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Posts published in “Rainey”

Gut check time

rainey

I’m one of those current and former media folk whose guts are churning about the massive attack on our free press - and society as a whole - by Sinclair Broadcasting. It’s something like a “journalistic Pearl Harbor” for this country and Sinclair ain’t the good guy.

The background, of course, and the source of my angst, is Sinclair forcing more than 100 TV stations it owns or operates to broadcast handout video and scripted propaganda favorable to the Trump presidency while demeaning legitimate news sources. News anchors are handed “speeches” to read each night and newscasts are to include videos of corporate “spokesmen” offering a Trump-supporting diatribe of phony “news.”

It’s something everyone should be aware of. If we had a more responsible Congress, we could reasonably expect legislative action to end this travesty. Unfortunately, most people seem unfazed by this attack on free speech. And our Congress continues to suffer “mental erectile dysfunction” caused by an overabundance of campaign dollars.

The issues at stake are self-evident and need no further discussion. But, judging from their nearly unanimous reaction, most of the would-be reporters and staff at Sinclair seem to have a personal case of self-pity.

We’re hearing a lot of ‘em claim they feel tied to contracts signed in better days when they were looking for that professional “pot-of-gold.” “The ticket to fame and riches.” Now, they’re using those documents to say they can’t quit Sinclair because “they’d be sued” or they can’t leave because “they have young families.”

Take it from someone who’s been there. Leaving Sinclair now is likely the best possible move you can make for a better career future. It also might be the best tonic right now to help you be that professional you think you are.

A wise and thoughtful friend wrote something the other day, giving me a different perspective. Forget Sinclair. Think, instead, of the thousands of teachers marching for better pay and improved state support for children and the necessary equipment and materials to do their jobs. Some of their administrators threatened to fire them if they marched. But, march they are. They, too, have young families to support and student loans to pay off. But, they’re marching.

And the kids. Some of those same school districts threatened to give them failing grades and other punishments if they marched. But, hundreds of thousands are out there. At a time when a failing grade on a transcript could cost them badly when trying to get into college, they made the decision that enough students had been murdered with uncontrolled automatic weapons.

At eight score years, I’ve had many periods of employment and unemployment. I’ve signed contracts. I’ve broken a few. And a few were broken for me. I’ve walked away from incomes when such things as a court-ordered child support order had to be kept current - income or no. I’ve made professional and personal choices and lived with the consequences.

I only say those things to make this point. To the Sinclair people who think they’re captives and can’t possibly do the responsible thing, “Yes, you CAN!” And some of your brothers and sisters are doing just that.

The vast majority of reporters, editors and other news professionals alive today are in your corner. They’re “mad as Hell,” too. Like me, most of them have been around and around the block. But, you’re the only ones who can take the right step this time. Now, it’s your turn. You’ve got thousands and thousands of shoulders to stand on.

But, if you persist in the pity-party, here’s something else to consider. The longer you stay with an employer nearly all your fellow professionals despise, the more time with Sinclair will show on future job applications. If you show it, that time will be an impediment that could result in a rejection. If you leave that space vacant, they’ll ask. Either way, staying with Sinclair will be a cancer on your career.

We’re cursed with a current political situation in which those who could take responsible action, and do what must be done to defang Sinclair, won’t act. They’ll walk on hot coals through Hell for the Second Amendment but won’t take one step to protect the First.

It’s up to you. What’s your career worth?
 

News mismanagement

rainey

If all national media ownerships could be sued for malfeasance at once, now would be that time. If ever this nation was poorly served by those noisy entities, now is that time.

I’m sick to death of Stormy. Of Karen McDougall. Michael Cohen. Michael Avenatti. Of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling overblown “coverage” of our adulterous and sexually overactive president not being able to keep his pants zipped! There are other, far more important stories of terrible, life-and-death events going on in our world.

But, in a rush to satisfy stockholders, boards of directors and bean counters of the mega-ownerships, nearly all big media is turning a collective back on people, events and tragedies in this world that we need to know more about. More now!

Here’s one. Have you thought about this countries direct involvement in at least three undeclared wars? And there may be others if you throw in our military death counts mounting in secret battles in Africa, South America and several Middle East countries. This has been going on since the first years of Bush-The-Junior. We’re losing huge amounts of young lives and billions-after-billions of national treasure in these and other places. With no constitutional authority to do so.

