Wednesday/ ‘That means he has no bones’

Trump: ‘I don’t have a racist bone in my body’.
Joe Biden, asked about it by a reporter: ‘That means he has no bones’.


It’s Wednesday, and the furor over Trump’s tweets from the weekend, urging four female members of color of the House of Representatives to ‘go back to their countries’ (all four are American citizens, of course) has not died down.

Hmm. Let’s see. The C fits Completely. The P? .. Probably, I would say. Picture tweeted by Michael James Schneider (on Twitter: Michael James Schneider@BLCKSMTHdesign).

Sunday/ Happy Pride!

Happy Pride! My friends and I checked in on the Seattle Pride Parade today, and here are a few pictures.

Here comes the Amazon contingent. (Very convenient that ‘Amazon’ has 7 letters that exactly match the number of colors in the gay rainbow flag!).
I loved the ‘pink unicorn’ walking with the Walmart delegation.
Drug manufacturer Gilead. The giant blue pill in the truck is the miracle HIV prevention pill called Truvada, that have already saved countless lives all over the world. Only thing is: in the United States a month’s supply cost health insurers a fortune (almost $2,000). Gilead generated global Truvada sales of nearly $3 billion last year, of which about $2.6 billion came from the United States. In Gilead’s defense: they have spent some $6 billion on HIV/AIDS research since 2000.
Yay! for University of Washington Medicine, and their beautiful big rainbow flags.

Thursday/ the second debate

Below are the other 10 Democratic candidates that debated tonight. I missed some of the debate, but Senator Kamala Harris (from California) did very well.  Joe Biden (76) and Bernie Sanders (77) – struggled a bit. Joe Biden was confronted by Harris, and Eric Swalwell (a mere 38) chided him for not ‘passing the torch’.

If I may say so, 76 or 77 seems a little old to make a bid for President of the United States (and 37 or 38 a little young) .. but if Biden or Sanders became the Democratic Party nominee, they will nonetheless have my unqualified support.

Wednesday/ the Democrats start debating

We watched the first of the two groups of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates debate tonight.

Nobody made a fool of himself or herself. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar both did very well. (Can they stand up to Donald Trump, though?).

Of the men? Texan Beto O’Rourke disappointed some commentators, and lost a mini-debate about the humanitarian crisis at the Mexican border, against fellow Texan Joaquin Castro. (They both spoke a little bit in Spanish as well. Impressive, but a risky strategy). Our own Washington State Governor, Jay Inslee, pushed for addressing climate change.

Monday/ your whole life is a scam

I finally cancelled my TIME magazine subscription, and got the last issue in the mail today.
Just as well, I thought: I do not need to see Trump on any magazine cover even one more time. Besides, I go to the library to read all kinds of newspapers and magazines.

NO. Your whole life is not a bet. Your whole life is a scam, a lie.

Saturday/ frying fish in South Carolina

It was South Carolina’s turn on Saturday to host the 2020 Democratic hopefuls in the state’s annual ‘World Famous Fish Fry’, originally started by SC House Rep. Jim Clyburn in 1992.

South Carolina hosts one of the early primary elections in Feb. 2020 (to determine who the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate is). It’s considered a key state in the primaries. Black voters make up 61% of the electorate.

The 2020 Democratic candidates posing on stage before the start of the Fish Fry debate. They each only had a short time, did not attack one another, and I agreed with just about everything they said- but man! there cannot be 24 candidates. There are two nights of televised debates this coming week that may help to thin out the field further. Of course: there is still 499 days to go before the election in November 2020. Crazy.  [Picture: CBS News].

Monday/ the anger in Hong Kong

An incredible two million people flooded the streets in Hong Kong this weekend, to continue to protest their government’s proposed extradition law (that will allow extradition of Hong Kongers to mainland China and other countries).

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was essentially selected by Beijing, and Hong Kong residents do not trust her. She has ‘postponed’ the legislation, but it has not been cancelled.

Reporting from today’s Washington Post.

Sunday/ 2020 Democrats swamp Iowa

There was a carnival of politics in the state of Iowa today, with 19 of the Democratic 2020 presidential candidates taking the stage at the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2019 Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids.

