George, the First

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George HW Bush may be the most underappreciated president in my lifetime. For my money, he was among the most intelligent, most thoughtfully connected to world affairs, and most humanly decent – in short, among the greatest.

Some might forget the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fell during Bush’s tenure, not his predecessor’s. It was a singular moment in world history. In response, there was no chest-beating, no adolescent crowing from the American president, no showy rah-rah cheers but sincere offers of support and peaceful cooperation. A lesser person in the Oval Office might have used the opportunity for personal aggrandizement, or America #1 hyperbole. Bush was matured beyond that need. He personified the best of American strength: scale, connection, commitment, concern for others, and honor.

Some saw his deliberately measured stewardship of the Gulf War as a sign of weakness. In fact, it was a moment of extraordinary strength. He assembled a wildly diverse coalition to remove Iraqi troops from Kuwait and kept it together and functionally effective. When the coalition’s objective was met, it stopped fighting was disbanded. Many in America thought Bush should have pushed on to overturn Saddam Hussein but he resisted, for the benefit of regional and coalition stability.

Some saw Bush’s backtrack on his ‘no new taxes’ campaign pledge as a breach of conservatism. It was, in fact, completely necessary after the blindly spendthrift policies of his predecessor. Bush knew it would finish him politically but took the sacrifice nonetheless, for the benefit of the country.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bush only once (with Barbara) but have met and spoken with a number of people who knew him very well. George HW Bush was, by all accounts, a thoroughly decent human being, a brilliant thinker, a mature self-aware person who personified the best of America – not our bluster but our honor and our human decency.

If, as many commentators have been saying over these last few days, he was a symbol of a political  America that is truly gone forever, we should not expect to see his like in the Oval Office again, much to our loss.

May his memory be eternal.

Former President George Bush

The Real Driver of Sexual Harassment

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Let’s not start at what is perhaps the most obvious place to discuss a national climate that enables sexual abuse and harassment, our pussy-grabbing braggart-in-chief. (Too on-the-nose, as they say.)

Let’s first think about the tech industry. Reports of the harassment of and prejudice against women are everywhere in tech and reported widely in industry media. No surprise, some would argue, because tech is not only male-dominated and male-led, it is an industry with very few women at any level of hierarchy.

True enough, I suppose.

Without a diverse critical mass, tech has a stereotypical “bro” mentality that fosters thinking of women as the “other”, not to be accepted as colleagues and leaders but to be demeaned, objectified, sexualized and feared. There are precious few women engineers in tech organizations, much less leaders of them.

Most appalling may be the reaction of these tech “bros” to criticism of their industry’s record of marginalization and harassment of women: insinuations of male tech genetic superiority, critiques of women’s contributions to tech (which are historic and substantial), and flat-out threats to those who speak up.

Eyeball social media and see what I mean; it’s sickening.

The case of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein has created increased awareness of sexual harassment in America’s workplaces, and we should be grateful for that contribution to our social health. Women in entertainment have been the unwilling subjects of male domination since the industry’s earliest days. And that subjugation has taken on near-legendary status: countless stories of leering producers and casting couches and coerced dressing room assignations.

That a powerful man in Hollywood preys upon the beautiful, young and powerless can be no surprise to anyone at this point. That particular cases, and particular predators, are widely known in the industry, and have been widely known in the industry for long periods of time and have not been called out for their behavior, much less stopped, is disappointing to say the very least.

As human beings, presumably, we wouldn’t want to think colleagues, investors and partners would allow sexually predatory behavior to continue unabated, just because a particular predator was good at getting awards and making money.

But there we are: enablers exist in Hollywood too.

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The most well-documented cases, of course, are likely those of the enablers of sexually abusive Roman Catholic priests. For many decades, the church not only looked the other way and enabled ongoing abuse but shielded the abusers from legitimate law enforcement, from their accusers, and their communities.

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It was only after numerous civil lawsuits and very high-profile journalistic investigations that the church admitted (some) instances of abuse (and the church’s efforts to hide them) publicly.  The conscious and purposeful cover-up reached to the very highest levels of the global church and continues to erode public confidence in the institution.

Worse, it is completely at odds with what the church claims it stands for.

Harassment and abuse also exists in scale, of course, at our schools, colleges and universities, abetted by the typically decentralized structure of academe (especially in higher education). And many educational institutions will not report instances of abuse when they actually occur, or are learned of, only when institutions are faced with public reports and lawsuits.

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All this I know too well from personal experience as a communications counsel to many institutions dealing with sexual harassment and abuse: many people know of the harassment and abuse and too few (if any) will move to stop, or even report it.

After the fact, that is to say after the harassment has already ruined psyches and careers and lives, people will share that “Everyone knew about Harvey,” or “I heard the rumors about Father Timothy,” or “Professor Herman was a well-known pervert,” or “Coach Johnson was always giving rides to his players.”

