“Frontline” on PBS


I don’t usually watch the news on television.  I try to piece things together online and by listening to the radio.  I read some paper editions, including The Nation, the New York Times and the New Yorker.  In all of these, I read critically, taking little at face value.  One has to learn to read between the lines and to piece things together, like a jigsaw puzzle.  These days, it’s more confusing than ever.  Many of us want to listen up and to make some attempt to figure out what’s going on.

Frontline seems to be stepping up and doing a good job.  Part One of the study of Vladimir Putin, The Putin Files was well made and informative.  Part two, Putin’s Revenge airs this week.  Why does Putin consider the United States to be an enemy?  This explores that question and others.

It’s usually on Tuesdays, yet lately, it’s been running on Wednesdays.  I think this is because  Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War series has been playing on Tuesdays.

On October 11th I watched two Frontline episodes, the one on North Korea and one on the fight against nature, against the environment.  That is, North Korea’s Deadly Dictator and War on the EPA.  The double whammy left me reeling.  Does anybody else think that we’re in trouble yet?





John le Carré on NPR’s “Fresh Air”

John le Carré

The following is from a recent interview of author John le Carré with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air program.  I’ve never read much of his work, but I found these comments to be of interest:

“Let’s look first of all at the operation influence, if you like, and how that’s exerted.  What we suspect the Russians are doing, not only in the United States but they did in Britain for the referendum, maybe in Britain for the elections.  They certainly interfered in Macron’s election in France.

So who are these forces? (and) what is really spooky I think and profoundly disturbing is they come from the West as well as the East. That there are oligarchs in the West who are so far to the right that they make a kind of natural cause with those on the other side of the world.

Both of them have in common a great contempt for the ordinary conduct of democracy. They want to diminish it.  They see it as their  enemy.  They see, they’ve made a dirty word of  liberalism, one of the most inviting words in politics.  And so they’re closing in on the same target from different points of view.  That’s the first thing.”

He also had a little more to say about this campaign to “undermine the decent processes of democracy.”

Links to this interview and to other related interviews with John le Carré are found below, in the following web links:






Master spy novelist John le Carré has thoughts on how Trump might fall

The Fifth Avenue Crowd

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK? It’s, like, incredible.”

The 45th U.S. President, before he was elected

January 2016 in Sioux Center, Iowa

Right from the get-go the man seemed to gain followers by insisting that he’s above the law, untouchable.  Many of them agree him on this point.

I don’t know what percentage of his crowd what be with him 100% if he did something obviously horrible and disastrous

I don’t know what percentage of his devotees and followers think that he’s incapable of lying and that if he does, it doesn’t matter.

The man may think he’s king or something better than a king.  It’s not true.

To believe in the patently and obviously false, doesn’t make it any truer. You can be skeptical without being delusional.

The rule of law will not be denied.  The truth, the absolute merciless truth will rear its beautiful head and sing.


January 2016:



August 2017:


“Well, this is what I call the Fifth Avenue crowd. These are the guys that he was referring to when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and his real supporters would stick with him. There is a portion of the electorate, probably roughly around 20, 25 percent that will be with him no matter what. And that’s the portion of the electorate that he’s playing to right now.”  Republican strategist Michael Steel


Our current president recently attacked two fellow Republicans without naming them.  By refusing to name him here (except in web links) am I lowering myself to his level??

On the Other Side of the Universe

Alienation is in the air.  I feel disconnected from the Democrats.  Yet the remove, the distance from the so-called Republicans is far more extreme. All politics everywhere seems to be strange and sinister.  I’m willing to compromise because stakes are high.

If normal politics seem odd, the politics of the current administration of the United States are like nothing so much as an enchanted fairyland.

I’ve lived my life on the other side of the universe, living as best I can. Here’s another message from that other side.

Fairyland it may be, yet a fairyland orchestrated by incompetent nincompoops and other squirrelly characters.  In this strange fairyland I see creeps, con-artists,  meanies, dolts, dopes, misers, toadies, blithering stooges, goats, apple-polishers, rats, cowards,  ninnies, knuckleheads, slugs, slobs, goofballs, n’er-do-wells, ingrates, ineffectual dullards and other powerful citizens.

Formerly we looked up to artists, scientists, poets, musicians, some politicians and more.

Now we’re supposed to look up to misers, bigots, schoolyard bullies, dunderheads, cheaters, crybabies and worse?

