Posts Tagged ‘Republican’

Shooting My Way Out of the Funk

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

Swish …

Swish …

      It’s time to borrow from the book of Curry. Stephen Curry, that is.

      Back in 2017, when I was in a bit of a writing funk, I came across an interview with Curry, who is regarded by most basketball fans as one of the best, if not the best, pure shooter in the National Basketball Association. Swish is his MO.


      As synchronicity would have it, Curry at the time was going through a rare shooting slump. He was hearing a lot more clang than swish. The interviewer asked him what he did about that. How do you get out of a shooting slump?

     “You shoot your way out of it,” Curry said. “You obviously get more reps in between games, try to get that muscle memory back and the vision of the ball going in. You never lose confidence — that’s first and foremost. But there’s nothing really different to my approach. You’ve got to grind your way through it.”

   So this is me shooting my way out of a writing slump. Working on that muscle memory and grinding my way back into the groove.

     Four years ago, the funk settled in because there was really only one thing to write about every day: how Donald Trump had messed the world up in some unique way and how Republicans were just fine with it. Only the details changed; the arrogance and ignorance were ever-present. There are only so many ways to say that. Actually, I just said it.

    Now, Trump is thankfully gone from the White House, but his legacy and his minions linger on. The story today, the only story told in different ways, is President Biden trying to remedy the damage Trump caused while Republican politicians fall all over each other trying to emulate Trump.

     The constant lies, the hypocrisy, the unabashed arrogance and proud  ignorance. It’s infuriating and, honestly, writing about it constantly is as much a drag as reading about it. 

     Take Kevin McCarthy (please, as Henny Youngman would say). Having him as their leader in the House of Representatives should embarrass every Republican. He criticizes Biden’s infrastructure plan, yet takes credit for the good stuff in his home state of  California. He blames Biden for Covid lingering and spreading, while Republican governors continue to ignore the science and defy calls for vaccines and masks.

       He does it with a straight face, knowing it’s baloney, because this is how the Trump Republican Party is supposed to operate. 

       I don’t know how many times that has to be said, but I think I just took a shot and scored and I feel better.. Guess some of that muscle memory came back. A few more reps at the keyboard and I think I’ll be back on my game.

        Thanks, Steph.

(For those  younger than 50, Henny Youngman was a popular comedian, I once ran into in an art gallery in Woodstock. More synchronicity.)

 

rjgaydos@gmail.com

States My Sons Should Not Live in, Ever — an Addendum

Friday, November 12th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

   00AF2E2B-E6F6-4124-B003-0E29E6665B21  “Would you be upset if any of these states left the Union?”

      That provocative question, accompanied by a map of the United States with the entire South, from South Carolina to Florida to Texas, all in one color, showed up on my Facebook feed about a week ago.

       It was easy enough to answer. “No, “I said, “and they should add Kentucky.”

       That was the glib. quick answer Facebook likes. But the question also reminded me of a column I had written about a decade ago. The headline was, “10 states where my sons should not live, ever”.

       Now, ever is a long, long time, but it’s amazing just how well that list has held up.

         The column was inspired by a conversation I  had with a former newspaper colleague about a congressman from Florida who claimed there were 80 Democratic members of Congress who were Communists. I had written an editorial about the guy. My friend and I agreed he was a moron. He was also a Republican.

      Then I thought about all those states other than Florida that were also represented and governed by officials who make similarly idiotic statements all the time and was grateful I didn’t live in any of those states. So I wrote a column warning my sons off. So far, they’ve paid attention.

     That original list included Texas, Arizona, Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Tennessee and, yes, Kentucky (at least I’m consistent).

      I added a watchlist that included Georgia, Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana. Only Georgia appears to be escaping my newly expanded list of states to avoid, but it’s still on the watch list. Missouri now also makes the big list.

          The primary criteria for making the original list were: Rampant racism, anti-intellectualism, bigotry, intolerance, religious fanaticism, and electing morons to office over and over again. The  criteria still apply, but I would add to them fanatical Trumpism, anti-Vaccism, a refusal to wear masks to avoid spreading Covid, and the casual acceptance of violence as a solution to political grievances.

       One more thing. Voters in the states consistently elect officials who vote against their own constituents’ welfare and who view politics as a war to be won at all costs rather than an exercise in democratic compromise for the greater good. I guess that’s Trumpism after all. (I guess I also now will be labeled “elitist“ in all these states.)

