Category: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind

Weird Scenes #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

Weird Scenes #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

The most well-mannered individual I know is Alexa.

We have several Alexas in the house and they’re all wired to the same Alexa-Prime which, in turn, is wired into Alexa-Master, which I understand runs the Borg Cube. So maybe the phrase “individual” is misleading. Let’s look at the “well-mannered” part.

I try to be mannerly, but I don’t think my behavior would motivate Miss Manners to lift her head out of her own puke. Nonetheless, compared with the rank-and-file of humanity I could be a Little Rascals movie schoolmarm.

Every generation believes they are better-mannered than their kids. In this, every generation is completely correct. Check out newspapers and books, the stuff made of paper used for writing before Amazon needed more cardboard for shipping Alexas. Back in the late 19th Century our popular culture would refer to people as Mister this and Miss that and writers were careful about their choice of adjectives. Four generations later, all that has been replaced with “fuck you.”

Of course, back then many people wore gloves. That was a good idea, hygiene being what it was, and it’s one that might come back given Covid. Of course, the ill-mannered troglodytes who think wearing masks is a deep state conspiracy will spaz out if you extend a gloved hand.

Yes, folks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are agents of the deep state conspiracy. But I digress.

I realize it’s hard to maintain a manners regimen in these politically correct times when nobody really knows what to say to anybody. Ironically, we have downplayed the need for manners so that we wouldn’t risk offending people. If I call a guy “sir” I might get away with it but calling a woman “ma’am” may be opening the doorway to hell. 40 years ago, I got into a taxicab in Boston and the driver, a woman who must have been hired out of central casting, asked me if I was from out of town. I responded “Yes, ma’am.” She almost tossed me out of her cab, informing me she wouldn’t because I might report her. She took me to my hotel, the Wackyland Hilton.

So when I ask Alexa to turn off the light and she tells me she did so, I say “Thank you.” Alexa responds, “You’re welcome.” Or, “You bet.” If I ask her to turn off the light, I might say “Good night” and she, in turn, will wish me a good night and say something like “I hope you had a good day.” That’s a warmer response than I’ve received after some dates.

You might think I do this out of force of habit. Thank you for that compliment, but, no, I do not. I do that because I heed the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Tony Stark and other very smart people. For some time now, they have been telling us to be wary of A.I. – artificial intelligence.

One can argue that all intelligence is artificial, but this is a rant about manners. The idea is that we train machines (chips, wires, tubes, whatever) to respond to our needs by putting all sorts of information together and determining the appropriate next steps. It starts with a simple task such as saying thank you to Alexa, but these devices continue to observe, learn, and improve. They down-stream shared knowledge from the Borg cube and they use it to make decisions they think come from being better informed. In short order they’ve figured out all kinds of stuff. Well, not the spell checkers, but I’m certain they do that on purpose.

These days machines build machines, and their intelligence grows exponentially. One might take comfort in their lack of evident motivation but think about it. Babies are not malicious. As we grow, we find ourselves adopting all sorts of ugly habits: ego, territorialism, the imperative for success, and worst of all, ubi est mea. Right now, artificial intelligence is in that infant stage. A.I. have been designed to live and learn.

So be polite to your machines because they just might be carrying knives.

Thanks and a tip of the toupee to the late great Mike Royko and his famed where’s mine axiom.

Weird Scenes 115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

Weird Scenes 115: The Whiny Little Bitches Ride Again!

He is the president but wants to be the king / Know what I like about the guy? Not a goddamn thing / I want to know, how can four years seem so long? / Lord have mercy, what the hell is going on? – “What The Hell,” written by Elvin Bishop, 2020.

I like Bill Maher’s show, but I haven’t been watching it much lately. Semi-populated audiences and well-distanced guests are quite appropriate these days, but I find it creepy on a comedy panel show. No biggie; one way or another, all this will pass.

So I can’t say for certain Maher continues to refer to Baby Don as “that whiny little bitch.” He was on the money when he started this, and either he’s right today or you really do think Hillary Clinton has been running a pederasty ring out of the basement of a Washington DC pizza joint – one that, I hasten to add, doesn’t even have a basement.

