Kampot, Cambodia, US Politics

Dreary October in Kampot

 

 

It’s been a dreary October so far with rain every day for almost three weeks. Some people are getting that old cabin fever feeling, except it’s so warm, getting out and wet seems no big deal. It’s not like when you were a kid and purposely went out to wade and splash in the heaviest rain, but once you’re out there caught in a torrent, What the hell? Of course having lived in western Oregon where it’s cloudy and/or rainy and cold – well, cool anyway – for at least six months a year and worked outdoors for much of that time, I barely notice the rain. Paradoxically, while it’s warm enough to not mind the rain, it’s generally cool compared to other seasons, so quite comfortable, even if humidity is very high.

Since I’ve become Kampot’s official, unofficial weatherman, I’ve taken on the burden of reporting from the web and keeping track of local stats. To that end I have a simple five dollar plastic rain gauge to measure precipitation. It can’t go wrong, not like one digital gauge I had which read way off. I’ve got a weather station with indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity and barometer. In order to get an accurate outdoor temp I have what’s called a Stevenson box. It’s a wood box with louvers on all sides to allow air to flow through. It’s painted white to reflect all sunlight and has a small roof over it to prevent direct overhead sun and it’s 1.3 meters off the ground to prevent radiant heat from the ground affecting the reading. I caught a lot of flack for my (incorrect) readings before I got the Stevenson.

I generally use Weather Underground website for predictions, not because it’s necessarily more correct, but because it’s easier to use and the site goes into technical details about big storms and such, not that I understand all that much about the science, but it’s just

kinda interesting to get a glimpse of the deeper aspects of the game. It’s easy enough to get an accurate anemometer – wind gauge – but I’m lazy about getting it high enough to get a proper reading.

The Weather Underground Kampot page frequently says ‘station offline’ anywhere from 1 hour to 70 hours. In fact, we do have a station here but it’s inoperable, so where then do they get their information from? I assume Phu Quoc since it has the closest functioning station, but being an island, the weather, especially temperature and wind speed, is going to be much different than Kampot which is about 9 kilometers inland. Large bodies of water moderate temperature. When it’s hot, Phu Quoc will be a little cooler than Kampot, which will be a little cooler than inland. When it’s cool the opposite happens, locations on or near water will be a little warmer.

Every year is strange or different or exceptional when it comes to weather: no two years can ever be the same. Still, this year so far has been an odd one. There was an exceptional drought until May when we got 300mm. June and July were relatively light, but August was very heavy at 378mm until the 22nd when a 2 week very hot dry spell began. Then September came in at the lowest since May. Very odd. October is charging back. On October 17 we received nearly 90mm in less than 2 hours and more than 100 overall that day. It was a record, at least since I got my rain gauge three years ago. October’s on track to be the heaviest month.

I’m currently trying to manifest a couple more rain gauges to place around town since other people sometimes report much heavier rains than I do, but since they don’t have regulation gauges, it’s all anecdotal and impossible to confirm. Better yet would be to have personal weather stations hooked up to Weather Underground’s international network. For a ‘mere’ $450 – the cost of a semi-professional Davis weather station – Someone here could put Kampot on the weather map.

There is great confusion as to Cambodian climate, even official publications sometimes get our climate all wrong. I have a map put out by a government agency which has a graph that shows August as the rainiest month nationwide with September half as much and October almost nothing, when in fact the latter two are generally the heaviest months. In Phnom Penh and other points north it’s October which is the heaviest month. Even here in Kampot, different websites have diverse statistics. Like one says August is heaviest and another October.

It’s hard to pin down variables by month with so many differing numbers but annually, they’re relatively consistent. Phnom Penh receives about 1.4 meters of rain a year, most areas in the north a bit less. Kep gets 2.2 meters, Kampot 2.4 meters. Sihanoukville gets 3.5 meters and Koh Kong beats all with 3.8 meters a year… soggy town.

I’ve become the go-to guy for predictions since I’ve become Stan the Weatherman, but I’m not a meteorologist, I just report what I see or read. However you don’t need a weatherman to know that stormy conditions are ahead around the region and the world.

Thailand’s king has died after years of spending most of his time in the hospital. Next in line, the crown prince has said he wants to wait a year before he takes up his responsibilities (he’s too busy being a royal playboy and ass). As opposed to Bhumipol who was revered, Vajiralongkorn is widely reviled, hardly anybody likes him, but because of Thailand’s very strict Lese Majeste law it’s not possible to comment in public. Criticizing anyone in the royal family is an easy 15 year sentence and the current military government has been very zealous in finding and prosecuting offenders. If I were in Thailand, having made the above comments, I might be in for rough times.

