Sunday, April 23, 2017

All the Money in the World. No Class. None, Zero, Nada.


Why can't Donald Trump just hire somebody to keep his foot out of his damned mouth? Why does he have to constantly remind us that he's someone you wouldn't have to dinner or, for that matter, leave unattended in a room with your daughter.

I watched a clip of the Cheeto Benito, his wife in tow, visiting a military hospital in Washington. There, on a stage, was Trump, some wounded veteran in a wheelchair, and Melania. Trump was there to present the vet with America's Purple Heart.

Trump strolled over toward the soldier and announced that he was, on behalf of the president (that would be him) and Melania, extending their congratulations on winning the Purple Heart.



Imagine, getting struck by shrapnel or catching a bullet, maybe even a ricochet, and then getting congratulated for winning as though you've just hit the winning homerun. Only the stage prop didn't hit a homerun. He lost a leg.

Afterward Trump got in close to the vet for the photo op. I suppose he hasn't mastered the selfie.

That's how this deviant's mind works. Soldiers receive the Purple Heart for only one thing, being wounded. It's an expression of respect and gratitude for presumed sacrifice, not the triumph of being pierced by flying metal objects.

Now you would think the Commander in Chief would make the effort to understand the meaning of something as historic as the Purple Heart just to show a trace of respect for the soldiers who receive it. Not the Great Orange Bloat. Not the guy who scored deferment upon deferment to keep his own ass Purple Heart free when other men his age went to serve in Vietnam.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happy Earth Day




Happy Earth Day, from the International Space Station.

Here's something to think about. This video is taken from a spaceship, the ISS. The astronauts aboard have to carefully regulate their environment to keep it habitable, safe for human life.

Now, here's the thing. You're on a spaceship too, Spaceship Earth, our one and only biosphere. The International Space Station orbits Earth at around 15,000 miles an hour. Earth's rotational speed is around 1,000 miles an hour but Earth, in its orbit around the Sun, travels at nearly 67,000 miles an hour. And our galaxy itself travels through space at 490,000 miles an hour. In other words you are moving through the universe at over half a million miles each and every hour.

Yep, we're all passengers aboard a spaceship and, like those astronauts, we too have to carefully regulate Earth's environment to keep it habitable, safe for human life. Don't you think we've got a bit of catching up to do?

Friday, April 21, 2017

That's Not How It's Supposed to Work. The Great Trump Giveaway.


Republican stalwart, Kevin Phillips, in his 2005 book, "American Theocracy," explores the dynamics of how a globally dominant empire essentially empowers its successor's ascendancy.  Phillips notes that, at each succession in recent centuries, the dominant power reaches a point where it gives up the engine of its greatness, industry, and shifts to a FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy, while it invests its wealth and transfers its industrial base to its successor. He describes it as a country using its wealth to grow its rival's economy.

Enter Donald Trump. The Bloat had no sooner parked his backside behind the Resolute desk when he took pen in hand and cancelled the controversial, Trans Pacific Partnership. Most people were either wildly in favour of the move or at least partially pleased. A few weren't at all pleased. That's because the TPP was a globalized trade deal but it was also a geopolitical pact to anchor American hegemony in Asia Pacific. It can be said that killing off the TPP was the greatest gift an American president ever handed China.


The TPP was envisioned by former U.S. President Barack Obama as the primary tool with which the Washington would retain the strategic initiative to lead in the Pacific region. In many ways, it was more than a trade deal; it was a key strategic maneuver. Clyde Prestowitz, founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute, said that the essence of the TPP is “‘geopolitics’: that many of our friends in Asia were feeling neglected in America, and that it was being pushed aside in the region by China. Without a sign of American strength in the area, China might step into the vacuum.” Indeed, Obama often spoke of the TPP as a tool that will prevent China from writing the rules of trade in the near future. However, Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the TPP on his first day in the White House, effectively creating a leadership vacuum in the Pacific region — including Latin America.

The Pacific Alliance, a free-trading group comprising of Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, lost no time in replacing the TPP. In mid-March, ministers and high-level representatives from nations that have signed on to the TPP, as well as China, Colombia, and South Korea, met for the first time since the United States’ withdrawal from the trade accord. According to Heraldo Muñoz, Chile’s foreign Minister, the signal from Viña del Mar, where the meeting took place, was clear: with or without the U.S., “multilateral trade and Pacific integration [is] alive and kicking.”

So as the United States withdraws from Pacific trade leadership, countries are turning to China. Peru’s president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, made his first foreign trip last year to China, not Washington. This is hardly surprising since China is now Peru’s number one trading partner. It is also not surprising, then, that on March 23, Peru was admitted as one of 13 new members of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Whatever the United States intentions, countries like Peru are drifting further into China’s orbit.
...
Chinese companies are busy embarking on new projects in South America. Shandong Gold, a state-backed Chinese company, recently agreed to pay almost $1 billion for half of Barrick Gold’s Veladero mine in Argentina. The Veladero mine is expected to produce as much as 830,000 ounces of gold this year, making this a major victory for China’s economy.

