Saturday, September 30, 2017

Are We About to Witness the First Internal Climate Migration in America?

The term "IDP" or internally displaced person has become quite commonplace in violence-wracked areas such as Syria or Sudan. It occurs when large numbers of people are uprooted and flee their homeland, possibly never to return.

We've been warned for years to expect other mass migrations of IDPs fleeing the ruinous impacts of climate change. Scientists have said that even the United States could expect to see internal mass migrations due to sea level rise, hurricanes, the collapse of freshwater reserves, megadroughts and such, especially out of the southern states.

It remains to be seen whether the disaster in Puerto Rico could lead to an exodus of  a major part of the island's 3.4 million residents.  The US territory was in dire straits well before Hurricane Maria arrived. It was broke, bankrupt and has been for a dozen years. Its infrastructure was aging and decrepit. Puerto Rico was down and out when Maria showed up to put her boot in.

Trump has arranged the delivery of emergency water and food supplies to the docks in San Juan but there's really no effective means to distribute it. Some areas remain flooded. Roads have been washed out. And the power grid is kaput.  Large parts of the island may be without electricity for up to six months.  People haven't got power or even freshwater.

The exodus has begun. 

The halting parade of evacuees that has passed through the Orlando airport over the past week—and through Miami’s airport, too—lacks the visual drama of earlier crises in the Caribbean, when oppression, natural disaster or plain desperation pushed Cubans and Haitians onto crude homemade rafts or into the holds of leaky fishing trawlers. But this is every bit an exodus of that order. The means of escape is not a harrowing ordeal, but what’s being left behind most certainly is. And those lucky enough to get out are not so exhausted that they can’t summon anger at the government officials who they feel paid them less heed than hurricane victims on the mainland.

Bloomberg reports that the exodus could be a death spiral for Puerto Rico.

The choice is heartbreaking: stay to help other families, or leave to help your own. That’s the calculation thousands in Puerto Rico are making. The bankruptcy of the U.S. commonwealth, the culmination of years of decline, has accelerated an exodus that’s adding to the island’s economic misery.

The population drop is astonishing. The island has lost 2 percent of its people in each of the past three years. A comparable departure from the 50 states would mean 18 million people moving out since 2013. About 400,000 fewer Puerto Ricans live on an island of 3.4 million today compared with a decade ago, when its economy began contracting.

The departures have trapped Puerto Rico in a downward spiral. A grinding recession, with joblessness at 11.5 percent, and $74 billion mountain of debt that pushed the island to insolvency has made collecting taxes key to an economic rebound. At the same time, more Puerto Ricans from all walks of life are moving away to better their lives, meaning government revenue is dwindling.


The government doesn’t seem to have come to grips with the outflow. Puerto Rico’s turnaround plan -- a path to sustainability approved by a U.S. oversight board -- assumes the population will shrink just 0.2 percent each year for the next decade. It uses that number as the basis for its projections of tax receipts and economic growth.

“Most people believe that those forecasts in the fiscal plan are really, really optimistic and probably would have to be revised at some point,’’ said Sergio Marxuach, public policy director at the Center for the New Economy in San Juan.
Taxi Drivers

The exodus isn’t confined to professionals. Among the throngs leaving are construction workers and taxi drivers. Research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that college graduates make up roughly the same proportion of emigres as they do in the island’s general population, suggesting that the departures have touched every corner of the commonwealth.

“If people continue to leave the island at the pace that has been set in recent years, the economic potential of Puerto Rico will only continue to deteriorate,’’ authors including Jaison Abel and Giacomo De Giorgi wrote for the New York Fed. 

This exodus is not going to sit well with America's Racist in Chief. It is bound to infuriate his redneck base - more people of colour to dilute the lily-white majority.

More problematic for Trump is that Puerto Ricans had no vote while living in "taxation without representation" Puerto Rico. On the mainland those IDPs will be able to vote. And, once they reach terra firma, they're expected to settle in "swing states."  

