Saturday, March 12, 2016

Trumpocalypse Now (Updated)

Sunday Updates: Chas Danner updates what Trump and Sanders said on Sunday talk shows, in the context of the weekend's events.  Trump accused the Sanders campaign of organizing disruptive protests at the Chicago rally, Sanders denied it.  Trump referred to Sanders as "our communist friend," and threatened to send his followers to disrupt Sanders events.  He offered to pay the legal expenses of the man who sucker punched a black protester as he was being removed by police from a Trump event, and was subsequently charged with assault.  (The man also threatened to kill the protester.)

Also on a Sunday show, Trump was asked about his accusation that the protester who rushed the stage in Ohio had allegiance to ISIS.  He based this accusation on a video posted to YouTube (since taken down) that was doctored to make the protester appear to be an ISIS sympathizer.  Told of this, Trump refused to recant his charge.  "All I know is what's on the internet," he said.

The ABC story about this also quotes a former CIA analyst pointing out the obvious: "It's disturbing to me that Donald Trump will take things at face value," she said. "If he's [president and] reading intelligence that comes to his desk ... that's imperfect information. How is he going to discern what's true and what's not?"

Jonathan Chiat posted an essay entitled Donald Trump Poses an Unprecedented Threat to American Democracy.  Early in it he mentions something I hadn't been aware of--Trump in a 1990 interview praising the Chinese government for its bloody massacre of democracy advocates in Tiananmen Square, a day that lives in infamy.

But Chiat's essay is less about Trump's outrages than some responses to them: "His campaign has dominated the national discourse. Millions of Americans who have never heard of [declared white supremacist]Steve Scalise are seized with mortal terror of Trump, whose ubiquity in campaign coverage makes him seem larger and more unstoppable than he is. And terror is corrosive."

Chiat is especially worried about a phenomenon he has criticized before: the penchant for some on the left, particularly in universities, to attempt to silence those they disagree with, or who make them feel 'uncomfortable.'  He cites a petition to silence Trump at the University of Illinois as well as the actual protests.

He concludes that "there is simply no evidence that the country that elected Barack Obama twice, and which is growing steadily more diverse, stands any likelihood of electing Trump. He can and must be defeated through democratic means. He is spreading poisons throughout the system that could linger beyond his defeat. Anybody who cares about the health of American democracy should hope for its end as swiftly as possible." 

On Sunday evening CNN reported: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both accused Donald Trump of inciting violence, with the former secretary of state calling him "bigoted" and alleging he had perpetrated "political arson," while the Vermont senator labeled him a "pathological liar" at a town hall on Sunday night.
[end of updates]

A crescendo of sorts hit Saturday in the matter of violence at Trump events.  After police arrested a Trumpmaniac last week for assaulting a protester at a rally, protests themselves got larger for subsequent events.  There were so many protesters at a Chicago rally than Trump cancelled it, but fighting broke out anyway.  In Ohio Saturday, Secret Service agents removed a man rushing the stage where Trump was speaking.  Meanwhile protesters were gathering outside a Trump venue in Kansas City.

Update: Police used pepper spray to disperse Kansas City protesters. Trump called for protesters to be arrested.

While Trump blamed the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, several of his Republican rivals blamed him. (Trump reportedly said the Ohio man was "probably an ISIS supporter.")  Meanwhile the chorus from major media really became loud.  A report by several Washington Post top political reporters began "An already ugly presidential campaign has descended to a new level — one where the question is no longer whether Donald Trump can be stopped on his march to the GOP presidential nomination, but whether it is possible to contain what he has unleashed across the country."

Similarly, another long-time political reporter, Dan Balz, wrote in the Post: "Friday was an ugly day on the campaign trail, perhaps the worst of the year. What erupted in St. Louis and fully boiled over later in Chicago, however, was no aberration. Donald Trump has built his candidacy on long-festering resentment and grievance. It is a poisonous combination, for the Republican Party and for the country.

Trump’s slogan is Make America Great Again, but his campaign for president continues to call out dark forces that divide a polarized America. Fueled by acrimonious rhetoric, he has sparked an angry movement that has now created an angry backlash. Campaign 2016 is on a downward and dangerous descent."

(Points for alliteration, Dan, but downward is the only direction a descent can go.)

