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Why can’t BLM exorcise their own demons?

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The Oakland Police Department just sent the community a notice: A large Black Lives Matter demonstration is planned for Saturday night. The notice said that OPD supports peaceful protests, but it warned demonstrators that after dark “agitators” might hide themselves among the larger crowd and wreck havoc downtown.

“Might”? Try “definitely will.” And the larger crowd will watch and do nothing, because the truth is, they support the rampage by their hear-no-evil, see-no-evil inaction.

If you talk directly to them, they’ll deny it. “Oh, we don’t agree with the looting and vandalism.” Then I ask them why don’t they stop it? There’s a lot more of them than the agitators. “Oh, we couldn’t do that,” they explain. “Why not?” “Well, that’s not why we’re there. Besides, what are we supposed to do?”

Oh. I get it. The peaceful protestors provide cover for the agitators, and they know it. And they’re against the agitators. But stopping the agitators—which they could easily do—well, that’s just not something they’re prepared to do.

Here are two recent grafittis from my neighborhood. This one is scrawled on a sidewalk:

Black Lives Matter

Kill Cops

Fuck Christians

Fuck White Trash

This one is on a car bumper:

MORE WHITE BODIES MORE ACCOUNTABILITY

This is what the Black Lives Matter movement has gotten in bed with: Psychotic, homicidal madness.

Imagine, if you dare, the inside of the mind (I use the term loosely) of the persons who wrote those awful things. These are murderous, feral human beings, obsessed with fantasies of torturing and killing other human beings whom they hate. This is the Taliban – the Gestapo – Pol Pot’s thugs – Manson’s family – Boko Haram – ISIS – the Zodiac serial killer – driven by furious impulses, unbalanced, insane. Can you imagine what would happen if they ever took over? It would be a Reign of Terror, with heads lopped off, bullets between the eyes, no trials, no juries, just the violent eruptions of angry, sick people. And this is what Black Lives Matter chooses to be associated with.

Give me one reason why 5,000 peaceful BLM protestors in downtown Oakland could not intervene to stop a few dozen crazies as soon as they pull the crowbars out of their pants and start smashing. It can be done – it should be done – but it won’t be, because the peaceful protestors aren’t really serious when they say they deplore the violence. You can’t deplore something and then allow it to continue happening in your midst.

There will be violence this Saturday night in Oakland. There will be more stores looted (never to reopen, because who wants to do business in a city where they’re trashed every few months?). There will be more car windows smashed, more fires set, more rocks and bottles thrown at cops who are too afraid to arrest anyone for fear things will get out of hand and some ambulance-chasing “civil rights” lawyer will come for their scalps and bankrupt them. And large tracts of Oakland will continue on a downward spiral under a weak, ambitious and ineffectual Mayor, Libby Schaaf, whose only hope is to survive her term of office without being recalled and wait for Dianne Feinstein to drop dead or retire so she can run for the Senate. (Fat chance, Libby.)

Look, I know this is an inconvenient truth for dedicated BLM believers to hear. But somebody has to speak truth to power, and it might as well be me. Black Lives Matter is at a crossroads. They’ve already gotten good things done, and launched an important national conversation. But they’re in danger of becoming just the latest cause du jour that fades away, the way Occupy was before they committed suicide for the same reason: a failure to confront and stop the violence in their midst. Violent extremism in the defense of anything is no virtue. Like it or not, America is a moderate country. People want change; they support the principles of Black Lives Matter, and they know the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is horrible and wrong. But they’re not ready for violent revolution. And they don’t want to see their towns destroyed.


We need good newspapers now more than ever

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It didn’t come as a surprise to me that “digital revenue exceeded print for the first time ever” at the New York Times during the second quarter of 2020. During those three months, the Times added 669,000 new online subscribers, compared with only 493,000 new subscribers to the paper’s print edition. (By the way, those are pretty impressive numbers for the newspaper Trump calls “the failing New York Times.”)

For many years—at least since I started blogging, in 2008—pundits have been predicting that print is dead, long live digital. And it may finally be starting to come true. If so, count me among the recalcitrants. I’ve always subscribed to real paper newspapers, and I still do. I’ve taken the San Francisco Chronicle for at least thirty years. I like the experience of going to my doorstep first thing in the morning and (hopefully, but not always) seeing my paper there, usually wrapped in yellow plastic. I like sliding the paper out of its wrapper and looking at the headlines on the front page. It would be easy enough for me to get the digital edition only (and I’d save a few hundred dollars a year), but the experience wouldn’t be the same.

