German elections: Center/Left=363 seats, Center/Right=279 seats in the Bundestag

The center-left candidate fighting to succeed Angela Merkel as Germany’s chancellor declared that his Social Democratic Party (SPD) intends to forge a “social-ecological-liberal coalition” after coming in first in Sunday’s election. With 25.7%, the SPD beat the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), currently in power, which garnered 24.1%, its worst showing in the 70-year history of the party…

In the new Bundestag, the breakdown for the parties will be 206 for the SPD, 196 for the CDU/CSU, 118 for the Greens, 83 for the ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), and 39 for Die Linke (the Left Party).

“The voters have made themselves very clear,” Olaf Scholz, the SPD leader, said at a press conference Monday morning. He declared that his center-left party, the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) had all picked up significant numbers of new votes, while the conservative CDU suffered a loss in support of almost nine percentage points.

Americans who never peer across the pond have little understanding of the coalitions that rule many nations around the world. Perish the thought we should get the idea to fight for more principled electoral politics here, eh?

American College of Physicians builds coalition against gun violence

NRA Paranoid

Every time a physician treats a gunshot victim he or she should develop a discharge plan that includes a mental health evaluation and counseling as needed.

Failing to do so is practicing bad medicine, said JudyAnn Bigby, MD, former secretary of Health and Human Services of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Bigby, who spoke at an American College of Physicians press briefing on gun violence, noted that it is standard medical practice for physicians to refer “attempted suicides for mental health evaluation,” yet common practice for gunshot victims is to “patch them up, and send them home.”

The ACP was promoting its coalition of 36 medical, legal, and community organizations, all of which have now signed on to a document titled “Firearm-Related Injury and Death in the United States: A Call to Action from 8 Health Professional Organizations and the American Bar Association.”

The 28 new co-signers, which include the American Academy of Neurology, the American College of Chest Physicians, and the American Psychological Association, added their names after the statement was published in February 2015. The original eight-member coalition included the ACP and the ABA as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Surgeons, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Emergency Physicians, and American Public Health Association…

Asked about next steps, ACP Executive Vice President Steven Weinberger said the coalition wants a public health campaign similar to campaigns used to curb drunk driving in order to build public support.

MedPage Today asked if the coalition sought a meeting with the National Rifle Association. Weinberger replied it had not, noting that the NRA did not appear to be interested in a “professional discussion.” He added, “When the original paper came out, they [the NRA] posted something on their website that was an acknowledgement but not a respectful analysis.”

Weinberger also pointed to the NRA’s efforts to block the nomination of Vivek Murthy, MD, as U.S. Surgeon General “because Dr. Murthy said gun violence was a public health concern…”

Another major problem, Bigby said, was the ease with which mentally ill patients had access to guns but did not have access to good mental health services. “This population, these people are the most severely mentally ill patients — they are the canaries in the mine for mental health care. If, as a society, we can’t get care for them, how can we address care for the large population of less severely ill patients?”

Way too rational for American politicians or gun profit-pimps like the NRA.

Surveys affirm, again and again, that Americans in general understand the good sense in programs like this – and wish to have sound regulation of access to firearms. Between ethically-corrupt groups like the NRA and cowardly elected officials, the need for professional organizations like the ACP to step in with broad political and social action only increases.

Italy’s would-be Prime Minister says job is fit only for mentally ill

Italy’s would-be Prime Minister has said that “only a mentally ill person” would want the job right now, as the eurozone’s third biggest democracy continues to tie itself in knots.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who won the general election last month but who lacks a vital majority in the upper house of parliament, admitted as much after another fruitless meeting with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), whose co-operation he needs to govern.

Only a mentally ill person could have an itching desire to govern right now,” Mr Bersani said. “I want things to be clear: I am ready to assume a huge amount of responsibility, but I ask everyone else to all take on a little bit themselves.”

In order to form a government, Mr Bersani needs to be confident he can win the mandatory confidence votes in both houses of parliament. But instead of offering to vote with the centre-left in the Senate confidence motion, M5S appears set on having all of its radicals demands, such as decimating MPs’ salaries and fighting corruption, met first…

Without progress by Easter, the head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, may call for fresh elections in June.

Sounds like a rousing endorsement of Berlusconi. Now, there’s someone wholly untroubled by ethics, responsibility, a sufficient understanding of history and economics to establish an honest government.

Cripes. Sounds like the qualifications for Congress.

Dutch scrap archaic blasphemy law

Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.

A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…

The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.

In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.

But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.

Berlusconi to resign after losing parliamentary majority – he says

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday he would resign after suffering a humiliating setback in parliament that showed a party revolt had stripped him of a majority.

Berlusconi confirmed a statement from President Giorgio Napolitano that he would step down as soon as parliament passed urgent budget reforms demanded by European leaders after Italy was sucked into epicenter of the euro zone debt crisis.

