Trump Finally Draws Swords With Putin – Or Does He?

On the heels of the Stormy Daniels interview on CBS and the march on Washington to protest a lack of legislation dealing with firearms – but on an even larger scale, a protest against the way this current administration and Republican legislators conduct themselves – Donald Trump, uncharacteristically silent, has suddenly decided to draw swords with Vladimir Putin, kicking Russian diplomats and spies from U.S. soil, possibly a precursor to stronger action.

For months, some have wondered out loud, whether Donald Trump would try and go to war with North Korea or Iran as a diversion against his personal and professional issues at home. This move against Russia, could be that diversion. This will not only divert attention from the march and Stormy Daniels.  The harder Trump pushes against Russia, the more it will pull attention away from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, making it appear less likely that Trump or his people colluded with the Russians.

One wonders how hard Trump will push, whether there could be economic sanctions to follow?   According to the experts, that, and not diplomatic expulsions, is what would really get to Putin and his oligarchs.  However, Putin, should not be expected to sit back and do nothing in response.  He apparently has the ability to shut down at least some of America’s power grid, as well as the power in Ukraine and possibly elsewhere.  Who knows the extent to which the Russians have hacked into other countries systems?   The threat of such a cyber-attack can surely be considered nothing less than an act of terrorism?

Even more interesting for some of us, is the question of whether Trump’s stand might not motivate Putin to release any information he might have been using as leverage (blackmail) against Donald trump.  If there are video tapes, might this not cause Putin to release them to humiliate the American President?   Or might something else be going on here?  With Putin and Donald Trump, who, up until now, has refused to even utter a bad word about the Russian dictator, one never knows.

We do have a few facts to consider.   One, is how brazen the Russians were in launching an attack with a military-grade nerve agent on British soil.    It was as though they wanted the world to know what they were doing.   Another, is that the United States was almost sure to back whatever play the Brits made against the Russians as the U.K. is among America’s oldest and strongest allies.   And finally, we must never forget that Putin is a former KGB officer, and a key player with regard to the deconstruction of what was once a promising Russian democracy which was then usurped by the former KGB network with Vladimir Putin as their new strong man.

It is also possible that the attack in the U.K. was designed to make Putin politically stronger at home, making it appear as though the Russian dictator was forced to take a stand against a renewed attack from the west.

The more the conflict with Russia grows, the more other issues will shrink into insignificance, to the possible advantage of both Putin and Donald Trump.  It’s probably all just coincidence?  A very real problem for loyal Americans is that this current President is without credibility, so we have no way of knowing one way or the other.

It’s difficult to imagine Vladimir Putin would invite this much trouble internationally unless he’s in far greater political trouble at home than any of us understands.

Whatever is going on behind the political curtain, kicking a few diplomats from the country is no big thing.  We’ll see if it’s just a little dust-up to divert attention from the march, the Mueller investigation and DJT’s issues with women, or whether Trump is serious and takes it further with meaningful economic sanctions.

While this is an equation filled with unknowns, it can be said with some certainty that intentional or not, Putin and the Russians have just handed Trump and the Republicans a huge diversionary gift.

Threats Of A Presidential Slugfest?

While our politicos debate what should be done about kids slaughtering other kids in our schools with assault weapons, we now have a former Vice President and our current President threatening each other with assault.   They’re talking about taking it out behind the barn and slugging it out.  Wonderful.

Bad enough we have to juggle Donald’s illicit love affairs with his love for Putin.   Now he’s talking about taking it out behind the barn.

Out in the real world, boy wonder, 33 year-old Mark Zuckerberg, doesn’t seem to grasp the enormity of his website providing more than half of America with their news.  Think about that.  More than half of Americans 50 or older,  presumably think that what they are reading on Facebook, is news.  That it’s valid.

During an interview with “Wired,” regarding Facebook’s information sharing issues, Zuckerberg said, “The good news here is that the big actions that we needed to take to prevent this from happening today we took three or four years ago. But had we taken them five or six years ago, we wouldn’t be here right now.”   

What?  Where?  Who?  And this guy’s in charge of America’s most potent opinion forming platform?

Pew Research reports, “For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans ages 50 or older report getting news on social media sites.”   Click here, to read the report, “News Across Social Media Platforms in 2017.”

