Friday, October 28, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Feeding the Demagogue

Hillary Clinton must be feeling pretty down tonight.  Everything was going so well, and now this.

But after all these years without a World Series her hometown team the Chicago Cubs lost their first home game 1-0.  Bummer.

As for the other story, yes, that must be kind of frustrating.  Not only did the FBI director issue an enigmatic statement about emails that apparently haven't yet been read, he did so on a Friday afternoon and then went home.  So with little else to talk about, the media frenzy will continue in an information vacuum all weekend.

The NYTimes updated story says:

[FBI Director Comey}said the emails had surfaced in an unrelated case, which law enforcement officials said was an F.B.I. investigation into illicit text messages from Mr. Weiner to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. Mr. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, is married to Huma Abedin, the top [Clinton]aide.

Mr. Comey's letter said that the F.B.I. would review the emails to determine if they improperly contained classified information, which is tightly controlled by the government. Senior law enforcement officials said that it was unclear if any of the emails were from Mrs. Clinton’s private server. And while Mr. Comey said in his letter that the emails “appear to be pertinent,” the F.B.I. had not yet examined them.

The Times also notes that the FBI doesn't even know if the emails are duplicates of ones they already have seen.   Rolling Stone quotes an NBC reporter, the veteran Pete Williams, who says the emails weren't written by Clinton.  Nor were these emails withheld. "It doesn't appear that the the campaign or the Clintons or the State Department had emails that they didn't give to the FBI, and that the FBI someone found them some other way," Williams said. "'It's not like that,' they say."

The New Yorker quotes Williams further:“It looks at this point like being very thorough and very careful, not that this is going . . . to be a game changer,” Williams told viewers. “One official said, ‘I don’t sense alarm bells going on at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department over this.’ ” Finally, Williams said there was no chance that the F.B.I. would finish up its investigation into the newfound e-mails before the election, on November 8th.

Comey later confirmed that the FBI investigation into Clinton had not been "re-opened," since technically it had never been closed.  But a lot of media outlets went with the re-opened headline, along with a lot of scare words about the effect on the campaign.

For Clintonites the good news is how the campaign immediately responded.  First John Podesta issued a letter calling for more information, and criticizing Comey's extraordinary note (sent to ranking Republican members of Congress, who leaked it)  just 11 days before the election.

Later candidate Hillary Clinton held a press conference and called on the F.B.I. to “explain this issue in question, whatever it is, without any delay.” She said, “Voting is under way, so the American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately.”  This became the headline of the evening's stories.  She also said she doubted it would affect the voting: people had made up their minds about the emails and about the candidates.

Sending the story back to the FBI was smart.  It should take at least a big part of the attention away from her directly.  Now Trump is trumpeting his corruption theme, but the question is how much credibility he has on anything at this point.  Still, it doesn't take much to feed the demagogue.  

Eric Kilgore is among those who don't think it's going to matter much to the presidential outcome, but could cut into the margin and help out some downballot GOPers.  It may energize Rs, but it's also likely to energize Democrats, who see a Republican FBI director inserting himself in the election on flimsy grounds.There are also calls for Comey to resign.

Still, there's no limit to media hysteria these days, complete with erroneous headlines, and mere hours after it started the WPost called the story "out of control."  Maybe it's time to remind everyone of several ongoing criminal investigations into Trump.  Salon also noted that the FBI is investigating connections between the Trump campaign and Russian hackers, but hasn't said anything about that in public.

But I must say that this is exactly why I didn't want to get involved in observing this election campaign at all.  This entire absurd campaign has been tragically irrelevant to what the next President faces, and the challenges that President must meet, with the future of civilization at stake.

One thing the idiocy of today doesn't change: the whole damn thing will be over in 11 days.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Spent

Thursday was mostly about money, as campaign finance reports were issued.
The Washington Post:

Donald Trump raised about half as much as Hillary Clinton for his presidential campaign in the first 19 days of October, putting him at a severe financial disadvantage in the crucial final days of the White House contest, new campaign finance reports filed late Thursday show.

The Post also reports that the Clinton campaign has about $153 million on hand. This means, according to Politico: Hillary Clinton’s forces had nearly 2 ½ times more cash to burn than Donald Trump’s team over the campaign’s final three weeks...

