By Tommy Hough
There's no use trying to deny it – the race is tightening, and tightening quickly. There is a chance Hillary Clinton may yet lose this election with the renewed FBI investigation into e-mails she may have saved as drafts, may have sent, may have received, or which may simply have her name in them. We could see another 2000-style electoral college/popular vote split. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is a time-honored Democratic tradition, and the smoke around Hillary Clinton is another reminder of how good we've had it the last eight years with the scandal-free, effective presidency of Barack Obama.
No wonder Republicans hurled everything but the kitchen sink at Obama for the last eight years. When Obama was elected I figured everyone would calm the hell down, get back to work, and maybe stop listening to Glenn Beck. Wrong. Republican spinners found they had to maintain their house of cards alternate reality that Obama was a demon out to take your guns and destroy the country, so they became desperate for something scandalous to stick, no matter how ludicrous: Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, Darrell Issa – I'm sure you remember it all. And how nothing was there.
Obama was the real deal – a genuine moderate who was never going to give his opponents any reason for an arched eyebrow or bit of smoke. In their fever, Republicans became incapable of even acknowledging Democrats were in the room, determined to discredit Obama at every turn as a non-entity, and refusing to consider anything that might give Obama even the perception of a "victory," even if that victory was non-partisan and relevant only to the normal mechanics of the nation and government. Enter the Tea Party, the birthers, the Bundys, government shutdowns and Ted Cruz – all of which led to Donald Trump.
For the GOP, playing more and more to a divorced-from-reality right-wing believing it's own Alex Jones-fueled house of cards, there became no other way to behave around Democrats except to reject their elected authority to lead at all levels – another symptom of the cumulative damage wrought by 30 years of unfiltered right-wing media and hyper-partisan messaging on the public's airwaves. Today, no excuse or justification is beyond Republican leadership. Having demonized Democrats for so long, the idea of having to share the people's government with anyone other than themselves is anathema. Part of this strategy, of course, is to disenfranchise the public by making government appear so paralyzed and incapable of functioning that people forget what actually happens when you have all players, Republicans and Democrats alike, working together and negotiating in good faith (see: Congress, 1952 to 1994).
But whoever could've imagined the catalyst for Hillary's current electoral dilemma, just days before the most critical election of our lifetimes, would be supreme idiot Anthony Weiner and his computer, which he apparently shared with his soon-to-be ex-wife Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's top aide. Granted, if Hillary were more forthright or better on her toes, she might've been able to work around this – and better address the vacuity of the charges and concerns, especially in light of the Bush administration's 22 million missing e-mails on everything from Iraq to Halliburton to WMDs to needlessly firing U.S. attorneys.
Hillary Clinton is a laudable, remarkable woman. She is also a policy wonk and not a natural campaigner. While she wasn't blessed with instinctive, broad communications skills, to her credit she hasn't tried to water down her own problems by finding something worse with Bush or anyone else. But for all her ability, competence and experience, Hillary simply lacks the natural, public ability to inspire like President Obama or Bernie Sanders, or the touch of authenticity and charisma that buoyed her husband's political career.
Granted, Hillary is tougher than all three of these high-profile men, and she's certainly tougher than the death-knell of Donald Trump and the parade of also-rans in the GOP. If elected, Hillary will be an effective president, and she may be even prove to be the kind of transformational president that Obama was unable to become in the face of 24-hour-a-day Republican intransigence. She certainly won't take any shit from the GOP, the Russians, or from crass political opportunists like Ted Cruz.
And while it's ironic that Clinton may lose Florida and Ohio and still win the presidency on Nov. 8, the tightening of the race even before the FBI director's announcement shows how over-confident her team became in trying to expand their reach into red states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas while sacrificing efforts in Florida and Ohio, and even Iowa. Too much time has elapsed since the last debate, which Clinton clearly won, but which feels like an eternity in the public perception of the race. The only thing blowing up right now are the words FBI, e-mails and investigation, coupled with the toxic name of Anthony Weiner. You'd never know Donald Trump was the most unqualified man – emotionally, professionally or intellectually – to ever seek the presidency.
