Friday, October 19, 2018

Remembering Broadcast History...37 Years Ago - Kids to Kids

They say the worst thing you can have in live television is “dead air”. Suddenly in front of a room full of government and media dignitaries, with broadcasting history literally hanging in the balance, that is exactly what we were facing. Dead air.

The date was Thursday, October 15th, 1981. Two days earlier, I had boarded an Amtrak train in Columbus, Wisconsin, along with Mike Daugherty, John Garrett, Tom Gehrmann, Chris Kerwin, Anne O'Brien, Becky Weirough, Glenn Zweig, Steve Funk, and Mike Kennedy, Now in the ballroom of the Capital Hill Holiday Inn in Washington D.C. a live satellite demonstration, linking our group of American kids, and a group of young people in Brisbane Australia had just gone on the air.

We were there along with other young people who shared the unique experience of being media users, not just media consumers. We were from the “Kids 4” television project in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Kids4 had been on the air since 1978, and was an educational partnership between the local public access cable channel and the American Council for Better Broadcasting (ACBB, now called the National Telemedia Council )


Joining us there in Washington, was a group from the KIDS ALIVE! Project in Bloomington, Indiana. Together, we were hosting a live cultural exchange via satellite with a group of young people from down under in Brisbane Australia, who hosted the popular children’s program WOMBAT on Australia's Channel 7.

The kids from the Australian television show went first, showing an amazing video montage of their studio, the gold coast of Australia and the stories they produced there at Channel 7 in Brisbane. Then it was our turn. Or so we thought. 

Kerri Brinson from KIDS ALIVE!, looked in the camera and cheerfully announced; “Well, here’s our video montage!”  And … nothing.

A technician from COX Cable Television, hurried into the room and whispered in the ear of a nearby adult that the Video tape player in the satellite truck, was not working, and therefore none of the prepared footage we had brought with us to Washington could be shown. So we proceeded to do what we always did when doing live television. We improvised. 

The kids from Indiana looked at us like we were nuts. They were not used to working live. One of the great things about the Kids 4 program is we started out doing all of our shows live. It was only after two years we switched to recording them first, then airing them.

Still, with a ballroom full of media dignitaries watching you , plus trying to fill time  with stuff off the top your head, AND cope with at least a 5 second time delay between you and the people you were trying to interview, it was bit tense, even by our standards. The end result however, was amazing. That one technical glitch turned what would have been a largely scripted exchange into an actual conversation.

Instead of following a script,  we talked.  Asking each other about school, about hobbies and what was it about working with television that interested them, as well as sharing our own experiences as kids learning to use media and not be used by it.

Of course at the time, it felt like a disaster.

Looking back on that day, thirty-seven years ago, I marvel at how much the world has changed. At the time, what we were doing in Washington DC that day was not all that remarkable from a technical standpoint. Live satellite broadcasts were hardly unusual in 1981. Yet from a cultural and educational standpoint, the Kids-to-Kids interconnect was nothing short of revolutionary.

As much as I say that live satellite television was commonplace in 1981, that isn’t to say the mechanics of it were simple. The path of the satellite interconnect - from Washington, D.C. to , Brisbane, Australia was a complex series of relays starting with a signal carried by cable to a Cox Cable production truck parked just outside in the courtyard of the hotel.From there, the Mobil-Video Company (MV) picked up the signal in its truck parked next to the Cox truck, and carried it via microwave across town to PBS Headquarters .

PBS then took over sending the signal to its satellite ground station  and  up to a Satellite, 22,300 miles above the Earth. Which THEN transmitted the signal to a satellite receiving dish in Sans Francisco. From there, the signal was transmitted it up to another satellite which relayed it down to the an earth station near Sydney, Australia.

Finally from there the signal travelled via land lines to the studios of Channel 7, Brisbane, where the Australian children received it and responded. Their messages back to the U.S. travelled in the reverse direction using landlines and satellites to Jamesburg, CA and back to San Francisco via microwave. 

