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Crazy

To tell you the God’s honest truth, if I didn’t know deep in my heart that the rest of you are out of your freaking minds. I’d think I was.

Look, I know I’ve said, written, and done things that are pretty hard to take at face value.

Years ago a cousin of mine — a distinguished neurologist — told my parents my libertarian beliefs indicated a serious need for psychiatric intervention. This cousin was not only a rich doctor who’d expanded his fortune as an inventor and entrepreneur — when we visited him he was living in a Pacific Palisades mansion — but politically he was a communist. Maybe my cousin the doctor was right in thinking I was crazy since I was a flat-broke writer arguing to a wealthy communist the superiority of capitalism.

A lot of people thought I was crazy when I thought that of all the novel manuscripts written, my first novel would get published — in hardcover, no less.

People thought I was crazy when I suggested as far back as 1987 that pretty soon what we call a “book” wouldn’t be made out of nice-smelling paper, ink, and binding; you wouldn’t browse for it at a store; and it would be something you downloaded and either read on a screen or printed out, yourself.

A lot of people thought I was out of my mind when I wrote a book taking seriously the idea that O.J. Simpson didn’t knife to death his ex-wife and the nice Jewish boy who was returning her mother’s forgotten eyeglasses.

Other people thought I was crazy when another of my books seriously suggested that people who don’t own guns are the cause of crime.

I’d spent years and years hanging out with atheists who were certain I was out of my mind when I finally told them I’d had a psychic revelation from God … then I was only slightly more surprised when I found out that even people who tell me they believe in God are for the most part just as convinced that I’m crazy.

But what am I supposed to do with a Bill Maher who makes a documentary showing how nutty people who believe in God are, then turns around and without even a psychic episode to back it up then makes fun of people who don’t share his faith in global warming or expansive government?

How am I to take seriously the sanity of people who believe in God only because they read about God in the Bible — or heard about God from other people who read about God in the Bible … or people who decide God can’t possibly exist because the only people they’ve met who say they believe in God base their beliefs on these sorts of fiftieth-hand rumors?

In my own current business — I made a movie which I’m trying to get into commercial distribution — I constantly run into movie execs who tell me audiences won’t be interested in seeing my movie because I don’t have an “A-list star” in it. Leave out for a moment how insanely famous the star of my movie is from appearing in the #1 cult TV series of all time. When I point out to these geniuses that one of the top-grossing movies at the moment was made for $11,000 and didn’t have a single name actor in it, it doesn’t change their minds. Neither does giving them a list of A-list-star driven movies that tanked. They still won’t consider distributing an indie movie unless it has an “A list” star.

I believe that government doesn’t work, that the Los Angeles Police Department needed to rent a clue in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and that a more compelling case can be made for the existence of eternal consciousness than for carbon footprints.

It’s a lot of the rest of you who are the crazy ones, pal, and on Day Three of this blog, meet your new bogus shrink.

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The Day of the Dead

In Mexico and Latin America it’s best known as El Día de los Muertos, roughly translated as The Day of the Dead. It’s sometimes also called All Souls Day. Roman Catholics and many Protestants call it All Saints Day. It’s traditionally celebrated on November 1st.

The night preceding it is far better known — All Hallows Eve — which has morphed into the more-commonly-celebrated secular holiday Halloween.

But what all these religious and superstitious celebrations have in common as a basic premise is the idea that after people die — after a human body ceases to sustain biological life — a soul that had been animating that body survives the body’s biological death and continues to exist … somewhere, somehow, as something.

Human beings are a cynical lot. If we can tell a story which can scare children around a campfire, or in a theater, or in front of a big or bigger screen — we’ll tell it. So we tell stories about animated corpses and ghosts and Zombies, and take communion with popcorn and Pepsi.

Sophisticated people don’t believe any of this is real. Realistic people — rational thinkers — take death at face value. Whatever is a personality or consciousness or mind within a body is a neurological function of the body’s brain, and when the brain dies that personality or consciousness or mind within that body dies with it. Stories of Heaven or Hell or a Ferryman and the River Styx or Paradise or Valhalla are nothing more than idle chatter, and means nothing to the dead that have no ears to listen anymore and no functioning brains to interpret the noise.

