Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Well This Is Awkward

House and Senate Republicans created a stir with their support for a law that would allow internet providers to sell sell subscribers' internet data including their browsing history.

That got net neutrality advocate, Adam McElhaney thinking. Why not crowdsource funds to buy the browsing history of all congressmen, executives and their families and put it all online in a searchable database. Everything they've looked at, searched for or visited - medical records, porn sites, every conceivable online peccadillo.

That could give "Hi honey, I'm home" a brand new dimension. Endless hilarity ensues. "You did WHAT?"

That Could Touch a Nerve

There was a quiet and barely noticed event at last year's Republican convention when Donald Trump was officially chosen as the party's presidential candidate. It involved one plank of the official Republican platform that called for America to provide "lethal defensive weapons" to Ukrainian forces fighting off Russian intrusions. Of all the policies in the platform it alone was something the Trump campaign couldn't abide and so it was quietly pulled, shelved.

When it was noticed and questions raised, Team Trump responded with apparent surprise and confusion. No one seemed to know how that had happened. Then campaign chairman Paul Manafort who had been on the Russian payroll to the tune of several millions of dollars denied he had anything to do with it. Not Paul, no, never.

On Sunday’s [July, 2016]“Meet the Press,” Manafort said that the effort to keep the platform from supporting arms for Ukraine, which I first reported last month, “absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign.”

Trump, when questioned, said he heard about it but only after the fact. He didn't know who was behind the deletion of that policy.

Months later it emerged that Trump's campaign advisor on national security, J.D. Gordon, admitted that he was responsible for getting the platform policy scrapped and did so at Trump's direction. Gordon also had a number of meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Diana Denman, the GOP delegate who proposed amending the Ukraine platform to include the "lethal weapons" language, contradicted Gordon's version of events in an interview with Business Insider in January. She said Gordon and another Trump campaign representative asked the cochairmen of the subcommittee to table the amendment after she read it aloud.

"Two men sitting over to the side of the room — I had no idea who they were but later found out they were Trump representatives — jumped up and tore over to get behind the three cochairmen," she said.

Gordon then left the room to make a phone call, Denman said. Equal parts confused and angry over her proposal being scuttled, Denman said she confronted Gordon about whom he was calling.

"I'm calling New York," Gordon replied, according to Denman.

"I work for Mr. Trump, and I have to clear it," she recalled him saying, apparently in reference to the amendment.

Joining Gordon at some meetings with ambassador Kislyak, was this guy, Carter Page. Page is now said to be one of the individuals under FBI investigation.

All of which now brings us to Russia and Ukraine and NATO and, again, those pesky "lethal defensive weapons."

Yesterday the U.S. House Armed Services Committee held a briefing session with four star general Curtis Scaparotti, commander of the US European Command and Supreme Commander of NATO.

Scaparotti told the Congressmen that Russia has put NATO back on a warfighting footing. Beginning around the 17:00 mark he discusses Ukraine and, at 18:30, renews the call for the US to provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukrainian forces.

Which puts Trump's top general in Europe, the Supreme Commander of NATO, foursquare at odds with the general's own commander in chief now widely suspected of being compromised by the same Russians that so worry general Scaparotti.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

USA Today Links Trump, Trump Jr. and the Trump Organization to Shady Russians and Their Money

USA Today + investigative reporting - who'd a thunk it?

In any case McNews Inc. has been reviewing records, connecting the dots, and links America's president, DJT Jr. and the Trump organization to "Russian mobsters" and their shady money. It's a worthwhile read.

This story isn't going away. It seems that half of the Trump administration is embroiled in Russian contacts. Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, Don Jr., Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Felix Sater, Carter Page and dirty trickster Roger Stone to boot. They're all connected with the Russians and some of those Russians include Vlad Putin, Sergey Kislyak, Sergei Millian, the GRU, Rosneft and Gazprom - for starters.

Various news organizations, most recently CNN, have reported that Trump's disgraced former national security adviser, ret. gen. Mike Flynn, has struck a deal and is singing like a canary to FBI investigators. So far that's just an unconfirmed rumor.

