Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

On Going to the Movies, or Not

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Poster for Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic.

Poster for Martin Scorsese’s latest gangster epic.

I’m about a half hour into “The Irishman” — the part where Robert DeNiro throws a gun off a bridge in Philly. I don’t consider this a spoiler alert because, after all, it’s DeNiro in a Martin Scorsese film and you have to figure it’s gotta happen sooner or later. Anyway, I decided to take a break to write, because you can do that while watching movies these days.

So, obviously, I’m watching at home on Netflix and not at a movie theater because apparently nobody does that anymore. Well, maybe not as much. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I do know there are fewer movie theaters than there used to be and people are not going out to the movies as often as they used to.

White Hutchison, a company that tracks attendance at out-of-home entertainment venues, says the average person went out to the movies 3.5 times in 2018, spending a little over $30 for tickets. That’s a 28 percent decrease from the industry’s high of 5.2 trips by your average moviegoer to the cinema in 2002, the company says.

White Hutchison also says the downward trend is the result of all the other new entertainment venues competing to try to lure people off the convenience and comfort of their couches. The competition has convinced many moviemakers that only blockbuster-type “event” movies can do this and, again, the figures bear this out. The 10 biggest grossing movies of 2018 accounted for a third of all ticket sales and eight of those movies were offered in 3D and all 10 at IMAX theaters. And no, as opposed to the word I used referring to “The Irishman,” there’s not a “film” among them. They’re stories jazzed up with lots of special effects, action and/or cartoon characters.

I started wondering about the state of cinema-going when I read that Netflix was making a blockbuster movie with Scorsese, DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino, but was forgoing the usual 90-day window given to let theaters show the movie before offering it to Netflix subscribers, mostly streaming rather than DVD’s now. Instead, the movie would get limited release in select theaters and be available on your phone or tablet or smart TV in 30 days.

Wouldn’t theater owners be ticked off? I wondered. Yes, they would and are. Then again, Scorsese made the film 3½ hours long, which is tough to sit through without intermission, popcorn refill and bathroom breaks. Also, most theaters can only show it twice a day because of the length, cutting into potential profits.

Nonetheless, Netflix went through with this plan and “the Irishman” opened initially on eight screens in New York and Los Angeles. More were added a week later. It had good ticket sales and mixed reviews in select theaters. But it drew about 17 million smaller-screen viewers in its first week of release on Netflix.

What’s the point? I’m not sure, but this was certainly an “event” film because of the cast of characters in front of and behind the camera. Maybe that’s the point. What exactly do we mean by an “event” movie today? Forgive me here as I wander into a now-distant past to my introduction to movie-going. (It’s a long film. Let’s call this an early intermission.)

***

My mother loved to go to the movies. In Bayonne, N.J., where I grew up, there were six movie theaters in the 1940s and ‘50s. Not bad for a city of some 65,000. There was also lots of public transportation and the streets were safe to walk. If you wanted to see whatever movie was the latest hit, there was no problem. It was also cheap.

When I was old enough, my mom would sometimes take me along. She would also often buy whatever dish was for sale to continue to put together the full set. Gold leaf trim. I still have some pieces. For me — and my mom, I’m sure — going to the movies was an event, something to look forward to and enjoy a lot more than 3.5 times a year.

And star power? Here’s a sampling, in no particular order, of actors you could see on the big screen in the 1940s and 1950s: James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, Orson Welles, Gary Cooper, James Dean, Jack Lemmon, Audrey Hepburn, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Tyrone Power, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck. Grace Kelly, Yul Brynner, William Holden, Tony Curtis, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Ernest Borgnine, Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Debbie Reynolds, Danny Kaye, Laurence Olivier, Robert Mitchum, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello. (Don’t bother checking. I didn’t repeat anyone.)

When I reached my early teens and could go on my own or with friends (remember, the streets were safe to walk then), I looked forward to Saturday matinees. It usually included two westerns (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Randolph Scott, John Wayne), at least six cartoons and a serial (“Flash Gordon” or “Don Winslow of the Navy”). For a quarter. Popcorn was extra. Now, that was an almost weekly event.

Times have changed. Television ended Hollywood’s Golden Age. Smart phones, etc. are killing television. The streets aren’t safe. Popcorn at the movies is a budget-buster.

But also, while you can watch football on a phone today, you cannot see someone “act.” There is an added dimension when you share an emotional moment in a movie with a theater full of strangers that is missing on your couch. While they have connected us as never before, in some ways smart phones have also made us more isolated. As for the movies themselves, rewriting comic books for the big screen can only go as far as the characters (Batman, for example) allow. And, though spectacular visual effects may be big box office, they can’t replace the feeling of watching a grownup story portrayed by talented actors.

Which kind of brings me back to “The Irishman.” I’m hoping Netflix and Scorsese are right, in the sense that you can still make story and actor-driven (male and female) movies and make money today. (I can enjoy, but have a limited quota for whiz-bang and fantasy.) The head of Netflix’s movie division says to relax. “If everyone would just be calm and talk through it, over the next few years we’ll be able to find the right answer for everyone,” Scott Stuber said recently.

OK, so I’m going back to the movie. Still waiting for Pacino to arrive on the scene. If you’ve seen it, don’t text me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Does Perry’s ‘Chosen One’ Pray?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Is he praying in this photo? For what?

Is he praying in this photo? For what?

    Does Donald Trump pray?

    If he does, to whom or what or for what does he pray?

    I don’t think he prays. I know, he’s got all those believers laying on hands in the Oval Office all the time, but I don’t think he prays.

    In fact, until recently, it never entered my mind that he prays, nor did I much care. I think the Founding Fathers got it right when they separated church and state, prayer and politics. To me, it’s more important that a president have a solid moral foundation, a sense of right and wrong, a capacity for compassion and a generous dose of humility. I would hope it would be someone with the common sense to realize that, if there is a god, he or she is not it.

      But now I want to know. Does Trump pray? I want one of those “enemies of the people” to ask him next time he holds a press conference as he’s rushing to a helicopter: “Mr. President! Do you pray!? Rick Perry says you’re ‘God’s chosen one!’ Do you pray, sir!?”

