Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Et Tu, Brute? Have They All Gone Mad?



It's pretty obvious that America's man/baby president has been coming apart at the seams emotionally. Most think it's rooted in a deep-seated psychological malfunction. Who knows, maybe it's a virus. It seems Trump may be contagious or maybe someone else was the carrier.

That someone else might be none other than Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist and supposed informal advisor.

Down in the heartland of American racism, Alabama, there's an aggressive contest for a Republican nominee to fill Jeff Session's vacated Senate seat.

Trump has been backing the GOP establishment favourite, Luther Strange. He even showed up at a Strange rally and more recently sent Mike Pence on a similar pilgrimage to the Heart of Darkness.

Reprising the role of Kurtz is the infamous Judge Roy Moore, the darling of the radical right who broke into the public eye when he planted a chunk of granite with the Ten Commandments engraved into the top at the Alabama Supreme Court building. Moore was ordered to remove the monument, refused and was removed from the bench.  In Vietnam he slept in a cot surrounded by sandbags in fear that his men would frag him with a grenade while he slept. An Alabama-grade asshole if ever there was one.

But this isn't about Moore, it's about the folks who are turning out for him, his backers, including one Steve Bannon, Trump's supposed BFF.

At the Moore rally, Bannon took the stage with Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and the ever popular fascist Brit, Nigel Farage.

In a barn adorned with a giant American flag, Bannon told the crowd that the Washington establishment "think you’re a pack of morons."

Calling out several GOP operatives by name and their "running dogs" in the media, Bannon declared, “Your day of reckoning is coming.”

“We did not come here to defy Donald Trump, we came here to praise and honor him,” Bannon said. “A vote for Judge Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump.”

Referencing the ongoing controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem, Bannon said, “Every person in this country should get down every night and thank God Donald Trump is president.”

Strange’s backers, including Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, "are the same people that have tried to destroy Donald J. Trump since the first day he announced for office," Bannon said.

Meanwhile, Bannon continued, Moore backers like Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, and Ben Carson, Trump’s own housing secretary, have “been with Donald Trump since the beginning.”

Robertson, sporting in his signature camouflage clothes and long beard boasted that he doesn’t own a cell phone and has never turned on a computer. He urged the crowd not to worry much about the health care debate currently raging Washington, because everyone is going to die.

"Running dogs" is a phrase that was bandied about by Chinese, North Korean and Vietnamese Communists back during the Vietnamese war. Imperialist running dog was a pejorative used to describe American soldiers. Now Bannon's using it against other Republicans?

Suddenly I can't get "Dueling Banjos" out of my mind.


Societies Sometimes Do Stupid Things. They Usually Pay Dearly For It.


The title of Jared Diamond's now classic book says it all, "Collapse, How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed." (If you haven't read it you can get it free here in pdf, epub or Kindle format). The operative word isn't "fail" or "succeed", it's "choose." Diamond illustrates how many societies that have collapsed chose their fate, sometimes quite knowingly.  The usual situation is one generation that exploits something out of sheer self-interest knowing full well that it could destroy the society for generations to come. Does that sound familiar?

An excellent example is our modern mantra of "everyday low taxes." A politician who tries to raise taxes is an enemy of the people. It's part of the neoliberal model that, for most, has become a race to the bottom and that leaves us fearful, confused and often angrily divided at the signs of chaos we recognize but do not quite understand.

A lot of the infrastructure we rely on, without which our prosperity would falter and collapse, was paid for by our fathers' and grandfathers' generations. That includes everything from the Trans-Canada Highway, especially the 401, to our electrical grid and the sewers and water mains so critical to our towns and cities. Someone had to pay for it, we didn't.

We haven't even paid to maintain all that stuff. It's crumbling before our eyes whether it's slabs of concrete falling from overpasses onto traffic below or rivers of precious freshwater from broken mains flowing like rivers down city streets. This stuff, the essential arteries of our society and our economy, is rotting out, breaking down, and the cost of fixing it swells with every passing day like the interest charges on a delinquent credit card.

