Author Archives: William W. Starr

Bye-Bye Bill

Bill O’Reilly is gone from Fox News. Who knew there could be something about Fox News to cheer?

Actually, of course, O’Reilly isn’t a journalist for Fox News. He’s a commentator, a blowhard and a terrible writer whose deeds finally caught up with him. O’Reilly, it seems has been a serial sexual harasser. The network paid over $13 million to settle out-of-court accusations by five women (and counting) that they were sexually harassed by him in recent years. When that news was reported by The New York Times several weeks ago, O’Reilly’s days were numbered.

But they weren’t numbered by the Times’ disclosures, of course. No, what did O’Reilly in were advertisers on his highly rated Fox program who decided to withdraw their money from the show. Faced with a staggering loss of revenue, Fox officials caved and decided they had to boot O’Reilly. The fact that he was revealed to be a creep no doubt made that decision easier, but this was an action taken in the name of economics.

So there are some important lessons here. When confronted by fakes and frauds, the power of the dollar remains ascendant. Donald Trump is incompetent and ignorant, but that won’t be his undoing (unless he does something that seems treasonous even to the slackest members of the Republican Party). Nope, what will ultimately get to Trump is his refusal to be financially accountable, to disconnect his business interests from the country’s interests. He lacks even a shred of ethics, and that will be what leads us, mercifully, away from a Trump administration. Let’s just hope it comes sooner rather than later.

A New Airline Model

At risk of repeating this one more wearying time, readers should remember that the airlines are not your friends. For years, back through the period I was a travel writer, this served as my mantra through hundreds of thousands of miles on board a variety of airlines. It was true then, it’s true now.

The latest reminder of this is United Airlines, which decided to have a passenger forcibly removed from a flight after too few people refused United’s demand that they get off because the airline had overbooked and needed seats. That’s right – one passenger didn’t want to surrender the seat he had paid for, so he was mauled by police and dragged shamefully from the plane. Social media and even national lawmakers are coming together with sharp criticism for United and even proposing some new laws.

This probably isn’t going to amount to anything, particularly the calls for a boycott of United. In too many airports like Houston, Newark and Denver, United is the dominant carrier and in some instances the only one. Passengers boycotting United may be doing little more than cutting off their note to spite their face.

Overbooking is the culprit here, and United is hardly alone in this nasty business practice which passengers understandably loathe. It is a popular tactic with greedy airlines who claim they need it to maintain profits. In a word, that’s baloney.

The airlines deliberately sell more tickets than they have seats for on nearly every flight. They do this, they claim, to avoid cancellations and flying empty planes. It’s an evil, non-customer friendly practice which has been enshrined in law, even as it affects only a very small percentage of passengers. But it’s still bad and needs to be changed. And here’s what airlines don’t tell you:

They would make almost exactly as much money if there were no such thing as overbooking. That’s because most of the seats sold on any flight are nonrefundable. You don’t fly, you lose your money; the airline keeps it. And most passengers who purchase refundable tickets use them; and many of those who don’t simply reuse the ticket at a later date. The airline still gets its money.

United turned a profit of almost $2.3 billion last year, joining the other major carriers in record or near-record earnings. Doing away with overbooking isn’t going to put much of a dent in that windfall. But the airlines aren’t interested in that. They’d apparently rather maintain their current levels of miserable customer service and lack of attentiveness to all but a tiny percentage of passengers who buy hugely over-priced first-class tickets.

In a word, the airlines aren’t your friends. And while talk of a boycott of United or any other airline is nice and feels good, what will actually do some good is to ask your lawmakers to pass a law rescinding the one that permits airlines to continue the outrageous practice of of overbooking. That would be a positive step, one that would benefit anyone subjected to the dreadful experience that is flying these days.

