Category Archives: Media

“You’re Hired”

NOTE TO TUCKER CARLSON: The following is what is known as satire. Stephen Colbert and Triumph the Insult Dog suggested I remind you of that.

MAN’S VOICE: Washington, DC is a real jungle, and if you’re not careful, it can chew you up and spit you out. But if you don’t care about the rule of law or the Constitution, you can really hit it big, I mean really big.

Good evening, I’m Donald Trump and welcome to The Apprentice: Sedition Edition.

Tonight, five teams will compete to see who can come up with the best way to stage a coup and and keep me out of prison. Let’s meet the teams and their captains. First, we have The Big Liars and captain Roger Stone. [Applause]

STONE: Our coup strategy is to convince people the only way you can lose is if it is rigged. Our motto? You can never start too early. [Applause]

TRUMP: Roger, a chip off the old block. I love it. Next, The Early Birds and Captain Rudy Giuliani. [Applause]

GIULIANI: We’re going to show you how to stage a coup by declaring victory before all the votes are counted. Let’s here it folks. STOP THE COUNT! STOP THE COUNT! [Applause]

TRUMP: That’s what I love about you Rudy. Everybody else thinks that’s a stupid idea, but I can dig it. Next we have The Batshit Lawyers and their captain Sydney Powell. [Applause]

POWELL: We plan to wear down the competition by filing hundreds of frivolous law suits. We call it the spaghetti against the wall strategy. [Applause]

TRUMP: Sydney, you’re making me hungry with all that spaghetti talk. Next up is The Alternate Electors and who else would you want at the helm than John Eastman. [Applause]

EASTMAN: It’s an honor to be here. As we love to say, two slates in the hand is better than one in the Pence. [Applause]

TRUMP: I don’t know, John. You’re talking about coordinating over a hundred people in six states. That’s a bigly ask. And last but not least, Team Hanging Loose with co-captains Proud Boy Enrique Tarrio and Oath Keeper Stewart Rhodes. [Applause]

TARRIO: C’mon patriots. Three cheers for the red, black and blue. [Applause]

TRUMP: Mike, are you watching?

Just to remind our audience, here’s how it works. Each team has one week to implement its strategy. The judges, the offspring from my first marriage–Don, Jr., Ivanka and The Other One–will grade each team’s performance. The team with the lowest score is eliminated. The other teams get to come back for round two where they each will be asked to come up with more ways to get those chumps, I mean supporters, to continue sending us monthly donations for the Not-a-Fund.

The competition ends when there is only one team left. And each member of that team wins a nomination to the cabinet position of his or her choice in my next administration.

So, let’s begin and don’t forget, you get extra points for flattery and butt kissing. See you next week.

ANNOUNCER: The preceding program was brought to you by My Pillow, the perfect bedding to cover your head when the FBI comes knocking at your door with a search warrant. And Goya Foods, when you want to be as full of beans as the conspiracy theories you’re spreading.

For what it’s worth.

No We Khan’t

Always in search of the next entrepreneurial opportunity, I took note of two media trends that have dominated American television for decades. First is the remake of British TV shows for a domestic audience. Among the most notable are “American Idol,” hand carried to our shores by Simon Cowell following his success in the London-based “Pop Idol,” “The Office” modeled after Ricky Gervais’ hit of the same title, and “All in the Family,” a doppelganger of “Till Death Us Do Part.”

The second trend is the willingness to tweak a successful format as many ways as possible to make up for the lack of new ideas among the Hollywood and New York entertainment elite. Which brings me back to “American Idol” which has spawned a plethora of increasingly gimmicky and excruciating imitations. “The Voice.” “The Masked Singer.” “I Can See Your Voice.” “Sing On!” “Lip Sync Battle.” “Rhythm + Flow.” “Songland.” And the most recent “Alter Ego,” on which the performers don motion capture suits to become on-stage avatars.

Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan Opposes Trump's Immigration Ban - The New York  Times

Which brings me to my latest venture, a British version of the award-honored American series “Ted Lasso.” The creative twist? Instead of fiction, it is a pseudo-documentary in which the owner of a successful British football team buys an NFL franchise in hopes of a similar level of achievement. It stars Pakistani-born billionaire Shahid Khan who purchased the flailing Fulham Cottagers in 2013. Fulham was on the verge of relegation (demotion) from the Premier League (MLB equivalent) to the Championship League (AAA equivalent). Five years later Fulham was again promoted to the Premier League.

