Saturday, August 16, 2008


...could be one of those nights that, later, we recognize that the election for President was decided. It would hard to imagine a more unlikely scenario, given recent electoral history, than this one. The more openly religious man, the Democrat, is actively competing for the support of evangelical Christians, which no Democrat has been capable of since Bill Clinton.

The Republican candidate is generally uncomfortable talking about his personal beliefs, rather like recent Democrats. Personally, as a secular non-believing emotional spiritualist, I sympathize with him.

Regardless, both men have agreed to appear tonight before one of those "super church" audiences that didn't even exist until recently. This will be a test of their relative ability to connect with an audience of the faithful.

We are witnessing an America that is changing so rapidly that conventional wisdom is of little use. Who knows how this is going to turn out?


Friday, August 15, 2008

The Midnight Hour

When I got myself to Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, in 1965, I had been listening to Gospel music and what was soon to be known as "Motown" music for a few years already. Almost immediately, I discovered the magic of Martha and the Vandellas (Dancing in the Streets); Gladys Knight & the Pips; the Supremes, Aretha Franklin and so many others. When my dorm mates wanted to get laid, they went to Toledo. When they wanted to dance, they traveled to Chicago.

As usual, I was way behind the curve. But, when I left town, it was to Chicago, and that's where I first learned to dance, to this song.

I do not regret my choices. As I look back on the remarkable people I met in college, I realize they represented a cross-section of black America at a moment of historic change. One of my friends was Stevie Wonder's best friends as a kid. Another was Diana Ross's high school boyfriend.

My first college girlfriends were black girls, who introduced us via my black dorm mates. And that's as much as I'll say about that topic.


Dominoes Fall Like This

I don't have a good feeling about this one. Former Senator John Edwards was a credible candidate for President just a few months ago. Some of my friends favored him over Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Now, in light of recent revelations, I shudder to think what would have happened had he somehow won the Democratic nomination for President.

Like most journalists, I was aware of the reports the scandal-sheet National Enquirer insisted that he had fathered a "love child." Collectively, we hold tabloids in such low esteem that none of us who consider ourselves professionals would touch that story.

It seemed preposterous.

Before, I continue, let me express yet another reservation. As a journalist, I have always hated probing a person's private life -- even a public figure, even someone running for President.

I've made enough mistakes myself to feel like I should recuse myself from seeming to be judging of any other man. In my experience, the errors we make are painful, not only to those we love most, but everyone else involved as well. The waves of pain spread outward in concentric circles, engulfing in some cases entire communities.

Now that I've expressed that, let me draw my conclusion, as a journalist, after studying all the available evidence. John Edwards is indeed the father of the child his mistress gave birth to. That is evident.

It's a good thing that he did not get his party's nomination.

Now, it is the Republican Party's turn to sweat. There are infidelity skeletons in John McCain's closet; we all know that, just as we once knew about the Edwards story. The problem for the GOP is that now yet another private boundary has been breached, when will the other shoe drop -- on the head of McCain?

I truly hate this kind of crap, but I am powerless to fight it. It is what it is. A man has to own up to what he has done in this world where there are no secrets. Never again will there be secrets.

Secrets are one of those things that have gone extinct. For that reason, IMHO a bad thing, McCain is probably doomed.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Greatest Guitar Performance of All Time

I've watched this over and over for years, and still my heart breaks as I feel the depth of Eric Clapton's love for the late George Harrison in this unbelievable tribute. I only wish I could write about those I love as well as he plays here. If I could have that power, they would feel an inspiration after I am gone that could sustain them far into the future.

I dedicate this post to my kids and their kids and also to everyone else who knows I have loved (and still) love you...listen to the music.


Elvis Presley's Last Concert

This performance still, after all these years, gives me chills. Elvis died at age 42, not long after this performance. I never met him, or even heard him perform live, but he changed my life, as well as so many others'.

May he rest in peace. A white man who understood the plight of black men, and who sang about it from the depths of his soul. Had he lived until this year, even as an old man, I know which candidate he would have endorsed.

