Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

The (not so) Sweet Mysteries of Life

Friday, February 16th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

Life is full of mysteries. Too many to solve and some (Why did Mario Cuomo not get on the plane to New Hampshire?*) never to be fully resolved. Lately, there are too many to keep up with.

Me and Mario Cuomo, circa late 1980’s, at a budget dinner presentation at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, where he was apparently more comfortable than he would have been in the White House.

Me and Mario Cuomo, circa late 1980’s, at a budget dinner presentation at the Governor’s Mansion in Albany, where he was apparently more comfortable than he would have been in the White House.

 

     At such times, I lean on a tactic made famous by a favorite sports writer of mine from a half century ago or more, Jimmy Cannon. With a deep bow of respect:

  • Maybe it’s just me, but:  When the leading vocal critic of Vladimir Putin dies unexpectedly during a stroll at a prison in the Arctic and that critic, Alexei Navolny, is only 47 years old, is there any doubt that the Russian president, a well-known fan of poisoning his detractors, is behind it? The only mystery is what story the Kremlin will come up with to “explain” the death since there were no  10th-story windows for Navolny to fall out of.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: If I am the governor of the state that just witnessed its crowning glory celebration of another Super Bowl win turn into a bloody mass shooting with one dead and more than 20 injured, including many children, I might want to rethink my state’s gun laws. In fact, I might think about actually having some. No sign yet that Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, a rock-ribbed, pro-gun Republican if there ever was one, has had such a moment of clarity. Parson, who was at the Kansas City celebration of the Chiefs’ championship, along with his wife and thousands of other happy fans, revealed that his security detail had quickly moved him and his wife to safety. Others had no such protection. In fact, Parson as governor has squelched efforts by Kansas City and St. Louis officials to pass stronger laws because of an increase in shooting deaths in both cities. He also supported a state law that forbad local police from enforcing stricter federal gun laws. The courts overturned that. Missouri has no state licensing requirement for possession of a rifle, shotgun or handgun, nor is any state permit required for purchase of those firearms, as per the NRA’s official site. It’s an open carry state. The shooting was reportedly the result of an argument among teenagers. The mystery: How do you live with yourself and your bloodied celebration just to get campaign donations from a corrupt organization?
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: When a former president, who has bankrupted several businesses, run a fraud university and phony charity, lied to banks and others about the value of his properties, been ordered by the court to pay $364 million in fines because of it, has routinely failed to pay lawyers and contractors and also showed a remarkable indifference to and ignorance of history and world affairs says he would be OK if Putin sent Russian troops against NATO countries who are behind on paying their dues, I don’t understand the so-called thinking of Americans who profess  patriotism, yet support such a man to be president of this country.
  • Maybe it’s just me, but: The decision by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin not to launch an independent campaign for president under the No Labels Party — a rare wise decision by the retiring Democrat — should be enough to convince the phony baloney independent group to drop its efforts to field a spoiler in the 2024 presidential election. Manchin even said he didn’t want to play that role. The mystery here is, when the choice in November will be between democracy (Joe Biden) and fascism (Trump or another Republican wannabe Trump), why anyone would want to play that role.

*Mario Cuomo, the so-called “Hamlet on the Hudson,” was widely considered to be a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992. He kept a plane on the runway with its motor running on the day to register for the New Hampshire primary, but never got on the plane. A lingering mystery.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

A Weekend Frozen in Time with Mitch

Tuesday, September 5th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Mitch McConnell freezes while talking to the press.

Sen. Mitch McConnell freezes while talking to the press.

