Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Sycophants, Cowards and Steve Bannon

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway and Steven Bannon. CREDIT: Matt McClain, The Washington Post; Ron Sachs, pool via Bloomberg; Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post

Sean Spicer, KellyAnne Conway and Steve Bannon.
CREDIT: Matt McClain, The Washington Post; Ron Sachs, pool via Bloomberg; Jabin Botsford, The Washington Post

I had a strange thought as I was processing the latest rush of news from the White House: Steve Bannon may be the most honest person in the building. Not likable. Honest.

He doesn’t talk about being honored to be of public service as a top adviser to the president. He doesn’t pretend to like non-whites, poor people or Muslims. He doesn’t even pretend that Jared Kushner has any business being another top adviser to the president. All Bannon does on a daily basis is go about his mission of dismantling the government, agency by agency, presidential decree by presidential decree.

In other words, he doesn’t hide the fact that he’s using the unhinged narcissist-in-chief (NIC) for purely personal political reasons. And he doesn’t show up in front of microphones to justify or try to explain the logic of the NIC’s latest embarrassing breach of protocol, ethics, conduct, law, decent behavior, etc.

There are plenty of others all too willing to do that, including someone I never thought would join the chorus of Trump excusers — National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. When he was appointed to the White House job, I thought, “Well good, Trump finally got one right.” Like most of the rest of the people watching Trump put together a staff, I figured he had finally named someone who knew what he was doing, had solid principles and the guts to stand up for what he thought was right, including saying when the president was wrong.

Apparently I was wrong. After The Washington Post broke the story that the NIC had divulged highly classified intelligence to Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting at which the American press (but not a Russian photographer) was banned, there was McMaster on the White House lawn disputing the story while at the same time seemingly confirming much of it as he tried to find that elusive place for the NIC’s behavior known as “appropriate.”

The next day, of course, Trump tweeted that he did indeed tell the Russians some classified stuff, but so what, he’s the president and he can do so if he chooses. That may well be true, but it doesn’t make it right, or smart. McMaster thus became the latest apologist to be thrown under the bus by a man who demands loyalty but exhibits none of it.

But I have no sympathy for him because he surely knew before taking the job how Trump operates. Similarly, I do not feel sorry for Sean Spicer, KellyAnne Conway or others who took jobs as mouthpieces for a demonstrated pathological liar and have lost any credibility or, indeed, dignity they might have felt they had in doing a job professionally by stepping out every day to repeat Trump’s lies, defend them with air quotes or describe them as “alternate facts.”

If they didn’t realize what they were getting into from the campaign, they surely knew it on day one when Trump bragged about the size of his inauguration crowd. Even though government photos showed it to be small, he still sent Spicer out to say it was huge and, instead of resigning, Spicer did as he was told.

He is now a late-night TV joke, as is Conway. So apparently, like a lot of others, they took the job for the money or some perceived personal gain, but not the “honor” of doing public service because there is no honor in hiding in bushes to get your story straight for the press or arguing that the president’s own tweets don’t say what they say.

Vice President Mike Pence has also shown a casual willingness to defend Trump — as when he said the NIC fired FBI director James Comey on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, not over the FBI probe of Trump-Russia connections only to have the Tweeter contradict him the next day on Rosenstein and the Russians. But Pence, an evangelical Christian who doesn’t have dinner alone with any woman except his wife, long ago sold his soul when he left Indiana to be vice president to a man whose life has been, and continues to be, a textbook case of misogyny. Birds of a feather.

You can also throw Reince Priebus in the stew with all the rest who thought having a White House position was something prestigious and influential and something they would be able to point to with pride on their resume — even though the man they serve is without intellect, integrity or shame and demands that they support his delusions, which they have dutifully done. Sycophants all.

The word is that the NIC may fire some of his White House staff soon. Indeed, he may well have done so before I finished writing this. I do know that a special counsel has been named by Rosenstein to conduct the Trump-Russia connections and that a few Republicans in Congress have apparently decided that the only way to save their jobs is to start investigating Trump and stop defending him.

Yes, it’s their sworn duty to do so, but the Republican Party has been a shameless enabler and apologist for Trump from the day he got its nomination. Priebus, as Republican National Committee chairman, led the way on that and got his prestigious White House job as a payoff. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have aided and abetted every step of the way in Congress, relishing the added power and accomplishing nothing. If they ever had any semblance of pride in the work they do and gratitude for being allowed to serve their country — the kind of things Republicans always talk about — that has long since been obliterated by their obsequiousness and crass disregard for the people they are supposed to serve. They are cowards, plain and simple.

No, it’s just Bannon. He has never pretended to care about creating jobs or providing healthcare for Americans the way all the rest have. For him, it’s always been about supporting the emperor, uh president, to solidify his power so that he can go about oppressing minorities, deporting immigrants, blowing up the federal government, eliminating individual liberties and making a ton of money.

I hate the SOB. But he’s never once pretended that Trump was smarter than him or stood in front of TV cameras to say that black was white, or vice versa, depending on the Trump Twitter feed of the moment. Bannon hasn’t got a soul to sell and when he lies, it’s not to us, it’s to the NIC.

Somehow, that’s not comforting either.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Ah, What Cadet Trump Could’ve Learned

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Cadet Donald Trump ... at NYMA

Cadet Donald Trump … NYMA, Class of ’64

A few days ago, in response to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC) third-grade dissertation on the Civil War, I posted a sarcastic comment on Facebook: “Educators at the New York Military Academy, Fordham and Penn must be so proud.”

