Posts Tagged ‘Bob Gaydos’

Is a Rational Debate on Guns Possible?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre, NRA chief

By Bob Gaydos

Well, all it took for America to finally enter into a serious, rational discussion of gun control was for 20 kindergarten students to get gunned down in school by a troubled young man with an automatic weapon and lots of ammo. Who says we’ve become desensitized?

I mean, it is perfectly rational for the chairwoman of a legislative committee in Ulster County, N.Y., to argue against her state’s recently enacted tough gun control law by stating: “Genocide is almost always preceded by gun confiscation. History tells us that.” That’s rational isn’t it?

After all, that threat of government confiscation of guns is right out of the literature of the National Rifle Association, proud defender of all citizens’ rights, or at least those rights as the NRA interprets them in the Second Amendment. And genocide is not a loaded word meant to inspire fear in the minds of the less-informed members of the citizenry, is it?

Of course not. All the sturm und drung among self-declared fans of the Second Amendment — the marches and demonstrations and outraged letters to the editor — are, at least as the NRA sees it, justified sensible responses to proposals by President Barack Obama and countless political leaders around the country, including in New York, to rob them of their right to own as many guns as they want, of as many types, with as much ammo, and, truth be told, the right to carry them around anywhere they want, concealed or not, whenever they want.

Because you never know when the government is going to come after you. Hey, look at Ruby Ridge, right? Right. But setting aside the right or wrong of that incident for a moment, who won that particular shootout? And if the motivation for unfettered gun ownership is to protect citizens against their own government — as the NRA leadership often claims — how in the name of anything sane could a group of heavily armed citizens — of any size — prevail against the might of the American military with an even more unfettered access to weapons of every type? Forget the fact that most Americans have no real fear that their government is going to come after them armed to the teeth, most Americans also know that would be a losing battle.

That’s why they focus their energies in the gun control debate on such sensible proposals as requiring a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun. All recent polls say roughly 90 percent of Americans favor this idea. That obviously includes many gun owners, but not the NRA leaders. And if they fear the government coming after their guns, why do roughly 70 percent of Americans favor creation of a federal database of gun sales? To make the FBI’s job easier? Actually, yes. Because it is the sane thing to do.

As support for gun control measures have gained strength in the wake of the ghastly shooting in Newtown, Conn., the arguments against more restrictions have grown increasingly strident and outrageous by some elements of the NRA.

This is a typical, fearful response. After years of bullying and cowing politicians with threats of political defeat, the NRA leadership is faced with a growing consensus of citizens — if not politicians — who are fed up with people claiming they have the right to carry AK-47s around in public, with lots of well-stocked magazines, because our Founding Fathers gave them that right. In fact, polls show 55 to 60 percent of Americans favor a ban on semi-automatic and assault-type weapons and about 55 percent favor a ban on high-capacity ammo magazines of the type that has created such a furor in New York because the Legislature voted to downsize the capacity from 10 to 7 rounds. This has led some gun owners to fret about being “outgunned.” I for one, don’t want to be around for that shootout, whoever has the most bullets.

The point is that as ever larger numbers of average Americans have finally stepped forward to support sensible restrictions on gun ownership, the arguments by the most avid opponents of gun control have become less sensible. Kids being shot in school? Arm the teachers. Want a safer city? Let citizens strap on guns in public. A few proud Americans armed with AR15s will keep any shopping mall safe. Requiring background checks at gun shows will only keep criminals from trying to get guns there. And making it harder for criminals to get guns is bad, why?

There is no assault on the Second Amendment going on in this gun-crazy country. (There are about 300 million firearms privately owned in America, but most Americans don’t own guns. Most gun owners own two or more weapons.) Rather, there is a growing public consensus that the time of being fearful of the NRA and its most vocal advocates is gone, drowned in the blood of kindergarten students. Politicians who don’t get this are those fearful of losing political and financial support from the NRA and some of its members. It is time for courage on their part. The responsible, prudent course for them would be to suggest reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, not rail about the unfairness of some laws that were long overdue. Work to right good laws.

The NRA has waged a long, illogical campaign of fear and threat in the guise of protecting citizens’ rights. But in recent weeks it has shown through statements of its leader, Wayne LaPierre, that its agenda is not about protecting the Second Amendment, but rather removing any and all restrictions on gun ownership. But the U.N. is not coming for your guns, America. Genocide is not on the horizon. Grow up. Demand sensible gun laws that protect you from those who have no business owning deadly weapons.

Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Our Founding Fathers also believed in those rights. No one has ever needed an assault weapon to enjoy them in America. 





Going Ape for One Day in the N.Y. Times

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Ivan, eating a plum, last August in Atlanta.

