Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

The Thing is, Our Kids are Hurting

Friday, July 15th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

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 “America, where I start my day with prayer, meditation and an active-shooter drill.”

    I’m not generally a meme guy on Facebook, but I posted that brief observation the other morning. The thing is, it wasn’t just some unsolicited comment on life in general. It was actually true for that day.

    Being a creature of habit, prayer and meditation have been part of my routine for some time. On this day, instead of offering the news as a follow-up, YouTube presented a video on the “Three things to do if confronted with an active-shooter situation.”

     Talk about a cold splash of reality first thing in the morning. The thing is, the advice was pretty good. The other thing is, I had to admit it was actually stuff to remember the next time I went to the supermarket:

  1. How to hide (behind something solid enough to stop bullets; 2. How to run (not in a straight line and not with the crowd); 3. How to fight (aggressively, like your life depends on it,  because it does.)

    How did we get here?

    Growing up in the early ‘50s in Bayonne, N.J., we didn’t worry about active-shooter drills. We had nuclear war drills. Go down to the gymnasium, gather around the walls, get down on the ground facing the wall all rolled up in a ball on the gym floor. Just in case the Russians decide to drop an atom bomb on us. Other kids in other schools did the same under their desks.

      But we didn’t really think we’d need this lesson anytime soon, like maybe the next day. After all, it had only happened twice and both times someplace else called Japan. We had no real sense of what we were hiding from, nor did anyone at the time realize that what we were “learning” was a waste of time.

      Today’s kids don’t have that gift of naïveté. TV news routinely reports on active shooting incidents in schools and elsewhere in the United States. Social media is full of it. Kids today take notes during active-shooter lessons. They know, like some of the kids in Uvalde, Texas, how to quietly call 911 on their cell phones when they’re hiding in the back of the room trying not to talk too loudly, lest the shooter hear them.

      The thing is, this is not what school is supposed to be about. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things school should be about, but, in much of the country, isn’t.

      School should be about honest history and geography and how the two are related. It should be about learning to read as much as possible and to think for yourself and how to separate fact from fiction. It should be about how to manage your own finances and do simple household repairs. It should be about basic health and nutrition and learning to live in and contribute to a multicultural society.

       Yes, it should be about math and language and science and art and music, too. Cooking even. Not fighting for your life.

       The source of greatest anxiety for me in eighth grade was worrying about stepping on my partner’s toes during Mrs. Spiegel’s class in ballroom dancing. I survived. 

         The thing is, we’re laying a world of trauma on our kids today. I fear it’s going to take a lot more than prayer and meditation to fix that.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

On Making History, the Painful Way

Monday, May 9th, 2022

The world in 500 words or less …

By Bob Gaydos     

Ex-NYPD Cop Thomas Webster Guilty in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

Thomas Webster at the Capitol.

   History came to my area of slightly upstate New York twice in one week recently, but not in a celebratory way. The history was announced in newspaper headlines. Both involved “firsts.”  Some might have regarded these historic moments as simply the result of unfortunate circumstances, but they made me think of the choices we make.

        The headlines linked two of the biggest stories in the world — the Jan. 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the war in Ukraine — with two men with ties to Orange County, N.Y. 

  •  The Insurrection: Thomas Webster, 54, a retired New York City police officer, was the first person arrested in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming Capitol police officers had used excessive force against the violent mob seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and maybe hang Mike Pence. Interesting defense choice right there.  After viewing videos of Webster profanely berating the officer, beating him with a metal flag pole, tackling him and grabbing the officer’s gas mask, the jury took only two hours to find the former Marine guilty of assault and other charges. Married and with a family, Webster started a landscaping business in Orange County after serving 20 years as a New York City cop. He said he chose to go to Washington, D.C., alone and carrying that flag pole, on that fateful day to hear Donald Trump speak about how the election had been stolen. Webster said he became agitated as the pro-Trump crowd approached the Capitol. Once there, he joined the melee and, like many others, was photographed doing so. Now, the man who once served on the protective detail of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faces a possible 20 years in prison. 
  • Ukraine: Willy J. Cancel, a native of Orange County, graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, Walden volunteer firefighter, was reportedly the first American to die in combat against Russian forces in Ukraine. A former Marine who, reports said, had not received an honorable discharge and had never been deployed, Cancel was a corrections officer in Tennessee. But his family said he was also employed by a military contracting company. Soldier-for-hire might be considered an unusual second-job choice for a 22-year-old man with a wife and seven-month-old child. That company sent him to Ukraine, where he died. Cancel was praised back home for his service and bravery. A Go Fund Me site has been created on Facebook for his widow and infant child.

