Category Archives: Media

Breaking the Glass Floor


I can only imagine what  aliens, having landed on earth on February 1, would think of America and how it picks its leaders.  First, they learned  candidates have spent a year crisscrossing two political units which account for one percent of the total delegates who will make the eventual choice at a gathering later in the year.  And they will do that in two other states the rest of the month.  Then they will have THREE days to make a case to 14 additional political units that control 40 percent of the delegates.

Then tonight they watched what could only be called a cat fight over which candidate is the least flawed.  No wonder many of the best potential candidates choose not to participate in this dumpster fire.

Based on their observations, the aliens return to their home planet and report, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, their system of picking their leader by pulling a name out of a hat is a bad way to do it, but it’s better than all the rest.  Though they heard some candidates talk about breaking a glass ceiling, the consensus opinion is the winner will be the one who survives falling through the glass floor.

It’s not like the Democratic party hasn’t tried to make it better.  The first such effort was a commission chaired by Michigan Congressman James O’Hara following the 1968 disaster at the Chicago convention.  The result.  George McGovern and the worst electoral college beating in political history.  And after each successive presidential loss the party has tweaked the system with minimal effect.

Image result for putney swopeAgain, I turn to Putney Swope who, when asked if he, as the new CEO of the advertising company at which he was hired as the token minority, would rock the boat, replied, “I’m not going to rock the boat.  I’m going to sink the whole f***ing ship.”  The time for tweaking has passed.  It’s time to start with a blank slate and put on our MARA caps (Make America Rational Again).

In this post, I will focus on two major elements of the electoral process: the primaries and candidate debates.

PRIMARIES:  First and foremost, the party should ban caucuses.  They violate every democratic principle supportive of an engaged electorate.  Second, the nation should be divided into four contiguous regions with each region consisting of states with approximately one-fourth of the total delegates.  Third, regional primaries should be held no less than 30 days apart.  Fourth, the order of the regional primaries should rotate over a sixteen year period, giving each region a chance to be “first in the nation.”

DEBATES:  While televised debates would still be distributed among the major media outlets, the networks would not choose the format, the moderators or the questions.  The first two decisions would be made by the eligible participants in each event.  The topics would be determined by an independent polling service by asking voting age residents in each region, “What are the three most important issues in the upcoming election?”  The top five answers would be selected as topics for the first debate in that region.  Each participant would be given a chance to present their plan to address each issue.  If there were multiple debates in a region, the second or third event could focus on topics further down the list.  The moderator’s sole purpose would be to ensure rules related to length of answers and questioning between candidates are enforced.

You might ask, when do candidates get a chance to air their concerns about an opponents past performance or statements.  If you look at the transcript of tonight’s debate,  questions about every candidate’s shortcomings were recitations already raised by the media.  Look at the front page of any newspaper or watch cable news.  The headlines were about medical record transparency, buying the election, questionable past statements and actions.

Let the media use their time and resources to fuel a cat fight.  The party should ensure the debates give candidates a chance to tell us how they will govern, if elected.  Bernie and Elizabeth know they have to explain why Medicare for All is not a financial disaster.  Mike knows he has to tell black voters how he will atone for negative impacts associated with stop and frisk.  The party should give them and all the other candidates that chance to make their case about the future and why it makes sense in light of any perceived inconsistencies.

If candidates want to go negative, parroting what is already being reported in newspapers and on talk shows, they have the right to do so.  But make them do it on their dime, not free media access when voters should hear about how they plan to govern, not why they are less flawed than their opponents.

For what it’s worth.


The TwiWhite Zone


The following is a parody of a 1959 episode (Season 03/Episode 24) of The Twilight Zone titled, “To Serve Man.”*


You’re traveling through another dimension–a dimension not only where many chose not to see or hear, a dimension of the mindless, a journey into a dysfunctional land whose boundaries are shattered by the warped imagination of Donald Trump.  Your next stop, the TwiWhite Zone.

