Friday, December 23, 2016


      If you are a Facebook Friend you have already seen a version of this blog.  If not, please read and is not entirely dark, and ends on a positive and hopeful note.

For years my wife Leila and I have had two predictable conversations in the weeks following Thanksgiving:

     1. When to put up the Christmas tree.    She insisted that it go up right after Thanksgiving.  I always responded that that is too early, that the tree will dry out, catch fire and burn the house down.  We compromised at 10 days before Christmas. We solved that annual dispute by buying an artificial tree, which you can't tell is artificial without touching its needles or sniffing at it and not getting that woodsy, pine smell.

    2.  Getting the annual Christmas Letter written.  I always threaten not to write one, usually with the excuse that there's nothing to write about. Those of you who have received our letters over the years have learned not to expect tiresome recitations about vacations, kids, accomplishments, blah, blah, blah layered with braggadocio.  Our letters over the years have been filled with a lot of make believe, teasing and outright lies, enthusiastically received, or so the recipients report.

Which brings me to a recent marital conversation:

Says Leila:   "You, better get started on the Christmas letter, Kerry.
Says I:          "After a year like this you want me to write one of my humorous,                           compelling, prevaricating letters.  Not this year.  I just can't do it."

Says Leila:    "There are lots of things you can write about:

      • Your trip to Bandon Dunes for a week of golfing.                        (That was enjoyable, except for the sinking feeling in my  stomach when I left Interstate 5 and navigated country roads  towards the coast, greeted at each turn of the road with red, white  and blue "Trump/Pence" signs.  Doesn't Oregon have litter laws?)
      • The trip to Atlanta for your nephew's wedding where you got to see your brother for the first time in 8 years. (A beautiful inter-racial wedding, except it was there that I learned that my brother voted for Trump.)
      • And NYC where we saw the Book of Mormon. Freaky Boots and Front Page, and ate sumptuous meals at great restaurants. (and where we had dinner with Pearce Brosnan and Leila sent him a martini, "shaken, not stirred."  Well, she later wished  she'd sent him the martini, but he was sitting just one table away, so you might say we had dinner with him.
      • Celebrating your daughter's 50th birthday party. (What a way to make a guy feel old!)
                   "See, there are lots of things to write about."

Says I:        "You left the most important things out."

Says Leila:  "What did I leave out?"

Says I:         " The election, hate crimes, Black lives matter, wars..."


Finally says Leila:   "But it's a Christmas letter. Tis the season to be jolly."

Says I:           "Yes, tis the season to be jolly?
                       (Fa, la, la, ignore the folly.)
                      "Ignore Aleppo, it's not so bad,
                       (That's what Assad said.)
                       "Let's ignore Putin's hacking,
                       (Helped us see security's lacking.)
                       "Let's ignore Blacks got shot,
                       (Cops just doing what they're taught)
                       "Ignore hate crimes on Muslims and gays,
                       (Cause they don't follow American ways)
                       "Ignore a bigot's election win,
                       (He'll make America great again.)"
                       "Oh yes, tis the season to be jolly,
                        But I cannot ignore all that folly."

       We must not let the evil in the world blind us to how very blessed we are.  We must turn aside evil by sharing our blessings, reaching out to those who are less fortunate, here and abroad.  And, as difficult as the concept may appear, we must pray for our elected leaders, including the head of state, that they forego thoughtless rhetoric and callous disregard for the poor, the minorities, the immigrants, the gays, the working and struggling 99 percent, but rather that they be guided by what is truly best for all people or our greatly diverse nation.

      An evil man named Saul, who lived over 2000 years ago, was bent upon persecuting, jailing and killing Christians.  One day, as he traveled on his way to Damascus to carry out his hellish mission, he was struck down, blinded and spoken to by the Lord. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"  As a result of this incident, Saul, later known as Paul, regained his sight and was converted. He became a defender of Christians and suffered persecution himself as a result.

     Let us hope that Donald Trump has a Saint Paul's Epiphany as he proceeds down Pennsylvania Avenue to his inauguration.

     After all, miracles do happen.


Thursday, December 1, 2016


Munchkin:  A person who is notably small and often endearing. 
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, is neither notably small physically, nor endearing.  He’s six feet one inch, which puts him in the top 16% of American males, height-wise, but he doesn’t stand tall in any other respects.

As a banker he made a fortune foreclosing on working families homes.

His bank targeted seniors who had reverse mortgages, which tanked in the Great Depression, and homes in low income neighborhoods, where his victims were Blacks and other minorities.

He profited by leading an investment group that in 2009
purchased  IndyMac, a leading subprime home lender which failed in 2008. According to the FIDC he paid “pennies on the dollar for the assets being acquired.”  Mnuchin renamed it One West and eventually sold it for over $3.10 billion, more than twice what he paid for it. Since FDIC covered the overwhelming majority of IndyMac’s losses on bad loans, Mnuchin’s bank profited mightily on the deal (all at the expense of suffering homeowners and our tax dollars).

OneWest falsified and robo-signed fraudulent documents in order to criminally foreclose on homes.  It admitted its wrongdoing in a consent decree.

OneWest discriminated against minorities in its lending practices, locating its branches so as to avoid neighborhoods of color and minority census tracts. *   So now we will have a bigoted Attorney General and a bigoted Secretary of the Treasury.

Mnuchin has no experience in politics or policy.
(But then again the President-elect has no experience in governing, politics or policy. It is the blind leading the blind.)

When it became clear that Trump had been elected, I uttered, “Oh, God, save us!”   Then I thought about St. Paul, who was on his way to Damascus to round up Christians, take them to Jerusalem for persecution and even execution.  Suddenly in the middle of his journey, he was blinded by a bright light, spoken to by the Lord and converted from a persecutor of Christians to their defender.

So, I offered a silent prayer: “Lord, may Donald Trump experience a St. Paul Epiphany as he travels down Pennsylvania Avenue to his inauguration.”

