Thursday, December 14, 2017

Writing Trump's Obituary



He's got a thoroughly creepy tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back between his shoulder blades and he's got the sexual appetites of a goat although he describes himself as a "libertine." He's an old pal of Donald Trump and today a Trump loyalist. During the election campaign he undertook trips to London to liaise with Julian Assange.

Now dirty trickster, Roger Stone, is writing Donald Trump's political obituary.  From Vanity Fair:

One Trump ally is making plans to commercialize Trump’s downfall. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told me he is working on a book titled The Unmaking of the President as part of a multi-book deal with Skyhorse Publishing. (Last fall, Skyhorse published Stone’s campaign account, The Making of the President 2016.) “I’ve been writing it as we go along,” he told me.

Stone said he got the idea to write a book chronicling Trump’s removal from office after watching how the White House responded to the Robert Mueller investigation. “It’s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges,” Stone said. “The theory is Mueller will indict him on some process-related matter” such as obstruction of justice. “The only people who don’t seem to know it are Ty Cobb, [John] Dowd, and the president.”

Stone also believes Trump could be removed from office because he has surrounded himself with disloyal Cabinet members and other top officials. “Nikki Haley stuck a knife in his back,” Stone said, referring to her comments about Trump’s accusers. According to Stone’s back-of-the-napkin tally, only two Cabinet members would vote against invoking the 25th Amendment, the provision by which the president can be deemed unable to serve (Congress would have to vote by a two-thirds majority to remove him permanently).

Stone made it clear he’s not writing the book because he wants to, he’s just planning ahead. “I hope it’s a book I don’t have to publish,” he said, expressing dismay at Trump’s political prospects. “I just don’t think Trump is being told the truth about how bad things are.”




The Backstory of Globalization, The One Not For Public Consumption.


Former World Bank chief economist and Nobel laureate, Joe Stiglitz, knows a thing or two about inequality. It formed the core of his PhD thesis and the son of a school teacher and an insurance salesman has been dealing with inequality and poverty ever since. He also backed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. If you're interested, his Wiki entry runs to the length of a short book.

Stiglitz has also written extensively on our prime minister's favourite pass time, globalization. He doesn't see it the way Trudeau the Lesser sees it. Not at all the same. Stiglitz writes that globalization has two stories, one not for public consumption.



...discontent with globalization has fueled a wave of populism in the United States and other advanced economies, led by politicians who claim that the system is unfair to their countries. In the US, President Donald Trump insists that America’s trade negotiators were snookered by those from Mexico and China.

So how could something that was supposed to benefit all, in developed and developing countries alike, now be reviled almost everywhere? How can a trade agreement be unfair to all parties?1

To those in developing countries, Trump’s claims – like Trump himself – are laughable. The US basically wrote the rules and created the institutions of globalization. In some of these institutions – for example, the International Monetary Fund – the US still has veto power, despite America’s diminished role in the global economy (a role which Trump seems determined to diminish still further).
To someone like me, who has watched trade negotiations closely for more than a quarter-century, it is clear that US trade negotiators got most of what they wanted. The problem was with what they wanted. Their agenda was set, behind closed doors, by corporations. It was an agenda written by and for large multinational companies, at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens everywhere.

Indeed, it often seems that workers, who have seen their wages fall and jobs disappear, are just collateral damage – innocent but unavoidable victims in the inexorable march of economic progress. But there is another interpretation of what has happened: one of the objectives of globalization was to weaken workers’ bargaining power. What corporations wanted was cheaper labor, however they could get it.

This interpretation helps explain some puzzling aspects of trade agreements. Why is it, for example, that advanced countries gave away one of their biggest advantages, the rule of law? Indeed, provisions embedded in most recent trade agreements give foreign investors more rights than are provided to investors in the US. They are compensated, for example, should the government adopt a regulation that hurts their bottom line, no matter how desirable the regulation or how great the harm caused by the corporation in its absence. 

There are three responses to globalized discontent with globalization. The first – call it the Las Vegas strategy – is to double down on the bet on globalization as it has been managed for the past quarter-century. This bet, like all bets on proven policy failures (such as trickle-down economics) is based on the hope that somehow it will succeed in the future.

The second response is Trumpism: cut oneself off from globalization, in the hope that doing so will somehow bring back a bygone world. But protectionism won’t work. Globally, manufacturing jobs are on the decline, simply because productivity growth has outpaced growth in demand.
...

There is a third approach: social protection without protectionism, the kind of approach that the small Nordic countries took. They knew that as small countries they had to remain open. But they also knew that remaining open would expose workers to risk. Thus, they had to have a social contract that helped workers move from old jobs to new and provide some help in the interim.

The Nordic countries are deeply democratic societies, so they knew that unless most workers regarded globalization as benefiting them, it wouldn’t be sustained. And the wealthy in these countries recognized that if globalization worked as it should, there would be enough benefits to go around.

American capitalism in recent years has been marked by unbridled greed – the 2008 financial crisis provides ample confirmation of that. But, as some countries have shown, a market economy can take forms that temper the excesses of both capitalism and globalization, and deliver more sustainable growth and higher standards of living for most citizens.

To his credit, Trudeau has at least been talking the Nordic talk in his pursuit of ever more free trade pacts, reaffirming the rule of law, reintegrating labour and environmental regulation, but it's not clear that it's going to sell, especially where that matters, NAFTA.

What if he can't deliver a 'Nordic' solution to our trade arrangement with our largest trading partner? Are we ready for drawing lines in the sand? Are we ready to tell Trump to shove NAFTA?




Are We Heading for Another 2008 (or worse) Meltdown?


The economic numbers are looking good. Confidence abounds. It sounds a lot like 2007 just before the US ran off a cliff taking the global economy with it.

Writing in The New York Times, Desmond Lachlan, former IMF deputy director of policy development now with the American Enterprise Institute, contends that the global economy is again riding on bubbles, most if not all of which are becoming high risk.



The so-called Great Recession, which had begun in late 2008 and would run until mid-2009, was set off by the sudden collapse of sky-high prices for housing and other assets — something that is obvious in retrospect but that, nevertheless, no one seemed to see coming.

Are we about to make the same mistake? All too likely, yes. Certainly, the American economy is doing well, and emerging economies are picking up steam. But global asset prices are once again rising rapidly above their underlying value — in other words, they are in a bubble.
...

While in 2008 bubbles were largely confined to the American housing and credit markets, they are now to be found in almost every corner of the world economy.

As the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned, years of highly unorthodox monetary policy by the world’s major central banks has created a global government bond bubble, with long-term interest rates plumbing historically low levels.

He might have added that this bubble has hardly been confined to the sovereign bond market. Indeed, stock values are at lofty heights that have been reached only three times in the last century. At the same time, housing bubbles are all too evident in countries like Australia, Britain, Canada and China, while interest rates have been driven down to unusually low levels for high-yield debt and emerging-market corporate debt.

One reason for fearing that these bubbles might soon start bursting is that the years of low interest rates and avid central bank government bond buying that spawned the bubbles now appear to be drawing to an end.
...

Other reasons for fearing that the bubbles might soon start bursting are the fault lines in a number of major economies. Italy has both a serious public debt problem and a shaky banking system. Brazil is experiencing political turmoil while its public finances are on a clearly unsustainable path. China has a housing and credit-market bubble that dwarfs the one in the United States at the start of this century. And both Brazil and Italy will be holding contested parliamentary elections next year.

