Orlando: Playing Politics With Tragedy

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What an interesting confluence of events, even while the President was in Orlando attempting to comfort shattered American lives.

Event number one was CIA Director, John Brennan, warning the Senate Intelligence Committee  that Mr. Obama is failing in Syria and Iraq, that U.S. led efforts have not slowed ISIS,  and that the terror group is undoubtedly working up a variety of new methods to smuggle their people into the west.

At the same time, CNN International continues to report that ISIS is being forced to retreat from its former stronghold in Falluja, being beaten back by US-aligned Iraqi forces.  This and other media reports appear to contradict Mr. Brennan’s report to the Congress.  There is also a statement from the President just a few weeks ago, when he said,“…our coalition is on the offensive. ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” 

It’s fascinating to see such a vast gap in opinion between the media, the White House and the CIA.   In this case at least,  media reports appear to side with the President.   US-supported forces are making progress against ISIS, even while the CIA Director insists that the glass is half-empty.

Event number two, was Senator John McCain, making the outrageous comment that President Obama, was somehow directly responsible for the mass shooting in Orlando, even though there is no confirmation that the shooter was anything other than a madman, with no direct link to ISIS.

Event number three is this morning’s New York Times article with information said to have been “leaked” by an official from the State Department to the effect that “More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country’s five-year-old civil war.”    Kinda feels like an attempted strike three, doesn’t it, with all three pitches against the Administration coming in such rapid succession?

It’s probably all coincidental though, with no evidence that all three events were in any way coordinated by those on the right who prefer more and not less war in the Middle East and North Africa, and who, again coincidentally, are all deeply invested in the Republican Party.   A body threatened by implosion as it attempts to draw attention away from the inane ravings of its presidential candidate while struggling to tamp down that same candidate’s out-of-control rhetoric going forward, his statements including the bizarre implication that the President of the United States may be an ISIS sympathizer.

Surely, it’s all nothing but coincidence.

Can We Get Real, Please?

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Headline from CNN – “BREAKING NEWS – MCCAIN:  OBAMA ‘DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE’ FOR ORLANDO MASSACRE”

The  shoot-from-the-hip Senator from Arizona has reached this conclusion about the Pesident’s alleged negligence, even though professional law enforcement has yet to  reach any conclusion about a viable motive for the shooting.    The cops who analyze this stuff for a living aren’t sure why the guy did it but John McCain is?   Maybe God is talking to Pat Robertson, who is feeding the holy word to McCain?

Why doesn’t CNN put up a headline saying, “BREAKING NEWS – BUSH, CHENEY, RUMSFELD STILL RESPONSIBLE FOR UNNECESSARY IRAQ WAR THAT CREATED ISIS, INCREASING TERRORIST THREAT TO THE WEST…”?

When did once mainstream Republicans become the lunatic fringe?  Was it with Sarah Palin, or sometime before?    When did the mainstream media lose nearly all perspective, buying into whatever nonsense they were handed and thinking it was their job to accept self-aggrandizing partisan blather as being credible?

Madness is afoot in the land.  One fears the system, cowering in a corner with the once mighty media watchdog,  won’t be able to deal with it.

Guns -We Need To At Least Try

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After Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook and so many other mass murders it still takes a filibuster to convince the Republican-led Senate to take up the issue of meaningful gun control?  Well, wonderful, but that probably won’t get it done.

Even if the Senate comes up with something that has potential for meaningful impact the measure will then go to the Republican-led house, which is sure to water the bill down before sending it along to President Obama, who, if the bill is relatively meaningless will either refuse to sign it (in which case the Republicans will blame Obama for a meaningless bill’s failure) or will go ahead  and sign it anyway, because something is better than nothing , making it appear the Senate and House have finally passed something to deal with the flood of weapons on American streets – when in fact the impact will be negligable and the gun lobby will have again succeeded in shooting down gun control.

The only way to get meaningful legislation aimed at getting military-style assault weapons out of the hands of a civilian populace with no reason for owning such weaponry will be to completely clean house.   To throw the Republicans out, reelecting another Democrat in the White House and putting Dems in charge of both houses of Congress.  Otherwise there will be no meaningful change on guns. And if the Republicans remain in control of the House and Senate, we’ll be stuck with four more years of no meaningful progress on anything, as the “party of no” continues its chokehold on the system.

The following headline from the Washington Post is pertinent- “From 2004 to 2014, over 2000 terror suspects legally purchased guns in the United States.”

