Thursday, February 23, 2017

Must the Show Go on?

It’s Academy Awards week.

But excuse me if I don’t walk around whistling “Hooray for Hollywood.” 

In my somewhat jaded view, the Oscars is a shameless group hug on the part of the movie industry for producing a handful of notable films amid  the hundreds of clunkers that befoul the screen each year. 

Think of it: The same folks who brought us “Casablanca” and “The Godfather” also subjected us to “Batman and Robin” (characterized by one critic as not the worst movie ever. No, indeed. It's the worst thing ever. Yes, it's the single worst thing that we as human beings have ever produced in recorded history”)  and “The Hottie and the Nottie,” a film described as “crass, shrill, disingenuous, tawdry, mean-spirited, vulgar, idiotic, boring, slapdash, half-assed, and very, very unfunny."

All that and Paris Hilton as the star.

It’s also a night when the entertainment profession, which has had a few thousand years to practice putting on a really good show, rolls out a spectacle that often falls to the level of an elementary school Thanksgiving pageant.

Then they’ll cap it off by picking “The Sound of Music” over “Doctor Zhivago” for best picture or “Forest Gump” over “The Shawshank Redemption.”  

So I’ll curl up with a good book which will allow me to ignore the rambling, incomprehensible acceptance speeches made by winners who do their best acting by appearing surprised and humbled.

I’ll also miss an evening of air kisses and disingenuous platitudes in a ceremony that conveys all the warmth and emotion of a Walmart colonoscopy.

But wait, it may get worse.

This year’s ceremonies will be awash in enough anti-Trump commentary to resemble open mike night at a Democratic Party beer bust.

Want to play a drinking game?  Down a shot every time a winner doesn’t mention Trump or his policies.  You’ll be stone cold sober at the end of the evening.

I’m certainly not advocating a gag rule for our show biz friends. It wouldn’t work even if you tried.

Give an actor a microphone, put he or she in front of a glamorous audience of like-minded celebrities while untold millions watch on TV, and you’re going to get some scenery chewing.

That’s why Meryl Streep has received as much notoriety for her award show rants, specifically her Trump bashing at the Golden Globes ceremony, as she has for her considerable acting ability.

In Hollywood, you’re only as good as you’re last performance, scripted or otherwise.

And if Meryl Streep or Daffy Duck or whoever wants their public to know exactly Where They Stand, nobody is going to stop them.

But there’s some thin ice here.  The Oscar telecast isn’t exactly knocking the socks off the American TV audience.  Last year’s Oscars finished with the third-lowest viewership in the show's history.

And as Aaron Blake pointed out in the Washington Post:

“There are basically two camps right now on ever-partisan social media: Those who think Meryl Streep's speech…criticizing President-elect Donald Trump at the Golden Globes was great, and those who think this kind of thing is basically Why Donald Trump Won — i.e., elite Hollywood liberals going after the guy blue-collar voters chose to be their president.”

Speaking of rants, there’s one other thing.

Several years ago I conceived and published a sure-fire formula for presenting the awards in a reasonable amount of time. I never heard back from the Academy so, on the off chance their congratulatory and heartfelt letter to me got lost in the mail, here are my suggestions, free of charge:

First, cut the show to two hours. Period. Start by limiting the acceptance speeches to the top categories: actor, actress, director and best movie. Nobody wants to hear the third assistant production designer thank his accountant.

Forget the documentary short, the short film or any other category with the word “short” in it. Dump the sound editing award. Nobody understands what it is anyway. 

Get rid of makeup and hairstyling. As one wag once wrote when “Driving Miss Daisy” won in this category, it was only noteworthy if “Jessica Tandy was in fact 20 years old and Morgan Freeman was actually white.”

Next, get a host who is witty but won’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to extract laughs from an audience that didn’t come to see him or her. 

Dump the dance numbers. If I want to see dance, I’ll go to the ballet.

