Dale Says

May 1, 2019

On My Birthday 2019

Filed under: On My Birthday, Uncategorized — Mr. D @ 2:32 pm

On my birthday, I am 68 years old. This year I spent my birthday at Pt. Reyes with Patty, my brother John, and his wife, Eva. It was a wonderful way to spend a “tweener” birthday; hiking, enjoying the beautiful wildflowers, and relaxing. And it was quite different from my birthday a year ago, which I spent in Oregon with my sister Anne, helping her with radiation treatments and worrying about her health.

The past year has been good for me. Patty and I continue to be in love, get along well, and explore the world. We continue to spend time with good friends and family and to try to make the most of this very special portion of our lives.

We were able to enjoy a lot of travel over the past year; including to London, the Cotswolds, and Scotland in May, Seattle for a wedding in June, Nebraska to see family in July, Drakesbad with friends in August, Michigan with friends in October, Argentina and Uruguay in November, and Bhutan in March.

I continue to write, which is satisfying. Publishing my writing hasn’t been successful nor satisfying, however, as I have run into obstacles. Patty and I were able to self-publish a collection of travel articles and photographs (which we called The Places You’ll Go) in March. My San Francisco book ran into problems, however, when the publisher we chose discovered copyright questions over some of the images in it. I spent three months locating photographers, obtaining copyrights, and overseeing the making new images. At the end of that exercise, the publisher found a few other minor issues, and when pressed revealed that he didn’t really like the images we proposed. So we are switching publishers, and have now decided to use a small Bay Area company to help us publish it. The other book (Good People) is finished, but it will sit until we are able to publish the San Francisco book. All of that has been a little depressing for me. At this point, a good deal of my self-worth is pegged to my writing, and struggling to produce a high-quality published book has me down. I find myself less enthusiastic about starting new writing projects, and a little less cheerful about life in general.

Patty and I spent time with local friends throughout the year, and we enjoyed the San Francisco Symphony, Smuin Ballet, SF Playhouse, PEO State Convention in San Jose, Healdsburg with Peter and Carol, a baby shower at our house in June, and lots of house guests throughout the year. We hosted Christmas at our house, and Anne, Buzz, and Ian spent New Years with us, and Anne’s much-improved health was very gratifying.

I continue to dedicate part of my free time to helping people; especially our friends Norman and Michael, and my special friend, Ina. And I continue to volunteer every Friday at Tel-Hi, and to donate to several organizations; including the Smuin Ballet, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, Tel-Hi, and the San Francisco Symphony. It’s good to be able to help those very worthwhile organizations.

While most aspects of my personal life are going well and my health is good, there are troubling trends emerging about overall social and political aspects of life. I have documented some of these in previous birthday writings, so I won’t dwell on the details here. Suffice it to say that the world I live in is increasingly divided, self-centered, and angry, which affects nearly every aspect of our lives.

San Francisco and California continue to hum along, with lots of money and high lifestyles, but few solutions to nagging problems like high living costs, poverty, homelessness, and wildfires. Still, it’s a peaceful and prosperous place to live, if you can overlook those downsides.

The U.S. isn’t faring quite as well. While the overall economy is doing great, there is a huge amount of social unrest and divisiveness, and while it’s calmed somewhat since the presidential election in 2016, there continues to be unrest, anger, resentment, and a growing sense that something needs to change. Ever since Trump was elected president there has been a growing divide between conservative and liberal groups, with no sign that anyone is trying to bridge the differences. Trump purposely plays to his base by insulting allies and opponents, making outrageous claims, lying, and enacting policy that he knows will antagonize others. The media is all over it, but he has done such an effective job of casting doubt on the truthfulness of the media with his base (he repeatedly says they write “fake news” and calls them “the enemy of the people”), that few of his supporters believe any source of news except Fox News or the president himself. And so half of the U.S. believes the leader of the country is a deranged, lying bully and the other half believes he was sent by God to lead them to a faith-based, conservative nirvana. That’s where it now sits, and there seems to be little that will change their minds.

The Mueller Report, which the U.S. anxiously waited two years to see, finally came out last month. It found that Russia did purposely interfere with the U.S. elections in 2016, but that the Trump campaign and administration did not knowingly coordinate in those efforts. However, it documented numerous attempts by Trump and his people to obstruct the investigation into that interference, but declined to press criminal charges. At first, Trump and his cronies praised Mueller, his team, and the report saying that it “fully exonerated” him. But, when the full (except for redacted portions) report was released and studied, it became apparent that Trump had indeed made numerous immoral and possibly illegal moves, and there were many more stopped by his staff. Now, numerous investigations into those activities are starting in the House of Representatives, all of which are being opposed and in some cases stonewalled by Trump.

