Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Breslin and Berry, Two Originals: RIP

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin ... originals

Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin … originals

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

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

    Shaquille O’Neal

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The dumb, venal, rotten GOP game plan

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dumb.

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

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

Whew! I feel better.

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Beyond the Bluster, GOP Sacks America

Friday, February 24th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Ryan, Trump, McConnell ... the unholy alliance

Ryan, Trump, McConnell … the unholy alliance

One of the major problems in living with a narcissist is that everything is about him. He dominates the conversation, the day-to-day business, in sum, everything. It’s easy to forget that there are other things going on in the world other than those revolving around him. He demands constant attention. He seeks constant attention. And if those around him are not aware of what is going on, he gets constant attention, whether he deserves it or not.

When that narcissist occupies the most powerful position in the world, it sometimes seems as if there’s nothing else worth paying attention to or worth writing about other than whatever mean-spirited, idiotic statement or executive order emanates from him. Every headline, every news report, virtually every social media posting involves him. It is a nation taken hostage.

I have shaken my head in bewilderment every morning as I awaken since Nov. 9 and desperately look for something to write about that does not involve him. Let those whose jobs require them to write about him do their jobs and do it well and honestly and courageously. I’m still hung up on what the others in his party of convenience are doing to this country while everyone else is busy watching his Twitter feed.

The Republican Party once upon a time had a conscience, a sense of duty and had enough members with the guts to stand up and call a liar a liar, a bully a bully, a fraud a fraud, a bigot of bigot, and a crook a crook. Even when that crook insisted he wasn’t one.

No more. Their leaders have sold out to Wall Street, to big corporations, to right-wing fanatics, to white supremacists, to hypocritical evangelicals. To the people who donated millions to fund their election campaigns. And so, while the narcissist in the Oval Office has rained havoc around the world, diverting everyone’s attention, Republicans in Congress have been taking a hatchet to every conceivable program or regulation in place to protect or serve the American public.

They helped coal miners by saying it is now okay for coal companies to dump their waste into the rivers and streams where their employees live. They say we don’t need a law designed to keep mentally incompetent people from getting gun licenses. They say endangered species don’t need protection from man. They say funding for PBS and the arts is unnecessary. They also say funding for Planned Parenthood is unnecessary. And one of their leaders, Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, he of the constant smirk, now says he will somehow manage to find $20 billion to pay for a wall between Mexico and the United States. That’s the wall, you will recall, the narcissist said Mexico would pay for. Mexico said no way. That wall will never be built.

Also, and maybe you hadn’t noticed, but congressional Republicans also say there’s no reason for the narcissist-in-chief to show the rest of us taxpayers his tax returns. And that plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — which apparently many Republican voters don’t realize is also known as the Affordable Care Act? It still doesn’t exist, after eight-plus years. Former GOP House speaker John Boehner said the other day, ‘’It’s not going to happen.’’ He ought to know.

And finally, the piece de resistance, that $1 trillion, job-creating, infrastructure plan that the narcissist was going to design with his Republican colleagues in Congress? Haven’t heard a word. Folks, they’re making it up as they go along, stepping on people with little power and running away from questions by citizens who dare to show up at Town Hall meetings.

If you watch the movie, ‘’You’ve Been Trumped,’’ you’ll realize this is all just the same plot over and over again. In place of the Scottish government that rolled over to the narcissist and let him wreak havoc on the Scottish coastal environment, bully people, ignore laws and build an ostentatious golf course, we have congressional Republicans, smiling and nodding and saying in private to other nations, ‘’Don’t pay attention to what he says.’’

Don’t worry, Europe, we’re still on your side. That Russian thing? Overblown. Fake news. You know how reporters are. Besides, we’ve got Mike Pence warming up in the bullpen. When, not if.

I digress. A recent posting on social media suggested that perhaps our narcissist-in-chief would benefit from a dose of LSD. At first glance, I thought this was somewhat bizarre since the aforesaid seems to already have a bizarre sense of reality. But what the heck, I read the article since there’s nothing else on social media. The idea is that LSD strips the ego, lays it bare. Hello? This is me. Now. The article further said that the psychedelic drug was now being used again in legitimate research as a possible treatment for various illnesses. I’m reporting this mostly because I came upon the article just after finishing reading Tom Wolfe’s ‘’The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.’’ Yeah, I was late to the party, but synchronicity, you know?