Many people I talk to here are concerned about or are predicting unrest. The generals seem to have the situation under control, but intense anger remains in the opposition camp over having their consistent electoral wins hijacked by the military, which is backed by the Bangkok elite. The opposition reds fought hard: they haven’t gone away and neither have their grievances, though the elite is starting to catch on to the need to serve the whole population. For instance, a loyalist interviewed on radio, when referring to Taksin’s low cost health care for villagers, said, It’s a bitter pill but we have to swallow it, referring to the need to adopt the same policy. The guy was in agony over having to match Taksin’s generosity to the peasantry: it was no longer politically possible to ignore the wider people’s needs.

The military got its new constitution passed, partly because no campaigning against it was allowed. It gives the military virtual veto power over legislation and it included an electoral system which makes it hard for a single party to win a majority. Taksin was the first and only leader to receive an absolute majority in the history of Thai elections and he or his party did it multiple times. Many expats who’ve spent time in Thailand despise Taksin and insist that he only won by buying votes, but I don’t buy it. He might’ve been the country’s richest person, but the Bangkok establishment aren’t exactly paupers either. What’s more, buying votes is a long Thai tradition. When I lived there, it was common knowledge that all the parties did it.

Repression only works so long, especially with a people so used to demonstrating and voicing their opinions. And with no king to calm things down, to prevent conflagration and confrontation, there may be some fireworks ahead on our western border.

As a lifetime lefty, I give Taksin a lot of credit for thinking about the masses. People who hate him say he only did it to gain power, that he really didn’t care. That may be true but regardless, he’s the first one to take their needs into account. Taksin haters should hate the ruling class; i.e., themselves, for being so stupid and clueless that it never occurred to them to think about the needs of the proletariat and the electoral advantage that would give them.

Taksin on the other hand was thoroughly corrupt: he had a special law enacted to allow him to sell his billion dollar telecom empire without paying taxes. He was also a mass murderer. The focus now is on Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for extrajudicial killing of ‘drug dealers’ but Taksin wrote the playbook on that one. 2500 people were killed in the first few months of his administration. Say what you will about the awfulness of drugs and the need to suppress their use and distribution if you believe that’s appropriate, but when 2500 people die without benefit of a fair trial and the ability to defend themselves, you can be absolutely certain that somewhere between 5% and 20% were either innocent or guilty of crimes so insignificant they would at most net a short stint in jail or rehab in an advanced country. So then, how many good guys is it okay to kill for every 100 bad guys removed from society? Is there a point at which the sacrifice of good guys goes too far? What’s acceptable? One innocent for every 100 guilty? Ten for every 100? Twenty?  Is any number acceptable?

When Obama cautioned Duterte about his killing spree, the latter told Obama to butt out, said the Philippines wasn’t America’s colony anymore and called him what’s variously translated as a son of a bitch or son of a whore. In another tirade he told Obama to go to hell. He also said he didn’t care if 3 million died. Wow, only Hitler could claim a bigger genocide than that. The country’s drug office estimates there are 1.8 million addicts in the Philippines, not even 2% of the population. All that spilled blood for 2%.

Duterte toned down his murderous rhetoric very quickly after the head of the International Criminal Court suggested she was going to look into the situation there. Suddenly he didn’t know anything about it. Mass murder is a crime against humanity. Brought to trial he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison, and deserve every minute of it.

When a government spokesperson was asked, What about alcohol and gambling? He could only muster a blank stare. As if alcohol doesn’t cause more problems than illegal drugs. Besides it’s the illegality of drugs which causes most of the problems associated with them. If they were legal they’d cost a lot less and people who need them wouldn’t have to commit illegal acts to get their fixes. There’d be no gangs and mafia to run the trade. Gambling has destroyed many lives, turned many families into paupers. How about arresting people for being fat, obesity takes years off your lifespan.

America has its own Duterte, aka, Trump. And he could easily have become US president if he weren’t so much a boor, buffoon and serial abuser. I know I’m making an assumption here in the third week of October, but the composite polls have Hillary with a 96% chance of winning. She was at less than 60% chance about a month ago, but his awful first debate performance followed by his grossly inappropriate bragging about sexual abuse started the dive. The only other presidential candidate in the history of polling to achieve Trump’s abysmal approval ratings is Clinton, though she fares just a bit better, so if he were just halfway plausible presidential material he could’ve had it. Now with him whining about the election being rigged by the media and vote stealing by Hillary, thus firing up his base with barely veiled calls for violence, there could easily be turmoil after the election. Democrats were angry enough after Bush stole the 2000 election but liberals aren’t the type to take up arms.