In theory, some of these problems are fixable. The island's debts could be written down or bailed out. The federal government could invest tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild the island's infrastructure and economy. The Jones Act, making trade to the island more costly than it needs to be, could be repealed. But this menu of policy prescriptions requires the kind of high-trust society with well-functioning institutions that we sadly lack at present.

While many Puerto Ricans will want to stay, or lack the resources to leave, we should be realistic about what shape the rebuilding process will take over the next several months. Electrical systems need wholesale reconstruction. Water systems were damaged. Agriculture is in ruins. Cell towers and power lines need to be rebuilt. And that's to say nothing of roads, homes and schools. What Puerto Rico needs is a blank check of resources -- political will, labor and money -- in order to rebuild.

There's a sad chance that the resources simply will not be found. The mainland should prepare for an influx of Puerto Ricans over the next several months and years. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans seeking to move to urban centers in the Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic and Boston are going to put pressure on housing markets already struggling to keep up with current demand. Employers, however, may get some relief as they struggle to find workers.

And since every story has a political angle these days, consider this. Since 2010, Pennsylvania's Puerto Rican population has grown by 78,000. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by only 44,000 voters. Since 2010, Florida's Puerto Rican population has grown by 220,000. Trump won that state by 113,000 votes. If Democrats flip those two states in 2020 and every other state voted as it did in 2016, Democrats will win the presidency. Now imagine Pennsylvania takes in another 100,000 Puerto Ricans, and Florida takes in another 300,000 over the next few years, all of whom would be eligible voters.

Puerto Rico's future has been irrevocably altered as a result of Hurricane Maria. And as its residents decide where to move forward with the rest of their lives. Perhaps the rest of the country's future has changed as well.

Trump might wish he could afford to build a wall around Puerto Rico but that would make it a lot like Gaza, a concentration camp. Hell, in a lot of ways it already is. Dan Rather thinks Donald Trump will have a big political price to pay for his neglect of Puerto Rico.

Friday, September 29, 2017

To Live and Die In the Divided States of America

Paul Krugman wonders what the death toll will be. Not from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria but from Donald Trump's malignant narcissism.

According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. That’s pretty remarkable. But you have to wonder how much higher the number would be if people really knew what’s going on.

For the trouble with Trump isn’t just what he’s doing, but what he isn’t. In his mind, it’s all about him — and while he’s stroking his fragile ego, basic functions of government are being neglected or worse.

Let’s talk about two stories that might seem separate: the deadly neglect of Puerto Rico, and the ongoing sabotage of American health care. What these stories have in common is that millions of Americans are going to suffer, and hundreds if not thousands die, because Trump and his officials are too self-centered to do their jobs.

Start with the disaster in Puerto Rico and the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.

When Hurricane Maria struck, more than a week ago, it knocked out power to the whole of Puerto Rico, and it will be months before the electricity comes back. Lack of power can be deadly in itself, but what’s even worse is that, thanks largely to the blackout, much of the population still lacks access to drinkable water. How many will die because hospitals can’t function, or because of diseases spread by unsafe water? Nobody knows.

But the situation is terrible, and time is not on Puerto Rico’s side: The longer this goes on, the worse the humanitarian crisis will get. Surely, then, you’d expect bringing in and distributing aid to be the U.S. government’s top priority. After all, we’re talking about the lives of three and a half million of our fellow citizens — more than the population of Iowa or metro San Diego.

So have we seen the kind of full-court, all-out relief effort such a catastrophe demands? No.

Admittedly, it’s hard to quantify the federal response. But none of the extraordinary measures you’d expect to see have materialized.

The deployment of military resources seems to have been smaller and slower than it was in Texas after Harvey or Florida after Irma, even though Puerto Rico’s condition is far more dire. Until Thursday the Trump administration had refused to lift restrictions on foreign shipping to Puerto Rico, even though it had waived those rules for Texas and Florida.

Why? According to the president, “people who work in the shipping industry” don’t like the idea. 