     I don’t know anything else about either of these men and am in no position to understand, much less judge, the choices they made. Their stories just reminded me that, what may seem to some like reasonable, even honorable, choices can have unintended, dire consequences. Even historic ones.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Ukraine’s New Kind of Reality Show

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

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With the Bases Loaded, Baseball Whiffs

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

   F023405A-4B43-4727-BBFE-117778586F71 The world is in the third year of a deadly pandemic, Russia has started a brutal war in Europe, the United States is still reeling from an attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of white nationalists trying to overturn a presidential election, one of the country’s two major political parties has become a.cult led by a con man with fascist DNA … and there’s no baseball.

     Take it easy. I’m not putting the Major League Baseball lockout in the same category as the grab bag of historic events dominating our lives today (and I’ll add global warming). That’s actually the point.

     When the world goes, well, to hell, a person needs somewhere safe to go for a break. Sports in general and, in the bleak of February especially, baseball has filled that need for me.

     February typically means the Super Bowl ends the football season and pitchers and catchers report to spring training to start the new baseball season. But there was nothing typical with this February. With the contract between players and owners expired and no new agreement ready to be signed, team owners locked the doors to training facilities in Florida and Arizona. No contract, no getting into shape at our digs. Dumb.

       Both sides then toughened their negotiating stances in the contest between billionaires and millionaires on how to share the wealth from TV deals and over-priced tickets. And Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, started talking about delaying the start of the season or shortening it. Dumber.

     Since my mid-teens, I have followed the practice of the late Chief Justice Earl Warren by turning to the sports pages to start my day. Time enough for the rest of the world. Sports for the most part is safe conflict. No one really gets hurt, except the gamblers.

     But lockouts and shortened seasons are not the headlines baseball fans were looking for. Not safe.

      Nor smart, from a business sense. Think about it. With all the grim news in the world and having already surrendered the national pastime crown to football by focusing on how fast a baseball can get to home plate and how much faster it can leave the park, baseball decision-makers blew a golden opportunity to grab some attention and provide some stress relief with positive, non-confrontational news. New contract! Who’s the talk of training camp? A comeback story? No more starting extra innings with a runner on second base?

       Instead, we got Derek Jeter quitting as boss of the Marlins because they apparently don’t want to win as much as he does, bigger bases to improve the success rate of stolen base attempts, a lockout and Opening Day pushed back two weeks. 

       Oh yeah, and no more shifts because major league hitters apparently can no longer hit it where they ain’t.

      You blew it, baseball. Fans were looking for a hit-and-run. Instead, they got an intentional walk. You picked a really bad time to play moneyball.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

When Everyone Speaks Ukrainian

Thursday, March 3rd, 2022


By Bob Gaydos

AZ FLAG Ukraine Flag 3' x 5' - Ukrainian Flags 90 x 150 cm ...

  I’m not Ukrainian. At least, I don’t think I am. That slight doubt exists because I spent my formative years (I hesitate to say I grew up) in Bayonne, much of which was like someone scooped up boatloads of people from Eastern Europe and replanted them in Northern New Jersey.

    Which, of course, is what happened.

    Our next-door neighbors were Ukrainian. A family a few houses down was Ukrainian, as well as one across the street.

     We were (are) Slovak. Or Czech. Or Russian. Or Polish. Or, most likely, some combination of the above or other Slavic nation. Amidst this polyglot of Eastern Europe a short bus ride from New York City, everyone seemed to speak the same language. It didn’t seem to matter what the nationality of the person was, my grandparents, my parents, my aunts and uncles all seemed to be able to converse with them.

        A stroll down Broadway with my grandmother on a chilly (“zimno” in Polish) fall day would produce a lot of smiling head nods and “dobre, dobre.” Good, good.

