Tag Archives: CNN

Time To Step Down, Mike Pence.

A vendor flies the confederate flag prior to a Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump rally in Pittsburgh, June 11, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk - RTX2FOT5

trump-warns-election-may-be-rigged

It’s actually long past time for beleaguered GOP Vice Presidential Candidate Mike Pence to repudiate his great orange running mate’s toxic campaign.

trump-pence-03But now that Donald Trump sees the writing on the wall (and the polls), his destructive attack on the integrity of the American election process itself leaves his Veep pick with no other way to save his dignity, credibility and reputation than to jettison the flame-throwing narcissistic demagogue at the top of the ticket.

For the good of our democracy, Pence must dump Trump.

Now.

donald-trump-victim__optMike Pence says he’s a follower of Jesus Christ. What is there in the four Gospels that give any indication that the Prince of Peace would approve of Donald J. Trump? Not a thing. Re-read the Sermon on the Mount – especially the Beatitudes. Nowhere does Jesus say, “Blessed are the whining sore losers, for theirs is the right to torch the landscape in their wake.”

nov-9-lat-concedes-if-300In 1960, when Richard Nixon lost by the thinnest of whiskers to John F. Kennedy, even the man who would become infamous for campaign “dirty tricks” and Watergate respected the vote of the American people, despite unproven claims of election fraud in Illinois and West Virginia.

In 2000, when Al Gore lost by a few hanging Florida chads (and one dubious Supreme Court decision) to George W. Bush, Gore went before the cameras after the Florida recount was halted to put the nation first and acknowledge the legitimacy of his defeat.

maxresdefaultAnd now comes Donald Trump. He’s not even waiting for his eventual (and much deserved) defeat to cast doubt on the fairness of our American democracy.

Trump incites his angry followers to show up at the polls to watch out for the mass voter fraud he assures them will take place. Especially in those “inner cities” filled with, well, you know, those people…

And then there’s all those illegal immigrants Trump claims are pouring across our border to vote for Hillary. Because, of course, tens of thousands of desperate Central Americans are surely lining up to risk their lives and fortunes on a dangerous and expensive U.S. border crossing so they can put Hillary in the White House. (If you believe that, I have a bankrupt casino I’d like to sell you.)

16-trump-rally-w710-h473-2xTrump indicts the dishonest media for its part in rigging the election against him. Really? Is that what FOX, CNN and MSNBC were doing for a solid year when they covered just about every one of his rallies from start to finish? When they would put Hillary or Bernie Sanders in a little box in the corner of the frame while The Donald held court full screen? The truth is that the cable news networks were major enablers of Trump’s candidacy.

Yet even though all of Trump’s talk of a rigged election is absolute crap – millions of his followers believe him.

ct-trump-pence-huppke-20160715And that’s why Mike Pence – who surely knows better – must take a stand by standing down.

If Mike Pence doesn’t repudiate Trump’s claims of a rigged election in the strongest terms — and quit the Trump ticket now — he will have forfeited his credibility as a future candidate in our American democracy.

Trump is calling for torches and pitchforks, Governor Pence.

What would Jesus do?

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Midsummer 2013: The State of Things

Statebanner1190440_138806032971926_1893066145_nHappy Fourth of July!

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve neglected my blog for most of this year.

wewonLast year, inspired by the exciting political pageant of the Presidential Election and touring with my very funny wife in our comedy revue, I was posting an article on something or other once or twice a week.

This year I’ve barely eked out one or two posts a month.

So, why is that?

I could lay the blame for my sporadic blogging on a number of factors.

pretty-wicked-momsI could blame a very busy winter and spring working on the new reality television series Pretty Wicked Moms, which now airs Tuesday nights on Lifetime right after Dance Moms.

Since the show began airing in early June, I’ve too often fallen into the trap of following the catty back and forth sniping on the Pretty Wicked Moms Facebook page: hours of online time lost to a guilty pleasure.

IMG_1248I could blame my bad blogging habits on the fact that my youngest daughter Eva graduated from high school on May 25th. (She’s the one in the center of the photo at left.)

Eva’s graduation was the culmination of a months-long, celebratory parade of proms, dress fittings, awards night, a baccalaureate mass — and finally, a commencement ceremony resplendent with white gowns and red roses.

I could blame my poor posting on the fact that my daughter Emilia graduated from college on June 21st. That proud and wonderful occasion took us to Evanston, Illinois for a week of moving events: some were emotionally moving and some involved actual moving.

