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CWAA: Can We All Agree ™- 3/25/17

March 25, 2017

Can we all agree Friday night’s Wisconsin-Florida basketball game may be this year’s March Madness signature moment?

Can we all agree Donald Trump can try to blame the Democrats, but everyone knows his own party is responsible for the death of his health care bill?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump doesn’t need a press secretary if he’s going to call reporters every time he wants to blame somebody?

Can we all agree you can always count on social media for the best commentary, although traditional media had some pithy comments?

Can we all agree most Americans thought the FBI Director’s testimony about a criminal investigation of the Trump campaign would be the major story of the week? How quickly things change with this administration.

Can we all agree the failure of the health care bill exposed the many rifts within the Republican Congress?

Can we all agree the State of California is looking forward to a showdown with the EPA over emission regulations?

Can we all agree Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein has done an impressive job for two teams, but calling him the world’s best leader, is really an insult to many leaders who make more consequential decisions?

Can we all agree the US military is heading for a major PR disaster as more and more civilians are killed or injured by their bombs in Iraq?

Can we all agree the conviction of former Penn State President Graham Spanier will be a welcome end to the 5 year sex scandal at the university?

Can we all agree the actions of Rep. Devin Nunes have handed Democrats an iron-clad reason to seek a special prosecutor or select committee to investigate the Trump campaign’s links to the Russians?

Can we all agree the longer the investigation is delayed the longer the drip, drip, drip of Russian connections will haunt the White House?

Can we all agree Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not help his boss by skipping the G-20 summit to visit Russia?

Can we all agree the number of Vladimir Putin’s critics who have died mysteriously runs counter to the Kremlin’s claims that they bear no responsibility?

Can we all agree the approval of the Keystone Pipeline project was a foregone conclusion once the Dakota Access Pipeline was approved?

Can we all agree it’s remarkable that the GOP shows no embarrassment at the sight of over 30 white male lawmakers arguing over whether to cut women’s breast cancer screening from the now-dead health care bill?

Can we all agree Defense Secretary James Mattis probably never thought he would spend most of his time cleaning up the damage Mr. Trump creates because he doesn’t understand how NATO works?

Can we all agree the release of Hosni Mubarek from an Egyptian prison hospital marks the official end of the Arab Spring in Egypt?

Can we all agree, for most Americans, the best news of the week might be the FCC’s decision to fight back against robocalls?

Can we all agree the State Department’s new extreme vetting process is just another way to enforce the ban on immigration and probably explains why they are in no hurry to appeal legal rulings stopping the President’s order?

Can we all agree it’s no surprise the Trump administration found that Mr. Trump was in full compliance with his government lease for the Trump Hotel in Washington?

Can we all agree everyone should have a Trump Chicken – even if the  artist never intended his artwork to mock Mr. Trump?

Can we all agree, even in London, the personal history of the lone attacker, has the same ring as those from the US, France and Belgium?

Can we all agree the factors that appear to be leading to premature deaths of white Americans have implications for every aspect of our way of life?

Can we all agree, allowing Interior Department employees to bring dogs to work, might help with the toxic atmosphere, but a change in policy would probably do more?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s interview with Time Magazine is extraordinary for it’s lies and lack of knowledge on so many subjects?

Can we all agree if you’ve lost the support of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, you can’t really be a conservative?

Can we all agree Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will probably be confirmed, but the Democrats need to mount a filibuster just to object to the way Mr. Obama’s nominee was treated?

Can we all agree we know nothing more about Mr. Gorsuch  now, than we did when his hearings started?

Can we all agree it’s unbelievable that California has lead contamination levels higher than Flint, MI and no one seems to care?

Can we all agree North Korea leader Kim Jong-un apparently has a bright future as a bank robber?

Can we all agree Ivanka Trump has always been working in the government, now she will have an office? Setting up her company to make believe she is not running it, is just paperwork.

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s low approval rating will continue to play a role in his inability to get Congress to go along with his legislative agenda?

Can we all agree everyone has a favorite Chuck Berry tune?

Can we all agree for many years,  if you really wanted to know the heart of a great city you needed too read columnists such as Jimmy Breslin, Mike Royko or Herb Caen?

and finally:

This week’s good news to restore your faith in humanity.

 

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CWAA: Can We All Agree ™ – 3/18/17 edition

March 18, 2017

Can we all agree Donald Trump’s budget plan may not pass, but he has succeeded in reframing the debate for the GOP, so that only minor improvements can win over opponents?

Can we all agree the new budget director has already given Democrats plenty of ammunition for the mid-term elections?