I have my doubts that any drug could shrink that narcissist’s ego, much less induce a sense of reality that inspired love for all people. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey were searching in different ways for something universal deep within the human spirit through the use of psychedelics. As far as we know, they didn’t find it. Then the government made it illegal.

But hey, if they’re really doing research with LSD again, I’d just as soon they use Mitch McConnell as a guinea pig. Wouldn’t he be a blast on the bus?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

This Clown is Armed and Dangerous

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... clown-in-chief

Donald Trump … clown-in-chief

“Was the clown armed?

The simple question, which raised a host of other questions, rang as pure and clear as a bell in the otherwise silent newsroom.

It may be the most work-stopping question I’ve ever heard in a half-century of over-hearing reporters’ telephone interviews in newsrooms. And it was asked as matter-of-factly as if the reporter had said, “How do you spell that?”

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Indeed she did.

Clowns, reports of clowns, real clowns, imaginary clowns, old clowns, young clowns, scary clowns, armed clowns had been terrorizing upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and who-knows-where-else for days, the outbreak being spread via social media, which at once made it seem larger and scarier than it actually was. Not that it was a laughing matter.

That’s why the reporter was asking the police whether a clown reportedly seen in a local school was armed. It wasn’t. No one’s even sure there was a clown. Which is good. But some people are frightened of clowns and some clown is likely to dress up as a clown and carry a fake gun and wind up being shot buy a real cop with a real gun. That’s scary.

So what does this have to do with politics?

Everything. In my opinion, the eruption of scary clowns across America this fall is the inevitable culmination of a horrifying presidential campaign that began with the Republican Party’s infamous clown car of candidates and has devolved into a daily episode of a self-aggrandizing TV showman with bright, orange hair saying scary stuff about what he will do if he is elected president of the United States.

This is not the silent Clarabell on Howdy Doody. This is Donald Trump, in person and on tape everywhere he goes, telling us just how frighteningly ill-suited and unprepared he is for the presidency and, more importantly, how hypocritical, cowardly, and self-serving are the people largely responsible for him being the Republican Party’s candidate for president. That would be all — and I mean all — the elected Republican officials in America who, over the past several decades, have courted, coddled, tolerated, and ultimately ignored a constituency consisting of mostly white persons, angry at what they perceive as being shoved aside and forgotten while persons of other colors, creeds, religions, nationalities, sexual preferences, politics — you name it — got ahead of them in line.

Their fears were realized when the nation elected its first black president. Apparently, the only way Republicans in Congress could think of to serve their constituency was to reject every proposal Barack Obama put forth. For eight years. Yet he is a man of such intelligence and grace that he managed to improve the lot of virtually every American in some way in his two terms in office, notably rescuing the nation from the economic morass in which his predecessor left it.

The response of elected Republican officials — from Congress to state houses to local city halls — to Obama’s success was to deny it. To lie about it. To shut down the government. To say global warming is a myth. To deny and to lie, but never to once offer any proposal to better the lives of their constituents, which, of course, would have required working with their black president.

And so when all those would-be presidents showed up months ago on the same stage with Donald Trump, the TV guy with his name on everything, they had nothing to show for the last eight years except to say they would be different than Obama. And maybe hint that they weren’t so fond of gays. Or abortion.

Trump didn’t hint. He knew who was living in the Republican basement all these years. They watched his TV shows. They could eat tacos and hate Mexicans. Muslims? An easy target. And blacks, of course. Demonize and victimize them at the same time. But why stop there? People with physical disabilities were to be mocked for their ability to abuse the system. Women? In the kitchen, in the bedroom, slim and silent. Just tell them you’ll be great for women. You love women. All women. Every man’s woman. Your daughter even.

They bought it. In truth, the GOP offered nothing else to buy except stale bread and promises that couldn’t be kept. So the angry constituency voted for Trump and he got more votes than the rest of the clowns in the car. And he kept saying more outrageous and actually stupid things and those elected Republican officials all said, “Well, that’s just Donald. It’s a show. He’ll change when he’s actually running for president.”

Well, Donald being Donald, he actually got worse, emboldened by his success and support from the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, anti-Semitic groups, crowds of angry white men and silent Republican officials.

His lies and offensive remarks were dismissed by Republican officials as they criticized him, but continued to support him as their party’s nominee. His utter lack of experience and knowledge of what it takes to be president was also ignored. He’ll put smart people around him, the elected officials said of the man who lives in bankruptcy court and lost a billion dollars in one year on a casino (which is rigged to make a profit), then bragged about not paying taxes because he’s so “smart.”

