Category Archives: media news

Trump on a rush to publish worst tweet of the year

“Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies that allow people to make the long trek thinking they can enter our country illegally. They can’t. If we had a Wall, they wouldn’t even try! The two …”

I have no need to include the rest of this Twitter message. Yep, it comes from Donald John Trump, the “stable genius” who appears to be on a mad rush to publish the most disgusting tweet of 2018.

This one has to rank up there with the best, er, worst of ’em.

Two small children have died while they are in the custody of the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. They came here illegally from Central America.

Now the president of the United States is blaming Democrats for those people trekking from repression en route to the United States. He blames Democrats because the children reportedly didn’t get the medical care they needed to prevent them from dying.

Words escape me. I have none to describe the depths of despicability that this man, the president, has sunk.

Is this the worst he can do? Probably not. I mean, we have a couple more days before the end of the year approaches. I’m quite certain this individual, Trump, will sink even lower.

Time of My Life, Part 8: Aircraft carrier landing . . . and takeoff!

It’s not every day that one can say you’ve landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier — and then shot off the deck via catapult.

I can make that claim. I owe it to the job I used to do as a newspaper editorial page editor and columnist.

What a rush, man!

My phone rang one morning in 1993 while I worked as editorial page editor of the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. On the other end of the line was the late U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, the Lufkin Democrat who was known as “Good Time Charlie,” because of his rather rascally reputation; he enjoyed the company of women and was damn proud of his reputation.

He also was a dedicated East Texas congressman who took good care of his constituents and who was a staunch supporter of the men and women in uniform. He called to invite me to accompany him on a factfinding trip he was making to San Diego, Calif. He wanted to tour the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. “Are you interested in going?” he asked. I said I would get to him. I asked my editor if I could go; he said “yes.” I called Wilson back and accepted his invitation. The newspaper made the travel arrangements. I flew to San Diego a few days later and met with Wilson at the hotel.

Wilson’s party gathered at the naval air station the next morning, boarded a turbo-prop airplane used to carry mail and supplies to the carrier, which was about 100 miles offshore on a training mission.

The COD is a sturdy aircraft. However, I have to tell you that you haven’t lived until you’ve landed on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The plane carried us toward the Carl Vinson and began its descent. It would descend in fits and starts, suddenly and occasionally violently. I thought my guts were going to fall out as the plane descended rapidly toward the deck.

Then the plane landed. It came to a sudden stop, owing to the tailhook that grabbed the cable strung across the deck.

We spent three nights aboard the Carl Vinson, visiting with pilots, deck crews, sailors who performed all manner of support tasks to support a ship carrying about 5,000 sailors and Marines.

We watched “night flight ops” with A-6 Intruders, F-14 Tomcats and FA-18 Hornets taking off and landing in the dead of night.

We walked the deck with the commander of the ship, Capt. John Payne, who told us the Carl Vinson battle group carried more explosive firepower than all the bombs dropped on all theaters during World War II. That prompted the obvious question, or so I thought, so I asked it: “Skipper, do you have nukes on board?” He looked at me and with the slightest of smiles he said, “You know I can’t answer that.” Hmm, I thought, I believe he just did.

A brief aside: In May 2011, when SEALs and CIA operatives killed Osama bin Laden, they took his corpse to the Carl Vinson, where he was given a “burial at sea.”

Then we had to leave the ship. We boarded the COD and got strapped in. To say we were fastened tightly is to commit a most-serious understatement. Yep, the flight crew made damn sure we would be fastened securely. We were instructed to watch for the hand signal when we were set to be thrown off the deck.

Then it came. The catapult threw the plane off the deck, taking us from zero to about 150 knots in about, oh, one second! I have difficulty describing the sensation for that single second. I was facing to the rear of the aircraft, so I felt my facial flesh separate from my skull — for that instant before we were airborne.

We landed safely. Gathered our gear and went our separate ways.