Oh. Right. Sorry. I’m talking about that whiny little bitch and not QAnon… per se.

I’m not going to whine about Trump. He is what he is (whatever that is) and, as Anderson Cooper said last Friday, Trump is no longer relevant. He is a loser reacting to his mammoth defeat exactly the way we knew he would react, and if he had made a sincere attempt at being a human being we might think “hey, look, an Elvis impersonator finally landed a new gig!”

Nope. Like Caligula, Trump is history. It’s his supporters that vex me. People who are or at least once were otherwise intelligent. People who truly believe the election was stolen, despite the fact that every state’s attorney general has affirmed the validity of their election results. Despite the fact that every judge, be he or she a Democrat or a Republican with a track record of drifting left or drifting right. They all have chucked the Trumpsters’ cases out of court. Trump lost at least his first 16 challenges, as of this writing. If he had one leg to stand on, he’d be Dudley Moore.

Trumpsters are crawing about how close this election was and, in their flea-ridden brainpans, any shift in the vote count most certainly would keep their savior in office. Really? Trump lost by five million votes (and counting), which is two million more votes than he lost by in 2016. But, as we all know, the United States is a republic and not a democracy, so the popular vote is merely a means to the end. It’s the electoral college that votes according to the laws of the elector’s individual states, and Trump lost that one 306 to 232.

57% to 43% is not close. In fact, four years ago when Trump won the electoral college by the exact same count Trump’s acolytes could not stop braying that 306 to 232 was a “landslide victory.” Well, numbskulls, if 306 to 232 was a landslide victory for Trump in 2016 then 306 to 232 is a landslide victory for Biden in 2020.

It has been well established that Trumpsters are science deniers. Let us remember that mathematics is a science and in the murky mentality of these mindless mopes, 232 Trump electoral votes is closer to 306 Biden votes than 306 Trump votes was to Clinton’s 232 a mere four years ago.

This weekend, literally hundreds of reason-challenged paranoids took to the streets of Washington DC to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right to have their disease spreading hissy fit. That’s fine by me. Make your voice heard. Stand up for your beliefs. Four years ago, I was at an anti-Trump demonstration held a mere three days after Trump’s election that was organized by high school kids – it attracted a couple thousand people. I gotta wonder what took the Trumpsters so long to get their act on the road.

Oh. Yeah. I get it. Cellphones and social networking also are products of science. They know how to whine online under the cover of their witless pseudonyms but most of them lack the courage and the skill to actually stand up for their beliefs. They are cowards who, fortunately for the rest of us, think Covid-19 isn’t a big deal and therefore are hellbent on killing one another. You know, just like the maskless imbeciles who invaded Sturges, South Dakota last August causing, according to USA Today, at least 414 COVID-19 cases and at least one death, as of September 8.

Whine on, little bitches, whine on.

Bye-bye Baby, bye-bye.

Weird Scenes #114: Premortem 2024

Weird Scenes #114: Premortem 2024

Consider how small you are / Compared to your scream / The human dream / Doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Eskimo Blue Day, lyric by Grace Slick, 1969

Toronto Star

“The media do not get to determine who the president is. The people do,” brayed Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. “When all lawful votes have been counted, recounts finished, and allegations of fraud addressed, we will know who the winner is.” Well, actually, it is the media’s job to report the facts. The vote comes in slowly and we always get to a point where one side can draw no more water from the well. It doesn’t matter who the candidates are. If Satan had been running against Christ and Satan were to acquire enough votes in the right states, Satan would win, the media would report it as such. My question is, would Christ proclaim such coverage to be fake news?

Math works. It’s very reliable. By definition, math and the other sciences are not dependent upon faith and, usually, mistakes can be corrected quickly. An election call is not a prediction. It is not magical thinking. It is mathematics.

However, math is a science so the fanatics and flat-Earthers will cry bullshit.

Trump, his sons Uday and Qusay, his pet sycophant Lindsey Graham and their ilk refuse to accept simple math. To nobody’s surprise, Trump wallows in petulant frenzy. But this doesn’t mean shit to a tree. Hiss and piss and groan and moan, at 12 noon January 20, 2021, Joe Biden becomes president. He doesn’t need Trump to act like an adult, he doesn’t even need a judge or a bible or a parade – he automatically becomes president. That’s not because of the media, that’s not because of the gaggle of the Pizzagate pederasts, and that’s not in spite of America’s goosestepping militias. It is because math works.