Cut the number of best picture nominees back to five. Ten dilutes the value of a nomination. And adds to the insufferable length of the broadcast.

Do this and I might just tune in.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Targeting Trump

In a desperate act of self-preservation, I decided to kick the social media habit one recent evening.

It’s quite simple.  Lock your tablet in a steamer trunk, kill the aps on your smart phone.  And exhale.

Oh, sure, I knew I’d miss the cat pictures, quasi-inspirational offerings and vacation pictures of people I barely knew.

But I had my reasons.

It was quite simply an attempt to mute the din of the political bar brawl that has spilled into the streets of our country. There is just so much tweeting, insults, bluster, and bull you can absorb before you snap.

So I sought shelter in Netflix, hoping for a few moments of tranquility. I figured somewhere in its vast library of movies and TV shows, I could get in touch with some emotions other than annoyance and angst.

I wasn’t ready to get lost in “Mary Poppins.” But I wasn’t in the mood for “Hitler, the Rise of Evil” either.

So I watched a little of this, a little of that, before I settled on an episode of what I believe is the finest TV series ever made, “The West Wing.”

Which proves that if you’re a political junkie, you can run but you can’t hide.

The episode was broadcast in 2002 and while the battles for power and glory were more understated than today’s mouth-to-mouth combat, the end game is much the same as we’re seeing now:  crush the other guy.

In this particular script, the President, played by Martin Sheen, is facing an investigation for withholding critical information from the American public. He has MS and kept it a secret when he ran for the presidency.

His opponents offer him a deal:  submit to a Congressional censure and the investigation will be called off.

I didn’t stay up half the night to see how this crisis played out in subsequent episodes because (1) it was past my bedtime and (2) this is exactly the kind of ongoing political catastrophe, even if it was a fictional one, I was seeking to forget for a few hours.

But there’s no escape. You can confine yourself to watching the Cartoon Network but the sound and fury of the real world will break down whatever barriers you erect.

So I retrieved the tablet from the trunk and restored the phone aps.  My head was removed from the sand.

I’m certainly no millennial but I do Facebook and Twitter finding it a good way to stay up with family, friends, former and current colleagues and to stay abreast of current events.

But Facebook in particular has become inundated with anti-Trump rants. I would guess 75 per cent of the posts I receive involve hand-wringing and angst over the president and his actions.

OK, I get it. And I share your concerns.

But it seems everyone feels a need to personally express their dismay with the President on a daily basis and they all end up saying the same thing:  that he’s unstable, dishonest, thin skinned and dangerous.  His actions could cause irreparable harm to the nation if not the world that could take decades to repair.

To the barricades!

But, of course, we knew that before he was elected.

I’m all for dissent.  I’m all for activism. They are the cornerstones of democracy.  And I believe the president --- any president --- should be called out if his actions run contrary to the values of the people he serves.

But posting on Twitter isn’t an act of activism. Neither is placing goofy pictures of Trump on Facebook. There’s good chance you’re merely preaching to the choir. If you want to express yourself, call an elected official and unload. Believe me, they listen.

Besides, nobody is doing a better job of making himself look foolish than Trump himself.  And the American people know it.

The daily Gallup tracking poll conducted this week found that just 40% of Americans approve of President Trump's job as president so far, compared to 55% who say the disapprove. The negative 15-point spread is the highest recorded in the poll since Trump took office January 20.

Trump's low approval rating is atypical for a new president. Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all enjoyed approval ratings in the high 50s in Gallup tracking. 

His own party, which never warmly embraced his candidacy, is getting nervous. They understand that government by chaos is not a known recipe for success. Inquiries are being made.  Investigations are planned.

And all the alternative facts are not going to explain it away.

Stay calm. And stay tuned.  It’s going to be a hell of a ride.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Political Football

For whatever else Donald Trump has accomplished in his first few weeks in office, he has done something nobody thought was possible.

