Category Archives: Blog

It Isn’t Easy Being A Chimp

While channel surfing the other day I landed on “Planet of the Apes,” that old movie with Charlton Heston, where humankind has finally blown it, resulting in all-out nuclear war, the destruction of humans and the rise of a world ruled by apes.   A world ruled by gorillas and chimps, and that’s what struck me while watching a bit of this film from 1968.

It was the competition between the big heavily-muscled militant gorillas and the smaller but intellectually superior chimps that stood out.

It feels similar to what we are currently going through, with the militant, science hating, healthcare denying, greed loving Republicans standing in opposition to the less aggressive, science loving and healthcare providing…..others.  Mostly Democrats, I guess, but there are others in the non-Republican political mix as well.  That said, I’m sure you get the idea.  The thinkers vs. the non-thinking bemuscled warmongers.   The gorillas vs. the chimps.   That’s not to say everybody with big muscles is stupid.   Some of the smartest people around are body builders, including a professor I had in college, who taught Humanities and rode a Harley.

The whole “apes” thing lines up pretty well with our national love for football, cage fighting, professional wrestling, ice hockey and gut-wrenching violent movies and tv.   Along with the explosion of giant trucks and SUV’s on our highways and big ugly boots and shoes.

Amateur observers and social scientists alike should be interested in the correlation between the Los Angeles riots in 1992 and the relatively sudden appearance of so many big expensive trucks and  SUV’s on our highways.  In Los Angeles, the change, at least for me, was stunning.  Before the riots, expensive sports cars and imports were all over the freeways of SoCal.   After the riots, many of the big Beemers, Mercedes, Rolls, Bentleys, Ferraris, Masaritis,  Jags and the occasional Lamborghini disappeared, and were eventually replaced by Ford Explorers, Expeditions, Chevy Suburbans, Land Rovers and Cadillac Escalades.    It’s said that trends start in the west and move east.   This one definitely did and I can’t believe no one else noticed.  Or maybe California residents were in denial about the change because it reminded them of the helplessness they felt for those few days when whole sections of the nation’s second most populous city were lawless and on fire.

So it was, in this city where “you are what you drive,” people became wary of driving anything that let others know what they had. And two years after the riots, in June of 94, O.J. Simpson left his Bentley in the garage and made his get-away in a white Ford Bronco.

In so many ways, the trials of O.J. Simpson and the Los Angeles riots, changed the country.

People enjoy feeling safe and empowered so they opt for a huge truck with a seven year loan and wear huge boots because they want to look like ass-kickers but there are other reasons for buying an “urban assault vehicle” as well.   Those who don’t care about the vehicular empowerment thing still feel a need to drive a giant vehicle because they’re afraid an ape in a giant vehicle might run them down, squashing their whole family like a bunch of bugs.  So it spirals out of control, leaving us with a nation of gas guzzlers that don’t fit into old fashioned parking spaces or onto highways that were never intended for all the traffic they currently carry while good looking but frail young women, cover themselves with tattoos and piercings while stomping around in giant steel-toed work boots.

Big, ugly and prone to violence is currently more popular than smaller, fashionably designed and peace loving.   Think of a big ugly SUV sitting next to a sleek, stylish sports car.   Think of slapping a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.   Think of apes being in charge while the chimps stand by feeling like they have been taken captive on a runaway train with a drunken ape at the controls.

At what point did war become not just acceptable but fashionable while peace became unthinkable?   When was the last time you heard a politician, any politician, say, “why can’t we give peace a chance?”   Probably back in the 60’s, about the same time “Planet of the Apes” was released.    Well before the twin towers came down and so much of our national courage was displaced by fear.

With all the money being made on big vehicles and warfare, the apes backed by a huge profit motive are clearly now in charge, east coast intellectuals and west coast liberal freaks be damned.   That profit motive may have been at the tip of the spear that struck a serious but non-fatal blow to intellectualism, as our culture began its celebration of ignorance while the mass media aimed low, determined to hit the lowest common denominator resulting in the highest possible profit margin (the two go hand in glove), giving us a ton of really terrible television and juvenile movies laden with special effects while popularizing the campaign of Donald J. Trump, and eventually getting him elected.  Trump drove the ratings, so they put Trump on television.   A lot.

So the apes are now running things in Washington, trying to take away healthcare for millions while they “deconstruct” our government, which was once the envy of the world.   And what about the “chimps?”   Well, they are pushing back, to the degree that they can while they wait for the next election cycle in 2018, hoping for the best.

While visited by the analogy of the apes, I thought also about the Freemasons and religion in general.   I’m not a Mason, but from what I know about their organization, I admire and respect their principles.   Both my grandfathers were Masons, as were the grandfathers of many of my friends while growing up in rural Minnesota.    Most of us, however, never joined.  I’m not sure why,  I suppose we simply never felt compelled, even though their ideals of honesty, a “square deal,” and living an ethically upright life were embedded in many of our adolescent brains.   Which had to be good. But with the passage of time the number of Masons has dropped off,  which surely means their influence on society has declined as well.  Religion, is also waning, to the point that Pope Francis is thinking about letting married men become priests.   I’m not saying church is for everybody, but it does provide a moral compass, and some, like the apes, really, really need the guidance, no matter what the atheists and agnostics might say.   And that’s where things become just a bit confusing.