Suffice to say that the experience was one I’ll never forget. I cherish the time I was able to spend with servicemen and women who are trained to do dangerous work in defense of our great country. I learned a good deal about a member of Congress I already had respected and watched him show his support for our troops.

That carrier landing and catapult takeoff also were epic events.

They remain among the highlights of my life.

Little girl was immortalized, then she grew up

Have you ever wondered what happened to Virginia O’Hanlon after she wrote that famous letter to the New York Sun asking if Santa Claus really existed?

I have. Maybe you have, too. If that’s the case, here’s what I have learned.

Virginia lived to the ripe age of 81. She died in a nursing home in 1971.

But before that — and after she wrote the letter that prompted the timeless editorial that assured her that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” — she became a teacher. She earned her master’s degree from Columbia University and her doctorate from Fordham University.

Virginia married and had children. She moved from New York City to another community in New York.

I presume she lived a quiet, normal life. I am glad to know she got to grew old. I hope her family was near her when she died.

Virginia’s grandson, James Temple, said this in 2004 about his immortal grandmother, noting something she had said to him: “All I did was ask the question . . . Mr. Church’s editorial was so beautiful . . . It was Mr. Church who did something wonderful.”

“Mr. Church” was Francis Pharcellus Church, who penned those words in 1897 answering the question of a little girl.

That golden prose will stand the test of time forever and ever.

And now . . . for a bit of Christmas cheer

Francis Pharcellus Church immortalized a little girl in 1897.

Virginian O’Hanlon was 8 years of age when she wrote Church, the editor of the New York Sun, asking him if Santa Claus exists. Her “papa” told her if she wrote The Sun, that she would learn the truth.

Church responded all right. His editorial to little Virginia has become a Christmas classic.

I have shared it with you before in this blog. I cannot share it enough. It makes me smile and it fills my heart with holiday joy every time I read it. I hope it does for you, too.

Merry Christmas.

***

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Time of My Life, Part 7: Chasing the cops

When you’re a young reporter, you occasionally find yourself responding in ways to certain circumstances that surprise you as you grow older.

One day after work in 1978, my wife and I were driving home to southeast Portland from Oregon City, Ore., where I worked as a reporter for the long-departed Enterprise-Courier. We were riding in a borrowed car, a big Ford Galaxy sedan my editor loaned to me while my car was being repaired.

We were heading north on Interstate 205 when suddenly a Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department cruiser sped by with lights flashing and a siren blaring; then a second one zoomed past us; then, believe it, a third cruiser roared by with lights and siren going.

I thought, “Holy crap! Something is going on!” I floored my editor’s Galaxy. The front end of the big ol’ beast rose up and we quickly got up to a speed of about, oh, 85 mph.

My wife plunged into the back seat and began pulling out my camera, notebook and pen.

We got right behind the third sheriff’s cruiser in the line of cars responding to something; we had no clue where we were going or what we would see. As the cars roared through traffic, with us right behind them, we were able to keep pace with the officers as they raced to whatever it was to which they were responding.

We exited the freeway at Damascus, and headed down the highway eastward. Then we got to our destination.

We saw a car overturned on the highway, wheels up. Paramedics were tending to a young man who was lying on the shoulder of the road. I managed to snap several pictures of the scene, took some notes from the police, fire and medical personnel on the scene, then got the details the next morning from the sheriff’s office. The young man recovered from his injury.

I want to share this story here to remind you that young reporters occasionally do things that might appear foolish — such as chasing police cars at high speeds through traffic!

When they do, they often produce stories worth chronicling to the communities they serve.

I have to say that the chase gave my wife and me a serious rush.

Time of My Life, Part 6: Kudos to NPR

There once was a time — and it wasn’t that long ago — when newspaper editors’ opinions were of some value, that others actually sought them out.

I got to play the part of a media “expert,” but I use the term loosely, as in quite loosely.

The 2008 presidential campaigned exposed me to the marvels of radio editing and the magic that radio hands perform with raw audio “copy.”

National Public Radio was looking for two newspaper editors who plied their craft in politically disparate parts of the country. They settled on Kevin Riley, editor of the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and, um, yours truly . . . me!

