Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Let the Games (and Diplomacy) Begin

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

South  Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 WInter Olympics.

South Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thank Zeus for the Olympics. Every two years they offer an opportunity for a world gone mad to take a breather and at least pretend to pay homage to the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yes, Russia is barred from participating officially in the 2018 Winter Games, which began this weekend, because it tried to steal the 2014 Games in Sochi by pumping its athletes full of steroids. But Russians who did not cheat will compete, albeit without the flag or anthem of Mother Russia.

More significantly, with the Games taking place in South Korea, North Korean athletes are participating. Better yet, athletes from North and South Korea marched in together under one symbolic flag and the women’s hockey team includes members from both nations. There were no 38th Parallel issues for people who have been sharing a divided peninsula since the end of World War II and for nearly 65 years have endured a tense truce that halted the Korean War. And. thankfully, there was no tweeting about whose nuclear button was bigger and badder.

A lot of so-called experts are calling the Olympic dance by the two Koreas mere window dressing or a charm offensive by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, charming is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Kim.

But the overture to come “take part” was made by South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who pledged to work for better relationships with fellow Koreans in the north when he ran for president last year. One could consider this an example of a leader making good on his promise — and a politically risky one at that — rather than looking for excuses or people to blame for not following through.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence, his tight-lipped, see-no-evil shadow, to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies. There was no acknowledgement of President Moon’s diplomatic initiative, but again, at least no saber-rattling on Twitter.

Supposedly — again, this is the experts talking — Kim has gone along with this brief softening of tensions and shared Olympic spirit in the hopes of having economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea reduced. OK, so what? Who can blame him for that?

But who can blame Moon for thinking that maybe even a small thing like a shared women’s hockey team team is better for all Koreans than constant talk about missiles and nuclear weapons? Diplomacy takes many forms and, yes, sometimes it is imperative to be forceful and consistent when dealing with a difficult foe. It is also true that sometimes the simplest gesture can have unexpected results.

When nuclear warfare is apparently being discussed seriously and frequently in the Oval Office it is reassuring to know that the heads of the two nations that live face-to-face with the threat of war every day can agree to break bread and march together and, who knows, maybe agree to stay in touch when the skating and skiing is done.

I am under no delusion that the Orange Dotard (a name charmingly assigned by Kim) understands diplomacy, the perils of nuclear war or the importance of allowing subtle forces to influence the course of events. It is all bombast and buffoonery all the time. Just look back at some recent news stories emanating from the White House:

  • The State of the Union speech. A joke.
  • The Republican FBI memo. A bust and maybe illegal.
  • The opioid crisis team: Run by a PR specialist and a 23-year-old former campaign worker (since resigned).
  • The infrastructure plan … uh, sorry, wrong list. There still isn’t one.
  • The sanctions against Russia. Dotard won’t do what Congress said.
  • The Mueller investigation: Trump’s lawyers don’t trust him to testify in person.
  • The federal government. Shut down a second time. Trump actually rooted for this one.
  • The Wall: Build it or no deal for the Dreamers. Too many lies to keep up with in this saga. Naked bigotry.
  • The parade. THE PARADE. A flippin’ no-holds-barred military parade a la every dictator you ever heard of. He wants one; the military doesn’t. No one does. But as Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,’’ it’s what weak leaders do to appear strong.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher also wrote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

And: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Like maybe starting with South and North Korean women playing a little hockey together against women from other nations. Change the dynamics.

Trump and Kim are always ready and eager to hurl insults and threats. And maybe missiles. South Korea’s President Moon is trying to ease the tension and maybe open the door to more civilized dialogue. In the spirit of the Olympics, it’s an effort well worth making and supporting.

Meanwhile, maybe one of his aides — a general, perhaps — can read Sun Tzu to you know who.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Connect the Dots: Women’s Time is Now

Monday, January 29th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Women marched across the nation this month.

Women marched across the nation this month.

I’m big on connecting the dots. A plus B plus C … sometimes it adds up to D. Or in this case, W, as in Women. Here they come, politically. And long overdue.

In this case, making the connections wasn’t too difficult, unless you happen to be someone — a Republican, for example — who is genetically incapable of recognizing the gross disparities, unfairness and outright abuse that continue to confront women in America decades after an Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Congress and failed to get the required number of states to approve it.

That’s a dot still to be connected, but there are plenty of others falling into place, suggesting a new era is about to burst the male-dominated political/economic bubble that has encased America for, well, ever.

The dots as I see them, in no particular order:

  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that rocked Hollywood, wrecking careers of powerful men throughout the industry.
  • The #metoo movement that grew out of the scandal as women in all fields, from TV to Silicon Valley to sports, found the courage to tell their stories of sexual exploitation by men in a position of power.
  • Many of those men losing their jobs as a result.
  • The Women’s Marches that began last year to protest the election of the misogynist-in-chief and grew this year as millions of women (and men) marched across the country to demand equality for women in the workplace, in politics, in the board room, in society.
  • Oprah Winfrey delivering a stirring speech as she accepted an award at the Golden Globes Awards, leading to a social media storm urging her to run for president. (Please, no, we’ve tried the really rich person used to giving orders with no government experience thing. But please do support candidates who agree with you, O. Generously.)
  • Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former Fox News anchor who won a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment settlement from the network, being named chair of the Miss America pageant board of directors after the male bosses were shown to be mini-Trumps. Former contestants were also added to the board, which was previously all-male.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urging Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual groping charges, saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down as president because of his sex scandals and urging Donald Trump to resign as president over sexual assault charges from a score of women.
  • Trump attacking Gillibrand with sexual innuendo on Twitter and unleashing a powerful backlash.
  • The doctor for the U.S. Olympics gymnastic team being sentenced, in effect, to the rest of his life in prison for abusing dozens of female athletes under his medical care for years. The athletes were given all the time they wanted in court by the female judge to tell their stories before the sentencing.
  • Women of color turning out en masse at the polls in Alabama to defeat a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who, as a district attorney stalked teen-aged girls at malls. The candidate, Roy Moore, had the support of Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrat won.
  • A record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels.
  • Time Magazine choosing “The SILENCE BREAKERS,” the women who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, launching the #metoo movement, as “Persons of the Year.”
  • Hillary Clinton running for president, getting nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and losing anyway because (1) the Russians interfered with the campaign, (2) Republicans didn’t care and still don’t and (3) she apparently rubbed a lot of women the wrong way.
  • Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Connecticut as leading voices in the Democratic Party and speaking eloquently about economic equality, health care, gun violence, family leave, veterans, the homeless, abortion, immigration, jobs, the drug crisis — all for the most part ignored by Republicans.
  • Steve Wynn, financial chairman of the Republican National Committee, being forced to resign his position over numerous charges of sexual harassment and abuse of women over the years. The wealthy casino magnate is a major financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans.
  • Congress rewriting the rules (such as they were) for dealing with members accused of sexual harassment. Secret non-disclosure agreements are probably not going to be the norm anymore.
  • Female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States. They are also more likely to vote than men.

These are the dots. There are plenty more, but you get the idea. This is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.

You want another dot to connect? How about First Lady Melania Trump canceling out at the last moment on the trip to Davos with Donald? No standing stoically by her man. Someone said she sent him a private tweet: Dear POTUS, not going to Davos. Why don’t you see if Stormy Daniels is free for the weekend? Well, not free, but, you know, affordable.

Connect the dots.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Democrats: Stand By Your Woman

Monday, December 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ... leading the way

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand … leading the way

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned — by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition — to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

— “She’’s done, as far as I’m concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”

— “Never vote for her.”

— “Horsefeathers.”

— “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

— “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

— “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton’s 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar — the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk — like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly — sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin’ things that you don’t understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he’s just a man” … allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles — women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed — have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors — Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues — including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality — seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Launches Gillibrand Campaign

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ... right place, right time?

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand … right place, right time?

Here comes Kirsten.

Thanks to Donald Trump’s thin skin and pathological need to attack any woman who speaks the truth to and about him, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign for the presidency — mostly media speculation and staff downplaying until now — has been launched onto front pages, TV and social media sites ahead of schedule.

Not that Gillibrand is complaining. In fact, she thanked Trump in typical Gillibrand style — directly and defiantly. Just the way to get under his skin. And just the way to use his misogynistic history and instincts to put the spotlight on her signature issue —  sexual predation. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The launch began when the Democratic senator from New York called on Trump to resign as president in light of allegations of sexual assault or harassment from, at last count, 17 women. Gillibrand had already called for the resignation of fellow Democratic senator, Al Franken, of Minnesota, because of sexual assault allegations and had said that, if BIll Clinton were president now and were facing the sexual misconduct charges that led to his impeachment, she would expect him to resign.

Those two moves set Gillibrand apart from the two wings of the Democratic Party — the progressives who love Franken and feel he was railroaded and deserves the hearing he requested, and the Clinton regulars who see any criticism of Bill as an attack on Hillary. Plus, some felt Gillibrand appeared to be ungrateful for the help she received from the Clintons when she replaced Hillary in the Senate. Members of both Democratic factions felt Gillibrand was exploiting a situation — the whirlwind of sexual assault allegations being made public about prominent men in various fields — to advance her political career.

In other words, she stood accused of being a politician.

Apparently. being ambitious is acceptable, even commendable, behavior for men in politics, but not (with the exception of Hillary) appropriate for women. This fits nicely with Gillibrand’s campaign to change prevailing societal attitudes and treatment of women.

And, critics notwithstanding, she didn’t come late to the party. Indeed, she came to the Senate already focused on sexual and gender abuse, turning her focus on the military as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She was one of the leaders in the move to do away with the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military;

She has championed a bill, which has bipartisan support, to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. The Military Justice Improvement Act is a byproduct of hearings in 2013 on sexual assault in the military, which she held as chair of a subcommittee on military personnel. Gillibrand has also been instrumental in drafting the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would hold colleges accountable for sexual assault on their campuses. And she is building bipartisan support for a measure to revamp congressional procedures for dealing with sexual harassment.

If ever there were a case of right place, right time, right person — right woman — this sure seems like it. Gillibrand may or may not have been planning to run for president — or maybe she was still assessing her chances — but the combination of: 1) the misogynist Trump in the White House; 2) the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal in Hollywood; 3) the ensuing accusations, revelations, admissions, firings and resignations of high-profile men in powerful positions in media, movies, business, politics; 4) the Women’s March movement; 5) the demonstration of women’s voting power in Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama; and 6) the legions of Democratic women who want a champion of their gender but for various reasons felt Clinton wasn’t it, would seem to suggest a perfect alignment of the stars for a woman with excellent political instincts and without political baggage.

