Posts Tagged ‘White House’

The Buck Never Stops With Trump

Friday, November 9th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

D4EC7881-03DC-40CE-B0DA-02AA50509A49There’s still too much happening, too fast, so I’m sticking with the Jimmy Cannon approach for a while. So …

— Maybe it’s just me, but I’m having trouble figuring out which is worse: a) claiming you don’t know someone you just appointed to a pretty important job when critics immediately say the appointment is illegal and inappropriate; b) lying about knowing the guy when you just said on national TV less than a month ago that you know him and he’s “a great guy”; or c) thinking that the best way to cover your butt for making what is being described as an “unconstitutional appointment“ of someone who is being widely described as a “crackpot“ to the position of acting attorney general of the United States of America is to say, in effect, “Hey, they told me he was a good guy for the job. I never met him. Don’t blame me.”

The buck never stops at Donald Trump‘s desk. Think about it (you Trump supporters who stumbled in here by mistake can ignore this part), the man who occupies the most powerful position on the planet would rather people think he appointed a political hack to the most powerful law enforcement position in the country without ever talking to the man face-to-face than admit maybe he was a bit too hasty. Coincidentally, of course, at a time when the Justice Department this stranger would head has an active investigation of Trump and the 2016 election.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, with Drumpf, lying is second nature, but being embarrassed is unacceptable. It must be someone else’s fault. The media’s! Yeah, that’s it. I’ll blame CNN.

— Maybe it’s just me, but if I were a member of the White House press corps, I wouldn’t ask a single question at the next press conference if Sarah Huckabee Sanders is at the podium. No one. No questions. She took lying for a living to a new low with the use of a doctored video to revoke Jim Acosta’s White House credentials. The truth is under constant assault by this administration and the Republican Party. The press is the defender of the truth. Sarah must go,

— Maybe it’s just me, but I have issues with voters who prefer a dead pimp, a congressman indicted for insider trading, another one indicted for using thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal affairs and another one who is proudly racist over their opponents just because their opponents are Democrats. Methinks it says some unpleasant things about those voters. The Republican Party of Reagan, never mind Lincoln, no longer exists.

— Maybe it’s just me (and this definitely falls in the category of patting my own back), but those dots (I listed 17 of them) I wrote about back in January got connected on Election Day with a wave of women (mostly Democrats) elected to the House of Representatives. Sparked by the #metoo movement, with “a record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels,” I wrote, and with “female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States … this is not simply a revolution about sexual predation — or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.” So I said. It’s nice to be right occasionally, even nicer that the Democrats paid attention.

— Maybe it’s just me, but has anyone heard about anyone being charged with murdering Jamal Khashoggi? Are we still buddies with the Saudis?

— Is that caravan still threatening our southern border?

— Is it petty to criticize by name the members of your political party who didn’t get re-elected because they didn’t beg for your support? Is it typical (see item one) to think you, with your policies and rhetoric, bear no responsibility for their defeat?

— Maybe it’s just me, but Floridians deserve whatever they get for electing Rick Scott governor in the first place and maybe a bonafide racist to replace him. Throw in Marco Rubio, too. Imagine, counting all the votes is cheating.

— And finally, maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed that, unlike Congress, the third leg of government, the courts, have been holding their own against the onslaught of anti-everything coming out of the White House? The latest rulings stalling the Keystone Pipeline and preserving DACA show the value of independent courts. Maybe it’s just me, so why is Chuck Schumer being so soft on Mitch McConnell?

#voxpopuli

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The GOP’s Dying Words … Silence

Friday, May 18th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

John McCain ... not going quietly

John McCain … not going quietly

‘It doesn’t matter; he’s dying anyway.”

The words, relayed to the world via the Internet, were spoken by a White House aide about Sen. John McCain, who is stricken with brain cancer, but they could just as well have been another shovel of dirt on the remains of what once was the Republican Party,

In fact, when McCain, who is not going quietly, does succumb, it could fairly be said that any meaningful remaining link to what once was the Grand Old Party will have been lost. In truth, the party has been brain dead for years.

When I first read the comments attributed to White House special assistant Kelly Sadler I was angered, but not surprised. Not these days, not with this administration. Cruelty is a staple.

The comment was made during a staff meeting about the Dotard-in-chief’s nomination of Gina Haspel to be CIA director. McCain had voiced strong opposition to the choice even as he battled cancer at his home in Arizona. The comment was apparently intended as a joke, which did not go over well, but was quickly swept off the table.

But the telling thing about the comment is what followed from her boss and from members of the Republican Party who have known McCain for decades and who, not insignificantly, made him their presidential nominee in 2008.

Nothing. For days. Nothing. No cries of outrage at the disrespect for a party elder and the blatant lack of humanity in the remark. No thought of the impact on McCain’s family. No calls for Sadler to be fired. No call from the boss saying, “You’re fired.”

We’re told that Sarah Sanders, White House press secretary, did chew out the staff, not for the comment, but for someone leaking the comment. Someone leaked the Sanders chewing-out. Now they’re trying to fire the leakers.

This is the world of Trump, from mocking a reporter with a physical disability — at a campaign rally where it drew cheers — to declaring that McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down, captured and endured years of torture in Vietnam, was “no hero” because he was captured.

This, from the man whose alma mater, New York Military Academy in upstate New York, makes no mention on its web site of the fact that one of its alumni is president of the United States. That would normally be considered a good recruiting tool, but there’s nothing normal — or decent — about this presidency.

