Who speaks for broadcasters?

sag_aftra_broadcasters_logoI got my first radio job when I was still in high school. I’ve been broadcasting for 39 years, from Belle Glade FL to Stuart to Orlando to Miami to Los Angeles. I’ve been a DJ, a news anchor, a music director, a program director, a format creator, hosted shows syndicated worldwide, and appeared on television.

I know broadcasting. I know broadcasters. I’m one of them and have been for most of my life. And I’ve been proud to represent broadcasters on the Los Angeles Board of SAG-AFTRA for the past 4 years.

I work with the great Hal Eisner who, if you cut him, would bleed TV and radio. He represents broadcasters on the SAG-AFTRA National Board.

Broadcasters should be represented nationally and locally by REAL broadcasters. We understand our lives, our needs, our challenges, and what we want our union to do for us. Things someone who’s not a broadcaster would not understand.

We’ve been on the front lines of mergers, consolidation, of media swallowed up by investment firms. We’ve fought to represent our communities, we’ve fought hard in the face of homogenization. We’ve watched broadcast journalists stand up against hate and threats of violence to be voices of truth.

The fight is not over yet. In many ways, it’s just beginning. I’ll have a lot more to say soon.

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Politicians talk openly of executing LGBTQ Americans

Cattle car at Birkenau, part of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Photo by Rob Archer.

Cattle car at Birkenau, part of the Auschwitz concentration camp. In these, Nazis shipped Jews and “undesirables” to their deaths. Photo by Rob Archer.

Several politicians recently have been caught raising the idea that LGBTQ Americans should be killed or executed. That these statements are being made in the open is a disturbing trend. How far will it go? Will they start talking about “camps” for “undesirables”?

In Florida, Mark Hill is heard on tape laughing about a suggestion that, because the Bible allegedly calls for the death of gay men, legislation should be introduced that would execute gay people for their “crime.”

In Alabama, Mayor Mark Chambers of Carbon Hill in a Facebook rant complained that the only way to “solve” the “problem” of gay people is to kill them. When called out on it, he doubled down. No remorse, no apology.

Already in America, we have a version of concentration camps where migrants are being kept in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions, and people – including children – are dying as a result. With minimal outcry, I might add.

We seem to be primed, as the German people were, to accept the idea of wholesale killing of groups of people as a solution.

As the national psyche hardens, it will take so much more to un-harden than just talk or reason. And that scares the living hell out of me. Germany had to be utterly destroyed to loosen the grip of people who firmly believed it was right to kill Jews, gays, Soviet POWs, Roma, and the handicapped.

Is it already too late?

Wanna get away? GO UP OR DOWN!

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Once again, a sci-fi space show treats three-dimensional space as a flat earth ocean. This week’s Star Trek: Discovery shows the Discovery and Enterprise “surrounded” by enemy ships.

This seems to be de rigueur for TV and movie spaceships, with a few notable exceptions including The Expanse – which shows ships behaving as if they’re actually in space, not banking like aircraft. (Sadly, though, Expanse producers still give us sounds in space. I guess TV needs to add aural excitement somehow.)

In space, ships don’t fly around like they’re in the air. And every time two ships come face to face, they wouldn’t always be oriented exactly the same, as if they’re on a flat surface. And, spaceships wouldn’t necessarily be laid out like ocean-going vessels, with decks plotted horizontally. (The Expanse gets this one right, too.)

And here we see in the otherwise excellent Star Trek: Discovery, ships threatening the Discovery and the Enterprise… as if they’re on a flat ocean somewhere. “Escape is impossible! Unless we, you know, go up or down.” (And “up” and “down” are meaningless in space.)

So many questions

So many questions.

For two years, the president and his supporters said Mueller was a “bad cop,” and his team was filled with evil people who couldn’t be trusted. Does that mean Mueller’s alleged findings are suspect? What are the people who attacked Mueller saying today? Are they taking it all back?

Trump yet again said the Mueller investigation was “illegal.” If so, does that mean we should throw out the findings and do the probe over again?

If they did nothing wrong, why did so many of campaign and administration officials… and Mr. Trump and his family… lie and mislead about their connections, dealings, and meetings with Russians? Why the attempts to cover up if there was nothing to cover up?

Why did Mr. Mueller not subpoena in-person testimony from the president, Donald Trump Jr., or Jared Kushner, or question them under oath?

And the head-scratcher of all head-scratchers: Why did Mr. Mueller defer the obstruction of justice determination to Mr. Barr, Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General installed to make sure “no president can ever be indicted”? Was Mueller pressured?