We’ve completely failed Puerto Rico. Houston and other Southern environs have been struggling to recover from hurricanes of two and four years ago. Water has been undrinkable in major parts of Flint, Michigan, for four years. Capetown, South Africa, a city of four-million souls, is due to run out of water in about 30 days. England’s exit from the European Union is fast-approaching with world-changing effects expected on entire national economies. Immutable evidence of rapid climate change is mounting much earlier than previously predicted. Stock market’s gone to Hell. A new threat of a North Korean nuclear attack covering much of the American mainland has appeared within the last year. And on and on and on.

Relying only on the mass media markets for your information, have you been fully informed what the significance of these and hundreds of other stories are on your world? And the world’s of your children and grandchildren? These are significant events and major disasters happening now. They’re not just subjects of some distant collection of historical trivia.

As an “informed country,” are we as knowledgeable of the expected huge effects of Brexit on our national economy as we are about the titillating details of Stormy’s latest TV appearance? Has the constitutional issue of undeclared wars been answered to your satisfaction? If you sent a son or daughter off to Syria to be returned in a body bag, do you know why politicians allowed your family to pay that unreasonable price without their authorization?

Since the Reagan administration allowed multiple media market ownerships by the same business entity (“media convergence,” it’s called) and with the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine at the same time, the nation has been more poorly served.

An example of legal media abuse is the Sinclair operation owning dozens of stations across the country including Boise, Seattle and Portland. Full, unbiased reporting has been axed at Sinclair. Now, in those markets - and many more - nightly right-wing scripts and videos are being sent to all with the order to “read ‘em” and “run ‘em.”

Those are legitimate evidence of the failure of our mass information system. There are many others. And, when coupled with board-stockholder-bean counter demands for profit regardless of content, we get “Stormy and friends.” Or reporters interviewing reporters about their opinions. Or endless B.S. about which weird, talent-challenged “celebrity” - read Kardashian - did what to whom.

To be more informed, it’s become necessary to seek out small niche market sources. Mother Jones - The Hill - Politico - Vox - to name a few. These - and a few more - are filling in the news “vacancies” infecting major outlets.

My heartfelt suggestion to the national folks - who appear to be forever lost to us for real, trustworthy and informative news - is to set aside the last 10 minutes of each broadcast hour. Call it “Stormy Today.” Take all the other salacious crap of the day and shove it in there.

Or, you could just tell the CNN’s, Fox’s et al. to just shove it!
 

Listen carefully

rainey

CONSERVATIVE: (1) Tending or disposed to maintain existing views; conditions, or institutions: traditional conservative policies; (2) Marked by moderation or caution; (3) Marked by or relating to traditional norms of taste, elegance, style, or manners.

OPPORTUNIST: (1) Someone who tries to get an advantage or something valuable from a situation without thinking about what is fair or right.

Those definitions are from my well-worn Merriam Webster dictionary. No editing. Now, the question of the day is this: which definition best applies to the guy in the Oval Office? Which best defines his actions - his character - his “political” presence? Go ahead. Pick one.

In my book, there’s no question. “Opportunist” fits our Crisis-In Chief to a “T.” In fact, it doesn’t go far enough.

Yet, day-after-day, night-after-night, our “friends” in the media business use the word “conservative” to describe that person. Over and over and over, they attach the wrong word as if it just has to be so.

One reason is probably because most media types have never met a bonafide Conservative politician. No GOP voice today can be described by that word as were Bob Dole, Howard Baker, Fred Thompson, Ben Nelson, Connie Mack, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, etc.. And, at the far right end of that term, Barry Goldwater.

Trump’s “politics” or character don’t measure up to any of those - not in any way. In fact, in terms of Presidents, his “politics” - whatever they are - match none other.

Would you put Idaho’s Mike Simpson in the same political file as Louis Ghomert, one of the craziest of crazies? Never. But, day-after-day, we’re told the two are “conservatives.”