And finally, allow me to quote from a fine article in this morning’s New York Times discussing the United incident and what’s so terribly wrong with the airlines today:

“Everything about United flight 3411 — overselling, underpaying for seats when they are oversold, a cultish refusal to offer immediate contrition, an overall attitude that brutish capitalism is the best that nonelite customers can expect from this fallen world — is baked into the airline industry’s business model.”

Amen. Get on the phone to your representatives and senators now. Let’s get rid of one of these vices as quickly as possible.

Acting Without Thought

Donald Trump decided to bomb Syria. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not. But what it makes abundantly clear is that the President has not yet begin to think through his foreign policy decisions.

Here is the leader of the free world who says — repeatedly — that the United States has no business getting involved in Syria. It’s bad policy, Trump has said. But all of a sudden there are pictures on television showing civilians suffering from a Syrian air force gas attack, and the President thinks we need to retaliate. After all, he may have figured, he’s the guy in charge and he has all these incredible weapons, so he might as well go ahead and use them. Bingo, we’re not in loved i a very deep with in Syria.

But we also are now more involved with Russian. And Iran. And indeed we are now active in the world’s most unstable region (not ignoring you, North Korea). Once again, Trump is showing his words and declarations are meaningless. A few weeks ago he reiterated his desire for better relations with Vladimir Putin. indeed, that has been a vital hinge of his foreign policy in the early days of the administration. Well, forget that. Now he’s got Putin angry. (Is this like two brothers arguing?) and we have no idea where this relationship is going.

In fact, there is no sign of what the heck Trump means by his actions or where he intends to go with them. There is no way diplomats and military officials can grasp what the President is about because no one outside of Trump’s tiny, ego-weighted mind can have any sense of that. And who believes that Trump has a plan at all for anyone to figure out? And that includes leaders of nations all over the world, allies and enemies.

That’s scary. No one knows what our President is up to. That is not a way of pursuing peace when everyone who matters is in the dark about what the most powerful nation in the world is doing. Frankly, I think it’s very scary. And I don’t know what steps out to be taken to remedy this awful global situation.

Network of Harassers

For years we’ve known Fox Network’s Bill O’Reilly as the noisy, over-opinionated, right-wing blowhard and pathetic author of quasi-history books. Turns out Bill, we hardly knew ye. He was, we know now, a serial sexual harasser, part of Fox’s conglomeration of men who took sexual advantage of women who worked at the network.

In O’Reilly’s case, Fox was so eager to keep their prima donna that they paid over $13 million to his accusers to keep them quiet. O’Reilly, of course, has insisted he did nothing wrong. Happily for him, Fox was willing to toss $13 million down the network drain just to allow him to continue bloviating. And lying.

When you consider that the network president Roger Ailes set the tone with his own toxic harassment of employees, ol’ Bill was just following the master. Here’s what is really the grabber about all this: These nasty acts were all committed on women who worked at Fox; these guys didn’t have to go out of the building to find their victims, they just had to roll over to the closest cubbyhole. Obviously since Ailes’ dismissal, Fox has done little or nothing to alter the culture at the network.

And of course, President Trump cheerfully endorsed O’Reilly after this news came out the other day. And why wouldn’t he? If there’s one thing Donald Trump can recognize very quickly, it’s another guy who likes to grab pussy. And ow it seems we have an entire network devoted to that. (I’m excepting legitimate, uncontaminated journalists at Fox like Bret Baier and Chris Wallace, but the condemnation stands.)

No Winners Here

Have you noticed that Donald Trump never finds President Donald Trump at fault? For anything? Nothing is ever President Trump’s fault, whether anti-Muslim travel bans, the total failure of Trumpcare or all those Russia connections. Everything can be and is blamed on someone else.

With Trumpcare, we found the President blaming Democrats, who voted in a bloc against the Trump/Republican proposal, for the proposal’s demise. Of course Republicans hold the majority in the House of Representatives and can pass anything they wish no matter what the Democrats do. In this case, Democrats had nothing to do with the proposal’s collapse.

