“Each according to our station,” we need to speak out

The original Woman Marcher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1MlD6cOUwc

The past several weeks have been a very interesting experience in speaking out: being silenced, and being supported.

I was born in the United States and I am a Donald Trump supporter (I give a fulsome explanation of why I am a Trump supporter in this blog).

I lost my mind for a minute there the weekend after Trump’s inauguration while viewing coverage of the so-called “women’s marches,” which had nothing to do with women’s rights and were simply anti-Trump rallies organized by a bunch of democratic sore losers who would be happy to see America fail if it also meant Trump would fail. I believe these people, their beliefs and their actions, are exceedingly dangerous to Democracy and the American republic. They are a danger to the entire globe.

While I was attacked pretty venomously when I published this blog, “America owes you nothing,” I was touched and encouraged by the number of people who contacted me to thank me for writing it. Probably my tone was harsher than it needed to be to make my point, but after two days of Linda Sarsour, Ashley Judd and Madonna, my patience and good will were at an all-time low.

My favourite vote of support came this week from a “pocket call,” a cell phone call I accidentally made while out on a dog walk. Rustling around in my coat pocket for a dog treat or a poo bag, I inadvertently “called” a long-time work associate. He was confused by the call from me and the fact that he could not hear any voice but only the wind and the water for 60 seconds.

Later we had a great chat and a laugh over my “pocket call” and I was saying good-bye when he interrupted me: “Rita, Rita, before you go – I wanted to thank you for what you have been writing lately. It is really encouraging to see somebody defending democracy and a rational point of view.”

With that in mind, I encourage everyone who loves democracy to view this amazing interview with historian Victor Davis Hanson. If you do not have time to watch the entire interview, at least pick it up at the 8 minute mark and hear his important comments on defending America.

Why should Canadians bother?

When I was in Michigan last weekend, my sister asked me, “Why do you care so much about what goes on here?”

“Because,” I shrugged, “without America, there is no Canada.”

She nodded philosophically; we all know it is true.

“If you don’t believe you are better than all the alternatives, nobody else will, and there’s no reason for you to continue…it has to be replenished psychologically. All of you in this room, we have a duty, each according to our station, each day, to say ‘The United States is better than the alternatives, and what in my own way can I do to remind people of that? And I’m not going to be silent about it.’ Criticizing what’s going on in this country is going to earn you wages that are very unfortunate, but if we don’t want to earn them, we’re going to lose the country.”

–Victor Davis Hanson

No accounting for tastes – with dogs OR kids

Forest spits out cooked carrots; Leia loves them, and will eat all of hers PLUS all of Forest’s. There is no accounting for tastes….

A dog trainer once told me that most people are surprised to learn that dogs love carrots.

“I use them as training treats,” he noted, pulling a baby carrot out of his pocket and giving it to one of his dogs, who gobbled it up happily.

My vet also once told me that in an effort to prevent weight gain, I could mix Forest’s dog food half-and-half with green beans. “He won’t know the difference!” the vet promised me.

I tried both of these tactics with Forest, who wasn’t being fooled for a second. The carrots he sniffed disdainfully, then discarded. The green beans were worse: he managed to eat all of the dog kibble in his bowl, carefully avoiding the green beans, so that when I emptied his bowl it was full of green beans and nothing else. I have to admire his integrity: he was holding out for real liver bits, which are his idea of a “treat.”

Enter Leia! Leia loves EVERYTHING. This dog has not met a sunrise, a frozen creek, a muddy walk, or a bowlful of boring food that she does not attack with relish and gusto. I only have to say “Well, good morning!” to her and she launches herself into paroxysms of joy and airborne acrobatics.

Yesterday I put a massive pot of beef bones and other essentials, including carrots, on the stove, to make beef broth. Five giant carrots were bubbling away in the pot along with celery, onion, and seasonings.

I hated to think of throwing the carrots out, big fat nutritious carrots cooked for 24 hours with beef marrow bones. “Maybe I could dice them up and use them for dog treats!” I thought, remembering the trainer’s words.

First I did a little test, tossing each of the dogs a circle of carrot. Forest spit his out on the floor; Leia ate hers, and then his, too.

Click here to see the video. 

