Category Archives: Blog

Covid Afterthought

Social media seems tailor made for what appears to be a peculiar kind of mental illness whereby some participants actually feel superior to others by employing name-calling or irrational or nonsensical arguments. For most of us, this kind of childish behavior was left behind on the playground in grammar school. The frightening reality however, is that all of these people have the right to vote, despite their obvious intellectual shortcomings.

Perhaps researchers will come up with an RNA vaccine that will improve the human thought process. If they do, you can be sure that at least one-third of all Americans will refuse to take it, preferring the bliss of ignorance to the challenge of enlightenment.

Perhaps We All Need To Calm Down Just A Little?

Can’t get it out of my head. That story about those two young people who went to a movie back in California, only to be executed by a guy who came up behind them and shot them in the backs of their heads. It was the latest “Purge” movie, and the sound was so loud that none of the other moviegoers heard the shots being fired. The young couple were found by a cleaning crew that showed up after the movie ended.

Made me think back to a similar incident at a movie theater in Aurora Colorado a few years ago with 12 dead and 70 injured, 58 from gunfire. This time only two were killed. An 18 year-old and a 19 year-old, both allegedly murdered by a 20 year-old, all attending a movie with a rancid plotline designed to target their demographic.

You have to wonder if the shooter was following suit with the screenwriter’s rank imagination.

We were still in Los Angeles, when the Aurora shooting took place. I remember having concerns about going out to a movie, especially in the afternoon in that big theater with only a few moviegoers in the seats. I remember wondering if some loon with a gun might wander in and just open up, just as the gunman had done in Aurora. If someone opened up on you out on the freeway you were at least in your car. But there, in a theater, you had nothing between you and the gunman. No car to hide in. You couldn’t step on the gas to try and get away.

It feels as though it just keeps getting worse. It feels as though nothing is being done to stop the slaughter as fear continues to grow.

I thought about fear yesterday, as I spotted a black pickup on a local highway. It was all decked out in black and white, flying a big black and white “Don’t Tread On Me” flag from a pole in the truck’s bed. The words “We The People” were stenciled in the rear window next to a big white skull with teeth that looked like they were melting from the skull’s lower jaw. I later learned the skull is from some comic, that it represents a character called the “Punisher,” and wondered exactly what message the truck’s owner is attempting to convey, although I’m pretty sure it has something to do with fear.

Even now I have friends who are buying guns while newspapers run stories about the country’s ongoing ammunition shortage. My fellow Americans, it seems, can’t get their hands on enough guns and ammunition.

For its part, Hollywood, keeps pushing the “Purge” and other films of a similarly murderous ilk while the country remains on a psychological razor’s edge from the Covid pandemic. At the same time, facts be damned, millions of Trump supporters refuse to accept reality about the pandemic or the validity of the election or our need for gun control. Never wanting to let a bad thing pass them by, the Russians apparently continue doing all they can to seed social media with disinformation designed to tear us even farther apart.

You’ll have to forgive me for being a little concerned.

Why Do One-Third Of Us Keep Getting It Wrong?

There was an interesting comment by one of the pundits yesterday, following the testimony of four police officers who defended the Capitol against treasonous thugs on January 6th. He noted, that during the Revolutionary War, about a-third of the colonists wanted to remain with the Crown. That is to say, they wanted to be British rather than American. As you know, the Americans, with some very heavy assistance from Lafayette and the French, won.

Then, not all that many years later, about a third of the nation formed the Confederacy and attempted to break away from the United States, in the name of preserving slavery. And that, brings us up to our contemporary mess, with, once again, about a-third of the country following Donald Trump and his call, driven by malignant narcissism, to seize the Capitol and “stop the steal.”

Why is it that about one-third of the country keeps getting it wrong? It’s safe to say, I suppose, that this time, as with the Civil War, the bitter bile of racism is again the cause. Bitter enough to have led to a Trump-inspired attempted coup d’etat.

All one needed to do, was to glance out at the audience at any of the Trump rallies or at the faces of the goons storming the Capitol to see that they were nearly all white. And all male. So, here we go again, but this time we have the additional problem of the 7-24 news cycle, taking something that used to be reported only once in the morning papers, then a second time on the 6 o’clock news and a third time on the 11 o’clock news and running it over and over again in an endless loop, until it feels as though all hell is about to crash down on our hapless heads. That, coupled with the unfiltered nature of social media, has taken us to a new and potentially dangerous place, a new low in our informational cycle, one that has disinformation and misinformation controlling our lives with some of it even being pushed at us from enemies on foreign soil.

Some of these “media people” will say almost anything if it means ginning up their ratings, the country be damned. And since Reagan and his free-traders killed the Fairness Doctrine and most other controls over the broadcast media, we are now like babes to the slaughter, mindlessly staring at whatever garbage someone feels like pushing through the flatscreen or smartphone at us. Media influence is overwhelming. In 2018, Nielsen reported that Americans spend eleven hours a day “connected to the media.” In 2021 PEW reported that three in ten adults are almost “constantly online,” with non of it having been checked and double-checked by Walter Cronkite and the CBS Evening News.

