The End of All Things

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Look, endings are always rough. If it were otherwise, nothing would ever end. And so here we are, at the end of all things, minus Sam to help us through the dark patches.


The above clip would be the perfect expression of a Donald Trump America, except there won’t be any eagles in a few years to save us after they’ve been wiped out by the Chinese hoax of climate change.

But this isn’t about how Donald Trump is a disgusting piece of shit. Anybody with an internet connect knows he ran a white supremacist, xenophobic, misogynistic campaign that spewed an endless mix of lies and hate. It wasn’t subtle, either. He didn’t allude to these things as candidates had before, with wink-wink asides and heavy-handed language. His entire candidacy was predicated on racism and sexism – they were the issues he chose to argue before the public. You can argue about whether Trump is actually racist, xenophobic and misogynist, or whether he was playing to the crowd in an effort to win votes, and for my money, it’s pretty obvious where to land, but what you cannot argue is that his campaign was built upon such sentiment. His pitch was predicated on the idea that a dog whistle was too subtle. And who am I to argue? He won the presidency, after all.

We’ve got 4-8-12 soul crushingly brutalizing years to lament Trump’s presence in the political landscape, if the world survives that long. Lots of time to write about it while drinking heavily.

His opponent is headed out for the curb on heavy trash day. What do we make of such a remarkable public figure? What’s the epitaph? Well, first, and to be clear, Hillary Clinton is not a particularly good person. She is unethical. A warmonger. A money grubber. Yes, she was undone in this election by forces out of her control, by an assault of sexism that was painful to watch, but it does not alter the record of her time in the public sphere. She was – always – a terrible candidate for public office.

She is also a calculating politician and deeply ambitious, the two often going hand in hand. I don’t much mind these last two, after all, I’m not looking for a buddy to have a drink with, I’m looking for government service. Who in politics isn’t calculating or ambitious? My guess is it’s a pretty small number, and most of them are about to take their pension.

Still, it’s this last part that stands out to me. Ambition. Had she not run, Trump would not be in the White House. Does anyone doubt it? We come to the end of Hillary Clinton’s intensely driven political ambition at the moment it forced Donald Trump upon us.

This is somewhat unfair, of course. It’s massively unfair, actually. She did not operate in a vacuum. The DNC is as much to blame as Hillary, force feeding her to the electorate. Still, the culpability rests ultimately on her shoulders. It must. She chose to run, blind to her own faults. She could never see what was so obvious to everyone outside the Democratic party machine – she was a terrible candidate.

She had other options. Other paths to take. After 2008, she could have been a kingmaker. She wanted the crown for herself. And now she’ll live with the knowledge that she must shoulder the blame, partially or fully, for Donald Trump winning the white house. It’s sad, really. Part of me hopes that she’s immune to self reflection, that she’ll choose to blame her enemies (of which there are plenty to choose from) and the agents of chance rather than look inward.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, too. Our candidates, our elections, our public servants are all a reflection of who we are as a people, as a country. I should have done more. I should have shouted from the rooftops. Given more money. Volunteered more time. Convinced more people. We all should have done more to keep Trump from power. Collectively we will pay the price.

In the most cynical version of apportioning blame, it was her naked ambition that blinded her to the reality that her candidacy was always an uphill battle, that she risked the betterment of the country/world in her own mad quest for power, but this seems unduly harsh, an overreach. In the charitable version, which is the one I subscribe to, it was Hillary’s unwavering belief that she was the best person for the job. A genuine belief borne from a lifetime of struggle, persecution, hard work and passion for a better world. That she was never able to look at herself objectively and make the supreme personal sacrifice is hardly the worst thing to say about someone, and if anything, it makes her incredibly human.

I like to think that. It cuts a sympathetic figure. Someone who wanted something good and decent for this world. Maybe it doesn’t matter at all. We’re here. At the end of all things. And she did everything in her power to make it so.

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Tilting at Windmills

This is a lie. Your vote does not matter.

This is a lie. Your vote does not matter.


Like the caption says, your vote in this year’s presidential election does not matter. Please don’t get mad at me.

This is indisputable. It carries with it no inherent bias or room to maneuver. It is simply a factual statement beyond reproach. Your vote does not matter. Again, please don’t get mad at me. It’s not my fault.

