Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

On Unwritten Rules, in Baseball and Life

Friday, August 21st, 2020

Fernando Tatis, rule breaker.

Fernando Tatis, rule breaker.

By Bob Gaydos

  Life is full of unwritten rules. Please and thank you. Don’t interrupt. Don’t double dip. Flush the toilet. But is it really a rule if it’s not written down? And is it really a rule if sometimes it’s OK to break it? Is it a rule, say, if your young slugger hits a home run on a 3-0 pitch to put the game on ice?

The big controversy of the week, refreshingly, involved baseball. Welcome back, boys of summer.

      The young slugger is Fernando Tatis Jr., who plays for the San Diego Padres. Tatis says he never heard of this rule we’re about to talk about. Sounds like another unwritten rule: When in doubt, plead ignorance.

       Some baseball purists, as well as the pitcher, manager and other players on the opposing team, think that Tatis broke one of the sport’s long-standing unwritten rules. That is, when you’re at bat and the count is three balls and no strikes, you do not swing at the next pitch. It’s thought to be even more of a rule when your team is winning by a significant margin, lest you be accused of rubbing it in. (I am explaining this in a little bit of detail for those readers who may not be baseball fans.)

      The Padres were leading the Texas Rangers by seven runs in the eighth inning when Tatis came to bat with the bases-loaded. He had already hit a homerun in the game. The Texas pitcher, who shall go nameless here to spare him further embarrassment, was shaky and threw three straight balls to Tatis. If Tatis followed the unwritten rule, he would not swing at the next pitch on the odds that it would be ball four, he would walk to first base and the runner from third would score. If it was a strike, he would be free to swing at any succeeding pitches.

      But young Fernando gets paid good money to hit home runs and drive in runs, so he swung. The ball soared out of the park for a grand slam homerun and instead of one man walking in with a run, four Padres crossed the plate. Instantly, San Diego was up by 11 runs instead of seven runs.

      The Rangers, who eventually lost 14 to 4, complained more about that swing on the 3-0 pitch the next day than how they were embarrassed by the shellacking they had just taken. But a lot of other major league players and managers who were interviewed, including a number of pitchers, said the responsibility is on the pitcher to make a good pitch in that situation and not look for an easy strike expecting that the batter won’t swing. After all, in baseball, as well as other endeavors in life, the idea is to win the game and the more runs you have the more likely you will win. Also, baseball today is different from baseball a generation or two ago. Teams all have young sluggers and score runs in bunches today and seemingly safe leads are no longer safe.

       So I’m with Tatis on this one. I am not a fan of rubbing it in, but even Little League doesn’t say the game is over until one team is ahead by 10 runs. What’s more, it turns out I’m consistent. My Facebook memories the other day included this serendipitous post: “I called the green light for Astros’ Carter on 3-0 pitch. You have to know he’s swinging. Boom! 3-run shot and Yankees lose. It’s not a complicated game.” Aug. 19, 2014. Another slugger in a situation just crying for him to swing at the three and oh.

      By the way … if you want to use politics as a metaphor for life, the Republican Party seems to have come up with an unwritten rule: Do not ever publicly speak ill of the leader. In nearly four years of the Trump Administration, four years of lying, incompetence, race-baiting, dismantling of government safeguards, disregard of the Constitution and all-around ignorance of presidential duties, I have yet to hear one local elected official publicly say a negative word about the party leader. Never mind Congress members; they fear for their “careers.” I’m talking about locals. Apparently, saying he blew it on Covid would be somehow a bad thing for potential voters to hear, deaths notwithstanding. A sign of independent thought? Forbidden. They are “leaders” without courage. An odd combination. Also by the way … the Democratic Party clearly has no such unwritten rule.

       By the way … when I decided to write about unwritten rules I did what everybody does today – I Googled it. Turns out a lot of people have written about unwritten rules. Or rather, a lot of people appear to have written about unwritten rules. One of the things that is abundantly obvious with just a little research is that what looks to be the best current list of unwritten rules has been repackaged, reheadlined and reimagined dozens of times as someone else’s list of unwritten rules. Reddit appears to be the original source of many lists. It includes such handy advice as:

— Don’t ask for something if the person only has one left — gum, cigarette, piece of cake, etc.

— If you use up all of the toilet paper, you refill it.

— Don’t mess up an apology with an excuse.

— Buy a plunger before you need a plunger.

— When someone shows you a picture on their phone, don’t swipe left or right.

— When the host starts cleaning, the party’s over and you need to go home.

— Let people get off a bus, train, or elevator before you get on.

    There are plenty more and you can Google them yourself, but my internet-driven unwritten rule is one that reporters learn the first day on the job — cite your source. Don’t take credit for someone else’s work. A few sites who repackaged the Reddit list did (Buzzfeed for one), but many did not. That’s just not nice.

       By the way … speaking of “not nice,” not long ago I led a column with someone else’s spoken, but unwritten rules for life: 1. If it’s not yours, don’t take it; 2. If it’s not true, don’t say it; 3. If it’s not right, don’t do it. The rule-maker prefers to remain anonymous, but I like to think I’ve given them more legitimacy by, you know, writing them down.

       And finally, back to baseball, Texas pitcher Ian Gibaut, who relieved the pitcher who gave up Tatis’ grand slam, was suspended for three games and fined by baseball officials. Gibaut, a rookie, came in and immediately threw a fastball behind San Diego’s next batter, Manny Machado, apparently as a warning for the Padres daring to smack Texas pitching around the park. It’s supposedly another baseball unwritten rule — if you embarrass us by showing our ineptitude, we will throw pitches at you. That’s not exactly an example of number three above, doing the right thing. More like, see how petty we can be. There’s another sports (and politics) unwritten rule: Don’t be a sore loser.

