Archive for May, 2024

When Ambition Trumps Trust

Friday, May 24th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Nikki Haley … changing her vote

Nikki Haley … changing her vote

    A while back I wrote a column that focused on three basic rules to live by:

— If it’s not true, don’t say it.

— If it’s not yours, don’t take it.

— If it’s not right, don’t do it.

    The impetus for the column was the obvious fact that The Leader of the Republican Party and many of his followers had never heard of such rules and, in any event, felt no obligation to live by them.

      That situation hasn’t changed. But I have come up with yet another one of what I feel should be a basic rule of life: Be true to your word. The impetus, again, is questionable behavior by Republicans, one a politician, one a judge.

        I realize that trusting the words of a politician is a fool’s choice, but Nikki Haley has managed to lower the bar even further for acceptable if smarmy hypocrisy with her pronouncement that she will vote for Donald Trump for president.

      Haley waged an aggressive primary campaign against Trump for their party’s presidential nomination and, while not succeeding, had respectable results. She found there are indeed some Republicans who are not happy with Trump.

     Among the arguments she made for voting for her and not Trump: “Of course, many of the same politicians who now publicly embrace Trump privately dread him. They know what a disaster he’s been and will continue to be for our party. They’re just too afraid to say it out loud.”

    She accused Trump of being “confused,” “unhinged,” “not qualified” and “too old” to be president.

      So OK, even with her past history of flip-flops (serving as Trump’s UN ambassador and then resigning after two years; saying she would not run against him for president and then running against him for president), those are pretty strong and accurate comments she made about Trump. So why does she now say she is voting for him?

        Ambition. Political ambition, pure and simple. She can vote for whomever she wants in private, but in public she still wants some of Trump’s followers in the party to remember her four years from now when she’ll want to run for president again. 

      She’s willing to sacrifice any personal integrity she might have to preserve that hope for the future, even though she knows full well that a Trump second term in office could change the country’s political landscape drastically.

     (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who also challenged Trump unsuccessfully in the primaries, is hedging a similar bet. He tried to out- Trump Trump in the primaries, but learned that no one could do that. Now, DeSantis is raising money for Trump and waiting for 2028.)

      The other culprit in this tale of untrustworthiness is Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, he of the, not one, but two flags flying in support of Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign to undo the results of the 2020 election.

        One of the few things Americans learn in school about government and the law is that judges, especially when they are called “justices,” are supposed to be unbiased arbiters in matters that come before them in court. No sign of even a possible conflict of interest is allowed, so there is no doubt about the hearing or the ruling.

      Alito, although he probably swore to such things when he became a judge, apparently never grasped that not taking sides concept.

Samuel Alito

Samuel Alito

    After it was revealed that an American flag flew in distress position at his home, in support of the “stop the steal” campaign, Alito blamed his wife for the incident. Now, photos of a different flag signifying the same support and flying at his vacation home, have been uncovered. No word on whom he’s blaming this time.

    Of course, Alito has only himself to blame. With cases involving Trump and the 2020 election coming before the court, he has refused to recuse himself from them. This is a blatant violation of what most judges believe is their ethical duty, whether written into any code of ethics or not. 

   This Supreme Court, with its casual code of conduct to “guide” members, apparently feels they are special enough to recognize what behavior is ethical and proper for them. Clearly, some of them are not.

     People need to have confidence in the impartiality of their judges. If you are a judge and are involved in a case, or could appear to be involved (say, because your wife likes one side), you have a moral obligation to remove yourself from the case no matter what any code says. You also should have the common sense not to publicly display any statement that shows support for one side. This is basic stuff.

      Like Haley, Alito, who has also taken unreported gifts, appears to be driven by an ambitious desire to change the political landscape of the country. He’ll apparently swear to anything as long as he’s got his robe and lifetime appointment to protect him.

       Another basic life lesson: Trust must be earned and protected by regular investments. Haley and Alito are bankrupt in this regard.

rjgaydos@gmail





Worms and Other Weird Happenings

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

King Charles and his portrait.

King Charles and his official portrait.

  The week of weirdness started with the story about a worm eating part of Bobby Kennedy Junior’s brain. It ended with a portrait of Britain’s new King Charles bathed in bloody red. In between, it was just normal weird.