Reuters reports:
In the crucial last weeks of the U.S. presidential campaign, Democrat Hillary Clinton has dramatically widened her advantage over Republican rival Donald Trump in ad spending, according to campaign finance reports released on Thursday.

The newest filings showed Clinton's campaign and Super PAC outspending Trump in the first three weeks of October by a factor of two to one on everything from national TV ads to local outreach on smartphone screens.

At the same time, the two Super PACs associated with Trump's White House bid have seen their fundraising start to stall out, with one of the groups reserving no broadcast or cable ads between Oct. 20 and Election Day, according to data from ad-tracking firm SMG Delta.

The New York Times:
Disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday revealed tens of millions of dollars in late donations and transfers to Republican “super PACs” focused on down-ballot races, suggesting a significant last-ditch effort to protect Senate and House candidates against Mrs. Clinton’s surge. Relatively little new money has come into outside groups supporting Mr. Trump.

Among those not donating to the Trump campaign are "basically anyone with the last name Trump, many of the surrogates who represent The Donald on national television, and members of his own campaign staff.”

And that list pretty much includes the Donald himself.  He tells his audiences he's giving $100 million to his campaign, but he's given just a little more than half of that.  This month he contributed no cash and less than $33,000 in whatever.

What money the Trump campaign continues to rake in is going less to the RNC, which is running his ground game operation.  Politico reports he transferred only $2.2 million to the RNC this month, which given the absurd costs of campaigning is very little.

Not that there weren't some names in the news.  Reports of unknowable reliability say Clinton wants Joe Biden for her secretary of state and John Podesta to reprise as chief of staff.  Republicans turning on each other may end up without Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House.  Even without a Dem majority, which handicappers say is increasingly remote.

And as a 12th victim of Trump's gropes emerges, a woman accuses Justice Clarence Thomas of the same crime, at an event in 1999.  You think maybe they should have listened to Anita Hill?

Poll news: New CNBC national poll has Hillary ahead by 9 points, which nearly doubles her lead from last month.

Thursday's state polls show Clinton essentially tied now in Iowa and Georgia, with Trump maintaining a lead in Texas of from 3 to 7 points. Polls announced today show 4 point Clinton leads in Florida and North Carolina.

And Clinton is doing rather well here in California.  She's leading by 26 points (up 10 points from September), with Trump getting 28% of the votes.  Some 88% of Democrats and 70% of Republicans are voting Clinton.  The two third party candidates get 5% each.

In voter suppression news, a Bloomberg Businessweek report quotes an unnamed Trump campaign official describing its three Democratic "voter suppression operations."

 Michelle Obama identified this very Trump campaign intention last week, and repeated it again Thursday as she urged supporters to thwart such efforts by voting, in a joint appearance with Hillary Clinton.  She rocked the crowd.  Michelle Obama is the Democrat's anti-voter-suppression operation.

A Bull Connor Moment in North Dakota (with Update)

Update: This situation got even worse on Thursday (prompting more extensive media coverage.)  NBC:
Authorities used pepper spray and fired bean bags at activists demonstrating against a controversial North Dakota oil pipeline as the standoff there reached a new peak Thursday, according to officials.

Armed soldiers and police in riot gear removed the demonstrators using trucks, military Humvees, and buses Thursday afternoon, according to The Associated Press. Two helicopters and an airplane scanned the operation from the air.

NPR also has a report, though both of these appear to be based on Associated Press reporting.

It looked to be over, when Federal agencies requested the Dakota Access pipeline construction be halted.  A coalition of Native peoples were petitioning and protesting to stop the pipeline from endangering tribal water supplies and disturbing sacred sites.

 But it isn't over, because the pipeline construction wasn't halted.  It went ahead faster, and the protests began again, larger than before.

It's all news to me, as it might be to you, because nobody much has been covering it. Why not?

 Amy Goodman, national treasure, who has been reporting on it on Democracy Now, said:  I dare say the lack of coverage may be because this is a largely Native American resistance and protest. This is an under-covered population generally.

I'll say.  Because, for one thing, if this were a protest by another minority population--and most especially, in a city or at least a state not as remote as North Dakota--the police tactics alone would have made it front page news in actual American newspapers (as differentiated from where it is front page news, the UK's Guardian.)  As far as I can see, only the Seattle Times has been covering this with more than a single story.

