Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

The dumbing down of America, cont.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

23D7DF21-4B50-483A-9B07-30BAFB25EA37    “Do you know who fought in the Civil War?”

    “The French and the Germans?“

     “How did you know that?

     “I took history.“

     Wait, there’s more.

      “When was the war of 1812 fought?”

      “The 1980s?”

       “Who was America’s first president?”

       “His first name was George. I don’t know the last.”

        “Can you name the continents?”

        “The USA?”

         “Can you name another one?”

          “Puerto Rico?”

          “How many inches in a foot?”

          “One?”

          “Do you know what state Utah is in?”

          “Illinois?”

         “How many stars in the American flag?”

          “One hundred?”

          “What is Obama’s last name?”

           “Care. C-a-r-e.”

      OK, enough torture. The preceding was an example of the continuing dumbing down of America, brought to you courtesy of a well-spoken, pleasant young man on Facebook, who simply asks questions of mostly high-school-age Americans in Times Square and malls in and around New York and New Jersey.

       No, it’s not entertaining and he does his best not to make fun of the unbelievably clueless contestants who clearly haven’t paid a lot of attention in history, math, science and other courses in school. I’m not even sure geography and civics are even taught anymore.

       Most of the “contestants” are young people of various ethnicities, although some older folks manage to show up with interesting answers as well. And clearly, he doesn’t show people who know all the answers, but far too many don’t know any of the correct answers.

        I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the American education system is in crisis. Too many young people don’t know things that used to be considered basic information you learned if you got through high school. Worse, too many adults seem interested in keeping it that way.

      Teachers are being told what they can teach, librarians are being told what they can have on their shelves. Too many young people are getting whatever information they get via social media. (One young lady could name all the Kardashians.)

       I’ve written about this before and it’s depressing for me to belabor the subject, but I don’t see much change for the better.

        People who know stuff today get mocked by perhaps the dumbest person to ever occupy the Oval Office and his cadre of obedient/frightened followers.

      But it didn’t start with Donald Trump. The Tea Partiers, having been warmly welcomed into the Republican Party, got to John McCain in 2012 and made him choose Sarah Palin, who said she can see Russia from her home in Alaska, as his vice presidential running mate. It’s been all downhill ever since.

      The Republican Party doesn’t have the numbers to out vote the Democratic Party, so, in addition to lying and cheating and trying to steal elections, it needs an uneducated citizenry that doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and, worse, doesn’t seem to care.

        People, we need to rethink what we’re teaching and rededicate resources to our public schools. Young people, especially those of voting age, need to know that what’s at stake in this year‘s presidential election is their very future.

      So that when some young guy with a microphone asks them in the shopping mall, “When do they celebrate the Fourth of July in England?” they don’t say, as one young man did, “The day after us.”

    Because of the time zones, of course.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

            

          

Stink Bugs, the GOP and a Clean House

Friday, October 6th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Stink bug

Stink bug

    There were two significant events this past week:

  1. The stink bugs arrived in the neighborhood and settled on the screens to the kitchen windows, resulting in constant barking by the resident beagle.

Kevin McCRthy

Kevin McCarthy

 2. Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker of the House of Representatives to be removed by a vote of its members in the history of the United States of America, as a result of a motion introduced by members of his own Republican Party, no less.

    The odor emanating out of Washington was far worse than anything the bugs could offer and, while Republicans kept barking that Democrats were to blame for McCarthy’s squashing, for a change no one was listening. He and they are victims of their own cravenness.

      While a quick finger snap on the screen got rid of the bugs (at least temporarily), Republicans had to shut down the entire House of Representatives for the rest of the week after their  Tuesday dethronement of their “leader” because no one was sure what to do next.

      Apparently, a lot of Republicans expected the Democrats to provide the necessary votes to keep McCarthy in the speaker’s position, even though he had given them no reason to do so, having gone back on his word to President Biden on a deal to avoid a government shutdown and then having agreed to a sham hearing to decide whether there was any conceivable reason to begin impeachment proceedings against Biden. There wasn’t.

     So yeah, Democrats really felt like supporting McCarthy. Your mess, you fix it, they said. Rightly so.

     The mess, of course, is the inevitable result of the GOP’s own deal with the devil. In this case, the part of Faust was played by the Tea Party.

