Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

Trump/Bakker: Marriage of Convenience

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Jim Bakker, sticking with Trump to the end...

Jim Bakker, sticking with Trump to the end.

The good news is that I think I finally have a handle on this whole evangelical Christians love affair with Donald Trump. The bad news — and the apparent reason it took so long for me to get it — is that the revelation comes from Jim Bakker. Jessica Hahn’s former boss and philandering lover is not exactly on my radar screen.

Regardless, I’m grateful for the belated enlightenment. According to the TV evangelist, the Orange Dotard and the chaos he has loosed on the planet are all part of God’s plan. The End Times are approaching, people — can’t you hear the hooves of the Four Horsemen? It will all end in a cataclysmic war, or something, and the world will be saved with the second coming of Jesus.

Well, not the whole world. Just the Christians. And not just any Christians, just, you know, the good ones. The “true” ones who look like them and think all other people — and they do mean all — are sinners, blasphemers, heretics, etc. The rest of us will be left behind in the Rapture, with only true disciples ascending to Heaven. Evangelicals have believed in some version of this prophecy from the Old Testament for centuries and the fact that it hasn’t happened yet has never been a deterrent to new believers — or to preachers willing to exploit it to their own profit. The end is near; send me your money.

The key to my finally understanding the evangelical embrace of Trump, the most amoral, immoral, irreligious occupant of the White House perhaps ever, is realizing I had it backwards. It doesn’t matter to Bakker and other evangelicals (I understand some evangelicals disagree with him, but their silence is deafening) if Trump is a serial sexual assaulter, a racist, a bigot, a phony Christian, a liar, a thief, a purveyor of hatred and resentment. That’s all part of the plan. The worse Trump is, the sooner the holy war starts and the sooner Jesus returns to save us.

Well, not all of us. Just, you know, “true” Christians. So, to reserve your seat on the Greyhound to Heaven, send in your donations today to Jim, Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) or one of the others.

This Old Testament prophecy now apparently serves as the basis of presidential policy, being digested at regular prayer breakfasts in the White House. Those breakfasts are attended by evangelical ministers, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other members of the Trump cabinet who profess a belief in the End Times theory.

The wisdom of our forefathers in separating church and state has never been more evident.

What’s not so obvious to me is, in this room of con artists, who is ultimately conning whom? The evangelicals latched on to Trump because he clearly has no use for the same people they exclude from their salvation story. He’s even apparently willing to use force or defy international efforts at cooperation to demonstrate his view. But his reasons are clearly not based on religious beliefs. They always have to do with him. He’s a con man. How can he benefit? In this case, he gets the evangelicals’ political support and votes, knowing they’ll support him no matter what, even though he doesn’t really believe their story. Because God sent him.

The evangelicals know that he knows. They know he doesn’t believe. That’s their con. In fact, that’s what makes their story more credible to them. A non-believer, they believe, will deliver them to Heaven by reclaiming Israel for the Jews, which is what they saw in Trump’s moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem — a move guaranteed to produce more conflict in the Middle East and one undoubtedly dreamed up at one of those White House prayer breakfasts.

Robert Jeffress, a Rapture pastor who attends those breakfasts, delivered the new embassy’s opening prayer. Jeffress has called Mormons heretics, said homosexuals are filthy, Islam promotes pedophilia and Jews are fated to hell. But, heck yeah, let’s pray for reuniting Israel anyway so that the holy war can start soon and we can get on with salvation.

It’s all a matter of convenience, in my way of thinking at least. That’s the con. Whatever Trump does, it’s all God’s will. (Get those donations in; seats are filling up fast.)

Still, I’m not completely clear on what’s about to happen. Versions of End Times vary and Bakker himself seems to have confused the issue by saying God told him (Yes, he got it straight from the Source) that: “Donald Trump is a respite in this troubled times and I sent him in grace to give you time to prepare for what’s coming on earth. …”

“We have a president people think is crazy,” Bakker said. “They call him crazy, but he’s making peace treaties, he’s doing all the things to try to solve the world’s problems and God has put him on earth— God spoke to me the other night. He said, ‘I put Donald Trump on earth to give you time, the church, to get ready.’”

So, is Trump here to make peace or war? See what I mean by convenient?

I read the novel, “Left Behind,” many years ago out of curiosity. It’s the Rapture in paperback. As I recall, in the book a lot of people were surprised to find loved ones gone — empty clothes, idling cars, etc. — but they were still around. And there was some new, false Messiah offering peace to a troubled world. (Mike Pence may be auditioning for this role.)

So, if I’m looking for a happy ending to this morality tale being played out on Pennsylvania Avenue, I can easily believe that Bakker et al got it wrong when they decided who and what was right. They conned themselves. That would mean, if the Apocalypse, etc. happens, Bakker, Trump, Pence, Graham, Jeffress, Robertson, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and most of Trump’s cabinet will be left behind to clean up their mess while the rest of us eat tacos and hummus and listen to Elton John in Heaven.

Either that, or the sound of hooves is Robert Mueller arriving on a white horse called Conquest. That’s in the story, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Aretha, Elvis, the Babe … What’s Up?