It could be argued that social media is addicting, and as such, should be treated as a public health issue.

Unlike those pre-social media days, when professional journalists filtered out all the nonsense, and would have called Trump out for being the dangerous buffoon that he is (read Mary Trump’s book), we now have millions who are being informed by entertainment outlets worried primarily about profits and social media outlets worried about not knowing what they should be worried about because what they are doing has never been done before, leaving them mostly interested in profits alone. Plus, they’re sometimes run by a bunch of geeky kids with no interest in history other than the plot line for The Lord Of The Rings.

This time, not even Bilbo Baggins will be able to save us as we head into the midterm election with about a-third of the country continuing to believe the last election was stolen, a giant cancerous boil that continues to be carried forward on the collective rump of about a-third of the country who feel a need to follow the madness of the unfiltered, unjournalistic and some might say treasonous extreme right-wing media.

We can only pray that the other two-thirds feel motivated to go to the polls in 22.

Seinfeld And Me

Interesting day so far here in the Mid-Atlantic. First came the vultures.

Our friend Sue notified my wife that several vultures had congregated near the trash she had left out for pickup in her front yard, and she wasn’t sure what, if anything, she should do about it. This was new for me. I had no idea what, if anything, to say about it, but I can see where vultures hanging around the house, particularly in the front yard where they would be the first thing you see when you look out the window, could be a real drag. Particularly for those of us in our 70’s and 80’s. I just put a new roof on the house and it’s a chilling thought that the roof will probably outlast me. So there was that. Until receiving news of the great DC housefire.

A friend, who lives down near the district, was about to jump in the shower when there was a banging at his door. It was a neighbor lady from across the street, frantic with news that there was smoke coming from the house next door and that the elderly man who lived there, wasn’t home. My friend, we’ll call him Fred, took it to heart. He threw on a robe, went outside and saw white smoke pouring out of the chimney of the house next door – which, according to the neighbor lady, was empty.

Fearing the worst, my buddy Fred grabbed his 100 foot garden hose and directed water at the top of the chimney while yelling at the neighbor lady to “Dial 9-1-1! Call the fire department!” Which she did. They also tried knocking on the door, but nobody answered, adding to fears that the house was unoccupied. I should add, just to be fair, that it isn’t all that common to see smoke pouring out of a chimney in July when temperatures are in the 80’s.

The fire department got there pretty fast according to Fred, as their firehouse is located less than 200 yards from the “incident.” The firemen arrived and started banging on the door and this time someone answered. The old man who lives in the house told everybody to calm down. He had been in the basement he said, where he couldn’t hear the knocking. As for the fire, he needed to get rid of some old papers, he explained, so he was burning them in the fireplace, causing smoke, which in the words of my buddy Fred, “Looked like the fire at the Vatican when they’ve got a new Pope!” Which is why he was standing there in his bathrobe pouring water on the chimney.

Interesting day here in the Mid-Atlantic. Wondering what’s coming next. Maybe Kramer and Elaine will drop by for lunch.

Branson’s Flight Is Deja Vu All Over Again

X-15 Rocket Powered Aircraft

Richard Branson is about to blast off and Joe Biden is finally getting our troops out of Afghanistan and both are “deja vu all over again.”

Not to take anything away from Branson’s accomplishments with Virgin Galactic, or the accomplishments of Jeff Bezos, who plans on following suit with his own “Blue Origin” space venture in just a matter of days, but all of this has happened already. It happened a long, long time ago, but not far, far away. No, it happened out on the high desert at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where it was done by NASA and the United State Air Force back in the 60’s, with the X-15 rocket powered space plane.

The X-15’s first flight was on June 8, 1959. There would be three of the space planes built by North American Aviation and they would fly 199 flights, taking the United States to the edge of, and eventually into, space. Eight pilots flew above the 50 mile limit, “qualifying them as astronauts.”

Pilot/Astronaut, Joseph A. Walker, took the space plane up to an altitude of 67 miles in July of 1963. In addition to setting records for altitude, there was also a record set for speed with the X-15 hitting a top speed of 4,567 mph in 1967, with Pete Knight at the controls. That’s Mach 6.7. More than six times the speed of sound. Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, flew the X-15 seven times as a civilian pilot for NASA.

After 199 flights, the program was cancelled in 1968, even though plans had been drawn up for an X-15B, which would be launched into space attached to a Navajo missile. Remind you of anything? To me it sounds a little like an early version of the Space Shuttle?

Well, none of that happened. The Russians put Sputnik up, causing Congress to go weak in the knees, canceling the X-15 program and initiating the Mercury program, which put a chimpanzee in space, followed by humans. These new astronauts weren’t so much pilots as they were passengers, sitting inside a giant can on the nose of a rocket. In retrospect, some might see it as two steps forward and a a giant leap back. But then I’m no rocket scientist. Tom Wolfe, wrote about it in his book, “The Right Stuff,” which is a great read. Good movie, too.