     When the GOP grew weary of traditionally lagging badly behind Democrats in registered voters, rather than seeking to offer ideas for a new century, rather than offering programs and projects that might appeal to more Americans, and, thus, result in more votes for Republicans, the party simply agreed to let in more radical rightwing thinkers whose ideas were even less popular with a majority of Americans, simply because they at least represented more numbers.

     But those new “Republicans” never had any concept of how to govern, and, indeed, never intended to do so. They wanted mainly to gain the power to strip the government of virtually all its control of how corporations and businesses make money and to impose their own strict, moral code on the nation. To heck with “of the people, by the people, for the people.” They wanted it their way and were willing to do anything to get it

    Over time, efforts to prevent certain people (non-whites) from voting weren’t successful enough to boost Republican election numbers, so the party simply let in pretty much anyone who could sign his or her name and say no to every Democrat.

     A few of them eventually wound up in Congress and, in the House of Representatives, which is almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, their disproportionate ability to sway the vote for speaker despite their numbers saw them pressure McCarthy to promise to give them anything they wanted if they would let him be Speaker of the House. Pretty please with a tax cut on top.

      And so he did and so they did and so, predictably, they — now calling themselves the Freedom Caucus — turned on him the only time he tried to actually do his job and keep the government open so that tens of thousands of Americans could get their paychecks and government services could proceed as usual.

   McCarthy, driven purely by ego and apparently devoid of any backbone, didn’t understand that they were giving him the title, but not the power. A whole lot of other Republicans in the House simply sat quietly while they watched the travesty unfold, apparently waiting for Democrats to save McCarthy from the knives of his own party. Again: Fear, ego, cowardice.

      Of course, while this was going on, the leader of the onetime actual political party, Donald Trump, was in court, having been found guilty on business fraud charges which stripped the gold-plated phony of his claims of being a business genius and maybe of all his businesses.

    There are about a half dozen other court appearances still waiting for him. And he is still considered to be the leading candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024, although some of that support has apparently been slipping lately. Apparently, some feel that’s in direct proportion to his own slipping mental capacities.

     At week’s end, as weary and wary Americans waited, unimpressed by the history of the moment, there was still no clue as to who the new speaker of the House might be. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, two of the least competent, least intelligent Republican members had declared themselves candidates for the job. Trump was reportedly pushing for Jordan.

      Meanwhile, the stink bugs on the screens had quietly disappeared, knowing they were unwelcome. Experts say the best way to avoid a stink bug infestation is to make sure that windows are properly caulked and weatherstripped, window screens are not torn and any other openings into the home are sealed. It’s also advisable to keep your lawn mowed regularly and keep your lawn vegetation maintained.

      In other words, keep a clean house and you shouldn’t have a problem. But if one of the stinky buggers should somehow sneak in, the recommended approach is to hit them with soapy water and flush them down the toilet.

      Wonder if that would work with the Republican Party.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

In Texas, looking for another ‘perspective’ on the Holocaust

Thursday, October 21st, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Identification badge of a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps.

Identification badge of a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps.

   There are not two sides to every story. With some stories, there is simply the truth. Any other “side” is self-serving justification, a lie or misinformed opinion. There’s a lot of the latter going around these days.

     In Texas, an administrator responsible for curriculum and instruction in a local school district recently told teachers who might be instructing students on the Holocaust to “Make sure that if you have a book on the Holocaust, that you have one that has an opposing, that has other perspectives.”

     A new law in the state, she advised the teachers, required them to present “opposing viewpoints“ on “controversial“ subjects.

        In the land of avid anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and supporters of the Big Lie, it shouldn’t be surprising to also find Holocaust deniers. Still.

        …The good news in this story is that residents of the school district packed the next school board meeting to voice their outrage at this advice. There are not two sides to the Holocaust, they told board members. And the school district’s superintendent agreed with them, issuing an apology that said there “are not two sides of the Holocaust.”

       The mayor of the town served by the school district, embarrassed by the national attention it brought his town, also issued a statement, saying, “There simply aren’t opposing viewpoints on the issue of condemning that monstrous evil, and I don’t know anyone who thinks there are.”

        Apparently the administrator who gave the bad advice does know some doubters. A teacher at the seminar on book selection asked, “How do you oppose the Holocaust?” 

         “Believe me,” the curriculum administrator replied, “that’s come up.”

