Archive for the ‘Bob Gaydos’ Category

Welcome Guardians, Wild Yankees

Thursday, July 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos 

 The new Cleveland Guardians of logo.

The new Cleveland Guardians logo.

    I welcome, sort of, the Cleveland Guardians, I apologize to Aroldis Chapman and Tim Tebow …geez, really?

     — Maybe it’s just me, but: The Cleveland baseball team was right to, after decades of insult to Native Americans, finally drop “Indians” as its mascot. The change, long overdue, takes effect next year. It might’ve been different if, from the beginning, the choice had been described as a tribute to Native Americans, and the resilience, strength, dignity, and courage of all America’s tribes. But it wasn’t. Instead of dignifietd tributes, there were goofy looking Indian cartoons on shirts, caps and anything else for sale. Then there was the guy in the bleachers beating the war drums for a rally. Lost in all of this, as it has been for centuries in America really, is a history of native Americans and the indignities they suffered at the hands of foreign settlers. So, “Indians” had to go. But “Guardians”? The team says it received about 1200 suggestions for a new mascot/nickname. This is what they came up with. The team says it’s a tribute to the Guardian statues who protect motorist coming in and out of Cleveland on the Hope Memorial Bridge. OK, at least there’s some connection. And it’s better than the Washington football team, which now call itself the Washington football team because its  nickname, “Redskins,” was truly offensive. The Washington football team is still working on a new mascot. Perhaps the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks would like to join the endeavor. It”s time. Change can be difficult, but if it is handled with a sense of awareness and respect, these changes can be for the benefit of all involved. Go Guardians!

     — Maybe it’s just me, but: When I read a brief report that the Yankees had lost a game to the Red Sox in the bottom of the 10th inning when Boston scored two runs on no hits, but a bunch of wild pitches, I immediately thought Aroldis Chapman. I was wrong, but it doesn’t mean Aaron Boone was right. Someone named Brooks Kriske  was the offending party. Given a one-run lead to protect in the bottom of the 10th, Kriske started with a runner placed on second base, a little league gimmick now used by baseball, supposedly to speed up the game. It’s really tacky. Anyway, Kriske threw two straight wild pitches to allow the runner to come home to tie the score. Manager Boone left the rookie in. He walked that batter. Still, with about a dozen pitchers on the roster, no sign of a replacement for the overwhelmed Kriske. Another wild pitch moved the runner to second. Now, Boone has some million-dollar arms sitting around, any one of whom could be asked at a moment’s notice to just go out there to throw strikes with a little velocity and make the batter swing at the ball. Even an infielder with a good arm. But he stuck with Kriske, who threw another wild pitch moving the runner to third. He did manage to strike someone out, but the next batter hit a fly ball, the runner from third scored, the game was over. Not the kind of Yankee baseball I remember. Tacky.

— Maybe it’s just me, but: Tim Tebow still trying to make a professional sports team roster strikes me as a little desperate. He’s one of about 90 players in the Jacksonville Jaguars camp, looking for a position as a tight end. Of the six candidates in camp, he’s probably ranked number six. At 33, the former Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Florida, former Jets, Broncos quarterback, former Mets minor-league baseball player, has apparently decided he’s not quite ready to retire and make a living as a motivational speaker or, perhaps, sports broadcaster, both of which he is apparently well-qualified for. He’s obviously a great example for his message of believing in yourself and having faith and courage and anything I or anyone else writes about his quest is not going to deter him, but I just wonder if all the effort doesn’t just get tiring at some point. Maybe it’s time to find a new challenge.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Leaving Afghanistan, Finally

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

 By Bob Gaydos

 American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

American troops are leaving Afghanistan.

    I was born a little more than six months before Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. I hope to still be around at the end of August when the United States military engagement in Afghanistan officially ends. That’s 80 years of war, more or less. Mostly more, as it turns out, certainly more than I was aware of.

       President Biden’s decision to finish the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan — begun by Donald Trump supposedly as part of a truce with the Taliban that never materialized — is to me both proper and overdue. It will be 20 years since American troops landed in Afghanistan with the mission of rooting out Al-Qaeda, capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and avenging the attacks of 9/11.