By Bob Gaydos

The New York Times famously proclaims that its pages contain “all the news that’s fit to print.” As a sort of research project for myself, I decided to see just what stories fit into that category on Jan. 29 — Thursday. Turned out to be an interesting collection, ranging from monkeys to Boy Scouts to ballet. Check it out:

  • Did anyone ask the monkey? Iran, ever eager to prove it is more First World than Third World, announced that it had sent a monkey into space successfully. Meaning the monkey strapped in on the short space flight — pretty much just up and down — returned alive. Says Iran. This rocket- rattling is supposed to make the rest of the countries on the planet (Israel especially) worry about the terrorist-supporting nation’s ability to launch missiles at them. Not to worry yet, folks.

However, monkeys might want to be wary if the other countries don’t show enough concern about the Iranian rocket test. It might convince them to launch another. Which begs the question: What did monkeys ever do to us? They are our closest living relatives among other animals on the planet, yet we humans have routinely used them in experiments we consider potentially life-threatening. Is this moral behavior?

The United States and Russia used chimpanzees in the early stages of their space programs. But there was no shortage of daredevils hurtling about in really fast vehicles who were ready and willing to be the first, second, etc. in space. Surely in Iran, the sponsor of so many terrorists willing to give their lives for a visit with the holy virgins, there were a few patriots willing to strap in on the rocket to see if it worked.

At the very least, the Iranians could have gone farther down in the pecking order and sent, say, rats into space. What did rats ever do for us?

I guess the point is. If we truly respect life on this planet. It ought to extend to all life, or in the case of rats, pretty much all life. But monkeys are our cousins. We say love them. Then they deserve to be treated better than, well, guinea pigs.

  • Catch the name on that freight train? The Boy Scouts of America, proudly homophobic and burned by the release of hundreds of previously concealed names of Scout officials suspected or flat-out guilty of molesting Scouts, announced a potential new policy that would allow local chapters to decide who they would, or would not, allow as Scouts. This policy flies directly against the wishes of most of the organization’s senior leadership, but the rest of the members seem to feel it is time to join the rest of the rapidly diversifying citizenship of the United States.

Potential lawsuits and protests over a scheduled cable TV show complimentary to Scouting may have hastened the decision. The Scouts are supposed to talk about the switch next week. Look at it as a first step, if it happens, with more reluctant chapters eventually opening their membership to all. And that would be the moral thing to do.

  • Brutality at the Bolshoi. OK, this story, which led the Times Arts section, has all the makings of a good Hollywood whodunnit. For nearly two weeks now, police in Moscow have been investigating the acid attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director of the famed Bolshoi Ballet. A masked assailant threw a jar of acid into Filin’s face and police are interviewing their way through the huge company, looking for clues as to whether the motive was professional or, as is often the case in such attacks, personal.

As is expected with a ballet company that is older than the American Declaration of Independence, the shows, as massive and intricate as ever, have gone on without Filin’s presence. (He’s recuperating and is expected to be able to see again in about six months.) Indeed, the Bolshoi has gone on en pointe through the decline of the Russian empire and the fall of Stalin and the Communist Party, so an internal flareup isn’t likely to upset the rhythm. What is perplexing is the apparent proclivity for Russian assailants to use acid as their weapon of choice. An especially brutal and personal approach.

  • Return to Planet of the Apes. A brief article in the Science section had better news for our hairy cousins. The National Institutes of Health says it plans to retire most of the 451 chimpanzees it has been using for experiments, saving a few for experiments it says can’t be done with other animals. They will be moved to sanctuaries to wait for the rest of their families to join them. Animal rights groups applauded the move as humanitarian, if overdue.
  • The Road to Timbuktu. Until the French decided to liberate the ancient trading city from rebel forces supported by al Qaeda, few (admit it) knew the city was located in the African country of Mali. Hope and Crosby never even went there. But such is the impact of global politics these days that the United States is now looking to locate a base in northern Africa as a home for what the Pentagon says would be unarmed drones. The drones would provide much-needed reconnaissance and intelligence in arid northern Africa, a fertile breeding ground for terrorists. Helping the French help the Malians was the impetus for the U.S. effort. The Malians, with Timbuktu liberated by the French, now have to clear the rest of the northern half of their country of rebels. But at least Timbuktu is no longer just a place that nobody can find on a map.
  •  Return to Planet of the Apes II. This time, it’s gorillas. The prestigious John Newberry Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature has been awarded to ‘The One and Only Ivan,” a story told through the eyes, mind and voice of a silverback gorilla. Author Katherine Applegate decided to tell the true story of a gorilla freed from 27 years alone in a cage at a mall in Tacoma, Wash. Ivan was finally sent to live with other gorillas at a zoo in Atlanta, where he became a celebrity, making paintings and signing them. Applegate decided to tell the story as she imagined Ivan might have. She chose a spare, simple voice, but then, that was, after all, mere guesswork, gorillas being even closer to humans than monkeys. Ivan might well have been more Joyce than Hemingway. At any rate, he died last August at age 50, author of a best-selling autobiography and an acclaimed artist. And that’s nobody’s guinea pig, cousin.

