Sunday, March 25, 2018

Love Simon.... I'd like to, but...

I am trying to like “Love Simon”.

Really I am. From all indications the movie is the Gay high school Rom-Com that we have all wanted to see for so long. Granted there have been others. But all were smaller indie-type movies. Great movies like Love Seventeen, Trick, Jeffery, The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, and Broken Hearts Club. All wonderful films but not major Hollywood releases.

Now comes “Love Simon” which is basically the Gay version of all those John Hughes high school romantic comedies I grew up watching when I was that age. A gay “Sixteen Candles” or “Pretty in Pink”. Finally right?

Time Magazine recently stole my thunder by asking the very question I did when I first saw the trailer for this movie “Do Today’s Teens Really Need it?” In the film our hero Simon, a good looking popular kid with a loving and supportive family never really faces any serious risk in coming out. Not that having such risks would make it a better movie. It wouldn’t. This is fantasy. Just like the nerdy freshman girl getting the senior hunk of her dreams in Sixteen Candles this movie also (quite rightly) glosses over the reality of the American High School experience. Creating a wonderful fantasy where boy meets boy and after some endearing ups and downs gets his guy, and goes to the happily ever after-prom.

I went to a pretty good High School. It was ( and still is) an outstanding public school with dedicated and talented Teachers, decent facilities great extra-curricular programs and overall I received a very good education there. It was however, like most American High Schools, ridiculously stratified to the point that makes the Caste system in India look like outtakes from the Breakfast Club..

As much as my classmates at the time would never admit it today. In the 80’s if a student had come out, the reaction quite simply would have been to bully him or her to death., and no, that is by no means an exaggeration.

There was no such thing a Gay-Straight alliances, or “Safe Spaces” for LGBT youth. My Junior year When I was one of the editors of the school newspaper an organization called “The United” which was a ground breaking non profit support and counseling organization that served Gay and Lesbian teens in South Central Wisconsin, contacted us, and wanted to buy an ad our school paper advertising their crisis counseling line for Gay teens. It was the biggest drama you could possibly imagine where teachers that I had thought to be open minded and progressive were suddenly “seriously concerned” that we might be “promoting the homosexual lifestyle”, and even potentially pushing some poor confused soul into it, just by running this ad.

As a young gay teen terrified of coming out the conversations that were had, the opinions that both friends and teachers alike expressed, all taught me a lot. Mainly that my school was a very dangerous place for me, There would never be a date, a dance or a kiss stolen at a locker in between classes for someone like me. And to even attempt such a thing would be suicide. Literally.

So yes, Love Simon is the sweet, and wonderfully ground breaking film that I always hoped would be made some day. But it also has severed as painful reminder of what I, and many like me, never had. So maybe my feelings stem from a place of envy. Or maybe the good news is , a Gay kid today at my High School really does have it a lot better than I did, and this movie is just art imitating life.

That certainly is good news. Even if that life wasn’t mine.

Friday, March 09, 2018

A Trump-Kim Summit? (with Chinese Subtitles…)

A few excited Trump supporting friends of mine, (yes I do have friends who are Trump supporters, I consider it a form of missionary work .) gleefully messaged me today lauding the announcement that President Trump would be meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un this Spring. “See Obama never achieved that!! #MAGA!”


Ok then… since they seemed truly interested in what I thought of this latest development, fine. Lets set aside for the moment the massive, glaring flashing bright neon sign of  hypocrisy, where these very same people lost their freaking minds when in 2008 Barack Obama merely suggested that he would “Willing to meet” with the North Korean Leader.

Apparently when the Black guy just talks about it, it is giving support to America’s enemies, but when the Orange guy  actually does it, it’s a triumph of statesmanship. OK….Whatever.

The popular take on the political Right is that it was Trump’s tough guy stance and willingness to use military force that brought Kim to the table. Or at least Trump's willingness to say things that gave that impression. And to be fair, there may be some truth in that. The North Korean regime has made a career out of being the “Crazy” one in the room. The unpredictable one. They were accustomed to dealing with a US Administration that always followed the rules of international diplomacy.