      The questions would have to be shouted to be heard over the helicopter noise, which might seem a tad inappropriate to some, given the context, but given the noisy tenor of this presidency, it seems reasonable to me. I don’t think God would mind.

     Normally, I’d say a president has the right to some privacy on such matters, sharing or not sharing any religious practice or belief according to comfort level. But there is nothing normal about this presidency and Perry, bless his uncluttered mind, has made the issue relevant. The departing Energy Secretary and former governor of Texas (George W. and 1,2, umm 3, Rick — way to go, Lone Star) said in a recent interview that “God uses imperfect people through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared it with him and I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people who say that you say you were the chosen one.’ And said, ‘You were.’ I said, ‘If you are a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government.’ ”

     So, is Trump “a believing Christian?” Does he believe, as Perry and other evangelicals do, that God has sent an amoral dunce to foster chaos and violence upon the planet, so as to be able to ultimately deliver the “true believers” out of the ruins to the Kingdom of Heaven?

     This is, I believe, a legitimate question, since it is the rationale being used by so many of his followers (as in a cult) to justify their support for every act of his that is considered sinful, evil, immoral, blasphemous by pretty much every other religious doctrine and most non-believers as well. In fact, I think most non-believers were done with Trump a long time ago and have trouble understanding any god that would choose someone like Trump for any Divine purpose.

     While we’re at it, what does Trump think, as Perry alleged, is “God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government?’” That’s kind of an important question. Is all this corruption and dismissal of the rule of law to be considered part of “God’s plan?” Does one have to simply accept it, like it or not, as most Republicans have, because to reject it would be to forfeit any shot at being among those chosen at the Rapture? 

      Do you see how smart the Founding Fathers were to want none of this in their government?

       So, back to prayer. Trump recently hired a television evangelist to be a faith liaison in the White House. She happens to be an attractive blonde. God’s will, I assume. I think Trump’s true talent is being able to identify and recruit other masters of the con, charlatans who shamelessly make declarations that most people would dismiss, even ridicule, as absurd because they know that some people, enough people — “true believers” — will take them seriously.

      Send me your paycheck and reserve a seat on the flight to Heaven. Also, let me fly there on my own private jet as one of God’s chosen messengers. With my whole family, of course.

      They know it’s a con, these Falwells and Grahams and Osteens and Bakkers and Robertsons and new White House aide, Paula White. They know Trump knows. He knows they know. They know he knows they know …

      If they stick together, they succeed, on earth at least. If someone falters — the anointed chosen, especially — the con falls apart. So they lay on hands and bow their heads in the Oval Office. The messengers all pray, I’m sure, not to be found out. Also, for Trump not to renounce them if he’s got nowhere else to go.

      But Trump, if he’s truly the chosen one, to whom does he pray and for what? I ask for millions of Americans because Rick Perry tells me my future and that of the planet lie in the hands of this “imperfect” person.

     Ask him the question, reporters. Do your job. Is Rick Perry right? Does Trump think he is chosen by God? To do what? When did God deliver the news? Was Putin in the room at the time?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Enjoying the Impossible, Without Guilt

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

 

 

By Bob Gaydos

The Impossible Whopper ... lives up to its billing

The Impossible Whopper … lives up to its billing

 

    If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

     I’m talking about the Impossible Burger, obviously.

     In a recent column about a young man who couldn’t believe I didn’t eat bacon (not fanatically, just practically, for health reasons), I ventured into a discussion of the new plant-based burgers that have quickly become popular and promised to write a review as soon as I found a place that served them.

      Thank you, Burger King in Warwick, N.Y. My partner and I do not frequent fast-food establishments, but we recently had some unexpected time to kill and went to the nearest Burger King, specifically looking for the Impossible Burger to satisfy our curiosity.

       There it was on the menu — the Impossible Whopper. Two please, with cheese. No fries.

       The first reaction will be hers, sitting across from me in the booth:

       Bite.

       “Incredible.”

       Bite.(

       “It looks like meat.”

        Bite

        “It acts like meat.”

        Bite.

        “It tastes like meat.”

        … “Delicious.”

         I agree. If you didn’t know it was a meatless burger, you wouldn’t be able to tell. We were satisfied. It’s possible.

          My partner hasn’t had a beef hamburger in more years than she can remember. She also doesn’t eat red meat. But if we have a yearning for a burger, she’s hooked. We now know where to go to satisfy it without feeling guilty.

          However, some vegans and vegetarians, the ones you might think would appreciate this culinary development the most, are not thrilled with this “meaty” hamburger concocted in a lab. Strict vegetarians, in fact, are reportedly turned off by the taste of the Impossible Burger. They say it tastes and acts too much like real meat. It stirs up feelings of guilt and worse.

        And some vegans are upset — even feel cheated by Burger King — because the Impossible Whopper is cooked on the same grill as the beef burgers. To them, this is an unacceptable mingling of beef product with plant product. One customer has even filed a lawsuit against Burger King for false advertising, although it doesn’t appear that the company has ever advertised the product as vegan.

      Burger King did say at the introduction of the new item that the Impossible Burger would be cooked on the same grill as its beef and chicken products, but customers could request that their Impossible Whoppers be cooked by a “non-broiler option.” The oven. The company says this offer stands. But until this lawsuit it was not well-publicized and most customers are probably not aware of it. In truth, most customers don’t care.

      And there apparently are a lot of customers for the new product. The Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat burger and other new, plant-based meat substitutes are growing in popularity with a group of people to which I may belong – flexitarians. Who knew?

        I came upon this new category in my research on meat substitutes. It’s apparently a real word that was coined in the 1990s, a combination of flexible and vegetarian. One online dictionary tells me that a flexitarian is ”a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish.” 

        According to that definition, I am probably a flexitarian wannabe, since, while I eat plenty of vegetables, I eat poultry or fish more than occasionally.