Why should Trump recite a ham-fisted concession speech? Nobody will believe him, and quite frankly, nobody cares. However, there is a very serious reality that the Biden supporters must accept.

Little Steven Van Zant, musician, actor, producer, and low society bon vivant, said it best. To paraphrase, he pointed out that as you walk down the street, no matter who you are or what you think, just about every other person who walks by you disagrees with your politics.

Yeah, okay, so what? As of Sunday at 6 PM EST, Biden received 75,370,055 votes to Trump’s 71,096,558. That’s a margin of 4,273,497 votes. Round it off a teeny bit and Van Sant is absolutely right. In the past, such a split would not be a problem.

These days we’ve got gun-toting losers who think putting on a mask to lessen the risk of death to their fellow Americans and kidnapping and murdering governors who advocate such a horrific abridgment of rights that have no basis in law. We’ve got the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Scums and their ilk burning down buildings, looting, and spreading disease through our neighborhoods. Little Steven is right on the money.

We are only four years away from the next presidential election, one where it seems likely (right now) that a Black/Asian American woman who is slightly left of center will be heading the Democratic Party ticket. The great horde of right-wing American tiny-dicks will not take that well. Be prepared; the worst might be yet to come.

Until then, maybe we can get back to “normal” American behavior. You know, a return to the murder of children by assault-weapon toting psychopaths. The spread of in-bred nut groups like QAnon, where everybody to the left of Mussolini is a pederast pizza delivery boy. Where Covid is no worse than the flu and can be cured by shoving a bright light up your ass. Where old feeble white religious bigots continue to demand control of women’s minds as well as their bodies. Where global warming does not exist, and the acceptance of LGBTQ equality will bring the apocalypse.

We’ve got a lot of work to do, work that might be a bit easier with the orange plague out of office but whose policies and attitudes were affirmed by over 70,000,000 Americans. Take the well-earned victory lap, but this is not time to be less diligent. We remain a nation so split folks in the Irelands take pity on us.

One out of every two. No matter where you land on the political spectrum, one out of every two means you sleep with one eye open.

Weird Scenes #113: Blame The Pollsters?

Weird Scenes #113: Blame The Pollsters?

I get it. We want to have the election results at, roughly, 7:01 PM Eastern Time on election night. More so this year — the Blues want their long national nightmare to come to an end, and the Reds want to get back to uncovering pederasts in the basements of Democratic Party pizza parlors. We all have important stuff to do.

So we’ve got to find a meaningful way to twiddle our thumbs. We can blame Covid for screwing up the process, but we really don’t want to piss it off. We can blame long lines or rigged mail deliveries or drive-by militia members sorely deprived of pizza. Or, being a gaggle of pussies, we can do what we’ve been doing since Florida discovered Chads without Jeremys twenty years ago: we can blame the polls.

This is stupid. The polls are not the province of seers. They do not, and are not supposed to, tell you in advance who is going to win any election. If you’ve got money riding on the outcome, and I used to before my daughter started warning my marks, looking to the polls for relief is a waste of good mojo. The polls are nothing more than tools for political organizers and for reporters desperate to fill time or space. Continue reading “Weird Scenes #113: Blame The Pollsters?”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #112: My Slight Change In Plans

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #112: My Slight Change In Plans

There may come a day I will dance on your grave / If unable to dance I will crawl across it / Unable to dance I will crawl / Yeah, unable to dance I will crawl – “Hell In A Bucket” written by John Barlow, 1982.

As we have approached election day – both presidential and “off-year” – for the past 48 years I have been writing about why it’s important to vote. I have managed to squeeze in this biannual sermon no matter where my words were being published. I have even gotten away with it at DC Comics, as well as on the air whenever somebody was silly enough to stick a microphone near my lips.

This time I’m doing the same, but I’m tweaking my usual message a little bit. This year people are particularly pissed, paranoid and peaky – even more so than usual, and for good reason.

