Dump The Surrogates, Cut The Crap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ladies And Gentlemen, Place Your Bets

Talking with Fareed Zakaria this morning on CNN,  Katrina vanden Heuvel of “The Nation” said it’s her belief that Donald Trump is “disruptive and not transformational.”    She also noted that we have to wait and see what he is able to accomplish.

Of course.  However, at this point in time it appears his failure to deal with reality about the meager number of those in attendance for his inauguration will be eclipsed only by his inability to keep the promises he made to his base going forward.    From there, it’s a question of how much his base will put up with before they join the millions upon millions of women (and others) who already oppose his Presidency.

Will the Republican dominated Congress sit there doing nothing, even while threatened with losing their majority in 2018 as Trump continues to be Trump, denying reality to both the press and the world?  Or will Donald J. Trump come around?   Will the leopard change its spots, becoming someone he is not, letting others with more experience in government and geopolitics guide his actions? Doubtful.   He’s already an old dog,  his experience rests with business not politics, and that’s just not his style.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Evan Halper compares Mr. Trump going to Washington, to Mr. Schwarzenegger going to Sacramento in 2003, where he was going to beat the “girly-men”  in the state legislature into submission.   For those of us who lived through Arnold as Governor of California, this is deja vu all over again.  The girly-men in Sacramento turned out to be a political brick wall.

According to Halper, “He experienced how swiftly a populist crowd-pleaser could go from harnessing rage to watching it ricochet in the wrong direction. Adoring crowds who reveled in his pledges to restore integrity and common sense to government turned on him when bureaucratic bloat failed to shrink.” -LAT’s

Bookies are setting their odds, one giving even-money that Trump won’t get through his first term without resigning or being impeached.   Others, are less optimistic.  An Irish bookie is giving four to one odds that Donald Trump will be impeached before the end of his first term.

It’s going to be interesting.   At the very least, it will be fascinating to watch while the press tries dealing with a president who denies reality.   At the most, it could be costly and very dangerous.

1.20.2017

Thought I was going to be able to get through this, that I would be able to watch it from a distance without going nuts.   Then I turned on CNN and saw the Donald boogieing down with Toby Keith and realized that just won’t be possible.  The bizarre conflation of Donald Trump in his expensive New Yorker’s  topcoat with cowboy Toby Keith goes directly to the question of just how badly this billionaire from Manhattan has snookered the fur-wearing,  country-western, Second Amendment crowd.

I cannot watch this madness unfold any further.  I will, therefore, be joining those of you who will be hiding under your beds, getting stoned, drinking heavily or doing God knows what to survive this national hijacking. We got through Nixon. Hopefully, we’ll get through this. It may be time for the weird to turn pro again. It might be the only way to defeat the bad craziness that is upon us.

To those of you who are now expressing buyer’s remorse because you voted for Trump, it’s too late.  You just jackknifed into the shallow end of the pool.

To those who voted for Trump out of desperation, I can understand your feeling that the government was so badly broken that you were left with no other choice. I disagree with what you did, but I can understand desperation.

To those of you who have no idea why those of us who opposed Trump are so upset, it’s because your vote for DJT signaled your approval of avarice, deceit, sexism, racism, mocking the physically disabled, nixing affordable healthcare, Trump’s cozy relationship with a Russian dictator and the destruction of general decency.

It’s going to be a very long four years. Intellectuals and the press already stand accused. Before long the library will be in flames.

God bless us every one.

RO

A Bogus Inauguration?

Why do so many people keep dancing around the truth – the fact that without Russian hacking coupled with FBI Director Comey’s ill-timed and out-of-policy email pronouncements – Donald J. Trump, would, in all probability, not be on the doorstep of becoming the next President of the United States?

Putting it plainly, we, dear friends, are in one hell of a mess.

Hillary Clinton, was leading in the polls, remember?   And then, just days before the election, FBI Director Comey decided it would be a good idea to link her to Anthony Weiner.   It turned out to be totally baseless, but her numbers took a four point hit.  The right-wing propaganda machine went to work and Mrs. Clinton,  never recovered.

There are those who would argue that Comey’s “bombshell” letter, implying a link between Clinton and  Weiner (when there was none), leading to pics of Mr. Weiner’s throbbing member all over the internet and television news, coming just eleven days before the vote, had no impact on the election.  Really?   Give me a break.

Take it back even further.    Try and imagine the campaign without the email scandals, or the FBI releasing information about the server investigation, which, it turned out, contained nothing chargeable.

Hillary Clinton did nothing that merited being charged, Comey said, and yet the FBI failed to follow its own policy by releasing information regarding an ongoing investigation.  Once again, Director Comey was doing all he could, intentionally or unintentionally,  to torpedo the Clinton campaign,  and in doing so, playing right into Russia’s hands.

At this point it really doesn’t matter whether Comey did it to intentionally attack Hillary Clinton, or if his judgement (and possibly the judgement of his boss Loretta Lynch) was just that horrible.   The damage was done.

