Don’t Worry, Be Happy

I know we are living in difficult and dangerous times, when even going to the grocery store requires an act of courage. So maybe we should adopt the advice of the great American philosopher Bobby McFerrin: Don’t worry, be happy.

In his hit song from a decade or so ago, McFerrin opined:

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now

Well with the virus taking lives and destroying economies, I guess it is an understatement to say that “we have some trouble.”

Still, I can understand the sentiment of many these days when they proclaim “but when you worry you make it double.”

Well, I remain worried, and I’m taking this situation seriously. Wait a minute. I need to go wash my hands. Oops. I digress.

Anyway, I’m in the age group deemed to be most at risk. And based on last year’s health report card where I battled twice with pneumonia, I’m okay wearing a mask and social distancing. I also can’t imagine eating in a restaurant where servers are wearing masks and instead of napkins you are given clorox wipes. Ugh.

I’m also not sure exactly how to grade the Trump administration’s response to this crisis. I guess it rests somewhere between pathetically inept and catastrophic. But hey. What do I know?

Well, I do know that this has been a terrible hardship on business owners and on people who must work to put food on the table. But I also know that around 100,000 Americans (and counting) have died because of this pandemic.

Given all that, it appears that our national patience to adhere to expert medical advice is wearing thin, and calls — primarily from conservatives and evangelicals — to reopen the country are beginning to carry the day.

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I also discount the increasingly popular belief that this entire health crisis is some kind of government plot to take away our individual freedoms. C’mon folks. Trump and his cronies aren’t that smart. They can’t even get Mexico to pay for a wall across our Southern border. I digress.

So it appears that we are stuck between a rock and a hard place: keep things shut down to slow the virus and protect as many as possible or move as fast as we can to reopen, consequences be damned.

Here’s from an article on CNN:

All 50 states have now partially emerged from coronavirus lockdowns, but with only a handful of states showing significant improvement in infection rates, some experts caution it could be too soon.

On Wednesday, Connecticut became the final state to begin lifting restrictions, allowing retail shops and restaurants to reopen their doors.

Despite the reopening milestone, health officials say, Americans remain at risk of catching the highly transmissible and sometimes deadly virus.

Oh boy.

And we’re not just taking about a handful of people.

New numbers from the Penn Wharton Budget Model show that reopening states could cause positive coronavirus case numbers to tick as high as 5.4 million by July 24.

The model explores various scenarios under which states reopen, include continuing lockdowns, and a partial reopening. The model also forecasts those scenarios if social distancing rules continue to be adhered to or are relaxed.

For the PWBM forecast, the model considers that states reopen on May 18. All totals are cumulative, and include past positive cases and deaths.

If states fully reopen with no social distancing rules in place, as many as 5.4 million people could test positive for coronavirus. And if states reopen while still practicing measures of social distancing, nearly 4.3 million people are projected to be diagnosed with COVID-19 by the third week of July.

Partially reopening the states with social distancing rules in place would result in nearly 3.2 million positive cases.

The forecast represents a large uptick in positive cases in the United States which currently stands at 1.5 million, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker.

And according to the PWBM, the number of deaths would also start to rise as states reopen.

Oh well.

Why worry, be happy.

Winter Is Coming

I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of the TV saga Game of Thrones. It’s a little too stark and gory for me. Much like shopping at Walmart these days. I digress.

Anyway, one of the themes that resonated throughout the mystical lands of Westernos and Essos was the notion that Winter Is Coming. And when the series reached that point, we all knew that shit was going to hit the fan.

Since POTUS is a big TV fan, perhaps he can place the Winter Is Coming warning into the context of the current virus crisis.

After all, that was kind of the message that Rick Bright gave to Congress this week. Bright, until being ousted from his position, was charged with developing measures to fight infectious diseases.

Here’s from CNN:

Rick Bright, the ousted director of a crucial federal office charged with developing countermeasures to infectious diseases, testified before Congress on Thursday that the US will face an even worse crisis without additional preparations to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright said. “Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”

The “darkest winter in modern history.” Say what?