After all, miracles do happen.

Kerry Gough, 12/1/16

*(Source of the above facts, Chris Isidore and Danielle Wiener-Bonner, CNN, Nov. 29, 2016)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

EVOLUTION OF A FEMINIST, a guest blog by Leila Gough

I am not a feminist.  I have never been a feminist. Sure I have experienced harassment and discrimination in my career, but I have always just ignored it. I was hired in the investment business in 1981.  At the time there were two of us applying for the job.  A male with no college degree but sales experience (car sales) and me with a college degree and no sales experience.  I was 22 years old.

In the securities industry, when you are hired to be an advisor, you are given a desk to study for the Series 7 exam for three months.  Pass the test, move on; fail, you are let go.  The male was given the desk to study.  I was hired, but as clerical help with the proviso that I could study at night, or when things were slow and if I passed I too could get a desk.  We both passed the exam and I was given a desk.  Instead of being angry, my narrative was that because I had done some clerical work, I understood how to get things done for my clients right from the beginning.  

A few years later I was working late afternoon in the office as were others.  The manager walked by and grabbed my ass.  Yes, just grabbed my ass.  I did nothing.  I don't even think I told my husband.

Fast forward to the 1990s, I am in a conference room, full of men (it is after all, a male dominated business) waiting to hear from our new regional manager.  I was in the front of the room.  He walks in, looks at me and says, "I wonder what you had to do to get that ring."  I said, “get married.”

None of these incidents in my career has made me change my point of view about feminism.  For years I have watched the sons of business owners get handed the business on a silver platter.  Or the advisor who doesn't always have his clients’ best interests at heart get the corner office. Or the less qualified male get the managerial job over a qualified female. This is just the way the world works.

But then something happened the day after the election.  There are a dozen TVs in our office, but only one in the office of a female advisor who happens to be my business partner.  Hillary Clinton was giving her concession speech and I went in to watch. In addition to my partner, three female admins were also watching. We watched in silence as she gave her speech.  Kleenex was passed.  It was a sad and emotional moment. I got very angry at all the times I have seen the more qualified female passed over for the male with the silver spoon in his mouth.  And this AGAIN.

 I am still angry, and I am grieving deeply for this country. I am worried about much more than me and my feminism.  I am worried for my black grandson, for my friends of color, for those that serve me in the check-out line who may not be here legally.  For my gay friends who are so fearful.

I can hide for the next four years behind my white privilege; even though I am a Brazilian anchor baby, I certainly don't look the part.  But instead I hope to become an activist feminist; calling my congressional and senate offices (all women by the way); calling Paul Ryan's office; speaking up against injustice; donating to causes that work to stop discrimination and hate; and doing what I can to help those in need.

And of course, working and voting in the mid-terms for change.

Yes, I guess I am a feminist.

Leila Gough

Sunday, November 6, 2016


In a leaked handwritten document, Donald Trump has uttered what appears to be a heartfelt apology for his conduct during his campaign for the Republican nomination and for election to the Presidency.  The New York Times will publish the apology tomorrow, on the eve of the election.
The text of the document follows. (The words in brackets and stricken [  ] are NY Times editorial staff’s best reading of several scribbled, virtually unreadable words and words that appear to have been stricken) reflecting, perhaps, the haste with which Trump wrote the apology.)
“Fellow Republicans, fellow Americans, all Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, Asian Americans, [Democrats] all of the huge number of you, the huge, and I mean HUGE, number of you.
“I write this apology with a hugely heavy heart, but with a beautiful, and truly BEAUTIFUL hope that by writing this and sharing it with all Americans I will be relieved of my guilty heart.
“First I want to give you some background.  NOT AN EXCUSE, no hot an excuse, but something about me that lead to my behavior, bad behavior, yes really hugely bad behavior during the past year.
“I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.  Not literally in my mouth. No, but you know the expression.  My father was filthy rich. FLITHY, hugely filthy rich.  I had everything as a kid and like that kid Ethan Couch who drove drunk and killed some people, I got sick. I caught affluenza. I could not help thinking of myself as superior to all others.  Money made me sick.  I thought my wealth, well, at first my beloved father’s wealth, excused my lies, sexual assault, insults, elitism, [groping and infidelities].
“You don’t know how terrible, really very, very terrible, affluenza is.  I truly hope and pray—and I do pray, I pray every night, BEAUTIFUL prayers every night that America becomes great again and that I will be cured of this dreaded disease.   My spiritual advisor, my beloved Melania-- oh how I love her! She is such a good [lay] wife—has given me great, really great advice. Open my soul to the American People, admit and apologize, FOR CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL.
“I treated Miss America badly.  I admit it. VERY VERY BADLY.  Seeking her forgiveness and salvation of my soul, I have given her a life time membership in Weight Watchers.
“I failed to pay dozens—they claim hundreds—but dozens, or maybe several dozens, perhaps a huge number of vendors and contractors who worked for me.  Many of them were financially wrecked by my bankruptcy, which was the reason for my not paying them, since bankruptcy discharges debts and that’s the way the law is written, so if my creditors didn’t like the law, they could have gotten Congress to change it, but they sat on their fat [asses] derrières – I really good at foreign languages, Russian especially-so really it is their fault that they went broke.  But I have a big heart, TREMENDOUSLY BIG HEART, and I am giving each of those contractors and vendors who went broke a tuition free enrollment in Trump University and an autographed copy of my best seller, yes, the highest selling best seller of all times, The Art of the Deal.
“I apologize to Khizr and Ghazala Khan, mother and father of Captain Khan, killed in action in a needless war that I was against and who would still be alive if I had been president.
“I apologize to Senator McCain.  If you had just read Art of the Deal you could have dealt your way out of that cage in North Vietnam.  But you didn’t. And you didn’t read it before losing to Obama.  You lost.  But I realize that being a prisoner of war doesn’t make you a big loser. Not a BIG loser.   You said you are voting for me. That makes you a WINNER in my eyes, unless I lose in this rigged election.
“Locker room talk is just that. Locker room talk.  All the guys talk that way. I never kissed or touched a woman who wasn’t asking for it.  Look at the way they dress, showing a lot of leg a lot of cleavage. Of course they wanted me, wanted to share in the limelight of a big celebrity. A really HUGE celebrity.
“If I have left anyone out, it’s not that I am ignoring you. I apologize to all of America for all of my transgressions, but I just don’t have time to list you all. You know who you are. You are all beautiful people, really beautiful, and you are forgiving and understanding, and I know you are accepting my apology and want to vote for me and make American Great Again.
“So now, all those [lies] allegations are behind me. Forgiven and Forgotten.
“I’ve got to run now.  Going to make my last campaign speech about that lying, nasty woman Hillary.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