Presidential elections do not hinge on a single vote. The reality, of course, is that virtually no election at any level will be decided by a single vote, now or in the future, and certainly not for a presidential election, and for your vote to matter, this is precisely what must occur. So this November 8th, feel free to stay home, secure in the knowledge that your failure to contribute to the total number of ballots cast had zero impact on deciding the winner.

People get very upset by this, as if pointing out the blatantly obvious is somehow an assault on all that is good and decent in the world. I bring this up most every election, and most every election I’m subjected to people who argue vociferously on the importance of an individual’s vote. Al Gore did it recently with his, “Your vote, really, really, really matters.” No, Al, it really doesn’t. We all feel cruddy about the W years, but it doesn’t change the pointlessness of a single vote.

“If you don’t vote, you can’t complain!” “People suffered and died for the right to vote!” “Nothing will ever change if you don’t vote!” I added the exclamation points, but it seemed appropriate to sum up the typical arguments I hear expressed. This clip captures the prevailing attitude really well.


Could you make it through all of that? Holy shit, what a painful mixture of self-righteous smugness and preening knowitallness. It’s like watching California: The Guy.

He also makes the classic mistake of confusing the importance of elections with an individual’s vote. They’re not the same thing. One person staying home in Florida in 2000 would not have swung the election in any way, shape or form. Yes, elections matter. A lot. Large numbers of votes matter. A lot. Individual votes mean absolutely nothing. This is because what is true for the whole pie is not necessarily true for the individual slices, aka the fallacy of division. That people willfully argue against unassailable logic is just the most perfectly human/American response. Now, to be fair, the sort of crass appeal below makes a measure of sense:


An ad designed to encourage large numbers of people to vote against a particular candidate. Good for you, various celebrities, for using the same tired argument of ‘your vote matters’ in order to encourage lots of people to vote the way you want. That’s not sarcasm, either, this is likely a genuinely effective method of swinging elections because it aims to manufacture large numbers of votes through the use of Andrew from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But wouldn’t the world be a better place if people could be prodded to go the polls minus illogical and factually untrue arguments?

So this coming election, with all this in mind, understanding reality, seriously, feel no compulsion to vote. Don’t bother. Go see a movie instead. Or visit a museum. Lots of museums have discounts on Tuesdays. Your individual vote has as much value as Shawshank’s fart in the wind.


Now, for purposes of full disclosure, I’m going to vote this year. For the first time since 2000, I will step into a voting booth and pull a lever, or punch a ballot, or touch a screen or whatever the hell it is people do nowadays in the 21st century, not just aware of the meaninglessness of the act but rather precisely because my vote is meaningless.

Look, there’s nothing left to say about the 2016 presidential election that hasn’t been screamed in print, on television or in some dark corner of the internet. It’s all true, none of it’s true, but no minds are getting changed. I could write about it, I suppose, but who has the energy to explain to ‘undecideds’ why Donald Trump is a disgusting piece of shit and totally unqualified for public office or that Hillary Clinton is monstrously unethical and totally unqualified for public office. If ya can’t see it by now, there ain’t no help on the horizon, buddy.

So, yeah, stepping into a voting booth is nothing more than tilting at windmills. But screw it, I’m a romantic. Why not lash out in vain against my enemies? After all, I am helpless before raging insanity. A defendant in a Kafka court. Powerless. Impotent. Useless. There is literally nothing to do on November 8th but watch someone who was alive in the 1980’s and thinks Nancy Reagan started a national conversation on AIDS ascend to the presidency.

Nothing save for standing atop the hill and screaming into the storm. A pointless act of no consequence to protest the inexcusable, unpalatable and unforgivable. To rage against the dying of the light.

But you should stay home. No reason both of us should waste our Tuesday.

An Open Letter to Matt Barnes and the NBA

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David Stern is retiring soon, because apparently Satan’s powers are more limited than once thought, but before the man leaves us with the yawn-fest that is on-court NBA basketball, we get one more parting gift of his organization’s focus on profits at the expense of integrity.
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Short-Term Thinking in a Long-Term World

The Legislative Branch of Government.

The Legislative Branch of Government.

It’s a strange position to be in when the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA is clearly a painfully short-sighted and stupid one, yet corresponds to my own personal preferences on the subject matter.

