Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

Mass Murders, Insanity … Our America

Thursday, June 2nd, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

 F6BB8580-548F-45C1-9ADC-21E887D51A37   How messed up is America? This messed up:

    Having written far too many editorials and columns in my lifetime on violence and the need for sensible gun control and more resources for mental health programs, I stopped after writing a couple of paragraphs on the murder by a teenager of 10 black Americans who simply happened to be in a supermarket in Buffalo one afternoon.

     I was too depressed. It’s the same, old story. Do some yard work. Give it a couple days.

     He who hesitates. A couple of days later I was watching the escalating body count as yet another teenager slaughtered virtually an entire fourth grade class in Uvalde, Texas.

     Nineteen children. Two teachers. The slaughter in Texas knocked the massacre in Buffalo off the front pages before we had time to properly grieve that senseless loss of life.

     That’s how messed up America is.

     After reading the early reports of the escalating body count in that fourth grade classroom in Uvalde, I turned off my phone and shut my eyes.

     I cried. If you’re a parent, you’ll get it. Hell, if you’re just a normal, caring adult who appreciates the joy and promise of children, you’ll get it. I pictured myself as one of the parents standing outside the school, screaming and crying as police stood frozen, also outside, while a deranged teenager with a military-style killing machine blew their children apart inside. And I wept. And I cursed.

   And I said, what the hell, I’ve written this editorial dozens of times already. We know the solutions.

   Apparently, we don’t. Not all of them. We know that universal background checks for purchase of a firearm makes sense. Most Americans support this. We know that banning the sale of military-style assault rifles will reduce the civilian death toll. It’s already been proven. We know from sad experience that more mental health resources, especially for young people and schools, are vitally needed in our social media era.

     We also know that the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers have the Republican Party in their pockets. Bought and paid for. They will fight gun control measures to the last student’s dying breath.

      And that’s the last, obvious, part of the solution to mass shootings in America: Voting for state and national representatives who will support the necessary changes. The one we keep ignoring.

   It has been said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. Well then, screaming about the need for changes in gun laws and repeatedly voting for people obviously opposed to them — paid to oppose them — is a form of insanity.

     Worse yet is screaming for the need for change and not bothering to register or even bothering to vote for people who would fight for those changes. Deadly apathy.

      It comes down to this: For whatever their individual reasons, Republicans don’t seem to care about the slaughter in our schools. They have sold their soul for some votes, power and their twisted image of what “liberty and justice for all” means.

       We know very well what needs to be done. We just need to get the final part right. If we want to clean up this mess, we have to behave like responsible Americans and stop voting for Republicans. It’s time to stop expecting different results. Otherwise, nothing will change but the body count.

(Full disclosure: The author is not now and has never been a member of any political party. He is a registered independent voter.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

      

To Live and Die in America

Monday, April 25th, 2022



 The world in 500 words or less 

By Bob Gaydos

Maybe it’s just me, but…

Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust.” He says he didn’t know the gun was loaded.

Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust.” He says he didn’t know the gun was loaded.

— New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined producers of the film, “Rust,” $139,793 — the maximum amount — and issued a stinging criticism of safety failures in connection with the fatal shooting of a cinematographer and wounding of the director during the filming of the movie. Actor/producer Alec Baldwin, who fired the fatal shot, says he was told the gun was safe. He is probably not through with the courts and may rue the day he lost his gig playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

— South Carolina has given the phrase “pick your poison“ a whole new meaning. Unable to procure the drugs to administer lethal injections to Death Row inmates, the state now offers electrocution or firing squad as the available means of meeting your maker. A recent candidate appealed both the sentence and method as cruel and unusual and a court has postponed his date with destiny. There have been only three firing squad executions in the U.S. since 1950, all in the state of Utah. Why is that not surprising?

— The reason South Carolina had to stop using lethal injections for executions is that pharmaceutical companies apparently forbid the sale of their products for that purpose. Wish they showed the same concern for some of their drugs that are killing people who are not on Death Row.

