Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Ray of Sunshine

Via Stephen Colbert and Paul Simon

The Atrocity Known as TrumpCare

Trump's Health Care Victory Party

The Republican majority pushed it through the House of Representatives although many legislators admitted they hadn't even read it. They voted without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office appraisal and that was no accident.

However the CBO ran the numbers on TrumpCare and it's looking like the Great Orange Bloat's victory celebration was premature.

The American Health Care Act would cause 23 million people to lose health insurance over the next decade, and would disproportionally impact older, poorer Americans, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
...

The amended version of the bill — which would allow states to waive pre-existing condition protections as well as mandates on procedures and services insurance companies must cover — had not been scored by the CBO when the House passed it.

But the CBO has now scored the amended version, and the analysis is unlikely to make the bill any easier for the Senate to pass.

For example, a 64-year-old earning $26,500 a year in a state that took waivers would see their premium rise from $1,700 a year to $13,600, the CBO says of the amended AHCA. That's a 700% increase.

Even more, the CBO says the provision allowing states to waive pre-existing conditions would have sweeping negative consequences for those with existing health conditions.


Unless Trump starts kidnapping senators' grandchildren and holding them for ransom, his healthcare bill is not getting through the Senate.






The Queen of Political Cash Comes Up a Dollar Short


British Columbia's far from liberal premier, Christy Clark, appears to have come up short, finally, ending her party's majority rule over the province going back to 2001.

Give Christy her due. She made the most of her advantage while it lasted, extracting the fullest benefit for her party and herself usually at the expense of the province and our people. She ruled largely by fiat. Being a legislator was a part-time vocation at best. The legislature rarely sat except to push through the latest budget.

Christy doesn't deserve all of the credit for her Liberals' lengthy run. That has to be shared with the woefully mediocre and wholly uninspiring opposition New Democrats from Carole James to Adrian Dix to Jim Horgan.

Now it's all down to one riding, Courtenay-Comox. The NDP won it by a narrow, 9-vote margin. Then it was on to the absentee ballot count that many believed would hand the riding to the Liberals. As of last night, however, the NDP lead had grown to over 100 votes.  That's now grown to a 148 NDP margin with a few hours counting left to go.

This horse race hands the balance of power to the Green Party that has been much abused by the NDP in this and past elections.  Suffice to say the Dippers have done nothing to endear themselves to or earn the trust of the Greens.

I would prefer my Greens reject both parties until they extract ironclad concessions on a couple of major issues including electoral reform, Kinder Morgan and the Site C dam.  Of course the counting isn't finished yet and there's a longshot chance the Liberal fortunes could recover in Courtenay-Comox.

Update:

I just had a look at what might have been the outcome had proportional rep been in place.  The Liberals instead of 43 would have garnered around 36 seats. The NDP would have wound up with about 35 seats instead of 41. The Greens would have taken 14 seats instead of 3. Clearly then proportional representation represents nearly as great a threat to the NDP as it does to the Liberals because it gives seats to the grossly under-represented Green voters. Small wonder the Dippers went after the Green vote so aggressively in this campaign. All the more reason for the Greens to use their balance of power strategically to squeeze the parties for electoral reform.



At Last, An Intelligent Discussion About Overpopulation.


The May edition of Foreign Policy magazine is their climate change issue.

As a keen follower of climate science for the past 15 years or more, the shortcomings in the treatment of this potentially existential threat to human civilization has been the fractured and shallow coverage it has received. This has led some to see climate change as something to do with global warming and greenhouse gas emissions. That has encouraged many to see it as resolvable by measures such as geo-engineering. These are facile responses.

Even many climate scientists treat climate change as some stand alone issue that can be approached in isolation. It's a blinkered outlook that goes a long way to ensuring that answers will elude us.

Many years ago I began to assemble a list of the major problems confronting mankind this century. It was an extensive list. I no longer have it memorized but I'll do my best here:

Climate change and associated, largely anthropogenic or man-made challenges including severe storm events of increasing intensity, frequency and duration; a broken hydrological cycle contributing to severe flooding and drought, both cyclical and recurrent; a shift in jet stream circulation carrying warm air into the Arctic and cold polar air deep into southern regions; the heating of the Arctic manifesting in the loss of Arctic sea ice (the albedo), the thawing of Arctic permafrost, the drying out of the tundra leading to uncontrollable wild fires producing black soot; disease and pest migration; species (terrestrial, marine, plant and animal) extinction and migration; the loss of ice caps and glaciers; sea level rise, coastal flooding and the saltwater inundation of coastal freshwater resources; the rapidly spreading freshwater crisis; severe heat events including situations nearing "wet bulb 35" conditions; the collapse of global fisheries from rapacious overfishing; massive deforestation, particularly in South America and Asia Pacific; pollution and contamination of all forms including algae blooms from industrial and agricultural runoff, coastal dead zones; resource exhaustion and depletion; desertification and the rapid loss of arable farmland through soil degradation caused by excessively intensive agriculture; and a host of security challenges including overpopulation and population migration, famine, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, various regional arms races and the onset of resource wars.

I don't claim the list to be exhaustive, merely the best my memory can muster in the moment. I spent a few years looking at this list trying to discern whether and, if so, how these looming calamities were connected. Were there common threads that ran through them?

It turns out they are all, in varying degrees, connected. Each falls into one or more of three basic categories - anthropogenic global warming, overconsumption of resources and overpopulation.  Those common threads, all of them, run straight back to us, how we're constituted as societies and a global civilization, and how we're organized politically, socially, economically and industrially. It was then that I realized that Jared Diamond is right - we don't have much chance of solving any of them unless we're willing and able to solve them all.

I was pleased in skimming through the digital version of the latest Foreign Policy to discover a genuinely thoughtful, well-reasoned and in depth discussion of the overpopulation challenge from and center in their climate change edition. The article asks "Is there a case to be made against baby making?" before unpacking the social, cultural and environmental pros and cons that bedevil the issue.

FP editor, David Rothkopf, has an essay dealing with the scourge of denialism, "The Wages of Sin Is the Death of the World; the biggest threat to a fragile world is human frailty." He looks at how the most climate change hostile government, Trump's, came to power thanks to a deviant sexting a minor.

Rothkopf cites Nate Silverman's conclusion that Comey's decision, just days prior to the election, to announce a new investigation into Hillary's emails discovered on Anthony Weiner's laptop while the FBI pursued the sexting crime was enough to swing three states to Trump that gave him the Electoral College win.