We think that everyday low taxes is the hallmark of responsible government.  When that becomes unworkable we fall back on the standard lies of having to trim waste or more budget cutbacks, ever more defunding of government.  We won't raise revenue. We'll pretend we can magically find it just behind the curtain and then go out and borrow it and leave the bill to our kids. That's what passes today for responsible government. We used to chuckle that "military intelligence" was an oxymoron. Well now you can add "responsible government" to that list.

It's easy to blame the political caste but there can be no responsible government without a suitably responsible voting public and it's been a while since we had one of those. Our political caste is partially to blame for the decline in our civic virtue but the main culprit is probably the corporate or commercial sector with which our governments chose to share our national sovereignty, their sacrifice at the altar of neoliberalism. Civic responsibility might, indeed would, represent an obstacle to those intent on maximizing consumerism.

We don't believe in responsible government. You can't when you don't trust government to spend your tax dollars. Again a good measure of the blame rests with our political caste that is, if we're to be completely honest, completely untrustworthy.  Thatcher, Reagan and Mulroney ushered in the neoliberal order but they also abdicated much of their responsibility to their peoples. Decisions they ought to have safeguarded in the public interest were instead yielded to the superior wisdom of the private sector, the market. Only those decisions included critical long-term issues that were effectively handed to an entity that thinks in terms of the next fiscal quarter.

We were bequeathed, "gifted" if you like, a wonderful country with terrific infrastructure and, with it, we grew and prospered. Only, like things that come with no strings attached, we tend to take these gifts for granted. Our political leadership, by not taxing us to properly maintain, modernize, and replace our essential infrastructure, played a major part in conditioning us not to want to pay our share for these things. Now we have rotting water mains, rotting sewer systems, roads and bridges that are falling apart and it's all compounded by the arrival of early onset climate change impacts.

While Calgary was underwater in 2013, the World Council on Disaster Management held its annual conference in Toronto which itself had been inundated just a month or two before. In attendance was Dr. Saeed Mirza, professor emeritus in structural engineering at McGill. He estimated the cost of repairing, upgrading and replacing Canada's essential infrastructure to meet the demands of the changing climate during the 21st century could run upwards of a trillion dollars. He added that the costs to our society and to our economy of not rehabilitating our infrastructure would be much worse.  I guess unless you're willing to live in a cave.

This ongoing obsession with everyday low taxes is a genuinely stupid thing. It's reached the point where it is presenting a threat to the future of our society. We're that threat. We, the "not my problem, man" voting public and the political leadership we elect, we're that threat.


No Lie Lasts Forever. Reality Catches Up With Republicans. Krugman's Best Column Ever?


Krugman knocks one out of the park.

Republicans have spent years routinely lying for the sake of political advantage. And now — not just on health care, but across the board — they are trapped by their own lies, forced into trying to enact policies they know won’t work.

Reporting on why the G.O.P. plowed ahead with Graham-Cassidy makes it clear that many Republicans supporting it are well aware that it’s a bad bill, although they may not appreciate just how bad. “You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “But,” he continued, “Republicans have campaigned on this,” meaning repeal-and-replace, and had to fulfill their promise.

Carl Hulse of The New York Times adds more detail: one big factor behind the push for Graham-Cassidy was anger among big donors, who wanted to know why Republicans had broken their vows to kill Obamacare.

But repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only thing Republicans promised; they also promised to replace it with something better and cheaper, doing away with all the things people don’t like about Obamacare without creating any new problems. Remember, it was Bill Cassidy, not Jimmy Kimmel, who came up with the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” the pledge that nobody would be denied health care because of expense.

Yet Republicans never had any idea how to fulfill that promise and meet that test, or indeed how to repeal the A.C.A. without taking insurance away from tens of millions. That is, they were lying about health care all along.

And the base, both the grass roots and the big money, believed the lies. Hence the trap in which Republicans find themselves.

The thing is, health care isn’t the only issue on which lies are coming back to bite the liars. The same story is playing out on other issues — in fact, on almost every substantive policy issue the U.S. faces.

The next big item on the G.O.P. agenda is taxes. Now, cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy may be an easier political lift than taking health insurance away from 30 million Americans. But Republicans still have a problem, because they’ve spent years posing as the party of fiscal responsibility, and they have no idea how to cut taxes without blowing up the deficit.

