You Could Die Laughing

I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” – Donald Trump, January 23, 2016

I will probably vomit on the next Trumpologist who feigns surprise and pretends to condemn the terrorism and murder committed by Nazis in Charlottesville this weekend.

Who KNEW that the guy who bragged about getting away with murder might collect Fascist admirers?

Who could imagine that the guy who retweeted Nazi slogans and images of himself  would attract Nazis?

 

pepe-the-trump

 

It was all one big laugh riot when Trump said Mexicans are rapists, Blacks are lazy and Journalists should be imprisoned or murdered!

Wasn’t it a hoot when he said POWs aren’t heroes because they got caught, and how US soldiers with PTSD aren’t strong? Hey remember that lighthearted day he attacked the grieving Gold Star Parents of a dead US soldier because they’re Muslim?

Gosh – didn’t we all know it was just funnin’ when he said a woman questioning him has to be on the rag? Such a gigglefest to see a thin-skinned narcissist rage-tweet to his followers to watch a non-existent sex tape of the Venezuelan Miss Universe who had the temerity to complain about his fat-shaming. Calling women disgusting, fat pigs is just in jest!

 

Trump Inauguration

 

Oh, my, but how I laughed and laughed and laughed when Trump mocked a disabled reporter!! Although I *was* confused by the folks who lied to themselves and me in self-righteous fury at the pictorial proof.

I’m sure we all looked at his proposal of putting Syrians in concentration camps and deporting them as the jackanapes it was intended to be. And really, who *wouldn’t* chuckle deeply at the notion of Muslims being forced to register with the government and wear ID tags in public, while their mosques are closed by government decree? Trump continuing to lie about seeing ‘thousands and thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9-11’ – despite an utter lack of evidence and the (Republican) NJ Governor & the head of the 9-11 Commission saying it’s an absolute fabrication – is really just an elaborate prank, doncha know?

 

Trump Protester Beaten

By gum – who thought Trump was serious when he encouraged crowds to beat up protestors? You’re reading FAR too much into it if you heard Trump say he’d pay the legal bills for those committing assault in his name.

‘Maybe he should have been roughed up‘. Donald Trump, Nov 22, 2016, on a protester

‘Knock the crap out of protesters, I’ll pay your legal fees’ Donald Trump, Feb 1, 2016

‘Go ahead and punch someone in the face and I’ll pay your legal bills.’ Donald Trump, March 13, 2016

Certainly NO-ONE could infer a message from those ratcheted-up statements, and to try to read into it the encouragement of violence and lawlessness, or look at his statements over the last 2 years and see an appeal to Nazis and Fascist is just horrible identity politics, and you should feel ashamed of yourself!

Who could have foreseen that encouraging THIS in March 11 of 2016:

 

Trump Nazis March 2016

 

Would lead to THIS in Charlottesville, August 11, 2017?

 

Nazi March in VA Aug 2017 5

 

Trump suporters can spare me their fake hand-wringing and denouncing this weekend’s terrorism as something coming out of the blue!

Trumpologists’ mealy mouthed denials of seeing Nazis in their midst are no better than Captain Renault from Casablanca standing in Rick’s Cafe collecting his winnings, while being shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU! – to find gambling in this establishment!

Fuck your False Equivalence, and Whataboutism with a side of ‘He was just joking’!!

 

Whataboutism

 

Is it REALLY that fucking hard to denounce the terrorism that killed peaceful protestor Heather Heyer?!!

If you don’t denounce the whole Nazi business – including Trump – you have Heather’s blood on your hands.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or the Civil Rights movement…you’re doing it now.

Remember to Keep Laughing at the truth, Trumpologists, and Grab Them By The Pussy!!

Nazi March VA Day 2 Car 2

Fury and Truth

All of us know what it’s like to be white hot with rage over having been wronged on a grand level.

Perhaps it was a friend, a colleague or a loved one who betrayed you, cheated you – cheated *on* you. At the crescendo of your rage you hurled the accusation like the self-righteous Hammer of Thor, “How could you?!”

Every one of us knows how shaken a rage like that leaves you: The pounding heart and headache from cortisol screaming through your veins, and that queasy feeling when you realize you were not quite in control, and said things you regret. But, ‘Dammit!’ you say, ‘I’m not the bad guy here!’

The next day you felt that horrible emotional hangover of being wrung out, fuzzy headed with a sour stomach, and detached. There was always that betrayal staring you in the face, but at least you had the mantle of indignation to wrap around you to get through the days to come.

Imagine being THAT angry Every. Day. Of. Your. Life.

No – let’s crank it up even higher.

Think about leveling up to that kind of fury a dozen times a day.

You could not be an effective parent, partner, boss – or really anything. Partly because being in that many fights would be a full time job, but mostly because no-one can be that continually choked with rage and make sound, well-considered decisions.

Here’s the thing: There’s a difference between Being Angry and Being Right.

Trump thinks if he’s Angry he’s Right, and if he’s Right he’s Justified in meting out insults, threats and punishments.

It’s as simple as that – Trump has conflated the raw fury of not getting his every whim granted with that being a reasonable thing to expect.

There is not one thing reasonable about it.

In fact, every American should be keenly aware that our President’s Spiral of Rage is causing him to lose control every hour he is awake, and it appears to be accelerating.

I’m frightened by Donald Trump’s complete lack of self-control, his erratic behavior and constant self-aggrandizement. Above all, I am terrified at his need to make every snag and denial a scorched earth confrontation.

It is only a matter of time until Trump has a Grand Mal Tantrum and does something we ALL regret.

It’s such a simple thing to say Rage is not Truth, but it’s easy to forget when you’re caught in the undertow of toxic behavior and nonstop lies.