I have to admit to an additional motive for subscribing to print. It is more expensive, but I appreciate that my money is going to support good reporting. I see it as a kind of tax: if I value solid, honest, independent journalism, I have to put my money where my mouth is. Great reporters don’t work for nothing.

(After all this, you might think that I subscribe to the New York Times. In fact, I don’t. I would, but the paper wouldn’t be delivered to my home early enough, California time, for me to read it over my breakfast and coffee, which is my preferred time. I feel a little guilty about that, but my habits are pretty fixed at this point in my life. So the San Francisco Chronicle is my home paper; it’s reliably there by 6 a.m., and I’m an early riser. The Chronicle is not half the paper as the Times. I wish it were. But it does a decent enough job of reporting on local issues.)

This ties into the role of journalism as a whole. Most politicians hate reporters—not personally, but the way the Fourth Estate tends to ask embarrassing questions. Republicans, Democrats, they all resent having to be answerable to pesky, inquisitive newsmen and women. Which is exactly why we need news reporters. Can you imagine the sinister things Trump and the crowd around him would get away with, if there was nobody there to shine a light on the darkness? The danger to journalism, it seems to me, isn’t that print is threatened by digital, but that the field is being taken over by giant news conglomerates that have their own pecuniary interests. I like reporters who dig for the truth and then tell it, regardless of the political or financial interests of management. Good newspapers manage to keep a firewall, not only between the editorial side and the business side of the company, but between the two sides of editorial that often are at odds with each other: the “front page” news reporting and the “op-ed” pages. The Wall Street Journal is, or has been, a good example: their op-ed pages are truly deplorable, with rightwing hacks shoveling up great steaming piles of garbage. Yet at the same time, the Journal’s frontline reporters are (or used to be) free to write up the facts as they find them—facts that are often damaging to the Trump family.

I find it troubling, to say the least, that so many people have tuned out the news in their lives. Too many of them seem to believe that all reporting is bullshit. They think they can live their lives without getting tangled up in the affairs of the country. Such thinking is wrong, stupid and dangerous. You may think you’re not involved in or affected by the political clashes that occur in Washington, D.C., but you are: what the Congress decides, what the President signs, affects every one of us, from the safety of airplanes to the development of new drugs, from a woman’s right to choose to a gay couple’s right to marry and adopt children, from whether we go to war or don’t. The cleanliness of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat is dependent on the Congress giving adequate funding to regulatory agencies. People would be well advised to follow politics more, not less.

And that’s why we need newspapers. Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Were it left to me to decide if we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”


Herman Cain got what he asked for

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I really don’t see why anyone should be surprised or upset about Herman Cain’s death from COVID-19.

After all, he chose to go to trump’s Tulsa rally. Everyone with a conscious brain knew then, and knows now, that it was completely insane for trump to have a crowded indoor, maskless rally at a time when the virus was surging in Oklahoma. Cain was 74 years old and not in the best of health. He chose to go to the rally without a mask, and without respecting social distance. He put paying homage to his boss, trump, ahead of his own life. Bad choice. He has now suffered the ultimate consequence.

R.I.P. Herman Cain, wherever you are.

Where I come from, we know about this thing called Karma. It basically means you get what you deserve. If you make really stupid, horrible choices, then stupid, horrible things will happen to you. This isn’t vengeance on the Universe’s part. It isn’t because God hates you. It’s because that’s how this stuff all works. Herman Cain chose to be an idiot. He must have had loved ones who begged him not to go to Tulsa. He didn’t have to. But Herman Cain went. He got infected. He got real sick. And now he’s dead from COVID-19.

I said all this on social media and, man, did I get slammed. “How could you be so callous?” they said. As if it was horrible for me to speak simple words of truth. But I’ll say it again here. Herman Cain got what he deserved. If someone told you not to go into the lion’s cage because the lion is dangerous and might kill you, and you went anyway and got killed, whose fault is that?

Now, some people are questioning if Cain actually got infected in Tulsa. He might have picked up the virus someplace else, they say. The extraordinarily right wing, toxic commentator, Ben Shapiro, is leading this charge: There is “no evidence” Cain caught COVID-19 in Tulsa.

