Bannon OUT!

Thus endeth yet another political career.  Not to worry about Mr. Bannon; he will come up smelling fishy, like he always does. He’s got money, he’s got big donors at his back; he’s the Alt-Right.   Perhaps he’ll make another low budget movie; he could give us a shocking retrospective of the old Branch Davidian disaster.  I’m sure there’s lots of fiery stock footage he could use, and of course, someone just this side of hysterical to narrate.

It’s only been a week.  Seems like years.  August is usually the slowest month of the year in Washington.   What happened to these people?  They were  the revolutionary guard, the people who were supposed to drain the swamp.  Looks like the alligators got them first.  Questions abound:  will Mr. Trump continue with his policies (if there are any)?  Will Kelly continue his rampage through the chaotic White House staff?  Will McMaster recuperate from Bannon’s badmouthing and craft a coherent Defense policy?  Will Bannon be more formidable on the outside than on the inside?  Will the Administration finally initiate foreign policy, tax and/or health care reform?  All we’ve got so far are Obama Administration leftovers.

During the campaign, Trump surrounded himself with the radical right.  The thing that seemed to unite what turned out to be a pile of disparate parties and beliefs was an overwhelming dislike of Hillary Clinton.  Now that Hillary’s gone, the Trump people have turned on each other.

Mr. Trump has had six months. By my count, he’s no longer new. Even by the standards of the chaotic Clintons (who tried to get rid of the White House travel office and put prickly Hillary in charge of an unwanted national health care initiative), or the silent George W. Bushes (who remained on vacation until 9/11), his has been an abysmal start:  fake news, pointless fights with the press, operatic White House confrontations, damaging leaks, bizarre news conferences, demonstrations of temper, support of Neo-Nazis and mouthing off in ill-advised interviews.

Trump has a brittle personality, a fatal characteristic for any president.  Unfortunately, unless he decides to resign or is considered unfit, we are stuck with him.  Now is the time for General Kelly to take charge, get the staff under control and hide the TV remote.  By next year, if he lasts that long, perhaps Mr. Kelly can get the president to relinquish the phone and stop twittering.  Until that happens, however, I fear we will not have a president who leads.  We will only have one who tweets.

Of course, this begs the question:  Who’s in charge?  Trump? Kelly? McMaster? Pence? Melania? Your guess is as good as mine.

 

White Supremacy! BAD!

I keep hoping that the Donald Administration will calm down, find its feet and get on with the task of governing. To quote a Valley Girl or two, “As if!”

The unfortunate standoff/riot in Charlottesville, Virginia this last Saturday was a chance for the White House to try on its leadership hat; to tell people that racism, especially violent racism, is not acceptable and to make a plea for peace; a public relations no brainer. Instead, we got a half-acknowledgement of the events and then it was chaos as usual.

On Sunday, there was a ray of hope when level heads prevailed and the President put out a new statement, read from a teleprompter.  This statement was everything Mr. Trump was not; measured, eloquent and tolerant. On Monday, however, Donald J. went through his familiar Jekyll/Hyde transformation and let his freak flag fly. Instead of reiterating said measured statement in yet another “news conference,” Donald J. let the press have it.

Once again, the White House cannot get its act together. The fact that Mr. Trump seems to regard the chaos of his administration as a badge of honor is disheartening, at best. I don’t think, however, that Mr. Trump is really a white supremacist; that would require too much philosophical energy from our erratic, golf-loving Commander In Chief.

I believe Mr. Trump underestimated the Charlottesville demonstration, considering it a minor occurrence, a silly riot staged by silly people in a university town in central Virginia. There were bound to be fireworks because, hey, it’s a university town. Yes, the Bannon followers were out, going on about Robert E. Lee (ask Mr. Trump who Robert E. Lee was, I’d love to hear the answer) and marching around with tiki torches trying to recreate Nuremburg. So what? It was dark, after all.

