Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

GOP: A Party of Distraction, not Action

Friday, September 17th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

64B6273B-ABBF-4252-AB3C-3D7FC5AA28C7    And now it’s abortion. Again.

    The Republican Party, as predictable as ever, has reached deep into its bag of political strategems and come up with its old standby. When nothing else works, ban abortion.

     Also predictably, the media, especially TV,  swarmed all over this story as if it has never happened before. TV commentators (I cannot call them newscasters) breathlessly rushed to say everything they always say when Republicans do this, acting as if it is the only important story in America today. Social media, of course, greatly amplified the reaction.

      It’s a distraction. Precisely what Republicans want.

      It’s a proven way to take people’s minds off the failures of the GOP. It’s a proven way to rile up the voter base growing weary of Covid and wondering whether or not that presidential election really was stolen. It’s yet another way to pit Americans against each other, even though Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue as far as the majority of Americans are concerned

    A majority of Americans are pro-choice. Republicans are pro-choice when it affects them personally. End of story.

..    i’m not saying that the right of a woman to control her own body and to choose abortion if necessary is not important. The Supreme Court has already decided it is. So yes, it is disappointing that the current court chose not to consider a challenge to the outrageous Texas law effectively banning abortion. But the law will of course be challenged in court by all the groups that usually challenge such misbegotten legislation. And the Justice Department, free of the shackles of the Trump administration, not surprisingly said it will challenge the legality of the Texas law.

      But meanwhile, let us not forget a budget bill, an infrastructure bill, a voting rights bill, all proposed by Democrats and waiting for congressional approval. Again, the majority of Americans approve of the proposals of the Biden administration, all of which have been opposed by Republicans. Opposing Democratic initiatives is the entire GOP playbook.

      Let’s also not forget the ongoing Covid pandemic, exacerbated and extended in this country by the politically motivated statements and actions of Republican governors, especially those from Texas and Florida. Republicans would rather have Americans argue over abortion than notice people dying in overwhelmed hospitals in Texas and Florida … and Mississippi and Louisiana.

      Of course, there was also Afghanistan. Republicans tried to paint President Biden‘s removal of troops and evacuation of Americans and allies from that country as a total failure. It was not. Again, most Americans are glad to be out of Afghanistan and recognize the fact that the Trump administration created the situation in that country which guaranteed a messy withdrawal. Biden did not apologize for his decision, nor, by the way, did he send out a Twitter storm blaming his generals for the poor advice they gave him on the evacuation.

   With even some establishment Republicans declaring that the 2020 election was fair, not stolen, party leaders have tossed out such distractions as “woke,” cancel culture and critical race theory. Remember them? They all got traction for a brief while in the media until people realized there were more legitimate issues, more important things going on in this country, none of them being addressed by Republicans.

     The most important of those is the congressional hearing into the insurrection of January 6. Republicans in Congress have disgraced themselves trying to convince Americans that nothing serious really happened. Or if it did, Trump was not involved. Or if he was, they personally were not involved.

     This is the important story in America today. The very foundation of this nation is at stake. TV commentators talking about abortion need to ratchet down the emotion a bit, stick to the facts and history of the issue and remember all the challenges this president faced when he took office. He is tackling those challenges methodically and with a calm sense of purpose. I might suggest a couple of other things that ought to be done:

  1. Those three pieces of legislation need to be passed by Congress. Also kill the filibuster. Biden needs to call West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, supposedly a Democrat, into the Oval Office for a serious man-to-man, president-to-senator, Democrat-to-Democrat taking. Something reminiscent of LBJ.
  1. That special commission the president appointed to consider any changes that might be necessary to the Supreme Court needs to be told to wrap up its work quickly with a recommendation to expand the court from 9 to 13 justices. Now. Enough playing nice. And yes, it’s something Republicans would actually do.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

20 Years On, Terrorists Made in the USA

Friday, September 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

     Twenty years ago today, like millions of other Americans, I was preparing to go to work. The boys were off to school. It was a sky-blue September day. The news was on the TV, a practice of mine, in case there was something I needed to know about before I got to the paper.

   There was.

   The image on the TV screen froze me and shook the sleep out of my head. Oh, my God!

     What was I seeing? They replayed it.

     I quickly got myself together and headed off to work. But I stopped for a few moments in a nearby park to gather my thoughts and process what I had just witnessed  qThe radio news informed me that, in addition to the two planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City, a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and another had hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

     September 11.

     After about an hour of processing reports on what had happened, a meeting was held and it was decided that The Times Herald-Record would publish a special edition that afternoo, the first one, I believe, in the morning newspaper’s history.  My job was to write an editorial explaining what had happened. Or at least trying to explain it. About 500 words.“We need it in an hour.”