IMG_1278Emilia was leaving her apartment, so all of her belongings had to be boxed up by mom and dad and her furniture – including two cumbersome couches — hauled out of her second-floor unit and trucked back to her aunt’s house on the South Side, nearly 50 miles away. Luckily, I was aided in these exertions by Robert Rashid: an athletic 20-something friend of the family.

We all recovered in time for a glorious weekend of parties, toasts, beloved friends, commencement ceremonies and receptions. Then it was time to lug several heavy suitcases stuffed with our daughter’s college detritus to O’Hare Airport for the flight home.

blakegriffin1I could blame my lack of Internet interfacing initiative on the fact that my second-favorite NBA team, The Los Angeles Clippers, made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Following the fortunes of Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and company became a near obsession and, were it not for my wife’s infinite patience and understanding, my basketball jones might easily have caused domestic discord.

imagesI could also blame my failure to faithfully blog on the fact that my favorite NBA team, The Miami Heat, won their second straight NBA Championship. I’m one of those rare native Clevelanders who has remained a LeBron James fan – so watching the Heat’s progress from their 27-game regular season winning streak through their dramatic, buzzer-beating odyssey in the playoffs consumed many of my evenings from January to June.

But distracting and demanding as all of these events have been, I can’t truly blame any of them for my lack of attention to this blog.

images-3The fact is that politics and current events have become maddening – and seeing how important stories (and totally bullshit stories) are covered in the mainstream media makes me want to scream. The daily, mind-bending inanity of the network talking heads – especially those employed by the incredible, shrinking CNN – has gotten the best of me.

I’ve been too intellectually and emotionally exhausted to shout down the unrelenting, inexorable stupidity and vapidity of mainstream television and newspaper reportage. So, I’ve focused on the things I can actually control: my professional life, my family life – and the NBA Playoffs.

However, now that high school and college diplomas – and the Larry O’Brien Trophy – have been handed out, I’ve gotten my second wind.  And now it’s time to let off some steam on a variety of topics that have dominated the news so far this year…

The Snowden Affair

images-1Let me begin with a simple question.

Were any of us really and truly surprised to learn the vast extent to which our government was collecting information on us? What do Americans think the Patriot Act was all about back in 2001?

It was like watching some absurdist comedy to hear all those earnest voices in the press and on Capitol Hill react to Snowden’s leak as though he was finally shining a spotlight on something shocking and heretofore unknown.

DownloadedFile-1Didn’t anyone in the White House press corps or on Republican congressional staffs – or reporters working for a CNN or CBS or ABC news show or website – ever bother to read the many articles written for Truthout, Common Dreams, Daily Kos, The Nation or Talking Points Memo about the vast information gathering network being assembled by General Michael Hayden, Director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005?

That anyone in America thinks Snowden’s revelations are shocking proves what a miserable job mainstream media does of informing the public. In fact, we can only assume that public enlightenment is not big media’s true purpose. Keeping us entertained between advertisements is what they’re really all about.

images-2However, when we sit down on the couch to watch Pretty Wicked Moms, we know we’re just being entertained. Yet, we expect that serious looking, gravely intoning Wolf Blitzer is truly giving us the news from The Situation Room. Let us disabuse ourselves of that quaint notion. Ted Turner is gone. Peter Arnett is gone. Walter Cronkite is gone. And Wolf Blitzer has not replaced them.

images-5As for Mr. Snowden, I’m not sure how big a hero he is. I’m glad he stirred the pot with his leak – but his flight to Hong Kong and then to Moscow is curious at best. How does a person who portrays himself as a champion of openness and transparency in government find himself seeking refuge in China and Russia? Now, that’s a conundrum I’d like to see Wolf Blitzer puzzle out in his fuzzy, constipated brain.

The Trayvon Martin Affair

My bottom line is this: if George Zimmerman isn’t armed with a gun, he doesn’t have the balls to approach Trayvon Martin in the first place.

images-10Zimmerman’s deadly, concealed weapon gave an average guy with a hero complex the false courage to pretend that he was some kind of vigilante crime fighter. I’m almost surprised George didn’t dress up in a “Kick Ass” hero costume. Zimmerman was playing out a macho fantasy – with tragic results.

I don’t care who had the upper hand in the fight that preceded the fatal gunshot. Zimmerman on top or Trayvon on top – it doesn’t matter to me.

