life was basically over by the time I was two.” I knew the bones of his story. I had learned them from a witness, an older first cousin, my father’s references to his harrowing childhood were always oblique, opaque.

His mother, a tiny, bitter, deeply religious woman with an unquenchable temper, living in a viscerally unhappy arranged marriage to a very poor man, used to whip her tiny son across the face, from the time he could stand. Picture that, and how much worse it is for a baby than verbal abuse, neglect, icy silence in the face of expressed concerns, or sarcastic dismissal.

Each of my father’s techniques for keeping his children, and his own demons, at bay were less atrocious than taking the rough, heavy cord of an old fashioned steam iron, and whipping your tender young child in the face, from his earliest memory. I finally concluded he did better than he’d experienced, though he admitted late in his life that verbal abuse is as damaging as physical abuse.

Over the years I sometimes thought beatings would have been preferable, since at age fifteen or so, skinny as I was, I would have started fighting back (he already showed fear of me by that age) and soon been able to kick the shit out of him if he lifted a hand against my sister or me. But that is a surmise I rarely think about.

What I think about more and more is how to take the lessons of my troubling childhood and lay them out clearly for others, in the name of becoming more forgiving, of oneself and the people you love who have hurt you. To explain simply, for the possible benefit of any reader who has been struck by the sharper than a serpent’s tooth cruelty of an unfairly angry parent, how I went from hardening my heart against an asshole father, to learning about and understanding the humiliating abuse he’d suffered in a truly hellish childhood, to opening myself, as he was dying, to simply listen to his deep regrets, and encourage him to say the things he felt it so important to say that he used his last breaths to say them.

In a more perfect union — imagining Rittenhouse public service/truth & reconciliation

Like everything else today, the acquittal of a white teenager who brought an assault rifle to a tense, racially-charged confrontation and wound up killing two people, and dismembering another, while arguably in fear for his life, is a fiercely tribal moment seen through reflexively tribal lenses. Though the injustice on trial in this particular case appears to many obscene, we would all benefit from taking a breath about this particular flashpoint of the long building war between the tribes, before logging it as merely another example of the other tribe’s intractability.

It is undeniably sickening that a white kid who goes to an understandably tense racial justice protest (Kenosha cop would face no charges for shooting an unarmed citizen seven times, four times in the back) with an AR-15, a weapon designed for mass killing in a war zone, (a gun perfectly legal to openly carry under Wisconsin law, if he’d been a year older) and winds up killing two people and destroying the arm of a third, is not accountable to the law in any way, tried in a state that also has a George Zimmerman law. It is an outrage that people like him are free, in many states, to do exactly what Rittenhouse did, fund raise off it and avoid legal consequences. Had he been Black, he would likely have been dead at the scene, a victim of “law and order”. Undeniable. That an unhinged president immediately hailed Rittenhouse as a hero, and the little working class killer’s $2,000,000 bond was quickly raised and paid, and he had an OJ-like team of lawyers who rehearsed and war-gamed his defense with consultants and jury experts, who put him through his paces before putting him on the stand — this white high school kid enjoyed privileges usually reserved for only the wealthiest criminal defendantsan outrageous pouring of salt in the wounds. Compare the outcome to someone who’d done exactly what Rittenhouse did, who hadn’t been able to post bail, had spent a year and a half locked up in prison and was represented by an overworked public defender. There’d be a plea deal and a sentence of years in prison, there is virtually never a trial in the case of someone unable to post bond and hire the best legal team a mountain of money can buy.

There is much to be legitimately outraged about, but there is also a point that has been mostly sliding by — under Wisconsin law, and based on the evidence the jury saw during the trial, their verdict was what the (unjust, racially biased) law provided for.

If we put the tribal lens aside for a moment, (which is a mighty task today, see, for example, the rest of this sentence) we can see that this case is a reflection of the larger injustice in courts bound by laws written by the NRA. These laws are an outrage and a reason to fight to change these gun-crazed laws, but in this particular case there was one killer on trial, not the systemically unjust legal system. The problem with talking about a public trial is that most of us know few of the legal details and the case stands as easy code for everything else. I will attempt to break some of this into smaller parts and look at the verdict beyond the tribal POV.

