Posts Tagged ‘insurrection’

Unwrapped over America’s Unraveling

Sunday, June 19th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

The insurrection.

The insurrection.

   A president of the United States actively sought to overthrow the results of a legitimate presidential election through a variety of lies, fraudulent claims, illegal maneuvers and political pressure, even though some of his closest advisers, including his attorney general, told him there was no basis for challenging the election. That same president, knowing he had no legitimate basis for his efforts to reverse his defeat, then encouraged thousands of supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the formal certification of the election of the new president and pressured his vice president to invalidate the vote when presiding over the U.S. Senate and went so far as to publicly ridicule that vice president for refusing to do so, further inflaming the angry mob marching on the Capitol. That president then refused for hours to order any kind of police or military support to go the Capitol to help an overwhelmed Capitol police force when the mob stormed into the building, attacking police, sending members of Congress running into hiding, ransacking offices and erecting a gallows to hang the vice president.

    We know all this because (a) we witnessed it live on television when it happened and (b) members of that president’s political party and his own family have now testified so under oath before a congressional hearing.

    A president of the United States of America orchestrated a failed coup attempt. I still can’t wrap my head around that.

      Worse yet, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that millions of Americans, purportedly raised and educated in the land of liberty and justice for all, still defend that president and many at least pretend to still believe that he was denied a legitimate victory and had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 Insurrection.

     Finally, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that many Americans still don’t seem to understand or care about what Donald Trump and his power-hungry Republican sycophants, apologists and army of racist goons tried to do — install a president by force, against the will of the people. 

    Actually, one more thing I can’t wrap my head around: The wife of a Supreme Court Justice was part of the plot to overturn the election and her husband refused to recuse himself from any cases arising from the effort. A lot of Americans don’t seem to grasp the unacceptability of that situation either.

    I don’t know if the current attorney general has the guts and sense of duty to bring charges of treason where they apply. I don’t know if the owners and purveyors of phony information on the Fox TV network will be held accountable for fomenting racial and political tension in America. I don’t know if anyone will again be allowed to teach true American history in Republican-governed states.

   Personally, I hope all three happen, but I can’t wrap my head around the fact that too many Americans still don’t grasp that democracy itself is at stake.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Making History, the Painful Way

Monday, May 9th, 2022

The world in 500 words or less …

By Bob Gaydos     

Ex-NYPD Cop Thomas Webster Guilty in Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

Thomas Webster at the Capitol.

   History came to my area of slightly upstate New York twice in one week recently, but not in a celebratory way. The history was announced in newspaper headlines. Both involved “firsts.”  Some might have regarded these historic moments as simply the result of unfortunate circumstances, but they made me think of the choices we make.

        The headlines linked two of the biggest stories in the world — the Jan. 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the war in Ukraine — with two men with ties to Orange County, N.Y. 

  •  The Insurrection: Thomas Webster, 54, a retired New York City police officer, was the first person arrested in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming Capitol police officers had used excessive force against the violent mob seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and maybe hang Mike Pence. Interesting defense choice right there.  After viewing videos of Webster profanely berating the officer, beating him with a metal flag pole, tackling him and grabbing the officer’s gas mask, the jury took only two hours to find the former Marine guilty of assault and other charges. Married and with a family, Webster started a landscaping business in Orange County after serving 20 years as a New York City cop. He said he chose to go to Washington, D.C., alone and carrying that flag pole, on that fateful day to hear Donald Trump speak about how the election had been stolen. Webster said he became agitated as the pro-Trump crowd approached the Capitol. Once there, he joined the melee and, like many others, was photographed doing so. Now, the man who once served on the protective detail of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, faces a possible 20 years in prison. 
  • Ukraine: Willy J. Cancel, a native of Orange County, graduate of Newburgh Free Academy, Walden volunteer firefighter, was reportedly the first American to die in combat against Russian forces in Ukraine. A former Marine who, reports said, had not received an honorable discharge and had never been deployed, Cancel was a corrections officer in Tennessee. But his family said he was also employed by a military contracting company. Soldier-for-hire might be considered an unusual second-job choice for a 22-year-old man with a wife and seven-month-old child. That company sent him to Ukraine, where he died. Cancel was praised back home for his service and bravery. A Go Fund Me site has been created on Facebook for his widow and infant child.

