Tag Archives: donald trump

And Now It’s The Swedes?

And now it’s the Swedes?   Those amazing Swedes, putting down a terrorist attack so quickly and quietly, you’d imagine that it never took place.   Which it didn’t.  Except in the mind of Donald Trump, apparently based upon a report he heard on FOX news and then exaggerated for his own purposes while addressing a crowd of rabid supporters who think he’s doing all he can to fulfill his campaign promises to a suffering middle class because to them, fake news is real news and real news is fake.   A condition only made worse by an authoritarian president who declares the media to be “the enemy of the American people.”

Oh my.  Can we talk?

The net migration of human souls into California from Mexico is less than zero.  More folks are leaving than are coming in.   The census takers tell us that a booming birth rate is the only reason California’s population continues to grow.  Been that way for years.   These are facts, not fake news, like the attack in Sweden.

You wanna talk refugees?    Or as Trump calls it, “vetting?”  The average processing time for an application is 18-24 months.    Often times longer for those wanting to come in from Syria.

President Obama, became known as the “deporter-in-chief” for detaining and then deporting millions of undocumented aliens.   Two and one-half million, to be precise.   More than every single president of the 20th Century combined.  He also tightened up our southern border.  Big time.  But those facts wouldn’t win an election for the Donald.  No, he needed to manufacture problems and then find a scapegoat to pin it on, so he went after Mexican immigrants and by association, Mexican-Americans, and pretty much anybody else with brown skin.

God help you should you happen to be Muslim or even Hindi.   A Hindu women with a “bindi” or third eye of divine sight (a little dot) on her forehead was detained by the police here in Maryland a couple of weeks ago for going for a walk in her own neighborhood.    She’s lived here for decades.   Went to high school here.  She’s thoroughly American.  Never had a problem until the Donald began turning anyone with brown skin into the enemy.    There are also reports that incidents of anti-Semitism are rising while it is widely believed that the ban on Muslim immigrants will drive new recruits into the waiting arms of ISIS.

And now, in his latest incongruous outburst, President Donald J. Trump is on stage and in the media freaking out about an attack in Sweden that never happened.  And he’s President of the United States.

Let’s do that one again, he’s President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world.

Well, he had to do something to get elected, didn’t he?    He needed someone to blame.  He needed a scapegoat.  The truth, that the problems of the middle class have been caused largely by automation and the off-shoring of jobs by greed-driven multi-national corporations while the markets boom and 99% of all new income flows to the top 1% wouldn’t have gotten the job done. Too esoteric to get a mob all worked up.   So much easier to go after people who don’t look like “us”.   It worked for screaming authoritarians in the past and now it’s working for Trump.

But now he’s using the Swedes?  What will he say next?   Something that puts the Russian generals on high alert which in turn causes the United States to go to defcon one, making the Cuban missile crisis tame by comparison because Donald is sitting there with his finger on the trigger?   The Russians have already sent out jets to buzz a U.S. warship in the Black Sea and parked a spy ship off the coast of Connecticut.   What’ll be next?   Can we depend upon Russian macho man Vladimir Putin not to to overreact to the Donald’s next outburst?

This is nuts, and it’s getting to be exhausting.

Dear Republicans in the House and Senate.   You wanted power?  Well, you’ve got it.   For God’s sake, begin impeachment proceedings now.   You have got to get this guy out of there before he does any more damage.    He is yours, he is dangerous, and you damn well know it.

Needed: A Little More Experience And A Little Less Snappy Banter

CNN’s media maven,  Brian Stelter, has suggested that the public needs to be skeptical of both the President and the media’s coverage of the President.   The house is on fire, and he wants to conduct an academic argument about which way to point the hose.

John Berman and Poppy Harlow are sitting there taking it all in, treating the 31 year old Stelter as though he’s some great sage, even though he hadn’t been born when the Watergate hearings took place.   He would have been nine  during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.   Give me a break.