[Theme Music]


We were preoccupied with the hands on a clock when we should have been checking off a calendar.  It was June 2015, and it was noon then, too.  And people walked and drove and bought and sold and fretted and laughed.  The world went on much as it had been going on with a tentative tiptoeing along a precipice of crisis  There was North Korea, Iran and Syria and the other myriad problems, major and minor that somehow had lost their incisive edge of horror because we were so familiar with them.

And then that is when it happened.  That’s when we first heard he had come.  That’s when we should have prepared ourselves for any eventuality, but we didn’t.  Instead, we milled around like frightened farm animals looking for father images.  At noon, today, eastern daylight time, the landing took place in the lobby of Trump Tower.


THE ALIEN (Donald Trump):

(SPEAKING IN THE THIRD PERSON) What is the motive of this man, offering such great gifts to the people of the United States?  I hope the American people will understand and believe when I tell you that my mission is simply this:  To bring to you the piece (sic) and plenty which I enjoy.  When you have no more hunger, no more war, no more needless suffering, that will be my reward.


And Santa Claus came through.  The deserts became golf courses and the wall ended immigration.

And one year later, women stand in line waiting for the tram that will take them to the spa at one of the Mar-a-Lago or Doral franchises which now dot the landscape.  They react as if this were a weekend picnic in the country.  Nothing fazes them.


Image result for encoded book

I’m still working on that book.  Deciphering the title has been of no help because the capital letters are different from the other signs, just as ours are.  But it’s starting to fall into place.


I gave up trying a month ago.  My wife has been begging me to give her a Trump spa vacation for her birthday.  I’m not sure I can resist much longer.



Mr. Chambers!  Mr. Chambers!  Don’t let her get on that tram!  The rest of the book, “Women for Trump,” it’s not about campaign strategy, it’s one of Jeffrey Epstein’s day planners.



How about you?  Is your wife or girlfriend at home or has she boarded the tram to oblivion?  It doesn’t make much difference because sooner or later, they’ll all be in the book–all of them, a footnote in a day planner.  It’s tonight’s book club selection in The TwiWhite Zone.

*Original screenplay by Rod Serling, based on a story by Damon Knight.

For what it’s worth.


Un-Front and Un-Centered


NOTE:  Sometimes you have to admit when you have been scooped.  While preparing the next installment in the series “The Case for…”, a Google search provided several articles based on the same concept, the best being Ezra Klein’s series at  And when many posited similar conclusions about the assets each major candidates brings to the race, it was time to cry “uncle.”  Deprogramming101 is about finding the “other” story or pointing out what the mainstream media has missed.  And I could not make a “case for…” that.

The headlines are almost laughable.  “Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner and moderates may be too divided to stop him.” (NBC New)  “Bernie Sanders is the front-runner.  Now, treat him like it.” (New York Daily News)  No!  Secretariat in the home stretch at Belmont Park is a front-runner.  Neither Sanders nor anyone else is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination and won’t be until March 3rd, otherwise known as Super Tuesday when 40 percent of pledged delegates are chosen.

FACT #1:  To secure the Democratic nomination for president, the winning candidate must arrive at the Milwaukee convention with 1,886 pledged delegates.  As of this morning, Sanders has 21 locked up.

FACT #2:  Sanders is in second place when it comes to the current delegate count.  By virtue of his surprise showings in both the Iowa caucuses (we think) and the New Hampshire primary, Pete Buttigieg leads by one with 22 delegates.

FACT #3: Five candidates surpassed the 15 percent “viability” threshold in one or both of the first two nomination contests–Sanders, Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden.  The total among the three “moderate” candidates is 35 compared to 29 for the two “progressive” candidates.

FACT #4:  When you look at the results from the New Hampshire primary among these same five candidates, you get a similar picture.  Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Biden received 53.9 percent of the votes cast on Tuesday.  Sanders and Warren picked up a total of 34.9 percent.

FACT #5:  In 2016, Sanders won 60.14 percent of the primary vote against Hillary Clinton and 16 delegates.  He was less successful in 2020 with 25.7 percent and 9 delegates.