          The administrator did get some support from one person, who pointed out that, as spokesperson for the school district, the administrator was “caught off guard” by the new law. Maybe so, but she’s being paid not to be caught off guard and actually sounded more like someone who was concerned about keeping her job.

      That’s an inevitable consequence of a law driven and written by legislators operating out of fear. There’s also a lot of that going around, too.

        The law was approved by a Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by a Republican governor, in response to a claim that Critical Race Theory was being taught in public schools. It was and is not. No one ever bothered to check where this story originated in the first place.

           Republicans’ problem with Critical Race Theory is that it teaches that there was slavery in America and racism that existed for centuries and kept blacks from being part of the “all men are created equal“ concept in the Declaration of Independence. Republicans want teachers to teach the good stuff about slavery and to present opposing views about racism in America. In Texas, apparently some politicians also don’t mind if schools teach opposing views on genocide.         

     They want to present the other side of the story, but in this one, too, that side doesn’t exist. Only lies and misinformed opinions. Schools are supposed to help students formulate informed opinions on controversial issues based on facts. On truth.

        The Republican Party is all in on the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. That Joe Biden is not a legitimate president. They repeat this story even though most of them know it is a lie. They do this because they are scared to death that Trump will support someone else when they run for election. It is a position of cowardice, greed and ignorance. That is my informed opinion. I also submit that it is the truth based on the facts at hand. There is no other legitimate side to the story.

       I am willing to consider amending my view when local Republican elected officials begin telling the truth about the 2020 election. For the most part, they have chosen to remain silent, apparently in the hope that no one notices that their state and national party leaders have built their future on a lie. It is a political approach based on fear, steeped in racism, bigotry and hypocrisy. It is devoid of any moral standing. Indefensible.

      Many residents of the Texas school district called for the firing of the curriculum administrator. I have another suggestion: require her to enroll in a history course on the Holocaust. Maybe that will convince her that some stories need to be retold just the way they happened, with all the ugly, uncomfortable truths.

     Even in Texas.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Donald and the Boys Plot to Beat Hillary

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

Roger Ailes and Donald Trump

(A scene from “Just One of the Boys,” a show previewing Off-Broadway. The characters: Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, all wealthy, overweight, white men in their 70s. Plus a narrator, off-stage.

***

A bunch of the “boys” were sitting around the GOP clubhouse having a few drinks the other day. It was too rainy to play golf and they were way too out of shape to care anyway.

The talk inevitably came around to women. Women they had known. Women they could have known. Women they should have known. Women they wished they had known. Women they still wished they could know. If you know what I mean.

RUdy Giulianai and New Gingrich

Rudy Giuliani and New Gingrich

It was an exercise in fantasy, braggadocio, misogyny and out-and-out lies. Also, a lot of wishful thinking since, in addition to being out of shape, they were all of that age — 70 and up — where most of the women they had in mind would likely respond with, “Are you out of your mind?”

What the boys — Donald, Rudy, Newt and Roger — were doing, in addition to trying to top each other’s tales of “conquest”  — was trying to develop a strategy for Donald to “put that witch, Hillary, in her place,” as Roger explained. Only he didn’t say witch.

So far, all the bullying, shaming, yelling, interrupting and lying by Donald hadn’t worked as well as they all thought it would. For some reason, a majority of women and, to the boys, a surprisingly large number of men, seemed to feel that Hillary had much better experience and a more suitable temperament to be president of the United States than did Donald.

A woman, for Pete’s sake! And not a babe either! She doesn’t even look presidential, they agreed. “And she’s been really mean in the things she’s saying about me,” Donald chimed in.

“Yeah,” agreed Rudy.

“You should say mean stuff about her,” said Roger.

“Well, you know I could have at the last debate, but I decided not to,” Donald said. “I was nice, but she attacked me for saying Miss Universe got fat and Rosie O’Donnell was a pig. I mean, it’s true, so how could it be mean?”

“You’re right, Donald,” Newt pitched in. ‘‘They are fat. You should go after her on Bill.”

Rudy and Roger nodded in agreement. “Do it, Donald,” urged Roger. “What kind of woman puts up with her husband fooling around with all sorts of other women, stays married to him for 40 years and has a successful career in politics?”

“She must be stupid,” said Rudy. Newt nodded in agreement.

