Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

The Week Everything Went Right

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

 The Supreme Court ruled that labor law protects LGBTQ rights.

The Supreme Court ruled that labor law protects LGBTQ rights.

    Sometimes, everything just falls into place, or, to put it another way, it all falls apart. Like Donald Trump’s week.

       You may have noticed that the Dotard had a very bad week last week, punctuated by a campaign “rally” in Tulsa that drew barely more than 6,000 faithful. The event, indeed the week, was a showcase for the now-familiar traits that define Trump — arrogance, laziness, pride, litigiousness, ignorance and callous disregard for anyone other than himself. To think there are some people who consider these to be attributes they want in a president used to astound me. Now, it saddens and angers me.

        Back to Trump’s week from hell.

        What ended dramatically in Tulsa began quietly in Washington, D,C., where John Roberts decided to act like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That is, the head of one of the three co-equal branches of government defined in the Constitution. Monday morning, with Roberts and new conservative favorite Neal Gorsuch joining the four liberal justices, the court ruled — against the Trump administration’s arguments — that the federal law which protects persons from being discriminated against in hiring and firing because of their sex applies to LGBTQs.

        The Trumpsters, catering to their conservative Christian supporters, had argued that someone could be fired — or not hired — simply on the basis of being gay. The court rejected that and, in a further jab at Trump, Gorsuch wrote the major decision. That same day, the court refused (7-2) to hear a Trump administration appeal of a California court ruling that upheld the state’s sanctuary law, which prohibits law enforcement officials from aiding federal agents in taking custody of immigrants as they are released from jail. And to top a week of attention-grabbing rulings, Roberts himself wrote the ruling which rejected the administration’s efforts to end the Dreamers program (DACA). The Chief Justice also chided Trump’s lawyers for their sloppy preparation and pointedly criticized Justicee Brett Kavanaugh’s arguments in the Dreamers as well as LGBTQ rulings.

     So, in one week, Roberts helped protect three vulnerable populations from the ego-driven whims of Trump, while also reminding him not to take the court for granted simply because he had recently appointed two supposedly friendly justices. Trump was thus reminded that presidents can’t fire Supreme Court justices. He, of course, took it personally, tweeting about whether the court didn’t like him. Roberts did not lower himself to reply.

     While this was going on, the White House was also in court trying to stop publication of a book — a typical Trump move, flying in the face of the Constitution and free speech. The book, by former national security adviser John Bolton, gives an insider‘s account of how the Trump White House operates. Which is to say, it is unflattering in its honesty. Bolton, no model of civic-mindedness, had refused to testify before Congress about this stuff, preferring to make a buck on what he witnessed (and participated in). The judge said the book could be published, mostly because it’s already been leaked and could easily be available on the Internet and there was no proof of risk to national security. Just to Trump’s ego.

      In the meantime, trying to get rid of another prosecutorial thorn in his side while no one was looking, Trump told Attorney General William Barr to get rid of Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Among other things, the prosecutor has been investigating Trump’s pre-White House dealings with Deutsche Bank, with bank fraud being the most often mentioned possible crime.

       Barr botched the job. He issued a statement Friday, when he hoped the world would be focused on the Trump anti-Covid rally in Oklahoma, saying that Berman had stepped down from his job. Berman promptly said that, no, he had not, adding that, since a federal judge had appointed him as a replacement, Barr could not fire him. Barr then said Trump had fired Berman. Trump was asked and, typically passing the responsibility buck, said he was not involved. It was Barr’s show. Confusion is another Trump trademark.

        Apparently, Barr got through to the Dotard and said, “Chief, if you want this done, you have to do it. But Berman won’t go quietly unless you name his deputy to succeed him.” And that’s how Audrey Strauss, who has worked closely with Berman on the Trump probe, came to be the new acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District. Trump got his man, but he may come to regret the whole messy, sloppy episode.

         And finally came Tulsa, in Oklahoma, where the wind not only came whistling down the plains, but could be heard whipping around a mostly empty arena Friday night. Never mind the million who had supposedly sought tickets on the Internet, there was nothing close to the 60,000 fans Trump’s team was expecting. The overflow venue was shut down early. The star rambled through an incoherent “speech” that featured him demonstrating an ability to drink water out of a glass with one hand and explaining the treachery of slippery ramps — both harking back to his previous week’s unsteady performance at West Point.

         The rally was meant to bring supporters out by showing a defiance of science and medicine and gathering en masse to show that virus a thing or two. The cherry on top of the week’s sundae was that the paltry crowd was apparently the result of an organized, nationwide social media effort to get teens and young voters to apply for free tickets on line but not show up. Wow! A million requests for tickets! Trump bragged earlier in the week, even as the campaign proceeded on social media. He and his team never saw it or never took it seriously. Lazy, Arrogant. Dumb. Dismissive.

