Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Domestic Stories of 2008

1. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

The election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President in U.S. history electrified not only the nation but also the world. Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters became instant celebrities. He dominated the headlines for over a month after the election by a very public Cabinet selection process.

At the same time, Obama message of sweeping change did not appeal to everybody. Inside the Republican Party, there was sudden phenomenon of Sarah Palin, who epitomized the fear felt by of so many Americans about the terrifying specters of terrorism, depression, global climate change, a flu pandemic, Islamic fundamentalism, a soaring national debt, kidnappings in Mexico, beheadings in the Middle East, the weakening dollar, and on and on.

The prospect of any or all of these as plausible developments over the coming years made many yearn for a simpler time, when homespun wisdom and grit seemed like enough for us to get by, even though it became pretty damn clear that “we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

2. THE RECESSION

The irony for Obama is that what should have been a time of hope is instead a time of growing desperation in America. A steep rise in home foreclosures due to the sub-prime mortgage meltdown quickly cascaded into a series of bank failures and near failures, massive corporate takeovers and bankruptcies, and federal government interventions in the form of bailouts of unprecedented size and scope.

By year’s end, the domestic automakers, especially Chrysler and GM, teetered on the edge of collapse, unemployment was rising, and the credit markets were frozen. Gas prices rose to a dizzying high ($4.50/gallon) only to fall to a new low ($1.50/gallon) between July and December in the U.S. Overseas, the U.S. recession set off a global recession, demonstrating with terrible clarity just how interlinked the global economy has become.

The previous “firewalls” that tended to protect domestic economies somewhat from international events are gone, swept away by the rising tide of free trade and rising demand, especially in the emerging middle classes of China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

One man, Bernard Madoff, the former head of the NASDAQ stock exchange, engineered the largest Ponzi scheme in history, ripping off $50 billion from investors, and bringing several European banks to the verge of collapse. Americans cut their holiday spending, prompting rumors that a number of major retail chains would be closing their doors for good early in 2009.

3. CIVIL RIGHTS FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

Though it never became the national hot-button political issue that it had been back in 2004, in 2008 same-sex marriage emerged as arguably the top civil rights issue in the U.S. The decision in May by the California Supreme Court legalizing same sex marriage set off a boom of over 18,000 marriages in the state until election day, when the state’s voters overturned the legality of gay marriage via the controversial Proposition 8.

By the end of the year, the issue was mired in lawsuits, and the state Attorney General reversed himself and called for Prop. 8 to be overturned. A majority of voters indicated if they had it to do over again, Prop. 8 would have failed by a significant margin. Other states endorsing or considering same sex marriage in 2008 included Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa.

Everywhere, the debate shifted to the moral and legal aspects of preventing same-sex couples from enjoying the same civil rights as everybody else. President–elect Obama’s choice of evangelical preacher Rick Warren to lead a prayer at his Inauguration provoked national protests by gay and straight groups alike. Warren quickly assured America that he “loves gays,” but the controversy illuminated some of the dangerously unstable political fault lines in Obama’s broad political coalition.

4. WEB 2.0: ANOTHER BUBBLE?

As of 2008, there were still only a handful of Internet companies with the scale to compete with Google for online ad revenue, and search market share. When one of them, Microsoft, tried to buy another, Yahoo, Google tried to undermine the deal with a search partnership, Yahoo CEO Jerry Yang rejected the Microsoft offer, Yahoo’s stock collapsed, investor Carl Icahn forced his way onto Yahoo board, Microsoft pressured the Justice Department to charge Google with antitrust violations, Jerry Yang resigned as CEO, Google ended its partnership with Yahoo hours before the Justice Department was to file its lawsuit, and by year’s end, all three companies’ stocks had taken a battering.

An even larger problem was the fate of everyone else trying to build businesses online. The entire wave of Web 2.0 winners – YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Digg, Twitter, Flickr, etc. – started losing their luster as it became clear they had not developed any sustainable business model. Although venture capital continued to fuel a vibrant sector of startups, the major question looming over these emerging companies was how they would attain the necessary scale to become profitable.