With columns of jagged clouds, a nation changed.

On this day, January 28, 1986:

I saw the strange, jagged clouds in the northern sky as I left my apartment in Port St Lucie, FL to go to work on that cold morning. I had no idea what they were.

I tuned my radio to WRMF. At the time, I thought it was the best programmed, best imaged adult contemporary music station, and paid close attention to what they did and how they did it. I was the music director at WSTU Stuart and wanted to crib what I could.

Strangely, there was no music. There was only a live feed from a news network. They were talking about some terrible accident. They said they just couldn’t see how there could be any survivors.

I thought maybe an airliner had crashed.

It was a few minutes later one of the anchors mentioned something about the Kennedy Space Center. I looked again at the jagged clouds to the north. Then I understood.

I had been watching the countdown to the launch on CNN before I left for work but had to turn off the TV to finish getting ready. I couldn’t conceive that it was going to be anything other than a typical, routine launch, like the many I had seen before.

There was no music on WSTU that afternoon. We too carried a live network news feed. We carried it all the way through President Reagan’s address on the Challenger tragedy. Nothing felt much the same after that day.

No republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it.

Most people, if they compare the fall of Rome with the impending fall of the United States, are thinking of the fall of the Empire that led to the so-called Dark Ages. But the comparison isn’t really valid.

What’s happening right now, not just in America but in several other democratic republics around the world, is more like the fall of the Roman Republic before the advent of Caesar Augustus.

The similarities between then and now are eerily disturbing and frightening. We’re at the cusp of what could be a disastrous change for America and democracy on our planet.

That’s why I highly recommend the book, Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny by Edward J. Watts, professor of history at UC San Diego.

An excerpt:

1606933485This book explains why Rome, still one of the longest-lived republics in world history, traded the liberty of political autonomy for the security of autocracy. It is written at a moment when modern readers need to be particularly aware of both the nature of republics and the consequences of their failure. We live in a time of political crisis, when the structures of republics as diverse as the United States, Venezuela, France, and Turkey are threatened. Many of these republics are the constitutional descendants of Rome and, as such, they have inherited both the tremendous structural strengths that allowed the Roman Republic to thrive for so long and some of the same structural weaknesses that led eventually to its demise. This is particularly true of the United States, a nation whose basic constitutional structure was deliberately patterned on the idealized view of the Roman Republic presented by the second-century BC author Polybius. This conscious borrowing from Rome’s model makes it vital for all of us to understand how Rome’s republic worked, what it achieved, and why, after nearly five centuries, its citizens ultimately turned away from it and toward the autocracy of Augustus.

No republic is eternal. It lives only as long as its citizens want it.

When the Tigers Broke Free

Aprilia (Lt)

“When the Tigers Broke Free” is the best Pink Floyd song ever written. “Comfortably Numb” is the greatest, but not the best. There is a difference.

Credit for the song goes to the band member who, in the wake of Syd Barrett’s departure, began to write and direct more and more of Floyd’s output.

Roger Waters engendered animosity because he “took over” the band and ran it like some kind of dictator. The man who so often took aim at fascism was accused of being a kind of fascist himself. Floyd lore became filled with stories about Roger’s “my way or the highway” attitude.

The accusation is true, but there’s a reason for it. He brought most of the good material to the table while the rest of the band stepped back and let Roger do the heavy lifting. Roger was the one driven to work.

Roger’s treatment of Rick Wright, for example, illustrates his drive. Rick was “fired” for not bringing any useful material, and later, even Rick agreed with that assessment.

Rounds of lawsuits after Roger left solidified the grievances and hard feelings between him and David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick — wounds that were never fully healed even when they reunited for a Live Aid appearance in 2005. Body language after their short set concluded showed that the rest of Floyd wasn’t all that happy to be on stage with Roger again, while Roger himself seemed uncharacteristically ebullient.

Out of all the songs Roger created, his “When the Tigers Broke Free” remains a stark example of razor-sharp, absolutely perfect lyrics with its odd rhyming meter punctuating the song like the hurt and anger the singer feels, as a child tries to come to terms with the death of his father. Every line is a pointed dagger, aimed squarely at the truth of loss and pain.

They’re probably the best Roger ever wrote.

“It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black ‘forty-four
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives

And kind old King George
Sent mother a note
When he heard that father was gone
It was, I recall
In the form of a scroll
With gold leaf adorned
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp

It was dark all around
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z
They were all left behind
Most of them dead
The rest of them dying
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.”