Archive for December, 2015

Enough, already!

Author: admin

We here on the central Oregon coast have been concerned about rain – or the lack of it – for the last several years. Rain is not usually seen as a nuisance in these parts. It’s our life blood. For many reasons. But we’re catching up. And I’m more than ready for some blue sky. Damn, it’s wet!

Since 2012, rivers have been too low for many of the Salmon to reach their spawning grounds. That’s adversely impacted both commercial and sport fishing industries. What river flows there have been are reaching the ocean too warm for several fish and animal species. Starfish are almost gone. Sea anemones are disappearing. Many sea lions and otters have been forced further North to find colder waters. Lobster and crab seasons have been less than record-setting. All because of a stretch of unusually low rainfall.

But we’ve had some recent relief. We’re wet. Boy, are we wet! The last couple of months we’ve been so soaked the animals are walking in twos. I’ve been to the dictionary three times to check the length of a cubit. We are – to put it dryly – soaked.

“How wet is it,” you ask?

Well, let’s take our own little coastal puddle as an example. First 22 days of December, we had just over 22 inches. Average an inch a day. Rained every damned day! Double normal December rainfall. A good number of folks from Waldport to Tillamook have been flooded out. In one Newport neighborhood, an elderly lady just made it out the front door before her house split right down the middle and half of it slid 70 feet into a ravine. Highway 101 – our asphalt link to each other – has several places where guardrail posts are hanging exposed over open space left when slides took out the earth underneath. Other places where pavement has shifted, lifted or sunk.

Between Roseburg on I-5 and the coast, Highway 42 is the main route. It’s closed by a slide that won’t quit moving. Transportation folks say it could be several months before there’s even one-way traffic. You can stand there and hear the trees crack as the ground keeps moving downhill under them.

But, let’s put all this wet excess in perspective. The whole State of Oregon gets about 42 inches of rain a year. Pretty dry over on the Eastern side so the average statewide is higher West of the Cascades. Coastal average is over 70 inches. Still, it’s pretty liveable. Most of the time. On average.

But we do have our special occasions – to put it mildly. The day after Christmas, 1926, the stretch from Newport to Lincoln city got hit with – are you ready for this – 10.98 inches in 24 hours. In 24 hours! Imagine what that would do in your own neighborhood. Pictures taken in the aftermath of that 1926 soaking show nearly all roads impassable – hardly a building left undamaged. In some places, hardly a building left all, in fact.

So, with those numbers and images in mind, our inch-a-day so far this month seems liveable. But it’s going to take several years of more-than-average rainfall to mend the fishery and habitat damages we’ve already seen. Local fishermen say they have to go many miles further away from the shoreline to find the usual schools of fish. Also, most of ‘em are using heavier weights to get nets to sink lower where the colder water is.

Oh, lodging and restaurant businesses have been cutting a fat hog during our extended dry spell. Tourist traffic – and the resulting tourist room taxes – have set records. To the joy of local governments. Just one happy headline after another. But, those are just short term benefits of more than the usual amount of sunshine. The downside – and their certainly is one – is logging, fishing, crabbing and other outdoor industries have quietly lost ground without the usual rainfall. We’ll need an awful lot of wetness to make up for our long dry spell. It’ll take years.

So, as usual, Mother Nature seems to delight in feeding the needs of some of the population at a some cost to the rest. Whichever way it goes, somebody makes a buck and somebody else loses one.

But, consider this. With the resultant widespread coastal damages we’ve seen with our less-than-record rainfall of the past several years – not to mention that 1926 gully-washer – how do you suppose we’ll fare when that “big one” hits? When the ocean is pushed onshore 50-90 feet high at 75-100 miles an hour? Given what we know about what’s been – and it ain’t been nearly anything like that – what will be left around here? Who will be left around here?

Aw, maybe we can live with an inch of rain a day. But I’ll still cuss every time I take the dog out.

The Christmas dead

Author: admin

Christmas presents a number of challenges for me. The first is I’m not a shopper. I’m a buyer. Need new jeans? Go from car to Men’s Department – find my size – go to cashier – back to car. Ten minutes flat! Now that’s buying. Anything more is painful.

Except Christmas. Because, personally, there’s one significant difference this time of year; something that makes the pain of “shopping” more bearable. And that’s listening to the sounds of all the dead singers coming over the sound system at the mall. Really brightens things up.

