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Just over a year ago, this writer urged Napans to enjoy summer and turn off the TV news and not obsess over the Washington soap operas. We predicted here that the hot weather political storms and furies would, in the end, result in nothing. That turned out to be the case. And turning off the TV had the added benefit of avoiding the Giants’ pathetic collapse last season.

This summer, much has changed, the Giants are manfully fighting for a post-season spot despite a seemingly endless plague of injuries. And real news, not just repetitive drama, emanates from D.C. In vivid contrast to last summer, top officials in Washington are willing to challenge and grapple with the Chief Executive over vital issues. In the first few days of this August, we saw a panoply of top officials reiterate the key message that Russia continues to mess with our election processes.

The Mueller investigators were eerily quiet last summer; now they have their first trial, as they try to put Paul “Ostrich Jacket” Manafort in the slammer. That trial may superficially appear to be tangential to the main focus of Russian interference as it focuses on tax crimes. But it does provide a side-entry into the Russian investigation. Here we had Manafort, heavily leveraged financially, having lost his honeypot with the downfall of his Ukranian thug, taking on the chairmanship of the Trump campaign without getting a paycheck. That was strange.

Lawyers ask, “cui bono?” Who benefits? With Manafort, the key beneficiaries were indeed his Russian oligarchs and Putin’s henchmen. He watered down the Republican platform’s position on Ukraine and was offering his Slavic benefactors a pipeline straight to Trump. Manafort was demonstrating that their long-term investment in him was going to prove worthwhile.

Television is not, in fact, a cool medium, contrary to Marshall McLuhan’s dictum from decades ago. This summer’s high drama of immigrant family separations is a smack in the face of TV audiences.

Last summer was perhaps the final season of our weather innocence, which was destroyed in the autumn’s wildfires. Now, our summer burns hot with much earlier wildfires in our neighborhood counties of Yolo, Lake and Mendocino, as well as to our north. TV perfectly captures the terror and devastation of these fires. For the safety of our friends and families, we need the visual news that only TV can provide.

We can now see, in the rearview mirror, that last summer’s carefree days were probably an exception. Hot weather historically has brought us big drama. In the ‘60s, civil rights battles were constant, every summer.

In the ‘70s, Congressional Watergate hearings and the resulting Nixon resignation were hot weather occurrences.

“Sell in May and go away” was traditionally the summer song of the investment world. Not this year, with Apple becoming a trillion dollar company and Tesla’s testy chief making weekly headlines. In Washington, the tariff tantrums coming out of the White House are real news right now, regardless of how heated negotiations result months hence.

There used to be a seasonal rhythm to life, as seen in last summer’s relative tranquility. Television, in summer, was the re-run season. We used to wait patiently until late September when the automakers new cars were together played out in an issue of Life magazine. Now, with seemingly endless electronic entertainment options, new stuff is thrown up continually. And new car models come out at any moment.

Last summer, the political world was quiet. Not so this year, in the run-up to the November nationwide Congressional elections. We’ve had dramatic summer primaries all over the country, and Trump is campaigning wherever he thinks he’ll find a warm welcome.

As always, it’s up to us, the readers and viewers to discriminate between the consequential and the trivial. Johnny Cueto going down with major surgery is substantive; Ivanka Trump talking about her daddy is not.

Concern for our northerly neighbors in the fire zones is immensely important. Reading Trump’s early morning tweets is not.

“To everything there is a season,” the Hebrew bible tells us. And this summer season is a time to get serious again. It’s a stormy prelude to what may be a momentous autumn filled with Mueller, Trump, and the elections.

Mark G. Epstein lives in St. Helena and is a columnist for the St. Helena Star.

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