Trump Support May Not be as Firm as People Think

In a recent discussion with Republican voters in Iowa, I was surprised– and then, not surprised– at the level of skepticism expressed towards Donald Trump.  These are Republican voters.  Most of them supported him in 2016 and 2020.  They believed the innumerable stupid things he said, without proof, without objective verification.  And now, suddenly, some of them feel that he has become self-centered and self-pitying.  They even actually seem to suddenly feel that his divisiveness is a liability.

Four out of eight of these selected voters said they would not vote for Trump if he were convicted of the criminal charges he is facing.  Really?  That matters to some Republicans?  That is astounding.  We have been given the impression by the media that Trump supporters are rigid, inflexible, and devoted.  Yet, most of the eight people interviewed had serious misgivings.  They didn’t like the chaos.  They didn’t like the whining about being persecuted.  They are not going to vote for Biden, by any means, but some of them sounded like they might not vote at all.

I don’t think the media was wrong.  I think these voters have become more conscious of what people might think of them if they continue to parrot Donald Trump’s idiotic incoherent campaign tropes.

If this is an accurate reflection of the real Republican core, Trump has a problem.

They sounded like they don’t want people to think they are stupid.

At least one of them asked the very solid, germane question: what, exactly, will you (Republican candidate) do about the border?  We all agree there is a problem: what solution do you offer.  He observed that none of them gave any specifics.

One striking thing: they don’t flatter Ron DeSantis for not criticizing Trump.

One of them (John, 67, engineer) said this:

Mr. President, do you know how to serve us humbly? Strength and humility go together. Strength and bullying don’t. But I’d really like to have him address why he thinks that it has to be that way. It doesn’t.

Huh.  And I’ll bet he voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020.  And just now has come to the realization that admitting it might make him look stupid.

The 2023-24 Maple Leafs

There are about 10 or 11 teams in the very competitive NHL that could make a serious run at the Stanley Cup this year:

Winnipeg Jets
Vancouver Canucks
Boston Bruins
Colorado Avalanche
New York Rangers
Florida Panthers
Dallas Stars
Vegas Golden Knights
Toronto Maple Leafs
Carolina Hurricanes
Los Angeles Kings

Several teams are not far behind this cluster and could easily make a run at the playoffs if they get hot.  It is a very competitive league and, as has been observed, winning the NHL championship is likely the most difficult challenge of any major team sport.  It is long, hard, and grueling.

I have been a Toronto Maple Leaf fan since about 1967– I am so old that I actually saw the Leafs win a Stanley Cup (in 1967).  I remember that at that time, they were close behind the Canadiens for the total number of championships: it was 13 to 11.  Since then, it has become 24 (!) to 11.

The Leafs have a notoriously bad record in recent years in the playoffs.  They actually have a good record of making the playoffs, each of the past seven years, but, with the exception of last year in which they eliminated Tampa Bay, they have not won a single series.  It is a stain on the careers of Austin Matthews, John Tavares, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly, none of whom have performed particularly well in the playoffs.  It is an even bigger stain on their goaltenders, Jack Campbell and Frederick Andersen, neither of which have been able to “come up big” in decisive playoff games.

This obscures the fact that the Leafs do have a very good team.  They can score goals but their defense is suspect.  Their No. 1 goalie, Ilya Samsonov, is a wreck and has been demoted and their next most auspicious candidate, Joseph Woll, is injured.   Matt Murray– last I heard– was hurt and will not return (I think he was moved to Pittsburgh, last I heard).   Martin Jones has stepped in and is currently performing exceptionally well.

No Leaf fan can forget how they led the decisive game 7 against Boston 4-3 in the third period a few years ago only to see Frederick Andersen allow three highly questionable goals, including the egregious one through the five-hole that gave up the lead.  The Leafs lost 7-4 (one empty net goal).

The Leafs have lately looked pretty good, with Martin Jones in net.  But so has Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver, New York Rangers, and Boston.

I am optimistic– I always am, this time of year, recently– about the playoffs.  The Leaf “core four” (Nylander, Matthews, Marner, Tavares) are a year older.  Tavares in not getting more effective, but the other three are entering the years in which most athletes are in their prime.  They also have the bitter experience of losing in the first round in six of the last seven playoffs (and the second round last year) to teams that appeared to be inferior to them.   They should know now how much grit, consistency, and determination is required to win a seven-game series.   They should be tougher, more resilient.  Matthews in particular seems to have stepped up his game.

