Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Beware: No Labels is Mislabeled

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos (more…)

It’s Time for the Filibuster to Go

Sunday, April 4th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

     “If it’s good enough for The New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

      With those words of wisdom, a newspaper editor gave a willing but wary member of his staff a gentle shove into the world of editorial writing. The staff member was me. The editor was Bill Kennedy. The newspaper was The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The time was late November, 1983. My maiden piece had appeared on Nov. 23,1983, the 20-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Serendipity. JFK and I share a birthday.

       On this day, I was asking Bill about an editorial I was thinking of writing, but which The Times, which circulated in our area, had just voiced an opinion on that morning. It was pretty much the same as what I had in mind and I was a little annoyed that they “beat” me. An ego thing.

      “Do we care?“ I asked.

      “Do our readers care, or even notice?” Bill answered.

      I wrote the editorial. The topic has long since been lost in my memory. But Kennedy’s message remained.

       It came to me in a flash a couple of weeks back as I was having a debate with myself on the wisdom of scrapping the Senate filibuster. I had pretty much decided I was all for it because, honestly, I am up to my eyeballs in Mitch McConnell single-handedly trying to destroy this country for anyone but the super-rich and super-white. With him as Senate majority leader for 10 years, any meaningful piece of social legislation proposed by Democrats had no chance. Now, as minority leader, he threatens to use the filibuster to kill Democrats’ sweeping voter reform law while having the gall to claim that Democrats refused to negotiate on it with Republicans.

         My only hesitation in writing this piece was that even some Democrats were defending the filibuster because of its “ttradition“ in the Senate and its supposed protection against a super majority running roughshod over democracy. Those arguments had pretty much lost out and I also thought about the threat the filibuster would pose to immigration reform, criminal justice reform and anything else President Biden might propose to advance racial and cultural harmony in the nation in the wake of four years of the divisive Trump administration.

         Enough of McConnell, already, I said to myself. Let’s save the country while I’m still alive to appreciate it. And then there was the Times editorial: “For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go.”

        Well, thanks, Bill.

         Of course, I was so upset that I let them beat me on writing the editorial and didn’t want people to think I just copied theirs, that I waited a good two weeks before sitting down to do mine. This is it. The filibuster must go.

         Here’s why.

         Even though it is promoted as a barrier to a majority abusing its power over a minority, its primary application from the beginning has been to allow a minority of senators to exclude minorities in America from enjoying the rewards of democracy. First, it was slavery. More recently, civil rights legislation. Forget Jimmy Stewart in the movies. It is an outdated tool that has been used to preserve and promote bias. And for all it’s “tradition.” the Senate has already written exceptions into the rule.

         A brief description of the filibuster rule is appropriate here. When the Constitution was written, the framers kept it simple. In order for a bill to pass in the 100-member Senate, a simple majority of 51 votes was all that was needed. When Southern members took to long-winded floor speeches (filibusters) to delay or deter votes to abolish slavery, a rule was approved that requires the votes of 60 senators to end a filibuster.

        Modern senators being less fond of doing the actual work of talking for hours on end, in relays if necessary, to defeat a bill, amended the rule so that any senator can delay a vote on, and maybe defeat, any bill, simply by sending an e-mail saying he or she is filibustering it. That’s it. Go to lunch.

       In effect, that means the bill sponsor has to find 60 votes instead of 51. And, of course, there is no real debate on the bill. The Senate has already excluded money-raising bills and the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices from the filibuster, allowing, most recently, Donald Trump to appoint three new justices to the high court.

         Some (including two Democrats) have suggested going back to the talking filibuster so that there is actual effort required to oppose and maybe some debate on the bill. But there has seldom been any debate provided by the filibuster and, even assuming Republicans are willing to argue for hours on end against expanding voting rights, Biden and the Democrats don’t have the time to waste.

          With Georgia leading the way, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are passing laws to make it much more difficult for members of minorities especially to vote. Basically, that’s un-American. More to the point, it’s racist as hell.

         The only way Republicans win congressional races in a lot of areas is by gerrymandering voting districts so that their candidate has a majority of Republican voters in the district. Even in Georgia, though, that failed when Democrats managed to put together a major get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans are basically scared to death they will not get elected again.

           Being able to vote should be one of the easiest things to do in this country. It’s almost insulting to have to write a column arguing that point. The fact that Republicans lied about the presidential election being stolen from Trump — and some still do — and make no bones about imposing restrictions on people’s ability to vote suggests that there is no debate to be had on this issue. Republicans just don’t want minorities to vote. They are not concerned with changing their policies to attract the voters, just denying the votes.

          Democrats have the presidency and control of both houses of Congress (but only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate) for two years. Midterm elections often produce changes in the power structure. Democrats can go a long way to repairing the damage done in the last four years by the Trump administration. (Biden has already started.) Democrats can go even further by passing sweeping voters rights legislation that will ensure that Congress is truly representative of the majority of the people rather than in the hands of a tyrannical minority interested only in power, not governing.

