Actually words do matter, Mr. Trump

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

It is with great trepidation that I am sharing my opinion on recent events in this forum.

As I have mentioned before, this is a business site — and while I have chosen to address controversial issues and share personal experiences here — I have also taken great pains to stick to apolitical topics.

Alexandra Bogdanovic
Founder/owner of In Brief Legal Writing Services, Alexandra Bogdanovic. Photo by N. Bogdanovic

The decision to do so is largely a matter of common sense, given the ugliness of U.S. presidential politics and the candidates currently involved therein. Furthermore, I am a private person who generally has little desire to air my personal opinions publicly.

However, there are times when I simply cannot remain silent. So today, I am writing to refute U.S. presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s assertion that the lewd and vulgar remarks he made about women 11 years ago are of little consequence.

To begin with, let’s examine Trump’s claims that the remarks were simply “locker room talk” that he engaged in during a private conversation, and that they are not indicative of his true feelings about women.

There are two specific reasons why these claims lack merit.

The first is based upon my personal experience. Having been around plenty of public figures as a journalist, I can say with great certainty that you will very rarely, if ever, see the genuine person when they are in the spotlight. In public, every single second is contrived. Why? Because they know they are being watched. It is only in the private, unguarded moments when they feel safe and at ease, that you will see the person’s true character. So in my humble opinion and experience, the words Trump uttered when he had no reason to fear being caught are definitely indicative of his true character.

The second, and more important is that in Connecticut, where he once had a home and now owns at least one luxury high-rise that I know of, the activity Trump so callously described in his alleged “locker room talk” is a crime. The relevant portion of C.G.S. §53a-72a states that someone is guilty of sexual assault in the third degree when they compel “another person to submit to sexual contact (A) by the use of force against such other person or a third person, or (B) by the threat of use of force against such other person or against a third person, which reasonably causes such other person to fear physical injury to himself or herself or a third person…” The offense is a Class D felony, punishable upon conviction by up to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000.

To brag about wanting to, or being able to engage in such conduct — specifically kissing women without their consent or grabbing them by their private parts — and then chalking it up to “locker room talk” is inane at best, and arguably symptomatic of depraved thinking at worst.

Now as Trump and his supporters rightfully contend, it is not illegal to say what he said, as long as he never actually acted on it. And, as Trump and his supporters contend, there are some people who may not find his remarks vulgar, offensive or morally reprehensible at all. Frankly, I don’t know who they are — and I don’t want to know. But I digress.

In the last few days, Trump has repeatedly attempted to mitigate his own behavior by drawing comparisons to things former President Bill Clinton has allegedly said and done. However, his insistence that his verbal denigration of women pales in comparison to Clinton’s alleged and actual sexual transgressions also falls flat for one extremely significant reason.

If elected, Donald J. Trump will find himself in a position where a poor choice of words can have very, very, serious consequences — because words are very powerful.

Throughout the ages, words have been used as weapons and used as tools to broker peace. They have spurred men to action. They have sparked revolutions. They have been used to ensure the punishment of the guilty, and for the wrongful indictment of the innocent. Historically, words have been used to lift people from the depths of despair and to beat them into submission. Words have shaped countries and cultures and people.

The greatest dissidents, the greatest thinkers, the greatest leaders of all time, were known not only for what they did, but for what they said, and what they wrote.

So actually, Mr. Trump, words do matter.

An open letter to American politicians after the Dallas shooting

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Dear President Obama et al:

It’s been less than a week since alleged Dallas gunman Micah Johnson killed five police officers and injured seven in a hate-fueled rampage.

I’ve heard some people are angry because they don’t think some of you’ve said enough about the tragedy. Personally I think you’ve all said too much. And every time you open your mouths, things get even worse.

Wreath. Shot at Memorial Day Service in Warrenton, Virginia in 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Memorial Day Wreath. Warrenton, Va., 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So please do me a huge favor. Just be quiet.