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

 Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

A member of royalty has died. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,“ was 76 when she succumbed to cancer on August 16. Usually, the date of someone’s death is a footnote, an afterthought, unless the person is famous or a loved one or, as with Aretha, loved and famous. Even so, the actual date of death seems to us mortals to be random. The luck of the draw.

In this case, I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if there wasn’t more than randomness involved in choosing what for many fans of the music icon will be a date to remember. In fact, it’s almost as if August 16 was preordained to be the day Aretha shrugged off this mortal coil. It seems to be a day designated for royal departures.

As news of Franklin’s death spread, even a casual user of social media would’ve been hard-pressed not to notice that August 16 was also the date on which Elvis Presley, “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,“ died. Hmmm.

There was more. The immortal Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,“ the ultimate symbol of baseball royalty, also died on August 16, we were reminded. If you don’t believe in synchronicity, it might be time to start reading up on it. As a believer, I went to a website that lists famous (and not so famous) deaths on August 16.

Would you believe, Bela Lugosi, who brought the infamous “Prince of Darkness” to, um, life, on the silver screen, also died on August 16? Heart attack. No sunlight, silver bullets, or wooden stakes involved. He was buried in his full Dracula costume.

So, Count Dracula, the Sultan Babe, and the musical king and queen all died on the same date. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m thinking it’s more likely there’s a message we humans haven’t figured out yet.

Well, some of us. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, offered what he thought was a pretty good explanation of “coincidences.” There aren’t any, he said. Everyone, he theorized, is connected through a greater unconscious and something called synchronicity ultimately controls what happens seemingly randomly. We just go around acting like we do it all. It’s obviously a lot more complex than that, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Then, of course, there is quantum physics, which also talks about everyone and everything being connected since everyone and everything is energy. Still, till, most physicists are reluctant to accept Jung’s explanation for scientifically unexplainable coincidence  — synchronicity.

Personally, I’m inclined to think that if we are all connected through a greater unconscious or consciousness or energy or whatever you want to call it, then there’s a force at work which we choose to call “coincidence” for lack of any other explanation.

And I think it is altogether reasonable to assume that this greater consciousness to which we all contribute would devise a way to keep “special” people together for the greater good. Like having them leave their earthly bodies on the same date as a way to help plan for future use of their unique contributions to lift the positive energy level on this planet, not to mention the universe. 

In fact, the mere recognition that such special people all died on the same date surely had an effect on our collective energy level this past August 16. With the shared shared sadness of the loss of Aretha Franklin also came innumerable shared memories of shared happiness that she — and all the August 16 departed — have contributed. W With those memories came the recognition that, even in this sometimes maddening, occasionally depressing world, there can be beauty, joy, special moments created by special people for all of us to share.

And, if I may theorize a bit, it need not solely involve “royalty.” Another of the August 16 Departed is Bobby Thomson, a pretty good baseball player responsible for one of the greatest moments the game has known — “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Thomson’s home run  in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1951 — a game the Giants were losing until Thomson came to bat — sent the Dodgers home and put the Giants in the World Series. It certainly made Thomson royalty as far as Giants fans were concerned.

But the fact that it was the first major sporting event televised live (another “coincidence”?) made it an exciting, exhilarating moment for many more than the 34,320 fans gathered in the Polo Grounds. Broadcaster Russ Hodges’ home run call, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!“ became instant legend. The Giants had staged an improbable end-of-season comeback to catch the Dodgers and Thomson had finished them off. With baseball as metaphor, it was a dramatic that even when you’re down to your last at bat, there is always hope.

Dodgers fans, of course, have always blamed their “fate” on Ralph Branca, the pitcher who served up the home run ball. Despite that and the fact that the Dodgers and Giants were arch rivals, Thomson and Branca wound up being good good friends when their baseball careers were over. The greater unconscious, it seems, had something beyond a baseball game in mind when it brought these two men together.

Let’s all get together next August 16 and see who’s missing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

Bobby B, Lebron, Elon and Tom Wolfe

Friday, August 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

What do Bobby Bonilla, Lebron James, Elon Musk and Tom Wolfe have in common? Aside from being well-accomplished in their chosen fields, that is. And being millionaires.

All right, it’s kind of a trick question. All four men’s names were on a list on my phone’s “Notes” section. The list was started on July 6 and it was titled “Non-Trump news.” Yeah, I was searching. I came across the list the other day and was reminded how quickly the daily news cycle gets overwhelmed by the White House Twitter storm, how other news — real news — gets lost and maybe never even noticed by a lot of people. I figured, if these names were on a list of newsmakers, I should at least tell people why. So, in case you missed it …:

  • Bobby Bonilla: He’s undoubtedly the least-known person on the list, except to Mets fans. Bonilla
    Bobby Bonilla