I am suspicious of Nylander– he can be brilliant but he also gives the puck away far too often and sometimes seems to be coasting outside the blueline waiting for a pass.  Both he and Marner make risky passes and it’s hard to assess whether the pretty goals they generate outweigh the ugly goals they give up.  One immediately remembers overtime in a game against Boston this year in which Nylander turned back with the puck– a thing he likes to do too often– and fell.  He just fell, giving up the puck to the two deadliest forwards on Boston (and the game-winning goal).  The other night, he was coasting to the bench while Colorado was in full press mode towards the Leaf net.  They scored.

There is also hope in regard to the Leafs 3rd and 4th lines, and other secondary players like Matthew Knies who is improving in every game.   Jarnkrok in particular has become more effective, Domi is showing some determination and more skill, and Robertson occasionally threatens.

On defense, Rielly is actually playing better than he did last year when he seemed to be struggling at times and lost his instincts for contributing on offense.  Brodie and Giordano or good– not excellent– Liljegren seems to be improving.  McCabe can be forceful.  Timmins and Lagesson strike me as filler material.  They could use another good pick-handling defenseman.  The need a good defensive defenseman even more:  they often mishandle the puck in their own corners and end up running around chasing while the opposition sets up.

The Leafs made what I consider a major blunder is allowing Justin Holl to walk– I thought he had improved significantly over the past few years and  he is playing pretty well for Detroit– and an even bigger blunder is signing forward Ryan Reaves (thank goodness he’s out right now) and an incomprehensible blunder in signing John Klingberg (out for the season, I believe), who has a career -40 rating.

When Woll returns, will he be as effective as he was at the beginning of the season?  Will Jones continue his solid performances?  We haven’t seen Dennis Hildeby in action yet– he is a great unknown, a large (for goalie– for anybody) player at 6′ 7″ and 200 lbs.  The Leafs will almost surely start him at some point in the near future, for there is a perception out there that the Leafs have overworked their #1 goalies the last few years perhaps contributing to their disappointing performances in the playoffs.

So, as usual, I will expect the Leafs to finally advance further than the first round this year.  I expect Matthews, Marner, and Nylander– with their increased experience– to contribute more.  Matthews in particular seems more able than ever before to summon his formidable talents into a gritty two-way game that can actually redirect the teams momentum at crucial moments.   I hope the Leafs do pick up a solid defenseman somewhere for the playoff run.   And then we have to hope that Jones and Hildeby or Woll perform well.

Tavares?  Tonight, against Detroit, he was worse than ineffective.  He gave the puck way, lost almost every battle for the puck along the boards, and seemed slow and lethargic.  He was so awful I wonder if he is hurt.

The NHL is a very tough league.  The Leafs have shown this year that they can beat any team on a any given night.  Perhaps this is the year they finally show that they can win a seven-game series against a tough opponent.  If they do, they need the “core four” to perform well but I expect they will win only if they get unexpected contributions from players like Knies, Jarnkrok, and Domi.  The impact of sensational players like Matthews is generally not as great as most people think it is.  (I thought the Blue Jays were deluded in their vain attempt to sign Ohtani in the off-season: for the same money, they could have improved themselves at four or five other positions and that would have had a bigger impact on their overall success.)

Look at the winning teams for the past decades: they are comprised of a star or two, yes, but more importantly an assembly of strong secondary talents, reliable goal-tenders who don’t allow soft goals at crucial moments of the game, and defensemen who, once they have the puck, can smoothly move it out of the defensive zone to forwards who have positioned themselves to receive it and advance into the other team’s zone.  Justin Holl’s major fault, until last year, was the frequency with which he blindly shot the puck along the boards to the opposition point man, or passed the puck to players who were either being checked or didn’t exist.  Jake Gardiner, before him, was even worse at that.  This is the play before the play that results in cheap goals against.   Teams don’t win championships with great saves by their goalie (though Montreal, with Carey Price, came close a few years ago).  They win by preventing those chances in the first place.

The Leafs appear to me to have improved in this area.  Until recently.  They have recently looked weak and disorganized.  Both the power play and the penalty kill have been atrocious.

Given the level of talent on the club, you have to look elsewhere.  I believe it’s time to fire coach Sheldon Keefe.



