Posts Tagged ‘Annapolis’

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

  I’m a city boy. Bayonne, Binghamton, Annapolis, Middletown. Not big cities, but places where most stuff you need was in walking distance, there were downtowns, buses (in varying degrees), lots of kids, stickball, cats, dogs, and people you might nod and wave to. No emus.

      Today, I’m a country boy. Pine Bush. Burlingham actually. Slightly upstate New York (about 75 miles from the city), but definitely not urban or even suburban. It’s nice, except for the stuff you need not being in walking distance. The pandemic has made even that less of a nuisance since we’ve discovered that you can order anything online to be delivered to your door. It eliminates the human connection, but society has been working on that for some time now.

       Back to the emus. One of the pleasures of country living is the abundance of non-human neighbors. In the past I’ve commented on eagles, coyotes, owls, woodpeckers and the variety of visitors to our bird feeders (still just two cardinals). But that’s chicken feed compared to the menagerie we’ve seen on just one local road over the past few months.

       In the four-and-a-half miles under discussion, we have seen: Two stunning black swans, two emus, flocks of chickens, one beautiful white swan, one peacock (please get off the road)  a pig, two score of horses, herds of cows, four white, domesticated geese, Canada geese galore, a llama, several sheep (please stay off the road!), a blue heron, grazing herds of deer, a bull and one outspoken burro. A recent addition — a mare and her foal. Most of these are permanent residents we look forward to seeing regularly. Toto, we’re not in Bayonne anymore. By the way, I’ll give a shout out here to any reader who can identify this road.

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

      — By the way … speaking of shouting out. Mitch McConnell is probably wishing he’d kept his mouth shut last week. The Senate majority leader first said that Barack Obama “should’ve kept his mouth shut” instead of criticizing the Dotard’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Classless,” McConnell suggested. He got mocked all over Twitter and Facebook for this absurd comment, given the lack of class demonstrated by the person he was defending. Then, McConnell had to eat crow by admitting that, contrary to what he and Dotard were saying, the Obama administration had indeed left a detailed playbook on how to handle future pandemics. Dotard got rid of it. That’s what happens when lying becomes so automatic you do it as naturally as breathing. McConnell is a disgrace.

       — By the way … Kentucky, the state represented by Republicans McConnell and the foolish Rand Paul, both of whom have objected to further stimulus funds for people who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, is one of the states most economically impacted by the pandemic. This from the Lexington Herald-Leader: “Figures released Thursday show that another 103,548 Kentuckians filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total number of initial claims since the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak in mid-March to nearly 500,000, or 24 percent of the state’s total civilian workforce. Two analyses from financial technology companies show Kentucky is one of the most-impacted states when measuring the number of claims as a percentage of the workforce, and when measuring the percentage increase in unemployment claims from the start of the COVID-19 crisis.” But hey, Kentuckians, keep electing these yohos because, you know, they’re poking fingers in the eyes of The Man.  And you’re about to lose your old Kentucky home. 

        — By the way … A lot of state and local governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to make it difficult or impossible to get access to public records. Many are routinely denying Freedom of Information requests. Of course, at the same time, these governments are making major decisions and spending billions fighting COVID-19. Not a time when government secrecy should be encouraged. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit fighting this trend, says, “It’s just essential that the press and the public be able to dig in and see records that relate to how the government has responded to the crisis. That’s the only way really to avoid waste, fraud, abuse and to ensure that governments aren’t overstepping their bounds.” Or to find out if they even have a clue as to what they’re doing.

        — By the way … Rep. Justin Amash, an independent Michigan congressman who had the guts and good sense to quit the Republican Party, has again come to his senses and given up his foolhardy and potentially damaging bid to run for president as a Libertarian. (You didn’t know?) Amash blamed COVID-19 (it’s become a handy multi-purpose excuse) for making it so difficult to campaign. Call it a mercy killing. He didn’t mention that maybe he had no shot at winning and the effort would mostly be an exercise in ego and spreading routinely rejected Libertarian views. He was running because of his dislike for Drumpf, which is commendable, but his candidacy would also have gotten votes from Republicans and others who don’t like Drumpf, but can’t find themselves voting for Joe Biden or another Democrat. Shades of Ralph Nader and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein. This is no year for symbolic votes, people.