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, was sitting pretty on his North Korea high horse. He could enjoy footage of defensive missiles being set up in Japan and report on reassuring phone calls to officials in Guam. All on account of him! How fab! This was the kind of publicity Mr. Trump wanted; he was the commander in chief, in charge of nuclear warheads, defending isolated islands in the Pacific with fire and fury. It was Trump triumphant.

That was before the unwashed followers of Bannon and Breitbart pushed their way onto the national stage by being as offensive as possible under the guise of the First Amendment. These guys came armed; you don’t show up at a peaceful protest with homemade shields, people. They glared into the news cameras recording their arrival just like their homeboys, Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. They took one look at the wussy left as represented by women, liberal white guys, clergy and African Americans and yelled “Charge!” The Light Brigade, it wasn’t.

The effect? Once again the White House is off message. That commanding story about besting the North Koreans at their own game fell below the fold. Insult to injury, sometime ally China very specifically told Mr. Trump to watch his mouth.  Thing is, Donald J. paid attention to the Chinese even as he ignored General Kelly. Way to go, White House.

If General Kelly resigns (look at those pictures of Mr. Kelly from Monday’s “news conference”) I believe the White House will have frittered away any chance to regain its leadership chops. That means that the current trend of people ignoring Donald J.’s pronouncements will continue; the Security Council will relate our foreign policy through back channels, bypassing a decapitated State Department. Heads of various executive agencies will wait a week or so after any pronouncements regarding their bailiwicks, just to see if our will o’the whip chief executive forgets about the issue. Foreign leaders will continue to do what they are already doing, that is ignoring Donald J. completely. Just as they ignore Kim Jong Un.

In other words, Donald J. and the press will continue to fight about increasingly meaningless statements from the White House. These conflicts will simmer, long outliving this Administration, which is threatening to leave the presidency in a shambles. These are dangerous times. Despite Mr. Trump et al.’s statements, the United States matters very much in this world. The destabilization of the U.S. government will allow the very places Trump says he’s protecting us from, China, North Korea, Russia, Syria, Iran and the non-state players: ISIS and Al-Qaeda, to gain power and position, even as we sink into refighting the Civil War.

Before the followers of Steve Bannon and the misguided Donald J.  become new millennium brownshirts, we need to take control of the White House, or at least fence it off. For all you newish Nazis out there, I suggest you read a very large book called “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” It is available on Amazon. Spoiler Alert: Before Hitler attempted to kill everybody in Europe, he started with his own followers. The brownshirts went first.

Setting the Table

I had the misfortune to watch some of the Sunday morning talk shows this week. A very wise commentator pointed out that Trump is not off message, or raving when he does interviews with the Enemy (aka the New York Times) or rattles off his customary 4:00 AM tweets.  Au contraire.  He is, rather, right on message; the message of the moment.

The message of the moment is the unfair and problematic Russia investigation.  It’s still dripping in the background, unless you’re CNN, then it’s a  waterfall.  It has been six months, people.  We, out here in reality land, are waiting for action.  But action, in the old reality show setup, is only for the grand finale.  Six months into a four-year run is nowhere near the grand finale.

Or, as the TV critics like to say when they babble on about Game of Thrones, Trump is setting the table.  It’s a bit like that nerdy guy who collects dungeons and dragons figurines, paints them and sets them on a table, looks at them, moves them, looks at them some more, moves them some more.  All the better to get that classic, gut wrenching and deeply satisfying final battle: Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, Gandalf and the Witch King, The Mother of Dragons and the White Walkers, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.  We’ve all been there.

Trump is moving the pieces, stepping back, moving them some more, never mind that stuff about actually governing; you know, things like getting financing through Congress to fix the nation’s failing infrastructure, driving a health care plan through a recalcitrant Congress that might actually serve the population, balancing the budget, boring stuff like that.  Nope.  Trump is moving the figurines with his tweets, his interviews, his speeches.

In other words, he’s not governing; he’s setting the table. He’s sitting in the White House or hobnobbing with his casino buddies in New Jersey or Florida, reveling in his table setting.  Meanwhile the world grinds on; out of sight, out of mind.

