Posts Tagged ‘trump’

Bob Gaydos

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

THE REPORT …

Vlad, Rudy, Meryl, Rand and Joe

   I started writing this report, which I intend to deliver on a fairly regular basis, a couple of weeks ago. It was my latest attempt to keep up with the news in the Era of Trump without being caught up in the daily chaos and without ignoring items of interest in the rest of the world, including my backyard and even my own mind. Mostly my own mind.

  072F2413-04EB-42B5-8BE1-B11114B646CD   It turns out, turning off Trump is harder than it sounds. As I was compiling my first non-Trump report, the Dotard went and made it all about him again by declaring that a lethal virus roaring through China was no threat to the U.S. and, indeed, was another Democratic “hoax” intended to make him look bad. So coronavirus took over the news and I scrapped my first report. 

    But now, while staying in place as much as possible and simultaneously trying to maintain sanity, I find it more necessary than ever to look for other items of interest — local, national, international, even personal — that might be worth sharing with whomever decides to read it. I guess it’s the newsman’s DNA circulating in my veins.

      So I’m giving it another shot. I’m also using an approach I’ve stolen before. An old-time sports writer favorite of mine, Jimmy Cannon, used to occasionally sum up his take on world events with his “Nobody asked me, but …” columns. It’s a handy writing device. Covers a lot of ground and keeps the writer from getting too wordy. While I’m stealing Cannon’s idea, I won’t steal his signature phrase. I do have some scruples.

     So, “By the way ….” 

     — Did anybody notice that, while the rest of the planet was hunkering down to control the coronavirus, Vladimir Putin was busy rewriting the Russian Constitution to allow himself to continue as the country’s leader until 2036? He got the whole parliament to resign, rewrite Russia’s constitution, got the top court to agree with the changes, and set a nationwide vote on the new constitution for April 22. With or without the coronavirus. He says it’s under control and there’s no reason to delay the vote. This vote bears watching for lots of reasons you can probably deduce for yourselves.

     — By the way, is Rudy Guliani in self-isolation? Ukraine? Asking for producers at Fox News.

     — By the way, the creative genius who came up with the title for Meryl Streep’s latest movie — “The Laundromat,” on Netflix — didn’t do Streep, the film or its subject any favor in my humble, non-movie-critic opinion. There’s no laundromat for starters. The movie is about a whistleblower who uncovers an epic legal off-shore money-laundering, tax evasion operation in Panama. Millions of files.  Lots of political names. True story. Streep plays a swindled widow who, in the movie, blows the whistle on the operation. The director’s come-along-and-we’ll-tell-you-a-story approach is clever, but it trivializes the magnitude of the worldwide con job known as the Panama Papers. A news story that didn’t last as long as Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign. Movie’s still entertaining though.

       — By the way, Rand Paul, ain’t karma a bitch? After being the lone member of the U.S. Senate to vote against an aid bill that included free coronavirus tests for all Americans, he became the first senator to test positive for the virus. Of course, his test was free. And he admitted he had no symptoms. And he continued to go about his usual routine before his test results came back, including visiting the Senate gym. Now, typically, he’s criticizing the government system for testing, rather than acknowledging his own poor, individual choices. Apparently, his personal libertarian philosophy of individual freedom does not include individual responsibility. Putz. It’s Yiddish.

       — And finally, by the way, has anybody seen or heard from Joe Biden lately? Just asking for millions of Americans.

                                                        30

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

How to Live Life and Fight Coronavirus

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

  1C731039-1A6C-416C-8764-4A0518417310 If it’s not yours, don’t take it. If it’s not right, don’t do it. If it’s not true, don’t say it. 

   Rules by which to live a life.

  The one, two, three of how to be were shared with me recently by a friend of a friend over a cup of coffee. That’s how life is sometimes. I was struck by the simplicity and basic decency of the message. Sometimes, things aren’t that complicated.

   Donald Trump has a simple playbook as well: If you want it, take it. If it’s illegal or immoral, hire lawyers to bury it. If you don’t know what’s what, make something up. This philosophy has served him well until now, but it’s kind of hard to bullshit your way through a worldwide pandemic.

    Not that he and his shameless tribe of enablers aren’t trying. I gave up any hope for Trump many years ago. The moment he announced he was running for president, I thought, what a joke. Joke’s on me.