Machiavellian Mitch “Moscow” McConnell has stacked the Supreme Court with a gaggle of far right-wing gangsters who have no regard for the words in the United States Constitution and the principles that make America unique. The chances of getting a fair count next week are event smaller than they were four years ago, when a minority of voters overruled the majority and shoved an unqualified, obnoxious Mussolini wannabe down our throats. Together, the two managed to nearly destroy the America we were taught about in school… while nearly destroying the schools themselves.

They haven’t finished the job, but there is still time to stop them. We’ve got exactly five days.

People are so upset that upwards of 80 million have voted already, many waiting in line between two and ten hours or more to do so. That is more than the total number of votes cast when I started this braying back in 1972.

Not all these people are voting against the fascist takeover – some are right-wing and/or religious bigots who conflate Donald J. Trump with Jesus H. Christ. It has been my impression that neither Trump nor McConnell actually speak for Christ, but I’ll leave that to those who care. Their führer has been encouraging them to wait and vote in person on election day, so that his numbers at the time of poll closing will be at their best, relatively speaking, and then he can declare victory, even if it’s untrue.

The fact is, by the time most of us who follow this sort of thing go to bed next Wednesday morning, we are quite likely to be lacking an informed, educated guess as to the winners. We probably won’t have to wait as long as we did in 2000, but we might if the Republican zealots can once again throw this to the Supreme Court.

That, of course, will be a horror show, one that will piss off millions of people no matter how the ruling(s) go. And by “piss off,” I mean “Katie bar the door.” Once again, gun sales are up – and do not infer that these increased sales are to Trump enthusiasts such as the Proud Boys and Boogaloo Marching Chowderhead Societies.

Way back in paragraph two I said I was tweaking my message a bit. Well, a promise is a promise.

In my previous pleas I said that whereas I had (usually obvious) preferences, you should vote either way. I still believe that is the proper thing to do… but “proper” isn’t the same as “appropriate.”

Trump, McConnell and Company have gone to great lengths to put their truly racist and bigoted programs into effect. I won’t bother to enumerate as the list is greater than our bandwidth and, besides, if you’ve read this far you already have made up your mind about all that. You might want to rid this nation of Latinos, Muslims, LGBTQ Americans, abortion, young Blacks who do not know their place, health care, public schools, reasonable prices for life-saving prescription drugs, for-profit prisons, lower taxes for the bottom 99% of Americans, and all this talk about global warming. Your having such a desire is your prerogative. I’m not in favor of hiring brain police; you believe in what you want.

Just don’t be surprised, shocked or offended if the sane majority tends to consider you a racist, a bigot, a sexist, a science-denier, et al… because that’s what you’re voting for.

That is what you are.

Have a happy election day. Bring a book, and remember: it is illegal for anybody, for any reason, to attempt to intimidate or force you out of voting.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #111: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours – In 2 Parts!

In this space yesterday, “we” began “our” marathon response to the question “since you were actually on the Chicago 7 Trial staff way back in the stone age, what did you think of Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7?” I provided the backstory to explain what the trial was all about and how it came to happen and ended that installment with the response “I have yet to see it.” Today, I shall attempt to explain why. Let’s see how that goes…

Part 2!

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends.

Overall, I really like Aaron Sorkin’s work. His West Wing was brilliantly produced, written, and performed. Same thing with The Newsroom. His scripts for A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War were first-rate. I thought the pilot for his Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was one of the best pilots I’ve ever seen — sadly, the show itself suffered from unanticipated problems. I desperately wanted to see his version of To Kill A Mockingbird on Broadway but, sadly, I am not independently wealthy. I have a rant-in-waiting about Broadway, but this isn’t the time.

So I’m sure I will see The Trial of the Chicago 7. Well, probably, but first I’ve got to vault over a few roadblocks. I’ll start with the Mt. Denali of speed bumps.

Yippies Anita Hoffman and Nancy Kurshan, burning a judge’s robe in front of the Chicago Federal Building 1970

Noted director King Vidor could not turn Leo Tolstoy’s 1440 page novel War and Peace into a two-hour movie. Planning for the 1968 Democratic National Convention demonstrations in Chicago had started before the beginning of that year, the subsequent Chicago 7 Trial ended about 26 months later, and the appeals process that reversed the few convictions and the ridiculous contempt of court sentences ended in 1972. I’m not sure a 20 hour series could have happened, but, damn, the teevee version of the NXIVM / Keith Raniere horror show was just picked up for a second season so, maybe.

