Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

The Sad Truth: It’s All B.S.

Friday, June 21st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Harry Frankfurt ... he knows B.S. when he hears it

Harry Frankfurt … he knows B.S. when he hears it

  There have been times, like now, when I saw little point in writing about what the pretend president is saying or doing because millions of Americans don’t seem to care. At those times, I often wondered how the scribes who get paid to inform the world of the latest news — and even moreso, those who get paid to have opinions about it — find the energy to cover Trump day after day. It has to be depressing, I thought to myself. I’m depressed and I don’t have to write about it. Does a paycheck work as an antidepressant?

      Maureen Dowd finally answered my question. I admit to not being a religious, or even semi-religious, reader of Dowd’s column in The New York Times up to now. That’s changed since I read her May 25 column that carried the headline, “Crazy Is As Crazy Does.” Yes, it was about Trump.

     She begins by describing her waking thoughts as another morning arrives. About the talents of an actress and an actor she admires and their TV shows. About a book she has apparently just read or is reading. And then, abruptly, reality sets in: “Once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedeviled by our preposterous president.

        “I flip on the TV and gird for the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about Trump. I’m sapped before I arise. …

       “My head hurts , puzzling over whether Trump is just a big blowhard … or a sinister genius …”

        Me too, I sighed. Glad to know I’m not alone.

        I’m also not alone in my belief in synchronicity. Serendipity, if you prefer.

      Coincidence? I’m with Carl Jung on that. The Swiss psychologist who gave us the word defined synchronicity as “a meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”

       As in, what are the chances that, being shamed into participating in a decluttering exercise at home, I would “stumble upon” a slim book I’d never heard of that instantly uncluttered my mind on how to explain what in the world was going on in Donald Trump’s mind.

    It’s “Bullshit.”

    Literally.

    Some explanation is necessary.

    The house decluttering was precipitated by a prevailing notion that I had collected too much stuff (an occupational hazard, I believe) and some of it had to go, but we would find a safe resting place for the stuff that was worth keeping. One of the safe places was a lovely, old cabinet in which other stuff was resting. Old tapes, photos and books. Among the books was the aforementioned slim volume.

     I read the title: “On Bullshit.”

     The decluttering came to a momentary halt. Was this a joke? As it turns out, no. Oh, there is humor in this 67-page essay, but the author, Harry G. Frankfurt, it also turns out, is a distinguished philosopher, professor emeritus at Princeton University, which published the book. This was serious. In fact, the book was a New York Times best-seller in 2005 and Frankfurt discusses it on YouTube, which tells you something about my attention to literary news.

      But the point, and I’m finally getting to it, is that after months of trying to out-pundit everyone else writing about Trump and continuing to muse on why he does what he does, Frankfurt lays it out in a way that anyone, except maybe Trump, can understand — the man is a bullshit artist.

      It dawned on me as I read Frankfurt’s explanation of the difference between liars — which Trump has been crowned champion of all time by those who keep score — and bullshitters. (If the language offends you, I apologize, but Frankfurt says “humbug” is not the same. Also, the times have changed and I’ve already been labeled an enemy of the people for treating the truth with respect.)

     As Frankfurt explains, the difference between liars and bullshitters is that liars are acquainted with the truth. They have to be to maintain their lies. There is a discipline involved. Bullshitters don’t care. They make stuff up as they go along, saying whatever seems necessary to them at the time to appear to know what’s going on. It isn’t a matter so much of bullshit being false, Frankfort says, as of it being phony. It’s meant to convey an impression. It’s like bluffing. And too much of it can carry over into a general laxity about how things really are.

       As Frankfurt writes, “The bullshitter is faking things.” It’s not a matter of concealing the truth, because sometimes the bullshitter will speak the truth. It is matter of concealing “what he is up to.”

      Indeed. And those who are good at it seem to have no trouble attracting gullible believers. But that’s a mystery for another day.

      Frankfurt mentions patriotic politicians who, on the Fourth of July, give grand speeches extolling all the wonderful things this country represents, not that those things are false or lies or B.S., but because the speaker wants others to believe he believes in them and is a true patriot. There’s a good chance we’ll hear some of that this coming Independence Day, with Trump taking center stage at the Lincoln Memorial.

       I know in advance that I don’t necessarily have to write about it because it’s more of the same B.S. Instead, I can read what Dowd writes about it and focus instead on what synchronicity offers as a topic. Like the fact that Frankfurt and I share the same birthdate, May 29. Some stuff you just can’t make up.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer, rjgaydos@gmail.com

     

An Addict by Any Other Name, Please

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos

  What’s in a name? Maybe, recovery.

"New" me, at 73.

Bob Gaydos

Addiction — to opioids, alcohol, heroin, other substances or behavior — is a medically recognized disease, something for which treatment is available and prescribed so that the person who suffers from it can be returned as a contributing member of society. That’s the official, appropriately concerned line put forth by government agencies, the medical community and those who work in the field.

    Unofficially, which is to say, to much of society including members of the aforementioned groups, a person with the disease of addiction is commonly referred to as an addict. A drunk. A junkie. A cokehead or crackhead. An alkie. A pothead. A pill-popper. He or she is often regarded as someone who is weak-willed, immoral, untrustworthy, rather than someone suffering from a disease. A liar. A loser. Someone not worth the time or effort — or money — to associate with, never mind help.