      After deliberating about it for a few days, I decided not to comment on the parasite in Kennedy’s brain because there would be no way to do so in good taste, what with social media twisting everyone’s words to negative stuff and I have already said plenty of that about Kennedy and anything else would likely be seen as unseemly and just a way to get in another cheap shot at someone who has done his best to sully the legacy of a father, who did not, as far as I know, have a parasite in his brain.

      So I moved on to the actual parasites who showed up at Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York City, to lend The Leader an artificial image of support, since neither Melania nor most of his children had actually showed up to hear about how Daddy had cheated on Mommy with a porn star and some other naked lady, no less, while Melania was home with baby Baron and how Daddy then wrote checks while sitting in the Oval Office to cover up the stories. Lovely.

   The parasites I refer to here are Republican members of Congress, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, who have done no actual legislating in months, but chose to leave D.C. to go to Manhattan and suck up to the boss by reading prepared insults of the judge, prosecutor and others outside the courtroom, since Trump has been ordered by the judge not to do so.

     The depths of self-degradation to which so many Republicans have sunk continues to amaze and disgust me. My phone (which likes to write along with me) offered “dismay.” Sorry, Apple, we’re way beyond dismay and disappoint. In fact, I’m looking for a stronger word than disgust to refer to these MAGGATS.

      Not far behind in terms of “have you no respect for yourself” comes Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, already under fire for not disclosing expensive travel gifts, being caught with his pants down. That is, his Stars and Stripes hanging upside down, on the outside of his home. The initial weirdness here is that the flag episode happened three years ago and was only now reported by The New York Times. The upside down flag was seen as a way to signal support for the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol as part of the “Stop the Steal” campaign promoted by Trump when he lost the 2020 election.

     Surprised by the report, which included an actual photo of the inverted flag, Alito rose to the occasion and blamed his wife. It was her idea, he said. So, a Supreme Court Justice has no sway in his own home?

      Maybe Alito was taking his cue from fellow justice, Clarence Thomas, whose wife actually helped plan the “Stop the steal” campaign, which has resulted in no negative consequences for her or her husband.

     In any event, Mrs. Alito can’t be pleased with hubby’s passing the buck. Then again, those expensive vacations are very nice. With these two justices refusing to recuse themselves from cases in which they, or their wives, are involved, not to mention countless expensive, unreported gifts, this court is looking anything but supreme. It is certainly not capable of policing itself.

      Also managing to make a supreme fool of himself (again, except to MAGGATS) was Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker, who delivered a commencement speech at Benedictine College in which he managed to insult all women by suggesting they hang their diplomas and retire to the kitchen and nursery for life, while also criticizing the Catholic Church for what he sees as failures of many priests and bishops to adhere to strict religious teachings (on abortion, gays, marriage) and the Church itself for not institutionalizing the Latin Mass everywhere. He didn’t mention altar boys. He chose to preach this ultra-conservative Catholicism at a Catholic university. The nuns were not pleased.

     Also, the National Football League was not happy with his address, saying it disagreed with the comments on a woman’s role. Weirdly, though, the wife of the owner of the Chiefs, said she supported the speech. That should make for some interesting dinner table talk. Meanwhile, female NFL fans will surely let Butker know how they feel this coming season every time he comes on the field to kick.

    Finally, the official royal portrait. Words fail me. King Charles sat formally for the painting, which will hang forever somewhere in Britain, inviting viewers to guess at what the heck the artist was thinking when he added a butterfly to the work and then drenched the whole thing in a rich, red hue. You have to strain to actually see much of His Royal Highness.

     While many loyal subjects were critical of the painting, Charles reportedly was pleased with it. Well, he is king now and he did wait a long time for his coronation. No word on whether there’s a worm in his family tree.

rjgaydos@gmail.com       



The Death of The Fourth Estate?

Friday, May 10th, 2024

… Or, when I realized that my suspicion that The New York Times was not going to do anything to help save democracy in America was correct.

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                                ***

“To say that the threats of democracy are so great that the media is going to abandon its central role as a source of impartial information to help people vote — that’s essentially saying that the news media should become a propaganda arm for a single candidate, because we prefer that candidate’s agenda.”