And that, my friends, is what is beautiful about America! Si Se Puede! The King would have endorsed Barack Obama as out next President of the United States of America.


Hanging Heavily

These white flowers beckon in my night garden.

My heart hangs heavily as I contemplate the continuing racist barrage launched by conservatives against the candidacy of Barack Obama. The trash masquerading as a book by the architect of the "swift boat" attacks against a true war hero, John Kerry, in 2004, is debuting at #1 on the New York Times best-seller list, thanks to the equivalent of how hackers game websites, such as Digg, or manipulate the Amazon best-selling list.

In other words, it is utterly meaningless. The reason I feel sad is the venerable NYT lit has been rendered irrelevent. On second thought, maybe that is not such a bad thing.

In the digital age, you have to be very careful of all "lists," trust me.

Other than this single downer, all the political news is good, and getting better for Democrats. The Clintons and Obama have made their peace, and both Bill and Hillary will be playing a big and supportive role at the carefully choreographed convention. Obama continues to impress with his grasp of the power of symbols that will leverage what the mass media can do for him.

Expect to see plenty of mentions that Hillary Clinton's keynote to the convention is on an anniversary of the day when women won the right to vote. And then, the night Barak Obama accepts the nomination, no media outlet will be able to ignore that this night will be an anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech.

Meanwhile, the chaotic and mismanaged GOP is trying to put on a brave face as McCain continues to bungle his way to their convention. Now, he has alienated the base by overtly favoring Tom Ridge as his possible running mate. Ridge is openly pro-choice.

All signs are pointing to an enormous surge among likely voters toward Obama by the end of this month. I'm willing to predict that by the time Labor Day rolls around, Obama will enjoy a double-digit lead in the polls over McCain.

Between then and election day, as voters get to know the two candidates better, that lead will widen. I'll supply specific data behind these predictions in the coming weeks, as I continue to sort through the demographics of this cycle's electorate, which, due to excitement over Obama, promises to be the largest in American history.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Big Apple, West

Apple, one of my favorite companies, has overtaken Google. In terms of market capitalization, Apple is now worth $158.84 billion to Google’s $157.23 billion,

Of course, both Apple and Google are still about $100 billion behind Microsoft, which has a market cap of $254.83 billion.

If I were a stock analyst, I'd label all three companies as a recommended "Buy."

Why Race Matters

When the very popular African-American Mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, ran for Governor of California in 1982, the polls indicated that 65% of the voting public supported him. But he lost to a white man.

Ever since that shocking event, pollsters, social scientists, and journalists have been extremely sensitive to the hidden effect of race in the way white Americans behave once they are in the privacy of the voting booth.

There is no concrete evidence that white Americans have moved beyond the “Bradley Effect,” and the best sources I can locate estimate that up to 20 percent of the white electorate still is lying to pollsters about their racist impulses.

And that appears to be the only reason, given the present polls, that Obama could possibly lose the Presidential election to McCain. I’ve been studying all the polls, the trends and the probable electoral map distributions, and I do not see any way McCain can win unless he can exploit the Bradley Effect.

If he does, we as a culture will have to contemplate the meaning of a man whose privilege is entirely based on his inheritance of a slave-holding Mississippi family’s wealth utilizing their advantage against a man who is the son of a white woman from Kansas and a farmer from Kenya.

In other words, Obama has no history on his side, positive or negative, in a race based on race. Therefore, he will probably need the endorsement of a prominent black Republican if he is to prevail.

Enter Gen. Colin Powell. There is an opportunity for this man, who was so badly exploited (much like a slave) by the Bush administration in the WMD-Iraq War fiasco. Will he listen to his inner courage and endorse Sen. Obama?

For the good of all Americans, let's hope he does. Then, the playing field may finally get leveled, and the race for the White House will have a chance to transcend the ugliness of the "Bradley Effect."


