Posts Tagged ‘Putin’

A Vocabulary for the Trump Era

Monday, August 5th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Vidkun Quisling ... his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

Vidkun Quisling … his name has been revived recently in the U.S.

        In the category of nothing is ever all good or all bad (I keep trying), have you noticed a marked improvement in your vocabulary since the man with “all the best words” moved in to the White House?

        Seriously. It struck me the other day as I was reading the daily disaster report that people — not just reporters or TV and radio commentators — regular people were reading, hearing, using and even understanding words, many of which have never been routine in American conversation. It started with “narcissist” and “misogynist,” but the vocabulary lesson has expanded exponentially (see what I mean?) since the news cycle has become all Trump all the time. I mean, “quisling,” really?

      I started compiling a list of words that were previously not your normal fare in your daily paper, including some words I had to look up (using Wikipedia and various legitimate online dictionaries), and decided I might as well share them. Who knows, maybe an English teacher will see it and want to help some students better understand what the grownups have done to the world. If you feel daring, test your partner. Here’s my list (including examples), starting with the two aforementioned words, which are now household staples:

       — Misogynist. From Wikipedia: “Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny manifests in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, disenfranchisement of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.” It’s Trump’s middle name and now the whole world is aware of what misogyny looks like in practice. That’s a good thing if steps are taken to combat it, which appears to be happening (#metoo).

       — Narcissist. From Psychology Today: ”The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships. People with NPD … tend to seek excessive admiration and attention and have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.” Mussolini comes to mind or, well, you know.

      — Quisling. Turns out we’ve got a bunch of them in the USA. Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonssøn Quisling was a Norwegian military officer and politician who was head of the government of Norway during Nazi Germany’s occupation of the country during World War II. Actually, he was a figurehead who collaborated with the Nazis in every way, including the killing of Jews and others. After the war, he was tried and convicted of murder and treason and was executed. His name became synonymous for collaborator and traitor. Until recently, there hasn’t been much call for “quisling,” but Trump, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, and the guy Trump wanted to run the CIA, among others, have given new life to it. I could have lived my life without wanting to get the history of this word.

       — Sycophant. While we have Lindsey Graham available as a perfect example, why not give a dictionary description of a sycophant: “A person who acts obsequiously (I’ll get to that) toward someone important in order to gain advantage. Synonyms:    toady, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, truckler, groveller, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, obsequious person, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, spaniel …” Add the entire Trump cabinet and staff and many Republicans in Congress.

     — Obsequious. Again, just dictionaries here: “Obsequious people are usually not being genuine; they resort to flattery and other fawning ways to stay in the good graces of authority figures. An obsequious person can be called a bootlicker, a brownnoser or a toady.” Our man Lindsay again and let’s add Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff and bootlicker par excellence.

       — Nativist. “Relating to or supporting the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants. Example. ‘He has made his nativist beliefs known through his divisive comments about immigrants.’” The Republican Party and MAGA hat wearers who are still waiting for the wall are perfect examples.

      — Xenophobe. “A person who fears or hates foreigners, people from different cultures, or strangers. A person who fears or dislikes the customs, dress, etc., of people who are culturally different.” The same folks as above. Stephen Miller to be sure.

        — Asylum. Here’s one every American should learn. “The right of asylum is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted by one’s own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, such as another country or church official, who in medieval times could offer sanctuary. 

      “The United States recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees who apply for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the U.S., are admitted annually. Since World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980.”

       — Oligarchy. “A small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution. … Oligarchy is from the Greek word oligarkhes, and it means ‘few governing.’ Three of the most well-known countries with oligarchies are Russia, China, and Iran. Other examples are Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and apartheid South Africa. Trump leans to the Russian and Saudi versions, although he admires certain things about the others. He would probably have been comfortable with apartheid South Africa.

        — Plutocracy. “Government by the rich or the wealthy class. Oligarchy is not necessarily just the wealthy. If a system of plutocracy and oligarchy occurred at the same time (government by a few wealthy people), it would be termed a …

       — Plutarchy. Again, I refer you to Trump’s cabinet, the Koch brothers, and various wealthy interests who have been able to buy power thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

       — Nepotism. “The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.” Especially for which they are unqualified. Trump is a master at keeping it in the family (his own and Fox News) in the White House. Ivanka, Jared, Larry Kudlow.

       —  Emoluments. (Tell me you knew what this meant before Trump.) “The emoluments clause, also called the foreign emoluments clause, is a provision of the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) that generally prohibits federal officeholders from receiving any gift, payment, or other thing of value from a foreign state or its rulers, officers, or representatives. It prohibits those holding offices of profit or trust under the United States from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever’ from ‘any . . foreign State’ unless Congress consents.” Every stay at a Trump hotel, round of golf at a Trump golf course by the Saudis, the Russians, the Turks, the Chinese … goes into his bank account and he won’t share his income tax returns.

       — Exculpable. To exculpate is “to clear from a charge of guilt or fault; free from blame; vindicate.” The person is thus exculpable, something Trump claims Robert Mueller found him. Not true.

       — Propaganda. “Information that is intended to persuade an audience to accept a particular idea or cause, often by using biased material or by stirring up emotions — one of the most powerful tools the Nazis used to consolidate their power and cultivate an ‘Aryan national community’ in the mid-1930s. … the manipulation of the recipient’s emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence.” Fox News and Trump and rightwing radio hosts spew it. Trump has even talked about setting up a government broadcast agency to counter the “fake news” of  mainstream media.