Fact is, Hillary did steal primary elections: In the Massachusetts primary every precinct with hand counted ballots went for Bernie, every precinct with machines that can be manipulated went for her. In a state with more than 7000 precincts, astronomical odds. Anyway in a close race, she would’ve needed those thieving skills, because of the Repugs long history of election theft. The first Repug to steal an election was Chuck Hagel, senator from Nebraska. Leading up to the election the Dem was ahead in all the polls and was ahead in exit polls on election day. But he won in a landslide, even winning by a large margin in the state’s few African-American precincts, which had never voted Repug before. After the election it turned out he was part owner of the company that ran the election. Many elections in the US have been outsourced to the private sector. All the companies who run elections are owned by Repugs. Their machines leave no paper trail and the software code is proprietary so the people aren’t allowed to see how the machines work or if anything is amiss. A perfect scam and the decider of many recent elections.

As for the accusation of media bias, that’s rich coming from a candidate that was showered with free time during the primaries. ABCs nightly newscast devoted 82 minutes to Trump in 2015, while giving only 20 seconds to Sanders, even though Sanders drew more people to his events than any other candidate on either side. The CEO remarked that Trump might be bad for the country but he was great for the company’s bottom line, so he was happy to pump up Trump on prime time.

The good thing is Trump is destroying the Repug party, pitting the know-nothings against the batshit crazies. Some Repugs think it’ll take a decade for the party to recover. Democrats will also be in turmoil after putting in office a person in the top job who’s widely reviled and despised. If you think Obama’s divided the country and brought gridlock to congress, she’ll be a lightning rod of anger, vitriol and discontent. The Dems could’ve had someone who was loved and respected across the board, but they chose old-style status quo politics, just what supporters of both Bernie and Trump were railing against. Being a corporate whore, she’ll be bad for the country, but still far superior to Trump. At least she’s presidential material; he’s an upchuck of mental diarrhea.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike her and her politics, but if there was one reason, if there was only one reason to vote for her it’s the supreme court. Justices are appointed for life. Considering the present make up of the court and that two of the oldest members are liberals, if she gets in there’ll be a 5 to 4 majority of liberals. If Trump were to win it’d be 7 to 2 or 6 to 3 conservative and the country would be set back at least a generation.

 

Standard
Bernie Sanders, Economics, Hillary Clinton, US Politics

Democratic Party Death Wish

 

 

The Democratic party is trying it’s best to become irrelevant by trying to rig the primary process to nominate the choice of the establishment rather than the choice of the people. This is an extension of a process that’s been pervasive and long-lasting. A recent study showed that the majority’s desires had nothing to do with legislative outcomes.

 

Single-payer health care is the prime example. Several prominent Democrats in Colorado are working to defeat a single-payer ballot measure there. Who are they working for? Who do they represent? For years now polls have consistently shown that single-payer is favored by about 90% of Democrats and close to 60% of the population as a whole, and yet Clinton says it’s impossible! can never happen! as she mimics an aide to Obama in 2008 who called it ‘pie in the sky’. The fact that 90% of their constituency want it, the people who voted them in office, seems to have no bearing on their position.

 

Pie in the sky is what the pharmas and health insurance companies get in the present system… medication that costs a few dollars in a place like India can cost hundreds of dollars in the US. Here’s an outrageous example that doesn’t even involve prescription meds. Here in Cambo I have a toe fungus problem about 10 months a year from the heat and humidity. In the US a tiny 1.5 gram tube costs a minimum 6 dollars. Here in Cambodia I can get a 10 gram tube made in Malaysia for 65 cents, that’s about 80 times less. A 20 gram tube made in India costs 50 cents, or about 200 times less. Not patented, not prescription, just a total, unconscionable rip-off.

 

The current for-profit health care system takes 17% of US GDP and even with Obamacare still leaves millions uncovered and millions more under covered. Even with Obamacare the largest number of bankruptcies are caused by medical bills and the largest percentage of those were people who had insurance, but couldn’t make the co-pays.

 

The next most costly health care system in the developed world takes about 11% of GDP. In that system all people are covered and they have better outcomes than the US. So tell me again why single-payer is impossible. Impossible for Hillary to support because she gets her money from the industries that don’t want it.