North Korean provocations were always met with ‘strongly worded” statements and watered down sanctions from the UN. (Sanctions that China would never quite fall in line with fully implementing.) The worst thing that would usually happen would be stepped up joint military exercises between the US And South Korea. Which in turn provided the North with great PR at home being able to claim the US was the clear aggressor and all North Korea was doing is ensuring its own security.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Then suddenly you have a US President who is threatening a nuclear first strike on Twitter. Referring to the North Korean Leader by insulting nick names and not giving a rip how his comments and behavior is viewed around the world. North Korea has always counted on the US belief that war on the Korean Peninsula was unthinkable. Suddenly, that was no longer a given,

Add to this, the fact that is has become clear that you have an American Administration that was more than willing to escalate tensions with North Korea as a way to shift the news cycle away from its political problems and scandals at home. Suddenly, North Korea wasn’t the most unpredictable one in the room, and Kim had to factor in the very real possibility of an actual military conflict, that he couldn’t possibly survive on his own.

Which is where the Trump is so smart narrative runs into trouble. Yes the actions by Donald Trump may have had an impact here, but not on North Korea. What is clear, is the Adult in the room finally decided that things were getting out of hand. The reason North Korea is suddenly singing “Give peace a chance”, is because China decided enough was enough.

North Korea is completely dependent on China who for the most part, is happy to let  North Korea get away with being a thorn in the side of the United States,  because that is something that actually benefits China. That being said, the LAST thing China wants is a REAL  military conflict on its back porch.

The only way the North Korean regime could possibly survive any military conflict with the US, is if China went to war on its behalf. Like it did on November 25th 1950, during the Korean War. Something China is not at all about to do In 2018. But what China has done is actually implement many ( not all) of the latest batch of economic sanctions against its unruly little neighbor. Sending a very loud and clear message to Kim that Nuclear playtime was over and it was time to sit down and talk.

Not change, not disarm, just talk.

If the latest round of diplomacy  is feeling somewhat familiar,  it is because we have been down this road more than a few times before. Back during the George W Bush administration the North Koreans made basically the same offer they did this week. They will sit down and talk about disarmament in exchange for security guarantees and lifting of sanctions

Christopher Hill, the former US ambassador who led the negotiations in George W. Bush‘s second term, said at the time, ”The idea that North Korea will abandon its weapons programs in exchange for the promise of security and regime survival has failed whenever it has been tested.“

If you remember, the previous North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-il made a very similar offer. The US then tried to woo North Korea to the negotiating table by giving back frozen assets and removing the regime from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was all show. In the end, North Korean balked at even basic verification to prove they had disarmed. And just like every other  time before, Pyongyang pocketed the up-front concessions and used the talks to stall for time.

As long as China sees the threat of conflict (not actual conflict) on the Korean Peninsula as something that works in China’s favor, keeping the US focused on the DMZ instead of China’s massive military build up in other parts of Asia, or the expansion of China’s strategic and economic influence in other parts of the world, like Africa and South America , there is no reason whatsoever to believe this latest diplomatic thaw will be any different.

By meeting with Kim Jong-un as an equal Head of State. Trump is actually doing what conservatives hysterically accused Obama of being willing to do.  Giving a petty violent little dictator the standing on the world stage that only the American Presidency can bestow.

But then again, that’s totally fine, because……?   Oh yeah, it’s the Orange guy who’s doing it.

Anything to distract from Russia,  right? 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Mixed Legacy of Rev. Billy Graham (1919-2018)

From the New York TImes:

The Rev. Billy Graham, a North Carolina farmer’s son who preached to millions in stadium events he called crusades, becoming a pastor to presidents and the nation’s best-known Christian evangelist for more than 60 years, died on Wednesday at his home in Montreat, N.C. He was 99.

His death was confirmed by Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Mr. Graham had dealt with a number of illnesses in his last years, including prostate cancer, hydrocephalus (a buildup of fluid in the brain) and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

Mr. Graham spread his influence across the country and around the world through a combination of religious conviction, commanding stage presence and shrewd use of radio, television and advanced communication technologies.

A central achievement was his encouraging evangelical Protestants to regain the social influence they had once wielded, reversing a retreat from public life that had begun when their efforts to challenge evolution theory were defeated in the Scopes trial in 1925.

