Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

As Promised: The Books You Picked

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Recent reading ...

Recent reading … Mine, not yours.

You meet the nicest people when you write about books.

A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of all the political angsts and anger on Facebook and wrote a column about books and synchronicity and what I was reading and asked folks what they were reading. To change the subject, you know?

The mind needs a break from corruption, greed, arrogance, duplicity, complicity, bigotry, cowardice and just plain stupidity, even, or especially,  when those are the dominant traits of the elected officials filling the seats of power in Washington.

Books can take us elsewhere. Anywhere, really. They can remind us what it is to think, not merely react. To set aside our current grievances. To relax, imagine and discover … mostly ourselves.

So I asked people what they were reading and said I would share it with others. When I write about other topics, such as politics, the feedback I get tends to be from self-satisfied pundits who want to 1) tell me I’m an idiot and 2) demonstrate how much smarter they are by making some snarky remark about my opinion. They usually don’t spend time writing anything of any length themselves. It’s hit-and-run commentary. Insult and belittle. But it’s the age in which we live and I know that going in.

Still, a guy needs a break occasionally. Wouldn’t you know, when I asked people about books they were reading or would recommend or, a la “Fahrenheit 453,” a book they would be if they could be one, people gave thoughtful, respectful responses. Imagine that.

So here, as promised, are some of the replies I got from posting my column on several sites as well as zestoforange:

  • Jo Cicale, with her new Kindle: What am I reading or what have I read? “All the Light We Cannot See” was among the best of the best. Just finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” and that is a wow! Geez, wish I could remember the name of the book about Alfred the alligator. It was such a fun read. Need laughs and fun, don’t we?
  • Patricia Campbell: I am reading the two latest James Pattersons – “I, Alex Cross” and “Kill Alex Cross.” If I could be a book it would have to be “Bastard Out of Carolina.” This is a gritty look at child abuse and neglect, I could not put it down and so I didn’t.
  • Toni Macaroni: Just finished “God Help the Child,” by Toni Morrison. I found it quite amazing. Quick read.
  • Linda D’Amato Hayes: Currently reading “Alvin York, A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne,” by Douglas V. Mastriano, and “Angels of the Underground, the American Women who Resisted the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII,” by Theresa Kaminski.
  • Jason Harris: I’m currently reading two books. One I read to keep my mind occupied and is the height of Space Opera from the Black Press called “Mechanicum” and is part of a series called “The Horus Heresy.” The second I read in an attempt to better my soul and that’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ,” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
  • Idrea Ramaci: “The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle. Already have it almost memorized, as I’ve read it so many times.
  • Anita Page: “Dark Money,” by Jane Mayer. This book about the role the Koch brothers play in American politics is alarming, but worth reading. “Selected Stories,” by William Trevor — 48 stories by one of the best short story writers of our time. The collected works of Mo Willems (to be read aloud to grandkids). He’s terrific and very funny, which is helpful these days.
  • Jim Bridges: The last book I read was Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness.”  What book would I like to be – gosh, I immediately thought of one of Dostoyevsky’s novels, perhaps “The Brothers Karamazov.” Not sure why, but ever since high school I have liked his writing.
  • Mikhail Horowitz: I am currently reading Shelby Foote’s 14-volume history of the Civil War. Mostly because a) he’s a wonderful storyteller; b) the parallels between the 1860s and the 1960s (my student activist days) are so uncanny; and c) during the recent presidential campaign it became obvious that half this country is still fighting the Civil War. Also, I thought I already WAS a book, but if I had to pick another book — actually, two books — to be, they would be a first edition copy of the “2050 Baseball Encyclopedia,” and a translation of “Finnegan’s Wake” into Mandarin.
  • Christine Marsh-Rijssenbeek: “Half a Life,” by V.S. Naipaul. His writing is sublime. And if I were a book: “The Kon Tiki Expedition,” by Thor Heyerdahl because I feel as if I’m always floating in the middle of an ocean.
  • Mary Makofske: Am reading “535 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity,” by Charles Lewis (and this BEFORE the ascension of Trump). Also some older novels, “Ishmael,” by Daniel Quinn and “Ecotopia,” by Ernest Callenbach (surprising how relevant they still are. Ecotopia is composed of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington, which seceded). “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. “The Harvest Gypsies,” nonfiction by John Steinbeck (led to “The Grapes of Wrath”). “Methland,” by Nick Reding, was an eye-opener. “How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan,: didn’t contain much new for me, but was a timely reminder. Wow, I’ve been reading a lot. Thanks for asking, Bob. I always like to see what others have discovered.
  • John Escher: Nice. I was going to recommend that you stop reading books and see a movie, “FAHRENHEIT 453,” but see you already did. Personally speaking, I prefer early to late Wolfe. “Hernia hernia hernia hernia hernia.” And prefer partial to full knee replacements since I play tennis when I’m not reading books.
  • Wise woman (obviously a nom de plume): Well you did ask. So here’s what I’m recommending according to the info you provided. Since you didn’t list a woman author, I suggest “Woman As Healer,” by Jeanne Achterberg. Then Deepak Chopra, “Perfect Health.” To round out some history you might not be familiar with, “Remembering Hypatia,” by Brian Trent. I met Brian years ago when he was a very young man and his book had just been published. I was highly impressed by his quiet intelligence and determination to tell a story that definitely needs to be told. These, if you should care to read them, will keep you busy for a while. Because of a protracted illness, I have been confined to my Kindle which has been a blessing since books are too heavy to read in bed. I wish you good health and success in sharing your experiences.