A CBS report acknowledges that crowds for Trump are more hostile. A personal report by a New York Times reporter graphically tells of the sense of danger and violence that disturbs even some Trump supporters.  It's clear that Trump's bullying words and exhortations against peaceful protesters began this cycle, but now the protests have become more militant and confrontational:

"To witness the crowd turn on the protesters in its midst is to watch a feverish body, bucking and writhing as it tries to eject an invading virus. I have talked to protesters who still don’t quite have the words to describe what they felt when they were singled out and turned upon, often by their communities. Mr. Trump says he condemns violence. But he also shouts at his crowds to “Get ’em out!” And even when he urges them not to hurt the protesters, a hard edge of menace bullets his words.

Yet the protesters, too, have sometimes instigated the clashes. They fling themselves to the ground, forcing law enforcement officers — often outmanned and overwhelmed — to drag them away. They also shout and curse, making obscene gestures as they are led from events. And Friday night in Chicago, in perhaps the best-organized effort so far, they came not to simply stand quietly but to utterly halt Mr. Trump’s ability to deliver his speech."

The LA Times reports that the Chicago protest was organized by black, Latino and Muslim students.

It appears as if a cycle of escalation has begun, both of potential violence at these events and among Trump supporters and detractors.  Trumpies are doubling down on their support, while opponents get angrier (New York Daily News calls Trump "the hooligan in chief ") and more or less neutral observers are aghast.

And all this is happening while the witnessed assault by Trump's chief aide on a reporter continues to roil, particularly as it was a reporter for a very right wing website that supports Trump and now appears to be backing off defending its own reporter from the Trump campaign's denials and insinuations.  Update early Mon.: the reporter and her editor at this site--Breitbart News--have resigned over the site's handling of this situation. 

All of this the weekend before the GOPer big states primaries (including several winner take all) on Tuesday.  Trump's opponents have exercised a containment strategy, dividing the states where they will make their stands--Kasich gets his Ohio, Rubio his Florida, and Cruz gets three states where he might have the best chance.  Yet if feelings running high cancel each other out, Trump could sweep and pretty much assure himself of the GOPer nomination.

 Hillary Clinton, who also could go a long way in Tuesday's Dem elections towards securing her nomination, spoke about the Trump trouble:

“The ugly, divisive rhetoric we are hearing from Donald Trump and the encouragement of violence and aggression is wrong, and it’s dangerous,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters Saturday morning at the O’Fallon Park recreation complex here. “If you play with matches, you’re going to start a fire you can’t control. That’s not leadership. That’s political arson.”

“The test of leadership and citizenship is the opposite,” Mrs. Clinton said. “If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. And if you see a bully, stand up to him.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

President Now

It's too bad Justin Trudeau didn't become Canada's Prime Minister sooner.  He is such a perfect fit with President Obama--the two might have done great North American things together.

As it is, they're making the best of the year they've got.  Trudeau and his wife Sophie GrĂ©goire Trudeau visited Washington, and together with Barack and Michelle Obama, they brought the kind of glamour and good feeling to the White House that's been largely missing since Trudeau's father was Prime Minister, and the Kennedys were the White House hosts.

A hint of what could have been accomplished came with their announcement of an agreement to reduce methane (the less prominent but more lethal greenhouse gas) and otherwise address the climate crisis.

The non-policy climax of the visit was a state dinner at the White House, which the New York Times reported was the first for a Canadian PM in 20 years and one of Obama's last.  (It was also the first that Malia and Sasha Obama attended.)

After a meal of Canadian and American cuisine (with both First Ladies wearing outfits by Canadian designers), the guests were entertained in the State Dining Room by Eureka's own Sara Bareilles, singing under a portrait of Abe Lincoln.

Also this week, the results of President Obama's latest physical were announced: he's lost 5 pounds, increased his muscle mass, and has a heart rate "which falls within the average range for well-trained athletes." (Michelle looks pretty fit, too.)

Americans are apparently noticing the contrast between the people running for President and the President now.  Or at least that's one story's reason for President Obama's approval rating reaching a 3-year high at 50%.  It's only going to go higher.

Perhaps the most fascinating article on Obama I've read recently came out yesterday in the Atlantic, based on extensive interviews with him on foreign policy matters.  That it's controversial already with the Washington establishment (political and media) kind of proves his point.  But it's more evidence that he's my President, and there will never be another.

Rest in Music, George Martin

Lots of people sought or were given the title of The Fifth Beatle, but in reality--that is, in the music--there's no question: it was George Martin.

Everyone who gets to success needs talent (maybe even genius), timing, luck and help.  A person who believes in them, and a person who knows the ropes and hopefully has power to get things done.  Brian Epstein believed in the Beatles, and though he wasn't a great businessman, he stuck with them as they dealt with gigs and contracts and then success.  But George Martin discovered them musically, and became a participant in the music they made for their entire career as a group.