There’s a reason we expect visible focus by the president on major national disasters, including a visit to the affected area as soon as possible (Trump doesn’t plan to visit Puerto Rico until next week). It’s not just theater; it’s a signal about urgent priorities to the rest of the government, and to some extent to the nation at large.

But Trump spent days after Maria’s strike tweeting about football players. When he finally got around to saying something about Puerto Rico, it was to blame the territory for its own problems.

The impression one gets is of a massively self-centered individual who can’t bring himself to focus on other people’s needs, even when that’s the core of his job.

On a lighter note, here's the Narcissist in Chief sending the crowd the best wishes of his wife who could not attend even though she's standing right beside him.

A Billion Dollars a Day, Every Day

360 billion dollars a year or roughly a billion a day, every day. That's what the United States can/should expect in losses from climate change, according to a new report.

That sounds like a lot, something you expect to hear from an "alarmist" type, until you consider that the tab for the barrage of recent hurricanes that hammered the US - Harvey, Irma and Maria -  is expected to come in upwards of 300 billion, more than double all the hurricane losses the US has experienced over the previous decade. That's serious dinero.

The report tries to make the economic case for the Trump regime to act now to slash greenhouse gas emissions, essentially driving the transition to clean alternative energy in order to, wait for it, save money.

As reported by Reuters:

"Wednesday's study has been in the works for months, said co-author James McCarthy, professor of Oceanography at Harvard University. He said there was widening evidence that a shift from fossil fuels made economic sense.

'Why is Iowa, why is Oklahoma, why is Kansas, why is Texas investing in wind energy? Not because they are interested in sea level rise or ocean temperatures, but because it's economically sensible,' he told Reuters."

Inside Climate News looks at what this is costing individual states, especially in Trumpland where them folks just know that climate change is a hoax.

As was clear this year, the impacts of extreme weather aren't evenly spread across the states. In the last decade, Texas has had 32 storms with economic losses exceeding $1 billion—four times more than it saw during the decade of the 1990s. Oklahoma and Illinois have each had 23, a four-fold increase for Oklahoma and a six-fold increase for Illinois.

In the last decade, Louisiana has been hit by four hurricanes that passed the $1 billion threshold for damages and four floods resulting from hurricanes or severe storms with costs at least as high. In one of those events, 30 inches of rain fell in southern Louisiana over a few days in August 2016, damaging or destroying more than 50,000 homes, 100,000 vehicles and 20,000 businesses, according to the report. The price tag reached $10 billion, and 75 percent of the people affected were uninsured.

"The fiscal costs of hurricanes are higher than we think," said Tatyana Deryugina, a professor of finance at University of Illinois who was not involved in the study. "Most of the time when people think about how much a hurricane costs, they think about disaster aid. But public medical spending and unemployment insurance spending go up, too."

There are still going to be Trump supporters and other knuckle-draggers, especially in the halls of Congress, who will insist that you cannot tie Harvey, Irma and Maria to climate change. That's crap. As Vox reports, the fingerprints of climate change are all over the devastation and they're inescapable, undeniable. 

As Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria plowed through unusually warm oceans this summer, each one broke records, startling even the scientists who study extreme weather.

“All of these storms went through a period where they gained strength quickly,” said James Kossin, an atmospheric scientist at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction. “That was alarming.”

The intensity of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm on September 20, was part of why it was so devastating to the island and its weak infrastructure, leaving Puerto Ricans in a humanitarian crisis.

But this year’s intense Atlantic storm season had another element tying its biggest events together: a monstrous, and sometimes deadly, amount of rain.

Images of the flooded metropolises of Houston, Jacksonville, and San Juan with overtopped dams, billowing sewage, and flooded homes show that torrential rain can be one of the most devastating consequences of hurricanes, especially in urban areas where concrete makes it harder for water to drain and where people can drown.

Scientists say the extreme rainfall events that feed these floods are on the rise for many parts of the world, and this year’s hurricanes fit that trend. In particular, rising temperatures in the ocean and the air alongside booming construction in vulnerable areas are fueling the increased risk from massive deluges.