The FBI was hunting down a perv. They seized his computer. On the hard drive were Huma Abedin emails. That caused the FBI to re-open the investigation. Comey made his announcement. Trump won the electoral college.  Now Trump is dismantling the EPA and threatening to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change accord.

It looks like a good issue. Mine's in the mailbox but you may want to check it out on a newsstand or in your library.









In Defence of the Deep State.




To some, conspiracy theorists and those with a feeble understanding of governance, the Deep State is a sinister group of powerful insiders manipulating the strings of government for devious ends.  If you insist on believing that, this would be a good time to go to another blog or web site.

To me, the Deep State is something else. It is the institutional memory of government, the muscle memory, without which government cannot function. It exists, at times defiantly, because it is indispensable. Today when elected representatives routinely put partisan and special interests ahead of the public interest and the good of the country, the Deep State can be the last redoubt of liberal democracy.

The Globe's Lawrence Martin writes that this dreaded Deep State may be America's only effective counter to its president.

We’ve been hearing that potent term, relatively new to the political lexicon, a lot lately. It has different shades of meaning but generally denotes an entrenched natural governing elite. Conservative governments in Canada, notably John Diefenbaker’s and Stephen Harper’s, feared they would be undermined, though the term wasn’t in use then, by a hostile deep state in the form of a liberalized bureaucracy, media and foreign service.

In Ottawa, you might find the deep state’s charter members in leafy Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood; in Washington, in the cozy conclave of Georgetown, where the establishment forever has been moored.

...

Georgetowners were predictably appalled by the onslaught of the rubes and the rabble. But much of the fear on these narrow stately streets has already lifted. Against the infidels, the long-rooted Washington establishment is holding strong. The deep state is winning.

The renegade Trump administration becomes more conventional by the week. Much of foreign policy has been given over to Foggy Bottom traditionalists. Threats against immigrants have been pared down. The Steve Bannons in the administration are losing their clout. Trade threats have diminished, meaning Canada need not panic. For the NAFTA renegotiation, Ottawa holds some good cards and has a foreign minister in Chrystia Freeland who knows what she is doing.

The Washington bureaucracy, liberalized under Barack Obama, has played a big role, especially through leaks, in the deep state resistance. But the most powerful element has been the bold resurgence, chiefly in the form of The New York Times and The Washington Post, of a traditional mainstream press thought to be in decline.


The Post and Times have hit this White House with one news jolt after another. It’s like they’re back in their heyday of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. Chiefly as a result of their work, a special counsellor is now probing the Trump administration’s Russia ties. Comparisons to Watergate are premature and overheated. But it is worth remembering how the deep-state institutions of the day brought down Richard Nixon who, like Mr. Trump’s political base, railed against eastern elites.

“Of course, the deep state exists,” former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says. “There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president.”

Says Mr. Trump of the media: “No politician in history – and I say this with great surety – has been treated worse or more unfairly.” His cause would perhaps be helped if in his first 119 days he hadn’t, as the Post reports, made 586 false and misleading claims.

Coinciding with the newspaper muscle-flexing has been the fall of Fox, the President’s media enabler. Fox has been hit by scandal, the departure of top talking heads and the death of its architect, Roger Ailes, who pandered to prejudice like none other and polarized the country in so doing.

The Trump Republicans are not caving to establishment forces on all fronts. The head of the Environmental Protection Agency stands for environmental destruction. The Attorney-General is a lock-em-up lawmaker with a bigoted background. Obamacare is threatened by an appalling piece of House legislation.

But chiefly owing to a robust free press, this administration is being held to clear-eyed account, an account that is allowing the forces of normalization to make headway. If that’s what a deep state is about, the United States should be happy it has one.



Welcome to WaterWorld. No, Not the One With Costner.



Even Americans pay attention to this facet of climate change - sea level rise. And the news is bad and getting worse.

You probably remember the early 1990s well enough. Not that long ago really. Well, over the past 25 years, the rate of sea level rise has increased threefold. And it's still speeding up.

A study published in scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests the threat of rising sea levels has been drastically underestimated.

"The acceleration in global mean sea-level rise is much larger than previously thought," Sönke Dangendorf, the paper's lead author, told DW.

"It underlines that sea-level rise is a serious threat," he added.

Dangendorf, from the University of Siegen in Germany, worked with an international team of scientists from Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands. They discovered that sea levels had risen relatively slowly - by about 1.1 millimeters, or 0.04 inches, annually - for much of the 20th century. But that changed in the early 1990s

...

This study isn't the first to highlight that the rate of sea-level rise is speeding up. But its findings suggest a significantly faster rate of increase than past research. One of the reasons for the recent acceleration, Dangendorf told DW, is the melting of ice sheets over recent decades.

"We have always had a great uncertainty over the contribution of the large ice sheets, which store 100 times more sea-level equivalents than glaciers," Dangendorf said.

The new research shows the impact of Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets melting rapidly over the last 20 or 30 years has been greater than expected, and is likely to result in a larger future sea-level rise than previously predicted.

That spells trouble for coastal areas.


Over to you, America. Yes, we mean you, Louisiana. Brace yourselves.

The small floods that submerge roads and sometimes enter homes along Louisiana's coast could become more than an occasional headache. A new study suggests that the frequency of "nuisance flooding" around the Gulf of Mexico will double every decade thanks to small rises in sea level.

In lower latitudes, the flooding will be worse. The tropics, including South America and Africa, will experience a doubling of extreme flooding due to sea level rise, said Sean Vitousek, lead author of the study published in the Scientific Reports journal this week.

On the Louisiana coast, hurricanes, rather than sea level rise, will continue to pose the biggest flood danger. The same is true for the Caribbean Sea and the East Coast. "But the smaller floods are something to worry about, especially as they happen with more frequency," said Vitousek, a coastal hazards researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Nuisance flooding can degrade drainage and sewer systems, contaminate drinking water supplies, damage buildings and disrupt transportation and commerce. Decades ago, it was powerful storms that caused such problems.

"But due to sea level rise, more common (storm) events are now more impactful," wrote National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists in a 2015 report on nuisance flooding. The agency said small coastal floods have been happening two or three times more frequently than just 20 years ago.


"The takeaway is that it doesn't take much sea level rise - just 5 to 10 centimeters - to double the frequency of floods," Vitousek said. 

The latest reports indicate sea level rise is about 4 mm. per year, nearly 1.6 inches per decade.  To add a little perspective here's a handy chart showing sea level rise back to the start of the Christian era.




Is It Time We Chaperoned Our Politicians

Where Alberta Fossil Fuelers Go to Shop


Yes, Christy, this is about you - and the rest.