   Trump is what he always has been — a phony with lots of money (not as much as he says) who will do or say anything he thinks will impress his audience of the moment. It’s always about how he looks right now. Shallow doesn’t do it justice. There is nothing deeper at work than self-aggrandizement and self-preservation. Well, greed and revenge are also motivating factors.

      Of course, this isn’t news today to anyone but the delusional true believers at his campaign rallies. The rest are all in it for whatever they can gain out of it. They do this by sucking up to and covering up for their boss (all those unqualified people currently occupying well-paying government positions). Or they do it to hold onto their cushy elected positions (all those silent Republicans in Congress). Or it’s out of convenience (the evangelical preachers who can use the Trump-created chaos to stir up donations while they wait, comfortably, for the Rapture).

     I suspect the folks at Fox News, save for one or two, have been administered some mind-altering drug, had electric shock treatment or were hypnotized in the manner of “The Manchurian Candidate.” I honestly can think of no explanation for their posing as journalists while functioning as propagandists save one — they are just like Trump, phony and interested only in self-preservation. Rotten to the core.

      That may sound harsh to some, but consider the response to the Coronavirus. At a time when health officials and government leaders worldwide are issuing statements of concern, caution or even warning, this Trump/Fox/suckups coalition has gone out of its way to downplay the threat and defend Trump’s laughable effort to insist Americans need not worry, warm weather is coming, he has a “hunch” the scientists are wrong, the drug companies will come up with a vaccine any day now, Mike Pence will pray away the virus and, besides, even though Trump fired all those disease control people, it’s Obama’s fault.

      You want just one example of pure heartlessness at work? Health Secretary Alex Azar, a former lobbyist for drug companies, refused to say that, should a vaccine for Corona be developed, it would not be free or at least affordable for all Americans. Asked about this in a congressional hearing, Azar said, “We would want to ensure that we’d work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest.” In other words, the drug companies will set the price. That is unacceptable when facing a possible pandemic.

        It’s really simple. At a time when calm leadership and clear information is needed, Trump silences the health officials and tweets insults at Democratic presidential contenders. By the way, don’t notice the stock market is plunging because of worries about how the virus will affect world trade. It’s all about image and it borders on criminal.

        The irony is, if the reaction worldwide actually was overblown, the best way to deal with it would have been to demonstrate a clear understanding of such threats, have a plan and team in place to deal with them and a commitment to make all information available quickly and to insure that all necessary treatment, etc. would be provided to those infected. Or at the very least, admit we’re playing catch-up with this threat and doing everything we can to protect all Americans. Meanwhile, wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face and stay home if you’re feeling ill. Something.

        Which brings me back to my friend’s friend’s one-two-three rule for living life. Trump and his cohorts either never heard of it or, worse, don’t care about it. As I said, I’ve felt this way about Trump for some time. It’s how many others are willing to go along with him that is disheartening. Their version of do unto others apparently comes with the caveat, before they do unto you. And lie to protect yourself.

       I am far from perfect, but I am at least willing to try to live up to that one/two/three. So are many others. We have put up with a lot of self-serving and orchestrated praying from the Trump crowd, but when people’s lives may be at stake, it would be nice if at least one of them offered something close to basic decency instead of the usual B.S.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

        

Why Carlos Beltran Got Fired

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos 

Carlos Beltran ... the gods were unhappy

Carlos Beltran
… the gods were unhappy

  The Greeks had it right. The gods are toying with us, letting us think we’re in control of what’s happening when, in reality (or what we perceive to be reality) the powers that be are teaching us a lesson. I don’t know what that lesson might be, but I’m pretty sure the gods are fed up with us.

      Also, that Donald Trump got Carlos Beltran fired.

      Consider. On a recent mind-boggling day that saw: a) the entire Russian government — with the notable exception of President Vladimir Putin — resign; b) a Ukrainian wise guy say on American TV that the president, vice president, secretary of state, attorney general, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the president’s personal lawyer, a Republican wannabe, and some shady Ukrainians were all part of a plot to intimidate (or worse) the American ambassador to Ukraine because she insisted on doing her job by the book; and c) the House of Representatives presented articles of impeachment against that president, Trump, for illegally withholding congressionally approved military aid funds for Ukraine in an effort to get that country’s government to say it was investigating the business dealings of the son of one of Trump’s potential opponents in the 2020 election … on that very same day, the New York Mets fired Carlos Beltran, their new manager, before pitchers and catchers even reported for spring training.

