“Grace” A Poem

painting by David Michael Jackson

Grace

For so long
A state of:
Anger
Distraction
Ignorance
Violence
Greed
A celebration of the worst
A feeling of abandonment
Realized by hate

The fever now broken
It returns
Like Spring’s first flower
Reason
Intelligence
A celebration of goodness
A state of Grace
Leaving us
No longer, alone

One flower grows into a thousand
And a thousand to a million

Faith creating reality
If only we can hang on
Seeing ourselves
For our potential
Bringing forth the best
And not the worst
Demanding more
From ourselves
And others

Once again,
Being able to breathe

© 2021 Ron Olsen – all rights reserved

This poem originally published on the Artvilla poetry website

Get Over It

Dear snowflakes. Those of us who lived through the 60’s were “woke” before it was even a thing. You aren’t saying anything that hasn’t been said. Get real. Confront your own naivete before you point an accusing finger at others who are older and wiser than you.

Fight the good fight, but don’t condemn others who have been fighting for years for doing too little. Much can be learned from those who have already been there.

Choose Your Weapon

A former colleague with a weight problem used to refer to donuts as “rings of death.” I thought of that the other day, when I heard that a donut company was offering free donuts to anybody who got a Covid shot. Apart from the obvious contradiction, and the clever marketing ploy to increase foot traffic at donut shops, it also occurred to me that maybe donut makers should offer free donuts to anyone willing to turn in an assault rifle?

It just might work, as Americans love donuts almost as much as they love their guns. Some just might go for a dozen glazed or chocolate covered with jimmies in return for their AK-47 variants and various other assault weapons designed specifically for no other purpose than the most effective slaughter of human beings.

It would probably even out in the end, as those who were saved from getting guns off the streets would eventually die from obesity-related complications.

Another thought this morning, as I watched for the third or fourth time recycled news about Joe Biden appointing VP Harris as our new czar to oversee problems at the border, was just how obvious it is that the Democrats are setting up Harris to run for president three years from now. Not that she has a scintilla of a chance. The gravitas just isn’t there to beat out whichever white guy the Republicans run against her. Her appeal tilts too far to the left.

Andrew Cuomo could win or Al Franken, but the Dems themselves have eliminated both, bright prospects though they might have been, with zeal. Gavin Newsom, would also make a great candidate, but both the Republicans and the Dems appear to be out to wreck his political image. Any white democratic male, or for that matter, anyone with broad-based political appeal to the electorate who committed any distasteful act, including even complimenting a woman on her appearance, seems doomed to face the wrath of Gillibrand , AOC and their cadre of lefties.

And so, dear friends, barring unforseen developments, get ready for another Republican in the Oval in 2024, should the Democrats stay on their current course with the grinning Californian, Kamala Harris, as their frontrunner. Can you really see her leading the country in a time of war?

The Dumbing Down Continues To Astound

I awoke from a nap feeling a need to grab just a bit of new information about what was happening in the world around me and made the mistake of turning on MSNBC, where I was confronted by the dumb question of the century. The host actually posed the non-question question, of whether the insurrectionists that assaulted the Capitol on January 6th, were really trying to stop the certification of the vote.

The woman hosting the “show” isn’t stupid, she’s really quite bright, so I would hope (imagine?) she had been fed the idiotic question from someone in the booth who was probably screaming nonsense into her ear. I mean, they might have been talking about the poor folks in Burma, who continue fighting to bring back their democratically elected leaders following a military coup. Six hundred of those arrested for demonstrating on behalf of democracy were just released, so it’s a good story for those who believe in freedom. But no, they weren’t talking about that.

They might also have had at least a modicum of interest in what’s happening in Germany, where a third wave of Covid is spreading across the country. It’s a variant, apparently more infectious and deadlier than the last. Is that what we’re in for here, following the massive partying of Spring breakers, whooping it up on the beaches of Florida?

“Essentially we have a “new virus,” Angela Merkel said, and a “new pandemic.”

Or they could have talked about the fact that more than half of those hospitalized with Covid in the United States, 7 out of 10, are still feeling its effects. In other words, they aren’t fully over it. They have not recovered.

