Posts Tagged ‘Palin’

Remembering ‘Rhoda’ with Gratitude

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Valerie Harper … living each day to the fullest

By Bob Gaydos

In March of 2013, I wrote a column contrasting two world views — one of hope, one of no hope. The source of hope was actress Valerie Harper, who had just revealed she was suffering from a rare form of brain cancer. The no-hope view came from the Republican Party, more specifically, the Conservative Political Action Caucus..

i went back to read the column after learning of Harper’s death a couple of days ago and was struck by two things:

— How right I was about the hopelesssness permeating the Republican world view.

— How wrong Harper was about the power of her own world view. She said at the time she had been told she probably had three months to live and spread her message of living life to the fullest. She carried on for more than six years. Plucky “Rhoda” to the end.

I’m not patting myself on the back for seeing the Republican Party for what it was six years ago,  but rather, I am depressed that so many of my flag-waving fellow Americans still seem to accept the utter lack of humanity at its core. I chose Valerie Harper’s message of hope six years ago. Still do. Else, what’s the point?

If you’re interested, the March, 2013 column follows. You might recognize some names (Palin, Trump). Either way, keep the faith.

 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Bob Gaydos

I’m standing at the corner of hope and no hope, wondering how people who grow up in the same country wind up on opposite sides of the street.

Let’s start with the no-hope crowd so that I can end on a positive note. The Conservative Political Action Caucus is holding its annual convention this week. The overriding question is: Does it really matter anymore? CPAC used to be the heart and soul of the Republican Party, conservative to the core. Today, CPAC is adamantly conservative to a fault and, in truth, as a party, Republicans have become heartless and bereft of any apparent soul. That may sound harsh, but there hasn’t been a single “moderate” Republican to step up and challenge the view for several years.

Quite simply, hope cannot exist in an atmosphere of anger, hatred, bigotry, religious extremism and plain stupidity that characterizes what passes for the GOP today and which has its origins in the increasingly ultra-restrictive membership of CPAC. The big tent that some Republicans used to like to talk about today is miniscule. It has no room for immigrants, blacks, Latinos, gays, the poor, the young, the middle class or women who insist on being equal citizens. Or of any disagreement with it.

That formula cost Republicans the presidency the last two elections. Does CPAC get it? Apparently not. It’s not even certain that CPAC cares. The speaker’s list for this year’s convention includes prominent and generous time slots for such as Sarah (the irrelevant) Palin, Donald (still waiting for the president’s birth certificate) Trump and former Florida congressman. Alan (hopelessly out-to-lunch) West.

It does not include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, widely regarded (by those outside of CPAC) as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. He made the apparently unforgivable mistake of thanking President Obama for federal aid in helping New Jersey recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Vetoing a marriage equality bill was apparently not enough to restore Christie’s conservative credentials, at least not for CPAC.

Gay Republican groups are barred from official CPAC proceedings, but not members who routinely spout anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant rhetoric. Florida Sen. Mark Rubio, the Great Latino hope of the GOP, gets but a token platform appearance. Thoroughly confusing the issues, more mainstream Republicans such as the failed presidential candidate, Mitt Romney and the next-in-line Bush, former Florida governor, Jeb, are invited, to the chagrin of many CPAC members.

Out of this hodgepodge of negativity, hostility and failure, it is expected that libertarian Republican Sen. Rand Paul will emerge as the winner of CPAC’s straw presidential poll. He will see it as vindication of libertarianism, which it is not. CPAC will probably view it as an anomaly. The thinking public will, one hopes, see it for what it is — the death knell of a once proud, but now hopeless, political party.

Which brings me to Valerie Harper, and hope.

Valerie Harper, the wisecracking Rhoda on the popular “Mary Tyler Moore Show” on TV, is dying. She has a rare type of terminal brain cancer. Her time is limited, her prognosis poor. Her spirit is indomitable and full of positive messages about living life.

Harper, 73, says she is not sitting home on the couch feeling sorry for herself. She is on a book tour, talking about the wonderful life she has lived, cognizant of the fact that, whatever pain and horrible things may lie ahead, “they’re ahead. They’re not now.”

“Keep your chin up and don’t go to the funeral, mine, or yours or your loved ones, until the day of the funeral, because then you miss the life you have left,” Harper says. The actress, who has also battled lung cancer, may have three months to live, she says, but her focus is on enjoying each day as it comes along, with gratitude for the days she has had. And, she also says she feels she has a “responsibility” to raise awareness for early testing for cancer.

So, with death staring her in the face, Valerie Harper chooses to focus on life, on being a useful, positive member of society. She wants to help people, to build a better community.