Then back to Washington via another satellite, to the on-site satellite dish located in the courtyard of the Capitol Holiday Inn, which fed the signal back into the conference room where it was seen on large screens by all of us there.

Whew! Did you follow all that? Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz. But here is what you need to know, everything that I just described, in all its complicated glory, the average teenager can now do with the phone they carry in their pocket. No trucks needed, no delay and now we don’t even think twice about it.

The Interconnect didn’t radically change the media landscape, or advance broadcast technology. What it did do, was in the space of a few short hours make the world a remarkably smaller place. It showed that live satellite broadcasting could be used for more than breaking news and sporting events.

More than that, it laid the foundation for the type of personal inter connectivity that today, we take completely for granted. I know this, because I do it nearly every day. At least three times a week I will facetime, or skype or  or Facebook video call with friends and family scattered all over the globe. From my in-laws in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to my parents in Madison, Wisconsin,  and friends  from London to Oakland and scores of points in between.

The interconnect was the first global face-time session .

The greatest take away from that day for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of it, was the power of broadcast technology to bridge distances and connect people in new and exciting ways. It was, at least for one thirteen year old, a life changing experience. A live demonstration of the power of broadcast technology to connect people and be a platform for sharing experiences and ideas, in (nearly) real time.

Those lessons of the Interconnect are even more important today than they were three decades ago. In a world where if kids in Sun Prairie, WI  want to talk to kids in Brisbane, Australia , all they need is a smart phone and a decent Wifi signal;  Media Literacy is more crucial now than ever before. Teaching young people how to harness the power of media, and connectivity as tools for education and empowerment is more important today, than it has ever been.

Teaching young people to be media users, not just media consumers has always been at heart of the mission of Kids 4 and The National Telemedia Council . That mission, which took a gigantic step forward in 1981 continues today. You can find out more about the NTC and it's mission and legacy at :https://www.nationaltelemediacouncil.org

Thirty-seven years on, it remains an experience that played a tremendous role in shaping my path in life I am so very grateful to have been a part of it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Remembering a Very DIfferent Life...

The following is a updated repost of  one of the first blog entries  in Oct.  2006.   
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I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on zabasearch.com. It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.

A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.

I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.

For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.

So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.

Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.

And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.

I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.

Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.

Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.

( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)

I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .

Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.

I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?

Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...
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FLASH FORWARD  Twelve  years...  October 11, 2018

It is worth noting,  the friend I wrote about  in  2006 , like so many other  amazing friends from my life  have shown me  in words and deeds  what I have always suspected,  my friends are in general, a lot wiser than I am.   As  I mark today's  National Coming Out Day there are straight allies in my life who  I still cannot thank enough,  

From the friend who answered that  letter in 2006,  and reminded me  why were friends in the first place, and  still today  reminds me to laugh at life  more than  30 years on.  Then there is  the Lawyer in Dallas who challenged my own  stereotypes of how I thought friends  would react to my coming out,  and instead ended up teaching me invaluable lessons about  acceptance and true friendship, traveling half way around the world to surprise me at my wedding.

There are the  Police Officers in Youngstown, Ohio and Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, the Sheriff's deputy in Madison  and the Lawyer in  Las Vegas.   All of whom through the years have reminded me to not take myself too seriously,  and  whose friendships have been the the most incredible gift.

There is the couple in Georgia whose friendship has literally spanned two oceans and three decades, who always knew, didn't care, and have always loved me for who I am.  The Career Air Force officer and his wife in Germany, who I had the honour of being a Groomsmen at their wedding, and years later are still sharing their adventures with me. From the Career American Diplomat in Brussels, to the High School math teacher from Boston, who lived a remarkable  life of  always seeking the best in people, taught me to do the same  and  whose passing has left me  missing him every day.   All these amazing people, along with so many others I am blessed to call my friends.

And as always, my incredible family who just by being themselves  encouraged me,  and gave me strength  to just .... be myself.