       PS: According to AP, before the controversial game, the 21-year-old Tatis was leading the majors with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. And you groove a pitch to him with the bases loaded? More unwritten rules of life: Don’t assume anything. Always RSVP. Never give Fernando Tatis anything but curve balls.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

The Perils of Covering Chaos 24/7

Saturday, August 15th, 2020
Geraldine Ferraro and Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party's presidential ticket in 1984. She ran for veep.

Geraldine Ferraro and Walter Mondale, the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket in 1984. She ran for veep, making history, as Maureen Dowd recalls.

By Bob Gaydos

     It gives me no joy to say “I told you so.” Maybe a bit of personal satisfaction, but I’ll deal with that. 

From time to time, in this era of constant chaos known as the Trump Administration, I have lamented that it is virtually impossible for those who comment on the news of the day to write about anything but the Drumpster. The fact that he lies constantly, is monumentally inept and psychologically unfit for the Oval Office only adds to the need for constant — daily — attention. It is exhausting and, ultimately, depressing. And this, I have said, could eventually scramble the brains even of veteran journalists who still do it fulltime for a living.

      Cases in point, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks. One on the left, one on the right. On a recent Sunday, the New York Times played it right down the middle.

     On Aug. 9, I decided to peruse the Views section, once my automatic go to, but for some time now a repository of more of you know what about you know who. The psyche needs a rest. Having had one, I skipped to Dowd in the back, leaving Brooks’ rare front-page splash for later.

       Dowd has been nothing if not devoted to telling us how awful and dumb Drumpf is. She does it well. I enjoy her writing. But on this Sunday she had to write about Democrats and that part of her brain apparently was fried from all the juice emanating from the Republican side.

       She was writing about Joe Biden’s much-anticipated selection of a female vice presidential running mate. She was also waxing nostalgic of her days covering Walter Mondale’s selection of Newburgh native Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate in 1984. She was the first woman to run as a vice presidential candidate on any major party ticket. Dowd recalled that that “fairy tale“ had a “sad ending.“ They lost.

     But then Dowd wrote: “It’s hard to fathom, but it has been 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket. To use Geraldine Ferraro‘s favorite expression, ‘Give me a break!’ “

     I’ll cue in the Jeopardy final question music. Do do do do do do do, do do do do do do do…

     I’ll take it, Alex. Who were Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in 2016?

      Correct, Bob! Hillary Clinton chose Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential running mate in July 2016. And that was the last time a man and a woman ran together on the Democratic Party ticket.

       How soon we forget. Dowd was so focused on the number two pick, she forgot all about Clinton clobbering Trump by several million votes and still losing the presidency a mere four years ago. Dowd wrote about all the biases Ferraro faced as the first female vice presidential candidate and projected that Biden‘s choice would have to be prepared to be portrayed as too bossy, too bitchy, too aggressive, too ambitious, etc.

    Of course, those are all things that were said about Clinton a mere four years ago when she ran, not for vice president, but for president. Real history. She won and she had it stolen from her as I recall.

     Kamala Harris, Biden’s eventual VP pick, will probably be able to handle all those attacks, in part because she’s highly competent, but also because Clinton already handled them, as I said, four years ago. Maybe Dowd can make it up to Hillary in a future column, but I submit that that’s what covering Drumpf 24/7 can do to you

     As for the conservative Brooks, he chose to take on the question of “Where Do Republicans Go From Here?” He’s not sure other than that, however many smart conservatives work on renovating it, Trump’s impact on the party will last for decades. And he puts the party’s future in the hands of four Republican senators in their 40s: Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse.

      Sheesh. All four are supposedly more enlightened populists who don’t always see government as the enemy and feel more must be done to help America’s working class. Rubio and Sasse occasionally try to sound like they disagree with some administration policy that harms regular people, Hawley is hawkish against corporate elites and Cotton is, at heart, a bomb thrower. They all voted not to convict Trump at his impeachment trial and none has shown the courage to consistently speak out directly to contradict the administration. Not much leadership in evidence.

      Brooks, who’s supporting Biden, writes, “The Republican Party looks completely brain-dead at every spot Trump directly touches.” I agree with him on this. And so, how are these four young stalwarts going to reshape their party so that it survives as a major political force? Stick with the working-class philosophy, but without the racism, Brooks suggests. Aha! Therein may lie the rub. How does the GOP unbecome the party of white, racist middle-Americans who hate “coastal elites”?

     Brooks takes us through many inches of well-thought-out rationales and says others are also working on the “brain-dead” issue. But Rubio, Hawley, Cotton and Sasse? They’re “inching” their way to a new GOP, Brook writes, finally ending with: “What are the odds they’ll succeed? They’ve got to be way under 50-50.”

    Swell. That’s what used to be known as burying the lead, David. After all this, you’re saying the best hope for a new GOP lies in the hands of four senators with little hope of shaking off the stench of Trumpism? Please. Give it a rest.

      Anyway, I get it. The point here is purely personal. As I said, it’s crazy-making having to write about Trump every day, like living with an alcoholic. I appreciate the efforts from both of you, but why not forget about you-know-who for a while? Take a week off. Maybe write about the plant-based food craze instead. I myself am a fan of the Impossible Whopper.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Hamill, Voices, Opinions, Dogs, August

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Pete Hamill

Pete Hamill

Some random observations of a Covid-weary pundit in the month of August …

By the way … The death this week of Pete Hamill, at 85, got me to thinking about journalism — by which I always mean print journalism — and the voices I listened to as I followed my own path as a newsman. Hamill was right there with Jimmy Breslin, the voices of New York, whose columns were more than words on a page. They were conversations in a diner. I heard them in my head. That’s because they were honest and true to their creators. Nothing phony. Less noted than Hamill’s recent death was that last year of Russell Baker, longtime New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, whose “Observer” column was as much a must-read for me as any of Hamill’s columns. Totally different, but required. Brilliant satire that was like having a cup of coffee with a very clever friend. 

