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The No News News Media

8:55 am in Uncategorized by brasch

by Walter Brasch

 

There was a lot of news this past week.

Ostli News

News

Some of it was even reported by the news media.

First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily.

Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a 3-speed.

Subway is accused of making foot-long hoagies that are 11 inches, a problem that the executives wisely didn’t say was due to shrinkage in cold weather. The media seized this major fraud and, ignoring anything Congress or Wall Street was doing, slathered layers of hype on a story that should have died with three paragraphs in one day.

Of course, there was the inauguration. That became another way for bloviators and pretend-journalists to push their own agendas. They told us how unpopular this President is—attendance was way down from the first inauguration. Only 500,000 attended.  They didn’t tell us that second inaugurations always have much fewer people watching them in person than first inaugurations. And, that figure of 500,000? A little short of the actual number of one million. They said the inauguration was over-long and overpriced, although most of it was paid for by private donations. Something they didn’t mention was that the costs and day’s activities were about the same as for the previous president, and most presidents of the latter 20th century—Democrat or Republican.

Some of these pundits suggested that the President didn’t have a mandate, although he easily won by more than five million votes, and a near landslide in the Electoral College. A few of the more extreme even suggested he had stolen the election—how else could he have won over the nice businessman who bought and sold companies and helped improve the economy of Switzerland and the Canary Islands?

For the rest of the networks, the focus was on a constant blather of what would Michelle Obama be wearing. Whose dress? Whose gloves? This, of course, was mixed into all kinds of gushes and comments about her new ’do. You know, the one that had bangs. The day after the inauguration, the media was all over the story of the Beyoncé kerfuffle. Did she or didn’t she lip synch the National Anthem? Truly great news coverage there.

Hillary Clinton testified before the Congressional Inquisition of Televised Republicans trying to make their bones to either enhance their own chances for re-election or to block what they think may be her plan to run for the presidency in 2016. This would be some of the same people who thought she was faking a concussion to avoid testifying in the first place.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, scheduled for Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 2–10 was cancelled this past week. The Expo is the largest in North America, but the organizers decided that in the wake of the Newtown murders, they would put a temporary moratorium on the sale of military-style assault weapons because they believed “the presence of MSRs [military style rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests.” Only a dozen or so of the 1,200 vendors were affected; most were selling clothes, rifles, turkey calls, tents, and anything related to outdoor sports. But, one by one vendors, the media, and dozens of celebrities—all with NRA encouragement and support—decided not to attend, somehow believing that a hunting and fishing exhibition that didn’t allow the purchase of assault weapons was somehow anti-American and gave a message that those who did attend were opposed to the Second Amendment. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the cancellation led to a loss of $43 million in the local economy.

More than 32,000 will die from gun violence by the end of the year, according to the Brady Center. This past week, 78 Americans, including four pre-teens, died from gun violence. And, during this past week, as has been the case for hundreds of previous weeks, the NRA leadership, with the egos of a gang of schoolboys who overdosed on testosterone, continue to defy all attempts to reach sensible solutions to allow the purchase of guns, yet reduce the violence.

A 38-year-old sergeant died from wounds received near Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. had invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, but he became a lower priority less than a year later. The Bush–Cheney administration almost abandoned the war in Afghanistan and turned to Iraq. More than 7,600 American and allied soldiers were killed, and more than 50,000 wounded in both wars. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, ended the war in Iraq and is months from ending the one in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who numerous times promised to reign in the abuse of the filibuster that blocked any meaningful legislation or presidential appointments, turned wimp this past week. He and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once vowed his top priority was solely to prevent Barack Obama from serving a second term, may have been last seen hugging, kissing, and preparing to be married in Massachusetts.

This past week, the stock market hit new records, and it looks President Obama may receive some of the credit for helping to stop the Great Recession, something that upsets Republicans, delights Democrats, and has no meaning to anyone homeless or unemployed.