FACT #6:  Despite a few write-ins, neither Iowa or New Hampshire provide any clue whether Michael Bloomberg’s decision to by-pass contests in the first four states will pay off for him.

FACT #7: Donald Trump, facing nominal competition in the Republican primary, urged his lemmings to mess with the Democrat primary by voting for the weakest potential opponent.  Though he did not name names, on numerous occasions, the Trump campaign indicated it relishes the opportunity to run against a self-proclaimed “socialist.”

Exit polling in New Hampshire provides additional insight to why any candidate cannot be considered THE front-runner in mid-February.  Again, it is helpful to look at the aggregate totals for candidates in the so-called moderate and progressive lanes.

MEN: 49 to 38 percent in favor of moderate candidates.  Equally important, men made up only 43 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters.

WOMEN:  Accounting for 57 percent of all votes, women went 51 to 33 percent for moderates.

AGE:  A clear 52 to 31 advantage for progressives among voters 18-29 years of age.  But, they only cast 13 percent of the total ballots.  In contrast, among Democrats 45-64 year old (39 percent of all voters), moderates out-polled progressives 59-29 percent.  Similarly, for the 65+ cohort (26 percent of the total vote), moderates won by a margin of 67-24 percent.

EDUCATION:  Among college graduates (54 percent of voters), moderates led 56-35 percent.  Among voters with no college degree (46 percent of voters), moderates still win by a narrower margin of 44-37 percent.

IDEOLOGY:  As one would expect, voters who identified themselves as “very liberal” (21 percent of the total vote), preferred Sanders and Warren by 65-30 percent.  Yet, voters who self-identified as “somewhat liberal”(40 percent of all voters) supported moderates by 55-36 percent.

UNION HOUSEHOLDS:  Voters from union households (16 percent of voters) preferred moderates 57-37.  Non-union voters (84 percent of voters) also cast a majority of their ballots for moderate candidates by 51-36 percent.

Why does this matter?  Two reasons.  First, it is the political equivalent of the Discovery Channel program “MythBusters.”

  • The 2018 mid-term “Blue Wave” was due largely to high turnout among female voters.  Progressive candidates did not perform well among this critical demographic.
  • The Sanders campaign was supposedly fueled by the “children’s crusade” because of his ability to attract new, younger voters.  Voting among 18-29 year olds DECLINED by six percentage points (19-13) compared to 2016.
  • Sanders touted his huge crowds for rallies held on college campuses.  If New Hampshire voters are any indication, this was more about age than educational level.
  • While progressive candidates have a lock on the segment of the party considered “very liberal,” it represents only one in five primary voters.
  • Perhaps the biggest surprise was the inability of progressives to carry voters from union households.

Which brings me to the second and most important reason why no candidate, especially Bernie Sanders, can lay claim to front-runner status.  To be consistent, rational political pundits must apply the same logic to the race for the Democratic nomination they do to the general election.  You cannot say Trump, despite 93 percent approval among the declining number of registered Republicans (actually Trump cultists), has a lock on re-election.  And then suggest Sanders will be hard to stop when he too has an equally avid following among a small subset of the total Democratic electorate.

One of two scenarios will play out.  In the first scenario, one of the moderates will break out from the pack and moderate support will consolidate behind that candidate. Bernie Sanders cannot win the nomination with the most rabid voters if they represent between 35 to 40 percent of the party faithful.

Image result for rube goldbergScenario #2 depends on two or more moderates remaining competitive throughout primary season, in which case no one comes to Milwaukee with the required majority of delegates.  And here is where it gets really complicated thanks to the Rube Goldberg mentality which guided DNC reforms to the nomination process following the over-weighted influence of super-delegates (elected officials and party leadership) in 2016.  I hope you are sitting down.