And yes,  to those who,  for reasons political,  social,  and religious  felt they could not  continue our friendship,  I thank you as well.  Not because  I don't miss you,  for believe, me,  I  do miss you , every day. Yet  I owe you my thanks for  showing me that the choice to live authentically does not come without cost, and therefore must not, ever be taken for granted.  

Lastly,  to my amazing husband  Eric.   Who without even trying,  provides me with  living proof every day  that taking those steps to come out of the closet were by far, the best ones I have ever made.

Twenty Years later... Remembering a Dark October Night.

Wednesday October 7th, 1998 was a fairly ordinary day in Chicago. I was working for a small consulting firm in the near West suburb of Oak Park, and had spent the day in a series of fairly productive meetings. So I felt pretty good when I got home from work. I was puttering around my apartment making dinner when I picked up the remote control for the TV and turned on CNN.

The lead story was a brutal attack of a young man in Laramie Wyoming named Matthew Shepard. Shepard, age 21, had been beaten into a coma and left tied to fence along a rural highway outside the city. The news report noted that the victim was a young gay man and was not expected to survive.

I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.

I walked into the 7-11 there on the corner and bought a small votive candle, lit it and placed it with the growing number of candles, handwritten notes and flowers that were being placed around a picture of Matthew that someone had printed off the internet. I stayed for a little while talking to people who were gathered there. Some people were angry, others sad, but we all knew that something in our own community had changed as a result of what had happened,  hundreds of miles away in field outside Laramie.

In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process,  and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.

On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical.  What's more, those consequences now  had a face, and a name.

As I walked home, my thoughts turned to Matthew Shepard’s parents. What must they be thinking and feeling? Had they known Matt was gay? Did it really matter? Years later I would have the great honor of meeting Judy Shepard,  and hear her tell her own powerful story .

Now 20 years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day,  that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed,  on that October night in 1998.

Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.

People with a vested interest in keeping LGBT people as the one group it is still safe to hate. People who seek to profit, personally, politically and even economically from fomenting deadly hatred and fear of others. Bigots whose actions and beliefs are the farthest thing from being Christian, yet claim to have a monopoly on what they claim God thinks and who they claim "God hates".

I really don’t have a point to make here, other than to say it’s important to remember Matthew and so many others like him who have died as a result of hatred and bigotry. If you want to get involved, here are a few great places to start...

The Matthew Shepard Foundation: http://www.matthewshepard.org/

The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation: http://www.standupfoundation.com/

The We Give a Damn Campaign: http://www.wegiveadamn.org/

The "It Gets Better" Project:  http://www.itgetsbetter.org/

Thanks,

Dave

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

It's Time to Vote...

While living in Denmark, a well known American humorist and author once wrote that a common experience shared by many  American expats living abroad, was having to regularly defend U.S. foreign and domestic policy at the dinner table.  Even when you personally agreed with those criticising your country.


For me this thread has run through all of my experiences living, studying and working overseas.  Going all the way back to my fist time abroad as an exchange student in Germany in 1984, and again in 1986-87 .  Where I routinely  found myself  stubbornly defending  Reagan Administration  policies like the Strategic Defence Initiative (aka "Star Wars")

To  trying to explain the impeachment of Bill Clinton to friends while living and working in South Korea in the 1990's and how Americans hold the President to higher standard.  (Those were the days, huh?)   To  staunchly defending the decision to "take out Saddam Hussein" to my ABN AMRO colleagues in the Netherlands in 2002.


Or most recently here in London,  dealing with questions about Republican obstructionism to Barack Obama,  and the Birther movement and its clear racism.  That along with  how Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Donald Trump but didn't win the election.   

In all these conversations  you find yourself saying things like; "Well...you have to understand... America is a big and complicated country.".etc..etc.  When in fact you are in full agreement that it is all pretty much insane nonsense.