The immediate aftermath of a national tragedy is not the time to promote your personal and political agendas. Please show some respect. Give the victims’ families the time and space they need to grieve before you start pontificating about racism, gun control or any other relevant issue. There will be plenty of time to talk about that later.

Please remember that it’s not always about you — and that most of us couldn’t really care less about what you think.

I seldom agree with New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, but as he said when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton reportedly approached him in the wake of the Dallas shootings:

“Our interest is staying out of the politics of the moment, and not to provide photo ops,” Bratton said. “If Mr. Trump wants to speak to me, I would be happy to brief him on what we’re doing. If Sen. Clinton wants to speak to me, I would very happy to brief her on what we’re doing. But we are not in the business of providing photo ops for our candidates.”

Perhaps you should all take the hint.

But if or when another tragedy befalls us and you feel compelled to say something about it, please consider the following suggestion:

My fellow Americans,
In the wake of the tragedy that has befallen our nation, it is understandable that you should seek comfort and reassurance from your elected leaders. Please know that we are monitoring the situation and will do everything within our power to ensure the safety and security of all of our citizens.
Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are refraining from any comments about the incident itself at this time. We respectfully request that the media directs questions to the appropriate authorities. We also request that the media respects the victims’ families need for privacy….

Thank you for your time and consideration with regards to this matter.
A Concerned Citizen

The restoration of American greatness has nothing to do with Donald Trump

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

My Fellow Americans —

As I write this, most of you are no doubt counting the hours until the long holiday weekend. I am sure you are preoccupied with travel plans and dreading the drive to the beach or the lake or the mountains. I am sure you are looking forward to hanging out with family and friends. I have no doubt you are also looking forward to pool parties, parades, barbecues, and fireworks.

Old Glory. American Flag. Photo taken at Memorial Day Ceremony by Alexandra Bogdanovic
American Flag. As seen at Memorial Day ceremony in Warrenton, Virginia. May 2011. Photo by Alexandra Boganovic

As I write this, I am pondering the wisdom of writing a “political” blog on my business site, especially given the political climate in the United States these days. To do so would be professional suicide.

So it’s a good thing this has absolutely nothing to do with politics. It has to do with us.

You see the true measure of American greatness has nothing to do with Donald Trump — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter. It has nothing to do with Bernie Sanders or anyone else who wants to be president. It has nothing to do with who is in the White House or who is in Congress or who is in charge of each state.

It has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats, or liberals or conservatives. It doesn’t matter if our leaders are progressives or populists.  It has nothing to do any political label or political philosophy.

The true measure of American greatness lies in its people. It lies in each and every one of us. Whether we like it or not. Whether we care to admit it or not.

We The People Of The United States…

The undeniable link between American greatness and its people can be traced through history. In fact, it can be traced to a time before the United States as we know it even existed.

It can be traced back to the time when a bunch of colonists, fed up with British tyranny and oppression, decided to do something about it. They decided to fight back.

In the Declaration of Independence, dated July 4, 1776, they said:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (emphasis added), — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People (emphasis added) to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Red, White and Blue Umbrella. Pictured on Memorial Day, 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Patriotic Colors. Memorial Day Ceremony in Warrenton, Va., May 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

A similar sentiment is conveyed in the Preamble to our Constitution, which reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Note how these documents are written. They do not begin with “We, the leaders of the United States of America.” Nor do they say anything about “we, the politicians of the United States of America.”

Gee, I wonder why?

Together, We Can Make America Great Again

Wreath. Shot at Memorial Day Service in Warrenton, Virginia in 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic
Memorial Day Wreath. Warrenton, Va., 2011. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

But seriously, putting all sarcasm and snarfiness aside, what does this really mean?

