Trick Questions

A Pulitzer-winning reporter is writing an in-depth piece – about you. What are the three questions you really hope she doesn’t ask you?

This must be the interview which celebrates my having won the Blogging Pulitzer, right? No? Has there been a mass shooting in town — and I’m the shooter? The Blackstone has angrily overflowed and washed my house away?

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALL

The aliens have landed and are shacking up in the guest room? The aliens tried to land, but couldn’t find a suitable spot to set down, the driveway being full of cars?

The President is visiting us because he’s run out of foreign countries with which the U.S. is, was or will be at war?

Really — I’m past the age where I have anything left to hide. What could anyone ask about which I haven’t already written and published in a post?

So bring it on. We are media savvy in this household. Ain’t nothin’ you can ask that we can’t answer!


Mutants and Hybrids

If you were one part human, two parts something else — another animal, a plant, an inanimate object — what would the other two parts be?


Those who recall the furor over Gay marriage should probably have expected the hysteria over the legalized joining of humans with their favorite technology, animal, mineral or plant.

As millions of teenagers race to fuse with their cell phones, nerds with their computers, aviators with fighter planes, animal rights activists with their favorite vanishing species (leading some to wonder if this will not signal the death knell for many species) and tree huggers with large forests, fundamentalist Christian groups — never imagining the far-reaching implications of this law — scramble to get out of church and on the street.


“Clearly,” stated the Reverend Righteous P. Indignation, spokesman for the Church of the Ridiculous Assumption, “This is not what God had in mind. Although the Bible does not specifically mention marriage — or fusion — with non-human things, this can’t be right in His eyes.” Indignation’s statement was greeted by catcalls, neighing, bleats, beeps and a goodly amount of shrill ringing.

Many, mirroring the human yearning for the freedom of flight have chosen to become two-thirds bird. Racing enthusiasts have become mostly horse, often with the rear end as the dominant segment while their bookies have chosen chainsaws and jack hammers.

While corporations hustle to reinvent themselves in light of a weirdly altered target audience, communications providers from television to Hollywood try to reconfigure everything from seating in stadiums to snacks at movie kiosks.

The potential impact on major sports has not yet been calculated. Some prefer to be a ball and others a bat, so to speak. Simultaneously, the IRS is — at long last — revising the tax code before everyone gallops, flies, beeps, whirs and chirps him or herself forever out of reach of tax collection.

Only Walmart, ever sanguine, merely widened the aisles in their super-stores.

“We never care what customers look like,” said a spokesman. “If they look or behave like sheep or cattle, as long as they pay at the register, everyone is welcome at Wally World.”

MacDonald’s had no comment.


I woke up this morning to the sound of the phone ringing. It was the hospital. Just as well since I had to call them anyway.

“How are you?” asked the Lisa, the nurse for the unit.

“Swimming in a world of mucous,” I said. “But I don’t think it’s pneumonia. It doesn’t feel like pneumonia.”

“Are you coughing?”75-Sky-NK-84

“Not much, but I’m sneezing a lot.” I’m an epic sneezer. I put my heart and soul into my sneezes. They echo through the house. I’ve been known to sneeze 8 or 9 times in a row and throw my back out at the same time.

“That’s not good. After surgery, sneezing or coughing can be really painful.”

I could only imagine. The image it conjured was all too graphic. Ouch!

I called my friend to tell her surgery was postponed.

“Garry says he won’t drive me there. He says he has a bad feeling about this.”

“Me too,” she said. Me three, I thought.

Next call, the doctor. Chest x-rays all around. I don’t have pneumonia, but Garry does. I’m about 4 or 5 days behind him in this particular viral infection, but hopefully I won’t go the same route. I don’t believe in prophylactic antibiotics and neither does my doctor, but Garry is now on what have to be the most expensive antibiotics on the market. Usually, antibiotics are free or really cheap, but these were worth two weeks of groceries. Impressive. I hope they are as effective as they are costly.

Presumably Garry is now on the way to getting better. He’s not there yet, still pretty miserable.

Meanwhile, my surgery is postponed until I can breathe, no coughing or sneezing. The new date will depend on how long this cold takes to go away. If I’m lucky, a week. Unlucky, longer. At this point, I want to get this show on the road, get to the other side and start the healing process.