I’ll be here in the weeks and months to come to remind you to guide your boat by the stars of these absolute truths: Being Angry is not the same thing as Being Right, hurtful behavior is never okay, and this is NOT normal.

Fake Men and Angry Women

Last month I opened a parody account on Twitter, spoofing a well-known male politician’s name. In *3 weeks* I garnered 35% of the followers it took me a year to get with an account using my own name. Fake Man is averaging 10,000 views a day – totally smoking my Real Name’s views, due to his being liked hundreds more times a week with a clearly fake male name than with a real news woman’s name.

McCain's Conscience Numbers_LI

My latest tweet under Fake Man’s name was simply ‘Interesting Read’ in response to a linked article at the end of a *28-post thread* by the original poster. I received 16 likes off of 2,900 views, and one retweet off of a stupid throw away compliment. Why in the name of all that is logical would ANYONE retweet ‘Interesting Read’??!!!

Suddenly, one liners Claudia couldn’t get an inch of traction on have become an endless flow of positive reinforcement for Fake Man. I’ve had to turn the Twitter notifications off of my phone at night because the continual pinging was waking my husband and I up.

The best part? I’m tweeting EXACTLY the same things as before, but in the last 3 weeks not 1 person has called me angry, stupid, crazy, old, ugly, fat or bitch. You cannot BELIEVE the amount of abuse an opinionated woman who won’t be bullied takes on the internet. A fake man gets far more respect than a real woman.

 

McCain's Conscience Intersting Read_LI

 

The ‘go-to’ phrase for insecure men is that I’m angry. I bet I’ve heard, “You’re an angry woman,” every day that I post in earnest as myself on social media. It is – almost without exception – men possessed of a certain attitude that women aren’t as smart as men. Any good point I make based in fact must be made because I’m angry, not because I’m smart. Therefore, they can dismiss anything I say – thus preserving their bubble of past-its-expiration-date testosterone.

Women almost never accuse strange women of being angry – they prefer bitch, cunt or cow – and being accused incorrectly of harboring anger is something insecure men latch on to. For whatever reason (chauvinism, anger at equality, projection or intimidation) these men unconsciously reproduce the dynamics of being in an argument with a partner, not a stranger. They take it from casual to personal in 3 seconds flat. They beat their chest and pronounce their superiority and attack like a screeching baboon flinging poo. I would find it even more hilarious than I do if it weren’t so damn pitiful.

I look at these keening men who are clearly battling an inferiority complex and wonder at the women these wretched souls deal with on a daily basis. So often I am utterly grateful I don’t have to deal with them in any fashion in real life. I feel bad for the women in their personal circles, but feel deep empathy for the women I will never meet who must deal with these Rageaholic men in a professional manner.

Because that’s what it is: Rage. Pure, unadulterated rage.

Joe Knab Bullying

These tiny men are enraged that they have to share, or observe simple manners or treat women as equals.

You see the problem is they *don’t* see me as an equal. My approaching them as such causes such fury as to make them apoplectic and my laughing makes them reckless.

There is a sad little man on Facebook (a friend of a friend and a retired cop) who borders on the frightening now because it seems he is obsessed with me. He seeks me out on her posts to hurl invectives and he becomes unhinged when I refuse to be cowed by his pathetic behavior. When I grow bored with his antics and stop responding, this lonely little troll comes and shit posts on my page. Yes – a man who wore a gun for a living cannot grasp boundaries and believes it’s his right to harass me ad nauseum because I dared to answer him as an equal. I cannot imagine how this awful man abused his power over the decades as an officer of the peace.

Barry Kittay 1 (3)_LI

Barry Kittay 2 (2)_LI

He is only one of dozens of angry impotent men I see every month who project their Rage on any woman foolish enough to imagine herself an equal. This trend really took off in earnest in 2015 when bigots and sexists got permission to let their freak flag fly by Trump. “Grab ‘Em By The Pussy!!” was their rallying cry – and Oh! The sweet relief of finally being reassured that you ARE the biggest, brightest boy and it’s okay to threaten those mean scary girls until they get back in their place.

A tremendously well written, well thought out piece by Sara Robinson for Rewire stopped me in my tracks as I read it last night. You should read it, too, because Robinson nails it completely:

“This is something most women know in their bones, but which most men don’t have to reckon with to nearly the same degree. This is the truth Margaret Atwood got at in one of her most famous passages: Men are afraid that women will laugh at them; women are afraid that men will kill them. Robert Heinlein put the same idea another way: “Never frighten a little man. He’ll kill you.” Women learn young—as a matter of basic survival—that if you so much as crack a grin in the direction of a fragile man, you put yourself in grave danger. You may possibly provoke him to violence so brutal and so disproportionate that you could end up beaten, sexually assaulted, or dead. And in his mind, you will have had every bit of it coming, since your disrespectful laughter is the one thing in the world that can deflate his sense of masculine control and power in a matter of seconds.”

I once had a News Director come over a conference room table in a wild fury – with Human Resources and a Union representative in attendance – because I pointed out with a smile during a contentious meeting his multiple egregious spelling errors in a ‘Company All’ email. Look: Apologizing for the ‘incontinence’ you caused someone is fucking funny no matter who you are. Unless you are a rage-filled impotent little man absolutely terrified by a laughing woman. I will say that his physically threatening me was a main factor in the state finding in my favor that ‘any reasonable person could not continue working under such hostile circumstances without fear of reprisal,” and granted me extended unemployment benefits when I quit.

This morning in a freewheeling thread with 33 posts a man’s jabbing at a poster was tolerated without comment, while I was called ‘angry’. For what it’s worth? I have been hit by a bus AND I have Hashimoto’s – so my question was only 33% smart assery.