     I don’t know anything else about either of these men and am in no position to understand, much less judge, the choices they made. Their stories just reminded me that, what may seem to some like reasonable, even honorable, choices can have unintended, dire consequences. Even historic ones.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

To Live and Die in America

Monday, April 25th, 2022



 The world in 500 words or less 

By Bob Gaydos

Maybe it’s just me, but…

Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust.” He says he didn’t know the gun was loaded.

Alec Baldwin on the set of “Rust.” He says he didn’t know the gun was loaded.

— New Mexico’s Occupational Health and Safety Bureau fined producers of the film, “Rust,” $139,793 — the maximum amount — and issued a stinging criticism of safety failures in connection with the fatal shooting of a cinematographer and wounding of the director during the filming of the movie. Actor/producer Alec Baldwin, who fired the fatal shot, says he was told the gun was safe. He is probably not through with the courts and may rue the day he lost his gig playing Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

— South Carolina has given the phrase “pick your poison“ a whole new meaning. Unable to procure the drugs to administer lethal injections to Death Row inmates, the state now offers electrocution or firing squad as the available means of meeting your maker. A recent candidate appealed both the sentence and method as cruel and unusual and a court has postponed his date with destiny. There have been only three firing squad executions in the U.S. since 1950, all in the state of Utah. Why is that not surprising?

— The reason South Carolina had to stop using lethal injections for executions is that pharmaceutical companies apparently forbid the sale of their products for that purpose. Wish they showed the same concern for some of their drugs that are killing people who are not on Death Row.

— Prescribing fatal overdoses of fentanyl for 25 seriously ill patients would seem to be taking the doctor-playing-god thing a bit too far. Then again, a jury in Columbus, Ohio, had no problem with it, acquitting Dr. William Husel of murder charges in a trial involving 14 of those deaths. Putting people out of their misery did cost Husel his job when the hospital fired him and 26 other employees who went along with his unorthodox treatment protocol. Why it took several years and so many fentanyl-induced deaths has yet to be answered.

— The judges who selected this year’s winners of the John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award got it perfect. Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, was an obvious choice and eminently deserving, but the perfect selection was Rep. Liz Cheney, the only Republican in Congress with the guts, conviction and public name recognition to meaningfully stand up to the Trumpers spreading the stolen election lie and trying to treat the Jan. 6 insurrection as something other than a failed coup attempt. Forcefully defying the powers who can impact your political future takes moral courage, especially for Republicans today. I think JFK would applaud the choice. And, while I don’t share a lot of political views with Cheney or her father, Dick, I believe the former vice president should be proud of his daughter and her stout defense of the truth. Ironic, huh?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Biden Wields a Sharp Verbal Dagger

Sunday, January 9th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

President Biden, aiming his verbal dagger at Trump and Republicans.

President Biden, aiming his verbal dagger at Trump and Republicans.

“Wow! I wish I wrote that.”

I doubt I ever said anything close to that after a Joe Biden speech in the past, but then, no Joe Biden speech has ever been anything like that of a few days ago commemorating the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S.. Capitol.

The phrase that caught my attention and drew my envy came near the end of his speech. It was stark and clear and powerful. It summed up, in effect, a new Joe Biden in the White House:

“I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

Again, wow. The fact that Biden was speaking of a former American president, not a potential foreign adversary, made it all the more powerful. No president has ever spoken this way about a former president.

The sentence summed up a paragraph that left no doubt as to where this president stands today: “I did not seek this fight, brought to this Capitol one year from today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation. I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy.”

“Who wrote that?” I wondered. Biden said it and clearly meant it. But all presidents have speech writers who have the unique, not easy, task of putting words into a president’s mouth that are both comfortable to be spoken and sound natural to the ear.

