Breath Through Your Nose

A number of years ago, on a documentary shoot I was directing, a new assistant was chattering anxiously at the crew. She was so intense, it was hard for them to concentrate. Finally the sound man said, “Terry, breath through your nose.”   

I thought of her this week after reading these headlines:

“Enraged woman accused of hitting partner with car caught on video spitting, yelling at motionless victim” 

“Man walking with wife in Bronx fatally shot for flicking cigarette butt”

“Portland protesters use mortar to launch fireworks at cops”

I think these illustrate where the country is right now – we’re so riddled with anxiety and anger, it’s almost funny.

I’m not a psychologist, so I won’t say that being cooped up for months is leading to a national temper tantrum.  I’m not a political scientist, so I won’t say that four years of political acrimony has, not just divided the country; it has brought the guns out. 

And I’m no teacher, so I won’t say which is more stupid: Democrats calling for the removal of entire police departments (Seattle, Washington last week) or Republicans calling Democrats Fascists and Communists (Attorney General William Barr in a Fox interview last Sunday).

(Hey Bill, Fascism is an autocratic, top-down control of classes. Communism – which has never actually existed – is a classless economic system. The two are almost diametrically opposed.)  

I’m not including here the multiple videos and additional news stories about people doing stupid things. Like shooting each other over masks, for example. Masks! Little pieces of cloth!  Those things what we all love to wear on Halloween.  

What’s next? My beard’s too scruffy? Your lipstick is too red?  

It is the ultimate face-off between two groups of children who can’t read, write or do ‘rithmatic.

If someone had promised to give this to Putin for his birthday, he couldn’t possibly be happier. 

We don’t live in a black and white world, although you wouldn’t know it from recent news stories (by the way, if we’re trying to mitigate the differences between blacks and whites, why capitalize “White” and “Black”?).

I don’t like Trump. But I know people who do. They are not bad. In fact, some are really, nice, (if misguided – OK, had to slip that in). 

My guess is they feel the same way about Never-Trumpers  and Democrats they know. You know why? Because there is more to life than politics. They are good neighbors, good friends, good bosses and employees, good sports fans, good mothers, fathers, grandparents – all of it.

Politicians, the news media, Putin, etc… benefit if everyone hates each other. Politicians get elected by riling up voters and getting them to the polls, the news media gets eyeballs and clicks (money!) from the same people, and Putin gets revenge and power. 

They’ve turned the two parties into two opposing religious cults. As we get sucked in we get anxious, scared, and angry. We do stupid things, as exemplified in these headlines.

I am not suggesting we ignore political differences. I am suggesting we motor down about them. Even though a good friend of mine likes Trump, I have not hired an assassin. (I am hoping he feels the same way.) Instead we discuss policy differences. It’s much easier on the nerves than the Fox vs MSNBC arguments. 

I’m not going to shoot him if he flicks a cigarette butt (I might chide him for smoking, though). Neither of us have ordered mortars this week. And we’re keeping our cars on the road ahead.

I will work hard to get rid of Trump and all of his cronies. But I will continue to follow that sound man’s advice.

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I See Light. And People. And A Much Shorter Tunnel.

The “Trump Is Losing” polls are mounting. Who’d a thunk it, even a year ago?

Anti-Trumpers don’t trust these polls. They remember 2016. 

But there are some real differences between then and now.

First, Trump was untested then. Now he is well tested. And his failures are everywhere, from the high turnover of White House and Administration staff to the many thousands who have died of Covid19.  

Second, even lifelong Republicans, the ones who remember when Republicans had integrity, are starting to see some light. 

One example: the men behind The Lincoln Project who are producing anti-Trump ads that Democrats could only dream of producing.

There are all those books written by Trump insiders, heavyweights like FBI leaders James Comey and Andrew McCabe, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, even lightweights like Sean Spicer or Omarosa Manigault Newman. 

There is one upcoming tell-all by ex-consigliere Michael Cohen and another by retired General H.R. McMaster. That’s a lot of anti-Trump books in just three years, in spite of Trump’s massive efforts to quash them. 

“Reading all these books, one after the other, is like swimming for days in a greasy, brackish canal whose bottom is teeming with shards of broken-down old industrial equipment“,  wrote one reviewer. 

But what’s more important is this: they were all Republicans before Trump, before Republican became a code word for bigotry and unfettered greed.

