"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 9/13/14
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Friday, September 12, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 9/12/14
(A Brilliant at Breakfast exclusive.)
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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Fuller Brush Off
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan. on loan from Ari.)
"I reached this difficult decision after consulting with my family, and deciding that it was in everyone's best interests to put this incident behind us." - Judge Mark Fuller, through his lawyer on his "difficult decision" to evade justice for beating his wife.

     On the same day Michael Brown was getting shot six times for Holding Up His Hands While Black, a white man was savagely beating and kicking his wife in a hotel room at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta. According to the police report,
“Immediately upon entering the room, there was a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the room,” the officer noted. He found Fuller lying in bed. There was broken glass next to the night stand and strands of hair on the floor next to the bed. Fuller’s wife told police officers that the assault followed an argument about “issues in their marriage.” The wife explained that she accused Fuller of having an affair with his law clerk. She said Fuller pulled her hair, threw her to the ground and kicked her. She told police that Fuller dragged her around the room and struck her in the mouth several times with his hands. When police asked Fuller how his wife got her injuries, he told them that his wife attacked him after their argument about marital infidelity. He told officers he was in bed watching CNN and she came into the room making accusations. Fuller said his wife threw a glass at him. Fuller said he grabbed his wife’s hair “to defend himself.” “When asked about the lacerations on her mouth, Mr. Fuller stated that he just threw her to the ground and that was it,” the report says. Police later discovered blood in the bathroom on the tub. Fuller did not have any marks or bruises, the officer noted. After medical personnel arrived, they noted additional bruises on his wife’s legs.
     There's a lot to take away from that largely paraphrased police report. The place reeked of booze, there was broken glass everywhere. There was blood in the bathroom. And loose hair.
     Yes, I said loose hair.
     And it was all the victim's fault, according to her own assailant who was resting comfortably on the bed when police arrived.
     What makes this particular domestic violence incident noteworthy was not merely that it involved a white man but a powerful white man named Mark Fuller, a federal judge installed by George W. Bush and eight years ago was the right wing judge who'd presided over the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy trial that sent those two men to prison.
     Well, four days ago, Judge Fuller reached the difficult decision to opt out of being fully prosecuted for domestic violence so he could have his cases diverted while attending once a week counseling sessions for domestic violence for 24 weeks. In other words, His Honor courageously confronted his addiction to beating women during this glorified intervention by taking the Affluenza way out.
     By the way, far from being the one time offense that Fuller and his shyster are making this out to be, less than two and a half years ago, on May 10, 2012, Fuller's first wife filed for divorce, citing the following crimes:
(D)omestic abuse, extramarital affairs, driving under the influence, abuse of prescription medications, and more.
     Fuller's lawyers requested the records be sealed. The judge actually agreed, even though divorce records are generally open to the public.
     Because, you know, white.

"I'm the Victim in all this!"
     Nowhere in the countless articles I've read about the Fuller arrest that's only making national headlines one month to the day after the original incident have I heard even the slightest mention of justice for his wife, the other victim in all this. The overwhelming impression one takes away on reading these accounts is of a privileged white man in a powerful position on the federal judiciary who feels he can get away with whatever he pleases while accepting no accountability and lying to law enforcement about his crimes.
     This is a picture of a serial wife beater and philanderer, a one man crime wave who was called on infidelity by his first wife (probably involving the later second wife) and got beaten for confronting him. The second wife got beaten a month ago for calling him on his infidelity with his law clerk (wife #3?). Yet, what did Fuller's shyster Barry Ragsdale have the gall to say in court?
     "He doesn't have a drug or alcohol problem and never has."
     Note that the judge fell for it because in the pre-trial diversion, Fuller was sentenced to 24 weeks in a program for spousal abusers by a private counseling service (That's right. Not even one in the public sector but the private sector), not a treatment program for what's an established history of alcohol and drug abuse.
     It goes without saying that Fuller's a Republican since he was appointed by W to the federal judiciary. But one doesn't even need to know that to unerringly come to the conclusion that Fuller's a right wing nut job of the first magnitude for his statements to the police, to the court, to the media and his entire attitude. He attempted to minimize his crimes, blamed his wife for assaulting him and then had the chutzpah to act as if it was a supreme sacrifice and act of courage to duck the law by going into 6 months of private counseling sessions while he enjoys a paid vacation.
     No doubt, he'll be allowed to sleaze his way back on the bench after his six month paid vacation so he can dispense to others the same justice he himself has evaded time and again for the same heinous crimes and without his substance abuse problems even being seriously addressed, much less treated.