        That mission was accomplished in the Obama administration and Biden then argued, as Vice President, for a U.S. troop withdrawal. However, he was unsuccessful and the mission morphed into establishing a stable government and defeating the Taliban, two objectives apparently not enough Afghans themselves have been eager to see happen. At some point, and with a history of other nations’ failed attempts at “saving Afghanistan” to guide us, it becomes time to say, “Not our country; not our problem.“

         Harsh, perhaps, but realistic, especially with the U.S. facing a threat to its own government from within. It’s time for America to deal with January 6 2021, now that it has settled Sept. 11, 2001.

          And, really, does anyone think Afghanistan is winnable? What would that look like? How many more American lives and how much more investment would it take? Let Pakistan take a shot at it. Keep the CIA and embassy troops in the country.

          Afghanistan has been called the “forever war.” It just seems like it. But the truth is, American troops have been involved in one military conflict or another pretty much forever.

           In my lifetime, starting with World War II, the list of military engagements also includes the Korean War, China (repatriation), Vietnam, Lebanon (twice), Grenada, Panama, Somalia (talk about forever), the Gulf War, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Indian Ocean (pirates!), Libya (twice) Uganda and, still, Syria.

           Much of the 21st Century military engagement involves spinoffs of one sort or another of the war on terror. This is obviously a necessary price of defending freedom and democracy and not only at home. But when it results in longterm involvement in a faroff country with no sign of diplomatic progress or 100 percent commitment from local forces, how long does the Umited States have to stay involved?

          “Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more?” Biden said. “How many thousands more American daughters and sons are you willing to risk? And how long would you have them stay?” More than 2,300 American troops have died in Afghanistan.

         Biden is right. It would seem that cyberwarfare is a more serious threat to the American way of life than Afghanistan or whomever Iran is funding in Syria today. Let our intelligence agencies find the terrorist threats and plots to destabilize allies. Our troops will always be ready to help in a moment’s notice. But wars need clear missions and expiration dates. 

          Who’s the threat to freedom? Right now, it’s easier to identify them right here at home. They’re the ones screaming all over social media and Fox “News” to forget about the attack on the U.S. Capitol. That’s a war worth fighting.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

On Growing up with Real Presidents

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021
CDC4D41A-9B9D-40C1-B201-50891BEA42DE

RJ Photography

By Bob Gaydos

There’s something about Donald Trump that has always puzzled me. It’s not the fact that millions of Americans could and still do bow at the feet of this inveterate grifter. For a long time I’ve been of the opinion that there are a lot of people shuffling through life in this country unknowing, uncaring and unapologetic for their behavior. Also racists.

     They are here, they listen to Fox “news” and I don’t expect most of them to change or go away. It’s a free country, even for bigots.

      No, what has had me stumped for five years is that so many Americans have carried on as if Trump is just a little anomaly in the history of this nation. No big deal. When can we go to the movies again?

       For me, Trump has been a major threat ever since he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president. It wasn’t just that I knew how slimy he was; it felt just so wrong for him to even be involved in this democratic process. We’re talking about president of the United States of America, for Pete’s sake, I said to myself over and over. What is Trump doing in this? It’s almost a physical reaction for me. It lasted through his whole presidency. Why are all those people on Wall Street behaving as if this is just another 9 to 5 interlude? This man is an insult to the presidency.

         That’s how I felt. Still do, although the election of Joe Biden has eased my concerns considerably. More to the point, 

for the purposes of this column, I think I know why I’ve had such a strong reaction to Trump. Why I never used the word, “president” with his name attached to it. Why I took it so personally.

          I was lucky.

          That’s what history tells me. Or rather, a bunch of historians. Some 142 noted historians were surveyed by CNN for the cable news network’s latest rating of American presidents. It does this whenever there’s a change in administration. Trump somehow managed to not finish last. More on that in a bit. What struck me most, personally I guess, is that the historians rated an era that included my first 28 years alive as the best stretch of presidents in the history of America.

          Wow.

           It started with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 (I was born in 1941) and continued through Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1969. FDR was Number 3 on the list, behind Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Ike was fifth, Harry was sixth, JFK was number 8 and LBJ ranked 11th.

           Richard M Nixon (number 31) ended my personal winning streak of presidents and it was mediocrity or worse, in my opinion, until Barack Obama in 2008. But boy, those first 28 years! No wonder I resented Donald Trump in the Oval Office. I was spoiled and didn’t know it. I grew up with mature, responsible men as presidents, men who put their country ahead of their party and certainly ahead of themselves. Men who surely had their faults, but who each in his own way inspired confidence that he was always trying to do the best for all Americans. That’s what president did, I thought. Made us feel we had the right person making difficult decisions. Made us feel confident about the future. Made us proud to be Americans.