Stop pretending it never happened and that it doesn’t warrant a major investigation into not just the impact but the motivation of those involved as Donald Trump continues to do all he can to promote his friend and ally Vladimir Putin, and Putin, does all he can to return the favor for Trump, with a huge oil deal for Exxon hanging in the balance in Russia as Mr. Trump tries to assign the job of Secretary of State to the CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, much to the delight you can be sure, of Vladimir Putin.

At the same time, Mr. Trump seems determined to do all he can (and tweet all he can) to insult our time-tested friends and allies in NATO.

Take off your blinders.  Connect the dots.  Remember that the Russians hacked both Clinton and Trump, but only released damaging material on Mrs. Clinton and appear to be withholding whatever they might have on Trump.  Think about it as you watch Donald Trump being sworn in on Friday.   Imagine Vladimir Putin standing by his side as Trump raises his hand and pledges to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”  

Kudos to those public officials and celebrities who are refusing to attend, which would only lend unspoken approval.    Kudos to members of the press who refuse to accept nonsense as being acceptable.

Blaming the media and placing restrictions on our free press will be among of the first signs that the ship of state is in danger of going down. Watch for it.  The Trump camp is already making noises about closing the White House press room.

As the Ben Bradlee character so aptly put it in All The President’s Men,  “Nothing’s riding on this except the first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.”

At this moment in time we need all the Ben Bradlees we can get our hands on.

It Comes Down To Compassion?

Unable to sleep, troubled by an ongoing metaphorical mental picture of a horse being out of the barn, galloping  full-speed toward a cliff from which there may be no return, no salvation, I pick up the remote to switch on CNN and Don Lemon.

And there it was.  After years of wondering why there is such a division in thinking between the political poles of left and right, suddenly it became very clear.   It came from a cancer survivor.

There was Jeff Jeans,  cancer-free for five years he said, a former Republican, and former opponent of the Affordable Care Act.  He is now making the rounds on the talk shows after being featured on a town hall with Paul Ryan.  He spoke about his conversion to compassion.

That’s what changed him, he said, a conversion to having compassion.   It took a trip to death’s door to get him there but now he has it.   Simple compassion.

Before being confronted by cancer, he said, he felt that any and all government programs were bad.  And then the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” saved his life.

It’s inconceivable that there are still people who think they’ll be fine after the Republicans repeal Obamacare, because they will still be covered by the Affordable Care Act.  Inconceivable. But those people do exist.  You can see them if you watch enough tv  or take the time to read.

Before his conversion, Jeff Jeans said, he was a “Libertarian-leaning Republican,” who believed in material things.  Now, he says, he believes health care is a right and not a privilege to be  afforded only by those with pockets deep enough to pay the going price, whatever that might be, dictated by the “every man for himself” free traders who think everything will be just fine if only government will just get out of the way.

That’s what he believed before being diagnosed with cancer.  Before he needed Obamacare to  pay the bills so that he could live.   Before he learned that compassion is a real living thing and that without it we are no more than wild dogs snarling and snapping over the scraps thrown out by a butcher’s helper preparing the finest cuts for the rich folks who live behind a tall fence up on the hill.

Can it be just that simple?    Can it be  such a simple thing as half the country having no compassion?   How can so many of these people call themselves Christians, going to church on Sunday and still be without compassion?   Can you even imagine Christ without compassion?   Aren’t they one and the same?

Is that why so many of us who already believe, if not  in Christ then in compassion, lie awake nights, wondering why the horse has been set free,  while compassionless Republicans chop their way through political hash in Washington, designing bills to destroy the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with nothing, because that’s what they have, absolutely nothing but the idea that government programs are bad,  compassion and caring be damned.

End affordable healthcare.   Gut Social Security and Medicare.  Cut assistance to the poor.   Kick out the Dreamers, split up families, send the immigrants packing behind a big, beautiful wall, covering your deceit with one lie after another, telling the already misinformed that it will all be so beautiful and good if only they continue to follow, unthinking, unquestioning with faith in ongoing ignorance, abandoning compassion.

And so the horse tumbles into a bottomless black hole from which there may be no salvation.   Is that what it will take for greedy unbelievers to learn compassion?   Must we all go over  the cliff with them?   Will there be any coming back after the fall, or will we find ourselves in some brave new world, ruled by an unholy alliance between Russian oligarchs and Trumpist corporate chieftains, the poor crushed under the boot heels of those who believe that “might makes right” – children and the elderly left to their own devices while the wealthy few keep the gold for themselves, comforted in their certainty that only  they deserve what they have because they are better than all the rest because they have never had to feel the sting of being at death’s door without the ability to pay for life-giving care?

Surely the hand of God has delivered the wealthy few to live in a privileged bubble, with no need for the compassion of government interference.

And so the horse gallops toward the cliff while untold numbers of Americans can’t sleep at night wondering if there will be any return from the fall.   If  compassion will in the end trump greed, delivering us from the evil of raw and mindless financial lust and all the suffering that goes with it.