   Labor Day weekend offered an opportunity to sit back, relax and ponder the mysteries of the day, such as Mitch McConnell’s mysterious “freezing” episodes in which the senator from Kentucky basically locks up and stares straight ahead silently for about 30 seconds, apparently unaware when the freeze ends that it even happened in the midst of a press conference and his staff acts as if everything is OK, nothing going on here, just move along because the Senate Minority Leader has no plans to retire even though he’s 81 and, you know, had that fall and the concussion and keeps freezing up indiscriminately, which the staff say shouldn’t alarm Kentuckians because doctors in the Capitol and other Republican senators,  who are loathe to get on his bad side, say Mitch is “medically clear” and “perfectly capable” of carrying out his duties and, heck, his term doesn’t end until January of 2027, so why should we tell Americans what’s really going on with his health when we have more than three years to enjoy a position of influence in Washington and at the same time try to latch on to another senior senator who will assume leadership of the Republicans in the Senate because, despite Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley citing “aging” leadership in Washington being a reason to install term limits, once people get power most don’t like to give it up and, as has been shown repeatedly in recent years, some people who want power will do whatever they can to get it, even lie about pretty much anything and, no, I’m not talking about Number 45, but rather, the most recent obvious Trump wannabe, Vivek Ramaswamy, a previously unknown 38-year-old pharmaceutical company CEO, graduate of Yale and Harvard Law, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination on a litany of lies and bigotry (he says he’s never met a white supremacist and has both praised and mocked the Juneteenth federal holiday), most likely as a way to raise cash and maybe land a spot behind Trump on the 2024 ticket since the four indictments have yet to do much to weaken his hold on the top spot, as contrasted with the position of Luis Rubiales, head of the Spanish Football Federation, who exuberantly kissed a member of that nation’s women’s soccer team when they won the World Cup and found himself facing suspension from his post when she complained that the kiss was unsolicited and unwelcome and the team backed her up even though he now says otherwise after first apologizing and FIFA suspended him for 90 days and then the Spanish government looked to suspend him from his position, a hope that was at least temporarily dashed when a Spanish court, while agreeing to open a case on the incident, said it considered the offense to be merely “serious,” not “very serious,” meaning the government couldn’t immediately suspend Rubiales, which is the kind of court of last resort outcome Russian President Vladimir Putin may be looking for when he meets later this month with North Korea’s reigning strongman Kim Jong-un to discuss a possible food for weapons deal, in which the once admired but recently exposed overrated Russian military gets much-needed weapons for its disastrous war against Ukraine and North Korea, a worldwide pariah with whom almost all nations have pledged not to trade arms, gets much-needed food to feed its citizens so that, much like the seasonally migrating hummingbirds and recurring Covid-19 in New York, they can continue to produce weapons and maintain the Kim family in power forever.

     Or until Mitch McConnell freezes over.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Shohei, 45 and Prigozhin: Pick One

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

P.T. Barnum, like Trup, knew how to make a shady buck.

P.T. Barnum, like Trump, knew how to make a shady buck.

    Occasionally, the Universe conspires to make life a bit more challenging for those who cover the news of the day, as in the previous week when three major stories competed for front page attention, (1.) the much-anticipated assassination in Russia of Yevgeny Prigozhin, (2.) the eagerly awaited arrest and first-ever mugshot taking of a former American president, in Atlanta, and (3.) the totally unexpected report from Los Angeles that the best player in baseball, Shohei Ohtani, the only successful pitcher/hitter since Babe Ruth, had suffered a serious injury to the elbow of his pitching arm and will (4.) require Tommy John surgery (named after the first pitcher to have it done*) or full arm rest to repair his elbow, meaning he will not pitch again this year, or ever again, and will likely (5.) see his asking price for a new contract when he is a free agent at the end of the year fall by a few hundred million dollars (that is correct for non-sports fans), and maybe even worse, put an end to his brief but marvelous career as simultaneously one of the game’s great pitchers and hitters, limiting him to merely hitting home runs every day, which, of course, is still a far better fate than that of Prigozhin, who (6.) incredibly was still hanging around Russia two months after abruptly stopping his coup attempt against Vladimir Putin about 150 miles from Moscow, (7.) foolishly trusting Putin’s promise to let him go live peaceably in Belarus and (8.) inexplicably packing his private plane with other leaders of his Wagner paramilitary force, making it easier for an “unexplained” explosion to wipe them all out in one fell swoop, (9.) demonstrating that Putin is not limited to using falls from high windows or poison to eliminate those he perceives as enemies, (10.) a scary reputation that the aforementioned arrested  former president, Donald Trump, would undoubtedly  enjoy having, rather than that of a (11.) lying traitor who led a conspiracy and fomented

The mug shot.