He has made the Super Bowl irrelevant.

This year the game and its considerable hoopla is being blown off the front page by a president who has arrived in Washington the way Hitler arrived in Poland.  It’s hard to avert your eyes.

Social media, print and electronic news, even conversations over the backyard fence are about presidential decrees, cabinet appointments, bullying of allies, saber rattling.

Politics is supplanting the forward pass. The only thing being blitzed is the American psyche.

And it couldn’t come at a worse time for the National Football League.

It is still reeling from a concussion scandal, in which team officials and owners stand accused of ignoring the fact that the game they oversaw was maiming its participants, leaving many hobbled and brain damaged.

Its players continue to make headlines for violent crimes, many of which involve gut-wrenching allegations of domestic violence that result in slap-on-the-wrist punishment. One player accused of assaulting his wife nearly two dozen times was suspended for one game.

TV ratings are down.  Teams are on the move.  Residents of Our Fair City wept with joy when the Rams, gone these many years, returned to Los Angeles. Now they just weep, their heroes of yore replaced with a bunch of bad actors.

Then, when we weren’t watching, the San Diego Chargers snuck into town on a midnight freight to the cheers and applause of no one. They should change their name to the Uninvited. They may turn out to be the Unwatched.

 Los Angeles, landing pad for losers.

Talk about an image problem. It has gotten so bad that the NFL hired Joe Lockhart, a key strategist for President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the resulting impeachment, to right the ship.

Check the imminently qualified box on his resume.

In the past, the league could count on the Super Bowl to put a fresh scrubbed image on its product. Now in its 51st year, it has gained the stature of a national holiday and grabs more media attention than a papal coronation.

But this year the hype is strangely muted.

For the record, the game with be played in Houston and feature the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.  North versus South, grits versus chowder, an iconic old champion versus an upstart.

It’s a promoter’s dream. And nobody seems to care.

The NFL better hope that Trump, in the middle of the game, doesn’t announce he’s building a moat around the continental United States, barring Lutherans from entering the country and declaring war on Switzerland.

One Trump Tweet and CNN will win the ratings for Sunday.

There is a certain amount of irony here. Two of Trump’s most ardent supporters are Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft and the team’s star quarterback Tom Brady.

That should give the President a rooting interest in the game. And give lots of other people someone to root against.

Let’s face it.  The Super Bowl isn’t going to disappear. By the time Sunday kickoff rolls around, we can anticipate a viewing audience larger than Trump’s inauguration, if you can imagine.

Because the game is really about two things:  gluttony and gambling.

If you were to add up the calories per serving for every food item a household purchased during the week of the Super Bowl, it would equal more than 6,000 calories, according to a Washington Post story. That's the largest number of calories for any week through the year — more even than during Thanksgiving — and it's not even all that close. 

And when it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman said that his organization expects the Super Bowl to elicit $3.8 billion in illegal wagers.

The bets know no bounds. For example, you can bet on what color Gatorade will be dumped on the winning coach. Or the jersey number of the first player to score a touchdown. 

You can also put your hard earned cash on who the Super Bowl MVP will mention first in his speech:  Teammates are at 2/1, followed by God (5/2), Fans (5/1), other team (7/1), coach or family (12/1), owner (25/1) and none of the above at 4/1.

Of course, you can develop your own bets right at home. Who will be the first to take a bathroom break, who will be the first to dump a plate of nachos cheese-side down on your new couch, who will be the first to say "I don't get it" after a multimillion dollar commercials screens, who will be the first to doze off in the middle of the game after consuming hot wings, chili, pizza and beer.

Note to gamblers: 26 percent of people say that God plays a role in determining the outcome of a game, the Public Religion Research Institute found.

Let the game begin.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Few Parting Words


If we can’t leave 2016 with a smile, perhaps a smirk will do.

In that spirit, we leave you with a collection of oddities which crossed my desk during the year, presented here to amuse, not to enlighten nor educate.

