Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Why Carlos Beltran Got Fired

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos 

Carlos Beltran ... the gods were unhappy

Carlos Beltran
… the gods were unhappy

  The Greeks had it right. The gods are toying with us, letting us think we’re in control of what’s happening when, in reality (or what we perceive to be reality) the powers that be are teaching us a lesson. I don’t know what that lesson might be, but I’m pretty sure the gods are fed up with us.

      Also, that Donald Trump got Carlos Beltran fired.

      Consider. On a recent mind-boggling day that saw: a) the entire Russian government — with the notable exception of President Vladimir Putin — resign; b) a Ukrainian wise guy say on American TV that the president, vice president, secretary of state, attorney general, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the president’s personal lawyer, a Republican wannabe, and some shady Ukrainians were all part of a plot to intimidate (or worse) the American ambassador to Ukraine because she insisted on doing her job by the book; and c) the House of Representatives presented articles of impeachment against that president, Trump, for illegally withholding congressionally approved military aid funds for Ukraine in an effort to get that country’s government to say it was investigating the business dealings of the son of one of Trump’s potential opponents in the 2020 election … on that very same day, the New York Mets fired Carlos Beltran, their new manager, before pitchers and catchers even reported for spring training.

        What does Trump have to do with firing Beltran? Connect the dots.

        Trump was impeached, in effect, for attempting to cheat in the coming election, undoubtedly because that’s how he won the first time. In the 2016 election, he got considerable help from Russian hackers who infiltrated voting systems in all 50 states to swing the Electoral College vote to him. Those hackers work for Putin, the former KGB chief famous for arresting political rivals (the ones who don’t die of poisoning), having several unrecorded phone and in-person conversations with his American counterpart, and now, for setting in motion the tear-up-the-Russian-constitution process to make him ruler for life. Putin’s Russia was also found to be cheating in the 2016 Olympics and stripped of its medals. More recently, Russia was banned from all international sporting competition, again for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cheating.              

         Beltran was fired for being part of a Houston Astros baseball team that won the 2017 World Series, being helped considerably, according to an investigation by Major League Baseball, by an electronically based system for stealing the other team’s signs. Cheating.

      The Astros won their championship in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency. What that presidency and the way it was attained said to the world is that you can cheat, have people know about it, and still be declared a winner. At least in America.  Nothing has happened yet to change that perception.

      History has shown that it is too easy for too many people to become accustomed to the abnormal, the improper, the inappropriate, the unethical, the illegal, the immoral when there appears to be nothing to do about it and there is no price to pay for it.

      Everybody does it, is the cry of the apologists. They’re all crooks and cheaters and liars anyway, say the uninformed or just plain lazy. Move along, nothing to see here.

       Actually, there was plenty to see. Major League Baseball investigated complaints of the Astros stealing signs flashed from the opposing catcher to the pitcher. It found the team was using electronic video feeds to spy on the catcher and then having someone in the dugout bang a garbage can to let the batter know what pitch was coming. High tech/low tech. This is against baseball rules. The fact that Astros batters had significantly higher batting averages at home in the World Series than they did in Los Angeles, home of their opponent, the Dodgers, was exhibit A.

      The whole Astros team was in on the plot. MLB suspended the Houston manager and general manager for a year apiece and imposed a fine and sanctions on the team. Houston owners promptly fired the two suspended men. Then the Boston Red Sox (under investigation for similar charges) fired their manager, Alex Cora, who was a coach on that Houston team. And the Mets, next in line, reluctantly fired Beltran, who was a player on that team, but the only player named in the MLB report, suggesting he had more than a supporting role.

        Consequences. When there is a fear that you could be caught cheating, most people don’t cheat. When there is a greater fear that you will be ostracized for not going along with the cheating than there is of anyone caring enough to punish you for cheating, many, if not most, people go along. Human nature. Fear. Negative energy begets negative energy. The abnormal becomes normal. Everyone does it. I didn’t say it. OK, I said it, but I didn’t mean it. OK, I meant it. Who cares? Cheating for hits or cheating for votes. Same thing. Look at Trump. He cheats all the time and he’s the president. You don’t see anyone coming after him, do you? Remember, this was in 2017, when we were making America great again.

    The Astros went to the White House in 2018 to be congratulated by Trump, a cheaters photo op. Beltran didn’t go. He’s Puerto Rican and was unhappy with Trump’s response to the island’s hurricane damage, but Beltran didn’t give that as a reason for his absence. He said he wanted to spend time in New York City with his family, sounding like every Republican in Congress who finds some excuse to avoid criticizing some aspect of Trump’s behavior. Fear. It’s contagious.