Hillary may survive this, and she may yet defeat Donald Trump, but it remains a staggering prospect to millions around the world that anyone would consider Trump fit for the presidency at all. The litany of horrible to hateful things the man has said over the last 18 months, his utter lack of experience or curiosity about the job has no precedent in American politics, and the fact that so many otherwise well-meaning Americans are falling for Trump's con reveals not only the depth to which right-wing media has undone Americans' ability to discern, but the failure of American education to properly prepare citizens for basic civic awareness. In 2008 Republicans howled about the "celebrity"nature of Barack Obama. But in 2016, that argument is moot. As usual, the GOP stands for nothing, except winning.
But a greater danger than even a Trump coronation would be the Mike Pence administration that would follow. Pence would become the day-to-day operating template of a White House that would be Trump in name only. While Trump would be busy barnstorming the nation with his legions of Brownshirts, settling personal, professional and imagined scores while claiming to make America great again as he cut deals with flatterer-in-chief Vladimir Putin and nails "no littering" signs into Redwoods, Pence would be quietly leading the nation down a path of Bible-thumping theocracy – think of it as a compliment to Trump's pursuit of authoritarian idiocracy.
Armed with a Republican congress, the path to American religiosity under Pence will be replete with the insane policies that pass for GOP talking points in 2016, like undoing Social Security and our nation's public lands so they can be sold – and exploited – by the highest bidder, all while our infrastructure crumbles and religious and corporate quacks deny the rising sea levels, drought and increased risk of wildfire and severe weather from global warming.
Whatever you may think of the last eight years, it's hard to deny we're in a better place in 2016 under President Obama than we were in the dark days of 2008 with a crashing economy and two wars. The free radical in this progress is Donald Trump, who will say anything for attention, anything to be adored, and has a willing partner in mainstream media that will apply a false equivalency to anything the man says, no matter how outrageous. Trump may be an immature, thin-skinned con man, but the one favor he may have done for this country is to demonstrate how banal and useless the political industry is, and how it needs to change.
If you look back at how we've progressed since 2008, why would you want to undo the legacy the Obama era has been able to deliver, even in the face of ongoing malfeasance by a Republican party that has ripped itself to pieces? Do we need that on the national stage while we as a nation have so many serious issues to address – including jobs, the environment, rebuilding our infrastructure, money in politics, income inequality and securing our borders like adults? If you really have to work at deciding who you're going to vote for on Nov. 8, I've got news for you – you're overthinking it.
Vote for Hillary to ensure Obama's good-sense, pragmatic legacy continues, to save the environment and the sanctity of our nation's special places, and for Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United and defend women's health – while saving the republic from the whims and stupidity of a Donald Trump Apocalypse.
By Tommy Hough
Those calling Donald Trump the winner in Sunday's debate in St. Louis suffer from such a peculiar form of cognitive dissonance that not even Trump's impending loss in the Nov. 8 presidential election will cure it. If these reality-defying pundits and supporters consider a debate a "win" in which the candidate called his opposite number "evil," claimed there was "hate in her heart," and stalked her around the stage like a bully ready to land a back-turned cheap shot while never offering a single specific on policy, they're not going to care about the myriad of falsehoods that Trump blurts out.
Then there's the "you'd be in jail" remark. Trump has been leading "lock her up" chants before rabid right-wing audiences for months, and is no doubt getting off on the power he wields over hotheads and reactionaries in these ugly, fascistic hockey arena rallies – except there's no reason to "lock up" Hillary or anyone else because there is no indictment, and no evidence of legal wrongdoing as far as Secretary Clinton's personal e-mail server is concerned. Even the FBI said it was a loser case.
So what in the world are Trump's fans talking about? They don't even know, and they don't care. Despite the abundant evidence of competence, ability, experience and success, they just know Hillary is crooked. Being Hillary Clinton has long been a jailable offense for the lunatic far-right. So like birtherism, Trump hasn't just embraced the ugliness, he's fanned the flames of stupid, and has even gone as far as suggesting Hillary might be shot.
I'd like to stop and ask my Republican friends and readers at this point just what kind of country they want to live in. In a nation plagued by mass shootings, a hysterical overabundance of guns and a general mood of crankiness, the Republican presidential candidate suggested this summer – only when he was moderately down in the polls – that someone may just decide to shoot the former Secretary of State out of hand. And not even that was what put his campaign into the inevitable tailspin it is now.