      The Dotard showed up back at the White House late Friday night, looking disheveled and despondent. Unpresidential, to say the least. For him, the master of conceit, deceit and bluster (that could be a name for his law firm) it was a terrible week. Nothing went as “planned.” Everything fell apart. Or, to put it another way, for a change, everything fell into place.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Generosity and a Turbulent Awakening

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

BOB GAYDOS

The Report … the red shoes, racism and Kool-Aid

If they fit ...

If they fit … 

   They were sitting on top of a trash can outside the entrance to a supermarket we frequent. A pair of red shoes. Women’s slip-on loafers, worn but still wearable. Take us if you need us.

      You couldn’t miss seeing them as you entered the store. They were obviously not trash because they could have just been tossed into the bin on which they were resting. No, they were … a gift. If they had a card attached it might have said: “Times are tough. I don’t need these any more. Save your money for food. And water, if they have any inside.”

     But there was no card. Just the shoes, speaking silently. If the shoes fit, please take them. Do not be too proud. They have served me well. Wear them in good health.

    There’s a lot of pain and anger in the world right now. Also, fear, frustration, impatience, confusion and resentment, compounded by an appalling lack of responsible leadership by many of those elected to provide it. So we are left to our own devices. Generosity. Sharing. Compassion. Small gestures. All we need do is notice.

          — By the way … A few weeks back, I wrote about some “famous” people whose paths had crossed with mine and invited readers to share similar experiences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

— “I suspect this will be rejected as ”no words were exchanged,” but my run-in with Robin Williams was all in “mime.” Thus, words could not be spoken. In a world of exemptions I now claim this as mine. … In the early ‘80’s, while being part of an “art glass ” company, I was coming out of a meeting with architects somewhere in Manhattan. As I bounded the steps to the sidewalk I literally (and I mean literally) ran into Robin and two women. We reared up inches from each other’s noses, made faces, feigned shock and dismay, rotated around each other like an old cartoon and slowly backed away from each other fending each other off with glares and shock. No big deal, but fun to recall and relate.”

Ernie Miller

 — “Ok, here goes …. Trumpeters extraordinaire Raphael Mendez, Harry James, Dizzy Gillespie, Doc Severinsen, and Al Hirt.  (Yes, I used to play trumpet and heard each of them perform in concert.)  Pete Seeger, Allen Ginsburg, Jane Fonda, poet Robert Lowell, Jules Feiffer, Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., Dr. Benjamen Spock, actors Judith Malina and Julian Beck of the Living Theater, photographer Karl Bissenger, Grace Paley, Tom Hayden, Dave Dellinger, Dorothy Day, Phil and Daniel Berrigan, Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Al Lowry, and Jesse Jackson.”

Jim Bridges

(Jim noted that many of his meetings were the result of his active participation in the civil rights movement.)

      Unfortunately, the internet has misfiled or erased details on Sean Kober’s dinner with Floyd Patterson, Moe Mitterling’s interview with Roy Campanella, Debra Scacciaferro’s meetings with famous authors and someone (!) shaking hands with Princess Di. Apologies and thanks.

       — By the way … All it took was a worldwide explosion of demonstrations condemning police violence against blacks for the NFL to recognize that Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem was a remarkably restrained and dignified way of expressing his outrage. Now, some team needs to give him a job as a quarterback.

        — By the way … While we’re at it, how about NASCAR finally acknowledging that all those Confederate flags at their races were not a symbol of a proud moment in our nation’s history? It’s as if millions of Americans — white Americans — suddenly realized what the Civil War was all about. And who lost.

      — By the way … It takes an extraordinary amount of chutzpah to go around calling COVID-19 a hoax, not wearing a mask, and encouraging everyone to go about business as usual and to then host a large political rally in a state where cases of the virus are spiking and at which attendees will be required to sign a waiver of responsibility for the host if the attendees happen to, you know, get COVID-19. What it takes to sign that waiver is an extraordinary amount of Kool-Aid.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Predictably Pre-conditioned Police

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

The lead pre-cog in “Minority Report.”

The lead pre-cog in “Minority Report.”

     Most recent lockdown movie watched was “Minority Report,“ starring Tom Cruise. Talk about synchronicity.

     Cruise plays a police officer in the mid-21st century who is part of a special unit that arrests people for “pre-crimes.“ That is, crimes they were about to commit. Usually, the “pre-crime“ is murder.

     The “pre-crimes“ are predicted by pre-cogs — three drugged human beings floating in a pool of warm water who are wired to a computer system that allows others (the police) to monitor what is going on in the pre-cogs‘ minds. Precognition. The three, one female and two males, can see the future. They predict pre-murder victim and pre-murderer, as well as date and time. Cruise has to figure out where and get there in time to stop the crime and make an arrest, even though no crime has been committed. The pre-cogs are supposed to be infallible. It turns out they’re not. Cruise finds this out when he himself is named as a pre-murderer and has to prove his innocence before any crime is committed. 