But in his later years, Mr. Graham kept his distance from the evangelical political movement he had helped engender, refusing to endorse candidates and avoiding the volatile issues dear to religious conservatives.


For many Americans, Graham's legacy will always be a mixed one.  Graham liked to claim he had far more vocal detractors on the right than he did on the left. Yet carefully tucked into Graham's ecumenicalism was a subtle and at times not so subtle message of bigotry and exclusion. Graham, claimed in 1993 that AIDS was a “judgement from God”, yet in his view other Chronic illnesses like Cancer, and Diabetes were not.

In a 2015 interview with a Russian newspaper, Graham praised Vladimir Putin’s support for anti-gay laws – and repeated Putin's stance that homosexuals “take people’s children”. and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association continues to advocate gay ‘cure’ therapy,, (which every reputable medical entity has rightly defined as torture.), on its website.

It is also worth noting that Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz,and Son Frankin Graham both suggested that God let 9/11 happen because God was upset about transgender people

Billy Graham invented modern televangelism. And by wrapping a conservative theology in a outer shell of ecumenical outreach was able to be true cultural force in America. Whether that force was a good or bad thing is a very valid point of debate.

As a young gay kid growing up I remember being confused by Graham's messages. On one hand he said God loved me and people shouldn't judge others, and in the next breath said I was a demon possessed abomination, who was a threat to kids, and was going to burn in hell.  (Wait…what?? Geez man, make up your mind!)

You can't deny his influence and impact, but what is clear today is, despite how sweetly Graham may have couched his message in "the good news" his passing means there is one less voice of hatred and homophobia in the world,

Monday, February 12, 2018

Living with outrage addicts in a Post-Fact America….

I usually don’t respond to this sort of thing, but recently there has been a resurgence of Facebook based hoaxes claiming that big bad evil liberal Facebook was BANNING photos of wounded veterans from being posted on people’s profile pages and news feeds.

The post almost always includes this photo of a double amputee US Marine and exhort all true Americans to “repost this!”, or type “AMEN!”: or something…

It’s total nonsense. Facebook has never banned any such photos, as the fact that the photo is at present, all over Facebook clearly proves.  One of my best friends, recently reposted this particular story. I commented with a link to a popular fact checking site that debunked it and wrote that the Photo was definitely one worth reposting but Facebook had never, and is not now banning it. 

The response was interesting. Both he and his wife didn’t engage with me on the subject of the post being a hoax, rather they both enthusiastically responded with how biased and untrustworthy the fact checking site was. Which at first, stuck me as just a bit juvenile, but after thinking about it I started to understand why they were not interested in the reality of the story being false. It was the anger the story generated that was the important thing.

They were more vested in the “outrage” than in the facts.

Like many Americans I have struggled to understand the world in which Donald Trump’s supporters live. It is a place where Fox News is on full volume to drown out anything that could possibly contradict their world view. If by sheer chance reality does manage to find a crack to seep through, the response is essentially to stick their fingers in their ears and yell “ LA! LA! LA! LA! FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS!”

Outrage and anger are now America’s drug of choice. And a sizeable portion of the population have become hard core addicts. And like all good pushers and dealers, the GOP, the conservative media-sphere and the President himself know you need to keep your users wanting their fix. The only way the high can be sustained is to up the potency and the dosage.

It’s time we acknowledge that we are not dealing with people with a different point of view. We are dealing with drug addicts. Sadly most addicts won’t accept the idea that being an addict is bad for them until the consequences of their addiction to not just themselves, but to all those around them are too great to ignore.

What has become clear is you cannot engage with people who still support this President and his party on an intellectual level. Just like you won’t get through to an addict simply by telling them that the drug they are using is hurting them. They don’t care about that. It’s the fix… the high of being outraged about (fill in the blank……) that is all that matters.

The Huffington Post has a lead story today about the possible impact and dangers of the “next rescission” and how it will impact on the most vulnerable in America. The key take away is how the President of the United States will just say any and all bad economic news is “Fake”. Fox News and the conservative Media bubble will echo that endlessly, Fox Pundits will say that any economic woes too great to ignore are actually the fault of President Obama’s policies and we need get ANGRY at the Democrats for not letting President Trump “make America great again”.

