IT’S TRUE! I SAW IT ON THE NEWS!

Introduction – Garry Armstrong


I remember discussions about news coverage more than 50 years ago.  My college radio colleagues and I thought the mainstream media outlets were sellouts, ignoring the real stories and covering their collective butts with government propaganda. Some of us vowed to seek employment with the CBC, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we would have a greater chance to tell the truth.

skydivingLuck intervened and I landed a job with ABC Network News as a 20 something. ABC, coincidentally, was revamping its national and international news format. They wanted new blood. We were encouraged to be fresh and innovative. Newbie newsies like me leapfrogged over veterans from the advent of radio and TV news.

The late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the new “golden era” for broadcast news. We had access to newsmakers in the highest places. We were emboldened to take chances even when threatened by power brokers. I always worked in the moment, never fearing the consequences of political windmills I might tilt.

It was a Camelot period for those of us who sought to report the truth. Then everything began to change.

Fast forward ahead to today and the proliferation of 24 hour cable news and social media. Camelot is dead. News — local and network — is controlled by corporate entertainment divisions.

Newbie newsies today don’t have the support or access I did half a century ago, but they still have a bully pulpit and should use it — if they have the courage and conviction to try to create change.


AND NOW, THE NEWS … ALREADY IN PROGRESS


Garry was a news guy for more than 40 years. For most of those years, he was a reporter. You could watch him on television pretty much every day. He covered breaking news. Murder, fires, disasters. Blizzards, hurricanes, politics. Riots. Court cases. Wherever something was happening, there he was. I knew the news from both sides. How it was made, how come some stories got on the air and others did not. What made a story “hot” and why. I have no illusions about the accuracy of media, but I also know how hard reporters work.

BW TV cameras

Reporters mostly don’t choose what they report. They can enterprise projects and sometimes get the green light to do something they believe in. And of course, a reporter can request to be put on a particular story. Sometimes they get a yes, sometimes no. Reporters are employees. They have bosses. The news directors and their directors. Not to mention the people who own the corporation and the sponsors who pay the bills.

Way back in the 1970s, news became entertainment. Before that, it was public service. Maybe it will be again, someday, but for now, news has to make money and get ratings. Therefore, the news will be full of whatever stories news outlets think we want. Hopefully this isn’t a surprise to anyone. You all knew this, right?

That’s how we have wound up with Donald Trump as a presidential candidate. He was entertaining. He brought in viewers and ratings. We watched. Love him or hate him, we tuned in to see him. Now, we stand in imminent danger of seeing a lot more of the Trump than most of us imagined in our darkest nightmares. You get what you pay for.

We expect a lot from news and those who report it. We expect honesty. Stories based on truth. Facts. We hold the news to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. How’s that working out for you? Not so good?

We are all responsible for seeking truth. We don’t have to believe lies. Nobody would get away with making stuff up and presenting it as truth — or news — if we were not predisposed to embrace it. We will get accountability and accuracy from media only when we demand it.

As a final note of irony, apparently the Brits are now — just a wee bit late — Googling “European Union” to discover what they actually voted to dissolve. That’s what happens when you believe what they tell you because it’s what you want to hear.

THE DAILY POST | FALSE

BUT WHAT IF THEY COME BACK?

We are at the annoying stage of the gypsy moth invasion. Sprayed and surviving, the air is full of moths. Thousands, maybe millions of them are swarming everywhere, no doubt laying clutches of eggs for next year’s even bigger event.

The oaks are trying to come back, some more successfully than others. I watch them every day, looking for signs of growth and health.

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A second year would be a real tragedy. No longer just a nightmarish inconvenience but devastation. It would be the end of thousands … acres … of hardwood trees and could involve not only oak and ornamental trees, but also spruce, maple, fruit orchards and more. It would leave ghost woods filled with the skeletons of the trees we loved. So far, no state or town agency has been willing to do anything to prevent this disaster.

We’ve done what we can. We’ve sprayed. That’s it. No one homeowner, nor any group of private individuals, can do this alone. Without help … well … kaput.

