The Widdershins

An Absence of Fairness

Good Monday, all, and I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful.  In the spirit of that holiday, I’d like to thank my favorite Preznit, Ronnie Dearest, for making it possible for our politicos to attack other politicians and institutions with impunity. Yes, I’m talking about the Raygun Administration’s revocation of the Fairness Doctrine.

n 1985, under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler, a communications attorney who had served on Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign staff in 1976 and 1980, the FCC released a report stating that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In August 1987, under FCC Chairman Dennis R. Patrick, the FCC abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote, in the Syracuse Peace Council decision, which was upheld by a panel of the Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit in February 1989, though the Court stated in their decision that they made “that determination without reaching the constitutional issue.”[16]


Fowler said in February 2009 that his work toward revoking the Fairness Doctrine under the Reagan Administration had been a matter of principle (his belief that the Doctrine impinged upon the First Amendment), not partisanship. Fowler described the White House staff raising concerns, at a time before the prominence of conservative talk radio and during the preeminence of the Big Three television networks and PBS in political discourse, that repealing the policy would be politically unwise. He described the staff’s position as saying to Reagan:

The only thing that really protects you from the savageness of the three networks—every day they would savage Ronald Reagan—is the Fairness Doctrine, and Fowler is proposing to repeal it![22]

Instead, Reagan supported the effort and later vetoed the Democratic-controlled Congress’s effort to make the doctrine law.

Since the Fairness Doctrine was revoked, we’ve seen the rise of infotainment, complete with “he-said/she-said” opinion journalism, and the empowerment of the right-wing noise machine, including “think tanks” whose sole purpose is to twist the public discourse away from reality (which as we know, has a liberal bias) to the skewed, black-is-white worldview of the top 1%.

I draw a bright line between this revocation and the rise of delusional movements like modern conservatism, whose members hold beliefs that, despite their unshakeability, lack any basis in reality. One of these beliefs, disgustingly promoted by some of the top Republican contenders for President, is the alleged propensity of Planned Parenthood to sell baby parts. There were videos, which were since proven to be deceptively edited, which were used to “prove” the accusation and sow outrage in the Republican base. As usual, none of these brainless f*cktards gave a thought to the way this would affect people who, by definition, are only loosely tethered to the world as we know it. Predictably, some RWNJ with a gun decided to avenge those alleged murdering psychos at Planned Parenthood by…becoming a murdering psycho at Planned Parenthood.

Robert Lewis Dear allegedly killed three people and injured 9 others yesterday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In the hours after the shooting little was known about Dear or his motivations.

Saturday evening, those motivations began to come into focus. NBC News and the Washington Post reported that, after the shooting, Dear told law enforcement officials “no more baby parts.”

The phrase clearly references a series of videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion advocacy group. The videos alleged that Planned Parenthood was illegally selling body parts from fetuses for profit. These allegations were untrue and the videos relied on deceptive editing.

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So, did you brave the crowds and go out to be mobbed by the Black Friday hordes?


No problem, unwind here with ten wonderful hours of elevator music.


Sit back.  Relax.  Enjoy!


I’m going to add something here about the coach of my favorite college team, Les Miles and the LSU Tigers.  After eleven years at LSU, the monied “boosters” (and the A.D.?) have decided that a record of 7-3 (8-3 if they beat Texas A&M today) this year isn’t good enough for LSU football and Miles must be fired/replaced.  One of the reasons I’ve been sort of absent the last day was because I’ve been trying to read everything I could on the situation.

There’s that and then I also had a dental checkup on Wednesday and the hygienist, in her exuberance to absolutely, totally clean my teeth, broke off the filling on my #25 incisor.   As a result I’ve been left with a lower front tooth that looks like an arrowhead and made it very difficult to eat my smoked turkey breast and I had to forget it on the pecan pie.  The dentist couldn’t add me in Wednesday afternoon to fix it right then so I have not been a happy camper.  But back to my favorite coach:

Miles, who is 131-50 overall in 13 years as a head coach, has compiled a 103-29 record at LSU, which includes a remarkable 56-24 record in SEC regular season games. Miles is the fastest coach in LSU history to reach milestone victories of 10 (11 games), 20 (24 games), 30 (35 games), 40 (48 games), 50 (63 games), 60 (76 games), 70 (87 games), 80 (98 games), 90 (113) games), and 100 games (126).

