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NFL

September 25th, 2017 No Comments

 

I’ve been thinking about the NFL players disrespecting our flag and our country. Apart from the fact that I find their chosen form of protest extremely offensive, I have several other problems with it.

I decided to do some research about what precisely they are protesting, and by precisely, I mean something more than vague references to racism and oppression and police brutality. Obviously, as an all-American slice of Wonderbread, I have no way of knowing what it means to be a black man in America today, or what day-to-day issues black people face, so I decided to rely on what the players themselves had to say. Unfortunately, there is very little to find.

Colin Kaepernick has a website for his foundation that has the following mission statement: “The mission of the Colin Kaepernick Foundation is to fight oppression of all kinds globally through education and social activism.”

While that is laudable on the face of it, it is unfortunately so childishly and hopelessly vague as to be completely meaningless. It’s like saying you support world peace. Who doesn’t?

Other public statements I was able to find by other players are also equally vague, so I fell back on an article from Sports Illustrated that condensed Mr. Kaepernick’s stance down to protesting racism and oppression and police brutality, which left me very little better off than I was before I tried to do my research.

I’m not going to address the racism because these days it works both ways and I find both equally offensive. The white people who feel, show, or express racism are just as crude and moronic as the black people who feel, show, or express racism, and both manage to create their own belief support system to carry them on, so nothing I might say is going remedy that.

Oppression I have a hard time taking seriously (to “oppress” means to persecute or subjugate by unjust use of force or authority) in the wake of eight years of a black president, and with three black incumbent US Senators and forty-five black incumbent US Representatives in Congress, especially when that word is used by men with an average salary of $2,000,000.00 per annum.

So that brings us to police brutality, which I what I suspect the NFL players mean when they use the word “oppression.” Again, I have no way of judging what it means to a black man or woman in America today, but I am not interested in anecdotal evidence. We all have our various personal experiences, pro or con, that color our view of the world, but personal or second-hand stories do not equate to reality or to society as a whole. So what we all have to fall back on are the statistics for law enforcement compiled by the FBI and available to all in their Uniform Crime Report.

The percentages break down into 68.9% of all arrests, for all crimes, are white people, while 28.3% are black people, with native American, Asian, and “other” making up the negligible rest. In fact, in all categories of crime, with the exception of violent crime, whites comprise the majority of arrests. Since, as of 2016, whites are still the majority in America, with blacks being the largest racial minority with 13.3% (Latinos and Hispanics are considered a white ethnic minority) that isn’t too surprising. Unfortunately, the paradigm shifts when it comes to violent crime, with young black men accounting for 52.2% of all arrests for murder and non-negligent homicide and 56.4% of all arrests for robbery. However, when it comes to police shootings, almost twice as many white men are shot by police than black men. If you adjust for population percentages only, yes, a greater percentage of black men are shot by police, but if you also adjust for violent crimes by race, it skews the rate back again. Police go where the crime is.

But apart from the disparity between perception and reality by black football players, what really bothers me about this is the NFL’s reaction to the protests. In 2016, when five police officers were murdered in Dallas, Texas by a black racist who stated he wished to murder white people and white police officers in particular, the NFL ruled that the Dallas Cowboys could not honor the five murdered officers by wearing decals on their helmets. Yet now, they deem it acceptable for players to kneel or sit or otherwise disrespect the American flag and the men and women in the service that flag represents, who have given or risk their lives for all of us, including football players black and white. The reason given by the NFL is the First Amendment right of freedom of expression. What happened to freedom of expression when the issue was honoring five murdered police officers? I would like someone to explain what nicety allows one form of freedom of expression, but not another, because either the NFL must decide expression ends in the workplace for everybody, or it is allowable for everybody.

Until then, as I follow sports specifically to get away from the constant hateful and divisive political ranting and posturing that has invaded every aspect of life in America, I will boycott the NFL and go back to watching nothing but boxing.