During a recent visit to St. Louis, I visited the Old Court House, now a museum, where in 1846 Negro slaves Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit for their freedom.  While at the museum I watched a video about the Scotts’ long legal struggle. The Scotts’ owners had taken them to Illinois, where slavery was not allowed and then returned with them to Missouri, a slave state. The Scotts alleged that their prior residence in a free state entitled them to their freedom, an argument well-founded upon the terms of certain compromises made as states were added to the union and upon legal precedent.

The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The central issue was whether the Scotts were entitled to their freedom based upon a period of residence in a free state. The Court held that they were not entitled to freedom. It rejected state court cases to the contrary and held that slaves were not citizens and therefore had no rights under the Constitution. Chief Justice Taney concluded that the authors of the Constitution could not conceivably have regarded slaves as citizens because They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it.” Scott v. Sanford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857)

The lives of the Scotts did not matter to Justice Taney and to six other members of the high court who joined his opinion. Their despicable attitudes and opinions that Blacks were merely sub-human property is one of the most infamous Supreme Court opinions ever handed down. Indeed, that opinion was a catalyst to the Civil War.  Dred Scott and his wife did not obtain their freedom until they were sold to an owner who immediately obtained their emancipation papers from the very court where the litigation had commenced eleven years earlier.  Dred Scott died soon thereafter, having enjoyed his freedom for less than a year and a half.

One hundred fifty-nine years have passed since the infamous Dred Scott decision was rendered. I ponder, has anything changed in over a century and a half?   

Yes, there have been legal changes.  The 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution abolished slavery and declared all persons born in the U.S. are citizens.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed and has effected many, many beneficial changes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened the doors to the polls for African Americans, although the Court recently eviscerated the key portions of the Act, opening the doors to States to close the polls to minorities by enacting mean spirited, discriminatory and unneeded legislation.

Laws have changed, but have there been changes in attitudes? Are Blacks accepted as full and equal citizens throughout our nation?  Can the answer possibly be yes when blacks are driven to the streets to demonstrate against unjustified killings of blacks by police?

Dred and Harriet Scott’s lives mattered 150 years ago. They did not cow-tow to the establishment. They fought for their freedom against all odds in the establishment’s courts. They lost, but their fight and the court’s opinion were key factors leading to the Civil War and emancipation of all blacks in the nation.

Although Dred Scott’s life did not matter to the ruling forces 15 decades ago, his life and all Black lives matter to all of us today. Unfortunately, there are many among us who do not care a whit about Black lives. That must change.  Unless we replace fear and hatred with love and brotherhood we will continue to have killings and demonstrations.   

Dred Scott’s fight continues and we must join it.

Black lives mattered then and Black lives matter now. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016



A week ago a front page article of the Chronicle reported on a new NIH (National Institute of Health) sponsored clinical research trial to evaluate an experimental antibody to HIV called VRC01 to prevent HIV transmission. The researchers intend to enroll 4,000 vulnerable individuals at high risk of acquiring HIV, including men who have sex with men in the US and South America, 1,500 high risk women in sub-Saharan Africa, and 26 infants at high risk of HIV infection born to HIV infected mothers in the US and Africa. Ironically, it is uncertain whether this research will ever lead to prevention of a single infection. The article states that there is cautious optimism that the results will inform the development of new approaches for HIV prevention including a vaccine for HIV.

The researchers acknowledge that VRC01 has no evidence of preventing HIV in humans and that at the end of the study VRC01 will not be a viable product for HIV prevention in the US or income poor countries because of the high cost of this kind of treatment; low patient acceptability of intravenous injections at four to six week intervals; and the eventual requirement of more than one antibody for a mutating virus that will trigger additional large and costly studies. The VRC01 phase two study which plans to enroll 4,000 individuals internationally—many of whom are illiterate and will be required to sign “informed consent” forms that often exceed twenty pages. The study will cost in excess of $200 million and is eight times larger and twelve times more costly than an average phase two NIH or pharmaceutical company study. It is surprising therefore that a study of this magnitude was approved at a time when NIH is requesting additional funding for other urgent public health issues.

The study design conflicts with universal recommendations by major public health agencies such as WHO and the US Public Health Service (PHS) who recommend immediate post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) or preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with antiretroviral drugs for individuals at high risk of HIV infection. Baffling is why 3,000 men exposed to HIV are assured of PrEP in the study’s proposal, while the 1,000 African women are not. Equally perplexing is how the institutional review boards (IRBs), that are supposed to oversee the ethics and study designs, could have approved a study that dismissed standard of care recommendations to immediately provide PEP to protect infants born to HIV infected mothers from HIV infection. Instead researchers will be allowed to delay lifesaving prevention until after an experimental drug of unknown benefit is administered. Additionally, even though the researchers and the IRBs acknowledged that the research is of no known benefit to the infants but of significant risk for acquiring progressive or fatal HIV infection, they allowed the study to proceed. The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) federal regulation prohibits research in children that is of no known benefit but significant risk to children. Yet, as unfortunately has been the case previously, OHRP has not intervened. As a result, it is likely that some of these innocent infants will be infected with the HIV virus and develop AIDS, a disease for which there is no known cure.