     I don’t have a copy of that editorial and I’m sure it was mostly emotion. I do remember writing, “America was at war.”  (Any colleagues who were in the newsroom on that day may feel free to corroborate or add any details you may remember in the comments section.)

       The world changed that day. America changed. We the people had been attacked. We were one nation, under the spell of the dynamic leadership of New York’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani. America’s mayor. We grieved together, healed together and called for retribution together, against whoever it was who had attacked us.

          So we started a war against, not the country where the terrorists responsible for the attacks came from (Saudi Arabia): but against a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. We justified it by claiming Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that it could use against someone, maybe us. That was a lie our government told us. We found out later.

           Then we went after the actual attackers in the mountains of Afghanistan. We actually found and killed their leader, then decided to stay in Afghanistan for some 20 years, trying to save it from itself.

            In those ensuing 20 years, Giuliani went from “America’s Mayor” to embarrassingly ridiculous mouthpiece for every lie put forth by Donald Trump, including the lie that he lost his re-election bid to President Joe Biden because the election was rife with vote fraud.

             Also in the ensuing 20 years, the Republican Party steadily turned itself from a party that espoused defense of all Americans into a party of an aggrieved white minority whose leaders in Congress legislate only in the interests of wealthy donors who contribute to their campaigns..Inro a cult that believes and repeats Trump’s lies or, worse, repeats them for political gain or out of fear.

           Whatever galvanized us into one people 20 years ago (a common enemy I suppose) started disintegrating as soon as we started demonizing any group of people, different from us (Muslims) as the enemy. “Us” became more vague.”

            The World Trade Center was rebuilt, Trump exposed the fear and bigotry at the center of the Republivan Party and gave free rein to the fissures hiding within American society.

             The FBI now says the greatest threat to America is from domestic terrorism. Not Iraq. Or Afghanistan. The threat comes from the white supremacists groups who organized the assault in Washington and still threaten any who reject their cause.

       In 1870, cartoonist Walt Kelly coined a phrase in his Pogo comic strip: “We have mer the enemy and he is us.”

       Indeed.

       Not so long ago, on January 6 of this year, in fact, I once again stared transfixed at a scene on television. Am I really seeing this? Thousands of virtually all white Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. Some were ready to hang Vice President Mike Pence to prevent him from fulfiling his duties. People died. Republicans refused to accept the election result and many even claimed there was no riot that sent them running for their lives.

          Today, the war to preserve American freedom and democracy is being fought right here at home. Fortunately, millions of Americans stand on the side of what”s right. Many still remember how we felt as a unified nation in the wake of the attacks 20 years ago.

           I’m not sure I”ll be here 20 years from now io mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, but whether I am or not, I pray the U.S. Capitol is still proudly standing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zest-of-orange.com. He was editorial page editor of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.

 

     

If the Earth is not Flat … Then Who am I?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

 

By Bob Gaydos

A version of what some flat earthers believe our plan it looks like.

A version of what some flat earthers believe our planet looks like.

 The Earth is not flat.

  UFOs do exist.

      In this debate about the nature of the universe, I am definitely taking sides.

     A bit of explanation: Firmly ensconced in the second year of Covid-inspired couch-surfing, we stumbled across a documentary called “Beyond the Curve.” I can’t shake the topic — flat earthers. Even in this era of anti-science, conspiracy-obsessed politics, this one baffled me. Still does.

     The movie focuses on three main characters, none of whose names I will use here so as not to give them any more notoriety than they already have. The main character is the apparent flat earth guru, A middle-aged guy with a YouTube show, who, for reasons that still escape me, decided at some point in his life that the Earth is not round. This, even though he can’t prove it. And even though fLat earthers’ own experiments in the film indicate otherwise.

        He believes the Earth is a flat disc surrounded by a wall of ice and covered by a gigantic dome on which someone (the government) projects images of the sun and the moon, which move continually across the fake sky.

         There’s also another, angrier wanna-be guru, who resents the main character’s influence among the believers, and a woman who has become a YouTube star among flat earthers with her “reporting“ on the issue. The group has annual international conferences.

          It’s difficult for me to be as respectful of the believers as the film is because no one in the film ever explains why he or she believes the Earth is flat. Nor does anyone disprove the existing science that proves otherwise. And, as I’ve said, the believers’ own experiments disprove their belief. So something else is at work here.

           Before I speculate on that, let me address that debate I introduced at the top. Obviously, UFOs exist because there have been countless sightings of unidentified flying objects by all sorts of people, Including Navy pilots. It doesn’t mean these are necessarily spaceships from somewhere else in the solar system, piloted by aliens, but I believe the odds are much greater of this possibility than that we are living under a gigantic dome. I paid attention in science class.

             (In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I live in an area that has been described as the UFO capital of the Northeast. I myself have never seen a UFO, but the hamlet of Pine Bush has a UFO festival every summer, including a parade down Main Street. There’s even a museum. And yes, there have been numerous reported sightings in the area.)