5. U.S. PRINT PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FAILURES

Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper chain, laid off thousands of employees, the Tribune Company sought bankruptcy protection, The New York Times put its headquarters building for sale, in Detroit the papers cut back home delivery to three days a week.

From Seattle to Miami, newspaper after newspaper announced layoffs, as many of their stocks fell to penny-stock range or were delisted. An unprecedented loss in advertising revenue, as well as the sped up 7/24 news cycle, the rising costs of newsprint and transportation, and competition from Cable TV and the Internet seemingly doomed this once ubiquitous American institution – the local newspaper.

Even the venerable Associated Press faltered by year’s end, freezing salaries and rolling back the fees it charges clients when several large newspapers threatened to quit the cooperative rather than pay the higher fees.

Online news sites fared better than print versions, but by the end of the year, online ad revenues were falling, too, signaling a very dark 2009, indeed, probably with a number of high-profile newspaper bankruptcies and closures.

For a while, magazines seemed to be escaping the fate of newspapers, but as the economy weakened, magazine ad revenue fell steeply, especially for the “newsweeklies” such Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, all of which were in serious trouble by the end of 2008.

Book publishers may be the next large segment of print to die; at least one large house actually stopped accepting new submissions late in the year, sending the book industry into a collective state of shock for the holidays.

6. WE ARE NOT ALONE

This was not really a domestic story, but the astonishing findings on Mars and the moon by NASA probes established, for the first time ever, that water exists on other planets and that, therefore, the main building block of life is in all likelihood distributed widely throughout the universe.

I'm just sticking this story on my list because I find it strange that more is not being made of this (in my view) revolutionary development. Perhaps we have become so inured to scientific reality in this culture because fictional movies featuring aliens are virtually prosaic offerings at this point. But I, for one, remember when we all thought that life was confined to earth.

No thoughtful scientist would posit that as a reasonable theory, given the astonishing astronomical developments during the year, 2008.

On the Road Again, Again, Again







On the Road Again, Again










Monday, December 29, 2008

On the Road Again















Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year in Review: International Stories

My summary:

1. GLOBAL RECESSION
The U.S. recession triggered global repercussions, as stock markets crashed in England, Europe, India, China, Japan, and throughout the world. In the wealthier countries, there were a series of high-profile bank failures similar to that in the U.S., and central banks had to intervene repeatedly to prop up the faltering financial structures that reached the verge of collapse. One telling report was when late in the ear, the world’s leading automobile manufacturer, Toyota, reported its first loss in 70 years. Meanwhile, in the poorest regions of the world, the situation was much more critical. The economic downturn sparked food riots, military excursions, mass migrations, runaway inflation, refugee camps, and outbreaks of disease. The word no one yet wanted to speak, but on everyone’s mind was “Depression,” which at year’s end seemed not only possible, but probable during 2009.

2. CHINA’S EMERGENCE
China announced its status as a dominant world power by hosting the Olympics for the first time, orchestrating a spectacular opening ceremony and a successful slate of games despite devastating earthquakes in the months proceeding the event; as well as human rights protests in many countries leading up to the games, the murder of an American athlete’s relative on Opening Night, and a scandal regarding the alleged underage girls on China’s gymnastics team. In the end, China beat out the U.S. for the most Gold Medals, which was its stated goal, yielding a deep sense of national pride. China’s moment proved short-lived, however, when the U.S. recession combined with several scandals involving toxic Chinese exports caused its domestic economy to grind toward a halt. In South China, many export factories closed or limped along with vastly reduced production capacity. The central government’s massive holdings of U.S. debt introduced a new layer of vulnerability and instability to the situation. A building boom of unimaginable proportions in Shanghai started to slow, and angry consumers throughout the country demanded more help from the government. One potentially promising development involved a tentative thaw in relations with Taiwan.