Obviously, presidents have veto power over what is in their speeches. And politicians, including Biden and his predecessor as president, have been known to vary from the speech text, But the “dagger at the throat of democracy” phrase was the perfect partnership of a speech writer and a president delivering an unmistakable message to the world. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

If Biden didn’t write it, he said it (with conviction), so he forever gets credit for it, much like JFK, a gifted public speaker, is credited for some memorable lines written by Ted Sorensen. Sorensen knew well the mind and mood of his boss, who was a pretty good writer himself.

And much like Ronald Reagan, another gifted speaker, is remembered for some lines written by his speech writers.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.“ Ronald Reagan via Peter Robinson, head speech writer at the time and clearly tuned in to his boss’ tone and mood.

Biden’s speech was also notable for its direct, no-nonsense blaming-without-naming of Donald Trump for the attack on the Capitol and the Republican Party for continuing to breathe life into the Big Lie that the election was stolen. Presidents don’t usually attack former presidents or another political party, but Biden rightly identified this as a unique time in history.

The moment called for leadership and Biden and his speech writer delivered it. Daggers? They brought their own to the fight for democracy.
(Note: Vinay Reddy is listed as head of the White House Office of Speechwriting.)
rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A Date That Should Live in Infamy

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

The Insurrection.

The Insurrection.

   The scenes are still vivid. The memory is fresh. A year, passed disturbingly quickly, has not dimmed the shock nor diminished the sadness of witnessing the most direct assault on American democracy since the Civil War. A violent, deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow a certified, fair election.

       January 6, 2021 is now a date for Americans to remember alongside Dec 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001. The storming of the Capitol is an event to place alongside the ,firing on Fort Sumter.

       That’s how I feel a year later and I am troubled that too many Americans, perhaps preoccupied by trying merely to survive and function in the middle of a pandemic, do not see the Insurrection and its aftermath for what it was — an attempted coup to keep Donald Trump in the White House.

      I know. Those things don’t happen in America. Not in the land of liberty, the leader of the Free World, the beacon of hope and opportunity where all are welcome.

      Once upon a time …

      The election of Trump to the presidency and the total acquiescence of the Republican Party to his program of greed, deceit, threat, ignorance, bullying and total disrespect for the rule of law simply in order to maintain power have rewritten the story line. Or at least they’ve submitted an alternative plot line — an adaptation of Orwell — that goes: “Welcome to America, where all men (not women) are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

        So my hopes this Jan. 6 lie with those public servants in Congress (including a couple of courageous Republicans) who have been investigating the Insurrection and preparing to give the American people a full report of who knew what and when they knew it, who did what and when they did it and, mostly, how we hold them accountable. My hopes also lie with the thus-far sluggish Justice Department of Merrick Garland in following through on any and all evidence of criminal behavior uncovered by the House Jan. 6 Committee.

        There is urgency to this because congressional midterm elections happen this year and, if Democrats lose control of the House, Republicans, fearful of Trump and devoid of any sense of duty to country, will probably disband the committee. They may even try to impeach President Joe Biden out of spite. Such is the state of that party and, from their overwhelming silence, local rank-and-file Republicans seem just fine with it.

         This means the rest of us, a solid majority of Americans, must insist on a full, public report by the committee and pressure members of Congress of whatever political party to honor the process.

         Finally, we must encourage historians and educators to present the events of Jan. 6, 2021, in a full and honest manner. Since they were televised, only the braInwashed will deny them, but this is key for our “Once upon a time” to not become a fairy tale.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

It’s No Time to be Silent, America

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

  By Bob Gaydos

   C56781E2-67D2-4EBC-941D-A0CA7A4C30E9“Stop.”

     That’s it. That’s all he or she said. It was the entire content of a message reacting to a column I wrote on Banned Books Week. In fact, it was the only reaction I got from all of Facebook when I spent a few bucks to spread my words of wisdom on the subject.

     I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of response to a column encouraging, in effect, the freedom to read as we please without interference from some “authority.” I mean, this is the land of liberty, isn’t’t it? But that’s probably a topic for another column. This one’s about that one-word effort to stifle the messenger. It’s about why, disappointing feedback or not, I won’t stop. Indeed, disappointing feedback is a primary motivator to keep spreading the message. There’s simply too much at stake and it worries me that many Americans don’t seem to be aware of the threat.