Meanwhile, with everything possible in this wonderful country of ours to live for and the potential to do something about improving our collective lot, the members of CPAC, who control the destiny of the Republican Party, choose to focus on who they don’t like, what they don’t want, what they can’t and won’t accept, what they refuse to believe. They see no future for things as they are so they seem intent on destroying what can be, if for no other reason than spite. I can see no hope for such people or their ideas.

For Valerie Harper, though, I feel an abiding love and gratitude christened with tears. She gives me hope.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s Time to Un-dumb America

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Sarah Palin ... she was the warning .

               Sarah Palin
    … she was the warning

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

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

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

Willfully dumb.

Sarah Palin/Donald Trump dumb.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We escaped Palin, but wound up with Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia goes for Trump. Dumb.

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Real GOP Mavericks: Murkowski, Collins

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski at work, governing.

If you’re looking for a maverick, you don’t go to Arizona where they brag about the “dry heat” and almost everybody is a retired something or other from somewhere else looking to be left alone while they head for the air-conditioning. The state motto in Latin is Ditat Deus, which means “God enriches.” Whether one is a believer or not, that certainly doesn’t suggest an attitude of going out and stirring the pot to make things happen. It’s more like, “Well, OK, let’s chill and if it doesn’t work out, it’ll work out.”

No, if you’re looking for a maverick, by which I mean in this case, an independent-minded person, you go where it’s cold a lot of the time and winters are rough and people don’t have time for pettiness and pettifoggery. “Get on with it! What are you talking about? That’s nonsense; don’t waste my time.”

You go to Maine or, better yet, Alaska. If you’re lucky, both.

The Maine state motto is, “I direct,” or “I lead.” Alaska’s is “North to the Future.”

Action words. Follow me. I know the way.

On the floor of the U.S. Senate early Friday morning, John McCain, the Arizona senator whose reputation as a maverick disappeared in a puff of “Holy smoke!” at Liberty University when he was running for president in 2008, staged a dramatic moment in which he cast a “no” vote — complete with a theatrical thumb-down — on the Republicans’ last-gasp effort at repealing Obamacare.

Boom! The bill was dead. Gasps from Republicans. Applause from Democrats and millions of Americans. The maverick — fresh from surgery for brain cancer at a Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix — was back.

Not really.

Yes, McCain’s was the deciding 51st “no” vote, which killed the bill. But without the preceding “no” votes from Republican senators from Maine and Alaska, McCain’s would have been meaningless and those two senators had been in the forefront of opposing their party’s hypocritical efforts at “health care reform” from the outset.

In the matter of saving Americans from the cruel reality of the disastrous GOP effort to kill Obamacare (as opposed to passing its own health care measure), the real mavericks were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Both women endured insults and threats from male (Republican) colleagues in Congress — and the president — as they stood firmly opposed throughout the sham process conducted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. No last-minute theatrics for them. They let McConnell and the president know where they stood from the outset — on the side of truth and reasonableness, no petty politics.

For doing their job, voting their consciences and what was best for their constituents, rather than toeing the strict party line, Murkowski and Collins were referred to as “witches” and “bitches” online by the Trump troll patrol. Rep. Blake Farenthold, another sad excuse for a legislator from Texas, said that he would challenge them to a duel if they were men. He’d never survive.

The narcissist-in-chief tweeted his displeasure with Murkowski and suggested, in true Kremlin style, that her state might face retribution by the administration. In fact, Senate Democrats said they would ask for an investigation into calls from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to Murkowski and fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, in which Zinke threatened projects important to their state if Murkowski persisted in voting no. That was merely more thuggery from an administration that has no respect for laws or rules of conduct, much less respect for differing opinions.

Collins displayed no patience for McConnell’s nonsense from the beginning of the latest Republican effort to squash Obamacare, pointing to the lack of information and debate on the measure, as well as its negative impact on millions of Americans — the things most other Republican senators were fully aware of but chose to neglect in voting yes.

Collins and Murkowski, of course, were not among the dozen white male Republican senators appointed by McConnell to try to figure out how to repeal and replace Obamacare. No women were on that special panel.

This is today’s Republican Party. A misogynist, or worse, in the Oval Office and a bunch of dumb white men trying to tell women to mind their place.

McConnell, of course, famously shut off the microphone of Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a Senate debate, only to listen as she persisted. Clearly, he has similar feelings about Republican women, senators or not.

But Murkowski, who vowed to defend funding for Planned Parenthood (eliminated in the GOP health plan), was elected as a write-in candidate over a Tea Party opponent who beat her in a GOP primary. She doesn’t scare off.

After the big GOP health care flop, she said, “My vote yesterday was from my heart for the people that I represent. And I’m going to continue working hard for Alaskans and just focus on that. I have to focus on my job. I have to focus on what I came here to do.” She had earlier said that it would be nice if some “governing” actually went on in Washington, rather than constant campaigning.