Then I diced up some carrot and put a bit in each dog food bowl. Forest declined to eat much of anything at all, while Leia gobbled up everything in her bowl – carrots and kibble – and licked it clean. She looked longingly at Forest’s bowl, now up on the counter, virtually untouched. I’ll give it all to her later to finish, and give Forest his usual kibble with a couple of dots of cooked liver.

What’s the point of this story? EVERYONE is different. Especially to parents of young children – and I am happy to know so many – the advice you get from professionals might work for one child, but not another. The tried-and-true tricks you used to make one child happy might not make a second or third child happy at all.

Kind of like Leia on ice – one day she prances across the frozen creek or pond’s edge, gleefully running away at full speed and coming back laughing. The next day, the melting ice breaks beneath her weight and she gets a quick, cold bath in shallow water– whoops! Who knew? She’ll figure it out.

You’ll figure it out, too.

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Headlines versus Click Bait

 

head·line

ˈhedˌlīn/

noun

  1. a heading at the top of an article or page in a newspaper or magazine.

“a front-page headline”

 

click·bait

ˈklikbāt/

noun

informal

noun: click bait

  1. (on the Internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.

“these recent reports of the show’s imminent demise are hyperbolic clickbait”

 

 

The internet has changed the rules of engagement for headline writing

and story layout immensely; now, instead of glancing at a headline

which gives a time-saving summary of the story,

you are more likely to see click-bait:

“12 ways to lose weight! #7 flipped us out!”

or “You’ll never guess who owns this puppy!”

 

Back in the day, I actually learned how to lay out newspapers on these things called “flats,” which were thick coated paper (not quite cardboard) scored with light blue (invisible to print) lines and columns custom designed to fit our newspaper, Taxi News.

The printer of Taxi News was a local newspaper, the Korea Times (KT). KT provided us with the flats, which fit their press. Once each month, after laying out the entire 32 page edition of Taxi News, we would drop it off at KT and they would print 10,000 copies of it for us.  One day later, we would pick up the 10,000 copies of Taxi News and drop them off at taxi companies and gas stations around the city.

Taxi News was very progressive at the time, so early in using Desk Top Publishing that it purchased the very first laser printer Apple ever sold in Canada, using a Beta version of Adobe PageMaker.

It was a unique intersection of old and new: we used the very newest technology to laser print text to paper – custom measured to the column size provided on our KT flats (a Taxi News column was 2 inches wide); but we cut each column with an Exacto knife, waxed it with a waxer, and affixed it to the KT flat in a very physical process. We did not lay out entire pages on a computer screen, as we do now. We stuck waxed pieces of text to the flat for a very specific reason: ad sales.

All newspapers run on ad sales. What was true then is just as true now. Newspapers in years past were so ready to accommodate advertising sales that they developed an entire layout system around it. We called it “Proper Paper Procedure,” or “PPP” for short.

PPP meant that we followed the layout rules established for newspapers at least a century ago: articles were written in “reverse pyramid” format, meaning that the most important paragraph, the lede, contained a concise and compelling statement of all the news to follow and the most important factual statement. We were taught that a lede could not be more than 19 words long.

Editorial copy and headlines written in “reverse pyramid” format allow the layout team to edit automatically when space is needed for new ads or breaking stories.

Paragraph #2 elaborated on Graph #1 with additional facts which provided context.

Paragraph #3 was generally the “Nut Graph,” which contained the nub of the information being presented with more context and would likely answer the question, “Why does this article matter?”

Everything below Graph #3 was carefully written as a stand-alone paragraph which gave the reader further information, but was basically disposable. Nothing in Graphs 1, 2, or 3 could be dependent upon information in Graph #4 and onward. If the article had 8 paragraphs, #8 was the most disposable, #7 the second-most disposable, and so on.

Nothing in any paragraph could be dependent upon or refer to information in a following paragraph.

Why was this so? Ad sales! Every publication which prints ink on paper wants to maximize the number of ads within its pre-determined number of pages. Adding pages is almost never an option, so squeezing the absolute maximum number of ads into a limited number of pages becomes something of an art form.

If an ad salesman turned up with an ad at the last minute during layout and we needed to make space for it, articles got ripped off the flat to make room for the ad. Ads always take priority over articles; they pay the printer. And the staff.