 

When confronted by the $24 million dollars in speaking fees she earned from the corporate elite between 2013 and 2015 she insisted that that had no effect on her politics. At first I thought that seemed absurd, who could believe that? But then on further reflection, I realized she’s right: That’s the way she thinks, that money was immaterial.

 

Why is it the Demo party establishment is so wedded to Hillary as the nominee that they will game and rig the system and steal votes in several states? For instance, in the Massachusetts primary every single precinct that used paper ballots went for Bernie, every single one that had machines went for Hillary. Now tell me how that could be a coincidence in a state with thousands of precincts.

 

It’d be one thing if she was well liked and popular, but she’s looked on unfavorably by 55% of the population and for whatever reason, reasonable or otherwise, a lot of people hate her. Her policies and politics don’t represent the heart of the party or the populace as a whole and yet they’ve done everything in their power to stifle and squash Sanders, the one candidate who does represent the people. Sanders is the one candidate with a net favorability and beats Trump by a larger percentage than Hillary. Lately Trump is beating Clinton in the polls.

 

The Democratic National Committee started out trying to harm Sanders by scheduling few debates and having them at times when people were not likely to watch. That served their purpose in maximizing Hillary’s votes in the early southern contests when many people hadn’t heard much of him yet. Large numbers of superdelegates picked her before most states had even voted and some said they’d vote for her even after the state they represent had voted for Bernie.

 

She represents the old, the past of the two party system that has no interest in what the people want. Bernie consistently has gotten the majority of the youth vote, in some cases up to 85% of under 30 votes have gone for him. He represents the future. In open primaries where independents, who now make up 44% of the electorate, are allowed to choose which party primary they want to vote in, he consistently wins. Hillary likes closed primaries where only Dems can vote, but they are now only 29% of the population. No candidate can win without the independent vote.

 

It’s still time for the Demo establishment to come to its senses, but I fear they’d rather go down with Hillary than actually represent and serve the people.

 

 

Standard
Bernie Sanders, US Politics

Feeling the Bern

 

A lot of people are pessimistic about the chances of Bernie Sanders to become president. There are good reasons for that. The first is that the corporate media have blacked him out. In the worst case, since the beginning of the year, ABC World News has given 81 minutes of air time to Trump, only 20 seconds to Bernie, in spite of the fact that they both have about the same level of support. Another is that the Democratic National Committee, which is charged with electing Democrats and has the responsibility for arranging the primary debates, is trying its best to scuttle his chances by holding the debates at times when the fewest people are likely to tune in. Like in Iowa when there was a big football game happening, or on Saturday night before Christmas. They want to minimize his exposure to benefit Clinton.

A third is the sheer audacity of thinking an old Jewish socialist can be elected president. Really, can that be possible? Lastly Hillary has a commanding lead in nationwide polling. However, she has the same lead over Sanders at this point in the campaign as she did over Obama back in 2007 and we all know how that worked out. And who would’ve thought back in 2006, two years before the 2008 election, that a half-black man would be elected president? Impossible to imagine. And yet, unimaginable things do happen in politics sometimes.

Nationwide polling shows that Bernie beats every Repug and is ahead of Trump by 13 points, a veritable landslide. Not only that but he’s ahead of every Repug by a wider margin than Hillary; 6 points ahead of her against Trump. Her problem is that a large sector of voters don’t trust her. You can expect that of Repugs, but it’s also true of independents, who are now a larger group than people who identify with individual parties.

The Repug clown show are all pretty much batshit crazy, with the Trumpster leading the pack: a godsend for the Dems since no matter how much he is loved by regressive Repugs, he could never win over the majority of voters. Especially after alienating so many minority voters. Like it or not, minority voters are an increasing share of the American electorate. Elections cannot be won strictly on middle class, middle American or southern Americans. Of course there’s always fraud. Obama won his two contests by a wide enough margin to overcome dishonest counting. That’s the challenge of any Dem campaign.

Meanwhile Sanders draws the largest crowds of any candidate on either side and has recently broken a record in the number of individual contributors. He doesn’t take corporate money, nor does he need it as long as he can maintain his momentum through social media and personal experience. He also speaks to the majority of voters when he advocates single-payer health care and free tuition in public higher education, for instance.