        — Brainwash. More commonly known, but worth putting in context. “To make people believe only what you want them to believe by continually telling them that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching them: Could it be that we’re brainwashed to accept these things?”

        Again, Fox News — 24 hours a day of fake news right out of George Orwell. Also, Trump’s pathological lying. Second definition: “A method for systematically changing attitudes or altering beliefs, originated in totalitarian countries, especially through the use of torture, drugs, or psychological-stress techniques.” The Manchurian Candidate, or, perhaps, Putin’s Puppet. Once a far-fetched idea.

       — Hypocrite. “1: a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion. 2: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” Trump of course, but here we’re referring to evangelical Christian leaders who kiss Trump’s ring and conservative, family values-spouting Republicans who do likewise.

        — Penultimate. Nothing to do with Trump, just a word I like. “As both an adjective and a noun, penultimate means next to the last. (Penultimate is not more ultimate than ultimate.)” In other words, this lesson is almost over. Just one more paragraph and thanks for staying with me.

       — Dotard. Kim Jong-un’s name for Trump. “The insult is centuries old, appearing in medieval literature from the ninth century.” Searches for the term have spiked since Kim resurrected it. Merriam-Webster: “A state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise.” Side note: Kim didn’t say the word. The North Korean state news agency, KCNA, offered it as the English translation of Kim’s spoken Korean insult, which literally is “old lunatic.” Works for me in any language.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. rjgaydos@gmail.com

Happy Birthday to Us, America

Monday, July 1st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

DF7D27AC-9A10-4CDF-8AB5-9978FC52E730My country ‘‘tis of thee,

Today, I fear for thee.

The Orange Pretender, having stolen the presidency, plans to heist the nation’s birthday party as his own. At the memorial for America’s greatest president, no less. It will be a celebration of ego and pomposity on a grand scale. (He wants tanks!)

Such is the shell-shocked state of the republic, many Americans will go about their lives as if this is normal. ‘Burgers, hot dogs and fireworks. Business as usual. It’s an effort to preserve sanity, which, I understand, is necessary when so many others who share the same situation seem to have no problem with the behavior of the dotard on the dais.

But it’s not normal, America, not by a long shot, and it pains me to have to reflect on what this pretend president did in the days preceding the 243rd birthday of the republic.

On the anniversary of the killing of five journalists in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., Donald Trump met with Vladimir Putin, the man who helped install him as president. Putin is a president who routinely locks up Russian reporters or, if they are really troublesome, has them poisoned or thrown out hotel room windows. Trump and Putin joked about how it would be nice to be “rid” of such annoyances. Trump also jokingly asked Putin not to interfere in the next U.S. election. Ha ha.

Trump subsequently professed his close friendship with the Saudi crown prince who had done exactly what Trump joked about — he ordered the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi writer who was living in America and working for The Washington Post. Trump thinks this is no big deal because Saudi Arabia will be spending a lot of money on “a lot of things” in America. And staying at Trump hotels.

And, in a great meeting of the minds, Trump met Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, on his turf, to create the photo op both yearned for — thereby giving instant credibility to a murderous, nuclear-weapon-armed tyrant who is much less circumspect than Putin or the Saudi prince in terminally eliminating impediments to his dictates. (Of  course, Trump also lied that Barack Obama had yearned for and been denied a similar meeting with Kim in North Korea when Obama was president. But that was just typical Trump B.S.)

You can throw in Trump insulting our ally and his G20 summit host, Japan, backing down on his China tariff threat in the one area it made sense, exhibiting a profound ignorance of what the word “busing”” refers to when discussing schools, and denying yet another allegation of sexual assault by saying, “She’s not my type.“ A class act this Trump.

Even for Trump, the week was quite a display of ego, ignorance and insensitivity. And now we get Trump at the Lincoln Memorial telling us his version of what America is all about. There will apparently be lots of tanks and troops and planes. Someone will probably slip the words freedom and liberty into his speech. He will mouth them uncomprehendingly. Look at the great party I threw for America!

I’ve said it before. I take it personally when the president calls me “the enemy of the people.“ I take it personally when journalists are murdered for doing their jobs. I take it personally when not enough people seem to get the connection between the president’s words and the dead journalists. Like it’s OK for a president to say such things.

I know there are plenty of people who share my views and are as appalled as I am with Trump and many have voiced their opinions. But I’m still waiting for the Republicans among them to state so publicly. He has branded their party as surely as he has branded every one of his failed business ventures.

So have your burgers and fireworks. Take a dip in the pool. If you have time, maybe stop and think about what this holiday signifies. Liberty, opportunity, and, as Lincoln, a president who could actually craft coherent, profound messages, noted, “the proposition that all men are created equal.” Were he writing today, Lincoln would have said “men and women,” so that his message was clear.

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” The words of another eloquent statesman, Edmund Burke, Ireland, in the 18th century.

What Trump is doing is not normal, America, and it’s important to say so. In fact, I’m proud and grateful that I live in a country that still grants me that freedom.

So, happy birthday, to us.

Bob Gaydos is a freelance writer. He was news editor and executive editor of the Evening Capital in Annapolis in the early 1970s. rjgaydos@gmail.com

America’s in Need of an Intervention

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

The First Family ... in need of an intervention?

The First Family … in need of an intervention?

Democrats are talking about impeachment. Robert Mueller is looking at indictments. I’m fine with both, but honestly, more than anything else, I think America needs an intervention. Our addict-in-chief is out of control.

