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We have to shun these Republicans


I’m sleeping better going into this weekend. I’m now convinced that Trump will soon be gone—either through Impeachment, or the 2020 election, or by his own hand. However it happens, we’ll soon be done with the most disastrous horror that has struck America since the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

What brings about this peace of mind is, as I blogged the other day, my belief that the long-fabled Tipping Point has been reached.

Trump’s foulness finally has caught up with him. Like water chipping away at rock, three years of exposure to Trump has convinced a solid majority of the American people that this aberration cannot go on any longer. Black and Brown people are effectively united 100% against him. So are younger voters and those in the suburbs. Even the working-class men and women, ranchers and farmers of the Rust Belt, Bible Belt and far western states have woke to the disgrace and danger this man, and his willing white-nationalist henchmen, pose to America, and to them personally and their families. Things have gotten so bad for Trump that his supporters have to keep their allegiance to him a secret, lest they be ridden out of town with tar and feathers, their companies boycotted, their families shunned.

There is an old concept in civil self-governance: shunning. This occurs, says Wikipedia,

“when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group…as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association…Targets of shunning can include…anyone the group perceives as a threat or source of conflict.”

In the olden days, communities shunned members who were perceived as dangerous or undesirable. This had, of course, its bad effects (homosexuals were shunned, and sometimes those shunned, such as “witches,” were brutally murdered), but on the whole, shunning was a good thing. There is such a thing as societal norms. Individuals who willingly breach those norms must be advised that to continue to do so will be more harmful to themselves than to the greater community. This kept people in line, in a day and age before police, courts, newspapers or social media existed.

We as a society must shun Trump supporters. We must let them know that their behavior is completely unacceptable, if we’re serious about valuing diversity, fairness, civility and decency. This is why, when the rightwing billionaire, Stephen Ross, tries to explain away his fundraising for Trump on the fake excuse that he doesn’t agree with everything Trump says or does, his excuse doesn’t hold water. He can’t say he likes Trump’s tax cuts (of course he does!) and then say he denounces the white nationalism and racism. It doesn’t work that way. If he supports Trump to any extent at all, then he’s in favor of racism, of locking brown babies in cages, of vile rhetoric that inspires mass murderers. Stephen Ross can’t have it both ways. When the people who use his Equinox and SoulCycle facilities boycott them in protest, they’re employing a modern-day version of shunning. It’s the only way to get stubborn offenders like Stephen Ross to listen, to hear the voice of the majority.

Any Trump supporter can be shunned, anywhere. Admittedly, this can be difficult. Thanksgiving is coming up. What do you do when you run into Cousin Alan at the family dinner when Cousin Alan is a certified Trump nut? Do you forgive and forget and recall pleasanter times? Do you simply eliminate politics from the conversations? I would argue, No. If you let Cousin Alan think all is well despite the disgust you feel for his political leanings, you are sanctioning his beliefs (in a positive sense) and telling him, in effect, “Never mind what I say about Trump and the people who support him, I don’t really mean it. You’re still okay in my book.”

This is a wrong-headed approach. To shun Cousin Alan, to let him know how you really feel, doesn’t mean you don’t love him. It doesn’t mean you’re not hoping and praying he comes to his senses. What you must do is an intervention: let Cousin Alan know, gently and lovingly, that you (and, hopefully, the rest of your family) are shocked at his embrace of a racist monster. Cousin Alan will try to defend himself by arguing that, yes, Trump is a pig, but… (and he’ll have all sorts of “buts” to offer). He’ll explain that by supporting Trump on, say, immigration and tariffs, he doesn’t mean to excuse Trump’s disgusting, racist statements.

Don’t fall for it. Patiently explain to Cousin Alan that by continuing to support Trump he is excusing Trump’s racist statements. His continuing support is tacit support of racism, of neo-nazism, of virulent white nationalism, of undermining our Constitution and our way of life. Confronting Cousin Alan in this way may lead to a temporary straining of your relationship with him. But that will pass, and you can only hope and pray that your words will find their way to Cousin Alan’s heart.