“So you think I should do it, guys?” asked Donald. “I mean, I made a point of telling the press after the debate that I was going to bring up Bill and his women in the debate, but didn’t, so that the press could tell people that I was being nice when I didn’t have to be — and I can be very nice, if you know what I mean. I mean, I’m the nicest guy you ever met. But I didn’t have to be and I wanted people to know that and, since I didn’t bring it up, how could they know? Know what I mean?”

“Uh huh,” all replied.

‘‘But the time for being nice is over, Donald,” said Roger. “All the legitimate polls — not the ones they quote on my old Fox stomping grounds — show her comfortably ahead of you. We’ve got to give your core supporters — the ones who don’t read — more red meat to consume. Bill’s affairs. That’s the ticket. Make them forget about your tax-dodging — and your draft-dodging, too, for that matter.”

“Hey, Roger, low blow,” said Donald. “Nobody in this room served in uniform. But my sexual escapades years ago put to shame all the groping and leering you did at Fox. By the way, Who was hotter, Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly? You get anything from either one? I hear Fox paid Gretchen $20 million to go away and drop her lawsuit. How are things with you and your wife over in Garrison?”

“I’m living in New Jersey now.”

‘’Bummer, right Rudy?” said Donald. “Didn’t you marry your cousin once? And remember when you had your girlfriend march with you in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, instead of your wife, Donna? That would have been great reality TV. Especially letting Donna know you guys were splitting by announcing it at a press conference. Great ratings. Plus the fooling around with your young press aide. Being mayor was good, huh?”

“Yeah, but what about Newt?” asked Rudy. “Being speaker of the House had its perks, too, right Newt? After all, you were sleeping with your young press aide in Congress while you were married to your second wife, who you were cheating with on your first wife while she was fighting cancer. And didn’t you ask your second wife for an open marriage — sort of what I wanted from Donna?”

“Yeah,’’ said Newt. “She said ‘no.’ No imagination. She even told the press I didn’t have the moral character to be president when I was thinking of running. Imagine that. So I divorced her and married Callista. We’re still together.”

“Like me and Melania,” puffed Donald.

“Yeah, how’d you manage that?” asked Rudy. “I remember your first wife, Ivana. Gorgeous. And a terrific businesswoman, but, what, you had three kids and she just wanted to raise them after a while?”

“Yeah. And her foreign accent sounded too weird for a potential First Lady. See, guys, I was thinking about running for president way back then.”

“Really? So I can see why Marla Maples, was attractive to you,” said Rudy. “Young. Model. Actress. Well-spoken.”

“But she wouldn’t pose nude for Playboy,’’ said Donald. “Boring.”

“Yeah, but not always,” said Rudy, a former prosecutor. “I hear you took the Fifth Amendment 96 times in your deposition on the divorce from Ivana when they asked about whether you were sexually involved with other women. That’s impressive.’’

“Actually, it was 97 times, Rudy, but who’s counting?”

“Yeah, you’re the man, Donald. So, now you’re with Melania. How’s that going, old man?

“Yeah, how’d you pull that off?” asked Newt. “I mean, she’s a young babe, too, if you don’t mind my saying so.”

“No, I don’t mind. It’s true. You’ve probably seen her nude photos. My daughter, Ivanka, is beautiful, too.”

“”Absolutely,” agreed Roger. “If I still had a TV network, I’d offer her a job.”

“Well, I may my have own network soon,” said Donald. “She can run it for me, but I wouldn’t let you within 10 miles of her. No commentator gigs for you, either, Rudy or Newt. … Let’s have another round. What were we talking about?’’

Roger, the brains of the outfit,  reminded the Donald and the rest: “We’re coming up with a strategy whereby you criticize Hillary because her husband, Bill, who happened to have been an effective president in many ways, if I have to admit, was also a serial philanderer, having affairs with a variety of women, young and not so young, in and out of the White House, yet she has stayed with him for 40 years, having somehow reconciled their difficulties and salvaged her ambition, career and their marriage to the point where he is a respected ex-president and she is now a viable and, some say, likely successful candidate for president. We just can’t allow that.”

“Cool,’’ said Donald. “We ought to invite Bill to these gatherings some time. You know, we used to be friends. I admire his style.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

George Says He Wants to Do It

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

George Pataki ...  presidential candidate

George Pataki … presidential candidate

George Pataki is running for president. For those of you not familiar with the name, Pataki was governor of New York state for 12 years. He is the 285th announced or soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pataki is quiet and unassuming — things most of the other members of the GOP presidential gaggle are not. He also may be delusional, which does put him in good company with the rest of the crowd.

