Archive for June, 2018

ONE DONALD IS ENOUGH

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy aside, the nation remains focused on Central American children separated by the federal government from parents who have crossed our borders illegally, claiming refugee status. Democrats anticipate leveraging this issue during this fall’s midterm Congressional election campaign. But some have forgotten their goal: to beatDonald Trump, not beDonald Trump.

Congress has yet to address immigration law and policy in a coherent and comprehensive manner. Its occasional attempts at problem-solving resemble Band-Aids affixed to holes in the hull of the Titanic. Yet some Democrats seem to copy the behavior attributed to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat: he never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity.

Last weekend, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, was booted from the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. Owner Stephanie Wilkinson related that her wait staff felt uncomfortable serving Sanders’ party. I assume her staff leans Democratic. Certainly, it’s anti-Trump. But expressing differences of political opinion in this way does a disservice to our political process. And to Democratic candidates. Ms. Sanders picked up on this.

Addressing White House reporters, Ms. Sanders explained in level-headed, straightforward, un-Trump-like terms that harassment of people who work for any administration does not represent the American way. I agree—the first time I’ve ever agreed with anything she’s said.

President Trump, not surprisingly, took the opportunity to miss an opportunity. Statesmanship? Fugeddaboudit. His response included an observation that the Red Hen needs a paint job. This was the comment of an angry ten-year-old hurling insults in the schoolyard. Countering Ms. Sanders intelligent words, it offered another smidgen of hope for Democratic victories.

Still, at least one Democrat may have dimmed the party’s hopes by also responding like a ten-year-old.

Los Angeles congresswoman Maxine Waters, who works the far-left side of the aisle, went Trump. At a demonstration against current immigration policies, Ms. Waters told protestors, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.” [Italics mine.]

Ms. Waters sent a message to independents crucial to Democratic hopes that difference of political opinion enjoys no legitimacy in America.

In his 1998 book Civility, Manners, Morals, and the Etiquette of Democracy, the Yale law professor Stephen Carter wrote of Leviticus 19:18, “The duty to love our neighbors is a precept of both the Christian and Jewish traditions, and the duty is not lessened because we happen to think our neighbor is wrong about a few things.” We can hold to our religious and politicalopinions while engaging in exchanges of ideas free from intimidation.

Absent such civility, Democrats will appeal to their base on the left but alienate centrists looking for reasonable answers to complex questions. Frustrated, they could cast their ballots for Republicans or, also damaging to the Democratic effort, sit the election out.

Further dragging down American public discourse as Trump has done serves no worthy purpose. Demagoguery and hatred tarnish the American Dream. They equate it with Macbeth’s poignant observation: “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.”

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LANDLORD

San Francisco scorns landlords. Old-time melodramas made them villains seeking to evict kindly families unless granted the favors of a nubile maiden daughter. The citizenry recently voted to provide renters facing eviction public funding for legal representation. Yes, renters can get screwed. So can landlords. Ask Greg.

A senior, Greg owns a four-unit building—he lives in one—in southeastern San Francisco. Once, he also owned a house in Bernal Heights. The two properties drained his resources, so he sold the house and retained the apartments to provide income for his old age. Rent control has depressed that income. He figures his rents are about one-third of market. They cover less than his mortgage and insurance. Upkeep comes out of his pocket.

It gets worse. One of Greg’s tenants is a drug user with mental problems. Greg calls him “barking mad.” About five years ago, he was taken in as a subtenant by another tenant. The master tenant left. Failing to reach an understanding with his own attorney, Greg accepted rent from the “new tenant.” That put the man practically out of reach.

The new master tenant trashed the apartment—carpeting ruined, the stove filthy. He also used it as a drug flop house with all kinds of people staying over. Topping that, he moved a family into the separate garage that’s part of his unit—and collected rent. That’s illegal. It also exposed Greg to legal problems if the children there were hurt.

In April, Greg started procedures to evict the people in the garage. The master tenant had thirty days to respond. He didn’t. The people in the garage went to a tenants’ help organization. That stopped the eviction. A month-and-a-half later, Greg’s attorney and the family’s pro bono lawyer reached an agreement. The family would leave in mid-July, and Greg would pay them $5,000. A jury trial would have cost Greg $15,000.

In the next weeks, the master tenant will receive notice of the date he will be physically evicted. If he refuses, he can demand a lawyers’ conference and jury trial. Over the past three months, Greg has not accepted rent. California law stipulates that if Greg takes money, he ends the eviction procedure.

