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.’