   One of the major obstacles to persons seeking treatment for addiction is the stigma attached to the disease. It has been framed seemingly forever as a moral issue, a crime issue. Rarely — only recently — has it been framed as a health issue. We have waged a war on drugs as we tried to cure cancer or diabetes.

    Words matter.

    Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania lbast year released a study with the key recommendation to stop using the words “addict,” “alcoholic” and “substance abuser.” The study found the words carry a strong negative bias. Basically, the researchers said, they label the person, not the disease. Study participants not only displayed a reluctance to associate with persons described with those words in fictional vignettes, the researchers said participants also displayed “implicit bias” to the terms themselves when given a word-association task. They were subconsciously reacting negatively to the words.bbb

     If just the words can stir negative bias in people, imagine what an actual person carrying the label “addict” can arouse.

     The Penn researchers said their study was consistent with previous research that found some doctors, even mental health professionals, less willing to help patients who were labeled “addicts” or “substance abusers.”

     The researchers did not discount the fact that conscious bias against persons with addiction — for example, how involved one would want to be with the person described — is often based on personal negative experiences with “alcoholics” or “addicts.”  Family members, friends, co-workers have experienced pain and suffering from their connection to persons with alcohol or substance use disorders and a resistance to not just “calling them what they are” may be understandable.

      But, the researchers said, over time, adopting what they call person-first language (referring to a person with a heroin addiction rather than a heroin addict) — especially by public officials and the media — could help reduce the negative bias and stigma that keeps people from seeking and getting help for their disease.

       In 2017, prior to this study, the Associated Press, which publishes a style guide used by most news organizations, adopted a new policy on reporting on addiction. It recommends that news organizations avoid terms such as “addict” and “alcoholic” in favor of person-first language — someone with an alcohol or substance use disorder or someone who was using opioids addictively, rather than a substance abuser or former addict. Someone in recovery, rather than someone who is “clean.” Shift the blame from the person to the disease.

     This doesn’t excuse or absolve the person who is addicted from any damage he or she may have done, and it may be considerable. But it does provide an identity beyond the addiction and makes the road to recovery more navigable.

     Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News adopted a policy similar to AP’s.

      The concept is simple: A person should not be defined solely by his or her disease. When mental health professionals stopped referring to patients as schizophrenics, society started referring to people with schizophrenia. Similarly, there are people with diabetes today who once were labeled diabetics. It is often argued that alcoholism or addiction are different from other diseases because the person chooses to use the substance. But experience tells us no one chooses to become addicted and the nature of the disease is being unable to stop — or at least feeling that stopping is not possible. Negative labels can’t help.

       Government agencies have begun using the new language, referring to persons with alcohol use or substance use disorders rather then alcoholics or addicts. Some who have managed to face their addiction and overcome it have abandoned the anonymity of 12-step programs and identify themselves publicly as persons in recovery. The opioid crisis has spawned a program called Hope Not Handcuffs, which steers the person who is addicted to treatment rather than incarceration.

       An exception to the change in language is recognized for those who are in 12-Step programs who identify themselves as alcoholics or addicts at their meetings. These are people who don’t see the terms as negatives, but rather as an honest admission of a fact in their lives. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous have been saying, “My name is xxxx, and I’m an alcoholic” at meetings for nearly 84 years. It’s tradition. There’s no stigma attached, but rather a common bond that holds out the hope there is something beyond being labeled a “drunken bum” or “hopeless addict.”

      The groups recommending the language change say this is not merely “political correctness,” as some have said. Lives are obviously still being ravaged by addiction. If something has to change in approaching the disease, there is a growing feeling that how we talk about it might be a good place to start.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Countdown to Woodstock and 2020

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

 

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

Fans of Woodstock may have a choice of two 50th Anniversary concerts to choose from. Or maybe not.

By Bob Gaydos

A look at the news, by the numbers:

