Saturday, September 23, 2017

Somebody Needed to Say It and Who Better?

Thanks to a football scholarship he got a science degree in chemistry from the University of Richmond. He became the team captain. In his best game he had 10 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. He got a Masters of Science degree in materials engineering from the University of Virginia.  He was picked up by the Detroit Lines but sidelined by a hamstring. He went to the Dallas Cowboys but succumbed to another hamstring injury.

After football he was hired as an engineer at NASA Langley Research Center. He went on to lead a vehicle monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed X-33 spaceplane.  He became an astronaut serving as a shuttle mission specialist on STS-122 and STS-129, both missions to the international space station. His space days over he became a deputy administrator of NASA.

He's Leland D. Melvin, he's black and he's had his fill of Donald J. Trump and Trump's juvenile,  racist antics. He put pen to paper:

To Donald Trump
I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this country even though at the time they were drafted, their tenets of life, liberty justice for all and eventual freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press and petition amendment ratified in Dec 1791, only applied to a select group of people and not ones that looked like me.
Donald Trump, I listened to your Alabama rally rant and could not believe how easily you say what you say.
We have become numb to your outlandish acts, tweets and recent retweet of you knocking down Hillary Clinton with a golf ball that you hit.
Donald Trump, your boorish and disgusting actions are not funny. They actually promote violence against women especially when your followers act out what you say.
I used to walk the grounds of UVA in Charlottesville, VA as a graduate student only to watch in horror as those same grounds became a battlefield being trod by Nazi and anti-Semitic worshippers armed with assault style weapons ready to fight to make America White again. (their words). You actually said there were nice people on both sides. People armed and ready to kill other Americans for the purpose of eradicating Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Mexicans, Asians, Latinas and even the first real Americans, Native Americans to make America Great Again were “nice people”?
Comparing this to what you say in condemnation of an unarmed black man peacefully protesting by exercising his constitutional First Amendment rights by silently taking a knee is appalling, unnerving and reprehensible.
Today, you called Colin Kaepernick “a son-of-a-bitch.”
You said he should be fired.
You are calling his white mother a bitch.
The strong contrast in language for a black man and a Nazi is very telling. Do you have any sense of decency or shame in what you say to the American people that are part of your duty to serve respectfully with dignity, presidentially?
Our National Anthem has been edited to try not to offend, because when Francis Scott Key penned the song he watched freed slaves fighting for the British and wrote this stanza:
“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
I guess if I were a slave back then I probably would have done anything to obtain freedom from my American oppressors who were whipping, killing, raping, dismembering, hanging or releasing the dogs on people like me all under our Constitution.
In 1814 former slaves fought with the British for their freedom from their American enslavers.
Key witnessed a battle from a ship off the Maryland shore at Fort McHenry, which inspired him to write what became our National Anthem.
I served my country not in the military, but as 1 of 362 American Astronauts that have explored the universe to help advance our civilization. Not just Americans, but all humans. I also was briefly in the NFL and stood for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart. What makes us great is our differences and respecting that we are all created equally even if not always treated that way.
Looking back at our planet from space really helps one get a bigger perspective on how petty and divisive we can be. Donald Trump, maybe you should ask your good friend Mr. Putin to give you a ride on a Soyuz rocket to our International Space Station and see what it’s like to work together with people we used to fight against, where your life depends on it. See the world and get a greater sense of what it means to be part of the human race, we call it the Orbital Perspective.
Donald Trump, please know that you are supposed to be a unifier and a compassionate and empathetic leader. If you can’t do the job then please step down and let someone else try. I pray that you do the right thing.
May God bless you.
Leland Melvin
Former Astronaut and NFL Player

How America Oversold Stealth

I said it way back when. I'll say it again. The F-35 is not the plane for Canada. I'm not sure it's the plane for any country, the US and Britain excepted.

My criticisms of the F-35 still hold true. It was pitched as a breakthrough, "fifth generation" jet fighter. At the outset I said it might be a 5th generation airplane but it was Gen 5.0-Beta. A "beta" anything is a development product, a work in progress, a proof of concept experiment.  The F-35 was and remains a beta model.

The usual way a beta progresses is you discard what doesn't work, take what does and incorporate the best elements into something even better. The deal with Lockheed, however, is based on keeping the whole thing, warts and all.

20-years ago when Lockheed's best and brightest were designing the F-35 it was a different world. As stealth strike fighters go, the F-35 was the only game in town. Without something to measure it against Lockheed was able to make the most preposterous claims about their new baby.

The F-35 was designed to defeat challenges that it might face 20-years ago. Things were pretty basic back then. For example just about everyone had settled down to X-band radars. So you design an airplane to defeat X-band radars. And, because of all the inherent flaws in your design, you focus on frontal-aspect stealth cloaking. You're not as concerned about whether your aircraft can be seen from above or below or from the sides or the back. You've reduced your problem from all six facets to just one and that one becomes the litmus test of how stealthy you are. Because you're focusing on radar cross section you pretty much have to "fix" your design from the get go. You can't later bolt on extra stuff because that would give you away, defeat the whole purpose. Meanwhile, as you begin the endless business of testing and developing, your intended adversaries - Russia and China - get out their paper and pencils and figure out how they'll bugger you up.