    Bobby Bonilla

    was a power-hitting outfielder who was first signed by the New York team in 1991 to a five-year contract for $29 million. After 3½ stormy and somewhat disappointing years, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in 1998, chasing a pennant, the Mets reacquired Bonilla, who spent more time on the disabled list, arguing with his manager and playing cards in the clubhouse than hitting home runs. When they decided to let him go, the notoriously frugal Wilpon brothers (who still own the team) didn’t want to pay Bonilla the $5.9 million they owed him for the coming season. Instead, they agreed to a deferred payment deal with 8 percent interest, which would pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 for 25 years … starting in 2011. This is why he was on my Notes list. It was payday. The deal totals $29.8 million for Bonilla, but the Wilpons at the time figured they would make considerably more than that with the 10 percent annual return they were getting on their investments with Bernie Madoff. Yes, that Bernie Madoff, the one in prison for running a Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons got taken and Mets fans and financial hotshots still debate whether Bonilla made out better by deferring his payout. The facts are that, at age 58 and not having played baseball since 2001, the one-time all-star, is guaranteed a $1.1 million check every July 1 until 2035 from a team he once sat down on and for a season he wasn’t even on their roster.

  • Lebron James: The only-one-name-needed basketball superstar was originally on the list because he had decided to leave his beloved Cleveland (again) for Hollywood. Well, L.A. Lebron signed with
    Lebron James

    Lebron James

    the Lakers, where all only-one-name-needed stars wind up. Magic. Kobe. Shaq, Kareem. It was inevitable, even if it doesn’t guarantee a championship for his new team. But Lebron has made much more significant, if you will, news since then with the announcement that his foundation is providing millions of dollars to support a public school for 245 at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his hometown. Lebron is paying for programs and services that tax dollars can’t cover at the “I Promise School” and he has guaranteed to pay for college tuition for all the graduates. Naturally, the Orange Dotard, who fears accomplished African-Americans, went on Twitter to call James dumb. As if the world needed to be reminded there’s a racist sitting in the White House. And no, Akron taxpayers won’t have to pay added dollars for the school. Everything was already being covered by tax dollars, as required by law. James is merely paying for added resources that tax dollars can’t cover to help these at-risk children deliver on the promise to graduate and go to college. That’s as opposed to operating a sham university.

  • Elon Musk. At this point, I almost forgot why Musk was on the list because he has had trouble for several months now just keeping quiet and trying to make money for his companies. But in July he
    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk

    was calling a   British cave diver who helped rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave a pedophile, without citing any evidence. After being threatened with a lawsuit, Musk eventually apologized, but the incident only added to questions about his mental stability (at least in my mind). He sounded like a man with a huge ego whose feelings got hurt because a bunch of other men heroically saved 13 people without benefit of the genius of Musk and the individual submarine he had built for the job. The divers said it wouldn’t work. Their strategy did. Lately, he’s been talking about taking the publicly traded Tesla private, which got Wall Street worked up for a while because a lot of people aren’t sure he can do that either. Oh yeah, back in July he was also building electric cars in a tent because Tesla was behind on orders. Maybe he should focus on getting his car back from Mars.

  • Tom Wolfe: He died, May 14, at age 88, without, in my opinion, sufficient notice. I, among others, am guilty. Reading of his death was one of those “Oh no” moments for me. Not another one. I felt a
    Tom Wolfe

    Tom Wolfe

    synchronicity with Wolfe, who started as a reporter at The New York Herald Tribune (my favorite paper) in 1962 when I was starting to get serious about journalism. Then he went and changed journalism and it was terrific. The New Journalism he helped create told stories about real life that were as appealing to readers as they were informative. In essence, he made it OK to write “that way” and still be a journalist. He gave us the terms “Radical Chic” and the “Me Decade” as he punctured every ego he ran into. The biggest criticism of him was usually his all-white, summer-dandy wardrobe, including hat and walking stick with which he strutted around Manhattan. He reportedly called it ”neo-pretentious.” He was in on the joke. And he was a terrific teller of tales, true or true enough if you knew your current events. The best thing about good writers when they die is that their words live on. If you are among those who still read, or know someone young who reads, find a copy of “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” “The Right Stuff,” “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “A Man in Full,” or “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” Enjoy.

That’s it for now. I’m going to start on a new list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

TAD? TFS? Whatever … I’ve Got It

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Trump on Facebook jpgDonald Trump is messing with my journalistic instincts. How do I know? Well, I never got past the headline of the Facebook post that informed me psychologists were diagnosing something new among their patients, informally called TAD — Trump Anxiety Disorder.

I never bothered to read the article. Of course they are, I said to myself. What took them so long? The whole damn country is suffering from it. We’re one, big, herky-jerky mass of resentment and anxiety just waiting for the next tweet to make us great again. Or have us at each other’s throats.

I recognize the symptoms in myself every morning when I wake up and remember that the sorry excuse for a human being called Trump still lives in the White House and millions of Americans are apparently OK with that. I’ve also been told that acceptance is the key to serenity and that I don’t have to like the situation to retain my sanity, just accept that it is. So I’ve now given up trying to figure out or reason with the Trumpsters. The universe and history will deal with them.

