Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just When We Thought Harper Was Gone

I guess we somehow knew all along -

Preserving the legacy of Stephen Harper and Joe Oliver - bringing bitumen to tidewater. Makes me feel a lot more British Columbian and, strangely enough, a lot less Canadian.

A Pipeline Plebiscite in 2017?

BC premier, Christy Clark, wasted no time in coming aboard. One day after Trudeau announced his government's approval of the Kinder Morgan megapipeline project into the Lower Mainland, Clark has said that Trudeau is close to fulfilling her conditions for approval.

Clark is no friend of coastal British Columbia or the Lower Mainland since she got thrown out of her posh Vancouver riding and was forced to seek refuge in Kelowna.

Until now the opposition NDP has been languishing, unable to connect with BC voters. Clark may be about to fix that problem, giving the NDP traction. Same, same for the British Columbia Greens if Andrew Weaver can get his head out of his backside on the BDS issue.

My New Year resolution this year will be to work to make BC a Liberal-free zone in 2019.

In today's Tyee, the headlines read, "Trudeau Just Sacrificed BC for Big Oil," and "Climate Change, Not Spills, the Real Kinder Morgan Disaster: Trudeau's Orwellian pipeline approval ignores looming threat to our grandchildren," are the stuff to get the blood to boil.

Trudeau also has the National Observer snapping at his greasy heels. "British Columbia Prepping for Battle After Major Pipeline Approvals," and, "Trudeau Pipeline Approval Could Harm Relations for 'Generations' Says Chief Thomas."

Trudeau has declared war on British Columbia. Trudeau, like Trump, is waging war on mankind.

This is only going to intensify as the media revisits the old stories of just what bitumen is, the associated dangers, and the peril coastal BC is exposed to so that Alberta won't have to refine their toxic crap on-site, in Alberta.

The fight is on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

This Is Trudeau's Idea of a Bitumen Supertanker Route

"In this recent government-commissioned risk-analysis report on tanker traffic safety in Canada, figure 3 shows in vivid red the “very high risk zone on Southern Vancouver Island. Within that area lie 17 of the province’s 33 Ecological Reserves which have a marine component within their boundaries. The report indicates that the Kinder Morgan proposal would essentially double the volume of oil passing through an already vulnerable marine environment, the area south of Vancouver Island where Washington-bound [conventional crude] oil tankers are common. The Trans-Mountain project website indicates there will be up to 34 tanker visits per month in this already crowded marine vessel area by 2017."

"Four marine Ecological Reserves in particular at the Southern tip of Vancouver Island would be directly exposed to contamination in the event of a marine accident in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The most northerly and only colony of breeding and pupping elephant seals in Canada is in the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Also it is a winter haulout site for two species of sea lions, and a birthing colony of harbour seals. . Three seabird species have nesting colonies on the island and the subtidal marine life in the Rockfish Conservation zone has extremely high biodiversity values. The risk for these rare colonies and populations from increased tanker traffic within a few kilometres is very high. Containment of an oil spill in adverse weather conditions and with tidal currents running daily up to 7 knots make clean up in this reserve impossible. Moreover, the population of marine birds and mammals is highest in the winter months."

The supertanker route threads the archipelago formed by BC's Gulf Islands and the adjacent San Juan Islands of Washington State. From there it's out through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, literally scraping American territorial waters. 


That's it. Prime minister Slick has greenlighted the Kinder Morgan pipeline initiative that will ship 900,000 barrels of toxic, lethal dilbit a day across British Columbia, through the Lower Mainland municipalities, and into an armada of supertankers that will become a daily feature as they ply the waters of Burrard Inlet, Coal Harbour, English Bay and coastal British Columbia through the Juan de Fuca Strait scraping along the US boundary.

All that business about First Nations approval and social licence, like just about everything else that has come from Trudeau, was a pack of lies. All that bold talk about fighting climate change - more lies. Bastard.

The good news is that the Tsleil-Wauthuth Nation on Burrard Inlet has vowed to block the deal. The less than good news is that the Green Party was all over the announcement, wasting not a second to notify the membership to send more money to Elizabeth May.  

Trump Has Germans Thinking a Lot About Democracy

The German people have not forgotten their past and president-elect Donald J. Trump has them revisiting those painful memories of a darker time.

An article in Der Spiegel asks "How Much Mussolini Is There in Donald Trump?" The writer reviews a number of fascism checklists and the results aren't promising for American democracy. He concludes that Americans should wait - and hope.

The article was obviously written before Trump's latest tweet on protesters who may burn the American flag:

"Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016"

Of course, since 1989 the US Supreme Court has held that burning the Stars and Stripes is protected under the First Amendment. Trump, however, has repeatedly shown how little he cares for the First Amendment or dissent generally. 

Which brings us to former justice Robert Jackson's warning:

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Executive pay might be the biggest scandal of the day in Big Business. We regularly read of CEOs earning five to six hundred times the average wage of their employees.

The Brits are tossing about the idea of having shareholders decide matters such as executive compensation. Take the decision-making out of the hands of the bloated boards of directors and transfer that power to where it belongs - those who own the companies.

Monbiot Tackles Neoliberalism's Death Grip on the West

Neoliberalism has been the default operating system of western governments, Canada included, since it was ushered in during the Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney era.

Justin Trudeau is a neoliberal as were his predecessors over the last three decades.  Canada remains in the clutches of neoliberalism and no one, no leader, no party is putting forward an alternative vision.

We see the muddy footprints of neoliberalism in the latest news about how most of the new jobs in Canada are low wage, real precariat stuff and how huge our monthly trade deficits have become. We make increasingly less of the stuff we want to buy and foreign demand for the stuff we do make isn't great enough to even the books. No wonder Slick is so desperate to build bitumen pipelines to the coast. Silly bugger.

In today's Guardian, George Monbiot argues that neoliberalism is what has put America's democracy in such dire peril.

The events that led to Donald Trump’s election started in England in 1975. At a meeting a few months after Margaret Thatcher became leader of the Conservative party, one of her colleagues, or so the story goes, was explaining what he saw as the core beliefs of conservatism. She snapped open her handbag, pulled out a dog-eared book, and slammed it on the table. “This is what we believe,” she said. A political revolution that would sweep the world had begun.

The book was The Constitution of Liberty by Frederick Hayek. Its publication, in 1960, marked the transition from an honest, if extreme, philosophy to an outright racket. The philosophy was called neoliberalism. It saw competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. The market would discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers, creating a more efficient system than could ever be devised through planning or by design. Anything that impeded this process, such as significant tax, regulation, trade union activity or state provision, was counter-productive. Unrestricted entrepreneurs would create the wealth that would trickle down to everyone.

[Hayek] begins the book by advancing the narrowest possible conception of liberty: an absence of coercion. He rejects such notions as political freedom, universal rights, human equality and the distribution of wealth, all of which, by restricting the behaviour of the wealthy and powerful, intrude on the absolute freedom from coercion he demands.