Have a great weekend! Stay safe. If you have a Cousin Alan, confront him.

Biden is clearly the frontrunner—and deserves to be


Joe Biden is conducting a really smart campaign. He was the last major candidate in; his timing was perfect; he did not want to peak too early. He’s been sparing in his public appearances and press availability, a good thing given his tendency for gaffes, and the fact that he needed to find his footing and develop talking points before jumping into the melée.

He’s now found that footing and those talking points, and his commanding lead in the polls proves that Democratic voters like what they see. The smartest thing he’s doing is to make this election all about Trump. The other candidates are getting lost in the tall weeds of issues: healthcare, immigration, climate change, foreign policy, marijuana. Not Biden; his overriding message resonates: Trump’s utter lack of moral fitness. The other candidates have to focus on specific issues, in order to differentiate themselves from the pack and prove to skeptical voters they have chops. Not Biden. Everybody knows he knows the issues: he was a Senator for decades, and then the Vice President for Barack Obama’s two terms—and Obama remains wildly popular, not just among Democrats but Independents, the most important group Biden must court. Since voters assume Biden understands every issue, he’s free to devote himself to the one thing that matters: taking Trump on.

His speech yesterday was masterful. Joe Biden has an impeccable record in politics and in his personal life. He’s never been in a scandal. His reputation for uprightness has survived since his first election victory. His personal story—unlike Trump’s sordid one—arouses sympathy and admiration. There is not a thing Trump or the Republican attack machine can smear him with. Trump can insult him by calling him old or tired or lazy, but it does no good; Trump insults everybody; the voters see it for what it is: the cranky reflex of an angry, bitter man. Biden’s reputation for integrity, for—yes—family values is rock-solid. More than any other Democratic candidate, Biden is entitled to call out Trump’s indecency, and to do so with power. The public has been primed to regard Trump as a pig—by none other than Trump himself. It’s all too easy for Biden to step happily into that role.

And, yesterday, did he ever! In his Iowa address, he played Trump’s greatest hits of hatred: Mexicans as “rapists and criminals,” “Shoot them,” “rat-infested” Baltimore, “Send her back!,” “invasion,” “animals,” “caravans,” “I am a nationalist,” “Go back”…Americans have heard it all, and been repelled, frightened and disgusted by it. Biden’s job is to remind voters of their disgust; he is doing it perfectly. It was a great speech, delivered by a man not known for great oratory, but so passionate, so sincere, so scathing, you had to be touched, amazed and—if you doubted Biden’s fighting powers–reassured. And if you were Trump, you had to be scared, especially in view of his latest dismal polling numbers in the Midwest.

I’m still prepared to vote for whomever the eventual Democratic nominee is, and I hope you are, too. Right now, it looks like it will be Biden—and that’s fine with me. He’ll run a strong campaign. He’ll have the most popular person in America, Barack Obama, right beside him, with support from the most popular woman in America, Michelle Obama. If the election were held today, Biden would easily win at least 300 electoral votes. And then (with due credit to Kirsten Gillibrand), we can Clorox out the White House and begin a new era of clean, responsible and respectable government in America.

The Tipping Point just arrived


Did you feel it? That political tremor of the last few days? It’s the beginning of the end of the trump regime.

Don’t be dubious! Think about it. The entire republican edifice is crumbling: the NRA is melting down, financially and morally; members are leaving in droves. The republican party itself is in a shambles; while GOP congressmen quit, a majority of the American people clearly blames it for the failure of the Congress to pass meaningful gun control laws. As for trump, at no point in his presidency has he been so pitiful and disgraced as he is following the shootings. He painted himself into a corner from which there is no escape. By his violent rhetoric—thank God for videotape!–he has shown the American people exactly what he is: a sociopathic racist, leading a party of sociopaths.