A year into this mess and Covid-19 continues to present us with more questions than answers. We really aren’t sure where we are headed. Whether there will be long-term effects from the RNA vaccines. Whether one variant after another will keep popping up, requiring one new vaccine after another. We really don’t know much of anything with regard to long-term effects, as there were no animal trials prior to delivering the vaccines into human arms.

Russia developed its “Sputnik V” vaccine and began mass distribution nearly four months ago. Vladimir Putin, only just got his injection. What was he waiting for?

It’s all we’ve got, so I suppose we have to use it, but shouldn’t there at least be a discussion taking place? Something beyond the idiocy of someone wondering out-loud if the insurrectionists really wanted to stop the vote from being certified? This is NBC News? God, help us. And if (or she) won’t, at least we’ve got Sky News and France24.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m on a waiting list for a vaccine and I fully intend to get jabbed when I can as that appears to be the best option. If Putin isn’t waiting any longer then neither am I. But that’s not what I’m railing about. My concern is with the absence of quality as opposed to quantity on American news-talk shows. Specifically, the ability to ask questions leading to conversations that actually mean something. Something that’s pertinent. Something that actually matters and is therefore interesting and will therefore enlighten as opposed to contribute to a continued dumbing down.

Still To Come: The Death Of Traditional Nightly News

What future is there for nightly newscasts on what used to be the “Big 3” over the air networks, when nearly every story they are running each night has been in the daily rotation of more than a half-dozen outlets all day long? If they had something new, something that had not already been reported ad-nauseum, then they would be worth watching. However, generally speaking, they don’t. Generally speaking, both the nets and local broadcast outlets have fallen into the terrible trap of simply repeating stories, hour after hour and day after day as opposed to actually advancing the issues they are trying to cover. And it is boring. Why watch what you’ve already seen three or four times?

None of this is meant to criticize the many hard-working broadcast journalists out there, attempting to deal with budget-slashing, cost-cutting companies, who care more for the overnights than for the quality of their operation’s journalism. I was up close and personal when Tribune passed its torch to Sam Zell. When CBS, ABC and NBC, closed bureau after bureau slashing budgets both at home and overseas. When “merger madness” promoted fewer outlets, cutting choices for viewers and readers as fewer companies gobbled up more and more of the country’s once independent broadcast outlets and newspapers.

Family owned broadcast outlets that took pride in the quality of their operation’s journalism have been replaced by sheer, obvious corporate greed. Capitalism and Journalism are oil and water. It’s the elephant in the room that’s been denied for decades, ever since Bill Paley forced Ed Murrow to take a hike from CBS because his brand of journalism was injurious to Paley’s bottom line.

In a battle between a corporate boardroom and journalism, you can be sure journalism will lose.

I recall Tribune Broadcasting giving us all mousepads emblazoned with the phrase, “The Year of the Customer!” letting us know in no uncertain terms that we were there to “drive shareholder earnings.” A stack of copies of the overnight ratings was left on the assignment desk every morning to remind us how well or how badly we were doing in support not of journalism, but of our sales department

Do you really think Donald Trump would have been elected without the massive free coverage he received from the networks and cable whose ratings shot up every time they put him on the air? And Trump was cheap to cover. Just put a camera in front of him, let him rant on and then recycle the rant over and over again in the next 24-hour news cycle.

Donald Trump was a cost-effective solution for ratings-hungry broadcast outlets. And he knew it.

On the other side, investigative reporting is expensive. What place is there for it in this current corporation owned ratings-mad environment ruled by sales and promotion?

A news director I worked with in Los Angeles, predicted some years ago, that the future of broadcast news would rest with news and opinion shows and not with straight news, specifically because the traditional nightly newscasts have nothing new while the personality driven opinion shows are more interesting as well as being less expensive and easier to produce. Just assemble the usual cast of suspects and let the largely opinion-based talking begin.

With ratings driving everything, we’re getting what we want to watch and not what we need to know as giving an audience both sides and then letting them make up their own minds about how they feel becomes a thing of the past, nothing but a distant memory for those of us with the ability to remember it at all. And it will only get worse, as dollar signs continue to fill the eyes of station owners and network shareholders demanding the promotion of personalities that give you what you want, information that reinforces personal bias instead of challenging viewers to actually think.