  • 7: The percentage of the United States Senate that is running for president (so far) in 2020. All seven are Democrats and four of them are women. The latest count of Democratic presidential candidates stands at 20, I believe, but I could have missed a mayor or state senator or part-time legal clerk who decided that, what the heck, since 2016 proved that anybody really can get elected president in America, why not me?
  • 53: The percentage of the United States Senate that is perfectly comfortable with having a president with no understanding of the Constitution or respect for the rule of law, not a modicum of empathy, who lies as naturally as others breathe, has the IQ of a hedgehog (sorry, hedgehogs)  and the curiosity of a Big Mac, is totally consumed with his own image and how much money he and his family can wring out of the presidency before he bankrupts it like everything else he’s touched. All 53 are Republicans. The GOP, of course, used to be the party of law and order, the party that preached moral values and respect for the Constitution. Today, not so much.
  • 311: Reportedly, the number of grams of food per day Kim Jung-un, North Korea’s leader, says will be rationed to each citizen as the result of the latest food crisis to hit his nation. A bad harvest left the country 1.36 tons short of grain. The bad harvest came on top of dry spells, abnormally high temperatures and floods, which exacerbated limited supplies of fuel, fertilizer and spare parts, all of which was punctuated by economic sanctions against the country for its continued nuclear weapons buildup. For comparison, the average amount of food a healthy person eats daily in a non-rationed nation is four pounds. That’s about 1,800 grams. The North Korea ration diet is mostly rice and kimchi (cabbage), very little protein. About 10 million people — about 40 percent of North Korea’s population  — are affected by the food shortage. Of course, not Kim and his friends, or those who have access to the black market.
  • 3 million: Number of North Koreans estimated to have died in that nation’s famine in the late 1990s, when the ration system collapsed. The question is whether Kim is willing to continue the family tradition of letting millions of  countrymen and women die rather than abandon his nuclear (also chemical and biological) weapons, hoping that Russia or China will come to the rescue. Or, to put it another way — are the rest of the nations of the world willing to let tens of thousands of people die of starvation while they try to figure out how not to nuke each other to death? History is not on the side of hungry North Koreans.
  • 1: The number of times the winner of the Kentucky Derby has been disqualified for interference. This year’s 145th Run for the Roses saw the first-place finisher’s number taken down for interference, and not even for interference with the horse eventually declared winner. Maximum Security, the favorite and clearly the best horse in the field, drifted to the outside, preventing War of Will, a legitimate challenger, from moving forward. After watching a video of the race for 20 minutes, stewards stripped Maximum Security of the win and named Country House, a 65-1 shot, the winner.
  • $132.40: Payoff on a $2 win bet on Country House. Nice.
  • 1: Number of days it took for Trump to say ignore what you see on the tape, forget the rules, the storyline called for Maximum Security to win, so the stewards’ decision was — here comes the buzzword, cultists — “political correctness.” “Bad decision.” To him, all the world is a reality TV show for which he writes the script.
  • 2: Number of Woodstock 50th Anniversary celebrations planned for August 15-16 this year. Michael Lang and Woodstock LLC,, had 50 years to plan the ultimate tribute to the iconic festival without the confusion of the original gathering, but just as the 1969 event got bounced around and suffered from a significant error in available crowd accommodation, Woodstock 50, planned for some reason for Watkins Glen, is a whirl of confusion. The event’s major financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, said in a statement: “Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and co mmitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees.” Lang said his partners had no right to cancel the event and that it was still on, even though you couldn’t buy tickets on the web site. Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus are still coming, Lang assured. He’s suing Dentsu Aegis. Subsequent reports pointed out that, while Watkins Glen is noted for auto racing (the festival is planned for the racetrack), the community does not have hotel and bed and breakfast accommodations to handle the size crowd expected for Woodstock 50. Sound familiar? That means a lot of the space would have to be allotted for campers, which would then cut down on the allowable crowd space, which would then cut down on profits, which would then make Lang’s financial backers’ cold feet explanation more honest. Lang insists Woodstock 50 will be held in Watkins Glen, Aug. 16-18. Oh, that happens to conflict with another 50th celebration of Woodstock at the original site in Bethel. It’s called A Season of Song & Celebration and will be held Aug. 15-18 at Bethel Woods. Naturally, the state is planning major roadwork on the perennially clogged main road to that site during the time the concert is scheduled. Should be like old times.
  • Zero: Chances that folks who get to a concert at either of these sites will care about the mixups. Peace and love.
  • 50-50: Odds Trump will have something to tweet about Woodstock, which, of course, was his idea until Lang stole it. The 1969 crowd would’ve been huuuger if the Donald’s name was on it.
  • 30. It’s a journalism thing. Google it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Influence and Insensitivity

Sunday, March 10th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Kylie Jenner ... queen of selfies

Kylie Jenner … queen of selfies

It’s been awhile since I put my name on something I wrote, mostly because there’s really been only one one thing to write about. But other life goes on, so …

Last time out, I wrote about how I had recently come to the realization that, much as I chafed at the designation, given the 21st century dilution of the term and the relaxed admission standards that allow anyone with an attitude and an audience into the club, I was — am — for better or worse, a pundit.

 In my defense, just being able to write that sentence should qualify me.

But punditry, I have even more recently learned, is small potatoes (chicken feed, chump change, yesterday’s news) compared to the title to which anyone with any interest in the power of persuasion today should aspire.

I want to be an influencer.

Really. It’s a job. I just found out. Some pundit.

Influencer is such a legitimate thing that Forbes Magazine has initiated a list of the Top 10 Influencers for 2018 in a variety of  categories. It’s starting with Beauty, Fitness and Home, capitalized I assume for influence.

Apparently one qualifies for this list by telling tens of thousands — even millions — of people who follow you on social media what beauty products you prefer, the type of fitness regimens, supplements, food, clothes you prefer or let them in on the type of furniture or decor you like to surround yourself with when relaxing at “home.” Then a lot of those people go out and buy the stuff. Companies pay you for your creative messaging.

It’s kinda like being a shill. In fact, it’s exactly like being a shill. It just pays a lot better, if you’re, you know, influential.

If you sense me being a bit flippant and sarcastic about this discovery it may at least in part be because I am not just a little bit envious of these people who have discovered a way to earn a good living by sitting home, posting photos and writing blurbs on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites and being paid by companies whose product they promote. You don’t even have to use it. All you really need is a ton of followers who believe you and apparently await your every posting to find out what they should really like, then buy it.

For one thing, this says a lot about buying habits today, when so much shopping is done on the internet, with no opportunity to check out the merchandise firsthand. Well, heck, if Randi Jo Cutie Pie says those are cool candles or neat boots or dynamite hair products, they must be. Look, she’s got a million and a half followers.

The Forbes list was heavily female and mostly millennials, which would suggest that a male in his seventh decade might look for another line of work. It’s also prominently featured on Instagram, which I thought was mostly for sharing cellphone photos. So, on second thought, I’m going to stick to punditry, where I don’t have to worry about competing with Kylie Jenner or Cardi B.

Yet.