Angry Woman 1

Who ARE these men so addicted to fury at women? These insecure masters of projection who know deep down that they will never have the control over others they so desire, and who so shrilly demand that women acquiescence to them through fluttered eyelashes and muttered demurral?

Why do they imagine it’s their RIGHT to cruelly dominate women in conversation and the work place, in act and deed?

Any woman who DARES to resist and speak up the same way a man would in the same situation is labeled ‘Angry’ and attacked, often by multiple male strangers – weak Omega wolfs emboldened by the pack mentality who materialize out of the woodwork to provide a mealy-mouthed echo chamber of Rage.

If Angry Woman does not show immediate submission to the Omega she is to be ground down and bullied until she knows her place. If she cannot be properly tyrannized into submission she is labeled Crazy – the ultimate sentence of Excommunication for worshipers at the Temple of the Perpetually Enraged.

A Crazy Woman’s facts needn’t be taken any more seriously than you take her. Who cares about *facts* when a good Ad Hominem attack coupled with a bullshit Straw Man argument are ALWAYS good for dismissing stupid Wimmin.

Rageaholic Math: Sexist Character Assassination + Putting Words In My Mouth = I’m Crazy

Uh-huh. Got it.

My experience isn’t singular, and one has to look no further than how shamefully the most powerful women in the country are treated.

Senator Kamala Harris was spoken to appallingly during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Senate Intelligence Committee hearing regarding his lying about Russian contacts under oath. Harris – a self-possessed brilliant woman of color who is a former a prosecutor and the former Attorney General of California – was described as *hysterical* by Fox pundits after dispassionately pressing the current Attorney General to cite which policy or law prohibited him from answering every question that was put before him that afternoon . This was Harris’ wheelhouse as a prosecutor & AG, yet she was unsuccessful in getting Sessions to co-operate because she was interrupted and chastised by Senator John McCain and Republican Committee Chair Senator Richard Burr. Sessions ridiculously claimed Harris’ behavior made him nervous – dog whistle for ‘The Pushy Black Woman Is Scary!!!”

Burr was simply repeating his performance of a week previous when he interrupted Harris’ questioning Rod Rosenstien about his role in firing James Comey. She was chastised both times for her aggressive behavior, and I’m surprised Burr didn’t tell her to act more ladylike and that she’d be a WHOLE lot prettier if she’d just smile once in a while.

Perhaps you think Kamala Harris WAS being too pushy. Well, then why were her male counterparts not interrupted or prevented from speaking when they asked the SAME questions using the same vernacular Harris did?  Democratic Senators Ron Wyden, Angus King and Martin Heinrich were allowed to ask tough questions and make snarky remarks – and The Good Old Boys demanded that only The Angry Woman know her place.

Afterward, Heinrich, Wyden and King spoke up for Harris, saying she’d done nothing wrong and she was being subject to an unfair double standard. Unfortunately, these statements were made to the press and on social media; they were not entered in the Senatorial Record, where it belongs.

Harris’ treatment goes hand in glove with the most stomach turning, cringe worthy treatment of Senior Senator Elizabeth Warren as she used her time to read a 1986 letter by Corretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr, detailing Attorney-General-Nominee Sessions’ horrific and well documented Civil Rights record over the decades – a letter which would have allowed Warren to point out that Sessions was too racist for even the Reagan judiciary and his appointment was rejected resoundingly.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used his power to exercise a little known rule to allow the GOP majority vote to silence Warren. Warren protested by continuing to read and her mic was cut off. McConnell thought his on-camera finger wagging diatribe meant to humiliate an equal colleague was a brilliant stroke. Instead, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, She persisted” became a rally cry for women across the country.

McConnell Nevertheless She Persisted

Imagine that, Senator Pearlclucther – a WOMAN staring at you unblinkingly, nonplussed by your attempts at intimidation. It must have made his blood boil and caused him to work his mouth like was gumming a piece of lettuce, right up until Elaine Chao put him back on his feet and reassured him that men ARE the Big Daddies in control. You know Elaine – Mitch’s wife and the utterly unqualified 18th Secretary of Transportation in Trump’s cabinet. A position tendered only when McConnell refused to throw his support behind PEOTUS. Elaine is undoubtedly thought of as ‘one of the good ones’ on SO many levels.

A majority of Congressmen are AGHAST and offended that female Senators intend to do their job and expect the same respect and courtesy from their male counterparts as they are required to give. These men are holdovers from a day when slapping your Secretary’s ass was A-Okay, and they are positively flummoxed that these Crazy Women won’t back down and aren’t subservient. It is a downright affront and assault to their very Maleness that these inferior females Don’t. Know. Their. Place.

If you think the whole damn GOP isn’t full of ugly men like this, kindly remember that not ONE woman was included in the committee to design Trumpcare, nor was there ONE concession made to female needs in the Whip or reconciliation processes. It was just one giant ‘Women are chattel who belong to us and whose physical needs are unimportant – They have no Personal Agency or Self Determination and do not even get to decide when they have children’.

There is a bottomless well of terrible behavior to draw upon: Sean Spicer verbally attacked reporter April Ryan (a WOC) when she shook her head ‘no’ at his direct contradiction to his own statement made days before, and one that Spicer was peddling as today’s version of the truth. He dressed down Ryan in a shocking fashion, flexing his power. Bill O’Reilly took it a step further and mocked Congresswoman Maxine Walters’ hair, asking if she was wearing a James Brown wig instead of addressing her real concerns and points – because terribly executed Ad Hominem attacks never get old.