           FDR created the social fabric we take for granted today. Truman steered us steadily through the end of one war and into another while maintaining his touch with average Americans. Everybody seemed to like Ike, the war hero who warned us of the military/industrial complex. JFK, the orator, had his photo hung in virtually every Catholic family’s kitchen, alongside The Last Supper. He dreamed of going to the moon and gave us the Peace Corps. When he was assassinated, LBJ took up the tough fight for the Equal Rights Act and wrestled it through the resistance of southern senators. He knew how Washington worked. 

            Nixon lowered the bar before resigning. Ford didn’t do much as a fill-in. Carter was sincere but disappointing. Reagan got rated 10th by the historians, but I think he should trickle down several spots despite his affable communications skills. Bush senior was unimpressive, Bill Clinton was sporadically effective (he balanced the budget!) and George W. Bush, installed by the Supreme Court, was a disaster. I actually wept with pride when Barack Obama, the first black American president, addressed the crowd in a park in Chicago on his election night. We’re back, I thought.

             And then came Trump.

             An insult to the American psyche. A symbol of the decay of one of our two main political parties. And the fourth(!) worst president in American history. Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson James Buchanan — they rated worse than Trump. All I can say is I’m glad I didn’t live through their presidencies if they were worse than Trump. But history evolves over time and it is not too much to hope that he will ultimately bottom out.

             In the meantime, though, I am glad to know that I am not in some way weird for regarding the Trump administration as more than an anomaly in politics. I grew up with presidents who could read and speak with intelligence, who respected science, who had the respect of other world leaders, who did not lie with every waking breath, who did not divide Americans with angry insults and threats, who understood the Constitution and the obligation of presidents to serve the people, not vice versa.

           I grew up with real presidents. Trump dishonored the office.

History is on my side.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

           

Conflicts of Interest Don’t Just ‘Happen’

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

Get Vaccinated, Get Rich, Get High!

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Pot for a vaccine shot.

Pot for a vaccine shot.

  A billion free doses or pot for a shot? These are the days of our lives. 

     Some context. At the same time G7 nations were pledging to donate 1 billion doses of Coronavirus vaccines to less wealthy nations, back in the good old US of A, where everyone desperately wants to reach the 70 percent vaccinated goal so we can “open up” and get back to normal again, reluctant vaccine-getters were being wooed with all sorts of goodies, including a joint for a jolt, pot for a shot. A free dose of THC for an already free dose of a life-saving vaccine. What the heck, if your won’t do it for your own well-being, if you won’t do it for the health of your friends and neighbors, if you won’t do it because it is the easiest way to demonstrate both common sense and patriotism, won’t you please, pretty please, get vaccinated if we give you — free! — a pre-rolled joint of marijuana? What a country. 

      Indeed. What a country.

      The “Joints for Jabs” program in the State of Washington, where recreational marijuana use is legal, lets adults who are 21 or older claim a free marijuana joint after they receive their shot. The promotion supposedly will run through July 12. Presumably those who don’t partake in puffing will have to settle for a bottle of water.

        In the same vein, the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce offered a “Shots for Shots” promotion. Anyone who got vaccinated at the Convention Center was given a coupon for a free drink at local watering holes.

       With President Biden’s stated goal of having 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, states, cities, corporations, businesses were, well, bribing Americans to do the right thing. Tickets to ball games, Disneyland, Six Flags, the Super Bowl, free Girl Scout cookies, French fries, hotdogs, donuts, Pizza, college scholarships, weekly drawings and lottery tickets that could be worth millions have all been offered to try to convince people to do their part to stop the pandemic that has, by the way, killed more than 600,000 of your fellow Americans.

         Meanwhile, the much-lauded agreement by the G7 nations to provide 1 billion free doses of vaccines to less wealthy nations around the world was welcomed and criticized by the outgoing U.N. aid chief, Mark Lowcock, who said, while the vaccines certainly would be appreciated, the wealthy nations offered no plan for how to distribute them.