A thought for us all. With all the research and advances in medicine, there is still virtually nothing to be done about The Common Cold. I doubt they are any closer to a cure (or prevention) now than ever.

So where’s the silver lining?

I won’t be in the hospital for my birthday. Good. I’ve spent two birthdays in the hospital. Maybe this time, I will celebrate with Garry in our favorite Japanese restaurant. Overeating on sushi and other good stuff.

Even if we wind up eating breakfast sandwiches in front of the TV, it beats out hospital food with a side order of morphine drip.


Garry got sick a few days ago and this morning, I woke up full of gunk. I called the hospital. They said unless I had a fever or a cough, the show goes on. But hey, wait a minute. I can’t breathe … I’m wheezing and sniffling and choking … and I’m going to have hours and hours of anesthesia? No, I don’t think so.

me sicko

This is all going to get delayed a few days, at least until I can breathe without the weird gurgling sound my bronchial tubes are making. (Take a breath or try, anyhow. Gurgle. Whistle. Wheeze. Sniff.) I don’t think I’m well enough for a trip to the grocery store. An asthmatic with a chest cold going in for heart surgery? I think that’s not such a good idea. I understand about schedules, but I’m not going to die to avoid inconveniencing the hospital.

We’ll see where I’m at tomorrow, but my husband is firmly against major surgery while I’m having trouble breathing. I’m inclined to agree with him. Stay tuned for more ongoing drama.


In response to today’s Daily Prompt, ripped from the headlines, one of today’s stories in the Boston Globe reads as follows:

Marijuana advocates eye legalization in Mass.

An effort has been launched to both get a question calling for the drug’s legalization on the 2016 ballot and to raise enough money for victory.

I kind of wondered what happened. I mean we passed a referendum making medical marijuana legal more than a year ago. We passed it, we talked about it and as happens to much legislation and good intentions in this commonwealth, it was never heard from again. I think we could legalize it and have an equally impressive result, that is to say, nothing. Nada. The good news would be that there would be no more busting people for smoking a joint at a concert … or would it? I suppose it would depend on how the law was worded. But I somehow doubt it would make it more available to most people. Or cheaper. Or better quality.

Why not? Because this is Massachusetts. Not only (to quote Tip O’Neill) is all politics local, but all politics is more than slightly corrupted by a long history of entrenched political chicanery. Boston has the original party machine. Okay, maybe we share the honor with New York, assuming you consider it an honor.

marijuana in my dreams

So they can eye legalization, but that won’t do me or my baby boomer buddies much good. Even if they pass it, they will find a way to keep it from being easy to buy or even moderately available. By the time they finish with the legal mumbo jumbo, it will be easier to go find the original illegal sources and buy some there. Because otherwise, it will be just like trying to get MassHealth. You’ll fill out a thousand page form, send it in, and they will lose it. You will fill in another form, send it and they will tell you it’s too late to meet the deadline (because they lost the first one). Eventually, they will — with snail-like slowness — start to process the application. If you don’t die first, a year or two later, you’ll get some fantastic medical benefits, or in this case, weed. Except the price will be so high you’ll realize the illegal stuff was a bargain in comparison. The taxes alone will exceed the original non-legal price by hundreds of percent.

Dream on, you aging hippies. It aint’ gonna happen here in our lifetime.

Related posts:


He wanted to be a movie star, on the silver screen. I wanted to be an author. Somehow on our way to our dreams, we found our way to the college radio station. A puny thing, just 10 watts when Garry and I met in the tiny studios under the Little Theater. I was 17, Garry 22. He was a little older than most of the undergrads because at 17, he’d enlisted in the Marines and by the time he got out, a few years had passed.

Garry Clean Harbors-SMALLWe found the radio station by accident, but it fit. Garry stayed and became its Program Director. I hung around and began dating the Station Manager, who coincidentally was Garry’s best friend. Which is where our personal history gets a bit tangled and hard to explain, so I won’t. I was the Chief Announcer. Even though I knew I wanted to be in print, not electronic media, the radio station was a great place to try out new skills. There were scripts to be written, newsletters to create. And I had my own radio show and a whole bunch of great friends, most of whom are still great friends.