This is not to mention the economic dislocation that could result from a termination of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or from the accentuation of other protectionist tendencies, whether by the United States or by another big country. Nor is it to mention the risk that events in the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control.
...

It is too late for policymakers to do much to prevent bubbles from forming. However, it’s not too early for them to start thinking about how to respond in a manner that might free us from the boom-bust cycles that we seem to be experiencing every 10 years.
It’s unclear, however, whether the world’s largest economy can take the lead this time. The Trump administration’s budget-busting tax cuts risk overheating markets even further and limiting the government’s ability to respond when the bubbles pop. This heightens the risk that when the bubbles burst, we’ll be forced to rely yet again on artificially low interest rates, which will set us up yet again for another boom-bust cycle.

Meanwhile, over at The Reformed Broker, Josh Brown has an item reminding us that the history of "unified Republican governments" in which the Repugs controlled the House, the Senate and the White House - as they do today - led to a financial crash.


In fact, the ONLY 3 PERIODS of extended unified Republican governments going back to 1900 ALL DIRECTLY led to banking crises….Arguably the 3 worst in US History. To be clear, I am defining ‘extended’ unified governments as anytime they control the House, Senate and White house for at least 4 years. This does not include short 2 year stints since it’s hard to screw things up that quick (FYI there was only 1 period of that anyway, 1953-1955). You can look up the periods yourself here and more detail here.

The list of Unified Republican Government crises include the Panic of 1907, The Great Depression, and the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Interestingly, the record of extended Republican control of Congress has also only led to crises. There have only been 4 periods of extended Republican control of Congress (3 of which overlap with the periods of full unified control just mentioned). However, the 4th period (I KID YOU NOT) ended in the 2000 DotCom Bust where the Republicans controlled the House and Senate from 1995-2001.

In short, full Republican control has NO history of making America great…let alone AGAIN. 

Ain't life grand.

How We Cope With the Unbearable


A friend recently mentioned a book she had read about how so many intelligent, educated people actively ignore the reality of climate change. Apparently many of them are aware of the science, even accept it, but isolate it and keep it out of their lives.

I confessed that I have that same syndrome or something closely resembling it. I read the science, almost daily, and I file blog posts on what I've read simply to keep readers informed, a bit more up to date. It's sheer drudgery and worse.

I recoil, almost instinctively, at much of what I read. That's especially true when the information suggests or confirms that we may be at a point of no return. I don't want to believe it but science is not as flimsy as belief. It's not a religion or an ideology. Science is based on a construct of knowledge and fact.

There's an old line about how the more you know the more you realize how little you know.  We thought we had global warming figured out ten years ago. We issued dire warnings about how we had to keep warming under 2C because, if we didn't, the Arctic might be ice free by 2100. Now we realize our projections were about 70 years out. Events that I once believed might not even occur in my children's lifetimes will now, it seems, probably come to pass in my own.

Some take refuge in the idea that we'll come up with something to sort this all out. We'll find some fix. That's a belief-based idea bordering on magical thinking. Maybe aliens will land and hand us some suitcase-sized machine that will solve all our problems. Maybe.

The idea that we've been swept up in a mass extinction event of our very own making, humanity's doing, is almost unbearable. How could we do something as monstrously nihilistic? What have we allowed ourselves to become? What's on NetFlix? Neville Shute's "On the Beach"? No, not that. Anything but that.

My guess is that, as a society, we'll probably adopt something akin to Andean fatalism, a cultural feature of the mountain tribes who grow to accept the prospect of death by sudden landslides, driving off treacherous roads, etc. It's a somewhat higher odds version of the "when your number's up" coping device. You sort of give up fantasizing about a rosy tomorrow. How better to cope with the unbearable?

(When I wrote this I thought it so dark I wasn't sure I wanted to post it. Finally I realized that, while it's grim, these are grim times we are in. Ignoring reality, succumbing to Andean fatalism, won't help in any way. Yes, it's possible we've already gone too far to tame this beast but that cannot be our rationale for approaching the future. We have to shake free of this torpor. We have to realize that, while we may not be able to avert a darker tomorrow, our complacency can ensure that tomorrow will be far worse for those who follow us than it need be. We today can make their future harder, more perilous. And that's the path we and our government are on.)



Somebody Made the 'Precariat' and They Did It With the Power of the Vote



We have come to believe that our governments no longer control capitalism. What ails us economically is beyond Ottawa's command and, hence, not to be blamed on our federal governments. Everything from inequality (of wealth, income and opportunity) to precarious employment in the "gig economy" and so much more, it's someone or something else's doing, not our elected representatives'.

That's all nonsense, utter self-serving crap. Nobel laureate Stiglitz in "The Price of Inequality" illustrates how most inequality is neither market- nor merit-based but, instead, is legislated. It springs out of obscure policies that lavish tax breaks and deferrals, grants and subsidies, and the delivery of public assets either free or at far below market value to very narrow but powerful interests. It is the triumph of the private interest over the public interest.

In today's Guardian, the paper's economics editor, Larry Elliott, explores how governments in developed nations have played a bit of economic subterfuge on the public.


Humans have ...this predator-prey model. It is best demonstrated by the workings of the labour market, where there is a constant struggle between employers and employees over the proceeds of growth. Unlike the world of nature, though, there is no self-righting mechanism. One side can carry on devouring its prey until the system breaks down. Over the past 40 years, employers have been the predators, workers the prey.

Consider the facts. By almost any measure, the past decade has been a disaster for living standards. Unemployment has fallen from its post financial-crisis peaks across the developed world but workers have found it hard to make ends meet. Earnings growth has halved in the UK even though the latest set of unemployment figures show that the jobless rate is the lowest since 1975.

The reason is not hard to find. Unions are far less powerful; collective bargaining in most of the private sector is a thing of the past; part-time working has boomed; and people who were once employed by a company are now part of the gig economy.

These changes in the labour market are by no means confined to the UK or US. European countries that were at the sharp end of the financial crisis – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus – found that the cost of help was a programme of wage cuts, austerity and privatisation.
...

Seen in the simplest terms, the story of political economy over the past four decades is a class war between capital and labour, which capital has won hands down. The battlefield is littered with evidence of labour’s defeat: nugatory pay awards, precarious work, the collapse of collective bargaining, and cuts in public spending.

And to the victors have gone the spoils: higher profits and dividends; lower personal tax rates; a higher share of national income. Life for those at the top has carried on much as before, even as the average worker has experienced the worst decade for wage growth since the 19th century. Unsurprisingly, it sticks in the craw for those whose living standards are going down to see the 1% whooping it up. Nobody likes to have their nose rubbed in it.

There was a time when parties of the centre-left would have been the beneficiaries of this resentment. Yet the German Social Democrats have just had their worst electoral result since the second world war; the French Socialist party has been reduced to a rump; the Greek socialist party Pasok has been wiped out; Hillary Clinton managed to lose the race for the White House to Donald Trump. In Spain and the Netherlands the story is the same. Everywhere there is palpable unhappiness about what is seen as a rigged system; but other than in the UK, it has not translated into support for parties of the mainstream left.

An explanation for this is provided by William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi in their book Reclaiming the State: the left has given up on the politics of class and concentrated on the politics of identity. And while this has led to some worthy victories, none of them has actually challenged turbo-charged capitalism, which has had the field to itself.

...

It is a big – and debilitating – modern myth that the neoliberal revolution of the 1970s and the 1980s weakened the power of the state. What actually happened was that parties of the right refashioned and repurposed the state to undermine the power of labour and strengthen the power of capital. The enduring power of nation states was highlighted in the 2008 financial crisis, when it was only the willingness of governments to wade in with public money and taxpayer guarantees that prevented the entire global banking system from going bust.

