Wednesday, August 23, 2017

America's Backroom Revolution or Constitutional Coup?

It may be the ultimate expression of neoliberalism - revolution.  Only don't think of George Washington and his Continental Army. The generals in the neoliberal revolution will be billionaires and CEOs and their foot soldiers will be senators and congressmen and state legislators.

The neoliberal revolution is being fomented by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, where political hacks go to receive their marching orders from their corporate masters.

ALEC is now working to get the necessary number of states onside to trigger a Constitutional Convention. The last - and only - convention was held in 1787 with George Washington presiding.

Republicans control 32 state legislatures. 34 would be needed to trigger a second Constitutional Convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in more corporate-friendly ways.

Under Article V of the Constitution, there are two processes for amending it: amendments may be proposed by Congress, or two-thirds of state legislatures (currently 34 states) may call for a convention for proposing amendments. Using either avenue, any proposed amendments must then be ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states (currently 38 states) before they take effect. Because extreme Republican fiscal austerity advocates have not been able to get a “balanced budget” amendment through Congress, they have been pursuing the state-based avenue for several decades, with little success.

Right-wing convention backers mounted a strong push in this year’s legislative season, but came up empty-handed in several of their target states and lost momentum when three states (Maryland, New Mexico, and Nevada) voted to rescind their balanced budget amendment convention calls.

Even Republican legislators are having doubts about the wisdom of launching another Constitutional Convention. Although there have been various proposals considered by states attempting to control the agenda, rules, and participants of any convention, there is nothing in the Constitution that limits what delegates can do once a convention has been called. The danger of a “runaway convention” has prompted right-wing groups and icons, like the John Birch Society and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, to denounce the idea. Idaho Republicans voted down a Constitutional Convention resolution this year and a convention bill was tabled in Kentucky as well.

But this hasn’t dampened ALEC’s support for the notion. ALEC is continuing to pursue a highly partisan, highly political agenda to rewrite the Constitution primarily for pursuing a fiscal austerity amendment that would effectuate steep cuts in popular programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ALEC has three model proposals and has held workshops at almost every meeting including its most recent meeting in Denver as Rep. Chris Taylor reported.


At the top of the agenda is a balanced budget amendment that would be aimed at slashing spending rather than raising taxes on the now largely tax exempt elite.  Another proposed initiative would empower states to ignore federal laws and supreme court rulings not to their liking. There are certainly more that haven't surfaced yet.

The overall effort being pushed by the hyper-partisan ALEC and its allies left law school professor David Super of Georgetown University shaking his head. “When you are pushing a narrow, partisan agenda for constitutional change, planning amendments when you can have the most partisan advantage, you do a lot of damage to the Constitution as a unifying force,” said Super. “Everyone has things they don’t like in the Constitution, but we should all agree that the Constitution is for all of us, bigger than any one political party.”

Dear Ezra. Do Let the Door Hit Your Ass On Your Way Out.


And I hope it hits you hard enough that you squeal.

The New Republic has a feature on Ezra Levant and his Rebel Media.

The article focuses on how the Rebel Commander and his alt-right news outlet have fallen on precipitous and hard times in the wake of the Charlottesville fiasco that includes a list of prominent former Rebels who have parted company with Ezra and his enterprise.

TNR concludes that Ezra may have shot his bolt as far as Canada is concerned and may be unable to resist the fascist sirens' call from the U.S.

The Canadian Rebel is dying. But as the president of the United States fans the flames of racism south of the border, Levant’s toxic xenophobic website could still come roaring back, repurposed for an American audience. Both BuzzFeed and The Walrus have predicted that Levant will abandon his Canadian audience for good and align himself with the readers (and donors) of the American alt-right. If Levant chooses that path, he’ll follow in the ignominious footsteps of other right-wing Canadians who found greener pastures in the States, including Father Charles Coughlin, David Frum, Mark Steyn, and Richard John Neuhaus. Instead of a Canadian Breitbart, we may end up with an Americanized Rebel.

Go, Ezra, go. And do let the door hit your ass on your way out.



Today in Breitbart


A Steve Bannon fidget spinner.  The timing is perfect just as fidget spinners are going the way of Pogs in the 1990s.

Over at the re-Bannoned Breitbart News Network, the lead story is about how White House aides just can't stop leaking, this time in telling Politico that Trump's barking mad speech in Phoenix wasn't their doing but just Trump going right off script - again.

More White House leaks! Anonymous “aides” have rushed, right on cue, to disavow Donald Trump’s fiery speech in Phoenix, Arizona Monday night and tell establishment reporters that they had nothing to do with the red meat the president served up to his Deplorable supporters.

Breitbart also features a story critical of Trump's decision to double down on Afghanistan, a call Bannon finds offensive.  Maybe they should concentrate on moving that inventory of Bannon fidget spinners while they can.



Exxon Hoist On Its Own Petard



Petro-giant Exxon is facing a load of grief. Several US state attorneys-general are gunning for the company and a new report based on Exxon's own internal documents has produced what could be the smoking gun.

Harvard scientists Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes ...used a method known as content analysisto analyze 187 public and internal Exxon documents. The results are striking:

In Exxon’s peer-reviewed papers and internal communications, about 80% of the documents acknowledged that climate change is real and human-caused.
In Exxon’s paid, editorial-style advertisements (“advertorials”) published in the New York Times, about 80% expressed doubt that climate change is real and human-caused.
...

As Oreskes documented with Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt, tobacco companies and several other industries that profited from harmful products engaged in decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about the scientific evidence of their hazards. As one R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company 1969 internal memo read:  'Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public.'

The results of this new paper show that Exxon followed this same playbook. While the company’s internal communications and peer-reviewed research were clear about human-caused global warming, its public communications focused heavily on sowing doubt about those scientific conclusions.

Exxon was sowing doubt by raising questions in its advertorials that Exxon's own scientists had answered 10 even 20-years earlier.

This study comes as ExxonMobil already faces numerous investigations by state attorneys general and class action lawsuits. One lawsuit accuses Exxon of misleading its investors and inflating its stock value by making false statements about the value of its oil reserves (much of which must be stranded if we’re to meet international climate targets), and about how climate policies will impact the company’s finances.

The attorney general of the Virgin Islands is investigating Exxon for potentially violating the territory’s anti-racketeering law. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is also investigating whether Exxon lied to the public and its shareholders about the risks of climate change and the potential effects on the company’s finances. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey is pursuing a similar investigation to determine whether Exxon deceived the public and investors about climate change risks.

