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.

Might Trump Actually Be Good For America?

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Something to clear out the cobwebs for all of those who condemned those relative few who “voted their conscience” in the election.   It’s a quote from George Orwell I bumped into on Facebook.  Here it is-

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims…but accomplices.”  

Well, perhaps, but with Trump bringing in his daughter for a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister and no clear sign that he intends to establish a blind trust for his business interests, I still wish all those conscience voters had backed HRC.   At least I think that’s what I would prefer.

On the other hand,  8 years of Hillary would probably have been another 8 years of gridlock, with the Republicans opposing every piece of progressive legislation presented.

It’s been suggested that perhaps a political bloodletting might do the country some good.   This is figurative, of course, in the sense that it might take several years for all those who voted for Donald Trump to discover that he is not a newly elected king and that he cannot and will not be able to deliver on all his promises of taking America back into the 1950’s, presumably making them angry enough to throw their support to what should be a newly energized Democratic Party, with Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren appointed to leadership positions in the Senate as the New York Times tells us that, “Nonprofits Opposed to Trump’s Ideology See a Surge in Donations.”

Really?   Oh my.

And so it begins, or continues, depending upon your point of view.   Those on the left are in no mood to tippy-toe around being proper, contrite and polite ladies and gentlemen who sit quietly by while those on the right run roughshod across the land,  acting as usurpers and robber barons while the common folk are left wanting. Clearly, it’s time for lefties to stand up to the bully boys of America’s right.   It would appear the dressing down of Mike Pence at the performance of “Hamilton” on Friday was a harbinger of things to come.    A good political battle that forces the Dems to return to their bare knuckles – take it to the streets liberal roots may be just what we need.   It could be exactly where Mr. Trump will take us.
Oh, and the very latest on Mr. Trump’s tweets:   He is now bitching on Twitter that he wants equal time on NBC to refute last night’s comedy bit on Saturday Night Live.  Somebody needs to tell the Donald that his complaining only fans the fires of celebrity for Alec Baldwin and SNL.    It is also vaguely relevant that the Equal Time Rule applies only to political candidates.   Mr. Trump may not understand that SNL  is a comedy show that doesn’t represent a political candidate and that even if they did,  the campaign is over.

Zika Defeated – Pence Booed – Trump Leaves Town

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A couple of big news items having nothing to do with politics this morning.

Zika, is no longer a global threat, according to the U-N Health Organization.   No shock here.   The shock comes in knowing that the virus seems to be peculiar to Brazil, but that investigators never really adequately addressed the issue.   Instead, they flew into a panic to develop a vaccine, which they now say should be available by 2018.   Even though the virus is no longer a global threat and many of us saw another Bird Flu epidemic coming.

Oh well, having a vaccine can’t hurt, can it?   And yet, the Brazil/Zika connection is more than a little troubling, isn’t it?   Why are there so many Zika cases in Brazil, but not in surrounding countries?

I know I said I wasn’t going to  get into politics.   I lied.   That’s what they do now, they lie and blame it on someone else.   This will be the norm for at least four years, so you had better get used to it.  Anyway, it was for your own good, to get you to keep reading so that you would be informed that Mike Pence was booed while attending a performance of “Hamilton” last night.

What did he expect?    An ultra-right winger,  attending a play in a city filled with lefties, whose boss left town for New Jersey over the weekend leaving 5th Avenue snarled with traffic and lookie-loos, a problem that promises to become a chronic condition.   Or at least until Trump is impeached by his own party.   Never say never.

If we’re lucky, like Zika,  the Trump/Pence condition will be vastly overrated and  without any real longevity to the point that it threatens to infect those who continue to have the courage to reject racism, sexism, cruelty and deceit – but with no adequate answer as to why otherwise intelligent, reasonable individuals nearby supported the Trump/Pence ticket.

In the meantime, Mike Pence and his boss had better get used to the booing.    Like the traffic on 5th Avenue, it promises to be a chronic condition.

High Crimes And Misdemeanors?