        It was all Russian to me.

        So was the mass I served as an altar boy at St. John’s Greek Catholic Church, which my father’s family attended, and at Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Church, which the other half of my family ( and I) attended. In a city of churches, Eastern Europe was well represented. Including Ukrainians.

         This nostalgic trip down memory lane is prompted, of course, by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the outpouring of support and admiration for the courageous Ukrainian people from other peoples around the world. No matter the language, everyone seems to understand Ukrainian all of a sudden. And no one, except apparently Belarus and North Korea, is speaking the same language as the leaders of Russia.

         The sad reality of this misbegotten display of pride, power and paranoia by Russian President Vladimir Putin is that, while Ukrainians will obviously endure tremendous loss and suffering as a result of this invasion, ordinary Russians, who also wanted no part of this war, will suffer as well. Russian soldiers will die as well as Ukrainians. The worldwide outpouring of support for Ukraine has isolated Russia, again, from much of the rest of the world. Even those who speak the same language, want no part of Putin’s war.

         It’s been some time since I visited Bayonne and I understand if has changed quite a bit. But the churches are still there and I’d like to think that some of the children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, of the neighbors who used to smile and nod at my grandmother on Broadway are still there and all still seem to speak the same language when they talk about Ukraine, shake their heads sadly, and say, “Bozhe, Bozhe, Bozhe.”

My God, My God, My God.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

          

         

 

Are You Now, or Have You Ever …

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Jeanine Pirro ... asked the question

Jeanine Pirro
… asked the question

It was at once the most astounding and easiest to answer question ever posed to an American president: “Are you now or have you ever worked for Russia, Mr. President?”

That’s a yes or no answer, with “no” being the preferred option. Unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case you say, “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked. I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written. And if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.”

“They” was a reference to The New York Times which published an article reporting that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into Trump the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. The article said the secret investigation was passed on to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in the wake of Comey’s firing.

Back to the question. It was posed not in a challenging way and not by an antagonistic interviewer. Rather, it came from someone Trump picked himself, “Judge” Jeanine Pirro, who is not only his most vocal supporter at Fox News, but someone who gives the impression she would satisfy pretty much any favors the Donald would like in return for a position in his cabinet. Say attorney general. Even solicitor general.

But in his eagerness to defend himself and insult the sources of the question, to engage in his usual deflection, Trump never just said the obvious: “No.” He got around to that a day later (“I never worked for Russia,” he said.) after virtually everyone on Twitter and some White House aides who have not been furloughed because he shut the government down pointed out the glaring omission.

And so here we are. A TV commentator has, on the air, asked the president of the United States — a phrase I reluctantly attach to Trump for the sake of accuracy — if he is, in effect, a traitor.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think that is extraordinary. Even more extraordinary is that virtually no one in his political party seems to have an opinion on this — at least not publicly — and two days later the big story was Trump serving fast food burgers and fries at the White House to the national college football champions from Clemson University, because apparently that’s what he thinks finely tuned athletes, whose diets are monitored, eat routinely. Never mind the insult.

I write this, not in the hopes of convincing any suddenly awakening Trump supporters of the unrelenting awfulness of the man, never mind being the only president to ever be asked if he is a traitor. That time has passed. No, this is selfish. If it’s true that nothing ever disappears from the Internet, I want future browsers and historians to know that some of us saw what was going on and spoke out about it while others buried their heads in the sands of delusion or lined their pockets with the bitter fruits of enabling (Republicans) and exploitation (evangelicals).

I also want the Greater Consciousness to know I did my part in promoting peace, love and understanding. And yes, I know it knows, but I somehow feel better putting it in writing.

And, covering all bets, I want the Kirk Cameron “Left Behind” evangelicals waiting for the Rapture to know that my version of it has the guy with the MAGA bumper sticker who tosses beer cans on my lawn one day noticing a pile of clothes — wrinkled jeans, a black hoodie and a gray knit cap — lying in the driveway while I enjoy another balmy day in Heaven, watching reruns of the Trump impeachment hearings, eating tacos and listening to Sinatra.