But as someone who has been trained and conditioned over time to write about such things as a colossal upheaval of the moral underpinnings of the supposed defender of democracy, equality and justice on the planet (i.e. the United States), I also feel obliged to try to write despite the angst. To report, if you will, on the latest outrage. But really …

There’s no keeping up. Pick a topic. Is it Korea, Russia, the wall, trade wars, utter incompetence, lies, NATO, Iran, hush money for sex with porn stars, China, lies, kneeling football players, the queen, racism, ignorance, attacks on reporters, lies, Hillary, tax cuts for the rich, boorishness, caging immigrant kids, nepotism, the budget deficit, witch hunts, lies …?

It’s all different, yet all the same. Follow the bouncing ball. Three-card Monte. What did he just say? So, while I may have Trump Anxiety Disorder, I think I’m also suffering from what the mental health professionals call a co-occurring condition — Trump Fatigue Symptom.

It’s downright tiring writing the same thing over and over again: Dotard did/said something dumb or cruel, or both. Then he lied about it. Republicans didn’t care (they’ve committed suicide) and his loyalists cheered. End of story.

The end of story I’m hoping for, of course, is one written by Special Counsel Robert Mueller: Trump led out in handcuffs, along with his family and cronies. But I’m also looking for a good read in a chapter to be written in November — the midterm elections. If there’s not a big Blue Wave vote for Congress, TAD will become epidemic I fear.

Meanwhile, someone who cares about me and is curious about the true meaning of life (it’s not politics or baseball, I’m told), has steered me to some people who seem to have a pretty good handle on it. Eckhart Tolle. Mooji. Rupert Spira. Deepak Chopra.Tom Campbell. Thanks to YouTube, they are helping me to change my outlook, maybe even lower my anxiety level.

The key is simply to be, these enlightened men say. I am not my thoughts. I am not even my body. Consciousness (not the Dotard) is in charge. All I have is now. Be present. (Have lunch with my sons.) Meet everything in the moment. Be aware of being aware. (Do all-you-can-eat sushi every Sunday.) Lower the entropy (disorder) in a system (consciousness) and increase the cooperation, order, caring, even love. There are no coincidences.

This is all a virtual reality, says Campbell, a physicist. In that case, I want to be the player in charge of the Dotard’s avatar. I think I could bring plenty of energy to that experience, appreciate every moment and lower the entropy of the entire planet.

It’s working slowly.

Also, please vote Democrat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

‘Enemy of the People’? Not the Press

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

capital gazette reader

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

 

 

Yes, Melania, I Obviously Care a Lot

Sunday, June 24th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

The coat.

          The coat.

This has become personal. This waking up daily with a feeling of incredulity, depression, bewilderment, sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, loathing and profound resentment. This thing, this overwhelming syndrome, this … this suck-the-joy-out-of-life condition called the Donald Trump presidency. It’s real, but it’s not normal. And try as I may to act as if it’s not there, to “get on with life” as it were, I inevitably wind up back at the same place, wishing it weren’t.

It used to be, just a couple of years ago in fact, that writing a blog was, for me, a freeing experience. It was just like writing a newspaper column or daily editorial, except you didn’t get paid for it. On the other hand, you had absolute, unlimited choice of topic, from soup to nuts to … well let’s just stay there for a minute.

There was a time, again, not so long ago, that I relished the  opportunity to craft an entire blog (column) around a throwaway cliche like “soup to nuts.” What’s that all about? It was fun and informative for me and I tried to make it the same for readers. After all, life can’t just be the same, old, umm, rat race.

Then came Trump. All Trump, all the time.

All of a sudden, I found myself arguing with myself:

“No one wants to read about the worst new food idea.”

“Sure they do. They need a break from the dotard just like I do.”

“But can you really get a whole column about the fact that the world isn’t ready for — doesn’t really need — chocolate hummus?”

“Yes. It’s a dumb idea. The question is do I have the energy to spend the time and will it seem trivial? I mean, did they have to add all that sugar? What were they thinking? It could be a health column. People like those.”

“Seriously?”

“Maybe not. So maybe I should also forget about writing about what a dumb idea rectangular coffee cups are?”

“Probably.”

“But honestly, did the geniuses try drinking with the cup before manufacturing it? Try wrapping your lips around that rim, folks. And why would a diner, which arguably owes its existence to providing people with coffee to get them through the day, want to make it harder for them — us … well, me — to do so. And could they at least make it a full-size mug for Pete’s sake? Is everyone looking for a quick buck?”

“No one cares.”

‘Well, I care.”

And so, it seems, I’ve come back to the World of Trump. That coat that the mute Melania wore to cheer up the children from Central America whom her husband had ordered locked in cages after taking them away from their parents who were bringing them to America to escape violence in their homelands and to find hope for better lives. What a cruel, evil, ignorant policy. What a cruel, evil, ignorant man.

“I really don’t care, do u?” was the message on Melania’s coat. Trying to figure out her real message, of course, was just another diversion from what was actually going on, but its inappropriateness again highlighted the ineptitude that co-exists with the callousness of this family, this administration.

And what else was going on at the time? Trump, as usual, was blaming Democrats for his lock-the-kids-up policy, while also waging war against immigrants, documented or otherwise, and holding campaign rallies to energize the like-minded, ill-informed, fear-based supporters of his cult, officially known as the Republican Party.