— Prescribing fatal overdoses of fentanyl for 25 seriously ill patients would seem to be taking the doctor-playing-god thing a bit too far. Then again, a jury in Columbus, Ohio, had no problem with it, acquitting Dr. William Husel of murder charges in a trial involving 14 of those deaths. Putting people out of their misery did cost Husel his job when the hospital fired him and 26 other employees who went along with his unorthodox treatment protocol. Why it took several years and so many fentanyl-induced deaths has yet to be answered.

— The judges who selected this year’s winners of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award got it perfect. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, was an obvious choice and eminently deserving, but the perfect selection was Rep. Liz Cheney, the only Republican in Congress with the guts, conviction and public name recognition to meaningfully stand up to the Trumpers spreading the stolen election lie and trying to treat the Jan. 6 insurrection as something other than a failed coup attempt. Forcefully defying the powers who can impact your political future takes moral courage, especially for Republicans today. I think JFK would applaud the choice. And, while I don’t share a lot of political views with Cheney or her father, Dick, I believe the former vice president should be proud of his daughter and her stout defense of the truth. Ironic, huh?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

By Whatever Name, It’s Still Racism

Sunday, February 13th, 2022
Light And Word Of Racism For Background Stock Photo, Picture And ...

By Bob Gaydos

   Every once in a while that perpetual motion machine I call my mind comes to a screeching halt with what I like to think of as a moment of clarity.  Like when I realized that every political story in the United States for the past six-plus years has been some version of the Republican Party capitulating to Donald Trump’s platform of lies and manipulation to secure power. Different details, same story.

     Recently, I looked at a list of potential topics for columns and had one of those moments. Here’s the list as it appeared on my phone: “NFL, Joe Rogan, supreme court, gerrymandering, Teaching history, the police.”

     “It’s all racism,” I said to myself. “We’re still arguing about its presence when our lives are full of it.”

     I will leave it to others to go into detail on each of these stories because they all deserve it and it will happen anyway. But my point here is that racism is everywhere in America, to the point that even commenting negatively on its presence almost makes it seem acceptable because it seems to be inevitable. That’s troubling, yet I persist.

      Touching briefly on that list:

  • The NFL, its players overwhelmingly black, is being sued because team owners have a pathetic record in hiring black head coaches. And that’s with a league rule that requires diversity in interviewing for coaching positions. And then there’s still Colin Kaepernick, the black quarterback who was blackballed by the league because he took a knee during the National Anthem.
  • President Biden was criticized by Republicans for saying that he would nominate a black woman to fill a coming Supreme Court vacancy. Outrageous! to make color a part of the process, they screamed. Sure, let’s just forget nearly 200 years of only white male justices on the court. Let’s forget it was even longer before a woman justice was approved. Who needs a court that represents all Americans?
  • Efforts are being made in Florida, Texas and other states to prevent teachers from, well, teaching history. That’s because some people don’t like their children hearing uncomfortable facts about America’s history of slavery and racial discrimination.
  • Republican efforts to redraw election districts to make it difficult for people of color (who tend to favor Democrats) to vote continue nationwide and, despite all the publicity, black lives still don’t seem to matter as much as others to some police.
  • But Joe Rogan is the one that really gets me. The comedian/podcaster has been the center of controversy recently regarding the spreading of misinformation on Covid 19 via his podcast on Spotify. Controversy, of course, is pure gold for Rogan. Singer Neil Young pulled all his songs from Spotify because of Rogan’s spreading Covid misinformation and other artists followed suit. Spotify eventually agreed to put a disclaimer on Rogan’s broadcasts on Covid. But the attention on his podcast uncovered an old video which compiled his use of the “N” word in numerous segments over the years. That struck me as odd, being that Rogan is a white comedian and, in my experience, even the most down-to-earth, open-to-all-ideas, average white guy who is not Richard Pryor doesn’t get to do that. There is only one message there and it is racist. Rogan subsequently asked Spotify to remove 70 — that’s 70! — episodes in which he used the word. Sounds almost routine. He subsequently apologized, saying “it is the most regretful and shameful thing I’ve ever had to talk about publicly.” He said he had not used the N-word in years and hoped it would be a “teaching moment.“ Well that’s nice. Me, too. But, as he said, the video compiling the “shameful“ episodes has been out there for years. He could’ve been teaching his fans how wrong it was all this time instead of hoping it would just stay forgotten. Rogan also called release of the video and other criticisms of him “a political hit job.“ That kind of sounds like many of his shows from what I hear. Personally, I can’t recall any conversation in which I used the “N” word, even just to say I shouldn’t use it. I somehow learned early on that it was offensive for any white person to use the word. Using it in any context just gives it more credence. But that’s just me. 
  • One more thing, Rogan, who reportedly has 11 million listeners, was also criticized for mocking on his show the way Asians speak English. He defended it by saying, “But that’s the way they talk.”