Joe Kahn, editor NY Times,

May 5 in an interview with Semafor

                         ***

  “On this particular day, I looked to see what the great gray lady, The New York Times, had to say about the Trump trial. Its editorial went into great detail, carefully explaining all the nuances of the justice system and why everything was being done the way it was being done, etc. It was not until the end of what the paper itself described as “a seven-minute read,” that the editorial referred to Trump’s “disregard for the rule of law and his willingness to demean American justice when it suits his interests.”

   It continued, “Those actions render him manifestly unfit for office and would pose unique dangers to the United States during a second term. The greatest of those dangers, and the one that Americans should be most attuned to, is the damage that a second Trump presidency would inflict on the rule of law.”

      Well, no you-know-what Sherlock. Did no one at the Times ever explain to the editorial writer that “don’t bury the lead“ applies to editorials as well as news stories. Seven minutes to tell people don’t ever put this lunatic in office again? He’s too dangerous?! “Manifestly unfit!”

    Give me a break! Tell them at the top, tell them why and tell them again at the bottom. Tell them every damn day while you’ve still got a press! Geez, people, this is no time to be gentle.”

Me, April 18, in a column on Substack and zestoforange.com

                         ***

— The time, spring, 2034. The scene: A New York Times editor is watching the news on Government Channel 1 with his 10 year-old daughter.

Daughter: “Daddy, what were you doing when our great Orange Leader, who sadly just died, was saying he had to be made president for life, so that he could save the country from all the evil people trying to sneak into it and send them all back where they came from, and that he had to release all of those people who were wrongly put in jail for trying to kill the vice president, who was actually a traitor, and free the Capitol from a Congress that wasn’t following the Constitution and that he needed to punish all those people who were telling all those lies about him and stop Congress from sending money to Ukraine for weapons to fight Russia because Czar Putin was a good man and that we really needed instead to focus on saving the world from windmills? And he did! Do you remember what you were doing when he was saying all that?”

Daddy: “Well, yes, honey, I was a reporter at The Times and my job was writing about whether Marjorie Taylor Greene, an influential member of Congress at the time and now Secretary of State, thought the plans of our aging president, Joe Biden, for example to make life more affordable for everyone and to let people actually make their own decisions about their own lives, made any sense.

Daughter. Oh. Cool.

— Bob Gaydos




NASA and Boeing? Are They Kidding?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos 

Boeing Starliner’s launch was delayed because of a faulty valve.

Boeing Starliner’s launch was delayed because of a faulty valve.

    So I’m scrolling through the daily Associated Press report the other day and, somewhere midway through the news, I spot an article that brought the scroll to a screeching halt:

     “CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing called off its first astronaut launch because of a valve problem on the rocket Monday night.

      The two NASA test pilots had just strapped into Boeing’s Starliner capsule for a flight to the International Space Station when the countdown was halted, just two hours before the planned liftoff.”

      Ummm … I thought to myself: “Boeing? That Boeing? The one that had two 737 MAX jets fall out of the sky five years back killing 346 people, resulting in a grounding of the fleet by the FAA and the firing of the CEO who had focused on profitability over upgrading aircraft design? The Boeing whose 737 MAX fleet was grounded again this past January when a panel flew off a plane in flight because some bolts were loose? The Boeing where loose bolts were subsequently found on other aircraft cleared to fly? The one whose internal culture had been called into question recently by, not one, but two whistleblowers, who pointed out a continuing emphasis on profits and major lapses in what should be basic safety procedures? The Boeing who has had, not one, but two whistleblowers recently mysteriously turn up dead? That Boeing?

   “That Boeing is sending manned capsules to the International Space Station? Or at least trying to?”

     Am I missing something here?

      Clearly, it had escaped my immediate attention (what with Trump and MAGA, etc.) that, when NASA ended its space shuttle program, it hired private companies (for billions of dollars) to take astronauts to and from the Space Station. Space X, Elon Musk’s baby, has been doing it since 2020. This was to be Boeing’s maiden voyage.

      It was scuttled because of an “abundance of caution,” according to the CEO of the company in charge of launch procedures. Apparently, an oxygen pressure-relief valve on the Atlas rocket started fluttering open and closed, creating a loud buzz. Apparently that’s not a good thing.