       Another source says that, basically, flexitarians are omnivores who are trying to reduce the amount of meat in their diet, for health, environmental and/or ethical reasons. These are not people who don’t eat red meat or won’t eat burgers, but are happy to be able to enjoy the taste of a burger without the beef from time to time.

        It’s about being flexible (or balanced), which to me is a recipe for good health. The meatless burgers are processed, offering less protein and less fat than beef burgers and, like beef burgers, probably too much sodium if consumed regularly. The Impossible Whopper’s calorie count is about the same as regular Whoppers, about 630. Beyond Meat burgers, which are rumored to be coming to McDonald’s sometime in the near future, are non-GMO. Impossible burgers do contain GMO‘s. If this matters to you, take your pick. Flexibility.

        Right now I’m curious to compare the Impossible Whopper with the Beyond Meat burger and, while we don’t have a Burger King in our neighborhood, we do have a McDonald’s. As a wannabe flexitarian, I’m willing to share the appreciation.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

         

Kale? Quinoa? How about Kefir, Kamut?

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Kefir and kamut, new breakfast entries for real people. Oh Gaydos photo

Kefir and kamut, new breakfast entries for real people.
Bob Gaydos photo

      Move over, kale and quinoa. Make room for kefir and kamut.

      Warning! The following is a bit of “advocacy” journalism written by a long-serving member of the news fraternity that was recently described by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida as having “a worldview where you eat nothing but kale and quinoa, where those of us who cling to our Bibles and our guns and our fried foods and real America are looked down upon.”

       Mr. Gaetz, as one can deduce from the things he “clings to,” is a Republican. He is engaging in what passes for statesmanship in his party these days. That is, celebrate your “victimhood,” mock any suggestion of interest in good health, inclusiveness and a willingness to learn new things and vilify the press.

        It is a running battle between Gaetz and Louie Gohmert (he was actually a judge) for the title of dumbest member of the House. But I digress.

        Before Gaetz launched his broadside at the media — just more of the effort to divert attention from the impeachment proceedings against Gaetz’s hero, Donald Trump — I had already planned to write about two new additions to my breakfast menu: Kefir and kamut.

        As with many of my recent dietary choices, kefir was introduced to me by someone who pays much more attention to these things than I do and who also is concerned about my health. I have learned to pay attention most of the time.

        Kefir is a cultured, fermented, probiotic beverage that tastes somewhat like yogurt but is creamier and, I think, tastier. Grains (the kefir) are added to a beverage, usually but not necessarily, dairy milk, then allowed to ferment. The grains are then removed, providing the drink.

       Kefir has been gaining in popularity since it is beneficial to digestion and, since it is fermented, can be consumed by those who are lactose intolerant.  But it’s not just stomach health. It also boosts the immune system, is loaded with protein, B vitamins, potassium, and calcium. So it helps build muscle, strong bones and bolsters heart health and may even lower cholesterol, all, by the way, especially important to septuagenarians like me. It’s also tasty, coming in peach, strawberry and, my favorite, blueberry.

       And yes, I plead guilty to Gaetz’s charge of advocacy journalism. It’s not a sin. I have written frequently about food and health issues I think are important, especially since the facts tells us that many Americans have a weight issue and diabetes and heart problems are commonplace. I think reporting about healthful food choices is a good thing for the media to do, whether some choose to ignore the reporting or not.

       Kamut kind of snuck up on me. I like cereal in the morning from time to time and in my search for a healthful, tasty alternative to the sugar-loaded brand names, I picked up a box of Heritage Flakes. It’s an organic cereal from Nature’s Path, comprising kamut, oats, spelt, barley, millet and quinoa, unadulterated ancient grains all. I wondered, what is kamut?

        I learned that kamut is also called Khorasan wheat or Pharaoh grain since grains were discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs. It lost out to conventional wheat in America, becoming cattle feed. But, like kefir and quinoa, as the result of an increasing interest (aided by reporting) among Americans in more healthful, tasty foods, kamut and spelt and buckwheat are trending now on supermarket shelves. Real people are buying them.

        Kamut’s benefit is that it has significantly more protein than wheat and more fatty acids. It’s also loaded with zinc and magnesium and is an excellent source of fiber.  And, yes, it’s tasty. Plus, some people who are allergic to wheat can actually eat kamut without bad side effects. Add a banana or some berries, a splash of almond milk and dig in.

        Getting back to Gaetz (you knew I would), his adolescent rantings and behavior (crashing a closed House hearing and sitting down to eat pizza), have become all too typical of today’s Republican Party. I don’t care if he clings to his Bible, only that he not insist that others do the same or that those who do not share his beliefs are somehow enemies. As for his guns, yes, I would like stricter controls on who can own them and a ban on automatic weapons. So would a majority of Americans. That’s a fact. Nothing fake about it.

       For the record, I do occasionally eat kale and quinoa and I avoid fried foods for the most part because I have learned there are plenty of appetizing foods I can eat to my heart’s content without worrying about heart disease. I don’t think that’s elitist, just smart. And there’s nothing wrong with being smart, although Republicans have been doing their best to make it seem otherwise for some time now. It’s a bully’s weapon learned in grade school.

       The latest example of the GOP war on education and information comes in Gaetz’s home state of Florida where a five-man board of commissioners denied a library request for a digital subscription to The New York Times because “it’s fake news” and they “don’t need a New York paper” in their county.

       This is America, people. The library already has a print subscription that costs $3,000. The digital subscription would cost $2,700 and give all library users access to the newspaper. But, well, Gaetz’s “real people” apparently don’t need it as long as they have their Bibles, guns and fried foods. After all, we can’t have them stumbling across stories about kefir or kamut or kale or quinoa, now, can we?

(Full disclosure: I am not an influencer paid by either Lifeway or Nature’s Path.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

      

 

It’s Unraveling Before Our Eyes

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

 

By Bob Gaydos

Paula White ... spiritual advisor

Paula White … spiritual advisor

 It’s unraveling. Well, to be accurate, the Trump “presidency” has never been wrapped too tightly and he has always been loosey-goosey about such things as the Constitution, the law and the truth, but now the frayed strands of denial are becoming harder for even an occasional Republican to ignore.