By showing that Exxon systematically misled the public by following the tobacco industry playbook, the new Harvard study will undoubtedly bolster these cases.

Big Tobacco was convicted of racketeering in the tobacco/cancer campaign. Hard to imagine that Big Oil isn't heading for the same reckoning.



The Essential Role of Perspective


The reports sound pretty awful - more than 800 dead in floods that are sweeping India, Nepal and Bangladesh.  But how to make any sense out of that?

I went to check out the live birth rate in just India. It's reported to be 32 a minute or just over 46,000 every day. That's 46,000 versus a death rate per day of about 14,400 for a net gain, per diem, of over 31,000. That's just for India. (Canada records 1,075 births and 570 deaths per day).

Can Liberal Democracy Survive Neoliberalism?


Externalities,  where would we be without them? In the Ponzi scheme we know as neoclassical economics, the sort still taught to our young in universities, externalities are impacts from economic activity that are borne by third parties and, hence, kept off the company's books. A common externality is pollution. Smokestacks, for example, can release all manner of toxic substances that can be bad for people living downwind but are rarely charged back to the emitter.  Fossil fuel giants have been playing the externality game forever.

But what about the externalities of neoliberalism?  Stephen Metcalf's brilliant essay, "Neoliberalism, the idea that swallowed the world," explores neoliberalism not just from its economic and political dynamics but also in its human dimension, the impacts it exacts from us on an individual level.

As I've mulled over Metcalf's essay, I've come to realize that, to the corporate and political caste, the human impacts of neoliberalism are an externality, something best left unmentioned and very easily ignored.

The neoliberal order is, at its foundation, a pact between two powers, political and corporate. It is an accommodation based on the surrender of sovereign powers to the new, collaborative regime. The populace doesn't get to play. We're not in the game.

It's become standard these days for government to recognize "stakeholders" as having a seat at deliberations and policy-making. We, you and me, well we're not stakeholders. We're just along for the ride provided we behave ourselves.  The government agenda and the public interest are not necessarily coterminous.

Metcalf alerts us to the human cost of neoliberalism.


the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.
...

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.
...

It isn’t only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.
...

What any person acquainted with history sees as the necessary bulwarks against tyranny and exploitation – a thriving middle class and civil sphere; free institutions; universal suffrage; freedom of conscience, congregation, religion and press; a basic recognition that the individual is a bearer of dignity – held no special place in Hayek’s thought.

...

the application of Hayek’s Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek’s idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets.

...

We fashion ourselves and identities on the basis of our capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy. When we provide reasons for our actions and beliefs, we bring ourselves into being: individually and collectively, we decide who and what we are.

According to the logic of Hayek’s Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman’s “relativism” is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are “relative” in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can’t expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.
...

Every day we ourselves – no one has to tell us to anymore! – strive to become more perfectly like scattered, discrete, anonymous buyers and sellers; and every day we treat the residual desire to be something more than a consumer as nostalgia, or elitism.

I find much that's familiar in Metcalf's observations. For some time I've written about how many societies, especially America's, seem to have been groomed or conditioned, evident in such things as a rejection of knowledge, logic and critical thinking and the ready acceptance of faith and belief as substitutes.  This is certainly manifest in the die-hard supporters of the current president, a group I often call the "gullibillies." It's this grooming, this conditioning that makes that group so susceptible to manipulation by those playing on their fears, insecurities and prejudices. To even such a grotesquely flawed charismatic as Trump they're putty in his hands.

But what of us, our society? Have we been similarly conditioned? I believe we have although not to the same extent as our southern cousins, not yet at least. Part of this is pre-ordained in the emergence of our corporate media cartel that served Harper so well and yet Trudeau ignores at our peril, not his own.

Our capacity for reflection is tamed or otherwise subdued, by any name suppressed. Modern politicians eschew vision lest it rekindle our appetite for reflection and reasoning and intrude on their whimsies of power. As Metcalf put it so well: "We fashion ourselves and identities on the basis of our capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy."







Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Uniquely American Approach to Discussing Sea Level Rise


Americans know the sea is rising. A good many wealthy Americans own rather expensive waterfront abodes. They've come to "get" the reality of  sea level rise, storm surges and saltwater inundation. They're willing to talk about it. They're willing to plan for it, even to pay for protective measures. But there's one condition. There must be no talk about climate change, especially man made global warming. That sort of talk is a deal-breaker.  From Yale Climate Connections:

To film director Roger Sorkin, talking about sea-level rise – and more importantly, how to adapt to it and build more resilient, forward-thinking communities – without talking about climate change is a well-considered strategy.

For the record, Sorkin is no climate change contrarian. He acknowledges that carbon emissions are responsible for sea-level rise. And that we humans are responsible. But he also believes in meeting folks where they are. That’s why, he explains, his audiences do not hear the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or “carbon” in “Tidewater,” his documentary film about sea-level rise in Hampton Roads.

“Stories matter to us,” Sorkin says. “And the building blocks are the words that you use to tell stories. Certain words press peoples’ buttons and produce visceral reactions.”

When stories about sea-level rise are framed around a narrative “that leads with ‘look at what humans have done this to the planet,’ for a lot of people, that puts their guard up. So, we’re just being conscious of the way the message is crafted,” he explains.

Sorkin's is not an isolated experience. Legislators in Florida, for example, have stated they're willing to engage on sea level rise and responses, provided there's no attempt to link that and anthropogenic global warming.








Bannon Bites Back



That didn't take long. With Steve Bannon booted from the White House last Friday and back at the helm of Breitbart news the same day, it didn't take long for the first attack on Donald Trump.  The subject was Afghanistan and the man/baby president's announcement that he would follow in George w. Bush's and Barack Obama's footsteps to keep the war rolling. It was a perfect opportunity for Bannon/Breitbart to attack Trump and Bannon's mortal enemies, Trump's in-house generals, especially H.R. McMaster.

The headline said it all - "His McMaster's Voice."

Today’s Afghanistan speech by President Trump may be equally alien to his electoral base, though it was not difficult to figure out whose influence led to the speech’s neoconservative bent.

HR McMaster’s voice was clear to hear. It’s a voice that appears to have been carried over from the George W. Bush administration, and even the Obama White House.
...

This isn’t about changing his perspective on the war. POTUS is a remarkably astute and stubborn individual. This was about the swamp getting to him.

