Tuesday/ no deal, to Johnson’s no-deal Brexit

Stephen Castle writes from London, for the New York Times:
British lawmakers forced Johnson’s hand by voting by 328 to 301 to take control of Parliament away from the government and vote on legislation as soon as Wednesday that would block the prime minister from making good on his threat of a no-deal Brexit.

That prompted an angry response from the prime minister.
“I don’t want an election, the public don’t want an election, but if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on Oct. 17 to sort this out and take this country forward,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to the next European Union summit.

Comment from a Times reader. I agree 100%: easy to argue that representative democracy has run its course. Do members of the United States Congress think they can solve problems? They should not think so, because they cannot. (Affordable healthcare, mass shootings, climate change, broken immigration system, trillion dollar deficits, corrupting influence of money in politics, withdrawing the US from international treaties).  For all the so-called checks and balances built into the American democracy machinery: in 2016 it produced as President of the United States an incompetent, criminal, immoral monster called Trump. And now there is no opposition from the Republicans (the Trump party) for his monstrous policies. Time for a benevolent dictator instead?

Saturday/ what a crazy week ..

Rick Wilson writes in the New York Daily News:
“Our great American companies are hereby ordered…”
The subtle meter in Americans’ brains that tracks the degree to which the universe seems off its axis has been in a state of constant flux since Donald
Trump’s election in 2016, but this week the needle slammed hard into the peg on the right side of the gauge. Red warning lights are flashing across Washington as even the now-typical levels of uncertainty and political chaos reach epic proportions.

It’s almost as if we need a recalibration of the insanity of the Trump era, a new set of definitions about what comprises normal presidential behavior.

Because what’s happening now left normal five towns back, stopped for smokes and brown liquor, and tossed the GPS out the window. This week wasn’t normal, and no amount of whistling past the graveyard will make it any different.

This is the week in which Trump had wanted to buy Greenland, and insulted Denmark’s PM. He proclaimed himself ‘King of Israel’ and the ‘Chosen One’ (to deal with China, but is that not blasphemy?). He proposed on-again, off-again payroll tax cuts & capital gains tax indexing. Compared the Fed Chairman to Xi Jinping as an ‘enemy of the state’. The craziest one of all came on Friday: a tweet that ‘ordered’ – ordered? say whaaat? – all American companies to retreat out of China immediately. So now the USA is a command economy, run the way the dictators of Cuba and North Korea run theirs?

Wednesday/ about Greenland

I just had to check out Greenland again on my Earth globe (with the stupid and completely unnecessary flap created around it, and all ⁠— by You-Know-Who in the White House).

Greenland is the world’s largest island and is a semi-autonomous country of the Kingdom of Denmark. It has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium.

Greenland sits almost due north of the United States. It has some 56,000 inhabitants, 1/4 of which live in the capital, Nuuk. Ethnicity of its people: 88% Greenlandic Inuit (including Inuit-Danish mixed); 12% Danes and other Europeans. Insets: Coat-of-arms (a polar bear) and national flag.
It’s fun to use Google Streetview to do virtual tours of Greenland. In a few places they mounted the Streetview camera on a boat and recorded some views. This one in the bay by Narsaq.
Here is a little store in the capital Nuuk. Let’s see what the Danish translate into: Møbler: furniture, gaveartikler: gifts, slik & chokolade: sweets & candy, festartikler: party items, friske blomster: fresh flowers.
.. and a little Danish design flair for a new apartment building. Very nice.

Thursday/ where the brutality of American capitalism comes from

The New York Times has launched a project called the 1619 Project. ‘The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are’.

Here is an excerpt from an essay written by Matthew Desmond, professor of sociology at Princeton University for the Times’s 1619 Project.

‘Those searching for reasons the American economy is uniquely severe and unbridled have found answers in many places (religion, politics, culture). But recently, historians have pointed persuasively to the gnatty fields of Georgia and Alabama, to the cotton houses and slave auction blocks, as the birthplace of America’s low-road approach to capitalism.

Slavery was undeniably a font of phenomenal wealth. By the eve of the Civil War, the Mississippi Valley was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Cotton grown and picked by enslaved workers was the nation’s most valuable export. The combined value of enslaved people exceeded that of all the railroads and factories in the nation. New Orleans boasted a denser concentration of banking capital than New York City. What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on non-white people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above’.

Monday/ fake speech! fake speech!

Trump read something from the teleprompter today as a response to the mass shootings. I turned the TV off as soon as he came on.