     The change struck me recently when Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting Mr. Everything and currently acting chief of staff, said at a well-attended and well-recorded press conference that, of course, there was a quid pro quo proposal made by Trump to the president of Ukraine — a proposal that is now the focus of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives. In fact, Mulvaney went on to say the White House did it all the time with foreign leaders.

      “Get over it!” he exclaimed defiantly, exhibiting the arrogance of the ignorant that surely will cost him his job. It’s one thing for the boss to indict himself with his own words, as Trump has frequently done, but “yes men” are wise to be stingy with their own words when defending the indefensible. Mulvaney has never been that type.

       When Republicans as well as  Democrats expressed shock at this bold admission of executive extortion masquerading as diplomacy — you’ll get U.S. financial aid if you try to dig up dirt on the Bidens -– Mulvaney was quickly dispatched to deny he said what the assembled media had recorded him saying. This trick — insisting you didn’t hear what you heard — only works for Trump because he’s assembled enough sycophants around him and throughout the government (hello, Lindsay Graham) that it’s taken this long for Democrats in Congress to begin a serious effort to remove him. 

    But it won’t work for Mulvaney, because, first of all, everyone knows he’s a stooge and, more to the point, like virtually everyone in Trump’s protective cocoon, he’s expendable. There’s always a Matt Gaetz auditioning to be the emperor’s next mascot.

     Gaetz made his play for Mulvaney’s job by leading a platoon of House Republicans on a mission to storm closed hearings in the pre-impeachment process. This was not only a stupid high school stunt that should have embarrassed all who took part, it was also a serious breach of security and violation of House rules. The stormers said Democrats were holding secret depositions, even though there were Republican committee members in the room and a dozen of the stormers themselves were entitled to be in there. But that would mean doing their jobs rather than staging a phony protest to try to delegitimize the process. Pure desperation.

        When it turned out Gaetz was acting with Trump’s blessing, the unraveling was even more obvious. Since then, there’s been nothing but name-calling by Trump (veteran government employees who testify are “traitors” or “scum”), refusal by White House staff to honor congressional subpoenas and demands that the whistleblower’s name be revealed. 

      That last is the nastiest, an indication of where Trump and his shameless acolytes (add Rand Paul to the list) have descended. Of course, there are laws to protect the identity of whistleblowers so that they feel safe enough to come forward with their concerns of government wrongdoing without fear of retribution. But Trump operates out of fear all the time. When he’s scared, he turns scarier and there’s not much scarier than the person occupying the most powerful position on the planet telling his supporters  — some of whom have displayed violent tendencies — that the whistleblower and those corroborating his or her story are traitors leading a coup to topple their leader.

        In addition to being an act of desperation, this can also be considered an impeachable offense — attempting to intimidate witnesses or obstruction of justice. But at this point, Trump doesn’t care. He’s also gone so far as to tell Republican senators who are up for re-election that he’ll support them only if they promise not to vote to convict him when the impeachment trial inevitably moves to the Senate. Bribing witnesses they call it. 

         Of course, in the ever-chaotic world that is Trump in charge, there was also the abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, pulling out U.S. troops without consulting his generals, insisting later that our troops were staying to protect Syrian oil (which is virtually non-existent), turning the killing of the Isis leader into another self-aggrandizing moment and thanking Russia and Syria for their help before mentioning U.S. troops who did the job, getting booed at a World Series game in Washington, D.C. (his staff had to know this would happen or they have become as delusional as he), and threatening to cut off federal aid to California, which is fighting devastating forest fires, because he doesn’t like the Democratic governor and the state voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

         This last bit of Trumpian unraveling put Californian Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader and the top Republican in that body in the delicate position of having to defend a man who was willing to let McCarthy’s home state be consumed by flames because the man was consumed by pride, anger and fear.

     But McCarthy, a true Trump trooper, grasping at strands, kept silent. After all, he would need Trump’s support from those California Republicans who fear what would happen if he were removed.

     In what would be considered the last strand for anyone else, Trump also announced that prosperity evangelist Paula White, described by some as his longtime personal pastor and by others as an opportunistic blonde con artist, had taken a position with the Office of Public Liaison as advisor to the president’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Let us all pray. Kneel if you wish. Send cash.

    When it’s all coming apart at the seams, turn to God, or in this case, someone who says you’re the next best thing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Take Me to Your Leader: A Fable (?)

Thursday, October 24th, 2019

 

By Bob Gaydos

Ancient Rome had leaders for life, as long as they lived. Shown: Emperor Diocletian.

Ancient Rome had leaders for life, as long as they lived. Shown: Emperor Diocletian.

 They really should have known better. After all, the evidence was there from the beginning. The erratic, impulsive behavior. The fascination with the spotlight. The ignorance and pettiness. The lying, cheating, arrogance and lack of empathy. It was a show. Always, just a show. Not surprising for a veteran of what was known as reality TV.

     Yet the people of The Promised Land elected him to be their leader, even though he made it pretty clear to anyone who paid attention to his street brawl of a campaign that he didn’t really want the job, just the attention and prestige that went with it. Run for leader. Insult everyone. Wow the audience. Maybe stir up new business for his brand-name empire … Sell the name. It was always about selling the name.

    It worked. Sort of. The other major candidate, a woman, was clearly more qualified for the job. Smarter. More experienced in government and diplomacy. Familiar with the constitution. And her husband had been elected leader in the past, twice. She understood the tremendous responsibility that went with the honor.

    In truth, many citizens saw The Showman for what he was and did not like him or vote for him. However, many other citizens, saying they did not like her because she was too something or other (traits usually overlooked in males) chose not to vote at all or to vote for a third candidate with no chance of winning. A protest of sorts, they said. He’s obviously unqualified, but we just don’t like her, was the reasoning.