While the pundits prattle on about Stormy Daniels and Joe Biden dreams to taking Trump out behind the gym (although Trump prefers “the barn”), the nation’s business is left undone – except for anything the Republicans can quietly pull off behind the huge political smokescreen that’s covering the nation’s capitol.

It’s at once both frightening and fatiguing.   Feels like we could crash at any minute with the Republican Party at the wheel, as an uncontrolled Internet provides all the bogus and biased news either side cares to consume, some of it coming from Russian bot farms while Donald praises Vladimir Putin on his “electoral” win.

Where have all the adults gone?    Is John McCain the last sane Republican standing?  How is it even possible that this current batch of Republicans is so totally devoid of conscience and shame that they risk throwing over the country for a pot of gold?  Can this even be happening?

Don’t be fooled.  There is a difference between the two parties.  Vote for Democrats in November.  Throw these Republican bums out.

And to those who have recently charged me with being something less than a journalist because I state opinions, please try and understand that this is what I do.   As it states on the front page of my website, what you are getting here is “news and opinion.”   The difference between me and those other guys, is that I tell you up front that I’m writing opinion pieces.   If you don’t like what you see here, then please feel free to stay away.

The Failure Of Thoughts And Prayers

Another school shooting.  This one was here in Maryland, down in St. Mary’s County, and again we have public officials sending out “thoughts and prayers.”

I don’t begrudge anyone their desire to pray about something, but isn’t too little attention being given to the central question of why these kids are taking guns to school?   Are they all hearing voices or is the answer more complex and maybe having to do with an acceptance of violence by our society coupled with a rejection of attributes like kindness and peace with the need for health care and education being replaced by dog-eat-dog capitalism at home and expanding militarism overseas?

Maybe these kids see adults not giving a damn about one another and they’re following suit?   Their condition amplified by violent video games, tv and movies?  Could it be that being raised on a steady diet of visual violence is causing some young people to act it out?

It could be that this isn’t just about gun control or any other single issue – although the question of why any American civilian needs a military-grade assault weapon is certainly valid and needs to be hashed out.   Beyond that, it could be this requires a broader look at our cultural phenomenon of wanting to kill one-another in near record numbers.

You’d probably have to go back to the the mob wars in Chicago in the 30’s, or maybe even the Civil War,  to find this many Americans blowing one another away on a regular basis over a prolonged period of time.  Think about Florida and Las Vegas and Sandy Hook and all the others.  It’s slaughter.  But we seem to have no clear idea as to why.   Isn’t that the central question?   Don’t we need to identify the cause before setting out to cure the illness?

Thoughts and prayers clearly aren’t working.   Talking about what a great job the lone cop in the school in Maryland did, and whether we should have cops in some schools while training and arming teachers in others is not the discussion we should be having.    Common sense tells any sentient being that introducing more weapons into a society that’s already armed to the teeth is not a reasonable response to the problem of people shooting one another.

Those leaders left standing who can get beyond their personal political aggrandizement, should be putting together a panel of the nation’s top mental health professionals to figure this out.   To prepare a report based upon the best science available, so that we can all have a little more information going forward.   Something more than thoughts and prayers or the latest position from NRA-funded politicians.   Something that might point to an actual solution.

Until then, please be encouraged to keep praying.    You may be all we’ve got.


Fight Back Against Fake News Hacks

With much of the press getting an increasingly bad rap, there continue to be thousands of outstanding journalists in print, broadcast and online.   Feeling a need to do something to help support real journalism, I recently became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.  I should have done this long ago.

More than ever, Journalism, needs our help.  Please read the SPJ’s code of ethics and consider joining the organization, even if you’re a student, a retiree, or simply want to show your support with an associate membership.   Beyond that, you might consider making a donation to the SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund.  They also have the option of a newsroom membership, giving news outlets an opportunity to show the world exactly how they feel about doing news the way it needs to be done, preserving proper standards as platforms continue to merge and evolve into new and sometimes confusing formats.

Fight back against those who would harm our profession and threaten free speech.   Take a stand to educate, enlighten and preserve what we have.  Join the SPJ.



The Biggest Story They Aren’t Telling You

I got up today expecting all the pundits to be buzzing about last night’s news in the New York Times, informing the nation that the Russians can now hack into our power grid at will, shutting at least some of it down, should they feel politically motivated to do so.   So far, not a word.  Just crickets.  MSNBC was talking about Stormy Daniels and the Miami bridge collapse, but nothing about what appeared to be a blockbuster story in the Times, America’s newspaper of record.