Senator Gillibrand.

A word about those instincts. Gillibrand was appointed senator in 2009 to replace Clinton, who was nominated to be secretary of state by President Barack Obama. Her selection by New York Gov. David Paterson was a surprise because Gillibrand was then a relatively unknown  congresswoman from upstate New York. That is, conservative upstate New York. She had managed to be elected in a Republican-heavy district in large part due to her ability to recognize what was important to her constituents (agriculture, guns) and to communicate directly to them. She says they trusted her even though she was a Democrat and two out of three voters were Republicans.

But she changed when she moved from the House to the Senate, going from representing a conservative congressional district to representing a liberal state. Critics say it was cynical and political, aimed at getting re-elected. She says as she traveled the state she learned different views about issues that were important to people — on gun control and gay rights for example — and her views changed as she learned more.

Take your pick on the Gillibrand evolution. The proof is in the pudding. She has been vocal and persistent in the Senate in championing whatever cause she latches on to, including single-payer health care and family leave, which have been longtime issues for her.

Still, it is #metoo and the rapid recognition of millions of women of the political power that is theirs, waiting to be harnessed, not exploited, that has placed Gillibrand — perhaps moreso than another favorite Trump target, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren — at what may be a pivotal place in history. Four male Democratic senators called on Trump to resign before she did, with nary a tweet from Trump. Gillibrand’s statement got to him.

He tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office ‘begging’ for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Typical Trump, attacking a woman standing up to him by insulting her and using sexual innuendo. Also typically Trump, with bad timing. The tweet appeared hours before the senator was to speak to a group of truckers. The dotard’s sexual history was obviously not on the agenda, but, of course, the press asked Gillibrand to respond to his tweet.

So she did, in typical fashion: “It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. I will not be silent on this issue, neither will women who stood up to the president yesterday and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women’s March to stand up against policies they do not agree with.”

You could almost hear the campaign cash registers ringing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A Gift to America from the U.S. Mint

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Lady Liberty ... courtesy of the U.S. Mint

Lady Liberty … courtesy of the U.S. Mint

It came in the mail and I hesitated before tossing it out with the rest of the unsolicited communications. Being an occasional collector of coins, I usually give the catalogue from the U.S. Mint at least a cursory look, but something struck me as different about this one, the “Treats of the Season” holiday gift guide. I just couldn’t figure out what it was, so I set it aside.

A little while later when I picked the guide up again, I saw it right away, but also questioned what I was seeing. “Is that a strong, young woman of color on the $100 Liberty coin?” I asked myself, smiling incredulously. ‘‘An African-American Lady Liberty? In 99.99% 24-karat gold?’’

Why yes it is, the Mint catalogue writers informed me. To celebrate the 225th anniversary of its founding, the Mint has initiated a series of gold coins depicting Lady Liberty as different ethnicities. Following the first symbolic African-American woman to grace a United States coin, will come Asian-American, Hispanic-American, and Indian-American figures, to reflect “the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States,” the Mint said.

“Well, of course,” I said. “Perfect,” I said. Ironic in spades. Still grinning, I wondered, “Does he know about this? He couldn’t possibly know about this. He would surely have tweeted something … And since these coins are already available, why am I just learning about this?”

Last question first.

The Mint announced its plans for the commemorative coin in January, before the, um, inauguration. At the time, I was hospitalized and preoccupied, recovering from a serious auto accident. The coin slipped by me. They started minting the coins in April at West Point, not far from where I live. Love that local touch, but again, I was still otherwise occupied. But what’s the dotard’s excuse? After all, gold is his favorite color.

 Of course, these coins are for collectors or investors, not flim-flam artists who borrow other people’s coin of the realm and don’t bother to pay it back. I somehow can’t see him encouraging his young children to collect coins unless the family name were stamped on them. (The thought that it may well happen just sent chills through my body.)

Back to Lady Liberty.

The coin apparently did not totally escape notice of the bigots who are a significant segment of the so-called core Trump supporters. A quick search of the Internet turned up these comments reported by AP as coming from Twitter:

— “The discrimination of white people by the [Obama] administration continues.’’

— “That’s fine. But if they do one with a Latina on it, it better come with papers …”

— “I’m surprised that it’s not a MUSLIM.”

— “This administration doing everything to change history, including changing Lady Liberty from what the French sent us. Pathetic racism!”

— “I wouldn’t pay a dime for it. This proves that the Obama’s (sic) are racist.’’

The coins obviously were commissioned by the Mint during Barack Obama’s administration. But clearly a large number of Americans still don’t think that electing an African-American president was a powerfully symbolic, inclusive act that gave truth to the boast that, in America, “anybody can be elected president.” Actually, the dotard is daily living proof of that decree.

Perhaps anticipating some of the criticism, the Mint’s Principal Deputy Director Rhett Jeppson, issued a statement with the release: “We are very proud of the fact that the United States Mint is rooted in the Constitution.  … Our founding fathers realized the critical need for our fledgling nation to have a respected monetary system, and over the last 225 years, the Mint has never failed in its mission.” Later, he said in an interview. “Part of our intent was to honor our tradition and heritage. But we also think it’s always worthwhile to have a conversation about liberty, and we certainly have started that conversation.”