Again, this speaks volumes about the Republican Party and so many who identify themselves as Republicans yet have not a word to say publicly about the man who has infused the office he holds with a level of greed, ignorance and callousness that is at times mind-numbing. It’s one thing to make a mistake, to be conned, to exercise bad judgment. It happens to everyone. It’s quite another thing to be unable to admit the mistake, to say I was conned, I was stupid, I was greedy, I was foolish, I was wrong. I’m sorry. I regret my choice.

McCain said it recently, about his fateful and perhaps politically fatal decision in 2008 to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, instead of his good friend, Sen. Joe Lieberman. That decision did much to strengthen the wingnut, know-nothing branch of the Republican Party which gives Trump free rein today. Choices have consequences.

Lest I be accused of getting on my high horse, slinging arrows of accusation as if I had never succumbed, let me admit to a choice I unequivocally regret making — writing an editorial endorsing George W. Bush’s decision to attack Iraq. I can try to justify it by saying I had a great deal of respect for Colin Powell, who was secretary of state, and that his presentation to the United Nations claiming Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction was convincing. No matter. The fact that it was a Bush/Cheney/CIA lie did not occur to me and I let myself be convinced even though I had always believed that the United States did not, would not, should not attack another country. I wrote the editorial. I was conned. I was wrong. I regret it.

Trump, vindictive to the core, obviously resents McCain’s dramatic, late-night, thumbs-down vote that doomed the GOP effort to kill Obamacare. It was a good moment for McCain, who has had a less-than-perfect record as a senator. I have not always applauded McCain’s decisions, but in terms of statesmanship, leadership, patriotism and basic decency, he has it all over Trump. And yet, the silence persists from McCain’s Republican colleagues in Congress about a White House aide joking about him dying.

Haspel, who ran a CIA torture facility and destroyed records connected with it, was confirmed by the Senate as the new CIA director. Bad decision. McCain, who knew torture first-hand, objected strongly to her nomination. Trump thinks torture, which is illegal, is just fine. In fact, he’d like more of it. He’d probably really like to promote the female aide who joked about McCain dying, but will settle for firing the aide who leaked the comment. Having compassion is a dangerous trait in this White House. In the Republican Party, which can’t bring itself to say Donald Trump was a mistake, compassion has long ago been discarded.

May John McCain live on for days and weeks and months and even years as he valiantly battles his disease. The Republican Party for whom he once was the standard-bearer is dead and gone.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

For Shame, America, for Shame

Friday, April 20th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

Donald Trump and mentor Roy Cohn.

“Slime ball.”

That’s how the man with all the ‘‘best words,” the man who “know(s) words” replied when a man he had once fired called him a liar and compared him to a mob boss.

The man who had been fired, James Comey, also happened to be the former director of the FBI and also happens to have written a book in which he says the man who fired him was overly concerned with proving that he had never been involved in a situation that included Russian prostitutes and people urinating on each other. “Do I look like a guy who needs hookers?” Can you imagine me in such a situation? the former FBI director says his former boss asked him in the Oval Office.

This is where Donald Trump has taken the office of president of the United States. And, just to get it out of the way, yes, I can imagine Trump in such a situation. That’s the problem, America.

Think about it. If it didn’t happen, then there’s no way for someone to prove it did. And in this country, prosecutors — even special prosecutors — have to prove you did something wrong, rather than you proving you didn’t. It’s called the presumption of innocence, a commodity this administration has flushed down the toilet, along with any semblance of dignity.

There is no shame in the White House. We are reminded of this daily, with lies, big and small. Payoffs to cover up extra-marital affairs. Blatant racism, nepotism and corruption. An aversion to the rule of law and an ignorance of the Constitution. An aura of pettiness, shallowness and vindictiveness. Utter disdain for the poor or disadvantaged. And smiling all the time.

So, too, with the Republican Party as it bows at the feet of Trump, a Russian puppet now clearly its leader. There is no shame. No sense of decency. “At long last,” I find myself asking rhetorically of the Republican Party, “have you no sense of decency?

Well … history offers an answer.

Those words were first uttered in 1954 by Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer hired by the Army — the U.S. Army — to defends itself from charges by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, of lax security at a secret Army facility. McCarthy had used his position as chairman of the  Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to intensify his ongoing crusade to weed out what he claimed were hundreds of Communists working in the State Department and other federal agencies as well as in private industry, notably entertainment and the arts. During an endless round of hearings brutally conducted by McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn (remember that name), witnesses were accused, insulted and relentlessly grilled. “Red-baiting.”

Finally, during the three-month-long, televised Army-McCarthy hearings, the senator charged that one of Welch’s young lawyers, who was not working on the case, at one time had ties to a Communist organization. He pressed the issue. Welch had had enough. “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness,” he said. As McCarthy tried to continue, Welch interrupted:  “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

McCarthy, finally, was done. Someone had called him a bum to his face. He was eventually censured by the Senate and scorned by his own party. But careers were destroyed, lives ruined, families and friendships broken because of an unfettered campaign of reckless accusation and fear-mongering conducted by a publicity-hungry politician being advised by a ruthless lawyer, Roy Cohn, for whom nothing — facts, lives, careers … decency — mattered.

Roy Cohn, it turns out, was a younger Donald Trump’s lawyer, confidante and social secretary for many years in New York City. “If you need someone to get vicious toward an opponent, you get Roy,” Trump once said.