In addition to writing a blog for the past 10 years, I have been writing a monthly column called Addiction and Recovery. The goal always is to provide information on issues that are widely misunderstood. Like non-drinkers behaving like full-blown alcoholics.

Like Drumpf.

The Dotard-in-chief has talked sparingly about his respect for the power of alcohol, noting that his brother, Fred, died of alcoholism and at least implying that this may be the impetus for the Donald’s tea-totaling ways. But professionals in the field of addiction and alcoholics in recovery will tell you that alcohol is but one symptom of the disease. Take away the alcohol but change nothing else and you have what’s known as a “dry drunk.” That’s someone who has all the “isms” and can be so miserable to be around that people often wish he or she were drinking again.

They’ll also tell you it’s a family disease. It can cross generations, skipping here, striking there and can manifest in many ways. To repeat, alcohol need not be present for alcoholism to exist. It generally just makes it easier to spot.

What got me thinking about Drumpf and alcoholism was the obvious state of withdrawal he went into following the defeat of so many Republicans in the mid-term elections, culminating in the Democrats reclaiming the House of Representatives. It was bad enough to drive a man to drink. He was obviously depressed and reportedly irritable and angry at everyone in the White House. He even blamed Republican losers for not soliciting his support. He claimed Democrats voted more than once by changing clothes outside polling places. He fired his attorney general. He sat in his hotel room in Paris, watching TV and refusing to attend ceremonies at a cemetery to honor Americans who died fighting in World War I. Because it was raining. He was pouty with all the assembled world leaders, save for his buddy, Vladimir Putin, who managed to bring out a smile in him.

Why Putin?

Well, for one thing, the Russian president may be the only head of state who hasn’t let it be known, directly or otherwise, how little regard he has for Trump, as a person or a president. I think it’s fair to assume that Putin buffs Trump’s huge, fragile ego every time they meet. Especially in private. That’s because Putin is smart and Trump is a sucker for applause, adulation, approval.

It’s his alcohol.

The other factor in his more-erratic-than-usual behavior of the past week or so was the absence of political campaign rallies in his life. Leading up to the elections, they were an almost daily ritual. Get on a plane; fly here or there; make up scary stories of caravans of immigrants threatening America; rile up the base; hear them cheer. Look at all those MAGA hats! This is great! Bartender, hit me again. …

Whaddya mean it’s closing time? I’m the president and you’re not. I want another campaign stop. They love me. Let’s do Arizona again. Tell them I’ll give them a tax cut.

It’s tough to go back to work after that, especially when you hate your job and know you don’t know how to do it but have to act as if you do. Alcoholics tend to have large egos and low-self esteem. This is often disguised by an outsized personality or an ability to persuade people.

Sound familiar?

Dr. James West, founding medical director of the Betty Ford Clinic, who was described by the clinic’s director as “an addiction physician before there was even that term,” also wrote a column on addiction that appeared in the Desert Sun, a daily paper in Palm Springs, Calif. in the 1990s. One column addressed the question of an “alcoholic personality” in someone who doesn’t drink.

“Generally,” he wrote, “alcoholics seem to have the same kinds of personalities as everybody else, except more so.”

Among traits, he said, “The first is a low frustration tolerance. Alcoholics seem to experience more distress when enduring long-term dysphoria or when tiresome things do not work out quickly. Alcoholics are more impulsive than most. Secondly, alcoholics are more sensitive.”

“Alcoholics have a ‘low rejection threshold.’”

Don’t we know it.

Dr. West, who was a recovering alcoholic himself, died in 2012 at age 98. He also wrote: “Another trait found in excess in alcoholics is a low sense of one’s own worth. Then there is isolation. Alcoholics are loners. It is with most difficulty they are able to share innermost thoughts and concerns with anyone.

“Although they may be articulate, charming and very persuasive, they operate behind an armor or shell that keeps the world out. They are afraid of intimacy.”

This brings me back to Trump and the subject of an intervention. Much as I think it’s needed, I don’t see it happening. It’s usually the family and close friends who initiate such a drastic step. Melania seems to have accepted her role as wifely enabler, probably with a sweet pre-nup. The two older sons are chips off the same old block and probably fear daddy’s wrath. Ivanka, the apple of his eye, obviously does not see herself suffering from his addiction. Should that ever happen, the dynamic could change dramatically.

Which is to say, intervention for America from this First Family addiction could come from an interested third party, say in the form of a Robert Mueller indictment of Ivanka, or one or both sons. A moment of stark clarity for the Trumps. No cheering crowds. No MAGA hats. Lots of lawyers and legal fees.

“Daddy, turn off the TV. We need to talk …”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Trump Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

U.S. President Donald Trump smiles with other leaders, including Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional "ASEAN handshake" in the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit in Manila, Philippines November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Donald Trump “smiles” with other leaders, including Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms for the traditional “ASEAN handshake.” REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It was almost painful to look at. That handshake. The apparently traditional one in which the world leaders attending the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference line up side-by-side, reach their arms across their bodies and shake hands with the persons next to them. Right hand to left side, left hand to right side. A little unorthodox, but heavy on symbolism.

The dotard-in-chief at first couldn’t figure out the logistics of where his hands should go and whose hand to shake. After flailing around for a few seconds, he finally got it. Then came the painful part. As he reached across his body for the hands of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phu and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump grimaced as if in serious pain.

It’s obvious as you look at the photo that all the other participants are relaxed and smiling. Trump is straining, trying desperately as photographers continue to snap to look as if he’s smiling. The man can barely manage to hang on to Nguyen and Duterte.

