SORRY, WRONG NUMBER – By GARRY ARMSTRONG

People of a certain age will recall the title from a popular radio drama that became a film noir classic with Barbara Stanwyck as the damsel/wife in distress and Burt Lancaster as the spouse with mayhem on his mind.  You can also dial “M For Murder” with the same theme: the telephone as a nefarious device and weapon.

A friend just wrote a piece, extolling the virtues of the telephone as a personal link in the impersonal age of social media. Good point. You need to be able to talk, hold an intelligent and coherent conversation on the phone.  Social media doesn’t require those basic skills.  Courtesy is also another trait required on a phone conversation even when you’re dealing with unpleasant matters.

My wife, Marilyn, rises to heroic stature dealing with insufferable customer service, health care reps, local business people who lose the check and fail to show up. Credit card hackers who’d love a little personal information and the idiots who’ve dialed the wrong number but keep redialing anyway.

I hate the telephone!  It stems from all the years of unwanted calls from the TV station that employed me for 31 years. Three o’clock in the morning calls demanding I grab my gear and immediately report to the scene of a grisly crime, awful weather, deadly fires, criminals running amok, traffic accidents with myriad, mangled bodies and the latest gangland or drive-by shooting with multiple victims.  All breathlessly awaiting my presence to round up the usual suspects for eye-witness accounts and/or to go banging on doors asking parents “how they feel” about the recent death of a loved one.

Hey, how do you feel, Pilgrim?  All of this hurled at me in fleeting minutes once I picked up the phone and heard a familiar voice with the phony excuse of waking me up out of my warm bed.  I usually cursed myself if I answered the phone.

Marilyn normally took the calls because of my hearing problems.  I couldn’t blame her. Nor could I hurl expletives at the person calling.  You can’t shoot the messenger in the TV news biz.  Being called into work goes with the territory.

Instead, I blamed the inanimate object.  The telephone. Outraged, I yelled obscenities at it.  Meanwhile, the telephone sat there quietly,  probably mocking me. After all, the phone was just doing its job. Nothing personal.

Statehouse on Beacon Hill

During my bachelor years when I had to take these calls, I frequently hurled the phone across the room during my tirades against the telephone company, its employees, executives, and Alexander Graham Bell who I imagined as Don Ameche from the old biofilm.

Why did they seemingly always call me?  Why was someone always picking on me?  Frequently, I’d envision conspiracies to target me. Racism? Envy because I was on the tube every day, outshining other folks? Political target?  I had an ‘attitude’ with some local pols. It was me against the giant telephone conglomerate.  I was riffing Dwight Eisenhower’s warning.

Truth time.  Early on in my Boston TV news career, I let it be known I was ‘always available’ for major, breaking news stories.   I envisioned the scoop on that major story that would shoot me to stardom and a mega-contract.  I put myself on the spot that assignment editors love. An eager-beaver young reporter with stars in his eyes and experience not yet absorbed.

Veteran reporters scoffed at my enthusiasm even as I sauntered around the newsroom full of myself at landing big stories that had me prominently featured on every newscast of the day from sunrise to midnight.

In my glee over the big stories I always forgot how it began.  Always the damn phone call.  During my saner moments, I knew I was my own worst enemy. That logic didn’t sit well with me.

During long lunches as everyone congratulated me with my face and story on all the monitors, I realized I was in a catch 22 scenario.  Hero of the hour absorbing lots of congratulations while my brain kept reminding me that it was that early phone call that made all of this possible. I continued blaming the phone for interrupting my sleep. I would go on shooting the messenger for years.

One time I lived up to my vow to avert the phone call-to-arms.  I answered the call. Heard the voice and slowly said, “Sorry, wrong number.”  I grinned to myself, returning for a good night’s sleep.

I was still smiling as I awoke and turned on the radio in the morning.  The all-news station was frantically blaring out details about a massive fire, building collapse and the loss of many lives.  It was such a big story that the networks were in on coverage.

My smile turned to a scowl. The potential ‘story of a lifetime’ had been lost to my erstwhile, “Sorry, Wrong Number.”

Oops.

THIS MORNING’S HEADLINES WITH MORE TO COME – Marilyn Armstrong

From the LA Times and Washington Press come this morning’s headlines:


D.C. attorney general sues Trump inaugural committee over $1 million booking at president’s hotel


Democracy Dies in Darkness


U.N. calls for investigation of Saudi crown prince’s alleged involvement in targeting Jeff Bezos and opponents


Senate adopts ground rules for trial, delaying a decision on witnesses


Chief justice admonishes impeachment lawyers, telling them to ‘remember where they are’


Trump threatens Europe with fresh tariffs in Davos, deepening a rift with longtime U.S. allies


U.S. screenings for the coronavirus expanded to airports in Atlanta and Chicago


Senate rejects Democratic measure to subpoena acting White House chief of staff Mulvaney for testimony in Trump’s impeachment trial


Chinese coronavirus outbreak reaches the U.S. 


These are just this morning’s headlines. Many more will come and they will all be as bad — or worse — than these. No wonder we are stressed!

SHARE MY WORLD – JANUARY 20, 2020 – Marilyn Armstrong

Sharing My World  on 1-20-2020

QUESTIONS:

Where do you get your news?

I have a subscription to the Washington Post. I also read newsletters from the L.A. Times, Newsweek, Huff. And I read The New Yorker and Garry sends me a lot of clippings from the New York Post. We also watch the news to see what’s happening locally. We don’t spend a lot of time watching national and international news. I’d rather read about it. I find reading less depressing than watching.

What ‘old person’ thing do you do?

Go to bed late and get up late. I got up very early and was out of the house every day by 5:30am or 6am for 50 years. Now, I sleep in when I can and stay up until Colbert is over or whatever else I’m watching is finished. Then I go to bed and usually listen to an hour of audiobooks.

A Kindle and a Bluetooth speaker for listening to audiobooks

When was the coldest you’ve ever been?   The warmest?

I think when we used to go sledding when I was a kid, I was always frozen — which didn’t stop me. It didn’t matter how much clothing I wore, either. Also, they didn’t have the same level of warm clothing then that they have now. Fleece boots have really helped me live a better life.

Woods and fence

Back then, my feet were always blocks of ice as were my hands and face. These days, when it’s that cold, I don’t go out, yet I still need a heating pad to defrost my feet at night.

As for warm, we had one summer in Israel where the temperature topped 44 degrees (Celsius). A friend of mine didn’t drink enough water and was in a coma for more than a week from the heat.

None of us had air-conditioned homes.  Usually just getting out of the sun was enough because the air was so dry. That level of heat, though was more than many people could handle.

Do you eat food that’s past its expiration date if it still smells and looks fine?

It depends on what it is and how long past its expiration date. A yogurt a day over is fine. A week over? Not so much. On the other hand, I think a can of peas is permanent and probably will have the same food value in 100 years. I’m not sure it has any now.

OVERCOMING MY NEWS ADDICTION – By ELLIN CURLEY

I confess. I became a news addict. A true junkie.

The first thing I did every morning is to reach for the phone and check out the Washington Post to see what Trump has done while I was sleeping. The headlines tell me whether I’m going to have a peaceful day focused on my own life, or a stressful day glued to the 24-hour news shows on TV.

My husband, Tom, is worse than I am. He has MSNBC on the TV or his computer playing in the background, if not the foreground, pretty much all day. He only takes a breather when he’s playing video games or Beat Saver (an exercise game). On a big news day, we often drop everything and watch one pundit heavy show after another. I’m not proud of this but it seems to make me feel more in control – like I actually have a handle on what’s going on. I am clearly suffering from Trump Trauma and Anxiety, which is a form of PTSD that psychiatrists are calling a real syndrome that they see regularly in their practices.

I didn’t think I’d be able to break my news habit. On some days I wondered how I had survived before 24-hour cable news came into being. When I had to run errands or have lunch with a friend, I’d listen to MSNBC on the radio and grill Tom when I got home to catch up on anything I might have missed while trying to have a life. I’m exaggerating a little, but unfortunately, not that much.

Weekends were not looked forward to but dreaded. We’re retired so the only difference for us between weekdays and weekends is that we can see our friends who work on the weekends and the cable news shows are mostly repeats. So we don’t get our weekday news fixes. We manage to get through most weekends without any ill effects, though we do long for our regular news anchor friends to return on Monday. Did I mention that I can tell what time it is by which anchor is hosting the MSNBC show of the moment? And I can do this from just the voices – I don’t even have to look at the TV! Again, not something I’m proud of, but there it is.

Then my daughter came to visit from LA for three glorious weeks in December. I didn’t realize that she would be my own personal twelve-step program. I wanted to spend every minute I could with her and she is well informed but not a news junky. So I had to go cold turkey. During the days we hung out, went visiting, shopping, and did projects around the house.

I played lots of gin and double solitaire. In the car, the radio was set to a music channel, not the news. In the evenings, we binge-watched Amazon and Netflix series and watched movies – no news. Not even my favorite, Rachel Maddow. I was having such a good time with Sarah, I didn’t miss the news at all. I noticed that when Tom mentioned some new development and I had no clue what he was talking about, I didn’t care!

“So this is how normal people live,” I thought.

Many of my Facebook friends are also Progressive/Liberal. They religiously keep abreast of what’s happening in the world and we regularly share articles of interest. We also share our outrage about Trump and what he is doing to our country. So I found myself skipping Facebook for days at a time. I got my daily quota of cute animal videos on YouTube.

My news blackout was complete, except for my morning survey of the newspaper headlines. I limited my reading to the headlines and didn’t read any articles.

Sarah and me, December 2019

I wish I could say my three-week detox program had a lasting positive effect on my behavior and my outlook. Or on my habits and my psyche. But it’s too early to tell. I do feel a bit calmer and more positive. Without the daily dose of man’s venality, mendacity, and hypocrisy, my general outlook may have a chance to revert to normal, which is sunnier and less pessimistic.

This is all good.

Sarah has only been gone for a short time and I haven’t watched cable news yet or obsessively read article after article in the papers. My radio in my car is still set to the ‘Broadway’ channel and I’ve decided to get back into baking when I see friends, instead of buying desserts as I have been doing for several years. Baking used to be something I loved, but since I was on Prednisone for over a year and a half and gained ten pounds, I have been on a constant diet and stayed away from cooking and baking as much as possible.

Now though, I wanted the fun of baking again. Of sharing my desserts with friends. I’ve also started working on updating my photo albums – a humongous task involving close to a thousand photos spanning sixteen years.

