The First White President

“‘It is insufficient to state the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact,’ writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic. ‘With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.

“His political career began in advocacy of birtherism, that modern recasting of the old American precept that black people are not fit to be citizens of the country they built. But long before birtherism, Trump had made his worldview clear. He fought to keep blacks out of his buildings, according to the U.S. government; called for the death penalty for the eventually exonerated Central Park Five; and railed against ‘lazy’ black employees. ‘Black guys counting my money! I hate it,’ Trump was once quoted as saying. ‘The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.’ After his cabal of conspiracy theorists forced Barack Obama to present his birth certificate, Trump demanded the president’s college grades (offering $5 million in exchange for them), insisting that Obama was not intelligent enough to have gone to an Ivy League school, and that his acclaimed memoir, Dreams From My Father, had been ghostwritten by a white man, Bill Ayers.

“It is often said that Trump has no real ideology, which is not true—his ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power. Trump inaugurated his campaign by casting himself as the defender of white maidenhood against Mexican ‘rapists,’ only to be later alleged by multiple accusers, and by his own proud words, to be a sexual violator himself. White supremacy has always had a perverse sexual tint. Trump’s rise was shepherded by Steve Bannon, a man who mocks his white male critics as ‘cucks.’ The word, derived from cuckold, is specifically meant to debase by fear and fantasy—the target is so weak that he would submit to the humiliation of having his white wife lie with black men. That the slur cuck casts white men as victims aligns with the dicta of whiteness, which seek to alchemize one’s profligate sins into virtue. So it was with Virginia slaveholders claiming that Britain sought to make slaves of them. So it was with marauding Klansmen organized against alleged rapes and other outrages. So it was with a candidate who called for a foreign power to hack his opponent’s email and who now, as president, is claiming to be the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.”

The rest of the article is here.

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Mr. Gumbs, Anguilla’s ambassador

We first met Jeremiah “Jerry” Gumbs (we used called him “Mr. Gumbs” out of reverence) when we were married in ’91 and celebrated for two glorious weeks in Anguilla and St. Barts in the Caribbean (our longest vacation at the time for our jobs in S.F.). Gumbs told wonderful stories about Anguilla’s past. In 1967 he went before the United Nations to support Anguilla’s independence from the associated state of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla — a “revolution” that fell short. Gumbs enjoyed what he called his daily “sea baths” in beautiful Rendezvous Bay, where he opened the island’s first beach hotel in 1962. (I’ve never seen water that clear, except at Lake Tahoe). Gumbs told us he figured Anguilla would be preserved from an onslaught of tourism, because its airport was too small to handle big jetliners like neighboring St. Maartin. We’ve returned twice since then. Mr. Gumbs passed on in 2004, and we’re wishing the best to his son Alan and daughter-in-law Lisa at the Rendezvous Bay Hotel in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Mr. Gumbs obit in the New York Times is here.

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Turnaround at The Chronicle shows the way for legacy newspapers

Here’s an in-depth article titled “Turnaround at San Francisco Chronicle shows way for legacy newspapers” from the Columbia Journalism Review. It’s an educational read.

“The print newspaper has around 220,000 paid Sunday subscribers and 163,000 weekday subscribers, both down from more than 500,000 in the early 2000s. Chronicle management has nearly tripled print subscription prices in that time, though, and the paper is now as much as $14 per week for seven-day home delivery. At that price, printing and delivery is no longer a loss leader, and the print business should be a sustainable niche even as it declines in popularity.”

The full article is here.

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Meet iPhone X

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A visit to the 9/11 museum

This is reprinted from November 2014:


Virgil’s words read, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” A sea of blue surrounds the quote: 2983 individual paper watercolors in different shades of blue pay tribute to the people killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 bombing. (Sierra Foothills Report)

Our son, his friends and his classmates belong to the post 9-11 generation, a period of American history that we are still trying to assimilate. It goes well beyond the more upbeat “iGeneration” label for them, forever changing our nation’s psyche. God bless these kids.

New 9/11 Museum (NBC News)

New 9/11 Museum (NBC News)

As a next-door neighbor who had two children in the ’80s in Marin County before we were parents once joked to me: “When your first child eats dirt in the backyard you get all worked up; when it happens with your second child you just shrug your shoulders.”

Since 9/11 it’s been harder to shrug your shoulders: You are more likely to be protective and prepared, at least in the back of your mind.

