Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

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

Way to Go, Teams USA!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

 


Megan Rapinoe ... she delivered

Megan Rapinoe … she delivered

By Bob Gaydos

The feel-good story of the past weekend was:

  1. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team winning the world championship.
  2. Jeffrey Epstein being arrested and charged with sex trafficking involving dozens of young girls.
  3. Both.

    Bear with me.

    Clearly, the women’s soccer team repeating as world champions is the hands-down reason to celebrate in the “We’re still number one!” category. Ever since Brandi Chastain tore off her jersey after scoring the winning goal against China to clinch the world championship in the Rose Bowl in 1999, the team has been performing at a level far beyond the recognition, respect and rewards due it. That one was its second world title and the current one is its fourth. The tournament has only been held eight times and the U.S. team has won half the championships, finished second once and third the other three times. That’s the kind of performance Americans like to brag about … then forget about.

     These young athletes won’t let us forget. Having far exceeded the success of the men’s national soccer team, the women’s team deserves, not equal compensation with the men, but compensation commensurate with their success. Pay them.

   The Epstein story is as sordid as the soccer story is salubrious, yet it also stirred a feeling in me — and others, I believe — of, “Yes! Good! Terrific! About time! Get the bastards!”

   That both events happened on the same day, that both involve young females and that, as seemingly everything these days, both have connections to Donald Trump, will seem to some as no big deal, or a coincidence. I’m going with synchronicity. The universe is setting some things straight.

    Misogyny was one of the character defects put on display early in Trump’s presidential campaign. (Actually, it was common knowledge well before.) His “grab ‘em by the p***y tape was one of many red flags that should have, but failed to end his candidacy. Paying off pornstars to keep quiet about sexual affairs while his wife, Melania, was taking care of their newborn son was more of the same.

     Trump simply could not behave presidentially when Megan Rapinoe, captain and star of the women’s soccer team, said during World Cup competition that there was no way she would go to the “f****ng White House” if the team was invited. She was responding to a reporter’s question. She’s not thrilled with Trump’s views on women, gays and lots of other things.

      Trump responded on Twitter: “Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job! Megan should never disrespect our Country, the White House, or our Flag, especially since so much has been done for her & the team.”

       Well, Megan finished the job, winning awards for top scorer and most valuable player as well as the World Cup. Following the victory, which was celebrated with added gusto by Americans who saw it as a perfect put-down to Trump, Rapinoe added, “We say what we feel. All of us really, I know that my voice sometimes is louder, but in meal rooms, in conversations, everybody is in this together. We are such a proud and strong and defiant group of women.”

    New York City promised a parade in the canyon of champions and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited the team to The Capitol. Trump was silent on any invitation, not being a fan of strong and defiant women.

     Nor is Jeffrey Epstein, billionaire financier, of whom Trump once said: “(Epstein’s) a lot of fun to be with … It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” Epstein is in jail in New York City, awaiting a bail hearing. Prosecutors say he is a flight risk, having great wealth, several passports, a private jet and facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

    Epstein’s list of famous, wealthy connections includes Bill Clinton as well as Trump, but don’t expect many Democrats to argue against prosecuting Epstein because of that possible embarrassment the way Republicans will line up to shield Trump from being linked to pedophilia.

    The justice here is that in the #metoo era women whose accusations about Epstein and others may now be heard, not quashed as they were in a deal in Florida in 2005 when Epstein was allowed to plead guilty to a state prostituon charge and avoid prosecution on federal charges involving sex with young girls. In that case, Epstein served 13 months, was required to make payments to victims and register as a sex offender.

     The federal prosecutor in that case was Alex Acosta, now Trump’s secretary of labor. A federal judge in Florida ruled recently that Acosta broke the law by not informing Epstein’s accusers of the secret deal. Now, with federal prosecutors in New York saying they are not bound by the Florida case, the women feel they will finally have their day in court.

     Acosta, using the Trump mode of communication, sent out a series of tweets Tuesday, including: “Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the NY prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice.”

     Sounds like someone desperately trying to save his job. But he may be right. New York prosecutors said Monday they discovered a “vast trove” of lewd photographs of young females during a raid on Epstein’s New York City mansion. They also said they found papers and phone records corroborating the alleged crimes, and a massage room still set up the way accusers said.