My position on gay marriage, born from my time studying constitutional law in college and considered with meticulous care the various moral complexities of the matter, is that I don’t give a shit. I just don’t care. It amazes me that anyone cares.
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What does it take to get fired?

Count the bullets, courtesy of Southern California's finest.

Count the bullets, courtesy of Southern California’s finest.

It’s only February, but frontrunner for horseshit moment of the year has already arrived. It starts with the Obama administration and moves across the country to the LAPD and its Chief, Charlie Beck.

First things first. Obama is completely cool with the U.S. government killing its own citizens without the hassle of charging them with a crime or providing a trial, because it’s safer for the nation to simply have someone killed because they might do bad things in the future, which in fairness to the administration is unquestionably true. A leaked document provided the legal rationale behind the drone strike that killed an American citizen about a year ago in Yemen, arguing that assassinating a U.S. citizen is fine if an “informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”

Let’s briefly forego the monumentally idiotic language here granting authority to kill to any ‘informed, high-level official’, language that’s so over-the-top comically broad it would be rejected for the first act of the third Ace Ventura movie, and instead, let’s just focus on the White House’s core belief that it is acceptable to kill its own citizens without the benefit of the protections afforded them by the Constitution.
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Politicians Are Annoying. And Other Shocking Surprises.

obamaObama’s press conference detailing his 23 executive orders designed to curb gun violence was an exercise in the worst excesses/lowest common denominator of political language, highlighted by putting a bunch of children front and center and reading excerpts from letters they wrote on why people who shoot people are mean. Nothing like letting your ideas speak for themselves free from crass manipulation. I’m surprised a staffer didn’t direct the kids to look directly into the camera and plead with the House of Representatives to make the world a safer place for their friends and family.

Parading a bunch of cute kids in front of the camera serves only to highlight how little the president believes in the power of his argument to sway the general public on its merits. And why should he? His entire approach is wrong.
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Once Again, You Can’t Have It Both Ways.

Zero-Dark-Thirty__121106175531Zero Dark Thirty is a decent movie whose depiction of torture in the search for Bin Laden has touched off a series of accusations/protests against the film. Here is one such example, a letter from Senators McCain, Feinstein and Levin directed to Michael Lynton, chairman of Sony Pictures: “With the release of Zero Dark Thirty, the filmmakers and your production studio are perpetuating the myth that torture is effective. You have a social and moral obligation to get the facts right.”

This is a flawed argument in a number of ways. First and foremost, movies are under no obligation, moral or otherwise, to get the facts right. This is silly. Movies are at their core, Adam Sandler and otherwise, art, and art knows no obligations save for itself. That’s what makes it art. The marketplace determines whether the movie will sink or swim, critically and commercially, so encouraging filmmakers to censor themselves for the social good is an idea on par with letting Tim Tebow start at quarterback.
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Why Bother Voting for President?

There is a fundamental difference between the worth of an election and voting. People make this mistake all the time, most notably with some version of the phrase, “This presidential election is really important, so make sure you get out and vote because every vote matters.” This is the wrong way to look at it. Elections are indeed very important, or at least have the potential to be, but an individual’s vote in that election is staggeringly inconsequential.

The electoral college only furthers the pointlessness of voting for president, since certain states (Ohio) may ultimately play a larger role in deciding the election than others (North Dakota), which does indeed shake the odds that an individual’s vote will matter, but also further illustrates the pointlessness of casting a ballot. Taken as a percentage of the whole, a single vote for president is somewhere in the 1 in a 115 million range of deciding the election. In a particular state, however, that number might potentially decrease to perhaps 1 in 12 million. Better odds, to be sure, but one might as well go out and buy a lottery ticket for all the good their vote will do.


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I Miss Baseball Already

I caught New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama today. Two things in particular stood out. First:

“Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week’s devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

It’s not that I look the other way on sensible environmental policy, I’m not China after all, but I also have a healthy respect for rational thinking. Public policy should not be enacted to combat thing (A) because of thing (B) that may or may not be the result of (A). Bloomberg’s argument is kindergarten stuff. It’s a bit like the school that serves chicken in the cafeteria, half the kids get food poisoning three days later, and the PTA decides to endorse the incumbent superintendent of education because he will work harder than his opponent to stamp out protein in school lunches.
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