Democracy, by contrast, “is not an ultimate or absolute value”. In fact, liberty depends on preventing the majority from exercising choice over the direction that politics and society might take.

...Thatcherism and Reaganism were not ideologies in their own right: they were just two faces of neoliberalism. Their massive tax cuts for the rich, crushing of trade unions, reduction in public housing, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services were all proposed by Hayek and his disciples. But the real triumph of this network was not its capture of the right, but its colonisation of parties that once stood for everything Hayek detested.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair did not possess a narrative of their own. Rather than develop a new political story, they thought it was sufficient to triangulate. In other words, they extracted a few elements of what their parties had once believed, mixed them with elements of what their opponents believed, and developed from this unlikely combination a “third way”.

...As I warned in April, the result is first disempowerment then disenfranchisement. If the dominant ideology stops governments from changing social outcomes, they can no longer respond to the needs of the electorate. Politics becomes irrelevant to people’s lives; debate is reduced to the jabber of a remote elite. The disenfranchised turn instead to a virulent anti-politics in which facts and arguments are replaced by slogans, symbols and sensation. The man who sank Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency was not Donald Trump. It was her husband.

The paradoxical result is that the backlash against neoliberalism’s crushing of political choice has elevated just the kind of man that Hayek worshipped. Trump, who has no coherent politics, is not a classic neoliberal. But he is the perfect representation of Hayek’s “independent”; the beneficiary of inherited wealth, unconstrained by common morality, whose gross predilections strike a new path that others may follow. The neoliberal thinktankers are now swarming round this hollow man, this empty vessel waiting to be filled by those who know what they want. The likely result is the demolition of our remaining decencies, beginning with the agreement to limit global warming.

Neoliberalism Out, Neofascism In?

Cornel West says America is in for a makeover, Trump style.

White working- and middle-class fellow citizens – out of anger and anguish – rejected the economic neglect of neoliberal policies and the self-righteous arrogance of elites. Yet these same citizens also supported a candidate who appeared to blame their social misery on minorities, and who alienated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, black people, Jews, gay people, women and China in the process.

This lethal fusion of economic insecurity and cultural scapegoating brought neoliberalism to its knees. In short, the abysmal failure of the Democratic party to speak to the arrested mobility and escalating poverty of working people unleashed a hate-filled populism and protectionism that threaten to tear apart the fragile fiber of what is left of US democracy. And since the most explosive fault lines in present-day America are first and foremost racial, then gender, homophobic, ethnic and religious, we gird ourselves for a frightening future.

Look Justin, Cut the Bullshit

Today's the day when we learn whether the federal government will put our north coast in jeopardy or merely threaten our south coast with disaster.

Which pipeline will Trudeau approve? Will it be the Enbridge Northern Gateway or the expanded Kinder Morgan line through the Lower Mainland? Maybe it'll be both. Maybe he'll kill off both, the least likely option.

Whether it's Enbridge or Kinder Morgan or both, the decision will be heavily larded with Trudeau's favourite bullshit line about how it is the federal government's sacred duty to get Canadian resources to market. Sure, fine, but let's take a minute to scrape the crap off that before swallowing it whole.

The devil is in the details and Trudeau's definition of "resources." The resource he'll tell you he wants to move is Athabasca oil. That's a damned lie. What he wants to move is something much more than oil. It's bitumen.,

There's oil in bitumen and with enough processing, refining, it can be extracted and turned into burnable petroleum products. The end product, heavy oil, is bad for the environment, bad for the planet, an affront to Trudeau's promise to cut carbon emissions, but that's only part of the problem.

The bigger problem is what else makes up bitumen. The stuff is jam packed with other goodies such as petcoke, abrasives, acids, heavy metals and various carcinogens.  Even after initial upgrading the sludge has to be mixed with light oil, diluent, just to help it move - with the benefit of added heat and high pressure - through pipelines.

Now if Slick had a shred of honesty in his bones he would admit that the greatest jeopardy comes from getting dilbit to market instead of shipping fully refined heavy crude. He would admit that, when his dilbit reaches Asia, that heavy-carbon petcoke is refined out and also burned for power generation.  He would admit that the heavy metals, acids, and carcinogens no one is willing to refine out on site in Alberta are what pose the gravest risks to BC's marine ecology. He would admit that they're willing to put our coast at such great, long-term (generational) risk because no one wants to foot the refining bill in Alberta.

This is where you see the real face of Justin Trudeau and it's ugly. The rest of Canada may be willing to swallow his bullshit but we can't get past the smell.

Maybe Hillary's Not So Bad After All.

Hubba, Hubba

Hillary Clinton's email scandal cost her heavily in the last election. Trump never went to a rally without feeding the Gullibillies the promise that he would see her in irons.

I'm not sure Trump wasn't just feeding his supporters a load of horseshit on that Hillary business. After all, who did he invite over yesterday to discuss filling the Secretary of State slot? That would be noneother than Dave "Pillow Talk" Petraeus who took time out from his duties as commander in Afghanistan to bed and pass along classified info to Paula Broadwell.

The guffaws were heard across the capitol. Kentucky senator Rand Paul quipped: 

“they spent a year and a half beating up Hillary Clinton over revealing classified information and then they would appoint somebody who the FBI says not only revealed it, but then lied about it in an interview and purposefully gave it to someone who did not have the clearance to have that.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

Does Robert F. Kennedy Have Justin Trudeau's Number?

Kennedy explains what's really behind the petro-states' pipeline fetish.

Great, Just Great. Watch Trump Jump All Over This.

The man who injured 11 people at Ohio State was a refugee from Somalia.

Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 18, rammed his car into a group of pedestrians at the college then got out and began stabbing people before police shot him dead.

The Thing Is, We Don't Know.

We don't know what it means when, for the second consecutive year, the Arctic is experiencing a dark winter heatwave. In the pitch black, what should be the coldest time of the year, Arctic temperatures are 20C/36F above normal.

We don't know what's actually happening, what's triggering this dark winter heatwave. We don't know what it portends.

There are all sorts of warnings that the global economy is about to tip into another 2008-style meltdown only this time world governments won't be able to find money for bailouts. Is this looming? We don't know. If it is, we don't know what it portends.

In The Guardian last week, George Monbiot listed "13 impossible crises that humanity now faces." 13, that's not a good number.

19 is worse. That's the number of "tipping points"  that we may have crossed or are about to cross in the Arctic according to researchers behind the Arctic Resilience Report also released last week. 19 tipping points, many of them anchored in positive feedback loops, that we're told could be the precursor to runaway, catastrophic climate change in places many thousands of miles distant from the Arctic. Is this disaster really in the cards? Is it imminent? We don't know.

This morning, a Chris Hedges piece, warned that America is entering a post-democratic era, some form of authoritarian/totalitarian statehood. Is that even possible? We don't know.

I was never a big fan of Buffalo Springfield but their lyrics keep running through my mind. "Something's happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear." For What It's Worth, indeed.