A Gallup Poll, indicates that with the exception of Utah and its high number of Mormons, the states where Americans still attend church in significant numbers are in the south (former slave states), or red states, while the states where people have stopped attending church are in the northeast, or the blue states.

So the correlation between going to church and expressing a need to be your brother’s keeper, doesn’t seem to be there, does it?   Or perhaps a great many Christians are going to church for the forgiveness and not the responsibility of upholding the teachings?

Donald J. Trump, says he is Christian.   He says he is Presbyterian, while he supports legislation that would strip away healthcare from millions of Americans.   Maybe he missed the New Testament?

Anyway, the data tells us that heavily Christian church-goers, fewer of whom are college educated in the red and former slave states voted for Donald Trump, while the folks who aren’t so big on going to church are mostly packed into the blue states of New England where more residents are college educated and in opposition to trump.

You can and will draw your own conclusions but I’ll leave you with this:  It isn’t easy being a chimp, especially when life not only imitates art, but threatens us with duplication.

Trump Must Go And Republicans Must Take The Lead

It’s all very clear now.    After his Attorney General lied to a congressional committee followed by a fabricated felony leveled against a former president, neither the Donald nor any member of his cabinet has any credibility left, undermining the presidency, the nation and the Republican Party, which, if you’d forgotten, is currently the party in charge.

This is bigger than Obamacare or immigration.   Bigger than the travel ban or who can use which bathroom.  This is baseline national survival stuff.   This president is making things up as he goes along, like facts and even words, and he does it “bigly.”

Our house is on fire people, and we have got to stop being diverted by arguments over whether it’s serious enough to call out the fire department.

As quickly as possible, the Republicans, because they are in charge and unless they want to lose the House in 18 and maybe their party forever, have got to appoint a special prosecutor, who can then subpoena Trump’s tax records.   Trump, with only a fuzzy memory of Watergate, will then declare his taxes to be off-limits by virtue of executive privilege.   From there it will get kicked into the federal court system where the Supremes will eventually deadlock four to four, kicking it back to the lower court and Trump will resign rather than turn over his records showing God knows what.   Whatever it is, he obviously doesn’t want us to see it or he would have turned them over months ago.

Donald J. Trump, will then leave the White House, or maybe have to be sedated and carried out in a straight-jacket, with loud protestations from the Russians, right-wing talk radio, White Nationalist websites and scattered elements in the deep south.

And that will be that.   No more Trump.   No more feeling like we’re all trapped on a runaway train with Vladimir Putin at the controls.  We will be able to sleep peacefully again.

Come on, Republicans.   It won’t be easy, admitting your party did this to the country, but it will be better than doing nothing and maybe losing your party and possibly the nation (and your souls) in the process.   If you do the right thing and have Trump removed by legal means, you will at least be able to say you acted like statesmen and women of the party of Lincoln instead of a bunch of political hacks, which, by any sane thought process, has to be the better alternative.

This President, has signaled out a black reporter at a press conference demanding that she should set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.  This is nuts.   Reporters don’t arrange meetings for the President of the United States.  He has staff people that do that.   I guess Trump assumed that because the reporter was black that she must run around setting up meetings for other blacks because they are all black?  This President has also demanded that Congress must investigate whether former President Obama ordered the wiretapping of his phones in Trump Tower.  This is also crazy.   Totally nuts.   All he has to do is pick up the phone and call the intelligence agencies and ask if they have any evidence that it happened.   He’s the Commander in Chief.  Maybe he doesn’t know?  Or maybe he’s suffering from some pathology?  Maybe he thinks he needs a black reporter to do it for him?

Even now,  Donald Trump appears to be morphing into some kind of bizarre Nixonesque persona,  living within a private reality he molds to suit his moment to moment needs while spotting enemies around every corner and lashing out with tweets.   Like Nixon,  Trump may turn out to be his own worst enemy.

Please get moving now.  There is a bad craziness loose in the land and tomorrow it could be too late.   Thank you.

What Makes Trump Run?

I never imagined I would be more comfortable with Arnold in the White House, but at this point, I would.   I know it can’t happen, but for the majority, what Mr. Schwarzenegger suggested during his verbal battle with Donald Trump about switching places – that Americans would again be able to “sleep peacefully” with Schwarzenegger in the White House – is, I think,  absolutely true.

Consider the government by tweet of Donald J. Trump.   He sees crowds of people who are not there. At the National Prayer Breakfast, he asks attendees to pray for the ratings of a tv show to go up. He calls upon Russia to hack the campaign of a political opponent. He suggests the United States, with its democratic tradition, is no better than the Russian dictatorship of Vladimir Putin. Both before and after the campaign so many of his advisers and associates met with or spoke to the Russians, that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of who they are without a daily scorecard.     Attacking helpless immigrants, he breaks up families while using racism and sexism to divide an already divided country.

For no good reason, other than he has something nefarious to hide, he continues to refuse to release his tax records.  The loss of a Navy Seal he says, during an operation which probably should not have taken place, but which he approved, was not his responsibility.  No, he says, Obama and the military are to blame even though he is now Commander in Chief.  And finally, presenting no evidence at all (and that evidence is surely available to him if it in fact exists) he claims his home was wiretapped by former president Obama.

How much more do you need?