The Great Women Composers of Opera

A recent edition of the New York Review of Books contains an article by George B. Stauffer called “Where are the Woman Composers?”.

The writer is astonished that for centuries major musical institutions have performed hardly any operas by women.  I can only presume that there actually were operas composed by women, sufficient numerically and qualitatively to provide a potential body of work that could be drawn upon.

That remains an open question.

Broad draws the reader deep into the lives of four British women who encountered misogyny while attempting to forge careers in the male-dominated field of music composition.  New York Review of Books, 2023-10-05

The writer then proceeded to cite a particular British woman,  Ethel Smythe, who dressed like men, smoked cigars, like to golf and horseback ride, and had affairs with numerous men and women including Virginia Woolf.

Aggressive, determined to gain recognition, and unfazed by tradition, she was described by Woolf as an “uncastrated cat.”  New York Review of Books, 2023-10-05

There you go.

There is a woman composer of an opera who is being denied her rightful place in the repertoire of established musical companies.



Profound Contrived Authencity: Little Bird (the MiniSeries)

Together, they reached for what Moscovitch calls “profound authenticity,” and created an opportunity for narrative activism: the idea that victims can help heal their trauma and change attitudes by telling their stories.  Globe & Mail

I don’t mind if someone wants to make a film or mini-series that “will help heal trauma and change attitudes”.  Just don’t put it on my playlist.

Changing attitudes is not the mission of real art.  Real art is about expression, revelation, insight, and beauty.  The minute you say, “oh, and we want people to  adopt our political views”, you have sold out the aesthetic dimension to the social dimension.  To make a film to tell people what to think about the way indigenous people were treated in Canada is to make a bad film.  To make a film about the way indigenous people were treated in Canada, just make a good film.  And if you are authentic about it, tell us what you know about the subject: not what you want us to think. And be honest: don’t caricature or exaggerate or make things up just to drive your point home.  Watch a film like “Come Sunday” which makes its point without dumbing down the issues.

So when my wife asked me to find the series “Little Bird” for her to watch, I checked it out.  I thought, it might be good.  I might want to watch it.  I looked for reviews on line and found the “review” (it’s not a review: it’s a press release disguised as news) linked above.

I suspect this series is about making liberal viewers feel great about themselves: I watched a sad story about injustice and felt bad for the victims for I am a good person.

I watched the first ten minutes.  As I feared, it starts by showing the girls who were abducted by the Canadian Child Family Services and RCMP living in nearly idyllic conditions with their happy affectionate parents.   Even worse: there’s that jerky hand-held camera work that immediately conveys “oh look how authentic we are we’re pretending we’re actually filming the real thing which wouldn’t be possible if we had a tripod” vibe.

I am immediately repulsed by most films that show parents being incredibly tolerant and affectionate and patient and loving with their kids as a setup for imminent tragedy or threat.  Nobody interacts with their children the way these parents do.  It’s manipulative and dishonest.  It is the hallmark of bad direction.  And that is how “Little Bird” starts.

In “Little Bird,” Bezhig is driven by her newly emerging repressed memories.  Variety

Oh no.  Seriously?  We’ve been through this movie before and it did not turn out well.  Not at all.    Not this time either.

Podemski: We looked at all the various ways in which trauma presents itself. Especially when it has been repressed for many years . We worked with our two story advisors, Nakuset and Raven Sinclair, who supported us in shaping the way in which our lead character, Esther, experienced PTSD through intrusive memory. We were able to express this authentically through the use of acoustic and visual layers which I think played very authentically throughout the story.

Okay, firstly, it’s not the trauma that has been repressed but the memory of it.  And memories are not repressed.  That is a fake trope from the 1980’s that has pretty well lost all credibility.   And the method by which they decided to tell the story of the “repressed” memories sounds more like therapy than art.  But please don’t try to claim anything like “authenticity” when you are clearly constructing a narrative that projects a political and social idea rather than any particular real human experience.


A CBC article on the movie contains this flag:

WARNING: This story contains distressing details

Oh please fuck off with your trigger warnings.   This is bullshit.  What kind of news is “distressing”?    A man falsely accused of rape while feminists claim that women never lie about sexual assault?  Al Franken resigning his seat in the Senate over ridiculously trivial allegations of inappropriate behavior?  Tax-payer subsidized sports stadiums?  Music by Neil Diamond?  Senile white men running the U.S. government?   Prescription drugs developed at publicly-funded universities which cost pennies to manufacture selling for $30,000 a pop?




