Do You Trust the Polls?

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There are nearly 150 million registered voters in America. And, from time to time, I read about polls claiming to speak for us all.

Forgive me if I am a little skeptical.

I know the people who conduct the polls are experts at what they do, and they spent years learning to extrapolate accurate results from carefully created samples. But, do you really trust a poll that samples 1,100 voters (like a recent CNN poll) to represent 150 million?

I haven’t been included in anybody’s sample recently. Have you? Do you know anyone who has?

You might say that the polls are sometimes right. But I bet you’ve picked a winner at the race track occasionally. With so many polls, someone has to get lucky.

The most audacious polls are the ones that claim to represent “likely voters.” I know I am a likely voter. I would crawl out of my deathbed to vote. Why hasn’t anybody polled me?

America’s voters are an unpredictable lot. They might plan to vote but get distracted and never get around to it. Or they might not plan to vote and read or hear something at the last minute that makes them decide to vote after all.

Voting doesn’t seem to be a big deal in America. Slightly more than half of the 218 million eligible voters bother to cast a ballot when the White House is up for grabs. Just over a third turn out when there’s no presidential race.

Turnout has been especially low among Hispanic and Asian voters, and this demographic has grown rapidly. While about 65 percent of white and black voters have been casting their ballots, less than half of the Hispanic and Asian electorate have been showing up at the polls.

I doubt that this trend will continue. This election campaign has been so racially charged, I would think Hispanics and Asians – especially Muslim Asians – have every reason to participate. Don’t you?

TV pundits too often parrot the polls without putting them in context. It fills air time, I guess. But it doesn’t do much to enlighten viewers.

More on voting turnout

More on changing demographics

Recent poll results

 

Who is Matt Lauer, Anyway?

lauer“Now, that’s a Commander-in-Chief! If he can scare the hell out of Matt Lauer, just imagine what he can do to ISIS.”

  • New Yorker cartoon

I must live a sheltered life because I’d never heard Matt Lauer’s name before Wednesday night’s “town hall” on NBC and MSNBC. And I hope I never hear it again. As a “moderator,” the man is a dud.

I guess he thought he was asking “hard” questions, but what he was doing most of the time was spouting his own opinions and showing his own bias. He was especially unfair to Hillary by constantly interrupting her and by constantly focusing on “those damn emails.”

I am sure we all know by now that Hillary used the wrong email system for some official correspondence when she was secretary of state. She admitted it and apologized for it long, long ago.

And we all know how smart, brave and altogether fantastic Donald Trump thinks he is.

matt-lauer1But, surely, there’s more to being America’s commander in chief? If there is, Lauer didn’t manage to enlighten us. I didn’t learn one new thing from the entire show.

I thought we were going to hear the candidates’ plans for keeping America – and the world – safe. Instead we heard what Matt Lauer (at right) thinks about Hillary’s emails. And how tough and smart Trump thinks he is. But when it comes to specifics, they were conspicuous by their absence. Trump explained his plan to defeat ISIS has to be kept secret so ISIS will be surprised.

I don’t think a good moderator would’ve let him get away with that. do you?

And a good moderator would’ve fact checked Trump’s claim that he always opposed the Iraq War. A cursory fact check would’ve revealed that Trump was for the war before he was against it.

A  good moderator would’ve set Trump straight when he promised to set up a separate court system for the military. In fact, the military has had its own court system forever.

But Lauer didn’t set Trump straight. He seemed reluctant to challenge the Republican nominee with the ferocity  he showed while “questioning” Hillary. He didn’t interrupt Trump once, for example.

This is the kind of shoddy journalism you an expect when you merge entertainment with the news. I don’t think Lauer was ever a real reporter. His entire career has been on TV, and he was a talk show host before becoming an anchor.

Don’t you think war and peace are too important to be treated as entertainment? I do.

More on Matt Lauer’s performance

 

When Allies Get Ugly

FILE - In this Monday, May 9, 2016 file photo, front-running presidential candidate Mayor Rodrigo Duterte gestures at photographers to move back prior to voting in a polling precinct at Daniel R. Aguinaldo National High School at Matina district, his hometown in Davao city in southern Philippines. The U.S. has upset China by sending on Wednesday, May 11, a destroyer close to the largest man-made island in disputed South China Sea waters. Beijing responded by saying it will step up its own patrols. The likely election of Duterte in the new Philippines could undermine his predecessor’s policy that was unusually hostile to Beijing and relied on U.S. military backing. Beijing sees an opening even as it braces for a possibly unfavorable ruling from a U.N. tribunal, calling the process biased. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

So the new president of the Philippines called President Obama a “son of a wh—” (rhymes with snore). With an ally like this, you might say America doesn’t need enemies. But Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (above) is still an ally of the US.