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Four-twenty in the morning is as good a time as any to be surfing the web, looking up the legal definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” searching for any possible angle that might be used to stop Donald Trump from being sworn in.   I can dream, can’t I?

The Constitution provides for an impeachment process, but Trump will have to be sworn-in before an embarrassed and fearful Republican majority in both houses will be able to remove him from office before doing any lasting damage.   That would give them President Pence, which is undoubtedly what they really want.

Just how messed up and serious things truly are has been impressed upon us by Neocon David Frum, former speech writer for George W. Bush, who is arguing that we  should all be grateful if Mitt Romney or anyone of his ilk might agree to accept a position in the upcoming Trump Administration, because it might save us from the chaos of thinking that is sure to accompany Trump to office as he continues acting more like an angry teenager tweeting out missives against the nation’s newspaper of record, The New York Times.

Not only is this unbecoming of a president-elect, it might be considered downright bizarre.    Equally strange, is the announcement that Trump is now going to take a “victory tour” of the country, giving him an opportunity to fulfill the ego-gratification that comes with speaking to crowds of his supporters.   It’s not like he has anything else pressing that needs his immediate and undivided attention, like putting an administration together.   No, the ego trip that comes from interfacing with his supporters is obviously more  important.

The really frightening thing in all of this bizarro political world turned upside down, is that Frum is right.   Regardless of what you might think of Neocons and their entire socio-economic fascist philosophy,  in this case, he is absolutely correct.    The best we may be able to hope for at this point is for someone like Romney to get on board the Trumpist ship of state, ready and willing to strap down that big fat loose canon as it rolls with the waves between the far-right on one side and what appears to be some undefinable need to be accepted by the masses of Americans who were conned into voting for him, thinking he can actually relate to, or genuinely cares about anyone but himself, on the other.

One wonders if Trump knows what Trump wants now that he’s confronted with a position he possibly never really imagined he’d be able to obtain?     One wonders what goes on inside that golden domed comb-over.

At the very least,  considering the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Russians, his failure to establish a blind trust for his  businesses, his prior proclamation of a need to seek out revenge against his political opponents, Mrs. Clinton in particular once he is in office, not to mention legal issues surrounding Trump University and suggesting violence might be a viable alternative to reasonable and peaceful political recourse,  he may have already exhibited a gross incompetence to hold the office of President, possibly qualifying for the broad definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The problem, of course, is that Congress can’t act prior to Trump being sworn in, prior to the powers of the Presidency being turned over to someone with an agenda no one, possibly even the President-elect himself, can understand.

The only solution, prior to that taking place, would be for the electors to fulfill their obligation to the nation and refuse to cast their ballots for Trump when they meet in December.  And that, we are told by pundits and political luminaries, is highly unlikely to the point of being out of the question.  But is it even possible?

Short of an upset by the electors, perhaps our best hope, as Mr. Frum has suggested, is for Mitt Romney, or anyone with a more traditional outlook and less extreme political experience and no known financial ties to the Turks, Russians or other operatives eager to influence the oval office,  to swallow hard, get on board, and do whatever he or she can to influence our soon-to-be president to set  a reasonable course for the country – while we wait for Congress to debate the true meaning of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

It could be quite some time before any of us gets a really good night’s sleep again.    What’s happening now makes the Obama years feel somehow distant,  nothing more than a dream of a time when more stable and sane political discourse was the norm – by which, of course, I mean that it was possible to understand what was being said.

Questions Remain As The Royal Family Trump Ascends To The New American Throne

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Some simple questions linger as Donald Trump and our new royal family ascend to the  throne.

Question:  Vladimir And The Russians Tilt The Table For Trump?

Why is it now apparently okay that the Trump campaign was having regular contact with the Russians prior to the election, while the Russians, according to our intelligence agencies,  were actively working to tip the election for Mr. Trump?    Wasn’t that espionage?  Shouldn’t there be an investigation?

