Developing Story

On October 24, 2016, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

I moved to Los Angeles many moons ago because I love a good story. I love being told one, and when I came here I wanted to learn how to tell one.

Decades, and many stories read, seen, lived and re-told later, it’s the love of a great story that motivates, inspires, and transfixes me. Still.

103968694-gettyimages-610463304-530x298At least 13 times since the story that begins, “Once upon a time, a billionaire horse’s ass ran for President,” began, I’ve sat down to make head or tail, divine fact from fiction, or just try to sort some sense out of it all. This makes fourteen. And hopefully it will be the second time I will get a complete, published column out of it.

What makes this time different? Unlike the last dozen or so, I’m not actually going to try to reach an understanding about any of this. First, as you know, that Donald Trump is one election away from the highest office in the world is insane. Although I think it’s also true that America is getting out of our government almost exactly what we’ve put into the political process. As a nation, and individuals. We don’t do politics well in the United States, and it shows.

Second, every time I’ve taken a guess at what will happen next, something totally and completely absurd takes place, usually within the 12 hours between first draft and publication. Rendering what I’ve written passé, or worse, wrong. Though it’s as challenging to discern right from wrong this election cycle as it is up from down in outer space. Not easy to be presci
ent and grounded when gravity is in a state of flux.

So this time around, I am going to step back and admire the show. We are being treated to a once in a lifetime (I hope) spectacle. The first democratically nominated woman is competing with the first bonafide imbecile nominee (for President, Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle fans) to become the most powerful human being on the planet. Two firsts. Two distinctly different directions. A decision, respect to those who believe God decides all, riding on the free – such as it is – will of Americans who exercise our prerogative to vote.

How exciting!!

It’s a contest, much in the sense that the World Series, which begins tomorrow, is a contest. It’s a match-up brewing for months in a campaign marked by surprise performances, injuries, and no small amount of controversy. Barring a repeat of the 2000 vote, which failed to end on the Wednesday after Election Tuesday, we will likely know the winner of Clinton vs. Trump on Nov. 9 as surely as we’ll know who wins the World Series between the Indians and the Cubs on or before November 3, barring wildly inclement weather.

Of course it’s not the same. The comparisons and contrasts between these two contests for world dominion don’t come and go like a nine inning game, or a date on the calendar. But I love a good story. Don’t you? And in the next two weeks, we get to witness the culmination of two epic tales. So let’s get ready for a dramatic finish.

World Series Preview

It’s the Cubs vs. the Indians. Two underdogs of history battled their way to the top of the National League and American League Central Divisions, respectively, and through the playoffs to the World Series, Best of 7.

The Indians – managed by Tito Francona, who in 2004 as manager of the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino in the 100th World Series – have a chance to spoil the Cubs’ happy ending. Cleveland, whose NBA team the Cavaliers won its first title this year in June, hasn’t won a World Series since 1948. That’s 68 years, a mighty long time. So they’re hungry. But not quite as hungry as Chicago.

Consider the Cubs, owners of the best record in baseball this year. Their General Manager is Theo Epstein, also GM of the curse-breaking 2004 Red Sox. The Cubs last went to the World Series in 1945, but their last championship was in 1908. That’s 108 years ago. So if you were born in 1909 or later, you’ve never seen the Chicago Cubs win a World Series. If you’re from Chicago, or an avid fan of baseball, the first World Series win in more than a century is a very big deal.

Plenty of other story lines to follow and enjoy here. You can root for whichever team has your sympathy. Or passion. And we can watch it all the twists, turns and crazy bounces un-fold in front of us. One long championship drought will come to an end on or by Wednesday, November 2. Barring rain or snow in Cleveland or Chicago.

Presidential Preview

What was originally billed as the Battle of the Century may be all over but the shouting. Alleged billionaire and actual reality TV show host Donald Trump has turned the U.S. Presidential election into a game of “I Know You Are But What Am I” versus bent but unbroken former First Lady, Senator of New York and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Trump rode “Celebrity Apprentice” and a racist conspiracy theory about our first African-American President Barack Obama to a Republican Party nomination by out-polling more than two dozen conservative politicians who let Trump beat them again and again to the bottom of the barrel.

A story that opened with Trump as loud-mouthed bigot, launching semi-calculated attacks against Mexicans, Muslims, blacks, women and virtually all immigrants in a country of immigrants was enough to convince the Republican Party to give him its nomination and endorsement. The national election has devolved into a scorched-earth campaign, with the candidate inciting violence at rallies, making fun of the physically disabled at his rallies, and exposed on tape in 2005 denigrating women and espousing unwelcome sexual assault while his wife was pregnant with their son.

The ghostwriter of his book, “The Art of the Deal” estimates Trump’s vocabulary at 200 words. He is ego-driven, hubris-laden, intensely humor-less (have you ever seen him laugh?), and anti-everything. Handed a gift horse – lea103968694-gettyimages-610463304-530x298ked e-mail, a vague policy point that manages to stick – he returns to the vitriol that won over his Coalition of the Angry or finds a new axe to grind. Either he secretly wants to lose, or he’ll only lead those who buy into his rhetoric as President (increasingly unlikely), or the head of an anti-establishment media juggernaut that he will have ample money and constituency to build post-election.

Meanwhile, the aspiring first female President wants to win so badly she will cop to that goal in a world where the only way to be perceived as trustworthy for the job is to profess disdain for it. Running the old-fashioned way: establishing credentials, building a national organization, and delineating specific policies, Hillary Clinton has spent 8 years in the White House, 8 years in the senate, 4-ish years as Secretary of State, and nearly 20 years beating back partisan attacks which have landed her in the hot seat (but not the slammer) where she has shown grace under pressure.

After two decades of scrutiny she’s accomplished a great deal as first lady and as a politician, and otherwise fared pretty well. Unless you count low approval ratings in spite of being one of the most accomplished female politicians in the history of the country and one of the most experienced candidates in the history of the Presidency. You can hate her policies, but can’t deny she has gobs of experience.


If you believe in polls, and I do, though not as much as I believe in math and science, Trump was closing the gap until they debated on the same stage. Secretary Clinton ran rings around The Donald. Every. Single. Time. Since Donald started scaring sensible Americans and global markets that he might be able to win, he has made a series of miscues, misstatements, angry pronunciations, and legitimacy destroying assertions that rank somewhere between implosion and full-scale meltdown.

But like the World Series, it ain’t over till it’s over. In this case, the end may not come with a sportsmanlike concession, but a procedural counting of every vote, individual and electoral. Like any contest with something at stake – and this year, clearly more is at stake than ever – there’s a dazzling array of last-minute spoilers that could tip the outcome one way or another. In case the undecideds haven’t decided already.

Here are a few hypotheticals: a hacked e-mail or Wiki-Leak that links the Clintons with the Mussolinis. A stunning last minute display of sanity from Trump that convinces voters he wouldn’t bring on the apocalypse; all evidence to the contrary. Trump’s character arc takes him from loud-mouthed bigot to anti-establishment statesman, turning the proverbial sow’s ear into a silk purse. Fat. Chance.