Best Corrections

This odd advisory from the AP: “France’s deeply unpopular Socialist president Francois Hollande says he will/won’t seek reelection.”

From the New York Times:  “Because of an editing error, an article Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.”

From the Guardian: “Margaret Ritchie is not the MP for Down South as we suggested. Nor is she the MP for Up North. Her seat is South Down.”

From the Huffington Post: “This story originally said Marr asked Corbyn about a capella group The Flying Pickets. He a actually asked about flying pickets, people who travel to attend pickets during strikes. In our defense, both are associated with the 1980s.”

From the New York Times: “In an article March 20 about wave piloting in the Marshall Islands misstated the number of paths that could be navigated without instruments among the 34 islands and atolls of the Marshall Islands. It is 561, not a trillion trillion.”

From Wired: “Due to an oversight involving a haphazardly installed Chrome extension during the editing process, the name Donald Trump was erroneously replaced with the phrase, ‘Someone with tiny hands’” when this story was originally published.

From the New York Times: “A television review Friday about the new Amazon series ‘Goliath’ included an inaccurate discussion of the show’s plot structure.  The critic mistakenly watched the first two episodes out of order.”

From the New York Times (and I’m glad I didn’t take the call on this one): “The listing of highlights about the wedding of Cassandra Ilich and Shaun Reed, featured in the Vows column last Sunday, misstated the number of stones in her engagement ring. It has nine stones, not seven.”

From the Boulder Camera:” EDITOR'S NOTE: Comments attributed to a Trump campaign spokeswoman were removed from an earlier version of this story at her request after she learned she would be identified by name.”

From the New York Times whose editors must be wondering if anything in this story was correct: “An obituary on Wednesday about the pilot Bob Hoover referred incorrectly to his escape from a prisoner of war camp in the final days of World War II. While he escaped from the camp with a friend, only Mr. Hoover then flew a German aircraft to freedom; his friend was not with him on the plane. The obituary also misstated the name of the Ohio airfield, now part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where Mr. Hoover was based after the war. It was Wright Field, not Wilbur Wright Field. In addition, the obituary misidentified the Bell Aircraft X-1, which Mr. Hoover trained to fly. It was a rocket plane, not a jet. The obituary also misidentified the company with which North American Aviation, for which Mr. Hoover worked as a test pilot, merged. It was Rockwell-Standard, not Rockwell International. And the obituary referred incorrectly to the P-51 fighter. It was a propeller plane, not a jet, and Mr. Hoover did not test it at Wright Field. In addition, a picture caption with the obituary misidentified the plane shown with Mr. Hoover. It is an F-100D Super Sabre, not an F-86 Sabre. And because of an editing error, the byline for the obituary misstated the surname of the reporter in some copies. He is Craig H. Mellow, not Bellow.”

Best Restaurant Review of the Year

The Trump Grill by Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair

Ngyuen, whose regular beat is politics, took note of everything, from the bathroom situation that she compared to lining up for essentials in Venezuela to the fact that a pig’s eyeball she once ate on a dare tasted better than the Trump Grill’s Gold Label Burger.

 She waxes especially eloquent on the faux lavish touches all around the lobby-style restaurant, such as the French-styled art d├ęcor that looks as though it were actually purchased at a Home Goods. She uses this as the occasion to cite a now-famous Fran Lebowitz quote, that Trump “is a poor person’s idea of a rich person.” Vanity Fair reportedly got 13,000 new subscribers within 24 hours of the story running after Trump tweeted angrily in response. 

Notable Dish: Filet mignon. “The steak came out overcooked and mealy, with an ugly strain of pure fat running through it, crying out for A.1. sauce (it was missing the promised demi-glace, too). The plate must have tilted during its journey from the kitchen to the table, as the steak slumped to the side over the potatoes like a dead body inside a T-boned minivan.”