But here’s the funny thing about Pataki: He says he’s a Republican. If that’s so, it’s not any kind of Republican that Americans have been exposed to in the 21st century. The Grand Old Party is surely old, but in 2015, it is hardly grand. It is, sad to say, a party that has lost its mind and sold its soul. The onetime Party of Lincoln today is not even the Party of Ford. It’s the party of Cheney and pick-a-Bush, sponsored by the brothers Koch.

I have resisted jumping into the 2016 presidential “debate” until now, figuring it was too early. Like, a year too early. But as the body count has increased (much more modestly on the Democratic side), I started wondering if my lack of zeal for what I was witnessing would somehow risk me being left behind. Then again, I told myself, so what?

Then George Pataki, all 6 feet, 5 inches of him, pulled me in. Is this guy serious? President? Of the United States? Yeah, he’s an easygoing, likable sort. Bright. Actually grew up on a farm. Once upon a time, I even wrote editorials endorsing him for the New York State Legislature. And he was elected governor of New York three times. That’s no easy trick for  a Republican since it’s a liberal state with a Democratic voting edge. Even more impressive, Pataki beat liberal icon and incumbent governor, Mario Cuomo, the first time out. In getting re-elected twice, Pataki showed that he can work with people of differing political views to get things done.

But … George … Republicans don’t care about that today. In fact, they run away from it. Since you’ve been away from politics for eight years, maybe you haven’t noticed that the word “bipartisan” has been stricken from the party vocabulary. If Democrats like it, Republicans don’t. Period.

The real irony of the Pataki candidacy, though, centers on his positions on the issues. While he is definitely a state’s rights, low-tax, fiscal conservative in the traditional Republican mold, his views on a host of hot-button issues are simply not in sync with today’s Republican Party.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans have fought President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat it at every turn. The GOP-dominated Senate even went so far as to vote that humans are not causing climate change and the Republican governor of Florida has actually banned state employees from using the term, “global warming.” Finally, polls regularly show that a majority of Republicans, who proudly proclaim they are not scientists, do not believe global warming is happening.

Pataki? Unlike many Republican politicians, the Columbia and Yale graduate respects science. Strike one. He believes global warming is real. Strike two. In fact, he co-chaired a 2007 blue-ribbon,  Independent Task Force on Climate Change  organized by the Council on Foreign Relations. The other co-chair was Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa who is President Obama’s agriculture secretary. The panel issued a thick report stating that human-caused climate change represented a world crisis that required immediate attention. Strike three.

How about abortion? Pataki is pro-choice. Enough said.

Immigration? He supports a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. “We can’t send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” he has said.

He believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states, but as governor he signed a law providing rights for gays, including benefits for same-sex couples.

He also pushed through a tough gun-control law banning some assault weapons and requiring ballistic fingerprinting for weapons as well as raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21. And he thinks it should be up to each state to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

For good measure, the former mayor of Peekskill thinks the nation should invest billions into building a first-class rail system.

Does that sound like a Republican to you?

Yes, he rips Obamacare and thinks the president hasn’t been militarily aggressive enough with ISIS and shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran on nuclear power. But virtually all the Republican candidates say those things, whether they believe them or not.

The point is, Pataki, who turns 70 this month, offers a bipartisan governing approach and reasonable views on some emotional issues in a party virtually devoid of such. In a general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, that might sway some Democratic voters of a more conservative bent. But first he’s got to get through the Republican primaries and emerge victorious over the likes of : Ted (I will renounce my Canadian citizenship) Cruz; Marco (I’m young, Cuban and have a sugar daddy) Rubio; Rand (every citizen for himself) Paul; Ben (the perfect prescription for the Tea Party) Carson; Carly (I’m as wacky as any of the guys) Fiorina; Mike (the huckster) Huckabee; Rick (one more time) Santorum; Lindsay (I’m the most conservative of them all) Graham; Jeb (it’s my turn) Bush; Scott (fire the unions) Walker; Chris (I didn’t close the bridge) Christie; Rick (I can count to three now) Perry; Bobby (I really messed up Louisiana) Jindal; John (who?) Kasich; and Donald (oh shut up) Trump. Sarah Palin, where are you?

Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, says it’s only going to put 10 candidates on stage for its televised GOP debates. Pataki might have trouble just cracking the starting lineup, which tells you where reasonableness, a respect for science and a willingness to compromise in governing get you today in the GOP.

In reporting on his decision to run for president, the Wall Street Journal described Pataki as a “centrist.” Talk about the kiss of death. They might just as well have called him a socialist, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned. It’s enough to make a guy want to switch parties.

Whaddaya think, George?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

To Have & Have Not: Healthcare Style

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

Across the street from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where my wife Eva-Lynne had surgery recently, a sign welcomes visitors to the George Washington Carver Houses, home to more than 2,800 residents, most of whom will never see the inside of Mount Sinai Hospital unless they work there. The same is true of the many other public housing projects that extend further north into East Harlem, also known as Spanish Harlem because the majority of residents in the neighborhood are Latino. This is not because the people who live in the projects are healthier than other people. They are just poorer.

When they get sick they go to Metropolitan Hospital, a public facility administered by the city’s Health and Hospital Corporation. The doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare team at Metropolitan do their best — but it is often not nearly enough, as described by comments posted online by patients:

“I had the misfortune of having to go the ER and not know any better. Please don’t go to this hospital, even if it’s the closest one and your life is in danger. My boyfriend and I recently spent nearly 10 hours in the ER just WAITING to get my test results back. The room I was in had chipped tiles and paint peeling off of the walls. The bathroom I had to use was possibly the most unsanitary one I’ve seen. The bathrooms at Starbucks and McDonalds are more sanitary…. There wasn’t an emergency call button to push in case you needed a nurse. I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend with me to flag down a nurse when I needed oxygen, but even then, that took forever to get a response.”

“After a short time in the ER waiting room, I did have to wait a few hours on a bed behind a curtain to see an actual doctor…. A male nurse was exceptionally professional and drew my blood and hooked me up to an IV. A female intern was also professional and asked me what the problem was. The actual doctor who examined me was to the point, but also professional. There were horrific moans and cursing and occasional screaming from other patients in the emergency room (homeless, very poor, mentally ill), and I felt I was going nuts listening to all this. So I am in awe of the people who have to work there every day. I could not do it.”

“Not a bad place, when considering that this is one of the only major hospitals in the area after Mount Sinai. However, this hospital lacks so many basic amenities that other locations such as Bellevue have. It seemed to me last time I went that doctors were not aware of what is going on with patients and the nurses double as the receptionists.”

Across town at Mount Sinai the waiting room is crowded but comfortable and several receptionists are on hand to direct people to their destinations. A food court one flight downstairs sells sandwiches, salads, bakery items, juice, soft drinks and Starbucks coffee. While waiting to be admitted, patients may read a brochure for “Eleven West at Mount Sinai,” a section of the hospital reserved for the super rich, so exclusive that none of the hospital employees I asked could even tell me how much it cost to stay there. None of the nurses or aides who cared for Eva-Lynne during her stay had ever entered its hallowed halls. Reading the description made me wish I was a sick rich guy.

“A total of 19 rooms and suites makes up Eleven West, each with its own private bathroom.” A photo shows a huge room with fine furniture and two windows offering magnificent views. “Premium features” available to patients include “cuisine that matches top New York City dining.” (Eva-Lynne got some watery cream of wheat for breakfast. The night before when she asked for a second cup of yogurt they said they were all out.) If only she had stayed in Eleven West. There “each meal is memorable….thanks to a private kitchen that offers gourmet meals three times daily to patients and their guests.” Culinary-trained chef Juliet DaSilva-Inniss’ “signature selections” include Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb served with Jewel Couscous and Sauteed Seasonal Vegetables, and Wild Salmon Wrapped in Yukon Gold Potato Crust served with Oven Roated Asparagus and Mango Aioli.” Which do you think Donald Trump would order if he had to go in for, say, a hernia or maybe a hair-transplant procedure?

Eva-Lynne really would have liked a couple of the other premium features too, especially the ”reverse sateen, 300-thread count bed linens” and complimentary monogrammed white robe“ upon admission.” She got scratchy sheets and the same unflattering green hospital gown that Jack Nicholson memorably wore in As Good As it Gets.  (If you didn’t see the movie, let’s just say that buns of steel he didn’t have.) She would also have enjoyed the “daily afternoon tea in the sitting room.” I can just hear her asking if they have chamomile and would they mind bringing some honey to go with it.

