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Will there be a white backlash to the Left?

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I write this as a warning to the Democratic Party, of which I am a proud member.

White people, and not just white men but women too, are increasingly turned off by the “cancel culture” they see happening in America, which is being fostered by the extreme left. I admit I have no statistical evidence to support this claim. But the anecdotal evidence for it has become clear to me in recent months.

Here are examples of that evidence:

• Numerous friends who have children in their 20s tell me their kids are attracted to the Republican Party. They don’t particularly like Trump, but they like what they perceive the GOP stands for: free enterprise, the work ethic, raising yourself up by your own efforts, adherence to the law.

• An old friend, a white guy my age who’s as liberal as anyone, sent me this link to an article by a woman who is essentially standing up for Andrew Cuomo. Her key phrase: “None of the ‘sexual harassment’ allegations leveled against him to date strike me as anything worse than obnoxious behavior.” Her strong suggestion is that #MeToo has gotten out of control.

• Another close friend, also a white guy who’s a lifelong Democrat, told me he signed the petition to recall Gavin Newsom because he saw an advertisement from Newsom accusing petition-signers of being white supremacists. “I am not a white supremacist,” my friend said, “and I resent being called one.”

• From local social media, including nextdoor.com, I see how lots of white people are upset by the “defund the police” movement, and angry that crime here in Oakland is rampant, while reading that the police are reluctant to respond to any but the most urgent calls for help. This, even as the most radical members of our City Council are demanding huge reductions in the police budget.

• And, of course, there were the glaring losses in Congress suffered by Democrats in the 2020 elections. I attribute these losses to white voters who detested Trump, but didn’t like the violence, chaos and anti-police rhetoric they see in our cities.

All of this leads me to conclude that the reason Trump lost is not necessarily because of the things he espoused, but because voters saw him for what he is: an ugly, amoral and repulsive human being. Were the Republicans to find a likeable candidate next time around, I think there’s every chance he or she could win.

What do I mean by “cancel culture,” and what are examples of it? I cite my own experiences. Years ago, we had a West African family move into my condo building. They put up a clothesline on their deck (which faced the street) and hung their clothes to dry. I was president of the board of directors. We had a meeting, at which we unanimously decided to tell the family they could not hang their clothes up on their deck because it was unsightly. They promptly accused me and the board of racism. That’s cancel culture.

A few months ago, a woman moved into our condo building. She had two small dogs who were annoyingly loud, with constant barking—clearly in violation of published building rules. I left her a note to please keep her dogs under control. She wrote me back, accusing me of discrimination. I hadn’t even met the woman when she wrote that, and to this day I have no idea what her race is; to me, she looks white. That’s cancel culture.

The other day I was in the express line (“15ish items”) at Whole Foods. A young Asian-American woman was ahead of me. She must have had at least thirty items. I pardoned myself, pointed to the sign, and suggested she was in the wrong line. She accused me of being anti-Asian. That’s cancel culture.

It looks to me like you can’t criticize the behavior of anyone of color without being accused of racism!

People naturally react negatively when they’re accused of something that isn’t true. But political correctness in this country has reached such a point that folks are afraid to say anything that could be construed as racist, even when they know that it’s the behavior, not the skin color, they’re criticizing. So they keep their mouths shut, and this leads to resentment.

Trump took advantage of that resentment. He expressed what many people think but are afraid to say. Yes, he went too far. He showed us where the line is and then he crossed it. And his Proud Boy/QAnon/evangelical followers went even further than he did in hatred and stupidity. Most Americans want equality for everyone. They understand what people of color have gone through and are going through, and they’re willing to be made uncomfortable, if that’s what it takes to even things out. At the same time, they want safe communities, in which everyone—white, Black, Brown, Asian-American—adheres to the norms of society: respect your neighbor and your neighbor’s property. Follow the rules. Play nice in the sandbox.

The problem, it seems to me, is that a lot of people are not playing nice in the sandbox, but those of us who do play nice are unable to point out this inconvenient fact. Well, I just did. There’s a lot of bad behavior on the left, and it needs to stop. I expect some people will take my remarks the wrong way and hurl them back into my face by calling me a racist. That, too, is cancel culture. All I’m trying to do is save my beloved Democratic Party from destroying itself. My memo to the left is: If you want a Republican Congress in 2022 and a Republican President in 2024, keep doing what you’re doing.