Because on Labor Day weekend police and private security used pepper spray, mace and biting dogs. A couple hundred people have been arrested, including journalists.

  But it's the biting dogs.  Such a Bull Connor moment should have made the networks.  Police are investigating.

The Guardian report:

Leota Eastman Iron Cloud, a Native American activist from South Dakota who has been at the protests for months, told the Guardian by phone on Wednesday that she was present when private guards brought dogs and mace and went after demonstrators on 3 September.

“We are here in prayer, and they came for war,” she said, explaining that she continued protesting even after she was hit with pepper spray. “I can’t believe that people out there can actually do this to other human beings.”

In her interview with New York's Daily Intelligencer (linked above) Amy Goodman speculates on why the construction frenzy has gone on, but nobody really knows.  Maybe because not enough people are asking the question.

Meanwhile, there's the Guardian and Democracy Now.

Smooth Street

I wasn't going to post this because there's no video, but it is a sweet and classic version (with excellent sound) by the Benny Goodman sextet with vocal by Peggy Lee. Nobody sings as smooth as Peggy Lee. I needed an extra dose of this tune right now, for a too-long-to-election-day boost to my mental health.  Maybe you do, too.  (More videos to come.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Stumbling On

Scanning the news Wednesday, it's pretty clear that people just want this to be over.

There are lots of stories about problems and conflicts facing a Clinton administration, and about the 2020 presidential election.  More threats by congressional Republicans to investigate Hillary for whatever, and to prevent her from ever appointing a Supreme Court Justice.

And Trump took some time off from campaigning for President to officially open his new Washington hotel.  What does that tell you?

A new AP phone poll of likely voters has Hillary up by 14 points in the four way field.  (Most polls are showing the third party candidates tanking, as they usually do at actual election time.)  The USA Today poll has Hillary up by 9.  We're getting into the period when the polls usually tighten, though the eventual outcome may not.  So far hasn't happened in the presidential.

State polls have more mixed messages, especially in Florida, where the Trump campaign is actually spending money on advertising.  And Senate races seem very fluid, with the Senate majority still in doubt.  So the question may be, will people split ballots more than usual these days?

In the last few days, Clinton has been endorsed by Colin Powell and Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson.  Also her alleged problem attracting Millennials has disappeared.  She is on pace, polls now say, to match President Obama's 60% share.  The Trump tape plus learning more about Lib candidate Gary Johnson etc. has boosted Clinton by something like 20 points.

On the vote suppression front, the DemocraticNational Committe  petitioned a federal court to block the Republican National Committee from coordinating with Trump voter intimidation schemes as a violation of the RNC's consent agreement.  Not to get lost in acronyms, but the TPM site added: "the Democratic National Committee is asking a federal court to hold the Republican National Committee in contempt of court for allegedly violating a decades-old consent decree limiting so-called "ballot security" activities at poll places.

The Democrats' filing Wednesday, among other things, ask that the consent decree -- which is set to expire Dec. 17 -- be extended for another eight years. The DNC is also asking the court to block any coordination between Trump and the RNC as it relates to Election Day poll monitoring activities that many fear will amount to voter intimidation."

 The investigation into voter registration farce in Indiana continues to threaten tens of thousands of voters.  An Indiana prosecutor complained that the investigation into voter fraud is "without merit."

And according to TPM: Democratic U.S. lawmakers from Wisconsin sent a letter to the Department of Justice Wednesday requesting that it deploy federal poll monitors to the state after reports that local officials were providing potential voters with inaccurate information about the state's voter ID law. The letter also raised concerns about "potential voter intimidation at polling places, particularly in light of recent, high-profile rhetoric that alleges 'election rigging.'"  There are reportedly similar problems in Texas.

Slightly more than half the respondents in the USA Today poll said they feared election day violence.

And there's 12 more days of this?


Responses to the news that Bob Dylan had been selected for the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature have seemingly been at odds with my own.  But now Garrison Keillor seems to represent my view, though of course with his own focus.

He's also taken note of Dylan's own silence on the matter, a silence which has not surprised me.

"Precious few have dared to question the prize for Lit going to a performer," Keillor writes, "but Bob is queasy about it. We Minnesotans know about unworthiness."