       By now, the police in the film have become pre-conditioned to believe in precognition: This is what the precogs say, so it must be true. You did intend to kill this person. You are under arrest for the pre-crime of homicide. It’s kind of like some police today have become preconditioned to believe that if a male is black, he must be guilty of something and is dangerous to boot, so use whatever force is necessary in making an arrest. And the system says it’s justified.

        Just as the pre-cogs’ reputation for accuracy was based on a lie, so the preconditioning of some of today’s real-life police officers is based on generations of lies. George Floyd’s death in the custody of police in Minneapolis is the latest in a dismal series of similar incidents that entered my consciousness in Middletown, N.Y., in 1986. That the country and, in fact, much of the world has risen up to protest Floyd’s death is encouraging, but tragically long overdue.

       I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, the local paper, when Jimmy Lee Bruce, a 20-year-old black man, died in the back of a patrol car near Middletown on Dec. 13, 1986. He and a group of friends from Ellenville, N.Y., had gone to a movie theater in a mall outside Middletown. The group became rowdy. There was drinking involved. Two white, off-duty Middletown police officers, acting as security guards, escorted the group out of the theater. A scuffle ensued. An officer applied a chokehold to Bruce and tossed him in the back of a police car, which had brought two on-duty Town of Wallkill police officers to the scene.

       The police then drove around for 7½ minutes looking for Bruce’s friends. When they returned to the theater, a state trooper, who had also arrived on the scene, shined a flashlight in the back of the patrol car and noticed the young man was not responding to the light. Police rushed him to a nearby hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.

       In my previous experience as a reporter talking to plenty of lawyers I had been told that any district attorney worth his salt could indict a ham sandwich. Apparently this was baloney. A grand jury considering the case ruled that Bruce’s death was an accident because the officers had used a technique – the chokehold (they called it a “sleeper”) — for which they had not been trained and which actually was prohibited by their department.

        There have since been too many similar stories between Bruce and Floyd, including Eric Garner, a victim of a chokehold applied by police on Staten Island in 2015. Excessive force used by a police officer resulting in the death of a black male and, most of the time, no action taken against the officer. You could almost predict it. Preconditioning.

         Following Bruce’s death, I wrote an editorial (later read into The Congressional Record on March 25, 1987 by Rep. Matthew F. McHugh) that said the grand jury that cleared the four police officers had actually indicted a system that had failed to properly train its police in handling such situations and for being slow to investigate the case, “raising suspicions of bigotry.” Would that I had the pre-cogs available to me then.

         The same factors, predictably, applied to the Eric Garner case 18 years later. Precognition? No. Preconditioning. Little had happened in the ensuing years to change the way most police departments recruit, train and discipline police officers. In fact, the situation was worsened by the giveaway of all kinds of military grade weapons to police departments. Without the proper training and handling of civil disturbances, such weapons will be used. And they were.

          So now, in the face of massive demonstrations including in front of the White House where a cowering Donald Trump fled to the bunker in the basement, politicians and police officials are finally recognizing what needed to be done more than 30 years ago: Diversify police recruiting. Weed out applicants with sketchy records. Give recruits more training on how to talk to the public, how to de-escalate tense situations and how to use force properly. Make it their duty to speak out about improper use of force. Get rid of that military hardware. Stop dressing like storm troopers. Become involved in the community. Act swiftly and surely to punish officers who abuse their position. Reestablish justice department review of police departments whose behavior is challenged by the public. Educate all officers on the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly. Make the entire community part of this reconditioning process.

      It’s not impossible, not even difficult. It just needs a unified commitment to doing so. There have been moderately successful efforts in cities across the country to reform police departments in the wake of public outcry over the deaths, usually, of black males at the hands of police. Here in Middletown, police actually joined demonstrators recently in marching peacefully for reform. 

      “Black Lives Matter“ has now made this a national priority. In fact, the House of Representatives and the New York State Legislature have introduced legislation to ban the use of chokeholds by police — 34 years too late for Jimmy Lee Bruce, but perhaps just in time for future generations of black males.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Why Vote for Biden? Simple: Trump

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

Biden and Trump

Biden and Trump

Strange world.

     Recently, a contributor to a Facebook group to which I belong asked members if they could give some reasons to vote for Joe Biden “without mentioning Trump.”

      My initial reaction (admittedly a bit sarcastic) was to comment: “Why?”

      Upon further thought, I have decided my initial reaction was correct. In my opinion, there is no reason this year to quibble over issues. The only compelling issue in this presidential election is to remove from office the man who has made a mockery of everything Americans used to like to brag this country stands for. Donald Trump.

