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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…


I trust leaders who earn my trust

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When I moved to San Francisco in the winter of 1979-1980 to go to grad school, it was with the highest of high hopes. I was 33 years old, and in the process of putting the Sixties and Seventies behind me. The drugs and partying, the alternative hippie lifestyle no longer seemed suitable as I approached middle age. Put aside childish things, Heimoff, I told myself, and grow up.

With Reagan’s election, the mood of the country changed overnight. Now it was all about moving up the career ladder. Making money was suddenly “in,” after the idealism of the previous years. Everybody I met seemed to be an M.B.A., or to want to be one. I enrolled in the Educational Technology Department at San Francisco State University, got myself a job on campus, cut my hair and brought myself some decent clothes. It was no longer fashionable to be broke; it was a drag. Besides, living in San Francisco was expensive. I needed to make more money just to stay even.

I was also very naïve, as you’ll see in a moment. My on-campus jobs were clerical: I worked for a while in the School of Education checking transcripts, then as secretary of the Film Department. From there, it was a step up to secretary of the Career Center. That was a big, busy place, always bustling with students looking for jobs or counseling. It was located in the administration building, the locus of power on campus. On a functional level, I ran the place: controlled access to the Director and handled the budget and the computers. I was very ambitious. In my mind, this was America, the land of opportunity. If you worked hard and played by the rules, you moved up the ladder, to increasing wealth and status. I worked very, very hard, and was very good at what I did.

One day, the Dean of Student Services—my boss’s boss—called me to his office. I was nervous as heck: what could he possibly want? He said that his chief assistant, Tony, would shortly be leaving. He, the Dean, had been watching me, and was impressed. He wanted me to take Tony’s place when the time came.

That was awesome. It meant a significant rise in salary. Things were working out just as I’d assumed they would. The American Dream was alive and well! Soon, I’d be chief assistant to one of the most powerful men on campus. From there, who knew? Maybe someday I’d take the Dean’s job. (That’s what I meant by saying how naïve I was.)

But I never heard back from the Dean. Months went by; I remained secretary of the Career Center. I asked for a meeting with the Dean. What happened, I asked. He acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about, like it had never happened. Stunned and resentful, I began to realize I’d been a sucker. Just because you work hard doesn’t mean jack shit. Even powerful men, like the Dean, lie. That’s when a big dose of cynicism hit me.  This American Dream is pure crap. There is no moving up. It’s the law of the jungle out there.

In a way, my experience with the Dean reinforced an attitude I’d had since childhood: distrust of authority. I believe I was born with a certain devotional strain, by which I mean if I had ever found a leader who didn’t let me down, I would have been the most ardent disciple. I always sought such leaders; but they always let me down. The gods I devoted myself to turned out to have feet of clay. There’s nothing more disconcerting than discovering that someone you’d truly admired was in actuality deeply flawed.

After my run-in with the Dean, I never again fully trusted an authority figure. Of course, since I had to work for a living, I always had “bosses.” But while I was a very competent worker on a professional basis, on a personal basis I didn’t respect my bosses (except for one: Rick Tigner, at Jackson Family Wines). Always I saw in them the same sad traits: bullying, lying, double standards, favoritism, hypocrisy, greed, meanness, stupidity. In a word, Injustice. I suppose, as a Jew, inculcated into my DNA was the notion of justice. Justice, justice you shall pursue…Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Surely it wasn’t too much to expect men in whom power over others had been vested to treat those under them with respect and fairness. But somehow, this seldom proved to be the case.

Still, in my dotage, I’m not entirely cynical. I believe in the ideals of the Democratic Party (which doesn’t mean I think all Democratic politicians are brilliant!). I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are trying to save the country from collapse. I trust my doctors. I trust my banker, and I trust the climate scientists who warn us about global warming. In fact, there are plenty of people I trust–as long as I don’t have to work for them!


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.


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