KNOTS, PRETZELS, AND THE PRESS – BY TOM CURLEY

It’s been fun since the election watching the right-wing press, mostly lead by Fox News, bend themselves into evermore twisty and convoluted pretzels as they try to explain the latest gaffe/scandal/complete act of idiocy coming out of the White House.

The Dunderhead-In-Chief keeps admitting he does things, like, I don’t know. Like, give up code word “intel” to the Russians. In the Oval Office. Admitting that he fired an FBI Director because he was being investigated by the FBI over his connections to Russia … to the same Russians!  You know, stuff like that.

Hey guys, the CIA just told me some really cool stuff. Wanna hear it?

His defenses all boil down to: “He can do that if he wants to, so there” and “It’s Obama’s fault!”

This is nothing new. If we’ve learned anything in the last four months it’s that no matter how crazy we think things will be, they’ll be even crazier. We also know that the SCROTUS M.O. is to distract today’s scandal with a worse scandal tomorrow.

So, the question becomes, where does he have left to go? What scandal could be worse than today’s? Wait, I got it. He actually shoots somebody on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to prove he wouldn’t lose any of his supporters.

SEAN HANNITY: Breaking news. President Trump just shot a man on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Secret service agents immediately pounced on the man and wrestled him to the ground.

SEAN HANNITY: Here to discuss this breaking story we have Senior White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Kellyanne, let’s start with you.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well first off I think it’s very unfair the way the fake news media have been saying the President shot a man on Fifth Avenue.

BERNIE SANDERS: But he did! He shot a guy! On Fifth Avenue! On live TV!

What the hell?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: That’s one way of looking at it. I didn’t see the President shoot a man on Fifth Avenue. I saw the President save a man on Fifth Avenue.

BERNIE SANDERS: Save him?? From what?!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Radical Islāmic Terrorism.

BERNIE SANDERS: WHAT???!!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: And besides, the President was elected in the largest landslide in the history of the world. So, he has the right to shoot anybody he wants.

BERNIE SANDERS: NO HE DOESN’T!!!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, he can order drone strikes. He can send troops into war. He can launch missiles. In every case, he’s killing somebody. So why can’t he just take out a gun and shoot a man?

SEAN HANNITY: Hmmm. That makes sense. Executive privilege.

BERNIE SANDERS: NO IT DOESN’T!! Well, actually, it makes a little sense … No! What am I saying??! This is still crazy! He shot a guy to prove that none of his supporters would leave him!

KELLYANNE CONWAY: That’s ridiculous. He was saving a man from Radical Islam. Every White House aide agrees with me.

SEAN HANNITY: This just in: President Trump told Lester Holt of NBC News that he shot the man to prove none of his supporters would leave him.

BERNIE SANDERS: SEE???

SEAN HANNITY: This also just in. A recent CBS/NY Times Poll says that President Trump has not lost any of his supporters. 85 percent said, “The guy had it coming.” The other 15 percent said “The guy probably had it coming.”

And so it would go. Full confession. This idea is not new. Google “George Bush ate a baby” and “George Bush Saves a baby”.

Everything old is new again. Just dumber.

A MOTHER’S WALTZ: MUSIC & PICTURES IN COLLABORATION

Mother’s Day – Sunday, May 14, 2017


FROM swo8 (Leslie Martel): Today is Mother’s Day. To commemorate this day, we have created a photographic montage of families together. It includes eight generations of my family and three of Marilyn and Garry Armstrong’s families.

The song is bittersweet because to be a mother, is indeed bittersweet. Our children bring us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows. The first couple in the video are my great-grandparents. My great-grandmother died in childbirth leaving 3 babies and a husband.

When my great-grandfather remarried the children were sent off to their aunt to be raised. The aunt is the lady sitting by the fire-place. The first photo of children is of my grandmother and her twin sisters. My grandmother being the oldest would have missed her mother the most. In spite of her early losses she became an extraordinary person and had a huge influence on me and my thinking.

To be a mother has got to be one of the most difficult endeavours to under take in one’s life. We are given this helpless creature for a short period of time to nourish, educate and inspire before they disappear into the ether of adulthood.

As a tribute to mother’s everywhere we dedicate this song, “Mother’s Waltz” by swo8 Blues Jazz and Marilyn Armstrong. 


