Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19’

All the GOP’s “dumb” governors

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

South Dakota's Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

  “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”

  With that absurd, ungrammatical and easily refuted statement to the press, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week boldly entered the competition for “dumbest” Republican governor in America. It’s turning into quite a contest in a steadily growing field. And, while I may be mocking this collection of nitwits, let me be clear in stating that this is no laughing matter.

    Let’s start with Ricketts. He is vigorously fighting an effort to legalize medical marijuana in his state. That’s right, they’re not even talking about recreational marijuana in Nebraska, just catching up with the 39 states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. 

     But killing kids? The Drug Enforcement Agency says “no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.” Ever. As for its classification as a Schedule 1 Drug by the DEA — meaning it supposedly has no medicinal value — that was a product of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress as part of Richard Nixon’s racist campaign to demonize and nullify black voters. Fifty years later, and in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary, Republicans are still trying.

        There’s no real race issue in white bread Nebraska, so this is likely just one more Republican politician playing to the lowest common denominator — the proudly uninformed who make up much of the party’s base. The Trump voters. The governor also threw in the false claim that marijuana serves as a gateway drug for teenagers to other drugs. The Centers for Disease Control says there is no evidence of this. In truth, alcohol has long been the gateway drug for young people. Yes, there are risks, especially for young people, in using marijuana, but Ricketts could have stressed common sense approaches to its use rather than making up scare stories. Unfortunately, Nebraskans suffering pain from a variety of illnesses would be deprived of the relief medical cannabis can provide if he has his way.

         At least Nebraskans still have a chance to escape the consequences of having a “dumb” governor. Others, Texans, for example, have already paid a steep price. On March 2, with most of the nation, including Texas, in the early stage of receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. When the mayor of Austin, the state capital, said the masks would stay on in his city, Abbott went to court to challenge this affront to his authority to put Texans at risk.

          This mandate came on the heels of the deadly deep freeze in the Lone Star State. When the state’s independent power grid failed during a winter storm in February, with Texans literally freezing to death, Abbott went on Fox News to say, “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for America.” Abbott said solar and wind power got “shut down,” while noting that those sources account for only 10 percent of the state’s energy.

          The truth: natural gas lines, which provide the largest percent of Texas’s power, froze up as well because anti-regulation Texas didn’t require companies to winterize. So, yes, almost all power sources froze up. A few windmills did keep producing. Also the truth: Texas refuses to join national power grids for protection against blackouts because Republican officials don’t want federal oversight. Neither do power companies who support them financially.

          Of course “dumb” governors are not new in Texas. In the midst of the blackout, with Texans looking for food and shelter and just trying to stay alive, former governor Rick Perry said Texans would rather deal with blackouts than have the federal government regulate their power grid. Perry, of course, was Energy Secretary in the Trump Administration.

           To top it all off, when the Texas lieutenant governor tried to roll back $16 billion in exorbitant power bills sent to residents, Abbott disagreed. Said he didn’t have the authority. But he can order people not to wear masks. As of March 17, Texas was still averaging 173 Covid deaths a day.

          Abbott has had serious competition on ignoring health experts in responding to the virus from other Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who answered the question of whether anyone could be more obnoxious than Rick Perry with a resounding yes. In fact, anti-mask, open-up DeSantis, with an eye on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made his anti-science, anti-press approach the hallmark of his public utterances, again echoing the success of Trump with a core group of Republican voters.

          The same can be said of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has taken her campaign on the road and likes to come across as a wise-cracking cowgirl (where are you, Sarah Palin?) and has said from the beginning that South Dakotans don’t need any masks or social distancing and was disappointed when she couldn’t have a big fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. All this as Europe is seeing a resurgence of the virus.

         There are more candidates, but you get the idea. The real question, of course, is whether these politicians are truly dumb, or just playing a cynical role that makes them sound dumb to a majority of Americans, but enhances their reputation with the core group of Republicans who vote for them, often against their own self-interest. The willfully dumb.

          Given the prevalence of this in-your-face obnoxious ignorance, real or feigned, among Republican members of Congress (too many to name here), I have to think this is just further evidence of the disintegration of the Republican Party as a serious, principled participant in the governing of this nation. And that is a serious loss.

         Today, for GOP governors and other elected Republican officials, no platform is necessary. Atttack science. Deny history. Ridicule education. Blame “others.” Demonize the press. If people suffer, if they die, well those are the breaks. Make it all up as you go along. It will get you elected. Hey, it worked for Trump, didn’t it?