At the time, I thought I was being clever. On further consideration, I decided that it is likely that none of the educational institutions that offered an education to Donald Trump is proud of how it is being displayed by the NIC. Also, that it was not their fault.

I’m particularly sorry that I cast what might have been aspersions on the New York Military Academy, which is located in Cornwall, not far from my home in upstate New York. We’re neighbors and I was a tad unneighborly and so I want to apologize to NYMA (Fordham and Penn can take care of themselves), especially since the school has gone through some rocky financial times in recent years, including bankruptcy, a threatened closing and a serious decline in attendance.

But I also was curious as to whether NYMA really was proud of our president and their alumnus, so I checked its website. Lukewarm is my impression. Trump is listed among notable alumni (“45th president of the United States”) and also appears on a list of the school’s published authors. The NYMA band did march in the Inaugural Parade, but I figure that was a tough one to turn down as it gave a bunch of teens an opportunity to participate in a moment in history. They certainly won’t forget it.

However, there is no special tribute to Trump at nyma.org., no special page or biography or look back at his years at NYMA. No bragging about the man who recently said, “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

Why indeed.

While apparently still stuck on the Civil War, he said a few days later of Abraham Lincoln, “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

He said this at a Republican Party fund-raiser where a lot of people undoubtedly did know that. Then again, along with the current president, a lot of members of what has long been called The Party of Lincoln, seem to have forgotten what that means.

At any rate, having piqued my own curiosity about NYMA and Cadet Trump, I checked out the website to see what the new owners of the 128-year-old institution were offering. It sounds pretty much like what one would expect from a military academy located just up the Hudson River from West Point.

Let’s start with the academy’s statement that “at NYMA celebrating diversity is a way of life.” Hmm.

NYMA also says, “Developing good citizens requires cultivating the essential traits of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, caring and fairness.” Hmmm.

And there’s the cadet code, the same as West Point’s: “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.” I get the feeling Cadet Trump was snoozing through some of his classes at NYMA. Still, he did graduate and his five years at the academy represent his only military experience.

While perusing the website I further wondered, knowing how much the NIC likes adulation and weekend jaunts away from the White House, whether he would be participating in NYMA’s Alumni Weekend. Wouldn’t that be a kick-and-a-half for Cornwall?

The alums are gathering at an open alumni muster May 19 at a local dining establishment to kick off a weekend of activities and reminiscing. It’s the kind of thing where everyone notices how old the others look and compares resumes. The NIC could show up with maps of his Electoral College win and Melania on his arm and go into his familiar grin. “I won.”

But what if, say, Francis Ford Coppola, who won a music scholarship (tuba) to NYMA (did not graduate) decided to show up with his multiple Academy Awards (The Godfather I and II), or Johnny Mandel, a 1944 band graduate of NYMA and an Oscar-and Grammy-winning composer who wrote the theme from M*A*S*H and worked with Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Barbra Streisand. They’d have some bragging rights.

Maybe, just for kicks, John “Junior” Gotti, class of ‘83 (did not graduate) shows up. He and the NIC could probably swap yarns about life in Queens and Junior could take Trump aside and remind him, “Hey Donny, you know it’s the god’s honest truth that I lied to the feds, right? You can’t trust what the FBI says. There ain’t no Mafia. You know that. But they got my father and tried to get me four times. Four mistrials. Sweet, huh? That’s why they call me Teflon Jr. So you think you might have a job for me at Justice? Just askin’, you know?”

Or, for sheer bragging rights, composer Stephen Sondheim, class of 1946 (also did not graduate), could show up with his Oscar, eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer),  including a Special Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre award, eight Grammy Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote the lyrics to “West Side Story,” which is resume-topper enough for me.

But what might really annoy the NIC is Sondheim’s Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by Barack Obama in 2015. That’s a tough award to top, in the Electoral College or anywhere else. In fact, if he knew about it, Trump might just try to undo it by executive order.

Maybe he should just send Kellyanne Conway with an autographed photo of him and go play golf again that weekend.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Alcoholics and Excuses, a Familiar Mix

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The first 100 days of you know what have been disturbingly familiar to me, but I haven’t been able to put a finger on why until now. For the past decade, I’ve been writing a regular column called Addiction and Recovery. Self-explanatory. As I was writing my recent column, it came to me what that disturbing feeling was all about. I’ve actually written about it before in connection with you know who, but I think information on this subject can’t be repeated too often. So, here’s my latest Addiction and Recovery column. I think you’ll make the connection.

 ***

"I'm a single mom. I work hard. I deserve it."

“I’m a single mom. I work hard. I deserve it.”

Alcoholics are, among other things, creative people, especially when it comes to dreaming up excuses to justify their drinking. Living with an alcoholic can be a whirlwind of confusion, disappointment, and frustration. And that’s the good stuff. It is likely there will also be some combination of pain, anger, resentment, loss, anxiety, or sorrow.

And yet, the alcoholic will insist that his or her drinking is not the cause of any problems. In fact, may well insist that he or she needs to drink because of the problems: “If you had my life (wife, job, luck), you’d drink, too.” Sound familiar?

Alcoholics are also masters of justification when it comes to threatening to take away the one thing that, while it may well be killing them or doing other serious harm, seems to make life worth living. That makes it crucial for those whose lives are directly affected by an alcoholic to know when they’re hearing excuses that belie what they have seen and heard with their own eyes and ears.

Following are some of the common excuses alcoholics use when their drinking is called into question:

  • “My favorite excuse was always that I work very hard and I deserve to play very hard, too.” … So says J.T.E., a middle-aged Orange County, N.Y., man 30 years sober. It’s the  “bring-home-the-bacon” excuse. It ignores the fact that most people are working hard to bring home the bacon, or vegan substitute, but not everyone is drinking to excess (and maybe ignoring family responsibilities) to reward themselves for being such wonderful providers.

