Monthly Archives: January 2017



Much is being said about Donald Trump’s inaugural address, especially his use of some awkward phrases.  For example, George Will’s column in this morning’s Washington Post focused on the term “American carnage.”  He expressed both surprise and disgust.

That was a phrase the likes of which has never hitherto been spoken at an inauguration.

The other phrase which caught most of the attention was his declaration that his overarching philosophy, whether dealing in commerce, energy or international relations, was “America First.”  Despite being asked by the Anti-Defamation League and others not to invoke what began as the rallying cry of those who felt Jewish Americans were pushing the U.S. into World War II, Trump choice to turn a deaf ear.

But I am less worried about Trump sending a signal to his alt-right supporters than what I believe is simply an extension of his life philosophy, “ME FIRST.”  Was winning the election merely one more business acquisition in which America became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization?

Viewed from this perspective, Trump and America are now co-branded.  And Trump and his family will treat this latest acquisition just as they have other business deals.  Instead of stiffing contractors and workers to maximize corporate profits, Trump and Associates will stiff the American people in order to cover the costs of tax cuts for the wealthy.  To paraphrase his own words on Friday:

The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes (just ask my nominee for Treasury Secretary) and then redistributed all across the one percent (see my  tax plan).

It appears Kzhir Khan was half right when he said, “Mr. Trump, you have sacrificed nothing and no one.”  Mr. Khan spoke in the past tense.  What we now know is Trump is still not willing to sacrifice anything, continuing to put his business interests ahead of his oath to the Nation.  A president who truly puts America first would not hesitate to divest his personal assets as every one of Trump predecessors has done.

To see American carnage, Trump need only look at his tax returns.  Don’t be surprised if we are told we have no right to see the Office of Management and Budget’s annual reports.  I’m sure Trump will not want us to scrutinize those either.

For what it’s worth.


Let’s Go to the Videotape


I first became aware of Warner Wolf in September 1971 when I started graduate school in Baltimore, Maryland.  Wolf was the play-by-play announcer for the then Washington Senators baseball team, soon to be relocated in Arlington, Texas.  He was also the sports anchor for WTOP television in Washington, DC.  He became famous for his trademark catchphrase, “Let’s go to the videotape.”  He would invoke these five words to complement his description of a specific play or his opinion.  Wolf was modest enough not to expect viewers would take everything he said at face value.  Instead, he would encourage followers to “see for yourself.”

I have been thinking a lot about Warner Wolf in the last 48 hours.  Although he is now 79 years old and largely retired from broadcasting, Wolf is exactly what we need to remind us there is still irony in the question, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”  As the incoming president regularly tries to disassociate himself from his own words and behavior, we need someone who will remind us there is evidence to the contrary.  “Let’s go to the videotape” should be a clarion call to every individual who calls himself/herself a journalist for the next four years.

Yes, the technology has changed.  “Let’s go to the 1080i HD digital video” might be more appropriate.  But you get the point.  There are multiple sources of physical evidence available to affirm or refute Trump’s declarations.  These include video of appearances, audio recordings of radio interviews and posts on social media.  “Let’s go to the videotape” just has a certain cadence which rolls off the tongue.

Following are just two examples in the last 48 hours which triggered this post.  First is Trump’s January 9 tweet in response to Meryl Streep’s remarks at the Golden Globes awards ceremony.

For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad.

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE.  In this case the “videotape” consists of  the infamous clip of Trump at the South Carolina rally on November 25, 2015.  It also includes NY Times reporter’s Serge Kovaleski’s articles which also refute the charge he had changed his story.

At 4:31 AM this morning, Trump responded on Twitter to breaking news of potentially compromising information concerning his finances and behavior. (Yes, 4:31 AM.  Seems PEOTUS is having a hard time getting to sleep.)

Russia has never tried to use leverage over me.   I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING.

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE.  CLIP #1. Trump hosting the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow on November 9, 2013.  June 18, 2013 tweet, “A big deal that will bring our countries together..  A second tweet, later the same day, “Do you think Putin will be going to the The Miss Universe Pageant.  If so, will he become my new best friend?”