And in this dangerous world, allies are necessary.

So Barack Obama showed his maturity by brushing off the insult. He canceled a forthcoming meeting with Duterte but did not dignify the man’s unprovoked slur with a response.

President Obama put the security of America ahead of his personal pride, recognizing the importance of the threats brewing in the South China Sea, where the Chinese are alarmingly flexing their muscles.

The alliance with the Philippines gives the US a strategic base in the region, and this is vital to protecting American interests. So while the two leaders may have their differences on issues like human rights, the national security interests of their countries are a lot more important.

That’s the way it is with a lot of US alliances around the world. We might not like – or even approve of – the regimes involved, but we believe their support is crucial.

Kim-Jong-un-and-snoozingI’m sure I don’t have to remind you of the numerous situations threatening to plunge civilization into unimaginable chaos. The nightmare in Syria goes on and on… Russia’s Putin is invading some neighbors and threatening others in an undisguised campaign to rebuild the Soviet empire…  North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is firing missiles in Japan’s direction and threatening a nuclear attack on America…

And, of course, there’s ISIS.trump

Imagine someone else in the White House at a time like this, someone quick to anger, someone prone to personal pique, someone who shoots from the hip.

Imagine someone with the attention span and self control of a two-year-old.

Imagine Donald Trump. Scary, isn’t it?

More on Duterte’s insult

 

Do We Deserve Trump?

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As Alexis de Tocqueville is supposed to have said, people get the government they deserve. And if Donald Trump becomes US President, the old saying will be proved right.

Trump’s victory would be the result of gross negligence on the part of decent Americans who just couldn’t be bothered to vote.

A new CNN/ORC poll shows Trump leading Hillary by 2 points among “likely voters,” yet Hillary leading Trump by 3 points among all registered voters.

That tells me a lot of Hillary’s supporters aren’t likely to vote.

And it leaves me fuming.

Who are these people? What’s wrong with them?

They must know what’s at stake. Unless they’ve been on a trip to outer space, they must know by now what Trump and Hillary stand for. And they must know what their vote means to America’s future.

By not voting, they’re thumbing their noses at their country and their fellow-Americans.

And they deserve a President like Trump.

But what about the rest of us – those of us who take the trouble to vote? Do we deserve Trump?

Perhaps.

By “going along to get along,” many of us tolerate the racism, xenophobia, bigotry and other kinds of dangerous stupidity from our Trump-supporting friends and neighbors.

I know I am guilty. I am sometimes silent when I hear outrageous remarks. And I know I should stand up for what is right. I know I should straighten the offenders out. But I tell myself it would be impolite, and they wouldn’t listen anyway.

But when so much is at stake, being polite is not an option.

Not when it means having Donald Trump as leader of the free world.

Click for the poll.

 

Take it Off! Take it Off!

Alicia-Keys-no-makeup-movement

 

Don’t you think it’s strange that in the year 2016, when we routinely send exploratory rockets into space, women still think it’s normal to smear gunk on their faces in the bizarre belief that it will make them look better?

I can understand how the ancient Egyptians might think that painting their faces would make them more acceptable to the gods. As I understand it, ancient Egyptians worshiped the sun and other inexplicable deities. They had a lot of weird ideas.

They even sacrificed each other to various gods. And they spent their time building pyramids for no good reason. (No Ben Carson, the pyramids weren’t built to store wheat, and Joseph didn’t build them.)

But that was then. This is now.

We’re supposed to have spent the past several centuries evolving into sensible creatures.

So I am encouraged when I read that a growing number of celebrities are daring to bare their faces to the world. No lipstick. No eye shadow. No rouge ( do they still make rouge?).

No hair weave.

Singer Alicia Keys (above) is apparently behind the no-makeup movement. She has company. Increasingly, celebrities are baring it all in public and on social media – all of their faces, anyway. These enlightened celebrities include Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford, Taylor Swift, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Garner, Demi Lovato, Rihanna, Zooey Deschanel and Kesha…The list goes on.

What’s even more encouraging is that the movement is catching on with the public. Today’s busy women are finding better ways to spend their time than primping in front of a mirror (“with a pound-and-a-half of cream” upon their faces).

Of course the no-makeup movement has sobering economic implications.

If women stop using makeup, what will happen to the massive cosmetics industry? Where will the industry’s employees go to find jobs?

