Category Archives: Media

Plea Deal Time

One Trump syncophant after another has started to accept the fact their false idol is likely headed for indictment and possibly prison. Most recent among them Alan Dershowitz, who told Axios the Department of Justice has enough evidence to indict his former client, but doubts they will. You have to give Dershowitz credit. He is a master of mixed messages.

The first half of his missive seems directed at the target of DOJ’s investigation into illegally obtained and mishandled documents. “Buddy, you really stepped in it this time. No amount of money can convince any doctor to help you get out of this by claiming you deserve a pass due to brain spurs.” The second phrase is less clear. Is he taunting Merrick Garland, insinuating he does not have the fortitude to do what the law commands? Or is he trying to stiffen the attorney general’s desire to take down the white whale, planting seeds for another massive payday as a member of Trump’s legal nightmare team (even though Trump payday is an oxymoron)?

However, the only person that matters is TFG, himself. Mopey Dick seems as determined as ever to use this occasion as one more grift opportunity, begging small donors to send him their lunch money. We know the Republican National Committee is not happy. Those same nickels and dimes used to fill their campaign chest until Trump came on the scene. Televangelists must feel the same way. There is only so much change to go around. They may think Trump is a partner in the culture wars, but he is really the competition.

All this assumes Garland is facing a binary decision. You either prosecute Trump or you do not. There is a third choice. Forget the investigation. Forget locking him up which might only make him a martyr to MAGA-world. Trump knows better than anyone what the National Archives and the FBI found. He must also have a pretty good idea what is under all that black ink in the just released affidavit. Switch chairs at the table. Let Garland sit in The Godfather’s place. Then make Trump an offer he cannot refuse.

There is probably some room to negotiate, but not much. At a minimum, the agreement must include the following.

  • A public admission of guilt. (Imagine his salivating at those TV ratings.)
  • Prohibition from seeking or holding any future public office.
  • Forfeiture of all the post-presidential perks including pension and allowances as well as secret service protection and public support for a presidential library.

This would relieve Trump of further liability for past criminal charges (not civil cases such as the one before the NY attorney general or E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit). Enforcement would be based on a conditional commutation of an agreed term of incarceration, perhaps 20 years. Should he violate any of the above terms, he would have to surrender to authorities for immediate imprisonment.

Would he take this deal? I doubt it, but he should be given the opportunity. Since release of the affidavit last Friday, only Trump and a couple of his most delusional supporters now think the court approved Mar-a-Lago search warrant was (pun intended) unwarranted. The timeline indicates Trump was given more than ample opportunity to do the right thing before the search was requested or executed. That seems to have made a difference with some of Trump’s defenders and in the court of public opinion.

Giving him a chance to come clean before throwing the book at him in court, if and when that time comes, could make a difference whether the majority of Americans view DOJ actions as appropriate prosecution or political persecution.

Why CNN Still Needs Brian Stelter

Welcome to Sunday morning without CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and host Brian Stelter. Within days of the announcement of his termination, CNN demonstrated why this was a mistake. Stelter would not only focus on the big issues, but point out the smaller ones which signal the systemic failure by most media, particularly the dependence on euphemisms, e.g. inaccuracy versus lie.

Consider the following example. After release of the DOJ affidavit on Friday, a CNN anchor reported they had just received the first response from a Trump supporter who continued calling the search a political witchhunt. The statement came from Taylor Budowich, director of communications for Trump’s Save America PAC. Calling one of Trump’s paid employees a supporter is like calling a bank robber a customer. And the real story should have been this initial defense was coming, not from the usual suspects Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, but from a hired gun.

Brian, we miss you already.

For what it’s worth.

Donnie & Clyde

Driving from Springfield, Massachusetts to Orono, Maine on our way to Nova Scotia, my wife and I were listening to the Coffeehouse station on Sirius XM Radio. Among the selections was a number titled “Bonnie and Clyde” by Australian singer and songwriter Vance Joy. The first verse chronicles the demise of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow just as they were going to give up their life of crime. They felt safe at last. But as we know, the only thing they actually felt were 130 rounds of Texas Ranger ammunition.

Last week, as I listened to the Donald try to weasel his way out of his latest predicament, I thought, what would it sound like if TFG had tried to help Clyde defend himself against charges of bank robbing.

Excerpts from Clyde Barrow interviews on SlyFox News:

MONDAY: I never took any of the bank’s money.

TUESDAY: I found some of the bank’s money in my home, but when asked, I gave it all back. One of my accomplices even signed a sworn statement saying I’d given it all back.

WEDNESDAY: If there is any of their money, it was planted by the Texas Rangers who raided my home. They said they had an authorized search warrant. Damn that corrupt Judge Roy Bean; he has always been anti-Barrow.

THURSDAY: I’m a bank robber. That’s my job. And like anybody else, I sometimes need to bring my work home. It’s hard to find time during the day to count it.

FRIDAY: It wasn’t really money. Just because someone stamps “legal tender” on a piece of paper, that does not make it so.

SATURDAY: It’s not like I’m the only one who takes money out of banks. Everyone does it. It’s called withdrawals. Are they raiding Willie Sutton’s home?

SUNDAY: The only reason they targeted me is they know I may apply to be the next bank CEO. It’s all financial politics.

FOLLOWING MONDAY: Before I entered the bank, I made it clear. Once the money goes out the front door, it’s automatically not money anymore. Is it my fault nobody heard me say that?

FOLLOWING TUESDAY: Under Article II of the FDIC charter, a bank robber can do anything he wants. Finance professors who have researched the issue call it the “unitary theory of bank robbing.” It’s just like Richard Nixon told David Frost, “If a president does it, it’s legal.” Shouldn’t that apply to everyone?

On Wednesday, before he could make any more excuses, Barrow was asked. “Weren’t you the one who thought bank robbers were getting off too easy with a misdemeanor charge? And didn’t you recommend that be changed to a felony with stiffer penalties, five years in prison for each offense?” To which Barrow replied, “I guess for the first time in my life, I may have been wrong.”

We can only hope!

For what it’s worth.

“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.