My God, I stumbled into a gang of ‘bad hombres!’

I probably should have been more careful, stuck to the turf I knew. I guess I’m naive but all I was doing was trying to explore my new neighborhood in Southern California.

Today, I wandered too far. I found myself the only white man I could see in a boisterous crowd of almost exclusively brown folks. There were hundreds.

Our new president’s recent warnings echoed as I tried to keep my head down and remain calm. If Trump is right, I was shoulder-to-shoulder with at least some “bad hombres.”

I appeared to have stumbled into a gathering of illegal immigrants, probably some sort of mass meeting of gang members.

There were tattoos, earrings and heads of slick, coal-black hair. They used hand symbols I couldn’t quite understand. They wore some bling, with the leaders on a raised platform handling lots of gold. They forced the acolytes and disciples in the crowd to pay some sort of offering in cash.

They chanted. They sang. On a raised platform in the center of the building, they celebrated a bloody execution of one of their leaders.

If I heard right, the leader talked of drinking blood.

That leader spoke quickly in rough English so I missed some words. But I know for sure he was urging the gangsters to stay together, not let anxiety overtake them, to basically stay cool under fire. He seemed to be trying to keep them calm in the face of threats from our courageous new president.


One of their chants had this refrain: “We will not be moved.”


I joined in the sing-songy ritual. To be honest, it was catchy.


But, getting claustrophobic in the press of people so different than me, I had to take off my jacket to keep from sweating. Taller than many of them, I tried to appear shorter by bending my legs.

I found myself hoping for the best, praying even.

I have to confess I even participated in the special, secret handshake that went around the room.

The ritual took about an hour but I finally escaped. Thank God.

But I might have been followed. One of the gang’s lieutenants — he wore a special badge and kept the hordes moving through rituals with hand symbols — saw me grab a piece of their literature on the way out.

I’m sharing that pamphlet and writing this in case these “bad hombres” come for me.


Please, circulate this so white America knows what is going on in California.

If  you can, please, get it to the attention of President Trump. He above anyone, needs to know the truth about these brown people.


Outta control? California? Try Missouri

The new president cited California as a problem he might have to threaten into obedience, calling the state  “out of control.”

The battle has gotten so heated that a California group is trying to get enough signatures to start a process aimed at leaving the U.S.

I’m a new resident of the Golden State, so I started looking around more carefully after I heard Trump’s claim. My wife and I just relocated in a city not far from Los Angeles in California’s Inland Empire.

We moved from the mid-sized city of Springfield in Greene County, Missouri.

According to the maps showing votes in the presidential election, we moved from dark red to dark blue.

 Greene county’s voters chose Trump by a margin of about 78,000 to 43,000 and Missouri overall voted for Trump, 1.5 million to 1 million. Most smaller counties in Missouri favored Trump overwhelmingly, in the 60-70 percent range.

By contrast, Californians voted for Hillary 8.7 million to 4.4 million and, in Los Angeles County, voters chose Hillary by a margin of 2.4 million to 770,000.

My wife and I have now lived in the alleged “out-of-control” state for only about a month. We lived about a decade in an area of Missouri some call the Buckle of the Bible Belt, where many people espouse liberty and dislike government overreach. Now, we live in what those same people would call a nanny state.

Missouri’s state flag. Though quite different in political ideology, this heartland state has on its flag a bear, like the “out of control” California.

Of course, I’m no expert on politics or sociology. But, here are some everyday differences I’ve already noticed. I offer them to help you assess the president’s comments about California.

Here ya go:

— On our first visit to a California gas station, I didn’t know how to use the gas pump.


We lived in Missouri only 10 years but I had become so complacent I didn’t realize some pump nozzles (in more progressive states that care about ozone levels) had gotten more sophisticated. The next-level nozzles with their flexible collars form an air seal created with a bit of pressure from the holder of the nozzle. If you don’t push with enough force, the pump shuts off,  a congenial station manager showed me.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch

I’ve seen many nozzles in Missouri that still spit a couple tablespoons of gas on the asphalt with every use.


California mandated the newer nozzles, not without controversy, in a quest to set new standards for controlling greenhouse gases.


Missouri’s political leaders want to turn back the clock on what many see as gains in Clean Air initiatives. With Trump in office, it looks like they will get their way.

— I almost walked into a garbage truck. I didn’t hear or smell it running.

The truck ran on natural gas.