That anger is critically important to the GOP. It is needed to distract from some rather unpleasant facts.   Like the massive hole in the Federal budget from the Trump tax cuts and how it will be used to justify huge cuts to Social Programs,  like unemployment benefits, which are  specifically  designed to help people during an economic downturn. When a lot of people lose their jobs and state unemployment  funds run out, states have to borrow money and sometimes increase payroll taxes ― something that makes Republican lawmakers enthusiastic about trimming benefits, and claiming they are "cutting taxes on small businesses" .

Addicts can get to a point where they will do almost anything to get their fix. Steal from friends and family. Neglect their children, and see anyone who challenges their behavior as “the enemy” and anyone who helps them maintain their addiction as their friend. Often the only way for an addict to move on into recovery is for them to hit rock bottom first.

I fear we may be heading that way. As for many people the anger and outrage has become more important than facts. To accept even for a moment that you voted for a man whose entire life is in realty the complete opposite of everything you claim to have voted for; is to admit that the drug is bad for you , and you have problem

An admission, that for an addict is the first, and hardest step to take.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Funny Odd Book Review - “Fire and Fury. Inside the Trump White House” By Michael Wolff

Ok I read it. It only took me two weeks to get my hands on a copy. (Yes, I know I could have downloaded an e-book but I like real books. Made out of real paper.)

 After wading through Wolff’s highly dramatized account of life inside the West Wing of The Trump Administration, a few key take a-ways stand out.

Yes there are bits in Wolff’s account that most likely would not stand up to rigorous fact checking. (Not unlike many statements by Trump himself.) Yet if even one-tenth of what Wolff says he heard and saw is true, that alone is mindbogglingly scary.

Wolff’s narrative is almost dare I say it, Shakespearian. Warring factions all plotting for dominance in the Court of an unfocused, volatile, easily manipulated king. The main storyline in the book is the battle between White House “Chief Strategist” Steve Bannon and Donald Trump’s Children. Mainly, his daughter Ivanka and Son in Law Jared Kushner. 

 With each of them trying to get President Trump to adopt their respective agendas. With occasional appearances by White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus, and Congressional Republicans. But for the most part this is Bannon vs. “JarVanka”.

As interesting and at times both funny and scary as that saga comes across, it really is secondary to the real issue that Wolff has chronicled in his book. Donald Trump himself. Not what do people think about him, or say about him behind his back Not even is he smart or dumb? Crazy or Sane? Even the personal oddities of how he lives, eats, sleeps and behaves are not the real story here.

Wolff’s account , if even remotely accurate shows why Donald Trump will never succeed as President of the United States, and will keep lurching from one crisis and /or self inflicted disaster to another. Doing extensive damage the country as whole in the process. The reason is remarkably simple,  and in hindsight makes perfect sense.

Donald Trump doesn’t understand anything about the office he ran for and (if Wolff is to be believed),  never expected to win, but did. The President is portrayed as a volatile, disinterested man-baby who must be handled at all times, and who has no ideas, agenda or vision of his own. Trump’s main and at times singular focus is how he is or is not, getting the attention, deference and affirmation he constantly craves.

 Donald Trump is still trying to win his personal campaign to be bigger, more famous and better liked , than everyone who he feels never respected him. Be it the New York social elite. The real estate world, or the Media, in all of its various forms. 

For Trump, this has never been , and will never be about governing or leading the United States of America. For Trump this is all about his desperate need to show them all how great he is.

For Him, this is still about being a bigger and more admired / envied “Celebrity”.

Trump clearly doesn’t understand what it meant when he won, He has already done the most monumental achievement conceivable. The man, like it or not, IS the 45th President of the United States.  Yet, he is unable to grasp the one basic life changing truth about being President of the United States;  There is nothing Trump can do to become more famous than he is now.

As President there will always be people who will criticize, mock and oppose you simply because you are President of the United States. Trump will never get past that. He remains  consumed with the need to  respond and avenge any slight no matter how small. He spends his hours coming up with  insulting nicknames for his “foes”, arranging humiliation for anyone in his orbit who doesn’t constantly validate his incredibly fragile self image.