 

A Little Suffering…

For my mental health and general well-being, I am going to try and get through an entire piece without mentioning politics, DJT,  Julian Assange, or any of the assorted political madness with which we are currently confronted.   Okay, here we go-

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The snow filled screensaver that is winter in Maryland has finally returned.  Great white flakes floating to the ground, reminding me of Minnesota and California, which would be contradictory, except that I’ve lived in both states.

Folks here in Maryland are in the habit of running out and shoveling the snow away in stages, before it gets so thick that they’ve got a real job on their hands.   Not like Minnesota, where Scandinavians enjoy the pain and suffering that comes with letting the snow pile up for two or three feet before going out in freezing temperatures to do some real heavy lifting, coming back in exhausted and covered with sweat, eyebrows frozen and their long-johns caked with ice where they poke out just above their felt-lined rubber survival boots reinforced with heated socks.

One winter years ago, after a really heavy Minnesota snow,  my buddy Jim Sonstegard and I thought we’d make some serious money shoveling out driveways.   Our first big take was cutting a deal to shovel out Johnny Bolstad’s house for five bucks.  That was five dollars for both of us, not five dollars each.  Johnny had done well for himself and it wasn’t because he threw money around carelessly.  Anyway, this was in the 60’s.   Gas was 28-cents a gallon, so five dollars would buy more than just a couple of trips to the twin cities.

The snow was probably five feet deep where it was blown up in a big drift against Johnny’s garage door and two to three feet deep all the way out to the street.   It didn’t look all that bad until we were about one-third finished and it hit us that we had two-thirds still to go.  I don’t remember how long it took us to clear the whole thing, just that at some point in the process we decided  it would be our one and only job of the day.   We might have been young but we weren’t stupid and we came to a mutual understanding about a need for cost-effectiveness, long before the term was in vogue.   Anyway, my Swedish heritage and Jim’s Norwegian blood had suffered far enough to satisfy any need we had for earning our keep through frozen exhaustion.

The snow reminds me of California, because, after more than thirty years in the sun,  I was, quite frankly, getting tired of nearly the same weather each and every day, month after month, year after year.  “Another lousy day in paradise,” my friends in the tv business used to call it.   There is some truth in that, as generally, the weather in Southern California is wonderful, until you get tired of it or the earth moves reminding you of the price you must pay for the near-normalcy of the almost non-stop Mediterranean climate.   There are also periods of extreme heat that would fry a lizard, if lizards were stupid enough to crawl out from under their rocks,  but that usually passes without too much damage being done.

Here in Maryland,  things are more temperate.  The winter, in fact, isn’t all that bad compared to Minnesota  where it grabs you by the throat, threatening to kill you sometime in early or mid-December, and not letting go until April – if your luck holds out. In Maryland we get about half of that, with January snow hanging around until March.  Not that bad really, more like a long winter vacation in Big Bear or Mammoth before winter makes way for spring, and everything turns green again.

Our friend Susan, has a farm over in Carroll County with a big house with a screened-in porch.   That’s where we were sitting, eating lunch one day this summer when I took a look around at the scenery all bathed in green, the trees,  the fields, the birds and her horses crossing a pasture single file and proclaimed, “I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.”    “That’s what Jack used to say!” Susan responded, referring to her late husband.   The place is just that beautiful, throughout the year.

It’s like living in a painting, or maybe a screensaver, with gently falling snow.  A screensaver that changes with the seasons, making Maryland  one of the most underrated states in the Union.  A perfect balance between the torrential rains of the south and the bitter Minnesota-like winters of New England.

Please don’t tell anybody.   If word about how great this place is gets around I’ll have to move again, and I’m running out of places to go.   Right now I have to run outside and shovel out the driveway while it’s still in stage one. Doesn’t bother me a bit though.  A little suffering is good for the soul, and compared to Minnesota, this is a piece of cake.

2016 Takes Parting Shot, Killing Father Mulcahy

What the hell’s going on?   Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and then a day later her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and now on the final day of the year William Christopher?  Father Mulcahy of the the “4077th Mash?”

I have to think Mr. Christopher was killed by 2016,  a parting shot and final insult from what had to have been one of the all-around crappiest years on record.  Not a bad year in terms of disease or mass dying here int he U.S., it’s not like some heretofore unheard of plague swept the land.  No, it was just kind of crappy.    Not a pretty word, but the only one that seems to fit.

We’ve had years that were far worse in many respects, especially war deaths, but when considering dirty, disgusting, damaging, depressing politics with two presidential candidates nobody really wanted, followed by a group of celebrity deaths,including a mother and daughter all lumped together near year’s end and who knows how many black men, women and children gunned down on the nations streets, 2016 may be one of the worst years ever.   It’s is, at the very least, one of the worst post-2001.

And now this miserable year has taken one last parting shot, killing, of all people, not some evil jerk, but Father Mulcahy.