Certainly no one would oppose finding a silver bullet to stop HIV, but this study seeks to expose thousands of individuals, many of whom are vulnerable and subject to exploitation, to a research product that lacked independent outside scientific review, and ignores WHO and US PHS guidelines for HIV prevention and OHRP regulations for research in children.   If we are to be successful in ending the HIV epidemic the most important research priorities must be identified and rigorous scientific scrutiny with high ethical standards applied.  No matter the urgency of a health crisis or the stated importance of a scientific research question, we have learned from the past that the price of compromising high quality science and sound ethical principles is too high.  When this fails, it will also engender the kind of mistrust that will echo for decades. 

The foregoing blog is an edited version by Kerry Gough of an op-ed authored by Arthur J. Ammann, Pediatrician and advocate for the health of vulnerable children for more than 50 years; Susan M. Reverby, an historian at Wellesley College, and author of Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and its Legacy and Kerry Gough, an attorney, author, and reviewer of legal and ethical issues of clinical research.

Monday, April 18, 2016

KOOL AID and COOPERATION, an excerpt from Dear Jeff, a Chronicle of lawyering in Mississippi, 1966

         Fifty years ago I was a young, enthusiastic civil rights attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice whose duties required frequent flights to southeast Mississippi to interview victims of race discrimination—beatings, denial of right to register to vote, harassment and other violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sometimes I only had the victim’s name and town, like Samuel Johnson, Leakesville, Mississippi.  Once out of the Jackson Airport and into the countryside, it was easy to get lost on the narrow, oft-times unpaved roads of rural southeast Mississippi. But I was never on a time clock. There never was an appointment with the victim; I knew roughly where to find him or her. So I enjoyed my unhurried and unintentional exploration of the Mississippi countryside, driving though the pine forests and leisurely passing though little towns that were sweltering and seemingly abandoned to the heat, not a soul to be seen. I loved to roll the window down and let the hot, moist air wash over me and caress me with the clean fresh scent of the forest.
Eventually I would reach the town that Johnson had put as his address; even the small towns, with just a gas station, country store, and a few houses on either side of the road were on the map. Finding the right town was just the first step. Most folks lived remotely, outside of town, down narrow dirt roads, sometimes ending at a cleared acre or two for the family garden, with the house at the front of the clearing, unnumbered, nothing to tell you that it was Sam Johnson's place, unless you had been told what to look for, like a certain make pickup parked in front or the place with two fifty-gallon drums for water on the porch.  

         Once I found Leakesville or whatever town that Johnson called home, I would stop on the outskirts, usually at a little country store just back from the road, with a porch the length of the building, good for sitting and smoking or chewing and talking, the overhang offering some relief from the heat but none from the humidity. I’d park, swing open the car door, and rise from the sticky car seat, my trousers audibly coming unglued from the vinyl, and step into the heat that was so oppressively humid and heavy that you felt that if you could grab a fistful of atmosphere and squeeze it, drops of water would drip from your fist, like water from a sponge. Sometimes there would be two or three men sitting on the porch or standing around. If there were, I would approach whoever was on the porch, leaning up against the ubiquitous Coke machine, its red metal surface cooler than anything else in sight, and ask where I might find Samuel Johnson.

       If no one was outside, or if my inquiry was met with “Don’t know, suh,” I'd enter the establishment, which was dark and cool—well, cooler than outside, anyway—and I would just stand there a moment, unable to see a thing until my eyes adjusted to the darkness. When I was able to see, I studied the place. Each wall was lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, crowded with everything from dry goods and groceries to tools, clothing, toilet paper, tobacco, sundries and simple medications like aspirin and cough syrup in dusty bottles. There was a cooler against the back wall, for milk and eggs and other perishables, and a couple of bins with fruit and vegetables.

      Every one of these country stores that I ever visited had a fan on the counter, near the cash box, and that is where I would find the proprietor, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman; that seemed about equally balanced in the places I entered. The proprietor would be sitting there behind the counter in the steady breeze of the fan, occasionally reading something, though there was hardly enough light for reading. He or she would look up, expressionless, neither welcoming nor hostile, saying nothing, just waiting to learn whatever or whoever I might be or represent, because a white person seldom strode into a black's country store out in the middle of nowhere unless he was up to no good or threatening no good to whomever he was looking for. Rarely did some white witlessly wander into a black store to buy something.

“Hello there. Do you happen to know where I might find Samuel Johnson?”
  “No, suh.”

       Before long I discovered that it was necessary to make it clear who I was and why I wanted to talk to Mr. Johnson.

      “Oh, by the way, my name is Kerry Gough. I’m a civil rights attorney from the Justice Department in Washington D.C.” I would show the person my ID and then the tension in the air would evaporate and I would get directions to Mr. Johnson’s home. “About a mile on down the highway, past the filling station. Turn off the highway on the third dirt road after the filling station, there, where eight or ten mailboxes on wooden posts are lined up next to the highway, you will see Sam Johnson’s name on one of them, and then just go on down that road a bit and you will come to his place, near the end of the dirt road, but mind you, not the very end, on the right side,  and you can see his place just off the road with a fifty-gallon drum on the porch that he fetches water in, and that’s where you will find Samuel. He has an old grey Chevy pickup, and if it is in the yard he will be home. If it’s not, just sit a spell and wait and he will be back.”

      Inevitably, I would have to stop and knock on another door or two and make more inquiries, but eventually I turned down the right road and spied at the end of a driveway, nothing much more than two dirt ruts with coarse grass between them, a small, unpainted, weathered wooden dwelling. Some folks would call it a shack, but it was the Johnson family home, and there on the porch sat a fifty-gallon drum, so I figured I had the right place. A battered, old Chevy pickup rested in the yard in front of the house. A dog appeared from under the porch and ran toward me, barking, but stopped short, as apprehensive of me as I was of it. I stood there, not moving, and then came the welcome squeak of the screen door opening and a thin, black male in overalls stepped out.