Each candidate had only 5 minutes to speak, though. Sigh. I just hope that the Democrats will pull out all the stops, hit up all their rich donors, and deploy social media campaigns and whatever else they can, to get Trump out of the White House.

My breakfast this morning. On the left, on Friday’s TIME magazine cover, is Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders (77) who was also in Iowa. I realized after I had taken the picture that I had quite a worldwide ensemble on the table: melamine tray from China, coffee mug from South Africa, with coffee from Colombia, bone china cereal bowl from Japan, oatmeal from Ireland, with blueberries from Canada, and walnuts from California.

Saturday/ no tariffs on Mexican goods (yay?)

Leave my Mexican avocados alone! I put them on my toast, almost every day.

If we are to believe Trump (I am not), his threat to slap a 5% tariff on all goods from Mexico, unless they do better at stopping migrants trying to reach the US border, had the desired effect.  (Trump tweeted Friday night that tariffs are now off the table, and that a last minute agreement with Mexico was reached).

Well, it turns out that much, or all of the terms of the ‘agreement’, were actually reached months ago between Mexican officials and the White House, says the New York Times (see below).

Wednesday/ covering up the cover-up

Are we seeing the disintegration of the Trump Presidency in slow motion?
Is this Trump’s ‘I am not a crook‘ moment à la Nixon? Time will tell.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Trump abruptly blew up a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday, declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him and lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up.

He then marched out into the Rose Garden, where reporters had been gathered, and delivered a statement bristling with anger as he demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with.” He said they could not legislate and investigate simultaneously. “We’re going to go down one track at a time,” he said.

Trump in the Rose Garden today, shamelessly lying, as he does pretty much every day. One could argue – and present tons of hard evidence – that most of what Trump has done his whole life, is to obfuscate and cover up (his unethical and illegal/ borderline-illegal activities in his public life and private life. The list is long. He covered up his payment to a sex worker (prostitute) right before the 2016 election. He covered up Don Jr’s June 2016 meeting with the Russians. Right now he tries to covers up his tax returns, his real estate deals he is probably making while he is President, and his shady dealings with Deutsche Bank. He covered up his conversations with Putin, with the Saudis. On and on and on.
Personal check from Trump to Michael Cohen, as reimbursement for the hush money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels. Trump lied when asked about it by a reporter on Air Force One. ‘I know nothing about it, you’d have to ask Michael Cohen’. Lying is one of Trump’s instincts; it’s compulsive and part of who he is. 

Monday/ the case to impeach: stronger than ever

Well, here is the first Republican congressman calling out Attorney General Barr’s foul play in misrepresenting the Mueller report, and calling for Trump’s impeachment. (See Justin Amash’s tweets below).

What Trump has done – documented in the Mueller report, with hard evidence – cannot stand in the United States of America’s democracy,  without consequences to him.

In addition, Trump and the White House staff is technically committing obstruction of justice every day now. They refuse to comply to subpoenas from Congress for Trump’s tax returns, and other records. They refuse to let former White House lawyer Don McGahn testify in Congress (Don McGahn’s testimony about Trump’s obstruction is written up in the Mueller report). Trump has even sued his own tax preparer and Deutsche Bank, to prevent them from supplying any financial records to Congress.

Time to start the impeachment proceedings.  It’s overdue.

Friday/ congratulations to Taiwan!

Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Thousands of gay rights supporters had gathered in the rain outside the parliament building in the capital, Taipei, to await the landmark ruling.

The Pew Research Center wrote up a report of gay marriage around the world, that has this nice map to show what progress has been made so far.

Germany and Australia were some high-profile additions to the roster of countries that have joined the list, both in 2017.
The map shows that there is clearly a lot of work still to be done in Asia and in Africa, though.

About two-thirds of the countries (18 of 28) in the world that has marriage equality are in Europe, but even there, there are notable exceptions: Italy and Switzerland. And no country in Central Europe has legalized gay marriage. Let’s also just note, that in some countries gay people are still actively persecuted, and former Soviet republic Chechnya, might be at the top of this list.

Thursday/ Times Square, then and now

I had a picture from twenty years ago, of a New York City street corner somewhere in Times Square, and I stubbornly used Google Street View until I finally found the place that I had taken the 1999 picture from.  It looks very different today!

P.S. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced he is running for President in 2020 today. The count of Democratic candidates is now at 23.