Christy Clark, Canada's  Queen of Cash has been known to be a grateful recipient of campaign contributions from those friendly funsters known as the Calgary Petroleum Club but, of course, that doesn't mean that her government's acceptance of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion had anything to do with cheque-stuffed envelopes.  Still, the skeptical might just wonder.

Hell, even the New York Times has taken notice of Grifty Clark and splashed her around on the pages of The Grey Lady.

It's fair to say that Canada is a nation of petro-pols. Our House of Commons is chock full of them save, perhaps, for that little lady way over there in the corner. And provincial legislatures from Newfoundland to British Columbia are also sinking under the weight of their own petro-pols.

It's timely help then from a friendly Deutscher,  Arne Jungjohann, an energy analyst from Germany.  His message - if Canada wants to make progress on climate change, if Canada's governments are remotely serious about that, they have to get fossil fuel money out of politics (and, I might add, government subsidies out of the fossil fuel industry).

There are no two ways about it, according to German political scientist Arne Jungjohann: if you want to make meaningful progress on climate change, you have to get big money out of politics.

“Then you get fossil fuel money out of politics,” said the author and energy analyst. “It’s very, very important to make this a non-partisan issue, otherwise you cannot create this stability and certainty that is needed for the investment people.”


Hold on a minute, Arnie. Fossil energy is already a non-partisan issue. Did you ever hear of the industry's latest Alberta champion, Rachel Notley? The Tories are in the fossil fuelers' bag.  So too is environmental hypocrite extraordinaire and Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau. This is already a non-partisan issue and that is the problem. 

Jungjohann offered “lessons" from the German clean energy story, also called the Energiewende. It’s the German word for the country’s clean energy transition, and Jungjohann co-wrote a book about it: Energy Democracy — Germany’s Energiewende to Renewables.

If Canada has anything to learn from Germany's Energiewende, he said, it's that corporate money must exit the equation, citizens must be involved early on, and clean energy must become non-partisan. He called it the "democratization" of clean energy.


What works in Germany won't work in Canada. At the federal and the provincial level our fossil energy corruption is now institutionalized, embedded.









Trump Lawyers Up


He says he has no and never has had any connections with the Russians since entering politics but Donald Trump is smart enough to lawyer up anyway.


Donald Trump has appointed lawyer Marc Kasowitz to represent him in an inquiry into Russia's alleged meddling in the US presidential election and any links to the Trump campaign, US media report.

Mr Trump has used services of the New York lawyer - known as a tenacious litigator - for more than a decade.

Last week, former FBI boss Robert Mueller was named special counsel for the Department of Justice inquiry.

President Trump denies any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

However, US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the 2016 election in favour of Mr Trump.

Meanwhile, the CBC's Neil Macdonald casts Trump as a "steaming pile of hypocrisy" in a thoughtful piece well worth a read.

President Donald Trump ...is the Chronos of hypocrisy. He is Jabba the Hutt, with hypocrisy crouching in a silver bikini, a leash around its neck.
...

Trump is more capable than even his peers in Third World dictatorships of delivering judgment on something, and then turning around and doing that very thing, fecklessly and without the slightest shame, and then attacking anyone who notices. And like Third World dictators, he surfs on his own personality cult-wave.

It's addictive, actually. On the rare occasion when Trump acts presidential for a few days, reporters and politicos feel like a perk has suddenly and unfairly been cut off.

In case you missed it on Sunday, here's John Oliver's take on "Stupid
Watergate."

Pure Ecstasy


Another one of those "a picture is worth..." moments.

A lucky photographer captures the moment as a wave of utter ecstasy sweeps across the face of pope Francis as he poses for the obligatory snapshot with the Cheeto Benito, his frau, Melania, and his daughter-wife Ivanka.


While they refused to wear head coverings in Saudi Arabia, the ladies got them on quick enough to see the Man in White. They also chose matching black dresses, a tribute, perhaps, to the Inquisition? However Melania clearly wasn't about to waste one of her remaining smiles on the guy in the white beanie. Trump, meanwhile, grinned like a trained seal.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What Goes Around



Don't waste a tear on big game hunter Theunis Botha of South Africa. Just try not to giggle.

Theunis Botha, 51, from Johannesberg, was leading a hunt in Gwai, Zimbabwe, when they stumbled across a herd of elephants, which included pregnant cows.

Three elephants stampeded towards the hunters and Mr Botha opened fire with his rifle, prompting a fourth elephant to storm in from the side and lift him up with her trunk.

The Afrikaans news site Netwerk24 reported that another member of the group fired the fatal shot at the elephant and, as the animal collapsed dead, she fell on Mr Botha.

I have this feeling that where Mr. Botha is going he might find that it's the animals that have the guns.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't Worry, Be Happy. We've Got Kinder Morgan's Word, After All.



A dandy little interactive piece from the Globe & Mail showing how bitumen-laden supertankers will navigate through British Columbia coastal waters.

People who know better won't be impressed but the Globe has always been pro-pipeline, pro-tanker. The least assuring part of the presentation is the rosy Kinder-Morgan assessment sounding the "all clear" on the expansion. That may be why the paper has left out a few points.

One critical point left unmentioned - bitumen. While we're given Kinder Morgan's assurance that a spill is almost impossible, well that's bullshit from the American company intent on pushing its pipeline through to "tidewater." There has been plenty of testimony from experienced mariners including Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy types that predict a spill isn't a matter of "if" but "when" and "how often." Let's cut that in half - a spill is possible if not probable.

A spill of bitumen. Nobody wants to talk about bitumen or dilbit which is what is going in those tankers.

Kinder Morgan and the Globe don't want to get into what happens when dilbit gets spilled into our coastal waters. They pretend it's going to be, worst case, like the Exxon Valdez catastrophe. And, while that was a catastrophe and still hasn't been cleaned up, that was conventional crude oil, not bitumen, not dilbit.

Everybody - the feds, Notley, the oil patch, the pipeline gang think it's just dandy to push this toxic sludge through British Columbia waters.

Nobody - not Peter Kent, not Joe Oliver, not Justin or Cathy or Garneau, not Notley and certainly not Kinder Morgan - can walk on water or prove that dilbit can either. It sinks. The diluent, the light oil, separates and the really toxic bitumen, heads straight to the bottom. They imply that the stuff floats, like the Exxon Valdez oil, but they can't and won't prove it. If they could they would if only to silence their critics.

When he was enviromin Peter Kent was asked if the government had any technology to clean up a dilbit spill. He replied, "no, but we're working on it." Apparently Kent didn't get very far and neither did his successor, Dame Cathy. That much was obvious when the Liberal government's environment ministry authorized the use of Corexit as an "oil dispersant."