The student learned from his mentor. Trump testified as a character witness at Cohn’s disbarment hearing in the ‘80s (they got him), but eventually dropped him as his lawyer on discovering Cohn was dying of AIDS. People are dispensable.

More history. In 1972, Sen. Edmund Muskie, one of the most-decent people to ever run for president, had the misfortune to weep during a speech in snowy New Hampshire in which he was defending himself and his wife from accusations from William Loeb, conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. An editorial accused Muskie, a Democrat, of using an ethnic slur against French-Americans, a large voting bloc in the state. The charge was based on a letter from a Florida man that was later shown to be a hoax planted by the dirty tricks division of the Nixon White House, another time when Republican shame took a holiday. Loeb also made a not-so-subtle suggestion that Muskie’s wife enjoyed drinking too much.

In defending her, Muskie spoke during a snowstorm, calling Loeb a “gutless coward.” But the senator’s voice broke and tears appeared to roll down his face. His aides later said it was snow because, apparently, decency in a presidential candidate was unacceptable. Voters agreed. Muskie eventually dropped out.

One more lesson on Republicans and shamelessness from history: Swiftboating.

The phrase was born during John Kerry’s run for the presidency in 2004. The Democratic senator from Pennsylvania was subjected to a relentless campaign in TV ads and even a book questioning his claimed military service and the circumstances of his combat medals.

A Navy veteran, he was commander of a swift boat, used to patrol the waters in Vietnam. A group calling itself Swift Vets and POWS for Truth attacked Kerry’s record as false and his medals as undeserved. The well-funded campaign dealt a serious blow to his campaign, leading to the re-election of George W. Bush. The Swift Vets claims were eventually determined to be unfounded, with virtually none of the veterans in the group having served on a boat that Kerry commanded.

“Red-baiting,” “dirty tricks, “swiftboating.” The terms live on today as examples of lying in politics and shameless disregard for the impact on people’s lives. All by Republicans in the pursuit or defense of power. It wasn’t always so with the party, but now it is. Trump, the proud ignoramus, gets a free ride from a shameless Republican Congress that has abandoned all pretense of decency. We’ve got ours, they smile.

Well, I for one am ashamed, America. At long last, I wish more of you were, too.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Fly Me to the Moon, Please!

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors.

Look! Up in the sky! Our ancestors. Nibiru was a no-show again.

Trump thinks he’s an emperor.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and about 70 percent of the country think the president is a moron.

Of that remaining 30 percent, a sizable portion believe Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the earthquakes that rocked Mexico were god’s vengeance on humankind for (a) the mere existence of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons and (b) the idea that such persons should be allowed the same rights as “normal” people. Others in this group take it as fact that there were a pair of dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark.

This is by way of reporting, in case you missed it, that Nibiru once again failed to live up to its hype. This is not disappointing, but it is getting old.

If you somehow missed it, Nibiru is a “giant planet,” supposedly discovered by the Sumerians, which, according to one translation of ancient Babylonian texts, passes by Earth every 3,600 years to allows its inhabitants to interact with earthlings. NASA says it’s a hoax, but the prediction has evolved (or mutated) into Nibiru (also called Planet X), flying into or close by Earth, causing cataclysmic problems. That was supposed to happen in May 2003 and again in December of 2012. 

Also, Sept. 23 just passed. Missed again, although the “end of times” had been predicted by David Meade, a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed “Christian numerologist” who must have miscalculated, as did all those web sites dedicated to Nibiru.

It’s the interactive fly-by of Nibiru that caught my attention, though, not the hellfire and brimstone and rising tides theory. One would have to think that any celestial visitors these days would only have to slow down enough to take a peek at the headlines and decide to come back in another 3600 years when maybe we had our stuff a little better together.

Some people, however, are not willing to wait that long for contact with beings from elsewhere in the universe. Doug Vakoch is one of those. The president of METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is moving along with announced plans to send messages to stars with planets thought to be capable of sustaining life. First transmissions are scheduled for next year, despite warnings from some noted scientists that in sending messages rather than just listening for them he may be inviting trouble in the form of nasty aliens, as portrayed in many science-fiction movies.

Vakoch and his crew of serious scientists dismiss those portrayals as the result of active imaginations and a situation for which we have no actual data. “One of the reasons people are so afraid of METI is that it seems riskier to do something than to do nothing,” he says.

Ironically, one of those who have voiced warnings about METI is Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX. Musk is not the sit-around-and-wait -for-things-to-happen type.

Last month, as earthlings were breathing a sigh of relief at having been spared the wrath of Nibiru once more, Musk was in Australia at the annual meeting of the International Astronautical Congress moving up the deadline on his intent (some say pipe dream) to launch a manned mission to Mars. He’s talking 2024. Yes, seven years. Employing a really big rocket with lots of powerful engines, his plan is to launch two cargo missions to Mars in 2022 and four missions in 2024, two cargo and two with crews. Eventually, the goal is to create a colony, with the rockets transporting 100 people per trip.

Paying for his grand plans is always a question with Musk. He says he figures on building lots of rockets (smaller than his original plan) which can also be used to fly people to Paris or London or Tokyo instead of just Mars. He says his system could move people between any two cities on this planet in less than an hour, for an appropriate fee of course. People would be the payload on the Mars rockets, also. Investors welcome.

Closer to home, Musk says the really big rocket could be used to take people to the Moon. “It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” he said in Australia. “What the hell is going on?”