Can we all agree the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates is good news, since it means the economy is growing?

Can we all agree Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has given North Korea exactly what they wanted; the threat of an imminent attack by the US?

Can we all agree the Democrats are leaving no stone unturned to create opposition to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch?

Can we all agree, regardless of who leaked 2 pages Mr. Trump’s 2005 tax return, it was a blatant attempt to draw public attention for the plethora of controversies the White House is facing?

Can we all agree, if Hillary Clinton is really ‘coming out of the woods,’ she will be the only Democrat who can steal the spotlight away from Mr. Trump?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s meeting with German President Angela Merkel will not be the last awkward meeting he has with another world leader?

New Monopoly game pieces include T-Rex, a duck and a penguin

New Monopoly game pieces include T-Rex, a duck and a penguin

Can we all agree California farmers have proven unequivocally that Americans will not replace foreign workers to harvest crops?

Can we all agree Baby Boomers took another kick in the stomach this week as Hasbro replaced the boot, the wheelbarrow and the thimble as playing pieces in Monopoly?

Can we all agree Rep. Paul Ryan can make all the changes he wants to Trumpcare, but it still has little chance of passing the Senate, even by a simple majority if 24 million people will lose their insurance?

Can we all agree it won’t take Mr. Trump long to cite today’s attack in Paris as justification for more security measures?

Can we all agree, news that Syria had targeted Israel jets coming back from a bombing run was troubling on a  number of levels?

Can we all agree every time we increase the number of troops being sent to Syria, we just create more targets for ISIS?

Can we all agree, given the way things seem too be run in the White House, it’s easy to believe the Milpitas, CA man who jumped the fence, really was a friend of the President, as he claimed?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s Muslim travel ban will probably be decided by the Supreme Court – which is why he is so intent in having his nominee confirmed before the end of this term?

Can we all agree  Mr. Obama and now England are due apologies over the false claims that they colluded to tap Mr. Trump’s ‘wires‘?

Can we all agree Scotland deserves to get a new independence vote in light of England’s decision to leave the European Union?

Can we all agree the slow deterioration in EU-Turkish relations will continue as long as Recep Tayyip Erdogan leads Turkey?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s embrace of Andrew Jackson seems both logical and apalling?

Can we all agree, given the new Russian revelations, it’s pretty clear why Michael Flynn was ousted from his national security post? Someone knew what additional revelations were coming.

Can we all agree the world breathed a sigh of relief with the defeat of the Dutch anti-immigration candidate?

Can we all agree the sooner the White House starts cooperating with Congressional probes of Russian involvement in the campaign, the sooner the GOP will end the investigations?

Can we all agree charging two Russians with hacking millions of Yahoo accounts, just added to the pressure to get to the bottom of exactly what the Russian government is doing?

Can we all agree it’s doubtful  federal immigration officials will pay any attention to the request by the California Chief Justice, who asked them to stay away from state courthouses? After all, to paraphrase Willie Sutton, ‘that’s where the criminals are.’

Can we all agree, Olympic ideals took another hit this week when the head of USA Gymnastics was forced to resign ?

Can we all agree the women’s Olympic hockey team members had little choice but to threaten a strike to get the recognition and support they deserve?

Can we all agree it’s clear that Press Secretary Sean Spicer is performing for an audience of one, each time he addresses the press?

Can we all agree, speaking of performing, it’s embarrassing that  Republicxans have such a tough time celebrating St. Patrick’s Day?

Can we all agree it may be a small step, but banning plastic straws might be a good symbolic step to fight ocean pollution? Especially since the administration seems intent on rolling back air pollution rules.

Can we all agree since the administration seems unconcerned about how global warming, caused by air pollution, is affecting humans, it’s doubtful they will care about the death of large portions of the Great Barrier Reef?

Can we all agree anyone who really thought Roundup was safe for the environment, just isn’t following the money in medical research?

Can we all agree Koch Industries has done masterful job in  making sure electric cars never eat into their profits on a national basis?

Can we all agree it’s great to see that the world’s oldest golf course finally agreed to let women join? Who would have thought Augusta National would beat them to the punch by 5 years?

Can we all agree telling your voters to ‘shut up’ may not be the best way to win re-election?

Can we all agree there were a number of head-slapping comments by politicians this week? And the list doesn’t even include Kellyanne Conway’s latest whopper.

Can we all agree, if Navy officials thought they could get away with a multi-billion dollar bribery scheme there are probably many more scandals we don’t know about?

