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!

DORIEN SHOULD REALLY BE DARWIN – By TOM CURLEY

A quote from the weather bureau. A real quote. I am not making this up:


IDIOTS SHOULD BE WARNED NOT TO GO OUT INTO THE STORM.

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Dorian, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 2nd (Irma was the 1st), having wreaked havoc on the Bahamas is approaching southern Florida.

The Weather Channel

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones and wait for the next live hit.

I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now. (Note from home: Garry is laughing because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Dorian from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too. What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! Mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are tasty little snacks! I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies then dies, well …

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking videos of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them … who I should note has no choice because his idiot news director told him to do it or else …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 2nd.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish Mother Nature could come up with a less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!

A PRAYER FOR NOTRE DAME – Guest Blogger: KARIN LAINE McMILLEN

I was scheming over coffee just this morning on how to get back to Paris.

I often get an itch for her attention, but not every morning, so when the NY Times came in a flash message on both my computers and my iPhone, “Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is Engulfed in Flames,” I wondered if she had been calling to me. If somehow she knew she needed the love of her adorers today.

Notre Dame Photos: New York Times

I love Paris and Parisians: the art, the food, the smells, the attitude. I have only smoked 13 cigarettes in my life and most of them have been in Paris. I can think in the language if I try and my accent is so good that Parisians often ask if I am Swiss, which I take as a huge compliment, considering that I am definitely not even close to fluent.


Photos: Karin Laine McMillen


I detest the tourists and if it were not for my insistence on carrying my giant Nikon everywhere, I would never be noticed.

I was first in Paris in 1990, performing as a soprano soloist with a two hundred voice choir and a 25-piece chamber orchestra. Before our concert in Notre-Dame, the conductor and I tested the acoustics, I; singing from the front of the church, and he beneath the rose window in the back. My voice traveled back to me for what seemed like an eternity. In fact, he had been timing it and he informed me that there was an eight-second reverberation.

It took four seconds for the sound to travel to the back of the church and four more to return. It still doesn’t quite make sense to me from a physics standpoint, but from the experience, it felt like the sound was all around you. This was heightened by the addition of an orchestra and large choir. We performed that evening with much slower tempi in order that the integrity of the harmonies could be appreciated. I had to rework all my breaths that afternoon.

It was July and sunny and I stood in the garden behind Notre-Dame singing. A small crowd gathered and listened as I repeated phrases, practicing. What I remember from the concert is an overwhelming sense of calm as I sang and listened to my voice return blended with the orchestra past notes and present.

As I stood looking up at the complicated multi-domed ceiling, the realization of the magnificence of the cathedral and the gift of sound she gave warmed me and seem to entrust me with infinite breath.

Thousands of Parisians and tourists gathered on the banks of the Seine river and watched in shock as the fire tore through the cathedral’s wooden roof and brought down part of the spire. Photo credit: Yoan Valat/EPA, via Shutterstock

When I took my mom to France last year, we stood in line outside the cathedral waiting to walk through. Multiple Asian brides and their photographers were setting up shop in front of the immense wooden doors.

As my mom and I walked inside I recognized the sounds I remembered. Air, hushed whispers, a mass being intoned, all wafting around me in a sound billow. My mom begged me to sing for her as we walked through. I refused as I thought it inappropriate, and not conducive to worship. But in my mind, I heard my voice reverberating through the cathedral.

And I smiled.

FROM THE SHINBONE STAR – “WITCH HUNT” KNOCKING ON DONALD’S DOOR – REBLOG

‘WITCH HUNT’ KNOCKING ON DONALD’S DOOR

Terrible Tuesday, Donald? Your head hurt? Are you tongue-tied? Feeling a little burnt? Yes, this is a “witch hunt,” but it sure isn’t rigged.

You’re the “witch,” Donald, and the hunter, Robert Mueller, will soon be knocking on your door in the wake of your once “fixer” Michael Cohen pleading guilty in federal court to violating campaign finance laws “at the direction and in coordination of a candidate for federal office.”

That’s you, Donald, in case you forgot that you ran for federal office in 2016 and weren’t appointed to the position by Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Yep, Cohen tagged you with directing him to make hush payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Playboy model Karen McDougal to kill their stories alleging you had affairs with them in your sordid past. For some, $280,000 is mad money — $130,000 to Stormy and $150,00 to Karen. But it all adds up to perhaps your having to leave the White House a bit sooner than 2020.

You and your cohorts might try to find comfort in the fact that Cohen’s plea deal didn’t call for him to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York. But there’s bad news for you even in that development: The agreement doesn’t stop him from telling Mueller all he knows about you and your campaign’s involvement with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

Remember, Cohen has claimed that you knew in advance about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian representatives, your golden boy Donnie Junior, son-in-lawlessness Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort in attendance. And the headline at that meeting? The Russians offering dirt on your soon-to-be opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton.

That’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of what “The Fixer” will be sharing with Mueller in the near future. Keep in mind that Cohen has tapes and e-mails at his disposal. Keep spinning your side of the story, Donald, and let’s see what Cohen’s treasure trove of possible — no probable — criminal activity reveals.

You see, Cohen doesn’t want to spend too much time in jail. He’d rather see you suffer the consequences of your nefarious actions used to flim-flam an unsuspecting American electorate into putting you into the White House.

How many more lies are you going to foist on our country in a desperate attempt to stay in office, and to prop up your failing real estate enterprise at taxpayers’ expense?

Will Melania stick with you when the money disappears? By the way, in case you didn’t notice, she hates living in the White House. She wants to go back to New York, probably without you.

