Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

A Quiet Walk Midst an Insurrection

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos   

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

  I took a walk around the pond  Wednesday afternoon, January 6, a little before 4:30. It was cold, but still light out. The sun had just begun to set. As I walked I thought about how lucky — privileged — I was to be able to enjoy such a quiet moment in such a beautiful place in such a shithole country.

    No, friends and family, I haven’t moved. I still live in America, in a particularly scenic part of it, I think. For new readers, that place is upstate New York. It’s a place where a man can be alone to enjoy nature, if the man turns off his electronic devices.

     Two hours of watching live news reports out of Washington, D.C., had made me feel something I had never felt before — a combination of fear, anger, sadness, shame and profound outrage. The calming words and presence of President-elect Joe Biden had finally broken the spell the scenes of chaos had cast on me. It will end, I told myself. It will not succeed. There aren’t enough of them. They are all fury and delusion, taking selfies as they lay waste to the seat of government of the country they profess to love. Ignorance and arrogance, the Trump formula. In the end, it fails, but oh the harm it does. He doesn’t care. They, the rioters, are too dumb to know. That’s the nicest way I can put it. Or they are racists. Or both.

       Those are the facts. And for several hours on a Wednesday afternoon, as our Congress was attempting to perform its constitutional duty of confirming a new president,  these “Make America Great Again” terrorists made it look like one of those “shithole countries“ their leader once referred to with intent to insult. Yep, that’s what it looked like to me. …

                                                        ***.                                     

        … As I resume writing, it is now a week later. Trump has been impeached, again. Incitement to insurrection. Five people died in the attempted coup on The Capitol, including a police officer who was beaten to death by the rioters. White rterrorists carrying a Blue Lives Matter flag killed a Capitol police officer. They spread feces and urine throughout the building. They ransacked offices and went looking for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. The whole time, the rioters took selfies of themselves. Eventually, they went home or some D.C. bar, apparently thinking that would be the end of it. Just a friendly little failed insurrection in the nation’s capital, broadcast live around the world.

           If you stop to think about it – and apparently the rioters did not — the ignorance is astounding. It is surpassed only by the hypocrisy of the Republican members of Congress who encouraged and invited the assault and who voted against seating Biden as the duly elected president, even after the insurrection had been quelled. They stuck to the lies of the election being stolen from Trump, even though every one of them – except for perhaps a couple of conspiracy lunatics — knows that that is a lie. It was Trump’s biggest and most dangerous lie. In truth, a treasonous lie.

         Since that now infamous Wednesday, much more has been revealed about the attack on the Capitol. It wasn’t as innocent as it first appeared. There was a plan. There may have been inside help from some Republican members of Congress. Maybe even from the Capitol police, who were woefully unprepared for a massive event that was announced well in advance. There was a delay in getting National Guard troops to the scene, perhaps caused by someone in the Defense Department.

          There will be investigations. May they go on for as long as necessary and bring to justice all those who we’re involved in this assault on America. Every last one of them. Homegrown terrorists. White supremacists. Members of Congress. Conspiracy nuts. Nazis. Klansmen. Racists. Pick a name. The list includes police and ex-military members as well. The attackers were virtually all white, which is why they are still alive. Lock them all up. People who bring swastikas and Confederate flags to attack the seat of the government of the United States of America deserve no mercy.

           Trump now stands accused by Congress and convicted by the majority of the American people and the rest of the world of Inciting an attempted overthrow of a duly elected government. But his accomplices in the Republican Party are also guilty. They have ignored his assault on democratic principles for four years, out of fear or for their own gain or because they agreed with him. They deserve what they’re reaping. The party deserves to die. May it be reborn in some semblance of a responsible political party, perhaps including those Republicans who had the courage to speak out publicly and fight against Trumpism.

            America has been put on notice. There are those among us, appearing publicly as patriotic citizens, but operating out of hate and fear that their dream of a white, Christian nation with everyone else second-class citizens, is about to die. And in their foolhardy effort to avoid that fate, they may have actually hastened it. Republicans who remained silent, evangelicals who remained silent as Trump ravaged democracy, all stand indicted. Those who supported him financially along the way and now seek to distance themselves, all stand indicted. Rupert Murdoch and Fox News stand indicted. 

            In a country Trump would call a “shithole,” those seeking to overthrow the government usually try to get the military on their side if they hope to succeed. When they don’t, they don’t. As I watched with Lester Holt on NBC News as the idiots stormed the Capitol, I kept thinking, well, sooner or later troops with weapons and bullets will arrive. Hopefully, with orders to shoot. I also was dumbfounded that people were posting images of themselves on the Internet as they perpetrated this terrorist attack against this nation and gave no thought to the fact that this would make it easy to track them down and arrest them. Ignorance and arrogance.

              Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but the first thing is not to give into Republican pleas of coming together for the good of the country. They spent four years quietly watching Trump tearing the country apart. They must pay the price. I repeat, there are many more of us than them and what is necessary now is for all who know and love and respect what this nation is about to speak out forcefully in defense of it. Bring to justice those responsible. Convict Trump. Convict him again and again on whatever charges may be filed when he leaves office. Teach young people that actions have accountability. When we get around to it, teach young people about civics and government and history in school again. Clearly a lot of Americans slept through those classes. Evangelical Christians are on their own in this one.

           Joe Biden faces a monumental task when he becomes president on January 20, but he will have full control of the Congress to back him up and, I believe, fervent support of a vast majority of Americans as well. That white mob that assaulted the capital was an embarrassment to this nation, but maybe a lesson as well. American exceptionalism was put to the lie.

            No, this is not a “shithole” country, yet. I can still take a quiet walk around the pond every day. But those who would take the right to feel that safe and at home in this country away from anyone whose skin color or nationality or religion or politics they find fault with must know there can be no healing until the wounds are closed, Not until the guilty are prosecuted and those who aided and abetted admit their guilt. Not until journalists are not casually referred to as “enemies of the people.” Not until children are not put in cages. Not until all lives truly matter.                      

            Enough.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

         

           

            

         

          

Trump Leaves a Stain, if not a Brand

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Work continues on the old Trump casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It will be imploded this year.

Work continues on the  demolition of the old Trump casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It will be imploded this year.

    Donald Trump, as he often brags, is all about branding. Indeed, his entire career has been about slapping his name on something … and then running it into the ground through incompetence and illegal practices. 

     Thus far, nothing, be it a casino, a college or a charity, has escaped his capacity for self-destruction, for tarnishing the one thing he loves above all — his brand.

      Now, as he challenges the certified results of a fair election with lies, threats and hints of violence, he’s in the midst of his most ambitious destructive campaign of all. The target is the Constitution. Our Constitution. The one all Americans supposedly learned lessons about in school, but millions of us, including some Republican members of Congress, have apparently forgotten..

      Trump’s four years in office have been a non-stop assault on the rule of law and the principles laid out by the nation‘s founders more than two centuries ago. They have also been a gross insult to the office of the presidency as he has sought, by hook or by crook, to put his brand on it. Loyalty to him was rewarded. Independence and respect for the law was attacked. Political rivals became enemies to be ridiculed, much in the manner of the schoolyard bully.

      Always, though, like the bully, when push came to shove, if Trump did not have sycophants to protect him (Senate Republicans on his impeachment), he retreated into his world of lies and lawsuits. His lawsuits on the election results were farcical and insulting. His lies … well he clearly can’t stop. That leaves threat. As usual, it’s couched in language intended to sound positive.

      “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” Trump said Monday night in Georgia, where he was supposedly campaigning for two corrupt Republican senators who deserve to be stripped of their jobs.

       I’d say poor Mike Pence, but the mute Vice President deserves to be put on the spot: Declare Trump the winner even though the votes and the Constitution say otherwise. Pence has no choice Wednesday but to declare Joe Biden the next president, then prepare for the insults from Trump. Pence knows that. But instead of walking in to the Oval Office and invoking the 25th Amendment and making himself president for a few weeks, he’s let the Trump enablers in the Senate have their moment of seditious drama, intended for the audience of loyal Trumpsters. It’s a cynical ploy worthy of Trump, who clearly has put his brand on the once-proud Republican Party. May it suffer the fate of his other brand ventures.

    But while applying his unmistakable brand to the GOP, Trump has also left a stain on the presidency and the Constitution that is worse than anything he has done in private life … that we know about thus far.

     And so, as Georgia counts votes tonight and Congress counts votes tomorrow, millions of Americans stand by, with masks, sanitizer and gallons of tarnish remover, to help President-elect Joe Biden scrub and scrape the stain and stench of the Trump name from the presidency and ensure that the Constitution, though somewhat bruised, has not been rebranded. That Trump has failed once again.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

      

Streaming My Way Through a Pandemic

Friday, January 1st, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 

George Clooney and Brad Pitt, streaming in one of the “Ocean’s” movies.

George Clooney and Brad Pitt, streaming in one of the “Ocean’s” movies.

    Apropos of nothing, the list below represents a significant portion of my at-home viewing entertainment in 2020, the year of the pandemic. If it’s representative of anything, it’s what I did when I wasn’t writing about you know who.

      I don’t see any pattern in the list, except maybe that George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Paul Newman, Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington all appear more than once. What the offerings all have in common is that they were not on television. All were streamed, thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Disney Plus. If the stock market is reflective of anything, it appears a lot of other folks were passing the time streaming 2020 as well.