         Of course, what I just said is pretty much what The New York Times editorial also said. What can I say, great minds think alike. If it’s good enough for The Times (sorry, a slight edit, Bill), most of the time, it’s also good enough for me.

(Personal note: I wrote editorials for The Record for 23 years until I retired. Thanks, Bill.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Bingeing: Grace, Midge … Cauliflower

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos 

 The marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Too funny for her own good?

The marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Too funny for her own good?

    I have a love/hate affair with bingeing.

     … Let me start over. Who ever came up with the concept of bingeing? I mean, putting your feet up and watching hours of your favorite show in one sitting? No commercials and no waiting a week for the next episode? What a concept! What a great idea. I love it.

     Until the episodes end and the seasons end and the pandemic doesn’t end and no one can film new episodes because the actors don’t want to die. And I’m left wondering what, if anything, will ever happen to the marvelous Midge Maisel.

     So I hate bingeing because, well, I always want there to be another episode. So I resist bingeing. Just two episodes a night is enough. Sometimes.

     Living in a locked-down world requires having something to look forward to tomorrow. At least it does for me. Netflix has provided thousands of options to take my mind, and millions of other minds, off the infection curve. Right place, right time. Sign in, Robert; take your pick. Who knew from streaming shows after growing up and getting old on weekly TV series? I don’t watch regular TV and you can only read so much and you can’t go out to the movies. 

    So, “What’s on Netflix?”

    “How about ‘Grace and Frankie?’”

    How about Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin!? And Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston! What a show! Who knew? Well, apparently lots of people who caught on to streaming before me because there were six seasons. Anyway, we loved it. Four veteran actors defying aging and other stereotypes. Funny. Binge!

    And then, uhh, is it over? Apparently, for now. They’re talking about filming the final season. Before the stars really fade, I suspect.

      So now what? Well, Michael Douglas has a show that looks kind of interesting. “The Kaminsky Method.“ He’s an acting coach. And Alan Arkin is in it. More talented veterans. God, I remember when Michael was too young to have his character dealing with prostate problems. “Greed is good!” No matter. Excellent. Funny. Binged. That’s all? Still waiting for a promised new season.

     Then we discovered “The Good Girls.“ Bingo! It’s dark and funny and it’s impossible to watch just one at a time. Usually, it was three, although I tried hard to argue for two. Always wanted to have something left for tomorrow. It ended with a cliffhanger, but came back. Then it went away again. But it’s coming back again. Soon I hope. 

      While exploring and waiting on the “Girls” to return, we looked in on “The Good Place.“ After being mildly interesting, it turned out to be pretty much the same place every episode. Sam Malone seemed a little out of place running Heaven. We didn’t stick around to see how it turned out since the whole concept is really about how it all turned out.

     Umm … Pass the chips, please. Speaking of bingeing, you can’t watch all this great stuff on an empty stomach, right? Apparently, a lot of people put on a lot of weight sitting around for a year bingeing on snacks. Not me. I may have even dropped a couple of pounds

      They call the shows comfort bingeing and I can see why. It certainly helped my mental health. But the new way of watching shows also led to a venture into new comfort foods. To be more specific, more healthful snack foods that satisfy the need to munch, but won’t make me regret all the bingeing later on.

      The basic concept is that the potato isn’t the only vegetable that can be made into a chip, to dip or just munch straight out. As long as we were trying a new way of watching shows, why not new munchies? Let me say straight out, they are all a bit light and airy, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be tasty and also satisfying. Veggie Crisps are mainly rice, peas and black beans and I can polish off a whole bag without feeling guilty. Not bad. Organic lentils (with turmeric) and organic sweet beet crisps didn’t really do much for me, taste wise, but again, they filled the void. Sweet potato crackers held their own. Skinny Pop popcorn, though, is a major favorite. Also pita chips, especially when scooping hummus.

       But the surprise thus far is cauliflower. Cauliflower puffs or sticks, doesn’t matter how you shape them, they just taste good. It’s like eating air with flavor. No heavy aftertaste and no extra pounds after many hours on the couch. It probably should go without saying, but I’ll say it: It’s important to try to stay healthy when bingeing during a pandemic, people.

       It also pays to be adventurous. When Netflix came up dry, Amazon Prime rewarded us with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” I love it. My era. Greenwich Village in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Lenny Bruce. And all the music. The best. A wonderfu ensemble cast and a meshugganah script. Funny stuff.

      And yeah, we’re waiting for the new season. Midge’s personal brand of humor got her into trouble one more time in the last episode. We left her standing at the airport, alone. Maybe she’ll spend more time with her kids in the next season. Or maybe the pandemic will end before we run out of shows and cauliflower puffs. Or maybe Grace and Frankie will return. The Good Girls are already on regular TV, so it won’t be long before they’re on Netflix, right? Right?

       Pass the Skinny Pop, please. I have a feeling this will not be the end of bingeing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

All the GOP’s “dumb” governors

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

South Dakota's Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

  “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”

  With that absurd, ungrammatical and easily refuted statement to the press, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week boldly entered the competition for “dumbest” Republican governor in America. It’s turning into quite a contest in a steadily growing field. And, while I may be mocking this collection of nitwits, let me be clear in stating that this is no laughing matter.

