Archive for May, 2017

Donald’s New Pal, Rodrigo Duterte

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Rodrigo Duterte ... got an invite from the Donald

Rodrigo Duterte … got an invite from the Donald

While we’re waiting for Robert Mueller to reveal what many suspect, let’s review an earlier bizarre episode at the Trump White House.

Americans now find their president issuing an invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to pay a visit to the White House, a place dubbed long ago by Theodore Roosevelt as the “People’s House.” It’s unclear what T.R would call it nowadays.

The Duterte invitation went out as the result of “a very friendly conversation” between the two presidents, the White House said. Very nice, but here’s why the invitation should be withdrawn at once.

On one hand Trump is still hot to build his damned wall along the Rio Grande as a means of keeping some people out.

On the other hand, Trump, doing whatever he can to get certain people in, would open the White House doors to Duterte so the two leaders could engage in some manly talk. The problem is that Duterte is a self-described admirer of Hitler and has likened the Jews of Europe in the 1930s with the drug dealers and users that he loathes. He puts the number of each group at 3 million. In the case of the Jews that’s about half the usual estimate.

If Trump is hot to meet with Duterte, I wish the two of them a good time.

But not in the White House, which is not Trump’s to sully since it doesn’t belong to him, but to you and me and 300 million other Americans.

When running for president last year, Duterte wished to display his loathing of drug users and dealers and promised to use some of the same tactics against them that Hitler used against the Jews of Europe.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said. He meant the dealers and junkies, not the Jews. Or so I think.

Still, Jews were aghast at this comparison. So was anyone else with a streak of decency.

Another reason for double-locking the doors of the White House when Duterte comes to call is his view of law and order, and his choice of words to describe the people he dislikes, including America’s ex-president.

When he took office, Duterte called on his army and police to help out in the war on drugs. The use of summary executions was fine, he said. “Do your duty,” Duterte said, “and in the process you kill 1,000 persons, I will protect you.” Estimates of the number of people put to death by Duterte and his men vary. Some have been as high as 9,000.

Perhaps one of the reasons Duterte could issue such instructions is because he had participated in them himself.

When he was mayor of the sprawling city of Davao he responded to a question by declaring: “Me? They’re saying I’m part of a death squad? True. That’s true.”

A visit to the White House, the place where American presidents live? Not for Duterte who, when hearing what sounded like criticism of his police operations, responded by calling President Obama “a son of a whore” and told him to go to hell.

And now the obvious question for Trump.

How dare you allow this man into the Executive Mansion?

Sycophants, Cowards and Steve Bannon

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somehow, that’s not comforting either.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Ah, What Cadet Trump Could’ve Learned

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Cadet Donald Trump ... at NYMA

Cadet Donald Trump … NYMA, Class of ’64

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

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

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

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

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

Why indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Sometimes You Have to Say, ‘I’m Sorry’

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Trump ... tweeting.

Trump … tweeting.

Donald Trump and his coterie believe that election is tantamount to gaining unquestioned authority in matters of insult, truth and apology.

You may believe that begging someone’s pardon after intended or unintended insult might make the world a little more civil, maybe even a little safer, but Donald Trump seems to hold no such belief.

“If I win,” he informed Hillary Clinton during the campaign, “I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your [missing email] situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.” This as Trump’s followers gleefully roared “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

So far, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has appointed no special prosecutor, which could indicate that Clinton is not quite as wicked as Trump would have you believe.

So with no special prosecutor in sight, can Trump stand up and say “I went a little too far; I apologize?”

He cannot.

He’s apparently unaware that in America when you charge someone with a crime you’re supposed to have evidence.

Someone else operating from the Trump Handbook of Practical Politics is Jeff Sessions, who stepped into a Ringling Bros. bucket when he declared recently that the state of Hawaii is little more than a banana republic – seven insignificant islands floating out there on the briny.

Apologize? Sessions?

Reacting to an unfavorable ruling by District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu, Sessions told an interviewer: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be his statutory and Constitutional power.” Such judicial orders are precisely what make America unique, far different from a lot of countries.

At issue before Watson was Trump’s signing an executive order barring travelers from Muslim dominant countries from entering the United States – the so-called travel ban. Watson didn’t think it passed Constitutional muster.

Sessions was “amazed?”

If so, Americans must be “amazed” to learn that their attorney general is “amazed” at what the judges of a great nation do. That is, they interpret the law.

Sessions attributed the hubbub over his island jest to Americans having a lousy sense of humor. Get it? He was just kidding around with those 1.5 million unappreciative Hawaiians, not to mention the rest of us.

Incidentally, yes Watson was appointed by President Obama.

And yes, the Senate vote to confirm him was 94-0.

And yes, one of those yea votes was cast by Jeff Sessions, a senator at the time.

Here’s a handy guide to a few older incidents that beg for apology but have received no such thing.

— “I watched in Jersey City New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people [Muslims] were cheering as that building [the World Trade Center] was coming down,” Trump said about 9/11. Apparently he was the only person to witness such cheering.

— Trump said he doubted he could get a fair trial in a case to be heard by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel since Trump was calling for a wall to prevent Mexicans from crossing the border to reach the U.S. and Curiel had that Mexican sounding surname. Therefore, Trump’s reasoning went, he could not expect a fair shake from Curiel, except that Curiel is not Mexican but a U.S. citizen born in East Chicago, Indiana, the son of U.S. citizens.

— Trump charged outrageously that President Obama’s people tapped some of Trump’s phones during the campaign for Hillary Clinton’s benefit.

The evidence?

None.

Alcoholics and Excuses, a Familiar Mix

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

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

 ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

‘I changed my mind …’

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com