       As God, the greater consciousness, Buddha and the cashier at Hannaford‘s Supermarket are my witnesses, there are some things, even with eight decades of experience, I just don’t understand.

         Spoiler alert: If you are a MAGA believer, there are likely to be some things in this column that might cause you emotional distress. I’d hate to cause you any discomfort, so you might want to consider not reading beyond here. Otherwise, you were warned. And to those who argue that we must try to reconcile our differences, I’ve pretty much given up trying to reason with true MAGAs. Using research, facts, logic and compassion has proven to be a waste of time. I’m focusing on the other Americans, millions of them, who apparently think we’re just going thriough a tough spell. Hey, football stadiums are full again, aren’t they?

      Sure, and so are hospital emergency rooms. In fact, in some states they are overflowing and people with serious medical issues are having treatment delayed because of the flood of Covid patients. A second flood caused by a refusal by many to get vaccinated or to wear masks. 

       One of the things I don’t understand is people who call themselves healthcare workers refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Thousands resisted mandates to get vaccinated even though the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective.  Only the threat of losing their jobs convinced many to do the responsible thing. 

        Another thing I don’t understand is people who call themselves educators arguing against children and teachers wearing masks in school. Or parents attacking school board members who think teachers should not have to put their lives at risk to do their jobs and students should not become an army of miniature Covid spreaders. Teachers have proven to be adaptable and the kids will only complain about the masks if their parents do. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of educating to do.

    Which is to say, I don’t understand why people who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans, or both, regard education as an evil, as something to be derided, dismissed and avoided at all costs. In the land of opportunity, how does the pathway to greater opportunity become the enemy for so many people?

      I do understand why some who call themselves evangelical Christians or Republicans or both routinely attack education, spread lies and misinformation and feed on the fears of the uninformed. Power and greed. Thus has it always been.

          Maintaining the support of an uninformed mass of people seems to be the only platform of today’s Rrepublican Party. It operates solely out of fear of losing whatever power it has. It gives lip service to helping those in need, devoting most of its energy and resources to fighting the efforts of those who would truly like to reconcile our differences.

       The truth is, reconciliation is not a Republican priority. They would rather rule. I don’t understand why. I always come back to fear. Which is why I always come back to education. Autocrats depend on keeping the masses ignorant in order to maintain power. So, too, do some religious leaders. Have faith in me, they preach. Give me your money. You will be protected. Do not trust the infidel with the clever words. 

       That approach works for some in politics, too. But democracy cannot survive in that atmosphere. And, in my opinion, our brand of democracy is under attack today. I have never felt this way before. The January 6 insurrection and the continuing lies of Republican leaders that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump are the most glaring evidence of this threat. So long as Trump speaks for most Republicans and so long as most Republicans fear to contradict him, I see no chance of “reconciling our differences.“ 

       That’s why I won’t stop writing about the importance of a Free Press, about the freedom to read what we choose, about the need for truthful history to be taught in all our schools, about respecting science, and about honoring the invitation on our Statue of Liberty, to welcome, not demonize, refugees from other lands.

        I repeat, I speak not to the MAGAs, but to the large number of Americans who, I am certain, share my beliefs. We are the majority. Protect our democracy. Make sure you’re vaccinated. Teach your children the importance of education. Be a voice of tolerance. Vote. Reread “1984.”

         Don’t stop.   

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

GOP: A Party of Distraction, not Action

Friday, September 17th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

64B6273B-ABBF-4252-AB3C-3D7FC5AA28C7    And now it’s abortion. Again.

    The Republican Party, as predictable as ever, has reached deep into its bag of political strategems and come up with its old standby. When nothing else works, ban abortion.

     Also predictably, the media, especially TV,  swarmed all over this story as if it has never happened before. TV commentators (I cannot call them newscasters) breathlessly rushed to say everything they always say when Republicans do this, acting as if it is the only important story in America today. Social media, of course, greatly amplified the reaction.

      It’s a distraction. Precisely what Republicans want.