What do you expect from a party who decided to bet the farm on the phrase ‘Grab ‘Em By The Pussy!!’ and who bats nary an eyelash when POTUS ogles and paws the First Lady of France? (Yer Honor! Look what she was wearing! She was in such GREAT shape – Beautiful!) Is it any wonder the First Lady of Japan spent 2 hours at the G-20 dinner seated next to Trump pretending not to understand a word of English when she is perfectly fluent?

The example has been set at the top, and is flowing down like some noxious champagne pyramid, filling every glass with a bubbly mix of chauvinism and cruelty. Men who chafed at having to display a modicum of control around women have been released to wallow in a perpetual Rumspringa of Misogyny, drinking deeply from the Cup of Rage.

The public push to control women is worse now than it was when I first became aware at 16. The anger and hatred and need to punish women is horrifying and palpable. Women have fewer rights and health care options now than they did in the 1980s – and goddam if I wasn’t FURIOUS at how few rights I was ‘granted’ then.

Here’s the thing, though: I had some wonderful male mentors who taught me from the earliest age that my opinion mattered. Norman Lear indulgently squandered 10  or 15 minutes with me every week or so when I bum-rushed his personal assistant – wait no! I joyously ran across KTTV from the commissary, ignoring my mother’s protestations, leaving her arthritic knees behind flights of stairs. Dashing across the lot at full speed and into the building where his office was I took the stairs 2 at a time, swinging around the corner to see if Norman’s door was open: If it was I waved at his assistant, and galloped across his office to throw myself into his arms. After our hug I would sit across from him and tell him about life on the set, school and the stories I was writing. He always made me feel like what I had to say was important, and encouraged me to write. At the start of the 2nd season a top of the line IBM Selectric auto-correct type writer was in my school room when I got to work one morning. That was a big thing. To this day I remember the solid weight, the way it vibrated when I turned it on and how it responded to the words in my head that came out my fingers. I could write and make mistakes and change my mind.

That kindness has given me an art, a craft, several livelihoods and the way to express myself almost as fast as I can talk.

Claudia and Norman

Oliver Hailey really taught me the hard basics of how to write and put in the work you must do to make a piece original and polished. Oliver allowed me to join a writing class with 7 other students – two of whom were Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly. Need I mention the level of wit required to keep up with that class, which was held at the Debbie Reynolds Studio? I was 15 and was doing a dual enrollment in High School and Community College. Oliver believed in the value of my writing and my ability to tell of a story, and he never let me off easy. I remember with absolute clarity the first time I nailed a short story and the class gave me actual respectful applause instead of just nodded heads. I cannot tell you the personal power that gave me – it is a compass I carry with me as I write: A burden that nags me into making a piece, a paragraph, a sentence or even a word be exactly right and to always *Pay Attention*  and to write in sequence – not matter how long that takes.

Greg Mullavey taught me about timing, NEVER denying a premise and allowing another performer to have the last word.

Martin Mull (probably doesn’t know it) taught me to believe in my comedy, to commit to it completely, and to develop a 1,000-yard gaze with a nod – A shield I carry with me always and wish I’d taken out of my armory sooner.

Claudia Gridiron 2002 2

 

 

There were men who hired me in radio *because* I could match the worst people wit for wit – Bruce Kamen being the most loved. He told me the thing that some General Managers would hate would be the very thing others would love – but to stay true to myself always. In other words: Don’t change your stance for the paycheck. It is advice that allowed me to leave Talk Radio with my dignity, and move into News with a good reputation – plus one HELL of a reference.

I would have walked across coals for Mickey Luckoff, the greatest General Manager of the greatest Radio station in the United States for 35 years (voted by our peers). Under his management at KGO I was part of the News Team that won 4 Associated Press Mark Twain Awards and 5 Edward R. Murrow Awards.

It bolsters me to know that there are men everywhere who are allies and accomplices to Equality.

Here’s the thing, though: I didn’t feel like I could tell my truth on my own blog about the abuse I take online without also acknowledging there were positive male influences in my life. I wanted to head off the “Yeah, but… Is she a man hater?” questions at the pass.

I love men. I’m married to one. I gave birth to one. 5 are my brothers, and I can count on more than 2 hands the number I consider dear friends. (Why, some of my BEST friends are male…)

It doesn’t change the fact that too many men are raging assholes who mean harm to women and too many men won’t stand up to their dickish behavior, chalking up online harassment toward women as inevitable and innocuous. It’s not.

Online Harassment of Angry Women is meant to silence the smartest, strongest and most outspoken among us. It’s nothing any of us should put up with, and I am so proud of all of my friends who brook no bullying on their timelines – and that includes me when I’m being an asshole. We all make mistakes or act like a dick and we *must* be called on it and admit it (admitting before being called is preferable) or it never changes.

Guys? If you see a another guy acting like a dick towards a woman and you don’t call him on it you’re not minding your own business – you’re enthusiastically encouraging dickish behavior. If a woman looks like she’s handling herself just fine and you don’t add a voice of encouragement? You’re part of the problem and a voyeur. Nothing ever changes until the majority stands up for what’s right.

I won’t hold my breath that folks will suddenly see the light and be counted among the righteous. That’s why we’re where we are.

As for me? I will Resist to my dying breath – a proud Angry Woman. It would be an honor to be scolded, “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, She persisted”

 

Trump Zombies and Violence

Greg Gianforte’s election to Congress in Montana after assaulting a reporter has exposed the violent truth about Trumpers: They have decided they didn’t want to have to think critically and wanted a lawless bully to clear out a safe space for them using force.

45 would be NOTHING if not for his Cult followers. They aren’t misunderstood souls who have been led astray. No – these people have waited their whole lives for a stupider, meaner, more vindictive version of Reagan.

They fucking LOVE him and his scorched earth policy.