The guys in the black hats have been real busy. They looked for the Achilles' heel and found a bunch of them. They're everywhere. Some come from the F-35 design. Some come from the F-35 technology. Some arise out of how the aircraft will be deployed and operated tactically. In some cases they've let word out about their counter-measures. In others they're still closely held secrets. Each side is bringing a bunch of stuff to the table and we won't know what works and what doesn't until they lock horns. That day, should it come, will be as fascinating as it will be horrible.

One of the other side's breakthroughs came in being able to identify and target the F-35 from long range. X-band radars aren't very effective. L-band radars work far better. And then there is a range of advanced optical, infrared, even acoustic sensors. The Australians have developed a sensor that can detect the turbulence of a fast jet. What the other side has learned is that you can bundle these sensors, call it "sensor fusion," and all of a sudden what can't be seen, or targeted or attacked, can.

Aviation Week has run a series of articles on "low observable" technology and design and, when you put it all together, it describes the airplane you would build to overcome the F-35's many flaws and shortcomings. Things like "all-aspect" stealth that provides cloaking in all six facets, not just one. Those vertical tails have to go. They're like waving a flag. Instead you wind up with a design that looks like a miniature B-2 bomber, a flying wing. Heat masking is another must have. The F-35 has the hottest tailpipe in the business which leaves it incredibly vulnerable to much faster interceptors in a tail chase. That has to go. And, instead of X-band cloaking, the first real stealth strike fighter will have multi-band, multi-sensor stealth. It has to be radar stealthy across the spectrum, infra-red stealthy, optically stealthy. It has to be everything the F-35 isn't.

That, in a nutshell, is the warplane the United States is designing right now. Build that airplane, load it up with all the electronic wizardry developed for the F-35, and you might just get your money's worth, maybe.

In the meantime Canada should buy something affordable, off the shelf, perhaps of European manufacture. We might even hook up with SAAB on a new aircraft, a twin-engine variant based on their Gripen.

Abortion - Republican Style

This being Republican in nature, the mother has no say in the matter. There's no paper work to fill out either. It's enough if she lives in Flint, Michigan and simply turns on the tap.

Researchers from the University of Kansas and West Virginia U. have just released their report on the wilful contamination of Flint's water supply and the lead-poisoned water's impact on fertility and birth rates.

Following the change in the water source, women in Flint aged 15-49 had a general fertility rate (GFR) decease of 12 percent. Fetal death rates for the group increased by 58 percent—a magnitude the researchers describe as "horrifyingly large."

"We find no evidence of avoidance behavior," said David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas. "Either Flint residents were unable to conceive children, or women were having more miscarriages during this time."

If water switch had not occurred, the researchers estimate that between November 2013 and March 2015 between 198 and 276 more children would have been born.

If, as the Republican stalwarts always say, life begins at conception then the governor of the State of Michigan and many members of his staff implicated in this fiasco should be under criminal indictment. Negligent homicide, manslaughter?

There's a Dam Bursting in Puerto Rico. That Might Be the Least of Their Water Problems.

70,000 Puerto Ricans have been ordered to evacuate an area downstream of the Guajataca dam. A crack discovered yesterday has now breached the dam and the reservoir has begun to empty.

The Guajataca dam is one of a handful in the territory that together represent the island's freshwater supply. The island has many rivers but no natural lakes and so the dams were the solution. Long before Puerto Rico was raked by Hurricane Maria that water supply was in a terrible state.

There are reports going back years on the degraded state of the territory's fresh water supply. NBC News described it as a crisis in May of this year.

Elevated lead levels, bacteria, chemicals and lax adherence to regulations have created a toxic mix for the American territory's 3 million-plus citizens, Natural Resources Defense Council Health Director Erik Olson told NBC News, citing his group's latest research.

"Puerto Rico just clearly has the biggest challenges of any state or territory in the United States," Olson said. 

The drinking water fails lead safety regulations, while 70 percent of the island is served by water that violates federal health standards. The government-run water utility also routinely fails to conduct the required safety tests, while failing the safety tests they do conduct, according to a new NRDC report.

Following the NRDC's May water safety report, data provided to NBC News showed San Juan, Puerto Rico to be the worst big-city water system in the nation. There, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) had more violations than any other big city, with 64 safety violations, including 24 different health violations, in 2015.

And Olson said he expects the situation to deteriorate further, because President Donald Trump's has proposed big cuts to Environmental Protection Agency programs that fund the Puerto Rican water system and federal safety enforcement mechanisms.