      Truthfully, any of the candidates who sought the Democratic nomination for president would be acceptable to me over Trump. Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is more than qualified, having served as a vice president to Barack Obama for eight years and in the U.S. Senate before that. What Biden’s views are on Medicare-for-all or global warming or income disparity do not matter to me in the sense that he actually understands those issues and knows how to work with people to achieve a consensus while the one-who-shall-not-be-mentioned has encouraged people to take bleach to fight off COVID-19, then announced he was taking an unproven and occasionally lethal drug for the same purpose, counter to the medical advice of virtually every doctor in the world. His personal doctor came up with some Mickey Mouse reason just to keep his job.

       So, really? What do I like about Biden? For starters, he won’t tell me to drink bleach. 

       And here’s another thing — if Democrats learn to stick together for the future of the country, they will in all likelihood also regain control of the Senate, removing Mitch McConnell from the majority leader post he has used to enrich himself and other Republican senators and donors while allowing the unnamed one to do the same while escaping any consequences for a long list of illegal, unconstitutional, immoral and just plain stupid actions.

     Indeed, McConnell has been the worst actor in this horror show of a government because he could have stopped it at any time but hasn’t. Republicans, having lost their minds in 2016 (along with a lot of non-Republicans) with their presidential choice, have now lost their souls and any claim to being a respectable political party.

     What is astonishing to me is how deep the hold of the fear of retribution from national Republican leaders goes on a local level. The silence from local Republicans regarding the bleach-pushing, woman-hating, racist, narcissistic con man in the White House is beyond deafening. Private complaining doesn’t count if you’re a public official.

    Why Biden, you ask? How about this — evangelical preachers don’t like him. They love the other guy. At least they say they do. I say they deserve each other. Everything about them is false and self-serving. They prey upon the desperate and gullible.

     Case in point —  Norma McCorvey. Until a couple of days ago, few people knew that name. But millions knew her as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade 1973 Supreme Court decision. As it happens, I recently wrote about her in a column about “famous” people I have met. She was perhaps the most unknown famous person in my experience. She visited the newspaper I was working for in her campaign to undo the court ruling which gives a woman the right to control her own body and choose to have an abortion.

      McCorvey, who died in 2017, was going around the country in the mid-90s saying she had changed her mind, had become a Christian, had unbecome a lesbian and was now opposed to abortion. I don’t remember being particularly impressed with her professed change of heart and mind and sexual preference. Well, it turns out she was lying. In what she called a “deathbed confession” in a recently released movie, “AKA Jane Roe,” McCorvey says she was paid by conservative evangelical preachers to say she had changed her mind and was no longer pro-choice. Paid nearly half a million dollars to say so. She said, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say.”

       McCorvey’s life had been a series of being used and abused. She was homeless and too poor to afford an abortion back in the ‘70s when she became the symbol of the pro-choice movement. In the ‘90s, she was still needy, but more media savvy. The money looked good to her. Evangelicals followed their script: If you don’t have right and decency on your side, lie. Lie to raise money. Raise money to lie. Lie to raise more money, etc.

       Evangelicals say they love Trump. It’s a lie of convenience. He knows it and accepts the benefits he can reap from it. Their “deal” is pathetic and transparent, yet it has swindled millions of dollars from gullible believers

       So, why Biden? Because I’m not gullible. Because Trump and his Republican and evangelical enablers are out to destroy this country and have made a lot of headway. Because I’m about to turn 79 years old and spent more than half a century proudly describing myself as a journalist and Trump has labeled me an “enemy of the people.“ You bet it’s personal. Because, let me be clear, the future of America is at stake and the threat is named Trump. There, I said it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

        

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

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

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

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

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

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Fame, Fate and Happenstance

Friday, May 8th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Me with Mario Cuomo.

Me with Mario Cuomo in Albany.

This isolation thing has us looking desperately for ways to stay connected on social media, which, of course, is exactly what it was intended to do in the first place. Unfortunately, politics — more accurately, confrontational politics — and outright lies have for the most part pushed pictures of cute dogs and cats and delicious meals to the periphery, if not completely off the Facebook news feed. Twitter is worse. The connection, when there is one, tends to be of an us-versus-them nature.

   I admit to being part of this changed atmosphere. I think there’s a fight going on for the future of a once-proud nation. But I also think there’s a need to maintain that unthreatening, neighborly sense of connection. If we’re all in the same boat, who are my co-passengers?

    To be fair, I have seen attempts during this isolation to “connect,” as it were, on Facebook. But I don’t know what letter my favorite album begins with, Willie Mays will always be the best baseball player I ever saw and I don’t qualify for the 10-photos-that-prove-I’m-a-mom challenge. I do like the renaissance of cooking photos, though.