How did they do it? Khan hired his son Tony as Fulham’s director of operations, the NFL equivalent of general manager. He changed managers (read head coach) four times.

In 2009, Khan expresses interest in American sports and seeks the advice of Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the basketball Phoenix Suns and baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. In an interview with the New York Times, Colangelo states, “His interest was specifically football, but he may have mentioned baseball, too.” (Indecision about which sport one knows the least is never a good sign.) Two years later he makes an offer to purchase the Jacksonville Jaguars and receives approval of the sale by NFL owners in December 2011.

Confident the system he used to return Fulham to the Premier League would work in America, Khan appoints son Tony as “chief football strategy officer” (whatever that is) and brings in a new head coach Mike Mularkey (please, no Joe Biden jokes), the first of five such changes over nine years.

After five losing seasons, the 2017 campaign appeared to vindicate Khan’s ownership when the 10-6 Jaguars made it to the AFC championship game. Convinced he had conquered one more world, Khan turned to another “sports” venture, creation of All Elite Wrestling, a new professional wrestling circuit to compete with the McMahons WWE.

2017 proved to be an anomaly. Despite additions such as Urban “Khan: This time I got it right.” Meyer as head coach and overall #1 draft choice quarterback Trevor Lawrence, fans have suffered through four disappointing seasons with the last two at the very bottom of the NFL standings.

This is not the script Khan had written for his foray into western hemisphere athletics. So, at the end of season one, Khan considers pulling the Jaguars out of the NFL to establish a new league, All Elite Football modeled after AEW with stars like Trevor “Pretty Boy” Lawrence and Cam “The Enforcer” Robinson. That should produce a script Khan can relish.

If BBC does not think “No I Khan’t” communicates the premise, maybe they would prefer “Ted Losso.”

For what it’s worth.

Pundit, Heal Thyself

The past 24 hours have been one of those synchronistic moments that only make sense when you make the connection between seemingly unrelated events.

The events:

  • I received an email from a friend seeking advice about the future of the non-profit organization she co-founded 15 years ago.
  • I sent an email to another friend explaining why I have stopped reading op-eds in the Washington Post and New York Times.
  • This morning, I perused the home page of NYTimes.COM.
  • I then turned on the TV to see what is happening in Ukraine.

The connection:

  • The best advice I could give my first friend was something I learned during my days managing the social entrepreneurship portfolio at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. The only difference between a for-profit and non-profit entity is the nomenclature and what are allowable uses for net revenue. Survival is the same in both cases. Strategically, are you creating enough value to generate customers/members and investors/donors? If so, success depends on offering the right products/services, delivery, marketing, etc.
  • When I explained to my second friend, I have lost interest in people’s opinion versus reporting of facts, she replied, “Well, if everyone quit reading op-eds, you’d have no readers.” Touché.
  • Among the list of op-ed links on the Times’ home page was the following. “Four Times Opinion Columnists on What They Want Joe Biden to Say Tonight.”
  • “Morning Joe” opens with the following panel in their DC and NYC studios: co-hosts Joe, Mika, and Willie Geist plus Katty Kay (former BBC anchor), Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Financial Times national editor Ed Luce and Politico White House Correspondent Jonathan Lemire.
  • I immediately turned to CNN where the morning show hosts were merely directing traffic among correspondents in several Ukraine locations, Moscow and the Poland/Ukraine border crossing.

So let me begin pulling this together with a quote often attributed to Mark Twain but actually of unknown origin. “All generalizations are false, including this one.”

The friend who questioned my own writing went on to say, “Of course, I believe facts are important, but all facts exist in context.” And there lies the rub. Some essays on the op-ed page do provide context. For example, to understand the nonsense of Vladimir Putin’s claims about the innate union between Russia and Ukraine you need to look at the history of the region over many centuries. Or review the Russian president’s public statements that are evidence of Putin’s personal outrage over Western dismissal of his country following the demise of the USSR.