Collins was heard on an open microphone saying Trump’s handling of the budget was “completely irresponsible.” She opposed the Republican health process from the beginning, including the vote to even allow debate. McCain described that tactic as irresponsible, before voting for it. Then he actually voted for a GOP health plan offered later. Collins, Murkowski and several other Republicans voted “no,” (as did all Democrats on every vote). McCain saved his “maverick” vote for the end.

Some called it statesmanship. It was political theater — the deus ex machina coming in way too late. We’re glad you did it, senator, make no mistake, but where have you been all this time, through all this arrant nonsense from McConnell and Trump?

It brings to mind another “mavericky” theatrical moment in the McCain biography, one that also involved an outspoken woman politician from Alaska. Sarah Palin, senator. Remember her? What were you thinking? Were you that desperate for votes in 2008 that you had to sell out to the loony fringe now running your party? Don’t bother answering. Thanks for this decision; it’s a big one. But it doesn’t come close to making up for that earlier one.

No, if you’re looking for statesmanship and courage in this story, look to Senators Collins and Murkowski. If the Republican Party hopes to reclaim its soul, it needs more mavericks like them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Why Won’t McCain Take on Trump?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain and Donald Trump ... no love lost

John McCain and Donald Trump … no love lost

What will it take for John McCain to finally go after Donald Trump?

Clearly, there can be no love lost between the Arizona senator and the befuddled president. Nor is it likely there is any mutual respect.

During the presidential campaign Trump insulted McCain as ‘’no hero’’ for his service as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. Trump, who did not serve in the military, said he didn’t regard people who were taken prisoner as heroes. McCain’s plane was shot down over Vietnam. He was held prisoner for five-and-a-half years and was tortured by the North Vietnamese.

More recently, McCain called Trump up short by insisting that the United States does not torture prisoners, despite the president’s comments to the contrary. McCain also went out of his way to call the prime minister of Australia to let him know that the United States still regards his country as a close ally, despite Trump’s rude phone call with him. In response to this, Trump called McCain, who was the Republican candidate for president in 2008, a ‘’loser.’’

McCain also questioned the wisdom and success of the recent U.S. raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with several civilians, including children. In response, Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, said anyone who questioned the success of the raid was doing a disservice to the memory of the SEAL. Another shot at McCain.

McCain responded: “Many years ago when I was imprisoned in North Vietnam, there was an attempt to rescue the POWs. Unfortunately, the prison had been evacuated. But the brave men who took on that mission and risked their lives in an effort to rescue us prisoners of war were genuine American heroes. Because the mission failed did not in any way diminish their courage and willingness to help their fellow Americans who were held captive. Mr. Spicer should know that story.”

There are a lot of things Spicer should know, but there are many more important things that his boss should know and doesn’t. And McCain surely knows that. Trump’s bumbling through foreign affairs would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so serious. But the mysteriously tangled relationship between Trump and Russia dwarfs all of Trump’s miscues thus far in its potential for serious damage.

McCain, as a senior member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, is well-position to demand an independent inquiry into Trump’s Russian ties. Another Republican veteran in the Senate, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, has also been critical of Trump and often stands with McCain on issues. The two men have standing within their party and on the other side of the aisle for their long years of service as well as their willingness to occasionally tell the truth as they see it, rather than as their party leaders would have us see it

The question is how long McCain can stand by, apparently in the name of party loyalty, and offer occasional criticism while Trump makes a mockery of the Constitution, tarnishes the presidency, and erodes America’s credibility as a world leader. As a former presidential candidate for his party, McCain should be livid with Republicans’ current representative in the White House. Maybe he is.

The senator shows more and more signs of losing his patience with Trump. In a speech McCain gave recently at a security conference in Munich, he basically shredded Trump’s foreign policy, his position on immigrants, his critical statements about NATO and his penchant for making things up. As for Trump seeing no difference between Russian and American behavior, McCain had this to say: “ I refuse to accept that our values are morally equivalent to those of our adversaries. I am a proud, unapologetic believer in the West, and I believe we must always, always stand up for it, for if we do not, who will?’’

Strong words, and he never mentioned Trump by name. Still, by not challenging Trump with actions as well as words, McCain leaves himself open to criticism that, while he may be prone to occasional flashes of anger, he’s not willing to risk losing whatever standing, power, and influence he may have within his party by engaging in an all-out fight with the president based on principle.

A willingness to set aside his principles in a search for power was evident in McCain’s presidential campaign when he sold his soul to the religious right at Liberty University and followed that up by losing his mind and picking Sarah Palin, the Tea Party Queen, as his running mate. He will never live that decision down, but he can make up for it.

Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan show no sign they are willing to do their jobs and hold the president accountable. Their behavior is beyond cowardly. It’s an insult to the concept of leadership. McCain can fill this vacuum. In fact, it’s almost made for him. And it’s not as if he has anything to lose at this point in his career. He’s 80-years-old and was just elected to another six-year term In the Senate. This could well be his last rodeo, so why not make it a worthwhile ride and break a bull who’s been turned loose in the White House?