He also comments on that other reluctant prize-winner of recent days, Bill Murray, who finally showed up to accept his Mark Twain Prize.  Keillor opines:

And let us, while we’re on the subject, deal with the ridiculous Mark Twain Prize for American Humor given out annually by the Kennedy Center to famous actors and comedians. Mark Twain was an author. He wrote “Huckleberry Finn,” remember? Huck and Jim on the raft? Ring a bell? He gave lectures for money to pay his debts when he was broke, but literature was his calling. The prize should go to Carl Hiaasen, a wildly humorous author from Florida who writes his books all by his own self, he does not hire writers as many of the Twain Prize winners do. Otherwise the Kennedy Center should change the name to the Shecky Greene Prize for American Comedy. Giving a prize named for the author of “The Innocents Abroad” to Bill Murray is like awarding the Heisman Trophy to a bowler. Wrong sport.

In case you think Garrison is exaggerating, previous winners of the Mark Twain Prize include Billy Crystal, Will Ferrell and Jay Leno.   Kurt Vonnegut, for example, was not among them, ever.

Naming a prize given to performers after Mark Twain is the problem--not the talent or achievement of the winners.  Giving the world's foremost prize in Literature to Dylan is in another category perhaps.  It seems at least in part like an award to flatter the many people who know Dylan's songs but have seldom if ever read a Nobel Prize winning author's books.  So far that seems to have worked.

Today's Favorite Cliche: Blame It On the Boomers

Dana Milbank at the Washington Post must not have been getting enough comments online, because he stirred it up with that cinch perennial, the slamming the Baby Boomers column.  Even more popular than slamming the Millennials since more Boomers read newspapers.

It's headlined Baby boomers have been a disaster for America, and Trump is their biggest mistake yet.  It begins:
The idealists of the 1960s have come a long way from Woodstock. After a quarter- century of mismanaging the country, they have produced Donald Trump, who with his narcissistic and uncompromising style is a bright orange symbol of what went wrong with the massive generation. And polls show that the boomers are the biggest source of support for Trump.

His evidence for boomer support is based on age breakdown, with the 50-64 cohort favoring Trump by 3 points in one poll, and by 1 point in another.  Both within the margin of error, and neither exactly a ringing endorsement.

Let's forget for a second that every era's older voters tend to skew conservative and Republican.  And we'll let slide the fact that the oldest boomers are 70 (born in 1946) and the youngest are 52 (born in 1964), within the borders of the demographer-defined post-World War II baby boom.  So that his selected demographic includes some who aren't boomers and excludes others who are.  And some of those it includes are Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama.

That in polls a few percentage points of people above the age of 50 support Trump is pretty meaningless in itself, and that most of them fit within the demographic definition of the baby boom is obviously true and just as meaningless. Until you get to this.

It is the assertion that this generation has a defined character that can be defined with a few media images: Baby Boomers equal Woodstock/hippie/radical/idealist.

It's often repeated, but that doesn't make it true. Only someone who is not a baby boomer can believe that cliche. (Except for boomers who make their living promoting it.)

There is one salient fact about the baby boom generation: it is BIG.  It was always BIG.  (It's a little smaller now as we are dying off, no doubt to Dana's delight.)

The point is that, yes, we had Woodstock with thousands of people in it.  We had antiwar marches with thousands of people marching. Lots of people in the parks in the Summer of Love, crowds in the Zen centers.  But there were more, many more, who did none of those things--and weren't always kind to those of us who did.

Those of us who were antiwar, aware and idealists were a minority within our generation, and we knew it--every damn day.  Numerically there were a lot of us.  As a proportion of our age cohort, of our "generation," we were small.

Milbank and his ilk provide no evidence that boomer "idealists" became right wing Trump supporters en masse.  That the Republican politics of the 90s was fueled by the same age cohort is meaningless beyond the fact that they were the right ages to be moving into authority in business and political institutions. (Besides which, most rightward activists I knew of in the 90s were Gen Xers. Some of them originated the far right Internet sites and methods of discourse--namely trolling.)

That most boomers are Republicans hardly comes as a surprise. The vast bulk of the baby boom were apprentice members of the silent majority.  Although that's not entirely fair--many were affected by the Vietnam war, civil rights, the Summer of Love, etc in some ways. There were many gradations beyond the cliches.

There were many many gradations even among the "idealists."  One of  the idealists who most influenced members of our generation died the other day.