        This excuse is not exclusive to males. G.P., who also lives in Orange County, says, “My biggest excuse was simply that I deserved it. I was a single mom who worked very hard to climb the ladder of business success without an education. I also had my cars, home and never had a ‘run in’ with police. That being said, I deserved to binge drink my weekends away. I was a hardworking mom and nobody could tell me different. I’ve been sober since September, 2015.”

  • “It’s my life (my body, my health, my future), I’m not hurting anyone except myself.” … Alcoholics are also self-centered and egotistical. It may be hard for some to admit that their behavior is having serious negative effects on the lives of people closest to them, those who care the most for them. Hard as it is to believe, they may not even notice it. Denial is a powerful foe.
  • “I only drink to relax, to relieve the stress.” This is often an extension of the “bring-home-the-bacon” excuse. Again, the alcoholic likes to think he or she is unique — the only one with a stressful job. Drinking or using drugs to relieve stress because of a pressure-filled job is not uncommon, but is not necessarily the healthiest choice available. For some, it’s the worst choice and can lead to even more stress at work. Exercise and meditation are a couple of more healthful stress-relief alternatives.
  • “Everyone I know drinks. Why pick on me?” … Well, yes and no. It’s unlikely that everyone the alcoholic knows drinks the same way (as often, as much, as routinely) as he or she does. But if they do, then he or she needs to find a new group of friends to hang out with.
  • “I’m not an alcoholic. Now Joe, he’s an alcoholic.” … There are stages of alcoholism and Joe may well be an alcoholic who has used all these excuses to deny his problem and avoid getting help. It’s not necessary to compare and look for a lower bottom. The stereotype of the alcoholic as a wino with a paper bag no longer prevails, but it can still happen if someone is unable to admit the truth.  
  • “It’s expected in our society. I only drink to be sociable.”  … John (not his name), a man in his 70’s from Sullivan County, N.Y., with more than 30 years of sobriety, recalls how surprised he was in early sobriety to notice that not everyone at a wedding, dinner party, or banquet was drinking alcohol. In fact, some people never went near the cash bar. Again, wrapped up in themselves, alcoholics see only what they want to see. Alcohol may be a social lubricant, but for some it can also have the counter-productive effect of driving people away.
  • “I’m not an alcoholic, I can stop any time I want.” … Any time except right now. This is the classic stall. It’s often paired with, “This is not the right time.” Because you couldn’t possibly not drink during the holidays, on vacation, on St. Patrick’s Day, or next Tuesday. It’s never the right time, so why not just go ahead and prove you can do it?
  • “I only drink beer (or wine), not booze.” ,,, This excuse has been watered down in recent years as more people have become aware that, in whatever form, alcohol is alcohol. You drink enough, you get drunk. This is cousin to, “I only drink on weekends.” It’s not what you drink that matters, or even how much or how often; it’s the impact it has on your life. Alcohol and trouble. That’s why people are talking about your drinking.
  • “I drink a lot of wine (craft beer) because I really like the taste.”Please.

***

‘I changed my mind …’

Alcoholics are also good at justifying their drinking to themselves, not just others. M.G., a sober woman who lives in Orange County, says, “Some of my go-to’s were, they’ll never find out, just one, just one more, just for the summer — I have to get the need out of my system.

“One I didn’t realize until years into recovery was when I would set out, having told myself and usually also promised my family that I wouldn’t drink that night, when I’d get in front of alcohol I’d always drink it and say I changed my mind. Fact was, I couldn’t be around it without drinking it. I had no defense against the first drink. I wanted to feel good, to be cool, just one last time.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

No One Told Me How Hard This Job Was

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

— Donald J. Trump, in an interview with Reuters

Who knew?

Who knew?

Wow, has it really been only 100 days since America started to be great again? Seems like … a heck of a lot more. In fact, it seems like ages since the same Mr. Trump said, “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier. We have the best military people on Earth. And I will say this: [North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un] is doing the wrong thing.”

Remember that? He was talking to Fox News. That was way back when he tried to fake out Kim by warning him that an aircraft carrier group was steaming towards North Korea when it was really heading in the opposite direction to the Indian Ocean? Kind of like hiring someone to do a job and then not paying them, you know? It always worked in business, so I guess he figured it was worth a try on an unpredictable dictator with a million-man army and a hankering for nuclear missiles.

Although, I’d imagine Mr. Trump must have been somewhat embarrassed when his admirals said they didn’t know anything about any ships steaming to Korea. But heck, they finally worked it out and they’re there now, so good for them, right? And Mr. Trump said not to worry, war-lovers, a “major” conflict with North Korea was still not out of the range of possibility if Kim continued to engage in provocative behavior. Except Mr. Trump doesn’t like to use big words, so he said something like, “If Kim (which one, guys?) keeps doing bad things we might have to attack him.”

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) likes simple declarative sentences. Nothing complex. Direct communication. Look at his tax plan. One page, 200 words. No messing around with details like revenues and deficits. Huge tax cuts for very rich people. I promised it, now do it, staff. That’s a leader. This is what those voters wanted to see and hear.

Not that he’s a dictator, though. He showed how flexible he can be on his campaign promises by not insisting that a budget bill to keep the government operating for another week include $3 billion to start that wall the Mexicans keep refusing to pay for. Well, he did insist at first, but when Congress said no, he showed he could be flexible. He put off the wall for a few months.