Something is happening here. That much I think we all know. It's tangible, palpable. The thing is, we - you and I - don't know. We don't have teams of world class experts at our beck and call to explain what is truly going on and what strategies and options we have for responding. There's no one around to give us the odds.

But we elect people who do have access to those experts and advisors. They know the risks and the options and the odds and there's a lot of information they should be sharing with us right now. 13 impossible crises. 19 tipping points. What else? What does it all mean? We don't know. But the people we elect who should be letting us in on it, they prefer to just keep us in the dark, as dark as winter in the Arctic.

Chris Hedges Says All Roads Lead To....

No, not Rome. Hedges thinks they lead to a post-democratic America.

We await the crisis. It could be economic. It could be a terrorist attack within the United States. It could be widespread devastation caused by global warming. It could be nationwide unrest as the death spiral of the American empire intensifies. It could be another defeat in our endless and futile wars. The crisis is coming. And when it arrives it will be seized upon by the corporate state, nominally led by a clueless real estate developer, to impose martial law and formalize the end of American democracy.

When we look back on this sad, pathetic period in American history we will ask the questions all who have slid into despotism ask. Why were we asleep? How did we allow this to happen? Why didn’t we see it coming? Why didn’t we resist?

...The failure of our capitalist democracy was collective. It was bred by ignorance, indifference, racism, bigotry and the seduction of mass propaganda. It was bred by elites, especially in the press, the courts and academia, who chose careerism over moral and intellectual courage. Our rights as citizens were taken from us one by one. There was hardly a word of protest.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

How to Look Your Very Best - After the Old Man Tunes You Up.

This is a screen capture from a Moroccan state TV programme showing women make up tips for concealing those tell tale signs of a damned good thrashing by the hubby.

Really, seriously? Oh, f@#k me.

Is It Time We Recycled This?

All we have to do is change the face:

British Columbia voters made Harper pay dearly in 2015. The Liberals' support is almost entirely in the very region, the southwest corner, where opposition to pipelines and supertankers is fiercest. Trudeau treads on those voters at his peril.

Ten Long Years, What Will the Next Ten Hold?

Who could have foreseen the changes our species, our civilization and our planet have undergone over just the last 10 years?  It was 10 years ago that I started this blog and today I glanced through some posts from that first year.

2006, the year Saddam Hussein went to the gallows. It was the year of the Stern Report that warned of the massive economic costs we would face if we refused a rapid transition to alternative, clean energy. Iraq and Afghanistan were still in the grip of chaotic violence (some things never change). Jeb Bush got it right when, replying to reporters asking about his political plans for the future, said, "no tengo, futuro," which translates as "I have no future." Unintentionally prescient. The now "late" Fidel Castro stepped down handing power to his brother, Raoul. Jack Kevorkian got out of prison just as Enron's Jeffrey Skilling was going in. Myron Thompson, remember him? Augusto Pinochet, gone. The Times of London caused a stir with a story claiming the Arctic could be open for navigation as soon as 2040. We thought, nay believed, that America never had a worse president than George w. Bush and could never have one worse in the future. The Globe's mastermind, Marcus Gee, wrote, "the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not predate the 9/11 terrorist outrage against U.S. civilians, but were a response to it" as though the Bush/Cheney gang didn't already have Iraq in Washington's crosshairs from the day they took office. I began referring to The Globe as "the toolbox."

But that was then. This is now, a full decade later. Some things haven't changed such as the breathtaking stupidity of many of our leaders. Still, last week let us know that some things have changed, dangerously so.

The Guardian's George Monbiot brought us "The 13 Impossible Crises that Humanity Now Faces," warning that "this multi-headed crisis presages collapse." Then the Stockholm Environment Institute, in conjunction with the Arctic Council, released the Arctic Resilience Report that carried the shocking news that dramatic environmental change across the Arctic were triggering no fewer than 19 climate "tipping points" that could lead to imminent, runaway global warming.

By sheer happenstance I came across Thomas Homer-Dixon's 2006 book, "The Upside of Down," yesterday as I made another ill-fated attempt to clear the clutter from my office. I was planning to shelve it along with the other books stacked all over my desk when I spied a protruding bookmark that I thought I should scavenge for my next read. Looking at the page it was a commentary on what Homer-Dixon referred to as "contingency" that, in light of those two reports from last week, seemed chilling:

"A moment of contingency is a moment of choice, like the fork in the pathway encountered by the traveler in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." Frost's traveler had an advantage: he could see ahead where a road 'bent in the undergrowth.' the aftermath of a globe-shaking social earthquake ...we'll have trouble seeing anything at all. The comfortable old road behind us will have vanished, but the new ones in front of us will be barely visible in a fog of fear and uncertainty.

"In moments of contingency, nothing is definite, and everything is tentative. Choices made by societies, groups, and individuals may be less constrained than previously, but the consequences of choices are far more opaque. Social reality loosens its grip on us. It becomes more fluid. Long-standing relations of authority between people, groups, and institutions weaken, while deeply ingrained patterns of social behavior lose purpose and meaning. Actions and futures that were once unthinkable - because they were too wonderful or too horrible - are suddenly possible. In moments of contingency, surprise and bewilderment create mental polarities; anticipation alternates with fear, and hope with despair. And these polarities evoke the best and worst attributes of human character - courage and cowardice, generosity and greed, kindness and malice, and integrity and deceit.

"Moments of contingency are thus easily exploited for good or ill. Fear, hope, and greed are unleashed at the same time that social reality becomes fluid. This means that people's motivation to change their circumstances soars just as their opportunities to accomplish change multiply. Whether the outcome of this powerful confluence is turmoil or renewal hinges - in large measure - on how the situation is framed.

"People will want reassurance. They will want an explanation of the disorder that has engulfed them - an explanation that makes their world seem, once more, coherent and predictable, if not safe. Ruthless leaders can satisfy these desires and build their political power by prying open existing cleavages between ethnic and religious groups, classes, races, nations, or cultures. First they define what it means to be a good person and in so doing identify the members of the we group. Then they define and identify the bad people who are members of the they group. These are enemies such as immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Westerners, the rich, the poor, the nonwhite, who are the perceived cause of all problems and who can serve as an easy focus of fear and anger.

"Particularly receptive to such stereotypes are people who already feel humiliated or victimized; so too are those who feel alienated or marginalized and who believe, as a result, that they have no stake in society and no peaceful means to express their unhappiness. These people are not necessarily the destitute; rather, they're people who see a rapidly widening gulf between what they're getting and what they think they rightfully deserve. "

In the context of the Arctic Resilience Report and Monbiot's "13 impossible crises,"  Homer-Dixon's discussion of "contingency" in his now 10 year old book sounds as if it could have been written today. Some of it seems to be straight out of Donald Trump's campaign playbook. We live in an era where wedge politics works for those who turn this weapon against us, those who reap immeasurable gains from the dismantling of social cohesion.