Reasoning with Evil

September 21st, 2017 13 Comments

 

Many decades ago I read an account of the Charles Manson murders that included the horrifying revelation that of all the people in Sharon Tate’s home that night, only one, Wojciech Frykowski, fought for his life. Mr. Frykowski had witnessed the tender mercies of the Nazis in his native Poland and was able to recognize evil when he saw it. All the rest tried to reason with their murderers, with poor Sharon Tate repeatedly saying, “Can’t we talk about this?” even after she had already been stabbed in her almost nine-months pregnant belly. Too many rational people are unable to recognize irrational evil when they see it, and they die as a result.

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Sharon Tate Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

I thought about this as I watched President Trump’s speech to the UN. Unlike Barack Hussein Obama, who appeared to enjoy blaming America, Christianity, and Western civilization generally for all the troubles of the world, there was no wringing of hands, no apologizing for actions past or present, and no smarmy, we’re-all-in-this-together conciliation by Donald Trump. Instead there were plain, blunt promises to protect and support America and her allies, and the plain, blunt naming of names of bad actors. (Sometimes plainer than one might hope for from a United States president, but I’ll take plain courage and plain belief in America over articulate apologies and eloquent conciliation any day.) North Korea, Iran, and Syria are not our friends, and there was no attempt to pretend they were. Socialist dictatorships like Venezuela, and communist dictatorships like Cuba, have never given a damn about their citizens, with the predictable results of extreme poverty, privation and abuse. Donald Trump made no attempt to say anything nice about any of those regimes. It was, as Benjamin Netanyahu said, “…the boldest and most courageous speech I’ve ever heard at the UN,” and Mr. Netanyahu, unlike our previous president, is a man who knows a little about courage and boldness. Unfortunately, the mainstream media that has banded together to portray President Trump as dangerous and unfit for his position, also seems shocked and horrified by courage and boldness. The criticism has run a wide gamut, from Hilary Clinton’s “dark and dangerous” comment, to more measured analyses by people who (on the surface, at least) understood what the president was saying, but rejected either the language or some parts of the message.

But it was the mainstream media’s reaction that really went over the top.

In particular, Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC, went out of his way to portray Donald Trump as “mentally unstable” by comparing him unfavorably to President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis. Mr. O’Donnell chose to carefully ignore, or is more likely ignorant of, the facts that:

1] John F. Kennedy was a dangerously compulsive serial womanizer (that would disqualify him today as mentally unstable) who

2] was having an affair at that time with Mary Meyer (that would also disqualify him today) who

3] introduced him to LSD (think that might disqualify him today as mentally unstable?) and—most importantly—that

4] despite O’Donnell’s insistence that Adlai Stevenson’s speech at the UN is what caused the Soviets to back down, the truth is Kennedy had a secret direct line to Khrushchev (OMG! Throw that man in prison for collusion!) and it was their direct, private communication that resolved the crisis, not anything anyone said at the UN.

Winston Churchill, who experienced some of the horrors of war, was roundly condemned and vilified by the House of Commons for his bellicose attitude toward rearming Great Britain prior to World War Two, and for opposing Neville Chamberlain’s groveling appeasement of Hitler. God knows Trump is no Winston Churchill, but like Churchill, and like poor Wojciech Frykowski, Trump seems to be able to recognize evil for what it is when he sees it, and like both of them, he knows better than to waste time trying to sweet-talk or appease people who only want to kill.

Child Abuse!

September 18th, 2017 9 Comments

 

When the news reported that an eleven-year-old kid had been given permission to mow the White House lawn, I immediately told Darleen that President Trump would be accused of violating child labor laws. My bride appreciates her lord and master’s wit, and we both had a good chuckle over my droll little nonsensical quip.

In fact, it turns out Darleen’s lord and master is a hopelessly naïve schmuck who consistently underestimates the sheer mindless idiocy of the progressive left, the mainstream media, ivy league education, and the kind of people produced by those entities, the lovers of safe spaces and the nanny-state concept. What I had thought was a silly little joke to go with the morning’s coffee turned out to be an absolutely accurate (and, I suppose in hindsight, completely predictable) forecast.