Cohen’s courtroom revelation was just the highlight of Terrible Trump Tuesday: Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of bank and tax fraud; Manafort, who helped rewrite the Republican platform at the convention to favor the Russians, was found guilty on eight counts of tax and bank fraud by jurors in a federal court, and Manafort has another trial in Washington next month on charges of lying to the FBI, money laundering and foreign lobbying.

Sure, you can pardon Manafort, Donald, but what will that get you?

Additional suspicion that you are trying to hide your connections to the Russian meddling in the presidential election?

Yep.

Plus, Mueller did a little piling on Tuesday. He asked a federal court to extend the deadline for sentencing Michael Flynn, your short-lived national security adviser, who has already pled guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian operatives, and is cooperating with the special counsel’s probe into Russia’s meddling — on your behalf — into the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.

Why would Mueller ask for a sentencing deadline extension for Flynn? Is he giving up still more information about you and your campaign’s connection to the Russians? Are there other insider items concerning obstruction of justice issues that he can guide the special counsel’s team through?

Yesterday, Donald, you thought White House Counsel Don McGhan spending 30 hours talking with Mueller and sharing millions of pages of documents with him was just a bad dream.

\Today’s Cohen-Manafort-Flynn triple-header had the makings of a season-ending episode just perfect for reality television. The phrase, “You’re Fired” jumps off the screen as your worst nightmare.

Sweating a little more than usual, Donald? Shirt collar feel a little tighter? Fried chicken dinner on the flight over to West Virginia for tonight’s campaign rally not sitting too well on your stomach? Think about how prison food will taste. Or, if you manage to avoid jail time, you might want to start exploring lunch and dinner sites that will help you shed a little of that excess baggage around your middle.

Dinners at Mar-a-Lago may soon be out of reach. Maybe you could ask Putin for a dacha outside of Moscow — well-stocked with your favorite Russian comfort food.

You’re right about that “witch hunt,” Donald, and it’s about to knock down your door.

From: ‘WITCH HUNT’ KNOCKING ON DONALD’S DOOR

AMERICAN ROYAL WATCHERS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve always loved following the British royal family. Growing up, I read about the young Prince Charles and his siblings, who were my generation.

When Diana Spencer came onto the scene, my interest spiked way up. I avidly followed her romance with Prince Charles, their wedding, their complex and eventually toxic marriage and their divorce.

In fact, I got up at 5 AM with my one year old son and watched Diana and Charles’ wedding live in 1981. I watched it while talking on the phone with my close English friend, in London. I still remember the excitement of that morning! (NOTE: Most Brits loved Diana’s poofy wedding dress and most Americans hated it, me included).

What intrigued me most about Diana, was how she modernized the royal family, single-handedly. This was particularly true in her role as mother to two young princes. She broke with the stuffy, old-fashioned tradition of remote and stiff royal parenting. She insisted on being a modern, hands on parent. This resonated with generations of younger Americans and Brits. She instantly became a royal to whom it was easier to relate. And the whole world fell in love with her.

She also brought the royal family into the modern era of fashion. Her contemporary, chic and sometimes casual style endeared her to modern women everywhere. She wore some risqué outfits as well as blue jeans and tee shirts. No one could accuse Diana of being frumpy or stodgy, like the Queen. Diana became a worldwide fashion icon – something the royal family had never dreamed of in the past.

Kate Middleton continued Diana’s tradition of modernization when she entered Prince William’s life during college. Not only was she a commoner, but she lived openly with William before they were married. She was also photographed (and still is) going to the supermarket and walking her dog and doing other everyday chores.

Once she had children, Kate took them everywhere with her. She also took care of them herself, with the help of William, her parents and one nanny. She functioned much like other wealthy working mothers. She gives lots of interviews about her children and her experiences with child rearing. Her devotion to her kids endears her to pretty much everyone.

Her great style and fashion sense also add to her cache. She is always well dressed and chic, even when she is dressed down. And she is incredibly glamorous when she needs to be. I love her clothes and admit to scrolling through vast numbers of fashion photos of Kate online.

Now the modernization of the British monarchy is taking another big step forward with Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry. Meghan is not only a commoner. She is also an American, divorced, a working actress/successful career woman, and biracial! These are all firsts for the monarchy.

Meghan’s acting career has prepared her for her future life in the limelight. She is already comfortable with the press, she is relaxed about being photographed and interviewed and she is confident about being in the public eye. So she is ahead of the game right out of the gate. She’ll probably be as much of a royal fashion plate as Kate is, but she will probably be more of a media presence than Kate has been.

Meghan is also naturally informal and open, traits the press love as well as the public. She reportedly likes to hug people, something that royal protocol strictly prohibits! She was also inclined to give autographs, which is also a royal no-no. So Meghan will be taking the monarchy down an increasingly accessible route.

I know it’s not going to happen, but I wish that Charles would abdicate in favor of William when the time comes. It would be nice to jump right into the more modern branch of the royal family. Instead we will have to live through another twenty years of Charles and Camilla – a throwback to the stuffy old days of yore.

But we’ll still get to royal watch William and Harry and their 21st century marriages and families. Even if William is not actually King, he can still be king of our hearts!

MEDIA ISN’T FAUX BUT POLITICIANS ARE – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.


If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter.

For me, the truth always matters. I can’t imagine not caring about the difference between truth and lies. 


 

WTF IS GOING ON? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m so confused. I used to think I had some handle on what was going on in the news. Pretty much all bad, all crazy, all the time. But I had definite opinions on how I thought things would play out.