         Yes. Once. And if it happens again, we’ll have only our dumb selves to blame.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

       

At parties, even in the age of Covid 19, “No thank you“ is a complete sentence

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
4435B31C-C139-4733-A848-5B49FD50C6EE  I’ve written a column on addiction and recovery for more than a dozen years. A staple of the column has been a sort of “word to the wise“ on how to survive the holidays for those in recovery. It also serves as a guide to party hosts who may not be in recovery.
This year, things are more complicated. For starters, the parties have to be much smaller and confined to people you have good reason to believe are Covid free. Large parties, especially with strangers, are out. Hopefully the vaccines work and we can return to bigger gatherings next year. But even at small gatherings, the risks to those in recovery are real. So listen up.

This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

“No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.

By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.

If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.

If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.

And for those in recovery, remember to bring a phone with plenty of numbers and have a way to leave the party if you become too uncomfortable. There will be other parties, but there may not be another recovery.

Be smart and enjoy. Have a mask handy or, if need be, make a virtual appearance this year. Happy holidays.

rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob Gaydos is writer in residence at zestoforange.com.

Wear a Mask; Don’t be Like Rudy

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos

   Rudy’s got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

Rudy Giuliani has no use for masks. Rudy got Covid.

  “Hallelujah!” Scream millions on Facebook and Twitter. Also, “Karma;” “Serves him right;” “He probably spread it over half the country;” “Stupid spreader;” and, “I don’t wish anybody dead, but …”

      How far the mighty have fallen. How sad the daily sight of the onetime “America’s Mayor” making a fool of himself in court and anywhere he can arrange an audience in public in order to symbolically and delusionally prostrate himself at the feet of a man who doesn’t care about him and who will never pay his legal fees.

      And all without a mask. Everywhere. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, the White House. Rudy’s got it. Jenna Ellis, one of his equally delusional “co-counsels,” has it as well. Where’d they get it? Who knows? Who’d they give it to? No idea. No contact tracing as well as no social distancing.

      And no masks.

      What is it with Americans — especially a lot of Republicans — who won’t wear a mask? It’s the easiest and best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, along with proper social distancing. If everybody does it, fewer people get it, fewer people die, the sooner we can go back to work and we don’t have to wear masks. That’s not even new math. It’s just common sense and decency.

     We’re approaching 300,000 dead from Covid-19 in this country, a great many of those deaths the result of a total lack of planning and caring by the Trump administration. Criminal negligence writ large. Trump doesn’t care anymore. He’s focused on raising as much money as he can with his phony “the election was rigged” campaign. The one Rudy was in charge of until he got Covid. Inconvenient.

      Also embarrassing: The world found out about Rudy and Covid in a tweet from Trump. It’s a surprise the news didn’t get lost in that Twitter chaos.

      It’s hard to know what happened to Rudy. He took his 9/11 fame and prominence, conducted a half-hearted campaign for president a while back, then apparently decided to be a lackey and legal errand boy for Donald Trump, a job with great visibility and occasional perks, until you cross him. Spread the conspiracy theories. Make up new ones every day. Ukraine today, Philadelphia tomorrow.

       And whatever you do, don’t wear a mask. Not because there is no Covid. We know there’s a virus — Trump even got it — but because we can’t let all those people coming to our rallies know that it’s real. We can’t let them know that we ignored it and let tens of thousands of people die. We don’t wear masks whatever Fauci says. We were robbed! Help us fight it! Give us money! Don’t wear a mask! Only liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists and coastal elites wear masks! Real Americans don’t wear masks!

        Tell them, Rudy.

        So Rudy’s got Covid. I don’t wish him dead, but a little suffering might be good for him.

        Once upon a time I might’ve started this column by writing, “Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for President Donald Trump, has contracted the COVID-19 virus. The former New York City mayor apparently was exposed to the virus in the midst of his last-minute campaign to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden.”

          But I spent four decades writing for tabloid newspapers and when a once-prominent political figure makes a fool of himself on a daily basis, that boils down to, “Rudy got Covid.” In bold type. He’s got the notoriety, but no longer the respect. He didn’t wear a mask.

         Now, I am not a Covid guerilla. In fact, I have even been chastised for occasionally being a little too casual in my own mask-wearing and social distancing. But I am of an age and I don’t like being considered expendable to the rest of the herd. So I learned. I try always to wear my mask properly (over the nose) and insist on social distancing. I even wear gloves. Also, my hands have never been cleaner. I also take vitamin D supplements and have type O blood, both of which have been reported as good things to have to avoid Covid-19. But if I’ve got it without symptoms, I don’t want to pass it on to you and, in return, I don’t want you to pass it on to me. It’s pretty simple. Science and respect. Don’t be stupid. Don’t be like Rudy.

       Wear a mask.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

On Science … Some Fake, Some Real

Sunday, November 22nd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

The Arecibo Observatory in Puertu Rico is being decommissioned.