However, that apparently means nothing when you can’t beat Alabama.  As an ESPN sportscaster said today “There are LOTS of teams out there that haven’t beat Alabama.”.

So with that mind, do go check out this site which has “A Salute to Les Miles”.  It has a selection of gifs of Miles’ “lighter moments”, shall we say.  Check it out; you’ll get a chuckle or two out of it.  If I’m not around much today it could be because I’m celebrating the team giving Miles a win in his last LSU game or I’m drowning my sorrows that the Tigers lost Miles’ last game in Tiger Stadium.



Pilgrim on a platter

Happy Thanksgiving Widdershins.  In keeping with our stress-reducing holiday theme, let’s engage in a little positivity and optimism.  In no particular order, here are some things for which I’m grateful this year – I hope you will add your own.


I’m thankful…


  • For the three percent of climate scientists who believe climate change isn’t really a thing since it would be weird if one hundred percent of scientists were in agreement on the subject.
  • For Donald Trump providing an aspirational goal for poor racists.
  • For Ben Carson proving that being intelligent and being informed are worlds apart.
  • That the videotape of George W. Bush at a mosque six days after 9/11 and him saying, “Islam is peace,” is again making the rounds.
  • For dash-cam cameras and body cameras.No cook
  • For actor and philanthropist Leonard Nimoy proving the elegance of intellect.
  • For seeing another Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah and that his owners spelled Pharaoh wrong.
  • The Affordable Care Act survived the Supreme Court.
  • For the grace and dignity of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Love bested bigotry in Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • John Boehner can smoke and drink without the pesky interruption of having to obstruct government.
  • To again celebrate France.
  • The American public will get to know Ted Cruz.I got this
  • For Adele because she’s just plain awesome.
  • I will get to see the first female President and her successes.
  • For the safe little world MB has created for us here as well as Chat’s and Fredster’s wisdom and good nature.

And if you are reading this, I’m thankful for each of you and your families.

Have a great Thanksgiving and feel free to take this conversation in any direction you might like.

Madam MB is just a bit under the weather today and is enjoying some well-deserved rest.  She will return next week. Prozac stuffing

This week marks the beginning of our annual stress marathon.  For the next month or so we will engage in a mad dash of places, people, and circumstances.  For most of us that means a rendezvous at the corner of unwanted pressure and unhealthy anxiety.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Recently I’ve spent a good deal of time reviewing my personal stress level.  Throughout my career, I gave little or no thought to stress – it was just there.  My work weeks were uniformly sixty to eighty hours.  When my parents became ill, I traded eighty hour weeks for 168 hour weeks of 24/7 care giving with a whole new set of pressures.

The long and short of this – at some point I had a heart attack and was either too busy to care or too busy to notice.  I have no idea when my heart sent me the message, but it was sometime during the last seven years.  During that time I was an ambulatory time bomb.  That bomb went off and during the last ten months I’ve spent more time in the hospital than I ever care to again.

Thanksgiving 1863I mention this not to elicit sympathy, but to make a point.  Even someone in otherwise excellent health, built and educated to handle stress can succumb to its deleterious effects over time.  Stress is a killer – there are plenty of studies and meta-analyses to prove it.  It is particularly harmful to women and can lead to a myriad of heart weakening conditions.

The stress of cooking, planning, escorting, ushering, chauffeuring, hosting, mediating, cleaning, designing, and a hundred other activities associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas does nothing for one’s overall health.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are ways to combat stress.  Things like making sure you get enough sunshine, taking a walk, or listening to music.  There are things that are less obvious, like occasionally sniffing citrus, using honey as a sweetener of choice, or finding your hoko spot and squeezing it for thirty seconds or so.  Your hoko spot is the fleshy spot on your hand just below your thumb.

