A True Story of Fake News

Donald Trump has always been impressed with Time Magazine and is often heard bragging about how many times his picture has adorned its cover. Most of the claims are bogus. Until the election of 2016 he made it only once (January 1989), but truth has never been a guiding principle for The Donald.

Given that the magazine didn’t see fit to honor him with another cover, it was only a matter of time until he ordered his minions to create one. This is the first fake Trump Time Magazine cover, fraudulently created in order to impress those who crossing into Trumpland. Take note of its date, March 1, 2009. There was no March 1, 2009 issue of Time Magazine. Pure fake news.

Fake Time Magazine Cover

I’m impressed, not by the cover but by the chutzpah, and knowing how The Donald adores seeing himself on the cover of Time, I’ve put together a selection of my favorite fake covers in what I call The Cover Story of Donald J. Trump . The story begins with some early imprinting. There, on the cover of Henry R. Luce’s signature publication, he saw true power staring out at him. These were the gentlemen he imprinted on in those early years.

His Role Models

With powerful authority figures like these to model themselves on, Donald and his father took to racism like ducks to water. They rejected and oppressed Jews and “coloreds” and “others” who tried to rent their racially pure apartments in Queens until October of 1973 when the Department of Justice brought the hammer down and sued them for discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. From then on they struggled to subordinate their racism – until they couldn’t.

Compliance with the Fair Housing Act put a bigoted burr under The Donald’s saddle, and he simmered in wait until the appropriate time to release his racist revenge. There were many opportunities, but the first headline grabber was his full-page ad in the New York Times asking that the death penalty be imposed on The Central Park Five, five black teenagers, for raping and beating a white woman jogger in Central Park. 

It was a sensational case and, with Trump actively egging the prosecutors on, the five boys were convicted on the basis of coerced confessions. As a consequence they spent varying terms of between 6 and 13 years in prison before being cleared of the crime. The real perpetrator eventually confessed – supported by DNA evidence – and the boys (now men) were released. To this day, The Donald believes they committed the crime and no amount of DNA evidence is going to change his opinion.

Undeterred by the truth or facts, the next iteration of his animus toward African-Americans surfaced in his embrace of the “birther” conspiracy – claiming that Barack Obama was, like his father, born in Kenya and therefore not a US citizen. Even now, following eight years of the Obama presidency, and in spite of the physical production of Obama’s original Hawaiian birth certificate, Trump denies its truth or authenticity.

Yet… somehow, maybe with help from the Russian Federation, today he is the President of the United States and the Time Magazine covers, real and unreal, are coming at an astonishing rate. Here are some of my favorites:

The Bromance

And, with his ascension to the throne (he likes to think of it that way) he is free to fantasize. At first, his affection for the military moved him to appoint three Generals to his Cabinet (Mattis, Kelly, and McMaster), but it wasn’t long until he told the press “I know more than any of the Generals.” Two years into his regency, the military triad is gone and the king, too disabled to serve in the military because of bone spurs, is the Commander in Chief of America’s armed forces with access to the nuclear codes. 

In His Own Mind

And these recent fake covers show the consequences…


Nevertheless, justice may soon prevail and bring an end to Fake News.

The True End of Fake News

Do you think he even knows that Time Magazine is a relic of the past just as much as he is? I doubt it, but that makes the story even better. Fake News waits for no man. Get your copy today.

The Biggest Little Farm Goes Head to Head with our Biggest Little Racist…

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”
― John F. Kennedy 1961

That president (35) and the current occupant of the office (45) are apples and something orange, and it took just 58 years to go from “our better angels” and ‘the best of our energies and skills’ to “there were fine people on both sides” and Congresswomen of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

This weekend 31 innocent people were murdered and more than 50 wounded and/or hospitalized in two mass shootings – El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. I couldn’t cope with it – so I went to the movies. My brain couldn’t wrap itself around the carnage and the moral outrage it engendered when I learned that this president, protected by the Secret Service and safely hidden behind walls away from the prying eyes of the Fourth Estate, was shaking hands and signing autographs for “wedding guests” he didn’t know after playing golf at his New Jersey golf club. Meanwhile, the rest of America was viewing the carnage in El Paso and Dayton and grieving with the families of the victims.

