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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!


Remembering the 2000 election battle

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In November of 2001, I went on vacation to Costa Rica, arriving on Nov. 18. The battle over the contested 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore was at its height and mounting in tension. Although I did a lot of touristy stuff during my week there (lots of museums, volcanoes, food and ticos), I also managed to keep up with election developments, thanks to the presence of CNN and other American news channels in my hotel room. I kept a diary; it makes for interesting reading, now that we’re in the midst of another election controversy. If you read on, you’ll see the references to “civil war” between Republicans and Democrats. It’s a pretty good and accurate accounting of the 2000 election brouhaha, and captures the ongoing chaos and confusion, with developments changing by the minute as the outcome remained in doubt and rumors–sometimes true, sometimes not–swirled.

The following are excerpts of my reporting on the election developments. (I have eliminated all references to my personal experiences, which were also quite interesting!)

Nov. 18, Dallas Airport, 5 p.m. I’ve missed developments all day. I look at the T.V. monitor, which is tuned to CNN. Bush leads by 930 votes (in Florida)! Damn. Not good. That 930-vote lead comes after 67 of 67 counties counted their foreign ballots—which means Bush picked up only 630 votes! This doesn’t seem like as many as had been anticipated, although of course it would be enough for him to win.

San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica). 11 p.m. After a fast taxi ride to my hotel I turn on CNN. Bush still ahead by 930. Obviously nothing happened today. Lots of overseas ballots including military being rejected—about 40%. Republicans complaining. Some very early returns (unofficial) from the (Florida]) recounting. Indications are that Gore will not get enough to offset the 930.

Nov. 19, Sunday. 7:40 a.m. CNN says Bush still up by 930, but one reporter says Bush gained 12 votes in Palm Beach.

3:30 p.m. CNN. Democratic and Republican congressmen debating the constitutionality of manual recounts. The spin is to influence tomorrow’s Florida Supreme Court hearing. But what does it matter if Gore can’t take the lead anyway? Beyond tomorrow, will the U.S. Supreme Court get involved? Also, will “dimpled chads”* be allowed? CNN’s Chris Black says “hundreds” have been discovered so far for Gore in Palm Beach and Broward counties, although it’s not clear if they are reflected in the current tallies. As for Dade County, apparently they stopped, or postponed, counting again, but for now, it is said Dade will resume counting tomorrow—before anyone knows what the Florida Supreme Court will say.

(* Also known as “hanging chads”)

4:30 p.m. Republican hack Marc Racicot says Democratic strategists realize Gore cannot win on a recount without dimpled ballots. He thus launches the next phase of this war. This is the Battle of Dimpled Ballots. The Republicans are terrified of them! Racicot accuses Democrats of “changing the rules” by wanting to count dimpled ballots. This is untrue! Gore has always said, Let’s count the vote of everyone who intended to vote, dimpled or not.

Meanwhile, John King interviews President Clinton from Ho Chi Minh City. What a great president he is. I would vote for him again.

Nov. 20, Monday. 1:05 p.m. I return to the hotel literally in time for the live coverage of the Florida Supreme Court hearing. “The Court is certainly aware of the historic nature of this session,” begins the Chief Justice, warning the room to remain “in order” and outlining the logistics of the process. Interesting that this is being cast as a fight between the Florida Secretary of State (Republican Katherine Harris) and the Florida Attorney-General (Democrat Robert Butterworth).

3:45. CNN says the most contentious question was between one Justice and a Bush lawyer. They add that Bush worked out at a gym today—same as me! BULLETIN: HUGE BUSH VICTORY! Florida Attorney-General rules all military ballots must be counted. That’s another 500-800 for Bush.

3:55. Florida Supreme Court announces no decision today. They do not say when they will decide. But what is the count? Bill Schneider (CNN analyst) points out the Republican Florida Legislature may eventually appoint their own electors. That of course could mean Civil War. But I don’t think it will come to that. One way or another, I believe Bush will remain ahead in the vote, and win.