FROM Serendipity (Marilyn & Garry Armstrong): It has arrived. The melody of A Mother’s Waltz echoes in my mind. I feel as if it is something I remember hearing my mother sing a long time ago … but of course, it is brand new from swo8 Blues Jazz

The pictures of my family include my mother, me, much younger and my son as a toddler. Pictures of Garry’s family include his mother and father’s wedding, Garry’s dad back from WWII with little Garry on his knee. Garry’s mom as a young woman.

The pictures are family heirlooms that evoke strong and sometimes conflicted feelings.

Music by swo8 … with pictures from Leslie Martel (swo8) and Marilyn Armstrong. Memories in music for mothers everywhere.

 

AMERICAN JUSTICE – STRANGE BUT TRUE

EXPOSED – THE BOSTON NANNY TRIAL


For those of you who follow “big trials,” there was a huge one in 1997 in Boston. Garry was working and covered the trial, along with a zillion other reporters from all over the country. We became as engrossed by the story as everyone else. Garry was in the courtroom every day. Each night over dinner, we talked about the day’s testimony. Garry gave me his opinion on who was telling the truth and what it might mean.

Law School – Harvard University – Photo: B. Kraft

So what happened? A young British woman — Louise Woodward — was nanny for a baby who died of what was apparently shaken baby syndrome. The jury convicted her of second degree murder which carried a sentence of 15-years to life. It’s also possible — based on recent evidence — that the baby did not die from being shaken, though it seems unlikely the issue will ever be proven beyond doubt.

Judge Zobel was not happy with the verdict. He reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter stating “the circumstances in which the defendant acted were characterized by confusion, inexperience, frustration, immaturity and some anger, but not malice in the legal sense –supporting a conviction for second-degree murder,” adding: “I am morally certain that allowing this defendant on this evidence to remain convicted of second-degree murder would be a miscarriage of justice.”

His overturning of the jury verdict produced a storm of controversy.

I don’t think Judge Zobel believed she was innocent, merely that justice would not be better served by sending her to jail. I doubt the baby’s parents agreed, but I had my own issues with the baby’s parents who I felt deserved a piece of the responsibility for the tragedy. As two employed doctors, they had more than enough money to hire an experienced, professional nursemaid for their baby. Instead, they went for the “cheap” solution. They hired a kid with no experience. The guilt did not belong exclusively to the girl they hired. They knew better.

Lady Justice on Old Bailey, London

Our legal system is designed to be flexible, to allow human considerations to occasionally trump legal ones. Often, it means no one is entirely satisfied with a trial’s outcome. The wild cards belong to the judges who have enormous discretionary powers — which they mostly don’t use. Judges can always set aside a jury verdict, but it rarely happens in the real world. This is the only time I’ve seen it happen, other than in a movie or TV show. Zobel was an unusual judge.

Woodward’s sentence was reduced to time served (279 days) and she was freed. Assistant District Attorney Gerald Leone appealed the judge’s decision to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Woodward’s lawyers also appealed, asking the court to throw out her manslaughter conviction. The court affirmed the guilty verdict by a 7-0 vote. However, in a 4-3 split decision, the higher court rejected the prosecution’s appeal against reduction of the conviction to involuntary manslaughter.

On 16 June 1998, Woodward was returned to the United Kingdom. She studied law, changed her mind and became a dance teacher. A story that leaves me saying “huh?”

After Effects


The conviction had an unanticipated side effect by causing the defeat of pending legislation in Massachusetts which would have restored capital punishment. I was glad. Garry not so much. It’s one of the few areas of the law on which we disagree, although I think these days, we are closer to agreement. Times have changed and our opinions with it.

The death penalty is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. I’m against it because I think if killing is wrong, making it legal doesn’t make it right. Garry believes some people deserve it, a point of view with which it’s hard to argue. It’s a matter of conscience.

The U.S. has a unique system of justice. Mostly, our magic works, sometimes not. Law is a human institution. It’s imperfect, but all things considered, it’s pretty good. I don’t know where you would find a better one.

ROOTS: ROOM FOR REALITY?

I’m not thrilled with news. Any news. I can’t abide right-wing lies based on the exact opposite of what happened, especially when they are talking about things through which I lived and have seen. For shear blatant not-even-a-hint-of truth lying, they are the winners. But the left of the aisle crap is only nominally better. They may begin from a hint of truth, but then take some minor thing and blow it up to something gigantic. Put up a headline on it which sounds as if something astounding is about to (or just did) happen. So whatever it was, it ends up a total lie.