             I guess I’m with Enrico Fermi on this. His paradox wonders why, given the preponderance of information that suggests a seemingly limitless universe, filled with countless planetary bodies, no one has apparently yet decided to pay us a visit. Maybe we haven’t noticed or maybe they can’t get through the dome. 

               Which brings me back to the Earth is not flat. To me, saying the Earth is flat without providing any evidence and indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is akin to saying a presidential election was rigged without providing any evidence and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying vaccines don’t protect people from viruses and face masks don’t help stop the spread of viruses based solely on a “belief“ and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying there was no violent effort to prevent certification of a presidential election at the United States Capital on January 6 when I saw the insurrection with my own eyes on TV, along with millions of other people.

               Some people, for whatever reason, are easily swayed. They will accept even the illogical because they can feel part of something. It provides an identity. Some people, for purely selfish reasons, gain their identity by swaying people to accept even the irrational. If people stop believing what they say, they lose their identity.

             So, if I am not a man cheated out of the presidency, as I claim, then who am I? Or if the Earth is not flat, as I say, then who am I?

           The answer in the first case is simple: You’re a loser.

            In the second case, it’s more complicated. Maybe you’re someone who needed to pay more attention in science class. Maybe you’re someone who never learned it’s OK to say you were wrong. Maybe you’re someone who needs to find a more productive way to gain people‘s approval. Maybe you’re someone who needs to keep walking in the same direction until you either bump into a glass wall or fall off the edge. 

           Or maybe you’re someone who needs to visit Pine Bush next summer when, hopefully, the UFO parade will be held again. Maybe you’re someone who needs to turn your gaze from down to Earth to up, up and beyond. These are true believers, too, but, unlike yours,  their belief has some legitimate science behind it. 

           I understand they’re always looking for new converts. You’d be quite a challenge, but  think of the new identity: The man who stepped back from the edge to play among the stars. Has a nice ring to it. Probably play well on YouTube, too. Just remember your new slogan. The Earth is not flat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

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

Who in the World is Kathy Hochul?

Friday, August 27th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

Kathy Hochul is sworn as New York’s 57th governor.

      Move over FDR and Teddy R. Step aside, Mr. Harriman, Mr. Rockefeller. Make way for history, John Jay, Martin Van Buren and Grover Cleveland. In fact, Al Smith, Ham Fish, George Pataki et al, how about a round of applause? This week, August 24 to be precise, New York State got its first woman governor.

      It only took 231 years. Thirty states managed to accomplish this feat before New York. The new governor of New York is Kathy Hochul. Until recently, most New Yorkers had never heard of her. That’s true of most lieutenant governors, but most lieutenant governors don’t get to become governor when the actual governor resigns. That’s how Hochul got the job. No matter. Her moment in history deserves more recognition than it has received. 

        Let’s start with the irony of the situation. Andrew Cuomo, whom Hochul replaced as governor, chose her as his running mate in 2014 because she was from upstate and because he thought a woman on the ticket would bring him more votes. He used her for political reasons. Cuomo was forced to resign, of course, because nearly a dozen women accused him of using them to address his sexual needs. He denied the charges, but bowed to overwhelming pressure from fellow Democrats to resign.

           Perhaps the most damaging response to the allegations came from the state attorney general, Letitia James, whose investigation produced a report that described a “hostile work environment” created by Cuomo’s actions. James, also a Democrat, through her involvement in investigating Donald Trump’s taxes, has become one of the best-known, politically influential women in a state that for a long time did not encourage such ambition.

         In fact, the state did not have a female senator until 2002, when Hillary Clinton, a transplant from Washington,  D.C,, won election. She was succeeded by Kirsten Gillebrand when Barack Obama tapped Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Gillebrand is still in the Senate, but is not necessarily influential in New York politics. Nor has any of the several congresswomen elected over the years from the New York metropolitan area been especially influential in state politics.

          State government has been a boys club for a long time in New York. Hochul says she’s ready to integrate that club by running for election, and winning, on her own next year. She will undoubtedly face a tough primary challenge, but first she has the challenge of the ongoing Covid pandemic to deal with as well as that lingering hostile environment around the governor’s office. Can she do it? She said she intends to do both in her swearing-in remarks.

        How well she handles those challenges may hold the answer to another question: Can a one-term congresswoman and former county clerk, who spent most of her time in Albany as a goodwill ambassador to the state’s 62 counties, convince New Yorkers that she can run their government?

          By the way, Hochul is not the only New York lieutenant governor to make history in stepping up to the governorship. Basil Paterson became the first African-American To be governor of New York and first legally blind person to be governor of any state. He succeeded Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in 2008 after news reports said that he had patronized a prostitution ring run by an escort service in Washington, D.C. The FBI had a tap on the premises. 