      She still got the most votes, but that didn’t matter under the arcane voting system used in The Promised Land that emphasized geography rather than actual numbers of people. Also, he cheated. He got secret help from another country, ironically (to all but him), a country which had long been an unfriendly rival for world leadership. The Other Land and The Promised Land had waged what was described as a Cold War for decades, stockpiling weapons and forming alliances with other nations. The Promised Land had emerged victorious in that struggle, so the Other Land was glad to help disrupt The Promised Land campaign and infiltrate voting systems to provide just enough geographical votes for The Showman to win. A “leader” who could be bought.

      The investigations started immediately because there were actually laws prohibiting such interference in the country’s elections. Those who had written the laws a long time ago feared influence over a leader who was beholden to foreign powers for their help in getting him elected.

      Their wisdom was quickly validated as many early decisions made by the new, unprepared leader were to the benefit of The Other Land. He also filled key government positions and judgeships with people who were as equally unprepared or equally self-serving as he, or both.

      Worst of all, the delegates who had been elected to Congress to write the laws and to provide a check on the leader — at least those delegates from his same political party — chose instead to overlook or defend his inexplicable, often cruel, decisions.

      Of course, they knew who he was from his well-documented past and his ruthless campaign and had almost universally condemned him at first. But once he demonstrated that through his support among rank-and-file party members he had political power over their careers, his onetime critics bowed and kowtowed. They had staked their careers on the votes of people who were, in many ways, as ignorant, petty, boorish, racist, selfish and uncaring as their leader. None of the delegates had the courage to resist. Those who shared his views, of course, simply hoped to get rich in the process.

      It didn’t take long for the unraveling of the veneer of civilized governing to begin. The leader spent most of his time playing golf, watching television and sending messages to the people via social media. He gave his adult children “advisory“ roles in his administration. He chose people to lead various departments of government whose main mission was to dismantle those departments. He rekindled feelings of racism and distrust of immigrants among those citizens who had previously been outvoted by the nation’s more welcoming and open-minded citizens. He ignored all his campaign promises and lied about “accomplishments“ daily. His supporters cheered.

      In just two years, The Promised Land had lost its standing as the respected, trusted leader of the free world. He insulted its longtime allies and, instead, courted leaders who were as ruthless and thuggish as he. Murderers. All the while, he also saw to it that his private business interests gained financially from his position as leader. He insulted his generals, his senior diplomatic advisers, top law-enforcement officials and anyone who dared to disagree with him. He fired the top law-enforcement official who was investigating foreign interference in his election. Still, his party members in the Congress supported him and resisted any efforts to remove him from office.

      Inevitably, being someone who never learned from his mistakes — actually never admitted any mistakes —  The Showman went looking for help from yet another country to help solidify the position which he hoped would become leader-for-life. He would withhold aid to Newkraine unless its leaders agreed to try to dig up some dirt on a political rival. He also abandoned longtime allies on the battlefield, leading top military leaders and even some of his own party supporters to criticize him.

     The opposition party, having gained some power in the Congress because of his erratic behavior, began a serious attempt to remove him from power, using the laws of the nation as their guide. In response, some of his followers in the citizenry threatened civil war were he to be removed. Leaders of an extreme religious cult, which had supported his every immoral act, warned of eternal damnation for those who would dare to try to remove him from office. After all, he had been sent by God.

    All the while, he lied, as did his closest aides, often contradicting themselves and compromising him in the process. To them it didn’t matter. Until of course it did. To him. He fired those who couldn’t keep up with his lies and managed to find others willing to try. He called those who criticized him or were testifying against him “scum.“

     By this point, even most of the citizens of The Promised Land had grown weary of The Showman and wary of what he might do next as commander-in-chief with an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

     What he did was order his loyal supporters among congressional delegates to storm the private, top security hearing in which an official investigation was being conducted into his efforts to extort help from Newkraine for his political purposes. They were ineffectual, but to him it didn’t matter. They had served a purpose. These lawmakers were demonstrating that the law didn’t matter, just as he had been insisting on a daily basis that the truth didn’t matter. “The press is the enemy of the people,“ was his motto. 

     In the end, only he mattered. More to the point, he knew full well, only the next season mattered. Could his show survive for another season? That was the overriding question, not global warming or terrorism. He knew from his reality TV experience that the best way to guarantee success was to foment friction, create turmoil and drama, play to people‘s fears and biases, do the unexpected. Create suspense. Make people long for a hero who would just make it all stop.

      “Make me leader again,“ he would say. The people of The Promised Land would cheer. His contract would be renewed for another season. That was the reality. He knew that from the beginning. They should have known, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Life Without Bacon? Not Impossible

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

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Bacon on a burger. Can plants taste the same?

   “You don’t eat bacon!?”

   “The look of incredulity on the speaker’s face matched the tone in his voice.

     “No,” I replied. “I don’t.”

     End of conversation. At least the out-loud part.

      “What, are you a commie? Un-American? A vegan!?” I said silently to myself, imagining I could read his mind.

      Then, out loud again, “I don’t eat red meat either.”

       “Yeah, my doctor told me I shouldn’t either,” Mr. Incredulous offered. “Not good for my heart.”

        I nodded knowingly.

        He went back to his slice of Buffalo chicken/bacon/ranch pizza and I dove into my taco salad (with grilled chicken). By looks of the size of the guy and his relatively young age, I surmised his doctor was probably right. But not for me to say, at least under the circumstances (in public, others at the table and none of my business).

        I don’t go around making a big deal about what I eat and try not to comment on what others eat, or should eat. But I notice. I notice that a lot of Americans seem to have  difficulty making the connection between how they eat — what they eat, more than how much — and their general well-being:

       — “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t eat so much sugar, but I love cookies and candy and cake and soda …” 

       — “I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger deluxe, but leave off the lettuce and tomato. No pickle, but I’ll take the fries.”

       — “Diet Coke, please.”

       — “I hate salad.”

      And of course, there’s an out-of-shape, orange-skinned septuagenarian in the Oval Office who lives on burgers, fries, fried chicken, steak and ice cream. He has also effectively disbanded the President’s Council on Fitness and ended Michelle Obama’s Healthy Hunger-free school lunch program.