So, if we needed to make room for an ad at the last minute, we began editing articles this way: the bottom paragraph went first – gone.

The second bottom paragraph went next – gone.

And so on, until we had emptied enough column inches to place the ad. Sometimes such an edit would affect only one article; more likely we’d pull off the disposable bottom paragraphs of each article on the page to keep the most important information, while preserving at least the lede, Graph #2 and the “Nut Graph” and a couple of others.

There was no editorial authority required to ask if we could trim a reverse-pyramid article from the bottom up: every hard news article was written in this style and anyone with an Exacto knife could cut from the bottom up, confident that no important information would be lost, and that no preceding information would suddenly be put out of context. For a couple of centuries, every newspaper being printed followed these rules, Proper Paper Procedure.

Taxi News was 5 columns wide at 2 inches per column; an article across the top of the page would be 5 columns wide; beneath that, probably 3 columns wide; and at the bottom nearest the fold, 1 column wide.

An article 2 columns wide and 4 inches deep – 8 column inches – could be pulled to make room for a 2 inch x 4 inch ad.

A larger ad (or maybe a breaking story) could mean that the layout team would have to re-arrange an entire page, pulling the least important articles completely and trimming – literally cutting the paper – the larger stories from the bottom up in order to free up enough column inches to place the ad.

How does PPP affect headline writing?

A headline which runs across 5 columns would be long, providing enough room to give a pretty good precis of the story below. If there was room for a 2- line headline, even more so. However, a headline 2 inches deep and 10 inches wide is 20 column inches – that’s a lot of space! That’s an ad 2 columns wide and 5 inches deep. That’s money.

As we started laying out the flats, we could be fairly generous with the headlines when there was space. If ads got sold as we were laying out – and we really would take ads right up until virtually the last minute – the first thing to go would be the long, deep headlines. With an Exacto knife, we’d cut off the second line of the headline and re-arrange the page to move the story up and make space for the ad.

This is why headlines must be written in “reverse pyramid” style the same way articles are: so they can be easily be cut without re-wording and with no editorial authority.

So, using my favourite parody headline as an example:

Boy trapped in fridge eats own foot

Police, medics too late to the scene

 

If we had to pull the second line, it would simply read:

Boy trapped in fridge eats own foot

 

If we had to move the article down the page where the headline could only be 3 columns wide, not 5, it would be laid out as:

Boy trapped in fridge

Eats own foot

 

If it had to be narrower still, it could be cut as:

Boy trapped

In fridge

Eats own foot

 

Shorter:

Boy trapped

In fridge

 

And shortest:

Boy trapped

 

In the same way that an article written in reverse pyramid cannot allow any paragraph to be dependent on a paragraph that follows it, PPP headlines are written so that no line is dependent on the line below – it has to be complete in itself and stand alone, in case it must.

By observing the rules of PPP throughout the writing and layout process, including both the article layout and the headline layout, newspapers could quickly rearrange an article, multiple articles or an entire page to make room for paid advertising or hot stories. More likely, paid advertising.

PPP rules apply to hard news stories; editorials, Op-Eds, columns, features and other human interest pieces often follow a different format, with teaser openings or telling a story in chronological order, not using reverse pyramid.

For 30 years now, newspapers have used software and other tools to quickly lay out entire editions electronically. However, even computer layouts need to follow the long-ago developed rules of PPP if print publications want to retain their ability to take last minute ads without adding pages.

The internet has changed the rules of engagement for headline writing and story layout immensely; now, instead of glancing at a headline which gives a time-saving summary of the story, you are more likely to see click-bait: “12 ways to lose weight! #7 flipped us out!” or “You’ll never guess who owns this puppy!”

Online publications, in addition to having a financial incentive to coax readers to click through endless, time-wasting pages, have virtually unlimited space in which to publish. A person who came of age reading online publications may not even realize there used to be a time when you could scan the headlines and/or the first couple of paragraphs of a whole newspaper section and get the gist of what was being reported that day. Instead, they are lost in a maze of links and lures. (“Geez!” my daughter once told me. “I went online to check something, and when I looked up, an hour had passed!” That kind of experience is the exact opposite of the logic of reverse pyramid and PPP.)