The actual business of being President just annoys him. Therein, as Shakespeare would say, lies the rub.   Any and all decisions Trump makes as President are done not in the context of leading the nation or the rest of the free world for that matter, but rather done in the context of what he feels will make him a bigger celebrity or punish people he dislikes. Or more accurately, punish people who don’t like him. A list which now includes the majority of the American People.

The biggest surprise for me in reading the book was that Trump doesn’t get it. All those “enemies” he obsesses about? They lost, he won. He is POTUS.  It doesn't get any bigger than this.   Donald Trump has finally gotten what he always wanted. He is the most famous man in the World.   But it's just not enough.  

Even his greatest nemesis, the late Merv Griffin, were he alive today, would have to stand up respectfully when Trump entered the room, simply because he IS the President.   Conversely, the non conservative media, be it The New York Times, CNN or even Vanity Fair, will NEVER suck up to him the way he so desperately wants them to, simply because he IS the President.

Like it or not, his name is now forever linked with that of Washington, Lincoln, FDR,  Reagan and yes, Barack Obama.  In Disney theme parks on a stage full of animatronic US Presidents  it's HIS replica that gets the last word.  But still,  for Donald it will never be enough.   He is the world's biggest "Sore Winner"

The only way Trump will ever get anywhere near the level of adoration and praise he craves, is if he were to actually BE a great President. Something that is utterly beyond his ability. 

The Presidency is beyond his emotional, intellectual and physical capabilities. Additionally his own ego won’t allow those around him to succeed on his behalf, out of a deep pathological fear of others taking the spotlight away from him.  

What comes through in Wolff’s account is a man who could very well launch a nuclear strike just to ensure he is center of attention.

A man who, because he has no grasp of the job he won, will latch on to whatever the last position or idea presented to him was. Presented simply and preferably with color pictures not words.   Donald Trump has only one interest as President of the United States , it isn’t the Republicans, or Democrats or anyone or anything else for that matter. It is about getting adulation and greater fame vis-à-vis people and institutions he envies. For Donald it is about his obsession to affirm his ego, 

If “Fire and Fury” has shown us anything, it is this obsession with celebrity, that  Donald Trump will forever be focused on. In complete disregard for everything a President of the United States needs to be and do, in the here and now.

What Michael Wolff has done, is shine a light on the fact that the only way the Executive Branch of the United States Government can be restored to even the most basic functionality, is to remove Donald Trump from it, as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Catch Up Blogging.... Back in the Bay Area

Yeah yeah... I know it's been forever since I posted here. In my defense, I have been (to put it mildly...) insanely busy.

As I write this, I am sitting at my desk, in my new office in downtown Oakland, California. 12 weeks ago, such a scene wasn’t even a glimmer in my mind. 12 weeks ago, I was sitting at home in London, watching the telly. When my Blackberry vibrated with an email from my old employer, Kaiser Permanente.

Three Skype calls and three weeks later I had a job offer to return. Return to KP and return to the United States.  That was 8 weeks ago. Now I sit at my desk at  Kaiser Center in downtown Oakland, while I read news reports of the Brexit drama back home in London.

Back home in London… Is both an odd and perfectly logical sentiment at this point. I find that I am still in a bit of state of culture shock being back in the US. It is hard not to feel like you are half one place and half another. The news last week of an incident at Oxford Street Tube Station had me scouring the internet for details. Yet the right side of my brain was quick to point out; “Uh, that really has nothing to do with you...”

That’s an odd feeling... 

Life is about leaps of faith. What you do, who you share your life with, where you build that life. All leaps of faith. Leaving the US to move to London was a leap of faith. Now it’s a bit of deja’vu. Like picking up where I left off 7 years ago. Leaving  London to return to Northern California. I find I had to just take  a deep breath, and leap.

I am excited and happy to back at Kaiser Permanente. It is an organization I am very passionate about. I believe in our mission, I love our culture and am thrilled to be back among incredibly talented friends who share those beliefs. Still three weeks in, I find I dearly miss London. Part of it is, the odd transition. As familiar as the Bay Area is, it isn’t the place I left 7 years ago. (Nor should it be.) But some of that change has been a bit of a shock. 