3. IRAQ WAR SURGE & IRAN’S RISE
Gen. David Petraeus led a military strategy in Iraq involving paying Iraqis to drive militants out of the country, which in turn drastically reduced suicide bombings, and other terrorist acts in the country. The Iraqi and U.S. governments concluded a new SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), which authorizes continued U.S. military presence in the country through 2011. Gradually, the makings of civil society seemed to be reappearing in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation. Meanwhile, next door in Iran, tension escalated as the U.S. and Europe demanded a halt to its nuclear arms production program. A central government that by word and action was extremely hostile to the West continued to taunt an edgy Israel toward military engagement, which if successful, would prove disastrous for the entire region. But a new emphasis on diplomacy by the incoming Obama administration held out hope that hostilities could be negotiated down, and Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism might finally be reduced.

4. PAKISTAN & AFGHANISTAN DETERIORATE – On the other side of Iran, even as the situation in Iraq improved, Afghanistan and Pakistan devolved into chaos. The aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto late in 2007 cost Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, the ensuing election. Taliban and al-Qaeda forces concentrated along the lawless border with Afghanistan began an offensive that eventually wrested control from the government of two-thirds of the country. Terrorists then launched a devastating attack on Mumbai, India. The Pakistani military retaliated with renewed military incursions into the Afghan border region and arrests of terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks. Inside Afghanistan, the Taliban, allied with warlords, opium growers, and the remnants of al-Qaeda, seized most of the country outside of Kabul from the government and coalition forces. Obama promised a new military emphasis on the country, but there were growing signs by the end of the year that the help that might come would be too little and too late. Public Enemy #1 Osama bin-Laden remained at large over seven years after the 9/11 attacks.

5. RESURGENT RUSSIA
Almost overlooked with the drama of events in China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia ,Russia asserted itself dramatically by invading neighboring Georgia and daring the rest of the world to do something about it. Murders of dissident Russians at home and abroad (including a high-profile case in Britain) sent an ominous message that Russia’s experiment with democracy may be over. Soviet destroyers appeared in Cuban ports; Bear bombers went back out on patrol along the East Coast of the U.S.; tanks deployed into Georgia; threats were issued to cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine; anti-West overtures were offered to Iran; threats issued against U.S. missile defense in Europe; and finally, the firing, albeit unsuccessfully, of a new generation of ICBM seemed to signal Russia’s intent to test Obama right of the gate. Clearly, Russia is looking to come on center stage once more.

6. AFRICA IN CRISIS
The year started off with a shocking deterioration in what was considered the most stable of countries – Kenya – as allegations of electoral fraud in the national elections sparked riots across the country that soon turned into ugly mobs bent on ethnic cleansing raging out of control. Off the coast of Somalia, which has not had a central government in over a decade, modern-day pirates routinely hijacked commercial ships for ransom, while the world stood helplessly by, unable to come up withy a suitable military response. Meanwhile, rebels in the Congo, Mali, and Nigeria waged guerrilla war, and in the south, Mugabe's pending downfall added to the continent’s general instability. China's rush to build up infrastructures, and extract Africa’s rich veins of minerals and metals, competed with new American initiatives in North and West Africa, big corporations looking for arable land as well as resources and raw materials, at continued at the expense of democratic reform.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Down Days

So much for plans. My knuckle continues to swell up and the hand is discolored. it hurts but not a lot. But driving for long periods is out of question. So I'm confined to San Francisco for now.

Here are today's shots:







Shouldn't type a lot. It's getting dark outside, and a bit gloomy. A sense of inevitable doom settles over the city. With night come the window smashers and thieves, the homeless and the army of recyclers through this poor neighborhood.

Some inflamed organ or two battles with the swollen hand for my attention. Pain here, pain there, aging is not fun.

Still, many were out on the streets this day. Many shoppers, bargain-hunters, I guess. Myself, I bought gloves, a basting kit and dish detergent at the dollar store for $3 and $0.26 tax for the state, which is broke.

California needs a bailout. The budget deficit is larger than many countries' GDP. The Governor wants drastic action; the legislature is hopeless. Services for the old, weak, hurt, poor, and damaged are being cut. More and more "middle class" people are showing up seeking meals at the shelters and food banks.

Corporate contributions have been cut, so the stores of foods are dwindling. It could be a long, cold winter.