See what I mean? Nice people. Thank you. And if you want to keep commenting and suggesting, that’s fine with me. It adds to my reading list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Jimmys: Murray, Cannon, Palmer

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

This column appeared first on Zest on Sept. 11, 2010. It is offered as a companion to Jeremiah Horrigan’s nostalgic piece on baseball, which also appears on Zest this week.

By Bob Gaydos

Jim Palmer ... handsome as ever

Jim Palmer … handsome as ever

At one point in my four-plus decades in newspapers, I was a sports editor. It was for a paper in Binghamton, but it was still a great job. I got to go to sports editor seminars where everybody talked sports, hung out, ate and drank. I got to cover some Yankee games. Jerry Izenberg, former columnist for the Newark Star-Ledger once lent me his typewriter (see Wikipedia) so I could file my story after a game because I had left my machine in Binghamton. I also once interviewed Baltimore Orioles ace pitcher Jim Palmer as he soothed his aching body in the whirlpool. Yes, au natural. And yes, the sonofagun was as handsome in person as he was on TV.

But the best part of being a sports editor was that I also got to write a column on whatever I pleased. The bosses preferred local topics, of course, but it was Binghamton so they let me wander off to professional sports. And when their travels brought them to the Southern Tier, I talked with the likes of Roger Staubach (polite, if dull), Rocky Graziano (the textbook image of a pug) and, too briefly, Jackie Robinson. All in all, it seemed like the best job in the world and I often wondered wistfully, as my career veered back to the hard news side, what life might have been like if I had pursued a career as a sports columnist.

Now I know and now I have no regrets. I found the answer in a discarded copy of Jim Murray’s autobiography, which I picked up for a buck at the Thrall Library used book store (still the best deal in town if you read without the aid of a Kindle). Murray, one of the founding fathers of Sports Illustrated, was also a nationally syndicated sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He covered everything from NASCAR to golf and his style was unique. Murray was not a numbers guy. He didn’t cover events so much as the people participating in them.

On Muhammad Ali: “He didn’t have fights, he gave recitals. The opponent was just the piano, the backdrop. All eyes were on Ali. He loved it. It was his stage, his life. He was like Bob Hope with a troop audience. Olivier at the Old Vic.”

And what of the column that won him a Pulitzer and made him famous? Murray: “(It) came into my life in 1961. And took it over. A column is more than a demanding mistress. It is a raging master. It consumes you. It is insatiable. It becomes more you than you. You are not a person, you are a publicly owned facility. Available on demand.

“It has a calamitous effect on family relations. It confuses the kids’ identities. It rearranges your priorities — and not for the better.

“Jimmy Cannon had the right idea. He apparently accepted the fact early that he was wedded to the column. And he lived alone in a midtown Manhattan hotel and devoted his whole life to it.”

Maybe it‘s just me, but it sounds like Jimmy Cannon (one of my other favorites) shortchanged himself on the whole “we only have one life to live” deal. I was thinking about the two Jimmys because I had just spent the weekend watching some of the most godawful professional football games that people were ever asked to fork over a couple of grand for. The kind of games that rekindle the romance of high school football Friday nights.

Take the Jets. “Please,” as Henny Youngman (whom I once met in an art gallery in Woodstock) famously said.

Maybe it’s just me, but if Mark Sanchez is ready for prime time, so is Jimmy Fallon. The Ravens’ best play was pass interference on third and long. But hey, don’t beat up on Sanchez too much. Tony Romo and Philip Rivers and Drew Brees and Bret Favre — established stars all — all stunk up the joint in their first games.

Maybe it’s just me, but when most opening games were comedies of errors and penalties (Washington vs. Dallas was almost unwatchable) and ex-con Michael Vick is your standout quarterback, if you’re the NFL you should think twice about cutting the preseason by two weeks and adding two games to the regular schedule.

And don’t get me started on Joe Girardi. He makes Keanu Reeves seem animated. Girardi doesn’t manage games so much as he scans actuarial reports. He has all the instincts of a computer. If he has the best job in baseball, how come he never smiles? Just asking.

One more thought before I get too carried away with this whole sports column thing: If, as some observers claim, Tiger Woods being unable to play golf at a high level is good for the game because it has opened the field to so many other unknown golfers to make their names, how come the golf writers keep writing only about Tiger’s struggles and we still don’t know the names of those other golfers?

Maybe it’s just me, but I think the two Jims — Murray and Cannon — would have loved writing about Tiger. After all, he doesn’t just win in grand style, leaving the rest of the field in shambles, he loses in epic fashion, his life burning down around him like some tragic Greek hero out of Aeschylus. Win or lose, all eyes are on the Tiger. The score is secondary.

And I apologize for all the name-dropping.

(Editors note: For younger readers, a column is to newspapers what a blog is to a website.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Syria Conspiracy: One I Can Believe

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump, Assad and Putin

Trump, Assad and Putin

I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination? No. The 9/11 building collapse? No. The DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders … Well, OK, two out of three.

To my thinking, most conspiracy theories require: 1) a predetermined attitude on the motive behind the conspiracy (“the government doesn’t want us to know because …”); 2) the willingness to disregard facts (or lack of facts); 3) the belief in the absolute commitment of lots of people over a long period of time to keep a secret; 4) the further belief that the people involved in the conspiracy are actually capable of pulling it off, or at least trying to.