Here, word for word, is the tweet of a reporter named Steven Greenhouse: “Not sending a great signal on child labor, minimum wage & occupational safety >> Trump White House lets a 10-year-old volunteer mow its lawn.”

Ten, eleven; no matter.

Steven Greenhouse is a journalist who specializes in labor and workplace issues. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and the New York University School of Law. He was a correspondent for the New York Times, for thirty-one years, but he has apparently taken some sort of early retirement to work on his own projects. Let’s be fair and presume that Mr. Greenhouse has his own brand of cynical humor and enjoys (to paraphrase the title of a Tom Wolfe book) mau-mauing the conservative right and is now enjoying the hysterical reactions of, well, people like me. Let’s hope so. Let’s sincerely hope so.

Gerald McRaney

September 11th, 2017 15 Comments

He did it! I sent Mackie the following message:

“Congratulations! Kudos! Bravo! Well done! Felicitations! And richly deserved, my talented friend!”

It’s only the first one; there’ll be more to come!

(I got so excited, I forgot to mention that what he did was win an Emmy!)

Columbus Day

September 1st, 2017 20 Comments

 

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies. It is putatively an ad lib made by Orson Welles during the filming of The Third Man. There are a number of things factually wrong with the statement (it was the Medici, not the Borgias; the Renaissance is normally considered to have begun at least a hundred or more years earlier than the time frame referenced; and the cuckoo clock is a product of the Black Forest region of Germany, not Switzerland), but that’s not the point. The essence of the statement is spot on: certain elements contribute to the creativity and productivity of a culture, and tasteless milk-and-honey-peace-love-Woodstock-can’t-we-all-get-along is not one of them.

Any person or society that cannot or will not learn from and adapt to new ideas, new technologies, new ways of thinking and being, is doomed to stagnate and perish. On the other hand, any person or society that embraces every new idea and every new technology, every new way of thinking and being that comes along, will be in constant flux and chaos, and will therefore never be able to devote the requisite energies to creating and growing. What is needed is a dynamic tension between stagnation and evolution; not stasis, exactly, but rather an active sort of ebb and flow that invites and promotes creativity. What is most emphatically not needed is the kind of society that embraces every flabby, overly sensitive, overly protective, overly politically-correct piece of idiocy dreamed up by stupid people with too much free time. We emphatically do not need the moronic and completely unrealistic attitude that somehow some kind of mommy-government can make all hurts go away, make everyone feel good about themselves, and do everything for everyone so that we can all live on the dole and, to quote that towering intellectual giant Nancy Pelosi, write books and paint with all our free time.

Which brings me to Columbus Day and Los Angeles City Council’s decision to eliminate that particular day from its calendar. It brings me to the tearing down of statues of Confederate icons, the changing of names of streets and parks, the whole ridiculous, dangerous attempt to rewrite history because someone might be offended. Sportscaster Robert Lee, of Chinese descent, was yanked from his spot because his name is similar to you-know-who. The horse that is one half of the symbol of the USC sports teams is no longer to be named Traveler, because that was the name of you-know-who’s horse. Robert Avrech, Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and author of the blog, Seraphic Secret (http://www.seraphicpress.com) predicted Gone with the Wind would soon be targeted by the morons who are targeting everything that offends them. I thought Mr. Avrech must have had one Margarita too many the day he wrote that, but he was right: it’s been done in Memphis. Some pastor in Chicago wants Rahm Emanuel to rename Washington Park, and I have heard some other idiot wants Washington, DC to be renamed. (That may be a piece of satire, but these days, who can tell?) What’s next? Do we ban Huckleberry Finn, The Sound and the Fury, Uncle Remus, Othello, The Nigger of the Narcisus, My Sweet Charlie, The Defiant Ones, The Emperor Jones, all history books in general, and then execute those of us who remember or know history? It’s a sort of mind-boggling attempt to erase the past à la Stalin and certain Chinese emperors and other remarkably stupid despots, all in an attempt to do—what? Not hurt someone’s feelings? And what names should we use to ensure that another, future generation won’t be offended? Or shall we just rename everything to reflect a completely passive, gender-neutral, non-temporal, non-offensive, non-denominational, non-racial, non-ethnic, flavor-free, all-embracing, one-big-happy-family kind of existence, a sort of Pablum-like, cream of wheat, Care Bears world?