European nations are talking about reinstating a visa system for American citizens, needlessly making travel more difficult for us.  Worried about Trump and the Russians, Sweden, is reinstating its military draft.  Mr. Trump appears determined to do all that he can to separate us from our friends and allies while moving us closer to the devious dictatorship of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Donald J. Trump is screwing up the world, and he’s just getting started.   The fact that our electoral process backed by a ratings-hungry broadcast media allowed and even assisted this man in coming to power, and that our government now hesitates to open a full and independent investigation into Russian meddling in the election and their possible ongoing influence,  is both frightening and embarrassing.

Experts in the fields of psychiatry and psychology have expressed their concern for his personal well being and yet, many on the right continue to put party ahead of country, refusing to admit the obvious –  that when dozens of healthcare professionals, some, nationally prominent,  are willing to set the “Goldwater Rule” aside and expressing their concerns for Mr. Trump’s possible personality issues, then we need to pay attention.

It is no longer enough to follow common thinking on why Donald Trump does what he does, that it is done to simply deflect attention. There is also the possibility that sometimes this newly inaugurated president simply cannot control himself, that he responds rapidly in the heat of the moment, with a driving and possibly blind need for revenge, potentially putting us all at risk.

Trump’s Ties To Russia – Time To Stop Playing Silly Games And Get Some Answers

The amount of overt linkage between the Trump campaign (Administration) and the Russians continues to grow, and yet,  much of the media appears to be in denial about just how threatening this situation truly is.

The Guardian, has published an excellent piece connecting the dots on at least six individuals from inside the Trump camp, with contacts pointing back to the Kremlin.    The most recent, is the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, who had two meetings with the Russian Ambassador, while Sessions was a sitting Senator and “surrogate” for the Trump campaign.   Then there was Paul Manafort, who appeared from out of nowhere to take over the Trump campaign, only to be summarily dismissed when news surfaced of his ties to a Russian-backed government in Ukraine, where Mr. Putin went to war, sending troops into Crimea, seizing it militarily and presenting a whole new military threat to the Balkans and the European Union.

There is also former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, Foreign Policy Adviser, Carter Page and attorney, Michael Cohen, not to mention our new Secretary of State and former CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Putin and Russian oil are now infamous.    A man with no experience in government diplomacy who is now, nevertheless, the chief diplomat for the most powerful nation on earth.

And then there’s Roger Stone.   A former Trump adviser who was also investigated by the FBI for alleged contact with Russia, and who, like Paul Manafort, was fired from the campaign.  Stone,  denies having any contact with the Russians.

If all of that isn’t enough,  a bit of brilliant reportage by Rachel Maddow the other night (please see preceding post) tied in Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to the Bank of Cypress, where he is partners with Russian oligarch and former KGB agent and Putin ally,  Viktor Vekselberg.    Question:   To what degree is the Commerce Secretary of the United States benefiting from Russian money moving through his bank?   Where is the money coming from?Where is it going?  Does anyone even care?   Is our government now being run by the Russians?

Why, whenever he’s asked about Putin and the Russians, does our president act like they are beyond reproach, even going so far as to insist that America, with its democratic tradition, is no better than this current Russian oligarchy/dictatorship?

When questioned by Bill O’Reilly about the bloodthirsty ways with which Putin deals with his critics, Trump,  replied, “There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?” 

That is ridiculous to the point of being asinine and  thoroughly un-American.  We do not deal with journalists or political critics by having them murdered or sent to a gulag.   We aren’t the country that had six diplomats die in four months.   That would be the Russians.

When listening to his repeated excuses and inexplicable ongoing defense of Putin and the Russians, it feels as though either A: Trump is being blackmailed, or he is B: being blackmailed.   Putin and his buddies are former KGB, not a bunch of diplomacy-first advocates for international peace and goodwill, and their operatives have an ongoing and abnormal connection to the administration of Donald J. Trump.

The White House is calling efforts to look into the Trump/Russia connection, “a witch hunt.”    Guess what the Russians are saying it is?  That very same thing, “a witch hunt.”    Almost like it was an agreed to talking point?    What the hell’s going on here?

There should be calls for impeachment.  Instead, Republican cowards continue making excuses for a growing pile of evidence showing a clear danger to the country from one of our oldest enemies, a Russian government that has already launched a cyber attack on our political process while possibly corrupting and to a degree,  maybe even controlling a sitting president.   How can we know,  when Mr. Trump continues his refusal to release his tax records?

It’s time to pull our heads from the sand and demand that our elected officials answer the critical question on the degree to which the Russians have influenced and possibly continue to influence the President of the United States.    It’s not like the evidence isn’t there.

The time for denial is long past.  Barring the political will for impeachment, this calls for a complete and totally independent investigation, far removed from the reach of politics, as so many of our politicians have shown themselves to be without sufficient honor to do the jobs they were elected to do.

The Russian bear is standing in the middle of the room laughing at us, threatening the existence of our democratic way of life.   Foreign powers, like the Russians, now have the ability to funnel untold millions of dollars into our political campaigns thanks to an incredibly bad ruling (Citizens United) by the U.S. Supreme Court. We the people must demand a resolution.   This is not acceptable.

 

Fear, Freedom and Redemption

Friends are expressing their sincere fear for the future of our country. Fear that the freedoms so many have died for and which we have come to take for granted will not be there for their grandchildren.