The votes in both houses of parliament are likely this month and they would spell the end of a 17-year dominance of Italy by the flamboyant billionaire media magnate…An ill-bred creep is more like it.

Berlusconi’s government won a key budget vote after the opposition abstained on Tuesday but failed to secure a majority, obtaining only 308 votes in the 630-seat lower house, eight short of the 316 needed to be sure of passing legislation.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, said Italy ran a real risk of losing access to financial markets after political uncertainty pushed yields on government bonds toward a red line of 7 percent…

Berlusconi has been on the ropes for weeks, beset by a string of sex and legal scandals, political defeats and, most crucially, a loss of confidence on international markets.

But the 75-year-old, who has dominated Italian politics for most of the past two decades, had steadfastly refused to step down until Tuesday’s vote and battled until the last to win over rebels in his PDL party.

The vote showed he had failed to stem the revolt and Berlusconi’s bitterness was revealed by a photographer who caught the words “8 traitors” jotted down on his notepad in parliament after the result was read out by the speaker.

The news that Berlusconi had finally agreed to resign came after European markets closed but the euro jumped against the dollar and U.S. stocks edged up…

There is no agreement among political parties on either a national unity or technocratic government and Napolitano’s consultations may be difficult.

Berlusconi is now following his statements about resignation with “amendment A, section2” stacks of provisos which must meet his approval before he will actually resign.

Since he can’t be trusted out of sight of fourteen carabinieri with video cameras, I wouldn’t count on Italy being rid of his foolishness any time soon.

What’s with conservatives and sex? Tories invite crusaders in!

“They say you’re selling condoms in here”

A group which is opposed to abortion in all circumstances and favours an abstinence-based approach to sex education has been appointed to advise the government on sexual health. The Life organisation has been invited to join a new sexual health forum set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV…

In contrast, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum despite its long-term position on the previous advisory group and 40-year track record in providing pregnancy counselling nationwide.

“We are disappointed and troubled to learn that having initially been invited to the sexual health forum we have been disinvited, particularly now we understand that Life have been offered a seat at the table,” said Ann Furedi, chief executive of BPAS. “We find it puzzling that the Department of Health would want a group that is opposed to abortion and provides no sexual health services on its sexual health forum…”

Not especially different from the catalogue of Republican Party fears about gay sex, young people having sex, old people having sex, contraception, abortion right, women’s rights, choice and above all else – people being free to have sex.

Blake said: “Having made…massive progress, what we have to do is sustain that … and not go back to a time when the young had really poor sexual and relationship education and see a rise in teenage pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infections as a result…”

Life also became a founding member last week of a new Sex and Relationships Council, which was launched in parliament with the endorsement of the education secretary, Michael Gove.

The council, which includes the Christian-run pro-abstinence group the Silver Ring Thing, says it aims to bring the voice of what it describes as “value-based, parent centred” sex and relationship education (SRE) providers to policy discussions on the future of SRE in schools…

Some secular organisations have been growing increasingly worried that Tory ministers are opening up government to the agendas of faith-based and pro-life groups

In Richmond, south-west London, the Catholic Children’s Society has taken over the £89,000 contract to provide advice to schoolchildren on matters including contraception and pregnancies. Another Christian-run charity, Care Confidential, is involved in providing crisis pregnancy advice under the auspices of Newham PCT in east London. Care’s education arm, Evaluate, was one of the founding members, alongside Life, of the Sex and Relationships Council.

Sounds to me like the same crap ideology advanced against Planned Parenthood in the United States by reactionaries and religious conservatives. They’ve found a home in what now passes for the Republican Party and are out to press regression of women’s rights back before World War 1.

Which clown got the most votes?

Voters the world over complain about having clowns for politicians, but Brazilians embraced the idea on Sunday by sending a real one to Congress with more votes than any other candidate.

Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, better known by his clown name Tiririca, received more than 1.3 million votes in Sao Paulo state in Brazil’s presidential and congressional elections. That was more than double the votes of the second-placed candidate in Brazil’s most populous state.

Tiririca caught the attention of disillusioned voters by asking for their support with the humorous slogan: “It can’t get any worse” and a promise to do nothing more in Congress than report back to them on how politicians spend their time…

The clown, whose stage name means “grumpy,” usually appears in public wearing a blond wig, a red hat and a garish outfit. He survived a last-minute attempt by public prosecutors to bar him from running because of evidence that he is illiterate.

Har! I’d vote for him in a New York minute.

Here in New Mexico, for example, we have two candidates for governor: one is a shoot-em-up district attorney running as a right wing Republican who’s going to “clean-up corruption” – though our last Republican governor was the dimwit who outsourced the state labor department to Bangladesh and figured that having prisoners at the state pen make the license plates was too expensive and found other state’s prisoners to do the job for less. The Democrat is about as exciting as a heap of stones. Business and elective office experience which the Republican doesn’t have; but, absolutely nothing but trite phrases to offer.