All the stories I saw on the handshake called it “awkward.” Well, sure it was awkward. We’re used to awkward from dotard. But it was only the photographers who reported that he was grimacing, not smiling, as if it were a reach too far across a flabby, out-of-shape body.

Look, as far as I’m concerned the question of whether Trump is fit mentally, emotionally, intellectually, morally or ethically to be president was answered convincingly during the 2016 campaign and has been reinforced every day he has been in office. He’s not. Yet for some reason we’re still debating this. I’m tired of restating the obvious, which is why, I think, the handshake photo struck me.

In addition to all the above, the man is also physically unfit to be president. He actually winced as he reached for Duterte’s hand, which ought to be a fairly unchallenging physical feat.

Trump is obviously overweight. During the campaign his “doctor” reported Trump’s weight as 236 and height as 6 foot 3. A lot of people say he’s really 6 feet 2 inches tall, but that would change his Body Mass Index, moving him from merely overweight to obese and, well, that would simply be unacceptable.

Like exercise. Trump has famously said he doesn’t exercise because he believes everyone has a “finite” supply of energy and exercising uses it up. What can you expect from a guy who stared at the sun during an eclipse.

This is not nit-picking, people. The man is 71 years old and lives on a diet of fast food and red meat. He sleeps three to four hours a night. He watches a lot of television. He prefers to skip breakfast, but does wash his hair and check Twitter. He has one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the world, yet, unlike other presidents, he has not had a physical exam since taking office, at least not that we know of.

His only physical activity is golf, which is not particularly strenuous, especially since he rides his golf cart everywhere, including onto the green. (He also used a golf cart in Saudi Arabia while other dignitaries walked because he was “exhausted.”)

In a sense, Trump’s blithe disregard for his physical health is in the same vein as his demonstrated lack of interest in history, geography, economics, science, the Constitution, diplomacy, appropriate social behavior, the truth, business ethics, common courtesy and how government actually works. Add your own to the list.

The point is — and his loyal supporters who see the emperor well-clothed ought to really care about this — if he can’t manage his own personal health with all the imaginable resources in the world at his call, how can he be relied on to manage America?

Let me be clear. With Pence and Ryan in the bullpen, I’m not especially eager to have some physical ailment remove Trump from the Oval Office. (Again, one wonders why his supporters don’t care.) Actually, I see his denial of his basic health needs — and his secrecy about his physical condition — as just another symptom of his emotional unfitness for office. That should disqualify him. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t care as it is that he doesn’t seem to realize he should care, at least for himself and his supporters and family.

If he really wanted to make America great again, the dotard would set an example of something positive he’s doing. Take a walk. Eat some vegetables. But he’s got nothing. He body shames people, especially women, as if he has never looked in a mirror. Or, psychiatrists would say, maybe because he has looked in a mirror. One way or another, it’s always about him and whatever the subject is he alway thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. It’s the kind of attitude people like Vladimir Putin thrive on. That Republicans have allowed it to continue and sought to exploit it will be to their everlasting shame.

Here’s just a small example of how Trump’s disregard for his health and his responsibilities does not make America great again: A couple in Jacksonville, Fla., went to their elementary school to see their son receive a National Physical Fitness Award. Being bright as well as fit (he could probably handle the ASEAN handshake blindfolded), the boy immediately noticed the certificate was signed by former President Barack Obama, not Trump, even though it was dated May 23, 2017.

The family was upset, not over politics, but at the apparent lack of, well, attention to detail. Can’t the “best people” a president can hire get a simple certificate right? All things Trump being connected, it may well have something to do with the fact that the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which provides the coveted awards, still has no members and no chairperson after nearly 10 months under Trump.

Because, well heck, there’s only so much energy to go around.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Syria Conspiracy: One I Can Believe

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump, Assad and Putin

Trump, Assad and Putin

I have never been a fan of conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination? No. The 9/11 building collapse? No. The DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders … Well, OK, two out of three.

To my thinking, most conspiracy theories require: 1) a predetermined attitude on the motive behind the conspiracy (“the government doesn’t want us to know because …”); 2) the willingness to disregard facts (or lack of facts); 3) the belief in the absolute commitment of lots of people over a long period of time to keep a secret; 4) the further belief that the people involved in the conspiracy are actually capable of pulling it off, or at least trying to.

So here’s my conspiracy theory: Trump, Putin and Assad set the whole thing up. The chemical attack, the missile attack, the denials, the warnings from Trump, the threats from Putin. All according to script. Yes, it’s a morbidly depressing theory and so, in some respects, I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m right.

To hatch any sort of conspiracy, there must be something to gain for each of the conspirators. Each must also be able to lie with a straight face, over and over and over again. Being a pathological liar helps. Also, the conspirators must be willing and able to carry out whatever deeds, however unseemly, that are required to promote the fiction they are trying to sell. People will be hurt. Being self-absorbed and demonstrably unconcerned about the welfare of others is also a useful characteristic.

That sounds like Trump, Putin and Assad. In this case, it’s not even hard to believe, let alone conceive of such a chilling conspiracy.

Trump’s motive? Pick one:

  • He doesn’t how how to be president.
  • People think he stinks at the job and he can’t stand rejection.
  • He couldn’t close the deal on the health care plan.
  • People mock his tweets.
  • Judges keep rejecting his executive orders.
  • Even Republicans in Congress couldn’t avoid investigating links between a growing list of Trump campaign aides and Russian hackers to sway the election in his favor. It would be good to get people’s minds off that.
  • People think he’s Putin’s puppet.
  • He likes to act tough.
  • It sounded like a good idea at the time.