      As I said, it’s a sordid story, but one that may finally see daylight, thanks in large part, by the way, to dogged reporting by The Miami Herald. There’s nothing fake about this news.

     One more reason to like this story and acknowledge synchronicity — one of the federal prosecutors in the New York case against Epstein is Maureen Comey. Yes, she’s the daughter of James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump for refusing to make collusion charges simply go away like the sex trafficking charges against Epstein disappeared in Florida.

     So, way to go U.S. women’s soccer team and way to go Southern District New York federal prosecutors office. Best weekend this country has had in a long time..

rjgaydos@gmail,com

      

 

Happy Birthday to Us, America

Monday, July 1st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

DF7D27AC-9A10-4CDF-8AB5-9978FC52E730My country ‘‘tis of thee,

Today, I fear for thee.

The Orange Pretender, having stolen the presidency, plans to heist the nation’s birthday party as his own. At the memorial for America’s greatest president, no less. It will be a celebration of ego and pomposity on a grand scale. (He wants tanks!)

Such is the shell-shocked state of the republic, many Americans will go about their lives as if this is normal. ‘Burgers, hot dogs and fireworks. Business as usual. It’s an effort to preserve sanity, which, I understand, is necessary when so many others who share the same situation seem to have no problem with the behavior of the dotard on the dais.

But it’s not normal, America, not by a long shot, and it pains me to have to reflect on what this pretend president did in the days preceding the 243rd birthday of the republic.

On the anniversary of the killing of five journalists in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin, the man who helped install him as president. Putin is a president who routinely locks up Russian reporters or, if they are really troublesome, has them poisoned or thrown out hotel room windows. Trump and Putin joked about how it would be nice to be “rid” of such annoyances. Trump also jokingly asked Putin not to interfere in the next U.S. election. Ha ha.

Trump subsequently professed his close friendship with the Saudi crown prince who had done exactly what Trump joked about — he ordered the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi writer who was living in America and working for The Washington Post. Trump thinks this is no big deal because Saudi Arabia will be spending a lot of money on “a lot of things” in America. And staying at Trump hotels.

And, in a great meeting of the minds, Trump met Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, on his turf, to create the photo op both yearned for — thereby giving instant credibility to a murderous, nuclear-weapon-armed tyrant who is much less circumspect than Putin or the Saudi prince in terminally eliminating impediments to his dictates. (Of  course, Trump also lied that Barack Obama had yearned for and been denied a similar meeting with Kim in North Korea when Obama was president. But that was just typical Trump B.S.)

You can throw in Trump insulting our ally and his G20 summit host, Japan, backing down on his China tariff threat in the one area it made sense, exhibiting a profound ignorance of what the word “busing”” refers to when discussing schools, and denying yet another allegation of sexual assault by saying, “She’s not my type.“ A class act this Trump.

Even for Trump, the week was quite a display of ego, ignorance and insensitivity. And now we get Trump at the Lincoln Memorial telling us his version of what America is all about. There will apparently be lots of tanks and troops and planes. Someone will probably slip the words freedom and liberty into his speech. He will mouth them uncomprehendingly. Look at the great party I threw for America!

I’ve said it before. I take it personally when the president calls me “the enemy of the people.“ I take it personally when journalists are murdered for doing their jobs. I take it personally when not enough people seem to get the connection between the president’s words and the dead journalists. Like it’s OK for a president to say such things.

I know there are plenty of people who share my views and are as appalled as I am with Trump and many have voiced their opinions. But I’m still waiting for the Republicans among them to state so publicly. He has branded their party as surely as he has branded every one of his failed business ventures.

So have your burgers and fireworks. Take a dip in the pool. If you have time, maybe stop and think about what this holiday signifies. Liberty, opportunity, and, as Lincoln, a president who could actually craft coherent, profound messages, noted, “the proposition that all men are created equal.” Were he writing today, Lincoln would have said “men and women,” so that his message was clear.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” The words of another eloquent statesman, Edmund Burke, Ireland, in the 18th century.