     So what the heck, if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for us, a lot of Americans have apparently decided. Man or woman cannot live on kale alone, right?

      Right. But man or woman is likely to live a longer, healthier life if a few greens and assorted vegetables were a more common part of their diet. The chief rap on bacon and red meats, healthwise, is that they’re loaded with saturated fats, which are linked to cancer, heart disease and stroke. That’s why the doctor told Mr. Incredulous to lay off the bacon.

      But a lot of people (myself included) don’t like to be told to do what’s ultimately good for them. In fact, they will often do the opposite. There’s a lot of that going around these days in this age of anti-science and constant accusations of “fake news.” Willful ignorance is now brandished the way a gold star from the teacher used to be.

       So how do you get people to do what’s good for them (and also, by the way, the planet)? How do you convince people to occasionally eat more healthful food when they are hooked on beef, bacon and burgers?

       Well, maybe you figure out a way to blend a bunch of plants together and make them look and taste like a beef burger.

        Welcome to the Impossible Burger, now available at Burger King. Or the PLT Burger from Beyond Meat, about to get a test run from McDonald’s.

       What’s different about these and other new, plant-based burgers that are causing a stir in fast-food lines as well as the stock market apparently is that — unlike the well-meaning veggie burgers that have been around for years — these Whoppers and Not a Burgers actually look and taste like beef burgers. Juice and all. But they’re vegan. No animal byproducts at all.

      I’m thus far unable to provide a personal review of one of these plant-based burgers because I haven’t found a place serving one yet. When I do, I will.

       But it is worth pointing out that the plant-based burgers themselves, even if they turn out to be juicy and yummy are themselves a mixed bag, health-wise. For starters, they have been heavily processed to attain the desired taste and texture and the jury is out on the health effects of a lot of the additives. Also, they can be high on calories and tend to be heavy on salt, which is definitely not a health benefit. They also have less protein than animal-based burgers and, while they contain no cholesterol and have added some vital nutrients, they may have some saturated fats from coconut.

      So why bother? For one thing, eating even a little less red meat is good for one’s health. For another, relying more on plants, less on animals, for food, is good for the planet. Livestock farming is a major contributor to global warming (greenhouse gasses, ammonia) and a major consumer of water and user of land. People who believe in science think global warming is the major issue of our time. (As we know, the Oval Office burger-muncher is not a science believer.) And for some, there is the benefit of knowing that no animals lost their lives so they could enjoy lunch.

        I’m no purist in this area. As I said, my taco salad was topped with chicken. I also eat seafood, including sushi. But I don’t run from salads, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and love non-dairy frozen desserts as well as frozen yogurt. My favorite non-beef burger thus far has been a black bean burger. Delicious, especially with sweet potato fries.

      I guess my point, which I wrote about several years ago when a doctor told me it would behoove me to cut down on the sweets, salt and red meat, is that it is entirely possible to enjoy eating and also enjoy good health. Take fewer meds. I tried to follow the doctor’s suggestion. She said most don’t. Insurance companies have reaped the benefits. Medical costs have soared.

      I still do the best I can. Lost a bunch of weight and I am in pretty good health for an old curmudgeon. No meds. Wear a size 36 belt. I don’t feel deprived because I avoid bacon. Oh, in a weak moment, I might actually grab a piece. I haven’t yet, but that’s all it would be. A piece. It’s all about balance. Given my usual diet, it won’t kill me to have a slice of bacon. Then again, between you and me, it wouldn’t kill Mr. Incredulous to try a nice Greek Salad once in awhile. Or at least an Impossible Burger.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Remembering ‘Rhoda’ with Gratitude

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Valerie Harper … living each day to the fullest

By Bob Gaydos

In March of 2013, I wrote a column contrasting two world views — one of hope, one of no hope. The source of hope was actress Valerie Harper, who had just revealed she was suffering from a rare form of brain cancer. The no-hope view came from the Republican Party, more specifically, the Conservative Political Action Caucus..

i went back to read the column after learning of Harper’s death a couple of days ago and was struck by two things:

— How right I was about the hopelesssness permeating the Republican world view.

— How wrong Harper was about the power of her own world view. She said at the time she had been told she probably had three months to live and spread her message of living life to the fullest. She carried on for more than six years. Plucky “Rhoda” to the end.

I’m not patting myself on the back for seeing the Republican Party for what it was six years ago,  but rather, I am depressed that so many of my flag-waving fellow Americans still seem to accept the utter lack of humanity at its core. I chose Valerie Harper’s message of hope six years ago. Still do. Else, what’s the point?

If you’re interested, the March, 2013 column follows. You might recognize some names (Palin, Trump). Either way, keep the faith.

 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Bob Gaydos

I’m standing at the corner of hope and no hope, wondering how people who grow up in the same country wind up on opposite sides of the street.

Let’s start with the no-hope crowd so that I can end on a positive note. The Conservative Political Action Caucus is holding its annual convention this week. The overriding question is: Does it really matter anymore? CPAC used to be the heart and soul of the Republican Party, conservative to the core. Today, CPAC is adamantly conservative to a fault and, in truth, as a party, Republicans have become heartless and bereft of any apparent soul. That may sound harsh, but there hasn’t been a single “moderate” Republican to step up and challenge the view for several years.

Quite simply, hope cannot exist in an atmosphere of anger, hatred, bigotry, religious extremism and plain stupidity that characterizes what passes for the GOP today and which has its origins in the increasingly ultra-restrictive membership of CPAC. The big tent that some Republicans used to like to talk about today is miniscule. It has no room for immigrants, blacks, Latinos, gays, the poor, the young, the middle class or women who insist on being equal citizens. Or of any disagreement with it.

That formula cost Republicans the presidency the last two elections. Does CPAC get it? Apparently not. It’s not even certain that CPAC cares. The speaker’s list for this year’s convention includes prominent and generous time slots for such as Sarah (the irrelevant) Palin, Donald (still waiting for the president’s birth certificate) Trump and former Florida congressman. Alan (hopelessly out-to-lunch) West.