        What does Trump have to do with firing Beltran? Connect the dots.

        Trump was impeached, in effect, for attempting to cheat in the coming election, undoubtedly because that’s how he won the first time. In the 2016 election, he got considerable help from Russian hackers who infiltrated voting systems in all 50 states to swing the Electoral College vote to him. Those hackers work for Putin, the former KGB chief famous for arresting political rivals (the ones who don’t die of poisoning), having several unrecorded phone and in-person conversations with his American counterpart, and now, for setting in motion the tear-up-the-Russian-constitution process to make him ruler for life. Putin’s Russia was also found to be cheating in the 2016 Olympics and stripped of its medals. More recently, Russia was banned from all international sporting competition, again for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cheating.              

         Beltran was fired for being part of a Houston Astros baseball team that won the 2017 World Series, being helped considerably, according to an investigation by Major League Baseball, by an electronically based system for stealing the other team’s signs. Cheating.

      The Astros won their championship in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency. What that presidency and the way it was attained said to the world is that you can cheat, have people know about it, and still be declared a winner. At least in America.  Nothing has happened yet to change that perception.

      History has shown that it is too easy for too many people to become accustomed to the abnormal, the improper, the inappropriate, the unethical, the illegal, the immoral when there appears to be nothing to do about it and there is no price to pay for it.

      Everybody does it, is the cry of the apologists. They’re all crooks and cheaters and liars anyway, say the uninformed or just plain lazy. Move along, nothing to see here.

       Actually, there was plenty to see. Major League Baseball investigated complaints of the Astros stealing signs flashed from the opposing catcher to the pitcher. It found the team was using electronic video feeds to spy on the catcher and then having someone in the dugout bang a garbage can to let the batter know what pitch was coming. High tech/low tech. This is against baseball rules. The fact that Astros batters had significantly higher batting averages at home in the World Series than they did in Los Angeles, home of their opponent, the Dodgers, was exhibit A.

      The whole Astros team was in on the plot. MLB suspended the Houston manager and general manager for a year apiece and imposed a fine and sanctions on the team. Houston owners promptly fired the two suspended men. Then the Boston Red Sox (under investigation for similar charges) fired their manager, Alex Cora, who was a coach on that Houston team. And the Mets, next in line, reluctantly fired Beltran, who was a player on that team, but the only player named in the MLB report, suggesting he had more than a supporting role.

        Consequences. When there is a fear that you could be caught cheating, most people don’t cheat. When there is a greater fear that you will be ostracized for not going along with the cheating than there is of anyone caring enough to punish you for cheating, many, if not most, people go along. Human nature. Fear. Negative energy begets negative energy. The abnormal becomes normal. Everyone does it. I didn’t say it. OK, I said it, but I didn’t mean it. OK, I meant it. Who cares? Cheating for hits or cheating for votes. Same thing. Look at Trump. He cheats all the time and he’s the president. You don’t see anyone coming after him, do you? Remember, this was in 2017, when we were making America great again.

    The Astros went to the White House in 2018 to be congratulated by Trump, a cheaters photo op. Beltran didn’t go. He’s Puerto Rican and was unhappy with Trump’s response to the island’s hurricane damage, but Beltran didn’t give that as a reason for his absence. He said he wanted to spend time in New York City with his family, sounding like every Republican in Congress who finds some excuse to avoid criticizing some aspect of Trump’s behavior. Fear. It’s contagious.

        But now, here come the gods. I think they may have had enough of letting us think we’re running the show. In their universe of actions and appropriate reactions, cheating must inevitably be punished, not rewarded. The energy flow must be corrected from negative to positive, lest a species destroy itself. Interestingly, the people in charge of our games seem to have had that awareness — hey, this is not right! — quicker than those who decide on our daily lives. The Olympics, Major League Baseball, even the long tone-deaf National Football League, have cracked down to some degree on cheaters. And, yes, in the same week as Beltran’s firing, Congress began the process of holding a president accountable for serial cheating.

        But, you say, Trump is still in office and the Astros team got to keep its title. None of the other Astros players was punished for going along with the sign-stealing rather than trying to stop it. Why?