 Encouraging the use of that fuel is another way the Golden State tries to clean up the air.

In Springfield, the city doesn’t even try to regulate garbage haulers.

The city seemed afraid of the clout of the big hauling companies. Even though the city has the power to regulate at least in basic ways, like mandating zones for the operation of different companies, the city has not acted. The companies operate mostly as they please.

That means one company’s noisy, smelly truck might hit two or three houses on a street with another truck following along minutes later on the same street, collecting from different houses, each spewing smoke as it goes.


I never saw one using natural gas.


— I had to wean myself from my cell phone while driving.


California law requires drivers to have phones mounted to the car and to use hands-free technology if calling or talking to someone. Fines can be hundreds of dollars.

How does that jibe? An out-of-control state exercising such control?

Golden State leaders have bought into that crazy-liberal theory that using your phone while also trying to control a large, heavy moving vehicle can be as dangerous as driving and drinking.

What’s the law in Missouri? Here’s what the Missouri Department of Transportation website says under the category of “Cell phones and texting”:


“Although an increasing number of states are placing restrictions on cell phone usage, Missouri has no law regarding the use of cell phones while driving.”

“The state does, however, ban texting for all drivers 21 years old or younger.”

Progressive critics in Missouri (people who haven’t yet moved to California) say the police don’t even enforce the texting law for kids. Would you? How would you tell the difference between someone aged 20 and 21 or 22 in a moving vehicle?

Notice how the transportation officials worded that section on their site. It’s like they’re taking a shot at their own state’s lack of courage to do something about a recognized, deadly problem.

No nanny state, the conservatives say.

— When I see people walking toward around in our new state, I don’t see as many bulges.

From big bellies or hidden holsters.

Studies (if you believe in science) consistently show Missouri up there high on the list of states with the most obese people; California is near the bottom.

A Missouri lady at a garage sale we had before we left Springfield.

As for weapons, California has a tough law regarding permits to conceal a firearm. Missouri just killed its conceal-carry law. Yup, no law at all requiring training or permits to hide your Glock on your flabby hip.

Odd, huh? With that penchant toward residents who like to hide things, Missouri should no longer be allowed to have the nickname “Show-Me State.”

— I cannot remember to take a bag into a grocery store.

I have been stuck, on numerous occasions, paying more for a bag at the register or wheeling the groceries in a cart to the car.

California became the first state to ban free plastic bags at groceries in late 2010.

The Golden State’s legislators saw the wisdom in this argument: Consumers use plastic bags for only a few seconds but they cause environmental damage for decades.

Missouri is one of the states that didn’t like that progressive move. So what did Missouri’s legislators do?

They passed a law trying to stop the more environmentally conscious cities in the state from getting rid of plastic bags. Yup, they passed a ban on bans. Yet, they call the federal government intrusive.

Who’s out of control?

Enough. I know. I know.

I hear the wailing and gnashing of Ozarkian teeth all the way out here in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. I understand there’s another point of view to all this.

Before you send a hit squad from the Southwest Honkeys (yes, that’s a real Missouri gang), I’m not criticizing everyone in Missouri. 

Many well-meaning, compassionate, generous and empathetic folks call the Ozarks home.

I’m not calling everyone in Missouri backward of xenophobic. 

This is no nasty elitist postcard from the West.

 Please, don’t take this a slap. It’s not meant to be — unless, of course, you voted for Trump without any regret.

Wow! Donald Trump says something I want to believe!


I used to label almost everything uttered by our new president as babble, bull and carnival barking.


However, after watching Agent Orange lecture reporters at his news conference last week, I have to rethink that.


He has brought me to an epiphany. He explained away something that has been nagging at me for years. After listening to His Orangeness, I see journalism — I was a reporter and editor for three decades — with the kind of clarity you can only get after 10 hours in a tanning booth.

I finally understand why most journalists make so little money.


A lot of us missed the memo. We were never told we had to be dishonest to succeed. Fools, we sought the truth.


Agent Orange, though, stood up at the news conference and set everybody straight.


Evil, dishonest reporters in the Mainstream Media are America’s enemy. Especially dastardly are those at the big news organizations that cover Agent Orange in person. They make up sources, he said. They will not give him credit, he said. They don’t even call for his side to the story, he claimed.


They are successful, especially those big names in TV and newspapers, according to Our Orangest, because they are not loyal to the truth, rather to their Mainstream masters.

