Friday, September 30, 2016

Duterte Deeds, Done Dirt Cheap Con't

Philippines President Manuel Duterte has gone from Manila's Trump to Manila's Hitler in the space of about three weeks, and I'm beginning to think that maybe it's not an act.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday that he would like to kill millions of drug addicts in the Philippines, defying international criticism of his country’s bloody war on narcotics and escalating his brutal rhetoric with a reference to the Holocaust. 
“Hitler massacred three million Jews,” Mr. Duterte said after returning to the Philippines from a trip to Vietnam, understating the toll cited by historians, which is six million. “Now there is three million, there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” 
Killing that number of drug users would “finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition,” he said. 
Since Mr. Duterte took office in June promising a grisly campaign against crime and drugs, the Philippines has seen a surge in killings of drug suspects.

Well then.  Publicly advocating mass genocide as a final solution in the war on drugs seems a bit...much.

Philippine officials have counted about 3,000 deaths during the crackdown, about a third at the hands of the police. 
The police spokesman Dionardo Carlos said on Friday that the police had been overstating the number killed by the police. He said that the correct number was 1,120, not about 1,500, which the police had given earlier. He did not explain why the number had been revised. 
The police have also said that 1,500 nonpolice killings are under investigation and that hundreds of these also are believed to be drug-related. 
Responding to expressions of alarm about the killings from the European Union and other international bodies, Mr. Duterte said Friday that the European Union’s advisers on the issue were “pea-brained.” He criticized European officials for finding fault with his government while not doing enough to help migrants fleeing war-torn Middle Eastern countries.

“You allow them to rot, and then you’re worried about the death of about 1,000, 2,000, 3,000?” he said. 
Mr. Duterte complained that his foreign critics had depicted him as “a cousin of Hitler” and said that they were wrong to criticize him now that he was the country’s president. Doing so put all Filipinos “to shame,” he said. 
The president’s latest provocative remarks came days after he cast doubt on the Philippines’ longstanding military ties with the United States, announcing in Vietnam that the countries’ coming joint military exercises would be their last. Officials in his government later said that all military agreements with the United States were still in effect and that they were awaiting “clarification and guidance” from Mr. Duterte.

Well, if you want to avoid the Hitler comparisons, perhaps one shouldn't openly say that you're going to emulate his actions.


Board Of Disapproval

If you're such an awful presidential candidate that you make USA Today actually pick sides in the race against you (something the studiously bland, noncontroversial and neutral newspaper has never before done) then you might be Donald Trump.

In the 34-year history of USA TODAY, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now.

This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.

From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.

Whether through indifference or ignorance, Trump has betrayed fundamental commitments made by all presidents since the end of World War II. These commitments include unwavering support for NATO allies, steadfast opposition to Russian aggression, and the absolute certainty that the United States will make good on its debts. He has expressed troubling admiration for authoritarian leaders and scant regard for constitutional protections.

That's as good as it gets for USA Today trying to save the Republic, for the paper still refuses to endorse any of the presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton.

Some of us look at her command of the issues, resilience and long record of public service — as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of State — and believe she’d serve the nation ably as its president.

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Where does that leave us? Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

I've got news for you.  Voting for either of the third-party candidates or a write-in (Hi Bernie!) isn't going to save the country from Trump: because of our electoral college system, only Clinton can do that.  It wouldn't kill the paper to say so, but I guess it would, sort of.

"Dear God don't vote for the actual fascist racist" is better than standing idly by, I guess.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Last Call For Another Post-Racial America Update

We're all fine here in post-racial America, everything's okay, after all racism died off with the Boomers or something and we certainly don't have to worry about Millennials acting like th....

A white student at East Tennessee State University was arrested and charged with civil rights intimidation on Wednesday after showing up to a campus Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask and handing out bananas to African American students.

Tristan Rettke, a freshman at the university, also carried a rope and a burlap sack painted with the Confederate flag and a marijuana leaf, according to WCYB
Rettke was first detained by campus police, then arrested and taken to Washington County Detention Center after discussion with public safety supervisors, campus administration and the District Attorney General’s office, WCYB reported. 
According to a Johnson City Police Department report obtained by WJHL, Rettke told officers he purchased the rope, bananas and gorilla mask on Tuesday after learning about the Black Lives Matter event on social media app Yik Yak. He then went to Wednesday’s protest “in an attempt to provoke the protesters,” the report noted.