         Oops. Since speed of delivery is vital in stemming the pandemic, it certainly would help to have a delivery plan, such as was proposed by the International Monetary Fund. This is especially vital for countries across Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and parts of South America, which desperately need Covid vaccines. For now, they can do without the hotdogs and Girl Scout cookies. Just vaccines, please.

          My point? With more than 177 million Covid cases worldwide and nearly 4 million deaths, I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that tens of thousands of my fellow Americans need a free joint or a ticket to a baseball game or a shot at a lottery ticket to get them to take a free vaccine that could well save their lives, not to mention the lives of others. A vaccine that could finally stem the pandemic.

        Yeah, I just walked in and got my shots, no problem, thank you, so yeah, I’m more than a little annoyed and disappointed.

         Problem is, I don’t really have a solution. People were livid over being required to wear masks. Imagine requiring them to get vaccinated. January 6 would seem like a backyard barbecue. In some respects, I think pot for shots is just evidence that, in this country, we never really left “normal.“

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

AA’s Big Book had Profound Influence

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

 Reprinted in honor of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 86th birthday, June 10, 2021.

(Addiction and Recovery column from TH-R, Aug. 21, 2012)

By Bob Gaydos
It is one of the best-selling and most influential books of all time, with more than 30 million copies having been sold and millions of lives changed by what is contained on its pages. Yet it is not exaggeration to suggest that a majority of its readers don’t know the actual name of the book.
It is known, proudly and even reverentially, by most who have read it as the Big Book. Officially, the book’s title is “Alcoholics Anonymous,’’ the same as the famous 12-step program for treating alcoholism (and other addictions) described within its covers. The Big Book received more recognition for its influence recently when the Library of Congress included it on a list of “Books That Shaped America.”
There are 88 books on a list that ranges from Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan the Ape Man.” The common factor among all 88, according to the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington is that “they shaped Americans’ views of their world and the world’s views of America.”
While it may not be for everyone, the Big Book has certainly shaped people’s views and lives. Since it was first published in 1939, it has been the textbook, if you will, of how to get — and stay — sober, for millions around the world. AA, of course, has spawned numerous other 12-step programs to deal with addictive behavior. And, while basing its recovery program on established spiritual, psychological and medical precepts, Alcoholics Anonymous has also widened the dialogue within all three areas and influenced the way practitioners in those fields deal with addiction.
The authors of the Big Book are Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, the founders of AA. But they had plenty of help from some of the original 100 AA members whose stories were included in the first edition. Many recovering alcoholics today regard it as remarkable that Wilson, the primary author, wrote two of the main sections of the book — one being his story — when he had less than four years of sobriety.
One could say the Big Book is a classic example of what it preaches. Much of the recovery program contained is take from the Oxford Group, A Christian fellowship that emphasized self-examination, making amends and working with others. (Wilson and Smith both were members of the Oxford Group for significant periods.) But the Oxford Group’s heavy religious emphasis did not sit well with many of the other drunks who were early member of AA. As a result, most references to “God” were eliminated or changed to a “Higher Power of your understanding.”
Editing also changed the preachy “you” to the inclusive “we” in describing how
alcoholics got sober. Thus, this is what we are and this what we did. If you follow these suggestions, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”
What do current members of AA think about the Big Book? A sampling of recent comments:
  • “When I first read it, I had to say, ‘(Expletive!) I’m an alcoholic. How did they know?’”
  • “I used to walk around with the Big Book (in early sobriety) like a protective shield.”
  • “It helped me understand I have an allergy.”
  • “In many ways it’s like the bible for alcoholics. It provides direction and order.”
  • “Think about the impact. One person reads it and passes it on to others for more than 30 million.”
  • “When they get (the Big Book) people are usually in such pain, they will read it.”
  • “It gave me a guide for living, far beyond just not drinking.”
  • “Simple rules for broken people.”
There’s a significant local angle to this story. When it came time to publish the book, Wilson and the others chose The Cornwall Press, a now-defunct printing operation in Cornwall. Because they were going to charge $3.50 for the relatively short book, they wanted it to look impressive, so they used thick paper and the widest possible margins. Hence, the “Big Book” nickname. Subsequent printings were smaller in size, but the name stuck.
The first press run was for 4,800 copies, with the promise from the printers that more would be printed when the first copies were sold. But even those original copies were in limbo as the printer refused to release any books until they were paid for. Although printed in the winter of 1939, only a few copies were paid for at the time. The significant release came in early 1940. Today, with inflation, “Alcoholics Anonymous” sells for around $8 to $10, but many AA groups simply give copies to new members, continuing to spread its message.
rjgaydos@gmail.com
Bob  Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

Wake Up! Time to Put ‘Woke’ to Bed

Tuesday, June 8th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

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

      It’s complicated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

A Birthday Tribute to the Life of JFK

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

JFK ... at a press conference

JFK … at a press conference

 Eight years ago, I wrote a column about what I see as the synchronistic connection between myself and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, beginning with the fact we share the same birth date, May 29. The key point in the column, at least to me, was my pledge “to remember to honor him not on the date he died, but on the date we both were born.”

