Hard to believe I’m three months into this blog. I had been writing very little for myself. Now writing is part of my routine again, which has helped me through these challenging times.
Today I’ll briefly revisit three topics.
In my pre-season review of the Giants, I said the team’s success — the success of any professional sports team, really — would depend on how many games their good players missed to injury. I identified Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner as their two very best players and predicted the Giants would have little chance of reaching the playoffs if either missed significant time.
So how has that gone? Posey has missed seven of the team’s first 18 games because he got hit on the head by a 94 mile-per-hour pitch on April 10. He’s back and apparently fine, but then on Thursday (April 20) Bumgarner went dirt biking near Denver and wiped out, bruising his ribs and, more critically, spraining the acromioclavicular (AC) joint in his throwing shoulder. He’s likely to miss two months.
Three weeks into the season the Giants have the worst record in the National League. Climbing into contention without Bumgarner? I wouldn’t bet on it. There should be plenty of seats available at Phone Company Park this summer.
In my second post I noted that the authoritarian turn reflected by the rise of Donald Trump was part of a trend among democracies. Today we’ll see whether Trump and his ilk have served as inspiration or caution to the French, who are voting for a new president. After an ISIS-inspired nutjob killed a police officer on the Champs Elysees Thursday, the authoritarian Marine Le Pen is likely to enjoy a considerable advantage among newly attentive and easily frightened voters. The reports I’ve seen suggest she’s a lock to advance to the second round of voting on May 7 (this first round is to winnow the field from 11 candidates to two).
I heard a report on NPR yesterday in which a French voter said the key to the May 7 result will be who voters hate the least, Le Pen or the other finalist. The other major candidates are very different from each other. Francois Fillon’s platform resembles a conventional American Republican’s. Emmanuel Macron is running as an outsider with vaguely centrist views. Benoit Hamon is struggling to escape the shadow cast by fellow Socialist and unpopular incumbent Francois Hollande. And then there is Jean-Luc Melenchon, the communist.
So if you back Fillon or Macron and one of the leftists faces Le Pen, do you vote for the leftist or Le Pen? If Fillon or Macron faces Le Pen and you’re a leftist, do you vote for the equivalent of a Republican, cast a screw-the-system vote for Le Pen, or sit it out the election? The polls soothingly suggest Le Pen will lose to any opponent in the final round. Based on our experience, I wouldn’t be so confident.
And then there’s the political turbulence here in Berkeley, first mentioned in my post on Milo Yiannopoulos’s February visit to the campus. Ann Coulter has proclaimed her intention to visit next week, and now Yiannopoulos has announced an amorphous plan to hold “Milo’s Free Speech Week.”
These events may happen on campus, so due to job constraints I won’t comment on them. But pro-Trump and anti-Trump cadres clashed off campus in Civic Center Park on March 4 and April 15, and I can comment on those.
The main thing everyone should know is that the overwhelming majority of us Berkeley residents were neither affected by nor involved in the rumbles downtown. It was tiresome hearing sirens and thudding helicopters all afternoon, but otherwise we went about our weekend blissfully ignorant of the melees. Until, of course, people from elsewhere asked us what the hell was going on in our town.
In a wonderful piece of old-fashioned journalism, local news hub Berkeleyside identified the players. Of the twenty souls arrested on April 15, only four were from Berkeley — and one was an elderly gent booked for public intoxication. Another ten were from nearby municipalities: four from Oakland, two from San Francisco, two from Albany (the town bordering Berkeley to the north), one from Richmond, and one from Martinez. Two more came from towns about an hour away, San Mateo and Santa Rosa. Three came all the way from Southern California. The last was a minor whose name and place of residence were not disclosed.
So why did they travel to Berkeley to throw rocks, punches, and bagels at each other? The Trump supporters claimed it was to exercise free speech. But they could have exercised their free speech anywhere. To them, Berkeley is the heart of radical America. They came here looking to provoke a fight. And their equally stupid yet certain counterparts on the left were eager to give them one. At least one local TV reporter on scene said as much (go to the end of the six-minute video at the top of the link).
I support everyone’s freedom of speech, here or anywhere. But no one should be fooled by the Trump supporters’ professed nobility of cause. Nor should we believe that if the antifa hordes descended on, I don’t know, let’s say South Carolina, the stars-and-bars waving good ole boys would say “leave ’em be, fellas, they’re just exercising free speech.”