Archive for November, 2016


November 27, 2016


Happy December!

Our operative word for this month of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Mawlid un Nabi (Muhammad’s Birthday), the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve is — “Bamboozlement”. As Oliver Hardy might say, “That’s what gotten us into this fine mess!” Who’s Oliver Hardy? Ask your grandparents. Or their grandparents.

Definition of Bamboozle (Merriam-Webster):

(1)  To deceive by underhanded methods: dupe, hoodwink.

(2) To confuse, frustrate or throw off thoroughly and completely.

Love him or hate him, any reasonably objective assessment of Donald Trump’s astounding victory in November concludes that it was due to unparalleled bamboozlement of the highest order, including a stunning realization that the liar was finally triumphant lying about his lying – successfully branding his opponent with such damning designation — even in the lack of any valid supporting evidence.

That’s right.

Benghazi? Emails? The Clinton Foundation?

Conservative talk show commentary to the contrary, there was never anything there upon which to truly hang Hillary or “lock her up”, but there was plenty of unfounded innuendo with which to hatchet her mercilessly. Secretary Clinton’s campaign died of a thousand cuts. This proves anew Adolf Hitler’s infamous observation in “Mein Kampf” that “A big lie must be so colossal that no one would believe someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

 Hitler’s chief Nazi propagandist, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, picked up on the theme. He wrote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating, people will eventually come to believe it.” Goebbels thoughtfully added, “”The truth is the mortal enemy of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all its powers to repress dissent.”

 On Monday, November 21st, Donald Trump appeared at a meeting with several dozen media heads and primary network anchors, summoned to a boardroom at Trump Tower in hopes of establishing a more congenial relationship with the press. But Donald detonated, starting the meeting by directly addressing CNN President Jeff Zuker with these words: “I hate your network, everyone at CNN is a liar and CNN is a network of liars!” Then things went way downhill. Trump has made several outright threats to “open up libel laws” and “take the press to court” when elected. Think about it.

It’s become disturbingly easy to discredit Trump by simply quoting his own words. I have also come to believe that Donald J. Trump functions almost exclusively by intuitive impulse, often sacrificing logic and reason in the process.

This is terrifying.

We are about to live under rule by whim. Donald shifts with the wind and appears powerless to do otherwise. Maybe we’ll get lucky.

Yet along with “bamboozlement”, there’s another big word starting to make the rounds. It’s right there in the U.S. Constitution plain as day – “Emolument.”

“No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatsoever, from any King, Prince, or Foreign State.”

 Definition of Emolument (Merriam-Webster):

(1) A return arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.

(2) Money you receive from working.

Trump has every intention of keeping business interests intact without restriction, stating: “The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the President can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Trump’s projects, loans and business deals include such things as hundreds of millions owed to Deutsche Bank in Germany, an institution from which Federal regulators are now seeking a $14 billion dollar fine for issuing toxic loans during the 2008 housing crisis.

Trump companies are also hundreds of millions in debt to the Bank of China, owned by the government of China – a nation directly competing with us for worldwide influence. These are just two highlights from extensive holdings all over the planet.

Will the new Republican Congress provide the consent Constitutionally required for Donald to do as he will? I’m herein asking our newly re-elected Fourth District Representative, Tom McClintock, for his take in this matter. I trust you’ll do likewise.

I also hope I see you this Saturday morning at Denny’s for “Homeless for The Holidays: 2016”. That’s the theme for our December meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club. Mike Rhodes, noted progressive journalist and former editor of Fresno’s “Community Alliance” newspaper, will join us for a discussion of his book, “Dispatches from the War Zone.” We’ll also be reviewing election results and wondering — where do we go from here?

As we – Rock On.

“Still lookin’ for that blue jean, baby queen.

Prettiest girl I’ve ever seen.

See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean.”

 David Essex – “Rock On” (1973)




“Goodbye Medicare”

November 20, 2016


At the risk of appearing unduly self-aggrandizing, perhaps even petulantly annoying, please allow me to repeat an observation originally expressed on April 2nd, 2015.

“Now – only one man stands in their way. No matter whom you voted for or how much it’s become fashionable to publicly despise his name in certain circles as a sign of fraternal conviviality, without Barack Obama — you can kiss Medicare, as we know it, goodbye.”

 I was writing about how Barack Obama alone could be counted on to block any efforts by a new Republican Congress to gut Medicare.

Obviously, this will no longer be true after January 20, 2017.

Ominously, the writing’s on the wall.

President-Elect Trump is now stating that he is about to “modernize” Medicare with the help of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan’s been trying to phase out Medicare and replace it with private insurance for several years. It will be based on a voucher system. Everyone will get a certain amount of money from the government to buy the best policies available on a free market, “free” in this instance potentially meaning unregulated – and expensive. If your voucher won’t cover the cost of adequate protection, maybe that serves you right for not setting aside enough retirement money back when you could. It’s really your own fault. Don’t blame the Speaker of the House. He hopes you’ve learned your lesson.