Wish I could say that 2017 has to be better, but I can’t.  Not with the Trumpists already at war with their own party and a sitting president.   Not with a group of people who have convinced their base that so much that is good and hopeful about the United States needs to be done away with so that we can protect the illusion of an attack on the Second Amendment and defend against a non-existent war on Christmas or the false and disgusting allegation of Mexican rapists overwhelming our southern border.

2016 was the wonderful year that conned us into thinking political “surrogates” were credible conduits of information on television while we  were assaulted by “fake news” on the Internet, like the bogus story about the death of American author Herman Wouk.   If you’ve forgotten, Wouk wrote “The Winds of War,” and “The Caine Mutiny.”

I’ve been watching “Winds of War,”  Wouk’s monumental book turned into a seven-part docudrama mega-series for television in the 80’s.   It’s free on YouTube.   Apart from some wonderful acting and a sensational story, it serves as an uneasy reminder of how badly power corrupts.  How lying, thin-skinned bullies must be confronted without hesitation.   Of how, as Sinclair Lewis reminded us so many years ago, we should never think that “It Can’t Happen Here.”  That may be the uneasiest part of all.

I’ve just watched part 5 of “Winds of War.”   Partly based upon a non-existent threat from Poland, Hitler and Mussolini, both mad with power,  are about to drag the U.S. into the war in Europe.   We got through that, so we’ll probably get through this – whatever “this” turns out to be.   It’s difficult to tell when a president elect appears to be in league with a foreign dictator, even if by no means other than supportive rhetoric, in a country that has at various times threatened to bury us and most recently hacked into our electoral process and is currently planning God knows what.

Don’t be fooled, William Christopher may be dead but Herman Wouk remains one of America’s greatest living authors, and one of his greatest works, “Winds of War” is free on YouTube.   Be forewarned though, some of the parallels with our contemporary political situation just might scare the hell right out of you.

We might do well to remember the words of journalist and author, Sydney Schanberg, who said, “Genocide, is just around the corner, all the time……it didn’t end with World War II.”    Mr. Schanberg,  is among those who passed away in 2016.  His book,  “The Death and Life of Dith Pran,” was adapted for film as “The Killing Fields.”

 

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P.S.  The piece above was originally posted (briefly) with the name of Bob Denver of “Gilligan’s Island” fame instead of William Christopher.  I wrote it that way the morning of December 31st, inadvertently creating a piece of fake news because I was faked out by the Internet.

Somebody apparently thought it would be clever to circulate an old report from CBS News on the death of Bob Denver from 2005.   Well, they got me.    I saw the post, coming from another friend in the journalism business, and believed it to be the final insult of 2016.   I felt compelled to write something, and so I did.   I wrote the piece above, but about the death of Gilligan and not William Christopher.

Later, a member of the Boston University J-School  facebook page I sometimes post to read the piece and gave me a heads up that I had screwed up, that Denver had been dead since 2005.   I took the piece down, relegating it to a trash file on my website, pledging that I would go and resurrect no more.

Then, this morning, I woke up to read that 2016 wasn’t done with us after all, that the mild mannered padre’ from Mash, William Christopher, had died at his home in Pasadena.  I again felt compelled to write something but there was no need.   I had already written it the day before.    All I had to do was remove Bob Denver’s name and insert the name of William Christopher.

So now, finally, hopefully, goodbye and good riddance to 2016, a year I ushered out by writing a piece on fake news that turned out to be fake news.   Not by intention but by fluke.    But then, it’s been one hell of a fluky year.   Who really believed the American people would put Donald Trump in the White House?

RO

 

Carrie Fisher 1956-2016

          photo: wikipedia

One of Hollywood’s peculiar axioms is that celebrities generally die in threes and it has just happened again.    Carrie Fisher has passed away after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to L.A. She  was only 60.   I  can say “only,” and claim a certain affinity for her passing as I am 68 and suffered my heart attack ten years ago on the Hollywood Freeway.   I was one of the lucky ones.   They got me to Cedars Sinai with enough time for a surgeon to make repairs to my arterial plumbing.  But there’s more to the story than that.

Some years ago I was sent out to interview Carrie Fisher and Beverly D’Angelo. Can’t remember what they were both involved with at the time, probably one charity or another, but my photographer and I were sent out by KTLA to shoot the interviews at a park in Beverly Hills. Pretty sure that by sheer coincidence it was Will Rogers Park,  a spot later made  infamous  as the location of George Michael’s arrest.

I don’t remember much about Ms. Fisher, except that she was very nice. That’s what you remember years later, not the substance of the interview but how you were treated, particularly by a celebrity like Fisher whose parents are entertainment royalty, and she was very nice. So was her mother Debbie Reynolds, whom I interviewed between shoots for the movie “Mother” at the Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood.   I was interviewing Ms. Reynolds, about the death of another Hollywood legend, Gene Kelly.

Saddened to hear of Ms. Fisher’s death and of the deaths of Zsa Zsa Gabor and George Michael. Happily, Ms. D’Angelo and I are both still among the living. I worked for her father Gene, when he was General Manager of WBNS-TV, in Columbus, Ohio. Beverly and I had a nice chat about those early days back in Columbus, when we met for an interview one day years ago, at a park in Beverly Hills.