      Everything on the list is a movie, not a series. (I’m counting “Mangrove” as a stand-alone.) There were a few of those, too, as well as varied educational offerings, which I have been told will help to keep my mind razor sharp.

      But these are all one-shot features, some old, some new. I’m not critiquing any, but I do welcome any comments or questions you may have on the list as well as recommendations for 2021. I’m serious. I found this to be one of the few things that people could talk about last year without arguing and that I could write about without using the word, “Dotard.” …

     Darn. Habit. Happy New Year and happy streaming.

The List:

The Laundromat

The Pianist

The Commuter

Book Club

Julie/Julia

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Philadelphia 

The Danish Girl

The Peacemaker

The Coldest Game

Ladies in Lavender

A Serious Man

An Inspector Calls

The Rainmaker

Where the Money Is

Hail, Caesar!

The Double

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Battered Bastards of Baseball

Nobody’s Fool

Quartet

Minority Report

Rocket Man 

To Catch a Thief

The Gardener

Ocean’s Twelve

Ocean’s Thirteen

The Social Dilemma

Secret in Their Eyes

Cafe Society

The Departed

Halston 

My Octopus Teacher 

Hank

Man of the Year

Mangrove

The Dressmaker

Cookie’s Fortune

Greyhound

Margot Fonteyn

Uncle Frank

Bombshell

Deja Vu

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Bikram

Diana: The Royal Truth

Pippin

Amazon Empire

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

There Will be a Dr. in the White House

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos   

Dr Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

Dr. Jill Biden, a working teacher and soon to be First Lady.

  Where to begin?

     With the sophomoric hit job by someone who obviously considers himself to be a man of letters?

     With the preening joy in gratuitously insulting the future First Lady of the United States by calling her “kiddo”?

     With the utterly unconvincing “argument” offered in defense of his “point”?

     With the clear anti-elitist snobbery of the author?

     With the decision by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page editor to print the column?

     With the subsequent decision by that editor, Paul Gigot, to defend his decision by insulting those who objected to it?

     With Gigot’s belittling of the criticism — of which there was plenty — by dismissing it as political and “playing the race or gender card”?

     With the obvious problem many conservatives in this country have with intelligent, accomplished women?

     With the problem many conservatives have with higher education in general?

     With The Wall Street Journal perhaps confusing itself with its neighbor and sister Murdoch paper, The New York Post?

     With the egotistical “old fart” attitude of the author who obviously feels he can say whatever he pleases as.long as he drops a name and mentions a fact or two about himself that he thinks will establish him as a modest, if brilliant, regular guy?

       Yes, I’m talking about the opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal encouraging soon-to-be First Lady Jill Biden to drop the “Dr.” in front of her name. The author, Joseph Epstein, wrote: “Madame First Lady—Mrs. Biden—Jill—kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the ‘Dr.’ before your name? ‘Dr. Jill Biden’ sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.” He also called the title of Biden’s dissertation that led to a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware “unpromising.”

        A real charmer, this Epstein. So let’s start with the old fart, who has apparently made a career of insulting women, gays and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to his narrow, exclusionary, view of the world. I feel qualified to toss the “old fart” label around since, at 79, I am a mere four years younger than Epstein and have been called the same. Takes one to know one.

      His basic argument about the use of the Doctor title by Biden is that today it doesn’t mean anything, unless you’re a medical doctor. He says. He says the honorific has been cheapened by relaxed requirements. He just says these things with only anecdotal comments to support them while also noting “modestly” that he didn’t have what it took to attain a doctorate back in the day. Since Epstein is 83, the day was, well, way back.  

     There’s a lot of “just one of the guys” shtick in the column as he tries to justify the rudeness and crudeness of his approach. (Kind of reminds one of a certain orange-haired president.) For example, Epstein writes: “I taught at Northwestern University for 30 years without a doctorate or any advanced degree. I have only a B.A. in absentia from the University of Chicago—in absentia because I took my final examination on a pool table at Headquarters Company, Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the peacetime Army in the late 1950s.”

      Swell. Well, I was a reporter and editor on daily newspapers for more than 40 years, including 23 years of writing daily editorials and I have only a B.A. in English, from Adelphi University, which I received six months before reporting in December of 1963 for basic training to Fort Dix, N.J., where I drank 3.2 beer. It was a stint that was delayed by the assassination of John F. Kennedy during the Vietnam War era. So what?

      Epstein again: “I do have an honorary doctorate, though I have to report that the president of the school that awarded it was fired the year after I received it, not, I hope, for allowing my honorary doctorate.” (That doctorate was from, I believe,  none other than my Adelphi University, which fired Peter Diamandopoulos in 1997 for conflicts of interest and lavish. lifestyle.) Epstein then goes on at length to ridicule the excesses of schools awarding honorary doctorates, which is a valid point, but has nothing to do with Dr. Biden’s doctorate, which was more than honorable. 