Personally, I have always appreciated the fact that somewhere, a team of writers, editors, headline writers and layout people are hard at work organizing information to save me time and effort. The Toronto Sun’s daily electronic paper is an exact replica of its paper edition, and I LOVE it! The logic, the flow, the prioritization and placement of content is all there, electronically. It’s awesome.

Long live PPP!

The Toronto Sun’s e-edition is an exact electronic replica of its paper layout – you can scan the whole thing in 5 minutes, if you need to. It’s terrific!

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great news! EVERYBODY gets to choose their thoughts

On January 22st I posted a blog detailing what I thought about the “Women’s March” in Washington DC. The backlash was swift, and severe. In fact, in one 24 hour period I was contacted by four Muslim men, basically telling me to sit down and shut up.

I would be so perfectly content to go back to posting nothing but happy food and dog stories – and I’ve done lots of those – but on February 16th, Canada’s Parliament will be debating M-103, a motion which is a step on the way to making criticizing Islam against the law.

I would simply like to reiterate the point I made when Ontario fought the introduction of Sharia Law in 2005: we do not need two sets of laws. Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms already protects all religions equally. That includes Islam. We do not need a special, separate law to protect Islam.

12 years after the Ontario battle against Sharia, we are fighting it again at the federal level. The solution is the same:  one law for everyone, and everyone equal before the law. Muslims are not special in our democracy, or our civilization. They need to toughen up, the same way everyone else does. The great news is that they can choose to do so. I wrote about that here after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, and when I go back to read it is seems only more true now than it did then.

Islam, Charlie Hebdo, the CBC…what would Dale Carnegie say? Here’s what he wrote.

 

Note to the Globe: America owes you nothing

Ta-da! The Pink Foam Vagina Hijab. Also doubles as a Burka or a rain poncho. Suitable for demonstrating obedience and modesty, feminine power, or protesting Donald Trump. Volume discounts on bulk orders.

The past month, crazy as it was, has really helped crystalize my thinking about life in general and America specifically.

Donald Trump was being protested before he was even sworn in, which was amusing to see, but the “Pussy Marches” the day after inauguration were beyond the pale. The marches themselves were a confused, incoherent waste of time, and the logic of people marching in them was even more insane. Apparently, if you want to fight for women’s rights you should wear a hijab and demand Sharia Law.

O…K….. right. Got it. There were marches all around the globe, except in Saudi Arabia and Iran. There were no pro-Sharia marches with women wearing foam vaginas and pussy hats there. Although, with a little American ingenuity, someone could invent a hijab that looks like a vagina, a foam vagina hijab, which women could wear to both signal that they are modest, obedient followers of Allah and also fierce, brazen feminists, in control of their own bodies. Except when their husbands say they can’t be and it is their right to defer to their husbands and also to allow him to beat them up. You know.

One associate of mine, who was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Canada, was flying to Washington for the march. When I suggested U.S. policy and democratic outcomes were actually none of her business, she pretty much lost her mind. I tried to imagine the reaction of Canadians or Jamaicans, if thousands of Americans flew in to their capitols to protest their democratically-elected leader. Wearing foam vaginas and scaring the tourists….I shudder to think. But, I digress.

Here’s the point: Unless you are an American citizen or a legal immigrant, the United States of America owes you nothing. NOTHING.

Are you an economic migrant, looking for a better life? The United States of America owes you nothing.

Are you an illegal immigrant from Mexico or elsewhere? Let’s say, Canada? Did you lie when you crossed the border, overstay your visa, or run through the bush in the middle of the night to enter the United States with no permission whatsoever? The United States of America owes you nothing.

Are you an immigrant, legal OR illegal, who has committed a crime in the United States of America? Did you, maybe, forget you’re not supposed to rob stores or rape women? I’m sure it’s hard to keep those things straight – “Wait, am I supposed to rape a woman, or am I not supposed to rape a woman? My brain hurts!” – Guess what? The United States of America owes you nothing. They don’t even owe you an air conditioned jail cell. They owe you nothing. If you’re lucky, the driver will slow right down before you get kicked off the bus in your country of origin.