Oh wait a minute, why should anyone be surprised after 400 years that we still have racist douchebags as America's true sustainable resource?

Racism didn't end, it's just getting on record here in the age of social media and instant news events.

Shutdown Countdown, Con't

Looks like House Republicans aren't anywhere near as stupid as I suspected they would be and have approved funding for combating the Zika virus and helping Flint as the Democrats win the day over Paul Ryan once again.

The House on Wednesday approved a bill to fund the federal government through December 9, averting a costly shutdown two days ahead of the deadline. 
The 10-week bill, which passed comfortably 342 to 85, now heads to the president’s desk and sends lawmakers back to their district early for campaigning. 
A majority of the Republican conference backed the bill, with just 75 Republicans opposing it. Ten Democrats voted against the bill.

Lawmakers agreed to keep federal agencies running through Dec. 9, while also funding a $1.1 billion emergency aid package to halt the spread of the Zika virus. Flood-stricken regions in Louisiana, West Virginia and Maryland will also receive a half-billion dollars. 
The months-long marathon to fund the government turned into a sprint Wednesday as lawmakers raced toward the exits. The pre-election adjournment comes just a few weeks after Congress was out of session for a two-month summer recess. 
The Wednesday evening vote caps a dramatic 24 hours of deal-making led by House SpeakerPaul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Both chambers signed off on the stopgap spending bill, just one day after the same bill was soundly rejected in the Senate. 
The bill collapsed in the upper chamber on Tuesday mostly due to Democrats’ gripes about Republicans leaving out money to deal with lead contamination in Flint, Michigan while agreeing to fund flood relief in other states. 
The dispute over Flint funding was swiftly – and quietly – resolved late Tuesday evening by Ryan and Pelosi, who huddled twice to work out an agreement. 
House GOP leaders agreed to waive a budget rule to put $170 million for Flint in a separate water resources bill in exchange for Democratic support to clear the continuing resolution.
A bipartisan amendment authorizing the Flint aid sailed through the House Wednesday afternoon on a 284-141 vote.
So now the House bill will go back to the Senate and we're not out of the woods yet,  It's still possible that Mitch and company could sink this bill again, or that Ted Cruz could step in and wreck the whole deal.

We'll see.  Less than 48 hours now.

The Orange And The Red

Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald continues to chase down Donald Trump's sordid financial past dealings and this week we discover that America's newest hero of trade protectionist policies and capitalist freedom violated the US embargo on Cuba in the late 90's to deal with the Castro brothers.

A company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly. Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after-the-fact to a charitable effort.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.

At the time, Americans traveling to Cuba had to receive specific U.S. government permission, which was only granted for an extremely limited number of purposes, such as humanitarian efforts. Neither an American nor a company based in the United States could spend any cash in Cuba; instead a foreign charity or similar sponsoring entity needed to pay all expenses, including travel. Without obtaining a license from the federal Office of Foreign Asset Control before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of federal law, trade experts say.

Officials with the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not respond to emails seeking comment on the Cuba trip, further documentation about the endeavor or an interview with Trump. Richard Fields, who was then the principal in charge of Seven Arrows, did not return calls seeking comment.

But a former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said the company did not obtain a government license prior to the trip. Internal documents show that executives involved in the Cuba project were still discussing the need for federal approval after the trip had taken place.

OFAC officials say there is no record that the agency granted any such license to the companies or individuals involved, although they cautioned that some documents from that time have been destroyed. Yet one OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, said the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino was “essentially zero.”


In other words, Double-Dealing Donald broke the law, big time, sending a team of consultants to scout out Havana as casino territory while screaming he would never spend a dime in Castro's Communist Cuba. I bet South Florida Republicans are going to be really happy with this news, especially since Trump launched his initial 2000 third-party presidential bid in Miami as Bill Clinton was taking the first steps to try to loosen the embargo.