        Fair question. I don’t know. While I respect them, I don’t claim to have a direct line from the gods, aka the greater consciousness. But I suspect that the Astros players, while they have their World Series rings, are going to spend a lot of time hearing fans remind them that they cheated to get them. The Greek goddess of shame, Aidos, may be their new mascot. And who knows, maybe the baseball gods will see the wisdom and fairness of simply declaring no champion for the 2017 season.

        As for Trump, narcissist that he is, he is undoubtedly twisting in agony daily with the Greek goddesses of pain and suffering, the Algea, as members of the U.S. Senate are challenged to live up to the oaths of honesty they publicly swore to gods of their choosing. 

        And Beltran? He was about to start a new chapter in his mostly stellar baseball career with his first managerial job. Why would the gods have the Mets fire him? Well, other than the cheating, the gods of Ancient Greece were known to be fans of sport and also occasionally spiteful. Maybe today’s gods are Mets fans with long memories. Just maybe they remember Carlos Beltran, as a Mets player, looking at strike three with the bases loaded to end the 2006 National League Championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe that’s why he needed someone in Houston to bang the garbage can.

        Clang, clang, Carlos. Here comes the curve.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

GOP: No Country for Young Women

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

Megan and Greta, persons of the year.

Megan and Greta, persons of the year.

Perhaps you missed it, what with the holidays and all that Ukraine and Iran stuff coming out of Washington, but two young women, Megan Rapinoe and Greta Thunberg, graced the covers of two influential magazines to close out 2019. They were named, respectively, Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” and Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

     Perfect.

     The Deep State strikes again.

    On the scale of events guaranteed to stir the bile in the presidential twitter pot and bring the blood pressure to boil among untold numbers of aging, white Republican men this double-barreled salute to emerging young female voices ranked just below that of impeachment of the chosen one. To him, maybe it was equal. After all, an outspoken, equality-minded lesbian soccer player and a charismatic, 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger’s are not supposed to upstage the dotard-in-chief.

     But they did. And the insults, yelling, lying and bullying — the basic political weapons of today’s Republican Party — followed. Trump took to twitter to tell Thunberg to get some “anger management” assistance and “chill.” Irony is not one of his strong suits. Trump’s toadies on Fox News and other conservative news outlets called the Swedish teenager “mentally ill” and part of a Democratic Party plot to make the Donald look bad or stupid or callous or insensitive or crass or self-absorbed or cruel or totally inept. Pick one. All apply.

      The reactions from the Party of Trump to the magazine covers were mostly focused on Thunberg, perhaps because even Trump — who had a fake Time cover naming him person of the year printed and hung at his Mar-a-Largo country club — knew he couldn’t sell anyone on a cover of SI with him waddling around a golf course as sportsperson of the year.                              

       Also, Rapinoe, a leader in the push to sue for pay for U.S. women soccer players equal to that of the less-successful men’s team, had already given Trump plenty of grief by saying she wouldn’t come to the White House — before the U.S. women’s soccer team had even won the World Cup. (For the second time in a row.) Trump advised her to win before spouting off. She wasn’t waiting. Afterwards, having scored the goal that won it, she struck the pose. As she told SI, “It was kind of like a ‘F— you,’ but with a big smile and a s— eating grin. You are not going to steal any of our joy.”

        That’s the kind of in-your-face, you-don’t-scare-me-old-white-man talk that the old, white Republican men, most of the younger, white Republican men and, apparently, the women in their lives find rude and unacceptable and, I’m guessing, disrespectful to their elders. Because, and again I’m guessing, they’ve been taught that their elders know better and, besides, young people — especially female young people — should be seen and not heard (and straight and not, you know, difficult.)

        I find it hard to believe I just typed that last sentence, this being 2020, but it certainly seems to fit with what passes for a philosophy in the world of Trump and the Republican Party. It’s almost as if a whole category of people has devolved over the past half century. More likely, failed to evolve. In fact, we do have a vice president who doesn’t believe in evolution. Or having lunch alone with a female who is not his wife. Trump would have lunch alone with anyone’s wife.

     At first glance, this Trump/Pence odd couple pairing and the two men’s seemingly opposite views towards women may seem strange. But they are really both sides of the same coin. To them, women are merely objects of sexual desire. Either they can be easily seduced by a charming or powerful or wealthy man, or the women themselves are sexual predators, ever on the prowl for a charming, powerful, wealthy man. They are not, however, to be considered as equals, contemporaries, colleagues, persons with ideas, principles, beliefs that may differ from those of the male in the room. And above all, they are not expected to express their thoughts unless they agree with those of the male in the room. (Welcome, Betsy DeVos. It helps that you’re filthy rich.)