Their solution, Corexit. Fuck me, Corexit. The feds, Justin's team, have authorized the use of Corexit as a spill response. You see, Corexit doesn't disperse oil, it sinks it. It's the "out of sight, out of mind" solution to oil spills. Corexit was used at the Exxon Valdez disaster and the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. It doesn't just harm the environment, it maims and even kills those who come into contact with it. Check this out. Yet those bastards in Edmonton and Ottawa think Corexit is just the ticket. Or go here to read the warning labels from the manufacturer.

Corexit is the federal government's admission that when a dilbit spill occurs their plan is to sink it to the bottom where pretty much all the marine life that sustains the oceanic food chain originates. Kill that off and you can kill off most of the marine life between the bottom and the surface - for decades and decades. The Exxon Valdez wasn't bitumen. Neither was the Deepwater Horizon. They were relatively benign crude oil and they remain environmental disasters to this day.

Justin, Rachel, Cathy and Christy - they've all got a raging hard on for this project just like their predecessors. Would you want that stuff, a product whose manufacturer warns, "Do not contaminate surface water," in your river or lake or pond? Would you want your kids or grandkids to swim in Corexit-laced water? Would you want to eat seafood that's been swimming in Corexit and bitumen contaminated water? If you would, well, you would be a moron.

But don't worry, be happy.





Water, Water Everywhere (At Least Everywhere It's Not Wanted)


Let's cut to the chase. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has estimated sea level rise over the course of this century will be somewhere between 30 cm. to 1 metre. With the IPCC's track record for getting it wrong, understating the pace and impact of climate change, you can consider that a low ball opinion.

More recent studies of the rate at which ice caps in both hemispheres are declining suggests by 2100 we'll see between 2 and 3 metres of sea level rise. With the current rate of sea level rise of 4 mm. annually and increasing, 2 metres is probably a safe bet.

Which lends a bit of perspective to the recent study about near-term sea level rise. Here they're looking at sea level rise of 5, 10 and 20 cms.  That sort of rise may not be devastating in its own right but it can be when it combines with high tides and storm surge events and it's expected to cause havoc in the tropics first.

In those locations, just 2.5cm of sea level rise leads to extreme water levels being seen twice as often, while a 5-10cm increase means coastal floods are twice as likely across all the tropics. A rise of 20cm leaves almost every coast with twice the risk.

The rise of 5-10cm, likely to occur within a couple of decades, would mean major cities including San Francisco in the US, Mumbai in India, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and Abidjan in Ivory Coast facing a doubled risk of coastal floods. “The maps of increased flooding potential suggest a dire future,” write the scientists.

“This study shows how even small changes in mean sea level can significantly increase the frequencies with which critical thresholds are exceeded,” said Thomas Wahl, professor of coastal risks at the University of Central Florida, who was not part of the research team.

While coastal British Columbia is obviously not in the tropics it already experiences seawater inundation events, especially in spring, when high tides and storm surges can be compounded by early season mountain snowcap melts and runoff. British Columbia's Lower Mainland, one of the most densely populated regions in Canada, is particularly vulnerable when meltwater runoff swells the Fraser River as it nears the sea. There are some very low-lying municipalities along the way, Richmond and Surrey in particular.

[University of Illinois prof, Sean] Vitousek said: “We are going to have to [cut carbon dioxide emissions] and engineer the coastlines to stop a lot of these events from happening. We want Greenland and Antarctica to remain as ice for as long as possible.

“One metre of sea level rise is going to be a game-changer for the coastal zone. The next time you are at the beach or down by the water, think about what that area would be like in some of these sea level rise scenarios, half a metre or metre. You’ll see it’s a pretty scary proposition.”






Assange Outwaits the Swedish Heat


Julian Assange may walk on the rape allegations from Sweden that have kept him bottled up in Ecuador's London embassy for years.


Swedish prosecutors have dropped their preliminary investigation into an allegation of rape against the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, bringing an end to a seven-year legal standoff.

The decision was taken after prosecutors concluded that “at this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted”, Sweden’s director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, said on Friday.

“In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.

“If he, at a later date, makes himself available, I will be able to decide to resume the investigation immediately.”


Assange claimed asylum in 2012 arguing that, if he was delivered up to the Swedes, they, or the Brits, would simply turn him over to the Americans for political persecution.

With the announcement Assange got all frisky:

Later he tweeted again: “Detained for 7 years without charge by while my children grew up and my name was slandered. I do not forgive or forget.”

If he does venture out of the Ecuadorean embassy, the British Police still have issues to settle with Assange.


The Metropolitan police in London said Assange would face immediate arrest for breaching his bail conditions; a warrant was issued when he failed to attend a magistrates court after entering the embassy.

“The Metropolitan police service is obliged to execute that warrant should he leave the embassy,” the statement said.

It added: “Whilst Mr Assange was wanted on a European arrest warrant (EAW) for an extremely serious offence, the MPS response reflected the serious nature of that crime. Now that the situation has changed and the Swedish authorities have discontinued their investigation into that matter, Mr Assange remains wanted for a much less serious offence. The MPS will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offence.”


It's telling that Julian "I do not forgive or forget" Assange acts as though he's been cleared, vindicated. He hasn't been anything of the sort.  If he wants to clear his name he'll have to travel to Sweden. Without that he's just another accused sex offender conveniently beyond the reach of the law. Don't forget, this is the guy who promised that he would hop a flight to the U.S. to face the music if Obama pardoned Chelsea Manning only to renege on that promise when Obama did pardon Chelsea Manning.






Weiner's Final Tumble



Registered sex offender. That should be the last nail in the coffin for the former Democratic congressman, Anthony Weiner.

Mr. Weiner will plead guilty to a single charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, one of the people said. Mr. Weiner surrendered to the F.B.I. early Friday morning.

The federal authorities have been investigating reports that, beginning in January 2016, Mr. Weiner, then 51, exchanged sexually explicit messages with a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

The plea covers conduct by Mr. Weiner from January through March of last year, the person said. A likely result of the plea is that Mr. Weiner would end up as a registered sex offender, although a final determination has yet to be made, the person added.


Update:

Weiner has had his day in court and he pleaded guilty.

The 52-year-old admitted to the federal court in New York that he had transferred obscene material to a 15-year-old girl. As part of a plea bargain arranged between the judge and his lawyer, Weiner will not be able to appeal any sentence of 27 months or less in prison.

"I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse," the ex-lawmaker said.