Even politically, the United States seems to flirt with avoiding leadership, an alarming development from the putative leader of the free world. The Trump administration informed the Washington, D.C.-based Inter-American Human Rights Commission that it would not participate in three hearings on March 21 about Trump’s executive orders on immigration, as part of a review of human rights cases in countries across the hemisphere. The highly unusual step of boycotting several sessions was a bad mistake that will weaken U.S. efforts to condemn Cuba, Ecuador, and other systematic human rights abusers.

The ground that Trump has given away, the influence and hegemony thrown out with the garbage, probably won't be coming back. What incentive would China possibly have to give back Trump's gifts? Asia, Africa, even America's back yard, South America, have gone or are going over to China's side. Aircraft carriers won't woo them back.

History in the Making - Britain Goes Coal Free



Britain and coal have gone hand in hand since the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Coal powered Britain's factories and fueled her ships. Coal brought Britain enormous prosperity and world domination.

Now, for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, Britain is expecting to go coal-free.

The UK is set to have its first ever working day without coal power generation since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Grid.

The control room tweeted the predicted milestone on Friday, adding that it is also set to be the first 24-hour coal-free period in Britain.

Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: “The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.

“The direction of travel is that both in the UK and globally we are already moving towards a low carbon economy."



Jeebus! A Couple of Weeks Ago They Were All At the Beach.


Back in March the Brit papers were all proclaiming "heatwave." Plenty of photos of Brits flocking to the beaches for a bit of early sunbathing.

Now, a month later, one month closer to summer, they're bracing for freezing gales out of the Arctic. Even Coventry is expecting snow.

And that, kids, is what they call "global weirding," what you get when stuff doesn't happen when it should or, for that matter, when it shouldn't.

I spoke with my brother a week or so back. He lives near Port Dover/Simcoe. On Thursday they had snowplows clearing the roads. That Sunday the temps were in the 70s. Global weirding, that's it.


ULCCs. WTF?



A couple of days back I watched a few YouTube videos of my favourite Canadian airline, the legendary Wardair. Max Ward brought us the pinnacle of Canadian air travel and it's all been downhill ever since. Spacious, comfortable seats. Meals served on china with stainless cutlery and wine served in something called crystal. Even back then it felt like Heaven.

Those days are gone. Wardair is gone, bought out in the late 80s by Pacific Western Airlines, bought out in turn by Canadian Pacific Airlines, and ultimately consumed after a dog eat dog death match by Air Canada.

The people's airline introduced the unwashed horde to a new level of service often called "cattle class" in honour of feedlots across the country. If you want to be treated somewhat decently you up the ante and pay for business class or, if you're mentioned in the will, first class. Anything to avoid the humiliation and debasement of economy.

It was about that time that I parted company with commercial aviation. I'd pretty much been where I wanted to go. I'd seen what I wanted to see. I had my share of air travel and plenty of it.

Yet I was still struck today when I read the teaser on the CBC web site, "Are Canadians ready for no-frills flying?" WTF? They've been living with no-frills flying for the past 20 or so years, or so I thought. Guess I was wrong. Apparently the airlines have put their furious minds to how they can make the ordeal of modern air travel even more unpleasant.

Passengers pay extra for food and luggage; we're all used to that. There's a fee for carry-on baggage as well, in most cases. You want to get on early, so that you can stow that bag in the overhead compartment? There's a fee for that. Can't print your boarding pass at home. That'll cost you. The innovation is limitless. Uzbekistan Airways and Samoan Air charge passengers by weight. Just saying.

Most Canadians have flirted with ULCCs in Europe or the U.S., or even here in Canada with NewLeaf in the past year, but the no-frills airline is going mainstream now with WestJet's entry into the market.

Well, if ultra-low cost carriers are your thing, be my guest. At least there are some things they won't be able to charge extra for, luxuries such as elbows in your ribs, the noise and, of course, the smell.









Just Because They're Hopelessly Corrupt That Doesn't Make Them Real Liberals


We've got an election campaign underway out here on the Left Coast and John Horgan's New Democrats are in hot pursuit of Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government.

Something about Horgan seems to have crawled up the ass of the guy I think of as the Liberal Loudmouth. He does not like the cut of Horgan's jib and he's racing to the defence of Christy Clark. Perhaps he imagines Crusty as a Liberal. It says as much right on the party's letterhead yet there are damned few B.C. Liberals who harbour any instincts remotely liberal. No, in every way and every day, they show that their roots are deeply conservative.

Now you would have thought that LL, being steeped in all things Liberal, would have realized there is no liberal party in British Columbia. And, besides, just because you're utterly corrupt, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're Liberal although I can understand the confusion.

I'll not defend Horgan for some unfortunate remark that somehow sent LL spinning. In this race I'm not backing either Clark or Horgan. I'm a Green living in the bastion of the Green Party, Vancouver Island. The Greens are polling quite well on the island something that inevitably pisses off the B.C. Libs and the NDP with their grinding crap about vote splitting.

So, just a heads up to all you out-of-province Liberals who may imagine that Christy Clark is one of you. Don't be fooled. Just because her government is mired in corruption, that doesn't make them real Liberals.