OK. That’s my research report. I don’t know what the Times’ lead story was Thursday, but if the stuff I found wasn’t fit to print, then I’m a monkey’s uncle. Umm, wait a second now, I actually may be … and … never mind. RIP Ivan.





Barack Obama II: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

President Obama delivers his inaugural address.

By Bob Gaydos

OK, bring it on. That was the unvarnished, unmistakable message of President Barack Obama’s second Inaugural Address. No pussy-footing around. No avoiding the controversial. No kowtowing to political opponents who have figuratively spit in his face from Day One, whatever the issue. No reason to.

No reason to.

There can be something freeing about presidential second terms. Unburdened by the need to proceed in a manner conducive to reelection — more cautious as a rule — a second-term president can speak his mind and declare his positions with more clarity — more honesty, if you will — as he focuses on legacy rather than voter registrations.

Barack Obama wasted no time letting Americans know that, yes indeed, inside the veneer of the cautious consensus-seeker of his first term beat the heart of a true, progressive politician.

On the second day of his term (Sunday was the first official day) Obama delivered an address that spoke of gay rights, global warming and even gun control. For the record, America, your president believes in all three and, for those who do not, he made it clear he intends to tackle all three in the next four years. Indeed, the relatively brief address was remarkable for the number of challenges he hurled at tea party obstructionists and members of the Republican Party who have let the nay-sayers define their party.

The million or so people gathered on the Washington Mall to witness the event had barely started paying attention to the speech when Obama lit into the know-nothings: “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought and more powerful storms.” It’s like he was saying, “Pay attention, folks, this is no ordinary speech.”

He even went after Republicans who tried to deny Americans the right to vote in the last election with a series of crippling hurdles to the fundamental democratic act: “Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote.”

That journey was a recurring metaphor in Obama’s speech, as he conjured the spirit of the nation’s founders in bringing “we, the people,” along with him on the journey, “including “our gay brothers and sisters.” He equated the struggle for gay rights with the struggles for women’s equality and civil rights for blacks, an extraordinary statement for an American president. Indeed, a first in an inaugural address.

And he made clear that immigration reform leading to citizenship would be central in his second-term agenda and that, whatever weapons the NRA might muster to fight it, gun control would not be avoided because it is too controversial.

Not this time.

The speech at once energized Obama’s faithful and antagonized his opponents. But clearly, after four years of trying unsuccessfully to find a sane Republican voice with whom to at least try to reach some consensus, the president had obviously decided to play the victor’s card. He won the election convincingly and public opinion is behind him on virtually every issue, including gay rights and gun control, while Republicans are getting most of the blame for the obstructionism that has paralyzed Congress the past four years.

Politics as a profession often gets a bad rap. “You can’t trust any of them.” “They’re all out for themselves.” Etc.

Much of it is deserved, but without politicians we can have no government. Someone has to do the job. Sometimes it is messy. Sometimes it involves going against one’s own wishes — compromising. Sometimes — and this is tough for followers to accept — it requires patience. Things change. People change. The world changes. Timing is essential to good politics. Timing and an honest assessment of the situation as it is.

Barack Obama has not changed. He has merely waited for the right moment to let his inner, progressive self out. He inherited a recession bordering on depression and led the country (perhaps the world) out of it. He inherited two wars and has all but ended one and pushed up the timetable to end the other. (“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” he said, with those who would love to attack Iran clearly in mind.)

For good measure, he let the tea partiers know that “we cannot … treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Conservatives may not have liked the speech,, but then, they lost the election, didn’t they? And they rejected every offer of bipartisanship from their president, didn’t they? The president obviously believes he has “we, the people” on his side and intends to pursue his agenda aggressively with that mind. (And, by the way, GOP, don’t think you’re going to dismantle Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid either.)

There were no details in the speech and the goals (save for immigration reform perhaps) will not be easy to achieve. But Barack Obama is through playing Mr. Nice Guy to folks who never gave him the time of day. Is it the right approach? At the very least it would be an honest approach, one true to the president’s ideals and convictions. If the recalcitrants are offended, so be it. (“We cannot mistake absolutism for principle …”)

With little to lose and a legacy to create, Barack Obama has taken off the gloves. Four more years. Some might say it’s about time.

Malala Was the Clear Person of the Year

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Time's version of a Malala cover.

By Bob Gaydos

I finally got around to checking to see who Time magazine selected as the person of the year for 2012. Turns out the editors, who have been known to like surprise choices, went with the safe, conventional wisdom choice — the leader of the free world, Barack Obama.

To which I say, in all humility, they got it wrong. Yes, Obama had a good year, but he was already president and he beat a chameleon to get re-elected. The clear person of the year, the person who made a profound impact on the world without being the leader of the most powerful nation ever to exist, was Time’s Number 2 choice — Malala Yousafzi. The 15-year-old Pakistani girl became an instant symbol of courage and hope and, I believe, a spokesperson for women’s rights worldwide, simply by refusing to bow to threats from Taliban terrorists and taking a bullet in the head as a result.