      Like I said, it’s all racism.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

A Date That Should Live in Infamy

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

The Insurrection.

The Insurrection.

   The scenes are still vivid. The memory is fresh. A year, passed disturbingly quickly, has not dimmed the shock nor diminished the sadness of witnessing the most direct assault on American democracy since the Civil War. A violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a certified, fair election.

       January 6, 2021 is now a date for Americans to remember alongside Dec 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001. The storming of the Capitol is an event to place alongside the ,firing on Fort Sumter.

       That’s how I feel a year later and I am troubled that too many Americans, perhaps preoccupied by trying merely to survive and function in the middle of a pandemic, do not see the Insurrection and its aftermath for what it was — an attempted coup to keep Donald Trump in the White House.

      I know. Those things don’t happen in America. Not in the land of liberty, the leader of the Free World, the beacon of hope and opportunity where all are welcome.

      Once upon a time …

      The election of Trump to the presidency and the total acquiescence of the Republican Party to his program of greed, deceit, threat, ignorance, bullying and total disrespect for the rule of law simply in order to maintain power have rewritten the story line. Or at least they’ve submitted an alternative plot line — an adaptation of Orwell — that goes: “Welcome to America, where all men (not women) are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

        So my hopes this Jan. 6 lie with those public servants in Congress (including a couple of courageous Republicans) who have been investigating the Insurrection and preparing to give the American people a full report of who knew what and when they knew it, who did what and when they did it and, mostly, how we hold them accountable. My hopes also lie with the thus-far sluggish Justice Department of Merrick Garland in following through on any and all evidence of criminal behavior uncovered by the House Jan. 6 Committee.

        There is urgency to this because congressional midterm elections happen this year and, if Democrats lose control of the House, Republicans, fearful of Trump and devoid of any sense of duty to country, will probably disband the committee. They may even try to impeach President Joe Biden out of spite. Such is the state of that party and, from their overwhelming silence, local rank-and-file Republicans seem just fine with it.

         This means the rest of us, a solid majority of Americans, must insist on a full, public report by the committee and pressure members of Congress of whatever political party to honor the process.

         Finally, we must encourage historians and educators to present the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in a full and honest manner. Since they were televised, only the braInwashed will deny them, but this is key for our “Once upon a time” to not become a fairy tale.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

It’s No Time to be Silent, America

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

  By Bob Gaydos

   C56781E2-67D2-4EBC-941D-A0CA7A4C30E9“Stop.”

     That’s it. That’s all he or she said. It was the entire content of a message reacting to a column I wrote on Banned Books Week. In fact, it was the only reaction I got from all of Facebook when I spent a few bucks to spread my words of wisdom on the subject.

     I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of response to a column encouraging, in effect, the freedom to read as we please without interference from some “authority.” I mean, this is the land of liberty, isn’t’t it? But that’s probably a topic for another column. This one’s about that one-word effort to stifle the messenger. It’s about why, disappointing feedback or not, I won’t stop. Indeed, disappointing feedback is a primary motivator to keep spreading the message. There’s simply too much at stake and it worries me that many Americans don’t seem to be aware of the threat.

       As God, the greater consciousness, Buddha and the cashier at Hannaford‘s Supermarket are my witnesses, there are some things, even with eight decades of experience, I just don’t understand.