That's right Gullibillies, climate change is warming the oceans. That means more evaporation, more water vapour and heat energy in the atmosphere, the ideal conditions for massive hurricanes of increasing frequency, duration and intensity.  It's just math and a very little bit of physics, that's all it is. 

It's not only the southern US that's taking a pounding. Britain's Met Office is predicting a stormy autumn season with seven major storms (winds up to 90 mph) by Christmas. That includes heavy rains from the remnants of hurricane Maria this weekend.  The good news - most of Britain can expect a white Christmas.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

That National Anthem That Has Trump and His Gullibillies So Outraged?

We've all heard the first verse of the Star Spangled Banner, ad infinitum. They might want to change it up, maybe sing the third verse:

Yeah, you heard right. The Star Spangled Banner expressly celebrates the slaughter of those who really fought to live in freedom, American slaves. Here's more.

When the Carbon Sink Becomes a Carbon Bomb

One of the things we've counted on in wrestling with cutting greenhouse gas emissions are nature's carbon sinks.  A carbon sink is a natural process that strips carbon out of the atmosphere. The biggest of them all are the world's oceans and seas. Another big one would be the world's forests, especially our rain forests. Or so we thought.

The oceans are becoming saturated and they're also warming, reducing their ability and capacity to remove and store our carbon waste. Fortunately we've always got those forests soaking up carbon for photosynthesis and providing precious oxygen. Or so we thought.

A report just published in the journal, Science, says around the world our forest stocks have become so degraded that they're now a net producer of CO2, generating more of the persistent greenhouse gas than all the traffic in the United States.

“This shows that we can’t just sit back. The forest is not doing what we thought it was doing,” said Alessandro Baccini, who is one of the leader authors of the research team from Woods Hole Research Center and Boston University. “As always, trees are removing carbon from the atmosphere, but the volume of the forest is no longer enough to compensate for the losses. The region is not a sink any more.”

What to Call Them? How About the GOP-Cong?

The Republican Party has an insurgency on its hands. The election of rightwing nutjob/Christofascist Roy Moore to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions was the shot across the bow of the establishment (i.e. moderate, sort of) GOP by a radical right intent on seizing control of the Republican Party.

Sorry, you stupid bastards, but you invited them into your tent and now they'll repay the favour by pushing you out. It's yin and yang. They're the nemesis following your hubris. You played on their bottomless pit of base instincts - racism, xenophobia, the crassest forms of extreme nationalism even outright fascism. You fanned the flames of their racism, paranoia, anger and fear and then you promised them you would fix all the imaginary perils you yourself created. Now they see right through you and they want you to go.

Somehow you imagined you were always going to be the dealer. The house never loses. True enough that is until you lose control of the house and someone else gets to deal and that's where you're at right now.

There's a bit of gallows humour in all of this. Go on, say it again. Just once. Say it. Tell us that you're "the party of Lincoln." Jeebus that's rich.

"Ethnonationalists" Are You F@#king Kidding?

When the picture shows a thug with a pistol on his belt and the Klan logo on his shirt, he's not an "ethnonationalist." He's a racist and worse.

Ethno-nationalism was at the heart of Hitler's National Socialist Party. It was the Nazi creed. And just because it's spreading across the United States there's no excuse for an obscure name to mask this disease - it's full-bore fascism in all its permutations. It's anti-black. It's anti-Latino. It's anti-Asian. It's anti-Semitic. It's anti-Muslim. It's misogynist as all get out. It's angry and it's violent. It's deliberately ominous and threatening.

So, CBC, it's time you called a spade a shovel. These assholes, a significant component of Donald Trump's base, are fascists. They're latter day American nazis and they have evil designs on their country.

And if you want to see how this fascism blends seamlessly with Christian fundamentalism, Christo-fascism, check this out.