Malala, who survived an assassination attempt on a bus in her hometown and has been recovering in a London hospital, had already been an outspoken advocate for access to education for Pakistani girls for several years as a blogger before the Taliban decided that killing her was the only way to stop her, even though they expected public outrage. Instead, their botched attempt made Malala a worldwide heroine and sparked public protests in Pakistan for the very thing the Taliban fear most — educated women.

But something else has also happened, I believe. In neighboring India, traditional enemy of Pakistan, there were also demonstrations to support Malala‘s cause. And most recently, India’s culture of acceptable rape by gangs of men against women has given rise to large protests throughout that country as well as in Pakistan, where violence against women also has not been a major issue. Until now.

There is, I sense, a worldwide stirring for women‘s rights, most notably in countries where they have traditionally been ignored. These range from the widespread outrage in India over the death of a 23-year-old rape victim to the mostly symbolic, yet significant, appointment of 30 women to the previously all-male Shura Council in Sauid Arabia. The council is only advisory to King Abdullah, who made the appointments, but the move stirred protests by some Saudi clerics anyway. Saudi women have male guardians who guide their “decisions,” are not allowed to drive and will vote for the first time next year. Expect more pressure to speed the process of equality.

Back to India, where male children are much favored and abortion of female fetuses is still common, even though against the law. The public outcry over the gang rape forced authorities to reverse initial efforts to let the rapists go and punish the protestors. This is not India’s usual way of dealing with women. I think Malala has had a lot to do with that and with social media efforts to point out similar outrages by men in positions of power.

Even in the “enlightened” United States, political candidates, elected officials and judges have been publicly exposed for views on rape that can only be described as criminally ignorant.

Malala’s unique weapon is apparently an unwavering belief that what she wants — access to education for all girls in Pakistan — is unassailably right and, so, undeniable. She can see no other way. And her age provides certainty to her and, I suspect, a degree of shame to adults who agree with her but did not dare to say so publicly at the risk of their lives. She has no armies, navies, air forces or weapons of mass destruction at her call. She has no great wealth at her disposal. World leaders do not seek her out for favors. She is a teenaged girl with an innate sense of what is right and just, for women and men, and the courage to say so out loud.

As such, she has become the voice of millions of women, and men, around the globe. The person of the year beyond doubt.



A Wishful Wish List for 2013

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

The war in Afghanistan has taken its toll in American lives.

By Bob Gaydos

Having offered a gratitude list for 2012, I thought it only right that I compile a wish list for 2013. One major difference: whereas the gratitude list was a personal statement for developments in my own life, my wish list is less personal and more political, I guess, for want of a better word.

Here it is, in no particular order save for number one:

1. End the Afghanistan War. Now. Do not wait for next year’s announced timetable for troop withdrawal, President Obama. American troops’ presence in Afghanistan no longer makes sense and, indeed, they are more routinely becoming targets for people we thought were on our side. Al Qaeda has been decimated. Osama bin Laden is dead, as are many of his chief lieutenants. The continuing cost in lives and bodies cannot be justified, especially with a nation still struggling to restore its economy’s health. Let Afghans figure out how to govern themselves. Give them assistance with this. But end the war.

2. Revive the Occupy movement nationwide. Perhaps the only encouraging sign that Americans still cherished their First Amendment rights and were willing to challenge dubious authority was the movement that started on Wall Street and spread to Oakland. Mostly young, but not exclusively, the Occupy protestors brought attention to the overwhelming power of money in political campaigns and the alarming inequities in wealth and opportunity in America. They were rewarded with tasers, billy clubs, tear gas, and Mace by police forces whose members were among the primary beneficiaries of Occupy proposals. Yet the members persisted, despite FBI targeting as a terrorist group. In my humble opinion, it is the young people of this movement who have the will, intelligence and willingness to bring about some of the changes on this list. Their adult predecessors have failed miserably and show little inclination to change. They’d rather complain or argue. In its old form, or something new, Occupy is this nation’s hope for the future.

3. Pass a comprehensive immigration law, including a pathway to citizenship and severe penalties for businesses that exploit undocumented aliens. If the Republican Party learned anything from the last election it is that Hispanics are willing to vote against their conservative tendencies when the conservative party is not only ignorant of the lives of undocumented immigrants but exceedingly hostile to helping them. Let them finally become full partners in the American Experience, with rights and responsibilities. Congress must do this.

4. Firmly establish global warming as a serious threat to the planet. The White House should launch of a full scale educational, media and political campaign to end the science-is-hokum arguments of the far right. Enough is enough. Establish and honor worldwide practices to reduce the emission of fluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Punish corporations that break the rules. Save the polar bears. Save us all. Remember those super storms the past two years? There are more on the horizon; all we need do is nothing.