Conservative columnist George Will, having left the party, now urges all Americans to vote for every Democrat they can to save the country,  because Republicans can’t or won’t. A little late, George, but welcome. Republicans, of course, have lost their courage, morals, principles and all sense of what legislating for the common good means. They want to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting health insurance because they ballooned the national debt by giving rich people a huge tax break.

Of course, Trumpsters don’t care or don’t care to know about what’s really going on and I’ve written so often about it that, well, Dotard Syndrome. Turn on Fox; turn off brain.

Aside from a trade war with U.S. allies, one other thing was going on while Melania was wearing her stylishly dumb coat — the Trump team, which has been busy shredding laws and regulations that protect Americans from unscrupulous, greedy corporations, was in the process of drawing up a reorganization of the entire government. From soup to nuts, as it were.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that a man who has “reorganized” three casinos, two casino holding companies, a phony college and the Plaza Hotel into bankruptcy, all while milking them for every penny he could get, is planning on reorganizing the entire federal government to make it more efficient — which is to say, less useful and unconcerned with those whose daddy didn’t give them a million bucks to get a head start in the world. He and his cohorts and enablers, of course, will take their profits where they can.

As Melania might say, “Let them eat chocolate hummus.”

Do I care? Obviously, more than I wish I had to.

(Editor’s note: “Soup to nuts” as defined in Wikipedia: ” ‘Soup to nuts’ is an American English idiom that conveys the meaning of “from beginning to end.” It is derived from the description of a full-course dinner, in which courses progress from soup to a dessert of nuts.” But of course, my readers already knew this.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

‘Survey’ Says: It’s the Media’s Fault

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

mainstream-mediaThere I was, minding my own business (sort of), scrolling through my Facebook news feed trying to find a video on the Yankees game sandwiched in among all the posts about ICE agents snatching kids away from their parents at the border, Scott Pruitt using his security detail to fetch him lotion and the trending, new puzzle — “Where’s Melania?” — when the ad grabbed my attention.

Did I want to take the “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey’’?

Huh? The what?

Who the heck is conducting this survey? I blurted to no one in particular.

It didn’t take long to find out. The ad, I was informed by Facebook’s new, better-late-than-never policy of full disclosure, was “Paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee.”

Swell.

In the process of telling Facebook to never send me another post from the Trump MAGA Committee, I asked Facebook (as it now also allows me to do) how I even got this targeted ad — I’m familiar with targeting Facebook ads — in the first place.

Facebook offered two possibilities:

  1. I shared the views of Trump MAGA. Uh, you could probably know that wasn’t true within 10 seconds of scrolling my wall.
  2. The committee was targeting individuals between the ages of 18 and 65 living in the United States of America. That would be known as a pretty loose target audience, geography wise, but I fit. However, I have aged out of the age parameters, so Facebook messed up anyway. Your algorithms still need work, folks.

At any rate, being a longtime member of said “mainstream media,” I was hooked. I had to check out the “survey.”

George Orwell would have been proud; George Gallup not so much.

Here’s the first question: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?

  • Yes
  • No
  • No opinion
  • Other, please specify:”

Loaded much? Remember, it’s supposedly targeted to like-minded individuals. As surveys go, this one evidenced the Trump team’s view of the scientific method: Ignore it.

Question number two: “Do you trust the mainstream media to report fairly on our presidency?” Same choices.

Then, in order: “Do you trust (NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) to report fairly on our presidency?” Same options.

If you’re sensing a pattern, you are correct. It’s all in the same vein as Der Leader’s message: These people are really untrustworthy enemies of the people, aren’t they?

Here’s just one more question, to demonstrate what passes for policy in the Trump GOP: “On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing President Trump? (Select as many that apply.)”

  • Immigration
  • Economics
  • Radical Islamic Terrorism
  • Pro-life values/social issues
  • Religion
  • Health care
  • Second Amendment rights”

Note — “the worst job” as the operative choice and “as many as apply.” Nothing like piling on, folks.

The questions get more ridiculously slanted as the 25-question “survey” goes on. I fully expect the results to be proudly posted on Facebook and bantered around Fox News, With any luck and if Facebook follows my instructions, I won’t see them. But millions will and, again, those people who buy anything Trump sells will believe it and I’m pretty sure the Mainstream Media isn’t going to come out too well.

In the same week this ad appeared, Trump came late and left early at the G7 meeting of top world economies in Canada, but not before wrongly accusing Canada of burning down the White House in 1812 and threatening to cut off trade with our staunchest ally and largest trading partner while insisting Russia, which was booted out of the group after “annexing” Crimea, should be allowed back in.

Then Drumpf headed to Singapore where he intended to conduct negotiations on nuclear weapons with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un by sizing up his opposite number in the first minute or so via “feel.” It was also reported that Dennis Rodman, the former NBA star and reputed friend of Kim, was heading to Singapore, perhaps to play second fiddle to Kim as he once did for Michael Jordan. Trump had John Bolton as his sidekick. Rodman has the size, but I’d bet anything Bolton uses his elbows under the boards.

