Coming Soon: The Passing of An Institution

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It happened on the Sunday before — some would say — a political circus begins.

Feld Entertainment announced it was shutting down its most famous enterprise.   Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…children of all ages, what that means is this May we will see the final performances ever of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Some might say the handwriting was on the wall.

It was just last year that Ringling Bros. made the decision as part of its ‘future’, that it’s elephants would no longer be involved in the touring show.

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In a statement Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment which produces the circus, essentially said that decision was the final straw that led to the decision to bring down the house lights later this year.

“Ringling Bros. ticket sales have been declining, but following the transition of the elephants off the road, we saw an even more dramatic drop. This, coupled with high operating costs, made the circus an unsustainable business for the company.”

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a circus live.  I’ll be honest…I’m not even sure it was Ringling Bros.   The flashes I can remember are filled with smiles and wonderment about how they got the tigers to jump through the hoops, and how all those clowns got in that little car.  That was back when clown weren’t so scary to so many people.  (Perhaps a secondary reason why circus popularity was on the decline)

Kenneth Feld in his statement said thank you to legions of families and fans who kept the circus going all these years.

“Nearly 50 years ago, my father founded our company with the acquisition of Ringling Bros. The circus and its people have continually been a source of inspiration and joy to my family and me, which is why this was such a tough business decision to make. The decision was even more difficult because of the amazing fans that have become part of our extended circus family over the years, and we are extremely grateful to the millions of families who have made Ringling Bros. part of their lives for generations. We know Ringling Bros. isn’t only our family business, but also your family tradition.”

Cirque du Soleil’s redefinition of the spectacle made Ringling Bros. a Model T Ford in a Cadillac Escalade world.   It’s time had come.

So..after 146 years.  The “smell of the grease paint” will start to fade and the “roar of the crowd” will fall silent.  But many a child for as long as they are able will remember the time they were witness to “The Greatest Show on Earth”.

The final 17 shows will be at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY May 12-21.

 

 

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The Death of One Man…The Diplomatic Contrast of Two

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Photo credit: radioangulo.com

Fidel Castro is dead!

That is a rather curt and direct quote from the Twitter feed of President-elect Donald Trump in the hours after Castro’s passing.

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This got me to thinking about the diplomatic contrast we may soon see between the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama and the incoming one of soon-to-be President Trump.

If you don’t mind a bit of reading…allow me to demonstrate.

Both men released statements on Castro’s death.   President Obama’s reads:

At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him. 

For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

Positive and hopeful in tone…expressing support for the Cuban people while not completely hiding the truth that was Castro’s tyrannical rule of the island nation.

The following is the statement from the President-elect

“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.

 “While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.

“Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty.  I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.”

In my opinion..two things are wrong with this statement.  First, the negativity it begins with (while historically true) strikes a callous tone that hasn’t been emblematic of the U.S. Also, the President-elect is — by appealing to the people who “endorsed me” — is going against his election night pledge of being a President for all people.  Most statements from Republicans I’ve seen have adopted the ‘name-calling first, consolation second’ approach.

No one is denying the impact of the ‘boot’ that Castro once ruled the Cuban people with.  However..the tone of progress that the United States can strike with our words and efforts to strengthen ties can leave a lasting impression.  That’s something the new administration should think about.

As of now..Cuba has scheduled nine days of mourning and a cross-nation tour of Castro’s remains from Havana to Santiago.

The Transition To Trump: What We Learned From The 2016 Election

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So here we are.  Donald Trump is our President-elect.   The key word here is “OUR”.

I was assigned to be at Donald Trump’s Election Night HQ at the Hilton Midtown in New York City.  I went into the assignment honestly thinking about one question:  What type of tone would Donald Trump strike on his CONCESSION speech?

Boy..was I wrong.

So..come January 20th, 2017, Donald Trump..that guy from the Celebrity Apprentice..will become the 45th President of the United Stares.  How did this happen?

The first thing to realize is that Trump spoke directly to a group of people who had long been discounted in the electoral process:  the non-college educated white male.   Their numbers turned out heavily for the President-elect.

Also..a constant question from many people post-election was how did a majority of the polls..that had Hillary Clinton ahead until the very end..get it wrong?

I’ll dispute that question.

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All the polls..which measure the preferences of likely voters..indicate how those voters are leaning.  Hillary Clinton led those polls…and at last count, WON the national popular vote. So, the polls were RIGHT.

But remember…it’s electoral votes that count.

Many Americans are protesting the results across the country.  I wonder…as CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley asked on the air..how many of those protesters actually voted.

We can all take a lesson from President Obama..who was the subject of a lot of Trump’s campaign rhetoric..when he met with the President-elect this week.  His words about coming together for the good of the nation struck a hopeful chord.

Whether we like this..or we don’t like this, it’s time to show the world what this great Democratic experiment that is America is all about.

 

 

 

 

 

Giving My Thanks To (and For) That Special Someone

I’ve always liked the music of Billy Joel..even before I got to New York.

I’ve always said there’s not one of his songs that doesn’t perfectly describe some aspect of someone’s life.

I was listening to the Billy Joel Channel on SiriusXM and heard a song of his I had not listened to in a while.  It’s called “All About Soul”.  Listening to the words brought tears to my eyes because it almost exactly captured the essence of the woman I married.

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I felt I needed to share.

So with apologies to the late Casey Kasem…here is my (not-so-Long Distance) dedication to my wife Karen.

And thanks Billy..for knowing what I needed even before I did.

 

The 2016 Democratic National Convention: A Look Back

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So, my first in-person political convention experience was …well..and experience.   But it was a good one.  For years I have watched on TV what the networks have been willing to show in prime time.   To be at the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia was an enlightening look into the inner workings of a combination of political power, star power and enthused supporters — be they for HiIlary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

There were several moments that did stand out for me during FOX’s coverage of the Democrats.