These were the people in school who stood behind the bully and egged him (or her) on. They often lacked the intestinal fortitude it took to be an honest-to-god bully, but could be counted on for malicious snickers and ostracizing as well as violence under the cover and protection of a group.. They were conferred power and status through their association with said Bully and flaunted it when the Bully was not around.

They are the tribe in Lord of the Flies that put Jack in charge and followed him into savagery.

They willfully and with malice choose to support a corollary of anarchy – it’s not that there are no rules, it’s that they are ignoring any that don’t suit their purpose of regaining a position of being the shitter and not the shittee. Oh, sure, they’re still getting shat upon in spades, but they’re okay with it if they can do a little shitting of their own.

The people who support him – the Public and Politicians – are all motivated by the same thing: The acquisition of Power

They are willing to allow 45’s destruction of the Constitution and looting of the Treasury if they can get a taste of the action.

Gianforte’s assholery didn’t spring up out of Zeus’s forehead. People *like* the tough talk and promises of cutting the safety net out from under other people – and they’re SURE it will never happen to them. Lest we attribute his victory to early voting, remember Gianforte raised $100K in the 12 hours after this hit the news cycle.

Whenever you’re tempted to reason with a Trumpologist remember that this is not an isolated incident. The Governor of Texas joked about shooting Journalists on Friday and it received a collective yawn. There are Press pens at 45’s events that are nothing more than modern day stockades. My god – POUTS assaulted the Prime Minister of Montenegro when he shoved him in the chest – and Trumpologists are *giddy* that he’s showing people who’s boss.

Assaults on and the arrest of Journalists are becoming all too common and not getting nearly enough coverage – by which I mean none at all on the Fox propaganda mill. 2 reporters in the last 10 days were arrested for asking politicians questions. Press and protesters at the Turkish Embassy were beaten by Erdogan’s goons and that goes by unprocessed in the never ending shit geyser.

Violence against political opponents and the press have become normalized and encouraged. It is only a matter of time before a member of the Press is murdered, and before this implied violence makes its way further than a murderous White Supremacist in Portland.

There is a serious mental illness problem in America. Its face may be Donald Trump, but its heart are Trumpers: The 2 in 5 adults who think violence is an appropriate response to questions or intellectual disagreements. Their brutality is vindicated by a man like Trump, and his “I’ve had ENOUGH of rules!!” behavior gives them permission to ignore facts and embrace their cruelty. The really frightening thing is they’re just getting warmed up.

 

Infectious Fascism and Someone Else’s Beer

Our local liquor store had been in business since the early 1980s, when the shopping center was built. The original owner passed it along to his 3 sons when he died, many years ago. There was nothing special or fancy about the shop, which had long, wide shelves stocked full of not-too-high-priced wines and liquor that tended to come in the Handle Size. They did a brisk trade in beer, $1 shooters sold out of an empty fish tank on the counter, and “Oh, jeeze! We’re all out of vodka/wine and I’m almost home!” purchases.

It had a coveted corner location on a major intersection with high visibility, and was next to a busy grocery store. The long floor-to-ceiling windows faced due west, which meant high cooling bills as the high altitude sunshine blasted in year round, roasting  the products on the front shelf and raising the temperature unbearably during the summer. A few years ago the Brothers balked at the raising utility prices from keeping the store cold enough to properly store their inventory, and slowly adjusted the thermostat upwards. The heat coupled with storing the wine upright – as one would store a fine vintage Yoo-Hoo – served to spoil their wares.

As if wine bottles that were warm to the touch weren’t enough, over the years the shop developed a nose-curling funk stank from their dogged insistence upon carpet, which served as a 1-way booze sponge when a bottle or case was inevitably broken, and because one of the brothers smoked indoors while doing the books afterhours.  Mmmm… the cheeky bouquet of nicotine braised in sour carpet wine!

We began shopping elsewhere, save for the times we emerged from the adjacent King Soopers, arms full of groceries (yes, we brought our own bags), and too tired or lazy to drive 6 miles round trip for a bottle of wine to go with dinner. Don’t judge me! The cork that crumbles like The Mummy is punishment enough.

Just before Valentine’s Day we found ourselves lacking the fortitude of an additional errand, the grueling 15 minute drive more than either of us could possibly handle, and so found ourselves choosing from wine bottles with dust on them.  I noticed a marked lack of champagne and other bubbly beverages appropriate for a manufactured holiday. “This is weird,” I told my husband, “Why aren’t there cases of cheap champagne stacked 5 high and 2 deep in here? In fact, there’s almost no champagne at all,” I gestured to the picked over front shelf, which was normally full of the boxed wine and cheap champagne that the Brothers counted on their clientele not being able to suss out were treated to daily solar pasteurization. It was a minor curiosity, one I chalked up to a screw up in ordering and went on with my evening.

A few weeks later, before St. Patrick’s Day, it was obvious something was up. The store was still very busy, but their stock had visibly dwindled – the shelves were no longer full, with empty spaces behind the wine and spirits.

“What’s going on?” I asked the young woman who worked there. “Not much,” she replied absentmindedly. “No – I mean ‘What’s going on here?’” She stopped and looked at me in confusion. She really had no idea what I was talking about. I gestured with my arm, “The shelves aren’t fully stocked…” She had a blank look on her face. “Are you guys remodeling? Selling?” Again, the clerk had a blank look, “No…” I left it at that, but told my husband changes were coming.

I wondered if they were going to finally move the stock out of the beating summer sun in the front window… Maybe they were going to set up a Growler station, or a tasting counter – moving forward  with the upwardly mobile neighborhood and appealing to the higher income residents who were replacing the middle income folks that had been a staple of the area when it was built 35 years ago. I had mentally moved the first row of shelves, replaced the nasty carpet with some easy-to-clean wood flooring that would brighten the space up, and show off the better selection of wine they would carry. I couldn’t wait.