I see my new interest in these projects and activities as a way to enhance my life apart from the news. It’s good to focus on everyday things that I enjoy doing and bring my daily life back to ‘my’ world and not the national and international world represented by the news. I’m going to work on doing my own thing more and worrying less about our society and the planet plunging into darkness.

I hope my new perspective lasts past the next Trump crisis!

PROVOCATIVE? LIKE BOMBING IRAN? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #55

It’s the question of the year and this is only January.


Do you feel that Donald Trump was justified in ordering a drone strike that resulted in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, in an airstrike in Baghdad last week?

Do you think Trump’s decision will lead America into a hot war with Iran?

Do you think Trump’s motives are political and self-serving?


I am essentially in almost every possible way, against war. How many wars have we had in my lifetime? I was born just after World War 2, after which there was Korea. We got out of Korea, but then came Vietnam where we lingered until we declared victory and left. We left as we always do, leaving our supposed allies to face death and destruction. Remarkably, people keep trusting us. I don’t know why they do.

War doesn’t solve anything and inevitably leads to more war. WW2 was a “moral war,” but it wouldn’t have occurred had the terms for WW1 (which was just all the old regimes of Europe having one final “go” at each other because they felt like it) not been so cruel. Every war leads to another. Which leads to a few more. Then there are wars that just break out because someone hates someone else and feels obliged to kill them en masse. Gotta love those genocidal wars.

There are no good wars. Not here, or anywhere.

As far as I can see, there will never be an end to war because we don’t want peace. We say we want peace, but we don’t act like it. Should we have killed their General? I don’t know. If we’re going to do it, we should have gone in and done a quiet assassination and slipped out silently. That is assuming that his death was in some way a good thing for this and other countries — which I’m not convinced is the case.

Will this lead to a hot war with Iran? Maybe not, but last night I was ready to call everyone I care about and say goodbye. If we’re going to get bombed, I hope they hit us dead on. Better that than a slow death by radiation. You can’t figure out what Trump will do. I don’t think he knows what he is going to do.

All of his plans are political and self-serving. I don’t think he has any friends or has loved anyone. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand honor, service, faith, or truth. He certainly doesn’t understand our Constitution, science, or language. If it was some other guy, maybe they would be thinking about why we do or don’t want a war, but this is Trump and I don’t think he believes in consequences, so he doesn’t need a reason to do whatever it is he does. He feels like doing it, so he does it. All that matters to him is being celebrated and told he is the greatest.

In my opinion, he is the greatest of all assholes. Ever.

OUR WORLD BALANCED ON THE HEAD OF A PIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry was a working reporter for more than 40 years, so you have to figure I have an interest in the news. I never watched all the news. I didn’t think every shooting or fatal car accident was news. Just because something happens doesn’t make it newsworthy. Even if it’s tragic. News directors believe in bad news. Good news rarely makes the cut.

I was never a news junkie. I wasn’t — and still am not — addicted to the news, but I like to know what’s happening. Not just about things which directly affect me, but how goes my town,  city, state, nation, and world. From wondering who was going to fix our local potholes to which war we are currently fighting even though I never understand why we are having another (or the same?) war.

Film at eleven!

As far as elections go? I like to get a good, long look at candidates. If you don’t watch candidates during their campaigns, how can you know who to vote for? Having enough time to get that look at candidates is probably the only advantage of our ridiculously long election process. One of the many things you can learn is if that person has a moral center, something to which I think we’ve previously paid far too little attention.

There may be more …

Right now, as I’m watching television, it appears Iran has shot a dozen ballistic missiles at an American base in Iraq. So all of this could be a moot point. For all I know, we may be in the middle of nuclear war tomorrow or by the end of the week. I asked Garry if we should call all our friends (there aren’t that many) and say goodbye.

Maybe I don’t need a new boiler after all. Well, that’s a relief. There’s always a silver lining. You just need to look for it.

Missiles from Iran to U.S. installation in Iraq

When people said: “Oh, I don’t watch the news,” Garry took it personally. After all, he was on the news almost every day. Meanwhile, he read three papers a day as well as working fulltime for a network news affiliate. To be fair, half of that reading was sports, but we all need hobbies. He knew the candidates personally because he worked with them. He knew their records. He was really good at predicting elections. He had better than average resources and by definition, so did I.

Australian fire – clouds and embers

I never read three papers a day. I spot read one and never missed the comics or anything about archaeology. I watched and recorded Garry’s daily piece. Nonetheless, I knew what was going on. I voted almost every year. I missed a few. I never missed a presidential or senatorial election, but sometimes I’d let the local elections slide because I didn’t know anything about the candidates. When you don’t know who the candidates are, voting is like scratching a lottery ticket. It has the same resonance. I can’t throw my vote to the most appealing face on the ballot.

These days, I feel like our world is balanced on the head of a pin.

REUTERS/Noah Berger – Fires in California last summer

It’s a big, blue ball and a very tiny pin. There is no room to make a mistake. A bit of imbalance and that big blue ball will crash. Given one thing and another, it may crash regardless, but until I know it has, I’ll do the best I can to make a difference. In the course of our lives, we don’t get much opportunity to influence anything outside ourselves and maybe our family. The magnitude of the world in which we live has dwarfed our efforts.

Montecito Mudslide – 2018

This little blog is what I can do. If there’s any purpose to blogging daily, it’s because maybe I can help someone. Change someone’s mind. Show them a choice they didn’t know was available. Whenever I’m tired of the whole thing, I remember that there’s a chance I can help. Maybe I’m not just spinning my wheels.

I think everyone has a minimal obligation to have a fundamental understanding of the world in which they live. I find it appalling in a time when all our lives are on the line, that so many people still hide their heads in the sand or willingly believe lies because they feel better than the truth. Then they complain when things go wrong.

It was generations of head hiders who got us here.

THE BURNING SEASON – Marilyn Armstrong

Martha Kennedy wrote a piece today that I wanted to comment on. But after a while, I realized it wasn’t a comment. It was a blog. A long blog at that.

Although I have not recently fallen on my head, I feel as if the universe is falling on it. It is as if I’ve am bludgeoned daily. Even when I’m trying NOT to think about it. The fires in Australia, like the fires in Montana and California and other places, terrify me. I live in a heavily wooded area. A quick flick of a casual cigarette could turn us into the next fire zone and it isn’t hard to imagine all of New England burning to the ground. From here on up through Maine, areas outside cities are 60% or more trees. Not manicured, not attended. Just growing. Around here, it’s oak. Further north, it’s pine.

Australian fires as seen from space

Probably the reason it hasn’t happened (yet) is we’ve also had more than twice the usual rainfall for the past few years. Even more last year. August was the hottest month in weather records that go back 200 years.

So while on one level, I can ignore politics, I can’t ignore climate. It has changed a lot and keeps changing. The time we thought we had seems to be gone. My dogs — in January — still need tick and flea collars because it isn’t cold enough for the insects to die. They are still breeding.

It’s going to be one humdinger of a summer for bugs. Maybe this will make the Woodpeckers happy, but it’s going to make life really miserable for other creatures. The lakes aren’t freezing and we’ve only had one 5-inch snow in early December. Now, it’s January. It’s much too warm for snow. Cold this evening, but temperatures in the 60s are expected by mid-week.

LAKE TABOURIE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 04: Residents look on as flames burn through the bush on January 04, 2020 in Lake Tabourie, Australia. A state of emergency has been declared across NSW with dangerous fire conditions forecast for Saturday, as more than 140 bushfires continue to burn. There have been eight confirmed deaths in NSW since Monday 30 December. 1365 homes have been lost, while 3.6 million hectares have been burnt this fire season. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Birds that were common last year have not come back this year. No more Monarch butterflies, either. No butterflies. Lots of spiders. Huge wolf spiders that normally don’t come out of their lairs in the woods have shown up on my back door. Ticks and fleas abound. Today we came back from the doctor and there was a green, lively grasshopper on the front door.

This is not even close to normal. One of our best friends is the senior meteorologist in this region … and even he can’t make sensible predictions. The winds are wrong, the waters are too warm. Cape Cod is full of sharks because the seals have come down into these warmer waters. It used to be that sighting a big shark would close the beaches but now, they just warn you to watch out for sharks.

Fleeing kangaroos. Most of Australia’s unique wildlife is being destroyed

Sea birds are dying, garden birds are failing to nest and the bears — lacking their normal habitats — are wandering south. So far, they haven’t taken down our deck, but they certainly could. I suppose that would be the end of feeding the birds.

I haven’t seen most of our hawks, either. I think we still have a bobcat back in the woods because we have no chipmunks — just that one — or any rabbits. I don’t know if we still have Fishers. I’m pretty sure we have raccoons.

Officials say the worst is yet to come

If a continent burns, we are all in danger, whether we know it or not. They don’t talk much about climate change on the news and I don’t really understand why not. Maybe it’s too controversial?

How controversial can it be when there’s a continent on fire? The U.S. has done a fair amount of burning too. Not to mention flooding from monstrous rains and winds that seem to spring out of nowhere. We have continental sized stormed that start in California and sweep across the entire continent … and then move up into Canada and out to sea.

Smoke and embers

We should be scared. We should be terrified. No place is safe. We have to get these evil assholes out of the House, Senate, and governorships. We have to believe against all prior experience that whoever replaces them will REALLY do a better job. We don’t have any guarantee that even if we sweep this entire group away, the next group will take this climate emergency to its heart and do its best to make it stop.

We can hope, but I think we need a bit more than prayers and hopes. We need to close down the big polluters and figure out what in god’s name to do with all our garbage. hazardous waste, and good old plastic.

The smoke from 1500 miles (2000 km) away turns the skies in New Zealand orange.

There is a very good chance that most of the unique wildlife in Australia will not survive these fires. I personally doubt that any of the large mammals on any continent are going to survive for long. Maybe in special sanctuaries, but not in the wild. I don’t blame poor countries for trying to do what we have done so they can live a better life, but is it a better life? Freshwater and electricity are good … but burning down the forests and killing anything bigger than a chipmunk is just redoing the bad stuff we’ve already done. Is that our goal? Should that be anyone’s goal in these times?

I understand why people are tired of watching, reading, and hearing the news. They are weary with boorish, stupid, ignorant leaders and want them to shut up and go away. I think Trump will lose this election. It won’t be because of the evil he has done but because he has exhausted Americans. His “base” is not a majority. It wasn’t a majority in 2016 and it is less so now, no matter how big his “rallies” are.