Let me say this directly and as straight-forwardly as I am able.

Sexual harassment and abuse cannot exist in any institution without the forbearance and enablement of a great many people. People knew that Harvey Weinstein was assaulting young women and DID NOTHING. People knew about that tech venture capitalist and DID NOTHING. People knew about the priests and the coaches and the professors and DID NOTHING.

Why?

Greed. Loyalty to the institution. Sexism. Fear. Personal discomfort. Other reasons.

Several years ago, I told a colleague about a coach who had raped a series of his players over the course of several years, with the knowledge of his school’s administration. My colleague, himself the dad of a little league baseball player told me with firm conviction that, were he presented with that kind of information about one of his kid’s coaches, he’d kill the guy (or at least take serious action of some kind).

And I said to him I hoped so, but based on my substantial experience, I supposed he would instead convince himself he’d obviously been mistaken (because the coach was too nice a guy) and do nothing.

Without our silence and cooperation (active or tacit), sexual harassment and abuse cannot exist in our institutions.

 

Time For a Reality Check

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I was born in Houston, Texas during the depths of the Great Depression. It was a hard-scrabble life made somewhat bearable by the abiding love of our family and the support and friendship of our close-knit community. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It was really a small residential area outside of Houston proper, called Hunter’s Creek Village.

Okay, that’s not completely true either. It was actually the west Texas town of El Paso, where I fell in love with a Mexican girl.

Which is really not my life story but, in fact, the lyric to a big hit for cowboy-singer Marty Robbins. I wasn’t actually born in El Paso, or really anywhere in Texas, if you want to insist on factual accuracy, and have never, to my recollection, ever fallen in love with a young woman from Mexico.

As many of my friends and readers know, I was really born in San Francisco. And it wasn’t during the depths of the Great Depression but actually during the relative ease and prosperity of the second Eisenhower administration.

Sorry.

I studied computer science at MIT, then went on to lead development projects for large enterprise software companies. At least I did until I got laid off, then they hired an illegal immigrant who would do the work for, like, one-third of what they paid me. I wish that border wall were already built back then.

Sorry, again. None of that actually happened. (History major.)

I got married to a nice girl I met at the bait shop I used to run on Key West. She ran the creationism museum there, educating our kids that, after all, creationism is a theory every much as real and legitimate as the theory of evolution. And besides, it’s in the Bible. Things between my wife and I were really great until the gays arm-twisted liberal judges into giving them the right to marry each other, which is, of course, an abomination in the eyes of God and ruined our marriage because giving the gays equal rights erodes traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

Okay, none of that happened either.

Most evenings, after coming home from working as a hard-charging corporate titan, I don my custom-designed and constructed costume, jump into my multi-terrain battle vehicle, and fight crime as a super hero. I’ve never admitted that publicly before but there, I’ve said it. I don’t have super powers but I compensate by using my billions to build high-tech crime-fighting gear, which creates fear among evil-doers everywhere.

Okay, look, in truth, I don’t get out much anymore. I’m too tired most nights. And I’m not really a corporate titan, or, to be totally honest, a crime-fighter of any type.

Sorry, that was just a lie.

In my blog, I’ve always tried to present my thoughts and feelings as directly and honestly as I’m able. Then why present this litany of lies? It seems, my fellow Americans, we’re having difficulty these days separating fact from fiction. I just wanted to provide you all a little calibration.

Now go forth in truth and light.

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He’s Simply Perfect

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Now, finally, several months into this dystopian circus, media pundits and Republican Party officials are wringing their bony hands, wondering how it happened. How, they ask in their pathetic and whiny columns and commentaries, could a person like Donald Trump be on the verge of gaining the presidential nomination of a major American political party?

As if they didn’t know a single thing about the real America.

In point of fact, Donald Trump is the absolutely perfect man to represent today’s America to the world. He is a more accurate mirror of our country’s character than any major candidate for the presidency.

  1. He is vulgar.
  2. He is impressed with all the external trappings of money. He is all surface and shuns substance at every opportunity.
  3. He is racist, sexist and bigoted.
  4. He embraces greed.
  5. He practices a faux Christianity, without any grounding in or awareness of the foundation of the real religious tradition behind it.
  6. He is full of phony man-bluster, a classic limp-dick, chickenshit bully. Never engaging in any actual fighting but consistently threatening something big and severe.
  7. He doesn’t read, doesn’t know history, doesn’t understand government, or how things work. He is proud to demonstrate his ignorance, as Sarah Palin did on the campaign trail before him. Her endorsement spoke volumes about his suitability for the presidency, his suitability to represent us.

He is, in short, the perfect man for the job of representing America.

 

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Phoenix Convention Center Saturday, July 11, 2015. (Cheryl Evans/The Arizona Republic via AP)