Weekend Reading - NYT Magazine, Climate Change Edition



You can read it right here. The New York Times Magazine this weekend tackles the urgent problem of climate change. On offer, an item on how mosquito-born diseases including zika are set to worsen; how the island city state of Singapore is coping with sea level rise; a cautionary look at geo-engineering measures; sea level rise and America's east coast.

Then there's a piece from John Mooallem, "Our Climate Future Is Actually Our Climate Present," in which the author asks "How do we live that the world we knew is going and, in some cases, already gone?"

The future we’ve been warned about is beginning to saturate the present. We tend to imagine climate change as a destroyer. But it also traffics in disruption, disarray: increasingly frequent and more powerful storms and droughts; heightened flooding; expanded ranges of pests turning forests into fuel for wildfires; stretches of inhospitable heat. So many facets of our existence — agriculture, transportation, cities and the architecture they spawned — were designed to suit specific environments. Now they are being slowly transplanted into different, more volatile ones, without ever actually moving.

Some communities will face new problems and varieties of weather; in others, existing ones will intensify. Already-vulnerable societies — the poor, the poorly governed — may be stressed to grim breaking points. Consider the mass starvation in South Sudan, Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia, where a total of nearly a million and a half children are predicted to die this year — and that climate change is projected to worsen the kind of droughts that caused it. Consider, too, a 2015 Department of Defense report, which framed climate change as a geopolitical “threat multiplier” that will “threaten domestic stability in a number of countries,” and cited a study showing how a five-year drought in Syria contributed to the outbreak of the current conflict there. Nonetheless, denial is coming back in fashion among the most powerful. We have a president who dismisses climate change as a hoax, and a budget director who belittles government programs to study and adapt to our new reality as a “waste of your money.”
...

We seem able to normalize catastrophes as we absorb them, a phenomenon that points to what Peter Kahn, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, calls “environmental generational amnesia.” Each generation, Kahn argues, can recognize only the ecological changes its members witness during their lifetimes. ...In Houston, Kahn found that two-thirds of the children he interviewed understood that air and water pollution were environmental issues. But only one-third believed their neighborhood was polluted. “People are born into this life,” Kahn told me, “and they think it’s normal.”
...

On the most fundamental level, Kahn argues, we are already adapting to climate change through a kind of tacit acquiescence, the way people in a city like Beijing accept that simply breathing the air outside can make them sick. “People are aware — they’re coughing and wheezing,” he told me, “but they’re not staging political revolutions.” Neither are we. And, Kahn went on, we risk imprisoning ourselves, through gradual adaptation, into a condition of “unfulfilled flourishing.” A wolf becomes a dog, genetically; it wants to fetch tennis balls and sleep at the foot of your bed. But imagine a dog that isn’t yet a dog, that still wants to be a wolf.

Does "environmental generational amnesia" explain how, in a world where climate change casualties will soon mount at rates of a million or millions a year, our own prime minister remains so bitumen-friendly. Justin doesn't care, not enough anyway. Certainly not enough to keep his promises, the solemn pledges that carried him to power. He looks around and sees the Canadian public asleep and he knows he can do as he likes while we're napping. And when your eyes do open, he'll shoot you that winning smile and offer to pose with you for a selfie.

Trudeau can sit there with his thumb up your ass but events are overtaking him and us. There's also been a wave of recent articles scraping away our indifference to expose what's really happening, what we're causing in places conveniently out of sight, out of mind.

Michael Klare writes of climate change as genocide. Meanwhile a study commissioned by the German Foreign Office finds that climate change will fuel the next wave of terrorism.



In the drought-ravaged region around Lake Chad in central Africa, food and water shortages, near-economic collapse, and weak governments are providing a ripe recruiting ground for Islamist fundamentalist group Boko Haram.

“In north-eastern Nigeria, the region closest to Lake Chad and where Boko Haram is strongest, 71.5% of the population live in poverty and more than 50% are malnourished … This kind of economic deprivation provides an ideal breeding ground for recruitment by Boko Haram.”
...

The Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change has warned the impact of global warming will drive massive refugee movements of an “unimaginable scale”, and that climate represents “the greatest security threat of the 21st century”.

Really, doesn't it make you wonder, when there is so much change happening, much of it out of control, how our government can dare to conduct itself as though it sees none of the danger, none of the suffering and death, directly attributable in no small part by fossil energy? I've heard what they said going back to 2015, even earlier. They understand what's happening. They know what's going to happen. 

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The NYT paywall is in effect but you can also set your browser to "incognito."


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Retreat From the Sea. Okay, But to Where?


Over the course of this century, many millions of coastal-dwelling Americans will be uprooted by sea level rise and forced to head inland. There's a term for that, IDP, or internally displaced persons.

A new study out of the University of Georgia ponders where these all-American migrants will go.

Scientists believe sea-level rise will trigger movements similar to those observed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The movements may happen more gradually, but they will likely occur on a grander scale. Researchers estimate as many as 13.1 million people will be displaced by sea level rise in the coming decades.

Population growth presents a variety of challenges, from traffic congestion to water supply. Cities across the Sun Belt are already struggling to meet the water and electricity demands of growing populations.