Yeah, So What Else is New?

A big story in today's Washington Post about a new study finding that the warming Arctic is altering the jet stream, creating Rossby waves that can drag warm air out of the south to the polar region and cold polar air far to the south. The study also found that this elongated jet stream could lose energy and basically stall over one area for an extended period giving rise to extreme flooding events.

As I scoured the article I was left wondering "yeah, so what else is new?" This discovery has been around for several years - warm air north, cold air south, Rossby waves, extreme flooding events. We saw it in action, first hand, in the flooding of Toronto and then even heavier flooding in Calgary in 2013. We saw it just months later, in February, 2014, when Atlanta, Georgia froze solid while in Alaska a village basked in 62F temperatures. We've seen it elsewhere - Britain, central Europe - since then.

This new paper simply presents additional research corroborating the science we already had. What I found most interesting was the timing of the release - the same day that el presidente Trump signed an executive order rolling back Obama's climate change initiatives.

With the exaggerated stroke of a pen, the Cheeto Benito ensured the United States will be unable to meet its commitments under the Paris climate agreement. Not that we have any cause for righteous indignation.  At least Trump is brazen. Our leader, Justin, ensured Canada would foreclose our Paris summit commitments a good while ago when he recklessly approved the expansion of the Tar Sands and new pipelines to make that a reality. Yet Trudeau says that increasing our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is how we'll achieve a green future. Trump simply does it. Trudeau covers his ass with outright lies.

Trump's Termites in Action

Victoria Hermann spotted the signs in January. The managing director of America's Arctic Institute watched as data was wiped out by Team Trump.

At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.

Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download statistics about Arctic permafrost thaw or renewable energy in advance of the purge.

In the waning days of 2016 we were warned: save the data. Back up the climate measurements. Archive the maps of America’s worst polluters. Document the education portals that teach students about backyard ecosystems.

Each defunct page is an effort by the Trump administration to deliberately undermine our ability to make good policy decisions by limiting access to scientific evidence.

We’ve seen this type of data strangling before.

Just three years ago, Arctic researchers witnessed another world leader remove thousands of scientific documents from the public domain. In 2014, then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper closed 11 department of fisheries and oceans regional libraries, including the only Arctic center. Hundreds of reports and studies containing well over a century of research were destroyed in that process – a historic loss from which we still have not recovered.

These back-to-back data deletions come at a time when the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. Just this week, it was reported that the Arctic’s winter sea ice dropped to its lowest level in recorded history. The impacts of a warming, ice-free Arctic are already clear: a decline in habitat for polar bears and other Arctic animals; increases in coastal erosion that force Alaskans to abandon their homes; and the opening up of shipping routes with unpredictable conditions and hazardous icebergs.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Think This Captures the Mood

 I was struggling to find words to describe the misery of the Republican party in the wake of yesterday's fiasco on health care reform. Then I twigged to something out of the past that fits like a glove:

Like a bear with a raw ass
in black fly season

I think that captures the moment. 

A House Divided

When House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled his American Health Care Act bill yesterday he revealed a deeply fractured Republican party. His Congressional Repugs are divided in three camps - moderate or establishment Republicans, Ryan's Ayn Rand Republicans, and even more radical hard right Republicans.

The moderate and the extreme factions wanted nothing to do with the AHCA. To the moderates it was too harsh and invited a voter backlash in the mid-term elections.

To the nihilistic, extreme right, it wasn't harsh enough. They wanted the bill stripped of everything but the title. No coverage for maternity care or emergency care or hospital stays - pretty much nothing except, of course, for the tax cuts for their patrons, the Koch brothers.

Ryan's legislation was not what Trump had repeatedly promised voters. Trump said his plan would cover everyone. Premiums would be a fraction of what they were paying under Obama's Affordable Care Act. Coverage would be much better. The bill placed before Congress was just the opposite in every respect. In fraud cases it's called "bait and switch."

With a majority of 247 Republicans to 191 Democrats, the bill should have passed easily.

After pulling the bill Ryan went on about how they were "close, very, very close." Maybe, maybe not. We'll never know and that's no accident.