Yes, there was a lot of news this past week. Some of it may some day actually be reported.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster. It is available from www.greeleyandstone.com at a pre-publication discount.]
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BREAKING NEWS: AP, Media Fumble News Story

5:48 am in Uncategorized by brasch

On the Sunday before the final presidential debate, Mitt Romney and some of his senior staffers played a flag football game with members of the Press Corps on Delray Beach, Fla.

A football

Photo: Anderson Mancini / Flickr

Ashley Parker of the Associated Press, apparently mistaking fashion reporting for news, reported that Mitt Romney was “wearing black shorts, a black Adidas T-shirt and gray sneakers.” Romney’s team, composed of senior campaign staff whom Parker identified, was “clad in red T-shirts.” She didn’t report what the members of the press wore, their names, or how many were on a team, but did acknowledge she “also played, winning the coin toss for her team, but doing little else by way of yardage accrual.” Yardage accrual? If this was Newswriting 101, and she put that phrase into a news story, there wouldn’t be one college prof anywhere in the country who wouldn’t have red-marked it, and suggested she stop trying to be cute.

Romney was a starter—we don’t know which position he played—made a “brief beach appearance” and left when “the game was in full swing,” possibly not wanting to get too mussed up by having to interact with commoners. There is so much a reporter could have done with Romney’s failure to finish the game, but didn’t. Parker, however, did tell readers breathlessly awaiting the next “factoid” that Ann Romney “made a brief appearance . . . after cheerleading from the sidelines.” She was protected by the Secret Service who served as the offensive line, undeniably allowing her to take enough time to do her nails, brush her hair, put on another coat of makeup for the AP camera, and then throw a touchdown pass to tie the game at 7–7. At 14–14, the game was called because, reported Parker, “Mr. Romney’s aides needed to get to debate prep, and the reporters had stories to file.” Obviously, stories about a beach flag football game on a Sunday afternoon was critical enough breaking news to stop the game and breathlessly inform the nation.

Amidst the sand, Parker reported, “There is a long history of candidates and their staff members occasionally interacting with reporters on a social level.” She referred to a couple events during the 2008 campaign; Sen. Barack Obama played Taboo with reporters; Sen. John McCain hosted a barbeque for the media. Those facts alone should have kept any alert comedy writer, satirist, or political pundit in material for the next four years.

A beach football game between politician and press may seem innocent enough—a couple of hours of fun to break the stress of a long, and usually annoying, political campaign. But there’s far more than flags pulled from shorts.

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Romney v. Obama: The Debate That Wasn’t

3:56 pm in Uncategorized by brasch

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH 

The first of three presidential debates, Wednesday evening, focused on domestic policy. There were supposed to be six segments of 15 minutes each. Moderator Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of the nightly “PBS NewsHour,” was supposed to have asked one question in each segment; each candidate had two minutes to respond. The rest of the time in the 15 minute segment was supposed to be for “discussion.”

However, Lehrer, who had moderated 12 previous debates, didn’t control the candidates or the debate; the time limits were shattered on the first question. What passed as debate was nothing more than a series of carefully-rehearsed, often rambling, mini-speeches that talked more in generalities than in specifics. Each candidate, an experienced debater and strong orator, threw out several points at once, hoping a few would stick; the other just responded by a counter-speech, most of which didn’t address the points at all. They talked over one another, and both talked over the moderator. Even more important, numerous critical domestic issues were never discussed.

Even the most pro-Obama supporter would have to acknowledge that Gov. Mitt Romney had exceeded expectations and was able to dominate the President, who was not as sharp as he needed to be. Romney was strong and skillful, perhaps surprising even his own campaign staff; Barack Obama’s closing two-minute speech was, at best, lame and not indicative of either his presidency or his oratorical ability. This was not a time for the professorial “No Drama Obama” personality to dominate. Indeed, this debate was nothing like the much-remembered Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858 or even the quality of the average debate by college teams in hundreds of tournaments each year.