       The solution? The ideal one would be electing officials who value education and inclusion. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon in many of these states. There are simply not enough local Republican politicians willing to buck the fear factor in opposing Trump. So for now at least, it means electing as many Democrats as possible in state elections. Georgia may be leading the way in this. Eliminating the Electoral College in choosing the presidents would also help.

    But in the meantime, sons and like-minded readers, avoid all states mentioned in this column.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

A Week to Read Banned Books

Saturday, September 25th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

 Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

   It would appear that I’m the kind of guy who, when visiting a book store (remember book stores?), headed straight to the banned book section and got comfortable. (Remember how comfortable.book stores could be?)

     I do not make this confession arbitrarily or boldly, but rather matter-of-factly. Also a bit surprisingly. Until recently, I had no idea that I was such a fan of banned books, Then, Banned Book Week showed up on Facebook and other social media calendars and I started looking at the various lists of books that have been banned or challenged, as the American Library Association puts it.

       Last year I was a few days lacte to mark the annual reminder of the importance of freedom of expression. This year, I’m right on time. September 26 is the start of Banned Books Week. At a time when voices of protest and outrage are being stifled, there’s not a day to waste promoting the free expression of ideas. So here’s my list, in no particular order, of banned books I have read. It’s compiled from a few lists I found on the Internet:

        — The Catcher in the Rye

        — To Kill a Mockingbird

        — The Lord of the Flies

,       — 1984

        — Lolita

        — Catch 22

        — Brave New World

        — Animal Farm

        — The Sun Also Rises

        — Invisible Man

        — Howl

        — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

        — Slaughterhouse Five

        — In Cold Blood

        — Rabbit, Run

        — Moby Dick

        — Canterbury Tales

        — Captain Underpants

        — The Kite Runner

        — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

        —.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

        — Fahrenheit 451

        — Moll Flanders

        — A Farewell to Arms

     I’d be interested in hearing what banned books are on your list so I can add to mine. I didn’t get much response to this request last year, but, forever the optimist, I ask again. I know some of you are voracious readers. So please contribute.

     We are living in a time when ignorance runs rampant in much of the country. Indeed, it often seems glorified. Reading, in fact learning of any sort, is under attack by forces — Republicans, Evangelicals if you want to be specific — who seek to maintain power by discrediting education. 

     “East Coast Elites” is supposedly an insult. Higher education, Republicans believe, is a threat to America, a survey tells us. We hear claims of fake news and hoaxes and Fox News is full of outright lies. It’s all nonsense, created and disseminated out of fear. Fear of others, of the unknown, of feeling inferior, of discovering that long-held beliefs were simply not true.

      Education is the answer, but our education system — already challenged with adjusting to distance-learning because of Covid 19  — has a lot of work to do to repair the damage done in recent years. Encouraging reading is a good place to start. Even in Covid America, books are available as never before online. Some free. I read “Slaughterhouse Five” and reread “1984” on Kindle. Seemed appropriate. And there’s plenty of time to read. 

       The American Library Association began Banned Books Week in 1982 in response to increased challenges to books in libraries, schools and other public places. Its stated aim is “to celebrate the freedom to read and to promote silenced voices.”

      Reasons why books have been banned or challenged include: LGBTQ content, sexually explicit language, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, nudity, political viewpoint and offensive language, Sounds like a shopping list for Republican politicians. It also sounds a lot like life and one person’s “offensive language“ is another person’s truth.

       The decision on whether any book is appropriate for a child or a teenager theoretically belongs to the parents. I say theoretically because some parents don’t get too involved in such things. My parents were not book readers, although my mother devoured at least four newspapers every day. I don’t remember them expressing an interest one way or another in what I was reading. I guess that’s a decision by default. They trusted me and my teachers. I think it eventually worked out fine for me.

       Other parents, however, are extremely interested in what their children are consuming. That can be a good thing, I think, if it allows for a variety of viewpoints and room to explore. By the way, Captain Underpants is on my list because I have two sons, now grown. I also think a couple of my books were high school reading assignments for one of my sons. Kudos to the teacher.

        Anyway, in a country in which clearly anyone can grow up to be president, I think it would be a good thing if he or she had actually read a book or two, including some that challenged his or her beliefs. But maybe that’s just the Orwell, Vonnegut and Salenger in me.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

(This is a slightly modified version of a column from last year.)

 

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.

 

     

35 Years and 9 1/2 Minutes to ‘Guilty’

Monday, April 26th, 2021

Derek Chauvin (left) and George Floyd.

