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Liz Bishop, near the lower right, in front of the CBS 6 logo

When I was growing up, occasionally there would be an editorial produced by the general manager of a television station to discuss a vital issue of the day, such as whether to build a new bridge.

The words he said – it was virtually always a he – came from that local broadcaster, someone who lived in your community, not NYC or LA or DC, and had greater potential for trust and accountability. The editorial was well labeled and set apart in the local news broadcast, usually at the very end.

The Federal Communications Commission was very concerned about any one company having too much dominance in any local marketplace or nationally, and it had strict limits on radio and television station acquisition.

That was then. In August 2017, The Guardian ran a story This is Sinclair, ‘the most dangerous US company you’ve never heard of’. Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of the FCC, said those words.

So did John Oliver, host of HBO’s weekly satirical show Last Week Tonight, when he introduced an 18-minute segment on Sinclair in July 2017, as he noted the dreadful “must carry” requirement the company has been imposing on its 173 local news stations across the country to “parrot right-wing propaganda” and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

The current regime’s FCC has aided Sinclair’s expansion. Jared Kushner, son-in-law-in-chief, said back in December 2016, “We struck deal with Sinclair for straighter coverage.”

Now, the broadcast group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media is in the spotlight. If this unprecedented-in-size agreement is approved, it will have control of local TV stations reaching 72% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the nation’s three largest media markets. “The FCC chair Ajit Pai — who single-highhandedly has sought to kill Net Neutrality — is under investigation by the FCC’s inspector general for greasing the wheels for Sinclair.

What has caught the nation’s attention recently is this viral video put together by Deadspin “showing news anchors all over the country forced by Sinclair to parrot the same canned scripts attacking their own profession.”

It was heartbreaking to see Liz Bishop, the longtime anchor of WRGB, Channel 6 in Schenectady, NY, one of the oldest stations in the country, on the Deadspin video. It appears that their contracts make it too expensive to quit. It is difficult for staff to fight their overlords.

What to do? Write to the FCC and members of Congress, opposing the Sinclair/Tribune merger. Write to your local Sinclair stations and let them and their advertisers know that you are boycotting both as long as the “must-carry” material appears on their news broadcasts. Lessee, what else?

There have have always been nativism movements in the United States. Seldom has been as blatant as it’s been the past year and a quarter. In February 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director L. Francis Cissna announced that the agency changed its mission statement from:

“USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.”

To now:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.”

The aspirational angle has been lost.

By contrast, “During the 1940s, America basically underwent a nationwide sensitivity training program. Zoe Burkholder, a historian of education, writes… that a ‘forced tolerance’ movement had begun frothing a decade earlier as educators feared that scientific racism—the pseudoscientific ‘Master Race’ theories brewing in Germany—could waft overseas.” A reasonable worry, evidently.

Thus the story about the Superman pic shown. (Hey, wasn’t he an illegal alien?) What I do know is that the current regime’s attitude is troublesome.

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn notes: “The part where Jesus says to welcome the stranger is not a suggestion, it is a directive.”

The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein writes that Ronald Reagan “not only celebrating the concept of welcoming people from all sorts of places during his kickoff of the fall campaign, but arguing that it was immigrants who helped build the country and it was the dream that they embodied that was what made America great.” The GOP icon didn’t believe in nativism.

In other words, the US Needs ‘sh*thole’ countries, not the other way around. “America’s prosperity and security are greatly dependent on the goodwill and cooperation of other nations, developed and emerging markets alike.”

That would include chain migration, or family reunification.

Read former President Obama on immigration from September 2017

A pastor friend of mine noted recently, “I am thinking this morning of good people, great Americans I know, who have come here from Haiti, [various African countries], Pakistan, Philippines. These Americans contribute to the greater good of the US… [they] have worked hard, learned to live in an often-less-than-friendly new place, raised strong families, and sent their kids to college so they can also contribute to society… You ARE the American People.”

As Flow of Foreign Students Wanes, U.S. Universities Feel the Sting.

The Weekly Sift guy nailed it when he wrote about The Real Immigration Issue: “‘Illegal’ immigration has always been a red herring. The more fundamental question is whether the United States will continue to be a country dominated by English-speaking white Christians.” Will nativism continue to push back?

For a brief historic perspective, read Becoming a Citizen: Naturalization Records, 1850 – 1930

For ABC Wednesday

Ethiopia and China shake hands Source: CNN, 2015


My good and brilliant friend Catbird, who I’ve known for a long time and has no political ax to grind, wrote this to me in March 2018. I thought it should have a wider audience, so I’m posting here with her permission.