 Tom Hayden was author of the Port Huron Statement that began Students for a Democratic Society--it is one of the least recognized yet most profound documents of the 1960s.  Even though he was born before the boom, as a 60s idealist and activist Hayden was an icon to some in the boomer generation.

The 1960s were at least two "decades," probably three.  The Port Huron Statement belongs to the middle 60s.  By the late 60s, when the antiwar movement was in a fractured frenzy, Hayden was indicted for conspiracy to riot in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention there, along with seven others.  It was a bogus charge, ultimately thrown out for judicial misconduct.

But the Chicago Eight were like a continuum of off-center 60s politics, from the elder (David Dellinger) to the Yippie-Dadaists Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, and Bobby Seale, the one black activist who of course got the worst of it.

Now at the time I definitely had my Abbie Hoffman side.  But I also had my Tom Hayden side--more scholarly, politically more pragmatic, but yes, idealistic.  In 1969 I heard Hayden speak in a classroom in the Bay Area, probably at Berkeley. He seemed like the older student activists I'd admired on my campus in the mid-60s, before Vietnam became a defining issue.  Hayden was still being reasonable amid the turmoil and despair and all the searching of the late 60s.

Jeff Greenfield has an excellent remembrance of Hayden, who he calls "the complicated radical."  Before he became a TV reporter and author, Greenfield wrote speeches for candidates including Robert Kennedy.  I remember reading Greenfield's book on RFK in which he mentioned seeing Tom Hayden back in the shadows at St. Patrick's Cathedral while Kennedy's coffin was being viewed, weeping.  He opens this piece with that scene.

He notes that Hayden went on to seek political office, winning a seat in the California state senate, though he also campaigned for higher.  Yet Hayden didn't give up his ideals.  He worked for them in ways that, in the times, might prove effective, even if in small ways.

It's not so surprising to me that Hayden felt the loss of the Kennedys. (He apparently was also a source for Greenfield's excellent book speculating on what might have happened if JFK had not been assassinated.)  They also were idealists--RFK more so perhaps than JFK.

 I marched for Civil Rights and against the war, and engaged in other protests, and I backed RFK in 1968, even as some activist friends backed Eugene McCarthy.  We were complicated radicals, too.  Maybe we all were.  And maybe we still are.

We were young and naive--Hayden himself admits to that in connection with North Vietnam, Greenfield writes.  But as Abbie Hoffman once said,"We were young, we were reckless, arrogant, silly, headstrong … and we were right!"

Milbank cites support about generational identity from social scientists.  Good luck with that.  Bad social science must be one of those Gen X diseases.  But Milbank is also being deliberately provocative (I think) when he states as fact: "Boomers, coddled in their youth, grew up selfish and unyielding. When they got power, they created polarization and gridlock from both sides."  Oh those naive Gen Xers, lost in popular cliches.  Especially that baby boomer selfishness.

Greenfield quotes a few passages from the Port Huron Statement:

“The goal of man and society,” Hayden wrote, “should be human independence: a concern not with . . . popularity but with finding a meaning in life that is personally authentic. . . .This kind of independence does not mean egotistic individualism—the object is not to have one’s way so much as it is to have a way that is one’s own.”

“We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason and creativity.”

I'll take this "selfishness" over Gen X self-professed cynicism any day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: The Racism to the Bottom

Not content to run against the actual candidate opposing him, the Donald spent Tuesday going after President Obama.  If you consider that 1. Obama isn't running and 2. Obama is more popular than the person Trump is actually running against, it makes no sense.  Which wouldn't distinguish it from much that Trump has been doing lately.

Except that it does make twisted sense, when Trump's back is against the wall.  After all he started his current political career by refusing to believe that Barack Obama could possibly be born in the United States.  In terms of racial prejudice, it was a twofer: he suggested that Obama is a black Muslim.

His twisting of an out of context clip of Obama in 2008 on Tuesday is merely an excuse to play the most reliable card in his deck: the white supremacy card.  Suggesting that President Obama is organizing the rigging of this election is the latest dog whistle reminder to the racists among his base voters.

This clip was first played by Hannity on Faux News, and Hannity made his own racial bile against Obama clear in another context on his radio show.  It's two racists in a pod.