Michael Moore, has asked Mr. Obama to appoint a special prosecutor to look into FBI Director Comey releasing damaging information on Hillary Clinton, just days before the election.   That”s never going to happen, as it would make a mess of Mr, Obama’s legacy.   After all he’s been through, the kid from Kenya, really shouldn’t have to put up with that.   Let him exit stage left without that sword over his head.  But the thing about the Russians.   That’s an entirely different matter, isn’t it?

Question:  Use The Electoral College As Intended?

Why do we simply accept the outcome of our presidential elections before the Electoral College casts its votes on December 19th?  According to Project VoteSmart,  “Electors were viewed as a compromise between a true popular election and an election by more qualified citizens. Some of the founders wondered if it would be wise to permit average citizens to vote but wanted to stay true to their republican principles. The Electoral College was their answer.”

So why do we announce to the world that everything is over and done with following the tally of a popular vote that really shouldn’t count at all, if we’re going to follow the intent of the founders, who, it appears, were wisely trying to protect us from demagogues and tyrants using misinformation,  fear, intimidation and bigotry to sway the vote.

We should wait for the Electoral College to vote, and proceed from there, shouldn’t we, and shouldn’t the electors consider the apparent fact that the Trump Campaign may have been assisted by the Russians?

It’s important to note that the Trump Campaign was highly successful in convincing much of  the electorate that the press tells lies and that  the system is rigged.   Perhaps the “more qualified citizens” in the Electoral College need to come to the rescue of the ill-informed masses and refuse to simply turn over the nation to Donald Trump, per the wishes of the founders?

Does any of this make any sense?

Question:  Republicans Running Amok?

Another question that should be in the forefront is the potential for unlimited Republican power.    Unless I’m getting this wrong, the Republican majority in the Senate can simply vote to change the rules, eliminating the need for a so-called “supermajority” of 60 votes for passage of a motion, dropping it down to a simple majority of only 51.   Which they will have.

The Republicans in fact,  would then have carte blanche in both houses and the White House.    Debate would become meaningless.   More than half the country (per the popular vote which tilted heavily towards Hillary Clinton) would fail to be represented in Washington as the  Democratic opposition would be all but powerless to offer any opposition at all.   The Republicans, on the other hand, might not  go in that direction and let the Supermajority stand in the Senate, out of the fear that one day the Dems might turn around and do the same thing to them.   However, with a Republican in the White House the temptation to do away with the Supermajority could be too much for the Republican power structure and its Neocon supporters to resist.

Question:  Do The Eyes Have It?

Of course the probability is that nothing will be done about any of this.   It will be Bush v. Gore all over again as the Republicans slide by with another questionable (crooked)  win with those in power accepting a potentially bogus victory rather than  a constitutional crisis as Mr. Trump installs America’s first royal family in the White House – even though he will be spending weekends in his gilded penthouse high atop Trump Tower in Manhattan, the humble “people’s house” at 16-hundred Pennsylvania Avenue,  quite obviously insufficient  for one of  such grand stature and fantastic health.   Which leads to another lingering question.   What’s up with all that white makeup under Mr. Trump’s eyes?   Is it hiding enormous dark circles?   A medical problem, perhaps?   Fatty deposits?   A buildup of unsightly cholesterol?

And finally dear friends and fellow Americans, what will it cost the United States to secure the Trump Tower?  How many millions of dollars will we have to spend on that as Mr. Trump works to cut taxes and reduce the budget?   And how will New York City cope with the hordes of  press people and looky-loos filling the streets around the Tower?   Remember the traffic chaos when Mr. Obama visited Los Angeles?    Remember the cops shutting down whole sections of the city.?  I do, I was there.

Get ready Manhattan, it will likely be a nightmare.  And a recurring one at that.   Each and every weekend.   All the worse if they can’t keep the George Washington Bridge open.

Candidate Trump – A Crisis Of The Media’s Making

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Watching “France24” via YouTube as I wait for the Sunday morning shows to come on.   What I’m hearing is far removed from most of what the American pundits and newscasters are handing out, a diet of defeatist porridge, featuring denial, excuses and pleas to “give Mr. Trump a chance,”  some acting more like Trump “surrogates,” than real news people.