It won’t work. Someone will always be offended. I, for one, would be deeply offended to have to live in such a smothering, creativity-killing, soul-killing, passion-killing world. I will vandalize all the Care Bear statues.

I sincerely hope I’ve offended someone with this post.

Jerry Lewis

August 21st, 2017 20 Comments

 

I met Jerry Lewis on several occasions, but it was a time before I met him that lingers most vividly in the rapid access file.

My youngest daughter was born with muscular dystrophy. For those fortunate enough not to be familiar with this most exquisitely horrible disease, there are many different forms of muscular dystrophy. The term, muscular dystrophy, refers to a wide group of muscle diseases, all of which result in irreversible and progressive weakening and breakdown of muscle tissue over greater or lesser (depending on the form of the disease) periods of time. Some forms present in early childhood, some in adulthood, some are considered fatal, some not, some forms result in severe disability, some in more manageable degrees. There is no cure. It is thought to be inherited, but occasional spontaneous genetic mutations arise, as is the case with my sweet Katherine.

My ex-wife was the first to notice something was wrong. Several times she told me she thought Katherine was having trouble hearing. Each time I would walk into whatever room Katherine was in, stand behind her and say her name. Each time she heard me and so I dismissed my ex-wife’s concerns. I had forgotten that my voice was much deeper than my ex-wife’s, so when she insisted on taking Katherine to a local doctor for tests, I went along more to keep the peace than because I believed anything was wrong.

Pain, as much as joy, is the acid that etches the copper plate of our memories. I remember standing in the room of the little clinic our doctor sent us to down in Lebanon, New Hampshire, not far from where we were living in those distant days. I remember it was a pair of doctors, a man and a woman, who broke the news to us. I remember how my head and ears started buzzing even as I wondered why the words—muscular dystrophy—meant nothing to me.

We drove home, Katherine and my ex-wife and I, my head still buzzing, as I kept thinking, I’ve heard those words before, I’m not an idiot, I should know what they mean, but unable to attach any meaning or significance to them. It wasn’t until we got home and I looked up muscular dystrophy in the Encyclopedia Britannica that the buzzing stopped and the reality set in.

The feeling I was left with was a sensation I can only describe as hollow, as if something had been cut out of me. The loss of a child is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to anyone.  To be told, as we were at the children’s hospital in Boston where we went for further tests (in the back of your mind you believe that if you go to enough doctors, have enough tests, the diagnosis will change, and everything will be right again) that your child may die, or may not, no one knows, leaves you in a state of turmoil as horrible and incomprehensible as death, and yet somehow almost worse, because you try to mitigate your despair with hope.

I used to put the children to bed at night. They would gather in my office and I would read to them, a different story for each child, and then put them in bed. And then, later, I would go into each room and sit and watch them sleep. There is nothing more wonderful than a sleeping child; in sleep, they belong completely to you in a way that they never do awake.

After the diagnosis I would sit and watch Katherine, face like an angel, perfect little mouth open, breath sweet, hair splayed on the pillow, and the reality of her disease would ebb and swell, so that at times I could almost make myself believe there was nothing wrong, that our world would go back to what it had been, and at other times rage would rise up in me, swelling my throat until I thought I might choke, rage at something I could neither kill nor fight nor even change. No one can understand helplessness who has never been unable to help his child.

Those first few days after the diagnosis were completely unreal, and time has kindly wiped many of those memories away, but I do remember my ex-wife reaching out to friends of hers in Los Angeles, calling people, talking endlessly on the phone.

I assume that what happened next was the result of her telling someone who knew someone who knew Jerry Lewis, but one evening, only a few days after the diagnosis, the telephone rang. I was in the kitchen when I picked it up and I knew instantly who it was, before he had even identified himself, the famous voice being as singular and distinctive as his particular style of comedy.