So here’s my conspiracy theory: Trump, Putin and Assad set the whole thing up. The chemical attack, the missile attack, the denials, the warnings from Trump, the threats from Putin. All according to script. Yes, it’s a morbidly depressing theory and so, in some respects, I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m right.

To hatch any sort of conspiracy, there must be something to gain for each of the conspirators. Each must also be able to lie with a straight face, over and over and over again. Being a pathological liar helps. Also, the conspirators must be willing and able to carry out whatever deeds, however unseemly, that are required to promote the fiction they are trying to sell. People will be hurt. Being self-absorbed and demonstrably unconcerned about the welfare of others is also a useful characteristic.

That sounds like Trump, Putin and Assad. In this case, it’s not even hard to believe, let alone conceive of such a chilling conspiracy.

Trump’s motive? Pick one:

  • He doesn’t how how to be president.
  • People think he stinks at the job and he can’t stand rejection.
  • He couldn’t close the deal on the health care plan.
  • People mock his tweets.
  • Judges keep rejecting his executive orders.
  • Even Republicans in Congress couldn’t avoid investigating links between a growing list of Trump campaign aides and Russian hackers to sway the election in his favor. It would be good to get people’s minds off that.
  • People think he’s Putin’s puppet.
  • He likes to act tough.
  • It sounded like a good idea at the time.

OK, so Trump is not the brains behind the plot. Putin is. To get Americans, especially American TV news outlets, to stop focusing on the FBI and CIA and Congress probing whether Trump and Putin are in bed together and, you know, maybe someone committed treason, have Trump order a military strike that has humanitarian justification written all over it, even though it probably won’t accomplish much militarily. A feel-good military action, like attacking someone who has just used chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.

Putin: “Whaddya say, Assad, are you willing to do it again? I know the press will be bad, but that’s nothing new for you. Trump will just mess up one of your airfields with a picturesque nighttime missile strike. TV will eat it up. You’ve got plenty of airfields and we can get your troops and mine out of harm’s way ahead of time. We’ll deny you did it. I’ll talk tough to Donald. He’ll talk tough to me, or better yet, have my buddy, Rex Tillerson, talk tough to me and you.

“Everyone will get nervous. I get to stay in Syria and help you keep your job and the world forgets about Ukraine. My people see me showing a tough Russian face. They can’t earn a decent living in Russia, but they like that image. Meanwhile, your people are even more frightened, convinced that you’re a maniac, willing to kill them in the most horrible ways to retain power. I admire that in you, by the way.

“Americans, of course, will see a bold, decisive president. When Rex comes to see me next week, it will be like old times, in more ways than one. Somehow, we will strike a diplomatic deal. Put down the knives, so to speak. Maybe talk about lifting sanctions in the future. I agree to focus more on fighting ISIS. You agree to a safe zone. ‘Well done!’ the headlines will say. A lot of Americans will believe that Trump has changed overnight from an uncaring, bumbling narcissist to a bold, compassionate leader.”

Assad: “You really think people will believe that about him?”

Putin: “Look, we have to help him. He’s too valuable an asset. Besides, they believed him when he said he’d make America great again. Launching missiles always sends that message.”

Far-fetched? I truly hope so, but all conspiracy theories worth entertaining are. All you need for such an outrageous plot to succeed is three men who have shown no compunction about harming people if it makes them feel more powerful, who have demonstrated a disregard for international law, who possess an uncanny ability to lie, and who have incredible power at their disposal. Also, a public eager to let the story line reinforce their view of how the world is supposed to work.  That is: The good guys win, and we’re the good guys.

Now let’s talk about those contrails.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

GOP: A Party Without a Head or a Heart

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

Republicans discussing health insurance for women.

The narcissist-in-chief (NIC) got snookered. The self-proclaimed master “deal-maker” let himself get sucked in to putting his reputation and the power of the office he holds behind a deal — a Republican “health care” plan — that stunk so bad he couldn’t get it passed even though his party controls the House of Representatives, the Senate and the presidency.

This is where ego and ignorance can take you. An unholy combination that, in this case, resulted in the NIC thinking the sheer magic of his name and the unlimited power of his position were enough to get politicians to vote against their own self-interests.

Turns out the magic was myth and, surprise, there are limits on the power of the presidency. Business and politics are not the same. Opposites, in fact. The failure of the Republicans to get their much ballyhooed replacement for Obamacare through the House of Representatives tells you all you need to know about today’s Republican Party. It is, for starters, a gaggle of angry constituencies — a party of convenience for various factions who know nothing about governing, but want to use the government to advance their own (pick one or two) narrow, selfish, greedy, racist, sexist, privileged, bigoted, ignorant, holier-than-thou view of the world.

These ideologically driven groups don’t necessarily like or agree with each other, but they have nowhere else to go. Where politics is concerned, the Republican tent is big enough to accommodate anyone who thinks Democrat is a four-letter word and the mission of Republicans is to oppose anything Democrats propose, even if it might actually help some people. Certainly their playbook over the past eight years says Republicans ought never try to work with Democrats to reach a compromise that gives everybody something. You know, governing.