Are you a citizen of a terror-exporting nation, one of several identified by Donald Trump a year ago? Did you leave home two days ago, after a full year of listening to Donald Trump promise to stop immigration from terror-exporting nations before you bought your airplane ticket? Are you surprised you are now stuck at an airport? The United States of America owes you nothing.

Are you a Canadian “Snowbird,” travelling to spend six months less one day at your condo in Florida, returning home just in time to secure your Canadian healthcare while avoiding American taxes? The United States of America owes you nothing, not even a stress-free border crossing.

Are you, sadly, a refugee, fleeing a war-torn nation? Sadly, the United States of America still owes you nothing. Unless that nation is Iraq or Libya, in which case, the US does owe you something. George Bush and Barack Obama owe you something. That needs to be acknowledged and worked out, and hopefully Donald Trump will do so.

Are you Canada, a NATO member which committed decades ago to contribute 2% of GDP to NATO, but has never contributed more than 1%? Or any other nation which has not contributed 2% of GDP to NATO? The United States of America owes you nothing – YOU owe the United States. Americans have a friendly saying: “You pay, you say.” According to this logic, most of NATO has no say at all about what the United States chooses to do, or not do. America owes you nothing.


You know who IS owed something by the United States of America?

The men and women who get up early, every day, to work hard, earn some money, and pay a lot of taxes.

The men and women, American citizens and LEGAL immigrants, who obey the law, provide for their families, and turn over almost half of what they make to the government to pay for every single social program delivered by said government – whether it’s a good program, or a bad program. Medicare or Sanctuary Cities – who knows? They just pay.

The men and women who would like to have more time with family, more vacation in summer, reliable healthcare, and good safe schools for their kids. The people who work hard every day; volunteer in their communities; contribute to charities like no other nation on Earth.

The veterans who fought in just wars around the world. Those who gave their lives. The people who watch their sons and daughters march off to war, to protect freedom and democracy for an ungrateful planet.

The millions of voters who, when handed years of baloney and bullshit by corporate media, use their own common sense and good judgement to make up their own minds about what is true and what to believe, and dare to vote against the perceived wisdom of academic elite. The audacity of those rednecks!

Why are Jamaican-born Canadians in Washington protesting the results of a free and fair election? Why are Germans marching in the street, wearing foam vaginas, protesting Donald Trump? Why are Palestinian women running around with American flags as hijabs (a vile desecration of the American flag in flagrant prohibition of every protocol of flag handling) shouting “Allah Akbar”?

I do not argue the fact that the GOVERNMENT of America, the nation of my birth, has lost its way in recent years. The Clinton-Bush-Obama years have been painful, and full of lies.

But you know what? There is great news. AMERICANS have figured it out, and will do the work it takes to make it right.

The Americans I know are smart, responsible, dedicated, hard-working, kind people. They are Christians and Muslims. They are entrepreneurs and public servants. They are urban and rural. They are serious and fun-loving.

At the end of the day, I guess the most important thing is that Americans are generous.

Because they owe the rest of the world nothing. The fact that they help, protect, and support anyone else is a gift. Thank them for it.

-30-

 

 

The Winter of Our…Content. Canadian Content.

When this parking lot freezes in winter, drivers can get SERIOUSLY stuck…which is why the fishermen tend to drive trucks and not light cars.

Watching Americans rip themselves apart on immigration issues over the past month is such a contrast to my favourite winter story this year.

My son Captain David Smith, his fiancée Mey and I were just rounding the end of the Samuel Wilmot trail at the parking lot with our dogs.

As we approached the parking lot, we saw that a small car was very stuck in a frozen, icy spot. The driver was using a combination of salt and carpets to try to back the car out of the ruts. He was VERY stuck.

“Honey,” I said to Captain Smith, who is as fit and muscular as any human being you have ever met, “you should go help that guy.” I needn’t have made the comment, as David was already striding over to assist. A Lake Ontario Fisherman in full gear with boots and spikes was already there, trying to push the driver out.

From a distance, I could only see that the driver was Oriental. He could have been Chinese or Japanese or Korean – you couldn’t tell. It was clear that he was very stuck in two deep ruts, though.

Mey and I watched from about 50 feet away, and could see that very little progress was being made. I handed Forest’s leash to Mey.