Donald J. Trump – Master Of Misdirection

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Even before he’s been sworn in, Donald Trump’s use of misdirection is getting to be exhausting.

A key to making a magic trick work,  misdirection causes an audience to  focus on something irrelevant as a distraction from what’s really going on, like making a big deal out of Melania Trump staying in Manhattan, or Donald’s many and various Twitter snits and outrageous statements, all of which have distracted his followers, the media, and consequently the American public from more important issues like his physical condition, his ongoing failure to produce adequate tax records or his connection to the Russian Oligarchy.

Without those tax records we have no idea what we’re getting.   We have no idea who Mr. Trump might be indebted to, who he might be in league with internationally.  Who might be able to pull his strings once he becomes President.   We have no idea how deep his connection to Putin and the Russians goes.

How can we concentrate on anything of substance when the media continues obsessing over tweets, and the potential impact they might have on the upcoming administration?   Will a tweet fire up the nuclear arms race all over again?    More than likely, it will just go away like so many tweets before it while we wait for the next outrageous statement from the President elect,  as he continues playing the media and the country like a street performer with a shell  game, and all of it with four years of magical misdirection still to come.

One wonders how long it will be before the magic wears out and the glitter wears off.    Once it does, Mr. Trump will likely have nothing left in his political grab-bag but fear,  and a possible campaign to shut down the media with the intent of setting Americans one against the other based upon race, age, religion or sexual preference.   And that, dear friends, could be real trouble.

Oh Deliver Us Please From The Donald

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It’s a struggle to get it down on the page, the madness is coming so fast and without regard for human decency.   Deception like greasy machine gun fire cutting down any and all that get in its path, as the truth is laid to waste somewhere out on the I-95 between New York,  DC and Mar-a-Lago.

How are we supposed to deal with a president who leaves his wife at home in Manhattan and instead will apparently present his daughter as the figurative first lady of the United States?    How are we supposed to handle this in our oh so proper Christian nation now being hit by huge Republican overtones shot through with the heaviest of family values?   Is this daughter as first lady thing as perverse as it seems?   Can you even imagine what the huddled masses would be saying if a Democrat tried to pull this familial switch?

Is there anything Trump can’t get away with, as he ignores daily intelligence briefings, telling his followers not to fret,  that he is so incredibly intelligent that he can afford to avoid intelligence which he can’t possibly have because he’s refusing to hear it?

He ignores science, nominating climate change deniers to lead or mislead the EPA and the Department of Energy.   He has nominated the CEO of one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies, a man with no experience outside the oil and gas industry, to be Secretary of State while Bloomberg reports that there are now more green energy jobs than oil and gas extraction jobs in the U.S.   All of Trump’s nominees to date are aging white men, which totally ignores the nation’s  demographic reality.

What form of intellectual hoodoo is this?   Is there anything the Trumpists won’t find acceptable?

Those with the ability to identify the madness continue to cry out for the country, for our futures and the futures of our kids and grandkids while Donald J. Trump, not yet in office, but on his way, gets into a Twitter snit with the Chinese government over their capture of a U.S. Navy drone, something he really needs to just stay the hell out of at this point as we still have a real president to deal with it, while those of us who know the hazards headed our way argue on Facebook over the degree to which we must accept this man and what we can and cannot do now and in the coming four years to try and preserve the Republic.

A wasted argument perhaps, as we sink further and further into picayune times,  led by picayune people,  becoming increasingly picaynish, greedy and backward,  while those who have not yet fallen into a political coma cry out for a giant of mind and spirit to deliver us from this madness, at the same time fearing that all the real giants might be dead, bought off or contained.

This Is Not Normal So Stop Acting Like It Is

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Bad enough he’s bringing big oil people back on the scene, the guys who gave us never-ending war in Afghanistan, Iraq and then Isis, but now Rick Perry, the man whose family owns a ranch formerly named after the “N” word, has been picked by the Donald to lead a department he couldn’t remember during the campaign? Oh God, oh God, what fresh insanity is this?

We are at the point where every day brings increasing incredulity. What’s possibly next, vacationing in the Crimea with Putin and his gang of KGB oligarchs to relieve exhaustion from selecting cabinet nominees?   Or  perhaps another self-congratulatory tour?

This kind of behavior must not be normalized by the press.   Even a few Republicans who have not yet completely lost their marbles are worried about the obvious Russian connection.   It would be encouraging if the pundits would be just a little less cheerful when chatting it up about this whole unholy, unacceptable situation.  This is not a cheerful time.   This is as serious as a heart attack of national proportions which we may be about to experience in January.   So stop the endless grinning.

The nation is headed down an unthinkable path that is so  unconventional,  so out of control, so potentially fascist, that thinking people everywhere have got to demand that sanity is somehow restored.   It is not normal for a transition team to send out questionnaires to employees in the Energy Department in an attempt to pick their brains about who does or does not believe in converting to clean energy.   Smacks of a “purge,” doesn’t it?   Something Stalin might have done to rid himself of anyone who might oppose his point of view?    A sneaky 74 question quiz to try and get inside bureaucrat’s heads?