Homer-Dixon's point is that we need to be able to identify what societal collapse will look like. We need to grasp the pitfalls and be ready for them. It's our ability to roll with the punches and bounce back, just as often as necessary, that will determine how, even if, we can renew our civilization.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weasel Words For the 21st Century

Changes are overtaking us rapidly and the people we trust to safeguard us from the worst are not keeping up. The political growth industry of the moment is inventing words of self-absolution to cover almost any disaster contingency.

The hands-down favourite so far is "no one saw it coming." The variation is "no one could have seen it coming." Bush Jr. used it when America got rumbled by the 2008 Great Recession. Harper and Redford used it when downtown Calgary was turned into a marine park by torrential flooding in 2013.

These are weasel words, phrases intended to disguise the great lie. No one could see the 2008 meltdown coming? Nouriel Roubini clearly foresaw it. Paul Krugman did too. Just read his 2005 book "The Great Unraveling." Nobel laureate economist, Joe Stiglitz, saw it coming. They saw it and they were warning anybody willing to listen that it was coming, soon, and it was going to hit hard.

Here, "no one saw it coming" translates into "no one I was willing to listen to saw it coming" or "no one who embraces the same wobbly ideology I cling to saw it coming" or "no one wanted to see it coming and so we didn't look."

When Calgary was hit by the second "once in a century" flood in less than a decade, that too was foreseeable. Climate scientists had warned that we were going to experience severe storm events of increasing intensity, duration and frequency. They knew that climate change was increasing the content of water vapour in our clouds. They knew how the warming Arctic atmosphere was creating these Rossby Waves that plunged high into the north and then far into the south and would periodically simply stop moving which meant that a torrential rain storm could be parked over the same area for days on end.

But Harper is gone and so too is Bush. Today we have a new cast of characters but are they one bit better than the last bunch? Leave Trump out of it. We've got a new guy who now has a year in power under his belt, the namesake of one of the greatest political minds in our nation's history. What might we expect from him? Will he be just another "no one saw it coming" leader, another purveyor of the great weasel words?

In a word, "yes." Ignoring the warnings from the IMF and World Bank, Trudeau remains a globalism free trader, fang and claw. He clings to the neoliberal experiment that Milt Friedman, before his death, admitted was a failed ideology. He believes that Canada has a road to play in the world and it's a road paved with bitumen.

Trudeau had barely been sworn into office before scientists began to sound the alarm about a "climate emergency" underway in the Arctic. They revealed that, in the middle of the pitch-black Arctic winter, the region was experiencing a heat wave powerful enough to trigger cyclonic winds that thinned the Arctic sea ice by an astonishing 4 inches.

This prime minister watched as eastern Canada endured a summer of sustained drought that damaged agricultural production. Now, for the second consecutive year, the Arctic is experiencing a dark winter heat wave. Correct me if I'm wrong but I've not heard a word from Trudeau or his EnviroMin, Dame Cathy, about the climate emergency underway in the Arctic. Just yesterday we learned from the Arctic Resilience Report that conditions in the far north have brought us to the brink of triggering no fewer than 19 climate change "tipping points" which could send us on the path to catastrophic, runaway global warming.

So what's our government's response at this critical moment? In a picture, this:

Of course they'll tell us they couldn't see it coming. You can't see much of anything when your head is up your ass. Look at it this way. With a government like this, you're on your own. We all are.

This May Sound Radical But There's Really No Other Choice

With backward thinking governments still in the neoliberal embrace of constantly growing GDP, a different vision, one based in reality, is beginning to take hold.

There's a new economic movement, "degrowth." From Deutsche Welle:

With the planet reaching its biophysical limits on what it can provide us, a growing number of economists and environmentalists say we need to switch focus from economic growth to human and ecological wellbeing.

...Currently, few question the pursuit of economic growth. From national economic policies to international programs for sustainable development, growth has typically been the goal.

But some economists now argue that on a planet with finite resources, we may have to stop growing in order to survive.

"More economic growth means more and material extracted out of nature, and more and waste after we use these materials," sais Giorgos Kallis, an ecological economist and editor of "Degrowth: A Vocabulary for a New Era."

"With the current level of economic growth - and aspired levels of growth - there is no way to avoid dramatic and catastrophic change of the climate."

Here's what Justin Trudeau, and every prime minister, Liberal and Tory, going back at least to Brian Mulroney, refused to accept.

Man's resource footprint has outgrown the planet by a factor of 1.7 times and that's still growing. We are exhausting the Earth of the resources, renewable and non-, necessary for the continuation of life on our planet. We are now in what is called "overshoot."

This graphic illustrates our problem. Our consumption is already in overshoot well above the planet's carrying capacity which is, predictably, degrading. The evidence is manifest, everywhere. It is tangible, measurable, and it's even visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station. It takes many forms including deforestation and desertification (the exhaustion of farmland and its transformation into desert). It can be seen in dried up lakes and rivers that no longer run to the sea. It takes the form of algae blooms in our lakes and rivers and coastal oceanic dead zones. NASA's tandem Grace satellites reveal surface subsidence caused by our rapid depletion of our groundwater, our aquifers. We see it as our industrial fishing fleet collapses one fish stock after another. The examples go on and on and on.

We have embraced the delusion that our economy, nationally and globally, can exceed the bounds of our planetary ecosystem, our environment. Those who make the argument that intelligent life is self-extinguishing have proof aplenty in that.

Several years ago, renowned British scientist, James Lovelock, said that mankind's survival depended on accepting what he termed "sustainable retreat." But try telling your neighbour that the future of our grandkids and theirs hinges on our willingness to reduce our standard of living by 40 per cent, perhaps more.

The degrowth movement is welcome and long overdue but with our governments in the grip of magical thinking the odds against it are monumental.

Now There's a Snag. Trump May Have to Choose - His Real Estate Empire or the Presidency,

Festung Trump

They're a plainly bipartisan duo: the former chief ethics council to #43, George w. Bush, and the former chief ethics counsel to #44, Barack Obama. But they speak with one voice when it comes to Donald J. Trump.

The former ethics lawyers for president Barack Obama and George W Bush have asked the electoral college to not appoint Donald Trump as the next president due to his potential conflicts of interest.

Richard Painter, former chief ethics counsel for Mr Bush, and Norman Eisen, former chief ethics counsel for Mr Obama, said that the president-elect must sell out from his real estate and business holdings before 19 December, when the electoral college officially appoints the next president.

As reported by ThinkProgress, Mr Eisen pointed to Article 1, Section 9 of the US constitution which prohibits presidents from accepting "any present, emolument, office, or title, or any kind whatever, from any king, price, or foreign state".

The most recent up-and-running example of a Trump business is the new hotel in Washington DC, which hosted a group of 100 diplomats this month, providing food and a tour of the expensive suites.

"The notion that his (through his agents) solicitation of those payments, and the foreign governments making of those payments, is unrelated to his office is laughable," Mr Eisen said.

Mr Trump recently told the New York Times that he "could run [his] business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly". He added that the "law [was] totally on [his] side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest".

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe shared the view that Mr Trump must divest to prevent potential conflicts of interest.