But now since the 2016 election, I will confess,  I .... got nuthin.  Zip... zilch... nada.


I have been completely unable to find any rational  justification for the actions  and inaction of the Trump Administration.    Like when Trump tried to kill the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") with nothing whatsoever to take its place. 

Friends here in the UK were  bewildered.  Asking me  why would the US Government  take away heath insurance from millions of Americans and have absolutely nothing to replace with with?  I had no response. There was no rational justification.

When Trump said that  Nazi's and a mob of  white supremacists  were  "good people" and  those protesting the Nazi's were the problem.   Friends here in the UK were bewildered and asked  what did US President really mean by that?    I was speechless. There was no rational justification.
Likewise,  when the Trump Administration decided the best way to deal with the Immigration issue in the US was not to have comprehensive immigration reform, or to engage with other countries to try to address the core issues that were causing their citizens to seek refuge in the US;  But rather,  to kidnap children from their parents,  throw then into cages and camps.   Threaten the parents and  break up whole families  for the sole purpose of terrorising immigrants as a "deterrent" to future asylum  seekers.

Friends here in the UK and around the world were horrified  and asked how such a thing could possibly happen in America? I was just as shocked and dumbfounded.  There was no rational justification.

Or,  when the overwhelming public evidence began to emerge that Trump lied about his campaign's contacts with the Russia, and when his behaviour  towards Putin was not that of the leader of the free world but rather that of a weak and toady sycophant;  

Friends here in  the UK were  (again)  bewildered,  asking me.  Why would  the  US President abdicate global leadership to Vladimir Putin?   Again,  I had nothing,  there was no logical  justification for any of it.

For all of this, I was at a complete loss to defend or justify the actions of my own government. And now with the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation travesty, we have the latest example of American dysfunction. 

Where the political party that  hyperventilated about "higher standards"  while trying  to impeach Bill Clinton in the 1990's gleefully gave a man with multiple accusations of  sexual misconduct a lifetime appointment the  Supreme Court.  This,  after having blocked President Obama from filling a court seat because....??  Yeah,  good luck rationalizing that.

Once again  here in  London friends are looking at me and asking what is that all about?   I still have nothing to justify what Trump and his political party have done.  But I do have an explanation and ...  a potential remedy.


The explanation is simple. The Republican Party as most Americans have known or thought of it since its inception in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin as a new anti-slavery party, on March 20, 1854,  no longer exists.   

The GOP is dead,  what has taken its place is a political party  of  Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell,  where the good of country doesn't enter into the equation at all.   Its only about  the political victory.  Nothing else matters. 


American Constitutional Democracy is no longer functioning.    In 2018 under Trumpublican rule, the sole purpose of the Legislative and Judicial branches of government is to protect the executive branch.   (Checks and Balances are for losers.)  But the good news  is.... I have a remedy, and so do you.  In less than a month, we will have a midterm election in the United States.   So I have a  VOTE,  and so do you .

So here's the deal...

If you believe that  Insurance Company profit margins should be the determining factor in who gets health care in American - Then vote Republican.

If you believe that the best way to address immigration issues in the United States is to  kidnap children and  lock them up in cages and camps,  terrorise their families so others will be too scared to come the US.-  Then vote Republican.


If you believe that Vladimir Putin has America's  best interests at heart and should be a prime influencer of American foreign policy -  Then Vote Republican.


If you feel that the founders of our American Republic were wrong when they designed the Legislative and Judicial branches of government to be a check against the power of the Executive branch. - Then Vote Republican.


If you believe that women and people of color are less American than white men - Then by all means,  you should vote Republican 


If however,  you think all those  thing I just cited are bat-shit crazy  then  you clearly  are a rational thinking human being and like me, will be voting against the Republican Party. 







Monday, September 10, 2018

Remembering a September Morning...

(The following is an updated repost  of an entry from Sept. 11th, 2011)

Tomorrow the media, and the blogosphere will undoubtedly be full of all sorts of remembrances and commentary around what is the 17th  anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.

