The Other Great American Experiment

I look out the window. The last few yellow and orange and red and brown- even green – leaves flutter down, waving at me as they search for a place to land.  This fall they have been brilliant, especially in the early morning and late afternoon sun. 

Each spring I fertilize grass to perfection. Each summer I kill weeds and cut grass.  Each fall, nature nonchalantly covers my hard-earned grass with her leaves of many colors. She effortlessly merges them into one color – brown – and leaves them to nurture next years’ grass. I respond by raking them into piles to be hauled away by the town.  And wait for next spring when I will pay Lowes for bags of the same stuff I just tossed. 

Maybe, instead of sparring with nature,  I should just sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch nature do its thing.

Speaking of politics, I don’t know about you, but I was pretty worried until last week. Portugal or Spain or Canada – anywhere out of reach of the MAGA cult – had become destinations of interest to me as I waited for the Red Wave. 

I know from history books, personal stories told by older generations, and current events, what can happen to a country run by a cult leader. From Italy’s Mussolini, to Hitler and Stalin,  and Russia’s Putin, authoritarians with charismatic personalities can demolish everything around them. 

They ferret out fear in their populations, fear of religion, skin color,  any “otherness” and fan it with big lies. Then they use that fear to cull the imperfect ones of a society, like weeds in the grass, until only perfect ones are left.

My worries faded with the red wave. 

Democracy can sure be a comfort. It is, by nature, inclusive, full of imperfect as well as perfect people. Its strength comes from the merging of those two, because the imperfect in one situation, can be perfect in another. Together, they always overcome all challenges. 

Well, until now.

In 1882, Emma Lazarus, wrote a poem to help raise money for the pedestal that would hold France’s 1884 gift to the US of the Statue of Liberty. It celebrated France’s recent freedom from monarchy and America’s recent ending of slavery.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” 

Today we brag about this early tribute to “diversity” as the core of our Great American Experiment: we are a Democratic Republic based on the value of the individual. 

We pat ourselves on the back every day for being a nation of immigrants, for our diversity.

But we’re wrong. The diversity of the early settlers was hardly the diversity of today. It was diversity of White Christians only, who came to the new land to escape European Christianity and  practice their own version of Christianity. And, starting with the Salem Witch Trials, their version of Christianity quickly became as authoritarian and stifling as what they had escaped. Today Catholics and Evangelists dictate what a woman can do with her body – in some ways a dictate even more barbaric than the hangings in Salem.

But we’re also right. Our pride in the diversity we didn’t have is leading to a diversity we never expected. As a nation we are now trying to blend people from cultures and beliefs across the world: all colors, all religions from Christianity to Muslim to Hindu to the atheist down the street. 

Imagine a country where fear of others simply doesn’t exist. It has never been tried by any country. Never. 

We’re trying it, by connecting each other through democracy and the rule of law. It is quite an experiment.

It is not easy. The MAGA cult and others are fanning our fears – of immigrants escaping climate change and gangs, of Jews doing, well, just about anything. The Anti-MAGA’s point to the foreign names behind US success against COVID and the foreign accents of your local mechanic, teacher, or bank teller. People of different colors are appearing in everything from schools to TV shows to grocery stores to Boards of Directors. 

Are there challenges with this great experiment? Of course. Challenges are part any experiment.  

Maybe, instead of sparring with each other, we should just vote, then sit on a rocker with a glass of something and watch democracy do its thing.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

If It Bleeds, It Leads…Republicans

Unless you’re a TV history buff, you may not know that until the mid 1970’s Philadelphia’s favorite television news was KYW’s “Eyewitness News”. At that time, KYW was an NBC affiliate, the flagship station for Westinghouse Broadcasting, and consistently number one in the market.

As only TV historians may remember, Westinghouse Broadcasting at that time also syndicated “The Mike Douglas Show”, “The Merv Griffin Show”, and “David Frost”, all of which were ratings leaders across the country. 

Ah, the good ol’ days…when TV News focused on news, when  opinions were the milieu of talk shows, and never the twain would meet.

The “Eyewitness News” format was virtually unrivaled across the country until 1971, when another Philadelphia TV station, WPVI introduced “Action News”, a format of shorter stories, but more of them, delivered at a faster pace and requiring less viewer attention. 

The key to “Action News” was embodied in it’s core editorial approach and slogan: “If it bleeds, it leads”.  In other words, any story involving blood (a car pile-up, a shooting, a major fire, etc…) led the broadcast. Other, less violent stories, no matter how important, fell into line behind the blood.