“Here,” I said. “Make sure he does not run behind the car.”

As I walked over toward the stuck car, I called to Dave, “Is the car standard or automatic?”

“Automatic,” he yelled back, over the sound of spinning tires and spraying salt.

“Tell the driver to get out and push, and I will take over the wheel,” I shouted. I am a pretty experienced Ontario snow driver.

David did deliver this instruction to the driver, but he did not seem to understand English as he remained in the driver’s seat, accelerating and reversing studiously. Salt and carpet fragments were flying everywhere.

Fortunately, the muscle and weight that Captain Smith brought to the job was clearly making a difference; with every rocking movement the car made, it was getting closer to being sprung free. The Fisherman was pushing with all his might too.

As I approached the car, I could see it was almost out. I gave up on trying to communicate with the driver; I extended one index finger to press lightly on the front fender as Captain Smith and the Fisherman gave a huge push. The car shot backward, free, out of the rut and into the flat parking lot.

Like a successful duellist, I “blew” the smoke away from my “pistol” finger.  I brushed the snow off of my gloves and proclaimed, “Well, clearly all you needed here was the help of a woman. Call me, next time you need any help.”

My timing could not have been more serendipitously perfect; everyone was laughing uproariously and doing high fives. We were all enjoying the moment and the humour; the driver of the car was nodding and laughing. He took a long time driving out of the parking lot, stopping to offer several vigorous “thumbs’ up.” I took advantage of the group’s attention to flex my biceps and pose pretentiously. There were lots of calls of “Merry Christmas!” and “Have a great weekend!” Dave and Mey and I laughed all the way home.

We never exchanged a word of English with the driver. The Infantry Captain, the Ontario Fisherman, locals and neighbours communicated in a more fundamental language: help and caring. It was so happy; so effortlessly kind; so funny.

So Canadian.

-30-

 

 

Oooooh…Eggs Caprese! An instant favourite

The classic Caprese salad – mozzarella, tomato and basil – turns into a perfect breakfast sandwich.

I subscribe to several recipe sites, and one morning last fall I woke up to find a recipe for “Eggs Caprese” in my inbox. It looked fast and fun, and I thought I’d give it a try.

Little did I know how popular this little breakfast sandwich would turn out to be! When my dad visited in October, he ate it for breakfast almost every day. Dave and Mey and Tom had it over the Christmas holidays and they loved it too – one morning, after everyone finished their sandwiches, they asked for seconds. I had to send them over to my neighbour’s house to borrow more eggs, and then we had a complete “Second Breakfast” of Eggs Caprese, Part Deux.

Click here for the Eggs Caprese video. 

Mangia, mangia!!

Mexicans and Muslims; Policy and Communications

mexicans
I do not believe Donald Trump is racist, and I don’t think people need to fear that.

When I temporarily made my business inactive in 1996 so that I could go to work for an Ontario cabinet minister, I was delighted to learn that the process of government divides much of its activities into two distinct categories: policy and communications.

Up until that time, I had never been exposed to that kind of binary thinking. Policy, and communications. Hopefully the policy development is done first (although, sometimes governments want to say something they believe will be popular having NO idea whether the policy is even achievable. That’s a real crapshoot).

In a perfect world, the “order of operations” is this:

  1. Develop policy.
  2. Communicate policy.

In the best cases, the communications team is aware of the policy development in process and attends early meetings to identify issues and opportunities.

Then, after stakeholders have been consulted and policy has been developed and approved, communications takes over to roll out the announcement.

In my career I have seen terrific policy initiatives supported by great communications work. I have seen poor policy initiatives die a quick death despite Herculean communications efforts. But the worst thing to see, as a communications professional, is good and helpful policy buried by terrible communications.

Famed presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan once stated, “Great speeches are based on great policy.” In other words, you can be the best orator in the world but if you have nothing of substance to announce or to promote, it’s all just a lot of hot air and platitudes. If government decided to drop the tax rate by 20 per cent, anyone could write that speech and anyone could deliver it, and it would be well received. If government decided to raise the tax rate 20 per cent, the best speaker in the world would still be ducking rotten tomatoes. Great speeches are based on great policy.