To be honest I really don't like to dwell on the topic. Not out of any sense of personal pain, but more out of respect, for those people I know who were far closer to the events of that day than I was. My experience that day was a somewhat surreal one.

I had gotten up very early and caught a flight from Chicago Midway to Houston. I was heading there for work. It was about 20 minutes into the flight, the seat belt sign had just turned off, and people where shifting about, getting comfortable. I had just pulled out my laptop to work on the presentation I was going to be giving later that day. Suddenly the seat belt sign came back on, and the crew announced that everyone was to return to their seats and prepare for landing, the flight would be returning to Chicago.

The Pilot then came on the speaker system to say that there was nothing wrong with the plane, and we were returning to Chicago because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had ordered the flight to return to "clear air traffic". He said that was all the information they had, and he apologized for the inconvenience.

Everyone on the plane thought the same thing. (Not terrorism.) Chicago Midway had upgraded to a new Air Traffic Control System earlier in the Summer and a few weeks prior, there had been a series of glitches that had delayed several flights.  Everyone groaned, made comments about "Government Efficiency" assuming it was yet another problem with Midway's system that was going to mess up  our day.

This  assumption that was bolstered when the captain came back on the loudspeaker  and announced  that we were not returning to Midway but rather we were diverted to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The woman sitting next to me was happy about this thinking at least it might be easier to get on the next flight out to Houston. I nodded, and said "I hope so", thinking of how I might salvage the rest of my schedule that day and make my afternoon meetings on time.

It took us about 30 minutes of circling over O'Hare before we could land. Sitting in a window seat I watched as the line of planes waiting to land stretched to the far horizon and oddly enough, no planes were taking off. I commented on this to the woman next to me, and she said "wow Midway's systems must be really screwed up!" I laughed and said that what we get for Ronald Reagan having fired all the good Air Traffic Controllers. She laughed and said she had forgotten about that.

We landed and had to wait an additional 20 minutes to get a gate. but finally pulled up to a jetway , and we all lumbered off the plane into the gate area I was getting annoyed because people were not clearing the area in front of the door but were all standing around the televisions that were tuned to the CNN Airport Network. I was about to say a loud "excuse me!" when I happened to look up at the TV and saw CNN  replay footage from ABC of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center.




CNN then cut to live shot of a column of smoke and ash where the World Trade Center Towers were supposed to be, but weren't. I called my office and my boss told me not to come in, The area in downtown Chicago around the Sears Tower was being evacuated. I called my parents and let them know I was not in Houston, got on the CTA Blue Line and went home.   The rest of that day I did what most Americans did, watched the news, and when the images became overwhelming, I put on my roller blades and went blading along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was brilliant sunny day. One of those late Summer, early Fall days that you get in Chicago that make you appreciate what a beautiful city it is. As I stopped at Oak Street Beach and admired the downtown Chicago skyline, I didn't think that somehow the "world had changed". But rather I found myself thinking how the United States had  sadly, finally  joined the rest of the world.

Before that that morning, Terrorism was something that happened in other places, Israel, Lebanon London, Belfast , places far away. Even the first World Trade Center bombing for many people, didn't seem like international terrorism. After all, the people responsible were caught when they tried to get the deposit back on the rental van they had used. (How sinister could people that dumb be?)    That is what changed I think, it was the moment America lost the illusion that somehow our two oceans would keep us safe from global terrorism.

For friends of mine who lived in New York on that day,  I understand  that  today  is a much different  experience for them.   A  friend of mine is  a New York City Police Officer  who  lost an arm in the attack that day.   Another friend of mine worked  for an investment bank housed in the  North Tower,  she had a doctors appointment so she didn't go into work  that morning.   For her, today  is a reminder of  the  friends and co-workers  she lost  that day.

For the numerous friends of mine who have served, and currently serve in the Middle East  with the American and British Armed Forces, they deal with the effects September 11, 2001 on a far different level than most people ever will.