So, there was the NIC, huffing and puffing at this smirky, young upstart Paul Ryan last week, telling him never mind you don’t have the votes to pass the bill, you go back to the House and you tell them I said vote yes on this health bill tomorrow or you’re stuck with Obamacare. Ryan, who sold the NIC on the bill but hasn’t a clue about how health care works, does as he is told. For good measure, Steve Bannon, the White House destroyer-in-chief, tells the rebellious troops — the Freedom Caucus (pseudonym for tea party we-hate-government types) — they have to vote for this bill. It’s an order.

Well, this gang can out-Bannon Bannon. They think the bill, which would toss 24 million Americans off health insurance, is too generous. They want to raise the cost and cut out a bunch of benefits. Say, maternity care, coverage for mental illness, including addiction. And they have the Koch brothers telling them that, if they vote no, they will get donations to their reelection campaigns so they can continue to swindle the voters back home and funnel more money to the wealthy and big corporations. This gang tells Bannon to stick it.

Since a few Republicans (and all Democrats) actually object to the bill as, well, stupid, Ryan still hasn’t got the votes to pass it and he begs the NIC to let him postpone the vote again. Humiliating as it may be, the NIC says OK, makes a pledge to himself to get rid of Ryan, blames the Democrats for not voting for a bill which they were not asked to help write (and which he never bothered to read), denies ever promising to repeal Obamacare “immediately” upon taking office, and sets out to destroy the only health care plan millions of Americans have in place. A party incapable of following the leader has a leader in name only.

The next day, Ryan says, “This to us is something that we’re not going to give up on, because we’re not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people.”  A slip of the lip reveals the heartless truth.

Without Obama to blame for everything, Other than more tax breaks for the rich, Republicans have no message. Instead, they destroy. Blame. Make up excuses. Lie. But never govern.

The NIC is true only to himself and his delusions. His usefulness as a tool for the Republicans is about used up with all the executive orders he issued getting rid of regulations that protect our water, our air, our investments, our parks, immigrants, wildlife, the arts, community groups and anything else Bannon puts on his desk. But actually passing bills? Republicans had seven years to come up with a new health plan or work with Democrats to fix what needed fixing in Obamacare. Instead, they kept passing meaningless bills to kill it and then rushed through a tax-break plan masquerading as a health plan in two months. Their own members found it to be either too generous or too cruel to defend to constituents. Too stupid to know (or care) how politics works, the NIC said take it or leave it; I’ve got a wall to build and a tax code to rewrite next week.

Good luck with that.

Never mind that there is no leader and no compassion, there is not even a sense of awareness in the Republican Party. When the White House was still trying to woo the Freedom Caucus on the health care bill, it convened a meeting led by Vice President Mike Pence, he of the grim (when do I get the job?) smile. Much of the talk was about whether there should be coverage for maternity care and mammograms. A photo of the meeting showed about two dozen white men, and no women, seated around a table supposedly making sense of the situation. There was even a crude joke about mammograms.

That’s today’s Republican Party — headless, heartless and clueless.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Breslin and Berry, Two Originals: RIP

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin ... originals

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin … originals

And so it went … A brief look at a few of the significant stories of the week just past:

  • Jimmy Breslin died. He was 88. And a pioneer. If you’re a New Yorker of a certain age — at least in your 30s, but especially 50-plus — you know the name and you remember the words. The quintessential big city columnist. Bold, brassy, tender, sarcastic, funny, biting, egotistical, fearless and relentless. For decades, his columns in The Herald-Tribune, Daily News and Newsday were the heart and soul and voice for millions of readers. I began reading his sports columns as a teenager with the Trib and followed him to the News and Son of Sam. I carried his philosophy of bringing a sports columnist’s approach to writing about life in general when I left college — where I was a sports editor — and got a job as a police reporter. Don’t focus on the score. Find the real story. Write it like a novel. Breslin had ego and attitude and an uncanny instinct for people. And he could write like hell. He pegged a fellow New Yorker famously known as the Donald as a phony who played the media (“the plural of mediocre,” Breslin wrote) like a fiddle and used other people’s money to con still others out of theirs. “A white Al Sharpton,’’ Breslin once called him. I ran into Sharpton when I was writing editorials in Middletown, N.Y., and he was loudly defending 15-year-old Tawana Brawley against non-existent rapists in Dutchess County, across the Hudson. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. You can look it up. “30,” Jimmy.
  • Chuck Berry died. He was 90. He was rock ‘n’ roll before it became rock, acid rock, punk rock and whatever other kind of rock legions of Berry wannabees dreamed up. He created the beat, the attitude and the philosophy that spoke to 1950s teenagers looking for a music of their own. “Sweet LIttle Sixteen,” “Johnny B. Goode”  and “Roll Over Beethoven” were upbeat, hard-driving and unlike anything previous generations had claimed as theirs. Irresistible. Plus, you could understand every word he sang and he could play the hell out of the guitar. Another pioneer. Check him out on YouTube, youngsters.
  • Shaquille O’Neal said the Earth is flat. The NBA Hall of Famer is known to be a jokester, but he’s apparently serious about this. He says his proof is that when he
    Shaquille O'Neal

    Shaquille O’Neal

    drives from Florida to California his car does not go up and down 360 degrees. And, sorry, Mr. Einstein, Shaq’s not convinced about that gravity theory either, even though something made his free throws fall far short of the basket. The flat-Earth theory is gaining traction among NBA players, which may be a commentary on so many of its stars coming out of college too early or not even going to college. Or it may simply be a sign that it’s not just fans, but even the players are getting bored with the lack of meaningful games. Maybe if the stars played in all the games when they’re healthy it would prompt more interest — and less resentment — among fans who pay hefty prices to see them sit on the bench. Put a round ball in your hands, dribblers, and stop thinking the sun rises and sets on your command.

  • FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committee in a televised hearing that there was no evidence that former President Barack Obama had wiretapped the residence of his successor, despite that successor’s repeated claims to the contrary. Comey also testified that the FBI is investigating possible contacts between the current president’s campaign aides and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign with the goal of influencing the outcome in favor of the current president. Republicans in Congress appeared to be most concerned with how this possibly treasonous behavior came to be public knowledge. There was also no indication that the current president would apologize to his predecessor for falsely accusing him of a federal crime. Stay tuned.
  • Breslin would say I buried the lead. Not this week.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The dumb, venal, rotten GOP game plan

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

Sorry, Pop, we have no proof this program works. Last meal.

I think I have the White House game plan figured out. Actually, there are two of them. Make that three:

  1. The NIC (narcissist-in-chief) thrives on chaos. He will keep as many balls in the air — as many ridiculous charges, outrageous statements and out-and-out lies — as possible to keep everyone’s eyes off his efforts to milk the presidency for as much money as possible for his and his family’s business interests. It’s always about the buck with the Donald. The fact that he also happens to be an ignorant, racist, misogynist, bully only helps to camouflage his motivation: Greed.
  2. The Republican Party, which controls Congress, wants to use the NIC as a smokescreen for the fact it has no idea how to actually govern and really wants to only do what it always wants to do — reduce taxes for the rich and reward its corporate contributors, for as long as it can manage to keep the NIC in office.
  3. The Destroy-the-Government Gang. As its name implies, this is the really dangerous one, a  combination of Steve Bannon followers and Tea Party fanatics who have grabbed the Republican Party by the throat and said, “Listen up, we’re in charge now.” It combines dumb and venal, a deadly combination which also exists in game plan Number 2. Plus, it throws in just plain rotten.

Since all three are working together for separate goals, they share a mutual interest in fomenting chaos. The media have to decide daily what to focus on: The Russians? The wiretaps? The Wall? The travel ban? The budget? The conflicts of interest? The Trump/Ryan health care plan?

The only way for the rest of us to maintain sanity is to take it in digestible pieces. or, as is the case here, indigestible pieces. I offer two examples from the past week of what I think are the dumb and venal thinking that drive Republican policy today. One involves the budget, the other health care.

First, the budget. Mike Mulvaney, the NIC’s budget director, in defending his boss’s (Bannon’s) proposed 2017 budget, which mercilessly slashes social spending to further beef up the most powerful military on the planet and close the nation’s borders, defended the elimination of federal funds for the Meals on Wheels program because it “doesn’t work.”

He said it was “compassionate” to eliminate funds to feed homebound, low-income senior citizens because it wasn’t fair to ask single mothers to pay for something for which there was no proof of success. He also said the same thing about free school lunches and after-school programs for poor children.

This is dumb on steroids because, as reported in The Washington Post, numerous studies show that Meals-on-Wheels programs that feed more than a million homebound seniors every week “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.” It also reduces costs involved with taking care of the elderly in costly nursing homes.

Plus, what kind of country doesn’t want to fund programs that allow volunteers to bring meals to senior citizens with limited income or to feed hungry kids? That’s just rotten.

For the record, Mulvaney is a Tea Party loyalist. His nomination by the NIC was approved by the Senate, 51-49, with Republican John McCain joining all 48 Democrats in voting no. McCain said his vote was based on Mulvaney’s previous votes to cut defense spending. Interesting, now that he’s the NIC’s budget chief and not just another congressman, Mulvaney is OK with pumping up a bloated military budget by adding $54 billion, even if it means poor kids and older citizens go without food. Dumb, venal and rotten personified.

Now, health care. The GOP plan has been almost universally described as a disaster. We’ll save that for a later time. But if you’re looking for the kind of genius that went into writing it, let’s look at an exchange that took place in the House of Representatives in the middle of the night.

As the Energy and Commerce committee discussed the bill, Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.) asked Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) what he meant when he said premiums were “skyrocketing” in his state “because of the mandates from Obamacare.” What was he talking about, Doyle wondered. What did he object to? “Certainly not … pre-existing conditions, or caps on benefits or letting your child stay on the policy until 26, so I’m curious what is it we’re mandating?”

“What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” spoke up Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). “Is that not correct? And should they?”

“There’s no such thing as a la carte insurance, John,” Doyle replied.

“That’s the point,” Shimkus answered. “We want the consumer to be able to go to the insurance market and be able to negotiate on a plan.”

“There’s not a single insurance company in the world that does that,” said Doyle. “You’re talking about something that doesn’t exist.’’

Dumb.

The debate moved on with no one being so rude as to point out that it takes a man as well as a woman to produce the result that triggers the desire for prenatal care. It’s a family benefit. Shimkus happens to be the father of three young men.

One more thing about this sharp tack. Shimkus is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Environment Subcommittee. In an interview in 2010, discussing climate change in an interview, he said, “I do believe in the Bible as the final word of God. And I do believe that God said the Earth would not be destroyed by a flood.’’

Whew! I feel better.