People who should be most concerned with this mislabeling ought to be actual Conservatives because politicians with proven Conservative credentials are being continually lumped in with the current crop of crazies destroying the GOP. If the Republican Party ever hopes to have honest political currency in our national affairs, real Conservatives should be stepping up with new candidacies.

Many Republicans can’t support the GOP as it exists today. They feel shut out and spend time grousing when they should be taking action. Surely there must be legitimate Conservative Republicans out there who can be encouraged to run - to offer viable choices to nutcases who run unopposed time after time.

Bona fide, hurting Republicans need to stamp out this phony “we don’t want professional politicians “ crap and admit our best governance has been when experienced “professional” politicians did the work that needed doing. Professionals from both parties.

Democrats need to do some “house cleaning” as well. Shut down the Sanders-versus-Clinton voices, put up some new, younger faces with fresh thinking and get out of this circular firing squad concocted years ago.

Absolutists in both parties should be shown the nearest door. This “you’re-with-me-on-every-issue-or-you’re-my-enemy” B.S. needs to be thoroughly cleansed. Republicans say it. Democrats say it. And all it does is fracture political opportunities both parties have repeatedly squandered.

Republicans, especially, should be looking at these thousands and thousands of marchers in the streets from coast-to-coast. Today, the message out there might be gun control. Tomorrow it might be women’s rights. Or ending sexual abuse in society.

But, the real “message-from-the-streets” is most Americans want change. They want effective government to help rather than hurt. They want control of the process. In a very real sense, they want their country back. Not some 1950's imaginary fantasy that never existed. They’re asking - demanding - a process and a government at all levels that cares, that acknowledges problems of the lack of meaningful health care, homelessness, poverty, an end to “government for the few” rather than a “government for all.”

It’s not that we don’t have issues. We’ve got lots of ‘em. Rather it’s getting the cancer of unbridled money out of our national politics - enacting policies of fairness and justice for the many - recreating a nation to be proud of and one that can return to being respected everywhere.

You want true Conservatism rather than opportunism? Go for those things. That’s the message!
 

Doing DUE diligence

rainey

Six months ago, fed up with the worst winter on the Oregon coast that locals could remember, Barb and I packed up the dog and cat and drove 1,310 miles Southeast. To the “great” Southwest.

We’re now in the second fastest growing county in the nation - the Census Bureau estimates about 200 new faces a day - and surrounded by a lot of white hair, expensively tinted hair and the most bald heads we’ve ever seen in one place. The three “cheek-by-jowl” unincorporated "active" retirement communities that make up our new neighborhood total about 92,000 folks - 55 and up.

While you’ll see some criticism here, please remember I’m four score plus two. So, this isn’t being written by a critic from the outside but from my own 82 years. If you haven’t experienced this “active senior living” as it’s called, you might see some surprises here.

When we came down a year ago on a scouting mission, the first thing that caught our eye was $2.28 a gallon gas. A buck or more less than the Coast. We also found real estate taxes on a $200,000 house were about $800 a year. That’s $1,600 less than we’d been paying. A good steak dinner is about $11.00. Shopping within a five mile radius includes hundreds of stores from Neiman-Marcus to Goodwill. Everything you can name! More places to eat out than you could count and a gas station or bank on every corner.

Sounds a bit like senior Nirvana, doesn’t it? Well, while all those good things are quite true, there are other details to consider, too.

For one, our $1,100 a year car insurance went to $1,900. Same car. Same driver. Zip codes are a big factor in setting rates. When you’ve lived here awhile, and driven our roads filled with seniors from everywhere, your sense of self-preservation is heightened and you understand why the increase. Oh, and our car license went from about $200 for two years to $485 for one!

Another local phenomenon is the lowly golf cart. They look the same as those at the country club. But - these have been modified to go between 35-40mph! Gas or electric. With mirrors, seatbelts and appropriate insurance added, they move! And are driven everywhere! Right out in the rest of the traffic. Four lanes or six! Like many others, we use ours as a second car. Easier to park when shopping.

Electricity in our former home was about seven-cents a kilowatt hour. Here, 13-cents and up. Nuclear generation rather than hydro. Water/sewer bills that used to be $60 or so for two months are $60-100 a month now. Also, our state’s water rights in the regional compact are junior to all other states so an extended drought could be a disaster.