Derek Chauvin (left) and George Floyd.

By Bob Gaydos

I exhaled with much of the rest of America — indeed, the world — last week when Judge Peter Cahill said simply and without any emotion, one word: “Guilty.” He said it twice more in reading the jury’s verdict and a tear slid down my cheek. Thank God. There won’t be any riots. They got it right. Finally, they got it right.

     All it took was a video showing 9 ½ minutes of George Floyd, a black man, being murdered by Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. Nine-and-a-half minutes of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.“ Nine-and-a-half minutes and, in my personal experience, 35 years.

      Last year,when Floyd was killed, I wrote this: “I was writing editorials for The Times Herald-Record, the local paper, when Jimmy Lee Bruce, a 20-year-old black man, died in the back of a patrol car near Middletown on Dec. 13, 1986. He and a group of friends from Ellenville, N.Y., had gone to a movie theater in a mall outside Middletown. The group became rowdy. There was drinking involved. Two white, off-duty Middletown police officers, acting as security guards, escorted the group out of the theater. A scuffle ensued. An officer applied a chokehold to Bruce and tossed him in the back of a police car, which had brought two on-duty Town of Wallkill police officers to the scene.

       “The police then drove around for 7½ minutes looking for Bruce’s friends. When they returned to the theater, a state trooper, who had also arrived on the scene, shined a flashlight in the back of the patrol car and noticed the young man was not responding to the light. Police rushed him to a nearby hospital, but attempts to revive him failed.”

        I’ll cut to the chase. There was no video in the Bruce case. No recording of him saying he couldn’t breathe. No officers were even indicted in Bruce’s death, much less charged, tried and convicted, as was Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. Accountability is a necessary first step to someday attaining justice. The opportunities for that keep coming.

        There were at least three police shootings of black persons in America within 24 hours of the Chauvin verdict. There was also the 24-hour racist drumbeat of Fox News and the white supremacist movement now known as the Republican Party, criticizing the verdict and claiming the jurors were frightened. But those voices are being somewhat muted today by those of the majority of Americans who are not only tired of the white cop kills black civilian and gets away with it scenario, but embarrassed and angry about it.

         That’s why the Chauvin verdict was so important. That’s why I held my breath and prayed. If the jury couldn’t return a guilty verdict in this case, I thought to myself, there was no hope for America.

          We got a break. The verdict in the Floyd case says there’s still hope for us. All we have to do is change pretty much everything about the way most police forces operate in this country today.

          Attorney General Merrick Garland got the ball rolling quickly, announcing that the U.S. Justice Department was launching an investigation of the operations of the Minneapolis Police Department, Garland will head the investigation himself. This crucial role of the federal government was abandoned by the Trump administration‘s useless attorneys general, Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr.

          What else needs to be done? Diversify police recruiting. Hire more women. Weed out racists in the ranks and reject applicants with sketchy records. Give recruits more training, including on how to talk to the public, how to de-escalate tense situations and especially on how to use force properly. Make it their duty to speak out about improper use of force by other officers. Ban the use of chokeholds. Get rid of that surplus military hardware. Stop dressing police like storm troopers. They are not an occupying army. Police have traditionally been part of the community. Encourage them to become involved in the community again. Act swiftly and surely to punish officers who abuse their position. Do not allow officers who are fired for misconduct to be hired by other police departments. Educate all officers on the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceful assembly. Make the entire community part of this reconditioning process. Do what they do in my neck of the woods, Orange  County, N.Y.,, and send mental health professionals along with police when the situation warrants and have a crisis line dedicated specifically to deal with issues that do not necessarily require a police presence. Incorporate an updated and honest version of race issues in America in high school history classes. Elect public officials who are willing to say, publicly, that it is possible to want to punish bad cops and still respect those police officers who do their job honorably and, yes, often in the face of danger. 

           Much of that I wrote 35 years ago. The list has gotten longer as the list of victims has grown, including Eric Garner, a black man whose cries of “I can’t breathe” actually were recorded, to no avail. He died of an illegal chokehold applied by a white policeman on Staten Island in 2014. Garner was guilty of selling loose cigarettes. Somehow, despite the recording, justice was avoided. That’s why I awaited the verdict on George Floyd’s murder with such anxiety. The bigots in the Trump camp, all the Trump wannabes in the Republican Party will continue to stomp their feet and lie about some conspiracy or other in the face of any attempted police reforms. It’s all they ever do.

