Oct 202016


You might say that Donald Trump has put his foot in it in last night’s final Presidential Debate when the Jeff Flake, senator from Arizona, one of the swing-states twitters:
.@realDonaldTrump saying that he might not accept election results is beyond the pale
and when conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer from Fox News thinks that Trump blew his chances with this answer on accepting the results. “Political suicide.” Krauthammer called it because in his view Trump should have stopped the slide in this debate. The slide of people grudgingly going over to Clinton after holding out for a year. He thinks that people are not going to change their views on Clinton, but if they can change their views on Trump. Trump should have shown them that he is acceptable as president, not a radical. They don't want a radical who will challenge the foundations of the republic.

Right-wing New York Post-columnist John Podhoretz also comes to the conclusion that Donald Trump just handed Hillary Clinton the election with his refusal to be clear on what will happen if he loses the election.

Not accepting the results is the main theme of comments in many Western countries.  Anna Caldwell in from News Corp Australia Network blogs: “Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doubled down on controversial claims that the US election is rigged during a presidential debate, refusing to say he will respect the result.

Other news sites media commented on the debate, and on Trump in particular, in a more general fashion. Australian The New Daily quotes Bryan Cranston, a Swinburne University politics expert: “Trump’s biggest strength is himself, but it is also his weakness. Facts play little role in his campaign and his rhetoric and spin works well when he is only with supporters. [emphasis mine] But in a debate with an opponent you need facts, and the holes in his argument became dramatically transparent.”

Anthony Zurcher, North America reporter for the BBC describes how “after roughly half an hour of something resembling an actual policy debate about the Supreme Court, gun rights, abortion and even immigration, the old Donald Trump – the one who constantly interrupted his opponent, sparred with the moderator and lashed out at enemies real and perceived – emerged.” And concludes with “Mr Trump has called American democracy into question – and when he shakes that particular tree, it's impossible to determine who might get crushed by falling branches.

On the Dutch national news site Sander Warmerdam warns: “The big question remains what happens when Trump doesn't win this time. Clinton is doing very well in the polls. This debate will go down well with the angry Trump supporters but will move few undecided voters.” [my translation]

There is a certain feeling of unease emanating from the European and Australian comments since Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and that becomes most apparent in statements about the Trump’s voters pointing out that his supporters stay loyal to him no matter how many of his statement are debunked by fact checkers or how many times his statements are called bigoted, racist, misogynist or islamophobic. Much attention is payed to Trump voters not believing the facts that are revealed about his personal life and behavior nor of his disdain for them as group. The fact that about 40% of Americans still favor Trump is both baffling and worrying to the media, but also a grateful subject to keep ratings high.  


This has also been noted by TV  reviewers like Hans Beerekamp who noted: “I’m starting to find the outrage in the media about the American circus quite hypocritical, because many of the same media have always eagerly reported on the polarization and to a large extent have created it. It's TV that has given birth to Trump (Verdonk, Wilders), not the other way around. By the excessive media attention for their views, these have become more acceptable. [translation mine]" Beerenkamp refers here to Rita Verdonk and Geert Wilders, two Dutch populists, and by doing so uncovers the source of the unease felt by many in the West: large groups of voters, unhappy with the way their country is run, looking for leaders who appear to listen to them.

Europe and Australia are no strangers to a growing population of grudging, anti-establishment or protest voters who are willing to throw in their lot with populist politicians and parties. The Dutch have their Geert Wilders and his PVV, claiming to be Prime Minister after next year’s elections, France has her Marine Le Pen and her Front National who did very well in the local elections this year, Australia has seen the return of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation in the senate. And of course Nigel Farage and UKIP have made their indelible mark on the British Brexit referendum.

Dutch protester welcoming fugitives told off by Wilders supporter
AD/Jean-Pierre Jans

Britons, edged on by UKIP and some conservatives in the Tory party (Boris Johnson), have voted to leave the European Union and have left Europeans and its economies, especially that of the UK itself) in a state of shock and have made leaders more aware of the attraction populist have to dissatisfied and angry people, both in Europe and in America. Even “establishment” institute like the IMF have seen the writing on the wall and are willing to (partly) put blame where blame is due. In a report released at the beginning of the month the IMF said “Globally, concerns are growing about political discontent, income inequality and populist policies, threatening to derail globalization.” IMF chief economist Obstfeld said "that persistently weak growth that leaves lower-income people behind has fueled a political movement "that blames globalization for all woes" adding that the vote for "Brexit" was one example of this. He warned governments that "Without a determined policy action to support economic activity over the short and longer terms subpar growth at recent levels risks feeding on itself through the negative economic and political forces it is unleashing." In other words: governments should invest more in those that have not benefitted from growth in the past and decrease income inequality instead of widening the gap if they want to see economic growth in their country.