The mug shot.

violence to try to overturn a legitimate election he had lost, (12.) illegally concealed classified government documents, (13.) used campaign funds to pay hush money to cover up an affair he had with a porn star while his wife was tending to their young child, (14.) raped a woman in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman and slandered her even after he was found guilty, (15.) defrauded New York State of millions in taxes, and (16) continues to threaten and insult judges, prosecutors and (rare) political opponents who dare to speak the truth about him and to support the rule of law, all to (17.) rile up his supporters and to ostensibly raise money for his presidential campaign, but which will probably go to (18.) pay his monumental legal expenses so that he can find lawyers willing to represent him, which is not easy given his cheapskate reputation, none of which seems to bother his legion of loyal followers, who (19.) continue to ignore reality and send him money every time he plays the “victim” of the system routine, proving that (20.) P.T. Barnum was right when he (allegedly) said, “There’s a sucker (or a few million) born every minute,” which includes anyone who believes that the flabby Trump is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs a mere 215 pounds, as an aide entered in the record for him when he was booked in Atlanta, (21) in a circus scene lacking only Barnum’s famous sign, “This way to the egress,” * (22.), to which I say, soon, please, Universe.

      Shohei wins.

(* Tommy John was a good left-handed pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 seasons, including two 20-win seasons for the New York Yankees.)

(*When you went though the door to get to the  “egress,” you had to pay to get back in to the sideshow. Trump would’ve loved Barnum.)

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Free speech, free press, free fall

Sunday, August 20th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The Marion County Record … still publishing

The Marion County Record … still publishing

     There has been plenty of news coverage of the daily stream of complaints from the twice-impeached, four times indicted former president that (1.) accusing him of crimes (91 of them) for things he has said and trying to silence him from talking about the accusations constitute an attack on his First Amendment right of free speech, but (2.) the most recent legitimate threat to the First Amendment has received much less attention, possibly because it happened in Marion, Kansas, where the entire sheriff’s force raided the offices of the local paper, the Marion County Record, and the home of its owners, taking computers, phones, notebooks, etc., looking for the source of information on embarrassing news about a local politician and a business owner, even though the paper had not published articles on either person and despite a warrant that the local DA invalidated two days after the raid as unwarranted, leading (3.) news media organizations to denounce the rare government interference in the operation of a free press, an action which the editor said (4.) created stress which contributed to the death of his 98-year-old mother and newspaper co-owner a day after the raid, which is tragic, as is each of (5.) the estimated 49,500 people who committed suicide in the United States last year, the highest number ever, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, which said suicides had become more commmon in America than any period since just before World War II, a war whose outcome established the former Soviet Union as a world power, to fear and grudgingly respect, both of which were absent as (6.) Ukraine continued its counteroffensive in the disastrous war launched against it by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which revealed the weakness of Russia’s military, and (7.) Russia’s robotic Luna-25 spacecraft crashed on the surface of the moon, much as (8.) Hunter Biden’s plea deal on tax fraud and gun charges did when a judge

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden

refused to accept the terms and (9.) Britain’s hopes of magically winning a World Cup in women’s soccer did when gritty Spain won the title match, one-nothing, which (10.) experts said was pretty much what Hawaii had done to prepare for the disastrous wildfire that devastated Maui, leveling a town and killing more than a hundred people, the kind of devastation Democrats could experience in 2024 if (11.) the deceptively named No Labels Party runs a candidate for president, since the moderate-conservative group wouldn’t take away any of Trump’s loyal followers (assuming he’s not in prison), but could sway some independents away from voting for Joe Biden, who (12.) practiced statesmanship by hosting the leaders of Japan and South Korea, traditional rivals if not enemies, at Camp David, to forge an alliance in the three countries’ favor, kind of the opposite approach of Trump, who (13.) said he would skip the scheduled Republican presidential candidates debate in favor of an interview with Tucker Carlson somewhere Trump can presumably demonstrate his right to free speech ad nauseum without fear of someone confronting him with facts, kind of like (14.) Rudy Giuliani‘s approach claiming that the RICO law, which he is charged with violating in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, does not apply to conspiracies among political  figures, even though, as the first U.S. prosecutor to use the law, Giuliani, who (15.) has experienced an epic fall from 9/11 grace, (16.) once bragged how he used it against Mayor Ed Koch and other New York City political figures. 

