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Jan 6, 2021: A date that will go down in History!

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What a day! Warnock wins in Georgia, and we’re waiting for Ossoff’s victory to be declared. Trump gives his nasty little speech in less than 2 hours. The 13 Republican senators commit treason live on T.V.; what will Pence do? And the insane “proud boys” are about to try and launch their civil war on the streets of Washington.

You can’t say the times aren’t interesting!

All of these four things will not be fully resolved for hours, but I don’t want to wait that long before posting. But so far, it’s a good day, not just for Democrats, not just for never-Trumpers, but for liberty and freedom, for America!

More later…


Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Ten years dead, but some haters want to restore it

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Ten years ago “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was consigned to the ash heap of history. DADT had been the official policy of the Clinton administration, signed into law in 1993, which Clinton sold as a more humane approach to gay people in the U.S. military. Prior to it, gays had been strictly banned. After it, they could serve—as long as they remained closeted. Clinton simply did not feel he had the support of enough Americans, or enough senior military leaders in the Pentagon, to go beyond DADT.

When Obama ran for president, he promised to end DADT, and he did. A little more than ten years ago (Dec. 15, 2010), with strong White House support, repeal of the discriminatory law passed in the House (250-175) and, three days later, in the Senate (65-31). With that, one of the worst chapters in American civil rights history came to a deserved end. Today, gay men and women serve proudly in all branches of the U.S. armed services.

We gay Americans, especially those of us of a certain age who have witnessed decades of homophobia, were enormously grateful to Obama, to the Democrats (and a few Republicans) in Congress who understood how wrong DADT was, and in particular to those military leaders who supported ending the law—in many cases, over the fierce objections of their Pentagon colleagues. One of my heroes in that effort was Admiral Mike Mullen. He was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the most senior commander in the nation. He steadfastly supported ending DADT and never wavered despite enormous criticism from homophobic conservatives, most of them Christian. The military had long been a hotbed of antigay sentiment. A 1957 study commissioned by the U.S. Navy, The Crittenden Report, declared that “Homosexuality is wrong, it is evil, and it is to be branded as such…[it] is an offense to all decent and law-abiding people, and it is not to be condoned on grounds of ‘mental illness’ any more than other crimes such as theft, homicide or criminal assault.” (So embarrassed was the Pentagon by the Crittenden Report that they kept it secret until 1976.) I well remember being a gay 18-year old in 1964, the year I became eligible for the Draft. I was petrified of being inducted into the Army, not because I hated America, not because I was a pacifist, not even because I was against the Vietnam War (which I wasn’t at the time), but because I feared getting beaten up, arrested or worse, if they found out about me.

Admiral Mullen’s story deserves to be inscribed in the hallowed pages of the struggle for the civil rights of all Americans. He shocked the world when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which was considering DADT, on Feb. 2, 2010. Nobody knew what he was going to say, but everybody knew it would be determinative. Most people expected Mullen would hedge, but instead, he came out swinging:

Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity–theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.

So angry were Senate Republicans at Mullen’s testimony that they refused to publish it in the Senate’s official report on the hearing. Of course, those Republicans, and the extreme homophobes they fostered in their midst—people like Franklin Graham and Mike Pence—never accepted the ending of DADT. They always hated gay people, and they still do, even as Pence is now the sitting vice-president.

There have been at least four moments in the history of gay civil rights that made me enormously proud: one, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom started marrying same-sex couples at San Francisco’s City Hall, secondly when Congress and Obama ended DADT, thirdly when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and most recently, when Mayor Pete Buttigieg ran his campaign for president. Mayor Pete, proudly out of the closet and married to his husband Chasten, was articulate as he called out Franklin Graham and Pence for what they are: bigots and “Christian” hypocrites.

We’ve won a lot of victories, but we can never rest on our laurels. The Grahams, Pences and their ilk are still out there, burrowing like termites into the fabric of America, trying their best to undermine the civil rights of millions and millions of gay Americans. And they’re not just voices in the wilderness: there’s no question that huge numbers of the 70 million people who voted for Trump are homophobes. Several Supreme Court Justices, all of them Catholic or evangelical (including Coney-Barrett), are on record as declaring that gays have no rights in America when it comes to whom they can marry. Their interpretation of the Constitution is bizarre to say the least. But they have power.