Had the House voted on the bill there would be no hiding the truth about how deeply fractured Congressional Republicans have become. The full measure of the dissent by the extremists and the dissent from the moderates would have been laid bare like a raw, festering sore and it would have shown that Republicans have definitely not coalesced behind their new Republican president. Polling the Representatives would have been seen as a vote of confidence in Donald Trump and the outcome a huge defeat for the Cheeto Benito.

Abraham Lincoln drew from the Bible, Mark 3:25, when he said that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Today's Republicans, an abomination of what Lincoln's Republicans stood for, failed to heed that. They also ignored another bit of Abe's sage advice: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Now, let's get back to the Russia business.

UPDATE - the New York Times has a fascinating look at what was going on inside the Trump White House in the days leading up to Friday's fiasco.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump's Crazy Train Has Already Left the Platform

The Giant Orange Sphincter has spoken. Trump's long promised health care bill now litters the floor of the House of Representatives and Trump knows who to blame - the minority Democrats.  While his Republicans enjoy a hefty majority in the House, as Trump sees it the Democrats sabotaged his vaunted health care bill.

Of course the Repugs were careful to see that the American Health Care Act never came up for a vote lest the American public find out how unpopular it was with Trump's own representatives and it was plenty unpopular.

Trump didn't hesitate to twist Republican arms on the bill. At first he said hold outs would be in for a pounding when they next stood for re-election. Last night he upped the ante warning that, unless the bill passed, he would leave Obamacare, a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, in effect. And so, it seems, he shall.

A bad day all round for the Oval Office. Trump shamelessly bullied Congressional Republicans and they responded by telling him to pound salt. That could be a bad omen for things to come, especially if the Trump/Russia investigation turns against the Cheeto Benito.

Got Half an Hour? Find Half an Hour.

Jeremy Scahill dissects his homeland's descent into fascism and doesn't spare Obama for his role in it either.

Four or five years ago this was a tough argument to swallow. Back then it was the sort of thing you would hear from Chris Hedges. Today it's a growing chorus of voices echoing Hedges' warning.

Watch Scahill's presentation. It's 26-minutes long but you can watch it in segments.

TrumpCare Gets the Hook

The writing was on the wall when Republican House leader Paul Ryan popped into the White House this morning. He was there to tell Trump that his healthcare bill was going to defeat if it was put to a vote as the Cheeto Benito angrily demanded last night.

Then, with the Capital building literally besieged by cameras and reporters Ryan somehow managed to sneak in undetected. Once he was safely in the House, the American Health Care Act was given the hook. There would be no vote.

What happens next? Anybody's guess. However it's a swift kick in the nuts for the Great Orange Bloat, one he'll have the weekend to fume over. No dumping Obamacare, no giant tax cut for the 0.01%.

Let the tweeting begin.

Henry Giroux Unpacks Trump's "Culture of Cruelty"

Henry Giroux looks beyond the callous brutality of the Republican's American Health Care Act to the larger culture of cruelty being inflicted on America's most vulnerable by Trump and his Congressional accomplices.

For the last 40 years, the United States has pursued a ruthless form of neoliberalism that has stripped economic activity from ethical considerations and social costs.  ...Under the Trump administration, the repressive state and market apparatuses that produced a culture of cruelty in the 19th century have returned with a vengeance, producing new levels of harsh aggression and extreme violence in US society. A culture of cruelty has become the mood of our times—a spectral lack of compassion that hovers over the ruins of democracy.

...The culture of cruelty has a long tradition in this country, mostly inhabiting a ghostly presence that is often denied or downplayed in historical accounts. What is new since the 1980s—and especially evident under Donald Trump’s presidency—is that the culture of cruelty has taken on a sharper edge as it has moved to the center of political power, adopting an unapologetic embrace of nativism, xenophobia and white nationalist ideology, as well as an in-your-face form of racist demagoguery. Evidence of such cruelty has long been visible in earlier calls by Republicans to force poor children who get free school lunches to work for their meals. Such policies are particularly cruel at a time when nearly “half of all children live near close to the poverty line.” Other instances include moving people from welfare to workfare without offering training programs or child care, and the cutting of children’s food stamp benefits for 16 million children in 2014. Another recent example of this culture of cruelty was Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tweeting his support for Geert Wilders, a notorious white supremacist and Islamophobic Dutch politician.