France24, Al Jazeera, the BBC and Reuters streaming news are viable alternatives, as they are still covering news with an eye toward what matters with a world view as opposed to cost-effective infotainment to drive up the ratings. Even Comcast owned Sky News, does a far better job of covering the world than the American networks. Undoubtedly, because it’s based in the U.K., making it somewhat off the radar of American marketing madness.

One of the great contradictions for me, was watching superior coverage of the many wars in the Middle East by Al Jazeera, while Americans tuned into what was basically lame coverage by “embedded” (controlled) reporters for the American networks, which simply did not have the people or ability to cover the wars that Al Jazeera had. Most of the American nets had closed their bureaus, mostly eliminating any chance they had to get an insider’s view of what was really happening. It was cost-effective for the networks but bad for the American people, who were being fed news about the irrational backlash against “French Fries” while being short-changed on information from the front lines.

Going forward you can be sure that traditional news sources like the old nets and cable will be watched increasingly by less-educated, lower-income individuals, who care more for their own point of view, while those that can afford it will turn to streaming services offering greater variety and in some cases better journalism that challenges viewers to think rather than simply following an angry non-thinking herd.

The Hype Factory Keeps Crankin’ It Out

I learned via streaming video from Los Angeles that yesterday was “National California Day,” a fact apparently unknown to anyone outside of California, and probably to most inside the state as well. This comes in addition to September 9th being hailed as “California Admission Day,” in celebration of the State’s admission to the Union as the 31st state – something that actually matters but also something, which, I am fairly sure, most of the State’s residents don’t have a clue about.

Will the rest of the states also be given special “days” of recognition? Isn’t Cali already getting enough hype from the entertainment industry? Gotta wonder who dreamed this one up.

The more everything and everybody is proclaimed to be oh so “special,” the less anybody or anything actually is. For California, there is also the down side that the non-stop publicity and image-building have attracted so many people to the State, that its ability to continue delivering anything resembling quality of life is bursting at the seams.

Messing With Texas

For decades, the American Society of Civil Engineers has issued warnings about the terrible state of America’s infrastructure. Just recently, they advised that the nation’s needs are something in excess of two trillion dollars.

Is it possible that what’s happening in Texas is an example of just how bad things really are? Is Texas an exception, or simply the first of many areas to fall apart as our infrastructure continues to crumble under the strain of one weather event or another?

It’s true that Texas attracted much of its own trouble by disengaging from the nation’s power grid and then following a philosophy of deregulation and limited “government interference” in business. And yet that advisory from the civil engineers is by no means limited to Texas, and two-trillion is a very big number.

Gavin, Andrew and Al

First Franken and now Newsom and Cuomo. What a victory it will be for the Republicans if they can take out both Newsom and Cuomo, two of Party’s brightest shining stars. Both are media-friendly personalities, loved by the camera and critically tied to the Party’s future. At least they were. Sadly, like guppies, the Dems are so adept at devouring their own that it’s difficult to know to what degree and whether any one Dem politician is being targeted or is on a path to self-destruction.

It would be nice to see the Democratic Party to begin supporting its own, even if they’ve made some mistakes, as opposed to deriding and destroying careers. Moving forward with an air of self-assurance and strength rather than cowering in fear over one misstep or another. It’s what the Republicans do, and it’s worked for them.

You can be sure that had Franken been a Republican and not a Democrat, he wouldn’t have been treated like a felon, which is pretty much the position the Democratic Party took, steamrolling him into being the “Flat Stanley” of politics, even though Franken’s alleged “transgressions” took place before he had been elected to the Senate.

For many Dems, it appears forgiveness and second chances have become anathema. One wonders how many potentially great party members and future leaders will be scared off by Democratic purity tests. Is the Party at a point where saints only need apply?

Larry King, dead at 87

Got up today to find that Larry King had died at Cedars Sinai after being admitted for Covid-19 earlier this month according to Variety. I didn’t know him well, but like so many thousands of us in broadcasting and entertainment, I did know him and he did have an impact on my career. For no reason I can understand, he did me a huge favor.