         Spoiler alert: If you are a MAGA believer, there are likely to be some things in this column that might cause you emotional distress. I’d hate to cause you any discomfort, so you might want to consider not reading beyond here. Otherwise, you were warned. And to those who argue that we must try to reconcile our differences, I’ve pretty much given up trying to reason with true MAGAs. Using research, facts, logic and compassion has proven to be a waste of time. I’m focusing on the other Americans, millions of them, who apparently think we’re just going thriough a tough spell. Hey, football stadiums are full again, aren’t they?

      Sure, and so are hospital emergency rooms. In fact, in some states they are overflowing and people with serious medical issues are having treatment delayed because of the flood of Covid patients. A second flood caused by a refusal by many to get vaccinated or to wear masks. 

       One of the things I don’t understand is people who call themselves healthcare workers refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Thousands resisted mandates to get vaccinated even though the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective.  Only the threat of losing their jobs convinced many to do the responsible thing. 

        Another thing I don’t understand is people who call themselves educators arguing against children and teachers wearing masks in school. Or parents attacking school board members who think teachers should not have to put their lives at risk to do their jobs and students should not become an army of miniature Covid spreaders. Teachers have proven to be adaptable and the kids will only complain about the masks if their parents do. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of educating to do.

    Which is to say, I don’t understand why people who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans, or both, regard education as an evil, as something to be derided, dismissed and avoided at all costs. In the land of opportunity, how does the pathway to greater opportunity become the enemy for so many people?

      I do understand why some who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans or both routinely attack education, spread lies and misinformation and feed on the fears of the uninformed. Power and greed. Thus has it always been.

          Maintaining the support of an uninformed mass of people seems to be the only platform of today’s Rrepublican Party. It operates solely out of fear of losing whatever power it has. It gives lip service to helping those in need, devoting most of its energy and resources to fighting the efforts of those who would truly like to reconcile our differences.

       The truth is, reconciliation is not a Republican priority. They would rather rule. I don’t understand why. I always come back to fear. Which is why I always come back to education. Autocrats depend on keeping the masses ignorant in order to maintain power. So, too, do some religious leaders. Have faith in me, they preach. Give me your money. You will be protected. Do not trust the infidel with the clever words. 

       That approach works for some in politics, too. But democracy cannot survive in that atmosphere. And, in my opinion, our brand of democracy is under attack today. I have never felt this way before. The January 6 insurrection and the continuing lies of Republican leaders that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump are the most glaring evidence of this threat. So long as Trump speaks for most Republicans and so long as most Republicans fear to contradict him, I see no chance of “reconciling our differences.“ 

       That’s why I won’t stop writing about the importance of a Free Press, about the freedom to read what we choose, about the need for truthful history to be taught in all our schools, about respecting science, and about honoring the invitation on our Statue of Liberty, to welcome, not demonize, refugees from other lands.

        I repeat, I speak not to the MAGAs, but to the large number of Americans who, I am certain, share my beliefs. We are the majority. Protect our democracy. Make sure you’re vaccinated. Teach your children the importance of education. Be a voice of tolerance. Vote. Reread “1984.”

         Don’t stop.   

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Conflicts of Interest Don’t Just ‘Happen’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

B38B4BB8-7234-4325-B13F-8A4490131428     A funny thing happened to Ed Diana on the way to his $500-a-week, no-show job arranged through the public industrial development agency of the county he ran for a dozen years. He got caught.

     That’s the only thing that “happened“ to Diana, despite what his lawyer would have you believe. Everything else he made happen.

      This is a big story in Orange County, New York, which is about an hours drive northwest from New York City, but it’s about greed and political corruption, so it has implications nationwide. And yes, as with most such stories these days, it involves Republicans, but at least this time, some of them are on the right side of the law.

       Diana, who served three terms as county executive in Orange, recently pleaded guilty to two counts of filing a false instrument. Specifically, he signed a form which states that, as a member of the board of directors of the Orange County IDA, as vice chairman in fact, he had no conflict of interest with the business of that agency. That he had no tangible personal gain arising from that relationship.