The press and the intelligence community may be the only bodies standing between the nation and fascism.   The press needs all the support it can get right now to deal with the Administration’s lies and constant deflection of the issues.   The legitimate press is under attack.  Stelter, and others of his generation, may not have been around long enough to understand what’s really going on.   They don’t have the advantage of having lived through the Nixon years and more.  Bill Carter, was there when Nixon and Agnew tried to pin it all on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” in the press.  He remembers Cronkite going to Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and Dan Ellsberg.  He knows better.   He was on the show and he should have said something.   A media critic himself, perhaps he felt constrained against speaking out against a colleague.   Perhaps it would have impacted his tenure with CNN.   Or maybe they just ran out of time.

Stelter, needs to sort out the mainstream “real” media covering the White House from all the rest of what has become an explosion of media outlets, particularly those interested in taking sides politically or going for entertainment value.  No one is infallible.  Everyone is capable of making a mistake.   But I trust the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, CBS News and a few other outlets to give me an objective and fair version of what’s going on.

There remains no substitute for experience.  No amount of book learning, no number of  hours sitting in a classroom listening to someone tell you how something is done, or how it feels when it’s done to you.  Too many younger people with too little experience moving up the tv news food chain way too fast is part of the reason television news has lost so much of its credibility, something the networks are now in a position to recover from, if they fully resume their proper role of national watchdog.

To do that, they need to bring back a few more less beautiful but more experienced folks, like Carl Bernstein.   Some of the younger reporters out there are excellent.  I admire the hell out of the job they’re doing, but there remains no substitute for experience. Right now we need both, the vigor of youth and the power of experience, in an industry that’s obsessed with an advertiser-driven focus on selling products to younger market.

The consequences for a nation which increasingly can’t differentiate between valid and “fake” news are too severe for anyone to think otherwise.

Waiting For Trumpty Dumpty To Fall

Trumpty Dumpty is speaking to a gathering of sheriffs from across the country.  I’ve got the sound muted.   Can’t take much more of his blather, wondering whether he understands what he’s saying or is delusional.

Let’s risk turning on the sound for just a bit to see  what Prez Dumpty is saying right now…..

Ready?  Okay, here we go.   Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States-

“….and you know it and I know it, and you have been unhappy for a very long time, and I can read polls, probably better than anybody….”

Fine.  Enough of that.  I think he might be channeling an old Dave Mason song.  Anyway, how many times does this guy think he has to tell us that he’s better than everybody else?   At almost everything.

It’s been suggested by psychotherapist John D. Gartner,  that President Dumpty suffers from “malignant narcissism.”   I dunno.  Maybe.  All I do know is that you hit a point where it no longer matters whether he is deluded or intentionally lying.   You just don’t want to listen to what’s coming out of his mouth anymore.   It’s too exhausting.

The most recent legitimate fear about the Dumpster, is that he is creating an atmosphere of chaos when there is no reason for it.  How will he act and what will he do if the country is attacked again?  How will he react to a macho, nose-to-nose standoff with King Vladimir of Putin?   Will he drag us down into nuclear brinksmanship with the naked Russian bear?

We should all be very afraid.   Instead, Mitch McConnell, emotionless political worm of the right, is hard at it in the Senate, forcing Elizabeth Warren to stop talking during a confirmation hearing and take her seat.  In short, she was told to  shut up and sit down.  The argument McConnell makes, is outlined in a Senate rule stating that one sitting Senator may not impugn another sitting Senator.  Oh really?  So you can say only good things about other senators, even during confirmation hearings?  Kind of makes the process irrelevant, doesn’t it?

Interesting that this same rule was not invoked when Ted Cruz called Mitch McConnell “a liar” in the Senate in July of 2015.

Beyond that, McConnell, treating Warren like a woman who needed to be shushed, should infuriate thinking Americans, as McConnell and his Republican cronies just stripped away Senator Warren’s First Amendment rights and they did it on the floor of the United States Senate.   Then again, perhaps Mitch McConnell is less hesitant to get tough with a woman as opposed to another man?

And on MSNBC, the Dumpster continues.  Let’s listen in for just a moment.   Maybe he has something good to say?   Something that will help Americans pull together, their shoulders at the wheel of democracy?  Here again, the President of the United States-

“So  many of the problems are caused by gang members, many of whom are not legally in our country…..Terrorism a tremendous threat….far greater than people in our country understand….but we’re gonna take care of it….we’re gonna take care of it folks.”  