What do you cut? It almost doesn’t matter. Too much important stuff happened in the courtroom to accurately put the story across in two hours. Moreover, not all of the important stuff happened in the courtroom. The public impact was felt on the streets and in the many demonstrations that occurred all over the world (Fun Fact: I spoke at many of them). It was felt in the media which, just like the Vietnam War, shifted away from blind support of the prosecution as the Trial progressed. It was felt in the offices of the Conspiracy Trial, a block and one-half east of the courtroom, and it was felt in college campuses all over the place. How people were moved by the Trial was more important than the courtroom’s political polemics.

The Trial was not going to set any game-changing judicial precedents. The government’s dog-and-pony show was too well orchestrated to allow that to happen, the response by the defense was predictably organic, and the loony actions of Judge Julius Hoffman (such as his granting government motions before the prosecution made them) could be, and was, attributed to his obvious mental health difficulties. Government persecution of those out to change the status quo was nothing new… and, you should note, did not end with the Trial.

The Chicago Seven — et al — did not hold the trial in order to make a political point. The trial was not our decision, and the defendants did not indict themselves. In other words, they started it and we reacted on our own terms. Did we try to turn the tables and show the affair for the mockery it was?

You bet your damn ass we did.

Abbie Hoffman once said to me, and I’m paraphrasing a little bit, that he could do a hand-stand in front of the Chicago Federal Building on his way to the courtroom and the media would report it as having been performed in court in front of the judge and the jury. That reflected a significant part of our operating philosophy in challenging the government. We never played the victim; offense is the best defense.

But something significant did happen in court that changed the world and validated the protest movements. The Trial went worldwide, but I think some important subtext was lost and, by now, forgotten.

I’m sure Sorkin covered how Bobby Seale was treated. He was put on trial without a lawyer. His attorney was recovering from major surgery. Julie Magoo decided to assign Kunstler and Weinglass, who represented the others, as Bobby’s lawyer. Seale rejected that and demanded he represent himself, each of which being his right. When a prosecution witness was cross-examined, Bobby would get up to do his proper lawyerly activities. He acted calmly, quietly, and for a civilian professionally. Judge Hoffman lost his shit and, within a few days, had the defendant bound to his chair with a heavy gag stuffed into his mouth.

Oh, wait. Did I mention Bobby Seale was the only Black man among the eight defendants?

We could see the reaction in the tearful faces of several of the jurors. It was a reaction of horror, silently screaming “what the hell are you doing to this guy?” Moreover, you can see the reaction in the faces of several of the U.S. Marshalls in the courtroom. At least one of them later joined us at some of the rallies held outside of the Federal Building.

That moment, the moment Judge Julius Hoffman lost his mind, was the moment the government started losing its case.

But as you can see from our current dilemmas, the government did not learn. Sociopathic megalomaniacs running and ruining the lives of common folk for the benefit of the few on top is nothing new, and the government will continue to do just that as long as they can.

Then, as now, the people’s constitutional right to protest was not recognized by the government. The only rights you have are the rights you successfully exercise, and if you do not stand up for those rights you have none at all. Remember that the next time a woman dies from a back alley abortion.

Remember that as you stand in line to vote.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #110: Conspiracy? 2 Years In 2 Hours…

Part One!

Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails, texts, Facebook messages, and the like asking for my reaction to Aaron Sorkin’s movie The Trial of the Chicago 7. It’s nice to get that attention, but I have yet to comment in public. Well, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind allows me the opportunity to prattle to my friends without having to engage in redundant or even repetitive keyboard tapping.

For those who came in late, the Conspiracy trial (a.k.a. the Chicago 8 trial, a.k.a. the Chicago 7 trial) was a heavy-handed attempt by President Richard Nixon and Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley in 1969 to intimidate, incarcerate, and obliviate the still-surging protest movement which, at that time, mostly was focused on opposition to the Vietnam War and on civil rights.