When I spent six weeks traveling in Ethiopia in late 2016, it looked like China was using the country as a stepping stone into Africa. They’d built important trade roads (Addis Ababa to Djibouti and Kenya), a light-rail system in Addis that’s quite heavily used, and a new railroad to Djibouti, which, although it’s not actually in Ethiopia, is Ethiopia’s port after it and Eritrea separated and Asmara was no longer available.

My impression was that the Ethiopian government had been blinded, or maybe just seduced, by money from China. There were also lots of factories with their little company towns that looked more like prisons with their walls, razor wire and distance from the highway. This and other foreign investment has happened much to the consternation of the populace: every once in a while there’s an uprising with riots, buses (and sometimes trucks) turned over and set afire and so on. I saw that, too. If my trip had been for government business, I wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

However, this gifts/flattery strategy may not work out in the end. I observed that Ethiopia as a whole basically doesn’t do maintenance, which, when it comes to infrastructure, will eventually lead to huge inefficiencies. There were plenty of hotels — even new ones — had once been grand but had declined due to lack of maintenance. I also saw jaw-dropping soil erosion in rural areas.

A burned-out bus from the 2016 unrest in Ethiopia


Apparently the government believes that it owns all the land and can take it at any time. My guides told me it was that, for instance, if you improved your land, the government could just kick you off of it at any time, so there was no point in improving anything.

IMHO, this is an unfortunate artifact of communism. That regime (the Derg) murdered hundreds of thousands of people.

I also learned that Ethiopians don’t think much of the Chinese, and say things like “those people will eat anything—even scorpions!” because they eat pork. Muslims don’t eat it because the Koran forbids it, and Christians believe pigs are just unclean.

I was particularly interested in this after reading that the American ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley wants to cut aid to poor countries who challenge the U.S. It’s as though the regime thinks the United States is the only game in town, which it is not.

In general, the really bad ideas from the current regime are touted with the most positive, or at least benign-sounding, intent. Getting rid of environmental regulations will make the country more “competitive,” for instance.

When I first saw the article Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers, I seriously thought it was fake news. But it’s no hoax.

“On 3 April 2018, a solicitation for services posted by… [DHS] appeared on the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website — a system that allows private contractors to bid on providing goods or services to the United States government. That solicitation…, titled ‘Media Monitoring Services,’ seeks a contractor to create a searchable database of information about journalists, social media ‘influencers,’ and media outlets.”

This is so consequential that it has been covered by media in India, Japan, and elsewhere. Presumably the database is designed to… well, I’m not sure.

The Forbes article speaks to my concerns:

“Unfortunately, increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this. Freedom House, which has monitored the status of the press for nearly 40 years, recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames ‘new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies’ as well as ‘further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China.’ And then it goes one step further.

“But it is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump, first as a candidate and now as president of the United States, that fuel predictions of further setbacks in the years to come.”

Snopes “reached out to DHS to ask if media reports suggesting this was an effort to compile political information on journalists were unfounded, as well as to ask for details about how this effort will enhance national security. In response, DHS directed us to a tweet from Homeland Security spokesperson Tyler Q. Houlton, who confirmed the data collection…”

Houlton posted: “Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”

Well, THAT makes me feel a WHOLE lot better. Yeah, right. Hmm, I wonder if I’m considered a “social media influencer.” My Klout score has been going down recently, so maybe DHS won’t notice me…

At the end of December 2017, the family was traveling to Afton, NY to meet with a couple dozen of our Olin relatives for lunch – or was it dinner? (this WAS a source of conversation) – when I asked my wife if she were singing Flow Gently Sweet Afton in her head, since I was.

She had no idea what I was talking about, not entirely unusual. This surprised me nevertheless because I’d known it since fourth grade. It was included on a book of tunes that our music teacher, Mrs. Joseph, had us singing from. I must admit it was an old book even then. (I swear I bought a replica of this book in the last decade, but I simply cannot find it.)

There appears to be no question that Robert Burns wrote the poem Sweet Afton. “There is a small river, Afton, that falls into the Nith, near New Cumnock [in Scotland], which has some charming, wild, romantic scenery on its banks.”

The first verse:

FLOW gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I ’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary ’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

And I’ve also heard it with a tune by William James Kirkpatrick from late in the 19th century. It is a hymn tune called Cradle Song, which is a variant tune to the Christmas hymn Away in the Manger.

Now I have no idea which version I originally learned because these three not dissimilar tunes are all blurring in my head. And there are other tunes which may predate Spilman.

I’m curious: are you familiar with the poem Flow gently sweet Afton? And how’s your Scottish brogue when you recite it? What tune do you associate with it?

Listen to Sweet Afton:

Jo Stafford

Nelson Eddy

a Livervox recording

accordion player named Glenn

Nickel Creek

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