The third presidential debate, Oct. 22, will focus upon foreign policy. The format is the same.

In between will be a town meeting debate, Oct. 16. Non-committed citizens, chosen from a Gallup poll, will ask questions. A candidate has two minutes to answer the question; the other candidate has two minutes to respond.

The vice-presidential debate is Oct. 11, with nine segments of 10 minutes each.

Eight TV and cable networks are carrying the debates live; in the relatively new world of social media, the debates are also live streamed, with millions of opinions and updates on Facebook and Twitter.

The Democratic and Republican teams argue for months about format and direction. In two of the three debates they know the topics well ahead of time. For the third, the “town meeting” debate, they can pretty much guess what the questions will be. Each campaign staff has been preparing for weeks to answer and spin the prepared questions.  As a result, what passes as debates is little more than rehearsed political monologues between nominees for two political parties.

There is no reason why only Democratic and Republican nominees are allowed to debate. This essentially reaffirms the belief that the U.S. has a two-party system, approved by the mass media, and leaves out significant candidates whose ideas and opinions need to be heard. While a debate with more than a hundred declared candidates is unreasonable, it isn’t unreasonable for the debates to include Libertarian party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Both are on the ballots of most states. Both have good views that should be heard. And, both are the only minority party candidates who can get the 270 electoral votes for elections. Rocky Anderson, whose views are important enough to be heard on a national stage, isn’t on enough state ballots to be mathematically eligible to receive a majority of the electoral college.

The first televised debate was in September 1960 between Vice-President Richard M. Nixon and Sen. John F. Kennedy. Independent polls, and those who only heard the debate on radio, had suggested that Nixon was the winner, but those who watched it on television overwhelming believed it was Kennedy. Nixon, underweight because of an extended hospital stay, appeared sickly; he refused makeup to cover a 5 o’clock shadow. Kennedy, however, was tan, handsome, and charming. Two more televised debates followed, but it was the first one that mattered. From then on, candidates knew that image mattered over substance.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan scored points with a famous, “There you go, again” zinger casually tossed at President Jimmy Carter. In 2000, Al Gore, who appeared to be defeating George W. Bush, lost any advantage when the TV cameras, and subsequent clips, showed Gore sighing over and over.

Nevertheless, no matter how much we wish to believe that debates matter, numerous polls over the past five decades have shown that voters pretty much have their minds already made up, and the debates serve only to reinforce voter intent. As far as the facts? Moderators don’t challenge the nominees, and if the opponent is too busy preparing his next statement and doesn’t immediately respond, the facts are little more than the first casualty of this war of words.

Certainly, with a campaign buy of more than one billion dollars just in TV advertising, the voters have already been subjected to enough of what PR people call “messaging.” The debates are just more of that packaged and sanitized “messaging.”

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist who has covered political campaigns and politics for four decades. He is also the author of 17 books; his latest is the critically-acclaimed Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]

 

 

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Attacking American Sovereign Soil Diminishes the Rights of Religion

7:57 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by Walter Brasch

 

The terrorists who attacked the American embassy in Cairo, Egypt, and the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, claimed the attacks were retaliation for the publication on You Tube of an anti-Muslim film. That YouTube video was a 14-minute trailer for a one-hour film, “Innocence of Muslims,” that was not only a vicious bigoted attack against Islam but also of no artistic merit.  

One of the extremist political parties in Egypt plucked the trailer from obscurity and used it as part of a newscast, inflaming the people of Egypt, who mounted a demonstration against the U.S. embassy. Within a week, the trailer had more than 10 million hits on YouTube.

An attack upon the consulate in Benghazi that followed the one in Cairo led to the deaths of the U.S. ambassador, a member of his staff, two Navy SEALS assigned to the mission, and 10 Libyan guards who defended the consulate.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly condemned the attacks. Mohammed Magarief, president of the Libyan National Assembly, apologized to the United States for the attack, and vowed to bring the killers to justice.