We were all oddballs. Creative and talented. Almost all of us went on to careers in media and the arts. We turned out a couple of authors, audio engineers, talk show hosts, DJs, TV and radio producers, news directors, commercial writers, college professors and Garry, a reporter whose career spanned 45 years, 31 at Channel 7 in Boston.

Surprisingly little footage of Garry’s on the air career  survived and until someone found this clip, we had nothing from his years at ABC Network. An old friend of Garry’s sent us this footage from 1969, the last year Garry was at ABC before he jumped to television. It’s a promotional piece for ABC News and features faces and voices from the past … and one young up and coming fellow, Garry Armstrong.

Let us return to those days of yesteryear, when television cameras used film and there was a war raging in Vietnam. 1969, the year my son was born, the year of Woodstock, the end of an era, the beginning of everything else.

Look at the equipment circa 1969. Antiquated by today’s technical standards, but the standards by which the news itself was gathered and reported were incomparably higher than what passes for news reportage today.


Emergency measures have been initiated when our intrepid vacationers, Garry and Marilyn Armstrong of Uxbridge, Massachusetts realized they have bigger problems than they realized … and that’s saying something.

Maintenance at the 1 star Cape Winds In Hyannis is rumored to be on the way to unclog both of Unit 17’s toilets. When Mrs. Armstrong reported the problem, Front Desk replied with “That’s odd!”

“I, ” responded Mrs. Armstrong, “Would not describe it as such. “I would call it clogged.”

Informed of the problem, Mr. Armstrong pulled the covers over his face. What a dump.


Criminals and Gun Violence – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG, Richard Paschall

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News – Sunday Night Blog – Richard Paschall

Despite news stories that would suggest the opposite, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are fond of pointing out that the city has endured less shootings than in recent years.  If that is truly the case, then the shootings in past years was under reported by local media.  You can believe that they are all over it now. Local news in most big cities follow the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and shootings have become the lead stories all too often in the Windy City and around America. Chicago has become the topic of national newscasts and unfortunate late night talk show jokes.

Mayor Emanuel and his predecessor, long time mayor Rich Daley, have worked hard to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.  They worked to restrict gun sales, limit concealed carry and ban guns at certain locations.  In light of gun violence, it seems logical that city leaders would lead the charge to get guns out of the hands of the type of people who would shoot up a city park.  Unfortunately their efforts have met the fight to let criminals have their guns.  “Who would be against the efforts of our elected officials to make the city streets safer?” you may ask.  Is it just the gangs?  Are the gangs using their drug profits to oppose the city in court?  Is it the Mafia and their high-priced attorneys?  Is it some Tea Party extremist?  No, it is none of those although the last might be close.  It is the National Rifle Association that is working hard to let criminals have guns and keep violence on main street America.  They have money.  They have lawyers and they like taking Chicago to court.

Yes, one of the roadblocks to taking guns away from criminals is the NRA.  They will now point to recent shootings as proof that we can not have gun control.  They will again try to force feed us the argument that gun control will mean that only criminals will have guns  and we will all be at their mercy, as if we are not now.  The NRA will use their usual scare tactics to defend their extreme position that actually allows criminals to get more and more guns.  They will then attempt to sell us on the idea that all of those guns in the hands of criminals means we can not have gun control laws.  Somehow they seem to think that arming the bad guys is proof that the good guys should not have to face any sort of restrictions on buying guns.  If you think this philosophy is a bit twisted, you are right (or perhaps I meant left).

The “slippery slope” argument is at the top of the NRA’s philosophy about gun control laws.  They seem to think that if there are any restrictions to buying guns, soon there will be more and more restrictions to follow and eventually  all the good guys will have to give up their guns to the federal, state and local governments.  It does not matter that this argument make no sense and the Second Amendment will protect them.  They continue to fight the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago through misleading pronouncements and court challenges.  Consider the common sense ideas of the state and city along with the extremist, Wild West position of the NRA.