So here are the options. Parties on the left can carry on believing that capitalism can be tamed at a transnational level, even though all the available evidence is that this is not going to happen. They can seek to use the power of the state for progressive ends, even though this will be strongly resisted. Or they can sit and watch as the predators munch their way through their prey. Even for the predators, this would be a disastrous outcome.


All this talk of "class war" sure sounds like the ravings of a socialist firebrand. When Elliott mentions it, perhaps, but not so much when the same warning crosses the lips of one of America's wealthiest tycoons, Warren Buffett. The investor king didn't pull any punches when he said, "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."

And, while they've been winning, the people we elect to protect our interests, Parliament, have spent decades looking the other way. After all, we keep returning them to power and paying their considerable pensions, what have they got to lose?

Think Trudeau's Liberals aren't in on this? Think again. Think back to October, 2016, when Trudeau's multi-millionaire finance minister, Bill Morneau, told Canadian plebs that they would simply have to get used to a future of "job churn." 

With that crude dismissal, Morneau was serving notice that the Trudeau government, like the Harper government, was abrogating its democratic responsibility to the Canadian people. It was on the side of the other side. As Elliott points out, we've lost sight of just what the Trudeaus and the Morneaus are supposed to be doing, who they're supposed to represent. You would have to go back to the pre-Layton NDP to see our political caste truly fighting for the Canadian people.

But just to refresh memory, perhaps to help you recalibrate your political compass, I will again call on the progressive thinking of such legendary Americans as Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Let's begin with Abraham Lincoln who declared:

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.”

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

If it is, indeed, man's duty "to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind," how is he to do that when his government consigns him to the precariat and tells him to "get used to it"?

If Labour is "the superior of capital" how is it that your government chooses to stack the deck so that capital prevails at the direct cost and damage to labour and our society?

Now let's turn to Teddy Roosevelt who observed:

"In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows."

At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth."

"Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled."

"There is a wide-spread belief among our people that, under the methods of making tariffs which have hitherto obtained, the special interests are too influential. Probably this is true of both the big special interests and the little special interests. These methods have put a premium on selfishness, and, naturally, the selfish big interests have gotten more than their smaller, though equally selfish, brothers. The duty of Congress is to provide a method by which the interest of the whole people shall be all that receives consideration."

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare.  ...No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them."

"The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, — but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, — just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success."

Like Warren Buffett's class warfare warning, these passages from Lincoln and Roosevelt aren't the ravings of radicals. These are two of America's greatest presidents. Their faces are carved into Mount Rushmore. 

They're not radical. Buffett isn't. Lincoln and Roosevelt weren't radicals. Yet in this cesspit of degraded democracy we endure today, this parliamentary dung heap of Harpers and Trudeaus and Morneaus, those words sound utterly radical and that can only be the measure of our democratic degradation. Think about that, mull it over.








Wednesday, December 13, 2017

USA Today Journalistically Burns Trump in Effigy




Don't sugar coat it, fellas.

The editorial board of USA Today decided to do a long overdue drive by on the Mango Mussolini that should be music to a lot of ears.

"A president who'd all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes: Our view"


With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

...

This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.

Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.

It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.” Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office.
...



It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.



It Must be Wednesday. New Study. Arctic Permafrost. Worse Than We Imagined.


Not welcome news, especially in petro-pimp Canada, but NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, has released a new report on Arctic permafrost, the repository of vast amounts of once safely sequestered methane. The permafrost is thawing faster than ever. Think of it as leaving the freezer door open on a hot day.

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said.

So why does this matter? There's a simple answer. This crosses the barrier  between man-made greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2, and the even more powerful methane greenhouse gas emissions from a natural feedback loop.  We're the trigger. We create the tipping point. However, once that tipping point is reached, and we've crossed a number of them, nature begins to release its own stored greenhouse gases creating what's called runaway global warming

We notionally strive to limit global warming to 2, if not 1.5 degrees Celsius by slashing man-made CO2 emissions, primarily by abandoning fossil fuels. We're not even doing a convincing job of that. Yet the rationale for cutting man-made emissions was, and supposedly remains, to ensure we don't trigger natural feedback loops, runaway global warming, just like that now underway across the Arctic.

Science is now scrambling to analyze how the loss of Arctic sea ice will affect the climate elsewhere. A report last week forecast a significant decline of rainfall and worsening of droughts in California due to Arctic changes. California supplies a significant part of America's food supply and it's the source for much of the fruit and nuts on Canadian grocery shelves. That's the insidious nature of climate change. Everything seems to have knock-on or ripple effects. Disruption of one kind in one place can trigger entirely different but equally or worse impacts thousands of miles away.

A Moore Too Far



Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.

So, who gets credit for the razor-thin victory in yesterday's Alabama Senate vote and who gets the blame for the loss?

You could say that the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, deserves most of the credit for the Democrat, Doug Jones' win. Moore exposed just how godawful bad a Republican has to be in Alabama for a Democrat to win and that's bloody godawful. It's a safe bet that had Trump's initial choice, Luther Strange, been on the ballot, Doug Jones would have joined the long list of Democratic losers.

Some credit also goes to Alabama women who, according to exit polls, went heavily to Jones. Same, same for the black vote. Both groups turned out in good numbers, good enough to eke out a win over the white male vote that was always pro-Moore, the "hell or high water" voters.

The losers include the lecher, Moore himself, with his rich history of chasing post-pubescent girls in his town while he was a district attorney. Eew, creepy, yuck. Banned from the local mall? Roy's probably lucky no one had come up with those TV sting shows back then.

Runner-up honours must go to anarchist/insurgent, Trump advisor Steve Bannon who was instrumental in helping Moore defeat his conventional Republican rival, Luther Strange.

Then there's the Republican National Committee and Congressional Republicans who, at first recoiled from Moore but then decided that throwing up a little bit in their mouths was okay and rallied behind Moore. That's a pretty powerful declaration of how low they will set the bar for entry into their ranks. The GOP is NAMbLA friendly or seems to have those leanings.

And also putting in a good showing was America's deviant in chief, beauty pageant Peeping Tom and groper extraordinaire, the one and only Mango Mussolini, Donald Trump. The Lard-Ass in Golfing Pants not only switched his support to Moore but urged voters to ignore the candidate's sordid past because, like Trump himself, Moore denied everything.

In other words, it's back to the boonies for Moore but the RNC, the Congressional Republican caucus and its leadership, and their deranged president, well they come out of this covered in shit, Roy Moore's to be exact. It's going to take a good long while for them to scrape off that filth. My guess is they won't even try. They'll just hope the voters eventually get used to the smell and don't even notice.

The one ray of hope for the GOP this morning is that they're still squared off against the Democrats.





Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Classic" As in Vintage



Canada has snubbed Boeing on the purchase of F-18 Super Hornets. Yeah! Instead we're going to buy Australian cast offs. Noo!

We're going to buy 18 Australian F-18's, the "Classic" model which is code for F/A 18A's, the clapped out warplane from the Pierre Trudeau era that served Canada throughout the Mulroney era, the Chretien era, the Harper era and, now, another Trudeau era.

It's a sweet deal for Australia which has already bought a supply of more modern Super Hornets to fill the gap while they await a transition to the F-35 joint strike fighter. They get to unload their high hour, less capable vintage F-18s, pocketing a good bit of change.