     So, in my own need to connect in a neighborly manner, I wandered through old columns I’ve posted on the Internet to see if I could find a promising topic.

     There it was. On April 6, 2011. Ego. We’ve all got one and journalists have well-nurtured ones. But this column was an essentially harmless exercise in ego — compiling a list of “famous” people I’ve met. As I wrote at the time, it was prompted by my previous column — an obituary in effect — in which I recalled a chance meeting with the late Geraldine Ferraro on a hot August day at the Ulster County Fair in 1998. The Newburgh native, former congresswoman and vice presidential running mate to Walter Mondale (first female from a major party to run for the office) was now running (again) in a Democratic primary for a Senate seat from New York. I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown at the time. She was gracious: “Hi Bob, nice to see you again.“ She answered my questions and moved on with her hand-shaking. She lost to Chuck Schumer. She should’ve been the first female vice president of the United States.

       That column got me to thinking of other “famous“ persons I had met. I’ll run through some of that list, with the hope that some readers will do the same in the comment section or in an email. Then I’ll share them. Remember, this is about connecting and I’m sure many of you have memories of a brush, or more, with the famous or infamous. So share them. Basic ground rules: It must have been an actual meeting, meaning words were exchanged, hands possibly shaken, and local politicians don‘t count except for members of Congress. You need a line somewhere.

      I must also add that, working in newspapers for more than four decades, one is bound to run into prominent people. It comes with the territory. My list happens to be heavier with sports personalities and politicians because I was once a sports editor and then a political writer and editorial writer. Of fellow scribblers, probably the most famous was columnist Pete Hamill, who visited The Record in Middletown. There was also Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and longtime sports writer Milton Richman.

      The world of sports offered encounters with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (interviewed in the back of a limo in Binghamton. N.Y.), boxer/TV personality Rocky Graziano (“Somebody Up There Likes Me”), Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer (naked in a whirlpool bath), boxing champ Floyd Patterson (eating in a restaurant in New Paltz), Olympic marathon gold and silver medal winner Frank Shorter (after shorter races in Middletown, his hometown) and a memorable handshake in Binghamton with Jackie Robinson. (“A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Robinson.”)

      In the world of entertainment there was the very tall Harry Belafonte at the Concord Hotel (somewhere there’s photographic evidence), the very drunk Clancy Brothers (around a bar after hours in Binghamton), Western novelist Larry McMurtry in Fort Worth, movie and TV actor Victor Arnold (the hit man in the original “Shaft”), over coffee in Middletown, Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer (on a stage in Sullivan County) and, in a Woodstock art gallery, an also very tall Henny Youngman (“Take my card, please.”) He really said that. And I took it.

     Not surprisingly, there are a bunch of political figures on my list, starting with Ferraro’s running mate, former Vice President Walter Mondale (a hello-how-are-ya in Minneapolis). There are the New York governors: The imperial Nelson Rockefeller (he of the middle finger salute), the lanky George Pataki from Peekskill, and the Cuomos — the senior, Mario, who could hold a room hostage for hours ( and did), and junior, Andrew, when he was state attorney general and when he was messing up the gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall. Also, the other also-rans: New York Mayor Ed Koch, Tom (Who?) Golisano, Pierre (“the Record staff are the rudest people I have ever encountered”) Rinfret, Andrew (I don’t stand a chance) O’Rourke, Howard Samuels (a very cool customer), and Arthur (Hey, I was once a Supreme Court justice) Goldberg. Throw in Marvin Mandel in Maryland and Anne Richards in an elevator in Fort Worth. And of course, a special place is reserved in my heart for short-term New York governor, Eliot Spitzer, the dumbest smart politician I ever met.

       Among senators, the erudite D. Patrick Moynihan held court in Goshen and Chuck Schumer showed up seemingly for breakfast every day at The Record. And, giving them their due, Congressmen Ben Gilman, Matt McHugh, Howard Robison, Maurice Hinchey, John Hall (who founded the rock group Orleans and also qualifies as an entertainer), Bella (The Hat) Abzug (hors d’oeuvres and handshakes on Long Island), and Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who famously and entertainingly imploded during an interview with The Record.

    Among civil rights figures, Jesse Jackson (handshake and question) towered above the rest, literally and figuratively at a conference in Charleston, S.C., but Floyd McKissick, national director of CORE, was more accessible about 15 years earlier at Gentleman Joe’s, a popular bar in Binghamton.

    But perhaps the most “famous” person I ever had a meaningful conversation with is someone whose name almost nobody recognized, and most probably still don’t know: Norma McCorvey. McCorvey is better known as Jane Roe of the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision that confirmed a woman’s right to choose abortion. When I met her in Middletown, she had not only changed from pro-choice to pro-life on abortion, but had joined the Roman Catholic Church and announced she was no longer a lesbian and was campaigning to overturn the decision. Change is news.