What will the climactic battle be? At this point, it will probably be a showdown over the Russia stuff, which may or may not clarify any wrongdoing.  It’s gotten to the point where the original scenario is forgotten; now we’re fighting because, you know, it’s fun.  Or so sayeth Trump.

You may think that I am giving Mr. Trump too much credit, that he’s not strategist.  I don’t know if he is or not.  I do know that he doesn’t listen to advice.  That’s why he’s so unpredictable; unlike his predecessors, he does not listen to his staff (who are always known quantities) nor he does keep them around very long (Spicer), or should he keep them around, he regularly demeans them in public (Sessions), thus discrediting them.  Not having advisers who have known ideological bents or hobbyhorse issues, makes Trump an Army of One, an oxymoron if there ever was one.  His grand delusion is that he can run the entire United States government from the Oval Office.  And, that, dear readers, is where the train wreck begins.

The government is already partially paralyzed.  Congress can’t even repeal a piece of legislation it has hated since 2010, to the everlasting delight of the opposing party.  The State Department is being run by the civil service (a la Great Britain), the country experts and the people who provide guidance nowhere to be found.  Secretary Tillerson, the point man on that one, has made it known that this inaction is not his doing – it’s the White House that can’t get its you-know-what together.

The military/Pentagon has funds, yes, but it has no programs to spend the funds on.  This whole business about a mercenary army fighting our foreign wars takes the all-volunteer army a step too far; mercenary forces are never a good idea.  Read up on any of the Crusades, or the 100 Years War, which was won at the last minute through the leadership of the most unlikely person imaginable, a peasant maid by the name of Joan d’Arc, against what was, at the time, considered a superior English force. A mercenary, she was not.

The mercenaries, on the other hand, had a tendency to sack “friendly” cities if the whim so took them.  They were also noted for taking up with the opposite side should the promise of better payment for their services become too tempting.

Our Donald wants everyone in the government and the military to pledge loyalty to him, himself.  After all, he’s king now.  Perhaps in the privacy of his business, he is.  But in the public of government service, we pledge loyalty to the Constitution, not to a single person.  If we go back to pledging to a single person, then perhaps we should petition Queen Elizabeth II and reenter the British Commonwealth.  Perhaps our new national viceroy could be Prince Harry; he’s doesn’t seem to be too busy at the moment.

I can see it now: Prince Harry Windsor, Duke of blah, blah, Count of blah, blah, Royal Viceroy of the United States of America.  Heck, it’s better than Donald Trump, CEO of the United States of America.  Perhaps he’d be able to get something done.

 

Off to the Land of Glory

Need to see the doctor?  Good luck.  As the newest iteration of an inadequate healthcare bill vanishes with a small “pop!” in the echoing halls of Congress, you may wish to take stock of your options.

After years of office conversations with older women or, now, women my age, I have come to the conclusion that human beings were meant to die right around the age of 60.  The fact that we no longer do that, at least in developed countries, has provided for a long old age loaded with potholes and financial booby traps, all designed to drain our bank accounts.

We are back to where we started:  that is seriously considering robbing a bank or selling ourselves to the circus because Mom needs an operation.  This was a plot device often seen in movies back in the day.  The audience never blinked an eye because everyone, sooner or later, had a mother who needed an operation.  The technology was there, the hospital was there, but the money wasn’t.  No money, no operation.  Mom did without, probably dying at home of whatever treatable condition it was right around her 65th year.

So, if the Republicans can get their act together and finally fulfill their strident campaign promises, they may actually repeal the wounded Affordable Care Act altogether.  That, dear readers, takes us right back to about 2009.  How old were you in 2009?  About ten years younger than you are now.  I’ll bet you’ve discovered some health problems along the way or, God forbid, had or fathered a baby.  Good thing you got that out of the way – there’s no way insurance is paying for anybody’s baby.

So, if Congress has its way, we will be blessedly free to die at home of perfectly treatable conditions for which we cannot afford medical care.  The problem with this sort of thinking is that it’s a bit like going back in time, if that were possible. It’s a very compelling idea, that you go back, knowing what you know now, and unmake all those mistakes you made.  It’s Congressional wish fulfillment: we will go back in time, wiser, more knowledgeable, and we will chose the right path this time.

