Posts Tagged ‘trump’

Who Stands with Standing Rock?

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Face off at Standing Rock.

Face off at Standing Rock.

Last Monday morning, virtual reality became real reality, if you will, in an encouraging way.

My usual morning routine includes a casual scroll through my Facebook feed to see if I missed anything of vital interest overnight. Usually it’s more of the same. But Monday, a post stopped me short and prompted a silent, “Really?”

It seems a young Facebook friend had traveled to North Dakota overnight and “checked in” at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in solidarity with the Sioux tribe protesting construction of an oil pipeline there. We both live in upstate New York, so this is no easy overnight jaunt. I was impressed with the young man’s commitment to a cause, until I scrolled a little more and discovered that another local friend, a middle-aged woman, had also checked in at Standing Rock. I could believe that she, too, would support the cause, but I was now skeptical about the travel.

A short while later, my partner said, “My Facebook friend checked in at Standing Rock.”

“Not really, I said,” having finally figured out what was going on. “I think there’s a movement on Facebook to show support for the protesters by checking in, virtually, at Standing Rock. It’s a really cool idea.”

Indeed there was and indeed it was. Cool. About a million Facebook users stood in real and virtual solidarity with the Sioux Tribe and thousands of others who have joined them in North Dakota to protest against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

While the check-ins apparently started as a response to a request from activists at the site, who said police were using the Facebook feature to find out who was at Standing Rock in order to target them, police denied doing so. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, as the massive show of online support sent a message far beyond North Dakota.

For one thing, it brought to focus an actual issue — really several issues — that were being played out in a part of the country far removed from the drudgery and dirty laundry of the presidential campaign. The standoff at Standing Rock had been going on for some time with major media outlets managing to ignore it while obsessing on emails and sexual predation.

I can imagine the newsroom discussion. Editor: “North Dakota? An oil pipeline? Indians? That’s a long way. Can’t we pick up some info from a local reporter?”

Assistant editor: “I don’t know, chief, there’s a bunch of tribes there and now hundreds of others supporting them and they are unarmed and the police and hired security forces are using tear gas and Mace and batons and rubber bullets — they shot some reporter and some horses — to force them off the land. The Sioux say it’s ancient tribal land where their ancestors are buried. Also, the pipeline threatens their water source. The protesters say the private security force even used attack dogs on them. A lot of people were arrested, including what’s-her-name, from NPR. It’s getting ugly. Mark Rufalo was there. Bernie Sanders asked Obama to do something.”

Do something.

The Sioux are still waiting.

A little background for those, like myself, overwhelmed with political “news.” Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe see the pipeline as a threat to their water supply and their culture. They say its route crosses lands — not part of the reservation — where members of their tribe once hunted and were buried. They also worry about damage if the pipeline were to break where it crosses under the Missouri River, their sole source of water.

Energy Transfer, the company building the pipeline — a $3.7 billion project —  says it will pour millions of dollars into local economies and create thousands of construction jobs. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of oil a day from western North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline was moved from its original path, closer to Bismarck, the state capital, because officials feared it could damage the city water supply. Apparently, no such concern was felt for the drinking water of the Sioux.

So, back to do something.

The two candidates for president did nothing.

Donald Trump loves oil and doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t white and Christian. North Dakota’s three Electoral College votes are his anyway.

Hillary Clinton, often criticized as overly cautious, missed a chance to show real leadership. With no votes to pick up in the state, she could have stood for the rights of indigenous peoples, for protection of the environment, for the First Amendment right to free assembly, and for the responsibility of corporations, who like being considered citizens when giving money to politicians, to also act like responsible citizens when it comes to the public good. She could also have stood against military style force by police against unarmed citizens. Some Clinton doubters in other states (Nevada, Colorado, Arizona) might have been impressed.

Even President Obama waffled. He said, in an effort to accommodate sacred land of Native Americans, “the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way. So we’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.”

Well, maybe that’s not so bad if the police and paid enforcers aren’t shooting rubber bullets at you and dousing you with hoses, Mr. President. How about telling them to stand down while the Army Corps does its job?

In one day, a million Americans stood in virtual solidarity with the Sioux. Is it too much to ask their president and would-be presidents to demonstrate the real thing?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

GOP Has a Day of Reckoning Coming

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

The face of the Republican Party.

The face of the Republican Party.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel called a presidential election campaign and, if the gods are not playing a cruel trick on us, that light is not on an engine with TRUMP emblazoned on its sides. In any event, the end is near and I am as weary of writing about this ugly affair probably as  you are of reading about it.

The problem is, that’s all most of the mainstream and social media care to talk about these days. In case you missed the other news: 1) The Cubs and Indians are in the World Series. 2) Heavily armed police in North Dakota attacked hundreds of protesters who joined the Standing Rock Sioux tribe trying to block construction of a pipeline they say threatens water supplies and sacred sites. And 3) Tim Tebow is apparently just as good at baseball as he was at playing quarterback in the NFL.