A billionaire not paying taxes! That’s “smart” to Republicans because after all, we can finance the government on …  well, on the backs of all those middle-class Republican voters in the basement, not that we’ll tell them that. If they ever figure it out, we’re in trouble.

And so it went, until a few days ago when a TV show released a tape of Trump being Trump, talking in lewd terms about making unwanted sexual advances on women he finds attractive. The kind that a prosecutor would define as assault. Suddenly, dozens of elected Republican officials — virtually all male and white, of course — had had enough. How dare he talk that way about women!? Why, we have wives, daughters, mothers, sisters! Yes, and they all gave their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers a piece of their mind about that clown running for president as a Republican (which he really isn’t).

Suddenly, the officials were called upon to do something they hadn’t had to do for some time as Republicans — make an individual moral judgment. (C’mon, McCain, say something!) If they had responded to the wishes of the Trump base of support, they would have just tsk-tsked him again. Almost as if he didn’t say what they just heard him say. His supporters, as usual, excused him because they still blame Mexicans, blacks and Muslims for their problems. And the Trump women? I haven’t figured that out.

Nonetheless, if sex is the tipping point for Republicans — not surprising, actually —  then perhaps it will remind elected officials that they have a sworn duty to all the people they serve, to the greater good, and not just to to the bigots in the basement because they happened to vote for them.

In fact, If Republicans want some historic perspective on this matter, Edmund Burke, often referred to as the “Father of Conservatism,” gave a famous speech in 1774 in the British House of Commons, in which he acknowledged the duty of an elected representative to his constituents: “It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own. But his unbased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. … Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Paste that on the Big Orange Elephant in the middle of the room.

The betrayal Burke spoke of arises out of self-serving fear. “If I don’t deny global warming, the thinking goes, they won’t vote for me. If I support gay marriage, they won’t vote for me. If I respect all religions, they won’t vote for me. If I welcome immigrants, they won’t vote for me. If I reject Trump, they won’t vote for me. But I think global warming is a real threat. I think gays deserve the same rights as straights. I respect the First Amendment on religion. I believe immigrants built America. And I think Trump is a narcissistic, scary clown. What do I do?”

Donald the Groper just did them a favor.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

In America, the Rich are Never Wrong

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... I was great, but my mic was lousy

Donald Trump … I was great, but my mic was lousy

Here’s a delayed look at the week that was. (I couldn’t let that televised national embarrassment Monday night go by without somehow acknowledging it. Besides, it ties in neatly with the rest of the menu.)

Monday night, 86 million people turned on their TVs to watch a rich, white man who inherited a fortune bragging about rooting for the collapse of the home mortgage market in 2008 and how “smart” he is to avoid paying taxes. The man also happens to be running for president of the United States as the Republican Party nominee.

During the debate, the nominee also body-shamed a former beauty queen and displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about such things as economics and world affairs. He did sniffle and interrupt his female opponent a lot.

This was white privilege on display in all its arrogance. Donald Trump has got his – well, his daddy gave him a lot to start with – and now he wants to get more of ours. When the debate was over, Trump said if people thought he did lousy it was because somebody turned his microphone sound down too low. Because, in Donald Trump’s world, the rich are never wrong.

Speaking of the rich never being wrong, last week also marked the fifth anniversary of the Occupy Movement in America. It arose seemingly out of nowhere with thousands of Americans of all ages, colors, genders, creeds, etc., setting up camp or just sitting down — and staying — in large numbers in places where people don’t usually set up camp or squat, if you will, for more than a couple of hours at most. Bank doorways. Parks. The middle of Wall Street.

Five years later, the Occupy Movement is, at least physically speaking, a mere memory, a blip in the history of protest movements in the United States. To some, it is a might-have-been movement that missed its moment. To others, it was merely a forbearer of things to come. It was often criticized (by me included) as having no central theme. What was its point?

Today, it’s clear what the point was and remains: America is divided into two groups of people — the haves (like Trump) and the rest.

The haves are the one percent — the individuals and corporations — who control enormous amounts of wealth and want more. The rest, the 99 percent, is us, trying to figure out how things got so out of whack. Wall Street was and still is the symbol of this unfair, obscene distribution of wealth, hence the occupation of the financial district. But as the remaining Occupiers marked their fifth anniversary, it was obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the presidential campaign for the past year that the movement’s message did not disappear in the fog of tear gas, Mace and flash-bang grenades that dispersed many Occupiers in cities across America.