Last Chance U: Basketball. T.V. at its best

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“Rules without relationships equals rebellion.”

– John Mosley, Coach, men’s basketball, East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC).

This sports reality television show, “Last Chance U: Basketball,” airing on Netflix, is quite simply some of the most compelling television I’ve ever seen.

Now in its sixth year, the show focuses each season on a single community college (or junior college: JUCO in the parlance), in a poor or depressed area. The first five seasons LCU documented the football teams at East Mississippi Community College (seasons 1 and 2), Independence Community College in Kansas (seasons 3 and 4), and in season 5, Laney College, in my hometown of Oakland.

The format never varies. Over 10 or 12 episodes, we are introduced to the team players, the head coach, other team officials, and many of their respective family members and wives or girlfriends. The “stars” of each episode turn out to be, invariably, the coach, and three or four players whom the creative directors have determined to be the most interesting to follow. At the outset of each season, the dramatic hook is spelled out: the team has an opportunity to win a championship of some sort. But will it? The obstacles are considerable. The teams have almost no budget. The players wrestle with their demons. Most are Black. Most believe that succeeding in JUCO football is their ticket out of poverty. Next step, in theory, is a Division One football team at a four-year university. From there—who knows?—the NFL, and glory. Finally, the crescendo of each season is the final game itself. How will the team fare? All this is filmed with the consummate Hollywood production values of a top studio movie. It’s a super-compelling premise that keeps viewers returning week after week to find out what happens.

In season 6, airing now, the directors changed their focus from JUCO football to basketball, highlighting the team at East Los Angeles Community College (ELAC). They presumably felt that they were running out of steam with football; basketball is a much more interesting sport to follow on T.V. than football. In the latter, players’ faces are covered by helmets, so you can’t get closeups of their personal reactions, of joy, frustration, anger, bafflement. Basketball also occurs on a smaller field, indoors, than football; the action is much more intimate and human-centered.

But it’s the players and coaches that we’re attracted to. They go through so much to achieve their goals. For the players, a successful season may be their final opportunity to make it in life—hence the series’ name, Last Chance U. So much is at stake. We see players cry, break down in the lockerroom, kick walls in frustration, and jump ecstatically in victory. And always there is coach: egging them on, trying to get them to focus on winning instead of their anger and lack of faith. At times, the coaches are more like preachers to their kids: we see how much the coaches care, how much they want their kids to succeed, how frustrated they get when they perceive the potential talent in the players, who so often sabotage themselves without even knowing it.

Season 6 is easily my favorite so far (and I loved the Laney College season because it all happened so close to where I live). Coach John Mosley is one of the most real, powerful characters I’ve ever seen on T.V. A devout Christian, he’s a part-time preacher on the side, and he’s frequently leading his players in prayer. And just as frequently, they’re not buying it. But they go along with him, out of respect and fear and—who knows?—maybe there’s something to it. As for Mosley, he’s chosen to have a lousy-paying job (the show makes clear that, if he wanted, he could easily get a Division One gig) because he loves these kids and couldn’t imagine himself anyplace else. His quote, which I ran at the top of this piece, testifies to his earnest belief that he has to let his players know how much he loves them, if he has any expectation of them listening to him. And they have to learn to love each other. If they don’t, then these hot-headed, often emotionally-unstable young men are going to rebel, which would ruin any chances of a championship victory.

The men of the ELAC basketball team, The Huskies

I don’t know if ELAC ends up winning the state title, because that show hasn’t yet aired. But by episode two, you feel like you know these kids (at least, many of them). Some players whom I might have wanted to know more about were not selected by the directors for starring roles. That’s a little frustrating, but I understand their decision to focus on at most six or seven people (players, coach, assistant coach and family members) each season. What is so endlessly satisfying for me, in LCU, is how a television show manages to make me care so much that I find myself weeping. Check out Last Chance U: Basketball, streaming now on Netflix.


Got my second dose. Whew!

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I wasn’t ready for how emotional getting my second vaccine shot made me feel.

When I told Marilyn about it, over the phone, I wept.

