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“My father was a racist”


My father was a racist, and so were all his friends. This was back in the Bronx, in the 1950s. We lived in a crowded apartment building on a crowded street in a crowded borough. All of the men were Jews, the children of immigrants from European shtetls. None were professionals. They had “frayed white collar” jobs in sales, accounting, mid-management, or they were small shopkeepers, “petite bourgeois.” They all resented not having been able to bust out of the tenements into the suburbs. Despite their outward air of easy bonhomie, despite the laughing and wisecracking at their gin rummy games, they were deeply resentful of the course their lives had—or had not—taken. They needed some “other” to blame, and they found it in Negroes.

I use that word, which was the official terminology of the time, but it’s not the word my father and his friends used, which also began with the letter “n.” Sometimes, they used the Yiddish word “schvartze,” which literally meant “black,” but had a pejorative edge. I don’t mean to say my father and his friends were obsessed with race, the way so many Republicans are today. It wasn’t uppermost in their minds. But the prejudice was always there.

It wasn’t just the men, it was the women. I remember when an aunt and uncle of mine finally had a little financial success, and moved to an entry-level neighborhood in the suburbs. It was mostly populated by other Jews and by Italians. Trim little ranch-style homes, front gardens, garages for the cars. No crime. One day we were visiting. I was about nine. My aunt was angry about something. I listened. A family of Negroes had moved in down the block, the first blacks in the neighborhood. “The schvartzes are coming,” my aunt complained. “Property values will fall.” I didn’t quite understand what she meant. Shortly thereafter, she convinced her husband, my uncle, the breadwinner, to move again, to a bigger house in a solidly white neighborhood.

My mother was a complicated person. She’d grown up in the South—not the Confederacy south, but the state of Oklahoma, which had been Indian territory during the Civil War, and did not, so far as I knew, have an historical reputation for slavery or racism. I don’t know if my mother, as a little girl, had known any Negroes; I wish I’d asked while she was still alive. But she was a lot more tolerant than most of the other Jewish moms I knew in the Bronx. She was one of the few women in that time and place to have a college education—a teaching degree from the University of Oklahoma. She certainly had broader intellectual interests that most of the housewives on our block, the mothers of my friends, who were simple people who thrived on running their households, and on gossip. Mom was one of only two mothers I knew of, among my scores of friends, who had a job. She taught in a junior high school in Spanish Harlem.

Her students were largely Puerto Rican, and she loved them. I remember how she smiled as she told me stories about them. She wished, she said, that I was as nice to her as her Puerto Ricans. I was proud of my mother, because I knew that the men—my father and his friends—didn’t think much more highly of Puerto Ricans than they did of Negroes. At the same time, my mother let it be known that her black students were not among her favorites. It wasn’t so much anything she said, as what she didn’t say. She never told me how nice her Negro students were, and I thought: If they were nice, she would say so.

I knew hardly any Negroes at all. The Bronx was pretty segregated in the 1950s. There were black neighborhoods, but they were across the tracks, and seldom did the twain meet. In my public elementary school we had a few black kids. I don’t remember any animosity toward them from anyone, but I don’t recall any warmth either. We had a young black couple, Norris and Christine, who lived in our building, in a dark apartment tucked away in the back of the building’s dank, creepy basement, where the storage rooms and boiler room were located. Norris was the building handyman, while Christine cleaned apartments. We kids all liked Norris and Christine. Norris drank a lot and told me that he consumed three glasses of bacon fat each day to protect his stomach from all the booze. Christine was pretty and kind. But looking back, I think Christine also was angry. It wasn’t anything she did or said, just a feeling on my part.

I think my father and his friends were not so different from many other Jews of that era. It’s odd to think that so many of their relatives in Europe had just come through the Holocaust. The memory of the camps and the deaths was very heavy in the air around New York City Jews in the immediate post-War years. This is one reason why my generation of Jews, the Baby Boomers, so often became early adherents of the Civil Rights Movement. But our parents did not. They should have understood all there was to understand about bigotry. But instead, they complained about schvartzes. My mother remained a solid Democrat all her life and was still volunteering at her county Democratic headquarters when, at the age of 90, she died. But I wonder if my father, had he lived to this day, might have been a Trumper.