The night of February 2, 1992, was a night like any other in Los Angeles (thank you Raymond Chandler). I was working the late shift at KTLA in Hollywood. Many of us were still trying to get our heads around what we had seen just a few months earlier when the station aired George Holliday’s tape of the Rodney King beating. A visual revelation that would eventually lead to the Los Angeles Riots, the biggest civil uprising in U.S. history. All that was still on the way. Along with the murders of Nicolle Brown and Ron Goldman. Things would get very busy very fast.

I walked into the newsroom to be greeted by one of the assignment editors who told me CNN had called. Ross Perot was going to announce his candidacy for president on the Larry King show and Larry wanted to give me the first interview with Perot, following the announcement. She didn’t have to say another word. My photographer and I were out the door and headed for CNN, just a few minutes away on Sunset Boulevard.

We got there to find all the media in L.A., and that was a lot of media, gathered outside the building’s rear entrance. In a move that felt like Moses parting the Red Sea, we walked through the crowd, up the sidewalk and were ushered into the building and to an upstairs hallway where Larry was waiting with his wife. My only other contact with Larry King, had been an occasional conversation in the green room at KTLA, or maybe in the newsroom, so I was absolutely perplexed as he said hello, introduced me to his wife, and then escorted us into the studio where he was about to do his live show. A few minutes later, Ross Perot showed up. Larry called me over and introduced me to Perot, telling the soon-to-be candidate that if it was okay with him, this guy he’d never met from KTLA wanted an interview once the show ended. Perot agreed, and my cameraman and I sat off to the side watching as he made his big announcement. Following the show we went over and got our interview, the very first Perot had done with anyone following his announcement that he was running for President as an independent.

For me, it was kind of a big deal. A real “get.” I must admit my head swelled a little, walking through all those other reporters and into the building ahead of the crowd. Thing is, I still have no idea why broadcasting icon Larry King gave me access to that first interview. Could have been he liked KTLA. Could have been he liked my work. The reason, I suppose, really doesn’t matter. All that matters for me, is that on one night in Hollywood, Larry King did me a huge favor, adding to his reputation as a real mensch. So, when I got up this morning and heard of his death, it hit me. Just like I’m sure it hit thousands of others he knew and had in some way touched during his many years on the air. Larry King, a conversational craftsman who could ask difficult questions without being difficult, was supposed to go on forever.

Thanks, Larry. You were a giant. May you rest in peace. I hope they put your suspenders in the Smithsonian.

Another Troubling Detail Following The Assault On The Capitol

Following the assault on the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times is reporting that “some members of the mob carried weapons and zip-tie handcuffs.” In addition to the relative ease with which the protesters were able to take over the building, their apparent intention to subdue individuals or to take hostages, raises a whole new set of questions.

Photos would appear to indicate this was more than a mob of the usual suspects. It appears there may have been professionals mixed in with the misguided Trumpists wearing horns and hardhats – some carrying fistfulls of zip-ties.

It has been suggested that the incident merits a full investigation by a 9-11 type commission. Considering how close the insurrectionists came to taking things further than then did, that might be a very good idea.

Covid-19 Cure Ignored?

There’s a question about Covid-19 that’s been haunting me for months. A cure, is a cure. A vaccine, is a preventative, which does nothing for those already inflicted with a disease. A cure, however, will cure those already afflicted. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

As of this writing, more than 16-million Americans are ill with Covid. That’s the number who have been tested. The real number is thought to be much higher. They need an effective treatment, a cure, and not a vaccine.

On 12/15/20, the San Jose Mercury News reported that “Covid-19 now kills more than one American every minute.” They needed a cure.

It appears we have a cure but that it was largely ignored in favor of a vaccine, which may or may not work all that well. In fairness, it could work really well, but we won’t know for a matter of months, as there are no long-term studies, just “warp-speed” results. In addition, we can’t be sure how many of us won’t be able to take it because of adverse reactions to the vaccine itself because there have been no long-term trials.