       “Mr. Johnson, I’m from the Justice Department.” I shouted trying to be heard over the raucous barking of the dog. I told him that we had received his letter or his telephone call, or whatever it might have been that informed us of his incident.
At that he invited me in.
“But the dog.”
“He don’t bite.”
So I ventured ahead, taking a cautious step toward the porch. The dog stopped barking, sniffed at my shoes and walked beside me to the porch. I climbed the three steps to the porch and the dog disappeared into the shade beneath.

Johnson and his wife invited me to sit a while on the porch, which was sheltered from the sun by the overhang of the roof. They offered me something to drink and I sat there and sipped warm cherry Kool-Aid for they had no ice. I heard their complaint of harassment and intimidation, and took notes on my yellow legal pad. The sweat on my arm dampened the paper and the ink bled and the paper stuck to my arm. When I peeled the paper back, some of my notes were imprinted on my forearm, smeared a bit there and on the paper, but still readable, although backwards on my arm. I told them that Justice was concerned and cared about what happened to them, that I represented Justice, and that I was concerned and cared, too, and yes, something had to be done about this kind of hateful activity. When I finished the interview, I thanked them for the Kool-Aid and cooperation, climbed back into the hot dusty Ford, and headed down the dirt road from their place. They watched me as I drove away and the cloud of dust thrown up by the tires obscured their view of the rented Ford, and obscured my view of them in the rear view mirror, and that was usually the last that I ever saw of them and the last they ever saw of Justice.

Upon my return to Washington, I dictated a summary of my notes in the form of a memorandum to file and submitted it to my supervisor. It disappeared into the black hole of the bureaucracy and I never heard another thing about Samuel Johnson’s complaint.

Nor did Samuel Johnson.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Birkenstock Betrayal, or How a Pair of Jesus Sandals Saved My Wayward Toes

A Birkenstock Betrayal, or How a Pair of Jesus Sandals Saved My Wayward Toes

Two years ago I betrayed my wife.  I bought a pair of Birkenstocks.  You see, she hates Birkenstocks.  There is an explanation for this irrational reaction to this trendy footwear. She associates it with Berkeley.  That is, the Republic of Berkeley, with its own foreign policy, aid program to the dropouts camped out on Telegraph Avenue, street barriers that make it impossible to cross town in a direct route, and its middle and upper middle class gentrified, hippified citizens, pony tailed males ambulating, and braless moms publicly lactating, in—you guessed it—their pricey Birkenstocks.

In a moment of shameless selfishness, insensitive to my wife’s disdain for all things Berkeley, I bought a pair of Birkenstocks.  Never before had I ventured so far from the mainstream of conservative dress.  On days that I was not seeing clients, my typically attire was a pair of freshly pressed khakis, a blue, button down dress shirt, sans tie, and a navy sport coat with my simple gold oak tree lapel pin signifying my former service on the Oakland Civil Service Board.  When I went to court my dress was more formal: a nice suit and carefully coordinated shirt and tie. And of course, the latest in Italian footwear, notwithstanding the punishment it inflicted upon my hammertoes.

Hammertoes, for those of you spared that often painful ailment, are toes characterized by the first joint that ignores the established protocol that toes are to extend straight forward from the end of the foot. Hammertoes, on the other hand, or foot as the case must be, arrogantly, proudly, and indeed, self-righteously, thrust their first joint straight up, defying any stylish shoe to fit comfortably.

In my younger days, as a drug defense lawyer, my LSD manufacturing clients praised my stylish attire.  My hair curled in a flip over the shoulders of my navy blue, double breasted polyester suit with bell bottom trousers. A carefully trimmed, reddish brown beard completed the look of the day, the hip lawyer seeking justice for his hippy drug dealer clients.  In those days, Birkenstocks would have been de rigueur on Mondays through Fridays, the casual days at the office.

Those days are long past.  I gave up criminal defense work and hippie attire to devote myself to more honorable legal pursuits, in the civil arena suing bad drivers and bad bosses in accident and employment cases.

I repeat-- I am in a quandary. Why, at age 70, did I purchase my first pair of Birkenstocks?  Why at this late stage of life does one buy a pair of sandals that are commonly associated with youth and vigor, college students and young singles and married couples, ambulating upward in middle class society in their Birkenstocks?

Perhaps I have always been a Birkenstock person. I lived in Berkeley (during a former marriage) for 12 years, raised my kids there, and drove a VW wagon.  I back packed, snow camped, cross-country skied, represented a neighborhood group against development of a 7-11 in the Elmwood District of Berkeley, and did all those
Birkenstock kinds of things.  Moreover, I am a liberal Democrat, former president of the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers’ Club, a civil rights attorney, many years a Sierra Club member, occasional contributor to the ACLU and other right minded causes—apparently well qualified to wear Birkenstocks.

Why did I wait until the 17th year of marriage to a Republican (present wife), did I choose to purchase Birkenstocks, for goodness sakes?

Was this a passive -aggressive act of defiance, an expression of my sovereign independence and exercise of my freedom to be shod as I please, notwithstanding my Republican wife’s disdain for Birkenstocks?  I think not.  She and I had enough to discuss given our political diversity. My choice of sandals is an issue that does not rise, unlike my hammertoes, to a level deserving debate.  Oh, I have paid the price. My wife’s sidelong glances of imperious disapproval have not gone unnoticed, nor have I been oblivious to her distancing herself from me when I accompany her shopping at Saks, which, by the way, does not carry Birkenstocks.