        But now, here come the gods. I think they may have had enough of letting us think we’re running the show. In their universe of actions and appropriate reactions, cheating must inevitably be punished, not rewarded. The energy flow must be corrected from negative to positive, lest a species destroy itself. Interestingly, the people in charge of our games seem to have had that awareness — hey, this is not right! — quicker than those who decide on our daily lives. The Olympics, Major League Baseball, even the long tone-deaf National Football League, have cracked down to some degree on cheaters. And, yes, in the same week as Beltran’s firing, Congress began the process of holding a president accountable for serial cheating.

        But, you say, Trump is still in office and the Astros team got to keep its title. None of the other Astros players was punished for going along with the sign-stealing rather than trying to stop it. Why?

        Fair question. I don’t know. While I respect them, I don’t claim to have a direct line from the gods, aka the greater consciousness. But I suspect that the Astros players, while they have their World Series rings, are going to spend a lot of time hearing fans remind them that they cheated to get them. The Greek goddess of shame, Aidos, may be their new mascot. And who knows, maybe the baseball gods will see the wisdom and fairness of simply declaring no champion for the 2017 season.

        As for Trump, narcissist that he is, he is undoubtedly twisting in agony daily with the Greek goddesses of pain and suffering, the Algea, as members of the U.S. Senate are challenged to live up to the oaths of honesty they publicly swore to gods of their choosing. 

        And Beltran? He was about to start a new chapter in his mostly stellar baseball career with his first managerial job. Why would the gods have the Mets fire him? Well, other than the cheating, the gods of Ancient Greece were known to be fans of sport and also occasionally spiteful. Maybe today’s gods are Mets fans with long memories. Just maybe they remember Carlos Beltran, as a Mets player, looking at strike three with the bases loaded to end the 2006 National League Championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe that’s why he needed someone in Houston to bang the garbage can.

        Clang, clang, Carlos. Here comes the curve.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

GOP: No Country for Young Women

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Megan and Greta, persons of the year.

Megan and Greta, persons of the year.

Perhaps you missed it, what with the holidays and all that Ukraine and Iran stuff coming out of Washington, but two young women, Megan Rapinoe and Greta Thunberg, graced the covers of two influential magazines to close out 2019. They were named, respectively, Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” and Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

     Perfect.

     The Deep State strikes again.

    On the scale of events guaranteed to stir the bile in the presidential twitter pot and bring the blood pressure to boil among untold numbers of aging, white Republican men this double-barreled salute to emerging young female voices ranked just below that of impeachment of the chosen one. To him, maybe it was equal. After all, an outspoken, equality-minded lesbian soccer player and a charismatic, 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s are not supposed to upstage the dotard-in-chief.

     But they did. And the insults, yelling, lying and bullying — the basic political weapons of today’s Republican Party — followed. Trump took to twitter to tell Thunberg to get some “anger management” assistance and “chill.” Irony is not one of his strong suits. Trump’s toadies on Fox News and other conservative news outlets called the Swedish teenager “mentally ill” and part of a Democratic Party plot to make the Donald look bad or stupid or callous or insensitive or crass or self-absorbed or cruel or totally inept. Pick one. All apply.

      The reactions from the Party of Trump to the magazine covers were mostly focused on Thunberg, perhaps because even Trump — who had a fake Time cover naming him person of the year printed and hung at his Mar-a-Largo country club — knew he couldn’t sell anyone on a cover of SI with him waddling around a golf course as sportsperson of the year.                              

       Also, Rapinoe, a leader in the push to sue for pay for U.S. women soccer players equal to that of the less-successful men’s team, had already given Trump plenty of grief by saying she wouldn’t come to the White House — before the U.S. women’s soccer team had even won the World Cup. (For the second time in a row.) Trump advised her to win before spouting off. She wasn’t waiting. Afterwards, having scored the goal that won it, she struck the pose. As she told SI, “It was kind of like a ‘F— you,’ but with a big smile and a s— eating grin. You are not going to steal any of our joy.”

        That’s the kind of in-your-face, you-don’t-scare-me-old-white-man talk that the old, white Republican men, most of the younger, white Republican men and, apparently, the women in their lives find rude and unacceptable and, I’m guessing, disrespectful to their elders. Because, and again I’m guessing, they’ve been taught that their elders know better and, besides, young people — especially female young people — should be seen and not heard (and straight and not, you know, difficult.)

        I find it hard to believe I just typed that last sentence, this being 2020, but it certainly seems to fit with what passes for a philosophy in the world of Trump and the Republican Party. It’s almost as if a whole category of people has devolved over the past half century. More likely, failed to evolve. In fact, we do have a vice president who doesn’t believe in evolution. Or having lunch alone with a female who is not his wife. Trump would have lunch alone with anyone’s wife.