No more. I’m clueless now. I have no idea what’s going to happen. I was sure that no matter what Trump did or what Mueller found, the Republicans in control of Congress would not do anything to censure, let alone impeach him. I thought we would have to wait for Democrats to regain control of both houses in Congress before impeachment could even be considered. And even then, I didn’t believe that there would be enough votes in the Senate to actually convict Trump and remove him from office. So any impeachment by the House would end up being a toothless gesture.

At that point, my brain would freeze over. I had no idea what would happen next in my own scenario.

Now I’m less certain about this whole theory. I’m really not sure what will happen in the future or even later today. So much happens so quickly these days. Often out of the blue, or so it seems. Trump makes spontaneous, off the cuff policy announcements that no one in his own White House knows about or is prepared for. He often backtracks the next day. Or not! Headline news stories blare out constantly with revelations from various investigations, law suits and ethics probes involving the president and his merry band of unethical misfits.

I worry that Trump will bomb a random country and start another pointless war. I live in fear that Trump will fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, which would have the same effect. One minute I’m sure he’ll do it and throw the country into a major constitutional crisis with no satisfactory resolution in Republican controlled Washington. The next minute I’m sure he won’t risk the major political explosion he would trigger if he interfered with the Mueller investigation.

This perpetual uncertainty makes me very uncomfortable. I pride myself on staying informed enough to understand what’s going on in the news at any given time. I’m shaky on Mid Eastern and Far Eastern policy and economics. But I usually have a handle on domestic news and policies. I have to narrow my focus since I don’t want to spend even more time than I already do consuming news every day. I’m a slow reader so I can only cover so much territory.

Things are happening so quickly and so randomly that I can’t keep up any more. Even though I do try.

I have to admit that sometimes all the national drama can be exciting and energizing. But the crazy and the unpredictable are going into warp drive. Trump seems to be devolving and dragging us all under with him. It’s getting less and less exciting and more and more scary and insane.

I wish I could turn away from this slow motion train wreck, but I can’t. So I’ll keep reading and watching MSNBC and hope that my sanity survives longer than Trump’s does.

THE FAILURE OF DEMOCRACY – RICH PASCHALL

The Illinois Primary, by Rich Paschall

The weather was a bit cold and the skies were partly cloudy when I went to vote in our primary.  Our political future is mostly cloudy with a 98 per cent probability of discontent.  I guess that is nothing new for a primary, but in the current political climate, I was hoping for a better atmosphere.

The voter turnout was astonishingly low despite the massive amount of money spent on television ads and the large quantity of social media madness.  A friend of mine who always votes immediately took to Facebook to tell all the non-voters to just “stfu.”  If you don’t know what that means, you can consult your urban dictionary.  We are trying to keep a “G” rating here.

Illinois counties
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“I am surprised,” said Cook County Clerk David Orr of the low turnout.  The county estimate late in the voting day was 23 percent.  Cook County contains Chicago and suburbs so the one county of 102 counties can pretty much determine the outcome of statewide races.  Imagine if we had double the turnout and they all voted for someone other than the eventual winner.  All races would have a different candidate and the voter turnout would still be less than half.

The county clerk thinks that all of the negative advertising has a negative effect on voters.  If you think all candidates are bad, why vote?  The days of voting for the “lesser of two evils” seems to be gone.  If voters don’t like the choices, they stay home.

If you think Millennials are going to bail us out in the future, you might wish to think again.  Their voter turnout was pegged at about 3 per cent.  THREE per cent!  You might get them to register to vote at voting drives on college campuses and some local hot spots, but getting them to actually vote seems to be another matter.

Voters between 54 and 74 helped to bring up the percentage.  The turnout in this age group was 42 per cent.  OK, we care about the outcome and we want to get rid of as many bad politician as possible.  Our numbers, however, are dwindling and so is our influence.  When we are gone, who will be voting?  Will ten percent of the population decide for everyone?  We know extremists with a rabid fan base will get voters out, how about the sane ones?

When I arrived at the polling place in the local grade school near the house, I noted that you had to go up stairs to get in and then down stairs to the polling area.  It is not what you would call handicapped accessible.  I know there is a handicapped entrance as it is a public school, but I believe it is on a different side of the large building.  This has been my polling place for almost 40 years.  Now the stairs bother me and friends say I should report this to the Board of Election Commissioners.  That would be the democrats who help decide where all these polling places are put.  They must have heard the complaint by now.

We have paper ballots where you fill in the arrow for the candidate you want with a fine tipped black marker.  I took the large sheet of paper for the Democratic primary to the voting booth where I could sit rather than stand.  There was no one else there, so why not?  I carefully considered the list of billionaires and multi-millionaires running for governor.  The favorite was J. B. Pritzker, billionaire businessman and venture capitalist.  He hopes to unseat billionaire Governor Bruce Rauner, businessman and venture capitalist, in the fall.

The Pritzker family is well-known for philanthropy.  I know this by the amount of things that have their name on it in Chicago.

Chicago businessman Chris Kennedy – Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast

Despite the 70 million dollars in ads bought by Pritzker with his own money, I decided to vote for Chris Kennedy, son of the late Senator Robert Kennedy.  No one here considers him a carpetbagger, by the way.  He met his wife at Boston College and after graduation in 1986, he married her and moved to Decatur, Illinois.  Decatur!

For years he ran the Merchandise Mart properties.  The Merchandise Mart in Chicago is the largest commercial building in the world. He has been involved in various local and civic causes.  He was not liked by the establishment and did not have the kind of money Pritzker had for ads.  He lost.

After I turned in my ballot and headed out of the polling place, there were a couple more voters there, but I did not get a good look.  From a distance they looked like Boris and Natasha, but I did not think those two lived in my precinct.  Anyway, the turnout was sparse.