Dayton is a heavily unionized community in southern Ohio. In 2008 it was considered to be part of the electoral “battleground” where U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain were fighting in their quest to become the next president of the United States. Riley was editor of the paper. I don’t know the fellow.

I was editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, deep in the heart of McCain Country. There wouldn’t be any fight in the Texas Panhandle over voters’ preferences. Our readers were solidly behind Sen. McCain.

NPR wanted to talk to the two of us to get our take on how our communities viewed the upcoming election.

I showed up at the High Plains Public Radio studio in downtown Amarillo, got comfortable sitting amid all this radio equipment. My good friend Mark Haslett — who worked for HPPR at the time — set up the studio nicely. The call came from NPR, I introduced myself to Liane Hansen, the NPR host, and to Riley, who was on the other end of the line in Dayton.

We chatted for about 30 minutes or so. I was terribly nervous, more so than Riley; at least that’s how I figured it, given that he stammered and stuttered far less than I did when he was answering questions from Hansen.

The bottom line was that Riley said the race in Ohio between Obama and McCain would be tight; meanwhile, I told NPR that McCain was likely to win the contest in the High Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas in a walk.

NPR boiled the interview down to about a 4-minute presentation on its “Morning Edition” broadcast on Sunday.

Here’s the most astounding part of it: NPR’s editing team made me sound much smarter and erudite than I am. They edited out the fits and starts, the “uhs” and “ums” and the occasional mangled sentence structure.

What’s more, they did it without changing any context! They broadcast my remarks completely and correctly, but without the mess I made of it.

I tell you all this to make two points: First, given the decline in print journalism and the explosive growth in other forms of media, newspaper editors no longer are deemed to be as valuable a resource as they once were; I am proud to have taken part in that discussion. Second, National Public Radio comprises geniuses who are very good at what they do . . . and I was proud to be a part of NPR’s broadcast.

Fox News host: Trump has ‘refounded’ ISIS

I guess hell has frozen over, as it does from time to time.

“Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade, a guy I usually ignore, said this to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“Sarah, he’s giving Russia a big win. Vladimir Putin praised him. He’s also doing exactly what he criticized President Obama for doing. He said President Obama was the founder of ISIS. He just refounded ISIS.”

Donald Trump’s declaration that Barack Obama “founded” ISIS certainly was a hideous declaration from the campaign stump.

His decision to pull U.S. forces out of Syria, though, does give the Islamic State reason to revive itself. The Russians also are happy, given that they want to eliminate the forces fighting against their man in Damascus, Bashar al Assad. The Turks endorse the president, too, as they want to wipe out the Kurds who pose a threat to them while fighting on our side against ISIS.

Still, for Kilmeade to say on national TV that Trump has “refounded ISIS” is stunning, given that “Fox & Friends” has been such a traditionally venue for the president. He goes on the air, makes profoundly false statements and hardly ever is called out by the Fox hosts.

Blogging requires multi-tasking skills

For the first time — more than likely — since I started blogging full time I am left with too much to comment on.

Just today alone, the news exploded all over the place.

  • The U.S. House of Reps decided to put $5 billion to build a wall along our southern border into a stopgap funding bill, then got assurances from Donald Trump he wouldn’t sign the Senate version of a bill that would keep the government running.
  • The government is about to shut down partially.
  • Then to top it off, Defense Secretary James Mattis quit and told the president off in his letter of resignation. Man, he blistered the commander in chief’s rear end. He delivered the letter in person at the White House. And get this: He signed his letter without salutation; there was no “sincerely,” or “with great respect” or “God bless you, sir” at the end of Mattis’s resignation letter.

I’ve been focused this afternoon on the Mattis matter, as I consider it to be most critical at this moment. I believe his resignation and his reasons for quitting constitute a national security crisis . . . as if Donald Trump doesn’t have enough crises to keep him, um, occupied.