      It’s a proven way to take people’s minds off the failures of the GOP. It’s a proven way to rile up the voter base growing weary of Covid and wondering whether or not that presidential election really was stolen. It’s yet another way to pit Americans against each other, even though Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue as far as the majority of Americans are concerned

    A majority of Americans are pro-choice. Republicans are pro-choice when it affects them personally. End of story.

..    i’m not saying that the right of a woman to control her own body and to choose abortion if necessary is not important. The Supreme Court has already decided it is. So yes, it is disappointing that the current court chose not to consider a challenge to the outrageous Texas law effectively banning abortion. But the law will of course be challenged in court by all the groups that usually challenge such misbegotten legislation. And the Justice Department, free of the shackles of the Trump administration, not surprisingly said it will challenge the legality of the Texas law.

      But meanwhile, let us not forget a budget bill, an infrastructure bill, a voting rights bill, all proposed by Democrats and waiting for congressional approval. Again, the majority of Americans approve of the proposals of the Biden administration, all of which have been opposed by Republicans. Opposing Democratic initiatives is the entire GOP playbook.

      Let’s also not forget the ongoing Covid pandemic, exacerbated and extended in this country by the politically motivated statements and actions of Republican governors, especially those from Texas and Florida. Republicans would rather have Americans argue over abortion than notice people dying in overwhelmed hospitals in Texas and Florida … and Mississippi and Louisiana.

      Of course, there was also Afghanistan. Republicans tried to paint President Biden‘s removal of troops and evacuation of Americans and allies from that country as a total failure. It was not. Again, most Americans are glad to be out of Afghanistan and recognize the fact that the Trump administration created the situation in that country which guaranteed a messy withdrawal. Biden did not apologize for his decision, nor, by the way, did he send out a Twitter storm blaming his generals for the poor advice they gave him on the evacuation.

   With even some establishment Republicans declaring that the 2020 election was fair, not stolen, party leaders have tossed out such distractions as “woke,” cancel culture and critical race theory. Remember them? They all got traction for a brief while in the media until people realized there were more legitimate issues, more important things going on in this country, none of them being addressed by Republicans.

     The most important of those is the congressional hearing into the insurrection of January 6. Republicans in Congress have disgraced themselves trying to convince Americans that nothing serious really happened. Or if it did, Trump was not involved. Or if he was, they personally were not involved.

     This is the important story in America today. The very foundation of this nation is at stake. TV commentators talking about abortion need to ratchet down the emotion a bit, stick to the facts and history of the issue and remember all the challenges this president faced when he took office. He is tackling those challenges methodically and with a calm sense of purpose. I might suggest a couple of other things that ought to be done:

  1. Those three pieces of legislation need to be passed by Congress. Also kill the filibuster. Biden needs to call West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, supposedly a Democrat, into the Oval Office for a serious man-to-man, president-to-senator, Democrat-to-Democrat taking. Something reminiscent of LBJ.
  1. That special commission the president appointed to consider any changes that might be necessary to the Supreme Court needs to be told to wrap up its work quickly with a recommendation to expand the court from 9 to 13 justices. Now. Enough playing nice. And yes, it’s something Republicans would actually do.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

20 Years On, Terrorists Made in the USA

Friday, September 10th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

What TV showed on Sept. 11, 2001.

     Twenty years ago today, like millions of other Americans, I was preparing to go to work. The boys were off to school. It was a sky-blue September day. The news was on the TV, a practice of mine, in case there was something I needed to know about before I got to the paper.

   There was.

   The image on the TV screen froze me and shook the sleep out of my head. Oh, my God!

     What was I seeing? They replayed it.

     I quickly got myself together and headed off to work. But I stopped for a few moments in a nearby park to gather my thoughts and process what I had just witnessed  qThe radio news informed me that, in addition to the two planes flying into the Twin Towers in New York City, a plane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania and another had hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

     September 11.

     After about an hour of processing reports on what had happened, a meeting was held and it was decided that The Times Herald-Record would publish a special edition that afternoo, the first one, I believe, in the morning newspaper’s history.  My job was to write an editorial explaining what had happened. Or at least trying to explain it. About 500 words.“We need it in an hour.”