As with health care, the party has masked its lack of good ideas with lies, claiming that it would offset lower tax rates and even reduce the deficit by eliminating unnamed loopholes and slashing unnamed wasteful spending. But as with health care, these lies will be revealed once actual legislation is unveiled. It’s telling that Republicans are already invoking voodoo economics to justify their as-yet-unspecified tax plans, insisting that tax cuts will pay for themselves by leading to higher economic growth.
...

And soon the G.O.P. may even start to pay a price for lying about climate change. As hurricanes get ever more severe — just as climate scientists predicted — climate denial is looking increasingly out of touch. Yet donors and the base would react with fury to any admission that the threat is real, after all.

The bottom line is that the bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern. 

This Is How Democracy Succumbs to Corruption

So desperate are Congressional Republicans to demolish Obama's Affordable Care Act  that they're now trying to bribe Republican opponents to switch their votes.

With the latest version of Trumpcare floundering after several Republicans announced that they cannot support the legislation in its current form, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are set to release on Monday yet another draft of their Obamacare repeal plan that includes extra funding for the home states of senators who have expressed deep concerns about the bill -- a move Buzzfeed reporter Paul McLeod quickly characterized as "shockingly blatant bribery."

"There's really no way around it," McLeod added. "This is almost comically targeted to sweeten the deal for the senators voting no. What a way to go out."

According to the Washington Post, a summary of the draft that was circulating on Capitol Hill late Sunday indicated that "Alaska would get 3 percent more funding between 2020 and 2026 than under current law, and Maine would get 43 percent more funding during that time period."

As McLeod observed, the funding "sweeteners" are clearly aimed at assuaging two senators -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine -- who have long been opposed to measures that deeply cut Medicaid. Murkowski and Collins both voted against the GOP's previous attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but neither have officially indicated that they will oppose the latest bill.


So once again it's screw the public interest and support the special interests instead and here's a bag of cash to sooth your conscience. 

Drainin' the swamp, Donny. Drainin' the swamp.



Falling Dangerously Behind the Power Curve


The good news:

Alternative energy is making great strides...

The sobering news:

even as it continues to fall ever further behind the growth in fossil fuel consumption.

National Observer climate change scribe, Barry Saxifrage, has a way for deflating our alternative energy dreams. He's an avid supporter of alternative, clean energy but warns that reality shows clean energy losing to fossil fuels with no end in sight.



I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn't care how many solar panels and wind farms we build.

What determines our climate fate is how much climate-polluting fossil fuels we decide to burn. Renewables are great but only if they actually replace oil, gas, or coal. Sadly, rising renewables haven't stopped our fossil fuel burn, or our atmosphere's CO2 from continuing to rise. Instead, the new business-as-usual is one in which we keep expanding both renewables and fossil fuels at the same time.

The best available science says we need climate pollution "reductions of 90 per cent or more between 2040 and 2070." (see International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report.)

But the latest energy data clearly shows we aren't reducing fossil fuel burn. Just the opposite. We keep cranking the tap open wider every year. In a recent article, I dug into the latest "BP Statistical Review of World Energy" to illustrate the climate-sobering fossil fuel side of this story:


- Fossil fuel use continues to rise every year
- Fossil fuels continue to supply at least 85 per cent of global energy use
- Oil and gas are expanding more than other energy sources


Using the BP statistical review, Saxifrage came up with this graphic:



The orange line shows the increase in global energy demand since 2009.

Compare all that new demand to the top green line showing the increase in renewable energy. As you can see, renewables expanded only enough to cover about a quarter
(more like a third) of new demand.

The lesson in this? Hans Joachim Schellnhuber meant exactly what he said at the conclusion of the 2015 climate summit in Paris. He warned that our only hope of achieving the target of limiting anthropogenic global warming to 1.5 degrees depended on an "induced implosion" of the fossil energy industry. By "induced" he meant direct government action to rapidly shut down the extraction, sale and consumption of fossil fuels. A massive, collective effort by the world's governments to drive a transition to alternative clean energy.

The simple fact is that we can't win this by believing in unicorns - or Trudeau or Scheer or whoever becomes the next NDP leader.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Wait Just One Second. We Let Conrad Black In But Turn Chelsea Manning Away?