 

George Says He Wants to Do It

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

George Pataki ...  presidential candidate

George Pataki … presidential candidate

George Pataki is running for president. For those of you not familiar with the name, Pataki was governor of New York state for 12 years. He is the 285th announced or soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pataki is quiet and unassuming — things most of the other members of the GOP presidential gaggle are not. He also may be delusional, which does put him in good company with the rest of the crowd.

But here’s the funny thing about Pataki: He says he’s a Republican. If that’s so, it’s not any kind of Republican that Americans have been exposed to in the 21st century. The Grand Old Party is surely old, but in 2015, it is hardly grand. It is, sad to say, a party that has lost its mind and sold its soul. The onetime Party of Lincoln today is not even the Party of Ford. It’s the party of Cheney and pick-a-Bush, sponsored by the brothers Koch.

I have resisted jumping into the 2016 presidential “debate” until now, figuring it was too early. Like, a year too early. But as the body count has increased (much more modestly on the Democratic side), I started wondering if my lack of zeal for what I was witnessing would somehow risk me being left behind. Then again, I told myself, so what?

Then George Pataki, all 6 feet, 5 inches of him, pulled me in. Is this guy serious? President? Of the United States? Yeah, he’s an easygoing, likable sort. Bright. Actually grew up on a farm. Once upon a time, I even wrote editorials endorsing him for the New York State Legislature. And he was elected governor of New York three times. That’s no easy trick for  a Republican since it’s a liberal state with a Democratic voting edge. Even more impressive, Pataki beat liberal icon and incumbent governor, Mario Cuomo, the first time out. In getting re-elected twice, Pataki showed that he can work with people of differing political views to get things done.

But … George … Republicans don’t care about that today. In fact, they run away from it. Since you’ve been away from politics for eight years, maybe you haven’t noticed that the word “bipartisan” has been stricken from the party vocabulary. If Democrats like it, Republicans don’t. Period.

The real irony of the Pataki candidacy, though, centers on his positions on the issues. While he is definitely a state’s rights, low-tax, fiscal conservative in the traditional Republican mold, his views on a host of hot-button issues are simply not in sync with today’s Republican Party.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans have fought President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat it at every turn. The GOP-dominated Senate even went so far as to vote that humans are not causing climate change and the Republican governor of Florida has actually banned state employees from using the term, “global warming.” Finally, polls regularly show that a majority of Republicans, who proudly proclaim they are not scientists, do not believe global warming is happening.

Pataki? Unlike many Republican politicians, the Columbia and Yale graduate respects science. Strike one. He believes global warming is real. Strike two. In fact, he co-chaired a 2007 blue-ribbon,  Independent Task Force on Climate Change  organized by the Council on Foreign Relations. The other co-chair was Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa who is President Obama’s agriculture secretary. The panel issued a thick report stating that human-caused climate change represented a world crisis that required immediate attention. Strike three.

How about abortion? Pataki is pro-choice. Enough said.

Immigration? He supports a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. “We can’t send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” he has said.

He believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states, but as governor he signed a law providing rights for gays, including benefits for same-sex couples.

He also pushed through a tough gun-control law banning some assault weapons and requiring ballistic fingerprinting for weapons as well as raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21. And he thinks it should be up to each state to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

For good measure, the former mayor of Peekskill thinks the nation should invest billions into building a first-class rail system.

Does that sound like a Republican to you?

Yes, he rips Obamacare and thinks the president hasn’t been militarily aggressive enough with ISIS and shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran on nuclear power. But virtually all the Republican candidates say those things, whether they believe them or not.

The point is, Pataki, who turns 70 this month, offers a bipartisan governing approach and reasonable views on some emotional issues in a party virtually devoid of such. In a general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, that might sway some Democratic voters of a more conservative bent. But first he’s got to get through the Republican primaries and emerge victorious over the likes of : Ted (I will renounce my Canadian citizenship) Cruz; Marco (I’m young, Cuban and have a sugar daddy) Rubio; Rand (every citizen for himself) Paul; Ben (the perfect prescription for the Tea Party) Carson; Carly (I’m as wacky as any of the guys) Fiorina; Mike (the huckster) Huckabee; Rick (one more time) Santorum; Lindsay (I’m the most conservative of them all) Graham; Jeb (it’s my turn) Bush; Scott (fire the unions) Walker; Chris (I didn’t close the bridge) Christie; Rick (I can count to three now) Perry; Bobby (I really messed up Louisiana) Jindal; John (who?) Kasich; and Donald (oh shut up) Trump. Sarah Palin, where are you?

Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, says it’s only going to put 10 candidates on stage for its televised GOP debates. Pataki might have trouble just cracking the starting lineup, which tells you where reasonableness, a respect for science and a willingness to compromise in governing get you today in the GOP.

In reporting on his decision to run for president, the Wall Street Journal described Pataki as a “centrist.” Talk about the kiss of death. They might just as well have called him a socialist, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned. It’s enough to make a guy want to switch parties.

Whaddaya think, George?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Give Me a ‘D’ for Dumb, Pat

Friday, June 13th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Pat Sajak ... scientist?

Pat Sajak … scientist?

It’s Pat Sajak’s fault.

For the past few years, I’ve been writing one opinion piece a week for a blog. It’s a way to keep doing in retirement what I did for more than 40 years for newspapers.

But I have been unable to form an opinion for three weeks — ever since I read about Sajak tweeting about “global warming alarmists being unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.”

This made no sense to me, starting with why the ever-smiling host of “Wheel of Fortune” had any reason to think his thoughts on global warming were worth sharing on Twitter in the first place.

But as I tried to set aside the Sajak incident, I found myself unable to find anything else that made sense to me. What the heck is wrong with this country? I wondered. What could I write about when what is supposedly the most technologically advanced society in history seems to be paralyzed by a combination of willful ignorance and abject laziness. Sajak Syndrome, if you will.

When did dumb become fashionable?

Pick a topic. Global warming? Pictures of the Arctic ice pack melting? Nearly 100 percent agreement among scientists that humans are destroying the planet’s atmosphere through extravagant, ignorant use of fossil fuels and cutting down of rain forests? That’s nonsense, the pundits on Fox News say. Wasn’t it cold this winter? Didn’t it snow? What the heck do scientists know?

If it were true, the Fox News folks would tell us, the Fox flock say. Really? When they’re being paid to lie? This is abject laziness on the part of the viewers and willful ignorance on the part of the bosses and staff and big money backers at Fox News. And sadly today, most of the Republican Party.

How do you reach people who don’t want to be reached, I wondered, people who are too lazy to question, who are so set in their own prejudices that they eagerly accept the drumbeat message that the man living in the White House is to blame for all that scientific foolishness and everything else that is wrong with this country?

Please, tell me again how racism is dead in America since we elected Barack Obama, a black man, to be president. Tell that to people whose voting rights are being stripped (by Republicans). Tell that to people of color in “Stand Your Ground” states. Check the arrest and imprisonment statistics on drug crimes.

Forgive me for jumping around here, but, as I said, I can’t figure out what to write about because there is so much insanity going on in this country. The bankers drove this country into a recession through shady deals and didn’t go to jail. Today, people who still can’t find jobs because of the recession are called lazy and Congress — again, led by Republicans — cuts money for food stamps for the poor and refuses to extend unemployment benefits to the unemployed or raise the minimum wage or expand benefits to veterans.

It also refuses to cut college students — the future of this country — a break on the interest rates on their back-breaking loans. The corporations, of course, still get their tax breaks and CEOs who drive companies into the red still get rewarded with lavish golden parachutes. And the boss of McDonald’s tells his employees to get another job to make ends meet because he can’t afford to pay them a living wage. To Fox News, this makes sense.

Did I mention guns? There is a shooting at a school or mall or other public place virtually every day now, but it’s not because guns are too easy to get, the willfully ignorant insist. No, the leaders of the NRA tell us that if we armed teachers and let everyone carry weapons openly there would be fewer shootings. Bring your guns to Chili’s and Target. More guns mean fewer shootings. Oh, and if you don’t feel like paying your share of income tax, hole up on your ranch with an arsenal and defy the federal government. Because you’re a patriot. Fox News will defend your “right.’’ This is insane.

Look at the food we eat. Well, actually, most of us apparently would rather not. Monsanto, a chemical company that controls the food supply, changes the genetic structure of basic foods. This allows companies to sell food cheaper because more crops grow in less space and the “food” lasts longer on shelves. That food is usually full of salt and sugar and chemicals, in addition to having its genetic structure changed.

No one knows the possible effects of genetically modified food, but Congress (Republicans, again) allows it — won’t even require labeling of foods with GMOs — because Monsanto is a very generous donor to political campaigns. Europe has banned GMOs. China, too, and other countries. But Fox closes its eyes and ears and shuts off its brain to the obvious questions — willful ignorance — and its sheep munch away on cheap, addictive food, raising health insurance costs as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight-related illnesses increase. All the while, of course — again at the instigation of Fox — they are criticizing the president for trying to make health insurance more affordable for everyone.

There’s plenty more. We are a nation of immigrants that can’t come up with a reasonable immigration policy. We espouse freedom of religion, but in some areas of America it’s probably not wise to admit being Muslim. There is still some question among some conservatives as to who is responsible when a woman is raped. Evolution is considered by the willfully ignorant and abjectly lazy as a theory to be debated. But Noah and the Flood — an undeniable fact.