Within a few years, “Action News” turned “”EyeWitness News” into an also-ran.

The “Action News” format spread across the country and was so successful, the station’s owner, Capital Cities, eventually bought the entire ABC network. KYW never regained its ratings lead. In fact, it frequently ranked below UHF stations, the equivalent of the Phillies being beaten by a minor league club. 

I don’t know if WPVI had consulted psychiatrists in developing the original format, but it turns out that “If it Bleeds, It Leads” stories are great for triggering the adrenal glands, the “fight or flight” reactions of people. That, in turn, makes them feel compelled to follow the stories and stick with the stations.

In today’s lingo, that means more “clicks and eyeballs”.

This triggering of “fight or flight” reactions has spread across the media.  On ABC’s evening news, David Muir sits at a desk, both hands gripping the edge, elbows raised, as if ready to leap up at any moment. He speaks in an urgent tone and in half-sentences, as if there isn’t time for full sentences.

ABC leads in the evening news ratings. 

As you might imagine, the other networks- not to mention all media, from newspapers to Facebook- are copying ABC. That is one reason Americans have a perception that crime is increasing, that big cities are full of danger, that families are no longer as safe as they were.

(In fact, according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, most crime is down when comparing the 90’s to the 2010’s, even though it is up in some parts of the country this year. )

Which is why Republicans latched onto crime as their raison-de-vote. While Democrats moan and groan about the demise of Roe v Wade, Republicans have turned every news show into a free megaphone for their anti-crime meme. It’s a nuclear weapon against a pea shooter.

Cynical? Yes. But clever, as in genius-like clever? Oh-absolutely- for sure-definitely-you bet…yeah! 

Which is smarter: claiming crime is out of control and leveraging that message 24X7 into every newscast, newspaper, twitter and Facebook posting, etc…, or running a few 30 second ads touting “Woman’s Choice” in some of those newscasts?

Who are you going to believe: your local newscaster or a political ad?

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

How did we get here? Let me count the ways.

1) Education. Democracy requires an educated citizenry to function. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1920’s or Hitler’s rise in the 1930’s or the fact that Trump’s Big Lie had a predecessor, are uneducated. So you are one of the ways we got here.

But it’s not all your fault. The US educational system hasn’t taught history or civics well for decades. As a result, most US citizens could not pass the US citizenship test on a bet. (Don’t believe me? Take the test here.)

2. Politicians. They exist, theoretically, to represent their constituency. In the process they quickly learn to lie, obfuscate, mislead, and seek, not a better country, but increased personal power. As a result, most voters distrust them. Today, only around 20% of the country trusts Congress. 

3. Money. Since the Citizen’s United ruling by the Supreme Court, corporate and secret money has flooded elections, leaving the individual voter stranded. It takes millions to get elected to anything on a national or even state level now. So, the fundamental idea of democracy – that anyone can be elected and every vote matters – is gone.

4. Shared sacrifice. The last time this country shared sacrifice was in WWII – when items from food to gas were rationed in deference to military.  The citizens of this country haven’t sacrificed for a shared goal since then, leading to the “me first” culture.

5. The Draft or national service. When you’re forced to work closely with “others” – people of different races, beliefs, and backgrounds – you quickly see the folly of racism, religious bigotry, and class. You learn to value the team and teammates, regardless of background, because that’s the only way you survive or win.

4. Capitalism. A brilliant concept initially, it is now out of control. Increasing shareholder value trumps every other goal. Greed, once abhorred, is now almost revered. Teddy Roosevelt forbad monopolies because they killed jobs and innovation; today’s leaders wink at them.  

5. News/media. Where news once prided itself on unbiased reporting of facts, it now focuses on consumers’ adrenal glands.  “If it bleeds, it leads” has replaced “all the news thats fit to print”. 

7. Racism. It is the original sin of this country. It was reduced by the Civil War and forced into hiding by Martin Luther King. But it still decides who rides the bus.

8. Data. Where business, politics etc,  were once “relationship driven”, they are now “data-driven”. You see that with every phone call to a doctor’s office, every email from a politician, every  fast food purchase, every aspect of Amazon, every bank, every robot that tells you how important you are. It’s all about the data, dummy. People – you and I – don’t matter.

There are more ways of course, but these are good examples. 

