Friday, June 22, 2018
Ontario premier Doug Ford seemingly can't figure out how weed should be sold in the province once recreational pot use becomes legal in October.
Oh, I see his problem. You just can't do it out of the trunk of your car any more.
You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month. They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.
Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, onetime shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trump not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”.
Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.
The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too.
Put starkly, the norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us. It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead.
Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand – and now the tide is coming in.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?
They were only supposed to say good things.
America's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has unloaded both barrels on a report criticizing Donald Trump for worsening the plight of Americans living in poverty.
Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said she was “deeply disappointed” that the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, had “categorically misstated the progress the United States has made in addressing poverty … in [his] biased reporting”. She added that in her view that “it is patently ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America” – which prompted puzzlement as Alston carried out his investigation at the formal invitation of the Trump administration.
[Bernie] Sanders on Thursday issued a further response to Haley’s attack on the UN rapporteur. The 2016 runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination agreed with Haley that Burundi and the Democratic Republic Congo faced far worse problems, but pointedly remarked that America’s poverty was taking place “in the richest country in the history of the world and a time when wealth and income inequality is worse than at any time since the 1920s”.
Sanders said it was appropriate for the UN to focus on America, given that 40 million people in the US still live in poverty, more than 30 million have no health insurance, and 40% of Americans cannot afford $400 in an emergency.
“I hope you will agree that in a nation in which the top three people own more wealth than the bottom half, we can and must do much better than that,” Sanders said.
The sharpness of tone in Haley’s criticisms of the UN rapporteur raises questions about whether the timing of the Trump administration’s decision to quit the UN human rights council was motivated in part by irritation over Alston’s decision to put his spotlight on American inequality.
President Donald Trump's embattled personal attorney, Michael Cohen, retweeted a photo of himself with comedian Tom Arnold — who happens to be working on a show with Vice that features him hunting for unflattering video of Trump.
Arnold told NBC News early Friday that Cohen ― who is under investigation by federal prosecutors ― talked to him for the show, which is expected to air later this year.
"We’ve been on the other side of the table and now we’re on the same side," said Arnold, an outspoken Trump critic.
"It’s on! I hope he [Trump] sees the picture of me and Michael Cohen and it haunts his dreams."
Vice announced in May that it had tapped Arnold to helm a show called "The Hunt for the Trump Tapes," and investigate whether rumored tapes from the past showing the president in a negative light actually exist.
"The host will draw on his high-profile network of celebrity friends, entertainment executives, and crew members he's met over more than 35 years in showbiz to dig for evidence on Trump's most incriminating moments — and, being a comedian and all, he'll have a little fun along the way," Vice said in the announcement of the show.
"He'll be backed up by a handful of experienced journalists, and — aside from trying to uncover the tapes themselves — he'll look into the companies and tycoons who have allegedly fought to keep the damning recordings a secret."
Arnold would not say whether Cohen was planning to give him any tapes he might have of conversations with Trump.
But he added, "This dude has all the tapes — this dude has everything."
"I say to Michael, 'Guess what? We’re taking Trump down together, and he’s so tired he’s like, 'OK,' and his wife is like, 'OK, f*** Trump,'" Arnold said, laughing.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Bill McKibbin has some news - good news to some, bad news to others. Fossil energy markets are falling apart. The environmental activist (350.com) says energy stocks are suddenly weak.
Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”Two other developments McKibbin notes: the rapid transition to electric power and successful efforts being made by the environmental movement to undermine fossil fuel investment.
The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical. Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices – which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense. Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful. The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns.
Tesla, sure – but Volkswagen, having come clean about the dirtiness of diesel, is going to spend $84bn on electric drivetrains. China seems bent on converting its entire bus fleet to electric power. Every week seems to bring a new record-low price for clean energy: the most recent being a Nevada solar plant clocking in at 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour, even with Trump’s tariffs on Chinese panels.