   I had a couple of other favorites — Jim Murray, who never wrote a sports column the way they taught it in college, and Jimmy Cannon, whose ”Nobody Asked Me, But …” columns were required reading and the inspiration for this obvious knockoff. The voices in my newspapers are all gone. What remains with me is the now-conscious, but onetime unaware, conviction that a writer must be true to him or her self first. Do not try to impress or be what you are not. Tell the story as best you can so that people will actually want to read it. Trust your voice and your opinion.  Check your facts, use proper grammar and know how to spell, too. It seems I’m in search of some new voices to read today.

    By the way … They call these the dog days. Why? Have you ever known a dog to like the hot, humid days of August? No dog I’ve ever known, including each half of the current duo, Taj and Prince, has ever suggested taking a long walk on a 90-degree day and maybe playing some Frisbee later. It’s usually let me out to do my stuff and let’s get back inside with the air-conditioning, fast! And before some smart Alec with an itchy Google finger hurries to straighten me out, I already checked with Merriam-Webster. Apparently, the phrase was first used in 1538 and referred to the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius, in the skies in the period from early July to early September. OK, but it’s been almost five centuries, people. Let’s give dogs their due with a star in the skies, but let’s not pin this crummy weather on them. They had nothing to do with it and they like it even less than humans do. Prince told me so.

    By the way … Try as I may, it is virtually impossible for someone writing about life as we know it today to avoid writing about the Embarrassment Administration. I’ll go easy, with a pass at the putz-in-waiting, Mike Pence. The nearly invisible and virtually mute vice president had something to say this week. He should’ve kept it to himself. Pence thinks Chief Justice John Roberts is a “disappointment” to conservative voters. Maybe it’s that lifetime appointment and separate and equal branch of government thing that Pence doesn’t understand. Maybe he doesn’t get that people in high government office, even vice presidents, are allowed and even expected to have their own opinions on issues and be willing to stand by them. And, in Roberts’ case, be protected by a lifetime appointment.

        The Chief Justice “disappointed” Pence by siding with the Supreme Court’s more liberal judges on cases involving LGBTQ labor rights, reinstatement of the Dreamers, a rejection of a Louisiana law restricting abortions and a rejection of. a Nevada church’s attempt to avoid limits on attendance because of Covid-19 restrictions. Pence said his boss would make sure to appoint more reliable rubber stamps to the court if he is re-elected. He’s even planning on putting out a list of potential candidates, not that he would dream of politicizing such an important position just before an election.

            Roberts, of course, cast the deciding vote in a previous 5-4 ruling that preserved Obamacare. Pence’s boss promises to provide a substitute for this healthcare plan about every couple of weeks. But apparently his golf gets in the way. I’d like to say it was nice to know the vice president actually speaks, but then, he is what is waiting in the wings. You, sir, are a disappointment to the majority of Americans. On the other hand, Mr. Chief Justice, well done.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

The GOP is Now a Party of Yohos

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Yoho

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Yoho

    For as long as I can recall, I’ve been referring to people, usually men, who do and/or say dumb things as yohos. As in, “Rudy Giuliani, what a yoho!”

     I’m not making this up and, until I Googled to my satisfaction, I was unaware that I was actually making the word up, at least as far as my definition of it.  And I most certainly was not aware that there was a member of Congress who was actually called Mr. Yoho.

     He’s a Republican, of course. Ted Yoho. What a yoho.

     Yoho is a 65-year-old veterinarian/businessman, who has managed to represent the Gainesville area of Florida for the past eight years without much national fanfare. Then he ran into Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the Capitol. Enter the yoho factor.

       Getting involved in a public shouting match with a 30-year-old first-term congresswoman from Queens who is already known nationally and everywhere on social media by her initials — AOC— is just dumb. It is also against the rules of civility by which members of the House of Representatives like to say they comport themselves when discussing issues. Doing it in front of a reporter for a news organization that covers Congress? Yoho.

       The story in The Hill that grabbed national attention is that, following a heated exchange on the steps, in which he called her “disgusting” and “crazy,” Yoho referred to Ocasio-Cortez as a “f****ng b*tch” as the two walked away from each other. She apparently did not hear the remark. A day after the story appeared, Yoho apologized on the floor of the House for his “abrupt” behavior, but denied using the vulgar insult attributed to him by the reporter. Yoho said he actually said “f****ng b****hit,” referring to the congresswoman’s views.

      Yoho said it “is true that we disagree on policies and visions for America, but that does not mean we should be disrespectful.”

       He also said, “I will commit to each of you that I will conduct myself from a place of passion and understanding that policy and political disagreement be vigorously debated with the knowledge that we approach the problems facing our nation with the betterment of the country in mind and the people we serve. I cannot apologize for my passion or for loving my God, my family and my country.”

     Occasio-Cortez responded on the House floor the next day, in a classic takedown, in effect calling Yoho’s apology B.S. and an insult to all women. Republicans believed Yoho. Most of the rest of the world agreed with the reporter and AOC. That’s kind of the problem with Republicans these days. They’re convinced of their moral superiority and righteousness, but no one else is listening to them because no one believes them anymore. About anything.

      As a fish rots from the head down, so has the GOP. Their leader is a bully, a liar and a misogynist and they know it. Rather than rise up in moral indignation, they have chosen for nearly four years to emulate or remain silent. A sincere apology on Yoho’s part —: “I said it in a fit of anger, but no excuses. I am embarrassed and sorry and regret any hurt I caused.” — would have likely ended the story. But humility is not in the Republican playbook.

