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Why can’t BLM exorcise their own demons?


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

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

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

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

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

Black Lives Matter

Kill Cops

Fuck Christians

Fuck White Trash

This one is on a car bumper:


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

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

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

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

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

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


“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.

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


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.

Another Republican is infected


The Governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, says he’s “shocked” to test positive for C-19. Although he’s currently asymptomatic, he plans to self-quarantine at home. Where did Kevin Stitt contract the virus? It’s impossible to say, of course. But we do know that Kevin Stitt went to trump’s Tulsa rally, on June 20, despite repeated warnings from health experts. And even though that rally was a dismal failure, with half the seats empty, 6,000 people, mostly maskless, crowded into that hot, steamy hall, spraying their nasal droplets with each Heil, easily spreading the coronavirus amongst themselves.

Stitt insists he didn’t catch the virus at the Tulsa rally. He said “he was certain he did not contract the virus at the Tulsa event.” And he refuses to issue any kind of statewide mask order, unlike his fellow conservative Governor, Kay Ivey, who just did in Alabama.

Here’s what I tweeted Kevin Twitt, err, Stitt:

Listen, schmuck: You’re a trump slave. You went to trump’s Tulsa rally. You were warned. You chose to obey your Fuehrer instead of listening to the doctors. Now you’re infected. You deserve it.

It’s very hard not to feel schadenfreude whenever one of these science-denying, pathological trumpers gets the virus. Whether it’s an evangelical preacher, a Governor, or some MAGA freak in Podunk, I smile to myself when one of them is reported to be infected. I smile even more broadly when they actually get sick, and the sicker they get, the broader is my smile.

Yes, I was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, which says we should never take pleasure in the misfortune of others. The fact that I do is a burr to my conscience. But I manage to overcome that inconvenience. What is conscience, anyway, when it comes to dealing with trumpers? I started from a place of bipartisanship: “Can’t we all get along?” I was willing, at one point, to accept Republicans as “the other party,” whose views I might not have agreed with, but with whom I was willing to strike deals.

Not anymore. No deals. No compromises. Complete extinction: that’s my motto.

When did I get this uncompromising? If there was any one moment, it was in 2016, when McConnell killed the Merrick Garland nomination. That’s when I realized, “There can be no cooperation with these people. They’ve completely surrendered to the worst excesses of fascist thuggery.” And that was before trump became president, which has made the Republican Party so much worse. The Republican Party has become my implacable enemy, as it has for at least half of the American people. We (the Allies) fought World War II because it was “the good war.” Unlike World War I, which was a muddle nobody could figure out, the Second World War had a distinct enemy (the Axis powers) and a distinct ideological framework (freedom vs. dictatorship). This current struggle against the Republican Party (or the party of trump, as it is more accurately described) is “the good struggle” in American politics. All sides are not the same. There are moral distinctions. There is such a thing as evil, and it has to be resisted by people of decent moral fiber.

It’s very sad, but there it is. If any sitting Republican official had any sense of moral courage, or even a smidgeon of self-respect, he or she would have already quit the party. They might not necessarily have had to become Democrats, but they would not feel it was possible for them anymore to remain Republicans, as long as the monster in the White House remained in control of the party.

But while we’ve seen a handful of Republicans denounce their former party (don’t you love Steve Schmidt? I could listen to him all day), they’re in a tiny minority. The vast majority of Republicans have stood by trump for the last 3-1/2 years. He gets worse and worse every day, more insane, more dangerous, more sociopathic, more incompetent; and yet these Republicans celebrate him as though he were the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (which, bizarrely, some evangelicals reportedly believe he is).

What can you do with such people? Nothing. You can’t reason with them, any more than you can reason with a three-year old or a crack addict. Their minds are gone, destroyed by corrupt preachers and manipulated by a rightwing media that knows no bounds to its lies.

Look, masks save lives, and keep COVID-19 from spreading. This so-called “president” has chosen to politicize basic healthcare science, for the simple reason that his only goal is—not to protect the American people—but to get re-elected; and for that, he has to stir up resentment and fear among his base. He knows how to do it: he’s stoked those flames for years. It’s awful, it’s horrible, it’s disgusting, and History, who always writes the final chapter, will condemn trump and his acolytes as fiercely as she condemns Hitler and his Nazis. But we don’t have to wait for History’s verdict. We can snuff trump out this Election Day. Vote! And if you vote by mail, be sure to send your ballot in well in advance of Election Day.