Why not? Think about it.

images-9Imagine if it was okay to end every fistfight, bar brawl or dustup at a nightclub by shooting the other guy with a gun. I got into my share of fights when I was a kid, some when I was a teen. But, lucky for me, none of the guys I got the upper hand on decided to quickly even the odds with a handgun. If Zimmerman is such a macho man – why did he need a gun to defeat a 17-year old kid?

I believe it’s sound practice not to pick a fight you can’t win without shooting somebody.

images-8Neighborhood watch citizen volunteers should not be armed. I don’t remember the old lady next door on Spokane Avenue coming out at night – packing a rod or not — to confront suspicious people in the street. She called the cops. That’s what amateur crime fighters should do: call in the trained professionals. George Zimmerman should have called the police and let it go at that — as he was directed to do by the emergency operator.

DownloadedFile-2Stay in your car, George. Phone it in. Nobody dies.

Alas, I do think the local prosecutors overcharged Zimmerman with second-degree murder due to public pressure. Manslaughter would have been a more appropriate charge. And I’m not sure whether under Florida law the jury can find him guilty of the lesser charge. (I hope they can.) But, whatever the verdict, it’s a pathetic tragedy: yet another bad situation made far worse by a gun.

The Obama Scandals

Benghazi-gate? IRS-gate? Reporter-gate? And now Snowden-gate?

gty_obama_address_kb_121216_wgOh, please.

Am I shocked that American embassy personnel were killed in a hotspot like revolutionary Libya? And am I surprised to learn that the Obama administration was careful about how they dealt with the aftermath? The answer is no.

DownloadedFile-3But does the fact that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows to recite carefully-worded (and somewhat inaccurate) talking points pale in comparison to the bald lies that Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice peddled on those very same Sunday shows to dupe our nation into war? The answer is a clear and emphatic yes. Then there’s this:republican-hypocrisy-on-benghazi

april-tea-party1I’m also not shocked that the Internal Revenue Service would do its job by scrutinizing alleged non-profit organizations on the right or left. And now it turns out the IRS wasn’t just going after right wing Tea Party groups — it was looking into organizations on the left as well. (Though you won’t see that in a screaming banner headline on FOX News or scrolling by on the CNN crawl.)

Besides, why shouldn’t the government agency charged by Congress with collecting our taxes investigate whether radical groups dedicated to avoiding taxes — and ultimately abolishing the IRS — truly qualify for the tax breaks granted to non-profit organizations?

imagesholder-1I’m not thrilled that the Obama administration went after the Associated Press to find the source of government leaks. I’d like to see Attorney General Eric Holder as aggressive going after white-collar criminals on Wall Street as he is putting the screws to reporters to reveal their sources. (And, while I’m compiling my Justice Department wish list, I’d like Holder to lay off the medicinal pot clinics in California, too.)

ISSA-articleLargeIn a post 9-11 world I can understand a heightened sensitivity to security leaks. But while I’d love it if “reporter-gate” would inspire our political leaders to have a serious debate over national security, government transparency and freedom of the press, I don’t hold out much hope that a wingnut like House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa will do anything more than hold a series of show trials in hopes of driving down Obama’s poll numbers heading into next year’s mid-term elections.

ieaThe mainstream media loves these pseudo scandals du jour. It’s clear they’d would rather not cover something truly scandalous – like the environmental catastrophe revealed in a stunning International Energy Agency report on June 10th that said:

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from energy use rose 1.4 percent to 31.6 gigatons in 2012, setting a record and putting the planet on course for temperature increases well above international climate goals, the International Energy Agency said in a report scheduled to be issued Monday.

 PR-log-smokestacks-coal_news_featuredThe agency said continuing that pace could mean a temperature increase over pre-industrial times of as much as 5.3 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit), which IEA chief economist Fatih Birol warned “would be a disaster for all countries.”

 Wait. What’s that? You haven’t heard about this shocking, absolutely frightening report issued a month ago? The human race is demonstrably on course to destroy itself – and the mainstream media spends it’s time yakking about Obama’s “scandals”, hawking gossip tidbits about Kanye and Kim’s baby, and debating what’s worse: The N word or “cracker”.

paula-deenWhich brings us to the Paula Deen Affair.

On second thought, forget it. She’s not worth the space on this blog. Anyone who thinks it’s fun to have a “plantation style” wedding deserves all the vilification she’s getting. With sugar – and lots of butter – on top.

So, there. I’ve unburdened myself.

Now, let’s see…

standingsOh, look! My Cleveland Indians are in first place!

Could this be the year we win our first World Series since 1948?

Here I go again…

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Obama’s Opening Remarks in the Second Debate: Rope-A-Dope!