...the third problem for the fossil fuel industry? According to IEEFA, that would be the climate movement – a material financial risk to oil and gas companies. “In addition to traditional lobbying and direct-action campaigns, climate activists have joined with an increasingly diverse set of allies – particularly the indigenous-rights movement – to put financial pressure on oil and gas companies through divestment campaigns, corporate accountability efforts, and targeting of banks and financial institutions. These campaigns threaten not only to undercut financing for particular projects, but also to raise financing costs for oil and gas companies across the board.”Sorry, Rachel. Sorry, Jason and you too, Justin, sorry but you're all arriving to the party 20-years too late. It's just bad luck that when Manitou was distributing energy resources around the world he gave Canada the shit end of the stick - bitumen.
Presidents have many jobs, and one is telling us who we are.
For the first 240 years of U.S. history, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation by naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, equality. The Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson etched onto the Declaration of Independence were given voice by Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama.
Donald Trump doesn’t talk like that. In the 18 months since his Inauguration, Trump has mentioned “democracy” fewer than 100 times, “equality” only 12 times and “human rights” just 10 times. The tallies, drawn from factba.se, a searchable online agglomeration of 5 million of Trump’s words, contrast with his predecessors’: at the same point in his first term, Ronald Reagan had mentioned equality three times as often in recorded remarks, which included 48 references to human rights, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Trump embraces a different set of values. He speaks often of patriotism, albeit in the narrow sense of military duty, or as the kind of loyalty test he’s made to NFL players. He also esteems religious liberty and economic vitality. But American’s 45th President is “not doing what rhetoricians call that ‘transcendent move,'” says Mary E. Stuckey, a communications professor at Penn State University and author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity. Instead, with each passing month he is testing anew just how far from our founding humanism his “America first” policies can take us. And over the past two months on our southern border, we have seen the result.
...A week after his return from the June 12 summit with North Korea’s dictator, family separation dominated the national conversation like no other political story since former FBI chief James Comey was shown the door. A steadily building wave of revulsion washed over the political spectrum, from MSNBC to the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to Franklin Graham and into the White House living quarters, when a spokeswoman for the First Lady said she called for “a country that governs with heart.”
Which leaves us facing a question: What kind of country are we? The world has been nervously asking that since November 2016. And while Trump ultimately capitulated on the forced separation of children, his new order suggested that families would be detained not only together, but perhaps indefinitely. For many Americans, the forced separation of immigrant families left them looking into the void from which the brutal policy emerged: the dark space left by the words Trump does say.
...What’s lost in Trump’s approach is any expectation of higher purpose. He makes no apology for lavishing praise on authoritarian leaders that past U.S. Presidents dealt with at arm’s length—Egypt’s Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (“somebody that’s been very close to me from the first time I met him”), the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte (“great relationship”) and Russia’s “strong leader” Vladimir Putin. When China’s Xi Jinping announced he would be President for life, placing 1.4 billion people deeper under government control, Trump offered congratulations.
...The story we tell the world is also the story we tell ourselves. Trump began June by blowing up the G-7 gathering of the world’s leading democracies by refusing to sign a joint statement endorsing “shared values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and our commitment to promote a rules-based international order.” He slapped tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the European Union, advised France to drop out of the E.U., and urged Germans to support right-wing anti-immigrant parties intent on deposing Chancellor Angela Merkel. The leaders of France and Canada replied by citing “values,” but Trump had moved on to Singapore, where he praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, whose regime actively operates a network of gulags, as “a funny guy … very smart … his country does love him. You see the fervor.”
...It was Alexis de Tocqueville, the French observer of the early American character, who recognized the danger of placing too much value on business, law and order at the expense of the higher values. Warning of the country’s obsession with material gain and the enforcement of order necessary to pursue it, he wrote, “A nation that asks nothing of its government but the maintenance of order is already a slave at heart.”
Which is why the test posed with Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy is as much about our future as it is about the tragedy of the families separated by its implementation. Trump may have backed down on the specific practice of family separation, but the larger question remains. In the balance between the integrity of the U.S. border with Mexico and a parent’s love for a child, where will we come down?