He did the same thing with his threat to cut off funds that allow poor people to get health insurance through Obamacare if Congress didn’t get rid of his predecessor’s legacy achievement. Yessir, the NIC said in clear, concise terms that he’d hold up any budget deal and cut off Obamacare Medicaid funds unless Congress made good on his promise of a new health care plan right now. But again, he showed how flexible he could be by saying OK when Congress said “no way” to his threat. Now that’s a good leader, right?

… This is not normal, people.

The only honest thing the NIC has said since being elected is that he thought the job would be easier. He couldn’t bring himself to say it’s way too hard for him, that he’s woefully ill-prepared intellectually, emotionally and spiritually for the most important job on the planet. He did manage to say that measuring a president by his first 100 days in office — a traditional benchmark he promoted strongly while running for the office — was actually an artificial (he probably said “fake”) measure of a president’s accomplishments … although he also said his first 100 days were clearly the best ever.

Well, they did result in the lowest approval rating at that juncture of any president — 41 percent. In fact, according to the YouGOV/Economist poll, “What Americans saw in President Trump as he was inaugurated nearly 100 days ago is more or less the same things they see today: Opinions of his qualities and his presidency have changed little. The public is more negative than positive about his performance, and most continue to find weaknesses in his honesty, empathy and temperament.”

Let that last, subtle sentence sink in.

And yet, 31 percent of the public (mostly Republicans) say he has performed better than they expected, according to the poll. This may suggest that a lot of people had really low expectations of Trump going in, or that they are just as delusional as he is. I offer no Option C.

That poll also reported that, in general, Americans like Barack Obama a lot more than they do Donald Trump. Shocker. To the question, “Regardless of whether you agree with him, do you like Donald Trump as a person?” people responded: Like a lot, 23 percent; like somewhat, 20 percent; dislike 45 percent.

On Obama: Like a lot, 44 percent; like somewhat, 27 percent; dislike, 18 percent.

So most Americans would probably rather play golf with Obama than Trump.

Still, a bit more than 10 percent of the people polled apparently couldn’t decide if they liked or disliked either man, which to me is mind-boggling and also a contributing factor as to how we wound up with a phony, misogynistic, narcissistic, lying, ignorant, immature, rude, bullying, lazy, ill-informed, bigoted con man in the Oval Office.

It’s 100 days. Let’s not beat around the bush anymore folks.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

As Promised: The Books You Picked

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Recent reading ...

Recent reading … Mine, not yours.

You meet the nicest people when you write about books.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of all the political angsts and anger on Facebook and wrote a column about books and synchronicity and what I was reading and asked folks what they were reading. To change the subject, you know?

The mind needs a break from corruption, greed, arrogance, duplicity, complicity, bigotry, cowardice and just plain stupidity, even, or especially,  when those are the dominant traits of the elected officials filling the seats of power in Washington.

Books can take us elsewhere. Anywhere, really. They can remind us what it is to think, not merely react. To set aside our current grievances. To relax, imagine and discover … mostly ourselves.

So I asked people what they were reading and said I would share it with others. When I write about other topics, such as politics, the feedback I get tends to be from self-satisfied pundits who want to 1) tell me I’m an idiot and 2) demonstrate how much smarter they are by making some snarky remark about my opinion. They usually don’t spend time writing anything of any length themselves. It’s hit-and-run commentary. Insult and belittle. But it’s the age in which we live and I know that going in.

Still, a guy needs a break occasionally. Wouldn’t you know, when I asked people about books they were reading or would recommend or, a la “Fahrenheit 453,” a book they would be if they could be one, people gave thoughtful, respectful responses. Imagine that.

So here, as promised, are some of the replies I got from posting my column on several sites as well as zestoforange:

  • Jo Cicale, with her new Kindle: What am I reading or what have I read? “All the Light We Cannot See” was among the best of the best. Just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” and that is a wow! Geez, wish I could remember the name of the book about Alfred the alligator. It was such a fun read. Need laughs and fun, don’t we?
  • Patricia Campbell: I am reading the two latest James Pattersons – “I, Alex Cross” and “Kill Alex Cross.” If I could be a book it would have to be “Bastard Out of Carolina.” This is a gritty look at child abuse and neglect, I could not put it down and so I didn’t.
  • Toni Macaroni: Just finished “God Help the Child,” by Toni Morrison. I found it quite amazing. Quick read.
  • Linda D’Amato Hayes: Currently reading “Alvin York, A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,” by Douglas V. Mastriano, and “Angels of the Underground, the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII,” by Theresa Kaminski.
  • Jason Harris: I’m currently reading two books. One I read to keep my mind occupied and is the height of Space Opera from the Black Press called “Mechanicum” and is part of a series called “The Horus Heresy.” The second I read in an attempt to better my soul and that’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  • Idrea Ramaci: “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle. Already have it almost memorized, as I’ve read it so many times.
  • Anita Page: “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer. This book about the role the Koch brothers play in American politics is alarming, but worth reading. “Selected Stories,” by William Trevor — 48 stories by one of the best short story writers of our time. The collected works of Mo Willems (to be read aloud to grandkids). He’s terrific and very funny, which is helpful these days.
  • Jim Bridges: The last book I read was Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness.”  What book would I like to be – gosh, I immediately thought of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels, perhaps “The Brothers Karamazov.” Not sure why, but ever since high school I have liked his writing.
  • Ernie Miller: Here are some books. Margaret Atwood: “Oryx & Crake .” William Forstchen: “One Second After,” “One Year After,” and “The Final Day” (connections to Newt Gingrich & The Prepper Network ). Kim Stanley Robinson: “The Mars Trilogy,” “The Years of Rice & Salt* and “New York 2140.” * Big on Synchronicity!
  • Mikhail Horowitz: I am currently reading Shelby Foote’s 14-volume history of the Civil War. Mostly because a) he’s a wonderful storyteller; b) the parallels between the 1860s and the 1960s (my student activist days) are so uncanny; and c) during the recent presidential campaign it became obvious that half this country is still fighting the Civil War. Also, I thought I already WAS a book, but if I had to pick another book — actually, two books — to be, they would be a first edition copy of the “2050 Baseball Encyclopedia,” and a translation of “Finnegan’s Wake” into Mandarin.
  • Christine Marsh-Rijssenbeek: “Half a Life,” by V.S. Naipaul. His writing is sublime. And if I were a book: “The Kon Tiki Expedition,” by Thor Heyerdahl because I feel as if I’m always floating in the middle of an ocean.
  • Mary Makofske: Am reading “535 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” by Charles Lewis (and this BEFORE the ascension of Trump). Also some older novels, “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn and “Ecotopia,” by Ernest Callenbach (surprising how relevant they still are. Ecotopia is composed of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which seceded). “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. “The Harvest Gypsies,” nonfiction by John Steinbeck (led to “The Grapes of Wrath”). “Methland,” by Nick Reding, was an eye-opener. “How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan,: didn’t contain much new for me, but was a timely reminder. Wow, I’ve been reading a lot. Thanks for asking, Bob. I always like to see what others have discovered.
  • John Escher: Nice. I was going to recommend that you stop reading books and see a movie, “FAHRENHEIT 453,” but see you already did. Personally speaking, I prefer early to late Wolfe. “Hernia hernia hernia hernia hernia.” And prefer partial to full knee replacements since I play tennis when I’m not reading books.
  • Wise woman (obviously a nom de plume): Well you did ask. So here’s what I’m recommending according to the info you provided. Since you didn’t list a woman author, I suggest “Woman As Healer,” by Jeanne Achterberg. Then Deepak Chopra, “Perfect Health.” To round out some history you might not be familiar with, “Remembering Hypatia,” by Brian Trent. I met Brian years ago when he was a very young man and his book had just been published. I was highly impressed by his quiet intelligence and determination to tell a story that definitely needs to be told. These, if you should care to read them, will keep you busy for a while. Because of a protracted illness, I have been confined to my Kindle which has been a blessing since books are too heavy to read in bed. I wish you good health and success in sharing your experiences.

See what I mean? Nice people. Thank you. And if you want to keep commenting and suggesting, that’s fine with me. It adds to my reading list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Jimmys: Murray, Cannon, Palmer

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

This column appeared first on Zest on Sept. 11, 2010. It is offered as a companion to Jeremiah Horrigan’s nostalgic piece on baseball, which also appears on Zest this week.

By Bob Gaydos

Jim Palmer ... handsome as ever

Jim Palmer … handsome as ever

At one point in my four-plus decades in newspapers, I was a sports editor. It was for a paper in Binghamton, but it was still a great job. I got to go to sports editor seminars where everybody talked sports, hung out, ate and drank. I got to cover some Yankee games. Jerry Izenberg, former columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger once lent me his typewriter (see Wikipedia) so I could file my story after a game because I had left my machine in Binghamton. I also once interviewed Baltimore Orioles ace pitcher Jim Palmer as he soothed his aching body in the whirlpool. Yes, au natural. And yes, the sonofagun was as handsome in person as he was on TV.

But the best part of being a sports editor was that I also got to write a column on whatever I pleased. The bosses preferred local topics, of course, but it was Binghamton so they let me wander off to professional sports. And when their travels brought them to the Southern Tier, I talked with the likes of Roger Staubach (polite, if dull), Rocky Graziano (the textbook image of a pug) and, too briefly, Jackie Robinson. All in all, it seemed like the best job in the world and I often wondered wistfully, as my career veered back to the hard news side, what life might have been like if I had pursued a career as a sports columnist.

Now I know and now I have no regrets. I found the answer in a discarded copy of Jim Murray’s autobiography, which I picked up for a buck at the Thrall Library used book store (still the best deal in town if you read without the aid of a Kindle). Murray, one of the founding fathers of Sports Illustrated, was also a nationally syndicated sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He covered everything from NASCAR to golf and his style was unique. Murray was not a numbers guy. He didn’t cover events so much as the people participating in them.

On Muhammad Ali: “He didn’t have fights, he gave recitals. The opponent was just the piano, the backdrop. All eyes were on Ali. He loved it. It was his stage, his life. He was like Bob Hope with a troop audience. Olivier at the Old Vic.”

And what of the column that won him a Pulitzer and made him famous? Murray: “(It) came into my life in 1961. And took it over. A column is more than a demanding mistress. It is a raging master. It consumes you. It is insatiable. It becomes more you than you. You are not a person, you are a publicly owned facility. Available on demand.

“It has a calamitous effect on family relations. It confuses the kids’ identities. It rearranges your priorities — and not for the better.

“Jimmy Cannon had the right idea. He apparently accepted the fact early that he was wedded to the column. And he lived alone in a midtown Manhattan hotel and devoted his whole life to it.”

Maybe it‘s just me, but it sounds like Jimmy Cannon (one of my other favorites) shortchanged himself on the whole “we only have one life to live” deal. I was thinking about the two Jimmys because I had just spent the weekend watching some of the most godawful professional football games that people were ever asked to fork over a couple of grand for. The kind of games that rekindle the romance of high school football Friday nights.

Take the Jets. “Please,” as Henny Youngman (whom I once met in an art gallery in Woodstock) famously said.

