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When I taught introductory newswriting at St. Bonaventure, I would ask students two questions about stories they had written: What’s new here? What’s different?

Coverage of President Trump’s press conference last week reminded me of those questions. Reporters told us how contentious the event was, and Trump reprised his “fake news” complaints.

This isn’t news anymore. So why was it part of the coverage?
News Inc.Collapse )

Nobody's home



I am fighting to evict someone from a house in my head.

The lease is with a guest long vanished, but the house’s contents remain intact.

Inside lights have been dark for a year.

Snow on steps is free of footmarks. Rain overflows leaf-clogged eaves.

Newspapers flap against porch railings like trapped birds. Mail overflows the box.

This will happen:

Sun will bleach siding, exposing its grain, and it will gnarl in rain.

The roof will leak, warping floors.

Pipes will burst. The furnace will die.

The foundation will crumble; the house will list and fall. Rubble will tumble into the cellar, hidden by weeds and thriving vines.

This I will say:

The house was mine, but the tenant ruined it.

Leasebreaker.

Stop. Go.



I’m sitting on the front porch.

If you walk by and say hi, I’ll say hi.

If you stop your walk to talk, we’ll talk.

If you pass without looking, lost in thought, I’ll let you go. I won’t chase to say hey! C’mon back!

DeVos or Miley Cyrus: It's all the same


Betsy DeVos: as clueless as a cup of yogurt

Any U.S. senator who votes to confirm Betsy DeVos as secretary of education should be jammed into a burn barrel and launched into the Potomac River.

DeVos is as qualified for the position as a paperboy is to dispose of nuclear waste at West Valley. Worse, she is foaming at the mouth for a chance to gut the American educational system to make way for profiteering at the expense of kids’ educations.

She was as clueless as a cup of yogurt at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. As Charles P. Pierce reported at Esquire.com: “Committee chairman Lamar Alexander locked the committee into a one round of questioning in which the members each had five minutes,” adding, “The strategy of putting DeVos' nomination on a rocket sled so as to avoid exposing too much of her abysmal lack of qualifications was so obvious as to be insulting.”

Her defenders probably would support Miley Cyrus for the position had she been nominated. After all, Cyrus shakes things up! She’s an outsider! The best qualification is having no qualifications at all!
A menace to educationCollapse )

Cyrus also has enough cash to buy confirmation votes. As Politico reported, “DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process,” adding, “DeVos’ contributions to the lawmakers who will decide her fate stand out in a year in which President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington politics.”

DeVos ducked the dollars when Sen. Bernie Sanders asked how much money her family has contributed to the Republican party over the years. As Forbes.com reported, she said she didn’t know. Sanders said he heard it was $200 million. DeVos: “That’s possible.”

It must be nice to have so much money that you can’t be sure where $200 million went.

She responded with a barrage of bafflegab when Sen. Patty Murray asked, “Can you commit that you will not work to privatize public schools and cut a single penny for public education?" That question could have been answered with a simple yes or no—but here’s how DeVos replied:

"I look forward to working with you to talk about how to address the needs of all parents and students, and we acknowledged today that not all schools are working for the students assigned to them. I am hopeful we can work together to find common ground in ways we can solve those issues and empower parents to make choices on behalf of their children that are right for them."

Those 70 words contain as much substance as cotton candy.

Fox News reported DeVos “has for decades used the family’s influence and wealth in her home state of Michigan to advocate for charter schools and promote conservative religious values.”

In Michigan, about 80 percent of the state’s charters are operated for profit, according to the New York Times. Who is going to stop profiteers from cutting costs for the sake of profits, shortchanging kids in the process?

Here’s how charter schools should work: Every child in every school district should be selected for admission based on a lottery. Districts should be required provide transportation to those schools so poorer students can get there.

In that system, let’s see what parents of the remaining students say about taxpayer dollars being diverted from public schools to charter schools.

Then there’s DeVos’ love of the idea that parents should be given vouchers—public funds—so they can afford to send their children to private schools, especially ones that promote the conservative religious values she espouses. It’s all about student choice, she says.

Here’s the choice parents should make: Choose to send your kids to a public school, or choose to find ways to afford sending them to private schools. Don’t ask taxpayers for handouts.

As for church-affiliated schools, religious values should be taught to students at home or in churches. The government has no business spending money to promote those values.

For those who fear government overreach in education, consider this from Logan Albright, writing for Conservative Review: “Yes, federal vouchers would allow you to take your child to a private or religious school you otherwise might not be able to afford, but it also hands the federal government the purse strings of those institutions. If a school teaches something the government doesn’t like, there is always the threat of reclassifying the school in order to deny it voucher money.”

If the full Senate confirms DeVos, it will be an insult to students, parents, teachers and anyone who cares about public education. Instead, she should be considered for the post of secretary of the interior.