I’ll tell you why this is the Tipping Point. He’s a cornered rat. He’s never been cornered before. Oh, sure, he’s been busted, dozens of times, for stupid, callous remarks, or aberrant behavior that may be criminal. But he’s never been cornered like he is now. You could see it in his eyes the other day when he delivered that word salad of a speech: beady eyes, narrow slits through which his defensiveness and panic were palpable. This is the trump we’ve long waited for, caught with his fat little hand in the cookie jar.

There are a couple things Democrats, especially the candidates, can and should immediately undertake:

  1. Cease all criticism of fellow Democrats.
  2. Focus all criticism where it belongs: on trump.
  3. Constantly remind Americans of all the things they can’t stand about him.
  4. Continue the Congressional investigations and, if possible, speed them up, while talking of impeachment.
  5. Talk more than ever about gun control. Embarrass governors and Congressional reps who oppose it.
  6. Keep up the pressure on Moscow Mitch. We know it’s getting to him.
  7. Monitor every single word trump says or tweets. The next time he insults Mexicans, or immigrants, or jokes about “his” people punching liberals, scream bloody murder as if your hair was on fire.
  8. And finally, primary every damn Republican in the country—and also primary those Democrats who vote as the NRA instructs them.

The Resistance hasn’t felt like this in the 2-1/2 years since trump’s been President. It mostly been an uphill battle: we were screaming in the wind, and few heard us. Suddenly, overnight—after El Paso and Dayton—America is listening. They’re revolted by this thug in the White House. I will bet anything that, in the next series of polls to emerge, trump’s approvals are way down. The second they get low enough, republicans will start to wake up from their trump coma. Then we can get onto the 2020 elections, in which the vast majority of voters will show this evil cabal to the door and boot them out.

he massacres are trump’s fault, and everybody knows it


No, he didn’t pull the trigger. He just gave permission to the guy who did.

Look: For decades it’s been the lie of NRA-obsessed republicans that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” Because no gun ever pulled its own trigger, republicans thought they could fool people into being against gun-control laws.

And you know what? The argument worked, despite its patent absurdity. That’s why we have so few national laws limiting gun and ammunition use, which in turn is why we have so many mass murders. The NRA and its republican bootlickers hornswaggled the American people, particularly the lower-educated gun freaks who vote republican.

A similar argument was made by Nazi defendants at the Nuremberg Trials. Senior military commanders and top members of Hitler’s government claimed they couldn’t possibly be held responsible for the Deaths because they never personally killed anyone. The Generals didn’t personally load Jews into the gas chambers. The top political leaders didn’t personally strip the bodies of gold teeth and jewelry and then stuff them into the ovens. So how could they be accused or convicted of mass murder?

Of course, that’s not how the Tribunal’s judges saw things. They did convict the Generals and politicians of crimes against humanity and other war crimes, and they did hang dozens of them. A handful escaped the hangman’s noose by committing suicide, but otherwise, History has recorded that the Third Reich received its just desserts on the gallows.

So much for the republican argument! trump and virtually all of the rest of the republican cult actually seem to think they’re getting away with this stuff. They think that all they have to do is call for better mental health treatment (whatever the hell that means), and people won’t blame them for the massacres. They have the chutzpah (or self-delusion) to believe that they can peddle this crap to a public that’s credulous enough to buy it.

Well, maybe they can to the 30% who are so stupid they still think trump had the biggest inaugural crowd in history. As for the rest of us, fugeddaboutit. That’s the lesson of Nuremberg. In order to be guilty, you don’t just have to be the maniac that pulled the trigger. You’re equally guilty if you incited the violence, if you aided and abetted it through your words and deeds, if you gave dog whistles to the murderers and wink-wink-nod-nod “apologies” you didn’t really mean, and if you support propaganda outlets, like fox “news,” that peddle race hatred 24/7. If you do these things, you’re guilty. And you deserve the same penalty as those who pulled the triggers.