For Canada it's a "beggars can't be choosers" solution. We're still supplementing Canada's seriously aging fleet of vintage F-18s only it will be with more vintage hand-me-down F-18s rather than the costlier but far more capable Super Hornets. And we can still talk convincingly about replacing the lot with a brand new fighter in 2025 which will be at or near the expiry date of the Liberal government's 10-year shelf life.

It's shaping up to be another Liberal/Conservative kick it down the road problem.

Living In a Worst Case Scenario World


Close only counts in horse shoes - at least when attention turns to potentially existential questions. The more serious the issue the more important to have the most accurate, reliable information and analysis. Getting it wrong can invite irreparable consequences.

And so a new report published in the journal, Nature, demands our attention.

International policy makers and authorities are relying on projections that underestimate how much the planet will warm—and, by extension, underestimate the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to stave off catastrophic impacts of climate change.

"The basic idea is that we have a range of projections on future warming that came from these climate models, and for scientific interest and political interest, we wanted to narrow this range," said Patrick Brown, co-author of the study. "We find that the models that do the best at simulating the recent past project more warming."

Using that smaller group of models, the study found that if countries stay on a high-emissions trajectory, there's a 93 percent chance the planet will warm more than 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Previous studies placed those odds at 62 percent.

Four degrees of warming would bring many severe impacts, drowning small islands, eliminating coral reefs and creating prolonged heat waves around the world, scientists say.

Planning and allocating scarce resources to an overly-optimistic scenario, say 2 degrees Celsius of warming, can be next to useless if you wind up with 4C of warming.

Brown and his co-author, the prominent climate scientist Ken Caldeira—both at the Carnegie Institution for Science—wanted to see if there was a way to narrow the uncertainty by determining which models were better. To do this, they looked at how the models predict recent climate conditions and compared that to what actually happened.

"The IPCC uses a model democracy—one model, one vote—and that's what they're saying is the range, " Brown explained. "We're saying we can do one better. We can try to discriminate between well- and poor-performing models. We're narrowing the range of uncertainty."

"You'll hear arguments in front of Congress: The models all project warming, but they don't do well at simulating the past," he said. "But if you take the best models, those are the ones projecting the most warming in the future."




Nikiforuk Eviscerates Jim Horgan and Has Justin's Guts for Garters.


He's hands down the best journalist in Canada when it comes to fossil fuels. He's The Tyee's petro-scribe. And, as far as Andrew Nikiforuk is concerned, British Columbia's new NDP premier, Jim Horgan, is an environmental failure.

The astoundingly stupid approval of Site C, an over-budget mega-project with no demonstrable need and plenty of cheaper alternatives, marks a black day for B.C.’s NDP government.

The party that promised to deliver fiscal prudence and accountability instead bowed to special interests and insider views.

New Democrats swore to observe First Nation rights but now have trod on them.

They talked about leadership with courage but embraced cowardice.

Thanks to deceitful practices and the blocking of regulatory oversight, the previous Liberal government committed taxpayers’ money to a bad project with severe geo-technical problems.

So, Horgan said, we now must dig the financial hole even bigger and deeper.

That’s the approach of a drunk gambler at the casino for the damned.

...

The research on mega-dams, which the Horgan government ignored as stubbornly as Christy Clark, tells a truly human story about economic folly.

Researchers from Oxford University described mega-dams as “big bets gone awry.” The economic evidence shows that engineers “severely and systematically” underestimate the actual costs and schedules of large hydro-power dams, they found.

...

The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set out climate plans in the Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy.

The little-read document boasts that the nation can reduce carbon emissions and meet Paris Agreement greenhouse gas targets by generating massive amounts of hydro power, which the document falsely describes as “emission free.”

It describes Canada as “the second largest producer of hydropower after China” and adds that the country now “has the opportunity to increase its clean electricity exports.”

The report says more than10 gigawatts of hydro capacity have been proposed or planned in Canada, tapping the Churchill, Nelson, Slave, Athabasca and Peace river systems — the equivalent of more than nine Site C dams.

But to fully “electrify” a “decarbonized” and “innovative” economy, the country would have to build the equivalent of 100 to 130 dams the size of Site C or Muskrat Falls over the next 32 years.

David Schindler, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and internationally celebrated water ecologist, has described the government strategy document as a fraud.

For starters, the necessary hydro capacity cannot be built over 32 years to meet the Paris Agreement commitments. (It takes, on average, about eight years to build a dam.)

Schindler adds that the document assumes erroneously that hydroelectric dam building produces no greenhouse gases.

“When the emissions from building, producing and transporting construction materials, clearing forests, and moving earth are added to emissions from flooded land, the GHG production from hydro is expected to be only slightly less than from burning natural gas,” he writes.

The catastrophic plan also ignores other bad impacts of dams, including elevated mercury in fish, blocked fish passage, destruction of fish habitat and downstream effects on river delta ecosystems.

Last but not least, the northern dam building proposed by the strategy “would violate the treaty rights of many First Nations by damaging the ecosystems upon which their livelihood depends.”


Justin Trudeau, a fraud? Oh, say it ain't so. Only it is. If there's one thing that Slick has shown us it's never to take his promises at face value. He's no Donald Trump but Trump lies about even frivolous things. When Trudeau lies, it's pretty much focused on serious things - social licence, First Nations consultation, cleaning up the corrupt National Energy Board, that sort of thing. Oh yeah and that nonsense about bitumen trafficking being the key to Canada's green future. The nice thing about Justin is that, when he reneges on his solemn promises and has to admit he's lied, he apologizes. He's awfully good at apologizing.





Monday, December 11, 2017

So It Was a "Hard Decision," So What? British Columbia's New Dems Will Finish What Christy Started.


I hate it when they grovel but that's exactly what British Columbia's NDP premier, Jim Horgan, did in announcing his government will complete the environmental catastrophe known as the Site C hydroelectric dam. Oh, wailed Big Jim, it was a vewy, vewy difficult decision, a real ball buster.

"At the end of the day, we've come to a conclusion that, although Site C is not the project we would have favoured or would have started, it must be completed," said Premier John Horgan in announcing the decision.

"This is a very, very divisive issue, and will have profound impact … for a lot of British Columbians. We have not been taking this decision lightly."

The NDP government had been debating whether to continue the construction of the dam — which will displace farmers and indigenous communities as it floods 5,500 hectares of the Peace River valley — or cancel the work midway through the job.

And, of course, it has nothing to do with the construction unions that were twisting Horgan's arm for the go ahead.

At least the BC Greens didn't capitulate along with Horgan.

"Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle — it has now become the B.C. NDP's project. They are accountable to British Columbians for the impact this project will have on our future," said Green Party leader Andrew Weaver in a statement.

"We have seen what is happening to ratepayers in Newfoundland because of Muskrat Falls, a similar project, where rates are set to almost double. I am deeply concerned that similar impacts are now in store for B.C. ratepayers."

Weaver says the Site C dam was originally intended to provide cheap, subsidized electricity to encourage natural gas producers to deliver Christy Clark's economic miracle. Like most examples of magical thinking that LNG market never came to pass.

One thing about the Site C dam is its power to bring out the bootlicking turncoat in politicians including Trudeau's justice minister, Jody Wilson Raybould, seen here in her previous job as AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia.
 

What's Thirteen Times Two and a Half? It's 'Roy Moore America'.


That would be the respective popularity of the United States Congress (13 per cent) and America's "Bad Grampa" president (32 per cent). Trump's approval numbers are two and a half times greater than the Congressional score but they're still the worst for any president since approval numbers were first clocked.