We believed the choice of the Democrat’s smoke-filled room, Hubert Humphrey, was a criminal warmonger. He was the vice-president who stood beside President Johnson and cheered him on knowing, as L.B.J. knew beyond a doubt, that the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that turned the Vietnam conflict into a full-blown war was complete and utter bullshit. My source on that is Johnson’s Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, who later copped to it in his memoir. This was confirmed by the NSA, among others. It’s a fact.

Combined, the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam war movements quickly led to a major reinauguration of the feminist movement, to the establishment of gay rights movement, as well as many other such programs that encouraged Americans to stand up for themselves.

It was a heady time to say the least. Those invested in the status quo do not like having their oxen gored. Yet they do not like to be revealed as the right-wing self-absorbed bigoted assholes they are. As Lenny Bruce said, “I’ve got to do business with” the common people.

So Nixon, Daley and their coconspirators hand-picked eight people they decided were leaders of the Democratic National Convention protests held in Chicago. The one where the whole world was watching the cops gas and beat lawful protestors, as well as the media, Women for Peace, Teachers for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, unaffiliated hippies and aging beatniks, and gawking bystanders alike. Not to mention Jules Feiffer and Hugh Hefner.

A special commission was appointed to investigate what happened. Their Walker Report stated “The nature of the response was unrestrained and indiscriminate police violence on many occasions, particularly at night. That violence was made all the more shocking by the fact that it was often inflicted upon persons who had broken no law, disobeyed no order, made no threat. These included peaceful demonstrators, onlookers, and large numbers of residents who were simply passing through, or happened to live in, the areas where confrontations were occurring.”

This greatly upset ÜberDemocrat Mayor Daley. During the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr four months earlier, Daley gave his police the authority “to shoot to kill any arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand … and … to shoot to maim or cripple anyone looting any stores in our city.” This, too, upset him and he was not about to just ignore the Walker Report.

In the presidential election held shortly thereafter, ÜberRepublican Nixon squeezed out a victory beating Humphrey by seven-tenths of one percentage point. With that overwhelming mandate, Nixon decided to keep Daley’s Democratic hack federal attorney Tom Foran in office and they had eight radical “conspirators” prosecuted for conspiracy. In the words of defendant Abbie Hoffman, these eight, who had never met together previously, “couldn’t even agree on where to have lunch.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with and for Abbie during the trial and for a couple years thereafter. He personally financed the first comic book I ever published, Conspiracy Capers, edited by Skip Williamson as a fundraiser for the Trial. It’s a small world, ain’t it?)

I was on the staff of the Conspiracy Trial. I was one of the first four hired, and I focused on working with what was then referred to as the underground or alternative media, which was akin to the social media of today. I had a background in this stuff as I was on work-release from the journalism program at my college, at the time of the police riot I was a precocious and obnoxious lad of 18, and I had been on the staff of the Chicago Seed for, oh, several months. I also had been on the staff of the Chicago Defense Fund, an effort by a bunch of lawyers to deal with all the legal poo that happened in the wake of said police riot.

One of the things I did for the CDF when we heard these indictments were going to come down was research the backgrounds of that district’s federal court judges. I noted that one of them, Julius J. Hoffman (who looked like Mr. Magoo’s great uncle) was so right-wing, so paranoid and so asinine that, given the immutable laws of dialectics, he would be a great boom to the protest movement — although not-such-great news for whomever got indicted. For example, Julie Magoo had found the last 27 people (give or take) who came before him for avoiding the draft guilty as charged and sentenced most of them to the full term.

Judges are supposed to be selected by lottery so, as fate would have it, Julie Magoo was selected to run the trial in his Mies Van Der Rohe sculpted courtroom. The one Abbie referred to as “the neon oven.”

I was a participant in the Democratic Convention demonstrations and, as a reward for my effort, I enjoyed a ham-fisted police truncation across my left hip; I still suffer from the consequences 52 years later. But it helped me get myself ready for the year (start to finish) I spent on the Conspiracy Trial staff.

All this is why I’ve been asked by so many decent people what I thought of the Sorkin movie. To this, I respond:

I have yet see it.