The idea that policy and communications are two wholly distinctive-but-dependent areas is not one a lot of people outside of government grasp. In fact, I once attended a professional development day at which I was asked to state my purpose in life. In front of a room full of salespeople and businesspersons, I stood up and announced:

“I hope to prevent great policy from ever being destroyed by poor communications.”

The entire room full of business people sat there, mystified. No one had a clue what I meant. Most people simply don’t divide life into “policy” and “communications.” They don’t even want to try.

Which brings me to Donald Trump and his comments on Mexicans and Muslims.

Way back in the early days of the presidential campaign, Trump gave speeches and interviews talking about preventing illegal immigration from Mexio, and halting all immigration by Muslims.

I doubt these words were edited by any professional speechwriter; he just opened his mouth and out they came. I also do not believe he was referring to any specific policy that he had developed with knowledgeable people, after having discerned what was possible and advisable to do and what was not.

He was simply aware that many, many Americans were heartily sick of illegal immigration from Mexico, and very frightened at the prospect of continued jihadist attacks on American soil. So he just opened his mouth out came a lot of words on the topic. He was engaging in communications in the total absence of any policy development at all. I do not believe Donald Trump is racist and I don’t believe people need to fear that. I do believe he did a lot of damage with his early communications.

It has been interesting to note how his words have evolved over the past many weeks. On illegal immigration from Mexico at his kickoff speech he said:

“The US has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

And these aren’t the best and finest.

When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best.

They’re not sending you.

They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them.

They’re bringing drugs.

They’re bringing crime.

They’re rapists.

And some, I assume, are good people. …but we don’t know. Because we have no protection, and no competence. But we don’t know. It’s gotta stop, and it’s gotta stop fast.”

 

When I read these words, I don’t interpret that he is smearing all Mexicans; I think he is referring to the ones who break the law by crossing into the US illegally. I assume he thinks the “best and the finest” are staying home in Mexico while Mexico assists the “people that have lots of problems” with exiting the country for the US (and for those of us old enough to recall the Mariel Boatlift, when Castro emptied his prisons and mental hospitals and shipped those Cuban citizens to Florida, this does not seem a completely far-fetched idea).

Compare that first speech to the language posted to the “Positions” section of his campaign website:

“Protect the economic well-being of the lawful immigrants already living here by curbing uncontrolled foreign worker admissions

  • Select immigrants based on their likelihood of success in the U.S. and their ability to be financially self-sufficient.
  • Vet applicants to ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people, and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.
  • Enforce the immigration laws of the United States and restore the Constitutional rule of law upon which America’s prosperity and security depend.”

 

Obviously somewhere between his campaign launch and election day, a team of policy analysts began to flesh out the relevant policy, and some communications professionals massaged the language. Had he used these words in his launch speech rather than his own emotional diatribe, perhaps he might not have been labelled a racist. Maybe he would have been anyway. In any case, he tapped into an important zeitgeist and Americans voted him president, so it is not for policy/comms wonks to tell him he was wrong. Not a one of us has been elected president.

These ARE the policies Americans voted for. It would be a shame if poor communications defeat effective policy before good, smart people even have a chance to write the policy.

With regard to Muslims and immigration to the United States, his first statement from December 7, 2015 read:

“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Currently, the Position statement on his campaign website reads:

“Vet applicants to ensure they support America’s values, institutions and people, and temporarily suspend immigration from regions that export terrorism and where safe vetting cannot presently be ensured.”

That is QUITE the evolution in language: the issue now becomes “regions that export terrorism” rather than “Muslims.” We have not yet heard how it will be determined that a region is a “terror-exporting” region, but then, Trump hasn’t even been sworn in yet. Let’s give him a month or two to get the experts working on this. Let’s have faith that they can develop effective policy. Let’s not kill the initiative through hysterical communications before we even have a clue about the specifics of what is being proposed.

Finally, I encourage everyone to read Trump’s “Contract with America” which was released with his Gettysburg Speech. Surely there will be items here with which readers take exception, but it would be great if when people debate whether or not his policies are sound or will be helpful, they had some background on what his stated policies ARE.

It would be a terrible shame if solid policies being proposed die on the vine because of off-the-cuff communications from the first month of his campaign.  America deserves better.