It does not include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, widely regarded (by those outside of CPAC) as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. He made the apparently unforgivable mistake of thanking President Obama for federal aid in helping New Jersey recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Vetoing a marriage equality bill was apparently not enough to restore Christie’s conservative credentials, at least not for CPAC.

Gay Republican groups are barred from official CPAC proceedings, but not members who routinely spout anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant rhetoric. Florida Sen. Mark Rubio, the Great Latino hope of the GOP, gets but a token platform appearance. Thoroughly confusing the issues, more mainstream Republicans such as the failed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney and the next-in-line Bush, former Florida governor, Jeb, are invited, to the chagrin of many CPAC members.

Out of this hodgepodge of negativity, hostility and failure, it is expected that libertarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul will emerge as the winner of CPAC’s straw presidential poll. He will see it as vindication of libertarianism, which it is not. CPAC will probably view it as an anomaly. The thinking public will, one hopes, see it for what it is — the death knell of a once proud, but now hopeless, political party.

Which brings me to Valerie Harper, and hope.

Valerie Harper, the wisecracking Rhoda on the popular “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV, is dying. She has a rare type of terminal brain cancer. Her time is limited, her prognosis poor. Her spirit is indomitable and full of positive messages about living life.

Harper, 73, says she is not sitting home on the couch feeling sorry for herself. She is on a book tour, talking about the wonderful life she has lived, cognizant of the fact that, whatever pain and horrible things may lie ahead, “they’re ahead. They’re not now.”

“Keep your chin up and don’t go to the funeral, mine, or yours or your loved ones, until the day of the funeral, because then you miss the life you have left,” Harper says. The actress, who has also battled lung cancer, may have three months to live, she says, but her focus is on enjoying each day as it comes along, with gratitude for the days she has had. And, she also says she feels she has a “responsibility” to raise awareness for early testing for cancer.

So, with death staring her in the face, Valerie Harper chooses to focus on life, on being a useful, positive member of society. She wants to help people, to build a better community.

Meanwhile, with everything possible in this wonderful country of ours to live for and the potential to do something about improving our collective lot, the members of CPAC, who control the destiny of the Republican Party, choose to focus on who they don’t like, what they don’t want, what they can’t and won’t accept, what they refuse to believe. They see no future for things as they are so they seem intent on destroying what can be, if for no other reason than spite. I can see no hope for such people or their ideas.

For Valerie Harper, though, I feel an abiding love and gratitude christened with tears. She gives me hope.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

I Finally Got to Woodstock. Peace.

Thursday, August 22nd, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Turning on the lights at the Woodstock 50 celebration.

Turning on the lights at the Woodstock 50 celebration.

By the time I got to Woodstock, I was 78 years old and walking with a cane. I fit right in.

And it was fun.

Unlike the ill-fated Woodstock 50 concert that was apparently planned with the same “whatever-I-think-of-next” model Michael Lang used 50 years ago, the Woodstock 50 celebration at Bethel Woods, site of the original festival in 1969, was a well-organized, enjoyable tribute that attracted fans of all ages, although it definitely trended geriatric. The gray-haired easily outnumbered the tie-dyed, although some were both.

I missed the original festival of peace and love, even though I was within striking distance, working as city editor for The Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton at the time. It was about an hours’ drive away and I’ve kind of regretted the missed opportunity as the Woodstock mystique grew. As I vaguely recall, we didn’t think it was worth the time (and money) to send someone to a hippie fest on a farm for three days.

Anyhow, the Middletown paper had it covered and, as the fates would have it, I wound up working for that paper (for 29 years), living and retiring in Sullivan County, not far from Bethel and Yasgur’s farm and available as an emergency fill-in for a friend with an extra ticket who called and said, “Want to see Santana at Bethel Saturday?”

Which is a run-on sentence on how I got to Woodstock.

I said yes. Honestly, not because I’m a big Santana fan, but because of the history and the quiet hope that it would be an event to remember in the spirit of the original. It was

The Doobie Brothers as an opening act did a great job of loosening the crowd of 15,000. Women danced, beach balls bounced, the Doobies rocked and everyone sang. The early rain stopped, the later lightning went away. No rain.

Also no arguing. No loud drunks. No fights. A faint aroma of pot from time to time. “A mellow Woodstock,” a tie-dyed Social Security recipient strolling by said to no in particular.

Which was what I was hoping for. We are not a mellow nation at the moment. Nor were we 50 years ago when nearly half a million mostly young, many stoned individuals brought traffic to a standstill, then enjoyed and eventually survived an utterly unprepared event thanks to the kindness of countless strangers. Peace and love.

It’s what Santana talked about when he come to the front of the stage to welcome the crowd: “Unconditional love. Compassion. Peace.”

3739CADA-6E0A-4831-BC48-EDE613FDD2A5That’s what this anniversary concert was about, he said, and in my mind I agreed with him that, at least that’s what this concert ought to be about.

He had only gotten a few bars into “Turn Your Lights On,” when the hillside came alive with thousands of swaying lights, as cell phones added a new dimension to the song, which for me had a message of hope for trying times: “There’s a monster living under my bed, whispering in my ear.” But also: “There’s an angel with a hand on my head. She says I’ve got nothing to fear.” I used to doubt angels.

The moment was special, but it was his version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” that cinched the deal for me:

“You may say that I’m a dreamer 

But I’m not the only one 

I hope someday you’ll join us 

And the world will be as one …”

The words came easily and knowingly from thousands of voices, young and old, across the Bethel landscape and I uttered a silent, “Please” to myself.

Santana rocked on quite a bit longer, there was more dancing and there were fireworks to seal the deal, but my (good!) friend and I left early, more than satisfied with Woodstock’s golden birthday. Many others came early and stayed late, also happy to have been there. The people who run Bethel Woods had the event planned to the smallest detail. Traffic control, the biggest concern, was no problem.