By contrast, the Europeans appear to be calling it for what it is.  I say “appear” because  obviously I can’t monitor all the news from Europe.   They are, thankfully, brazen in their honesty, proclaiming the election to have been one of the “ugliest” campaigns in American history.   While MSNBC features the headline, “Trump Wants To Stradle His Company And Presidency,” France24’s headline reads, “Equality vs. Trump.”

The issue of whether the Director of the FBI intentionally threw the election for Trump, remains an open question.   I’m tired of hearing that Comey is a nice guy who just made a mistake.   He’s the Director of the FBI.  Appoint a special prosecutor and save your nice guy stuff for a jury.  In addition, President-elect Trump, may have to appear in federal court on December 16th,  to face charges that his “Trump University” defrauded a group of students in California.  There’s also the fact that Trump openly lied about not of having any contact with Vladmir Putin and the Russians, while the Russians are believed to have conducted acts of espionage against the Democratic Party.   And now we’re supposed to sit back and act like everything is just fine?   Wouldn’t that be…..ah…..a little nuts?

Of course it was a dishonest election.  All presidential elections are to a degree, but this one stretched the envelope and tore it to shreds as Mr. Trump, possibly for reasons none of us can understand, simply could not control himself, making up  arguing points from whole cloth, moving along with a verbal slug-fest that featured sexism as a sometime centerpiece and racism as another, both promoted through the use of innuendo and implication shot-through with the threat of filing lawsuits against anyone who dared disagree or challenge his positions.

Mr. Trump, whose technique is to threaten lawsuits to shut down debate, to bully the press and limit criticism, is an obvious threat to free speech.   Like all authoritarian propagandists, Trump is threatened by freedom.   He has already talked about  a possible need to make it easier to sue for liable.   To tear down First Amendment protections.   It would be so much easier to control the press without that nasty First Amendment around.  Easier to shut down public discussion and debate among those who oppose his obvious and open authoratarianism.   Better watch out what you say in the social media or maybe even tell your friends.   One of the Trumpists might report you to a local party apparatchik.

It was fascinating to see Trump minion Kellyanne Conway in the coverage from France, blaming President Obama and Hillary Clinton for the protests now taking place in cities across the United States, continuing a pattern of deflection, projecting the blame on others.  It was like watching the Simpson civil trial all over again, with O.J. on the stand, blaming everybody but himself for what had happened.   Poor O.J.   Poor Donald.

Ms. Conway and the Trump regime should consider that the protests may be serving as a kind of pressure valve, eliminating at least some of the outrage over the election.

It was Trump and Trump alone who turned up the heat with his  hateful authoritarianism featuring angry anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-free press, mysogynistic and violence promoting outbursts.   He and not the Democrats, owes the American people an apology.

Equally guilty for this current situation are all those who did not vote, or who foolishly thought that “voting their conscience” was the truly moral thing to do.  It is they who have given us the approaching presidency of Donald J. Trump, a man with no blind trust, inadequate public tax records and an ongoing campaign relationship with the Russians.   A man who wonders out-loud why it would be wrong to launch nuclear weapons against the nation’s enemies.   A man who was born not with a sliver spoon but a 12-piece setting in his mouth.   A man so blind to reality that he has publicly proclaimed that he didn’t have much to start out with, only a small gift of a million dollars.   Just an average guy?  No, he is not.  He is beyond belief.

And Kellyanne wants Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton to tell tens of thousands of Americans to stop exercising their constitutional right to peaceably assemble and rise up in protest?   Wait  until the millions who voted for Trump realize his campaign was nothing but an empty bag, that nearly all his promises were hollow.   Wait until a year from now, when the millions of jobs Trump promised have failed to materialize, his wall has not been built and Obamacare, or a significant portion of it, continues to stand.    Wait until his followers realize that Mike Bloomberg was right.   America, or a significant portion of it, has been conned, and the media was an accomplice in the game.

Candidate Trump, was a creation of the American media.  He was featured  as prominently as he was, for one reason and one reason only,  because he drove their ratings.  He made them money.   And now, rather than properly challenging the outrageous nature of the monster they helped to create, they bleat like sheep to give him a  chance.   Like corporate cowards, many of them continue to soft-pedal the danger Mr. Trump represents to  the nation and the world.