Words Hillary Clinton would do well to heed, because when she wins the election, Donald Trump may soon fade from the political scene, but his voters, and those of all the other populists in the world, will still be there.

Jun 222016

hedgehog-looks-binocularsJoris Luyendijk: It's time to say goodbye to the British

At a time when it seems to be nearly impossible to get away from America’s upcoming presidential elections and the presumptive candidates on either side of the isle, nearly all British and many Europeans have another important thing on their mind: the Brexit referendum.

Two days before the British people are headed to the polls to vote on the Brexit referendum on Thursday June 23, Dutch correspondent Joris Luyendijk has published an op-ed in NRC Handelsblad (6/21/2016) that quickly made it to the Reddit site in a (sorry, rather bad) English translation and really got the negative comments of Brits on both sides of the Brexit chasm flowing.

Luyendijk, who has been living in London for the past five years and has worked as an editor for the British newspaper The Guardian for two years, has seen enough of the Brexit debate – which toned down a bit for only two days after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox and now has resumed in all its harshness – to propose that perhaps it’s not such a bad idea if Europe took her leave of the UK.

“Enough is enough. In normal times the British sabotage was tolerable. But these are not normal times, Joris Luyendijk ascertains. So let's go our different ways – as friends”

In the years he’s lived in England, Luyendijk has come across much ‘Euroscepsis’ in “A mix of unsuspecting indifference and self-imposed ignorance. Featuring the views of a large part of the mainstream British towards the EU and Europe.” He thinks that’s innocent enough but found it increasingly worrying to listen to a colleague at The Guardian “who recently compared the EU with the Soviet Union, ‘but without the gulag,’ a journalist dead-seriously saying: "Well, ultimately the EU is nothing more than an attempt by Germany to still win the Second World War," or hear politicians like Boris Johnson who “claimed no essential difference between Hitler's plans for Europe and of the EU.”

Luyendijk thinks that the referendum is very useful in this respect: it shows how deep the Europhobia is rooted. Many in the ‘out’ camp media use this absurd and false caricature of Europe to feel superior and dream about making Great Britain great again, blaming the EU for it no longer being a world power. The ‘in’ camp treats staying in the European Union as a favor for which the EU has to make concessions.

For a large part of the English media and politics ‘Europe’ is a dirty word. Yet Luyendijk has misgivings about the Brits choosing to leave the EU in the end. Leaving could mean that the Scots, who are likely to vote to stay, will want to leave the UK to remain in the EU. Northern Ireland is of two minds about this too, as it could rekindle the ‘troubles’. So chances are that a slight majority will vote to stay in and according to Jean Quatremer that could mean: "If the UK decides to stay then they will make the lives of the populations in the other 27 countries worse than ever before."

Is Luytendijk such a EU enthusiast then that he doesn’t want the UK to stay? Far from it; he’s a ‘Eurosceptic’ in his own right: “The EU is not in a crisis. The EU is about to collapse. Schengen is not working. The euro does not work. And the EU is simply not democratic in its current form.” But he also firmly believes that the EU is in desperate need of reforms and all member states should do their level best to bring that about successfully. Luytendijk just doesn’t believe the UK is going to do that. He’s convinced it will keep pushing for concession after concession, for having it 'their' way, not open, or rational and on the basis of a realistic self-image. What is needed are countries where public opinions are not held hostage by Europhobic billionaires, notably by mediate magnate Rupert Murdoch who has been quoted saying: "If I go to Downing Street, they do what I say. If I go to Brussels, everyone ignores me." So much for ‘sovereignty’.

Joris Luyendijk believes Europe should be the wisest of the two and stop its wishful thinking that the British are going to want to fit in some day. What is needed is an amicable divorce, it would be beneficial to all.