I took BART down to the Oakland Coliseum, where Alameda County has been giving the injections. For my first Pfizer shot, last month, I took the shuttle bus from the station to the tents, but this time, in less than half the time, I walked across the Sky Bridge that leads from BART directly to the Coliseum parking lot. At the far end, they’d set up the first of many stations through which we injectees (is that a word?) had to pass and show our little vaccination cards. I was in a good mood, having waited to long for this to happen. The station was presided over by a woman in National Guard garb. She asked me why I was there.

“To see the Oakland A’s!” I replied.

“What? What are you talkin’ about?”

“The A’s! The baseball game!”

She looked at me with dubiousness. “Hon, what baseball game?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, repenting. I showed her my card.

“Why you messin’ with me?” she asked.

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I’m just happy.” All was well after that. Sometimes, I admit my sense of humor can be a little warped.

The National Guard, FEMA, Health & Human Services and other uniformed men and women were superbly organized, as they were last time. The tents were almost empty, which surprised me. The site was reportedly vaccinating 8,000 people a day. Several of the men who guided me said they figured that the weather forecast of thunderstorms had scared people off. But the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.

I got my shot from a young, blond guy from the National Park Service. He said he’d been transferred to Oakland to help from his base at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. I asked if he’d volunteered and he gave me a rueful smile. No. But he wasn’t complaining.

The feeling of being fully vaccinated is liberating. I wanted these shots so badly. I’d tried so hard, all during January and February, to get them, but no one would let me. Kaiser was only doing frontline staff and 75 years and up. Even though the State of California was allowing people over 65, there just wasn’t enough vaccine. When I learned that Alameda County had opened their online site to register for the Coliseum, I got myself an appointment—I think the first was Feb. 19. But knowing that two shots are required, I still didn’t feel safe. Now, I do.

I’d like to thank the Federal government for running the Coliseum site so superbly. I’ve never seen anything better organized. The uniformed men and women “volunteering” there had all been well-trained, evidently, in their personal conduct. Every one of them greeted me with a big smile and “How are you doing today,” and it didn’t seem perfunctory, but genuine. I’ve always had great respect for our people in uniform who serve us in so many ways. I now have more respect than ever.

I don’t understand the sizable portion of the American people who won’t get the vaccine. I think they’re mentally ill. I suspect most of them are Republicans. If there’s one person I blame, it’s Trump. He instilled a distrust of science and of the vaccine in particular and he played to his supporters’ ignorance and anger. Why would he do that? What could possibly be the motive of the most powerful person in the world to convince people not to get a vaccine that would save their lives and the lives of everyone around them? Did Donald Trump want Americans to die? Given what we know of his sociopathic nature, the answer may be “yes.”

I was a little worried in advance of #2, because Marilyn, who also got Pfizer, had gotten quite ill for two days following her second shot: fever, chills, aches, weakness and fatigue. There had been a news story that more women are getting severe reactions to the vaccines than men. But I had no reaction at all, save for some tenderness at the injection site on my arm.

I hope you all get your shots, if you haven’t already. And I hope you’re all as relieved as I am when you do. It’s a great feeling. Yes, our country, and my state, fumbled a little bit at the outset, but what did anyone expect? Perfection? This was a novel coronavirus; it had never happened before, and never before did our country have to mobilize to develop a vaccine, manufacture it, distribute it, and get it into the arms of hundreds of millions of Americans. All in all, we did a great job, of which we should be proud!


My Airbnb Catastrophe: A Cautionary Tale

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Who’s the asshole, me or the guy I’ll call Pooper? You tell me.

I’d never done Airbnb before; the process was new to me. I’d been looking for a place to stay since early December. Following the death of my dog, Gus, I’d decided to have my place remodeled. I needed to move out for three weeks in February, while they did the work. At first, I thought about the Palm Springs area. I’d never been there, and it seemed like a good alternative just as Northern California is entering its coldest, wettest months. 

But then, in mid-December, the pandemic took a violent turn for the worse in California, and it no longer made sense to travel. I certainly didn’t want to fly: too risky. Besides, all the restaurants and bars would be closed, even for outdoors. I’d have to eat in my room, in front of the T.V. Hell, I thought, I can do that in Oakland; what’s the point of going to Palm Springs?