The man who gave the order that led to the execution of Osama bin Laden sent in Marines and the FBI and vowed to work with Libya to “bring justice” to the killers. Several persons accused of the murders have been arrested.

The attacks on American sovereign soil may have been planned and then carried out by a small group of terrorists to coincide with the 11th anniversary of 9/11; the video was merely an excuse for the attack.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens was highly respected by the people and new governments in the Middle East. He and the U.S. helped promote the Arab Spring that had led to the overthrow of dictators and the creation of governments that could lead to more freedom for the people. Large spontaneous demonstrations by Libyans showed the world they were furious at the content of the video, but that they also despised the attack and continued to support the United States.

Dozens of smaller demonstrations began appearing within a day throughout the MidEast; many were merely moments of opportunity for thugs and terrorists to cause damage by invoking their disgust of the film; some were attacks to secure or maintain perceived leadership in the region.

Nevertheless, no matter what the reason for the rioting, the people were legitimately mad at the depiction of the prophet Mohammad and the no-star film that reeked with the slimy viciousness of hate.

The people, not the terrorists, in comments to the media, said they were reacting because President Obama did not take action against the film makers. They believed he should have at least ordered the arrests of those responsible for making the film.

For a culture that existed for millennia in having leaders who would have taken such an action, it was not an unreasonable demand. A part of their culture is the integration of religion and government, just as it was a part of English culture and that of colonial America at one time. As much as some fundamentals in the U.S. may wish it were still a part of American culture, it is not. The First Amendment not only establishes a separation of church and state, but guarantees freedom of religion, speech, and the press; allows people the right to redress the government for their grievances, and to peacefully assemble to protest.

President Obama said that the United States rejects “all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.” He emphasized, “Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith.” Hillary Clinton was just as forceful: “Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

Long before the attack in Libya, as rioters had begun to mass in Cairo, the embassy tweeted “Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages [by rioters] will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech and criticizing bigotry.” It was a message that defined the ideals of a nation that had created the First Amendment. But, in a “shoot first and aim later” blunder while events were still unfolding and the U.S. was responding to the attacks, Mitt Romney, without the facts and the timeline of events, fired an angry polemic, politicizing the murder of American diplomats. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” he said. Romney, whose own religion has been viciously attacked by members of his own party, probably should have done what the President and Secretary of State did—condemn violence and religious bigotry. And then shut up.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton could not allow government action against the filmmakers, as the protestors wanted. The Founding Fathers demanded freedom of speech, the press, and religion to allow all views to be heard, even if it meant protecting even the vilest messages of hate, as long as they did not advocate violence or the overthrow of government. It is a fundamental part of what they wove into the fabric that became the United States of America.

[Walter Brasch is a syndicated social issues columnist and former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, and a specialist in First Amendment issues. He is the author of 17 books; the latest is Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution.]

 

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Eliminating the ‘99%’ Can Lead to a Better Message for Social Justice

7:05 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by WALTER BRASCH

It’s time to retire the 99 percent.

Not the people, but the slogan that identifies the Occupy Movement.

“We’re the 99 percent” slogan focused upon two completely different groups of people. The 99 percent are the masses, the impoverished, the disenfranchised, the middle class; the 1 percent refers to the concentration of wealth in the top one percent of the population and in the dominance of large corporate and global financial systems.  

The Movement, following the Arab Spring, began in the late summer of 2011 with the Occupy Wall Street protest. Central to the Movement, which quickly expanded into more than 500 American cities and 82 countries, was a call for social and economic justice.

During the 2007 Great Recession, the accumulated wealth of the 1 percent decreased significantly less than the wealth of the 99 percent, large numbers of whom first became unemployed and then homeless because of the tactics of greed led by the financial empires.

Within the 1 percent are CEOs and executives of the banking industry that willingly took government bailout funds, and then used some of that money to give six and seven figure bonuses.