But really, the only thing the media want to talk about are Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election is rigged and that the press — meaning all the news outlets who report accurately on his words and actions — lie.

These are claims that losers and demagogues resort to when everything else — lies, threats, lies, threats, lies, threats — fails. Honestly, it is disheartening to feel a need to point out to, apparently, millions of Americans, that Trump’s claims are nonsense. It is even more disheartening to realize that many of the people who still support his candidacy don’t seem to care. There is a major issue to address some day soon in that.

Meanwhile, as to his two claims:

  • Voter fraud is virtually non-existent in America. You can check this with any legitimate news provider. The real threat is voter intimidation — keeping some people from voting through excessive (illegal) regulations and perceived threats. Suggesting rigged elections is a serious threat to the very foundation of a free, democratic society — an orderly transfer of power. This is something about which Trump knows little and seemingly cares less. As far as he’s concerned, if he doesn’t win, the powers that be must be against him.
  • The press. Ah, the press. “They can say anything they want,” he complained the other day. No kidding, Sherlock. You just noticed? He says if he’s president he’s going to change that and strip the major media companies of their power. He can try, of course. It won’t be easy though. You see, Donald, those same forefathers who were so wise as to guarantee Americans the right to bear arms in that Second Amendment you and your followers are so fond of spouting and shouting about thought the idea of a free and unfettered press was so important to a functioning democracy that they wrote it into the First Amendment of the Constitution. That’s one ahead of the guns amendment, which some might say suggests it is more important. Since a civics lesson is apparently in order for Trumpers, it should be noted that the First Amendment also guarantees everyone freedom of religion. Which is also to say, freedom from your religion.

But these are mere facts and Trump and the folks at Fox News have demonstrated the power of repeating false news over and over again until listeners — like the inhabitants of Orwell’s “1984” — simply take it for fact. We have always been at war with Eurasia. We have never been at war with Eurasia. Love is hate. War is peace. I know Putin well. I never met the man.

We are told that many Trump supporters — virtually all of them white  and the majority male — are angry and frustrated with their lives. Somehow, goes the argument, all those black, brown, Muslim, Mexican, gay, Jewish, Arab, Asian people who don’t belong here — and some pushy American women as well — have prevented these Trump fans from realizing the American Dream. They took all the jobs and live on welfare. Love is hate. Up is down. Bigotry has nothing to do with it. We just want to make America great again, like before all those other people said they wanted to enjoy the American Dream, too.

Enough already. At some point in a person’s life, if he or she is lucky, the opportunity presents itself to take responsibility for one’s actions. To take stock of how things are going. Not materially, but really. It can be frightening. It can also be rewarding. Among other things, this look in the mirror allows one to say — if one can be honest — “I’ve made some mistakes. I sincerely regret them. I hope to do better from now on.” A lot of people never do this.

With that runaway train called Trump menacing the trust and tolerance that are the pillars of our, yes, already great nation, I’m thinking that a lot of people — a lot of white, Republican people — have a date with a mirror. It’s far too late to undo the damage Trump has done or to deny any part in it, but it’s not too late to admit the mistake of supporting him in spite of all the hateful, false things he said. It’s not too late to admit to acting as if he didn’t say them because, well, maybe because you were angry or confused or frightened or thought it would be disloyal. Maybe you feel you were lied to. Or maybe you just wanted to believe the lies.

Republican politicians who have stuck with Trump have no such out. The McCains and Ryans and Cruzes and Rubios knew Trump was bad news from day one. But he was their bad news and his lies became their lies even when they disagreed with him, because they never had the courage — the humility, the simple decency — to look in the mirror and say: “Enough. This man is obscene. He is an insult to our party and our nation. We made a grave mistake in pandering to the worst instincts of some of our party members in order to get their votes. Our pride kept us from admitting this. Fear drove our decisions. We allowed him to make fools of us. Indeed, we made fools of ourselves.”

Speaking, if I may, for the rest of an angry, resentful nation, that day of reckoning can’t come soon enough.

rjgaydos@gmail.com     

The Kremlin and the Death of the GOP

Thursday, October 20th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

Here’s as far as I got …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

This Clown is Armed and Dangerous

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... clown-in-chief

Donald Trump … clown-in-chief

“Was the clown armed?

The simple question, which raised a host of other questions, rang as pure and clear as a bell in the otherwise silent newsroom.

It may be the most work-stopping question I’ve ever heard in a half-century of over-hearing reporters’ telephone interviews in newsrooms. And it was asked as matter-of-factly as if the reporter had said, “How do you spell that?”

Did she just say what I thought she said?

Indeed she did.

Clowns, reports of clowns, real clowns, imaginary clowns, old clowns, young clowns, scary clowns, armed clowns had been terrorizing upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and who-knows-where-else for days, the outbreak being spread via social media, which at once made it seem larger and scarier than it actually was. Not that it was a laughing matter.