After all, she seems to know something about bears.

Tags:

The blues in the key of karma


John Lee Hooker

About a month ago, I got a Facebook friend request from a woman whose name sounded familiar. I couldn’t place it, though.

The moment after I opened the request, but the instant before I saw her picture, I remembered: She was my first serious girlfriend from college. I hadn’t heard from her in more than 40 years.

In that sliver of a second after recognizing her, I expected something to happen: a gasp, a surge of adrenaline, a quickened heartbeat. Instead, nothing happened. I was merely looking at a picture of a stranger whose name I knew. The not-feeling was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

I don’t remember much about her. Our time together occurred decades ago, and my brain has long since jettisoned those memories. Here’s what I do remember: Unlike my friends and me, she didn’t get high or use other drugs. She didn’t drink to get drunk, and she didn’t smoke cigarettes. She was a David Bowie fan. We never fought. That’s all I’ve got.
Back and forth in timeCollapse )

A shot from today's press conference

Here’s my take on Donald Trump’s press conference today. It’s not as well written or comprehensive as I would like it to be, which reflects how news is reported today: as quickly as possible, regardless of depth, context or polished prose. This took 31 minutes, which would not pass muster these days. I ran spell-check and then took just a quick read through it to look for typos and grammatical errors.

I just finished watching President-elect Trump’s first press conference, and my foremost impression is what a poor job the reporters did with their questioning. They often asked two or three questions at a time. The best (worst?) example of this was a series of questions by Major Garrett of CBS news, who asked about Trump’s tweet about Nazi Germany, his plan to nominate a Supreme Court justice, and Trump’s plan for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. I have to admit I chuckled at Trump’s response: “Do you have any more?”

The problem with the bam-bam-bam question strategy is that it allows the interview subject to answer the easier (or easiest) questions and then pivot away from the other two.

The TV is still on in the other room, and Garrett is complaining that Trump didn’t address his question about Trump’s Nazi Germany tweet. Well, duh.

The reporters also were unwilling to depart from their own lists of questions. Trump said several things that he should have been pressed on—how Congress will be able to replace the Affordable Care Act and replace it, in Trump’s words, “essentially simultaneously.” He called this “very complicated stuff,” and in my opinion, that’s a vast understatement, especially given that if the Republicans have a replacement plan ready to go, no one knows any details about it. Trump said the new plan will be “far less expensive and better.” I hope so, but I’m skeptical to the point of cynicism.

For what it’s worth, the press conference took an hour between Trump’s opening remarks and the end of the press conference. He spoke for 10 minutes before taking questions. The first round of questions lasted 10 minutes, and then a lawyer from a legal firm Trump had hired spent 15 minutes explaining what Trump planned to do to remove himself as far from his business dealings as possible and to demonstrate he has no plans to benefit from the office of president. I couldn’t help but think that had he done this, say, a month ago, he could have gotten in front of the stories about conflict of interest, emollients, etc.

A few more thoughts:

■ gave him a grade of C-minus on his tie knot. Very sad!

■ at his praise for media outlets like the New York Times, which he thought showed good judgment in the way they handled yesterday’s story about Trump’s alleged Russia connections. I read the Times story and, to be honest, I thought he’d criticize it. He clearly wasn’t happy with CNN, though, and seemed to be getting nasty with them toward the end of the press conference. (I don’t know, though, because I was on the phone with my wife, who had one of our dogs at a veterinarian’s office.)

■ Trump said, “I have no dealings with Russia.” Seems to me I heard one of his sons say something to the contrary several weeks ago.

■ Most-interesting quotation: “If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s an asset, not a liability.” Putin is a dangerous man whose sole interest is creating discord in America to erode our political process. Trump needs to handle him the same way he’d handle a puff adder.

■ Trump said “the only ones who care about my tax returns” are reporters. I don’t think so. I’d like to see if he has financial ties with Russian companies.

■ Trump quotation that ranked a 10 out of 10 on the no-kidding scale: “Intelligence agencies are necessary and very, very important.” That didn’t stop him from suggesting earlier that those agencies were leaking to the media material that made him look bad.

That’s all I’ve got. Other media outlets no doubt have different and more substantial reactions.

Kelly is worth every penny

Here's my latest column for our local newspaper.



Dollar signs danced through my head after news last week about Megyn Kelly, Congressman Tom Reed and Obamacare. Let’s start with Kelly and her new NBC paycheck, with its eight figures to the left of the decimal point.

Fox News wanted to keep Kelly so badly they reportedly offered her $20 million a year to stay. A Newsweek report pegged the offer at $25 million.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Kelly was making $15 million in the final year of her contract with Fox, so let’s assume she’ll make $20 million a year at NBC, give or take a few million.