What will that path be?  To not get sick? To not start a family? To start exercising regularly and go on that stupid diet? To give up smoking?  Or, we could start living like there’s no tomorrow and run off the road somewhere in a blaze of drunken glory.

Congress is good at mass delusion; it may think it has foxed the ACA, but the need that prompted the ACA is still there.  The constituents who voted for these guys, all yelling about how the nanny state should stay out of their affairs, will pull up to the ER on the verge of death, without insurance (because who needs insurance?), and will be treated.  The hospital’s finance office will then wrangle at least $100 out of somebody in the party (there goes that prescription you were supposed to get) and will send them on their merry way. The bill that follows will drive them into instant bankruptcy.

After 60 days of ignoring these bills that come regularly in the mail, they will get to know the hospital’s collection agency very well.  Now they are not only sick but they are bankrupt as well.  Thrown into poverty, they ask for state aid, better known as Medicaid, only to be put on a waiting list that is longer than their projected life span.  Republicans, after all, don’t believe in Medicaid; it’s just a handout for slackers and people who refuse to work.

Medicaid, of course, was one of the elements that made the ACA work.  It also turned out to be the ACA’s Achilles heel, because it is up to each individual state to figure out how much Medicaid is available.   Next year, when people have had a chance to live without health insurance of any sort, and the hospital systems have had a chance to go back to dunning the bankrupt for money, someone is surely bound to declare that we need a reasonably priced health insurance system that actually serves the population.

Until then, should you develop a life threatening condition, I suggest you stick to your proverbial guns and die at home, just like Mom did all those years ago, slipping gently off to the land of glory and eternal spring.  Don’t expect any help; that’s for slackers and those who refuse to work.  We’re Republicans, after all, the salt of the American Earth, the great glory of this country; we’re the example of right living.

We’re also, unfortunately, dead.  As for the funeral expenses, that’s a whole ‘nother story.

 

 

Uh. . . well. . .

Now there’s a deep thought, as my grandmother used to say.  Silly stuff?  Stupid controversies?  Fiddling while Rome burns?  Pick whichever one you like or make up one yourself.  It’s fun.  Sort of.

For what it’s worth (thank you Buffalo Springfield):

U.S. (i.e. Trump) Withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement:  No brainer, guys.  This plays directly to Donald’s constituency and costs him nothing to achieve, politically or economically.  He can pull us out of the Agreement, which doesn’t kick in until almost the end of his first term, or end of his Administration, anyway.  He can grandstand, then gleefully watch impotent outrage from such coal burning nations as India and China and go on about making the American coal industry great again.  It would be, if it could export to India and China.  Meanwhile, if you travel to Beijing, a surgical face mask is recommended for any contemplated walks in the park.  Irony:  Even the bigwigs in Pittsburgh, that symbol of fossilized industrial, flyover might, object.  The regular guy, though, in from one of those depressed townships along I-79, likes the idea.  He’s retired however, so he just wants to get on with his shopping and go home before the traffic hits. All the better to catch Dancing with the Stars.

Kathy Griffin:  Bad taste photo/meme/gif.   Outrageous comedienne move/exercise in free speech, if in bad taste.  This does not make Ms. Griffin unusual, the bad taste part that is.  Bad taste sells.  It gives permission.  It makes you free.  Whatever.  It’s made Griffin a sobbing outcast, forsaken even by the near hysterical CNN.  I believe that Donald’s reaction tweet to this photo was the first respectable one he’s ever sent.   Ms. Griffin has done the impossible, she has made us sympathize with Donald Trump.   If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say she and what’s left of the White House Communications Department cooked this up to give Donald a bit of good press.  Probably not but I stand by Donald’s philosophy:  all publicity is good publicity.  If that’s the case, you go Ms. Griffin.