Here’s the April 1999 picture that I had taken. It turned out that the Subway neon sign (middle left) is still there today. And I could use the tall white building on the far right to verify this is the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue. P.S. Disney’s Lion King animated movie was released in 1994. Lion King as a musical debuted on stage in October of 1997, and has since become a monstrous success. By 2017 it had grossed some $8.1 billion.
Here is as close as I could get to the spot that I had stood on, for that picture of April 1999, in the latest Google Street View (Oct. 2018) images.  The Subway sign is still there, and a sliver of the white building in the 1999 picture can be made out down the street.

Friday/ the vote count in South Africa

I’m watching the vote count in South Africa, here.

With some 95% of the votes counted, the African National Congress (ANC) of the incumbent President of South Africa, has 57.7% (so towards the high end of expectations, but the worst result for them since 1994), and the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, has 20.7%.  Hopefully this is good enough for President Cyril Ramaphosa to clean house in the ANC (corruption), and to get the economy going.

The DA has carried its stronghold, the Western Cape Province, with 55.5% of the vote (down 4% from 2014), but elsewhere in other provinces, the strident and far-left Economic Freedom Front (EFF) party has made substantial gains.

This results dashboard is at https://www.elections.org.za/NPEDashboard/app/dashboard.html#
Picture with no caption posted on the Facebook page of the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). Let’s say the caption is ‘Pizza makes the world go round, and gets the results out!’.

Tuesday/ South Africa’s national elections

South Africa has a parliamentary system of government.
On Wednesday May 8, South Africans will elect a new National Assembly, and representatives for each of the 9 provincial legislatures.
The National Assembly consists of 400 members, elected by closed-list proportional representation.
Of these members, 200 are elected from national party lists.
The other 200 are elected from provincial party lists in each of the nine provinces.
The President of South Africa is elected by the National Assembly after the general election (held every 5 years).

What to watch for after Wednesday:
There is little doubt that the African National Congress will remain in power.
They got 62% of the vote in 2014, with their main opposition, the Democratic Alliance, a distant 22%.
For President Cyril Ramaphosa to continue his efforts to root out corruption in his own party, and get the South African economy going again, pundits say the ANC needs to get at least 55% of the vote, though (49% to 60% is projected).
The Democratic Alliance is hoping to hold on to its share of representatives (15% to 23% is projected), but that may be a challenge. They have the populist Freedom Front Plus party on their right that will draw away votes, and in the Western Cape province an ugly spat with the Mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, had her break away from the DA in 2018 to form her own party, the Good Party.

Cyril Ramaphosa has been President only since 18 December 2017 (his ANC party ousted the corrupt & incompetent Jacob Zuma). Mmusi Maimane has led the DA since 2015, and will almost certainly not win, but hopes to gain ground for the DA in the National Assembly. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The ANC has been the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa since the election of Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election, and its logo boasts the classic African colors of black, green and gold. Have they fulfilled their potential to elevate the life and well-being of left-behind South Africans in these 25 years, though? Short answer: No, they really have NOT. The DA does not have the storied history of the ANC, being branded only in 2000 – but it has its roots in the anti-apartheid Progressive Party which was founded in 1959. In some ways, they face the same challenges as the Democratic Party in the United States. Citizens should unite and feel they belong to one country; it’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ first. The outcome should be a better life for everyone, and not just for rich and privileged people at the expense of others.  [Graphic: Bloomberg News. Information about the DA from Wikipedia]
The campaign issues of the South African election 2019. For the incumbent party, the ANC, it’s not so much defections to other parties that will hurt them. Their voters will simply stay away and not go and vote. [Graphic: Bloomberg News]
The South African economy has come out of its recession, but that 1.4% growth is not nearly enough. It needs to be 5% or 6% to start to make a dent in the unemployment numbers. [Graphic: Bloomberg Terminal]
Here’s a run-down of what will happen on election day at election locations. 1. Identity document check for voter registration. 2. ID document scanned & paper slip given to voter. 3. Hand paper slip to election official. 4. Election official marks voter’s left thumb with indelible ink. 5. Voter receives a national ballot, and a provincial ballot. 6. Time to VOTE! Yay! Put an X against one of the whopping number of national parties (48!). I suspect the major ones are going to be listed at the top of the ballot. Also vote for a provincial representative on the other ballot. 7. Put your provincial ballot in the provincial box. 8. Put your national ballot in the national box. [Source: Die Burger]