            The jury in Minneapolis got it right. Now it’s up to the rest of us to do the same so that, for one thing, future jurors in police homicide cases won’t have to be anonymous to protect their lives. Think about that. It would be nice if we could do it in my lifetime, but I don’t think I have another 35 years to wait.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

             

            

All the GOP’s “dumb” governors

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

By Bob Gaydos

South Dakota's Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

South Dakota’s Governor Kristi Noem called for “less Covid, more hunting.”

  “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”

  With that absurd, ungrammatical and easily refuted statement to the press, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week boldly entered the competition for “dumbest” Republican governor in America. It’s turning into quite a contest in a steadily growing field. And, while I may be mocking this collection of nitwits, let me be clear in stating that this is no laughing matter.

    Let’s start with Ricketts. He is vigorously fighting an effort to legalize medical marijuana in his state. That’s right, they’re not even talking about recreational marijuana in Nebraska, just catching up with the 39 states and the District of Columbia, which have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes. 

     But killing kids? The Drug Enforcement Agency says “no deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.” Ever. As for its classification as a Schedule 1 Drug by the DEA — meaning it supposedly has no medicinal value — that was a product of the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, passed by Congress as part of Richard Nixon’s racist campaign to demonize and nullify black voters. Fifty years later, and in the face of all scientific evidence to the contrary, Republicans are still trying.

        There’s no real race issue in white bread Nebraska, so this is likely just one more Republican politician playing to the lowest common denominator — the proudly uninformed who make up much of the party’s base. The Trump voters. The governor also threw in the false claim that marijuana serves as a gateway drug for teenagers to other drugs. The Centers for Disease Control says there is no evidence of this. In truth, alcohol has long been the gateway drug for young people. Yes, there are risks, especially for young people, in using marijuana, but Ricketts could have stressed common sense approaches to its use rather than making up scare stories. Unfortunately, Nebraskans suffering pain from a variety of illnesses would be deprived of the relief medical cannabis can provide if he has his way.

         At least Nebraskans still have a chance to escape the consequences of having a “dumb” governor. Others, Texans, for example, have already paid a steep price. On March 2, with most of the nation, including Texas, in the early stage of receiving Covid-19 vaccinations, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order lifting the mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100 percent. When the mayor of Austin, the state capital, said the masks would stay on in his city, Abbott went to court to challenge this affront to his authority to put Texans at risk.

          This mandate came on the heels of the deadly deep freeze in the Lone Star State. When the state’s independent power grid failed during a winter storm in February, with Texans literally freezing to death, Abbott went on Fox News to say, “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for America.” Abbott said solar and wind power got “shut down,” while noting that those sources account for only 10 percent of the state’s energy.

          The truth: natural gas lines, which provide the largest percent of Texas’s power, froze up as well because anti-regulation Texas didn’t require companies to winterize. So, yes, almost all power sources froze up. A few windmills did keep producing. Also the truth: Texas refuses to join national power grids for protection against blackouts because Republican officials don’t want federal oversight. Neither do power companies who support them financially.

          Of course “dumb” governors are not new in Texas. In the midst of the blackout, with Texans looking for food and shelter and just trying to stay alive, former governor Rick Perry said Texans would rather deal with blackouts than have the federal government regulate their power grid. Perry, of course, was Energy Secretary in the Trump Administration.

           To top it all off, when the Texas lieutenant governor tried to roll back $16 billion in exorbitant power bills sent to residents, Abbott disagreed. Said he didn’t have the authority. But he can order people not to wear masks. As of March 17, Texas was still averaging 173 Covid deaths a day.

          Abbott has had serious competition on ignoring health experts in responding to the virus from other Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, who answered the question of whether anyone could be more obnoxious than Rick Perry with a resounding yes. In fact, anti-mask, open-up DeSantis, with an eye on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has made his anti-science, anti-press approach the hallmark of his public utterances, again echoing the success of Trump with a core group of Republican voters.

          The same can be said of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has taken her campaign on the road and likes to come across as a wise-cracking cowgirl (where are you, Sarah Palin?) and has said from the beginning that South Dakotans don’t need any masks or social distancing and was disappointed when she couldn’t have a big fireworks show at Mount Rushmore. All this as Europe is seeing a resurgence of the virus.

         There are more candidates, but you get the idea. The real question, of course, is whether these politicians are truly dumb, or just playing a cynical role that makes them sound dumb to a majority of Americans, but enhances their reputation with the core group of Republicans who vote for them, often against their own self-interest. The willfully dumb.