        Paterson did not seek election to the governorship in 2011, giving way to Andrew Cuomo. (It really is all connected.) But Paterson did appoint Gillibrand to Clinton’s vacant Senate seat. He also became the focus of a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live. 

       Back to Hochul. Hillary Clinton still lives in New York and if there’s anything she loves to do, it’s breaking up good old boys clubs. Stay tuned.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

       

 

          

           

 

Saying Goodbye to My Gallbladder

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

 By Bob Gaydos

The gallbladder. Gone laparoscopically.

The gallbladder. Gone laparoscopically.

      A personal note: After 80 years, my galibladder decided to hang it up. No warning. Just, “That”s it, pal, I”m through storing bile. You and your liver are on your own breaking down fats.“

     A positive note: My liver and I are doing fine on our own so far. Apparently, humans don’t really need a gallbladder anymore. Who knew?

     Well, apparently lots of people. Millions of Americans to start with. In fact, there’s a good chance, dear reader, that you knew. The first item that came up when I Googled a search on gallbladder removal was from the Harvard Medical School. It said, in part: “Like your appendix and spleen, the gallbladder is something you can do without. Each year, about a million Americans have their gallbladder surgically removed because the organ has become inflamed (cholecystitis) or contains gallstones.” That item was posted on January 1, 2006. A lot more gallbladders have been removed in this country since then.

        Honestly, I never gave it a thought. In fact, when I felt the first sharp pain on the right side of my abdomen, I thought it was acid reflux. Sounds sexier than an inflamed gallbladder, doesn’t it? Well, pain is pain, whatever the source, and there was the inevitable trip to the emergency room. Six days later, after apparently successful surgery, I returned home gallbladderless and even more attuned to what I eat. Also, with some thoughts about the American healthcare system and the American diet.

            Diet: It’s always the same story. Several years ago, when I made a long-postponed trip to a doctor for a checkup, I was told I was about 50 pounds overweight, with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic. In other words, an average, past-middle-aged American male.

         I was advised to avoid eating fatty foods, fried foods, processed foods, foods high in sugar, caffeine, carbonated beverages and to start eating leaner meats, more fish and poultry, and more fruits and vegetables and dairy alternatives.. Also to get some exercise and take these pills regularly.

       The recommendation for people who have had their gallbladder removed is to stop eating fatty foods, fried foods, processed foods, foods high in sugar, caffeine,  carbonated beverages and to start eating leaner meats, more fish and poultry and more fruits and vegetables and dairy alternatives.

     With the help of a persistent coach,  I followed that advice the doctor gave me years ago and lost 50 pounds and eventually stopped taking those pills. Still don’t take them. I have been relatively healthy since then and I think my gallbladder lasted as long as it did because my change in diet offset some previous years of less than healthful eating habits. In fact, I’m convinced of it.

        So the good news here, I guess, is that if I just keep up my changed eating habits I won’t have any serious digestive problems. I can eat sushi until I’m 100.

         The unfortunate news is that the food industry has thoroughly brainwashed so many Americans into believing that shopping in the middle of the supermarket, grabbing up lots of processed foods, fatty foods, sugar-laden foods, fried foods, junk food is the way to go. Don’t listen to the propaganda about plant-based foods, the aDvertisements say, those people are just trying to brainwash you. It’s basically the same argument as don’t get a vaccine or wear a mask. Don’t let “them“ tell you what to do. So two-thirds of Americans are overweight, one in 10 is diabetic and one in three is pre-diabetic.

       These can lead to more serious problems than having to have a gallbladder removed. And it increases health insurance costs for everyone. 

        I’m not preaching here; I know it doesn’t work. And I’m not bragging because I had to be almost browbeaten into eating a more healthful diet. I am grateful that I did, though, and I guess I hope that maybe someone will read this and decide to give it a try before middle-age. Do it for yourself and your gallbladder.

         Health care: i’ll be brief. A medical center that bills itself as first class, advertises itself as one of the best in the nation, should be able to provide a test at some point over the weekend. I came in Saturday morning didn’t get two required tests until Monday morning. No solid food, of course, because I was waiting for tests.

           Waiting was done in a wing reserved for people awaiting medical decisions. Waiting for tests, in other words. No private room, just a curtain for privacy and a couple of shared bathrooms. About 20 patients, all of whose conversations could be heard even when you try not to: “We need to check that artery.“ “I need to take your vitals, hon.“ “What’s your date of birth?“ “What’s the level of pain?“ “You used my debit card to go buy beer!“ “We’re going to have to take another test.“ “Can I please get something to eat?“ “Beep, beep, beep!“ “When did you use steroids?“ “When I got arrested.” ……. Long pause. …. “How do you get arrested?“ “Beep, beep, beep.“

              Bottom line: The surgery was a success. Take all advertising with a grain of salt. Avoid fatty foods.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

The Cuomos: A Disappointing Dynasty

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo, left, and Andrew Cuomo.