So while we celebrate the end of DADT, we must constantly remain on our guard. The haters are all around, secretly plotting, running for school boards, county supervisors, mayors, zoning commissioners, state legislators. They will never go away. They know in their hearts that they’re dead-enders, but that motivates them even more strongly. Their Bible tells them that homosexuality is a sin punishable by death, and they believe it. And if you don’t believe they would impose the death penalty on gay Americans if they ever have 100% power, you’re not paying attention!


My wishes for 2021

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Happy 2021!

We’re all glad to see that wreck of a year, 2020, disappear in the rear-view mirror! We’re also glad to see the orange pig, the catastrophe, the human detritus, the so-called 45th president of the United States, disappear into the trash bin of History, along with his wicked family and followers.

Here are some things I’m looking forward to in the new year.

THE END OF THE PANDEMIC Trump did his best to conceal its seriousness because he wanted to hurt America. As a result of his deliberate incompetence, we’re now looking at the worst economic downturn since the Depression. Still, the pharmaceutical industry has developed multiple vaccines, so we can see light at the end of the tunnel. In typical fashion, the Trump regime has refused to federalize the distribution process, so that far fewer Americans than were expected have been vaccinated so far. But once the Biden administration is in place, we can expect professionals to take over, not the partisan hacks appointed by Trump. Maybe by the summer, we’ll be able to gather again in public places.

PUNISHMENT OF THE TRUMP CRIMINALS Biden still insists he’s not out for retribution. Obama, too. He’s out there plugging his new book and in every interview I’ve seen, he goes out of his way to emphasize that retribution and vengeance are not his preferred way. He understands why Democrats are angry, he says; he knows they want Republicans to pay the price for the truly awful things they’ve done and continue to do. But, he adds, he tries to put his emotions side and ask himself what is best for the country.

Well, that’s fine for Obama to say. I love and respect the guy, but he’s wrong on this. Holding criminals to account isn’t mere “vengeance,” it’s applying justice where justice is warranted. When the Allies held the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, that wasn’t some kind of “emotional” response of vengeance. The world had just witnessed the gravest acts of criminal murder and warmaking in history. To have allowed the culprits to get away with their crimes would have been an insult to every decent instinct, to the notion of law, to world order, to the memory of the murdered. The crimes of the Nazis screamed out for punishment, and punishment is what they got. Granted, the Republicans have not committed genocide. Their crimes are not of that scope. But nobody is asking for them to be hung on the gallows, or to be committed to prison for decades. “Let the punishment fit the crime,” goes the saying. There are a variety of punishments that can fairly be imposed on these Republicans. Fines, shorter prison sentences, public shaming, not being allowed ever again to hold public office…

In fact, that’s what the voters demanded when they elected Biden. Seventy-seven million Americans said loud and clear that they want Republicans to be treated like the wayward brats they are. Democrats went to the polls in the expectation that their anger would be assuaged by Joe Biden. To let Republicans walk away scot-free is unacceptable. The reason that Western Civilization developed a criminal justice system is because humankind understands the need for all people to behave decently, legally and respectfully. Republicans, led by their Fuehrer-in-Chief, continue to commit grave political crimes, including an attempted coup d’état—crimes that pose the greatest threat to America since the Civil War (and, yes, I include the Nazis: our country was never in serious danger from Germany). But America now is in serious danger: from fascism, from dictatorship, from religious tyranny. Unless you’re a total pacifist (and I think most of us aren’t), then you have to admit some things are worth fighting for. And some crimes are worth punishing.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY As the vaccines are given and more people are immunized against the Trump virus, we’ll start re-opening the country. Like everyone else, I’m grief-stricken by what’s happening to our small businesses. It breaks my heart to see the shuttered restaurants and bars in Oakland, many of which will never reopen. I have my own questions about how much of the shutdown was really justified. If large numbers of people are allowed to gather in supermarkets, what’s so bad about letting diners sit ten feet away from each other in outdoor dining establishments? I’ve let my Governor, Gavin Newsom, know that I think he could safely reopen parts of the economy, including the schools. Ultimately, I have to trust the healthcare experts. Unlike Republicans, who don’t believe in science and love to attack expertise, I do trust our doctors, nurses and epidemiological professionals, like Dr. Fauci. So I’m hoping and praying we can reopen the economy as fast as humanly possible.