      It’s a pledge that’s even more important today, I think, when there is such a dearth of public figures who inspire the kind of hope and pride in America that JFK did for me and millions of others. Hope and pride are two elements in short supply in today’s political debate. They’ve been replaced by deceit and anger, which only begets more deceit and anger. A path to ruin. So today, on what would be JFK’s 104th birthday, I choose hope.

       My connection with Kennedy began to take shape in my college years. His handling of the Cuban missile crisis allowed me to graduate on time. But as I was home waiting to report to Fort Dix, N.J., for basic training, JFK was assassinated, on Nov. 22, 1963, postponing my duty for a month. And 20 years later, as fate would have it, the first editorial I was asked to write as the new editorial page editor for The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., was to mark the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Headline: “The Measure of the Man.”

     Four years ago, I wrote: “Much of it still applies. The legend of JFK — Camelot (Jackie, John-John and Caroline), PT-109, Navy and Marine Corps Medals, the Purple Heart, “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “Ask not …”, the challenge to put a man on the moon, the Peace Corps, the New Frontier, a limited nuclear test ban treaty — still far outweighs his failings, including extramarital affairs, hiding illnesses from us, escalation of the American troop presence in Vietnam and a reluctance to take a firm stance in the growing battle over segregation in America.

    “He is regularly rated as one of this country’s greatest presidents, a testament I believe to his ability to inspire hope, faith and courage in Americans, especially young Americans like me, at a time of grave danger. Much of that owes to his youth (he was 43 when elected president, the youngest ever) and his ability to eloquently deliver the words written for him by Ted Sorensen, a synchronistic match if there ever was one. But Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, was no slouch at writing either, having won a Pulitzer Prize for biography with “Profiles in Courage.”

    “,,, Kennedy’s (message) was unfailingly one of hope. We can do this. We are up to the challenge. We care. His average approval rating as president was 70 percent. He also ranked third, behind Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa, in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th century, according to Wikipedia.”

   The question I still ask myself is, what might JFK have done, what might he have meant to America and the world, if he had lived longer?

    In that column four years ago, to my ever-lasting embarrassment on the Internet, I also said that I shared a birthday with another great communicator, Bob Dylan. I was off by three days. Belated happy birthday to the Nobel poet laureate anyway.

     On a positive note, I subsequently discovered that May 29 is also the birthday of Harry G. Frankfurt. The professor emeritus at Princeton University authored a 67-page essay entitled “On Bullshit.“ It was a New York Times best seller in 2005. And it also explained to me how a person like Donald Trump could say the things he said, flying in the face of other things he had recently said, none of which had any basis in reality, and keep doing it. It’s not lying, Frankfurt explains, it’s bullshit. The liar has to remember what he said. The bullshitter does not. He doesn’t care.

     Professor Frankfurt is apparently alive and well and celebrating his 92nd birthday today. Happy birthday, to you, too, professor. A day for hope and truth

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

    

No One’s Hitting in Baseball but Shohei

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Shohei Ohtani ... a unique ballplayer

Shohei Ohtani
… a unique ballplayer

  • Four … uh make that five, umm I mean six no-hitters in a month and a half of baseball.  
  • A pitcher kept in the game for his bat after pitching seven sterling innings. In the American League, no less.
  • That same pitcher leading the major leagues in home runs.
  • Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is released. Why’d he pick LA over the Bronx?
  • Kentucky Derby winner fails drug test. The horse, that is. 
  • The New York Knicks — the New York Knicks! — make the playoffs.
  • The New York Rangers fire everybody.
  • The Ghost of Jimmy Cannon to the rescue.