On October 16th at 9:00 PM Eastern Time, President Obama and challenger Mitt “Etch-A-Sketch” Romney will tee off their second Presidential debate.

For this second round in the Obama vs. Romney heavyweight contest, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has planned a “town meeting” format in which “undecided voters” chosen by the Gallup Organization will ask questions on topics critical to our nation, including foreign and domestic policy.

After the poorly moderated, constipated and confused “six 15-minute pods” framework of the first debate, Presidential Cage Match Round Two – driven by questions from “real people” — may be more enlightening, exciting and decisive.

Just maybe.

As a progressive Democrat, I must honestly admit that I came away from yesterday’s first debate full of anger and frustration that President Obama didn’t immediately counter Mitt Romney’s shocking shape shifting, evasiveness and outright dishonesty with force, passion and prosecutorial specificity.

Damn. I really, really, really wanted Obama to take Romney’s head off in that first debate. PBS’ grand venerable gentleman Jim Lehrer certainly wasn’t going to do it. But there’s an argument to be made that Obama was playing “Rope-a-Dope”. There’s an old axiom in war and politics that if your opponent is hurting himself — don’t get in the way.

In one of the most celebrated heavyweight bouts in boxing history, beastly strong, aggressive and overconfident George Foreman wore himself out throwing punch after punch at the cagey veteran, Muhammad Ali, who settled into the ropes in a defensive crouch. When Foreman’s bulging, muscled arms finally tired, Ali put his exhausted foe away with canny, savage, and well-timed counter-punching.

If we equate whole new policy positions, bald-faced lies, equivocations, mischaracterizations and a chronic lack of specifics with lunging punches thrown without a knockout – then President Obama has set Mighty Mitt up for a ferocious counterattack.

With that in mind, here’s what I’d like to hear President Barack Obama say in his opening statement in the second debate.

“Thank you, Candy Crowley, for moderating this debate, thanks to Hofstra University for hosting us – and thanks to everyone watching for taking the next 90 minutes out of your very busy lives to listen to what Governor Romney and I have to say about our drastically different visions for the direction we want to take our beloved country.

I know you just got home from work and that you need to get up and go back to work tomorrow morning — so I won’t waste your valuable time by saying a bunch of things that sound good tonight – but that the fact-checkers will easily prove are a lot of crap tomorrow morning. I’ll leave that game to Governor Romney: whichever Governor Romney shows up tonight.

Tonight’s debate is supposed to be a town hall meeting — in which citizens ask the questions, and Governor Romney and I have agreed to answer your questions. I promise to answer your questions honestly and candidly, consistent with everything I’ve said from the time I sought the Presidency in 2008 until tonight. Tonight, I challenge Governor Romney to answer your questions in a manner consistent with what he’s been saying in the past year, in the last few months, and in our last debate.

Governor Romney’s not an easy guy to pin down on policy. It’s impossible to know what his plans for our nation are. In fact, Mitt Romney is the biggest flip-flopper in American political history.

Mitt was for Obamacare before he was against it. He was for a 5 trillion dollar tax cut before he was against it. He was for lowering taxes on millionaires and billionaires before he was against it. He was for voucherizing Medicare before he was against it. And he was for his VP pick Paul Ryan’s Medicare and Social Security-killing budget before he was against it.

And Governor Romney did all that flip-flopping in our last debate less than two weeks ago. I wonder where Mitt Romney stands now?

I wonder which Mitt Romney will show up tonight? And what new tales will he tell?

Maybe tonight we’ll get the real story of Mitt Ronmey’s plan for the American middle class? Like a “CSI” or “Law & Order” mystery – it’s worth staying up for the next hour or so just to find out.

Since Governor Romney and I faced off in our last debate, there have been a lot of independent analysts who have been confounded about two things:

Why did Governor Romney run away from so many of his previously held positions? And why won’t he say what upper-income tax loopholes and middle-class tax deductions he plans to eliminate to pay for his huge tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?

My fellow Americans, I look forward to your questions this evening. And I look forward to seeing which Mitt Romney will be with us tonight – and how that version of Mitt Romney will answer the questions that are so vital to the health, growth, safety and success of our blessed nation.”

Post Script: The first national poll after the first Presidential debate from Ipsos/Reuters shows that President Barack Obama didn’t lose much ground.

Before the debate: Obama 48 Romney 39

After the debate: Obama 48 Romney 43

On the face of it, that’s a four-point jump for Romney – but let’s look at the numbers among independent voters. (Rope-A-Dope may be working.)