Those numbers suggest that the American people are supremely pissed off with the ladies and gentlemen they themselves choose to govern them. Curiously enough, studies show that American voters tend to support their own representative but have a real hate on for all the others.

Congress just saddled the American people with tax reform. That American people hate it. It didn't take them long to figure out that this is just another handout to the richest of the rich, the Mango Mussolini and his clan included.

It's just a mess of insults atop injuries so why aren't the American people taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches? Truthdig's Paul Street has a few ideas and they mainly revolve around "magical thinking."



The forces and factors that have turned tens of millions of Americans into an inert mass are numerous and complex.

Part of the answer lies in the pervasively disseminated belief that we the people get meaningful say on the making of U.S. policy by participating in the “competitive” biennial major-party and candidate-centered elections that are sold to us as “politics”—the only politics that matter. Showing how and why that’s a false belief was the mission of my last Truthdig essay, titled “U.S. Elections: A Poor Substitute for Democracy.”

A second populace-demobilizing form of n thinking that is keeping people quiescent in the face of abject racist, sexist, ecocidal and classist-plutocratic outrage is the belief or dream that Russiagate special prosecutor Robert Mueller will save us and our supposed democracy by putting together a slam-dunk case for impeachment and removal on grounds of collusion with Russia and/or obstruction of justice.

A remarkable 47 percent of the electorate already supports impeachment less than a year into Trump’s first year. But so what? There is an outside chance that the malignant quasi-fascist tumor that is Donald Trump can be cut out this way. As liberal commentator Peter Beinart notes in The Atlantic, however, the odds of impeachment are poor. This is because “impeachment is less a legal process than a political one,” and the partisan alignment in Congress favors Trump in ways that appear unbreakable, given Republicans’ control of Congress and the dogged determination with which Trump’s white nationalist base is deplorably determined to stand by its man, no matter how low he sinks.
...

With his epically low approval rating of 32 percent, the orange-tinted bad grandpa in the Oval Office is getting ready to sign a viciously regressive tax bill that is widely rejected by the populace. The bill will be sent to his desk by a Congress whose current approval rating stands at 13 percent. It will be a major legislative victory for Republicans, a party whose approval rating fell to an all-time low of 29 percent at the end of September—a party set to elect an alleged child molester to the Senate.

The dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats, the party of “inauthentic opposition,” are hardly more popular. Their approval mark was 37 percent in a recent CNN poll, their lowest level in 25 years. Pervasive scorn for the party is richly appropriate, given its role as “the graveyard of social movements” and its long history of serving the nation’s financial, corporate and imperial ruling class. As the venerable progressive hero Ralph Nader recently told The Intercept:

There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. What’s happened in the last twenty years? They’ve gotten more entrenched. Get rid of Pelosi, you get Steny Hoyer. You get rid of Harry Reid, you get [Charles] Schumer. Good luck. … Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

...

It’s surreal. An explosion of sex scandals, the interminable Russia madness, a bizarre embassy move in Israel, an Alabama freak show, a prolonged game of bizarre verbal-thermonuclear chicken between the insane clown president in Washington and the dear leader in Pyongyang combine with the National Football League, Netflix, online shopping and porn, endemic video-gaming, epidemic mass shootings and the mindfulness and happiness industries to run diversionary interference for the evermore drastic and dangerous upward concentration of “homeland” wealth and power. Meanwhile, the death knells of the coming environmental catastrophe Trump is dedicated to accelerating—with unmentionably climate change-driven “wildfires speaking apocalyptic destruction” across Southern California this week—ring across the land and the world, barely breaking into the presidentially obsessed news cycle.

Welcome to the de facto banana republic that is, as Noam Chomsky said, America’s “really existing capitalist democracy—RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked.’ ”

Revolution, anyone?





Brace Yourselves. Sin Tax on Meat, Coming Soon.



It may sound like a radical idea but it's not, not even remotely radical. An environmental tax on meat.

For close to a decade, soil agronomists have been warning that industrial agriculture, the conjuring act by which we made the planet able to grow the human population to 7.5 billion and beyond, was killing the soil itself.  Too many crops requiring ever increasing applications of agricultural chemicals (fertilizers/herbicides/pesticides) was depleting the stuff in the soil - the black stuff - that makes farmland arable. We were turning good soil into marginal soil and marginal soil into sterile, useless soil and on into desert.

Eventually in 2014 even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization weighed in with a warning that mankind had about 60 harvests remaining. I suppose that's closer to 57 now.  57, your parents are probably older than that. Maybe you are too.  Like so many other existential challenges now threatening our survival our leaders pretend that it's not happening but, sorry, it is.


It's pretty obvious that we're going to have to take a harder look at what we do with our soil and what we get from it. And, as soon as you get into that, you plunge into the debate about livestock - meat.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China’s government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016.

The first global analysis of meat taxes done in 2016 found levies of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save half a million lives a year and slash climate warming emissions. Proposals in Denmark suggested a tax of $2.70 per kilogram of meat.

Meat taxes are often seen as politically impossible but research by Chatham House in 2015 found they are far less unpalatable to consumers than governments think. It showed people expect governments to lead action on issues that are for the global good, but that awareness of the damage caused by the livestock industry is low. Using meat tax revenues to subsidise healthy foods is one idea touted to reduce opposition.

“It’s only a matter of time before agriculture becomes the focus of serious climate policy,” said Rob Bailey at Chatham House. “The public health case will likely strengthen government resolve, as we have seen with coal and diesel. It’s hard to imagine concerted action to tax meat today, but over the course of the next 10 to 20 years, I would expect to see meat taxes accumulate.”

Meanwhile The Guardian's George Monbiot writes that we're staring at the very real prospect of mass starvation.


By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. These predictions could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4C of warming in the US corn belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.
...

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how exactly do we accommodate it?

And then there's the hard question, the one that you and I will have to wrestle with.

The next green revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nuclear War - Just "A Tantrum Away."


You couldn't ask for two more mentally stable people than Kim Jong Un and his orange alter-ego, "Dementia Donald" Trump.


The world faces a "nuclear crisis" from a "bruised ego", the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) has warned in an apparent reference to US-North Korea tensions.

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday, Ican's executive director Beatrice Fihn said "the deaths of millions may be one tiny tantrum away".

"We have a choice, the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us," she added.

Tensions over North Korea's weapons programme have risen in recent months.

The open hostility between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un has at times descended into personal attacks this year.

Speaking at the ceremony in Oslo, Ms Fihn said "a moment of panic" could lead to the "destruction of cities and the deaths of millions of civilians" from nuclear weapons.

Prior to presenting the prize on Sunday, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen offered a similar warning, saying that "irresponsible leaders can come to power in any nuclear state".

It's Not for Want of Money


If America's military is short of anything, it's not money. The United States provides its military with more money than the combined defence budgets of the next eight most powerful states.

The problem is that America doesn't get much bang for its defence buck. A lot of that money is pissed away, squandered. A lot of it is soaked up to maintain a powerful, permanent US military presence in every corner of the world. The last region to be brought into America's fold was Africa after the 2007 launch of AfriCom or, formally, the United States Africa Command. At first no African country wanted anything to do with AfriCom and it had to operate from Germany. Since then it's gotten a toe hold, shootin' and everything.