Still, just in our little unincorporated “heaven” of about 30,000 oldsters, we have nine - count ‘em - nine 18-hole golf courses to keep up. Two private. Seven public. Using about 2.4 billion gallons of water per year. Residents use about 1.3 billion. So, when water isn’t as available as it is today, (a) already high residential rates will skyrocket and (b) someone is going to have to decide which - and how many - golf courses will be cut to nine holes. Or closed. Them’s fighten’ words hereabouts.

Our current special election to replace our adulterous former Congressman features an adulterous minister - endorsed by the outgoing adulterer, another who’s a twice-convicted felon and James Dobson. The other candidate claims to have loved Trump even before he was elected. Such are our ballot choices. To say we’re a “conservative” state is to confuse “conservative” with outright nuts!

Still, at least for now, we’re not unhappy with our move. Let’s just say we’re here on a “trial basis” and continue to observe life around us. Our “due diligence” continues unabated.

Over the next few months, we’ll describe more of this newfound “active retired” senior living lifestyle and the blessings/curses that go with it. It’s really a little of both. But, you might want to make that “due” in due diligence “DUE” before you take the step.
 

A deep state?

rainey

One of the moral issues all of us face from time to time is this: is it right to support a concept or an action we may know is wrong or is without factual basis or do we reject it for those same reasons?

Here’s one I’m wrestling with at the moment. Members of the Trump “family” - and a few other conspiratorial minds - are screaming there’s a “deep state” cabal working against our president. On the one hand, that’s highly doubtful. On the other, I hope so, because, left unchecked, the man is just plain dangerous to our survival!

Let’s set a common definition for that term “deep state.” The words are most often used by conspiratorial types to describe a “deep rooted civil service - or other behind-the-scenes group - at work to undermine elected officials.” Including presidents.

The latest White House denizen to publically use the term is Trump’s second son who lumped Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres (?) together as “forces for evil.” Said it on Twitter. Just like Dad. Bannon and Faux Neus like it, too. And use it often.

It’s really too easy to poke sticks at anyone in the Trump family or others who think of him as our “political savior.” But, there’s a serious bent to this as well. Which brings about my ambivalence.

Some weeks ago, I used this space to highlight a couple of Air Force generals publically stating they would not necessarily follow a presidential order to unleash the force and nuclear weapons. The qualifier used was the question of a “legal versus illegal” order. I’ve since discovered there are as many legal definitions of those words as there are generals. Or staff attorneys. Whom we don’t have time to consult when there are incoming warheads.

But more evidence is piling up - as in some ‘50's-‘60's movies about renegade generals - that the military and other agencies are going their own ways on things. Rogue, if you will.

Case-in-point: last year, Trump said “no transgender people in the military.” The Pentagon, however, now says, as of January 1, transgender enlistees have been - and still are - welcome.

Case-in-point: Trump made a big public issue of claiming our embassy in Tel Aviv will be moved to Jerusalem. But State Department professionals - not Trump-appointee Tillerson - are saying there are “no plans in the foreseeable future” for such action.

Case-in-point: Trump continues to berate and insult North Korea’s leader while State Department professionals - not Trump-appointee Tillerson - continue back-channel discussions with counterparts in North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan.

Case-in-point: Trump pulls U.S. out of climate accords so individual states are now signing up directly with foreign governments.

Case-in-point: Trump’s own staff attorney did not tell him he had the authority to fire an F.B.I. director because his own staff attorney figured that’s just what Trump would do.

Case(s)-in-point: Trump continues demanding a stop to immigration - even legal immigration - but eleven courts have overruled him.

Upper level civil service professionals have often walked different paths from political appointees. That’s not new. What IS different is it’s currently being done more openly - more “in-your-face” - than previously. Especially in military, State and DOJ issues.

Trump has repeatedly proven he cannot cooperate with - nor countenance - people who are experts in their fields holding any different view from his. He refuses to recognize his job is not to call every shot but to oversee departments of government while recognizing it’s the professionals who really know what ’s going on. And how to do it. They may - and should - bend to changing political guidance. But we’re starting to see open defiance in some quarters.

