Susan Sarandon on MSNBC

Subtitle:  A liberal who thinks Republican Donald Trump may as President be better for America than Hillary Clinton, who many believe is a liberal.

Flipping channels between lulls in a Phoenix Suns game on March 28, I came across “All In with Chris Hayes.”  The pragmatic Hayes seemed bewildered by his guest’s idealism and relentless support for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in what is for now a lop-sided race for the Democratic nomination.  Though Sanders has won numerous states, it is the ever “evolving” Clinton that has a commanding lead for delegates.

The guest was the actress and activist Susan Sarandon.  Listening to her speak, I was all ears and put aside the basketball game until the interview was over.

Sarandon travels the world for various causes dear to her heart.  She is smart, articulate, energetic and inspirational.  I was so mesmerized by her ideas, that I am publishing some of the most important.

CH (Chris Hayes) asks SS (Susan Sarandon) why she is backing Sanders.

SS: I really want to be on the right side of history, and this (Bernie Sanders) is a shot we’re not going to have again in my lifetime, a candidate who is morally consistent (undecipherable as Hayes tries to break in).

CH asks if she and other Sanders supporters will back Hillary if Sanders loses.

SS: That’s a legitimate concern because they (Sanders backers) are very passionate and very principled.

CH: Is that crazy?

SS: These are people who have not come out before [taken part in politics], so why would we think they will come out now for her [Hillary].

CH: You really believe that?

SS: I’ve talked to people, to Republicans who’ve written him in already  [meaning Sanders].  They think she’s a liar, not authentic [meaning Hillary].

[While it seems obvious Sarandon detests the Republican front-runner Donald Trump, SS does not rule out voting for him if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.]

CH: Would you really do that?

SS: I don’t know.  I’m going to see what happens. Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately [if he becomes president].

CH:  Don’t you think it’s a danger?

SS:  Now, if you think it’s pragmatic to shore up the status quo, then you’re not in touch with the status quo.  The status quo isn’t working. I think it’s dangerous to continue the way we are — with the militarized police force, the privatized prisons, the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, with threats to women’s rights — and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around because the country is not in good shape. If you’re in the middle class, it’s disappearing.  We should stop prioritizing war. . . .

The interview ends a short time later.  Hayes apparently does not have time to delve into any issue deeply.  He seems exasperated by the idea that the candidate he, MSNBC and the elite of the National Democratic Party has backed, Hillary Clinton, would not be a default choice.

It’s obvious too that Chris Hayes is out of touch with middle class Americans and their thoughts for a better America.

It is my belief that because of Sarandon’s powerful thoughts expressed during this interview that MSNBC gave “equal time” the next day to a Hillary Clinton campaign official.

 

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Scalia ‘Assassinated’

Scalia in EnquirerEven if there had been an autopsy on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, wild speculation would have arisen.  Was the autopsy rigged?  What part did President Obama play in the death of this right-wing jurist on February 13?

It was unbelievable, at least to some, that no autopsy took place.  Here was the death of a famous and controversial Justice, a lightning rod for division whose conservative judgments have helped shape the United States for many years.  His demise left the court’s previous hard-right stance at bay, reducing it to eight justices, or a 4-4 split, liberal and conservative.  And to boot, Scalia died alone in a room (with a pillow over his face, according to the Engquirer) at an isolated West Texas resort, and a judge who never saw the body ruled cause of death as “natural causes.”  Scalia was 79, yes, and in not in the best of health, but still . . . . You never know.

Scalia’s family for some reason waived an autopsy and the door swung wide open for conspiracy theorists.

Never a publication to shun a sensational story, the tabloid National Enquirer jumped in with a highly speculative story under the headline, “Scalia Murdered by A Hooker! ”

In summary the story alleges Scalia’s death was “political assassination orchestrated by the CIA and carried out by a $2,000-a-night hooker.”

The proof?

  1. An anonymous Washington, D.C., source’s comment that Scalia’s “murder” can be traced back to the White House.
  2. That Scalia was injected with poison in the buttocks by a hooker apparently from Ojinaga, Mexico, just across the border, according to “an insider.”
  3. A former Secret Service agent, John A. Carman, was quoted as saying, “This death has all the markings of a political assassination.”
  4. A “mystery woman” was caught on the resort’s surveillance camera (the killer-prostitute or someone’s wife?), “The Enquirer was told.”
  5. The motive was “to keep (Scalia) from ruling on key upcoming court cases and to stop him from revealing explosive secrets that could rip apart Obama’s legacy.”  Notice the word “could.”

All plausible if not for one thing.