Time and time again, Republicans in the House and Senate have proven themselves to be masters of obfuscation, refusing to even support discussion on background checks or the so-called “gun show loophole” even though that’s exactly what the American people want.   By one count, 91% want such legislation enacted.  And now comes the information that individuals suspected of having terrorist links can actually walk into a gun store and purchase assault weapons.    It would be madness were it not for the fact that Republican lawmakers, and some Democrats as well but mostly Republicans, are being paid by the gun lobby to kill meaningful legislation regardless of their constituent’s wishes.

The term “throw the bums out,” has never been so applicable.   It won’t fix our broken government as billionaires, millionaires and corporations will continue to buy American political leaders by the truckload, but it will at least be a step in the right direction.

It’s time to finally begin to at least try to get assault weapons off the streets.  It won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy, but a start must be made.   It’s plainly immoral to say it can’t be done, therefore there is no use in even trying as Americans, so many of them young adults and children, continue to die.

12/14/2012          Sandy Hook               20 children, 6 adults shot dead

12/2/2015             San Bernardino       14 shot dead, 22 injured

6/12/2016             Orlando                       49 shot dead,  53 wounded

American children are being slaughtered and the Republican-led Congress repeatedly refuses to act, countermanding the wishes of the American people?   Is that not an election year hot-button topic?

The one and only purpose of assault weapons is the effective and efficient slaughter of human beings.   To kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible.  That’s it.   They need to be banned.

He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken

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So Donald Trump made another outrageous statement?    This time, birther Donald is implying that the President of the United States may be sympathetic to the country’s enemies.   Which would be treason.  And he’s using the salughter of 49 innocent people in Orlando as a platform for his newest nonsensical accusation.  Unbelievable.  Then, at nearly the  same time, in an apparent hissy-fit, he is denying credentials for the Washington Post to cover  his campaign because he doesn’t like what the Post is writing?

At this point it’s impossible to determine whether it’s a personality issue or if Trump is in the race to intentionally try and lose the election but win the publicity.    Who cares?   His base, obviously, and the rest of us who are being forced to put up with this charade by a Republican Party that’s gone completely bezerk.  Therefore, those of us who actually try and sort things out through critical thinking as opposed to moving forward based upon nothing but emotion, have only one option.   It is time for everybody, including the President and Mrs. Clinton, to simply ignore Donald Trump.   Make him a real-world Voldemort.   He whose name must not be spoken.   It’ll drive him nuts.  That alone will be worth the effort.

Admitting that he whose name must not be spoken may be the most dangerous national political gadfly in the nation’s history,  and denying his very existence, may be the only way to stop him from further poisoning the process and potentially the entire system.

Poem For Orlando

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Orlando

by Ron Olsen

 

Screams of Terror

Blood flows free

Repeated questions about motive

And extreme belief

Another act without soul

Only the same circular talk

We remain unchanged

Money locks in the status quo

Until the next trainload of grief

Spreads its demon cargo

Across the blood spattered land

Without regard for age, color or sex

A child songbird

Or 50 in a club

No discrimination in slaughter

Driven by ignorance

Or madness

We continue our self-annihilation

The cost of correction

Progression

Redemption

Lying somehow beyond our reach

As we fail ourselves once again

The System Rolls Over, Groans And Goes Back To Sleep

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Forgive me while I show my disgust with the President,  the Associated Press, the entire cadre of phony progressives and all who are pretenders to the thrones of both journalism and progressive politics, as they now turn their focus to pulling the Democratic party back together again, convincing Bernie Sanders to go away and behave himself, joining the mainstream club or being forced to face the possibility of being indicted by the jabbering mob for handing the election to Donald J. Trump.   Or worse yet, to be accused of not supporting the first woman candidate for president, regardless of her “baggage.”

From the beginning the Bernie Sanders campaign was an interesting aberration but we all know that he never had a chance.   That’s what they kept telling us.  Not a chance.  Not when millions of new and mostly younger voters joined his push to restore progressive politics to the Democratic Party which had been turned into a clubby bunch of centrist Republicans posing as Democrats.   Not when Hillary Clinton hijacked much of his platform and claimed it for herself, possibly one of the cleverest lies of any politician in any time while pundits and reporters alike moved her campaign along – buying into her gameplan by telling us that numbers don’t lie and that the election was a done deal dictated by DNC-approved “superdelegates.”  Even before it was.