The Congressional District Hall of Shame


According to FiveThirtyEight, “there are 17 congressional districts where at least 70 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white, at least 30 percent identified as evangelical Christian in 2010, and voters sided with Trump in the competitive portion of the 2016 GOP nomination contest.”

Here are those 17 congressional districts:

Share of population is …Trump electoral margin in …
DistrictCurrent PartyNon-Hispanic whiteEvangelical Christian2016 primary2020 general

These districts are clearly the strongest Trump bastions in the country. One of the most interesting is #5 on the list, Georgia’s 14th district. That’s represented by the infamous Marjorie Taylor Greene, the self-styled “Trump candidate,” anti-semite, gay basher, Islamophobe and gun freak, who put up a transphobic sign outside her office.

For me, the essential fact about these people—besides that they’re white and mostly live in the old Confederacy—is the high degree of evangelical so-called “Christians” among them. (I put it in quote marks because I don’t think there’s anything remotely Christian about them.) What is it that makes these evangelicals so ignorant, prejudiced, angry and anti-American?

To answer that question, you have only to consider a few essential points. First, they’re taught—by their ministers—to believe in the authority of nothing but the bible. Not science. Not objective fact. Not history. Not even common sense. Only the bible, according to these hucksters such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Junior, Pat Robertson and James Dobson. Only the bible contains the “word of God.” Anything contrary to the bible must, therefore, be—not the word of God, but the lies of Satan.

Now, you and I, dear reader, would never fall for this psychopathic delusion. We actually utilize our God-given brains to interpret and analyze the world. But evangelicals don’t use their brains the way we do. We use our frontal lobe—the seat of cognitive skills, such as reason and analysis. The evangelicals, by contrast, use the reptilian, or primal, brain. This is usually referred to as the seat of the Four F’s: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing and Fucking. It’s true that evangelicals also sometimes depend on their frontal lobes to do things that require a minimum of human intelligence, such as driving a car or working a personal computer. But most of the time, evangelicals sublimate the functions of the frontal lobe to the fears and hatreds that infest the reptilian brain—fears and hatreds summoned by their preachers, and stoked by Trump.

What this means is that in America, those of us who want to live in a country governed by reason and fact are not alone. We have to share our borders with delusional people. If they were simply delusional the way your Great Aunt Margaret is delusional—having a conversation with her husband Alfred who’s been dead for thirty years—we wouldn’t really have to worry, we’d just have to make sure that Aunt Margaret didn’t hurt herself or anyone else. But these evangelicals are not simply delusional in that way. These people hate. They hate with a passion. They hate the people their preachers, and Trump, tell them to hate: queers, Mexican “rapists,” Islamic “terrorists,” Blacks, “woke” liberals, Jews, journalists, college graduates. And they act on their hatred: their bible commands them to wipe out their enemies, the way Abraham wiped out the Elamites: brutally and thoroughly. Because murder, you see, isn’t really a “sin” if it’s focused against the enemies of God.

You can see that when you’re dealing with people who believe that God has given them the right to destroy whole groups of other people, what you have on your hands are madmen. In a just world, such people would be locked up in mental institutions and treated compassionately by trained professionals. Sadly, we don’t live in such a world. We can’t lock evangelicals up, because they have a right to their point of view under our Constitution. At the same time, they can’t be reasoned with, for all the reasons I stated above. “Reason” doesn’t work with them, any more than “reason” works with actual reptiles. How do you convince, say, a Komodo Dragon to be a nice, well-behaved model citizen? You can’t. A Komodo Dragon will do what Komodo Dragons do, and an evangelical will do what evangelicals do.

Being the reasonable, well-adjusted person I am, I want to be able to live side-by-side with these evangelicals without either of us causing harm to the other. This can be done, theoretically, in two ways: we can have elections in which everybody agrees to abide by the outcome. But you know how that turned out in the 2020 election. The evangelicals decided not to abide by the outcome, and the result was Jan. 6. The only other way I can think of to get along with evangelicals is to hope that at least a few of the more influential among them will see what a dangerous, ugly force they’ve unleashed in America. Surely there have to be some out there who took a good look at Trump, his nasty family and the louts who made their insurrection on Jan 6, and concluded that maybe, just maybe, they made a really bad decision. Because they really did.