Maybe it’s just me?  Maybe I don’t get it anymore, thinking the fact that the Russians hacked our election in 2016 and can now turn off our nuclear power plants at will while our alleged president refuses to utter a bad word about Vladimir Putin just isn’t that much of a story?

It’s not like the Russian hacking story is a rumor.  It’s coming directly from the FBI and Homeland Security.  I dunno, maybe some of the folks inside those two agencies felt a need to take what was happening to the Times, because they have no confidence that the White House will act in America’s best interest?  Shouldn’t the networks, CNN, MSNBC and the rest, be all over this?    And where in the world is our do-nothing Republican controlled Congress?

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just don’t get it.  If they hacked our election and now our power system, then we should be on a war footing, shouldn’t we?   Or maybe that’s what the Russians really want, a declaration that there is a “clear and present danger,” so that Trump can set aside at least portions of the Constitution?

I admit to being a little paranoid right now.   Feeling otherwise wouldn’t be normal.   Whoa, gotta go now.   CNN has another big breaking story about Stormy Daniels.    I guess maybe they don’t read the paper.

Okay, MSNBC just got to it, 22 minutes into the hour.   They gave it a couple of minutes and then moved on to something else.

Waiting For Donald’s Big Parade

It’s getting scarier and scarier out there.  Or as our regressively  evolving jargon might have it, “more scary.”   Illiteracy in America.  It’s a terrible thing.  Did you know that eighty-five percent of all the kids who get into trouble and subsequently come into contact with the courts are functionally illiterate?  Here in America?

Yesterday, our fearless leader was at a Marine Corps Air Station in California, talking about the need for a “Space Force,” because in the near future, our Air Force, presumably won’t be enough.  “My God, he’s been watching ‘Battlestar Gallactica’ again” I thought as beads of sweat formed on my forehead while pouring a big glass of Chardonnay to help kill the pain of contemporary living.

I needed it, as today I awoke to find the fat man had issued a tweet, talking about the Marine “Core.”  Maybe it was a Russian bot?  One can only hope.  Pretty sure it was the fat man though and not his buddy Putin who’s being charged with spreading a military-grade nerve agent on the streets of the UK, putting three people including a police officer in the hospital, all in critical condition.

But hey, fourteen suspicious deaths are now being investigated for possible links to Russian assassins in the UK, so this most recent nerve agent murder spree was probably just Vlad out doing his thing as a warning to anyone who might be thinking of betraying Mother Russia.   That’s what some of the pundits think.

They also warn that it could happen here on U.S soil, where we’re busy enough killing ourselves and our kids with military grade assault weapons available over-the-counter at your local gun store,  with full-auto conversion kits available at some gun shows.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds in the U.S. annually with no help at all from Russian assassins.   That number is thirteen-hundred.  Each year.  Shot dead.   With or without “bump stocks.”

If all of that isn’t enough to scare you into never again leaving home, the networks are now warning about Russia’s increased activity in submarine warfare up in the Arctic.    Remember “The Hunt for Red October,” with Sean Connery?  That kind of thing.  Only this is apparently real.   Scary, huh?   Doesn’t it feel at times like somebody might be trying to make things even scarier than they really are?

In light of these terrible threats,  our fearless leader was out speaking to an audience of military personnel, promising them a pay raise just to guarantee applause.   He was presumably at a military installation because most of the country no longer wants to have anything to do with him or his peculiar brand of madness as he fires his Secretary of State just before breaking an agreement with one country over the possible development of nuclear weapons and works to establish ties with another rouge nation over…..ah…..that exact same thing.

It feels like one of those old Daffy Duck cartoons, where Daffy is out of control, bouncing off the walls and yelling, “Woo woo!  Woo woo!  Woo woo!”   Except this isn’t Daffy Duck, this is our very own fearless leader.   And now he’s talking about a new war in space, a war that so far is taking place only in that bizarre space inside his head while he waits for his upcoming military parade.

Who can you think of that uses irrational fear to promote unlimited military growth at the cost of more civilized behavior, like putting money into education, affordable healthcare and care for the nation’s very young and very old?   Where in the world do autocratic leaders demand military parades serving no purpose but to make the autocrats look powerful while their pitiful powerless subjects are forced to ignore how little they actually have?   Where does that happen?

