Thoughts On The Israeli Election


Watching the “neck and neck” returns come in from Israel, and a couple of things occurred to me.   One, is how terribly fractured the Israelis are between their right and left, not unlike the United States, what with Bibi Cheney and all.

The other thought was how simple this all should be.   In politics, as with the weather, extremes can be deadly.  Moderate weather is far more favorable to the human condition.

Chauncey Gardner was right.  It should be so simple.

What Happened To The Measles?


What happened to the measles threat that was going to sweep across the nation destroying every innocent child in its path? How could something so terrifying be replaced by Hillary Clinton’s email?    Or more recently, Jeb Bush’s email while he was governor of Florida?

This email thing is big.   Must be, considering all the time the media is giving it.

Isn’t the NSA snooping on everything everybody sends out into cyberspace anyway?   Do Hillary and Jeb know they are being monitored by government bureaucrats with bloodshot eyes sitting in corporate cubicles somewhere in Hawaii?    Didn’t they hear about Edward Snowden and Wikileaks?

Personal freedom be damned, they are watching you and keeping copies of everything you send via electronic communication.

It was never supposed to come to this, not in the United States.   We were supposed to be immune to Big Brother.  What the hell happened?

Fear.   That’s what.  The measles.

It’s not that there are no real issues out there.  What about the Ukraine, for God’s sake?   Are we marching towards war with another nuclear armed power?   Is Israel dictating terms to our Congress?   Is representative democracy really dead in America?   Have they really set aside due process on American soil?  Do the Koch  Brothers own us?  Where will California get its water in 2016, and what impact will that have on the country, since the United States gets so much of its produce (81% of its broccoli)  from sunny Cal?    Is Wall Street headed for another crash with the potential for bankrupting world markets?   Will we all end up out on the street begging for a handout to buy a burger and fries from the last thriving business in America,  your local burger restaurant,  here in the junk food capitol of the world?   And while we’re stuffing our faces with fries and washing them down with a giant cup of carbonated sugar water, why do you think so many American kids are suffering from obesity and diabetes?   Do you suppose it has anything to do with the American diet and a lack of exercise?

Oh, but wait.   Forget  about all of that.   We have the measles to worry about.   Or we did, until suddenly it became a non-issue.

I would have said it was “just the measles,” but the news media and some doctors were acting like it was another polio epidemic about to tear across the country, ravaging classrooms and threatening adults who had never been exposed.

Anybody who didn’t buy into the fear factor the media was pushing would probably have received a dressing-down designed to make you feel like an idiot.   Something along the lines of, “Just the measles?   Are you out of your mind!!   Aren’t you listening to what they’re saying on tv?!!  You could go blind!” 

And yet, it is now suddenly gone, and nobody is saying a word.  Like the Bird Flu, terrorist induced smallpox and Y2K.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, between January 1 and March the 13th of this year, 176 Americans contracted the measles.   176 cases in a country with a population of about 320-million.

This lack of perspective about what really matters, will continue so long as fear sells.   Beyond that, when everything is treated like a crisis  we lose the ability to separate out something that may not be all that important from issues that deserve our attention.    And that dear friends, is something to be concerned about because it will not go away with the next 7/24 news cycle on cable tv –  providing a wonderful diversion for Big Brother who will be watching  your every move and listening to your every word.

A Little Madness May Be Just What We Need


      (photo courtesy: “Jump in the Lake Club”)

I just read  on Facebook that my old friend Chuck Koshiol, is going to jump into an ice-covered lake again.  It has given me renewed hope and even some good cheer at a time when hope and good cheer are in short supply.    If Chuck, at age 66, is going to make another jump, then there is definitely reason for hope.   I presume he’s 66, as that’s my age and we’ve been friends since pre-kindergarten days.

I should explain, that for some reason (which I cannot explain),  back in 1985 Chuck started something he calls the “Paynesville Jump in the Lake Club.”   It involves a few iron-willed souls from the great north woods of Minnesota, who go out to Lake Koronis  where they chop a big hole in the ice so that they can jump into the  bitterly cold water.  And they are going to do it once again on Sunday, March the 15th.