       In fact, though, he did. Lying on this form is a felony in New York State. Diana did it twice. He also played guilty to a misdemeanor charge of conflict of interest.

        “If this could happen to Ed Diana, this could happen to anyone,” Diana’s lawyer, Ben Ostrer, said, speaking to the press after Diana’s guilty plea in court. “If you are in government service be thankful it isn’t you.”

         What a load of bull, even for a lawyer in the Rudy Giuliani era.

          In addition to his three times as county executive, Diana also served on the county legislature and a couple of terms as supervisor of the town of Wallkill, one of the larger towns in Orange County. Three decades of public service as an elected official in Orange County. With that experience, you should be able to smell a potential conflict of interest about three months down the road. Yet Ostrer would have us believe it could happen to “anyone.“

          Diana was allowed to plead guilty to avoid a prison term. He agreed to repay the IDA $90,000. He said he had been paid as a “consultant” for three-and-a-half years. In addition to Diana, the former CEO of the IDA pleaded guilty to a charge of corrupting government and agreed to re-pay $175,000 for her no-show job.

           The phantom jobs were with a company owned by the former paid managing director of the IDA, who the prosecutor said was the motivating force and worst actor in this case. He steered firms looking to do business in Orange County to his companies for equipment, planning, office space and technical assistance. Over time, he also raised the rates for the services. He pleaded guilty to corrupting government and agreed to repay $1 million. He will be on probation for five years. All three will be officially sentenced in September.

            All of this “happened” while the board of directors, which other than Diana, also included the chairman of the county legislature, looked the other way or napped during board meetings. Same for the board’s lawyer. The county legislature fired the entire board a couple of months ago when it learned of District Attorney David Hoovler’s investigation. The DA, like Diana, a Republican, said he didn’t file charges against any other board members or their lawyer, because “There’s no criminal liability for incompetence.” Sometimes that means prosecutors can’t prove intent.

      Hoovler pointed out that no money had been stolen, per se, and that all the monies paid to people who shouldn’t have been paid had been accounted for. You say tomato, I say tomahto. People got money they shouldn’t have gotten because of their positions and the money could’ve been used by the IDA for other purposes. In the process, the integrity of the IDA was badly damaged. As a public agency whose primary tool is the awarding of tax breaks to companies looking to locate in its county, trust is far more valuable than cash. The new Orange IDA board must work hard to rebuild that trust.

      It can start by knowing that conflicts of interest don’t just “happen.” Not in Orange County, New York, or anywhere else. They are created. A defining feature of much of today’s Republican Party, on a national level as well as at the local level, is a casual disregard for the rule of law and an arrogant disdain for the truth. That’s a fact. I don’t like writing it, but it’s true. I think it represents a major threat to our democracy.  (In this case, the current Orange County executive, also a Republican, sharply criticized the corrupt arrangement  and called for the state to toughen the punishment for such crimes.)

       When one of our two major parties decides it can unilaterally make up the rules as it goes along  and concoct excuses to avoid responsibility, we are in serious trouble. If people will buy the big lie — The election was stolen. There was no insurrection — why not try a “little” one? “If this can happen to Ed Diana, it can happen to anyone.”

     No it can’t.  Witness the thousands of New Yorkers who serve on public and private boards of directors without such happenings. Of such molehills are mountains created. Lying and entitlement are addictive. So is power. The antidote is truth. Hold public officials accountable. Make them explain their actions. Trust must be earned, today more than ever.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Wake Up! Time to Put ‘Woke’ to Bed

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

5F35512E-EB86-4152-9E79-5C620F64C4DA      I recently woke up to the fact that, while I believe I am thoroughly “woke,” I don’t identify myself that way because I don’t think most Americans understand what the word means as a concept and because the word itself can too easily be used as a weapon of derision by those who are not “woke” to the fact of how stupid they sound just saying “woke.”

      It’s complicated.