    The CEO said the valve may have exceeded its 200,000 lifetime cycles, meaning it would have to be replaced. Well, yeah, probably better than exploding somewhere out there on the way to the Space Station.

    To me it sounds like the same kind of basic problem as loose bolts on an airplane panel. “Hey, Joe, anyone know how many times this valve’s been used? Huh? Yeah, looks good to me, too.”

       Ok, people. Long time to get to my point, but I think you get it. What in the world is Boeing, withs its history of deadly carelessness and two dead whistleblowers doing with a multi-billion dollar contract with NASA to ferry astronauts in space and get anywhere near the Space Station?

       They were talking about maybe trying again Friday, if the valve checked out good, or pushing the launch to next week giving them time to install a new valve. Eventually, they decided to roll the rocket off the launchpad, check all the valves and try again on May 17.

      Good decision. Actually, I wouldn’t go at all. Instead, I’d urge Congress to question NASA’s decision to even do business with Boeing. And I’d get the FBI working on those dead whistleblowers.

rjgaydos@gmail.com


You Mean We Don’t Shoot Dogs?

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Kiss your VP hopes goodbye, governor.

Kiss your VP hopes goodbye, governor.

    Poor Kristi Noem. All she wanted to do was please The Leader and spend four years by his side eagerly dismantling American democracy and maybe making a few bucks on the side. Not an unreasonable dream for a simple farm girl from South Dakota.

    Then she went and shot and killed a puppy. On purpose. For good measure, she also knocked off a goat, reloading her shotgun after initially wounding the animal, which apparently had the annoying habit of acting like, well, a goat.

      And of course, to make sure the world, and especially Donald Trump, knew that she was a no-nonsense woman and politician who could handle difficult situations, such as might be delegated to a vice president, she wrote about it in a memoir.

     When the manuscript of the not-yet published book was leaked, to Noem’s surprise, the world was pretty much shocked that someone would kill a puppy because she couldn’t train him and not simply give him to someone else who could.

      Worse for Noem, The Leader, learning of the shooting, book, etc., reportedly was disgusted and said, “Why would she do that?” Meaning, write all about it. In true Trump fashion, he observed that the South Dakota governor obviously has a poor sense of “public relations.”

       In her attempt to out-Trump Trump, she actually bragged about her evil side. Perhaps she hadn’t been paying attention to the trials, the lies, the stream of victimhood pouring from Trump’s mouth daily. Do it, yes. Then deny, deny, deny. It’s on tape? Deny. Fake news. There were witnesses? Deny. 

        Kill a puppy? It would have to have been viciously attacking, at your throat, no choice but to defend yourself. He killed a chicken? Umm … have Michael Cohen kill the story. Get a non-disclosure agreement from the farmer.

     Noem also admitted to one slight “error” in her memoir — she never actually met North Korea President Kim Jung Il in her wanderings. Somehow he wound up on a list of political figures with whom she had, um, some kind of personal connection. Vice presidential bona fides.

     Noem’s bloodthirsty naked ambition is yet another example of the depths of desperate ignorance and immorality to which much of today’s Republican Party has succumbed. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also ran afoul of the out-Trump Trump strategy in his brief, unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, especially by being tough on the issue of abortion. Can’t be done. Trump both criticized DeSantis’ strict policies and took credit for the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

    If anything positive emerged from Noem’s dog story, it showed that there were actually still some in her party with a heart. No one, even Republicans, seemed to like the thought of shooting a perhaps difficult dog rather than re-homing him to someone who would train and love him.

      Now, immigrants seeking asylum by crossing the border with Mexico, or students demonstrating on college campuses are still different stories. We might need the Army or National Guard to, you know, protect us.

       Anyway, after the dog story went viral, Noem was disinvited from a big Republican Party event and removed from any Trump vice presidential running mate list, if one exists.

     Maybe she can chalk this political misstep up to being from South Dakota, which is in the middle of nowhere and has fewer than a million residents and only three votes in the outdated Electoral College.

      I’ve heard rumors that there are so few people in South Dakota who are politically inclined that the residents take turns at being governor and Noem got the job because the guy ahead of her moved to Florida to sell t-shirts with a “100 percent genuine” photo of Trump and Kim embracing in the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Now that sounds like a good political move for a Republican.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

What the Heck Happened to Sports?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

My Little League mitt, circa 1951.