Mr. Ryan will finally enjoy a unified Republican government under Trump’s leadership or lack thereof and has signaled he will rush things along to realize his goal of establishing a “patient-centered health system” – whatever that might be — other than warm and fuzzy words that suggest everything and promise nothing.

But wait. Trump has guaranteed he wouldn’t touch Medicare.

Oops. Looks like the joke’s on us.

The Trump transition team has now gone on record unequivocally stating that the boss should certainly not be taken “literally” for “things he says in public.” Those are just words. Such clarification was presented to representatives of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before Abe’s hastily arranged meeting with Donald last Thursday. Shinzo was trusting that perhaps Tokyo won’t have to built their own nuclear weapons after all. Are there kits for that sort of thing?

They got together at Trump Tower, now informally designated as a new “White House North” – where President Trump apparently will be spending most weekends back in the glitter and gold of his mighty erection — away from the depressing slums of our nation’s capitol city, including a certain decrepit old building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It doesn’t have escalators. Call in the bulldozers.

Melania has already announced that she and Barron won’t be moving to Washington. Unfashionable.

The only horrible thing about New York to Trump & Company is that residents of Manhattan insolently voted for Hillary Clinton over the Trump/Pence ticket 86.4% to 9.9%. That’s not a typo. But that’s why Vice President-Elect Mike “Poodle” Pence shouldn’t have been particularly surprised when he encountered considerable booing Friday night when he sat way down front at the Richard Rogers Theater. He wanted up close enjoyment of the red-hot Broadway hit, “Hamilton”. Poodle got more than he came for.

At the conclusion of the musical, Brandon Victor Dixon (in the major role of Aaron Burr) acknowledged that Pence was in attendance, thanked him for being there and added an appeal to “uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” The audience broke out in applause and cheers. Not the Trumpster.

In yet another dazzling display of tenuous temperament and shrieking insecurities, Trump tweeted from the Tower, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of “Hamilton”. This should not happen. Apologize!” Sunday morning he upped the ante. “The cast and producers of “Hamilton” which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior.”

 Sunday’s thin-skinned twitter fest also took another shot at NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. Tweeted Trump, “I watched parts of “Saturday Night Live” last night. It is a totally one-sided, biased show – nothing funny at all.”

 Here’s what’s not funny. Donald John Trump has not received any sort of meaningful mandate, nor does he reflect the majority will of the American people. He is President-Elect only due to an antiquated, archaic legal technicality known as The Electoral College, having lost popular support by well over a million and a half votes. His transition team shows every sign of backward motion at blinding speed. We are being shattered.

Here comes the night.

“The long and lonely night” – Van Morrison (1965)

“Free Fall”

November 13, 2016

Donald Trump

It was the greatest political upset in American history.

We are in free fall.

I’m still reeling from the shock. As national returns starting scrawling across the screen, it was like being nailed with a 2′ by 4′ right between my eyes, again and again. Even if I enjoyed that sort of thing, Election Night 2016 wasn’t any fun.

No one knows what Donald J. Trump is going to do, particularly Donald J. Trump. They say a chimp on a computer keyboard, given enough time and random opportunities, will eventually write “Romeo and Juliet” — word for word. So the Trumpster DOES have a chance to make America White Again. I mean Right. I mean Great.

In fact, I have one desperate fantasy. There does seem to be potentially persuasive evidence suggesting that Donald Trump is a savant.

The word savant is derived from the Latin “sapere,” meaning, “to be wise.” “Savant syndrome” is defined as a condition in which a person with a developmental disability, such as autism spectrum disorder, demonstrates profound capabilities far in access of that which could be considered normal. Savants often exhibit highly functioning behavior combined with obsessive compulsions, simultaneously displaying pronounced deficits in social and language skills. I’m not making this up.

John Pero is my favorite local Tea Party person. He and I were congenially discussing the pending Trump presidency last Thursday night at Tom Wheeler’s Town Hall Meeting. I pointed out to John that I would have preferred Ted Cruz or any other clearly Conservative leader to Trump purely for purposes of predictive clarity. I know where they stand. Trump?

The Donald’s past pronouncements on certain progressive issues sure sound like Bernie Sanders. Rebuilding our crumbing infrastructure? Expanding Social Security? Reforming an economic system that enables billionaires to not pay a penny in federal income tax? Retaining critical aspects of The Affordable Health Care Act? Renegotiating NAFTA and other trade deals unfairly balanced against U.S. interests? Ending any further pursuit of a Trans-Pacific Partnership? Count me in.

But then there are such items as lifting restrictions on fossil fuel production, cancelling millions of dollars in payments for U.N. climate change programs, appointing new justices to the Supreme Court pledged to reverse Roe vs. Wade, deporting millions of “illegals”, banning Muslims from our shores, ignoring the plight of Syrian refugees victimized by terrorism, opening the door to Iranian nuclear weapons acquisition, repeatedly offering horrid examples of appropriate adult conduct to impressionable children and so on. Count me out.

Two old friends from Michigan were back in the news right before the election.

Far right Ted Nugent, with whom I worked dozens of times through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s as a rock concert promoter, introduced the Trumpster before a cheering throng of blue collar workers in Grand Rapids on the last night of the campaign. I watched incredulously as Trump wildly promised he would bring the auto industry back from overseas – or wherever — with “big league pay.” The crowd went wild.