A post-primary analysis in the San Francisco Chronicle makes the interesting point that Sanders was let down by young and poor voters in California, a state that might have offered him one last best chance at a true challenge to Hillary Clinton.   It’s an interesting proposition, but you must also wonder how things would have gone had the media been less of a cheerleader for Mrs. Clinton all along.   From the very beginning, the mainstream treated the Sander’s canididacy as a joke, even when it became clear that he was picking up serious support, the Clinton-biased media continued to blather on that “The Sanders candidacy is interesting, but we all know he really doesn’t stand a chance…”   No, he didn’t, not with that kind of bias being fed to the electorate day after day from a crowd of political insiders with no concept of the changes taking place away from their insulated and well-healed orbit.   What chance did Sanders have with MSNBC becoming the “Hillary Channel?”

The cherry atop this hot smudge sundae of bluster and bias came the day before the California primary when the once venerable Associated Press announced to the world that they had contacted enough superdelegates to determine that Sanders was officially done.    A new poltical meme that was dutifully picked up and spread like a rash throughout the corporate media, delighted that what they had been saying all along was finally coming to pass.   It must be true, if it was coming from the mighty AP, giving so many California voters no reason whatsoever to go to the polls.   If it was over, it was over, so why bother?

This wasn’t some pundit or small town paper or blogger speaking out, this was the mighty Associated Press.  What giant of journalism at the AP decided it would be a good idea to officially invalidate the California primary?

How sad for the press and for America.   But never mind any of that. So much more important to now join together in one massive effort to defeat Donald Trump, no matter the cost.  Time to forget the past and come together to insure our future regardless of the process.   It will all be forgotten soon anyway as we move on with more of the same old, same old and the old man from Vermont and his crazy egalitarian ideas become nothing more than a distant bump on the political highway.

Oh, California! – A Morning After Poem

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Oh, California!

By Ron Olsen

The Surfliner pulled out in the early morning haze

Rattling down the tracks

No looking back now

Hillary dressed like the palace guard

Wearing a white tent

Smiling far too broadly

A cheshire cat that swallowed a server

That ate the dove

That gobbled up a relationship with greed

Secrets impossible to keep

Smiling ear to ear

Supported by superdelegates

And a system rigged from the top

An unimpartial media

Telling us all along

Bernie had no chance

Sooner or later

You too will believe

As they peat and repeat

Endlessly bellowing

Bernie can’t win

Bernie’s a joke

Bernie’s a Socialist

The only straight-shooter out there

Who

In the end

Was betrayed by even the free-thinkers

And radical freaks in California

Who turned their backs for a woman

No matter the price

Or didn’t know they had to ask for a special ballot

Confusion breeding success for the lady candidate

And her husband’s Foundation

Depriving the country

Of one last chance

At throwing the money changers

Away from the temple doors

You did it sunny Cal

No calling it back now

As media mavens gush

With satisfaction and self-congratulation

Oh, California!

Liberal, righteous, progressive California!

Proving they were right all along

Bernie never had a chance

Even when he did

The old Vermont steamer

Slammed by a wall

Of conspiracy and collusion

Intended and unintended alike

Leaving those on the inside

Insulated from any real accountability

As the nation returns to business as usual

And the political hacks blather on

About all the baggage she carries

Needing safari bearers

Hauling it on their broken backs

The train now just a dot

In the distant

California sun

Muhammad Ali – 1942-2016

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Ali being interviewed by Curt Anderson – 1978

Some moments serve as markers for your life.   For me, one of those markers happened in the early evening in February of 1964.

A couple of high school buddies and I were walking through the clean cold evening air in my hometown of Paynesville, Minnesota.  A Chevy pulled up, cutting us off at a corner.   A young man in the passenger seat proclaimed loudly through an open window,  “You’ve gotta hear this!  He won!  He won!”    From the car’s radio came the voice of Muhammad Ali, shouting, “I am the greatest!  I shook up the world!  I’m the prettiest thing that ever lived!”

A man who would later be dubbed “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, had just reached out and touched our young lives in a small town in central Minnesota.  Through the miracle of radio we had just witnessed the birth of a legend.  A 7-1 underdog,  22 year-old Muhammad Ali, had defeated Sonny Liston by TKO.   Things would never be quite the same for any of us, what with the “Rumble in the Jungle” and the Thrilla in Manilla”  which Ali said would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manilla.”   There was also Vietnam, the draft and civil rights, with Ali speaking out against apartied in South Africa at the United Nations in 1978 and as a cultural icon for social justice in the United States.

Muhammad Ali, would back up his words with deeds, both personally and professionally, as he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” becoming what some believe was the greatest fighter to ever set foot in a ring.   While there’s no way to prove he was the greatest boxer of all time,  what he did for boxing is incalculable, but it didn’t stop there.    He took a stand against the Vietnam War, putting his professional life on hold for more than three years, as no state in the U.S. would give him a license to box while he continued to fight the draft – a position taken by a great many young Americans, who felt the war was unncessary and unjust, a piece of our history that’s been largely forgotten as the country moved forward with more popular and acceptable wars overseas.