Anyway, all that has already happened, along with several moon shots and the Space Shuttle, so I can’t get too excited about Richard Branson, doing it all over again by going back to square one. Sure, there’s the thing about civilian space flight in a rocket plane, but maybe, since we were there and did that already, the government program should never have been abandoned? Why isn’t this being given more attention? Could it be because abandoning the program after 199 flights with a recoverable space plane with an actual pilot in favor of a monkey inside a capsule was a huge mistake? Or maybe it’s all just been forgotten and a story about doing something over again that was done in the 60’s makes for really dull copy for the media. It’s way more exciting to talk about a businessman doing something that’s never been done before – which it hasn’t – if you’re limiting your thinking to civilian aviation.

So Branson going up feels like deja vu. So does Joe Biden, pulling us out of Afghanistan, after similar withdrawals by the British and the Russians, both of whom failed in their efforts to contain and control the Afghans. Yes friends, they both failed, but we were going to succeed, going in even while some of the best military minds in the country, like Gen. Colin Powell, warned about not sending troops into Afghanistan without an exit strategy. Others predicted it would be a “quagmire,” another Vietnam, which it was. And so, like the Brits and the Russians, we are now pulling out. Just like the Chinese and the Japanese and the French, pulled out of Vietnam before us. Just like the X-15 space plane, it’s all deju vu all over again. Making it, perhaps, an uncomfortable memory.

There’s something to be said here about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, or perhaps in this case, hoping for the same result.

That said, I wish Richard Branson, the very best of luck for a safe and successful flight. I’m not so enthusiastic about Jeff Bezos, however. He is the owner of the Washington Post and we need all the wealthy supporters of a free press we can get right here on the ground, serving the watchdog function the founders intended. So it might be preferable for Bezos, to stay on the ground. It might be argued that he is just too valuable a human commodity to lose to an adventure in space that’s already taken place. Repeatedly. In fact, the are any number of needs that could be filled by these billionaires other than “space tourism” for the uber-wealthy. Like providing inner-city kids with heating and cooling for their classrooms.

Not that giving thousands of kids a proper education that lasts a lifetime matters as much as flying a handful of gazillionaires to the edge of space for a thrill that lasts for only a matter of minutes.


The Standup Routine In L.A.

During my tenure at KTLA, the morning news people wanted me to go over to one of the comedy clubs in Hollywood, get some training on how to do standup, and then go on stage with my “act” while our cameras rolled. I said no, not because I didn’t think it might not be an interesting experience, but because the thought of doing standup comedy terrified me.

A famous actress once told me how much she admired those of us who did live tv news, because, she explained, we had to talk off the tops of our heads, with no script and no room for mistakes. That said, doing standup comedy has to be one of the most frightening things I can think of. Standing out there under the lights all by yourself with the obligation of making people laugh is to me way scarier than doing live tv news. And increasingly, it’s becoming next to impossible due to the ever-expanding universe of political correctness.

In this current environment one wrong word or distasteful act can be a career ending mistake. For some, there are no second chances, even after an apology for something that was done years ago. What Al Franken did was dated, and not totally unexpected for someone who had been a cast member of Saturday Night Live. Nevertheless, he was treated like a felon and cast out from his job in the United States Senate, for the act of making someone of the opposite sex feel uncomfortable – before he had become a senator. The overreaction to Franken’s transgression will surely go down as a mistake made by a party caught up in the fever and fury of PC reform.

In the 60’s, Foster Brooks was one of the funniest comedians out there. His portrayal of a sloppy drunk wouldn’t stand a chance today. He would in fact, probably be barred from the studios as his act is no longer acceptable territory. Alcoholism is a medical condition, of course, and as such it isn’t something to be taken lightly. And yet, the more responsible we are, the more seriously we take ourselves and the more PC we become, the less we have to laugh about, making a comedian’s job far more difficult.

Is there some point at which losing our ability to laugh at ourselves will yield a negative return? Might evolution eventually take us to a place where humor has been transformed into something some of us will no longer be able to recognize? And those who do recognize this “new comedy” as being funny will have no idea what real comedy was? That it was something that actually caused people to laugh out loud?

Are we at a point where we all need to lighten up just a little? Even the suggestion sounds politically incorrect, so maybe we’re there.

A tv producer friend used to tell me, “There isn’t anything you can say that won’t gore somebody’s ox.” I think he may have been right and maybe we’re simply dealing with it? Perhaps evolution is carrying us all forward to a place of necessary increased sophistication with no offense taken and fewer laughs heard? I really have no idea, but I do feel sympathy for today’s comics, who are being forced to deal with whole generations who apparently feel entitled to be in a “safe place” where they are showered with love and acceptance and nothing else. Certainly no criticism, no matter how constructive. Every little snowflake is perfect unto itself.