The culture of cruelty has become a primary register of the loss of democracy in the United States. The disintegration of democratic commitments offers a perverse index of a country governed by the rich, big corporations and rapacious banks through a consolidating regime of punishment. It also reinforces the workings of a corporate-driven culture whose airwaves are filled with hate, endless spectacles of violence and an ongoing media assault on young people, the poor, Muslims and undocumented immigrants. Vast numbers of individuals are now considered disposable and are relegated to zones of social and moral abandonment.

Trump’s 2017 budgetary proposals, many of which were drafted by the hyperconservative Heritage Foundation, will create a degree of imposed hardship and misery that defies any sense of human decency and moral responsibility.

Public policy analyst Robert Reich argues that “the theme that unites all of Trump’s [budget] initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty.” Reich writes:

"His new budget comes down especially hard on the poor—imposing unprecedented cuts in low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.” These cuts come at a time when more American families are in poverty than ever before, including 1 in 5 children. Why is Trump doing this? To pay for the biggest hike in military spending since the 1980s. Yet the U.S. already spends more on its military than the next 7 biggest military budgets put together. His plan to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act will cause 14 million Americans to lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million by 2026. Why is Trump doing this? To bestow $600 billion in tax breaks over the decade to wealthy Americans. This windfall comes at a time when the rich have accumulated more wealth than at any time in the nation’s history."

This is a demolition budget that would inflict unprecedented cruelty, misery and hardship on millions of citizens and residents. Trump’s populist rhetoric collapses under the weight of his efforts to make life even worse for the rural poor, who would have $2.6 billion cut from infrastructure investments largely used for water and sewage improvements as well as federal funds used to provide assistance so they can heat their homes. Roughly $6 billion would be cut from a housing budget that benefits 4.5 million low-income households. Other programs on the cutting block include funds to support Habitat for Humanity, the homeless, energy assistance to the poor, legal aid and a number of antipoverty programs. Trump’s mode of governance is no longer modeled on “The Apprentice.” It now takes its cues from “The Walking Dead.”

The $54 billion that Trump seeks to remove from the budgets of 19 agencies designed to help the poor, students, public education, academic research and the arts would instead be used to increase the military budget and build a wall along the Mexican border. The culture of cruelty is on full display here as millions would suffer for the lack of loans, federal aid and basic resources. The winners would be the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, the private prison industry and the institutions and personnel needed to expand the police state. What Trump has provided in this budget proposal is a blueprint for eliminating the remnants of the welfare state while transforming American society into a “war-obsessed, survival-of-the fittest dystopia.”

The culture of hardness and cruelty is not new to American society, but the current administration aims to deploy it in ways that sap the strength of social relations, moral compassion and collective action, offering in their place a mode of governance that promotes a pageant of suffering and violence. There will, no doubt, be an acceleration of acts of violence under the Trump administration, and the conditions for eliminating this new stage of state violence will mean not only understanding the roots of neofascism in the United States, but also eliminating the economic, political and cultural forces that have produced it. Addressing those forces means more than getting rid of Trump. We must eliminate a more pervasive irrationality in which democracy is equated with unbridled capitalism—a system driven almost exclusively by financial interests and beholden to two political parties that are hardwired to produce and reproduce neoliberal violence.

Wrap Your Mind Around This Idea

We live in a world that's running out of stuff including the stuff that keeps you alive - clean air and fresh water for starters. There is not enough to meet our insatiable and persistently growing demand. The Global Footprint Network that studies these things has worked out that mankind now uses renewable resources (water, air, biomass) at 1.7 times the Earth's replenishment rate, its carrying capacity.