Afterwards, I saw on Twitter that he couldn’t even read his fake speech right – a speech in which he blamed video games & mental illness for the shootings, and said nothing about any new legislation that could make a difference.

The teleprompter said “May God bless the memory of those who perished in Texas and Ohio….”. Trump read it as “May God bless the memory of those who perished in Toledo….” and didn’t even bother to correct himself. Picture from Reuters, tweet by Andrew Feinberg. 

Saturday/ Sandy Hook 2012, now already long gone

The massacres continue unabated here in the United States.
Saturday at an El Paso Walmart: 20 dead, dozens wounded. 
Early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio: 9 dead, 27 wounded.
Both are acts of domestic terrorism, committed by home-grown white nationalist Americans.

The Republicans and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell have repeatedly blocked laws passed by the House in the Senate.

The New York Times notes: “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate,” Dan Hodges, a British journalist, wrote in a post on Twitter two years ago, referring to the 2012 attack that killed 20 young students at an elementary school in Connecticut. “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

It should be noted, though, that in 2013, Connecticut State lawmakers did make sweeping changes to the state’s gun laws. It did not impact gun sales very much, but today Connecticut has one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation. (‘Lowest gun death rates’ is still a problem).

The United States of America with its lax gun laws: Awash in guns, awash in mass murderers. P.S. 2019 figures: 393 million guns in America, population 327 million.

Tuesday/ the Democratic debates, Round 2

CNN is hosting the second round of Democratic candidate debates this week. I played tennis and could not watch last night, but I saw the highlights.  The lowlights would be Trump’s Twitter responses that continued into Wednesday.

Here’s the dumbest man on television, commenting on the debates via his classic Twitter style: go for 4th grader insults that use ‘the worst’, ‘the dumbest’ .. and throw in distortions and lies. Side Note: New polls show that 51% of all Americans say that Trump is a racist. A shockingly high 46% say he is not.

Sunday/ a few ‘very fine’ people, marching

I encountered a small group of ‘very fine’* Trump supporters on Broadway today, flanked by a large contingent of police officers (to protect them from a much larger group of protesters, I suppose).

From where I was standing, a much larger group of people followed along on the opposite sidewalk, all the time yelling loudly ‘FASCISTS, GO HOME! FASCISTS, GO HOME!

*Trump’s characterization of the Charlottesville white nationalist protesters, made when he talked to the press on Aug. 15, 2017.

The little group of ‘very fine’ Trump supporters were all of 7 or 8 people. That’s the yellow Gadsden flag with the rattlesnake on, and the words ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ (so are you all snakes?). Two Trumpsters carried Stars & Stripes flags, and two had Trump flags.

Thursday/ Washington, we have a problem

The buzz on the cable news programs about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s un-spectacular testimony on Capitol Hill (about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016  Presidential  Election, continued on Thursday.

No question: Trump is 100% guilty of welcoming the help of the Russians, of then obstructing the investigation into it, and of repeatedly lying about it. But his Attorney-General and the Republicans under Senate Leader McConnell do not care, and are completely supporting Trump.

What will the Democrats do next? I say start impeachment hearings. I’m with Charles Blow that writes in the New York Times:

People were told that opening an impeachment inquiry would be a mistake because that’s what Trump wants to energize his base — particularly a failure to convict in the Senate — and that it would virtually guarantee his re-election.

None of this washes with me. While Democrats worry about tearing the country apart, Trump is doing just that in real time. His base doesn’t need further energizing; they’re juiced up on sexism, xenophobia, racism and nationalism.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to Adam Schiff, chairman of House Committee on Intelligence : ‘He (Mueller) persistently seemed – um – old’. Aw. (He’s 74). I have to agree, though. He looked worn out, and looked like a reluctant witness. Many of his answers were just ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ‘that is correct’. But he did say working with the Russians was ‘a crime’ .

Tuesday/ the United ‘Kingston’

There it is: Boris Johnson is the new Prime Minister of the United Kingston (per Ivanka Trump).

Can Johnson pull a rabbit out of the hat and deliver an orderly Brexit by Oct. 31?

Writes Roger Cohen in an opinion piece in the New York Times:
Johnson has played with his country, treating it like one of his many dalliances, with a sloppiness and fecklessness no wit or charm can excuse. He backed a British exit from the European Union on a whim — in the expectation it would be rejected — and has since become a pawn of the Brexit ultras, the crazed little-England monomaniacs who have now delivered him to 10 Downing Street.

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).