Dick Armey (arch-conservative Republican House Majority Leader) says it would be “distasteful” to go to a Gore inaugural; he will attend “but not stand.” David Broder, the dean of the Washington press corps, says we are on “a very, very perilous slope.”

They even have CBS News down here. Dan Rather is apocalyptic on the Florida Supreme Court “battle” in his words. Bulletin: CBS quotes an analyst as saying the Democrat’s “best case scenario” from the recount is 740. This is nowhere near enough, especially if previously invalidated military ballots are counted. My prediction: Gore concedes, perhaps by this weekend. He vows to fight on for 2004.

11 p.m. Nothing new.

Nov. 21. A new dynamic. If, say, Florida is not allowed to recount—or can recount but dimpled chads don’t count—and Bush is declared the winner—and if it turns out those ballots are unofficially counted anyway (as they probably will be, unless they’re destroyed)—then Democrats will cry “Stolen election!” and convincingly. And that will fuel the impending split.

5:30 p.m. It’s disturbing that this overseas ballot thing is being represented by some people (mainly Republicans) as Democrats not wanting the military to vote. Even as I write this, CNN says they are “receiving word that a ruling may be forthcoming this evening” from the Florida Supreme Court. Today is the end of the second week of this undecided election. The Bush campaign today filed suit challenging the Florida Supreme Court’s authority to rule on the validity of hand counting. CNN does not say where they filed—in some Federal court? This is a hint the Bush campaign fears the Florida Supreme Court’s decision. CNN says Gore has a net gain in the recounting so far only of 230 votes. CNN’s ratings said to be the highest in their history. And so we wait, not only on the question of recounts, but on the all-important dimpled chads.

11:05 p.m. Breaking news! Jim Baker press conference. The Supreme Court must have ruled; Baker seems pissed. They must have lost. Yes! The court unanimously ruled the recount will count! Baker vows to bring this to the Florida (Republican-led) Legislature. Frank Sesno (CNN commentator): “Talk about uncharted territory! We’re in deep water now.” Florida threatening to call Special Session to undo what its own Supreme Court has done!

Bill Schneider: “This is a nightmare, the nuclear scenario.” Jeff Greenfield (CNN commentator): “We are so much closer to the possibility of a Constitutional train wreck.”

* * *

I’ll finish up tomorrow. Have a good day. Let’s vow to resist the Republican coup Trump is trying to pull off.


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!


Once a poet: memories of old San Francisco

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I moved to San Francisco in 1979 with great hope in my heart. Finally, at last, my expedition across America had ended at the furthest point from where it started, New York City. San Francisco represented aspiration. I didn’t quite know what I was looking for (aside from sex) but whatever it was, I knew I would find it in the cool, grey city of love.

There was a free little periodical they used to give away in bookstores. I forget the name, but it was for poets and fans of poetry. People could submit poems for publication, and it also listed all the open-mike poetry readings, which were very popular back then. Every neighborhood had a bar or restaurant that held weekly or sometimes bi-weekly poetry readings. I’d always dabbled in poetry. It seemed a very romantic thing to do. San Francisco was still famous for the Beats; the city fostered creativity. I began writing. One day, I did my first reading, at a restaurant in the Haight. I felt very sophisticated.

I took a nom de plume: John Stuart Solvay. I thought it sounded more glamorous and literary than “Steve Heimoff.” The “Solvay” came from the Solvay Conferences on Physics, a series of international symposia that started in 1911 and are still held to this day (or were, before the pandemic). I was a huge, amateur fan of modern physics: quantum mechanics, relativity, cosmology. Physicists such as Einstein, Bohr and Heisenberg were my heroes. I decided to honor them.