That’s why the reporter was asking the police whether a clown reportedly seen in a local school was armed. It wasn’t. No one’s even sure there was a clown. Which is good. But some people are frightened of clowns and some clown is likely to dress up as a clown and carry a fake gun and wind up being shot buy a real cop with a real gun. That’s scary.

So what does this have to do with politics?

Everything. In my opinion, the eruption of scary clowns across America this fall is the inevitable culmination of a horrifying presidential campaign that began with the Republican Party’s infamous clown car of candidates and has devolved into a daily episode of a self-aggrandizing TV showman with bright, orange hair saying scary stuff about what he will do if he is elected president of the United States.

This is not the silent Clarabell on Howdy Doody. This is Donald Trump, in person and on tape everywhere he goes, telling us just how frighteningly ill-suited and unprepared he is for the presidency and, more importantly, how hypocritical, cowardly, and self-serving are the people largely responsible for him being the Republican Party’s candidate for president. That would be all — and I mean all — the elected Republican officials in America who, over the past several decades, have courted, coddled, tolerated, and ultimately ignored a constituency consisting of mostly white persons, angry at what they perceive as being shoved aside and forgotten while persons of other colors, creeds, religions, nationalities, sexual preferences, politics — you name it — got ahead of them in line.

Their fears were realized when the nation elected its first black president. Apparently, the only way Republicans in Congress could think of to serve their constituency was to reject every proposal Barack Obama put forth. For eight years. Yet he is a man of such intelligence and grace that he managed to improve the lot of virtually every American in some way in his two terms in office, notably rescuing the nation from the economic morass in which his predecessor left it.

The response of elected Republican officials — from Congress to state houses to local city halls — to Obama’s success was to deny it. To lie about it. To shut down the government. To say global warming is a myth. To deny and to lie, but never to once offer any proposal to better the lives of their constituents, which, of course, would have required working with their black president.

And so when all those would-be presidents showed up months ago on the same stage with Donald Trump, the TV guy with his name on everything, they had nothing to show for the last eight years except to say they would be different than Obama. And maybe hint that they weren’t so fond of gays. Or abortion.

Trump didn’t hint. He knew who was living in the Republican basement all these years. They watched his TV shows. They could eat tacos and hate Mexicans. Muslims? An easy target. And blacks, of course. Demonize and victimize them at the same time. But why stop there? People with physical disabilities were to be mocked for their ability to abuse the system. Women? In the kitchen, in the bedroom, slim and silent. Just tell them you’ll be great for women. You love women. All women. Every man’s woman. Your daughter even.

They bought it. In truth, the GOP offered nothing else to buy except stale bread and promises that couldn’t be kept. So the angry constituency voted for Trump and he got more votes than the rest of the clowns in the car. And he kept saying more outrageous and actually stupid things and those elected Republican officials all said, “Well, that’s just Donald. It’s a show. He’ll change when he’s actually running for president.”

Well, Donald being Donald, he actually got worse, emboldened by his success and support from the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, anti-Semitic groups, crowds of angry white men and silent Republican officials.

His lies and offensive remarks were dismissed by Republican officials as they criticized him, but continued to support him as their party’s nominee. His utter lack of experience and knowledge of what it takes to be president was also ignored. He’ll put smart people around him, the elected officials said of the man who lives in bankruptcy court and lost a billion dollars in one year on a casino (which is rigged to make a profit), then bragged about not paying taxes because he’s so “smart.”

A billionaire not paying taxes! That’s “smart” to Republicans because after all, we can finance the government on …  well, on the backs of all those middle-class Republican voters in the basement, not that we’ll tell them that. If they ever figure it out, we’re in trouble.

And so it went, until a few days ago when a TV show released a tape of Trump being Trump, talking in lewd terms about making unwanted sexual advances on women he finds attractive. The kind that a prosecutor would define as assault. Suddenly, dozens of elected Republican officials — virtually all male and white, of course — had had enough. How dare he talk that way about women!? Why, we have wives, daughters, mothers, sisters! Yes, and they all gave their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers a piece of their mind about that clown running for president as a Republican (which he really isn’t).

Suddenly, the officials were called upon to do something they hadn’t had to do for some time as Republicans — make an individual moral judgment. (C’mon, McCain, say something!) If they had responded to the wishes of the Trump base of support, they would have just tsk-tsked him again. Almost as if he didn’t say what they just heard him say. His supporters, as usual, excused him because they still blame Mexicans, blacks and Muslims for their problems. And the Trump women? I haven’t figured that out.

Nonetheless, if sex is the tipping point for Republicans — not surprising, actually —  then perhaps it will remind elected officials that they have a sworn duty to all the people they serve, to the greater good, and not just to to the bigots in the basement because they happened to vote for them.