How about a Bob Roberts-inspired assassination conspiracy attempt blamed on a liberal gunman to evoke sympathy for the orange-faced blowhard? So much voter apathy – perhaps the point of Trump’s scorched-earth strategy – that the anti-Trump vote stays home, covers its ears, and leaves the voting to his Deplorables. We’ve got to get a song out of that “basket of deplorables” line. Perhaps a “rigging” conspiracy causes Trump supporters to turn up at the polls armed to the teeth, discouraging Hillary supporters from pulling the levers.

Like the Curse of the Billy-Goat, or the legacy of Steve Bartman, will force majeure lend a hand? Or will experience, depth, preparation and competence prevail? The World Series is decided between the lines by the Indians and the Cubs. The election is up to us. Here’s hoping that the best team wins. And by the best team, I mean Hillary Clinton. Putting Donald Trump within one election of the U.S. Presidency is one of the worst games America has ever played with itself.


VOTE: Tuesday, June 7!!

On June 6, 2016, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

12_fairey_vote_0_frontTomorrow is a big day, and I feel it’s time to speak up on some ideas I’ve been knocking around lately.

I’ve tried to jump into the flow of political discourse this year with several full-length columns, but have scrapped them for one reason or another. Mostly because every time it feels like we hit a new crazy, I try to dissect it and discuss but then another, newer, crazier crazy is born.

This year, expectations have truly been defied. Along with logic, common sense, and the boundaries of the absurd. Hard to know what to compare it to without being hyperbolic. So I’ll just say, these are heady times. Strap on your seatbelt. And prepare yourself for a rocky ride on the rollercoaster that is the United States.

There are three people running in the California Presidential primary on Tuesday who will gather the lion’s share of attention and votes. Two of them, I believe, could make excellent Presidents of the United States. The third represents one of the most epic and downright scary choices this country would have ever made.

So let’s not make it. Please. At all costs. And now let’s take a moment to consider our worthy contenders:

Hillary Clinton has been there. She was a major part of her husband’s extremely successful 8-year tenure in the White House. Bill Clinton was a charismatic and positive leader who took this country a long way. Mostly in the right direction. If you’ve ever been a part of a winning team, you know that it stays with you. And you know that no matter what the role, or whatever credit you receive, succeeding at a difficult task is a tremendous reward in itself. Plus you get more.

From there, Hillary chose to gain experience. As a leader; as a senator. There she landed on the right side and the wrong side of some big issues. And learned even more about how government works. And doesn’t. As Secretary of State, one of the most important jobs in the land, she spent four challenging years cleaning up America’s diplomatic mess overseas. Save for two contentious episodes (Benghazi and the private e-mail server; small potatoes IMO), she was a part of another tremendously successful presidential team.

The Barack Obama Presidency has been remarkable. Against all odds. And every kind of opposition. Obama has succeeded with patience, diplomacy, and by and large dignity and eloquence. He, along with his Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and another presidential Secretary, John Kerry, has helped pull America back together. Oh, it’s still a mess. But Barack Obama takes no blame there. He’s achieved so much in 8 years. But we are far from healed as a country.

For me, Hillary’s experience and years of taking unwarranted neo-conservative heat means a lot. I feel confident that as President she will lead America well.

Then there’s Bernie.

Because of his belief system, his willingness to address issues from an incredibly healthy place, and his ability to inspire the hardest to impress, Bernie can well be classified a once in a lifetime candidate. Not since Kennedy has so much confidence and Hope been inspired. Though Barack made a run at that legacy, too.

Bernie’s elevated the dialogue for what I hope is a very long time. And whether he becomes the President or not, I hope we will have a candidate every election who takes us on this ride. It’s not too much to ask at all. Would that we had better choices and every election in America will have at least one World Class candidate. Though that day seems a long way away.

And while I intend to cast my vote on Tuesday for the candidate I believe is best, I realize that my vote is only one of many in a highly convoluted process. I cast it as a wish, and a promise to do my best to elevate the truest and brightest. And support an American Dream that applies to 100% of us, not 10% or 1% or less.

Which brings me to the one thing I’d like for everyone who is with me so far to agree upon, regardless of whether they’re for Hillary or Bernie. Whoever wins the Democratic Party’s nomination, we’ve got to all come together to avoid electing a fascist candidate, one who by all indications will take us down many, many dark and dangerous paths. Many of which could have tremendous, unpredictable consequences. No matter what, we’ve got to come together.

Can we please all agree on that? Vote your heart and your mind and your passion on Tuesday. Do that as much as you can whenever you vote. Please also consider what we need to succeed as a Team. Compromise. Understanding. Hard work. Sometimes not loving the way things work out while still learning, growing, and focusing energy on the positive. Seeing the big picture.

When and what got you involved in this election? What made you start thinking and talking about it? Let it keep you motivated throughout the summer, through the National election, and all that follow. This nation needs more earnest, engaged people who want to do what they can on every level.

Sometimes that’s taking on a role you’d much rather not. Being a team player. And recognizing that a win for our side is more important than a loss for the big picture, even if you come out smelling like a rose. Tough lesson. Not super fun. But essential. We need those team players now more than ever.

That’s all I’m saying. Keep on talking. Vote, and encourage others to as well. And please get involved with a system that no one likes because no one feels empowered by it. Decide to be involved and you will be empowered.

Maybe one day all Presidential candidates will be as qualified and full of potential as Bernie and Hillary. Until then, and even after, there’s a lot of work to be done.

If you like this, please Like it, and pass it on!


Viewing The Interview

On January 6, 2015, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

As a journalist and media critic, I try to avoid opining on issues where I don’t have first-hand information, or at least solid source data. It felt comfortable commenting on the security and business issues around the Sony Hack and The Interview film censorship because I had some insight on that piece of the story, and a different angle: namely, that North Korea may not have been behind the hack, and regardless of the culprit, Sony’s culpability is worth contemplating.

Attempting to find the most apt metaphor for the event, I’d compare the Hack to having your office burglarized…after leaving the door open, and putting a sign on it that says: “Tons of valuable stuff here. I dare you to help yourself to any or all of it.”

Now that I’ve seen the film, The Interview, I have a whole new take on the urlentire episode. This is not just about a remote hack of the Sony Entertainment IT network. This is about how a gigantic producer of media content, one of the top 10 producers in the world, is spiritually, intellectually, and behaviorally detached from the actual substance of what it creates. And it didn’t take a hack to disconnect them. The Hack just showed the world that the chasm exists.

It isn’t merely ironic that the story of The Interview parallels the story of the Sony Hack on just about every level. It is a fiction that shines light on the truth. Without spoiling the plot in any way, if the Sony Corporate heads were the protagonists of their own film The Interview, the movie would have ended in the first act because they didn’t have the guts to stand up to the leader of North Korea, much less try to assassinate him.

It would be far easier to support Sony’s position if the film was a piece of shit. Something that the rumor mill at one point attempted to pin on the Seth Rogen / James Franco buddy/action/comedy. Not only is this film a worthy successor to the huge comedy hits Pineapple Express and This Is The End, it does those movies one better by having a real political point that is made and redeemed by the story.