    Let’s start with Ricketts. He is vigorously fighting an effort to legalize medical marijuana in his state. That’s right, they’re not even talking about recreational marijuana in Nebraska, just catching up with the 39 states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. 

     But killing kids? The Drug Enforcement Agency says “no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.” Ever. As for its classification as a Schedule 1 Drug by the DEA — meaning it supposedly has no medicinal value — that was a product of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress as part of Richard Nixon’s racist campaign to demonize and nullify black voters. Fifty years later, and in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary, Republicans are still trying.

        There’s no real race issue in white bread Nebraska, so this is likely just one more Republican politician playing to the lowest common denominator — the proudly uninformed who make up much of the party’s base. The Trump voters. The governor also threw in the false claim that marijuana serves as a gateway drug for teenagers to other drugs. The Centers for Disease Control says there is no evidence of this. In truth, alcohol has long been the gateway drug for young people. Yes, there are risks, especially for young people, in using marijuana, but Ricketts could have stressed common sense approaches to its use rather than making up scare stories. Unfortunately, Nebraskans suffering pain from a variety of illnesses would be deprived of the relief medical cannabis can provide if he has his way.

         At least Nebraskans still have a chance to escape the consequences of having a “dumb” governor. Others, Texans, for example, have already paid a steep price. On March 2, with most of the nation, including Texas, in the early stage of receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. When the mayor of Austin, the state capital, said the masks would stay on in his city, Abbott went to court to challenge this affront to his authority to put Texans at risk.

          This mandate came on the heels of the deadly deep freeze in the Lone Star State. When the state’s independent power grid failed during a winter storm in February, with Texans literally freezing to death, Abbott went on Fox News to say, “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for America.” Abbott said solar and wind power got “shut down,” while noting that those sources account for only 10 percent of the state’s energy.

          The truth: natural gas lines, which provide the largest percent of Texas’s power, froze up as well because anti-regulation Texas didn’t require companies to winterize. So, yes, almost all power sources froze up. A few windmills did keep producing. Also the truth: Texas refuses to join national power grids for protection against blackouts because Republican officials don’t want federal oversight. Neither do power companies who support them financially.

          Of course “dumb” governors are not new in Texas. In the midst of the blackout, with Texans looking for food and shelter and just trying to stay alive, former governor Rick Perry said Texans would rather deal with blackouts than have the federal government regulate their power grid. Perry, of course, was Energy Secretary in the Trump Administration.

           To top it all off, when the Texas lieutenant governor tried to roll back $16 billion in exorbitant power bills sent to residents, Abbott disagreed. Said he didn’t have the authority. But he can order people not to wear masks. As of March 17, Texas was still averaging 173 Covid deaths a day.

          Abbott has had serious competition on ignoring health experts in responding to the virus from other Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who answered the question of whether anyone could be more obnoxious than Rick Perry with a resounding yes. In fact, anti-mask, open-up DeSantis, with an eye on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made his anti-science, anti-press approach the hallmark of his public utterances, again echoing the success of Trump with a core group of Republican voters.

          The same can be said of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has taken her campaign on the road and likes to come across as a wise-cracking cowgirl (where are you, Sarah Palin?) and has said from the beginning that South Dakotans don’t need any masks or social distancing and was disappointed when she couldn’t have a big fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. All this as Europe is seeing a resurgence of the virus.

         There are more candidates, but you get the idea. The real question, of course, is whether these politicians are truly dumb, or just playing a cynical role that makes them sound dumb to a majority of Americans, but enhances their reputation with the core group of Republicans who vote for them, often against their own self-interest. The willfully dumb.

          Given the prevalence of this in-your-face obnoxious ignorance, real or feigned, among Republican members of Congress (too many to name here), I have to think this is just further evidence of the disintegration of the Republican Party as a serious, principled participant in the governing of this nation. And that is a serious loss.

         Today, for GOP governors and other elected Republican officials, no platform is necessary. Atttack science. Deny history. Ridicule education. Blame “others.” Demonize the press. If people suffer, if they die, well those are the breaks. Make it all up as you go along. It will get you elected. Hey, it worked for Trump, didn’t it?

         Yes. Once. And if it happens again, we’ll have only our dumb selves to blame.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

       

Time for Universal DH in the Majors

Monday, March 8th, 2021

  

By Bob Gaydos

Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees was the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball.

Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees was the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball.

   OK, baseball purists, welcome to 2021.  Finally free of the obligation to try to make sense of the daily tweet storm, I have lately been pondering one of those niggling, lifetime questions. And it’s not political at all.

       I’m wondering when National League team owners will come to their senses and sdopt the designated hitter rule permanently, not for just one pandemic-shortened season. I mean, really, after nearly a half century of acting superior to their fellow millionaires in the American League, who eagerly embraced the DH, aren’t the “purists” tired of watching pitchers flail awkwardly at routine fastballs and sometimes hurt themselves in the process?

