OPTIMISM SEEMS A BIT MISPLACED AT THE MOMENT – Marilyn Armstrong

I started reading an article about what’s going on in Tasmania and Australia. The apocalyptic heat. The fires. The dying animals. The dying giant kelp. Dead koalas falling from the trees. I got about halfway through the article and couldn’t read anymore.

I am trying to keep my hopes up but it’s hard going. We are having a non-winter. A few days of cold, a bit of snow, then the temperature zips up to shirtsleeve levels again. And still, the idiot in the White House keeps making it worse. Then there’s the moron in Brazil burning down the rain forest because things aren’t bad enough.

That was the most depressing newspaper article I’ve ever read. If you have any doubt that climate change is real, check it out for yourself. Following is just a piece of it. If you are subscribed to the Washington Post, you can use the link under the title to read the whole thing. Otherwise, these are sections. Maybe as much as you can handle.


2°C: BEYOND THE LIMIT
On land, Australia’s rising heat is ‘apocalyptic.’ In the ocean, it’s worse.

BRUNY ISLAND, Tasmania — Even before the ocean caught fever and reached temperatures no one had ever seen, Australia’s ancient giant kelp was cooked.

Australia is a poster child for climate change. Wildfires are currently raging on the outskirts of its most iconic city and drought is choking a significant portion of the country.

Nearly 100 fires are burning in New South Wales, nearly half of them out of control. Residents of the state, where Sydney sits, wear breathing masks to tolerate the heavy smoke, which has drifted more than 500 miles south to the outskirts of Melbourne.

This is happening even though average atmospheric temperatures in Australia have yet to increase by 2 degrees Celsius.

The ocean is another story.

A stretch of the Tasman Sea right along Tasmania’s eastern coast has already warmed by just a fraction below 2 degrees Celsius, according to ocean temperature data from the Hadley Center, the U.K. government research agency on climate change.

The bats, called flying foxes, cannot survive temperatures above 42 degrees Celsius. Another 10,000 black flying foxes, a different species, also died. Bodies plopped into meadows, backyard gardens and swimming pools.

A month later, more than 100 ringtail possums fell dead in Victoria when temperatures topped 35 degrees Celsius for four consecutive days.

The warming waters off Tasmania are not just killing the giant kelp, but transforming life for marine animals.

Warm-water species are swimming south to places where they could not have survived a few years ago. Kingfish, sea urchins, zooplankton and even microbes from the warmer north near the mainland now occupy waters closer to the South Pole.

“There’s about 60 or 70 species of fish that now have established populations in Tasmania that used not to be here,” said Craig Johnson, who leads the ecology and biodiversity center at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “You might see them occasionally as sort of vagrants, but they certainly did not have established populations.”

But the region’s indigenous cold-water species have no place to go. Animals such as the prehistoric-looking red handfish are accustomed to the frigid water closer to the shore. They cannot live in the deep-water abyss between the bottom tip of Tasmania and Antarctica.

“It’s a geographic climate trap,” Johnson said. Marine animals unique to Australia — the wallabies and koalas of the deep — could easily vanish. “So there’s going to be a whole bunch of species here that we expect will just go extinct.

“You know, it’s not a happy story.”

“It’s getting hotter and that heat, it’s affecting not only the giant kelp, but the color of the abalone is changing,” Dillon said.

“We just take too much out of the Earth and we don’t put it back,” Dillon said. “Australia is one of the worst if you know about coal. How much coal do we need to dig up? And we’re too stupid to see what this is causing . . . because we make money out of it.”

And now, Australia is caught in a record-breaking heatwave. 

The apocalypse

The heartbreaking video went viral late in November: A koala bear slowly walked through wildfire.

The marsupial, euthanized days later because its burns didn’t heal, was just one victim of the many wildfires that started burning in the Australian spring and are still going at the start of summer.

At least nine people have died and 700 homes have been destroyed. One woman in New South Wales took a few of her house’s charred remains to Australia’s Parliament in early December with a message for Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Morrison, your climate crisis destroyed my home,” Melinda Plesman wrote in bold red letters.

Morrison is an ardent supporter of coal excavation in a country that produced 44 million tons in 2017. Australia is the world’s leading exporter of coal, mostly to Asia, and the fourth-largest producer.

A few weeks before the koala — nicknamed Lewis — was euthanized, the newly re-elected prime minister took his advocacy for coal to a new level. He pledged to outlaw environmental demonstrations, calling the protests a “new breed of radical activism” that is “apocalyptic in tone.”

One month later, a Sydney Morning Herald headline described conditions in Australia’s most iconic city as “apocalyptic,” as residents choked in a smoky haze from bush fires. A coalition of doctors and climate researchers declared it a public health emergency.

The bush fires have arrived amid record heat and particularly dry conditions that experts say are being made more common thanks to climate change.

Fire!

The country experienced a five-day heatwave in the state of Victoria that shattered records. The Friday before Christmas was the hottest December day on record, measuring 47.9 degrees Celsius at the Horsham weather station.

Rescuers searching for human survivors in the scorched remains of forests have discovered koalas, a creature found only in Australia, burned to death in eucalyptus trees where they sought shelter. At the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where Lewis was put down, it was called “a national tragedy.”

The tragedy playing out underwater is much worse, but invisible to most.


There is quite a bit more and these are clips, not the entire piece. If for some reason you are still convinced that this is some kind of overblown rhetoric by a crazy bunch of scientists, take a look at maps and see if you are living in an area that has already met or exceeded the 2 degree Celsius limit. This area already has. New Jersey has.

So I’m going to try and not think about this right now. I’m going to try to believe that we can fix this. Somehow, some way. Because the time we thought we had isn’t really there. This is terrifying information and it affects ALL of us. You can make yourself a billionaire, but when the world is on fire, your money won’t make the flames disappear.

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE! FROM THE SHINBONE STAR – Marilyn Armstrong

A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!