An Invaluable Primer on Neoliberalism


It arrived by stealth, largely unnoticed. It boils down to the idea that markets are superior to governments and that the political caste should defer to markets wherever possible. It is a theory that has now consumed the world even as we have, perhaps too late, discovered that it's a scam.

The Guardian's latest "Long Piece" essay features Stephen Metcalf's exploration of how neoliberalism swallowed the world.

A few excerpts follow to pique your interest.

Last summer, researchers at the International Monetary Fund settled a long and bitter debate over “neoliberalism”: they admitted it exists. Three senior economists at the IMF, an organisation not known for its incaution, published a paper questioning the benefits of neoliberalism. In so doing, they helped put to rest the idea that the word is nothing more than a political slur, or a term without any analytic power. The paper gently called out a “neoliberal agenda” for pushing deregulation on economies around the world, for forcing open national markets to trade and capital, and for demanding that governments shrink themselves via austerity or privatisation. The authors cited statistical evidence for the spread of neoliberal policies since 1980, and their correlation with anaemic growth, boom-and-bust cycles and inequality.
...

Peer through the lens of neoliberalism and you see more clearly how the political thinkers most admired by Thatcher and Reagan helped shape the ideal of society as a kind of universal market (and not, for example, a polis, a civil sphere or a kind of family) and of human beings as profit-and-loss calculators (and not bearers of grace, or of inalienable rights and duties). Of course the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.
...

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.
...

It isn’t only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.
...

Friedrich Hayek, did not think he was staking out a position on the political spectrum, or making excuses for the fatuous rich, or tinkering along the edges of microeconomics. ...He thought he was solving the problem of modernity: the problem of objective knowledge. For Hayek, the market didn’t just facilitate trade in goods and services; it revealed truth. How did his ambition collapse into its opposite – the mind-bending possibility that, thanks to our thoughtless veneration of the free market, truth might be driven from public life altogether?
...

Hayek’s was a total worldview: a way of structuring all reality on the model of economic competition. He begins by assuming that nearly all (if not all) human activity is a form of economic calculation, and so can be assimilated to the master concepts of wealth, value, exchange, cost – and especially price. Prices are a means of allocating scarce resources efficiently, according to need and utility, as governed by supply and demand. For the price system to function efficiently, markets must be free and competitive. Ever since Smith imagined the economy as an autonomous sphere, the possibility existed that the market might not just be one piece of society, but society as a whole.
...

What any person acquainted with history sees as the necessary bulwarks against tyranny and exploitation – a thriving middle class and civil sphere; free institutions; universal suffrage; freedom of conscience, congregation, religion and press; a basic recognition that the individual is a bearer of dignity – held no special place in Hayek’s thought. Hayek built into neoliberalism the assumption that the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism. To prevent this, the state need only keep the market free.

This last is what makes neoliberalism “neo”. It is a crucial modification of the older belief in a free market and a minimal state, known as “classical liberalism”. In classical liberalism, merchants simply asked the state to “leave us alone” – to laissez-nous faire. Neoliberalism recognised that the state must be active in the organisation of a market economy. The conditions allowing for a free market must be won politically, and the state must be re-engineered to support the free market on an ongoing basis.

That isn’t all: every aspect of democratic politics, from the choices of voters to the decisions of politicians, must be submitted to a purely economic analysis. The lawmaker is obliged to leave well enough alone – to not distort the natural actions of the marketplace – and so, ideally, the state provides a fixed, neutral, universal legal framework within which market forces operate spontaneously.
...

Markets may be human facsimiles of natural systems, and like the universe itself, they may be authorless and valueless. But the application of Hayek’s Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek’s idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets. The internet is personal preference magnified by algorithm; a pseudo-public space that echoes the voice already inside our head. Rather than a space of debate in which we make our way, as a society, toward consensus, now there is a mutual-affirmation apparatus banally referred to as a “marketplace of ideas”.
...

We fashion our selves and identities on the basis of our capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy. When we provide reasons for our actions and beliefs, we bring ourselves into being: individually and collectively, we decide who and what we are.

According to the logic of Hayek’s Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman’s “relativism” is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are “relative” in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can’t expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.
... 

 Thirty years on, and it can fairly be said that Hayek’s victory is unrivalled. We live in a paradise built by his Big Idea. The more closely the world can be made to resemble an ideal market governed only by perfect competition, the more law-like and “scientific” human behaviour, in the aggregate, becomes. Every day we ourselves – no one has to tell us to anymore! – strive to become more perfectly like scattered, discrete, anonymous buyers and sellers; and every day we treat the residual desire to be something more than a consumer as nostalgia, or elitism.

Guess What the Dumb Bugger Did Now?


Donald Trump is known for not heeding advice. Those who give him advice are often frustrated when he proceeds to do just the opposite.

Take yesterday's solar eclipse. While Washington was a good hike from the path of totality, the man/baby president took the opportunity to gaze directly at the sun, completely unprotected, for several seconds.


Trump's son and latest wife were not nearly as stupid as El Dumb Bugger himself.




Monday, August 21, 2017

"Anti-Fa"? Hell, Yes. Proudly Fighting Fascism, Fang and Claw, Since 1937.

Anti-Fascists Heading to War


We all get sent out anyway and we always sign up for the privilege.

Those who have read this blog over the years will know that I've devoted a good number of posts about what it was like growing up with a disabled parent, one who went overseas and did not come back the same.

Today the Conservative right is on the attack against what they've named "Anti-Fa" an abbreviation of anti-fascist.

I grew up with an anti-fascist, one who was blown up pretty much from ankle to eyebrow and yet hung on almost until the age of 92.  My dad.

His generation wasn't the first in Canada's proud anti-fa tradition. That officially came into being with the formation of the Mackenzie-Papineau brigade.

Not many years later Canadians in scores of thousands became Mk. 2 anti-fascists as they enlisted to battle a German fascist, Hitler. Young men, some just boys, guys like my dad and my uncle Bud. From Halifax they boarded troop ships often piped aboard to "Farewell to Nova Scotia." A good many of them never set foot in Canada again. More still returned broken.

And yet, when fascists take to our own streets, we're not supposed to push back? And we're supposed to tolerate the political party that has coddled, energized and mobilized these extremists. Because "anti-fa" has become a pejorative in their sick minds. Not in your dad's time or your grandpa's time.

Please, not in my time and not in yours either.