Oh, but the Europeans get it all right.   As they understood the foolishness of invading Iraq, they also see the true danger Trump represents and it’s scaring the hell out of them.   At the same time, most of the American media, acting like apologists for the country’s strongman to come, ask us to give Donald Trump a chance.

Makes sense, I suppose.   To do otherwise would be to admit that this is a crisis of their very own making.

Hang on, CNN just changed its hard-hitting headline proclaiming, “Trump May Not Tweet As Much In The White House….”

That would be nice.

Meantime, out in the streets, the protests continue.   Some are drawing a parallel between the Boomers and Vietnam in the 60’s and early 70’s  and the Milllenials and Donald Trump.   Maybe it was the Millenials turn in the bucket.   Hope they can handle it.   Like the man said,  ” Nothing’s riding on this except the first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.”*

*“All The President’s Men”

This Can’t Be Happening – Not Here

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After more than 40 years in the news business I awoke this morning to find that Donald Trump is still our President-elect, and I remain in disbelief.   Stunned, actually.

I told my wife that as a white male I feel I owe her and all American women an apology for putting a mysogynist in the nation’s highest office.   Even though I didn’t vote for the guy.  He publicly objectifies women – refers to them as nothing more than sex objects – and he’s about to become our president?   And half the country voted for this man?  How are we not supposed to be stunned and in denial?   Who will apologize to the rest of the world for this one?

After all those years occupying the priviledged position of being an eyewitness to history, perhaps I shouldn’t be all that surprised.   Anything can happen and it sometimes does, if you aren’t careful.   And still, this is pretty damn surprising.  Are we not living in 2016?  Did we fall backwards through the looking glass, down a rabbit hole and into another era?

My mind keeps going back to 1981 and Ronald Reagan, great and all-knowing sage of the Republican Party and his devastation of the American union movment, as he threw unionism to the wind with a proclamation that members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization had two choices, and one of them was not going to the National Labor Relations Board to iron out their strike against the federal government.   No, their only two choices, by Regan’s royal proclamation, were to return to work on Monday morning or to be fired.

It was a whole new way of handling union-management disputes, a new gameplan that American business would adopt wholeheartedly and use repeatedly to devastate unions and American workers, along with its bastard brother and sister of offshoring jobs and “merger madness,” both of which burned into middle America like a white-hot wildfire fanned by the winds of Reagan-era deregulation.   I remember feeling at the time that it was wrong.   That is was unjust.   That it shouldn’t be happening in America.  But there it was.

In the years that followed I watched what has come to be called the the “corporatization” of America while so many our politicians stood silently by, bought off by lobbyists for big business or adhering to the philosphy of the “free traders,” and thinking it couldn’t be happening here.

All the while, most of us in the mainstream media knew what was going on and where it was likely to take us.   Some of us in the west  spoke privately about how NAFTA would turn the United States into another Mexico, a two-class society with a few very wealthy individuals and families at the top and everybody else on the bottom.  We let it slide.  Not because we wanted to, but because we were supposed to keep our opinions out of our journalism.  To attack what was happening would at best involve injecting opinion into our reporting and at worst, crossing the line into conspiracy theory.  No, it was much safer to keep our heads down while sticking to the “Five W’s.”  It was all we were required to do.   All we were supposed to do, until an army of consultants arrived promoting a decline in broadcast journalism and the birth of “Infotainment,” as tv news got on the corporate bus driving hard and fast to satisfy Wall Street’s credo that whatever drives “shareholder profits” is the greatest good, journalism be damned, turning a sometime dog and pony show into a full-time circus, the ringmaster blind to the big buyout in Washington, D.C., as multi-nationals, wallowing in their new-found deregulation, bought off the federal government, giving us “the best governmet money could buy, culminating with the horrible “Citzens United” decision by the Supreme Court of the United States thoroughly removing any impression that the high court is anything but a political tool.