POTUS, are you listening?

Bright criticized the Trump administration for failing to implement a “standard, centralized, coordinated plan” to combat the virus and questioned its timeline for a vaccine. His testimony came a week after filing a whistleblower complaint alleging he was fired from his job leading the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for opposing the use of a drug frequently touted by President Donald Trump as a potential coronavirus treatment.
About an hour before Bright’s hearing, Trump tweeted that he had “never met” or “even heard of” Bright, but considers the NIH senior adviser a “disgruntled employee, not liked or respected by people I spoke to and who, with his attitude, should no longer be working for our government!”

And more:

Bright claimed that the administration missed “early warning signals” to prevent the spread of the virus. He said that he would “never forget” an email from Mike Bowen, the hearing’s other witness and the vice president of the medical supply company Prestige Ameritech, indicating that the US supply of N95, the respirator masks used by health care professionals, was at a perilous level.

“He said, ‘We’re in deep shit,'” testified Bright. “‘The world is.'”

Hmm. “We’re in deep shit.”

Hard to argue with that assessment.

And it’s certainly enough to send a chill up and down the spine of this citizen journalist.

So it appears that Winter Is Coming.

Wonder if POTUS can require Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Knight’s Watch, to wear a face mask?

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Kent State Massacre 50 Years Ago

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young immortalized the massacre of four students at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, with the following:

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drummin’
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her and
Found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

I wasn’t planning to write about this — but I couldn’t get it out of my mind this morning. Kent State and May 4, 1970. That’s 50 years and a lifetime ago — but I still think about Allison Krause and the others who were killed and injured that day.

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I didn’t know Allison — or Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder. But I think about Allison because of the Pittsburgh connection, hers and mine. And I think what a shame. Allison and the others would have been — should have been — in their late 60s or early 70s now. Maybe they would be ending careers. Maybe they would be parents — possibly grandparents. I can’t shake those thoughts having been at Kent State myself in 1970, although graduating in March and back home in Pittsburgh in May.

I know there is no point in rehashing what happened on May 4, 1970, and the days immediately before it. If you have an opinion, like me, it has been anchored in concrete for years. For most others now — it’s history.

Yet it is a day in America’s history worth remembering.

And what happened at Kent State 50 years ago today is something we must never forget.

 

Hillary: Warming Up In The Bullpen?

To quote the Beatles: “I read the news today, oh, boy!”

And the news, dominated as it is by the virus pandemic, ain’t all that good these days. But if you go beyond that crisis and examine other items, there is a story making the rounds on the Internet that points to something that could be even more devastating.

It appears that Hillary Clinton is preparing to jump into the presidential race if Joe Biden face plants between now and November.

Arrrgh.

Here’s from an article from The Hill, a fairly reputable publication for Inside-the-Beltway folks. Liz Peek opines that “As Biden struggles, Hillary waits for the call“:

Hillary Clinton continues to hover in the wings, ready to step forward should Joe Biden fail.

Don’t look now, but Joe is failing. Not only has his campaign been rocked by sexual assault allegations from onetime staffer Tara Reade, but the public is beginning to give up on the former vice president. A new Emerson College poll showed 57 percent of likely voters think President Trump will win reelection in November.

Remember, establishment Democrats put forward Uncle Joe because he was the “safe” candidate, bound to defeat Trump. Oops.

Oops, indeed.

I’m okay with Uncle Joe. He wasn’t my first choice. But he certainly is a step up from the doofus currently sucking the air out of the Oval Office.

But Hillary? C’mon!

Back to Liz Peek:

Democrats’ obstacle to pushing Biden aside is Sanders. The Independent Vermont senator was the runner-up in the primaries and continues to hold on to his delegates. Democratic leaders do not want to see Sanders resurgent; they are convinced he is unelectable. But they also know that if they move to replace Biden at the top of the ticket and don’t elevate Sanders, the Bernie Bros would revolt.