I do not not know why.   I can only presume it is a celebration of life, which is something we can all use, what with ongoing war in the Middle East and North Africa, the threat of terrorism on our own soil while 7/24 cable  news channels pump a constant stream of fear into our national psyche, carping about the threat of a  measles outbreak due to a lack of proper vaccinations while Hillary Clinton is about to bring down our entire national security complex because she used her personal email while the NSA snoops on us all and our thoroughly dysfunctional politicians refuse to do anything about any of it.

Trying to sort it out is enough to make a grown man cry.   Or to raise a middle finger to it all and go jump in the lake.   Which is what Chuck is going to do.  Again.   For all of us.

I’ll be there in spirit if not in the flesh.   Even if I were there in the flesh I wouldn’t jump in that lake.   It’s too damn cold and we can’t all be iron men.   I would though, be there to cheer Chuck on.   He stands as a monument to those brave souls who do seemingly crazy things that serve as a reaffirmation of the human spirit.  Occasionally we need to be reminded that it’s not all bad and that sometimes we tend to take this journey just a bit  too seriously.

Thank you, Chuck, and good jumping to you.

The Pathetic Democratic Party


Once again it happens.   Although this time it’s an outrage nearly beyond belief, worse than calling the President of the United States a “liar” during the State of the Union Address.   Or suggesting he was born in Kenya.   Or that he eats Christian babies.  This time, no fewer than 47 Republican senators have flirted with treason and were at the very least seditious in their attempt to derail the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran by sending a letter to the Iranians  informing them that any deal they might cut with the Obama Administration would be of questionable value at best, and probably useless at worst.

What the Republicans have done is bad enough.   The absence of a significant response from the Democrats, Mr. Obama’s own party, is even worse.

Once again, the Democrats are letting the Republican Party give them the political bitch-slapping of their lives without a decent response.  Where is the DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz?   She and the democratic leaders in the the House and Senate should be furious.   They should be calling all their people together for a press conference on the steps of the Capitol, to call out the Republicans for what some are saying is treason.    If that’s too strong for the mousey Dems, they could at least hold up this morning’s edition of the NY Daily News, which calls out the 47 Republicans for being “Traitors.”

Come on Democrats.  Where are your spines?   Do you enjoy being kicked around like this?    It’s been going on for more than six years now.   Will you ever have the courage to start fighting back?   How long will you let this meaningless blather about Hillary Clinton’s email dominate the political landscape?   Like not one Republican has ever used a private email account for official business?   Of course they have.

What are you all afraid of?   Why do you keep acting like you’re the three little pigs and John Boehner is the big bad wolf?   Surely you can’t ALL have been bought off and shut down?

Or is the Obama White House telling the Dems to stand down, possibly because they’re afraid a big fight over this will only make the US look all the more divided?  As if the Iranians aren’t already aware of that big fat factor following Bibi Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress.

Whatever their thinking might be,  it once again leaves the Democratic Party appearing to be timid, weak and just plain pathetic, as Hillary’s email account continues bouncing back again and again on the 7/24 cable news cycle with almost no one other than Clinton herself having the courage to stand up and fight back against this tempest in a teapot issue.

The Dems needed to start fighting back years ago.   If they had,  we might not be stuck with a Republican majority in both houses now.  Ted Kennedy, has got to be spinning in his grave.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here’s one last thought.

At this point in the negotiations with Iran, a huge blowout between the Democrats and the Republicans might be enough to derail a deal.   A deal that might eventually prevent war with Iran, which seems to be what so many Republicans desire.

So, as unhappy as some of us might currently be with the lack of a Democratic response,  they are, nevertheless, a better option than the Republican Neo-feudalists, so at this point in time, playing the passivity card might be a good call.

Gotta go now, it’s being reported that the AP has filed a lawsuit to gain access to State Department records as the Hillary Clinton email scandal grows.