That means we're neck deep in a major resource deficit. The shortfall is visible, tangible, palpable and manifests in countless forms. It's evident in lakes that have dried out, rivers that no longer run to the sea, aquifers that have been rapaciously drained and now stand empty, vast and expanding tracts of deforestation, spreading desertification encroaching on once productive land, even cities. It's evident in increasing contamination and pollution of our waterways and coastlines observed in algae blooms and oceanic "dead zones." It's inescapable in the collapse of global fisheries as the industrial fleet chases species after species, "fishing down the food chain." It's evident in loss of natural habitat and biodiversity, the extinction of species terrestrial and aquatic. It's everywhere. You have to close your eyes not to see it.

Keep all of that in mind when you consider that a lot of what we're running out of is consumed, free of charge, by the same industrial sector that has given us so much crap that ends up obsolete or unworkable in such short order. In fact a recent study finds that none of the world's top industries would realize any profit if they had to pay for the resources they consume at no charge.

Coming from a civilization which, for most of its 12,000 year history, enjoyed a bountiful surplus of natural resources, we're not accustomed to seeing those resources in terms of ownership or value. We have to get our minds around the idea that assets are property and, if they don't belong to you personally, they very much belong to your society or, in the case of the atmosphere, to humankind in general. Then understand that your society, with the collusion of your political caste, is getting grievously shortchanged.

The notion of “externalities” has become familiar in environmental circles. It refers to costs imposed by businesses that are not paid for by those businesses. For instance, industrial processes can put pollutants in the air that increase public health costs, but the public, not the polluting businesses, picks up the tab. In this way, businesses privatize profits and publicize costs.

check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors. (“Natural capital” refers to ecological materials and services like, say, clean water or a stable atmosphere; “unpriced” means that businesses don’t pay to consume them.)

The majority of unpriced natural capital costs are from greenhouse gas emissions (38%), followed by water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%), and waste (1%).

So how much is that costing us? Trucost’s headline results are fairly stunning.

First, the total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.


Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.

That amounts to an global industrial system built on sleight of hand. As Paul Hawken likes to put it, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP.


The distance between today’s industrial systems and truly sustainable industrial systems — systems that do not spend down stored natural capital but instead integrate into current energy and material flows — is not one of degree, but one of kind. What’s needed is not just better accounting but a new global industrial system, a new way of providing for human wellbeing, and fast. That means a revolution.

Of course the contrarians will say that, if we priced that natural capital and forced industry to pay, that would be passed along in ever higher prices. Not so fast. That overlooks what would happen to both production and consumption. 

Free resources are freely consumed, subject to availability, and freely squandered. They're free after all. When those resources are priced, when they come with a cost, the competitor that uses them most wisely, with the least waste, has a market advantage.  

Also, when the price increases, consumers will become less tolerant of shoddy manufacture, planned obsolescence and shortened lifespans, products that cannot be repaired or upgraded.  Imagine if your appliances, out of the box, were good for 25 to 30 years. I've been in my current house for about 15-years and I'm already on my third stove. When the first two failed I was outraged to be told that the essential parts needed to repair them were no longer available.

Pricing natural capital is an essential step in transitioning to a steady state economy. It's not a nice idea. It's not an option. If we don't take that leap we won't have an economy. 

If you're interested in this idea of pricing natural capital there are several good books you can find in your library. A good starting point is "Natural Capital and Human Economic Survival," a 1995 book edited by Thomas Prugh and containing essays by Robert Costanza, John Cumberland, Herman Daly, Robert Goodland and Richard Norgaard.  If nothing else you'll discover how we're all getting shortchanged by neoliberal governments. You'll also realize that continuing on with the status quo is not an option. If we don't change, and soon, we will be changed.

Our Last, Best Chance?

Canadians have all the proof they need in our own prime minister that the existing approach to slashing carbon emissions cannot work. Trudeau's hypocrisy is embedded in his drive to accelerate the export and production of the world's most carbon-intensive ersatz petroleum, bitumen, under the laughable premise that more carbon today is the key to a green future - eventually, sometime, maybe. That's sophistry on a scale to rival Trump.

Parents often try to impart to their children the wisdom of not putting off until tomorrow what they can do today. It's a valuable lesson that's immediately discarded as soon as those same kids reach high political office. Once securely installed every challenge becomes a can to be kicked down the road. That includes these lofty greenhouse gas emissions cuts so earnestly promised and then promptly shelved.