“Without a Border, you don’t have a Country,” the President wrote on June 19. Everyone knows that. The question is, what kind of country?
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Today I received a Facebook notification about some outfit called "Ontario Proud." I hadn't heard of it but the word "proud" caught my attention and got me thinking about the far right/alt.right men's organization, the Proud Boys. Huffington Post describes it as one of those "in your face, far right groups that support" Donald J. Trump, the Mango Mussolini.
So I tracked down the Ontario Proud website and, sure enough, it was full of far right "dog whistle" messaging. Turns out it's a proud supporter of the former mid-level drug dealer/premier of Ontario.
Next I did a quick Google search of Ontario Proud. There were plenty of articles from the rightwing, National Post, to the centre-right, Globe and Mail, to CanadaLand, Reddit and other online sites. It seems to have emerged out of another ultra rightwing outfit, Alberta Proud. OP says there's no affiliation but AP is run by "friends."
CanadaLand has called it, "the king of Canadian Conservative shitposting."
Similar to [Ezra Levant's] Rebel Media, Ontario Proud has amassed a large email and postal code database of 88,000 supporters by asking viewers of their video content to sign petitions and take a pledge to vote out Wynne next year. The petitions and pledge require an individual to provide their email address and postal code. Also like The Rebel, Ontario Proud uses the popular campaign software NationBuilder to compile this information.It also seems Ontario Proud loves to dish it out but turns gnarly when it comes to those criticizing it. It likes to issue threats to sue.
At 4:24 p.m. on Monday, April 23, shortly after the horrific van attack in Toronto, Semley replied to a tweet from CANADALAND news editor Jonathan Goldsbie about how Ontario Proud had edited a Facebook post to remove a description of the event as an “apparent terrorist attack”:
Ontario Proud quietly edits post to remove reference to "apparent terrorist attack": pic.twitter.com/yq3O8Lbe0A
— Jonathan Goldsbie (@goldsbie) April 23, 2018
“[L]ikely a DIRECT result of my repeatedly telling them that they’re using the word exclusively to peddle paranoia and a demonstrably racist political agenda,” Semley tweeted. He had been arguing against the use of the term “terrorist” in the comments below their Facebook post.
Twenty-four minutes later, Ontario Proud board member and lawyer Ryan O’Connor sent Semley an email threatening to sue him for defamation if he didn’t delete the “libellous tweets” and make a public apology on Twitter.
“Your false and defamatory comments have caused reputational damage to Ontario Proud, its employees, and its directors. This is especially so considering that you have disseminated your libel on the web and to your 4,872 Twitter followers. The fact that you have accused Ontario Proud of engaging the promotion of ‘racis[m]’, which is proscribed by law, is high-handed and malicious and has amplified the damages Ontario Proud has sustained,” read part of O’Connor’s email to Semley.Of course we quickly learned the murderous attack was not the work of dark skinned terrorists but a guy from a fringe alt.right group known as InCels - Involuntary Celibates - guys who for imponderable reasons can't get laid.
Macleans find's OP's claim of non-partisanship a tad hard to swallow.
As in the U.S., the veil of non-partisanship around the Ontario groups can seem exceedingly thin. Ontario Proud’s mission statement says that it’s “dedicated to holding Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal government accountable” and has almost exclusively focused on attacking the Liberal leader (and occasionally Justin Trudeau) since its inception. But in wake of the NDP’s recent surge in the polls, it’s begun to shift its sights to Andrea Horwath and the NDP.Then there's the dreaded "H" word.
Before he founded Ontario Proud, Ballingall held several political jobs in the Harper government. He was a video specialist for the Conservative caucus and ran communications for Jim Prentice, who was then the minister of western economic diversification, until 2009. Subsequently, he spent a year as Toronto city councillor John Parker’s executive assistant and two years working for Sun Media.Full disclosure. I'm a Green, federally and provincially. I don't care that Kathleen Wynne lost the election. From what I've read she deserved it. I'm not sure that Ontario deserved Doug, brother of Rob Ford, but that's the way Ontario voters saw it - or were helped to see it.