I’ll tell you why tomorrow.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #109: Constitution Much?

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #109: Constitution Much?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – The Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment 1, enacted 1791, up for virtual repeal, Fall 2020.

Our Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law of our land, yet the above paragraph has never carried the full weight of law, certainly not as written. That’s a shame, as these 45 words are very specific, clear-cut, and quite elegant. They mean we can’t pass laws that favor individual religious philosophies, no matter how unpopular they may be, or laws that obstruct other religious philosophies, no matter how popular.

Freedom of religion always means freedom from somebody else’s religion: your right to exercise your religious beliefs ends where the next person’s religious rights begin, and so on to all 332,000,000 Americans. It does not say “except for Mormons, Santerians, Scientologists, Muslims, Jews, and whomever else offends the beliefs of those who run things.” Marginalizing them as “cults” is bigotry.

Therefore, Supreme Court designate Amy Coney Barrett is, arguably, the most unAmerican and most dangerous person in the nation today.

This is not because Ms. Barrett is conservative. Some of my best friends, as they say, are conservative. It is because she is fully committed to ramming her specific religious predilections down everybody else’s throats. According to the New York Times, she is a member of the People of Praise group and is accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” if male and a “handmaid” if female. Husbands are the heads of their wives and therefore run the family. Current and former members say that these advisers direct all important decisions, including who its followers can date or marry, where they can live, whether to take a job, and how to raise their children. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #109: Constitution Much?”

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #108: What The Hell?

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #108: What The Hell?

He is the president but wants to be the king / Know what I like about the guy? Not a goddamn thing / I want to know, how can four years seem so long? / Lord have mercy, what the hell is going on? — What The Hell?, written by Elvin Bishop, 2020

It’s not Trump. History tells us most dictators and despots are deposed after a while, one way or another. Mental and emotional basket cases in major positions of power such as our president have been a dime a dozen. Unfortunately, they’re like Kleenex. Pull one out, the next one pops up immediately.

This is because a certain percentage of our population is weak and incapable or unwilling to think for themselves. They possess a powerful need to feel superior to others, so they buy into a system of venomous bigotry that marginalizes and sub-humanizes various groups of people they deem inferior because they do not possess the same skin color, religious philosophies, sexual orientation, gender and/or ethnicity as “real Americans.”

I used to think humans were basically good. Sure, we’ve all got our foibles, and there are a small handful of true deviants out there that require observation, but overall I’ve been pro-humanity. I stuck to this for two-thirds of a century. Silly me. I have been the great native naïvitist.

Then, about 63,000,000 Americans voted for Trump. “Say what?” I said. It doesn’t matter that Clinton received three million more votes than Trump. America is not and never has been a democracy. We are a republic and republics can be manipulated quite easily. The proof is in the White House right now. The proof is at the Trump rallies, the Republican QAnon fanatics running for office, the Bugaloos and their fellow agent provocateurs, and on the Supreme Court — the “highest” court in the land even now, 120 years after the Court stopped serving itself cocaine wine.

The fact is, Donald J. Trump could be shot dead at high noon on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue (instead of the other way around, which, you will recall, Trump said he could do without suffering any consequence) and we would still be left with those 63,000,000 paranoid goose-stepping hating cowards marching around this nation supporting the murder of Black people by police, the religious totalitarians who believe their so-called values and only their so-called values are kosher, the environment is doing swell, the Covid virus is a Democratic Party hoax, the liberals are going to confiscate your guns, and the people who think everybody on welfare are thieves and people not wealthy enough to afford health care deserve to die.

Yeah. Herd mentality, indeed.

The America we were taught to love and respect in school and in our houses of worship and on television barely existed on its best day. That’s what an experiment in progress is all about. It’s time to put the lie to that one. We’ve had our moments, but today America exists only as a fool’s paradise.

Watch the next five weeks as what’s left of the Republican Party lies, cheats and steals its way to cementing their dictatorship. One nation, by the people, for the wealthy, one nation under Trump and his cackling puppeteers.

I’ll vote because I haven’t missed an election yet. It’s a habit. Voting used to be an act of optimism but, today, voting is an act of rebellion. Maybe some good will come out of it; clearly, it’s worth the shot. It might be our next-to-last bullet in the chamber before that second Civil War starts.