I’m sure you’re wondering whom the actress was. Truth is, I can’t remember. After more than 40 years in the biz, these things are bound to happen.

1Bob Compton

Good For Joe, He’s Doing The Best That He Can

Good for Joe Biden. He’s in Cornwall, home to Doc Martin, and about to sign a historic document reaffirming the United States ties with Great Britain. Bravo! This is exactly what we need, the free world giving the middle finger to Putin and his global mob of fascist bullies, undoing at least some of the damage done by Donald. Meanwhile though, back at home, there’s this “deadlock” thing going on regarding the president’s push for an infrastructure bill.

Nobody should be surprised that the Republican Party hasn’t changed. Most of them are still petrified of DJT. For its part, the Democratic Party, is floundering around, trying to find a unifying message – or messages – to pull in votes for the mid-terms in 22 and the presidential coming up in 24. This puts Joe Biden in a real bind. If the Dems continue to fail on messaging, they stand to lose the Senate in 22, so Biden, needs to get things done before then. However, anything he accomplishes without Republican support will probably be undone by the Republicans when they re-gain the Senate and the Oval.

After Trump does anyone sill doubt the power of the imperial presidency or the impact of executive orders?

It’s a catch-22 that has us all in its grip, along with the terrifying thought that Joe won’t be up to running for another term, leaving us with Kamala Harris running for president in 24 against whichever two white men the Republicans come up with, who will focus on pulling in a majority of the voters as opposed to attempting to attract every splinter and faction in the country.

The Democrats “big tent” thing is a wonderful ideal to shoot for, but they had better temper their thinking and get their political act together on messaging or we will probably have a Republican voted back into the oval in 24 along with a Republican senate. Won’t that be lovely? The people who staged an all-out assault on the Capitol building, openly calling for lynching the vice president – the same people who have repeatedly rejected the very idea of a democratic government, will be back in charge?

Isn’t keeping neo-feudal fascist-leaning Republican greedheads out of power just a tad more important than satisfying AOC and her fellow left-wing minority extremists? Is it even possible for the Dem’s to find a middle-road approach?

Those on the left deserve to be heard, but going too progressive, too fast, with moves like insisting upon gender-neutral identity through the destruction of traditionally accepted pronouns, or failing to come up with a unifying message on immigration, makes for a losing political equation, a windstorm that will blow the Dem’s big tent to the ground.

Extremist Dems A Real Threat To The Country

According to the network news, 17,000 immigrant children are being held by the U.S. down at the border. Can that be possible? 17,000, and more keep coming in?

I was afraid this would happen. The last prez, went all the way in one direction and now the new Democratic president is swinging to the left. I am not and never have been a Trump supporter, but he may have been right about the virus coming from a lab-leak in Wuhan, and he wasn’t all wrong about the United States needing tougher security along its southern border, which continues to be a huge issue for millions of Americans.

Even a gunfighter with sand in his eyes will eventually hit something if he keeps pulling the trigger.

The problem for Democrats, is that it looks like they don’t have much of anything going on right now, as immigrants, particularly children, continue pouring in. Another huge problem, is that they still can’t seem to agree on what to do about it and sending the Veep to Central America, will only result in what will appear to be another useless endeavor by an Administration that appears to be floundering on immigration.

The headline in the Guardian is disgusting, screaming out, “AOC condemns Kamala Harris for telling Guatemalan migrants not to come to US.”  Is AOC kidding? Does she realize that unless the Democrats come together on their messaging, they stand to lose the Senate in 22?

This is what the Dems usually do, splitting up into their different factions and then pulling one-another to pieces while the Republicans sit back and smile.

It’s past time for the Democratic Party to tell their extremist wing to sit down and shut up, while calmer minds put together messaging that will hold the House and Senate in 22, and keep another Republican lunatic from re-gaining power in the Oval in 24. American Democracy is on the line and this could literally be our last chance. The party’s left-wing has a right to push its agenda, but they had better take care that they don’t push so hard that they forfeit our future to fascists.

F. Lee Bailey / O.J. Simpson And The Dream Team’s Original Defense

Hearing about the death of F. Lee Bailey, triggered memories of an old and wonderful comedy bit from Harry Shearer, with Harry doing the voices of both Bailey and O.J. Simpson on the phone. The call has Bailey complaining to O.J. with words similar to, “Juice, they’re taking away my shingle,” and Simpson, completely missing the point, replying with something about Bailey needing to look around to find a good roofer.

After starting off with a huge bang, with the acquittal of Sam Sheppard, F. Lee Bailey had, to say the least, an interesting career, culminating with his membership on the Simpson criminal trial “Dream Team,” and ending with his disbarment in Florida, Massachusetts and Maine. At one time, Bailey was arguably, one of the two best known barristers in America, the other being Melvin Belli, who famously brought in his yacht from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, so he’d have a place to stay along with the services of his personal chef while he went after one of the tobacco companies in a local courtroom. I was there for that one too, but that’s another story.