I suppose society will handle that eventuality as it has handled similar challenges in the past.  I don’t think anybody still makes corsets or bustles, for example.

More on the no-makeup movement

The no-makeup look

How the cosmetics industry began

 

In Usain’s Shadow

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson celebrates after she won the Women's 100m Final during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 13, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / OLIVIER MORIN

The Olympic games are history and the eyes of the world have moved on to newer attractions, but I haven’t said all I want to say about the historic spectacle in Rio.

I would like to give belated laurels to Elaine Thompson.  Like Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter won both the 100-meter and 200-meter events. She also won a silver on the Jamaican 4-by-100-meter relay team. (Usain won gold in the men’s 4-by-100 relay.)

But Elaine hasn’t received anywhere near Usain’s glory.

It’s understandable, I suppose. Usain is one of a kind. The world may never see anything like him again.

But – at just 24 years old – Elaine is special, too. We’ll be hearing a lot more about her as she matures.

I read this morning that she just won a 200-meter event in Zurich. She not only won but did it in record time. And against top-flight competition, including Dafne Schippers of Holland, who finished second, and America’s Allyson Felix, who came in third.

After the race, Elaine said what so many Jamaicans abroad keep saying: “I’m longing to get back to Jamaica.”

I hope she gets a hero’s welcome back home.

She deserves it. As do all of the Jamaican Olympics squad. Imagine, they won 11 medals, six of them gold! Some feat for an island with fewer than 3 million people, isn’t it?

And it’s not just because of the Jamaican men. The women did their share. In addition’to Elaine’s gold medals, they won silver medals in both the 4-by-400 and the 4-by-100 relays. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won a bronze in the 100-meter sprint and Shericka Jackson won the bronze at 400 meters.

Jamaica has an outstanding record in women’s athletics, producing many famous champions.

So it’s time to applaud our female athletes. They make me proud to be a Jamaican.

More on the race in Zurich

More on Jamaica’s team

More on Elaine

 

Where’s Hermine?

Hermine-Track1

 

I was expecting Hermine to pass by, drenching us with torrential rain and blowing down some of the old oak trees that abound in this neck of the woods. But it doesn’t look as if anything like that is going to happen.

The tropical storm – and potential hurricane – is tracking more to the north of us than the weather experts predicted. It’s completely still here in Lakeland, Florida. Not a leaf is stirring. Not a drop of rain is falling.

Our cats are hiding, spooked I suppose by the darkness.

No birds are chirping. Even the tree frogs are silent. They were making quite a racket yesterday when it rained and rained.

Now, there is only the muffled whir of traffic on the Interstate. And even that is more muted than usual.

Julius and I played golf this morning. We had the course to ourselves, and played 18 holes in two-and-a-half hours. (As Ike used to say, don’t ask me what I scored.)

Now. I’m passing the time writing this blog as I wait for the rain we were told to expect. Later, I will watch some golf.

I will not be switching to the news channels. I am Trumped out. If I hear one more word from or about that buffoon, I will run screaming into the street, tearing at what hair I still have.

I voted on Tuesday. In the primary. And I will vote in the general election in November. Meanwhile, I will try to avoid the political chatter.

I know, you think my life sounds dull. And I don’t blame you.

Life is not very exciting here at the end of Post Lane. You might even call it boring. But as Sandra observed recently, boring isn’t so bad.

 

Going Bananas

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I read somewhere that Jamaican sprinters eat a lot of bananas, and I was not surprised. I, too,  am a banana eater of long standing. When my dad was overseer of Paradise, a plantation near Hope Bay in Portland, Jamaica, he kept a big bin full of ripe bananas by the wall to the kitchen. And whenever we wanted a snack we went to the bin.

Bananas were the main crop produced at Paradise in those days, and they were always available. Not only as fruit (when they’re ripe) but as a vegetable (when they’re green). We peeled and boiled green bananas and served them the way Americans serve potatoes (called Irish potatoes in Jamaica to distinguish them from sweet potatoes).

We even sometimes had green bananas as a porridge for breakfast, but I don’t honestly recommend that to the faint of heart.

Throughout my travels as I pursued a career in journalism, I always sought and often found bananas (avocadoes, too, but that’s another story). And I still eat two or three ripe bananas a day.

Now that I liive in Florida, I snack on oranges and mangoes, too. Year round. In the Jamaica of my childhood, fruit was usually available only in season, but in today’s US, with its global trade, we can have anything we want at any time of year.