Can we all agree it’s comforting to know white supremacist Richard Spencer will no longer be able to say he runs a tax-exempt non-profit organization?

Can we all agree, when the family of the president’s son-in-law can sign a deal with the Chinese it should raise some red flags?

Can we all agree we should get rid of the bi-annual clock changing ceremony and leave the country of Daylight Savings Time permanently?

and finally:

If you really want to know why people fear nuclear power. check out the state of the cleanup from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown six years ago.

Can’t wait for this week’s Saturday Night Live show?

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A Remembrance – Mark Merenda

March 14, 2017

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” – Joseph Heller, Catch-22

In many ways “Catch-22” was the cornerstone of my relationship with Mark Merenda. When we met in 1972 he embarked on a literary exercise to make me memorize sections of the novel’s dialogue, so we could recite them back and forth to each other. He was much better at it than I was, but eventually I became Orr to his Yossarian.

He was much more literate than I, and had the kind of memory  I could never hope to achieve. He was also brilliant, well read, opinionated, stubborn and a cad of the highest order – all of which made him my idol.

Mark Merenda circa 1972

Mark Merenda circa 1972

We met at our first jobs, at a small newspaper in Massachusetts where he was the sports editor and I covered one mid-size town. We became instant friends since we were among the only staffers who were not members of the  clan that ran the business. Like Heller’s Yossarian, it was us against them, and we were determined to keep our sanity by taking advantage of everything we could.

I lacked his self confidence, and  was never sure what he saw in me, but I accepted my role because he was everything I wanted to be. It worked out well for both of us, I got an education and he got a wing man. I could never really describe our relationship until many years later when the movie “Sideways” came out. We were a buddy movie before I knew what buddy movies were.

We had no business covering Boston’s professional sports teams, but as long as the Red Sox , Patriots, Bruins or Celtics would give us press passes and we did our jobs at the paper, we played the part of big-time sports media types. Mark was the writer, and I was the photographer, and we were both pretty good at our roles. He got to meet his idols and I got to get trampled by Dave Cowens, John Hannah, and almost beaned by Willie Randolf.  That’s the chance you take when you sit under the Celtics basket, along the sidelines of the New England Patriots, or in foul territory at Fenway Park.

Even Mark knew that his stories had more readers if there was great art alongside.

He was warm, dry and safe while I was often soaked and had a bad back from carrying camera equipment all over whatever field we had chosen to cover.

But I would not have traded the experience for anything, because it was really the post-event education that was the best part. After the game, we’d head over to  Cambridge where Mark and I set up shop in the bar, at either the Hyatt Regency or later the Charles Hotel. Both were target-rich environments for a young stud and his wing man. I was not very good at meeting women, but Mark was a pro and more often than not an hour or so after we arrived, he would glance in my direction and throw me the car keys so I could drive myself home in his MG.

I never asked how he got back home but I just marveled at  the show. The fact that he lived with a very nice young woman who had to put up with his behavior just made him seem more dangerous. I’m sure she knew, but was willing to put up with his behavior for the same reason I did. Every discussion with Mark was an education and just being in his presence made you feel better.

Mark could pretty much talk me into anything.. He would take me shopping in Boston, to Louis, the most expensive store in the city, and convince me that I ‘needed’ a $700 cashmere overcoat. It was a great coat, and I loved it, but I was almost afraid to wear it.

His brother, Guy, was trying to start a leather business so I ‘needed’ to buy a new briefcase. It’s still here in my office next to my desk.

No matter, it was just part of my role. The flip side was, what I have since learned, is what drew Mark to me: I could tell him what an ass-hole he was being. He knew, that I knew, that sometimes he was simply full of crap, and I would be brutally honest without messing up our friendship.

We grew to respect each other, covering news, and sports together learning skills that they don’t teach in journalism school.

We even started a magazine. It was mostly about sports and we were sure it was going to be our ticket to stardom, or at least untold riches. At least until our bosses at the newspaper decided it was a little too much like competition. Forty years later I still have a few copies and I know Mark did too, even though we only produced two editions.

The beginning of the end was like a scene from “Good Will Hunting,” when Robin Williams’s character misses what was, until 2004, the most famous event in Boston baseball history, because he “had to see about a girl.”

When my future wife,  had the audacity to claim Zelda Fitzgerald really deserved major credit for F. Scott’s work he refused to even debate the topic accusing her of “getting her facts from People Magazine.” To this day, she relishes the fact that history and research have proven her correct.