C'mon, Justin. Just for a while can you pull that giant rag out of your ass? Tell those boys and girls in those little booths to let Chelsea Manning visit Canada.

The former U.S. soldier who leaked thousands of classified military documents says she's been barred from entering Canada as a result of her criminal record.

Chelsea Manning posted a letter from Canadian immigration officials online Monday detailing the reasons she was denied entry at a Quebec border crossing late last week.

Manning is a 29-year-old transgender woman who was known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted in 2013 of leaking the trove of classified material.


The letter says that because she was convicted of offences that are equivalent to treason in Canada, she's inadmissable to this country.

On Twitter, Manning says she'll be appealing the decision.


And what about this Conrad Black business, Canada's immigration dark farce? How about we let Chelsea come visit and send Conrad Black to the country where he's not only a citizen but also a member of the freakin' House of Lords? Why does he get to stay here? Because he'll be widely rebuked, even shunned over there? Who cares?

Update

Completely off-topic, a friend relayed a good one heard on CBC this morning. The guest said about calling Catherine McKenna "Climate Barbie" that Justin deserves to be called "Climate Ken" because, when it comes to climate change, he has no balls.

Sorry, Puerto Rico, You're Just Not White Enough.


Donald Trump has earned praise for how well his administration has responded to the disasters caused in Texas and the southeast by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

He's not showing signs of wanting to do the same for Puerto Rico which really got hammered by Hurricane Maria. What is it? Maria is a Latina name? Not enough white folks in Puerto Rico? Trump too busy attacking uppity black athletes?

Slavery lives in Puerto Rico, political slavery that is. Puerto Ricans cannot vote in federal elections unless they can demonstrate residence in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. For most Puerto Ricans that means taxation without representation. At one time, way back when, Americans revolted over that. Puerto Ricans can't even buy goods on the open market. They can only buy stuff delivered in American ships manned by American crews. In a way they're hostages.

Before Maria Puerto Rico was already down, bankrupt. Now it's down and out. People who vote get attention. People who can't vote, well...

Tony and His Weiner Going To the Country Club Corral.


Tony Weiner's uncontrollable deviance has landed him and his now infamous appendage a 21-month, all expenses paid visit to the Greybar Hotel. 

Only Tony won't be headed to Attica or some super-max facility. He won't have to share a cell with Bubba. People like Tony get upgraded to a minimum security, "country club" institution where his chances of getting shivved and pretty remote.

It was the FBI investigation into Weiner's lewd messages to a 15-year old girl using Skype and SnapChat (whatever that is), that rekindled the Hillary-email non-scandal that was instrumental in her defeat by Trump.

John McCain's Adieu


Anyone who has lost a friend or loved one to brain cancer knows how rapidly it can claim its victim. That's John McCain's reality and he didn't dodge it in his 60 Minutes interview last night.

Describing his cancer as having a "very poor prognosis" during a Sunday interview with the CBS program "60 Minutes," McCain added that "So I just said, 'I understand. Now we're going to do what we can, get the best doctors we can find and do the best we can. And at the same time, celebrate with gratitude a life well-lived.'"

On his rejection of Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare and whether Trump's animus played a role.

"If I took offense at everybody who has said something about me, or disparaged me or something like that — life is too short. You've got to move on. And on an issue of this importance to the nation, for me to worry about a personal relationship, then I'm not doing my job," McCain said.

On not being Donald Trump.

"He is in the business of making money and he has been successful both in television as well as Miss America and others," McCain said. "I was raised in a military family. I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day."

Coach Knows Best


Steve Kerr is the head coach of the NBA champion, Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry, considered by some "the greatest shooter in NBA history," is one of Kerr's star players and he's also the one who sent Donald Trump into a twitter rage by declining the traditional visit to the White House.

Coach Kerr and the team decided if Curry wasn't invited, they weren't going either. That sent Trump on a rampage that quickly spilled over into the National Football League.