Putin’s Interview with Megyn Kelly:  Predictable.  Big secret:  he’s lying.  Probably not worth watching. Wait for the press round up.  If you like watching video of the late Leonid Brezhnev making a speech to the umpteenth party congress, you will find this informative and about as truthful.  Otherwise, go back to binge watching House of Cards.  Putin’s in with the Donald Administration and he knows it.

End of the World (a specialty of the Internet):

Major Retailer Closing Doors for Good:  recycled business news.  This dire warning has been on the ‘Net for over a year.  Probable closures:  Sears, Pennys, Rue 21, American Eagle, Children’s Place, Macys and any number of local boutiques/specialty retailers.  Radio Shack is already gone.  For updates, visit your local shopping mall.

Explosives in Indiana Mailboxes:  Local police blotter stuff.

Gruesome Find Under Mattress:  Don’t read while eating breakfast.

Doe Menaces Neighborhood:  One phrase comes to mind:  Hunting License.

Waitress Stories:  Racist message on receipt and stiffed.  Lovely message on receipt and $100 tip. Waitress refuses to serve rude customer (if that happened all the time, very few people would ever be served).  Waitress drops something in someone’s drink. Waitress returns wallet to distracted customer, does not get reward/gets nice reward.  Waitress gives free dinner to down on luck patron but then finds out it will come out of her meager wages.

Big Surprises:  Indonesia is after anyone who’s gay or LGBT.  China does not believe in or condone religious freedom.  Japan’s population is diminishing.  Donald Administration sends travel ban to Supreme Court. Students surprise teacher (can be good or bad).  Military father/mother surprises spouse/children with unannounced return from deployment.  Despite heavy advertising to the contrary, you cannot pay your mortgage by driving for Uber/Lyft; you might make enough money to buy groceries, that is if you move in with your in-laws.  Ivanka tries to talk sense into father, although we’re not sure if Ivanka actually has any sense.  And, last but not least, Jared Kushner is really a mute.

Note to self:  Stop reading the phone at 3:00 AM.

Not Watergate, But . . .

It was a risk.  A big risk.  Sometimes big risks pay off.

Not this time.

It’s not all Trump’s fault, although he has become the fulfillment of the Democrat prophecy; that the government would be left to an incompetent narcissist with bullying tendencies.  Hillary Clinton, judging by her reaction to her loss, not to mention the hubris of her campaign, would have produced much the same result, although for different reasons.  She, however, would have bothered to staff the government, although if you were on the Clintons’ “Enemies List,” you’d be blackballed.

I have to agree with the level heads here; we are not in constitutional  crisis territory.  We are, however, in the vote of no confidence territory.  For all of you looking up Watergate on Wikipedia (the scandal, not the office building), it took Richard Nixon six years to get to the point of impeachment.   These days, however, knowing history just gets in the way.

The Watergate scandal began with what turned out to be an entirely unnecessary office break in at Democratic National Headquarters.  This was situated in The Watergate, then a relatively new building in an inconvenient part of the District of Columbia.

Irony abounds.  The Democratic Party managed to thoroughly bungle the 1972 elections all by itself, obviating the services of G. Gordon Liddy et al.  Nixon won the election in classic landslide fashion, pulling a Paris Peace Talks breakthrough out of the proverbial hat in October of that year.   The resulting rabbit gave the American electorate something it wanted more than anything:  visible light at the end of the Vietnam tunnel.  Instead of hanging G. Gordon and his anti-commie cohorts out to dry (as the Clintons would have done), Nixon proceeded to mount a cover up campaign, all the while making classic mistakes like purposefully recording every word he said in the Oval Office on a primitive tape recording system.

Trump has done nothing of the sort, all impeachment rumblings (and taping threats) aside.  So far as we know, he did not authorize anyone to break into the Democratic Campaign Headquarters. The Russians did that, ostensibly of their own free will and for their own purposes.  We can also assume that, by the same token, the Russians broke into the Republican Campaign Headquarters as well.  So far, no one seems to care about this possibility.

The fact that this all happened in the abstraction known as cyberspace shows you just how far away we are from 1972’s reel to reel tapes.