    Some thoughts on the demise of the Cuomo dynasty:

  • Yes, I believe the 11 women who accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual harassment and related behavior.
  • Yes, I think he needed to resign as governor of New York.
  • Yes, I think all the prominent Democratic elected officials, starting with President Biden and including every elected Democratic member of Congress from New York was right to urge him to resign
  • No, I don’t think any Republican should have one word to say about this so long as no Republican has had one word of criticism regarding the 23 women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assaults, never mind the behaviors of Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan.
  • Yes, I find it disappointing, even sad, that what could have been a wonderful family legacy has to end in such a tawdry manner.

                                                                 ***

     Let’s start with Cuomo the elder, Mario, the late governor who might have been president. It’s good that he’s not around to witness what his son has wrought.

      Mario, of course, was the source of one of Democrats’ greatest disappointments when he decided, in dramatic fashion, not to run for president in 1992. In his third term as governor at the time, he was easily the most popular choice among Democrats to challenge the Republican incumbent, George H.W. Bush.

         Cuomo had put himself in that position with his progressive policies as governor and a stirring keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention in which he turned Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on the hill“ into a “tale of two cities,“ one thriving, one not, with the kind of speech that often kicks off presidential campaigns for politicians without a broad national reputation. It did so for Barack Obama. It was also there for Cuomo, a skilled orator.         

          But progressive Democrats’ hopes and Mario Cuomo‘s presidential campaign never took off. Literally. On Dec. 20, 1991, the filing deadline for the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire, Cuomo was in the midst of budget negotiations with the Republican-led State Senate and the Democrat-led State Assembly. Candidates have to file the nominating petitions in person in New Hampshire, traditionally the first primary in the country, a place for candidates to grab an early lead. Cuomo had a plane idling on the runway in Albany waiting to fly him to New Hampshire. He previously had said he would file if he had finalized a budget with the legislators. With no agreement in Albany, Cuomo opted not to fly to New Hampshire and then come back to work on the budget. He said that would break his pledge to New Yorkers. A lot of New Yorkers and Democrats elsewhere would have forgiven this transgression. But Cuomo stayed home, Bill Clinton eventually captured the Democratic nomination and won the presidential election. Cuomo was defeated in his bid for a fourth term by Republican George Pataki, the mayor of Peekskill, a small upstate city. Cuomo left politics, eventually joining a law firm in New York City.

   Andrew Cuomo got his start in politics managing his father’s gubernatorial campaign. His work founding a housing non-profit in New York City and as chair of the New York City Homeless Commission led to positions of Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development and then Secretary of HUD in the Clinton administration. Cuomo returned to New York and was eventually elected attorney general and then governor.

      Like his father, he was elected to three terms.    Unlike his father, however, Andrew always had the aura of the hard-nosed politician about him. Some called him a bully. Some of his closest aides did not understand the governmental policy of transparency. Both men were responsible for a number of progressive changes in the state. Mario eliminated the death penalty. Andrew instituted the toughest gun control laws in the nation. Both men had outsized personalities and egos, not uncommon in politics. But whereas his father could  hold his ego in check most of the time, Andrew tended to wear his for all to see.

        Ego led to his downfall. While receiving nationwide praise for his handling of the COVID-19 epidemic in New York, his staff also hid devastating numbers of deaths that resulted from his decision to transfer seriously ill patients from hospitals to nursing homes. That lack of transparency — lying — made it impossible for anyone to believe his claims of innocence when women started accusing him of sexual harassment. That, and the fact the women had nothing to gain by lying.

         The sense of service Andrew Cuomo inherited from his father became overshadowed by a sense of survival and entitlement. He was the boss.

         No more. New Yorkers will soon have their first woman governor, Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor. Like his father, Cuomo chose a little known politician from western New York state to be his running mate. Mario hat Stan Lundine; Andrew had Hochul.

          If she’s interested in running for governor on her own next year, she’ll have a tough challenge letting New Yorkers know who she is. Plus, she’s from Buffalo, the Midwest. It would seem to make the field wide-open. However, if New Yorkers are interested in having a woman governor and if Democrats are looking for someone with name recognition, I have two words: Hillary Clinton. She’s experienced and local, but like Mario Cuomo once upon a time, may not be available. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

         Ultimately, Mario Cuomo’s hemming and hawing about running for president led to him being called Hamlet on the Hudson. A brilliant disappointment. Still, that’s much better than Groper in the Governor’s Office. A sad end to a dynasty, to be sure.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

           

 

Welcome Guardians, Wild Yankees

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos 

 The new Cleveland Guardians of logo.

The new Cleveland Guardians logo.

    I welcome, sort of, the Cleveland Guardians, I apologize to Aroldis Chapman and Tim Tebow …geez, really?