But Trump blamed them. Until he didn’t, when he blamed the Republican right wingers, the extremists who voted against the bill because they don’t see any need for anyone to have governmentally assisted health care. At least this time around Trump got a lot closer to the facts.

Of course, facts are to Donald Trump what lightning is to the lightning bug: completely unrelated. And we know that Trump clings to false beliefs, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “the way a drunk clings to an empty gin bottle.”

Donald Trump is an empty hat. The self-proclaimed master of the deal is no master at all, as it turns out. He can’t even get his own party together, though in fairness the Republicans have demonstrated anew that they are incapable of governing. For seven years they battled to repeal Obamacare without having any replacement in mind. And when their opportunity to actually replace it arrived, they had only a plan that was ill-conceived and deservedly stillborn.

So Trump and the Republicans seem to have more in common than perhaps some amongst us thought. Neither seems interested in governing, only in advancement of their small-minded beliefs, which are mostly connected to tax breaks for the wealthy.

That’s what it has come down to as we enter the third month of the Trump administration. No one can govern. No one is to blame. Yet everyone is, for there are no winners here, only losers.

Trump Incontinent?

There are reports circulating now that President Donald Trump finds it necessary to wear diapers on occasion. The reports, as yet unconfirmed, suggest the diapers are necessary because the President has some issues with incontinence. The White House has made no response.

The reports suggest the evidence of Trump’s need for diapers can be seen in photographs and films of the President on the golf course, where his pants appear to be ill-fitting and enlarged around the hips. On at least one occasion, apparent signs of diaper-wearing have been noticed when the President has been attired in a suit.

There have been occasional rumors of Trump suffering incontinence in the past, according to the reports, but those also have not been confirmed, and there has been nothing said about it by White House sources. There is no evidence or reporting that suggests the problem, if it exists, has affected the President’s policy decisions.

Any Patriots in Congress?

I’ve been waiting several weeks to see how the Trump administration shake out after a few very ragged, chaotic weeks. I figured the worst was probably over. How wrong. How dismaying to find — or to reaffirm — that our President is a man unfit for the office, a man too small, too small-minded to be the leader of the free world.

But it gets worse. In his latest totally unfounded claim, Trump says President Obama tapped his phone and that he demands a congressional investigation. This was, of course, conveyed by his twitter account.

So here’s a new bottom line: Trump is a cynical, irresponsible, narcissist, an incompetent, intellectually challenged and morally compromised liar. There is not even a hint of truth and honesty about him. He is a disgrace to his office and should be removed immediately.

Alas, there seem to be no true patriots in Congress, no men and women who will stand up to Trump and attempt to protect us — the American people — from an unhinged, dangerous and unqualified White House occupant? A man who cannot fathom the depth of his office and who surrounds himself with benighted sycophants merits no respect and deserves to be thrown out of the office. And so I repeat: are there any patriots in Congress – especially among the supposed-patriotic Republicans — who will earn their profile in courage?

It’s not too late. But there’s not a lot of time to spare before our democratic nation suffers serious wounds. God save America from Donald Trump.

A Meeting of Whines

The concepts of truth and ethics are getting a few days off as Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu get together in Washington. Here we have the pathological liar and the Israeli corrupter exchanging pleasantries. Honesty and decency are on vacation.

The radical right wing Israeli prime minister is under investigation for two different accusations of corruption with others soon to follow. His belligerency — and his lying — helps to keep the Middle East aflame. He certainly has lots of help in doing so from radical Palestinians, but it is his right-wing party and its dangerous, law-violating supporters who pose an even greater risk to peace.

And of course with President Trump you have a man whose word, whatever it happens to be at the moment, carries no trustworthy weight. Today the President said he no longer endorses a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. That follows some earlier statements to the contrary. Who knows how he might feel tomorrow?

That makes this meeting seem pathetic. Whatever comes from it can carry little meaning because each man will take from it anything he he wishes. There will be no lasting agreements here because neither man can be trusted with any agreement.