WRITTEN BY MADMEGSBLOG

A small but significant Christmas miracle recently happened on Friday.

The magazine Christianity Today published an op-ed that said Trump should be removed from office.

It seems like the Evangelicals denounced their quasi-prophet, and boy, what a denouncement it was! Yes, the very same people who claimed with absolute certainty and not an ounce of shame, that Trump was sent from God himself to the White House to save us from….well, I’m not sure what, but it’s all moot now.

That unbelievable whirlwind romance between a narcissistic sociopath and the conservative, religious elite is over.

I am so delighted that I am not even going to nit-pick the Evangelicals with silly questions like why is this particular sin the winner? Or ask them why after all this time they suddenly find his Twitter rants and treatment of women immoral?

Even though I really want to, I’m not going to try to uncover the mystery of God’s horrible choice in a president allegedly, of course. Instead, I’m going to sit back and watch this surprising yet absolutely satisfying gift unwrap itself. Or rather, unravel. Bigly.

As you’d expect, the IMPOTUS responded instantly to the op-ed that called for his removal from office as all the cool commander-in-Cheetos do it … It started off pretty ‘Presidential’ for him:


Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump

I guess the magazine, “Christianity Today,” is looking for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or those of the socialist/communist bent, to guard their religion. How about Sleepy Joe? The fact is, no President has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals, or religion itself!
114K –
Twitter Ads info and privacy –

I’m guessing there may be a few Muslims who disagree with that last part … just saying.  And just like a screen door in a hurricane, his retorts escalated from there. I guess he was expecting more than an “It’s you, not me” rejection from the very people who could ignore the multitude of this man’s “indiscretions” (sins) and abhorrent hateful rhetoric just for political power. Apparently, Jesus approved though?

Now, as the orange hurricane grows and Trump keeps showing us who he truly is, as he abandons his TV luster (still ungodly), the cheap and obviously orange veneer can’t hide what was really in front of his believers and yes-men the whole time. All the people who actually sacrificed, in some cases, everything for this charlatan might pause to ask how God and their churches could be wrong?

This dissidence and public rejection from a powerful, nationally influential congregation sends a message to everyone. Many fans and followers of the Orange One won’t question their Church and their congregation. Sanity could even be restored in some areas. Perhaps another miracle in the making!

Trump’s ego sold him on his ability to con the Holy Grail of marks — religion. He went after the biggest target because they were necessary. The Conservative Right Wing Evangelicals’  wealth and influence are paramount to Republican politics. And their stunning and scathing rejection was an assault he didn’t see coming. Trump was conned by his own con.

And maybe you can’t screw with God and get away with it?

Since the Evangelicals swore it was God himself who sent The Orange One to Washington, it would appear someone has some explaining to do.

I’m in the camp that believes there’s no longer a point of return for the Republican party; morally ethically and possibly politically. Everyone needs to stop hoping that these people will find their hearts or conscience or, I don’t know, maybe their duty to their country.

This is not the same GOP you think is just buried somewhere deep down in Mitch McConnell’s neck. That party isn’t going to come back. They sold their souls long before Trump won the Republican nomination. The GOP is responsible for Trump and they have been the trick behind his con.

Trump is their Frankenstein and the irreparable damage is deeper than anyone thought possible.  I know my hope has been all but lost….unless this beautiful stocking stuffer that could be a “sorry” from above, makes them pause.

No, they don’t suddenly get their hearts back like some Christmas movie and start doing the right thing. But just maybe they realize what will happen to their own careers, and even their futures outside of politics if this man does get kicked out of office.

All it takes is one Republican to worry about covering his own treasonous ass to start thinking somewhat clearly. They aren’t going to suddenly agree with healthcare for all or that poverty is the government’s problem, but they might vote to push the clown back into its box.

Whatever happens, I’m making popcorn watching it unfold without despair for the first time in what feels like a century within three years and I know I’m not alone with his misery.

So I say to you all: Just enjoy this little nugget of glory! Let’s all bask in this real-life Christmas movie/heavenly blessing sent from a possibly sheepish savior above. And dammit, hark those herald Angels sing!

Hallelujah!! Merry Christmas!! Happy Holidays! Feliz Navidad!!

Let’s Make America Sane Again!

CENSORSHIP AND THE LIFE WE LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #42

It’s a good question for everyone to ponder these days.

There has always been censorship of some kind in every country as long as humans have been “civilized.” Its definition — or at last one of its many possible definitions is, “Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”

Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institution, and corporations. Or by your local sheriff or lynch mob.

The question is:

There is some kind of censorship in every nation, every government and in nearly every business. Even if the big secret is “what ingredients are in the Coca Cola recipe,” it’s still censorship.

There is censorship to keep technology private. Censorship which aims to keep military movements undercover. In some places, religions force secrecy. No society is completely open. There’s always something — militarily, governmental, corporate, technological, religious, or personal that are forbidden to say aloud. Sometimes censorship is unwritten, but everyone knows about it. Sometimes it’s part of your professional contract.

Sometimes you just know what you should simply not talk about because if you do, something bad will happen to you or those you care about.

Issues like this don’t affect everyone. The business you are in, how well-known you are, what kind of profession you follow are part of the process. If you are a general in an army, most of your life is censored. If you are in the Mossad, or a television reporter, what you can say is by definition censored. In the United States today you can get away with anything if you are personally unimportant but can get away with very little if you share a spotlight on the big screen of life.

Does it affect me? Personally? Mostly not because I am not regarded as knowing anything worth censoring. I don’t belong to a corporate entity that is creating new technology or know anything about the government other than what I read in the news.

Garry has a lot of secrets and most of them — nearly ALL of them — he has never told me. I have pointed out that many of the people about whom he “knows stuff” are gone from this world.

“They have families,” he says and that is the end of the conversation. Reporters always have secrets.