— Maybe it’s just me, but …if I’m going to get the news that I’m about to shake off the coils of my current mortal construct and rejoin the Greater Consciousness in some other form real soon, I want a living, breathing doctor standing next to my bed delivering the diagnosis as compassionately as possible, not a streaming image of someone, presumably a doctor, on a screen on a machine wheeled into my hospital room.

Ernest Quintana didn’t get that personal treatment at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Fremont, Calif. Instead, with his 33-year-old granddaughter standing by his bedside, the 78-year-old, who had been admitted to the hospital for the third time in 15 days because of difficulty breathing, heard the headset-wearing image on the screen say there was serious lung damage. “Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can treat very effectively,” the image said. He also said giving his “patient” morphine might help with pain, but would make breathing more difficult. He topped off his “On Demand” consultation by responding to a question about hospice care thusly: “I don’t know if he’s going to get home.”
     

The grand daughter was mortified, as were Quintana’s wife and daughter, who had briefly left the hospital to go home and shower. They complained to the hospital, which was semi-apologetic. Quintana died two days later.

They call it telemedicine and it presumably has its place, but a spokesperson for the AMA said delivering a death sentence electronically should be a doctor’s “last choice.”

Don’t they teach this stuff in med school?

—  Speaking of insensitivity, maybe it’s just me, but the State of Virginia would appear to have a serious race issue. The governor, Ralph Northam, is desperately trying to repair his image after a racist yearbook photo of him was published and he subsequently admitted to wearing blackface in his youth. The state’s attorney general admitted likewise. Both men are white. But get this, mere days after her husband pledged to devote the rest of his term to racial equity, his wife, Pam, leading a tour of the governor’s mansion, handed raw, prickly cotton to 13-and-14-year-old black pages and asked them, “Can you imagine being an enslaved person and having to pick this all day?”

No, they couldn’t and no, they weren’t happy with the hands-on history lesson. Neither were their parents. A former middle school teacher, Northam said she does the same with all the history tours she leads.

Maybe they need to re-evaluate that lesson in First Lady school.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Are You Now, or Have You Ever …

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Jeanine Pirro ... asked the question

Jeanine Pirro
… asked the question

It was at once the most astounding and easiest to answer question ever posed to an American president: “Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”

That’s a yes or no answer, with “no” being the preferred option. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case you say, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.”

“They” was a reference to The New York Times which published an article reporting that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. The article said the secret investigation was passed on to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.

Back to the question. It was posed not in a challenging way and not by an antagonistic interviewer. Rather, it came from someone Trump picked himself, “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, who is not only his most vocal supporter at Fox News, but someone who gives the impression she would satisfy pretty much any favors the Donald would like in return for a position in his cabinet. Say attorney general. Even solicitor general.

But in his eagerness to defend himself and insult the sources of the question, to engage in his usual deflection, Trump never just said the obvious: “No.” He got around to that a day later (“I never worked for Russia,” he said.) after virtually everyone on Twitter and some White House aides who have not been furloughed because he shut the government down pointed out the glaring omission.

And so here we are. A TV commentator has, on the air, asked the president of the United States — a phrase I reluctantly attach to Trump for the sake of accuracy — if he is, in effect, a traitor.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is that virtually no one in his political party seems to have an opinion on this — at least not publicly — and two days later the big story was Trump serving fast food burgers and fries at the White House to the national college football champions from Clemson University, because apparently that’s what he thinks finely tuned athletes, whose diets are monitored, eat routinely. Never mind the insult.

I write this, not in the hopes of convincing any suddenly awakening Trump supporters of the unrelenting awfulness of the man, never mind being the only president to ever be asked if he is a traitor. That time has passed. No, this is selfish. If it’s true that nothing ever disappears from the Internet, I want future browsers and historians to know that some of us saw what was going on and spoke out about it while others buried their heads in the sands of delusion or lined their pockets with the bitter fruits of enabling (Republicans) and exploitation (evangelicals).

I also want the Greater Consciousness to know I did my part in promoting peace, love and understanding. And yes, I know it knows, but I somehow feel better putting it in writing.

And, covering all bets, I want the Kirk Cameron “Left Behind” evangelicals waiting for the Rapture to know that my version of it has the guy with the MAGA bumper sticker who tosses beer cans on my lawn one day noticing a pile of clothes — wrinkled jeans, a black hoodie and a gray knit cap — lying in the driveway while I enjoy another balmy day in Heaven, watching reruns of the Trump impeachment hearings, eating tacos and listening to Sinatra.

Finally, it seems fitting to me if, many millennia from now, the dominant beings, whatever they might be, discover this ancient form of communication, decipher it, and conclude, “Once upon a time, a species known as human beings ruled Earth when it was abundant with riches. For some reason, they chose the most ignorant, ill-equipped, amoral person to be their leader. They were difficult times. Ugliness abounded. Only the persistent efforts of some outspoken humans saved the planet.”

I may be angry and astounded, but I still prefer happy endings.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Pundit or No, Trump’s Got to Go

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Not even marginal.

Not even marginal.

A colleague of mine who gets paid to write his opinions for others to read recently referred to himself as a “pundit.”

    “Hmmm,” I said to myself with a touch of surprise, “guess that makes me a pundit, too.”

    This colleague, you see, took over my opinion-writing job when I retired, but I still fill in for him when he feels like taking a break from punditing. It’s in the blood.

    The problem I have with using the word, “pundit,” and why I never regarded myself as one is that it always suggested to me a certain level of expertise in some subject area rather than an ability to deliver opinions on a variety of subjects and sound fairly rational and moderately intelligent (most of the time) while doing so.