Best Wordsmithery (from the Washington Post)

Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you’ve gained.
Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
Gargoyle (n.), gross olive-flavored mouthwash.
Flatulance (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
Pokemon (n.), a Rastafarian proctologist.
Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
Foreploy (n): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
Skilljoy (n.): The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything.
Percycution (n.): Giving your child a name he will hate for the rest of his life.
Coughin (n.): A small enclosure designed especially for smokers.
Typochondriac (adj.): A paranoid proofreader.
Ignorial (n.): A monument that nobody visits.

And finally, the year in politics summed up by Dave Barry:

“…the American people, looking for a leader, ended up with a choice between ointment and suppository. The fall campaign was an unending national nightmare, broadcast relentlessly on cable TV. CNN told us over and over that Donald Trump was a colossally ignorant, narcissistic, out-of-control sex-predator buffoon; Fox News countered that Hillary Clinton was a greedy, corrupt, coldly calculating liar of massive ambition and minimal accomplishment. And in our hearts we knew the awful truth: They were both right.

It wasn’t just bad. It was the Worst. Election. Ever.”

Happy New Year.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Truth Is Marching On

Fake news.

It’s the topic du jour thanks in large part to the fact that it has been shamelessly embraced by our President-elect who has become a walking, talking supermarket tabloid.

“All I know is what’s on the internet,” he famously remarked.

You’ll find it in e-mails and web sites that publish hoaxes, propaganda and disinformation to drive web traffic inflamed by social media.

Fact checked? Sources? No need for that. If it ridicules someone you oppose, well, then, it must be true. It may be garbage, but if it's presented as red meat, people will bite.

Indeed, it mirrors modern-day politics where debate is now a knife fight and those with differing opinions are enemies to be crushed.

It is malicious gossip created anonymously in the dark corners of the Internet and produced for profit by those who put cash above conscience. It is the work of conspiracy theorists who give paranoia a bad name.

It is reminiscence of the tin foil hat set who used to fire off single spaced typewritten letters to newspapers written in all caps and headlined, “Wake Up America!”

Now, thanks to the internet, they have the entire world as an audience.

I have been a soldier of long standing in the war against this gibberish. It seems I have a number of family members, friends and acquaintances who have generously included me on the mailing list of these harebrained chain letters.

Their numbers include accountants, lawyers, engineers, business owners, doctors, people who at one point in their lives must have learned critical thinking skills but now embrace vitriol.

I know exactly when this stuff started landing in my e-mail queue. It was the day Barack Obama was sworn in as president.

Over the next eight years, I was informed that Obama is a Muslim. Not just a Muslim, but a Jihadist. He installed a prayer rug in the Oval Office. He was sworn in on the Koran, not the Bible. 

He refuses to salute the flag.  He has a secret plan to take away our guns. He is using a Cold War-era mind-control technique known as "Delphi" to coerce Americans into accepting his plan for a United Nations-run communist dictatorship.  

Obama's efforts to force banks to lend to African Americans in the mid-'90s led to the subprime mortgage crisis that killed the economy in 2008.

He plans to deliver the country to Islamic jihadists who will convert our churches to mosques, veil our women, toss our liquor into the Pacific Ocean and pack the halls of Congress with radical clerics. He is a fascist. He is a socialist. He is in fact the Antichrist.

I'm still waiting for one these websites to run a correction that says, "For the Record: Everything we wrote about Obama is wrong."

Hillary Clinton had no sooner declared for the presidency than she was branded a lesbian who had an affair with Yoko Ono.  She once said that children should be raised and trained by the state, and parents should have only a secondary role. She and President Obama were charged with being “accessories to terrorism” by the Egyptian government.

Hillary is in fact a tool of the Dark Lord Lucifer sent to oppose Jesus Christ in the Last Days.

Like any newsperson, I dutifully researched some of these claims and explained to my chain mail buddies that these so-called facts didn’t hold up upon examination.