Every record company in England had rejected the Beatles.  George Martin was the producer and director of a tiny offshoot of a huge conservative company.  He'd mostly produced comedy records.  But somehow Epstein found him, got him to see the lads.  And they charmed him.  He liked them before he liked their music.

He listened to them, always, and from the start.  When he found them a song he was sure would be a number one hit, they finally got the nerve to say no.  He didn't throw them out.  He'd already fashioned a record out of a very simple song of theirs called "Love Me Do."  Now he asked them if they had something of their own they wanted to try.  John had written a kind of Roy Orbison song, with a few Buddy Holly touches in the lyrics and bridge.  Martin got them to speed it up, they worked on it, recorded it.  When they were done he told them, you've got your first number one.

It was "Please Please Me."  I defy anyone even today to sit completely still while listening to it.  Or to avoid smiling.

Paul McCartney's response to George Martin's death the other day was beautiful and so apropos. "He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family... From the day that he gave The Beatles our first recording contract, to the last time I saw him, he was the most generous, intelligent and musical person I’ve ever had the pleasure to know."

McCartney was the one former Beatle who later return to work with Martin as producer on several of his albums.  McCartney also got him the gig to arrange the theme song for the Bond film "Live and Let Die."  The movie's producers were so pleased with it that they asked Martin to write the music for the entire film.

Though Sir George Martin came to look and sound like the personification of the English gentleman, he came from poverty deeper than that in any of the Beatles' homes.  He did not need degrees from prestigious universities or training with the greats.  He taught himself to read and write music.

His favorite composer was Ravel, and that helps explain why he was such a great partner for the Beatles.  Ravel was eclectic and exploratory, who painted impressionist pictures in music.  When the best John Lennon could do in describing a sound he wanted--"make it like an orange"--George Martin made it like an orange.

Here's a fine piece on George Martin and the Beatles, and another on his post-Beatles work.  Great feature of  Internet articles is the musical and film examples they include.  There were lots of listicules of the author's favorite Beatles productions.  Surprisingly there's not alot on YouTube, but I like this video on "Please, Please Me" and other early Beatles.

May he rest in peace.  His work lives on.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Deadblogging the Michigan Primary

It just gets more surreal: Trump, celebrating his wins in Mississippi and Michigan,  rambles on about Trump properties and products, with a Secret Service agent guarding a table of Trump brand name stuff.

The polls had Hillary up by more than 20 points and gave her a 99%plus lock on Michigan, while pundits said Bernie blew the Michigan debate.  Which in terms of those expectations makes Bernie Sanders' whiskerish victory in Michigan the upset of 2016.

According to the live bloggers at the NY Times and the Guardian, there appeared to be a lot of Dem crossover voting to the GOPer side, and several heard buzz that overconfident (and dare we say entitled) Hillary voters were among them.

Ed Kilgore at New York noted that Bernie overwhelmingly won the youth vote in Michigan, and it was nearly as numerous as the black vote, which Hillary won but below her southern numbers.

There's probably no Midwest industrial state that's become more of a mess than Michigan.  A bad economic situation--with acute and extreme division between a few rich and the rest, including a lot of poor--has been made far worse by GOPer state government, and all their "emergency management."

The result appears to be an angry anti-establishment outpouring of votes. I wouldn't be so sure that all Dems who crossed over to the R primary, did so to vote against Trump.  Trump not only won pretty big, he got a lot of votes--probably more than Hillary or Bernie.  Democrats have to be worried about Michigan now.

In delegate terms, Hillary won the night with nearly all the Miss. and nearly half of Michigan.  But Bernie's victory makes Ohio next week of paramount importance to Hillary.  Now it's true that Obama lost many big blue states to Hillary in the primaries that he won in the general.  But Hillary first of all has to demonstrate that Michigan was an aberration, that she can win Ohio, Missouri and Illinois.  She can't be the nominee of southern red states only (she won Mississippi tonight with more than 80% of the vote.)

Meanwhile, Trump continues to look unstoppable.  The thrice-married, boastful foul mouth won another evangelical southern state (that's supposed to be Cruz country) and a midwest industrial state (like Kasich's Ohio.)  There's no indication he won't sweep the March 15 biggies. So all heil the conquering hero.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Here Come Those Rains Again

Here come those rains again...After a February pause, it's been raining--almost three inches of it in the first week of March, much of it this past weekend.  And they say the storms are lining up, with the next one (now predicted for Tues. night and Wednesday) rumored to be bigger than any so far this month.  Just under 5 and a half inches is the monthly average, so at this pace we could top it by mid month.