First, what may be a cure for Covid-19. It’s the Regneron Pharmaceuticals antibody “cocktail” that’s been given to Rudy Giuliani. One source calls it “REGN-COV2” a combination of monoclonal antibodies made in a lab. The same “cocktail” that had President Trump back on his feet and ready to go just a few days after being rushed to the hospital via helicopter. He must have been pretty bad for his doctors to call in the chopper rather than risk a 30 minute drive over to Walter Reed, right? And he was up and around a day later? If I get sick, I want what he got. Chances are though, I won’t be able to get it, and neither will you. We aren’t important enough, and there aren’t enough doses available. By one guestimate, there are only about thirty-thousand doses out there even though it appears to be a cure for Covid-19.

Rather than concentrating on the Regeneron “treatment” to cure those already ill, rather than pursuing something that appeared to work really well against Covid, our medical establishment focused instead on a vaccine, which, at the time, did not even exist.

When questioned about why this came to be, during an appearance on “The View,” Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said, “This is an area for a lot of frustration for a lot of us.”

I was stunned at what I was hearing. I’m no doctor, I don’t even know how to give somebody a shot, and yet here was this public health big shot on a national stage agreeing with me. When you’ve got a sure thing, it’s probably a good idea to go after it. We did not. The conspiracy-minded among us might wonder if the government and big pharma hadn’t sunk so much money and publicity into the search for a vaccine that other options were ignored? Big media was also very much on board, with outright promises that a miracle cure was on the way. They were wrong, it was a preventative and not a cure. The potential cure, was being overlooked.

“We should have made millions of doses and we didn’t,” the doctor said. “Now we’re at a point where we just have tens of thousands of doses – for the rest of us, that just isn’t an option,” he added.

In other words, the big guys, like Trump and Giuliani will be treated with it, possibly saving their lives, but there won’t be enough for the rest of us.

Isn’t there still time for the country to go to work on the Regneron Pharmaceuticals cocktail along with the vaccines? If we know it works, and since so much about the vaccines remains unknown, then why isn’t it happening? If I get Covid, I want the same treatment Donald got. I won’t even demand a helicopter. (And thank you Whoopi, for asking the question.)

Just A Political Hiccup

A Facebook friend in France posted a photo that really hit me. It’s a picture of a small group of U.S. ex-pats gathered around an American flag. The thirty or so people didn’t all know one-another, but they were all there for the same purpose. To honor another American, a veteran of WW II. They were all smiling and appeared happy to be there, regardless of their individual political persuasions.

It struck me that the photo is a portrait of the way we used to be, almost Rockwellian in nature, and I wondered if we might ever get back there again? Together in our support of the country, happy and smiling regardless of one political party or another? It led me to wonder if we have been so torn asunder by misinformation, disinformation, greed and anger that we’ll never be able to find our way back home?

I thought about those old sci-fi movies, where the Earth comes under attack by men from Mars, with all us earthlings forced to cast off our differences , coming together for the common purpose of survival of our species. “Is that what it’s going to take?” At that same moment it hit me that we’re already there, with the ongoing threat of Covid-19. However, instead of uniting us in a common goal, Covid has has been turned into a political weapon to separate us even more.

I dunno, this might be the big one, the one we can’t dig ourselves out from under – not when we can’t agree on whether facts are facts or Covid-19 is for real, even while it claims some three-thousand American lives a day. It’s a KGB dream scenario, a national implosion, as a constant stream of disinformation turns reality on its head, causing Americans to distrust one-another to the point that they’re ready to ignore a pandemic and sell out the country to a tyrant who never delivered on a promise to release his taxes while snuggling up to Vladimir Putin at every turn.

Really? Could it get any worse? Well, it does.

With more than one-hundred Republican members of congress signing onto a motion to set the election aside and effectively kill our democracy in favor of a autocrat, you have to wonder. Sure, the Supremes said “no” to the proposal to discard democracy by throwing out our free and fair national election, but millions of Americans, 38% of all Republicans according to one recent poll, continue to believe the election was rigged. Crooked. That the fix was in. And it was, except that they’ve got it backwards. It was Trump and not the Dems who tried to shut down the Post Office, to hamper mail-in voting. The Republicans, in fact, were fairly tripping over themselves in an effort to keep people away from the polls, particularly in areas populated by people of color. Imagine that.

