Watch Out: Trump is on his way to “Wag The Dog.”

If you’ve never heard the phrase “Wag The Dog” you may be missing out on what could be the Washington story of the year.

But I get ahead of myself.

“Wag the Dog” refers to a story and film by that name that came out in 1997. The basic plot is simple and at the time a political comedy. A fictitious president of the United States is becoming  embroiled in a sex scandal involving a young teenage girl and the story is about to break just days before his reelection. The President instructs his staff to contact a political consultant known for his abilities at damage control to help manage the issue long enough for the president to win reelection.

Jumping ahead a bit, the consultant starts to fabricate  a war with “Albania.” The idea: Distract the media and country from the unfolding sex scandal. Most of the film is describing the specific techniques and tactics used to sell the idea there was a war with Albania to the American people.

And it works. Within a few days the country and media has been taken through the growth and unwinding of “the war” leaving the president as a hero who easily wins reelection.

Analogies to the story became rampant during the Bill Clinton administration and efforts to distract the country from the brewing White House intern scandal. And, to some extent it worked.

So, what does all of that have to do with 2017?

I propose that we are coming dangerously close, if not already up to our eyeballs,  to the United States Actor-in-Chief picking up the storyline in a desperate escalating attempt to distract the media and the country from the unfolding Russia scandal.

Except that this time the war is not with a fictitious harmless country. This time the threat is very real: North Korea.

And this time, the scandals run throughout the United States government. With incompetent people politically selected to head the various agencies down to various “assistants” and “aides” populating the federal government. 

And this time, treaties between the United States and other countries are being torn-up and relations with allies are strained to a near breaking point. Not to mention an ill-equipped son-in-law given control over massive sections of the government.

Oh, and what seems like just an afterthought, this POTUS is bilking the taxpayers for lavish spending at his various hotels and golf courses around the world. And receiving untold amounts of cash from other countries in the ultimate money laundering scheme.

All of which appears to be an effort to distract and cover-up the president’s unfathomable relationships and co-conspiracies with Russia.

In the film director Barry Levinson gives us this to chew on:

“Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail were smarter, the tail would wag the dog.”

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This isn’t the America my Dad fought for.

My Dad died when I was 19.

But even today I remember that small patch of smooth skin on his left shoulder. It had an almost translucent quality. Dad never liked to talk about it. Just once he told me he’d been shot in the war, in the Philippines,  and there was still a small piece of metal  deep beneath the skin.

He almost never talked about it, but every once in awhile  his shoulder would “act up” and he’d have me slather some smelly concoction on the site. Was supposed to make it hurt less.

I am thinking about my Dad a lot these days. I can’t help but think that the country we’re becoming now is not the America he fought for. His shoulder would be”acting up.”

 

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If it has feathers and quacks it’s a duck

I know I can’t be the only one. Right? I mean it seems as if everyone with any sense left looks at Mr. Trump’s actions and words regarding Russia and comes to the same conclusion: He’s the only one who can’t or won’t acknowledge that Russia launched a massive cyberattack on the United States during our 2016 election.

Even the normally split down the middle Congress has put their bipartisan big boy pants on to say that, yes, the Russians did it. Not, as Mr. Trump said some “400lbs kid sitting on his bed.”

At every turn of events, Mr. Trump either changes the subject or supports Russian interests over our own. There are, of course, various theories that purport to explain this. Some make sense most others are just wild speculation. 

I don’t know the answer. But I’m confident of this. Back during the “Cold War” Trump would have been impeached by now for his failure to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States…”

Quack.

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Don’t waste your breath on Trump. Save it for McConnell.

It almost goes without saying but Donald Trump is sucking up almost all of the “media” air. So much so that I don’t even have to offer complete sentences and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Here try a few:

Russia   Son-in-law   Delusional  Narcissistic and so on.

But while reporters are following that nut case as he’s trampling on the Constitution…the friggin Constitution for god’s sake…up the street squirreled away in the best office the U.S. Capitol has to offer, the Senate’s Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is busy taking away our freedoms one after another.

An exaggeration you think? Consider this.I know that while I’m sitting here ready to throw my shoe at Trump’s face on cable news, “the leader” is pushing a health care bill so quickly you’d think it was crafted around a poker table.

But he doesn’t care.

The leader is getting things done; lots of things that most of us don’t know about because our news media representatives are busy going after this year’s great white whale not knowing that they’re the ones who’ve taken the bait.

The media; right, left or center are busy chasing their tails trying to figure out who, if anyone, is driving? Poor ‘ole McConnell is barely noticed as the media rushes by him hunting the latest victim of the out of control Trump machine.

“Hey, over there folks. The guy who looks like Disney’s Jiminy Cricket.. he’s rounding up votes to take away your freedom to get health care. He’s the same guy who stole President Obama’s supreme court nomination. Go grill him on something!” A network cameraman looks over and says, “Say, you know of a decent place to grab a burger around here?”

