Saturday, April 09, 2016

Your Moment of Swing

Ready for a time out from whatever angst's ya?  Here's a treat from 1941--the Glenn Miller Orchestra doing "Chattanooga Choo Choo" from the movie "Sun Valley Serenade."  But don't stop when the song seems to be over, because the second half is a special treat--the fabulous Nicholas Brothers dance team, and a very young Dorothy Dandridge.  It was nominated for the Best Song Oscar and became the first certified Gold Record.  Hermes Pan staged the movie's dances--he worked with Fred Astaire on almost all of his movies.  It's got great music, charming singing and dynamite dancing---how could you keep from smiling?

And yes, that is a young Milton Berle, who plays the band's manager (he does his own skiing stunts, too.)  Besides being one of only two movies Glenn Miller did, it was a Sonja Henie vehicle.  Her act was skating, which she does especially at the end of the movie. Not long after the movie was released, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into World War II and shortly afterwards, an over-age Glenn Miller joined the army.  Just three years after this movie, he was entertaining troops in Europe when his plane went down crossing the English channel and was never found.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tonight's Notes

CNN: Keystone pipeline leak estimate grows to 16,800 gallons of oil

New York Times: New York Moves on Restricting Costumed Characters in Times Square

And the big news around here is the deal to remove Oregon dams to help the health of the rivers and especially the salmon.  Bloomberg:

The Obama administration, the governors of California and Oregon and PacifiCorp will instead pursue decommissioning of the dams administratively through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and others said at a signing ceremony held at the mouth of the Klamath River.

Meanwhile, federal and state agencies, the company, Native American tribal governments, the Klamath Water Users Association, environmental groups and others who negotiated the expired agreement continued to collaborate to move the dam removal project and restoration forward, Jewell said.

“Tearing out the four dams on the Klamath will be a huge leap forward for the river,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said in a written statement. “It will open up hundreds of miles of salmon spawning habitat, get rid of shallow reservoirs that trap warm water and cause algae blooms, and help finally repair a long stream of injustices to the tribes and communities along the river.”

Today's Notes

The average temp here for April 6 is 56 degrees.  The highest recorded temp was 70.  Yesterday---April 6, 2016--it got to 80.  We're close to today's record as well, but probably won't surpass it.

The current spat between Bernie Sanders and Hillary is a bit troubling.  Hillary challenged Bernie's qualifications, though she never in fact said he was "unqualified." Bernie has however made headlines by saying Hillary is unqualified.  This is a rhetorical exercise that he will probably walk back in the next debate.  But even in the furor of Hillary's famous 3 am in the White House ad challenging Senator Barack Obama's experience in 2008, Obama never said she was unqualified, nor as far as I recall did she say that of him.

 "Unqualified" is making headlines, mostly because one of Hillary's prime arguments is that she is more qualified, and because "qualified" is a major deal, and because the charge puts her in the company of Trump as unqualified, and lastly because she's a woman.  Bernie has gone too far this time.

Other matters: President Obama on the threat to the judicial integrity central to American justice because of the blatantly partisan political refusal by Senate Republicans to consider the appointment of Garland to be Supreme Court justice.

Jonathan Chiat on how Ted Cruz is a terrible candidate for President, even if he is less terrible than Donald Trump.  And Chiat yesterday--pretty interesting piece on the pragmatism of black voters over the years (and why they aren't supporting Bernie in the primaries.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

News Flash! We Have an Actual President, and He's Doing Stuff

Lost in the flow of desperate nonsense called the 2016 primary campaign are some real achievements by the actual President of the United States.

President Obama's trip to Cuba for instance will have lasting consequences for that country, the US, and relations with the rest of the Latin countries.  His address to the Cuban people alone was historic and influential.  His visit and all that followed broke some of Cuba's isolation, and is already having political as well as cultural consequences there.

At the start of his presidency, Obama started work on enacting a grand vision of a nuclear free world.  But it's been a little forward and maybe more back in recent years.  Russia continues to bandy about the possibility of  nuclear war, and has developed new nuclear weapons and delivery systems.  Its military operations in Syria, and especially its bombing missions, have fit the classic profile of a test-run of new technologies.

All of this was evident at the recent nuclear summit, which Russia did not attend.  But the good news perhaps is that the partnership Obama has forged with China on addressing the climate crisis has involved that country in at least talking about the need to limit and reduce nuclear weapons in the world.  The Summit focused on keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, and ended with an agreement.

And while GOPers prattle about torture and demonizing Muslims as their response to terrorist acts, President Obama has led an effective effort against ISIS that in recent months has depleted its leadership.  His recommendations for the future are reality-based and practical, such as better international information-sharing.

Domestically, while Obamacare is a success that surprises even its supporters, and the U.S. economy is adding jobs and finally income to the less than wealthy, President Obama took another big step towards economic justice with rules that penalize companies for various practices that allow companies to avoid US taxes and move profits overseas.  Despite GOPer grousing, he made the case Tuesday.

And there is likely more to come in what Jonathan Chiat called Obama's Last Lap. It's unfortunate that the momentarily outrageous sucks up all the attention, but then again, maybe it's a good thing that all these accomplishments with lasting consequences are being effected without turmoil, hiding in plain sight.