Is Kelly worth it? She’s certainly worth it to NBC if she can do what network executives hope: increase ratings, particularly among viewers age 25-54. For broadcasters, that demographic is a mother lode of profit.
Is she worth it because of her journalism skills? Certainly not.

What do you imagine the combined annual salaries are for the 200 most recent Pulitzer Prize winners? Certainly nowhere near $20 million. It’s probably the same for the 200 most recent winners of the Peabody Award, which recognizes outstanding broadcast journalism.

Those journalists, though, don’t have the name recognition Kelly does. Her profile skyrocketed after the Aug. 7 Republican presidential candidates debate, where she skewered Donald Trump for sexist remarks.
In October, Kelly (a former trial lawyer) smacked down Newt Gingrich, who always comes across like he thinks he’s the smartest person in the room.

Then came the mid-November release of her memoir, Settle for More, which became news not only for its contents, but also because of the reaction to it by Trump supporters. As The Daily Beast reported, “On the day of its publication, Settle For More garnered hundreds of one- and two-star reviews on Amazon from suspiciously fast readers.”

As I said, I think Kelly is worth $20 million a year to NBC. After all, that’s what Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC’s Today show, makes—and no one will ever mistake Lauer for a journalist after his interview of Donald Trump in September.

The Observer’s assessment of Kelly as a “celebrity news actress” may be harsh, but then again, her résumé is so thin that it’s transparent compared to that of, say, Christiane Amanpour.

■ Kelly hasn’t been the only interesting name in the news. Wednesday’s Times Herald featured a story about Congressman Tom Reed.

The story indirectly quotes Reed, a Republican, as saying a priority for the new Republican Congress is repealing the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). The Times Herald’s Rick Miller wrote, “Reed said it was not clear how a replacement package for Obamacare would be passed or what it would include.”

Fox News reported Saturday, “Congressional Republicans’ years-long mission to dismantle Obamacare is becoming more of an uphill battle, amid a growing concern among some GOP senators about voting to repeal the health care law without a replacement.”

However, the New York Times reported Friday, “Republican leaders want congressional committees to have legislation dismantling much of Obama's overhaul ready by late January. They're hoping Congress can quickly send a measure to incoming President Donald Trump phasing out the law, perhaps a couple of months later.”

I can’t believe Republicans will have an Obamacare replacement plan in place by then. After all, they haven’t come up with an alternative since the Affordable Care Act went into effect nearly seven years ago.
Reed says making sure there’s a replacement is one of his priorities. Let’s watch to see what he does if his priority clashes with his party’s gung-ho repeal advocates.


■ As for the Republicans’ replacement for Obamacare, here’s a question: Five years into the plan, which do you think is more likely—tens of millions of Americans will have better, less-expensive health insurance than they have now, or the insurance and pharmaceutical industries will have made billions of dollars because of the new plan?

I’m hoping for the first option, but consider this: According to OpenSecrets.org, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics, the insurance industry spent more than $111 million on lobbying last year. The only industry to spend more was the pharmaceuticals/health products industry: $186 million.

Something tells me the money isn’t being spent to ensure people without health insurance get the best coverage possible at the lowest possible cost. I think those industries have different priorities.

I predict they’ll spend higher amounts on lobbying in 2017. The only question is how much more.

(Patrick Vecchio is a former Times Herald managing editor and retired journalism professor at St. Bonaventure University. He is a lifelong Olean resident and may be contacted at PatrickVecchio@roadrunner.com)

Terry and Kim Pegula, owners of the Buffalo Bills, announced today that their coach for the 2017-18 season will be Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

“Keef is a real street-fighting man,” said Terry Pegula during a press conference to introduce Richards. “We’re looking for someone to rip this joint, and Kim and I hope to avoid our 19th nervous breakdown with the coaching situation.”

Richards received a five-year contract that guarantees he cannot be fired before the contract expires. “Time is on my side,” he said when the Pegulas introduced him. “They first offered me a one-year deal, but that didn’t give me no satisfaction. I told them, ‘You can’t always get what you want,’ and they decided to throw the tumblin’ dice and make me happy.”

Terry Pegula said with a laugh, “I ain’t too proud to beg.”

Kim Pegula said, “The franchise is torn and frayed, all down the line. Our fans are the salt of the earth. They need an emotional rescue. We need to stop breaking down and not fade away.”

The new coach observed, “This team is like a jigsaw puzzle, but that’s all over now. We’re going to be respectable. We’ll play like wild horses and let it loose. Here’s our message to the teams we’ll play: “You gotta move, bitch.”

Richards said he will be tough on the players. “I have some sympathy for the devils, but when the whip comes down, they’ll be under my thumb,” he said. Even the locker room will look different.

“I’m going to paint it, black,” he said.

