The Mugshot — Churchill, by Kubrick

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 24th 2023

The Trump mugshot was a shot seen ’round the world. Few who have seen it have been able to avoid interpreting the lowered-head scowl of Trump, seen variously as being in a fit of psychotic rage, scared to death, or defiant.

A meme all over social media mentions “the Kubrick glare,” or “the Kubrick stare.” It’s a favorite way the famed director Stanley Kubrick had of portraying one of his lead actors in a state of decompensation and sheer malice, described as “a heavy-browed look of insanity”. Think of Jack in The Shining. Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. For the first two actors mentioned (Jack Nicholson and Malcolm McDowell) they became career-defining images, and doubtlessly those demented glares contributed to the success of their films.

It probably wasn’t the look Trump was aiming for. His followers insist the look is one of defiance, and I suspect that was what he had in mind. And he based that on another iconic and world-famous photograph of a politician, the “Thundering Lion” image of Sir Winston S. Churchill.

The picture shows a seated Churchill glowering at the camera, and many people have inferred, from the time the photograph was taken (December 30th, 1941) that Churchill was trying to project courage and defiance.

Indeed, Churchill wanted to project that. While Britain had successfully fended off the planned German invasion (The Battle of Britain, aka “The Blitz”) some six months earlier, Churchill knew that he had to get the Americans to join in because otherwise the respite was only temporary. So he went to his ally, Canada, (at that point already actively fighting alongside Britain for two years) to harden resolve in the Canadian parliament, and by extension, persuade a reluctant US Congress.

Churchill did give a characteristically marvelous speech to the House of Commons, a speech famed in itself for his disparaging comments about the Petain regime in semi-occupied France. (“When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their Prime Minister and his divided Cabinet, ‘In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.’ Some chicken! Some neck!”) But it is that image that is instantly recognized over 80 years later. (The signed original hung in Ottawa’s famed Château Laurier until December of 2020, when someone stole it.)

But defiance wasn’t what Churchill was trying to project when Yousuf Karsch snapped his shutter. It was more along the line of baffled, incredulous outrage over a sudden act of temerity against the Prime Minister.

Churchill had one of his stogies going, and Karsch didn’t want the smoke obscuring the image. He asked Churchill if he would set the cigar aside. Churchill refused. So just before the camera went off, Karsch darted in and snatched the cigar right out from Churchill’s mouth! What the camera caught was a look of amazed shock on Churchill’s face.

Yes, cameras lie. The image became synonymous with British resolve and cemented Churchill’s image as a heroic figure facing down the Nazi foe. You can recreate the photo just by walking up to any random baby and snatching the num-num from its mouth. Although if mum is nearby, you risk, in the words of some unfortunate French general, getting your “neck wrung like a chicken.”

Churchill himself admiringly remarked Karsch could “even make a roaring lion stand still to be photographed,” which led, somewhat inexplicably, to the title of the photo.

I think Trump was trying to recreate the image of defiance that Thundering Lion evokes. But like most things Trump, he got it ass backwards. Churchill wasn’t feeling resolute at that instant; he was about to have a tantrum.

Trump wanted to project resolve and defiance. Instead, he looks like he’s about to have a tantrum. Someone stole his num-num.

I suspect that Trump practices a lot of his facial expressions in the mirror. A lot of sociopaths do, in an effort to appear more human and less unco. Trump, however, didn’t practice this one very much. That, or he was so rattled at having his mug shot taken (the emotional equivalent of some commoner ripping a cigar out of his mouth) that he wound up looking like a man who had just plotzed and was hoping his Depends would contain the odor.

It wasn’t his Churchillian moment. It was, if anything, his anti-Churchillian moment. Whatever that grimace was, it wasn’t calm determination. It was the opposite of calm determination. It was a man about to lose his shit.

It was the Kubrick stare, only he wasn’t acting.

Ke-ua-a-ke-pō — Pele upstaged by the spirit of rain and fire


Pele upstaged by the spirit of rain and fire

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 14th, 2023

There are very few people in California who don’t feel deep sympathy and compassion for the victims of the Maui fire, which is now the greatest natural disaster the State of Hawai’i has suffered. Most of us have faced (and some suffered) the same fate. At the bottom of this article you will find CBS-provided links to some of the most reputable and effective aid agencies working to help the survivors put their lives back together. If you can see your way clear, please donate.

One element of this disaster that caught my eye was that abandoned cane plantations outside of Lahaina had become overgrown with non-native grasses, many of which were eight-to-ten feet high. According to Ben Adler at Yahoo News, “Before it was drained by plantation owners irrigating their farms, the Lahaina area was a wetland, according to the local environmental advocacy organization Save the Wetlands.”

A fire bomb waiting to happen, in other words. All it took was a few weeks of drought followed by hot winds from a passing hurricane.