Well, sir, as stated above, the president (whose business advisory councils you quit and who named a climate-denier to head NASA) thinks he’s an emperor, the secretary of state thinks he’s a moron and 30 percent of Americans — some of whom think dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark — are apparently still OK with all that.

So, Messrs. Musk and Vakoch, if you don’t mind, let’s get those rockets and inter-planetary messages going quickly, before the emperor declares war on Nibiru.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Musk, Killer Robots, Trump, the Eclipse

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Elon Musk and Donald Trump made significant scientific statements this week. Digest that sentence for a second. …

OK, it’s not as strange as it sounds because each man was true to himself. That is, neither message was surprising, considering the source, but each was important, also considering the source.

Monday, Musk and 115 other prominent scientists in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence attending a conference in Melbourne, Australia, delivered a letter to the United Nations urging a ban on development and use of killer robots. This is not science fiction.

Responding to previous urging by members of the group of AI and robotics specialists, the UN had recently voted to hold formal discussions on so-called autonomous weapons. With their open letter, Musk and the others, coming from 26 countries, wanted the UN to be clear about their position — these are uniquely dangerous weapons and not so far off in the future.

Also on Monday, on the other side of the planet, as millions of Americans, equipped with special glasses or cardboard box viewers,  marveled at the rare site of a solar eclipse, Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, walked out onto a balcony at the White House and stared directly at the sun. No glasses. No cardboard box. No problem. I’m Trump. Watch me give the middle finger to science.

Of course, the only reason Trump shows up in the same sentence as Musk in a scientific discussion is that the man with the orange hair holds the title of president of the United States and, as such, has the power to decide what kind of weapons this nation employs and when to use them. Also, the president — any president — has the power, through words and actions, to exert profound influence on the beliefs, attitudes and opinions of people used to looking to the holder of the office to set an example. Hey, if it’s good enough for the president, it’s good enough for me. This is science fiction.

Please, fellow Americans, don’t stare at the sun during the next eclipse.

Trump’s disdain for science (for knowledge of any kind, really) and his apparently pathological need to do the opposite of what more knowledgeable people recommend, regardless of the topic, are a dangerous combination. When you’re talking about killer robots, it’s a potentially deadly one.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

How deadly? Here’s a quote from the letter the AI specialists wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.

“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

In fact, it’s already opened. On the Korean peninsula — brimming with diplomatic tension, the rattling of nuclear weapons by the North Koreans and the corresponding threats of “fire and fury” from Trump — a fixed-place sentry gun, reportedly capable of firing autonomously, is in place along the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.

Developed by Samsung for South Korea, the gun reportedly has an autonomous system capable of surveillance up to two miles, voice-recognition, tracking and firing with mounted machine gun or grenade launcher. There is disagreement over whether the weapon is actually deployed to operate on its own, but it can. Currently, the gun and other autonomous weapons being developed by the U.S., Russia, Germany, China, the United Kingdom and others require a human to approve their actions, but usually in a split-second decision. There is little time to weigh the consequences and the human will likely assume the robot is correct rather than risk the consequences of an incorrect second-guess.

But it is precisely the removal of the human element from warfare that Musk and the other AI developers are worried about. Removing the calculation of deaths on “our side” makes deciding to use a killer robot against humans on the other side much easier. Too easy perhaps. And robots that can actually make that decision remove the human factor entirely. A machine will not agonize over causing the deaths of thousands of “enemies.”

And make no mistake, the robots will be used to kill humans as well as destroy enemy machines. Imagine a commander-in-chief who talks cavalierly about using nuclear weapons against a nation also being able to deploy robots that will think for themselves about who and what to attack. No second-guessing generals.

Musk, a pioneer in the AI field, has also been consistent with regard to his respect for the potential danger posed to humans by machines that think for themselves or by intelligences — artificial or otherwise — that are infinitely superior to ours. The Tesla CEO has regularly spoken out, for example, against earthlings sending messages into space to try to contact other societies, lest they deploy their technology to destroy us. One may take issue with him on solar energy, space exploration, driverless cars, but one dismisses his warnings on killer robots at one’s own risk. He knows whereof he speaks.

Trump is another matter. His showboating stunt of a brief look at the sun, sans glasses, will probably not harm his eyes. But the image lingers and the warnings, including one from his own daughter, Ivanka, were explicit: Staring directly at the sun during the eclipse can damage your retina and damage your vision. Considering the blind faith some of his followers display in his words and actions, it was yet another incredibly irresponsible display of ego and another insult to science.

Artificial intelligence is not going away. It has the potential for enormous benefit. If you want an example of its effect on daily life just look at the impact autonomous computer programs have on the financial markets. Having weapons that can think for themselves may also sound like a good idea, especially when a commander-in-chief displays erratic judgment, but their own creators — and several human rights groups — urge the U.N. to ban their use as weapons, in the same way chemical weapons and land mines are banned.

It may be one of the few remaining autonomous decisions humans can make in this area, and the most important one. We dare not wait until the next eclipse to make it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Lining Up for The Smell of Death in D.C.

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

People viewing -- and smelling -- the corpse flower (titan arum) in Washington, D.C.

People viewing — and smelling — the corpse flower (titan arum) in Washington, D.C.

There was a distinct stench of decay in the nation’s capital last week and thousands of visitors showed up to get a whiff — heck, a full, deep inhalation — of it. What’s that? No, no, this had nothing to do with the White House or Congress … stick with me. The odor emanated from, of all things, a flower.