Think about it. Listen for it. Bing Crosby – Rosemary Clooney – Karen Carpenter – Perry Como – Eddy Arnold – Sammy Davis Jr. – Nat Cole – Mel Torme – Burl Ives – Ella Fitzgerald – Frank Sinatra – Dean Martin – the Andrews Sisters – Andy Williams – Patti Page – Margaret Whiting – Elvis. All dead. Except at Christmas. At the mall.

These people were recording Christmas songs before most of today’s shoppers were born. Now they’re gone. Except at Christmas. Then we – pardon the words – dig ‘em up. All of ‘em. Every year.

I’m a child of radio. I listened to Ed Murrow from London in the early ‘40’s on my little bedside Philco while doing grade school homework. All the mystery shows, the comedies, variety shows and the news. Those were my childhood friends. I knew ‘em all.

For about four decades, radio and television provided me with a fine life of earning a living, travel, one-of-a-kind experiences and making friends. TV was a large part of it but radio was where I felt most at home. Television “is.” What you see is what you get. But radio was “whatever-you-wanted-it-to-be.” Nobody else in the whole world – nobody – visualized the Green Hornet exactly the way I did. When Superman leapt over a tall building, mine was the tallest that ever was!

When you had such deeply ingrained memories of what was possible with radio, who wouldn’t want to grow up and be a part of it? I sure did. Until radio, as I knew it – as it was intended to be – died. Starting in the ‘80’s.

My last broadcasting job was in radio. And one day – I just quit. Cold turkey. Radio was gone. Time for me to go, too. Listen now. Pick anyone of three major content categories and listen. Really listen. All sound alike.

Radio is primarily a for-profit product these days. And most of the stations – too damned many of them – are not owned by professional broadcasters any more. Now, majority ownership is “chains” – some with hundreds of outlets. They’ve got investors and stockholders and bean-counters with ex-time salesmen for managers. Bottom line determines programming – not originality. Medford radio – Eugene Radio – Boise radio – Olympia radio. Run up and down the dial and you won’t find any real differences.

It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just “is.” When “The Gipper’s” Federal Communications Commission deregulated radio, it became a Monopoly game with buyers hoarding radio licenses. Buy ‘em. Sell ‘em. Trade ‘em. Pile ‘em up. It just “is.”

So, I go to the mall at Christmas because that’s where my “friends” are. Bing, Ella, Rosemary, Frank, Andy and all the rest. There’s almost no place for them in today’s fractured radio world that’s looking for the 18-to-28-year old demographic of the ratings services.

Well, my “friends” may be as dead as yesterday’s Limbaugh flatulence on today’s airwaves. But they’ll always be at the mall. I’ve tried to picture “Jingle Bells” done by Pink Floyd. Doesn’t work. How ‘bout “Let it Snow; Let It Snow” by Miley Cyrus? No? Maybe “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” by Led Zepplin?” Ugh! Or “Silent Night” by Madonna? Guess not.

Every generation’s “musicians” make Christmas albums. You hear a new one once in awhile. Or more likely catch one of their videos. Usually country/western. They’re out there. For a year or two. Then gone.

They’ll never be played on background music at the mall any time soon. They won’t be purchased for our personal music collections in anything like the numbers of “White Christmas” recordings by Ol’ Bing. So my question is this. How long can these dead-but-talented-spirits be resurrected each year? Digitally “dug up,” as it were? Even with all those contemporary “flash-in-the-pan” folks recording soon-to-be-forgotten Christmas noise, will we be hearing Rosemary and Mel and Nat for the next century or so?

The answer is, I think, yes. Because there is a quality of permanence in what they did. Because they did it once. They did it simply. They did it right. No echo chambers. No multi-track overdubbing. Except for Les
Paul. It was “Christmas lightning” in a bottle.

Well, off to the mall. Ella and Frank are going to “be there” from 2 to 2:15 this afternoon.

(This column originally appeared in 2013. But some other “ mall listeners-to-the-dead” asked for the repeat. So we dug it up.)

A media swamp

Author: admin

Along with all the fundamental societal changes going on, over, under and around us these days, the media is wandering into a swamp from which it won’t escape in anything recognizable or familiar. In fact, on the national level, it’s already there.