     — Maybe it’s just me, but: The Cleveland baseball team was right to, after decades of insult to Native Americans, finally drop “Indians” as its mascot. The change, long overdue, takes effect next year. It might’ve been different if, from the beginning, the choice had been described as a tribute to Native Americans, and the resilience, strength, dignity, and courage of all America’s tribes. But it wasn’t. Instead of dignifietd tributes, there were goofy looking Indian cartoons on shirts, caps and anything else for sale. Then there was the guy in the bleachers beating the war drums for a rally. Lost in all of this, as it has been for centuries in America really, is a history of native Americans and the indignities they suffered at the hands of foreign settlers. So, “Indians” had to go. But “Guardians”? The team says it received about 1200 suggestions for a new mascot/nickname. This is what they came up with. The team says it’s a tribute to the Guardian statues who protect motorist coming in and out of Cleveland on the Hope Memorial Bridge. OK, at least there’s some connection. And it’s better than the Washington football team, which now call itself the Washington football team because its  nickname, “Redskins,” was truly offensive. The Washington football team is still working on a new mascot. Perhaps the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks would like to join the endeavor. It”s time. Change can be difficult, but if it is handled with a sense of awareness and respect, these changes can be for the benefit of all involved. Go Guardians!

     — Maybe it’s just me, but: When I read a brief report that the Yankees had lost a game to the Red Sox in the bottom of the 10th inning when Boston scored two runs on no hits, but a bunch of wild pitches, I immediately thought Aroldis Chapman. I was wrong, but it doesn’t mean Aaron Boone was right. Someone named Brooks Kriske  was the offending party. Given a one-run lead to protect in the bottom of the 10th, Kriske started with a runner placed on second base, a little league gimmick now used by baseball, supposedly to speed up the game. It’s really tacky. Anyway, Kriske threw two straight wild pitches to allow the runner to come home to tie the score. Manager Boone left the rookie in. He walked that batter. Still, with about a dozen pitchers on the roster, no sign of a replacement for the overwhelmed Kriske. Another wild pitch moved the runner to second. Now, Boone has some million-dollar arms sitting around, any one of whom could be asked at a moment’s notice to just go out there to throw strikes with a little velocity and make the batter swing at the ball. Even an infielder with a good arm. But he stuck with Kriske, who threw another wild pitch moving the runner to third. He did manage to strike someone out, but the next batter hit a fly ball, the runner from third scored, the game was over. Not the kind of Yankee baseball I remember. Tacky.

— Maybe it’s just me, but: Tim Tebow still trying to make a professional sports team roster strikes me as a little desperate. He’s one of about 90 players in the Jacksonville Jaguars camp, looking for a position as a tight end. Of the six candidates in camp, he’s probably ranked number six. At 33, the former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, former Jets, Broncos quarterback, former Mets minor-league baseball player, has apparently decided he’s not quite ready to retire and make a living as a motivational speaker or, perhaps, sports broadcaster, both of which he is apparently well-qualified for. He’s obviously a great example for his message of believing in yourself and having faith and courage and anything I or anyone else writes about his quest is not going to deter him, but I just wonder if all the effort doesn’t just get tiring at some point. Maybe it’s time to find a new challenge.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Leaving Afghanistan, Finally

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

 By Bob Gaydos

 American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

    I was born a little more than six months before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. I hope to still be around at the end of August when the United States military engagement in Afghanistan officially ends. That’s 80 years of war, more or less. Mostly more, as it turns out, certainly more than I was aware of.

       President Biden’s decision to finish the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan — begun by Donald Trump supposedly as part of a truce with the Taliban that never materialized — is to me both proper and overdue. It will be 20 years since American troops landed in Afghanistan with the mission of rooting out Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and avenging the attacks of 9/11.

        That mission was accomplished in the Obama administration and Biden then argued, as Vice President, for a U.S. troop withdrawal. However, he was unsuccessful and the mission morphed into establishing a stable government and defeating the Taliban, two objectives apparently not enough Afghans themselves have been eager to see happen. At some point, and with a history of other nations’ failed attempts at “saving Afghanistan” to guide us, it becomes time to say, “Not our country; not our problem.“

         Harsh, perhaps, but realistic, especially with the U.S. facing a threat to its own government from within. It’s time for America to deal with January 6 2021, now that it has settled Sept. 11, 2001.

          And, really, does anyone think Afghanistan is winnable? What would that look like? How many more American lives and how much more investment would it take? Let Pakistan take a shot at it. Keep the CIA and embassy troops in the country.

          Afghanistan has been called the “forever war.” It just seems like it. But the truth is, American troops have been involved in one military conflict or another pretty much forever.