At the end of March the only vodka left was bubblegum or peach flavored, the Bourbon shelves were flat-out empty, and most of the decent wine was gone. The Smoking Brother told me they were having distribution problems, but they would be getting a shipment in the following week. What he was telling me didn’t feel right – but I had been doing business with him for 16 years and gave him the benefit of the doubt by allowing him to assure me I wasn’t seeing what I was looking at.

We were gone most of April and upon returning we immediately noticed the barren shelves. Most telling is there was not a whiff of the upcoming drinking holiday Cinco De Mayo: No cut-outs of busty Latinas shucking gag inducing Lime-a-Rita beer, no garish plastic Papel Picado banners stamped with ‘Corona’, or posters of a Sombrero-sporting mustachioed stereotype peddling rot-gut tequila. You know – The Free Crap distributors beg store owners to take and give a price break for the best placement. But, there was still lots of beer – a good deal of it craft beer from start-up breweries & local brew pubs.

Several customers walked in and stopped dead, looking around at the long, mostly-empty shelves. They would do a 180 or full 360 to take it in; most left empty handed. It was clear the store was closing, but no sign indicated a last day or what was going on. I asked the only employee (someone I’d never seen before) what was going on and was answered with ‘Dunno’.

I suddenly realized: They must have sold the liquor license to King Soopers, the grocery store in the same complex. A recent change in the law allowed grocery stores to sell liquor, but only if they buy an existing license. I was happy for them in the distant way you can be when you hear good news from a stranger you’ve known for 15 years: It doesn’t change your life, but it gives you a pleasant feeling.

A few weeks later they were still open – somehow defying retail gravity. Richard walked the empty aisles with a curious expression on his face as he passed islands of bottles neatly arranged – 6 Rieslings here, 4 Moscatos half an aisle later, a lone bottle of gin in the next aisle. What stock was left would have neatly fit in 12 or 15 feet of shelf space, but instead was spread around the empty shop with the fastidious denial of a screamingly bad comb-over.

“When’s the last day?” I asked Morose Brother who spent a decade and a half demanding I show my ID every time I used a credit card. “Before the end of the month,” he answered with his usual dourness. Looking into my eyes he said “We sold the business,” and then spit into his dip cup.  “I… did you sell the license or the business?” “We sold the business and we’ll be closing sometime before the end of the month,” he repeated with a finality that forbade further discussion.

“How could they be selling the business?” I asked Richard when we were in the car, “When there’s no business to sell? I mean… there’s no inventory – and they lease the space. The only thing of value in that store is the license on the wall.” I chalked it up to him being contractually prohibited from discussing the details of the sale.

The very next day the City seized the store for failure to pay Sales & Use Taxes.

A quick call to City Hall revealed that they hadn’t paid a dime of the taxes they’d been collecting since January, and they’d been sending in partial payments for months before that.

It suddenly became clear that the inventory sell down was really them stiffing their suppliers – everyone from Coors to small craft brew companies struggling to make ends meet – and pocketing the money.

They stole not only from their liquor distributors and the city, but from their customers as well, by not submitting tax revenue that keeps schools open, roads paved and a live voice when you dial 911.

In retrospect it was quite obvious what was happening, but I didn’t want to accept the grand theft in front of me, so I provided pretty stories about Growler Stations and wood floors that morphed into them cashing out big by selling the license for a keen profit. None of it made sense to the scene in front of my eyes, but I held on to the fable rather than accept the felony.

I had been performing Olympic-quality mental gymnastics trying to explain away the obvious because the obvious made me uncomfortable.

It was a personal microcosm of what’s happening around the country: How we’re all staring in disbelief at the emerging Fascism around us, willing it to be something else.

We’ve watched fanaticism morph into a Fascist Cult of Personality, yet refuse to name it as such because then we have a REAL problem on our hands.

We’ve heard friends, family and colleagues embrace a man whose beastly policies call for banning Muslims, gutting the EPA, drilling for oil in National Parks and Monuments, building a useless Wall, disenfranchising women, and simultaneously cancelling the insurance policies of 23 million Americans while making it unaffordable for tens of millions more.

These aren’t policy differences on things like how to best fund infrastructure improvements or whether schools should focus more on science and less on the arts. This is the fundamental rejection of the invisible frame of our Social Contract by an alarming number of Americans.

They *like* the idea that ICE officers ate lunch in a café before arresting the kitchen staff.

They’re THRILLED journalists are finally getting the beat down that’s coming to them.

They’re relieved they can stop acting tolerant and want LGBTQ folks to climb back in the closet and for anyone darker than a flat white to know their place.

These people who benefit so much from the Public Commons of Society honestly don’t care if you lose your job, house or insurance – they don’t give a tinker’s damn for anyone who loses their disability, Medicare, Social Security or any other safety net program.

“I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING” they shriek like a misunderstood teen, unironically running the Social Contract through Mom & Dad’s shredder after they’ve slammed the office door.

The toughest thing about watching acquaintances and those we love support such heartlessness is when we finally realize they understand fully what they’re doing. It’s much easier to deal with people when we convince ourselves they are ignorantly supporting evil policies, and that if it was properly explained they would be enlightened. Otherwise, we have to accept that an uncomfortably large chunk of America is okay with a semi-literate bully dragging us backwards 6 months for every day he is in office.

Accepting that this is actually happening is a real hurdle. None of wants to stare into *that* abyss and it’s ever so much easier not to court discord and just let sleeping dogs lie.