Nor do I even remember now what he said. What remains is the kindness of his voice, the gentle encouragement of his words, and the sense afterward that we weren’t alone.

That gesture, that act of kindness coming from a total stranger, unleashed something in me. After the call, I took Max, my magnificent Chesapeake Bay retriever, out for a walk and for the first time since we got the diagnosis, I wept, though “wept” is a most inadequate word. I howled and roared and raged, distressing my poor friend terribly, causing him to keep bumping up against my legs until at last I could calm myself enough to kneel down and bury my face in his fur.

A year or so later my ex-wife and Katherine and I all appeared on the famous Labor Day telethon, and Mr. Lewis was as gracious and kind as he could be given the constraints of trying to do an exceptionally long and difficult live show.

I have no idea how many countless millions upon millions of dollars Jerry Lewis raised for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, for “Jerry’s kids,” his kids, but his telethon was considered to be the most effective fund-raising effort in television history. Mr. Lewis also lobbied private donors, sponsors, Congress, and civic organizations, raising more funds, appearing at countless public functions, giving speeches, and reaching out quietly to private individuals, including a distraught family in New Hampshire. He never revealed why he was so single-mindedly devoted to putting an end to muscular dystrophy, and he may not have lived long enough to see a cure, but he accomplished more than any other humanitarian, more than twenty other humanitarians, and he lived long enough to see the discovery of the DNA involved in the process, which is a giant step closer to someday finding the cure. He deserves every accolade, all the accolades, all the honors, all the gratitude, all the love.

I write this as the eclipse is occurring. In a simpler time, a simpler culture, it would be possible to believe the sun is hiding his face in sorrow and respect for Jerry Lewis.

Trump Blew It

August 16th, 2017 32 Comments

The Trumpster blew it.

The KKK and the Neo-Nazis and any other white supremacy fruit-loops have a perfect right to spout their ignorant, hate-filled rhetoric, no matter how offensive it is to people like you and me—more right, in fact, than the fruit-loops who try to shut them up with violence; there is, after all, something called the First Amendment—but there are no good people there. Good people do not hate Jews or blacks, or indeed any segment of their fellow travelers on this earth. Good people do not espouse or use violence to make their point, so while Trump is perfectly correct in assigning blame on both sides, neither he nor anyone else can defend the indefensible, and the white-supremacy fruit-loops are as indefensible as ISIS or any other totalitarian group of evil-minded morons. Not naming them and condemning them for their evil is as troubling as Obama’s refusal to name radical Islamic terrorism for it’s evil. And even more divisive, because this is America. Trump blew it.

At the Movies: Dunkirk

August 10th, 2017 12 Comments

“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”

That famous aphorism is usually attributed to Joseph Stalin, sometimes to Adolf Eichmann, and occasionally to Erich Maria Remarque (author of All Quiet on the Western Front), more rarely to various other people. It makes no difference who said it first; it is one of the most cold-bloodedly trenchant assessments of war (or, in the case of Stalin, the merry butchering of an entire people by a tyrant) ever made. And it is also the perfect encapsulation of everything that is wonderful and everything that is not so wonderful about Dunkirk.

The evacuation, in just three days, of roughly 400,000 British (and French, Belgian, and as well as some Polish and Dutch) forces from the beaches of Dunkirk, where they were trapped between the sea and the invincible might of the German Army, is one of the most unbelievable, magical, miraculous triumphs of will, sacrifice, determination, and above all of courage, in all history. The Royal Navy, augmented by hundreds of private, shallow-draft boats—fishing boats, pleasure yachts, ferries, anything seaworthy—crossed the channel (some of them multiple times) to rescue Allied troops from the extremely shallow beaches around Dunkirk.