The Democrats are offering a huge number of candidates to run against Trump in 2020; including mayors, congressmen, senators, businessmen, and a former vice president. It will be entertaining to see which of the two dozen candidates rises to the top.

There are warning bells going off throughout the world on a number of topics – signs that a larger crisis is near. Huge numbers of people are on the move throughout the world, driven from their homes by hunger, unemployment, war, drought, famine, and political unrest. Those millions of people seeking a better life in new lands are causing unrest in the countries where they are trying to settle, and a backlash is underway in more economically-advanced countries; including the U.K., Germany, Hungary, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, and the U.S. Some residents (including people we know and respect) do not want more immigrants in their country, because they fear they will change their culture and lifestyles. In some cases, severe reactions are being taken to prevent more immigration (including Brexit and the Trump anti-immigrant responses). Clearly, building a 30-foot high wall across a country’s entire southern border is a desperate and antiquated response, but that’s what a sizeable portion of the U.S. population (including the current president) support.

So, how to resolve those issues? No one has a solution. Instead, it has become personal, and each side is intent on destroying the reputation and credibility of the other side in order to advance their case. The angry and divisive responses on both sides are now fueling harmful rhetoric and hate crimes, which are on the increase in the U.S. and elsewhere.

The U.S. economy is strong, which further supports the short-term solutions that have been taken to prop it up. Having reduced tax rates to please their voting base and give a short-term stimulus to the economy, the Republican Party now ignores massive resulting increases in federal debt, and is instead touting low employment and a strong stock market as signs that their measures are working.

The election of Trump and a Republican majority in the Senate also mean that many federal regulations that protect clean air, clean water, oceans, and national parks are being cancelled. That will surely have long-term negative effects. Similarly, cancelling international treaties and alliances, imposing tariffs on allies, bullying weaker nations, and insulting friends and foes around the world will most likely cause the U.S. to lose our global leadership and invoke future reactions against us. The damage that the current administration is doing will surely have negative impacts for years.

In other areas, homelessness is becoming a larger problem in many parts of the U.S. Many millions of dollars are being spent to reduce the number of homeless people and to get them back into society, but at this point it does not seem to be making a difference. San Francisco’s new mayor (London Breed) seems to be intelligent and forceful, but does not seem any more capable of resolving this major issue than her predecessors. Gavin Newsom, California’s new governor, couldn’t resolve the issue when he was mayor of San Francisco, and I doubt he can affect it from Sacramento. At least he does have a strong economy to work with, and budget surpluses.

In other areas, in a year without any standout movies the upbeat film Green Book won the Academy Award for best picture; Olivia Colman won best actress for The Favourite and Rami Malek won best actor for Bohemian Rhapsody. The Golden State Warriors won the National Basketball Championship last year, and the New England Patriots won the Superbowl. Our local football and baseball teams (the 49ers and Giants) are mired in or near the bottom of their respective divisions.

On My Birthday 2018

Filed under: On My Birthday, Uncategorized — Mr. D @ 2:32 pm

“Each day is a new beginning; that’s why the sun comes up.“

On my birthday, I am 67 years old. I woke early today and watched the sun rise over the hills at the Oregon coast. I am in Oregon on my birthday this year, with my sister, Anne, and her husband, Buzz. This is a special birthday for me because I get to spend it with them.

About a month ago, Anne fainted while volunteering at a local school. She had a seizure and woke up in an ambulance, on the way to a hospital. She was transferred to a larger hospital in Corvallis, where tests were administered. She had lesions in her brain and one on her left lung. The brain was the most immediate concern, as there were 10-12 large lesions there. After several consultations, she opted for a biopsy, which was positive, and she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, which appeared in her brain and lung. She had surgery, which removed two of the tumors in her brain, and when the wound healed, she scheduled full-head radiation therapy, to shrink the remaining tumors. As of today, she has completed seven of the ten scheduled treatments, with the remaining three to be this week.

Anne has an uncertain future. She has stage IV cancer in major, vital organs. She is relatively young (63), in excellent physical condition, and has taken care of her body, so she is well-equipped to fight the battle ahead of her. Her oncologist told her that people do survive this, so she is determined to give it her best. She is also realistic, knows the odds are against her, and is prepared for whatever lies ahead.

My dear sister’s illness has hit me hard. If she were to die it would be a very hard loss for everyone associated with her, including me. It’s made me introspective; I realize that I may not have a lot of years ahead, and that the ones I have left may not include the people I love the most. And that makes me want to make the most of every day left to me.

The past year has been very good for me. Patty and I continue to be in love and to get along well. We spend time with good friends and family and we try to make the most of this very special portion of our lives.

We were able to enjoy a lot of travel over the past year; including the U.K. in May, New York in June, family reunions in June and September, Drakesbad in August, Oregon in August (for Anne’s birthday and the solar eclipse), and Amsterdam and the Balkans in September.