  • If a candidate wins between 1,886 and 2,267 pledged delegates by virtue of state primaries and caucuses, super-delegates are barred from voting on the first ballot as not to overturn the will of the voters.
  • If that candidate wins more than 2,267, super-delegates are allowed to vote on the first ballot because their vote is meaningless.
  • If no candidate wins 1,886 at the end of primary season, the result is a contested convention at which super-delegates regain their right to vote on the second and all further ballots.  The eventual winner will need a majority of all delegates which raises the victory threshold to 2,267.

If 2016 provided any insight, the overwhelming majority of super-delegates also fall in the moderate category which assures Sanders would not walk away from a brokered convention with the nomination.  Though he might influence which of the remaining moderates carry the day.

Unlike Donald Trump, I do learn from my mistakes.  And I refuse to be scooped again by hesitating to go out on a limb until I am more confident in my speculation.  So, here goes.  Scenario #3 is a brokered convention at which none of the previous candidates is viewed as the “uniter” who can bring together the moderate and progressive wings of the party.  
The search begins to find an alternative who has the best chance of both reconciling intra-party differences and more importantly defeating Trump.

There is one logical choice.  Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  No Republican has ever won the presidency without carrying Ohio.  So, the answer to the question, “How do you assure Trump loses?” is to nominate the only Democrat who has constantly demonstrated he can turn Ohio blue.  Brown first won his Senate seat in 2006 by defeating incumbent Mike DeWine by 12 percentage points (56-44).  Yes, Mike DeWine, the current Ohio governor.  In two successful races for re-election he won by six or more percentage points and did better on election day than predicted in the polls.

As for uniting the party, Brown has aligned with Sanders on many policy issues yet endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016.  In May, 2017, Washington Monthly reporter D. R. Tucker wrote the following about Brown as a potential 2020 Trump opponent.

He may not run. He may decide that pursuing justice is a more worthwhile goal in the Senate. However, if he runs, Brown might be able to bring “establishment” and “progressive” Democrats together at the same time the Republican Party falls apart.

Tucker was correct.  In March 2019, Brown announced he would not run for president.  But he said something similar in August 2005 when he passed up a chance to challenge two-term incumbent Republican Senator DeWine.  But when his party called, he changed his mind and the rest is history.

Conclusion?  Data from exit polling tells us the noise on Twitter is exactly that.  The majority of Democrats are in the center or just to the left of center.  The only thing that is un-centered is media coverage of the nomination process.

For what it’s worth.


Crystal Balls


BLOGGER’S NOTE:  If you thought today’s post, based on the title, was going to be about Ken Starr, Pam Bondi and Alan Dershowitz, you will again be disappointed.  Although the reference is appropriate, the topic du jour is modern day prophets.

I said, whatever you do, don’t hire a “yes man,” someone who won’t tell you the truth–don’t do that.  Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached.

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly
October 26, 2019

Kelly was recalling a conversation with Donald Trump concerning selection of a successor following his announcement on December 8, 2018 he would be leaving his position as chief of staff.  Nostradamus would be proud.

This is not the only example.  Expressing his belief Trump would exact revenge on any member of the Senate who defied his claim of innocence during the impeachment trial, Adam Schiff hypothetically asked Republicans, “Do you honestly believed Trump would not turn on any one of you if you were viewed as a threat to his self-interest.”  Well, just ask John Bolton.  Or Judge Andrew Napolitano, chief judicial analyst for (drum roll) Fox News.  Yesterday, on Fox Business, Napolitano reminded viewers Bolton was “a conservative icon until two days ago.”  Psychic Jeane Dixon should have been so accurate.

To be honest, neither of these predictions signal any evidence of extraordinary powers.  Why?  First, both Kelly and Schiff were voicing sentiments that were widely held among their peers and political pundits.  I could not find one instance on-line where someone challenged these assessments.

Second, how tough is it to make predictions of things that happen just weeks or months into the future?  Forecasting Trump would attack someone who crossed him is the equivalent of calling a football game at the two-minute warning with one team ahead by four touchdowns.  Or laying down a bet on Secretariat to win the Belmont Stakes as the horses enter the home stretch.

Real prophets need to see farther into the future and foretell events which challenge conventional wisdom.  Let me share one example.