Sony Pictures tried to water down the ending of the film prior to The Hack, backing away from the film’s message in the process. It then allowed threats, which may or may not have been from North Korea, to coerce them into pulling from release one of the best comedies of the year, and one of the best political comedies in years.

The Interview is, in my opinion, a Top 10 movie of 2014, and should garner at least a best original screenplay Academy Award nomination. Stars Seth Rogen and James Franco are probably also due at least a standing ovation from the Academy for being both brave enough, and clever enough, to pull this movie off, in spite of the ineptitude and cowardice displayed by Sony’s corporate honchos.

So if you’ve been thinking, for Pete’s Sake, this is another Rogen/Franco film, it’s just not that big of a deal for anyone to get worked up over, you’d be wrong. The politics, and the political satire, are spot on and downright prescient in light of the shit-storm stirred up by the film’s release. The real buffoons, in addition to Sony’s IT Department, are Sony’s executives, who lacked the presence of mind and fortitude to back up this production.

Sony failed to exhibit the strength of character to go to bat for The Interview and the people who made it work: Rogen, Co-Director Evan Goldberg, Franco, a largely excellent, no-name cast and screenwriter Dan Sterling. Sterling has written a film that’s clever, full of funny bits and memorable catchphrases.

There must have been someone behind the scenes saying: “It’s wrong to cave in to this pressure. We’ve got to be stronger.” If so, that person needs to be higher up the Sony Food Chain. The Interview hits all the right notes as a mainstream comedy, and an edgy, subversive piece of political satire. We are living an age where studios are afraid to produce political films, and, in the case of this $44 million feature, afraid to stand behind a great political comedy once they’ve made one.

Maybe it was the distributors who backed out due to threat of terrorism. Maybe it was the lawyers afraid of the corporate liability implied by those threats, regardless of the likelihood they would be carried out. Having seen The Interview for myself, knowing what it is, not just what people are saying about it, it’s painfully clear that Sony Entertainment took the most cowardly approach conceivable, enabling what may or may not have been North Korea to effectively censor their excellent release.

What Sony should have said, Distributors or no:

The Interview is funny, wickedly clever, and we stand behind it. It’s about manipulating people and popular opinion through the media, and if we as a media company don’t stand behind for our right to show this excellent film to you, we are providing aid and comfort to those who would manipulate us with lies and fear. We’re releasing this film because that’s how we do it in America.

Apparently that’s not how they do it at Sony Pictures. Grow a spine, Sony. Your film was worth going to bat for. How come you didn’t know that?


Who Hacked Sony?

On December 22, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

At the end of my brief, brutal days in the film biz, one conclusion I drew about the way Hollywood Studios conduct their affairs is that they live precariously by the adage: “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.” No one who’s ever worked in the The Industry has ever accused studios of thinking too far ahead. Bottom line and just plain bad decision-making left rank and file workers to patiently sit on our hands, waiting for things to break. Last week the Sony Corporation found out just how costly such re-active thinking can be.

Luckily, we have a statement on the record from a high-ranking Sony official letting us in on his approach to Data Security. In the category, “Boy I Wish I Hadn’t Said That,” belongs this quote by the executive in charge of keeping Sony Corp’s voluminous digital assets safe and secure in response to an audit that found the company had Team-America-Kim-Jong-Ila weak password problem:

“It’s a valid business decision to accept the risk,” said Jason Spaltro, who is now Sony Pictures’ senior vice president of information security, in a 2007 interview with CIO. “I will not invest $10 million to avoid a possible $1 million loss.”

Let this serve as a reminder that short-sightedness, an epic ability to under-estimate value, and demonstrably poor business decision-making is crystallized forever by the miracle that is The Internet. Yes it was a few years later, but even then, might the totality of Sony’s digital assets be worth north of $1 million? North of $1 billion? A stone thrown in a glass house if there ever was one.

According to information released following the hack, Mr. Spaltro makes $300,000 in salary per year, but I don’t think he’s going to reach his bonus target of $400,000. Not this year.

But weak passwords were only part of the story of “The Hack Heard Round the World.” Alongside a torrent of Sony Hack stories impacting nearly every information category except Sports, we know that Anonymous hacked into Sony’s network back in 2011. In addition to troves of data swiped from Sony these last few weeks – executive and talent salary information, shooting scripts for major films, and e-mails containing revelations ranging from salacious to downright embarrassing – hackers snagged numerous files from individual users labeled Password.doc.

In other words, Sony employees served up documents containing lists of passwords, key chains full of keys the hackers can use to open all kinds of doors inside and outside the kingdom. Ouch. That’s a glitch that will keep on giving.

Knowing how studio bureaucracies operate when it comes to Security, both as a film studio employee in the early 90s, and as a Product Manager and strategist at Symantec Corporation from 1995-2005, I predict there will be a last minute revision to Sony’s budget next year shifting a few more dollars into the IT Group. Whatever brownie points Mr. Spaltro’s group may have earned in years past by keeping costs down will probably be used up and then some as 2014 turns into 2015. You’d think Sony and its internal security detail will learn a thing or two from this one.

But you never know. Businesses don’t like to spend money on non-revenue generating items, and Entertainment Companies usually require catastrophe-level events or worse to budget expenses that impact the bottom line without dollars promised in return. Ask anyone who works in Tech Support, Customer Service, and in some cases, Quality Assurance. There’s never enough dollars to properly fund these groups, anywhere. Prepare for some breakage.

The Hack most certainly qualifies as catastrophe-level, but if the content of Sony e-mails is any indication, upper management has more than its share of idiots, assholes, two-faced fuckwads, and just plain bad decision-makers, even for a Hollywood Film Studio. Using Mr. Spaltro’s logic above: Hey, Sony has already suffered the worst hack in the history of Information Security. Why spend money on IT? They can’t possibly get any worse at this…

I’m not saying that logic makes sense. But I am saying over the years I’ve worked at or with more than one international entertainment company that thinks that way. And I wonder whose heads will be rolling in the aftermath.

There will also be an obligatory employee memo, or series of memos, with updated security procedures likely to contain some choice words about choices like Password.doc. And once a full report is filed, they will likely find, as most companies do, that the lion’s share of damage was a direct result of human error by way of social engineering. Yes, it takes technical skill to carry out something this big, but the human element is a major part of the picture. Always. Just read that quote by the head of Sony IT. Either he really thought that way, or his boss did. Or they both did.

urlSo now we know the What (legendary hack), the When (likely starting in 2011 or even before, and culminating in November 2014), and the Where (Sony Corp’s network). Let’s take a look at the Why, the How, and the Who.

If you take the FBI’s findings at its word (and why would you?), the likely answers are: “The Interview”, by way of networks in North Korea and/or Northern China (better access in China), and employees of or contractors for the North Korean government.

However, there are lots of reasons to question whether North Korea really did perpetrate The Hack, not least of which are the numerous perceived inadequacies of the rogue nation-state. Given the agitation generated by “The Interview”, it sure wouldn’t be difficult to make it look like North Korea did it. Easier for an accomplished hacker to frame them than it would have been for North Korea to have actually done it. Unless Kim Jong-un has some world class hackers in his Rolodex.