This is serious stuff for a nation that has chosen military force or the threat of military force in lieu of diplomacy as its principal instrument of foreign policy. Historian and retired US Army commander, Andrew Bacevich, argues convincingly that America's modern military juggernaut has become so deeply integral to the nation state that breaking its hold on the apparatus of government would require a fundamental restructuring of the state itself.

Sam Clemens, Mark Twain, is often credited with the line that, "to a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The same could be said of America's hyper-militarism. In the 21st century era of Perma-War, the military/industrial/neoconservative/evangelical/commercial (for profit) warfighting complex is constantly scouting for new enemies, new places to attack. Fortunately the advent of "New War" or low-intensity conflicts embroiling state actors (host nations and supporting allies), quasi-state actors (militias/warlords) and a confusing bundle of non-state actors ranging from rebels, insurgents, terrorists, organized crime and garden-variety criminal elements, each pursuing often shifting and conflicting interests, virtually ensures that conflicts that will seemingly never end.

But the prospect of other wars, "Old War," may be staging a comeback. "Peer on peer" warfare of the sort not really seen since 1945. The principals would be America, perhaps Europe, Russia and China. This is where having the most and best of everything should finally pay off, right? Perhaps but maybe not.

A new report released by the US strategic think tank, the RAND Corporation, contends that the United States can no longer take winning for granted if it locks horns with either Russia or China.

The document’s authors claim that at present, US armed forces are "insufficiently trained and ready," especially in terms of the active service components.

"In short, providing the military power called for by the United States' ambitious national security strategy, which has never been easy, has recently become considerably more challenging," the report reads. "The coincidence of this new reality with a period of constrained defense budgets has led to a situation in which it is now far from clear that our military forces are adequate for the tasks being placed before them."

"Put more starkly, assessments in this report will show that US forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight, despite the United States outspending China military forces by a ratio of 2.7:1 and Russia by 6:1," the document continues. "The nation needs to do better than this."

According to analysts, NATO may face certain difficulties if Russia decides to move into Baltic states.

"In short, we concluded that, as currently postured, NATO cannot defend the Baltic states against a determined, short-warning Russian attack," the document says.

In case of China, the US will have tough times defending Taiwan if Beijing opts to retake the breakaway island republic. Besides, China studied previous US military campaigns to develop own strategies on this basis.

The RAND report, all 190-pages of it, is available free in PDF from the link above.

That post Cold War business is over, a glorious opportunity stupidly squandered. America now faces the return of strategic adversaries, rivals.  The US still has a technological lead but even that is being challenged, especially by China. There's something of a David and Goliath dynamic to this. America's rivals don't want to challenge the US in every corner of the world, only in their own neighbourhoods. That gives them terrific home field advantages including the ability to exploit gaps and weaknesses in America's deployments and technology.  We're simply not "all that" any more.







We've Done a Good Job at Pretending. Now We Have to Figure Out If the Liberals Deserve to Be Called "Liberal"?


It's a safe bet that Trump's announcement on Jerusalem as Israeli capital will likely bring a motion to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Harper/Trudeau machine has been in Israel's pocket for a decade.  Whenever there's a motion dealing with Israel and Palestine the vote comes down to this : The World versus the United States, Canada and a trio of bought and paid for South Pacific atoll states.  The World speaks with one voice. Us, we five (minus three), are the only support Israel still has.  A great relief when one of the two principals has a veto on the Security Council.

We'll know just what lurks inside Justin Trudeau when that motion is brought before the General Assembly. If we've become a nation of lickspittles we will see it then.  I hope Canada would find its once legendary decency and join "The World" to denounce Trump and support the Palestinians yet I doubt that's in the cards.

It's time we, the average guy, knew how this country came to be aligned under Harper and how little Trudeau has even slightly altered that alignment, our new normal.

We're no longer a country resembling the Canada as we knew it at its apex during Pearson and his immediate successor.  We don't get leaders of that calibre any more. We get technocrats who view national leadership as a management function to transactional accommodation. Now we have leaders who ignore what is right and just in favour of what is advantageous and expedient. And so they very quietly go about this nasty little business of ours hoping that people like you will be none the wiser.

While We're On the Subject of Jerusalem.


The Palestinians are once again on people's minds (sort of, briefly) due to Donald Trump's announcement that the US will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  It sort of confirms the idea that if a nightmare drags on for decades, half a century is plenty, we forget what really happened and we're prepared to swallow just about anything.

Most people I know have never read David Hirst's "The Gun and the Olive Branch." (You can get it here, free it seems, in PDF.) It's a long read but in it the veteran Middle East journalist shatters many of the myths we have come to embrace as the accepted narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There's probably no prime minister in Canada, sitting or past, who would want you to read it for it would not cast them in a flattering light.

But if you're not up for that sort of effort, you might to whet your interest with Dr. Shir Havir's account of the origins of this intractable conflict that has seen an entire people held in captivity for a half century, their lands occupied and annexed by a state that persistently flouts international law, a rogue state we proudly proclaim our ally.





Thursday, December 07, 2017

Need a Giggle? From Russia, With Love.



I'm Guessing He Won't Be Invited Back


Who knows what the Greeks were thinking when they invited terrible-tempered Turkish despot, Recep Erdogan, to visit Athens.

The Ottoman boor wasted no time making the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, regret the gesture.  Erdogan began by demanding a renegotiation of the 1923 Treaty of LausanneThat was a treaty between the Ottoman empire and the WWI allies - France, Britain, Japan, Italy, Greece and Romania. The Ottomans, who had thrown their hat in with the Kaiser, were the losers. The allies, who had emerged victorious were, well, the opposite of the Ottomans. The original treaty, the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, would have really carved up the Ottoman turf, allowing for the creation of a true homeland for the Kurds. The war-weary Brits and French, however, caved with the arrival of the Turkish nationalist, Ataturk, who rejected Sevres. Hence the Treaty of Lausanne which, apparently, no longer suits Erdogan.


Disputes that had lain dormant – not least the 1923 Treaty of Lausannedelineating the borders between the two nations – were prised open with brutal force on Thursday by Erdo─čan on the first day of a historic visit dominated by the leader’s unpredictability.

Within an hour of stepping off his plane, the pugilistic politician was sparring with the Greek head of state, Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Athens, he said imperiously, would never have entered Nato had it not been for Ankara’s support. As an ally, it should seek to improve the religious rights of the Muslim minority in Thracewhich were enshrined in the Lausanne treaty, he insisted, sitting stony-faced in the inner sanctum of the presidential palace. “It needs to be modernised,” he said of the treaty, which has long governed Greek-Turkish relations and is seen as a cornerstone of regional peace.

A visibly stunned Pavlopoulos hit back, calling the treaty non-negotiable.

“The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece, and of the European Union, and this treaty is non-negotiable. It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or updated.”

After Pavlopoulos got the treatment, it was Tsipras' turn for an Erdogan lashing.

In subsequent talks with the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, he chastised the Greeks for failing to look after Ottoman sites and provide a proper place of worship for Muslims. Cyprus, he argued, had not been reunified because Greek Cypriots kept turning down a “just and sustainable” settlement. He also attacked the “economic chasm” between Greeks, who earned on average €15,000 a year, and the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority in northern Thrace who earned around €2,200 a year.

Athens, he continued, should also return the eight Turkish officers who had escaped to Greece as the coup unfolded even if the country’s judicial system had blocked their repatriation on the grounds that they would not be given a fair trial. “It is possible to return them to Turkey, which is a country that has abolished the death penalty and is not a country of torture,” he told a press conference in the prime minister’s office.