       Epstein also “casually” drops the name of his “friend,” the late Sol Linowitz, as an example of someone who had a huge collection of honorary doctorates, dismissing the possibility that perhaps Linowitz, a man of many accomplishments, deserved all the honors. I can’t match that super friend connection, but, like Epstein, apropos of nothing, I once shook hands with Jackie Robinson and Jesse Jackson (different times and places) and they had major impacts on society, too. Maybe even honorary doctorates.

       Just a brief research on Epstein (Wikipedia) revealed that he was eventually fired from his job as editor of The American Scholar, the magazine for Phi Beta Kappas, for his unrelenting anti-feminist views and refusal to allow any counter arguments to the arch-conservative writers he welcomed to his editorial page. He once called feminist scholars “dykes on bikes.” He was editor of the magazine for 21 years and, if anything, one might wonder how such smart people put up with him for so long. 

        Epstein also wrote a piece in 1970 for Harpers Magazine in which he called homosexuality “a curse, in a literal sense.” If he could, he said, “I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.”

        So this is the expert Gigot chose to attack Jill Biden in The Wall Street Journal, maybe feeling the Fox News loudmouths we’re getting too much love from the uber-conservative audience. But then Gigot, criticized mercilessly on social media, inexplicably feels he must defend his decision to publish Epstein’s hit job and to use Epstein’s favorite weapon — claiming “identity politics” — in dismissing comments from the Biden campaign critical of the piece. Gigot: “My guess is that the Biden team concluded it was a chance to use the big gun of identity politics to send a message to critics as it prepares to take power. There’s nothing like playing the race or gender card to stifle criticism.”

        Nonsense. First of all, if Gigot thought Epstein made a legitimate point and decided to run the column, then he should simply have stood by his decision. Period. That’s why he’s the editor. The column may have been insulting, but it wasn’t libelous. (I have a little experience in this regard. Once upon a time, Rupert Murdoch also owned the paper for which I worked. He left us pretty much alone because we made money. As editor of the editorial page, I was called a left-wing, pinko more times than I can remember, but people still managed to find their way to the opinion section.)

        Of course, Gigot also had the option to simply say, “I don’t know what I was thinking. I had a brain freeze. The guy is a jerk. I’ll try not to do that again.“

        But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to go along with the currently popular Republican position that higher education is something to be mocked and accomplished people, including a future First Lady, are to be subjects of ridicule. How he feels this plays to the resumes and prejudices of readers of The Wall Street Journal is beyond me. 

       In the fallout from the article, Northwestern University and its English Department have apparently condemned Mr. non-PhD Epstein and the university removed him from its page of emeritus professors. Gigot called called it an example of “cancel culture,” another phrase conservatives like to throw around these days. But since Epstein doesn’t think much of titles, he shouldn’t mind.

        Of Biden, Epstein wrote, “A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”

        Well, Joe, another wise man (an uncharacteristically unhumble me) once said, “There’s nothing so unappealing and unconvincing as a whiny, old, misogynistic homophobe full of regret that he didn’t achieve a distinction that he might have and envious of a classy woman who did.” Think about it, kiddo, and drop the act.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

At parties, even in the age of Covid 19, “No thank you“ is a complete sentence

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
4435B31C-C139-4733-A848-5B49FD50C6EE  I’ve written a column on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. A staple of the column has been a sort of “word to the wise“ on how to survive the holidays for those in recovery. It also serves as a guide to party hosts who may not be in recovery.
This year, things are more complicated. For starters, the parties have to be much smaller and confined to people you have good reason to believe are Covid free. Large parties, especially with strangers, are out. Hopefully the vaccines work and we can return to bigger gatherings next year. But even at small gatherings, the risks to those in recovery are real. So listen up.

This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

“No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.

By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.

If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.

If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.

And for those in recovery, remember to bring a phone with plenty of numbers and have a way to leave the party if you become too uncomfortable. There will be other parties, but there may not be another recovery.

Be smart and enjoy. Have a mask handy or, if need be, make a virtual appearance this year. Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

Wear a Mask; Don’t be Like Rudy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

   Rudy’s got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

  “Hallelujah!” Scream millions on Facebook and Twitter. Also, “Karma;” “Serves him right;” “He probably spread it over half the country;” “Stupid spreader;” and, “I don’t wish anybody dead, but …”

      How far the mighty have fallen. How sad the daily sight of the onetime “America’s Mayor” making a fool of himself in court and anywhere he can arrange an audience in public in order to symbolically and delusionally prostrate himself at the feet of a man who doesn’t care about him and who will never pay his legal fees.