-30-

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Visitor to a Barren Yard



Our favorite neighborhood cat, Oliver, stopped by today just in time to cheer up my friend as she was feeling down in the dumps. It's a bummer to be sick during a holiday, but sick she is, with a fever and body pains.

A planned road trip hangs in the balance. Will we actually go or not?

The city is emptied of many residents, who are traveling for the holidays. This includes all of my children, three of whom are visiting the mountains of Oregon and three of whom are sunning on Sanibel Island in Florida.

Here, an unknown miscreant is breaking into our cars at night. My car was hit Monday night, my Chinese neighbor who smokes on her back porch awoke on Christmas to find her car's driver side window smashed in, the hood sprung, and anything she might have had inside gone. Her Dad told me another neighbor's car window had also been broken recently.

As I am care-taking my second ex-wife's car for a few days, I've been parking it directly outside my bedroom window at night, alert for any sign of trouble. Last night, I woke up periodically and went outside. Once, I spotted a suspicious fellow who seemed to try to shrink from my stare.

I came back inside, but stayed at the window. A few minutes later, this man passed quickly, pushing his grocery cart of recyclables. That, to my mind, makes him an unlikely suspect in this wave of break-ins.

Later, during a rather feverish night, I had to fight off some bad guys in my dream. Somehow, I managed a muffled roar and a vicious punch to the face of the main leader, and then awoke to the painful reality that I'd smashed my right fist into the metal headstand of my bed.

How do you know if you have a broken knuckle? Is the swelling, discoloration, and a moderate degree of pain significant? I doubt it.

***

Meanwhile, in Japan, one of the most intriguing developments in recent years has been the rise in popularity of the "cell-phone novel" genre. These keitai shosetsu are typically written by very young women entirely on their mobile phones, and published under one-word handles.

The actual identities of the authors remain mostly unknown. Their stories concern love and loss, tragedy and recovery, betrayal and resolution. They are written interactively, i.e., a girl will start posting her "diary" on a site called "Magic Land," where many others read it and urge her on.

These novels are becoming so popular that eight of the top ten selling novels in book form this year are republished keitai shosetsu.

Each of these tales is divided into short, tantalizing excerpts -- the typical post takes about three minutes to read, which is also the average time between stops on the Japanese train system. But this new literary form is heavily criticized by the entrenched book publishing industry in Japan, which prides mastery of the much more traditional forms of Japanese writing, even though it remains male-dominated and out of reach of all but a small group of intellectuals.

In this way, the keitai shosetsu represent a revolutionary literary development in a land where women remain oppressed in ways Americans can barely imagine.

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Sidewalk's Christmas

"Sidewalk Christmas Tree" (on loan from Sidewalk Images.)

It's that special time of year when our sister site, Sidewalk Images, reviews the year in photos, which so far means 189 entries for 2008.

Overall, since 2006, 483 images have been captured at the site, mainly in the streets around our World Headquarters here in the Mission district of San Francisco. This year, alas, Sidewalk Images, feeling the effects of a down-turned economy, is not publishing the popular Sidewalk Images Calendar.

Popular is a relative term; although extremely popular here at World Headquarters, the calendar has failed to find much of a market elsewhere. Sales, in fact, still stand at zero but our ever-hopeful marketing division continues to generate hopeful reports about the potential market that may eventually develop out there, somewhere.

We do occasionally receive inquires from place-oriented blogs that aggregate such work about carrying Sidewalk Images, which we always gratefully assent to. We also have been known to indulge our own viewing pleasure by flipping back through some of the 483 posts.

It was, indeed, quite the year in the stories and patterns that emerged from our streets.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No Horse, and no Sleigh



To my way of thinking, the most amazing part of any religion is the part that asks a person to suspend logic and just believe in magic (or faith).

But even that idea is revealingly ethnocentric, as I have learned from my many friends and lovers from other cultures. Most people in this world actually believe in ghosts, spirits, little beings, and other inexplicable forces.



But in our empirical world, everything we do can be measured, and is. Apparently, as Americans, that means our consumption habits establish how much we matter. Mind you, as an old Marxist (since reformed) this offends me deeply.