Which brings me to the future of Deprogramming101. When I started this blog five and a half years ago, the mission statement ended as follows. “The ultimate goal is not to find RIGHT answers, it is to promote the asking of BETTER questions.” And I have admittedly violated that strategic goal on occasion. But if that mission statement still has value, I need to reexamine the product by which I deliver that value.

When I return to full-time blogging I hope to be more true to the original goal. To promote counter-intuitive thinking. And not being satisfied with an adequate answer, but always looking for the next right answer.

Believing that good questions are still the best way to achieve those goals, allow me to use the coverage of the war in Ukraine as an example.

  • Why do cable news networks pay their “contributors,” e.g. pundits, between $31,000 and $570,000 annually instead of beefing up news bureaus around the world?
  • When did “Meet the Press” and other Sunday talk shows become “A Meeting of the Press,” with panels of journalists chatting among themselves instead of concentrating on holding leaders’ feet to the fire to explain or justify their policies and programs?
  • What is different about the Russian invasion of Ukraine from the 1991 Iraq invasion of Qatar when Western military forces had no problem defending Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s army?
  • Why did Russian media use terms like “we will be welcomed as liberators” and “shock and awe” or trumped up justifications to prepare the Russian people for the impending invasion?
  • And finally, why aren’t historical data and facts which provide context not part of news reporting instead of being labeled as op-ed essays? Has the news industry, print and broadcast, contributed to the plethora of disinformation by failing to differentiate between reporting and opinion?

Consider the historical context of these last questions. Before digital news media, the Washington Post and New York Times had an editorial page. Today, they place links to opinion pieces at the top of their home pages right next to the lead stories. And local news broadcasts used to have editorials at the end of the show. But they were delivered by the station owner or general manager, not the news anchor.

I wonder if a return to separating fact from opinion could make a difference as it did a half century ago. Walter Cronkite did not accelerate opposition to the war in Vietnam because he personally disagreed with the Johnson administration or General Westmoreland. He left the comfort of his studio desk and reported the facts on the ground from the combat arena.

Ironically, of the three cable news networks, CNN (“The most trusted name in news”) and MSNBC (“This is who we are”) have let Fox (“We report, you decide”) claim the high ground. I can only wonder, was Shakespeare watching Fox News programming when he coined the phrase, “More honoured in the breach than the observance?”

I question, you decide!

For what it’s worth.

Cavett Emptor

Blogger’s Note: I started drafting this post in mid-December while making my list of Festivus grievances. But, as often happens, the narrative did not come together and the partially completed entry was relegated to the “drafts” folder. However, my desire to share the content was energized by two recent events.

Last Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine included an essay by Anna Peele titled, “How do you host television in 2022?” Peele suggests the lack of civility in our every day political and cultural discourse demands a rethinking of the role of talk show hosts. She further claims several TV hosts including Seth Meyers, Ziwe, Padma Lakshmi, Andy Cohen and Keke Palmer have successfully made the transition. Peele focused on how each of these entertainers interacted with their guests.

What Peele failed to address is a more existential question, “When is a talk show not a talk show?”

Look up “The Tonight Show” on It is described as “an American late-night talk show that has aired on NBC since 1954.” The Johnny-Come-Lately imitations, e.g., “The Late Show with David Letterman” and then “…Stephen Colbert” (CBS) or “JimmyKimmell Live” (ABC), are also characterized as “talk shows.”

I guess that depends on your definition of “talk show.” If you had never watched any of the late night programs, you might look forward to a conversation between the host and one or more guests. Last night, the first guest on Colbert appeared at the 31 minute 03 second mark preceded by the opening monologue, commercial break, the regular bit “Meanwhile,” and a second commercial break. The same is true for the rest of the late-night array of “talk shows.” Jimmy Kimmel had a filmed parody of how anti-vaxxers might approach the Heimlich maneuver featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Seth Meyers regularly peppers the first half of his alloted 60 minutes with bits like “You’re Burnt,” “Day Drinking,” or “Back in My Day.”

Monday night’s edition of “Late Night with Seth Meyers” presented that moment of irony which visually captured the topic. Meyer’s studio band is unique in that it features a different guest drummer each week. Before introducing his first guest, Meyers welcomed this week’s percussionist Stevie Nistor, currently on tour with Sparks, who happened to be wearing a tee shirt with a caricature of Dick Cavett.