The corpse flower. These large malodorous plants are not for sale at your local garden store. For one thing, they’re huge — this one is 8 feet tall — and bloom rarely. Unpredictably, really. And then for only two days at most. This makes such occasions an excuse for people to line up around the block, as they did at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, to look and smell.

A plant scientist who is public programs manager at the U.S. Botanic Garden, told the website LiveScience “… once you get into that room, it really hits you pretty hard. It reminded me of a dead deer on the side of the road in the Florida Everglades with a big pile of really soggy, moldy laundry next to it. It was really, really unpleasant.”

I think I know what the man is talking about. In my neck of the woods in upstate New York, about 75 miles from New York City, some farmers have taken to spreading what they say is fertilizer on their land, but which, to noses familiar and comfortable with normal fertilizer, smells like dead deer times ten. Death smell, we call it. Really unpleasant. The farmers never said it was the corpse flower, though. Duck eggs is the story they’re going with.

Unlike the corpse flower, no one around here lined up to take a good, deep whiff. You really only had to drive by to get it. A lot of people did complain to public officials, however, and that may have stopped the practice. Lately, it’s just been good, old-fashioned cow manure.

In Washington, though, Amorphophallus titanum was holding forth last week to no apparent purpose. While it rarely blooms and no one can say when one will bloom, the plant can be long-lived and botanists say the blooming has a specific purpose. Get this: The corpse plant uses its death smell to attract flesh-eating bugs such as beetles and flies that will carry its pollen to cross pollinate other corpse flowers.

So its purpose is simply to perpetuate itself apparently. Thank you, Mother Nature. One bloomed in the Bronx last August, but the plant is native to the rain forests of Sumatra and I suppose it makes sense in the ecological framework of western Indonesia. As for the D.C. transplant, I’m not certain.

This particular plant, which blossomed for the first time, is said to have grown from 4 feet tall to 8 feet tall just in the time it was put on display in the greenhouse — less than a week-and-a-half. It reeked of death for a couple of days then withered.

The folks at the Botanical Garden said this particular plant was the first corpse flower to bloom in Washington, D.C., since 2007. So for eight years — from 2008 to 2016 — there was no call to line up for the smell of death in the nation’s capital. This year — bloom!

Hmmm. Maybe I was wrong about the plant’s purpose. Maybe it’s trying to tell us something. Let’s see … what blooms big and garish without warning for no purpose other than to promote itself, attracts a crowd, appeals to flesh-eating bugs, stinks to hell for a brief period and then withers and goes away for a long time?

Maybe they’ll have a clue at the White House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

The Republican Party: Mean to the Bone

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

Trump signs a bill allowing the shooting of Alaskan bear cubs, as they hibernate.

In much the same way that a broken clock is correct twice a day, so did our narcissist-in-chief (NIC) stumble into a truism the other day when he described a “health-care” bill approved by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives as “mean.”

Why did our clueless leader suddenly think a bill he had only recently pushed for and extravagantly celebrated at the White House was “mean”? Surely not because almost everyone who knew anything about it except for Tea Party Republicans thought it was mean. That’s never bothered him before.

I suspect it had more to do with the fact that he needed the Senate, also run by Republicans, to also pass a health-care bill so he could brag about it again and he just happened to be in the room, sitting there like a broken clock, when someone said if there was any hope of getting a bill through the Senate it had to be different from the House bill, which was, as he subsequently repeated, “too mean.”

Those are the kind of simple words the NIC understands. Big. Great. Best. Bad. Fat. Lousy, Mean. He likes to use them. A lot. Mean is not good. It’s bad. People don’t like mean things. How is the bill “mean”? Nuance is another matter.

Well, the bill that was presented to the Senate by a 13-member, all-white, all-male, Republican-only task force was apparently only a tad less mean than the GOP House bill, which means most of the country still thinks it’s awful policy, as do a handful of Senate Republicans. Actually, a lot of Senate Republicans think it’s not mean enough. In fact, not enough Republicans like it for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to a vote that would carry, so he put it off to allow for arm-twisting and bribing.

As he apparently demonstrated at a ballyhooed arm-twisting meeting with all the Senate Republicans at the White House, the NIC doesn’t know — or even care — how the bill works. He’s apparently confused about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid, stuff like that. No matter. Mean or not, he just wants a health care bill passed so he can have another Rose Garden celebration and thumb his nose at Barack Obama. That’s pretty much the entire Trump policy.

McConnell, for his part, resorted to his favorite weapon — bribery — to try to get 50 Republicans to buy in to the bill. That comes in the form of billions of dollars in local projects for Republican senators who might face difficult reelection if they vote for the still-mean health care bill.

Tell me that’s not an awfully mean way to conduct public policy. And to no purpose other than to give tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans so they will continue to fund campaigns and vote for Republican candidates who promise to cut taxes even more, to eliminate pesky regulations that force businesses to be accountable for any harm they do, and to remove all those “deadbeats” Rush Limbaugh rails about from the Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment and welfare rolls.

In other words, Republicans have totally lost the concept of governing for the public good. They have been against everything for so long they don’t know how — or seem to even care to try — to work with Democrats on creating useful legislation. I’ve been trying to figure out when “mean” became the Republican go-to word in policy. Maybe it was Ronald Reagan’s phony trickle-down spiel. The middle class and poor are still waiting for the first nourishing drops. A lot of them — many Trump supporters — are those supposed “deadbeats” of Limbaugh’s. Of course, they did have to suffer through a major economic disaster brought on by those rich individuals and corporations, who apparently didn’t have enough stashed away from the tax breaks so they had to simply cheat people out of their money. And they got away with it.