I too fear for our future as democracy continues losing ground to oligarchy and yet:

I never imagined we’d see an end to the cold war in our lifetimes. Never would have believed there’d be that photo of Reagan, Bush and Gorbachev standing in front of the Statue of Liberty. But it happened.

And now, with questions of Russian inroads and influence holding sway over the White House, and each day bringing new revelations about just how insidious that influence may truly be, I remain far from giving up on our system.

It appears the pushback against 45 is just beginning as we gain a greater understanding of how real the threat to the Republic truly is and that decades of putting party ahead of country must now be unwound and corrected.

A key for me is how Republican stalwart Darrell Issa, suddenly turned from backing all things Republican and is now instead calling for a special prosecutor to investigate 45 and Russian influence. I’m pretty sure he didn’t suddenly reverse his position without assurances that he is not alone.

Survival will always be a prime motivator for politics just as a free press will always be essential to our continued survival as a free people.

So long as we have a free and independent press, there is hope. It is our way out of the morass, a pathway back onto the higher ground that was and continues to be, America.

###

Add:   One day later and now CBS reports that Darrell Issa, is “backtracking” on his call for a special prosecutor.  What a shame.  For a minute there I had mistaken him for a patriot.  Turns out he’s just one more political hack, after all.

Think It Can’t Happen Here? It Already Is.

Remember those old black and white movies from the 40’s and 50’s showing Nazi agents moving through trains in wartime Europe, demanding that passengers “show us your papers?”   I could never imagine anything so terribly authoritarian, so horribly fascist, happening here in the U.S., but now it is.   Border Patrol agents targeted travelers arriving on a flight from San Francisco to JFK Airport in New York, doing exactly the same thing.   “Show us your papers!”

Let’s do that again, just in case you missed something.   Border Patrol agents were demanding to see people’s identification as they got off a domestic, I repeat, a domestic flight.

Seriously?   In America?

At the same time, the man who many suspect is now running the country, white nationalist and Breitbarter, Steve Bannon, tipped his fascist hand at the CPAC meeting in Maryland when he opined that one of the Administration’s “big picture” areas is “continued deconstruction of the administrative state.”   

So Mr. Bannon, is arguing for the “deconstruction” (destruction) of the American Government and its agencies?    Really?    He is arguing for an all out assault on the United States Government?  Can he even do that without being arrested?

He also referred to the press as “the opposition party.”   The Administration took that stand a step further today, when they barred the New York Times, CNN, Buzzfeed,  the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, the BBC and Politico, from attending a press briefing, while Donald Trump argued for some kind of regulation (that would be a law), which would be clearly illegal under the First Amendment, barring the press from using unnamed sources.

What next?  Der Trumpenfuhrer’s subjects raising their hands and shouting “zeig heil?”   It’s going that way you know.   Millions of uninformed Americans still seem to think Donald Trump is a great guy.   Apparently, they’ll believe anything he says.  Anything.   Beyond that, Trump is trying to hedge his bets, just in case a few true believers fall through the cracks.

They started by shutting down (shutting out) the press, except for those one-sided outlets that print the one side that the Trump/Bannon gang favors.   Then they recommend a law that would make it illegal for reporters to quote unnamed sources.  Then they send out agents to walk the aisles of jetliners demanding to see our “papers.”

This is not American.   This is insane.   This has got to stop.

The White House Press Association must be allowed to decide which members of the press corps attend official press briefings,  and those Republicans in Congress who still wish to be considered responsible (honorable) Americans need to support impeachment proceedings, beginning immediately

Don’t think that what happened in Europe in the 30’s can’t happen here, because it already is.

What these guys are doing is so outrageous, so beyond belief, that millions are in denial.   People simply cannot believe what’s really happening, some possibly thinking that eventually the Trump/Bannon gang will turn a corner, becoming more reasonable.   Except that they won’t.   Power corrupts, and these guys are hungry for it.  The more they take, the more they’ll want, until the Constitution has been shredded and liberty becomes nothing more than a fading memory of something we once had, like a good public education, decent, affordable healthcare,  due process and government of, for and by the people.

And we have yet to see this bully’s tax returns or to know the whole story regarding his true relationship to Putin and the Russian oligarchs, while the jackbooted click of Nazi agents moving through the trains in those old movies continues to echo through the years. The fear of facing reality is apparently shutting down much of the opposition, because this just can’t be happening.   Not here in America.  It just can’t.

 

And Now It’s The Swedes?

And now it’s the Swedes?   Those amazing Swedes, putting down a terrorist attack so quickly and quietly, you’d imagine that it never took place.   Which it didn’t.  Except in the mind of Donald Trump, apparently based upon a report he heard on FOX news and then exaggerated for his own purposes while addressing a crowd of rabid supporters who think he’s doing all he can to fulfill his campaign promises to a suffering middle class because to them, fake news is real news and real news is fake.   A condition only made worse by an authoritarian president who declares the media to be “the enemy of the American people.”

Oh my.  Can we talk?

The net migration of human souls into California from Mexico is less than zero.  More folks are leaving than are coming in.   The census takers tell us that a booming birth rate is the only reason California’s population continues to grow.  Been that way for years.   These are facts, not fake news, like the attack in Sweden.

You wanna talk refugees?    Or as Trump calls it, “vetting?”  The average processing time for an application is 18-24 months.    Often times longer for those wanting to come in from Syria.