Greg hopes that the process costs him “only” $15,000. It will take another $10,000 to clean up the apartment. He regrets always being a little “loose” with tenants out of kindness to the less fortunate. “From now on, I’m going to demand a squeaky-clean record and an upscale job.” He reflects with sadness that he will now be “one of those gentrifying landlords.”

Greg considers not keeping the Bernal Heights home “one of the worst financial decisions I ever made.” He cautions, “Most San Franciscans don’t realize how difficult it can be to be a small landlord. If this happened twenty years ago, I’d have gone into debt.”

He emphasizes that the situation would be more just if landlords had a right to demonstrate to a court that his rents are way under market and should rise to a fair level. He figures that his below-market rents cost him— conservatively—$36,000–$40,000 a year. “It also should be easier to remove a tenant whose behavior is unconscionable.”

No matter how reasonable those observations, Greg does not anticipate relief any time soon.

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PIXI(E)LATED

On Wednesday, following his meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong-un, President Trump tweeted that there is “no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” Why am I not relieved?

Two words come to mind. Pixilatedmeans acting in a mentally unbalanced, unstable way. Pixelated—note the “e” replacing the first “i”—refers to the number of pixels on a digital device’s screen. The more pixels, the sharper the image. There’s a connection.

In Singapore, Trump elevated Kim to the world stage before attempts to negotiate a detailed agreement ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons. Standard diplomacy would have members of both leaders’ staffs first work out the fine print. Then the leaders would meet and sign an accord. Trump signed a vague preliminary 400 words that failed to reference verification. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented that such a term is understood. Really?

What happens if, following Trump and Kim’s mini-love fest, terms are not agreed upon? Brotherly affection could turn to anger and a sense of betrayal. The risk of war, including the use of nuclear weapon, escalates—especially factoring in super-hawk national security advisor John R. Bolton. So, does the Singapore summit reflectpixilated—unstable—thinking? Only in part.

It also demonstratespixelatedthinking—the desire to make a visual splash in the media from standard to social. If a picture is worth a thousand words, endless videos of Trump and Kim smiling and shaking hands surely speak volumes. But volumes of what?

For Kim, Singapore provided legitimacy. No longer the dictator of the Hermit Kingdom, he created a new image of himself as a statesman. Forget North Korea’s prison camps, assassinations and mind control. Despite ruling a small nation of 25 million, Kim has his finger on a nuclear button and must be respected. Or feared. His people—indeed, the world—have seen him hobnob with the presidents of South Korea, China and the United States.

Moreover, Donald Trump stated how very much Kim loves his people—then tweeted that Kim’s “done some really bad things,” but so have other nations. So maybe Kim’s not all that bad. Trump also suggested fabulous real-estate opportunities lying ahead for North Korea. A Trump Resort Wonsan?

For Trump, the digital wave again made him the focus of world attention. He portrayed himself as an aggressive, rule-breaking negotiator. The artist of the deal. “Look at me,” he seemed to say. Or tweet. “I’ve done what no president before me has done. Rank me up there with George and Abe. And don’t forget, I’m the toughest kid on the block. Before Singapore, I kicked ass at the G-7 summit.”

Of course, the other six G-7 governments are America’s allies. Or were. Trump prefers adding Russia to a restored G-8. Since the G-7 won’t allow it, perhaps they’ll become the G-6 opposite a G-2 constituted of the United States and Russia headed by best buds Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Then a G-3 including North Korea.

The future defies prediction. I hope that the U.S. and North Korea reach a meaningful agreement. That the nuclear threat evaporates as the result of strict terms accepted by Kim. But we’ve just witnessed the confluence of pixilatedand pixelated. Down the road, pixi(e)latedcould prove at best meaningless. At worst, explosive.

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DONALD TO KIM—GAME ON

Posted Jun 8 2018 by in OUR WORLD with 4 Comments

Preparing for the U.S.–North Korea summit on June 12, Donald Trump sent a letter of introduction to Kim Jong-un. It was leaked. I present it unedited.

Dear Kim:

Can I call you Kim? Call me Donald. I like first names. Hold that. This guy looking over my shoulder says Koreans put their family names before their Christian names. Dumb! But who am I to judge? Well, you know Who. But calling you Jong or Jong-un seems weird. Like that kimchi cabbage stuff you guys eat.

I’ll call you Kimmy. Like that character on TV, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” She’s not bad looking, but she’s a Redhead. I’m into Blondes. You probably know that. I bet you dig Blondes, too. Not that Mrs. Jong-un isn’t a Babe. From the photos and videos, I’d say so. Love to get to know her better (wink, wink). Even if she’s not a Blonde.