So as people all over the world will remember the events of that day, pray for those who were lost, and show solidarity and support for friends and family for whom this anniversary is far more personal than political.

God Bless America, God bless us all.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

John McCain's Final Legacy - Contrast.

The Great and the Good is a phrase often used to describe those who assemble at occasions such as the official memorial service for the late Arizona Senator, John McCain.

The service, held yesterday morning  at the  National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.,  had all the moments that you would expect  such an occasion to have.
 
Senator Joe Lieberman shared personal moments from his long friendship with McCain. Sharing stories of old friends ribbing each other, celebrating each others' successes and supporting each other through their failures.

Then Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger gave context to McCain's political career by giving us an eye witness view to how John McCain's  experiences in the Vietnam War shaped his character and his world view.

Then his two greatest political rivals, former Presidents George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, each took a turn sharing their thoughts on the legacy John McCain has left to our country. A legacy of duty, service, and sacrifice.


All these speakers, coupled with Megan McCain's  emotional tribute to her father,  provided what may turn out to be John McCain's final and potentially most impactful legacy. 

 Contrast between his view of America and that of the current occupant of the White House.

Saturday's service was nothing less than an American State Ocassision. As a nation, we have very few of these, by design. Our founding fathers rightly saw them as the trappings of Monarchy, steeped in the old world's quest for  empire.

So aside from the Inauguration of a President, and  Join Sessions of Congress. like the State of the Union, such State Occasions here,  tend to be few and far between. Yet when we do have them, they are pivotal moments in our National Life where we as a country come together in an expression of our shared American Values.

It is an awful fact, that the sitting President of the United States was not in any way
a suitable attendee for this occasion. That we as a people had to manage the risk that he would have detracted from those values, and instead would have sought to pull focus and attention from this National moment, and make it about himself.

It does not take a great deal of imagination  to picture that cringe-inducing performance.   One that would have undoubtedly focused on  the Electoral College score of 2016, accusations of "Fake News!",  and would have concluded with ridiculous claims, outright lies and even imagined quotes to claim how much the deceased hero, had really  admired him.  

It was for this reason, the sitting President of the United States was not welcome at this American State Occasion. Not out of partisan rancor,  but because he would have been incapable of rising to it.  

The contrast on display yesterday was , between two these two men.   One  who strived throughout his life to put service to country above self, and  the other, who  puts glorification of self above all else, including above country. 

I did not vote for John McCain when he ran for President. But I was always glad when the people Arizona returned him to the Senate. He was a fiery, at times unpredictable, but always principled American Statesman; whose life stands in sharp contrast to the insecure narcissist who will undoubtedly take to Twitter in the days to come, and prove that his exclusion yesterday, was truly warranted.

This contrast  tells us, and the rest of the world all we need ever know about the difference between the small petty individual golfing in VA, and the Man America collectively paused to remember.


Thursday, August 23, 2018

Leave Donald Trump Alone!


Here’s an idea…. Leave Donald Trump alone. Don’t impeach him. Don’t indict him, don’t force him to resign. Leave him right where he is, in the White House.   Huh?   No I have not lost my marbles or become a MAGA Hat wearing , “Lock her up!: chanting dimwit.

So hear me out on this.   Today we saw the felony conviction of the former Trump Campaign Manager, Paul Manafort for Tax Fraud; and the felony guilty plea by Donald Trump’s long time personal lawyer Michael, Cohen for multiple election law violations. Crimes that in his guilty plea, Cohen stated flat out that he committed at the express direction of Donald Trump. 

Now is not the time to be nice. Now is time to tar every single GOP candidate with the Donald Trump toilet brush.