5. End secret genetic modification of our foods. It’s everywhere, folks. Require corporations to label foods that have been genetically modified and instruct the Food and Drug Administration to conduct vigilant inspection and testing on any foods that have been genetically modified (such as wheat and corn) for economic reasons and in ways that are supposedly not harmful to consumers (you and me). If there is no harm in the GMOs, why do the big corporations, such as Monsanto, resist labeling their products as such? (Attention Occupy Movement: This one seems to be right up your alley.)

6. Pass meaningful, comprehensive federal gun control laws. Let the NRA debate over the dead bodies of the children in Newtown, Conn., the rest of the country is appalled and sees no need for average citizens to have automatic weapons with large magazines of bullets. Tighten laws on sales of guns. The president should not weaken on this issue. The NRA expected him to come after them this term. He should not disappoint.

7. Resurrect the spirit of bipartisan governing in Congress. This one is a pipe dream, I suspect, but it is crucial to the survival of this nation as a world power. It may take the virtual (or actual) implosion of the Republican Party out of sheer stupidity and stubbornness to accomplish, but so be it. Form a new party of reasonable, reasonably intelligent people and dunk the tea party. To make this happen, citizens will have to let current and would-be office holders know that they are truly fed up with the partisan bickering and lack of production. The past Congress has been called the worst ever. That sounds like a bottom to me.

Well, that’s it. I’ll keep track of these issues as the year progresses. Here’s hoping I’ll have some positive news to report.

The GOP Dives Over the Cliff

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

John Boehner ... the face of hapless GOP leadership

By Bob Gaydos

Wow! That was some drop off the fiscal cliff, wasn’t it? What’d we go, the equivalent of 10 feet before congressional Republicans caved and pulled the rip cord for 99-plus percent of Americans? Of course, in the process, they also slit their own wrists, showing themselves to be flaming hypocrites and tragically inept politicians. Many Americans already recognized this, witness the recent elections, but now even conservative commentators are throwing bricks, rotten tomatoes and anything else they can wrap their narrow minds around at the people who led the once Grand Old Party so far astray.

But there’s a problem even with this belated awakening. Whom do you blame? What leaders are we talking about? Even the hapless John Boehner tried to get a compromise bill through his House, to avoid the specter of going over that imaginary cliff into tax hikes and drastic budget cuts at midnight this year. He couldn’t get enough votes in the Republican-controlled House to pass the bill. This is leadership? Boehner gets a C for trying and an F in math. He also flunks Politics 101 (along with most leading Republicans) for allowing the angry, fearful, selfish politics of tea party conservatives to take over a party that once boasted of compassionate conservatism.

I defy anyone to find something compassionate in the GOP agenda today. It is a party well-known for what it opposes — even hates — not what it favors. For example, “big government.” This is stupid on the face of it because a world power like the United States could not have a “small government.’’ And even if you just mean a smaller government, Republican Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush all presided over an increase in government spending, with help from Republican Congresses.

Tax increases? None. Ever. For anyone. That’s been the GOP mantra for decades, even though Reagan and senior Bush raised them. That ironclad position led the country to the phony fiscal cliff, with President Obama pushing for an increase in taxes for the richest Americans, to help reduce the deficit, while maintaining soon-to-expire George W. Bush-era tax rates for everyone else.

Nope, the GOP had to protect its rich benefactors, with not one of them apparently recognizing that, once over the cliff, Obama would propose the same thing, with it now amounting to a tax break for everyone but the richest Americans, who would get a tax hike, according to the GOP’s own logic. How could they oppose cutting taxes for 99 percent of the country, especially with a fragile economy and having just gotten beaten up in the last election?

Only the most adamant of conservatives in the House voted against this, with Obama winning a victory that Boehner could not manage in his own party. Will Republicans raise taxes ever? Apparently yes.

What else? In direct contradiction with a majority of Americans, Republicans oppose comprehensive immigration reform with a provision for citizenship. (Where’d the Latino vote go, fellas?) They are also homophobic, and some of them unbelievably sexist. They would gut Social Security and Medicare, eliminate loan programs that make it easier for young people to go to college, think health insurance should be some kind of earned privilege (they lost this fight, too), have no use for federal involvement in education (please don’t raise your kids in Texas, Mississippi or West Virginia, folks), never saw a bill giving women a pay raise or control of their own bodies that they didn’t oppose.

They also don’t like to help people in need, voting to defeat a bill extending provisions of a disabilities act to other nations, even with once-revered GOP leader Bob Dole making a pitch for it from a wheel chair. And, of course, they voted down a bill providing aid to New Jersey and New York, devastated by Hurricane Sandy, even though GOP members in those states asked for it. Bitter and selfish come to mind.