When I buckled on my first pair of Birkenstocks, it was not an act of rebellion, defiance or infidelity. What I did was an act completely consistent with my political beliefs and career of fighting for the underdog.  It is all about freedom. It is civil rights and emancipation of the oppressed.  For years I have hidden my ugly hammertoes, ashamed to display them in public.  On the beach I burrowed them beneath the sand, and at work I shamefully imprisoned them in cruel, unusual and uncomfortable positions in painfully narrow and thin Italian shoes, smothering their cries and anguished yearnings to be free.

Many, many times I had strolled by the Birkenstock store on College Avenue in Oakland glanced in the window, hesitated, fighting temptation to enter, but always sighed, turned and walked away, hammertoes protesting with each step.

I never entered until that fateful day last year.

I am no Abe Lincoln, I am no Rosa Parks, but on that day I became, in my own small way, an emancipator and freedom fighter.  I entered the Birkenstock store. I cast aside my Ballys, I buckled on my first Birkenstocks and proclaimed the freedom of my hammertoes.

Now, shod in Birkenstocks, my ten little friends and I ambulate free and unfettered, free, free at last.

©Kerry Gough

Friday, January 29, 2016


Every career is bound to have its ups and its downs, heights of love and joy and valleys of dislike and despair.  And an end.  That has been the story of my career as a practicing lawyer, over the years of representing hundreds if not thousands of victims of accidents and discrimination. Lost some, won some, settled most, took some cases I never should have taken, been lied to by clients and had other clients burst into my office to hug and thank me, and even one who, tears in his eyes, interrupted me in a deposition to thank me for advice which he said saved his life.  All in all, it has been a good ride.

The law has treated me well, and I believe I have treated my clients professionally and well.
I was sworn in as an active member of the State Bar of California on January 4, 1967 before a Federal Judge in Washington D.C.  Today, after 49 years and 25 days as an active member of the State Bar of California, my decision to become an inactive member of the bar became effective.  An inactive attorney is not permitted to represent clients.  I did not take on any new clients since I closed up my office nearly 8 years ago,  but by remaining as an active member, paying my dues each year and accumulating 25 units of continuing education every three years,  I remained legally able to accept new clients should the opportunity arise.  Not just any client, mind you, but I was ready, willing and able to take on the million dollar case if it walked in the door.  Well, maybe.

Maybe because if such case had walked in the door, I would have had to invest hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work, incur expenses in the six figures to finance the case properly, and suffer many stressful days and sleepless nights.   Been there. Done that.

Practiced law actively for 49 years and finally got it right. Time for inactivity.But inactivity did not happen.

When I closed and locked the door to my law office, I did not have time to linger, look back or entertain second thoughts about retiring Gough & Company, Attorneys at Law.  Two weeks after walking out of my office in Jack London Square for the last time, I woke up in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on my first trip in conjunction with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention (renamed now as Global Strategies) and Heal Africa to explore establishment of legal clinics for women who had been raped.   Working with Congolese men, women--nurses, physicians, activists, pastors and attorneys and many others  gave me joy and satisfaction equal to if not greater than hearing the foreperson of a jury read a verdict in favor of my client.

I'll stay busy.  I will continue to conduct mediations.  To assist litigants to settle their disputes without the time, expense and uncertainty of trial is immensely rewarding.   I served as a board member of Global Strategies as long as the by-laws permitted, and more pro bono work is in sight.   A year ago I finished my book (see and now I am in the midst of some other writing, including this blog.

So while I may be officially inactive in the eyes of the State Bar, I certainly don’t intend to be passive. Please note above—I retired Gough & Company; I did not retire Kerry Gough.

So do I have any regrets?  Sometimes I think I should have stayed in active status one more year, and make it 50 years.  There’s something magic about the number 50.  But for now I will enjoy the magic of 49, a rather special number for Californians and football fans. I will wait to celebrate the magic of 50 when Leila and I reach our 50th wedding anniversary on May 19, 2040. Save the date!

Forever the optimist, Kerry

Thursday, January 21, 2016

WHITE FOLK'S STORE (An excerpt from Dear Jeff, a memoir of civil rights and cross racial adoption)

             For a year now we have been blessed (or cursed in the opinion of some neighbors) with a humongous new Safeway at the corner of College and Claremont in Oakland.  Back in the seventies, when I was living in south Berkeley on Oak Knoll Terrace, we did most all of our grocery shopping at the old version of the Safeway, which was torn down and replaced by the giant one.  In those days, my then wife Judy had her law office a mile north on College Ave, in the Elmwood District of Berkeley.  Often she would shop for dinner fixings at the Safeway on her way home. Back then, Rockridge was 99% white and patronage at the Safeway reflected the white demographic. Our adopted African American son Jeff and one of his black friends happened to come in to the Safeway one afternoon as Judy was in line waiting to check out her purchases. The following occurred.

          As Judy waited in the crowded checkout line, Jeff and his friend suddenly appeared. Jeff was 17 years old at the time, sporting a huge afro and wearing his favorite Members jacket. Judy had been at work and was in her professional lawyer-look outfit. As Jeff approached her, Judy turned and said in a loud, hostile voice,

       “What are you doing here, boy? This is a white folks’ store.”

       “You dissing me, old lady?” Jeff replied, equally as loud.

Everyone heard. Everyone froze in place. Conversations were cut in mid-sentence. The clerks stopped ringing up purchases. Fear and tension filled the store, as some twenty or thirty persons plotted their escape routes but dared not move, torn between flight and curiosity over what in the world was about to happen.
Jeff and his Mom locked mean looking stares. Half a minute passed;  it seemed like an eternity. Tension grew.  Judy and Jeff  felt the frightened stares of clerks and customers focussed upon them. They enjoyed the attention they had attracted. Soon Judy could not suppress the smile that spread over here face.

        She broke into laughter.  Jeff’s laugh joined in.

       “Hi, Mom!”

“Give me a hug, Jeff,” Judy replied, opening her arms and wrapping Jeff  in a big squeeze.