President Obama, became known as the “deporter-in-chief” for detaining and then deporting millions of undocumented aliens.   Two and one-half million, to be precise.   More than every single president of the 20th Century combined.  He also tightened up our southern border.  Big time.  But those facts wouldn’t win an election for the Donald.  No, he needed to manufacture problems and then find a scapegoat to pin it on, so he went after Mexican immigrants and by association, Mexican-Americans, and pretty much anybody else with brown skin.

God help you should you happen to be Muslim or even Hindi.   A Hindu women with a “bindi” or third eye of divine sight (a little dot) on her forehead was detained by the police here in Maryland a couple of weeks ago for going for a walk in her own neighborhood.    She’s lived here for decades.   Went to high school here.  She’s thoroughly American.  Never had a problem until the Donald began turning anyone with brown skin into the enemy.    There are also reports that incidents of anti-Semitism are rising while it is widely believed that the ban on Muslim immigrants will drive new recruits into the waiting arms of ISIS.

And now, in his latest incongruous outburst, President Donald J. Trump is on stage and in the media freaking out about an attack in Sweden that never happened.  And he’s President of the United States.

Let’s do that one again, he’s President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world.

Well, he had to do something to get elected, didn’t he?    He needed someone to blame.  He needed a scapegoat.  The truth, that the problems of the middle class have been caused largely by automation and the off-shoring of jobs by greed-driven multi-national corporations while the markets boom and 99% of all new income flows to the top 1% wouldn’t have gotten the job done. Too esoteric to get a mob all worked up.   So much easier to go after people who don’t look like “us”.   It worked for screaming authoritarians in the past and now it’s working for Trump.

But now he’s using the Swedes?  What will he say next?   Something that puts the Russian generals on high alert which in turn causes the United States to go to defcon one, making the Cuban missile crisis tame by comparison because Donald is sitting there with his finger on the trigger?   The Russians have already sent out jets to buzz a U.S. warship in the Black Sea and parked a spy ship off the coast of Connecticut.   What’ll be next?   Can we depend upon Russian macho man Vladimir Putin not to to overreact to the Donald’s next outburst?

This is nuts, and it’s getting to be exhausting.

Dear Republicans in the House and Senate.   You wanted power?  Well, you’ve got it.   For God’s sake, begin impeachment proceedings now.   You have got to get this guy out of there before he does any more damage.    He is yours, he is dangerous, and you damn well know it.

Time To Decide Who We Are

Can’t sleep,  not after that bizarre exhibition of public talk therapy at the White House.   This is truly terrifying in that there appears to be a method to the madness.   A grand plan to technique the American people out of their democracy.

Tyrants, seeking to conquer any people, will almost always first try and silence the press.  If they can shut down or otherwise control the public’s sources of information they can more easily control the public.   Control what people think, and you control the people.   This is nothing new.   Read up on how the use of propaganda and outright lies helped to bring about the death of the Weimar Republic.

This is precisely what #45 appears to be trying to do.    Using deflection, he accuses the media of lying to the public, while in truth, he is the liar in chief.   Seeking to deflect what appears to be a real threat to the Republic, the degree to which the Kremlin, or those with a fascist agenda have the ability to influence this current administration and the politics of the nation, #45 insists that leaks to the press are the real issue and that the press is evil for doing its job and reporting the facts.

That’s a lie.   The ties of this administration to Russian leadership and the degree to which Russian leadership is influencing this current administration are the real issues.

#45 is also attempting to limit the ability of the nation’s intelligence agencies to do their job of gathering intelligence.  He has announced the appointment of one of his billionaire friends to head a commission of some sort to investigate whether the country really needs its intelligence apparatus as it currently stands, or whether the U.S. might not be better off with something else.  Something less, presumably.  Something that would be more easily controlled by the executive branch.   Possibly some form of intelligence gathering that would be less curious with regard to Russian influence peddling.

Many of us are troubled, fearing both for our safety and the security of American democracy.   The denial of Republicans who control the House and Senate, and their near treasonous position of support for this current President, only make matters worse as they hide in the shadows, refusing to admit that if #45 can thoroughly discredit the press and reign in the intelligence community, effectively shutting down the nation’s illuminati, he will be that much closer to his apparent goal of establishing fascist control of America, with democracy buried beneath a pile of lies, half-truths and doubletalk.

We can only hope that the intelligence community and  the Fourth Estate will have the steel to push back against this madness,   and that hopefully,  John McCain and Lindsey Graham aren’t the only Republicans left with the courage to put the long-term good of the nation ahead of the temporary political needs of their party.

This President must show us his tax records.  He must commit to putting all his businesses in a blind trust.  This Congress must open a joint investigation into Russian influence peddling, the influence it had on the election and continues to have on the White House.  This needs to be done within a matter of weeks, not months or years, while we wait for Republicans in the House and Senate to act more like patriots than party wonks.   They need to act now to save both their party and possibly the nation.

We cannot go on acting as though this is somehow going to work itself out and everything will eventually be all right.

Following a life in Journalism, I can’t believe I’m sitting here at four in the morning writing this.   With each day we’re farther down the rabbit hole.   God willing, we’ll be able to fight our way through the layers of lies and half-truths, and make it back to the surface.

Support the press.   Support those in the House and Senate with the courage to push back.   Support America.   It’s time to decide who we are.