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE. CLIP #2. Eric Trump, Jr, at the September 2008 Bridging US and Emerging Real Estate Markets Conference sponsored by Cityscape USA, said, ” The emerging world in general attributes such brand premium to real estate that we are looking all over the place, primarily Russia.”  In the same same presentation, in what appears to contradict Trump’s ABSOLUTE denial of any Russian business ties, Don Jr. states, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”

Trump supporters argue, even if there are business transactions with private individuals, that does not imply dealings with the Russian government.

LET’S GO TO THE VIDEOTAPE. CLIP #3. At the same conference Don, Jr. is asked if the Russian government complicates business opportunities.  He replies, “It’s so transparent–everything is so interconnected that it really does not matter what is supposed to happen as what it is they want to happen is ultimately what happens.”

Dust off your VCR or BETAMAX.  No doubt there will be many more “videotape” moments in the coming year (or should I say in Trump’s case, the coming hours).

For what it’s worth.


Lethal Force


On March 8, 2000, Boston Bruin defenseman Marty McSorley was charged with assault with a weapon when he attacked Vancouver Canucks forward Donald Brashear with his stick during the February 21 game in Vancouver.  The strike and subsequent fall to the ice resulted in a Grade 3 concussion.  Brashear did not fully recover from his injury and never played professional hockey again. Later that year, McSorley was found guilty of assault with a weapon and sentenced to 18 months probation.  The NHL suspended McSorley for a full year, after which he too never played in another NHL game.

I was reminded of the McSorley/Brashear incident during the second quarter of yesterday’s Packers/Giants playoff game.  Green Bay wide receiver Jordy Nelson was struck in his leftt side by New York defensive back Leon Hall while attempting to catch an Aaron Rogers pass. Initial injury reports range from bruised ribs to possible damage to Nelson’s kidneys and spleen.

I am not suggesting Hall be charged with assault ala McSorley.  But as I continued to watch the game I noticed something which I believe is the cause such incidents are becoming more frequent with an increasing number of serious injuries.

I never played competitive football other than pick-up games, most under the rules associated with what is known as touch or flag football.  On rare occasions the game included tackling and blocking.  However, even in those contests involving full contact, not once was a teammate or opponent carried off the field or injured beyond a few scrapes or surface bruises.

Consider the following.  First, in those days, tackling meant wrapping your arms around an opponent to halt his forward progress.  Watch today’s game.  The art of “tackling” has given way to “knocking” an opponent to the ground, something which requires more force than that needed to bring a runner or receiver down by clutching his legs or lower body.  Second, we did not wear any protective gear.  Therefore, a tackler needed to be equally concerned about his own safety as that of his target.  Leading with the crown of one’s head is only rational if the defensive player has a false sense of security ironically heightened by design improvements to equipment meant to decrease injuries from blows to the cranium.

Imagine you weighed 200 pounds and could run a 40 yard dash in less than five seconds (an NFL standard for defensive backs).  Now, whenever driving your car, you put on headgear consisting of a hard plastic shell with thick padding inside.  For good measure, your headgear includes metal bars coated with plastic which protect your face.  During a road rage encounter, you lower your head and ram someone with the crown of your headgear.  Most people would consider that unacceptable regardless whether the attack resulted in injury.  Yet, minus road rage as a trigger, this is exactly what happens several times during every NFL game.

The major difference is. in the case of professional football, humans are paid large sums of money to subject themselves to these physical assaults.  In other words, civil suits stemming from these forms of violence, are settled out of court prior to the incident.  And the compensation for future injuries is called player’s salary.  Unfortunately, college players ink the same out of court settlements on signing day except those documents do not include the compensatory financial award.

For what it’s worth.


A False Sense of Security


There are days when I keep asking, “Where is George Carlin when we really need him?”  Carlin’s legacy was his ability to identify and call out “bullshit” by closely observing and analyzing human behavior.  One of his favorite targets was airport security.  Although I do not know this as a fact, I’m relatively confident Carlin was the reason we are no longer asked those two famous questions when checking in.  Here is Carlin’s take on the subject.

“Did you pack your bags yourself?”

“No, Carrot Top packed my bags. He and Martha Stewart and Florence Henderson came over to the house last night, fixed me a lovely lobster Newburg, gave me a full body massage with sacred oils from India, performed a four-way ‘around-the-world,’ and then they packed my bags. Next question.”

“Have your bags been in your possession the whole time?”

“No. Usually the night before I travel—just as the moon is rising—I place my suitcases out on the street corner and leave them there, unattended, for several hours. Just for good luck.”