The kid’s crying on the stand was either the perfectly understandable reaction of a young criminal defendant, under tremendous stress, on international television, facing decades in prison, possibly traumatized by what he’d done (not every kid who supports Trump is automatically a cold blooded killer), the clever act of a well-coached murderer, or some combination of those things.

Multiple things may be true at the same time. Our justice system is the opposite of colorblind — again, a Black AR-15 wielding shooter at that same time and place would likely have been killed by police on the spot, and the shooting justified, forget about any kind of trial by his peers, or anyone else. This pleasant faced white kid, a big fan of cops, was not molested by police after he shot three people and was allowed to leave the scene of the killings with the weapon that did the killing. That by itself is pretty fucking maddening.

The other day I reflexively referred to the biased judge in the case as a Ku Klux Klansman, based on a few seemingly racist comments and decisions he made during the trial, which was not fair of me. I have no way of knowing if Judge Schroeder is a bigot or not. Another way of seeing the clearly biased jurist, with the eyes of the world suddenly fixed on his every word, is as a sympathetic older man, suddenly far beyond his depth, who felt compassion for a kid, already villainized by half the country, facing the full force of the justice system as punishment for America’s original, never addressed sin of slavery and the racism that justified it.

As a frame, systemic racism, as reflected in countless legal proceedings, is impossible to ignore in this case, unless you pretend, as the right does, that systemic racism, like Critical Race Theory (illuminated brightly by the polarizing Rittenhouse case, where a white killer was extended privileges usually reserved for the wealthy and given a fair trial) is bullshit and that making laws banning “CRT will make it — and all claims of racism — go away.

Think of the close to 1,000 enraged white rioters, including armed white nationalist militia members, allowed, by the too-late deployed National Guard, to peacefully go home the evening of January 6th after the sacking of the Capitol, another in-your-face moment for peaceful racial justice protesters locked up immediately, wrapped in a police net five minutes after curfew (in New York City, mind you), or gassed, charged by officers on horseback and shot with rubber bullets on instruction of Bill Barr so the president could be photographed awkwardly brandishing a bible in front of a famous church.

There is another issue in this case, though, a much more straightforward strictly legal issue, which is hard to see in the glare of this moment. It is a much less satisfying way of looking at the case, but no less important.

In light of the evidence presented to the jury did the prosecution overcome Rittenhouse’s self-defense argument?

That is separate from everything else, and really the only relevant consideration in evaluating the justness of the actual verdict.

I heard an analysis of the trial by Glenn Greenwald yesterday, a guy who sometimes annoys me with what seems like a trollishly contrarian view, who made several excellent points, including the one immediately above. The slightly left-leaning side of corporate mass media has framed this trial as a trial of White Supremacy vs. the rest of us who can see the dangers these fearful haters pose — the kid had crossed state lines with an illegally-possessed assault rifle to provocatively confront protesters and rioters because he’s a racist, like many of Trump’s most vocal supporters. Right-wing mass media framed it as spineless liberal puppet prosecutors using an innocent kid who went to protect property in a town near where he lived, shops threatened by BLM violence, to prove a point about their politically correct “wokeness”.

Everyone had a strong opinion when Rittenhouse was acquitted. Few of us had followed the trial in detail, viewing it instead through the glimpses provided by opinionated pundits, in newspaper articles and on “social media”. Greenwald said he watched the whole trial, saw everything that was presented to the jury. Like most other Americans, and citizens all over the world, I saw only selected excerpts, always framed by the presenters. Who is in a better position to evaluate the fairness of the verdict?

The judge, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder, suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, may well have behaved like an asshole, I certainly saw several instances of him leaning over backwards to rule for the defense. In one instance he admitted he knew nothing about technology, but told the prosecutor it was his burden to prove the arguably self-evident proposition that enlarging things on a video screen is essentially the same as using a magnifying glass. The only person disputing that was the defense attorney trying to block introduction of the evidence, who also admitted he didn’t understand the technology or its “logarithms”. It was an asshole position for any judge to take — the two of us are uniquely ignorant about the issue so that is your problem, counselor.