       Why not give them a break from the embarrassment as well as the added risk of injury running the bases should they accidentally hit the ball? Let them focus on pitching, which is literally all they’ve done since graduating from high school.

       The National League is one of the few leagues in the world that still requires pitchers to bat. All but a handful of minor league teams switched to the designated hitter around the same time as the American League, 47 years ago. That’s how today’s pitchers grew up in baseball — pitching and rarely hitting. Hitting a baseball is not easy when you do it regularly; it’s almost impossible when practicing it is an afterthought.

      Yet, once again, it appears that the National League and the players union could not come to agreement on using the designated hitter for the 2021 season. Although the arguments around use of the DH generally focus on the so-called “purity“ of the game, when the owners and players are involved in any discussion, money is usually the central issue.

       Frankly, I have no sympathy for either side. This is a bunch of rich men — the players — versus a bunch of richer men, the owners. Everyone’s got plenty of money. The goal here should be to make the game more interesting and exciting so that more people come to the ball park, when allowed again, and more watch on TV, which will add to advertising revenue. More money. Plus, you can give some popular veteran players another year or two in the majors.

        Some say the DH takes away the element of strategy, but a double up the alley or a home run is a lot more exciting and productive than a sacrifice bunt or a strike out. I am what you might call an old school baseball guy, but school has been out for a long time. More hits and runs tend to make the game more exciting to watch over a season. By the same token, watching a pitcher easily frustrate a lineup of supposed sluggers is also impressive. I’d rather watch Jacob deGrom pitch than hit. So would most Mets fans, who remember his elbow injury suffered while swinging futilely at bat a couple years back.

       Baseball may have been the national pastime at one time, but football has assumed that position. It has changed to meet the times. So has basketball. There’s a lot of competition for the sports fans’ attention these days and most younger baseball fans have not grown up savoring the delicious question of whether the manager should remove a pitcher for a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, even though he’s pitching a great game, because his team is down by one run and there’s no one on base. Today, the pitcher is likely to have been removed in the seventh-inning because he exceeded his pitch count, even though he’s pitching a great game.

        It’s a different game. Pitchers are coddled to protect their arms. Why expose them to injury and embarrassment by making them bat when they haven’t been allowed to practice that skill for years? And why, for heavens sake, have a different set of rules when both leagues are under the auspices of Major League Baseball?

          There are a handful of pitchers who are actually fairly decent hitters in major league baseball. If they’re that good, the manager can feed their egos and use them as a pinch-hitter once in a while. Embarrass a position player by having a pitcher hit for him. That might shake him up.

        Football pretty much eliminated the two-way player and goes out of its way to protect the most valuable player, the quarterback. If pitching really wins games, as all the baseball experts insist, then let the pitchers focus on pitching. And, for the purists, having a designated hitter for the pitcher might just keep that baseball staple, the hit-and-run, alive.

         Moneyball pretty much did away with the sacrifice bunt. Not only pitchers, but most major leaguers, are lousy at it today. Asking pitchers, some of whom can throw the ball 100 miles an hour, to also try to hit a pitched ball coming at 100 miles an hour, when they’ve had virtually no opportunity in their careers to do so — in fact, were never asked to do so — is unrealistic and unfair.

         Besides, after the Babe, the phrase “good-hitting pitcher” became an oxymoron.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

          

 

For the GOP, Is the Party Over?

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

 It’s not easy being a Republican these days. First, there’s the question, “What is a Republican?” Second, there’s the problem with numbers. They don’t add up. Third … for now,  go back to Number One: What is a Republican?

      The future of the party has been the subject of debate ever since its candidate, Donald Trump, was soundly defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Not only did Trump, an incumbent, lose, but Democrats also took control of the Senate, giving them control of Congress as well, since they retook the House in the midterm elections of Trump’s four years in office.

       This is not exactly “winning,” which is what Trump’s lap dog Lindsey Graham says is what he’s all about. Yet Graham still supports Trump as the leader of the GOP. And apparently, according to several surveys, so do a lot of other Republicans.

       Which is good news for Democrats.

        It’s the numbers. According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of registered voters identified as Republicans in 2020, while 33 percent identified as Democrats and 34 percent as independent. Since Trump’s loss, his incitement of the riot at The Capitol and the continuing lie that the election was stolen from him, thousands of Republicans have left the party. Even without knowing the exact number of defections, clearly there are fewer Republucans today than just last year.

       But one survey showed 73 percent of Republicans still felt it was important to remain loyal to Trump, while about 70 percent would at least consider joining another party if he started one. Those numbers sound impressive, but they are 73 or 70 percent of a registered voter base that was only 29 percent of the total electorate. A big chunk of a relatively small chunk.

      However, if 30 percent of Republicans can’t abide Trump, his support among registered Republicans then drops to around 20 percent of the electorate. Since many independents also don’t like Trump and more tend to identify with Democrats than Republicans anyway, it’s hard to see where Republicans plan to find the votes.

        One answer is, they don’t. They plan to prevent as many Democrats (especially minorities) from voting as possible. Voter suppression proposals have been presented in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But they will be challenged in court. 

