by Reid Fitzsimons
Now and then the usual suspects of the Republican establishment- the Mitch McConnell’s, John Kasich’s, etc- make meaningful, principled, and at times intelligent statements about any given issue or topic. Hence, it is generally disheartening, though occasionally amusing when, like a dog yanked back on a leash, they have to modify or retract them when faced with the accusations we’ve come to know so well: misogynist, various prefixes followed by “phobe,” and of course racist. One such phrase we have heard for years, usually during faux budget negotiations, is “They want to kill Big Bird.”
The origin the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and its entities of PBS and NPR extends back only to the 1960s and can be succinctly described as the product of Lyndon Johnson’s conflicted emotions. He viewed himself largely as an unsophisticated hick and, especially when associated with the cosmopolitan Kennedy’s, yearned for acceptance by the elites. From a policy standpoint this translated to a perhaps noble albeit Quixotic goal of “bringing the arts to the masses,” but in reality has meant decades of heavily subsidized entertainment for the educated and wealthy. Since inception tax dollars given to this therapy for Lyndon Johnson’s inner turmoil has probably totaled in the billions- for 2014 CPB alone received close to half a billion in tax dollars.
Not surprisingly, to be “for” tax funding of CPB, etc imparts an aura of lover of the “arts,” broadmindedness, sophistication, compassion, and humanity. To be “against” stigmatizes one as an uneducated right-wing nut who has an unnatural attraction to pick-up trucks and lives in fear of fluoridated water.
I am a little too old to have watched Sesame Street (premiered in 1969) and I’m ambivalent as to whether it has been truly educational without indoctrination or more of a guilt-free way to plop your kids down in front of the TV. One can state with a clear conscience, however, that the Sesame Street franchise has been shamelessly marketed for decades with great remunerative success (from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales; I not sure if this includes the exorbitant admission price I paid to see Sesame Street on Ice in 1988 when my son was two). Nevertheless, the accusation that “they want to kill Big Bird” recurrently engenders night sweats and tremors in congressional Republicans.
Certainly over 50 years PBS has provided us with some fine upscale programming (though the only time I saw any of Conan the Barbarian was curiously on a PBS station; I think there was some nudity, thank goodness). The issue is not whether they have some fine programming, the issue is who benefits. Let us be honest: people residing in Section 8 housing, various urban projects, and trailer parks aren’t glued to their radios listening to the Splendid Table (“…public radio's culinary culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone”) or animatedly guessing the value of that painting found in grandma’s attic on the Antiques Roadshow. The audience and demographic for the vast majority of PBS/NPR programming is certainly composed primarily of the wealthy and educated. Hence, a reasonable question is, are the rich deserving of tax-subsidized entertainment?
Last week I was up in the Adirondack Mountains south of Canada doing some house renovation work and was not well “connected.” On Thursday morning I did check e-mail and news and learned of the very newsworthy shooting of the house Republican Majority Whip and others. Seeking updates in an area of sparse radio coverage I reluctantly tuned in to the dreaded NPR morning programming, with the nauseatingly saccharine timbre, tone, and cadence of the announcers; as obnoxious as any equally saccharine pre-recorded Bible studies one hears on Christian radio. The half hour news summary finally came on and, just 24 hours after the shooting, the lead story was not the shooting but the continuing saga of the Trump/Russia investigation. The NPR editors placed the story of the attempted assassination of the Majority Whip in the second slot and pointedly emphasized authorities were examining possible motivations, failing to even mention the perpetrator wore his leftist progressive angst on his sleeve for all to see.
For NPR News, as with what is collectively called the mainstream media, maintaining the progressive narrative takes precedence over actual news reporting. Therefore it can only be Republicans and conservatives strutting about like Brown Shirts in 1920’s Munich looking to beat down people who look, sound, or think differently from themselves. The minds of progressives are so filled with happy thoughts that Love is Love and Love Trumps Hate that James Hodgkinson certainly could not have been motivated to murder by his progressive politics; there must have been another reason. Needless to say, if the victim had been a Democrat and the shooter politically motivated by right wing leanings, it would have consumed the NPR news cycle, with emphasis on the right wing part.