Earlier this week I had a George Carlin “false sense of security” moment.  I wanted to delete a device which I no longer use from my AT&T wireless account.  I was prepared to navigate the automated answering service which gives you every option except the one you need.  I wasn’t even surprised when the agent who finally answered my call informed me he needed to transfer me to a different department.  What came next is what finally drove me to consider anger management classes.

Here is an accurate (though not necessarily verbatim) transcript of our conversation.

Agent: It appears you have not set up a security code.

Me:  I’ve never had to use one.  All I want to do is drop a device from my wireless account.

Agent:  I can’t do that without a security code.

Me:  But I don’t have one.

Agent:  I can take care of that.  I am going to send you a six digit code.  I will text it to your phone and when you tell me what it is, I’ll know you are the account holder and can take care of your request.

Me:  (after a brief pause to avoid saying something I would later regret)  Let me get this straight.  You have my name, address, birthday, last four digits of my social security number, my mother’s maiden name and the name of my first pet.  These are things no one else could reasonably expect to have.  But that is not enough.  You’re going to text me a code number.  What if I just stole the phone from the owner?  I will get your text and you will assume I am the legitimate account holder.  You do realize this makes no sense.

Agent: I’m sorry if you feel inconvenienced, but we are doing this to protect our customers.

Me:  (what I wanted to say) Are you shitting me? It’s less protection than the old system.

Me: (what I actually said)  All I want to do is delete a device from my account.  Text me the code.

I understand many people believe we are on the brink of destruction by foreigners and 400 pound hackers accessing our email from their parents’ basement.  However, experiences like this make we wonder of whom we should be more afraid.

For what it’s worth.

UNREAL Oscar Contenders


Award season is upon us.  And since becoming an UNREAL American, it seems only appropriate to establish UNREAL events, the first being the UNREAL academy awards on February 26th.  Although the final nominations will not be released until tomorrow morning, a number of 2016 films are considered to be the front runners.  Here are just a few.  (NOTE:  Thanks to IMDB and WikiPedia for the synopses of these titles on which some of the parodies are based.)


Arrival (Paramont Pictures)

When mysterious visitors begin to gather in the nation’s capital on January 20, 2017, Washington area real estate agent Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language they use as the visitors attempt to establish permanent residence in the federal enclave.

Fences (Paramount Pictures)

Interim House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black (R-Tenn) informs president-elect Trump building a wall to keep out Hispanic immigrants is financially unfeasible.  She suggests he build a more modest barrier at a fraction of the cost.  Tom Sawyer Enterprises submits a bid for a four foot high picket fence which includes whitewashing.

Hidden Figures (Fox 2000 Pictures)

The story of African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, who, while working in the segregated Urban Area Computers division of the Trump Campaign, calculated the consequences of the GOP nominee not releasing his tax returns.  Using their calculations, Donald Trump is able to avoid revealing multiple conflicts of interest and changes his campaign slogan from “Make America Great Again” to “What Me Worry!”

La La Land (Summit Entertainment)

An American romantic musical comedy-drama in which 8,753,788 Californians sing and dance their way through the 2016 presidential election believing they can make a difference by voting for Hillary Clinton.  As is true with much that happens in Hollywood, this is only an illusion.

Zootopia (Walt Disney Pictures)

Animated film in which a female rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Hillary Clinton) believes she can become the first Lapine president. Despite serving as first bunny, senator and secretary of state, Judy’s aspirations are snuffed out by Chief Bogo (Donald Trump), who doubts her potential because rabbits are frail and emotional.  She is hustled by Nick Wilde (Steve Bannon) and Finnick (Kellyanne Conway) a con artist duo of FOXes.


Hell or High Water (CBS Films)/Following U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, Mar-a-Lago is inundated by rising sea levels.

Florence Foster Jenkins (Paramount Pictures)/In a gender reversal remake (ala Ghostbusters 2016) of the election, a wannabe presidential candidate takes center stage when family and friends convince her she is the real deal.

Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)/A cult of 3:00 am tweeters discover a new role model.

Silence (Paramount Pictures)/Promises by the president-elect to hold press conferences to discuss how he plans to extricate himself from his business and his view of Russian intervention in the 2016 election vanish into the ether.

That’s it from UNREAL central for now.  Stay tuned for more UNREAL events throughout the year.

For what it’s worth.