     I don’t have a copy of that editorial and I’m sure it was mostly emotion. I do remember writing, “America was at war.”  (Any colleagues who were in the newsroom on that day may feel free to corroborate or add any details you may remember in the comments section.)

       The world changed that day. America changed. We the people had been attacked. We were one nation, under the spell of the dynamic leadership of New York’s mayor, Rudy Giuliani. America’s mayor. We grieved together, healed together and called for retribution together, against whoever it was who had attacked us.

          So we started a war against, not the country where the terrorists responsible for the attacks came from (Saudi Arabia): but against a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. We justified it by claiming Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that it could use against someone, maybe us. That was a lie our government told us. We found out later.

           Then we went after the actual attackers in the mountains of Afghanistan. We actually found and killed their leader, then decided to stay in Afghanistan for some 20 years, trying to save it from itself.

            In those ensuing 20 years, Giuliani went from “America’s Mayor” to embarrassingly ridiculous mouthpiece for every lie put forth by Donald Trump, including the lie that he lost his re-election bid to President Joe Biden because the election was rife with vote fraud.

             Also in the ensuing 20 years, the Republican Party steadily turned itself from a party that espoused defense of all Americans into a party of an aggrieved white minority whose leaders in Congress legislate only in the interests of wealthy donors who contribute to their campaigns..Inro a cult that believes and repeats Trump’s lies or, worse, repeats them for political gain or out of fear.

           Whatever galvanized us into one people 20 years ago (a common enemy I suppose) started disintegrating as soon as we started demonizing any group of people, different from us (Muslims) as the enemy. “Us” became more vague.”

            The World Trade Center was rebuilt, Trump exposed the fear and bigotry at the center of the Republivan Party and gave free rein to the fissures hiding within American society.

             The FBI now says the greatest threat to America is from domestic terrorism. Not Iraq. Or Afghanistan. The threat comes from the white supremacists groups who organized the assault in Washington and still threaten any who reject their cause.

       In 1870, cartoonist Walt Kelly coined a phrase in his Pogo comic strip: “We have mer the enemy and he is us.”

       Indeed.

       Not so long ago, on January 6 of this year, in fact, I once again stared transfixed at a scene on television. Am I really seeing this? Thousands of virtually all white Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. Some were ready to hang Vice President Mike Pence to prevent him from fulfiling his duties. People died. Republicans refused to accept the election result and many even claimed there was no riot that sent them running for their lives.

          Today, the war to preserve American freedom and democracy is being fought right here at home. Fortunately, millions of Americans stand on the side of what”s right. Many still remember how we felt as a unified nation in the wake of the attacks 20 years ago.

           I’m not sure I”ll be here 20 years from now io mark the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, but whether I am or not, I pray the U.S. Capitol is still proudly standing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zest-of-orange.com. He was editorial page editor of The Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., for 23 years.

 

     

If the Earth is not Flat … Then Who am I?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

 

By Bob Gaydos

A version of what some flat earthers believe our plan it looks like.

A version of what some flat earthers believe our planet looks like.

 The Earth is not flat.

  UFOs do exist.

      In this debate about the nature of the universe, I am definitely taking sides.

     A bit of explanation: Firmly ensconced in the second year of Covid-inspired couch-surfing, we stumbled across a documentary called “Beyond the Curve.” I can’t shake the topic — flat earthers. Even in this era of anti-science, conspiracy-obsessed politics, this one baffled me. Still does.

     The movie focuses on three main characters, none of whose names I will use here so as not to give them any more notoriety than they already have. The main character is the apparent flat earth guru, A middle-aged guy with a YouTube show, who, for reasons that still escape me, decided at some point in his life that the Earth is not round. This, even though he can’t prove it. And even though fLat earthers’ own experiments in the film indicate otherwise.

        He believes the Earth is a flat disc surrounded by a wall of ice and covered by a gigantic dome on which someone (the government) projects images of the sun and the moon, which move continually across the fake sky.

         There’s also another, angrier wanna-be guru, who resents the main character’s influence among the believers, and a woman who has become a YouTube star among flat earthers with her “reporting“ on the issue. The group has annual international conferences.