As I said, there’s far too much of this kind of stuff going on with Republicans every day to be able to make sense of all of it. But if we focus really hard and snatch just one of those balls the NIC has in the air, all the rest will come tumbling down.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Couldn’t Lose for WInning

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Who knew?

     Who knew?

Sitting and watching the March blizzard do its thing outside the window — working, working, working to shut everything down — a memory from the 2016 presidential campaign snuck into my consciousness. The post kept popping up on my Facebook feed, but I honestly can’t remember the original source of the news. I’m also not in the mood to go researching for it because I didn’t think it was fake news then and today I am convinced it is the god’s honest truth.

In brief, one of DT’s former aides (of which there are many) wrote an article in which she claimed he never expected to win the Republican nomination and the election. Indeed, she said he did not want to win the election. Rather, she said, he just wanted to get his name out there for whatever profit he could gain from the publicity and maybe help launch a TV network he was planning. Branding.

Less than two months since his inauguration, it’s obvious: Donald Trump likes being president, but he is less than fond of doing president. The title and the glory are great — right up his alley. Put a big, gold “T” on the White House.

But the work? Daily intelligence briefings? Reading reports on the battle against ISIS? Getting up to speed on how complicated health care is? Learning the difference between the debt and the deficit, Medicaid and Medicare, China and Taiwan, Iran and Iraq, legal and unconstitutional? Isn’t that what we have Mike Pence for?

The man has no patience for details, for facts, for differing opinions, for the legal process, for diplomacy, for Cabinet meetings, for, at the very least, hiring people to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs unfilled since he took office. Who knew being president was such a big job?

Well, for one, his predecessor. And, with varying degrees of success, a long line of predecessors before Barack Obama.

Getting back to that aide’s story … Was there ever a campaign for president run with such obvious disregard for facts? WIth such disdain and outright rudeness aimed at other candidates? With such arrogant disregard for the bigotry and violence it encouraged in its followers? With such crudeness towards women, minorities, the physically handicapped? With such an ill-informed, self-obsessed liar as the candidate?

Rhetorical questions.

It was a campaign expressly designed for maximum press coverage, which it got. What went wrong for Trump is that he was up against the worst field of Republican candidates imaginable, few of whom had the guts to match him insult for insult (some of whom now kiss up to him since he’s the titular head of their party) and then ran into the most disliked Democrat in America as his opponent in the general campaign. Even encouraging the Russians to wiretap Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to doom the Trump campaign.

Hard as he tried, most Republican leaders and elected officials couldn’t bring themselves to publicly call him a bully and a liar and a fraud and so their voters — the ones who weren’t outright racists or conspiracy theorists or rightwing extremists, all of whom loved him from the get-go — went for the celebrity candidate who promised them … well, whatever they wanted him to promise them.

I won’t be playing golf every week, he promised. Mexico will pay for the wall, he promised. Social Security and Medicare are safe, he promised, Everyone will have health care, he promised. How could he know that House Speaker Paul Ryan hated Social Security and Medicare and had no clue about how health insurance worked? That would have required understanding all that stuff himself and talking to Ryan about it. Work.

Trump’s bad luck followed him into November. Clinton beat him by three million votes and still lost, thanks to the Electoral College, which is a concept the new president surely still does not understand. Although he swears he had the widest winning margin there in decades. He couldn’t lose for winning, no matter how hard he tried. And now he has to try to convince a bunch of much smarter people who report to him every day that he knows what he’s doing.

Not that they believe him.

Which is our problem, America.

The golf? Jeez, I know I promised I’d be a working president, but this is ridiculous. Anything to get out of that depressing White House every weekend. ISIS this; ISIS that. Merkel this; Merkel that. Warren this; Warren that. What’s wrong with Flynn talking to Russians? Some of my best friends and creditors are Russians. How come nobody told me federal judges were appointed for life? Do I attack North Korea if they launch a missile at us? I can’t believe Ryan is going to try to find money for that stupid wall. Now they’re trying to pin my name on that ridiculous health care plan he came up with. Maybe I can feed that Maddow dame the only legit tax return I have this century to take the heat off the Russia thing. And what the heck is going on with Lindsay Graham and that loser McCain? Is Turkey an ally? Did La La Land win the Oscar or not? Bad dudes in Hollywood. I wonder if Rudy wants his old job back at Justice, or is he ticked I didn’t name him ambassador to Russia? Damn, why does the FBI want to talk to me? Melania!? Melania!? Help! They want me to organize the Easter egg roll! Stop hiding in New York!

Damn, where’d I leave my phone? Maybe I can get Snoop Dog to come down to Mar a Lago for golf this weekend. Hey, Bannon, it’s still Black History Month, isn’t it?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Playing Solitaire in the White House

Friday, March 10th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The trigger card

            The trigger card

You’ll have to pardon me here as I try to catch up on the news. Last I knew, the narcissist-in-chief (NIC) had just shown himself to be presidential by reading a speech (which he did not write) from a teleprompter for about an hour straight without veering off message, insulting any minority group or mentioning the size of his, uh, inauguration crowd.

A lot of people who call themselves journalists apparently thought this was evidence of a heretofore well-hidden capability to do presidential things.