Before finishing this article, I watched our national news which of course had an item on tomorrow’s Brexit referendum. ‘Outer’ Boris Johnson was trying to convince undecided voters with something along the lines of: “We need to take back control…otherwise we’ll end up in the trunk of the car…not knowing where we are going to, but probably ending up somewhere we don’t want to go.” To that he gleefully added: “ and the car will be driven by a chauffeur who doesn’t speak the best of English.” Hmmm, perhaps Luytendijk has a point.

May 102016

I was seeing triple or more, until I awoke this morning.  When it comes to malignant nevi, Allison is the premiere Ocular Oncologist in the Pacific Northwest, so I feel confident that I am good hands.  I do have cancer, a Uveal  melanoma in my right eye,  I will need two outpatient surgeries, one to insert and one to remove a radioactive plaque.  It is close enough to the optic nerve, that I will probably lose vision in that eye from radiation damage two to three years later.  However the alternative is to lose the eye to the tumor in the same amount of time, while greatly increasing the risk of metastasis.  Before the surgery, there are a bunch of hoops I need to jump through.  I’ll need a complete physical, a CAT Scan of liver and lungs, an OK from my Pulmonologist, arrangements for home care for 24 hours after both surgeries, a consultation with a Radiation Oncologist.  I had so hoped my medical mayhem would level off, but it looks like it will continue through much of the summer.  ARGH!! Disappointed smile  TriMet called me to apologize.  The driver that screwed up George’s appointment with Sarah did not find me, because she announced at the building next door.  The rep said they will emphasize the importance of making sure they are in the right location to all drivers.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 7:44 (average 5:26),  (I saw 4 dawgs.)  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos: President Obama’s commencement speech today at Howard University firmly and repeatedly challenged the central message of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. (C-Span link offers video and full text.)

The president was not attacking Sanders’ ideology of fairness. But he was clearly separating himself from Sanders’ dogmatic insistence on revolutionary transformation.

If you want to make life fair, then you have to start with the world as it is.

The balance between idealism and pragmatism was clearly at the forefront of the president’s mind.

Democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100% right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right and you still have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral security, but you will not get what you want.

This is one reason there has been somewhat of a class divide between Bernie and Hillary supporters. The “moral security” Obama refers to is an emotional and intellectual luxury if it doesn’t contribute to substantive change.

Obama makes a valid point, but his beef should be more with a small, but vocal, idealist minority of Bernie’s supporters, not with Bernie himself. Bernie has stated that his positions are goals and touted his own ability to compromise and work across the aisle.  Compromise has been impossible over the last several years, because Republicans have been unwilling to compromise.  Every time Democrats have agree to a compromise Republicans have proposed, Republicans have demanded even more concessions.

From NY Times: Austria’s chancellor resigned abruptly on Monday after seven and a half years in office, having lost control of his center-left Social Democratic Party amid a rightward shift fueled by anxiety over migration.

The chancellor, Werner Faymann, initially supported the decision last year by Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, to welcome migrants fleeing war and poverty and to refuse to set a limit on how many might come. But after a ferocious backlash, Mr. Faymann switched course, joining his coalition partner, the center-right Austrian People’s Party, in supporting border restrictions.

The policy reversal was not enough to stop the right-wing Freedom Party, which has run on a strident “Austrians First” platform, from capitalizing on the influx of migrants. In September, the party finished second in regional elections in northern Austria.

An even greater shock to the establishment occurred on April 24, when the Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, won the first round of the presidential election, capturing more than one-third of the vote. He will face a former Greens leader, Alexander Van der Bellen, in a May 22 runoff.

The two establishment parties — which have governed for the past decade in a so-called grand coalition, a political constellation that has dominated postwar Austria — together received just 22 percent of the first-round vote. No matter who wins the second round, the next president will not be from either mainstream party, for the first time in decades.

I offer condolences to the good people in Austria.  Could Hofer be following in the footsteps of a fellow Austrian, whose name also began with an H? That Austrian is the inspiration for today’s Republican Party, here in the US.

From Crooks and :Liars: Going into the West Virginia primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out in opposition to a "lame duck" vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This takes her beyond her previous statements mildly opposing TPP. Clinton also made a strong statement criticizing our country’s trade agreements in general.

As reported in The Hill, in "Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session," Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, "If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, "I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election."