My fear is that the essentially conservative people of this country will elect someone who promises to make things the way they used to be. That won’t happen. We are not going backward. Forward will be a long, hard road. If we and other countries continue to put into power people who lack the guts to do what needs doing to keep our planet livable, our grandchildren won’t have a world that’s livable. It’s going to cost a lot of money, piss off a bunch of corporations, and make a lot of rich executives take a smaller profit.

Few politicians have the balls to take on the Big Money people, but that’s what needs to be done. Who can do it? Who WILL do it?\

And I would say this falls nicely under Fandango’s daily word: Scary! If you aren’t scared, WHY aren’t you scared?

HAPPY NEW YEAR! FOR ONCE, I THINK I CAN SAY WITH SOME CERTAINTY THAT THINGS ARE UNLIKELY TO GET WORSE. THEY MIGHT NOT GET BETTER, BUT WORSE SEEMS HIGHLY UNLIKELY. By DAVE BARRY VIA THE WASHINGTON POST

It was an extremely eventful year.

We are using “eventful” in the sense of “bad.”

It was a year so eventful that every time another asteroid whizzed past the Earth, barely avoiding a collision that would have destroyed human civilization, we were not 100 percent certain it was good news.

We could not keep up with all the eventfulness. Every day, we’d wake up to learn that some new shocking alleged thing had allegedly happened, and before we had time to think about it, the political-media complex, always in Outrage Condition Red, would explode in righteous fury, with Side A and Side B hurling increasingly nasty accusations at each other and devoting immense energy to thinking up ways to totally DESTROY the other side on Twitter, a medium that has the magical power to transform everything it touches, no matter how stupid it is, into something even stupider.

Fact: This year O.J. Simpson got a Twitter account, and the reaction of nearly a million people was: “What? The attention-seeking psychopath who got away with murdering two innocent people wants followers? Count me in!”

Speaking of attention-seeking psychopaths: The epicenter of the year’s eventfulness was, of course, Washington, D.C., an endlessly erupting scandal volcano, belching out dense swirling smoke plumes of spin, rumor, innuendo, misdirection, and lies emitted by both sides, A and B — or, if you prefer, B and A — filling the air with vicious rhetoric, always delivered with the pious insistence that OUR side, unlike the OTHER side, is motivated not by ego, power-lust, greed or hatred, but by a selfless desire to Work for the American People.

Meanwhile, from out beyond the Capital Beltway, the actual American people warily watched the perpetual tantrum that was supposed to be their government. And more and more their reaction, whatever side they considered themselves to be on, was: Nah.

Which is pretty much how we feel about 2019 in general. And not just because of politics. There was a continued general decline of human intelligence, as epitomized by the popularity of increasingly elaborate “gender reveal” events. Originally these involved simply cutting open a cake that had been dyed with food coloring, but they have escalated to the point where this year they resulted in — we are not making this up — a fatal explosion and a plane crash. It is only a matter of time before a major city is leveled by a pink or blue mushroom cloud.

Can we say anything good about 2019? Was there any positive news, a silver lining, a reason to feel hopeful about the future — to believe that we, as Americans, can recognize our common interests, overcome our differences and work together to build a better tomorrow, for ourselves, for our children and for the world?

Nah.

Anyway, before we shove 2019 down the garbage disposal of history, let’s take one look back and remind ourselves why we want to forget this train wreck of a year, starting with …

 

JANUARY

… which begins with the federal government once again in the throes (whatever a “throe” is) of a partial shutdown, which threatens to seriously disrupt the lives of all Americans who receive paychecks from the federal government. At issue is the situation at the Mexican border, which either is or is not a Crisis depending on which cable news network you prefer. President Trump wants a high concrete wall, but at the moment there is only enough money for a sternly worded south-facing billboard.

Finally, the president and Congress reach a temporary budget agreement that will not address the border situation but will enable them to resume spending insane amounts of money that the nation does not have until such time as they are able to reach a permanent budget agreement enabling them to continue spending insane amounts of money that the nation does not have, this being the primary function of our federal leadership.

Meanwhile, in the Robert Mueller investigation, which feels like it began during the French and Indian War, a grand jury indicts longtime Trump confidante and professional lunatic Roger Stone on a number of charges, including that he threatened to kidnap another witness’s therapy dog, Bianca (really). This news elates the courageous guerrilla fighters of the Resistance, who since 2016 have been evading the fascist authorities by hiding out underground, constantly on the move from CNN panel to CNN panel. The Resisters see the Stone indictment as a sure sign that Mueller is getting ready to release his much-anticipated report, which will prove, at last, that Trump colluded with the Russians and then, at last, it will be IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY.

In the Robert Mueller investigation, a grand jury indicts longtime Trump confidante and professional lunatic Roger Stone on a number of charges, including that he threatened to kidnap another witness’s therapy dog, Bianca (really).

Abroad, Britain is in turmoil over “Brexit,” which is a very important thing we should all endeavor to learn about.

In sports, the Los Angeles Rams win the National Football Conference championship game after the referees, on a critical play, fail to notice when a Rams defensive back attacks a New Orleans Saints receiver with a chain saw. Responding to the ensuing outrage, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he will “conduct a thorough review of league policy regarding power tools,” adding that “New England is scheduled to win the Super Bowl anyway.”

In other sports news, the Clemson football team defeats Alabama to win the college national championship and is rewarded with an invite to the White House for a classy shindig. “I served them massive amounts of Fast Food (I paid), over 1000 hamberders,” tweets the president, who by his own admission has a genius-level IQ.

Speaking of intelligence: The burning question of whether the nation is capable of producing a social media craze even stupider than last year’s Tide Pod Challenge — in which YouTube dimwits sought to impress other YouTube dimwits by eating compressed laundry detergent — is answered in the affirmative (“yes”) when Netflix is forced to issue a cautionary tweet to people who are inspired by the movie “Birdbox” to take the Birdbox Challenge, in which YouTube dimwits engage in everyday activities — including driving — while blindfolded. Meanwhile, as polar vortex grips the nation, other YouTube dimwits are injuring themselves attempting to demonstrate that it is cold outside by flinging pots of boiling water into the air.

From somewhere beyond our solar system hostile aliens are monitoring all this and concluding that they need not waste energy exterminating humanity, as we’re doing fine on our own.

Speaking of hostile, in …

 

FEBRUARY

… President Trump, despite suffering from bone spurs, goes to Vietnam for a second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. After a one-on-one closed-room meeting, the two leaders agree via hand gestures that next time they should definitely bring interpreters.

In domestic politics, Virginia is rocked by a series of scandals involving elected Democratic state officials, originating with the publication of a 1984 photo from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical-school yearbook showing a man in blackface. Northam initially says he is “deeply sorry” for appearing in the photo; the next day, however, he calls a news conference to declare that he does not believe he is in the photo, although he does recall one time that he was in blackface, that being when he entered a dance contest dressed as Michael Jackson and did the moonwalk. Northam further asserts that he won the contest, and at the request of a reporter appears to be on the verge of demonstrating to the press corps that he can still moonwalk, only to be stopped by his wife. We are not making any of this up.

As pressure builds on Northam to resign, Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax prepares to succeed him, only to become embroiled in a scandal of his own when he is accused of sexual assault. The third person in line is Attorney General Mark Herring, who, several days after calling on Northam to resign for wearing blackface, issues a statement admitting that as a college student he wore blackface when he went to a party as rapper Kurtis Blow. We are still not making this up.

At this point, Virginia’s political leaders realize that if they keep moving down the chain of succession they’re going to wind up with a Labrador retriever as governor or, worse, a Republican. And just like that the Great Virginia Scandals Scandal of 2019 goes “poof.”

Winter storms blast the Midwest, causing havoc in Iowa as snowdrifts close major highways and strand hundreds of Democratic presidential contenders in rural communities with limited supplies of voters. In one harrowing incident, a farmer and his family are trapped inside their home for six hours while Cory Booker pounds on the front door, demanding to be let in so he can outline his plan to reduce income inequality. “We tried to escape by the back door,” the farmer later tells reporters, “but Amy Klobuchar was waiting out there with a seven-point program to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

In business news, Amazon (whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post) cancels plans to build a huge corporate campus in New York City, citing local political opposition and the fact that Amazon’s vice president for business development, during a visit to the site in Queens, was carried off by what a company spokesperson described as “a rat the size of a Volkswagen Jetta.”

Abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a very important thing with many significant developments.

In sports, the New England Patriots, led by 63-year-old Tom Brady, defeat the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3, in a Super Bowl featuring one touchdown and 14 punts. During the national anthem, TV cameras clearly capture Patriots coach Bill Belichick pouring liquid from a bottle labeled “SEDATIVES” into the Rams’ Gatorade, but the NFL referee crew fails to notice. Asked about this after the game, Commissioner Roger Goodell says, “To be honest, I was watching Netflix.”

Several weeks after the Super Bowl, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is charged in connection with a police sting operation in Florida at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa (motto: “Where Your ‘Day’ Lasts About 90 Seconds”). Kraft will ultimately avoid jail time after his lawyers convince a judge that he is in the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia.

At the 91st Academy Awards, the Oscar for best picture is awarded to “Goodfellas,” which came out in 1990 but never should have lost to “Dances With Wolves.”

Speaking of being overdue, in …

 

MARCH

… Robert Mueller finally delivers his report to Attorney General William Barr, who promises to release it to the public “as soon as we have blacked out the sex parts.” The cable news networks prepare for the release by bringing in panels of distinguished legal authorities to declare that the report means exactly the opposite of whatever the distinguished legal panels on the enemy networks are declaring it means.

In other political developments, President Trump, faced with mounting hostility from congressional Democrats, spends several days vigorously attacking … John McCain. For the record, McCain (A) was a Republican and (B) died in 2018. Nobody can say for certain whether the president (A) is playing some kind of four-dimensional political chess or (B) has the reasoning skills of a Chihuahua on meth.

The Iowa state legislature considers a bill that would fund construction of a border wall around the state to stop the influx of Democratic presidential hopefuls, now estimated at several dozen a day. “It’s a humanitarian crisis,” says one legislator, his voice rising in alarm. “They’re swarming all over the state, barging into pancake breakfasts. Many of them die within days from pancake bloat, but THEY JUST KEEP COMING.”

Abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a matter of grave concern, and for good reason.

The higher education community is rocked by scandal when federal prosecutors charge 50 people, including test administrators, wealthy parents, and college coaches, in connection with a widespread bribery and fraud scheme to get students admitted to some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. In one particularly egregious case, Yale admitted Trevor Buncombe-Plotzner IV, who supposedly was recruited to play varsity badminton, despite the fact that (A) Yale does not have a varsity badminton team and (B) Trevor is a cat.