Mr Trump has already asked favours from politicians to help his businesses profit, including UK politicians to scrap wind farm proposals which would block the sea views from his Aberdeenshire golf course.

He has also come under fire for allowing his daughter Ivanka to sit in on meetings with heads of state, including Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Yep, Still Undefeated.

In Berlin, There's This Sculpture...

It's aptly named "Politicians Discussing Global Warming."


Yeah, I'm diggin' it.

Birds of a Feather

Donald Trump and Viktor Orban - could this be America's next presidential bromance?

Hungary's prime minister said he'll no longer be considered a "black sheep" in the eyes of the US after speaking with Donald Trump, who has invited him to visit Washington.

In a phone conversation, the president-elect "made it clear he thinks highly of Hungary," Viktor Orban said in an interview published in the Vilaggazdasag business daily on Friday. President Barack Obama has shunned Orban during his two terms, having never held a bilateral meeting with the NATO ally leader and criticizing him for eroding democracy.

Trump "invited me to Washington, and I replied that it's been a while since I've been there, since they treated me like 'black sheep,' " Orban said in the interview, without specifying when the phone call happened. "He laughed and he said they treated him the same way."

In July, Orban became the first leader in Europe to publicly back Trump's presidential bid, arguing that under his leadership, the US wouldn't try to export democracy. The 53-year-old, three-term premier has clashed with the Obama administration and the European Union, who have censured him for having built what he's described as an "illiberal state" modeled on authoritarian regimes including Russia and Turkey.

Other Than Apocalypse, What's On the Horizon, Mr. Monbiot?

Thanks, George, but confirmation bias I can do without right now.

Guardian enviro-scribe, George Monbiot, wants you to think big, very big, about what is now on your plate no matter how much you may wish it wasn't. It's an entree he calls "The 13 impossible crises that humanity now faces."

He knows it's depressing reading and he feels very sorry for that but he wants us all to realize the magnitude of what we have to confront.

I haven't got the heart to summarize it here but I'll cherry pick a couple of bon mots a la George.

On the prospect that Marie Le Pen might win the next French election.

"If Le Pen wins, the permanent members of the UN security council will be represented by the following people: Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Theresa May and Marine Le Pen. It would be a stretch to call that reassuring."

Oh, shit. Damn. Bugger that. 

How about this one. Just 60 harvests left - in case anyone's counting.

"According to the UN food and agriculture organisation, at current rates of soil loss we have 60 years of harvests left."

For what it's worth, there was plenty of research on this both before the UN FAO warning and there's been plenty of research confirming it since. Around the globe we're working our farmland to exhaustion, relying on ever increasing amounts of agri-chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides needed to produce "normal" crop yields. It's a candle ablaze brightly from both ends.

And, of course, there's the accelerating extinction event. No list would be complete without it.

"One of the peculiarities of this complex, multiheaded crisis is that there appears to be no “other side” on to which we might emerge. It is hard to imagine a realistic scenario in which governments lose the capacity for total surveillance and drone strikes; in which billionaires forget how to manipulate public opinion; in which a broken EU reconvenes; in which climate breakdown unhappens, species return from extinction and the soil comes back to the land. These are not momentary crises, but appear to presage permanent collapse."

But, wait, what am I thinking? This is Black Friday, there are deals to be had - everywhere - on everything. It's past time to get down to some serious online bargain hunting. Happy shopping everyone.

Focus on What Really Matters Most

Our government has many priorities. The prime minister has said that he wants to be known, first and foremost, as a free trader. He's all about increasing trade, maximizing growth in GDP.

Mr. Trudeau also says he wants real action on climate change. So far that's been stalled on vague statements about carbon pricing that have triggered strong push back from the fossil provinces - especially Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The prime minister is now expected to appease the petro-provinces by approving at least one pipeline to the Pacific, in all probability the Kinder Morgan project that will see an armada of heavily laden supertankers navigating through Vancouver's Coal Harbour and on through the province's southern coastal waters.

This government still has no means, no technical solution to a major dilbit spill in these challenging waters. Once the diluent separates out the remaining bitumen sludge sinks to the bottom at depths that are essentially unreachable. Perhaps hoping to cover its tracks in such a disastrous event, the Environment Minister has approved the chemical nightmare, Corexit, as an oil dispersant even though it merely causes spilled oil to sink, not disperse, which would help deliver its content of toxins, heavy metals, acids and carcinogens to the seabed that anchors the chain of marine life on the coast.

Trudeau knows there's no way to clean up a dilbit spill and yet he's ignoring that troubling fact - and the long term wellbeing of coastal British Columbians - to accede to his political imperative and appease the petro-province premiers.

Is that what really matters most to Canadians? Is exporting the costliest, highest-carbon synthetic petroleum what is best for us and our grandkids? Of course not. It is, however, what the prime minister's handlers see as most politically opportune. Liberal fortunes trump (and I use that word advisedly) the wellbeing of Canadians hands down.

Yet we hear nothing from this government, nary a word, about the "climate emergency" now spreading across the Arctic. The Stockholm Environment Institute, in conjunction with the Arctic Council and other scientific groups, today released a blunt warning in the form of the Arctic Resilience Report which concluded that we're at risk of triggering 19 "tipping points" that could greatly accelerate the onset of runaway global warming not merely in the Arctic but across the globe.

The tipping points are addressed in Chapter 3 beginning at page 64 of the 240-page report. Among other things it notes that all Arctic nations are vulnerable to at least 10 of the 19 identified tipping points while Canada, Russia and the US are exposed to 18.

Regime shifts in the Arctic encompass a broad range of dynamics that typically occur on a time scale of decades to centuries, and a spatial scale from local and landscape dynamics, to subcontinental ones, with consequences that may be felt globally. The rest of this section summarizes the most established regime shifts reviewed in the academic literature. Most (12 out of 16) are difficult to reverse or irreversible on a 100-year time scale. The evidence supporting the existence of these regime shifts comes primarily from contemporary observations, paleo-records and models (13 regime shifts); experimentation has only been possible on six. In fact, the scales at which these regime shifts dynamics occur, both in space and time, make experimentation a rare option. Hence, identifying the mechanism underlying some Arctic regime shifts is a challenging task that relies heavily on modelling and the synthesis of studies of long-term changes in the ecology, hydrology, geology and climate of the Arctic. Most of regime shifts identified occur in marine and polar systems; the others occur in tundra, temperate and boreal forests, and freshwater lakes and rivers.

The report itemizes each of the tipping points with an explanation of the individual regime, the consequences that flow from it and what, if anything, can still be done by way of response. The discussion explains that these regime changes are not linear, it's not a steady state progression, but are subject to abrupt and fairly dramatic change. It also shows how many of the 19 tipping points can combine to create a synergy that can evolve into a cascade effect.

It's a well written, balanced paper that's within the comprehension levels of non-science types like yours truly. It's a pretty easy read for a research report.