Were the Battle of Dunkirk and the battles that led up to it defeats for the Allies? Of course, but Dunkirk was also, in a perverse way, a victory in terms of its positive morale boost for the Allies and its negative morale effect on Hitler. It is axiomatic among all military forces that a single act of courage can inspire an entire army and turn the tide of battle. The courage of the beaten soldiers and their intrepid rescuers—so many of them civilians—at Dunkirk, inspired the British people in ways that probably, ultimately, led to victory, even as it showed Hitler he could not roll over the British as easily as he had over other European democracies and armies. At least, that’s my theory; I have no idea if historians agree with it.

To satisfy both the demands of story-telling and the first part of Stalin’s aphorism, the movie wisely focuses on a single man, played by Fionn Whitehead (playing an architype named Tommy, “Tommies” being British slang for their soldiers in World War Two), whose death would be a tragedy. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t tell us enough about him to make us really care; it would be a far greater tragedy if we knew him more and better, but the only character in the movie who is given any backstory whatsoever is the civilian owner and skipper of a yacht, played by the incomparable Mark Rylance.

As for the last part of the aphorism, the approximately 400,000 thousand other soldiers are only hinted at, admirably hinted at, but never seen in their entirety because, logistically, how could they be shown? So too, the makeshift armada of rescuers (some 800 boats, historically, of all sizes and shapes) is only hinted at, and the result of those diminished representations leaves the casual, historically uneducated viewer with the impression that a few thousand soldiers were rescued by a few score civilians, and that—sadly—diminishes not only the movie, but the historical context and importance of this most valiant and heroic moment in man’s bloody story.

And that is perhaps the greatest weakness of Dunkirk. I am no historian, and my knowledge of World War Two comes as much from my father’s voice—ah, that beloved and greatly missed voice!—as we walked around the many varied battlefields he took me to during the eight years we lived in Europe as it does from books, yet I was ahead of Darleen, who had to keep asking me questions all through the movie. Who? Why? Why not? Where? When? And why again? If the movie had been able to convey the magnitude of danger for Great Britain, it would have mattered less that we have no vested emotional interest in the soldier played by Fionn Whitehead.

(For the record, if those soldiers had been lost, England, that sceptered isle, that royal throne of kings, that other Eden, that happy breed of men, that precious stone set in a silver sea, would have been completely unable to defend itself, and Hitler’s planned invasion would have gone ahead and his armies would have rolled over the last European stronghold of freedom and democracy as easily as they had over all the rest of Europe. As it was, even with the unparalleled triumph of Dunkirk, the British were still nearly helpless. Ever since World War One, the British government had been systematically disarming its citizens, in violation of their own rudimentary Bill of Rights and unwritten constitution, so that their entire civilian population was armed with nothing more than a handful of custom sporting shotguns and even fewer custom sporting rifles to defend their sceptered isle. Thousands and thousands of Americans voluntarily stepped into the breach and donated their beloved hunting rifles so the Brits could defend themselves. Having learned nothing from history, Great Britain is today once more completely disarmed and has a higher rate of violent crime than South Africa’s and twice as high as America’s.)

On the other side of the equation, if the script had given us even as little backstory about Fionn Whitehead as we had for Mark Rylance, we would have been emotionally hooked enough to find the death of that single man a tragedy. Unfortunately, the movie never does either, and the result is that we have neither fish nor fowl nor good red meat to sink our teeth into.

On the plus side, the movie uses special effects and unrelenting sound to convey some of the equally unrelenting violence and horror of war. Young Tommy is on the move constantly in his desperate effort to stay alive, and each new sanctuary turns out to be a more horrible death trap than the last. You can understand all too well the blank, thousand-yard stares of those men who are lucky enough to survive major battles; it is a look the movie captures very well toward the end, when Tommy and some of the other lucky ones find themselves back in England. And I know it is just special effects, but kudos to the director for capturing a small taste of the nightmare of men being burned to death as they drown, the floating fields of oil on the water’s surface bursting into flame and roasting men alive.

To quote the last line of Bridge on the River Kwai: “Madness! Madness!”

But special effects don’t make a movie, and while we know this was a critically important pivotal point in the war, and while we know this was one of the truly transcendent moments of courage and altruism in all of human history, both the majestic triumph and the personal humanity are lost in muddy middle ground between tragedy and statistics.