For those unfamiliar with, "Farewell, Nova Scotia" here's a version sung by Gordon Lightfoot accompanied by the sometimes magical guitar of the late Red Shea.



So This Guy Stops By Over the Weekend...



An old buddy. We've been friends since he began doing my firm's computer work in the 80s. He comes over to visit about twice a year these days.

He showed up on Friday. At some point I told him I wanted to show him my TV, a flat screen Sony about 6 years old.  The set was on its way out but I was hoping it'd hang on until the Black Friday sales in November. So I turned it on and, sure enough, the left half of the screen was a mess of flickering lights and weird lines. I mentioned that at first it took 5-10 minutes for the interference to clear but now it was closer to 20-30 minutes.

Only this time it went on for an hour and by the end of that hour the top half of the right side was affected.

I had looked into this months ago. Sony Canada said they no longer carried parts for my model but suggested I check with Reliable Parts in Vancouver. The woman I dealt with at Reliable was immensely helpful. She looked up the parts list and said it was one of three circuit boards that needed replacement. I figured I might as well give the Sony what mariners call a "refit" and replace all three, start all over fresh, if you will. The parts were a relatively affordable $400 except for one hitch, the dreaded "obsolescence" fiasco. Not one of the three was still available. C'est la guerre, indeed.

When the old Sony crapped out on Friday my friend sprang into action. He seemed to lack confidence in my prospects for dealing with it on my own and so it was off to Best Buy and Costco. We saw one at Costco that looked like a relative bargain and got decent reviews at Consumer Reports and CNET. Went out, talked to the sales staff and back home with the replacement. My friend did most of the installation and set up. Back in business.

On Saturday my friend insisted that I take the old set, the Sony, and a bunch of other electronics junk I've amassed over the years (not entirely my fault, keyboards breed at night) to the electronics recycling depot.  Apparently I'm considered a procrastinator, more like a hoarder. When we got there I was amazed at the number of televisions, most of them flat screens, that were shrink wrapped on pallets awaiting removal. There were also pallets of computers, mainly PCs, also waiting for the truck.

The recycling guy then floored me when he said that just about everything they receive was still in working order. These weren't broken computers. They were old computers.  Same thing with most of the TVs and stereo equipment. Periodically, it seems, someone comes in and tests the discards. But, working or no, it's off to some firm where everything is dismantled, sorted by material, and sent on to be melted down and turned into the next piece of crap on some store shelf.

After coming home with my own electronics consigned to some afterlife, I began thinking of a productivity study I recently found. It tracked per capita GDP in England back to 1270.  For centuries per capita GDP in England remained relatively constant at around 2000 pounds (2013 sterling adjusted).  Back then your productivity would be about the same as your dad, your grandpa and your great-grandpa's. Then the graph begins a slow upward climb marked by the age of coal, picking up steam (pardon pun) during the Industrial Revolution. By 1900, average production per person hit 4,800 pounds. By 1970, around the time I lived there, it had shot up to 12,000 pounds. Thirty years later per capita GDP had again doubled to 24,000 pounds. Despite the meltdown of 2008 it's over 31,000 today.

I began to wonder how much of that post-war expansion in per capita GDP can be accounted for by stuff I saw in small pyramids at the electronics recycling depot or at the local transfer station? How much of that productivity is invested in stuff that succumbs to premature obsolescence or is simply discarded as out of vogue, no longer most desirable?

That reminded me of a recent statement by the finance minister of France renewing the call to halt the "cowboy economy" and replace it with a new form of capitalism, one based on the "re-use everything" approach necessity demands of those we send to the international space station.  Now there's an idea that's plainly overdue.

Those who've read this blog over the years will be familiar with my "Spaceship Earth" arguments for how we must recalibrate our modes of organization - social, economic, industrial, even political. This imperative has been our reality since the early 70s when man first exceeded the ecological carrying capacity of this planet, our one and only biosphere, Spaceship Earth. Back when per capita GDP in Britain stood at 12,000 pounds, not today's 31,000 pounds.

If the spaceship analogy doesn't work for you try something much worse, the lifeboat analogy. In the spaceship model there's enough, just barely enough of everything necessary to go around, perpetually recycled and repurposed (even then we still send cargo shuttles to deliver more stuff). In the lifeboat model you have a boat overloaded to the gunwales. For the survival of those aboard, others swimming to rescue themselves have to be repelled. Then there's the problem of who is to be tossed over the side if a storm brings rough seas. There's not enough of anything to go around. To keep as many alive for as long as possible the limited stocks of food and water must be rationed in the most miserly fashion.

The imperative that we're in now leaves us but one choice - we can choose to get ahead of the danger and embrace the spaceship model option or ignore the situation as we have for the past half century and find ourselves, like it or not, in lifeboat mode.  Here's the thing. Our political caste, in conjunction with their co-equals, the corporate sector, have us on the path to lifeboat mode.  Sure, their obsessive ties with neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, and the pursuit of perpetual exponential growth in GDP is fatally flawed for you and me that is and especially the weakest, poorest and most vulnerable of us but they've placed themselves and us in a rut of their own design and construction.

The most inexcusable aspect of their betrayal of us, you and me, is that better options are available. They're loosely known as "steady state economics." It's a model in which economic activity is ratcheted back until total production is again a subset of the environment. It's a model in which perpetual growth in production, consumption and waste is halted and growth becomes focused on knowledge targeted at improving quality and enjoyment of life. Growth in what matters most to people, not corporations or political castes. That's the sane way forward.

The insane way is the path of choice of virtually every leader of the Western world and almost everyone in the emerging economies, and now even the Third World.  Only we've got the head start and we're miles ahead of the pack. Today there are more and more people in the chase for increasingly less of everything they're after. There's a candle burning fiercely from both ends, eh?

One other thing. We've touched on my errant Sony TV and my electronics recycling depot. We went from there to per capita GDP in England back to 1270, pausing to check results for 1900, 1970, 2000 and 2017. Then we went to France for a sermon on cowboy economics and spaceship economics before delving into Spaceship Earth and the lifeboat model. Then on to the neoliberal rut our political caste engineered for us back in the Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney era that has led to our inability to break from pursuit of perpetual exponential growth that has now set in across our global civilization.