It’s something we know all too well here in California. While the public forestlands get criticized (rightly) for being overgrown, the fact is roughly 15% of wildfires start on government lands ( ) but because of the relative remoteness of such regions, only 3% of wildfires that affect settled areas come from the public lands. The rest start on private lands, many of which are just as neglected.

It’s a big issue for small towns in the forested areas, where the state has been thinning and building firebreaks and issuing grants to local fire safe councils to do the work. However the efforts are negated by negligent property owners who bought land for a two-times-a-year vacation, or to lease out, or simply for investment, and are loath to put out the money needed to make the property fire-safe. It’s one thing to remove trees and keep brush and grass cropped to protect your property, but if the neighboring lot has grass three feet tall with a couple of dead pines, you’ve mitigated nothing.

California used to have what was called “proving” laws pertaining to individual mining claims and grazing areas. If you staked a claim, in order to maintain that claim, you had to do $100 every year in improvements. (Call it about $2,500 in today’s money). Perhaps the state needs to consider similar laws for unimproved or unoccupied lots, where fire amelioration standards must be met or the property is forfeit. That would have the dual benefits of helping to protect the mountain areas and discourage rentiers from buying up all the forested properties.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, a member (DekeDeke) of Guardian’s Comment is Free blog wrote, “With biodiversity already on a precipitous decline globally, with severe under funding of critical research and data collection. We have a very narrow understanding of what is currently happening to ecosystem after ecosystem. Let alone how these environments will suffer the additional stresses from climate change.

Absolutely. There is no denying that we are in trouble. But with scientists being surprised regularly at unknown feedback loops, exponential and synergetic effects, and chain reactions, we have a long way to go to really understand this.

Given we are now in a constant state of flux. It will never be settled.

He is raising valid points that everyone needs to be aware of. No, science can’t predict all the permutations of climate change. The system is incredibly complex, and on the single level of climate patterns alone, chaotic. So yes, we have to expect many surprises that nobody saw coming, and it’s safe to assume that most of them won’t be pleasant.

By way of example, here’s my own semi-informed guess as to how we’ll fare here in the northern California mountains over the next twenty years. I expect that amounts of precipitation will remain about the same and possibly a little bit higher, but that drought and fire problems will sharply increase and the state will evolve from water shortages to full-on water crises.

If that sounds contradictory, it isn’t. Rain or no, California will continue to warm, and it’s reasonable to expect that warming to progress with a greater effect in the mountain regions. (Here at one kilometer altitude, we’ve had six days this summer over 100, with a seventh forecast for today. I lived here twenty years before seeing 100 on the property. Now it’s becoming commonplace.) Warmer means faster rates of evaporation, meaning the soils and plants dry faster. Further, the area of snow coverage is decreasing dramatically as snow levels rise. (It helps to think of mountains as being like cones, and the surface area decreases dramatically with height. For those with maths, it’s something like this: A = L + B = πrs + πr2 = πr(s + r) = πr(r + √(r2 + h2)). Don’t let your young kids see that if you want to keep them in school.)

So less water in snowpack, higher rate of drying, and hotter. Add to that increased mortality of stressed trees, and the recipe for disaster is clear.

Add the bugger factor that DekeDeke mentioned, and brace yourself: expect the unexpected.

More Lahainas will happen. We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but we can take steps to try and avoid the worst.



The American Red Cross

Disaster workers from the American Red Cross are in Maui, “working around the clock to help those affected,” the group says. To donate, visit, call 1-800-RED-CROSS (800-733-2767), or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

You can also go to to make a donation.

The Hawai’i Community Foundation

The Hawai’i Community Foundation is accepting donations through its Maui Strong Fund. The foundation has already raised $1 million to help fire victims, Hawaii News Now reports. To donate, visit the fund’s website. For questions or additional information, please contact Donor Services at or (808) 566-5560.

Maui United Way

Maui United Way, founded in 1945, works to address Maui’s vital needs by focusing on education, income and health. The organization has set up a Maui Fire and Disaster Relief Donations Page. All donations are processed online.

Maui Food Bank

Maui Food Bank provides “safe and nutritious food” to anyone in Maui County who is at risk of going hungry, the organization says. Maui Food Bank also donates food to disaster relief efforts on the island. “With every $1 donated, the Maui Food Bank can provide 4 meals to the hungry living in our island community,” the food bank pledges. To donate, visit the food bank’s website,

Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Blessing

Faith-based NPOs specializing in disaster relief.




Terms and Conditions — Some apply, some don’t

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

August 6th 2023

I’ve been thinking over the past few days about various terms I’ve been using, sometimes interchangeably, and in this dark era, often improperly. The terms I have in mind are conservative, libertarian, fascist, Christian, religious, fundamentalist, and finally, cult. Not the normal definition of cult, but how the term is used in relation to Trump’s following. All require a more specific usage to reflect the times we are in.