In the words of President Obama, “His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.”

A 32 year-old Ali would eventually come back to  reclaim the heavyweight title against 25 year-old George Foreman with a knockout in the 8th round at “The Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974.

The BBC has called Ali the “sports personality of the century.”  With his wit and sharp tounge and Howard Cosell for a foil, maybe he was the greatest ever.    Anyway, when he left the sport, so many of us stopped paying attention.  Why bother?   After Ali, what was left?   As a  sports personality, he was incomperable.   He was the greatest.  I always wanted to tell him so and finally did, although not in those very words.

More than 30 years after that cold night out on a street  in rural Minnesota, a colleague and I were arriving for a function at the Mayor’s mansion in sunny Los Angeles.   We had pulled up behind a big suv.   As I exited our car Muhammad Ali got out of the passenger’s side of the suv.    A woman, who, if memory serves was his daughter Laila, exited the driver’s side.   I almost always try and leave celebrities alone, not wanting to be a pest, but this was Muhammad Ali.  On impulse, thinking this might be my only chance, I ignored a look of concern from the woman driver and walked over not knowing what I might say.     As we shook hands I uttered the only words that seemed appropriate.   “Thanks for  everything, Champ.   Thanks for everything.”   Struggling with Parkinson’s,  Ali looked me in the eyes, managed a slight smile and mouthed very quietly “thank you.”

Thank you, Champ.   Thank you.  So much of what you did marked our young lives forever.

(photo – public domain/wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

Donald J. Trump – The Bigger Question For America

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One of the more brilliant minds of this or any century, Stephen Hawking, is now adding his name to the list of those concerned that Donald J. Trump, actually could be elected President of the United States.    Ths is the same uber-genius (Hawking, not Trump) who wrote his thesis on “Properties of Expanding Universes,” while winning nearly every award in his fields of study.  He’s a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who has now turned his intellect to the task of analyzing the Trump candidacy,  saying Donald Trump “…is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines demagogue as “A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.”

Professor Hawking has spoken.   We all need to listen.

Others, mostly on the liberal side, are voicing the same fear,  wondering out loud if this won’t make the United States look even more stupid than we appeard after electing (well, sort of electing) George W. Bush, not once, but twice.  Which it will.  We will be the nation which not only has the biggest prison population in the world as it continues treating addiction as a criminal rather than a medical problem, while economically punishing kids for going to college and rejecting universal healthcare and refusing to adequately care for its elderly – we will also be the country that elected a reality show host with no clearly defined policies.   Well, there are policies, but they change from one minute to the next.   Many of them have no basis in reality whatsoever, just a demagogic appeal to the very worst of human nature as Trump takes millions of Americans down into the muck and mire of his ongoing ignorance and prejudice-based authoritarian attack against anyone who would dare issue a fact-based argument.

If Trump is elected, the civilized world will think we’re an uninformed or perhaps just an ignorant bunch of boobs.   Which begs the question of how low is our lowest common denominator?   And how was this allowed to happen?

My personal view is that we are faced by a combination of the continued dumbing down of America joined at the hip with a mass media gone largely mad, putting profits so far ahead of journalism that for millions of Americans the truth has been lost somewhere between Kenya and thousands of imaginary Mexican rapists streaming across the border into Arizona.

The fact that  millions of young people are buying neither Trump’s demagogury nor Hillary Clinton’s “business as usual” pitch, but are instead supporting Bernie Sanders, gives me hope that the push toward stupidity was stopped or at least slowed, somewhere between the X and Y generations.

The fear of Trump is not limited to genius cosmologists and liberals.   He’s doing a pretty good job of scaring the hell out of maistream Republicans as well.  Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has now hesitantly accepted Trump as his candidate, with obvious reservations.   There was no formal endorsement from Ryan, just the announcment that he will be voting for Trump.   As the leader of his party, he really has no choice.  Other prominent Republicans are not backing Trump, including Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney.    Republican strategist and stalwart, Mary Matlin, has left the party for a Libertarian ticket.   Former Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, says he won’t vote for Trump.   The list goes on.

How did we get here,  and will thinking individuals be left thanking the founders when the electoral college proves to be our last line of defense against demagoguery?

Where Are The Reporters?

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A couple of moments that marked my former life as a broadcast journalist include a member of O.J. Simpson’s “dream team” telling me, “I love you guys individually, but I hate you collectively.”    Another happened when a former member of the Los Angeles City Council left the microphones clustered atop a lectern, walked over and proceeded to cuss me out for demanding an answer to a question he didn’t care for.  I didn’t care for being cussed out and continued to demand an answer to my question.