        Another answer is, many Republicans are consumed by the delusion that Trump is their messiah and is destined to lead them to victory and beyond. Case closed. This weird factor grew exponentially with the recent Conservative Political Action Conference convention at which a gold statue of Trump was presented for adulation. Which goes back to the question — what is a Republican? Or a conservative for that matter.

       If Trump were to start a new party (unlikely if Republicans are willing to just give him theirs which is already organized and well-funded), what would it stand for? More of the same? Racism, bigotry, corruption, deceit and incompetence? Losing? Lying? White supremacy? Loyalty to the leader above all else?

      Is that what a Trump Republican is today? Again, the numbers say it’s a losing hand. Yet Trump loyalists within the party say it would be foolhardy for those party members who reject Trump to either try to assume control of the party or start a new one based on traditional conservative Republican views because the party’s base wouldn’t go for it. The grassroots Republicans would reject such an attempt, it is said, because that’s not who they are.

      Precisely. The “grassroots” Republicans Trump appeals to are all-in on the racism, bigotry, bullying, etc. Forget traditional conservative principles. The GOP Big Tent today is flooded with angry white men and women who go to church and ignore what is preached. They believe what they’re told and have no use for compromise or, indeed, for government. And beware if you oppose them. The old line Republicans who let them in to boost their numbers are scared to death of this base. Literally. Republicans who criticized Trump were actually advised not to attend CPAC for their own safety. But the Golden Trump was there.

        Forget principles and numbers. The only hope I see for Republicans who want to preserve traditional party values and restore its place as a legitimate partner in governing America is to hope that those Democratic prosecutors looking into Trump’s affairs in New York, Georgia and who knows where else are really good at their jobs. Since they weren’t appointed by Trump, odds are they are. Maybe they’ll take Trump out of the picture. Then all the old-school Republicans will have to do is get rid of all the Trump wannabes in their party. That’s problem number three. It may be a bridge too far.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

      

 

For GOP, Lying is Easier Than Governing

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

      “That’s the problem with the media today is they say all Republicans are liars, and everything we say is a lie. There are two sides to every story …”

     I began writing a column about this statement made by Rand Paul, the Republican-sort-of-Libertarian senator from Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, focusing on its fundamental absurdity. That it was, in fact, a lie in itself. The professionally run media never say that stuff.

       As days passed and events unfolded, I kept rewriting the column until it hit me like a bolt. There it was, every day, just waiting for me to hear it or read it. In his feigned outrage at ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos, Paul had inadvertently disclosed the underlying truth about today’s Republican Party: All Republicans are liars and everything they say is a lie.

     And, for Paul’s and other Republicans’ edification, a lie does not qualify as the other side to a story.

     Before I go any further, let me say that I am excluding from this declaration the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who were honest enough to say that Joe Biden was lawfully elected president and the handful who voted to convict Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection. But Trump is right when he says they are Republicans in name only (RINOs), because today’s card-carrying Republican is duty-bound to lie, or perish.

      After four years of daily lying, Trump came up with the Big Lie — the election was stolen from him. Every court and state rejected his lawyers’ pathetic efforts to prove otherwise. Every single one. But, and here’s where Paul and the rest of the gang come in, Republicans throughout Congress and coast-to-coast repeated the lie (and many still do), even though I am certain a good percentage do not believe it, because they feared the wrath of Trump and his more avid followers.

      Also, they discovered it was easier than actually governing and, since Republicans do not like government to begin with, they had no alternative plan. In Trump’s GOP, lying is the party platform. They as much as said so in nominating Trump last year to seek another term. There was nothing else offered. Not even a Wall. We stand by the liar. Period.

      Now, this can get complicated when there are other sources of information than Republicans and a lot of sensible people around who can spot BS when they hear it.

        Following Paul’s TV appearance, 43 Republican senators voted to acquit Trump at his Senate impeachment trial despite having been witnesses, some even accomplices, in inciting the riot at The Capitol. Mitch McConnell tried to refine the art of two sides to every story by arguing, first, that Trump could not be convicted because he was still president (as majority leader, McConnell delayed the trial a week), and then arguing (when demoted to minority leader) that Trump could not be convicted because he was no longer president. McConnell topped this off by saying, after voting to acquit, that Trump was indeed responsible for inciting the insurrection and someone should hold him accountable. That’s three sides, I think.

      So, McConnell lied twice, then sort of told the truth while, in true Republican fashion, passing the buck, basically to try to preserve his leadership role in the GOP without doing any of the dirty work, like maybe voting to convict Trump.

      It’s easier to lie than actually govern — Republicans might want to make that their motto. Now McConnell’s at war with Trump over control of the party. The suspicion is McConnell doesn’t plan to run for re-election in six years so he’s not worried about occasionally flirting with the truth and as a result having to buck a Trump candidate. 