When you’re down and depressed, think of the celebration we’ll have the minute Biden is declared the winner. The hoots and hollers and hurrahs! The Champagne corks popping! The high fives! And that sound of rustling paperwork? It’s the scores of subpoenas being prepared to serve on trump, on his family, on his supporters. They will have to answer, not only to History, but to the Courts.

I’m getting weary. But “keep hope alive!”


I get emotionally exhausted sometimes, keeping up with all this Trump nonsense and the impending election.

I should probably not get so wrapped up in politics. It’s not good for my health. But that’s who I am: it’s how I was raised, to be passionate about politics, which after all is a blood sport. (It was the British Labor Party politician Aneurin Bevan, a member of the House of Commons during World War II, and a man Churchill loathed, who invented that metaphor.) But I can’t help myself; I waver between optimism (that there will be a Blue Wave this November) and fear (that there won’t, and Trump will be re-elected).

Sometimes I change my mind 40 times a day. Currently, I’m in one of the fear modes: he will be re-elected, and the reason why is this anti-cop and anti-monument phenomenon that’s sweeping the country. As committed as I am to doing everything in my power to defeat Trump (and all Republicans), I have to admit to increasing trepidation about what the Left is doing, and how they’re going about it.

The thing to remember is that most Americans like and respect cops. They know that the “thin blue line” is all that separates them from “the bad guys.” (Who ya gonna call when you’re accosted, a social worker?) They also know—now more than ever—that there are indeed some bad apples in the barrel, maybe a lot of bad apples, and that these rogue players need to be weeded out. They know that hiring practices have to be reformed. They know that the “code of silence” ultimately does not work to the benefit of cops, and they know that police unions all too often are roadblocks to reform.

At the same time, most Americans are in no mood to “defund the police.” Indeed, the phrase itself is offensive. If it doesn’t mean, literally, taking 100% of police department budgets away (and its backers insist that’s not what they mean), then the phrase is stupid. It ought to be discarded and replaced with something else: “reform police budgets” or something. The truth is, a massive number of Americans is repelled by all this talk of defunding, of ACAB (all cops are bastards), “kill the police,” and so on. That’s hate speech, as surely as using the n-word or calling a gay person a faggot. We’re seeing pro-cop demonstrations around the country, as citizens—not all of whom, I might remind you, are racists—rally to the cause of their local police departments. We’re also seeing–and I hate to say it–a growing fascism on the part of the Left, where people aren’t allowed to say how they really feel, out of fear of being picketed or attacked.

These same Americans are similarly concerned about the riots and looting that continue to plague American cities in the wake of the George Floyd murder. They don’t like seeing their shopping districts boarded up or, even worse, burned down. They don’t like seeing their CVS stores and Ace Hardwares and 7-Elevens looted. They don’t understand how robbing a food market has anything to do with civil rights, and when they hear that the same people who are demanding the removal of statues of Confederate generals just tore down a statue of Frederick Douglass, a Black man of immense historic importance in America, they’re positively baffled. It makes the protesters seem, not like patriotic idealists but more like insane children.

These are the emotions Trump is playing to, and when I’m in fearful moods like I am now, I have a sense that he might somehow get re-elected. I had the same sense in September and October of 2016, when all the polls said Hillary was going to be elected. A nagging voice inside me worried that something was happening in America, or certain parts of America—something that wasn’t being discerned by the pollsters. I worried so much that I was rushed to the hospital the day before election day: two stents were put into my chest. I awoke, in my hospital bed, to news of Trump’s victory, and wept silently into my pillow.

That same nagging voice is whispering to me now. Oh, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. How I wish I had the power to wave my hand and make Trump go away, make his felonious family go away, make McConnell and Nunes and Cruz and Graham and Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan and the rest of the cult disappear into the ash heap of history. How I wish I could make Biden win in a landslide, have the Democrats increase their majority in the House and take over the Senate with a veto-proof 60 seats! And how I wish that next year will be the start of payback, with trials and hearings and prison sentences for the worst of the Republicans, including Trump himself.

But I don’t have that power, and that’s what gnaws at me. Hopefully, my fears are just passing clouds, presaging sunnier days. Tomorrow, I might feel much better. But, like I said, this see-sawing is getting tiresome. Binge watching “Sex and the City” gets my mind temporarily off it, but I know that’s escapism. We have real problems in America, and sticking our heads in the sand so we don’t see them solves nothing. All I can do is persuade myself to be optimistic.

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