What’s the point of all this? Well, maybe that, under Trump, the real, the true, the factual, the serious business of life has become demonized and trivialized to the point that everything is treated as a reality TV show and millions of Americans are — for reasons no one has yet explained to my satisfaction beyond sheer ignorance and bigotry — hooked. Those videos of children being snatched from parents and locked up by ICE? Not true, say Trumpsters. Media lies. Or, if true, then necessary, the attorney general says, because … as if there could be any legitimate “because.”

The Republican Party as a functioning political organization has ceased to exist. Trump makes it up as he goes along and scapegoats anyone who points out his lies, ignorance, pettiness, greed and other overwhelming deficiencies. But the “survey” will come out and it will confirm his claims of bias by the mainstream media and it will be posted on social media and mailed to all white people in America likely to vote for Trump because that country with the strongest economy ever, that country that promises freedom and opportunity to all, that country so many “other” people are willing to risk losing their lives — or their children — in order to live in, needs to be made great again.

Survey says Betsy DeVos can relax. The dumbing-down of America is well under way.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The GOP’s Dying Words … Silence

Friday, May 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain ... not going quietly

John McCain … not going quietly

‘It doesn’t matter; he’s dying anyway.”

The words, relayed to the world via the Internet, were spoken by a White House aide about Sen. John McCain, who is stricken with brain cancer, but they could just as well have been another shovel of dirt on the remains of what once was the Republican Party,

In fact, when McCain, who is not going quietly, does succumb, it could fairly be said that any meaningful remaining link to what once was the Grand Old Party will have been lost. In truth, the party has been brain dead for years.

When I first read the comments attributed to White House special assistant Kelly Sadler I was angered, but not surprised. Not these days, not with this administration. Cruelty is a staple.

The comment was made during a staff meeting about the Dotard-in-chief’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA director. McCain had voiced strong opposition to the choice even as he battled cancer at his home in Arizona. The comment was apparently intended as a joke, which did not go over well, but was quickly swept off the table.

But the telling thing about the comment is what followed from her boss and from members of the Republican Party who have known McCain for decades and who, not insignificantly, made him their presidential nominee in 2008.

Nothing. For days. Nothing. No cries of outrage at the disrespect for a party elder and the blatant lack of humanity in the remark. No thought of the impact on McCain’s family. No calls for Sadler to be fired. No call from the boss saying, “You’re fired.”

We’re told that Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, did chew out the staff, not for the comment, but for someone leaking the comment. Someone leaked the Sanders chewing-out. Now they’re trying to fire the leakers.

This is the world of Trump, from mocking a reporter with a physical disability — at a campaign rally where it drew cheers — to declaring that McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down, captured and endured years of torture in Vietnam, was “no hero” because he was captured.

This, from the man whose alma mater, New York Military Academy in upstate New York, makes no mention on its web site of the fact that one of its alumni is president of the United States. That would normally be considered a good recruiting tool, but there’s nothing normal — or decent — about this presidency.

Again, this speaks volumes about the Republican Party and so many who identify themselves as Republicans yet have not a word to say publicly about the man who has infused the office he holds with a level of greed, ignorance and callousness that is at times mind-numbing. It’s one thing to make a mistake, to be conned, to exercise bad judgment. It happens to everyone. It’s quite another thing to be unable to admit the mistake, to say I was conned, I was stupid, I was greedy, I was foolish, I was wrong. I’m sorry. I regret my choice.

McCain said it recently, about his fateful and perhaps politically fatal decision in 2008 to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, instead of his good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman. That decision did much to strengthen the wingnut, know-nothing branch of the Republican Party which gives Trump free rein today. Choices have consequences.

Lest I be accused of getting on my high horse, slinging arrows of accusation as if I had never succumbed, let me admit to a choice I unequivocally regret making — writing an editorial endorsing George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. I can try to justify it by saying I had a great deal of respect for Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, and that his presentation to the United Nations claiming Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction was convincing. No matter. The fact that it was a Bush/Cheney/CIA lie did not occur to me and I let myself be convinced even though I had always believed that the United States did not, would not, should not attack another country. I wrote the editorial. I was conned. I was wrong. I regret it.

Trump, vindictive to the core, obviously resents McCain’s dramatic, late-night, thumbs-down vote that doomed the GOP effort to kill Obamacare. It was a good moment for McCain, who has had a less-than-perfect record as a senator. I have not always applauded McCain’s decisions, but in terms of statesmanship, leadership, patriotism and basic decency, he has it all over Trump. And yet, the silence persists from McCain’s Republican colleagues in Congress about a White House aide joking about him dying.

Haspel, who ran a CIA torture facility and destroyed records connected with it, was confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director. Bad decision. McCain, who knew torture first-hand, objected strongly to her nomination. Trump thinks torture, which is illegal, is just fine. In fact, he’d like more of it. He’d probably really like to promote the female aide who joked about McCain dying, but will settle for firing the aide who leaked the comment. Having compassion is a dangerous trait in this White House. In the Republican Party, which can’t bring itself to say Donald Trump was a mistake, compassion has long ago been discarded.