I decided to stay someplace closer to home. I’ve always liked the Berkeley Hills: Strawberry Canyon, Tilden Regional Park, those beautiful places. I could rent a car and be able to drive down the hill to Berkeley, where at least I could have coffee, buy food in the supermarket to prepare in my rented home, browse bookstores and take long walks. I’d prepared a list of things I wanted in a rental: TV, wifi, a full kitchen, a quiet neighborhood, parking, cell phone coverage, and plenty of hot water for long showers. At Airbnb I found a place that seemed pretty good. It listed the amenities, but not in detail. I wanted to talk directly to the owner, to ask some questions. For example, it said “parking” was available, but what did that mean? Off-street? On-street? If the latter, was it subject to two-hour restrictions? Would I be circling the neighborhood, looking for a spot? Was the place quiet, or on a noisy street, with noisy neighbors? I didn’t want to rent blind, only to find out, when I moved in, it wasn’t working for me.

So I contacted the owner through the Airbnb app and asked her to call or email me. But then I got an email from Airbnb: they’d sent my email to the owner, but deleted my phone number and email address. That was weird: how was I supposed to talk to the owner? She got back to me through the app and explained the situation. Airbnb doesn’t want people to be able to communicate outside their app. Evidently, that prevents people from striking separate deals, cutting Airbnb out of the equation. I replied that I wanted to be able to talk to her directly, not go back and forth endlessly through emails. As an old reporter, I know how important it is to be able to ask followup questions as they occur to me.

The lady emailed me back and spelled out her phone number in code, something like “Five 1 oh niner 4 sicks seven hundred 2.” It was right out of a spy story. Airbnb’s AI apparently wouldn’t be able to figure that out. So I called the lady, and based on our conversation I ascertained that her place wasn’t right for me. I went to look for someplace else.

That’s when I found Pooper’s cottage. It was way up in the hills, with a beautiful view. The price–$74 a night—was right. It had all the amenities I wanted, except for T.V. (Look, I spend a lot of time watching T.V. and won’t apologize for it. I did before the pandemic; I do even more now.) So I emailed Pooper, again through Airbnb’s app, and spelled out my phone number in the same weird code as the lady had used. I explained how much easier it would be if we could chat live on the phone, where I could get my questions answered.

Pooper never called me. But he did respond to my email through the app. He said he didn’t have a T.V. in the cottage, but he did have a flat-screen T.V. he wasn’t using, and if I could access T.V. on my MacBook Air, he could probably connect the two. That sounded great. I told him it was a deal if he could do the T.V. thing.

Yesterday morning, Pooper emailed me and said he’d figured out how to do it. He told me to rebook. I emailed him back, and told him that I’d decided to rent his cottage for only one week, not three: I wanted to see if it was working out before committing myself to a lengthy stay. I added that I fully understood if this was a deal-breaker.

Pooper replied that renting for one week was fine with him. So I went back to the Airbnb website, pulled up the ad for his cottage, and attempted to rebook. That’s what I got two shocks. First, the price had risen to $105 a night, far in excess of the $74 we’d agreed to for weeks. Second, when I plugged in the dates—Feb. 1 through Feb. 7—the Airbnb app told me I had to rent the cottage for a minimum of two weeks. Surprised, and by this time a little frustrated, I emailed Pooper and asked if he could clarify the situation.

Pooper made it sound like there had been some kind of technical error. But all of a sudden, I got an email from Airbnb. Pooper had rejected my offer! He would no longer rent his cottage to me. No explanation why. Just a big “NO.”

I guess you could say I was angry. We’d been going back and forth for weeks. I’d based my remodeling plans on renting the cottage. At the last minute, Pooper had not only changed the nightly price, but the minimum stay. I wrote him a rather intemperate email, in which I called him an asshole. He replied and said that he and his wife had decided to cancel me because I was “needy” and an “ungrateful asshole.” He also said he’d been turned off by the fact that I’d sent him my phone number in code. That was against Airbnb’s rules, he said. Well, I’d never used Airbnb before. The rules were strange to me. The woman I’d first contacted had sent me her phone number in code. If she, a lister, had done it, I assumed, perhaps naively, that it was okay.

But that was that. I didn’t get the cottage. And I’ll never use Airbnb again. Hello, Vrbo.