Which brings us back to “deep state.” Is institutional resistance to Trump and his authority real? And, if so, who’s in charge? Which decisions will be carried out and which ignored? Is someone - or many someone(s) - working deep underground to subvert the power of the Presidency or just Trump? And, if so, who? And, to what end?

For the first time in my life, I go to bed at night wondering (a) if I’ll wake up and (b) if I do, to what? I have no use for Trump. He scares me. I want him gone. Preferably today.

But, he IS the President. He DOES have certain constitutional powers at his disposal. He DOES have the legal right to exercise them. And, what scares me more than him, is the idea that others may actually be working to thwart the lawful exercise of that authority.

We live in a technological (read nuclear, world-ending) environment requiring immediate decisions that can - within minutes - result in life-ending consequences. The evidence seems to indicate a “going-my-own-way” attitude in some portions of our government. Despite Trump, that’s not the way to run a country.
 

Mueller leaking?

rainey

If you want to keep a secret, never consider living in Washington D.C.. Nobody - absolutely nobody - can keep a secret there. Details of the most clandestine conversations often are relayed before the original speaker can take a deep breath.

Fact is, the continual sieve-like communications of the D.C. verbal plumbing system keep the place going, providing uninterrupted grist for the media mill. Some people you’ve never heard of - hangers-on mostly - make a pretty good living leaking.

The constant stream of “I-shouldn’t-say-anything-but...” is mother’s milk to the national media. Without the constant dribble, many of those folk would be unemployed. Whether that’s a good or bad thing we’ll leave for another time.

At the moment, those national writers and talkers are going on and on about the lack of leaks in the Robert Mueller investigation. “Air tight,” they say. “We have no idea what’s happening because no one’s talking.” Sitting out here in the arid Southwest, I’m not convinced.

I think the Mueller team IS leaking and it’s with such finesse and understatement those media types are either not paying attention or, if they are, some of 'em are in on the game.

Case in point. Ripped from CNN and NBC front pages as I write, a story headlined “Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before release.” It goes on to report Mueller’s team is asking “pointed questions” about whether Trump was aware those emails had been stolen before that fact was known publically.

Now, that’s a detailed report. And, if true, it gives us a bit of a window to what’s going on in the investigative offices. “If true.” And I’d bet it is.

In fact, I’d bet a sizeable amount that Mueller’s people have been strategically “leaking” since the git-go.

More cases in point. Before Mueller’s people talked to Manafort, Page, Ryan or any of the others, we learned of the impending sessions from the media. There were no filed documents in advance. No news releases about upcoming talks. No talking head interviews. No published schedules. All the interviewees were privately contacted. It’s not likely they tipped the media types beforehand. Would you?

No, I suspect Mueller and team have been “creatively leaking” bits and pieces to cooperative reporters. Little dribs and drabs that make headlines.

“Why would they do that,” you ask.

Pressure, sez I. I think Mueller is lifting the curtain - just a bit - every few days or so, to keep up the mounting pressure on folks in the White House. As more names from Trump’s inner circle show up in the headlines and on the HDTVs in the living quarters, I'd wager pulses are quickening and it’s getting harder to breathe.

When subjects are interviewed, there aren’t cameras around for the coming and going. Sometimes, the face-to-face sessions are in a third party location unknown to the media. Other times, subjects converse on closed-circuit TV.

We most often see file photos of Manafort, Ryan, et al. entering or leaving a court house or other public building when pleading to charges. But, not when visiting Mueller. Public locations are routinely staked out by the media. We sometimes see old pictures of the miscreants when documents are filed or unsealed. What we see most is file footage, shown repeatedly.

Mueller and friends are running a deep, searching, wide-ranging, thorough investigation. Unintended leaks or talented reporter sleuthing have amounted to zero.

But, leaks there have been. Many. And, they’re likely to continue. Mueller seems to be using them skillfully to create tensions and nervousness among both those his team’s talked to and those yet to sit in front of his microphones and cameras. He’s controlling the atmosphere around the investigation to twist the nerves of those waiting for both shoes to drop.

How’d you like to be waiting for his call? Oh, hold on. Donny, your phone’s ringing. (image/Shawn Rossi)
 

The Graham effect

rainey

Rev. Billy Graham has died. Christian communities are mourning his death. Condolences are even coming from a number of foreign countries. All out of respect for a major voice of evangelism.