We got married three years later, after I had moved to Maine to manage a newsroom. I always thought Mark never forgave her for taking up the time he wanted. He never came to the wedding and I never expected that he would. I have no idea what he thought when he found out we divorced 5 years later.

I lost touch with him and his career and it wasn’t until 30 years later when I decided to become personal coach that we reconnected. Somehow I found out he was now in marketing, so I called to ask for help. He refused to accept any payment for developing my web pages and freely offered marketing advice.

We had both matured, and the youthful arrogance was tempered by life, and now he had hundreds of friends, clients and employee who depended on his wisdom  I never made it to Florida, as I had promised,  and we missed connecting on his trip to San Francisco where I now live.

We chatted off and on, and he even allowed me to do some freelance writing, when I restarted my writing career. I would send him sporadic texts when I visited my parents near Boston. Always making sure I stopped by our old haunts, so I could bore my new wife with stories from the good old days and text Mark a photo or two.

He would text back quotes from ‘Catch-22.’

 

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CWAA: Can We All Agree™ – 3/11/17 edition

March 11, 2017

Can we all agree Speaker Paul Ryan’s replacement for the Affordable Care Act  is DOA unless he agrees to some changes?

Can we all agree the future of health care in the United States has more to do with politics and tax cuts for the wealthy, than with actually getting people medical care?

Can we all agree, that despite attempts to malign the credibility of the Congressional Budget Office, their estimate of the cost of the new health care program may seal its fate?

Can we all agree most uninsured Americans wish their health care was as easy to purchase as an iPhone?

Wall Street's newest statue: The Fearless Girl

Wall Street’s newest statue: The Fearless Girl

Can we all agree the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue on Wall Street should become permanent?

Can we all agree job growth numbers suddenly don’t look so phony  when you’re in the White House?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump is not going to stop making unsupported accusations about Mr. Obama or anyone else, until he is forced to pay a price, like an impeachment investigation?

Can we all agree Donald Trump deserves criticism for taking credit for  economic improvements that really happened during the Obama administration?

Can we all agree, Marines would not have been able to post nude photos of female comrades without the tacit approval of their commanding officers?

Can we all agree the major news of the week might be the GOP’s proposed restrictions on class action lawsuits?

Can we all agree no-one is really surprised that the National Football League forces its players to abuse drugs?

Can we all agree many Republicans show how little they understand the insurance business, when they question why men should pay for pre-natal coverage?

Can we all agree the North Koreans are trying to take advantage of Mr. Trump and the impeachment of the South Korean President?

Can we all agree the Wikileaks revelations about CIA espionage really have no impact on most Americans? No, they are not watching you through your TV: Others might be, but not the CIA.

Can we all agree the new head of the EPA may not believe in climate change but a lawsuit filed by 1o-year-olds may force him to change his attitude?

Can we all agree, the thought of  additional US troops on the ground in Syria is exactly what the American public does not want?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s new immigration policy still looks like a ban on Muslims?

Can we all agree separating families when they cross the US border is just mean spirited?

Can we all agree trading the Coast Guard and TSA for a wall on the Mexican border does not make the country safer?

Can we all agree the more Attorney General Jeff Sessions tries too explain away his lies to Congress, the worse he looks?

Can we all agree Ben Carson has no business running a federal department that many minorities count on? Maybe his budget deserves to be cut 14%.

Can we all agree the satirical columns of Andy Borowitz would not be mistaken for real news, if members of the administration did not make such outrageous comments?

Can we all agree the thought of a campaign official being paid by a foreign government would be outrageous for any politician except Donald Trump?

Can we all agree, speaking of fake news, could the GOP media mouthpieces get any more outrageous in their attempts to explain away the Russian connection to the Trump campaign?

Can we all agree the Trump administration’s reaction to the plea by all 100 senators for action on the threats made to Jewish Centers across the country, was deafening in its silence?

Can we all agree it is no longer entertaining to laugh at White House aides trying to defend  Mr. Trump’s tweets to TV talk show hosts, or his weekend temper tantrums?

Can we all agree , whether its the Chinese government or the US candy industry, Mr. Trump’s conflicts of interest will keep piling up until someone files a lawsuit and the courts force some action?

And finally this week’s good reads:

The tragic story of two 97-year-old sisters who lost their lives on a cold night in New England.

Plus:

The California drought is over, but anyone who has visited our state and taken the breathtaking drive along Route 1 through Big Sur, should pause to see what the winter storms have done to that area.