      To be honest, I feel awkward just writing the word “woke” in the context in question and I could never actually say it out loud in a conversation to describe myself, I would say, as I have said and written countless times over the years, that I believe racism is a serious issue in this country, that gays, blacks, Latinos, Muslims and women of all ages — in other words, anyone who is not a straight, white (preferably Christian) male — faces unfair obstacles to enjoying the opportunities and freedom promised to all Americans. I believe that social injustice is a fact of life that many Americans would like to deny. I am woke.

        But I have also spent nearly two-thirds of my life trying, with varying degrees of success, to communicate information and opinions in a way that is at once clear, understandble and not subject to derision by those who might have different views simply because it smacks of exclusion or suggests elitism. Like “woke.”

        The word, which comes out of Black culture, was thrust into current conversation a few years ago in the wake of police killings of black males and the subsequent police use of excessive force in response to the Black Lives Matter protests across the nation. To be “woke” was to be aware and watchful for possible danger during the protests. In this era of the meme, in which clarity is sacrificed for speed and brevity, “woke” came to mean you were someone who supports the causes embraced by the demonstrators, to wit, eliminating racial and social injustice.

         And who could be against that, right? Well, Ted Cruz for one. Also Marco Rubio. And Josh Hawley. And Donald Trump.just to name a few. They have all spoken out recently against what Hawley, a senator from Missouri, described as “the woke mob.” He was upset because a publisher decided it didn’t want to be identified with a book written by a public official who actively encouraged an insurrection. Hawley.

         Rubio, from Florida, used the term to criticize corporations for pulling resources out of Georgia to protest efforts by Republicans in the state legislature to make voting more difficult. Trump simply used it to criticize all the policies of the Biden administration. And Cruz, well he just throws the word around because he knows a lot of his supporters don’t know what it really means and it suggests to them that elitist liberals are doing something to mess with the lives of Texans.

         All four men, of course, are Republicans and all these criticisms of “woke“ are part of a Republican Party campaign to confuse the electorate and keep the most rabid element of the Republican voting base (the truly unwoke) riled up against Democrats, who, by implication, are disrespecting Republican voters by saying that they are not “woke.”

         It’s what you do when your party doesn’t have any actual policies or programs to promote. And it works. It works because the message is clear: Liberal, elitist, socialist Democrats are ruining this country and don’t care about you because you’re not “woke.” They think they’re better than you. They think you’re unsophisticated, ignorant.

         Now, some of that may well be true, but it is not what “woke” is all about. Ted Cruz can’t say he’s against equality of opportunity for all and an end to racial injustice, because senators are supposed to at least say they support such principles. But Cruz and a lot of his Republican colleagues 1) may not support such goals as passionately as Democrats and 2) know full well many of their supporters don’t and 3) also know that a good percentage of Repunlican and independent voters likely do support the idea of equal justice and opportunity for all, so they need to be convinced that they are being insulted by “the woke mob.”

         It’s one of the oldest way to combat an idea or movement. Change the subject. Forget about voter suppression laws and racism within police forces. Make it “them” against “us.” The woke versus the whatever.

         If liberals, Democrats, people who really believe in racial and social justice hope to gain support from conservative ranks, they would do better to simply state clearly what they are fighting for, without using any clever phrases (cancel culture is another). Say what you mean, don’t meme what you say. It just gives hypocrites (Republicans) an opportunity to avoid the issue. They attack the language and subvert the message. This is the Republican playbook today. 

          I just know I can’t take hearing the word “woke” spewing as an insult from the lips of Ted Cruz, one of the most “unwoke” people in Congress, when we’re talking about deep-rooted racism and social injustice. Use those words. Make Republicans use those words. Where do they stand on the issues? They have become masters of avoidance. Don’t make it any easier for them. Call it an awakening, if you will, for them and their potential voters. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

America Finally Has a President Again

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

    I tuned in a week ago for the first time in four years to listen to a president’s speech. I got more than I bargained for. The president’s speech was, in fact, a presidential speech. Thank you, President Biden.

     Why presidential? Because it was honest. Because it addressed seemingly every need and problem facing the nation, detailing what he wanted to do, challenging Congress to get busy with him doing it, and proposing to pay for the sweeping programs in a way with which the great majority of Americans could not possibly disagree. Help America win the 21st-century, Biden said. Restore it to its position of global leadership. Repair its tattered reputation.