Though I’ve spent much of my life in and around a lot of media, unless you’re a stranger to these irregular musings, you know I’ve become one of its more severe critics. Trust, balance, accuracy, responsibility – all have eroded. To find such descriptive media qualities, you’ve now got to ignore much of it, and go searching for what little remains that’s worth your time. That search is getting more difficult.

The swamp – as I’ve begun to call it – is this. While all media has traditionally been relied upon to report, some are now taking on the irresponsible additional step of deciding what’s true and what’s not and mixing the two. Rather than report and letting you decide, which as been the basic maxim historically, media outlets have entered into the “we-report-we’ll-tell-you-what-to-believe” mode.

This phenomenon has been around for some time, but it’s being raised to a new level. It now involves more of the traditional “straight down the middle” institutions who’ve used editorial and opinion pages in the past for expressing viewpoints or positions on this, that and the other.

No more. And if you want to pinpoint where much of the change recently began, look no further than the Republican Presidential Primary. In fact, you can hone it down even more. It’s spelled T-R-U-M-P.

For many years, larger newspapers and some TV outlets have used what they euphemistically called “fact check” features. While reporting the basic event, they’d set aside some space or time to “fact check” and note where the subject of their coverage veered into half-truths or no truths. That’s been considered acceptable and with which I have no problem.

But now, things have gone beyond that to glaring headlines of criticism or opinion. Stories now too often lead with something like “Trump crazily attacks Bush.” Or “Trump irresponsibly harkens to practices of Nazis.” Or “The Donald falsely blames Obama for inaction.” A headline designed to get you to read by adding a twist of sensationalism and opinion. Right wing media has done that for many years. Now, more moderate and mainstream media have joined in.

I’ve a theory for this unsavory practice. For what it’s worth, I think Trump – and in some cases Cruz, Fiorina, Carson, Huckabee and others – have made such outrageous statements or claims that editors and publishers finally felt it was time to openly rebut. I used to often feel that way. But an old friend – for whom I have much respect – always said “You report and let the audience/reader sort it out.” He was right. Then.

But the level of political discourse has, I believe, become so filled with half-truths, irresponsible claims and outright lies that much of the media has stepped over the line. Additionally, the fact that Trump – in particular – can utter such bald-faced lies and not lose support, has driven the media into this swamp. He continues his inflammatory and fact-less campaign saying things that should have killed him in the polls. But it hasn’t. And in some polls, his support has risen.

Where my wise friend offered good advice 40 years ago, we’re seeing daily proof that too many people – especially those supporting Trump and Cruz – don’t know enough about their government or true conditions today to be able to “sort it out.” Or don’t care. I’ve watched interviews with more than one Trump follower who acknowledge his lies about something but say all politicians lie and they would just ignore Trump’s B.S..

Trump and some of the others are playing to fears of these folks – educated or not – with racist demagoguery, religious bigotry and offering false promises of security and setting everything right. Back to where it was. Before the fears. In doing so, they’re playing to people who want reassurances – honest or not – that things will “get back to normal.”

The Republican presidential campaign has, thus far, been an embarrassment to the nation, the world and – especially – to what remains of the GOP. It’s been filled with totally unqualified candidates, spouting verbal garbage and showing their ignorance of how our government works. When it works. Billionaires have gutted the party by going around it with their bags of bucks and have tossed Prebius and what remains into the gutter. No one – no one – is stepping up to salvage the Republican Party and restore it as our second national political representative which we badly need.

Still, from a perspective of responsible journalism, there’s no excuse for the national media being both the reporter and the debunking mechanism as it’s now doing. This campaign will – God willing – end some day soon. Whoever’s left standing – Republican or Democrat – is going to have to pick up the pieces and form a functioning government. And we’ll need a responsible media to help inform and restore public faith in that new government. That can’t happen if the national media has made itself into some sort of judgmental messenger.

Trump, Huckabee, Fiorina, Huckabee and some others are – in my opinion – unfit for public office at any level. But a media openly judging and denouncing our affairs as “reporting”scares me even more.

Ignoring the cancer

Author: admin

“BREAKING: In __________, a tragic situation leaving ______ dead and, with no known motive and few details, still confirms our opinion about ____________.“ (Ron Fournier in the National Journal this morning, the day after San Bernardino.)