Please don’t be like me, though, when I watched the local liquor store go under and cheat its vendors, and I chose not to see it because I couldn’t accept the Brothers could do that. Don’t imagine people are constrained by your sense of decency, however well or little you know them.

Once we see the hard truth of Trumpers actions, we have to either accept this Fascist Cult of Personality or fight it. There is no middle ground. When you stop selling yourself on proverbial Growler Stations and wood floors to brighten the place up, you can’t unsee the unsavory and uncomfortable truth that 45’s followers heartily approve of a stratified society that plays out like Lord of the Flies – only, in this story line there are no adults to step in to save the day when things are at their bleakest. There is no higher authority to appeal to, because our current POTUS thinks laws are impractical to follow (his words, not mine).

Make no mistake that we are in dangerous territory with 45’s spreading Fascism, and we ignore it at our own peril.

During the election 45 promised the state sponsored murder of children, he promised to crack down on Freedom of the Press, and he promised to violate the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th amendments, as well as end abortion, civil rights, voting rights, marriage equality and the EPA.

When you look at it this way 45 had a spectacularly successful first 100 days, now didn’t he?

Trumpers voted for him *precisely* because he promised to abuse other people and break things. They are the groupies that enable a bully to prevail, and who become emboldened by their support of him.

Trumpers like the chaos, the angst and the destruction they were promised when they voted.

It’s hard to see friends and family infected by Fascism. Worse – when they demand our tolerance while spreading this virulent disease of hate.

But, it is no longer possible to separate the Message from Man or the Masses – they own who they support and his policies, and anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you someone else’s beer.

Happy Trumpers Day

My mother died with no regrets, incapable of imagining there was anything she had to apologize for – and yet my 5 brothers refused to speak to her as she lay dying. She died certain she was a Good Mother when she had been anything but that in the privacy of our home.

My mother was a sociopath & a narcissist who believed the world was hers and lacked the capacity to empathize with how her behavior affected others. It was a tough upbringing, but it taught me the skills to spot what an unforgivable monster 45 is. He really has no remorse about anything – and most people have never met someone like that.

These last 7 months have been an exercise in patience as people begin to understand *There is NO negotiating with someone who so capriciously changes their mind and never acknowledges it, nor can you hold a person to their word when their word is no good*

Dealing with people like 45 or my mother is crazy making. They accept no appeal to logic or goodness, their decisions are made solely on what fills their pockets, pleases them in the moment – or how best they can hit back or punish during one of their many rages. The abuse these people are capable of heaping on others is mind boggling.

And the Gas Lighting!! Oh, my! The Gas Lighting!!

Their continual need to insist facts are not facts, and lies are the truth is exhausting. They scream at you that you can’t believe your own filthy eyes, and if you do insist on what you know is true you’re disloyal and worthy of banishment.

It has been interesting to see people grapple with such an unforgivable and unrepentant monster. They so much want to believe there is a heart to appeal to in 45 – but there isn’t. Narcissists have no humanity because they can’t recognize it in others. They enjoy the chaos, and the more you explain how their actions hurt you the more they smile in glee.

Most people don’t want to believe there are Bad Mothers: They want to believe that deep down in their heart everyone has good waiting to get out. It’s not so – and in a larger sense the future of this country is teetering on people who want to believe the best in folks accepting that a toxic person is POTUS and we are in very real danger.

My own mother made me work from the age of 3, and stole most of my earnings – more than $1M. My. Own. Mother.

Now, ask yourself: If a Mother can do that to her own child, what will an Entitled Rageaholic Narcissistic Sociopath do to strangers he holds in utter contempt? He already thinks he can murder with no repercussions.

45 is the creepy, vulgar and hurtful Step Dad who is abusing you and your siblings while Mom – Congress – looks on with stars in her eyes, smiling and nodding while 45 refuses to give your sister her insulin, just said your brother’s boss can fire him for being gay – and your cousin isn’t allowed to visit this summer because he comes from a middle eastern country that doesn’t have a Trump hotel. You know it’s eventually going to be your turn in this predictable game of Civil Rights Musical Chairs, where every new  loser faces horrible consequences. Meanwhile, Momgress is getting a brand new Tax Cut and turns a blind eye.

While I wait for a goodly chunk of America to accept that America is THE very definition of a dysfunctional relationship, I will be prepared for the Threats that come when Gas Lighting fails.

Bank on this: The closer 45 feels the walls are getting the more he will threaten. (See his Comey tweets)

I shudder to think what 45 will threaten the American people with if he is rightly Impeached and prosecuted on any number of Emoluments Clause violations, let alone something from a vigorous Russian investigation. But, we must disregard the fury of 45’s threats, and continue to speak truth to his Cult of Personality that too many have subscribed to, and has led to his wholescale abuse.

I have absolutely no clue how the Russian investigation will shake out.  None.

At this point Momgress is still sweet on the monster, and doesn’t see any reason to make him follow the law. So, for the time being we’re still at his mercy, and there’s precious little of that.

What I do know is that whether 45 is removed from office in handcuffs or serves 2 terms, he will never ever, ever, EVER admit that he has ANYTHING to be sorry for. Ever.

Balloon Boy, Baby Jessica and Newsertainment

Raise your hand if you remember Balloon Boy.

I lost what little respect I had left for my News Director that day, when he ordered us to take over regular programming and do a play-by-play of what was assumed to be an out-of-control weather balloon carrying a small child.

We didn’t know at the time that it was a hoax, but the ND jumped on the ‘Can’t miss a breaking story, even it’s not really news or verified’ bandwagon that was a creeping cancer in News Rooms across the country.