      Only the congressional Republicans in attendance, sitting on their hands, dour-faced, had a problem with the speech. That’s because they knew Biden was speaking truth and hope to Americans and all Republicans had to offer — still — was lies.

      They couldn’t even claim that Biden was weak or stumbling or unsure of himself In delivering his speech, because he wasn’t. Because he was clear and direct as he laid out a detailed program of what needs to be done to bring America back from four years of incompetence and treachery in the White House. That’s presidential. It was long overdue and much-needed.

      Over and over, Biden referred to the economy, to making and buying American goods (“There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing.”) To helping families with young children. To paying fair (livable) wages and providing broader educational opportunities. To repairing roads, replacing ancient water systems. To building a network of charging stations for electric vehicles. To negotiating lower prices for prescription drugs. To getting everyone vaccinated so the country can open up and get back to work. And to jobs, jobs, jobs. As I listened, I thought of the old Democratic campaign motto, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

      And, he said we could pay for it by taxing only the wealthiest of Americans. Make corporations pay their fair share, he said. It was a message aimed right at middle America and, as polls have demonstrated in the following days, middle America heard and liked it.

       Republicans responded by having their only black senator declare that America is not a racist nation. Fine, but Biden never said it was. He said there was institutional racism, which there is. He said he would attack the threat of white supremacist terrorists within our borders, which the FBI has described as our greatest internal threat. He called for sensible gun reform in the aftermath of a string of mass shootings. And again, polls show that the large majority of Americans support this. And he said he was bringing our troops home from Afghanistan where they have been fighting since accomplishing their mission of killing Osama bin Laden 10 years ago. Again, most Americans are not in favor of endless wars with no clear mission.

        There was a lot more in Biden speech, but all of it was aimed at one goal: restoring America’s dignity. Let us work together, care for each other and show the world that our actions match our words, the president, a Democrat, said. The other party pouted. He stole the election, they lied, insulting state election officials of their own party in the process. He’s not uniting us, as he promised, they said, after years of ignoring all Democratic proposals. They voted against his programs and then took credit for the ones that benefitted them politically. They passed state laws making it harder for people to vote. And they lied constantly.

        America has a president who knows how government works, who knows about international diplomacy, who cares about more than his own selfish interests and who actually does his job. Joe Biden wants to heal America and he asked the “loyal” opposition to help. They sat on their hands. They have nothing, but we, at last, have a president again.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

         

Beware: No Labels is Mislabeled

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos (more…)

It’s Time for the Filibuster to Go

Sunday, April 4th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,“ Hollywood’s version of the filibuster.

     “If it’s good enough for The New York Times, it’s good enough for us.”

      With those words of wisdom, a newspaper editor gave a willing but wary member of his staff a gentle shove into the world of editorial writing. The staff member was me. The editor was Bill Kennedy. The newspaper was The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y. The time was late November, 1983. My maiden piece had appeared on Nov. 23,1983, the 20-year anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Serendipity. JFK and I share a birthday.

       On this day, I was asking Bill about an editorial I was thinking of writing, but which The Times, which circulated in our area, had just voiced an opinion on that morning. It was pretty much the same as what I had in mind and I was a little annoyed that they “beat” me. An ego thing.

      “Do we care?“ I asked.

      “Do our readers care, or even notice?” Bill answered.

      I wrote the editorial. The topic has long since been lost in my memory. But Kennedy’s message remained.

       It came to me in a flash a couple of weeks back as I was having a debate with myself on the wisdom of scrapping the Senate filibuster. I had pretty much decided I was all for it because, honestly, I am up to my eyeballs in Mitch McConnell single-handedly trying to destroy this country for anyone but the super-rich and super-white. With him as Senate majority leader for 10 years, any meaningful piece of social legislation proposed by Democrats had no chance. Now, as minority leader, he threatens to use the filibuster to kill Democrats’ sweeping voter reform law while having the gall to claim that Democrats refused to negotiate on it with Republicans.