       Greta Thunberg is a smart, witty, outspoken mix of ideas and courage. She uses being “different” to her advantage by not letting it hold her back. She calls it a “superpower.“ As for knowing her place, it was leading a worldwide school strike to save the planet. And it was speaking in front of the U.N. General Assembly — a room dominated by males — challenging them on the need to change the way we live if we hope to save the planet from destroying itself. A proud moment for a (non-Republican only) parent to witness.

       Trump also addressed that body. He drew loud laughs (not sought). Greta famously stared Trump down at that session. She also drew applause and admiration. Whether she prompted action is yet to be seen, but no one doubted her right to be on the podium.

     No one except for Trump and most Republicans who unfortunately still think that women’s place — their daughters’ place — is in the home, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, on the arm or in the service of some “important” man, but not leading movements to better the world. Also, as we’ve seen, not in a meeting of national political leaders discussing women’s health issues. And definitely not on the coveted covers of popular national magazines. 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Just Another Mob Hit

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

By Bob Gaydos 

Umberto’s Clam House, where Joey Gallo met his demise.

Umberto’s Clam House, where Joey Gallo met his demise.

    It had all the subtlety of a mob hit.

     The Don: “So what’s the story with this Soleimani? Why’s he still around acting like a big shot, messing around in our territory? He should show some respect.”

     Old Soldier: “Well, Don, when you tore up that treaty with his boss, this guy started acting like that territory was all fair game for him. I mean, he was always a pain in the ass, causing trouble everywhere.”

      Don: “How come nobody set him straight?”

      Old Soldier: “It ain’t that simple. His boss let’s him take care of business how he sees fit and his guys are really loyal. They’ve also been through lots of family wars and, to tell you the truth, I think they like hitting the mattresses and blowing people up. The Don before you felt it was more important to make the family stronger, expand its influence and not lose any more young soldiers. He kept an eye on Soleimani and warned his boss not to get too greedy. But this guy’s ambitious and a little reckless, y’know? Difficult. Kinda like Joey Gallo was.”

      Don: “Yeah. Was.”

      Old Soldier: “Whaddya mean?”

     Don: “I hear this guy likes to hang out at Amani’s Falafel House in Baghdad.”

      Old Soldier: “Yeah. Kinda on the QT, though.”

      Don: “Maybe we should surprise him.”

      Old Soldier: Nods.

      Don: “I hear you got a new house painter.”

      Old Soldier: “Yeah. Irishman, name of Droghn.”

     Don: “Ask him if he likes falafel pita. Tell him it’s my favorite. It ain’t, but he don’t have to know.”

      Old Soldier: “You sure, boss?”

     Don: “Yeah. The old Don was too soft. He let people walk all over him. The Korean boss, the Chinese. The only ones he ever gave grief was the Russians and they’re our best allies. We have to let our people know that nobody pushes Don around. They’ll go to the mattresses gladly for me. I’ll be at the golf club if you need me.”

                                              * *.*

       In the world of Donald Trump, repercussions don’t matter if they don’t impact on you directly. Foreign policy (Iran) is like domestic policy (health care) or campaigning — a matter of the moment. Instinct. Ego. It’s all personal. Learned at the elbow of Roy Cohn. Hit ‘em hard. Show them you’re tough. Be nasty. It’s just business. Ignore the doubters. Don’t listen to the “worriers.” Be a warrior. Yeah, others may suffer, but you’ll look strong. That’s the main thing. You pulled the trigger when the other Dons were too scared. You showed them who’s boss.          

      Just like in the movies.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Does Perry’s ‘Chosen One’ Pray?

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

By Bob Gaydos

Is he praying in this photo? For what?

Is he praying in this photo? For what?

    Does Donald Trump pray?

    If he does, to whom or what or for what does he pray?

    I don’t think he prays. I know, he’s got all those believers laying on hands in the Oval Office all the time, but I don’t think he prays.

    In fact, until recently, it never entered my mind that he prays, nor did I much care. I think the Founding Fathers got it right when they separated church and state, prayer and politics. To me, it’s more important that a president have a solid moral foundation, a sense of right and wrong, a capacity for compassion and a generous dose of humility. I would hope it would be someone with the common sense to realize that, if there is a god, he or she is not it.