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Whew, I think I’m done now!

Love and best wishes,

Rita

 

 

 

 

 

 

#8 Grab her by the pussy

trump-stupid
Trump has said some stupid things. He has acknowledged this.

I have six brothers.

Growing up in Detroit, we lived in a small house in which the entire attic area was converted to a sort of dormitory where all six boys slept. My sister and I slept in a tiny gable room just off of their bedroom.

Many days, I woke up to the sound of them “jaw-jacking:” lying in bed and calling across the room, they competed over a wide range of topics including who could bench press the most weight; who had the longer newspaper route; who earned the most money; who could pole vault the highest.

I knew they were jaw-jacking, because they SAID so all the time, as in, “You can’t press 225! Don’t give me your jaw-jacking!”

My sons continued the proud and time-honoured tradition of jaw-jacking, elevating it to such illustrious heights that I long ago immortalized it in one of my favourite columns, “Invisible Toast.” All mothers of sons should read this piece; it will give you a great insight into jaw-jacking. It ends with this exchange:

“You two,” I fumed one day after listening to an hour of arguing on some mundane topic. “On your deathbeds, you’ll still be arguing over Invisible Toast!”

“Yeah, we will,” Dave, now an army officer, agreed completely. “And my invisible toast will be so much more rad than Tom’s!”

“In your dreams,” sneered Tom, now an economist. “You will only wish your invisible toast could compare to mine, you loser!”

In between listening to my brothers  jaw-jack and listening to my sons jaw-jack, I was out in the working world, listening to men jaw-jack. I was a waitress for a decade, from age 12 to 22. I was young with long hair, nice legs and enormous boobs. ENORMOUS. (I had them reduced some years later, thankfully; but to be fair, those boobs earned me a lot of generous tips from men who were happy just to see them.)

Working as a cocktail waitress, I was a magnet for every lech in the bar. In the 1980s, I assumed the groping and the pinching was part of the job, until one day the bar manager, Patti, asked me: “Is that guy grabbing you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I try to stay away from him.”

“Drop a cup of hot coffee in his lap,” she directed me.

“Ouch!” I winced, imagining the pain. “Couldn’t I drop a cold beer?”

“Coffee is cheaper,” she pointed out, reasonably. I was allowed to use my liquid of choice; but he would not be groping me any longer. Her explicit support boosted my confidence tremendously.

Patti was also the person who stopped business dead one night when a raucous crowd of soccer fans overwhelmed the bar. We were scrambling to get everyone served, but evidently we weren’t moving quickly enough because one of the men at the counter started whistling at me to get my attention.

“HEY!!!!” Patti bellowed at the line-up of waiting men. “NOBODY WHISTLES AT THE STAFF IN THIS BAR!!!”

The crowd fell silent for just a moment as this sunk in; then the roar began again with lots of talking, laughing, and cheering – but no whistling. I was impressed.

It would be nice to think that men objectifying women was a practice that went out of vogue in the 1980s, however the very fact that Hooter’s exists leads me to believe there are still vestigial remnants of that dark age.

I survived it, and in fact, I gave my daughter this piece of advice when she was just four years old in the case that someone touched her when she did not want to be touched:

“You just shout at the top of your lungs, ‘Get your fucking hands off of me,’” I instructed her. “Embarrass him in front of everyone.” 

“I’ve never forgotten that you told me that,” Johannah told me 20 years later. “It was good advice.” 

So, what’s my point here?

  • Men jaw-jack. Maybe over money, athletic prowess or their style with women, but they jaw-jack.
  • Men are attracted to pretty women. In years past, it was more acceptable to actually touch them. This is not acceptable any longer, which is great.
  • One way or another, women can put a stop to the touching. My daughter figured this out at four years old; surely a mature woman can understand the concept.

Donald Trump’s “grab her by the pussy” jaw-jacking with Billy Bush was stupid*. Touching women who don’t want to be touched is unacceptable.

Was this the end of the world?

No.

Now, can we get on with creating jobs and restoring world peace? I think there are a number of actual Yazidi sex slaves in Syria who would appreciate getting some help.

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*CLARIFICATION: Donald Trump was wrong to do this. Not just stupid, but wrong.