The Arctic Resilience Report is ultimately a warning that we don't have the luxury of time to respond to the irreversible changes now underway. Catastrophic runaway global warming could be a matter of years away. We must come to appreciate the speed of the changes underway, how we suddenly became confronted with 19 tipping points. Government institutions, it notes, are moribund and, as currently organized, incapable of keeping up with the pace of change. 

If there was ever a time to go on something akin to a war footing, this is it. This is what matters most to the future of our country, not bloody bitumen pipelines, not half-assed proposals about carbon pricing. It's time for Mr. Trudeau to focus on what really matters most to Canada, not what's best for his political fortunes.

It's Pedal to the Metal for Arctic Climate Change

You wouldn't know it by the goingson in Ottawa or any provincial capital but, since October, climate scientists have been declaring an "emergency" in the Arctic.  The Liberal government apparently has too much on its plate including how to drive some damned pipeline across British Columbia.

Now those scientists are being a bit more blunt.

Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

The tipping points.

...the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

...Scientists have speculated for some years that so-called feedback mechanisms – by which the warming of one area or type of landscape has knock-on effects for whole ecosystems – could suddenly take hold and change the dynamics of Arctic ice melting from a relatively slow to a fast-moving phenomenon with unpredictable and potentially irreversible consequences for global warming.

The good news is that, if there is any way to avert truly runaway climate change and if we really want to do that, we know where to start. The Potsdam Institute's Schellnhuber told us at last year's climate summit in Paris. It begins when the governments of the world trigger an "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Clinton By Two

Hillary Clinton now leads Donald Trump in the popular vote by more than two million and they're still counting.

If Greg Palast is right, there are millions more that were disqualified by Republican skulduggery. In his mind there's no doubt, none, that this election was stolen.

Remember "Snakes and Ladders"?

Well, Americans should brace themselves, for their future holds a lot more snakes and damn few ladders.

I have long been convinced that the American public and, to a lesser extent, our own have been groomed, conditioned into a state of powerlessness. Fake news and the corporate media cartel have been instrumental in leaving Americans divided, confused and incapable of discerning their own best interests.

I cannot think of a society as riven as that of today's America. They are burdened with suspicion, anger and paranoia; divided along generational, political, ethnic, religious and economic lines among others. This has eroded their social cohesion, facilitating the theft of both their economic and political power. That step, in turn, has created the requisite conditions to permit first political capture and then regulatory capture.

Political capture was achieved when wealthy and powerful interests succeeded in insinuating themselves between the voting public and those they elected to represent them. The result has been America's "bought and paid for" Congress of the past three decades. America has long ceased being a democracy. The Gilens (Princeton) and Page (Northwestern) study released by Princeton in 2014 chronicled that.

Regulatory capture, the payoff for succeeding at political capture, was showcased during the Bush/Cheney regime years when representatives of regulated industries were appointed to run the agencies empowered with regulating those same industries on behalf of the American public.

The combined impact of, first, political and then regulatory capture is manifest in how, in the aftermath of the 2008 global meltdown, the networth of households in the top 7% rose 28% while that of the remaining 93% fell by 4%. That was the direct result of the corruption of America's political and regulatory apparatus. And it's not over yet, not even remotely over.

Lincoln warned of "a house divided." America's house today is all that and much, much more.

I have never known of a society remotely as politically illiterate as modern America's. They are truly Gullibillies, happily swallowing the diet of rich horseshit shovelled down their throats and always coming back for seconds.

 Now that political and regulatory capture have taken hold, liberal democracy has been displaced by an early form of illiberal democracy. The public still votes but their votes don't matter. This paves the way for the next step - the transition to outright oligarchy. Trump may be a catalyst.

The American people will decide their fate. They will either rise up and cast out the money lenders from the temple, i.e. the neoliberals both Republican and Democrat, to permit a restoration of progressive democracy or they must submit to an era of economic and political feudalism, 21st century style, and acquiesce to the powerlessness of serfdom. Either way they'll probably be met by state violence and lesser forms of coercion.

The future looks ugly.

When the President Does It, That Means It Is Not Illegal.

Takes you back, doesn't it? Back to the days of Richard Milhous "Tricky Dicky" Nixon. It came up in the Frost-Nixon interviews.

Flash forward to 2016. Now we have the Giant Orange Turd channeling the worst of Nixon.

At a Tuesday lunch with the New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump said several things. He said that Breitbart is “just a publication.” He said that his son-in-law could make peacebetween Israelis and Palestinians. And, when asked about whether or not his past (or present) business activity constitutes a conflict of interest, he said, “The law’s totally on my side. The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

As Trump sees it the law is "totally on my side" because, when it comes down to it, he is the law.

The A, B, C's of Dictatorship

Harvard prof and Foreign Policy columnist, Steven Walt, has a thoughtful essay, "10 Ways to Tell if Your President is a Dictator."

My fears about Trump’s foreign policy have always been two-fold: that he might pursue a more sensible grand strategy but do it incompetently, thereby weakening America’s international position, or that he will eventually get co-opted by the foreign-policy establishment and repeat the Blob’s most familiar mistakes. Based on some of his early appointments — like Islamaphobe Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security advisor — we might even get the worst of both worlds: unrealistic goals pursued ineptly.

But if you live in the United States, what you should really worry about is the threat that Trump may pose to America’s constitutional order. His lengthy business career suggests he is a vindictive man who will go to extreme lengths to punish his opponents and will break a promise in a heartbeat and without remorse. ...Nor does he regret any of the revolting things he did or said during the campaign, because, as he told the Wall Street Journal afterward, “I won.” For Trump, it seems, the ends really do justify the means.

Walt continues to list 10 warning signs ordinary Americans should watch out for after Trump takes over on January 20th. It's a long but worthwhile read. Follow the link above.

I've been pondering whether Trump might inadvertently do what the moribund Democrats have persistently failed to achieve? Could Trump mobilize the American left? How would it happen? Would it be left versus right? Might America fracture on generational lines - angry old white folks on one side, everyone else on the other?

Trump may unintentionally bring down the very power structure he now thinks he owns, creating the conditions by which he and his order are run out on a rail of unrest. He wouldn't have to check off many of professor Walt's 10 boxes to empower and energize a resistance determined to toss out their mostly corrupt government, Republican and Democrat.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump Will Blind NASA's Eye on Earth

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.
Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.
Here's how Trump strategist, Steve Bannon's Breitbart responded to the news:

Trump at NASA: Hasta la Vista Climate Fraud and Muslim Outreach…

NASA’s top climate scientist Gavin Schmidt has warned President-Elect Donald Trump that the planet just won’t stand for having a fully-fledged climate denier in the White House.

Good luck with that one, Gavin. Or “Toast” as we’ll shortly be calling you…

Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), told the Independent:

“The point is simple: the climate is changing and you can try to deny it, you can appoint people who don’t care about it into positions of power, but regardless nature has the last vote on this.”

This is the worst possible time for NASA's Earth imaging programme to be shuttered. Like all demagogues, including the one we just got rid of, Trump's decision making is informed, not by knowledge and fact, but by belief and ideology. To the extent that there's still time to do meaningful things to slow or adapt to climate change, that won't be accomplished if we're guided by belief and ideology or, as Trump describes it, "gut instincts."