Besides sending her inappropriate photos of himself, his victim said Weiner asked her to undress on camera. The allegations prompted then-FBI director James Comey to seize Weiner's laptop for evidence.

Comey then stunned the public in October by announcing that some material he had found on Weiner's laptop had given him reason to reopen the closed investigation in Hillary Clinton's handling of State Department business on a private e-mail server. Although Comey described himself as "mildly nauseous" at the idea, many have said his announcement was at least partially to blame for Clinton losing the presidency to Donald Trump.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Yes, Dame Cathy, Pollution Isn't Free.



It's only taken a year and a half but, finally, Justin's EnviroMin, Cathy McKenna, has declared that "pollution isn't free" - only she really doesn't mean it. She's just bullshitting.

Dame Cathy veered clear of the "C" word, choosing "pollution" instead of "carbon."

What has generally been described as a "price on carbon" is now described by McKenna as a "price on pollution" or a "price on carbon pollution," presumably because someone in the Liberal government decided the word "pollution" was more evocative.

It's hard to be mad at carbon. Pollution, on the other hand, has a bad name. So, in the course of her short meeting with reporters, McKenna made two dozen references to a price on pollution.

But an awful lot of pollution in Canada is free. One glaring example is the runoff of agricultural chemicals, primarily fertilizers, that contaminates our surface water generating toxic algae blooms that choke our rivers and lakes. Her ladyship doesn't seem to have any interest in pricing that. No, she's talking about carbon pricing on fossil fuels.

Too bad she couldn't be honest about it. However that might lead her into a trap. If we're to tax carbon at the pump we might just as well slap the same tax at the dock where we plan to load foreign supertankers with the highest-carbon ersatz oil on the planet.  Why shouldn't we tax it here? It won't be taxed in Asia where we intend to see it burned. But that's why she's a bullshitter.

Caesar Was Felled in Minutes. Trump May Take a Little Longer.


It really is a lot like handing your 16-year old the keys to a brand new Corvette and telling him the only traffic signs he has to obey are those he likes.  That, to me, is an apt metaphor for the first four months of Donald Trump's presidency.

Will he be impeached? I don't know and I don't know anyone who does know. The skeleton of impeachment is certainly there but it has to be fleshed out. Someone has to put meat on those bones. Someone, perhaps, like special counsel Robert Mueller.

The special counsel will investigate matters under his broad mandate. There will be three other investigations, at least three. The House of Representatives is investigating. The Senate is running its own intelligence investigation. The FBI is investigating. The media, of course, will be investigating.

There is far more to this than the Comey and Flynn affairs.  It resembles nothing so much as this ball of mating garter snakes.


Now, in that ball are plenty of snakes who have suddenly become worried about their personal well being. These are people who are going to be lawyering up as they try to figure out if and when to cut deals with investigators. Trump has already been gored by leaks. He demands absolute loyalty but, as he's shown with Flynn and Comey, no one can count on loyalty from Trump. Those who choose to rat him out to save their own skins might find they have to take a number.

And so today Trump begins his first foreign trip as president of the United States. He'll swing by Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Vatican before moving on to the Nato summit and then the G7 leaders conference. And he's traveling under a cloud, the cloud of a wrecked and wounded presidency and the spectre of impeachment. Think of it as the Schadenfreude Tour.




Mueller Has a Lot to Gnaw On



If there's one thing that marks the Trump administration it's their favourite pastime, lying. That and the erratic ramblings of the Cheeto Benito.

It's getting tough for Trump's handmaidens. A controversy looms. They all caucus to formulate a teflon response. Then they go out to spread their gospel to the waiting scribes. Then, the next day, Trump himself goes out, contradicts them and admits the rumours were true.

Isn't it curious? These people - Conway, Spicer, Huckabee Sanders, the lot - speak on behalf of the president. They're his people, his staff, the face of his administration. They're the people you see on the 6 o'clock news and the Sunday talk shows. Yet here they say one thing and the next day the president hisself essentially says they were lying. Of course, unless he's lying. They're either making a liar out of Trump or Trump is making a liar out of them. No matter - wash, rinse, repeat - it just keeps on coming.

Now a sane president who values his integrity and reputation might have to deal with this problem, the incessant lying by his staff. Surely he would have fired the lot of them by now. And yet that's not the way it works in the Trump White House.

Then there's this deepening Flynn business. After his confirmation as National Security Advisor rumours surfaced of Flynn's dealings with the Russians. Veep Pence went public saying (lying) that Flynn had done no such thing. 18 days later, more or less, a paper reports details of Flynn's dealings. He's promptly sacked by Trump for lying to Pence only Trump blames the newspaper that broke the story, not Flynn. Conspiracy theory Mike takes one for the team and leaves. Later he seeks an immunity deal. Why, because he had dealings with the Russians?

Now it emerges that Flynn disclosed his Russia dealings long before the inauguration. He wasn't hiding anything - at least not from Trump. So how could he later have lied to Pence about something he'd already disclosed? And how could Trump claim to have been betrayed by Flynn, or some newspaper, or someone, something, anything? Why lie about this at all? One thing is certain. This whole, elaborate yet clumsy lie wasn't about protecting ex-general Michael Flynn.

And there's this business about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Now it emerges there were 18-more meetings and calls that were not, until now, revealed.  It's difficult to make sense of this. How many contacts did Trump and his aides have with, say, the Chinese, or the Swedes, or French officials? Why so many and why the Russians? Why all the denials and obfuscation?

These are the sorts of things that a seasoned counsel can sink his teeth into - all the contradictions, the lies, the inexplicable stuff. It's there. It's on record. A lot of the good stuff comes straight from Trump's mouth. As liars go, Trump is incredibly sloppy and ill-disciplined.

Roger Ailes, Cable News Lecher in Chief, Dead at 77


Disgraced founder and ex-CEO of FOX News, Roger Ailes, has gone to the Great Celestial Studio in the sky.

Ailes, who possibly defined the term "dirty old man," was shown the door at FOX by the Murdoch clan after a gaggle of female Foxters (vixens?) accused him of sexual harassment.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Bloat Gets Burned. "Asshole" Really? Asshole?


Donald Trump craves public adulation. That's probably one of the reasons he's still staging rallies. It's an opportunity to get a gaggle of feeble-minded Americans in a hanger to chant his praises.

But what do Americans really think of their new president. Quinnipiac pollsters asked Americans what word would they associate with Donald J. Trump.


A new Quinnipiac University survey of 1,078 voters across the nation has found that words like incompetent; liar; leader; unqualified; president; strong; businessman; ignorant; egotistical; and asshole are some of those most commonly associated with the president.

