Posts Tagged ‘Covid-19’

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