New wine reviews: Six En Garde reds

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I’ve been reviewing Csaba Szakal’s En Garde wines for many years. For some reason, he continues to be interested in my impressions, even though I’ve been retired for nearly five years. So he has sent me six of his new releases, two Pinots from 2018 and four Bordeaux-style red wines from the 2017 vintage.

Hungarian-born Csaba comes from four generations of winemakers. He emigrated to the U.S. to be a computer engineer, but on meeting his future wife, Sandy, and her winemaker friends in Sonoma County, Csaba changed course and launched En Garde in 2007. That year saw his first vintage, a Reserve Cabernet I rated at 95 points. Csaba’s specialty has been Cabernet Sauvignon and related blends, usually based on grapes from the Von Strasser-owned Sori Bricco Vineyard on Diamond Mountain. The wines have consistently been of high quality. The Pinot Noirs, by contrast, seem like an afterthought.

2018 Pleasant Hill Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $60. The vintage was celebrated as one of Sonoma County’s best in years. The grapes for the Pleasant Hill, always a big wine, hail from the Sebastopol area, one of the cooler parts of the valley. As it always does, it shows exuberant flavors of raspberries, pomegranates and black cherries—what I think of as the fruit-forward flashiness of Dijon clones—with an earthy, tea-like herbaceousness. The color is translucent, suggesting the delicacy of Pinot Noir. The mouthfeel is rich and elegant, the finish thoroughly dry. And such nice acidity. There’s a lot of oak, too—according to the technical notes, 33% new French barrels—and I have to say while all that oak is pretty aggressive, the end result is a fine Pinot Noir that’s good for drinking now and will age for a while. Production was a miniscule 155 cases. Score: 90.

2018 Passion de la Reine Reserve Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $70. First impression: This is a much bigger Pinot Noir than the Pleasant Hill. It’s higher in alcohol, and oakier. Unfortunately, that is not to the wine’s benefit. It’s too big, too hot, and all that oak rides uneasily over the raspberries and pomegranates. The wine lacks delicacy and elegance, which are what you want in a fine Pinot Noir. Three days later, I tried it again. The bottle had been one-third full, the cork shoved in, standing on the sideboard. Now, it’s like a sweet Amador Zinfandel, almost like cognac. Score: 85.

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder); $100. This is the poster child for the modern style of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. It’s a rich, unctuous wine, superbly ripe, with the most succulent tannins. As a mountain wine, its flavors are intensely concentrated: blackberries, cassis liqueur, blueberries and molten, unsweetened dark chocolate, while new French oak brings the usual suspects of wood spice and smoke. The official alcohol is 14.5%, but to me, it’s stronger than that, as evidenced by the heat of the finish. With a little Cabernet Franc blended in, there’s a bit of an herbal note, like sweet green pea. It surprised me, when I poured it, by throwing some sediment. I’m not sure what that means in such a young wine. At any rate, it’s not all that different from a hundred other Napa Cabs, and I’m not seeing much Mount Veeder (which to me suggests something firmer and drier, as Veeder is a cold mountain by Napa standards). But it sure is delicious. Very good to drink now and over the years. Score: 92.

2017 Grand Vin, Sori Bricco Vineyard (Diamond Mountain); $100. What a gorgeous wine. It dazzles with intricate beauty, but far from being merely surface artifice, has deeper fascinations. The vineyard, originally planted in 1968, is at an elevation of 2,100 feet, placing it above the fog line on most days; Sori Bricco means “sunny hillside.” En Garde doesn’t own it, but has access to a few choice acres. The cépage on the 2017 is 80% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, making it one of the few Bordeaux blends in the valley without Cabernet Sauvignon. Nonetheless the wine has the structure of a fine Bordeaux (although it’s not particularly Right Bank). The tannins, as befits a Napa mountain wine, are powerful, while succulent acidity adds to the architecture. Flavor-wise, the spectrum is complex: blackberries, violets, cocoa, plums, leather, smoke. This is power, pure and simple, but it’s also grace: a paradox of opposites that marks great wine. Csaba has done a fine job assembling it, especially considering he also was putting together his 2017 Touché Reserve and Bijou du Roi. I would drink this wine now, with careful aerating, but it should hold in a good cellar for a decade. Score: 93.