"Some of the anticipated landlocked destinations, such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Riverside, California, already struggle with water management or growth management challenges," Hauer said. "Incorporating accommodation strategies in strategic long-range planning could help alleviate the potential future intensification of these challenges."

Similar patterns of climate migration are expected globally. In addition to sea level rise, extreme heat and droughts could render much of the Middle East and parts of Africa uninhabitable -- inspiring mass migrations.

Sea level rise is really small potatoes when it comes to climate migration. Resource depletion and exhaustion, the scarcity of safe freshwater, crop failures and famine, epidemics and warfare are among mass migration multipliers that lurk on the horizon. 

The Next Climate Change Epidemic


It's potentially lethal and it's spreading to workers throughout Central America. It's a mysterious kidney disease attacking labourers.

Scientists have identified certain key themes. The majority of people with the unexplained disease are men, and it strikes predominantly in hot, humid regions where people are engaged in strenuous outdoor labour: farming, fishing or construction work. Dehydration, which seems an obvious factor, causes acute kidney disease that is easily reversed by drinking water, rather than this chronic form. This has left two burning questions: what causes this new form of kidney disease, and will it be likely to spread as the world gets warmer?
...

Meanwhile, in El Salvador over the last two decades, more and more patients have arrived at clinics and hospitals, often taxing them to their limit. Many people, unable to get treatment, simply return to their homes to die.

This is really a silent massacre,” says Ramon García-Trabanino, a Salvadoran kidney specialist.
...

many agricultural labourers don’t admit to getting ill, even to themselves. But kidney disease is a sneaky opponent. It can totally destroy one kidney while the individual remains blissfully unaware. Only in the final stages of the disease do the workers get a hint that all is not well, and by the time they arrive at the emergency ward, they are dying.

Garcia-Trabanino started a fellowship at the Rosales hospital as a young doctor in 1998, and what he encountered resembled a scene from a battlefield. He had expected to be treating heart disease, neurological patients, eye problems – the full gamut of medical conditions. Instead all he encountered were men dying – sometimes slowly, but usually quickly – from kidney failure. They came in such numbers that they overwhelmed the beds and spilled into the corridors.

Hunting the killer.

Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado learned of the mysterious Central American killer at a conference in Canada in 2011. He began to hunt for the cause. At first he suspected a link to field hands rehydrating with sweet soda to avoid drinking unsafe, contaminated water. That didn't pan out. He then began to suspect that daily exposure to high heat coupled with constant dehydration were to blame.

Johnson took his theory to the lab, where his team put mice in chambers and exposed them to hours of heat at a stretch. One group of mice was allowed to drink unlimited water throughout the experience, while a second group had water only in the evenings. Within five weeks the mice with a restricted water intake developed chronic kidney disease. During the day, loss of salt and water caused the mice to produce high levels of fructose, and crystals of uric acid would sometimes form as water levels dropped in their urine. When the scientists disabled the gene that metabolises fructose and repeated the experiment, neither group developed chronic kidney disease.
...

For Johnson, a clue as to why the epidemic is escalating came from a disturbing occurrence during his research with Garcia-Trabanino. One day, when the field researchers were measuring uric acid levels, only seven workers showed up for work. “But they all had uric acid crystals in their urine. All of them,” Johnson says. “It was bad news for these seven.”

Alarmed, he contacted the lead investigator of the study, who felt that the team should ignore the finding as so few workers had turned up that morning. “But I said that maybe this is the most interesting group, because 100 per cent of the workers got it that day.”

He looked up the weather and found out that it had, in fact, been the hottest day of the year at the study location. “Suddenly a really, really big heatwave came in and the workers weren’t ready,” he says. “They went out because they were expecting it to be a relatively normal day and they got hit.”

Instead of his usual fare of nephrology and diabetes papers, Johnson began to pore over global maps of climate and solar radiation. The rise in average temperatures over the last few years in Central America had been incremental, but the number of extreme events had gone up disproportionately. “And, by gosh, the areas that have the highest solar radiation and heatwaves are overlapping the places right where the epidemics are.”

He contacted climate experts at the nearby National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado. They verified and finessed his original discovery, and the team published an assessment report in May last year, which suggested a connection between climate change and the epidemic. Johnson says it “may well be one of the first epidemics because of global warming”.

Climate change brings dire predictions of extreme weather and sea-level rise in the future, but it is affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations right now, he says. And although heat exposure can affect the body in many ways, our kidneys are in the first line of attack, as their role is to keep electrolytes within the normal range and blood volume stable. “We predict the kidney is going to be one of the prime targets as heat increases.”

This could get a great deal worse and very soon. Central America is expected to be one of the first regions hit by "climate departure" which marks a transition to a new climate in which every year thereafter is hotter than the hottest year experienced previously. Every year will be a scorcher.  This is expected to set in through the tropics beginning the middle of the next decade and then spreading to the rest of the world by 2047.

We know that climate change is already killing the poorest and most vulnerable people. Tell me then why is our prime minister so hell bent on a massive expansion of bitumen extraction and export? Harper made Canada a pariah on climate change. Wasn't one Harper enough?






