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.