There are some lifestyle changes that are more difficult – like abandoning old customs.  Instead of fretting and slaving to create a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving production, let a restaurant fret over the giblets this year.Stressed is desserts

Forget about the pretense of perfection.  This has always been a personally difficult concept for me.  I would hold on to a project much too long under the guise of making it perfect.  What I was really doing was elongating the stress to avoid risking failure.  So this Thanksgiving embrace less than perfect gravy or less than perfect place settings.  For those who notice the lumpy gravy, give them a whisk and a disdainful eye roll.  The world will survive.

Probably the biggest lifestyle change is the power of positive thinking.  Positivity goes beyond just happiness since “happiness is an emotion; optimism is a belief about the future.”  Optimistic positivity helps in disease resistance, heart health, better coping skills with dramatic change, and can even slow the aging process.

One of the greatest Thanksgiving stressors is either the drunk uncle or the all-too-sober devoted Fox viewer.  Here’s my best advice and it comes from John Lennon when he said, “I don’t want to be a loudmouth, lunatic, poet, musician, but I cannot be what I am not.”

For the longest time I thought I had some sort of cosmic responsibility to bring the truth and light to those who were totally Foxified.  That self-delusional belief was nothing more than misplaced egotism because no matter how hard you try, you can’t make people “what they’re not.”

Freedom of expectionSo for those guests who are loudmouths or lunatics, accept them for what they are because it is unlikely they will ever be poets or musicians to your ears.  When you let go, the stress reduction is remarkable.

My simple advice for this Activist Monday is to “deactivate” this week.  Reduce your stress.  Walk instead of driving if you can.  If you have to drive, drive in the right lane only.  Leave fifteen minutes early or be complaisant with being fifteen minutes late.  Forget perfection.  Embrace offers of help.  If there are no offers, ask for help and be specific about what you need.  Remember – guilt is a thief living in your head that robs you of life experiences.

Stress is a killer – disinvite it this year.

Have a great Monday and take this conversation in any direction you might want to explore.

Good weekend, Widdershins.  This has been another in a long list of tough weeks, standing head and shoulders above many other tough weeks.  The situation in France is bad, the situation here is getting worse with regard to current attitudes toward refugees.  David Vitter managed to actually throw his spouse under the bus again with his hyperbolic statements toward Syrian refugees currently living in Louisiana.  Seems that the 14 of them are under the auspices of Catholic Charities, whose general counsel is none other that the long-suffering Mrs. V.  Further, all Syrians are not Moslem – they have a significant Christian population.  The Right-Wing noise machine would probably advise to screen them, and just deny admission to those of the Moslem persuasion, despite the fact that such an action is likely unconstitutional.  I actually believe that some Americans would just as soon send troops into the Middle East than take in refugees.

All things considered, this is a good time to take a deep breath and turn our thoughts to something a bit more pleasant.  Thanksgiving will be upon us Thursday, so we might as well get started in assembling tunes for the occasion.  Post plenty, please, as we need several hours of reminding that there is much to be grateful for on an ongoing basis.

Maybe, just maybe, our RWNJ friends will remember the spirit of the first Thanksgiving and take a step back.  Maybe we’ll all remember that money would be better spent feeding and sheltering the homesless, as opposed to destroying everything in sight.  Maybe some day all Americans will have reasons to be thankful.  Doubtful, but I can dream, can’t I?

This is an open thread.


(1)  Thankful – Josh Groban

(2) Alice’s Restaurant – Arlo Guthrie

(3) Homeward Bound – Paul Simon

(4) Mashed Potato Time – Dee Dee Sharp

(5) Sweet Potato Pie – Ray Charles and James Taylor

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Aaron Sorkin rewrote the season premier of The West Wing.  Sorkin surreptitiously caused brains usually in neutral to engage by asking this question:  Islamic extremism is to Islam as __blank__ is to Christianity.

The answer was the Ku Klux Klan.  It is an apt analogy.  The KKK has as its basis a perversion of the Bible while its founders claimed validation through various southern Christian churches.  Therefore, if we are to tar the whole of Islam with the actions of jihadi, why should we not tar Christianity with the actions of avowed racists?