What Trump is doing is not normal, America, and it’s important to say so. In fact, I’m proud and grateful that I live in a country that still grants me that freedom.

So, happy birthday, to us.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. He was news editor and executive editor of the Evening Capital in Annapolis in the early 1970s. rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Sad Truth: It’s All B.S.

Friday, June 21st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it

Harry Frankfurt … he knows B.S. when he hears it

  There have been times, like now, when I saw little point in writing about what the pretend president is saying or doing because millions of Americans don’t seem to care. At those times, I often wondered how the scribes who get paid to inform the world of the latest news — and even moreso, those who get paid to have opinions about it — find the energy to cover Trump day after day. It has to be depressing, I thought to myself. I’m depressed and I don’t have to write about it. Does a paycheck work as an antidepressant?

      Maureen Dowd finally answered my question. I admit to not being a religious, or even semi-religious, reader of Dowd’s column in The New York Times up to now. That’s changed since I read her May 25 column that carried the headline, “Crazy Is As Crazy Does.” Yes, it was about Trump.

     She begins by describing her waking thoughts as another morning arrives. About the talents of an actress and an actor she admires and their TV shows. About a book she has apparently just read or is reading. And then, abruptly, reality sets in: “Once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedeviled by our preposterous president.

        “I flip on the TV and gird for the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about Trump. I’m sapped before I arise. …

       “My head hurts , puzzling over whether Trump is just a big blowhard … or a sinister genius …”

        Me too, I sighed. Glad to know I’m not alone.

        I’m also not alone in my belief in synchronicity. Serendipity, if you prefer.

      Coincidence? I’m with Carl Jung on that. The Swiss psychologist who gave us the word defined synchronicity as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”

       As in, what are the chances that, being shamed into participating in a decluttering exercise at home, I would “stumble upon” a slim book I’d never heard of that instantly uncluttered my mind on how to explain what in the world was going on in Donald Trump’s mind.

    It’s “Bullshit.”

    Literally.

    Some explanation is necessary.

    The house decluttering was precipitated by a prevailing notion that I had collected too much stuff (an occupational hazard, I believe) and some of it had to go, but we would find a safe resting place for the stuff that was worth keeping. One of the safe places was a lovely, old cabinet in which other stuff was resting. Old tapes, photos and books. Among the books was the aforementioned slim volume.

     I read the title: “On Bullshit.”

     The decluttering came to a momentary halt. Was this a joke? As it turns out, no. Oh, there is humor in this 67-page essay, but the author, Harry G. Frankfurt, it also turns out, is a distinguished philosopher, professor emeritus at Princeton University, which published the book. This was serious. In fact, the book was a New York Times best-seller in 2005 and Frankfurt discusses it on YouTube, which tells you something about my attention to literary news.

      But the point, and I’m finally getting to it, is that after months of trying to out-pundit everyone else writing about Trump and continuing to muse on why he does what he does, Frankfurt lays it out in a way that anyone, except maybe Trump, can understand — the man is a bullshit artist.

      It dawned on me as I read Frankfurt’s explanation of the difference between liars — which Trump has been crowned champion of all time by those who keep score — and bullshitters. (If the language offends you, I apologize, but Frankfurt says “humbug” is not the same. Also, the times have changed and I’ve already been labeled an enemy of the people for treating the truth with respect.)

     As Frankfurt explains, the difference between liars and bullshitters is that liars are acquainted with the truth. They have to be to maintain their lies. There is a discipline involved. Bullshitters don’t care. They make stuff up as they go along, saying whatever seems necessary to them at the time to appear to know what’s going on. It isn’t a matter so much of bullshit being false, Frankfort says, as of it being phony. It’s meant to convey an impression. It’s like bluffing. And too much of it can carry over into a general laxity about how things really are.

       As Frankfurt writes, “The bullshitter is faking things.” It’s not a matter of concealing the truth, because sometimes the bullshitter will speak the truth. It is matter of concealing “what he is up to.”

      Indeed. And those who are good at it seem to have no trouble attracting gullible believers. But that’s a mystery for another day.