      That’s it. My list. Now I’d like to hear from you, either in a comment or email. It’s either that or take another trivia quiz or walk the dog again. Netflix will always be there later.

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Bankers Strike Again; Also, UFOs

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

BOB GAYDOS

THE REPORT … bad loans, Beyond burgers, UFOs, takeout

    072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD  So the cardinal count at our bird feeders has doubled. We now have two males. I take that as good news, believing there have to be two families close by that these dads are rushing back-and-forth to feed. By the way, there is no social distancing at the feeders.

     — Also by the way … Super stock analyst, TV star, Philadelphia Eagles fan and world-class speed talker Jim Cramer raised an important point on his CNBC show when he said, “I just want to know who made the bad loans.” The loans he was referring to came from the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the $2.2 trillion rescue plan passed by Congress to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone casually familiar with social media the past few days is aware that many of these loans went to large corporations which were never intended to receive the money. Smaller businesses were shut out. In fact, the fund ran out of its original $349 billion cache after just a few days. When Shake Shack, the Los Angeles Lakers and other well-heeled companies were embarrassed by the publicity surrounding their getting the loans, many said they would return the money. But others said they would keep it.

       Two problems here. One, why did these large corporations even apply for the loans in the first place? Two, as Cramer wondered, who gave them the loans? “I think that banks were complicit. I think banks gave loans to very good customers, maybe because they needed to keep them afloat,” Cramer said. He said Americans are “sick” of this kind of behavior from banks and he’s absolutely right. Penalize the companies, who must have supplied phony info to even apply for the loans, and the banks, who surely knew. Make the names of those banks who approved the loans public, as Cramer suggested. Congress should investigate.

      — By the way … we finally found Beyond Meat burgers at the supermarket and created our version of a drive thru treat at home. Delicious. Of course, now, having already decided the Impossible Whopper is also delicious, some serious taste-testing is in order in the plant-based food wars. Any personal reviews out there?

     — By the way … speaking of out there, did you notice that little UFO item the Pentagon slipped out in the midst of the pandemic, maybe figuring no one was paying attention? It declassified videos

The Navy released this video of UFOs this week.

The Navy released this video of UFOs this week.

showing swiftly moving UFOs with the soundtrack of naval pilots expressing, well, awe. The videos were actually made public a couple of years ago by a private group, but the Pentagon had no official comment on them at the time. Recently, the Navy announced a formal policy on reporting UFOs. Apparently, the brass decided to believe their pilots were actually seeing something that they could not identify or explain. The Pentagon had a classified program to study numerous reports of such phenomena from 2007 to 2012, but abandoned it for what it said were more pressing priorities. The former head of that program resigned in protest in 2017 over the secrecy surrounding it. Retired former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, who pushed for the original program, tweeted that release of the videos now “only scratches the surface of research and materials available. The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications.” Or we can let the new Space Force handle it.

      — By the way … folks in my neighborhood have been familiar with the UFO phenomenon for a long time. In fact, Pine Bush, N.Y., has an annual parade/festival to celebrate its designation as the UFO capital of the Northeast. Nice event.  Unfortunately, it’s postponed this year until fall. Of course, some folks may think we’re a bit out of it, but It’s hard for me to discount the idea that there’s something out there and it’s intelligent, because it’s smart enough to stay away from us right now. Make a hard left at Earth, captain, and get out of the neighborhood fast.

       — Finally … scenes from a pandemic: Sitting in the parking lot waiting for our Chinese takeout. Customers preceding us waiting at the door, socially distanced, all wearing some variation of masks. When they leave, a silver hearse pulls up, white skull painted in the rear window and a spooky ghost in one of the side windows. Normal-looking lady wearing a mask gets out the driver side, goes in, picks up her takeout and drives away expeditiously. GrubHub? DoorDash? Thinking I’m definitely in a Coen brothers movie. By the way … I had shrimp lo mein.

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

BOB GAYDOS

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

THE REPORT … mowers, mail, movies and moving Michael Cohen

April 20, 2020

072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD

Bob Gaydos

    So the lawn guy showed up unannounced and unsummoned today to a great deal of running about, barking and general enthusiasm. The dogs were excited, too. Went out to greet him at appropriate social distance. “You mowing?” I asked. “We’re essential!” He answered. “Heard last week. That Cuomo’s a tough cookie.” Yes, he is. Thankful for that. By the way, the grass is now neat and manageable for walking about and tending to business. The dogs are excited about that as well. Grateful to have a lawn guy.