Though worthy of respect, many of us were disappointed in Graham with publication of the Nixon tapes. As Nixon spit out a series of slander regarding Jews and Blacks, Graham was heard repeatedly agreeing and even offering some negative comments of his own. As more people heard the tapes and read transcripts, Graham’s public persona took a big hit. He later apologized but didn’t recant.

Aside from those unexpected conversations, Graham seemed to live the life he preached. A Graham biographer once commented, after the word “God,” the second most used word in his sermons was “faith.” That, Graham seemed to have in abundance.

But, Graham was also big business. Large corporate offices, many hundreds of support staff, advance teams, DVD’s, books, tapes, tracts, movies and more.

It was this business side that attracted me when Graham held one of his crusades in what is now called Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State University campus in the early 80's. I began an eight month continuing story about that event.

Many weeks before Graham arrived, his advance people contacted all Christian churches in Southwest Idaho. Churches weren’t so much “asked” to participate as they were told what the Crusade “expected” in support. So many choir members, ushers, set up and takedown labor, underwriting of some local expenses, etc.. Even housing.

Days before the big event, large trucks arrived with scaffolding, choir risers, lights, sound system and other staging hardware. All was made ready.

In advance, I contacted six Christian churches to determine then current average attendance. I would do so twice more after the Crusade.

Graham drew several thousand people. The event went as it had so many times before in venues all over the world. When he made his “altar call” near the end, asking those who wanted to openly express their faith to come forward, a couple of hundred did. About the expected percentage I was told later. By sunup the next day, all evidence of the Crusade was gone. As if it never happened.

My first followup calls were made about three weeks later. All denominations contacted reported attendance had, indeed, gone up. The Crusade had apparently been successful.

Six months later, I checked with each church again. In all contacts, regular attendance had returned to pre-Crusade levels. Reporting later, I termed that “the Graham effect.

It appeared what we’d seen at the Crusade was personal involvement at an emotional moment in some lives. Those walking forward seemed moved to do so right then. But, without ongoing individual reinforcement, those emotions subsided and previous lifestyles returned. Though Graham’s staff had instructed churches how to reinforce the outpouring, it didn’t seem to work.

Drop off in church attendance some months after Graham’s appearance was not isolated. I found it in other cities.

None of this is to disparage Billy Graham or his life’s work. Those who got to their feet and walked did so, I’m sure, with honest feeling and emotion.

We’re seeing something very similar right now with school students moving people to their side through emotion. As with Graham and his Crusades, that’s not a bad thing. But, emotion won’t bring success if there’s no followup - no reinforcement of initial reactions with facts and a solid plan to turn the heartfelt outpouring into long-term support.

My prayer - and I’m sure Rev. Billy would concur - is that national action replaces our individual emotional responses to mass murder. Our individual attention has been “captured.” We need to keep our sympathetic responses alive until November when we’re asked to answer the “altar call” of the ballot box. (photo/Richard Bromley)
 

It feels different

rainey

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m only wishing. Maybe it’s the higher level of compassion coming from people who’re at last expressing why they hurt so badly. Maybe ‘cause I’m wanting it to end right now, though I know it won’t. But, it just feels different.

We’ve had school massacres before. Too damned many of ‘em. Too many riddled bodies. Too much fibre and muscle and blood splattered all over school desks and walls where the only legitimate task at hand was supposed to be learning - not surviving. Too many futures ripped to shreds by a psychopath with no grasp on reality.

But the Florida shooting. The Florida tragedy. The flat-out Florida killing. There seems - at least to me - something different in the sorrow-filled aftermath. Almost a sense that “enough is finally enough!” That enough is, at last, too damned much!

Maybe it’s a sense of national disgust with a lot of things we’re facing at the moment. Maybe it’s the border-to-border feelings of revulsion felt by thinking Americans who love this nation, love their families, love their children and do so without waving around an assault rifle.

Media - commercial and “social” - are filled with something akin to rage. Editorial cartoons, in papers large and small, are attacking targets with a deliberate viciousness usually reserved for wartime or other national, world-changing events. With the lone, embarrassing exception of Fox News, we’re seeing and hearing from Americans truly in mourning. Searing descriptions of what those kids saw, felt and feared while classmates died next to them.