Late Summer's Nights Forever

The sky out back is soft, the color of peach fuzz. Way across the rooftops, a puff of whip-cream fog has crested Twin Peaks. It hangs there, suspended, unable to advance further across this slender peninsula until and unless a stronger breeze rising off the heated interior of California's rich agricultural valleys exerts a magnetic pull, drawing it inland.

For now, it is a warm night in the Mission District. I'm feeling an overwhelming tug of nostalgia tonight for so many things and people and times that are gone, never again to return.

Summer was always my favorite time as a child. Shooting my BB gun, pulling up immature carrots and radishes and eating them with the dirt still on, or roasting field corn, harvesting green apples or raspberries or blueberries, fishing on lazy afternoons, lying on my back in a field and witnessing the cumulus clouds as they shifted and twisted their way across Michigan's pure blue sky.

This is such a different place, and though I've long since acclimated, you most definitely can take the boy out of the Midwest, but never take the Midwest out of the boy.

Still, this is the right place for me. Back home, I never would have fit in. My thoughts and feelings are too restless for a region built on solid dependability. My time always feels too short to rest on the familiar, or the assumption of stability.

Here, sometimes, my body shakes, or my desk shakes, or my chair or the walls or the floors, or maybe it's all just my imagination. I've lived through so many earthquakes in a place the experts tell us inevitably will, sooner or later, be destroyed, that it is worth noting I've never felt like leaving, so I suppose this particular reality suits me.

Nothing lasts forever. Especially not us. A couple of buddies visiting me today at our delightful little startup (which at my age is the equivalent of working on top of a fault line) -- declared me happy and in the right place for the likes of me.

It may not be my inherited home -- the unstable West Coast -- but it's the home I chose.


Who Wins the Faith Vote?

Senator Obama, that's who.

This post links to a revealing new poll of religious voters in an article in the U.S. News & World Report.

According to the poll, Barack Obama holds a 43 to 34 percent lead over John McCain among these voters. The Barna Group, which conducted the survey, reports that Obama leads in 18 of the 19 communities of faiths it recognizes, with only evangelical Christians breaking for McCain.

That would seem to be a significant bloc, of course, but the Barna Group uses a strict methodology that results in only 8 percent of the population being classified as evangelicals.

According to the article,"Obama has a huge advantage among non-Christians, atheists, and agnostics, but he also leads among nonevangelical, born-again Christians (43 to 31), Christians who are neither born-again nor evangelical (44 to 28), Catholics (39 to 29), and Protestants (43 to 34)."

This data is interesting in light of the weirdly fanatical attempt by extremist Republicans to paint Obama as an "Anti-Christ," which is a mythical figure I've barely ever heard of during my six decades on the planet.

Perhaps McCain's camp is aware of this "religious gap," and is frantically trying to close it with scare techniques -- that would seem to be one logical explanation for what we see happening.

In any event, I will keep a watch on "faith-based" voters, as well as other key demographics, as the poll numbers continue their predictable rise and fall right up until election day.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Perception = Reality? Maybe not.

This came in on the overnight Wells Fargo stagecoach from the Midwest to the West Coast, or as my cousin Dan would prefer, the "Left Coast." Dan seems to be digging in during this election season as a deeply conservative antidote to what he views as my unreconstructed liberalism, I suppose. My comments and some new research will follow:

Barack Obama has been making ridiculously self absorbed statements, as though he were "the anointed one". On foreign soil he has berated his country. His message resonates well with those of the far left who wish to see America brought to its knees before the rest of the world, to be punished for its "evil" ways.

It was the "anointed one" who made the self promoting statements of grand and biblical proportion to which the right is responding now.

David, your efforts and the efforts of so many in media trying desperately to prop Obama up are not helping him. Playing him for a race victim, or now a victim of religious extremists, is not being bought by most Americans. You fail to see that the vast majority of Americans want this country to remain strong and prosperous, able to defend itself in a very dangerous world. A "victim" does not make a strong leader.