He finished by talking about what “great people” the “cops of America” are.  Of course he did.   He’s going to need them in his corner for crowd control as the chaos he is creating will lead only to more demonstrations as he continues apparently imagining something to be true, not because it is grounded in fact, but because it’s coming from his mouth – while in his brain, thousands of Muslims stand shoulder to shoulder in New Jersey, cheering as the twin towers come crashing down and our political system is corrupted by millions of dead  voters while the “phony media” fails to  report on terrorist attacks and Mexican rapists pour over our southern border as President Dumpty recalls his inauguration and what he said were “the biggest crowds in the history of inaugural speeches”.

And in the Senate, Elizabeth Warren,  American patriot and Harvard scholar stands rebuked, demeaned and humiliated by a far lesser person and is not allowed to speak.   She has been banned from speaking further during the confirmation hearing of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions of Alabama.  Her terrible infraction was reading the contents of a letter written by the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Coretta Scott King.

And out here in the  hinterlands, beyond the great political bubble, we continue watching, fearing for the future of the Republic in a world beset by alternative facts, waiting for the campaign to stop and the governing to begin.   Wondering when President Dumpty, will take his great fall.  And when he does, whether things might not be even more frightening with Mike Pence in the White House. Although at this point, that hardly seems possible.

The Age Of Trump – Sleepless Nights And Troubled Days

Acid stomach and bad dreams are rare conditions for me.   Recently, they have become increasingly common.  They arrived with the age of Trump.

Night before last,  I was awakened by a dream about the Donald.   I couldn’t remember the content of the dream, only his orange face with white raccoon eyes and blond hair helmet.   A character out of a cartoon horror story.   Woke me right up.

Last night everything was peaceful, until one of our smoke detectors decided to sound off for no good reason around five AM.    It’s a new smoke detector, too.  Bought the thing just a year ago.  It’s hard-wired with a battery backup, so it should still be okay, but it’s not.   Now I’ll have to buy another new smoke detector.  I don’t know how, but I’m pretty sure its connected to Trump.  He probably owns stock in the  smoke detector company and has tiny cameras installed in each one with images fed via satellite back to Moscow.

It”s Nixon all over again, except this time we’re the ones suffering from paranoia, wandering the halls and talking to portraits.   Last night I asked one of my long-dead grandparents for some input.   No response.

The smoke detector alone would have been of little consequence.  After pulling it out of the wall, disconnecting the chord, yanking out the battery and verbally sentencing it to the bowels of hell,  I was able to go back to bed and sleep for a few more hours.   The challenge came when I woke up, flipped open my computer and read the headlines.

Trump had managed to  threaten the Iranians over something that might or might not be an infraction against the treaty they signed(with Trump it apparently does not matter), he had hung up on the Prime Minister of Australia, threatened to send the military into Mexico and suggested to those present at the National Prayer Breakfast that they should pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger and his show “The Apprentice,” which continues to suffer from a ratings-slump – with Trump suggesting there was no way Schwarzenegger could compete with him in a ratings race on television.

All of this hit me like a brick, as I was  still trying to recover from Steve “Breitbart” Bannon being given a seat on the Nat’l Security Council (while the Director of Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs were shown the door), George Orwell’s book “1984” zooming to the top of amazon.com’s bestseller list,  two million Brits signing a petition to cancel a state visit to keep der Trumpenfuhrer out of their country and Vladimir Putin’s decision to once again open fire on those poor people in Ukraine,  just after he had talked with Donald on the phone.   The speculation, is that after Donald refused to lift the sanctions against Russia, Putin got PO’d and told his guys along the border to start shooting.    Again.

You have to wonder if they’ll stop shooting when Donald lifts the sanctions giving Exxon the ability to make billions on all that wonderful Russian oil they plan on sucking out of the ground?  Watch for it.

Beyond Putin and the Russians,  I’m not sure Donald understands the whole potential for the unintended consequences thing.   Not sure he realizes who he now is.