We’ve entered an unfortunate age where gross slanting of news by organizations traditionally considered objective is common. Nevertheless, subtle slanting- nuanced prioritizing of stories, things deftly said, implied, or omitted so as to obfuscate the facts at hand, etc, remains effective. It doesn’t take great talent to do this but somehow its practitioners are held in high esteem, much like Miley Cyrus is heralded as a “music artist.” PBS and NPR are exceedingly adept at this and understandably so: their biases are shared by their target audience, wealthy and educated progressives, who prefer to remain comfortable in the warm bosom of their cultural and political narratives.
The CPB/PBS/NPR franchise is like the Christian who fornicates on Saturday night then shouts “Praise Jesus” louder than anyone else in church the next morning. It’s not the adultery that is so exasperating per se, it’s the hypocrisy:
The myth that they are commercial free when in fact they run ads just like everyone else, with sponsors including massively wealthy corporations, elite progressive foundations and, depending on the program, local businesses. That they usually run the ads preceding or following their shows doesn’t mean they are not crass commercials, despite always being capped off by the quaint, “and viewers like you."
Undeniably they have at times aired excellent programs, including child oriented shows such as Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and perhaps Sesame Street. While I admittedly have not had success researching PBS/NPR demographics (one related stat I found is interesting- Thomas Corley, author of “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals,” found only 6% of the wealthy watch reality shows, while 78% of the poor do), it is doubtful the ostensible targeted audience- the masses- are significant consumers. Rather, support and occasional watching or listening to PBS/NPR has become essentially a litmus test for progressive acceptance.
While our cultural mindset is that receiving government funding somehow imparts legitimacy, PBS/NPR should be able to stand on its own or be fully propped up by its vocal and wealthy proponents. Let’s not fool ourselves- rich people, including the many who refuse to acknowledge their wealth, like to spend money on Self, generally to the exclusion of Others. The tax monies received by the CPB are not insignificant but could easily be replaced by its supporters, if they really believed in action versus utterances, and we could blessedly be free of this tedious funding debate. What the heck, if we finally end government funding I’ll make a pledge at the $60 level, and they don’t even have to send me the Kings of Dew-Wop CD collection.
It is a fantasy that CPB/PBS/NPR, being “non-profits,” are operated by benevolent people who are willing to sacrifice their material wealth for the greater good of their mission. Like televangelism, there is serious money to be had in the world of “non-profits.” Rather than taking the effort to place financial stats in prose form, I simply end with a listing of some examples of salaries-
Gary Knell, recently made the CEO of National Geographic, first began working for Sesame Street Workshop in 1989, became the COO in 1998, and CEO in 2000 until 2011, then CEO of NPR until 2013. In 2008 he was paid $956,513, and according to the 2013 IRS form 990 $743,575 for the covered year.
The form 990 for 2014 shows the CEO of the CPB was compensated with $418,574 during the pertinent year. Additionally, there were at least 15 other CPB officers that made at least $200,000 per year.
The PBS CEO was paid $962,594 for the period covered by the 2013 990.
Note these are compensation amounts at just the national level. There are hundreds of affiliate stations paying generous salaries: the 2014 990 for the Detroit PBS local shows the CEO making $378,343 and the Assistant Secretary $215,823; in 2010 or 2011 14 employees at the Boston affiliate WGBH made more than $200,000.
Lastly, a headline from the March 20, 2017 edition of USA Today:
Could Trump's 2018 budget kill Sesame Street's beloved Big Bird?
by Reid Fitzsimons
I spend a fair amount of time outside of the US, though less so than in prior years. In May of 2016, upon returning from 7 weeks in a rural area in Central America, I learned in the Atlanta airport that Donald Trump was assured the Republican nomination. I must say I felt a mix of disbelief and dismay, having never thought it was possible. Nevertheless, his opponent in the general election was so unappealing personally, politically, and philosophically that Hillary Clinton’s candidacy made voting for Trump tolerable.