And so I have to wonder, when I see a photo of smiling Americans, united in purpose, regardless of political persuasion. I wonder if we’ll ever get there again? Of if we were ever really all that united to begin with, replacing reconstruction with Jim Crow, leaving the open wound of the Civil War just sitting there to fester. For decades. Until now. The present. With an entire party working to throw out an election because they, the Republicans, the party of white America, the party that weaponized a pandemic for political purposes, lost.

And we still can’t admit that it was mostly about race? How do we get past that?

Millions of Americans who have been duped into believing the election was rigged aren’t going away. The forces that led them to believe that up was down, fact was fiction and fiction was fact, will still be with us. As will unlimited amounts of dark money flowing into our political process thanks to the Supreme Court’s unimaginably bad decision in the infamous “Citizens United” case.

2024 is coming and we are still in trouble. More trouble perhaps, than many of us can, or are willing to recognize. An honest analysis of the past, admitting that it was our forebearers constant striving to live up to the ideals of the founders that made us great, is just too difficult to face.

For those who would destroy our democracy, those who seek to eliminate our self-determination, the election of 2020 was just a temporary setback. Nothing but a political hiccup. History continues to demand eternal vigilance.

Is “President Harris” Even Possible?

After four years of Trump, it’s okay to be a little giddy about the Biden/Harris win. That said, I worry that Kamala Harris, beloved by some on the progressive side of the party, might sink the Democrats in 2024 if the Republicans come up with a moderate like Mitt Romney to run against her.

Joyous as I was to see Joe Biden’s win, marking a return to sanity for our Federal Government, I was equally alarmed that the Dems chose Harris as his running mate. I fear she may be a little too happy, a little too far to the left for a great many moderate and right-of-center Americans. If a woman was mandatory for the ticket, then Susan Rice would have been a better choice. She projects an inner-strength that Harris simply does not have, and she does it on camera, which is all-important. Would Reagan have been elected were it not for his on-camera persona?

So, I’m happy Biden was elected, but feel the Dems blew it with regard to his running mate, who, it is clear, is already being groomed to take over in four years, if she can get elected. I doubt that she can. The possibility of another four years of Trump, makes me shudder.

The Dems need to stop making decisions based upon what would be “just wonderful!” and need to get closer to baseline reality regarding who will be electable in a politically volatile country.

Thanksgiving

I had just turned on the tv and settled into my favorite chair with a cup of coffee to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade when an ear-shattering alarm blasted out of my smartphone. As freaky clowns on roller skates paraded by I read the message, “Public Safety Alert – In PA Covid-19 rates are rising and hospitals could soon be at capacity. Stay home if possible.”

Feels like the Vietnam War all over again, except with a higher fatality rate. Good luck, everybody.

Almost Back

The farther away from Trump we get, the better I feel.

It started yesterday, when the man who would be dictator finally gave the GSA permission to begin the official transition to the Biden Administration, providing an office and financing from the federal government to get it done. I don’t know why Trump finally caved, maybe because of all the Republicans admitting that our Constitutional Republic is worth saving and pressuring him to do so. Maybe the ghost of Washington, paid him a midnight visit. All I know is that for the first time in nearly four years I was able to take a deep breath.

Today, things improved even more, as my wife and I watched Joe Biden introduce his first cabinet picks to the country. The contrast between what we’ve been putting up with for the past four years and the people Biden is bringing in is almost beyond belief, a comparison between a political clown car threatening chaos on a daily basis on one side and a group of qualified professionals who promise intelligence and stability on the other.

I must admit to being moved by what I saw. Watching adults re-enter the room after such a lengthy absence was a somewhat emotional experience. It got to my wife as well. I noticed her wiping away a tear or two. Later, it was gratifying to know that a hard-bitten journalist friend, a former network correspondent, had the same reaction.

I decided to fly our flag, something I do only on special days. Today felt special. It felt like we were really and truly getting our country back.

It felt somehow appropriate that all of this would be followed by Donald Trump pardoning a turkey. The universe finally handing him something he was qualified to do.

Happy Thanksgiving. Wear a mask. It’s been one helluva ride, but we’re almost there. We’ve almost gotten our country back.