Even some of the loyalists of our cowering, self-serving, lying “commander-in-chief,” are expressing almost rational thought as they seem to realize that something "may be" different this time. That some sort of coda has been reached. Finally!

And the “thoughts-and-prayers” B.S.. Those who pipe up with those words are seen as playing “Whack-A-Mole” with their own head. Attempting to get off the hook by throwing out “thoughts and prayers” isn’t working anymore and those words are oft responded to by a foul epithet and a promise to “see you at the ballot box.”

But, the frosting on the cake is the thundering silence of the N-R-A. Not a word. Not a peep. Politicians who’ve drunk the kool-aid of hundreds of millions from that out-of-control cancer on the body politic are cowering even as the dollars fill their rotting pockets.

Still, most of all, it’s the kids. The Parkland kids who’re not only allowing themselves to be interviewed in the tragic aftermath but who’re seeking out national media for a platform from which they can express their outrage. Promising to aggressively take whatever actions they can to stop the killing.

While I doubt they can do much by themselves, they can - and I pray they will - be a continuing, outspoken catalyst for others who can be effective. Who can vote and who WILL vote to eliminate political N-R-A junkies. If the rest of us will pay attention, get up off our asses, stop complaining and DO SOMETHING, those kids can make an historic difference.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the ghastly, bullet-filled time warp we seem to be in will continue. Maybe all this will die in a few weeks. Maybe we’ll forget. Again.

But, this time, to me, it just feels different.
 

A shrinking mea culpa

rainey

Several days ago, I re-posted a news story on Facebook. It had been on the CNN website that day and appeared genuine. It outraged me so much I re-posted without checking. My bad.

Within minutes, some sharp-eyed Facebook friends started commenting they hadn’t seen it anywhere else and a few questioned its authenticity. Suddenly, so did I. Going back to the CNN page, the story I had copied was nowhere to be found. I checked every nook and cranny but it wasn’t there.

Since the story had a Nevada dateline, I looked up the state’s two largest newspaper web pages. Nothing. Not a word.

At this point, I was both professionally and personally embarrassed. So, after waiting 24 hours to do more research - and to think of a properly worded mea culpa - I checked the Nevada papers again. And there it was! Whew!

So, I re-posted one of the more detailed stories with a “soft” mea culpa and invited skeptical friends to check it out. After all, they had a right to be skeptical since I had not done my homework.

So, what’s the point?

Just this. Simply because something appears on a legitimate website like CNN, check a couple more sources before sharing. Each week, I visit some 15-20 sites - Washington Post, New York Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, Der Spiegel, London Times, The Guardian, Tokyo Times, CBS, NBC, etc. The idea is to be exposed to many issues and to check other views of all sorts of stories.

But, I think I got “had” on CNN. CNN, too. Which is a wake-up call for all my other online reading. I checked with the Atlanta powers-that-be and they couldn’t find my “story,” either. It could have been a Russian “bot.” My source didn’t use that word but did say the company’s site has been experiencing “some difficulties recently.”

So, the lesson learned is this: check, re-check, cross-check and, if necessary, check again. Corroborate. If it seems interesting enough to pass on, be sure you’re on solid ground.

Oh, by the way, the story that caused the outrage? It was accurate. Republicans in the Nevada legislature have been behind a recall campaign against two Democrat state senators. GOP sponsored. GOP run. GOP paid for. And the charge against the two “miscreants?” Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Boiled down to its essentials, Republicans are trying to take control of the Nevada Senate by shifting numbers. The two targets here have committed no crimes. Have not shirked their responsibilities. Have not engaged in “moral turpitude.” They’re not guilty of anything!

The reason this Nevada story is so important is a favorable court ruling could be a precedent for all other states. Republicans could just dream up a “recall” and try to unseat Democrats. Any Democrats. Anywhere. Or vice versa.

I’ve seen nothing to support what my gut tells me which is this: dig deep enough and you’re likely to find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and/or the Koch brothers who have large holdings in Nevada and other states. This just smells like a test run at the courts to gain leverage Republicans couldn’t get at the ballot box.