But hang on. I just thought of a couple of things the 21st century GOP likes, even loves. Guns. Lots of guns, Any kind, in anyone’s hands. At the school house door, preferably. And rich, old white men, which is primarily what it comprises these days. And that’s now a minority.

And yes, I saved the most obvious for last. Republicans today — the old guard and all the tea partiers — hate Barack Obama. Hate that he’s president … again. They say he should sit down with them, preferably in the White House, and kiss their rings, or whatever, if he wants their votes. But they also shout at him from the floor of Congress during a presidential address and doubt his citizenship, showing no respect for the man or the office.

The president may well sit down with some of these “political leaders,” but don’t think he won’t know what he’s dealing with. He’s half-white and half-black and worked to organize communities in inner-city Chicago. There’s a kind of hatred he’s faced his whole life. Still, he is the most powerful person on the planet today, which suggests the haters are finally losing this fight.




A Gratitude List for 2012

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

The last few years I’ve practiced the habit of making a gratitude list at the end of the year. Nothing formal. Just a kind of memo to myself about the the good things in my life and even in the world we live in.

Some people might find this corny or even delusional, given the state of much of the world. For me, that’s the reason for doing it. I have learned that if I focus on the positive people and situations in my life, the rest of the nonsense, over which I have little or no control, tends not to bother me, or at least not nearly as much as it used to. And positive stuff tends to follow.

I think this is how I got through the most inane and insane election season in a long time. Yes, I am grateful that Barack Obama was re-elected president. But I never for once took seriously the ship of fools the Republicans offered as possible opponents, including the zombie who eventually survived, Mitt Romney. After his opponents devoured him in the primaries, the man had no brain of his own. But the real saving grace in that scenario for me was that, even if Romney somehow won, he was still smarter than George W. Bush, and we survived eight years of him in the Oval Office. (Note to self: If you live in a country that elects George W. Bush president twice, you really can’t take politics too seriously.)

Worse than being too concerned about other people’s absurd political views, of course, is taking one’s own views too seriously. Hello, tea party members, how’d things go in this past election? Not so good, you say? All your extra- terrestrial, misogynist candidates lost? Yeah, I’m really kinda glad about that. I’m not so thrilled with what you’ve done to the Republican Party, but then, their party members chose over and over again to adopt your dumb (there’s no other word) positions on social and economic issues and, whaddya know? Americans rejected them one by one across the country.

For that, I am truly grateful, because I am a big fan of sanity and compassion.

What else? Well, I’m grateful the Mayans were wrong about that end of the world thing and that that mystery planet, Nibiru, didn’t destroy us. (Actually, I just threw those in to placate the folks who believed that stuff.)

That brings me to the personal stuff. I am grateful I have two healthy, smart sons who speak to me, friends who can be counted on (yes, even Facebook, which helped me find new ones), a brain (or is it a mind?) that still functions fairly well and lets me share these thoughts, a blog that lets lots of people read them, if they choose, an abiding sense of curiosity about the world, and a willingness, even in retirement, to accept new people, habits and thoughts into my life.

The latter have to do with a new diet and exercise regimen I have undertaken in the past few months, which I mentioned in a previous blog.

This is easily said, not so easily done. But this is not one of my old New Year’s resolutions that evaporates with the new year. So far, so good. I‘ve lost weight and had to buy new jeans and hoodies, because the XXL sizes are too big on me now. There are actual signs of muscle. Fruits and vegetables are not the enemy. Sugar is a stranger. I haven’t finished reading “Wheat Belly.”

I have profound gratitude for the surprising willingness I discovered to actually make these changes and to trust that this is the right new path for me to take, and for those in my life who make it easier, even enjoyable, to make the journey.

Happy New Year.

Forget the Ketchup, What is God?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

This was supposed to be the week I talked to Ketchup Bob about his use of ketchup as a salad dressing. Never mind the health issues, it’s downright gauche. Didn’t happen.

When I got to Dunkin’ Donuts, he was finishing his toasted coconut donut. He seemed happy. “But,” he said, sensing my look of concern, “I had cereal for breakfast.” Genetically modified flakes of corn loaded with sugar. A kids’ cereal.

Before I could go all high and mighty about that (I‘m working on it), Guru Bob walked in and joined us. He opted for a bagon, egg and cheese sandwich. A Big Toastie, I think.

Sensing a theme and being outnumbered, I switched gears.

“Let’s talk about religion,” I said, looking for a less-controversial subject.

Well, I can’t really tell you much detail about what we talked about because I’m certain that something that was said, however innocently or non-judgmentally, would surely offend someone and I don’t want to lose any Facebook friends. I have made my political views well-known in this blog (Republicans have lost their minds and the Tea Party is brain dead), but I find most people can still act friendly towards me even if they think I’m an idiot, politically speaking.