From Paris To Pasadena – Our New Normal

Two incidents of interest-

In Pasadena, California, a man dressed in black and wearing a black “beanie” throws an “explosive device” into the Cheesecake Factory restaurant on Colorado boulevard.  No one is injured.  Police believe the man is of either Hispanic or Mid Eastern descent.   The attack happens at 6:08 PM on Thursday.

A world away, in Paris, a man shouts “Allahu Akbar” as he attacks a soldier standing guard near the Louvre Museum with a machete.   One soldier is injured.  The attacker, who was not killed, was shot several times.   He was  wearing two backpacks and armed with at least one machete and possibly two.  Media accounts on the number of weapons, differ.  The attack happens on Friday around 10 AM.

Such are the realities of our “new normal”  which, experts tell us,  will require more and not less cooperation between the West and the Middle East.  A new normal which, those educated in the ways of terrorism caution, will be made all the worse by a travel ban on mostly Muslim countries and additional sanctions against Iran, driving recruits into the arms of Al-Qaeda and Isis by creating the appearance of a holy war, potentially giving Osama bin Laden exactly what he wanted.

The Age Of Trump – Sleepless Nights And Troubled Days

Acid stomach and bad dreams are rare conditions for me.   Recently, they have become increasingly common.  They arrived with the age of Trump.

Night before last,  I was awakened by a dream about the Donald.   I couldn’t remember the content of the dream, only his orange face with white raccoon eyes and blond hair helmet.   A character out of a cartoon horror story.   Woke me right up.

Last night everything was peaceful, until one of our smoke detectors decided to sound off for no good reason around five AM.    It’s a new smoke detector, too.  Bought the thing just a year ago.  It’s hard-wired with a battery backup, so it should still be okay, but it’s not.   Now I’ll have to buy another new smoke detector.  I don’t know how, but I’m pretty sure its connected to Trump.  He probably owns stock in the  smoke detector company and has tiny cameras installed in each one with images fed via satellite back to Moscow.

It”s Nixon all over again, except this time we’re the ones suffering from paranoia, wandering the halls and talking to portraits.   Last night I asked one of my long-dead grandparents for some input.   No response.

The smoke detector alone would have been of little consequence.  After pulling it out of the wall, disconnecting the chord, yanking out the battery and verbally sentencing it to the bowels of hell,  I was able to go back to bed and sleep for a few more hours.   The challenge came when I woke up, flipped open my computer and read the headlines.

Trump had managed to  threaten the Iranians over something that might or might not be an infraction against the treaty they signed(with Trump it apparently does not matter), he had hung up on the Prime Minister of Australia, threatened to send the military into Mexico and suggested to those present at the National Prayer Breakfast that they should pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger and his show “The Apprentice,” which continues to suffer from a ratings-slump – with Trump suggesting there was no way Schwarzenegger could compete with him in a ratings race on television.

All of this hit me like a brick, as I was  still trying to recover from Steve “Breitbart” Bannon being given a seat on the Nat’l Security Council (while the Director of Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs were shown the door), George Orwell’s book “1984” zooming to the top of amazon.com’s bestseller list,  two million Brits signing a petition to cancel a state visit to keep der Trumpenfuhrer out of their country and Vladimir Putin’s decision to once again open fire on those poor people in Ukraine,  just after he had talked with Donald on the phone.   The speculation, is that after Donald refused to lift the sanctions against Russia, Putin got PO’d and told his guys along the border to start shooting.    Again.

You have to wonder if they’ll stop shooting when Donald lifts the sanctions giving Exxon the ability to make billions on all that wonderful Russian oil they plan on sucking out of the ground?  Watch for it.

Beyond Putin and the Russians,  I’m not sure Donald understands the whole potential for the unintended consequences thing.   Not sure he realizes who he now is.

The best suggestion thus far on how to  fix this mess came from Mr. Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of California, when he suggested that he and Trump should switch jobs, giving Trump the ability to prove that he can improve the ratings on “The Apprentice” while putting Arnold in the White House would let Americans, once again sleep peacefully through the night without acid stomachs, Trumpian nightmares or a need to worry about being confronted by whack-a-doodle headlines in the morning.

I know Arnold isn’t eligible to be president.  I know he wasn’t native born, and that a great many people have issues with him following his split with Maria and all,  but hey,  let me have my dreams, okay?  With Trump and a spineless hoard of Republicans in the House  and Senate (except for John McCain and Lindsey Graham), they’re all I have left.

Or perhaps, in one final act of Nixonian desperation,  we should all get down on our knees and pray while wondering whether this latest feud between Arnold and DJT is nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to bump up the numbers for “The Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump has woven such a terribly tangled web that it is nearly impossible to harbor any hope.   How can it exist in the absolute absence of trust?

A Return To Chicken Noodle News?

Got up today and turned on CNN,  eager to see what Donald Trump’s latest move might be, whether he is going to build a wall around Miami, or maybe threaten to air-drop the 82nd Airborne into  the strawberry fields of  California while Marines from Pendleton march on Sacramento.

Instead of an informed discussion, I got what sounded like a bunch of children trying to decide what news is,  and why Trump’s paid advocate Steve Bannon might be wrong in stating that “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Really?  On CNN?   Are you guys going back to the early days of being the “Chicken Noodle News?”