Van Jones Warning to Canada. Listen Up.

"It can find a home in your country, too, if you don't stand up to it."

Van Jones understands the bigotry Trump has tapped across America does not respect borders. There is plenty of low life in Canada to carry that same torch, burn that same cross.

A high-profile American political commentator says Canadians are flat-out wrong if they think a candidate like Donald Trump couldn't succeed here.

Van Jones, a CNN political contributor and former White House policy adviser, spoke with reporters on Tuesday evening about the U.S. election ahead of a Toronto event organized by the Broadbent Institute.

"Most Americans right now are just heartbroken about the whole thing," Jones said, noting both major parties have major flaws — the Democrats for their elitism, while the Republican Party has become a safe place for bigots.
"The country is so divided over these two broken parties that nobody wants to go home for Thanksgiving dinner."

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

If There's One Thing We Ought to Have Learned.

One thing that we have learned about Donald Trump, both from his last two years on the campaign trail and from the Trump of earlier decades, is that it takes a real Gullibilly to believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

Trump used to say all manner of mainly liberal things on issues such as women's rights and such. That was before he chose to infiltrate the GOP. Then he promised his faithful dupes all manner of radical initiatives including a 2,000 mile wall along the Mexican border, the deportation of 12-million Mexican and Central American illegal immigrants, stealing the oil of the Middle East, "bombing the shit out of" ISIS, prison for abortion, on and on and on. Oh yeah, and jailing Hillary.

Less than a week after losing the vote by a significant margin but nonetheless winning the election, Trump is reneging on all those promises that drew the horde of Gullibillies to his side. He is, we're told, going to kill off the TPP but, aside from that, most of the rest was a rich diet of horseshit he fed to the dupes.

Does that mean Trump has been self-neutralized? Has he cut off his own cojones? Much as I would like to believe that I can't. That's because he's a pathological liar, willing to say whatever suits his personal interests from one day to the next.

So don't be sucked in by the kinder, gentler Trump. This is one guy you can never take at his word.

When the "Indispensible Nation" Becomes Expendable.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Max Boot argues that "Trump's 'America First' Is the Twilight of American Exceptionalism."

Boot's essay begins with an extensive catalogue of the similarities between Obama's policies and what Trump will likely deliver. He finds Obama a latter day Jefferson and sees in Trump a 21st century Jacksonian. For those not familiar with Jackson's populism, that may not be a very good thing for America:

One of their big divisions is over international institutions. Obama negotiated an international accord to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases; Trump has said global warming is a Chinese hoax and called for pulling out of the Paris agreement. Obama negotiated a nuclear accord with Iran; Trump promises to renegotiate it, calling it a “disgraceful deal” and an “embarrassment to our country.” Obama is a free-trader who negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); Trump is a protectionist who vows to withdraw from the TPP, rip up NAFTA, and impose tariffs. Obama has been supportive of NATO, working to expand the forces that the alliance deploys in Eastern Europe and the Baltics to guard against Russian aggression; Trump has called NATO “obsolete” and questioned the need to station U.S. troops to defend countries that don’t pay enough for the privilege.

...Obama is a believer in international organizations and international law; Trump is not. It is hard to imagine Trump saying, as Obama did: “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” In turn, it is hard to imagine Obama ever threatening to bomb the “shit” out of another country, to steal its oil, or to torture detainees — all of which would constitute war crimes.
In the terms coined by Walter Russell Mead, Obama is a Jeffersonian, while Trump is a Jacksonian: The former believes that the United States should perfect its own democracy and go “not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” whereas the latter believes that “the United States should not seek out foreign quarrels” but that it should clobber anyone who messes with it. What unites Jeffersonians and Jacksonians, in spite of their substantial differences, is that both support quasi-isolationism — or, if you prefer, non interventionism — unless severely provoked.

Obama has been intent on pulling the United States back from the Middle East. The result of his withdrawal of troops from Iraq and his failure to get more actively involved in ending the Syrian civil war has been to create a vacuum of power that has been filled by the likes of the Islamic State and Hezbollah. Undaunted, Trump has said he wants not only to continue the pullback from the Middle East (he wants to subcontract American policy in Syria to Putin) but also to retreat from Europe and East Asia. He has suggested that he may lift sanctions on Russia and pull U.S. troops out of countries (from Germany to Japan) if he feels they are not paying enough for American protection. It is quite possible, then, that Trump’s foreign policy would represent an intensification rather than a repudiation of Obama’s “lead from behind” approach.

American power survived eight years of an Obama presidency, albeit in diminished form. If the president-elect governs the way he campaigned (which, admittedly, is not necessarily a safe assumption), there is good cause to wonder whether U.S. ascendancy will survive four to eight years of Trumpism. The post-American age may be arriving sooner than imagined, ushered in by a president with an “America First” foreign policy.

American power, and the advantages that flow from it, is something of a con game, a confidence game. American dominance depends on the confidence that other nations, ally and adversary alike, place in it. It's the glue that holds Europe, Asia and the Middle East in America's camp.

Americans, like their president-elect, have largely lost sight of how much depends on this confidence game. America went from being the world's largest creditor nation at Ronald Reagan's first inauguration to the world's largest debtor nation, eight years later when Reagan's work was done. 

America has remained the world's largest economy over the intervening years but it's never been enough. For decades the US has sustained balance of trade and balance of payment deficits, its debts bought by foreign creditors on the strength of their abiding confidence in America as leader of the free world. This confidence has also allowed America the benefits of having the US dollar as the world's reserve currency. That leaves its creditors subject to American monetary policy and parlour tricks such as 'qualitative easing' that essentially discount American debt held by its foreign creditors.

America's allies are already worried about a world led by Donald Trump. He's already fallen in with a bad lot from Putin to Erdogan, Farage, Orban and lePen. Trump may give America's creditors the impetus they never found under Obama to switch the reserve currency to a basket of leading currencies - European, Chinese, Japanese and American. That could leave America forced to borrow in other nations' currencies without the benefit of its own monetary policy manipulations and at potentially higher rates. That's a truly iffy way to "Make America Great Again." As Boot suspects, Trump may indeed usher in the post-American age. And that is a contingency for which our government needs to prepare but who am I kidding?

The Many Faces of Donald Trump and Company

Apparently the video of the Alt-Right gathering with the "Heil Trump" and Nazi salutes was just too much for America's president-elect. Trump now says he denounces the Alt-Right movement. The only problem is that he's keeping Alt-Right champion, former Breitbart chief and white supremacist, Steve Bannon as his chief political strategist. Sorry, Donald, but words are cheap especially the "best words" that come out of your mouth.

Then there's Trump's choice for attorney-general, a man with a racist track record going back decades, Jeff Sessions.