But in the spirit of being a true-blue American, I am about to reveal to you my most inner secrets (apparently) in the form of my consumption today, the "last shopping day of the year before Christmas."

Ugh, I hate crowds, spending money, and most stores. This at once makes me both a typical male and an un-fun companion for most females. But, over the course of my already quite long life, I've learned to moderate my biases and preferences now and then to accompany the females in my world.

Let's put it this way: If you are a female and have ever had even one good shopping experience with me, that was as large an expression of my love as I have to offer to you.



Let's leave all of this philosophy for some future digital archeologist to reconstruct, shall we? Today, two of the most important females in my current life and I invaded the downtown shopping sector. We found shoes (for my 10-year-old) and shirts (for my 14-year-old) for a total expenditure of $75, ate lunch ($30) at a diner, and paid for our parking ($6), so that comes to $111 we inserted ino the American economy on this, the last shopping day before Christmas.

Personally, I'd rather fantasize about Santa Claus, and all the stuff he might bring me. But that, of course, is better discussed either in therapy or with the cops who wonder why you are wandering around alone on this, the night when anyone with any kind of intact family isn't alone but deeply embedded in the familiar folds of unquestioned love.

Do not misread me. I am not on the street; I am in my home, surrounded by the evidence of the love from so many who sustain me, but tonight my heart is with those who do not have what I have. They don't have money, so they've spent nothing. In American terms, they are of zero value.

Rather like the baby born 2,008 years ago in a manger, no?

-30-

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Four Paths of Life

Here is my theory. My beloved car broke down yesterday because I've only given it a North-South experience all these years.

A bit of background: In my youth, having grown up in Michigan, my first cars were big American cars, manufactured in the '60s. They were old by the time I got them, and they broke down with a regularity that provided the bookmarks for the various chapters of my youth.

The last of them was a van of questionable quality, emblazoned with the words "Ft. Myers, Fla." on its sides, which I finally sold to a group of Hawaiian surfers for three $100 bills from our place on Pine Street, in the early '70s, after a burglar had ripped off most our of treasures from Afghanistan from it when it was parked on the alley (Wilmot?) next to SunDance, at 1913 Fillmore, late in 1971.

From then on, I only purchased foreign care -- Volvos and Hondas -- until the year 1999, when we were living in Maryland and I rediscovered Americans cars, specifically Saturns. I shipped the first one out here when we moved back west in 2000, and it did fine, so when the time came in late 2003, when I was a still youthful 56, to for the first time ever to buy a new car, of course, I bought a Saturn!

That little car has performed well these past five years, but the great majority of its service has involved commuting up and down highways 101 and 280, between my home(s) and Excite@Home, Stanford, MyWire, and these days, Predictify.

Last night, my car decided to cry out in protest. The clutch pedal popped up six inches, making it extremely difficult to nurse homeward, where we encountered the dramatic geyser I described last night in this space.

Still later, some desperate soul smashed in one of my rear windows, no doubt seeking something to trade for drugs, alcohol, food or whatever.

But I was oblivious to this early today when I drove the clutch-challenged vehicle to a mechanic a mile from here. I did sense more noise and air from the rear right, but I was too focused on the fog, rain, and faulty clutch to notice that my backseat was filled with broken glass.

When the diagnosis came in, I realized how badly I've treated this loyal friend of mine, this automobile. I bought it at a very low moment, psychologically, after my Mother had died, quite suddenly, and a very special girlfriend had left me, flying off across the Pacific, never to return.

So today, contemplating all of this, I wondered whether I might have prevented my car's breakdown if only I had also allowed it to migrate west and east, which might have provided some of the balance that an auto no doubt covets, as do all creatures, natural or created, here on God's great earth.

The problem is that here in California there is no west. If you try to drive that way, you will have no option but to disappear below the riling surf of the violent Pacific, which continuously slams into our mountainous coast, ripping rocks, trees, bones -- anything his continent has to offer -- down into its foamy brine to be reduced to tiny particles of reminders of what once seemed impregnable, impressive, alive.