But back to the facts and the law. To prove murder the prosecution must overcome a self-defense defense if it is raised. When you see the defense’s video that the jurors saw, the kid’s fear was understandable when you see that he was chased by at least one of the people he killed, a probably mentally ill man who clearly (and, to many, not unreasonably) wanted to stomp the shit out of Rittenhouse, if not kill him with his own assault rifle. You can say, as I would, that Rittenhouse had no business being there, provoked them by showing up with an AR-15, loaded and ready (and the lack of meaningful gun laws here is appalling), but what the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is that when he killed those men he was not actually in reasonable fear for his life.

The gun charge was dismissed because under a Wisconsin law, probably drafted by the NRA and passed with the help of ALEC (the Stand Your Ground folks), an AR-15 loaded with 30 rounds does not fit the strict and restrictive legal definition of a gun that a 17 year-old can be prosecuted for bringing to a volatile street confrontation. Bruce Shroeder may well be an asshole, even a klansman, but the law is the law and in this case there is no avenue to appeal, based on the law, the judge’s dismissal of the gun charges against the kid who came to a scene of violence armed to take on thirty people. The same goes for most of the rest of the judge’s asshole rulings. The problems are with the law itself, annoying as Shroeder’s thumb on the scale for the defense was.

Predictably, Greenwald has been attacked from the left for his conclusion that the jury’s verdict, based on the evidence presented, in light of Wisconsin law, was correct. It is hard, in our angry, moronic times, to make that kind of distinction when half the country treats the kid as a hero and the other half thinks life in prison is fair punishment for what the smug little Trumper did.

I was reading comments under Greenwald’s video, most of them praising him for his honesty and integrity. This comment caught my eye, and for the first time ever, I responded to a Youtube comment:

I wrote asking the guy if he had a source for this. It changes the narrative drmtically, if true. But the comment above, and my reply, are buried in a haystack of thousands of comments and I have been unable to find a reply anywhere. I was hoping for an email notice, but so far, nada. This guy’s comment, a narrative game changer if true, is the perfect illustration of the problem with relying on unsourced (and thus unverifiable) “facts” gleaned from the internet.

As I was walking last night, taking what used to be called a “constitutional”, I had a thought about how productive it would be if we could all take a step back from the reflexive tribal reactions, isolate some of the larger problems and discuss them on a deeper level of understanding. In spite of the seeming impossibility of doing this in a culture of monetized misinformation, it is the best shot we have as a society on the brink of another bloody civil war. I pictured us all living in a more perfect union, a place of actual discussions focused on the real problems and solving them, instead of the zero-sum, adversarial, strictly profit-driven gotcha society we live in.

I thought of the many lessons members of a more advanced society could take from something like the Rittenhouse trial. I imagined an opportunity for real cross-tribal insights. I pictured people like him, instead of being simply judged a murderer or a victim/hero, required to perform public service after his trial, maybe on a panel with Jacob Blake, the man in a wheelchair for life after taking seven police-justified bullets from a Kenosha policeman and Rittenhouse’s surviving victim.

It would be much more instructive than what we have now, this kid as a vicious murderer who went free or a totally vindicated celebrity of MAGA-world, already publicly courted by several of the most angry, provocative and extremist members of Congress, who have already offered Rittenouse jobs he is as unqualified for as they are for their own jobs.

Imagine an alternative reality where the young man is required to spend a certain number of hours communicating to the public what he learned from his experience. His public service would start with help from skilled mediators who could ensure he listened to victims of vigilante violence, and understood the point of view of those at the protest where he wound up shooting three people. He could reflect on what he may have learned from the whole ordeal, how it feels to actually end the lives of random strangers (suppose he really does have regular nightmares about it, instead of the expressed desire to shoot BLM protesters and the smug posing he did right after– would that be a step in the right direction in talking about fucking guns?). Think of the discussion this kid’s court-mandated public speaking could open, in a more perfect union, where everything is not immediately weaponized to threaten and kill the other side with.

This messianic daydream scenario would only work, of course, in a society where honest reflection was encouraged, where truth and reconciliation are valued, where people are seen as capable of learning, evolving and becoming wiser, instead of a ruthlessly profit-obsessed casino where the only move for the people forced to gamble there is doubling down until you’re out of chips.

What is a lie?