      And all without a mask. Everywhere. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, the White House. Rudy’s got it. Jenna Ellis, one of his equally delusional “co-counsels,” has it as well. Where’d they get it? Who knows? Who’d they give it to? No idea. No contact tracing as well as no social distancing.

      And no masks.

      What is it with Americans — especially a lot of Republicans — who won’t wear a mask? It’s the easiest and best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with proper social distancing. If everybody does it, fewer people get it, fewer people die, the sooner we can go back to work and we don’t have to wear masks. That’s not even new math. It’s just common sense and decency.

     We’re approaching 300,000 dead from Covid-19 in this country, a great many of those deaths the result of a total lack of planning and caring by the Trump administration. Criminal negligence writ large. Trump doesn’t care anymore. He’s focused on raising as much money as he can with his phony “the election was rigged” campaign. The one Rudy was in charge of until he got Covid. Inconvenient.

      Also embarrassing: The world found out about Rudy and Covid in a tweet from Trump. It’s a surprise the news didn’t get lost in that Twitter chaos.

      It’s hard to know what happened to Rudy. He took his 9/11 fame and prominence, conducted a half-hearted campaign for president a while back, then apparently decided to be a lackey and legal errand boy for Donald Trump, a job with great visibility and occasional perks, until you cross him. Spread the conspiracy theories. Make up new ones every day. Ukraine today, Philadelphia tomorrow.

       And whatever you do, don’t wear a mask. Not because there is no Covid. We know there’s a virus — Trump even got it — but because we can’t let all those people coming to our rallies know that it’s real. We can’t let them know that we ignored it and let tens of thousands of people die. We don’t wear masks whatever Fauci says. We were robbed! Help us fight it! Give us money! Don’t wear a mask! Only liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists and coastal elites wear masks! Real Americans don’t wear masks!

        Tell them, Rudy.

        So Rudy’s got Covid. I don’t wish him dead, but a little suffering might be good for him.

        Once upon a time I might’ve started this column by writing, “Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, has contracted the COVID-19 virus. The former New York City mayor apparently was exposed to the virus in the midst of his last-minute campaign to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.”

          But I spent four decades writing for tabloid newspapers and when a once-prominent political figure makes a fool of himself on a daily basis, that boils down to, “Rudy got Covid.” In bold type. He’s got the notoriety, but no longer the respect. He didn’t wear a mask.

         Now, I am not a Covid guerilla. In fact, I have even been chastised for occasionally being a little too casual in my own mask-wearing and social distancing. But I am of an age and I don’t like being considered expendable to the rest of the herd. So I learned. I try always to wear my mask properly (over the nose) and insist on social distancing. I even wear gloves. Also, my hands have never been cleaner. I also take vitamin D supplements and have type O blood, both of which have been reported as good things to have to avoid Covid-19. But if I’ve got it without symptoms, I don’t want to pass it on to you and, in return, I don’t want you to pass it on to me. It’s pretty simple. Science and respect. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be like Rudy.

       Wear a mask.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Playing Musical Monoliths; With Whom?

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 The monolith in Utah. The first three that have mysteriously appeared.

The monolith in Utah. The first of three that have mysteriously appeared.

     They’re here. 

      Who’s here? Where?

     Them! They’re here. Well, actually, they seem to be everywhere.

       Who?

       Them. You know, the ones who planted a 10-foot tall, three-sided silver monolith into the rocky ground of an isolated section of southeast Utah populated only by bighorn sheep. Not to mention another monolith in Romania and another one in California. What a week. No sooner did one disappear than another appeared. It’s like a game of musical monoliths, without the music. As far as we know.

        What do you mean?

       Well, the three monoliths all popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, in remote areas of the planet, at the same time the Arecibo Radio Observatory, our famed ear to the universe, was falling down on itself in Puerto Rico. It’s almost as if there’s a silent message in the monoliths.

         But the Utah monolith was gone two days after it appeared — what’s up with that?

        Well, it was reportedly carted off by a bunch of preserve the wilderness types. “Leave no trace,” you know? Their thinking is that some artist planted the monolith in a desolate part of Utah, but that it really belonged in a museum. A lot of people made the connection with the “2001”  monolith. A joke, they said. In any event, the wilderness group apparently tracked it down — like a lot of other people – knocked it down and took it away, rivets and all. The removers also supposedly said they didn’t think it was safe to have a lot of people wandering around in such rugged, isolated country looking for the object.

       Somebody supposedly also took pictures of the whole removal operation and some people wrote media reports on it. Everyone said definitively that the monolith wasn’t the work of extraterrestrials. After all, it had rivets.