You can drive east, but if you do, you will hit first the valley, then the foothills, and then the mighty Sierra. Be prepared. If you are not, this season of the year, you may come face to face with one of the enduring stories that make us Californians shudder -- the Donner party.

-30-

Monday, December 22, 2008

One Street's Geyser



You never know what awaits you when you get home to this street at night. Tonight, it was like a visit to Yellowstone Park. A massive geyser had sprouted, spawning an impressive new river flowing down Hampshire Street.



My neighbors were as mesmerized as I was -- we gathered, snapping photos, and trading jokes about who among us was responsible.



When I spoke with one of the street workers wearing hardhats standing just clear of the huge spray, he told me, "We struck a 2-inch transmission pipe." Indicating the cluster of people gathering to witness this urban wonder, he added, "Gives 'em somethin' to talk about."

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our House to Your House






Happy Holidays 2008.

Cold and Wet is the Shortest Day of the Year

Winter Solstice, 2008.
Post #1,199

This blog has chronicled around 32 months now at the rate of 1+/day. It shows no signs of petering out any time soon, so here's today's report:

There's a large pork roast in the oven, a small, fresh new tree in the window, pumpkin pie on the counter, and a candle burning.

Most of my relatives are enduring fierce snowstorms this weekend. Here, we have cool temperatures (for us) and soft rains. I'm not really participating in any shopping frenzy this year. Money is tight, my jobs are demanding, and there is a division of responsibility over such matters.

My friend regrets that I do to enjoy shopping. She described a scene yesterday, at the downtown shops, with so many men patiently waiting and carrying bags while the women scoured the shelves for deals.

They were, she thought, like dogs. (She likes dogs.)

I'm a domestic Dad, but in different ways. After filling our kitchen with groceries, I savor cooking meal after meal for my large family, and the occasional friend who drops by as well. Much of this particular weekend my four youngest are here with me, including all three sons.

There was a popular TV show in my youth -- "My Three Sons." I always fantasized being in that position; little did I know I also could produce a show about "My Three Daughters;" and by late summer, it now comes to be, I can produce yet another show called "My Three Grandchildren!"

Yep another little descendant is on his or her way up in Portland town!

Meanwhile, way up in Traverse City, my dear niece Kristin is about to deliver her second child sometime this winter.

'Tis the season to be frugal. This year's tree is a mini-tree, which costs a quarter of last year's. Given the state of our economy, and my personal feeling of zero security at work, it only seemed appropriate to keep as much change in our collective pocket as possible.

I will be legally single any day now, either late this year, or early next year. Then, Act Three can officially get under way...

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Season's Ending



The soccer season has ended. The Scorpions lost in the tournament quarterfinals today, 4-1. The team that beat them is a great soccer team, from here in the Mission. As one of our coaches told the boys afterward, "the best team won today."



It was a beautiful day way down south in Morgan Hill, with clear blue skies, bright sunshine, and crisp air.



The boys were down 2-0 late in the first half when they started intensifying their effort and closed the gap to 2-1 by halftime.



But in the second half the game got away from them although they fought on to the end.



Afterward, there was nothing to do but leave that place and drive the long straight road home.

Plus to look at a winter tree in the sunlight...



...and a jet's trail in the brilliant sky.

-30-

Friday, December 19, 2008

Listening

(Update)

I am altering my position on Obama's decision to ask Rick Warren to offer a prayer at his Inauguration.

How can a person in 2008 actually equate the millions of same-sex couples who are raising kids, working hard, and holding our communities together with "pedophiles" and "deviants?" Yet that is what Rick Warren has done.

How can a minister, a man of God, tolerate a program that tries to "cure" people of their sexual preference? Is he utterly oblivious of science?

I'm sorry, but all of the positive aspects of including an evangelical minister on the big stage of Obama's Inauguration pale in comparison to the hurt this choice will inflict on gay and lesbian couples.

The saddest thing I heard today, from a dear friend and colleague, was that his band, the first gay/lesbian band ever invited to participate in an Inaugural ceremony, was thinking of withdrawing from the event, because Warren is such an insensitive choice for Obama to have made.