God is not smiling on Puerto Rico.  A 12-year recession leading to bankruptcy, the migration of its citizens to the mainland in search of a future, the truly catastrophic devastation of Hurricane Maria, a failed electrical system that may leave the island without power for months, the dam collapse and the loss of a major reservoir and an already contaminated fresh water supply, a federal government that will probably supply only a fraction of the amount needed to get Puerto Rico back on its feet, it's hard to guess where recovery efforts begin and how local authorities can cover the costs. It's like a prize fighter unable to defend himself at the end of a bout where his opponent delivers blow after blow after blow, unopposed, until the ref finally intervenes. Puerto Rico's resilience may now be akin to Haiti's. Unlike the Haitians, however, Puerto Ricans can flee their island.

From Russia With Love? This May Be Why Trump is Lashing Out at Everyone.

America's man/baby president is on a rampage against just about everybody these days including anyone associated with what he calls the "Russia hoax." This includes Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg who recently turned over evidence of Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election. If you wonder what Trump is so worried about, it's this:

It's Like Getting Stuck In a Perpetual Tailgate Party in Louisiana

And there's a bum with an orange pompadour  in a lawn chair haranguing everyone who approaches to chow down on a bone with some greasy gristle and barbecue sauce. An endless nightmare.

Yesterday, Donny Bob had a gnaw on quarterback Colin Kaepernik who chooses to kneel rather than stand for the playing of America's national anthem. Trump even called him a "son of a bitch." Very presidential, Donny Bob. Then he attacked the entire league, the N Effing L, for being a bunch of sissies over the concussive brain injury issue. Real, red-blooded Americans, said Donny Bob, pay good money to see brains scrambled on the playing field.

Today's targets are that place where all those other rich black folks hang out, the NBA. And, of course, that lily-livered pinko, Arizona senator John McCain. Trump began with a tweet slamming Stephen Curry of the champion Golden State Warriors. Curry said he didn't think he would accept the invitation to visit the White House. Trump lashed back by purportedly cancelling the invitation Curry had already declined.

Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating,therefore invitation is withdrawn!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017

LeBron James wasted no time coming after Trump with his own tweet. James called Trump a "bum."

U bum @StephenCurry30 already said he ain't going! So therefore ain't no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 23, 2017

Meanwhile NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, pushed back against Trump's angry rhetoric.

In a sharply worded response that didn't mention Trump by name, Goodell said the remarks "demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities."

Goodell added that the league and its players "are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture."

Hmmm, did Roger use the word "culture." Maybe he doesn't realize that in TrumpLand that's code for white supremacy. 

Well, that's quite a day's work. Now Trump has a good chunk of the NFL roster and probably most if not all of the NBA roster gunning for him.

Donny Bob seems to be increasingly retreating to his safe ground, the Slave States of the Deep South. With his dog whistle rhetoric precisely tuned to the racist ear it raises the question if he's trying to spark a major race incident to congeal his greasy base as Mueller and his all star team of sleuths steadily close in.

Friday, September 22, 2017

With Mueller Breathing Down His Neck, Captain Twisty is Losing His Shit.

Donald Trump seems to be going out of his way to convince people that he is coming unglued. Like the worst sort of barroom drunk, Trump is going out of his way to pick fights with anyone and everyone who gets within range of his stubby little fingers.

Donald Trump launched a sensational attack on NFL players who have kneeled in protest of the national anthem during a speech in Alabama on Friday night, challenging the league’s owners to release anyone who engages in the movement started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a rally at Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in support of Republican senator Luther Strange, who is running in a special GOP primary election next week for the Senate seat vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

Trump went on to attribute the NFL’s dip in television ratings to the rule changes implemented over the last few years to make the game less violent and limit head injuries, an issue abruptly thrust back into the spotlight on Thursday with the revelation that Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots star who killed himself in April while serving a life sentence for murder, suffered from a ‘severe’ case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the progressive degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated blows to the head.

“When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively,” he said. “Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening ... with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: Fifteen yards! Throw him out of the game!”

He added: “They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.”

Trump’s broadside on Friday wasn’t the first time he’s made light of the NFL’s player safety rules. At a campaign stop in October in Florida, the then-candidate praised a supporter who had fainted from heat exhaustion but returned to the rally after treatment.

“That woman was out cold, and now she’s coming back,” Trump said from the podium. “See, we don’t go by these new, and very much softer, NFL rules. Concussion … ‘Uh oh, got a little ding on the head? No, no, you can’t play for the rest of the season.’ Our people are tough.”

This is a man/boy seriously unhinged. 

America's Buffoon in Chief Went "Off Script" Again

It's reported that Trump aide and rightwing nutjob, Stephen Miller, puts the finishing touches on the Cheeto Benito's speeches, tweeks them up here and there.

Trump's volatile rant to the United Nations General Assembly in which he threatened to annihilate North Korea seems to have Miller's DNA all over it.

Now it's come out that Trump's "grown up" aides were, yet again, blindsided by the man/boy president's remarks.

Trump’s derisive description of Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man on a suicide mission” and his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea were not in a speech draft that several senior officials reviewed and vetted Monday, the day before Trump gave his first address to the U.N. General Assembly, two U.S. officials said.

Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire.

But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.

Some advisors now worry that the escalating war of words has pushed the impasse with North Korea into a new and dangerous phase that threatens to derail the months-long effort to squeeze Pyongyang’s economy through sanctions to force Kim to the negotiating table.