 I further pointed out that if any of these claims were even remotely true, it would be front page news and that the good people of America would be marching on the White House with torches and pitchforks. Neither of which happened.

I should have known what would come next.  I was informed that the media, me included, was involved in covering up these claims and was  part of an insidious conspiracy that included untold millions of people. 

One texted, “I’m glad I don’t live in your world where everything you read is wrong.” Which is something I could have said to him.

Ultimately, I decided to lick my wounds and live to fight another day, directing these true believers to Snopes instead. I had reached the point where I was incredulous that people could believe this stuff.

Then Trump was elected.

I have not lost faith in the American public, however.

Post-Trump, the New York Times has seen "a net increase of approximately 132,000 paid subscriptions to our news products," the media giant told CNBC.

The Washington Post’s surge in new sign-ups parallels the Times,’ according to published reports.

Though the Post, a privately owned company, doesn’t release much data on its business performance, it said that ”We began to see a strong surge in digital subscriptions over the summer, and those numbers continued to increase through the month of November. Our monthly average of new subscriptions (July through November 21) is up 73% from the first half of the year.”).

The Los Aneles Times saw a 60 percent increase in new digital subscriptions in the weeks following the election according to the Columbia Journalism Review. For the month of November, the paper added more than four times as many new subscribers as it did during the same period in 2015.

At The Wall Street Journal, orders and new subscribers were up 300 percent on Nov. 9, versus an average Wednesday.

It appears Real News may be trumping Fake News. And that’s Good News for all of us.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Oh, Canada


Some of what follows is from a column I wrote early last spring but it seems especially pertinent now as we grope through the darkness of a Trump presidency.

America is a country of slogans, rallying cries born from the fear and despair of uncertain times.

In the past, there has been “Remember the Maine,” “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” and “Nixon’s the One.”  Some of them have inspired us.

This week, “Canada, Here We Come” has joined the list.

Many have cast their gazes northward looking for safe haven from the perceived horrors of a Trump administration.

I tend to dismiss these vows as so much political hand-wringing, born more of angst than determination.

And abandonment in the face of adversity is a cure worse than the disease. After all, if we all hit the road every time someone we opposed was elected to public office, our country would be as vacant as a politician’s promise.

But there seems to be momentum here. On election night, Canada’s citizenship and immigration website crashed as it was flooded with interest.

Remi Lariviere, a spokesman for the Canadian immigration agency, told the New York Times Wednesday morning that the cause was “a significant increase in the volume of traffic.”

By then, the site was taking about half a minute to load but was accessible shortly before 8 a.m. Eastern. “Move to Canada” remained among the top trending search topics on Google.

This comes as no surprise to Canadians. Twelve years ago, as George W. Bush took a commanding lead over John F. Kerry in the polls, Canadian immigration applications tripled. Visits to the immigration department's website skyrocketed from an average of 20,000 per day to 115,000 the day after Bush won the election. 

And, according to one Canadian publication, American conservatives are not immune. “Move to Canada” +Obama spiked in 2008, and was most popular in southern states. It doesn’t appear, however, that many of them actually fled a Democrat in the White House.

That could be because a county known for higher taxes, universal health care and stringent gun control may not have been the paradise they sought.

Last Spring, as Trump was emerging as a bona fide candidate, Rob Calabrese, a radio host in Nova Scotia, was inundated by more than 3,000 inquiries after he, on a lark, set up a website last month inviting anti-Trump Americans to move to Cape Breton, an island along the Atlantic coast that has lost population as industries have left.

One wag called it “The Land of the Flee.”

But while Canadians are a friendly and welcoming people, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want you to move next door.

Unless you fall into certain categories, including students in higher education or someone trained in a list of professions found in the North American Free Trade Agreement, you could be out of luck.

“Sometimes I’ve had Americans who feel that they can just drive across the border,” said one immigration lawyer. “It comes as a surprise to them, ‘Oh what do you mean, I have to qualify?’ Yes, you do have to qualify.”