The Internet gets blamed for a lot of the misinformation that is spread today. But the Internet is just a tool. People spread ignorance, out of fear, greed, selfishness, prejudice, envy, laziness. I think many of the commentators at Fox News are laughing all the way to the bank. They are getting rich by criticizing the poor. Others are simply willing to say whatever they are told to say to get a paycheck. Some are just nasty and don’t like people who are different from them. I think at times they all say stuff that they have to know can’t be true, but they do it anyway because that’s their job. There is really no excuse for people like this — the willfully ignorant.

Why the Republican Party has allowed itself to be dragged down to this level, kowtowing to the frenzied anti-government, anti-Obama cries of the tea partiers, I don’t know. I suspect it has to do with race (the president’s) and with money — who is providing how much of it to whom. Integrity is clearly not held in high regard in the GOP these days, at least not since it offered Sarah Palin as a person to be trusted a heartbeat away from the presidency.

That leaves the climate-change deniers (who also doubted the president’s birth certificate) who think anything they read on the Internet is true, except if it’s on an actual mainstream news site or one run by liberals. These are the abjectly lazy who wouldn’t check a fact put forth by Fox News even if their life depended on it. And sometimes it does.

So there’s my dilemma. I know what I have described here doesn’t apply to everyone in this country. My belief — indeed, my fervent hope — is that it doesn’t apply to a majority or even large minority of us. But Sajak Syndrome exists. So I will continue to write with that in mind and encourage others of like mind to do so as well. Far too many Americans have bought into the idea that dumb is good, up is down, black is white and what some politician said yesterday doesn’t have to make sense with what he or she says today.

Far too many, in other words, would rather think of renowned scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of “Cosmos” (on Fox TV no less) as a charlatan and liar when he describes the “Big Bang” theory and tells us that global warming is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously and immediately. On this issue, they’d rather trust the judgment of game show host Pat Sajak.

That’s where I came in.

Bob Gaydos can be reached at rjgaydos@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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?

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kid Aces His Geography Test

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

Addendum to “10 states my sons should not live in”

After I posted my latest piece on the Zest site (the next one down), I asked Son the Younger (Zack) if he had read it and naturally he said no. So I told him the headline on the column and asked him what states he thought might be on the list of places I urged him and his brother to avoid.

“Well … Texas probably and maybe Arizona and South Carolina,” he started off without hesitation.

“That’s great!” I said. “You got three of the worst right off the bat. Which one do you think is the worst?”

“Probably Texas because it’s dumb and there’s nothing there. But … Arizona has that new law on immigrants which is pretty bad.”

“Terrific … A-plus,” I said. “I put Arizona first only because A comes before T. Who else?”

“Alabama? Maybe West Virginia and Kentucky. Louisiana?”

“Yes, yes, yes and on the watch list.”

“Well, they have New Orleans.”

“Precisely.”

“Maybe Mississippi, too’” he continued. “Pretty much all the southern states.”

“Pretty much,” I agreed. “Fantastic job. I also included Alaska.”

“Well, yeah, it’s kinda like Texas and they pay people to live there.”

“Plus they elected Sarah Palin.”

“Oh, yeah. Pretty bad.”

The moral to this story? I dunno, maybe to pay attention to what you tell your kids because they may actually be paying attention.

I do know that after that brief chat I upgraded my own score as a father and a couple of days later treated Zack to a steak dinner — Aussie style, not Texas.

bob@zestoforange.com

 

Ten States My Sons Should Not Live In

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

A citizens militia group at the border in Vekol Valley, Arizona. Photo from: vandal49588.blogspot.com

 

By Bob Gaydos

I ran into an old newspaper colleague at the Times Herald-Record offices the other day and in the process of catching up and complaining that I didn’t know what to write about for my blog this week, he asked if I was the one who had written an editorial for the Record (they’re anonymous) about some congressman claiming there are about 80 Democrats in Congress who were members of the Communist Party. “The nut job from Florida,” he said.

I was, I admitted, proudly. He shook his head and said something to the effect of, “Where do they find these guys?”

Where indeed, I agreed. “But more to the point,” I heard myself say, “who are the people who keep voting for them? I mean, really, would you want to live in a place where people put a guy like that in office? It’s one of the things I try to get across to my sons — you get to choose your own career paths, but please, you don’t want to live in places where they keep electing morons.”

“Sounds like you’ve got a column,” the newspaper guy says.

And so I do.

Brief intro: Max is 20 and currently studying art at SUNY Purchase. Zack is 17 and will attend (no declared major) Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., in the fall. They are both bright and, due to environmental influences, liberally inclined politically and accepting of people of all types — except, bless their hearts, morons in politics.