Sen. Bernie Sanders made income disparity the central part of his vigorous campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. It resonated so strongly that, even in defeating Sanders, Hillary Clinton (who is also very wealthy, but not Trump-like) agreed to include it in the party’s platform as she accepted the nomination. Her challenge as president will be to live up to her words and stand up to Wall Street.

If anyone doubted that this is necessary and that the culture of greed still prevails among the one percent, two recent hearings in Congress, of all places, should have put that to rest.

One involved a bank, Wells Fargo, whose employees, under pressure to meet aggressive demands to increase profits, created 2 million phony accounts in customers’ names to collect $2.4 million in unauthorized fees on them.

The other hearing involved a pharmaceutical company, Mylan Inc., which holds 90 percent of the market share on EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector, which reverses deadly allergic reactions. Since 2007, the company has raised the price 15 times. EpiPens went from roughly $50 each for a pack of two to $608. Millions of children rely on EpiPens’ life-saving qualities. Many parents are having trouble affording them.

Banks and pharmaceutical companies have been among the chief miscreants in the “get it any way you can” philosophy that dominates corporate America and Wall Street. Even when corporations are found guilty of egregious, illegal, unethical behavior, the persons responsible for creating the atmosphere of unyielding greed seem to never face any repercussions. The rich are never wrong.

Thousands of Wells Fargo employees were fired, either for setting up the phony accounts or for refusing to set up the accounts.The company was fined $185 million by federal authorities and agreed to pay restitution to its customers, but that won’t break the bank. CEO John Stumpf apologized to Congress, sort of, while ignoring many strong suggestions that he resign and that he should be arrested. But this time, the company’s directors went against common practice by making Stumpf give up $41 million in benefits and forgo salary while an investigation proceeds. They also made the executive responsible for running the scam retire without any severance pay. So maybe the Occupy message is starting to get through.

Meanwhile, the Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, tried to convince Congress that she was doing the world a favor with her blackmail pricing. Showing no apparent understanding of the fears faced by those who rely on her product, she told Congress her company was compassionate and had worked hard to educate the public about the dangers of allergic reactions. Bresch said the company only makes $50 in profit per pen, which is probably a low estimate, but still sounds pretty good, considering it costs only a few bucks to produce.

Bresch was paid $2.4 million in 2007 and $18,931,068 in 2015. She rounded it off to $18 million when asked at a congressional hearing, prompting one congressman to note that it must be easy to ignore $931,068 in annual salary when one reaches a certain level of pay.

And isn’t that the point? It has all been too easy for corporations to boost their bottom lines and top executives’ astronomical pay because no one at the top has been made to pay the price for the pain inflicted upon millions of Americans by illegal, unethical, money-grabbing tactics. Bankers don’t go to jail in this country. Drug company executives don’t go to jail in this country. Insurance executives don’t go to jail in this country. Wall Street brokers don’t go to jail in this country.

In this country, a billionaire who doesn’t pay his employees, stiffs his creditors, brags about not paying taxes, routinely degrades women, espouses racist policies, sets up a phony university, gives voice to hatred and violence, promulgates a fiction that his president wasn’t born in this country, insults military heroes, is ignorant of the Constitution, and lies as naturally as he breathes gets to run for president as the candidate for what is now a sorry excuse for a major political party.

And apparently, to a sizable portion of the 99 percent, this is OK, because he’s rich. And not black. Or a woman. Which may explain why Trump and the rest of his ilk continue to act as if the rich are never wrong.

… and so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

In a Fog of Fiction, Sanders Offers Truth

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Thank god for Bernie Sanders.

You can make that an uppercase God if you prefer. Or keep it lowercase. You can take that sentiment ecumenically, evangelically, spiritually, atheistically, or any manner of religiously. But know this, wherever you place your faith, you must take that sentiment seriously.

Bernie Sanders is the saving grace in what has to be the most embarrassing, humiliating, disheartening and frightening presidential campaign, possibly in our nation’s history.

Quite simply, Sanders is the only candidate in either party who is genuine. When he speaks, I believe him. Millions believe him, because he has no hidden agenda, he is beholden to no one, he has a long history of caring and working for people to whom life has not been kind and for challenging those who have always wanted more than their fair share. A mensch.