The best suggestion thus far on how to  fix this mess came from Mr. Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of California, when he suggested that he and Trump should switch jobs, giving Trump the ability to prove that he can improve the ratings on “The Apprentice” while putting Arnold in the White House would let Americans, once again sleep peacefully through the night without acid stomachs, Trumpian nightmares or a need to worry about being confronted by whack-a-doodle headlines in the morning.

I know Arnold isn’t eligible to be president.  I know he wasn’t native born, and that a great many people have issues with him following his split with Maria and all,  but hey,  let me have my dreams, okay?  With Trump and a spineless hoard of Republicans in the House  and Senate (except for John McCain and Lindsey Graham), they’re all I have left.

Or perhaps, in one final act of Nixonian desperation,  we should all get down on our knees and pray while wondering whether this latest feud between Arnold and DJT is nothing more than a publicity stunt, designed to bump up the numbers for “The Apprentice.”

Mr. Trump has woven such a terribly tangled web that it is nearly impossible to harbor any hope.   How can it exist in the absolute absence of trust?

A Return To Chicken Noodle News?

Got up today and turned on CNN,  eager to see what Donald Trump’s latest move might be, whether he is going to build a wall around Miami, or maybe threaten to air-drop the 82nd Airborne into  the strawberry fields of  California while Marines from Pendleton march on Sacramento.

Instead of an informed discussion, I got what sounded like a bunch of children trying to decide what news is,  and why Trump’s paid advocate Steve Bannon might be wrong in stating that “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile.” Really?  On CNN?   Are you guys going back to the early days of being the “Chicken Noodle News?”

I know about this, because several  months before CNN went on the air they offered me an anchor job.   I had just signed a contract with WMAR-TV in Baltimore, so I had to say no to CNN, much to the chagrin of the executive who offered me the job and who yelled at me on the phone for a good long while before hanging up.    Some months later I was happy to have refused the position, as CNN came to be known as the “Chicken Noodle News.”   They were a startup after all, and it took them a while to get their act together.  One wonders if they aren’t slipping back in time.   That’s what occurred to me as I watched this morning, as they debated the value of Steve Bannon’s outrageous and nonsensical banter about the press keeping “its mouth shut.”

One panelist,  Brian Stelter, actually said there are so many different kinds of news out there now (paraphrasing) that for some it’s becoming confusing….   No, there are not.   The fact that Stelter doesn’t understand this and that he’s hosting “Reliable Sources,” may be an indicator of just  how  much trouble broadcast journalism is in.

News, is objective, fact-checked for accuracy and delivered by actual journalists who label opinion and speculation for what they are.   News, really is “A first rough draft of history.”*   Everything else, is either a documentary, entertainment programming or BS.   There is also “Gonzo Journalism” and the “New Journalism” literary movement, but all that is beyond basic,  real , hardcore news.

Oh, and since the panel on CNN didn’t seem to get it,  real news people, are supposed to be locked in an adversarial relationship with politicians.   That’s not something you need to get all mushy and apologetic about, it’s the way things are meant to be.  That’s why the founders included free speech in Amendment Number One.   Intro to Journalism, remember?

Stop trying to be so nice to people who are being paid to hijack the truth for an Administration that revels in misdirection and outright lies.   You should be outraged that  they are treating the press like a bunch of fools, not sitting around discussing whether they might be right, sounding like  you’re making excuses for an attack  on press freedoms – or have we  slipped so far over into “Infotainment” that it will be impossible to salvage what’s left of real news?  Maybe that’s the real question and why there are those who even bother paying lip service to a paid advocate like Steve Bannon?

Oh sure, it’s necessary to report on what Bannon says, but don’t act like it requires a lengthy explanation including an analysis of what’s wrong with “the media.”   That just implies that he might be right.   Come to think of it, maybe he is.   Maybe the old fashioned “press” is dead and gone, except for a few bastions of righteous indignation like The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.  Maybe it’s wrong to be upset with CNN and their infotainment noodle soup approach to news, making it more acceptable to their audience and more attractive to advertisers.