          It’s difficult for me to be as respectful of the believers as the film is because no one in the film ever explains why he or she believes the Earth is flat. Nor does anyone disprove the existing science that proves otherwise. And, as I’ve said, the believers’ own experiments disprove their belief. So something else is at work here.

           Before I speculate on that, let me address that debate I introduced at the top. Obviously, UFOs exist because there have been countless sightings of unidentified flying objects by all sorts of people, Including Navy pilots. It doesn’t mean these are necessarily spaceships from somewhere else in the solar system, piloted by aliens, but I believe the odds are much greater of this possibility than that we are living under a gigantic dome. I paid attention in science class.

             (In the interest of full disclosure, I must report that I live in an area that has been described as the UFO capital of the Northeast. I myself have never seen a UFO, but the hamlet of Pine Bush has a UFO festival every summer, including a parade down Main Street. There’s even a museum. And yes, there have been numerous reported sightings in the area.)

             I guess I’m with Enrico Fermi on this. His paradox wonders why, given the preponderance of information that suggests a seemingly limitless universe, filled with countless planetary bodies, no one has apparently yet decided to pay us a visit. Maybe we haven’t noticed or maybe they can’t get through the dome. 

               Which brings me back to the Earth is not flat. To me, saying the Earth is flat without providing any evidence and indeed, in the face of evidence to the contrary, is akin to saying a presidential election was rigged without providing any evidence and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying vaccines don’t protect people from viruses and face masks don’t help stop the spread of viruses based solely on a “belief“ and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s akin to saying there was no violent effort to prevent certification of a presidential election at the United States Capital on January 6 when I saw the insurrection with my own eyes on TV, along with millions of other people.

               Some people, for whatever reason, are easily swayed. They will accept even the illogical because they can feel part of something. It provides an identity. Some people, for purely selfish reasons, gain their identity by swaying people to accept even the irrational. If people stop believing what they say, they lose their identity.

             So, if I am not a man cheated out of the presidency, as I claim, then who am I? Or if the Earth is not flat, as I say, then who am I?

           The answer in the first case is simple: You’re a loser.

            In the second case, it’s more complicated. Maybe you’re someone who needed to pay more attention in science class. Maybe you’re someone who never learned it’s OK to say you were wrong. Maybe you’re someone who needs to find a more productive way to gain people‘s approval. Maybe you’re someone who needs to keep walking in the same direction until you either bump into a glass wall or fall off the edge. 

           Or maybe you’re someone who needs to visit Pine Bush next summer when, hopefully, the UFO parade will be held again. Maybe you’re someone who needs to turn your gaze from down to Earth to up, up and beyond. These are true believers, too, but, unlike yours,  their belief has some legitimate science behind it. 

           I understand they’re always looking for new converts. You’d be quite a challenge, but  think of the new identity: The man who stepped back from the edge to play among the stars. Has a nice ring to it. Probably play well on YouTube, too. Just remember your new slogan. The Earth is not flat.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

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

For GOP, Lying is Easier Than Governing

Saturday, February 20th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

Frozen wind turbines were blamed for Texas’ power outage. Another Republican lie.

      “That’s the problem with the media today is they say all Republicans are liars, and everything we say is a lie. There are two sides to every story …”

     I began writing a column about this statement made by Rand Paul, the Republican-sort-of-Libertarian senator from Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, focusing on its fundamental absurdity. That it was, in fact, a lie in itself. The professionally run media never say that stuff.

       As days passed and events unfolded, I kept rewriting the column until it hit me like a bolt. There it was, every day, just waiting for me to hear it or read it. In his feigned outrage at ABC-TV’s George Stephanopoulos, Paul had inadvertently disclosed the underlying truth about today’s Republican Party: All Republicans are liars and everything they say is a lie.

     And, for Paul’s and other Republicans’ edification, a lie does not qualify as the other side to a story.

     Before I go any further, let me say that I am excluding from this declaration the roughly 10 percent of Republicans who were honest enough to say that Joe Biden was lawfully elected president and the handful who voted to convict Donald Trump of inciting an insurrection. But Trump is right when he says they are Republicans in name only (RINOs), because today’s card-carrying Republican is duty-bound to lie, or perish.