This is such a flimsy story, pure speculation.  The “sources” offer nothing definitive, but the Enquirer fills in the missing facts.  A photo showing Scalia’s flag-draped casket says, “Scalia’s body was embalmed (true) to prevent further analysis (no proof).”

The problem is this,  America is a country with a growing segment of uneducated, angry, irrational people known widely as “the Republican (Party’s) base.”  They will and do believe anything they are told that fits their personal belief system.

For that reason alone, this story, and others, will stay on life-support for years to come. To read the tabloids for entertainment is one thing.  To read them minus a skeptical eye is quite another.

So Scalia’s death will sadly go down in history books as mysterious, if nothing worse.

 

Gunfire in Colorado Springs

You have to wonder why television media were so slow today in reporting the capture of the shooter at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.  I had the news almost 10 minutes before MSNBC first reported it at 4:59 p.m. (Mountain time).  Fox and CNN had it 2-3 minutes later.

Am I a hotshot reporter with deep sources within the Colorado Springs police department?  Of course not.  I live nearly a thousand miles southwest of the city, in Arizona.

How did I do it?  By merely streaming Colorado Springs police communications inside the building via a scanner app, along with more than 65,000 other listeners..

The police operation to snag the male shooter barricaded inside PP started at 4:29 p.m. with a “roll call” of police officers, “to avoid crossfire.”  Here are some other streamed snippets.

4:34, “We’re ready.

4:50, “Suspect coming out with hands up.”

4:51, “He’s standing up in front of doorway.”

4:52, “(We’ll) take him out if he’s got any I. E. D.”

4:53, “(We) have suspect . . . He’s alone.”  Response, “Good job.”

4:58, Bring suspect around to southwest door.  Don’t have exact quote.

 

‘Fair and balanced’

Fox and other news organizations remind us daily they do “fair and balanced” reporting.  They tout it as the epitome of journalism.  While “fair and balanced” may sound good, it is a deplorable quality of news reporting.  It detracts from what was once the lofty goal of journalism — the search for truth.

Take a preposterous argument.  Political party “A” says Earth is round.  Party “B” says it is flat.  Party “A” displays photos of Earth from outer space, showing a blue cloud-laced planet and, above all, a round one.  Party “B” says the NASA photos are not of earth but have been cooked up by Photoshop as a liberal conspiracy.

The “fair and balanced” media will give both sides equal time.  In the end, there is no conclusion.  And the question remains:  Round or flat?  The reader or viewer is now confused and left to discern the truth on his own based on the only arguments presented.

What would a search for truth reveal?  It would reveal Party “A” is closest to the truth since Earth is ovate.  It would find Party “B” is decidely wrong and is obscuring reality for political purposes.

But too bad.  The media these days are so timid.  They fear offending segments of society and therefore losing advertising revenue.  This is particularly true with newspapers who are trying to survive the digital revolution.  They lose daily to less reliable Internet news organizations.  And cable news hungers for more viewers so they can keep raising advertising rates.

CNN is particularly bad.  Its anchors ask all the right questions but come up in the end with nothing close to truth.  Life is a mystery to CNN.

Fox on the other hand is totally lost in its right-wing bilge of lies and distortions.  And it has the gall to even call itself “fair and balanced.”  At least CNN is that.  The New York Times and a few other national papers like the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times can with some veracity say they “search for truth.”

Truth is a hard commodity to come by these days when Americans binge on receiving a large part of their news from social media.  One can only hope the “selfie generation” dies a quick death and a more truth-demanding group of Americans come to the fore.

Our Thanksgiving paper turkey

The wrap up:  Our Thanksgiving Day turkey.
The wrap up: Our Thanksgiving Day turkey.

It was laying in the driveway wrapped in plastic.  It had been there a while, thawing now in the solar oven of a 48-degree Thanksgiving Day morning,  Someone in a delivery truck had plopped it there in darkness at 39 degrees.

I was not happy to have to carry it into the house.  It weighed a lot.  Some things you have to do.  After all, it was our Thanksgiving Day paper turkey.

I immediately hauled it to the bathroom scales.  It tipped in at 4.7 pounds.  It was probably the largest paper turkey I had ever seen.

I pulled out my Canon and shot a photo of it.  Records these days need proof.  Then I carved off the fat.

The fat section was a confusion of bright colors.  It had exclamation points and $ signs.  A butcher would call this the ads section.  I weighed it too.  Wow, 3.5 pounds.  That left 1.2 pounds for the news section, a chunk of meat varying day to day in nutritional content but still, as any self-respecting journalist would say, it is the white meat of the turkey.  Its most important part.