Articles on this question are beginning to pop up, including this one from Wired that I found because I’ve been having trouble believing that The Hack is a North Korea Joint:

In light of Sunday’s Anonymous Announcement, that they hacked the Sony network in 2011 and told Sony that they did it (in addition to hinting that they have a copy of “The Interview” and plan to release it themselves on Christmas), some Simpler Theories are evolving. It seems more likely that either some Hacktivist entity opened the gates, then passed off to one or more organizations which may or may not be related to the North Korean government.

It also seems unlikely that on one hand the hacker that broke into the system takes credit for the hack, referencing the name Guardians of Peace (GOP), but the North Korean government denies involvement. If the North Korean government is behind it, but they don’t want to take credit, why would they want an entity they hired to leave a name along with a motive leading right back to them? Because they’re inept? If you follow that line of reasoning, how were they “ept” enough to perpetrate the most humongous hack of all time?

141201-kim-jong-un-computer-kns-1130_b391bb41ce08c9145a088fbaa7554157.nbcnews-fp-1040-600There’s more to this than meets the eye. It’s likely we’ll hear more about The Hack, who did it, how and why in the near future. And while my preference is not to blame the victim, especially when the stakes are so high and the losses so great, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that when more is known, Sony will ultimately accept (or wrongly avoid) significant responsibility for what happened.

The trail of information leading up to The Hack point to far too many deficiencies in Sony Studio’s Security policies, strategies and leadership. Because of this, it’s likely that the consequences could have been reduced significantly under a more proactive, better funded, and/or more talented security team. For starters, the Sony IT Executive under-estimated the value of his own job and the assets he was hired to protect. And he did it on the record.

If the company knew that it had been breached before, it should have investigated the hack in 2011, reinforced firewalls, revised security protocols and best practices, including advising against Password.doc. You can monitor traffic in and out of a corporate network. If data is flowing out unsupervised, at weird hours, in high volume, or to suspicious IP addresses, you can do something about it. Clever naming practices, complex data organization and infrastructure, obfuscation measures and red herrings can protect assets like critical e-mails, financial information, and James Bond scripts. Wasn’t anyone watching the gates?

Sure it’s easier to call out a solution, or to point fingers in hindsight. But the job of the Security Professional is to be Proactive. If it ain’t broke, and it matters to you, you should be trying to break it from just about every angle to avoid having an outsider break it first. Fixing a mess like this is never a pleasant task.

And whatever you do, if breakage might be a problem for you, even if your boss, your boss’ boss, and your boss’, boss’ boss tells you that you’re not going to get the money you need to secure the digital assets of your multi-billion dollar corporation, never, ever, ever go on the record saying that your half-ass, penny-wise, pound-foolish IT non-strategy is an acceptable business risk. It’s like telling the army attacking your castle that you’ve decided not to fill the moat and that the Southern wall is made of paper mâché. You might as well be leaving the door open, ringing a bell and saying: “Come and get it!!”


Newsroom de la Mancha

On December 15, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

2548274_origJust finished watching the series Finale of The Newsroom for the second time, and trying to hold it together, unlike during the first viewing earlier tonight which had me crying tears of sadness and joy. Mostly sadness. The ending, as most show finales are, was bittersweet. No spoilers here, but many questions were answered, mysteries solved, and the stories behind the stories were told.

Say what you want about the series, its transparent idealism, and its creator Aaron Sorkin, but a very strong argument can be made that Mr. Sorkin is the best and most prolific American dramatic writer of the Twenty-First Century. Check his resume here in case you need a rundown: Sorkin is also a patriot in his own unorthodox way, and trying to make good on his promise to make the world, from the platform as America’s finest scribe, and his country a better place by way of dramatic fiction.

Through the tears, I’m trying to understand why the final beats of this show’s heart have touched me so deeply. Certainly the references to Don Quixote and the would-be knight always tilting at windmills resonate profoundly. The triangulated conflict between telling the truth, the common good, and the wheels of commerce are at the core of nearly each story arc. Arcs so neatly completed in the final handful of shows. Including some stories we didn’t even know were arcing.

As someone who spent several powerful, formative years as a journalist and decided not to pursue it as a career for precisely the reasons this show delineated, I relate to many of these characters. The happier of the endings were certainly the reason behind the joyful side of my emotions.

I was pleased by the optimistic moments for many of the characters which played out in this finale. And I can see that, were this somehow for real, and were we to be able to witness the day after the series finale in each of their fictional existences, each one would be subject to more of the absurd challenges and just plain bullshit that we as Americans face in this more than messed up country of ours.

Inspired by The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin and his deep and complicated form of patriotism which I share, I also feel compelled to focus on the sadness behind my tears in the hopes that it will further inspire you, and me, to keep up the fight of these fictional Don Quixotes, tilting at windmills under the constant promise of being pummeled as its reward.

The triggering event of the show, a popular news anchor lets loose his frustration over a country for which he is a face and a voice, and yet can’t say a damn thing to the millions of people he looks into the camera and speaks directly to each and every weeknight. “America isn’t the greatest country in the world,” he roars, to a recent college graduate looking for a little hope as she faces the grim world into which she has matriculated.

First of all, you can’t say that, especially when you are a well-paid cable anchorman and the face of your network. Second of all, it’s true. Hence the root of the sadness, and the hope that I can continue to reach for the inspiration to keep trying to make a difference when there are so many people and institutions making a difference in what I view as the opposite direction.1

For example:

The alarming rate of school shootings that continue with absolutely no government response while the NRA peddles guns in their wake, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

The new stop-gap spending bill passed yesterday, necessary to prevent the country from grinding to a halt which contrarily saw Congress codify tons of pork, including several laws literally written by the banking industry that will lead us down the exact road we took to the financial meltdown of 2008.

A preponderance of talking heads appearing on the Sunday news shows discussing how the Torture Report was partisan, that the ends (though it was shown that torture had nothing to do with those ends) justifies the barbaric means, and, in the words of American Vice President, Military-Industrial CEO and not-as-yet-convicted war criminal Dick Cheney, “A load of crap” and “I’d do it again in a minute.” We built this country to get away from people like him. Even John McCain agrees: Un-American. It’s indefensible on every level. Sorry, Dick.

Because there’s plenty of blame to go around, wondering why President Hope seems so curiously behind that which he had railed against on his way to higher office, and wishing he would say and do more when certain values are being trampled.

And, following the unprecedented failings of his brother George W., Jeb Bush is ready to initiate his ascension to become the third person from one of the most inept American aristocracies in our history, escalating onward to the highest office in the land.


I love ya, U.S. of A., but I’m getting tired of the S.O.B. leading us down a garden path to hatred, scorn and death. And I’m wondering how long we can keep getting away with horrific, international lawlessness without further repercussions. Not that there haven’t been repercussions aplenty thus far.