The 1 percent includes Ina R. Drew, chief investment officer for JPMorgan Chase, which lost $2 billion in funds through misguided investment policies. Drew, one of Wall Street’s power players—and widely recognized as one of the more brilliant financial managers—earned about $14 million in salary. Jamie Dimon, in a stockholder meeting this past week, humbled by the huge loss, told stockholders, “This should never have happened. I can’t justify it. Unfortunately, these mistakes were self-inflicted.” But, Dimon, both the chief executive officer and the chairman of the board, kept his job and its $23 million salary.

The 1 percent also includes Mitt Romney, who earned about $21 million in 2010, and has a net worth of about $230 million, according to Forbes, but hasn’t filed his 2011 taxes. Somehow, he wants the people to believe he will bring the nation out of the depths of the Great Recession, but needs an extension to file his own taxes.

The 1 percent also includes right-wing celebrity mouth Rush Limbaugh, who is in the middle of an eight year $400 million contract that allows him to spew lies, hate, and venom at anyone who doesn’t agree with his ultra-conservative philosophy, which includes Occupiers and just about anyone with a social, environmental, and economic conscience.

The 1 percent includes Sarah Palin, once an obscure politician who now has a net worth of about $14 million, most of it the result of her participation in the mainstream media, which she claims she despises. 

The 1 percent includes the Kardashian Sisters whose souls are wrapped in self-adulation, and who are worshipped by millions who have enhanced their importance by watching reality shows and reading vapid celebrity “tell-all” newspapers and magazines.

But the 1 percent also includes billionaire Warren Buffet, who is leading a movement to reduce tax loopholes and increase taxes on the rich, while improving the tax structure for the 99 percent.

The 1 percent includes Bill and Melissa Gates who are spending most of their fortune to improve the education and health of people throughout the world.

The 1 percent includes George Clooney, who has been at the forefront of the fight for justice in Darfur, whose citizens have been the victims of genocide by the Sudanese government.

The 1 percent includes Angelina Jolie who is Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and who has put her money and time into helping the world’s children. 

The 1 percent includes Ed Asner, Bono, Mike Farrell, Bette Midler, Sean Penn, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, and thousands of other millionaire celebrities who have willingly put their reputations and money on the line to fight for the important social, economic, and political causes that should be the ones that define America as a land of freedom and opportunity, and which would be supported by most of the nation’s Founding Fathers. 

In contrast, the 99 percent isn’t composed solely of the victims of the 1 percent. Millions are as uncaring, as greedy, as self-centered as some of those in the 1 percent. Millions are racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic. Millions follow Tea Party philosophies that selfishly place the health and welfare of the people secondary to a belief that cutting spending, except for the military, will solve all problems. It is a philosophy that, if left unchallenged, would force even greater misery to the American Middle Class and underclass, and lead to destroying the balance of nature and the environment.

“We are the 99 percent” slogan, coupled with non-violent protest in the face of several violent police incidents, had served the Movement well, but its time is over. The Movement can no longer be an “us versus them” philosophy that has become divisive. It must now migrate to one that includes all people who are willing to fight for social, political, and economic justice in the Army of Conscience.

[Walter Brasch—as writer and activist—has been a part of the movement for social, political, and economic justice for more than four decades. His current book is the critically-acclaimed novel, Before the First Snow, the story of an activist and her relationship with a journalist over a 25 year period from 1964 to 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War.]

 

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The Late Great Commonwealth: Catching Up to the Republican Primary

8:16 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

                                                     by WALTER BRASCH

It’s the beginning of April, and that means I have just finished celebrating New Year’s Eve, and will soon begin shopping for Valentine’s gifts. In a month or two, I may even get around to toasting St. Patrick.

It’s not procrastination, it’s just that I’m a Pennsylvanian, and the state encourages me to be behind the times. At one time, Pennsylvania was first in just about everything-—and then Ben Franklin died. Since then, we’ve been first in ridiculous license plate slogans.