It's hard to get a fix on how big this could be--so far this is the most generous general story I've seen.  More than 100 inches of snow in the Sierras!  That's drought-busters.  The local National Weather Service is more methodical and short-term, but at least for this week it looks like we're in for days of heavy rain punctuated by days of light rain.

Update late Mon. 3/7: Forecasts don't agree on timing of storms coming in this week but one suggests we may be in for more than 6 inches of rain in the next 7 days, which is itself more than the March average.

And a neat stat from San Jose Mercury News: "With rain totals reaching 10 inches or more in some mountain areas, 46 of the largest reservoirs in California, closely tracked by the state Department of Water Resources, collectively added 391 billion gallons of water between Friday and Monday morning -- enough for the needs of 6 million people for a year."  While some of the reservoirs are now near normal for this time of year, others are still substantially lagging--and none are actually full.

El Nino, the Blob, the Ridiculously Rigid Ridge, the Atmospheric River--we've heard them all, it's like cartoon characters out there.  But the River seems to be winning now, powered by El Nino and global heating.

Some people have already been killed or injured during this weekend's storms elsewhere in the state. Accidents happen, but people sometimes help them along with foolhardiness or panic. We need to respect the weather, and sometimes I wonder if we've forgotten how.  Wind, rain, flooding, high tides--they can all be dangerous, they must be respected.

Hereabouts the storms don't have to be violent--just relentless--to have consequences.  I'm kind of amazed we didn't lose electricity this weekend.  But as these storms come through, it's more likely to happen.  Water levels in the rivers and streams will build, saturated hills make mudslides more likely.

When you don't respect it, there are these oscillations between cheerful complacency (in my car I am invulnerable!) and overdoing it panic (I must rush out immediately and clear out the supermarket of everything or we'll all die!)  Which kind of describes a lot of things these days.

Sunday, March 06, 2016


It's a spectacle all right and hard not to look at maybe too much.  But it also does seem to be history, with an uncertain ending.

So a few links for the record.

The most recent Republican candidate debate led to such headlines as Donald Trump Makes His Penis a Campaign Issue (NBC News) and A National Descent Into Trump's Pants (New York Times.)

Analyses of the debate and apparent Republican self-destruction that historians may consult would include this one and this Amy Davidson at the New Yorker.  One or another of these stories mentions that some 50 audience members for this debate had to be ejected for being drunk and/or disorderly.

Saturday's caucuses made things worse in the sense that GOPer establishment is probably left with two equally horrifying choices, Trump or Tail Gunner Ted.  The Old GOPer's newly laconic comedian Sen. Lindsay Graham once quipped, it's the choice between being shot or poisoned.

The last two GOPer nominees--McCain and Romney--both called this year's frontrunner Trump a dangerous fraud and con man. As do rivals Cruz and Rubio. Trump calls Cruz a liar, and Rubio a lightweight. And I pause to point out, these are all Republicans talking about their candidates (and each other.)

  But this New York Times piece is pretty definitive on the likelihood that what GOP establishment pros want no longer matters.  GOPer voters want Trump.

Trump on Saturday tried to goad Rubio and Kasich into dropping out so he could go one on one with Cruz, whose winning streak doesn't look like it's going to continue--unless Trump is really wounded.  Trump called the prospect of facing Cruz alone "fun."

Trump continues to inspire commentators to new writing heights, as in this piece by Charles Blow about Trump the demagogue.  And my continuing comparison of the rise of Trump to the rise of Hitler finally made the Washington Post and Slate and the top of the Google news feed.  Oh wait, not me.  Some comedian named Louis C.K.  And some other newbies.

Even though Republicans are falling over each other to predict their electoral destruction, the Big Money behind them is set to be unleashed in favor of congressional and state government candidates, and in loud tons of negative ads against Hillary.

Oh, and it turns out that in 1927 Trump's father was probably marching with the KKK.  Different wall to build (in the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty) and different era of people to hate, like Catholics and Italians and Poles and those kind of immigrants.  Like my mother.  And Anthony Scalia's father.

Update comment on Sunday Dem debate: I'm not watching but following the NYTimes live blog, and getting the impression that Bernie is sometimes being dismissive and aggressive towards Hillary.  It will be interesting to see how this plays with voters--in view of what's likely to come from Trump in the general. Update Update: So far it's not playing well with these folks.