          Given the prevalence of this in-your-face obnoxious ignorance, real or feigned, among Republican members of Congress (too many to name here), I have to think this is just further evidence of the disintegration of the Republican Party as a serious, principled participant in the governing of this nation. And that is a serious loss.

         Today, for GOP governors and other elected Republican officials, no platform is necessary. Atttack science. Deny history. Ridicule education. Blame “others.” Demonize the press. If people suffer, if they die, well those are the breaks. Make it all up as you go along. It will get you elected. Hey, it worked for Trump, didn’t it?

         Yes. Once. And if it happens again, we’ll have only our dumb selves to blame.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

 

       

For the GOP, Is the Party Over?

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

 

 By Bob Gaydos

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

The Golden Trump at CPAC.

 It’s not easy being a Republican these days. First, there’s the question, “What is a Republican?” Second, there’s the problem with numbers. They don’t add up. Third … for now,  go back to Number One: What is a Republican?

      The future of the party has been the subject of debate ever since its candidate, Donald Trump, was soundly defeated by Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Not only did Trump, an incumbent, lose, but Democrats also took control of the Senate, giving them control of Congress as well, since they retook the House in the midterm elections of Trump’s four years in office.

       This is not exactly “winning,” which is what Trump’s lap dog Lindsey Graham says is what he’s all about. Yet Graham still supports Trump as the leader of the GOP. And apparently, according to several surveys, so do a lot of other Republicans.

       Which is good news for Democrats.

        It’s the numbers. According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of registered voters identified as Republicans in 2020, while 33 percent identified as Democrats and 34 percent as independent. Since Trump’s loss, his incitement of the riot at The Capitol and the continuing lie that the election was stolen from him, thousands of Republicans have left the party. Even without knowing the exact number of defections, clearly there are fewer Republucans today than just last year.

       But one survey showed 73 percent of Republicans still felt it was important to remain loyal to Trump, while about 70 percent would at least consider joining another party if he started one. Those numbers sound impressive, but they are 73 or 70 percent of a registered voter base that was only 29 percent of the total electorate. A big chunk of a relatively small chunk.

      However, if 30 percent of Republicans can’t abide Trump, his support among registered Republicans then drops to around 20 percent of the electorate. Since many independents also don’t like Trump and more tend to identify with Democrats than Republicans anyway, it’s hard to see where Republicans plan to find the votes.

        One answer is, they don’t. They plan to prevent as many Democrats (especially minorities) from voting as possible. Voter suppression proposals have been presented in Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But they will be challenged in court. 

        Another answer is, many Republicans are consumed by the delusion that Trump is their messiah and is destined to lead them to victory and beyond. Case closed. This weird factor grew exponentially with the recent Conservative Political Action Conference convention at which a gold statue of Trump was presented for adulation. Which goes back to the question — what is a Republican? Or a conservative for that matter.

       If Trump were to start a new party (unlikely if Republicans are willing to just give him theirs which is already organized and well-funded), what would it stand for? More of the same? Racism, bigotry, corruption, deceit and incompetence? Losing? Lying? White supremacy? Loyalty to the leader above all else?

      Is that what a Trump Republican is today? Again, the numbers say it’s a losing hand. Yet Trump loyalists within the party say it would be foolhardy for those party members who reject Trump to either try to assume control of the party or start a new one based on traditional conservative Republican views because the party’s base wouldn’t go for it. The grassroots Republicans would reject such an attempt, it is said, because that’s not who they are.

      Precisely. The “grassroots” Republicans Trump appeals to are all-in on the racism, bigotry, bullying, etc. Forget traditional conservative principles. The GOP Big Tent today is flooded with angry white men and women who go to church and ignore what is preached. They believe what they’re told and have no use for compromise or, indeed, for government. And beware if you oppose them. The old line Republicans who let them in to boost their numbers are scared to death of this base. Literally. Republicans who criticized Trump were actually advised not to attend CPAC for their own safety. But the Golden Trump was there.

        Forget principles and numbers. The only hope I see for Republicans who want to preserve traditional party values and restore its place as a legitimate partner in governing America is to hope that those Democratic prosecutors looking into Trump’s affairs in New York, Georgia and who knows where else are really good at their jobs. Since they weren’t appointed by Trump, odds are they are. Maybe they’ll take Trump out of the picture. Then all the old-school Republicans will have to do is get rid of all the Trump wannabes in their party. That’s problem number three. It may be a bridge too far.

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.