Maybe it’s just me, but if Mark Sanchez is ready for prime time, so is Jimmy Fallon. The Ravens’ best play was pass interference on third and long. But hey, don’t beat up on Sanchez too much. Tony Romo and Philip Rivers and Drew Brees and Bret Favre — established stars all — all stunk up the joint in their first games.

Maybe it’s just me, but when most opening games were comedies of errors and penalties (Washington vs. Dallas was almost unwatchable) and ex-con Michael Vick is your standout quarterback, if you’re the NFL you should think twice about cutting the preseason by two weeks and adding two games to the regular schedule.

And don’t get me started on Joe Girardi. He makes Keanu Reeves seem animated. Girardi doesn’t manage games so much as he scans actuarial reports. He has all the instincts of a computer. If he has the best job in baseball, how come he never smiles? Just asking.

One more thought before I get too carried away with this whole sports column thing: If, as some observers claim, Tiger Woods being unable to play golf at a high level is good for the game because it has opened the field to so many other unknown golfers to make their names, how come the golf writers keep writing only about Tiger’s struggles and we still don’t know the names of those other golfers?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the two Jims — Murray and Cannon — would have loved writing about Tiger. After all, he doesn’t just win in grand style, leaving the rest of the field in shambles, he loses in epic fashion, his life burning down around him like some tragic Greek hero out of Aeschylus. Win or lose, all eyes are on the Tiger. The score is secondary.

And I apologize for all the name-dropping.

(Editors note: For younger readers, a column is to newspapers what a blog is to a website.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Syria Conspiracy: One I Can Believe

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump, Assad and Putin

Trump, Assad and Putin

I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination? No. The 9/11 building collapse? No. The DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders … Well, OK, two out of three.

To my thinking, most conspiracy theories require: 1) a predetermined attitude on the motive behind the conspiracy (“the government doesn’t want us to know because …”); 2) the willingness to disregard facts (or lack of facts); 3) the belief in the absolute commitment of lots of people over a long period of time to keep a secret; 4) the further belief that the people involved in the conspiracy are actually capable of pulling it off, or at least trying to.

So here’s my conspiracy theory: Trump, Putin and Assad set the whole thing up. The chemical attack, the missile attack, the denials, the warnings from Trump, the threats from Putin. All according to script. Yes, it’s a morbidly depressing theory and so, in some respects, I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m right.

To hatch any sort of conspiracy, there must be something to gain for each of the conspirators. Each must also be able to lie with a straight face, over and over and over again. Being a pathological liar helps. Also, the conspirators must be willing and able to carry out whatever deeds, however unseemly, that are required to promote the fiction they are trying to sell. People will be hurt. Being self-absorbed and demonstrably unconcerned about the welfare of others is also a useful characteristic.

That sounds like Trump, Putin and Assad. In this case, it’s not even hard to believe, let alone conceive of such a chilling conspiracy.

Trump’s motive? Pick one:

  • He doesn’t how how to be president.
  • People think he stinks at the job and he can’t stand rejection.
  • He couldn’t close the deal on the health care plan.
  • People mock his tweets.
  • Judges keep rejecting his executive orders.
  • Even Republicans in Congress couldn’t avoid investigating links between a growing list of Trump campaign aides and Russian hackers to sway the election in his favor. It would be good to get people’s minds off that.
  • People think he’s Putin’s puppet.
  • He likes to act tough.
  • It sounded like a good idea at the time.

OK, so Trump is not the brains behind the plot. Putin is. To get Americans, especially American TV news outlets, to stop focusing on the FBI and CIA and Congress probing whether Trump and Putin are in bed together and, you know, maybe someone committed treason, have Trump order a military strike that has humanitarian justification written all over it, even though it probably won’t accomplish much militarily. A feel-good military action, like attacking someone who has just used chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.

Putin: “Whaddya say, Assad, are you willing to do it again? I know the press will be bad, but that’s nothing new for you. Trump will just mess up one of your airfields with a picturesque nighttime missile strike. TV will eat it up. You’ve got plenty of airfields and we can get your troops and mine out of harm’s way ahead of time. We’ll deny you did it. I’ll talk tough to Donald. He’ll talk tough to me, or better yet, have my buddy, Rex Tillerson, talk tough to me and you.

“Everyone will get nervous. I get to stay in Syria and help you keep your job and the world forgets about Ukraine. My people see me showing a tough Russian face. They can’t earn a decent living in Russia, but they like that image. Meanwhile, your people are even more frightened, convinced that you’re a maniac, willing to kill them in the most horrible ways to retain power. I admire that in you, by the way.

“Americans, of course, will see a bold, decisive president. When Rex comes to see me next week, it will be like old times, in more ways than one. Somehow, we will strike a diplomatic deal. Put down the knives, so to speak. Maybe talk about lifting sanctions in the future. I agree to focus more on fighting ISIS. You agree to a safe zone. ‘Well done!’ the headlines will say. A lot of Americans will believe that Trump has changed overnight from an uncaring, bumbling narcissist to a bold, compassionate leader.”

Assad: “You really think people will believe that about him?”

Putin: “Look, we have to help him. He’s too valuable an asset. Besides, they believed him when he said he’d make America great again. Launching missiles always sends that message.”

Far-fetched? I truly hope so, but all conspiracy theories worth entertaining are. All you need for such an outrageous plot to succeed is three men who have shown no compunction about harming people if it makes them feel more powerful, who have demonstrated a disregard for international law, who possess an uncanny ability to lie, and who have incredible power at their disposal. Also, a public eager to let the story line reinforce their view of how the world is supposed to work.  That is: The good guys win, and we’re the good guys.