President Trump’s biggest sin so far is that he has been “unpredictable” (read: chaotic), but he has not, so far as we know, broken the law. That’s what Director Comey was attempting to find out before he was abruptly fired, quite lawfully (if ungracefully) by President Trump. This sort of thing is well within the sitting President’s prerogative.  Despite Mr. Comey’s dismissal, the investigation continues.

The President, however, with every mindless tweet and idiotic utterance loses credibility not to mention effectiveness. The fact that his spokesman was caught by the White House Press Corps hiding in the bushes last week, is not only bizarre, it points to fatal dysfunction.  President Trump with his reality show sensibility that nothing really matters, and despite his disingenuous interviews, seems to rationalize (when he thinks at all)  that he was not elected to get things done, he was elected to disrupt the government.  Steve Bannon is at the heart of this stupidity.

It was said that Nixon used to go around the White House in the late hours, talking to the portraits of past presidents.  Trump is said to yell at the cable news commentators/panels when they bring up the ongoing FBI investigation. Nixon didn’t have enough sense to just go to bed; Trump doesn’t have enough sense to turn off the TV.  It may not be Watergate yet, but it’s getting there.

Pledge Week

No I am not talking about membership in the Greek system (aka college sorority/fraternity membership drives). I am talking about the fund raising practices of the Public Broadcasting Service and the Public Broadcasting Corporation.  This is the part of American TV that’s supposed to be good for you.

PBS financed and televised Sesame Street back in the late sixties; it is the custodian of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and the Joy of Painting.  It televised  high brow BBC stuff back when nobody in America knew what BBC was; I remember that our local PBS station in Charlotte, NC, televised the intense cold war drama The Prisoner (“Be seeing you!”) in 1967-68, in addition to documentaries and large portions of the national political conventions before C-Span came along.  The commercial stations were busy televising stuff like The Monkees and Laugh In.  Many PBS stations anticipated C-Span by providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Watergate hearings in 1974, as well as re-running the same in the evening hours for people who worked. This may have been one of the most patriotic things PBS ever did.

Like all media, PBS is a much different animal than the outfit that televised the Watergate hearings.  It now runs a serious news service, an alternative to radical right radio and TV (aka Fox News).  The flagship show is the PBS News Hour, which is worth a gander, at least every once in a while.  It is not as loud or as glitzy as the usual cable suspects, which makes it refreshing, although there is a discernable liberal bias.

Since those long ago glory days of Watergate, PBS has become ever closer to its British cousin, BBC.  For instance, back in the seventies you could catch Monty Python’s Flying Circus on Saturday nights or Miss Marble, Upstairs Downstairs (the era’s Downton Abbey) and, that lovely Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, Brideshead Revisited. The latter coincided with the ‘fairy tale’ wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.   Also, by that time, PBS had discovered what is known in American parlance as Britcoms; i.e., Are You Being Served? To the Manor Born, The Good Neighbors and the long running soap operaesque series, East Enders.

Americans would tune in in droves on Sunday evenings to watch Masterpiece Theatre.  This is still true of Masterpiece’s Sunday evening timeslot, which hosted the blockbuster Downton Abbey, amongst others.

PBS, with it’s mix of educational, local interest, cooking (it pioneered television cooking when it picked up Julia Child’s show in the sixties), documentaries and good drama, was thinking man’s television.  Sounds great, right?

Alas, there’s always a fly somewhere in the ointment.  For PBS the fly is that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (“CPB”), the mothership as it were, is funded by the U.S. Government.  This is not a large budget allowance but it is money and some Congressional/Administration wag is always threatening to do away with it.   Thus, your local PBS station, which most of the population receives via a cable TV system (average bill $130 a month), does not sell commercial time.  The station can’t run on air, however, so we, the viewers, must make up the difference between what the station may get from the government (funneled through CPB) and what the shows actually cost.