      (If you sense — correctly — that I’m believing the reporter’s account, not Yoho’s, that’s because I honestly believe that any man who has lived five or six or more decades in this country can put himself in Yoho’s situation at least once in his life. It happens. Denying or justifying it makes it much worse. Apologizing and looking for the source of the anger is much better.)

     Getting back to being yohos … The Florida congressman’s stated beef with Ocasio-Cortez is her view linking poverty with crime. Fine. But his vehemence in disagreeing is more likely tied to the fact that she is young, female, smart, attractive, outspoken, courageous and popular. Ambitious, too. A magna cum laude who used to tend bar. How dare she?

    It’s the modern Republican Party’s attitude towards accomplished women who don’t come from wealth — Anti. Republicans also used to be Anti-deficits. Not so much anymore.

     The party still is Anti-taxes for the rich, as we know, and it is also: Anti-science, Anti-history, Anti-math, Anti-logic, Anti-proper English, Anti-ethics, Anti-reading, Anti-psychology, Anti-philosophy, Anti-clean energy, Anti-regulation, Anti-immigration, Anti-Social Security, Anti-civics, Anti-government, Anti-law, Anti-answering subpoenas, Anti-choice, Anti-peaceful dissent and Anti-institutes of higher learning. A majority of Republicans actually believe that colleges have a negative effect on America.

      To be fair, there are men of all (or no) political persuasions who disrespect women. Republicans don’t have a monopoly on it. But they do seem to have patented the right to be as dumb as they choose and be proud of it. They have, in fact, become a party of yohos.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

America’s Getting a History Lesson

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

A statue of Christopher Columbus is toppled in Baltimore.

      Christopher Columbus was sent to the bottom of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. Stonewall Jackson has been removed from his pedestal in Richmond, Va. The Washington Redskins are considering changing their nickname. Can the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves be far behind? The State of Mississippi is removing the Confederate flag symbol from its state flag. Several members of Congress have asked the Army to rename any buildings and remove symbols at West Point that honor Robert E. Lee and any other Confederate officers.

       America is getting a history lesson, many generations too late, and we owe it all to … Donald Trump.

       Sometimes life is weird. There’s a school of thought which holds that humans learn the important lessons in life only by going through difficult, challenging, perhaps painful situations. Some call them “opportunities.” The universe — your own personal one, or the one we all share — is thought to like harmony. Everyone singing in tune, so to speak. But apparently it takes going through disharmony to get there. Otherwise, we don’t pay attention and just go on thinking everything’s fine. How much disharmony is necessary before we learn the lesson seems to depend on how well we pay attention in class. That is, do we notice the disharmony, understand what it really is, know what or who caused it and do we look for a solution — a real, lasting solution, not a paper-over job that makes us feel good for awhile?

        History suggests we favor temporary, feel-good “solutions.” What follows is an extremely condensed lesson:

        European settlers “claimed” (and named) America more than 500 years ago, killing and raping natives who already lived here. Disharmony. Over time, however, generations of European-Americans made amends for this grand theft, first by having a special dinner with native Americans and later calling it Thanksgiving, designating unwanted parcels of land for the tribes to call their own reservations, killing thousands more in Western movies that portrayed them as savage redskins (Oops! Sorry, Washington.), ignoring tribal laws and customs that were inconvenient, letting tribes open gambling casinos and giving Columbus, the guy who started it all and gave the natives the name “Indians,” his own holiday. We’re square now, right, Chief?

         While this lesson was slowly unfolding, dark-skinned natives of African nations were being kidnaped and brought to America to serve as slave labor for plantation owners in the South. These unwilling immigrants were bought and sold as property for generations, without rights and mostly without education. They were the backbone of the American economy. Still, many Americans, mostly in the North, were not OK with slavery. Eventually, after much disharmony, a Civil War broke out over it, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, and the North won the most brutal war this nation has ever fought. A divided nation was rejoined and a semblance of harmony was restored. 

          Now free, Blacks nonetheless continued to live as second-class citizens throughout the segregated South for about 100 years. The 1960s brought another revolution. Marches, demonstrations, violence, death. But President Lyndon Johnson muscled the Civil Rights Act through a contentious Congress. Voila! No more segregation. Schools were integrated. Everyone was “equal.” Wow, it was about time, Americans agreed. We’re good now, right, Bro? Hey, you want to play football at our college? 

         At the same time, however, many Southerners also said let’s not forget those courageous generals who led the Confederacy’s fight to maintain slavery, even in a new nation if need be. Let’s erect statues praising them everywhere we can think of. And don’t you just love that Confederate flag? Live and die for Dixie. Uhh, also, we don’t really need to rush with this “all men are equal stuff,” do we? 

       So everything was cool, no more separate water fountains or schools. No more use of the “N” word, at least not publicly. No more profiling of people of color by police, well at least not officially. America was now, finally, a color-blind nation. It had to be. After all, it was the law. Harmony was mandated.

       Then along came Trump, a man who never read a history book, indeed could barely read at all. The Republican Party, which had become the favorite hiding place for all those white Americans who would still be slaveholders if it was allowed and who still had no problem with separate water fountains and who apparently never learned what the Civil War was about, made Trump its presidential candidate. Americans, in their wisdom, and with the considerable help of Russia and an antiquated electoral system, elected Trump.

        It turned out a lot of Americans didn’t like the Democratic candidate because she was a woman and she was smart and tough and knew more about the job of president than Trump and all the would-be Republican candidates put together. Vote for Trump, they said. He’ll shake things up in Washington.

      And they were right.