So far under McConnell’s rule in the Senate, Trump cabinet nominations are sailing through like the nominees are actually qualified for the jobs they’re getting. More judges are being confirmed and money, your tax money, is being handed out to corporate panhandlers from K Street.

Surely there are a few respectable senate Republicans left who could help stop the insanity. But those Republicans are in high demand to give a response to Trump’s latest misadventure.

One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

McConnell is pushing a vision of healthcare in America that is as unAmerican as a bill can get before Satan grabs and blows fire on it as his way of saying “good luck.” It pits the healthy against those with medical problems; young versus old. Wealthy versus everyone else.

And please, don’t fall for the trap and call it “reform.” It’s not. It’s being designed to get merged with the house version. And, boy, isn’t that going to be fun.

By all accounts McConnell is aiming to get the bill ready for votes before July 4th. Democrats need to peel off 3 or 4 Republican votes to smash this thing. Maybe it’s time to call Senators McCain and Flake….

Be well…

 

 

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Senator McCain. It’s your time to act.

Maybe it’s just what fate had in store for politicians from Arizona.

In 1974 a U.S. Senator from Arizona, once his party’s nominee for president, helped usher a crook out of the White House. The Arizona Senator was Barry Goldwater and the crook was President Richard Nixon.

By all accounts Nixon knew he was toast when Goldwater showed up. The senator just confirmed that for him.  24 hours later Nixon resigned.

It took years of investigations and hard reporting to deal with Nixon.

Now, 43 years later, a U.S. Senator from Arizona, once his party’s nominee for president, must usher a narcissistic psychopath out of the White House. The Arizona Senator is John McCain. The occupant is Donald Trump.
Senator McCain, you know he’s nuts. You know he is a danger to our country and the entire planet. Senator McCain, this distasteful mission is something that goes with being Arizona’s senior senator. Don’t wait too long. We can’t let him do any more damage.

A longer version of this was originally posted in January 2017

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“Lists. It’s personal.”

I normally do most of my writing here.  I wrote this piece for “Medium.”

"LISTS"
 

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A New Journalism for Troubled Times

My story begins in 1972. I was doing TV news at a station in Lansing, Michigan. Any time I start feeling full of myself I dig up a photo of me on camera back then. Some of you may remember Gene Shalit NBC’s “Today Show”  regular book and film critic. Yeah..I looked like a younger version of Gene but without the mustache. In any event, that’s when I got my first taste of what “balanced” meant to some rich old guy who owned the only TV station in town.

NBC “Today Show” critic Gene Shalit

The station was owned by a old guy named Harold “Hal” Gross.( I looked for an image link to him but the ‘Net seems to have left him back in the ’70s.)

‘Ole Hal was a good buddy to the local congressman from the 6th District of Michigan Charles  Chamberlain (R).

Congressman Charles Chamberlain R Mich 6th

Chamberlain was glued to that seat in congress which was great for him and not bad for Gross who enjoyed name-dropping wherever and whenever he could. We never could find anything going on between them that was precisely illegal, but there was always a smell around them.

Of course, whenever Charlie wanted to get on TV we’d get the order from Gross to go stick a mic and camera in the congressman’s face so he could say whatever he wanted to say. I can’t remember Mr. Chamberlain ever having anything interesting to say, let alone newsworthy. And when I tried to raise that with Gross he brushed me aside and told me to get a haircut. (I didn’t)

U.S. Rep. Bob Carr (D) Mich 6th District

But good things don’t last forever and Democrat Bob Carr, a young anti-war lawyer, decided to take a shot at beating Chamberlain. The timing was right; Chamberlain was getting old, starting to lose interest in the job, travel, etc.. And  there was a ready made “army” of young Michigan State college kids on the nearby campus who were looking for something to do that might end the Vietnam War.

So Carr and his merry band of activists pulled together a no-frills campaign and went about the business of telling voters why they should vote for Carr instead of Chamberlain.

But there was one little problem.

Hal Gross.

Hal wasn’t about to let some young “demo-crap” rain all over his cozy arrangement with Chamberlain. So Hal dreamed up something he called “balanced” news coverage, sent all of us a memo and his policy was to go into effect immediately.

Of course, nobody in the news department had a clue about what the old man meant by “balanced.” As a matter of basic journalism we always looked for the two, three, or more sides to a story. A new road might make driving to the mall easier for some, but it’s going to plow right through another family’s home.

So we just trashed the memo and went on the daily business of trying to fill up 15-minutes of actual news. 

Then two things happened with no apparent connection. Gross started to lock up the week’s allocation of film for the newsroom in his office safe. That drove the cameramen crazy. You see, back then, before videotape, everything we did was on film. Today, a crew can burn through hours of videotape to get one great two-minute story. What Gross did was make the cameramen shoot on a ratio of one-to-one. In other words, every single frame of film was going to be used so they’d better make it look good.

My cameraman, Dennis, went completely off his rocker about that one and became focused on how to extract revenge. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

That’s me on the left, Dennis is on the right carrying that old, very heavy film camera.