Looking on in dismay – Greek ministers exchanging knowing smiles around him – Tsipras repeated that as the birthplace of democracy, where executive power was separate from the law, Greece respected decisions made by the country’s justice system.

Earlier, the 43-year-old had attempted to ameliorate the frosty atmosphere, telling his guest that respect for international law was the basis of solid ties between the two neighbours.

“Differences have always existed and [they exist] today,” the leftist leader said. “It is important … that we express our disagreements in a constructive way, without being provocative.”
...

The two countries came close to war ...in 1996 over a pair of uninhabited isles in the Aegean Sea. Most recently, tensions have resurfaced over Greece’s frontier role in the refugee crisis, failed talks to reunify Cyprus and, according to officials in Athens, Turkey’s repeated violations of Greek air and naval space in the Aegean.

The defence ministry claims more than 3,000 airspace violations have occurred this year, more than at any other time since 2003. Erdo─čan’s open questioning of the peace treaty that forged the boundaries of the two states has exacerbated friction even further.

The Greeks are also acutely aware that geography means they must coexist with Turkey and stand to benefit most if Ankara remains anchored to Europe.

They're both NATO partners and, as such, entitled to invoke Article 5 of the Alliance charter but, if it comes to a clash, I sure hope Canada and our allies side with one side and that's not Erdogan's.

Did Obama Just Compare Trump to Hitler?



Barack Obama appeared at a question & answer session last night at the Economic Club of Chicago. A reporter from Crain's Chicago Business attended.

Obama's comments came after a series of playful questions from moderator and Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson—in the great Batman vs. Superman debate, for instance, we learned Obama sides with Batman—before she eventually asked him what he's learned as a world citizen of sorts.

One thing he's learned is that "things don't happen internationally if we don't put our shoulder to the wheel," Obama said, speaking of the U.S. "No other country has the experience and bandwidth and ideals. . . .If the U.S. doesn't do it, it's not going to happen."

Obama moved from that to talking about a nativist mistrust and unease that has swept around the world. He argued that such things as the speed of technical change and the uneven impact of globalization have come too quickly to be absorbed in many cultures, bringing strange new things and people to areas in which "people didn't (used to) challenge your assumptions." As a result, "nothing feels solid," he said. "Sadly, there's something in us that looks for simple answers when we're agitated."

Still, the U.S. has survived tough times before and will again, he noted, particularly mentioning the days of communist fighter Joseph McCarthy and former President Richard Nixon. But one reason the country survived is because it had a free press to ask questions, Obama added. Though he has problems with the media just like Trump has had, "what I understood was the principle that the free press was vital."

The danger is "grow(ing) complacent," Obama said. "We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly."

That's what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolph Hitler rose to dominate, Obama noted. "Sixty million people died. . . .So, you've got to pay attention. And vote."

WTF? Winter Storm Warnings in Texas, Mexico. California on Fire. High Arctic Melting.


Think of it this way. You may not feel it but you are firmly in the grip of climate change. There's nothing you can do to make it go away. It has a firm grip and it is going to tighten. It may not have gotten around to you yet as it has to others but it certainly will and your government is not doing a damned thing about it.

A week ago I posted an item about Springtime in Greenland.  The high north, Greenland and the Canadian archipelago, were basking in temperatures 20 to 30 C above normal, well above the freezing mark.

Today there are winter storm and snowfall warnings across southwest Texas and into northern Mexico.

Jump a couple of states over and you're in fire swept southern California where, in some places, the only thing stopping the spread of wildfires is the Pacific Ocean.

Hmmm, above freezing conditions in December in the Arctic Circle, winter storm warnings in the Texas/Mexico border region, wildfires sweeping southern California.


There have been many victims of the ongoing wildfires in Southern California, the largest of which is the Thomas Fire, a 101-square-mile monster blaze north of Los Angeles. The L.A. Times reports that the fire jumped the 101 freeway and was stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, along the way burning 50,500 acres, destroying 150 structures, and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. Californians are used to wildfires, but Miller says these ones are unseasonable. “We usually get crazy wildfires in October, and then the first rains come in November, and ground stays wet and more rains come, and there’s no wildfire threat,” said [climate change activist, R.L. Miller]. “It’s early December .... This is happening because there is no more winter rain. There’s not enough winter rain, ever.”

Climate science backs up Miller’s observation. The state’s wildfire seasons are lasting longer and burning stronger due to human-caused climate change, as rising temperatures make vegetation drier and causes states like California to whip between very dry and very wet seasons. These current fires are so bad because of a mixture of dry foliage and low humidity, but also because of hot, dry winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour. This seasonal high wind, known as the Santa Ana winds, is not unusual for this time of year, climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Verge. But some scientists believe climate change “may be making these strong winds drier,” according to the New York Times. 
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Eventually everywhere in the United States, not just the coastal regions, will suffer from severe climate impacts. Climate scientists have documented how global warming stands will hit the rest of America, whether it be through more extreme precipitation in the northeast or crop failure in the heartland. But reality has shown it to us, too. Hurricane Harvey brought Houston, Texas, its worst rainfall and flooding in recorded history. The risks of sea-level rise in Florida was made more apparent by Hurricane Irma, which flooded city streets and destroyed sea-walls. This summer, in Oklahoma, the temperature reached 100 degrees in the dead of winter.

This year’s mind-boggling extreme weather has shown us that climate change will leave few Americans untouched. And yet, so many states refuse to do much about it. That angers climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “The other states—Florida, Texas, Oklahoma—are under the control of climate change-denying politicians who continue to bury their head in the sand about climate change as they do the bidding of the fossil fuel interests who fund them, with the people they are supposed to be representing paying the cost in the form of devastating climate change-aggravated damage,” he said.

Here's one way to tell if your provincial and federal governments are serious about climate change. What are they telling you about what you and everyone else in your particular region can expect in the way of climate change impacts? What specific recommendations are they passing along to help you prepare for what's coming in the short range, 10 years, 20 years? Are you hearing anything out of them? Chances are pretty good that you're not.

I find it a little odd that my provincial government is so good at warning my community and my neighbours about the earthquake peril that hangs over our head, the mega-thrust subduction zone earthquake that could arrive any time between this afternoon and a century from now. I get detailed lists of what to have on hand, the best emergency foodstuffs, first aid gear, communications and such. I know the best places to take shelter in my home and the worst.  Yet the "Big One" may never hit in my lifetime or even my kids' lifetimes. 

Climate change impacts, however, are a lot more certain and far more predictable. Yet we hear nothing from the federal or British Columbia governments beyond banal injunctions and platitudes. Instead they mutter on about carbon taxes while Trudeau continues to pimp for the bitumen barons. Did the Dauphin even read about the wildfires we had this year, fires so extensive that they formed a high pressure zone that sent the smoke from fires hundreds of miles inland out into the Pacific to blanket Vancouver Island. Wildfires from Mexico to Alaska and what's the Dauphin's response to that? Sweet f#@k all. Carbon taxes - yeah, right. That'll git 'er done, sure.

I'm sensing a window of opportunity that is at risk. If the Liberals don't really come to grips with climate change - both adaptation and mitigation (carbon taxes, etc.) it's a safe bet that, when their time has come and gone, we'll wind up with another Conservative government that will do even less. It's time Justin began giving the country as much attention as he devotes to the economy.




"There Was No Rain"



Climate change refugees are on the march and they're coming not just from Africa or the Middle East or some low-lying atoll in the South Pacific, they're migrating poleward in the Americas too.