I share Mr. Sorkin’s frustrations – as voiced by anchor Will McAvoy, News Director Charlie Skinner and the Newsroom’s characters – and I’m struggling to generate the optimism required to face these frustrations day to day because I am surrounded by so many Americans who don’t know and don’t care in addition to being severely un-, under-, or mis-informed.master copy2

I’m doing my best to walk my walk, in addition to talking my talk. And I’ll continue to tilt at windmills, in spite of the potential to get my ass whooped, but part of me wishes all this unnecessary death, destruction and pain wasn’t so…inevitable.

In conclusion, I’d like to pay my respects and wish Godspeed to all who have attempted in their way to join the good fight. On better days, the sun shines on us all, and even impossible dreams seem possible.

Let’s be unwilling to take our eyes off of the double-speakers, the corporate-swindlers, and the paid, government operatives who would happily torture innocent people to be able to claim that when they torture criminals it’s for the sake of our country. Torture is a means to its own end, and the torturer IS the criminal. Some people simply like to torture, and some of those people have spent far too long steering the ship.

Things can get confusing out here. Here’s to the handful of ingenious gentlemen and gentlewomen willing to take a closer look in hopes of righting one or more of this world’s wrongs. We need ever more tilters, and more daydream delusions to keep us tilting, because this country and our world sure won’t be running out of windmills anytime soon.


Silver Lining Playbooks

On December 8, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

I’m not OK with the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. I’m not OK with the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. I’m not OK with the murder of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY. I’m not OK with the murder of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and I’m definitely not OK with the five additional slaughters of un-armed or lightly armed black men (that we know about) by not black police officers in the last week.

imagesI don’t believe that the incidence of black-on-black violence being around 91% has any relevance in this issue, in much the same way that I don’t believe that the incidence of white-on-white violence being around 83% impacts this either. I do believe that this outbreak of inter-racial police-vs.-citizen murders was perpetrated by paid government authority figures who could have easily avoided shooting, or strangling, much less killing their victims.

Further, I’m extraordinarily concerned that the underlying incidents prior to these murders, whether indirectly or directly related to the act of killing itself, was, in order: carrying Skittles and wearing a hoodie, stealing a box of cigarillos, selling untaxed cigarettes, and a 12-year old waving a pellet gun.

There’s also the accidental shooting of a completely innocent man in a New York City stairwell, a man shot and killed for putting his hands in his pockets and taking them out, and a man shot in the head twice on Hollywood Blvd., killed, then handcuffed while his head was lying in the gutter.

America is a lot of things. It’s also not a lot of things that it used to be or claimed to be whether it was or wasn’t. It’s no longer the undisputed world authority in peace-keeping, nation-building, monetary policy, unpolluted democracy, women’s and minority’s rights and safety, a functional political system, health-care, the promise of upward mobility, the keeping of international law, and much much more.

But there is a bigger promise being broken in recent days, and it’s a promise we need to start focusing on and re-committing ourselves to with unwavering vigor in the days ahead. America stands for the, perhaps not literally codified, promise that people here don’t get gunned down in cold blood constantly and consciously by paid functionaries of our government for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.

We are looking at a three-month window of high profile killings by the police force of America over virtually nothing. Cops are unloading their guns on human beings who represent virtually no real threat to them, murdering them in cold blood, and are in turn being exonerated by the legal system, with an assist to elected district attorneys (who must be voted OUT) and it’s happening at an accelerating rate.

That is not America. This needs to stop. Right Now.images-1

And immediately thereafter, we need to work hard on over-turning ridiculous “Stand Your Ground” and concealed carry laws that are putting millions of lives in danger over a danger that is contrived mainly as an excuse to sell guns. From there, we need to do what the gun-fear-mongers are screaming that politicians are trying to do, but they’re really not, but they really should – we need to figure out how to take away their guns. At least as many of the voluminous, unnecessary, unsecured guns which are for more likely utilized in a crime of passion, a gun-cleaning accident, an accidental child murder or a mass shooting by a mentally ill, meds-addled, hormone-imbalanced, video game violence-numbed sociopath.

Perhaps there would be less shootings, beatings, macings and tasings by police if we provided them with more pro-active, defensive equipment such as bullet proof jackets, helmets and face shields, and on-board video. Provide more options to work with a strong defense, instead of claiming the need to always leap to offense. And if we are unable to figure out how to disarm or de-escalate without launching into civil war, we absolutely need to figure out how to get them – every last one of them, including the police, when there is no need for them to use them – to put their weapons down.

Here’s the Silver Lining. One core competence America had completely seceded long since the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the first and second Iraq Wars is now something we are starting to learn how to do all over again. Maybe this time we’ll learn how to do it right, and to full effect: America is re-learning how to protest.images-2We are learning how to, sometimes peacefully, sometimes angrily, oft-times inarticulately or just plain badly, protest injustice and systemic, government-funded and/or condoned murder and corruption. I love that members of the St. Louis Rams football team have not only used their voices in the past two weeks to draw attention to these issues. And I am spiritually uplifted that in each game they’ve protested, they’ve won. By a shutout. Try adding Kharma to your Playbook.

#Occupy. #HandsUpDon’tShoot. #ICan’tBreathe. It’s not enough, but it’s a start. Our Passive Aggressive Republic needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming if need be, into the modern age of dialogue. Plus we need to do some good, old-fashioned problem-solving. Time to start speaking up. Time to stop the killing. Conscious Dialogue. It’s our best chance to turn the tide. And it’s past time for that tide to be turned.

“How long? Not long! Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.


TMB – 11/4/14

On November 4, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

CE577A7FHere comes another American election, and yet again we are under-informed, overly-polled, heavily hyped and not really in any position to make better decisions than we have before, in spite of what we know every time we vote.

I wish the Supreme Court hadn’t opened the floodgates of Dark Money and unrestrained Corporate and High Wealth Influence on our elections. I wish instead of making it harder to vote, especially in Southern and Conservative states where they are trying to shut out both very young and very old voters we would make it mandatory to vote and enforce a fine on those of voting age who don’t.

I wish our supposedly evolved democracy would start making more evolved decisions. And because I know better than to hold my breath, I’m going to keep making the best of what we’ve got, and spread the word the best I can whenever I can. Because life is beautiful and I do appreciate having opinions, dollars, and my Election Day ballot to vote with.

Didn’t do a full Burning Man redux this year although I had a lot on my mind when I returned. Decided to wait until some of the emotions had evened out before putting down a couple of thoughts, and now that they have, I will. I still believe that Burning Man is one of the greatest events on earth. It is a bastion of learning and a microcosm for our culture, not to mention that it’s fascinating and fun.

In retrospect, Burning Man 2014 is notable for challenges to two of the guiding principles that were breached the most in my nine-year experience. The Leave No Trace and Non-Commoditization principles both fell under siege this year on the playa, and without some serious guidance from the Burning Man Organization, may be pillars that could collapse completely in the long-term. Interestingly, both issues seemed fused together in the aftermath, as “Pay-to-Play” camps, which on approach appeared to be a fundamentally out of line issue generating great concern, perpetrated some of the worst leave behind waste carnage I can recall.