Then there's Trump's pick for national security advisor, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. This guy's as bent as a two penny nail. His involvement in the attempted coup of Turkey's Recep Erdogan tells you all you need to know:

Flynn has feted Russian propaganda efforts alongside President Vladimir Putin; offered initial support for the attempted July coup against Turkey’s president — before changing his position after being hired as a lobbyist for an Ankara-linked outfit — and has described the United States and the West as participants in an apocalyptic clash with Islam, which he has called “a cancer.”

On the same day the Turkish military was launching its failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Flynn praised the putsch in a July 15 speech. The Turkish military, Flynn said, wanted to build a “secular nation,” in contrast to Erdogan’s Islamist tendencies. As the crowd began to applaud, Flynn chimed in: “That is worth clapping for.”

Flynn described Erdogan as “actually very close” to U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration quickly sided with the sitting government against the putschists. By vaguely backing the Turkish generals behind the coup, and neglecting to offer support for Erdogan’s democratically-elected government, Flynn challenged a bulwark of the Obama administration’s Middle East diplomacy, and left a NATO ally hanging.

But by a few months later, Flynn had changed his tune. In an Election Day op-ed, Flynn urged the United States to lend more support to Erdogan’s government and to surrender to its top demand: the extradition of its chief political rival, Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

...The change of heart may be explained by Flynn’s business interests. In September, Dutch firm Inovo BV, which has apparent ties to the Erdogan government, hired Flynn’s consulting company, Flynn Intel Group. Flynn founded the Virginia-based lobbying and consulting firm after retiring from the Army in 2014.

Flynn should fit in perfectly in Trump's cabinet. He's as dishonest as he is morally vacuous.

The Smart Move - Yes, From the Trudeau Government at That.

The federal government will order 18 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets from Boeing to bridge the gap while it awaits the next wave of new generation fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force. They're following an idea that Australia implemented a couple of years ago.

Most of America's allies are going for Lockheed's troubled F-35 which, by the time it is fully cleared for service, will be 20-years old. Over those two decades many of its supposed stealth secrets have been hacked by the very adversaries it is designed to attack. That has assisted them in the development of technologies to defeat the F-35's technology while giving them a leg up on constructing and deploying their own stealth fighter aircraft. To this Lockheed would say that the Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft aren't as good as America's. They could be right but they don't have to be nearly as good when used in defensive roles supported by their own advanced ground detection and missile systems.

The Americans are all too aware of the F-35's limitations and vulnerabilities which is why US naval and air force commanders are pressing for the early development of new, 6th generation aircraft to replace Lockheed's offering even before it achieves full operational status.

Obama Admits Defeat on TPP

We'll have to see what the Dauphin has to say about this but as far as Barack Obama is concerned, the Trans Pacific Partnership is as dead as a dodo.

Is Anybody Listening?

Judging by the petro-posture of our prime minister and America's "clean coal" president, it doesn't sound like there's anybody on our side of the Atlantic listening to the alarms being sounded by science types in the Arctic. The scientific community calls it a climate emergency.

When atmospheric temperatures are 20 degrees Celsius, roughly 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal that's massively abnormal. When ocean temperatures are 4 degrees Celsius above normal that too is massively abnormal. That's precisely the situation in the Arctic today. When it happens two years in a row maybe, just maybe, there's something going on in the Arctic and maybe that something heralds a looming threat we should be preparing to deal with.

As professor of thermal sciences John Abraham wrote in The Guardian last week, "At the risk of losing objectiveness but keeping candor, we are fucked."

That's a pretty strong descriptor. Reminds me of when the Danish government's chief glaciologist for the Greenland Ice Sheet, American Jason Box, carelessly tweeted to a friend, "We're so fucked."

Well, if we are indeed fucked, as these two climate scientists (and many others using more gentile language) suggest, you might expect some hint of acknowledgement of the fact from our political caste, the Brahmans we elect and empower to look after our wellbeing, our security, our land.

Trump is obviously too focused on bending people to his will than safeguarding his people against looming threats and ensuring the survival of future generations. What's Trudeau's excuse?

Trudeau pledged that his government, unlike his predecessor's, would follow scientific knowledge. Not belief, knowledge. Apparently he left out the bit about "when that suits our purposes." He also pledged to take Harper's gags off federal government scientists, again leaving out the bit about "when that suits our purposes." Of course there's that weasel word/wiggle room thing again. Trudeau didn't actually promise to use science to shape policy.  He merely promised that scientific analyses would "be considered" when the Liberal government makes policy. Sort of like how Steffie Dion "considered" Saudi human rights when approving the Death Wagon deal. Yeah, right.

Now the Trudeau government has promised to shutter provincial coal-fueled electricity generation by 2030 except that we know that Trudeau won't still be around by then. He's making promises another prime minister will have to carry. What he is doing now is preparing to approve major bitumen pipeline projects that will put paid to his green energy laurels. Once again it comes down to weasel words and wiggle room, this government's default operating system.

Back to the Arctic, is anybody listening? Not a chance. That's science that they don't want to hear, not in legislatures beholden to fossil energy giants. And that, kids, is why we are well and truly screwed.

Would That Our Prime Minister Had the Courage of this Irish Senator.

Senator Aodhan O Riordain says what we should be hearing from our own government.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Has Anyone Else Seen This?

An anonymous commenter mentioned that cherry trees have come into blossom in Victoria at the south end of the island. Has anyone else seen such a thing in that area?

The Arctic's Death Spiral

It's that bastard, Rossby. Blame Rossby.

The Arctic is again overheating a lot like last year. Winter is setting in except it's not, not really.

Something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia...“It’s about 20C [36 degrees Fahrenheit] warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean, along with cold anomalies of about the same magnitude over north-central Asia,” Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University, said by email Wednesday.

Up until October, things were relatively normal—at least, as normal as they can be in the era of record-shattering climate change. In mid-October Arctic temperatures suddenly flattened and then rose, instead of continuing downward as winter progressed. What happened?

“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.” Francis has published research suggesting that the jet stream, which travels from west to east across the Northern Hemisphere in the mid-latitudes, is becoming more wavy and elongated as the Arctic warms faster than the equator does.

Mark Serreze, who heads the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo., agrees that something odd is going on....What’s happening, he explains, is sort of a “double whammy.” On the one hand, there is a “very warm underlying ocean” due to the lack of sea ice forming above it. But, at the same time, kinks in the jet stream have allowed warm air to flow northward and frigid Arctic air to descend over Siberia.

Those wavy jet stream things, they're called Rossby Waves. They plunge down toward the tropics, carrying freezing temperatures far to the south, and then soar up into the Arctic, carrying warm air to the polar region.

Last winter's Arctic heatwave triggered cyclonic winds that caused the sea ice to thin about 10 cms. or 4 inches. That meant an earlier spring/summer melt, more exposed ocean water, more heat absorption, a warmer Arctic ocean, a delayed winter freeze - you probably get the idea that this has become a vicious circle, what's being called the Arctic's death spiral. And that, kids, is what's called a natural feedback loop - the very thing we're supposed to be slashing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid triggering. Only it's already well underway.