A detailed CIA psychological profile of Kim, who is in his early 30s and took power in late 2011, assesses that Kim has a massive ego and reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights.

It also says that the dynastic leader — Kim is the grandson of the communist country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and son of its next leader, Kim Jong Il — views himself as inseparable from the North Korean state.

I wonder what the CIA psychological profile of Trump concludes. It sounds like all they would have to do is delete 'Kim Jong Un' and substitute 'Donald J. Trump.' By the way, that's not a good thing, not good at all.

And We've Still Got a Week of September To Go.

It's been a pretty crazy September, hasn't it? This video, which has some quirks and glaring flaws, presents a vivid depiction of what we've gone through so far and there's still a week to go.

McCain Digs In

This won't please John McCain's BFF, senator Lindsey Graham, the author of the latest bill to sink Obamacare

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal,” McCain said in a statement on Friday. “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried.”

“Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will effect insurance premiums [sic], and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.”

With Rand Paul opposed and Maine senator Sue Collins leaning against the bill, McCain could deliver another giant wedgie to Donald Trump and majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Maybe They Got "Raptured" Out of Town

Mormon stronghold, Salt Lake City, can't seem to find its homeless population. There used to be a lot of them. Then there was some sort of "police operation." Now they're gone.

The streets around Salt Lake City’s downtown emergency shelter have long been home to hundreds of homeless people. In recent weeks, though, nearly all seem to have vanished following a police operation. Local residents are mystified as to where they’ve gone.

The Salt Lake City police chief, Mike Brown, said he had visited parks and the Jordan river, which threads its way to the Great Salt Lake and has homeless camps dotted along its banks, but he hadn’t seen an influx from downtown. Sgt Brandon Shearer has been up in a police helicopter looking for camps and seemed equally perplexed when asked where the people had gone. “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a good question.”

Now You See It

Now You Don't

The Climate Change Petri Dish - Puerto Rico

The world has witnessed a host of strong hurricanes as they ravaged the Caribbean and the southern US. Many islands have been devastated but one of particular interest is Puerto Rico.

What sets Puerto Rico apart from some other island states is that it is a territory of the United States sort of, barely. It's also in a mess financially.

Hurricane Maria hammered Puerto Rico. Property damage is extensive, catastrophic. Electricity is out, everywhere, and islanders could be without power for months.

This article from Vox explores Puerto Rico's debt and devastation predicament. The island was already down before Maria knocked it out. The aid expected from Washington will address some of the hurricane damage but it won't tackle the overall problems. And the government of Puerto Rico is tapped out and has no borrowing power left.

Many parts of Canada are familiar with power outages. They usually last a day or two but some can persist for upward of a week. That's bad enough but getting by without power for months is a different challenge altogether. 

What we'll be witnessing in the coming months is a test. A test of Puerto Rico and its people, how they handle the devastation and dislocation. It'll also be a test of the United States itself and how it comes to the rescue of what is, after all, its long-claimed territory.

For three years running, Puerto Rico has been losing its citizens at the rate of 2% per year. These have been economic migrants trying to avoid the collapse at home and seeking a new life in the United States proper. Now we'll see those economic pressures compounded by ecological destruction. 

Will Puerto Rico experience an exodus or will its people be able to muster the incredible resilience to stay? Either way, it'll be a petri dish for the rest of us, one that warrants a careful eye.

Don't Believe in the "Second Coming" Business? This Might Change Your Mind.

It's hard to imagine a more natural fit than war and weapons. Hand in glove sort of thing. War is every gun maker's market. They need, you got, you sell and often at a handsome premium.

Okay, you might want to sit down for this.

Germany has a legendary arms maker called Heckler & Koch. When the job requires the finest, the best go for H&K. When US Navy Seals took down Bin Laden they sent Osama to his maker with H&K submachine guns.  The company's majority owner, Andreas Heeschen, describes it as "the Porsche of weapons."

It therefore came as a huge surprise when the company announced a new policy. It will no longer go after the low-hanging fruit. It will no longer sell its weapons in active conflict zones.

First revealed in a yearly financial report in March, the gun manufacturer plans to no longer sell weapons to corrupt and warring governments.

Heckler & Koch promises only to deal with NATO countries, NATO-equivalent nations (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Switzerland), and countries with passing marks on Transparency International's corruption index and the Economist Intelligence Unit's democracy test.

Bad Boy to Good Boy

The firm will forgo business in major and emerging markets, including Israel, Mexico, Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and every nation on the African continent. The policy shift is a first for any major arms manufacturer, and a significant change for a company with a recent history of sketchy deals.

"This is a company that had one of the most terrible reputations," Grasslin said. "In all the podium discussions I've done in the last few years, the other arms companies used to say, 'We're not like Heckler & Koch, we're morally better'. Now Heckler & Koch has come along and said, 'We're not delivering to the Middle East anymore'. It'll be interesting to see what happens now."