In an official statement, the Association of College Admissions Officers says: “Bribing coaches to get unqualified applicants admitted is completely unacceptable. The correct way is to give a large sum of money directly to the college.”

In a controversial legal development, actor Jussie Smollett, who was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly faking a hate crime against himself, has all charges dropped by Chicago prosecutors following a review of the evidence by an NFL officiating crew.

Speaking of legal matters, in …

 

APRIL

… Attorney General Barr finally releases the Mueller report, which accomplishes two things:

⋅ It finally settles, to everyone’s satisfaction, all of the controversies surrounding the 2016 presidential election.

⋅ It proves that oysters speak German and can play the trombone.

Just kidding! In fact, the Mueller report does neither of these things, although it comes closer to the second accomplishment than the first. The pro-Trump people say the report proves there was no collusion; the anti-Trump people say it proves Trump obstructed justice, which means that it is, at last, IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY. Both sides emit thousands of impassioned tweets, which go unread by the American public, which long ago moved on to “Game of Thrones.”

In other political news, Joe Biden launches his estimated 17th presidential campaign, with the slogan: “Let Uncle Joe Give You a Great Big Hug.” Biden immediately becomes the leader of the crowded Democratic field based on the fact that his name sounds vaguely familiar.

As millions of people around the world watched in shock and disbelief, the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris is ravaged by flames after being struck, in what appears to be a deliberate act of provocation, by a North Korean missile.

Elsewhere abroad, “Brexit” continues to be a vitally important thing.

In science news, some astronomers at a party, after several rounds of tequila shots, take a blurry snapshot of a flaming gas-stove burner and release it to the news media, claiming that it’s the first-ever photograph of a black hole. The photo instantly becomes worldwide news, much to the delight of the astro-pranksters, who begin work on a plan to pass off a dental X-ray as the Loch Ness Monster.

In golf, Tiger Woods wins his fifth Masters tournament, catching and passing leader Francesco Molinari after two of Molinari’s shots — on the 12th hole and then again on the 15th — hit NFL referee crews that have strayed onto the fairway.

In entertainment news, “Avengers: Endgame” breaks box office records, proving that now, more than ever, people crave stories about time-traveling superheroes using magic stones to defeat a genocidal intergalactic warlord with no neck.

Speaking of long-running dramas, in …

 

MAY

… Robert Mueller resigns as special counsel, saying that he plans to return to private life and “whimper in the fetal position.” In his final statement, he clears up any lingering confusion about his investigation by noting that the Justice Department cannot charge the president with a federal crime, adding, “not that I am, or am not, saying, or not saying, that the president did, or did not, do anything that was, or was not, illegal. Or, not.”

Congressional Democrats, firm in their belief that the American public wants nothing more than to continue refighting the 2016 election until the Earth crashes into the sun, take Mueller’s statement as a call for IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY.

For his part, Trump emits a tweet stating, quote: “Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” This wording seems to suggest that the president thinks Russia helped him to get elected, so a short while later he clarifies his position by telling reporters, “No, Russia did not help me get elected.” And thus the matter is finally laid to rest.

As far as we are aware, none of this has anything to do with “Brexit.”

On the domestic political front, disgraced former New York Congresscreep Anthony Weiner is released from a halfway house and, in a sincere display of remorse, announces that he is running for president.

Just kidding! In fact Weiner is one of the estimated four Democrats not running for president. Among those entering the race is New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who, having solved all of his city’s problems, announces that he is running under the campaign slogan “This Slogan Is Currently Out of Order.” De Blasio heads for Iowa, where he quickly surges to 13,357th in the Des Moines Register/CNN poll, just behind swine dysentery.

In sports, the Kentucky Derby is won by Country House after the apparent winner, Maximum Security is disqualified for trampling an NFL officiating crew on the backstretch.

Speaking of violence, in …

 

JUNE

… tensions in the Mideast, which have been escalating for over 3,000 years, escalate still further when Iran attacks two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, then shoots down a U.S. spy drone. In retaliation, President Trump orders a military strike against Iran, only to call it off at the last minute when he is advised that it could result in serious damage to a golf course.

In other presidential actions, Trump travels to England, where, in his role as leader of the United States on an official visit to America’s greatest ally at a critical time, he attacks … Bette Midler. In a tweet emitted at 1:30 a.m. London time, the president describes Ms. Midler as a “Washed up psycho.” Fox News confirms this.

Later in the month, Trump becomes the first sitting U.S. president to set foot in North Korea, where he and Kim Jong Un engage in denuclearization talks, capped off with a ceremonial Prisoner Shoot.

This seems like a good place to mention “Brexit.”

Meanwhile, as the 2020 U.S. presidential race heats up, several hundred Democratic presidential contenders gather in Miami for the first major debates. The front-runner is Joe Biden, but he suffers a setback when Sen. Kamala Harris, in what is clearly a planned attack, points out that Biden is wearing his pants backward. Biden’s staff hastily releases a statement explaining that the former vice president “thought it was Friday.” Also getting a lot of attention is Marianne Williamson, who qualifies for the debates based on the number of campaign donations she received from other dimensions.

For his part, President Trump launches his 2020 reelection bid with a rally in Orlando attended by 246 million people, as confirmed by Fox News.

In entertainment news, James Holzhauer’s record-breaking victory streak on “Jeopardy!” finally comes to an end when, in the Final Jeopardy round, he is flagged for a face mask violation by an NFL officiating crew.

San Francisco, always on the forefront, becomes the first U.S. city to ban exhaling, which according to scientists is a leading cause of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, the city of Riviera Beach, Fla., pays nearly $600,000 in bitcoin to hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer system by attacking it with “ransomware,” which is sort of like a Windows update except that at least there’s somebody who knows how to fix it.

Speaking of Internet menaces, in …

 

JULY

… President Trump, having dealt with the existential threat to the nation that is Bette Midler, turns his attention to four Democratic first-term members of Congress known as “The Squad,” tweeting that if they hate America so much they should “go back” to where they come from. Critics note that three of the four were born in the very same nation as Trump, not to mention the fact that the “go back” thing is an old racist taunt, leaving the president with no decent course of action but to issue an apology. So, of course, that is not what he does. What he does is tweet additional criticisms of The Squad, along with the assertion that “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” (The exclamation mark proves it’s true!)

The president also finds time in his busy July schedule to issue tweets attacking — among other targets — Baltimore, the Federal Reserve, the mayor of San JuanCNN, the mayor of LondonPaul RyanFox News (!) and Sweden, but if we’re going to go into detail on every single one of the president’s Twitter beefs we will never get through this year. Suffice it to say that the Resistance is so frantically busy refuting Trump tweets — this being the activity that consumes 99.9 percent of the Resistance’s time and mental energy — that toward the end of the month prominent Democrats find themselves reflexively defending the integrity and moral righteousness of Al Sharpton.

In other political news, an exhausted-looking Robert Mueller makes his 237th appearance before the House Kabuki Theater Committee, and the entire nation tunes in, except for those parts of the nation located outside of Washington, D.C. Mueller says little that is new, generally limiting his answers to “yes,” “no” and, when an aide pokes him awake, “ouch.” Under questioning, Mueller seems surprisingly unfamiliar with his own team’s report, at one point stating, in response to a question, that he had never heard of any “Vladimir Putin.”

Trump declares that the hearing proves the whole investigation was a WITCH HUNT! Congressional Democrats say it proves that it is IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY. Bears continue to poop in the woods.

In the second round of Democratic debates, front-runner Joe Biden is still the main target of the other candidates, but he does a better job of defending himself, delivering several well-crafted retorts written in Sharpie on his forearms.

In Federal action, White House and congressional negotiators set aside their mutual loathing long enough to agree on a bipartisan budget deal that will enable the government to continue spending insane amounts of money that it does not have. Thus the pesky problem of uncontrolled federal spending is disposed of until after the 2020 election, freeing our leaders to focus on more pressing issues, and of course tweet about them.

Abroad, a person named “Boris,” who apparently styles his hair with a commercial leaf blower, becomes prime minister of England, a development that very likely could have something to do with “Brexit.”

On the escalating Middle East tension front, the United States says it shot down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz. In response, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations claims he will produce documentation proving that “Strait of Hormuz” can be rearranged to spell “Him Fart Zoo Rust.”

In sports, the superb U.S. women’s national soccer team, following years of hard work and sacrifice, wins its fourth World Cup and a first prize of $4 million, or about $200,000 per player. Later in the month, a 16-year-old high school student named Kyle Giersdorf wins a Fortnite video-game tournament. His prize — really — is $3 million. “I’m so happy,” says Kyle. “Everything I’ve done in the grind has all paid off and it’s just insane.”

It is, Kyle. It really is.

The news turns grim in …

 

AUGUST

… when the nation is shocked by two horrific mass shootings, which spur a Serious National Conversation about gun violence, in which sincere and committed individuals on both sides — at long last — openly and honestly talk to people on their own side about how stupid and evil everybody on the other side is. This goes on for several days, after which the shootings drift out of the news until it’s time for the next Serious National Conversation.

Conspiracy theories swirl in the wake of the death of millionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly committed suicide in a New York City federal prison cell despite supposedly being under the close supervision of an NFL officiating crew.

In financial news, the Dow Jones industrial average flits up and down like a butterfly on meth as investors try to figure out what President Trump’s mood is at any given minute regarding the trade war with China, which is caused by China unfairly forcing U.S. consumers to buy low-cost Chinese-made electronics instead of traditional American brands such as Philco. The president’s main strategy in fighting this war is to impose tariffs on Chinese imports, which means U.S. consumers have to pay more for them. Take THAT, China!

Another bee buzzing around in the presidential bonnet during August is Greenland, which Trump decides the United States should try to purchase since it has a strategic location and is potentially the source of more than 70 percent of the world’s supply of frostbite. It turns out, however, that Greenland belongs to Denmark, which for some reason wants to keep it. “We’re not for sale,” states Greenland’s minister of education, culture, church, and foreign affairs, whose name — we are not making this up — is Ane Lone Bagger.

It is not immediately clear where Ane Lone Bagger stands on “Brexit.”

Meanwhile, the American Midwest faces an unprecedented humanitarian crisis as Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Minnesota struggle to absorb waves of Iowans fleeing the worsening disaster in their home state, which is overrun with Democratic presidential contenders demonstrating their likability by eating fried things on sticks. Joe Biden remains the front-runner in Iowa despite the fact that to judge from his remarks at campaign events, he believes he is in Belgium.

In other August news, Popeyes introduces a chicken sandwich to compete with Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich. Also there are massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and the Amazon rainforest is burning, but the Battle of the Chicken Sandwiches definitely generates more excitement.