Merry Christmas, man



It's time for a Man Overboard holiday tradition:
(How the weed guy saved Christmas)

Funny but not funny

If you've got a moment to kill from time to time, I'm channeling Donald Trump on Twitter: @Trump_ish.

In the throes of confirmation bias



The musician Frank Zappa once said, “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe.” He disagreed: “I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen.”

Zappa’s theory about stupidity is a good start in describing our presidential campaign. It applies better, though, if we also use words like “bitterness” or “hostility”—even “hate.”

For instance, let’s consider remarks attributed to a man named Paul Swick. The New York Times reported, “Mr. Swick considers himself a ‘Bible Christian’ and ‘Thomas Jefferson liberal’, and said he hoped to beat Mrs. Clinton ‘at the ballot box.’”

The article said Swick owns 40 guns. That’s his right. I don’t dispute it.

But Swick said something else so self-contradictory that I don’t know how his brain didn’t explode: “If she comes after the guns, it’s going to be a rough, bumpy road. I hope to God I never have to fire a round, but I won’t hesitate to. As a Christian, I want reformation. But sometimes reformation comes through bloodshed.”

Trump supporter Dave Bowman outdoes Swick. The website Salon.com quoted Bowman as saying of Hillary Clinton, “We’re going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that’s what it takes. There’s going to be a lot of bloodshed.”

Republicans have their own grievances. Some would say words like bitterness, hostility and hate apply to Democrats.

For example, Politico reported that after a Republican headquarters office in North Carolina was firebombed, Donald Trump tweeted, “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning.”

Trump also claims the Clinton campaign is paying protesters to disrupt his rallies.

Social media gives Trump’s supporters a chance to counter-attack people who criticize them or their candidate. I have seen them complain of “typical liberal hatred against anyone who doesn't agree with you.” The New York Times article I cited at the start of this column has been criticized: “You consider this journalism, NYT? All I read was about a handful of people speculating what ‘others’ may do if Hillary wins.”

Republicans return fire with charges of stupidity. “The only way Hillary can win is if all the crazies in America turn out to vote,” one wrote. “Because no normal sane person would even think twice about voting for such a wackado.” Another said, “If you vote for Hillary, you cannot call yourself a law abiding American.”

The avalanche of ideas makes it easy to fall victim to confirmation bias. In Psychology Today, Shahram Heshmat explains the term: “Once we have formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting, information that casts doubt on it.” In an age of multiple round-the-clock media, we easily can find information we agree with. Confirmation bias is easy to acquire, and once we acquire it during such a rancorous campaign, it’s easy to insult and dismiss people with other views.

We are obligated, though, to recognize our biases, acknowledge contrary information, and give it thoughtful consideration. Americans spend hours researching pluses and minuses of everything from toasters to Internet providers. In doing so, they accept information from myriad sources before deciding what to buy.

We should spend more time studying candidates than we take to decide which television to buy.

Trump's sexist stench harms us all



I went to a wedding reception at the Bartlett Country Club last weekend, and guess who showed up? Donald Trump.

Not his groping, grabbing self in the flesh. Instead, it was the odor of his sexism.

Many of the reception guests were college classmates of the bride and groom. They all took college courses from me and are now in their mid-20s.

I’m 62, well past the age where I became sexually invisible to women. At least I used to think that way. Trump, being 70 and married, has cast a new, shady shadow on men my age, even those of us who have been part of decades-long marriages.

I didn’t realize this until I was talking with one of the bridesmaids, another former student of mine, outside the church. “You look beautiful,” I said. “All of the women in the bridal party look beautiful.”

She replied, “The guys do, too.” That’s when Trump’s misogyny wormed its way into my thoughts and made me wonder if she were tacitly saying I was spending too much time looking at the women in the bridal party, particularly her.

That question was answered at the end of the night. In the meantime, I thought about how Trump’s words have strained interactions between men and women who are barely acquainted. Both sides have been harmed as a result of his words about his deeds.

Consider the degrading comments about the women who have accused him of shameful, if not criminal, behavior. The worst came from Trump himself: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.”

From others we have heard “why didn’t she report it before?” scorn and “she’s part of the conspiracy against Trump” paranoia.

Trump’s accusers aren’t the only women under attack. All women are under attack every day. Consider the continual threats, catcalls, body contact, lewdness, leers, and dismissal and devaluation of their work. There’s a word for it: oppression.

Because of it, women grow wary when they’re talking with men. If they’re wearing a skirt, they turn their legs to the side and cross them. They tense up if they think they’re showing too much cleavage, especially when they are seated and the men are standing. These seem to be instinctive postures.

This is true not only of women I worked with for years, but also of students I worked with for just a semester. I know why they’re defensive: because men have peered up their skirts and down their blouses throughout their adult lives.