As for me, I now need to figure out what I can write about in the moment and what I can set aside for another day. This reminds me of the situation I faced as an opinion page editor after 9/11. We had more to write about than space would allow, meaning we had to decide which topics we could postpone for another time. It’s an editorial writer’s and editor’s ideal situation.

This blogger now has the same dream.

‘Poorer’ and ‘dirtier,’ eh, Tucker Carlson?

Tucker Carlson fancies himself as a provocative commentator for the Fox News cable network.

His provocativeness is now costing his employers some serious dough. Sixteen advertisers have pulled out of supporting his nightly talk show on the Fox News Channel because of some remarkably intolerant remarks he made about immigrants.

He made some anti-immigrant remarks this past week without apparently qualifying them. He wasn’t talking about illegal immigrants. I guess he meant all of them.

Hmm. Strange, don’t you think? I wonder where Carlson’s forebears came from? Were they here when the Pilgrims landed? Or when Columbus landed ashore? Or when the Vikings were terrorizing the upper east coast in the 12th century? Um, probably not.

The advertisers are hitting Fox where it hurts, in its corporate pocket book.

I am not a fan of boycotts. As a rule, I don’t believe they work.

I wonder, though, whether these advertisers are going to teach Carlson — a youngish conservative firebrand — a lesson that sticks.

Finally, as the grandson of immigrants to this country, I take huge personal offense at any suggestion that my grandparents made this country dirtier and poorer when they came here in pursuit of a better life.

Time of My Life, Part 5: Conventions bring serious tasks

Every now and then journalists get to see the most serious tasks imaginable in a totally new context, especially when you’re thrust into a front-row seat.

I had a couple of those experiences while working for the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise. I want to share them with you briefly here.

In 1988 and again in 1992 I was privileged to attend two Republican National Committee presidential nominating conventions. Beaumont lies between two major cities — New Orleans to the east and Houston to the west. The GOP nominated Vice President George H.W. Bush as president in 1988 in New Orleans; then the party nominated him again for re-election in 1992 in Houston.

I got to witness all of the hubbub, the whoopin’ and hollerin’ up close both times.

The 1988 convention placed me behind the speaker’s podium inside the Superdome in New Orleans, where I witnessed President Reagan deliver a stirring speech to the faithful crowd. After the president finished his speech — and as the crowd cheered the Gipper — he and his wife, Nancy, turned and walked off the stage and so help me as God is my witness, he looked straight at me as we made eye contact. I have to say that was quite a thrill.

I worked in the same media room with some fine reporters and columnists. One of them is Chris Matthews, who at both conventions was a “mere” columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, which was owned by the same Hearst Corporation that owns the Beaumont Enterprise. I got to know Matthews, I like to say, “before he became ‘Chris Matthews,'” the current star of prime-time cable TV coverage on MSBNC. He and I enjoyed a cup of coffee at the Houston convention, chatted for a few minutes. He wouldn’t remember it, but it happened.

The 1992 gathering in the Houston Astrodome was notable as well for a couple of speeches. Conservative firebrand Pat Buchanan sought to wrest the GOP nomination from President Bush and delivered the frightening speech in which he implored the delegates to “take our country back” from some nefarious evil forces Buchanan thought had hijacked the nation. I also got to hear former President Reagan bring down the house when he mentioned the Democrats’ nominee, Bill Clinton, who Reagan said fancied himself to be another Thomas Jefferson. He responded, “Let me tell you, governor. I knew Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a friend of mine, and governor, you’re no Thomas Jefferson.”

The former president’s timing was picture perfect, owing to his well-known skill as a film and TV actor.

The biggest takeaway from both conventions was the sight of serious men and women doing the most serious work imaginable — nominating candidates for president and vice president of the United States — while wearing goofy elephant hats, with vests festooned with buttons and labels and generally carrying on like children at a birthday party.

I simply had to suspend my disbelief as I watched these individuals performing this most serious of tasks.

Yes, it was representative democracy in its raw form. It was a joy to watch and to cover it for the newspaper that employed me.