So yes, if nothing else I tell them sinks in, I figured at least I can warn them off living in some states later on, unless they never want to see me or their mother ever again.

This is not, by any means a scientific effort. Rather, it’s an off-the-top-of-my-head-with-a-dollop-of-research compiled list of states where you (Max and Zack, that is) don’t ever want to live. The primary criteria for making the list are: Rampant racism, anti-intellectualism, bigotry, intolerance, religious fanaticism, and electing morons to office over and over again. (If anyone who reads this is from any of these states and doesn’t see it, well, that’s your right. Just add denial to the list.)

These are going to have to be in no particular order mainly because I couldn’t decide which was worst among Texas, Arizona and Mississippi.

Let’s start with Arizona since it starts with an A. Arizona has devolved to such an extent that Sen. Barry Goldwater, darling of the John Birch Society, who was famously demonized by Lyndon Johnson in the 1964 presidential election (“Goldwater in ‘64, Cold Water in ‘65, Bread and Water in ‘66”), would have trouble getting support from the angry white conservatives who run the state today. Gov. Jan Brewer, who recently went toe-to-toe with President Obama on the airport tarmac, signed into law the most repressive, intolerant immigration law in the country.

The state’s current senators are Jon Kyl, whose only job as minority whip is to whip up votes to oppose anything whatsoever proposed by Obama, and John McCain, who used to have a spine and principles until he decided to run for president and needed the support of the Republican right wing. And he gave us Sarah Palin.

Also, Arizona is brutally hot, there’s no water and there’s a bunch of men with guns driving around patrolling the border with Mexico and they’re not cops.

OK, Texas. I could stop with George W. Bush and Rick Perry as back-to-back governors. OMG, Texas. But there’s more. Texans are loudly proud of a board of education that never heard of scientific research and a penal system that likes to keep the line moving on Death Row. Toss in religious fanatics, Tom Delay and a hostility to anything not Texan and no amount of Tex-Mex cuisine is enough to want to live there. Plus, outside a few big cities, it’s miles and miles of miles and miles. It’s no country for young men either.

As for Mississippi, what can you say about a state that perennially ranks at the bottom of lists of states whose residents have a high school diploma, whose children are read to daily, who visit the dentist regularly, and who have a livable family income. Then there’s the racism, the anti-gay atmosphere and lack of concern with proper nutrition. Haley Barbour stepped down as governor in January, but not before granting full pardons to 193 inmates, including five convicted murders. His successor, Phil Bryant, on Wednesday said of Democrats in his state: “Their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb.” He said it after signing a bill to close down the state’s last remaining clinic that performs abortions.

Alright, this is getting depressing and that was not my goal. Let’s add South Carolina, which gave us the Civil War and, to prove things move slowly in the south, segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond, anti-Obama at all costs Sen. Jim DeMint, immigrant-bashing Sen. Lindsay Graham and former Gov. Mark Sanford, who told his wife and the world he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was getting his exercise with his mistress in Brazil. You might get away with that in New York, but considering South Carolina’s arch-conservative approach to religion, family, etc. that qualifies as rank hypocrisy. Plus they still like to fly that Confederate Flag.

I’m going to wrap it up because this now looks like it could go on forever and I‘m beginning to feel intolerant. Other states to avoid, boys:

Alabama: See Mississippi.

Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky: Lots of intolerant religious folk who carry guns, and don’t like blacks or gays. Or even women sometimes.

Alaska: Texas with snow. Plus they elected Sarah Palin.

OK, that’s ten, a nice number for headline writers. But I gotta warn you, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana, I’ve got my eye on you, too.

(And thanks, Paul Brooks, for inspiring this column.)

bob@zestoforange.com

 

Sarah vs. Michele: Let ’em Rumble

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, Tea Party divas, and possible presidential candidates.

By Bob Gaydos

There’s a movement afoot, apparently started by conscientious, well-meaning citizens of the liberal political persuasion to convince the mainstream media to stop covering Sarah Palin as if she is a serious political candidate. They want people to write to major network news shows to stop their “wall-to-wall coverage” of Palin and “report on issues that actually effect(sic) us.”*

Sorry friends, I couldn’t disagree more. Ignoring Palin in favor of reporting on the debt ceiling and the relative merits of Tim Pawlenty and that guy who used to be ambassador to China would not only put America to sleep, it would deprive Americans of what promises to be the top reality TV show of the summer: Female Mud Wrestling, starring the two divas of the Tea Party/Republican Party, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. This hope alone makes the whole GOP primary mess worthwhile.

Some people would pay big money to see and hear these darlings of conservative ideology (sorry Mr. Will and Mr. Krauthammer, but I didn’t pick them) go mujer a mujer in a series of debates on “the issues.” But if they’re both candidates, we won’t have to pay a dime. It will be free and in living color, with great hair and enough great quotes to spawn a hundred more web sites.