Perhaps Trump’s “locker room banter” callousness and his seemingly unending disparagement of women have prompted more discussion about what women endure and what men should do in the face of it. If this is true, it’s the lone positive in all of this.

Because of Trump, I can no longer simply focus just on what women are saying. I also have to think of how I can present myself so they won’t worry if I’m sitting there scoring their bodies on a scale of 1-10. I used to think my respect was self-evident. Given Trump’s well-publicized boorishness, I’m not so sure anymore.

As for the woman in the bridal party whose remark unnerved me, she sat down in an empty chair next to me at the reception, and we talked about her many professional accomplishments since she graduated. Our cordial conversation cleared my mind of Trump’s sexist stench.

Sadly, Trump’s not the only man with this foul aroma. The stench isn’t gone for good.

Damned liberal media!



I get a “Today’s Headlines” email every morning from the New York Times, and the subject line is the headline of the lead story. The way my email is set up, I don’t see the entire headline, just the first snippet of it, which often is cut off in mid-word.

The lead headline yesterday was “Donald Trump Assails His Accusers as Liars, and Unattractive.”

Here’s what I saw in the subject line: “Today’s Headlines: Donald Trump Ass.”

Tens of millions of Americans feel the same way about him.

Keepers



I was killing time the other night in my work shed by going through some of the hardware my father used to keep in his garage. He and my mother moved to Florida many years ago, and he left most of his tools and all of his hardware behind. I took some tools and three hardware cabinets made of metal with little plastic drawers in them. The largest cabinet was the size and weight of a case of bottled beer.

I was in the shed because I was looking for a cotter pin and found one in the large cabinet. It was the heaviest of the three because its largest drawer was full of what looked like metal junk. I could see the contents through the front of the clear plastic drawer, but I had never opened it, so after I found the cotter pin, I thought I’d look at what was in it.

I immediately could tell it had been filled by a man who had grown up poor. It was jammed with old nuts, bolts, washers, wood screws, machine screws, gears, wing nuts, rivets and the like in dozens of sizes, shapes and finishes. There were steel bolts as long as my ring finger; iron bolts shorter than my pinkie fingernail; thin bolts with nuts on them; thick bolts with no nuts; washers the size of dimes; washers the size of silver dollars—the assortment was as messy as this paragraph.

Some of the hardware was used but still serviceable. The rest of it might have come in handy if I had been rebuilding a rusty steam locomotive. Why my dad held on to it is a question I can’t answer.

Was it because when you grow up poor, you hang on to everything that looks like it might have a use someday? Was it because he was obsessive-compulsive or a hoarder? I never asked—and I doubt he could have answered.

Besides, I didn’t know anything about his obsessive-compulsiveness until I was diagnosed with it myself, and then it was easy to see it in him. By then, though, he was dead.

Rather than simply dumping the old hardware into my metal-recycling pail, I started pulling pieces out of the drawer. Right away I found myself deciding to keep things I thought I might find a use for someday, even though they had been in my shed for a dozen years and I’d never used them. Then I realized what I was doing.

Eventually, I threw almost everything away. Almost.

While I was at it, I went through every other drawer of the cabinet. Some contained items I’ve used before and probably will need again—for example, cotter pins—and some contained items I could have used before: a spark plug socket for tight spots, for instance.

Most of the drawers, though, were filled with things only my father could have foreseen a use for. I dumped them into the recycling bin, too.

I know after I die, somebody will go through my work shed. They’ll find that filing cabinet, look at the contents, and wonder why I had kept it.

They won’t know the half of it.

Can you pass the test?


See question 5, answer D

U.S. CITIZENSHIP TEST                     Your name: (in English only):
Xenophobia 101
Professor Trump
Test will no longer be in effect after Nov. 8

Part 1
Multiple choice

1. America should not allow the U.S. to be entered by people from:
a.     Mexico
b.     Countries with a Muslim population.
c.     Countries where terrorist acts have been committed.
d.     Countries without bankrupt casinos.
e.     Pretty much every other country, depending on the news of the day.

2. Dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and the late Saddam Hussein are:
a.     Ruthless strongmen.
b.     Anti-American.
c.     Threats to global peace.
d.     To be admired for their strength.

3. This year’s presidential election will be:
a.     Rigged.
b.     Crooked.
c.     Dishonest
d.     All of the above.

4. Which of the following phrases applies to the American media’s coverage of presidential candidate Donald Trump?
a.     Not very nice.
b.     Crooked.
c.     Dishonest.
d.     Rotten
e.     All of the above.

5. Name the best way to begin a presidential candidate debate.
a.     Calling for Americans to debate issues honestly, openly and thoughtfully.
b.     Presenting a detailed outline of an economic plan that would put Americans back to work.
c.     Revealing a proposal for increased international cooperation to battle terrorism.
d.     Bragging about the size of your penis.