In comparison, the Republican campaign has featured a collection of liars, misfits, religious zealots, bigots, charlatans, incompetents and people who cannot spell, much less demonstrate, compassion. It has culminated in Donald Trump, one of the most dangerous, embarrassing figures to emerge in American politics. He is a fascist, racist, misogynist, bully, lawyer, buffoon, and con man. A reality TV show star with no idea how government works, but plenty of experience in driving businesses into bankruptcy. He is probably a certifiable narcissist. And apparently, there is no one in his life who has the guts to say any of this to his face.

His candidacy has allowed all the ugly elements in American society, many of whom reside in the Republican Party, to feel free to voice their hate publicly, to assault and threaten those they fear or those who disagree with them, and, incredibly, to believe that their candidate has any respect for them and their needs. Trump, who makes it up as he goes along, has admitted his supporters come from the least-informed element of society. His campaign, in fact, represents the culmination of decades of cynical posturing by and catering to this element, and now appears to be the demise of, the Republican Party as a responsible political party. It is long overdue.

Not one of the Republican candidates — still standing or fallen by the wayside — can hold a candle to Sanders and not one of them deserves a vote to be president of the United States of America. They are, in toto, a disgrace.

However, the real challenge to Sanders comes not from the Republicans, but from within his own party. The Democratic establishment long ago decided that Hillary Clinton should be its candidate for president this time and has done everything within its power to try to make that happen. This includes setting up a ridiculously limited and unattainable schedule of debates and lining up hundreds of superdelegates to announce their support for her even before a primary was held. This was undoubtedly done to try to overcome Clinton’s well-known handicaps: 1) The fact that she is a lousy campaigner; 2) The reality that a lot of people don’t trust her; and 3) The Clinton history of being very cozy with the people responsible for nearly ruining the nation’s economy.

Forget that, her supporters say. She gets things done. What it is she’s gotten done is never mentioned.

Still, the fact is she leads Sanders in delegates won in the primaries so far and, even with her faults, she is still head and shoulders above any of the Republicans in the race.  This means, however much I respect and prefer Sanders as a presidential candidate, if Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee, I personally have to vote for her against any Republican. It also means I cannot write in a vote for Sanders or anyone else as a protest, because I honestly fear that taking votes away from a Democratic candidate could lead to something as disastrous as a Trump presidency or a Ted Cruz presidency or anyone-else-the-Republican-Party-settles-on presidency. I fear what will happen to this country if a Republican wins the presidency this year and I think the only way to get that message across to a party that has been in denial for decades is to thoroughly defeat it in November. Then let it figure out where to go from there.

It’s not a total sellout. Mitigating my vote for Clinton would be the fact that she actually knows how government works and, as president, she would have a working, viable, responsible political party behind her, a party still on working terms with compassion and science and equality and still dedicated to governing, not merely winning. And that party would have a Bernie Sanders and an Elizabeth Warren and plenty of others in Congress reminding a President Clinton of the promises she made during her campaign to convince all those young, disaffected voters that she could deliver what Bernie Sanders was promising.

Thankfully, though, this campaign is far from over. There are many primaries in northern and western and big states where Sanders has considerable support and could easily win enough delegates to capture the nomination. Bill Clinton did it. Barack Obama did it. Bernie Sanders can do it.

But he’s got another major challenge to overcome in addition to that from within his own party. That is the disrespect shown him by much of the major news media. Despite the tens of thousands who have attended his rallies and donated to his no-Pacs campaign, many news organizations have treated him as an afterthought and a Clinton campaign for president as a foregone conclusion.

That same media also gave Trump free rein to spew his vile hatred and nonsense for months before finally wising up to him. (And it’s not just Fox News that was guilty of this.) The media will have some soul-searching to do after this campaign as well.

So, I look forward to Sanders winning some big states (Hello, California!). And I expect Trump to continue to behave as Frank Bruni put it in the New York Times recently — like an addict who only wants more and more and more attention and will do or say anything to get it. That was my impression of Trump a while back, but Bruni beat me to it in putting it in writing. I agree wholeheartedly with him.

Indeed, I think of Trump as the guy sitting next to you in a bar who turns to you and says, “Hold my beer. Watch this.” He then proceeds to wreck the joint and bloody every person in the place. He exits with a triumphant grin, claiming it was the other guy’s fault.

Clinton, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a bar, much less drinking beer. She would be found sipping wine or martinis in an Upper East Side penthouse with some Wall Street types who are funding her campaign. They’re talking about how to get the vote of the common folk.