I sincerely hope the Nevada court system slams the door on this shabby Republican B.S.. The GOP has enough other shameful efforts going trying to thwart voters.

Pennsylvania is a good example. State Supreme Court threw out the Republican gerrymandering of districts. Deemed it illegal. So, the GOP went to the U.S. Supreme Court which kicked it back to the state. Now, Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to recall Democrat appointees on their own state supreme court for no other reason than the GOP wants to underhandedly take over legislative majorities. And the court!

These are important stories that more Americans should be watching closely and be greatly concerned about. These underhanded, totally flagrant and despicable Republican challenges are a flat-out challenge to the Constitution of the nation and those of every state.

So, here I am. Feeling guilty about passing along a single news report that might have been false - but wasn’t - while Republicans in at least two states are trying to overturn entire elections. And subvert several constitutions.

Suddenly, my mea culpa doesn’t feel so large after all.
 

There’s NO nuke button

rainey

I’ve been mentally wrestling with something for, oh, a year or more. Something I’ve not seen the national media explain ‘cause they probably don’t know. You won’t hear it from the Oval Office, either, ‘cause he certainly doesn’t know.

So, looks like it’s coming down to Ridenbaugh Press: a burden we didn’t ask for but have been given nonetheless. Here it is. As straightforward as it can be said.

There’s NO DAMNED NUCLEAR BUTTON. On Trump’s desk or in the entire White House! No! None! Zero! Zip! Nada! Never has been! PERIOD! His little fingers can’t push it ‘cause there’s nothing there to push! He cannot - repeat - CANNOT unilaterally order up a nuclear conflagration.

I spent a few cold war years about three-feet from where the button would have been if there had been a button to push if a nuclear button needed to be - pushed. And it wasn’t there, either! Never was! The damned thing has never existed!

So, without a “button,” what’s a guy “push” when we need to launch all the things in our far-flung nuclear arsenal? Well, therein lies a tale that needs some background.

Ever notice when a President travels away from the White House there’s always - ALWAYS - a field grade officer lurking nearby, carrying what looks like the president’s personal luggage? Always there. Always carrying. He’s one of a small cadre, holding the topmost security clearances, who have no other job but carrying that “luggage” for the Commander-In Chief.

The “luggage” is euphemistically called “the Football.” The best description of it I’ve ever seen - and of what’s inside - is an old Washington Post piece. To wit:

“The Football is a metal Zero Halliburton briefcase carried in a black leather "jacket" weighing about 45 pounds. A small antenna protrudes from the bag near the handle.

“There are four things in the Football. The Black Book containing retaliatory options; a book listing classified site locations; a manila folder with eight or ten pages stapled together giving a description of procedures for the Emergency Alert System; a three-by-five inch card with authentication codes.

“The Black Book is about 9 by 12 inches and has 75 loose-leaf pages printed in black and red. The book with classified site locations is about the same size as the Black Book and contains information on sites around the country where the president could be taken in an emergency.” End quote.

If someone in the Pentagon War Room sends a signal to the “Football,” it will be opened and the President will be in immediate contact. He’ll be given a very short update on what’s happening and will quickly be given options for military response - if any - previously developed and updated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

What happens from that point is highly classified. But we do know the approximate steps. The President can choose any option. Or decline. But, if the option to launch is made, he must read a long series of coded numbers aloud to the War Room listener - most likely the Secretary of Defense. The numbers and sequences must be verified by responder and he must read aloud his own code series.

Others in strategic military locations around the world should be listening by this time, having been alerted after the initial presidential call. Once a decision is made, more codes in more sequences will be sent to field commanders to which they have to immediately respond with confirmation codes. If all checks are positive, those military commanders will issue the direct orders to the force. All forces with nukes must acknowledge and transmit their own codes.

Not the President. No “nuclear button.”

And there’s this. It’s within the purview of the Secretary, the Joint Chiefs and - theoretically - a force commander to refuse to obey if they believe the “go-to-war” order is illegal. So, just because the order is given, there’s no basis to believe it will be blindly followed.

The President can’t unilaterally send our military to war. There are too many checks and cross-checks. As there should be. And there’s NO DAMNED BUTTON!

Anyone got an email address for CNN and the rest?