Fournier is being sarcastic, of course. Maybe. Or, maybe he’s just trying to make it easier for the media to report on the latest carnage by not upsetting anybody. Just fill in the blanks. Maybe sarcasm best describes the callousness of a nation refusing to act.

Well, I’m damned upset! If I hear one more political son-of-a-bitch spout the words “thoughts and prayers” after mass murder in this nation, I’m prepared get the 12- gauge out of the closet. Talk, talk, talk while innocent Americans die, die, die!

The President has warned us of the dangers of starting to take such events as commonplace because there have been so many of them. And, because there has been absolutely no commitment on the part of our society to take a single step to stop this maniacal savagery. None!

It would be easy – and wrong – to lay all blame for this national cowardice at the feet of a Congress terrified to act because of an outsized concern for personal future employment at the public trough. A lot of it correctly goes there. Just not all of it. What’s happening in your city hall, the courthouse, your statehouse? Anyone in your neighborhood who can write legislation or an ordinance or put new laws on the books in any form working feverishly to get it done? Didn’t think so.

Oh, we give it lots of lip service. We tell each other how sick and awful this unchallenged attack is. We grieve and wring our collective hands about another shooting “somewhere else.” We do it each time it happens. But what’s being done to stop it?

We’ve become cleverly artistic designing barricades out front of many buildings. We’ve gotten better disguising video cameras so they’re not intruding so we can continue with our false sense of both security and privacy. We’ve come to expect armed guards, body scanners, barefoot strolls around airports and looking at ourselves on monitors in banks, government buildings and even some theaters. We’re coping really well while armed murderers learn to work their way around our latest “barricades.” (More sarcasm there.)

As a society, we keep coming up with all sorts of mental nostrums to deal with the aftermath of these multiple, unprovoked killings. But we’ve not done a damned thing to remove the underlying cancer eating the guts of our collective security. Getting guns and other weapons of destruction out of the hands of the sick and deranged. Or anyone else who violently attacks our society. Not one damned thing. We’re treating symptoms and cleaning up after each new slaughter but ignoring the obvious steps demanded to end the killing.

Outside of more cops in our schools and insane talk of arming teachers, what’s been done since Newtown to protect our kids and grandkids? Has putting armed guards inside and outside Planned Parenthood clinics ended the murders of innocents? Is there a single college campus safer now than 10 years ago because enlightened leaders have done enlightened things? With thousands of cameras and mental detectors hidden in stores, are we less likely to see someone blasting away as shoppers dive for cover? Have we ended sniper attacks on our highways? How about theaters? Churches?

The only possible answers to all those queries is a shouted national “NO!” We’ve done nothing. And, if we keep treating the NRA as some sort of above-reproach protector of the bastardized Second Amendment, we’ll continue doing nothing. Despite the continuing slaughter of unsuspecting innocents who happen to be in the “wrong place” at the “wrong time.”

As a society, we’re bombarded by the NRA and gun fanatics – who may or may not be members – that “Obama is after your guns.” Membership campaigns are based on this B.S.. And, despite absolutely no proof, they succeed. And we let ‘em!

Speaking of that Second Amendment garbage about gun ownership being guaranteed because of the Constitution, retired SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens has an answer for that. Insert five words – just five – in that paragraph. His wording would read “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms – WHEN SERVING IN THE MILITIA – shall not be infringed.” Seems to me that would put some common sense back into the original words written by the authors a couple of hundred years ago.

Republican presidential candidates are a national embarrassment (again) as they pander for votes after another mass murder. Carly Fiorina said “liberals are wrong” to blame those phony abortion videos for what happened in Colorado Springs. She says that after (a) the makers of the trash admitted the falsity of their work and (b) the shooter told police there would be “no more baby parts” harvested there. With any luck at all, the wicked witch of H-P will melt away when cold water is poured on her latest fraudulent presidential ambitions .

We’re facing many serious national problems. But, before we can begin solving them, we MUST first secure the safety of citizens insofar as government can do that. It may mean replacing a significant number of politicians with folks who have the determination and guts to end this weaponry nightmare – to put the NRA Hydra back in its box – to shout “NO” to interests trying to keep unfettered access to guns the “law of the land.”

The Second Amendment also talks of the necessity of “the security of a free state.” We’re long overdue in quoting those words long and loud! What the Hell is it going to take? And when the Hell is it going to start?