     Ain’t karma great?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

A Week of Wills, Won’ts and Walkouts

Monday, July 17th, 2023

4CA8BB44-4999-4BDA-84BF-9D1F8B35B6F7By Bob Gaydos

Here’s another stream of consciousness report on the news because, well, we seem to be living in a stream of consciousness world:

     The week began in what has become a normal pattern these days with (1.) Donald Trump asking a judge to postpone his trial for stealing and refusing to return classified government documents until the 12th of Never or he gets elected president again, whichever comes first, which was a disturbing development because said judge is believed to have a crush on the twice-impeached former president and might rule in his favor, which isn’t what happened to (2.) some of Aretha Franklin’s offspring, who went to court four years after her death to decide which one of her wills was the real one — the notarized, signed one found in a locked cabinet or the scribbled, unsigned one found stuffed in a couch cushion, which also contained comments about the singer’s ex-boyfriends, which may have convinced the jury in Pontiac, Mich., that it was the legit will because that’s how they decided after only an hour of discussion, a ruling some found as curious as (3.) the World Health Organization’s determination that the artificial sweetener, aspartame could cause cancer while a special panel appointed by the same UN organization simultaneously said the sweetener was still safe for regular use, which is pretty much what (4.) the NRA said about the widespread availability of all types of guns in response to a report that the U.S. in 2023 had experienced the deadliest six months of mass killings since 2006, or 140 killings in 180 days, not that anyone noticed, (5.) what with record numbers of tourists flocking to Death Valley hoping to experience record high temperatures as the thermometer hovered near 130°F, (6.) which wasn’t far from the heat generated on picket lines in Los Angeles by striking actors and writers, led by The Nanny, Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild, who roasted film and streaming companies executives for, among other things, wanting to use artificial intelligence- generated images of background actors instead of real people in order to save money, which is the opposite of (7.) what India had in mind when it launched a rocket to the Moon, hoping for a soft landing for a lunar rover to explore the surface of the moon and bolster India’s emerging space program as a major source of revenue, rather than, as some cynics speculated, as an exploration for a future home for some of the nearly 1.5 billion people living in a country whose trains keep running into each other and (8.) whose neighbor, China, is being difficult over some disputed borders between the ancient countries, who have maintained a careful relationship with (9.) Russia as it slogs through a misbegotten war against Ukraine, who has (10.) been promised NATO membership in the future, whether or not (11.) Russian President Vladimir Putin figures out which of his generals knew about the attempted coup before it unraveled almost as quickly as (12.) Twitter when Elon Musk bought it to show us again how smart he is.

    Whew. … Oh yeah, (13.) The New York Times announced it was eliminating its sports desk and pretty much nobody noticed.

     There.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

An Interesting, Imperfect Week

Friday, June 30th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

Yankees Pitcher Domingo German pitched a perfect game.

Yankees Pitcher Domingo German pitched a perfect game.

   When one’s primary focus is offering commentary on the most significant news of the day and it’s a day (or week) in which Donald Trump has not been indicted, arrested, convicted or imprisoned, well, one has to look around at the rest of the world and choose what’s important. Kind of stream of consciousness reporting.