"You're all out of order!"
     One of America's, and the far right's, greatest failings is in not recognizing disturbing patterns. We tend to treat domestic violence, spousal abuse, white privilege, racial profiling and police brutality as mere isolated incidents, unconnected dots that draw no picture although the resolution of these pictures is getting clearer and clearer with each day. It's one thing to connect the dots. It's another thing when there are so many of them, they can draw a picture without conscious attempts at connectivity.
     Time and again, we hear of white people marching through stores with machine guns, even threatening people at Little League games, without even being asked to leave. Yet time and again, we hear of police gunning down unarmed black men and justifications from our most racist elements that somehow, in some vague way, they had it coming to them.
     Time and again, we hear of black men with diminished mental capacity getting put on Death Row for crimes they didn't commit while wealthy white people evade justice by agreeing to go to private counseling sessions even after murdering four people or savagely beating their wives under the influence.
     Do you think for a minute that if Fuller was a black man from the inner city in Birmingham charged with the same exact crimes he would've been given the option of going into a lazy series of private counseling sessions? I think we all know the answer to that.
     And then there are the victims who still stick by their men and blast the media on the rare occasion it does its job. When people like Janay Palmer and the wife of David Vitter (R-Huggies) insist on remaining victims and sniping at the press, such people do a disservice to other victims of domestic violence and marital infidelity. When the system insists on keeping guys like Vitter and Fuller in power and teenaged murderers out of prison for crimes for which nonwhites often pay dearly whether they commit them or not, they do a disservice and an injustice to these victims. Just because real victims refuse to justifiably embrace their victimhood doesn't and shouldn't absolve their victimizers from legal and social comeuppance.
     But, in the words of the great Al Pacino:

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 9/4/14
(A Brilliant @ Breakfast exclusive.)
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville #22
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Good Times at Pottersville, 8/30/14

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Monday, August 11, 2014

There Is Always Another Way
Posted by Jill | 9:41 PM

In 1989, Mr. Brilliant quit his job. We were working for the same company at the time. I found out through the secretary for his department, where he was working the help desk. He'd been talking about wanting to take some programming courses, and we'd discussed the possibility, but we hadn't made a decision yet. Well, I hadn't, but he had.

It was the first of many times when I found myself unexpectedly being the primary breadwinner in the family. I was of course livid at not having been told that he was going to quit that day, but this was something really important to him. New York University was offering a certificate course in computer programming, and he'd decided to take it. He had some money he'd inherited from his grandmother, and that's how he wanted to spend it.

It wasn't that he couldn't understand programming concepts; he had a very logical mind, and he'd taught himself BASIC on a Coleco ADAM. There was no reason for him to simply be unable to write COBOL in a way that would satisfy the instructor. He spent hours and hours in the computer lab, writing code and turning it in, only for it to be handed back. The instructor even told him that no one who had not attended college would ever pass his course. Mr. B. worked on the assignments for this course like a man obsessed. He lost so much weight from the sheer stress of it all that I met him after work one night for dinner and didn't even recognize him until he turned around. The course ended, he did not pass, and he fell into a severe depression. This wasn't simply the blues; I would go to work every morning wondering if he would still be there when I got home. It's hard living with a depressed person, especially if you've had a tendency towards depression yourself. I'd had a lot of behavioral-cognitive therapy by that point, and I'd been able to learn how to stop the runaway train of self-loathing when it starts running off the rails. But he hadn't. Day after day after day went by. He'd spend the entire day sleeping or smoking cigarettes -- unable to move, unable to function, unable to think, unable to even fathom what he would do for a job. When it got to the point where I was physically restraining him from driving up to the George Washington Bridge and jumping, I gave him an ultimatum: Get help or get out. I said I would go to counseling with him if he wanted.