I recall these incidents and others with pride as badges of merit for doing my job, trying to get legitimate answers, a little honest information for the people I worked for,  the people in our viewing audience who depended upon me and others like me to find out what the hell was actually going on.

All of this would be pure braggadocio, were it not for the fact that I was far from being the only reporter who would, at times, bite down and hang on like a pit bull if I felt someone was dodging a question that deserved a real answer, rather than the circular verbal shuffle now being employed by the likes of Donald Trump.  Repeatedly.  And every time it happens I wonder what happened to American journalism?   When did hair and makeup become more important than holding public officials accountable, more important than getting it right?  When did we backslide into becoming the country of the big lie?

An incident that bears mentioning happened at the Century Plaza Hotel in the early 80’s.   It was long ago and I don’t recall who the member of Congress was that showed up at a news conference, only that he was from a state that is largely rural.   I do recall that he began delivering a “good ole boy” spiel that was full of bunk.   We listened, shaking our heads and looking at one another in disbelief until a reporter from the Los AngelesTimes could take it no longer and interrupted with anger, saying (paraphrased), “You don’t really expect us to believe any of this nonsense, do you?   Where do you think you are?   Who do you think you’re talking to?   

Reporters are accepting answers from Donald Trump that Trump himself would never accept from contestants on The Apprentice.   They sometimes talk about things without having even a basic understanding of their subject, like knowing the difference between an email account sitting on some company’s server with that same company providing securty and a private server in one’s own home, with any number of possible functions and security provided by who?   Some friend of a friend who took a computing class at the local community college?   Apparently Mrs. Clinton, has no idea.   Reporters should, if they intend to continue reporting on it.   Was Mrs. Clinton’s problem that she had a private email account or was it the fact that she had gone completely off the range with a personal  server set up in her home doing God knows what while circumventing federal oversight and securty?

Why don’t reporters follow-up anymore, demanding an answer to something Trump has dodged by issuing a non-answer, which he  does again and again – which is why the American people have literally no idea of how he actually feels about anything?   It’s frightening.   This guy actually has a shot at becoming President of the United States, and his positions on critical issues change from one day to the next.   He’s done it on assault weapons, abortion and Muslims entering the United States.   And now he will be forced to do it again on his idiotic claim that there is no drought in California, as the reservoirs are drying up and avacado orchards are being cut down to stumps.

It is, it seems, impossible to pin Trump down on any given issue, or so we’re told,  which leads one to believe he has no firm conviction about anything.  He’s cutting a deal, the biggest deal of his life, to be the most  powerful person in the world and there is far too little accountability from the press with pundits complaining that it’s so hard to nail Trump down on an issue because he’s so skilled at doing his verbal shufffle.

Come on now people, its time to do your jobs.   Mexico, will never build a wall on the border.   The United States cannot simply carpet bomb our troubles away in the Middle East or deport eleven-million undocumented people whose families are now interwoven into our national fabric.    We are not the Saudis, we do not punish women for having abortions and anyone to tells you these things is treating you like a pack of dummies.   You should be outraged.

Do some fact checking.   Do a little  journalism.  Please.  There’s so much at stake.

A passage from the movie-version of “All the President’s Men” comes to mind. Washington Post Executive Editor, Ben Bradlee, is rousted out of of bed by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who tell him there may be electronic surveillance of their work on the Watergate story,  that lives may be in danger, and that they made a mistake in their coverage of grand jury testimony,  giving ammunition to those who want to attack the paper.   Bradlee, listens to the reporters and says-

“You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.”

Journalism matters.

Monster Fire Burns Over 35-Million Acres

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A piece in the Guardian this morning puts the Canadian wildfire storming across northern Alberta at 355,000 hectares. Say what? I had no idea what a hectare is, so I looked it up. A hectare is equal to 100 acres.

The fire, which continues to burn out of control is now so big that fire officials apparently aren’t even bothering with acres. If they were, they’d be reporting that the fire has now eaten up 35-million 500-thousand acres of land, which is flat out incredible. Have we ever even had a fire this big in North America since humanoids took an upright form?   Can this possibly be correct?

Considering the size of this fire, if this information is correct and my calculator is working, why aren’t we seeing and hearing more about it on the news?

First the networks and our honorable pundits report that Bernie Sander’s supporters went nuts for no good reason at the Democratic convention in Nevada, neglecting to mention that the state’s Demo leaders changed the delegate allocation rules just prior to the convention tilting the rules in Hillary’s favor.  Et tu, Rachel?   Say it isn’t so!   And now they’re giving short shrift to the biggest wildifre in memory.