47 senators may have committed sedition, but why worry about that?  We’ve got Hillary’s email to worry about.

Whoops, wait a minute, here’s Barbara Boxer, and she’s fighting back.  Raising questions about whether any Republicans have ever used private email for government business.  Good for her!  Finally.   “It’s all politics” she says, and she’s right.   I’m beginning to wish Boxer would run for another term.

The Republican’s Letter To Iran




“The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government.”  - Oxford Dictionary

Are we there yet?  It would appear we are.

But that’s just the dictionary definition.   How about the Constitution?   Here’s that part of it-

U.S. Constitution – Article 3 Section 3
Article 3 – The Judicial Branch
Section 3 – Treason

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Again, it would appear a line has been crossed in that there has certainly been an attempt at a form of “adhering,” although those crossing the line will argue it has not, that the constitutional definition is open to interpretation.  Which, of course, it is.   But you can be sure, that’s what will be argued if charges of treason are leveled, and that any federal prosecutor in the land will have no difficulty whatsoever in lining up two witnesses.   Or more.

At the heart of it all, as the Washington Post reports, “An already heated battle between the White House and Republicans over negotiations to curtail Iran’s nuclear program grew more tense Monday when 47 Republican senators sent a letter to Iran designed to kill any potential deal.

The White House responded by accusing the Republicans of conspiring with Iranian hard-liners, who oppose the delicate negotiations, and suggesting that their goal was to push the United States into a military conflict.”

These 47 have clearly crossed a line into what?  Treason?  By the dictionary definition, they surely have.   Who will defend the Republic against their actions?   Who will have the courage to reclaim what was once a representative government led by a chief executive?

An overstatement?  Not really.

We currently have two federal governments, one led by a nationally elected chief executive whose job definition includes representing the nation in matters of foreign affairs  and the other a fractured group of  those who call themselves Republicans, but who have difficulty agreeing on anything other than their dogged determination to take an opposite stand on anything the Obama Administration tries to do, regardless of the impact their intransigence might have on the nation or the world.   One can’t help but wonder what role race plays in their position against this current administration, although almost no one has the courage to discuss it.

And so our house continues to be divided against itself.    I’m no biblical scholar but even I can see the wisdom of Mark 3:25.

Bloody Sunday – 50 Years Later



          Edmund Pettus

Edmund who?

Watching the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma,  Alabama, I wondered who Edmund Pettus was.  So I looked it up.

He was, according to Wikipedia, “…a former Confederate brigadier general, U.S. Senator from Alabama and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.”  And today the nation’s first African-American president walked across the Pettus Bridge following a speech commemorating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Food for thought.

Kudos For Senator Feinstein


Good for Senator Feinstein.   She listened to what Israeli PM Netanyahu said, and then reached the intelligent conclusion that neither he nor any of the rest of us know what the final deal on nuclear development with Iran will look like, so we should wait and see that final deal before making up our minds.

That, is what used to be called “common sense,” before the Neocon movement came along condemning the act and art of compromise  through diplomacy, while at the same time, presenting no reasonable alternative.   Which is what Netanyahu did in his speech before the Congress.

He condemned the United States and President Obama for being naive in the deal they and the European powers are trying to reach with Iran, even before he knows what that deal will ultimately contain.   At the same time, he presented no workable alternative, complaining only that the deal is unacceptable.  Feinstein,  called him out for that, as well.

Good for Senator Feinstein.

Netanyahu: The New Elephant In The Middle Of The Room


And so, in their latest stunt to give a huge middle finger to the President of the United States,  John Boehner and his extremist Republicans have invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of the Congress – with no prior consultation with the White House – thereby ignoring protocol and possibly undermining America’s image abroad, including the Administration’s ongoing efforts to cut a deal on nuclear power development with Iran.

This current bunch of Republicans have repeatedly appeared racist and self-centered, consistently putting their party above the nation’s best interest.   They will say anything and apparently do almost anything to advance their party’s interest and the interests of their wealthy benefactors.