Now let’s talk about those contrails.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Pick a Book, Any Book; Now Be It

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Recent reading ...

Recent reading …

Remember books? You know, lots and lots of words on paper strung together in some sort of sensible, occasionally poetic, way to tell a story. No pop-up ads. Not textbooks. Book books.

I’ve been acutely aware of synchronicity in my life of late and books have played a part in it. Let me admit straight up here and now that my relationship with books had grown cool in recent years. Not a complete break, but sporadic at best. Technology lured me away.

Recently, though, life hit me head-on, leaving me mostly immobile and homebound. No TV. After a while, even I-phones and laptops lose their charm. I picked up a book: “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” by Tom Wolfe. Here’s some synchronicity: The only reason I had this book in my possession is that I had just finished reading Wolfe’s “Hooking Up,” which was one of several I picked up at the library’s used book store because my son, Max, said he was looking for something to read. “Hooking Up’’ reminded me that I liked Wolfe back when he was writing for the New York Herald Tribune. I also liked his “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

So I went back to the library and found “Electric, etc.” and “A Man in Full,” which I just finished and whose main character is an older gent recovering from knee surgery, like me.

I’m good on Wolfe for a while. Now, I’m reading “Contact,” by Carl Sagan, which I also found at the library store. I started thinking about my most recent choices in books and was thinking about asking friends for recommendations for some more recent books they found worthwhile.

Then, synchronistically, a Facebook friend in Seattle, Jim Bridges. posted an item informing me it was National Book Week. There were rules about finding a sentence from the book closest to you and posting it without telling the title of the book. So I did. Something from “Contact.” I also realized that Jim had just reminded me that, not too long ago, Facebook was regarded as social media, a place where people shared such information with friends as what they had for dinner and what book they were reading.

As far as I know, no one responded to my Book Week post. They probably thought it had something to do with, yes, politics. That’s just not right. Not long ago, when I started writing a blog for the Internet, friends routinely participated in discussions of whatever the topic was. Now, I feel a sense of frustration and fatigue on Facebook, which has become highly politically charged.

And so, I’m writing about books. Pay attention. I’m still looking for something to read after “Contact,” which I’m enjoying. As I said, my most recent reading — the past 18 months or so — has consisted of nothing new. Actually, nothing from this century:

“Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut; “A Prairie Home Companion,’” by Garrison Keillor; “1984,” by George Orwell (I had a suspicion.); “Hooking Up,” “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” and “A Man in Full,” by Tom Wolfe; and the current, “Awareness,” by Anthony De Mello and “Contact,” by Carl Sagan. Vonnegut and Orwell I read on Kindle, the rest on paper. I’m partial to paper, but not fanatical.

I would really like to know what you’re reading or have read recently that you would recommend. I plan to share the information in future columns, the way we used to do a while back. I’m also going to post it on Facebook and elsewhere at least often enough for friends to notice and have an opportunity to reply. You know, socially.

I have one other book-related item to share. My partner and I recently watched “Fahrenheit 453,” the 1966 movie version of Ray Bradbury’s futuristic tale of a society that burns books. (Again, I had a suspicion.) In the film, Julie Christie and other members of the secret resistance to the ban on books live together in a secluded community. Each member picks a favorite book and memorizes it so that the words will never be forgotten. The title of the book becomes their name. “Wuthering Heights,” meet “David Copperfield,” for example. They spend their days reciting themselves to each other and pass the books on to younger members before passing on. A living library.

So, friends, if you were a book, who would you be? I’m going with “Catch-22” for now. Joseph Heller. Please join me. Let’s be social again, at least until the impeachment.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

GOP: A Party Without a Head or a Heart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) got snookered. The self-proclaimed master “deal-maker” let himself get sucked in to putting his reputation and the power of the office he holds behind a deal — a Republican “health care” plan — that stunk so bad he couldn’t get it passed even though his party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency.

This is where ego and ignorance can take you. An unholy combination that, in this case, resulted in the NIC thinking the sheer magic of his name and the unlimited power of his position were enough to get politicians to vote against their own self-interests.

Turns out the magic was myth and, surprise, there are limits on the power of the presidency. Business and politics are not the same. Opposites, in fact. The failure of the Republicans to get their much ballyhooed replacement for Obamacare through the House of Representatives tells you all you need to know about today’s Republican Party. It is, for starters, a gaggle of angry constituencies — a party of convenience for various factions who know nothing about governing, but want to use the government to advance their own (pick one or two) narrow, selfish, greedy, racist, sexist, privileged, bigoted, ignorant, holier-than-thou view of the world.

These ideologically driven groups don’t necessarily like or agree with each other, but they have nowhere else to go. Where politics is concerned, the Republican tent is big enough to accommodate anyone who thinks Democrat is a four-letter word and the mission of Republicans is to oppose anything Democrats propose, even if it might actually help some people. Certainly their playbook over the past eight years says Republicans ought never try to work with Democrats to reach a compromise that gives everybody something. You know, governing.

So, there was the NIC, huffing and puffing at this smirky, young upstart Paul Ryan last week, telling him never mind you don’t have the votes to pass the bill, you go back to the House and you tell them I said vote yes on this health bill tomorrow or you’re stuck with Obamacare. Ryan, who sold the NIC on the bill but hasn’t a clue about how health care works, does as he is told. For good measure, Steve Bannon, the White House destroyer-in-chief, tells the rebellious troops — the Freedom Caucus (pseudonym for tea party we-hate-government types) — they have to vote for this bill. It’s an order.