Speaking of excitement …

 

SEPTEMBER

… begins with President Trump facing a major crisis involving the crucial issue of whether Alabama was, or was not, ever actually threatened by Hurricane Dorian. The crisis erupts on Sept. 1, when, with Dorian moving toward the U.S. mainland, the president tweets that Alabama is among the states that will “most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” Minutes later the National Weather Service in Birmingham responds with a statement that “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian.”

At this point the president acknowledges that he made a minor mistake, thus laying the issue to rest and freeing everyone to focus on more important matters.

Ha-ha! That would never happen. Donald Trump did not get where he is by allowing himself to be corrected about the weather by any so-called “National Weather Service.” The president mounts an intensive, multi-day, multi-tweet offensive on the Alabama issue, highlighted by an Oval Office meeting with reporters during which he displays a week-old National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration map proving conclusively that Alabama was in fact threatened by a black line that was obviously added to the map by an inept amateur with a Sharpie.

The crisis continues for several more days, with the president refusing to back down or drop the subject, very much the way Winston Churchill, in the darkest hours of World War II, stood firm when England, alone, faced the menacing forces of the National Weather Service.

Speaking of dire threats: CNN’s special seven-hour “town hall” broadcast on the global climate crisis attracts a nationwide audience estimated at nearly 30 viewers, counting household pets. Ten Democratic presidential candidates present their plans for saving the planet, which includes strictly regulating or banning fossil fuels, nuclear power, red meat, plastic straws, fracking, white meat, cars, lightbulbs, barbecues, capitalism, farting, grayish meat, babies and airplane flights that are not transporting Democratic presidential candidates. The highlight of the night comes when Joe Biden develops a weird red eyeball as a result of being hit by a tranquilizer dart fired by his staff to prevent him from suddenly hugging a CNN moderator. This debate is followed by another debate later in the month. Or maybe it was the same debate, and we all fell asleep for a while in the middle. There is no way to tell.

Bill de Blasio drops out of the Democratic presidential race, bitterly disappointing the residents of New York when they learn that Bill plans to resume mayoring them.

In international news (we are counting Canada as a foreign country) Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau is embarrassed by the publication of yet another photograph — this is the third time — of him wearing blackface. The good news for Justin is that this moves him up to fourth in the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia.

Meanwhile in Great Britain, “Brexit” continues to cause everybody over there to be quite agitated, for British people.

As September draws to a close, President Trump finds himself facing what could prove to be his biggest single crisis of the entire month when a whistleblower accuses him of improperly pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July phone call to investigate Joe Biden and Joe’s son Hunter’s connections with a Ukrainian energy company, which at one point was paying Hunter $50,000 a month, apparently for his expertise in the field of receiving large sums of money.

In a surprise move, Trump orders the release of a rough transcript of the call, which proves conclusively whatever you want it to prove depending on whether you are on Side A or Side B. Congressional Democrats declare that it is a Smoking Gun, which means that, at last, it is IMPEACHMENT TIME, BABY, AND THIS TIME WE REALLY MEAN IT. Trump declares that this is just another WITCH HUNT and emits an unusually high volume of tweets in which he sounds increasingly like a derelict arguing with himself in an alley next to a convenience store, but not as coherent.

While all this is happening the U.S. budget deficit approaches $1 trillion, but everybody in Washington is way too excited about the Impeachment Drama to even think about it.

The excitement continues in …

 

OCTOBER

… when Washington whips itself into a frenzy the likes of which it experiences only once every two or three weeks as a consensus begins to develop among the courageous Resisters of the Resistance that it really is DEFINITELY ALMOST NEARLY IMPEACHMENT TIME AND WE ARE REALLY NOT FOOLING AROUND ANYMORE. The Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff, a man who — this is merely an observation, not a criticism — would not look out of place popping up from a prairie-dog hole, accuse Trump of breaking the law in the Ukraine phone call, while Trump defenders insist that technically there was no quid pro quo, in the same sense that, in “The Godfather,” the severed horse’s head in the movie producer’s bed was technically not a threat.

The president’s defense strategy is to tweet several times per hour, sometimes with most of the words correctly spelled, that the call was PERFECT and everyone should READ THE TRANSCRIPT! Apparently, he is unaware that everyone already did. Along the way the president reaches a historic milestone, sending out his 11,000th tweet as president, eclipsing the record held by Grover Cleveland.

For the Democrats, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that Trump’s poll numbers are down. The bad news is that the Democrats are … the Democrats. Their front-runner, Joe Biden, continues to struggle on the campaign trail, as exemplified by an appearance at a 7-Eleven store in Waterloo, Iowa, during which he addresses the Slurpee machine as “your excellency.”

Poised to eclipse Biden is Elizabeth Warren (campaign slogan: “She Is MUCH Smarter Than You”) with her Medicare-for-all plan, which she says will cost $20.5 trillion, with the “.5” proving that she has this thing figured out right down to the penny. Warren says her plan will not raise taxes on the middle class because all the money will come from greedy corporations, greedy billionaires, greedy gold-pooping unicorns and various cost efficiencies, which of course is what the federal government is famous for.

In foreign affairs, Trump surprises everybody, possibly including himself, by suddenly pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, thus throwing the region into even more turmoil than usual, which is a lot of turmoil. During the confusion, U.S. forces conduct a daring raid that results in the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, thus removing him from the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia. And of course, no discussion of foreign affairs would be complete without some mention of “Brexit.”

Meanwhile, California, plagued by out-of-control wildfires, widespread power blackouts, spiraling housing costs, decaying infrastructure and a worsening homelessness epidemic, becomes the first state to enact a law banning the sale of fur products.

In sports, Simone Biles becomes the first gymnast to perform a floor routine that requires clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration. In another “feel good” sports story, the New York Yankees, with by far the highest payroll in baseball, complete an entire decade without even getting into the World Series.

Meanwhile, concern mounts over the state of NFL officiating after a Lions-Packers game in which, late in the fourth quarter, the teams play two consecutive downs without a single penalty being called. “It won’t happen again,” vows Commissioner Goodell.

Speaking of mounting concern, in …

 

NOVEMBER

… it is finally IMPEACHMENT TIME FOR REAL, ALMOST, as the House Committee on Endless Squabbling holds a classic congressional hearing palooza featuring Bombshell Testimony, Gaveling, Points of Order, Yielding of Time, False Civility, Really Long Questions That Are Not Actually Questions and all the other elements that would make for riveting drama if everybody on the planet didn’t already know the outcome, specifically that the Democrats would conclude that the president committed impeachable offenses, and the Republicans would conclude that he didn’t. When it’s all over, the public remains divided exactly as it was between the people who loathe Trump and the people who loathe the people who loathe Trump. Meanwhile, bears continue to, etc.

There is one positive impeachment-related development, which occurs when Rep. Eric Swalwell, appearing on MSNBC, makes the following statement: “So far the evidence is uncontradicted that the president used taxpayer dollars to help him cheat [GIANT FART SOUND] an election.” This results in several days of spirited debate on Twitter concerning the issue of whether Swalwell cut the cheese (he denies it) with people of all political persuasions weighing in on #fartgate in the closest thing we have had to a genuinely open-minded national conversation in years.

Conan, a Belgian Malinois who was injured in the Delta Force raid that resulted in the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is invited to the White House, where President Trump, in recognition of the heroic dog’s service to the nation, appoints him secretary of the Navy.

In other political news, Mike Bloomberg joins the Democratic presidential field, declaring that “what America needs, now more than ever, is a rich, aging, white male New Yorker with a huge ego.”

On the economic front, Popeyes resumes production of chicken sandwiches, and consumers resume assaulting one another over them, because if a $3.99 wad of heavily breaded chicken on a bun is not worth getting injured or even killed over, then what is?

Tesla CEO Elon Musk introduces an all-electric “Cybertruck” featuring sophisticated technology and a striking resemblance to a doorstop. The best feature, Musk notes, is that “when you’re sitting inside it, you can’t see it.”

Abroad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted on charges including bribery and fraud; if convicted, he would move up to sixth in the line of succession for the governorship of Virginia.

Also still happening abroad, to the best of our knowledge, is “Brexit.”

The month draws to a close with the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when families gather to argue about politics, according to helpful guides written on this topic each year by people from other planets, as opposed to Earth, where families gather to argue about pass interference and burp. At the White House, Trump, carrying on a lighthearted holiday tradition, “pardons” two turkeys, named Bread and Butter. Within seconds they are eaten by Secretary of the Navy Conan.

The capital carnage intensifies in …

 

DECEMBER

… when House Democrats decide that IT REALLY, REALLY IS IMPEACHMENT TIME SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. This sets the stage for a historic trial in the Senate, after which (spoiler alert!) the Democrats will vote to convict and the Republicans will vote to acquit and we will be back to exactly where we started with no minds changed and Sides A and B hating each other more than ever.

So this is a very exciting time in Washington, although to the rest of the nation, which is getting into holiday mode, the heated rhetoric emanating from the capital is an unwelcome annoyance, like the shouting of the couple in the next-door apartment who never seem to stop arguing (“WHAT ABOUT THE JULY 25TH PHONE CALL?” “OH YEAH? WHAT ABOUT HUNTER BIDEN?” “OH YEAH? WHAT ABOUT …”). Each morning the nation wakes up, hears the angry noise coming through the walls, then plugs a pair of Apple AirPods into its national ears and cranks up Johnny Mathis singing “Winter Wonderland.”

In other political news, Joe Biden, seeking to add some “zing” to his presidential campaign, tours Iowa in a bus sporting, in big letters, his new slogan: “No Malarkey!” (“Malarkey” is an ancient Gaelic word meaning “clue.”) This slogan was selected after being tested on a focus group of voters, half of whom were senior citizens and the other half of whom were dead. The runner-up slogans were “You’re Darned Tooting He Can Cut the Mustard!” and “Stay Off His Lawn!”

Kamala Harris drops out of the race, reducing the number of leading Democratic contenders to 58, an estimated one-third of whom are billionaires.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton continues to hint that she may run again at the urging of many highly respected voices that only she can hear. In Iowa voter polling, the front-runner remains Pete “Pete” Buttigieg, followed closely by a surging Baby Yoda.

In foreign affairs, President Trump attends a meeting of NATO leaders in London, where, using his unique diplomatic skills, he is able to unite America’s crucial European allies in the belief that he is a buffoon.

And let’s not forget about “Brexit.”