Far left Michael Moore, whom I introduced to an unsuspecting public on WTAC’s “Radio Free Flint”, predicted Trump would win way back in August and vaulted to top spot in iTunes sales that same evening with “Trumpland” – a film he tossed together at the last minute. Mike’s been back on all the network talk shows ever since. He says the Democratic Party and Hillary took far too much for granted — believing working class support for Secretary Clinton would be inherently automatic. This turned out to be a fatal miscalculation.

Even FBI Director James Comey’s unforgettable, unforgiveable, blundering, thundering, utterly witless impact on the election would not have proved the fatal tipping point it was — were it not for deep seeds of discontent previously sown and inarticulately addressed.

Descend we now to a future uncertain and unforeseeable.

Consider the first two schizophrenic twitter tweets of our President Elect less than 48 hours after the polls closed as he watched thousands upon thousands of protestors march spontaneously in dozens of cities against his ascension to prominence:

6:19 PM – “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!

3:14 AM – “Love the fact that the small group of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud.”

In the immortal words of the late Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

 How optimistic ring the words of The Rolling Stones in their classic anthem with which Trump closed his victory speech early Wednesday morning:

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes — you just might find –you get what you need.”

A trying time has begun.

“Snow On The Water”

November 8, 2016


 I wish Charlie were here.

 Charlie Speights was one of my oldest and dearest friends for more than half a century. He passed away in June at the age of 88.

 He’s exactly the guy I’d go to for insightful commentary during crazy times such as these, although we did have several occasions to discuss the whole Donald Trump deal before he departed. Charlie couldn’t believe such a thing as Trump was happening. Not in America.

 I first met Charlie in January of 1964 when I arrived in Flint for my 7-Midnight DJ shift on WTAC. He had played trumpet as a young man with a horn back in the late ‘40’s when he was still in his early 20’s, working with such notables with Ray Anthony, Claude Thornhill, and Jimmy Dorsey. After he married and settled down in Flint, Charlie looked for “the next best thing to a real job” — deciding a radio career perfectly fit the bill.

 Charlie was WTAC’s Vice President & General Manager when I arrived on the scene, but was always much more coach than boss. I never heard him raise his voice in anger. He was very active expressing progressive thinking, sharing his perspectives with weekly editorials over WTAC’s powerful signal throughout much of Michigan and surrounding states. When George McGovern visited Flint in 1972 as he ran for President, it was Charlie who introduced Senator McGovern before a cheering crowd of autoworkers – at that time enjoying the enviable distinction of being highest paid factory workers in the history of the world.

When I wanted to introduce “Radio Free Flint” with locally controversial Michael Moore into WTAC’s Sunday morning programming, Charlie not only provided permission, but happily and expertly ran extended interference for us against more conservative elements in the community, particularly General Motors. He left broadcasting in 1974 and headed for Las Vegas, where he paid his union hall dues and returned to show business, spending a number of years back on trumpet, playing behind all sorts of major stars at all the big casinos.

 Charlie is very much on my mind as I write this column early Saturday afternoon. Election 2016 is still three days away, but I’m taking a break and heading down to Palm Desert. There’s a special “Remembrance Celebration of Life” being held in Charlie’s memory on Sunday, put on by his friends at Desert Falls Country Club, where they’ve already installed a permanent commemorative plaque in his honor. He was that rare sort of a guy — earning that kind of lasting respect without even trying. I wouldn’t miss Charlie’s party for all the tea in the Tea Party.

 When this week’s paper is published, November 10th, it will be ten years to the day since Eileen and I arrived in Oakhurst.

 We drove across the country from Michigan to California in a twenty-two-foot Penske Rental Truck containing all of our earthly belongings, including two cats and a cockatiel named Clancy. Every few hours Charlie would call from his condo in Palm Desert as he tracked our journey West with pins on a map. He was glad we were finally moving closer.

 We visited Charlie and his wonderful wife, Toby Meyers Speights, a number of times in subsequent years, including an extended stay with them at Incline Village on Lake Tahoe, where Charlie and Toby had rented a house over the 4th of July Weekend in 2008. Charlie was in his 80th year, but was still running all over the place. I could barely keep up. We bought this cool German Shepherd named “Captain Mike” several beers at a cowboy hang out in Truckee. “Captain Mike” put his great big doggie feet right up on the bar and lapped those suds out of a giant glass ashtray filled to the brim with bubbly Bud Light. It was cool.

 Charlie always said he really didn’t miss radio at all. He felt the whole business and, in fact, much of what seems important in life at any given point is ultimately just “snow on the water.” He always felt everyone should just slow down, relax and enjoy the ride. He’d say, “What, me hurry?”

 There’s no doubt in my mind that “snow on the water” is how Charlie would summarize this last year and a half of national political insanity.

 The phrase is from an Incredible String Band song called “Big Ted”.

 “Big Ted’s dead and gone.

  Gone like snow on the water.


 Election 2016?


 More on Charlie?