As of 2014, the company enjoyed 11 per cent of the global gun business, according to the Guardian. "If you made a map of where there are no Heckler & Koch guns, you'd have two white patches," Grasslin said. "One: the former Warsaw Pact countries - they're all flooded with Kalashnikovs. Two . . . the Antarctic."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Fractured States of America

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that white Americans and African-Americans agree that race relations in the US are bad or worse.

White respondents said race relations were fairly bad (45%) or very bad (24%). African-American responses were 37% fairly bad, 40% very bad.

Who knew?

The bleak outlook is a far cry from the optimism about race relations expressed after President Barack Obama's election as the nation's first black president. Shortly before Obama's inauguration in 2009, a record 77 percent of Americans offered a positive assessment of race relations, while just 21 percent disagreed.

While that confidence persisted during Obama's first term as president, it had eroded significantly to just 52 percent by July 2013, the same month that George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the fatal 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Sanford, Fla.

Republicans and independents are less pessimistic about race relations than Democrats, although majorities of all three groups give a poor assessment of the current state of affairs. About two-thirds of both Republicans and independents call race relations bad, while eight in 10 Democrats say the same.

Men also have a slightly sunnier view; just 20 percent of women but 33 percent of men give a positive assessment of how the U.S. is grappling with race relations.

Good thing they've got Donald Trump and his band of Merry White Men in the White House. They're sure to restore racial harmony to the United States.

"Dotard"? What In Hell is a Dotard? Oh, You Mean Trump! Okay, I Get It.

In the wake of Donald Trump's boast about wiping out North Korea if its leader, Rocketman, doesn't back down, Kim Jong Un has predictably lashed back, declaring "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged American dotard with fire."

That sent me off to the dictionary where I discovered that there is such a word, dotard, and it means "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile."

But wait, there's more. The Washington Post offers a dandy look at the word "dotard" and its popularity with Shakespeare, Chaucer, even J.R.R. Tolkien. It appears the term was particularly popular between 1599 and 1607 which, when you think about it, really isn't that long. 

Don't Give Up Hope But Try to Be Realistic

It was encouraging news, the first in a good while. A research team has concluded that, if humankind gets serious and sharply cuts greenhouse gas emissions now, there's a better than even chance we can limit man-made global warming to within the 1.5 degree target by 2100. There are some pretty big "ifs" associated with the outlook but, these days, you take rays of optimism where you can get them. Then again, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

We are making progress weaning ourselves off fossil energy, no doubt about that. Several major automakers have announced plans to abandon internal combustion in the next decade or two. China has announced cars in the People's Republic will be all electric in the near future. In the US, state attorneys-general are closing in on Big Oil and gunning for its top executives. As the Brits have predicted, the Carbon Bubble may be about to burst. When it does you'll know it. It'll be when the Tar Sands shuts down.

How the global economy will weather the transition is unclear. There is a load of money, estimated at upwards of $27 trillion, invested in known reserves of fossil energy on the stock exchanges and bourses around the world. A bursting Carbon Bubble will wipe out most of that wealth and, with it, the holdings of major banks, pension funds and institutional investors. Petro-states will be in serious trouble as resource revenues collapse. From everything I've read, no one seems to have any happy solutions to this dilemma.

$27 trillion isn't all that bad. American households lost $16 trillion in the Great Recession. The difference is that much of the wealth lost in 2007-2008 has been recovered. That's different from the permanent loss of wealth from "stranded" assets such as fossil fuels - oil, gas and coal. That wealth, those reserves, will stay in the ground where they have a realistic value of approximately nil.

There aren't many willing to venture what our tightly integrated, globalized world is going to look like post-Carbon Bubble. What will the Middle East look like without its petro-clout? Anyone in the market for sand?

What if the consequences of abandoning fossil fuels are simply too disruptive for some states to bear? What about the United States with its fracked oil and fracked gas and its seabed oil and all those Gulf coast refineries? Its economy already overtaken by China and falling behind faster with each passing year, how much of a fossil fuel hit can the US take?

This rosy outlook is also reached in isolation of a number of critical considerations. It focuses on man-made inputs and yet we know that we have already triggered several natural feedback loops that could rival or even exceed anthropogenic warming including the release of Arctic methane from both permafrost and seabed clathrates and the heating effect of the loss of sea ice as well as glaciers and ice caps. These are forces we've already set in motion and we're just along for the ride at this point.

For years I've argued that global warming is just one of at least three existential crises, all of which must be resolved if we're to win on any of them. It's great to slash greenhouse gas emissions but bear in mind those emissions are also a reflection of human economic activity - production, consumption and waste. 

Another recent report predicts an expansion of what's now called the "consumer class" by upwards of three billion in the next few decades. The prestigious OECD, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, forecasts that the middle class will grow from today's two billion to five billion by 2030. That's an extra three billion people lining up for new and bigger houses, cars, better food and plenty of it, consumer goods of every description,  world travel and more - everything you've already got - by 2030.