It’s a difficult choice deciding which is worse, the scope of the fire or the negligence being exhibited by some American news outlets that have all but abdicated their responsibility to educate and enlighten the American people.

I know Donald Trump is a ratings getter, but come on guys. This is one monster fire. There are bound to be consequences for all of us, including Mr. Trump,  even if much of the land it’s burning isn’t populated.  There’s no carbon tax on Mother Nature and really no good excuse for slanting your coverage in favor of one candidate over another.   Unless corporate has dictated that profits trump the need to know.

Matlin Quits The Republicans

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Prominent Republican strategist Mary Matlin, is quitting the Republican Party.   She’s jumping ship and declaring herself to be a Libertarian.   What’s next?   Dogs and cats sleeping together?   Frogs falling from the sky?

Another goodie is the new poll that shows people aren’t voting for Hilary or Trump because they like Hillary or Trump.   No, they are voting for Hillary because they hate Trump and for Trump because they can’t stand Hillary.    A majority likes Bernie Sanders, but he can’t get nominated because so many Americans can’t vote in states with closed primaries and the Democratic Party has rigged their primary system with phony balloney “superdelegates”  who can defy the will of the majority.

They’ve taken what we’re used to, voting for the lesser of two evils, and kicked it up onto a whole new level of insanity.   The owner of an auto repair shop here in Bel Air expressed his frustration by posting the following on a sign outside his shop, “This is the craziest election ever, Rep or Dem.” 

Whatever happens, it’s important to maintain your sense of humor.   Don’t let the crazies suck you in.

Which leads us to the question of why Democrats should even bother going to the polls?   It’s a valid question, answerable with the academic response that not going to the polls will be like voting for Donald Trump, even if you can’t stand Hillary Clinton.

So go.  To thine own self be untrue and vote for Queen Hillary, the next American royal family member in line to the throne of the Goddess Columbia.

Take away the superdelegates and open all the primaries and Bernie would probably be in the lead.  But he’s not, giving us the very real possibility that Donald Trump has a shot at being President of the United States.  Oh no?   Look out your window.   Those are real frogs falling from the sky.

 

Bernie Sanders, Hunter Thompson And The Second Wave

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Without getting all maudlin about it, the runup to the conventions has finally gotten to me.   Yes, Trump will in all liklihood be the Republican candidate, and yes, Hillary will in all probability be the Neo-Liberal Democratic candidate, another right-of-center Republican posing as a progressive until she gets in and then it’ll be the same old, same old.  Back to Wall Street friendly business as usual, continuing the devastation of America’s middle class as secret trade deals move forward and giant corporations continue scooping up the profits with even less regulation and accountability and the Clinton Foundation grows fat and happy with donations pouring in from every corner of the planet as the politicos sell their souls while carping about the need for greater transparency.

Or maybe she’ll fool us all, turning her back on all that money she took from the big bankers and the favors accepted from the corporatocracy that helped her get elected.   Maybe once elected, she’ll come down on the side of the common folk and not the rich and powerful.  Maybe she’ll deliver on her platform, so much of which she stole from Bernie Sanders, and deliver for Main Street instead of Wall Street.  Ya, right.  Maybe the  leopard will change its spots.

Sure, an unexpected turn of events could lead to Bernie getting the nod, but at this point it feels as though the Sander’s campaign will go to the convention ready for a fight only to be confronted by what we already know, that the fix is in and the process is headed for an inevitible result – a symbolic fight over super delegates to make it look good for the common folk, even while a decision was made months ago.  It’s Hillary’s turn.

It feels like we’ve been here before.  Like the Millenials are being given the same treatment they gave us Boomers.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that George McGovern and Jimmy Carter were both beset by the same flaw.   They were both too honest for American politics.    Or perhaps for politics period.   It could be that Bernie Sanders has that very same problem.

Bill O’Reilly doesn’t.   Last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he repeated a bit of misinformation those on the right love to keep passing along even though it’s incorrect, that Sweden, one of their much-hated examples of Social Democracy gone wrong, has “one of the highest suicide rates in the world.”   That’s not true.  According to the World Health Organization, Sweden is ranked 58th in the world.   The U.S., is ranked 50th.  So we’re even worse off, here in our bastion of free market Capitalism.    But it’s not only that.     A recent poll shows Scandinavians, with the security their social democracies provide, to be among the happiest people in the world.