So do I personally feel threatened as an individual citizen by censorship? Not at the moment. When I worked for Grumman I had a “top secret” legal rating and there were things I could not say to anyone lest I be imprisoned and fined. I worked in a “black building” and I hated it. I hated everything except those great bridge games at lunch. They were fun!

If I live long enough, this could change, but I think for most non-political, not military, and no, not a spy either? No one cares what we say because we don’t know anything and when you are low enough on the totem pole, nobody much cares what you say.

But if our world changes dramatically and for the worse, this could alter. I hope I’m not alive if it does.

TOM ELLIS: A TRIBUTE by George K. Regan, Jr.

Tom Ellis was a pillar in the media community. It’s hard to believe he’s gone. In celebration of his life, we are hosting “Tom Ellis, A Tribute,” tomorrow at The Seaport Hotel, Plaza Ballroom from 2-4 pm. I hope you can join us in memorializing the man, the legend, and our dear friend, Tom Ellis.

Tom Ellis, A Tribute

Tom Ellis, a member of the Massachusetts Broadcasting Hall of Fame, lived the great American life – from working as a young roughneck in the Texas oil fields in the early 1950’s to recording one of President John F. Kennedy’s final television interviews, to the decades spent as a leading television news anchor in both Boston and New York City. Thomas Caswell Ellis died on April 29, 2019, at his home in East Sandwich, Massachusetts. He was 86 years old.

Ellis was born on September 22, 1932, in the Big Thicket area of East Texas, where hard work was valued and money was hard to come by. Ellis was put to work at the age of 13 in the construction trades in Carthage, Texas. While he enjoyed physical labor, Ellis loved the spotlight of theater and entertainment and found side jobs as a professional actor and a carnival barker in his teens.

During the Korean War, Ellis served as a cryptographer in the U.S Navy’s Security Service in Washington, DC. He graduated with honors from Arlington State College in 1955 and from the University of Texas in 1958.

His handsome appearance and commanding voice soon caught the attention of a small radio station in Fort Worth, Texas, where he was hired as a staff announcer for 50 cents per hour. Ellis then moved to San Antonio, where he broke into television news in as an anchor-reporter where he earned several awards for his reporting from the Associated Press and UPI.

He was among the local Texas reporters dispatched to Dallas, where he landed a brief interview with President John F. Kennedy on the day before he was assassinated. In 1968, Ellis moved to Boston after he was hired as a lead anchor for WBZ-TV where he covered major stories, including student protests against the war in Vietnam and the Chappaquiddick tragedy involving Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Mary Jo Kopechne.

Ellis was lured away from Boston to New York City in 1975 to anchor the prime time news on WABC-TV where he earned New York Newscaster of the Year honors as well as the top ratings in the market. Also during this time, Ellis made a return to acting and landed a role in the big screen thriller Marathon Man with Dustin Hoffman and Sir Lawrence Olivier. He played, of all things, an anchorman. Other movie roles would follow.

Ellis returned to Boston three years later to join the anchor team at Channel 5 that included Chet Curtis and Natalie Jacobson. During his tenure there, Ellis hosted a Peabody Award-winning documentary called Fed up. He then moved to WNEV-TV (now WHDH) where he co-anchored newscasts from 1982 to 1987.

Ellis’ career is distinguished also by the fact that he is the only journalist to have anchored top-rated newscasts at each of Boston’s network affiliates in the 1960s, 1970’s and 1980s. In the early 1990s, Tom Ellis became one of the first television anchors for NECN (New England Cable News) where he continued to cover major world events close to home, such as 9/11 and the plane crash that took the lives of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law. Tom Ellis anchored his last newscast in 2008.

Longtime friend George K. Regan, Jr remembered Ellis this way: “Tom Ellis was not just a great journalist, he was a great human being. I got to know Tom while working as the press secretary for Mayor Kevin White. My respect for him as a newsman grew from day one and we later became the closest of friends. Tom Ellis was family to me. There wasn’t a holiday or special event we didn’t spend time together or simply reach out to talk. My thoughts are with Tom’s lovely wife Arlene. I will miss my dear friend, ” Regan said.

He loved living on Cape Cod, surrounded by nature and also giving back to his community. He was also deeply involved with various charities, including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. He had also served as Chairman of the United Way of Cape Cod. He predeceased by his mother, Mary Eunice Ellis, father Herbert Caswell Ellis, and sister Mary Grimes Ellis.

Tom Ellis is survived by his wife Arlene (Rubin) Ellis of East Sandwich, Massachusetts, Arlene’s sister Debbie Berger and her husband Michael of Newton, Ma., daughter Terri Susan Ellis of Freedom, CA., daughter Kathy Denise Cornett and husband Randy Cornett of Hamilton, OH, and son Thomas Christopher Ellis and wife Beverly Ellis of Cincinnati, Ohio. Ellis also leaves behind five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

All the best,
George

George K. Regan Jr., Chairman
Regan Communications Group

WILLIAM BARR, THE MAN YOU NEVER KNEW – Part II – Reblog – Shinbone Star

Part II – Read and learn. We got ourselves into this mess and we have to dig ourselves out of it, too. I think this is pontification of the finest kind!

FOWC with Fandango — Pontificate

THE SHINBONE STAR

“Lawyers have an adage. ‘If the law is against you talk about the facts; if the facts are against you talk about the law; if the law and the facts are against you talk about the prosecutor.’ ”
— Lawrence C. Walsh, independent counsel, Iran-Contra investigation, 1986 to 1993

EDITOR’S NOTE: Second of two parts on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his secret life with the CIA.

By NATHANIEL HELMS

As independent counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation, silk-stocking lawyer Lawrence C. Walsh was initially revered for his mission to bring the rogues of the Central Intelligence Agency to heel for their role in trampling the U.S. Constitution. Despite being a self-described rampant Republican, Walsh’s unbiased reputation was unimpeachable.