Some of us are old enough to remember Cavett’s ABC entry into late night television in 1968 following years as a staff writer for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He had one more thing in common with his two mentors, a mid-American upbringing, having been born and raised in Gibbon, Nebraska. (NOTE: Paar grew up in Canton, Ohio; Carson in Corning, Iowa.)

But Cavett chose a different path from Carson or his ABC predecessor Joey Bishop. Knowing he could not compete with Carson, the anointed “king of late night TV,” Cavett took his cue from Paar. Although the show bore his name, the focus was always on the guests many with whom he established long-term relationships. They included celebrities from every walk of life including John and Yoko Ono (featured in the film Forrest Gump), Muhammed Ali, Noel Coward, Norman Mailer, then aspiring Massachusetts senator John Kerry, Katherine Hepburn and Groucho Marx. (NOTE: Marx gave Cavett the honor of introducing him at his last public performance, a one-man show An Evening with Groucho Marx at Carnegie Hall on December 16, 1972.)

Katharine Hepburn on <em>The Dick Cavett Show</em> in 1973. When the actress first met the talk-show host, she immediately asked him about “the man who died.” (Photo: Everett Collection)

Cavett would open his show with the obligatory monologue, but it was clear he was as anxious as the audience to get to his guests. Most shows dedicated the entire 90 minutes to one interview. And on rare cases after the show was cut back to one hour, longer conversations with the likes of Hepburn and Marx were broadcast on consecutive nights. Due to the personal relationships with many of his guests outside the confines of the TV cameras, the interviews more resembled a casual exchange between old friends rather than host digging for a sound bite and guest plugging his/her latest project.

In this sense he, rather than Johnny Carson, became the successor to Jack Paar. This was never more evident than occasions when the conversation turned to a mutual experience Cavett shared with a guest. Like Paar, he would introduce the topic, “Remember the time we…” But would stop in mid-sentence, then add, “No, you tell it much better.”

The answer to Anna Peele’s question, “How do you host television in 2022?” is obvious. The same way you did in 1968. The times were not that much different than today. The nation was divided. We were engaged in an unpopular war. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were murdered. Chicago and Miami were the scenes of violent protests. In good times and bad, you do what Dick Cavett did. Focus on who we are, not on what we are doing at the moment.

For what it’s worth.



No, that’s not a typo in the subject line.  Today’s post is not about “messenger RNA,” the therapeutic breakthrough at the center of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines.  In this case, “mRNC” refers to “mouthpieces of the Republic National Committee,” the media sources who, in a swap that would make Faust blush, have abandoned their intellectual integrity in pursuit of being the loudest voice in the right-wing echo chamber.

If I Had to Start All Over Again, I Would…Addressing this topic was precipitated when a respected friend sent me an article by Neil Patel, co-founder of The Daily Caller, titled, “What the Protests in Cuba Tell Us About the Left’s Agenda for America.”  Let me start by quoting Patel’s own description of his media outlet. It is “an online news outlet, and The Daily Caller News Foundation, a nonprofit that trains journalists, produces fact checks, and does investigative reporting.”  A worthy mission that seems more honored in the breach than the practice.  Here are today’s headlines on The Daily Caller’s home page.

  • Rand Paul To Send Letter To DOJ Asking For Criminal Referral Into Dr. Fauci
  • Deion Sanders Has Pathetic Reaction After Reporter Addresses Him By His First Name
  • U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Gets Humiliated At The Olympics
  • Dolly Parton Goes Viral With One Simple Video
  • Wednesday Morning Dispatch: Eric Swalwell Embarrasses Himself Yet Again

Based on these news “priorities,” the journalists Patel claims his non-profit trains seem more likely to be the next generation of anchors and  correspondents at TMZ or Entertainment Tonight or InfoWars contributors.  Take the story about the U.S. women’s soccer team by Daily Caller Foundation trained David Hookstead, who writes:

I never cheer against America, but it’s damn hard to cheer for our women’s national soccer team. They’ve spent years protesting and complaining about money, and then they get obliterated to open the Olympics.

If you can’t even show up and win, then why are we putting up with any of the other nonsense?