Finally we come to Jared Diamond's warning in his book, "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed."  The popular anthropologist has studied civilizational collapse in centuries past.  What he finds is that it's normally triggered by choice. Societies choose a path, sometimes even knowing that they're dooming those who must follow. Sort of like our leaders, political and corporate, choosing to stick with a failed neoliberal model of perpetual exponential growth that is akin to lighting a fuze and shoving the dynamite into your future's belt. A couple of other observations Diamond shares are that in societies that fail, collapse comes on abruptly and it arrives invariably when that society is at its zenith, when its GDP is at a peak. It's much like an over-inflated balloon bursting as it must.

Right now we're still pumping ever more air into our already over-inflated balloon.  I got a glimpse of that this weekend at the recycling depot.






Friday, August 18, 2017

Bannon Out?


Donald Trump has apparently given Steve Bannon his pink slip.

President Donald Trump on Friday fired Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist in the latest high-level White House shake-up, removing a powerful and controversial figure known for far-right political views, two people familiar with the matter said.

Bannon’s ouster comes with the president increasingly isolated over his comments in the aftermath of white supremacist violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville.

A champion of economic nationalism and a political provocateur, Bannon, 63, is a former U.S. Navy officer, Goldman Sachs investment banker and Hollywood movie producer.


Bannon's ejection proves very little.  We learned all we needed to know about Trump's loyalty to those close to him in the way he abused elder-racist, Jeff Sessions.

If anything, Bannon could become far more interesting beyond the White House than he ever was within it. Bring on the aftermath. Now, what about Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka?

UPDATE

Did Bannon's failed coup at the State Department trigger his firing?

[Soon to be 'former'] White House chief strategist Steve Bannon rocked Washington Wednesday night with an interview that ran the gamut of political bombshells, from economic war with China to the political knife fights dogging the administration. In the midst of this, Bannon said he wanted to sack a career State Department official close to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Bannon, speaking to the liberal magazine American Prospect in a surprise, off-the-cuff, and potentially accidental interview, boasted of plans to sideline one of Tillerson’s most trusted aides, the current acting envoy for East Asia. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State,” Bannon said.

“The secretary asked Susan Thornton to lead in a very important role, and he continues to rely on her to lead the State Department’s diplomacy in Asia,” a State Department spokesperson told FP when asked about Bannon’s comments. The spokesperson added that she “continues in her capacity” as acting assistant secretary but declined to comment further.

On Thursday morning, Tillerson made a point to shake Thornton’s hand before a meeting with top Japanese diplomats at the State Department.

Was Bannon's attempted coup the last straw? Did Trump's generals, along with Tillerson and perhaps a few others, force Trump's hand? A threatened mass mutiny perhaps? Stay tuned. There's probably a lot more to this story and it'll probably be juicy.

Assange Went Hard on Hillary, Limp on the Kremlin


A lot of people started smelling a rat when Julian Assange went a little bizarre during his latter years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.  Something wasn't right. Something else was going on.

Now it's reported that, while Julian Assange focused on dumping emails intended to damage Hillary Clinton's chances in the 2016 presidential election, he spiked a treasure trove of leaked documents damaging to the Kremlin.

In the summer of 2016, as WikiLeaks was publishing documents from Democratic operatives allegedly obtained by Kremlin-directed hackers, Julian Assange turned down a large cache of documents related to the Russian government, according to chat messages and a source who provided the records.

WikiLeaks declined to publish a wide-ranging trove of documents — at least 68 gigabytes of data — that came from inside the Russian Interior Ministry, according to partial chat logs reviewed by Foreign Policy.

“We had several leaks sent to Wikileaks, including the Russian hack. It would have exposed Russian activities and shown WikiLeaks was not controlled by Russian security services,” the source who provided the messages wrote to FP. “Many Wikileaks staff and volunteers or their families suffered at the hands of Russian corruption and cruelty, we were sure Wikileaks would release it. Assange gave excuse after excuse.”

The Russian cache was eventually quietly published online elsewhere, to almost no attention or scrutiny.

In the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of potentially damaging emails about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign, information the U.S. intelligence community believes was hacked as part of a Kremlin-directed campaign. Assange’s role in publishing the leaks sparked allegations that he was advancing a Russian-backed agenda.

Back in 2010, Assange vowed to publish documents on any institution that resisted oversight.

Is this conclusive evidence that Assange has gone rogue? Not really. Then again I haven't seen the stuff Assange rejected and, I suspect, neither have you. It could be a smoking gun, I don't know. What I do know is that this adds to previous evidence suggesting that Julian Assange may be using WikiLeaks selectively to advance a personal agenda. That I find all too believable.

A Brilliant Idea from a Time Long Past



Ancient Arab cultures were known for great advances in science and mathematics. With the intervention of Alexander this led to the great library of Alexandria, actually two libraries. Julius Caesar is said to have accidentally destroyed the main library when he used fire to defend Alexandria against a maritime assault. The second was destroyed in the 4th century A.D. by the Christian emperor Theodosius. All that knowledge wiped out.

But not quite all. There is something that has survived, something that may become more vital than ever - the Windcatcher.

We know that many deserts are insufferably hot by day and unbearably cold at night. A Windcatcher uses the cool of night to cool the day inside a structure. Windows are only placed in walls that don't face the sun. Tall towers or chimneys are likewise constructed to use prevailing winds to draw hot air out of the structures beneath in a system that draws cooler air upward from cellars. It's a technology that goes back to 4000 years B.C.E.


The beauty is that it's all natural, after initial construction. It can work without electricity or fossil fuel energy. There's even something along the same lines in the subterranean village that once housed a Tatooine farmboy, Luke Skywalker.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Is the FOX News/Donald Trump Lap Dance On the Rocks?


Some dude named James Murdoch has taken a sharp stick to Donald Trump.  Murdoch, son of Beelzebub Murdoch, really unloaded on the Cheeto Benito for his infuriating pronouncements on the Charlottesville violence. Mein Gott, what will Fox & Friends do if their umbilicus to Trump is severed before the end of his term?



The Inner Trump - Deutsche Welle



A timely article in Deutsche Well explores what Hanna Arendt would have made of Donald Trump. It's less and yet much more than you might have imagined but Arendt's philosophy is compelling.

Arendt helps us understand what Trump is not: He's not a totalitarian. There are a number of ideas in Hannah Arendt's work that I think are very helpful in understanding what Trump is. While Trump is not a totalitarian in her understanding, he incorporates what she calls "elements" of totalitarianism. She thinks that one of the core elements of totalitarianism is that it's based in a movement. A movement doesn't actually pursue achievable policies because if you achieve the policy, the "Bewegungsgrund," - the driver, or the reason for the movement - is lost and the movement will lose its energy.