Anyway, I look forward to seeing you in Singapore. We have lots in common. Like our Hair. Not the same-old same-old. I had a Sofa in the Oval Office upholstered to match the color of my hair when I went from orange to yellow. People who see me on TV think Me and the Sofa are Twins. I’m the Smart One. And nobody sits on The Donald.

Nobody sits on Kimmy, either. I get that. We both have these disloyal Underlings. A shitload. But you’ve got it better. You get to blow them away with Anti-Aircraft Guns or whatever. All they let me do here is fire them. “You’re fired!” I love the ring to that. I’m dying to say that to a certain Attorney General. Wait. I’m not supposed to write that. Fuck the Underling looking over my shoulder. Donald Trump is the President of the United States and Everything in the World America owns. MAGA!!

What I’m saying, Kimmy, is that you and Me can do a lot in Singapore. Talk? Sure. We’ll talk. This Nuclear stuff? Important. I’m hitting the road (flying actually) to impress on you I’ve got more Nukes. A shitload more. Bigger, too. Yuge!!! I can charbroil your capital city (like I’m supposed to remember some crazy Asiatic name and how to spell it?) anytime I want!!!! Don’t expect help from my Underlings like the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Who elected them?

Bet your ass I won My election by an even bigger percentage than you won yours!!!! Wait. They say you don’t have elections in North Korea. Really? Damn. I love that!!!!!

So—Singapore. We’ll shoot the shit. Talk about the Babes we’ve bagged. I’ve bagged way more than you, but that’s not the point. Well, it is. But Guys? That’s how we bond. Then we’ll see what the Underlings can do to get North Korea to get on its Knees to America. We’re the Big Dog, right? Except for Russia. Not as Big, but big (lower case). Love that Vlad!!!!!!

Anyway, we can play golf. Scarf up the McDonald’s I’m bringing. Definitely check out videos of some of my political rallies so you can see you’re dealing with a Guy from Queens.

See ya,

Donald

P.S. What kind of Christian name is Jong-un anyway?

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THE MARVEL OF SMALL MUSEUMS

Back in the ’50s, American car companies introduced new models—radically different—every year. Advertisements touted that them as longer, lower, wider. Americans loved everything big. Many still do. Me? Take museums. I like small.

The best-known museums are—to use a term—yuge! In London this March, Carolyn and I again visited the British Museum. We’re members. I love lunch in the members dining room. Great soups! But the enormous crowds can make a visit a little—or a lot—less pleasurable. We’ve also seen the permanent exhibits—including the Rosetta Stone—many times.

I get worn out with the Louvres in Paris and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. We went to the Met a few weeks ago. We do every time we’re in the Big Town. My favorite part? Walking up and back through Central Park. The crowds and exhibit choices—too big.

Thankfully, we discovered the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) at Columbus Circle. The building rises nine stories but has a small footprint. The rotating exhibits feature contemporary (or relatively so) artists and are modest in size.

We had the galleries almost all to ourselves. I loved the work by Derrick Adams, presenting the challenges African Americans faced traveling the nation before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. MAD also hosts artists in-studio. We chatted with Katya Grokhovsky, who came to the U.S. from Ukraine as a child and creates fabulous installations.

My favorite museum is small—and hardly typical. SFO Museum places exhibits—small and smaller—throughout San Francisco International Airport. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, SFOM offers fabulous opportunities to see carefully curated, constantly changing collections of art, craft and design when you fly. And even if you don’t. Many can be accessed pre-security. The airport may be crowded, but with these exhibits, you can get up close and personal.

When Carolyn and I fly overseas, we take in the pre-security exhibits in Terminal A and Terminal G. Domestically, we usually fly out of Terminal 2 where we just saw an exhibit on Maneki Neko—Japanese cat statues bringing good luck to homes and businesses.

SFOM has hosted many exhibits since the concept’s inception in 1980. My favorites include radio bars from the 1940s (we have one that belonged to my parents), women’s shoes (over the top), typewriters, cocktail glasses, gambling devices, American folk art, Chinese porcelains and evolving flight attendant (nee stewardess) uniforms.

Small museums abound. We love London’s Pollock’s Toy Museum (oldtoys) and Florence Nightingale Museum. The Morgan in New York has offered wonderful exhibits (from Babylonian jewelry to Ernest Hemingway). Who but the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco would put on display Mahjong and its impact on American Jews? (My mother played; my sister still does.)

SFOM won’t achieve the fame of the Met, the Louvres or the British. And truly, you can visit many other wonderful large museums around the nation—the Chicago Art Institute, the Smithsonian complex—and the world. We love the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

But size doesn’tmatter. A single, carefully curated exhibit in a modest space—like an informal dinner with family or friends—can deliver big rewards. That’s no small feat.

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