F. Lee Bailey, may or may not have had a yacht, but he was right up there with Melvin Belli. Beyond being a legal heavyweight, he was an icon in the world of American jurisprudence. Consequently, it was a monumental development when we learned that he had signed on to take the lead in the defense of football icon, O.J. Simpson, charged with the slasher/stabbing deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown and her friend, Ron Goldman, who apparently happened upon the murder scene while trying to return some eyeglasses that were left at Mezzaluna, a west Los Angeles eatery where he worked as a server.

Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman weren’t just murdered, they were brutally punished, suffering multiple stab wounds to the face and scalp. Goldman was also stabbed in his neck. Brown had her throat severed, nearly to the spinal cord.

The problems for Simpson were numerous, including the fact that his blood had been found by police criminalists all over the place. At the murder scene, in his Ford Bronco and back at his house on Rockingham. Simpson’s blood, mixed in with the blood of Nicole Brown, was found on socks in an upstairs bedroom. There was also the famous bloody glove discovered by Mark Fuhrman behind Kato Kaelin’s bungalow in Simpson’s backyard. It held Simpson’s blood along with the blood of both victims. It was the same for Simpson’s Bronco, where criminalists found blood from Simpson, Goldman and Brown.

For his part, Johnnie Cochran, hammered away with his contentions that some blood from a vial the LAPD had, may have been “missing,” and that the prosecution’s evidence was generally “a cesspool of contamination.” As the blood evidence kept coming in some reporters privately began referring to Simpson as “the guiltiest man ever to be framed.”

There was also, and perhaps most damning of all, an eyewitness who said she saw Simpson racing away from the Bundy murder scene in his white Ford Bronco shortly after the murders were committed. It fit perfectly into the timeline, but prosecutor Marcia Clark, chose not to put the eyewitness, Jill Shively, on the stand, because she had been paid by a media outlet for her story prior to the trial.

So the jury never heard a word from the one and only person who could testify to seeing Simpson near the scene on the night of the murders. Nor was it ever discussed as to why the big Akita dog that lived with Nicole, apparently did nothing to drive off the person or persons that attacked her.

Based upon the blood evidence alone, things did not look good for O.J Simpson, commonly called “The Juice,” a nickname that went back to his days with the Buffalo Bills. The Bills offensive line was called “The Electric Company,” which would “turn on the Juice” by opening holes for O.J., who almost always gained yardage. But this time, as Jeffrey Toobin so aptly put it in the title of his book, O.J., was in for “The Run Of His Life.” It looked like The Juice was going to need every legal tool F. Lee Bailey had at his considerable disposal.

I first met F. Lee Bailey at the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles. I was on a pay phone in the lobby when I spotted the famous lawyer getting his shoes shined just a few feet away. He was sitting in the end chair on a bench containing several seats, so I sidled over and sat down next to him, introducing myself and telling him I was with KTLA-TV News. We started talking and I was shocked at how much he was willing to say. At about this same time, Furnell Chatman, a reporter for KNBC, saw what was happening and came over to Bailey’s other side. With me asking questions from one side and Chatman on the other, F. Lee Bailey, laid out his plan for the defense of O.J. Simpson.

According to Bailey, the murders were committed by unnamed Colombians in a white van. A bunch of dopers, who murdered Nicole using a method known as a “Colombian Necktie.” That is to say, they would cut someone’s throat and then pull the victim’s tongue through the hole in their neck in the fashion of a macabre necktie. It was done to send a message to someone, possibly because someone might have been double-crossed in a drug deal. Who knows why? Maybe Nicole Brown and her friends had gotten involved with some very dangerous people? The fact, Bailey argued, was that it had happened. The white van had been spotted by a witness. It was on the record and his client, poor O.J Simpson, was innocent of any and all wrong-doing. The police, he said, needed to go after the Colombians and not his client.

I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. The entire defense had been laid out for us. Chatman and I raced back to get in front of our live cameras on the 12th floor, where we both reported out what we had been told. According to F. Lee Bailey, the Colombians did it.

And that, friends, according to F. Lee Bailey, was the Dream Team’s original defense. Until Mark Fuhrman took the stand and lied about having used the “N-word.” With that, Johnnie Cochran took over, taking the focus off of Simpson and putting it on the L.A.P.D., forcing Bailey to play backup as Johnnie took the point in the trial of the century.

Even Judge Lance Ito was caught up in Cochran’s unending riptide of creating reasonable doubt, when it became known that Ito’s wife, LAPD Captain Peggy York, had been Mark Fuhrman’s boss at the police department’s West Los Angeles station. With that connection in play, it could be argued that Ito, never should have been given the case. It should also be said that no one had any idea of what was coming, of just how convoluted, angry and drawn-out the case would become with innumerable sidebars and a sequestered jury locked inside Ito’s jury room for hours and even days while Cochran and Clark did battle outside the presence of the jury with Ito struggling to control and contain a case that threatened to go off the rails at any moment.