But rational people know that the evidence that he was infected there is overwhelming. All those people were screaming their adoration of trump, cheering, hooraying, and with every exhalation, they released airborne droplet of spittle that easily carried the virus—droplets that were breathed in by maskless people and went straight into their lungs, in that confined, hot space.

In the immediate aftermath of the rally, coronavirus infections in Oklahoma soared. The Tulsa Health Department, which began reporting an alarming increase of COVID-19 cases weeks before trump’s rally, noted that, in the weeks following the rally, Tulsa County saw “a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the area,” with at least 5,005 additional infections. Can anyone in their right mind possibly doubt that Herman Cain died because he went into that petrie dish of viruses without taking adequate precaution? No, and people like Ben Shapiro now join the ranks of other Republican sociopaths in helping their party kill Americans.

How many deaths will it take for one Republican in national leadership to admit the truth? COVID-19 is destroying America. The trump regime, led by a pathological liar, continues to this day to refuse to do battle with the virus—perhaps because it’s people of color who are dying, not rural, white Republicans (although that’s changing fast). Meanwhile, the president who for six months insisted coronavirus is not a problem now is pretending that he has to cancel the election because coronavirus is a problem—at the very moment when the polls show him losing to Biden, and the Senate about to flip blue. Just more lies, only this time, they’re increasingly desperate, increasingly pathetic, coming from an increasingly deranged and disconnected president.

For the last 3-1/2 years, we’ve wondered when “the tipping point” would come, that fabled event that finally would show reasonable Americans that trump is a catastrophic failure. Well, COVID-19 may be just that. The virus proved that the emperor has no clothes, and is stark-raving mad.


A Tale of Two Men

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Watching the funeral service of John Lewis on T.V., I couldn’t help but think of the contrast between the late Congressman and the current resident of the White House, who refused to attend because of he was pandering, as usual, to his racist base.

Wasn’t it wonderful to see President Bush, President Clinton and President Obama in the assembled congregation? George W. Bush is looking increasingly good as the last Republican President before current one. He was a good man, a decent man, and while I may not have agreed with many of his policies, I think history will treat him well. As for Clinton, well, even behind his face mask, he was the tall, dignified man with the great mane of white hair who inspired many of us and whose legacy, I firmly believe, will be greater and greater as the years pass. I always told my Democratic friends, who worried that Clinton was too much of a triangulator, that his achievement lay in keeping the frail, fragile flame of the candle of liberalism alive during a period of christian-conservative ascendancy. Clinton sheltered the flame in his great, protecting hands, preventing the forces of rightwing theocratic regression from blowing it out. That flame might not have exploded into a great roaring fire under Clinton, but it was not extinguished. That, surely, is a worthy accomplishment. As for President Obama, well, when we gaze upon him we see History, manifested in the person of a man. We see, if you will, the hand of God, laid upon a mortal. And we see something as yet unfinished; Barack Obama has many more roads to trod and bridges to cross.

You can be cynical and say that Bush, Clinton and Obama are just politicians, mouthing political platitudes at the funeral of an admired man. This is not so. I suppose we see what we want to see, but what I saw were three admirable, upstanding and moral men, touched by the death of an admirable, upstanding and moral man, and wanting to share their grief with everybody else.

Of great men it has been said that they grow greater after their deaths. What was irrelevant, what doesn’t matter, falls away and is forgotten, while the man’s achievements build in stature in the public mind. There are few men or women in recent American political history of whom this can be said. John F. Kennedy is one, for sure. He actually didn’t get that much done as President (and historians basically agree that he was a fairly mediocre Senator, having not much interest in the job). But it was the manner of his death, and the way he inspired a generation of young people to dedicate themselves to the American cause, that have made JFK an icon for all time. It’s hard to analyze or explain how such a phenomenon occurs. It seems to happen of itself, without the intervention of other men—seems to be pre-ordained by Nature, or History, or Fate. That is the phenomenon of John Lewis. Already, although he’s been dead less than a week, he has soared in reputation. His legend grows. He takes his place in a pantheon of freedom fighters alongside his heroes, Abraham Lincoln and Dr. King. John Lewis encapsulates the goodness and decency of the American people and of humankind.