OK, so Trump is not the brains behind the plot. Putin is. To get Americans, especially American TV news outlets, to stop focusing on the FBI and CIA and Congress probing whether Trump and Putin are in bed together and, you know, maybe someone committed treason, have Trump order a military strike that has humanitarian justification written all over it, even though it probably won’t accomplish much militarily. A feel-good military action, like attacking someone who has just used chemical weapons against unarmed civilians.

Putin: “Whaddya say, Assad, are you willing to do it again? I know the press will be bad, but that’s nothing new for you. Trump will just mess up one of your airfields with a picturesque nighttime missile strike. TV will eat it up. You’ve got plenty of airfields and we can get your troops and mine out of harm’s way ahead of time. We’ll deny you did it. I’ll talk tough to Donald. He’ll talk tough to me, or better yet, have my buddy, Rex Tillerson, talk tough to me and you.

“Everyone will get nervous. I get to stay in Syria and help you keep your job and the world forgets about Ukraine. My people see me showing a tough Russian face. They can’t earn a decent living in Russia, but they like that image. Meanwhile, your people are even more frightened, convinced that you’re a maniac, willing to kill them in the most horrible ways to retain power. I admire that in you, by the way.

“Americans, of course, will see a bold, decisive president. When Rex comes to see me next week, it will be like old times, in more ways than one. Somehow, we will strike a diplomatic deal. Put down the knives, so to speak. Maybe talk about lifting sanctions in the future. I agree to focus more on fighting ISIS. You agree to a safe zone. ‘Well done!’ the headlines will say. A lot of Americans will believe that Trump has changed overnight from an uncaring, bumbling narcissist to a bold, compassionate leader.”

Assad: “You really think people will believe that about him?”

Putin: “Look, we have to help him. He’s too valuable an asset. Besides, they believed him when he said he’d make America great again. Launching missiles always sends that message.”

Far-fetched? I truly hope so, but all conspiracy theories worth entertaining are. All you need for such an outrageous plot to succeed is three men who have shown no compunction about harming people if it makes them feel more powerful, who have demonstrated a disregard for international law, who possess an uncanny ability to lie, and who have incredible power at their disposal. Also, a public eager to let the story line reinforce their view of how the world is supposed to work.  That is: The good guys win, and we’re the good guys.

Now let’s talk about those contrails.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Tom Wolfe, LSD, Orange Hair and Me

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

By Bob Gaydoskool-aid-book

I have been in a funk since Nov. 9. That’s the day I woke up with the realization that millions of Americans had lost their minds, if not their souls, and elected a man who is morally, psychologically, intellectually and spiritually unfit to be their president. The dumbest thing that has happened in my lifetime.

I stopped writing.

Finally, in desperation for inspiration, I turned to sports and that great philosopher, Reggie Miller (older Knicks fans can boo now.) For younger fans of the National Basketball Association, think Steph Curry. Shooters. Scorers. What do great shooters do when they are in a shooting funk, when everything seems to clang off the back rim or fall inches short of the basket? They keep shooting. They don’t pass the ball to someone else. They shoot themselves out of the funk.

Swish!

Now, I am not saying I am in the same class as a writer as Reggie and Steph are as shooters, but I have been writing for a long time and I think I have some skills so I figured the instincts would kick in once I started.

So instead of writing, I started reading. Tom Wolfe. Purely happenstance. I picked up some used books at the library because my son, Max, was looking for reading material. Short stories. He wasn’t interested in Wolfe’s “Hooking Up” and I had never read it, but had really enjoyed his “Bonfire of the Vanities.” So I ventured in. I quickly remembered why I liked him.

Then happenstance melded into serendipity. My partner and I watched “The Right Stuff,” the movie based on Wolfe’s book. Enjoyed it. There’s more. The last essay in “Hooking Up” detailed Wolfe’s assignment, with Jimmy Breslin, as the first writers/reporters for the Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine, New York.

My favorite newspaper as a teenager and my favorite magazine. I grew up reading Breslin and, as it turns out, Wolfe. After a brief, there’s-no-way-in-the-world-I-want-to-do-this-the-rest-of-my-life flirtation with engineering, I started writing. In more than 50 years, I have only stopped for brief intervals. Going with the universal flow, I went back to the library and picked up a couple more used Wolfe books, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and “A Man in Full.”

By the way, this is by way of answering those sympathetic friends who have asked me what I’ve been doing since The Dumb Event. For one thing, I’m trying to do things that make me feel better, things I can control.

… But let me digress.

To all those who pooh-pooh the Russian election connection, who doubt the Kremlin hacked into Democrats’ e-mails and released them in an organized effort to elect You Know Who and who further doubt that Vladimir Putin had anything to do with it, I turn again to sports and the biggest story that got lost in the election — Russia’s decades-long government-sponsored program to cover up the use of performance-enhancing drugs by virtually all its Olympic athletes.

A report recently released by a Canadian lawyer, Richard H. McClaren, who works for the World Anti-Doping Agency, confirmed it all. McClaren and his team made short shrift of Russian denials. Medals were repossessed. Athletes were banned. A Russian official involved in the program said the direction came from the top. In Russia, there is only one top. This is the Russian way, or at least the Putin way. Of course he knew about the steroids. Of course he knew about the hacking. No Russian would dare do either without his approval. Not if he didn’t want to wind up with poison in his vodka.