Indeed, it seems clear that party officials are so worried Sanders might stage another run that they canceled the 224-delegate rich New York state primary. They claimed the vote would have been dangerous in the epicenter of COVID-19, but since they still plan to host a primary for state and local officials, that excuse seems weak.

As the primaries roll forward, especially with officials’ thumbs on the scales, Biden will almost certainly win the candidacy. In the absence of a brokered convention, how could Democrats replace their standard-bearer?

One idea has been to convince Biden to step aside in favor of the very popular Michelle Obama, seen as a sure bet to beat Trump. So far, though, the former first lady has reportedly rebuffed all invitations to enter the fray.

That leaves Clinton. Biden could choose Clinton as his running mate and then step down before the election and allow Hillary to run in his place.

Clinton is the only VP candidate who would be able to pull off such a last-minute switch. She has the team, the resources and the experience to be the nominee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) do not.

Clinton is ready and eager. She is desperate to avenge her 2016 loss (which she still blames on Putin) and has pumped up her public profile to keep herself in consideration. In past months, she has conducted endless interviews, promoted the uber-flattering four-part Hulu film about herself, made headlines by attacking Sanders and Mark Zuckerberg, and fired unending broadsides against Trump.

Unfortunately, Hillary still carries more baggage than a porter on a transcontinental railroad.

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Oh, well.

What’s the saying?

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Passing The Torch

John F. Kennedy said it best. During his inauguration address in 1961, JFK talked about the passing of the torch to a new generation of Americans.

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end as well as a beginning—signifying renewal as well as change… Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.

Wow. A President who can actually string a few complete sentences together. I guess that was in the days before we turned elections into reality TV shows. I digress.

Clearly, the time has come in this country for a new generation to once again pick up the torch. And that generation had a leader in Bernie.

Okay. I know. Electing a Democratic Socialist in the USA in the year 2020 was a fools errand. Although I’m not sure exactly why. During this virus crisis when it takes an act of courage to leave home to search for toilet paper, just about everything that Bernie and his cadre of followers argued for has become a national priority. Toping the list: federal government financial protection for workers and small businesses and massive government intervention in the healthcare system and economy in general.

And to put it into a historical perspective, while we are subjected almost daily now to the incompetence of Doofus-in-Chief, another president took a different approach.

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So it goes.

At least I had the opportunity to vote for Bernie in 2016 and again this year. Not that it did any good. I guess it was akin to a kamikaze pilot surviving one crash only to jump into the next available plane. Oh well.

But I’m convinced that in the not-to-distant future the policies that Bernie has advanced throughout his career will be mainstream in this country.

Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen as long as the corrupt corporate national political parties — Democratic and Republican — continue to serve up candidates like Biden and Trump.

It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation.

The Clorox Cocktail

Okay. I know these past few months have been tough. Being required to stay at home is no fun, even for someone like me who liked to practice social distancing long before it became fashionable.

And I guess for lack of anything better to do sales and consumption of beer, alcohol and wine are trending up. That’s understandable and even reasonable given the circumstances. I haven’t as yet heard any of the gasbags on MSNBC and elsewhere opine as to whether two fingers (or more) or Jameson served neat could serve as an antibody to protect against the virus. Oh well. I digress.

But as usual, perhaps I’m missing the big picture and not considering all the possibilities. Yesterday during his daily update/campaign rally, the bartender-in-chief, POTUS, added a new cocktail to the mix.

The Prez suggested that ingesting a disinfectant, like Clorox, could provide some relief to what ails many of us these days.

Folks, no matter how hard you try you can’t make this shit up.

Here’s from the BBC:

What did President Trump say?
During Thursday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, an official presented the results of US government research that indicated coronavirus appeared to weaken faster when exposed to sunlight and heat.
The study also showed bleach could kill the virus in saliva or respiratory fluids within five minutes, and isopropyl alcohol could kill it even more quickly.
Mr Trump then hypothesised about the possibility of using a “tremendous ultraviolet” or “just very powerful light” on or even inside the body as a potential treatment.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute,” he said. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?
“Because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it’d be interesting to check that,” he said.