        Which brings me to Texas, where the GOP platform of simply lying has been on display for the world to see. It has not been pretty. Texas, which has been run by Republicans for decades, recently nearly froze to death as an entire state due to the party’s aversion to actually governing. When temperatures plummeted and the snow fell, the lights went out all over the state. No power. No water. No heat. No help from the governor in Austin. Nothing from legislative leaders. Just excuses. Frozen windmills, they said. See, solar doesn’t work, they said. They even blamed the proposed Green Energy Deal, which has never even been voted on. Lies.

       They lied about the cause — the state’s refusal to join a regional energy grid for protection in emergencies and the failure of big energy companies to winterize their equipment because it cost too much and Texas did not require them to do so. Too much government regulation, you know? And while blaming solar and wind energy sources, they ignored the fact that 70 percent of Texas’s power comes from carbon fuels and their providers had lobbied hard against regulation, had donated heavily to Republican governors and had jacked their prices drastically when the deep freeze hit. An investigation is in order.

        This is what happens when lying is easier than governing. People suffer. People die. Yet Texas Republicans and their shills on Fox News kept up the lies. And their senator, Ted Cruz, headed with his family to Mexico where it was warm and there was plenty of water and electricity. When he was caught, he blamed it on his daughters. Said he was just being a good father. That was a lie. Reluctantly, he finally said it was “a mistake” to go on a Cancun vacation while people he ostensibly represented were dying in their beds, were desperate for clean water, were living for days in homes with no heat in temperatures well below freezing.

    Yes, it was a mistake, like his vigorous insistence without proof that the election was stolen from Trump and his equally vigorous opposition to impeaching Trump for inciting an insurrection. The Trump base — much of it anyway — bought those lies. But in Texas, that same base was getting electric bills for thousands of dollars from companies that neglected to prepare their facilities for cold weather and saw the freak storm as “a windfall.” Cruz couldn’t lie his way out it.

       Without demanding some apology from Trump supporters who didn’t vote for him, President Biden declared a state of emergency in the state and sent industrial generators, food, blankets and other supplies to suffering Texans, many of whom had bought the Republican lie that global warming was a hoax and oil and gas was still the future for proudly independent Texas.

       That’s the “other” side to this story. In truth, the only side.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Baseball, bigots and the Hall of Fame

Saturday, February 6th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Curt Schilling ... never one to hide his feelings

Curt Schilling … never one to hide his feelings

It’s time for my annual turn from the front page to the back page (sports page) for some message on the meaning of life. Also, pitchers and catchers report any day now. 

  Typically, late January offers baseball fans an opportunity to argue (we don’t debate) about who got into the Hall of Fame and who didn’t and why. Last year was pretty mild, the only question being how one spiteful sports writer could’ve left Derek Jeter off his ballot, keeping the Yankee great from being named to the Hall unanimously of his first try. Baseball made up for that lack of drama when, in the same week, the Mets fired Carlos Beltran as their manager before he ever managed a game because he was part of a cheating scandal as a coach with the Houston Astros. Karma. So there was a lesson in good and evil on the back page.

     This year, the January controversy revolved around Curt Schilling, who wasn’t elected to the Hall of Fame, even though he and 71.1% of the 401 sports writers who voted thought he belonged. A player needs 75% of the ballots to get in. Schilling needed 16 more votes. A star pitcher for Arizona and Boston, he fancies himself as a bit of an outspoken character. As fate would have it, he seems to have run afoul of baseball’s “character” clause. That is, he probably didn’t get enough votes not because he wasn’t a good enough player, but rather, because his presence in the Hall of Fame would somehow tarnish the name of Major League Baseball. He wasn’t a good enough person.

      A little about Schilling: His pitching credentials, in my opinion, are borderline Hall of Fame. He was a star in postseason play. I wouldn’t be too put out if he got in. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of his human-being credentials. He has espoused far-right conspiracy theories, compared Muslims to Nazis, said Hillary Clinton should “be buried under a jail somewhere“ and has spoken out vigorously against transgender people, among other things. He also enthusiastically endorsed a suggestion posted on social media that sports writers be hanged. (Since that’s who votes on Hall of Fame candidates, this was also a stupid thing to do, in my opinion.)

       But should stupidity or bigotry be reasons for disqualification from the Hall of Fame? (History says no.) And should baseball writers be the ones making that decision? These are the questions to ponder while waiting for the impeachment trial.

       Schilling has asked that his name be taken off the list of next year’s candidates. It would be his tenth and final year of eligibility and there’s been a lot of speculation, based on the history of other players, that he probably would manage to eke out that 75%. Schilling said he’d rather put his fate in the hands of another committee, which considers umpires, managers and other non-players as well as those who did not make the hall during their eligibility period. Apparently, he feels this group wouldn’t care how much he mouthed off about hanging sports writers or how much he hates Hillary and loves Donald Trump. The Board of Directors of the Hall of Fame said they would consider Schilling’s request.

        Of course, Schilling isn’t the only one of current Hall-eligible players running up against the “character” issue. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two dominant players whose Hall of Fame credentials are beyond question, also did not receive enough votes. That’s because they were part of baseballs “juicing era,“ when many players used steroids and other substances to enhance their performances on the field. To me, this would come under the heading of cheating, which one would think would qualify as being harmful to the image of baseball. Being not of good character. But neither man was penalized by major league baseball for using performance enhancing drugs and both have been on the Hall of Fame eligibility list for nine years, just like Schilling.