In the simplest terms, it means that as Americans we are in charge of our own destiny. It also means that our future will be shaped not by the decisions our leaders make, but the key decisions we all make every day. They are:

  • How to react to hateful political rhetoric
  • Whether to embrace politicians that engage in hateful rhetoric
  • How to handle our political differences
  • Whether to let those differences tear us apart
  • How to regard compromise (as a sign of strength or weakness)
  • How to react to the things we don’t understand
  • How to react to the things that scare us
  • How to handle disagreements
  • How to express ourselves
  • Whether to exercise our right to vote
  • Whether to do our due diligence so we are fully informed when we cast our ballots
  • Whether to let the mainstream media, educators and pop culture dictate what we think
  • Whether to let others dictate how we behave

When all is said and done, what we choose to do determines not only how others view us, but how we see ourselves. After all, it is easy to blame our leaders for everything that is wrong with our country. It is much harder to look in the mirror.

How a newspaper with Trump ties (allegedly) crossed the line

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I must admit, the Washington Examiner has been a wonderful source for blog fodder lately.

A recent edition included a story about a reporter, Ross Barkan, who just left the New York Observer.  In the article, Barkan told T. Becket Adams that “a buildup of a variety of factors” prompted his decision.

Even so, Barkan’s resignation came soon after the Observer — or more accurately, its editorial board — endorsed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The timing prompted widespread speculation that the endorsement was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The endorsement definitely did not unfold like I thought it would, given that we are so closely tied to Trump,” Barkan told the Examiner.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the publisher of the Observer. So it really shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that the publication backed the controversial candidate. And speaking as someone who was a newspaper reporter for more than 21 years, it  really isn’t a big deal. Editorial boards endorse candidates all the time. The only time it constitutes a breach of journalistic ethics is when the board actively tries to influence the way reporters cover the political process.

Crossing The Line

What is far more disturbing is the number of published reports that Kushner and the Observer’s editor-in-chief Ken Kurson, actively participated in the preparation of a speech Trump made in March.

As Barkan so aptly put it: “The editor-in-chief should not be reviewing a speech for a presidential candidate, not matter who that presidential candidate is: Trump, Bernie, Kasich, I don’t care.”

I absolutely agree. If it is true — and at this point there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe it isn’t — it is at best a blatant conflict of interest. At worst… Well, there’s just no polite way to put it, so I will leave it up to your imagination.

If it is true — and I only say if given Mr. Trump’s propensity for suing people and his followers’ propensity for physical violence — it is disgusting and disappointing. But again, it is hardly surprising.

In my 20-plus years working at community newspapers in three states, I had a few good editors. They worked hard. They played by the rules. They actually believed in fairness, accuracy and objectivity. (Yes, I’m serious. You can stop laughing now.) They were good mentors, good people and good friends.

I also worked for some really, really, really, bad editors. (I’m not kidding. They were horrible.) As far as I could tell, they really only cared about only two things:

  1. Using the newspaper (and its staff) to advance their own political philosophies and agendas.
  2. Getting the story first — at any and all costs.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, I assure you that isn’t the case. I could give specific examples. I could tell stories that would make you cringe. I could give blow-by-blow accounts of behavior that I witnessed, recount conversations in which I was personally targeted for standing up to these workplace bullies and so forth. But we all know that wouldn’t be very smart, so I won’t go there.

The Worst Job In America

Given everything I’ve told you — and what I’ve left unsaid — does it really come as a shock that “newspaper reporter” just ranked as the worst job in America for the third year in a row?

Reasons given for this dubious distinction in an article republished on, include an average salary of $37,200 and projected job growth in negative numbers.

An average salary of roughly $37,000? That’s rich. In my 20-plus years on the job I never made more than $28,000 per year. On the other hand, an average work week was at least 50 hours. More often than not, I worked more than 60 hours per week. Obviously, I didn’t make any overtime.

All of that being stated, the job was rewarding in other ways. I won 11 Virginia Press Association awards and one New York Press Association award. More importantly, I won the respect and admiration of readers and sources.

And once upon a time, I actually loved what I did.

At the time, that made it all worthwhile.