      For example, (1) in a week in which the leader of a ruthless mercenary military group in Russia apparently decided to call off a coup attempt aimed at Vladimir Putin in midstream and (2) reports say some Russian generals may have known about the plan and Putin may be about to purge them, how significant was it that the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court (3) blew up affirmative action and (4) Joe Biden’s college loan forgiveness plan, (5) said (despite a Colorado state law barring discrimination) that a wedding website designer could refuse to design a website because the would-be clients are gay, all the while (6) holding fast to the argument that the top court in the U.S. should not be bound to conflict of interest rules like every other court in the land, apparently suggesting that Supreme Court justices should (7) be able to take lavish vacations paid for by clients who have cases before the court, (8) that the fact that a justice’s spouse actively encouraged a coup attempt aimed at the U.S. government didn’t matter and (9) that another’s spouse got millions in business from another frequent visitor to the court did not matter either because, well, apparently because the High Nine are morally perfect individuals, which is not necessarily the case with (9) Domingo German, a pitcher for the New York Yankees, who pitched a perfect game against the Oakland A’s and, despite the fact it was only the 24th perfect game in Major League Baseball ever, was criticized by some because he had been (10) suspended by MLB a couple of years ago for spousal abuse, even though one must presume (or at least hope)  he had made significant enough changes in his life by now to merit reinstatement, while others suggested the accomplishment wasn’t much because (11) Oakland is one of the worst teams in baseball at the moment, an argument which ignores the fact that these are all major league players, the best ball players in the country, making a guaranteed minimum salary of $720,000 a year, and, all the while, much of the country (including New York State, where I live) witnessed all of this (12) through a choking haze of smoke courtesy of thousands of wildfires still burning in Canada, undoubtedly aggravated by (13) global warming, which almost no one is talking much about lately, certainly not (14) Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former lawyer, who we learned sat down voluntarily for a chat with Special Counsel Jack Smith in connection with (15) investigations into the Jan. 6 insurrection and efforts by Trump to steal the 2020 election, leading to speculation that Giuliani, disbarred and disgraced, might be (16) looking for a plea deal to avoid a long prison term in exchange for information leading to (17) the indictment, arrest, conviction and imprisonment of the aforesaid Donald Trump.

     I knew I’d get there.

                 ***

PS: The Yankees have had four perfect games thrown by their pitchers, more than any other team. I watched on TV as Don Larsen threw his against the Dodgers in the 1956 World Series and 43 years later listened on radio as David Cone achieved perfection. People tend to forget that, not only the pitcher, but the whole team has to be perfect to accomplish this. Have a nice week.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

A Strange U-turn on the Road to Moscow

Monday, June 26th, 2023


By Bob Gaydos

Yevgheni Prigozhin … man without a country?

Yevgheni Prigozhin
… man without a country?

I’m not sure if Yevgeny Prigozhin is the bravest or dumbest man in Russia. Well, I guess Belarus now. However, I have no doubt he has shown the world that Vladimir Putin’s 20-year, vise-like grip on the reins of power in Moscow has slipped.

   Even if that weakening is ever so slight, in Putin’s Kremlin that is cause for concern for him.

    Prigozhin’s dramatic  Saturday dash for Moscow with his Wagner fighting forces electrified and captured the attention of the world only to fizzle out just as TV commentators were getting used to the words Russia and revolution in the same sentence.

      Just as dramatically as it had begun, it was over. What happened? It remains the 64 million ruble question.

      First reports said that Putin’s patsy neighbor, Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus, had brokered a deal giving Prigozhin amnesty in Belarus and Putin dropping treason charges in exchange for Prigozhin calling off his apparent assault on Moscow. The Wagner forces would also not face charges and would be allowed to join the Russian military.

      Prigozhin reportedly said he turned his troops around to “avoid spilling Russian blood.”

       Then what was the point? He had been clear and very vocal about his displeasure with the way Russia’s military leaders have been conducting the war in Ukraine. He had gone even further, accusing Russian troops of attacking his Wagner forces. He was demanding a change in leadership at the top.

      The dramatic (and easy) seizing of Rostov-on-Don, a key military headquarters in Russia and the movement of a force of mercenaries hundreds of miles unhampered towards Moscow certainly seemed like Prigozhin was finally turning his words into action. Reports said the Wagner forces were cheered as they left Rostov-on-Don to head to Moscow.

       Later reports, however, quote Prigozhin saying he never intended to actually try to seize power in Moscow but rather, apparently, just make a show of force to bring about a change in Russia’s military leadership.

     Well, I’m not an expert on Russia, but I have been around long enough to know that Vladimir Putin does not take kindly to other Russians publicly challenging his leadership, never mind sending a well-trained fighting force to do something or other in Moscow. Nor does he usually forget calling someone a traitor.