Why deal with the opposition, when they can be fired or otherwise neutered, as in prevented from doing their jobs?

What do you suppose Mr. Trump will do with the media, once he’s been sworn in?   Will there even be a media pool?  Will he accuse members of the media with violating the espionage act?   Will he talk to the media at all, or simply continue tweeting nonsensical messages out to his base and releasing an occasional video  from somewhere atop Trump Tower?

Why bother with the press (all those pesky questions) if he doesn’t have to?   And if  he doesn’t have to, how will anybody know what’s really going on as he continues draining the swamp by filling it with some of the biggest crocs and gators he can pull in, tempted by the raw meat of fame, political power and opportunism?

Like autocrats before him, Donald Trump has already threatened the press both indirectly and directly by saying he wants to make it easier to  take legal action against reporters and the companies they represent while pointing to reporters and cameras at the back of the hall and implying to his two-fisted followers that the press is the real problem – that those are the people you need to go after.

How far  will Trump go in his efforts aimed at frightening journalists and others into closing their laptops and shutting their mouths?   Bullying and threatening lawsuits has been his M-O in the past.   Why would he change now?

In light of new information regarding Russia’s meddling on Trump’s behalf in the election process, Mr. Trump must now be held to his word that he would release his tax information if elected.   It would be nice if he could be persuaded to get it done before the electors cast their ballots on the 19th.

He said he would release his tax returns and the press must continue to demand that he does so.    Until he does, we have no idea what we’re getting.

At the very least the American people deserve to know whether  and to what degree Donald Trump is indebted to Putin and the Russians (and others) as he continues appointing cabinet secretaries who have no belief in, or in some cases knowledge of,  the departments they will now be expected to lead, not to mention the absence of any political or geopolitical experience.

Hopefully Mr. Perry’s memory will improve once he  takes over the Department of Energy, and he’ll be able to find his way back to his office without bread crumbs.

Trump Taps Badenov For Top Security Job

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Washington, D.C.    12/18/2016

Catching the entire DC press corps by surprise, President-elect Donald J. Trump has withdrawn the name of Lt. General Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor, and has instead named international covert operations expert Boris Badenov to the post.

Neither General Flynn nor Badenov’s long time partner Natasha Fatale, could be reached for comment.

A Republican favorite for years, Badenov is expected to be widely accepted in Washington DC circles.  Reached by phone, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said,  “Sure Russia’s a big deal and yes we’re concerned about those damn tweets but this Badinov thing could prove to be the President-elect’s finest moment.”

In addition to regular appearances on “Dancing With the Stars,” Mr. Badenov previously worked for both the Nixon and George W. Bush Administrations.    Although it was never verified, he was thought to be a key advisor to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and largely responsible for the invasion of Iraq and the  failure of the U.S. Government to act in a timely fashion following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Badenov reacted to the appointment by phone saying,  “Ve vill kill moose and squirrel fast and nasty, and for fat orange Donald I do it on the cheap…..bwahahahaha.”    The reference to “moose and squirrel” is believed to be some kind of twitter code.

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12/18/2016 putinspeepshownewsservice.moscow  

NOT FAKE NEWS — DO NOT GO TO YOUR NEAREST PIZZA PARLOR TO INVESTIGATE — NOT FAKE NEWS

White Noise – The New Normal

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You turn on the nightly news hoping for some valid information.   Possibly something you really need to know delivered by seasoned, investigative journalists on whether the Russians might actually be partially responsible for the election of Donald J. Trump, and if so, what Putin and his henchmen expect to gain from the deal? Or maybe something that will clarify why Jill Stein has demanded a recount in Wisconsin and other battleground states while, at the same time, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has just surpassed the two-million mark and some perfectly credible and intelligent poll-watchers are talking about the need for the Electoral College to overturn Trump’s election, because, at the very least, there are just too many unanswered questions?

That’s what you hope for. What you get is a superficial rundown on who Mr. Trump has not picked for several cabinet offices.  A process John Cleese has compared to a pirate captain picking his band of cutthroats.  But, like a gunfighter with sand in his eyes, broadcast news, where most Americans go for their information,  stumbles forward, as though this election of a billionaire headline-seeker from Manhattan who refuses to release his tax records or put his businesses in a blind trust and praises the governing style of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as being business as usual,  followed by an in-depth analysis of how well the stores did with their day-after-Thanksgiving Day sales and what might happen on the newest big sales day in America, the Saturday that follows the day-after to be followed by “Cyber Monday”….blah, blah, blah, blah.

Your value as a customer appears to be far more important than your status as a citizen. At least that’s the way it feels, doesn’t it? Hasn’t the importance of markets superseded national interest, and isn’t the media just going along to get along?   They would be better off just giving the first five minutes of their show to John Cleese and letting him talk.