My Little League mitt, circa 1951. RJ Photography

Ruminations of an old sports editor:

     The daily grind of following and writing about the Trump/MAGA assault on our democracy can be tiring, so I sometimes turn to sports in search of a break.

      For example, former major league ball player Art Shallock celebrated his 100th birthday April 27. The one-time Yankee pitcher is said to be the oldest living major leaguer.

   Perhaps his most notable moment in baseball history is when he replaced 19-year-old Mickey Mantle on the Yankees roster when the future Hall of Famer was optioned to Triple A for more seasoning. That was in 1951, which is the same era in which I used the glove pictured with this column to play center field for my Little League team. So I’m an old sports editor in both senses of the word.

      Shallock won a few games with the Yankees, collected three World Series rings and never made more than $5,000 a year, but he seems content with his journey.

       Less content recently is Yankees manager Aaron Boone. It’s not enough that he’s going through a divorce, but he recently was ejected from a game because a fan sitting directly behind Boone and the Yankees dugout was harassing the umpire.

     Even when everyone pointed out that Boone hadn’t said anything, the ump still tossed him, saying, “The manager’s in charge.”

      The umpire, Hunter Wendelstedt, stuck by his guns and his ego and the Yankees appealed and, surprise! MLB actually said the ump was wrong and will be penalized. 

       I’d say a couple of weeks without pay for this dumb stunt and a refresher umpire school. The device that charts balls and strikes said he also missed 68 percent of the strikes thrown in the game. A few other umps could use refreshing, too. Robots are looming.

      In another recent case of a major sports entity surprisingly admitting it messed up, the NCAA gave Reggie Bush his 2005 Heisman Trophy back, conceding that times had changed.

        Indeed.

        Bush was given then denied the award for his efforts as a running back at Southern California because his family had benefited financially (trips and gifts) from his success, a big no-no for the world of amateur college athletes. 

         Well, that was then and now is apparently now and today’s college athletes receive lucrative payments for use of their likenesses because colleges have made millions from their efforts, much of which also went to coaches, but not to the athletes (who were supposedly getting a free college education.)

      So, traditional college conferences are now scrambled to get richer TV contracts, coaches and colleges are making millions, college athletes now go where they can get the best contract, the NFL avoids establishing a farm system like baseball did and Reggie Bush is finally getting his Heisman.

     Further signaling the steady demise of amateur athletics, medal winners are apparently going to be awarded cash prizes for the first time at the Paris Olympics this summer. Ain’t capitalism great?

     Oh, and lest we forget, you can now legally bet on pretty much anything in any sport, while the game is in progress, in (sort of) full confidence the athletes aren’t doing the same. 

    I patched together this sports report mostly from social media because, if you haven’t noticed, traditional — to wit, newspaper and magazine — sports reporting has been replaced by sports personalities with opinions “reporting” on TV. 

       Sports Illustrated, having laid off most of its staff, was recently saved from oblivion when some company said it would keep the onetime sports standard bearer going as a monthly, not a weekly. 

      No thanks. Not when the magazine has lost its immediacy and stable of top sports writers that once included Frank DeFord and the incomparable Jim Murray.

      Plus, The New York Times actually eliminated its sports staff, reassigning reporters to who knows what and hiring something called The Athletic, whose writers apparently know a lot about WAR and leaving the park velocity in baseball and whatever conspiracy theory potential Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is currently spreading.

     Red Smith they are not (when he was writing about sports with The New York Herald Tribune as well as The Times.)

      Nor are they Al DeSantis in Middletown, N.Y., Joe Gross in Annapolis, Md., John Fox and, well, me in Binghamton, N.Y., or Dick Young, Jimmy Cannon and Mike Lupica in New York City or, for that matter, the Newark Star-Ledger’s Jerry Izenberg, who once lent me his typewriter at Yankee Stadium so I could write a piece about Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, whom I had just interviewed while he was sitting in a whirlpool bath. Yes, naked.

      Guess those were the good, old days.

PS: Thanks to just-retired John Sterling, longtime Yankee radio broadcaster, for all those marvelous home run calls. “It is high! It is far! It is gone!“ A sterling effort.

rjgaydos@gmail.com