     Also, today the word seems to imply so much more than what is delivered. Once upon a time there was William Buckley. I disagreed with him often, but I’d still call him a pundit. More recently, George Will and Charles Krauthammer from that side of the aisle. But today Steve Doocy is a pundit? And Brian Kilmeade? Lou (start a war with China) Dobbs? Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham?

     Yes, they are all from the Fox pundit stable, but if they qualify as pundits, well …

    I went to Wikipedia: “A pundit is a person who offers to mass media his or her opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (most typically political analysis, the social sciences, technology or sport) on which he or she is knowledgeable (or can at least appear to be knowledgeable), or considered a scholar in said area.”

    The phrase “or can at least appear to be knowledgeable” leaped off the screen. Aha! Thank you, Wiki, for clarifying the issue. Talking heads who deliver unsupported opinions with conviction — a TV invention — now are regarded as pundits. In that case, move over looney tunes Anne Coulter and Tucker Carlson. I’ve been at this punditry business longer than you two and I know racists when I hear them.

    So, punditly speaking, I find myself depressed and mystified that polls continue to report that 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. Of course, these pollsters are considered pundits, too, and they told us, with all their expertise, that Hillary Clinton would beat Trump in 2016. There’s that “at least appear to be knowledgeable” part again. Many of those polled Republicans, of course, are being fed “expert” analysis from those Fox pundits.

    Unfortunately, so is Trump.

    And so what has government by failed businessman/congenital liar/amoral Russian asset guided by phony Fox pundits gotten us?

— A “president” sitting alone in the White House on Christmas Eve, having shut down the federal government in spite because Congress didn’t give him the $5 billion box of Legos he wanted to build a wall he proudly promised his buddies Mexico would pay for. Instead, government workers went without pay for the holiday, whether they worked or not. Members of Congress did get paid, even though they clearly weren’t doing their job. A pundit might say this looked particularly bad for Republicans since they control all three branches of government and still couldn’t keep it open for Christmas. Happy New Year?

— A ‘’president” whose most recent chief of staff quit or was fired and who can’t find anyone qualified who is willing to take the job. Mick Mulvaney, of course, who is glad to have any and every job in the administration, even temporarily (budget director, Consumer Protection head), said he’d be glad to do it because he has no problem swallowing his pride and being ridiculed daily as long as he can continue to deprive needy Americans of government assistance.

— A “president” who, in addition to having an “acting” chief of staff, has an “acting” secretary of defense, an “acting” attorney general, no secretary of the interior, an “acting” EPA administrator, no United Nations ambassador (but one of those former Fox News blonde talking heads being prepped for the job), no ambassadors to Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, Estonia, Jordan, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela, and dozens of other vacancies in key positions throughout government.

— A “president” who has antagonized all U.S. allies and cozied up to murderous tyrants.

— A “president” who tells a 7-year-old girl on Christmas Eve that believing in Santa Claus is “marginal,” while he still insists that global warming is a myth.

 — A “president” who is under investigation in every area of his life and who no longer takes credit for the performance of the plummeting stock market.

  — A “president” who presides over a political party without the  courage or moral fiber to stand up to his utter incompetence and corruption.

    There’s more, but let me return to that pundit thing, if I may. The word comes from the Hindi “pandit.” It, in turn, was derived from the Sanskrit “pandita,” which means “a learned man or scholar.”

    That’s where I came in. I’m still uncomfortable with the word, but I will state my view with conviction: I believe Donald Trump has exposed the dark, ugly, fearful nature of much of American society, which has been hiding in the shadows for years. He has shown the Republican Party to be full of cowards and sycophants, and greedy ones at that. He may well be the death of the GOP as we have known it. Finally, he has revealed the hypocrisy of the evangelicals.

    A pundit might say these are important lessons for any society to learn in order to survive and evolve. A good thing. I get it. Perhaps I should be thankful. But evolution can be a slow process and those polls of approval for Trump by Republicans do not inspire patience. It isn’t easy being a pundit.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

In Search of 21 Influential Thinkers

Monday, December 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison ... who are their 21st Century counterparts?

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

A few weeks ago, in a burst of subtle synchronicity, Elon Musk was removed as board chairman of Tesla at the same time John Flannery was removed as chairman and CEO of General Electric. Since both companies were struggling in different ways, the firings, while surprising, were not shocking.

The surprise in Musk’s case was that he was forced out by actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which actually fined him and the company $20 million apiece for false statements Musk tweeted about financing to take the 21st century startup company private. Musk stayed on as CEO, but it’s nice to see the SEC is paying attention.

In Flannery’s case, he had only been on the job for a year, which seemed to many Wall Street analysts not nearly enough time to breathe life into the moribund, more-than-century-old company.

So, a reliable old company, with a household name, a onetime giant of household appliances and energy, but which has seen better days, and a new, hotshot company, with a sexy name, electric cars, solar panels, a colorful leader with an eye on dominating the next century of energy production, were both having trouble making their stockholders happy. That’s Wall Street, you say. How are the simultaneous takedowns of their bosses anything more than coincidence?

To many observers it won’t be. But to those who recall that Thomas Edison was one of the founders of General Electric and that Tesla Inc, is named after Nikola Tesla, Edison’s arch-rival for credit in discovering electricity as well as profiting from the discovery, well, perhaps it’s just another example of their names and future being linked by some invisible yet undeniable force. Like electricity.

Or synchronicity.