Maybe it’s just me. There’s this thing that happens, you see. It’s not uncommon, I’m not sure that it has a name, so I’ll call it a “thing.” It takes place when people who have been doing something for a very long time look back over their years of endeavor and begin to complain about how much better the profession was twenty or thirty years ago. For me, this led to discussions with other broadcast journalists about whether the perception is real or imagined, the argument being that our observation is hindered when viewed through the mist of time. Perhaps everything looks better in retrospect? Or maybe not?

Cronkite is dead and all the pretenders to the throne are coming up short. Not because they can’t do the job, but because the business parameters of the job have changed. At least it feels that way. This is what happens when profits trump journalism (pun intended) and the best intentions of kids coming out of journalism schools are dashed upon the rocks by broadcast news operations thoroughly co-opted by promotion and sales departments as ratings become all-important, driving real journalists away from a once-beloved profession where they are increasingly seen as a danger to profitability.  I’ve had more than one conversation centered on the question of whether anyone would watch a real newscast if someone had the gall to put it on the air.

To date, no one has.   Even PBS is now running ads and is therefore under a degree of pressure from the companies that support their broadcast, whether they’ll admit it or not.

Fear of the truth, even a little fear,  benefits authoritarians, tyrants and bullies, who seek to trivialize anything that questions their motives. Don’t take it personally America, you thought it was the truth but it’s only business.   According to the AP, “PolitiFact checked 77 Trump statements and found that 76 percent of them were Mostly FalseFalse or Pants on Fire.   In other words, for every four statements Donald Trump makes, only one of them is true, according to the site.”

No, Virginia, climate change is not a lie invented by the Chinese, there were not “thousands of people” celebrating the attacks of 9-11 in New Jersey, most whites are not killed by blacks,  and on and on and on.   The Washington Post reported in November of 2015,  “Trump has lied so many times about so many things during the past week that it’s difficult to keep track of all of them. But it doesn’t matter whether one focuses on Trump’s attitudes about crime or American Muslims or trade policy. He lies about all of these issues. And he will continue to lie as long as it works for him.”

And he has.   His latest big lie, unsupported by any factual information is his contention that “millions” voted illegally in the presidential election.  Not true, and he is being called out by the media on this latest big lie.  The problem, is that it took them so many months to get here.  In the beginning, they thought he was a political joke and they let him get away with rhetorical murder.  Now that it’s too late, they’re finally telling it like it is.  Donald Trump is a liar.

One of the smartest people on political talk tv, Fareed Zakaria, dared tell it like it is when he called Trump a “bullshit artist.” Pretty sure he did it only once.   I can only imagine the execs at CNN spitting out their Sunday morning coffee as they watched Zakaria  giving his audience the unvarnished truth.    Good God, we can’t have that.   Not on cable tv.

What have we come to when the truth is seen as liberal raving from the left and lies on the right,  driven by a massive FOX/Limbaugh media machine, are viewed as common sense?  Is that an environment where progressive thinking has even half a chance? The truth, is that it’s a brand of insanity, or at the very least, mass hysteria.

The fact that only the Electoral College stands between Donald J. Trump and the presidency has already been lost on most major broadcast outlets who are moving forward with their time-tested credo of give the people not what the need but what they want, and your ratings will rise!   The country will suffer in the process but remember, it’s only business.

Journalism should be a quest for the truth, not white noise designed to placate advertisers.  It’s a key to our democratic way of life. That being the case, we should all be eager to turn on the network news each night for a daily perspective on what’s really happening. A daily dose of the truth. Instead, we see otherwise excellent journalists being forced to do a dance of false equivalency, presenting both sides of an issue as though they carry equal weight, even though one side is obviously false and should be called out and crushed for being rhetorical blather.  If you have no need for objectivity whatsoever, you can always turn to FOX or right-wing talk radio.  The lefties can get pretty carried away too, but to say they are comparable to the right would be a false equivalency to the max.

Whatever you do, don’t read a newspaper or watch France24  or Euronews tv,  because you’ll be amazed at what’s really happening out there.  Journalism should be a clear light,  the enemy of tyrants, bullies and liars. In this new age of false equivalency, downright fake news on the Internet possibly assisted by the Russians and Orwellian “newspeak,” we are surely threatened by its demise.

Or perhaps I can’t remember things all that clearly anymore. Perhaps Cronkite going to Vietnam to see what was happening for himself and then coming back and telling us it was time to release ourselves and the Vietnamese people from the ongoing indentured hell of that war – perhaps this is all illusory?  Maybe Ed Murrow, never held the witch-hunting demagoguery of Joe McCarthy and his right hand man Roy Cohen (Trump’s mentor) up to the light of day which helped end their assault on decency?   Maybe Dan Rather and Sam Donaldson didn’t refuse to be intimidated by any number of public officials?  Or maybe I’m right.  Maybe there has been a sea-change in the way news is gathered and presented and maybe that’s why it all feels like nothing more than just so much white noise.   Nothing more than an irritant to be avoided.