Well done, Rhett.

But what about that other woman of color — a real, historical one, not a symbolic one — who has been chosen to appear on U.S. currency? What about Harriet Tubman?

You’ll remember that, last year, after a social media-fueled campaign to put a woman on the $10 bill, the Treasury secretary, Jacob J. Lew, announced a plan to change the look — and the faces — of America’s paper currency, the money we actually spend, not collect.

Abolitionist and former slave Harriet Tubman, was selected to appear on the $20 bill, replacing the Indian-killer Andrew Jackson. Other women and civil rights leaders were to be added to the $5 and $10 bills.

This remake did not escape Trump’s notice, what with a female slave and Underground Railroad “conductor,’’ to be honored and his favorite president to be removed. He called it “pure political correctness.”

New Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he would review the Obama leftover makeover, but also said it’s not a high priority since he’s been busy  trying to justify a tax giveaway to wealthy Trump supporters. The good news for history and equality fans is that the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces the paper currency, says it has not yet received any orders to slow or halt the redesign. But the secretary does have final approval on any changes, so stay tuned on that front.

If she does survive, Tubman wouldn’t be the first woman or first woman of color to grace U.S. currency. Suffragette Susan B. Anthony appeared on the $1 coin that was often mistaken for quarters and proved useful in subways. Sacagawea, a Shoshone guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark, succeeded Anthony and was the first woman of color to appear on U.S. currency, her dollar coin having a golden tinge. Neither coin was especially popular with the public, nor, I would assume with Trump, given his issues with strong women and Native Americans.

Again, that’s why I love the new $100, one-ounce, 24-karat gold, striking Lady Liberty coin, proudly and defiantly proclaiming our nation’s diversity and evolving heritage. Trump and the Republicans can’t even go after the Mint to stop production on budgetary grounds since the agency, which produces currency as well as commemorative coins and medals, is self-sustaining. Jeppson said it returned nearly $600 million in profits to the Treasury Department last year.

By the way, it’s not too late to introduce a Trump offspring to the joys of coin collecting. If I may be so bold, sir, Barron is the perfect age to appreciate the history, artistry and legacy embodied in the new Liberty coin. Why not drop one in his stocking to make Christmas great again? It’s a father-son connection thing. Or, if you prefer, look at it as an investment — at $1,690 per coin, it’s not chump change. A hedge for the market correction. If you want to be a bigshot to the White House staff, give each one a silver medal of the same design, at $59.95 per medal. They’ll love it. Give Sarah Huckabee Sanders two.

The Mint says you can only order the coins by going to its web site or calling its special number, but I think they’d take your call anytime. You might want to hurry though, they’re only minting 100,000 of the 225th anniversary Liberty gold coins and Jeff Bezos is reportedly thinking of offering them at a discount on Amazon as a gift to America. What a guy, huh? Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles with other leaders, including Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional "ASEAN handshake" in the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Donald Trump “smiles” with other leaders, including Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional “ASEAN handshake.” REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It was almost painful to look at. That handshake. The apparently traditional one in which the world leaders attending the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference line up side-by-side, reach their arms across their bodies and shake hands with the persons next to them. Right hand to left side, left hand to right side. A little unorthodox, but heavy on symbolism.

The dotard-in-chief at first couldn’t figure out the logistics of where his hands should go and whose hand to shake. After flailing around for a few seconds, he finally got it. Then came the painful part. As he reached across his body for the hands of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phu and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump grimaced as if in serious pain.

It’s obvious as you look at the photo that all the other participants are relaxed and smiling. Trump is straining, trying desperately as photographers continue to snap to look as if he’s smiling. The man can barely manage to hang on to Nguyen and Duterte.

All the stories I saw on the handshake called it “awkward.” Well, sure it was awkward. We’re used to awkward from dotard. But it was only the photographers who reported that he was grimacing, not smiling, as if it were a reach too far across a flabby, out-of-shape body.

Look, as far as I’m concerned the question of whether Trump is fit mentally, emotionally, intellectually, morally or ethically to be president was answered convincingly during the 2016 campaign and has been reinforced every day he has been in office. He’s not. Yet for some reason we’re still debating this. I’m tired of restating the obvious, which is why, I think, the handshake photo struck me.

In addition to all the above, the man is also physically unfit to be president. He actually winced as he reached for Duterte’s hand, which ought to be a fairly unchallenging physical feat.

Trump is obviously overweight. During the campaign his “doctor” reported Trump’s weight as 236 and height as 6 foot 3. A lot of people say he’s really 6 feet 2 inches tall, but that would change his Body Mass Index, moving him from merely overweight to obese and, well, that would simply be unacceptable.

Like exercise. Trump has famously said he doesn’t exercise because he believes everyone has a “finite” supply of energy and exercising uses it up. What can you expect from a guy who stared at the sun during an eclipse.

This is not nit-picking, people. The man is 71 years old and lives on a diet of fast food and red meat. He sleeps three to four hours a night. He watches a lot of television. He prefers to skip breakfast, but does wash his hair and check Twitter. He has one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the world, yet, unlike other presidents, he has not had a physical exam since taking office, at least not that we know of.