Were he still with us in more than name and spirit, I think Tesla would agree. Consider this statement from the visionary inventor: “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

Of all the non-physical phenomena, perhaps the most common and least explored is “coincidence.” Carl Jung made some significant efforts, but more “traditional” science has for the most part ignored what it cannot easily explain.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be an effort to do so.

Tesla first entered my consciousness in more than a vague, yeah-I’ve-heard-of-him kind of way, eight years ago. I had recently retired and begun wading into the world of blogging. When you write daily editorials for 23 years, it’s difficult to go cold turkey. One day, a couple of friends who actually read my blog gave me a challenge: Come up with a list of the 20 most influential thinkers of the 20th Century.

Not a bad idea. Challenging and a good way to engage readers by asking for suggestions.

“Nikola Tesla,” my friend Ernie suggested when I put out the call for nominations. “He should be on the list. He invented electricity and radio; he just didn’t get credit because he was a terrible businessman and didn‘t know how to promote himself.”

As it turned out, the one who “got credit” and a good deal more, was Thomas Edison, who I had wisely put on my first, tentative list. Connection made. Eventually, Edison, who gave us the incandescent light bulb, and Tesla, who contributed alternating current, both made the list. Yes, Edison was the better businessman and Tesla the more visionary thinker.

But Edison’s heirs, if you will, eventually lost their way, venturing into health insurance and buying NBC-TV, among other non-power-related ventures. Meanwhile, the company that took Tesla’s name for inspiration, has been true to his visionary approach and, in hiring Musk, apparently, also true to the Tesla disregard for conventional wisdom and clumsiness with business affairs. Must be a coincidence.

What’s the point?

I’m looking for a new list of thinkers, this one for the 21st century. The question: Who are the Teslas and Edisons and Jungs who will shape the way we live in the rest of this still young century?

As with the 20th Century list, I need your help. This is a cooperative venture. It’s kind of what social media is best suited for. In fact, I will start the working list with names of thinkers who make this venture possible: Bill Gates (who made the 20th Century list), Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs.

Others who are having profound influence on our lives: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the aforementioned Elon Musk, who at least seems to aspire to Tesla’s legacy. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is working on a new, privacy-focused web to rival the world of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

But there’s more to life than technology and shopping. As Jung explored coincidence and synchronicity, so now do Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra make us think about the nature of reality — the “non-physical phenomena” of which Nikola Tesla spoke. Author/essayist Rebecca Solnit has become the voice many people seek out for an explanation on a variety of complex subjects. Are there other authors, political leaders (77-year-old Bernie Sanders, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?), scientists, philosophers, poets, artists, inventors, business leaders or anyone else you think will have profound influence on the course of this century? Please share and I will share and eventually come up with a list of 21 influential thinkers for the 21st Century.

As a possibly useful prod, I include the list we came up with eight years ago. Of course, looking back is much easier than looking ahead, but compiling a list of those we think will be influential in the 21st century actually makes us part of the process of shaping things to come.

The 20th Century thinkers list:
Albert Einstein
Gandhi
Henry Ford
The Wright Brothers (count as one)
Thomas Edison
Picasso
Nikola Tesla
Mark Twain
James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin (DNA trio count as one)
Winston Churchill
Philo Farnsworth
Rachel Carson
George Orwell
Sigmund Freud
Carl Jung
Bill Gates
Margaret Sanger
Bertrand Russell
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot

I know these are stressful times, but if we all contribute in a positive way to the Greater Consciousness, it just might relieve some stress. Email or comment. Don’t be bashful.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s Time to Un-dumb America

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Sarah Palin ... she was the warning .

               Sarah Palin
    … she was the warning

I think Sarah Palin was the canary in the coal mine. We missed the warning.

I’m sitting at the keyboard asking myself when it became OK to be dumb in America. Never mind just dumb. There’s always some of that. In a better, more tolerant, mood, I might call it ill-informed or poorly schooled.

I’m not talking about that and I’m not in a tolerant mood. I’m talking about proudly dumb. Insistently dumb. Scientifically dumb. Historically dumb. Intellectually dumb. Socially dumb. Patriotically dumb. Spiritually dumb. Financially dumb. Ethically dumb. Environmentally dumb. Grammatically dumb. Unhealthfully dumb. Politically dumb. Morally dumb. I-don’t-want-to-hear-it-because-it’s-inconvenient dumb.

Willfully dumb.

Sarah Palin/Donald Trump dumb.

The planet is on schedule to destruct by the end of the century. Eating romaine lettuce anywhere in America right now could kill you. The pretender-in-chief of the United States of America says California could prevent forest fires by raking leaves. He also says it’s OK to tear-gas children across the border in Mexico because the adults who brought them to seek asylum in America are criminals and might not even be their parents and, besides, the Border Patrol used “safe” tear gas. This is supposed to be better than devoting sufficient resources to processing the asylum seekers in an orderly, dare I say, humane manner.

Dumb. And apparently just fine with millions of Americans as long as their kids aren’t the ones being hit with tear gas.

Along with the turkey, I enjoyed a 100 percent organic salad on Thanksgiving (no romaine). I will be upset with myself if every word in this column is not spelled correctly. In many households in this country, these two admissions make me some kind of strange creature, a “libtard,” as the MAGA geniuses on social media put it. Someone to be scorned or mocked.

Why? I mean, why is it a bad thing to eat good food that is free of chemicals or to not want to have spelling or grammatical mistakes in something that carries your name as the author? I get it that on social media the standards are significantly lower, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing when you’re supposed to be making your country great — again, no less.