Meanwhile, President Obama is providing some of the most trenchant evaluations of ongoing campaign rhetoric, from the rise of Trump to the harm that cockeyed proposals by Cruz and Trump is doing to American credibility in the world.  Plus he's had some words for media responsibility, which didn't go down too well among the pundits.

Monday, April 04, 2016

The Trump Card is the Joker

It's been wishful thinking so far, but now it may be happening.  Donald Trump is self-destructing, and his nomination by the Republican party is slipping away.

After so many have said so and been wrong, E. J. Dionne was brave enough to say it now, and I'm sure many more are thinking it.

Gabriel Sherman's insightful profile of the Trump for President operation suggests two reasons why this is happening, or maybe three.  Trump has been skillful and mesmerizing, and as Sherman writes, many of the outrageous positions he's taken have been the result of research--though that research was of the issues that most resonated on rabid right talk radio.

Sherman also reports what many have suggested--that Trump's political operation is very small and very inexperienced.

But three things have been happening.  Sherman writes that Trump seems very tired, and I've noticed this as well.  He's never been through anything like this, and it's wearing him down.

Second, at this stage of the campaign he's in over his head, or, to put it in today's jargon, outside his comfort zone.  He's being questioned, and he's answering, on topics not only beyond his experience or knowledge, but outside the rabid right radio-tested set of issues.

So now he's making pronouncements in his patented aggressive style that baffle everyone.  Tired, over his head and outside his core issues, he isn't resonating--he's just raving.

Some of his extreme assertions have some supporters, though few and fringe.  Others are just lunatic ravings.  And dangerous.

The test of this premise will be in the next several primaries.  The conventional wisdom is giving the Wisconsin primary to Cruz.  If Trump wins it, his chances for the nomination become strong again (and naysayers will be wrong again), especially since this is likely to buttress support in New York and other big states that follow.  If Cruz wins Wisconsin, he has the momentum, and Trump will have to stop him in New York, or his situation becomes dire.

The fractures in the Republican party have become so deep and open that in the last candidates forum, none of the three remaining candidates sounded like they would support the nominee if it wasn't them.  Trump has since said as well that if denied the nomination he might run anyway.  Somehow I don't think he will.

Few dispute that with Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP will lose many congressional races and maybe governorships. They will most likely lose the Senate.  And judging by some of the extreme numbers against Trump summarized last week in the Washington Post ("Three-quarters of women view him unfavorably. So do nearly two-thirds of independents, 80 percent of young adults, 85 percent of Hispanics and nearly half of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.") he will lose the presidency.

Trump has triumphed by being the Joker, the wild card.  But he's in danger of becoming the joke.  Many Republicans are completely open about wanting to stop him.  They will however need the cooperation of voters. And if Trump loses the protection of his mystique and people start seeing him as a dangerous loudmouth crank, they may get it.

Update: I hadn't realized when I wrote this that Adam Gopnik at the New Yorker had even more pointedly referred to Trump as the Joker, more specifically the one in Batman (which I'd hoped was implied as a doubled image in my use.)  But Gopnik's piece is a fun read, especially as it begins with the saga of the prank petition to allow guns to be openly carried into the Republican National Convention.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The New Normal

The calendar says our rainy season is just about over, but the weather says it's been over for at least a week.  After all the El Nino hype and the weeks when the storms came one after another, this winter averaged out to be...average.

January and March were about 50% above normal each.  But February was dry, and December was only moist.  The lines of storms in March replenished many of the major reservoirs, and the Sierras got snow.  But when they measured the Sierras snowpack, it turned out to be average, or a little below.

Average is of course a vast improvement over last year, or the past several years.  That all this wasn't enough to bust the drought isn't too surprising.  But it brings up some uneasy questions.

For instance: if it took a very strong El Nino to bring us average rainfall, what's going to be "average" in the future?  We tend to associate "average" with "normal."  Both might denote a range of what's normal for our climate.  But what's next year going to be like, without an El Nino, and perhaps with the opposite?

"Average" has already changed, as each year's rainfall, or lack of it, gets added into the statistics from which an average is taken.  The nagging thought is that the new normal is going to be dry compared to what it used to be, and maybe too dry for this environment to remain the same.

In the long run, the North Coast was going to suffer the consequences of sea level rise, as much or more than other places.  (They say our sea level rise is already the highest in California.)  But in terms of climate, the foggy coast and other factors were said to protect the North Coast from extreme temperatures.  I'm not sure where rainfall fits into that.  But some say even the fog is declining, and therefore the redwoods and the ecosystem in general is vulnerable.  We're not getting a pass from global heating or the climate crisis.

And according to future averages, this past winter may turn out to have been a rainy one after all.

But a glance at the google news page (from New York: "Forecast: Extreme Weather on the Way," "UK Weather: Britain To Be Hotter Than Ibizza as temperature soar," Washington "Weather Alert: Extreme Winds, Cold Temps," "Severe Storms Spawn at least 20 Tornadoes From Plains to South")  reaffirms we are still blessed.