Religion, though, hits people differently, I think. It goes to the core of a person, whether he believes in something or not, and why. Actually, non-believers I have found to be among the most avid, umm, believers, if you will. Atheists even have annual conventions to get together and reaffirm the fact that they don’t believe in anything but themselves. And now I’m certain I’ve offended some atheists, even though they don’t believe in organized religion. See what I mean?

I won’t speak for the other Bobs on this. They have their own beliefs and are perfectly capable of explaining them, if they so choose. What was interesting and encouraging about the discussion, though, was that it was honest and lively, included humor, went on for a while, included differences of opinion and the words “stupid“ and “hypocritical,” touched on Christianity in general, Catholicism in specific, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Islam, Unitarian Universalism, spirituality, the collective consciousness and The Course in Miracles.

That’s some heavy stuff on oatmeal and a veggie egg white sandwich.

The upshot was that we agreed if everyone just practiced what they preached in their personal faith and left others to do the same, the world we know would be a far more peaceful place. This is nothing new, of course, but somehow we humans can’t seem to get it right yet. For some people, it seems to me, not believing what they believe is a judgment of them, a negative one. It also seems to me that even people who don’t follow their proclaimed faith, or know much about it for that matter, can feel threatened when someone questions it.

Why should that be? It’s only a question. If one truly believes (again, only me), what’s the harm in listening and discussing. After all, none of us has the definitive answer on God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, etc. Not even the atheists, god bless them.

Anyway, the three of us Bobs managed to have an honest and challenging conversation about all this without getting insulted, angry, or frustrated, and we do not share identical views. We are friends, however, and we respect each other’s opinions. That means we can disagree without holding a resentment. There will be no smack down in the parking lot at DD.

In fact, we even talked about starting our own religion. (Hey, why not? I saw “The Master.”) Guru Bob would be Number One Bob, of course. Unless Ketchup Bob or I wanted to be boss for the day. We haven’t figured out the specifics yet, but it promises to be another interesting breakfast when we try. (I may get back to the ketchup, too.) Stay tuned.

For now, the only bit of inside information I’ll leave you on our discussion of religion is that I wouldn’t want to be part of any heaven that would have me as a member.






























Turns Out, You Really Are What You Eat

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

I don’t eat salt and sugar anymore. Well, I try not to, as much as is possible in America. Also no red meat, French fries or soda. I know, downright un-American.

As I write this, I‘m sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts alone, eating my oatmeal with fruit (fair) and veggie egg white (pretty good) breakfast. Medium coffee, no sugar. Ketchup Bob, who usually joins me, had a previous engagement. We’ll have to talk about that ketchup some other time.

The low-salt/sugar diet started about four months ago, the result of a long-delayed physical checkup and a decision that I wasn‘t ready for the slow-but-steady surrender to couch potato oblivion. Not by a long shot, it turns out to my pleasant surprise.

The doctor said I was too heavy and my blood pressure was too high. Vitamin D was too low. A couple of pills, some exercise and a new diet were prescribed. The pills have the blood pressure down to my former well-within-acceptable range and I have lost about 30 pounds (more to come). I am also walking two-to-three miles per week and have started what I call an exercise regimen, but my coach calls a reclamation project. I say it’s just semantics, but we’re working on it.

It turns out, the diet switch wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. There’s a lot of salad in my diet now, more fruit and veggies and a lot of chicken. Also sea food. I have ventured into the previously mysterious world (to me) of vegan cuisine and have eaten sushi for the first time. More to the point, I’m prepared to go back for seconds. I have also relearned the art of using chopsticks (brown rice, please).

I am also happy to report that there are mighty tasty organic cookies (double chocolate) and that chocolate itself, if it’s mostly chocolate, is still good as well as good for you. And there are plenty of healthful salsa and chip varieties to satisfy that other craving. And Greek yogurt with fruit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nearly settled in to this new diet. Not even sure what it will eventually turn out to be. I may splurge on an occasional steak or ice cream cone. Fanaticism is not one of my shortcomings. The doctor asked me to read “Wheat Belly,” a best-seller that launched the no-gluten craze. I’m not even sure I had a wheat belly, but I’m reading the book and I’ll have to get back to you on that. At the very least, I know that too much bread isn’t good for me.

The exercise regimen, on the other hand, has turned out to be more challenging. Even walking a half mile was exhausting initially.

Weight training (dumbbells, not barbells) was, to be honest, humbling at first. My male ego had to wrestle with seeing the fairer sex easily do repetitions I could not finish. Pushups? Forget it. The only exercise I managed to feel OK doing at first was crunches. (And by the way, they’re paying off.) I’m also doing a lot of stretching and believe me my body needed it and I feel it.

I am happy to report that I am now doing a two-mile walk each week, with a one-mile stroll tossed in most weeks as well. There are also sessions on a stationary bike (soon to be increased, coach) and a general heightened awareness of how I walk (also tossed in for the coach).