As I remember, though, bananas were always in season. And in Jamaica, as one fruit goes out of season, another comes in. I spent much of my childhood in one kind of tree or another, filling up on the fruit du jour – tangerines, mangerines, star apples, sweetsops, custard apples, plums and so on…

One day, my siblings – Harry, Betty and Peter – and I had a contest to see how many oranges we could eat. I won with 22 or 24 (I am not quite sure; after eating that many oranges, I was a bit dizzy).

Of course that’s excessive and I don’t recommend it.

But I am wholeheartedly supportive of a new fad that has some Americans subsisting on a diet based almost entirely on fruit. They call themselves, appropriately, fruitarians. And they theorize that fruit is all we need to keep us alive and healthy.banana

It sounds plausible to me. I understand humans are related to the ape family, and what do apes (and other monkeys) eat? Fruit – especially bananas.

They seem to do quite well on it, too.

I bet the chickens, steers, hogs, lambs and other unfortunate creatures that get slaughtered to feed humans would applaud this type of diet.

Don’t you?

More on the fruitarians

 

The Forgotten Americans

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America’s first people have been neglected and abused for centuries. And their plight gets little or no attention. But every once in a while, the media show some interest. They’re in the spotlight now, for example, because of a 1,100-mile pipeline project that would endanger their lands.

routeThe pipeline, about the same length as the XL project that caused so much fuss recently, would pass under the Missouri River twice and cut through sacred burial grounds. Yet it has stirred hardly a ripple of  concern – until now.

The media are taking notice because of protests by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, who get their drinking water from the river.

leonardoProtesters have occupied land along the Cannonball River in North Dakota. The occupation, which began in April, has attracted more than 2,000 sympathisers, including such megastars as Leonardo DiCaprio. Other American tribes are joining the protest, as are members of Canada’s First Nations.

The Standing Rock Sioux have also filed a federal lawsuit to block the project until they can examine its implications.

But, so far, there’s hardly a ripple in political circles. None of the presidential candidates has even mentioned it. Only good ol’ Bernie Sanders has taken up the cause.

That’s a shame because this dispute goes well beyond the XL pipeline fray. It’s a violation of the Sioux’s treaty rights and a reminder of the sad, shameful way Uncle Sam has treated – and still treats – America’s first people.

The issue is especially relevant now, when America’s future is in the balance. As Sonali Kolhatkar observed in a Common Dreams article last weekend:

At a time when white-supremacist notions are re-emerging and a major-party presidential candidate is encouraging America to hate again, this battle of government and corporate power against Native American rights is an important reminder of the real power dynamics in the U.S. and of who has been denied rights since the founding of the country

Encouragingly, President Obama has been breaking with the shameful policies of the past. As Ms. Kolhatkar points out in her article, he has made a point of visiting reservations and promising to “partner” with Native Americans to address the issues they face.

But, so far, he has not intervened in the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute.

I will be disappointed if the President (and Hillary Clinton, whom he has entrusted with his legacy) overlooks this opportunity to defend such a deserving cause. And I hope Hillary, as President, will address the larger issue of the way Native Americans are still treated in their homeland.

The Common Dreams article

 

Health is not a Commodity

health care2

Nearly four decades after coming to the US from Canada (and before that, Jamaica), I am still bewildered by some aspects of American society. One of the things that puzzle me most is the concept of health as a commodity – to be bought and sold, profited from and bankrupted by.

The recent price manipulations of some vitally needed pharmaceuticals is an example of this gruesome trade.

I have just signed a petition to a woman named Heather Bresch, protesting the 400 percent price increase of the life saving drug EpiPen. People with severe allergies (like my son, Ross) depend on this drug to counter potentially fatal allergy attacks.

Ms. Bresch is the CEO of the company that makes EpiPen, and she raised the price of the drug because it makes good business sense to her.

“I am running a business,” she told The New York Times. “I am a for-profit business. I am not hiding from that.”

Shkreli-and-Bresch-800x430Ms. Bresch is not alone. I’m sure you remember Martin Shkreli (at right with Ms. Bresch), the infamous CEO who jacked up the price of the anti-nausea drug Daraprim. The public backlash forced him to back down. And perhaps Ms. Bresch will reconsider her move, too.

But the question in my mind is:

Why are for-profit interests allowed to control America’s health care industry?

Surely the health – the survival – of the people is more important than that?

The US Constitution obligates the government to “promote the general welfare.” By exposing Americans to predatory exploitation by health-care profiteers, our elected representatives are obviously violating that Constitutional provision.

Government provided health care is overdue in America. Health care for profit is an obscene idea.

More on the EpiPen scandal

More on for-profit health care