I Thought We Were a SuperPower

Didn't those US trade types get the memo? Canada is an energy superpower. Harper said as much. So did Iggy. You can't treat an energy superpower the way Boeing is treating Bombardier. 220 per cent duties on an airplane that doesn't even compete with any Boeing product on the market. It sounds pretty ridiculous until you look at it their way -

The Americans are having a brown hemorrhage at the idea that Bombardier's C-class jet, the one that doesn't compete with any Boeing product, could be a big success. Goddamn, if that were to happen who knows what might follow - gay marriage or universal healthcare or the Robertson screw?

Look at those damn Euro-peons with their Airbus. Why, Boeing had just swallowed McDonnell-Douglas, giving it a monopoly on the jetliner market when those Euro upstarts came along and began kicking Boeing's ass.

Then look what happened. Sullenberger force landed one of those Airbus 320s in America's very own, it's very famous Hudson River and that airplane didn't break into a million pieces. It even floated. And everyone, passengers and crew, got out alive. That's what can happen if you tolerate competition.

Look at it this way. That little 4 year old boy who plays with your daughter in pre-school? What's he going to grow up to be? Maybe he'll become a doctor, maybe. But what if he becomes a poet or one of those street jugglers? I'm just saying you can never be too careful.

That, more or less, is the American argument and, yes, it's bullshit. America is moving into an oligopoly economy where a few key players carve up the market among themselves. Then they collude on pricing and marketing, anything where, together, they can squeeze out a few extra bucks. WalMart, Amazon, the constantly shrinking airline cartel and the whole stinkin' aviation industry. You want choice? Well, you can pick door A or door B only door B is locked.

British Columbians are very familiar with this rigged game. Out here it's known as the softwood lumber scam and America always brings a stacked deck.

Maybe it's time to find another game. How about we look elsewhere? We don't need no stinkin Super Hornets and we sure as hell don't need  Lockheed's overpriced, under performing and now outdated F-35 either.  And we don't need to serve in Washington's Foreign Legion any more. The Americans created the cluster-f@#k in Afghanistan. Let them clean up their own mess for the next 15 or 30 years or whatever. The Americans have been the fuel that powers the engine of al Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, al Nusra and whatever comes along next - the Americans and the Saudi and Gulf princes who've been financing Islamist radicals. Enough of the pointless Middle East whack-a-mole.

America might not be such a great bet much longer anyway. Any country that would elect a psychologically damaged degenerate to be its president and tolerate a bought and paid for Congress that can't get anything done, a government that simply cannot govern, is going to be trouble. Trouble that we don't need. A country where the threat or use of military force has supplanted diplomacy as its principal instrument of foreign policy and that otherwise turns its back to the world including its allies is going to be trouble. A nation that has quietly transitioned from a somewhat functional democracy into an oligarchy and which, in the name of free market capitalism, has allowed those same markets to be shackled by combines and cartels, well, it's going to be trouble. And now, with early onset climate change impacts beginning to kick hell out of the US along the eastern seaboard, definitely across the south, throughout the midwest and the west coast from California to Washington,  America is headed for trouble and yet they're defunding their government with obsessive tax cuts - that's trouble compounding trouble.

Let's start shifting our accounts from the Bank of Washington to the competition, starting with Europe. Let's see what the Swedes or the French or the Germans can offer in lieu of more F-18s or F-35s. Let's stop treating Washington as our head office and return to more independent foreign, trade and military policy. Every now and then even a superpower like Canada may need to change direction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Great. How About Some Happy News For a Change?

Found this on The Tyee. Many Canadians aren't too familiar with the B.C. Hydro Site C dam controversy that has plagued the province especially during the Liberal Party of British Columbia reign of darkness and corruption. Relax, I won't drag you through it here either.

The endless debate may be rendered moot, overtaken by events:

Energy expert Tony Seba from Stanford University specializes in crunching numbers on disruptive energy issues. His most recent projections, detailed in a June 2017 presentation, illustrate just how far BC Hydro has shoved its head in the sand (or somewhere else).