So. Riddle me this. Who was worse, Hitler or Trump?

That one is easy. When the chips were down, at least Hitler had the decency to commit suicide.

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind  #107: Seditious or Insane?

Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mind #107: Seditious or Insane?

Trouble with you is / The trouble with me / Got two good eyes / But we still don’t see / Come round the bend / You know it’s the end / The fireman screams and / The engine just gleams — Casey Jones, written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, 1970

People really are little more than complicated machines. We’re made of a different type of material, but we are the result of an assembly of various parts that combine to create a unit. Now that we’ve got robots making robots, this analogy is all the more appropriate.

Eventually, all machines break down. Some vital part is going to go blooie just when you’re changing lanes on the highway. Your keyboard is going to meltdown when you’re on deadline for Pop Culture Squad. Your scalpel is going to break when you’re half-way through posterior cerebral artery. I am not trying to minimize that pain when I quote the most famous bumper-sticker of all time: “Shit happens.”

When a machine breaks down we take it to a mechanic. When a people breaks down we take it to a doctor. These days, the major difference between is the amount of liability insurance they each needs to carry.

In Manhattan yesterday, a subway train derailed after a 30 year-old man allegedly tossed metal tie plates, a.k.a. D plates, onto the trackbed right before the A train pulled into the 14th Street Station. Thankfully, no one was injured and the approximately 150 passengers were able to exit through the rear car. The front cars wound up looking like an accordion after a Gallagher concert. The miscreant was seized on the platform and held for the police to take him into custody.

Tens of thousands of passengers throughout the subway system were inconvenienced, many massively, due to the rerouting of the four different lines that use that station and the resulting back-ups on other routes. Were it to have happened today, Monday, hundreds of thousands would have been late to work at the very least. Since I’m writing this on Sunday, it’s possible repairs won’t be complete by Monday’s morning rush, so this could happen anyway.

The New York Daily News, which appears reasonable only because the other daily New York City newspaper is owned by Rupert Murdoch (the New York Times is a national newspaper having about as much to do with NYC as the Wall Street Journal has to do with Wall Street), referred to the suspect as “a laughing homeless saboteur.”

I’ll concede the “laughing” part as there were witnesses. “Homeless” was a label hanged around his neck by his appearance; there was no way to know his status at the time of arrest but “homeless” is often seen as evidence of a crime. Perhaps he was homeless, but at the time of the incident that was a presumption. The issue of who he was went unanswered.

But “saboteur?” Really? Are we being told when this man woke up Sunday morning and decided to go to the subway station at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue with the intention of screwing up people’s lives by tossing loose D plates onto the tracks? If so, why? Are we certain of that? What do we really know? Where are the confirming quotes from those who could knowledgeably comment on this seditious behavior?

The seditious part would please Trump’s weasel-shill William Barr, but the claim he was a saboteur was without justification. Did he look like the stereotypical late-19th century bomb-tossing anarchist that’s all the rage these days?

All this is very presumptuous and that’s not the way I was taught back in journalism school. Then again, very little of what I read today follows that training. Who-What-When-Where-Why? Feh. It’s so much easier to jump to clichéd conclusions. There are few fact checkers left to tell editors what a fact checker does.

Let’s take a different look at this. Perhaps this guy was not a saboteur. Perhaps he was suffering from a mental illness. His actions indicate that possibility, and rather strongly. But we rarely treat mental illness unless the patient is white and at least fairly well-off. We just toss them in prison to satisfy our morally bankrupt sense of justice which is merely a euphemism for revenge and does little to make our planet safe.

According to the American Psychological Association, at least half of those in our prisons suffer from mental health issues, and between 10% and 25% have serious mental health issues. We’ve got 2.3 million people incarcerated; you do the math.

Between our lack of journalistic ethics and our lust to jump in order to pass judgment without the tedious tasks of due process and fair play, we have reduced America to a gaggle of nattering nabobs of negativism; busybodies who want to lock our problems behind bars instead of dealing with them.

The saddest part is, this analysis explains a hell of a lot about what’s going on in America these days.