His only physical activity is golf, which is not particularly strenuous, especially since he rides his golf cart everywhere, including onto the green. (He also used a golf cart in Saudi Arabia while other dignitaries walked because he was “exhausted.”)

In a sense, Trump’s blithe disregard for his physical health is in the same vein as his demonstrated lack of interest in history, geography, economics, science, the Constitution, diplomacy, appropriate social behavior, the truth, business ethics, common courtesy and how government actually works. Add your own to the list.

The point is — and his loyal supporters who see the emperor well-clothed ought to really care about this — if he can’t manage his own personal health with all the imaginable resources in the world at his call, how can he be relied on to manage America?

Let me be clear. With Pence and Ryan in the bullpen, I’m not especially eager to have some physical ailment remove Trump from the Oval Office. (Again, one wonders why his supporters don’t care.) Actually, I see his denial of his basic health needs — and his secrecy about his physical condition — as just another symptom of his emotional unfitness for office. That should disqualify him. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t care as it is that he doesn’t seem to realize he should care, at least for himself and his supporters and family.

If he really wanted to make America great again, the dotard would set an example of something positive he’s doing. Take a walk. Eat some vegetables. But he’s got nothing. He body shames people, especially women, as if he has never looked in a mirror. Or, psychiatrists would say, maybe because he has looked in a mirror. One way or another, it’s always about him and whatever the subject is he alway thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. It’s the kind of attitude people like Vladimir Putin thrive on. That Republicans have allowed it to continue and sought to exploit it will be to their everlasting shame.

Here’s just a small example of how Trump’s disregard for his health and his responsibilities does not make America great again: A couple in Jacksonville, Fla., went to their elementary school to see their son receive a National Physical Fitness Award. Being bright as well as fit (he could probably handle the ASEAN handshake blindfolded), the boy immediately noticed the certificate was signed by former President Barack Obama, not Trump, even though it was dated May 23, 2017.

The family was upset, not over politics, but at the apparent lack of, well, attention to detail. Can’t the “best people” a president can hire get a simple certificate right? All things Trump being connected, it may well have something to do with the fact that the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which provides the coveted awards, still has no members and no chairperson after nearly 10 months under Trump.

Because, well heck, there’s only so much energy to go around.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Facebook Has an Algorithm Problem

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

facebook thumb downAlgorithms are cool. I get it. I mean, I get that they’re cool, not how they work. I like to think that, if I had to, I could probably work really hard to understand them, but I dropped out of engineering school to do this. No regrets.

In fact, writing about life in all its complexities has given me an appreciation for what people — real people, not some numbers-crunched algorithm people — have to deal with on a daily basis. It has exposed me to the value of compassion, compromise and common sense.

Our universal dictionary, Wikipedia, defines an algorithm as “an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.”

But they can’t, obviously, do ambiguous.

I’m thinking about algorithms because Facebook, an Internet empire built on them, recently said it was going to hire 1,000 people to review ads in response to the embarrassing revelation that users’ news feeds during the 2016 U.S. presidential election were awash in political ads run by Russians, undoubtedly using their own algorithms to target various groups in an effort to influence the outcome. Facebook said Russians bought about $100,000 in ads — with rubles — but apparently the social media giant’s algorithms detected no ambiguity afoot with Russians arguing to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights or stirring up anti-gay feelings, not in Moscow, but in the American heartland.

Congress is investigating. That’s good. It should do something this year. But Facebook has more than a Russia problem. It has become the major source of news for millions of Americans, yet its news feeds have been shown to be awash in fake news. Lots of really fake news, not Trump “fake news,” which is real news.

Facebook — actually Mark Zuckerberg — is talking about becoming a more responsible source of reliable news information and hiring “content moderators” to review, well, content, and a lot of additional people to look out for violent content on the site. Swell. 

If you will permit me a self-serving observation, he’s talking about hiring people to exercise judgment over what appears publicly on Facebook because: (1) algorithms can’t think or feel like people and (2) this is how responsible newspapers have operated forever. Just saying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also will say I have had my own personal experiences with Facebook algorithms. Recently, I received an e-mail telling me that an ad I wanted to run boosting a column on a Facebook page I administer was rejected because it had too much copy. It didn’t say the copy was boring or poorly written or even offensive. Just too much of it.

OK, I’ve had editors tell me the same thing, but I was also never prepared to give an editor ten bucks just to run the column. Oh yeah, the ad in question was proposed in July. I got the rejection e-mail on Halloween.

Then there’s the friendly way Facebook greets me every day with news of the weather in Phillipsport. “Rain is in the forecast today, Robert.” Thank you. If I Iived in Phillipsport it would matter a lot more, but it’s a half hour drive and there’s a big mountain range between us and my page unambiguously says where I live. Can’t the algorithm read?

But the incident that really convinced me that Facebook had an algorithm problem was its response to a complaint I filed regarding a post that was being sarcastic about the dotard-in-chief. I am guilty as charged of leveling (much-deserved) sarcasm at the Trump, but this cartoon had him in a coffin with a bystander saying to Melania, “‘Sorry about the assassination, Mrs.Trump, but he knew what he signed up for.”