Ontario Proud and its rivals are really chicken scratch outfits. Two hours drive south of where I live is a small outfit by the name of Aggregate IQ. AIQ was set up by school buddies of another Victoria guy by the name of Chris Wylie. AIQ and Wylie created the wizardry that was used by another outfit, Cambridge Analytica, that was funded by US billionaire, Robert Mercer, and run by a guy named Steve Bannon, to psyche American voters into supporting Donald Trump. It worked. They also swung Britain's Brexit referendum to the Leave side. Both were improbable upset victories. Only they weren't.
What I detest about these outfits is that they use inflammatory messaging to manipulate people, to create inflamed voters instead of informed voters, and, in doing that, they subvert democracy.
Look at what their wizardry can do, what it has already done. It has installed a pathological liar, deviant, serial sex offender, racist, misogynist, thieving, cheating, malignant narcissist in the White House. If it can be done to the States it probably won't be long before someone tries to replicate it here.
Cambridge Analytica boasted that, by scouring social media, it had amassed no fewer than 5,000 data points on every American voter.
Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting—relying on online clues like Facebook Likes to give a hint at a user’s political leanings and construct a picture of a voter’s mental state. The “psychographic” picture Cambridge ostensibly provides to a campaign is the ability to tailor a specific message based on personality type – angry, fearful, optimistic and so forth – rather than simply aiming ads at voters from likely convivial candidates.
Russian propaganda on Facebook and other social-media platforms passed itself off as authentic American voices; targeting refugees, posing as an American Muslim groupand backing an Atlanta-based duo supporting Black Lives Matter. Depending on which cohort was being targeted, the efforts encouraged pro-Trump voters to intensify political participation, black voters to abandon Hillary Clinton for Trump, and Muslim voters to consider Clinton an Islamophobe.
Here's the problem in a nutshell:
“It’s no exaggeration to say that minds can be changed. Behaviour can be predicted and controlled. I find it incredibly scary. I really do. Because nobody has really followed through on the possible consequences of all this. People don’t know it’s happening to them. Their attitudes are being changed behind their backs.”
“The danger of not having regulation around the sort of data you can get from Facebook and elsewhere is clear. With this, a computer can actually do psychology, it can predict and potentially control human behaviour. It’s what the scientologists try to do but much more powerful. It’s how you brainwash someone. It’s incredibly dangerous."
Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. ...with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves.”
...Tamsin Shaw, an associate professor of philosophy at New York University, helps me understand the context. She has researched the US military’s funding and use of psychological research for use in torture. “The capacity for this science to be used to manipulate emotions is very well established. This is military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy and is being used to sway elections in ways that people can’t even see, don’t even realise is happening to them,” she says. “It’s about exploiting existing phenomenon like nationalism and then using it to manipulate people at the margins. To have so much data in the hands of a bunch of international plutocrats to do with it what they will is absolutely chilling."
American elections have been a rich feeding ground for dirty tricksters going back to Lee Atwater (George H.W. Bush) and Roger Stone (Nixon/Trump). Back in the day the name that was used for their craft was "ratfucking" elections.
In the age of social media the new game is "mindfucking" - targeting individual voters and manipulating the outcome.
We've seen the havoc that has befallen the United States, indeed the world at large, from the election of Trump. Why would we allow something along those very same lines to get a toehold in Canada, to someday subvert our democracy?
She's xenophobic, racist and a bottomless pit of evil. Some, like Bill Maher, still imagine he can have a dialogue with this scumqueen but that is a self-serving contrivance of looking the other way.
Coulter has jumped into the Mexican baby fiasco to do what she does best - dehumanize those kids. Coulter wants Americans and especially Donald Trump to believe those crying kids are "child actors."
Here are excerpts from The Atlantic writer, Megan Garber's powerful and disturbing essay, "How to Look Away."
“These child actors weeping and crying on all the other networks 24/7 right now; do not fall for it, Mr. President.”