With that reassurance that all was well with the republic, I busied myself with other, more pressing personal stuff: Reading; having dinner with my sons; wading through a mountain of unopened mail that had been gathering since I was involved in an accident; deciding whether my partner and I should have Chinese or Mexican takeout for dinner; looking for something to add to my Netflix queue while waiting for Denzel’s 2004 version of “The Manchurian Candidate” to become available; being impressed at how well the Sinatra version from 1962 has held up.

Then it got a little spooky. I heard that after his “presidential” reading, the NIC apparently went off message a few days later. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from what I’ve been able to piece together from all those alternative “news” sites on Facebook, some time late Saturday night, the NIC was wandering around the White House in his bathrobe when the phone rang. His cell phone, not THE phone. A voice on the other end that sounded remarkably like Steve Bannon channeling the NIC’s deceased mother suggested that to occupy his time, since Melania preferred to stay in New York, he should play his favorite game — Solitaire.

“Yes, mother,” the NIC obeyed and hung up.

Having stacked the deck with red queens, the trigger card, the voice called back a minute later and said, “Blame Obama.”

Again, “Yes, mother.”

And that’s apparently how we ended up with one president accusing his predecessor (on Twitter) of wiretapping his home phone. At least that’s the best I can piece together from news reports since no one has offered a scintilla of evidence of such a wiretap and the FBI director (the guy who clinched the election for the NIC) says it never happened. The White House ignored that response and a cadre of lawyers reportedly set out to find  proof of what their master had tweeted.

Now, apparently, all those “journalists” who swooned over the State of the Union reading are what one might call non-plussed for having been suckered again by a performance. “Sir, what  proof do you have of  this dastardly deed by Mr. Obama?” they asked the NIC, who had none, of course. Never does.

No one apparently thought to ask, “Sir, since you’re the president and have the power, why don’t you just declassify the documents that prove you were wiretapped?’’

Well, because: (1.) If there really was an illegal wiretap (the president can’t order one), the guilty parties would have left no records.

(2.) If such records did exist, they would prove that a judge thought there was sufficient reason for the FBI to wiretap the NIC even before he took office and how embarrassing would that be?

But probably mostly (3.), because he didn’t know that the president couldn’t order a wiretap or that a president could declassify any document he chooses. Details are not the NIC’s strong point.

As I take it, you-know-who was so angry that no one — even Sean Spicer struggled to keep a straight face — believed him when he said Obama had his Trump Tower phones tapped — he kicked Bannon and Reince Priebus, his two top aides, off Air Force One when he flew to Florida for his regular weekend of presidential golfing.

Bannon, however, was smart enough, I gather, to pack a few stacked Solitaire decks in the NIC’s bags. Some time over the weekend, as he wandered the halls of Mar-a-Lago in his bathrobe, the phone rang again.

This time, THE phone, not his cell phone.

“How about a game of Solitaire, son?”

“Yes, mother.” Hang up.

Short pause. Red queen.

Ring!

“Hello, mother.”

“Okay, now listen carefully, son. Last time I called you the damn cell phone dropped the call after I said, ‘Blame Obama’ and you made up some cockamamie story about him tapping your phone. What were you thinking? (Bannon’s voice getting a bit hoarse.) Blame Obama for that botched SEALS raid in Yemen, you ninny.”

“Yes, mother.”

And as far as I can tell, that’s how the NIC came to exploit the widow of a Navy SEAL who died in that raid during his State of the Union address, while at the same time blaming his predecessor and his generals for the failure of the mission. How’s that for presidential?

I can’t wait for Denzel’s “Manchurian Candidate” to arrive in the mail. Hope it’s as good as Sinatra’s.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Going Ape in the Oval Office

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

LIFE cover, Feb. 10, 1961. Ham the Chimpanzee in the space capsule after returning from the Mercury Redstone 2 space flight.

Ham, the chimp … American hero

I started writing a column recently by likening what is happening in the White House these days to a chimpanzee jumping up and down on the furniture and throwing feces at the walls. A group of white men, I said, stood by with thin smiles as if approving of the actions. When the chimp left the room to watch television, the men went about rearranging the furniture and cleaning the walls the best they could. A thankless job, I wrote, but it pays well. That should tell you all you need to know about those men.

I didn’t get very far with the column because I soon realized it was terribly insulting to chimpanzees. They are, after all, our closest cousins, sharing 98 percent of our genes. They are intelligent creatures who enjoy people and know how to behave appropriately in their environment. In the jungle, act like a hunter. In the Oval Office, act presidential. In a space capsule, act like an astronaut.

As fate (and NASA) would have it, 56 years ago on Jan. 31st, a chimpanzee named Ham became the first “American” launched into space, sub-orbital. The historic event was captured nicely in the movie version of “The Right Stuff.’’ As the seven Mercury astronauts compete to be the first, the movie dramatizes the launch and splashdown and reveals America’s first astronaut to be … a chimp.

Ham’s flight from Cape Canaveral to splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean lasted 16 minutes and 39 seconds. Ham wasn’t just a passenger in the capsule. He pulled the appropriate levers at the appropriate times and performed perfectly. He suffered only a bruised nose for his efforts. His flight paved the way for Alan Shepard’s flight in May later that year. Second American in space. That makes Ham an American hero in my book.

I doubt the current occupant of the White House could be trusted with such a mission as Ham’s. For one thing, it required focus. Also, discipline. Spurred on by Ham’s story, I did a little more research on chimps. It turns out they share a lot of traits once supposedly reserved for humans. They enjoy friendships. They have strong family bonds. They can show empathy. They can make and use tools. They can remember distant events. They’ve been observed showing regret and exercising self-restraint and wouldn’t that be welcome in the White House today.