Not totally surprising that these symmetrical issues left a mark. Eg. — Unchecked Industrialization’s cozy relationship with Global Warming. As the Veterans’ Committee issues a big, fat I Told You So.

But not to dwell on the destruction of The Burning Man culture a la the decimation of our finitely resourced planet. Among my many lessons this year were not to let hype or things being askew spark over-reaction. As well as not to empower one nasty character to monopolize my energy with so many lovely spirits about. Plus a renewed Focus on the Now. Hippy-Dippy enough for you yet? I could go on.

But instead, I will rattle off a seemingly un-related list of interconnectedness to purge the accumulated contents of my mind-vault:

Did anyone notice the parallels between the worldwide pandemic map at the end of “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the global tracking maps when the Ebola outbreak hit the international stage? I did, but it’s still not OK to panic.

How likely is it that the pandemonium from Ferguson, MO pushes law enforcement and municipalities around the U.S. to mount more cameras in public spaces so that we really know what happens in moments like those. Perhaps those in authority (properly or improperly) will recognize a level of accountability when their actions reach extremes.

Further, can we rely on the integrity of public footage? Might there also be a trade-off on privacy once cameras become more ubiquitous? Who can we count on to parse these issues in our government? The Libertarian Fringe will have a field day.

Not that I take much stock in the actual numbers, but wondering why President Obama’s approval rating (or disapproval rating) is hovering in the George W. Bush range, and far worse than conservative arseholes like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. I mean, it’s not like W. kicked back prior to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, then wrongfully got us into a pointless war in the Middle East that exploded our Debt by somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 trillion, then cheerfully presided over the worst economic calamity in three generations.

Things are much, much, much, much better now, and at the very least, credit is due Barack Obama for pitching us out of history’s sand trap. Could it be such polls are skewed, or is this because of his color of skin? I suspect it’s the latter, and it makes me sad. Another not-so-subliminal symptom of the horrendous state of U.S. body-politick. Whatever the reason, or non-reason, the guy’s done pretty well under difficult conditions not of his making. Is he about to be dealt another rotten hand by the Senate? Wish this country would learn. Best of luck to you, Sir.

Pleased and impressed by the recently accelerating advancement of homosexual rights and hoping that this marks a trend toward faster and more peaceful evolution on the world’s most important issues in years to come.

Are we sufficiently bored yet of the banal behavior and intensely vacant content perpetrated by the world’s pantheon of pop stars?

IN A WORLD where Miley Cyrus has become a shining beacon…

I’m watching the movie “About Time” on HBO now and it’s surprisingly good and I’m imagining how much better things would have gone if they could only go back and re-do its marketing campaign.

Really looking forward to checking out the movie “Interstellar” very soon. Also Bird-Man, Nightcrawler and, yes, Gone Girl. Got a Halloween Jones for “Seven” and will dig that one out at the next possible juncture.

Did anyone see The Zero Theorem? Terry Gilliam film opened and closed barely making a blip.




Did you know you can find out exactly what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of “Lost In Translation,” but it’s better if you don’t know.

Did anyone watch the HBO mini-series Olive Kitteridge? A powerful drama with excellent acting, and yet, wow, what a bummer. Would love to hear your thoughts. I found it to be a challenging ride, to say the least.


Close To Home

On May 28, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

Spending time recently on a different kind of writing, but recent events have convinced me it’s time to speak up on the state of our nation and culture. I’m extremely saddened by the shootings last week in Santa Barbara and conclusions being drawn (and not drawn), as well as the recent Veterans Administration issues that have gone from the back-burner to headlines.

It’s long past time that we take action on these issues, and if long-running trends and the nature of public discourse is any indication, America appears poised to do nothing, which just isn’t an option any more.

There are a great many things we can say about this country, and most of them are uttered on television every single day. However, the long-standing trend of our government’s inability to act in times of crises, deferring instead to the status quo or, even worse, selfish and corporate interests, has created a nationwide malaise with some very clear cut results.

Shooting rampage in Isla Vista, CaliforniaAn article in The Onion throws last Friday’s massacre in Santa Barbara into relief. America has a crisis related to mass shootings and its politically-enabled gun culture, and no one is doing anything about it. And that’s not OK. Every time these events occur the same pattern results: intense media scrutiny, surface analysis, prurient details emerge, those close to the occurrence ask for action, the NRA swings into action, politicians shy away from the issue, more guns are sold, the pace of these tragedies increases so that when the next one occurs we do the same thing all over again with no divergence from the pattern.

Does anything feel new to you about the latest episode? We are averaging approximately two of these tragedies per month for the last five years. There are virtually no new gun laws anywhere in this country in the wake of Columbine…Aurora…Newtown. Just last week, the NRA labelled the Center for Disease Control’s announcement that they were considering research into the statistics behind mass shootings as “immoral.” Immoral research. That’s a new one.

Meanwhile, the NRA tactical talking points, which have basically consisted of “The 2nd Amendment” (a twisted interpretation) and “arm the good guys” have slowly expanded to include the phrase “mental health issue”. All of these are crafted toward preserving the NRA’s strategic objective: “More Guns.” But what’s insane is that the NRA are the ones pointing the finger and crying “immoral.”

The Isla Vista shootings have so many of the characteristics of previous events, with some notable exceptions. Both the things that are the same, and the things that are different are worth exploring.

At first blush, the patterns include: young, white, male perpetrators, disaffected and with latent anti-social tendencies and/or borderline psychological issues, enough fire-power to attack dozens or even hundreds more people than were actually assaulted, written or audio-visual manifestos, and the proximity to schools.

What’s different this time? Fathers of both one of the victims and the perpetrator have vowed to make it their life’s work to impact this horrific American trend. We’ve heard cries for activism in the wake of these disasters before, but this time seems a little different. Perhaps the parents of the Newtown tragedy would tell you otherwise. As a defense attorney, victim’s father Richard Martinez seems especially qualified to lead the charge here.

Even more significant, and an extremely new wrinkle in this case, is that both the shooter’s parents and police KNEW about this threat well before the deeds were acted out. We have become so accustomed to these stories that a fact like this may play out like just another sound-byte. Rest assured, it is a big deal that police were in this guy’s home days before the event, with his 140-page manifesto well under way and a cadre of guns and ammunition mere feet away behind his bedroom door.

Think about this: they knew this guy was disturbed, and a threat, and information was available that could have enabled the police to stop this incident completely (even the killer himself said so), yet nothing was done. They went to his apartment, talked to him, and found him to be quiet and shy, but a nice kid. I wonder if they would have pushed harder if the color of his skin was darker? Despite the fact that nearly all of these mass shooters are white. And men.

Yes, it’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking. But that shouldn’t stop us from drilling down into the issues and changing the game to prevent it from happening again. In fact, it should make us even more determined. When I try to wrap my head around this, the one thing I keep coming to is: information. There was information available to help prevent this tragedy, and it didn’t get into the hands of the right people at the right time. The mental history of the perpetrator, the actual threat he pre-announced, and his purchase (apparently “legally”) of several guns and hundreds of bullets.