2017 Le Bijou du Roi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sori Bricco Vineyard (Diamond Mountain); $120. Rich, powerful, concentrated, flashy, pedigreed—these are just some of the adjectives I could roll out to describe En Garde’s ’17 Bijou. It’s one of the winery’s most consistent bottlings, varying little from vintage to vintage, always showing the class and finesse of the Sori Bricco Vineyard. As in the past, it brims with ripe blackberries and cassis, spices and the vanilla and toast of 80% new oak barrels, in which it was aged for an astonishing 28 months. Alluring now, it defines the pleasures of mountain Cabernet, offering wave after wave of complexity. There’s a tingly spine of acidity and minerality that reminds me of iodine, or the peat of a fine Scotch. The blend includes a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, which may account for the taste of cherries. Oh, and the texture: silk, velvet, satin. To drink now, or to age? If you have only one bottle, play it down the middle: six years in the cellar. If you have a case, drink a bottle a year from now until 2033. Expensive, yes, but compared to some of the competition in Napa Valley, not really. Score: 94.

2017 Touché Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $180. This is the winery’s big dog, the heavy hitter, its most expensive release—which indicates Csaba’s feeling that this is the greatest wine he can make. It is a very fine Cabernet. Two things strike me: the tannins, which to my palate are stronger than any of the other new releases, and the complex range of flavors. This latter most likely is because the grapes come not only from Diamond Mountain, but also Mount Veeder and Rutherford. I won’t venture to speculate what each of the three appellations contributes. Suffice it to say that the wine isn’t as blackberry-driven as Bijou or the regular 2017. There’s more of a tart, red cherry note, and a pleasant tobacco taste, as well as a more generous or expansive quality that is at once lush and tight. At any rate, the 2017 Touché is a profound wine. At 3-1/2 years, it is, as I said, quite tannic, and rather raw, but very ripe, in keeping with this warm vintage. It’s not unpleasant to drink now—in fact, with aerating, it’s exciting–but undisciplined, precocious. I would cellar it for at least six years. It might still be in development in ten years, or fifteen, or twenty—who knows? Only 50 cases were produced, and compared with the prices of most of the more famous Napa Cabernets, $180 is—dare I say it?—a bargain. Score: 96 points.

Discussion: I have said in past vintages that it’s not clear to me why Csaba makes such a wide range of red Bordeaux-style wines—in this vintage, four—and why he bothers with Pinot Noir. That seems to dilute the meaning or message of En Garde. The Bordeaux First Growths, for example, typically produce only a grand vin and a second wine, with a very strict protocol separating the two. Perhaps a more a propos example is that of the red wines of the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. They number six, grown in a near-contiguous vineyard of only 178.37 acres—about the size of Chateau Latour’s vineyard, in Pauillac. But no one disputes the rationale for producing six red wines from the DRC. They really are different: on the three or four occasions I’ve sampled them, the distinctions are profound and clear, although the different climats are separated by (as they say) donkey paths.

The distinctions between En Garde’s Cabernets are not profound; they are subtle. Indeed, I’ve made this argument concerning most Cabernets and blends from Napa Valley: more alike than not. They is perhaps to be expected, for two reasons: Cabernet and its related varietals are far less susceptible to minute influences in soil and other aspects of terroir than is Pinot Noir; and the warm-to-hot weather of Napa Valley shoves the wines toward ripeness and high sugar levels that blur terroir distinctions. This is why I have long concluded that much of the decision-making in Napa Valley concerning differing bottlings is based on marketing, not terroir.

Be that as it may, producing four Cabernets/Bordeaux reds each vintage is Csaba’s decision, and his only, to make. We must accept the wines as they are—and they are certainly as good as, or nearly, as almost anything else produced in Napa Valley. They are distinguished. They are detailed and complex. They are delicious. Were I a “normal” buyer, instead of a writer who is sent these wines to review, I would save myself a few bucks and buy, say, the 2017 regular Cab instead of the Touché.

As for the Pinot Noirs, that great red grape and wine is not En Garde’s specialty. Perhaps it’s asking too much for a Cabernet master like Csaba to also excel at Pinot Noir. Were I in charge, I might eliminate Pinot Noir from En Garde’s lineup and reduce the number of Cabernets to two, or possibly three in a great vintage.

Will the FBI investigate domestic terrorism?