However, there may be an even bigger question.    For network news outlets to provide the truth would mean telling millions of Americans not only about the political crisis we currently face and the potential danger it represents to the Republic and the world,  it would also mean admitting that nearly half the electorate voted to make it happen.

Strangely enough, the Europeans seem to be more worried about our current situation than many Americans are.   Just as they were more worried when they advised George W. Bush against launching his military misadventure in Iraq, leading to the formation of ISIS,  and a host of other problems.   Probably because they are better informed.

The Emperor’s New Clothes – American Style

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Just when you’ve given up all hope – just when you’re getting used to the idea of having a President Trump in your life – that little devil sitting on your left shoulder pokes you in the head and says, “Hey stupid, what about the polls?”

I may be too simple for this upcoming Age of Trump, but nagging questions remain about why and how the polls could possibly be so wrong?   Polls that showed Mrs. Clinton capturing a significant majority of the electoral college.

If you believed the polls,  Trump was going to lose.    Now we’re supposed to believe that all those polls simply got it wrong?   It’s happened before.

No matter what they say, “they” being anyone who wants to win an argument disputed by polling, the polls are generally not this wrong.  Except when the Republicans are trying to win the White House, as in the case of John Kerry, and now Hillary Clinton.   I spent nearly seven years inside the Los Angeles Times, marveling at how accurate their polling division was under the direction of Susan Pinkus.   The polls, generally,  are more right than wrong, and almost never this wrong.  Therefore, it is probably not unexpected to find some very heavy-duty election watchers urging a recount in some battleground states where Clinton was expected to win.

According to a piece in The Guardian,  Dr. Barbara Simons, an adviser to the US election assistance commission and expert on electronic voting is among those calling for a recount.   “We need to have post-election ballot audits”  she says.

The article goes on to point out that, “A second group of analysts, led by the National Voting Rights Institute founder John Bonifaz and Professor Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan’s center for computer security and society, is also taking part in the push for a review, and has been in contact with Simons.”   

There are bound to be questions when polling indicated a different result, particularly with intelligence agencies warning of Russian hackers with more than a passing interest in the outcome of the election as Donald Trump heaped praise on the governing style of Vladimir Putin.

This is all very troubling to me, but then I’m a pretty simple guy.  So  simple that I can’t fathom how the electoral college is expected to tilt in favor of Donald Trump when Hillary Clinton is expected to win the popular vote, possibly by as many at two-million votes.   How does that work?  Too complicated for me, because, by my simple way of thinking,  if the electors are bound by law to represent the popular vote in their states, then it doesn’t work at all. Which is entirely possible – that it doesn’t work at all and should be abolished, but even then, how could the polls all be so wrong?

Lastly, but by no means least, comes the question of Donald Trump’s view that he is immune from any conflict of interest.  Isn’t that just great?   No blind trust necessary here, just trust in the Donald.  “Trust me,” he says.   “Trust me to do the right thing,” even though he is refusing to put his  numerous international business interests in a blind trust.   Even though he refused to release a full accounting of his tax records.  Even though he is backpedaling on campaign promises to his ultra-right base even before being sworn in.  Do you trust this guy?  Seriously?

What if he decides to simply ignore the press, holding one news conference a year as his hero Vladimir Putin does?   What if he decides he can simply rule by decree, and does so, unless there is tremendous pushback from …..where?   From his Republican colleagues in the congress?   A legal scholar on MSNBC this morning suggested that the conflict of interest question needs to be settled before the electoral college casts its ballots on December 19th.   It would appear there are other questions as well, such as, did we elect a new president or anoint a king?   His m-o in private life appears to have been to do whatever he wanted, whatever was in his best interest and then letting the courts sort out any disputes.  Can you afford to take a billionaire to court?   Can we afford to have this kind of legal mindset in the White House?  Beyond that, there is a very real question of whether the election could have been rigged by the Russians, and whether voter suppression by the Republicans again might have been a factor, as it clearly was with Al Gore in 2000, and maybe again with John Kerry, four years later.

To what degree were voter roles “purged” by Republicans in how many states in an effort to limit the Black vote in 2016?   How many electronic voting systems were possibly hacked by the Russians seeking a victory for Donald Trump?  Does anyone even know?  What exactly do the Russians expect to gain from a Trump Presidency?   Will there be an investigation or are the American people expected to just let it all slide……again?

With all these questions, is it unreasonable to expect at recount in some battleground states,  and barring that, if a recount is blocked by Republicans in the House, Senate and state legislatures,  or by the Supreme Court as it was in 2000 by a Republican-backed majority on the Court,   is it wrong to demand that the electoral college votes to reflect the popular vote, rescuing the nation from a Trump presidency?   Or is all this just too simple, for our oh-so complicated electoral process?

I’m fairly sure it is, but then I’m just a simple guy who would like these issues of legality and fair play to be ironed out before another Republican who lost the popular vote is again sworn in as President of the United States, leaving the nation and the world with a terrible  taste of electoral corruption as the broadcast media proceeds as though this Trumpist reality show is normal.