There Once Was a Difference Between Liberal and Liberal



For years I would instinctively point out that there was a huge difference between British Columbia's Liberal Party, our perpetual provincial government, and the federal Liberal Party. To me there was a real difference.  The federal Liberals embraced a measure of liberalism. The provincial Liberals were staunch conservatives flying a false flag.

What a relief. That distinction is gone. Thanks to Ignatieff and now Trudeau, "small l" liberalism has been scrubbed out of the federal party also. They're both conservative now.

Stephen Harper can be proud of himself as he looks on today's federal Liberals. Justin Trudeau is in lockstep, faithfully carrying out Sideshow Steve's sacred mission to permanently shift Canada's political centre far to the right, safely quarantined from any progressive contagion.

On the great challenges of the day - climate change, inequality, neoliberalism, and more - the Liberal legacy is nowhere to be found. Take climate change. Trudeau and his enviromin, Dame Cathy McKenna, stage a grandiose performance at the Paris climate summit only to return home to ramp up bitumen extraction and export.  A shameless, wanton betrayal of their boastful promise.

Then there was the Saudi death wagon deal. We knew what the Saudis were. We knew what they were doing. We knew what purposes those armoured vehicles, once heavily armed, would be put to. The deal wasn't even done. The requirements hadn't been met. No matter. It was a 15 billion dollar order and the Saudis could have used those things to drive over little babies, it wouldn't have stopped Trudeau from cementing the deal.

Canada as a surveillance state? Trudeau promised to reform Harper's bill C-51. Voters thought he would rein it in. Fat chance.

Israel and the persecution of an enslaved people? Alison at Creekside has kept a meticulous record of Canada's voting record on motions in the UN General Assembly dealing with Israel or Palestine or both. These are things much too mundane to show up in Canada's news media. We knew Harper was an utter Likudnik. It appealed to his Christian fundamentalism. But Trudeau? He's in lockstep with Harper. Every time a resolution comes up at all critical of Israel the usual suspects - the United States, Canada and a gaggle of South Pacific island states bought and paid for - dutifully vote in opposition. Trudeau has Canada stand against the rest of the world - South America, Africa, all of Asia, and most importantly, the entire European Union. He has made us complicit.

Now the world has Trump and Trudeau is quick to morph into his dutiful lapdog fearful perhaps that the Cheeto Benito might give us a thrashing over NAFTA. It rarely turns out well when your instincts are to show cowardice to a bully.

For these and so many other reasons it's no longer possible to contend that liberalism exists within this Liberal government. It is to liberal as Christy Clark is and that is not remotely.

In the next election I will work to drive every Liberal MP from this province. When the usual pandering starts about how that only ensures a Conservative return to power I'll respond that doesn't make much difference. The Trudeau Liberals have failed Canada. They could have honoured their solemn promises. They could have made Canada better. They didn't even try.

UPDATE:

As you may recall, Justin was given an Easter weekend kick in the balls yesterday at both Slate.com and in The Guardian. In the first he was depicted as a spineless, "bargain basement Obama." In the other he was outed as a "stunning hypocrite" on climate change. Both assessments were fair and accurate.

Today, our erstwhile prime minister, is getting a thumping from Huffington Post where Elijah Dan questions whether Trudeau doesn't show fascist-grade tendencies of dishonesty.


A couple weeks ago, Bill Maher had Timothy Snyder on as a guest. Yale professor of history, Snyder's recent book is titled, On Tyranny. Given the Trump presidency, Snyder's book sounds as timely as you can get.

In it, Snyder details the many lessons we can learn from the history of tyranny. One in particular caught my attention. It's the frangible relationship between truth and politics, and how abandoning truth is a frontal attack on democracy:

"Without truth we don't have trust. Without trust, we don't have the rule of law. Without the rule of law, we don't have democracy."
...

"People who are going for post-fact; people who are against the truth are taking the direct line to killing democracy... when we think about post-fact ... what we should be thinking about is fascism."

Then came the part that really grabbed my attention:

"It's the fascists who said everyday life doesn't matter; details don't matter; facts don't matter; all that matters is the message, the leader, the myth, the totality."

What surprised me, listening to Snyder's description of the earmarks of fascism, was that Donald Trump didn't come to mind.

Popping up instead was the image of our own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, complete with sleeves rolled up on his crisp, white dress shirt.


Dann cautions that we make the mistake of measuring Trudeau against Trump rather than weighing the prime minister on his own dishonesty.

Justin doesn't have the kind of temperament as Trump, and Trudeau lacks the overt, brute power of the post-fact machinations of an American sized, propaganda machine.

But be careful here. It's exactly that sort of reasoning that makes fascism so dangerous.

Mesmerized by the most extreme perpetrators, we can then unconsciously ignore egregious abuses of democracy by more "normal," even cuddly-appearing leaders.

The bottom line: Our Prime Minister shouldn't be held to less a standard because there are more notorious examples in public office. A lie is a lie, is a lie.

The comparison then, isn't with Trump. It's with the standard of truth, and Trudeau's own stabs at Canadian democracy, including the declaration that electoral reform is no longer necessary, or wearing big-boy pants and saying too quickly that Trump's military strike in a foreign country is justified.


Justin's duplicitous dance with climate change.