In entertainment news, millions of Netflix users are watching Martin Scorsese’s film “The Irishman,” a sweeping epic that begins in the 1950s and ends at some point after you fall asleep on the sofa, because the running time is longer than veterinary school. Nobody, including Scorsese, has ever actually made it to the end of “The Irishman,” which takes place in the distant future and is rumored to feature an intergalactic battle between alien space Teamsters.

In other TV-related news, people are outraged about a Peloton ad, because in this day and age people need things to be outraged about.

Finally, mercifully, this highly eventful year draws to a close. As New Year’s Eve approaches, the nation pauses to look back on 2019 and throw up a little bit in its national mouth. But then the nation looks forward to 2020, and it feels faint stirrings of hope in its national heart. Because America has been bitterly divided before. There was the Civil War, for example, and that time we could not agree on the color of that dress on the Internet. If we got through those troubles, we can get through the current ones. Because in the end, despite our political differences, we’re all Americans, and we care about each other and want the best possible future for everyone. Right?

Nah.

But happy new year anyway.

Dave Barry is a Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author. To comment on this story, email wpmagazine@washpost.com or visit wapo.st/magazine.

Illustrations by Alexander Wells. Design by Michael Johnson.

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.

YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO LISTEN TO THE FIFTH DENTIST! – BY TOM CURLEY

“Four out of Five Dentists agree Trident Gum is the best.”


We’ve all heard that commercial or any of its variations. The logic is, if a majority of experts agree on something, it’s probably the truth.

Every time I would see one of those spots my first thought was always “What does that fifth dentist have to say?” I imagined it would be something like.

“Trident Gum sucks! Brush your teeth with chocolate!

Sugar is good for your teeth!!
Dental hygiene is a hoax! It’s a vast conspiracy by a deep state cabal of evil dentists owned by toothpaste companies!
They’re fluoridating our water for mind control!!”

You get the idea. The point is, you’re not supposed to listen to the fifth dentist or the 10th doctor.

But today that’s exactly what approximately one-third of the country is doing. The Republican party and all the Trump supporters only listen to the fifth dentist. And he’s fucking insane. Drill baby drill!

You saw it during the impeachment hearings. The Judiciary committee called on four constitutional scholars to explain why impeachment is important. Three of them were adamant and in total agreement that the impeachment clause was written for exactly this president. They unequivocally said that we HAD to impeach this idiot.

And then there was the fourth guy. He hemmed and hawed and said that maybe he did some stuff wrong but impeaching him would be mean. Or something like that. But every Republican-held him up as proof positive that, well, impeachment is mean. And mean people suck.

And then there is the ultimate fifth dentist.
Fox News.

I worked for over 40 years at CBS. Mostly in the news division. In any network news control room is a bank of monitors that everybody can see.  On them are all of the other news network feeds. In our case, NBC, ABC, PBS, CNN, MSNBC,

and Fox News.

One of the things that always drove me crazy was that every day, we would spend hours and hours planning a half-hour news show. We would determine the “line up”, i.e. the stories we would report and the order in which we would report them.

If you watched all the news shows, you’d see them all report the same stories. Why? Because that was what the news was on that day! (Duh) The only real difference was the order in which the stories were reported.

Every night, as the show started, one of the senior producers would be watching all the other network feeds and suddenly scream! NBC is running the (fill in the blank) story first! We have to change the whole line up!! So, now the director would have to frantically re-arrange scripts, the poor tape operators would have to kick the tapes they had cued up out of the machines and frantically try to find the new ones, the font’s would be all out of order.

The control room would descend into chaos. I used to sit there in the audio booth shouting “What the hell are you doing? Nobody at home is watching five televisions!! If they’re watching CBS, they have no idea what’s on ABC or NBC. And they don’t care!”

But today we have a new phenomenon. Fox News doesn’t run the same stories as everybody else. They make shit up. I know, I worked there, briefly. They were always bad, but since Adolf Twittler got elected, they’ve gone off the deep end.

Conspiracy theories are the news over there. As the naked emperor descends ever further into madness, they twist themselves into mathematically impossible shapes to defend him and pretend everything he says is true.

A Fox News poll came out the other day saying that a majority of Americans want the president impeached and removed and the clowns on the Fox morning show short-circuited. I could see the techs coming onto the set during the commercial to re-set the circuit boards in all three hosts because they were fried.

Does not compute. Does not compute. Does not compute.

And yet, somehow, according to Republicans, all of the media is fake news. Except for Fox. The fifth dentist.

Climate change is a hoax!
Caravans of evil rapists and terrorists are invading America.
Toddlers and children are not being held in concentration camps! They’re summer camps!
Liberals want to eat your children!
Brush your teeth with chocolate!”

You can believe in your own reality, but that doesn’t make it real. To all Republicans and Trump supporters: STOP LISTENING TO THE FIFTH DENTIST!

And stop brushing your teeth with chocolate. It’s going to ruin your dinner. And your teeth.

IS RECUSAL IN ORDER? by Gordon C. Stewart – A Relevant Reblog

I had been thinking the same thing, but he says it so much better than I could.


 

Views from the Edge

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has greater reason to recuse himself from participation in the Senate impeachment trial than Jeff Sessions had for recusing himself from the DOJ investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

An online dictionary defines ‘recuse’ as “the withdrawal of a judge, prosecutor, or juror from a case on the grounds that they are unqualified to perform legal duties because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.”

Until the day Mr. Sessions made his announcement, the terms ‘recuse’ and ‘recusal’ were unfamiliar to most Americans who work outside the court system. Though Mr. Sessions’ decision angered the president, it was the right thing to do. Senate Majority Leader McConnell should do the same.

U.S. Senate floor

If public perception is nine-tenths of reality, a Senate trial that is not a trial will deepen and spread the cynicism that threatens the survival of…

View original post 365 more words

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT – Marilyn Armstrong

THE END OF INNOCENCE, THE BEGINNING OF THE NIGHTMARE

Last Friday was the day. Now, fifty-six years later, I feel like that was the beginning of our national nightmare. At the time, everyone remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated. Then came 9/11 and now, 18 years afterward, kids don’t remember it and their parents don’t tell them. And of course, we’re grandparents and no one listens to us.

That day in November was the beginning of a nightmare. We didn’t see it then. We thought things were looking good, but really, they were getting worse. We didn’t know that the little scuffle that started while Kennedy was President and continued through Lyndon Baines Johnson who, had he avoided Vietnam, might have been one of our best presidents.

Then there was Nixon. All of this has coiled around and begun to choke us.

I was 13 when Kennedy was elected. I watched the inauguration on television, the first of many inaugurations I would watch. It was the greatest inaugural speech. I was naïve enough to believe he wrote it himself. I was impressed by his hair, the best hair of any President before or since. Especially after 8 years of President Dwight D. Eisenhower — who was very bald.

John-F.-Kennedy

In 1963 I turned 16. I started college. Kennedy was shot in November and somehow, the world tilted slightly and it all changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know anything would remember where they were when they heard the news. It was a landmark event, a turning point in American history. For many of us, it was as if we’d bungee jumped and the elastic snapped. Then there was a long fall downward. I think it was the beginning of our national depression. Note that now we have a national case of high blood pressure. No, really. It’s true.

I was in the cafeteria at Hofstra University. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was about to sit. The public address system in the cafeteria went on. There was a lot of noise, but gradually it grew quiet. It was a news report and it took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context and understand that this was real. Someone had shot our President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of students, sitting or standing. No one moving, no one talking. I stood at the table. Frozen. I never sat. I stood in the same spot for over an hour, holding that cup of tea, cooling in my hand. Until the voice on the loudspeaker said “President Kennedy is dead. The President is dead.”

Gradually, everyone drifted away. Subdued. Silent.

I found my boyfriend. We wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t do anything. Just roamed the campus, dazed. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen, not in the United States. Eventually, when it was dark, I went home. My mother wanted to know where I’d been and I said, “Just wandering around.” She didn’t believe me but after a few hours of news, she did.

Kennedy was “our” president. He was young, attractive. So different from who we’d had before. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates — the first ones on television. My friends and I discussed it. It was exciting. My mother kept referring to him as “such a young man.”

At thirteen, a 43-year old guy didn’t seem young. Those were the days, eh?

For the better part of the next week, all the channels on television — there were only seven — 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 — had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. Endless replays of the assassination. The subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. The beginning of the conspiracy theories that still swirl around this piece of history, though at this point I don’t care whodunnit 50 years ago. There are many unsolved crimes in history. Just add this to the long list.

I went to hang out with a friend. We took long walks to get away from the endless, morbid reiteration of the life and death of John F. Kennedy.

The assassination

Gradually, life returned to normal, whatever that is. Lyndon Baines Johnson was in office. It was all about civil rights and Vietnam. I finished college, got married, wound up in the hospital and had my first near-death experience. There would be a lot more assassinations in the near future. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X. I never got used to them, but I stopped being shocked. Which is shocking. It’s like getting used to people shooting children at schools. You get numb after a while.

The 1960s were not about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. This was the decade of war, the draft, anti-war protests, and civil rights. This is when flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget and replace history with mythology.

November 22, 1963, was the end of our political innocence, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning point. The beginning of the road we find ourselves on today.

A president — our president — had been assassinated. Kennedy wasn’t the only U.S. President to be assassinated, but he was the first in modern times. The first TV president. A young, handsome guy. Especially important to my generation, a symbol that the torch really had passed to a new generation. We took that call to arms seriously.

LBJ Sworn In As PresidentIt’s hard for me to look at politics today, see how petty we’ve become. Kennedy’s assassination was an end and a beginning. He was the last President to get a pass on his personal life. The first president to use electronic media to win an election. It was the beginning of a political divide that keeps getting deeper.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s all about character assassination, insinuation, innuendo, lies, and rumors. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. I want to believe it will pass. Supposedly, all things do. But when? Will I be alive when it does?


POSTSCRIPT: HOW LBJ INHERITED VIETNAM BUT GOT ALL THE BLAME

The history of Vietnam is enormously complicated. It actually began with the French who invaded it and were tossed out. At that point, Eisenhower was president and he sent “advisors” in and then came Kennedy who sent in a lot more advisors who were more like troops, but it wasn’t officially a war. Actually, it was never officially a war.

It was a military “intervention” which is a war without the title. LBJ inherited the war from Kennedy and he didn’t like it, didn’t want it, wanted to get out, but all the military guys told him he couldn’t do that, so he stayed and politically, it destroyed him. Which was a pity because he was a brilliant president — everything our current Bloated Orangehead isn’t. But the good stuff – Medicare and Medicaid and the Civil Rights amendment — got lost under the gigantic mess in Vietnam.