       A man who operates solely out of self-interest, Trump’s primary “governing” tools are chaos and vindictiveness, which he wields as weapons. In his effort to “Make America Great Again” (as in, before the Civil Rights Act), he has destroyed international alliances, stoked bigotry against all non-whites, encouraged violence — including by police — against peaceful protest and made it safe in the minds of his racist followers to come out of the woodwork to spew their hatred. There is a crisis of conscience in America every day. The evidence is in the news media, which he has labeled “the enemy of the people.”

         Evangelical Christians claim Trump was sent by some God to save them, but not necessarily the rest of us. The Rapture notwithstanding, I’m working on that need for harmony thesis. I’m thinking Trump may be the inevitable result of a universe frustrated with our inability to learn the lesson.

         Major change sometimes requires major pain. Having dozens of videos of police brutality against people of color splashed across social media helps. So does having an inept “leader” who flouts the law, promotes racism and violence, and lies on a daily basis. He is disharmony personified. We don’t need history books for this; we’re living it.

         So … wait a minute! Did you see what they did? Again? This doesn’t seem right! Down with Columbus! Down with Robert E. Lee! The Chicks are no longer from Dixie and FedEx insists that the football team that plays in the stadium which bears the company’s name must change its mascot. When big business gets a conscience, it may be a sign that America is finally learning the lesson. It’s simple: We are supposed to love and help one another. All one-anothers. Harmony.

         The universe may be speaking to us, in a sense, through Donald Trump. I pray we hear it this time.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Good News, from Back to Front Page

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 The newest Yankee pitcher, Gerritt Cole, pitches batting practice at Yankee Stadium. Spring training has been delayed.

The newest Yankee pitcher, Gerritt Cole, pitches batting practice at Yankee Stadium. Spring training has been delayed.

  The boys of summer are going to finally start playing baseball … in July. Better late than never. Basketball and hockey players will be busy, too. For them, it’s unfinished business.

    This falls in the category of good news, for the players and fans, not to mention team owners and all the ancillary employees. Sports may be considered a diversion by some, a trifle to others. But to millions, sports are a welcome, even healthful, escape. As citizens of an agitated world, we can all use something to, if only temporarily, take our minds off, you know, things. Something to at least start the day without anxiety and angst.

     I began following the late Earl Warren’s formula for starting the day in my late teens: Begin reading in the back of the paper with the sports pages. Warren said: “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.“

     For me, it was the New York Daily News. Look at the other stuff later; it’ll still be there. I figured if it was good enough for a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it was good enough me. Who won? Who pitched? How many, how fast, how about that?

     Later, when I was a sports editor for a couple of years, I tried to make my pages entertaining enough for other followers of Warren‘s philosophy. Here’s your morning jolt, sports fans! I don’t know if I succeeded, but it was certainly fun for me.

      So when they stopped sports along with everything else four months ago, it was bad news. There was nowhere to go for diversion. Netflix has served a purpose, but it’s tough to start the real day with fantasy heroes. Who hit the buzzer beater? Did the Knicks actually win? Who’s playing shortstop for the Yankees this year?

       I know it won’t be the same for a while. Maybe ever. So it’ll be different. But it’s likely that there will be pro sports later this month and, more likely, pro football in the fall. Go Giants! That’s good news.

      If you’re wondering why I’m focusing on good news here, it’s because of a comment Emma Gonzalez-Laders, a faithful reader, made on my most recent column: “You’re not normally the bringer of good news. I like this twist.”

      The “twist” she was referring to was taking a week’s worth of events that didn’t go the way Donald Trump would have liked — Supreme Court rulings, botched firings, campaign rallies in empty stadiums, stuff like that — and reporting it as good news. It’s what one has had to do to find “good news” in an age of all-Trump, all-chaos, all the time. It can get exhausting.

       But, nothing is forever. Witness the results of a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The poll, taken shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, reported that about half of American adults believe police violence against the public is a “very” or “extremely” serious problem. Last September, that same poll showed only about one-third of American adults felt that way.

       That is a significant change in a short period of time on a controversial social issue. The poll also revealed that 61 percent of Americans say police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person. That compares with 49 percent in 2015. And only about a third of Americans say the race of a person does not make a difference in the police use of deadly force. In 2015, half of Americans felt that way. Significantly, 65 percent said that police officers who cause injury or death in the course of their job are treated too leniently by the justice system, a 24-point increase over 2015.

        The poll results, along with the nationwide demonstrations protesting the way police took Floyd into custody — an officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes while three officers stood by and watched — suggest that Americans are finally ready to  rethink the role of police in their communities. Indeed, there has been a flurry of legislative action at city, state and federal levels to redefine the police mission, reduce police budgets, rethink training and recruiting, strip forces of military hardware, even eliminate police forces since Floyd’s much-viewed death.

         The fact that Floyd’s death was recorded and played millions of times on social media and that, subsequently, other examples of police violence against peaceful protesters were similarly recorded and played on social media for the world to see certainly had to play a role in this dramatic sea change in public opinion, as compared to the slow change in societal attitudes on other issues such as same sex marriage. It was finally hard to deny what people were seeing with their own eyes, over and over again. 

        The polltakers say the sudden, dramatic change suggests that this may be a permanent shifting in attitude, rather than the transitory flurry of outrage that has followed school shootings, for example.

        This is, to me, good news. Long-overdue, perhaps, but still good news. Like the long-overdue beginning of the baseball season.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

The Week Everything Went Right

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

 The Supreme Court ruled that labor law protects LGBTQ rights.

The Supreme Court ruled that labor law protects LGBTQ rights.

    Sometimes, everything just falls into place, or, to put it another way, it all falls apart. Like Donald Trump’s week.

       You may have noticed that the Dotard had a very bad week last week, punctuated by a campaign “rally” in Tulsa that drew barely more than 6,000 faithful. The event, indeed the week, was a showcase for the now-familiar traits that define Trump — arrogance, laziness, pride, litigiousness, ignorance and callous disregard for anyone other than himself. To think there are some people who consider these to be attributes they want in a president used to astound me. Now, it saddens and angers me.