     At first glance, this Trump/Pence odd couple pairing and the two men’s seemingly opposite views towards women may seem strange. But they are really both sides of the same coin. To them, women are merely objects of sexual desire. Either they can be easily seduced by a charming or powerful or wealthy man, or the women themselves are sexual predators, ever on the prowl for a charming, powerful, wealthy man. They are not, however, to be considered as equals, contemporaries, colleagues, persons with ideas, principles, beliefs that may differ from those of the male in the room. And above all, they are not expected to express their thoughts unless they agree with those of the male in the room. (Welcome, Betsy DeVos. It helps that you’re filthy rich.)

       Greta Thunberg is a smart, witty, outspoken mix of ideas and courage. She uses being “different” to her advantage by not letting it hold her back. She calls it a “superpower.“ As for knowing her place, it was leading a worldwide school strike to save the planet. And it was speaking in front of the U.N. General Assembly — a room dominated by males — challenging them on the need to change the way we live if we hope to save the planet from destroying itself. A proud moment for a (non-Republican only) parent to witness.

       Trump also addressed that body. He drew loud laughs (not sought). Greta famously stared Trump down at that session. She also drew applause and admiration. Whether she prompted action is yet to be seen, but no one doubted her right to be on the podium.

     No one except for Trump and most Republicans who unfortunately still think that women’s place — their daughters’ place — is in the home, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, on the arm or in the service of some “important” man, but not leading movements to better the world. Also, as we’ve seen, not in a meeting of national political leaders discussing women’s health issues. And definitely not on the coveted covers of popular national magazines. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Just Another Mob Hit

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos 

Umberto’s Clam House, where Joey Gallo met his demise.

Umberto’s Clam House, where Joey Gallo met his demise.

    It had all the subtlety of a mob hit.

     The Don: “So what’s the story with this Soleimani? Why’s he still around acting like a big shot, messing around in our territory? He should show some respect.”

     Old Soldier: “Well, Don, when you tore up that treaty with his boss, this guy started acting like that territory was all fair game for him. I mean, he was always a pain in the ass, causing trouble everywhere.”

      Don: “How come nobody set him straight?”

      Old Soldier: “It ain’t that simple. His boss let’s him take care of business how he sees fit and his guys are really loyal. They’ve also been through lots of family wars and, to tell you the truth, I think they like hitting the mattresses and blowing people up. The Don before you felt it was more important to make the family stronger, expand its influence and not lose any more young soldiers. He kept an eye on Soleimani and warned his boss not to get too greedy. But this guy’s ambitious and a little reckless, y’know? Difficult. Kinda like Joey Gallo was.”

      Don: “Yeah. Was.”

      Old Soldier: “Whaddya mean?”

     Don: “I hear this guy likes to hang out at Amani’s Falafel House in Baghdad.”

      Old Soldier: “Yeah. Kinda on the QT, though.”

      Don: “Maybe we should surprise him.”

      Old Soldier: Nods.

      Don: “I hear you got a new house painter.”

      Old Soldier: “Yeah. Irishman, name of Droghn.”

     Don: “Ask him if he likes falafel pita. Tell him it’s my favorite. It ain’t, but he don’t have to know.”

      Old Soldier: “You sure, boss?”

     Don: “Yeah. The old Don was too soft. He let people walk all over him. The Korean boss, the Chinese. The only ones he ever gave grief was the Russians and they’re our best allies. We have to let our people know that nobody pushes Don around. They’ll go to the mattresses gladly for me. I’ll be at the golf club if you need me.”

                                              * *.*

       In the world of Donald Trump, repercussions don’t matter if they don’t impact on you directly. Foreign policy (Iran) is like domestic policy (health care) or campaigning — a matter of the moment. Instinct. Ego. It’s all personal. Learned at the elbow of Roy Cohn. Hit ‘em hard. Show them you’re tough. Be nasty. It’s just business. Ignore the doubters. Don’t listen to the “worriers.” Be a warrior. Yeah, others may suffer, but you’ll look strong. That’s the main thing. You pulled the trigger when the other Dons were too scared. You showed them who’s boss.          

      Just like in the movies.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Addiction and Recovery: Holiday Tools

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos  

“No, “is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

“No, thank you“ is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

OK, I know you’re busy because it’s the holidays and you don’t have time to sit and read about healthy behavior when there are presents to be bought, menus to be prepared and parties to  attend. So I’ll try to be brief and to the point.

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

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

  • “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
  • By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
  •  If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
  • If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

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

                                             ***

For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:

  •  Bring a recovery friend to a party.
  •  Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
  •  If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline. 
  •  Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
  •  Deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
  •  Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table. 
  • And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.

    Enjoy.

For more information:

Debtors Anonymous: www.debtorsanonymous.org; 781-453-2743.

Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org

Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

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