Oh boy. I’ll have mine over ice please.

But wait. Manufacturers, health care professionals and others with a still functioning brain say not so fast.

Reckitt Benckiser, which owns Lysol and Dettol, said “under no circumstance” should its products be injected or ingested.
On Friday, Mr Trump said he had made the comments “sarcastically”.
Disinfectants are hazardous substances and can be poisonous if ingested.
Even external exposure can be dangerous to the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

Mr Trump’s comments have been heavily criticised by doctors and have generated a huge online response. They have provoked hundreds of thousands of comments and caused well-known cleaning brands to trend on social media.
Reckitt Benckiser, which also owns the brands Vanish and Cillit Bang, said its products should not be administered “through injection, ingestion or any other route”.
“Our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information,” the company said in a statement.

Hmmm. Maybe history does repeat itself. Remember 20 years ago when we could still buy toilet paper? At that time people had to be encouraged not to squeeze the Charmin.

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Since I suspect that many Trump supporters will take his advice, it might be time to call Mr. Whipple out of retirement and add him to the Coronavirus Task Force. He could stand near Dr. Fauci and convey this simple message:

Please don’t drink the Clorox.

 

 

Feeling The Bern

I’ll admit I’m not big on conspiracy theories. I can accept that Oswald killed JFK even though I find it hard to believe that that little peckerwood could hit the side of a barn within spitting distance with an automatic weapon.

But I digress.

What has me fired up this morning is the aftermath of the fiasco in Iowa during the Democratic caucus. I’m still feeling the Bern — but I wonder if this isn’t the first attempt by the Democratic National Committee to make sure that Bernie doesn’t get the nomination.

Put yourself in the shoes of the establishment elite who make up the bulk of the DNC and who hold the power positions in government, media, businesses and nonprofits in DC and NYC.

Would they like to see a nominee who is a declared Democratic Socialist? Or would they be more comfortable with one of their own? Let’s say a Joe Biden or a Mike Bloomberg.

Here’s from Mark Penn, a talking head on Fox News:

First, in an era of PACS and social media the very concept of starting in a small test market no longer makes sense. These are national campaigns with televised debates and significant budgets; the early primaries should rotate so no region has an advantage and so that the voters in the early primaries are broadly representative of the Democratic primary electorate.
Second, the method used to run the caucuses is inherently suspect. You need to have lots of time to show up to spend hours in the caucus. The screening of who votes has always been loose and the counting of the votes somewhat suspect.

Hillary Clinton always believed that the results of the Iowa caucus, which she lost to Barack Obama in 2008, were unfair but she had no way to check the count nor question the results. All she could do was move on. Most caucuses only get about one-fourth of the vote of primaries.

And third, the demographics of those involved are far from typical. Polling of those participating in the caucuses on Monday night found that 58 percent were women, 96 percent were white and they were overwhelmingly liberal.

The Iowa caucuses are one of the reasons that the Democratic Party is tilted away from diversity and away from moderate candidates as everyone vies for an upset victory.

As to the results, that as of this writing, have not been revealed officially, we have heard that three candidates — former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — all did well compared to the other candidates.

If this holds up this would be a significant result and a big victory for the left of the party, which typically has been dominant in the Iowa caucus.

Moderate votes would have shifted from former Vice President Biden to Mayor Pete. If this is the case, Sen. Amy Klobuchar would not have gotten the vote she claimed in her eloquent “victory” speech on Monday night.

It’s been clear for a while that there are two basic lanes in the party right now — the moderate lane and the left lane and that we can expect one candidate from each lane to make it to the end and battle it out at the convention.

Obviously this is the result billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg needed if he was going to have a chance to carve out more than a niche in the Democratic Party.

So it appears that Joe Biden dodged a big bullet last night, which might of saved his campaign.

