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Monday, November 21, 2016

My One And Only Political Rant

I have never blogged about politics.  There are so many folks that work that turf on a full-time basis, and most of them are loud and venomous.  I am not a very partisan person - I am an "independent," have voted for Democrats and Republicans (I even voted for a couple of third party candidates when I was young and foolish).  I am a moderate person politically - socially liberal (Same sex marriage? Fine. Abortion?  Tragic, but women get to decide, not the government. Unconscious bias leading to racist outcomes?  Yup, I have my own set of unconscious biases so I get it.) and fiscally conservative (Are Federal government expenditures out of control?  Absolutely.  Should we borrow to fund programs that Americans want but are unwilling to pay for via taxes?  Hell no. Should budgets balance and debt decrease?  Abso-Goddamn-lutely.).  I also am an old-fashioned believer in meritocracy in America.  Everyone should have an equal opportunity in America; the best and the brightest should be allowed to rise regardless of income level, race, religion,  ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.  I also believe in earning your way into positions of power, wealth and authority.  If you work hard, do your homework, have the right insights and luck, you should win.  If you are winning because you come from a wealthy family, or marry the right person, or you lie and cheat - well, I won't like you very much.

You can see that our current President-Elect is not my kinda guy.

Good old Donald Trump.  He was born on third base and has been telling everyone he hit a triple.  He is a commercial real estate developer (not an especially successful one compared to his peers), a casino owner and operator (went bankrupt several times in this business), a reality television star ("B" list celebrity, able to put on an entertaining show) and a huckster slapping his famous name on all sorts of products that pay him royalties until they flop.  None of these career experiences prepare a person for the terrible and awesome responsibilities associated with the presidency of the United States of America.

SO first of all, Trump is unqualified.

Good Old Donald Trump.  He has said the most outrageous things imaginable and his supporters don't seem to care. He insults everyone that finds fault with him.  He sues people that offend him.   He has winked at the white supremacists, sucked up to the alt right (Stephan Bannon, an alt-right nutball, as Chief of Strategy? Jeff Sessions, a well-known racist, as Attorney General?? Are you serious???) and stoked xenophobia until the fire is red hot.   As John McCain said, "he has fired-up the crazies." Major U.S. banks (J.P. Morgan, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs )won't do business with Trump due to past losses on his business; he has had to go offshore for financing. He cheated on his spouses and treats women like objects.  When he settles lawsuits (including his divorces), he shuts everyone up with onerous nondisclosure clauses. He is not a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet - type "nice" billionaire. His mission is more wealth and fame for Donald Trump.  He likes to fight and holds grudges.  I cannot think of a worse guy to be president of the United States, and his election is plunging us into uncharted water - his secrecy regarding his tax returns and business holdings is a massive red flag, and his sprawling international business activities represent unmanageable conflicts of interest.  This guy can't be trusted with the massive power of the U.S. presidency.

SO secondly, Trump is unsuitable and potentially dangerous given his lifelong behavior pattern.

I do believe that character matters.  The U.S. President is our spokesman and the public face of the USA to the world.  Regardless of what you think of his policies, Barack Obama was a terrific spokesman for our country.  He has dignity, his family appears to be peaceful and loving, he is articulate and can inspire others to be better people.  I refused to vote for Bill Clinton in 1996 because I thought that his behavior would get him fired at any corporation in America.  I can't say that about President Obama.

I am confident that the United States is sound and that this current experiment with an ill-suited leader will not destroy our country.  But I am also quite convinced that this person will need to be resisted constantly, fought tooth and nail, and if his fellow Republicans fail to stand up to him, they will need to be tossed out of office.  Trump won because Hillary Clinton got votes in the wrong places - her popular vote win is a bitter pill to swallow.  Trump also won because half of the voters in the United States don't bother to vote.  And this terrible level of civic participation plays into the hands of extremists.

I have signed up to do what I can to get rid of Trump.  He is an undignified, vulgar, selfish disaster of a man.  He will never be my president.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

For my father

Tomorrow is Father's Day.  It is one of those made-up holidays,  a guilt-inducing, greeting card industry sham.  I have always told my four kids not to worry about it - I don't need special attention on the third Sunday in June.  But it can be useful to reflect on your origins, so that is how I use both Mother's Day and Father's Day.