If the title “racist Christianity” made you angry — good, it was meant to.  Now imagine you are a Muslim and for the past fifteen years the first reaction to any act of violence in the world is a question as to whether or not your sisters and brothers in faith were responsible?  No matter how it is rationalized, such smug nativism is execrable.

The political shorthand of labeling jihadists as the face of Islam is once again leading the shameful bigotry parade.  It does little good to point out it was Dubya who first refused to stain one of the world’s great religions with a provocative tag serving no purpose other than to anger.

Across the country, at least thirty Republican governors have declared their states to be Syrian-free zones going forward.  By so doing they might as well have put out their bigotry welcome mats.  Since 9/11 we have assimilated three-quarters of a million refugees – not one has been charged in a terrorism incident.  But now that we have reawakened to the scary nature of “otherness”, it is the Everest of irony to consider those on the terrorist no-fly list can and do buy guns without a hint of background checks.

Now that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the rest of thick-headed know-nothing crowd have taken their eyes off Mexicans for the moment, they are now camouflaging their intolerance as a fear of refugees.  They have learned all too well that while religion might be the “opiate of the masses,” it is fear that drives the addiction.

This political season is going to be particularly ugly if there is a domestic attack.  The Sorkinesque dilemma is this:  Will we have the strength to resist the lure of the jihadists’ savagery?

Dear People of France

Fortunately, we have someone deemed peerless in credentials, knowledge, and experience to guide us through these times and that person just happens to be a woman.  As for those turning their backs on refugees by hiding behind fear draped in gossamer religiosity, I have two words – get frocked.

Have a great Wednesday and take this conversation in any direction you might want.

Peace for Paris

As we all mourn the terrible attacks in Paris over the weekend, and the 129 victims who senselessly lost their lives, I know that I am wondering what we will do now. What is the answer to how to stop ISIS, aka “The Islamic State,” from doing this again? How can we stop the terrorist group from taking over Iraq and Syria, and extending its reach throughout the Middle East in the long-awaited radical Muslim “caliphate” called for by the group’s leaders? Can it happen here, again? Will New York, or some other American city, be the next target? Will it be Great Britain? ISIS has already spat in Putin’s face (I think they will come to regret that soon), and now Hollande’s. This can’t be allowed to stand.

And so far, the response of the US and France has been to counterattack. Twenty bombs were dropped on an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa, Syria yesterday.

The French defense ministry has said the “massive” airstrikes which hit Raqqa on Sunday night, was carried out in coordination with US forces. Twenty bombs were dropped, destroying a command center, jihadi recruitment center, a munitions depot and a training camp for fighters, the defense ministry said in a statement.

This approach does make sense. Unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS is trying to take over state governments and became a “state actor.”  While Al Qaeda’s strongholds and leadership were hidden for protection, ISIS shows its hand boldly and proudly. This leaves the terrorist group open to traditional-style warfare.

As an aspiring government authority, ISIS is also committed to providing public and social services to the population, activities in which it is already deeply engaged. These many public goods include power and water services, law enforcement, health care, dispute resolution, employment, education and public outreach. These responsibilities cost money, which in ISIS’ case comes from extortion (or taxation, as it were), control of energy and water resources, and plunder.

These sources are of course vulnerable to physical attack and disruption. Strategic assets such as oil facilities and utilities infrastructure are highly visible and vulnerable to air strikes. ISIS also makes little effort to disguise governing facilities, political headquarters and policy and security installations. As a self-appointed state, ISIS sees little reason to keep a low profile in its own territory. Remarkably, its rivals have made little to no effort to target these assets, which are essential pillars of ISIS’ political authority and governance. For those very reasons, however, destroying these facilities without empowering moderate Sunni groups to govern in ISIS’ place would only lead to state collapse in ISIS-held areas. International efforts continue to focus on foreign terrorist finances such as donations. ISIS – a self-funded organization – remains wealthy.

The question is, what else is going to happen? How will the governments of France, the United States and other sympathetic countries react?

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