I took him to the local mental health center that had a sliding fee scale. The psychiatrist there put him on Prozac and he was better within days. I'm quite sure it wasn't the meds, it was somehow a relief at the intervention. Unfortunately, he didn't want to do "talk therapy" to work out some of the childhood issues that a critical instructor for whom nothing he did was good enough triggered.

For over two decades, he suffered from occasional bouts of depression, though none as bad as that one. Mostly it manifested as insomnia at night combined with long naps during the day when he wasn't working. When he was working, he'd have a "honeymoon" period at the new job, then frustration, then disillusionment. I knew enough about depression from having grown up with a mother who had survived a suicide attempt to know that there was no "magic bullet" that would make it all go away. I just tried to make him as happy as he was capable of being. And sometimes he genuinely was. When we would go to Jamaica, he'd be genuinely happy. He loved finding out what was wrong with a computer or server and fixing it. He read philosophers and thinkers. He'd studied Kabbalah before it was cool. He took pride in having a successful marriage. But there was always a darkness there that lurked under the surface, which manifested by a fascination with violent animé and movies with a lot of explosions. In our early years together, we socialized and had parties, we went to parties and had dinner with other couples. Then around 2000, that all stopped.

I'll never know how much of his depression, growing reluctance to deal with people on a social basis, and increasing inability to navigate office politics was caused by what, unknownst to us, was happening in his brain. Mr. B. had what we now know was a cerebrovascular disease that may have caused his depression. But what about others? What about people like my mother, who appears in photos as a vibrant, vivacious girl with a mischievous twinkle in her eye but became so crippled by depression, despite the medications she'd been taking since I was a child, that she also slept much of the time and when she wasn't sleeping or crying, she was flying into rages? What about people like Robin Williams?

Robin Williams died today, apparently by his own hand. I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt punched in the gut upon hearing the news. Another comedic genius, felled by self-destructiveness. We look at people like Robin Williams and think they have it all -- fame, money, talent. But just as comedy and tragedy go hand-in-hand, genius often goes hand-in-hand with depression. Vincent Van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Rothko -- all committed suicide. Comedians seem to be particularly susceptible. Richard Jeni ended his own life in 2007. Freddie Prinze was just 22 when he held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Add in people like John Belushi and Chris Farley, who died from their own self-destructiveness without having to commit suicide, or Richard Pryor, who nearly died after setting himself on fire while freebasing cocaine but managed to stick around until multiple sclerosis took him -- and it makes you wonder how an incomparable genius like Robin Williams, who had his own issues with drugs and self-destructiveness ever managed to make it to 63 before letting his demons get the best of him.

When I heard the news, I wondered how Marc Maron, another self-destructive, neurotic comedian, was going to deal with this news. Maron has done beautiful work in dealing with other comedian deaths on his podcast WTF, but the suicide of Robin Williams must hit hard, and not just because Maron's 2010 interview with Williams arguably marks the beginning of WTF really hitting its stride. Robin Williams became huge at the age of 27 with Mork and Mindy, and then segued effortlessly between insane stream-of-consciousness comedy and some truly great acting (at least before he entered his Patch Adams phase). Marc Maron toiled around the edges of fame until he was nearly fifty, when a podcast that in its early days seemed like an extended suicide note in which he was trying to make amends to every comic to whom he'd been a dick for over two decades, suddenly became huge, opening the door to at least some of the success that came perhaps too early to Robin Williams.

We like to throw the word "genius" around, with mediocrities often being touted as "genius" only after they make the good career move of dying. But while it's clear that Robin Williams' brilliance came from a core of pain, there's no denying that in those early days of cocaine-fueled anarchy, we had never seen anything quite like him:

And later, when we saw that there was more to Robin Williams than just stream-of-consciousness weirdness:

No, we'd never seen anything like him before. And we probably never will again.

Depression is not self-indulgence, it is an illness, often a chronic one. All over the world, depressed people sit at home, crying, contemplating suicide, cutting themselves, wondering why the rest of the world can function and they can't. Some of us come out of it. Some of us never do. Even with the way things ultimately turned out, I'm glad Mr. B. chose "get help" over "get out." If he hadn't, he would have missed out on a lot. If you're depressed, or you know someone who is, there is help. We may not all be comedic geniuses, but we all have something to offer this world. If only Robin Williams had been able to recognize that we really DID never have a friend like him.

Also. Too.

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