Will that happen? I can't see how. We are already overtaxing our very finite planet's resources. Take one example, water. Where are we to find the ocean of freshwater that will be needed for the manufacture, distribution and use of this additional production? It takes 40,000 gallons of water to make a car. 2,000 gallons to make one tire. The average American's middle-class water footprint comes in at about 2,000 gallons a day.

It may not happen but the pressure for it to happen is beyond doubt. And if those demands and expectations aren't met, what then? What if we, the advantaged peoples, find ourselves losing out on competition for our own resources? Other, less fortunate areas are familiar with losing out but we haven't known that on any significant scale. Suffice to say there'll be a lot of pissed off people, billions of them, very unhappy with their governments.  Even lemmings have sharp little teeth.

Overpopulation and over-consumption bear directly, and negatively, on our prospects for restraining climate change. My less than precise findings based on my research combine population growth, increases in longevity and growth in per capita GDP since 1900.

Global population in 1900 was 1.6 billion. At my birth (circa 1950) that had increased to 2.5 billion. Today we're at 7.5 billion, expected to easily reach 9 billion and perhaps 12 billion.

 Life expectancy  in 1900 ranged from 23 years in India to 45 years in Britain, 46 years in the US and about 48 years in Canada. Today American males can expect to live about 76 years with Canadians outlasting them by about 3-years. Globally, longevity has more than doubled.

As for the third element, per capita GDP, I'll rely on this chart:

You'll see that Canada's per capita GDP has grown about nine fold from 1900 to 2010.  Global per capita GDP grew six fold over this interval.

So let's do the math. Longevity has doubled. Overall population has quadrupled. Per capita GDP has increased about six fold. That leaves 2 X 4 X 6 or a 48 fold increase in humankind's impact on Earth since 1900. And now we're told our consumer class will swell in numbers by another 150% by 2030 from two to five billion. Yeah, okay. Can you see where this is headed? What will that 48 fold increase look like if we swell to 9 billion, more than half of them middle class, by 2030?

The challenges facing mankind are, more or less, global. We have forged a deeply integrated civilization bound by an equally integrated economy. The continuation of that economy is dependent on a significant degree of stability among the participating nations. There are fewer self-sufficient nations. We rely on each other.

Each nation relies on the others in fighting climate change. It's our confidence in the willingness of others to make the necessary sacrifices and transitions that is the sine qua non of our own efforts. The fight against climate change, the fight to slash our greenhouse gas emissions, is heavily dependent on global stability.

There is no standard. Every nation differs in matters of climate change vulnerability, emissions, population pressures and sustainable resources. As these cumulative pressures mount more nations will succumb. Many are already showing signs of destabilizing forces whether it's resource shortages, especially food supply, or wars or mass migration and we're only looking at 'early onset' impacts.

How will we maintain the difficult global consensus so essential to our prospects of meeting these existential challenges even in the short- to mid-term? As one especially pessimistic climate scientist puts it, "Earth bats last." It's already at the plate.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What's In a Name? Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains.

It's 'hurricane season' only this year is unlike what we've known in the past. Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Marie have all gone from tropical storms to hurricanes. Lee, the outlier, got shredded.

To astrophysicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, we're witnessing not just a succession of severe weather events but the "unraveling of an informed democracy."

The Stupid Gene Has Crossed the Border

A survey commissioned by the Ontario Science Centre has given a blunt depiction of just how stupid a lot of Canadians really are and, by stupid, I mean Tea Party stupid.

Are scientific findings a matter of opinion? Forty-three per cent of Canadians agree that they are, suggests a new poll.

The survey found widespread concerns about fake news — 66 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that "false information reported as fact (so called 'fake news') is affecting your knowledge of science."

It also uncovered possible evidence of that happening, including a widespread belief in ideas contrary to scientific consensus:

52 per cent of respondents agreed that "genetically modified organisms are bad for your health." (This is an issue where there recently has been the biggest divide between scientists and the public.)

47 per cent (up from 41 per cent last year) agreed that "the science behind global warming is still unclear," despite what scientists have been calling for years "unequivocal" evidence.

19 per cent agree "there is a link between vaccinations and autism," even though the study that made the link was found years ago to be "an elaborate fraud."

Kelly Bronson, a University of Ottawa professor who has studied and written about science communication, said people are confused about where to go for reliable information and how to tell facts from beliefs.

She thinks the media are partly to blame for focusing too much on telling both sides of the story: "It doesn't help the public learn how to distinguish true knowledge from mere opinion, if both are given equal weight in a news story."

In many cases, while scientific consensus develops around matters like climate change, scientists coming from different backgrounds may generate findings that appear to conflict with one another.

"Those often find their way into the mass media and can be confusing for members of the general public who actually don't have a clue as to how science works."

That's the bad news but there's more. A study into science literacy in 35 countries ranked Canada 1st. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trump Went to the United Nations with Tough Talk and Only Managed to Embarrass the United States

Every blowhard bully runs the risk of some thing, some event that can gore his credibility.  That something for Donald Trump in his bombastic threats against North Korea is China.

Trump rode to power on brash pronouncements of how he was going to put ChYna in its place. America wouldn't be putting up with any more games from Beijing. No sirree. Trump's supporters, the Gullibillies, lapped it up. They couldn't get enough of it.