      After four years of daily lying, Trump came up with the Big Lie — the election was stolen from him. Every court and state rejected his lawyers’ pathetic efforts to prove otherwise. Every single one. But, and here’s where Paul and the rest of the gang come in, Republicans throughout Congress and coast-to-coast repeated the lie (and many still do), even though I am certain a good percentage do not believe it, because they feared the wrath of Trump and his more avid followers.

      Also, they discovered it was easier than actually governing and, since Republicans do not like government to begin with, they had no alternative plan. In Trump’s GOP, lying is the party platform. They as much as said so in nominating Trump last year to seek another term. There was nothing else offered. Not even a Wall. We stand by the liar. Period.

      Now, this can get complicated when there are other sources of information than Republicans and a lot of sensible people around who can spot BS when they hear it.

        Following Paul’s TV appearance, 43 Republican senators voted to acquit Trump at his Senate impeachment trial despite having been witnesses, some even accomplices, in inciting the riot at The Capitol. Mitch McConnell tried to refine the art of two sides to every story by arguing, first, that Trump could not be convicted because he was still president (as majority leader, McConnell delayed the trial a week), and then arguing (when demoted to minority leader) that Trump could not be convicted because he was no longer president. McConnell topped this off by saying, after voting to acquit, that Trump was indeed responsible for inciting the insurrection and someone should hold him accountable. That’s three sides, I think.

      So, McConnell lied twice, then sort of told the truth while, in true Republican fashion, passing the buck, basically to try to preserve his leadership role in the GOP without doing any of the dirty work, like maybe voting to convict Trump.

      It’s easier to lie than actually govern — Republicans might want to make that their motto. Now McConnell’s at war with Trump over control of the party. The suspicion is McConnell doesn’t plan to run for re-election in six years so he’s not worried about occasionally flirting with the truth and as a result having to buck a Trump candidate. 

        Which brings me to Texas, where the GOP platform of simply lying has been on display for the world to see. It has not been pretty. Texas, which has been run by Republicans for decades, recently nearly froze to death as an entire state due to the party’s aversion to actually governing. When temperatures plummeted and the snow fell, the lights went out all over the state. No power. No water. No heat. No help from the governor in Austin. Nothing from legislative leaders. Just excuses. Frozen windmills, they said. See, solar doesn’t work, they said. They even blamed the proposed Green Energy Deal, which has never even been voted on. Lies.

       They lied about the cause — the state’s refusal to join a regional energy grid for protection in emergencies and the failure of big energy companies to winterize their equipment because it cost too much and Texas did not require them to do so. Too much government regulation, you know? And while blaming solar and wind energy sources, they ignored the fact that 70 percent of Texas’s power comes from carbon fuels and their providers had lobbied hard against regulation, had donated heavily to Republican governors and had jacked their prices drastically when the deep freeze hit. An investigation is in order.

        This is what happens when lying is easier than governing. People suffer. People die. Yet Texas Republicans and their shills on Fox News kept up the lies. And their senator, Ted Cruz, headed with his family to Mexico where it was warm and there was plenty of water and electricity. When he was caught, he blamed it on his daughters. Said he was just being a good father. That was a lie. Reluctantly, he finally said it was “a mistake” to go on a Cancun vacation while people he ostensibly represented were dying in their beds, were desperate for clean water, were living for days in homes with no heat in temperatures well below freezing.

    Yes, it was a mistake, like his vigorous insistence without proof that the election was stolen from Trump and his equally vigorous opposition to impeaching Trump for inciting an insurrection. The Trump base — much of it anyway — bought those lies. But in Texas, that same base was getting electric bills for thousands of dollars from companies that neglected to prepare their facilities for cold weather and saw the freak storm as “a windfall.” Cruz couldn’t lie his way out it.

       Without demanding some apology from Trump supporters who didn’t vote for him, President Biden declared a state of emergency in the state and sent industrial generators, food, blankets and other supplies to suffering Texans, many of whom had bought the Republican lie that global warming was a hoax and oil and gas was still the future for proudly independent Texas.

       That’s the “other” side to this story. In truth, the only side.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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