But even before these two legal bombshells today, the already shaky likelihood of the Party of Donald Trump retaining control of the House of Representatives was becoming even less likely. So for once, I hope the Democratic party will NOT do what it usually does; which is try to be nice.
Left leaning pundits are salivating at the possibility of a “Blue Wave” come this November. The most realistic victory scenario is one where the Democrats take the House and hold the line in the Senate and pick up one senate seat. (Yes Dean Heller, we are looking at you …)

Should this come to pass the understandable urge to pummel Donald Trump and his whole swamp with a massive congressional inquiry leading to the impeachment of the 45th President of the United States will be nearly overwhelming.

Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t. Leave him right where he is. Impeachment and resignation are too easy. With a Democratic super majority in the house, and an increased number in the Senate, We can undo most of the damage this nightmare Presidency has done, and at the same time enjoy the spectacle of Donald Trump forced to sit by and watch it all, helpless.

Don’t Impeach Trump, render him irrelevant.
  
I want a Democratic super majority to wield all of the tools crafted by our founding fathers in the Constitution to completely undo the Trump Presidency and I want to enjoy the sound of Donald Trump wailing in impotent rage while it happens.   I want to watch every Trump executive order get nullified, every budget demolishing tax break for his swamp repealed, and every common sense regulation he has attacked, reinstated.

Then, when Trump vetoes all that , I want to enjoy the sight of congress swiftly overriding it.

I want the White House Press Corps to stop covering the daily White House Press briefing. Leaving Sarah Sanders whine to Fox News, Breitbart, Alex Jones and Russia Today. (Also, it’s not like she will have anything of importance to say anyway.)

The founding fathers made the executive branch the weakest of the three branches of the government for a reason.  They knew that someday a nut-job with dreams of monarchy might become President. So they put in safeguards. The Legislative branch is empowered with oversight, control of the purse strings, the power to declare war and the veto override.  All designed to reign in exactly the sort of President who now squats in the oval office.

Lets not forget who is waiting in the wings. If you impeach Trump, you get Pence. The voices in Mike Pence’s head have been telling him that God wants him to be the unelected President of the United States. It’s time to show Mike Pence that God has better things to do.  So lets make it so Mike Pence  will just have to sit on the porch of the VP Residence at the Naval Observatory and complain to “Mother” that he is being denied his destiny.  

So do I just want to to see Trump and Pence suffer?    No. This about more than just Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dumber.    This is about what the Republican Party has become.

The GOP needs to be made to sit in a corner for while and think about what they did. They enabled this monstrosity. They cheered on the racism, the misogyny, the fiscal hypocrisy and the destruction of America’s influence on the global stage, and turned a blind eye to Russian attacks on our very democracy. All for the sake of tax cuts.

The Republican Party needs to face the consequences of their actions. 

Impeachment is too nice. It’s time to give Trump and his entire political party a time out. Let him sit and tweet in useless rage, while Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg run the country.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The White House Just Colluded with Russia to Kill the Truth

 This is not what I planned to be doing this week…

I had intended to take a week or more off and unplug from social media, a much needed “digital detox” where I would turn off and tune out the noise the news, and the nonsense.

Well, so much for that.

Writer Uri Friedman at the Atlantic Magazine was the first to notice something odd about the official White House transcript from last week’s press conference with Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The official White House version both in printed transcript and in posted video, edited out what was the biggest moment of the entire event.

That moment was when Reuters reporter Jeff Mason asked Putin directly if he had wanted Donald Trump to win the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, and did he direct any one to help make that happen. Whereupon Putin answered just as directly that he had in fact wanted Trump to win and went on to give his reasons why.  

In the White House’s new “alternative reality version” of that exchange, things are remarkably different.

From The Atlantic:
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If you watch the White House live-stream of the press conference or look at the transcript published by the White House, the first half of Mason’s question is not there. Without it, the meaning of the exchange is substantially different.