I’ve been called a lot worse than “Libtard” in my opinion-writing career, so it’s not personal. I just think that letting anything someone misspells, mispunctuates or misquotes pass as acceptable, while it may sound egalitarian, is really a way to lower the bar.

Like when Palin, running for vice president, was asked what newspaper she read and answered, “All of ‘em.” In other words, none of ‘em. She also said she could see Russia from her front porch in Alaska and that gave her foreign policy experience. And she gave this memorable account of Paul Revere’s ride:

“He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.”

We escaped Palin, but wound up with Trump.

I get it that some people are just born with more brain power than the rest of us and that not everyone grows up in an environment that encourages learning, curiosity and a willingness to hear new ideas. An environment that makes it OK to say, “I don’t know” without fear of ridicule.

Fear is a powerful force, especially the fear we create in our minds. Donald Trump thrives on it. His entire political philosophy, if he can be said to have one, is based on fear of those who question, those who disagree, those who look, sound or think differently. “Others.”

“They” are coming to take something away from you or to harm you. It’s a fear founded in ignorance. But worse. Trump preys on other people’s fears for his own personal gain — votes, money, prestige, power. It’s always a transaction for him, easily changed for the right (more profitable) counter-offer. And some people choose to believe him in spite of all the evidence to the contrary because they have never learned — are afraid — to say, “Why?” Or, “Are you sure?” Or, “I don’t know.”

For Trump himself, in my humble opinion, the fear is that he will be found out as a fraud and so he must at all times act as if he knows what’s going on. He’s been doing it all his life. It doesn’t even matter if he believes what he says.

Global warming? “I don’t believe it.” He hasn’t got a clue, but all those people who actually studied when they went to college — “The ones who think I’m stupid even though I’m worth billions and they’re not — think it’s real. I’ll show them. I’ll save the coal mines.”

West Virginia goes for Trump. Dumb.

That Thanksgiving salad? I’m not a stickler for organic, but I do like to know the food I eat is safe as well as healthful and delicious. I do think it’s dumb to reject some food out of hand because someone says it’s good for you. Brussels sprouts, for example. Try it. If you don’t like it, at least you have some reason for not eating it other than you think those who do are strange. And strange, by the way, need not be threatening.

Neglecting the safety of our food or failing to teach children about the health benefits of a diet balanced beyond French fries and pizza is dumb. Trump doesn’t care. We should. He exists on ‘burgers and mocked Michelle Obama for trying to make school lunches more healthful. I’d like to think she succeeded, but I’m not sure. As someone who lives in apple country this is hard to say, but I’m pretty sure middle schoolers are still tossing apples in the trash when they leave the lunch room.

OK, this is not a treatise, just a minor rant. I’m probably hungry. But I do think, given all the above, our educators and legislators have a major challenge facing them. The Fox News Generation, fed a daily diet of fear and fiction, may be beyond saving, but there’s still time and hope for the youngsters. Knowledge is power. Our schools need to step up their game. They need to  encourage intellectual curiosity and let students know that it’s OK to know stuff. To know how to tell the difference between real and fake news, for example.

That way they may be able to tell the difference between real and fake candidates for political office, they’ll know the Earth is not flat and, Twitter notwithstanding, spelling is not a function you should leave entirely to your phone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The Buck Never Stops With Trump

Friday, November 9th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

D4EC7881-03DC-40CE-B0DA-02AA50509A49There’s still too much happening, too fast, so I’m sticking with the Jimmy Cannon approach for a while. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble figuring out which is worse: a) claiming you don’t know someone you just appointed to a pretty important job when critics immediately say the appointment is illegal and inappropriate; b) lying about knowing the guy when you just said on national TV less than a month ago that you know him and he’s “a great guy”; or c) thinking that the best way to cover your butt for making what is being described as an “unconstitutional appointment“ of someone who is being widely described as a “crackpot“ to the position of acting attorney general of the United States of America is to say, in effect, “Hey, they told me he was a good guy for the job. I never met him. Don’t blame me.”

The buck never stops at Donald Trump‘s desk. Think about it (you Trump supporters who stumbled in here by mistake can ignore this part), the man who occupies the most powerful position on the planet would rather people think he appointed a political hack to the most powerful law enforcement position in the country without ever talking to the man face-to-face than admit maybe he was a bit too hasty. Coincidentally, of course, at a time when the Justice Department this stranger would head has an active investigation of Trump and the 2016 election.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, with Drumpf, lying is second nature, but being embarrassed is unacceptable. It must be someone else’s fault. The media’s! Yeah, that’s it. I’ll blame CNN.

— Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a member of the White House press corps, I wouldn’t ask a single question at the next press conference if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is at the podium. No one. No questions. She took lying for a living to a new low with the use of a doctored video to revoke Jim Acosta’s White House credentials. The truth is under constant assault by this administration and the Republican Party. The press is the defender of the truth. Sarah must go,

— Maybe it’s just me, but I have issues with voters who prefer a dead pimp, a congressman indicted for insider trading, another one indicted for using thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal affairs and another one who is proudly racist over their opponents just because their opponents are Democrats. Methinks it says some unpleasant things about those voters. The Republican Party of Reagan, never mind Lincoln, no longer exists.