Outside there were political operatives handing out polling cards or “palm cards” to voters.  These are cards you can take into the polling place so you can vote for the candidates endorsed by the Democratic Party. This is a long and time-honored tradition here.  It probably has less influence than in the Mayor Daley era.

Two of the street operatives looked amazingly like moose and squirrel, but I could not tell for sure as they hid behind a tree when the Boris and Natasha looking characters came out.  I was going down the street in the other direction so who can say who these characters actually were.

In fine Chicago tradition the County Clerk received complaints of fighting at a polling place.  It seems some political operatives got into a fight with other operatives over the placement of campaign posters.  Yep, your signs might be too close to someone else’s signs so maybe he should punch you.  That’s what we call here “the fight for democracy.”

Sources: “Illinois Primary 2018: Large majority of voters stay home on Election Day,” abc7chicago.com
“Illinois Primary Voter Turnout,” chicago.cbslocal.com
“Christopher G. Kennedy,” en.wikipedia.org
“Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to Face Democrat J.B. Pritzker in General Election,”  http://www.wsj.com

THE PRESS DOESN’T MAKE UP STORIES

WHAT IS TRUTH? DOES IT MATTER?

I don’t have a lot of friends in the Republican camp, but there remain a few. It didn’t used to be such a gigantic divide, but it has loomed hugely since the last election.

The other night I heard from an old friend who lives down in the middle of Georgia. Not Atlanta. The less expensive part where the non-city folk live. She is a warm, sweet, kindly woman, but times they are a’changing.

I don’t know what I said — probably nothing I really thought about — and she said “But we don’t know what the truth is. The media just lies all the time.”

Pause. Longer pause.

“Garry spent his whole life in news and many of our best friends were or are in the news business. Sally, they DO NOT MAKE UP THEIR NEWS STORIES. They never did and they don’t do it now. They spend their lives searching for the facts. For proof. For truth. They do not lie.”

An even longer pause. “But what difference does it make anyway?”

If she cannot understand that there is an uncrossable gap between truth and lies, then what is there to discuss? Perhaps that is the bottom line of our current issues with truth, that so many people on both sides of the political lines don’t care about truth and don’t think truth matters.

If the truth doesn’t matter, then I am not sure what does matter. For me, the truth always matters and I can’t even imagine a time when that would no longer apply.

THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, OTHER BULLSHIT, AND A STORY – TOM CURLEY

I don’t know why I’m writing this. I don’t know why I’m wasting both my time and yours. But, what the hell. As I’m writing this the news is still in full-time coverage of the latest mass shooting at a public school.

This time in Florida, not that it matters much. It could have been anywhere in the country. Hell, it has been anywhere in the country. Tomorrow it will be somewhere else. And of course, politicians, mostly Republicans, trotted out the same old crap. “Thoughts and prayers” and “now is not the time to talk about gun control”.

You know, the usual bullshit. One of Jimmy Kimmel’s writers posted all the Republican tweets next to the amount of money the NRA has given them. The average is around 3 million dollars. Except for Trump. They gave him 21 million. You can read it here.

I did notice one new thing this time. As the students were being led to safety by the police they all had their hands in the air.

Why? Well, they hadn’t caught the shooter yet and the police couldn’t trust anyone. There might be a second or third shooter amongst them. I thought the photo of the three-year-old girl practicing standing on the toilet seat because that’s what her preschool taught her to do “when the shooters come” was as sad as things could get. I was wrong.

When it was happening, the initial report was that one person was dead and 17 injured. Ellin’s first response was “Only one dead? That’s not so bad”. A few moments later she said “I can’t believe I just said that. I’m getting immune to this”. As it turned out, it wasn’t just one dead, it was all 17. Not the record, but the shooter sure gave it the old school try.

I probably shouldn’t be making bad jokes like that. I just don’t care. This is America’s version of Groundhog Day. Just a very bad version with a shitload of guns and a lot of dead bodies. At this point I was going to repost a blog I did last year called If Now’s Not The Time To Talk About Gun Control, There Never Will Be A Time.   But why bother? You’ve heard it all before. Click on the link if you want.

Instead I’m going to completely change the subject. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a true story. It happened to me when I was in first grade. I was 6 years old. It was 1957. I grew up in Schenectady, New York. I went to Lincoln Elementary School.

Lincoln Elementary School

It was one block away from the original Freihofer’s Bakery.

The bakery was local back then. Today you can order their products on Amazon. Every day at 3 pm, I would leave school and be enveloped in the amazing smell of freshly baked bread. It was awesome. They had  horse-drawn carriages that delivered their baked goods right to your door. The horse that came up my street every day was named Tony.

Tony!!

My Grandpa used to follow Tony up the street everyday and scoop up Tony’s “droppings”. He used them to fertilize a tiny tree he planted in our back yard. Today the tree is over 50 feet tall. It’s over 60 years old. Tony made good fertilizer.

We only had three TV channels back then. CBS, NBC and ABC. The NBC channel, WRGB, had a daily afternoon show called “Bread Time Stories”. But everybody called it “The Freddie Freihofer Show”. It starred Uncle Jim Fisk.

His sidekick was a puppet called Freddie Freihofer.

They played cartoons, had a band and the show had an audience of kids.

It was basically a rip off of The Howdy Doody show. But we didn’t know that. What made this show different was they also had “Birthday Boys and Birthday Girls”. They got to sit in the front row. They each had their own special birthday cake.  A Freihofer’s cake, or course.

At the end of the show all the kids would line up in front of a big box with a handle on it. Like on a slot machine. Each kid would pull the handle and get a prize.  Freihofer’s baked goods! (Duh) The show was  just a big  infomercial, but me and all my friends didn’t know that. You have to realize that Freihofer’s made some really good stuff. Their chocolate chip cookies were the best in the world. Their sugar donuts where amazing. At school, we had a scale of best to worst. Chocolate chip first, oatmeal raisin second, sugar donuts third and so on.