Finally, it seems fitting to me if, many millennia from now, the dominant beings, whatever they might be, discover this ancient form of communication, decipher it, and conclude, “Once upon a time, a species known as human beings ruled Earth when it was abundant with riches. For some reason, they chose the most ignorant, ill-equipped, amoral person to be their leader. They were difficult times. Ugliness abounded. Only the persistent efforts of some outspoken humans saved the planet.”

I may be angry and astounded, but I still prefer happy endings.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Let the Games (and Diplomacy) Begin

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

South  Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 WInter Olympics.

South Korean and North Korean women are playing on the same hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thank Zeus for the Olympics. Every two years they offer an opportunity for a world gone mad to take a breather and at least pretend to pay homage to the Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Yes, Russia is barred from participating officially in the 2018 Winter Games, which began this weekend, because it tried to steal the 2014 Games in Sochi by pumping its athletes full of steroids. But Russians who did not cheat will compete, albeit without the flag or anthem of Mother Russia.

More significantly, with the Games taking place in South Korea, North Korean athletes are participating. Better yet, athletes from North and South Korea marched in together under one symbolic flag and the women’s hockey team includes members from both nations. There were no 38th Parallel issues for people who have been sharing a divided peninsula since the end of World War II and for nearly 65 years have endured a tense truce that halted the Korean War. And. thankfully, there was no tweeting about whose nuclear button was bigger and badder.

A lot of so-called experts are calling the Olympic dance by the two Koreas mere window dressing or a charm offensive by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Somehow, charming is not a word that comes to mind when I think of Kim.

But the overture to come “take part” was made by South Korean President, Moon Jae-In, who pledged to work for better relationships with fellow Koreans in the north when he ran for president last year. One could consider this an example of a leader making good on his promise — and a politically risky one at that — rather than looking for excuses or people to blame for not following through.

Donald Trump sent Mike Pence, his tight-lipped, see-no-evil shadow, to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies. There was no acknowledgement of President Moon’s diplomatic initiative, but again, at least no saber-rattling on Twitter.

Supposedly — again, this is the experts talking — Kim has gone along with this brief softening of tensions and shared Olympic spirit in the hopes of having economic and diplomatic sanctions on North Korea reduced. OK, so what? Who can blame him for that?

But who can blame Moon for thinking that maybe even a small thing like a shared women’s hockey team team is better for all Koreans than constant talk about missiles and nuclear weapons? Diplomacy takes many forms and, yes, sometimes it is imperative to be forceful and consistent when dealing with a difficult foe. It is also true that sometimes the simplest gesture can have unexpected results.

When nuclear warfare is apparently being discussed seriously and frequently in the Oval Office it is reassuring to know that the heads of the two nations that live face-to-face with the threat of war every day can agree to break bread and march together and, who knows, maybe agree to stay in touch when the skating and skiing is done.

I am under no delusion that the Orange Dotard (a name charmingly assigned by Kim) understands diplomacy, the perils of nuclear war or the importance of allowing subtle forces to influence the course of events. It is all bombast and buffoonery all the time. Just look back at some recent news stories emanating from the White House:

  • The State of the Union speech. A joke.
  • The Republican FBI memo. A bust and maybe illegal.
  • The opioid crisis team: Run by a PR specialist and a 23-year-old former campaign worker (since resigned).
  • The infrastructure plan … uh, sorry, wrong list. There still isn’t one.
  • The sanctions against Russia. Dotard won’t do what Congress said.
  • The Mueller investigation: Trump’s lawyers don’t trust him to testify in person.
  • The federal government. Shut down a second time. Trump actually rooted for this one.
  • The Wall: Build it or no deal for the Dreamers. Too many lies to keep up with in this saga. Naked bigotry.
  • The parade. THE PARADE. A flippin’ no-holds-barred military parade a la every dictator you ever heard of. He wants one; the military doesn’t. No one does. But as Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War,’’ it’s what weak leaders do to appear strong.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher also wrote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”

And: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

Like maybe starting with South and North Korean women playing a little hockey together against women from other nations. Change the dynamics.

Trump and Kim are always ready and eager to hurl insults and threats. And maybe missiles. South Korea’s President Moon is trying to ease the tension and maybe open the door to more civilized dialogue. In the spirit of the Olympics, it’s an effort well worth making and supporting.