     It would seem to me, if baseball wants to have a character clause in deciding who gets into the Hall of Fame, it should apply that clause beforehand and decide which players do not even belong on the annual list, rather than leaving it to sportswriters. (I can’t think of a more qualified group to do the actual voting, as has been suggested.) That makes the writers’ task much simpler. If he’s on the list, just judge him on his on-field performance and nothing else. His character is OK with us. In that case, Bonds and Clemens would be shoe-ins. 

      Schilling to me would still remain borderline, a man with far-right extremist views who was also a very good pitcher. Someone who, ironically, was removed by ESPN as its commentator on the 2015 Little League World Series because he posted something on social media comparing Muslims to Nazis and who the next year was fired by ESPN for an anti-transgender post on social media. In those cases, I think ESPN made the right decision, for the good name of baseball and for them as journalists.

      So, this year’s lesson from the sports pages: If you want to be fussy about what kind of people can come into your home, you set the rules and you make the decision. Don’t give some strangers that responsibility. Also, if you’re going to shoot your mouth off with hateful nonsense, be prepared for the consequences.

      For me, Schilling can go to Cooperstown or not, just don’t ask me to have lunch with that bigoted, loudmouth jerk.

rjgaydos@gmail,com

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

A 12-Step Program for Republicans

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

38E746B5-A254-42AA-9A6F-7683C3D4A74C     Denial is the first, big obstacle. Until and unless they can admit they were powerless over Donald Trump, Republicans have no hope of recovering. They will be forever known as Trumpaholics, people addicted to avoiding reality and destined for a life that is, by any reasonable measure, unmanageable. I cite the last five years as evidence.

      But, as they say, there is a solution, one that has changed lives for the better for millions of people worldwide — a 12-Step program. It has worked miracles for alcoholics; it can work for Trumpaholics.

       I’ve written on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. One of the recurring stories I’ve heard over that time is that the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are not just a proven way to stop drinking, but also an excellent formula for living a good life. Getting rid of the booze — or in this case, the Donald — is only the beginning. Republicans can reap these rewards, individually or as a party … but only if they really want to change.

        So, with a deep bow to Bill Wilson and A.A. and adapted in all humility, here are the 12 Steps of Recovery for Republicans:

 

    1. We admitted we were powerless over Trump, that our party had become unmanageable.  This state of affairs is usually evident to non-addicts of the individual’s acquaintance well before that aha! moment arrives, if it does. Members of A.A. say this is the only step they have to get perfect, for obvious reasons. If a Republican can’t admit — still — that Trump dominates his or her every political thought or action, there’s no sense going on to Step 2. Denial. However, if Republicans can look at the past five years of saying yes to virtually everything Trump did or said and acknowledge the trouble that this blind obedience, this dependence, has caused in Republicans’ lives (broken relationships, lost jobs and opportunities, ruined reputations, trouble with the law) as well as the pain it inflicted on the lives of many others, there is hope.
    2. Came to believe that a power greater than Trump or Mitch McConnell could restore us to sanity. (No one said this was easy.) No, this does not mean everyone becoming Evangelical Christians. Quite the opposite. That would simply be swapping blind faith in Trump for blind faith in other con men and women. Give me your money and you will be saved. For a party that professes a belief in strong family values and makes a public display of respecting religious (well, Christian) teachings, this should not be a problem. Theoretically. However, I think it could be challenging to many Republicans who have become used to giving lip service to their professed religious beliefs. Skeptical alcoholics are sometimes advised to pick a higher power of their own choosing or at least to believe that someone whose sobriety they admire has such a belief. Instead of putting their hands on some charlatan’s shoulders and bowing their heads, supposedly in prayer, Republicans should look within the ranks (or without) for a source of strength, hope and faith and emulate that person. It should be someone with a sincere, demonstrated, spiritual footing. Hint: it’s not Ted Cruz. Not a Koch brother or Rupert Murdoch either. Keep looking. Someone more like Lincoln, remember? It may take a little time. That’s OK.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will, our money and our platform over to the care of whatever power we came up with in Step 2.  A key step. Last time out, Republicans did this almost accidentally with Trump. That was blind, misplaced faith in the flashy guy. No willpower, true, but no sense of shared responsibility to the greater good. This time, they need to decide to follow the lead of someone with sound moral principles and then lead their political lives accordingly. That is, decide to do the rest of the steps.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step could be a problem for a lot of Republicans because it requires honesty. But if they want to change, they need a list of the things they want to change. For example, lying that the presidential election was stolen while knowing there was never any proof of this would be something to put high on the list. Lying is bad, even in politics. Hypocrisy is just a fancy word for lying. Also, stealing and harming others so as to benefit yourself. Breaking the law, too. All Trump’s pardons did not remove the guilt, they merely freed the guilty.
    5. Shared with that higher power from step two, with ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. In other words, look in the mirror and say, “I have been a self-serving, lying, backstabbing, selfish, hypocritical, cowardly son-of-a-bitch for the past four years,“ and then release a statement to that affect — in detail — on social media. Get Liz Cheney or Lisa Murkowski to pose in the picture with you. Piece of cake.
    6. 6. Were entirely ready to have my higher power (with the help of a new party leader of sound moral standing) remove these defects of character. Basically, Republicans must resign themselves to the fact that they have been a group of self-serving, lying, cowardly, etc. since they chose Trump as their leader. This is the truth, the real news. When and if they accept it, they can move on to Step 7.
    7. Humbly asked him or her to remove our shortcomings. Harder than it sounds. First of all, shortcomings seldom ever really go away. They find new hiding places. Republicans will have to become aware of them and try to avoid them. Stop lying about the deficit, That’s a lifetime of work and will require humility. Good luck finding someone to explain that concept to Republicans. Again, not Ted Cruz, who confuses humiliation with humility.
    8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Really. You don’t get to totally screw up a country and just walk away like nothing happened. Not if you want to change. Start with the kids in the cages.
    9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others. Again, start with the kids in the cages. That last part lets Republicans stay out of jail and not hurt their own family by admitting how they routinely cheated minority voters with sketchy redistricting plans and harsh voter registration laws.
    10. Continued to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admitted it. This is the new way of living part of it. “I’m sorry; I was wrong.” Try not to abuse this step.
    11.  Sought through regular meetings and work sessions, at which an honest exchange of ideas is encouraged and welcomed, to maintain contact with our new party leader seeking only to learn what the new Republican Party stands for and the power and courage to carry that out. Prayer and meditation wouldn’t hurt either.
    12. Having had a major reprieve and possibly a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry the new Republican Party message to Trumpaholics and others and to practice its new principles in all our affairs. One day at a time.