Attorney General William Barr is taking Walsh’s adage to heart. Much like he did during the Iran-Contra investigation 34 years ago, Barr is using a razor-edged interpretation of the law…

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Meet William Barr, The Man You Never Got To Know

Read and learn!

THE SHINBONE STAR

William Barr during his 1991 confirmation hearing before the Senate

Editor’s Note:First of two parts on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his secret life with the CIA leading up to his first time in the position under President George H. W. Bush, with Part Two coming soon. Stay tuned.

To tell the complete story of William Barr’s intrigues requires a book. This two-part story merely reveals a few monumental examples.

Barr is the spawn of the last Cold Warriors, an infinitely powerful group of affluent white men who dominated the U.S. intelligence apparatus for four decades. He was assigned to the China Desk, a rookie working for America’s greatest spooks who were busy running numerous “black” Southeast Asian operations.

The China Desk’s biggest job in the early 1970s was the Vietnam War’s “Phoenix” program, an effort to murder South Vietnamese who ran afoul of the U.S.-installed regime. Another…

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DEAR LITTLE BROWN GIRL – REBLOG – The Shinbone Star

Sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it?


 

THE SHINBONE STAR

— Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Dear Little Brown Girl:

Sorry, kid, you should have been born Norwegian. With blonde hair, blue eyes and a lighter complexion — you know, Aryan good looks like Ivanka’s — President Donald Trump would have welcomed you with open arms. Instead, you got the tear gas.

Not coming from a “shithole country” certainly has its advantages. Of course had you been born in Norway, your mommy — sorry, your mamacita — wouldn’t even have felt the need to join a human caravan and plod along with you for 2,000 miles in search of a better life. But them’s the breaks, kid, and don’t go blaming the white people of Norway, who worked real hard to make their country not a shithole!

Just look at ya standing there, trying to look all pathetic and everything. Well, here’s what I got to say to all them people who…

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THE ” WAR OF THE WORLDS ” MYTH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I went to a presentation celebrating the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. The reason this particular broadcast has lived on in history and is still remembered and talked about today is really quite interesting.

Orson Welles broadcasting “The War of the Worlds”

The radio play starts with a typical program playing music from a live band. This fictional program is then interrupted by a realistic sounding “newscaster” reporting an increasingly destructive invasion by Martians. The Martians wipe out New Jersey and proceed to annihilate Manhattan. They are reported to be landing all over the east coast of the United States. The U.S. army is reported to be vanquished and the audience is told that we have no defenses left.

Rehearsal of War of the Worlds

Newspapers the next day, including the New York Times, headlined a nationwide panic that made this incident the most notorious event in broadcast history. The unprecedented mass hysteria was talked about in newspapers, books, articles and radio and TV shows for the past 80 years.

The day after the broadcast

There were reports of thousands of panicked calls to police and radio stations across the country. There were stories of traffic accidents, near riots and hordes of panicked people in the streets and on the roads, fleeing the Martian invasion. There were even reports of suicides and deaths due to the hysteria caused by the broadcast. It was claimed that the stories continued in the newspapers for two weeks, with over 12,500 articles about the panic.

The day after the broadcast

Today, however, this version of history has now been debunked and fallen out of favor. The current belief is that whatever panic occurred, it was small and not widespread. Most listeners understood this was a dramatization. While some may have been scared by the story, few panicked. Evidence shows that at the time of the event, newspaper reports of the story actually stopped after a day or two, not weeks. The story was not the long-lasting, national headline grabber we believed it to be.

In addition, far fewer people heard the original broadcast than most people believed. This fact makes the magnitude of the reported panic much more implausible. A rating service the night of the broadcast reported only 2% of listeners were even tuned in to The “War of the Worlds.” This was true, in part because Welles was scheduled opposite one of the most popular shows on the air – Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

In addition, several important CBS affiliates, including in Boston, didn’t even air Welles’ show. Instead, they aired local commercial programming, which further reduced Welles’ national audience.

History does show, however, that the story grew in magnitude and in detail as time went on. So the 1940 claim that one million people heard the broadcast is grossly exaggerated.

Just as the size of Welles’ audience has been inflated, so have the reports of mass hysteria. There is no documentation of any deaths or even hospital visits, as claimed, due to the shock of the broadcast. In reality, there were almost no contemporaneous news accounts of mobs in the streets or highways jammed with fleeing people. In fact, people later reported walking through the streets of major cities at the time of the broadcast and finding them as empty as usual at that time of night.

There is another piece of evidence used to counter the mass panic scenario. If the terror and chaos had been as bad and as widespread as reported, CBS and Welles would have been severely reprimanded or even punished. But no sanctions were levied and no official rulings or regulations were promulgated by the FCC.

Welles facing the press the day after the broadcast

So why was the mass panic story started and why did it survive for so long?

One credible theory is that newspapers were to blame for the origins of the story. Radio was still a relatively new medium in 1938 – only 18 years old. But already radio was taking advertising dollars and audiences away from the newspaper industry. So the newspapers seized upon this opportunity to trash the radio as an unreliable source of news. A newspaper trade journal at the time wrote: “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which had yet to prove …that it is competent to perform the news job.”

You can’t trust the radio! Fake news!

People are now debating why this myth has persisted for so long. One answer is a man named Hadley Cantril. He wrote a scholarly book in 1940 that gave academic credence to the panic. He used numbers and statistics that made his story seem plausible, but which have subsequently come into question.

He had no hard facts to back up any of his assertions. And he is the only legitimate academic source that claims there was a sizeable panic. Yet his writing has kept this version of the story in textbooks, as it still is today.

There is a more philosophical explanation of the persistence of the mass hysteria myth. In 2000, Northwestern’s Jeffrey Sconce wrote an article called, “Haunted Media”. In it, he suggests that the “War of the Worlds” myth captures our unease with mass media and the internet’s power over us. We all fear, on some level, the media and the internet “…invading and colonizing our consciousness.” The myth is “…a cautionary tale about the power of the media.”