Attempts at restricting private sale or transfer of guns to criminals have been challenged.  Reporting lost or stolen guns has been challenged.  Restricting concealed carry in certain public places has been challenged.  The NRA has won a battle against the State of Illinois in Moore v. Madigan.  That would be Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for the State of Illinois.  They claimed that the State efforts to enforce its laws left people “defenseless” outside their own homes.  They also backed McDonald v. Chicago in a fight against Chicago hand guns laws.  Their direct fight in NRA v. Chicago was later consolidated with the McDonald case.  While the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the Chicago law, the fight went to the Supreme Court where the much of the Chicago ordinance was struck down, leaving the city to attempt a less restrictive ban in 2010.

The State of Illinois was forced in July to adopt a concealed weapons laws, which angered city officials.  The law forced changes on the City of Chicago.  City officials, however, refuse to roll over to the wishes of the NRA.  They are now attempting to ban guns in bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.  They feel guns and booze don’t mix.  They expect the NRA to back the Dodge City mentality and challenge them in court.  Apparently, there should be no checking of hand guns at the door, but Marshal Dillon is not around to toss the bad guys in jail like an episode of Gunsmoke so this may not go well.  Perhaps all disputes will be settled by a duel in the street rather than shooting up Chicago saloons.

If Al Capone were still alive he would be proud of the efforts of the NRA to let Capone and Frank Nitti keep guns on the streets of Chicago.  As for Eliot Ness, the NRA would keep him and the Untouchables busy in court with challenges over any attempts to enforce the law, even common sense laws.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Despite all the palaver that the availability of guns does not affect crime levels, this is so obviously ridiculous and self-serving by gun enthusiasts that it really isn’t worth arguing. I think everyone who hunts, competes in shooting sports and has some kind of genuine reason to own a weapon should be allowed to do so. I also think that all guns should be better regulated, insured, and kept track of.  Here is an opinion from Richard Paschall, SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG. Well worth reading.

See on



It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.


He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.


I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network — a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

September 12, 2013 – Broadcasting Hall of Fame

September 12, 2013 at noon at a hotel in Quincy, Massachusetts, Garry Armstrong will be inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame. This is the real deal. A well-deserved and well-earned honor. I’m terribly proud of my amazing spouse.

Garry Armstrong – A Career In Brief

GarryArmstrongGarry worked at Channel 7 for 31 years and became one of New England’s most recognized and respected television journalists in the process. Garry won three New England Emmy Awards in 1976, 1977, and 1978 for his reporting on Court-ordered desegregation of Boston (1976 & 1978) and on the Clamshell Alliance (1976). He was also recognized for his professional and community achievements by numerous organizations.

From 1970 to 2001, Garry Armstrong was among New England’s most easily recognized and respected television journalists. He covered breaking news, features and politics. He knew and was known by the players in Boston and throughout New England, in politics, education, the religious establishment and more. His extensive coverage of minority and ethnic issues and his reputation for fair-mindedness earned him a welcome in every community.

Garry_72_01Garry’s 31 years at Channel 7 spanned an era of tremendous upheaval. From huge anti-Vietnam war rallies to the massive city-wide disruption of court-ordered desegregation and busing, the Great Chelsea Fire, the tragic Delta crash at Logan Airport, the Great Blizzard of 1978, the rise and fall of legendary politicians, spectacular court cases—notably Claus Von Bulow—and the battle over nuclear-generated power in Seabrook, NH (the Clamshell Alliance). He rode with the Tall Ships and interviewed Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, Queen Elizabeth II, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and President Clinton among others.

Garry won three New England Emmy Awards, two for his coverage of Court-ordered desegregation in Boston (1976 and 1978) and the Clamshell Alliance (1977).  He was also recognized for his professional and community achievements by numerous other organizations.

Wherever something important was happening in New England, Garry Armstrong was there.

Garry’s professional career began at the top as a writer/producer for national and international news at ABC Network in New York. He worked stateside and overseas, covered the fateful 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, the Vietnam War from Vietnam and New York, and the Watts riots. His first day at ABC coincided with the outbreak of the 6-day war in the Middle East, perhaps symbolically heralding an extraordinary career to come.

After a 9-month stopover in Hartford, CT, Garry was invited to Boston where he spent the next three decades. He was not merely a reporter covering the news in Boston. He lived in Boston and loved the city… and the city loved him in return.