Trump has explicitly called himself the mouthpiece of a movement. That's a very dangerous position for a politician. Because it actually means that what he cares about more is the mobilization of people rather than the achievement of some particular aim. Whether he understands and cares about that, I don't know.

Who knows what policies he wants to enact or achieve; he changes his mind every day. He's much more interested in exciting and mobilizing a base of people. He feeds on that and that's dangerous because you constantly have to continue to push the boundaries. Anytime something is achieved, you have to find something else that is transgressive and shocking, that will keep the people excited and mobilized. Hannah Arendt understands that deeply and she argues that movements are particularly attractive in the modern era. They are important in our society because what movements do is give people a sense of purpose in their lives.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

An American President as Nazi Sympathizer.


There are no more do-overs for Donald Trump.

After debasing himself and his office in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riot on Saturday and Sunday, Trump was dragged to the podium on Monday - two days after the fact - to finally lay the blame on the alt-right and all its constituencies including white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

It was an unconvincing performance. Trump read what was on the paper in front of him but he plainly did it begrudgingly. It was obvious that it was hard for the Cheeto Benito to digest. However, for Trump's die-hard backers in the Republican Party it was hailed as the real Donald Trump, a man who, despite initial wavering, was truly fit to be president.

Until today. Then Trump took a moment before the cameras in the lobby of Trump Tower to revive his early message that "both sides" were to blame including the "very, very" vicious left, the protesters, a number of whose bodies ended up in emergency rooms, one in the morgue, the price exacted for standing up to racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism.

Trump was now unquestionably rallying to the aid and comfort of his base - white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klansmen, all members in good standing of Team Trump. Yes, in addition to his qualifications as misogynist, deviant, philanderer, serial sex offender, pervert, cheat, racist and pathological liar, Trump can now add white supremacist, anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer. That's quite a resume.


The Great Acceleration


Hardly a day passes when I don't ask if our leaders are crazy, out of their minds. I keep coming back with the same answer - it's either that or something far worse.

There's been a discernible - and welcome - shift in climate science lately. Instead of the constant focus on anthropogenic global warming, many of the leading science types are beginning to recognize that the problems confronting the world include associated issues such as overpopulation and over-consumption. They're all connected, inter-related and each compounds the others.

For example, we know we must sharply slash greenhouse gas emissions starting now, right now. However, when it comes to population and consumption, we're heading in the opposite direction just as far and fast as we can possibly manage. Listen to our prime minister. He almost never passes up an opportunity to champion growth, GDP growth. We must grow the economy, must expand trade. Real, perpetual, exponential growth. And, while we do that, we're going to save the world and slash our greenhouse gas emissions. Only we're not.

This brings us to the theory/reality of the Great Acceleration. This neat video gives you the idea:



For all the challenges that will face the world, including Canada, over the balance of this century, the pursuit of perpetual, exponential growth is akin to a lung cancer patient choosing to go from a two pack a day habit to three packs a day. You would think that person crazy. Why do you think better of your political leadership?

The International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme tracks the Great Acceleration. It's all laid out in handy charts at their home page.  Here are a few that demonstrate what is underway today.





Here are a few charts illustrating mankind's global footprint.





















Isn't it curious how all these graphs seem so similar. They all start out low on the left and high on the right, some very high.  At the risk of boring you all I'll repeat that at my birth the global population was in the vicinity of 2.5 billion. Today we're past 7.5 billion heading to 9 billion, perhaps 10 billion. At today's 7.5 billion we're gobbling up the Earth's resources beyond the planet's carrying capacity by a factor of 1.7 and that's a deficit that grows with each year. We would need almost another entire Earth to meet our resource consumption levels.  Only we're stuck with just this one.

We're facing a perilous problem at every level - globally, regionally and nationally. Some now predict we'll be all but wiped out by 2030. Others are more optimistic and forecast our numbers will be in a sustainable range of between 500 million and one billion by 2100. Do the math - 9 billion minus X equals one billion. X represents how many people will have to be eliminated over the next 70 years or so to get us back to what might represent a sustainable population in the degraded world we'll inhabit by 2100.  The Great Acceleration seems to be taking us to a Great Die-Off in the magnitude of 8 billion people.

Despite all this data, all the science, we have a "business as usual" government that pays it not the slightest heed. Our planet is already grossly overstressed yet our government believes a rosy future awaits us in the pursuit of perpetual exponential growth. Does that strike you as sane? Do you think they're crazy, out of their minds? Or do you think there's something far worse in play?

UPDATE:

One of the most elusive statistics to hunt down is per capita GDP growth. It is a measure of output but it also reflects energy and resources consumed, production of goods, services and waste. Record keeping in Britain has allowed per capita GDP to be charted from today back to 1270.  The results are impressive. Per capita GDP first reached 2,000 pounds (adjusted to 2013 sterling) in 1832.  By 1900 the Industrial Revolution had swelled that to 4,800 pounds per capita.  The 12,000 pound mark fell in 1970.  That doubled again to 24,000 pounds per capita GDP in the year 2000, increasing to 28,000 just before the crash of 2008. To make sense of this, the average Briton's production increased from 4,800 pounds in 1900 to close out that century at 24,000 pounds per capital GDP. In the course of one century, the 20th, that's a five fold increase in per capita GDP. In 1900 the global population stood at 1.6 billion. We closed out that century at just over 6 billion and now stand at 7.5 billion. Taking total per capita GDP in 1900 and total population in 1900 we have now grown humanity's ecological footprint by something in the order of 30 to 40 times. And we're still trapped in perpetual, exponential growth. It's still going on. We can't stop it. We won't stop it. No, it will stop us.

Trump - Alt.Left Also Responsible for Charlottesville


That racist, misogynist, sexist, deviant fascist bastard can't help himself.  A day after he so reluctantly had to appear on camera to denounce the white supremacists, white nationalist, neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan thugs who ran amok in Charlottesville on Saturday leaving one woman dead and 19 others seriously injured in their wake, Trump today had to prove that he can't help himself. He corrected yesterday's disingenuous statement by announcing that the alt.left (is there such a thing) was also responsible for the violence in Charlottesville.  Trump added, "nobody wants to say that." Not quite, Don. You did you racist bastard.  You wanted to say that. It's your message to your constituency - the white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, your base.