So who was the asshole? Was I “needy” because I “needed” a T.V.? Was I “needy” because I “needed” Pooper to keep the terms of our original agreement: $74 a night for one week? Was I “needy” because I wanted to be able to talk with him on the phone? Or was Pooper an asshole because he behaved in a thoroughly unprofessional manner, stringing me along for most of December, then unceremoniously dumping me at the last minute, throwing a great big monkey wrench into my plans?

You tell me.


A Christmas Dream

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I had my first lucid dream about Gus last night, more than three weeks after his death on Dec. 1. He was in the street in front of my house, leashless, sniffing everything in sight. We didn’t have eye contact. I remember thinking, How amazing! Gus was dead, and now he’s back!

I know people who would explain this by claiming that the real Gus visited me in my dream state, that he was reassuring me everything was okay. They believe in the existence of the soul after death, and that the soul can travel between various dimensions. Gus, these people would say, still loves me so much that he’s now ready to visit me from time to time. The three weeks between his death and last night, they would say, were spent acclimating to his new environment. As Gus himself wrote me on Dec. 3, “I’m still learning my way around here.”

And hadn’t Gus also made a solemn promise? I’ll show up. You’ll know.”

Then there’s the school of thought that says, No, that wasn’t the real Gus. It was your sleeping brain, fabricating the illusion of Gus, dreaming. Dreams aren’t real. Face it, Gus is gone, never to return. You might have beautiful memories of him, you might have beautiful dreams, but they’re not real.

Personally, I don’t know which of these beliefs is true. Maybe neither is; maybe there’s another possibility. The fact is, nobody really knows anything about what happens to the “personality” or “soul” of the person (or the dog) after death. Sure, lots of people claim to know. But they don’t. They want to believe so much that they make themselves believe, and then they surround themselves with like-minded individuals who reinforce their beliefs. But just because a group of people believes something doesn’t make it true. There are plenty of Republicans who think Trump won the election in a landslide. We call that kind of thinking “delusional,” and we shake our heads in sorrow, because there’s no way to prove to those people that they’re living in LaLaLand.

It occurred to me how interesting it is that my vision of a “resurrected” Gus happened on Christmas Day. The holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus is, of course, not Christmas but Easter. Still, was my dream a Christmas “gift”? It made me very happy, even in my sleep. If it was a gift, who gave it to me? If I gave it to myself—if I conjured it—why did I wait for three weeks?

I used to believe in things like the survival of the soul and reincarnation when I was younger. I’d taken a lot of drugs, naturally, and these beliefs, based on vague notions of Eastern philosophies, like Hinduism and Buddhism, sprinkled with American Transcendentalism and Theosophy, were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. I experienced things that were inexplicable, other than by soul-survival and spiritual communication with the dead. With the coming of the 1980s and the Reagan years, however, that side of myself shrank, replaced by an intensely objective, scientific-materialistic outlook that remains to this day.

But the older I get, the more I know how much I don’t know. Life is so weird that anything is possible. I’m re-reading Susskind’s book on the megaverse, or what he calls The Landscape: a perhaps infinite series of universes so vast that anything you can think of exists somewhere. That’s what quantum theory has brought us to, with all its uncertainty and chaos. Little wonder “people of faith,” as they’re called, cling to their simple credos. Religion explains everything while science merely raises more questions than it can answer. It can be discomfiting for a person who desires firm explanations and cannot tolerate uncertainty.

And yet, I choose to stick with science. There’s no reason why the universe should be explicable, especially through a simplistic Biblical account. A person may wish for life to be explained by simple processes, like the existence of a God who created everything and rules over the universe and hears our prayers. But that person, in principle, has no right to expect his explanation is correct. He certainly has no right to expect others to believe in the same thing, and he is seriously out of order if he expects the laws of his country to be based on his religious beliefs. That’s always been my gripe with extremist Christians in America. I see no difference between them and the Shia regime in Iran, except that the Iranian mullahs have complete power while the Christian preachers here do not. At least, not yet.

Well, so much for Christmas morning musing. My dream about Gus was like a billiard ball that caused my thoughts to ricochet all over the place. It’s going to be a quiet day here in the Heimoff household. Rain is expected by this afternoon, and I don’t expect to see anyone or talk with anyone all day. Is that sad on Christmas day? If it is, then there are a lot of sad people in America. I wish anyone who reads this Merry Christmas!


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