         My only hesitation in writing this piece was that even some Democrats were defending the filibuster because of its “ttradition“ in the Senate and its supposed protection against a super majority running roughshod over democracy. Those arguments had pretty much lost out and I also thought about the threat the filibuster would pose to immigration reform, criminal justice reform and anything else President Biden might propose to advance racial and cultural harmony in the nation in the wake of four years of the divisive Trump administration.

         Enough of McConnell, already, I said to myself. Let’s save the country while I’m still alive to appreciate it. And then there was the Times editorial: “For Democracy to Stay, the Filibuster Must Go.”

        Well, thanks, Bill.

         Of course, I was so upset that I let them beat me on writing the editorial and didn’t want people to think I just copied theirs, that I waited a good two weeks before sitting down to do mine. This is it. The filibuster must go.

         Here’s why.

         Even though it is promoted as a barrier to a majority abusing its power over a minority, its primary application from the beginning has been to allow a minority of senators to exclude minorities in America from enjoying the rewards of democracy. First, it was slavery. More recently, civil rights legislation. Forget Jimmy Stewart in the movies. It is an outdated tool that has been used to preserve and promote bias. And for all it’s “tradition.” the Senate has already written exceptions into the rule.

         A brief description of the filibuster rule is appropriate here. When the Constitution was written, the framers kept it simple. In order for a bill to pass in the 100-member Senate, a simple majority of 51 votes was all that was needed. When Southern members took to long-winded floor speeches (filibusters) to delay or deter votes to abolish slavery, a rule was approved that requires the votes of 60 senators to end a filibuster.

        Modern senators being less fond of doing the actual work of talking for hours on end, in relays if necessary, to defeat a bill, amended the rule so that any senator can delay a vote on, and maybe defeat, any bill, simply by sending an e-mail saying he or she is filibustering it. That’s it. Go to lunch.

       In effect, that means the bill sponsor has to find 60 votes instead of 51. And, of course, there is no real debate on the bill. The Senate has already excluded money-raising bills and the appointment of federal judges and Supreme Court justices from the filibuster, allowing, most recently, Donald Trump to appoint three new justices to the high court.

         Some (including two Democrats) have suggested going back to the talking filibuster so that there is actual effort required to oppose and maybe some debate on the bill. But there has seldom been any debate provided by the filibuster and, even assuming Republicans are willing to argue for hours on end against expanding voting rights, Biden and the Democrats don’t have the time to waste.

          With Georgia leading the way, Republican legislatures and governors across the country are passing laws to make it much more difficult for members of minorities especially to vote. Basically, that’s un-American. More to the point, it’s racist as hell.

         The only way Republicans win congressional races in a lot of areas is by gerrymandering voting districts so that their candidate has a majority of Republican voters in the district. Even in Georgia, though, that failed when Democrats managed to put together a major get-out-the-vote effort. Republicans are basically scared to death they will not get elected again.

           Being able to vote should be one of the easiest things to do in this country. It’s almost insulting to have to write a column arguing that point. The fact that Republicans lied about the presidential election being stolen from Trump — and some still do — and make no bones about imposing restrictions on people’s ability to vote suggests that there is no debate to be had on this issue. Republicans just don’t want minorities to vote. They are not concerned with changing their policies to attract the voters, just denying the votes.

          Democrats have the presidency and control of both houses of Congress (but only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate) for two years. Midterm elections often produce changes in the power structure. Democrats can go a long way to repairing the damage done in the last four years by the Trump administration. (Biden has already started.) Democrats can go even further by passing sweeping voters rights legislation that will ensure that Congress is truly representative of the majority of the people rather than in the hands of a tyrannical minority interested only in power, not governing.

         Of course, what I just said is pretty much what The New York Times editorial also said. What can I say, great minds think alike. If it’s good enough for The Times (sorry, a slight edit, Bill), most of the time, it’s also good enough for me.

(Personal note: I wrote editorials for The Record for 23 years until I retired. Thanks, Bill.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

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