… So where was I? Right, reading.

I’m learning much more about Ken Kesey and the acid/pot/speed hippie freaks of the ‘60s than I ever intended to. The meaning of life on LSD.  It’s a good read. I found it especially interesting how Kesey came to write “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Nothing like first-hand experience. I just started the book, so there will likely be more on this later.

What else? I started looking for local issues I might be able to help out with since I believe change starts close to home. I’ve also recommitted to my off-and-on interest in photography. Living in an especially scenic area of the Hudson Valley, it works well with my inclination to report on what’s going on around me. On my travels the other day, a farmer walked his cow across the road right in front of me, casual as could be. Nonchalantly, I missed the shot. But I know where he lives. Gotta keep shooting.

… Speaking of nukes, Putin recently said he wanted to beef up Russia’s nuclear weapons capability. Our soon-to-be Twitter-in-chief knee-jerkedly responded that he planned to do the same with the United States’ nuclear armaments and that no one would be able to keep up with the U.S. in a nuclear arms race. Be still my patriotic, tax-paying heart. Robert Reich, a voice of sanity on social media, reported the above and asked, “What do you think?”

Robert, I think Putin is playing his puppet for the fool he knows him to be. I think all the Republican officials who applaud every time their “king” says something insane are shameless toadies. I think Putin is setting Orange Hair up to act like a big hero at a summit conference in which Russia and the U.S. decide to stop the war of nuclear words and de-escalate, rather than escalate, the nuclear arms race. In exchange, of course, for U.S. concessions. Drop those sanctions for grabbing Crimea. Hold back support for NATO countries that don’t pull their own weight. Let Russia handle things in Syria. Buy some Russian goods (whatever that might be). Don’t retaliate for Russia’s hacking. Stop criticizing Putin’s treatment of dissidents. Give him the respect, he deserves. “Da da, you understand that, my presidential friend, I’m sure.”

I think Putin wants to increase Russian influence over the world, not destroy it. He knows he can do that by pushing buttons and pulling strings.

I also think it would be beneficial to Americans if Ivanka revoked Daddy’s Twitter privileges and read some history to him every day and tested him on it the next day.

And finally, I think maybe I’m feeling a tad better, but the funk is not defunct. Sorry, Reggie, I may have scored a couple of points, but I think I have to keep on shooting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

  

 

The Kremlin and the Death of the GOP

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

People walk past a mural on a restaurant wall depicting Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting each other with an passionate kiss in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP - Getty Images

People walk past a mural on a restaurant wall depicting Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin greeting each other with a passionate kiss in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP – Getty Images

That’s all. I’ve had it. I am through with writing about what a sick, repugnant human being Donald Trump is and then watching him reach a new low. Those who know about recovery from addiction, a subject on which I write regularly, say that every bottom has a trapdoor. Trump is living proof of that. Yet, with each new bottom, every poll seems to find 40 percent of those surveyed favoring him for president.

A few days ago, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to give people a reason to vote for Hillary Clinton, rather than against Trump. I stopped writing in mid-column because it seemed to be a waste of time. Who was I going to convince?

Here’s as far as I got …

There I was, having breakfast and rummaging around in my mind to find an angle for this presidential campaign other than don’t vote for Donald Trump because he’s an ignorant, racist, bigoted, misogynistic, cruel, vindictive, vile, narcissistic, xenophobic, quick-tempered, undisciplined, untrustworthy, uninformed, unspeakably crude sexual pervert and birther, who lies as naturally as he breathes.

Somehow, writing that message week after week (me and plenty of others) still hadn’t convinced a lot of people that the only vote that makes sense on Nov. 8 is one for Hillary Clinton. You don’t have to like her, folks, just know that that the future of this nation may well depend on voting for her.

Deaf ears. “Yeah, Trump may be all those things,” comes the unconvincing shrug, “but I can’t vote for her.” I have given up asking for reasons why. You know, reasons based on actual facts that would outweigh the choice at hand.

I set aside a newspaper article about how Trump had managed to actually make insulting comments about Clinton’s body as part of his defense against multiple charges that he is a sexual predator. Instead, I tried to focus on my egg white omelette (Swiss cheese and tomatoes). Then, as fate (or my excellent hearing) would have it, the angle was delivered to me from a nearby table. A reason to vote for Hillary … not that it was presented that way.

“DId you hear that Putin said if Clinton is elected, be prepared for war?”

The point the gentleman was making to his friend was that voting for Clinton would be dangerous because it could mean getting into a war with Russia. This was delivered in all seriousness because Vladimir Putin had said so and, as we know, he always speaks the truth and never has any nefarious plot in mind because that’s the way former heads of the KGB comport themselves when they get elected president of Russia.

The further point would be that voting for Trump would be smart because Putin says nice things about him. And Trump says he’d like to work with Putin.

So there you have it, America, the Republican candidate for president of the United States is now being touted as the better choice because the president of Russia doesn’t like the other candidate. Does this seem backwards to anyone else? When did being pals with Putin all of a sudden become more important than standing up to the Kremlin? When Trump launched his campaign based on lies and fear, that’s when.

Trump, of course, has said that he has met Putin. He has also said that he has not met Putin. You can be sure that Clinton and Putin know each other well. And he apparently does hate her guts. (I’m liking this reason for voting for her even more now.) That’s because, as secretary of state, she publicly called him out on stealing his election, something which Trump has accused Clinton of trying to do. She stood up to Putin. Meanwhile, Trump wants to do business with the man who grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and whose political opponents have a way of ending up dead.