With our large per/capita, carbon footprint, as PM, he has a political and moral obligation to to treat it with the utmost seriousness. No post-fact mooseshit; no alt-fact weaseling.

So we have Justin at the United Nations in New York City, signing the Paris climate treaty, looking all diligent and serious for the cameras (not without a few indulgent photos), saying that we -- especially he, with his newly minted Minister of the Environment and Climate Change -- do take it seriously.

Then, only to return to Canada and say that he has a duty to get our "natural resources" to market, which means the worst of the worst: Further exploiting the tarsands, and building pipelines out to BC to ship bitumen to Asia.


Most certainly drawing upon his skills learned as a former drama substitute teacher, Justin dug deep, first with Post-Truth whopper #1:

"We know we can get our resources to market more safely and responsibly while meeting our climate change goals"

Quickly followed by Post-Truth Whopper #2:

"This is a decision based on rigorous debate, on science and on evidence."

These two statements, simply and categorically, are a contradiction in terms.

They are no different from the utterances, "the circle is a square." "Some bachelors are married males." "The pregnant virgin." "He's a gentle torturer." "She's a towering midget." "All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others." Or, in Trudeau's case, "Wrong is right, and right is wrong."

All are Post-Fact blatherings. All are an overt shout in the face that, "details don't matter; facts don't matter; all that matters is the message, the leader, the myth, the totality."


The scale of Trudeau's lying is troubling enough, and the consequences could last a generation. Cynicism can act as a contagion on young people who look for leaders with vision. And when that trust is violated, it's a harshness that's grossly unfair to perpetrate on young voters.

I don't care if you're a Liberal or a New Democrat, a Green or "none of the above," you know this prime minister is a liar, as wanton a dissembler as the guy we so loathed whom he replaced. Whenever Trudeau's partisan political fortunes clash with the interests of the country and betterment of our countryman, Trudeau can be counted on to place the Liberal Party first.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Samuel L. Jackson Unleashes a Little "Pulp Fiction" Before Tuesday's Georgia Vote


It's expected to be a close race in Georgia's 6th District Special Congressional Election.

Samuel L. Jackson used a bit of Pulp Fiction magic to stir Democrats to get out and vote:

It Could Be Another Hot, Riotous Summer for the United States


It happened in an instant.


The guy in the blue shirt is identified as Nate Damigo, a white supremacist who attends California State University. In the clip below, at the 30 second mark, you can see Damigo punching this unidentified woman, a Trump protester, dropping her to the ground.



The riot occurred at Berkeley as Trump supporters clashed with "AntiFa" (anti-fascist) demonstrators. The Trump gang labeled themselves "pro-free speech."

It does carry the hallmarks of the violence between socialists and fascists in Germany in the 30s. It bears an eerie similarity to fascist riots in Israel and across Europe in recent years.


Another WMD Hoax?



Was the Idlib sarin gas attack blamed on Bashar Assad a hoax?

This is not some Facebook conspiracy theory. Let's get that out of the way. It's the opinion of Theodore Postol, this guy:  professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a specialist in weapons issue. At the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, he advised on missile basing, and he later was a scientific consultant to the chief of naval operations at the Pentagon. He is a recipient of the Leo Szilard Prize from the American Physical Society and the Hilliard Roderick Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he was awarded the Norbert Wiener Award from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility for uncovering numerous and important false claims about missile defenses. There, okay?

Postol contends that the White House Intelligence Report of 11 April that found Assad had used sarin gas against the civilian population if Idlib was ginned up. That report, he says, was fabricated.

...the White House Intelligence Report contains false and misleading claims that could not possibly have been accepted in any professional review by impartial intelligence experts. The WHR was produced by the National Security Council under the oversight of national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

The evidence presented herein is from two selected videos that are part of a larger cache of videos that are available on YouTube. These videos were uploaded to YouTube by the SMART News Agency between April 5 and April 7. Analysis of the videos shows that all the scenes taken at the site the WHR claims was the location of a sarin release indicate significant tampering with the site. Since these videos were available roughly one week before the WHR was issued April 11, this indicates that the office of the WHR made no attempt to utilize the professional intelligence community to obtain accurate data in support of the findings in the report.

The video evidence shows workers at the site roughly 30 hours after the alleged attack who were wearing clothing with the logo “Idlib Health Directorate.” These individuals were photographed putting dead birds from a birdcage into plastic bags. The implication of these actions was that the birds had died after being placed in the alleged sarin crater. However, the video also shows the same workers inside and around the same crater with no protection of any kind against sarin poisoning.

These individuals were wearing honeycomb facemasks and medical exam gloves. They were otherwise dressed in normal streetwear and had no protective clothing of any kind.

The honeycomb facemasks would provide absolutely no protection against either sarin vapors or sarin aerosols. The masks are only designed to filter small particles from the air. If sarin vapor was present, it would be inhaled without attenuation by these individuals. If sarin was present in an aerosol form, the aerosol would have condensed into the pores in the masks and evaporated into a highly lethal gas as the individuals inhaled through the masks. It is difficult to believe that health workers, if they were health workers, would be so ignorant of these basic facts.


