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Trump Versus the World

The Supreme Court Seat Matters More Than Ever


LAWYERS FIGHT: Hey, all you civics teachers. Remember Marbury v. Madison (1803)? Now it’s time to teach Trump v. the World (2017).

As the xenophobic Muslim travel ban ping-pongs between the White House and the courts, the question of who’s going to win this game of king of the hill is heading toward the Supremes.

These days, the court is deadlocked 4-4, liberal and conservative. But lookee here: President Trump’s new boy, Neil Gorsuch, is headed for the vacant “stolen seat” on the court as fast as Republicans can get him there as a fifth vote.

The smart money is on Gorsuch backing Trump, but he wouldn’t be the first Supreme Court appointee to turn around and bite a president on the rump.

But can a bunch of lawyers in black robes really overrule a president who acts like a king? Contrary to what many people wrongly believe, including former presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee, the Supreme Court has the power to slap down a presidential or congressional action.

That’s part of the Constitution’s checks and balances among the three branches of government that civics teachers hammer into students. The Supreme Court’s power was confirmed by its unanimous ruling in the aforementioned Marbury v. Madison case.

Meanwhile, Trump is running amok, trying to run a plutocracy, while his precious poll ratings plunge. He needs a Tom Brady–like quarterback and new plays to score a Patriots-style Super Bowl comeback. Maybe it would be better to turn the government over to Saturday Night Live. At least it does no real harm.

LA LA SANTA BARBARA LAND: Luckily, we have a great diversion from toxic politics because the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is running full steam. The appearance of the La La Land couple, Emma (born Emily) Stone and Ryan Gosling at the Arlington Friday was the hottest ticket in town, and the place was jammed. They remained charming under friendly quizzing by film fest honcho Roger Durling, who somehow manages to attract the top Oscar nominees every year.

Santa Barbara’s own Oscar nominee Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water) will be honored at the Arlington tonight, February 9, at 8 p.m. Gaviota’s 20 miles of coastal beauty is the subject of the documentary Gaviota: The End of Southern California, shown at 5:20 p.m. today at the Metro 4 Theatre and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Lobero.

TWO FIDDLERS: They couldn’t have been more different. Fiddler Itzhak Perlman with his band of Klezmer musicians got folks dancing in the Granada Theatre aisles one recent night. A week later, violinist Joshua Bell played Beethoven as smooth as silver. Klezmer hails from Eastern Europe’s traditional Jewish folk music, kind of rowdy, with lots of horns and singers. Makes you want to get up and dance, and lots of the audience did. Both Bell and Perlman, who wheeled onstage in a motorized cart and joined in the joking, were brought to the Granada by UCSB Arts & Lectures.

TALE OF STRINGS: As Bell chatted with the audience, he casually toyed with his Huberman violin, a twice-stolen 1713 Stradivarius Bell purchased for $4 million. I couldn’t help but hope he wouldn’t drop it.

The story goes back to Polish boy wonder Bronisław Huberman; after the Nazis took power in Germany, Huberman founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. He recruited the finest musicians in Europe to perform there. In doing so, he is credited with saving an estimated 1,000 musicians and their families from death under Hitler. The story is told in the 2012 documentary Orchestra of Exiles.

In 1919, Huberman’s Strad was stolen from his Vienna hotel room, but it was recovered three days later. In 1936, during the intermission of a Carnegie Hall performance in New York, the violin was stolen again. There was no trace of it for half a century until a New York musician, after playing it in public for many years, made a deathbed confession to his wife that it was the purloined Huberman. Lloyd’s of London, which had paid Huberman $30,000 in 1936, paid the musician’s wife a $263,000 finder’s fee. After it was restored, Lloyd’s sold it to British violinist Norbert Brainin for $1.2 million in 1988. In 2001 Bell, loving the instrument’s unique sound, ponied up $4 million.

At the Granada reception, when I spoke with Bell, he had the Huberman Strad carefully nestled in his shoulder bag.



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