It used to be that Republicans automatically voted for the candidate who was tough on Russia. They wanted someone the Kremlin would have to talk to and would do so with respect. Someone experienced in  diplomacy whose word could be counted on by friend and foe alike. That would be Hillary, not Donald. Donald, who doesn’t know Crimea from Korea, wants to sell out NATO and maybe get a hotel deal in the bargain. Putin has played him — and his followers — perfectly, from the hacked Clinton e-mails to the threat of war. Trump’s entire campaign is based on fear. That’s no way for America to negotiate with Putin, or any other world leader. …

I stopped there, wondering whether to go on. Then Trump said in the last debate that he wouldn’t necessarily accept the results of the election if he lost. That’s when I threw in the towel. For a man who has promoted violence at his rallies and some of whose supporters have openly espoused rebelling against any defeat, this is as unacceptable, unpatriotic, indefensible, possibly treasonous a statement as a candidate for president can make.

But that’s Trump — a new bottom every day. His fans cheered. I do not blame him for being who he is; I simply detest him. In truth, I’m sick of him. I do, however, blame the Republican Party for infecting American society (not just politics) with this utterly degrading election campaign. I mean every elected Republican official, from Speaker Paul Ryan to every governor, senator, congressperson, state legislator, county executive, county legislator, mayor, supervisor, councilman who has stood silently by and let Trump make a mockery of our democratic system and lay waste to any sense of decency or decorum in selection of the most powerful political leader on the planet.

A lot of these people went to Cleveland to vote for Trump. Then they stayed mute for months as he … okay, I said I’m not doing that anymore. The world knows what he has done. If you know all that and can still support him, words actually fail me. The same goes for those who say Hillary is just as bad. Not even close. You people need to get serious.

Republicans, Trump is not one of you. He is Trump. Period. You created him. Your hypocrisy and cowardice have emboldened him and his ilk. He has sullied us all. And he has destroyed you.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

And So it Went: ‘2nd Amendment people’, ‘ISIS’ … more Trump ‘do-overs’

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... shooting off his mouth again

Donald Trump
… shooting off his mouth again

It was The Week of the Do-Overs: Actually, for Donald Trump and Republicans, it has been nothing but one do-over after another as the disintegration of their party continues in the guise of a presidential campaign.

Most recently, the man “who tells it like it is” and “says what he means” has been going around saying that President Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were the founders of ISIS. That is so absurd on the face of it that only a rabid Trump supporter would believe it. But Trump said it often enough that his spokespersons (the most hapless lot of sycophants in history I have to believe) defended it all over TV. Then Trump did what he always does — a do-over. I didn’t mean it, he said. It was “sarcasm,” he said. His lackies moved on.

Trump also said that if Clinton won the presidency there would be no way to stop her from appointing Supreme Court judges who would not be amenable to conservative points of view. Then he added that maybe the “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. When even Republicans said this was a possibly treasonous call for assassination of his opponent, Trump eventually said, well, he meant that politically they might do it. A do-over.

But there are no do-overs when you suggest that killing your opponent would be an acceptable political act. Not in this country where innocent people are murdered for no reason by deranged men with guns every day and the NRA buys congressional support to defeat any reasonable efforts at gun control. Not when all it takes is for one of those unstable Trump followers to get a gun and follow his leader’s suggestion. Some of them don’t even know what sarcasm is.

Trump is a threat, an insult, a slur, a lie, a boast, an absurdity waiting to happen anytime he speaks. Life to him is one, big do-over. He doesn’t tell it like it is; most of the time he doesn’t know what it’s like. He makes it up. Then, because he’s Trump, he expects to be able to say, “That’s not what I meant” or “the media misinterpreted it” and have everything be OK. He never even suggests an apology for any possible harm his words might cause.

For example, he recently said he “always wanted to get a Purple Heart,” one of the dumbest statements I have ever heard. Trump said it in the midst of insulting a father whose son earned the medal in losing his life in combat saving many of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. Because the man is a Muslim and used the platform of the Democratic Convention to attack Trump’s targeting of Muslims, Trump belittled the man by suggesting he was possibly an ISIS agent. Then, Trump showed how small he is himself (not just his hands) by saying he “always wanted” a Purple Heart and being given one by a veteran was “easier.” Ha ha. Joke.

Thousands of men and women who earned Purple Hearts by being wounded in combat were not amused. They would take no do-overs on this slur. If Trump wants to learn more about these wounded veterans, he can visit the Purple Heart Museum in New WIndsor, N.Y.. It’s not far from where he did his only “military duty” at the New York Military Academy.

But really, this is all the same, week after week. He knows Putin; he doesn’t know Putin. He’s not so sure about supporting NATO allies. What’s a Crimea? What’s the big deal about using nukes? Trump doesn’t tell it like it is. Rather, to use the overworn phrase, he is what he is. A phony, in so far over his head that he is trying desperately to find a way out. The debates are supposedly rigged, he says, so maybe he won’t take on Clinton. The elections are also rigged, he says, so he can’t possibly win.