Todd Miller went to southern Mexico to interview climate migrants. Where are they from? Where are they headed? Given the dangers, why?



When I first talked to the three Honduran men in the train yard in the southern Mexican town of Tenosique, I had no idea that they were climate-change refugees. We were 20 miles from the border with Guatemala at a rail yard where Central American refugees often congregated to try to board La Bestia (“the Beast”), the nickname given to the infamous train that has proven so deadly for those traveling north toward the United States.
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 When I asked why they were heading for the United States, one responded simply, “No hubo lluvia.” (“There was no rain.”) In their community, without rain, there had been neither crops, nor a harvest, nor food for their families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Central America. In 2015, for instance, 400,000 people living in what has become Honduras’s “dry corridor” planted their seeds and waited for rain that never came. As in a number of other places on this planet in this century, what came instead was an extreme drought that stole their livelihoods.

For Central America, this was not an anomaly. Not only had the region been experiencing increasing mid-summer droughts, but also, as the best climate forecasting models predict, a “much greater occurrence of very dry seasons” lies in its future. Central America is, in fact, “ground zero” for climate change in the Americas, as University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences professor Chris Castro told me. And on that isthmus, the scrambling of the seasons, an increasingly deadly combination of drenching hurricanes and parching droughts, will hit people already living in the most precarious economic and political situations. Across Honduras, for example, more than76% of the population lives in conditions of acute poverty. The coming climate breakdowns will only worsen that or will, as Castro put it, be part of a global situation in which “the wet gets wetter, the dry gets drier, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Everything gets more extreme.”
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“Although the exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is uncertain,” wrote the authors of the report In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, “the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before.” And here’s the sad reality of our moment: for such developments, the world is remarkably unprepared. There isn’t even a legal framework for dealing with climate refugees, either in international law or the laws of specific countries. The only possible exception: New Zealand’s “special refugee visas” for small numbers of Pacific Islanders displaced by rising seas.

The only real preparations for such a world are grim ones: walls and the surveillance technology that goes with them. Most climate-displaced people travelling internationally without authorization will sooner or later run up against those walls and the armed border guards meant to turn them back. And if the United States or the European Union is their destination, any possible doors such migrants might enter will be slammed shut by countries that, historically, are the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluters and so most implicated in climate change. (Between 1850 and 2011, the United States was responsible for 27% of the world’s emissions and the countries of the European Union, 25%.)

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I was just east of Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora, a mere 25 feet from the U.S.-Mexican border. I could clearly see the barrier there and a U.S. Border Patrol agent in a green-striped truck looking back at me from the other side of the divide. Perhaps a quarter mile from where I stood, I could also spot an Integrated Fixed Tower, one of 52 new high-tech surveillance platforms built in the last two years in southern Arizona by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Since that tower’s cameras are capable of spotting objects and people seven miles away, I had little doubt that agents in a nearby command and control center were watching me as well. There, they would also have had access to the video feeds from Predator B drones, once used on the battlefields of the Greater Middle East, but now flying surveillance missions in the skies above the border. There, too, the beeping alarms of thousands of motion sensors implanted throughout the U.S. border zone would ring if you dared cross the international divide.

Only 15 years ago, very little of this existed. Now, the whole region -- and most of this preceded Donald Trump’s election victory -- has become a de facto war zone. Climate refugees, having made their way through the checkpoints and perils of Mexico, will now enter a land where people without papers are tracked in complex, high-tech electronic ways, hunted, arrested, incarcerated, and expelled, sometimes with unfathomable cruelty. To a border agent, the circumstances behind the flight of those three Honduran farmers would not matter. Only one thing would -- not how or why you had come, but if you were in the United States without the proper documentation.

Climate change, increased global migration, and expanding border enforcement are three linked phenomena guaranteed to come to an explosive head in this century. In the United States, the annual budgets for border and immigration policing regimes have already skyrocketed from about $1.5 billion in the early 1990s to $20 billion in 2017, a number that represents the combined budgets of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During that period, the number of Border Patrol agents quintupled, 700 miles of walls and barriers were constructed (long before Donald Trump began talking about his “big, fat, beautiful wall”), and billions of dollars of technology were deployed in the border region.

Such massive border fortification isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. In 1988, when the Berlin Wall fell, there were 15 border walls in the world. Now, according to border scholar Elisabeth Vallet, there are 70. These walls generally have risen between the richer countries and the poorer ones, between those that have the heavier carbon footprints and those plunged into Parenti’s “catastrophic convergence” of political, economic, and ecological crises. This is true whether you’re talking about the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia.

As Paul Currion points out, even some countries that are only comparatively wealthy are building such “walls,” often under pressure and with considerable financial help. Take Turkey. Its new “smart border” with drought-stricken and conflict-embroiled Syria is one of many examples globally. It now has a new tower every 1,000 feet, a three-language alarm system, and “automated firing zones” supported by hovering zeppelin drones. “It appears that we’ve entered a new arms race,” writes Currion, “one appropriate for an age of asymmetric warfare, with border walls replacing ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles].”

India is typical in constructing a steel wall along its lengthy border with Bangladesh, a country expected to have millions of displaced people in the decades to come, thanks to sea level rise and storm surges. In these years, with so many people on the move from the embattled Greater Middle East and Africa, the countries of the European Union have also been doubling down on border protection, with enforcement budgets soaring to 50 times what they were in 2005.

The trends are already clear: the world will be increasingly carved up into highly monitored border surveillance zones. Market projections show that global border and homeland security industries are already booming across the planet. The broader global security market is poised to nearly double between 2011 and 2022 (from $305 billion to $546 billion). And, not so surprisingly, a market geared to climate-related catastrophes is already on the verge of surpassing $150 billion.


This is the world that Gwynne Dyer described a decade ago in his book, "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival As the World Overheats." In it, the author describes how the Pentagon plans to militarize America's coasts and land borders (to the south anyway). He also notes that American military planners are looking at ideas such as robotic, free fire killing zones where, out of sight and out of mind, would be migrants will be slaughtered.

It's fair to say that many Americans, perhaps most, are already conditioned, pre-disposed to see the brown peoples to their south as a peril. Trump tells them these illegals are rapists and worse. The time-honoured steps to dehumanize a targeted group are well underway and they're finding a receptive audience.

Also bear in mind what is happening in American society. The nation is being fractured, left (or what passes for left down there) and right. Some claim the American people haven't been so deeply divided since the Civil War. Social cohesion is being undermined and, to some extent, deliberately. The US has the highest rates of inequality - of wealth, income and opportunity - among the developed nations. There is a gaping divide between the plutocracy on one side and the precariat on the other. Some see in this the emergence of a true aristocracy and the evolution of a state of neo-feudalism. White supremacists and fascists now march freely through America's streets. These shifts do not a welcoming society engender.

Another powerful factor that will come into play will be the climate change plight that will be experienced by the American people across the southern states. Climatically everything is worsening. Severe storm events, hurricanes and tornadoes of worsening intensity. Severe weather events, floods and droughts, of increasing frequency, duration and intensity. The depletion of once abundant groundwater resources. Worsening heat events and fires. Sea level rise, storm surges and saltwater inundation. America is facing the real prospect of dealing with an internally displaced population, IDPs. In a country with America's standard of living that can be a hugely costly burden on the state, especially one that is now in the process of being defunded through tax "reform" and other bleed off mechanisms. If the society has to struggle to resettle its own IDPs, how likely is it to be welcoming to climate migrants from other lands?