Weymouth News - Protester on the Fore River Bridge who were opposed to Clean Harbors plans to build a Toxic Waste Incinerator in East Braintree on the banks of the Fore River. Channel 7's long time news guy, Garry Armstrong reports from the bridge 'grates'!! — with Steve Laping.

This is magic time for Garry. He did well and he did good for more than 40 years, 31 of them at Channel 7 in Boston. It’s a good day for star-dust. Congratulations.

Victor Davis Hanson – The Israeli Spring

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News


Israel could be forgiven for having a siege mentality — given that at any moment, old frontline enemies Syria and Egypt might spill their violence over common borders.

The Arab Spring has thrown Israel’s once-predictable adversaries into the chaotic state of a Sudan or Somalia. The old understandings between Jerusalem and the Assad and Mubarak kleptocracies seem in limbo.

Yet these tragic Arab revolutions swirling around Israel are paradoxically aiding it, both strategically and politically — well beyond just the erosion of conventional Arab military strength.

In terms of realpolitik, anti-Israeli authoritarians are fighting to the death against anti-Israeli insurgents and terrorists. Each is doing more damage to the other than Israel ever could — and in an unprecedented, grotesque fashion. Who now is gassing Arab innocents? Shooting Arab civilians in the streets? Rounding up and executing Arab civilians? Blowing up Arab houses? Answer: either Arab dictators or radical Islamists.

The old nexus of radical Islāmic terror of the last three decades is unraveling. With a wink and a nod, Arab dictatorships routinely subsidized Islāmic terrorists to divert popular anger away from their own failures to the West or Israel. In the deal, terrorists got money and sanctuary. The Arab Street blamed others for their own government-inflicted miseries. And thieving authoritarians posed as Islam’s popular champions.

But now, terrorists have turned on their dictator sponsors. And even the most ardent Middle East conspiracy theorists are having troubling blaming the United States and Israel.

Secretary of State John Kerry is still beating last century’s dead horse of a “comprehensive Middle East peace.” But does Kerry’s calcified diplomacy really assume that a peace agreement involving Israel would stop the ethnic cleansing of Egypt’s Coptic Christians? Does Israel have anything to do with Assad’s alleged gassing of his own people?

There are other losers as well. Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted to turn a once-secular Turkish democracy into a neo-Ottoman Islamist sultanate, with grand dreams of eastern-Mediterranean hegemony. His selling point to former Ottoman Arab subjects was often a virulent anti-Semitism. Suddenly, Turkey became one of Israel’s worst enemies and the Obama administration’s best friends.

Yet if Erdogan has charmed President Obama, he has alienated almost everyone in the Middle East. Islamists such as former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi felt that Erdogan was a fickle and opportunistic conniver. The Gulf monarchies believed that he was a troublemaker who wanted to supplant their influence. Neither the Europeans nor the Russians trust him. The result is that Erdogan’s loud anti-Israeli foreign policy is increasingly irrelevant.

The oil-rich sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf once funded terrorists on the West Bank, but they are now fueling the secular military in Egypt. In Syria they are searching to find some third alternative to Assad’s Alawite regime and its al-Qaeda enemies. For the moment, oddly, the Middle East foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the other oil monarchies dovetails with Israel’s: Predictable Sunni-Arab nationalism is preferable to one-vote, one-time Islamist radicals.

Israel no doubt prefers that the Arab world liberalize and embrace constitutional government. Yet the current bloodletting lends credence to Israel’s ancient complaints that it never had a constitutional or lawful partner in peace negotiations.

In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s corrupt dictatorship is gone. His radical Muslim Brotherhood successors were worse and are also gone. The military dictatorship that followed both is no more legitimate than either. In these cycles of revolution, the one common denominator is an absence of constitutional government.

In Syria, there never was a moderate middle. Take your pick between the murderous Shiite-backed Assad dictatorship or radical Sunni Islamists. In Libya, the choice degenerated to Moammar Qaddafi’s unhinged dictatorship or the tribal militias that overthrew it. Let us hope that one day westernized moderate democracy might prevail. But that moment seems a long way off.