Cochran went after Ito, like a bulldog with a chew toy, at one point reducing the judge to tears as he spoke of how much he loved his wife in open court. At the same time, Bailey, became almost irrelevant, to the point that some in the press corps began calling him “Flea.” This was the case, in spite of the fact that it was Bailey who had pulled the “N-word” testimony out of Mark Fuhrman, by questioning him “marine to marine” as the lawyer put it.

Why the jury bought into the arguments of Cochran, Bailey and the “Dream Team” continues to be open to debate. Some, including yours truly, believe it was as much a case of prosecutorial ineptitude and a judge who was unable to control his courtroom as it was a strong defense. For whatever reason, or perhaps we should say without the possibility of reason ruling the day, O.J. Simpson, was found to be “not guilty” and the theory about a gang of rogue Colombians, was never heard from again.

A Crisis Of Journalism

A piece written by Eric Alterman, entitled “Altercation: Why Journalism Isn’t Really Covering The Threat Of Fascism,” published in The American Prospect, is well worth your attention. To wit-

“Two phenomena are occurring at once that make it difficult to see what’s actually happening in real time. The first is that the Republican Party has committed itself to an orthodoxy made up of bald-faced lies, racism, the encouragement of political violence, and the purposeful undermining of democracy. The second is that the ongoing existential crisis of journalism is making it impossible to report the above clearly.” -The American Prospect

Another, essential piece of Alterman’s argument, is that mainstream journalism has been, and continues to be, guilty of accepting an “unending avalanche of lies” coming from both the Republican Party and right-wing media. He points out, bringing additional clarity to the situation, how devilishly clever Roger Ailes was, when he hired a few respected journalists like Brit Hume and Chris Wallace, to front for a stable mostly filled with extremist hacks, bringing at least a modicum of credibility to an otherwise journalistically vacuous operation. And with that folks, we were off and running.

I was struck by these ideas, in that I, and others who reported on the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, were, for what may have been the very first time, forced to pay attention to, and thereby give credence to, the tabloid press. Publications like The National Enquirer, were making headlines by writing checks to sources for information nobody else was able to get, because none of us in the mainstream media would engage in “checkbook journalism.” But the Enquirer would and did, and it paid off with several major scoops that left the rest of us wondering if the world wasn’t changing on our watch. Which of course, it was. We were covering a trial wall-to-wall, because it was getting a big number while occasionally getting scooped by the tabloid press, which, prior to Simpson, none of us would have given any attention whatsoever.

Wall to wall coverage of the same story every day with the same anchors and the same guest commentators. It was the invention of punditry and the tabloids had become players with and in the mainstream. The Rubicon had been crossed.

There is obviously more to it, various cultural and professional dynamics were and still are involved, but I was there when some of this got started and I agree with the assessment that we are now in the grips of a legitimate crisis, with infotainment and “putting on a show!” to drive the ratings taking precedence over all else while the newspaper business, where most of our actual “news” comes from, dies a not-so-slow death before our very eyes.

Building a news broadcast by putting story value and content first appears to be at the very least somewhat neglected and at times even ignored, making one wonder if any of those who understand broadcast journalism’s obligation to uphold the public trust are still in the business, allowing Fascism to become acceptable and in some corners, even attractive, to a misinformed, disinformed and generally bamboozled general public.


The Cicadas Are Coming! The Cicadas Are Coming!

It finally happened, a thunderous “whomp-whomp-whomping” filling the air just outside my window. Thinking they were finally here, I flew out the back door, head cocked to the sky. It turned out to be nothing more than a military helicopter. Not a cicada in sight.

For weeks now, we’ve been warned they’ll tear apart the digestive tracts of dogs, which will, as you probably know, eat pretty much anything. We’ve been advised that they’ll make more noise than a 747 buzzing the tower at an airport. There was also a piece with two entomologists, who, brimming with enthusiasm at finally getting the attention they so richly deserve, provided a recipe for cicada cookies, with a giant bug baked into the center of each one. “Save the cicada for your last bite,” they advised, so that you can savor and distinguish the bug’s unique flavor and texture. It only makes sense. The reporter actually ate the damn thing. I later learned that some folks like them deep-fried.

I’m getting really tired of being warned about the big bug invasion of 2021. I’m not even sure it’s gonna happen, at least not right here. After watching repeated reports on the evening news, featuring full-screen blowups of the bugs, which makes for a great graphic, I have now learned about cicada mating habits, the horrible noise cicadas make, their 13 and 17 year cycles, the potential danger they pose to dogs that eat the big bugs, and so forth and so on.