      Frankfurt mentions patriotic politicians who, on the Fourth of July, give grand speeches extolling all the wonderful things this country represents, not that those things are false or lies or B.S., but because the speaker wants others to believe he believes in them and is a true patriot. There’s a good chance we’ll hear some of that this coming Independence Day, with Trump taking center stage at the Lincoln Memorial.

       I know in advance that I don’t necessarily have to write about it because it’s more of the same B.S. Instead, I can read what Dowd writes about it and focus instead on what synchronicity offers as a topic. Like the fact that Frankfurt and I share the same birthdate, May 29. Some stuff you just can’t make up.

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

     

An Addict by Any Other Name, Please

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

  What’s in a name? Maybe, recovery.

"New" me, at 73.

Bob Gaydos

Addiction — to opioids, alcohol, heroin, other substances or behavior — is a medically recognized disease, something for which treatment is available and prescribed so that the person who suffers from it can be returned as a contributing member of society. That’s the official, appropriately concerned line put forth by government agencies, the medical community and those who work in the field.

    Unofficially, which is to say, to much of society including members of the aforementioned groups, a person with the disease of addiction is commonly referred to as an addict. A drunk. A junkie. A cokehead or crackhead. An alkie. A pothead. A pill-popper. He or she is often regarded as someone who is weak-willed, immoral, untrustworthy, rather than someone suffering from a disease. A liar. A loser. Someone not worth the time or effort — or money — to associate with, never mind help.

   One of the major obstacles to persons seeking treatment for addiction is the stigma attached to the disease. It has been framed seemingly forever as a moral issue, a crime issue. Rarely — only recently — has it been framed as a health issue. We have waged a war on drugs as we tried to cure cancer or diabetes.

    Words matter.

    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania lbast year released a study with the key recommendation to stop using the words “addict,” “alcoholic” and “substance abuser.” The study found the words carry a strong negative bias. Basically, the researchers said, they label the person, not the disease. Study participants not only displayed a reluctance to associate with persons described with those words in fictional vignettes, the researchers said participants also displayed “implicit bias” to the terms themselves when given a word-association task. They were subconsciously reacting negatively to the words.bbb

     If just the words can stir negative bias in people, imagine what an actual person carrying the label “addict” can arouse.

     The Penn researchers said their study was consistent with previous research that found some doctors, even mental health professionals, less willing to help patients who were labeled “addicts” or “substance abusers.”

     The researchers did not discount the fact that conscious bias against persons with addiction — for example, how involved one would want to be with the person described — is often based on personal negative experiences with “alcoholics” or “addicts.”  Family members, friends, co-workers have experienced pain and suffering from their connection to persons with alcohol or substance use disorders and a resistance to not just “calling them what they are” may be understandable.

      But, the researchers said, over time, adopting what they call person-first language (referring to a person with a heroin addiction rather than a heroin addict) — especially by public officials and the media — could help reduce the negative bias and stigma that keeps people from seeking and getting help for their disease.

       In 2017, prior to this study, the Associated Press, which publishes a style guide used by most news organizations, adopted a new policy on reporting on addiction. It recommends that news organizations avoid terms such as “addict” and “alcoholic” in favor of person-first language — someone with an alcohol or substance use disorder or someone who was using opioids addictively, rather than a substance abuser or former addict. Someone in recovery, rather than someone who is “clean.” Shift the blame from the person to the disease.

     This doesn’t excuse or absolve the person who is addicted from any damage he or she may have done, and it may be considerable. But it does provide an identity beyond the addiction and makes the road to recovery more navigable.

     Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News adopted a policy similar to AP’s.

      The concept is simple: A person should not be defined solely by his or her disease. When mental health professionals stopped referring to patients as schizophrenics, society started referring to people with schizophrenia. Similarly, there are people with diabetes today who once were labeled diabetics. It is often argued that alcoholism or addiction are different from other diseases because the person chooses to use the substance. But experience tells us no one chooses to become addicted and the nature of the disease is being unable to stop — or at least feeling that stopping is not possible. Negative labels can’t help.

       Government agencies have begun using the new language, referring to persons with alcohol use or substance use disorders rather then alcoholics or addicts. Some who have managed to face their addiction and overcome it have abandoned the anonymity of 12-step programs and identify themselves publicly as persons in recovery. The opioid crisis has spawned a program called Hope Not Handcuffs, which steers the person who is addicted to treatment rather than incarceration.