Thompson’s gone now, and there’s no one of his peculiar intellectual bent to provide us with a proper gonzo perspective on the bad craziness that has the country by the throat.   Sometimes it takes someone like Thompson, with an exaggerated sense of reality, to pull us back into seeing the truth.   And now, even without him, what’s happening feels like somehow it’s all happened before.   There’s something vaguely familiar.  Just as we thought we might reach out and own it, a righteous resolution is once again being snatched away.

A passage from Thompson’s book “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” comes to mind.   It struck me the first time I read it and it feels appropriate now, more than 40 years later, tying what was to what is, and maybe leaving us hoping for more than we can possibly have.   Just like before.  Stripped of idealism and facing the cold, emotionless face of reality.  The politics of power.  Like staring into the eyes of a shark.  Is that something Thompson wrote?  I’m really not sure.   But it’s a good line.

Here was the doctor’s take on it, back in 71.

“And that, I think, was the handle-that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil.   Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that.  Our energy would simply prevail.  There was no point in fighting – on our side or theirs.  We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark – that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”  -HST, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

Finding America In Orioles Baseball

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Before the explosive growth in the popularity of football and the terrible but quite possibly real consequences of  CTE,  we all had something else.   Something calmer.  Something more thoughtful and far less violent.   We had baseball.  A testimonial to teamwork and fair play.  A monument to all that was right and good about America, where any kid who worked hard and stayed out of trouble could rise to the top.  Make it  into the bigs.  Even a farm kid from out in the sticks.  Baseball and not physically and possibly mentally debilitating football, was our national passtime.   And it’s still out there.   Waiting to welcome you back.

I got into rooting for the Orioles back in the early 80’s, while working at WMAR-TV in Baltimore.   I was initiated into the O’s family by “Wild Bill” Hagy himself, who looked at my pinstripe suit and said, you look pretty good in those pinstripes, but you’ll look a lot better wearing this,” as he placed an orange and black Orioles cap on my head.   In retrospect, it was a proud moment for me, a moment of baseball acceptance like none before, as I became a “Weaver believer,” covering the 79 series with  Pittsburgh.

Being on tv, even as a humble news reporter, has it perks.

I remained a fan of the O’s for the next three years before a job offer called me away to KABC-TV in  Los Angeles, which meant swearing an allegiance to Dodger blue.  Thing is, I grew up with the Brooklyn Dodgers and never really got over it when they left.    So there I was, in LA with the Dodgers and Tommy Lasorda and all, but somewhere in a dark corner of my mind, the Dodgers still belong in Brooklyn.   It’s something I can’t shake.  It’s as though the Angels should have been enough for LA, but the Dodgers chased them out of town.   Chased them down to Anaheim, where they continue to try and sort out their identity crisis.   What else can you call it,  when a team has Los Angeles in its name but plays out of a ballpark located in Anaheim, down in Orange County?   How can they possibly be the “Los Angeles Angels?”    The only thing that might possibly be worse would be the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.”  I mulled this over for some time back when they changed their name from “California,” which sort of worked, to “Los Angeles,” which doesn’t really work at all.    It kind of makes local identity meaningless.   Isn’t identifying with a team a key to enjoying the game?

All this moving around and name changing was too much for a kid from Minnesota, who remembers no professional baseball at all before the Twins, when nearly everybody from the land of 10,000 lakes (actually it’s more than 11,000 but Minnesotans are way too humble to brag about it) was pulling for the Milwaukee Braves before they moved to Atlanta.

And so, after leaving Maryland for the coast, baseball lost me.   Or I lost baseball.   For more than 30 years.  Even with Chavez Ravine and the Big A right there.   I had little or no interest.  Steve Garvey?  Steve who?   I had seen baseball.   It was Brooks Robinson and the Orioles, and they were on the other side of the world.

And then I came back.   And the O’s are still here.   And baseball – and this is why I decided to write this rambling reminiscence – baseball, is better than ever.

Watching Manny Machado bare-hand a grounder while on the run and rocket it over to first for an out and then come back to hit a grand-slam homer, or waiting for Buck Showalter to go into a full-blown Earl Weaver impersonation and start kicking dirt on the ump’s shoes before being ejected (I know he  won’t, but I keep hoping), it’s all still there.  And the play, the science of baseball, for me anyway, is better than ever.  These guys are amazing.   And so is the game.  It always has been.   It’s what America is about.   Or what it was about before we lost our  way.    Achievement through fair play,  hard work and being part of a team, all pulling together to be winners.   A monument to all that is right and good about America.  Baseball, is American exceptionalism personified.    Most of the politicians now running for national office would be ejected in the top-half of the first.