As some of you may know, among other things besides this blog, I co-host a monthly event at our local bookstore.  The series is titled Cinema and Conversation.  We first screen a movie and then moderate a discussion about the subject matter, the filmmaker’s approach and style or both.  Based on the license we have with the Motion Picture Licensing Association, we cannot charge admission nor advertise the event using the title or the names of any of the cast or crew.  We are allowed to provide an ambiguous teaser.

For January, I picked a film which we marketed as “the perfect movie to kick off an election year.”  Between the announcement and the screening, when I ran into one of the regular patrons of the series, they would tell me they were sure I chose Wag the Dog, Barry Levinson’s 1997 story about a presidential campaign which produces a fictional war to distract from the candidate’s sexual discretion.  They should have known better.  I eschew box office blockbusters.  And often pick a story I think the critics overlooked or misunderstood.

On movie night, I warned the audience I had picked a 2006 production which ranked 2,305 on the all-time domestic box office list ($37.4 million gross revenue) and at the time of its release received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 23/100.  It was Barry Levinson’s other political satire Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams, Laura Linney, Christopher Walken and Lewis Black.  The story focuses on the improbable presidential election of a late night television personality as the result of an error in the program code of voting machines used in several states.  Levinson said he was inspired by suspected irregularities in electronic voting tallies associated with Diebold machines used in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election.  HISTORICAL FOOTNOTE:  Walden O’Dell, the chairman and CEO of Diebold was a major Republican donor from Columbus, Ohio.

Every time I host Cinema and Conversation, the first question I ask is, “What do think the filmmaker was trying to communicate?”  The consensus this night being it was a warning about the following things.

  • The integrity of electronic voting machines with no paper backup.
  • Whether the design and maintenance of voting machines should be left to for-profit companies.
  • The attraction of celebrities as political figures.
  • The rise of populism resulting from dissatisfaction with both major political parties.
  • Reliance on comedians from Mort Sahl to George Carlin to John Stewart for news commentary.
  • The role of whistle blowers in the private sector as well as public sector.

A pretty good list of things to consider as we approach November 2020.  So why did it flop in 2006?  Consider the following reviews.

A sort-of-political kind-of-satire written and directed by Barry Levinson, the picture resurrects a fantasy that periodically seizes the imaginations of Hollywood studios, and also, a bit less frequently, of some American voters: that a plain-talking outsider will roll into Washington, propelled by popular frustration with the status quo, and clean up the mess.

This is a shame since Mr. Levinson was responsible for “Wag the Dog,” a gratifyingly sharp and imaginative dissection of the media spectacle that often confuses itself with political reality.

New York Times

Levinson made a much smarter political comedy a decade ago called Wag the Dog. That one also was constructed as a thriller, but it didn’t star a comedian, and it didn’t spring from what is essentially a pretty old joke.


Related imageIronically, Levinson who both directed and wrote the screenplay, anticipated this response.  In an exchange between president-elect Tom Dobbs (Williams) and his manager (Walken), Dobbs expresses his continuing disbelief he has won the election.  To which Walken replies, “Well, Mark Twain once wrote, ‘The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.’  We are, my friend, in uncharted waters.”

Which proves the point, to be considered a prophet requires capturing an inconceivable future reality first as a credible fiction, regardless whether anyone believes it or not. And in 2006, Levinson epitomized the prophet who was a stranger in his own land–Hollywood.

So, the next time you go to the movies and someone tells you, “This could never happen here,” respond by asking them, “Have you ever seen Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year?  Don’t tell me it can’t happen here.  It already has.”

For what it’s worth.

A Few Bad Men

With appreciation to Aaron Sorkin, screen writer, and Rob Reiner, director, of A Few Good Men on which this parody is based.

Yesterday, Castle Rock Productions announced it has approached Rob Reiner to direct a sequel to his 1992 tour de force starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson.  Below is an excerpt from the working script.

