Friday, February 26, 2016

The Daily Babble: El Nino, Young Women, Emma Thompson and the GOP Zombie Apocalypse

It's raining today, but that hasn't happened very much this month.  Here on the North Coast we had a January that was 50% above the average rainfall, but we're closing in on a February that's about 50% of average.

So for all the ballyhoo about the monster El Nino, and all the power and uncertainty it may be putting behind weather elsewhere, it hasn't lived up to billing up here.  It's also been a dry month in the rest of California, where the El Nino noise and bits of rain have probably been a factor in the recent run of months that CA cities haven't met water conservation standards set by the state.  Whereas they were exceeded during the summer.

For us, instead of an El Nino anomaly, we've gotten pretty much what we've been getting in recent winters: one solid month of rain, and way below average the other winter months.  We do have March ahead, although its average rainfall is historically less, and there is some precedent for El Nino's effects to power up in March and April. But so far the drought--or global heating trends--are proving to be the more powerful factors.

Now for something completely different...

An intriguing article at New York on the changes that have been going on in America for young women.  The stats are basically 6 or 7 years old, but apparently they show a continuing trend:

In 2009, the proportion of American women who were married dropped below 50 percent. In other words, for the first time in American history, single women (including those who were never married, widowed, divorced, or separated) outnumbered married women. Perhaps even more strikingly, the number of adults younger than 34 who had never married was up to 46 percent, rising 12 percentage points in less than a decade. For women under 30, the likelihood of being married has become astonishingly small: Today, only around 20 percent of Americans ages 18–29 are wed, compared to nearly 60 percent in 1960.

The article dwells on the political ramifications, but of course there are more ripples in the social fabric than that.

With the Oscars coming up, there are lots of features about its history and so on, and what the awards might mean.  What they don't necessarily mean is that the winners will have lasting meaning.  Some will, and some have.  Kate Winslet is up for another best supporting Oscar (I did see that one, and she disappeared into that role.)  She won her first exactly twenty years ago in Sense and Sensibility, the title of which is often prefixed with Jane Austen's and followed by, a film by Ang Lee.  Though he was the director, it was really a film by Emma Thompson, who wrote it (and won an Oscar for doing so.)

All that is to introduce a really interesting piece in the Atlantic  about how the changes she made in characterization (giving the male characters dimension that Austen didn't) also created images or models of men: Sense and Sensibility deliberately imbued Austen’s first published heroes with qualities they either didn’t have in the novel or didn’t have to the same degree: egalitarian attitudes toward women, an affection for children, and emotional sensitivity.

This film has added weight this year because one of those men was played by Alan Rickman, who was (to my mind) even better in his non-villain roles.

Finally, politics.  The consensus on the Net about the GOPer debate Thursday was that Rubio landed some blows finally, but that Trump is still standing.  Such speculation was superseded today by Trump's endorsement by Chris Christie.

But something more interesting happened earlier in the week.  A columnist in the Washington Post wrote about Donald Trump, mixing Greek myth and Mary Shelley for his metaphors:

"A plague has descended on the [Republican] party in the form of the most successful demagogue-charlatan in the history of U.S. politics. The party searches desperately for the cause and the remedy without realizing that, like Oedipus, it is the party itself that brought on this plague. The party’s own political crimes are being punished in a bit of cosmic justice fit for a Greek tragedy.

Let’s be clear: Trump is no fluke. Nor is he hijacking the Republican Party or the conservative movement, if there is such a thing. He is, rather, the party’s creation, its Frankenstein monster, brought to life by the party, fed by the party and now made strong enough to destroy its maker."

He cites the pattern of "wild obstructionism" and "the party’s accommodation to and exploitation of the bigotry in its ranks." "No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers."  And not Trump first among those enablers, but "Republican party pundits and intellectuals." "What did Trump do but pick up where they left off, tapping the well-primed gusher of popular anger, xenophobia and, yes, bigotry that the party had already unleashed?"

Partaking of both obstructionism and bigotry, he wrote, "was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified."  Though Obama's policies were well within the mainstream of Democratic candidates and Presidents, he was attacked as subversive and illegitimate.

Others have made similar critiques, including me.  The difference is the author: Robert Kagan, a Republican, a "prominent neoconservative intellectual" (says J.Chiat)  and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.  And so there is the conclusion that is singular so far, but perhaps a harbinger:

So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

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