Maybe she would even have liked having a “private television with cable service.” We tried to get the one in her room to work so we could watch the current Korean drama, Love, My Love, but we couldn’t figure out how to put the order in. You had to use both the telephone in the room and the remote control of the TV to make the $10 payment. When one of the nurses saw us struggling she tried to help but after about 10 minutes of futility she gave up. “They changed the system,” she said. “It used to be much easier.” We didn’t mind that much because we had the DVR set to record that night’s episode and we watched it after we got home. (Yunsik still didn’t want Seunghi to marry Dongyeong for reasons too complicated to go into here. But one thing is for sure: No way is she going to end up with Taebeom!)

We didn’t get any “complimentary Belgian chocolates upon discharge,” either. We got a parking ticket. And we are still a whole lot better off than the people who have to go to Metropolitan Hospital for treatment.

Michael can be reached at michael@zesoforange.com.

Of Congressmen and Cockroaches

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

A scene from "The Walrus and the Carpenter," by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Sir John Tenniel in 1871. (Wikimedia Commons)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things,
Of cockroaches and congressmen,
Of cabbages and kings.”

a paraphrase from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

 

By Emily Theroux

Have you ever wondered exactly how unpopular Congress is, when stacked up against stuff people really dislike – say, traffic jams, telemarketers, or root canal procedures?

Just ask the president of Public Policy Polling, whose latest survey instructed respondents to compare their disdain for our elected lawmakers to a range of unsavory things. “The fact that voters like (Congress) even less than cockroaches, lice, and Genghis Khan really shows how far its esteem has fallen with the American public over the last few weeks,” said Dean Debnam.

A new PPP poll found that cockroaches rated higher among voters than Congress did, by a margin of 45 to 43 percent. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A full 85 percent of participants revealed during the January 3-6 poll that they view our legislative branch as creepier than cockroaches, crawlier than head lice, more obnoxious than the most tedious pseudo-metal band, and a bigger pain in the ass than a colonoscopy.

Bored with conventional surveys of congressional approval by the public, PPP resolved to try a novel approach: testing the esteem in which Congress is held against 26 different loathsome* people, places, situations, or things. The 9 percent favorability rating of our current federal legislators, as seen after they narrowly avoided the fiscal cliff, ranks Congress beneath the following unpleasant entities and experiences:

  1. Head lice (the possibility of whose removal, considering the GOP gerrymandering that’s made it almost impossible to dislodge entrenched Republican congressmen no matter how badly most voters want them out of office, boosted their score: Lice 67, Congress 19);
  2. Brussels sprouts (not as yucky to grown-ups) 69, Congress 23;
  3. The NFL replacement referees (for everyone but Packers fans) 56, Congress 29;
  4. Colonoscopies (which at least provide vital information after the fact) 58, Congress 31;
  5. Root canals (painful but mercifully temporary) 56, Congress 32;
  6. Used-car salesmen (the lemons they foist on unwary buyers, apparently, don’t leave as sour a taste as threats to “shut down the government”) 57, Congress 32;
  7. Traffic jams (you may get stuck in them, but not for 2-6 years) 56, Congress 34;
  8. France (because nobody’s saying “freedom fries” these days) 46, Congress 37;
  9. Carnies (who “may use loaded dice,” according to PPP, but still offer “a better chance at winning”) 39, Congress 31;
  10. Canadian band Nickelback 39, Congress 32;
  11. Genghis Khan 41, Congress 37;
  12. DC political pundits 37, Congress 34;
  13. Donald Trump 44, Congress 42; and, last but hardly least,
  14. Cockroaches 45, Congress 43.

The Canadian 'nu metal' band Nickelback, which one Urban Dictionary reviewer described as exemplary 'of why our art is in a state of stale, regurgitated darkness.' Another said lead singer Chad 'sounds constipated on a permanent basis.' Opined a third: 'This band is like cyanide for my ears.' (Photo from social media site Fanpop; membership 69% white, 89% non-college-educated)

Things could be more calamitous for lawmakers, although not by much. Most people prefer Congress to venereal disease, telemarketers, and a certain cheating presidential candidate, among the few other things they found viler than our current crop of elected pols.

What did 85 percent of voters judge worse than Washington legislators? Lindsay Lohan, playground bullies, telemarketers, the Kardashians, John Edwards, lobbyists, Fidel Castro, gonorrhea, Ebola virus, communism, North Korea, and finally, at the bottom of the stinking heap of horribles, meth labs.