But the main part of the show, the most amazing part of the show was “The Squiggle”. You see, Uncle Jim was a genius. He would give a kid a big piece of white art paper and a magic marker.

The kid would then make a random squiggly line on the paper. Then Uncle Jim would make his magic. He would look at the squiggle and say “Wow, you just drew a bunny rabbit. He would then draw around the random line and PRESTO! A bunny rabbit!

Forget Picasso, DaVinci, Van Gogh. They were nothing compared to Uncle Jim! I found out later in life that it was something that pretty much any first year art student can do. But who cares? It was a Squiggle!

I tell you all this because I was actually on the Freddy Freihofer show! My friend was having a birthday and his Mom got him on the show. He could bring one friend. He picked me! I was an instant celebrity at Lincoln Elementary School! I was going to be on “The Freddie Freihofer Show!” I was going to get a Squiggle! And a prize!  Cookies? Donuts? Who knew?

Kids were asking for my autograph!

So, the day finally came and reality set in. I didn’t know it then, but the universe was giving me a heads up on what my future career in TV would be like.

First, when I got there I was put up in the farthest back row of the peanut gallery. I wasn’t “a birthday boy”. I was basically an extra to fill a seat. Second, my friend’s Mom had to actually buy the Birthday cake. No freebies from Freihofer’s. Before the show started a producer came out and promised us that if Uncle Jim didn’t make us a Squiggle during the show, he would stay, and we would all get one after the show. Phew, I was worried for a while there.

So, the show started and out came Uncle Jim. Looking and acting much like my Dad and my Uncle Dick used to act on New Year’s Eve. We did the whole show, and of course, I didn’t get my Squiggle. I mean, I was up in the nose bleed section. But I wasn’t worried. The producer said we’d get one after the show. The show ended and we all lined up in front of the big prize machine to get our prize. They ran the credits over us. I was last in line. The credits ended before I got my turn. I then experienced what in the TV biz is called “a union shutdown.” That’s where 5 seconds after you go off the air,  the crew shuts everything off and leaves the building immediately. Whoosh! Gone. Everybody. Including Uncle Jim.

So, there I was, standing in the dark, suddenly realizing I was not getting a Squiggle. But, it was OK. I mean, I still had my prize! By the time I got to the prize box I was all alone. In a dark TV studio. I pulled the handle. Oh, the suspense! I might not be able to bring a Squiggle to school, but I’d have my prize! What would I be sharing with my friends? Chocolate Chip cookies? Oatmeal Raisin? Hell, even sugar donuts would be OK. It seemed to take forever, but finally, out came my prize! And what was it?

A PACKAGE OF ENGLISH MUFFINS!

WTF!!

 

English Muffins!? Are you kidding me???  I have to go back to my school mates with no Squiggle and a package of  friggin’ English Muffins. I say friggin’ because I’m sure if I said fucking English Muffins back then, my Mom would wash my mouth out with soap. It was a thing back then.

So, with my head  down, I slowly walked out of the dark studio, back into the sunlight. A package of English muffins in one hand, and no Squiggle in the other.

But I still got to leave school every day to the smell of freshly baked bread. I never had to practice standing on a toilet seat. And I never had to leave school with my hands over my head.

Those were the good old days.

THE LEFT/RIGHT CHASM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love reading the papers and talking about what’s going on in the world. You used to be able to do that without getting caught up in ‘partisan politics’. That time seems so long ago, you may have forgotten how it used to be. Let me remind you.

There used to be ‘facts’ about what was happening on any given topic on which everyone could agree. People may have disagreed about how to deal with a problem such as increasing crime and declining GDP, but there was a consensus that the former was in fact increasing and the latter was declining.

Not so today. Facts have been the meat and potatoes of partisan politics for too long now. Let’s say that if you’re a liberal and/or a Democrat you believe that unemployment is down. And let’s assume that if you are a conservative and/or Republican you believe that unemployment is up. How can anyone have a rational discussion about a problem if the nature or even the existence of the problem is itself the issue? When people argue whether a ‘fact’ is, in fact, a ‘fact’?

Talk shows and news interviews usually devolve into shouting matches about what used to be called empirically proven facts. I don’t want this to happen in my personal life. Therefore, unless I’m sure we are in the same ideological camp, I am careful not to talk about anything that could remotely have one liberal and another conservative interpretation. That rules out a wide swath of conversation topics and makes talking to strangers even more difficult for me. I’m not good at small talk under the best of circumstances.

It also presents the problem of how to feel out someone’s political views without bringing up a potentially controversial topic. I had a whole conversation with someone at a party about how much we love following the news. At no point did we reveal which version of the news we espoused. When she said that her husband only watched one channel all day, I surmised it was Fox News and that they were conservative/Republicans.

I later had my ‘guess’ confirmed by a mutual friend. I am so relieved that we had not marred our pleasant conversation with the revelation that we were ideological adversaries. We would not have agreed on the statistical reality about almost anything.

At a recent dinner with someone we just met, our new friend talked about how well the stock market was doing (Republican code for: Trump is good for America). He then asked what the problem was with Trump since “He hasn’t done anything bad yet.” There was silence at the table and then Tom said something like, “Well, that’s a debatable point”. We quickly moved on to other topics.

This is why even well-meaning, open-minded people like me have become polarized. I’m happy to listen to your views and may even be swayed by a good argument. But I will not be open to the idea that the earth is really flat, that evolution isn’t a scientifically proven process or that man-made climate change is not a real ‘thing’. In today’s world, I guess that makes me a closed-minded ideologue. So be it.