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

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

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

capital gazette reader

I began my most recent column lamenting that this all-Trump-all-the-time insanity we are experiencing has sucked much of the joy out of life and made it difficult to write a “normal” column. “This has become personal,” I wrote.

Little did I know.

A week later, an angry white male with a shotgun and a history of threats shot and killed five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Md. For a brief time in my career, I was managing editor of the Evening Capital, which the Baltimore Sun later bought and merged with the Capital’s sister paper, the Maryland Gazette.

When I saw the first report on the shooting, I had an “Oh my God” moment. Who? But I quickly did the math and realized that, having left Annapolis more than 40 years ago, the odds that anyone I worked with was still there were slim to none. Also, the paper had long moved from its old offices on West Street — a convenient walk to the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Historic District, the Naval Academy and City Dock — to a modern building farther from downtown.

Still. People were shot at The Capital, I said, processing the information, and Donald Trump keeps calling the press “the enemy of the people” and conservative commentators and “pundits” keep issuing warnings about the media’s “time being up.”

This is not only not normal, this is dangerous because the most rabid followers of Trump and the media-bashers include some people with a violent nature who are looking for any excuse to use the guns they are hoarding to attack the “enemy” as fingered by their leader. That includes, at the top of the list, those who report the facts.

For Trump, that means anyone who points out his daily lies, mistakes, failures and contradictions and their impact on the rest of us. The so-called mainstream media. The big guys, to him. But to many Trump followers, that label translates to any journalist anywhere, including Annapolis.

This is classic government by fear-mongering. Angry white males keep slaughtering school children in America and newspapers report the facts and, in many cases, publish editorials and columns calling for more responsible gun laws. Trump, after first acting like he agrees with the need to pass sensible gun restrictions and criticizing Republican congressmen for being “afraid of the NRA,” then gets in bed with the NRA and points his finger at “the enemy” — the press — for reporting “fake news.”

“Defend the Second Amendment!” shout the zealots. “It’s the press’ fault!”

They apparently never heard of, or don’t care about or understand, the First Amendment, but I think most Americans do. I also think most Americans are a bit spoiled and lazy about understanding and appreciating what Freedom of the Press means to them.

It means that reporters in Annapolis, for example, can keep readers informed on meetings of local groups and schools, report on city council or state legislative action, local sports news, the status of the Chesapeake Bay and changes at the Naval Academy and editorial writers can offer reasoned opinion on the news of the day, unswayed by political or business interests.

Does this happen so purely every day at every paper in every community in America? Of course not. But I believe it it does in most. I am convinced by more than a half century of working with journalists that getting the story right and telling it the best way possible is still the primary objective.

For most journalists, the pay is good, but not spectacular. The ego is fed by the byline. The job is alternately fun, interesting, boring, challenging, stressful and always unpredictable, which may be the best part.

I mentioned I was managing editor of The Capital briefly in the 1970s at the height of the Watergate scandal. The unpredictable happened to me one morning when I was news editor. At the regular morning news meeting, the managing editor and editor got into an argument over something of great import of which I no longer have any memory. The managing editor abruptly stood up and said, “I quit!” and marched out the door of the editor’s office. Without missing a beat (at least that’s how I remember it), the editor pointed to me and said, “Gaydos, you’re managing editor.”

I eventually left Annapolis with that good personal story and wound up in Middletown, N.Y., another small city with a lot of good local journalists telling readers what was going on in the area. Among other things, I wrote editorials calling for sensible gun control laws, not repeal of the Second Amendment. Those sentiments continue to be expressed in the local paper and reporters and editors continue to do their best to serve the public, operating with sharply reduced resources due to an industry-wide corporate culture that is more interested in maximizing income than increasing the news hole.

Those newsroom people may irritate a politician occasionally, but as I see it, that’s part of the press’s responsibility of telling the truth. They are not, however, the enemy of the people any more than the five employees of the Capital Gazette who were gunned down in Annapolis. Just average Americans doing their jobs.

Words have power. When those in position of power use words recklessly — and Trump does so routinely — innocent people can be hurt. The facts speak for themselves. The Amendments to the Constitution are in order for a reason. People should not have to live in fear for speaking or writing the truth. That’s what makes America great.

I have many memories and mixed feelings about my time in Annapolis. It’s a great town. In the end, it’s all part of my story. But I am saddened by the newspaper’s — the city’s — loss and I hope and pray that more Americans wake up soon to the real enemy of the people.

rjgaydos@gmail.com