Third, Trump is the essence of everything that has gone wrong with the Republican Party, going all the way back to the “Southern Strategy”, which was originated by a Democrat, believe it or not. The language of Democrat George Wallace’s 1968 campaign was softened by Nixon and Atwater, but the essence was the same: divide the South between Blacks and Whites.

While some Republican leaders have voiced more inclusive themes since then – both Bush’s, Reagan, and others – Trump has ramped up and broadened the “Southern Strategy” to include Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, the poor, and refugees. The Party’s appeal to racists, Evangelicals, and the forgotten Whites, those who had been bypassed by the rising economy, is foundational now. 

Fourth, from the trillion dollar debt of his initial tax cut to bypassing Congress with myriad Executive Orders to breaking the Emoluments Clause, to alienating most of our allies (even deserting them on the filed of battle), he has virtually buried traditional Republican orthodoxy: fiscal restraint, lowering national debt, personal responsibility, and a foreign policy based on sustained international relationships and alliances.  

Fifth, he has attracted power-hungry, ego-driven, me-first, partners. Each time he turns one out, another, more sinister replacement arrives. Witness Louis DeJoy, the most recent head of the US Postal Service, with no experience beyond donating to Trump. The Postal Service is dying in front of our eyes, even as the coming election is generating a need for more and better service. Or Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, who is actually shrinking Public Education. Or… the list is long and depressing. 

Sixth, he has brought foxes into the chicken coop. Heavyweights  like Mitch McConnell who has rigged the justice system for the next 40 or 50 years.  And lightweights like Jared Kushner or Ivanka Trump who are simply on a sustained money grab.  

Seventh, the degree of corruption in his administration is historic. Forgetting Trump himself (at least until he’s replaced), Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, George Papadopoulus, Michael Flynn – all have been indicted and convicted of federal crimes.

There is a hidden benefit to all of these flaws, however. As polls now indicate, more and more Republicans are shrinking away from Trump. And more and more Republicans who stay are losing favor with the electorate. Across the country traditional red states are turning purple and even blue.  This despite the general incompetence of that herd of cats called the Democratic Party.

As the Republican party has become more and more a reflection of Trump, I have been sure it would take several election cycles of Democratic wins to force Republicans to clean house and restore traditional Republican values to the Party. 

I was wrong.

Trump is bringing down the entire structure now, today, with every decision he boots, with every interview he fumbles, with every garbled thought he utters. It’s Trump’s Party of power-hungry sycophants and he’s a one man demolition machine bringing it down.

Yep. The light in that tunnel is a lot closer than anyone thought.

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Speaking Of History Repeating Itself

Which of these quotes are about Hitler, Mussolini, or Trump?

1- “You have to dominate, if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you.”  

2 – “He advocated the emergence of a dictator—‘a man who is ruthless and energetic enough to make a clean sweep’—” 

3 – “From the first he set out to create a mass movement, whose mystique and power would be sufficient to bind its members in loyalty to him.

4 – “It’s a movement. If you don’t put it down, it will get worse and worse.”

5 – “you know, you can hear in his rhetoric that he is simply trying to make himself sound like a strong man — almost like a dictator, as if he’s going to be responsible for bringing order all the way.”  

6 – “His attitudes were highly theatrical, his opinions were contradictory, his facts were often wrong, and his attacks were frequently malicious.” 

After WWI, Italy was a mess. A weak government, a weak economy, revulsion at the Communism that just took over Russia – all combined to create fear. Then a young, charismatic, ex-soldier, cruel and self-aggrandizing, rose from crowd. He made stirring, patriotic speeches, intensifying the fear and turning it into anger. His used both to divide the country. His Black Shirts attacked local government institutions and terrorized local populations. He advocated a dictatorship to solve the country’s problems. He created a sense of anarchy, then stepped in to quell it. His name: Benito Mussolini. In 1922, he became Prime Minister of the country, in 1925, three years later,  dictator.

After losing WWI, Germany was made to pay reparations to the Allies.  It crippled their economy for the next decade. Germans were scared and broke. Then arrived a young, charismatic, ex-soldier, cruel and self-aggrandizing, who had seen what Mussolini did in Italy. He copied Mussolini, using fear and anger as the tools to pit Germans against each other. His Brown Shirts beat and terrorized citizens and tore down local institutions. Then he went one step further than Mussolini; he blamed the country’s problems on the Jews and set out to kill them all. He created a sense of anarchy then stepped in to quell it.  His name: Adolf Hitler. In 1933 he became Chancellor of Germany, 8 months later, dictator.