This is now a legitimate, and urgent, question. It is related to “what is a crime?” The answer to both questions is, in a phrase a popular law professor taught all his students to say first “it depends”. The answer to both questions in the USA, after years of heartily advertised lies — smoking is perfectly safe, burning fossil fuels is perfectly good for the environment, Oxycodone has a magically low risk of addiction, being in a rage all the time is good for your health, never apologizing is a sign of strength — is that as a society we’ve come to accept many knowing lies as possibly true. After all, why would Exxon or Dick Cheney, or the philanthropic Sackler family, or autocratic multi-billionaire Charles Koch lie?

Boof Kavanaugh’s presumably adoring mother provided her hyper-ambitious only child a good framework for evaluating the truth or falsity of claims that come before a judge: “Use common sense, what smells OK, what smells funny, who stands to gain by the claim?” (Martha Kavanaugh is quoted as saying ““Use your common sense. What rings true. What rings false.” which is a slightly weaker vanilla formulation of what I recall Boof saying, I’ll give the former Montgomery County civil court judge the benefit of the doubt here) It’s a pretty good guide for spotting truth or lies, especially if you include “who stands to gain by the claim”. That seems to me the key consideration when listening to a statement that rings a little iffy.

If you go through a large sum of money, quickly and without any apparent cause, someone might conclude you have a gambling problem. It’s not an unreasonable theory to account for blowing through a pile of cash in an otherwise unexplainable manner. If you are pressed by a family member on the loss of the money, and that family member assumes you have a gambling problem, you will need to say something convincing. You press forward tentatively at first, explaining that you had many unforeseen expenses, such as blah, blah and blah, and had borrowed money you had to repay, which necessitated borrowing more money, which meant you spent more of your own money than you’d planned… if the family member seems amenable to these absurdist explanations you clinch the thing by looking her in the eyes and saying “I do not have a gambling problem.” To disprove the lie, you’d have to find the guy’s bookie, or betting slips, or credit card charges at a gambling parlor. Otherwise, who are you going to believe your wild hunch or my sincere explanation about why your wild hunch is completely wild?

We are now living in the Age of Justifiable Lying, you might say. Lying is seen by millions of our fellow Americans as a purely transactional act, part of the price of doing business, if you like. For the first time in American history a losing candidate (of one party) now routinely doesn’t accept the results, charging voter fraud as the cause of their defeat. Glenn Youngkin won a close governors race in Virginia by about 70,000 votes. His Democratic opponent, seeing the margin was insurmountable, conceded Youngkin’s victory. The same margin decided the race in New Jersey, but the Republican refused to concede for days, making noises about likely fraud, until he blinked and finally conceded defeat.

This refusal to bow to so-called reality, of course, comes directly from the man currently in charge of the Grand Old Party. Trumplethinskin [1] announced in the lead up to his reelection loss to Biden that the only way Biden could beat him would be by cheating. The subtext was that urban voters, in areas where coloreds and whites interact daily on a level perhaps not seen in rural areas, where the real American Volk live, are inherently corrupt, hate America and the good old days, are too “woke” to see how wrong they are about everything. So if you give “urban” votes the same weight as rural votes you will never have true democracy in this country and the place will go openly Communist and white people will be put on trial for things like innocently killing Black people because they have a reasonable and legitimate fear of them.

People like me keep pointing at the evidence that there has never been widespread voter fraud in this country. Partisans like the creepy Hans von Spakovsky have made a career of hunting down voter fraud, fancying themselves warriors for justice, modern day Simon Weisenthals. Spakovsky has found virtually no fraud, ever, and you can see his paltry findings in the database of voter fraud he has been compiling, going back decades. You can point at all the evidence you like, but if the lie has more appeal to you, confirms your worldview, then the so-called lack of evidence is just more evidence of fraud.

When evaluating a claim and deciding whether it is true, it often feels better, and is much easier, to go by your gut than by sifting through conflicting evidence and weighing both sides like some kind of scientist. This gut feeling of truth is the essence of the “confirmation bias” we tend to believe anything that confirms what we already believe. It does not negate the importance of facts and reasoned argument based on fact, of course, but at the same time it often clearly does. Try parsing that one.

Here is the recent statement of facts Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote to put her decision about the former president’s right to hide anything that could irreparably harm him (say by subjecting him to criminal liability for planning and inciting a violent attack to stop the certification of votes and overturn the election).