Not until 48 hours after the murderous event in El Paso, did he address the country to offer tepid condolences to the victims, blame mental illness and video games for the slaughter, and offer platitudes about Americans coming together to fight the scourge (never once mentioning guns). Fuck him and the NRA, and the gun manufacturers, and Machine Gun Mitch McConnell who is blocking two gun responsibilty bills passed by the House from getting a vote on the Senate floor. I’m pissed…

Trump and his Ken doll consoling the nation

So, I went to the movies – where I learned a little about how better angels and Americans with their hands in the soil are still striving to make a difference. The Biggest Little Farm is a documentary about John and Molly Chester, a California couple, who pursued their dream of building a sustainable farm with diversified crops, orchards, poultry, and livestock from scratch…and I mean scratch. 

John and Molly Chester

It’s a good, old-fashioned, inspiring story at a time when they’re in short supply. For those of us who grew up slurping the Kool Aid about an honest, hardworking, by the bootstraps, build-your-dream America, this story will help you regain your footing and restore your faith. 

There are still real people doing real things in the right way, and what President Kennedy said about the moonshot is equally applicable to John and Molly Chester’s California farm enterprise. They did it “not because it was easy, but because it was hard, because the goal served to organize and measure the best of their energies and skills.”

Their story and grit will keep you on the edge of your seat. Will they succeed or will the starlings that descend on their orchard, the coyotes who raid their chicken house, the aphids and snails that eat their crops, the drought that empties their aquifer, the Santa Ana winds that blow their trees down, or the rain that washes away the topsoil destroy their dream?

The Biggest Little Farm

You’ll have to see the movie to find out, but in the process you’ll have spent two hours engrossed in an activity far more positive than the latest body count of gun deaths or presidential racial tweets dished out in the daily news cycle. It’s only two hours, but you’ll come out of the theater refreshed and ready to fight the battle to reclaim our amazingly rich and incredible country.

My Take

By Jack Bernard

Special to The Seattle Times

Jim Johnson reads a newspaper with his morning cup of coffee at a Starbucks in downtownPortland. As of September, you can still get… (Don Ryan / The Associated Press) 

The Seattle Times recently reported that Starbucks planned to stop selling newspapers at its stores beginning in September [“Starbucks stores to stop selling newspapers in the fall, pointing to ‘changing customer behavior,’ ” July 12, Business]. I want to amplify the voices of those concerned with that decision.

Starbucks has branded itself as a “third place,” a term for a place other than home or work where community life takes place, people connect and interact. It would appear that Starbucks borrowed the branding idea from another Seattle favorite, Third Place Books, our local independent bookstore chain, but that’s beside the point.

I admire the Starbucks brand and the worldwide empire former CEO Howard Schultz built. It’s brought jobs and recognition to Seattle and in general has been a good corporate citizen. Like any large corporation, it’s made mistakes, but it has usually been quick to respond and rectify problems, whether it’s exploitation on coffee plantations or “partner” wage or scheduling problems.

It’s always tempting to conflate a corporate founder’s views with company policy, but it’s difficult to separate them in the case of Starbucks. Schultz has always been the “voice” of Starbucks, and though he stepped down from his CEO and chairman roles in 2018, he is still the chairman emeritus and its single largest shareholder.  

Given that he recently tested the presidential campaign waters and has never been reluctant to share his opinion or weigh in on issues outside of Starbucks, I find it astonishing that the company is planning to stop selling newspapers in America’s “third place.” If supporting an informed electorate and promoting good citizenship is important to him, as he has said so many times, then why is Starbucks pulling the plug on the endangered newspaper industry and the investigative journalism that is its foundation?

Today, the stores sell The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Seattle Times and USA Today in its Seattle locations. In September, you won’t be able to buy them there. All of these papers offer vetted, fact-checked journalism. We need them now more than ever. Millennials may choose to get their news online, but there is no substitute for print journalism, for scanning the pages of a local or national publication for articles that would rarely pop up while browsing on the internet.