A  FEW BAD MEN/Scene 45

[The United States Senate.  Chief Justice John Roberts gavels the session in order.  Donald Trump is sworn in as Adam Schiff addresses the witness.]

Schiff:  Take your seat Mr. President.

Trump:  What shall we discuss?  My golf game?

Schiff:  The meeting with your National Security Advisor in August 2019 where you told John Bolton you wanted to continue withholding military aid to Ukraine until they announced the investigations of Joe and Hunter Biden and Ukraine interference in the 2016 election.

Trump:  But that meeting never existed.

Schiff:  We believe it did, sir.  And you told Ambassador Sondland there was no quid pro quo, that you did not want the aid withheld.  He was clear what you wanted?

Trump: Crystal.

Schiff:  Could he have ignored the order?

Trump: Ignored the order?

Schiff: Or forgot it?

Trump: No!

Schiff:  When Sondland talked to Rudy Guiliani, any chance Rudy ignored him?

Trump:  Have you ever sat at the Resolute Desk, son?  Ever been in the White House situation room?  Ever had the fate of the free world in your hands?  People follow orders, son.  Otherwise they find their heads on a pike.  It’s that simple.  Are we clear?  ARE WE CLEAR?

Schiff: Crystal.  One last question before I call Ambassador Bolton.  If you ordered Ukraine’s military aid not be withheld, and your orders are always followed, then why was the aid withheld?  Why would it be necessary to withhold aid which had been appropriated by a bi-partisan majority of Congress and you signed into law?

Trump:  Because I was concerned about rampant corruption in Ukraine and their interference on behalf of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Schiff:  But you said you did not order the aid to be withheld?

Trump:  I know what I said!

Schiff: Then why was the aid withheld?

Trump:  Men can do things on their own.

Schiff:  But your men never do.  Your men obey orders, right?

Trump:  You snotty little bastard.  I request a recess.

Roberts: The court will wait for an answer.

Schiff:  If acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney did not order the aid be withheld, why was it withheld?  Mulvaney sent an email to OMB to halt the funding because you told him to.  And when your “drug deal” went bad, you told Sondland there wasn’t one.  And you locked down the transcript of the July 25th phone call to hide the direct evidence.  Mr. President, did you order withholding aid from Ukraine pending announcement of the two investigations by President Zelenskyy?

Roberts:  You don’t have to answer that.

Trump:  You want answers?  

Schiff:  I want the truth.

Trump:  You can’t handle the truth.  Son, I live in a bizarro world with walls that must be guarded.  Article II of the Constitution gives me more power than you can fathom.  You weep for Ukraine and curse my administration.  And my existence, while grotesque to you, depends on those walls.  We use words like lock her up, send them back home and covfefe.  They are the backbone of my support.  You use them as a punchline.  I haven’t the time or inclination to explain myself.

Schiff:  Did you order the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine.

Trump.  You’re goddamn right I did!  (Evangelicals gasp)

Schiff:  I suggest the witness be dismissed and we immediately move to a vote on the articles of impeachment.

Roberts:  The witness is excused.

Trump:  What the hell is this?  I did my job, I’d do it again.

Schiff:  We know, sir.  We know.

Trump:  I’m going back to the White House.

Roberts:  You’re not going anywhere.  Sergeant-at-arms, escort the president out of the chamber.  You’ve the right to remain silent.  (Everyone laughs.)

Trump:  I’m being charged with a crime?  This is funny, that’s what this is!  I’m gonna rip the eyes out of your head and piss on your skull!  You f***ing people have no idea how to win an election.  Sweet dreams, son.

Schiff:  Don’t call me son.  I’m a prosecutor and a member of the House of Representatives.  And you’re under arrest, you son of a bitch.

Roberts:  The witness is excused.


Rob Reiner, due to previous commitments chose to pass on the opportunity to direct this film.  Other considerations for director include Quentin Tarantino who has requested the title be changed to Once Upon a Time…in Mar-A-Lago or Baz Luhrmann who has proposed a musical version titled Moola Ruse.

For What It’s Worth