It happened in Germany and Italy in the 1930’s.  It’s happening now in places like Russia, North Korea and anywhere else Democracy has been snuffed out by the kind of authoritarian madness our very own fearless leader appears to admire, as he awaits his own big fat military parade through the streets of our nation’s capitol paid for by millions of our tax dollars.

“Woo woo!  Woo woo! Woo woo!” everybody, and fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.


The Millennial’s Revenge – Power At The Polls

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump won the last election by 80,000 votes in three states.    Stack that up against the 3.6 million kids who will graduate from high school and become eligible voters in 2018.

All those MIllenials out marching today may be able to put a big dent in the NRA’s plans.    All they need to do is remember who failed to support gun control legislation and then vote them out of office.

If 3.6 million new voters can’t get it done, then all they need to do is wait a year and let their numbers grow to something over 7 million. Or wait for two years and send 10 million to the polls in a giant Millennial wave.

Wait for it.  Hopefully, it’s coming, as they continue to realize their potential for political power.    The future is in their hands, but only if they can stay focused as a group long enough to grab it.

Trump Fires Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, is out as Secretary of State, reportedly learning he had been dismissed from a tweet by President Trump, who said he had fired Tillerson, because, “We were not really thinking the same.”  The President is moving over Mike Pompeo from CIA to be the new Secretary of State, presumably because he will be more agreeable.

Tillerson, committed an unforgivable sin,  reportedly calling Donald Trump a “moron.”   Some would say his only infraction was telling the truth.   I was never a fan of Tillerson, or his big oil background, but in this Administration he was like a shining beacon of principled behavior and stability.   One of a few individuals in Trump’s orbit who added a bit of credibility to an otherwise incredible and often times frightening  situation.    Recently, for example,  speaking in Moon Township, PA, where a crowd of his supporters cheered him on,  Trump belittled the Office of the President of the United States.    Think about it.

With this president we should expect anything, and on a daily basis, as he seems to confuse dissent with disloyalty.   It would appear that anyone who disagrees with DJT will be on the way out.  With the Brits just announcing that the Russians appear to be responsible for a military-grade nerve agent attack on British soil that put a police officer in the hospital and a possible meeting with North Korea just weeks away, this continues to be a very dangerous political stew.  With Tillerson gone, possibly even more dangerous than before.

It is at least, interesting, that one of Tillerson’s last acts at State, was blaming Russia for the nerve agent attack in the U.K.  Something President Trump has thus far refused to do, as he refuses to say nearly anything derogatory about the dictatorship of Russian Godfather Vladimir Putin and his gang of oligarchs.

Republicans, showing themselves to be self-serving cowards, continue putting party before country,  exhibiting little or no opposition to Donald J. Trump irrespective of his obvious distaste for democracy,  love of autocracy and potentially dangerous action or inaction on any given issue.  With Republican leadership acting in a fashion that brushes up against treason, the nation’s only hope appears to be a blue wave washing over the polls in November.  Hopefully, DJT won’t have the country embroiled in another war  before we’ve all been given an opportunity to register our disgust, fear and  fatigue.

A Presidents’ Day Message

Thinking of those presidents and others, who put on uniforms and fought or died for our freedoms as opposed to so many current politicians who talk the talk while being concerned only for their own petty self-interest.

While our Russian-lover in chief, Donald Trump, apparently lacks the ability to feel shame, Republicans in the House and Senate should be held accountable for their shameful inaction on behalf of the nation they are supposed to serve. We can all remember this and throw the bums out in November, or suffer the consequences, one of which could very well be the end of our constitutional democracy.

I am a member of a Gold Star Family. I had friends who came back from Vietnam in body bags. I stood on the tarmac and watched our troops board planes bound for Afghanistan. I do not take any of this lightly. This current Republican Party threatens our continued existence as a free people. November will soon be here. God bless America. THROW THE BUMS OUT!

Dear Mr. Gates, What About Us?

Bill Gates just put in an appearance on CNN. While listening to Fareed Zakaria talk about the billions Bill Gates’ foundation pumps into causes overseas, I wondered if Mr. Gates has any awareness of the educational needs of inner-city kids in Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore.

I wonder if he knows that schools were closed this winter in the Baltimore area because the heating systems were old and couldn’t keep the classrooms warm or the critical need for multi-lingual teachers in Los Angeles or that during the first weekend of this year four people were killed and fifteen others wounded on the streets of Chicago? I wonder if he understands the role education, extra-curricular activities and paying teachers a living wage all play in keeping our big cities healthy and the country moving forward?