Jeffrey Sconce

Radio opened up a new means of mass communication and shared experiences. Now the internet is doing the same thing. Sconce states that “…today the internet provides us with both the promise of a dynamic communicative future and dystopian fears of a new form of mind control; lost privacy; and attacks from scary, mysterious forces.”

This is particularly true with today’s epidemic of fake news, foreign intervention, and manipulation of the internet and domestic political dirty tricks. We deal with political misinformation being spread to millions of people every day. A national panic may not have occurred because of a radio broadcast in 1938, but it is more likely to occur today because of the abuse of the internet.

There’s a new demographic, and you better pick a side – REBLOG – SHINBONE STAR

What more is there to say? I wish it weren’t like this, but this really IS where we’ve gone … and I hope I live long enough to see us recover our senses.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Here in the United States of America, we’d grown accustomed to surveys and seeing our beliefs broken down demographically. We would eagerly pore over the results, which usually compared women vs. men; blacks vs. whites; college education vs. none; city vs. rural; and Catholic vs. Protestant.

Well, I’m here to tell you, that none of that matters anymore. Here’s what it comes down to in our modern Disunited States of America:

  • Support for the Mocking of Sexual Assault Victims vs. Those Opposed

Of course for those who have been paying attention, the president’s attack this week on Christine Blasey Ford isn’t our first ride in Donald Trump’s Demolition Derby, it’s just the latest in a series of crashes that have defined our nation’s free fall into hell.

Consider that since Trump’s arrival on the political landscape, you, your friends, your neighbors and your relatives can be divvied up like this:

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REAL REPORTERS – Garry Armstrong

Word Prompt: Credibility

It’s never been a one-man show.

I logged more than 40-years in TV and radio news,  including 31 years at one Boston TV Station.  I’m always flattered when people say they remember me and my work. The body of work is considerable. Usually 3 or 4 daily newscasts, 5 to 6 days a week,  48 or so weeks a year times 40.  That’s a lot of news, good, bad and ugly.

A reporter,  the face in front of the camera,  gets the credit for everything. The images of life, death and the furies of Mother Nature.  Wars and Peace. Happiness and sorrow. You see the reporter, center screen with a name graphic, proof that he or she saw everything in the visuals that tell the story.

It’s a false premise.  It’s impractical. The reporter couldn’t possibly be in all the places seen in the story that has you riveted to the screen.

We’re called “talent” in business lexicon.  That should be a dead giveaway. We’re the human, face connection, to all those images on your screen.

The real reporters are the people behind the cameras.  The men and women who frequently put their lives on the line to bring you the pictures, the video seared into your sense memory.

I’m proud of all the awards I’ve received over the years. I’d be a liar if I said the hardware didn’t mean anything to me. They are reminders of the stories covered across four decades – on the local, state, national and international stages.  The awards have my name clearly etched, front and center. But I can see all the faces of those responsible for bringing the stories to life.

In the 60’s,  I was a green rookie, assigned to the national and international news,  landscapes that ranged from Vietnam, civilian dissent against the war, Civil Rights marches and violent opposition,  assassinations of national leaders,  a historic walk on the moon and a music-culture changer called Woodstock. I was a 20-something, agape at all these events I was covering for Network News.  It truly was baptism under fire.  I survived because of veterans whose careers began with the birth of radio and television news,  The great depression and World War Two.

The 20 something was handed the keys to the news kingdom.  Right place, right time. I may have often been driving the big car but those veterans always rode shotgun,  guiding me through some very difficult mazes of network news closed-door battles with the Pentagon,  the DOD and the White House.  I had a grizzled news manager who always counseled me, “Just tell the truth…make sure you’ve corroborated 2 or 3 times at least.

Don’t let the Pols or Generals faze you…make sure the stories are short, punchy…dump the adjectives”.

All that was behind me when I landed in Boston in 1970. If I thought I knew it all, I was dead wrong.  Boston was just edging its way into a golden era of TV Journalism.  The technology was rapidly changing and changing the way things were done.  TV news was still viewed with skepticism and contempt by many old-school journalists who believed the word was stronger than the picture.

Boston is a highly regarded news market. It can be tricky for a newcomer not versed in the proper pronunciation of towns and cities or the political landmines in seemingly benevolent Norman Rockwell like settings.

I was thrust into local celebrity by being a general assignment reporter covering blue-plate special stories of murders, fires, prison riots,  sexual predators, bad weather, and quirky politics.

I quickly learned to lean on the experience of the people shooting the stories.  They knew the players, the back stories,  the dos and the don’ts.

A news director (one of nearly 3 dozen I survived) told me to keep the camera crews under my thumb.  He said they were just ‘picture takers’, ‘lumpers’ and ‘complainers’.  That news director was history before I figured out how wrong he was.

Those picture takers really were reporters who saw everything around them. They knew when someone was just using his “face time” to dance around the truth and delay legal consequences. They warned me about the “frauds” and “fakers,” political and community leaders who could clean your pockets while shaking your hand.

I am especially thankful for the photojournalists who covered “the mean streets.”   They’re the ones I always saw at 3 o’clock in the morning at a devastating fire,  a triple homicide or drive-by shooting.  They always knew more than the eye-witnesses or law enforcement people just catching the case. I apologize to those whose names are omitted.  It’s impossible to do justice to all of you who were there for me and other reporters over all those years.

Boston is a unique TV news market because the competition is benevolent.  Everyone wants to be FIRST with the story, especially with the advent of electronic newsgathering.  Everything is “Now”.  It happens and,  in a few minutes,  you’re expected to be “live with breaking news”.  Truth and facts often become victims in the quest to be fast and first.

Reporters feel the pressure.  They often feel their jobs are on the line if they are not first.  The folks behind the cameras become a calming force.  They’ve observed the scene, the people, possible evidence.  Often, cameramen and women can figure out the story while fielding frantic and demanding calls from newsrooms.  Over the years,  I’ve leaned on camera and tech crews, not only from my station but also competitors.