        Now, I’m not a big conspiracy guy, but I’m also more inclined to go with synchronicity over coincidence. And, our government has been known to hide information pertaining to possible connection with alien contact. No one knows who planted the Utah monolith and no one checked on the crew that removed it. And no one knows how the one in Romania appeared and disappeared. Or where the one in California came from.

       So what are you saying?

      Think about it. The planet is a mess right now. Pandemic — a million-and-a-half deaths. Global warming. Widespread hunger.  Economic instability. Polluted waters. Constant war. Racial strife. Trump.

       Too much entropy. Disorder on a global scale. The universe, we believe, prefers order. It might have grown tired of waiting for our tiny part of it to figure things out and sent some clues to help restore some sense of order. I think they may have finally lost patience with us. I mean, time may be relative and all, but even the universe apparently has its limits. Enough is enough, you know?

      What could the message possibly be? Maybe, take a break from killing each other. Stop polluting your air and water. Learn to live with all forms of life so you don’t kill yourselves with disease. Share your food. Educate your young people. Live by the rules your religions profess. Love and respect one another. We are all in this together.

        The message and the means to lowering the entropy may well have been contained in one or all of the monoliths, but we couldn’t decipher it. Or not. The monoliths may simply have been planted to get our attention off the chaos we have caused. But by whom?

        I live in an area known as the UFO capital of the Northeast. Pine Bush, N.Y. I know no one has reported seeing any UFOs in connection with any of the monoliths, but who says extraterrestrials have to travel only in ways that we earthlings can imagine. Maybe they don’t need rockets to move through time and space. Maybe they look like us. Maybe they’re not green. Who knows? In any event, I wouldn’t mind seeing one of these monoliths appear in our neighborhood. Smack dab in the middle of Main Street in front of Pudgy’s’ pizzeria. I can pretty much guarantee there wouldn’t be a great rush to tear it down and cart it off to who knows where. Some people around here are serious about learning about intelligent life not of this planet.

       We earthlings are predictably set in our ways of thinking of many things, including extraterrestrial intelligence. Little green men and UFOs. They don’t use rivets. Or stainless steel. But why not? How do we know? Yes, maybe these really were just clever pranks by an international — synchronistic? — conspiracy of artists. Maybe we should then thank them for reminding us of our infinitesimal place in the universe and how we’re destroying it. And, maybe we should try to think about where the idea for such a conspiracy came from in the first place. Maybe Arecibo wasn’t the only way to receive messages from elsewhere. Maybe the universe has other ways of communicating. Maybe there’s a message right before our eyes.

         Never mind out there; maybe they’re here already.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

On Science … Some Fake, Some Real

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

The Arecibo Observatory in Puertu Rico is being decommissioned.

The Arecibo Observatory in Puertu Rico is being decommissioned.

        While states were counting and recounting votes to keep proving that Joe Biden convincingly won the 2020 presidential election, there were three significant scientific events the past week. This is a brief look at all three. It is offered as a kind of public service, since, if there’s one thing the last four years have demonstrated, it’s that many Americans have a tenuous, at best, relationship with science.

  1. Atlas shrugged. Dr. Scott Atlas, the quack White House coronavirus adviser, told Fox News viewers to ignore the advice of public health experts who warned Americans to avoid indoor family gatherings this Thanksgiving because the virus was spiking again in America. Atlas is a professor of neuroradiology with no background in public health. Not only did he tell American families to gather together for the holidays, he said it was for the good of their elderly relatives, those most susceptible to being seriously impacted by the virus. He said: “This kind of isolation advice is one of the unspoken tragedies of the elderly who are now being told don’t see your family at Thanksgiving. For many people, this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not. What are we doing here?” In other words, hey, they’re probably gonna die soon anyway, let them eat turkey on the way out. Never mind that gramps might be planning on a few more Thanksgivings. Callous doesn’t even cover this attitude. Atlas also says masks don’t protect against the virus and is a fan of so-called “herd immunity” — let the youngest and strongest prevail. The doc’s Stanford colleagues disagreed with his prescription, as did many members of the White House task force and pretty much every public health expert, all of whom were shocked at his casual disregard for older Americans. Of course, this anti-science attitude is what got him named to the Trump task force in the first place. Only the best.
  2. The CDC spoke up. Basically, it said do the opposite of what Atlas said. This is significant because, for much of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control, which should have been leading the effort to control the spread of the virus, has been muzzled by the Trump Administration. Here’s what the agency said: “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” This is not necessarily what you want to hear, but it’s short and to-the-point science with Covid-related deaths approaching 250,000 in this country. 
  3. Arecibo went silent. Oh no, what will Jodie Foster do? The famed radio observatory in Puerto Rico, which was featured in the movie, Contact, has suffered damage to two major cables that suspend the platform over the dish. Engineers for the National Science Foundation say it is not reparable because of the danger to the people who work there. Scientist said they should be able to preserve the visitors center and a couple of other scientific programs at the site, but the telescope, which has produced many scientific discoveries over nearly six decades, will be decommissioned. This is a major loss not only to NASA, but to the promotion and appreciation of science in general. That’s because Arecibo, which was vital to research in radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy, also was involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) programs. This is one area of science in which Americans actually demonstrates an interest, even if it is often based on science fiction. Its role in the search for ET gained Arecibo prominence and popularity with the general public through movies and TV shows. The observatory was featured in the James Bond thriller, GoldenEye, the sci-fi horror flick, Species, and the afore-mentioned Contact. The popular film was based on Carl Sagan’s wonderful novel of the same name. The observatory was also featured on TV in the X-Files episode “Little Green Men.” In the movie, Contact, Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, gives up a teaching position at Harvard University to take a seat at Arecibo’s radio telescope. Why? From the movie: Her supervisor says, “Dr. Arroway will be spending her precious telescope time listening for … uh … listening for …”  Ellie Arroway replies: “Little green men.” Precisely. We get it. They’re out there. Basically, Arecibo is a movie star and we miss movie stars when they leave us. The difference here is that this star shone even brighter in real life. Maybe we can scrap Trump’s Space Farce for a new set of space ears.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