What do the Egyptian military, the French in Mali, Americans at home, the Russians, the Gulf monarchies, persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and the reformers of the Arab Spring all have in common? Like Israel, they are all fighting Islamic-inspired fanaticism. And most of them, like Israel, are opposed to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

In comparison with the ruined economies of the Arab Spring — tourism shattered, exports nonexistent, and billions of dollars in infrastructure lost through unending violence — Israel is an atoll of prosperity and stability. Factor in its recent huge gas and oil finds in the eastern Mediterranean, and it may soon become another Kuwait or Qatar, but with a real economy beyond its booming petroleum exports.

Israel had nothing to do with either the Arab Spring or its failure. The irony is that surviving embarrassed Arab regimes now share the same concerns with the Israelis. In short, the more violent and chaotic the Middle East becomes, the more secure and exceptional Israel appears.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, The Savior Generals, is just out from Bloomsbury Books. You can reach him by e-mailing © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc

See on

Garry Armstrong on Martin Luther King


For my friends and followers who are fans of my husband, the Legend, here’s a link to his recent on-air piece this past Wednesday on New England Cable News.

Broadside, with Jim Braude, is a live half-hour news analysis and commentary show. The subject of the day was remembering Martin Luther King, discussing his memorial and the 50th anniversary of his “I have a dream” speech.

Garry was at the March On Washington and talked with Dr. King on that day and on other occasions. He shared some memories.

Here is a link to the taped segment if you’d like to see him “in action,” so to speak.

Good going Garry!

Breaking News!

GarryCloseSmileTIGHTGarry Armstrong will be on NECN (New England Cable News) this evening, from 6PM to 6:15PM — possibly a few minutes longer.

NECN’s Broadside With Jim Braude is a nightly news and analysis program carried in six states in New England.

The subject is President Obama’s speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The program is LIVE at 6 p.m. from their studio in Newton. Garry met Dr. King quite a few times and was present in Washington for the march.

If you live anywhere in the New England area, you can probably get the show. Check your local listing for information. See you later!

Weekly Writing Challenge: Salutations? Who cares?


WordPress says:

Where do you stand on the grand salutation question? Do you instinctively write “Dear…” even to your siblings? Do you drop any attempt at deference even when writing to your boss, professor, government representative? Do you mix-and-match depending on your audience’s status, age, or culture? Answer the poll below, and then, in a separate post on your own blog, expand on your thoughts regarding etiquette in the age of email. Stories, anecdotes, poems, opinion pieces, essays short and long — all are welcome contributions. Don’t forget to tag your post with DPchallenge, so that we can all read your take on email (in)formality.

I almost choked with a combination of laughter and astonishment. And I thought Facebook (last week’s challenge) was silly. But this is so much sillier! Wow.

Why does WordPress wants us to address this as if it were a meaningful questions? An issue? “Salutations” on email messages? Someone really cares? Do they — the good people at WordPress — really care? Really and truly? Because if this is the big controversy in their world, they are missing the point. Which point? All the points. Everything that matters and makes a difference.

Serendipity Says

Mom always said: “You ask a silly question, you get a stupid answer.” You might want ponder the inner, deeper layers of meaning of this classic, yet still charming truism. You guys are not joking? Because if you are, that would be fine with me. If you aren’t, and I guess you aren’t, okay, I’ll tell you.

I don’t care.

I never did.

I never will.

If you are talking about formal communication with superiors, teachers, employers and colleagues, there is typically a standard for email messages at school and/or in the workplace. There’s no need to guess. Just follow the rules. I’ve written guides for students and faculty to deal with this issue. Some schools encourage informality as do some workplaces. Learning basic manners is another issue and goes way outside the boundaries of email salutations. In reality, in any kind of structured setting, there are rules and standards. Follow them or pay a penalty.

The question of whether today’s young adults know when to be formal vs. informal, even know the difference or understand how to be civil is a separate — and much larger — area of discussion. It might be an issue worth discussing.

Short of someone spewing obscenities (why am I corresponding with anyone who’d do that?) or outright insulting me (again, why am I corresponding with someone who’d insult me?), what matters is my friend. The message. To that end, I ignore missing punctuation, grammar, typos, missing words … all of it. This isn’t school. My role is not that of a judge or school marm. Spelling and punctuation matter to the extent they clarify the message. Otherwise, all I care about is content. I won’t notice if there is a salutation or not.