I’ve been slipped pieces of paper with key information during live shots and looked like the best damn reporter in town.  In truth,  I was saved by a competing cameraman who saw me struggling and threw the lifeline.

I’ve been praised for memorable “standups” — those on-camera appearances where we look you in the eye and deliver riveting reports. The truth is those words often came from the people behind the camera.  Their words, repeated with sincere conviction by me.

The camera folks also correct information that we, seasoned reporters,  are sure is true.  I was often interrupted with,  “Garry, I don’t want to tell you what to say.  You always know what you’re doing…”   The bulb in my brain flashes — “Listen, know-it-all breath”.

So,  this is a thank you to Richie, Andy, Nat, Jack, Premack, Warren, Eddie,  Susan, Leslie, Noot,  Messrs. Richard Chase, “Fast Al”,  Stan The Man and all the other REAL — behind the camera reporters.

These were the journalists who enabled me to have such a long and satisfying career. Thank you!

PLUTOCRACY AND OLIGARCHY – WHICH ONE ARE WE? – Marilyn Armstrong

We live in a have a country full of shallow, if not outrightly stupid people.

They watch “the news” and believe it’s all lies because an orange-skinned bloke says so. As a woman whose husband was a television news reporter for more than 40 years, I’d like to point out that not ONCE in his entire career did my husband haul his tired ass out of bed so he could get up to fabricate lies for the public.

He made mistakes now and then — but not very often — and sometimes made the wrong choice about what story to cover, but never at any point in his long career did he intentionally lie to the public. Moreover, none of his colleagues lied to the public either.


Note that I do not include Fox in this discussion. Whatever it is they are doing at Fox, the news is not it.


The news has always been as truthful as the people who do the job can make it. Are there errors? Of course. Reporters are human beings and we are imperfect, but none of the errors was intentional. It wasn’t lying. Errors are not lies.

What Trump does? THAT is lying.

Garry was never told to tell lies. He was occasionally asked to omit something, but he didn’t do it even when asked. Garry tells the truth and so did his colleagues.

And the other reporters, photographers, directors, and producers? They told the truth, too.

Fact.

Reporters are not liars. They work their asses off trying to spread the truth to the dunderheads who too foolish to listen.

Fact.

The news is as true as the people who research and write it can possibly make it. Do they make mistakes? Yes, but they correct themselves and apologize. They don’t erase the truth about a president. Only an elected pathological liar could do that.

Fact.

The news IS the truth. If you are don’t believe reality, you are going to live with something worse. We are on a razor-thin edge between what we used to think was freedom versus a plutocracy or oligarchy — if we haven’t already crossed that line. Time will tell us soon enough.


Shallow people are stupid. I don’t mean they have a “low IQ.” I mean they are too limited, lazy, selfish, and foolish to find out the truth. It’s so much easier to believe bullshit, isn’t it? You don’t have to read. You don’t need to research. You don’t need to know anything.

You can roll along, believing whatever the current blowhard in power tells you. That’s how we got where we are and that’s how we will keep rolling down the long grassy slope until we become one of those infamous shithole countries.

CREDIBILITY MATTERS – Garry Armstrong

“The media always lies,” she said and I cringed.

Then, I got angry. Why do people believe a president who has never told the truth about anything while failing to believe the fact-based truth?

I’m not talking about “ultimate” truth or the meaning of life or faith. I’m talking about things that can be proved with evidence, science. Stuff caught on tape. Printed, heard, overheard, and to which testimony has been given.

I really hate it when I hear that cliché – “The media doesn’t tell the truth. They always lie.” It demeans all the passion and belief I put into more than 40-years as a working reporter. Moreover, it demeans the careers of so many others who give their lives in pursuit of the truth. Many, literally died in pursuit of the truth.

Photo: USA Today

I am not romanticizing my career. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve gotten it wrong. It happens when you’re covering multiple stories a day, 5 to 7 days a week. With deadlines breathing down your neck.

I always tried to clarify mistakes by accepting my culpability up front and being clear with viewers. There were many days when I hated what I had to do. Usually, it was in pursuit of a truth which would be ugly, demanding, tedious — and require a good deal of soul-searching. The truth isn’t simple, or black and white. Despite what you usually see on television or in movies about reporters, there aren’t many clear “wins.”

180-Graphic-Photographs-2-MOB-Party-04212018_036
The old days

Often, we’re lambasted for telling the truth by the same folks who call us liars. Jack Nicholson’s “You can’t handle the truth” line should be crayoned on the skulls of those who insist the media always lies. Those critics are the same pilgrims who gobble up the pablum offered by the current White House Tenant who doesn’t know what the truth is. It’s like a foreign language to him.

I fervently wish that Those People who belittle the media and law enforcement officials spend some time, real-time — like 24/7 on the streets. The real streets, not just their cozy neighborhood. They might see life closeup without any of the public relations filters. I suspect those critics would change that tune and maybe sing a different song. They might think before they speak and see our world in three dimensions instead of whatever propaganda they accept in their biased, insulated worlds.

Finally, I’m proud of what I did for a living. For 40 plus years, I fought to tell the truth.

It was a privilege!

TRUTH THROUGH A PRISM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prism

Prism is a complicated word with a variety of meanings, mathematical, optical, and figuratively. I use the term figuratively — to see something through “the prism of a camera,” would be a common usage.

What is it?

In geometry, a prism is a solid geometric figure whose two end faces are similar, equal, and parallel rectilinear figures, and whose sides are parallelograms. (Got that? Really? Well, please explain it to me!)

In optics, it is a glass or other transparent object in prism form, especially one that is triangular with refracting surfaces at an acute angle with each other and that separates white light into a spectrum of colors. You can buy prismatic filters for a camera and many modern cameras come with some version of a prism built into them.