The attempt may seem pathetic at this point, especially on a day that the Trump campaign was trying to hide the fact that the woman holding up a Blacks for Trump sign behind him at a rally was herself white.

But this last chance channeling of racism into Obama animus is a reminder that it hasn't gone away, and it won't go away even after the culture has to deal with the spectre of channeling sexism into President Clinton animus.  The Gallup poll finding that white Americans approve of their police at a record rate at a time that police killings of blacks has been revealed, suggests that instead of concern to solve the problem, the first impulse is an us/them conflict.  Not so different from during the Civil Rights movement, before time provided it with sacramental character.

Courtland Malloy has an excellent oped at WPost on Trump voters.  He makes a good argument (quoting from Robert Reich) that economics is central rather than race, that corporate interests etc. try to divide the working middle class against itself by race.  This analysis is fundamentally sound, but Malloy finds it necessary to minimize the racism component.  I don't think that's necessary.  What's the point of debating class versus race, when clearly both are factors?  Maybe the solution is to deal first with the economic structure, but that alone won't end racism.  If it did, all-white suburbia never would have existed.

In any case, Trump's wounded desperation is apparently returning him to his most dedicated supporters.  In a piece analyzing Trump's appeal to white nationalists,  Politico:

"The celebrity New York developer has been endorsed by the nation’s most prominent neo-Nazis, as well as both current and former Klansmen. He is supported online by a legion of racist and anti-Semitic trolls, who push his campaign’s message and viciously attack journalists and politicians they see as hostile to Trump. Whether deliberately or not, the candidate, his son Donald Jr. and his surrogates have circulated white nationalist messages and imagery online."

Trump is going home.  In more ways than one.

Jammin on the Sunny Side with Prez

This is a remarkable piece of film.  Though it is from 1944, it looks innovative even today.  It's from a movie short called Jammin the Blues.  The star player is the saxophonist Lester Young.  Young worked with the Count Basie Orchestra and his own small combos.  He is particularly known for his work with singer Billie Holiday in the late 30s and early 40s, and for their close relationship.

But the singer here "On the Sunny Side of the Street" is Marie Bryant, known in her time primarily as a dancer. (She dances a bit in another part of this film.) She'd worked with Duke Ellington. She coached Gene Kelly who called her one of the finest dancers he'd ever seen.  You might hear some Billie Holiday influence in her vocal here, though it's also uniquely syncopated.

The film's director was Gjon Milli, who gained fame as a photographer, working in this case with cinematographer Robert Burks, who went on to a Hollywood career.  It was nominated for an Oscar as best short film.

A few other notes about Lester Young.  He's credited with first referring to "bread" as meaning money, and with giving us the enduring sense of the word "cool."

Young gave Billie Holiday her nickname, "Lady Day," and she gave him his: "Prez" for president.  So that makes this clip especially apropos, to mark two weeks to the 2016 presidential plus other stuff election.  Cool.

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Who Is Really Trying to Rig Elections

Donald Trump took over the technique rabid right GOPers had been using, of accusing opponents of what they are themselves guilty of.  So if anybody is trying to rig this election, it is Republicans.

Red states under court orders have been criminally slow to enforce those orders so voters can register and vote.  One particular case in point is Georgia, where the latest poll shows Hillary actually ahead.

As the Washington Post reports, "But voting rights advocates in Georgia say Republican state and local election officials are undermining the fairness of the vote by passing laws and adopting procedures that deter minorities and young people, groups that typically vote Democratic...

“Georgia is ground zero, if you will, when it comes to voter suppression and voting discrimination that we’re seeing this election season,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law."

As one might expect in a state with Georgia's history, some of the efforts are less than subtle: In one county, advocates say they stopped an effort by local officials to move a polling precinct that served predominantly black voters from a gymnasium to the sheriff’s office."

Using other methods the story describes, state officials may be successful in denying or suppressing hundreds of thousands of votes in this rapidly urbanizing and diversifying state.  They may be enough to save the state for Trump, though the likely purpose of voter suppression is to save these GOPers jobs.

But Democrats continue to do well in early voting (the latest instance reported is Nevada.)  And trying to stifle overconfidence as pollsters and analysts find Trump has virtually no path to the presidency, key Dems are keeping up the pressure, going for the bandwagon effect as well as massive repudiation of Trumpism.