   That’s it. The formula for recovery for the Republican Party. But there is one thing more. With alcoholics, the drinking is just a symptom of the disease. When the drinking stops, the disease (much of the behavior) doesn’t go away. That’s why recovery is a daily practice. To avoid relapse.

   The real question for Republicans is what made them Trumpaholics in the first place.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Dear Mr. President, We’re With You

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

    Dear Mr. President, sir, Mr. Biden, Joe … 

 President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden

   Wow, this is harder than I thought it was going to be. After four, really almost five, years of writing virtually nothing but columns of anger, fear, shame, bewilderment, outrage or embarrassment, writing a simple note of congratulations and best wishes is proving to be a challenge.

      But it is the necessary and proper thing to do. Already, that’s a change.

      I guess I wanted to start by saying that it’s not every presidential election in this country that is greeted with a huge, “Thank God!” when the final result is announced. Even atheists, maybe especially atheists, had that reaction when you were pronounced the winner last November. Yes, I know and recent days have demonstrated that not everyone was pleased with the result. But I for one have sensed a profound feeling of relief and hope arise in this country, “Joe won!”

       Thank God.

       The final weeks before your inauguration were … frightening I guess is the appropriate word. The assault on the Capitol by racist Trump loyalists shook America and the world. But, as you and others have noted, we survived. Democracy survived. I always felt we would, but then I did not think it would ever come to that horrifying scene of Jan. 6.

       Yet here we are. No subsequent violence, as warned against. Instead, many calls for unity, some certainly motivated by self-preservation. There is, I think, a palpable calm across the country, a result of being rid of the chaos and anger of the last four years.

       I do not envy you your challenges, but I do have faith that you understand them and will not seek to avoid or downplay them. I look forward to a measure of decorum and honesty that had all but disappeared from the White House. I also look forward to an opportunity for another era of growth in America. It is my sense that millions of my fellow citizens, including many who did not vote for you, are grateful to have survived an attempt to dismantle our democratic republic and are more than willing to do what is necessary to fix what we learned was broken.

       To me, this means holding those responsible for assaulting our laws and principles accountable for their actions as well as initiating a comprehensive effort to re-educate many Americans on what Lady Liberty stands for in the New York harbor, what “liberty and justice for all” really means in the Pledge of Allegiance.

        It will not be easy and many will resist at first. But sending the truly traitorous to prison will undoubtedly get the attention of many of the merely ignorant. As always, hope lies with the new generation.

        Mr. President, I know you know all this, but I think it’s important you know how many of us are with you in confronting this challenge. There are actually happy memes on Facebook again. I will undoubtedly disagree with you on some policy or another, but I don’t expect to be slandered on Twitter because of it. For my part, I will try to go back to my professional approach of not using profanity to express my opinion. I will also write a more specific letter in the near future on actions I think need to be considered. (Your executive orders undoing much of the damage of the past four years and your plan for dealing with Covid are a great beginning, by the way.)

      In closing, as someone who is a few months older than you, let me say I hope you get plenty of rest, pay attention to what you eat, exercise regularly and maybe give Kamala Harris more to do than most vice presidents typically get. It couldn’t hurt.

      Again, congratulations and be well.

Bob Gaydos

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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