Nixon basically won the next election by telling everyone HE would end the war, but he didn’t. In the end, he did exactly what Trump did in Syria: he declared a victory and pulled our troops out leaving thousands of Vietnamese who had fought with us to be slaughtered by the North Vietnamese — which was exactly what my mother had predicted would happen. She said that’s what we always do. We go in, and when it’s obvious we can’t “win,” we declare a victory and leave. The difference between what Nixon did and what Trump did is that there were years of pointless negotiations before we pulled out the troops and left. Otherwise, it was the same story.


There were many thousands of refugees desperate to get out of there. Israel took in a few thousand and we got our first really good Asian restaurants as a result. They were such nice people. I’m sure they still are.

I remember when we first went into Vietnam and my mother, who was politically very sharp, said “The French just got whipped there and left. What the Hell do we think WE are doing there?”

Garry actually talked to LBJ about this when he was in Vietnam. See these two stories:

https://teepee12.com/2019/11/27/the-rest-of-the-story-garry-armstrong/

https://teepee12.com/2016/02/18/1967-campfire-with-lbj-in-vietnam-garry-armstrong/

He was a great president, but he buried himself in a war in which he didn’t believe. He was right. We didn’t win it or even come close to winning — and used up every bit of political clout he had to get the Civil Rights Amendment, Medicare and Medicaid passed through congress. Other than Vietnam, he was probably the first really great president since FDR. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. No one was noticing the good stuff he was doing … just Vietnam. Since then, we’ve had endless pointless unwinnable wars and I swear, no one really cares anymore except for the guys who have to fight them and the parents who get to bury their kids. There’s much more to it.

Ken Burns did what I’ve heard is a brilliant documentary about Vietnam (PBS). I have not watched it. Too close to the reality I lived. Maybe one day I will, but not right now. I think it would just remind me of how we turned into the disaster we’ve become.

This piece started as a comment, but I’ve always felt that Vietnam is presented without any context. I don’t think most people realize LBJ didn’t start the war. No one reads history. We think everything we do is unique. Which is what happens when you don’t know the history.

OLD ACQUAINTANCES – Garry Armstrong

We meet once a month.

I slug the Google calendar with “Ol’ Farts Luncheon” to schedule the event, time, and location.  We usually meet at 12:30 pm and wrap maybe two hours later. It’s an event full of old war stories and a few well-worn memories as we eventually go our separate ways.

Our group is mostly retired broadcast news people — predominantly cameramen as well as a reporter or two, and a few newspaper folks.  We all used to cover the mean streets of Boston, from the last days of non-electric typewriters and film to current day electronic media. We’ve all been around from old Remingtons to mini-cameras emitting images that air instantly while watching the rise of social media and purported news writers who post stories that are raw. Unchecked for truth or validity.


Our friendships date back half a century or more. Once, we were the young Turks, ambitious and breathing fire to bring fresh air and relevance to television news we thought was maybe too stiff and formal.  The old guard regarded us with suspicion,  annoyance and I suspect, a little envy because they’d been the same way a mere few decades earlier.

We’ve shared triumphs, tragedies, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. Lately, we’re bonded by attending too many funerals of people who used to attend our lunches. We know that sense of mortality we so casually dismissed to the old guard in earlier years.  Now, we are the old guard.

It’s interesting to follow the thread of how our lives have changed in retirement,  away from the daily spotlight of events on the center stage of public life.


A relatively small gathering for our latest luncheon.  Nine very mature gents around the big table. Seven of these fellows are retired (or semi-retired) cameramen, video technicians, van maintenance, and uplink pros.  All have worked at least 40 years in the TV news biz.  That’s at least 280 years which is a pretty a conservative tally — untold days, nights, weeks, months and years. Collectively, we’ve covered just about all the major news events over the past half-century.

Although Boston-based, we’ve followed stories around the world.  We were there when the Vietnam War became an awkward part of history, when Watergate brought down a president, and when the Berlin Wall tumbled. We were there when Three Mile Island became a national scare,  when sexual abuse scandals ripped through the Catholic Church (including a prominent local Archbishop), and when court-ordered school desegregation put Boston in a very uncomfortable international spotlight.

All of us were there for these events that, like a thousand tiny paper cuts changed our world, our neighborhood, and how we view ourselves.  Their cameras delivered images that have become part of history.  History not often covered in textbooks — paper or electronic.

Most of these unassuming fellows have taken home multiple Emmys, Pulitzer Prizes, Murrow Awards and other honors recognizing their bodies of work, most of which they have done their work in relative anonymity.


One suit, with typical executive lack of respect, called them “button pushers”.  That suit’s tenure was relatively brief.  Ironically,  we worked for many suits who simply did not respect the quality of the work or dangers faced by pros “just doing their job.”

Preserving anonymity, one of my colleagues dealt appropriately with a suit who endangered all the lives of techs and talent in a TV remote van.  The suit, in the middle of a thunderstorm with huge bolts of lightning, insisted the signal rod be kept upright so the van could transmit a news report.  If the exec’s order had been followed, there was an excellent chance that lightning would blow up the truck with everyone inside.

So one of these fellas ignored the suit’s order, suggesting that lives were in jeopardy and, perhaps the suit would like to come and put up the rod himself.  Newsroom applause drowned out the suit’s expletives as he stomped back to his corner office.

Another of these “gents” braved jail time with his reporter rather than reveal a source for a high-level story.  Like some of the Pols on the Impeachment Inquiry, the suit didn’t grasp the meaning of “confidential source’.’  He didn’t comprehend that the source and his family’s lives would be in jeopardy if he was identified.

So “the button pusher” and his reporter opted out for adjoining jail cells rather than yield to high pressure from yet another suit who probably should’ve been working at a car wash.  The suits and the company lawyers blinked.

There are multiple, similar stories around this table. I was around for many of them.  Often, I hid behind them as they took the brunt of self-serving, second-guessing suits who seemed oblivious to the complicated life on the streets.


It bears repetition that these under-appreciated news people — reporters without microphones — are responsible for most of the hardware I’ve taken home.  I’ve always felt obligated amid the warm applause at award ceremonies to thank the folks behind the cameras for cleaning me up, straightening me out, and making sure we always had the full story.

It’s a joy to spend time with them.

ALL WRAPPED UP IN IMPEACHMENT — Marilyn Armstrong

I have to admit that we are hooked. We are both news junkies and though Garry tried denying it, one day he just broke down and it’s been news ever since. He is particularly incensed at the way the press is getting beat up.

The news was his life. This isn’t casual chatter to him. He has three Emmy’s and dozens of other awards for his work in the business. To Garry, this is personal. Very. Personal.


So, that’s what we are doing. We are watching. The last time I was this enthralled politically was Watergate. I was working as a writer and editor at Doubleday Publishing in New York. I carried a little radio and earplug with me so I wouldn’t miss a moment of testimony. Then, when I got home, on went the television.

I was thrilled when Nixon resigned, but I missed the hearings. It was as if they had canceled a favorite drama.


I think this is probably what I’m going to be doing as long as these hearings last. I thought we were the rare Americans watching this, but these hearings are getting huge ratings. Apparently, everyone is glued to their televisions.

Things that have gotten to me: McCaine’s daughter saying how deeply shocked and horrified she is by the spineless Republican party and how ashamed she is of people she believed were family friends … interviews on the street and on the late-night comedy shows of people who were Republicans and now say they don’t even understand what has happened to their party and how humiliating it is.

I’ve never been a Republican, but I never thought that being a Republican meant being a traitor. We disagreed, sometimes angrily, sometimes with humor, but they were Americans. They believed in this country as I did, but their ideas of how to manage this country were different.

Now, they don’t even act like Americans. They don’t care about the  American people. They have lost touch with what has made this country great. Now it’s entirely about money and greed.

Shame on them, and shame on anyone who voted for them. They are everything we have deplored through our years on this earth.

Aside from having a bloated moron as our president, this is the most shocking part of this entire process. That all these supposed honorable men have become spineless jellyfish, unwilling to stand up to this idiot president or their own beliefs, is nauseating.

FUN WITH FAKE NEWS — TOM CURLEY

There’s a book out by the person who wrote an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times a few years ago.  He or she is still anonymous. In the book he/she states that after Boss Tweet fired James Comey the entire White House staff was considering quitting all at the same time.

Sadly, they chickened out.  Believe it or not, I was writing this blog at the same time this event took place. Weird.

Here it is with updates to the staff when it was possible to find out who is holding which position. In many cases, no one seemed to know if there is, was, or will be a staff member in that post. For that matter, no one is sure who is or is not in jail. It was and is titled “Fun With Fake News.” Fake news never gets old, even when it turns out it was true!


This story just in from AP, UPI, Reuters, CBS, NBC, ABC,
the Onion and other major news outlets.


Mass Resignations at White House.

In a stunning development today, the entire White House staff has resigned including all senior and junior aides, as well as the entire domestic and administrative staff. A letter was sent to the President and released to the press stating, “We the undersigned employees, aides and staff of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue hereby resign, effective immediately. Our reasons, which are diverse, basically come down to, we just can’t take it anymore.”

Reporters immediately got statements from many staff members, who, in breaking from normal procedure, did not ask to be quoted anonymously. According to one staffer, “Who the hell cares? It’s not as if any of us work there anymore.”

The White House switchboard is closed. Reporters are trying to call but receive the following message: “You’ve reached the White House. Don’t bother to leave a message. We’re all out and we ain’t coming back.”

The resignations include most of the President’s cabinet. Former EPA Secretary Scott Pruit was quoted as saying, “If I can’t fly first class, I quit.”

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters, “I actually stopped doing anything months ago. I spend the day watching Judge Judy and reruns of Madame Secretary.”

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions was unable to be reached for comment. According to his spokesperson, “He’s gone back to his tree to make cookies”.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Secretary of Housing Dr. Ben Carson could also not be reached for comment. Mr. Perry can’t remember for which department he works or where his office is located while Dr. Carson continues to sleep.

Patrick Michael Shanahan, acting U.S. Secretary of Defense is staying on the job, mostly to: “Keep that fucking moron away from the nuclear codes.”

The one-time White House counsel Don McGahn was heard to say, “Hell, Perry Mason couldn’t have kept this clown out of jail. I’m so glad to be gone.”

The staff is reported to have done several things before they departed. According to one source, “We took the labels off the light switches. The guy who handles the nuclear football replaced it with a suitcase containing a Remco Radar Rocket Cannon. He’ll never know the difference.”