And even those who do can expect to spend six years or more doing paperwork and living on Canada’s equivalent of a green card to build up residency requirements. Of course, a Trump presidency could be over by then.

There are other obstacles and adjustments as explained by Margaret Wente, an American-born columnist at The Globe and Mail in Toronto. There is no good Southern barbecue, she said, a house in Vancouver will cost you $2.4 million and the brutal winters can last six months.

Then there are the cultural differences, she added: “You will have to learn some weird local customs, like saying ‘sorry’ when you bump into someone on the sidewalk.”

My advice:  if you want to live in blissful isolation, go to the North Woods of Maine or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. That way you can maintain your citizenship even as you curse the country that bestowed it upon you.

Or better yet, stay and fight for what you believe in.  It’s the American way.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Signs of the Times


Understanding the subtleties of presidential polling is like trying to decipher the fine print on your cell phone bill.

Headache inducing.

I remain transfixed by the polls, however. Like many of my fellow Americans, I want to know how this insufferable bloodbath is going to turn out.

Well, the polls tell us Hillary Clinton is winning. No, wait, Donald Trump may be winning. But Poll A is using faulty data. And Poll B has a political agenda.

Poll C tells us Trump could win if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. Poll D is being manipulated by Russian hackers. Or maybe it’s North Koreans.

There is only one thing to do. Conduct your own research. Which is what I have done using the lightly regarded and completely unscientific PYS method.

PYS stands for Political Yard Signs and I spent the last couple of days prowling my Zip code and carefully tabulating the numbers of signs for each candidate.

My conclusions:  nobody is passionate enough about either one of these folks to stick a sign in their front yard.

I found two Clinton signs, two signs for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and none for Trump. Which is somewhat surprising since our neck of the woods is thick with Republicans.

Maybe people who support Trump are fearful that by displaying a sign they will be identified as racist, misogynistic no-nothings. Which, of course, they would be.

Or maybe it’s because, according to their web site, a Trump yard sign will set you back $20 to $30.  Clinton’s go for a more modest 12 bucks.

The most signs I saw in my neighborhood were in support of a local community college bond issue.  Apparently, there’s nothing like sprucing up the old junior college to get the juices flowing.

What does this all mean?  Very little as it turns out.

Phillip Bump, writing in the Washington Post, explained it this way:

“The problem with lawn signs, as any campaign manager would probably tell you, is that they are expensive, annoying, logistically tricky to distribute and — most importantly — don’t seem to do much of anything.
“Candidates like to feel as if they’re winning. Campaign managers like to know that they’re winning or at least making progress. So campaign managers like things that have either measurable effects on voters (like identifying targeted supporters) or demonstrated past effects (like advertising). Lawn signs don’t fit into either category.”

The Post story cited a study by Donald Green, a professor at Columbia University who has done decades of work assessing the utility of various methods of voter outreach. Green partnered with researchers at universities in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia to test signs in four races at the federal, state and local level.

Their conclusion:  “[I]t appears that signs typically have a modest effect on advertising candidates’ vote shares — an effect that is probably greater than zero but unlikely to be large enough to alter the outcome of a contest that would otherwise be decided by more than a few percentage points.”

In other words, the next time you feel the urge to erect a political sign on  your front yard, remember this: you’re probably not going to change anybody’s mind. 

But this is a great country. Even the millions of voters who don’t like either candidate can express their feelings via yard signs.

There’s the “We’re All Screwed 2016” model, another that says “Vote Nobody,” the Uncle Sam model that declares, “I Want You to Stop Voting for Idiots” and one that offers three choices:  “I Am (1) A Democrat; (2) A Republican or (3) Drinking Another Glass of Wine.”

Finally, there’s a sign that declares in not so subtle language that “Everyone Sucks. The U.S. Is Doomed.”

Which just might be the prevailing sentiment next week.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com.