Leave it to grownup kids like Trudeau or the leaders of most other parties for that matter and our grandkids face the very real prospect of a living hell on earth.

But the Paris climate agreement reached in the heady closing months of 2015 was never going to be enough, was it? Not really. It was all voluntary, well-intentioned (sort of) pap. The jubilant international press was caught in the moment. Few even noticed the caution of Hans Joachim Schellnhuber that, to work, the deal required nothing less than an "induced implosion" of the global fossil fuel industry. An induced implosion as in effective government intervention to shut down Big Fossil. Sort of the exact opposite of what the Dauphin had in mind for Canadian bitumen.

Trudeau's commitment to the fight against climate change comes down to the induced expansion of bitumen production complete with expanded pipelines to get that civilization killing crap to "tidewater." I'm pretty sure that's not what Schellnhuber had in mind.

Canada's approach to climate change isn't well received abroad either. In fact it's been denounced as fatal to the Paris agreement. Let's be honest. We're going to put paid to any hope of not just Canada but all the signatories achieving the Paris objectives. Can't happen, ain't gonna happen.

All of which means a new idea, one that might truly avert runaway global warming, probably won't stand a chance.

On Thursday (23.03.17), researchers proposed an alternative: a "carbon law" obliging all people, cities, businesses and countries to halve their emissions every 10 years. The idea will be presented to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York on Friday.

"It's a much simpler and more ambitious framing, because you have huge emissions cuts in the first 10 years, and then it gets easier in the future to reach the targets," the report's co-author Owen Gaffney told DW.

"A lot of the framing around the carbon challenge right now says we need to get to zero emissions some time after 2050. It's hard to see how that will motivate the kind of action we need right now to decarbonize the global economy."

Gaffney says he and his colleagues got the idea for the alternative model in the summer of 2015 while chatting with Johan Falk, director of the Stockholm IOT ignition lab for computer processor maker Intel.

Falk had told them about "Moore's Law" in the IT industry, which accounts for how processors have been doubling their computing power every two years. Neither a natural nor statutory law, this simple rule of thumb has nonetheless been accepted by the industry for the past 50 years, driving disruptive innovation. Industry leaders believed in it - and it became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Currently, no country has plans to halve emissions in the next 10 years - although some small countries plan to come close. The "nationally determined contributions" submitted to the UN by major emitters delay their most significant action until future decades.

Justifying the slow pace, politicians have cautioned that commitments need to be kept realistic, otherwise they are meaningless.

Great idea, truly inspirational, until you realize that we live in a Trump and Trudeau world. Ideas like this Moore's Law notion are and will probably remain non-starters. Saving the world? We're just not into that.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump Plays Hardball on RyanCare

Ever petulant Donaldo Trump has grabbed recalcitrant Congressional Republicans by the pussy.  Either pass the massive tax cut for the rich wrapped in the cadaver of a healthcare bill or he'll leave Obamacare, what literate Americans know as the Affordable Care Act, in place.

The Cheeto Benito is going to town on intransigent Republicans. He first tried to steal their lunch money, threatening to come after holdouts when they next sought re-election. That didn't work so now he's telling them it's his way or the highway.

An interesting situation. If Trump can get Congressional Republicans to knuckle under on a widely unpopular bill such as Paul Ryan's healthcare nightmare, he'll know what it takes to roll them over when and as he chooses.

This Shouldn't Be Your Daily Laugh, But...

This Hour Has 22 Minutes nails it

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Napolitano Loses FOX Gig

On FOX they call him "the judge" or at least they did. That's before Andy Napolitano planted in his president's addled mind the notion that Britain's CGHQ spy agency did Obama's bidding and spied on the Trump campaign. Now the judge has been given the hook.

A couple of weeks ago Napolitano said he had it from three sources that Obama went outside the "chain of command" and had the Brits eavesdrop on Trump and his aides during the campaign. The source turns out to be a discredited former CIA analyst who floated the idea on Russia's RT network.