And on a practical note, as long as Palin and Bachmann are treated as serious candidates, by the media as well as followers within the Republican Party, they will generate headlines and TV coverage and make it harder for any other Republican candidate to get his views more widely known. All of which will make it more difficult for Republicans to continue to blame President Obama for the Bush recession and the two Bush wars and easier for Obama to organize his re-election campaign under the “I Got Osama” banners. And isn’t re-electing Obama what the “serious issues” people really want?

Bottom line here is that the Republicans either hate the few serious candidates they have or won’t let them venture anywhere near the truth on the budget, health care, taxes, etc. That leaves Michele and Sarah as easily the best show in town. Even Republican commentators are speculating on the showdown. Who will prevail?

Will it be the Iowa congresswoman who proclaimed that the shot heard ‘round the world was fired in Concord, New Hampshire, not Concord, Massachusetts? Or will it be the half-term Alaska governor who volunteered that Paul Revere went riding through Boston firing warning shots and ringin’ bells, warning the British that the Americans were not about to give up their guns?

Folks, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Palin, 47, and Bachmann, 55, are both attractive, family values, Christian conservatives, whose free-wheeling verbal styles resonate with Tea Party faithful. Of course, there have already been the usual charges of sexism for anyone even suggesting a GOP catfight and denials among aides in both women’s camps that there is any rivalry here. The web site Politico reported that “Publicly, Palin, Bachmann, and their top staffers have nothing but praise for one another. Palin campaigned for Bachmann last spring in Minnesota, where Palin said the women were “buddies” and Bachmann called Palin “so much one of us” and “absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.”

But this is politics, after all, and Bachmann can’t be happy that Palin launched a bus tour on the eve of Bachmann’s anticipated entrance into the campaign. And “friendship” notwithstanding, Bachmann has told an interviewer she is reading the political gossip book, “Game Change,” an insider’s look at the 2008 McCain/Palin campaign.

“Game Change’ is a book that is very difficult to put down,” Bachmann said. “At least I found it difficult to put down, and it gives a person pause. But the other thing that it does, I think, is it informed me of what I don’t want to do.”

In case you’re curious, “Game Change,” which relied heavily on interviews with McCain’s campaign manager, portrayed Palin as ignorant of world events, including World Wars I and II, the Cold War, the history of Iraq and Saddam Hussein and prone to wild mood swings.

It was so friendly of Bachmann to point out that she doesn’t want to follow in those Palin footsteps. And so nice of her supporters to note that Bachman is a three-term member of Congress, former Minnesota state legislator, a trained tax law attorney and foster mother to 23 children, and Palin is not.

What Palin is is a savvy self-promoter and fund-raiser, who will have a say in Republican politics, as a candidate or not, as long as other, more knowledgeable, more qualified potential candidates allow her to parade around as if she speaks for them or their party. And so long as she does that, Bachmann, her semi-clone, will also be afforded the same, undeserved status. You want to talk abut issues? Ask them about issues. After all, their party says they are serious candidates. Or at least it doesn’t say they aren’t serious candidates. Same difference in politics.

Which is why I’m salivating at the thought of a Palin/Bachmann oratorical mud-wrestling match. Will we get more of the quotable Bachmann:

  • ”I think there is a point where you say enough is enough to government intrusion. … Does the federal government really need to know our phone numbers?”
  • “I don’t know where they’re going to get all this money because we’re running out of rich people in this country.”
  • “There is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact … hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design.”

Or more of the incomparable Sarah:

  • “Well, let’s see. There’s of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So, you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ?” — Sarah Palin, unable to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with other than Roe vs. Wade, interview with Katie Couric, CBS News, Oct. 1, 2008.
  • “I haven’t heard the president state that we’re at war. That’s why I too am not knowing — do we use the term intervention? Do we use war? Do we use squirmish? What is it?” — On the U.S. and NATO bombing of Libya, March 29, 2011.
  • “It may be tempting and more comfortable to just keep your head down, plod along, and appease those who demand: ‘Sit down and shut up,’ but that’s the worthless, easy path; that’s a quitter’s way out.” — Announcing her resignation as governor, July 3, 2009, midway through her term.

I strongly suspect that none of the people who want the press to ignore Sarah Palin as a serious candidate, has much respect for the opinions of other Republican candidates on “serious” issues either. And network news executives gave up covering news in favor of entertainment years ago. Better to use your energy listening to Obama and trying to influence his opinions, if you wish, and praying like the dickens that Sarah and Michele wind up on the same stage in the same debate over and over again.

Which one do you think looks better in red?

(* OK, major gripe: If you want to rally smart liberals to your cause, use the right words. It should be issues that “affect” us, not “effect.” Look it up. Even network news execs might catch the error.)

Bob@zestoforange.com