From WCVB news, Boston:


Gypsy moth caterpillars return to dine on New England trees

Last year’s dry spring to blame

Published  7:03 PM EDT Jul 03, 2016


We really need rain. And a little more help from nature.

FOLLOWING SCOTUS

SCOTUS, aka the Supreme Court of The United States, had itself one big day yesterday. They come down solidly on the side of women’s rights against the state of Texas. The ruling will put a serious crimp in the campaign to sneak around Roe-V-Wade and make abortion impossible, if not illegal. The war against women just lost a battle. Yay team.

scales of justice

In another decision yesterday, SCOTUS voted 6 to 2 supporting Maine’s right to prevent anyone convicted of domestic violence — felony or misdemeanor — from possessing guns. Not merely buying a gun, or even “owning” a gun — but possessing guns. This opens a lot of doors to questions about the meaning of the second amendment. Or, as Rory Little noted, “an unremarkable gun case may be harbinger of things to come.”

72-INFORMATION EMPOWERS-BOSTON_191403

I’m not going to present myself as any kind of legal scholar, but since I started following ScotusBlog, I feel I’m getting real information plus a sane interpretation of what it might mean — short and long-term. I recommend it. It’s good  to have a source for data on current issues.

With reality becoming increasingly slippery, with opinions more and more being proffered as a substitute for evidence, this is my antidote.

NOTES FROM THE HOLODECK

For a long time, I followed writing prompts. I liked the challenge of finding something to say about a random topic. And I was interested to see the commonalities and differences between my thoughts and everyone else’s.

REUTERS/Noah Berger

REUTERS/Noah Berger

Lately, though, I want to write about other stuff. The crazy political stuff. The insanity of our failure to make any changes to our gun laws. The wild weather.

Talk about crazy. Insect plagues (not just here … all over the country) … and temperatures so high they turn forests to tinder. Flooding down the middle. Drought out west. Tornadoes threatening Chicago. Chicago? Mother Nature, like Howard Beale in “Network” screaming “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

network-howard-beale-horizontal-large

Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it’s the story of a fictional television network willing to do anything and everything — including assassinating one of its own anchors on live television — to get better ratings. When the movie came out, it was almost science fiction. Now, except for not yet assassinating a reporter or anchor live during prime time, the rest seems tame compared to what’s truly going on.

Sometimes, I wonder if maybe Donald Trump was invented by TV network executives to get higher ratings for the news. It worked around this house. We hadn’t watched news on television — except for sports and weather — since Garry stopped being part of it.

Now, we watch the news every day just to see what new madness is in progress. “The Daily Show” seems more attuned to the surreal nature of current events than any of the standard stations.

daily show trevor noah

Not all that long ago, I had no trouble figuring out what was real and what was not. Now? There’s such a massive crossover between reality and “art,” I feel as if I’m living in the holodeck. In case you don’t remember (or never knew), the holodeck was a virtual reality facility on the Enterprise (especially on “Next Generation”). It was used to recreate environments — real and fictional — via “hard light” (solid and touchable) holograms.

holodeck

In our world, no such technology exists. Yet. So they tell us. Except that I’m beginning to wonder. Maybe this entire year is a creative exercise by some mad computer genius designing a world that could never be. Except … it does. Exist. And we are all living in it.

Or … maybe … we’ve slipped into an alternate dimension. Because this world cannot be real.

NO FLY? NO BUY!

Vis-a-vis the horror in Orlando, I’ve listened to all the explanations by the FBI. How it isn’t their fault, there was nothing they could do. It was too difficult to keep track of this guy.

orlando-flag

I don’t believe it. Sorry, just don’t. Between the FBI, Homeland, and ATF … and I’m sure there are more agencies I’m forgetting … there should be more than sufficient resources to keep track of obviously suspicious and potentially dangerous people. They seem eager to harass completely harmless citizens, so maybe they need to redirect their attention to actual threats. Just saying.