He wanted in on Cuba cash 16 years before Obama made it cool, and in the end he lied to try to make it look like a charity operation to hide his true intent of looking for a way to open a casino with international partners.

Seems like Trump has a seriously long history of using charities as fronts for his scams.  No wonder Republicans have been attacking the Clinton Foundation since Trump got into the race.

We'll see how this plays nationally but I'm betting this story is going to get noticed "bigly" where it will hurt Trump the most: Florida's poll numbers.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last Call For Still Putin Us On

International prosecutors have laid out the case this week that the missile that shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 two years ago over Ukraine was indeed a Russian weapon system launched by pro-Putin rebels in the area.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile fired from a launcher brought into Ukraine from Russia and located in a village held by pro-Russian rebels, international prosecutors said on Wednesday. 
The findings counter Moscow's suggestion that the passenger plane, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by Ukraine's military rather than the separatists. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch, were killed. 
The conclusions were based on thousands of wiretaps, photographs, witness statements and forensic tests during more than two years of inquiries into an incident which led to a sharp rise in tensions between Russia and the West. 
Among the key findings were: the plane was hit by a Russian-made Buk-9M38 missile; the missile was fired from the rebel-held village of Pervomaysk in eastern Ukraine; and the launcher was transported into Ukraine from Russia. 
"This Buk trailer came from the territory of the Russian Federation, and after the launch it was returned again to the territory of the Russian Federation," said Wilbert Paulissen, chief investigator with the Dutch national police. 
The Ukrainian government said the findings pointed to Russia's "direct involvement". Russia - which has always denied Moscow or pro-Russian rebels were responsible - rejected the prosecutors' conclusions, saying they were not supported by technical evidence and the inquiry was biased.

Except they are completely supported by the evidence.  Oops.

Look, Putin got caught here and Russia is scrambling to fix it, period.  Not doing such a great job of it either.

Sure hope the next president can deal with him.

The Kids Are Not Alright, Con't

Millennials aren't planning to show up at the polls in November, and that's a big, big problem.  Gallup checks the intent of the body politic:

Democrats and independents who lean Democratic currently report giving the same level of thought to the election as they did in September 2012 (70%), whereas thought given is down slightly among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, from 81% to 75%. At the same time, intent to vote is down by a similar proportion among both party groups.

Still, by 76% to 65%, Republicans remain more likely than Democrats to say they will definitely vote -- a gap that is similar to 2012, but higher than in previous elections. Further, the 65% of Democrats saying they will definitely vote is well below their average for the prior four presidential elections (77%), whereas the 76% of Republicans saying they will definitely vote is only a bit lower than their prior average (81%).

That's not a good thing.  Here's where it gets worse:

Percentage Saying They Will Definitely Vote ("10"), by Age
Polls conducted in September of each year


U.S. adults7478807569
18 to 346067745847
35 to 547781817972


We have a new 47% problem this election.  A quarter of  under 35 voters who definitely planned to vote in September 2008 now don't give a damn anymore.  In 2008, I was one of them, out in the cold at an Obama rally in Cincy, heading back to vote for him in Kentucky in November of that year.

Now?  Those college kids at that rally eight years ago are more jaded than I'll ever be, it seems.

A Story About A Boy

Medical technology, particularly genetic technology, has come a long way in my lifetime.  I remember in high school doing a paper on the then young Human Genome Project, and now a quarter-century after that milestone was launched we have the first instance of a child born using a new technique allowing two parents with a third providing mitochondrial DNA.

The controversial technique, which allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies, has only been legally approved in the UK. But the birth of the child, whose Jordanian parents were treated by a US-based team in Mexico, should fast-forward progress around the world, say embryologists.

The boy’s mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the developing nervous system. Genes for the disease reside in DNA in the mitochondria, which provide energy for our cells and carry just 37 genes that are passed down to us from our mothers. This is separate from the majority of our DNA, which is housed in each cell’s nucleus.

Around a quarter of her mitochondria have the disease-causing mutation. While she is healthy, Leigh syndrome was responsible for the deaths of her first two children. The couple sought out the help of John Zhang and his team at the New Hope Fertility Center in New York City.