My political bent nowadays is towards any view that is based on facts that can actually be proven to be true. And I want to see the evidence and decide for myself if your ‘evidence’ actually proves your ‘facts.’

ENROLL TRUMP FOR TREASON – A STUNNING COMMENTARY BY RICH WILSON

I think I’m pretty good with words, but compared to this guy, I’m a first-grader writing with blunt crayons. In this piece titled:


Donald Trump Cracks the Seal on Talk of Treason


Written — or should I say composed — by conservative author Rich Wilson, the words flow like music. This is a symphony of the English language describing our so-called president. I should let the author speak for himself. I don’t think anyone could say it better. This was so good, I read the first half out loud to Garry. 


You may have noticed by now, but I’m not one to pull any punches on Donald Trump. As a conservative, I see him as a statist abomination, a plump, be-wattled authoritarian-wannabe man-baby with the intellectual horsepower of a toaster oven.

One thing we’ve learned in the last two years is that no legal, moral or cultural strictures bind Trump and that he is immune to the better angels of human nature. The moral event horizon around him consumes the good in anyone who becomes one of his vassals. There is no better version of Trump, ever. He can only degrade and destroy everything he touches, but today was remarkable, even for him.

Monday’s simpering, prissy, self-indulgent performance in Ohio was just another raree-show with our Kentucky Fried Nero fiddling while the stock market burned. Then came the moment where he broke another seal, and cracked another seam in the foundation of our Republic.

That was when Trump, in his typical sneering, sniggling, purse-lipped way said of the Democrats watching his State of the Union speech: “They were like death. And un-American. Un-American. Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

Even for Trump, on an endless quest to define American decency down, this was a new low. His followers and Congressional cheering section will love it, of course. A few Republicans in Congress may furrow a brow or intone some anodyne statement like, “I wouldn’t have put it that way, but…”

Trump lacks the mental capacity to see where this very slippery slope leads, but the political arsonists around him do. With that, prepare to reap the whirlwind.

See the rest of the story at: DONALD TRUMP CRACKS THE SEAL ON TREASON


And thus the man himself has slipped the word into the national conversation. This is the one crime that has never been trivialized or minimized. “Our Founders viewed treason as the most severe crime against the Republic. Treason was an act without shades of gray, without gradiations, without rationalization. It is the one crime we punish by stripping those found guilty of it of their citizenship, or even their lives.”

You hear the expression “Let slip the dogs of war.” I think, as words go, these may well be our dogs of war. Casual talk of treason? Casual? Treason?

Remember this in days to come. The day the stock market crashed, Trump talked casually and humorously of himself as a man accused of treason. A light-hearted jest tossed at the heart of the nation he supposedly serves.

A SHITTY LEGACY – TOM CURLEY  

Every president leaves a legacy. It’s a big deal. How will history remember the president? How will history remember his administration? For Lincoln, it was the Civil War and ending slavery.

For Herbert Hoover, it was the Depression.

For FDR, it was The New Deal.

You get the point. So, what will the legacy of the current occupant of the Oval Office be? Will it be that an ignorant, moronic, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, senile asshole should probably not be the President?

Well, sure, that’s a given. But I think his legacy will be even more than just the obvious. He will be remembered for something far more profound.

The President of The United States gave the mainstream media a great gift. A gift they never could have gotten on their own. Newspapers, cable news, network news — especially network news — finally got something they could never have gotten any other way!

This is the best gift ever!

What was it?


The President made it OK to say shit on national TV. Watching it happen was a wondrous event.


The story was that SCROTUS described countries like Haiti and African countries as “Shitholes” in front of a bunch of Congressmen. The story exploded, like every other stupid thing he does. But this story was different. Something new happened. I was wandering thru the news channels as it happened.  And it was awesome. It was adorable. It was like watching a child speak for the first time.

Haiti is a shithole!

Initially, everyone was hesitant. They all didn’t say shithole, they said “The S-word”. And all the chyrons, the lower thirds, all said “S#@THOLES”.

All the cable news anchors fell all over each other saying how much it disturbed them to have to say a word they don’t want to say because it’s so vile. So they said “The S-Word” And they said The “S-Word” as often as they could.

And then, as the evening wore on, I noticed something. The lower thirds suddenly said “SHITHOLE”.

Wow, I thought. And then like a puppy opening his or her eyes for the first time and seeing a new world, it happened.

Wow, this place is a shithole

Suddenly Rachel Maddow and all the others on TV took the leap. “The President said Shithole!” they all declared! And the flood gates opened up.

By the next day everybody was on the ‘shit-bandwagon’. Every headline had some play on the word shit.

There was not a “S##THOLE” anywhere to be found!

I realize at this point that many of you might not understand why I think this is so important. It has to do with the media. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve been in the media for over 40 years.

There are a lot of things the media can and can’t do, or should or shouldn’t do. But there is one thing that they absolutely can’t do. And that is they can’t say dirty words. To be more specific “The Seven Dirty Words”.

The seven dirty words? What’s that? Well, the words are from a George Carlin routine from around 1972.

The bit was about words you can’t say on radio or TV and the words were: “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.”

The record was played on a Pacifica radio station in NYC, WBAI. That lead to the FCC fining the station.

And that lead to a Supreme Court case. “FCC vs Pacifica Foundation.” It was a big first amendment case and what came out if it was a decision that the FCC couldn’t limit your first amendment rights, but they were OK banning the seven dirty words on mainstream media.

And that is a big thing if you work in the mainstream media. Many anchors have been fired for accidentally saying “fuck” on the air. It was instant death, you were gone. Period. And you have no idea how media people talk, especially  off the air.