       An exception to the change in language is recognized for those who are in 12-Step programs who identify themselves as alcoholics or addicts at their meetings. These are people who don’t see the terms as negatives, but rather as an honest admission of a fact in their lives. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have been saying, “My name is xxxx, and I’m an alcoholic” at meetings for nearly 84 years. It’s tradition. There’s no stigma attached, but rather a common bond that holds out the hope there is something beyond being labeled a “drunken bum” or “hopeless addict.”

      The groups recommending the language change say this is not merely “political correctness,” as some have said. Lives are obviously still being ravaged by addiction. If something has to change in approaching the disease, there is a growing feeling that how we talk about it might be a good place to start.

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

The Countdown to Woodstock and 2020

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

 

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

By Bob Gaydos

A look at the news, by the numbers:

  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum of empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner.
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script.
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Influence and Insensitivity

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Kylie Jenner ... queen of selfies

Kylie Jenner … queen of selfies

It’s been awhile since I put my name on something I wrote, mostly because there’s really been only one one thing to write about. But other life goes on, so …

Last time out, I wrote about how I had recently come to the realization that, much as I chafed at the designation, given the 21st century dilution of the term and the relaxed admission standards that allow anyone with an attitude and an audience into the club, I was — am — for better or worse, a pundit.

 In my defense, just being able to write that sentence should qualify me.

But punditry, I have even more recently learned, is small potatoes (chicken feed, chump change, yesterday’s news) compared to the title to which anyone with any interest in the power of persuasion today should aspire.

I want to be an influencer.

Really. It’s a job. I just found out. Some pundit.

Influencer is such a legitimate thing that Forbes Magazine has initiated a list of the Top 10 Influencers for 2018 in a variety of  categories. It’s starting with Beauty, Fitness and Home, capitalized I assume for influence.

Apparently one qualifies for this list by telling tens of thousands — even millions — of people who follow you on social media what beauty products you prefer, the type of fitness regimens, supplements, food, clothes you prefer or let them in on the type of furniture or decor you like to surround yourself with when relaxing at “home.” Then a lot of those people go out and buy the stuff. Companies pay you for your creative messaging.

It’s kinda like being a shill. In fact, it’s exactly like being a shill. It just pays a lot better, if you’re, you know, influential.

If you sense me being a bit flippant and sarcastic about this discovery it may at least in part be because I am not just a little bit envious of these people who have discovered a way to earn a good living by sitting home, posting photos and writing blurbs on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites and being paid by companies whose product they promote. You don’t even have to use it. All you really need is a ton of followers who believe you and apparently await your every posting to find out what they should really like, then buy it.

For one thing, this says a lot about buying habits today, when so much shopping is done on the internet, with no opportunity to check out the merchandise firsthand. Well, heck, if Randi Jo Cutie Pie says those are cool candles or neat boots or dynamite hair products, they must be. Look, she’s got a million and a half followers.

The Forbes list was heavily female and mostly millennials, which would suggest that a male in his seventh decade might look for another line of work. It’s also prominently featured on Instagram, which I thought was mostly for sharing cellphone photos. So, on second thought, I’m going to stick to punditry, where I don’t have to worry about competing with Kylie Jenner or Cardi B.

Yet.

— Maybe it’s just me, but …if I’m going to get the news that I’m about to shake off the coils of my current mortal construct and rejoin the Greater Consciousness in some other form real soon, I want a living, breathing doctor standing next to my bed delivering the diagnosis as compassionately as possible, not a streaming image of someone, presumably a doctor, on a screen on a machine wheeled into my hospital room.

Ernest Quintana didn’t get that personal treatment at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Fremont, Calif. Instead, with his 33-year-old granddaughter standing by his bedside, the 78-year-old, who had been admitted to the hospital for the third time in 15 days because of difficulty breathing, heard the headset-wearing image on the screen say there was serious lung damage. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can treat very effectively,” the image said. He also said giving his “patient” morphine might help with pain, but would make breathing more difficult. He topped off his “On Demand” consultation by responding to a question about hospice care thusly: “I don’t know if he’s going to get home.”
     