NRA tactics of obfuscation aside, but with the privacy issues raised by the Edward Snowden affair taken into consideration, how do we make sure that the totality of this information, all knowable to us in advance, is put together to prevent future tragedy? The answer I keep coming back to is: a database.

A database that keeps track of all restricted firearms sold in the United States. A database that keeps track of all bullet purchases over 100 in the United States. A database that can be accessed by police and/or government agencies with judicial oversight so that investigations can be facilitated by the information and monitored by the courts. This is one of the failings of the NSA Security breaches uncovered by Edward Snowden – the information exists, but there’s no oversight on its dissemination.

And, ideally, a database that can be cross-referenced with a list of potential threats to the public peace, also with oversight. These would include, ex-convicts (including violent and sex offenders), documented mental health risks, and those who use public media sources (i.e., blogs, YouTube, etc.) to propagandize their violent intentions.

Here comes the oft-heard refrain – none of the bad guys will register their guns. Only the good guys. First, if the onus is on the gun sellers (and the manufacturers) to comply, you are at least forcing this commerce to the margins. Does it make anyone feel any better that Elliot Rodger’s guns were purchased legally? Had they been registered, and that information made available to law enforcement acting on a tip with judicial oversight, they would have known that a potential threat was in possession of heavy fire power and, in Rodger’s words, “it would have been all over.”

Moreover, we have no way of knowing that cars and drivers have registrations and licenses, respectively. Except that when something happens, we do. This is both a form of monitoring and controlling potentially aberrant behavior, and a deterrent against bad behavior and illegal activity. We’ve been trying the other way – no registration, no management of the issue at all, and always, to the NRA’s delight, More Guns, and where has it gotten us?

In addition to a new policy that will aggregate and allow police and the public access to known threats who possess or have recently purchased weaponry, we have got to come to a 21st Century realization that the gun and bullets manufacturers are not to be treated as both a financial entity with the same for-profit rights as any other business that sells a product. The 2nd Amendment requirement to keep an armed militia in the United States does not equate to an individual’s “right” to have unfettered access to weaponry of mass destruction with absolutely no way for our institutions to know who’s got what.

We as a people need to get clear on this, and make this stance abundantly clear to our elected officials. Immediately. And in every election. Just as we have registered sex offenders so that we can keep tabs on them, we need to have the ability to see who is making large purchases of weaponry and bullets in our society and we do that because we need the information to help stop future tragedies like Isla Vista. As bad as this tragedy was, a locked sorority door was the only thing stopping this gunman from achieving his stated ambition: murdering every single woman inside the Alpha Phi sorority house.

Along with saying yes to CDC research on the topic and supporting private research into this malady as well, the U.S. Congress should create a bi-partisan task force to analyze gun control laws and best practices of all the industrialized nations so we might understand why we have far and away the highest frequency of unnecessary handgun deaths in the industrialized world. Other countries such as Australia, Canada, and Japan, not as vested in the rights of gun manufacturers and owners over the safety of the general populace, have successfully addressed tragedies like the ones that continually happen in the U.S.. They have taken action, and they have had positive results. Why not U.S.?

It’s unacceptable for the United States to be the lone hold-out on this issue, while death tolls continue to rise and our citizens – our children – are in danger. Every other country in the world responds to these types of crises with clear and decisive action. America’s history of in-action on this topic doesn’t make us exceptional, or better in any way. It just makes us stupid.

Let’s stop being stupid about guns in America.

Please. Enough is Enough.



TROUBLE BREWING AT V.A. >>> I was saddened to see that long-time American General and war-hero Eric Shinseki is becoming a political scapegoat in the Veterans Administration scandal. General Shinseki had been appointed to clean up a mess and ended up getting slimed himself. It sucks when we put good people onto a tough job and then the nature of the job does them in.

General Shinseki’s long years of service merit better treatment, and at least President Obama has been standing behind him until now. Recent right-wing attempts to make him the fall guy for a bureaucratic and political problem of their own creation could backfire in the face of a little truth-digging by journalists on the chronic under-funding of the VA. I hope that both Democrats and Republicans of Conscience (a rare breed indeed) will put aside the politics and fix the issue without turning a good man into political road-kill.

And even though it may not benefit them in the upcoming mid-term elections, I would like to see Republicans put the money where their mouths are and get behind our veterans – whom they put into harm’s way with a drummed up War in Iraq – by voting sufficient funds for them to be taken care of such that these issues of neglect at the hands of our very own government are a thing of the past.

#YESALLWOMEN >>> I’m not sure I totally get the true meaning of this popular, new hashtag, but I’m certainly a supporter of the issues it is here to represent. The rise of misogyny in both the public sphere and political discourse (Republicans and “Legitimate” Rape) is both alarming and counter-evolutionary. Women have been encouraged to share their stories of abuse and harassment at the hands of men, and I would like to share my own story of harassment as both a means of empathizing with the cause, and to offer yet another perspective to the conversation.

While working at the Walt Disney Company in 1990-91, I was sexually harassed in the textbook definition of the term by a high-ranking executive in the department of Feature Animation. The perpetrator was male, knew that I was in a committed, heterosexual relationship, yet continued to make unwanted advances, proclaiming that “Michael Eisner is gay,” peppering business conversation with sexual innuendo, and propositioning me on multiple occasions with phrases like “I’ll give you the business…” during one-on-one strategy meetings.

I was 27 years old at the time, working 70 hours a week at Mauschwitz, trying to make good on an extremely high profile opportunity, and this egotistical and sociopathic individual literally destroyed my career at Disney, an opportunity that I’d worked tirelessly to create for over six years in the film and TV business. When it ended, I was improperly discharged by Disney after having told Corporate HR about the issue in detail. I was left jobless with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and a debilitating skin condition it took four years to fix.

In addition to the time, money and career impact, I was left with a tremendous feeling of rage and loss. Unfairness was only the tip of the iceberg for me. Complete disillusionment. I chose not to sue because that’s not how I solve problems, and I’m glad I didn’t. I’ve watched our society victimize good people like Anita Hill and even Michael Ovitz (who coined the phrase, “Gay Mafia” at Disney) in years since. While part of me wishes I’d spoken up in a public way at the time  to stand up to the bullying of a miserable human being, and to prevent him from ever doing it again, my life has been better off for not having filed suit.

But now that people are telling their stories, I feel like it’s time for me to share mine. And to join the chorus of those who wish to oppose sexual politics, sexual bullying, and the general weaponizing of sexuality in our society. Maybe this is about gender. Maybe it’s about orientation. Maybe it’s about tolerance. Most definitely it’s about power. But I definitely think, at its core, it’s time for all of us to stand up and fight for equality. The freedom to be who we are. The freedom to associate with and marry whomever we want. The freedom to walk our streets without power-mad machine gun-toters threatening our peace.

And it’s time we started to get behind the idea that “all PEOPLE are created equal” and make it part of the bedrock of our society. This is something I believe deeply and passionately. Thanks for reading long enough to allow me share my beliefs with you.


We’re Number Three!!!

On February 17, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

Medal Ceremony - Winter Olympics Day 9I’m a sports fan. I played everything growing up in St. Louis, and I love playing or even watching a great contest, I’m inspired by the best, and worst, or us in action, and am a huge fan of what sports can teach us about the rest of our lives.