Zhang has been working on a way to avoid mitochondrial disease using a so-called “three-parent” technique. In theory, there are a few ways of doing this. The method approved in the UK is called pronuclear transfer and involves fertilising both the mother’s egg and a donor egg with the father’s sperm. Before the fertilised eggs start dividing into early-stage embryos, each nucleus is removed. The nucleus from the donor’s fertilised egg is discarded and replaced by that from the mother’s fertilised egg.

But this technique wasn’t appropriate for the couple – as Muslims, they were opposed to the destruction of two embryos. So Zhang took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer. He removed the nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg – with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor – was then fertilised with the father’s sperm.

Zhang’s team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later. “It’s exciting news,” says Bert Smeets at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The team will describe the findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress in Salt Lake City in October.

Neither method has been approved in the US, so Zhang went to Mexico instead, where he says “there are no rules”. He is adamant that he made the right choice. “To save lives is the ethical thing to do,” he says.

The team seems to have taken an ethical approach with their technique, says Sian Harding, who reviewed the ethics of the UK procedure. The team avoided destroying embryos, and used a male embryo, so that the resulting child wouldn’t pass on any inherited mitochondrial DNA. “It’s as good as or better than what we’ll do in the UK,” says Harding.

It's that last couple paragraphs that should remind us all that science always tends to be ahead of legislation. Ethical questions aside, we need a group of educated lawmakers in a representative democracy system in order to make determinations on subjects such as this, and our current Congress isn't anywhere close to meeting that criteria, not when one party, which currently controls Capitol Hill, is happy to flaunt how anti-science it is at every turn.

We need better lawmakers.  Of course, that goes without saying.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Last Call For Reparation Nation

The history of slavery in the United States justifies reparations for African Americans, argues a recent report by a U.N.-affiliated group based in Geneva.

This conclusion was part of a study by the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, a body that reports to the international organization's High Commissioner on Human Rights. The group of experts, which includes leading human rights lawyers from around the world, presented its findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday, pointing to the continuing link between present injustices and the dark chapters of American history.

"In particular, the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the United States remains a serious challenge, as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent," the report stated. "Contemporary police killings and the trauma that they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynching."

Citing the past year's spate of police officers killing unarmed African American men, the panel warned against "impunity for state violence," which has created, in its words, a "human rights crisis" that "must be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The panel drew its recommendations, which are nonbinding and unlikely to influence Washington, after a fact-finding mission in the United States in January. At the time, it hailed the strides taken to make the American criminal justice system more equitable but pointed to the corrosive legacy of the past.

"Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today," it said in a statement. "The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population."

Such masterful understatement on the part of the Post's Ishaan Tharoor.

In all seriousness, this is going to go straight to the top of Trump's list of things to talk about here in the last few weeks of the election, Alex Jones and company are going to have a field day with this and the "nonbinding" report will almost certainly draw another round of GOP outrage to attempt to defund the UN, all while screaming that the One World Gubment is going to tax white America at 95% to pay for 400 years of sins.

Me, I'd settle for 75%.

The Shutdown Countdown Returns

Don't look now, but we've got about three days and change for GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to get their crap together and stop the government from shutting down at midnight on Friday night, and it doesn't look likely at all that Republican leadership can even get their own party on board.

Congress has until midnight on Friday to pass legislation funding the government as the fiscal year draws to a close. The process could get a little messy. 
Many Senate Democrats — and some Republicans — have said they intend to oppose a short-term funding bill proposed by Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, setting the stage for a legislative scramble to avoid a government shutdown. 
Among other things, Democrats are objecting that the legislation provides no money to deal with water contamination in Flint, Mich., located in a state with two Democratic senators, while it includes funds that could go for flood relief in Louisiana, which is represented by two Republicans. A test vote is set for Tuesday, and a rejection of the McConnell plan could make it difficult to find a new compromise in time to avert a shutdown. 
Mr. McConnell will no doubt do what he can to avoid that situation, since he has made it a priority to evade such government disruptions, particularly with the election just over a month away. Democrats, aware of his predicament, will try to use their leverage to the full extent possible. 
The fight is something of a surprise since it initially appeared that lawmakers would provide the funding to keep the government open until Dec. 9 with little conflict.