I know just how to respond to Hillary’s change of heart. Thank you, Bernie!



May 082016

I’m getting another late start today.  When I finally finished with all yesterday’s tasks, I could not sleep, because the battery in my smoke detector ran low, and the damn thing started chirping at me every 30 seconds.  We have very high ceilings, and the desk clerk on duty was very short.  She could not reach it, even though she climbed onto mu desk.  I had to wait for shift change at 9:00 AM, when a tall guy came on, and he changed it.  However, I got almost no sleep.  This mourning I did research and took a Lona cat nap.  Tomorrow, please expect no more that a Personal Update.  I have a five hour appointment with my Ocular Oncologist to determine the best way forward for the probable melanoma in my right eye.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 3:47 (average 5:48).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From Daily Kos:

“The last time you signed a contract for a cell phone plan, a bank account, or a credit card, you probably signed away your right to go to court if that company cheated you. That’s because most contracts for financial products contain forced arbitration clauses buried deep in the fine print. These clauses prohibit consumers from protecting themselves in court, and they make it a lot easier for financial institutions to get away with cheating their customers.” —Sen. Elizabeth Warren, October 2015.

In a move The New York Times calls “the biggest that the agency has made since its inception in 2010,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Thursday proposed a rule that would bar mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts with financial firms. Since it requires no congressional approval, the rule quite likely will go into effect after a 90-day public comment period in which opposition from business groups will no doubt be extensive, loud and bullshitty. (If you’d like to comment, you can choose a method here.) Foes of the rule, which could cost firms billions, include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…

Thank God for Elizabeth Warren for championing the CFPB! I love this rule, but we need such a rule, banning forced mandatory arbitration for all companies!

From NY Times: Last November, Meg Muñoz went to Los Angeles to speak at the annual West Coast conference of Amnesty International. She was nervous. Three months earlier, at a meeting attended by about 500 delegates from 80 countries, Amnesty voted to adopt a proposal in favor of the “full decriminalization of consensual sex work,” sparking a storm of controversy. Members of the human rights group in Norway and Sweden resigned en masse, saying the organization’s goal should be to end demand for prostitution, not condone it. Around the world, on social media and in the press, opponents blasted Amnesty. In Los Angeles, protesters ringed the lobby of the Sheraton where the conference was being held, and as Muñoz tried to enter, a woman confronted her and became upset as Muñoz explained that, as a former sex worker, she supported Amnesty’s position. “She agreed to respect my time at the microphone,” Muñoz told me. “That didn’t exactly happen” — the woman and other critics yelled out during her panel — “but I understand why it was so hard for her.”

Muñoz was in the middle of a pitched battle over the terms, and even the meaning, of sex work. In the United States and around the globe, many sex workers (the term activists prefer to “prostitute”) are trying to change how they are perceived and policed. They are fighting the legal status quo, social mores and also mainstream feminism, which has typically focused on saving women from the sex trade rather than supporting sex workers who demand greater rights. But in the last decade, sex-worker activists have gained new allies. If Amnesty’s international board approves a final policy in favor of decriminalization in the next month, it will join forces with public-health organizations that have successfully worked for years with groups of sex workers to halt the spread of H.I.V. and AIDS, especially in developing countries.

In my opinion, prostitution should be decriminalized. Attempts to outlaw it over the last 5,000+ years have always been unsuccessful, as they always will be. Income from legal prostitution can be taxed. Legal prostitution can be licensed and regulated to protect sex workers from abuse and  protect public health.  Legal prostitution can be separated from the illegal drug trade.  While I don’t encourage it, it’s past time to end the exploitation and criminalization of sex workers.

From Huffington Post: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country would not use nuclear weapons unless its sovereignty is infringed by others with nuclear arms, in a speech broadcast on Sunday, and set a five-year plan to boost the secretive state’s moribund economy.

He has all the qualifications needed for Rump Dump Trump to want him as a VP candidate.



Free Leonard Peltier!