America Has a Narrow Escape

Friday, November 13th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, irrupt it across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, erupted across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

We got off lucky. Four more years of Trump might have killed the Great American Experiment.

     It has taken me a few days to sort through the feelings I’ve had since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. There was relief, of course. But more. When I read that Biden had finally been projected as the winner, four days after the election, it felt as if a huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted off my shoulders. That’s apparently how worried I was about the future of this country.

     I do not state this lightly: No president in my lifetime, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to damage the basic foundations of this nation than Donald Trump. For point of reference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when I was born.

     Trump has not done it alone, of course. He has had the willing, cowering support of most of the Republican Party, top to bottom, in his assault on decency, democracy.and the rule of law. He has had the fawning, self-serving support of white Evangelical grifters, who convinced their followers to pray for Trump and donate to their always needy churches, to forget the hypocrisy and immorality of it all. He has had the angry, armed support of rejuvenated, suddenly hopeful, groups of white supremacists. The KKK credo (“America First”) and Nazi flags had a rebirth, thanks to Trump. And he had the unwavering support of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans who I’m sure would deny vigorously that they had any racist, bigoted, misogynistic bones in their body or that they were too lazy or too embarrassed to find out if those conspiracy theories, like much of what Trump said, were lies that fed their pre-conditioned biases.

       Harsh? I think not. Just look around. It’s still going on. But the thing is, this time the rest of America isn’t buying it. The rest of America voted overwhelmingly for a return to sanity, competence, compassion, truthfulness, and respect for the law in the Oval Office. And state election officials have performed their duties in a professional manner, making Trump’s claims of fraud sound ridiculous and desperate. To be sure, many of his followers still claim “it’s not over,” but thousands of Americans danced in the streets when Trump lost, because they knew they were free of the menace of the man who broke bread with dictators, insulted allies and called American veterans “losers.”

         We got off lucky. Yes, we endured four years of arrogance and paralyzing incompetence in the White House, culminating with Trump’s criminally negligent response to the Covid-19 virus, but we also learned some valuable lessons:

         — Racism is not only alive, but widespread in America. It came out of hiding in full force with the permission and encouragement of Trump. Its presence was announced daily on social media, in police actions and in people’s routine daily activities. The videos are there as evidence. Racism is a tear in the fabric of our society that Trump has widened. To continue to blindly support him is to endorse racism. Period. There is no “nice” way to ignore this. But now we at least know that there is much work to be done. Kamala Harris as vice president is an excellent start.

         — The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense at bipartisan governing. In handing control of the party to government-hating Tea Party members and power-at-any-price opportunists, Republicans have become worse than the Know-Nothings of the 1850s. In their blind obeisance to Trump, they have demonstrated that, not only do they not know, they don’t care. America now knows this. Democrats now know this. Disaffected Republicans now know this. A two-party system should be about cooperative governing, not constant pursuit of absolute power. Can the Republican Party be reclaimed by those who know and care?

           — The Electoral College is obsolete. Whoever gets the most votes should win. Trump played on the fears and resentments of a largely ill-informed minority. He gave them a feeling of power. He lied to them, used them to, mostly, feather his branded nest. The country paid the price.