 

The United States of Absurdity

When I first heard the results of the new survey on the comparative unpopularity of Congress, my thoughts turned wistfully to a simpler time, my early childhood, when my father used to read us Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, and Edward Lear. Daddy had a highly attuned appreciation for the absurd, which he set about to instill in his children as soon as we were old enough to listen to storybooks.

The March Hare and the Mad Hatter from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “The Jumblies” and “The Pobble Who Has No Toes,” from Lear’s Nonsense Book; and “The Elephant’s Child” and Small Porgies (the Animal that came out of the sea) in Kipling’s Just So Stories, were my imaginary childhood friends.

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Army-McCarthy hearings (AP Wirephoto, 1954)

At least it seemed like a simpler time. Dwight Eisenhower inhabited the White House, a fact that greatly disturbed my mother, who adored Adlai Stevenson and campaigned for him twice (in the days before it was only Republicans who ran losing candidates a second time for president). She chiefly resented Ike for failing to denounce Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, perpetrator of the post-World War II “Red Scare,” during the notorious commie-hunter’s reign of terror in Washington. “I will not get into the gutter with that guy,” said Eisenhower, who privately likened a fight with McCarthy to a “pissing contest with a skunk,” according to Eisenhower biographer Piers Brendon.

William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1985

My mother curtailed all unnecessary housework to sit rapt in front of our first TV set throughout the Army-McCarthy hearings in early 1954. After the Senate voted 67-22 to censure McCarthy that December, far-right wingnuttery simmered down for awhile. In 1962, conservative visionary William F. Buckley denounced founding “Bircher” Robert Welch for his extremist view that the entire federal government was infiltrated by communists, including Eisenhower and members of the Supreme Court. As Buckley wrote, in a 5,000-word “excoriation” of Welch’s delusional thinking, published in National Review:

“How can the John Birch Society be an effective political instrument while it is led by a man whose views on current affairs are, at so many critical points . . . so far removed from common sense? That dilemma weighs on conservatives across America.”

In 1964,  conservative GOP candidate Barry Goldwater lost the presidential election in a landslide. In 1980, Ronald Reagan tacked hard right again, and a steady, 30-year progression began toward conservative “limited-government” policies and culture-war social fundamentalism.

 

Our politics enter ‘a state of stale, regurgitated darkness’

Since Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, however, congressional Republicans appear to have lost their ever-lovin’ minds. Since the reactionary mid-term contests of 2010, the Tea-Party-bewitched House has abandoned any notion of compromise, and the once-staid Senate (which George Washington described to Thomas Jefferson as a “cooling saucer” for legislation passed by the House, used as if to cool one’s tea) has gone filibuster-crazy. Now, we’re stuck in a vortex of far-right recalcitrance and ideology. Together, they’ve led Democrats into a maze of gridlock with no apparent escape route.

Obama may have won reelection in 2012, but the balance of power hasn’t substantially shifted in 2013. The GOP continues to hold the House, with an ineffectual John Boehner still at its helm. The Republicans in the House, two years away from another campaign, entrenched in their gerrymandered districts, and beholden to powerful corporate donors, are beginning to forget the party’s post-election angst over what new direction it should take in light of its devastating election losses.

The Republican Senate minority under Mitch McConnell, currently digging in on obstructionist tactics against Obama’s cabinet nominees, acts as if the 2012 election never happened. The president has a traditional prerogative to appoint the cabinet he wants, barring influence-peddlers, convicted ax murderers, or proven zombies. (Chief obstructionist John McCain even said so, back when Dubya swaggered where Obama now stands as tall as possible, given the carnage done to our Constitution by total whack-jobs.)

The cockroaches, in this case, have nothing to do with cabinets, with cabbages or kings. This new, psychotic breed is scurrying out of the chamber pots, the ones with the Rs on their lids – both sets of them.

* * *

* I personally exempt Brussels sprouts and France, which I find unobjectionable, except for the fact that, during an excellent European adventure in 1972 (during which my first husband and I carried our belongings in backpacks and were thus considered “dirty hippies” by disapproving Parisian hoteliers), we were not offered continental breakfast. And don’t call me paranoid, but I swear, a chambermaid strategically rearranged the pieces on a chess board we had left in our room mid-game.