A few years later another young man of German heritage , who had grown to adulthood watching both dictators almost destroy their countries, started a construction business in Queens, NY, and made a fortune developing rental properties. His granddaughter, who has a PhD in psychology, describes him as sociopathic, narcissistic, devoid of empathy, and worse.  She ascribes the same qualities to his son, her uncle, in her book, “Too Much And Never Enough”.

Fred Trump, according to Mary Trump, schooled Uncle Trump in the arts of bullying, cheating, lying, stealing, self-aggrandizing, and, if not outright cruelty, being very, very “tough”.

Donald Trump was elected President in 2016, using fear to divide Americans, just as his father taught him, just as the dictators of Europe had done 75 years before.

For the last three years, Donald Trump has fomented those divisions using the same tools. He has increased fear and anger of the “Other”, be it “other race” or “other religion”. He has divided the country almost as completely as it was before the Civil War.

2020 has given him two new things to weaponize: the Black Lives Matter Movement and Covid19. 

He has put his modern day Brownshirts (in this case, brown camouflage) into Portland, Oregon to fight (according to Portland’s Mayor) peaceful protestors, with plans to send hundreds more to other cities run by his opposition. Rather than lead a united effort against Covid19, he has politicians attacking scientists. He has citizens fighting over masks, over who can work and who can isolate from the virus, over the value of life vs prosperity.

This is how authoritarians gain power and how demagogues become dictators.

Are the parallels exact? Not exactly. But the country is divided by fear generated by Trump. Thousands have died – in great pain – under his leadership. He is already challenging the election. He has used his power for personal gain, be it political or financial. And he has corrupted huge swaths of the government.

The parallels exist.  We ignore them at our own peril.

(The clips above are from Encyclopedia Britannica profiles and/or direct quotes: 1- Trump, 2 – Mussolini, 3 – Hitler, 4 – Trump, 5 – Mussolini, 6- Mussolini).

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Why I’m No Longer Writing For The Main Line Times

Last week I sent in my opinion column, as I have done almost every week for 20 years.  

Almost immediately I received a rejection from the paper’s “Content Manager”. She said she didn’t want to get into a theological debate, but the theme of my column was about God making mistakes and Christians know that God doesn’t make mistakes; mankind does. She hoped I would understand. 


OK, there were a couple of corny jokes about God making mistakes and improving Adam’s looks with a beard. But it was a satirical approach to a serious theme: wearing masks. 

I reread it. Yep. The headline was “Speaking Of Masks”. The theme was about masks, with a sub-theme about men making mistakes.

So, I posted it to my web page: Have a look.

Mixing humor and religion is not a new device. Frank Capra used it in “It Happened One Night”. Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks used it in “The Two Thousand Year Old Man”, Broadway used it in “The Book of Mormon”.

I re-read her email and got a chill.

She may have misread the piece – indeed I might not have written it clearly enough – but more important was the prioritizing of her religious beliefs over anyone else’s, from reporters and contributors to the readers themselves.  

A paper which had been always written and read by a variety of people – Christians of all kinds, people of other faiths, agnostics, and atheists – was now controlled by a Christian who did not see the difference between humor and homily.

I hoped I was wrong. I emailed her asking if that was her position or policy of Main Line Media News.

Her response was stronger. It was her job to “deem copy appropriate” for The Main Line Times, The King Of Prussia Courier, and The Daily Times Herald and she wasn’t going to debate it now.

I thought about the bigger picture, about the fundamental issues of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. They are written into the Constitution and have been pillars of the press and media since Thomas Paine. They are in the country’s DNA. Mine too.

Prior to writing this column I was a producer, writer, and director, working for local stations, syndicators, and networks, also for 20 years.  Never was a show or segment edited or re-edited, shot or re-shot, censored or cancelled to satisfy someone’s religious viewpoint. Ever.  

I have had one column rejected in 20 years. It was an investigative piece about shenanigans in the Chester County Republican party. The editor wanted more facts, which was her prerogative. She did not question my religious orthodoxy. 

I first wrote for Warren Patton, editor of Main Line Life, a weekly newspaper which, under his leadership, routinely won national awards. Over time, that and other papers have been sold, consolidated and renamed. Each time new editors were hired, staff was reduced, pages were reduced, coverage was reduced.

