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A Democratic Presidential candidate speaking on civil rights for Black Americans:

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“Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship…The Federal government has a clear duty to see that the Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws are not denied or abridged anywhere in the Union. That duty is shared by all three branches of the Government, but it can be filled only if the Congress enacts modern, comprehensive civil rights laws, adequate to the needs of the day, and demonstrating our continuing faith in the free way of life.”

What sorts of “civil rights laws” did this man envision? In the words of an historian, he “called for a federal law against the crime of lynching…effective statutory protection of the right to vote everywhere in the country, a law against the poll taxes…the establishment of a Commission with authority to stop discrimination by employers…an end to discrimination in interstate travel by rail, bus and airplane…”. And beyond the details of civil rights, because he believed that without additional freedoms America would never realize its full potential, he called for “a national health insurance program, a massive housing program, increased support for education…the conservation of natural resources, and a raise in the minimum wage…”.

Most of these things never came to pass, when the man became President. Why not? “Southern congressmen lashed out” against it. A Texas Senator called the proposals “a lynching of the Constitution.” A South Carolina Senator said he and his wife would never sit next to “a Nigra.” And those two were Democrats.

Who was this Democratic Presidential candidate? Harry S. Truman, who was running for election in his own right in 1948, after having inherited the presidency upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt three years previously. And who was it that denied Truman his victories in the Congress, when Truman was famously elected, against the predictions of all the pundits, in his race against Thomas Dewey? Southern Democrats—“Dixiecrats”—who, not much later, changed parties and became the “Solid South,” the Republican red wall the South largely remains today…the same South that has consistently opposed civil rights, and all the other progressive achievements Truman fought for…the same South that voted for Donald J. Trump.

Some things never change. Truman’s issues are our issues today; the same bloc, or mentality that opposes them, is the stumbling block today to progress. Republicans, or, to put it more accurately, that conservative, reactionary mindset that has always opposed progress in any form, continue on their path of obstructionism, delay, obfuscation, appeals to hatred, and preachings of authoritarianism, resentment and white supremacy—even though the number of Americans who subscribe to that belief system continues to shrink. And that is why Republicans must prevent universal voting, at all costs, no matter what it takes—even if it means shutting down the Post Office. If everybody voted, as Trump himself said, no Republican would ever again be elected to national office in the U.S.A.

We look at Harry Truman’s words, from more than 70 years ago, and shake our heads in wonderment. Civil rights…universal healthcare…housing for all…conservation of the environment…a fair minimum wage…the right to vote…better public education…why are we still having to fight for these things, when by every yardstick of common sense and decency they’re the right things to do?

Because we still have Republicans in power. But we can change that, starting with the November elections. We can make Harry Truman’s dreams…and John F. Kennedy’s, and Lyndon Johnson’s, and Jimmy Carter’s, and Bill Clinton’s, and Barack Obama’s dreams come true. Will that usher in a new Valhalla of Justice, Peace, Prosperity and Fairness for all Americans? No. Nothing ever will. But it will get us closer to it.


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.


Extremism in the defense of BLM is no virtue

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There is something epically stupid about the extremes of the BLM movement in America.

I italicize the word extremes with deliberateness, to make a point. Let me be clear: The movement itself is blessed and welcome. I hope, as I’m sure you do, it marks a pivot point in American history, when we finally overcome the horrid legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Yet the movement has unnecessary extremes that compromise its integrity and thus need to be called out. As an example, here’s a poster that’s popular in Oakland; you see it on lampposts and walls:

NO SUCH THING AS GOOD COPS

NO SUCH THING AS BAD RIOTERS

This is what I mean by “extremes.” Let’s break it down.

No such thing as good cops? How about the Oakland Police Department officers who volunteer for the Police Activities League, which runs track & field, basketball and many other recreational programs for young people? How about the cops who were called in response to a three-year old boy who was choking and turning blue? One cop performed CPR while the other cleared his airway. The kid thankfully recovered.

How about the cops who crawled into the smoking ruins of the 980 freeway after it collapsed in the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and rescued drivers trapped in cars, at great peril to their own lives as the remains of the freeway threatened to collapse? How about the cops who put their lives in imminent danger to rescue people stuck in the Camp Fire? How about the cops who donated their own money to buy equipment for a LatinX gardener whose truck was stolen with thousands of dollars of his tools? How about the Oakland cops who provide “Elf” stocking stuffers for poor kids every Christmas? I could obviously cite many, many more instances of police performing acts of kindness, compassion and, yes, heroism. These are good cops.

No such thing as bad rioters? How about the ones who looted and trashed the local CVS, 7-Eleven, Target, Walgreens, and many other stores in Oakland—stores where poor people work and shop? How about the rioters who smash bus stop windows, so the (mainly low-income and often elderly) folks who have to sit there waiting for the bus have no protection from the wind and rain? How about the rioters who wreck public park benches just for the hell of it? What does that prove? Whose civil rights are protected by wrecking a park bench? How about the rioters who assassinated a Black private security officer last month at the Oakland Federal Building? Again, I could obviously cite many, many more instances. These are bad rioters.

I do not believe that the vast majority of legitimate protesters are members of this violent minority of looters and destroyers. At the same time, they have allowed their beautiful movement to become confused in the public’s mind with looting and destruction. How? By failing to make it clear that violent people in their midst will not be tolerated. By failing to speak up, clearly, consistently and loudly, against the violent people. By not challenging such stupidities as

NO SUCH THING AS GOOD COPS

NO SUCH THING AS BAD RIOTERS

And, yes, by not putting grafitti up that says “Many cops are great.”

It would be very sad and historically tragic if we allow this post-George Floyd moment to be wasted. It would be a catastrophe beyond calculation if trump (I never capitalize his name) were to be re-elected. If these things happen—trump in for a second term, the BLM movement thwarted–the main sufferers will be Black Americans themselves. And yet, the extremes that are hijacking the movement carry the threat of nullifying it. donald trump knows this. He is using those extremes to frighten just enough voters to elect him to a second term, as he did in 2016. Now, I have spoken with enough protesters here in Oakland to understand a part of their rationale. They know they’re potentially undermining the public’s support of BLM. But their reasoning is, “Bring the whole rotten thing down. Burn it to the ground, then start over.” That, I might remind you, is from the Steve Bannon anarchist playbook. Bannon said, “That’s my goal…I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

And Bannon’s #1 fan, donald j. trump, said almost the identical thing: “When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.”

Apparently, the interests of the fascists—Bannon and trump—coincide perfectly with the interests of the BLM extremists. Which I find very interesting. Both sides want to provoke a violent clash in this country, one they think they will win. Neither side wants a peaceful, reasonable solution. Both sides are profoundly wrong. We, the People, have to show them both that we don’t want extremism, because if that’s our only choice, in the end, nobody wins, and everybody loses.


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