Also no anger. No fighting. No name-calling. Just music, dancing, singing, peace, love and respect for all, for one night at least, on a hillside in Upstate New York. Just what I hoped it would be. Sure, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I did finally get to Woodstock.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

A Vocabulary for the Trump Era

Monday, August 5th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Vidkun Quisling ... his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

Vidkun Quisling … his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

        In the category of nothing is ever all good or all bad (I keep trying), have you noticed a marked improvement in your vocabulary since the man with “all the best words” moved in to the White House?

        Seriously. It struck me the other day as I was reading the daily disaster report that people — not just reporters or TV and radio commentators — regular people were reading, hearing, using and even understanding words, many of which have never been routine in American conversation. It started with “narcissist” and “misogynist,” but the vocabulary lesson has expanded exponentially (see what I mean?) since the news cycle has become all Trump all the time. I mean, “quisling,” really?

      I started compiling a list of words that were previously not your normal fare in your daily paper, including some words I had to look up (using Wikipedia and various legitimate online dictionaries), and decided I might as well share them. Who knows, maybe an English teacher will see it and want to help some students better understand what the grownups have done to the world. If you feel daring, test your partner. Here’s my list (including examples), starting with the two aforementioned words, which are now household staples:

       — Misogynist. From Wikipedia: “Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.” It’s Trump’s middle name and now the whole world is aware of what misogyny looks like in practice. That’s a good thing if steps are taken to combat it, which appears to be happening (#metoo).

       — Narcissist. From Psychology Today: ”The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. People with NPD … tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.” Mussolini comes to mind or, well, you know.

      — Quisling. Turns out we’ve got a bunch of them in the USA. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling was a Norwegian military officer and politician who was head of the government of Norway during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the country during World War II. Actually, he was a figurehead who collaborated with the Nazis in every way, including the killing of Jews and others. After the war, he was tried and convicted of murder and treason and was executed. His name became synonymous for collaborator and traitor. Until recently, there hasn’t been much call for “quisling,” but Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and the guy Trump wanted to run the CIA, among others, have given new life to it. I could have lived my life without wanting to get the history of this word.

       — Sycophant. While we have Lindsey Graham available as a perfect example, why not give a dictionary description of a sycophant: “A person who acts obsequiously (I’ll get to that) toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms:    toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel …” Add the entire Trump cabinet and staff and many Republicans in Congress.

     — Obsequious. Again, just dictionaries here: “Obsequious people are usually not being genuine; they resort to flattery and other fawning ways to stay in the good graces of authority figures. An obsequious person can be called a bootlicker, a brownnoser or a toady.” Our man Lindsay again and let’s add Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff and bootlicker par excellence.

       — Nativist. “Relating to or supporting the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants. Example. ‘He has made his nativist beliefs known through his divisive comments about immigrants.’” The Republican Party and MAGA hat wearers who are still waiting for the wall are perfect examples.

      — Xenophobe. “A person who fears or hates foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. A person who fears or dislikes the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different.” The same folks as above. Stephen Miller to be sure.

        — Asylum. Here’s one every American should learn. “The right of asylum is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted by one’s own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, such as another country or church official, who in medieval times could offer sanctuary. 

      “The United States recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees who apply for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980.”

       — Oligarchy. “A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. … Oligarchy is from the Greek word oligarkhes, and it means ‘few governing.’ Three of the most well-known countries with oligarchies are Russia, China, and Iran. Other examples are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and apartheid South Africa. Trump leans to the Russian and Saudi versions, although he admires certain things about the others. He would probably have been comfortable with apartheid South Africa.

        — Plutocracy. “Government by the rich or the wealthy class. Oligarchy is not necessarily just the wealthy. If a system of plutocracy and oligarchy occurred at the same time (government by a few wealthy people), it would be termed a …

       — Plutarchy. Again, I refer you to Trump’s cabinet, the Koch brothers, and various wealthy interests who have been able to buy power thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

       — Nepotism. “The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.” Especially for which they are unqualified. Trump is a master at keeping it in the family (his own and Fox News) in the White House. Ivanka, Jared, Larry Kudlow.

       —  Emoluments. (Tell me you knew what this meant before Trump.) “The emoluments clause, also called the foreign emoluments clause, is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives. It prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever’ from ‘any . . foreign State’ unless Congress consents.” Every stay at a Trump hotel, round of golf at a Trump golf course by the Saudis, the Russians, the Turks, the Chinese … goes into his bank account and he won’t share his income tax returns.

       — Exculpable. To exculpate is “to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.” The person is thus exculpable, something Trump claims Robert Mueller found him. Not true.

       — Propaganda. “Information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions — one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to consolidate their power and cultivate an ‘Aryan national community’ in the mid-1930s. … the manipulation of the recipient’s emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence.” Fox News and Trump and rightwing radio hosts spew it. Trump has even talked about setting up a government broadcast agency to counter the “fake news” of  mainstream media.

        — Brainwash. More commonly known, but worth putting in context. “To make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them: Could it be that we’re brainwashed to accept these things?”

        Again, Fox News — 24 hours a day of fake news right out of George Orwell. Also, Trump’s pathological lying. Second definition: “A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.” The Manchurian Candidate, or, perhaps, Putin’s Puppet. Once a far-fetched idea.

       — Hypocrite. “1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. 2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Trump of course, but here we’re referring to evangelical Christian leaders who kiss Trump’s ring and conservative, family values-spouting Republicans who do likewise.

        — Penultimate. Nothing to do with Trump, just a word I like. “As both an adjective and a noun, penultimate means next to the last. (Penultimate is not more ultimate than ultimate.)” In other words, this lesson is almost over. Just one more paragraph and thanks for staying with me.

       — Dotard. Kim Jong-un’s name for Trump. “The insult is centuries old, appearing in medieval literature from the ninth century.” Searches for the term have spiked since Kim resurrected it. Merriam-Webster: “A state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise.” Side note: Kim didn’t say the word. The North Korean state news agency, KCNA, offered it as the English translation of Kim’s spoken Korean insult, which literally is “old lunatic.” Works for me in any language.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com