Polls have consistently shown that Americans as a whole like single-payer by a wide margin and Dems like it by about 90%. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky, as suggested by one of Obama’s flacks, as long as the president is willing to take on the insurance industry. And who could be against free higher ed when the cost is a trifling $62b, one tenth of the military budget. As mentioned in a recent post, a small number of America’s wealthiest people could cover that cost for a decade and they’d still have billions and billions to play with, more than any human being could ever really need or have use for. Meanwhile every American who’s shut out of higher education because of the cost or fear of assuming immense student loan debts, is a loss to the society.

Hillary is starting to get nervous, she’s been shunted aside before. As a result, in the last debate she turned hard right to denounce those two proposals claiming they will cost trillions of dollars, trillions I tell you! Technically she’s right about single-payer since there’d need to be a new tax to pay for it, and she’s talking about the ten year cost, but in reality it’s a lie and obfuscation since the overall cost to society would be reduced by about $400 billion per year. That’s because a very large proportion of hospital costs involves filling out insurance forms. Also 15 to 20% of health care costs go for insurance company profits while the administrative cost of Medicare – single-payer for seniors – is down around 3%.

Finally it’s an absolute travesty of justice and fairness that the Repugs in congress have prohibited Medicare from negotiating with the Pharmas for cheaper drugs. They can charge whatever they want, like the supreme asshole hedge fund dickhead who raised the price of one dose of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750 and later, to enshrine his magnificent greed in infamy, said he should have raised it more. He did back down and now is being pursued by the government for stock fraud… couldn’t happen to a nicer fellow.

Single-payer is more than just hassle free, debt free health care; it also allows people to change jobs easily since many Americans are stuck in jobs they dislike because they’re afraid to lose their insurance. And with so many Americans working in the part time/on call economy they’d at least not have to worry about health care. Hillary, thus, has come down hard on the side of the insurance industry. Even with Obamacare the majority of people filing for bankruptcy do so because of health care costs, and a majority of those actually had health insurance but couldn’t afford the co-pays. Obamacare is only incrementally better than the previous setup. It’s a bastardized, half-assed patchwork of most people getting minimal coverage and some still getting nothing at all. It needs to die a speedy death and replaced with a system designed for the benefit of all the people as opposed to the industry, and only Bernie and a Democratic congress can do that.

The health care industry is one of her biggest backers along with the big banksters. She’s against reinstating the Glass-Stiegal law from the 1930s which separated retail banking – individual deposits and such – from investment banking which should more correctly be called casino banking. That 30s law was a direct outcome of the banking crash of 1929 and stayed in place and worked until Bill Clinton axed it in the late 90s, which then directly led to the 2007 crash.

Bernie is in favor of taxing the wealthy, which is long overdue, and placing a tax on stock transactions. In most American states you pay a tax when you buy a pencil, but you can buy millions of dollars of stocks and not pay a penny. That lack of a tax has spawned an industry centered around using super fast computers to buy and sell stocks in milliseconds, skimming off profits for the banksters at the expense of everyone else.

The most important reason to have a Sanders as president is his incorruptibility. Not just the unlikelihood that he’d ever decide issues based on personal gain or seek to enrich himself through the office but also the certainty that he’ll do or try to do exactly as he says, not like Obama who spend his whole political career in favor of single-payer but then once in office admitted that was just campaigning, and then went on to squelch any possibility that it could be part of the discourse. Obama campaigned on renegotiating NAFTA and other trade deals and since has become their greatest advocate. Not long ago he said people were lying when they said the latest trade deals would supersede US law. So just a couple weeks ago a US law that required meats be labeled with the country of origin was declared against trade rules and in no time at all congress axed the law. Now there’s no way of telling where the meat comes from. Meat from China? You’re not allowed to know because it goes against trade treaties.

Let me finish with a little anecdote from my past. Back in 1960 during the Kennedy-Nixon campaign I worked for an investment bank on Wall Street, in the lowliest job in the lowest pay category: $48 per week. One of the perks was free lunch; it would’ve been hard to survive without that. We were served by waitresses and assigned seats, thus I had the chance to relate to a range of people I ordinarily wouldn’t come across. One was a middle aged, life-long rock-ribbed Republican. At one point he got to talking about the Truman-Dewey election in 1948. Dewey was ahead in all the polls and considered a shoe-in, so much so that a Chicago newspaper declared Dewey the winner way before the polls closed, much to their later embarrassment. This fellow told how he was on Dewey’s side all through the campaign and took every opportunity to talk him up, but when he got into the poll booth he voted for Truman.

So take heart, don’t give up yet, stranger things have happened than a Bernie Sanders presidency.

Standard