As a “content moderator” for newspapers for several decades, I would never let such a tasteless, provocative, potentially dangerous item to be published. I told Facebook the same thing. I said they should delete it. It encouraged violence at a violent time in our history.

The algorithm replied that the post did not violate Facebook’s standard of, I don’t know: Acceptability? Appropriateness? Decency? Who sets this pathetic standard?

I use Facebook a lot. It has many wonderful benefits. But “automated reasoning” is not a substitute for good old, gut-instinct common sense. It’s the best way to connect people with people. Maybe people cost a little more than algorithms, but I think Zuck can afford it and there are a lot of laid off editors looking for work. If it’s not fake news that he’s serious about running for president some day, he’ll be glad he did it.

I’m also curious to know what Facebook says if I decide I want to pay to boost this post. I wonder if they’ll let me run a picture of Zuck. Can I even call him Zuck?

Stay tuned.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Positive Vibes for Negative Times

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

good news jpgTrump to Puerto Rico: Drop Dead!

Trump to Americans struggling to afford health insurance: Drop dead!

Trump to North Korea: Drop dead!

Trump to the free press: Drop dead!

Trump to the LGBT community: Drop dead:

Trump to immigrants: Drop dead!

Trump to NFL players: Drop dead!

Trump to Iran: Drop dead!

Trump to pregnant war widow: He knew what he signed up for.

Trump to anyone who will listen: I am not a moron!

                                                         ***

In reply to my recent column on the Nibiru planet hoax and efforts to contact intelligent life elsewhere in the universe — maybe even set up a colony on Mars — my friend Ernie Miller commented: “It is nice you can maintain a positive outlook amidst the carnage and cacophony that is daily life.”

“Ernie,” I replied,“it ain’t easy.”

In truth, it has never been harder in the half century I have been writing about “daily life,” as it were.

As it is, today it is sometimes unbelievably depressing and infuriating to reflect upon the “carnage and cacophony” in which we are seemingly enmeshed. And writing about it? Everyone is writing about it. Social media is awash in it. Yes, actual factual information is vital, but that steady drumbeat of ignorance and arrogance at the center of most news stories today only seems to add to the great wall of negative energy engulfing our universal consciousness, making us act, if you will, as if we were all collectively unconscious.

Thank you, Carl Jung, for allowing me to misappropriate and mangle your theory for my own personal benefit. In my defense, my hope is that whatever bits of positive energy I can contribute to the greater consciousness can only be for the good of the collective universe.

So, here goes:

  • I’m getting a 2 percent raise in my Social Security check next year. That’s good news not only for me, but for millions of others who receive monthly checks (thank you, FDR) and who have not had a raise since 2012 because the government figured inflation wasn’t bad enough and the cost of living wasn’t going up so’s you’d notice. Some of us noticed. I could feel the vibe of 66 million recipients ripple across America when I read the story. It’s the first substantial raise in years. Most recipients are seniors over age 65, but some payments also go to the severely disabled and orphans. The average check is currently $1,377 a month, meaning next year’s increase will raise the typical payment by $27 a month. Listen, it’s a start.
  • We also learned that, despite the devastation Hurricane Maria visited on Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory, made famous in the films “Contact” (Jodie Foster) and “GoldenEye” (Sean Connery), survived with what was called “fixable” damage and no casualties. This is positive news because Arecibo is a star in the search-for-life-in-the-universe universe. The radio telescope,  built in 1963, was the first to find planets around other stars, the first to provide an image of an asteroid and — back to Carl Sagan’s “Contact” — sent the famous Arecibo Message to M13, a cluster of bodies 25,000 light years away. The message informs any sentient beings who receive it who we are and where we live. Send us a text message. Of course, it’ll be at least 50,000 years before we get an answer, but it’s the sending that contributes hope to the universal consciousness. Arecibo’s radar has been called “by far the most sensitive planetary radar in the world” and the folks who fund it — the National Science Foundation — say it does “excellent science.” Alas, in this era of anti-science, an official at NSF says, what with the damage Arecibo did incur, “If you look at the overall sweep of things that we’re funding, we do have to make choices and we can’t keep funding everything that’s excellent.” Perish the thought. So, here’s looking at you, Arecibo, and here’s sending some positive vibes about you into the nearby universe.
  • Staying in Puerto Rico and the notion of doing what you can for the collective good, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, an alternative energy company, made the initial installment of his promise to restore the island’s power grid with solar energy. San Juan’s Hospital del Niño – a children’s hospital with 3,000 patients — has power again, supplied by a collection of Tesla solar panels in the parking lot. The Tesla Twitter account posted: “Hospital del Niño is first of many solar-storage projects going live. Grateful to support the recovery of Puerto Rico with (Gov.) Ricardo Rossello.” All kinds of positive energy here. Musk, of course, is also the one talking about establishing a colony on Mars and who’s willing to bet against him?
  • In an extraordinary example of quantum positive energy, a  hand-written note by Albert Einstein sold at auction in Jerusalem for $1.56 million. The note was written in November 1922, when Einstein, then 43, was in Japan for a lecture series. While in Tokyo, he learned he’d been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. When a courier came to his hotel room to make a delivery, Einstein did not have any money to tip him, so he handed the messenger a signed note, written in German: “A calm and humble life will bring more happiness than the pursuit of success and the constant restlessness that comes with it.” A kind of e=mc2 for a peaceful universe. The message was obviously paid forward several times before someone realized what Einstein clearly knew at the time — a bird in the hand (a signed note from a Nobel laureate, say) is worth two (or even more) in the bush.
  • Chris Long, who plays defensive end for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, is donating his entire year’s salary to improve educational opportunities in the United States. Long used his first six game checks to provide two scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Va., his hometown. He’s dedicating the remaining 10 to launch the “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” campaign. “I believe that education is the best gateway to a better tomorrow for EVERYONE in America,” he wrote on Pledge It.  “I’m encouraging fans, businesses and every person with a desire to join in my pursuit of equal education opportunities for all students to make their own pledge.’ He hopes to double his pledge with this collective effort.
  • In a somewhat desperate effort to find some positive news, I typed “good news” in the Google search bar. Voila! The web is awash in other folks looking to add positive energy to the collective consciousness. Duh. Some of the above came from that search. It’s good to remember: We are not alone, even in the private universe of our anxious minds.
  • Speaking of synchronicity, hurry it up, Mueller.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Fly Me to the Moon, Please!

