Wed, Jun

Ukrainian Anthem Performance at Music Center and Today's Look at the National and Local Political Landscape


GELFAND’S WORLD - A memory: Right after the Russians invaded Ukraine in 2022, there was a performance of the St Matthew Passion at the Music Center. As the doors to the auditorium closed, somebody walked in carrying a flag that most of didn't recognize -- it was the blue and yellow we have since come to know. And a chorus sang a piece that was probably the Ukrainian anthem or some hymn. As the audience slowly began to realize what was going on, people -- one by one -- stood solemnly, and at the end gave sustained applause. 

There was, at the time, strong American support for the Ukrainian resistance. Pundits worried that Americans would eventually tire of thinking about Ukraine, and the Russian propensity for persistence would ultimately prevail. Others, of a more optimistic viewpoint, began to recognize that the current Russian Federation is a pale shadow of the once-formidable Soviet Union, and that the level of corruption in the current nation has badly weakened its armed forces. 

We're now more than two years into the Ukraine War, and there seem to be elements of both views that have come true. But the worst part of the story is the inability of Republicans to stand up to Donald Trump and support the Ukrainian effort fully and heartfully. Instead, there were months of dithering -- months in which Ukrainians died on the battlefield due to our failure to supply needed ammunition and aid -- and those deaths are on the Republicans in the House of Representatives. 

Eventually, the Speaker allowed a vote on aid, and some of it is starting to trickle to where it is needed. Joe Biden gets the credit for shifting as much aid as he can without doing something that is actually impeachable. 

It's time for Americans to remember what this is all about and to rally behind a renewed defense of Ukraine and of democracy. There is no excuse for any American politician to stall the process or to make another attempt to withhold aid. 

The Current Political Battlefield 

For months, polls in the swing states have shown a modest advantage to Donald Trump, at least when the polls are aimed at registered voters. Biden supporters have been doing a lot of whistling past the graveyard, claiming that when you look at likely voters rather than registered voters, things get better for Biden. Others whistle louder, claiming that polling is no longer to be trusted at any level, no matter who does it. That seems a bit extreme, even in this increasingly cynical era. 

So Democrats and those who worry about right wing authoritarianism are happy to note that the polls have been creeping towards Biden just a bit in the aftermath of the Trump felony verdicts. It is not yet a solid Biden majority, and it may never go that far, but there is hope. 

There is a continuing problem with food and gasoline prices. Democrats should have been blaming Trump and Republicans for the increased prices, but unlike, say, Fox News, Democrats have never been quite as good at this sort of thing. Democrats should also have been pointing out that the Russian attack on Ukraine and our need to impose sanctions has had a world-wide effect on prices. 

Biden's administration could have attacked the supermarket corporations for jacking up prices unreasonably. It is interesting that actual inflation has been under control for the entire year so far -- those who read Kevin Drum's blog are familiar with the arguments and the graphs -- but here in the real world of registered voters, shoppers look at prices that have not come down and want to blame somebody. The price of a roast has become a serious danger to democracy here in 2024. 

The Repercussions of the City Government Cave on Salaries Continue 

As CityWatch has mentioned repeatedly, the City Council and the mayor agreed to another substantial salary increase for city employees. The mayor defended the increase in LAPD salaries by claiming that surrounding communities have been hiring our police away. I'm not so sure that this argument is sound, but the City Council clearly caved to the groups that get it elected, and the exponential (literally correct) level of increase continues. 

So here is one tiny little ripple from that giant rock landing in the pond that is city government: The new budget does not allow for regular neighborhood council elections. Instead, we are to go back to an all-mail-in ballot in the next election cycle. But it won't be anything as simple as the way mail-in balloting is done in other states. For one thing, every potential voter will have to re-register (unless the City Clerk changes something), and that registration process is the original and ultimate pain in the ass. The last time we did this, everybody had to submit ID such as a copy of a driver's license. Then they send you a ballot. Then you have to send it back. The result was that almost nobody voted. In places that had previously had robust elections, 35 votes would get you elected. 

They propose to do it again. We on neighborhood councils should say No. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)