The Arecibo Observatory in Puertu Rico is being decommissioned.

        While states were counting and recounting votes to keep proving that Joe Biden convincingly won the 2020 presidential election, there were three significant scientific events the past week. This is a brief look at all three. It is offered as a kind of public service, since, if there’s one thing the last four years have demonstrated, it’s that many Americans have a tenuous, at best, relationship with science.

  1. Atlas shrugged. Dr. Scott Atlas, the quack White House coronavirus adviser, told Fox News viewers to ignore the advice of public health experts who warned Americans to avoid indoor family gatherings this Thanksgiving because the virus was spiking again in America. Atlas is a professor of neuroradiology with no background in public health. Not only did he tell American families to gather together for the holidays, he said it was for the good of their elderly relatives, those most susceptible to being seriously impacted by the virus. He said: “This kind of isolation advice is one of the unspoken tragedies of the elderly who are now being told don’t see your family at Thanksgiving. For many people, this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not. What are we doing here?” In other words, hey, they’re probably gonna die soon anyway, let them eat turkey on the way out. Never mind that gramps might be planning on a few more Thanksgivings. Callous doesn’t even cover this attitude. Atlas also says masks don’t protect against the virus and is a fan of so-called “herd immunity” — let the youngest and strongest prevail. The doc’s Stanford colleagues disagreed with his prescription, as did many members of the White House task force and pretty much every public health expert, all of whom were shocked at his casual disregard for older Americans. Of course, this anti-science attitude is what got him named to the Trump task force in the first place. Only the best.
  2. The CDC spoke up. Basically, it said do the opposite of what Atlas said. This is significant because, for much of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control, which should have been leading the effort to control the spread of the virus, has been muzzled by the Trump Administration. Here’s what the agency said: “As cases continue to increase rapidly across the United States, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Travel may increase your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.” This is not necessarily what you want to hear, but it’s short and to-the-point science with Covid-related deaths approaching 250,000 in this country. 
  3. Arecibo went silent. Oh no, what will Jodie Foster do? The famed radio observatory in Puerto Rico, which was featured in the movie, Contact, has suffered damage to two major cables that suspend the platform over the dish. Engineers for the National Science Foundation say it is not reparable because of the danger to the people who work there. Scientist said they should be able to preserve the visitors center and a couple of other scientific programs at the site, but the telescope, which has produced many scientific discoveries over nearly six decades, will be decommissioned. This is a major loss not only to NASA, but to the promotion and appreciation of science in general. That’s because Arecibo, which was vital to research in radio astronomy, atmospheric science, and radar astronomy, also was involved in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) programs. This is one area of science in which Americans actually demonstrates an interest, even if it is often based on science fiction. Its role in the search for ET gained Arecibo prominence and popularity with the general public through movies and TV shows. The observatory was featured in the James Bond thriller, GoldenEye, the sci-fi horror flick, Species, and the afore-mentioned Contact. The popular film was based on Carl Sagan’s wonderful novel of the same name. The observatory was also featured on TV in the X-Files episode “Little Green Men.” In the movie, Contact, Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, gives up a teaching position at Harvard University to take a seat at Arecibo’s radio telescope. Why? From the movie: Her supervisor says, “Dr. Arroway will be spending her precious telescope time listening for … uh … listening for …”  Ellie Arroway replies: “Little green men.” Precisely. We get it. They’re out there. Basically, Arecibo is a movie star and we miss movie stars when they leave us. The difference here is that this star shone even brighter in real life. Maybe we can scrap Trump’s Space Farce for a new set of space ears.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

America Has a Narrow Escape

Friday, November 13th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, irrupt it across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

Celebrations, like this one in Philadelphia, erupted across the country at the news of Joe Biden’s victory.

We got off lucky. Four more years of Trump might have killed the Great American Experiment.

     It has taken me a few days to sort through the feelings I’ve had since Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. There was relief, of course. But more. When I read that Biden had finally been projected as the winner, four days after the election, it felt as if a huge weight I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted off my shoulders. That’s apparently how worried I was about the future of this country.

     I do not state this lightly: No president in my lifetime, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to damage the basic foundations of this nation than Donald Trump. For point of reference, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president when I was born.

     Trump has not done it alone, of course. He has had the willing, cowering support of most of the Republican Party, top to bottom, in his assault on decency, democracy.and the rule of law. He has had the fawning, self-serving support of white Evangelical grifters, who convinced their followers to pray for Trump and donate to their always needy churches, to forget the hypocrisy and immorality of it all. He has had the angry, armed support of rejuvenated, suddenly hopeful, groups of white supremacists. The KKK credo (“America First”) and Nazi flags had a rebirth, thanks to Trump. And he had the unwavering support of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans who I’m sure would deny vigorously that they had any racist, bigoted, misogynistic bones in their body or that they were too lazy or too embarrassed to find out if those conspiracy theories, like much of what Trump said, were lies that fed their pre-conditioned biases.