“O say can you see?”   “O” yes I can Wild Bill,  and it’s good to be back.  Francis Scott Key would have loved the Orioles and Camden Yards, one of the last baseball venues that refuses to sell out to the highest bidder.  He would have had a Buck Showalter garden gnome hidden out in the backyard.   A silent overseer counting balls and strikes while  hiding out in a big patch of   black-eyed susans.

Bad Craziness In The Land Of The Weird

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There’s a wonderful line delivered by Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson in the film “Where the Buffalo Roam” when the good doctor proclaims “What do you want?   You already live in the land of the weird.”

Yes we do.   Our political process is about to nominate two of the most untrustworthy candidates out there.  According to a Quinnipiac Poll from July of last year, 57% of America doesn’t think Hillary Clinton is “honest and trustworthy.”    The number for Donald Trump is nearly the same, at 58%.    And this is the best we can do?   A crown prince booted out of a Republican clown car and a recycled Clinton?

Another more recent poll, done in April of this year, shows that only 20% of Americans think that Hillary Clinton represents “very well” their views on “issues they care about,” while only 15% think the Donald represents their views on important issues.   Clearly, most Americans are not crazy about either of  these people.

Could this be because Secretary Clinton was in favor of pushing us into three wrong-headed regime change wars in Iraq,  Libya and Syria and now wants to increase our fight with ISIS by sending in more American ground troops while the Saudis stand idly by?   Well, they aren’t exactly idle, they’re sending out millions of dollars to Wahhabi schools (madrassas) that preach the kind of distored view of Islam that supports terrorism.  It should be pointed out that apparently the funding is coming from wealthy private individuals and families, and not the royal family that runs the government.   For some, I guess, that’s supposed to make it okay, letting the Saudi government off the hook.

According to PBS, Wahhabism’s explosive growth began in the 1970s when Saudi charities started funding Wahhabi schools (madrassas) and mosques from Islamabad to Culver City, California.”   Sounds like the Saudi Government should be very much on the hook, doesn’t it?

So there’s that to chew on.  And so much more.

The so-called pottery store rule of “you break it, you own it” keeps coming back, doesn’t it?   Well, it should.   This whole stuck in the muck in the Middle East mess got started in 1990 with Operation Desert Storm, when, guess who?   Yes, you guessed it, the Saudis asked us to send over our military to defend them against a possible attack by Saddam Hussein.   Some believe the attacks of 9-11 were in response to the U.S. putting its troops on “holy” Saudi soil.

The Saudis, who are now the third largest military spender in the world,  don’t want to clean up the extremist mess in their own back yard, so they let us do their fighting and dying for them – letting us break it so they won’t own it – while they continue living their 16th century lives awash in the grandeur of their royalty, treating women like chattel, starting off the new year by beheading 47 people in one day including pro-democracy Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.   The Shia are in the minority in Saudi Arabia.  Too bad for al-Nimr.

And HRC wants this to continue by getting us in even deeper with more money spent and more Americans killed?

There’s also the issue of her six years as a member of the Board of Directors for Walmart and the money she’s taken from Wall Street, and corporations she helped establish in Ireland and elsewhere offshore while she was Secretary of State which later were friendly to the Clinton Foundation, or the Clinton Global Initiative putting together a deal to help the people in Flint Michigan fix their poison water problem just before the Michigan primary,  but that horse has been beaten so repeatedly and with such gusto that it’s carcass is no longer identifiable.    It’s probably too complicated for most folks to understand anyway, which you can be sure,  is what the Clinton machine is counting on.  The Clintons didn’t accumulate millions by being stupid.

But don’t despair, if Billaries questionable background troubles you there’s still the Donald, with his four bankruptcies, bloviant narcissim and overt mysogeny.   What do you want from a poor kid who started out with nothing more than the gift of a mere million dollars and a snakeoil salesman’s grin that got him a tv reality show?   Anyway, he’s gonna fix everything, right?  With his big wall on the Mexican border and deals he’ll cut with Putin and China, carpet bombing the opposition into submission and everything will be wonderful because he loves us all so much and there’ll be jobs galore and God, it’ll be just great cause he knows how to cut a deal.   What a pantload, and millions are buying into it.

But that’s the way it is here in the land of the weird.   Oh, how I miss Hunter Thompson.   He’d be shredding these people into tiny bits and feeding them to  a flock of bats somewhere out  in the Mojave, in an overheated car on a lonely road from L.A. to Vegas, which perhaps, is where we all belong.   We’d be better for it, so long as the drugs didn’t wear off.

You can trust me, I’m a doctor.