Through all those changes not one editor (or Content Managers) ever screened my work through a religious filter. Or even hinted at it. 

Until last week.

I respect her religious beliefs as well as her right to them. And I respect the right of religious organizations to publish as they wish. I just had no idea The Main Line Times had become a religious publication. 

My guess is most of you didn’t know that either.

It’s sad. It’s worrisome. It’s tragic – for journalists and anyone who reads these papers.

That’s why I will no longer write for The Main Line Times or any newspaper that censors content through a filter of religion, any religion.

I will continue to post weekly columns to my web page ( and my Facebook page (

I hope you’ll give them a read.  

If you like them I hope you’ll pass them along. If not, I hope you’ll pass them along anyway. Why suffer alone? 

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

Speaking of Masks

I know some of you don’t want to wear masks. I understand. It’s unconstitutional and encroaches on your freedom. 

Thomas Jefferson never wore a mask. Neither did Franklin, Hamilton, or the other forefathers. Washington might have. He had really bad teeth. But more on that later.

If God wanted men to wear masks, he wouldn’t have given us facial hair. Of course, at the time he was just trying to correct a mistake.

Oh yes, God makes mistakes.  Check the Bible if you don’t agree. 

The Garden Of Eden was great before Adam arrived. Birds flew. Dinosaurs roamed. Worms wormed. Creatures created. Weather was good. Skies were blue. Water was clean. 

Then God created Adam. 

Since then species have been disappearing right and left. And there’s global warming – not to mention all those wars. 

Interestingly, we’re the only species that goes to war.  Ever heard of birds warring against, say, giraffes? Or a world war between, say, Dalmatians and Collies? 

And you know who’s been running things all these years? Men.

Even before that, God knew he’d made a mistake; Adam was that ugly.  And he had bad breath, but more on the later. 

To make up for His Adam mistake, God created Eve, who was way better looking, at least according to the Bible (“And Adam looked upon Eve, and said ‘Holy &%^!!, she’s a Babe!’ and God looked upon Adam and then looked upon Eve and said “Ho Boy!!” And then God swaddled Adam’s face with hair and said unto Adam, “Don’t ever shave! You’ll scare her and everyone around her.“)

Then Man invented the razor and defied God. 

But the current generations have made hairy faces popular again, with beards and goatees and — did you know there are 27 kinds of beards?  Really. Check out: 

God must be pretty happy with the current generation.

Which brings us back to masks. Masks are great for covering up things. 

They can hide mutterings under your breath. “You simpleton!” becomes “Ew! So’s Anton!” 

You don’t have to have your teeth straightened (hear that, English people?)

If you yell in anger, the mask puffs out, making you more menacing; if you gasp in fear, it clogs your mouth, and your breathing, which is more scary.  

If you hate your boss, it covers that disdainful smirk.

You don’t have to brush your teeth if you wear a mask.  

Masks discourage unwanted kissing.

Ventriloquists really love masks.

The best part of masks is they’ve replaced donkeys and elephants.  If you wear a mask, you’re a Democrat; if you don’t wear a mask, you’re a Republican. You don’t even have to say a word; mask or no mask says it all. 

Imagine voting. Those wearing masks line up on one side. Those without masks line up on the other side. A person holding their nose then counts both lines and presto: the next President.

Many people are convinced that wearing a mask infringes on their Constitutional Rights. They cite the 28th Amendment, which was written last weekend by Senator Ted Cruz. It says all Americans have a right to infect other people with Covid 19. He was photographed last week on an American Air Lines Flight from Houston to Dallas tapping it out on his cell phone – no mask, but, appropriately, a 28thkind of beard.

Rumor has it that Trump finally agreed to wear a mask because he thought he’d look like The Lone Ranger. He got really angry when he learned the mask covered his mouth instead of his eyes.

Masks muffle your voice, which is great if you say something stupid; for instance, that face masks represents a “culture of silence, slavery, and social death.”  Yes, a real quote from a Trump fan, which our President immediately retweeted.

Which brings us to the truth about both parties. Democrats want Biden to wear a mask because he might say something stupid. They want Trump to go maskless because he might say something stupid. 

Republicans want Biden to wear a mask because they think it makes him look like an idiot. They want Trump not to wear a mask because…um…uh…

I like masks for both parties, really thick ones, where you can barely hear a person. Not just because it’s safer medically, which it is, but because the silence would be so-o-o-o-o-o nice!       

God? I think he’s beginning to root for women.

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