What we *did* know was the balloon was coming down from somewhere above 13,000 feet on a cold Colorado morning: It meant the 5-year-old child purported to be inside might have died of hypothermia, or might die on impact falling from such a height.

The News Director – KNOWING it could be coverage of a snuff shot – ordered the anchor on duty to describe a silver Mylar balloon being blown above barren fields as National Guard helicopters followed it, and Sheriff’s SUV’s chased it on the ground.

For 20 agonizing minutes this went on. I vaguely recall trying to get a physics professor on the line to fill time. I probably ended up calling Dr. Bill Wattenburg. It was agonizingly bad radio, I was embarrassed at the content and queasy about being part of a possible snuff shot play-by-play.

I remember CNN was covering it wall-to-wall, and several televisions in the News Room were on the live helicopter feed we were getting from TV downstairs, who was getting it from the ABC affiliate in Denver.

My ND stood with his hands on his head as the balloon crashed into the dirt and hooted out, “Oh! Oh-ho!! Look at that!!” It was so ugly when you realize he thought there was a little boy – the same age as his son – inside the basket of the balloon. Let’s not even talk about how unprofessional or undignified his reaction was.

His ‘spectating the train wreck’ approach to news was giving people a pass for death-voyeurism. He was treating presumed personal tragedy as entertainment.

That was the book (ratings period) we fell from 1st place in the Bay Area for the first time in 30 years, and stopped being the #1 station in the country. It was part of an inexorable downward spiral, as Cumulus picked the bones clean on a great station. First they cleaned the News Room out of the professionals who brought depth to their coverage and who might fight back against such lurid programming. Next they gave their listeners Balloon Boys and Singing Dogs. Finally they wondered why revenue was falling as listeners abandoned the station in droves.

My point is this: Fake News and Bullshit Stories have been around for a while. Balloon Boy himself is rooted in the Baby Jessica story from 1987, which was the start of 24 Hour Coverage of ‘Important Stories’ rather than actual News. It was the unleashing of Voyeurism-is-News school of programming.

CNN (gosh – those call letters again) covered Baby Jessica breathlessly for 2 1/2 days, as the country watched crews digging around the clock. But, what if rescuers had not been in time? What if the well had collapsed around Jessica and she was smothered on live TV singing nursery rhymes? CNN was A-Okay with broadcasting a tragedy or a happy ending – as long as they had eyeballs. Those eyeballs – a big slice of America – lapped up this personal disaster as amusement, and thus Newsertainment was born.

In the 30 years since Baby Jessica brought great ratings, News Directors push every story as if its lightening in a bottle, hoping to convince viewers to watch longer. Fox is an egregious abuser of this programming crutch, and their elderly viewers must be marinaded in cortisol from the daily stress response of being bludgeoned with cyrons screaming BREAKING NEWS!! at the bottom of their cathode ray screens.

In those 3 decades Newsertainment infiltrated every level of programming, giving birth to Reality TV: a format inexpensive to produce that the public confused with Actual Reality.

Reality TV took over television and bestowed upon the American public ‘Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire’ and such cultural icons as Mama June, Snookie and the entire Kardashian clan. The public loved to snicker about Ozzy Osbourne’s substance abuse, and D List stars talking about their addictions was a fine good time. Singing contests were better with someone like William Hung to humiliate. Nothing was too trivial or serious to make into Reality TV. You could watch a show about everything from a pre-pubescent beauty pageant contestant getting exploited by her mother (and the production company), to a vicious bully firing people arbitrarily.

People began to confuse the characters edited for broadcast with being real people. The lines between Actual Reality and Reality TV blurred.

‘The Media’ (not journalists) began to insert themselves into the story, hoping for ever more eyeballs. Expert panels turned into people shouting over one another – because who doesn’t like a good, mean fight? News became factoids and infotainment while Reality TV is nothing like Actual Reality.

In the end viewers tuned out of the experiment of Newsertainment. It’s as simple as that. The product became unwatchable and people stopped trusting news they get from The Media. And why should they? What little bit that isn’t fluff and glurge isn’t well researched or edited for want of researchers and editors in most news rooms.

The Media’s treatment of News as entertainment and Entertainment as reality blurred the lines to the point that it was inevitable America would end up with a POTUS #45.

Balloon Boy was just one brick on a path paved with bad decisions that brings us to the open grave of my beloved industry. It’s heartbreaking watching the few reporters left in the industry (there are 60% fewer reporters now than at the peak in the 1990s) trying to fill hundreds of hours of programming, or try to feed the continual beast of web site content. That content gets more and more diluted so gets fewer and fewer eyeballs, and the viscous circle continues.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see News recover. I do know that people like my News Director bashed News over the head with a shovel, and I’ll never forgive him for that.

I’d like to ask a favor: The next time you see a breaking story that’s not really a breaking story – don’t watch it. Perhaps you come across a grisly story of a tortured toddler – please don’t click. Trust me – you’ll live not knowing the gory details of how a dog mauled a baby, or exactly *how much* filth is caused by hoarding 50 dogs, or how terribly that toddler was tortured.

When a piece from a once-respectable publication (I’m looking at you Time) is ‘How To Find And Keep Love’ or ‘POTUS’ Top 10 Tweets Of All Time!’ could you just scroll past?

You don’t need to watch or encourage pregnant teens being exploited for their mistakes or their counterparts who wail and gnash their teeth because daddy bought the wrong color Mercedes.

Clicks and eyeballs will ultimately drive programming back to News. The only way we stop getting glurge, fluff and bullshit is if we stop consuming it. It’s that simple.

Keep clicking on crap and all we’ll get is crap. Idiocracy will look like a documentary and stories like Balloon Boy will win the Pulitzer. For the love of information – STOP CLICKING!