To sum it up again: I don’t care. Not one little bit. Not in a minor way. Or a major way. Not in any way.

Who is extremely polite in email? Scammers and spammers. They address you with your full name, as if you were a dignitary. That is one of the markers to warn you it’s fake.

Are we so cocooned in our little corner of the blogosphere that all we care about are silly things? Email salutations? I think we are better than this. Now, if this were meant to be funny … that I could wrap my head around, but as an issue I’m supposed to take seriously? Good Lord, no.

What’s the underlying issue?

I started out thinking this is a non issue. As phrased, it is. But underneath the question, are serious unasked questions about how to strike the appropriate tone and content for various types of electronic communications. Formal versus informal. Social context. Command structure. The nature of internet relationships with people who are not friends or family members. Respecting boundaries, something about which many young people are hazy. If you didn’t learn at home, you will learn quickly out in the big bad world the first time you inadvertently show disrespect to a boss or co-worker. Or, God protect you, a commanding officer.

Early in the cyberworld, before email formats were standardized, there were issues about salutations and signing off to identify sender and recipient. Today, the embedded format of email programs, from gmail to whatever your office or university uses, is set to handle this stuff. Automatically. And getting better all the time.

When you’ve got an electronic header, a salutation for an informal communication is redundant or optional at most. Email isn’t snail mail, just faster. It is a different animal. So many conventions of traditional paper mail are embedded by format in email from CCs and subject lines to headers. Our software takes care of details. We need guidelines for content. It’s not just about grammar and punctuation. It’s the whole cyber-culture where there are no rules and everyone makes it up as they go along. Until suddenly, that’s not good enough.

Other than a ritual adherence to form without substance? What’s the point? Email is what it is. Now, if you’d like to discuss manners in communication, that’s a meaty subject.

For the Promptless – Monomyth: The Cardinal and the Cat

My journey to find knowledge started when I was very young and has not ended. It will end when I do, at which point whatever knowledge I’ve sought will be mine at last. Until then, there have been many strange stops along my heroic quest. This was one.

My intrepid husband, professional journalist and seeker of truth in his own way, was working weekends that decade. This meant that whatever stuff happened on Sunday was his beat. This week, the old church of St. Mary, less than a block from our condo in Roxbury, was where Cardinal Bishop Bernard Law would be presiding.


It’s a big deal for any Catholic church when a Prince of the Church holds Mass. Even though I’m not Catholic, I have plenty of friends who are or were. And we lived spitting distance from a grand old cathedral, though it was desperately poor and in urgent need of repairs to … everything. What didn’t need to be repaired?

Roxbury, an almost entirely Black neighborhood that had once been a Jewish neighborhood and had been redlined by brigands in the guise of real estate developers, was where we lived. We had been among the first two or three upper middle class mixed race couples to choose to live in Roxbury. Aside from hoping it would start to charge the way the neighborhood was viewed by the media and the people of Boston, it was a great location and a wonderful place to live.

Rumors to the contrary, it was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know this because my neighbor had tried desperately to have his two cars stolen, even going so far as to leave them open with the keys in the ignition for three weeks. Nope, not a chance. The problem was that Roxbury and Dorchester were where car thieves left cars they had stolen in tonier neighborhoods, like Beacon Hill.  It was not where they went to steal them because many of them had roots in the neighborhood and eagle-eyed granny was probably watching the street.

People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors. I never felt safer or more loved.

That day, the day Cardinal Law was visiting the church down the street, Garry called.

“I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law, if you please) that you lived in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”


“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell.

I looked at me. At least I was wearing clothing. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime!

And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing  his red skull-cap and clothed in his long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the absolutely smartest, sweetest and gentlest — was also our meeter and greeter.

Big Guy

Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope that St. Mary’s would get some funds to repair and upgrade before it was too late. The neighborhood. A hint of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately blamed for the long-standing and terribly wrong policy of the Church in hiding the misdeeds of child-molesting clerics, this was years before that story came to light.

The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty and a real pleasure to spend time around, probably why Garry — no Catholic he — was very fond of him and considered him a personal friend.