6. Which of the following countries has not been invaded by Russia?
a.     Canada.
b.     England.
c.     Ukraine
d.     All of the above.

7. Which is the following is a body part for FOX News’ Megyn Kelly?
a.     Nose
b.     Arm
c.      Foot
d.     Whatever
e.     All of the above

8. During a presidential campaign, what is the most effective strategy for a candidate?
a.     Try to appeal to black voters by speaking to all-white audiences.
b.     Spend 45 minutes handing boxes of Play-Doh to your vice presidential pick at the site of a natural disaster.
c.     Say something controversial and then claim you’ve changed your position.
d.     Call your opponents names.
e.     Urge your supporters to beat up protesters at your campaign rallies.
f.      Ally yourself with former New York City mayors who have forgotten the year of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers.
g.     Say the best way to achieve peace in the Middle East is by holding meetings.
h.     Persuade Sarah Palin to endorse you.
i.      Propose deporting millions of people from America and ignoring the impossible logistics and questionable legality of that proposal.
j.      Release a photo of yourself eating a taco salad on Cinco de Mayo, blissfully ignorant of the stereotyping represented by the photo.
k.     Refer to a black man at one of your rallies as “My African-American!”
l.      All of the above.
m.    All of the above, and more.


Part 2
Spelling (correct the misspelled words)
Addvocates
Pollitcal
Voilence
Seecret
Taxx
Reeturns
Irak
Warr
Hipoccrisy
Keenya
Burther
Unnsubbstantiated
Mokks
Reeporter
Dissability
Reneggs
Vetterans
Donnation
Wyfe
Playgiarizes
Speechh


Part 3: Essays (must be written in English)
What is the most effective use of bankruptcy laws to screw subcontractors you hire for your business projects?

Explain the use of irony as it pertains to someone who weaseled out of serving in the armed forces criticizing a U.S. senator who was held as a prisoner of war and tortured.

Define the phrase “nuclear triad.”

Discuss the likelihood of another sovereign nation paying for a massive public works project undertaken by America.

Explain why the First Amendment is no longer relevant because it fails to curtail media criticism of presidential candidates.


Part 4: Extra credit
Name the current president candidate who put the “twit” in Twitter.

Take 30 second to watch the related video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHRlkSW9xEg

The United States is—contrary to what Donald Trump says—a great nation. Yet we are a flawed nation, too, when it comes to matters like the way we treat poverty (http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/,) childhood hunger, and mental illness (http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers), to name just three topics.

Our nation is flawed if elderly people in the winter have to make choices involving how much they'll eat vs. how much they can afford to heat their apartments vs. how many of their medications they can afford to buy. We are flawed when we pay crap wages to our military men and women, subject them to terrible emotional and physical harm in wars being waged for dubious purposes, and then practically abandon them to deal on their own with post-service problems of homelessness (more than 50,000 veterans), mental illness and alcohol/substance abuse. (Go back and look at the Washington Post's story on the disgraceful conditions at Walter Reed Hospital.)

Let me make it clear that I am by no means saying everyone who transitions from military to civilian life has those problems; but even if it's just a hundred, they deserve more care and compassion than they receive. Here's one assessment of the extent of the needs of veterans: http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/critical-need.aspx


Here's another: http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/fact-sheet-veteran-homelessness

Our flag symbolizes our values as a nation. But what happened to those values in the case of Freddie Gray, who died in the back of a police van that had six cops in it, yet none of them were charged in connection with his death from a broken back? (It must be he broke his own back.) What happened to our values when the thuggery of the Baltimore Police Department ran rampant? http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-sun-investigates-0814-20160813-story.html

Should we ignore threats to our value of free speech? https://theintercept.com/2016/08/08/facebook-removes-potential-evidence-of-police-brutality-too-readily-activists-say/

As for Kaepernick's protest, the bigger question is this: How many people are not looking beyond what he said/did to consider the merit of his arguments? How many people are simply appealing to patriotism and stopping there? How many people are reacting to what Kaepernick said about race and saying, "Hey, not my problem," or "There's no racism in America"?

As I said, we are a great nation. But as a nation, we often do not live up to the values we espouse, especially as those ideals relate to the marginalized people among us. Debating what Kaepernick did and whether it disrespects the flag, America, the military, the police, etc., is a debate that will never end.

Maybe instead of criticizing Kaepernick, we should begin—each in her or his own way—addressing the areas where we fall short and show we can overcome them. What better way to show our values and strengths?

Under a cloudless sky one night this month, I sat on my deck and tried to see how far I could see.

I saw so far that I couldn’t understand how far it was. And if you try to see as far as I did, you can. You will end up feeling the same way.