Gates said that $3 billion* was a small percentage of his foundation’s budget. I wonder what the Baltimore city schools could do with just a couple of billion dollars? Keep the heat turned on possibly and maybe give their teachers a raise while funneling a couple of million into sports and the arts to help keep kids off the streets?

The old phrase about charity beginning at home popped into my head.

*He may have said $30 billion.  He throws big numbers around so casually, that it’s sometimes difficult to relate.

The Age Of Trump – One Diversionary Dust-up After Another

Now that the great memo crisis is over, or nearly so, the politicians and the pundits have moved on to Rob Portman.   What Gen. Kelly knew and when he knew it.   Once that runs out, in a couple of weeks, maybe three, there will be some new Trump generated tempest to take the focus off of the real problem, which is money.

The great disparity of income between the wealthy and nearly everyone else in the U.S., as the oligarchs tighten their grip on power,  and the absence of anything resembling a reasonable limit on campaign financing which is the only way to regulate the runaway greed that currently has the nation by its throat.

It no longer matters if this current president does what he does intentionally or whether he’s a burrito short of a full combo-plate.  Either way, the effect is the same.  We are all his victims with the nearly full support of the Republican Party.   Most of those who don’t support the Donald, have decided to jump ship and not take another run at office.   There are 34 Republicans leaving the House and Corker, Flake and Hatch in the Senate.  It’s that bad.

Urge your friends to vote for Democrats and Democrats only in 2018.  Please.  The Dem Party is far from perfect.   I was no fan of Hillary Clinton, and was nearly made ill by the DNC debacle, but they are still far better for the country than this current Republican Party,  which will be noted by history for its extreme negligence.

There could be a third party somewhere in the future but for now our house is on fire and the Democrats are the only party in sight with the potential for putting it out.   Regardless of what any White House generated memo might say.


Musk’s Convertible – Just One More Piece Of Space Junk?

The convertible Elon Musk launched from the Cape is just one more piece of space junk, and at what cost?   By one estimate, it was around $90 million.  What could have been done with all that money Musk threw away for the ego-boosting publicity stunt of putting his car in space?  He might have given it to the Democrats as they scramble to try and re-take the House and Senate from someone of questionable stability who currently holds the reigns of national power and is planning a big military parade in his honor.   Similar to the parades that take place in North Korea and Moscow, with all those big rockets and tanks rumbling through the streets.   All those troops forced to salute our fearless leader as they march by.  Not that the struggle for the preservation of American Democracy matters more than a shiny new electric convertible floating around in space with a dummy at the wheel.   Have you seen the photos?  It’s so very cool, isn’t it?  Almost as inspirational as our first moon shot with Apollo 11 in 1969?  Remember that one?  Men on the Moon?  Remember?  Did you know we’ve been there?

Under NASA, we would go to the Moon six times between 1969 and 1972.  I’m old enough to remember, so you’ll have to forgive me if I don’t get too jazzed about someone shooting a car with a dummy in it into space.  We seem to forget things, like our moon missions,  and make the same mistakes over and over again.  Like Vietnam and Afghanistan.  And abandoning the X-15.

In 1962, we had the X-15 rocket plane taking us into space and then back again, and it was reusable. An aircraft that could be launched from the wing of a bomber, flying off into space and then coming back to Earth to land.  It was a kind of mini Space Shuttle, but without the need for all the giant boosters and hoopla attached to the Shuttle program.   A reusable space plane.  And this was in 1962.  And it was piloted by a human being, not a dummy.

Before it was over, eight American pilots would qualify as astronauts, piloting the X-15 above the 50 mile limit and into space. Why was the program abandoned for an Elon Musk-like rocket to shoot a monkey into space?  Because Congress freaked out when the Russians put Sputnik in orbit.   A small satellite that for the most part did nothing but transmit a beeping sound.   However, the Russians had beaten us into space.  The race was on and the X-15 forgotten, except for Tom Wolfe who memorialized the program with his book “The Right Stuff.”

Then there’s the thrust thing.   Think of it as the oomph needed to get something beyond the Earth’s gravity and on its way to Mars, or wherever.  Elon Musk’s “Falcon Heavy,” develops 5.1 million pounds of thrust.    The Saturn V, which we abandoned in 1973, was capable of 7.6 million pounds.   The Space Launch System, currently under development by NASA, comes in at 9.2 million pounds.   So there’s that, too.  But let’s get back to where we were before we started putting convertibles up there.