I was watching today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on domestic security, in which FBI director Robert Wray was grilled by both Democrats and Republicans. My takeaway, which I find interesting but also disturbing, is that neither the FBI nor its sister intelligence agencies has any “list” of domestic terror organizations, such as the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers, the way they do maintain lists of foreign terror organizations, like Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Wray was asked by Senators from both parties about this discrepancy, but he couldn’t really answer it, nor would he even say if he thought it would be a good idea to formally identify domestic terror groups. I found that surprising, given statements made in the past by top American security officials, including Republicans, that identify white nationalists as the nation’s biggest threat.

Dianne Feinstein certainly drove this point home in her questions to Wray, but the most surprising Senator, for me, was none other than Lindsay Graham, Donald Trump’s favorite Senator. At the conclusion of his questioning, Graham told Wray, concerning a formal list of domestic terror groups, “It may be time for us to think about making one.” Of course, Graham included Antifa along with the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers, but I’m okay with that, if by Antifa he meant the thugs that have been tearing apart major American cities, in the name of racial equality.

Obviously, this whole issue of domestic terror, and what the government should do about it, is an emerging one. The U.S. government seldom acts quickly, even in matters of national security. (Events like Sept. 11 are the rare exception.) The Senate, in particular, was designed by the Founders to move slowly, as a kind of cooling-off chamber from the heat of the House of Representatives. But I do sense an emerging national consensus, even among Republicans, that our security agencies need to do a better job identifying these domestic terror groups, of infiltrating them, of electronically eavesdropping on them, of learning of their nefarious plans for future insurrection, of stopping them, and of bringing harsh indictments against the more criminal of their cohort who are planning to break the law.

There is a danger, which Democrat Senator Whitehouse pointed out: The FBI has a place where “things go to die.” He meant, of course, that despite calls for the FBI to jack up its investigation of domestic terrorism, it’s quite possible that the proposal will end up in some in-box on some bureaucrat’s desk, never to be acted upon. Meanwhile, the Proud Boys, the Oathkeepers and other rightwing madmen are acting upon their mad desires even as I write these words. Senate Democrats are going to have to keep pressing, and President Biden needs to show some guts in spearheading these investigations, even though it may piss of the more radical elements within the Democratic Party.

American Rescue Plan passes House, by a hair


I watched the debate last night in the House of Representatives on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, AKA the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

Republicans, predictably, resisted it to the bitter end; not a single one of the Insurrectionists voted for it. They couldn’t criticize it for content, because they can’t: America needs that infusion of money to recover from the pandemic. Instead, Republicans resorted to their usual insults and smears. A Texas rightwinger called ARP “The Democrats’ Blue State Bailout Bill,” as though red states don’t need help.

Another rightwinger called the bill “Democrat pet projects.” Not DemocratIC, Democrat. No Republican has called the party by its proper name—the Democratic Party—for years. What is wrong with them? It’s so immature, like snot-nosed bullies in the schoolyard playground. Maybe I’ll start calling the opposition the Republic Party.

Abortion? Another rightwinger, this time from New Jersey, went into a rant about tearing babies apart. Whatever your views on a woman’s right to choose, we’re talking about relief from the ravages of the pandemic, not abortion. Let us not forget—History won’t—that this pandemic got as bad as it did because Trump ignored it, downplayed it, lied about it, and played golf as it mowed down Americans by the hundreds of thousands.

The Oklahoma far right neo-fascist, Tom Cole, again referred to the Democrat “wish list” and “misguided bloated spending.” He also complained about Republicans being shut out of the debate. What a joke. For the last four years, when Republicans controlled the Senate and the White House, they gave the middle finger to Democrats and involved them in nothing. Now that they’ve lost control of both, they’ve discovered the need for bipartisanship!

“The majority insists it’s their way or the highway,” Cole whined. Tell that to Merrick Garland.

“It’s Christmas again,” another rightwinger, Steve Womack, complained. “These liberal promises” is how he described the bill—as if all Americans don’t stand to benefit. Republicans never understand that the wealth of America should be for one purpose: to benefit the American people. With so much economic pain, the people need money in their pockets. Our cities and states need the money to provide services. Our healthcare providers need the money to give us the vaccine. But Republicans have never worked for the people, despite their lies that they’re the party of the working class. No, they’re not. They’re the party of billionaires, tax-dodging CEOs and evangelicals.