May 072016

George is furious at TriMet.  We saw the lift bus pass the door three times yesterday, but we often see Lift buses that aren’t mine go by.  I called, and dispatch told me that the driver had come here at 12:35, and I was not here.  I told her that was untrue.  I’m guessing that the driver went to the wrong building, because I had been waiting in the lobby since 12:20.  I talked to customer service and filed a complaint.  I had to cancel my appointment with Sarah, and George did not get his new ankle.  I’ll have to reschedule, after I know what’s going on with my eye.  I’m getting a late start today, because Julie was here from 7:30 – 11:30,  She helped me shower.  I’m a pampered puddy tat.  Then we worked together to do the dreaded task, cooked a half a dozen chicken breasts, and did some light cleaning.  After she left, I had lunch and did my research.  I’m getting tired already.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:38 (average 4:48).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From YouTube (Jeff Merkley Channel): Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley outlines the ‘Stopping Abuse and Fraud in Electronic (SAFE) Lending Act,’ legislation to crack down on some of the worst abuses of the payday lending industry and protect consumers from deceptive and predatory practices that strip wealth from working families.


Oregon and Senator Jeff Merkley still lead the way!!

From Daily Kos: Cassandra McWade got into a car accident on a stretch of highway in North Carolina. The 25-year-old McWade was fine, but her car wasn’t in any shape to drive and she needed a tow. Enter self-described “conservative Christian” Kenneth Shupe. He’s the tow truck driver that was called in to help McWade out.

When he saw “a bunch of Bernie Sanders stuff” he said he told the woman, “very politely,” that he could’t tow her car because she was “obviously a socialist” and advised her to “call the government” for a tow.

"Every business dealing in recent history with a socialist minded person I have not gotten paid," Shupe said. "Every time I deal with these people I get ‘Berned’ with an ‘e’ not a ‘u’."

Holy. Shit. There are too many things wrong here. First, should McWade call the government that employs tons of tow truck operators and pays for their services with citizens’ money? Second, I’m not calling Kenneth Shupe a liar when he says that “socialist minded” people have not paid him but let me put it this way—Kenneth Shupe is a liar.

Shupe, who runs Shupee Max Towing in Travelers Rest, said he is a conservative Christian who supports Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Shupe said he has drawn a line in the sand not to do business with Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

Trump supporters reflect the love passed down from their Fuhrer, Rump Dump Trump.

From NY Times: In a Europe struggling with a rise in Islamophobia, riven by debates about the flood of Syrian migrants and on edge over religious, ethnic and cultural disputes, London has elected its first Muslim mayor.

Sadiq Khan — a Labour Party leader, a former human rights lawyer and a son of a bus driver from Pakistan — was declared the winner after a protracted count that extended into Saturday. He will be the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital.

The victory also makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West.

If Rump Dump is elected, he would make the Mayor of London ineligible to visit the US.



Apr 082016

My new A/C is certainly powerful enough to cool my tiny place.  It’s also very loud, and the noise bothered me last night.  I’m sure I’ll get use to it, and after a night of three, I won’t even hear it.  I’m about to leave to go to PT with Courtney.  Later.  Back and pooped.  George needs an ankle adjustment.

Jig Zone Puzzle:

Today’s took me 2:48 (average 4:45).  To do it, click here.  How did you do?

Short Takes:

From The Guardian (H/T Daily Kos):A group of Polish women walk out of a church service to protest against a proposed tightening of the country’s abortion laws. The video, posted on Facebook, shows the women leaving as a priest reads out a letter in favour of the ban. In Warsaw, thousands of people have attended a pro-choice rally outside parliament, after the leader of the ruling party backed a call from Catholic bishops for a full ban on pregnancy terminations.


It looks like Poland has Republicans that hate women too!

From Daily Kos: In disappointing Tuesday news, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race went to Rebecca Bradley, a conservative. Bradley beat progressive candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg in the non-partisan election. Wisconsin residents are now stuck with Bradley for the next ten years.

It’s a sad end to an ugly race, and an ugly type of race at that. Judicial elections are rife with problems as a general matter—politics, bias, secret money, and low voter engagement, to name a few. But in Wisconsin the elections have been particularly grimy.

Bradley is so Republican, she makes Nancy Grace seem like a progressive. This is how she won.

From Media Matters: A Media Matters investigation of the discredited right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the main source of baseless smears against, and false characterizations of, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, reveals a familial web of self-dealing between the organization, a major dark money funder of JCN called the Wellspring Committee, and a third nonprofit that also receives funding from Wellspring.



Nepotism’R’Us, Nepotism (R-US), or just plain Koch sucking?