Yes, the women lost their first Olympic match ending a 44 game winning streak.  Will they still be “humiliated” if they make it out of group play and win the gold medal in what everyone admits will be a less than normal Olympic environment?  Additionally, Patel did not mention the history of income disparity between the men’s and women’s squads or the fact the men’s national team failed to qualify for the Olympics.  So much for fact-checking and thorough investigative reporting.

Which brings me back to Patel’s take on Cuba.  Make no mistake about the dire situation in Cuba, a nation in crisis searching for an identity whose future has been influenced for 70 years by strong personalities ranging from U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista, a military dictator who served as head of the government from 1952-59 to Russian-backed Fidel Castro who led the nation from 1959 to 2008.  Two extremes neither of which have foreshadowed a better life for the Cuban people.

FACT:  The current situation in Cuba represents a difficult foreign policy choice for President Biden not helped by an inconsistent back and forth by his three predecessors.  In 2002, George W. Bush announced “the initiative for a New Cuba.”  In exchange for political and economic reforms, Bush offered to ease restrictions on humanitarian assistance and resume mail service between Cuba and the U.S.  In 2014, following 18 months of secret talks, Barack Obama announced the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.  In response to bipartisan criticism, Obama pointed to a half decade of tension which had served neither the Cuban people nor American national security interests.  To fulfill his desire to undo the Obama legacy, Donald Trump immediately re-imposed travel restrictions and severed diplomatic ties.  To hamstring his successor, on January 11, 2021, Trump re-designated Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and imposed new sanctions.

History may not have the answer to the current crisis, but it does tell us what not to do.

  • Support the protesters with armed mercenaries.
  • Covert operations to take out the current leadership.
  • Create an environment that results in another Mariel boatlift.
  • Make Cuba more dependent on Russian assistance in return for Cuba becoming a Kremlin puppet including a Russian military base within 100 miles of the U.S. mainland.

Graham Allison on the Cuban Missile Crisis - YouTubeIt might be a good time for politicians and journalists to read Graham T. Allison’s analysis of October 1962 titled, “Conceptual Models and The Cuban Missile Crisis” (September 1969/American Political Science Review).  Graham found that the two more traditional models of decision making–the state is a unitary rational actor and there are systems/procedures that produce rational outputs–would have been disastrous.  He posits a third model, based on Miles’ Law, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”  It requires the reconciliation of different viewpoints (e.g. the hawkish General Curtis LeMay and the more dovish long-time JFK aid Theodore Sorenson).  In contrast to the Bay of Pigs, in which tactical decisions were seen as the purview of the Department of Defense and CIA, Kennedy wanted a team of advisors with very diverse perspectives.  In October 1962 that collective arguably made the difference between peace and nuclear war.

For argument sake, let’s assume Patel is correct when he claims there are Democrat members of Congress who support communism over the aspirations of the Cuban people (although there is no evidence to support this position).  In line with Graham’s third model of decision making, they should have a place at the table as they are the ones who might envision a pathway to resolving the crisis in a way that meets major objectives without backing any stakeholder into a precipitous corner.

But that also assumes Patel actually cares about resolving the crisis in Cuba.  Instead he uses the crisis to reinforce false narratives.  Biden and his followers are anti-capitalists.  The corporate media is a tool of Biden and the left-wing of the Democratic party.  Big Tech is turning us all into socialists. The proof comes when he completely forgets his concerns about Cuba and jumps the shark to take on his real target.

The American left is pushing a truly radical policy vision through the Biden administration. It is attempting to expand the government by trillions of dollars more than any time in history. Its vision includes government involvement in many new areas of American life.

In other words, the Cuban crisis was just one more beard to disguise Patel’s true passion, once again promoting an RNC talking point, Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda is a radical, anti-capitalism plot.  Let me remind Patel and other “journalists” of his ilk, owning the libs solves nothing.  Which is what makes him a certified, clinically tested mRNC.


Patel names names.  Five to be exact.  And generalizes these five individuals represent the Democratic leadership, 314 members of Congress and 82 million voters who made Biden the 46th president.  I wonder what his response would be if I reminded him of the dozen or more 2020 congressional candidates who embraced QAnon.  Would he agree these 12 plus advocates of debunked conspiracy theories are representative of the entire GOP?

For what it’s worth.