When deciding where to live I thought I might go back to San Francisco, where I lived for nearly a decade. But the city has changed somewhat. The current tech boom has thrown the divide between those who are doing well, and those who are not, into sharp vivid relief. San Francisco feels…. mean.  

Not cruel- or evil mean, but more like New York City, every man/woman for themselves, kind of mean.   This  is partly due to the sheer sticker shock of moving back.   London is not a cheap city to live in, but  the SF Bay Area runs about  6-10% more expensive  in terms of cost of living than Greater London.    Case in point, the cost of housing.

When I left San Francisco in 2011,  I was living in a small, but nice  one bedroom apartment, South of Market.  Not in a bad area, but sort of close to a less than desirable area.  What  I liked to call  "Uhhhggh Adjacent".  Not in the "Uhhggh" but adjacent to it.

Still  it was a great place, walking distance to pretty much everything  and  it had a HUGE kitchen and a back patio deck  that I used for grilling.    

When I moved out  I was paying $950.00 a month.   That same apartment  now rents for nearly   $4,000.00 a month.   The recent "tech boom"  has made living in San Francisco akin to trying to find an apartment in Midtown Manhattan.  Possible, but only if you have a lot of money.   This has been a boom for landlords and driven development and yes, gentrification in downtown San Francisco.

So, not wanting to spend half of my income on rent,  (as well as forking over one of any bodily organ I have two of, for a deposit),  I, like many folks have opted out of  trying to live in San Francisco,  and instead, moved to the East Bay. (Oakland ).   Mostly due to the the cost of housing in SF, but also because what I mentioned earlier.  The city just feels...  angry.

There has always been a undercurrent of tension between many San Francisco residents, and the city's large  chronic homeless population.    Recent op-eds from various "tech bros"  decrying  the issues that come with a large homeless population, and the resulting backlash against such opinions, has given the city a feeling of being solidly divided along  socio-economic lines.   The angry "haves" who are tired of urban blight, and the even angrier  "have nots"  who have been driven out of their traditional neighborhoods by the recent Tech boom.  

"Don't give them any money, they'll use it to buy drugs or booze!"  A friend of mine used to scold me when I would hand a homeless man on Market Street a dollar.

In all honesty he was probably right. Yet it is hard to just "walk by" a man lying on the ground who clearly has not spent a night indoors in a very long time. It is the greatest civic issue facing San Francisco. The mass of homeless. For years the homeless migrated here for the mild winter, and for cash. 

The city used to hand out cash to the homeless in lieu of services. Until 2003 San Francisco had the highest cash grants to the homeless in the country —nearly $400 a month, and recipients were not required to even prove residency. Well you can imagine what that did. It turned San Francisco into a magnet for the homeless.

It was Mayor Gavin Newsom, who started "Care not Cash". A program where instead of getting money, the homeless get housing and other assistance. It did make a difference. In the time that I lived there ,  there was a reported drop in the number of homeless on the streets. Yet, critics of the program said  the impact was  minimal, and never  addressed what they see as the root causes of homelessness. Critics of those critics, said  the "homeless advocates" were apologists for drug use and petty crime, and the "right" to live in the street, didn't outweigh the rights of  private property owners.

Reality as always, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Again, case in point,  my old neighborhood South of Market.   In 2011, shortly before I moved, the city closed off a section of the street in front of my apartment building, and made a very nice small urban pedestrian park  with benches and artwork.   What happened next was sadly all too predictable.  Having made the space safe from car traffic,  it immediately became a homeless encampment, strewn with trash,  human waste and used needles from intravenous drug use.

Local property owners had to eventually demand the city  remove the park and reopen the street to traffic. Which they did.  One former neighbor of mine said the risk of local children getting hit by a car,  was preferable to  kids having "to walk  through  poop and syringes."

Yet there was no mention of where those homeless people went,  after their camp was cleared out.  That part of the equation remains largely unsolved.

This past weekend as I walked down Market Street and through UN Plaza there was a palpable feeling of anger in the air. As techies lined up to buy a $6.00 cup of coffee, they glared with annoyance at the homeless man camped out on the sidewalk in front of them. Who in turn yelled in angry defiance that San Francisco was HIS city and he wasn't going to go anywhere. 