May John McCain live on for days and weeks and months and even years as he valiantly battles his disease. The Republican Party for whom he once was the standard-bearer is dead and gone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A Juice Bar, to Feed Body and Soul

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

IR Photography Cornelius Houston, the smoothies guy

                     IR Photography
Cornelius Houston … the smoothies guy

There’s a new juice bar in my town. This is good news because it means someone thinks the town, Pine Bush, is ready to take that next step from “you’ve got potential” to “Where can I get a blueberry-kale-banana-beets-coconut water-smoothie?”

Why, right there on Main Street, fella, smack dab between the vegetarian/vegan restaurant and the health food store.

There was a time not so long ago that one could write about small towns and new businesses — “good news” — without feeling the need to explain that the motivation was at least partially to preserve one’s sanity and to reaffirm the belief that societies can survive even deeply disturbing times, such as ours, when “ordinary’ people do out-of-the-ordinary things because it feels right to them and it might be good for others as well.

Call this a mental health column.

So, smoothies …

I’m not a health food fanatic, but I do recognize and appreciate the benefits of being selective in what I ingest. As I’ve written about previously, my eating and exercise habits changed dramatically five years ago after a long-ignored visit to a doctor. Any doctor. The doctor I went to suggested I lose weight and avoid sugars, salt, red meat and fried or processed foods. The Great American Diet. Get some exercise, too.

She was pretty clear about the benefits of following her “suggestions” and just as clear about the likely consequences of ignoring them. To my credit, I’ve been doing my best to do as the doctor suggested without going to extremes. With the help of a persistent partner, I’ve lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I feel healthier, look better and eat very well, thank you.

This is why the smoothies guy coming to town was good news. It’s tasty food, healthful and a nice complement to the fine Asian, Italian and Mexican food already available.

The smoothies guy has a name, Cornelius Houston. He’s 38 years old, a big, friendly guy who says he got tired of not having a place to get the kind of healthful food he wanted in his town, “So I decided to open one myself.”

His establishment, Healthy Temptations, serves juices (orange, beet, carrot), smoothies (from the menu of fruits and veggies or create your own), salads, wraps and, yes, foodies, avocado toast with toppings and a baked bread that is a true treat.

Houston also grinds out wheatgrass shots for those who are fans of this superfood. It contains potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. It even contains some protein. A sign in the juice bar says one wheatgrass shot is the equivalent of 2 1/2 pounds of green salad.

While the science is still officially out on wheatgrass, health claims for it include acting as an antioxidant, fighting infections, managing gastrointestinal processes (it’s gluten-free) and providing energy. A lot of people swear by it. In my case, the jury is also out on taste, so I’m easing into it by taking a sip of my partner’s regular shot. She loves it.

My point here is not to try to convince anyone to like wheatgrass or smoothies or, heaven forbid, maybe to eat more healthful foods. Experience has taught me that, despite the conventional wisdom, you can talk to people about religion and sometimes politics, but don’t even suggest that they skip the cheesecake and try the fruit bowl. Not if you want to remain friends. Americans believe they have a god-given right to eat what they want, whenever they want and as much as they want. It says so in the Constitution, or something like that.

So be it. I’m just impressed to see a man take matters into his own hands and open a business in which he has no experience because he saw a need no one was addressing. That’s how communities grow and prosper.

I’m happy my partner can get her energizing wheatgrass shots whenever she wants and I can mix and match smoothies ingredients to suit my taste and that Houston offers tofu as well as chicken on his salads.

I’m glad Pine Bush now has a juice bar to go with its UFO parade and spectacular view on its list of “cool things.”

I’m pleased that others have noticed Healthy Temptations, which suggests that living healthier may be catching on. That’s encouraging. I think it’s more important than ever to be fit in body, mind and spirit these days and what’s good for the body is good for the soul.

I also think it’s fascinating and not altogether accidental that, in this two-stoplight town, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Stewart’s are located at the light on one end of Main Street and a vegetarian restaurant, health food store and juice bar are blended together at the other end. Synchronicity personified and a very smooth Feng Shui, Pine Bush.

(The writer has no personal connection with Healthy Temptations or its owners. Pine Bush is located in Orange County, New York, about a two-hour drive from New York City. It enjoys a beautiful view of the Shawangunk RIdge and has been known to attract UFOs.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

 

Team Trump: Arrogance as a Virtue

Friday, April 27th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

Dr. Ronny Jackson with his boss.

The first time I had any doubts about Dr./Admiral (Admiral/Dr.?) Ronny Jackson was also the first time I had any idea who he was — the presidential physician. That was in January when Jackson, after what he said was a thorough examination of Donald Trump proclaimed the clearly overweight, often confused Dotard-in-Chief to be in “excellent” health.

Indeed, everything about Trump’s health was seemingly “excellent,” or “very, very good.” “Excellent,” Jackson kept saying over and over.