     Nor am I convinced that Lukashenko could come up with such a deal so quickly as to stop a rebellion literally in its tracks. I see the hand of Putin in that and I also see Prigozhin being a fool if he thinks he is safe in Belarus. If anything, Lukashenko’s regime is worse than Putin’s and Belarus is virtually an annex of Russia.

    If Prigozhin stays there, he’s going to have someone testing his water or vodka before drinking for the rest of his life. Poison is Putin‘s favorite means of getting rid of enemies. This looks like a quick stop for Prigozhin just to go elsewhere. But where would he be safe or welcome?

      Meanwhile:

— Putin went incognito for a few days while the Russian parliament went about passing a law prohibiting private mercenary groups such as Wagner.

— Russian state-controlled media continue to report that treason charges against Prigozhin are still on the books.

— Wagner forces returned to Ukraine, though apparently not sure what their next mission would be or who would be their commander. The uncertain future of the Wagner group, the most brutal Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, was good news for Ukraine.

— Ukrainian forces hoped to take advantage of the chaos in Russia in their counteroffensive against Putin’s troops.

— There was no indication of any changes in leadership of Russia’s military command.

— Russia’s military power was once again shown to the world to be much less than advertised.

— Putin reappeared to insist that his Kremlin team and, indeed, all Russians remained united against any forces who wanted them “to fight each other.” He was also left to wonder if, next time, the revolution won’t make a U-turn on the highway to Moscow.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

Was It An ‘Invitation’ I Couldn’t Refuse?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2023

By Bob Gaydos

The invitation

The invitation

     Sometimes, it’s the mundane, easy to overlook things that give a week it’s meaning.

      For example, I recently bought two medium coffees at a drive-through window for a popular coffee chain. After the male voice inside the screen repeated the order back to us, he said, “That will be 6 oh 3, please drive around.”

      We looked at each other in surprise. $6.03? As I scrambled for three pennies to go with the 10-dollar bill, I thought it seemed like just a short while ago that same order was under $4. More recently, a bit more than $5. My friend, a regular customer of the franchise, agreed.

       Inflation? Supply chain issues with Latin America? I think a bit of profit-taking is the more likely explanation. By the way, the coffee chain in question was not Starbucks.

        Not long after this encounter with corporate America, I had occasion to stop by another local establishment for some suet and birdseed. It’s been a good year for cardinals, blue jays, finches, doves, sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, starlings, woodpeckers, wrens, squirrels and other hungry feeders.  As I approached the front door, a small sign, recently posted, caught my attention: “Lawful concealed carry permitted on these premises.”


Again, I paused. Hmm. Good to know, I thought, should I ever feel threatened wandering around the bird seed and chicken feed. Although I must admit, I am puzzled at the sudden need for this notice in the first place.

     Back home, while routinely scrolling through my daily emails, I was surprised to find a message that was the highlight of the week: An invitation to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. Wow, I thought, that doesn’t happen a lot. In fact, it’s never happened to me.

    Then I read a little further. It seems I was being invited to take a chance on being invited to dinner with a former president of the United States of America. All I had to do was donate some money to be placed on the list from which one “lucky“ winner, and a guest, would be chosen to have dinner with, of course, Donald Trump, at one of his golf courses.

    That’s not all. The invitation also said, “That’s right – I’lI cover your flight, your accommodations, and your terrific dinner.

And we’ll take a picture together so that you can keep a photograph of this incredible memory forever.”

     Donate now!

     How could I refuse this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? This was a chance to rub elbows, shake hands, drink coffee and have a photo taken with a man just convicted by a jury of sexually abusing a woman nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room of a Fifth Avenue Manhattan department store and publicly calling her a liar and saying all sorts of vile things about her when she accused him of rape, a man that jury said owed the woman $5 million for the harm he caused to her reputation.

      A man, coincidentally, also recently indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for campaign finance fraud in a case involving paying hush money to a porn star he cheated with shortly after his third wife, Melania, had given birth to their son, Baron.

       In fact, this was a man also facing possible indictment in Georgia for trying to convince officials to change the results of that state’s vote in the 2020 presidential election, which he lost.