In response to Trump's man/baby tirade, Coach Kerr let the Cheeto Benito have it with both barrels:

Trump on Saturday morning used his Twitter account to tell Warriors star player Stephen Curry he wasn’t welcome to visit the White House, writing: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” The head coach of the team, Steve Kerr, commented in an interview with CNN that “in normal times, we would be very easily able to set aside political differences and go visit, have a great time, and that’d be awesome. But these are not ordinary times. Probably the most divisive times in my life.”

He added that “the idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he’s saying is sort of far-fetched. Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him?”

He continued, “How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest?’ No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”

The Logical and Foreseeable Consequences of Our Acts


What will the next 50 years hold, the next 20?

50 years ago really isn't that long, especially for anyone over 50. 50 years ago I rode a pretty quick Yamaha 350. I had time to take in Expo 67. I smoked Export A. Pea jackets, turtle neck sweaters, stove pipe jeans and really nice Italian made boots were my uniform when in season. Sometimes it seems like yesterday.

Now this quiz isn't for me but it may be for you if you're, say, 30ish.  How do you think you'll see 2017 in 2067 or 2050? What will you recall?

We're already getting a taste of what lies in store. Record-breaking cyclonic storms, hurricanes here or typhoons in Asia and elsewhere, of increasing frequency, duration and intensity. Sea level rise, saltwater inundation and retreat from the sea. Worsening floods and flash floods, droughts and flash droughts, tornadoes, lightning storms and wildfires that will dominate between rainy intervals, mudslides. Internally displaced populations, not in the Third World but in our own.

Burning the candle at the other end we're told to expect ever more population growth to 9 billion by 2030 and possibly 12 billion by 2050. Meanwhile, by 2030, barely a dozen years from now, it's claimed our "consumer class" will more than double from two billion to five billion.  Imagine five billion people wanting everything you've got - bigger and fancier houses, fine cars, consumer goods of every description, better food and more of it, travel and all the trappings of modern middle class life.

There you have it. Climate change compounded by overpopulation times over-consumption - cc X op X oc = ?  The only possible answer is a question mark. We are already, today, you and me, in uncharted waters. We can guess what's coming, what will give first but it's all speculation until it happens. And then what?

The fact is we're already being betrayed, sold down the river, and that's especially true for our grandchildren and theirs.  We know who's doing it. Sure, we all bear part of the blame but there's a world of difference between a myopic, disinterested and confused public and those who, for short-term gain, are knowingly engineering a dystopian future for our heirs and successors.

Criminal law is based on intent. With a few exceptions, "strict liability" offences, you can't be convicted without proof of the wrongful act plus proof of culpability, the "guilty mind."  Intent can be the tough part. You have to get into the accused's mind. Chances are he'll say, "I never meant to kill him, it was an accident." To deal with that there's the principle of deemed intent. You are deemed to intend the logical and foreseeable consequences of your wrongful act.

We're fast approaching a point of clarity where the consequences of climate change compounded by overpopulation and over-consumption are becoming both logical and foreseeable. That's when man-made climate change enters the criminal realm. It's when "natural catastrophe" morphs into man-made or man-triggered natural catastrophe. Yes, you didn't put that keg of gunpowder under the campfire but you knew it was there when you lit the firewood. You knew what the logical and foreseeable consequence of that would be when the kids gathered round to toast their marshmallows.

I don't think the future is very bright from those who today ruin the future of generations to come. They might find themselves standing trial for crimes against humanity as some now suggest. Maybe, possibly. They might have more to fear from uprisings of the same people they so irresponsibly exploit today.

When our circumstances become sufficiently dire we will likely see these people, those who have thwarted effective action against climate change, for what they are, enemies. That goes beyond the Barons of Big Oil, Gas and Coal.  At some point you may just see the politician you support today in a much different light.

I'll wrap this up with mention of a few interesting pieces from The Guardian:

John Gibbons explores how those who drive climate denial often seek to preserve the status quo that made them rich.

Graham Readfern discusses how Australian climate deniers are overwhelming their Bureau of Meteorology.

AC Grayling writes that we need to make democracy work if we're to have any hope of dealing with climate change.





Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Loser and a Racist to Boot.

An interesting article in The Atlantic, "Donald Trump and the Depressing Politicization of Everything." Writer Derek Thompson puts the man/baby president's endless tantrums down to two things.