Let's go back to the jailing comment. Imagine for a moment candidate Barack Obama telling John McCain on the debate stage in 2008 "you'd be in jail" if he, Obama, were president – ostensibly for McCain being a political opponent. Sounds outrageous, right? Obama would've lost in a landslide and been deservedly criticized. But since Trump is a creature of a willing media, we're going down the rabbit hole again where reason is meaningless, shame an irritant, journalistic blind spots cloud reality, and Trump gets awat with the most egregiously authoritarian statement I've ever heard in a presidential race. These are statements that, in any other race, any other situation would be career-ending. Imagine Bush saying that to John Kerry. Or Bill Clinton saying that to Bob Dole.
The United States is not a Banana Republic, but under Trump that needle could move. The nation's unresolved and collective crime of Guantanamo aside – where we've held individuals for years without charging them with anything – the U.S. does not jail political adversaries unless they've been convicted of breaking laws. The kind of political retribution Trump suggests is the stuff of authoritarian regimes. The very sort of thing, in fact, that the U.S. broke away from Great Britain to get away from.
Trump's supporters claim to love freedom, but what they really love is the idea of strongman. The fascist. The dear leader. The forced groupthink, so they themselves don't have to think too hard about things and instead "feel" as though a steady hand is guiding them. Sound familiar? The parallels between the U.S. in 2016 and the Weimar Republic in 1932 are chilling, if not entirely matching up, but Trump is the very definition of freedom and liberty for his supporters. So if you want a dictator, Trump is ready and willing for you to obey him – or throw you in jail.
In fact, Trump has already set the stage for post-election brownshirt chaos by claiming the election will be "rigged," something his current enablers from the insane right-wing outlet Breitbart have been urging him to do. Apparently, the election won't be rigged if Trump wins – only if Hillary Clinton wins. Not even Joe McCarthy willingly said something this damaging or destructive to the long-term health of the nation and our institutions – which are only as good as the people we elect to manage them.
Going back to the debate falsehoods, there were some doozies, including Trump's utterly bizarre assertion that Russia and Iran (!) have been the only nations combating ISIS in occupied areas of Iraq and Syria, as though U.S. airpower has been sitting idle on Turkish airfields, Iraqi airfields and on naval battle groups in the Mediterranean Sea for the last two years waiting for something to do. In fact, U.S. and coalition air forces, including France and Saudi Arabia, have launched over 15,000 airstrikes on ISIS-held positions since 2014, with nearly 12,000 of those strikes carried out by the United States. Whether you think those airstrikes are appropriate policy or not, no one can deny the U.S. has been very busy, and frankly, quite lethal.
By contrast, some 17 percent of Russian strikes have been against ISIS. Most have been against rebel forces trying to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Vladimir Putin, from power. That vestige of the five-year old Arab Spring movement has descended into a Syrian civil war bloodbath approaching genocide. That's been the story behind the siege of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, in which Russian and Syrian warplanes have waged what can only be described as a holocaust as they try and push rebel defenders out of the eastern end of the city.
But the U.S. position in combating ISIS isn't the only thing Trump was in full-on wishful thinking mode on Sunday night.
So now the chips are down and Republicans are jumping ship. Mike Pence, as phony and clueless a "values voter" as any, is all but denying he even knows Trump in a bit of Biblical brain cleansing. McCain has bailed, Cruz has bailed, embattled New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte has bailed and Paul Ryan has bailed – and was booed for having done so by Trump supporters at what was supposed to have been a friendly hometown crowd over the weekend. They're all cowards, and they're in pincers movement between Trump and his fans. Good.
Now, as far as the tape is concerned, that was a problem, eh? Well, apparently there wasn’t a problem when Donald Trump was on TV or before arenas full of racist mobs saying terrible things about Mexicans, Muslims, Black lives Matter demonstrators, Gold Star parents, prisoners of war, the disabled or calling women pigs. That wasn't the problem was it? It was the recording made – by accident – that Republican elites have suddenly decided to become horrified with. Well, welcome to the rest of the world Republicans. What do you think the rest of us have been so concerned about? What do you think we were so flabbergasted about?
If you already believe, as I do, that the nation is in something of a low-intensity civil war aggravated by conspiracy theorists, gun nuts and consumers of right-wing media, then Trump is clearly ginning up his base for a violent response to election results – something he would see as purely the next fold in his ongoing reality show, instead of it being a national tragedy. I'm not sure if people realize how close this man is to pulling the temple down on his head to protect his ego, which has been put in an unwinnable, untenable position that he's beginning to realize he can't bullshit his way out of.