The media, loves these things, so I have been getting more information than I ever needed, apart from the one piece of information I really did need but had no idea was out there. The most significant information of all. The fact that there are different “broods” of cicadas. Which may account for the fact that there was a significant cicada hatch when we got here in 2015, and another, much smaller, just two years back and then yet another, a little bigger, last year. And now we are supposedly going to be confronted by this most current “brood” hatching in 2021. How is all of this possible with 13 and 17-year cycles? Confusing, isn’t it?

“How did this happen?” – Jean-Luc Picard

Well, apparently, there is some overlapping of the broods. According to a brood map I finally found – after learning that there actually were broods, and not all the 17-year cicadas would pop up at the same time – it would appear that our location here in Maryland, is right on the edge of the 2021 media-event cicada invasion we are hearing about three or four times a week. So, hopefully, we won’t get anything at all. Hopefully, we had a couple of broods popping out here just last year and the year before and the really big blowout of 2021 will be happening up in Pennsylvania. Not that I’d wish that on the folks up in PA. It’s just that it appears the brood thing won’t be in their favor this time around.

Please understand that I have no credentials in entomology whatsoever, so everything I’ve written on this subject needs to be carefully vetted by someone with credentials. Someone who understands cicada brood maps. I only felt a need to react in some small way to the ongoing media reports that made me feel that much of the northeast was about to be invaded by millions of giant bugs. Which hasn’t happened. At least not right here. That’s not to say that it won’t. What do I know?

Good luck and God bless you. Together, we’ll probably get through this. The biggest news since the murder hornets arrived. And almost as photogenic.

With Heartfelt Thanks To Donald, Rudy And Mike

It began with last night’s appearance of the “Pillow Guy” from my home state of Minnesota, Mike Lindell, on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Lindell, was fantastic, bursting with personality and filled with religious goodwill and intelligent banter. Then, just this morning, I fired up the flat-screen to be greeted with news of the “Raid on Rudy,” with federal officers raiding Giuliani’s apartment in New York, gathering up evidence that will surely vindicate this good and generous man of any and all wrong-doing. What other outcome can be expected from someone who did so much to enhance the greatness of the already proven greatness of our very own, gone but never forgotten, Donald J. Trump? Who among us has done more, or at least tried to do more, for both America and the Ukraine, than Rudy Giuliani?

My heart swells with gratitude for all Mr. Trump, his political lieutenants, followers and fans have done for us, including, but by no means limited to, telling our traditional allies to take a hike while cozying up to dictators and tyrants around the world, with a special shout-out to Vladimir Putin, who, under the Administration of Mr. Trump, was finally given the recognition and respect he deserves.

When historical consideration is given to Trumpian accomplishments, the magnificent wall at our southern border, fully funded by Mexico, surely stands alone. Repealing and replacing Obamacare with something so much better and at a lower cost would have to come in a close second followed by the Administration’s efforts to dismantle, disable and otherwise cripple to the highest degree possible, the USPS, to further limit voting by those not wealthy enough to deserve it.

There were other noteworthy efforts, initiated by American patriot Steve Bannon, aimed at dismantling our institutions, making government more cost-effective by cutting services, and in some instances, coming close to making it non-existent. Many of us were left pondering the question of whether, beyond our military, government is necessary at all? Wouldn’t it be far more cost-effective if our decision making was left in the hands of a half-dozen or so oligarchs, while government services were privatized?

Who really needs the post office, or elections, for that matter? Doesn’t it all just get in the way? Wouldn’t it be so much better if we didn’t have to try and….you know….think about all that stuff?

Shouldn’t every real American stand ready to sacrifice their freedom of choice to achieve the goal of greater efficiency even if this means setting Democracy aside?

We should all remain grateful to Mr. Trump, for raising these questions as well as exhibiting the astounding wisdom of holding off on sounding the alarm about the spreading Coronavirus pandemic, so as not to cause undue awareness and possible panic. It was a move of such intellect and compassion that it nearly surpasses his support for a regime that kidnaps and butchers journalists. Think about it. What really matters more, the goodwill of a major Arab state and all that wonderful oil money, or the life of a single journalist? Striking this balance is surely the work of a stable genius, the likes of whom we may never see again.

And while the roll of unique talent is being taken, let us not forget the magnificent efforts of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Who in recorded history has done more to advance the cause of making the country more secure by furthering the power of our collective intellect through public education?

Like a Thanksgiving turkey, I feel stuffed, possibly even overstuffed, with gratitude and goodness for all they’ve done, both for us and to us. A gratitude exceeded only by my thankfulness for the great bounty of entertainment offered up by the motion picture industry at this year’s Academy Awards, a celebration of homelessness, civil unrest and racial injustice through the years. It was just the break from reality we all needed.

As we move forward in our never-ending quest for improvement, with elections still to come, we can only hope for continued and even greater input from Fox News and others of their conservative ilk, striving to provide us with the very best news and information profit-driven communications have to offer, while far less profitable traditional Journalism goes begging, it’s end, possibly in sight, having outlived its usefulness for a culture that no longer values reality but instead covets personal reinforcement, no matter how misinformed they might be.