A GOOD WILDFIRE SEASON Speaking as a Californian, these last several years of record wildfires have been horrifying. So many lives lost, homes destroyed, businesses harmed. We need a break! I hope that 2012 will see the lowest numbers of wildfires in recent history.

A NEW OAKLAND A’S STADIUM AT JACK LONDON SQUARE Poor Oakland has lost the Raiders and the Golden State Warriors, due to the incompetence and uncaring of the Schaaf administration. It’s a dismal record that’s unprecedented for any other U.S. city in losing professional sports franchises. We still have the Oakland A’s—so far. But Schaaf and her friends don’t seem to care if we lose them, too. It would be an unmitigated disaster. Sadly, lots of people in Oakland don’t understand the value of professional sports teams. They believe, wrongly, that the taxpayers support them (they don’t), and that a new A’s stadium would be paid for by the public (if it’s built, it will be entirely with private funds). Lots of folks on the Left in Oakland put pressure on Schaaf to get rid of the A’s, and she has an unfortunate tendency to kowtow to the loudest voices. I give the Oakland A’s ownership great credit for keeping their cool in the face of the absurd hatred they encounter. They’ve identified a lovely spot on the waterfont. I know the area well: I frequently walk there. It’s completely underutilized, a barren expanse of warehouses that contributes nothing to the city. A beautiful new ballpark will revitalize the entire neighborhood and bring much-needed tax dollars to Oakland, and allow my city to enjoy the self-respect of hosting a pro sports team.

Well, those are some of my wishes for 2021! I wish you a happy, healthy New Year!


Trump Jumps the Shark

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Jump the shark: referring to a television series or movie that reaches a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.

Back in 1977, the popular T.V. series, Happy Days, unwittingly added a neologism to the American vernacular when its writers had the character Fonzie (Henry Winkler) jump over a shark while on water skis. Audiences groaned; “the gimmick,” explains Wikipedia, “strayed absurdly outside the original storyline of the sitcom.” Jumping the shark has since come to indicate that a show’s writers, desperate to maintain popularity, “have exhausted their focus, that the show has strayed irretrievably from an older and better formula, or that the series as a whole is declining in quality.”

We all know that the Trump presidency has been a reality T.V. show played out in real time. Trump, who knows a thing or two about television programming from his days as host of the reality show The Apprentice, figured out that what Americans want from a president is, not leadership or inspiration or competence, but entertainment. And he understands the main premise of an entertaining plot: keep raising the stakes. That’s what makes viewers come back for more.

This explains everything about Trump’s political rise, from the birtherism he began to espouse in 2011 to that dramatic ride down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2016 to the thousands and thousands of lies he’s told since then, from the size of his inaugural crowd to the accusations of fraud in the recent campaign. As political theater, it worked brilliantly. It not only appealed to the madness of his fans, it made for must-see T.V. Love Trump or hate him, we all were glued to our radios and televisions and computer screens, driven by the central driving motivation of entertainment: a desire to know what happens next.

As a reality series, then, the Trump presidency has been a huge success. But every successful T.V. series (M.A.S.H., Cheers, Dallas, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Homeland) must end. The question, for its producers and writers, is when to pull the plug. It can be done gracefully, as in the series I just cited; or they can try to deny the inevitable and keep the thing on life support longer than is creatively warranted. They can, in other words, jump the shark.