Time to blame someone else and shift attention. Just another fold in the Donald's story. It’s all rigged, you know.
By Tommy Hough
Here's the news. We can't predict earthquakes, and we're never going to predict earthquakes. Earthquakes aren't like the weather where you can accurately predict a storm system or pressure ridge. Seismology is made up of real-time guesses and predictions based upon models, and while scientists know what happens during an earthquake, they still can't tell you when one will happen.
With earthquakes, you can have a general idea as to when something may occur and apply a likelihood to it, but until the earthquake actually happens there's no way to know. It's all about the application of pressure, and predicting when something will break as a result. If you're stretching a rubber band, you know that eventually, given enough force, the rubber band will break and collapse – thereby turning potential energy into kinetic energy.
With the headlines from last week, you may have missed the news of an earthquake swarm beneath the Salton Sea last Monday and Tuesday very near the San Andreas Fault, which runs along the east side of the Salton Sea. The quakes themselves were centered along an area of slippage along the Salton Trough, a remarkable geologic feature in of itself where California is slowly being peeled away from North America, and which is responsible for the Sea of Cortez and the "low" deserts along the Colorado River. In fact, the "bowing" of the earth's surface as a result of this geologic action results in several large areas of below sea level elevation in the Imperial and Coachella valleys, and the Salton Sea – the result of an engineering accident in 1905 – is one of those areas.
Last week's quakes were frequent and intense enough – numbering about 150 and hitting an average magnitude of 4.0 – to cause some alarm in the Imperial Valley, where a similar earthquake swarm kept residents rattled four years ago in the summer of 2012. But this most recent swarm was so intense it got the attention of the California Office of Emergency Management, which in turn sought the advice of scientists at the state Earthquake Prediction Evaluation Council.
According to the council, the earthquake swarm raised the possibility of a major jolt along the southern San Andreas within the next seven days – but only by an infinitesimal amount – from three-tenths (.03) of a percent of a major earthquake hitting within one week, to a full one (1) percent chance. Not exactly a robust likelihood.
Nevertheless, the California Office of Emergency Management said the data warranted a highly unusual advisory of a forthcoming shock along the San Andreas. According to Dr. Pat Abbott, professor emeritus at San Diego State, the numbers were far too small to issue what was akin to an earthquake warning.
Granted, we are incredibly overdue for a major earthquake on the southern San Andreas or San Jacinto fault systems in Southern California. The last major quake on the southern San Andreas was in 1857 and centered near Paso Robles, while the last major jolt on the San Andreas south of Tejon Pass – which today is the summit of the Grapevine along I-5 near Frazier Park – was over 300 years ago.
The large San Jacinto Fault passes through the northeast corner of San Diego County near Borrego Springs, and heads in a northerly direction past Temecula through the town of Anza in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County. There is some argument about whether the San Andreas is slowly transferring its "weight-bearing load" to the San Jacinto Fault, but except for the 6.5 Borrego Mountain earthquake in 1968, which occurred on the Coyote Creek branch of the San Jacinto Fault, the fault itself has been notably absent on major earthquakes for the least 100 years – yet it continues to slowly creep northward, building up stress every inch of the way.
The Imperial Valley's namesake Imperial Fault also appears to be a branch of the San Andreas system. The Imperial Fault Zone has been responsible for pair of damaging earthquakes in Imperial County in historic times, including a 7.1 magnitude jolt in 1940, and a 6.4 magnitude quake in 1979, which resulted in the failure of the multi-story Imperial County Services building in El Centro. The Imperial Fault is also likely related to the Laguna Salada Fault – which caused the big Easter Quake in Baja in 2010.
But despite the proximity of the Rose Canyon and Elsinore faults to San Diego, it's the San Andreas which still holds the most fascination – and results in the occasional warning from concerned parties. Yes, a swarm of 150 small earthquakes along an earthquake fault does raise the possibility of a larger earthquake to follow, and could be foreshocks of a larger event. But when exactly that event will happen remains wholly elusive. We'll know when we know. Hopefully not in the next five minutes.
So get some water, food, batteries and anything else you need now, and get smaller kits for your car. In the event of a major quake, have a plan – and prepare to be without electricity or phone service for a minimum of three days, and prepare for a longer duration of time before you have running water or flushing toilets again.
As a sign in an Army Navy store I used to shop at in Seattle reminded patrons: "Get your earthquake kit now. When you need it, we won't be open."
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.