Meanwhile, maybe one of his aides — a general, perhaps — can read Sun Tzu to you know who.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Facebook Has an Algorithm Problem

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

facebook thumb downAlgorithms are cool. I get it. I mean, I get that they’re cool, not how they work. I like to think that, if I had to, I could probably work really hard to understand them, but I dropped out of engineering school to do this. No regrets.

In fact, writing about life in all its complexities has given me an appreciation for what people — real people, not some numbers-crunched algorithm people — have to deal with on a daily basis. It has exposed me to the value of compassion, compromise and common sense.

Our universal dictionary, Wikipedia, defines an algorithm as “an unambiguous specification of how to solve a class of problems. Algorithms can perform calculation, data processing and automated reasoning tasks.”

But they can’t, obviously, do ambiguous.

I’m thinking about algorithms because Facebook, an Internet empire built on them, recently said it was going to hire 1,000 people to review ads in response to the embarrassing revelation that users’ news feeds during the 2016 U.S. presidential election were awash in political ads run by Russians, undoubtedly using their own algorithms to target various groups in an effort to influence the outcome. Facebook said Russians bought about $100,000 in ads — with rubles — but apparently the social media giant’s algorithms detected no ambiguity afoot with Russians arguing to protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights or stirring up anti-gay feelings, not in Moscow, but in the American heartland.

Congress is investigating. That’s good. It should do something this year. But Facebook has more than a Russia problem. It has become the major source of news for millions of Americans, yet its news feeds have been shown to be awash in fake news. Lots of really fake news, not Trump “fake news,” which is real news.

Facebook — actually Mark Zuckerberg — is talking about becoming a more responsible source of reliable news information and hiring “content moderators” to review, well, content, and a lot of additional people to look out for violent content on the site. Swell. 

If you will permit me a self-serving observation, he’s talking about hiring people to exercise judgment over what appears publicly on Facebook because: (1) algorithms can’t think or feel like people and (2) this is how responsible newspapers have operated forever. Just saying.

In the interests of full disclosure, I also will say I have had my own personal experiences with Facebook algorithms. Recently, I received an e-mail telling me that an ad I wanted to run boosting a column on a Facebook page I administer was rejected because it had too much copy. It didn’t say the copy was boring or poorly written or even offensive. Just too much of it.

OK, I’ve had editors tell me the same thing, but I was also never prepared to give an editor ten bucks just to run the column. Oh yeah, the ad in question was proposed in July. I got the rejection e-mail on Halloween.

Then there’s the friendly way Facebook greets me every day with news of the weather in Phillipsport. “Rain is in the forecast today, Robert.” Thank you. If I Iived in Phillipsport it would matter a lot more, but it’s a half hour drive and there’s a big mountain range between us and my page unambiguously says where I live. Can’t the algorithm read?

But the incident that really convinced me that Facebook had an algorithm problem was its response to a complaint I filed regarding a post that was being sarcastic about the dotard-in-chief. I am guilty as charged of leveling (much-deserved) sarcasm at the Trump, but this cartoon had him in a coffin with a bystander saying to Melania, “‘Sorry about the assassination, Mrs.Trump, but he knew what he signed up for.”

As a “content moderator” for newspapers for several decades, I would never let such a tasteless, provocative, potentially dangerous item to be published. I told Facebook the same thing. I said they should delete it. It encouraged violence at a violent time in our history.

The algorithm replied that the post did not violate Facebook’s standard of, I don’t know: Acceptability? Appropriateness? Decency? Who sets this pathetic standard?

I use Facebook a lot. It has many wonderful benefits. But “automated reasoning” is not a substitute for good old, gut-instinct common sense. It’s the best way to connect people with people. Maybe people cost a little more than algorithms, but I think Zuck can afford it and there are a lot of laid off editors looking for work. If it’s not fake news that he’s serious about running for president some day, he’ll be glad he did it.

I’m also curious to know what Facebook says if I decide I want to pay to boost this post. I wonder if they’ll let me run a picture of Zuck. Can I even call him Zuck?

Stay tuned.

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

 

Why Won’t McCain Take on Trump?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain and Donald Trump ... no love lost

John McCain and Donald Trump … no love lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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