The Trump T.V. series ended, or should have ended, with the results of the presidential election. Trump lost; Biden won; in a rational, sane world, that would have been that. The writers and producers would have emptied their desk drawers, taken their coffee mugs and gone home, to work on another script for another series. But the star of the Trump T.V. series didn’t want the show to end quite that abruptly. Donald Trump wished it to continue, for many more years. No one connected to him had the guts to tell him that it was over, that the series was as dead as the Milton Berle Show and nothing could resuscitate it. So Donald Trump, who as I said knows a thing or two about programming, decided to write a few more episodes that were so dramatic, so unlikely, so controversial, that—he hoped—viewers would find it impossible to change the channel. Donald Trump, in other words, jumped the shark.

What he scripted this past week was absurd, pointless drama: waiting until the last minute to sign the COVID relief bill, but with the proviso that it be amended to include $2,000 checks to almost every American. He also vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, daring the Congress to give him his first override. As I write, these issues remain very much alive, dominating Washington at a time when the Congress has plenty of other things to worry about.

Why these stunts of Trump are “jumping the shark” is obvious. The Trump T.V. series has been “declining in quality” for some time, and the recent election gave it the coup de grâce. At some point, Trump, the scriptwriter, ran out of steam for new plot devices, and began resorting to the same twists over and over again. His tweeting, so unique and radical at first, became merely predictable. His fulminations about the election—never believable to begin with—became hysterical and neurotic. His anger and resentment, always prominent in his personality, turned ugly and tiresome. Even Republicans grew weary of the series. What Trump should have done was collect his Emmies and retire to Mar-a-Lago. Instead, his narcissism and insecurity forced him to write these last few scripts, which have tarnished his presidency beyond the degree to which it was already tarnished, which was pretty badly.

Technically, the Donald Trump T.V. show will continue for another three weeks. But it’s already Dead Man Walking. Tedious and tendentious, it’s turned into the media equivalent of heroin addiction: users no longer even get high on it, they just need it to continue to exist. The Joe Biden Show begins at noon on January 20, 2021; the Trump show will be shown only as reruns on small local channels. Trump’s final jumping-the-shark episodes will be just another of the horrible, sickening things about 2020 we’ll be glad to be rid of.


Gavin Newsom as Democratic presidential nominee in 2024? Could happen

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There’s a widespread perception that Joe Biden will not run again. He’d be 82 in 2024, if he lives that long. Americans might not be comfortable re-electing a man who could easily die in office. Of course, Biden seems healthy now, and we’re likely, in the next several years, to see images of him on a treadmill, or lifting weights—certainly trotting up the stairs to Air Force One–to reassure the American people of his fitness.

But let’s say he backs down in 2024. That would leave the Democratic field wide open. Kamala Harris, as the sitting vice president, would have the edge for the nomination—in theory. Democrats have been very consistent in nominating vice presidents for president: Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Joe Biden. Kamala would benefit from this tradition.

But things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to. Kamala is not without her weaknesses. The American people have never elected a woman as president. They have elected a Black man as president—Obama—but Kamala, for all her strengths, is no Obama. That doesn’t mean she couldn’t get the nomination, but Republicans will pull out every racist, misogynistic weapon they have, and they have plenty. The polls, going into the 2024 primary season, will instruct Democrats if Kamala has any chance of getting elected. If they indicate she does not, Democratic eyes will wander to other possibilities.

One of those possibilities is sitting Democratic governors. That is a group that has been very successful in winning Democratic nominations for president (whether or not they actually won). Al Smith, FDR, Stevenson, Carter, Clinton all were governors. If the party decides a governor has the best chance to be elected, the obvious choices would be the Democratic governors of the biggest, bluest states in the union: Andrew Cuomo, of New York, and Gavin Newson, of California.

Cuomo has lots going for him. His father Mario, also a New York governor, probably could have had the 1984 nomination had he really wanted it. Andrew, the son, is telegenic and articulate. He acquainted himself to millions of Americans through his daily coronavirus briefings, a form of “earned media” that money can’t buy. According to the YouGov.com online site, “Andrew Cuomo is described by fans as: Competent, Intelligent, Strong, Credible and Stands up for ordinary people.” Their poll found Cuomo to be the 10th most popular Democrat in America, compared to Newsom, the 39th most popular. Clearly, Andrew Cuomo would be a force to be reckoned with in 2024.