One can only hope they’re not all bad and that some of them will step up and do the right thing.  You never know.

For someone who doesn’t watch television, it’s doubly strange to be forced to live one’s life a part of a reality TV show.  The twist and turns that it will take and the protests that will greet them will be interesting, likely too interesting.  Persist and survive!

Three Cheers for Dissent!

“We know that most people’s intentions are good.  We don’t question their motives.  We never said they’re unpatriotic, although they say some pretty ugly things about us.  We believe very strongly in preserving the right to differ in this country, in the right to dissent.  And if I have done a good job at anything since I’ve been president (it) is to insure that there have been plenty of dissenters.”  

Lyndon B. Johnson; November 17, 1967

It seems like LBJ had a sense of humor at least.  He admitted that you have to go through unpleasant times and deal with difficulties in order to preserve the right to dissent.  He admitted that the right to protest is part of the backbone of this country.

I was watching the 1983 PBS film on Vietnam on VHS.  I had to stop the tape and copy down this quote copy down this quote from President Johnson.

Three cheers for dissent!  We need it now, more than ever.  Let’s update and transform that 1960’s protest spirit.  Make phone calls.  Write letters.  Give money to the most effective charities, if you have any money.  Take to the streets.  Bring it on.

Vietnam, a Television History:




The tally to date:


Waiting for the Big One

Elephant's tea party, Robur Tea Room, 24 March 1939, by Sam Hood
Elephant’s tea party, Robur Tea Room, 24 March 1939, by Sam Hood (in NWS, Australia).

It seems obvious to many of us that no good will come of this.  Inept and misguided government is just what some people want.  Yet it’s likely to lead to problems and disaster, both large and small.

If the only serious problem is that problem which is connected to global climate change, then that will be bad enough.  It still remains to be seen how far they will go and how far they can go, in regard to that.

Some of the appointees and advisers may be capable and intelligent.  Let’s hope that some of them are realistic about things and sensible to a point, at least.

Then too, others believe that the current president is learning?  But will he learn enough?  If he does learn enough, will it be too late?

It seems as if things are often being ran by amateurs in situations that call for hardened, seasoned professionals.

I try not to lose too much sleep worrying about it.  Awful things might  happen.  They’re the elephant in the room.  The ice keeps getting thinner.  We need to do more than just hope or pray or just cross our fingers.

Let’s hope that none of these things come to pass.   This is a short list of a few of the possibilities.

  1. Climate change deniers could convince the people in power to make catastrophic and deadly decisions.  This could put the whole world at risk.  Hopefully this won’t get out of hand.  Yet even a little backsliding could prove to be deadly.
  2. If there’s a serious terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, then who knows what will happen?  Are they preventing terrorism or (inadvertently) causing it or inviting it?  Or both?  You can’t fight fire with gasoline.
  3. The war drags on.  Will there be new wars?  Money and violence continue to feed each other and to feed off of each other.
  4. Ill-advised economic strategies could cause a massive economic disaster.  Are they creating jobs more slowly than they’re taking jobs away?
  5. One serious problem is already afflicting us.  It seems as if one-third of America lives in a different reality than the other two-thirds.  It also seems that a one-third minority is largely “in charge.”  It might be more like one-quarter, it’s hard to measure.  Meanwhile though, the nation is divided and confused.  The right and the left, the rich and the poor could take their antagonism to even uglier stages. Both parties have made mistakes, and maybe, even poisoned the well. People!  America, can we talk?  Can we have a dialogue?  Can we try to get along?


PS. I could go on and on.  I may add to this list as the years go by.  Keep calm and carry on?  Maybe.  But don’t forget to protest.

More voices predicting various forms of gloom and doom:


Noam Chomsky:


Seeing the Big Picture


It’s important to see the big picture.  You need to see how things fit in with other things. You need to see how they interact with each other.

Subtleties and nuanced thinking are very important.

A sense of history is very important.  You need to be well-versed in the past.  To know that which was will help you to better deal with what’s going on now.

A sense of the future is also very important.  We need to have a clear sense of how what we do now will affect future generations.  We need to try not to harm those who are babies or children now.  Some of us care about those who are yet to be.

Many people in power these days, here and elsewhere, seem to see all of these things as their enemies or as nonsense. They say things like “How can science predict the future? Anything can happen!  Nobody knows ….”

Yet this disdain for intense, reasoned, realistic, nuanced, complicated thinking will come back to haunt them.  It may come back to haunt all of us.