Trump even did “exceedingly well” on his cognitive test, the doctor said. “I have absolutely no concerns about his cognitive ability,” Jackson said at the time, making a point that Trump scored 30 out of 30 on a cognitive assessment test. Funny, I mused at the time, I don’t remember ever hearing a presidential physician feel the need to provide such detail on his patient’s cognitive abilities. Maybe it’s just me, I thought. Maybe I just never paid that much attention before. But Jackson did make sure to note that Trump is “very sharp, and he’s very articulate. .?.?. Very, very sharp, very intact,” Jackson insisted. The admiral/doctor said he “found no reason whatsoever to think that the President has any issues whatsoever with his thought process.”

Really? How could this stirring physical and mental report be true, I wondered, knowing as we do Trump‘s regular diet of fried chicken, Big Macs, red meat, Diet Coke and ice cream, his lack of any physical activity other than swinging a golf club and tweeting, the fact he is borderline obese and takes medication to lower his cholesterol, his habit of routinely contradicting himself and his resistance to reading or to facts or to anything that conflicts with what he prefers to believe?

“Good genes” was the doctor’s diagnosis. In fact, “incredible genes.”

Kissing the boss’s butt was my conclusion.

It gives me no pleasure to say it appears that I was right. As the admiral prepared to go before Congress this week to answer questions about his qualifications to head the Department of Veterans Affairs it became immediately obvious that he had none, except for saying a lot of nice things in public about Trump, having a cool military title and looking good in uniform. That’s a trifecta for promotion to Cabinet status in the Trump White House, a disaster in real life.

Unfortunately for Trump and the doctor, but fortunately for millions of veterans, others took the job of vetting a potential Cabinet member more seriously than did the White House. The main question: Can this guy manage the second largest department in the federal government even though he has no experience in that area? But before he even got to face a congressional committee to answer that question, Jackson withdrew his name from consideration amid stories of him drinking on duty, indiscriminately dispensing pills and overseeing a hostile work environment that curried favor with people in power and had staff members operating in fear of retribution.

Another one of “the best.”

I started running through the names of Trump’s Cabinet members trying to decide which one troubled/angered/disgusted me the most and was stunned when I realized Rick Perry wasn’t anywhere near the top of the list. I mean, the guy wanted to get rid of the Energy Department when he was running for president, then took the Cabinet post from Trump without realizing it regulated nuclear arms and energy.

But the former Texas governor has some stiff competition in what surely is the worst Cabinet and sub-Cabinet in modern U.S. history, perhaps all time. For sheer arrogance — strutting about acting as if they know what they are doing, living large on public tax dollars, ignoring the missions of the agencies they are supposed to lead and destroying the foundations on which this nation was built — the group cannot be beat. It is a perfect reflection of Trump, all con, all greed and incredibly cruel to boot.

I’ll spare you the whole, pitiful list. But briefly …

  • Rex Tillerson, as ill-suited as he was for the post of secretary of state was at least smart enough to note that Trump was “a moron.” That got Rex fired and gave us Trump super-fan and former congressman Mike Pompeo, moving from the CIA to State, neither of which he has the background or understanding of world tensions to direct. He prefers weapons to diplomacy. I-know-what-I’m-doing arrogant.
  • Steve Mnuchin, treasury secretary, was a former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund manager — perfect qualifications for “draining the swamp,” as Trump promised, right? A Trump loyalist who lobbied for the job and loves to let everyone know he’s the money guy. Snobbishly arrogant.
  • Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, is a very rich woman who hates public schools, indeed doesn’t even know how schools run. Phony, arrogant and entitled, like Trump
  • Jeff Sessions, attorney general, is a racist who also wants to do battle with marijuana and immigrants. A Trump punching bag of late, but still arrogant in denying this country’s history.
  • Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, is a brain surgeon-savant. The real world is a mystery to Carson. He wants to raise the rents on public housing tenants and spent $30,000 in public funds on a dining room set. Loyal to Trump. Doesn’t even know he’s arrogant.
  • Ryan Zinke, interior secretary, rode into office on a horse and should go out the same way. Selling off public lands and spending a fortune on travel are his hallmarks. An ex-military guy. As stated, Trump loves that. Defiantly arrogant.
  • Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator is being grilled by Congress for his expensive travel and security arrangements. Trump likes that Pruitt denies climate change and favors undoing all environmental protection regulations for air, water, autos, etc. Proudly arrogant.
  • Mick Mulvaney, the budget director, was so good at being mean — meals on wheels and free lunches for poor kids are not justifiable expenses, he feels — Trump made him interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well. Mulvaney has systematically dismantled the bureau since getting the assignment. The Tea Party darling told bankers that if they wanted to be heard in this White House, they needed to give money and the more they gave the louder their voice would be. He loves his job. Trump loves him. A truly despicable human being. Beyond arrogant. Guess he’s my number one.

That’s enough. Just to return to the admiral for a minute. The depths of his self-serving smarminess should have been evident when he “examined” Trump and declared, “I think he will remain fit for duty for the remainder of this term and even the remainder of another term if he is elected.”

Sycophancy, as Team Trump demonstrates, can be contagious. It can also be dangerous to careers. The doctor should have known.

rjgaydos@gmail.com