Our first real reusable X-15 space plane that had taken years to develop was abandoned in favor of a rocket with a monkey on board. Eventually we got back to a principle somewhat similar to the X-15 with the Space Shuttle. That too has now been abandoned in favor of putting a convertible in space.  I may be missing something, but it feels like Groundhog Day all over again.

Then again, anything is possible.  It is possible, for example, that the convertible will serve as the inspiration for putting humans on Mars.  For taking us where no one has gone before.  If so, my profound apologies to Mr. Musk.  For now however, using history and tradition as my base, I remain a skeptic, and wonder where we are headed as a people when private funding and not a democratically elected government appears to be the principle force driving our future.

Forget Voyager.   Our first contact could now happen on one fateful day when a spacecraft full of ET’s from another galaxy runs into a Tesla convertible with a dummy at the wheel.

Forget The Stupid Memo – It’s The Russians!

It’s all about that damn stupid GOP memo.   Something the White House put together to be delivered by presidential water carrier, Devin Nunes.   Nunes, should be booted to the curb from his job of Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, because of his obvious, overt and continuing bias for Donald Trump.  The Committee Nunes chairs, is supposed to look out for our best interest, not Donald Trump’s.   But it’s the memo that’s really getting to me, and the way the mainstream media has been thoroughly sucked in by it.

When I went to bed they were talking about the memo.  What might be in the memo.  What might not be in the memo.  What might have been redacted from the memo.  When Trump would release the memo, or maybe not release the memo.   Memo, memo, memo, whose got the memo now….   Blah, blah, blah…..   When I got up this morning, they were still on it.  An endless loop of memo blather.

The memo, is probably nothing.  It’s a memo for God’s sake, not a formula for rocket fuel that was stolen by the Russians or proof that the Trump family has been purchased by Russian money over the past ten years so completely that this current president has no choice whatsoever but to abide by whatever Vladimir Putin wants, like failing to enforce sanctions approved by a majority, with only five no votes in the House and Senate.  Nothing like that.  No, it’s just a stupid memo.  In all likelihood, nothing but blather made up out of whole cloth by those in the Administration who would condemn the FBI and other American intelligence agencies while sneaking in the top three Russian spymasters for clandestine meetings with Trump appointees on U.S. soil.   One, who had been barred from entering the United States because of his involvement in the attack on the Ukraine and subsequent invasion and capture of Crimea.

What?  Seriously?  Yes, according to Reuters and confirmed by others, that’s exactly what happened.  The Trumpists brought in Russia’s spymasters.  Probably to talk about how best to make those nasty sanctions go away, but there could have been more.   Maybe they’ve come up with some way to set up that “back door” secure communications channel to the Kremlin via the Russian embassy, Jared Kushner  discussed with the Russian ambassador during the transition?   Why would Trump need a secure channel to Moscow?   What is it he needs to hide?

That’s the point.  The Russians.  Everything with this administration always seems to come back to the Russians.   Even this current obsession with condemning the American intelligence establishment while seemingly trying to promote Russia’s ability to further infiltrate and influence the American political process.

It’s the Russians.   It’s the spymasters secret visit to the U.S. at the apparent invitation of the Trumpists.   It’s the way this administration favors Russia over the United States.  That’s  what the media needs to focus on, not this stupid memo and the diversion it has caused.

While doing all he could to undermine the credibility of the FBI, Donald Trump was waving in Boris and Natahsa through the rose garden doors.  Even now some covert think tank in Moscow is probably working on a cover story for the Russian spymaster’s trip to the U.S.  Something along the lines of their being here to discuss peace in Syria or a joint response to North Korea or a continued response to the Taliban or a cost saving plan to pull U.S. troops away from the Russian border.   Don’t be fooled.

Over the past couple of days I’ve had more than one conversation about the “memo” as a diversion.   More than once I have used the analogy that good reporters should be like hungry watchdogs.  Oh, the watchdogs are out there all right, but most have forgotten or never learned how to identify a bone, so when one is thrown their way they miss it altogether or are diverted.   A situation made all the more difficult by a president who keeps throwing giant bags of kibble into the air.