      But now I want to know. Does Trump pray? I want one of those “enemies of the people” to ask him next time he holds a press conference as he’s rushing to a helicopter: “Mr. President! Do you pray!? Rick Perry says you’re ‘God’s chosen one!’ Do you pray, sir!?”

      The questions would have to be shouted to be heard over the helicopter noise, which might seem a tad inappropriate to some, given the context, but given the noisy tenor of this presidency, it seems reasonable to me. I don’t think God would mind.

     Normally, I’d say a president has the right to some privacy on such matters, sharing or not sharing any religious practice or belief according to comfort level. But there is nothing normal about this presidency and Perry, bless his uncluttered mind, has made the issue relevant. The departing Energy Secretary and former governor of Texas (George W. and 1,2, umm 3, Rick — way to go, Lone Star) said in a recent interview that “God uses imperfect people through history. King David wasn’t perfect. Saul wasn’t perfect. Solomon wasn’t perfect. And I actually gave the president a one-pager on those Old Testament kings about a month ago. And I shared it with him and I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people who say that you say you were the chosen one.’ And said, ‘You were.’ I said, ‘If you are a believing Christian, you understand God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government.’ ”

     So, is Trump “a believing Christian?” Does he believe, as Perry and other evangelicals do, that God has sent an amoral dunce to foster chaos and violence upon the planet, so as to be able to ultimately deliver the “true believers” out of the ruins to the Kingdom of Heaven?

     This is, I believe, a legitimate question, since it is the rationale being used by so many of his followers (as in a cult) to justify their support for every act of his that is considered sinful, evil, immoral, blasphemous by pretty much every other religious doctrine and most non-believers as well. In fact, I think most non-believers were done with Trump a long time ago and have trouble understanding any god that would choose someone like Trump for any Divine purpose.

     While we’re at it, what does Trump think, as Perry alleged, is “God’s plan for the people who rule and judge over us on this planet in our government?’” That’s kind of an important question. Is all this corruption and dismissal of the rule of law to be considered part of “God’s plan?” Does one have to simply accept it, like it or not, as most Republicans have, because to reject it would be to forfeit any shot at being among those chosen at the Rapture? 

      Do you see how smart the Founding Fathers were to want none of this in their government?

       So, back to prayer. Trump recently hired a television evangelist to be a faith liaison in the White House. She happens to be an attractive blonde. God’s will, I assume. I think Trump’s true talent is being able to identify and recruit other masters of the con, charlatans who shamelessly make declarations that most people would dismiss, even ridicule, as absurd because they know that some people, enough people — “true believers” — will take them seriously.

      Send me your paycheck and reserve a seat on the flight to Heaven. Also, let me fly there on my own private jet as one of God’s chosen messengers. With my whole family, of course.

      They know it’s a con, these Falwells and Grahams and Osteens and Bakkers and Robertsons and new White House aide, Paula White. They know Trump knows. He knows they know. They know he knows they know …

      If they stick together, they succeed, on earth at least. If someone falters — the anointed chosen, especially — the con falls apart. So they lay on hands and bow their heads in the Oval Office. The messengers all pray, I’m sure, not to be found out. Also, for Trump not to renounce them if he’s got nowhere else to go.

      But Trump, if he’s truly the chosen one, to whom does he pray and for what? I ask for millions of Americans because Rick Perry tells me my future and that of the planet lie in the hands of this “imperfect” person.

     Ask him the question, reporters. Do your job. Is Rick Perry right? Does Trump think he is chosen by God? To do what? When did God deliver the news? Was Putin in the room at the time?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s Unraveling Before Our Eyes

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

 

By Bob Gaydos

Paula White ... spiritual advisor

Paula White … spiritual advisor

 It’s unraveling. Well, to be accurate, the Trump “presidency” has never been wrapped too tightly and he has always been loosey-goosey about such things as the Constitution, the law and the truth, but now the frayed strands of denial are becoming harder for even an occasional Republican to ignore.

     The change struck me recently when Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting Mr. Everything and currently acting chief of staff, said at a well-attended and well-recorded press conference that, of course, there was a quid pro quo proposal made by Trump to the president of Ukraine — a proposal that is now the focus of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives. In fact, Mulvaney went on to say the White House did it all the time with foreign leaders.