There is a great deal more to Postol's critique. Part One is here. Part Two is here. Part Three is here.





While Trudeau Fiddles, The Arctic Melts


Across the Arctic, the permafrost is thawing and, like everything else up there, it's happening faster than we had ever foreseen.

CBC News reports on Inuvik where the town's buildings are sinking, settling into what once was their frozen terra firma. Foundations are so compromised that buildings are being demolished.

Half of Canada is blanketed in some form of permafrost, including patches in the northern reaches of Ontario and the Prairie provinces.

But in many places, including around Inuvik, NWT, as much as 90 per cent of this "ground" is actually frozen water. (The rest is dirt, rocks and decomposed organic material that was once trees, shrubs, even animals.)

For years now, buildings in Inuvik have been gradually sinking into the ground as it softens. Others are so unstable, they are literally sliding off their foundations.

...
Scientists in the Northwest Territories, Alaska and Siberia are now realizing that as the ground under them melts, it will not only make life harder for the people living in the Arctic, but will in fact speed up climate change around the globe.

The World Meteorological Organisation says the globe is now in uncharted territory, with temperatures in 2016 the hottest ever recorded.
...

Above the Arctic Circle, the permafrost hasn't melted since at least the last Ice Age, more than 10,000 years ago.

No one knows exactly what it will unleash when it melts. But no one thinks it will be good.

At the very least, it's changing the landscape. The Mackenzie Delta is a maze of small lakes and broad hillsides. People who live in Inuvik say they don't have to travel far from town in the summer to see craters that formed when the surface layer of land simply collapsed
.


And then, with the drying of the tundra and thawing of the permafrost comes the methane, for hundreds of thousands of years safely sequestered in the icy permafrost.

"It scares me," said Kumari Karunaratne, a permafrost expert who works for the Northwest Territories Geological Survey. "This methane that's being released is being released over huge areas across the north. And it's continually seeping out."

So, what is our federal government doing about this. Is it riding to the rescue of this region in distress? Hardly, it - the government of Justin Trudeau - is ramping up bitumen production and export. Justin Trudeau is intent on making the plight of the far north worse, much worse. Judging by the Trudeau government's policies, he can't make it worse enough, fast enough. Put that in your smug Liberal pipe and smoke it.



The Emperor Has No Clothes, The Emperor Has No Clothes, The Emperor Has No...


A tough day for the Dauphin.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Justin Trudeau is being called out for who he is, not what he appears to be. In fact, the Canadian prime minister is compared to Donald Trump and found far more similar than different.

Slate.com points out the obvious, Justin Trudeau isn't really standing up to Trump.

Trudeau isn’t Canada’s answer to Trump. He’s Canada’s answer to Barack Obama. Our habit isn’t to reject America. It’s to imitate you, a few years later and a few degrees milder. Just like you, we replaced a divisive old conservative (Stephen Harper) with a young, feel-good centrist in progressive clothing. Unlike you, we played it safe and went with a name-brand candidate—only in Canada could the son of a former prime minister be considered a transformational leader.

More ominously, the article suggests our "bargain basement Obama" could deliver our next prime minister - Kevin O'Leary.

Canadians tend to demand emulation, and if our copycat trend continues, the electorate will eventually choose a Canadian Trump, just as it elected a Canadian Obama. It’s a plan well underway.

Leading the polls in the current leadership race for Canada’s Conservative Party is a reality television star who cultivates the persona of an obnoxious rich businessman. Sound familiar?

Americans may know Kevin O’Leary from ABC’s Shark Tank. Canadians have a decent chance of knowing him as our next prime minister.

On the far side of the Atlantic, The Guardian is running a piece by Bill McKibben who writes, "Donald Trump is a creep and unpleasant to look at, but at least he's not a stunning hypocrite when it comes to climate change."

...when it comes to the defining issue of our day, climate change, he’s a brother to the old orange guy in DC.

Not rhetorically: Trudeau says all the right things, over and over. He’s got no Scott Pruitts in his cabinet: everyone who works for him says the right things. Indeed, they specialize in getting others to say them too – it was Canadian diplomats, and the country’s environment minister Catherine McKenna, who pushed at the Paris climate talks for a tougher-than-expected goal: holding the planet’s rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But those words are meaningless if you keep digging up more carbon and selling it to people to burn, and that’s exactly what Trudeau is doing. He’s hard at work pushing for new pipelines through Canada and the US to carry yet more oil out of Alberta’s tarsands, which is one of the greatest climate disasters on the planet.

The truth is there isn't much in either article that hasn't been expressed on plenty of blogs, this one included. It's just that those observations and sentiments have gone on into the big time.

Trudeau is all show, no go; all hat, no cattle; all Margaret, no Pierre. When the going gets tough, you'll always find him on his knees, ducking.

[EnviroMin, Dame Cathy] McKenna, confronted by Canada’s veteran environmentalist David Suzuki, said tartly “we have an incredible climate change plan that includes putting a price on carbon pollution, also investing in clean innovation. But we also know we need to get our natural resources to market and we’re doing both”. Right.

But doing the second negates the first – in fact, it completely overwhelms it. If Canada is busy shipping carbon all over the world, it doesn’t matter all that much if every Tim Horton’s stopped selling donuts and started peddling solar panels instead.