Sanders? He walks into a bar and says, “Hey, let me buy you a beer. Let’s sit down. What can I do for you?”

If I were a drinking man, that’s the guy I would want in the White House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s not such a grand, old party today

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump, the face of today's Republican Party?

Donald Trump, the face of today’s Republican Party?

I almost don’t know where to start with this. The disintegration of the Republican Party, from a proud political party dedicated to the advancement of its view of the American way of life into a hostile, bigoted, fearful, reactionary group beholden to wealthy forces that care only for enhancing their own way of life, has left me confused, angry, fearful and sad.

It’s not just the sorry collection of presidential candidates the party has put forth. Nor is it just the inability of a Republican-led Congress to do anything but oppose every initiative by a Democratic president and, out of pique, shut down the entire government. And it’s not just the utter disrespect the party that constantly spouts patriotism demonstrates for the Office of President at every opportunity.

What confuses and saddens me the most is the apparent willingness of rank-and-file Republicans and Republican officials at every level of government to sit quietly by as if to say that everything Trump, Carson, Cruz, Huckabee, Christie, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, Paul, et al say is OK. No problem. So it’s a lie. So it’s hateful. So it’s racist. So it’s stupid. So it’s unconstitutional. So it’s inflammatory. So it’s really not the American way. So what? We’re okay with it.

Why do I feel this way? Because I don’t hear any Republican saying otherwise. Have you heard a Republican mayor, council member, county legislator, county executive, state legislator, governor, district attorney, etc. say publicly that Donald Trump’s utterings are racist, fascist and play to people’s fears? That they could lead to violent behavior on the part of individuals who feel justified because, after all, they are only responding to the words of the leading Republican presidential candidate?

I haven’t. Not one. Republican presidential candidates only began dumping on Trump recently when he said that all Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. Some party leaders joined them in criticizing Trump. This was apparently one Trump too much for them. It’s not what America stands for, they said. Not what the Republican party stands for, they said.

True. But Trump has been saying ugly stuff like this for weeks with no one complaining. Especially no rank-and-file Republicans. Did they expect him to stop on his own?

I know they’re out there, those rank-and-files. I live in the middle of them. And I know that some of them certainly don’t agree with much of what Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Fiorina, Paul, Bush, Carson, Christie and the rest have had to say about immigrants, guns, global warming, and Planned Parenthood, not to mention threatening Social Security.

While I have never belonged to any political party, I understand and respect their function in our society. I don’t understand how longtime Republicans have let a super-conservative, ultra-religious, anti-science, anti-education, anti-government, anti-fact fringe element take control of their party without managing so much as a murmur of disagreement.

Sarah Palin was the warning flare. She was photogenic, but embarrassingly dumb. But she was the Republican candidate for vice president. Trump, Cruz and Carson are merely the culmination of years of Obama-bashing and dancing to the orders of Fox News and the brothers Koch. As the messages grew angrier and uglier, always rooted in fear and fiction, Republicans marched merrily, unquestioningly, along.

To Donald Trump. An adolescent bigot and misogynist with a huge ego, a couple of billion dollars in the bank and no allegiance whatsoever to the Republican Party. How dumb is that?

If Republicans now blow their party up in a desperate attempt to convince Americans that the American Way is the way of old, angry, closed-minded, resentful, greedy, white men who are constantly being told the government is their enemy, Rupert Murdoch will lose no sleep. His Fox News puppets will find another flock to boost their ratings and sell their books. The Koch brothers will find others to carry their water, selling their principles for generous campaign contributions. And Trump will go on being Trump, a reality TV star divorced from reality.

A two-party political system depends on at least a minimal effort by both parties to work together for the common good. If one party is, instead, intent on opposing everything the other proposes and does so in an increasingly hostile, intractable manner, there is no governing. It’s merely making lots of noise, fueling fear and anger among voters in the hopes of gaining power. It is a cynical, dangerous philosophy that can infect the entire body politic if allowed to go unchecked. That’s why I am frightened of this unwillingness by Republicans to call out the fear-mongers in their midst.

The Republican Party has been festering for years under the threat of Tea Party retaliation for those who dare to disagree. Just look at the sorry example of former House Speaker John Boehner. That festering sore has erupted in the form of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie and all the rest.