I am admittedly an unabashed conservative and in general am pleased that Trump seems more inclined to support conservative positions than I envisioned. It is perplexing, however, that instead of offering cohesive arguments in a thoughtful manner and walking a straightforward path toward achieving policy goals, he meanders about needlessly kicking dogs and placing his hands wasp nests. Somehow he never learned the wisdom of thinking before opening his mouth.
by Reid Fitzsimons
George Michael, a British pop star who first achieved fame in the 1980s, died on Christmas Day at the age of 53. His death was likely caused by the scourge of wealthy music celebrities- his body/heart simply gave out after decades of abuse, mostly drugs. He was still a teenager when he first encountered star status, initially as part of a duo called Wham! After five years he transformed into a popular solo performer and continued active until recently. Some of his memorable songs were Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and Faith. In my opinion his songs were generally good in an era of some of the finest post-rock music (99 luftballons, If You Leave, most songs by the Cars) and some of the absolute worst, especially the precursors to Hip-Hop.
In his younger days of fame he was vibrant and handsome and the phrase “teen idol” could well have been applied to him. Much later after his fame and fortune were well established, in 1998, he publicly declared himself a homosexual following an arrest for public lewd behavior. At the time of his death his wealth was in the $130 million range.
by Reid Fitzsimons
Nobody knows how the Trump presidency will unfold. Perhaps he’ll enjoy the celebrity aspects of the office and leave the actual governing to (hopefully capable) advisors and administrators. Certainly there are conservatives who worry he’s in reality an in-the-closet progressive. He might prove to be erratic in word and action and need to be constrained by constitutional check and balances that all but disappeared during the Obama years, facilitated by feckless Republicans. Or perhaps he’ll prove to be a principled conservative, holding a gentle but steady hand on the rudder of state. Nobody knows at this moment, perhaps not even Trump himself.
What we do know is that on January 20, 2017 we will not have to be subjected to a shrill voice proclaiming, “We are women, and from shore to shore the entire world heard us roar,” or some such inanity that flows so readily from the mouth of Hillary Clinton. We can take pleasure in the knowledge that any number of despots and obscure manipulators of money and power will not be receiving the return on their investment: “for a ‘donation’ of xx million dollars to the Clinton Foundation, I can assure you when I’m in the White House I will…” Hillary and Bill will always have enormous amounts of money and with it will maintain a cadre of people to tell them they are wonderful, but absent power no one will have to listen to them.
by Reid Fitzsimons
From late 1982 to early 1986 I worked at a medium security Federal Prison. We ran the gamut from Mafioso to urban gang convicts to white-collar criminals, and lots of drug related convicts. Overall an interesting assortment of people with a fairly common thread: despite their crimes, and many were horrendous, the convicts could often present themselves as the nicest guys in the world. Seemingly a paradox until one realizes the nature of sociopathy, or antisocial personality disorder, in that the afflicted are driven to obtain whatever they desire, and to achieve their goal their behaviors can range from violent and murderous to affable and charming, whatever the situation may require. The object of their desire can vary widely and include material things and favors, money and sex, and all the way to domination over others. These are people without a conscience; they may know the concept of right and wrong exists but it doesn’t apply to them. Needless to say, to a sociopath lying is as natural as breathing.
Unfortunately for our country, considering the seemingly limitless amount money in the government coffers and increasing laws, rules, and regulations that allow government to wield unprecedented authority over the citizenry, opportunities abound for sociopaths in the world of politics. In Hillary Clinton we find we find the embodiment of a sociopath. She truly will do and say anything to realize her goal, which is inexhaustible self-aggrandizement. With the exception of abortion, in which she consistently revels, there is no position or belief she holds at a given moment that she won’t cavalierly contradict the next. I recall learning that in the same day she took a pro-Palestinian position while talking to a Palestinian group and a pro-Israeli position while talking to an Israeli organization. The continuing e-mail leaks confirm everything we know of her, her penchant for differing public and private policy positions, her lust for Wall Street money while publicly denouncing it, her (forced) amiability in appearances while angrily demeaning people she sees as beneath her when behind closed doors. And man does she lie.