— Maybe it’s just me (and this definitely falls in the category of patting my own back), but those dots (I listed 17 of them) I wrote about back in January got connected on Election Day with a wave of women (mostly Democrats) elected to the House of Representatives. Sparked by the #metoo movement, with “a record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels,” I wrote, and with “female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States … this is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.” So I said. It’s nice to be right occasionally, even nicer that the Democrats paid attention.

— Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone heard about anyone being charged with murdering Jamal Khashoggi? Are we still buddies with the Saudis?

— Is that caravan still threatening our southern border?

— Is it petty to criticize by name the members of your political party who didn’t get re-elected because they didn’t beg for your support? Is it typical (see item one) to think you, with your policies and rhetoric, bear no responsibility for their defeat?

— Maybe it’s just me, but Floridians deserve whatever they get for electing Rick Scott governor in the first place and maybe a bonafide racist to replace him. Throw in Marco Rubio, too. Imagine, counting all the votes is cheating.

— And finally, maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed that, unlike Congress, the third leg of government, the courts, have been holding their own against the onslaught of anti-everything coming out of the White House? The latest rulings stalling the Keystone Pipeline and preserving DACA show the value of independent courts. Maybe it’s just me, so why is Chuck Schumer being so soft on Mitch McConnell?

#voxpopuli

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Why Would They Throw Rocks?

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Occasionally, when the news has gotten away from me — too much, too fast to have reasonable, well-thought-out opinions on all of it — I borrow a device used to great effect by the late, great sports columnist Jimmy Cannon. Jimmy had opinions on lots of things and from time to time would tell readers, “Nobody asked me, but …”

I have found that this approach helps clear my mind and provides a touch of sanity. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but why would they throw rocks? By “they,” I mean the unarmed members of the “caravan’’ of Central American asylum seekers that Drumpf sees as such a threat to national security he says he may send 15,000 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to protect us. The dotard-in-chief, who studiously avoided military service, says rocks will be answered with bullets. Well, first of all, no they won’t. Established procedure for such missions, which is outside the usual scope of the regular military, calls for troops to protect themselves and avoid responding if objects (like rocks) are thrown, unless their lives, or others’ lives are in danger. Then, deal with the situation. This is typical Trump tough talk to rile the bigot base. If you’re fleeing violence at home, looking for a safe haven for you and your family — and there are thousands of families in this “caravan” — why would you throw rocks at armed, trained troops at your chosen destination? Another thing. Not all the troops will be armed because, well, there’s no need and it helps avoid an unnecessary, tragic over-reaction. One report said a few migrants briefly scuffled with Mexican police at a border crossing — some rocks may have been thrown — but it was quickly resolved, no shots were fired and the migrants got in line and were quickly processed. But that story doesn’t get the bigot vote out.

 — Maybe it’s just me, 

Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi

but does anybody remember what that story was out of Saudi Arabia, or maybe it was Turkey? Something about a journalist who lived in Virginia because he wrote some stuff for the Washington Post that the royal poohbah prince of all princes didn’t like and the journalist was afraid to live in his homeland, which the prince was reportedly dragging out of medieval times but really wasn’t, and so the journalist went to the Saudi embassy in Turkey to get a document that verified he was divorced, which would enable him to marry his Turkish fiancée, but while he was in the embassy the paunchy, middle-aged journalist picked a fight with 18 Saudi goons who just wanted to ask him a few questions and it wound up with him being tortured and dismembered while still alive? I think it’s something like that. And the Saudis denied it and the Turks said we’ve got proof and then the Saudis said, well maybe it happened, but it was an accident and the prince had nothing to do with it and we will make sure these guys with the bone saws are punished, but don’t go threatening not to sell weapons to us, America, or we will stop buying condos in Trump properties and Trump said, at first, that he asked the prince about it and the kid denied it, and then Trump said, well, if he lied something “bad” would happen to the Saudis, but so far nobody knows where the body is and nothing bad has happened to anyone except the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, and his fiancée. I think that’s it. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like kind of a big deal.

— And the bombs. A dozen, sent in the mail to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, CNN and a bunch of other public figures who have been critical of Trump‘s policies. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that a president who lies about everything, uses violent language at campaign rallies and refuses to condemn hate groups, might want to cool his rhetoric and assume some responsibility for the effect of his inflammatory words on people looking for any excuse to vent their anger and resentment at conveniently provided targets. Maybe not provide those targets. And maybe that same president might actually want to pick up the phone and call the targets of those mail bombs and express regret that someone who is clearly one of his followers is apparently responsible for them. Also, maybe say that he’s glad no one was hurt. Again, maybe it’s just me, but when asked if he’s going to make those phone calls, the president in question doesn’t say, “I think I’ll pass.”

— Speaking of passing, maybe it’s just me, but I think if I were an NBC-TV executive, I would’ve passed on the “opportunity” to hire Megyn Kelly away from Fox News and give her a morning chat show where she could not only demonstrate her outstanding inability to be chatty, but also remind NBC viewers what coffee-talk racism sounds like. Knowing that she smilingly told any kids watching her on Fox that Santa Claus was, without question, undeniably and proudly white, how could NBC execs be surprised to learn that she felt there was no problem with white kids going out on Halloween in black face? She said they did it all the time when she was a kid. Maybe in her neighborhood; not in mine. Maybe it’s just me, but I think people who do that at Fox aren’t faking it and the NBC folks were just hoping she wouldn’t revert to form.

— Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think any of the above is normal or acceptable.

— And finally, after a half century of informing the people to the best of my ability, I don’t like a pathological liar who praises a congressman for body-slamming a reporter calling me the enemy of the people. No maybe about it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com