As political satirist Bill Maher has pointed out, there are those who just can’t handle the fact that there’s a black man in the White House.

The unspoken impact of race remains the elephant in the middle of the room with regard to the Republican Party’s refusal to establish anything resembling a reasonable relationship with this current president.   Their ongoing intransigence and hateful reactionism represent a slander against both Mr. Obama, and the Office of the President of the United States.

I was recently reminded by a former colleague that in foreign affairs the nation must, out of necessity, speak with one voice.   And that one voice is the President of the United States.   Not the Speaker of the House of Representatives, unless the Speaker wishes to undermine the proper functioning of the Republic, possibly touching upon sedition.

The Speaker was elected to represent his district.   The President, as America’s  only nationally elected official, represents all the American people.  Mr. Netanyahu, may not know this.    When America speaks with one voice, that one voice comes from the President.

It is sad that an elected leader of the Israeli people has seen fit to join the out of control John Boehner and his Obama-hating colleagues in this most recent staged event, particularly with elections approaching in Israel.    Netanyahu’s ongoing desire for the United States to become militarily entangled with Iran is transparent, as is his apparent belief that upstaging a sitting President of the United States will help to maintain his power base at home, which is where he should have stayed.

One can only hope sensibility will prevail and that most in the House and Senate will boycott Netanyahu’s inappropriate appearance, although you can be sure most Republicans will be there cheering him on, using him as a political stooge in their continuing effort to defame the Obama White House and undercut President Obama’s ability to avoid a potential war by reaching a deal on nuclear power with Iran.

John McCain’s refrain of “Bomb, bomb.bomb….bomb, bomb Iran,” continues to resonate.   He and Bibi Netanyahu are undoubtedly of one mind on the subject.

This entire misguided affair is simply sad, for both the United States and for Israel, and is one more indicator of how unreasonable and broken our politics have become.

One wonders if Mr. Obama will now be invited to address the Knesset.

Goodbye, Mr. Spock


I’m not sure exactly why I feel so bad about Leonard Nimoy’s death, but I do.   Writing is one way to get rid of these feelings, some of them anyway, so here I am on my laptop.   Hope it works.

I met Nimoy only twice, once during a benefit at the Rape Crisis Center in Santa Monica, for an interview way back in the early 80’s.  The second time was on the lot at my former employer, KTLA-TV in Hollywood.

It was my custom when arriving at work to begin a daily process of excessively high caffeination, so my first stop would be the coffee urn on Stage 8.    On this particular day, I went through the doors and into the foyer between stages 7 and 8, and there, all alone, stood Mr. Spock.   That is to say, Leonard Nimoy.  I stared at him.  He looked back at me.  I thought he was taller than he actually was which had no bearing on anything as I introduced myself and asked if he wanted a cup of coffee.   He assured me he did not and said he was waiting for someone, so I went into the studio for my caffeine fix.

When I came back out, he was still there.   It felt so strange, seeing him standing there all alone that I felt compelled to again ask if there was anything I could get him.   Did he want me to show him where the vending machines were?   Was he sure he didn’t want a cup of coffee?   “No, I’m fine” he assured me once again.

I left feeling it was one of the strangest encounters of my professional life, if only because I so rarely bumped into a Vulcan on the lot at KTLA.   At least, that’s how it felt, as I had been following Spock, since the very first airing of the original “Star Trek” in the fall of 1966.

I had just started my Freshman year in college when “Star Trek” went on the air in September of 1966.   There were two tv viewing rooms in the dorm, one for men and another for women.   That’s the way it was in 66.  They were full to overflowing for two tv shows each week.    One was “The Monkees.”   The other was “Star Trek.”   So I guess I was an original “Trekkie,” although I lost interest in the series in my next year of college and didn’t really get back on board the Enterprise until getting hooked on the movie series and then the reruns of”Star Trek The Next Generation.”