           In my lifetime, starting with World War II, the list of military engagements also includes the Korean War, China (repatriation), Vietnam, Lebanon (twice), Grenada, Panama, Somalia (talk about forever), the Gulf War, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Indian Ocean (pirates!), Libya (twice) Uganda and, still, Syria.

           Much of the 21st Century military engagement involves spinoffs of one sort or another of the war on terror. This is obviously a necessary price of defending freedom and democracy and not only at home. But when it results in longterm involvement in a faroff country with no sign of diplomatic progress or 100 percent commitment from local forces, how long does the Umited States have to stay involved?

          “Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more?” Biden said. “How many thousands more American daughters and sons are you willing to risk? And how long would you have them stay?” More than 2,300 American troops have died in Afghanistan.

         Biden is right. It would seem that cyberwarfare is a more serious threat to the American way of life than Afghanistan or whomever Iran is funding in Syria today. Let our intelligence agencies find the terrorist threats and plots to destabilize allies. Our troops will always be ready to help in a moment’s notice. But wars need clear missions and expiration dates. 

          Who’s the threat to freedom? Right now, it’s easier to identify them right here at home. They’re the ones screaming all over social media and Fox “News” to forget about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. That’s a war worth fighting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

On Growing up with Real Presidents

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
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RJ Photography

By Bob Gaydos

There’s something about Donald Trump that has always puzzled me. It’s not the fact that millions of Americans could and still do bow at the feet of this inveterate grifter. For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that there are a lot of people shuffling through life in this country unknowing, uncaring and unapologetic for their behavior. Also racists.

     They are here, they listen to Fox “news” and I don’t expect most of them to change or go away. It’s a free country, even for bigots.

      No, what has had me stumped for five years is that so many Americans have carried on as if Trump is just a little anomaly in the history of this nation. No big deal. When can we go to the movies again?

       For me, Trump has been a major threat ever since he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. It wasn’t just that I knew how slimy he was; it felt just so wrong for him to even be involved in this democratic process. We’re talking about president of the United States of America, for Pete’s sake, I said to myself over and over. What is Trump doing in this? It’s almost a physical reaction for me. It lasted through his whole presidency. Why are all those people on Wall Street behaving as if this is just another 9 to 5 interlude? This man is an insult to the presidency.

         That’s how I felt. Still do, although the election of Joe Biden has eased my concerns considerably. More to the point, 

for the purposes of this column, I think I know why I’ve had such a strong reaction to Trump. Why I never used the word, “president” with his name attached to it. Why I took it so personally.

          I was lucky.

          That’s what history tells me. Or rather, a bunch of historians. Some 142 noted historians were surveyed by CNN for the cable news network’s latest rating of American presidents. It does this whenever there’s a change in administration. Trump somehow managed to not finish last. More on that in a bit. What struck me most, personally I guess, is that the historians rated an era that included my first 28 years alive as the best stretch of presidents in the history of America.

          Wow.

           It started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 (I was born in 1941) and continued through Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1969. FDR was Number 3 on the list, behind Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Ike was fifth, Harry was sixth, JFK was number 8 and LBJ ranked 11th.

           Richard M Nixon (number 31) ended my personal winning streak of presidents and it was mediocrity or worse, in my opinion, until Barack Obama in 2008. But boy, those first 28 years! No wonder I resented Donald Trump in the Oval Office. I was spoiled and didn’t know it. I grew up with mature, responsible men as presidents, men who put their country ahead of their party and certainly ahead of themselves. Men who surely had their faults, but who each in his own way inspired confidence that he was always trying to do the best for all Americans. That’s what president did, I thought. Made us feel we had the right person making difficult decisions. Made us feel confident about the future. Made us proud to be Americans.

           FDR created the social fabric we take for granted today. Truman steered us steadily through the end of one war and into another while maintaining his touch with average Americans. Everybody seemed to like Ike, the war hero who warned us of the military/industrial complex. JFK, the orator, had his photo hung in virtually every Catholic family’s kitchen, alongside The Last Supper. He dreamed of going to the moon and gave us the Peace Corps. When he was assassinated, LBJ took up the tough fight for the Equal Rights Act and wrestled it through the resistance of southern senators. He knew how Washington worked. 

            Nixon lowered the bar before resigning. Ford didn’t do much as a fill-in. Carter was sincere but disappointing. Reagan got rated 10th by the historians, but I think he should trickle down several spots despite his affable communications skills. Bush senior was unimpressive, Bill Clinton was sporadically effective (he balanced the budget!) and George W. Bush, installed by the Supreme Court, was a disaster. I actually wept with pride when Barack Obama, the first black American president, addressed the crowd in a park in Chicago on his election night. We’re back, I thought.

             And then came Trump.

             An insult to the American psyche. A symbol of the decay of one of our two main political parties. And the fourth(!) worst president in American history. Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson James Buchanan — they rated worse than Trump. All I can say is I’m glad I didn’t live through their presidencies if they were worse than Trump. But history evolves over time and it is not too much to hope that he will ultimately bottom out.