Sure, that was until Republicans in the right-wing Freedom Caucus realized in the era of Trump that they could blow up the place and still get all the praise.  I'll keep an eye on this of course but I would think that Paul Ryan isn't exactly going to be able to handle this very well, and Republicans stiffing Flint in an election year will pretty much wreck the notion that Trump and the GOP give a damn about "working class America", not that they ever did.

Please proceed, gentlemen.

The Great Debate Debate

Last night's debate was one of the most watched in history, and what ten of millions of American voters saw was Hillary Clinton winning...or more accurately, Donald Trump getting stomped.

PPP's post debate survey, sponsored by VoteVets Action Fund, finds that voters nationally think Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the debate, 51/40.

Perhaps most important for Clinton is that among young voters, who she has under performed with, 63% think she won the debate to only 24% for Trump. 47% of voters in that age group said the debate tonight made them more likely to vote for her, to only 10% who say it made them less likely to vote for her. For Trump with that group on the other hand, only 23% said the debate made them more likely to vote for him to 39% who said it made them less likely to.

Clinton also won the debate by particularly wide margins with women (54/36) and voters who are either African American or Latino (77/13). Among white voters the debate was basically a draw with Trump coming out ahead 47/45.

Clinton emerges from the debate with clear advantages over Trump on temperament, preparedness to be President, and whether she can be trusted with nuclear weapons:

-By a 17 point margin, 55/38, voters say Clinton has the temperament to be President. On the other hand, by an 11 point margin, 42/53, voters say Trump does not have the temperament to be President. Among independents the gap is even wider- by a 56/36 spread they say Clinton has the temperament for the job, while by a 41/54 spread they say Trump does not.

-By an 11 point margin, 52/41, voters say Clinton is prepared to be President. On the other hand, by a 10 point margin, 42/52, voters say Trump is not prepared to be President.

-By a 21 point margin, 56/35, voters say they think Clinton can be trusted with nuclear weapons. On the other hand, by a 9 point margin, 42/51, voters say they think Trump can not be trusted with nuclear weapons.

It was that bad, folks.  Trump spent the first half-hour interrupting Clinton relentlessly, while Clinton baited Trump time and time again and he could not resist, all but admitting he paid no federal taxes because he was bragging about how "smart" he was to dodge the IRS, advocating for the invasion of North Korea, and completely mangling America's nuclear policy.

In other words, if Trump's plan was to capitalize on the recent polls and take the lead, he ran into cold, hard reality last night.  Clinton pushed his buttons and by the end of the night Trump was screaming at her.

Even Politico's Glenn Thrush thought Trump got smoked.

There were a couple of not-so-very-subtle signals here inside of Hofstra University that Donald Trump lost Monday night’s highly-anticipated debate against Hillary Clinton, and badly.

The first was the audible sound of groaning by some of his supporters (picked up by my attentive colleague Steve Shepard) inside the debate hall as Trump meandered self-defensively through a succession of answers against a very focused, very energized and very well-rehearsed Hillary Clinton.

Another tell: After the 90-minute sparring match finished, Clinton’s team practically bounded into the spin room – more in glassy-eyed disbelief than visible elation that things had gone so much better than expected. The GOP nominee’s people, by contrast, dribbled into the media pen like surly seventh-graders headed for homeroom the day before summer vacation. “F—k, let’s do this,” a prominent Trump surrogate said before diving into a scrum.

Trump and his new-ish messaging team have labored mightily to turn the avatar of populist rage into a reasonable facsimile of someone who you could see sitting in the Oval Office. But this best-laid plan unraveled on Monday – amid Clinton’s steely assault and the dignified interrogation of NBC’s Lester Holt, who struck a deft balance between facilitator, BS detector and lion tamer.

Within minutes of the opening bell, Clinton’s attacks forced domesticated Donald to go feral – he bellowed, interrupted her repeatedly, grunted, and toward the bedraggled end, became muted and pouty.

Another debate like that and the Village might even stop picking on Clinton for a while. 

We'll see.  The next clash is on Oct. 9 at Washington University, with the VP debate a week from today on Oct. 4th at Longwood University in Virginia.


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