How do they affect us? They’ve separated us from each other. They’ve decimated the shared morals that were the foundation of our culture: Truth is now fiction, honesty is for suckers, integrity for losers. 

Which has led to fear and helplessness in much of the population. Which historically has led people to seek out “strong men” as leaders, people like Mussolini, Hitler.

Which is where we started…or is it where we are headed?

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Thursday’s Committee Hearing: Truth or Carlson

I watched the first January 6 Committee Hearings all the way through. Which makes me one of 20 million, or just over 6% of the country. I’m either in the top 6% or the bottom 6%, depending on your politics.

That’s not bad considering the approval ratings for Congress are in the high teens or low 20’s, depending on which poll you follow. In other words, not many people follow Congress.

Now that, to quote a recent President, is “sad”. 

In his case, though, it’s especially sad. Because he was the unseen star. After all, the whole show was about him as the Insurrectionist-In-Chief.    

This first of seven hearings was organized by an ex-ABC maven. So the presentation was far tighter and easier to follow than most Congressional hearings. And because Congressman Jim “I-left-my-jacket-in-the-men’s-room” Jordan and his “lefty!-lefty!-lefty!” cohorts were kept off the panel, it was actually substantive. 

In fact, one of the most welcome aspects of the entire two hours was the lack of histrionics, the studied calm with which facts were presented. There were very few of the confusing or empty statements politicians like to make, just a lot of carefully worded fact interspersed with dramatic footage and measured, compelling witness statements.

It was a very “No Drama” drama.

Perhaps the most memorable part was Cheney’s last line: ”I say this to my Republican colleagues who are defending the indefensible: there will come a day when Donald Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain.” She said it without emotion, without expression. Which gave it lasting power.

The “other side”, starring Tucker “Everyone-knows-I-lie!” Carlson, took the opposite approach: lots of snark and sneering. Carlson and his hoodies spent the same two hours entertaining their 2.8 million fans by insulting the Committee and attacking anyone who links their hero to the insurrection. 

At 20 million to 2.8 million, a nearly 8:1 ratio of Truth to Carlson fans.

Or maybe I should call them “Truth or Consequences” fans. Because, hopefully, there will be consequences. Although if you compare 6% of the country today watching these hearings to 80% of the country watching the Watergate Hearings 50 years ago, I wouldn’t count on the same consequences.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Enough With Blaming Guns!

I’m so tired of all the media emphasis on mass shootings. Why can’t they cover something positive for a change, like the end of Roe v Wade, or the success of the NRA’s payoffs to politicians, or the great Republican strategy of blaming mental illness for gun slaughter?


Really. Can’t we all just get along …down the road to baseball and summer picnics and sunbathing? Instead of all the negative spin?

We all know it’s only crazy people with guns who kill people, especially little kids… and their parents and their grandparents, cousins, friends… everyone from neighbors to strangers on a subway. Besides. So what?  Second Amendment, right? If I have a right to use a rifle to kill a deer, why not an assault rifle to kill a 10 year old?

The Second Amendment is sacrosanct. Who cares if an amendment is an add-on to the Constitution? Who cares if Thomas Jefferson and other forefathers predicted the changing world require revisions to the Constitution, if not complete rewrites?


Who cares if Australia cut gun deaths by 2/3rds when it cut gun ownership in 1996? Hey! Americans kill more kids with guns than anything else, incuding Covid, smallpox, cancer,… sports,… mental illness…car accidents… anything!

Aussies are such pansies!

I am so sick of people blaming the NRA for doing something as American as apple pie: helping of all those gun and bullet manufacturers increase shareholder value. Why shouldn’t there be more guns than people in this country? Why shouldn’t we prepare for the next time the government sends the military against all of us John Q Citizens? Right?…

What? It would be the first time?  Oh… Even so!

Look at it this way: without guns, the crazies would have to use knives or rocks or – I dunno – fists, right? Or maybe just words! All of which are way less efficient than guns, especially AR-15’s. And without guns, what would normal people have to fight government with, votes?

And think of this: We haven’t had militias since the 1700-1800’s. We haven’t been controlled by a foreign power since the 1700’s. Which means you never know when it might happen again! 


The problem isn’t guns. It’s all those lefty, Democrat media-types politicizing an American original – mass shootings of kids – and spreading hateful comments about guns, bullets, the NRA, and patriotic gun loyalists. Forget kids. Let’s shoot the media!


(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)