The top three words (idiot, incompetent, and liar) were given as response 39, 31, and 30 times, respectively. The least commonly used words included: Aggressive, decisive, embarrassment, evil, patriotism, and negotiator, to name a few.

To Americans He's Pompous. To Russia, He's a Giggle.



To Russians, high and low, America's new president is a laughingstock.

U.S. democracy may be facing one of its toughest challenges in hundreds of years, but for Russia, this is a time for heaping servings of schadenfreude. After decades of hectoring from Washington on issues such as unfair elections, a clampdown on the press, and widespread corruption, Moscow is happily watching chaos and scandal embroil the Trump administration. The more lawless Washington appears, the more Russians are howling with laughter. When Trump tweeted last week that Russians must be “laughing up their sleeves” at the United States, he wasn’t wrong, exactly — though the target of Russian laughter might not be quite what the U.S. president thinks.

Some of the joking comes in the form of Saturday Night Live-style political comedy. The Russian comedian Dmitry Grachev, for instance — known for his chillingly accurate impression of President Vladimir Putin — regularly heaps scorn on Trump while in character. In a widely viewed clip mocking the leaders’ first telephone conversation, Putin is handed a mobile phone and told Washington is on the line. “The what house? I didn’t recognize you,” he tells the supposed leader of the free world. Various impersonations of Trump are also beginning to appear on Russian television, which typically depict the U.S. president as a buffoon who gets outfoxed by Moscow. In March, the popular Russian TV show Comedy Club, shown on the youth-focused channel TNT, featured an actor as Trump. The ersatz Trump thinks former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is a type of sushi.

...

But it isn’t just comedy programs. A remarkable number of jokes at America’s expense are coming from official Russian sources.

Last week, in a subplot to the Comey firing, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency was allowed in the Oval Office to photograph the meeting among Trump, Lavrov, and Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergey Kislyak — while the U.S. press was excluded. After the meeting, the Russian Embassy in Washington used the social networking service Storify to create a tongue-in-cheek “caption contest” for one of the TASS photos: a large image of Trump shaking hands with Kislyak. Meanwhile, the White House fumed at the Russians’ public release of the photos, which Washington claimed were for official use only.


Even in Trump's inner sanctum, the White House, Russian foreign minister Lavrov couldn't help taking the piss out of the Great Orange Bloat.

Last week, while he was in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump and his American counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov decided to take a moment to crack wise.

The town was up in arms over Trump’s recent firing of FBI Director James Comey — there was talk of little else. But during a brief appearance before reporters with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov pretended to be in the dark about the sacking.


“Was he fired?” Lavrov deadpanned, in response to a question. “You’re kidding. You’re kidding,” he said, his lip slightly curled in a smirk.

It was an unscripted moment, both playful and cutting. But it also served to give Americans a brief window into how Russia views the unfolding chaos of the Trump presidency: Russians, it turns out, think this is all sort of hilarious.

...

After the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, the jokes petered out for a while after authorities lost their grip on power, said translator and Moscow Times columnist Michele Berdy. But dark humor is back — only this time, even as Russians take snide pokes at their leadership (“Putin shows up at passport control with Poland. ‘Nationality?’ he’s asked. ‘Russian,’ he says. ‘Occupation?’ Putin smiles. ‘Not this time — just a short business trip’”) they’ve turned their humor toward overseas targets. And this time, the Russian elite look as if they’re in on the joke — a celebration of their seeming moment of triumph, Berdy said. It’s “the kind of cocky joking of people who feel on top and don’t care if they offend,” she said. “Or are happy to offend.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

This Is What Our World Looks Like


In Washington, Kurds protested the arrival of Turkish strongman, Recep Erdogan.

As they have in the past, Erdogan's bodyguards, neatly dressed in suits, waded into the protesters and the capital police didn't arrest one of these Turkish thugs. They simply ignore American police and the cops bend to it.

Slaying the Fossil Fuel Beast


Here's a big heads up for all of Canada's petro-pols from Justin Trudeau on down.

A new report out of Stanford University predicts a permanent collapse in oil prices within four years.

The report points to a significant threat to Canada’s economy, dependent as it is on oil and auto manufacturing, but it also predicts “huge opportunities” for companies that jump into the new “transportation-as-a-service” industry.

“We are on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history,” begins the report from Tony Seba, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and lecturer in entrepreneurship, disruption and clean energy at Stanford.

Using economic models based on existing technologies, the report predicts that ride-hailing services will be cheaper than owning a car by 2021.

By that time, ride-hailing will be “four to 10 times cheaper per mile than buying a new car and two to four times cheaper than operating an existing vehicle,” the report says.
...

“Global oil demand will drop from 100 million barrels per day in 2020 to around 70 million barrels per day in 2030. The price of oil will drop to around $25 per barrel,” the report stated. “The impact of the collapse of oil prices throughout the oil industry value chain will be felt as soon as 2021.”

What's bad news for the oil patch will be equally bad news for Ontario's auto industry.

Meanwhile, the costs of manufacturing combustible-engine cars will start going up, as they become less common.

Auto manufacturing will collapse by 70 per cent between 2020 and 2030, the report predicts. The number of cars in the U.S. will plummet from 247 million to 44 million in the same period.

“This could result in total disruption of the car value chain, with car dealers, maintenance and insurance companies suffering almost complete destruction.”

It will become next to impossible to sell a used fossil-fuel car, the report predicted.

I'm not convinced. We're culturally attached to our cars and the convenience they afford. While urban dwellers may make more use of ride-hailing services to save some bucks here and there, I'll bet most of us will still have a car in the garage for what the insurers call "pleasure use."

Also bear in mind that the burgeoning market for private automobiles today isn't in the developed world. It's coming from the emerging economic superpowers, places where owning one's own car has been a lifelong dream.




So, Are We Just Going to Take This On the Chin?



From Ontario to Quebec and all the way back to British Columbia's Okanagan Valley we've been experiencing severe flood events.

A new study published in the journal Nature concludes that, for every degree fahrenheit the planet warms, these floods will worsen in severity by upwards of 15 per cent. Basic physics. Warmer air holds more water vapour that creates more rainfall deluges. At the same time our now wonky jet stream can park these monsoon rains over one area for days on end.

Canadians got a taste of this with the Toronto and Calgary "once in a century" floods of 2013. That should have ended any doubts that our 20th century infrastructure was up to the demands of our 21st century climate.

When "once in a century" storm events start to come along every decade we've got a problem.  Those floods cause a lot of damage - to homes and to infrastructure. If you suddenly find your dream home now sits in a 21st century floodplain it may become your nightmare home.