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CWAA: Can We All Agree ™- 3/4/17 edition

March 4, 2017

Can we all agree even the biggest supporters of Donald Trump are starting to get a bit nervous about the number of contacts between Trump associates and Russia?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s vacation from Twitter, and his attempts to ‘act Presidential,’ only lasted 3 days? He’s obsessed with Mr. Obama and Mr. Schwarznegger.

Can we all agree the best story of the week is the Mountain View, CA school which made a killing when Snapchat went public? Only in Silicon Valley.

Can we all agree our new Interior Secretary knows how to make an entrance?

Can we all agree universities need to figure out a way to insure free speech, even for people with controversial views?

Can we all agree Uber has created a real public relations nightmare for itself, which seems to get worse by the day, and  is really a reflection of its CEO?

Can we all agree the advertising phrase ‘He got it at Jared’s’ took on a whole new meaning this week, as the company and it’s sister firm, Kay Jewelers, were accused of encouraging sexual harrassment?

Can we all agree, Oprah Winfrey might make a good president, but I doubt she has the stomach, or ego, for the campaign? Besides would the voters really elect a TV personality…again?

Can we all agree it’s pretty amazing that Vice President Mike Pence thought he could criticize Hillary Clinton for using a private email server, and not think his use of a private server would be discovered?

Can we all agree making Flint Michigan residents pay for water they still cannot drink without a filter is just absurd? Yossarian would be proud.

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s steps to  completely gut the EPA and virtually every other agency involved in climate science, have nothing to do with satisfying his base, unless you mean industry donors?

Can we all agree the Russian ambassador must have been the busiest man in Washington, given all the meetings and phone calls, he’s  had with the Trump campaign?

Can we all agree the assistant US attorney who will oversee the probe into the Russian contacts, provides some hope that the inquiry might actually be balanced?

Can we all agree the probe shouldn’t be too difficult with both the Trump and Obama administrations trying to help, sort of?

Can we all agree Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t have much choice but to recuse himself? It was that or quit after three weeks on the job.

Can we all agree, it won’t be long before someone on trial for perjury cites the AG’s actions as justification for lying?

Can we all agree it’s pretty amazing that California public officials would think that their emails would not be public just because they did not use a government server?

Can we all agree it’s hard to believe that a string of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the country apparently had more to do with a lover’s quarrel than anti-semitism? You can’t make this up.

Can we all agree the new office of immigrant crime has a decidedly Orwellian ring to it? Kind of like Homeland Security.

Can we all agree Kellyanne Conway finds a way to stay in the news even when she’s barred from TV?

Can we all agree the real message of that Oval Office meeting seems to have gotten lost?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s speech to Congress marked a temporary change in tone but not in policy?

Can we all agree the ‘bad hombre’  immigrants who were taken into custody this week, probably haven’t noticed any policy changes?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump’s real priorities can be seen in his budget?

Can we all agree his use of a dead Navy Seal, which he declined to accept responsibility for, was simply a cynical ploy? I didn’t see William Owens’s dad watching from the gallery, wonder why?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump can complain all he wants about delays in approving his cabinet nominees, but the process might have gone more smoothly if two had not voluntarily withdrawn?

Can we all agree that when both of the Obama’s books are published they will be instant best sellers?

Can we all agree, it’s a good bet that many golfers don’t even know some of the rules that are being changed?

Can we all agree the new baseball rule changes will do little to speed up the game? How many intentional walks are there in a game, really.

Can we all agree, the North Korean’s seem to have taken a page from the Trump playbook, by proposing alternate facts to explain the death of their leader’s half brother?

Can we all agree it seems likely there might be environmental causes for the rise of colorectal cancer among young people?

Can we all agree the medical community might need to rethink their approach, if they believe new drugs are the way to kill bacteria who have developed resistance to existing drugs?

Can we all agree, Mr. Trump has to be the last person to figure out that reforming health care is complicated?

Can we all agree Mr. Trump officially found a way to drain the swamp although it probably wan’t what most of his supporters had in mind?

Can we all agree those of you who are worried about the health of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, might want to try her daily workout?

Can we all agree there will probably be a pretty long list of folks who want to book a ride on the Space X flight around the moon?

Can we all agree the ending to this year’s Oscar broadcast probably brought more viewers to both movies? Too bad the mixup overshadowed Viola Davis’s speech.

Can we all agree the Democrats can do whatever they want to reform their party, but it won’t make any difference if they don’t have a good candidate in 2016?

and finally:

The tragic story of an Ebola fighter who died because medical staffers were afraid to treat her when she suffered complications from child birth.

and RIP Bill Paxton.

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