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Sex, Lies, and More Lies

Cable News’ Performing Seals: All Heat, No Light; Plus, Michael Towbes Remembered


I hate to shatter any political illusions you may have left, but …

After all the sex, lies, and videotape of the 2016 presidential election, plus the first 100 days or so of the Trump administration, is there anything left to believe in for more than a 24-hour news cycle?

Take the panels of “experts” that CNN trots out after the slightest bit of news surfaces. They pontificate, argue, get nasty and red in the face, and then go home. Turns out, this is just show business.

They’re performing like trained seals. Paid to do it, and they do it very well. That’s because they’re hired by CNN. Not that they don’t honestly believe in the chest-beating opinions they spout. It’s just that we should realize they get paychecks from CNN, and no doubt Fox GOP News and other channels do the same.

Take Jeffrey Lord, previously a little-known writer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, hired by CNN specifically to beat the Trump drum. Trump, reportedly feeling that he needed more cheerleaders on camera, proposed him to CNN, and he was hired in 2015.

“Today, he is one of 12 Trump partisans on CNN’s payroll and perhaps the network’s most reliable, if mild-mannered, provocateur …” the New York Times Sunday magazine wrote on April 9.

That “mild-mannered” tag may have sparked Lord into one of his more outrageous, unsupportable but attention-getting assertions last week, claiming that Trump was “the Martin Luther King of health care.”

Wow. Since Trump wants to kill Obamacare outright and having not achieving that (yet) threatens to cut health-care subsidies for the poor, this sparked great volumes of outrage by those who honor King’s Nobel Prize–winning campaign for the poor and neglected of America.

“The network sends a black town car four days a week to ferry him to Manhattan from Harrisburg and back, a three-hour drive each way,” the Times said. I don’t know what Lord makes at CNN, but it’s obviously worth the drive.

Lord often tangles with another frequent paid CNN panelist, liberal Van Jones. The problem is that they and the other panelists tend to generate more heat than light, turning what could be useful, enlightening debates focusing on current affairs into angry, name-calling slugfests.

Why not enlist informed journalists, authors, and informed political observers as panelists, since CNN bosses prefer this kind of routine? But ratings are almighty, and bloodletting draws eyes to the tube.

But today’s stars are doomed to burn out and fade amid the public’s demand for new, even more provocative arguing heads. And Lord won’t have that three-hour drive, each way.

A Real Gentleman

I first met Mike Towbes back in the 1970s, when he would appear before the County Planning Commission, seeking approval of one of his projects. Where other developers tended to raise their voices and huff and puff when they didn’t get what they wanted, Mike remained cool, calm, and collected ​— ​and nearly always got his projects okayed.

Mike went on to found the Bank of Montecito. One day, a few years ago, I asked him how it happened that the venerable Santa Barbara Bank & Trust just across Carrillo Street was deep in red ink due to foolish investments, while his bank was profitable every year in the same economic environment.

His reply: “I don’t know that much about banking, but I do know real estate.” Santa Barbara Bank & Trust is long gone, but the Bank of Montecito, renamed to Montecito Bank & Trust, has expanded, and it was still in the black when Mike died last week at 87.

Over the years, Mike built more than 6,000 residential units ​— ​too many in the view of those who see far too much development on the South Coast ​— ​and nearly two million square feet of commercial space. Yet Mike Towbes ​— ​along with his wife, Anne Towbes ​— ​showed community caring by awarding more than $1 million a year to area nonprofits and was a major sponsor of the arts and theater.

Many a time have I gone to a concert or theatrical event in town and noticed at the bottom of the program that Mike and Anne were sponsors ​— ​that means shelling out the money to make it possible for the rest of us and our children to enjoy cultural events that couldn’t have happened without them.

Thanks, Mike.

A public memorial is planned at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) on Tuesday, May 23, at 2 p.m.



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