John L. Moore on Media

August 7th, 2017 12 Comments

For those of you who still cling, with childlike and childish faith, to the myth of the wisdom and impartiality of what is called the mainstream media (primarily, in this country, such news sources as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and all the many wholly-owned subsidiaries of those entities), please take a moment to read the experience of a far more knowledgeable and worldly man than I.

……………………………………………………….

At 17 years of age, the summer before my senior year in high school, the local paper, the Miles City Star, called and offered me a position as a cub reporter. I helped my family finish cattle work, then went to work in a newsroom of professionals. The city editor, Gordie Spear, was a five-time Montana Sportswriter of the Year award-winner and a former naval aviator who’d been shot down twice while bombing enemy submarines. The publisher, Paul Husted, was the former managing editor of the Denver Post and had gone from private to captain in WWII battlefield commissions.

I worked for the Star for three years then turned down an opportunity to take a job at the Denver Post in order to travel, seek adventure, and eventually, get married. These were tumultuous days for the nation. The US had just withdrawn from Viet Nam and President Richard Nixon had been brought down by a Watergate scandal exposed by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. During this time my new bride, Debra, and I were on the road and I stopped in a Nevada town to inquire about newspaper positions.

“You left newspaper work at the wrong time,” the editor told me. “The J (Journalism) Schools have been flooded with radicals wanting to be the next Woodward or Bernstein.” I knew then that journalism would be changed for ever. The bosses in the newsrooms would not be seasoned WWII veterans, but the very radicals I met while hitchhiking 12,000 miles visiting campuses, communes, and inner-cities.

In 1979 I returned to the family ranch. Some five years later the Star agreed to give me a full-page every Friday for features about Western and agricultural subjects. When the paper’s managing editor left, I was called in to meet his replacement. The new guy was young, maybe early 30s, and had worked on a paper in Iowa. “As an editor I only have two agendas,” he quickly announced to me. “The first one is getting all cattle off public lands.”

My mind went blank. What was he doing in Miles City, Montana of all places? Why, as a newspaper editor, did he even think he should have agendas, let alone be brazen enough to announce them? To this day, I do not recall what his second agenda was nor was I able to work with him.

The space between the Nevada editor’s warning and this editor’s arrogance was one decade. In 10 years, journalism — even at a small town local level — had become a tool for activists. Granted, from Thomas Paine to William Randolph Hearst to today, publishers have supported causes, but the consequences of Watergate was a full-scale vocational invasion. I began clipping and filing examples of liberal bias in newsprint journalism. This ranged from a reporter photographing an anti-grazing advocate on an old burn and calling the scene an example of overgrazing, to the subtlety of an Associated Press reporter calling wolf reintroduction supporters “wildlife advocates,” rather than “wolf advocates,” thus painting opponents, like stockmen, as being anti-wildlife. Obvious, too, was reporters had become almost 100% urban in background — kids from farms and ranches might enter agricultural media fields, but there they are simply preaching to the choir. And, a study in the late 1980s revealed that only 8% of the journalists in America regularly attended any house of worship. The newsroom has become secularized and a Judeo-Christian worldview is being extinguished.

An activist, liberal, urban point-of-view now dominates every facet of mainstream media and small town staffs are not exceptions. This past winter Miles City area bull riding phenom, Jess Lockwood, won the PBR event in New York City, pocketed $117,000 in winnings, and rang the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange. The Billings Gazette, to their credit, took notice, but the Gazette has the rare reporter, Joe Kuzek, who routinely covers rodeo. (I would like to think this policy was sparked by my rodeo coverage while working for its rival, the Great Falls Tribune, but it’s probably a coincidence.) Two days after Lockwood’s win I emailed the Star’s newsroom and asked if any of them knew who the area teenager was who’d just won over 100-grand in New York City. No one did. To their credit, an awakened Star has significantly improved their rodeo coverage since.

My files on liberal bias in newsprint soon became so thick and burdensome I tossed them. Granted, I specialized in collecting urban bias or ignorance toward the rural community, but bias against traditional values are even more common.