Guthrie of Kentucky, another rightwing Trump tool, referred—as an example of pork—to “the Silicon Valley subway.” What is this “Silicon Valley subway”? A clever phrase. In reality, the “subway” is a continuation of BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit district, which provides public transit to the Bay Area. The ARP includes money to put this extension beneath the city of San Jose. Now, BART has been a blessing for decades, the same way other subway systems have been in New York, Boston, Chicago, D.C. and many other American cities. A portion of the Bay Area in Silicon Valley is the last stretch that hasn’t yet been linked by BART. Republicans, who don’t like Silicon Valley anyway because they think that they’re all liberals (or maybe it’s because people in Silicon Valley—unlike Republicans—are educated) are against this funding, and the only way they have of attacking it is to call it “the Silicon Valley subway,” the kind of phrase carefully researched to make people mad. A subway for billionaires! Who wouldn’t hate that?

Of course, all the Republicans in the House voted against the American Rescue Plan. They just can’t stand spending money on ordinary people—even when those ordinary people are their own constituents. It will be a matter for historians to understand why so many Americans voted against their own interests. How many people in rural red districts are working at McDonald’s or WalMart who could benefit enormously from an increase in the minimum wage? But how many of them have been persuaded by Republicans that raising the minimum wage is “socialist” or “anti-Christian”? That’s how insane these rightwing politics have become.

Voting on the American Rescue Plan went on into late last night, even as “The Crazy Convention,” as CNN accurately called the neo-nazi CPAC meeting this weekend in Florida, began, allowing Trump to again incite insurrection. The House vote was close until past the zero minute. It’s not clear to me why so many Democrats waited so long to cast their deciding votes. With no time remaining, Republicans were still beating the Act by 8 votes. But Democrats, in a near-empty Chamber depending on proxy voting, eventually edged out. When Rep. Maxine Waters, the L.A. Democrat, rose to speak about the American Rescue Plan, she said, “Republicans, you ought to be a part of this, but if you’re not, we’re doing it without you.” She spoke for me. In the end, with Speaker Nancy showing up in Kelly green to gavel it in, the House at 12:21 a.m. passed HR 1319, on a 219-212 vote. The American Rescue Plan of 2021 now goes to the Senate. Stay tuned!

Oakland is all abloom: A photo essay


Politics, schmolitics. Time for some pretty pictures.

The weather has been warm and dry for months. Even though we’re technically deep into winter, we’re having False Spring, and everything that blossoms is partying like it’s May. Here are a few of our growing things I saw on my walk through Oakland yesterday. Maybe some of my horticulturally-minded friends can identify the flowers whose names I don’t know.


These climbers are everywhere, even in the deep inner city, bringing a touch of jazzy color and class.

Passion Flower

I’ve loved these exotic flowers since I moved to California in 1978 and planted a stalk in the backyard. By the next year, it had exploded all along the fence.

California Poppy

These are so pretty and gay. I love how they’re growing through the railing.

Flowering bush

I don’t know what these are, but they lit up the street.


Rosemary grows everywhere, all year long, but I don’t often see it this flowery!


We have a couple of non-flowering magnolia trees in front of my building, but this beauty a few blocks away is just bursting with color and scent.


Is there any flower more springtimey than yellow daffodils?

Little orange beauties

I don’t know what they are but they turned me on. They’re growing wild in a construction site owned by Kaiser Permanente.

Little flowers

These cute little fuchsia-colored babies are another variety whose name I don’t know.


Is there any flower more beautiful than a red rose?

Bird of Paradise

This guy was getting a little long in the tooth. But he’s still gorgeous.

Mustard flower

Wine country isn’t the only place where this quintessential Spring flower blossoms. It’s common all over Oakland.

Meyer Lemon Tree

The lemon flowers are gone, but these fresh, sweet fruits are at their best now.

Tiny pink-violet flowers

Another breed I don’t know. Such pretty ground cover!

Red flowering bush

This was in someone’s front yard. It looks like it could use some garden care, but it sure is eye-catching!


They’re pretty drought-resistant, so even in this dry winter, they’re growing all over town.

Flowering tree

I don’t know what it is. The color was magical. From every angle, there were different hues, as the light shifted from sun to shadow.