Neither Trump nor Netanyahu is good for their respective country. Netanyahu has caused great damage to his nation’s trust and been the primary cause of disaffection by many responsible Americans for the fate of Israel. He has been, in a word, a disgraceful person, a soiled leader.

And in Trump, well, we scarcely know what kind of leader we have elected so far, though every sign points to a collision of ignorance, laziness, incompetence and pathological egotism. Then again, I may be leaving something out.

Let’s Take a Toilet Break

Trump’s a loser.

As if we didn’t know it before, his empty narcissism has shown him up again. Big time. And there seems no limit to how far his ineffectiveness, his ignorance and his incompetence can take him.

Let’s go over the latest very quickly. He promised a new relationship with china not based on what China wants (i.e., the One-China policy). Loser trump humbly called China to beg forgiveness and promise his agreement to a One-China policy. Then there’s Trump’s immigration ban. He turned up a loser with the federal courts because of his poorly thought-out and chaotically implemented ban. He’s a loser. So huge.

And his aides are stupefyingly following his lead. Kellyanne Conway loses her ethical bearings in urging people to buy the Trump brand of clothing. Sean Spicer, the maniacal press secretary, spews blatant lies and defends them before backing off of them. What losers. So huge.

And you know, of course, who’s right there with them? None other than Mitch McConnell, who has shown his dislike of women who won’t stay in their “place,” and who lacks the courage — possibly the brains as well — to stand up to Trump. He’s a loser. Huge.

We could go on, but it’s only Friday morning. There’s lots of time for Trump to wiggle into his warm bathrobe, go sit on the toilet and see what comes out. I mean by that a new tweet, of course. What were you thinking?

The Sad Reign of Trumpism

We are riding a ship of fools. We have elected — okay, only a minority of Americans, truthfully — a President who knows little, lies a lot and has chosen to surround himself with lying fools. Is that blunt enough?

Take Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s personal advisor. She spoke publicly to accuse the news media of ignoring the Bowling Green massacre, a horrible, terrible terrorist event that occurred in Kentucky. Only it didn’t of course. There never was such a thing. But she passed it off as truth and when caught apologized only partially and reluctantly, tying her regrets to mistakes by by other people. In other words, she didn’t really apologize.

Here’s the problem, of course: She’s not alone in the Trump administration of passing off news that is not news. News that is lies. News that bears no more relation to truth and facts than a lightning bug to lightning. She is full of humbug. And she is close to Donald Trump, who believes and spouts humbug. Nothing to be believed. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And we have word from The New York Times — that’s the real newspaper — that the Trump administration still doesn’t even know how to turn on lights in the White House. Really — that’s not fake news. That’s so ridiculous that you know it’s real.

Trump denies the validity of new polls that show a majority of Americans untrustful of his executive order calling for an immigration ban, a clueless ban now blocked by the sane actions of the federal courts. The number of people questioning Trump’s behavior in office is growing, sort of the way Trump’s nose seems to be getting larger (but not his hands).

We have seen that in two weeks in office, Trump is governing via executive order. He appears to have taken no lessons in governing beyond his experience as a businessman. Presumably as the head of Trump enterprises he signed one order after another and expected them to be carried out by underlings. He seems unaware that’s not how the federal government works. And he certainly seems disinterested — too lazy? — to learn anything about his job.

In brief — he’s proving how unfit he is for the office of President. In other words, exactly as we feared. And by “us” I mean the majority of American voters who didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Here’s the interesting thing: more and more of those who voted for him are discovering the folly of eerie ballot. And Trump is discovering what happens as more people become aware of his failings: his efforts to governor are slowly diminishing, even as we are but two weeks into office.

Regrettably, that is not good for America at all. We are at the mercy of an unprincipled and unqualified executive who has unleashed a warren of aides and helpmates who are equally poisonous to democracy. The forecast for America is grim. It’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.