After the story was refuted by the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the British government and its intelligence agency, Trump went into overdrive to cover his lyin' ass:

The US president, when asked about the incident, said that “all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”

Meanwhile former Clinton labour secretary, Robert Reich, reports on his latest visit to Washington where he took the pulse of the government.

1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful – than I’ve ever seen it.

2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.

3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.

4. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.

5. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.

6. The Washington foreign policy establishment – both Republican and Democrat – is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.

7. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.

8. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.

9. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon – unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.

10. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “how did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends – they gave me blank stares.

Making Sense of Yesterday

Having endured the "Death by a Thousand Cuts" ordeal now known by the name "Watergate" I realize how difficult it can be to make sense of the significance and meaning of yesterday's testimony by FBI director, James Comey, and NSA chief, Admiral Mike Rogers.

This video helps to put those events in perspective.

Shine a Light

If he hasn't done anything else useful we can thank Donald Trump for finally shining a light on Russia's dirty money.

For years there have been stories about Cyprus and how the Russian oligarchs were using it as a conduit to transmit rubles to the West for laundering.  Still few eyebrows were raised when Trump chose the former vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus, Wilbur Ross, as his commerce secretary.

There have been reports about how a mountain of Russian dirty money made its way to giants of the European banking system, troubled Deutsche Bank in particular and Trump's extensive dealings with that bank are well known.

The Guardian reports that dirty money from Russia also flowed into British banks. A follow up piece in today's paper has the head of Britain's National Crime Agency money laundering unit, David Little, claiming that the Russians are not cooperating with their efforts to find out where that money is from.

In an interview with the Guardian, David Little said: “The amount of Russian money coming into the UK is a concern. “One, because of the volume. Two, we don’t know where it is coming from. We don’t have enough cooperation [from the Russian side] to establish that. They won’t tell us whether it comes from the proceeds of crime.”

Detectives have exposed a money laundering scheme, called the “Global Laundromat”, that was run by Russian criminals with links to their government and the former KGB.


Roman Borisovich, a former banker and anti-corruption campaigner, said the British government needed to do more to end offshore secrecy. It should identify the real owners of offshore companies doing business or owning assets in the UK.

“In Russia I have witnessed an entire shadow industry of money laundering engineered by professional financiers and operated by organised criminal groups under the Kremlin’s watchful eye,” he said.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, capital flight out of Russia during the Vladimir Putin years exceeded $1tn, he said. “We have no idea yet how the other $900m got across the Russian border – but rest assured they ended up in the same banks.”

If Trump is brought down, his reported dealings with Deutsche Bank and Russia's oligarchs could play a big role. Remember it was tax evasion that took down Capone.


Another Guardian piece about the Global Laundromat, Deutsche Bank and Donald Trump.

The scheme, dubbed “the Global Laundromat”, ran from 2010 to 2014.

Law enforcement agencies are investigating how a group of politically well-connected Russians were able to use UK-registered companies to launder billions of dollars in cash. The companies made fictitious loans to each other, underwritten by Russian businesses.

The companies would default on these “debts”. Judges in Moldova then made court rulings enforcing judgments against the firms. This allowed Russian bank accounts to transfer huge sums to Moldova legally. From there, the money went to accounts in Latvia with Trasta Komercsbanka.

Deutsche, Germany’s biggest lender, acted as a “correspondent bank” for Trasta until 2015. This meant Deutsche provided dollar-dominated services to Trasta’s non-resident Russian clients. This service was used to move money from Latvia to banks across the world.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Remarkable Changes... That Are Challenging the Limits of Our Understanding of the Climate"

The World Meteorological Organization admits that it's struggling to comprehend the nature and pace of climate change now upon us.

“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

The new WMO assessment also prompted some scientists to criticise Donald Trump. “While the data show an ever increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand,” said Prof Sir Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK’s University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN’s climate science panel.

Our children and grandchildren will look back on the climate deniers and ask how they could have sacrificed the planet for the sake of cheap fossil fuel energy, when the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of a transition to a low-carbon economy,” Watson said.

Ah, Justin, I think that last bit was maybe pointed at you as much as Trump.

What Happened Today in Washington

The House hearings went on for four hours. These two videos should suffice