My father, Al Gillock, died over 25 years ago.  My two youngest kids never met their paternal grandfather. The internet was not up and running in 1991, but I decided to Google my dad's name to see what popped up. One of the items that was in the search results was a document called "San Leandro Shoreline History."  San Leandro was the town in the San Francisco Bay Area that was our home.  My father was active in the community, particularly when it came to the town's parks and recreational facilities. The picture above was in the San Leandro Shoreline History document, and my dad is in it. He is the guy with his hands in his pockets on the far left.  I was about 12 years old when this picture was taken; Dad was 52.  When I looked at the photo, I was surprised to see how trim Dad looked in 1966. I remember him from his later years, when I was in high school and college - he grew a beach ball stomach and did not take care of his physical health.  His lack of fitness was a motivating force in my life - I vowed not to become an old pot-bellied guy like my father, and that is the primary reason I drag my 61-year old butt out of bed at 5AM to hit the gym.  My dad was born and raised in the south in the 20's and 30's  - you can guess what that means (**cough--racist--cough**). I made it a point to settle in an integrated community;  my son-in-law is black - and I love him.

Fathers have an impact - we try to emulate them, or be as unlike them as possible.

There were other crumbs of information that came up in the Google search:

Born:  November 4, 1914 (World War I was in full swing, and the famous "Battle of the Bees" was fought on November 4, 1914).
Died: April 14, 1991
Place of Death:  Alameda CA, USA
Birthplace:  Tennessee
Gender: Male
Mother's Maiden Name: Yeargin
Education: 1 year of college (Southern Methodist University, I think; he dropped out to join the Army)
Military Service: Serial Number #3804354, enlisted March 12, 1941 (9 months before Pearl Harbor)
Professon: Salesperson (He actually spent most of his work life as a clerk in a canned food company warehouse in Oakland CA)
Social Security Number:  409-01-4709 from Social Security Death Master File

Al Gillock was a mystery to his youngest son.  He didn't talk to me much about his past or hopes for his future.  He was out in the evenings quite frequently - at various community board meetings, city council meetings, etc.  He smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish, had a mild heart attack in his late 50's and gave up both habits overnight (that is when he gained weight, I think).  I don't remember him tossing a baseball with me or doing all the little things that dads do with their kids.  He wasn't particularly successful in his career.  He was diagnosed with "manic depression" (now known as bipolar disorder) and went on disability when I was around 18 years old.

He did the best he could.

He was a gentle person and I don't think he ever spanked or struck me (if he did, I don't remember).  His mother died when he was young; I think that was the trauma that led to his mental health issues.  When Dad died, I was stunned by the size of the crowd that showed up to pay their respects at the funeral.  There was much about my father that was unknown to me.  I did know that he loved to collect coins, and he very much wanted to pass his collection down to me when he died.  During my recent divorce, my ex-wife got her hands on Dad's coin collection and sold most of it.  I am glad that my father did not live long enough to experience that little drama.

I have worked hard not to be like my dad, but he is part of me.  I look like the old man, I have his goofy sense of humor and I, too, used to drink like a fish on occasion.  I had negative feelings about my father, but those are all gone now.  He gave me my life.  I am sure that his life was a hard battle for him.

It has taken a long time, but I honor my father, at last.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Statements that caught my attention today

Here are some things I read and heard today that grabbed me, caught my attention:

"To pay for their first date, he sold a pint of blood." (from obituary of Tom Coughlin, a disgraced Wal-Mart executive)

"Tyranny grows from ambitious people grabbing whatever levers of power are available." (from an interview with Eric O'Keefe, Republican grass-roots activist)

"The attitudes that drive domestic violence are deeply embedded in our culture, and are very persistent." (quote from Liz Roberts, Chief Program Officer, Safe Horizon - a victim services group in New York City)

"By the simplest and most basic economics, a price artificially raised tends to cause more to be supplied and less to be demanded than when prices are left to be determined by supply and demand in a free market." (Thomas Sowell from his book, "Basic Economics", 2011)

"Everything on both sides is still in play."  Peggy Noonan, WSJ, April 9, 2016

"The debate consisted largely of arguments based on circumstantial evidence." Christopher Chabris and Joshua Hart, associate professors of psychology at Union College

"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."  Thomas Jefferson

"No one should underestimate how easy it is for government to slip into terrifying abuse." (from an interview with Eric O'Keefe, Republican grass-roots activist)

"He behaves like a tribal chieftain, a war-lord of art, riding roughshod over the niceties of conventional behavior, sometimes sulking in his tent, sometimes rousing his people to great heights, now making strategic decisions off the cuff, now mysteriously absenting himself. The egotism is so massive that it becomes epic, universal." Simon Callow. from his book "One-Man Band," 2016

"What is extreme or exotic to one culture hardly raises an eyebrow in another." Jeffrey Greene, from his book "In Pursuit of Wild Edibles," 2016

"The Highway to Hell seems to run directly through my PC." Joe Queenan, WSJ, April 9, 2016