So I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi with interest, and there are a few takeaways that I’d like to share. First, and foremost, the trend I’ve noticed in watching the broadcast, and this is viewed through the prism of NBC’s coverage, is that it’s all about US. That is, it’s America against the world. As if we as a country are always facing down the world’s challenges, and are expected to come out victorious.

Granted, the NBC coverage is geared toward an American audience. But the Olympics is a forum for all countries to compete, and the stories of victory, and defeat, are all equally interesting to me no matter which country generates them. I’m sitting here watching the Bode Miller show, I mean the Men’s Super-G Alpine event, and I now know more about Morgan, Bode’s wife, than I do about the two people who somehow by accident managed to beat the greatest skier in the history of the universe.

All due respect to Bode, who has won as many Alpine medals as any Olympian ever, and is now the oldest person to win an Alpine medal, but it would have been nice to have learned a little something about the WINNER Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, and silver medalist, also an American, Andrew Weibrecht. Not to mention Jan Hudec, the Canadian who had the nerve to TIE Bode for the bronze. How emasculating!

By the way, how cool is it to watch the racers super-imposed on top of one another as if they’re racing the course at the same time. You can see who’s ahead at one point, and when someone overtakes them on the way. Awesome!

There are parallels here to the world outside of sports. American media, almost without exception is rigorously focused on the U.S. as the center of the universe. And I’m sorry, we’re just not. In fact, we’ve been pretty much screwing the entire planet non-stop since the turn of the millennium.

When I go to Europe and get a healthy dollop of BBC and al-Jazeera World News, I learn so much more about the actual News of the World than on any broadcast in the U.S. I don’t think this is good for us here in America because let’s face it folks, we’re slipping.

Bode’s tie for the Bronze may ultimately be a satisfying achievement, but I know that the medal standings with America Number 3 isn’t nearly good enough for the America first-ers who expect us to be the best of everything because, well, America is just THE BEST. Except that, we’re not.

And while I’m absolutely fine to see America where we are in the Winter Olympics “standings” – The Olympics aren’t really a team sport in and of themselves – it’s cool that the Netherlands has the most medals (because I love Holland!), and host Russia is doing well , too (because the Russians are cheaters and the spy on everyone…no, wait…).

Being the best at the Winter Olympics isn’t really the leadership I think it most important for this country to achieve. In fact, being Number Three is absolutely fine and something we should strive for in a handful of other disciplines, especially ones that count for a lot more than The Olympics. Or any sport for that matter.

Did you know that in 2013 America was ranked 17th in the world out of the best countries for education, according to a global report by the education firm Pearson. Can you imagine if we were 17th in the standings at the Winter Olympics? Or the Summer Olympics? The sky would be falling for sure. What’s wrong with America? But 17th in education, not a peep.

Where do you think America stands in a recent Bloomberg study of the world’s most efficient health care systems? How about 46th out of 48? How do you feel about that? The Bloomberg study isn’t talking about the best health care, but quality as a function of cost.

As a country, we spend the most money as a percentage of our GDP (a jaw-dropping 17.2 percent; finally, something we’re the best at), and the second most money per capita (just behind the Swiss). But what we get for all that money: 46 out of 48. Just when you were feeling sorry for those poor doctors who worked so hard to get through medical school for a mediocre $400,000 median income.

And then there’s that little nugget that health care is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States, in years when we weren’t crashing the world economy with our Too Big to Fail Recession and foreclosures led the pack. All indications are that those bankruptcies do not include any doctors who have been victimized by the impending socialization of their profession.

There are some who say that Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to the free world since the Nazis invaded Poland. And there are others who say that while the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, it’s an important start. A start on the long road to fixing our incredibly low standing in the world in a category that counts a heck of a lot more than Shaun White crashing in the Half-pipe.

No time like the present to get our priorities in order.

Next week – the socio-political significance of Bob Costas’ pink eyes.



On January 7, 2014, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

2014 at last! Now Ed Snowden can be a Hiro, not a traitor. What would have happened if the SnowBlower had simply raised his hand and told the boss that something didn’t seem quite right about all The People’s data illegally going into NSA hands? Do you think they would have given him a pat on the back and said, “You’re Right!! Let’s fix this immediately and quietly based on your recomendations to repair any damages to Human Rights without suffering a major loss in World Credibility?”

Or maybe they would have just tossed him in jail and thrown away the key.

I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

But I for one am glad he had the guts to run away. Corrupt Authority is seldom gracious when facing its own failings. And I believe there was stuff in that million document dump we needed to know about. Call me a surrealist. An Anti-Denial Literal. I want to know these things. Especially when so many of so few scruples would do anything to keep The Truth from us.

Governmental Extraction

Governmental Extraction

Remember The Graduate, when Ben was trying like hell to get to the church and tell Elaine Robinson that he loved her? And the look on everyone’s faces as Ben tried to bust in on the wedding? Angry, rabid, vicious snarling looks of contempt and pure hate? That was what the Establishment threw at Mr. Snowden when he went all James Bond on us. All it would have taken was one person with a jail cell, or one with a gun, to put an end to his expose. Information retrieved.

Freedom is fragile, indeed. Not to mention a concept whose definition varies with the definer.

Has anyone else noticed the relativity of the prefixes Hiro and Fuku? I dare you not to think about it. I’m trying, and it’s not working. One thing someone said about the ongoing calamity at Fukushima has stuck in my craw, and it’s the best reason for us to never build another nuclear power plant ever again. It was: “a nuclear bomb going off in a warehouse full of nuclear bombs.” I never want that to happen. Or even be a remote possibility. Anywhere. There is nowhere to run from The China Syndrome. Not yet, at least.

Yay US!

Yay US!

Just read that Iraq is in the middle of a Civil War, only now al-Qaeda is involved, which it wasn’t before America invaded. I suppose it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The same thing happened in Iran, only it took 35 years of “diplomacy” on America’s part to delay the inevitable. The Obama Administration has done a very good job keeping this recent development off the radar. Ah, The Middle East. Never too far away from telling the rest of the world: FukU.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell what’s real from what’s made up in this world, don’t you think? Is it the media, or the messengers? That’s why I’m trying extra hard to pay attention to the message. If there is one. So often, there isn’t, just more things. Every day I’m finding new reasons why Things are over-rated; moreover, the attachment to them is at the root of so many problems. But I still love a good movie.

Here are my favorites from 2013. It was a very good year for film. Though it was no 2012. List will continue to evolve up until Oscar time.

  1. Gravity
  2. The Way Way Back
  3. Saving Mr. Banks
  4. Lee Daniel’s The Butler
  5. This Is the End
  6. The Wolf of Wall Street
  7. 12 Years a Slave
  8. Ron Burgundy: The Legend Continues

On Deck:

  1. Inside Llewyn Davis
  2. Her
  3. American Hustle
  4. Nebraska
  5. Fruitvale Station

And that’s about it for now.

One more thing: =

Have a great 2014!! More to come…

Your Pal,