        Back to Trump’s week from hell.

        What ended dramatically in Tulsa began quietly in Washington, D,C., where John Roberts decided to act like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That is, the head of one of the three co-equal branches of government defined in the Constitution. Monday morning, with Roberts and new conservative favorite Neal Gorsuch joining the four liberal justices, the court ruled — against the Trump administration’s arguments — that the federal law which protects persons from being discriminated against in hiring and firing because of their sex applies to LGBTQs.

        The Trumpsters, catering to their conservative Christian supporters, had argued that someone could be fired — or not hired — simply on the basis of being gay. The court rejected that and, in a further jab at Trump, Gorsuch wrote the major decision. That same day, the court refused (7-2) to hear a Trump administration appeal of a California court ruling that upheld the state’s sanctuary law, which prohibits law enforcement officials from aiding federal agents in taking custody of immigrants as they are released from jail. And to top a week of attention-grabbing rulings, Roberts himself wrote the ruling which rejected the administration’s efforts to end the Dreamers program (DACA). The Chief Justice also chided Trump’s lawyers for their sloppy preparation and pointedly criticized Justicee Brett Kavanaugh’s arguments in the Dreamers as well as LGBTQ rulings.

     So, in one week, Roberts helped protect three vulnerable populations from the ego-driven whims of Trump, while also reminding him not to take the court for granted simply because he had recently appointed two supposedly friendly justices. Trump was thus reminded that presidents can’t fire Supreme Court justices. He, of course, took it personally, tweeting about whether the court didn’t like him. Roberts did not lower himself to reply.

     While this was going on, the White House was also in court trying to stop publication of a book — a typical Trump move, flying in the face of the Constitution and free speech. The book, by former national security adviser John Bolton, gives an insider‘s account of how the Trump White House operates. Which is to say, it is unflattering in its honesty. Bolton, no model of civic-mindedness, had refused to testify before Congress about this stuff, preferring to make a buck on what he witnessed (and participated in). The judge said the book could be published, mostly because it’s already been leaked and could easily be available on the Internet and there was no proof of risk to national security. Just to Trump’s ego.

      In the meantime, trying to get rid of another prosecutorial thorn in his side while no one was looking, Trump told Attorney General William Barr to get rid of Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Among other things, the prosecutor has been investigating Trump’s pre-White House dealings with Deutsche Bank, with bank fraud being the most often mentioned possible crime.

       Barr botched the job. He issued a statement Friday, when he hoped the world would be focused on the Trump anti-Covid rally in Oklahoma, saying that Berman had stepped down from his job. Berman promptly said that, no, he had not, adding that, since a federal judge had appointed him as a replacement, Barr could not fire him. Barr then said Trump had fired Berman. Trump was asked and, typically passing the responsibility buck, said he was not involved. It was Barr’s show. Confusion is another Trump trademark.

        Apparently, Barr got through to the Dotard and said, “Chief, if you want this done, you have to do it. But Berman won’t go quietly unless you name his deputy to succeed him.” And that’s how Audrey Strauss, who has worked closely with Berman on the Trump probe, came to be the new acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Trump got his man, but he may come to regret the whole messy, sloppy episode.

         And finally came Tulsa, in Oklahoma, where the wind not only came whistling down the plains, but could be heard whipping around a mostly empty arena Friday night. Never mind the million who had supposedly sought tickets on the Internet, there was nothing close to the 60,000 fans Trump’s team was expecting. The overflow venue was shut down early. The star rambled through an incoherent “speech” that featured him demonstrating an ability to drink water out of a glass with one hand and explaining the treachery of slippery ramps — both harking back to his previous week’s unsteady performance at West Point.

         The rally was meant to bring supporters out by showing a defiance of science and medicine and gathering en masse to show that virus a thing or two. The cherry on top of the week’s sundae was that the paltry crowd was apparently the result of an organized, nationwide social media effort to get teens and young voters to apply for free tickets on line but not show up. Wow! A million requests for tickets! Trump bragged earlier in the week, even as the campaign proceeded on social media. He and his team never saw it or never took it seriously. Lazy, Arrogant. Dumb. Dismissive.

      The Dotard showed up back at the White House late Friday night, looking disheveled and despondent. Unpresidential, to say the least. For him, the master of conceit, deceit and bluster (that could be a name for his law firm) it was a terrible week. Nothing went as “planned.” Everything fell apart. Or, to put it another way, for a change, everything fell into place.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Generosity and a Turbulent Awakening

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

BOB GAYDOS

The Report … the red shoes, racism and Kool-Aid

If they fit ...

If they fit … 

   They were sitting on top of a trash can outside the entrance to a supermarket we frequent. A pair of red shoes. Women’s slip-on loafers, worn but still wearable. Take us if you need us.

      You couldn’t miss seeing them as you entered the store. They were obviously not trash because they could have just been tossed into the bin on which they were resting. No, they were … a gift. If they had a card attached it might have said: “Times are tough. I don’t need these any more. Save your money for food. And water, if they have any inside.”

     But there was no card. Just the shoes, speaking silently. If the shoes fit, please take them. Do not be too proud. They have served me well. Wear them in good health.

    There’s a lot of pain and anger in the world right now. Also, fear, frustration, impatience, confusion and resentment, compounded by an appalling lack of responsible leadership by many of those elected to provide it. So we are left to our own devices. Generosity. Sharing. Compassion. Small gestures. All we need do is notice.