Maybe I’ll write-in Tiririca?

What happens when you merge with conservatives?

Joined at the hip?
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Support for Liberal Democrats has plunged to just 12 per cent – half the level the party secured in the General Election – according to a poll.

The YouGov survey for the Sunday Times also recorded a steep nosedive in the popularity of the party’s leader Nick Clegg since he became Deputy Prime Minister by taking the Lib Dems into coalition Government with the Conservatives.

Mr Clegg’s personal satisfaction rating was eight points, compared to the spectacular 72 points he achieved in the wake of the first televised leaders’ debate during the election campaign.

The Lib Dems rating was half the 24 per cent the party won in the election and the lowest since October 2007, when Sir Menzies Campbell was forced out as leader…

The poll came after Mr Clegg admitted in a TV documentary that he changed his mind about the need for spending cuts before the election without making his shift public, and after questions were raised over whether he misled Mr Cameron about the offers Labour had made him on electoral reform.

Signs of unrest have also emerged within his party over the coalition’s position on issues like immigration, schools and university tuition fees.

Merge your policies with crap policies – it sticks.

UK coalition lasted less than a month before first scandal

The new coalition government was plunged into its first crisis as the Liberal Democrat cabinet minister charged with cutting the £156 billion deficit resigned following revelations about his expenses.

David Laws, appointed chief secretary to the Treasury less than three weeks ago, stood down saying that he no longer believed his position was tenable after it was revealed that he had claimed more than £40,000 to live in his partner’s house. Commons rules introduced in 2006 barred such claims by MPs.

His decision marked a sudden and dramatic end to the brief honeymoon enjoyed by David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s new government. It also brought to an end one of the briefest cabinet careers in recent history…

The chancellor, George Osborne, expressed sadness at Laws’s resignation. It was “as if he had been put on earth” to do the job of Treasury chief secretary…

Uh, who was running that lift?

The die had been cast when the Daily Telegraph made the revelations on Friday night about Laws’s expenses claims, paid to his partner, James Lundie.

Laws had said he deeply regretted the situation. “My motivation throughout has not been to maximise profit but to simply protect our privacy and my wish not to reveal my sexuality,” he said…

Laws’s resignation is a massive blow to the coalition, which has made cutting the deficit its priority in office. A former investment banker with JP Morgan, Laws was seen as the man to bridge the divide between Tory and Liberal Democrat visions of how to bring the nation’s finance into better shape. His resignation will complicate already hurried preparations for the government’s emergency budget on 22 June.

Laws also came under pressure to resign from gay equality campaigners. Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, writing in today’s Observer, says: “Pious political parties (that is, all of them) whisper privately that there are more gay MPs than the public imagines. But how can anyone ‘represent’ a community of interest if they’re entirely unable ever to admit that they belong to it? Some of us hope for a Britain where one day Westminster is grownup enough to select and promote politicians from all sorts of backgrounds.”

Gay Rights campaigners are perfectly correct. The parallel in the U.S. with statements from Civil Rights activists condemning Black members of Congress like William Jefferson who stashed ill-gotten thousand$ in his freezer.

No one who trumpets a stand for ethics should waste their breath – and voters’ time – forgiving the sleaze of their political peers.

Ask a Family Values’ Republican. Oh.

Germany’s Chancellor Merkel acknowledges “bitter defeat”

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted her coalition suffered a “bitter defeat” in regional elections in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The chancellor acknowledged her new government, in power since October, had “many avoidable disagreements” that had hurt its chances of re-election in NRW…

The NRW result means Mrs Merkel’s coalition no longer has a majority in the upper house of parliament. This will make it more difficult for her government to get legislation passed…

“There’s no talking around it – we suffered a bitter defeat,” she said.

“As regards the work of the federal government, I will only say this: In the first months, we did not provide any momentum to the government in NRW. On the contrary, we were a factor holding them back, and there were many avoidable disagreements.”

She warned that big tax cuts – favoured by the FDP and promised by the new coalition – would not now be possible.

“The… coalition in Berlin must now set its priorities clearly,” she said. “That means, from my point of view, firstly that tax cuts cannot be implemented for the foreseeable future – discussions about the euro, about [loan] guarantees and a lot of other things show us that…”

It is not immediately clear what type of alliance or coalition will emerge in NRW.

Conservatives throughout the western world seem stuck into an ideology that requires tax-cut payoffs to their corporate masters before any other priority in society. And then they wonder why voters reject them and their policies.

The American electorate still hasn’t gotten back their share of the Treasury Bush gave away to his Enron-class buddies. State-by-state, conservative hacks, Democrat or Republican, try to use the first flush of any electoral victory to reward country club compatriots. And screw taxpayers in general.