How I wish I could have been there to see that moment. To see the shoppers and clerks consumed by fear and tension and then watch the tension drain from their bodies as they relaxed in relief.

        What fun!

        Of course, in this day and age, such jesting would be politically verboten—not only verboten, but dangerous--totally unacceptable to engage in a mock racial confrontation, even between a loving mother and son.

        Nowadays there is simply too much real racial tension and confrontation to dare make a joke of it.   It's simply not a joking matter.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Artistic Adulterer

The Artistic Adulterer
                              Doctor Toby Goodfellow, a leading citizen of Dullsville, a sleepy, little town on the coast north of San Francisco, fancied himself as a fine amateur artist, and spent many weekends painting seascapes, landscapes, weather beaten old barns and architecturally interesting structures in roadside country villages. His portfolio was expansive, a display of the most scenic views throughout the North Coast counties. He always stayed in a resort or motel with a beautiful view, and often rented two rooms, one of which was reserved for his easel, paper, canvas, brushes, oils, water colors and acrylics. In that room he painted undisturbed, often for hours on end, leaving his companion to entertain herself.  Often he painted three, four, even five or six paintings over the weekend, but he never failed to paint the view as seen from the veranda of his motel or resort room, his weekend studio.  He hung his paintings in the waiting room of his office, in the treatment rooms, even in the bathrooms.   It made his day whenever one of his patients remarked, “Oh, Doctor, I just love your paintings.  It’s like I’ve seen some of those places myself!”            
                               One Monday during the annual physical examination of a patient, who was in fact not only a patient but also the doctor’s good friend in whom he often confided, declared how much he liked a seascape that was hanging in the examination room.  Goodfellow, who loved to talk about his art, smilingly confided that the seascape, just completed the previous weekend, was “…painted yesterday, during a weekend tryst with my sweetie.” The friend, a bit of a libertine, received this declaration with a sly wink at Goodfellow, assuming of course that the sweetie was a mistress. The friend could not wait to tell his best friend that Goodfellow had a mistress who was the inspiration for his artistic creations. That friend in turn confided in yet another friend and before the paint was dry on the seascape, word had spread far and wide as the townsfolk put their heads together and shared the tantalizing piece of gossip that Dr. Goodfellow has a mistress who accompanies him on his painting excursions. In cafes, barbershops, beauty salons, supermarkets and even during coffee hour in church fellowship halls everybody was sharing their speculations as to just who was the mysterious mistress.
The collection of paintings grew--more landscapes, seascapes, even moonscapes, each of which he hastily commenced and completed during a weekend of painting, interrupted only when he turned from his canvas to the bedsheets, where his Sweetie lay patiently awaiting his creative attention.  Notwithstanding the haste with which he applied his brushstrokes, the paintings were pleasing, and Sweetie was pleased as well.
                               Overnight Goodfellow's business boomed. Titillated by the rumor that the paintings were memorabilia of the doctor's dalliances with his paramour, patients, new and old, lined up to see the doctor on the slightest suggestion of pain or irregularity, ailments that more often than not were artfully invented. The doctor’s waiting room overflowed with men and women suffering a common ailment, dying of curiosity. They studied the paintings, took smart phone photos, and chatted amongst themselves, comparing theories on just where such and such a painting had been rendered and what nearby resort or motel had been Goodfellow’s love nest.   
Doc-teling became a county-wide favorite weekend activity for husbands and wives,  lovers and friends, even groups of high school kids, all looking for the scenes of the paintings and the motels where Goodfellow had conducted his artistic and amorous activities.  Armed with their digital cameras on which they had recorded images of the paintings in the doctor’s waiting room, they traveled hither and there throughout the county on their titillating treasure hunts.  Those couples who were successful, or at least who had convinced themselves that they had found a locale of  an affair stood, their arms encircling each other, quietly enjoying the discovery of the very spot the doctor must have painted such and such a picture. Filled with voyeuristic excitement, lusty emotion and even some measure of true affection, they renewed their love at the nearest motel, certain that it had been a site of one of Goodfellow's dalliances.