Something New From California

I got out of the shower this morning and looked outside to see snow falling. According to my iPhone it was 41 degrees so it made no sense. “It could be that dew point thing,” I thought, or maybe some other term weathercasters now use that serve only to confuse and confound. Not wanting to put all my faith in the phone I next glanced at my solar-powered watch, which confirmed that it was in fact April the 22nd. Days, months and years sometimes lose all meaning in this age of Covid.

My head was filled with thoughts of climate change as I turned on the tv to watch a report from NBC about the “megadrought” in California, and how the state is turning sewage into drinking water because there are too many people and too little water. That was the state of things when we left California five years ago. Now, the drought, which had become a way of life when we were still there, has apparently turned into a “megadrought.” Oh my. Another new word from the people who gave us “Carmageddon” when they shut down the 405 Freeway. At the same time, Cali now has the lowest Conronavirus case rate in the continental U.S. Maybe it’s the water?

Nobody here in the east has any idea with regard to what’s happening way out west. As far as they’re concerned, Los Angeles is on Mars, so let them drink sewage?

We’ve got plenty of water here in Maryland. A whole big, beautiful bay-full, so drought is one of the things I no longer worry about. Californians might be envious, except for the fact that they probably know less about the Chesapeake Bay than easterners know about the San Fernando Valley. Too bad we aren’t better informed about one another, being citizens of the same country and all.

For the record, the Chesapeake, is the largest estuary in the United States. Not only do many Americans have no idea where it is, many or most probably haven’t a clue as to what it is. Hint: It is not a gynecological condition. And the San Fernando Valley, or just “The Valley,” as Angelenos call it, has a bigger population than the City of Philadelphia. So it too, is definitely noteworthy.

I’m now driving over to the hospital to get my second Covid shot, while wondering how the California PR machine will turn all that new Hollywood poo-water into something acceptable to the masses. Something they might export to unsuspecting consumers back east and maybe even to China. It might help with the trade imbalance and in doing so it would serve the Chinese right, considering some of the crap they’ve been exporting to us for the past forty years and all the tyrannical nonsense they are currently pulling in Hong Kong.

The magical reclaimed waters of California. Imagine the source. Some of the finest celebrity commodes and showers in Malibu, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Bel Air. Available soon at better retailers everywhere.

Another Shock To Her Majesty’s System

Not to take anything away from the first flight of anything on the surface of Mars by humankind, but shouldn’t they be calling this little rotorcraft that just lifted off of the Martian surface a “drone” rather than a “helicopter?” Doesn’t calling it a helicopter imply there’s a pilot on board? We’ve already raised at least two generations of Americans who have no idea that there’s a distinct difference between a cap and a hat, and now we are telling them that a drone is a helicopter?

I was taken aback the other day while watching the royal funeral, when one of the commentators on an alleged network spoke about the upcoming “Internment of Prince Philip.” Won’t the Queen be surprised?

Literacy is directly related to our ability to understand one another, which, in turn, appears to be critical to any of us being able to reach agreement with regard to what is actually going on, which will be necessary to move forward and away from our confused path toward mututal self-destruction. But then I’m sure there’s something I probably don’t understand.

Consider the difference between “homing in” and “honing in” on something. It’s an easy mistake to make so it’s easily forgiven. I suppose. What’s unforgivable is our cultural tendency to accept verbal and historical mistakes so often that incorrect usage and “alternate facts” become the acceptable form while literacy and historical fact are increasingly viewed as elitist or dismissive to all those snowflakes out there demanding that nothing be done or said by anyone to affront their delicate sensibilities.

A few days ago I was watching a morning newscast out of Los Angeles, when, during a discussion about swimming, the weatherman (Is it still okay to say that? Or is “weatherman” no longer PC?) raised the question of whether the term “dog paddle” is politically incorrect because it might be an affront to dogs? It was, of course, a joke, but at the same time, the guy was making a legitimate point.

Instead of correcting mistakes and promoting debate to resolve differences, we appear to be fearfully stumbling ahead with increased illiteracy, covering what’s left of our culture with a spreading blanket of confusion consisting of misinformation and disinformation sprinkled with generous portions of stupidity and ignorance. God help anyone who suggests that societal standards might be necessary for the common good.

I know this is all a bit complex. I’ll let you know if I figure it out. I can feel myself “honing in” on it right now. And I’ll try and get there without upsetting anyone’s delicate sensibilities. Above all else, I’ll make an effort not to be dismissive. Even if it’s called for.

Get Over It

Dear snowflakes. Those of us who lived through the 60’s were “woke” before it was even a thing. You aren’t saying anything that hasn’t been said. Get real. Confront your own naivete before you point an accusing finger at others who are older and wiser than you.

Fight the good fight, but don’t condemn others who have been fighting for years for doing too little. Much can be learned from those who have already been there.