But what about Bernie? His polling numbers before the actual voting debacle had him solidly in the lead. So inquiring minds (at least mine) want to know if this was just a predictable result based on the ineptness of Iowa Democratic Party leaders. (Most I take it are old and white, which means, based on personal experience, that most would not have any clue how to use a telephone app. I digress.) Or could this be, and dare I say it, the first of many attempts to deny Bernie the nomination?

The Dems in Iowa say they will release the official results later today. In the meantime, here’s from an email from Bernie’s campaign that I received this morning:

Rob –

Last night was a bad night for democracy, for the Democratic Party, and for the people of Iowa.

But because you have done so much for this campaign, and in the interest of full transparency as we wait for the Iowa Democratic Party to release results, we want to share the numbers that we have at this moment:

As a result of an extraordinary grassroots campaign, fueled by thousands of volunteers who knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, our internal results sent to us by precinct captains around the state indicate that with close to 60% of the vote in, we have a comfortable lead. Our numbers also show Pete Buttigieg is currently in second, followed by Elizabeth Warren, then Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden.

Let me reiterate that these are unofficial results, but we wanted to share them to let you know we feel very good about where we are at right now as we head to New Hampshire.

Okay. I’m still feeling the Bern. And I’m going to continue to contribute small amounts to both his campaign and to Tulsi. (Hillary appears to hate her with a passion. That’s a good enough endorsement for me.)

I’d like to see a campaign in the fall where the candidates at the top of the ticket are not for sale.

Of course that depends in large part on Bernie getting a fair shake this time around from the establishment DNC and the other power brokers who control much of what happens in DC and NYC.

As far as conspiracy theories go, it doesn’t look like we are off to a very good start.

 

 

A Bad Day In The Pittsburgh Neighborhood

I grew up in Pittsburgh. So even though I have been away for decades, the murder of 11 people attending worship services at a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill area of the Steel City struck a little too close to home.

And I know. These horrific events occur so regularly now that when the Breaking News logo flashes on CNN it generates as many yawns as it does outrage.

But as a society we should be outraged. And that outrage should lead to something more than an outpouring of “thoughts and prayers.”

I recognize that this is a tough — maybe impossible — problem to solve, given the strong feelings about the Second Amendment and the virtual lock that the National Rifle Association has on lawmakers.

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Still, America appears to be the only nation where this type of mass murder happens routinely. And then people huff and puff, but nothing changes until the next time. So it goes. Shouldn’t we as a nation, as the Mayor of Pittsburgh opined, be trying to find ways to keep guns out of the hands of deranged people with evil intent? Seems to me that even strong Second Amendment advocates could live with that.

And the horrific murders in Pittsburgh seem all the worse to me because they happened literally in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Fred Rogers, the legendary public TV host, lived about five blocks from the synagogue where the massacre took place.

Fred Rogers spent a career advocating for and demonstrating the values of civility, peace and inclusiveness.

Gee. Sounds like the polar opposite of the thinking of some deranged idiot whose twisted view of the world was so filled with hatred that he had no qualms about opening fire in a house of worship.

In the aftermath, the Prez said all the right things in way of expressing sympathy to those killed, their families and friends and to the Pittsburgh community and the nation. And then he added that the outcome would have been better if armed security had been present in the synagogue.

Nah. That’s crazy. And it’s really the solution offered by Archie Bunker on the show All in the Family years ago. During a time when airplanes were being hijacked to Cuba, Archie opined that the solution was to give every passenger a gun as they boarded the plane. Then if something happened, they could just fight it out.

I thought that was funny at the time. But I’m not laughing now, especially since this appears to be the policymakers solution of choice.

I wonder what Mr. Rogers would say?

John McCain: The Last Republican

This has been a week of memorials and tributes to John McCain, the Vietnam war hero,  Republican senator from Arizona and presidential candidate who died at 81.  Senator McCain served his constituents and the nation with honor, dignity and integrity.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party no longer exhibits any of those qualities. So as we mourn the death of a great leader and patriot, we should also take some time to mourn the passing of the Republican Party.