Which brings us to one last point.  Do you think Donald Trump is crafty enough to come up with all this stuff?  Diversion after diversion leading to an all-out attack on the FBI while refusing to enforce sanctions against the Russians, at a time when the FBI is investigating Russian interference in U.S. elections?   Do you?

Fast forward to a dimly lit room deep within the Kremlin.   A half-dozen men in dark suits drain bottles of the finest vodka while congratulating themselves, holding their sides they emit howls of laughter at how easily the stupid Americans can be deceived, controlled and contained as one by one  America’s long-standing institutions continue to weaken.

Beware The Game Of Golf: There’s No Telling What It Might Do To You

Photo courtesty of Chuck Koshiol*

One of the funniest lines in the movie Caddyshack, is when the head greenskeeper, Sandy, tells Bill Murray in a thick Scottish Brogue to go out and kill all the gophers on the golf course.   Because of the accent, Murray thinks he’s being told to go out and kill all the golfers, to which he replies, “Check me if I’m wrong Sandy, but if I kill all the golfers, they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key.”

Funny stuff.  Takes me back to 1958 and the “Lil Pros” in my hometown of Paynesville, Minnesota.    There were a  lot of gophers around, which is why I continue to suffer from severe Caddyshack  flashbacks.

My buddy Chuck Koshiol and I were ten at the time.  We had to be two of the youngest players on the local circuit.   Since nearly all our competition was older, we had little chance of winning anything.  The league’s organizer, Ruth Yamamoto, apparently realized this, and handed out little trophies to nearly everybody, even though we were less than adequate at the game.

Our golf course back in those days, Koronis Hills,  was nine glorious holes sitting on the edge of a woods that ran for several miles to the south, all the way to the shores of Lake Koronis.   I was told, and have no reason not to believe it, that my grandfather, Herb Stinton,  a depot agent for the Soo Line Railroad, was one of the town fathers that designed and then oversaw construction of the original course years before I came along.   That was both good and bad.  Good, because it made me feel connected to the land, giving me a sense of place.   Bad, because when I decided to start golfing, my parents thought it might not last, so why spend all that money on a bag and golf clubs for a little kid when my grandfather had a perfectly good bag of clubs he had stashed away in his garage decades before?  What clubs they were.

The head of the driver was falling off.  I stuck it back onto its wood shaft with some black electrician’s tape.  In addition to being embarrassingly unsightly, with hunks of tape hanging from the club, this made for certain difficulties on my drives, as the head would sometimes fly off the club, zooming down the fairway,  endangering flying birds and errant gophers, the club head occasionally outdistancing the ball by ten to twenty yards.

Oh, the humiliation.  That was another problem.   Just a bunch of little kids, but we took it all so seriously.  Even with the sand greens.  They weren’t green, actually.  They were heavily oiled sand.  So they were brown.  Brown greens.  When you putted, your ball left a trail in the sandy surface so you could see just how pathetic your aim truly was, providing “line in the sand” proof of what a miserable golfer you truly were.  Beware the brown greens.

After several players had “putted out,” there were ball marks and trails and shoeprints all over the place, so you or one of your fellow players had to pick up a big rake and rake the green, using a circular motion and starting from the inside moving out so that the surface would be smooth for the next group of golfers who came along to play in the oily sand – if they made it past the sand traps protecting the “green.”   In fairness, the traps were loose sand, so they gave you a lot more trouble than the greens did,  as they were a harder surface due to all the oil.  Either way, there was plenty of trouble to go around.

So there we were, me and my friend Chuck, who was even shorter than I was at that point in our short lives, with all those older players towering above us.   And me dealing with the humiliation of wondering whether my driver would fly apart on the next tee.  I don’t know precisely how Chuck felt about it all, but he recently admitted that he played golf for just that one summer and never looked back.   I wasn’t that smart.   I stuck it out and wondered what was wrong as I kept getting hammered by those older players in our little group of “Lil Pros.”

I did eventually give up on the driver and move to my three-wood to tee off.   Chances were I’d hit the ball just as far and there was no concern about the club head flying off and maybe killing somebody.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Chuck had an even bigger problem.  He was a lefty, playing with right-handed clubs he had inherited from either his grandfather or his grandmother.   He can’t remember which, just that he was a lefty with right-handed clubs.  It’s no wonder he soured on the game.

Finally, after several years with Herbie’s old clubs, my folks went way out on a limb and bought me a whole new set.   This helped, but not as much as you might suppose.   I had been so brainwashed by playing with guys who were a foot taller and a couple of years older that there was no saving my game.   I was doomed to be a duffer.  Or so I thought, until I got to Baltimore and then California.