The housekeeping staff is reported to have short-sheeted Trump’s bed, put shaving cream on the earpiece of the phone in the Oval Office, and nailed all the furniture in the Lincoln bedroom to the ceiling.

The head White House Chef was quoted as saying, “I’ve had it. I give up. I mean, I’m a 4-Star Michelin chef for Christ’s sake! All I do is pour ketchup over burnt steaks! I once served him a gourmet hamburger that won a James Beard award. And do you know what he did? He threw it away and asked me to send out for McDonald’s! McDonald’s! Are you kidding me?? Fuck him! I’m out.”

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump could not be reached for comment. They’re skiing in Colorado. Neither Donald Jr. or Eric Trump were asked for comments. None of the press outlets were interested in anything they had to say.

The formal resignation letters were delivered to the President’s desk at 9 AM. By noon, all the West Wing offices were vacant. The only remaining hangers-on are Steve Miller, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Hope Hicks. According to Hicks, “Somebody has to steam the President’s pants.”

Miller was reportedly seen behind the White House pulling the wings off small helpless insects. At 2 pm Sanders gave a press briefing to an empty White House press room.

According to a senior White House correspondent, “Quite frankly, everything that comes out of her mouth is bullshit. So why bother? We don’t care anymore.”

It has not been confirmed whether or not the President has read (or even seen) the actual letter. It was reported on Fox News during one of the President’s “Executive Time-outs.”  So far the President has only released a single tweet: “Failing fake news says my whole staff quit! FAKE NEWS! SAD! All Hillary’s fault. Lock her up! NO COLLUSION! No quid pro quo.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is enjoying his well-earned retirement.

This is an ongoing story. Updates will follow.

-0-


Hey, it could happen.  Hell, it almost did. Feel free to pass this along on all social media outlets.

Fake news. It’s not just for Russians anymore!

THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE – Marilyn Armstrong

Jonestown_entrance_welcome

Koolaid anyone?

I run this every year because people forget. We should not forget where blindly following a leader can take you. This happened. I remember it. Everyone who was alive and able to read or watch TV remembers.


On this day, the 41st anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre grew a saying everyone uses. “Drink the Kool-Aid” or “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.” I feel sort of like those people these days, though no one is trying to poison me. Yet. I wonder how many people who say it so casually, referring to products, buying into a corporate culture, or political philosophy, or realize to what they are referring?

I’ve written this before, but this is a major revision and it bears repeating. It’s true. It happened. We need to make sure it never happens again.

Drink (or don’t drink) the Kool-aid

The popular expression “drink the Kool-Aid” has become a common verbal shorthand in American business and politics. Roughly translated, it means “to blindly follow or accept a set of beliefs.” At work, it means you endorse what your bosses tell you. In politics, it means you fully buy into the platform.

It carries a negative connotation, but not as negative as it ought.

Kool-Aid was the drink for children on summer afternoons in the 1950s. The saying is now just bland rhetoric, stripped of its context and thus the horror it ought to evoke.

The Peoples Temple

Jim Jones, cult leader, and mass murderer was a complex madman. A communist, occasional Methodist minister, he founded his own pseudo-church in the late 1950s. He called it the “Peoples Temple Full Gospel Church,” known in short as the “Peoples Temple.”

The lack of a possessive apostrophe was intentional. The name supposedly refers to “the people of the world.” Jones called it a church, but it was a twisted version of a Marxist commune. At first, it combined with miscellaneous Christian references Jones used in his diatribes, er, sermons.

jim_jones

It was not a church. The Peoples Temple was a straight-up cult requiring total personal commitment, financial support, and absolute obedience. The characteristics which define a cult.

Jones was the leader. A homicidal maniac, but he had positive qualities. Jones and his wife, Marceline, favored racial integration. They adopted kids from varying racial backgrounds and were the first white family in Indiana to adopt an African-American boy. They also adopted 3 Korean children, a Native American child, and a handful of white kids. They had one child of their own.

Jones called his adopted kids the “Rainbow Family.” He made a name for himself desegregating institutions in Indiana. Before you get all dewy-eyed, note that this climaxed in murdering these children.

The Peoples Temple expanded through the 1960s. Jones gradually abandoned Marxism. His preaching increasingly focused on the impending nuclear apocalypse. He specified a date — July 15, 1967 — and suggested after the apocalypse, a socialist paradise would exist on Earth. Where would the new Eden be?

Jones decided on Redwood Valley, California. Before the expected Big Bang, he moved the Temple and its peoples there.

When the end-of-the-world deadline came and went, Jones abandoned his pretense of Christianity and he revealed himself as a madman using religion to lend legitimacy to his views. He announced, “Those who remained drugged with the opiate of religion must be brought to enlightenment — socialism.” Prophetic words in view of the fact that Jones was a drug addict.

As media attention increased, Jones worried the Peoples Temple’s tax-exempt religious status was in danger. He was paranoid about the U.S. intelligence community — with good reason.

Jonestown aerial view

In 1977, Jones moved the Temple and its people again. This was a major relocation. He took them out of the United States and resettled everyone in Guyana, a poor South American nation. He modestly named it “Jonestown.”

It was a bleak, inhospitable place. On 4000 acres of poor soil with limited access to fresh water, it was too small for the number of people it had to support. Jones optimistically figured “his” people could farm the new utopia. He had put together several million dollars before getting to Jonestown but didn’t share it with his followers. He barely used any of the money at all and lived in a small, bare-bones shack.

All Hell Breaks Loose

U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown in November of 1978. Rumors of peculiar goings-on were leaking out of Jonestown. Ryan decided to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses in Jonestown.

Jonestown headline Milwaukee

Ryan didn’t go alone. He took a contingent of media representatives including NBC News correspondent Don Harris and other reporters, plus relatives of Jonestown residents. During his visit, Congressman Ryan talked to more than a dozen Temple members, all of whom said they wanted to leave. Several of them passed a note saying: “Please help us get out of Jonestown” to news anchor Harris.

If the number of defectors seems low (there were more than 900 people in Jonestown), but the congressional party was unable to talk to most of the “fellowship.” It’s impossible to know how many might have wanted to leave.

Ryan began processing paperwork to repatriate Temple members to go back to the States. In the middle of this, Ryan was attacked by Don Sly, a knife-wielding Temple member. This would-be assassin was stopped before injuring Ryan. Eventually, the entire Ryan party plus the group of Jonestown defectors drove to a nearby airstrip and boarded planes, intending to leave.

Jim Jones had other plans. He sent armed Temple members — his “Red Brigade,” after the Congressional party  These creepy “soldiers of the Temple” opened fire, killing Ryan, a Temple defector, 3 members of the media, and wounding 11 others. The survivors fled into the jungle.

jonestown massacre anniversary

When the murderers returned to Jonestown and reported their actions, Jones promptly started what he called a “White Night” meeting. He “invited” all Temple members. This wasn’t the first White Night. Jones had hosted previous White Night meetings in which he suggested U.S. intelligence agencies would soon attack Jonestown. He had even staged fake attacks to add realism, though it’s hard to believe anyone was fooled by the play-acting.

Faced with this hypothetical invasion scenario, Jones told Temple members they could stay and fight imaginary invaders, or they could take off for the USSR. Another tempting alternative would be to run off into the Guyana jungles. Finally, they could commit mass suicide as an act of political protest.

On previous occasions, Temple members had opted for suicide. Not satisfied, Jones had tested their commitment and gave them cups of liquid they were told contained poison. They were asked to drink it. Which they did. After a while, Jones told them the liquid wasn’t poison — but one day it would be.

Jonestown Koolaid

Indeed Jim Jones had been stockpiling cyanide and other drugs for years. On this final White Night, Jones was no longer testing his followers. It was time to kill them all.

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

After the airstrip murders outside Jonestown, Jim Jones ordered Temple members to create a fruity mix containing a cocktail of chemicals that included cyanide, diazepam (Valium), promethazine (Phenergan — a sedative), chloral hydrate (a sedative/hypnotic sometimes called “knockout drops”), and Flavor Aid — a grape-flavored powdered drink mix similar to Kool-Aid.

jonestown_massacre

Jones urged his followers to commit suicide to make a political point. What that point was supposed to be is a matter of considerable conjecture.  After some discussion, Temple member Christine Miller suggested flying Temple members to the USSR.

Jones was never interested in escape. There was only one answer he would accept. Death. Lots of it. He repeatedly pointed out Congressman Ryan was dead (and whose fault was that?) which would surely bring down the weight of American retribution. An audiotape of this meeting exists. It is as creepy as you’d expect.

30-years-jonestown

Then it was time for the detailed instructions which the followers followed. I will never understand why. Probably it means I’m not insane.

Jones insisted mothers squirt poison into the mouths of their children using syringes. As their children died, the mothers were dosed too, though they were allowed to drink from cups. Temple members wandered outside — where eventually more than 900 lay dead, including more than 300 children. Only a handful survived — primarily residents who happened to be away on errands when the mass suicide/massacre took place.

Jones, his wife, and various other members of the Temple left wills stating that their assets should go to the Communist Party of the USSR.

Jones did not drink poison. He died from a bullet to the head. It’s not clear if it was self-inflicted. Jones likely died last or nearly so. He may have preferred a gun to cyanide, having seen the horrendous effects of death by cyanide.

Why Kool-Aid?

In the wake of the tragedy at Jonestown, the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” became a popular term for blind (or not-so-blind) obedience. Temple members had apparently accepted their cups of poison without argument or objection. Various accounts say the beverage used at Jonestown was mostly Flavor Aid, sometimes “Flav-R-Aid”). It doesn’t matter, does it?

Kool-Aid was better-known than Flavor Aid. It was introduced in 1927 in powdered form, so when Americans thought of a powdered fruity drink mix (other than “Tang”), “Kool-Aid” sprang to mind.

Jonestown-Tomb-Flower

Kool-Aid and Flavor Aid were at Jonestown, but the phrase “(don’t) drink the Kool-Aid” is popular lingo. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Does it help sell Kool-Aid?

I never touch the stuff.

MORE THAN EVER, THIS MATTERS

I’ve written about Jonestown before, but it bears repeating. I write it on the same day each year. Fewer and fewer people even know about it, but everyone should know.

It’s a cautionary tale for our times, reminding us where fanaticism and hatred can lead. Over the course of history, fanatics and those who blindly follow them have caused millions of deaths. Untold misery. Incalculable harm.

When you follow your “leader” into the darkness, there is no “good” side, and nothing positive will ever come of it.


This is where blind obedience leads. This is the result. This was the biggest horror story, but it has not been the only one. When you follow blindly, beware of cliffs.