Compare this transcript, of what actually happened, to the White House’s version. Here is the record of what took place, starting with the last part of Putin’s comments before Jeff Mason’s questions. Putin is describing his willingness to assist with Robert Mueller’s probe (bolding is mine):

Vladimir Putin: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Jeff Mason: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

Putin: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

And here’s the key section from the White House transcript, which makes it seem as though Putin is still talking about the Mueller probe: 

PRESIDENT PUTIN: That could be a first step, and we can also extend it. Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

Q: And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PRESIDENT PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.–Russia relationship back to normal.

Another strange wrinkle comes from the Russian government’s English-language transcript of the press conference. In contrast to its footage of the press conference, which features what really happened, the transcript does not include any piece of that key exchange.

Transcripts published by the Federal News Service and Bloomberg Government mirror the White House transcript, while NPR’s contains the full exchange. Confusing matters further, C-SPAN’s footage contains Mason’s full question but only the second half of Putin’s answer.
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Now this could be chalked up to the White House just trying to get their spin on something out front and center, and many reporters , now somewhat numb to the Trump Administration’s complete disregard for facts and truth that they don’t like, let this pass. Then on this past Sunday in the middle of an epic meltdown on Twitter, Donald Trump tweeted this;
So Trump is actively trying to erase evidence that Vladimir Putin was supporting him in 2016, while at the same time tweeting out that Russia (in Trump Reality) is supporting Democrats.

 It's hard to follow the  dumpster fire that is the Trump Administration.  But  some journalists will see two seemingly unrelated burning bits  and connect the dots.  Rachel  Maddow breaks it down.




So just to be clear.  BOTH the White House and the Kremlin edited the transcript  of the Helsinki press conference to try to delete the moment where Vladimir Putin admits he was actively supporting Donald Trump to win the election in 2016. 

You just saw the White House actively collude with the Kremlin to wage a disinformation campaign against the American People.  Which raises a few key questions  for three specific groups of people.

1) The White House Press Corps. -  If  Journalists (and this includes  FOX News) do not raise bloody hell  and actively fight against  the White House hacking and  re-editing their reporting to fit Trump's "Alternative Facts"  then the free press in the United States is truly dead and  our democracy is in lethal peril.

 Sadly some journalists are scared to stand up and fight for a free press.    Over at the Washington Post, Phillip Bump assures us this was all just an innocent mistake and "No, the White House didn’t intentionally edit a question to Putin out of a video.   Sorry Phil, yes they did.    Anyone watching the live feeds from CNN, MSNBC, BBC  and listening on NPR  all clearly  saw and or heard Mason's FULL question. 

Yet  the White  House video  just happens to miss the first half of the question but not the 2nd?  Making it look like Mason was asking a follow up to  the previous question about the Mueller probe and NOT about who Putin wanted to win in 2016?

Oh yeah... and the omission was brought to the attention of the White House shortly after the transcript was posted and remains uncorrected.   So Really Phil? I know you folks at the Post are feeling under siege from this President, but your op-ed tries so hard to carry water for the White House that it's just embarrassing.

2) Congressional Republicans -  Are you patriotic Americans?   Or are you Kremlin sedated sheep who will accept a President who is Putin's stooge, and who is actively working for Russia's interests against  the United States?  Will you continue to  accept anything this White House tells you because it is less painful than admitting you sold your souls for tax cuts?  Are you really that willing to destroy our nation rather than admit a mistake?

I, like many Americans am not thrilled by idea of President Pence, or Vice President Ryan,  but it's  time for President Pence.   Or is your  fear of upsetting the "Trump Base" more important than the good of the Nation?   So "Country First"  really was just a catchy slogan, and wasn't something  you  actually meant?

3)Trump Voters - You are supporting a known Traitor.  That makes you a participant  in that Treason.  If you  really love America as much you claim to,  It's time  to stop supporting  Trump and his Party.  If you believe in such a thing as TRUTH,  if you believe the President of the United States should be a BETTER AMERICAN  than the President of  Russia, then it's time to STOP feeding this dumpster fire of a Presidency. 


If you can't  do that  then you are the mindless sheep that George Orwell  tried to warn us all not to become.