President Obama was quoted on this, at a CA fundraiser:“Make sure she wins big. Send a message about who we are as a people, send a clear message about what America stands for,” Obama said.  He urged them to see this as “a moment when America chose its best, and not worst, self.”

President Obama extended the argument to counter the new GOPer push to elect an R Congress to serve as a check on a President Clinton.

 He advocated "voting Democrats into majorities in Congress, changing what’s become the norm of the Republicans he blames for incubating Trump and Trumpism to think that gridlock is the ideal. All of those people need to get booted out of Washington, he said, and a reason to reject them even more strongly now that many have shifted to saying that they would serve as a “check” on a Clinton presidency.

“They’re not making an argument that we want to work with her to get things done. They are saying they’re going to say no to everything,” Obama said. “That’s what they mean by a check.”

“We’ve got to make a bold, sustained serious argument that America can do better than just gridlock, that Dems have a responsibility to work with Republicans, but Republicans have to want to actually get something done to move this country forward,” Obama said. “If your only argument is to do nothing, you do not deserve to be serving in Washington, because we have had enough of doing nothing.”

According to this Politico piece,  Clintonites are aiming for a "high single digit" win comparable to Obama's victory in 2008.  Organizational groundwork is now paying off, superstar surrogates are blitzing swing states, all aided by growing Dem enthusiasm--not just the bandwagon effect, but the galvanizing effect of Trump and Trumpisms.  In particular the third debate provided two monikers around which Dems are organizing.

Politico reports that there's a Latino group organizing in Ohio that calls itself "Hombres for Hillary."  And Elizabeth Warren made best use of the growing Nasty Women brand in her New Hampshire appearance with Hillary: “Nasty women are tough. Nasty women are smart. And nasty women vote. We nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes to get you out of our lives forever.”

 Meanwhile, if the Trump campaign wasn't in enough trouble, an emerging story may have been enough on its own to sink it, if it proves out: UK's Telegraph reports that a Trump PAC was prepared to take a $2 million illegal donation from a Chinese donor in exchange for influence in the White House.

The Donald Chronicles: The Sunday Pivot and Trumpless Minus 16

The pivot that the Dems began towards emphasizing Senate and House races, which is being led by their presidential candidate, has forced the GOPers hand.  Their pivot has also begun in the same direction, although it is away from their presidential candidate, trying to sell their downballot candidates as opposition to a Clinton White House.

That's the sense of this NYTimes analysis, one among several on Sunday.

 But Hillary is still pressing her current polling advantage to urge early voting, to give her an insurmountable lead in swing states like North Carolina and Florida.  And it appears to be working (especially in Florida)--judging by these graphs.  The bulk of early voting is just beginning, and Sunday saw an ABC tracking poll taken after the third debate that gives Clinton a 12 point advantage.

This poll shows Clinton continuing to gain women voters.  It also shows that Trump's reluctance to say he would accept the voting outcome did not go over well, with most people concluding that his talk about a rigged election is making excuses for losing.

Josh Marshall extracts something else from this poll--a 12 point drop in R enthusiasm for Trump, and a decline of 7 points in Rs who say they intend to vote. These appear to be voters who first favored a candidate other than Trump.

The Democrats push in downballot races extends far beyond the Senate or even the House.  President Obama is reportedly making endorsements and ads for state rep candidates.  Earlier stories suggested that Obama's chief political activity after he leaves the White House will be efforts to ensure that Dems get a fair shake in 2020 census redistricting.  The GOP domination of redistricting in 2010 is a big reason they hold the House, and a major disappointment--if not embarrassment--for Obama and the Dems.

There does seem to be a Wave building in the media for the idea of a political Wave on election day, but the Senate is surely not yet a lock for Dems (though FiveThirty Eight now sees the chances at 72%) and the House still looks somewhat remote.  I don't want to get my hopes up for that yet--after all, I'm an SF Giants fan who listened to them blow a 3 run lead in the 9th to end their postseason.  But I know how important a Dem Congress could be, and I am especially intrigued by one of the amazing possibilities, which is Texas.  Polls show the presidential race surprisingly close.