Eventually, it was time for the Cardinal to depart and when he stood up, and Big Guy finally left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the region’s reigning Catholic cleric, I realized the Cardinal was absolutely coated in cat hair.

Oh my. Exactly what does one say?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure that the cloak needed something a lot more oomph than a lint roller. This was going to need some firepower beyond my limited means.

So I shut up. Wincing with foreknowledge, having gained in wisdom though not what I had hoped for, we parted and as he and his retinue swept out my door … I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists and turns. This was one.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement.

“Yup,” said I, equally downplaying the difficulties that would arise from the incident. I had wrangled with Big Guy’s fur. I knew how bad it would be.

Garry_72_01Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the good Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong, ace reporter, getting from which they were excluded? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain, grr.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now … YOU know. The truth has finally come out.

Daily Prompt: Ripped Into the Headline — I have misplaced my outrage …

Not everyone gets my sense of humor. Despite that, I persist in being myself. I realize irony is wasted on a lot of folks and allusions to movies, books, and history merely annoy them. I just can’t help it. I gotta be me, even if it confuses and aggravates a big slice of the population. I’m just not everybody’s cuppa tea.

Right now, I’m walking around laughing, sometimes hysterically, at the gigantic fuss, furor, and scandal over NSA listening to our phone calls.

So last night, when we were nicely tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry:

“Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”

He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering … or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control.


“I think the way it works is this. First, we invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Next, they invent a secret police so they can keep on being the head of state. The only thing that seems to change is the technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”


“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those telephone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under more data than they handle, so instead of getting more information about real problems, they are just going to get lots of jabbering kids yakking with their friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all.


Our conversation has continued into today as Garry has pointed out that he is positively shocked to hear that the NSA is listening to our phone calls. SHOCKED!

I said I would have to compose a strongly worded letter and send it to someone, although I’m not sure who.

office with nan

Americans seem to have a national need to be outraged about something or other. We apparently require a level of constant civic hysteria, maybe to keep the news from being boring. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to rant about. It gives both liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will. They did it in ancient Rome and Greece. Egypt, too. Governments spy on their citizens. The more prominent you are, the more dangerous you are perceived to be, so the more attention is likely to be paid to you.

I’m wondering how long this is going to stay on top of the news. Because nothing is going to change. Ever. Governments will spy on their citizens. Citizens will be outraged. The outrage will be ignored. Eventually, everyone will move on to the next big thing.

I actually think our security moguls are shooting themselves in the foot trying to monitor so many people. At a certain point, everything and nothing are identical. If you try to collect every conversation, you wind up knowing less than you did when you targeted actual likely evil-doers. But hey, what do I know, right?

I’m having trouble getting myself worked up over this.

You see, I remember Richard Nixon. I even remember the end of the J. Edgar Hoover era. I’ve read history. Unlike some people, who apparently actually believe that all those traffic cameras have been installed to monitor traffic, I know they are there to keep track of us. You. Me. All of us. Is someone monitoring them all the time? Hardly likely. But if anyone is looking for me — or you — well, I’m sure they will have no trouble finding us.

Did I know the NSA was monitoring phone conversations? Not specifically, but it’s hardly a revelation. Do I believe that if we form protest groups, write letters to congress, they will stop watching and listening? Are you kidding? They aren’t going to stop and making a fuss about it is likely to make them take a long hard look at me. I would prefer to skip that.


My government spies on me. And you. And everyone else. They were spying on us during the 1960s. They were spying on my parents and their friends in the 1950s and 1940s. What’s your point? Obama didn’t start this. Bush didn’t start it. FDR didn’t start it. Abraham Lincoln didn’t start it. It’s been going on as long as there have been governments and it will never end. Nobody asked my permission and my objections will accomplish nothing. Privacy is an illusion and if we ever had any, we lost it a long time ago.

I know I should be appalled, angry, enraged at the intrusion into my private space, but instead I keep laughing. I am incapable of being appalled. I have completely run out of outrage. Our dogs remain undisturbed and my husband amused. This particular crisis will have to go on without us.

Someone else will have to be outraged on our behalf. Please, whoever you are, don’t forget to send that strongly worded letter. Send me a copy. For my records.

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