Prism is more commonly used in figurative speech. In this case, it is referring to the clarification or distortion of a viewpoint, as in “They were forced to imagine the disaster through the prism of television” — which would inherently change the natural viewpoint. I often think that is what people really mean when they say “reporters lie.”

Reporters don’t lie, but they force the truth through the prism of their format — television. This requires cutting down long commentaries to find the “nugget” without the longer speech. Although this is intended to sharpen the meaning of the comments, it doesn’t always do that. The personal point of view of the editor or reporter can affect the way the subject is presented.

But reporters don’t lie. They present information in a particular way which requires editing and shaping. Without this “shaping” of the news for presentation in a half-hour or hour news broadcast, there would be no television news at all.

For that matter, the same process is used in any form of print media. No one presents the full context of a speech in any form of news. Even in full book presentation, most commentaries are substantially cut. Why? Because you would fall profoundly asleep before you got to the main point of the discussion.

It’s all well and good to have long arguments which find you still haggling over details at dawn the following day, but reporting news in a format anyone can follow and understand takes a lot of understanding of the subject matter. Finding the “important nugget of information” in a cloud of context is a skillful occupation. It isn’t performed by people who get up in the morning planning on lying to the public — unless they work for Fox News, in which case reality bears little resemblance to their version of “news.”

So when you argue the prism of a format, remember it is done so you can make sense of it. If it isn’t a complete version of the whole truth, do your own research. Look for the truth. Find it. Read it. Search for more if that’s not enough.

ABC News

No one — least of all the people who report the news — suggests the versions they report are the uncut truth. That type of knowledge requires you.

Find the truth — then believe it after you discover it. If you start out with pre-conditions of “what truth should be,” you won’t find anything but your own opinion.


NOTE: The expression “through a prism darkly” refers to spying.

3.2.1 ME CHALLENGE: INSPIRATION, WITH HELP ALONG THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

INSPIRATION” VIA SUE VINCENT AT DAILY ECHO


I was invited to take part in the 3.2.1 Me Challenge the other day by Sue Vincent at the Daily Echo. The rules, she said, were simple:

1 – Thank the person who nominated you.

Thank you Sue, not only for the invitation, but also for always writing unique and beautiful posts that make me think and remind me of all the things I usually forget.

2 – Provide two three (but you can use two — I just found three I liked) quotes on the subject you are set by that person.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. –John Lennon

3 – Invite three other bloggers to take part (if they so wish) in the challenge.
The subject Sue gave me was ‘inspiration’ and I really need to thank her for making me take the time to think about it. Because oddly enough, I had been thinking about it anyway, so this was remarkably timely.

I always have trouble with this part of any challenge. I don’t like to ask because they may feel obliged to say yes, even if they don’t really want to. So please, if this sounds interesting to you, I offer you the subject:


TRUTH

Given the way life has changed, how do you feel about it? What’s your version of it? How important is it?


Inspiration: On your own but not alone

We all start college — or at least most of us do — pretty young. In our teens, generally. Some of us start even sooner. I was just barely 16, but I thought I was terribly sophisticated and mature.

I was sophisticated and mature for someone my age. Which was 16. I had zero vision of what I would be on this earth. I was socially inexperienced and emotionally volatile. My knowledge went exactly as far as the books I read.

Working in California from Boston – Dawn of a new age in telecommuting

I had read a lot of books (for my age). I had also not read a lot more books. It isn’t, as my father said, what you don’t know that gets you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.

I knew a lot of wrong things. They weren’t wrong because I thought them wrongly, but because much of what I read was inaccurate, closer to guesses and opinions than facts. Possibly much of what I know now is still wrong, but I think most historians and scientists are working more closely with original sources today. That may be one of the best things to come from the Internet and sharing of information across the world, that you don’t necessarily have to travel the world to find original sources (though it certainly doesn’t hurt, either).

I had only the fuzziest idea what I was going to do with myself. After I gave up my dreams of playing the grand piano with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, then deleted my “great American author” fantasy where I lived on a cliff in Maine overlooking the ocean while writing unforgettable novels,  I had no idea what I would do.

It turned out I was not a novelist. I had great ideas, but no ability to turn them into books. I could write dialogue easily and still do, but I had no talent for “action.” Even the most chatty novel requires that characters sometimes get off the sofa and do something. Anything. My characters never did anything — except talk and think.

Not unlike me, come to think of it.

I needed help along the way and I got it.

Dr. Herb Deutsch needed to point out while I loved music, I was not sufficiently involved with it to make it my life’s work.

Mr. Wekerle (pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable) was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University. I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was the only professor could always tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t really read the books. He was also the only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.

The A+ was for style, the D- for content. I treasured the A+ because somehow, I was sure that style was going to be more “me” than content. I was wrong. It was both.

He taught me that even if you know it, you can’t assume your audience does. You have to write it all out, Alpha to Zed. I had an editor in Israel who reinforced this by making me rewrite all the sections of a book I was working on — the parts I didn’t want to write.

Garry was deeply influential too at a time when he was figuring out where he stood in terms of work and his future. He came to realize that for a variety of reasons, he had gone as far as he was going to go. He didn’t want to move to a different city and that alone was some degree of a “game ender.” He knew he didn’t want to move into management and he didn’t want to be an assignment editor, producer, or director. He liked what he was doing. He liked doing it in Boston. He had found his place — and his walls.

I was finding my walls, too.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for management. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but I hated it. I didn’t want to edit other people’s work. I wanted to write it. I was not sufficiently ambitious to “go corporate” and try to head a department. I knew my personal life had always been more important to me than my professional life. I knew this was unlikely to change. Effectively, I had reached my limits.

As Garry talked about how he felt about his own work and I talked about mine, we both recognized because you’ve gone as far as you are going to go professionally, you are not facing defeat.