          — By the way … A few weeks back, I wrote about some “famous” people whose paths had crossed with mine and invited readers to share similar experiences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

— “I suspect this will be rejected as ”no words were exchanged,” but my run-in with Robin Williams was all in “mime.” Thus, words could not be spoken. In a world of exemptions I now claim this as mine. … In the early ‘80’s, while being part of an “art glass ” company, I was coming out of a meeting with architects somewhere in Manhattan. As I bounded the steps to the sidewalk I literally (and I mean literally) ran into Robin and two women. We reared up inches from each other’s noses, made faces, feigned shock and dismay, rotated around each other like an old cartoon and slowly backed away from each other fending each other off with glares and shock. No big deal, but fun to recall and relate.”

Ernie Miller

 — “Ok, here goes …. Trumpeters extraordinaire Raphael Mendez, Harry James, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen, and Al Hirt.  (Yes, I used to play trumpet and heard each of them perform in concert.)  Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsburg, Jane Fonda, poet Robert Lowell, Jules Feiffer, Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., Dr. Benjamen Spock, actors Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theater, photographer Karl Bissenger, Grace Paley, Tom Hayden, Dave Dellinger, Dorothy Day, Phil and Daniel Berrigan, Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Al Lowry, and Jesse Jackson.”

Jim Bridges

(Jim noted that many of his meetings were the result of his active participation in the civil rights movement.)

      Unfortunately, the internet has misfiled or erased details on Sean Kober’s dinner with Floyd Patterson, Moe Mitterling’s interview with Roy Campanella, Debra Scacciaferro’s meetings with famous authors and someone (!) shaking hands with Princess Di. Apologies and thanks.

       — By the way … All it took was a worldwide explosion of demonstrations condemning police violence against blacks for the NFL to recognize that Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem was a remarkably restrained and dignified way of expressing his outrage. Now, some team needs to give him a job as a quarterback.

        — By the way … While we’re at it, how about NASCAR finally acknowledging that all those Confederate flags at their races were not a symbol of a proud moment in our nation’s history? It’s as if millions of Americans — white Americans — suddenly realized what the Civil War was all about. And who lost.

      — By the way … It takes an extraordinary amount of chutzpah to go around calling COVID-19 a hoax, not wearing a mask, and encouraging everyone to go about business as usual and to then host a large political rally in a state where cases of the virus are spiking and at which attendees will be required to sign a waiver of responsibility for the host if the attendees happen to, you know, get COVID-19. What it takes to sign that waiver is an extraordinary amount of Kool-Aid.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Predictably Pre-conditioned Police

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

The lead pre-cog in “Minority Report.”

The lead pre-cog in “Minority Report.”

     Most recent lockdown movie watched was “Minority Report,“ starring Tom Cruise. Talk about synchronicity.

     Cruise plays a police officer in the mid-21st century who is part of a special unit that arrests people for “pre-crimes.“ That is, crimes they were about to commit. Usually, the “pre-crime“ is murder.

     The “pre-crimes“ are predicted by pre-cogs — three drugged human beings floating in a pool of warm water who are wired to a computer system that allows others (the police) to monitor what is going on in the pre-cogs‘ minds. Precognition. The three, one female and two males, can see the future. They predict pre-murder victim and pre-murderer, as well as date and time. Cruise has to figure out where and get there in time to stop the crime and make an arrest, even though no crime has been committed. The pre-cogs are supposed to be infallible. It turns out they’re not. Cruise finds this out when he himself is named as a pre-murderer and has to prove his innocence before any crime is committed. 

       By now, the police in the film have become pre-conditioned to believe in precognition: This is what the precogs say, so it must be true. You did intend to kill this person. You are under arrest for the pre-crime of homicide. It’s kind of like some police today have become preconditioned to believe that if a male is black, he must be guilty of something and is dangerous to boot, so use whatever force is necessary in making an arrest. And the system says it’s justified.

        Just as the pre-cogs’ reputation for accuracy was based on a lie, so the preconditioning of some of today’s real-life police officers is based on generations of lies. George Floyd’s death in the custody of police in Minneapolis is the latest in a dismal series of similar incidents that entered my consciousness in Middletown, N.Y., in 1986. That the country and, in fact, much of the world has risen up to protest Floyd’s death is encouraging, but tragically long overdue.

       I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, the local paper, when Jimmy Lee Bruce, a 20-year-old black man, died in the back of a patrol car near Middletown on Dec. 13, 1986. He and a group of friends from Ellenville, N.Y., had gone to a movie theater in a mall outside Middletown. The group became rowdy. There was drinking involved. Two white, off-duty Middletown police officers, acting as security guards, escorted the group out of the theater. A scuffle ensued. An officer applied a chokehold to Bruce and tossed him in the back of a police car, which had brought two on-duty Town of Wallkill police officers to the scene.

       The police then drove around for 7½ minutes looking for Bruce’s friends. When they returned to the theater, a state trooper, who had also arrived on the scene, shined a flashlight in the back of the patrol car and noticed the young man was not responding to the light. Police rushed him to a nearby hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.

       In my previous experience as a reporter talking to plenty of lawyers I had been told that any district attorney worth his salt could indict a ham sandwich. Apparently this was baloney. A grand jury considering the case ruled that Bruce’s death was an accident because the officers had used a technique – the chokehold (they called it a “sleeper”) — for which they had not been trained and which actually was prohibited by their department.

        There have since been too many similar stories between Bruce and Floyd, including Eric Garner, a victim of a chokehold applied by police on Staten Island in 2015. Excessive force used by a police officer resulting in the death of a black male and, most of the time, no action taken against the officer. You could almost predict it. Preconditioning.

         Following Bruce’s death, I wrote an editorial (later read into The Congressional Record on March 25, 1987 by Rep. Matthew F. McHugh) that said the grand jury that cleared the four police officers had actually indicted a system that had failed to properly train its police in handling such situations and for being slow to investigate the case, “raising suspicions of bigotry.” Would that I had the pre-cogs available to me then.