       And, come to think of it, this was a man under investigation for taking hundreds of classified government documents with him when he left office and refusing to return them until the FBI served him with a warrant. Sonofagun if he didn’t even brag about taking those documents on TV the day after the Manhattan jury found him guilty of sexual abuse. Why, he even took that opportunity to insult his victim again.

      Yes, that ex-president. The same one who refused to do anything to stop the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, when the results of the 2020 election were being certified. The one who placed his own vice president’s life in jeopardy with remarks he made on that day, never mind the lives of all members of Congress, police and those working in the Capitol.

     This was the former president who, for good measure, on that same misbegotten TV presentation, would not say who he wanted to win the war between Russia and Ukraine. Coincidentally, while he was president, he said he admired Russian President Vladimir Putin and was impeached (for the second time) for threatening to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless their president came up with some dirt on Joe Biden’s family. Biden, of course, was his opponent in the presidential election in 2020, an election Biden won.

      Well, that very busy ex-president was now offering me the opportunity to have dinner with him. All I had to do was kick in a few bucks for a chance at winning the raffle. I mean, they didn’t say why this supposed billionaire needed the money, although he did say he’s running for president again. So …

      Donate now! Time is running out. I got the same urgent message about three or four days in a row. I guess they wanted to make sure that every loyal American — even registered independent voters — had an opportunity to win this once-in-a-lifetime event.

   I hesitated. I mean, it was quite an opportunity, after all. A chance to maybe speak to a former president of the United States of America. But then I thought, what would I, a mere retired journalist of 40-plus years’ experience, have to say at dinner to this man? Pass the ketchup?

     I decided not to send in a donation and, the cost of coffee being what it is, ordered sushi for dinner. I deleted the email. A new invitation came the next day, but I figured we’d be needing birdseed again soon.

rjgaydos@gmail.com   

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

       

Old? Make That Bold Joe Biden

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023
President Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

President Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

By Bob Gaydos

    About that Joe Biden is too old to run for re-election column I wrote a little while back … I may have been a bit hasty. 

      The “old” man just took the boldest, most dramatic act by an American president since, well, I can’t remember when.

       Biden’s surprise trip to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was at once diplomatically and politically brilliant, as well as brave.

        Shaking hands with the Ukrainian president in the middle of a war zone in an area not controlled by American forces immediately sent two messages:

  1. To Russian President Vladimir Putin: The United States of America is still the protector of freedom and democracy around the world. The leader of the Free World. Do not mess with us.
  2. To Democrats (and Republicans) considering running for president in 2024: Joe Biden is still an astute politician and the leader of the Democratic Party. Don’t mess with him.

         Too old? A special military flight to Poland and then a secret train ride to Kyiv for a “golf” rendezvous, with a courtesy call to the Russians that the American president will be visiting the heart of the country they have so miserably failed at conquering so don’t do anything stupid? That’s a movie script.

        The scenes of Biden shaking hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Biden’s later comments in Poland had to infuriate Putin as much as it heartened Ukrainians and citizens of Poland and other Eastern European countries fearful of Russia’s expansionist tendencies. One year since Russia invaded Ukraine and Biden is in Kyiv, not Putin. The U.S. and NATO stand resolved to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invaders. 

       It also undoubtedly gave pause to any Democrats thinking of challenging Biden in 2024, as he appears to be planning a campaign for reelection. 

    Of course, there is also the fact that there is no obvious, younger, replacement candidate among Democrats. No charismatic leader. Nor is there anyone with the political experience and savvy demonstrated in his first two years by this president who occasionally flubs some words, stutters and walks slowly.

     As for Republican  presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump has already lost to Biden, is under several criminal investigations, any one of which could result in his indictment and, as Nikki Haley not so subtly reminded us of, is in the same age category as Biden. Over 75. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, announced her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by calling for competency tests for any candidate for federal office over the age of 75.

      Gee, wonder who she was talking about. Personally, I think one would have to be out of his or her mind  to run for Congress, although these days that doesn’t seem to matter in Republican primaries. But Haley’s statement represents a blatant ageism, assuming that candidates younger than 75 would automatically pass a  competency test. For what it’s worth and based on what we’ve all seen and heard, I think Biden easily passes and Trump flunks any legitimate one.