As the Donald would put it: weak, failing. so sad.




Sunday, April 16, 2017

That Swamp, the One Trump Promised to Drain? Well, Think Again.



By now Hillary was supposed to be behind bars, those currency manipulating Chinese were supposed to be reeling and begging for mercy, NATO would be taken down a notch or two, the United States and its people would be luxuriating in the blessings of America First, and "the Swamp," backroom Washington, would be madly draining away.

Only not so much. Trump has surrounded himself with some curious populist reformers. They're in camps. There are the generals, arguably the sane bunch of Trump's cabinet. Then there is Team Goldman Sachs, swamp drainers extraordinaire. Then there's the Billionaire Boys' (and Girls') Club. Finally there's the High Priests of the Trump administration also known as Donald's kids, Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

To Trump, Washington was the temple and he was going to drive out the money-changers. Only, like pretty much everything else he promised, that was electioneering bullshit.

It seems Trump has wasted no time in expanding "regulatory capture" of the federal government. If you're not familiar with the term it describes the situation where membership in government regulatory boards and tribunals is stacked with representatives of the very industries being regulated.


President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.

In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.

...

This revolving door of lobbyists and government officials is not new in Washington. Both parties make a habit of it.

But the Trump administration is more vulnerable to conflicts than the prior administration, particularly after the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years. The White House also announced on Friday that it would keep its visitors’ logs secret, discontinuing the release of information on corporate executives, lobbyists and others who enter the complex, often to try to influence federal policy. The changes have drawn intense criticism from government ethics advocates across the city.
...

The president has vowed to unwind some of the Obama administration’s signature regulatory initiatives, from Wall Street rules to environmental regulations, and he has installed a class of former corporate influencers to lead the push. Administration supporters argue that appointees with corporate ties can inject a new level of sophistication into the federal bureaucracy and help the economy grow. And efforts to trim regulations in some areas have attracted bipartisan support.

But in several cases, officials in the Trump administration now hold the exact jobs they targeted as lobbyists or lawyers in the past two years.

...

Mr. Trump’s own ethics executive order in late January eliminated a requirement, first adopted by President Barack Obama, that executive branch appointees not accept jobs in agencies they recently lobbied. That weakened standards applying to approximately 4,000 executive branch hires.

Mr. Trump also made it easier for former lobbyists in the government to get waivers that would let them take up matters that could benefit former clients.

During the Obama administration, these waivers were given only under a narrow set of circumstances, and had to be filed and explained in an annual report for public inspection, Mr. Shaub said. The waivers were also previously posted on the Government Ethics website. None have been posted since Mr. Trump became president, as sharing them is no longer required.


The Gullibillies who put Trump in office were often heard to say they expected him to bring a business approach to government and that's precisely what they got. Trump is treating the government of the United States as a private enterprise, property of his, his family's and the wealthiest and most powerful people in the USA. The Trump government is now controlled by and in service to a select few and they're bound to jury rig it to their own advantage. Now, how about another tax cut for the richest of the rich. I know, we'll do it in the guise of health care reform.






Saturday, April 15, 2017

MOAB - Less and More Than Meets the Eye


A grand furore ensued following the use of a U.S. mega-bomb called MOAB against what was said to be an ISIS gathering point in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. MOAB, an acronym for Mother of All Bombs/Massive Ordinance Air Blast, is really just a huge firecracker with a twist.

MOAB is thermobaric. Think of it as "blast plus." These weapons don't carry their own oxidizer. They're all explosive, often very fine aluminum dust particles, that disperse into a cloud where they mix with oxygen. Then they explode, creating a massive overpressurization capable of killing within a one mile radius. The wicked part is what happens next. The bomb creates a powerful vacuum that tends to draw innards out. No point getting into the minutiae of that.

The US military has used MOAB exactly once. Because of the state of the corpses you don't want to use it where photographers might show up. Another problem is the delivery system. MOAB is dropped out of the cargo bay of a C-130 Hercules transport. You don't want to go trolling a C-130 anywhere there might be hostile fighters or surface to air batteries. You don't want your MOAB and your Hercules finding terra firma at the same time.

It's now estimated that Trump's MOAB killed 94 ISIS fighters. That's the story anyway. Hard to have much sympathy for ISIS types. But maybe ISIS wasn't the real target.

MOAB might have been intended to deliver a message to Pyongyang and Beijing that Trump won't hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction, next time perhaps nuclear. It was also a big hit with America's "red meat" brigade.



There are concerns that Trump has taken America to a "near-nuclear" threshold just in time for Easter. Meanwhile peace talks are underway today, Good Friday, in Moscow. Everybody who's anybody is there, including the Taliban. Well, not quite everybody. The United States wasn't invited nor any of the NATO/ISAF partners. That leaves just the Talibs, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, four of the other "stans," China and Russia sitting at the table.


Another One Gone - CanProg


Canadian Progressive Voices, aka CanProg, is gone. Lauralee and her partners concluded it was no longer economic to continue. There were a few important bloggers who had become CanProg affiliates. Hope they'll migrate over to ProgBlog.