Monthly Archives: September 2017

For Sale: One Bridge, Slightly Used

(photo by The Washington Examiner)

  1. the action (generally illegal) of advertising goods that are an apparent bargain, with the intention of substituting inferior or more expensive goods.
    “a bait-and-switch scheme”

The term was first used in 1962, to describe an ascending advertising strategy. Ad folks also coined the term “Mad Men,” one of the most brilliantly self-aggrandizing terms in the history of language (and not a bad TV show).

Since then, of course, it’s become so familiar as to be idiomatic.

So why are we so duped by Trump’s ultimate (and ceaseless) sales strategy? Against his own party and voters,  no less?

Consider the last two months alone. The Trump administration has suffered profound political losses, from health care to DACA to being out-Tweeted by Kim Jong Un (who probably loves the nickname Rocket Man, by the way. Take it from Scotty Potty: Teases never work with cool nicknames. Ever hear a bully say,  “You throw like a girl, Diesel!”)?

Yet if you watched his weekend “rally” in Alabama, you’d think those inbreeders were welcoming  MacArthur from the Pacific Theater. Watch in news replays, and you’ll see Trump, perhaps the glummest politician in American history, beam a true smile. He’s in his element.

Which just happens to be a used car lot.

In the rally, you can see him  actually dropping the bait. First he made a brief pit stop at John McCain’s front door to drop a flaming bag of dog shit, presumably because McCain (who is about to enter the myth-o-sphere) is stealing the president’s headlines and may be the only Republican not left wearing spray-on tan backwash.

After calling the Senator names from afar, he then race-baited the huckleberries with a favorite alt-right ember: minorities who challenge American institutions. The NFL, Trump brayed, are filled with America-haters who should be automatically dismissed for not standing for the national anthem.

Teams, as expected, responded en masse today, kneeling to tell the president where to stick the rocket’s red glare. Also as expected, CNN and MSNBC went apoplectic with rage, as Fox, the state news service, defended President Pumpkinhead for telling it like it is.

So dropped was the bait. The switch, however, was made long prior. When he met with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling to cover hurricane relief, a seismic and public victory for Democrats.

If anything, Democrats may be the biggest winners of a Trump presidency, which has been underscored by a singular strategy: Cave when it comes to negotiation, but throw out an impotent-yet-incendiary quote to appease the base.

He did it with Charlottesville. He did it with Joe Arpaio. He’s doing it now. Trump knows that coffee is for closers, and you do anything — anything — to take the sit, make the pitch, and get them to sign on the line that is dotted, as David Mamet once said.

And the media has no choice but to cover the misdirection. What is CNN going to do? Not cover the things he says? Somehow, that would be even less responsible than covering the bullshit.

Perhaps what’s needed is a mandatory warning, like with pharmaceutical commercials. Except instead of a post-commercial disclaimer, this could be superimposed under all stories: Warning: The following is misdirection. Too much attention may result in severe retardation and reverse mortgages.

And I know, Mr. Schumer,  you were caught in a hot mic moment saying that, deep down, Trump “likes us. He likes me, anyway.”

Still, Senator, I wouldn’t expect a call in the morning.



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Leah Remini: Still Thetan After All These Years


Among the nosy and intrusive questions I like to ask strangers (and there are many — questions) is: “What’s your favorite guilty pleasure TV?”

Granted, it’s a stupid question, as the answer itself requests stupidity.

But the answer is usually fascinating. TV is nothing if not an expensive mirror, at least of our subconscious. If someone is foolish enough to engage me in chatter, I like to go a level deeper: “What is your favorite reality show guilty pleasure?”

That’s were the chaff and wheat really part ways, where the reflection turns from carnival mirror to Rorshach x-ray.

For one friend, the answer is dating shows. For another, it’s true crime. Cooking shows for one friend who is has fewer culinary skills than I, which is exactly the same as zero.

Judge Judy has long been my go-to answer. But now it’s A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. In its second season, the show was an instant hit, earning a nomination for tonight’s Emmy Awards. It has scored AMC-like viewership and even spawned two 15-minute mini episodes a day before and after each new show to siphon as much Nielsen blood as possible from this ratings  carotid artery.

I enjoy the show’s weekly skewering of a wacko religion. Of course, as spewed in an earlier column, I appreciate the lampooning of any religion, which, like guilty pleasure TV, requires bucketfuls of stupidity. And the show deserves real journalistic praise for taking on a litigious establishment, finding interview subjects who’ll speak on the record, and quoting text verbatim from Scientology scrolls. Bear Stearns should have faced such scrutiny.

Where the show utterly fails, however, is in recognizing its own irony. While Remini (rightfully) claims a determination to uncover a religious three-card monte, she refuses to acknowledge that she is engaging in another. She devotes entire episodes to answering viewers’ questions. Yet she has apparently not come across (or aired)  a single query that asks: After a religious scam, how do you view other religious doctrines?