America is going to have Nuremberg-style trials for republicans. I imagine they’ll be held in Washington, D.C., perhaps in the U.S. Supreme Court building. A list of those who will be indicted and tried begins, obviously, with Donald J. Trump, but it will include his senior political allies: Stephen Miller, Mitch McConnell, Devin Nunes, Kevin McCarthy, Kellyanne Conway, Michael Pence, Clarence Thomas and dozens of others. It also will include trump’s military leadership: Joseph Dunford and Patrick Shanahan, for starters. And lest we forget that at Nuremberg the Justices also convicted Hitler’s chief propagandists, so too will the Washington trials charge Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and the rest of the white nationalists in the media with inciting and being accessories to mass murder. They, too, along with their cohorts, will face the choice of being executed or facing long imprisonment, or of committing suicide.

Sound harsh? Yes. Harsh times call for harsh words. But we are in harsh times, brought on by decades of a republican party stoking hatred, resentment and violence, and now led by the worst president ever, an unstable narcissist and pathological liar interested only in sexual gratification, power and money. The tea party—incorrigible deplorables—started this. We Democrats will settle it, starting right now.

The massacres are trump’s fault, and everybody knows it!


Amy Klobuchar, the Democratic Senator from Minnesota who’s running for president, was asked on Saturday if she blames Trump for the El Paso Massacre. She responded no, she blames his rhetoric, not him.

What the hell does that mean? It’s like saying you don’t blame Hitler for the Holocaust, but you blame Mein Kampf.

You can’t separate the speaker from the speech!!!

These mass murders are on trump. He inspires the killers. He gives them the dog whistles their psychotic ears long to hear. He won’t denounce white nationalism because he IS a white nationalist.

Republicans have really painted themselves into a corner. They’ve based their entire political appeal on neo-nazis, white thugs and losers who hate people of color. Now they’ve opened a Pandora’s Box of murder, violence and mayhem. The pressure is on Republicans—rightfully—to do something, anything: condemn white nationalism. Pass stricter gun control laws, such as universal background checks. Increase FBI and Homeland Security funding to go after the young white males who are committing this domestic terrorism.

But Republicans can’t do it. They’d have to go after their own base. If they did, that base would turn against them. Rush Limbaugh—another racist—would scream bloody murder if trump even suggested support for tighter gun restrictions. Hannity would blow his mind if trump called white nationalists (like Hannity) “evil” and vowed to stop them. The failing N.R.A. would rise up in righteous indignation. So it’s not going to happen.

Instead, trump will tweet meaningless platitudes about hearts and minds. He’ll claim to be against all murders. And he’ll continue to insist that the real threat to our safety is brown-skinned rapists and murderers flooding across the southern border.

Lies. But the ignorant trailer trash who constitute his base will believe anything he says. In between burping their Pabst Blue Ribbon and laundering their white sheets for the next Klan rally, they’ll reassure each other that trump is a good ole boy, on their side, a fighter who wants to keep America white and Christian. They’ll see right through Trump’s winking-and-nodding which lets them off the hook. And more of them will burst into another Wal-Mart someplace and mow down a few dozen more innocent people.

We’ve all been waiting for the tipping point for close to three years. There have been many false reports that, finally, trump has gone too far.  Could this be the true tipping point? I waited all day Sunday for any senior Republicans to come out against trump’s hate mongering. Don’t mince words—just come out and say it, because everybody knows it’s true: these mass murders are on trump.

But I waited in vain. Sunday was the day Republicans should have spoken up. They didn’t. To the extent they said anything at all, it was along the lines of the absurdity of Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who said the problem is—not the epidemic of guns, not white nationalism, not trump stirring up hatred and inspiring mass murderers—but mental health! On Breitbart, they didn’t even report on El Paso, beyond citing an early report before they quashed the news. No update. No criticism. No mourning. Instead, more crap about AOC, about The Squad, about Hillary. Breitbart’s neo-nazi editors scoured the Internet to find a single instance of a Latino who murdered someone. Twenty dead in El Paso, nine slaughtered in Dayton, and not a word of condemnation from the racists at Breitbart, just more stoking up fear about brown-skinned people.