Her opponent, in a convoluted manner, is almost refreshingly honest in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. He is boorish, crude, loutish, and coarse. He says vile, stupid, and outlandish things and offends even people who don’t take great pleasure in being offended. Like his opponent’s husband, he thrives in the porcine world, though apparently limiting himself to words as compared to Bill Clinton’s actions. No one really knows if he can be taken seriously, and in a bizarre way this is to his advantage: if everyone knows he’s buffoon he can be reasonably accommodated. The real danger in this election is that a soulless person, one who defines what is right exclusively by what benefits her, might well become President. Trump is clearly a blowhard, but I’ll take the blowhard over the sociopath without too much trepidation.
by Reid Fitzsimons (note: this is to be published under the heading No Excuse For Political Sign Defacement in the Forest City (Pennsylvania) News
Many people view Hillary Clinton unfavorably and even despicably, and not without justification. Were it not for a biological characteristic, her sex, she would have no significant political standing: her resume’ is as empty of gravitas as her policy ideas are vacuous, unoriginal, and exhausted. She comes across as shallow and insincere- not Presidential but much more like the director of some low-level government bureaucracy who achieved her position through sycophancy and scheming rather than competence. Still, I wonder if some degree of pathos can be felt for this shrill and unappealing person.
Consider her habitual lying. There is no doubt it reflects some degree of sociopathic drive for money and power, but I can’t help but think it protects her against her own unaccomplished self: an ardent feminist not self-made but husband made; a (faux) champion of the poor who amassed a tremendous fortune without earning it. This must be difficult if she has any degree of conscience. Perhaps by fabricating, for example, her story of dodging sniper fire in Bosnia, she becomes a courageous figure of some sort, if only in her own mind. It is possible she is the type of person for whom her own lies become truth; essentially a fantasy life that assuages her inadequacies.
During this campaign she has come to rely on the guise of experience as a shield of sorts. I spent most of my working years as a medical practitioner (PA) and knew too many practitioners who simply were not very good, and especially seemed incapable of learning from their mistakes. Given enough years of misdiagnosis and prescribing ineffective and even harmful therapies, even the worst could claim, “25 years of experience!” I’m sure most people who have spent time in the real world have known similar people.
The reason I am writing, however, is not simply to disparage Hillary Clinton. Her rival, while I will vote for him, sadly shares most of her failings, just not to the same degree. The other day driving through Wayne County I observed that several Hillary for President yard signs had been defaced. This behavior is unacceptable for people supporting Trump. While it can now to be expected from the Obama (punish your enemies) and Clinton (basket of deplorables) progressive left, who are intimidated and frightened by free speech and opposing ideas, it has no place for those who value Constitutional ideals. While it is inconceivable to me that anybody could support Hillary Clinton (perhaps with the exception of being in opposition to Trump), those who opt to lobby for her via signs or other means should be allowed to do so unimpeded. Trump supporters should not want to be viewed as cowards and thugs- leave that to the Clintonites.
by Reid Fitzsimons, more or less
If a raving lunatic, or a chronic prevaricator such as Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for that matter, proclaims the earth is round, does it make it less likely to be true? Notwithstanding it is conceivable Clinton would declare the earth flat for the right speaking fee, we accept the roundness of the earth as a fact. The reason I mention this is because I received one of those e-mails making the rounds ostensibly titled "A German's View on Islam" attributed to Dr. Emanuel Tanay, a well-known psychiatrist who died in 2014. It appears Dr. Tanay did not write the article, but rather it was authored by a Canadian named Paul Marek in 2006 under the title of “Why the Peaceful Majority is Irrelevant.” Needless to say, it’s always a good idea to check the provenance of things found on the Internet, though I have no idea why it was falsely attributed. If only I wrote an article that circulated for 10 years!
It is certainly possible I was the absolute last person in our round earth to find this article in my inbox, but in case others missed it (though the readership of this blog is probably in the single digits), it will be published here, mainly because it is reasonably compelling. For me, its theme is consistent with what I’ve experienced in the “third world,” for example the vast majority of people I’ve known in Honduras are peaceful, but crime, often violent, is nevertheless ubiquitous and underlies daily life in Honduras. Here is the article:
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.
'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come.' My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.
'We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is a religion of peace and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. 'Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.
'The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. 'It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers. 'The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent majority,' is cowed and extraneous.
'Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
'China 's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
'The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving?
'History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt. Yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our Enemy if they don't speak up. Like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them and the end of their world will have begun.
'Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.
'Now Islamic prayers have been introduced in Toronto and other public schools in Ontario, and, yes, in Ottawa, too, while the Lord's Prayer was removed (due to being so offensive? The Islamic way may be peaceful for the time being in our country until the fanatics move in.
'In Australia, and indeed in many countries around the world, many of the most commonly consumed food items have the halal emblem on them. Just look at the back of some of the most popular chocolate bars, and at other food items in your local supermarket. Food on aircraft has the halal emblem just to appease the privileged minority who are now rapidly expanding within the nation's shores.
'In the U.K, the Muslim communities refuse to integrate and there are now dozens of "no-go" zones within major cities across the country that the police force dare not intrude upon. Sharia law prevails there, because the Muslim community in those areas refuse to acknowledge British law.
'As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts - the fanatics who threaten our way of life.'
'Lastly, anyone who doubts that this issue is not serious and just deletes this email without sending it on, is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand.
Extend yourself a bit and send this on. Let us hope that thousands world-wide read this, think about it, and send it on before it's too late, and we are silenced because we were silent!!
by Reid Fitzsimons
On election night 1982 I was in my 1974 Datsun pick-up truck pulled over to the side of the road outside of Lake Placid, NY, listening to the returns. I was just about to start my first job as a Physician Assistant (PA) at a nearby Federal Prison. Being frugal by nature and not excessively wealthy, my hotel that night was the back of the pick-up. The big race was for the Governor of NY, pitting the Lieutenant Governor Mario Cuomo against zillionaire Lewis Lehrman. Cuomo shared the biography of many, if not most, politicians: college, law school, law practice, politics. Lehrman was born rich but his life has been (he’s still around) multifaceted, interesting, and reasonably accomplished, plus he’s not a lawyer (Cuomo’s parents were “penniless” immigrants from Italy but it seems had reasonable success with a grocery store in Queens). Cuomo won in a pretty close contest and thus began his long run as Governor of NY (and my mostly continuous 25-year run as a resident of the NY and the Adirondack Mountains).
Cuomo became a darling of the left (A “Liberal Beacon” proclaimed the NY Times in his 2015 obituary), but like many spineless politicians he tried to be two things at once- specifically a Catholic in good standing and ardent pro-abortionist. And he generally succeeded, at least politically (doubtful in regards to Christian salvation, going to Heaven and all that), but NY voters lead the way in hearing only what they want to hear. The basic spiel is this: “I’m personally opposed to abortion (usually abortion but it can be other topics as well) but I can’t force my beliefs on others.” This reasoning has always sounded vacuous and cowardly to me, but seems to be a mainstay of modern US politics. At times I’ve yearned to hear a candidate say something like, “I am personally opposed to abortion and the voters should know that about me, and I’d be glad to discuss the basis of my belief.” In other words, a credible person stands up for his or her beliefs, whereas Mario Cuomo demonstrated his cowardice as he ejaculated from both sides of his mouth: “I’m personally opposed to abortion but (essentially) will do everything in my power to facilitate and promote abortion.”
by Reid Fitzsimons
Barak Obama is a liar, which is not a preposterous thing to say. Bad people lie and good people lie. Sometimes lies are told out of cowardice, other times to help a person through a troubled period, sometimes to facilitate a seemingly greater good, and other times to facilitate a selfishly desired goal. At times people lie to themselves, at times to others, and sometimes to both. Politicians are probably more accomplished liars than average though some are notoriously unskilled and hence entertaining, Richard Nixon, Gary Hart, and John Edwards being examples. The Clintons are not particularly adept at lying in that the truth eventually reveals itself. Their success is based more on the concept found in the lyrics of Are You Lonesome Tonight- “I'd rather go on hearing your lies than to go on living without you.” As difficult as it may be for a rational person to accept, just as there are people who actually watch and receive pleasure from morning network news programs and reality shows, there are masses totally enamored with Bill and Hillary. The Clintons may not be particularly adept liars but they know their intended audience, and this has served them well for many years.