So this is an episode of the Donald Chronicles in which Donald is mostly absent.  Some folks are worrying that the media can't get over its Trump addiction on November 9.  Looking at the weekend's stories, this process may already have begun.  The news is moving on.  Hillary is making more campaign appearances and they are being covered.  She will campaign this week with Elizabeth Warren and (for the first time) with Michelle Obama, and no doubt there will be final week events with President Obama, whose approval rating has ticked up even more.  The political race coverage will concentrate more on the Senate and House.

 With just over two weeks until election day, and nobody taking anything Trump or his surrogates say seriously, we might consider this the withdrawal period.  There may yet be a few twists and turns, but with the Dem turnout machinery getting started and with the possibility of  a few more polls like today's ABC, that withdrawal of attention may well continue.   Trump's "suspense" on accepting defeat after election day returns may be his last big moment on the national stage.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

On the Sunny Side of the Storm

The particular virtue of this rendition by Gale Storm is that it includes the musical/lyrical introduction that many popular songs had, but that are most often omitted.  "On The Sunny Side of the Street" was composed in 1930 by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields.  It was pretty much McHugh's most famous song (together with "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," also with lyrics by Fields) but Dorothy Fields was one of the greatest lyricists of the golden age of the pop song, right up there with Cole Porter.

Boomers will remember Gale Storm as a comic actress from her 1950s TV shows "My Little Margie" and "Oh! Susanna."   She was so intensely high energy she could have been an advertisement for amphetamines.  Like a lot of 50s TV stars she had an earlier career in the movies and as a singer.  Here she's pretty mellow, in a scene from the film Swing Parade of 1946.  Despite the title it was a modest little movie, of which she was the star.  It's notable for guest numbers by Louis Jordan.  And yes, those are the Three Stooges in the background.  In addition to their own short films they appeared in regular movies, often as hapless henchmen, or "stooges" of a more important character.

The New Normal on the Way to Catastrophe

Since 11 of the past 12 months have broken temperature records, it doesn't take a climate scientist to note that this year is pretty much guaranteed to be the hottest on record.  We're getting used to hearing that (as well as similar comparisons that go a lot farther back in time), so it maybe it takes a slightly different way of looking at it to get our attention.

Here's what got mine.  At the end of a detailed blog entry analysis on "our record warmth,"  Dr. Ricky Rood at Weather Underground mentions:  "Right now, however, it looks as if the Earth has warmed to the point that what is a cool phase today is comparable to what was an extraordinarily warm event less than 20 years ago."

Take that in.  The new normal is hot.

The structure of that thought reminds me of predictions from 25 or 20 or 10 years ago of what would happen if there was no concerted effort to address global heating.  The hottest days now would be the coolest days in that future, etc.  We were warned over and over that we had x number of years to get it right.

And we didn't get it right.  Not in time.  The climate crisis is here.  It's the new normal.  And it is going to have immense effects on the future of life on Earth.

And of course, we still won't admit it.

To be fair,  scientists 15 or 20 years ago may have underestimated the speed with which we would feel consistent effects of greenhouse gases on global climate.  This particular change in our present climate may have been in the cards anyway, due to greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere at that point.  But that's not necessarily true for the world a few years from now.  If we had acted, it might not get worse.  But it is going to get worse.

It's also obvious that our political system has failed in addressing the climate crisis.  Or to be more precise, our political system in its interlocked relationship with our economic system.

That President Obama and his administration accomplished as much as they did is nearly miraculous.  President Obama jump-started the now thriving clean energy industry, he regulated carbon emissions, he led in getting the world together to pass the Paris accords and just last week, his administration-long efforts to ban the greenhouse gases known as HFCs paid off with 200 nations agreeing on a schedule to do so.

While Barack Obama made his position clear on the climate crisis in both of his campaigns, he really didn't talk about it much.  And neither did anyone else.  The topic got exactly zero minutes of discussion in the 2012 Obama-Romney debates.

This year, discussion of the climate crisis got all of five minutes and 27 seconds in the Clinton-Trump debates, about 2% of the time spent, mostly on absurdities.  That was only because Hillary Clinton brought up the subject.  There wasn't one question on it.  The most important issue of our lifetime--and not a single question...again. The only question on energy was asked by a citizen in the town hall debate.

Hillary Clinton does have an active interest in the issue, and various methods of addressing the climate crisis are reportedly under discussion.  But the time that it's possible to act on the climate crisis without much mentioning it--which even the majority of Americans who want that action taken probably prefer--is going to come to an end soon.