Moving to the endlessly debated yet never implemented subject of gun control: I understand making sensible gun laws is far too complex for our elected representatives (that is to say, politicians), to address. All the money they get from gun lobbies is muddling their brains.

So … how about this?

no fly no buy shooting


No fly? No buy.

Every registered gun dealer, and any other place licensed to sell guns in this country, gets the list and timely updates. Just like the airlines.

If your name is on the list, you cannot legally buy a gun. Period.


If you are too dangerous to be a passenger on an airplane, you are too dangerous to buy guns.

Surely we have sufficient technology to make this work? All you need is the mailing list and some kind of computer. A printer would help, too.

It won’t solve every gun-related problem, but it could prevent a few tragedies here and there. That’s better than the nothing we seem intent on doing.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY … UPDATED!

Yesterday, I realized we can’t spend the summer locked in our house with doors and windows sealed.

The invasion, now an official worst in living memory gypsy moth attack in the Uxbridge-Whitinsville area, has made it onto all the local network affiliates. This is likely to force the town to figure out how to prevent this happening again — but worse — next summer.

It’s too late to save the summer. The oak trees are bare. So are all the birch. The caterpillars are finishing off the maple and pines. They’ve killing my fuchsia and the garden is dead before anything had a chance to bloom. The damage is done. The pines are gone for good; they won’t come back. The caterpillars are way out of control and marching north. We may have been the first, but we won’t be the last.

The little crawling eating machines are not finished. They will keep chomping on anything they can digest until they become moths and stop eating– at least a month from now. Then, instead, they will begin laying millions of eggs to ensure the next generation.

That’s the life of gypsy moths. Eat a forest. Dump excrement everywhere. Morph into ugly brown and white moths (the white ones — females — can’t fly). Lay millions of eggs. Repeat until there are no trees left standing.

Late yesterday, UPS delivered my marmalade and jellies. Neither Garry nor I had the stomach to retrieve the package. This morning, I geared up. Long dress. Clogs with socks. Long sleeved over-shirt. I couldn’t find a hat, so I just did perpetual motion. It was lovely out there. I haven’t been outside for a couple of days. I almost forgot what a delightful time of year this is.

I spotted the package on the sidewalk in front of the wellhead, by the front gate.

Which is when, looking down, realized the ground is writhing with caterpillars. The package was covered with them. A small package, yet so many hairy brown crawlers. I knocked them off the package, grabbed it, and ran for the door, stomping them back from the entrance, hearing them crunching under my feet. OH YUCK.

Coming in, I opened the marmalade and the ginger jelly, put in an English muffin to toast and took a deep breath. I made it. I was out maybe 3 minutes or less? Glad I have a pacemaker. It kept my heart from stopping.

I settled down with coffee and a muffin and two (TWO!!) kinds of sweets. Very good. Delicious. Hot coffee, sweet muffin, and I’m alive, alive. The caterpillars didn’t get me!

The phone range. It was Lance of Turf Technologies Inc. calling, as promised. Quick conversation and he said “This is now, officially the worse infestation ever. Good for you. People like you squawking is probably why the news picked it up.”

I know, because — I’m married to a news guy. I may not know much, but I know if you make noise and pique their interest, the news people will come. Maybe the powers-that-be — the ones around here making like ostriches — will take notice. As the days roll on with no relief, I become increasingly less hopeful.


One of the worst side effects of this mess is that I’m horribly depressed. I sit here, watching summer slip away, realizing there’s nothing more I can do. There’s a package outside somewhere. It’s a movie I ordered from Amazon, but neither of us is willing to look for it, not if it means going outside.

caterpillars 2016

A neighbor posted this picture. It could just as easily be my house. That’s what it looks like. I’m not taking any pictures because I can’t bring myself to go out. I haven’t been out of the house for nearly a week. I suppose that’s contributing to the depression.

No matter how horrible it is for us, I can’t imagine how bad it is for the farmers. This is apple orchard country. We’ve got farms. Trees, corn, dairy cattle. I can’t imagine how they are coping with this and what a economic catastrophe this will be for them.

This is the worst summer ever.