More from The New York Times:

Mr. Trump repeated that assertion on Tuesday, criticizing “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”

Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” 

Mueller, get off your arse. Bring the cuffs.

Who Isn't Quitting Trump's American Manufacturing Council?


Elon Musk walked weeks ago. Then Google took its leave. Now, in the wake of the Charlottesville alt.right, neo-Nazi, KKK, white supremacist rally and Donald Trump's refusal to do what was right and denounce these fascists until his hand was forced, there've been more departures.

Merck pharmaceuticals, which has a black CEO, was first out. Intel followed shortly thereafter. UnderArmour and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, round out the second wave of departures.  Good for them but who is staying?

Dow Chemical, Harris Corporation, Dell, NuCor, Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin (well, duh), General Electric, United Technologies, AFL-CIO (really?), Campbell Soup, Boeing, Caterpillar, International Paper, 3M and Corning are among those who are still standing with Trump.

There is a way to fight/bite back, at least with some of the prime suspects. There's a free app, Buycott, for your smartphone, iPhone or Android. It's a bar code scanner and it'll tell you if a product you're considering is manufactured by any one of several manufacturers, i.e. Nestles or the Koch brothers, that you want to boycott. Most of these brands have a variety of other products. Campbell's, for example, owns Prego, Pace, Pepperidge Farm. You wouldn't believe the number of consumer brands owned by the Koch boys, Wolfram und Helmut. I absolutely refuse to buy Nestle products but their owned brands are nearly impossible to track without something like the BuyCott app.

It sounds like a real hassle and it is, the first time or two you scan a grocery shelf. What I've found is that it doesn't take long before you learn to associate a brand, such as Delissio frozen pizza or Kit-Kat, DelMonte, Carnation or many other products with Nestle. Sometimes there is no alternative. Try getting some napalm except from Dow Chemical and you'll have a tough time. Just sayin'. However far more often there's plenty of choice and it feels good not to put your money in their pocket.

Fascism Within


It's not hard to spot resurgent fascism. Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Israel, the United States, India among others. It's also struggling to get a toe hold elsewhere - Germany, France, the U.K., the Netherlands come to mind.

What about here in tolerant, gentle Canada? Do we have fascism taking hold here? Is it a threat?

Consider Canada in the context of the British experience. The Guardian's columnist, Owen Jones, asks "Who has fanned the flames of fascism?" and settles on his country's politicians and its newspapers.

They pour the petrol and then wonder why it burns. Fascism is on the rise in the west, and it is emboldened, legitimised and fuelled by “mainstream” politicians and newspapers. When we mourn a hero like Bernard Kenny – who courageously tried to stop a fascist terrorist murdering Jo Cox – we have to ask ourselves: who are those with power and influence who helped create the conditions in which racists and fascists breed?

“Cannot believe we’re seeing Nazi salutes in 21st century America,” tweets Nigel Farage about Charlottesville, dragging a can of petrol behind him. Perhaps next the chief executive of a fast-food company will express disbelief at levels of obesity; or a tobacco company will issue a press release spluttering about lung cancer deaths. Farage: the man who stood, arms outstretched, in front of a poster featuring dark-skinned refugees and the words “Breaking Point”. Farage: the man who expressed his “concern” at having Romanians move in next door, and made apocalyptic warnings of Romanians and Bulgarians flooding Britain. Farage: the man who cheered on the ascendancy of Donald Trump, a US president whose most fervent supporters are now triumphantly chanting “Heil Trump!” as they menace minorities and progressives.
...Across the western world a media and political elite scapegoats migrants for the crimes of the powerful, portrays Muslims as a homogeneous violent fifth column, and demonises opponents as unpatriotic saboteurs and internal enemies. Trump’s initial refusal to attribute blame to racists and fascists after a far-right terrorist attack – his subsequent coerced denunciation is worthless, and was followed by his retweet of a leading “alt-rightist” – underlines why those marching in Charlottesville see him as their leader.
...
And then the media report on the frothing racist and fascists of Charlottesville – and Britain, for that matter – like David Attenborough in a nature programme. Where did they come from? The truth is their hatred and bile are legitimised and echoed by media moguls and mainstream politicians alike. In this country, the rightwing Brexiteers portrayed immigrants as a morass of potential criminals, terrorists, rapists and murderers; in the aftermath of their repellent campaign, they portray critics and progressives as enemies of the people and saboteurs who need to be crushed.

Yes, racists and fascists are enabled and empowered by elites on both sides of the Atlantic; and yes, not just by their hatred, but by an economic order that generates needless misery and insecurity, which the bigoted can exploit.

They are the guilty men – the hatred, the chaos and the violence is on them. And as the racists and the fascists continue to march and unleash violent chaos, their enablers must be held accountable.




Is Canada immune to this sort of venom? Is it fomented and spread by our political caste and our corporate media cartel? Think Kelly Leitch. Think Omar Khadr and the opinion pages of our newspapers.  Think Levant and Rebel Media. The difference between Canada and so many other countries is that we have the benefit of so many examples where this contagion was dismissed or ignored and allowed to establish a toe hold. We don't have to go down that same path.




Old Harry Catches the Stench of 1939 In the Air


For a 94-year old guy, Harry Leslie Smith intends to see his voice heard. Smith splits his time between the U.K. and a home he maintains in Belleville, Ontario.  Ever outspoken, in July Smith gave an interview to The Tyee in which he compared Trudeau to his predecessor, Harper. In 2013 the WWII vet bemoaned the death of democracy he and so many of his friends had fought, and died, to preserve.

Now Harry is back with a warning. War is coming and "its thundering approach can't be ignored."

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia eviscerates Yemen with the same ferocity as Mussolini did to Ethiopia when I was child in 1935. The hypocrisy of Britain’s government and elite class ensures that innocent blood still flows in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Theresa May’s government insists that peace can only be achieved through the proliferation of weapons of war in conflict zones. Venezuela teeters towards anarchy and foreign intervention while in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte – protected by his alliance with Britain and the US – murders the vulnerable for the crime of trying to escape their poverty through drug addiction.

Because I am old, now 94, I recognise these omens of doom. Chilling signs are everywhere, perhaps the biggest being that the US allows itself to be led by Donald Trump, a man deficient in honour, wisdom and just simple human kindness. It is as foolish for Americans to believe that their generals will save them from Trump as it was for liberal Germans to believe the military would protect the nation from Hitler’s excesses.