Talk is cheap. Donald Trump talk is cheaper still. It's not president Xi Jinping who is kowtowing these days. That era is over.

Not since the British garrison at Singapore surrendered to Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita in 1942 has Western opinion of an Asian power changed so fast. When China’s 2015 stock market bubble popped, prevailing Western opinion held that China’s economic boom would flame out in a debt crisis comparable to America’s subprime disaster of 2008 or the near collapse of Europe’s southern tier in 2013.

Now that China’s tradeable stock market has risen by 43% during 2017 in US dollar terms (with the MSCI-based ETF as a benchmark), Western opinion is melting up.

The same applies to Western evaluation of China’s standing as a world power. Graham Allison’s 'The Thucydides Trap,' a plea not to oppose China’s strategic challenge to the United States, now sits on the desk of every senior staffer at the National Security Council courtesy of President Trump’s national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMasters.

It will shock Americans who have been told for years that China merely copies Western technology by stealing trade secrets, and for that reason alone Prof. Allison’s book fairly might be called the most influential book of the year.

Allison warns:

In the three and a half decades since Ronald Reagan became president, by the best measurement of economic performance, China has soared from 10 percent the size of the US to 60 percent in 2007, 100 percent in 2014, and 115 percent today. If the current trend continues, China’s economy will be a full 50 percent larger than that of the US by 2023. By 2040 it could be nearly three times as large. That would mean a China with triple America’s resources to use in influencing outcomes in international relations. Such gross economic, political, and military advantages would create a globe beyond anything American policymakers can now imagine.

American influence in Western Asia is eroding quickly. Turkey is now a NATO member in name only; it has bought Russia’s S-400 air defense system over NATO protests, and it has allied with Iran to suppress Kurdish forces in Syria whose success threatens to strengthen Kurdish independence movements in Iran as well as Turkey.

Suddenly, from the South China Sea to the Bosporus, the United States cannot move without brushing up against Chinese influence, if not outright Chinese power. It’s not quite the same as Yamashita’s march across the Malaysian jungle. But if anything, the fecklessness, complacency and incompetence of America’s leaders exceeds the fabled stupidity of the British at Singapore.

Trump waved the threat of unilateral action against North Korea at the UN this morning but everyone, save for the Gullibillies, knew he was just blowing smoke. China will not tolerate that sort of conflict chaos on their border. They certainly will not tolerate the use of even tactical nuclear weapons on their doorstep.

The sun is setting on American hegemony in Asia. Even Trump may realize it eventually.

Will Manafort Sing Like a Canary?

According to The New York Times former Trump campaign manager and associate, Paul Manafort, has been given notice by the Mueller team that he is going to be indicted. Indicted for what, who knows? Well, I assume Mueller's sleuths and Manafort know but the rest of us will have to wait.

Now it seems that the FBI was wiretapping Manafort both during the campaign and after Trump's triumph.

It's now also come out that, when the FBI raided Manafort's home while he slept, they didn't bang on the front door, they picked the lock and swarmed in. Now that's a curious thing for a guy of Manafort's wealth and stature. You might confuse Manafort with Al Capone.

So what's behind Robert Mueller's full court press on Manafort? The special counsel is probably pressuring Manafort to start talking about things they know he knows about.

Maybe if Trump can wrap things up early at the United Nations he'll have time to give Manafort the Arpaio Absolution

Trump Impresses U.N. - Foresees the U.S. Having "No Choice But To Totally Destroy North Korea."

It's a safe bet that a lot of delegates to the United Nations had their worst suspicions of Donald Trump confirmed this morning.

"If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," Trump said, as he detailed the horrors of what he called the "depraved" North Korean regime.

"Rocket man is on a suicide mission," he said, using a nickname for Kim that refers to the North's recent missile tests.

"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," Trump said during his address.

While the U.S. could take military action itself, Trump urged the U.N. to join together in curtailing North Korea's nuclear efforts.

"We meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril," Trump said, calling it up to the nations gathered at the U.N. General Assembly to decide whether the world grows to "new heights" or falls "into a valley of disrepair."


The president also took on Iran, dismissing the nuclear deal between Tehran and the U.S. and other key world powers which lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program. Trump ripped the deal as an "embarrassment" and vowed that this would not be the last the world hears of the deal — "believe me."

Iran's future, Trump said, comes down to its people who could continue down their current road "or return to its ... roots as a center of civilization, culture and wealth."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Monbiot on the Malignancy of Growth

It's encouraging to see more voices speaking out against the heresy of modern politics - perpetual, exponential growth. There are those, our prime minister among them, who cling to the notion of constant increase in GDP as a measure of success. These people are fools no matter how many of them rise to the top tiers of power in parliaments or board rooms. Fools, all of them, and we pay a high price for indulging them.

George Monbiot sees today's hyper capitalism at the root of our failure to address crises such as climate change. 