In fact, If Republicans want some historic perspective on this matter, Edmund Burke, often referred to as the “Father of Conservatism,” gave a famous speech in 1774 in the British House of Commons, in which he acknowledged the duty of an elected representative to his constituents: “It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interests to his own. But his unbased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. … Your representative owes you not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

Paste that on the Big Orange Elephant in the middle of the room.

The betrayal Burke spoke of arises out of self-serving fear. “If I don’t deny global warming, the thinking goes, they won’t vote for me. If I support gay marriage, they won’t vote for me. If I respect all religions, they won’t vote for me. If I welcome immigrants, they won’t vote for me. If I reject Trump, they won’t vote for me. But I think global warming is a real threat. I think gays deserve the same rights as straights. I respect the First Amendment on religion. I believe immigrants built America. And I think Trump is a narcissistic, scary clown. What do I do?”

Donald the Groper just did them a favor.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

In America, the Rich are Never Wrong

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... I was great, but my mic was lousy

Donald Trump … I was great, but my mic was lousy

Here’s a delayed look at the week that was. (I couldn’t let that televised national embarrassment Monday night go by without somehow acknowledging it. Besides, it ties in neatly with the rest of the menu.)

Monday night, 86 million people turned on their TVs to watch a rich, white man who inherited a fortune bragging about rooting for the collapse of the home mortgage market in 2008 and how “smart” he is to avoid paying taxes. The man also happens to be running for president of the United States as the Republican Party nominee.

During the debate, the nominee also body-shamed a former beauty queen and displayed a shocking lack of knowledge about such things as economics and world affairs. He did sniffle and interrupt his female opponent a lot.

This was white privilege on display in all its arrogance. Donald Trump has got his – well, his daddy gave him a lot to start with – and now he wants to get more of ours. When the debate was over, Trump said if people thought he did lousy it was because somebody turned his microphone sound down too low. Because, in Donald Trump’s world, the rich are never wrong.

Speaking of the rich never being wrong, last week also marked the fifth anniversary of the Occupy Movement in America. It arose seemingly out of nowhere with thousands of Americans of all ages, colors, genders, creeds, etc., setting up camp or just sitting down — and staying — in large numbers in places where people don’t usually set up camp or squat, if you will, for more than a couple of hours at most. Bank doorways. Parks. The middle of Wall Street.

Five years later, the Occupy Movement is, at least physically speaking, a mere memory, a blip in the history of protest movements in the United States. To some, it is a might-have-been movement that missed its moment. To others, it was merely a forbearer of things to come. It was often criticized (by me included) as having no central theme. What was its point?

Today, it’s clear what the point was and remains: America is divided into two groups of people — the haves (like Trump) and the rest.

The haves are the one percent — the individuals and corporations — who control enormous amounts of wealth and want more. The rest, the 99 percent, is us, trying to figure out how things got so out of whack. Wall Street was and still is the symbol of this unfair, obscene distribution of wealth, hence the occupation of the financial district. But as the remaining Occupiers marked their fifth anniversary, it was obvious to anyone who has paid attention to the presidential campaign for the past year that the movement’s message did not disappear in the fog of tear gas, Mace and flash-bang grenades that dispersed many Occupiers in cities across America.

Sen. Bernie Sanders made income disparity the central part of his vigorous campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. It resonated so strongly that, even in defeating Sanders, Hillary Clinton (who is also very wealthy, but not Trump-like) agreed to include it in the party’s platform as she accepted the nomination. Her challenge as president will be to live up to her words and stand up to Wall Street.

If anyone doubted that this is necessary and that the culture of greed still prevails among the one percent, two recent hearings in Congress, of all places, should have put that to rest.

One involved a bank, Wells Fargo, whose employees, under pressure to meet aggressive demands to increase profits, created 2 million phony accounts in customers’ names to collect $2.4 million in unauthorized fees on them.

The other hearing involved a pharmaceutical company, Mylan Inc., which holds 90 percent of the market share on EpiPen, an epinephrine auto-injector, which reverses deadly allergic reactions. Since 2007, the company has raised the price 15 times. EpiPens went from roughly $50 each for a pack of two to $608. Millions of children rely on EpiPens’ life-saving qualities. Many parents are having trouble affording them.

Banks and pharmaceutical companies have been among the chief miscreants in the “get it any way you can” philosophy that dominates corporate America and Wall Street. Even when corporations are found guilty of egregious, illegal, unethical behavior, the persons responsible for creating the atmosphere of unyielding greed seem to never face any repercussions. The rich are never wrong.

Thousands of Wells Fargo employees were fired, either for setting up the phony accounts or for refusing to set up the accounts.The company was fined $185 million by federal authorities and agreed to pay restitution to its customers, but that won’t break the bank. CEO John Stumpf apologized to Congress, sort of, while ignoring many strong suggestions that he resign and that he should be arrested. But this time, the company’s directors went against common practice by making Stumpf give up $41 million in benefits and forgo salary while an investigation proceeds. They also made the executive responsible for running the scam retire without any severance pay. So maybe the Occupy message is starting to get through.