At the root was something real, but the result is nonsense.
I would have to be a fool to believe it.
At this point, I don’t believe anything.

My personal political allegiances are not news. I don’t need news organizations to approve or disapprove on my behalf. That’s not the point of news.

I want information, data, and facts based on a recognizable reality. I want the news to give me an informed, intelligent, and preferably neutral idea of what’s going on. I don’t want overblown headlines about how Trump is about to be impeached. Because he isn’t about to be impeached (yet) and anyone with half a brain knows that. I don’t want shouted headlines about stuff that isn’t happening and will never occur. Nor do I want distorted stories which only make the stuff in which I believe look stupid.


I don’t want right-wing “summaries” about news that never happened and will never occur.  I don’t want left-wing fairy tales, either. 

It’s hard to find believable news from any source. I don’t trust anything from any form of social media. Each has its own version of what they think I want to hear. I don’t want to hear what they think I want to hear. I want to know what happened. What was seen. What was written. Then I will decide what I believe.

In today’s world, is there room for reality?

We’ve been watching a PBS series about World War 1. It was a terrible time. It was also when many of the myths, fables, and lies with which we are now living, began. It was the time when we started thinking we were fighting for democracy, and that somehow, we were “the right country” to defend democracy everywhere. It wasn’t true then. It isn’t true now.

We have been believing those same lies since 1914, the beginning of the breach between our political halves. It was the start of what we see every day in 2017. A hundred years of lying. Wilson could have gotten everything he wanted from Congress including the League of Nations, but refused to accept it because (are you ready?) the “deal” was offered by the wrong party.

Bringing us to today. News agencies? Please get off your soap boxes. Give me facts. That might be a start to a better world. For everyone.

THEY ARE BACK – THE BOYS OF SUMMER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Opening day at Fenway Park used to be my favorite day of my TV news career.

Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky. Since then, we are on a winning streak and we should be grateful because this may be as good as it gets. You can never be sure. Half the team has the flu, another chunk seems to need some kind of shoulder surgery. We live in hope, but know how it goes.

We watch. We wait. Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.” Fenway will be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse.

So far, so good. Not perfect, but not bad. And it’s just the beginning of a very long season.

TRAGICOMEDY – LOST AND FOUND by GARRY ARMSTRONG

Back in the day (I hate that cliché), I used to do features like this for slow TV news days. It’s been a week of family soap opera, spawned by disciples of “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Father Knows Best” and “Modern Family”. Oh, the angst! Today figured to be a reprieve. Lunch with an old pal from my working days. I looked forward to sharing stories about baseball, favorite TV shows, and guy gossip. Perfect weather. Tee shirt weather. My old, yellow, sports car with the sun roof would be my wheels. Girls call my car and me “cool and awesome”. Ready to roll.

But, as Columbo would say, “… just one more thing, Sir”. I couldn’t find my shoulder bag. My shoulder bag which contains my driver’s license, SS card, medical and credit cards. Marilyn joined me in the household search, from casual to frantic. Car searches turned up nothing. I stared accusingly at the dogs. Visions of a conspiracy grew. Why me?

Marilyn tried to calm me down as my grumbling grew louder, laced with profanity and anger. Why me?

She tried to call my friend to cancel lunch but his contact numbers were out-of-date. I had failed to update contact vitals. Why me?

I dashed off an email to my pal, explaining the situation and apologizing for the last minute lunch cancellation. My anger was growing. Except, I was the perp.

Finally, I decided to retrace my movements of the past 24 to 36 hours. Local deli to supermarket. I kept thinking of what potentially lay ahead if my ID and credit cards were really lost … or even worse, had been stolen. Dammit!

The supermarket folks were kind. They knew me. One of the perks of living in a small town is that everyone knows your name. One of the managers smiled and indicated they had it — even before I could get the question out.

I gulped and stepped back, taking a deep breath. They searched high and low, assuring me my bag was safe, under lock and key.

The long wait. Finally, with deep apologies, they said my bag was at the police station. Why were they apologizing?? I was the one who’d lost the bag. I gave myself a Gibbs’ head slap.

The police station is only a couple of minutes away, but season long road work has the middle of town in a virtual freeze frame. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the police station parking lot. I counted to ten and got out of the car. I took a few steps, then got back into the car … to turn the engine off. Another one to ten count then advance into the police station.