I think that I, and so many others, were drawn to the original series because it had so much going for it.   Good stories, mini-morality plays really, great characters well acted and futurism, something that probably has always been a draw for young people.   Boy did the network that cancelled that original Star Trek series (NBC) blow it big time, walking away from a key demographic like that.  But walk away they did and now Spock, Bones  and Scotty are all dead and gone and so far,  writing about it hasn’t made me feel one bit better.

It has though,  forced me to remember another chance encounter, this one with DeForest Kelley while waiting in line to by movie tickets here in the San Fernando Valley.   For no particular reason I turned around and there was “Bones” looking back at me.   This is Los Angeles, these things sometimes happen,  and it’s my policy not to pester celebrities.   However, bumping into Kelley like that left me feeling almost as strange as my encounter with Spock.

For those of us who came of age in the 60’s, the passing of Scotty, Bones and now the powerful character of Spock, is undoubtedly a reminder of our mortality.  But they did at least leave us with their stories, our memories linked both to the series and its place in time and space and a vision for something better than we currently have.   A more elevated version of humanity.   Not something to be overlooked.

Thank you, Mr. Spock.   And goodbye Mr. Nimoy.    Thanks for reminding us that logic plays a necessary role in the human condition.

Okay, now I feel better.

Poem – “One True Belief”


One True Belief
by Ron Olsen

Our struggle is meaningless
For those who truly believe
In their one version of the truth

The New Testament’s revenge
A pipeline’s purpose
Fuels a climate change denier’s anger
Crying out for more and not less
Of that which hastens our demise
As they wait for evil to blanket the world

They know it’s sure to happen
It’s a certain thing
For those who truly believe
In their one version of the truth

For centuries running
They have seen the end coming
It’s just over there
Almost in sight now
With absolute certainty
That they are right
Once again

Even though they’ve been wrong before
Every time
Time and again
And then time again

They’ve even set dates
Only to be wrong
And still they believe
In myth over metaphor
Interpretation over fact
Having more impact
On government and culture
Than any of us knows

Creating the certainty
That only self-fulfilling prophecy
Can deliver to the collective mindset
As the approach of Armageddon
Makes caring meaningless
To those who truly believe

Making us
Our struggle childish futility
In their eyes
Even while we hold the keys to salvation
For those who dare admit
That we might succeed
At pulling ourselves from the fire

For those with the courage to believe
That we might not be irrelevant after all
That we might be our only best hope

Even as God whispers in the ear
Of some enlightened fool
Who, after a pint of his favorite brew
Sets yet another date
For the rest of us to burn in hell
And demands that his local congressman
Must do the same

© 2015 Ron Olsen/all rights reserved

A Rough Couple Of Weeks For Journalism


Some things are like a sock in the gut.   They nail you right where you live and then won’t let you go.  That’s how I felt when I read about Rick Orlov’s death at the age of 66.  “Too young” I thought,   my feelings not unaffected by the fact that I’m that same age, and Orlov and I were golfing buddies who had commiserated on dozens of stories over the span of more than two decades of covering news in Los Angeles.

And then suddenly, he was dead.    One of the best reporters out there.   One of the nicest guys, too.

Just as I was getting past Rick’s death, news broke that Bob Simon had been killed in a car crash in Manhattan.  Another one.  Another highly respected journalist.  I didn’t know Simon, but I admired his work.  Another of the best reporters out there, another “old school” broadcast journalist, gone.  Just like that.  And then I read the news about Stan Chambers, and got a message from KTLA asking if I could come in to the station and make a statement about his death.

Events were stumbling forward, crashing into one another with total disregard for my ability to keep pace.

I went in, they turned on the camera and I tried, but my heart was in my throat.   I thought about the more than 20 years working side by side with Stan from the San Francisco earthquake to the Rodney King beating, the LA riots to the Simpson trial and the words, which seemed so terribly inadequate anyway, would not come out.

Stan, you see, was another “old-schooler.”   Another reporter who believed it was our job to give our audience the facts of a story  and to then let them sort it out for themselves.   You were expected to leave your opinions and bias at home.   Personal opinion had no place in the world of journalism.   It was a credo Stan adhered to.  I know he did, because I watched him work, year after year.  And year after year, I watched him keep his personal beliefs away from his reporting.   Over the years at least one city official had opined that “You really have no idea how Stan Chambers feels about anything.”