The eulogies of Bush, Clinton and Obama made me cry. None of them has anything left to prove, in the sense of ambition. They came to the service because they loved John Lewis and wanted to pay him their respects, and also because they wanted to let the American people know that there is still goodness and mercy in our politics, even in this dark, dangerous time. And, while it may not have been their conscious intention, their coming also reminded us of who was not in that Ebenezer Baptist Church. The person who temporarily holds the office of the President. The person whom History will condemn. The person who can’t hold the shoes of Bush, Clinton or Obama. The person who is a shame, an insult and an embarrassment upon the Oval Office, upon America, upon the Bible, upon all human codes of morality. The person whose name does not belong in the same posting as that of John Lewis. John Lewis was goodness incarnate. That other person is evil.


Why don’t we know who the anarchists really are?

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I sent this memo to the San Francisco Chronicle’s investigative news reporter, Phil Matier, after our mayor here in Oakland, Libby Schaaf, referred to the “agitators” who once again looted and rioted in downtown Oakland on Saturday night:

Mr. Matier,

As an avid and informed consumer of the news (and a 30-years-plus subscriber to the Chron’s print edition), I find it astounding that I know almost nothing about the “agitators” who have been tearing my home town, Oakland, apart for years.

Why do we not know the following:

1. Are these people ever arrested, indicted and brought to justice?
2. How many have actually been charged with crimes?
3. Do they ever get sentenced to prison, as they should be? Or is there a revolving door?
4. If they’re getting off scott free (which seems to be the case), who’s letting them off? DA’s? Judges? The Mayor?
5. Who are the agitators? What are their motives? How do they receive orders, and from whom? Are they even interrogated by the police?

This latter question is particularly timely. We read all sorts of things: that they’re “anarchists” from the Left – from the Right – that they have no known political affiliations – that they belong to Antifa – that there’s no such thing as Antifa – that they’re secretly working to elect Trump – that they’re encouraged by the Russians — and on and on. Conspiracy theories abound. And yet, we know NOTHING about them — and for this, I blame the media, who have failed to do the investigative journalism that’s called for. 

Mr. Matier, what are you waiting for? We, the people, deserve to know these things, which are having such an impact on our history. And yet, nobody is telling us!

To tell you the truth, I don’t expect an answer from Phil Matier. But isn’t my point correct? These anarchists, or agitators, or whatever you want to call them, are one of the biggest domestic news stories in recent memory. They’re tearing apart multiple U.S. cities, and trump is using them to promote his re-election. But do you know any more about them than I do?

We really need answers.

My cousin, Maxine, told me, “You’re a journalist. Why don’t you do the reporting?”

Well, before I was a famous wine critic (smile), I put in my time at the East Bay Express and the Oakland Tribune, back when it was a real newspaper, not the facsimile it is today. I did investigative reporting. The problem is, it’s really hard for someone like me—just an average citizen—to get information these days. Agencies like the police department and the District Attorney’s office are basically shut down, not only because of the pandemic but because of defunding. There’s nobody there who wants to deal with pesky citizens asking pesky questions. I have no contacts, no one who will take a phone call from me and give me information, even anonymously, as Phil Matier does.

This is part of the problem. Newspapers are only a ghost of what they used to be. We used to depend on newspapers to keep our local politicians and businessmen honest. But with media consolidation, many communities no longer even have a local newspaper. Here in the Bay Area, with its millions of people, we have only two: the Bay Area News Group, puts “separate” newspapers out in cities such as Oakland and San Jose, but which is really just one big conglomerate, from whom no one expects serious reporting. Then, we have the San Francisco Chronicle. It occasionally tries to be a real paper; sadly, they’re owned by the Hearst Corporation, with all that implies. So there’s no one left to investigate, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” in the sage words of Mother Jones.

Like cockroaches, wrongdoers do their work in the dark. Jane Mayer’s magnificent 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, does a superb job reporting on how secretive these rightwing forces that support donald trump are, and how they strive to escape public scrutiny by taking advantage of the absence of investigative reporting in America. They don’t want you or me to know anything about them, because if we did, we might become so indignant we’d vote their tools (Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, McConnell, DeSantis, McCarthy) out of office. This makes me wonder if there are interests who do not want us to know who the “agitators” really are. I’m not a very diligent conspiracy theorist, but it really does blow my mind that, after all this time, there’s zero reporting on them (that I know of).

If I dig up anything on the agitators, I’ll publish it here.


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