Even George Pataki, former New York governor and comparatively sensible Republican presidential candidate, is not immune. Pataki has declared, correctly, that Trump is “unfit to be president.” But with his showing in the presidential polls at less than one percent, Pataki felt it necessary to declare war on ‘’radical Islam.” Send in the troops, kill them all, he Tweeted. His poll numbers didn’t budge.

He has obviously been in the wrong political party from the beginning of this campaign, but not to worry. Pretty soon there won’t be a Republican Party, at least not one to which he and all those other silent Republicans once belonged. That Big Tent they once spoke of has been folded and stuck in the garage. Sorry, women, Mexicans, gays, blacks, Muslims, college students, union members, atheists, scientists … Maybe some other time.

There’s nothing grand about this old party today.

 

Hogan

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Hogan

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Congress greedBill Hogan

When Police Act Like an Occupying Army

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Heavily armed police watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

Heavily armed police watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

A white cop shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., and police respond to the ensuing peaceful demonstration with a massive display of manpower in riot gear. They are supported by armored vehicles mounted with heavy weaponry, lots of rifles and automatic weapons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and verbal threats to shoot anyone who dares resist. They arrest anyone with a camera, including journalists.

Suddenly, Americans notice that many of their police departments resemble occupying armies more than agencies charged with protecting and preserving the peace in their communities.

Where have you been, America? This has been going on — gaining momentum, in fact — for several years. Indeed, the militarization of domestic police forces and the use of modern military equipment and tactics played a major role in quelling the Occupy movement demonstrations a couple of years ago.

The Occupiers were unarmed private citizens, who gathered across the country, protesting the power and privilege large corporations and banks were given by Congress to use and abuse the economy to their benefit at the expense of individuals. The citizen protesters were treated by police as if they were terrorists. They were tear-gassed, Maced, had rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades fired at them. They were roughed up and arrested, all by local police armed with military grade weapons and supported by armored vehicles.

The military hardware came free, courtesy of a Congress looking to do something with surplus military equipment. (The idea of maybe spending less money on military equipment in the first place apparently has not occurred to the members.) Today, dozens of police departments across the country have such military gear at their disposal. What they apparently don’t have is the proper training to use such equipment appropriately and judiciously.

That is, like a police force dealing with private citizens exercising their constitutional rights to assemble, to speak, to report on the goings on, rather than like an army moving in with intimidating force, intent on quashing resistance in any and all ways. Those weapons, remember, are not intended just to scare. They are designed to kill.

But deadly force, or the threat of it, should not be the first option for a police force dealing with unarmed citizens and peaceful demonstrations. Yes, troublemakers need to be dealt with, but again, police should be trained to do that without automatically resorting to threats and aggressive actions against everyone. When protests are handled properly by police at the outset, there is less likelihood or opportunity for troublemakers to join in. The longer confrontations last and the more aggressive police action becomes, the more likely it is that things will get worse because of outside agitation.

But it’s almost as if, in putting on the new military gear and marching alongside armored vehicles, the mindset of the police changes from preserving the peace and protecting their fellow citizens to overpowering anyone who stands in their way.

In Ferguson, the obvious racism of the local police only increased the us-versus-them mentality. But even during the Occupy sit-ins, police seemed to forget that they were — are — us, and that the protesters were speaking on their behalf, too. The mission has been clouded.

There’s talk in Congress now of, not only stopping the giveaway of military hardware to police, but taking some of it back. Good luck with that. Some agencies might be able to admit they don’t really need it, but a lot of others are not going to want to give it up. And cops vote.

The Ferguson shooting and the abysmal handling of it by local authorities has led to a movement called “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” The Occupy community has been part of the coordination. This movement has been fueled by incidents elsewhere similar to that in Ferguson. It speaks to the breakdown of trust between blacks and police, something that was already badly strained.

And not all the incidents involved weapons. An unarmed black man died on Staten Island recently, apparently the result of a chokehold applied by a police officer. The hold has been banned for years by New York police. The man was selling loose cigarettes. Michael Brown, the youth shot in Ferguson, had shoplifted a box of cigars.

There’s obviously something more going on here. Taking the military hardware away from police may be a good start on reminding them of their mission, but massive retraining and serious recruiting of minorities would seem to be even more critical.

A caveat: Not all police departments behave the same way. It would behoove community groups, politicians, concerned citizens to identify those agencies that understand their role as police, not an occupying army, and that demonstrate the proper way to fulfill it. Use them as models to teach those that don’t. They can start in Ferguson.

rjgaydos@gmail.com