Solvay Conference, 1915

Memories of my short-lived poetry career returned to me yesterday as I was clearing my house of stuff I’d accumulated for the last 40 years, in preparation for the big remodeling that commences Feb. 1. In a moldy cardboard box on the top shelf of a closet I still had spiral-bound notebooks of my poems. I sat in my big chair and perused them. Mostly bad stuff: derivative, pretentious. I was at my worst when I wrote bad T.S. Eliot and Whitman. But some of it wasn’t too bad, especially those poems, or parts of poems, when I described my street life in San Francisco in those days when the Gay Liberation Movement was flexing its muscles (through muscle T-shirts) and half the population of the city, it seemed, was young, gay and handsome. Those were the pre-AIDS days, when having sex was revolutionary and fun, with no consequences to be paid except, possibly, a dose of the clap; and even if you got gonorrhea, a simple injection would send it packing.

There was and still is a part of San Francisco called The Tenderloin. It’s always been low-rent, gritty, dangerous. It was a gathering place for young hustlers, down-and-outers, drug addicts, alcoholics and people like me, who were none of those things but enjoyed the company of those who were. It was San Francisco’s version of O. Henry’s New York, which he called “Baghdad-on-the-subway”; San Francisco was Baghdad-by-the-Bay. I was fascinated by the young Black, White, Latino and Asian kids in The Tenderloin, grifters most of them, menacing and usually high, but sweet once you got to know them. Sex for them was not complicated. It was something they did with guys they liked, no strings attached, no followup, just the joy of the moment. From a poem called “Turk Street”:

…Now it is still light—

“Hey man, Columbian?” – “No thanks man,

But thanks” – we are brothers too.

Maybe later ceremonies will confirm that.

I liked the diversity of the men I met in The Tenderloin, who were so different from the friends I’d had all my life.

Later, longhair w/ backpack asking for bread—

“Where you from man?” – “Reno, man,

Just got in” – no name – instead, just company,

Relaxed against a car,

Telling tales of things near & far.

After a while many of the faces were familiar. I was not really part of the scene, dropping in from my more orderly life of university and work on an occasional basis, but many of the boy/men of the streets never left The Tenderloin. I liked recognizing and greeting them:

Fate now wears T-shirt and rumpled jeans.

That face—yes—“Fuckface!” “Huh?”

“It’s me! Remember?” Yes—last month

he ripped me off, but I strip-searched him

and as his friend, the cook from Sisters of Mercy, said,

“He is not evil.”

I think, also, I was rather proud of myself for being able and willing to “slum” among the rejected and downtrodden, me, the middle class Jewish boy whose relatives would never think of going to The Tenderloin, who would sneer and tsk-tsk on seeing such riff-raff. A part of me would rather have hung out with Fuckface and Reno than with the clean, proper representatives of the straight world, with its artifice and games. I could not tell my family or my friends from university of my unusual attraction for this demimonde—they would have thought it weird, and I enjoyed keeping it my own little secret.

Drugged, spinning wildly, I find the street,

The lights now brighter.

Reno offers me a beer,

And I buy another, give Reno a buck

When he runs into the market – “Hey man, good luck!”

Nothing ever came of my poetry interlude; John Stuart Solvay faded into the old orange-covered notebook I now have in front of me for the last time. Shortly I will place it in the recycling bin, along with the other poems, short stories, reminiscences. It will hurt, like sacrificing a limb. The hurt is good.


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!


The Trial of Josh Hawley

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Wednesday, June 14, 2021

The floor of the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer presiding. He speaks into the microphone to galleries packed with spectators and media.

Sen. Schumer: Good morning. The Senate is today assembled to hear evidence in the trial of Senator Joshua Hawley, of Missouri, on charges of Treason against the United States of America; of conspiring with Domestic Enemies of America to conduct an illegal coup d’état against this country; and of spreading False Information in order to undermine the laws of the United States. We will first hear evidence of Sen. Hawley’s crimes, as alleged in the indictment, from United States Senator, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, of Georgia. Senator Warnock.

Sen. Warnock: Thank you. Majority Leader Schumer. We are here today to hear evidence of Sen. Hawley’s crimes. Do I hear any objection to these proceedings going forward?

