Something to get really pissed about…

Here’s a piece of news for anyone who was following the petition signature disasters of 2018: the politicians figured out a way to get their candidate petitions signed online through the Secretary of State’s office on something called E-Qual.

You read that right. While thousands of volunteers were hitting the streets gathering up petition signatures one at a time day in and day out, week after week, month after month, the politicians could just sit back and direct people to the state’s website where they can “sign” nominating petitions.

When I first saw this I thought this must have been testing a system or something similar.  One call to the Secretary of State election division cleared that up. No, I was told, the system to allow politicians to avoid having to collect signatures one at a time out on the street was legitimate.

And, I was told; there were none of those pesky fraudulent petition signatures to deal with. After a voter filled out a basic form their information was immediately matched against the statewide voter file, the same one that is used now manually. If everything matches up, your name goes on their petition. If not, too bad.

They even gave me where in Arizona law this was allowed. Turns out, it’s been there for ages. You can look it up yourself. Just Google “ARS 16 – 316.” That’s where the politicians stashed this backdoor. But that one just took care of candidates for the legislature and statewide offices.

Now, look up “ARS 16 – 317“. This one added on politicians at the city town and county level. So they won’t have to go out and collect signatures either.

But wait there’s more. Check out “ARS 16 – 318“. That one, so that candidates for the United States Senate and Congress could also shift their campaign budgets because they’re saving the cost of petition collection.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve been working with candidates and campaigns for decades and I can put up with their occasional perks.

But this is way over the line.

Show me one candidate who’ll campaign to expand online petition signatures for ALL of us that includes referendums, initiatives and constitutional amendments I’ll be all in for her.

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Goodbye Mr.Flake. Hello Mrs. Flakey

I never agreed with much of what Senator Jeff Flake said when it came to policy — although I liked his stand on Cuba. But I always believed him to be a decent, honorable man.

The other day he proved that with a Senate floor speech which, with any luck, will become a turning point for Republicans. Those who share his deep concern about Mr. Trump, but don’t have the backbone to stand up and say so, at least have someone to quote now.

But, like all things political, time marches on.

It’s Thursday so I suspect the Sunday morning political talk show are working like mad to get a piece of Flake for their shows. In the business it’s called a “get.” I wish them luck.

The other “get” may be the worst nightmare for those of us  who actually live in Arizona: former state senator and resident ‘flakey person’ Dr. Kelli Ward. Ward is known around these parts as “Chemtrail Kelli” for her deep belief that those white smoke-like trails jet aircraft leave in the sky are, in fact, a government plot to control all of us with some sort of mind altering drug. That pretty much qualifies her as the Trump/Bannon preferred candidate to replace Flake in the U.S. Senate, I’d say.

In the meantime, a whole slew of Arizona Republicans, each trying to out-crazy the other and pledge their undying support of Trump have sprung into action.

NOTE TO REPUBLICAN PRIMARY VOTERS: When the pollsters call you this weekend, and they will, have some fun: tell them you’re “undecided.” This is especially fun if the call is from one of major TV networks, New York Times, Washington Post, etc. They’d like nothing more than to see “Arizona in play” for the senate race. When their colleagues are battling the weather back East they can be here playing golf. 

My personal favorite is Arizona State treasurer Jeff Dewit. ‘Ole Jeff has pretty much been a ghost for most of the 2016 election and into 2017 in his role as “Treasurer for the Trump campaign.” I’ve never verified that, mostly because I didn’t care, but it seems like a good idea for someone to check out.

In any event, if true, I suspect that anyone Trump/Bannon trusted with their cash has to have the inside track on this one — or be prepared for one helluva IRS audit.

In the meantime, the U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema campaign has to put a limit on their  giddiness — take a day or two — and then come back to reality. Their mission is going to be finding enough Democrats, Independents  and “I’m-fed-up-with-the-Republican-crats”to win next year…a little over 12 months from now. 

Their best course, I suspect, will be to maintain their heading and not take the Trump/Bannon bait that’ll be carpet-bombing the state.

Trump/Bannon thrive on the thin skin of their targets/opponents. That’s what all the nicknames are about, not to mention the outright lies. And they really don’t care much about any attempted “counter attacks” aimed at them. Because they know their base won’t care. In fact, their allegiance will just grow stronger.

Well, that’s going way too far into the future for me. A lot is going to happen between now and then. Hold tight, its going to be a very rough road.





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I’ve Run Out Of Adjectives…

I know, I know, I know.

But as much as I share the opinions (and prayers) of my progressive colleagues, the truth is that the odds are overwhelmingly against Republicans using their control of Congress to fix this mess. No matter how dangerous things become. And they are becoming dangerous.

So about all I have left is what I’ve said before: Work my tail off to get progressive Democrats elected to Congress and the Senate next year. Some colleagues assure me that just running against Trump is sufficient to win. But I disagree. I lived through the Nixon years. There was every reason to boot that crook out of office when he ran for a second term. Vietnam. Watergate. And so on. It didn’t work. Closer to home, Fife Symington won reelection while the hammer was coming down on him for his real estate dealings. It didn’t work either.

The unfortunate truth is that without coordinated progressive campaigns we might not be able to unseat him. And I don’t want to trust the job to Republicans.

So what does that mean? For openers, just running against Trump, I believe, won’t be enough. We have to avoid sounding “negative” and appeal to voters need for aspirational campaigns. Some of that will, by necessity, mean fixing the mess that we’ll face in 2018. Of course we’ll need to talk about restoring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the job of actually protecting the environment. And on, and on, and on.

But the key ingredient, I believe is  to follow the advice President Bill Clinton gave to some young Democrats. “When we talk about ourselves, we lose. When we talk about the people, we win.”

So I believe that between now and when the first ballots are mailed out in October 2018, we progressives will have to find ways to to talk with voters, not at them. And that starts with listening, really listening.

Now here’s a warning based on too many years of experience: we’re not going to necessarily like what we’ll hear. That’s ok. We need to start somewhere. And that is the only way we’ll be able to intelligently, aspirationally, talk about them, not us.


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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…”


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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.”


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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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