  —  By the way … Michael Cohen, we hardly knew ya and now you’re about to leave us? The onetime lawyer/fixer for Hewhosenameshallnotbespokenhere has been residing at a minimum security federal prison camp in Otisville, about a 10-minute drive down the road from us. But if Cohen comes through a two-week quarantine in a medium security penitentiary next door, he’ll be going home to finish out his three-year sentence. He can thank COVID-19. Since social distancing is a major challenge in prison, some federal inmates are being switched to home confinement. Also, Orange County, where Otisville is located, had 211 confirmed virus-related deaths at this posting. My first reaction to the Cohen news was that somebody cut him a break. But then I remembered he cut a deal with the feds to get a lighter sentence on campaign fraud and lying to the FBI about hush money paid for Hewho… so Hewho wouldn’t likely make a call for Cohen. Looks like the system just did its job. Go figure.

   — By the way … We’re doing our part to burnish the reputation of Netflix and Amazon Prime during this period of isolation. Recent viewing includes “The Danish Girl, “The Coldest Game” and “The Ladies in Lavender.” Each is a little quirky, but time-passable with some good performances. Any suggestions, please feel free in the comment section.

    — By the way … If the post office is worried about losing $2 billion a

Forget the rain, snow, etc., the Post Office needs cash.

Forget the rain, snow, etc., the Post Office needs cash.

month because of the pandemic and Republicans in Congress won’t bail it out, why doesn’t Jeff Bezos just sign a month-to-month contract with the USPS to make up the difference? He could do it out of his pocket change and not even touch his Amazon stock. It would actually be a patriotic thing to do.

  —  By the way … a report just issued by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that the 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia covertly meddled in the 2016 presidential election, with the ultimate goal of helping Hewhoshallnotbenamed win, was accurate. Big surprise only in that Republicans admitted it.

   —  And finally, by the way … if there was any doubt left of the utter lack of basic decency in today’s GOP, I give you Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of the great state of Texas, which is starting to reopen its economy despite warnings from medical experts that it’s too soon and spreading the virus could result in deaths. Says Patrick: “There are more important things than living and that’s saving this country.” No plan. No leadership. No concern or compassion. Nothing. Texas is no country for old men or women.

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

BOB GAYDOS

Thursday, April 16th, 2020
The new normal.

The new normal.

THE REPORT … masks, wildlife, dogs, waste and scoundrels

April 16, 2020

  072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD   So I shaved my beard and mustache off the other day. Three-blade razor, no soap or gel. Not bad and only two small nicks. Now my N95 mask fits more snugly and friends will be able to understand me when I shout hello to them from 6 to 8 feet away in the supermarket. By the way, a big thank you to all supermarket workers. Be well.

     — By the way … The cardinals have still not returned to our birdfeeders, but we had a visit from a large, male wild turkey the other morning. Undoubtedly shopping for his young brood snuggled away someplace nearby. He apparently didn’t like what his feathered comrades were feasting on and eventually wandered off. Probably see the whole family soon.

     — By the way … One of the more significant changes brought about by the coronavirus came in the country of its origin, China. Following up on its decision announced in February to ban the eating of wild animals, the Chinese government last week said it will also be illegal as of May 1 to eat animals raised as pets. In China this is big. Dogs and cats are now safe. The wildlife trade in China has long been controversial and lucrative and has always been a potential source of some new virus. Wildlife has traditionally been used, not only as a source of food, but for clothing, medicine, ornaments and pets. Past attempts at curtailing these uses of wildlife have been only marginally successful. Given the worldwide pandemic that is believed to have started in a Chinese wildlife market, one would hope that there will be serious international pressure on the Chinese government to strictly enforce these new rules.

    — By the way … is it just me, or does it make no sense in a country of such vast resources for there also to be such widespread need? With the pandemic making it even harder for millions of Americans to get enough healthful food, farmers in Florida were plowing under acres of fresh produce and in Wisconsin and New York – including in my own Orange County — dairy farmers were pouring gallons of milk into fields. With schools and restaurants closed, the major buyers have almost disappeared. But people are still hungry. Question: Instead of giving farmers millions of dollars in bailout money for throwing away good food, why not buy the food and give it to food pantries for people who are hungry?

      — By the way … when Congress gets back from its self-isolation, that handful of members who sold and bought stock after being briefed early on the virus should be investigated for insider trading. They knew what was coming, kept quiet or even downplayed the risk and then cashed in big on the worldwide suffering. Unconscionable.

      — By the way …  I think the stay at home order is resulting in a lot of healthier canines. Walking the dog is not just a chore anymore.

       — And finally, by the way … although I am firmly ensconced in the age group most susceptible to dying from COVID-19, I am not willing to simply give it up so that Rush Limbaugh, a bunch of Tea Party Republicans, Dr. Oz, Laura Ingraham or any other cult member can “get back to business.” I plan to live for the Day of Reckoning. For any evangelists who wandered into this column, that’s The Rapture without the empty clothes stuff.

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Politics in the Age of Pestilence

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

 Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

   The job of the next president of the United States is to restore a sense of competency, decency and dignity to the office. Nothing is more important than that. 