The San Francisco Chronicle told me


It’s so obvious what Republicans are doing concerning Jan. 6: they’re blaming anyone and anything they can find, except for the one person who actually caused and incited the Insurrection: Donald Trump.

Never mind that everyone in his right mind knows that this was entirely Trump’s doing. The violence, destruction and death were desired by him. But Republicans are in the cognitively-dissonant place where admitting reality would make their little heads explode. So whose fault was Jan. 6? The Capitol Police’s! Or their leadership’s. Or Pelosi’s. Or the FBI’s. And besides, all those warriors attempting to overthrow the government? They weren’t even Trump supporters! They were Antifa, cleverly disguised as Trump supporters in their MAGA hats and carrying their Confederate flags. How do we know this? Because some thug said so on the Internet.

The first news I get every morning is from the San Francisco Chronicle. The paper edition, if you please. I could get more up-to-date news by switching on the T.V. but I grew up reading newspapers at the breakfast table and I love it. This morning’s Chron tells me that Republicans in Congress are “pushing back” on Pelosi’s plan to establish a 9/11-type commission to study the causes of Jan. 6. It looks like the sticking point is the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who will serve on the commission. Pelosi’s plan would have 7 Democrats on the 11-person body; Republicans want an even split. Before you say, “That sounds reasonable,” consider two things: first, most Republicans continue to claim the election was rigged and that Trump actually won, so why would you want delusional idiots on a high-level commission? Second, these are the same Republicans who played the hardest of hardball during Trump’s four years. Remember Merrick Garland? That stain on the Republican Party should have made it toxic forever; certainly, it was an example of McConnell’s realpolitik philosophy that “Elections have consequences. We won, and we’re going to do it our way.” So, set in this context, why the hell shouldn’t Democrats have more commission members? We won last November, and we can do it our way.

Today’s Chron also has an interesting little story, courtesy of the New York Times, on how Biden is changing language and images in U.S. government publications and websites to more accurately and fairly represent the diversity of America—a diversity the white supremacist “christian” Trump regime tried to bury. A website for the Bureau of Land Management now portrays a river instead of a Trumpian wall of coal. The Interior Department now capitalizes the “T” in “Tribal.” Visitors to the White House website are asked which pronouns they prefer: she/her, he/him or they/them. “It’s all part of a concerted effort…to rebrand the government after four years of President Donald Trump.” As an American, I feel good about that. Trump and his deplorables tried their hardest to steal America away. President Biden is giving us our country back. Words and images do matter.

Then there’s the Chron’s front-page article on the stimulus package that Republicans are resisting because they never like spending a whole bunch of money unless it’s in the form of tax breaks for billionaires and corporations. California stands to benefit enormously from Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. Mainly this would be in the form of money for transit systems, in a state that depends on transit for its very existence. From what I can tell, even Republicans in rural states like Wyoming want their share of the money, but they can’t admit it publicly, because they’re supposed to be fiscal conservatives. So they rant against the stimulus, but privately they’re thankful that the Democrats might use reconciliation to pass it over GOP objections. Isn’t it sad when these Republicans can’t even be honest about their constituents’ own interests? They’re so conflicted over what’s happened with Trump, they’ve turned into human pretzels.

Finally, on the op-ed pages, readers are celebrating the San Francisco School Board’s embarrassing decision to reverse its hated policy of renaming public schools. When the public learned that this secretive, largely unaccountable bureaucracy was planning on nixing names such as Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington and [even!] Feinstein because they—the board members—thought those individuals were racists, the public arose in fury. It’s rare for San Franciscans to be united about anything, but in this case, they saw the school board for what it was: a bunch of cancel-culture ideologues who can’t figure out how to reopen the schools, but can waste time with such trivial pursuits. There’s now a major recall effort against some of the board members, and the board also is being sued by the city for not reopening. So, as I said, the board has halted the renaming process—temporarily, they say—to focus “exclusively” on reopening.

Well, the school board saw the handwriting on the wall, and caved. At the very least, that makes them morally superior to national Republicans, who did not see the handwriting on the wall from the last election (including Georgia) and are not caving on anything. They continue to be sycophants to the spider brooding in its hole at Mar-a-Lago. We’ll learn more this weekend when the spider emerges to talk to a conservative audience of idiots, insurrectionists, religious nutbags and racists. But I think we already know what the spider will say: the same old lies.

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