Some moonless night, drive out to a country road where the only light comes from stars. Pull over. Turn off your headlights. Wait for your eyes to adjust to the dark (this will take a few minutes) and then look to the eastern sky.

You’ll see the Great Square—four stars—in the constellation Pegasus. (If you check a star map first, it will be easy to find.) The constellation Andromeda, shaped like a long, narrow V, is attached to the square’s left corner star.

Because your eyes have adjusted to the dark, you’ll see two dim stars about halfway between the point of the V and the open end of the letter. If you look slightly away from them, you’ll see a dim, fuzzy spot of light just above them. You can’t see it if you look right at it.

That light is the Andromeda Galaxy: the most distant object we can see without binoculars or a telescope. If you’re like me and have a tough time understanding large numbers, the distance between us and the Andromeda Galaxy is so vast that it can’t be understood.

To consider the distance, we need to start not by measuring distance, but by measuring time—specifically, seconds. Let’s work from there: 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day: 86,400 seconds in a day.

Now we can take up the idea of distance. Let’s say you’re on that dark country road and you look up. If you’re like most people, the easiest constellation to spot is the Big Dipper. While you’re looking at it, consider this: starlight travels at 186,000 miles per second.

That’s as far as I can take the math without my brain seizing up. I had to use the Internet to find much of what follows.

At 186,000 miles per second for one year, starlight travels 5,878,499,810,000 miles. It’s easier to call that distance a “light year,” just like it’s easier to think of 10,000 pennies as a hundred-dollar bill.

So: You’ve spotted the Andromeda Galaxy. Just how far away is that fuzzy spot of light?

Take a breath: The Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away.  So, to find out how many miles it is between us and our neighboring galaxy, just multiply the number of miles in a light year—5,878,499,810,000—by 2,500,000.

Math that big hurts my brain. When I look at the Andromeda Galaxy, I cop out by saying the light I’m looking at is over 2 million years old.

And now we’re back where we started: thinking about time.

What was happening on our planet 2.3 million years ago? Well, humans build like us wouldn’t come around for another 2.1 million years. As the Smithsonian Museum of National History points out: “The species that you and all other living human beings on this planet belong to is Homo sapiens. During a time of dramatic climate change 200,000 years ago, Homo sapiens evolved in Africa.”

Here’s something else to think about: scientists say the Milky Way (our galaxy) and the Andromeda galaxy are headed for a collision.  We don’t have to worry about it, though.

It’s not going to happen for another 4 billion years.

The harvest of the stars


When I took my dogs out before bed last night, I looked up, as I always do, and despite the light pollution, I saw the Milky Way streaming across the sky like a wavy stripe of luminous fog.

Instead of going to bed after I let the dogs back in, I headed back out to my deck. I’ve been spending a lot of time stargazing this summer because the planets have been putting on quite a show. If you look south just after twilight has died, you’ll see three bright stars close to one another. Two of them actually are planets. Saturn is uppermost. Mars is in the middle. Antares, the brightest star in Scorpio, is at the bottom. This week, Mars will drift east to where the three practically will be in a straight line.

Anyway, I went out to my deck and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark while I tried to read the sky. It had been maybe 10 days since I had gone out to watch the stars, and in that time, the constellations had shifted. Cygnus, the swan, with its bright “head” star Deneb, was much higher in the sky. Aquila, the eagle, a dimmer constellation, also was now higher in the sky, but its bright star Altair makes is easy to find. And Vega, the second-brightest star in the summer sky, had shifted west of the zenith.

Incidentally, the brightest star in the summer sky, Arcturus, can be found by starting at the top left star of the bowl of Ursa Major—the Big Dipper—and working back along the bowl’s handle. Extend that line and, almost due west, and you’ll spot Arcturus.

Last night I was looking at the Milky Way high in the sky, but my neck quickly cramped from standing with my head tilted straight back, so I turned toward the east and lowered my head. As I did, I spotted something incredibly bright. The burst lasted maybe a half a second, but it was enough time for my brain to check off the things it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a planet; I’d been watching them all summer and knew where they were. It wasn’t a star; it was much too bright. It wasn’t a meteor; it was motionless. As I watched, it moved slowly south and dimmed to near-invisibility less than 10 seconds. It was then I realized what I’d seen:

A metaphor.

 

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Trump is rigging his own failure


Business Inside.com

Donald Trump says if he loses the presidential election, it will have been “rigged.”

He’s been using the word for months. During the Florida primary in March, he tweeted that state Republican officials and Marco Rubio were “trying to rig the vote.”

Before the New York primary, Trump complained of “a rigged system.” He said the way Republican delegates were chosen in Colorado was “a crooked deal.”

And after Trump lost the Wisconsin primary to Ted Cruz, his campaign issued a statement that read, in, part, “Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet—he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.”