That she remains quiet on the faith issue speaks volumes. Because as awful as the obscenities cataloged in the show, they are all child’s play compared to the practices of the faith we somehow deem sane:

The religion has scammed followers of well over $250 million. And? The pastor Ken Copeland has a net worth of $760 million and private airstrip for the ministry’s $17.5 million jet. Bishop T.D. Jakes has an individual net worth of $150 million and owns a diamond ring the size of a coin.  Pat Robertson’s net worth is $100 million alone.

Their god is Xenu, a space traveler who rules souls (thetans). Preposterous! Everyone knows god is a general contractor (though apparently not a very good one; there’s not even a wood-plank wine rack remaining, and that shit’s just a board with holes).

Apostates are stalked, abortion is encouraged, and followers are sent to “The Hole” for weeks, sometimes months, of menial labor for speaking out against the church. Horrible shit. Please do let me know when they burn women, finger bang child parishioners, detonate clinics, launch a Crusade  or fly planes into buildings.

This is apparently lost not only on Remini, but viewers at large. Take a look at the comments section to her show on any forum, and you will find reactions like this, from a small USA Today piece on church reaction to the show:

Kelly Jackman Bergel 

If all the stories are fake why hasn’t this litigious organization sued?
LikeReply16Aug 15, 2017 7:14am

Dan Peters

REMOVE their tax exempt status and see how long they last !
LikeReply17Aug 15, 2017 9:14am

K.M. Schulten

It would hurt them but at this point, they have billions of dollars of assets around the world.
LikeReply1Aug 15, 2017 9:25am

Tanya Patti Parkes 

Amen Dan!

LikeReplyAug 16, 2017 2:31pm

Ad nausea(m). Amen, indeed, Tanya. And yes, K.M., you’re absolutely right: Their scams have made them an international powerhouse.

Where could they have gotten such a notion?



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If You See Something that Looks Like a Star


I accidentally deleted all my email this weekend.

I think I know what happened. I’m such a goddamned minimalist that the lifestyle caught up with me. And when I say lifestyle, I mean neurosis.

Anything that sits in my garage for six month without being used is unnecessary, I reason. Same with my closets: If I haven’t worn it in six months, I don’t need it. Off to Goodwill with all of it. Unless it contains a phone number I won’t remember or my nephew’s  voice, I delete all voicemail after listening to the messages.

I say this as curse, not compliment. I now regret deleting voicemails from people that I met on the job. The best was from Ted Nugent, who called me “Scottily Wottily,” easily the best nickname ever assigned me.  Sure beats “Scotty Potty.”

I am so anal about keeping the memory free on my phone that I use bulk delete on junk email, which I don’t allow to collect for more than a day.

But today, I bulk deleted my entire inbox. It didn’t contain many missives; perhaps 100. But I kept them around because they were funny, contained a nice picture or contained a link to a possible future column.

Now they were all gone.

It’s funny, how instantaneous moments move in slow motion. Like when you realized you sent that email to the wrong recipient. Or let your anger rule your tongue. Or reflexively said ‘Love you’ to your boss before hanging up (sorry, Bob).

So it was with The Vanishing. A few key strokes, punched from rote memory, laid waste to everything. I stared at the screen for a moment, stupefied and speechless. You’d think Google would have come up with a confirmation message before massacring. Something like,  Are You Sure You Want to Do That, Dumbass? 

When I finally came to, I realized that all was not lost. All I need do was rummage through the Trash file in my email and restore the necessary ones. Hell, I regularly had to sort through actual garbage thanks to Teddy, who had a fondness for chewing on important mail like Skoal. This would be a headache, but nothing more: I had 24 hours before it was automatically deleted forever.

So I went to the shower, turned on the boombox, and immersed to relax before the digital digging. Then Traffic’s The Low Spark of High Heeled wafted:

If you had just a minute to breathe and they granted you one final wish
Would you ask for something like another chance?
Or something similar as this? Don’t worry too much
It’ll happen to you as sure as your sorrows are joys

As I listened to Steve Winwood’s ethereal voice, I tried to answer his questions. What did matter? What was critical there, worth the foraging or fret?

I had no answer. And realized: Is there anyone you could not reach if you wanted to? Is there any name or number you could not track down in your phone calls, your texts, or, more importantly, with a modicum of effort?

That answer was easy: No. Like so much in my life, I had let technology do exercises that would probably be best left flexed in my own hands. I can’t remember the last time I read a map. Or checked the time on my wristwatch (though I own two dozen). I love to trumpet that I own no social media accounts. But what makes me different from some millennial Tweet-head if I too live by the inbox?

So I let the day pass, the trash empty, and my inbox go wherever they go to die. Probably the Florida Keys (did you see the morons who stayed?). And truthfully, it was a bit of a charge to bid my  e-belongings farewell.

Now I have five emails. I really should delete a few.

I understand this wouldn’t be a reasonable request for most people, whose inboxes flow like East Coast levies. Their lives hinge on the data within.

So I’m not requesting it. I’m commanding it.

Delete your inbox! Don’t look back, think twice or take the red pill! Head for higher ground with only your loved ones in clutch. You are moored to the dock; but what then when the dock is set adrift?

Set yourself adrift first.




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