Success does not mean you need to reach the top, the pinnacle, the ultimate level of success for your field. Not everyone needs or wants to climb to the top. We don’t all want to be the most ambitious to be exceptional at what we do.

It was a realistic assessment of what we were able and willing to do. I could have fought my way into corporate life and probably made more money. So could Garry. We didn’t want to.

I think my point is a twofer.

On one level, we make it on our own, but we don’t make it alone. We get all kinds of help along the way, often from unexpected people in unusual places. The help might be a simple question, or a mentorship. Or, maybe someone who knows you and recognizes when you need the right words to work through whatever is going on.

Inspiration usually comes with help. A little help can go a long way.

GROWING UP WITH McCARTHY – Garry Armstrong

This is one I never intended to share. It had been buried in the deepest part of the memory chest I never planned to revisit.

I was branded a “pinko” as a kid.

I grew up in an era when the name McCarthy was first associated with Edgar Bergen’s puppet pal,  Charlie McCarthy. We followed Bergen and McCarthy on their radio show, religiously, along with Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Bob Hope and the other funny people of a more innocent era.

All of that changed when “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy unleashed his witch hunt of everyone in the guise of ferreting out Communist sympathizers. It was part of a bleak period when Cold War angst followed World War 2.

McCarthy is news again because of the current White House occupant and his apparent fondness for McCarthy’s tactics.

I didn’t understand why people shied away from talking about something called “The Black List.”  I was still in grade school but a voracious reader of newspapers, magazines and the gold mine of books in our home library.

One of those books was “Not So Wild A Dream.” It was written by Eric Sevareid, a news commentator I listened to every evening on CBS Radio News. I loved Sevareid’s gritty voice talking about the evil in far-off places like Russia.

I was puzzled when Sevareid talked about how “we” were endangered by a politician named Joe McCarthy. I had seen the newspaper stories and headlines – famous actors and writers ‘outed’ as “Commies.”  I asked my parents about it but they told me “no worries,”  it didn’t involve people like us.

What did that mean? People like us?

I was fond of taking some of my grown-up books to school. I liked to show off the books I was reading. I was on first-hand terms with Sevareid, John Steinbeck, and the guy who wrote about “Crime and Punishment” in Russia.

While other kids bragged about their new cars, summer homes, and vacations in Florida, I only had books with which to earn bragging points. I didn’t always fully understand the books, but I liked how the words were put together. I enjoyed reading them aloud.

It was the beginning of a lifelong passion for words. The sound and feel of words.  Words that you can sometimes stroke because they touch your heart in a special way.

All of this was the prologue to a nasty wake-up call for my youthful innocence.

Garry receiving his Broadcasting Hall of Fame award – September 2013

We had an assignment in Composition Class. Probably the 4th or 5th grade. My heart was beating at double speed as I searched my treasure trove of books. I skipped past kid stuff like “Treasure Island,” “The Last of the Mohicans,” and my whole collection of baseball related material.

“Not So Wild A Dream” was the winner. I was just getting into some heady stuff by people named Odets, Miller, and Lardner. I liked what they said. I used to memorize sections to impress my Mom who was always proud of my ability to sound like a proper young man. I figured everyone would respect that ability.

I remember it was a warm spring day.  I was wearing my new spring outfit — LONG pants, crisp white shirt, and shiny new shoes. I was brimming with confidence in Composition Class. When volunteers were asked to read their homework,  my hand shot up faster than Big Don Newcombe’s fabled right arm.

My throat was dry but I plunged right in when I was selected. I read some passages from “Not So Wild A Dream” and a quote from Clifford Odets who was talking about social ills.  I didn’t understand much of what I said but it sounded and felt good to me.  I looked around.

Silence and a few nervous giggles. My teacher had a strange look on her face and stammered as she praised my work. She told me I probably would see the Principal later to discuss my impressive homework. I was beaming with pride!

The Principal seemed nervous as he talked to me. He hemmed and hawed. He even stammered. Where had I found the books I read? Who gave them to me?  I proudly told him about our home library and the magazines we got every week. I remember the Principal’s eyes arching in surprise.

What was the big deal,  I wondered.

All the joy of that morning came crashing down on me during lunch recess. The warm day meant we could open our lunch boxes outside in the play area.  I was munching on my sandwich when I saw kids staring at me.

I began to pick up the words.

“He’s a pinko.”

“His parents are pinkos.  I’m gonna tell my Mom. All his people are Commies, my Dad told me.”

The whispers grew louder. Finally, I was approached by a couple of the guys who used to pick on me because of the way I dressed, my glasses, and my stupid hearing aids which made me look a space villain.  Oh, yeah, they also picked on me because I was the shortest kid in the class.

What now? Were they jealous of my composition?  What the heck?

The biggest kid came right up to my face.  He had bad breath and smelled worse.  I don’t think he bathed often. I could see the red pimples sticking out on his face. “Hey, you four-eyed deaf midget nigg_r,  so you’re a pinko too, huh?”

Pimple face leered at me,  obviously daring me to get up and fight. I gulped hard.

His pal, beady-eyed, and sweating, taunted me, “I hear all you people are Commies. You don’t go to Church — you go to Commie meetings! All of YOU people. I’m gonna tell my Dad. You’re in big trouble, you lousy little pinko.”

My throat was dry and I was very scared. I couldn’t think. Then, the bell rang.  Lunch was over. I was (literally) saved by the bell.

That evening,  I recounted everything to my Mom and Dad. They listened without saying a word. Usually, they’d interrupt me, correct my language, diction or choice of words.  When I’d finished,  they looked at each other for a long time before speaking to me.

Mom and Dad were unusually patient in explaining things to me. I think I was a little put off by their civility. I tried to absorb what they said. It was hard.

I remember Mom telling me I’d have become more mature than my age. I was going to deal with more of these “things” as I grew up. She smiled wistfully as she tousled my hair.

And that’s how I started on the road to journalism. Suddenly, I understood something about the grown-up version of the truth.