By the way, Republicans just voted to do away with an Obama regulation that required people dealing with other people’s money — brokers — to tell their clients what was in their best financial interests, not the brokers’. Bad idea, according to Republicans. Mean, I say.

Mean is slashing hundreds of millions from Medicaid, which pays for health care for 20 percent of Americans, including seniors in nursing homes, simply to cut taxes for those who don’t need it — the one percent. The very wealthiest Americans. Mean is cutting funding for Meals on Wheels and food stamps. Mean is promising coal workers that their dying industry will be revived while creating no jobs for them, but allowing coal companies to dump their waste into streams from which the workers get their drinking water. Mean is putting the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects Americans from such things as water pollution, under the direction of someone who wants to eliminate the agency.

Mean is looking to do away with hundreds of regulations that protect people from health and safety risks posed by unscrupulous cost-cutting minded corporations looking to improve their standing with shareholders. If Republicans want to take an object lesson about such short-sighted governing, they need only to look at the recent Grenfell Tower fire in London that killed 79 people.

The fire is believed to have been started by a faulty refrigerator and spread rapidly up the high-rise, fueled by a highly flammable exterior wrapping, called cladding, that is banned for use on high-rises in the United States, but which its maker is allowed to sell in places where regulations aren’t as stringent. In the aftermath of the deadly blaze, Arconic — formerly Alcoa — said it would no longer sell the cladding, which has a polyethylene core, for high rise projects anywhere in the world. The company makes a more-expensive, fire-resistant cladding. Grenfell is a public housing project whose residents had complained for years that there were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no safety tests and only one stairwell.

Public housing. No safety features. Total disregard for safety regulations. Cheaper construction material. Years of complaining with no response from British politicians more concerned with helping businesses save money rather than protecting people’s lives. Mean.

Since Republicans took control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they have eagerly worked to erase safety regulations issued late in the Obama administration, including rules to keep coal companies from dumping waste in streams and denying federal contracts to dangerous companies. And it’s not just people who are the target of Republican callousness. The NIC recently signed a bill to allow the shooting of bears and wolves — including cubs — as they hibernate. Heartless.

This list could go on and on and undoubtedly will so long as Republicans, once the proud party of Lincoln, now seemingly a collection of mean-spirited individuals lacking in compassion and tolerance, have access to power. Trump is not really even a Republican, but party leaders have been cynical enough to try to use him to advance their cruel agenda.

It is an utterly depressing state of affairs that calls for new Republican leadership or a new party entirely. If you’re a Republican and are offended by any of this, that’s your problem. The rest of us are appalled. It’s your party. You are responsible for what is being promulgated and promoted in the seats of power in Washington. Your silence is tacit approval.

Like the clueless one said, “Mean.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A 70-year-Old Rookie in the White House

Monday, June 12th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Trump says it ... Ryan excuses it: "He's new."

Trump says it … Ryan excuses it: “He’s new.”

“Give the kid a break; he’s new on the job.”

Of all the excuses Republicans have come up with for the words and actions of Donald Trump, leave it to feckless Paul Ryan to come up with the dumbest. And Ryan is two heartbeats from the presidency.

Ryan’s excuse (I paraphrased for emphasis) came, of course in response to questions about his reaction to the narcissist-in-chief’s (NIC’s) pressuring former FBI DIrector James Comey to drop an investigation of Michael Flynn, whom Trump had just fired as his national security adviser. “He’s a good guy,” Comey said the NIC told him in a private meeting. Testifying to a Senate committee, Comey said he agreed with Trump. But he also knew Flynn had neglected to mention several meetings with Russian officials while he was part of the Trump transition team. So, no, Comey, said, he could not “let it go.”

More to the point, Comey told the senators he was uncomfortable that the NIC had even asked the then-FBI director — traditionally an independent official — to drop an investigation and, furthermore, asked for a pledge of “loyalty” from him. All in private conversations. Inappropriate in spades. Possibly illegal.

Rookie mistake, as far as Ryan is concerned. To quote him precisely: “He’s new to government, and so he probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses. He’s just new to this.”

Is that an appropriate excuse for the president of the United States? Ryan was asked. Perhaps not, he acknowledged, adding, “It’s just my observation.”

FIne. Here’s my observation, Mr. Speaker of the House. I like to know that the person widely regarded as leader of the free world has at least some working familiarity with the rules of the road — the protocols of the office, diplomacy, a sense of history, the basic do’s and don’ts of the job. Also, respect for the law of the land. Stuff like that.

“Let’s Make a Deal’’ was a TV show, not a meeting of NATO countries. “The Godfather” was a novel, then a movie in which Marlon Brando asked a bunch of people for “loyalty,” but they weren’t in an Oval Office darkened by closed blue curtains, which, on other occasions, might afford a wary FBI director a place to try to hide from the NIC.

There are certain times when “he’s new on the job” doesn’t cut it. I recently underwent surgery for fractures of my left knee and right wrist. Same accident. The surgeons said they were going to perform the operations simultaneously, since they were on opposite sides of the body and they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. Only one anesthesia that way, they said.

Sounds good, I said. You guys ever do this before? I asked. Sure, the knee guy reassured me. Is he any good? I asked the nurses. He operates on the Mets’ pitchers, they said. OK, I said. No rookie. Knee and wrist are mending well.