The grand daughter was mortified, as were Quintana’s wife and daughter, who had briefly left the hospital to go home and shower. They complained to the hospital, which was semi-apologetic. Quintana died two days later.

They call it telemedicine and it presumably has its place, but a spokesperson for the AMA said delivering a death sentence electronically should be a doctor’s “last choice.”

Don’t they teach this stuff in med school?

—  Speaking of insensitivity, maybe it’s just me, but the State of Virginia would appear to have a serious race issue. The governor, Ralph Northam, is desperately trying to repair his image after a racist yearbook photo of him was published and he subsequently admitted to wearing blackface in his youth. The state’s attorney general admitted likewise. Both men are white. But get this, mere days after her husband pledged to devote the rest of his term to racial equity, his wife, Pam, leading a tour of the governor’s mansion, handed raw, prickly cotton to 13-and-14-year-old black pages and asked them, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”

No, they couldn’t and no, they weren’t happy with the hands-on history lesson. Neither were their parents. A former middle school teacher, Northam said she does the same with all the history tours she leads.

Maybe they need to re-evaluate that lesson in First Lady school.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Are You Now, or Have You Ever …

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Jeanine Pirro ... asked the question

Jeanine Pirro
… asked the question

It was at once the most astounding and easiest to answer question ever posed to an American president: “Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”

That’s a yes or no answer, with “no” being the preferred option. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case you say, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.”

“They” was a reference to The New York Times which published an article reporting that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. The article said the secret investigation was passed on to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.

Back to the question. It was posed not in a challenging way and not by an antagonistic interviewer. Rather, it came from someone Trump picked himself, “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, who is not only his most vocal supporter at Fox News, but someone who gives the impression she would satisfy pretty much any favors the Donald would like in return for a position in his cabinet. Say attorney general. Even solicitor general.

But in his eagerness to defend himself and insult the sources of the question, to engage in his usual deflection, Trump never just said the obvious: “No.” He got around to that a day later (“I never worked for Russia,” he said.) after virtually everyone on Twitter and some White House aides who have not been furloughed because he shut the government down pointed out the glaring omission.

And so here we are. A TV commentator has, on the air, asked the president of the United States — a phrase I reluctantly attach to Trump for the sake of accuracy — if he is, in effect, a traitor.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is that virtually no one in his political party seems to have an opinion on this — at least not publicly — and two days later the big story was Trump serving fast food burgers and fries at the White House to the national college football champions from Clemson University, because apparently that’s what he thinks finely tuned athletes, whose diets are monitored, eat routinely. Never mind the insult.

I write this, not in the hopes of convincing any suddenly awakening Trump supporters of the unrelenting awfulness of the man, never mind being the only president to ever be asked if he is a traitor. That time has passed. No, this is selfish. If it’s true that nothing ever disappears from the Internet, I want future browsers and historians to know that some of us saw what was going on and spoke out about it while others buried their heads in the sands of delusion or lined their pockets with the bitter fruits of enabling (Republicans) and exploitation (evangelicals).

I also want the Greater Consciousness to know I did my part in promoting peace, love and understanding. And yes, I know it knows, but I somehow feel better putting it in writing.

And, covering all bets, I want the Kirk Cameron “Left Behind” evangelicals waiting for the Rapture to know that my version of it has the guy with the MAGA bumper sticker who tosses beer cans on my lawn one day noticing a pile of clothes — wrinkled jeans, a black hoodie and a gray knit cap — lying in the driveway while I enjoy another balmy day in Heaven, watching reruns of the Trump impeachment hearings, eating tacos and listening to Sinatra.

Finally, it seems fitting to me if, many millennia from now, the dominant beings, whatever they might be, discover this ancient form of communication, decipher it, and conclude, “Once upon a time, a species known as human beings ruled Earth when it was abundant with riches. For some reason, they chose the most ignorant, ill-equipped, amoral person to be their leader. They were difficult times. Ugliness abounded. Only the persistent efforts of some outspoken humans saved the planet.”

I may be angry and astounded, but I still prefer happy endings.

rjgaydos@gmail.com