I was assigned as the street reporter.  So I spent much of my time trudging the streets of Center City Philly (in about 97 degree heat) tracking protesters.  In other words..chasing around Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

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Also, there were the top flight speakers.  Of course Hillary Clinton’s and Tim Kaine’s acceptances of their respective nominations and President Obama’s impassioned plea to people who voiced their displeasure with Donald Trump saying ,”Don’t boo.  Vote!”  however, the two best speeches in my opinion were from First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.  You’ll find them below.

But to me…the best moment came Tuesday night during the roll call vote that officially nominated Hillary Clinton — but it wasn’t about her.   In the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, it was a moment of brotherly love that got everyone choked up when Bernie Sanders’ older brother Larry cast delegates from Democrats Abroad for Bernie.

It was a great experience.  Now come the presidential debates.

Will Hillary Clinton rise past her haunting email troubles?

Will Donald Trump even show up to debate?

Tune in next time.

The 2016 Republican National Convention: Top Tweets

Really..there are too many good ones to mention.  However, here are three Twitter offerings among them that stand out. We’ll work our way backwards.

From the final night of the convention, GOP nominee Donald Trump during his speech uttered the phrase “I am your voice!”  Republican pollster Frank Luntz couldn’t resist the Star Wars reference..

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On night three, when Ted Cruz hijacked the convention by not endorsing the Trumpster, Francis Maxwell took to twitter to comment.

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And I couldn’t do this quick post without this take from night one…and perhaps the moment of the whole four-night event.

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Of course..in the interest of equal time..we’ll do this again with the Democrats and Hillary Clinton as the focus.

You gotta love the political season.  So much fodder…so little time.

Dear NRA: A Little Consistency, Please!

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I rarely do this…but I feel compelled.

I  — like many of you — follow the news and am shocked and saddened by the tragic deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and — at this writing — five Dallas police officers patrolling a peaceful protest.

President Obama said in reference to the deaths of Castile and Sterling — two black men shot by white officers, “These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

The president referenced statistics showing — in part — that black men are three times as likely to be pulled over than whites and twice as likely to be shot.

The President also labeled the shootings in Dallas as “vicious, calculated and despicable” and ordered flags nationwide flown at half-staff to honor the fallen officers.  Amen to that.

I do want to drill down a bit though.

The National Rifle Association’s CEO Wayne LaPierre also issued a statement on the fallen Dallas officers.  It read — in part:

“On behalf of the more than five million members of the National Rifle Association, and especially on behalf of our members from the law enforcement community, I want to express the deep anguish all of us feel for the heroic Dallas law enforcement officers who were killed and wounded, as well as to those who so bravely ran toward danger to defend the city and people of Dallas.”

Again…I agree with the sentiment.

Yet..the NRA — when it comes to the deadly shootings of Philando Castile (1st photo below) and Alton Sterling (2nd photo below) — for a while remained conspicuously silent.

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And remember, while both black men had weapons on them, video shows Sterling being restrained and not reaching for a weapon when he was killed and Castile was licensed to carry a concealed firearm — which he reportedly told officers before he was shot and later died.

Late Friday, the NRA did issue a statement on the Castile case essentially saying it could say nothing yet.

“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated.  In the meantime it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing.  Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

Support not nearly as forceful for Castile as for the Dallas officers.

Should anyone wonder why there is a perception that the NRA doesn’t stand up for ALL gun owners?

All I ask is for equal anguish from the NRA.  Two other families are devastated by what many are seeing as an irresponsible use of deadly force.

As President Obama said about mending the mistrust between the black community and law enforcement, “We must do better.”

Viva ‘Dia Portugal’

I guess it’s just like American ‘Happy Hour’…it’s never just ONE hour.

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There is a rather vibrant Portuguese community in Newark, New Jersey.  So much so that the annual Portugal Day celebration here lasts THREE days.  It’s chock full of glimpses into the culture.  From the traditional drum ensemble..

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to the native dancing.

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And no matter the festival…the food is always a draw.   Nothing makes you smile like a wheel of barbecued meat.

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The lovely Karen and I had a good time browsing, people (and dog) watching and taking in the sights.  By the way..even though we’re standing in front of the beer stand, we did not partake.   We saw what the excess imbibing could do to some folks out there.

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It was a good time.   If you ever get to Newark and can find your way to the ‘Ironbound’ section…there are plenty of Portuguese, Spanish and Iberian stops to make and dishes to sample.  We’re just getting started.

Viva Portugal!

Words…Words…Words..

I thought I was good with words.

Turns out I SUCK at them.  In every way imaginable.

They have power…and one of them — just one — can drop like a ton of bricks in the worst places possible.   After years..and years..and years of thinking I had this down. this realization is a smack in the face.

I often think about what the punishment should be for the irresponsible use of words.

When kids are bad..one way to deal with it is to take away one of their favorite things for a time.  In missing the value of that “thing”..they understand there are consequences.

What if…a person who values words were denied the ability to speak?   How immense would that word value become?  How much more carefully will those words be chosen the next time?

It depends solely on the user.    Words have their place.  We all must communicate.   But to rely vastly upon them is unreliable — even ’empty’ in a way.

It makes me rethink many aspects of my existence.  What I now see is that the last 30 years of my life (and if you know me, you know exactly what that refers to) has ultimately done me more harm than good in totality.  That 30-year relationship may have to be re-thought to make things better.

Can it happen?  Certainly…but it will be — in a word — difficult.

Remember the adage we heard as kids:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Not entirely true.   The wounds from sticks and stones can heal.   The scars from words can remain for a lifetime.

I’m done with words.