After the early 70’s, I didn’t pick up another club until moving to Maryland in 1982.   For reasons I can’t explain, I missed the game.   I bought a set of clubs at the Pine Ridge pro shop and started playing again regularly with my friend and colleague from WMAR-TV, Scott Garceau.   Part of my motivation for getting back in the game was that I needed a diversion from the rigors of doing tv news for a living.   And so I was back.  Not a great golfer, but a fair one, I think, shooting in the low eighties usually, which is not great but respectable.

I got better as I recalled the advice of one of my buddies from “Lil Pro” days, Bill Haines.  One of his relatives was a golf pro or semi-pro, or something such,  who had told him to spend more time at the range,  hitting a couple of buckets of balls on those days when he wasn’t playing a full round of golf and to hit a bucket of balls as a warm up prior to a regular game.   It was advice I remembered, and it worked.   Funny how some things stay with you.

In the 80’s, I got to California and decided to take the game seriously again, playing 18 to 36 holes a week and going out to the range on those days when I wasn’t playing a full round of golf.    My golf buddies, Jerry and Bob, were both good golfers, which caused me to focus.   And so it was, that I became a scratch golfer – provided the course was at least mildly forgiving.  I was shooting par or breaking it, every time I went out.   I was able to do it at will.  But I really had to try.   Like I said, this was now serious business.

I had conquered my shortcomings from the 1950’s, overcoming whatever demons were still there,  lurking in my psyche.   I had dragged those little bastards out and beaten them to death with  my three wood, courtesy of Slammin’ Sammy Snead and personal lessons from Jack Nicklaus on his “Golf My Way” video tape.   I had done what I had set out to do.   There was no more to it, and so, once again, I gave up the game.  For the third time.

And now my clubs sit in the basement, unused, unloved and under appreciated.  Recently I thought I might take up the game again, but then thought twice.  My personality is such that I need to do my best at whatever I do, and golf, if you wish to play it well, is simply too much work.   Anyway, my Spaulding clubs are so old that I still have woods that are actually made out of wood.   Imagine that?   Woods made from wood?  But I hit them well, so why would I buy a whole new set of clubs when what I have works just fine?   I could, I suppose, buy one of those new giant headed metal drivers, so as to not feel humiliated while teeing off?  Back to the driver again?  Interesting, how things sometimes come full circle.   Greens are now green, but woods are made of metal and I’m left wondering why I should buy a whole new set of clubs when what I have will work just fine?

In fairness, I should add that the old course back in Minnesota, now has 18 holes and real grass greens.  No raking required.   Hopefully, they’ve done something about the gophers as well, without blowing up the fairways ala Bill Murray in Caddyshack.

A few years ago I went back and tried playing the old course with my brother and nephew.   My game fell to pieces as all the old demons came rushing back.    I couldn’t even drive the hill on number six.  Good God, what a game.    I think this time maybe I’ll leave the clubs in the basement.  For good this time.   No really, I mean it.  Probably.

*(front row: Bill Haines, Jamey Yamamoto, Chuck Koshiol, Ron Olsen)


It’s Not All Bad

CBS News Sunday Morning, did a piece today about the song “We Are The World.”   They did the story, because today is the 33rd anniversary of the song being recorded by the who’s who of the music industry.

Thirty three years ago today, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Tina Turner, Billy Joel and so many others got together in a studio in Hollywood to lay down the tracks for a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie.   Quincy Jones was there as well, conducting and co-producing the history-making choir made up of some of the most famous voices in the world, who, as CBS so correctly pointed out, were asked to “leave their egos at the door.”

Also there, against all odds perhaps, was a country boy from rural Minnesota.   I was with KABC-TV at the time, and they sent me over to cover the event.   Now, watching the coverage on CBS so many years later, I can hardly believe I had the privilege of being among a handful of journalists allowed in to witness the event as it happened.

Thank you, KABC.   Thank you, Los Angeles.  Thank you Journalism, for opening so many doors.  Thank you, CBS News Sunday Morning, for allowing thoughtful, non-rushed, long-form tv reporting to continue.

To date, according to the network, “We Are The World,” has raised some $65-million in aid for Africa.    More than $100-million has been raised for Africa and the United States.  And the beat goes on.