What is the meaning of these seemingly frivolous skirmishes with athletes and sports leagues? His true motivations aren’t clear, but his behavior does fit a pattern.

As Adam Serwer wrote here, there is a clear racial element to Trump’s pronouncements. When the NFL star Tom Brady, a white player, skipped his championship team’s White House visit, the president was silent. (Brady has described Trump as a “good friend,” and at one point displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat in his locker.) When Warriors star Stephen Curry, a black man, announced his intention to do the same, the president called him out on Twitter and rescinded the team’s invitation. In calling for NFL owners to fire protesting players, the president encourages an overwhelmingly white ownership group to disemploy members of overwhelmingly black NFL players union. As Serwer wrote, Trump’s instant criticism of Curry and black NFL players stands in stark contrast to his infamous hesitation to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

Another reason that the president cannot resist commenting on every non-political issue in American life is that he seemingly cannot stand the actual work of American governance—a preference made salient at a moment when lawmakers are busy trying to repeal the signature legislative achievement of Trump’s predecessor. Several Republican lawmakers said the president never mastered the details of health care policy. The president’s recent NFL commentary suggests that national anthem protests, on the other hand, are a debate he can engage with.
...

Trump is choosing to politicize sports and entertainment, not only because he is inclined toward controversy, but also because he is so demonstrably uninterested in actual policy and the political process.

Nobody is forcing the president to morph into a sports radio commentator. It is merely the role that best suits the skills that come most naturally to the former game-show host. Consider the simple, uncontroversial fact that in his ninth month in office, the U.S. president has a clearer position on Stephen Curry’s White House clearance than on any single detail of health care or tax reform. Trump is so bored by the quotidian demands of his surprisingly “complicated”job, which requires guiding policy through a complex political process, that he uses his position to instead harass Americans on the internet. Judging by the attention his sports commentary received this weekend, one can assume that Trump’s shock-jock-in-chief routine will be a long-running show.

Kim Is Right. Trump Is Barking Mad.


He can't help himself. His mental infirmity prevents Trump from ever letting go, even when he's losing.

This is Day Three of the man/baby's juvenile attack on America's National Football League and all he seems to have achieved is to debase his presidency, yet again, and to coalesce NFL players' and team owners' opposition to Trump's rants.

Now Trump has upped the ante, calling for his mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging base to boycott America's hands-down favourite sport.

More than 100 players across the country on Sunday knelt during the national anthem or remained sitting in their locker rooms in protest. Most teams in the early afternoon games locked arms in solidarity, with at least three team owners joining their players.

"If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast," Trump wrote. "Fire or suspend!"

But the Presidential intervention seemed only to spark more defiance among players and coaches, with his remarks backfiring.

The Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars set the agenda, either standing with their arms locked in solidarity or taking a knee on the field as the dispute crossed the Atlantic to London's Wembley Stadium.

Trump seems to have created a lightning rod of growing opposition. Even Stevie Wonder took a knee, two in fact, as he opened the Global Citizen Festival in New York last night.
 
...

One by one, at grounds across America, other players followed suit as the day wore on.

The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team remained in the locker room as the national anthem played before their game with the Chicago Bears. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stood by himself on the sideline.
...

Trump's war against the NFL has reverberated across other sports, including baseball and basketball.

The President's latest NFL crusade appears to have been triggered by Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who had indicated that he would not go to the White House if invited. Trump pre-emptively uninvited the team in a tweet on Saturday morning.

Other players including Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant have criticised Trump. And Saturday, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first MLB player to kneel during the national anthem.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Somebody Needed to Say It and Who Better?


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

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

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

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





How America Oversold Stealth



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abortion - Republican Style


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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a man/boy seriously unhinged. 

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

McCain Digs In


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

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

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


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

Maybe They Got "Raptured" Out of Town


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

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

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

Now You See It


Now You Don't

The Climate Change Petri Dish - Puerto Rico



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

Okay, you might want to sit down for this.

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

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

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

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


Bad Boy to Good Boy

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

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

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



Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Fractured States of America




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

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

Who knew?

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

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

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

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

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








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



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

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

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


Don't Give Up Hope But Try to Be Realistic


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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