I am continuing to write, which is very satisfying to me. After the Balkans trip, I hunkered down, re-wrote the San Francisco book, and went to work on a book of short articles about people.

Patty and I spent time with local friends in the fall and winter, and we enjoyed the San Francisco Symphony, Smuin Ballet, two trips to Parajo Dunes, and lots of house guests. It was a time of adventure and joy, but also a time of loss, as our good friends, Ruth Diefenbach and Lee Tyree, died in October. Patty and I suffered (and still suffer) their loss. The year-end holidays were a little funky without those two close friends, and with having to quickly throw a Christmas party together when Sue backed out of hosting it. Anne, Buzz, and Ian spent New Years with us, which was healing.

Loss of close friends has been hard to bear, and it weighs on both of us every day. It’s different than losing an uncle, or an aunt, or a parent. It’s loss of a peer, which not only brings grief, but reminds us of our mortality.

The past year has also been difficult as we watch our country go backwards on many fronts. I am now beginning to understand how our conservative friends and relatives must have felt when they saw the U.S. adopt policies that used tax revenue to help the disadvantaged, encouraged equality and diversity, and promoted diplomacy and globalism. It’s a feeling of helplessness – of an avalanche coming toward you with no way of stopping or diverting it.

For me, it has been frustrating and maddening to watch the loss of leadership, values, and decency in my country over the past year. It was such a bizarre year – one that historians will write about for centuries. Beliefs that had held the world together for generations; including cooperation, compassion, and civility were thrown aside in favor of a selfish, hateful, and short-sighted course of national interest and isolation. John Diaz, of the San Francisco Chronicle put it this way:

It was that kind of year. Strange happenings all around, from epic weather catastrophes to the first total eclipse to cross the United States in 99 years to a president so tethered to Twitter and untethered from reality that the Washington Post counted more than 1,500 false or misleading claims in his first year in office.

Political, social, and financial behavior in the United States has taken a much more selfish, basic, and coarse path over the past year. Our political leaders and half of our society are now determined to follow whatever course brings them the most gain, whether it is best for the world or not. People living among us relish Trump getting back at the “coastal elites” and they chuckle at his outrageous behavior. Neo-Nazis openly march in our cities and preach hatred for Jews and Muslims. Republican politicians encourage and support deviant behavior, and they openly spew vitriol and hatred toward members of the opposition party. This is from the people who are supposed to be our leaders, and to set good examples for us.
Congressional Republicans secretly drew up and passed (without hearings) sweeping tax legislation that primarily benefits large companies and the wealthy (and hurts middle-income taxpayers in states such as California with high wages and high state and local taxes). They passed a budget that increases spending for the military and will significantly increase our deficits for years. Trump criticized the media, attacked the FBI and Justice Department (who work for him), and repealed legislation that would benefit the environment, the poor, and the needy. He fired James Comey, the head of the FBI, who wouldn’t swear loyalty to him. He insulted everyone who crossed him, made up belittling nicknames for his opponents, and withdrew from global treaties.

Immigrants have been blamed for crime and economic difficulties, and they are being rounded up by armed military forces and deported, many for no other reason than coming to the U.S. without permission. Huge swaths of people are not allowed to come to the U.S., many from mostly-Muslim countries, because right-wing Americans fear that Muslims are evil and intend to kill Christians. Rural and right-wing Americans fear losing their culture and way-of-life, and they attack people and groups that are not white, heterosexual, and Christian.
Gun violence is increasing in America. School shootings and mass shootings in public venues are common and occur nearly every day (including 59 people slaughtered by a single gunman in Las Vegas, 26 parishioners in Texas, and numerous smaller mass shootings). No political leaders have the courage to do anything about it; instead they offer “thoughts and prayers” to victims after each shooting. After a school shooting in Florida in which a teenage former student killed 17 high school students, the student survivors rose up and demanded gun control measures. Trump met with them and promised to take action to prevent future school shootings. But after meeting with the NRA, Trump changed his mind and offered that schools should arm teachers, repeating the NRA slogan that “the best way to stop bad guys with guns is with good guys with guns,” and to promote more guns. Students who survived school shootings were they ignored by the president and state and federal legislators, and they were criticized by adults on social media for their lack of knowledge about some technical aspects of the guns that killed their school friends. None of this makes any sense to those of us who reject gun violence and legal ownership of military-style weapons. None of this makes any sense to the rest of the world.

Future generations will wonder why measures weren’t taken to prevent mass shootings, and there will be no reasonable answer. But, living in the midst of it, I will say that a good percentage of the U.S. today has been convinced by gun lobbyists (especially the NRA) that the “left wing liberals” want to take away their guns, and the only way to fight that is to stop ANY gun control measures.