The turkey was created by a well-known company in these parts, The Arizona Republic.  It thinks so highly of itself that the “T” is always capitalized.

The sad thing was this turkey’s news section looked much like the ads section.

News section (top) dwarfed by ads.
News section (top) dwarfed by ads.

Page One, the section with the most important news, was plastered behind something I just learned is called a spadia.  It is an ad section that wraps half way across Page One.  The spadia was designed to promote Fry’s Food Stores.  One of the most prominent ads was for a package of Lay’s Potato Chips for $1.77 “with card.”

And Page One itself looked much like an ad.  The “news” headline of the day was “the Big Thanksgiving Issue.”  Pasted near the top was an ad for Kohl’s Black Friday $10 off ad — with a purchase of $25 of more.

You would have to look really hard to find the only legitimate news story on Page One, “Hotel Owned by Phoenix has lost $28M since 2008.”  It was a small story hidden at the bottom of the page.

If you were to look at “the” Arizona Republic turkey this morning you would think that making money was by far the most important thing this newspaper does.  And you would be right.

Publishers of much better newspapers ala the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times would no doubt hold their nose and say, “What a travesty!”

Tomorrow will be a black Friday indeed.

Abra

For the dwindling number of film-goers of the Fifties who witnessed the first scintillating moments of James Dean on the screen, the death of Julie Harris on the 24th will not go unnoticed.

Harris played “Abra” as the female lead in Dean’s first film, “East of Eden” that came out in April of 1955.

I thought at the time that Harris was miscast.  And I still think that.   It was hard to believe in Abra, that she could command the attention, much less the love, of such a wild creature as Dean’s “Cal Trask.”  And, on reflection, maybe that was the point, to contrast Abra with Cal’s mother, “Kate,” who abandoned the family and later operated a whorehouse.

Harris’s Abra was dutiful, a good girl but her passion for Cal and his affection for her just didn’t click with me.  She had the vehicle to do great things with the role and didn’t grab the chance.

Among the cast’s leading characters,  Harris’s death leaves only Richard Davalos, now 82, the same age Dean would have been had he survived.   Raymond Massey (the Bible-strict father, “Adam,”) died in 1983; Burl Ives, who played “Sam,” the sheriff, died in 1995; and Jo Van Fleet, who won an Oscar for her Supporting Role in “Eden” as the hard-hearted mother, in 1996.

Harris died at her home in her home at Chatham, MA.  The reported cause, congestive heart failure.  She was 87.

Natural Causes

When the comedian, Jonathan Winters, died on April 11, some news accounts listed “natural” as the cause of death.  How can that be?  There is no such thing as “natural causes.”  Winters passed away from something, some “unnatural cause.”

Disease is not a natural condition of life.  If it was, why do doctors attempt to treat it?

Failing to disclose cause of death is a peeve I’ve long held with the media.  The media disclose everything else about celebrities until they die.  Only then are the bereaved families and paid PR hacks allowed to control the news.

Long Row publishes in January an annual Death List of those who are well-known to him with dates, ages, places and causes.   Of the 24 deaths recorded so far this year, 18 causes of death were found in initial reports.  For instance, we know that five passed away from heart-related causes and eight from cancer.

Then there are the six mysteries, including Winters.  Not immediately available were the causes for the baseball players Stan Musial and Virgil “Fire” Trucks,  singers Rise Stevens and George Jones and, of all people, the former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop.  What did most of these deaths have in common?  Advanced age, that’s what.  Stevens died at 99, Koop at 96, Trucks 95 and Musial 92.   Apparently in the media’s eye, anyone over 90 does not die of anything.  They just die of the natural cause of “old age.”

The obituary of George Jones in the New York Times is another matter.  He was only 81.  The second paragraph provides only a clue to his death.  Jones, it read, was admitted to a Nashville hospital the week before with “fever and high blood pressure.”   Symptoms, yes.  But what brought on those conditions?  Another bout with drugs and alcohol?  What?

You can argue cause of death is a sensitive issue.  And a very personal one.  I say it is the public’s right to know the cause of all deaths, not just those of celebrities.  Knowing cause of death, even in those over the age of 100, provides important data.  They put names and faces to dry statistics as we try to understand death and its causes.

Just because he died at the advanced age of 87, Winters should not be given a free pass by the media.  They owe it to the public to disclose the truth.  We read these initial reports with great interest.  But if and when the cause emerges at a later date, we are off to the next interesting thing and never get back to cause of death.

“Natural causes.”  It’s just a symbol for what the media believes is an apathetic public’s disinterest in unpleasant facts.