Business boomed in the motels, whose owners marveled at how many couples actually seemed to be married. Showers were planned for middle-aged women, some of whom were grandmothers, who unexpectedly learned that they were expecting.  Balding, middle-aged fathers of grown children walked about town, a bounce in their step, back straight, chest out, rejuvenated and energized by many doc-teling weekends.  They beamed with pride and handed out celebratory cigars as they bragged about still having what it takes, even at their age, each swearing that they had not needed the little blue pill.  Indeed, the only prescription needed was a dose, once weekly, of doc-teling.
Not everyone was pleased by this turn of events. Marriage counselors and divorce attorneys suffered a disastrous drop in business.   On the other hand, business at the cafes, taverns, beauty parlors, barber shops surged as townspeople gathered to boast about how many of doc-teling sites they had discovered. A friendly competition developed as to who could find the most doc-tel motels. The entry fee was $25, deposited in escrow at the local title company and to be awarded to the winner.  When disputes arose, they were settled by a committee composed of the mayor, the police chief and the fire chief, who visited the alleged scenes to make a final and binding determination by comparing photographs of Goodfellow’s paintings to the scenic view claimed to be the subject of the painting in question.  The town clerk eagerly assumed the task of keeping a tally.  The town leaders decided that it was only fair that there be three prizes, $500 for first prize, $300 for second, and $100 for third. To encourage participation, the town fathers set aside funds to reimburse participants for their costs of participating in the contest—dining out, expensive motel and resort accommodations and pills for E.D. The town fathers, all in their 50’s and 60’s and all participating,  wisely determined that winning participants would not have to itemize their expenses.
The community was reaping such enjoyment from the doctor's affair that no one breathed a word of what was going on to Goodfellow’s wife, Innocence.  Innocence’s best friends, fellow members of the sewing circle and the Women’s Aid Society, inwardly sympathetic with Innocence’s plight were tempted to expose the doctor's infidelity but dared not. They did their utmost to keep the secret, to protect the new life injected into their lives that would be destroyed if Innocence were to discover Goodfellow’s infidelity.  There was a silent conspiracy: do everything possible to prevent a return to the dreary, boring life of the “old” Dullsville.
Dullsville loved its Renaissance. The newfound vitality of the town cried out for a more fitting town name.  The town council passed an ordinance changing the town’s name to Loversville!-- complete with the exclamation point. No longer was the town Dullsville or dull.
But then Goodfellow’s daughter Prudence returned home from college. One evening her boyfriend proposed that she go doc-teling with him. She insisted that he explain what that meant. He hemmed and hawed, torn between being forthright and honest with Prudence and threatening the town’s rebirth by disclosing Goodfellow’s infidelities. The boyfriend’s stammering evasion of her demands just ignited her curiosity and planted the suspicion that perhaps the “doc” in doc-teling could somehow relate to her father. After all, he was the only doctor in town.  She hammered on her boyfriend until he finally relented.   He poured forth the story of Goodfellow’s role in Dullsville’s revitalization.  As he spoke he feared that no good would come from the revelation. He was so right.
                              Prudence was outraged. She vowed to seek vengeance on behalf of her mother. Her first impulse was to find her father's shotgun and pepper his derriere and that of his mistress with buckshot. She discarded that solution. It was too simple. She needed a plan that befitted a Phi Beta Kappa. She decided not to tell her mother. Learning that her husband was a chronic philanderer would break her heart. But it must be possible, Prudence thought, to put an end to his affair without devastating her mother and precipitating a divorce. She did not want to do anything that would disclose her father's infidelities to her mother, but she was determined not to let him off the hook unscathed. She spent many sleepless nights considering and rejecting plan after plan, some too harsh, others to lenient, but none just right. The solution came to her in the middle of the night. She threw back the covers, got out of bed, found paper and pen and scribbled some notes, the outline of a plan that she smugly believed would put an end to her father's artistic dabbling without collateral damage.
During one on Goodfellow's weekend trips Prudence spent the better part of a day in removing the paintings from his office and hanging them in the Fellowship Hall of the First Evangelical Church, where Goodfellow served as a deacon, at least on those Sundays that he was not worshiping at another altar. She telephoned all of her father's business and social acquaintances, including the mayor, police chief, fire chief as well as his patients, urging them to drop everything and come to the church to help her "to do the only proper thing that a daughter could do to honor such a talented father, to provide him with public recognition for his artistic accomplishments."  Everyone agreed to attend.  Word of the event spread throughout the community by twitter and text. Fellowship Hall was filled to capacity an hour before the event was scheduled to begin. 
Upon Goodfellow’s return from his weekend of paint…and paramour so far as Prudence suspected, Prudence propelled him, confused and questioning, his latest canvas in hand, into the church.  Confronted with the collection of his paintings and two hundred of his friends and patients, he turned to Prudence demanding, “What in the world is going on?” Her response was lost in the applause, cheering and lengthy standing ovation of the excited crowd.  To this cheering crowd of aging couples, nearly all of whom were doc-telers, Goodfellow was a hero. After all, he had prescribed, albeit unknowingly, the medicine that had rescued them from their dull and monotonous lives and marriages.  
Prudence grabbed his hand and pulled him to the stage. He angrily demanded, “What in God’s name is this all about?”  Her response was a silent sinister smirk.  Goodfellow’s expression passed from anger to confusion and then to pride as he realized that the crowd, still standing and cheering, was present to recognize his artistic achievements.  He smiled at Prudence. She did not return his smile; she smirked again, turned away and approached the podium.  When the applause quieted, Prudence began her speech. 
"Friends, in this age of lost values in art and life, it is indeed marvelous to discover a man such as my father whose art reflects none of the cheap adulteration," --at which point she paused, focusing a cold stare upon her father, and then continued. "No, none of the cheap adulteration so common in life today. As you study his paintings, appreciate the purity of his palette, the strength and deliberation of his sensual brush strokes, the unsullied beauty of his paintings.  In a few minutes you will be able to take time to study and appreciate his work.  Take pleasure in viewing these paintings which have brought pleasure to others whom we may never meet, admirers known only to the artist." 
Prudence turned to her father. "Dear father, please share your thoughts with us.”  Goodfellow, although beaming with pride and completely loving his five minutes of fame, at heart was an unselfish man and knew that this moment must be shared. "Dear friends, these paintings, collected here for you by my loving daughter would not exist but for the inspiration of my sweetie, who on many of our weekend outings, waited alone patiently and unselfishly for long hours as I painted."  He looked out at the crowd and spotted his sweetie. Stepping to the edge of the stage, he extended his hand and said, “Sweetie, please join me here on the stage.”
A deadly hush fell over the crowd. Yet in that silence the unspoken outrage, incredulity and for some, amusement, was deafening.  Dr. Goodfellow was about to reveal his lover in public!  How incredible! How unbelievable! How shameful!  It was one thing voyeuristicly to enjoy Goodfellow’s doc-tels and to paint their own canvases, so to speak, but quite another to be confronted in public with the very characters of their fantasies. Whatever outrage, embarrassment or disbelief they harbored, not one person stormed out in anger.  Indeed, everyone looked around. Some even stood so as to survey the entire room, searching for an unfamiliar face, searching for this shameful hussy Sweetie. 
Goodfellow extended his hand to a woman in the front row.  Innocence rose and joined him on the stage.  
Overnight, the town reverted to its sleepy, boring self.   The ordinance changing the town's name was repealed.   Loversville became just a fond memory, a legend, a fond reminiscence – but it did leave a lively heritage, a constant reminder of those happy days: nearly two dozen toddlers whose parents are often mistaken as their grandparents.
©Kerry Gough 2016