We took turns covering the local political races, especially the “hot” contest between Carr and Chamberlain. That’s when things got weird. Dennis and I would head out to cover a Carr news conference, get his spiel and then call over to the Chamberlain campaign for a response. 

 But they didn’t want to respond. They didn’t want to say anything.

(Carr lost that race by the thinnest of margins, but came back two years later and beat the long term incumbent.)

We couldn’t figure out what rocket scientist of a political consultant  gave them that advice. I mean, to just sit back and take one on the chin was not a great way to keep a congressional seat.

So we cut the story ending with “we asked the Chamberlain campaign about the Carr charges, but they told us “no comment.”

Gross always had his little turd spies roaming around the place. One of them must have rushed over to the big guy’s office to report on the Carr story because the news director’s phone rang immediately. 

We were told to kill the story.

Why? What was wrong? Was I not wearing my puke yellow blazer with the big “WJIM” patch on the pocket? (I hated that blazer.)

Nope. It was much more simple. We had violated the Gross “balanced news” policy. 

So if the good congressman didn’t want to say anything the story couldn’t be “balanced” and was trashed.

We lost track of how many times that happened with the Carr – Chamberlain campaign and others.

One side was able to effectively censor the other by doing nothing. We could be as “fair” as possible, but if a story wasn’t “balanced” it was never seen.

Before long both Dennis and I hit our boiling point. Gross was controlling how much film we could use to cover stories and his “balanced news” b.s. was just plain wrong, if not illegal.

There’s more to the story. We formed a union, got fired, were reinstated with back pay so long as we never set foot in the station again, and went on our way.

But we left Mr. Gross a little present. Shortly after we received our settlements there was a figurative “explosion.” Here’s how it was described in Wikipedia:

“The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the station’s license in 1973 on allegations Gross prevented a number of prominent political figures from appearing on WJIM-TV.  A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) judge ordered the license revoked in 1981. WJIM kept its license when the initial revocation was reversed by FCC in 1982. The ACLU would eventually agree to a cash settlement in 1984.”

Shortly afterwards Gross just got out of the business.

But his “balanced” policy has survived and flourished most noticeably at FOX news. But the other networks and a whole lot of newspapers have bought into it.  And they’ve been suckered into a reverse form of that game. If a politician makes a big enough noise they “have to” cover it. The cable news outfits even “have to” carry the noise live. 

In the meantime, folks who have something other than noise are left in the wake unless they want to respond to what the noisemaker had to say – which just leads to more noise.

So here’s the only thing I can think of doing that, in some small way, might push back. Maybe a few folks will join me in making “Fair and Accurate” the new standard.

 

 

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Does Donald Trump Have NPD? Ask Mayo Clinic

I believe that Donald J. Trump has Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  I’ve believed this for some time but a lot of good that did.
I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. But I have an advanced degree and I can read. And with everything I read I become more convinced that we have a very sick and dangerous person living in the White House.  I’m not alone in that opinion. 

Here’s one of many articles you can read. This one is courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several types of personality disorders. Personality disorders are conditions in which people have traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function in relationships and other areas of their life, such as work or school.

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.

Many experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions. This manual is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal and value yourself more than you value others.

 

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Az Sen. Barry Goldwater Told Nixon; Az Sen. John McCain has to tell Trump

Maybe it’s just what fate had in store for politicians from Arizona.

In 1974 a U.S. Senator from Arizona, once his party’s nominee for president, helped usher a crook out of the White House. The Arizona Senator was Barry Goldwater and the crook was President Richard Nixon.

By all accounts Nixon knew he was toast when Goldwater showed up. The senator just confirmed that for him.  24 hours later Nixon resigned.

It took years of investigations and hard reporting to deal with Nixon.

Now, 43 years later, a U.S. Senator from Arizona, once his party’s nominee for president, must usher a narcissistic psychopath out of the White House. The Arizona Senator is John McCain. The occupant is Donald Trump.
Senator McCain, you know he’s nuts. You know he is a danger to our country and the entire planet. Senator McCain, this distasteful mission is something that goes with being Arizona’s senior senator. Don’t wait too long. We can’t let him do any more damage.

Here’s a look at the damage he’s done so far:
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press while standing in front of the CIA Memorial.
* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.

And he’s just getting started.

Please copy this partial list and paste it into your Facebook page or email. 

(List courtesy of Josh Grossfeld)

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Forget the phone calls & email: SHOW UP!

You’re all fired up and ready to contact your congressman or legislator. So, what do you do? Make phone calls? Send email? Even take the time to send a letter?

Chances are you’ve been directed to do one of those. I hate to be the one to tell you, but those things are pretty weak. Make a phone call? Chances are your call never gets further than a secretary or intern. A summary might be sent up the mountain to the office holder.

Send an email? You’ve got to be kidding. Emails are sorted by topic and a return email … “Thank you for your comments…” is sent out.  They do not get to the office holder no matter how much time you spent crafting the exact correct message.

So, what works? Simple. Show-up. Go to their offices. Attend town hall meetings. Bring along some folks who aren’t afraid of making a little noise.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

 

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