Meanwhile, the Mylan CEO, Heather Bresch, tried to convince Congress that she was doing the world a favor with her blackmail pricing. Showing no apparent understanding of the fears faced by those who rely on her product, she told Congress her company was compassionate and had worked hard to educate the public about the dangers of allergic reactions. Bresch said the company only makes $50 in profit per pen, which is probably a low estimate, but still sounds pretty good, considering it costs only a few bucks to produce.

Bresch was paid $2.4 million in 2007 and $18,931,068 in 2015. She rounded it off to $18 million when asked at a congressional hearing, prompting one congressman to note that it must be easy to ignore $931,068 in annual salary when one reaches a certain level of pay.

And isn’t that the point? It has all been too easy for corporations to boost their bottom lines and top executives’ astronomical pay because no one at the top has been made to pay the price for the pain inflicted upon millions of Americans by illegal, unethical, money-grabbing tactics. Bankers don’t go to jail in this country. Drug company executives don’t go to jail in this country. Insurance executives don’t go to jail in this country. Wall Street brokers don’t go to jail in this country.

In this country, a billionaire who doesn’t pay his employees, stiffs his creditors, brags about not paying taxes, routinely degrades women, espouses racist policies, sets up a phony university, gives voice to hatred and violence, promulgates a fiction that his president wasn’t born in this country, insults military heroes, is ignorant of the Constitution, and lies as naturally as he breathes gets to run for president as the candidate for what is now a sorry excuse for a major political party.

And apparently, to a sizable portion of the 99 percent, this is OK, because he’s rich. And not black. Or a woman. Which may explain why Trump and the rest of his ilk continue to act as if the rich are never wrong.

… and so it went.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A False Argument on ‘False Balance’

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

donald_trump_king_of_the_birthersHallelujah! Praise the lord and pass the ammunition! The cavalry has arrived. Less than a week after its public editor offered a bass-ackwards interpretation of the “false balance” issue (“Here’s the Truth About ‘False Balance,’’’ Sept. 11), The New York Times ran an article at the top of its front page that perfectly demonstrated the proper way to avoid false balance in covering a political campaign: Tell the actual truth.

Saturday’s (Sept. 17) Times led with a story headlined: “Trump Gives Up a Lie But Refuses to Repent.’’ It carried a subhead: “No Apology After 5 Years of Nurturing ‘Birther’ Issue to Undermine Obama.” What followed was a carefully detailed accounting of Donald Trump’s “birther” lie, which was nothing more than a racially coded effort to delegitimize the nation’s first black president.

The piece, by Michael Barbaro, was actually a news analysis and was labeled as such, but the Times still led the paper with it, rather than the straightforward (presumably unbiased) story reporting on the big announcement by Trump. That’s because Barbaro’s piece put the whole sordid truth out there, in perspective, for readers to digest. There was no worry about whether the story was “too liberal’ (another worry of the new public editor) or too harsh. It was true. Every bit of it. What Trump said and continues to say (he claims Hillary Clinton started the birther rumors) is not.

The news analysis was, in effect, a front-page editorial leading the paper. The Times also ran an editorial inside the paper that echoed the truth that Trump has lied repeatedly about this and other issues. In my humble opinion, this is called good, aggressive, community-minded journalism that holds public figures accountable for their words and actions without worrying whether it will offend the public figure and/or his supporters. It belongs on the front page, especially when the liar wants to be president and lots of people want to believe his lies.

The public editor, Liz Spayd, might call this approach “preaching to the choir.” She’s apparently also concerned that a lot of people consider The Times to be “liberal.’’ Gambling? Here? I’m shocked, shocked!

She wrote a piece headlined “Why Readers See The Times as Liberal” (July 24), as if that’s a bad thing and as if it’s a new thing. In that article she suggested keeping editorials off the front page after a lot of people who said they were conservative objected to a front-page editorial on gun control. So the newspaper, which has argued unabashedly for gun control for decades, should timidly limit its views to the opinion page because they might offend some people whose political views probably revolve around guns and not much else, because those people might not read the paper if they think its reporting is skewed to the left.

News flash: They probably don’t read the paper anyway because: 1) It’s always been fashionable to bash the most-prestigious paper in the world, especially when its editorial views — not necessarily its reporting — don’t reflect yours; and 2) it costs too much.

In Spayd’s view, Times reporters must resist the arguments about false balance — in this case, giving political candidates’ statements, opinions and actions equal treatment (“fair” treatment) in reporting and writing, even though the truth argues otherwise — because, in their distaste for Trump the reporters might be tempted to go easy on Clinton.

Go ahead, finish laughing.

The Times, like the rest of the media, has been beating up on Clinton for years, searching for scandal and coming up short. This obviously can be frustrating when the editors and reporters also know she pretty much despises most of them, doesn’t hide it and, as a result, brings much of the negative reporting on herself.