We will not vote a leftist into the presidency, no matter who he is or what he represents. And try as he might, Barack has not been able to shift out of that left extreme fast enough or convincingly enough to inspire the votes he would need if he becomes the candidate.

You may have trouble seeing this, but believe me, Bill and Hillary are sensing blood in the water now.

Least ways, that's my view from the right for the moment.

During every Presidential campaign I have witnessed (14), this country has divided into false halves of itself, as if the candidates representing the opposing parties are polar opposites.

Most years, nothing could be further from the truth. The only time a true right-winger won his party's nomination in my memory was 1964. His name was Barry Goldwater. I supported him.

The only time a true left-winger won his party's nomination was 1972. His name was George McGovern, and I supported him.

Every other candidate for both parties has essentially been a centrist. Wait, you say, what about Ronald Reagan. Sorry to the bearer of bad news, but Reagan was a big-government liberal when he got elected. Those of us living in California under his reign as Governor can attest that he provided more welfare, food stamps, and other social benefits than anyone who occupied the office before or since.

Reagan was all image, no substance. It's laughable to me to see conservatives who celebrate his memory as if he ever did anything to further their extremist agenda. It is notable that he also was the oldest person ever to run for President until this year's presumptive GOP nominee, John McCain. Many of his speeches were peppered by confused references to roles he'd played in movies as opposed to things that had actually happened in his real life.

Meanwhile, under his absent-minded leadership, this country suffered through one of the greatest series of corruption scandals since Richard Nixon, the only President ever forced from office under threat of impeachment.

I hated Reagan for the empty suit he was, but I could never actually hate Nixon. He may have been a corrupt politician, but he also possessed the kind of mind that perceived the geopolitical balance of power with a clarity (even when I disagreed with him) that we have seldom seen since.

At the current Olympics in China, two of Nixon's proteges have been honored as deeply respected guests: Henry Kissinger and George H. W. Bush. Without delving into the many flaws of those two individuals -- including in Kissinger's case war crimes that even his lifelong sponsor, David Rockefeller, once indicated to me probably were prosecutable, on the issue of China both K & B proved to be prescient.

You know, it fascinates me that in order to actually succeed in the American political system, Presidents and other senior officials need to more or less violate their supposed most-deeply-held principles.

If Nixon's predecessor, LBJ, or the next Democratic President, Carter, had been the one to "open up" China, they would have been branded as Communists by the GOP attack machine.

Fast forward to the '90s. We achieved welfare reform and NAFTA not courtesy of Republicans but from Bill Clinton. The only aggressive military attempt to take out Osama bin-laden before he could hurt us was launched by Clinton, despite the risky political context of his decision.

Republicans accused him of trying to divert attention from his sex scandal with his military strikes against Afghanistan and Sudan, but in fact he was trying to hit al-Qaeda before al-Qaeda hit us.

We all know (or should know) what happened next. Despite repeated warnings from the Clinton officials as they turned over the White House to Bush, the new administration that had lost the popular vote in 2000 dismissed this threat, favoring instead Condi Rice's "state-based terrorism theory," bred at a private elite university and so far divorced from reality that the 9/11 families who lost loved ones are fully justified in their attempt to recover damages from the Bush administration's negligence.

So much for the charge that Obama is a "leftist." Dan, you have got be kidding me. He's just another centrist, as is McCain. But the difference is that McCain is a dinosaur, out of touch with the moment, and therefore of no further use to the American population. His record as a corrupt politician is also a huge liability this fall.

Regardless, at the end of the day, despite all of McCain's hate-attack-ads, and the delusional wishes of his racist followers willing to sink to the level of calling a deeply Christian man the "AntiChrist," Obama remains quite comfortably in the lead in the polls, 46.8-42% and according to the best estimates, in the electoral vote, it's all Obama, 309-229, a landslide.

I see nothing for Democrats to be concerned about. This is not an election about left vs. right; rather it's center-hopeful vs. center-fear-monger. That is our true choice. Oh yes, it's also the choice between a young, hopeful person the world doesn't really believe we have the courage to elect and an old cynic who will simply further degrade America's respect in a newly globalized era.