Remember, when you watch say, Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary, the station televising it had to pay Ken Burns’ distribution company for it.  Ken Burns can’t live on air, either.   What it got from CPB and what it had to pay Mr. Burns amounts to a deficit.  Therefore, we, the viewers are responsible for making up that deficit.  Thus, you have pledge week.

Or, I should say, pledge period.  My local PBS station (WETA, ostensibly in Washington DC, although they are actually located in Northern Virginia) has about four pledge periods a year.  These last from three to four weeks.  During this time, all the usual PBS programming is dispensed with and we are treated to banalities such as a pastiche of Peter, Paul & Mary’s later concerts, infomercials on how to keep your brain functioning after 60, how to keep your body functioning after 60, how to get and keep enough money for your retirement (little late for that one) and, on the weekends, hour after hour of Motown, Psychedelic Rock, Sixties Protest Music and/or The Beach Boys, all with looped concert footage of oldsters getting down, as much as they can anyway.  These outfits hawk CD (!) collections of the music featured in these “concerts” a portion of which goes to the station.  (Evidently most loyal PBS viewers have never heard of Spotify.)  You also get old TV show retrospectives, Carol Burnett and Laugh In being the most popular.  Only at the end of the period does the original schedule return, to be interrupted by the same people you’ve seen for years, pleading for your $10 a month in exchange for tote bags and mugs.

I have no interest in any of this; therefore, I turn off PBS for four weeks. That comes to about 16 weeks out of the year when I do not watch PBS at all.  I can’t be the only one.

In the DC area, however, we have a bonus PBS station, one that only appears on the digital spectrum; WETA UK.  This is all Brit all the time.  This station features 24/7 programming straight out of BBC and, recently, the Sky Network.  This is where all the old Inspector Morse reruns went, as well as Inspector Lewis, Midsomer Murders, Vera, Miss Marple, Doc Martin, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Call the Midwife, even Downton Abbey.   Britcoms have their place on UK, as well;  Are You Being Served is shown several times a day.  Doctor Who appears on Sunday evenings, as well as the occasional fluff piece about the Royal Family and the English countryside.  Even some of the more contemporary British sitcoms make an appearance.

UK has so far been a pledge free zone, but now the WETA people, never to be to done out of dunning their audience, have begun holding  the “new” (12th) season of Midsomer Murders hostage (in Britain, Midsomer Murders is into its 19th season and was renewed for a 20th).  You watch as the same people you’ve seen for years at the old WETA beg for that same old $10.  The subtle threat?  That this lovely set up will disappear and you’ll be stuck with the old WETA or, God forbid, Dancing with the Stars.

I hate to tell you this, guys, but I can get the entire Midsomer Murders library on Netflix and perhaps even Amazon Prime, for free, or a small fee ($99 a year/less than $10 a month).  I can check out CDs of Midsomer Murders at my local library.  I can watch Downton Abbey for free on Prime, as well as any number of BBC/Sky favorites.  I can do this at my convenience.  I swipe the screen and there it is.

I can do this with an Internet connection.  I do not need WETA or WETA UK.  I can get up to the minute versions of these shows, as well as the older ones if I so desire.  I currently pay over $200 a month for a cable/phone/Internet bundle.  I could eliminate the cable and lose at least half that monthly cost, something I am seriously considering.  This consideration is not helped by the fact that there you are as I sit down in front of my TV to watch a “new” episode of Midsomer Murders,  asking for my money or else.  Even if I pay the cheapest rate, $5 per month, that is $5 added to my cable bill.  If I went for $10, for that I could get another premium cable station that would provide first run movies and great contemporary TV, all commercial free.

Time to join the 21st Century, PBS (and CPB).  Start a streaming service, do some original programming, stop dunning cable subscribers, already paying through the nose, for more money.  Back in the day electricity and a roof antenna ran the TV.  Now, TV’s a lot more expensive, not to mention more complicated.  Find some other way to make your money, even if you have to go to tasteful commercials.  Stop treating us like elderly idiots and do some creative fundraising. Show stuff we’d actually like to see during your pledge drives, not infomercials for music we can get for free elsewhere.

The times, they are a’changing.  You should too.