Then there’s Newsom. Tall, as photogenic if not more so than Cuomo, the California governor is usually described as a policy wonk—not a bad thing in a country that, in 2024, will be facing enormous challenges (as usual). After the dereliction of Donald Trump, voters might be looking for someone who, they believe, actually reads his briefing papers, trusts scientists and policy experts, and analyzes events, rather than reacting personally to them. Newsom is as ambitious as Cuomo, maybe more so. Newsom has had his share of problems in the past: an affair with a close friend’s wife, a period of excessive drinking that forced him into rehab, and what some perceive as a bungled response to COVID. But Cuomo, too, has had his ups and downs with his own response to the pandemic, and Cuomo, too, has been implicated in a sex scandal.

Newsom’s wonkiness makes him non-warm-and-fuzzy. He’s not the sort of politician a voter might want to have a beer with (as opposed, say, to Barack Obama). There’s something aloof and slightly slick about him: Gavin, with the pomaded hair. He talks a lot—too much, some would say, using 25 words where half that many would do. He’s famous for jargon and buzzwords, which can sometimes leave voters scratching their heads. In a famous interview with Stephen Colbert, the late-night comedian reacted this way to Newsom:

Colbert: How can we take the town square digital? […]

Newsom: The whole idea is this: Right now, we have a broadcast model of governing. You vote and I decide. You understand this intimately. You’ve seen the contours of this change in the media and certainly in the music industry. Big is getting small and small is getting big. Technology has the ability to level the playing field.

Colbert: What the fuck does any of that mean?

At the same time, while California voters know that Newsom is long-winded, they don’t seem to care. It’s part of his shtick. His popularity remains about as high as Cuomo’s, in New York (both in the mid-50s). Voters know he’s struggled with coronavirus, but their thinking seems to be, “Who hasn’t? Maybe he’s been a little inconsistent with closures, but so has every other governor and leader in the world. At least, Gavin’s smart and well-motivated. He’s doing the best he can.”

One factor that will feed into the 2024 primary process, and influence whether Newsom runs at all, is a looming recall of him. Republicans loathe him (predictably). They have launched a petition drive to get a recall on the statewide ballot, perhaps in June. It seems to me likely that the petition drive will be successful: enough signatures will be gathered to put the issue up for election. At this time, I don’t see it succeeding. You have to keep in mind that, if Newsom beats a recall, it will redound to his credit. “They tried to overthrow him, and failed.” When now-Senator Dianne Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco in the mid-1980s, her opponents similarly forced a recall on the ballot. It failed, spectacularly, and Feinstein, more popular than ever, went on to win a Senate seat.

Newsom also has going for him a gorgeous family (which never hurts in campaign commercials). He’ll have a ton of money behind him if he decides to run in the primaries. If he gets the nomination, it will be the culmination of more than 30 years of campaigning and politics—and he’ll still be only 57 years old in 2024. If his opponent is Trump (either as a Republican or an Independent), the outcome is ambiguous: who knows how that will play? If it’s another Republican—Pence, Cruz, Rubio, or one of their ilk—Newsom will pillory him for Trumpism, which, by 2024, is likely to loom as a huge indictment.

2024 is a long way off, but you can’t count Gavin Newsom out. I confess to being a fan. I think he’d make a fine president, especially if Biden has a successful first term (overcoming COVID, restoring the economy, combating global warming, infrastructure funding, foreign policy achievements). Newsom is a smart, politically savvy man. He’s thinking about 2024 and is laying the groundwork even now. His selection of Alex Padilla to replace Harris in the U.S. Senate—against the advice of many of his advisors who wanted him to choose a Black woman—tells me that Newsom is already playing to the stands: he knows that LatinX voters are on the increase in America, and are up for grabs. He’ll have his hands full for the next two years (he’s up for re-election in 2022), with businesses leaving California for Texas, with fracking, with police reform and taxes and the state’s economy creaking under the pandemic and the housing shortage and all the other challenges California faces. Managerial competence will be more valuable than ever—and one thing Newsom is perceived to possess, whether you like him or not, is competence. Cuomo, too, scores high in competence. In that, both governors have something in common with the latest Democrat to get elected president: Joe Biden.


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