But what if religions and superstitions have it right on one point: that there is a soul and it survives the brain’s death? What if after our brain ceases to function we are still conscious and our consciousness goes somewhere and does something?

That would pretty much change every fundamental premise we use to make decisions about our lives, and organize our societies around, wouldn’t it?

On this question alone lies a chasm of intellectual communication between the secular materialist and the “spiritual” or “religious” person on how they arrive at a set of perceptions, conclusions, and value-judgments which determines what we do while we are alive.

If one truly believes that hijacking a commercial jetliner, killing the pilots, and crashing that jetliner into an office tower not only will transport one’s own soul to Paradise but also that doing so is the only chance the non-believers on that jetliner and in that office tower have of making the journey to Paradise also, then it is not an entirely irrational decision to do so … and if the belief was true regarding action and consequence it would actually be a sweet act of charity.

If handing out poison in Guyana or San Diego transports the drinkers’ souls to Heaven or a spaceship following a comet, then is it murder or a ticket to ride?

The comic playwright, Christopher Durang, in a shockingly funny scene in his 1979 play Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, has a Catholic nun shoot one of her troublesome students, explaining that since he’d just been to confession killing him was the only way he’d ever get to Heaven.

Religions, today, are considered tolerable only when they teach their adherents to act as if the secular materialists have it right — that murder ends a human life.

What would it do for Holocaust memorials at Yad Vashem, in Washington DC, or in Los Angeles, if there were an asterisk next to the name of every Nazi victim that said, “Transported by the Nazis from a Concentration Camp to Heaven”?

Yet Judaism is one of the religions that teaches a belief in life after death. Are Jews supposed to believe that the Nazis victims’ souls survived their murders at the hands of the Nazis, or not?

Politics, as well as common sense, dictates that stories be told that frighten human beings into believing death is permanent. As we learned on 9/11, it’s just darned hard to deter mass killings when the killers believe they’re doing both you and themselves a favor.

But on the Day of the Dead, it’s appropriate to create some doubt in the minds of reasonable people about death necessarily being the end, and at least to ask if some possibility exists that it’s not.

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ObamaCare Doesn’t Bring Socialized Medicine to U.S.

To listen to Glenn Beck and other right-wing pundits, President Obama’s proposals for health care reform are the first step in turning America into Cuba or Venezuela.

But the truth is that the health-care system favored by conservatives is only marginally less government-run than the public option and must-buy health insurance favored by progressives.

All medical practitioners — physicians, surgeons, dentists, nurses, etc. — must be licensed by state and local governments, and approved by the federal government if they are to receive reimbursement for their services from Medicare.

All hospitals and clinics must also be government licensed, with additional licenses for teaching hospitals.

All degrees awarded by medical schools are only valid if they’re issued by medical schools approved by state-sanctioned medical boards.

Doctors may only prescribe pharmaceuticals or medical devices approved by the FDA — that is if they’re not on lists of substances prohibited by law from being prescribed at all, and providing them gets one a visit from the DEA.

Flu epidemics exist or not by a decision made by the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also approves or disapproves of the vaccines to treat them.

An entire department of the Federal government is devoted to regulating “Health and Human Services.”

Finally, fifteen percent of the U.S. population — those 65 or older or declared disabled — are already enrolled in fully-socialized “public option” government health insurance through Medicare and Medicaid — and as high as a third of the U.S. population have at times been eligible for 100% U.S.-government-run health care provided through the Veterans Administration.

So Fox News and right-wing radio pundits ranting that President Obama and the Democratic Party want to bring socialized medicine to America is not only hypocritical and ignorant of history. It’s just obliviously silly.

I’m 56 years old, and I have never drawn a breath when my health care wasn’t fully regulated by — often paid for by, and sometimes directly operated by — the government, at one level or another.

It’s undeniable that expanding government health insurance to those under 65 who aren’t veterans or disabled — and forcing healthy people to buy healthcare policies to lower premiums for those with preexisting illnesses — is indeed moving in the direction of universal single-payer health care.

But to argue that President Obama and the Democrats want to bring us socialized medicine ignores the obvious.

We’ve had socialized medicine for generations.

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