Buffy’s Identity Problem

It’s one thing to deny what now seems obvious. But to attack the journalists who exposed the truth about your ethnic identity as neo-colonialists and racist and sexist is beyond the pale. And given what Sainte-Marie has said previously about her ancestry, she cannot now claim, with sincerity, that she just “didn’t know”. She actively lied, and made up new lies to misdirect people from the old lies. Now she says, well, “I know who I am”, which is a nice way of refusing to take responsibility.

I have a mental hobby of pretending I’m the PR guy for whoever is embroiled in the latest scandal and have to come up with the best solution. In this case, I think she would have been better served with a line of “I admired indigenous culture so much that I wanted to be part of it, and I went too far, and did lie, and I am very sorry. And yes, it was terribly unfair to those of legitimate indigenous ancestry and if I haven’t already done enough to make up for it, I now wish to try.”

Instead, the stubborn denials and self-pity and claims of victimization leave a bad taste in the mouth.

She also claims to have been black-listed by the U.S. government, presidents Johnson and Nixon, and the FBI.  I can’t find any evidence of this other than her own assertion:

The former FBI director blacklisted Sainte-Marie as her protest songs gained more and more popularity. She didn’t know that it had happened for about 20 years until a deejay “told me that he had letters on White House stationery commending him for having suppressed my music.”  Toronto Star

What deejay?  From who in the White House?  Did she try to obtain the related documents through a Freedom of Information request?

It’s all beginning to sound a little pathetic.  And if it wasn’t pathetic enough, she now tosses out claims that she was sexually abused by her brother and someone else she won’t identify.  The brother is deceased– of course (like Joan Baez’  father)– but his daughter (Sainte-Marie’s niece) revealed letters that strongly suggest that Buffy Sainte-Marie threatened to publicly claim he sexually abused her to deter him from continuing to publicly challenge her claims of being born to an indigenous tribe in Saskatchewan when (as is now overwhelmingly clear) she was actually born to a white Christian family in Massachusetts.   He backed off.

She should want to be remembered instead for these lines:

Now that your big eyes are finally open
Now that you’re wondering, how must they feel?
Meaning them that you chased ‘cross America’s movie screens.

They are very good.  It’s a powerful song.  We can have both.  We can acknowledge her accomplishments and the weaknesses of character and dishonesty and leave it at that.


Joan Baez’s Weird Homage to Slavery

Way back in 1971, Joan Baez released a double album called “Blessed Are”, which, in retrospect, may be one of the weirdest album releases of all time.

Blessed Are... (Joan Baez album - cover art).jpg

Joan Baez, in case you don’t remember or weren’t born yet, was a famous folk singer who became a prominent anti-war, anti-racism protest leader during the 1960’s, and an interpreter of Bob Dylan’s songs.  As a result, unsurprisingly, she pissed off a lot of patriotic war-loving Americans who regarded her, along with Jane Fonda, as treasonous dupes of the radical left.  They may not have liked John Lennon; they may have regarded Dylan with hostile indifference; they may have ignored Pete Seeger; but they hated Baez and Fonda with a toxic rage.

“Blessed Are” appears to be a peace offering of some kind, to southerners, patriots, farmers, and, perhaps, country music fans.    It featured a hit for Baez, “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down”, by Robbie Robertson of The Band (and subject of a bitter dispute between him and The Band’s drummer Levon Helm).

Levon Helm says in his autobiography:

“I remember taking him [Robertson] to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.”

Helm was so bitterly annoyed by Baez’s version of “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down” that he refused afterwards to sing it in concert.  I wonder if he was more annoyed by her politics than anything else.  What musician gets upset when another artist makes a signature song more popular?

Anyway, to make General Lee come out with “all due respect”– all the respect due to a slave-owning General who led the war effort to preserve the institution of slavery– may strike some as a dubious cause.

Look at the lyrics:

Like my father before me, I’m a working man
I’m like my brother before me, I took a rebel stand
Well, he was just eighteen, proud and brave
When a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the blood below my feet,
You can’t raise a Cain back up with it’s in defeat

Some claim that the song is sympathetic to the Lost Cause ideology and defends slavery.  I think it does neither.  The fact that it was written by a Canadian should clue listeners in: this is an observational song, not propaganda for either side.  In fact, its observational qualities are acute and beautiful and tragic.