There's a small neighbourhood in my little town of dream homes built where the Englishman river meets the Pacific. There are times when an early mountain snow melt combines with sea level rise and "king tides" that overwhelm those homeowners.  Severe flooding becomes an annual or bi-annual event.

There's no insurance for that sort of loss. You're on your own. You could sell and head to higher ground - if you could find someone who wants to buy. Good luck with that. The municipality won't issue building permits for the area any longer. You can't even get a permit to put up a garden shed. You are S.O.L.

So, what are we going to do about it? Federal and provincial disaster relief only works for the rarest of disasters. Governments can't afford to make good such losses on a regular, if periodic, basis.

So what's the plan? I don't have a clue. The only thing quieter than a flooded basement is the silence we're getting from our political caste.



Oh Dear. NATO Prepares for Trump.



What do you do when the self-styled leader of the free world has the attention span of a fruit fly?

According to The Independent, Nato officials have instituted a new rule for their upcoming summit.

Nato will reportedly put a time limit on speeches at an upcoming summit with Donald Trump, in an attempt to maintain the US President’s attention span.

Speakers will be limited to between two and four minutes, sources within the organisation told Foreign Policy magazine. The summit of Nato’s 28 member countries will be held at the end of the month and the Belgian capital, Brussels.

“It’s kind of ridiculous how they are preparing to deal with Trump,” one source said. “It’s like they’re preparing to deal with a child — someone with a short attention span and mood who has no knowledge of Nato, no interest in in-depth policy issues, nothing. They’re freaking out.”


And there's another thing:

NATO traditionally publishes a formal readout, known as a declaration, after each major meeting or summit. While they’re often lathered in diplomatic drivel, declarations signal new strategies and key policy shifts that come out of closed-door meetings, giving direction to allies and the NATO bureaucracy — and showcasing alliance unity toward rivals like Russia, a former senior NATO official told FP.

This year, NATO has scrapped plans to publish a full formal meeting declaration. One NATO official said that’s because it’s not a full summit, like past major NATO gatherings in Warsaw in 2016 or Wales in 2014. “It’s not necessary to have another full declaration, as it’s not a full summit,” the official said. “This meeting is just much more focused.”

But behind closed doors, other officials are giving a different reason. NATO isn’t publishing a full declaration “because they’re worried Trump won’t like it,” another source said.




That Sudden Silence? That's the Intelligence Network Shutting Down.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

Do you remember the uproar when word got out that America's intelligence types had warned their colleagues abroad to be careful about what secrets they shared with Washington because they couldn't vouch that the incoming president was beyond Moscow's reach? The Republicans were outraged. How dare they impugn the integrity of the president-elect?

Well that, as they say, was then. This is now and by "now" I mean four months into this presidency and Trump is mired in a scandal due to his apparent leaking to Russia's foreign minister and its ambassador of secret information conveyed from a trusted ally.


U.S. intelligence officials reportedly warned their Israeli counterparts to exert caution in sharing top secret information with Donald Trump’s administration for fear of it being passed to Russia and then to Moscow’s ally and Israel’s arch-enemy, Iran.

Discussions between U.S. and Israeli security services prior to Trump’s inauguration on January 20 gave rise to concerns that sensitive intelligence might exchange hands between him and the Russian government, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported in January.

The paper published the report amid accusations of links between Trump’s campaign team and the Russian government. Now, just four months into Trump’s presidency, it has emerged that the commander in chief may have divulged highly classified intelligence to the Russian government.


Whether the report is accurate or not, analysts are clear that the disclosure of Trump’s intelligence slip to the Russians will cause further damage for U.S. intelligence partnerships around the world, where concerns were already present.

“I think very basically I just think it’s going to impact trust issues that have already been negatively affected by Trump,” says Miriam Goldman, analyst at Middle East-based security consultancy LeBec International. “I think there’s going to be a lot of internal questioning about whether or not sharing information with the U.S. can continue.”


The point is clear. Trump is not to be trusted.  And, when the president of the United States can't be trusted, America can't be trusted.


Update:

The New York Times reports that the state secrets Trump passed on to the Russians came from Israel.


Relax, It's Only a Promise From a Guy Whose Word Means Little at Best

Yeah, Right.


The Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, has doubts about Justin Trudeau's promise to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.

Mike, relax, it was never more than a promise from a guy whose promises mean next to nothing. Ask any Canadian about "electoral reform." Ask any British Columbian about "social licence" and pipelines and supertankers and such. Ask any of Canada's co-signatories to the Paris climate accord.

Justin Trudeau talks a good game but, well, he's usually full of shit when it comes to his promises.

What's that saying, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Fool me again and again and again, well, they haven't got a handy phrase for that one yet.

Can You Spot the Lunatic?

One of these men is not in his right mind. Hint: he's wearing a blue suit.



You might recall that, before Trump's inauguration, American intel officials warned their allied colleagues that sensitive intelligence shared with Washington might no longer be secure. They couldn't vouch that Trump was beyond Moscow's reach. That outraged Republicans. It turns out that warning was right on the money.



Monday, May 15, 2017

More Thoughts on Tyranny


First the good news. Donald Trump increasingly seems to be psychologically incapable of pulling off some sort of fascist constitutional coup in the United States. He's no Joe Stalin and certainly no Hitler. He's not even in the same league with someone like Benito Mussolini. He's just a pretentious old slob with the sexual appetites of a goat and an insatiable need for adulation. Then again, he might just be waiting to catch his second breath.

The bad news is that you should never underestimate the damage a guy like Trump or those who pull his strings can inflict on the United States and, for that matter, many other countries whether friends, allies, rivals or even adversaries.

On Sunday, former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, warned that America's institutions are under assault - from the Russians and, on the inside, from the Trump administration. At the same time Fareed Zakaria lamented the betrayal of the Constitution by Congressional Republicans refusing to uphold America's system of checks and balances to restrain the excesses of the executive branch.

Which brings me to a couple of other insightful passages from Yale historian Timothy Snyder's book, "On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century."

Sometimes We Have to Stand Up and Defend Our Institutions.

We have to assume that institutions will automatically maintain themselves against even the most direct attacks. This was the very mistake that some German Jews made about Hitler and the Nazis after they had formed a government. On February 2, 1933, for example, a leading newspaper for German Jews published an editorial expressing this mislaid trust:

'We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of crucial factors hold powers in check... and they clearly do not want to go down that road. When one acts as a European power, the whole atmosphere tends towards ethical reflection upon one's better self and away from one's earlier oppositional posture.'