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors. Nibiru was a no-show again.

Trump thinks he’s an emperor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and about 70 percent of the country think the president is a moron.

Of that remaining 30 percent, a sizable portion believe Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the earthquakes that rocked Mexico were god’s vengeance on humankind for (a) the mere existence of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons and (b) the idea that such persons should be allowed the same rights as “normal” people. Others in this group take it as fact that there were a pair of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

This is by way of reporting, in case you missed it, that Nibiru once again failed to live up to its hype. This is not disappointing, but it is getting old.

If you somehow missed it, Nibiru is a “giant planet,” supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, which, according to one translation of ancient Babylonian texts, passes by Earth every 3,600 years to allows its inhabitants to interact with earthlings. NASA says it’s a hoax, but the prediction has evolved (or mutated) into Nibiru (also called Planet X), flying into or close by Earth, causing cataclysmic problems. That was supposed to happen in May 2003 and again in December of 2012. 

Also, Sept. 23 just passed. Missed again, although the “end of times” had been predicted by David Meade, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “Christian numerologist” who must have miscalculated, as did all those web sites dedicated to Nibiru.

It’s the interactive fly-by of Nibiru that caught my attention, though, not the hellfire and brimstone and rising tides theory. One would have to think that any celestial visitors these days would only have to slow down enough to take a peek at the headlines and decide to come back in another 3600 years when maybe we had our stuff a little better together.

Some people, however, are not willing to wait that long for contact with beings from elsewhere in the universe. Doug Vakoch is one of those. The president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is moving along with announced plans to send messages to stars with planets thought to be capable of sustaining life. First transmissions are scheduled for next year, despite warnings from some noted scientists that in sending messages rather than just listening for them he may be inviting trouble in the form of nasty aliens, as portrayed in many science-fiction movies.

Vakoch and his crew of serious scientists dismiss those portrayals as the result of active imaginations and a situation for which we have no actual data. “One of the reasons people are so afraid of METI is that it seems riskier to do something than to do nothing,” he says.

Ironically, one of those who have voiced warnings about METI is Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. Musk is not the sit-around-and-wait -for-things-to-happen type.

Last month, as earthlings were breathing a sigh of relief at having been spared the wrath of Nibiru once more, Musk was in Australia at the annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress moving up the deadline on his intent (some say pipe dream) to launch a manned mission to Mars. He’s talking 2024. Yes, seven years. Employing a really big rocket with lots of powerful engines, his plan is to launch two cargo missions to Mars in 2022 and four missions in 2024, two cargo and two with crews. Eventually, the goal is to create a colony, with the rockets transporting 100 people per trip.

Paying for his grand plans is always a question with Musk. He says he figures on building lots of rockets (smaller than his original plan) which can also be used to fly people to Paris or London or Tokyo instead of just Mars. He says his system could move people between any two cities on this planet in less than an hour, for an appropriate fee of course. People would be the payload on the Mars rockets, also. Investors welcome.

Closer to home, Musk says the really big rocket could be used to take people to the Moon. “It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” he said in Australia. “What the hell is going on?”

Well, sir, as stated above, the president (whose business advisory councils you quit and who named a climate-denier to head NASA) thinks he’s an emperor, the secretary of state thinks he’s a moron and 30 percent of Americans — some of whom think dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark — are apparently still OK with all that.

So, Messrs. Musk and Vakoch, if you don’t mind, let’s get those rockets and inter-planetary messages going quickly, before the emperor declares war on Nibiru.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s a Burger … and So Much More

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

“Write about something other than him,” my inner voice said.

“Write about something other than him,” she pleaded.

“I’ll try,” I said. “I’ll really try.”

***

… So I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night when a photo grabbed my attention and made me stop and look at it more closely. It was a promotion for an eatery in my vicinity and the obvious attempt was to be as mouth-wateringly appetizing as possible. Good idea if you’re selling food.

For me, however, the effect was heart-stoppingly different. The photo was of a burger, but not just any burger. In today’s highly competitive world of restaurants, even a burger has got to be somehow special. Bigger. Untraditional. Jam-packed. For me, this one definitely qualified. In addition to the hefty bun and lots of char-broiled ground beef, it included a slice of cheddar cheese, two slices of bacon, tons of fried onions and — this is what got my attention — a fried egg to top it all off.