The album also has a song by Jagger and Richards, a paean to the “hard-working” average joe who always gets the short end of the stick.  And a tribute to a southern farmer friend with “the slowest drawl I’d ever heard” showing the narrator and friend around his beautiful farm.  There’s an intriguing song about apocalypse: Three Horses.

But let’s move on to “Lincoln Freed Me Today”.  If “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” seems ambiguous, “Lincoln Freed Me Today” is decidedly revisionist.

Been a slave most all my life
So’s my kids and so’s my wife
I been working on the Colonel’s farm
Aint been mistreated, aint done no harm…
The Colonel’s been right good to me
He’s taken care of my family

The Colonel rode his buggy in from town
Hitched his horse and called us all around
Said he couldn’t keep us here no more
I saw a tear as he walked toward the door


I’m sure Baez did not have in mind the idea of rescuing slavery from the dustbin of history, or, giving us the positive side of antebellum culture.  I’m sure she thought, well, it’s a true picture of some slave-owners, and some slaves.  And one must be fair by presenting both sides of the issue.   But the “I saw a tear” is kind of repulsive.  That’s the image we’re supposed to take away from this kindly old slaveholder?

You see how convoluted we become.

The songwriter is variously credited as David Paton, David Patten, and David Paton.  It’s likely David Patton.  There’s very little information out there about him.



Ian and Sylvia do a just peachy version of this song.


This is who you are

I have recently read and heard from Christian apologists who assert, in one form or another, that the Evangelical Christian community that passionately supports Donald Trump actually understands that he is an unworthy person of bad taste and style who is nevertheless God’s chosen vessel to restore America to holiness and conviction and the purity of our bodily fluids.

All right– sarcasm aside, some Christians say that while they are disgusted with Trump’s personal character they support him because he appoints anti-abortion judges, stands up for gun rights, opposes same-sex marriage and homosexuality, and resists the world-wide conspiracy to replace white Americans with people of color.

In other words, they believe that a man who is a serial womanizer, a materialist, a liar, a bragger, and vulgarity incarnated somehow, when it comes to issues that matter to the Christian community, acts in a way that Jesus would approve of.

I don’t believe they really believe that.  They might say they do, but the evidence is overwhelming: they don’t.   Trump is the evangelical community unmasked.  He is what they are.  Vulgar.  Grasping.  Materialistic.  Cruel and dishonest.

They do not see Trump as a corrupt vessel of God’s will; to them, he really is God’s chosen messenger, an avatar of all the values and beliefs that they hold dear but don’t want to publicly acknowledge, a bully and thug who they really like because he is a bully and thug.   The main body of Evangelical Christians  will deny that they embrace Trump the corrupt vessel because he exposes them for what they are:  raging hypocrites who have demonstrated over and over again that they never did really believe in the teachings of Christ or the bible.

A political scientist at Furman University, Jim Guth:

White evangelicals share with Trump a multitude of attitudes, including his hostility toward immigrants, his Islamophobia, his racism, and nativism, as well as his “political style,” with its nasty politics and assertion of strong, solitary leadership. Indeed, Trump’s candidacy may have “authorized” for the first time the widespread expression of such attitudes.

The Evangelical Christian community has always been pro-gun.  They love guns.  They have always been generously forgiving of war criminals like William Calley, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, Dustin Heard and Nicholas Slatten, if they are Americans.  They have consistently rejected the Bible’s clear mandate to care for creation as obedient stewards, not as exploitive pirates.   They preach abstinence and self-denial but indulge in every possible form of acquisitiveness of property and worship church leaders who brag about their private jets and access to political leaders.   They claim to admire integrity and character but they hated the two presidents with the most integrity and character in the past 50 years, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

As they sit there in their pews, chanting and singing, reciting from scripture, and folding their hands in prayer, they know, deep in their hearts, that what they like about Trump is precisely his pettiness, his vindictiveness, his vulgarity, his bullying, his meanness, and his materialism.  They do not quietly accept him and hold their noses: they bless him and admire him and scream and cheer him when he is at his most divisive and vulgar.

He is you.  And he has revealed to the world the truth of what it means to be an evangelical Christian in the United States in 2024.


I take note of a recent confirmation of this point.

More on the issue.

By the way, in Iowa it is not considered polite to talk about rugged individualism and “pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” economics and then mention corn subsidies.