Let’s start with “conservative.” I stopped using it to describe the ideologues and flat-out nuts that have infested the GOP beginning with Goldwater and which flowered under Newt Gingrich. Conservatives traditionally supported small government, careful husbanding of resources, and staunchly supported separation of church and state. The Republican party has been taken over by people who support overwhelming government interference in personal lives, utter contempt for efforts to control pollution or address the damage done by pollution, and are in many cases determined to inflict the more savage elements of religious doctrine on all the rest of us. The very opposite of “conservative.”

“Fascist.” The most simple and direct definition of a fascist is that it’s someone who is authoritarian, and wants a merger of state and corporate power. They don’t mind associating with patriotism and devoutness as long as it furthers their aims, which basically are establishment of a plutocratic autocracy. People associate fascism with Hitler, but Hitler was beyond the pale. Fascist regimes are ugly, oppressive and corrupt, but nothing equal to the insane nightmare of Nazism.

“Libertarian.” Most libertarians (but not all) are closeted right wingers who have learned to adopt the parlance associated with American liberties and civil rights. They purport to be for the rights of the individual, and want government to be small enough to “drown in the bathtub.” It’s worth noting that the Libertarian Party was founded by the same people who underwrote the John Birch Society. Yes, the same people who rode a wave of McCarthyism in the ‘50s. Ask a libertarian “if a corporation is beneficial to society because it is a group of people banded together to protect their mutual interests and benefit while providing a needed service to society, then shouldn’t labor unions be viewed the same way?” The answer will tell you much about that particular Libertarian. You find that when most libertarians talk about rights and freedoms, they mean rights and freedoms for the bosses, not the workers or consumers. Many libertarians are, in fact, fascist.

Fascists are not conservative, and few conservatives are fascist. Stop calling people like Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump “conservative.” They are anything but. Those two have gone beyond fascism to the greater nightmare.

“Christian,” “religious” and “fundamentalist” are often applied to people of faith with varying degrees of accuracy. Fundamentalist usually is associated with a need for order and control, and a high personal demand for rigid and authoritarian structure. It’s a psychological disorder, associated with religion only because many religions offer the same hard and fast answers and absolute truths that fundamentalists crave in their lives. “Christian” and “religious” are umbrella terms that defy any sort of specific definition. There’s tens of thousands of different religious sects under the umbrella of “Christianity” alone, and the differences go far beyond one word in The Lord’s Prayer or the number of cross bars on the cross. Some are totally unrecognizable to other Christians. As a rule of thumb, the closer in ideology two sects are, the more likely they are to reject each other as heretics.

The majority of Christians, and for that matter, many fundamentalists, are not part of the toxic pseudo-religiosity that has permeated the American right and is behind the move to impose their doctrines on the American people, in the form of women’s issues, racial oppression, and oppressive control for non-believers. Those people are called ‘zealots,’ and most religious writings, including the Bible (at times) condemn zealotry as a toxic and destructive force in any culture. Zealots may claim the mantle of God, but in reality, they are vicious, controlling bigots willing to kill and lie and destroy in the name of their beliefs. Zealotry isn’t limited to Christianity—all religions attract them, as do all political movements.

The main weapon against zealotry is to have a religion or political belief that practices tolerance, inclusion, and, well, wokeness.

Finally, let’s talk about cults. Or rather, let’s talk about the people who are part of MAGA who follow Trump, because they aren’t really a cult. Oh, I’ve called them cultists myself, but I did some thinking on it, and realize that what we are dealing with here is something outside a standard framework of a cult.

Cults, no matter how weird or nasty, have to stand FOR something. They have a god, a leader, someone who followers can worship and admire. They offer hope, and community, and trust. Trump offers the trappings of that, but even his own followers find that Trump’s compassionate embrace is very thin gruel indeed.

What he does offer to people is the excuse to go out and be assholes. Rather than build his followers up, he vilifies all non-followers through verbal abuse, lies, and calumnies. He takes his pages, not from spiritual leaders, but from hate-mongers who have realized that hatred is a powerful force. It’s always been an element of the American right—open hatred of liberals and progressives dates back to the days of the John Birch Society. Trump can’t offer hope, or love. But he can tell people it’s OK to hate others, and to assume anyone not part of the movement is the enemy. Liberals “groom” children, just like Jews drink the blood of Christian babies or all black people want is to rape white women. Zealotry is a very powerful and massively destructive force, capable of great harm (Germany, 1945) and extremely dangerous.

But because it offers hatred and not any kind of socially binding force beyond that, it’s far easier to dissipate the following by defeating it. Successful cults have true believers generations after they fade. Hate movements tend to evaporate in a self-realization of guilt and shame over what the followers have become, and social opprobrium. Remember how the Nazis in Germany all just vanished after Berlin fell and Hitler died? Cut off the head, and the movement dies. It’s not quite the same as a cult. More dangerous, but more vulnerable.

Anyway, this is all just my opinion. Read it, think it over, and decide for yourself if I’m right or not.

But I believe it’s time our political terminology embraces our present-day realities.



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