Ann Coulter, on Sunday, was speaking to that famed audience of one—Donald Trump—in the language whose grammar and idioms both of them understand intuitively: that of the Fox News Channel. But the pundit wasn’t speaking to the world leader so much as she was warning him. And she was concerned, she suggested, not so much for the presidential mind as for the American soul. You may be tempted, she suggested to the president and the larger audience, to feel for the children who wail as they are torn away from their families at the American border; resist that temptation. Do not feel for them; they don’t deserve it. Because they’re faking it. As Coulter reiterated on Tuesday, in a follow-up interview with TMZ: “They are trying to wreck our country through a political stunt.”
The images, moving and still, are searing, in part, precisely because they are images. They capture something in immediate and visceral and urgent terms that words, even at their frankest and most effective, cannot. The Getty photographer John Moore’s viral photograph of a 2-year-old girl sobbing as she watched her mother being frisked by an agent of the American government—the pink shirt, the matching shoes, the pudgy cheeks, frozen in an expression of despair and disbelief—is worth many more than a thousand words. The audioof children crying for parents who cannot come to comfort them—the recording a symbol of both human tragedy and governmental opacity—is wrenching, emotionally, precisely because it is, rationally, so raw and so real. And, therefore, so profoundly undeniable.
And yet: Ann Coulter has been denying it. Her repeated accusation—“child actors weeping and crying”—is attempting to destabilize not just the facts on the ground, but also another kind of truth: the emotions most humans will feel, automatically, in response to children who cry in agony. Coulter’s warning to the world leader responsible for the tragedy—Do not fall for it, Mr. President—is a repetition of the logic deployed by some as a matter of moral reflex in response to the otherwise unimaginable, and otherwise inarguable, tragedies of Newtown, and Parkland, and so many others: They’re just actors, those people will insist. It’s all fake, they will assure. It is a moral claim as much as a factual one: You don’t have to act. You don’t even have to care. You can look away from this and still manage to look at yourself in the mirror.
Tragedies that need not be treated as tragedies at all, because the tragedies, in a fundamental way, are false: In one way, certainly, these are extremely fringe ideas—Ann Coulter, Coultering once more. But in another way—an ever more familiar way, as the Overton window flings ever more widely on its rusty hinges—they are not fringe at all. They have been summoned, instead, this week, across platforms that are decidedly mainstream. They have been, as it were, decidedly normalized.
The press conference conducted by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday was, overall, dedicated to the proposition that the reporting coming out of the holding facilities along the American border—the audio, the video, the images of tiny bodies held in massive cages, as a portrait of the American leader looks on—is wrong. (“Don’t believe the press,” Nielsen said, echoing one of the core intellectual and emotional propositions of Trumpism.)
... This is a moment in America in which people are talking, with mounting panic, about the slow encroachments of autocracy. One of the truisms of that discussion is the notion that a chronic condition necessary for a democracy to erode into something else is for the infrastructures of collective truth-telling to be allowed to crumble into disrepair. (Hannah Arendt’s prescient concernsweren’t just for the fate of facts, but also for a broader worry: that widespread cynicism would make facts, in some ways, irrelevant. That people would cease to believe that anything at all can be true.)
...When you hear a little girl screaming for her absent father, yes, you may, as a human person with a human soul, reply with automated empathy. You may recall, without trying to, those moments when you yourself were small, when you yourself were separated from your own parent, for an instant or the opposite—how impossibly tiny you felt, and how impossibly big the world was at that moment. You may recall, without trying to, all those times you, as a parent, could not find your child—all the panic, all the fear, all the love frantically seeking its home. You may feel it, just a very little of it, the pain of strangers that is not yours but in another way very much is. “[Children crying],” the image accompanying ProPublica’s stark audio informs you, against a screen that is infinitely dark, and the simple fact of the stark juxtaposition might make you cry. It might make you do what Rachel Maddow did on Tuesday evening, as she read from a breaking-news bulletin from the Associated Press about detention centers for very young children that are referred to, in the language of the state, as “tender-age” shelters: Break down. Lose your words. Erupt into involuntary tears.