A system that depends on growth can survive only if we progressively lose our ability to make reasoned decisions. After our needs, then strong desires, then faint desires have been met, we must keep buying goods and services we neither need nor want, induced by marketing to abandon our discriminating faculties, and to succumb instead to impulse.

You can now buy a selfie toaster, that burns an image of your own face on to your bread – the Turin Shroud of toast. You can buy beer for dogs and wine for cats; a toilet roll holder that sends a message to your phone when the paper is running out; a $30 branded brick; a hairbrush that informs you whether or not you are brushing your hair correctly. Panasonic intends to produce a mobile fridge that, in response to a voice command, will deliver beers to your chair.

Urge, splurge, purge: we are sucked into a cycle of compulsion followed by consumption, followed by the periodic detoxing of ourselves or our homes, like Romans making themselves sick after eating, so that we can cram more in.

Continued economic growth depends on continued disposal: unless we rapidly junk the goods we buy, it fails. The growth economy and the throwaway society cannot be separated. Environmental destruction is not a byproduct of this system: it is a necessary element.

The environmental crisis is an inevitable result not just of neoliberalism – the most extreme variety of capitalism – but of capitalism itself. Even the social democratic (Keynesian) kind depends on perpetual growth on a finite planet: a formula for eventual collapse. But the peculiar contribution of neoliberalism is to deny that action is necessary: to insist that the system, like Greenspan’s financial markets, is inherently self-regulating. The myth of the self-regulating market accelerates the destruction of the self-regulating Earth.

Monbiot takes up the call for a new system that includes a new ethics, a new politics and a new economic paradigm. People like Trudeau and the leaders of our other mainstream parties stand in the way with their feet of clay. The longer we tolerate them the worse our chances of being overtaken by events they will not even address.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Think of an Ark for the 21st Century

Let's recycle the fable of Noah and his Ark. Only this 21st century ark isn't intended to hold mating pairs of creatures, two by two. It's intended strictly for a human cargo. Not just any humans either. It is reserved for the most advantaged, affluent individuals and families. The rest, and, yes, that includes you, need not apply. 

You're not getting on the ark. It's not for you.

We know from who's not getting on the ark and from what those who are keep doing that construction is well underway.

A good many people wonder how a scientific issue such as climate change became such a political football in the United States. How did it become an issue of right and left. After all, surely no one will be immune from its impacts, right? Yes, no one will be immune from climate change impacts but that doesn't mean that everyone will be in the same boat either. Some, in fact, have a reserved cabin on the ark and, for them, climate change is a different matter altogether.

Think of it as a "just not yet" approach to a looming crisis.  The mine may be in danger of collapsing but there's still a rich vein of ore to be exploited, enormous wealth just waiting to be brought to the surface.  It's getting increasingly more dangerous for the hard rock miners but their peril isn't shared by the guys at Head Office counting the cash.

If you want to pursue the "just not yet" approach to wealth extraction you need someone who's on your side and definitely not on the side of those ungrateful, undeserving miners. And that's where political capture - legislative, regulatory and executive - pays off "bigly." It facilitates wealth extraction, it facilitates wealth accumulation and it does it all within an "everyday low taxes" platform. It's win, win, win for the People of the Ark. 

If everything works out as planned, climate change will morph from a political issue into a class problem. The process is already well underway.

As we've witnessed in the aftermath of Katrina and Sandy, Harvey and Irma, it's not the rich wading chest deep through water full of sewage and toxic chemical waste. The People of the Ark don't have to fret about boil water advisories. If God had wanted them to suffer those indignities He wouldn't have given them helicopters and executive jets.

It's the poor that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of floods, droughts and every imaginable hammer blow of severe storm events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration.  The poor get to flail about, reeling from dislocation and worsening poverty, rotating through toxic FEMA trailers, powerless over their fate. It's a plague visited upon them by their betters for the sake of chasing that last vein of ore in the mine. The bigger irony is that those few who played such a significant role in shaping this future for the many know they have reserved accommodation on that ark.

And yet it would be condescending to the poorest and most vulnerable to cast this as an "us versus them" issue. The People of the Ark are very much the "them" but there really is no "us." If there was such a thing, our political caste would respond far differently than what we've experienced to date. We would have a voice and unassailable political power if we had even a modicum of coherence and that's simply not a factor. There is no common will, no universal voice. We are as the people of the tower of Babel. 

Ask yourself what common bond you feel to the people you see wading through waste water. You may sympathize with them and their plight but you almost certainly don't feel "of" them. You don't carry anxiety for their uncertainty, their loss of whatever power and dignity they once might have had. You don't see yourself in their shoes, ever. You have faith in some superior resilience. You count on never experiencing their fate. You bet the farm on it. A good many of us are far less charitable and caring, more ready to blame those who have been overwhelmed for their fate. Many more of us are simply too busy or distracted to feel much of anything.

The "us versus them" threat ceases to be of much significance if the "us" is so fractured, so divided, so at odds with itself as to present a challenge much less a threat to "them." And that, I fear, is where it's going to remain until we come to see ourselves, to make ourselves, part of "us," to reach down until we form some sort of human chain. We're a long way from that right now.