But … if it’s only Clinton supporters now who are complaining about “false balance” in Times reporting on the campaign, that’s because virtually the entire mainstream media was guilty of this for months by treating Trump as a qualified candidate for president because the Republican Party didn’t know how to stop him. It’s also because much of The Times’ reporting on Clinton — presumably tough-minded and fair– has also been shoddy, not nearly up to the paper’s reputation. If you’re going to be fair on holding candidates’ feet to the fire, be accurate. If anything, that is what has built the newspaper’s reputation.

Besides, the Clinton supporters had no gripe with The Times during the primary campaign when Sen. Bernie Sanders was often an asterisk in the paper’s coverage of the Clinton coronation as Democratic Party nominee.

In her closing argument on “false balance,” Spayd writes, “Fear of false balance is a creeping threat to the role of the media because it encourages journalists to pull back from their responsibility to hold power accountable. All power, not just selected individuals, however vile they might seem.”

That’s a perfect example of false balance. Reporters, in other words, should not hold back on trying to find something bad to write about Hillary Clinton (again, an absurd premise to start with) just because Donald Trump has proven himself over and over to be (not “seem”) vile, deceitful, bigoted, narcissistic, misogynistic, uninformed, racist, unpredictable, volatile, immature.

And dangerous.

After his major announcement that he had been lying about President Obama’s citizenship for years, Trump said to an audience in Miami that Clinton wants to “destroy your Second Amendment.’’ As a response to that, he suggested: “She goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. … Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.”

The audience, as always at Trump rallies, applauded this threat.

Go ahead, by all means, New York Times, be “fair and balanced” and don’t stop investigating the Clinton Foundation. But also, do continue to ignore your public editor and keep telling the truth about this vile man on the front page every day. Other media follow your lead. The chorus may be convinced, but others may be ready to join.

If your public editor regards that as “taking sides,” so be it. This is not a high school debate; this is about the future of our country. A major responsibility of newspapers is to inform, educate and help mold public opinion. Unlike some other media (Fox News), The Times does this without lying. At least that’s the reputation. Live up to it.

(Full disclosure: The author was editorial page editor of the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

It’s Only Fair to Say: It Has to be Hillary

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton ... the only rational choice

Hillary Clinton … the only rational choice

Among the many unpleasant things this presidential campaign has unearthed (festering racism, arrogant ignorance, ugly nativism, cowardly politics …) is the phony fairness theory. Or, the false equivalence doctrine.

It’s the belief that: 1) the news media has an obligation to present information about both major presidential candidates fairly and equitably, without value judgments and 2) anytime anyone writes a critical piece about one candidate, it’s a “hit job” if the opposition is not also criticized in some way.

Obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to Fox News. although its viewers are the loudest in demanding it of others.

Second obvious caveat: The fairness theory does not apply to the hundreds of social media propaganda sites posing as news outlets.

The misguided notion that the press has to be “fair” by being non-judgmental and showing appropriate respect for both candidates is what led to the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While Fox News was skewering Hillary Clinton daily with unproven charges and innuendo, the mainstream media were reporting on those innuendos while treating her opponent as if he were someone who had any clue about how to be president — despite his own statements to the contrary every day.

On and on and on it went, with only a rare few having the guts to say, “That’s racist,” or “That’s stupid,” or “That’s offensive,” or “That’s sexist,” or “That’s a lie.” And so here we are, with Trump still doing the same things day after day and the mainstream media desperately playing catch-up on calling Trump a dangerous bigot and a possible threat to national security.

All except Matt Lauer, of course, who froze up in that NBC-TV debate the other night, letting Trump ramble and lie without calling him out, while grilling Clinton about her e-mails that have dominated Fox News but — to be fair — have resulted in no official charges against her for anything.

I don’t know Lauer, but it sure seemed that he was more comfortable being aggressive with a well-spoken, accomplished, educated woman than with a schoolyard bully. Just saying.

At any rate, back to fairness. The Fairness Doctrine was instituted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1949. It required the holders of broadcast licenses (radio and TV stations) to present controversial issues of public importance in an honest, equitable, and balanced manner. The idea was that, since they held licenses to use the airwaves, they had an obligation to fairly inform the public.

It was killed in 1987 In Ronald Reagan’s administration. It never applied to print media. It no longer exists. And it never meant that reporters or editors or columnists were supposed to ignore the truth in the interest of “fairness.” You don’t just get to say anything — true or not — just because we have to be fair. That would not be in the public interest. Challenging candidates to prove their statements is in the public interest.

Interestingly, the notion of fairness keeps coming up with regards to press coverage of Clinton, both ways. She has been called the favorite candidate of the mainstream media, who are supposedly doing all they can to ignore her shortcomings while repeatedly excoriating Trump, so as to get her elected. She has also been called the favorite target of the media, who are said to carry a longstanding resentment against her for treating them as a necessary evil at best. In a way, this could be considered fair and balanced treatment.