Monday, August 11, 2008

How Low Will He Go?

I could hardly believe the news today after what I posted yesterday, but McCain has actually sunk to an unprecedented low in the history of American politics by comparing Obama to the "Anti-Christ."

I confess to total ignorance as to who the "Anti-Christ" is, but my colleagues tell me this is one of the fantasies of evangelical Christians. Therefore, it is obvious that McCain will exploit any hateful, fearful option to try and win the White House this fall.

For the good of our country, and for the cause of decency and truth, let's hope he fails in this despicable crusade.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

What discourages me...

This came from my old friend Fred Branfman, a guy I've known since Rolling Stone in the mid-70s:

On the way home from Hawaii I was talking with the flight attendant, who was explaining why she wouldn't support Obama although she was strongly for Hillary. She didn't like "those people running around the White House" she said. Just then a big, cheerful woman with a happy smile came up and I asked her how she felt about Obama. "Well, when I first heard him I was really struck by how well he talked," she answered, giving me hope that I had found an Obama supporter. "But then," she continued chirpily, "I realized. This is the way the Antichrist talks!" She explained that she was a- a Christian conservative; b- didn't particularly like McCain; but c- would certainly vote against Obama, because he was the Antichrist. I asked the flight attendant whether by "those people" she meant "Blacks". "Absolutely," she answered. "I went to Cal State Dominguez and the Blacks all stuck to themselves. They just don't like us."

This is the kind of battle facing our first African-American for President. It is not about issues; it is not about character; it is not about his fitness to lead.

It is utterly and depressingly only about his race. The cynical McCain camp, knowing this, is already exploiting every opportunity to trigger the residual racism that a majority of white Americans still bear in their hearts, though, hypocrites that they are, they never have the courage to admit it.

Instead, they hide behind other rationales.

There is nothing I can do to influence how any one person votes. I certainly cannot reverse history's ugly legacy. I can't convince white Americans that this could be the most important vote they ever cast in the sense of healing our racial wounds; pehaps their only chance.

Even if you like John McCain, he represents nothing but the same old. Barack Obama is our multicultural nation's future. If the unexamined hate that still resides inside so many white hearts prevails this November, America will have missed a chance, one that may not come around again in our lifetimes.

If you vote against Obama, you are implicitly or explicitly affirming those two ignorant women Fred talked with. Those are your people; their ideas are your ideas. You can feel good about defeating this black man, this time around, but you are not going to feel good as you look back, on your deathbed, and consider the few times your vote might have made a difference.


Return of the Hero

Anywhere else in America what happened in San Francisco's baseball park this weekend probably seemed irrelevant. As part of the team's season-long celebration of 50 years here by the Bay, many great outfielders came to the park yesterday to appear before the game.

The last one to arrive and run onto the field was the greatest hitter of all time, Barry Bonds. The Giants' fans, who have seen and heard it all, knowing full well that the rest of the country won't recognize how great a player Bonds actually was until far into the future, rose and roared.

Cheers are often called "deafening" by sport writers, who employ cliches faster than a baseball used to fly off Bonds' bat into McCovey Cove. Yesterday's roar was literally deafening.

Wearing a big smile, Bonds basked in the moment. For a while, the magic was back for this town's loyal baseball fans, who have fallen on very hard times. There's little doubt the effect Bonds' surprise appearance had on the team of young players who started yesterday with 18 more losses than wins.

The arch-rival Dodgers were in town; they are fighting for the division championship.

The Dodgers were up by one run going into the bottom of the 10th inning when the young Giants somehow came back and to score twice and win the game by a run.

Today, the Dodgers again led by one run into the bottom of the ninth inning when the Giants again came back to score twice and win by a run. The team be going nowhere this season, but this weekend was a reminder of the winning Giants tradition that walked out of the door when Barry Bonds played his last game.