So what? you say. Why should you care about what I eat or do with my body? Well, honestly, you don’t have to care. I’m doing this diary entry as a sort of selfish exercise in self-discipline, to remind myself that what I’m doing is working. I feel much healthier, look much healthier and even think in a healthier way than I did before I began this radical change. That’s win-win-win. I’ve had to buy new jeans and they are already too big.

It has always been my belief that it is never too late to do something if you really want to do it. Motivation is key, of course. As well as self-discipline and support and encouragement. Making this change a matter of public record also has the effect of making me stick to it as much as possible because I won’t like being asked whatever happened to your diet, chubby?

And, who knows, maybe it will influence someone else who is slipping into coach potato oblivion to resist and pull him or herself out of the cushions. Life is too short to fritter away. I have a long way to go, but the joy, they say, is in the journey. So I’m going to try to have fun as I go along. (More stretches? Really coach?) I’ll keep you filled in on the details.

Next week, Bob, the ketchup talk.




The Party of Lincoln, Herman Cain, etc.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

By Bob Gaydos

(With a nod to the great Jimmy Cannon.)

It’s none of my business, but …

  • I haven’t seen a movie the likes of “Lincoln” in a long time. A recent 5 p.m. Sunday screening in a crowded theater at The Galleria drew tears and cheers (well, applause), both deserved. It’s a wonderful movie, the kind Hollywood seldom tries to make these days. Yet as I watched Daniel Day-Lewis bring the 16th president to life, with wit, wisdom and a willingness to play dirty for the greater good, I couldn’t prevent the present from worming its way into my thoughts. “Can you imagine,” I thought to myself, “if Mitt Romney had been president during the Civil War? Or George W. Bush? What would have happened to the country? The world?” It got me thinking about … well … fate. They say great events make great presidents, but this country has had a lot of commanders-in-chief who, in my view, might well have seen greatness escape them if faced with the issues confronting Lincoln — a civil war and slavery. Sometimes, I think, it takes the right person coming along at the right time to produce the most beneficial results, in our own lives as well as in history writ large. Of course, we have to recognize that moment, in the same the way the people who voted for Lincoln recognized theirs. Fuel for future blogs.

Meanwhile, it’s none of my business, but …

  • Herman Cain wouldn’t be my choice to lead a third-party movement by disaffected Republicans. The onetime presidential candidate and adulterer said after Obama’s reelection that the GOP no longer represents the interests of conservatives and is unable to change, so a new party is needed. So far, so good, either way you feel about the current GOP. But Cain made his name in business as the man who rescued Godfather’s Pizza by closing 200 pizza stores and eliminating thousands of jobs. A Romneyesque approach to success, wouldn’t you say? Is that what “real” conservatives want?

It’s also none of my business, and maybe no one cares, but …

  • Has anyone figured out why the New York Jets signed Tim Tebow, or how the team’s professional training staff missed his two broken ribs for two weeks? Just asking.
  • Has anyone missed the hockey season? I don’t get how owners and players in a league that has trouble attracting fans can argue over how much money they want to get from games to the point they don’t even play the games so don’t get any money at all. Is it just me, or is that nuts?
  • I also just don’t get the charm of camping out on concrete for two days outside big box stores for the opportunity to spend my money earlier than everyone else.
  • And aren’t people of a certain age who complain about e-mail and texting and Facebook and Twitter and who bemoan the fact that “people don’t talk to each other anymore” at risk of falling into fuddy-duddyism? If they aren’t already there?

It’s probably should be my business, even though I wish it weren’t, but:

  • Don’t Republicans ever get tired of signing pledges to do something or never do something (Remember the abandoned Gingrich-era pledge to serve only two terms?) Are they that unaware that the world we live in changes all the time and governing in an ever-changing world requires flexibility, not blind stubbornness? Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Grover Norquist “I will never vote to raise taxes” pledge that virtually every Republican member of Congress has signed and which is a crucial reason we are being told the nation is heading for a “fiscal cliff.” Large, mandatory spending cuts are due to take effect next year, along with an end to Bush-era tax cuts (a development the GOP typically refers to as a tax increase), unless Congress and President Obama can agree on a spending plan beforehand. If nothing is agreed on, Obama early next year will surely ask for what he has always asked for — a tax increase for the wealthiest Americans. That would be done by giving everyone else a return to Bush-era tax rates, which would of course be described as a tax cut by Democrats. How can Republicans oppose that? To head that scenario off, some Republicans are already talking about flushing their Norquist pledge and looking for revenues (taxes) this year to lessen the need for deep spending cuts. They’re doing this for the “good of the country,” they say, not for political reasons. Also, they lost the election.

Finally, it‘s thankfully no longer my business, but:

  • Does anyone, Republicans included, still think Sarah Palin was a good choice to be commander-in-chief in waiting? And, if not, why should we listen to anything the blustery John McCain says today? Coulda, woulda, shoulda named your own secretary of state, Senator.
  •  What the hell happened to the Republican Party between Lincoln and Romney?