This is not just a business decision. The Times’ article mentioned that newspapers have not been a profitable item at Starbucks, but this should be more than just business. America needs an informed and educated electorate more than ever. In its small way, Starbucks has created space where people gather, read and discuss the issues of the day.

This is a plea to Schultz and the leadership at Starbucks to reconsider its decision. Please help us do our part to support newspapers and investigative journalism. It’s part of our obligation as citizens and your decision to provide a third place for us to exercise that obligation.

Editor’s note: Starbucks and the Schultz Family Foundation contribute to local journalism through their investment in The Seattle Times Project Homeless initiative, which explores the region’s complex, troubling problem of homelessness.

Jack Bernard is a Seattle-based freelance writer and former Marine Corps pilot and lawyer.

Scatology vs. Eschatology in Today’s Politics…

Detail from Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights

I’ve been thinking a lot about death and Ricky Gervais lately, because I’m losing friends at such an alarming rate. Their obituaries often say, “Died of natural causes,” but Stuart Nuland in his book How We Die says the death certificate should probably read “Died of old age,” although he acknowledges that we’re not quite there officially. At my age, it’s natural to be thinking of death, but I’m trying to be cool about it. As Ricky Gervais says, “Death is like being stupid; it’s only painful for others.”

On the other hand, thinking of my own death is embarrassingly self-absorbing. There are so many other deaths to think about, like the death of democracy or the planet as we know it? Just when you think it can’t get any worse… it does. 

It seems incomprehensible to those of us who, after living through the end of the Great Depression, the beginning and end of WWII, lunch counter sit-ins, voting rights demonstrations, the Detroit and Watts riots, the Summer of Love and the Vietnam War, the brief Pax-Clintonia, 9/11 and the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are, in two years of the Trump regency, reliving the turmoil of the 1950’s and ‘60s – congressional investigations, character assassination, charges of treason, talk of impeachment, homophobia, factionalism, isolationism, socialism, racism, fascism, Christian bigots, Muslim suicide bombers, and unbridled greed – all exacerbated by global warming, rising sea levels, great disparities in income and wealth, homelessness, mass shootings, immigration crises, children in cages, open conflict with international allies, open affection for murderous dictators, and an ignorant thin-skinned president. What could possibly go wrong?

    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
      Not with a bang but a whimper.

That’s the last verse of T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Hollow Men. How appropriate is that title at a time like this? America is currently under management by a would-be dictator served by a posse of “acting” bureaucrats. The adults have all left – or been dismissed – and the kids from Lord of the Flies are grown up and in-charge. They are the Hollow Men.

I doubt the end of times will come before I’m gone, but there are those who see these times eschatologically (as in “the end of the world”). Those evangelical Christian sects are looking forward to the “rapture,” when they will be rewarded with a trip to heaven and the rest of us will be forsaken.

I doubt I’ll be on the upward trip. Right now, I’m more concerned about America wallowing in a scatological nightmare rather than an eschatological one. When the president of the United States busies himself talking about “shithole” countries and the “bullshit” of congressional oversight, it looks to me like he’s more concerned with the study of human excrement (scatology) than his ascent into heaven (eschatology). As a self-professed germaphobe, let’s hope he doesn’t get smeared on his way up or things could get smellier and uglier than they already are.

Blurred Lines…

The recent indictment of Jeffrey Epstein on child sex-trafficking charges raises an attorney-client question for me. How does a lawyer navigate the relationship with his client once the case is resolved? Jeffery Epstein is a rich bottom-feeder and convicted sexual predator. In 2008, he was convicted on two counts of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution. Nevertheless, following his conviction, he was able to maintain his connections to important financial, political, and social elites in New York and Palm Beach? How did this convicted sexual predator avoid being ostracized socially?

His current indictment, in New York, is the product of rigorous investigative journalism by Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald. Ms. Brown, outraged by the light sentence Epstein received in the 2008 plea deal, decided to dig deeper into the Epstein story. Her investigation and resulting series in the Herald is widely viewed as the reason Epstein is behind bars now. She helped build the current case in an effort to reverse the travesty of the 2008 plea deal engineered by former US Attorney and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.