Trump, under tremendous pressure, took to the airwaves this morning. But what did he say? What could he say? He knows he’s guilty. He knows he can’t talk his way out of this. Crocodile tears! This loathsome creature was like some insect, caught in the light, while a foot is about the come down on it. “We vow to act,” the liar-in-chief said; but he offered nothing except “thoughts and prayers.” As for his fellow Republicans, they were crawling all around the media, expressing outrage—but not condemning white nationalism or calling for even a modicum of new gun control laws. There was only one thing trump could have said that would have contained the slightest hint of authenticity: “I apologize for my incendiary language, which I recognize is fueling white nationalism and these atrocious massacres.” But of course, he can’t say that—because he doesn’t even feel it. He remains under the thrall of the failing N.R.A. Hearing him talk about “love” and invoking “God” was nauseating.

Well, that’s trump. That’s trumpland. That’s trump voters. The sooner America is rid of this contagion, the better.

Rural California fights back


Poor Jeff Williams. He has to drive 140 miles to buy ammunition for his Glock 45 9mm pistol—the same type of gun Omar Mateen used when he slaughtered 49 people in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting.

Williams lives in Needles, California, a small city on the California-Arizona border, in the Mohave Desert. Due to California’s strict gun control laws, gun owners are prohibited from buying ammo in other states and then transporting it into California. So Williams, who is Needles’ mayor, can’t just buy bullets from the nearby towns, a few miles away, that are across the state line in Arizona. “I have to drive 140 miles to Barstow,” he complains.

Needles is one of those towns where firearms play an inordinate role in its citizens’ lives. There are many gun stores and shooting ranges. It’s the kind of place where dads take their kids out for target practice with semi-automatic rifles.

Needles’ congressman is the arch-Republican Paul Cook, who has a perfect 0% rating from Planned Parenthood and an equally perfect 100% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. Cook is a global warming denier, and he opposes holding Russia accountable for meddling in our elections.

I mention this just to provide some background to the political and cultural environment in Needles. In the wake of California’s strict gun control laws, Needles just declared itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary City,” an obvious play-on-words with the sanctuary city policies that apply to immigrants in cities like San Francisco and Oakland. Needless to say, immigrant sanctuary city policies are not popular in conservative Needles. In fact, the man who introduced Needles’ gun-sanctuary city policy, City Councilman Tim Terral, admits he “chose the word ‘sanctuary’ to take a stab at all the liberals. It was a little jab in the eyes.”

Needles is, needless to say, Trump country. It is more than 50% white, although that percentage has been shrinking in recent years as the Hispanic population, currently around 35%, increases. So conservative is Needles that when Cook ran for re-election in 2018, he faced, not a Democratic candidate, but another Republican. The Dems didn’t even bother to compete. Cook, who won, was endorsed by Trump and by the N.R.A.

I have never owned a gun. I’ve fired a few, for sports activities. I support the Second Amendment, but what ammophiles, like Cook, Terrel and other gun nuts never talk about is that section of the amendment that refers to “a well-regulated Militia.” It is one of the coarsest, most blatant Republican lies in history to conveniently forget that phrase and argue instead that the Second Amendment gives every citizen the right to own weaponry no matter how lethal it is: automatic weapons, tanks, perhaps someday even tactical nuclear weapons.

If that sounds absurd, then ask yourself what is the limit of weapon ownership in America? If you can legally possess an AK-47 then it’s only a slippery slope towards an even more deadly arsenal. As crazy as owning a tank sounds, the Founding Fathers would have thought it insane to allow a U.S. civilian to own a machine gun that can mow down dozens of people in minutes.

What is this so-called “gun culture” all about, anyway? Here’s what we know about it. They are practically 100% Republicans, and not moderate Republicans, but the most hardcore of the right. They are overwhelmingly white, and male. They are rural. They mostly do not have much money, and their educational level is low. They live in places that have very few Black people. They voted for Trump in overwhelming numbers; they’re the ones turning up at his rallies in their little MAGA hats shrieking “Send Her Back” or, in the last election, “Lock Her Up.” They’re militantly homophobic, they hate government (except when they’re collecting their Social Security, unemployment or Medicare benefits), they don’t much care for foreigners, and they use Jesus as an excuse for their bigotry. They use the language of self-determination to justify their peculiar addictions. “[Needles residents] should be able to govern themselves with certain things and make decisions that are best for their communities,” said a prominent Needles Republican activist.