Such was the view of many reasonable people in 1933, just as it is the view of many reasonable people now. The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions - even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do. Revolutionaries sometimes do intend to destroy institutions all at once. This ws the approach of the Russian Bolsheviks. Sometimes institutions are deprived of vitality and function, turned into a simulacrum of what they once were, so that they gird the new order rather than resisting it. This is what the Nazis called Gleichschaltung.

Heed the Lessons Of the Last Century.

The American abolitionist Wendell Phillips [said] that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." He added that "the manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten."

The record of modern European democracy confirmed the wisdom of those words. The twentieth century saw earnest attempts to extend the franchise and establish durable democracies. Yet the democracies that arose after the First World War (and the Second) often collapsed when a single party seized power in some combination of an election and  a coup d'etat.
...

The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don't know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that. Some of the Germans who voted for the Nazi party in 1932 no doubt understood that this might be the last meaningfully free election for some time, but most did not. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks who voted for the Czechoslovakian Communist Party in 1946 probably realized they were voting for the  end of democracy, but most assumed they would have another chance. No doubt the Russians who voted in 1990 did not think this would be the last free and fair election in their country's history, which (thus far) it has been. Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote. The Nazis remained in power until they lost a world war n 1945, the Czechoslovak communists until their system collapsed in 1989. The Russian oligarchy established after the 1990 elections continues to function, and promotes a foreign policy designed to destroy democracy elsewhere.

Does the history of tyranny apply to the United States? Certainly the early Americans who spoke of 'eternal vigilance' would have thought so. The logic of the system they devised was to mitigate the consequences of our real imperfections, not to celebrate our imaginary perfection.  We certainly face, as did the ancient Greeks, the problem of oligarchy - ever more threatening as globalization increases differences in wealth. The odd American idea that giving money to political campaigns is free speech means that the very rich have far more speech, and so in effect far more voting power, than other citizens.
...

Will we in retrospect see the elections of 2016 much as the Russians see the elections of 1990, or Czechs the elections of 1946, or Germans the elections of 1932? This, for now, depends on us.








He Did WHAT?



For a guy trying to distance himself from Russia, Donald Trump is doing just the opposite.

America has been straining its ties with its allies and other friendly nations since Trump became president. He claimed NATO was obsolete, slammed its member states for not paying their share even imagining they "owed" the United States over it, courted every despot on the planet from Duterte, to Orban, Erdogan, Putin, even Kim Jong-il. He's threatened America's closest trading partners. He single-handedly tore up the TPP and appears intent on trashing the Paris climate accord in due course.

Trump sees America's friends and allies in terms of dollar signs and resorts to some pretty dodgy math. He has no grasp of how dependent the United States often is on their support and cooperation. The latest example of Trump's indifference to America's allies occurred during a recent private session in the Oval Office with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

President Trump boasted about highly classified intelligence in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, a current and a former American government official said Monday.

The intelligence disclosed by Mr. Trump ...was about an Islamic State plot, according to the officials. A foreign ally that closely guards its own secrets provided the information, which was considered so sensitive that American officials did not share it widely within the United States government or pass it on to other allies.


Mr. Trump’s disclosure does not appear to have been illegal ...but sharing the information without the express permission of the ally who provided it represented a major breach of espionage etiquette, and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.

The ally, which has shared information in the past with the United States only to see it leaked, has repeatedly warned American officials that it would cut off access to such sensitive information if it were shared too widely, said the former official. In this case, the fear is that Russia will be able to determine exactly how the information was collected and could disrupt the ally’s espionage efforts.


Beyond angering a partner and calling into question the ability of the United States to keep secrets, the episode also opens Mr. Trump to criticism of a double standard. The president made Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information through her private email server central to his campaign, leading chants of “lock of her up” at rallies. But there was never any indication that Mrs. Clinton exposed sensitive information from an ally or gave it to an adversary.

Trump's people are denying the report but, given the reliability of anything this president says, that probably won't cut much ice with the ally in question.





Truth Dies in Four Modes

 In Yale historian Timothy Snyder's new book, "On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," he recounts Victor Klemperer's observation that "truth dies in four modes, all of which we have just witnessed."

The first mode is the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.
...

The second mode is shamanistic incantation. As Klemperer noted, the fascist style depends upon "endless repetition," designed to make the fictional plausible and the criminal desirable.
...

The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction. The president's campaign involved the promises of cutting taxes for everyone, eliminating the national debt, and increasing spending on both social policy and national defence. 

...Accepting untruth of this radical kind requires a blatant abandonment of reason. Klemperer's descriptions of losing friends in Germany in 1933 over the issue of magical thinking ring eerily true today. One of his former students implored him to 'abandon yourself to your feelings, and you must always focus on the Fuhrer's greatness, rather than on the discomfort you are feeling at present.'
...

The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that 'I alone can solve it' or 'I am your voice.' When faith descends from heaven to earth this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience. What terrified Klemperer was the way that this transition seemed permanent.  Once truth had become oracular rather than factual, evidence was irrelevant.

All four of Klemperer's modes have occurred and are in full force and effect today.  Trump has invoked the messaging of fascism and, for those who have succumbed, truth has died.



In Case You Haven't Already Seen It - Trump's Real Russia Connections


A Dutch documentary TV service, Zembla, has digested information that links Donald Trump to sketchy Russians and their money. There's not a lot in the videos that isn't already on record although the interviews are worth taking a second look.



Here's Part II



h/t Dana

First Clapper, Then Zakaria. Congressional Republicans Called Out for Making the US a "Banana Republic"


It wasn't an auspicious weekend for Donald Trump or for Congressional Republicans.

Former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, laid into Trump. Clapper said America's institutions are under assault from within and without. The external threat, according to Clapper, came from Russia. The internal attack on American democracy he attributed to the current president.

Fareed Zakaria went to work on both Trump and his enablers, Congressional Republicans.

Fareed Zakaria lamented on Sunday that the U.S. Congress could no longer be considered a check on the power of President Donald Trump because the controlling party had become a platform that caters to the whims of the president and his family.

“Donald Trump in much of his rhetoric and many of his actions poses a danger to American democracy,” Zakaria explained. “American democracy has a series of checks intended to prevent the accumulation and abuse of power by any one person or group.”
...

“Since Trump’s own party controls both chambers of Congress, there has been little resistance to him there,” he noted. “It appears the Republican Party is losing any resemblance to a traditional western political party. Instead, turning into something more commonly found in the developing world: a platform to support the ego, appetites and interests of one man and his family.”