Those who’d like to see more traditional storylines may not for three reasons. First, there is little emphasis on simply reporting facts. In the late 1970s print journalists got away from writing leads with the Four Ws — Who, What, Where, When — and became wannabe novelists. Now all stories seem written by Jack London as interpreted by Ernest Hemingway. Reporters insist on interjecting themselves into the story. They can’t seem to help it. Secondly, the question of objective truth. The first of the 12 elements of journalism is “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.” Since the 1960s, colleges and media have trained us to believe that there are no absolute truths. Truth is subjective. You have your viewpoint and I have mine. Hence, much reporting has come editorial. Thirdly, traditionalists are less active than radicals. When I talk to the average farmer or rancher about the lack of rural or traditional coverage they usually shrug and say, “Oh, I don’t read newspapers or watch much TV anyway.” They’ve simply given up while the Letters to the Editor of mainstream newspapers are dominated by liberal views. The Progressive Left tends to be vocal while the more conservative citizen buries himself in his work and family.

Liberals will never accept that there is a bias in media and that’s understandable. First, they have their agenda to protect, but more importantly, most are too young to remember when there wasn’t a liberal bias in media.

Bias is not indicated simply by how news is covered, but by the news — even “soft” news — that is ignored. Everyone has a story. And many of those stories are darn fascinating. Human interest features are “soft” news, This is where the more subjective, creative journalist should be displaying his wares. But reporters today are desk bound, still limited to “the AP wire” and other streams. Paul Husted engrained in me 45 years ago that the local human interest story was the backbone of a newspaper just as small businesses are the backbone of the nation’s economy.

But, it seems our national spine has weakened, and its posture is bent. And it is bent toward the liberal left.

 

(Miles City area rancher, John L. Moore is one of the most widely published writers in the West. He has authored 10 books including 6 novels; his short fiction and poetry has appeared in literary journals; and his articles have appeared in scores of newspapers and magazines ranging from The New York Times Magazine to The Western Horseman to Ministries Today.)

America’s Daughter

August 2nd, 2017 13 Comments

 

Darleen and I were watching an old movie with Fred MacMurray awhile back when she happened to say something that jogged my memory, and I asked her if she had ever worked with MacMurray. To cut to the chase, by the time the conversation was over, I realized I am married to the girl who has had, probably, more fathers than any actress in Hollywood today.

The fact that this hadn’t dawned on me before tells you how much we discuss The Business, but counting Fred MacMurray, Darleen has had seven famous on-screen fathers, most of whom she charmingly and lovingly drove nuts on-screen, much as she does her husband today off-screen.

Fred MacMurray was her dad in a two-hour movie of the week, intended as a pilot for a series, called The Chadwick Family, and she caused him plenty of stress and distress in that movie.

Henry Fonda was her father in a television series called The Smith Family, that ran for thirty-nine episodes, where he had to deal with challenges from a girl who was growing up faster than he could cope with.

David Niven played her extremely harried father (I know exactly how he felt) in The Impossible Years, where the poor man had to deal with both Darleen and an equally troublesome Cristina Ferrare.

Robert Young was her father in two movies of the week called All My Darling Daughters and All My Darling Daughters Anniversary, Darleen giving that poor man fits in both movies.

Karl Malden had it slightly easier in The Streets of San Francisco because she had grown up considerably, but she kept getting kidnapped or threatened or in jeopardy somehow, so poor Karl Malden had his hands full.

Glenn Ford was her father in Once an Eagle, where Sam Elliot had taken on much of the responsibility for her as her husband. He and I should commiserate sometime.

And in an excellent but short-lived (it was ahead of its time) series called Miss Winslow and Son, the son being out-of-wedlock, Elliot Reid played her somewhat shocked father, but the situation unfortunately shocked viewers of that day too much for the series to continue.

All of these men had a taste of how much trouble she can be, but having lasted twenty-five years with her, I feel I am the one who really deserves an award. Or possibly canonization. Or maybe both.

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