       Harsh? I think not. Just look around. It’s still going on. But the thing is, this time the rest of America isn’t buying it. The rest of America voted overwhelmingly for a return to sanity, competence, compassion, truthfulness, and respect for the law in the Oval Office. And state election officials have performed their duties in a professional manner, making Trump’s claims of fraud sound ridiculous and desperate. To be sure, many of his followers still claim “it’s not over,” but thousands of Americans danced in the streets when Trump lost, because they knew they were free of the menace of the man who broke bread with dictators, insulted allies and called American veterans “losers.”

         We got off lucky. Yes, we endured four years of arrogance and paralyzing incompetence in the White House, culminating with Trump’s criminally negligent response to the Covid-19 virus, but we also learned some valuable lessons:

         — Racism is not only alive, but widespread in America. It came out of hiding in full force with the permission and encouragement of Trump. Its presence was announced daily on social media, in police actions and in people’s routine daily activities. The videos are there as evidence. Racism is a tear in the fabric of our society that Trump has widened. To continue to blindly support him is to endorse racism. Period. There is no “nice” way to ignore this. But now we at least know that there is much work to be done. Kamala Harris as vice president is an excellent start.

         — The Republican Party has abandoned any pretense at bipartisan governing. In handing control of the party to government-hating Tea Party members and power-at-any-price opportunists, Republicans have become worse than the Know-Nothings of the 1850s. In their blind obeisance to Trump, they have demonstrated that, not only do they not know, they don’t care. America now knows this. Democrats now know this. Disaffected Republicans now know this. A two-party system should be about cooperative governing, not constant pursuit of absolute power. Can the Republican Party be reclaimed by those who know and care?

           — The Electoral College is obsolete. Whoever gets the most votes should win. Trump played on the fears and resentments of a largely ill-informed minority. He gave them a feeling of power. He lied to them, used them to, mostly, feather his branded nest. The country paid the price.

           — A lot of Americans don’t know a lot about a lot of things. I’ve tried to say that as delicately as possible. Willful ignorance has been a hallmark of the Tea Party from the outset. (Where is Sarah Palin, today?) Somehow, being educated, knowing about history, science, literature, economics, the law, health, the arts, philosophy, math, geography … is seen as a bad thing. Higher education is something to be ridiculed, not admired. (Except of course for wealthy conservatives.) The level of gullibility for much of the nation has been raised over the years by daily radio feedings of bigotry and bull from the likes of conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh. But Fox News on TV has been the primary purveyor of the “fake news” Trump likes to talk about. An entertainment enterprise masquerading as a news outlet, it has fed on people’s fears and justified their feelings of resentment, all in order to make lots of money for Rupert Murdoch. It has been particularly damaging to the concept of a free press. It has lied shamelessly, with no significant repercussions, and today millions of Americans have no clue about how to verify if something is true or not. If a statement reinforces their bias, that’s good enough for them. However, closed minds are unable to compromise and we need to be able to do this to live together. The challenge to remedy this demonizing of learning falls primarily to our educators. I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, maybe Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas. Also, getting rid of Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

          We got off lucky, America. It could have been far worse, as Germans well know. Authoritarianism and blind allegiance to a power-driven, truth-hating leader lead to fascism. But Trump’s incompetence ultimately undid him, as it has always done before. Whatever happens to him and his many enablers, there is much healing to do for America and there will be resistance. But now at least we know what we didn’t know about ourselves and our 244-year-old system of government, though it bent, eventually held up. With some adjustments, beginning with the Biden Administration, hopefully we won’t have to rely on luck to survive in the future.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Generosity and a Turbulent Awakening

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

BOB GAYDOS

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

If they fit ...

If they fit … 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ernie Miller

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

Jim Bridges

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Why Vote for Biden? Simple: Trump

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

Biden and Trump

Biden and Trump

Strange world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

        

Country Life (and more) Midst COVID-19

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

Bob Gaydos

THE REPORT … emus, swans, secrecy and third parties

A couple of new neighbors. RJ photography

A couple of new neighbors.
RJ photography

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

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

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

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

       Hint: It’s in Orange County.

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

BOB GAYDOS

Thursday, April 16th, 2020
The new normal.

The new normal.

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

April 16, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Politics in the Age of Pestilence

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

By BOB GAYDOS

 Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, on the same team.

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

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

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

     — Joe Biden, competency, decency, dignity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com