Some observers say chimps can even understand when other creatures know or don’t know something. That’s another way of saying they have a realistic assessment of whomever they are dealing with. No guesswork. And yes, being almost human, they can be violent. Usually it’s because there are too many alpha males in a group and not enough females. Most violence that occurs is between groups of chimps rather than within a group, although one group recently was said to have killed a  former leader who was described as a tyrant. Maybe a brutal form of justice?

Really, the only negative thing I learned about chimpanzees in my brief research is that they are endangered. Of course. Their population has been eliminated everywhere except central Africa where they are poached for food. Man apparently cannot bear to have other creatures alive on this planet without killing them for sport or commercial gain or, in this case, an exotic source of food. Unfortunately, respect for other living creatures is just one of many positive traits that seem to be lacking in the current White House occupant.

So I apologize humbly to chimpanzees for even considering such a comparison as mentioned at the top of this article in the first place. I further encourage all compassionate human beings to contribute to such organizations as the World Wildlife Federation in their efforts to save these wonderful apes.

As for those clowns in suits in the White House, he’s your wild creature. If you can’t make him behave, you’ve got to get rid of him. After all, the house belongs to the American people. The previous tenant left it in beautiful condition. Clean that crap off the walls and find someone who knows how to act in public.

rjgaydos@gmail.co

If the Grandy Man Shirt Fits, Wear It

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The shirt

The shirt …

I’m wearing my Curtis Granderson shirt today. The Yankee shirt. Number 14. This is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is why the heck a 75-year-old man is wearing a shirt bearing the name of any of today’s professional athletes.

It was a gift. Several years ago, my son, Zack, who has inherited my rooting interest in the Yankees and my mother’s desire to choose the perfect gift for whomever was on the receiving end, gave it to me for my birthday. (If my memory fails and it was Christmas, he will let me know.) It was … almost perfect. One size too small. A nice compliment, but that consigned Grandy to the bottom of the shirt drawer for … well, until now.

Now, I’m wearing it and, obviously, this is another significant reason for mentioning it. I’ve lost weight and gotten in better shape. Wearing the shirt actually makes me feel a little younger and a little stronger and who cares if it’s all in my head. My head can use all the positive vibes it can get these days. As I’ve mentioned before, I often turn to sports when the rest of the world is too much to face first thing in the morning.

… This seems like a good point to let the non- sports fans in on the conversation. Zack gave me the shirt because Granderson was my favorite Yankee at the time, and that was only partially because he’s a heck of a good ballplayer.

The man ...

The man …

Let’s get the ballplayer part out of the way first. Granderson, who now plays centerfield for the New York Mets (the Yankees should have never let him go), is a three-time All-Star. He has power and speed, being the rare major leaguer to have 20 home runs, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same year. He can bat leadoff or third, depending on the team’s need. He’s an excellent outfielder. A streaky hitter, he is also a clutch hitter and can carry a team when he’s on a hot streak, as he did for both the Yankees and Mets. He is a quiet leader in the clubhouse. He also strikes out a lot, but today that doesn’t seem to matter in baseball. It also makes him human.

None of that is why I have a Curtis Granderson shirt. Nor is it because I liked to hear Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling sing, “Oh, the Grandy Man can” after every Granderson home run. If I wanted speed and power I could have gone for Mickey Mantle, who was at least in my age group. The truth is, as good as Granderson has been on the field, he has been spectacular off it. Indeed, his biography on Wikipedia talks as much about his community and charitable work as about his baseball exploits. You don’t find many athletes who come close to what he has done and continues to do out of uniform.

And who, by the way, are as well-spoken as he is. In fact, his ability to express himself served him well as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International, traveling  to England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan to promote baseball.

There’s more. With a noticeable decline in the number of black athletes choosing baseball, he has worked with the African-American community to discuss the reasons. When signed to endorse products for Nike, Louisville Slugger and Rawlings, he asked them to donate money to his foundation or equipment to inner-city baseball programs rather than pay him. That foundation raises money for the education of inner-city children and Granderson has also written a children’s book, ‘’All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!,’’ which is illustrated by New York City public school students.

Too good to be true, right? Other players, counting their home runs and their Twitter followers, must resent this guy, right? Well, in 2009, the players chose him baseball’s man of the year for his community work and, in 2011, he was voted one of the friendliest players in the Major Leagues, according to a poll Sports Illustrated conducted of 290 players. One more thing. He.wears his socks high, the old-fashioned way (which I really like), to honor players from the Negro leagues.

And so what? you say.

And so, I say, in my ever more persistent effort to be aware of synchronicity in my life, that I was given my Granderson shirt to wear today because it would inevitably lead me to a place of positive thoughts, a place of hope and a bit of serenity.

There are, after all, Curtis Grandersons in all walks of life, accomplished, intelligent, articulate, modest, compassionate, generous and willing to lead the way. Some of them are even rich. (Granderson’s getting paid $15 million this year by the Mets.) I’d venture to say that any one of them who happened to magically appear behind a big desk in the Oval Office tomorrow would have the common sense to say, “Get Steve Bannon the hell out of here right now or you’re all fired!”

That’s what. They’re out there. We just have to dig their shirts out of the bottom of the drawer and start wearing them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com