I worked for the ABC Radio Network in the early 1970’s, WCBS FM in the late 1970’s and CBS News until today and I always marveled at how some news announcers could go thru an entire newscast hitting the mute button on their mike to yell at someone in between doing the actual newscast.

ANCHOR: In the news today, Vietnam peace talks have stalled, more after this.
MUTED ANCHOR: What the fuck??! Who ate my fucking Goddamn yogurt! You all know that’s my motherfucking yogurt!
ME: (talking in announcer’s ear) We’re back in 3,2,1, cue.
ANCHOR: Moving on to sports, here’s Howard Cosell.
MUTED ANCHOR: God fucking damn it! This is the third time this month my motherfucking yogurt is gone! I will find you, you cocksucker  and I will FUCK YOU UP!!

I know you think I’m making this up. And I also know for a fact that as Garry is reading this, he is rolling on the floor laughing.

My point is, this is a milestone. On January 11th, the year of our lord 2018, a miraculous thing happened. Trump overturned FCC vs Pacifica. The mainstream media got to say one of the Sacred Seven Dirty Words.

Broadcasters are loving it! Now that the precedent is broken, where can we all go next? Oh right — there are still six more dirty words!

So, to sum up this president’s legacy:

  • A shithead decided to run for president.
  • A bunch of shitheads decided to vote for him.
  • A bunch of other shitheads decided that there was no difference between him and the other shithead running for president, so they voted for a third shithead.
  • And half the country didn’t give enough of a shit to vote at all.

You can’t make this shit up. But at least we can say shit now! Thank God, because the president is doing his damnedest to turn this country into a real shithole.

We are all in such deep shit. On top of everything else,  we’re going to need 7 new dirty words.

ROOM FOR REALITY

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

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

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

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

I don’t want right-wing revisions of news that never happened and never will  — or left-wing fairy tales, either.

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

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

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

We have been believing those same lies since 1914, the beginning of the breach between our political halves. It was the start of what we see every day, more than 100 years later.

A hundred years of lying.

Wilson could have gotten everything he wanted from Congress including the League of Nations, but refused to accept it because (are you ready?) the “deal” was offered by the wrong party.

Just in case you think the world has changed a lot? The answer is it has changed … but a lot less than you might think and in the worst possible ways.

MISOGYNY FROM THE 1950’S TO TODAY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I was a child in the 1950’s and a teenager in the 1960’s. So I should be well versed in the misogynistic attitudes that were, and in some ways still are, ingrained in the American psyche. But I grew up in a progressive family in New York City. The women we knew were mostly professionals and I was expected to be a professional too. Not just a working woman, but a professional doctor, lawyer, psychologist, or whatever. I apparently missed the sexism and marginalization of women as well as the excessive empowerment of men.

It never occurred to me for a nanosecond that men were better than women in any way. Apparently I’m outside the norm, even today.

I read an article in The Washington Post by Sally Kohn, titled “Sexual Harassment Should Be Treated As A Hate Crime”. The article cites recent studies that show that both men and women have unconscious biases against women. In fact, women hold these biases even more than men do! We are all absorbing the cultural messages that women are inherently inferior. Even further, society is also promoting the view that women should be submissive and subjugated to men and that men should have disproportionate power, privilege and dominance.

There’s a wonderful show on Amazon called “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. It is wildly funny and entertaining and totally binge worthy. We binge watched it and got a crash course in the social position of women in the 1950’s. I only watched one season of “Mad Men” so this was an eye opener for me. It may have hit home for me because the main character, Midge, like me, grew up in an upper middle class, Jewish family in New York City in the 1950’s. The high ceilings in the luxurious apartments, the doormen and the maids, the overly involved parents, all rang true to me.

Midge was brought up believing that she should get married right after college, have children and stay home to take care of them and her husband. Period. She took her role in life seriously. Particularly the part about keeping your ‘man’ happy and pampered.

Midge’s wedding in the show

Midge went to bed with her hair and makeup still beautifully done. She waited for her husband to fall asleep and only then did she get up to put curlers in her hair, take off her makeup and put cream on her face. To add insult to injury, she also set her alarm to wake her before her husband got up. Then she could take the curlers out, do her hair and put on her makeup, get back into bed and pretend to be asleep when her husband woke up. So he never knew about Midge’s frenzied and exhausting ritual of female submission. All to keep her husband from seeing her in anything but the best and most flattering light!

Midge also admits to her husband, after they are separated, that when she knew they were going to have sex, she would undo half of the hooks on her complex, corset like bra. She did that so he would have an easy time getting it off of her in the heat of the moment. She thought it was part of her job to make everything as easy as possible for her husband.

Midge would also obsessively measure every part of her body with a tape measure and record the numbers to make sure that she was maintaining her girlish figure. She seemed to believe that her world would fall apart if she wasn’t perfect for her spouse 24/7, in all ways. What a terrible way to live! And what a one sided relationship!

All of this appalled me. My mother always wore makeup and nice clothes during the day, even on weekends when we all stayed home. But she did wear curlers and cream to bed. I don’t know how many women went to the lengths Midge did to be a ‘good wife’ and keep her husband interested. But the fact that there were any, makes me truly sick. And Midge was an intelligent, college graduate with a strong personality and a lot of self-confidence.

As part of the plot, Midge is discouraged from working, even after her husband leaves her, but she gets a job anyway. She is also discouraged from pursuing stand up comedy because that is a ‘man’s field’. She does this anyway too. So she’s not totally passive or without backbone and ambition. This makes her subservient behavior even more egregious.