Be still my heart, is obviously the response the creators were hoping for. Heart-attack special, I thought. Do people actually eat those things? I wondered. Is the egg really necessary? I asked Google.

Apparently, yes, such burgers are not only eaten. but there is a competition to see who can pile as many calories and as much fat and cholesterol into cheeseburgers and market them as great sources of protein.

I get it. People love it. They eat it up.

Well, some people. People who are concerned that they are overweight, or have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or high cholesterol, or heart disease — which is millions of Americans by the way — are not necessarily enamored of the super burger. Nor are people who are simply interested in living a longer, healthier life. Certainly they don’t make these burgers a regular part of their diet.

Again, what struck me was the fact that this burger was apparently not so special in that lots of food establishments — fast and not-so-fast food — offer some variation of the heart-stopper. A lot of Americans do eat this way fairly regularly. Even as the fast-food giants scramble to put more healthful-sounding (if not actually healthful) items on their menus, the kitchen-sink burger reigns supreme and lean (as in meat) is mean. Fat’s still where it’s at.

Listen, what you eat is your business and nobody likes a know-it-all or scold, especially when it comes to food. I don’t expect to change anybody’s diet by pointing out that the federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping your body’s cholesterol levels low by eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. There are no limits, true, but the body makes its own cholesterol and doesn’t need help from such foods as red meat, egg yolks, dairy products, butter. Overdone, they tend to clog things (arteries) up. The guidelines also suggest you really want to limit your sodium intake, eat very little in the way of added sugars and saturated fats (regular ground beef, baked goods, cheese, pizza, French fries, ice cream) and no trans fats (baked goods, fried foods, packaged foods).

That’s pretty much your whole diet, right? It used to be mine. But, as I said, it’s your choice. I chose a few years ago — after a warning about being overweight and having high cholesterol and blood sugar counts — to pretty much eliminate red meat from my diet and to significantly reduce sugar (which figures in cholesterol and heart disease problems as well as diabetes), salt and unhealthy fats from my diet. I had help making that decision.

I cheat only rarely, have lost significant weight and — other than some bones broken in a recent auto accident — am in pretty good health for a 76-year-old. I do not deprive myself of foods I love that aren’t going to wreak havoc on my body. I also don’t drink alcohol or smoke.

So what’s the point of living, you ask, if you can’t have a few beers and polish off a half-pound of beef dripping with bacon grease and cheese, topped with salt and ketchup (sugar) and a fried egg?

For me, I guess living is the point. If I knew that all of that stuff would not do any noticeable harm to my health, I’d probably indulge more. But they will, so I don’t. As a result, I get to keep doing what I enjoy — writing —  hopefully without becoming a burden on others. I believe if the body stays healthy so does the mind. It’s a package deal.

The healthy mind part, to me, includes not dismissing out of hand any scientific information just because it doesn’t fit with my preferred view of the world. In addition to the epidemic of obesity in America, there is also a rising addiction, I believe, to willful ignorance: Science is wrong, the willfully ignorant say. Doctors are wrong. Historians are wrong. Nutritionists are wrong. Teachers are wrong. Journalists are wrong. Everyone who upsets my apple cart is wrong and I have a right to my opinion.

So, my opinion: The Earth is round, human behavior has caused significant warming of the planet’s temperature and indulging in an unhealthy diet out of some perverse notion that eating healthfully is some elitist plot is not just your personal opinion if it affects me. The cost of medical care and health insurance rise as our national health profile falls. As we neglect our bodies by rejecting science, so do we neglect our minds. As a nation, we become lazy, mentally as well as physically. 

That’s why it’s important to us as a nation to pass along sound, scientifically proven advice to our children on living a healthful — perhaps happy and productive — life. Even such a small example as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative for more healthful school lunches is helpful. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act took effect in 2010 and has been the source of controversy from the beginning. Among other things, it calls for more fruits and vegetables and less salt in school lunches.

It’s a simple way of teaching young people how to enjoy eating a more healthful diet. Since adults’ choices generally become their children’s choices, the national obesity issue does not involve just adults. So I was disappointed, on checking, to note that this year the rules for healthful school lunches have essentially been abandoned.

Still, I said to myself, there is always the exercise and fitness part of the equation. That’s important to pass on to kids and we have long had JFK’s-inspired President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to set a good example in that regard. The council has typically recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Keep those bodies moving, kids.

I visited that government site, which contains plenty of good information on living a healthy lifestyle. I was pleased to note that it encourages Americans to “follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan” and to support such patterns for everyone.

Great, I said. What else might the council have on its agenda? I wondered. And who’s on the council, anyway, I also wondered, remembering that Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mr. Universe, California governor and Terminator is a former chairman.

Here’s what I found under the “Meet The Council” heading on the web site: “The President’s Council engages, educates, and empowers all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. The President’s Council is made up of athletes, chefs, physicians, fitness professionals, and educators who are appointed by the President and serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Council Co-Chairs — To Be Announced …

“Council Members — To Be Announced …’’

There is no council.

Like I said, folks, it’s your choice. You’re on your own.

But at least I didn’t write about him.

rjgaydos@gmail.com