“America First!” Trump exclaimed as he signed bills that put us at odds with allies and eliminates regulations that would ensure clean air and water. “Business First!” Trump claimed as he and his cronies passed legislation that favors coal, oil and natural gas industries over renewable sources of power. “Fake news!” Trump cried whenever the media disagreed or criticized him, while he lies, bullies his enemies, and insults his opponents.

Parents are at a loss to explain Trump’s behavior to their children. Adults apologize for him to friends in other countries. Families and former friends split-up and refuse to talk to each other, divided over his crass and dishonest behavior, and they try to figure out why we have stooped to that level.

The U.S. has lost its way in this, one of the darkest chapters in our country’s history.

We have depleted our global standing. Other countries are confused by our lack of compassion and selfishness, and they are forming alliances that exclude us. We are becoming an isolated, confusing, and selfish bully.

That situation is hard for half of the country to take, and a counter-movement is forming. Massive marches have taken place; including the Women’s March after Trump’s election, marches to protest Trump’s immigration policies, protests against neo-Nazis, and numerous student rallies that protest gun violence. Mid-term elections will be held this November, and I hope the reaction will be severe. Thousands of new candidates are running for state and federal offices this year, and early indications are that massive numbers of people are registering to vote. Most of them are upset by the turn of events that put a sexual predator in charge of our country, and they intend to vote out Republican lawmakers who have supported him. There is a chance that one (or possibly both) of the houses of Congress can become dominated by Democrats in November, which would be a counter measure to the Republican legislature and administration.

The vast majority of U.S. Republicans support Trump, and to a lesser extent the Republican-led Congress. One reason they stick with them is they are passing legislation that supports conservative social issues (e.g., abortion, sexuality, immigration, religion).

Another is the U.S. economy is doing well. Unemployment is at record lows and the stock market is at record highs. Conservatives attribute that to Trump and the Republican-led Congress, and they don’t want to rock the boat while things are good. Last year was terrific for people who have invested in the stock market, and for those who needed to find work.
Terrorism is on the wane, which Trump takes credit for. ISIS is on the run in Iraq and Syria, which Trump takes credit for. And North Korea has agreed to talking about the possibility of de-nuclearization, which Trump takes credit for.

There is an investigation into the possible collusion by Trump’s campaign with Russia during the 2016 election, and one into possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself. The special counsel doing the investigation (Robert Muller) has filed charges against several of Trump’s campaign staff and his close associates, and the State of New York has filed charges against Trump’s personal lawyer, but there’s nothing yet against Trump. For his part, Trump throws under the bus anyone close to him who is charged, and he decries the investigation as a “Witch Hunt.” He has recruited Republican lawmakers to attack the FBI, Justice Department, and members of the media who are involved in the investigation.

This is another very sad chapter in our country’s history, similar in scope to the communist hunts of the McCarthy era, and it’s shameful.

Democrats are fighting back, including many state and local governments that object to being trampled on by shady, ruthless Federal agencies. Lawsuits by states are prevalent, efforts to stop immigration, deportation, taxation, regulation, and other Trump policies. I am proud of the way California’s senators, representatives, and governor have stood their ground and fought back.

Another big trend over the past year involves women reporting inappropriate sexual behavior of men in high positions. It’s called the #MeToo Movement, and it has snared a huge number of men in political, entertainment, media, and sports positions. Much of it is good and well-deserved (including Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Bill Crosby), but recently there have been some questionable accusations made against some well-respected men, including Al Franken and Tom Brokaw.

California is in the midst of one of the best times since I moved here. The economy is solid (thanks to high-tech and Governor Jerry Brown), unemployment is low, and the legislature can concentrate on forward-looking tasks. Still, housing prices in much of the state (particularly San Francisco) are sky-high, due to too many people and too few homes. And, amid the economic boom, homelessness is as bad as I’ve seen it, with over 6,000 people living and sleeping on San Francisco’s streets.

San Francisco suffered the death of its popular mayor, Ed Lee, in December. It was sudden, unexpected, and threw a pallor over the city. I knew Ed and greatly respected his tenacity, integrity, and the way he respected everyone, from immigrants to millionaires. He was the ultimate example of the immigrant living the American Dream.

I continue to pursue my own American Dream, which involves helping people and trying to find my way to a satisfying second career. I still write – about people, about what I find good about life, and about what I find troubling about life. I’m not yet sure where this will take me, but I know I am heading in the right direction. At age 67, I am very concerned about the future of our country and our world. But I also believe in the fundamental strength and nature of Americans and humans.

On my birthday, I am in a good place – healthy, secure, and surrounded by a loving wife, caring family, wonderful friends, and respectful neighbors.

This stage of life is good.

This stage of love is great.

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