      “Get over it!” he exclaimed defiantly, exhibiting the arrogance of the ignorant that surely will cost him his job. It’s one thing for the boss to indict himself with his own words, as Trump has frequently done, but “yes men” are wise to be stingy with their own words when defending the indefensible. Mulvaney has never been that type.

       When Republicans as well as  Democrats expressed shock at this bold admission of executive extortion masquerading as diplomacy — you’ll get U.S. financial aid if you try to dig up dirt on the Bidens -– Mulvaney was quickly dispatched to deny he said what the assembled media had recorded him saying. This trick — insisting you didn’t hear what you heard — only works for Trump because he’s assembled enough sycophants around him and throughout the government (hello, Lindsay Graham) that it’s taken this long for Democrats in Congress to begin a serious effort to remove him. 

    But it won’t work for Mulvaney, because, first of all, everyone knows he’s a stooge and, more to the point, like virtually everyone in Trump’s protective cocoon, he’s expendable. There’s always a Matt Gaetz auditioning to be the emperor’s next mascot.

     Gaetz made his play for Mulvaney’s job by leading a platoon of House Republicans on a mission to storm closed hearings in the pre-impeachment process. This was not only a stupid high school stunt that should have embarrassed all who took part, it was also a serious breach of security and violation of House rules. The stormers said Democrats were holding secret depositions, even though there were Republican committee members in the room and a dozen of the stormers themselves were entitled to be in there. But that would mean doing their jobs rather than staging a phony protest to try to delegitimize the process. Pure desperation.

        When it turned out Gaetz was acting with Trump’s blessing, the unraveling was even more obvious. Since then, there’s been nothing but name-calling by Trump (veteran government employees who testify are “traitors” or “scum”), refusal by White House staff to honor congressional subpoenas and demands that the whistleblower’s name be revealed. 

      That last is the nastiest, an indication of where Trump and his shameless acolytes (add Rand Paul to the list) have descended. Of course, there are laws to protect the identity of whistleblowers so that they feel safe enough to come forward with their concerns of government wrongdoing without fear of retribution. But Trump operates out of fear all the time. When he’s scared, he turns scarier and there’s not much scarier than the person occupying the most powerful position on the planet telling his supporters  — some of whom have displayed violent tendencies — that the whistleblower and those corroborating his or her story are traitors leading a coup to topple their leader.

        In addition to being an act of desperation, this can also be considered an impeachable offense — attempting to intimidate witnesses or obstruction of justice. But at this point, Trump doesn’t care. He’s also gone so far as to tell Republican senators who are up for re-election that he’ll support them only if they promise not to vote to convict him when the impeachment trial inevitably moves to the Senate. Bribing witnesses they call it. 

         Of course, in the ever-chaotic world that is Trump in charge, there was also the abandonment of the Kurds in Syria, pulling out U.S. troops without consulting his generals, insisting later that our troops were staying to protect Syrian oil (which is virtually non-existent), turning the killing of the Isis leader into another self-aggrandizing moment and thanking Russia and Syria for their help before mentioning U.S. troops who did the job, getting booed at a World Series game in Washington, D.C. (his staff had to know this would happen or they have become as delusional as he), and threatening to cut off federal aid to California, which is fighting devastating forest fires, because he doesn’t like the Democratic governor and the state voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

         This last bit of Trumpian unraveling put Californian Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader and the top Republican in that body in the delicate position of having to defend a man who was willing to let McCarthy’s home state be consumed by flames because the man was consumed by pride, anger and fear.

     But McCarthy, a true Trump trooper, grasping at strands, kept silent. After all, he would need Trump’s support from those California Republicans who fear what would happen if he were removed.

     In what would be considered the last strand for anyone else, Trump also announced that prosperity evangelist Paula White, described by some as his longtime personal pastor and by others as an opportunistic blonde con artist, had taken a position with the Office of Public Liaison as advisor to the president’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative. Let us all pray. Kneel if you wish. Send cash.

    When it’s all coming apart at the seams, turn to God, or in this case, someone who says you’re the next best thing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Remembering ‘Rhoda’ with Gratitude

Sunday, September 1st, 2019

Valerie Harper … living each day to the fullest

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two Sides of the Same Coin

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings me to Valerie Harper, and hope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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