I think perhaps if Stan’s death was all there was, I would have been better able to deal with it.  But there was Rick Orlov of the LA Daily News, and Bob Simon and then David Carr of the New York Times and Brian Williams bizarre departure from NBC and Jon Stewart announcing his planned departure from the “Daily Show,” and just a few months ago we buried photographer Steve Chacon from ABC and months before that my old friend and photographer Artie Williams, also from ABC.   Chacon,  went out of his way to show me the local ropes when I arrived in Los Angeles in 82.   Artie and I went all the way back to WMAR in Baltimore, in 1979.

And now Stan.    The nicest guy in tv news.   Larry and Hal, were supposed to be here to talk about this.

And so,  when Lu Parker came over to say hello at KTLA, I was unable to speak.   The words simply were not there.    After choking up on camera, I went home and wrote the poem that follows on this blog.

The beauty of poetry, something I’ve gotten into only recently,  is that it gives you the ability to say more using fewer words.   And you don’t have to open your mouth.  It’ll have to do for now.   There’s just too much happening and it’s going to take some time to sort it all out.   It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

Legendary KTLA Reporter, Stan Chambers, Dead At 91


                              (photo: KTLA)

Goodbye, Stan

In 63 years with KTLA

You’ve more than done your part

More than upheld your end of the bargain

With an ocean of optimism

More than anyone could have expected

With endless enthusiasm

More than anyone could have imagined

With Integrity, objectivity and fairness

For all this

You have our respect and admiration

You have our friendship

And more

We were family

You will be missed

(click here for full obit)


The Brian Williams Thing


What Brian Williams did is unacceptable.   Upholding the public trust is all-important and he lied to his viewers – and then lied again to try and get out from under the first lie.    And now some apologists are trying to make excuses for his actions.   Possibly because lying has become so commonplace as to be acceptable in contemporary American culture?

Must we be reminded that journalists are held to a higher standard than politicians?

Being shot down in a war zone is not something you would later “conflate,” it is an event that would mark your life.   It is something you would never forget.

What Brian Williams did is unacceptable.  Unless NBC wants to admit that it is no longer in the business of doing Journalism.    They have no right to claim the same ground as Larry Greene of CBS,  Bill Stewart of ABC or  Don Harris of NBC.   Three three of the many who have given their lives for the craft.

Journalism, is a serious business.   Some standards are never to be violated.   Knowingly lying to your viewers or readers, is one of those standards.  This is no joke.  Or at least it should not be.  The fact that more in the Journalism community aren’t more concerned is alarming.

But then, nothing is really all that important anymore, what with dozens of channels bringing us the “news” 7/24, and the near impossibility of discerning the difference between “real” news outlets and infotainment wonks.

If NBC is strictly in the business of doing entertainment programming to sell products and they no longer feel the need to uphold the standards of Journalism, then they need to come out and tell us that.   In fact, it would be nice to hear a statement of purpose from all the big nets.   What is their purpose?   What’s their policy on honesty and accuracy?   To do the best they can given the circumstances in light of advertiser’s and stockholder’s demands?  Whatever Fox came up with would surely be side-splittingly funny.

This situation makes a mockery of all the hard working honest journalists who continue doing the best they can in spite of corporate cutbacks and the explosion of greed-driven infotainment on the tv side with anchors being paid multiple millions of dollars annually, not necessarily to do the news, but to promote themselves and their product, whatever that might be,  automobiles, noodle soup or a cure for erectile dysfunction.

Those who turn their backs and claim otherwise, are only contributing to the problem, which, in its current  condition,  may be beyond repair.

In the end whether Williams stays or goes will probably depend upon one simple issue:   If NBC thinks they can keep him without hurting their ratings, then he will stay.   If they feel he’s going to cost them ad revenue, then he’s gone.   Public trust and public service be damned, it’s only business and you are just one more customer.