The ones who really want a do-over are Republican “leaders” who allowed this racist bully to claim their prized possession — candidate for president of the United States. A man with no morals, no compassion, no intellect, no regard for anyone but himself. A man who mocks people with disabilities. A man who says he wanted to punch all those Democrats saying nasty things about him. This, to him, is reasonable discourse for someone wanting to be president of the United States. For shame.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is supposedly OK with Trump avoiding the debates and is his chief apologist. Well, Priebus, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can go on denouncing Trump’s statements and supporting his candidacy at the same time, but it only makes them look like spineless fools. The know-nothings to whom Trump appeals will stick with them. That’s not enough to save the party of Lincoln. Their day of reckoning is looming.

It seems to me that any Republican with a shred of decency and self-respect, not to mention common sense, should have abandoned Trump and the GOP apologists by now. Any Republican male with a wife or daughters, or both, should have written him off months ago for his comments about women. Any veteran, any Hispanic, any Muslim, any black, any gay, any parent, any woman, any man who respects this country and has hopes for its future needs to look in the mirror and ask, “How can I live with myself if I vote for Donald Trump?”

Evangelicals will have to reckon with their maker.

Some mistakes have no do-overs.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

And So It Went: Hillary Makes History in Philly, a Farewell to Art in Pine Bush

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

        Undaunted by the oppressive heat and the inability of the Mets and Yankees to hit with runners in scoring position, I press on with the second installment of “And So it Went,” my take on the week that was:

  • Philadelphia. Michelle Obama, Joe Biden, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, the general, Khizr Khan,
    hillary in philly

    Hillary Clinton

    Barack Obama. Etc. Etc. Etc. Emotion, drama, unity, inclusiveness, humor, compassion, wit, hope, soaring rhetoric, applause, standing ovations. Wow, we’re so much better than they are. … Debbie does e-mails. Putin does e-mails. Who cares about e-mails? The first black president — a Democrat — hands the baton to the first woman-president-to-be — also a Democrat. Huzzah! Hillary! Hillary! C’mon, Bernie fans, cheer! … At least she’s better than Trump.

  • Touching moments. Philadelphia: Bernie Sanders wiping away tears as his brother, also wiping away tears, places the senator’s name in nomination as a Democratic candidate for president of the United States. Cleveland: Ivanka Trump, champion of equal pay, introducing her father as Republican candidate for president; Donald patting his daughter’s behind. (Do we really need to say more?)
  • Meanwhile, back in Pine Bush. This small hamlet in Orange County somehow manages to have two groups promoting local artists, but not enough support to keep
    Tom Bolger

      Tom Bolger

     one, top-notch art gallery in business. Tom Bolger, owner of the Crawford Fine Art Gallery, held a farewell reception last week at which all his favorites artists came to drink some wine, nibble on hors d’oeuvres, commiserate about his closing the gallery and take their works home. Bolger said he was disappointed, but kind of relieved to finally be able to move on. He’s opening a new gallery in nearby Cragsmoor, where he lives. Everyone said that sounded great and wished him luck. If any arts group is looking for a good location for a gallery, there’s one available on Main Street. If you need a landmark, it’s next door to where the barbershop used to be. 

  • Zephyr Teachout. That’s the name of, I hope, my next representative in Congress. Zephyr Teachout. I love just saying it. Someone put a sign up on my road with her name on it. It’s not far from a couple of Trump signs to give you an idea of the neighborhood. A progressive Democrat in the Sanders mold, Teachout was more Zephyr Overreach in 2014 when she challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary. Running for an open seat in Congress is much more realistic and doable. Reach out for Teachout. She can use that slogan if she wants.
  • The Corpse Flower (gag!) blooms in the Bronx. The  Amorphophallus titanum, is described by the New York Botanical Garden as “a horticultural jewel 10 years in the making. Each day of careful tending and feeding has led up to this moment: a brief yet glorious window in which the enormous plant (up to eight feet high) will unfurl, displaying the striking red interior and uncanny scent to which it owes its name.” That “uncanny” scent is universally described as the smell of death. The Botanical Garden held special hours over the weekend for anyone wishing to experience the short-lived bloom first-hand. Thanks anyway, folks, but up here in Pine Bush we have guys who call themselves farmers who spread something that smells like death on their land a lot more regularly than every 10 years. Smell all you want, and it’s free.
  • “Where to Invade Next,” Michael Moore’s latest movie features the writer/actor/director “invading” various countries to claim their best ideas and bring them back to the United States. From Germany, he expropriated the idea of requiring every student to get an hour instruction each day on the history of their country’s actions in World War II. The knowledge of the mass extermination of Jews, gypsies, gays and others in “work camps” is never to be forgotten by young Germans so as not to be repeated, or denied. As fate would have it last week, Pope Francis visited one of the most notorious of those camps, Auschwitz, also to remind the world of what man has done to his fellow man. … It made me think that all Americans would benefit from requiring even a little bit of this kind of regular, honest education in American schools about how Native Americans were (and still are) treated and the unvarnished truth about slavery.
  • Which brings me to Bill O’Reilly. The chief buffoon at Fox News replied to First Lady Michelle Obama’s moving speech at the Democratic Convention, which included her waking up in a house that slaves helped to build, by saying that, while “slavery is an abomination,’’ the slaves who helped build the White House were “well-fed and had decent lodgings.” He defended these statements by saying they were factual. Yes, but the vital factual point, Bill, is that they were slaves and had no choice. They were property, to be maintained like any machine so as to be in good working order. Kind of like those well-dressed, well-fed, well-paid blondes working at Fox News who had to say Yassa to Massa Roger if they wanted to keep their jobs.
  • Trump is entitled to intelligence briefings. Isn’t that an oxymoron? She’s way better than Trump.

… And so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Hogan

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Putin & Nazi eyes