Midge doing stand up

In some ways, things haven’t changed that much in America. We recently had an election in Alabama in which large numbers of women (as well as men) voted for a man who openly said that women should not vote or hold office. He was also accused, by multiple women, of sexually harassing teenagers as young as 14! How could any woman vote for someone like that? How could ANYONE vote for someone like that in 2017?

I guess there are people, including women, who still believe that men are superior and should control everything, in public life as well as private. They are also people who will believe a man’s lame denials of sexual abuse over multiple women risking a lot to come out and accuse him. Or maybe it’s even worse. Maybe sexually abusing women is okay in these people’s moral universe. Maybe it’s considered men’s right, or somehow the women’s fault.

It’s sad to see that while women have made so much progress in so many ways, we are still in the dark ages in other ways. We’ve come a long way, baby! But there’s still a really long way to go as well.

REACTING, REACTIONARIES AND RIDICULOUSNESS – BY TOM CURLEY

I went to work yesterday. It’s something I don’t do much anymore. I retired a few years ago, so I work part-time. This year, I’ve only worked five days out of the whole year. I’m a director for CBS News in New York City and work at the CBS Broadcast Center. It’s a big place. Takes up an entire city block.

I’ve worked there for more than 40 years. These days, I work less and less. Increasingly, I’ve noticed how things have changed at CBS. Not for the better. A few months back I came into work and noticed this billboard in the lobby.

Yeah, we have to point out the obvious these days. But yesterday I noticed this as I was leaving the men’s room.

THE MEN’S ROOM. I went to a few other men’s rooms. They all had deadbolts on the inside, too.


This is the world we live in these days.


A while back I read a story about how a mother went into their bathroom. Her pre-school daughter was standing on the toilet seat. It was so cute she took a picture of it.

Then she asked her daughter why she was doing that. You know what she said? She said she was practicing because that is what you are supposed to do at school when the shooters come.


This is the world we live in today.


Every time there is a mass murder in this country, stocks in gun companies go through the roof. Why? Gun nuts are afraid that we are going to pass gun legislation and they have to collect all the guns they can while they last. This, despite the fact that our government has NEVER EVER passed any kind of realistic gun control laws. Nor is there any indication they ever will.


This is the world we live in today.


CBS has a reputation for overreacting to things. Especially terrorist types of things. After the attack on Charlie Hedbo in Paris, they put electronic locks on every door in the Broadcast Center. Except the bathrooms. For any other room, you needed a coded key card. Even to get into your own office — or anywhere else, for that matter.

My office.


This is the world we live in today.


At this point, I have to confess that I’m a little disappointed in myself with this particular post. I usually try to see the humor in the insanity of the world we live in today. But I’m not coming up with anything this time.

Instead I’ll tell you a story. A true story. It happened a long time ago. It’s sort of related. It turns out that CBS has a long history of being worried about terrorism. In the late 70’s I was an engineer for WCBS-FM in New York.

WCBS-FM was famous for creating the “Oldies” format. They are still using it to this day.

That was a great job. I spent 8 hours or more every day playing rock and roll music. The job didn’t suck.

Our General Manager, as it turned out, was ahead of his time. He had a bit of an obsession with terrorists. Back then, there weren’t many terrorist attacks. There was the Munich attack at the 1972 Olympics, but really nothing in America. None the less, our GM was convinced terrorists might attack WCBS-FM. Why?

Nobody knew. Too much Chuck Berry? Not enough Chuck Berry? Didn’t they know they could just call the request line?

Who knows?

Anyway, he instructed our Chief Engineer, a great guy named Torchy, to install a big button on the central equipment rack in our control room.

If you pushed the button, it would shut down the transmitter located at the top of the Empire State Building.Apparently, the scenario he envisioned was as the terrorists broke into the control room and shot me in the back, I would reach up with my blood-stained hand. Using my last breath on Earth, I would push the button and deny the terrorists any more Chuck Berry.

Give me more Chuck Berry!

Torchy explained to the GM how this was illegal. Back then, you needed what was called an FCC First Class License to operate a transmitter. Not everybody in the control room had one. The GM ordered Torchy to do it anyway. So, he did. There it was. A big button right in the middle of the control room.

Now, you have to understand: I was an engineer. My job was — literally — pushing buttons. I wanted to push that button. I really, really wanted to push the button. But, of course, I couldn’t. If I pushed it, I’d take a multi-million-dollar radio station off the air. This would have been frowned upon. So, for more than two years I lived with the button. That God-Damned, untouched button.

Then it happened.

It was Sunday night around 3 AM. I was working the overnight shift. Probably obvious, in that I was there at 3 AM. The private tech phone rang. Which was unusual because I was the only technical person there. Hell, I was the only person there. I answered it. A voice at the other end said he was the engineer on duty over at the transmitter at the Empire State Building.

He said, “Do you guys have a kill button for the transmitter over there?” I said yes, we do. He said, “press it.” I said I couldn’t do that. It would take us off the air.

He then said “Oh for Christ’s sake. Just push the fucking button.” And there it was. I was gonna get to push the button! The forbidden button. The only one I never pushed. I relished the moment. I reached up, and  I pushed the button

The engineer said “Yeah, I didn’t think the thing actually worked.” And then, he hung up the phone.

I was in shock. I went behind the rack and looked at the back of the button.  There were no wires hooked up to it! The next day I told Torchy about what happened. He said “I told the GM it was illegal. He wanted a button, so I gave him a button. I knew nobody would ever test it.”

True story. Really happened.

Those were the days. No deadbolts on bathroom doors. Little girls didn’t stand on toilet seats. Big buttons which didn’t do anything solved our problems.


That was the world we lived in back then.