           — A lot of Americans don’t know a lot about a lot of things. I’ve tried to say that as delicately as possible. Willful ignorance has been a hallmark of the Tea Party from the outset. (Where is Sarah Palin, today?) Somehow, being educated, knowing about history, science, literature, economics, the law, health, the arts, philosophy, math, geography … is seen as a bad thing. Higher education is something to be ridiculed, not admired. (Except of course for wealthy conservatives.) The level of gullibility for much of the nation has been raised over the years by daily radio feedings of bigotry and bull from the likes of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. But Fox News on TV has been the primary purveyor of the “fake news” Trump likes to talk about. An entertainment enterprise masquerading as a news outlet, it has fed on people’s fears and justified their feelings of resentment, all in order to make lots of money for Rupert Murdoch. It has been particularly damaging to the concept of a free press. It has lied shamelessly, with no significant repercussions, and today millions of Americans have no clue about how to verify if something is true or not. If a statement reinforces their bias, that’s good enough for them. However, closed minds are unable to compromise and we need to be able to do this to live together. The challenge to remedy this demonizing of learning falls primarily to our educators. I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, maybe Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas. Also, getting rid of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

          We got off lucky, America. It could have been far worse, as Germans well know. Authoritarianism and blind allegiance to a power-driven, truth-hating leader lead to fascism. But Trump’s incompetence ultimately undid him, as it has always done before. Whatever happens to him and his many enablers, there is much healing to do for America and there will be resistance. But now at least we know what we didn’t know about ourselves and our 244-year-old system of government, though it bent, eventually held up. With some adjustments, beginning with the Biden Administration, hopefully we won’t have to rely on luck to survive in the future.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

A Vote Against the GOP, Top to Bottom

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

   9B18EF52-9B62-47A7-8AB6-22A41F774E44 I voted by mail three weeks ago. Easy. I voted Biden/Harris and every Democrat across Row A. Also easy. There was really no other choice.

    The hamlet where I live is tucked in to the southeastern tip of Sullivan County in upstate New York, about an hour’s drive to New York City. It’s between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley. Pretty country. A lot of it is Republican country, but not as much as it used to be. Our area’s congressman and state legislators are all Democrats. A recent change.

       When I say there was no other choice on the ballot aside from Democrats, I don’t mean there were no Republicans running for local or state offices. I mean, in my opinion, no Republican candidate for office even deserved consideration for my vote if he or she had failed to publicly voice any kind of  criticism of the Trump disaster despite having four years and countless opportunities to do so. None had.

       Republican silence on Trump goes well beyond party loyalty to the realm of blind allegiance to their leader and/or sheer cowardice, neither of which I want in an elected official at any level. As far as I can tell, it is a pandemic of its own within the Republican Party in every state at every level. Silence, obedience … or unhinged vocal support.

          I cannot think of one local Republican official in the three-county area (Orange, Sullivan, Ulster) which I call home who has publicly said a negative word about Trump. Not one. Four years. To do so, many apparently fear, would cost them votes and maybe end their political careers. The thought that it might gain them respect and new votes apparently hasn’t occurred to them. A flaw to examine.

         Of course, there are those Republicans who support Trump vocally, if not vigorously, yet deny that this defines them as racist, bigoted, fascistic, phony, cruel, anti-science, anti-free press, ignorant of the law, misogynistic, double-dealing, anti-education, anti-veteran, hypocritical, self-absorbed, lazy liars. There’s more, but you know it all. If the Republican Party, individually and as a whole, supports Trump, it is Trump. The whole ugly package,

     Most of the attention to the Republican Party’s enabling and self-serving reaction to Trump Has been focused, rightly so, on Congress. Not only did the Republican-controlled Senate fail to convict Trump when he was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House for trying to bribe/extort Ukraine into concocting a scandal involving Biden, Senate Republicans refused to even allow any witnesses at the trial. So much for checks and balances.

      Indeed, there has been barely a murmur of anti-Trump protest out of the Senate Republicans, save for an occasional comment from Mitt Romney, who voted guilty at the impeachment “trial,” but managed to look the other way most of the rest of the ttime. House Republicans, for their part, have become a classic case of devolution, marching backwards intellectually and morally since the Tea Party took over the GOP.

      It’s as if the party’s last glimmering morsel of self-respect, honor and sense of duty to country died with John McCain. Personally, I like politicians who honor their oaths of office.

      So, after four years of incompetence and embarrassment in the Oval Office, my fervent hope is that: (1.) Joe Biden, a decent man with a lifetime of service to country, wins a resounding victory and begins the essential task of restoring dignity and respect to the presidency from the first day of his term and (2.) The Republican Party suffers a sweeping, top-to-bottom death by ballot equal to the pain it has, by action or inaction, inflicted on this nation. It should not rest in peace.

      Decency says there is no other choice.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos, a lifetime independent voter, is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.