Facts often hard to find

Author: admin

I’ve been a morning news hound most of my life. New information and several cups of black coffee usually kickstart my days. Guess that extra time is a retirement benefit. Gotten so I don’t fully trust any one portion of the media now so I scan about a dozen sources, cross-checking for accuracy. That’s a handy thing to do – especially in the last few years.

Several reasons, I believe. First, newspapers are disappearing. And not just in small towns. Some gone forever. For others, new electronic versions replacing them. While usually more flashy and formatted for easier reading, they’re not as “newsy” as their print forebearers. Stories are fewer and shorter. “Consultants” – bastards of the media business – have ordered “shorter, peppier, crisper, lighter.” Nothing about more accurate.

Second reason I check more sources is for facts. Like a lot of things these days, that accuracy “ain’t what it used to be.” Sometimes the “facts” are wrong. Sometimes writing is so filled with spelling, grammatical and informational errors you have to read several times to figure out what the facts are. Here are a few examples just this morning. Somewhat unimportant, I grant, but they make a point.

Huffington Post promoting a feature story with a picture showing actors Don Knotts and Myron McCormick. The cutline was about life in “Mayberry” promoting reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Problem is the picture was from a 1958 movie entitled “No Time For Sergeants.” McCormick never appeared on the Griffith show. Small thing? Yes.

HuffPo again. Headline about the latest cop killing in Chicago and how the damning video of the murder came to light. International headline read “Blowing the Whitsle.” Another small thing? Yes. But around the world.

More and more, I’m seeing headlines like these: “Car loses control” or “Driver killed after crash.” Cars don’t “control” or “lose control;” The driver – if you read the story – was killed instantly when the car hit that tree.
Story in our local weekly this morning about the end of a long highway construction project that’s been a headache. The line: “Roadway improvement project is new completion.” Small? Yes, again..

Or how about this? Last week, national media was headlining the shooting down of a Russian jet over Turkey. In nearly all coverage, the reference – headline and body copy – has been about the two “pilots.” Over and over again. Problem? No jet fighter has two “pilots. Just one. The other is a crewman – usually a weapons officer who’s NOT a pilot.

Most of these examples are small, I grant. But, if you can find so many in so many places, it’s reasonable to become suspicious of reporting on more significant events. And this doesn’t even speak to the constant wrong reporting of events in a true “breaking” story because all sources want to be “first” rather than “accurate.” But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Here’s a personal third thought about so much misreporting. I’ve long maintained the way to truly corrupt a good reporter is to insist on attendance at a journalism school. “J” schools have long been an unreliable training ground for reporters. Might make a resume look good but that’s all. Give me a bright, strong liberal arts or history major with an outsized sense of curiosity. If they want to know how things work, why things work, what really happened and what it means, I’ll teach ‘em to spell and write. Just keep following that curiosity and the rest of us will do the backup.

We’ve never lived in a time when more information has been so easily available. Problem is, we’re not being informed of what we need to know. Few newspapers regularly report on – or staff – city hall, courthouse or the school board. Broadcasters only go when there’s likely to be controversy. Or “visuals.” Yet most government news truly affecting us comes out of city halls, courthouses and statehouses. When TV “reporters” do go, they usually come late, grab someone near the door and ask what’s been going on and how that person feels about it. That’s not news.

Newspaper and broadcast chains are gobbling up local news outlets. New management often has no local ties or background. Fender-benders, personal hygiene tips, care of the family dog, what’s new in Hollywood and how to more effectively deal with a bad complexion make up the content of too many local broadcasts. About once a month, I try to watch one. Haven’t gotten past five minutes in years.

I’ve spent most of this adult life in and around media and I’d like to ask you a question and issue a warning. The question: why does the national media staff Trump daily speaking appearances for cut-ins if he should say anything controversial? Or exceedingly stupid? They all do it. But what about Sanders or Kasich or Clinton or Bush? Any of them regularly staffed for “breaking news? Is CNN or Fox ready to pounce there, too? No way.

And the warning: be careful what you accept as fact. You may hear something you want to hear – something that affirms what you already think. But is it fact? Right or left? Is it true? Have you checked any other source for the same “facts?” I do. Every day. Old habit. And, every day, I find “facts” at odds with truth or what really happened. Or what was really said.

In too many instances, accountability and responsibility for accurate reporting has been lost. We now read, watch and listen at our peril.