Media observers challenged his claims. As the GOP convention approached, Michael Cantrell wrote, “Trump might have a solid case about primaries being rigged if he managed to lose his home state by a significant margin, but seeing as how that didn’t happen, and how he’s in the lead, I highly doubt there’s a conspiracy going down to rob him of the nomination.” Cantrell writes for the website Young Conservatives.

Trump won the Republican presidential nomination anyway, even though he thought the system was, in his words, “100 percent crooked.” Yet even after the GOP convention, he “claimed that the Republican nomination would have been stolen from him had he not won by significant margins,” according to the website Conservative Read.

Of late, Trump is picking different targets. McClatchy DC reported he is “accusing Hillary Clinton and the Democrats of trying to stifle viewership for the presidential debates by scheduling them during NFL games this fall,” even though the debates “were scheduled in September 2015 by the same private, non-partisan commission that has organized presidential debates since 1988.” At that time, Trump was just another Republican candidate in a field of 17.

Now we have Trump using the R-word about November’s general election, saying, "I'm afraid the election's going to be rigged. I have to be honest.”

Trump seems to think everything that doesn’t go his way or might not go his way is rigged. Jim Geraghty, writing in the National Review, reports that in June, Trump said the economy is “rigged by big donors who want to keep wages down.”

Geraghty continues, “In July, he concluded that the FBI’s decision to not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton was ‘the best evidence ever that we’ve seen that our system is absolutely, totally rigged.’”
As for the media, Trump tweeted Sunday, “If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20 percent.”

Eighteen years ago, Hillary Clinton spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to engulf her and her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, in scandals. Trump has gone her two better: a conspiracy by Republicans to deny him the presidential nomination, a conspiracy by a non-partisan organization to put him at a disadvantage in the presidential debates, and a conspiracy by Democrats to defeat him in the general election.

Geraghty suggests Trump’s attitude is a symptom of a broader problem: “No one ever just loses anymore. There are no honest defeats.”

He continues, “The philosophy of the disgruntled toddler has taken root, far and wide, across the political spectrum: ‘If I win, the game was fair. If I lose, the only possible explanation is that the other guy cheated.’” (I added the italics for emphasis).
This polarization contaminates political discourse, especially in social media. When Clinton is criticized, a frequent response is “Yeah, but Trump did/said A” etc. When Trump is criticized, it’s “Yeah, but Hillary did/said Z” etc.

That’s just one step up from “I know you are, but what am I?” because it doesn’t address the criticisms. Rather, it deflects attention from them.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to pay attention between now and November.


Photo from BleacherReport.com

The National Football League has suspended Marcell Dareus of the Buffalo Bills for four games for testing positively for marijuana. In response to the team’s statement, I am issuing this statement:

The National Football League’s policy on marijuana use is heavy-handed bullshit. I mean, really: four games for getting high?

This is a league that, week after week, dispenses painkillers like potato chips—substances that leave hurting players' bodies in a numbed-out sensory stupor, subjecting them to further injuries that they'll live with for the rest of their lives—and now the NFL can crack down on the menace of herb and act all "We Are Serious" about it?

This is reeking hypocrisy. It's Reefer Madness redux. The team statement sounds like Big Brother wrote it. There’s not a word in it that shows an ounce of concern for Dareus the *person.* Instead, it's full of pious bleating about the sacred Order of the Team.

Maybe he gets high as a distraction from the crippling pain football inflicts on players. But I haven’t seen evidence that this thought has even flickered in the minds of the “trade-this-bum” bleating sheep football fandom—and “trade this bum” is a mild summary of the remarks of thousands of people who probably haven’t done anything more strenuous than lugging a case of beer from the car to their couches every Sunday afternoon.

This suspension is a cynical ploy to distract us from the fact that the NFL is decadent and depraved. It lied for years about CTE and then, when it couldn't deny its culpability any longer, offered retired players a chump-change settlement that will have about as much effect on the owners' wallets as buying a can of pop would have on yours.

The NFL chews people up and spits them out without an iota of appreciation or compassion, knowing full well there are younger, healthier replacements waiting for their shot at the show.

This is a league that blackmails taxpayers into building stadiums by threatening to move franchises, knowing full well the rubes, I mean fans, will eventually cough up because eight home football games a year are so freaking *important* to a community's image and pride. And speaking of fans, there is nothing more pathetic than a grown man wearing a team replica jersey with a current player’s name on the back. Jesus H. Christ on the night bus to Utica …

The owners and their lapdog commissioner are arrogant, craven swine whose greasy obsidian hearts are driven by savage greed and treacherous mendacity. They have the ethics of hyenas and the social consciences of deer ticks and Zika mosquitoes.

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Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”

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