When other states, including those settled by Puritans, got rid of their “blue laws,” Pennsylvania still bans the sale of cars on Sundays. By archaic practices, it still allows municipal governments and school districts to raise taxes and create more buildings without giving the people the right of a vote, common in most states. It is also the only state that still taxes people for income, property, and their occupation. Forty-nine other states believe pigeon shoots are animal cruelty; we proudly proclaim our state as the last bastion of the right to “bear arms and blast birds.” And, we don’t allow Independents to vote in our primaries.

Iowa, with anomalies known as a straw poll and a caucus, is the first major battleground in presidential races, having usurped New Hampshire, which thought having the official primary was a birthright dating to when granite first showed up in the state. Nevertheless, whether Iowa or New Hampshire, Americans understand that the people need something to break them out of their Winter funk when snow covers what will eventually become cornfields in Iowa and the ski lifts of New Hampshire will no longer be inoperable because of blizzards.

With nothing else to do in January, the media schussed into the Hawkeye State—just as soon as they could find enough chauffeurs to drive them to wherever Iowa is. With megawatt lights and dimly-lit minds, they infiltrated the state so that the voters not only had their own individualized politicians, they also had their own puppy-dog reporters prancing brightly behind them to the coffee shop, factory, and bathroom.

Surrounded by the media who smugly said they were only telling the public what they needed to know to defend and preserve democracy—and millions in advertising revenue—the candidates played to the press, attacking each other rather than attacking the issues. In neatly-packaged seven-second sound bites, politicians and the media sliced, diced, and crunched the campaign to fit onto a 21-inch screen.

Because of an inner need to believe they matter, the media predict who will win the nomination, changing their predictions as quickly as a fashionista changes shoes. For what seemed to be decades, the ink-stained bandwagon has pulled voters and campaign dollars, and left Pennsylvania voters waiting at the altar for candidates who don’t care anymore, abandoned by the media who have found other “stories of the week.”

For all practical purposes, the Pennsylvania primaries, with large slates of uncontested local and state races, is about as useless as a Department of Ethnic Studies at Bob Jones University. By the time the 2000 primary rolled into Pennsylvania, Al Gore and George W. Bush each had 65 percent of the delegate vote needed for their parties’ nomination. In 2004, Bush and John Kerry had already locked up the nominations. In 2008, Pennsylvania became a pivotal state for the Democrats for the first time since 1976, with Hillary Clinton defeating Barack Obama before losing the nomination by June. For the Republicans, it was “business as usual,” with John McCain having already sewn up the nomination.

A Republican needs 1,144 delegate votes to get the nomination. Mitt Romney, America’s best runner-up, has 568; two-term senator Rick Santorum, recovering from a blistering loss to a moderate Democrat in Pennsylvania’s 2006 Senate campaign, has 273; Ron Paul, who may or may not be a Republican, has 50. Newt Gingrich has 135 delegates; however, this week he announced he downsized his staff and campaign, and is layin’ low—except, of course, for the times he can get free TV time to lambaste Romney and Santorum who are engaged in a vicious personal battle that has bubbled out of the TV ad cauldron.

The April 3 primaries will add a maximum of 98 delegates. And that brings Super Northeast Tuesday, April 24. The Republican leftovers and their never-ending TV ads will blitz Pennsylvania, which might even become relevant.

Even if Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Rhode Island—and Pennsylvania with 72 of the 231 delegate votes—go for Romney, it won’t be enough to get him the nomination. However, it will be enough to cause major financial backers to pull their support for Santorum and what’s left of the Gingrich campaign, leaving Romney to flip-flop into the Republican nomination convention, Aug. 27, in Tampa, Fla.—which seems to be the Republicans’ destiny.

[Dr. Brasch has covered political campaigns for more than three decades. His latest book is the critically-acclaimed fast-paced mystery Before the First Snow, available at amazon.com and his publisher, Greeley & Stone.]Within the next week, another nine states voted.