     I actually wrote those words about three weeks ago as I worked on a reaction to developments in the Democratic presidential race and various complaints being voiced about the front runners — too old, too radical, too conservative, too male, etc.

     COVID-19, unfortunately, intervened. It also reinforced my belief in that simple campaign slogan: competency, decency, dignity. Put any Democrat’s name in front of it:

     — Joe Biden, competency, decency, dignity.

     — Bernie Sanders, competency, decency, dignity … uh, scratch that campaign, not the sentiment.

     — Andrew Cuomo, competency, decency, dignity. (I know; it’s Joe, but just hold that thought).

     As swiftly as Covid-19 moved through parts of the population, just as swiftly do political stories change. Sanders dropped out and pledged to support Biden just as I was rewriting for Covid. Cuomo burst on the scene just as abruptly, reminding Americans that it is important to have elected officials who are capable, competent and concerned about people’s welfare. Actually, their lives.

     Cuomo’s father, Mario, also a New York governor, once wrestled with the notion of running for president to the point he was dubbed “Hamlet on the Hudson” — to run or not to run. He decided not to at the last moment. Andrew has insisted repeatedly he is not looking to be president.

     Not yet. He’s also a friend of Biden’s. But Democrats can at least rest assured that if something else unforeseen happens between now and their nominating convention in August, they’ve got Bernie and Andrew in the bullpen. Elizabeth Warren, too.

   But the real need now is for Democrats to present, not just a familiar, comfortable name for president, but a super team, if you will, of potential cabinet members and presidential advisors who will reinforce the need to return competency, decency and dignity in the Oval Office.

      The need for competency has been apparent from the first days of the Trump presidency. The administration’s unconscionably inept response to the Covid-19 virus is the predictable result of three-plus years of looking the other way, justifying and making excuses for Trump, a man with no moral compass or sense of responsibility and who is incredibly dumb to boot. His dismissive attitude to doctors and scientists on the handling of the virus has resulted in chaos, fear, panic, a probable recession and death. There is no excusing this arrogant incompetence.

     In the category of decency and dignity, I include a respect for the truth as well as the Constitution. I also include an understanding of this nation’s once respected role as the leading voice for freedom and democracy on the planet — a nation represented by the Statue of Liberty, not by an egomaniac’s wall and caged migrant children,

    Regarding the nay-sayers among Democrats … Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are both 78 years old. I am 78 years old. If you wanted to dig into my past life and drag out every stupid, profane, dumb, selfish, hurtful thing I have ever said or done, a lot of people probably would say, no, I don’t want him to be president.

     Given that, I still say without hesitation and in all humility, that I believe I would make a much better president than Donald Trump has been (as would a lot of you). That’s because I think I have learned, sometimes the hard way and with age, what is important and what is not so important. I don’t think I’m smarter than trained professionals. And I have a respect for the truth as well as the history of this nation. If you want references, I can probably pick some up.

     But I’m not running for president. Joe Biden is and, until recently, Bernie Sanders was. (Cuomo still says he’s out.) While I can agree and disagree with both men on a variety of issues, I have no doubt that either one would honor the tradition of the office and work immediately from day one to remove the stain that has been Donald Trump. I can say that about every one of the Democratic presidential candidates.                  

      For disappointed Sanders supporters, and they are legion and loyal, the victory can be claimed in his demand for Medicare for all. If the virus has shown anything, it is the utter failure of the American health system to deal efficiently and even-handedly with a health crisis. People should not die because they can’t afford to get tested or there are no tests or they have no insurance for treatment or their governor insulted the president. Not in this country. Biden as president may calm Wall Street worriers, but he must also make Sanders’ central issue part of a Democratic plan to restore America’s legacy of competency, decency and dignity. Sanders for Health Secretary? A thought to build on.

      Having been vice president to Barack Obama for eight years (a source of much of his support), Biden knows how this is done. As the presumptive nominee he should choose a younger female vice presidential running mate and assemble a team of one-time rivals for the presidency as potential cabinet members. Unity must be paramount for Democrats. Take back the country first, then fix all that has been broken. Republicans appear ready to stick with Trump right into the sewer. A united, impressive Democratic team behind Biden can defeat that.

      Also key is voter turnout. Republicans will do anything to keep potential Democratic votes from being cast. They have already shown that. A unified Democratic Party behind Joe Biden, with a plan to make America competent, decent and dignified again should get out the vote. It would help if Obama campaigned. It is also crucial to reclaim the Senate.

     And, as he enters the fourth and last year of his term, President Biden, at age 82, can say he does not intend to seek re-election, paving the way for that younger vice president to continue the restoration project. First remove the stain from the presidential seal, then polish it with gusto.

rjgaydos@gmail.com