Sen. Mitch McConnell: Object.

Sen. Schumer: Objection being heard, the Senators will now vote on the motion. The clerk will read the motion.

Senate Clerk: All those in favor of this Trial going forward will vote Aye by electronic device. All those in favor of this Trial not going forward will vote Nay by electronic device.

(Several minutes pass as Senators vote)

Senate Clerk: The tally of electronic votes now having been completed, the final result is 60 votes in favor of the motion, 40 against.

Sen. Schumer: The Trial will proceed.

Sen. Cruz: I rise to object to the manner in which this vote was conducted, Mr. President.

Sen. Schumer: What is the nature of the Senator’s objection?

Sen. Cruz: I just don’t like it. Biden stole this election. It was rigged, and everyone in this room knows it.

Sen. Ossoff: I object.

Sen. Schumer: To what purpose does the senior Senator from Georgia object?

Sen. Ossoff: This is just more obstruction on the part of Republicans angry that their side lost a decisive election. I move that this Trial begin immediately.

Sen. Schumer: I so order this Trial to begin.

[Clamor and mayhem on the Floor. Republican Senators hoot and shout. “Fraud, fraud!”]

Sen. Schumer: [banging his gavel repeatedly] Order! Order! Senators will return to their desks and be silent! I will order the Senate Police to remove anyone who attempts to interfere with these orderly proceedings!

[The Senate calms down]

Sen. Warnock: The evidence, my fellow Senators, is overwhelming. Sen. Hawley is fully aware that there was no fraud in the recent election—fully aware that the Governors and Secretaries of State of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin, many of whom are Republicans, have repeatedly certified the results of the election, namely the election of President Biden. The Courts have consistently rejected any interpretation to the contrary, with the United States Supreme Court unanimously rejecting Texas’s absurd motion to challenge the electoral results in four States. And yet, Sen. Hawley, in obedience to a rogue, defeated President, Donald J. Trump, is attempting to overturn the results of a legal election, in defiance of the laws of the United States of America. Sen. Hawley is a coup plotter. This Senate has a Constitutional duty to find him guilty. I rest my case.

(Senate Democrats applaud and hurrah.)

Sen. Cruz: I rise to defend Sen. Hawley. We all know this election was a fraud. We’ve been told by no less than President Trump himself, who has access to all the information and knows, I might suggest, more than anyone in this room. The votes in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin went overwhelmingly for President Trump. But Democrats, working from a sinister plan, planted hundreds of thousands of fake mail-in ballots. Sen. Hawley is to be praised for his patriotism!

Sen. Graham: I wish to associate myself with the eloquent remarks of my colleague, Sen. Cruz.

(The Senate votes 60-38 to find Sen. Hawley guilty. Eight Republicans vote with all 52 Democrats. Two abstain.)

Sen. Schumer: The defendant will rise. (Hawley stands.) The Senate orders Joshua Hawley to be expelled from the U.S. Senate immediately, for cause. The Senate further sentences Joshua Hawley to serve a term in the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth for a period of not less than forty years for his crimes. The Senate furthermore fines Joshua Hawley in the amount of $4.5 million. This Trial is adjourned. Mr. Hawley’s name is forever shunned. His family will forever be embarrassed.

(Later, ex-President Donald Trump is interviewed on the 18th hole of his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. With Trump is his BFF, Lindsay Graham.)

Reporter: Mr. President! What do you think of the Hawley Trial?

Trump: It should have been Crooked Hillary. Why didn’t they go after her emails? Benghazi! And Obama: everybody knows he was born in Africa! Jail that RINO, Brian Kemp! They lied about my inaugural crowd, the biggest in history. I never paid any hush money. I’m running in 2024. You can donate money to Trump4President.org. We will contest this Fake Election and we will win!

Sen. Graham: I associate myself fully with the remarks from President Trump!


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.


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