Britain also has nothing to be proud of. Since the Iraq war our country has been on a downward decline, as successive governments have eroded democracy and social justice, and savaged the welfare state with austerity, leading us into the cul de sac of Brexit. Like Trump, Brexit cannot be undone by liberal sanctimony – it can only be altered if the neoliberal economic model is smashed, as if it were a statue of a dictator, by a liberated people.

After years of Tory government, Britain is less equipped to change the course of history for the good than we were under Neville Chamberlain, when Nazism was appeased in the 1930s.

...

This August resembles too much that of 1939; the last summer of peace until 1945. Then aged 16 and still wet behind the ears, I’d go to pictures with my mates and we’d laugh at the newsreels of Hitler and other fascist monsters that lived beyond what we thought was our reach. Little did we know in that August 1939, life without peace, without carnage, without air raids, without the blitz, could be measured in days. I did not hear the thundering approach of war, but as an old man I hear it now for my grandchildren’s generation. I hope I am wrong. But I am petrified for them.

Harry's lament reminds me of a warning published by the leading German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, in 2014 that we in the West are being "mentally mobilized for war." It's not clear yet what country or countries we'll be exchanging death counts with but given the spurt of new technology weaponry from stealth warplanes to directed energy weapons to modernized nuclear arsenals it appears we're prepping for something we haven't known since WWII, peer-on-peer warfare. That's when, instead of pounding the living hell out of (or into) little people with limited or no ability to pound back, we really get into it in a major league donnybrook.

Old Harry is right. The wheels are coming off our little red wagon. The environment is degrading much faster than we ever imagined. What's underway in the Arctic is really difficult to grasp and that's just one flash point. Illiberal democracy is on the rise. It's the same story with failed states. The world, as Harry senses, is becoming destabilized. And what are we doing to arrest this descent? Nothing really, nothing.

Charlottesville Rebound


Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a statue of a Civil War Confederate soldier in reaction to the fiasco in Charlottesville, Virginia on the weekend.



Hard to tell where this is going but that may be clear this coming weekend when further confrontations between protesters and the alt.right, white supremacist and Klan demonstrators are expected.

Trump Says He May Pardon Sheriff Arpaio



He's calls himself "America's toughest sheriff" and now he's facing a stretch in the Greybar Hotel for refusing an order to stop traffic stop patrols targeting Latinos as suspected undocumented immigrants. Convicted of contempt, Arpaio awaits sentencing.

Arpaio has been accused of various types of misconduct, including abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations. A Federal court monitor was appointed to oversee his office's operations because of complaints of racial profiling. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, and subsequently filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct.

I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” the president told Fox News on Sunday.

He said the pardon could come within days if he decides to act on it. Arpaio, 85, could be sentenced to up to six months in jail, though a court may avoid jail time because of his age.





You Can't Tell If It's Safe If You Don't Know What It Is.



The folks in Washington state aren't impressed with the Trudeau/Notley/Kinder-Morgan pipeline initiative. Among other things they're a little pissed off that no one will tell them what's in the dilbit the pipeline pimps want to force through to the coast.

You've got bitumen. That's bad enough. It's laced with carcinogens, acids, abrasives, heavy metals, and granular coal called "petcoke." But what's in the other stuff, the diluent, the light oil that has to be mixed with bitumen just to pass the stuff - under heat and high pressure - through a pipeline at all. Kinder-Morgan doesn't seem to want to talk about that. Neither do Trudeau or Notley.

The data is crucial for spill response planning as the company proceeds with a proposed $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would triple the daily flow between Edmonton, Alta. and Burnaby, B.C. to 890,000 barrels. From the company’s Burnaby site, the oil would be shipped to Asian markets in tankers through Vancouver Harbour and then through the waters of the Juan de Fuca Strait shared by British Columbia and Washington State.

The pipeline company has suggested in responses to National Observer that it has been transparent enough, publishing a list of 52 products that Transport Canada has approved for the pipeline, as well as components listed on crudemonitor.ca for various types of oil. It has told Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) it would quickly disclose ingredients in the event of a spill.

Yet officials in Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources voiced grievous doubts in internal memos dated January 2017. “What is frustrating is ... tar sand oil manufacturers’ lack of transparency on what is used for diluents and those diluent properties, which in my mind (alludes) to dishonesty,” wrote the state’s oil spill response coordinator.

What? Did they say "dishonesty"? Well that would be a first on the Trans-Mountain pipeline, wouldn't it? Actually no. Even the Dauphin has been completely dishonest when it comes to that pipeline, an inveterate liar. Remember - and we do - when he said there would be no pipeline without "social licence" and the backing of First Nations. Remember - and we do - when he said he would "follow the science" which, despite his boastful claims, he's never produced. Remember - and we do - when he criticized the Harper National Energy Board's rigged environmental review and promised it would be done again if only he became prime minister.  Lie, lie, lie and lie. That's Trump-grade lying from Cap'n Selfie. 


South of the border, worries date back to at least 2004, preceding Kinder Morgan’s expansion plan, when a study by the Washington State Department of Ecology concluded that a major oil spill would cost the state 165,000 jobs and US$10.8 billion in economic impacts.

State ecology officials in the spill response section wrote to the Washington State governor in 2013 that, “B.C. lacks authority over marine waters, and their federal regime is probably a couple of decades behind the system currently in place in Washington State. When it is spilled, we are concerned that dilbit oil may be considerably more toxic and damaging, and far more difficult to clean up, than conventional crude from Alaska."
...

The Washington State oil spill response coordinator expressed acceptance of the need for oil in the current economy, but added that “without unbiased research” governments cannot have an honest debate on many questions. Among the questions: "how fast the diluent will evaporate in real life conditions, how explosive is the air in an oil spill due to properties of diluent and how does this affect a response, how soon will the oil sink, how well will sinking oil be addressed if at all, how will sunken oil be tracked, what will be the impact of that oil on ecosystem(s), how will it be monitored and recorded, and how will we gauge mitigation plans proposed to repair or at least compensate for damage?"

The documents connect the spill questions to the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The same oil spill response official asks, “Without these questions being answered to an exhaustive degree, how can the public be asked to accept these risks? ... How can we honestly say that we are ‘prepared’?

"The times of oil companies asking the public to trust them are over, as we still seek to understand the full implications of the BP oil spill.

And it's pretty obvious that, when it comes to Justin Trudeau, the times of him asking British Columbians to trust him, well, they're also over.