Hardly anybody who’s hung around with Epstein has “clean hands,” but I’m especially fascinated by his relationship with Alan Dershowitz, the former Harvard Law professor and judicial attack dog who represented him in the Florida case.

As a major donor to Harvard (a school he never attended), Epstein met and befriended Dershowitz. When state and federal prosecutors brought child sex trafficking charges against him in 2006, he asked Dershowitz to “help put together a legal team” for his defense.” In that proceeding Dershowitz had a hand in crafting the deal that denied Epstein’s child victims their day in court and allowed him to spend 12 hours a day in his office on “work release” before returning to jail at night. Sweetheart deal.

American jurisprudence presumes a criminal defendant innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and criminal lawyers owe their clients the best and most vigorous defense possible. Their responsibility is to advocate for their clients, protect their interests and make sure the law is administered as fairly. Dershowitz certainly did that for Epstein.

Is the rule different when the lawyer knows his client is guilty? No; regardless of what a defendant has done, he is not legally guilty until a prosecutor offers enough evidence to persuade a judge or jury to convict. That’s the law’s foundational principle. The lawyer may use any and all defenses available so long as he does not lie to the judge or jury by proclaiming an accused’s innocence when he knows the opposite to be true.

Representing an accused criminal doesn’t mean the lawyer agrees with or approves of the client’s behavior or beliefs. It’s a professional relationship. During the trial the lawyer is an advocate, but what about later, outside the courtroom? Is there a moral/ethical standard governing that relationship? Should the lawyer socialize with his convicted client? There is no clear rule, but the lawyer may be putting his reputation at risk by getting too close.

Jeffrey Epstein is extremely wealthy. He has homes in New York, Palm Beach, and Paris, a ranch in New Mexico, even an island in the Caribbean. He can easily offer a “friends with benefits” kind of friendship. That list has included Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz among others.

Alan Dershowitz was a fixture in Epstein’s orb, even after his work as Epstein’s attorney was completed. He flew on Epstein’s private jet, stayed at his Palm Beach home, received massages from his “staff,” and supported his somewhat dubious self-serving relationship with Harvard. 

Dershowitz has always been controversial. Notoriously peevish, irascible, and argumentative, he took cases and advised a series of unsympathetic defendants including Claus Von Bulow, OJ Simpson, Michael Milken, and Leona Helmsley before his defense of Epstein.

Nevertheless, despite the “friends with benefits” relationship he enjoyed with Epstein, it would be difficult to say Dershowitz had crossed an ethical line until earlier this year when he wrote the Pulitzer Prize committee urging them to deny Julie K. Brown the prize for her series on the Epstein scandal. What possible explanation could there be for this intervention?

In Ms. Brown’s sex-trafficking expose, one of Epstein’s teenage victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, implicated Dershowitz. He denies it, and it’s only natural to deny the allegation if false, but a prominent legal commentator, like Mr. Dershowitz, has various ways – public, private and legal – to deny such an accusation. Instead, he chose to attack Ms. Brown, a journalist, in an effort to deny her recognition for her investigative work product.

Was the Dershowitz letter written to avenge a personal wrong, impugn Julie Brown’s credibility, or protect Epstein? Was Dershowitz concerned, as some others are, that Epstein may have compromising evidence on him? Would his friendship with Epstein be a logical basis for personal intervention with the Pulitzer committee? With other avenues available to protect his own reputation, it seems unusual and, at the very least, unseemly to go behind the scenes to personally attack the integrity and work product of an investigative journalist.

Where should we draw the ethical line for lawyer and client? Innocent until proven guilty, yes – easy. The best defense, yes – easy. Legal ethics observed, yes – easy. Extra-judicial intervention and acceptance of social and/or sexual favors? No. Convicted sex traffickers are criminals.

I understand a client’s gratitude and willingness to share following a successful plea or acquittal, but there is a difference between professional engagement and active social involvement. I would feel dirty if I elected to socialize, after the verdict, when I knew my client to be a criminal. Clearly there are blurred lines here, but it should not be a difficult moral decision to separate yourself from a known criminal?