Well, for sure. Who’s against self-governance? But by the same token the people of California should be able to govern themselves, and they have determined that there are too many guns, in the hands of too many unstable people. Part of the solution is to ban the importation of ammunition. If that means that Mayor Williams has to drive 140 miles each way to buy bullets for his Glock, then screw him. That’s his problem, not ours—and we Californians are going to make gun and ammunition ownership even more difficult in the coming years. If Mayor Williams doesn’t like it, let him move to Arizona.

Restaurant review: Zuni Café, San Francisco


I like to think that if I’d had lunch last Tuesday at “Yuni” Café, I would have marveled at the food anyway.

But this wasn’t Yuni Café, it was Zuni Cafe.  Now in its fortieth year in the mid-Market section of San Francisco, Zuni is internationally famous; somehow Chez Panisse overcame it in renown, but Zuni remains vital enough that the San Francisco Chronicle included them—again—in their Top 100 Restaurants this year.

I’ve lived here for 41 years (!!!) and due to my career had access to the greatest restaurants, but for some reason I never actually made it to Zuni. I always was aware of it; it was on my bucket list. So when my cousin Keith had his birthday, and it fell to me in our Northern California family to find a restaurant for lunch, there was no question in my mind.


The neighborhood is sketchy, even by San Francisco standards. The mid-Market area has been marginal for a half-century; even when I lived in the City in the late 1970s and 1980s, it was a scary, dirty district of drug dealers, prostitutes and derelicts. San Francisco passed a law known as the Twitter Tax years ago to reduce taxes on big companies that relocated to mid-Market, in the hope they’d revitalize the neighborhood; Twitter was among them and is still there. Other corporations followed, but mid-Market can still seem like a visit to the Star Wars bar.

Zuni itself is in an old building, a warren of formerly interconnected office spaces, each a mini-dining room. Our table looked out over the copper-plated bar, with street views; the nearest other diner was a good 12 feet away; don’t you hate those restaurants where you’re elbow-to-elbow with other tables?

We just had to order Zuni’s most famous dish: the broiled chicken. It’s supposedly the best broiled chicken in California, maybe America. It cost $63; we decided the four of us would share it, and each could order further appetizers or entrées. We eventually decided on another Zuni speciality: two Caesar Salads for the table. To this we added a prosciutto pizza. My family had various wines and cocktails; I had an IPA.

So what does a $63 chicken taste like? Very, very good—and very salty. Was it the greatest chicken I ever had? Pretty much—and I’ve had a lot of chicken! I’m a dark-meat guy, so I had the drumstick and thigh. Amazingly delicious, sweet, moist, tender and deeply, royally, sinfully flavorful. But salty. I guess the salt is needed to make it so delicious.

When I was in my twenties I was a sous-chef at an upscale restaurant and I used to prepare Caesar salad tableside, so I know something about it. It’s a very simple salad: not a whole lot going on ingredient-wise, easily replicable elsewhere. This Caesar was a marvel. I guess the romaine was first-class, and the croutons were a marvel, but it was the dressing that clinched it. So light and delicate, so subtle with that anchovy sea tang. I absolutely loved it.

And don’t even ask me about the pizza! Look, I love pizza in any form. Zuni’s is extremely thin-crust. This one, with the prosciutto, was so good, we couldn’t believe it. My family are all foodies; Keith and I just looked at each other in wonder. How can a pizza appetizer be this good?

So it was a simple meal: pizza, salad and broiled chicken. But somehow it will remain in my memory forever as one of the great meals of my life. I have dined in restaurants that people would die to eat in. Why was Zuni so memorable? For the same reason it’s remained at the top for forty years: excellence in all its parts, resulting that mysterious je ne sais qua that makes you adore it.

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