Big media was an unknowing and unnamed co-conspirator with big business as American democracy was co-opted and  finally neutered.  Don’t take it personally, it’s only business.

What is good for the corporate bottom line and those wealthy few who hold big chunks of stock is what’s best for the country.   Middle America, be damned.   We saw it happening but didn’t feature it as we should have on the tv side.  The newspapers did, but by then the dumbing down, America’s celebration of ignorance and abhorrence with intellectual elites,  had kicked in to the point that most Americans had stopped reading.   With tv news homing in on crime and entertainment, nearly anything hot, sexy, carnal and meaningless that would drive the ratings,  there was nobody left to connect the dots for millions of Americans who are expert on who  won the World Series in 1957 and how, but can’t name the three branches of government and have no idea who represents them in the Senate or the House.  It was an information gap that only grew worse as the nation slid further and further into corporate control with media consolodation, political bribery and nothing more than the illusion of a free people being honestly represented by their elected public officials.

In concert with all of this came the introduction of what would eventually be the presidency of Donald J. Trump, a creation of the far-right Republican Party and possibly the most outrageous candidate for president in the nation’s history.

The underpinnings of the “Trumpist” movement go back to the technique of employing outrageous acts of telling big lies and getting away with it while projecting your worst characteristics onto  your opponent, creating so much smoke that vast swaths of the American electorate were left blinded and clueless, with no one to provide adequate guidance other than the newspapers that were going unread as one after another they went out of business with advertisers leaving traditional print media for the new outlets of cable, satellite and the Internet.

With the traditional serious news “filter” once used by tv outlets mostly blown away by corporatization and infotainment, millions of Americans were lambs to the slaughter as the Republican far-right made political lies, deception and outrageousness acceptable on a massive scale, turning genuine war  heroes like McCaine and Kerry into goats with lies about their private lives and government service, paving the way for the unbeliveable to be taken as fact candidacy of Donald J. Trump.

It was a truth be damned, the end justifies the means poltical rampage, that left much of the public, many of them desperate for change,  uninformed, confused and ignorant, and we let it happen.

Out of this came a candidate who admits to not reading, but getting much of his information from tv.   A man who became popular through the instruments of self-promotion and reality tv and rose to political power through the use of intimidation, racial division, fear, anger and the objectification of women.   His common methods of demagoguary, racial hatred and fear mongering had all been seen before.   And they were working.

Rather than alert the nation to the approaching danger, the media reported some of what was happening but not all.   Mostly we were told about who, what, where and when, but far too little about the “why,” and what it might do to us over the long-haul.   It was a truth vacum that resulted in millions of Americans turning to Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show,” for honest information.   The mainstream news  media was negligent to a point that an entertaiment show had become one of the country’s most trusted sources for news and information.

The delivery of news was now inside-out and standing on its head, with the broadcast media narrowcasting a sliver of deeply meaningfull information to a narrow band of viewers while millions upon millions of others who had long since stopped reading anything were condemned to ignorance.    Newspapers, tv news, the Internet and entertainment news programs had now all been lumped together into one category called, “the media.”   Some of it was reliable,  but not all,  leaving much of the public dazed, confused and looking for someone to lead them out of the darkness and into the light.  Older folks, who went to bed before Jon Stewart came on, were out of luck.

It was a potential political nightmare in the making.  Now it is here, and it will be up to us to deal with it.

The founders gave us a Republic.   Hopefully we will be able to keep it by understanding that this is really happening, that  we did it to  ourselves, that it will be up to each of us to perform our own due dilligence, making ourselves better informed, more understanding of others and God willing, intelligent enough to see through the political smoke that threatens to destroy us.

It took years for this to happen.   We won’t be able to fix it overnight, but we are better than this.   America, is better than this.

The midterms are two years away.  Put down your remote control, subscribe to a real newspaper like the NY Times, the LA Times or the Washington Post, and start reading.   If you can’t afford a subscription, the Guardian is free online.

Bernie Sanders Statement On Trump

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BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 9 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Wednesday after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States:

“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.

“To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”

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