While not material to the outcome, some factual background on the events leading up to and including January 6, 2021, offers context for the legal dispute here. In the months preceding the 2020 presidential election, Plaintiff declared that the only way he could lose would be if the election were “rigged.” See, e.g., Donald J. Trump, Speech at Republican National Convention Nomination Vote at 22:08 (Aug. 24, 2020) in C-SPAN, https://www.c-span.org/video/?475000- 103/president-trump-speaks-2020-republican-national-convention-vote.

In the months after losing the election, he repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged, stolen, and fraudulent. For example, in a December 2 speech, he alleged “tremendous voter fraud and irregularities” resulting from a late-night “massive dump” of votes. See President Donald J. Trump, Statement on 2020 Election Results at 0:39, 7:26 (Dec. 2, 2020) in C-SPAN, https://www.cspan.org/video/?506975-1/president-trump-statement-2020-election-results. He also claimed that certain votes were “counted in foreign countries,” that “millions of votes were cast illegally in the swing states alone,” and that it was “statistically impossible” he lost. Id. at 12:00, 14:22, 19:00.

After losing the election, Plaintiff and his supporters filed a plethora of unsuccessful lawsuits seeking to overturn the results. See, e.g., Current Litigation, AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION: STANDING COMMITTEE ON ELECTION LAW, Apr. 30, 2021, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/election_law/litigation/.

The United States Supreme Court also denied numerous emergency applications aimed at overturning the results. Id. In response, Plaintiff tweeted that the Court was “totally incompetent and weak on the massive Election Fraud that took place in the 2020 Presidential Election.” Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), TWITTER (Dec. 26, 2020, 1:51 PM), https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu /documents/tweets-december-26-2020.

He continued his claim that “We won the Presidential Election, by a lot,” and implored Republicans to “FIGHT FOR IT. Don’t let them take it away.” Id. (Dec. 18, 2020, 2:14 PM), https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-18- 2020. A Joint Session of Congress was scheduled to convene on January 6, 2021, to count the electoral votes of the 2020 presidential election and to officially announce the elected President, as required by the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Electoral Count Act.

In the days leading up to January 6, Plaintiff began promoting a protest rally to take place hours before the Joint Session convened. On December 19, 2020, he tweeted “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump), TWITTER (December 19, 2020, 6:42am), https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/tweets-december-19-2020.

During a rally, he warned that “Democrats are trying to steal the White House . . . you can’t let that happen. You can’t let it happen,” and promised that “[w]e’re going to fight like hell, I’ll tell you right now.” See Donald J. Trump, Remarks at Georgia U.S. Senate Campaign Event at 8:40, 14:19 (Jan. 4, 2021) in Campaign 2020, C-SPAN, https://www.c-span.org/video/?507634-1/president-trumpcampaigns-republican-senate-candidates-georgia.

On January 6, Plaintiff spoke at the rally at the Ellipse, during which he repeated claims, rejected by numerous courts, that the election was “rigged” and “stolen”; urged then Vice President Pence, who was preparing to convene Congress to tally the electoral votes, “to do the right thing” by rejecting certain states’ electors and declining to certify the election for President Joseph R. Biden; and told protesters to “walk down to the Capitol” to “give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” “we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” and “you’ll never take back our country with weakness.” See Donald J. Trump, Rally on Electoral College Vote Certification at 3:33:04, 3:33:36, 3:37:20, 3:47:02, 3:47:22, 4:42:26, 4:41:27 (Jan. 6, 2021) in Campaign 2020, C-SPAN, https://www.c-span.org/video/?507744-1/rally-electoral-collegevote-certification.

Shortly thereafter, the crowds surged from the rally, marched along Constitution Avenue, and commenced their siege of the Capitol. 


The only way to refute this well-documented statement of fact is to angrily denounce this federal judge as a partisan fucking liar, an obvious BLM terrorist-sympathizer and Trump hater who was not even born in this country! That argument will fly with about 39% of the population, those who believe it’s “common sense” to administer Texas justice to a traitor like fucking Mike Pence.

Here’s Martha Kavanaugh, watching them attempt to crucify her innocent and totally nonpartisan son:

[1] tip of the yarmulke to Stephanie Miller