         The same factors, predictably, applied to the Eric Garner case 18 years later. Precognition? No. Preconditioning. Little had happened in the ensuing years to change the way most police departments recruit, train and discipline police officers. In fact, the situation was worsened by the giveaway of all kinds of military grade weapons to police departments. Without the proper training and handling of civil disturbances, such weapons will be used. And they were.

          So now, in the face of massive demonstrations including in front of the White House where a cowering Donald Trump fled to the bunker in the basement, politicians and police officials are finally recognizing what needed to be done more than 30 years ago: Diversify police recruiting. Weed out applicants with sketchy records. Give recruits more training on how to talk to the public, how to de-escalate tense situations and how to use force properly. Make it their duty to speak out about improper use of force. Get rid of that military hardware. Stop dressing like storm troopers. Become involved in the community. Act swiftly and surely to punish officers who abuse their position. Reestablish justice department review of police departments whose behavior is challenged by the public. Educate all officers on the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly. Make the entire community part of this reconditioning process.

      It’s not impossible, not even difficult. It just needs a unified commitment to doing so. There have been moderately successful efforts in cities across the country to reform police departments in the wake of public outcry over the deaths, usually, of black males at the hands of police. Here in Middletown, police actually joined demonstrators recently in marching peacefully for reform. 

      “Black Lives Matter“ has now made this a national priority. In fact, the House of Representatives and the New York State Legislature have introduced legislation to ban the use of chokeholds by police — 34 years too late for Jimmy Lee Bruce, but perhaps just in time for future generations of black males.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Why Vote for Biden? Simple: Trump

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

Biden and Trump

Biden and Trump

Strange world.

     Recently, a contributor to a Facebook group to which I belong asked members if they could give some reasons to vote for Joe Biden “without mentioning Trump.”

      My initial reaction (admittedly a bit sarcastic) was to comment: “Why?”

      Upon further thought, I have decided my initial reaction was correct. In my opinion, there is no reason this year to quibble over issues. The only compelling issue in this presidential election is to remove from office the man who has made a mockery of everything Americans used to like to brag this country stands for. Donald Trump.

      Truthfully, any of the candidates who sought the Democratic nomination for president would be acceptable to me over Trump. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is more than qualified, having served as a vice president to Barack Obama for eight years and in the U.S. Senate before that. What Biden’s views are on Medicare-for-all or global warming or income disparity do not matter to me in the sense that he actually understands those issues and knows how to work with people to achieve a consensus while the one-who-shall-not-be-mentioned has encouraged people to take bleach to fight off COVID-19, then announced he was taking an unproven and occasionally lethal drug for the same purpose, counter to the medical advice of virtually every doctor in the world. His personal doctor came up with some Mickey Mouse reason just to keep his job.

       So, really? What do I like about Biden? For starters, he won’t tell me to drink bleach. 

       And here’s another thing — if Democrats learn to stick together for the future of the country, they will in all likelihood also regain control of the Senate, removing Mitch McConnell from the majority leader post he has used to enrich himself and other Republican senators and donors while allowing the unnamed one to do the same while escaping any consequences for a long list of illegal, unconstitutional, immoral and just plain stupid actions.

     Indeed, McConnell has been the worst actor in this horror show of a government because he could have stopped it at any time but hasn’t. Republicans, having lost their minds in 2016 (along with a lot of non-Republicans) with their presidential choice, have now lost their souls and any claim to being a respectable political party.

     What is astonishing to me is how deep the hold of the fear of retribution from national Republican leaders goes on a local level. The silence from local Republicans regarding the bleach-pushing, woman-hating, racist, narcissistic con man in the White House is beyond deafening. Private complaining doesn’t count if you’re a public official.

    Why Biden, you ask? How about this — evangelical preachers don’t like him. They love the other guy. At least they say they do. I say they deserve each other. Everything about them is false and self-serving. They prey upon the desperate and gullible.

     Case in point —  Norma McCorvey. Until a couple of days ago, few people knew that name. But millions knew her as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision. As it happens, I recently wrote about her in a column about “famous” people I have met. She was perhaps the most unknown famous person in my experience. She visited the newspaper I was working for in her campaign to undo the court ruling which gives a woman the right to control her own body and choose to have an abortion.

      McCorvey, who died in 2017, was going around the country in the mid-90s saying she had changed her mind, had become a Christian, had unbecome a lesbian and was now opposed to abortion. I don’t remember being particularly impressed with her professed change of heart and mind and sexual preference. Well, it turns out she was lying. In what she called a “deathbed confession” in a recently released movie, “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey says she was paid by conservative evangelical preachers to say she had changed her mind and was no longer pro-choice. Paid nearly half a million dollars to say so. She said, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.”

       McCorvey’s life had been a series of being used and abused. She was homeless and too poor to afford an abortion back in the ‘70s when she became the symbol of the pro-choice movement. In the ‘90s, she was still needy, but more media savvy. The money looked good to her. Evangelicals followed their script: If you don’t have right and decency on your side, lie. Lie to raise money. Raise money to lie. Lie to raise more money, etc.

       Evangelicals say they love Trump. It’s a lie of convenience. He knows it and accepts the benefits he can reap from it. Their “deal” is pathetic and transparent, yet it has swindled millions of dollars from gullible believers

       So, why Biden? Because I’m not gullible. Because Trump and his Republican and evangelical enablers are out to destroy this country and have made a lot of headway. Because I’m about to turn 79 years old and spent more than half a century proudly describing myself as a journalist and Trump has labeled me an “enemy of the people.“ You bet it’s personal. Because, let me be clear, the future of America is at stake and the threat is named Trump. There, I said it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com