I know about this, because several  months before CNN went on the air they offered me an anchor job.   I had just signed a contract with WMAR-TV in Baltimore, so I had to say no to CNN, much to the chagrin of the executive who offered me the job and who yelled at me on the phone for a good long while before hanging up.    Some months later I was happy to have refused the position, as CNN came to be known as the “Chicken Noodle News.”   They were a startup after all, and it took them a while to get their act together.  One wonders if they aren’t slipping back in time.   That’s what occurred to me as I watched this morning, as they debated the value of Steve Bannon’s outrageous and nonsensical banter about the press keeping “its mouth shut.”

One panelist,  Brian Stelter, actually said there are so many different kinds of news out there now (paraphrasing) that for some it’s becoming confusing….   No, there are not.   The fact that Stelter doesn’t understand this and that he’s hosting “Reliable Sources,” may be an indicator of just  how  much trouble broadcast journalism is in.

News, is objective, fact-checked for accuracy and delivered by actual journalists who label opinion and speculation for what they are.   News, really is “A first rough draft of history.”*   Everything else, is either a documentary, entertainment programming or BS.   There is also “Gonzo Journalism” and the “New Journalism” literary movement, but all that is beyond basic,  real , hardcore news.

Oh, and since the panel on CNN didn’t seem to get it,  real news people, are supposed to be locked in an adversarial relationship with politicians.   That’s not something you need to get all mushy and apologetic about, it’s the way things are meant to be.  That’s why the founders included free speech in Amendment Number One.   Intro to Journalism, remember?

Stop trying to be so nice to people who are being paid to hijack the truth for an Administration that revels in misdirection and outright lies.   You should be outraged that  they are treating the press like a bunch of fools, not sitting around discussing whether they might be right, sounding like  you’re making excuses for an attack  on press freedoms – or have we  slipped so far over into “Infotainment” that it will be impossible to salvage what’s left of real news?  Maybe that’s the real question and why there are those who even bother paying lip service to a paid advocate like Steve Bannon?

Oh sure, it’s necessary to report on what Bannon says, but don’t act like it requires a lengthy explanation including an analysis of what’s wrong with “the media.”   That just implies that he might be right.   Come to think of it, maybe he is.   Maybe the old fashioned “press” is dead and gone, except for a few bastions of righteous indignation like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.  Maybe it’s wrong to be upset with CNN and their infotainment noodle soup approach to news, making it more acceptable to their audience and more attractive to advertisers.

In the final analysis it’s all about the money, right?   Who cares about history and getting it right and all that other stuff when the bottom line is at stake?   Then again, you have to wonder.  Is a country in which money trumps truth sustainable?

*Quote attributed to various sources.  The argument over who said it first continues.

Trump Is Crazy – Like A Fox (It’s About The Oil, Stupid)

So much of what Donald Trump says appears to be crazy.   Like his recent nutso assertion that three to five million illegal immigrants voted in the last election.  Total lunacy, right?   Well, perhaps.   It is possible that Donald Trump is delusional and needs immediate psychiatric care.  However, it’s more likely that our new President without portfolio (still waiting on his taxes) is a master of misdirection.

While Trump spewed nonsense about the popular vote and raved about the crowd size at his inauguration, he was also signing executive orders re-starting two pipeline projects and bragging about all the jobs they’ll create while the Senate moves forward rubber stamping his fossil fuel friendly and environment unfriendly, cabinet nominees.

Trump’s tactic, creating a wall of controversy and confusion and then hiding behind it, is not unheard of in business.   If done frequently, then eventually, you no longer care whether the person creating the mess is crazy, evil, oblivious or merely incompetent.   You just want the nonsense to stop.   Donald Trump, has been bringing it to the party on an almost daily basis.

Put another way, it’s  difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball when the pitcher appears to be a lunatic, yammering about building a border wall when a study conducted by PEW in 2012 found that “Net Immigration from Mexico Falls to Zero – and Perhaps Less.”   

In 2015 the Washington Post reported that illegal immigration had hit its lowest level in twenty years.  Imagine that, and with Barack Obama, still  in office.

The truth, is that no border wall is needed unless you are eager to repel thousands of kids, sending them back to their homes in Central and South America, where they will risk being killed by gangs.  The Trumpian hysteria is nothing but a dog whistle, misdirection to distract from the real issues like Donald Trump’s tax returns and his campaign’s cozy relationship with the Russians and his push to ignore environmental issues.

The truth about Rex Tillerson, is that Trump’s new Secretary of State,  the former CEO of Exxon, needs the sanctions against Russia lifted so that Exxon can gain access to its huge investment in the Russian oil fields.

The truth  about Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency,  is that Scott Pruitt, is a “self-described leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” according to factcheck.org.

The truth  is that more than one study has concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t create many permanent jobs at all.    One  study puts the number at just 35.   CBS News puts it at 50 permanent jobs from both the Keystone and the Dakota pipelines.

The claim Trump made about the “thousands” of  jobs the pipeline will create isn’t a lie, it’s misdirection.   It will create thousands of temporary jobs, but far few more meaningful good-paying permanent jobs, which is what the country really needs.

So we the people take all the risk from oil spills and contaminated drinking water while oil companies gain all the profits on a product that will, according to one study,  be sold overseas while driving up the cost of gasoline in the Middle West.