They greeted me with smiles. Yes, they had my bag!! They recognized my police badge. Actually, it’s an auxiliary police badge given to me back in my working days. Yes, I still like to flip the holder cover open, casually revealing the badge. I’m admittedly an aging ham.

My bag was returned to me. I signed a release form with a BIG “Thank You”. The station personnel kept smiling. I wanted to slowly back out, feeling very stupid. They wouldn’t let me leave. Why me?? It seems they wanted to take pictures with me. To show off to their family and friends. Who used to watch me on television. Very weird.

I kept thinking … they shoot horses, don’t they?

THE BOYS OF SUMMER ARE BACK – GARRY ARMSTRONG

This used to be my favorite day during my TV news career. Fenway’s Opening Day in baseball!  I dodged the murders, political scandals, and other mayhem for this special day. Baseball’s opening day is a rite of passage.

As a kid in the 1940’s Brooklyn, I’d devoured all the winter sports magazines which included predictions for the upcoming season and thumbnail breakdowns on players, including the “pheenoms,” prospects sure to be the next mega stars.

President Truman would throw out the first pitch for the old Washington Senators. Calvin Griffith’s bedraggled team — first in the heart of the nation, last in the American league.  Unless you were Mickey Vernon or Eddie Yost, there was little to root for as a Senator’s fan.

Cal Griffith and Connie Mack were the last of the patriarchal baseball owners who dated all the way back to the days of Ty Cobb, Cy Young and the “dead ball.”  I remember the grainy black and white images of these elderly men, dressed in turn of the century street clothes, patrolling their dugouts. Connie Mack managed his Philadelphia Athletics. In his white suit and straw hat, he was a throwback to baseball’s infancy.

You always saw Mr. Griffith and Mr. Mack on baseball’s opening day. They were the fabric of baseball.

In those days, I was preoccupied with the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. Every opening day signaled the beginning of what could be “our year.” A World Series championship. The defeat of our mortal enemies, The New York Yankees.  Jackie Robinson had broken the color barrier the previous year and the Dodgers seemed poised to climb the mountain with young stalwarts like Robinson, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and a veteran pitching staff. The “Bad Guys”, the Bronx Bombers lined up with Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra, Hank Bauer and an élite roster of all-star pitchers.

I would have to wait until 1955 before I could celebrate a BROOKLYN Dodgers World Championship. It would be the first and last for the faithful as our Bums abandoned us for the glitter and gold of  La La Land.

Fast forward through my love affair with Casey Stengel’s “Amazin’ Mets,” their “Ya gotta believe” World Series victory in 1969, and my transformation to a member of Red Sox nation.


Work relocated me to Boston in 1970. I found myself interviewing untested rookies including Carlton Fisk and Dwight “Dewey” Evans. When my status as a baseball maven was established, I leapfrogged over other TV News reporters in gaining access to players. TV reporters were still regarded with suspicion and a little scorn in many dugouts. Print “beat” reporters abhorred their electronic colleagues as “plastic, empty-headed no-nothings” and refused to share information.

Again, I triumphed with my stats and anecdote-filled repartee. Plus, I  had Polaroid pictures of myself with Mantle, Maris, Snider and other luminaries. I could swap John Wayne stories with Ted Williams, who was suitably impressed. The one-of-a-kind Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky, took a liking to me and would greet me at the Fenway players’ entrance. I’d get the latest clubhouse poop plus insight as to what the front office suits were doing. Johnny Pesky even offered to intervene when I was getting some static from my own suits. This was the backdrop for my assignments as opening day “color” reporter at Fenway Park for almost 31 years.

Ironically, the “Curse of the Bambino” would not be broken until after I retired. 2004. My 3rd year of retirement. That historic comeback of comebacks against the dreaded Yankees left me staring at the television with my mouth open.

This year’s opening day game at Fenway is now in the record books including a 3-run homer from rookie left fielder Andrew Benintendi.  A 5-3 interleague win against the Pittsburgh Pirates was just “okay.” Just okay because the bullpen was shaky.

Our Boys of Summer are back — with great expectations — and one major difference.  There’ll be no more clutch home runs from the retired #34, “Big Papi.”

Fenway may be a little quieter. On the field, in the dugout … and the clubhouse.