In the final analysis it’s all about the money, right?   Who cares about history and getting it right and all that other stuff when the bottom line is at stake?   Then again, you have to wonder.  Is a country in which money trumps truth sustainable?

*Quote attributed to various sources.  The argument over who said it first continues.

Trump Is Crazy – Like A Fox (It’s About The Oil, Stupid)

So much of what Donald Trump says appears to be crazy.   Like his recent nutso assertion that three to five million illegal immigrants voted in the last election.  Total lunacy, right?   Well, perhaps.   It is possible that Donald Trump is delusional and needs immediate psychiatric care.  However, it’s more likely that our new President without portfolio (still waiting on his taxes) is a master of misdirection.

While Trump spewed nonsense about the popular vote and raved about the crowd size at his inauguration, he was also signing executive orders re-starting two pipeline projects and bragging about all the jobs they’ll create while the Senate moves forward rubber stamping his fossil fuel friendly and environment unfriendly, cabinet nominees.

Trump’s tactic, creating a wall of controversy and confusion and then hiding behind it, is not unheard of in business.   If done frequently, then eventually, you no longer care whether the person creating the mess is crazy, evil, oblivious or merely incompetent.   You just want the nonsense to stop.   Donald Trump, has been bringing it to the party on an almost daily basis.

Put another way, it’s  difficult to keep one’s eye on the ball when the pitcher appears to be a lunatic, yammering about building a border wall when a study conducted by PEW in 2012 found that “Net Immigration from Mexico Falls to Zero – and Perhaps Less.”   

In 2015 the Washington Post reported that illegal immigration had hit its lowest level in twenty years.  Imagine that, and with Barack Obama, still  in office.

The truth, is that no border wall is needed unless you are eager to repel thousands of kids, sending them back to their homes in Central and South America, where they will risk being killed by gangs.  The Trumpian hysteria is nothing but a dog whistle, misdirection to distract from the real issues like Donald Trump’s tax returns and his campaign’s cozy relationship with the Russians and his push to ignore environmental issues.

The truth about Rex Tillerson, is that Trump’s new Secretary of State,  the former CEO of Exxon, needs the sanctions against Russia lifted so that Exxon can gain access to its huge investment in the Russian oil fields.

The truth  about Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency,  is that Scott Pruitt, is a “self-described leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” according to factcheck.org.

The truth  is that more than one study has concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t create many permanent jobs at all.    One  study puts the number at just 35.   CBS News puts it at 50 permanent jobs from both the Keystone and the Dakota pipelines.

The claim Trump made about the “thousands” of  jobs the pipeline will create isn’t a lie, it’s misdirection.   It will create thousands of temporary jobs, but far few more meaningful good-paying permanent jobs, which is what the country really needs.

So we the people take all the risk from oil spills and contaminated drinking water while oil companies gain all the profits on a product that will, according to one study,  be sold overseas while driving up the cost of gasoline in the Middle West.

In all likelihood Donald Trump, isn’t crazy.   In all likelihood he’s a master of misdirection.   Whether this new President is thin-skinned and unable to control his responses after being attacked is a different question altogether, and possibly something meriting continued concern.   But what he’s doing, what he says, is in all likelihood, not without calculated purpose.

Did you hear about Trump’s latest assertion, that he will lead the charge to uncover “voter fraud” in America?   No matter that studies have already been done, finding nothing wrong.   No matter that anybody who reads already knows this.   What matters for Trump is that it’s another “dog whistle” issue that will distract from his real purpose.  To put forward a Republican agenda heavily favoring the fossil fuel industry.

It’s all so simple, and yet, what are the cable outlets covering this morning?  Trump’s most recent dog-whistle tactic about “moving ahead” with a “major investigation” into voter fraud.  Even after he won the election?   Come on people, you’re being played for suckers and doing a terrible disservice to your viewers in the process. When will you stop taking the bait?

By the time the common folk figure out what’s going on the damage will have been done and the billionaires will have all that lovely new money stashed away in their offshore accounts.   The environment and our international image be damned.

This isn’t about immigration or crowd size or voter fraud, it’s mostly about big oil.  Again.

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.

 

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

 

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.

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.