Well, this gang can out-Bannon Bannon. They think the bill, which would toss 24 million Americans off health insurance, is too generous. They want to raise the cost and cut out a bunch of benefits. Say, maternity care, coverage for mental illness, including addiction. And they have the Koch brothers telling them that, if they vote no, they will get donations to their reelection campaigns so they can continue to swindle the voters back home and funnel more money to the wealthy and big corporations. This gang tells Bannon to stick it.

Since a few Republicans (and all Democrats) actually object to the bill as, well, stupid, Ryan still hasn’t got the votes to pass it and he begs the NIC to let him postpone the vote again. Humiliating as it may be, the NIC says OK, makes a pledge to himself to get rid of Ryan, blames the Democrats for not voting for a bill which they were not asked to help write (and which he never bothered to read), denies ever promising to repeal Obamacare “immediately” upon taking office, and sets out to destroy the only health care plan millions of Americans have in place. A party incapable of following the leader has a leader in name only.

The next day, Ryan says, “This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”  A slip of the lip reveals the heartless truth.

Without Obama to blame for everything, Other than more tax breaks for the rich, Republicans have no message. Instead, they destroy. Blame. Make up excuses. Lie. But never govern.

The NIC is true only to himself and his delusions. His usefulness as a tool for the Republicans is about used up with all the executive orders he issued getting rid of regulations that protect our water, our air, our investments, our parks, immigrants, wildlife, the arts, community groups and anything else Bannon puts on his desk. But actually passing bills? Republicans had seven years to come up with a new health plan or work with Democrats to fix what needed fixing in Obamacare. Instead, they kept passing meaningless bills to kill it and then rushed through a tax-break plan masquerading as a health plan in two months. Their own members found it to be either too generous or too cruel to defend to constituents. Too stupid to know (or care) how politics works, the NIC said take it or leave it; I’ve got a wall to build and a tax code to rewrite next week.

Good luck with that.

Never mind that there is no leader and no compassion, there is not even a sense of awareness in the Republican Party. When the White House was still trying to woo the Freedom Caucus on the health care bill, it convened a meeting led by Vice President Mike Pence, he of the grim (when do I get the job?) smile. Much of the talk was about whether there should be coverage for maternity care and mammograms. A photo of the meeting showed about two dozen white men, and no women, seated around a table supposedly making sense of the situation. There was even a crude joke about mammograms.

That’s today’s Republican Party — headless, heartless and clueless.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Breslin and Berry, Two Originals: RIP

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin ... originals

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin … originals

And so it went … A brief look at a few of the significant stories of the week just past:

  • Jimmy Breslin died. He was 88. And a pioneer. If you’re a New Yorker of a certain age — at least in your 30s, but especially 50-plus — you know the name and you remember the words. The quintessential big city columnist. Bold, brassy, tender, sarcastic, funny, biting, egotistical, fearless and relentless. For decades, his columns in The Herald-Tribune, Daily News and Newsday were the heart and soul and voice for millions of readers. I began reading his sports columns as a teenager with the Trib and followed him to the News and Son of Sam. I carried his philosophy of bringing a sports columnist’s approach to writing about life in general when I left college — where I was a sports editor — and got a job as a police reporter. Don’t focus on the score. Find the real story. Write it like a novel. Breslin had ego and attitude and an uncanny instinct for people. And he could write like hell. He pegged a fellow New Yorker famously known as the Donald as a phony who played the media (“the plural of mediocre,” Breslin wrote) like a fiddle and used other people’s money to con still others out of theirs. “A white Al Sharpton,’’ Breslin once called him. I ran into Sharpton when I was writing editorials in Middletown, N.Y., and he was loudly defending 15-year-old Tawana Brawley against non-existent rapists in Dutchess County, across the Hudson. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. You can look it up. “30,” Jimmy.
  • Chuck Berry died. He was 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll before it became rock, acid rock, punk rock and whatever other kind of rock legions of Berry wannabees dreamed up. He created the beat, the attitude and the philosophy that spoke to 1950s teenagers looking for a music of their own. “Sweet LIttle Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode”  and “Roll Over Beethoven” were upbeat, hard-driving and unlike anything previous generations had claimed as theirs. Irresistible. Plus, you could understand every word he sang and he could play the hell out of the guitar. Another pioneer. Check him out on YouTube, youngsters.
  • Shaquille O’Neal said the Earth is flat. The NBA Hall of Famer is known to be a jokester, but he’s apparently serious about this. He says his proof is that when he
    Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaquille O’Neal

    drives from Florida to California his car does not go up and down 360 degrees. And, sorry, Mr. Einstein, Shaq’s not convinced about that gravity theory either, even though something made his free throws fall far short of the basket. The flat-Earth theory is gaining traction among NBA players, which may be a commentary on so many of its stars coming out of college too early or not even going to college. Or it may simply be a sign that it’s not just fans, but even the players are getting bored with the lack of meaningful games. Maybe if the stars played in all the games when they’re healthy it would prompt more interest — and less resentment — among fans who pay hefty prices to see them sit on the bench. Put a round ball in your hands, dribblers, and stop thinking the sun rises and sets on your command.

  • FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee in a televised hearing that there was no evidence that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped the residence of his successor, despite that successor’s repeated claims to the contrary. Comey also testified that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the current president’s campaign aides and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign with the goal of influencing the outcome in favor of the current president. Republicans in Congress appeared to be most concerned with how this possibly treasonous behavior came to be public knowledge. There was also no indication that the current president would apologize to his predecessor for falsely accusing him of a federal crime. Stay tuned.
  • Breslin would say I buried the lead. Not this week.

rjgaydos@gmail.com