      As I slogged through the daily ritual of Republican lies and conspiracy theories that make up news reports these days, my eye kept catching a glimpse of other stories that were actual news, interesting, worth noting, especially for a former sports editor. Can I take a (much-needed) break from politics, I wondered. A few readers said go for it

     Then Jimmy Cannon popped up in the middle of a Woody Allen movie I’d never heard of. Well, not Jimmy Cannon himself, but a reference to him. In the middle of a scene in which two young brothers are discussing great writers, the younger brother says, “What about Cannon?“

       What about Cannon? I said, as my ears perked up. I knew instantly. It was my muse telling me in its own subtle way to do the damn sports column, forget politics for a day. Do a Jimmy Cannon style column.

        For those under 60, Jimmy Cannon was a sports columnist for the Journal-American in New York City. His trademark column (and the title of his book) was “Nobody Asked Me, But…“ This device allowed Cannon to write about anything he felt like writing about, including non-sports stories. He could knock off a bunch of topics in one column. I’ve stolen the approach a few times, using my own words, as a salute to the late sports writer.

        So,

  • Maybe it’s just me, but …: Six no hitters in less than two months of baseball may say more about the caliber of hitters than the caliber of pitchers. In this era of smash ball, batting averages are down, strikeouts are up and nobody knows the hit-and-run sign. Full disclosure, when I started writing this column there were only four no hitters in baseball. Overnight, a pitcher named Spencer Turnbull through a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers against the Seattle Mariners. Turnbull let the majors in losses a couple of years ago. For the Mariners, it was the second time in two weeks to go an entire game without getting a hit. The Cleveland Indians have also been no-hit twice this year. Foolishly, I didn’t finish the column and the Yankees’ Corey Kluber threw a no-hitter that night against the Detroit Tigers. Just for good measure, Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner actually threw a complete game no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves as well, but it won’t count officially as a no-hitter. That’s because it came in the second game of a doubleheader, which MLB now has shortened to seven-inning games. The game is official, but the no-hitter isn’t. Figure that one out. Anyway, my takeaway is that, while yes, a lot of pitchers are throwing harder, all the bashers in baseball are more concerned with the speed with which their home runs will be leaving the ballpark and less focused on actually hitting the ball more often. The record for most no hitters in a season is eight. We should hit that by June.
  • In this case, I think it’s not just me…: Shohei Ohtani is the most incredible player in baseball today. If he keeps it up, maybe of all time. That’s saying a lot, but the Los Angeles Angels star is doing a lot. Start with the fact that he’s a starting pitcher who is leading baseball in home runs hit (14), not allowed, this season. He has batted second in the lineup in a game in which he was the starting pitcher, something that hasn’t happened in more than a century in baseball. And forget that four days rest between starts – he has also been the leadoff batter in the lineup, as the DH, a day after being a starting pitcher. Again, more than a century since that’s happened. He recently pitched seven innings, striking out 10 batters and then was moved to right field for the rest of the game to keep his bat in the lineup. He’s batting .273, with 33 RBIs. He has also started six games on the mound and has a 1-0 record with a 2.37 ERA. He throws right-handed (and can top 100 mph) and hits left-handed. They call him Sho Time. If he keeps it up they may also call him MVP.
  • This column is already getting way too long. Let’s wrap it all up here. Maybe it’s just me, but… : Albert Pujols could’ve been a DH in the Bronx, but his personality is better suited to LA. … How do they let a Kentucky Derby winner taken down for failing a drug test, run in the Preakness two weeks later? By the way, he was beaten soundly in the Preakness. Just sayin’ ,,  The Knicks did something smart in signing Derrick Rose. Derrick Rose did something smart in signing with the playoff-bound Knicks. … James Dolan doesn’t like it when things are too quiet at Madison Square Garden, so firing all the Rangers’ bosses probably made sense to him. I actually forgot they were still playing hockey. 
  • Maybe it’s just me, but …: I’d love to see Ohtani pitch a no-hitter and win the game with a walk-off home run in the ninth-inning.

      OK, I feel better. That’s it on sports until next time.

(PS: The Woody Allen movie was “A Rainy Day in New York.“ It was like something he jotted down on notecards while waiting in his therapist’s outer office. A bit of a memoir, if you will. Allen-lite, but with all the usual Manhattan atmospherics . and great musical accompaniment. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe he just needed a paycheck.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

America Finally Has a President Again

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

President Biden delivering his first speech to Congress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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