According to Seba, the electrical grid itself is ripe for disruption. So-called peaker plants are brought online only to meet periods of high demand and are thus inefficient capital assets. Fully one-third of giant utility Consolidated Edison’s generating capacity sits idle 94 per cent of the time. That fragile model is about to be shattered by a disruptive new business approach akin to an Uber for energy storage.

Most North American energy consumers spend up to 50 per cent of their energy costs on what is called demand charges — paying higher prices for electricity at times of high use. New companies like Stem are now offering battery storage as a service to businesses. They install and maintain a battery behind your electrical meter with zero upfront cost. It stores electricity from the grid when it’s cheap and splits the resulting savings with their customers.

According to Seba, by 2020 this service would cost residential consumers about 20 cents per day for four hours of energy storage. Who wouldn’t want to pay $6 per month to cut their energy bill in half? This transformation may spell disaster for old school utility companies, since shaving peak demand will eliminate the most profitable part of their business model.

Then of course there are the plunging costs of solar energy. Back in 1977, solar cells cost about $77 per watt. They are now as low as 20 cents and dropping fast. The installed capacity of solar generation is doubling every two years.

A doubling every two years means that solar is on track to replace all installed global energy generation by 2030. Obviously there will be other sources of energy than solar in our future. However the overall economic trends for renewables are crushing for conventional energy sources.

We have heard a lot about grid parity, where solar generation costs meet or beat those of conventional sources. Deutsche Bank now believes that 80 per cent of energy markets are already there. Seba instead speaks of something he calls “God parity,” where rooftop solar generation and storage is cheaper than the cost of sending electricity over transmission lines — about four cents per kilowatt hour. At that point, even if utilities could generate electricity for free, they could not deliver it cheaper than consumers could make it themselves.

Would this not be a posterior puckering prospect for most utility companies? It already is. Power companies throughout the U.S. and Australia have been in pitched battles with their own customers for years over the existential threat from rooftop solar. Add in the recent availability of cheap battery storage and this may soon become a death spiral.

How close are we to this “God parity” of four cents per kilowatt hour? A new project in Dubai is generating solar at less than three cents a kilowatt hour. Tucson Electric just signed an agreement for a 300-megawatt solar plus battery storage project for only 4.5 cents a kilowatt hour. Incidentally, the former head of the Site C Joint Review Panel pegged the delivered energy costs of this 1950s era project at about three times that much if it ever gets built.

What to make of this? It certainly sounds promising, nay wondrous, if it comes to pass.  However there are powerful vested interests, such as those sitting on $27 trillion worth of proven fossil fuel reserves, standing in the way and they know how to buy power, political power, even in Canada. That's a global economy wrecking amount of money and the Fossil Fuelers know it and so do our politicians. That's why Schellnhuber warned the enthusiastic pols at the 2015 Paris climate summit that their goal of holding warming to 1.5C was viable but only if the governments of the world triggered an "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry.  The alternative, the path we're now on, is this.

Shannon Sharpe Wades Into What's Really Happening in the NFL

Shannon Sharpe, CBS commentator and former NFL tight end, on the curious solidarity of NFL owners with the league's black players. He's also got a few choice insights into America's racist pig of a president. And, this time, it's not just a 20 second soundbite either.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

He's Baaack! Pastor Jimmy Bakker is Back and He's As Wingy as Ever.

Reverend Jimmy has learned his lesson after serving a stretch in the Greybar Hotel. There'll be no more swindlin' the Gullibillies on non-existant time shares. The new hustle is "food buckets" at $3,700 a pop. These are magical food buckets. No sooner will you empty one than God will, sure as hell, fill it right back up again. Somehow that translates into buy as many bottomless buckets as you can. I guess it's a Christian thing. Jimmy thinks springing for a million bucks worth of food buckets is ideal.

And for everyone who does pony up an even million, Jimmy will throw in a bucket of Tammy Faye's original carnival makeup.

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 blood 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 owed their peoples to the corporate sector. Decisions they ought to have safeguarded in the public interest were instead yielded to the superior wisdom of the private sector, the market. 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?


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.
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.