I’ve had readers comment on my articles saying that it’s not fair to just criticize Republicans for giving us Trump, when the Democrats gave us Clinton, who allegedly stole the nomination. I must be a Clinton-lover, they say. Be fair.

First off, it’s dangerous to make assumptions off one article, whoever the author. Second, we are way beyond that point, people. It’s two months to Election Day. Just as Republicans will have to figure out what they stand for after this election, Democrats will have their day of reckoning with the Bernie Sanders supporters and others who are not fans of Clinton (including me). That’s all to the good and grist for future columns.

But right now, we need to focus on the issue at hand: Donald Trump, is the most dangerously ill-prepared candidate to ever run for president representing a major party. (Please don’t distract me with third party arguments at this point. Aleppo.) Hillary Clinton is one of the most-qualified persons to ever run for president and she is a woman. I submit those as pertinent facts. I don’t have to like Hillary to vote for her; I just have to accept that she is by far the better choice. In fact, the only rational choice.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

 

The Truth Shall Make us Free, and Angry

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Mexican Preidnet Enrique Pena Nieto and Donald Trump ... a language barrier?

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Donald Trump … a language barrier?

I wrote a column last week in which I said that the media’s decision to give Donald Trump’s core supporters the dignity of a legitimate-sounding political movement name was, essentially, a bunch of hooey. A lazy, cowardly way of saying that the folks most passionate about Trump’s candidacy are bigots.

When you say Alt-Right, read it to mean the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, previously closeted fascists, anti-gays, and a bunch of woman-haters. The kind of people who, in previous eras stole land from Native Americans and slaughtered thousands of them. Who started a war to preserve slavery. Who had whites-only schools and bathrooms. Who herded fellow Americans of foreign descent into internment camps.

I thought it was a fair, truthful representation of what Americans have been subjected to for nearly a year now. Would that the major media had done the same for the past year. One reader suggested there must have been spittle on my laptop when I got through writing. Quite possible. I’ve been known to get a little messy when I’m angry. To me, one of the most disappointing aspects of this presidential campaign is that not nearly enough people are angry and downright embarrassed that one of our two major political parties has handed its presidential nomination to a congenital liar. A bigot. A misogynist. A narcissist. … There I go again.

Another reader noted a lot of “name-calling” in the piece. I don’t know. It seems to me when I use words to describe the reality of what is going on, it’s not name-calling, it’s doing what Trump says he does. You know, telling it like it is; calling a spade a spade, a bigot a bigot. I think Trump’s own words and actions legitimize every label I affixed to him. You can deny this if you want, but that merely puts you in line with the Republican National Committee, which is in bed with Trump, against its will but for its own selfish purposes. There are names for that, too.

Last week, Trump took his ego to Mexico to meet with that country’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto. After the meeting, Trump said they discussed the infamous wall he has repeatedly vowed to build on the U.S. border with Mexico, but he said the two men did not discuss his demand that Mexico pay for it. Pena Nieto disagreed. He said he “made it clear” at the beginning of the conversation that Mexico would not pay for any wall.

If somebody is lying here, I’m going with Trump. Just hours after his cordial photo op/meeting in Mexico, the candidate was in Phoenix giving as extreme an anti-immigrant speech one could imagine. A wall. Mass deportations of migrant criminals. “Extreme-vetting.” “Ideological certification.” David Duke, former Klan leader, called it “excellent.”

Back in Washington, D.C., Priebus and his RNC crew were once again left trying to figure out how to put a positive spin on Trump’s latest hateful broadside. Their decision was to say nothing because, really, what was there to say. The RNC has made its bed. Now it has to lie in it and about it. Week after week, it has been waiting for Trump to become more … presidential? No, that hope disappeared long ago. Perhaps simply more sane, more rational, more compassionate. Compassion would help. If Trump had any.

Cliche after cliche after cliche comes to mind. What you see is what you get. He is what he is. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Anything beyond that is merely ignoring the loud elephant in the room.

When this campaign is over and Hillary Clinton has become the first woman president in U.S. history — by default, if you wish — Priebus and his fellow GOP travelers will have a major decision to make.

Many Republicans who finally summed up the courage to say they cannot support a candidate with no redeeming social values to be the leader of this country are already trying to figure out where their party goes from here. Or where they go from here, if not with the GOP. For votes and power, they surrendered their party to the likes of the Koch brothers, Fox News and the fearful demands of the Tea Party fringe. Rich bigots lying to not-so-rich bigots.

Trump told them what they wanted to hear. Then he changed his mind. Then he said he never said that. Then he said, the greatest insult of all — that he was going to make America great again.

Listen, great isn’t all it’s trumped-up to be. When this election is over, I would rather be proud of my country again.