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I used to consider myself a moderate Republican. No more, since the Republicans have abandoned any notion of compassionate conservatism to become a party consumed by corruption, racism and greed. And it amazes me that the people in this country who need help the most continually back the candidates who are determined to make sure that they don’t get it. Go figure.

Senator McCain admitted that he was far from perfect. And I agree. But my sense was that he tried to do the right thing by basing decisions and actions on what was best for the country and not for his own personal gain.

Still, McCain was not liked or respected by many Republicans who believed he wasn’t conservative enough. I guess they feel better now having Douchebag Donnie sitting in the White House, watching Fox News and waiting for the Mueller subpoena to land on the doorstep. And this is all happening while the current Republican leaders in Congress and elsewhere are milling about like innocent bystanders at a train wreck.

So we can say goodbye to the Republican Party at the same time we honor and bury John McCain: The Last Republican.

The Summer Of Omarosa

I guess it’s a good thing that nothing is happening with the Mueller investigation, the Manafort trial or the wildfires that are charring California. Oh wait. How would we know?

It’s the summer of Omarosa.

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For those of you living in the wilderness somewhere without access to any form of print or electronic media, Omarosa is the celebrity who came to fame during the Apprentice and then rode that horse to a senior position in the Trump White House. Now she is out with a book, Unhinged, that has the talking gasbags on cable news and elsewhere wetting their shorts and panties.

Hey. Who says this isn’t a great country?

And for all I know, Omarosa might be a sweet, caring lady who only has the country’s best interest at heart.

Still, I wonder if the day Omarosa took the White House job she began plotting how she could best leverage her exit? After all, that seems to be the culture for those who can successfully navigate the swamp inside the beltway.

A few thoughts on this fiasco:

Listening to the interviews with Omarosa is a waste of time. Even if what she is saying is credible (a big if) there is nothing that she can reveal that will change anyone’s view of the Prez. He was elected in part by the reality TV circus of an election that was created in large part by the same so-called journalists and out-of-government-but-waiting-to-return pundits who now spend their days slamming Trump. The time to really challenge Trump on his views and positions was prior to election day 2016, but the media folks for the most part gave him a pass because he made for good TV.  And when you elect a clown,  you have to expect a circus. In this regard, Trump did not disappoint.

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Second, even for the reporters who openly dislike Trump and the Republicans, this must be a tough story to cover. American journalism has never been “fair and balanced,” but sitting down for a conversation with Omarosa must make even the most ratings conscious scribbler gag a little while keeping a barf bag hidden under the desk.

Even the generally likable Savannah Guthrie looked like she had just downed a shit sandwich after Omarosa basically told her to shove it where the sun don’t shine during an interview on the Today show this morning.

Omarosa Manigault-Newman appeared irritable and fumed at Savannah Guthrie before abruptly cutting off an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday morning, claiming she had another interview to get to minutes after proclaiming, “I’ve got all the time you need.”

Manigault-Newman was on the morning show to share a recording of a conversation she says she had with President Trump the day after she was fired by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Guthrie began the interview by playing the recording and plugging Manigault-Newman’s new book, “Unhinged,” but things quickly turned awkward.

Guthrie asked the former “Apprentice” star if Trump was lying in a tape that was played seconds earlier, but Manigault-Newman wanted to talk about a different topic and started asking rhetorical questions about why Kelly allegedly mistreated her. She also focused on Trump saying “they” run a big operation at the White House.

Guthrie tried to take charge of the chat, but Manigault-Newman barked back, “I’ll get to the second part.”

Guthrie then attempted to ask a follow-up question, but Manigault-Newman shot it down.

If you missed this interview, don’t worry. NBC’s farm team, MSNBC, will be replaying it every hour for the next few days.

Fortunately, for those of us who would like to know what is going on in the world these days, the summer of Omarosa will only last a few days.

Until then, remember that we are living in a time when reality television stars and celebrities dominate the news cycles and control pretty much the national conversation on just about any issue.

So it goes.