             In the meantime, though, I am glad to know that I am not in some way weird for regarding the Trump administration as more than an anomaly in politics. I grew up with presidents who could read and speak with intelligence, who respected science, who had the respect of other world leaders, who did not lie with every waking breath, who did not divide Americans with angry insults and threats, who understood the Constitution and the obligation of presidents to serve the people, not vice versa.

           I grew up with real presidents. Trump dishonored the office.

History is on my side.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

           

Conflicts of Interest Don’t Just ‘Happen’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

B38B4BB8-7234-4325-B13F-8A4490131428     A funny thing happened to Ed Diana on the way to his $500-a-week, no-show job arranged through the public industrial development agency of the county he ran for a dozen years. He got caught.

     That’s the only thing that “happened“ to Diana, despite what his lawyer would have you believe. Everything else he made happen.

      This is a big story in Orange County, New York, which is about an hours drive northwest from New York City, but it’s about greed and political corruption, so it has implications nationwide. And yes, as with most such stories these days, it involves Republicans, but at least this time, some of them are on the right side of the law.

       Diana, who served three terms as county executive in Orange, recently pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false instrument. Specifically, he signed a form which states that, as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County IDA, as vice chairman in fact, he had no conflict of interest with the business of that agency. That he had no tangible personal gain arising from that relationship.

       In fact, though, he did. Lying on this form is a felony in New York State. Diana did it twice. He also played guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conflict of interest.

        “If this could happen to Ed Diana, this could happen to anyone,” Diana’s lawyer, Ben Ostrer, said, speaking to the press after Diana’s guilty plea in court. “If you are in government service be thankful it isn’t you.”

         What a load of bull, even for a lawyer in the Rudy Giuliani era.

          In addition to his three times as county executive, Diana also served on the county legislature and a couple of terms as supervisor of the town of Wallkill, one of the larger towns in Orange County. Three decades of public service as an elected official in Orange County. With that experience, you should be able to smell a potential conflict of interest about three months down the road. Yet Ostrer would have us believe it could happen to “anyone.“

          Diana was allowed to plead guilty to avoid a prison term. He agreed to repay the IDA $90,000. He said he had been paid as a “consultant” for three-and-a-half years. In addition to Diana, the former CEO of the IDA pleaded guilty to a charge of corrupting government and agreed to re-pay $175,000 for her no-show job.

           The phantom jobs were with a company owned by the former paid managing director of the IDA, who the prosecutor said was the motivating force and worst actor in this case. He steered firms looking to do business in Orange County to his companies for equipment, planning, office space and technical assistance. Over time, he also raised the rates for the services. He pleaded guilty to corrupting government and agreed to repay $1 million. He will be on probation for five years. All three will be officially sentenced in September.

            All of this “happened” while the board of directors, which other than Diana, also included the chairman of the county legislature, looked the other way or napped during board meetings. Same for the board’s lawyer. The county legislature fired the entire board a couple of months ago when it learned of District Attorney David Hoovler’s investigation. The DA, like Diana, a Republican, said he didn’t file charges against any other board members or their lawyer, because “There’s no criminal liability for incompetence.” Sometimes that means prosecutors can’t prove intent.

      Hoovler pointed out that no money had been stolen, per se, and that all the monies paid to people who shouldn’t have been paid had been accounted for. You say tomato, I say tomahto. People got money they shouldn’t have gotten because of their positions and the money could’ve been used by the IDA for other purposes. In the process, the integrity of the IDA was badly damaged. As a public agency whose primary tool is the awarding of tax breaks to companies looking to locate in its county, trust is far more valuable than cash. The new Orange IDA board must work hard to rebuild that trust.

      It can start by knowing that conflicts of interest don’t just “happen.” Not in Orange County, New York, or anywhere else. They are created. A defining feature of much of today’s Republican Party, on a national level as well as at the local level, is a casual disregard for the rule of law and an arrogant disdain for the truth. That’s a fact. I don’t like writing it, but it’s true. I think it represents a major threat to our democracy.  (In this case, the current Orange County executive, also a Republican, sharply criticized the corrupt arrangement  and called for the state to toughen the punishment for such crimes.)

       When one of our two major parties decides it can unilaterally make up the rules as it goes along  and concoct excuses to avoid responsibility, we are in serious trouble. If people will buy the big lie — The election was stolen. There was no insurrection — why not try a “little” one? “If this can happen to Ed Diana, it can happen to anyone.”

     No it can’t.  Witness the thousands of New Yorkers who serve on public and private boards of directors without such happenings. Of such molehills are mountains created. Lying and entitlement are addictive. So is power. The antidote is truth. Hold public officials accountable. Make them explain their actions. Trust must be earned, today more than ever.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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