     Do I wish Biden were maybe at least 10 years younger? Sure. I’m a year older than Biden. I know the actuarial numbers on life expectancy and the daily risks of life in general for older people.

      But presidents get the best of care and it’s hard to dismiss experience and boldness, especially when combined with results.

      Biden has got inflation down to a manageable level, the unemployment rate is the lowest in decades, a wide-ranging infrastructure bill (promised, but never delivered by Trump) will bring jobs and improve bridges, highways, railways across the country, a new chips act will take much of that business away from China and Medicare recipients will get a break on drug prices. He even tricked Republicans into saying they don’t want to cut Social Security and Medicare in giving his State of the Union speech. Not a bad first couple of years, especially for an “old” man.

    An old man, by the way, dealing with a Republican party pledged to oppose anything and everything Democrats propose. In a party with a growing progressive wing, the moderate Biden has demonstrated he knows how to be president and get some things accomplished in spite of sharp differences of opinion. And, in his trip to Kyiv, he has displayed courage and leadership to go with his ability to connect with the average American.

     So, is he too old? Time and fate may ultimately hold the answer. But Biden showed me something I didn’t know was there. For now, I guess I’m hedging my bet.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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

      

 

The Thing is, Our Kids are Hurting

Friday, July 15th, 2022

By Bob Gaydos

4B3579A5-977A-4D42-8A85-FF3AB80B3A7D

 “America, where I start my day with prayer, meditation and an active-shooter drill.”

    I’m not generally a meme guy on Facebook, but I posted that brief observation the other morning. The thing is, it wasn’t just some unsolicited comment on life in general. It was actually true for that day.

    Being a creature of habit, prayer and meditation have been part of my routine for some time. On this day, instead of offering the news as a follow-up, YouTube presented a video on the “Three things to do if confronted with an active-shooter situation.”

     Talk about a cold splash of reality first thing in the morning. The thing is, the advice was pretty good. The other thing is, I had to admit it was actually stuff to remember the next time I went to the supermarket:

  1. How to hide (behind something solid enough to stop bullets; 2. How to run (not in a straight line and not with the crowd); 3. How to fight (aggressively, like your life depends on it,  because it does.)

    How did we get here?

    Growing up in the early ‘50s in Bayonne, N.J., we didn’t worry about active-shooter drills. We had nuclear war drills. Go down to the gymnasium, gather around the walls, get down on the ground facing the wall all rolled up in a ball on the gym floor. Just in case the Russians decide to drop an atom bomb on us. Other kids in other schools did the same under their desks.

      But we didn’t really think we’d need this lesson anytime soon, like maybe the next day. After all, it had only happened twice and both times someplace else called Japan. We had no real sense of what we were hiding from, nor did anyone at the time realize that what we were “learning” was a waste of time.

      Today’s kids don’t have that gift of naïveté. TV news routinely reports on active shooting incidents in schools and elsewhere in the United States. Social media is full of it. Kids today take notes during active-shooter lessons. They know, like some of the kids in Uvalde, Texas, how to quietly call 911 on their cell phones when they’re hiding in the back of the room trying not to talk too loudly, lest the shooter hear them.

      The thing is, this is not what school is supposed to be about. Come to think of it, there are a lot of things school should be about, but, in much of the country, isn’t.

      School should be about honest history and geography and how the two are related. It should be about learning to read as much as possible and to think for yourself and how to separate fact from fiction. It should be about how to manage your own finances and do simple household repairs. It should be about basic health and nutrition and learning to live in and contribute to a multicultural society.

       Yes, it should be about math and language and science and art and music, too. Cooking even. Not fighting for your life.

       The source of greatest anxiety for me in eighth grade was worrying about stepping on my partner’s toes during Mrs. Spiegel’s class in ballroom dancing. I survived. 

         The thing is, we’re laying a world of trauma on our kids today. I fear it’s going to take a lot more than prayer and meditation to fix that.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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