He said: “I’m making this presentation directly to the American people, with the media present, which is an honor to have you.

This morning, because many of our nation’s reporters and folks will not tell you the truth …”

“Unfortunately, much of the media in Washington, D.C., along with New York, Los Angeles in particular, speaks not for the people, but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system.”

“The press has become so dishonest that if we don’t talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what’s going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control.”

I interpret his theory as this: Reporters lie to:

1) attack and discredit him because he is not part of the entrenched Washington power structure 2) get more readers and web traffic 3) please their liberal publishing and broadcasting masters and 4) feather their own nests.


Thank you His Orangency. You’ve outed the bastards.

Man, how stupid we in the lower levels of TV and newspapers have been for all these many, many years. We prided ourselves on our ability to dig, investigate, uncover. Yet, evil Super Journalists have been cabaling like crazy to undermine the profession. In an impenatrable, complex labyrinth of utter secrecy, no less!


And to think that I blamed my inability to rise to the upper echelons of journalism on my own failings: a lackluster education, not enough skill, pugnaciousness. I read with jealousy the writers who made it to big operations like the New York Times, Washington Post and the Associated Press — those with the manpower to cover the presidency face-to-face.  


I admired them though I was also envious. What a relief Agent Orange has provided. I just wasn’t dishonest enough! Not me or the tens of thousands of other, lower-tier journalists across the U.S.


We plugged away, piling up the overtime just to get by, chasing after firetrucks and police cars, studying far too many reports about wastewater and sludge, sitting through interminable school board budget sessions, filing Freedom of Information requests to get the most basic information about the latest federal kerfuffle, knocking on doors in the dark, freezing through floods, snow and tornadoes, enduring the jabs of local politicians, fielding angry, threatening phone calls, going for years without raises and sticking to our Code of Ethics even when it meant challenging our own bosses.


Meanwhile, those slick suckers at the top of the Journalism Food Chain prevaricated away, fabricating sources, adding their own evil “tone” to stories whenever they felt like it and taking their dishonesty all the way to the bank.


Sir Orange-a-lot has called them to the carpet, though. He caught them. He indicted them, tried them and convicted them in that blockbuster of a news conference.

How amazing! What great news for the rest of the ink-stained wretches who still see journalism as a noble calling.

What’s shocking, though, is how quickly Change-Agent Orange figured this out.

He certainly moved fast. He’s still a novice to both politics and governing. He announced these damning, major findings about a month into his presidency.


Oops. I need to press pause here. Just a minute. I’ve been away from the news business a while due to illness. I have to check something.




His Orangeness, I’m seeing now, didn’t provide any real evidence. Did he?

Ahh, damn.

I think I’m losing my journalism chops. I have rejoiced too soon. I forgot that we journalists fact-check the words of the powerful — especially when ulterior motives are possible, or obvious. That’s even more important when your first instinct is to believe wholeheartedly because it helps you feel better about yourself, your job or your family.


There’s a worn-but-wonderful saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

Here’s one for 2017: If Donald Trump says he loves you, leave the business.

Reporters are trained to be skeptical, to challenge, to consider that many factors are at play beneath the surface. They are also trained to break news and love to do that. It’s exciting to be first; you hardly ever share what you gather with other news agencies before it is published.


It’s good old American competition, something the Orange One should know something about.


Reporters scramble, race and sweat and get very resourceful when it comes to finding the dirt, getting the scoop, telling the big story.


That’s what I saw for years and years and years when I was a reporter, and later as an editor when I helped reporters with their stories. These big news organizations, at least the established ones, operate the same way.

Their reporters have come up through the ranks from smaller operations, learned the business, studied their Codes of Ethics and, for the most part, play by the rules.


How does all that jibe with the Feb. 16  words from the Orangest One? Think hard about this question: How can all these competing reporters come up with the same lies? On deadline? Why would they conspire?


Why wouldn’t they out their competitors?

Why isn’t a reporter from the New York Times breaking news that the top reporter for the Washington Post has spread false information to discredit the Leader of the Free World? Or, vice versa?


Why do newspapers run corrections if the goal is to lie? Why so some employ ombudsmen to criticize and reexamine the work that they publish on their own pages? Why do they allow letters to the editor that challenge their stories.


Why, Agent Orange? Why?


Well, unfortunately for us all, the answer is very simple.


They’re not lying. Donald Trump is lying.


And — here’s the really sad part — he thinks we are dumb enough to believe him.