Thursday/ the Mu███r Rep█rt is out██

The redacted Mueller report is out, and .. it confirms what we already know, with more details. Trump stonewalled and ultimately refused to be interviewed by Mueller. Trump lied to the public. His campaign staff lied to Mueller.  Mueller could not get to all the key evidence to prove obstruction of justice, and a conspiracy with the Russians. It was unavailable, encrypted or probably deleted or shredded (so much for the Presidential Records Act).

It’s now clear that Attorney-General Barr from the Dept of Justice is acting as Trump’s personal lawyer (he is not, and he should not).

It also looks as if the calculus of the Democrats to not call for impeachment until they know they will succeed in the Senate, is unchanged. Trump should be impeached, let’s just be clear about that – but maybe the Trumpkins (that used to be Republicans) deserve him as an albatross around their neck, all the way to the 2020 elections.

Here is a page from the Mueller Report (the blue highlight is mine) where it is explicitly pointed out that Congress can criminalize unacceptable conduct by the President (that would be Trump), because the US Constitution actually says so.
And here is a page with lots of redactions. ‘Harm to Ongoing Matter’ is one type of redaction. The others are ‘Personal Privacy’, ‘Investigative Technique’ and ‘Grand Jury’ (ongoing grand jury investigations into related matters). It looks like Congress is going to have to subpoena the Dept of Justice to get the full report. Is AG William Barr committing obstruction of justice by not giving Congress the full report? The law is an ass and this is a mess.

Sunday/ meet Pete

Well, it’s official: Pete Buttigieg (say ‘Boot-Edge-Edge’) kicked off his 2020 Presidential campaign today, in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

As the New York Times notes: ‘If elected, Mr. Buttigieg, a 37-year-old Rhodes scholar and veteran of the war in Afghanistan, would represent a series of historic firsts: the youngest president ever and the first who is openly gay’.

Not to mention that there will be a First Husband in the White House for the first time. (Of course: that will also be the case if one of the women candidates is elected as President).

It’s a very crowded race for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. We don’t know where the stock market will end up in 2020, and we certainly do not know at this point who will oppose Donald Trump and run him out of office. Here they are, the 18 Democrats that have officially announced that they are running for President for 2020. Notably missing, still: Joe Biden, VP under President Obama. It does not matter to me who wins the nomination: you sir, or you madam, you have my vote already. And I think my front lawn will look spectacular with each and every one of these campaign signs on it. [Pictures of candidates from a report in the New York TImes; lawn signs from a report on nbcnews.com]

Thursday/ Brexit .. will we ever see it?

So Brexit is now delayed until Oct 31 this year (yes, Halloween).
Will it be a trick or a treat?
The UK must participate in the upcoming elections to the European Parliament (if it fails to do that, the UK will leave the EU on June 1). The European Council also reiterated that there can be no reopening of the withdrawal agreement negotiations.

I propose, that we call it Brexit’, says this German ‘astrophysicist’ of the long-awaited, elusive image of a black hole. [Cartoon from German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, by cartoonist Schwalme].

Monday/ another candidate for 2020 .. go Democrats!

Wow, the Democratic candidates for President of the United States for the 2020 campaign have been jumping into the fray by the dozen and more. Tonight there was another, on Stephen Colbert’s Late Night Show. His name is Eric Swalwell and he is represents California’s 15th congressional district.  He is only 38 yrs old (got to be 35 to run for President), but he’s been a Congressman for 6 yrs, so that will help. I like him a lot. He’s been a regular guest on the cable news programs that I watch.

P.S. Psst! And for the first time ever, there will be a gay candidate running for President of the United States as well. I will write about him later. He is expected to announce his candidacy on Sunday April 14.

Congressman Eric Swalwell is on the left, with late night talk show host Stephen Colbert on the right. Swalwell will try to distinguish himself from the other Democratic Party candidates (and there may be as many as 20!), by making gun reform in the United States the primary issue that he will run on. (Background checks with no exceptions, ban assault rifles and start buying them back, start programs to try to prevent gang violence).