As I walked around downtown San Francisco  this conflict seemed to be  everywhere. Maybe it's just good old Lutheran  guilt, but it seemed where ever I went, I was  confronted by someone angrily asking me  for spare change .   It got to the point where I just didn't want to make eye contact with anyone. And I felt really crappy about it too. Yet in all truth what good is one dollar, or a hand full of change going to do this person? What they really need is housing, substance abuse rehab and mental and medical health services. None of which I  carry in my pockets as I walk down Market Street. 

The rational side of my brain is quick to remind me that I give every month to my church, which in turn supports programs like the Interfaith Homeless Shelter program and the  San Francisco Night Ministry. Which does try to provide those real needs I just mentioned. So why do I still feel so rotten when I pretend not to hear "Hey!! U got change?"  yelled at me by the angry homeless guy with the paper cup? 

Part of the problem is despite San Francisco spending over $200 Million last year on the problem,  the number of homeless that I see on the streets  seems larger than ever.

Yet I could give every cent I have to every homeless person I see and it wouldn't do anything to help solve the problem. So I keep walking avoiding eye contact and lamenting the fact that in spite of all the non profits, churches and social services working to aid the homeless in this city, it still seemed to boil down to someone coming up to me and furiously demanding spare change as I tried to make my way home.

I really don't have a point to make here. I hope that as we move through the Holiday season, everyone who reads this will find one organization that does good work, and donate to it. Be it the Red Cross, a church, a food bank or shelter. 

Happy Holidays from The Bay Area...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I've Been Told.....

I am going to violate my own embargo on posting about Donald Trump.

Normally I would ignore the latest lie / tantrum / tweet-torm / insanity as just more of the same from this administration and the infantile orange tinged sociopath who occupies the White House. Yet this time it is worth commenting on for a couple of reasons.

In a press conference in the White House Rose Garden yesterday. Trump was asked why, after two weeks he had still not commented publicly on the deaths of four US special forces soldiers, killed in an ambush earlier this month in western Niger.   The US troops had been embedded with a larger unit of Nigerien troops and were attacked as they left a meeting with local community leaders a few dozen kilometres from the remote town of Tongo Tongo.

It is always interesting to watch Donald Trump answer a question he was not prepared for.   It is like watching a child try to explain a mess he has been found in the middle of.  It begins with rambling assurances that there actually isn't a mess and that the room is supposed to look like this. 

Then when it becomes  clear that isn't working,  the child segues to a big fib, to redirect blame and attention.  In this case how all the other kids made far worse messes  than him,  in fact  he is  the cleanest, neatest kid EVER.  

If Donald Trump were in fact,  a small child trying to get out of cleaning his room, this might be endearingly funny.    But instead  we saw a 70 year old man,  the President of United States do this in a desperate attempt to distract attention from the fact that he has not paid any attention whatsoever to the deaths of four American Green Berets,  in a terrorist attack. 

Like a Toddler caught in fib, When Trump gets caught in a lie his goto follow up is .... to tell another lie to justify it . His usual follow up fib has been, and was in this case as well; "I don’t know, that’s what I’m told.”

Just like he "was told" his inauguration had the biggest crowd ever?

Just like he "was told" that President Obama had wiretapped him during the campaign?

And who can forget all the times Trump "was told" about President Obama's Birth Certificate?

What makes this latest "it's what I was told", lie particularly pathetic was his desperate flailing attempt to blame this on the Military. Claiming he was told by Generals that President Barack Obama didn't call Gold Star families. When pressed to explain his lie, Trump stammered; "'President Obama I think probably did sometimes and sometimes he didn't,' Trump said. 'All I can do is ask my generals.'

So who was it who "told" Trump this time? Which Generals? When? Asking all of these questions is pointless because Donald Trump is lying. And like toddler with no concept of honesty, when when he gets caught in the lie, he just tells a bigger lie to try to shift the focus or blame.

But don't dwell on this too long.  After all, tomorrow's lie will be even bigger and crazier,  and in no time at all you'll have forgotten all about today's lie.