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Regime Change…

On February 11, 2011, after massive public protest, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak announced he was relinquishing the power he held over his ancient country for the past three decades. Mubarak’s grudging resignation capped an incredible 18 days of revolutionary reality television – and while it’s far too soon for anyone not wearing an Egyptian military officer’s uniform to predict the form Egypt’s next government will ultimately take, now is the time to marvel at what we’ve witnessed on the streets of Cairo, in the shadow of the Great Pyramids. From one of the cradles of human civilization came another great victory for human civilization.

Peaceful change.

Indelible images of Molotov cocktail-tossing provocateurs and whip-cracking thugs on camelback notwithstanding, the most important aspect of this spontaneous popular uprising was that it was an essentially peaceful protest. Against all odds, and despite desperate acts of violent provocation by forces loyal to (or paid by) Mubarak’s regime, millions of unarmed Egyptian citizens stood strong in the streets day after day to demand redress of their long-suffered grievances.

Many of those on the barricades in Cairo’s Tahrir Square echoed the language of American patriots from our own Revolution. “Give me liberty,” I heard one student declare to a listening world on CNN, “Or give me death!” And he meant it every bit as much as Patrick Henry did. We tend to forget that, like the anti-Mubarak protestors we saw chanting and praying on our TV screens, our revolutionary forbears really were risking their lives and fortunes in a bid to free themselves from the yoke of despotism. Unlike King George III, however, Hosni Mubarak either would not – or could not – get his army to mete out the “death” option to his rebellious subjects. (It’ll take a while before we see how the “liberty” option plays out.)

Regime change without war.

Think about it. The 30-year reign of a powerful dictator who sanctioned the torture of his enemies while looting his country and driving millions of his citizens into economic despair was overthrown by the non-violent mobilization of a resolute citizenry: by people taking to the streets armed with nothing but their resolve to reclaim their national dignity and demand a better future for themselves and for their children. Incredibly, regime change came without guns.

The Power of Social Media

Egyptian demonstrators used Facebook and Twitter to help organize their massive protests and share news and information in a country whose mainstream media was controlled by the party line lies of Mubarak’s totalitarian regime. It’s shocking to see how little politicians are aware of the power, speed and reach of the Internet and social media – whether it’s an Egyptian despot or a Republican Congressman looking for extra-marital love on Craig’s List. In both cases, ignorance of the scope of electronic media led to inevitable resignations.

Though in many ways this epochal event exposed the limits of American power and influence in the Middle East, President Obama and his administration managed to signal a guarded solidarity with the aggrieved Egyptian populace while at the same time cautioning the Egyptian military to stand down and encouraging Mubarak (our hold-your-nose regional ally) to accede to the will of his people.

A clarion call on behalf of the protestors may have thrilled some less temperate lovers of democracy, but the American President was wise not to be seen as encouraging a foreign population to revolt – especially in a volatile region where autocratic Middle Eastern leaders love to scapegoat foreign interference in their domestic affairs. President Obama was firm but diplomatic. Which is, after all, the way diplomacy works. (Sorry, Fox News, but this was never about Barack Obama anyway.)

Unemployment had a lot to do with this Egyptian revolution. One thing is certain: a person without a job – and without the prospect of a job – has both a reason to march in the streets and the time to march in the streets! I can only hope that the outsourcing, shortsighted, anti-American corporate toadies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been paying attention to what has happened in Egypt the past few weeks. You can send all of our manufacturing jobs overseas, you can have all of our service calls routed through Bangalore and New Delhi – but when 20% of the U.S. population is out of work: beware.

When a future generation of dispossessed and disenfranchised Americans comes out into the streets to demand that their corporate overlords listen to their grievances and share the wealth, will the U.S. military – our all-volunteer force – turn their guns on their fathers, uncles, brothers, high school buddies, mothers and sisters? Egypt’s army did not. I can’t imagine that the U.S. Army would either. (Maybe that’s why Bush and Cheney were so busy funding and training Blackwater, now Xe Services LLC?)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the historic events in Egypt. And let’s celebrate this display of human courage and dignity. We don’t know what the future will hold for Egypt. Will their next government roll rightward toward religious zealotry and anti-Semitism? Or will it become a liberal lantern that lights the way to true freedom in the region? That’s for Egyptians to decide.

The opportunity to make another giant leap for human civilization is within Egypt’s grasp. Chances to fundamentally advance humanity come along very few times in a millennia. Or two. Or three. Or four…

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