A little more personal history from the other side of the issue. As a new court reporter early in my career I made what could have been a serious rookie mistake. After talking to the local district attorney about his most recent grand jury, I wrote an article about the indictments, including someone who was named in a sealed indictment. Sealed indictments are not made public so the people don’t know they have been charged with a crime. (For example, some reports have suggested the NIC himself has been named in a sealed indictment.)

“I think you may have broken the law,” the DA told me after he read the article in the paper. He was smiling, but I was mortified. My inexperience might have tipped someone off, blown the DA’s case … put me before a grand jury?

I was lucky. The DA had his guy and was understanding. He knew I was “new on the job” and had no malicious intent. Still, I was embarrassed and apologized profusely and paid close attention to the rules of the road from thereon. I did not deny or excuse what I had done. I learned a lesson.

This was in a small town in upstate New York, not in the White House. I was maybe 25 years old, fresh out of college, six months of infantry training and a year as a police reporter. Trump is 70 years old and, to hear him tell it, a successful man of the world. The artist of the deal. A brand name. President of the @#$%# United States!

His response to the Comey meetings? He went to Twitter to accuse Comey simultaneously of being a liar and leaking classified information, meaning the conversations. Apparently he’s not sure which desperate excuse would work. Mea culpa? Trump doesn’t speak Latin. Learn from a mistake? Trump was relentless in stalking Comey for ‘loyalty.”

That whole learning the ropes argument is, of course, just a way for Republicans to avoid admitting the man in the Oval Office is not only frighteningly unqualified for the job, but doesn’t seem to regard learning about it as especially important. And consequences? Not his concern.

The rookie president went to Europe to meet with our NATO allies. He figured he could shame them into spending more for defense. After much debate, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other advisers managed to get a sentence included in Trump’s speech reaffirming the United States’ commitment to mutual defense — the core function of NATO. Trump left it out. On purpose. Out of spite.

Several days later, at a press conference with the president of Romania, which can’t afford to spend any more money on its military, the NIC said the U.S., of course, remains committed to NATO. But he had another surprise for Tillerson.

Just 90 minutes earlier, Tillerson had said the United States was willing to help negotiate in the escalating conflict in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and several other Arab nations closing borders and setting up blockades on Qatar, accusing their neighbor of supporting terrorist groups. Tensions in the region had become heightened after Trump, who is fond of dealing with the Saudis, also blamed Qatar for supporting terrorists, thereby taking sides, encouraging the Saudis to get more aggressive and, by the way, ignoring the presence of 11,000 American troops in Qatar, which is a major launch site for U.S. military activity in the region.

Tillerson’s comments about negotiating thus were seen as an effort to cool things off. Cover up for the rookie. Yet less than two hours later, Trump was again pointing the finger at Qatar.

I happen to think the Middle East is no place for a president to be learning the ropes. Yes, all new presidents have to learn things, especially in the area of diplomacy where blurting out whatever is on your mind is generally not a good idea. But, again, presidents’ words and actions have wide-reaching consequences. At the very least, someone who was serious about learning the job would seek — and take — advice from those with more experience. It’s a sign of maturity. He would admit misstatements. It’s a sign of humility.

If you’re a reporter, you don’t publish the names of people named in sealed indictments. If you’re a president, you don’t repeatedly ask the FBI director to “let go” of an investigation and ask for a pledge of loyalty and you don’t keep throwing your secretary of state under the bus. At some point, if you’re serious about the job, and especially if you’re a rookie, you study and read and discuss and learn. Maybe you don’t play golf every weekend — unless you’re really more interested in just playing at being the president, rather than doing the work.

Kind of like Paul Ryan playing at being speaker of the House.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Donald’s New Pal, Rodrigo Duterte

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

By Jeffrey Page

Rodrigo Duterte ... got an invite from the Donald

Rodrigo Duterte … got an invite from the Donald

While we’re waiting for Robert Mueller to reveal what many suspect, let’s review an earlier bizarre episode at the Trump White House.

Americans now find their president issuing an invitation to Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, to pay a visit to the White House, a place dubbed long ago by Theodore Roosevelt as the “People’s House.” It’s unclear what T.R would call it nowadays.

The Duterte invitation went out as the result of “a very friendly conversation” between the two presidents, the White House said. Very nice, but here’s why the invitation should be withdrawn at once.

On one hand Trump is still hot to build his damned wall along the Rio Grande as a means of keeping some people out.

On the other hand, Trump, doing whatever he can to get certain people in, would open the White House doors to Duterte so the two leaders could engage in some manly talk. The problem is that Duterte is a self-described admirer of Hitler and has likened the Jews of Europe in the 1930s with the drug dealers and users that he loathes. He puts the number of each group at 3 million. In the case of the Jews that’s about half the usual estimate.

If Trump is hot to meet with Duterte, I wish the two of them a good time.

But not in the White House, which is not Trump’s to sully since it doesn’t belong to him, but to you and me and 300 million other Americans.

When running for president last year, Duterte wished to display his loathing of drug users and dealers and promised to use some of the same tactics against them that Hitler used against the Jews of Europe.

“Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now there are 3 million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte said. He meant the dealers and junkies, not the Jews. Or so I think.

Still, Jews were aghast at this comparison. So was anyone else with a streak of decency.