Sorry, my realpolitik friends, but I agree. In every important historical moment, matters of principle must trump pragmatism, if the leader in question hopes to achieve the status of a transformative figure.

Dear Mr. Obama: Dis-invite Warren.

-30-

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let Us All Praise Good Men

Tonight, one of the big "controversies" playing on Cable TV, is Barack Obama's choice of evangelical minister Rick Warren to offer a prayer at the Inauguration.

Gay rights groups say they are outraged. After all, Warren has opposed not only basic civil rights for gay couples, he actively opposed Proposition 8 here in California, which retracted the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

To be clear, I stand solidly with the supporters of same-sex marriage. This is not an ideological issue for me, but one based on personal experience and obervation.

Many of the families I know here in San Francisco consist of two Dads or two Moms. I have not seen any evidence whatsoever that these families are any less stable, loving, or effective in raising good children than the conventional nuclear family model.

In fact, given the high divorce rate we endure, I would have to say that gay parents appear to be somewhat more stable over the long term than straight couples. I myself am a single straight man, after two divorces, with six children.

You could easily say that I am a complete failure, as a parent, according to conventional standards. Even though the pressures between men and women in our time almost guarantee stresses that can easily lead to divorce, I will never claim that excuse.

I did my best to be a loving husband of the two women who bore my children. In the end, for whatever reasons, I failed.

From my POV, being a family person in America in this era is not a matter of ideology. It's time we stopped judging each other and looked deeply into our own personal mirrors.

But, none of this should confuse us politically. Remember that politics is a game of perception, and any President, if (s)he is going to do the right things on behalf of all of us, needs to be very smart in engaging those who otherwise would ignore him.

Gay activists should realize that Obama is on your side, but he also needs to invite the Warrens of this country to the table if he has any chance to heal the polarized divides that have so weakened the U.S polity all of this decade.

Personally, I welcome Rick Warren to the celebration of the inauguration of a man who I increasingly believe will be one of the greatest Presidents in our history, even as he inherits a country at one of its lowest moments since 1932.

-30-

More diversions



It's a time of year when there are so many commitments -- an office party, a birthday, a school concert, this poor blog is suffering from neglect. But soon, I'll have my first period of free time in well over seven months, so I promise to write, write, write!



Tonight, my 14-year-old basketball star led all scorers with 11 points, when he left the game to huge applause midway through the third quarter, with his team ahead 24-2. His team eventually prevailed, 34-7. Now, they are 1-1 with the remaining games all next year.

Beyond that, all I can tell you is tonight I was proud watching my ten-year-old sing in her school choir's holiday party, which featured a mixture of Chanukah & Christmas songs. I was way in the back of the auditorium but she spotted me and waved happily.

All of this, I know is prosaic stuff. No big ideas; no opinions, no politics, no contnt of much interest to anyone but my family. But that's where I'm at, right now. There will be other days, soon enough.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Diversions for Hard Times

Often during a recession, they say, people turn to sports and entertainment to take their minds off what is happening. Maybe that's what I am doing. Why post about all the depressing news like the Blagoyevich and Madoff scandals. The baseness of the rich and would-be powerful never ceases to amaze me. Comparatively, the working poor and middle class working people I've known are paragons of virture by comparison.

Enough of that. Sports!



Particularly 8th-grade varsity basketball. Tonight was the first game of the school's season, a rainy, cold night for a game against Kipp at St. Mary's, which is Synergy's "home" court. Aidan was a perimeter player last year, but now he has grown to 5'11" in height and 11.5 size shoes, he's the "big" man inside -- the guy who takes the jump balls, plays the boards, and battles for the ball.



His line tonight? Eleven (!) rebounds, six steals, 3 blocks, one assist. He scored 1 of 5 from the field, mostly short shots, got fouled twice and hit two of three free throws for a total of five points. He played 29 minutes of the 31 minute game, which went into overtime before his team lost, 26-24. He committed no fouls and had two turnovers. He won one of two jump balls.



Afterwards, he said "That was a good game." I love that about him. He's competitive but not in an emotional way. Win or lose, he just loves to play.