In our case, my wife was two months pregnant when I, as an early riser, watched in horror as the first commercial jetliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on CNBC. I went into the bedroom to wake her up, muttering something like “you’ve got to get up and see this,” and we both watched the tragedy unfold all day long — just like much of the planet. A few days later, I flew to New York to be with colleagues who were part of our newsroom at CNET. They were scared. As the plane flew over lower Manhattan to JFK, it was eerie to see the skyline without the two World Trade Center buildings.

Three years ago, when our son was old enough to understand the horrific attack, at least in an abstract way, our family visited the 9/11 Memorial on a trip to New York City. We wanted to honor the victims, and we wanted our son to better understand a milestone event that we knew would define his generation, as Pearl Harbor did for my parents.

Flyers of missing people were posted at hospitals for weeks (NBC News)

Flyers of missing people were posted at hospitals for weeks (NBC News)

We all stared into the nearly acre-size dark pools of water that sit on the original footprint of the North and South Towers. We ran our fingers across some of  the names of the nearly 3,000 men, women, children, as well as the unborn children, who perished in the attacks.

This summer, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opened. This week we returned to visit the Museum.  “In the same way that the fields of Gettysburg, the beaches of Normandy and the waters of Pearl Harbor are places that teach each successive generation of Americans about who we are as a nation, the 9/11 Memorial, built at ground zero itself, will forever be a part of our collective fabric,” summed up Joe Daniels, president and CEO of the Museum.

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

The museum includes the personal stories of courage, loss and resilience, the intimate memories of 2,982 victims and the countless artifacts, images and recorded sounds. We had planned a shorter visit but stayed at the Museum for hours.

In one exhibit, as another blogger summed up,”Virgil’s words read ‘No day shall erase you from the memory of time.’ A sea of blue surrounds the quote: 2983 individual paper watercolors in different shades of blue pay tribute to the people killed on 9/11 and in the 1993 bombing. Artist Spencer Finch created this exhibition titled ‘Trying to remember the color of the sky on that September morning’ especially for this space in the museum.”

The artifacts tell the story in the way that words cannot.

We saw a squeegee handle that became a life saving tool. Six men used it to pry open an elevator door that was stuck, break through sheetrock into a bathroom and escape down the stairs.


Mark Beamer’s watch and Oracle business card. The watch shows the date “11.” (NBC News)

We saw wallets, shoes, memos and keys (smashed) that were recovered from the World Trade Center. We saw a tattered American flag recovered from the World Trade Center. We saw the battered watch of Mark Beamer, the Oracle Corp. worker who helped to overpower hijackers on United Airlines Flight #93. We saw steel beams found in the rubble, including the one that was bent from the impact of the first jetliner.

In another exhibit, we also saw a brick from the “safe house” where Osama Bin Laden was killed. “For many, the brick represents the fall of bin Laden’s reign of terror; a storied piece of solitary rubble denoting renewal of life in a world in which he no longer remains at large,” as the 9/11 blog wrote.

We also learned about the lives of each victim, including recorded messages from their friends and family members. It was heart wrenching.

Only about 40 percent of the remains of the victims have been identified. It is not widely discussed, but the Museum also includes the unidentified remains in a specially built repository. Docents are on hand who were 9/11 survivors. One of them named Mark told us about an eldery woman who showed up to find her relative’s remains.

We have been to the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu, where fuel continues to leak from the wreckage. It is a poignant memory.

Our two visits to the 9/11 Memorial and now the Museum have helped educate us about that fateful day, but it still seems unimaginable.

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ANOTHER correction from The Union columnist George Boardman: Imagine that!

You can’t make this stuff up!

“CORRECTION: Based on inaccurate information provided by KNCO, I wrote last week that Dan Miller was starting his 12th season as a commentator on broadcasts of Nevada Union football games. This is actually his 18th season.”

And this idiot has the audacity to throw KNCO under the bus. Memo to George: Do y0ur own research and fact checking! Hold yourself accountable, you insecure, under-talented man!

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The Center’s “A conversation with Alice Waters”: an example of a top-notch speaker program

We thoroughly enjoyed “A conversation with Alice Waters” at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley on Friday night.

It was exemplary local programming, exemplifying what our towns are capable of producing — at least in some circles.

Alice read from her new book — “Coming To My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook.” Beth Ruyak of Capital Public Radio asked probing questions.

The discussion expanded well beyond food — into politics, economics and American culture. It was a full house.

The Center has done an extraordinary job setting the “gold standard” for lecture series in our towns.  Another that came to mind was mountain climber Melissa Arnott. We could use more educational and inspiring speakers’ programs.

We have long been supporters of The Center, as well as many other local profits, and this fall we are doubling our annual cash donation to the “Encore Club” level.

We think it is a wise investment in our towns, and we are more than happy to reward the caliber of programming when we see it.

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