In all likelihood Donald Trump, isn’t crazy.   In all likelihood he’s a master of misdirection.   Whether this new President is thin-skinned and unable to control his responses after being attacked is a different question altogether, and possibly something meriting continued concern.   But what he’s doing, what he says, is in all likelihood, not without calculated purpose.

Did you hear about Trump’s latest assertion, that he will lead the charge to uncover “voter fraud” in America?   No matter that studies have already been done, finding nothing wrong.   No matter that anybody who reads already knows this.   What matters for Trump is that it’s another “dog whistle” issue that will distract from his real purpose.  To put forward a Republican agenda heavily favoring the fossil fuel industry.

It’s all so simple, and yet, what are the cable outlets covering this morning?  Trump’s most recent dog-whistle tactic about “moving ahead” with a “major investigation” into voter fraud.  Even after he won the election?   Come on people, you’re being played for suckers and doing a terrible disservice to your viewers in the process. When will you stop taking the bait?

By the time the common folk figure out what’s going on the damage will have been done and the billionaires will have all that lovely new money stashed away in their offshore accounts.   The environment and our international image be damned.

This isn’t about immigration or crowd size or voter fraud, it’s mostly about big oil.  Again.

Dump The Surrogates, Cut The Crap

This goes beyond Kelly Ann and her “alternative facts.”

There was a time, not so very long ago, when there were  no  so-called “surrogates” espousing biased views on almost every cable network and Sunday morning news show originating in the U.S.   You know they are biased.   You know exactly what they are likely to say, so why bother?

Surrogates are a huge waste of time except for network executives who care more about  ratings than in doling out valid information to an already dazed and confused public.   A hazardous condition made worse by the  presence of surrogates.

The people who own and run the cable shows like the biased blather because it is more exciting than a collegial exchange of valid information.   Excited yammering draws more viewers and gets higher ratings than calm, measured discussion by journalists, scholars and intellectuals, doing their best to be objective in the pursuit of keeping the public informed rather than misinformed.

No so very long ago none of these surrogates would have gotten on the air.  Anywhere.   They would have been regarded for what they are, public relations (pr) people, who are being paid to promote a product.   Not so long ago we would have said, “If all you want is to promote a product, then buy some air time for your ads.”   Not so long ago, if their politician bosses wanted to make a point, they would have been forced to release an official statement or to go on camera themselves and be held accountable at a real press conference,  closed to all but the legitimate press, where they would have been obliged to answer questions from real reporters.

Not so long ago, lies were not tolerated.   If a politician told an obvious lie, he or she would be called out on it.   If they dodged the question again and again, then reporters would back one another up, demanding an answer to the question again and again, until the politician gave an answer that made sense or he or she gave up, leaving the news conference in disgust, cursing the media for being unreasonable for demanding the truth.   It was a sure-fire  way of exposing “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,”  (Thanks to Al Franken).

Mostly, the press doesn’t do that anymore.  Over the years, they have become more akin to Victorian ladies and gentlemen, far too proper and soft to take off the gloves and go after self-serving politicians and  pr-people, leaving us with a confusing toxic soup bubbling over with various ingredients, including but not limited to, pundits, journalists, politicians, surrogates, pr-people, actual experts, scholars, bloggers, Russian-influenced operatives, lobbyists, fake news promoters, aunts, uncles, and friends of friends.

Not that long ago, it would have been unthinkable to hire a former politician or government insider to fill the job of a journalist or news talk show host.   It would have been seen as knowingly poisoning the profession and risking a loss of  public trust.    Difficult to imagine?   Well, that’s the way it was.  Upholding the public trust was paramount, and if not exactly paramount, then at least having enough power to push back with vigor when the  sales department complained about a given news item hurting the ratings and maybe losing an advertiser.

Is it any wonder the public’s respect  for the press is low?    Or, pardon me, it is no longer “the press,” it is now “the media,” and far less dignified than in the 60’s, when we were viewed as watchdogs and the ultimate protectors of the public’s trust.

Not so long ago, accuracy was all important.   You were allowed to get something wrong once.   You would be yelled at, ensuring you understood the serious nature of your infraction, but that would probably be it.  Screw something up two or three times, and you were out.   Fired.   Gone.   Simply put, not worthy of the profession and its intractable need to uphold the public trust through accuracy.

Not that long ago, that’s the way it was.  What we have now, is media soup, and  the misinformation, disinformation, general confusion and lack of respect it spawns.

It will be up to the media to fix this.   Government isn’t likely to try, and if they do, it will be done in a manner that is to their advantage, making it easier for them to avoid the truth.   That is to say,  making it easier for them to lie.

The question then, is how to motivate commercial broadcasters and cable tv outlets to change their greedy ways, putting the public trust above profits.  Therein, lies the rub.

Dumping surrogates and cutting the crap would be a place to start, along with cancelling the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.   Those of us in the press aren’t supposed to be quite that chummy with politicians, advertisers and their lobbyists.  We’re supposed to be adversarial.   Enemies of alternative-facts, not grinning party-goers, accepting whatever blather the politicians and corporate hacks might hand out turning our positions as serious journalists into an evening of good-natured fun with the enemy.

They still need us a whole lot more than we need them.   Something else that’s been forgotten as infotainment and profits have overtaken hard-bitten journalism and the respect that it commands.