Another reason for double-locking the doors of the White House when Duterte comes to call is his view of law and order, and his choice of words to describe the people he dislikes, including America’s ex-president.

When he took office, Duterte called on his army and police to help out in the war on drugs. The use of summary executions was fine, he said. “Do your duty,” Duterte said, “and in the process you kill 1,000 persons, I will protect you.” Estimates of the number of people put to death by Duterte and his men vary. Some have been as high as 9,000.

Perhaps one of the reasons Duterte could issue such instructions is because he had participated in them himself.

When he was mayor of the sprawling city of Davao he responded to a question by declaring: “Me? They’re saying I’m part of a death squad? True. That’s true.”

A visit to the White House, the place where American presidents live? Not for Duterte who, when hearing what sounded like criticism of his police operations, responded by calling President Obama “a son of a whore” and told him to go to hell.

And now the obvious question for Trump.

How dare you allow this man into the Executive Mansion?

Trump Couldn’t Lose for WInning

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Who knew?

     Who knew?

Sitting and watching the March blizzard do its thing outside the window — working, working, working to shut everything down — a memory from the 2016 presidential campaign snuck into my consciousness. The post kept popping up on my Facebook feed, but I honestly can’t remember the original source of the news. I’m also not in the mood to go researching for it because I didn’t think it was fake news then and today I am convinced it is the god’s honest truth.

In brief, one of DT’s former aides (of which there are many) wrote an article in which she claimed he never expected to win the Republican nomination and the election. Indeed, she said he did not want to win the election. Rather, she said, he just wanted to get his name out there for whatever profit he could gain from the publicity and maybe help launch a TV network he was planning. Branding.

Less than two months since his inauguration, it’s obvious: Donald Trump likes being president, but he is less than fond of doing president. The title and the glory are great — right up his alley. Put a big, gold “T” on the White House.

But the work? Daily intelligence briefings? Reading reports on the battle against ISIS? Getting up to speed on how complicated health care is? Learning the difference between the debt and the deficit, Medicaid and Medicare, China and Taiwan, Iran and Iraq, legal and unconstitutional? Isn’t that what we have Mike Pence for?

The man has no patience for details, for facts, for differing opinions, for the legal process, for diplomacy, for Cabinet meetings, for, at the very least, hiring people to fill the hundreds of federal government jobs unfilled since he took office. Who knew being president was such a big job?

Well, for one, his predecessor. And, with varying degrees of success, a long line of predecessors before Barack Obama.

Getting back to that aide’s story … Was there ever a campaign for president run with such obvious disregard for facts? WIth such disdain and outright rudeness aimed at other candidates? With such arrogant disregard for the bigotry and violence it encouraged in its followers? With such crudeness towards women, minorities, the physically handicapped? With such an ill-informed, self-obsessed liar as the candidate?

Rhetorical questions.

It was a campaign expressly designed for maximum press coverage, which it got. What went wrong for Trump is that he was up against the worst field of Republican candidates imaginable, few of whom had the guts to match him insult for insult (some of whom now kiss up to him since he’s the titular head of their party) and then ran into the most disliked Democrat in America as his opponent in the general campaign. Even encouraging the Russians to wiretap Hillary Clinton wasn’t enough to doom the Trump campaign.

Hard as he tried, most Republican leaders and elected officials couldn’t bring themselves to publicly call him a bully and a liar and a fraud and so their voters — the ones who weren’t outright racists or conspiracy theorists or rightwing extremists, all of whom loved him from the get-go — went for the celebrity candidate who promised them … well, whatever they wanted him to promise them.

I won’t be playing golf every week, he promised. Mexico will pay for the wall, he promised. Social Security and Medicare are safe, he promised, Everyone will have health care, he promised. How could he know that House Speaker Paul Ryan hated Social Security and Medicare and had no clue about how health insurance worked? That would have required understanding all that stuff himself and talking to Ryan about it. Work.

Trump’s bad luck followed him into November. Clinton beat him by three million votes and still lost, thanks to the Electoral College, which is a concept the new president surely still does not understand. Although he swears he had the widest winning margin there in decades. He couldn’t lose for winning, no matter how hard he tried. And now he has to try to convince a bunch of much smarter people who report to him every day that he knows what he’s doing.

Not that they believe him.

Which is our problem, America.

The golf? Jeez, I know I promised I’d be a working president, but this is ridiculous. Anything to get out of that depressing White House every weekend. ISIS this; ISIS that. Merkel this; Merkel that. Warren this; Warren that. What’s wrong with Flynn talking to Russians? Some of my best friends and creditors are Russians. How come nobody told me federal judges were appointed for life? Do I attack North Korea if they launch a missile at us? I can’t believe Ryan is going to try to find money for that stupid wall. Now they’re trying to pin my name on that ridiculous health care plan he came up with. Maybe I can feed that Maddow dame the only legit tax return I have this century to take the heat off the Russia thing. And what the heck is going on with Lindsay Graham and that loser McCain? Is Turkey an ally? Did La La Land win the Oscar or not? Bad dudes in Hollywood. I wonder if Rudy wants his old job back at Justice, or is he ticked I didn’t name him ambassador to Russia? Damn, why does the FBI want to talk to me? Melania!? Melania!? Help! They want me to organize the Easter egg roll! Stop hiding in New York!

Damn, where’d I leave my phone? Maybe I can get Snoop Dog to come down to Mar a Lago for golf this weekend. Hey, Bannon, it’s still Black History Month, isn’t it?

rjgaydos@gmail.com