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Alt-Right: Trumped-up Name for Bigots

Sunday, August 28th, 2016
Hillary Clinton ... delivering a speech linking Donald Trump to bigots and racists

Hillary Clinton … delivering a speech linking Donald Trump to bigots and racists

By Bob Gaydos

It’s not enough that I’ve had to suffer through the most frightening, embarrassing presidential campaign in my lifetime and, perhaps, in the lifetime of this country, but now I’m being asked to grant legitimacy to the very ugliness that has marred this chapter in American history.

“Alt-right”? “Alt-right”? Are you kidding me? How about ugly, racist, bigoted, anti-semitic, hateful, ignorant, white people who want to blame all their perceived grievances on those who are different from them.

These are the people who never wanted the Civil War to end. Who didn’t want schools integrated or teaching evolution. Who would welcome a return to segregated lunch counters. Who hate the day when Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus. Who brandish the swastika. Now they want to start another civil war, led by the biggest con artist ever to claim leadership of a major political party, Donald Trump.

Thank you, Republicans.

Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton referred to the most avid followers of Trump as the Alt-Right, a term now being used by mainstream media. With capital letters and everything. This is a collection of hate groups that have been festering quietly in the bowels of the Republican Party for years. Quietly, because even most Republicans are aware that these are not people who are interested in being part of an America that is open and welcome and full of opportunity for all people. These are Klansmen and neo-Nazis and Second-Amendment-spouting “patriots” who want the government to take care of their needs, but ignore the “freeloaders.” Hell, to punish them.

And yes, I blame Republicans for letting this happen because they knew full well the kind of people they were cynically courting for votes and the kind of people they were playing to by refusing to cooperate on any initiative proposed by President Barack Obama. Is it a coincidence that he is our country’s first black president and Trump has freed the racists from the Republicans’ basement? I don’t think so.

I’m glad Clinton spelled out in detail publicly what Trump and his followers represent. She should do more of it, while also spelling out her own alternatives to his fearful message. I hesitate to say that he stands for anything but himself because I think he makes it up as he goes along. He is a pathological liar, a bigot, a misogynist and has a sociopathic need to stir up fear and hatred among the “Alt-Rights” to hear their applause. He gave a scripted speech on how blacks — whose lives in America are a never-ending hell in his view — would be better off voting for him. He gave the speech to a group of white farmers in Iowa. Naturally, they applauded.

It is a sick relationship, enabled by cowardly leaders in the Republican Party who feared losing power and prestige by telling the “Alt-Rights”: You know what folks, in this country we don’t do things that way. We’ve come a long way from those days when skin color, gender, religion, nationality, sexual preference determined whether one was accepted as an American. And, by the way, we’re not going to sacrifice our party’s principles for the sake of a few votes based on hatred and ignorance. So, go find another place to hide.

But no Republican leader said that to them. Instead, they put Sarah Palin on a pedestal and questioned whether their commander-in-chief was really an American..

Alt-Right is not a political philosophy. Rather, it is a fear-based  agenda of white supremacy that is being spread via social media. Their memes offer a message of lies and hate and almost a proud ignorance. Facts and science are irrelevant. It is definitely not conservative, liberal, Democrat or Republican. It is fear and hate and white is right and Trump has given it a voice, thanks in large part to the shameless orchestration of Fox News and the cluelessness of all the other news media until it was almost too late.

Trump stole the Republican nomination through bullying, outrageous statements, headline-grabbing and the timidness of many of his opponents, Republican leaders and media commentators. No one had the guts to say he was nuts. Since many of them have belatedly caught on to him, Trump is unlikely to steal the election. In fact, he seems almost intent on losing because he knows he can’t handle the job. It would be a major blow to his ego if he had to demonstrate his ineptitude publicly.

But he has given the cave-dwellers and hate-mongers hope and that is the real tragedy of this insult of an election. They now think they can spread their venom in public without repercussion because, after all, they’ve got a guy running for president of the United States of America for Pete’s sake. If that’s not legit, what is? And now, the media want to give them a legit name like all those other made-up ones — Neo-Con, Neo-Liberal, Far Right, Far Left.

Forget about Alt-Right. Call them what they are: racists and bigots. I say again, any Republican who hears what Trump and his most ardent followers say and sees how they behave and who still says he or she (really, woman?) supports his candidacy is no better than Trump. You are what you say you are. Presidents do not get to issue threats, insults and idiotic statements and change their minds every day.

Clinton has some serious issues to address, but they pale in comparison to what Trump represents. If you support Trump, know this: Your candidate is a fraud, a bigot, a callous, clueless, compassionless, misogynistic, self-aggrandizing bully who belittle veterans who died or were captured in battle and who mocks citizens with physical disabilities.

This is not all right in my America. This kind of “alternative” is unacceptable and does not deserve any special, pseudo-sounding, political movement name so that reporters, editors and columnists can have a shorthand way of saying bigots.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump ... shooting off his mouth again

Donald Trump
… shooting off his mouth again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelicals will have to reckon with their maker.

Some mistakes have no do-overs.

rjgaydos@gmail.com