It is precisely such an eruption, though—the connective tissue of a world that is at once sweeping and small—that many representatives of the United States, elected and not, are claiming to be false. You are being duped, they are suggesting—by the hysteria of the biased media, by the cherry-picking of images and truths, by your own easily manipulable humanity. On Tuesday, Corey Lewandowski, the former manager of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, made news on Fox News for, in response to a fellow guest’s mention of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her mother, interrupting the story with a dismissive “womp womp.” The heckle was callous and glib and deserving of the have-you-no-decency drubbing Lewandowski got in response; it was in the service, however, of an argument that the fake news are at it again, refusing to show you the full truth, the full stakes. Tucker Carlson summed it up this way: To profess horror at the events taking place at the border, the host said on his show, is to capitulate to those who “care far more about foreigners than about their own people.” It is to have lost the battle, and with it, the war. This is a matter of us and them, Carlson knows. Your own weary heart might counter that the true subject here, as it always will be, is we—but your heart, he insists, is wrong.
This is no longer a debate, two sides of a coin. It is what Edmund Burke warned of when he wrote that "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
These Trump supporters, including the Trump trolls that beset these blogs, have crossed a line. They're no longer deserving of our audience and certainly not our civility. It's time for good men to act like it.
What do Jeff Sessions, Kirstjen Nielsen, Donald Trump, FOX News and many of Trump's followers have in common? They're utter liars. They lie as easily as they breathe. They will lie about anything that they believe the Gullibillies will swallow - and that's a shipload of "anything."
When the tsunami of rage and disgust swept over the Executive Branch scumbags, they quickly tried to distract the collective idiocy by claiming they were only doing the very same thing that Obama had done during his presidency. It's the sort of thing scumbags do. And, as usual, it's a pack of lies.
"The Obama administration, the Bush administration all separated families," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen told reporters at the White House on Monday. "They absolutely did. They did — their rate was less than ours, but they absolutely did do this. This is not new."
But immigration advocates and former Obama administration officials say that's just not true: The Obama administration did not have any kind of widespread practice of separating children from their parents. Trump's policy aims to prosecute every single illegal border crossing, including asylum-seekers. The government separates children from their parents or legal guardians because the adults have been referred for prosecution for illegal entry into the United States.
The idea that this is simply a continuation of an Obama-era practice is "preposterous," said Denise Gilman, director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School. "There were occasionally instances where you would find a separated family — maybe like one every six months to a year — and that was usually because there had been some actual individualized concern that there was a trafficking situation or that the parent wasn’t actually the parent."
Once custody concerns were resolved, "there was pretty immediately reunification," Gilman told NBC News. "There were not 2,000 kids in two months — it’s not the same universe," she added.
Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, Cecilia Muñoz, said the Obama administration did consider a similar policy, but determined it heartless.
"The agencies were surfacing every possible idea,” Muñoz told The New York Times in an interview recently. "I do remember looking at each other like, ‘We’re not going to do this, are we?’ We spent five minutes thinking it through and concluded that it was a bad idea. The morality of it was clear — that’s not who we are."That is who Donald Trump is. He's more than a deviant, serial sex-offender, philandering, thieving and cheating narcissist. He's a sociopath, devoid of empathy, guided by no moral compass, a predator to all who fall within his reach. He's a despotic scumbag and it's time to realize those who follow and promote him, those who venerate him, evangelical or not, are no better. Donald Trump is an evil man, remarkably even eerily like evil men from the past. He breaks bread with kindred spirits such as Erdogan, Orban, Duterte, Kim and Putin.
Trump is evil and no one, especially no American, can refuse to see it. Our history books are full of what happens when people look the other way. For me, I merely have to look above my desk to see the pips and badges of the Canadian Fusiliers, the Oxford Rifles and the Essex Scottish, regiments in which my dad served and went to war to remind me of the evil that lurks in men such as Donald Trump.
From time to time I'll be posting articles under the title, "It's a FUBAR World now."
FUBAR is an old military acronym that took SNAFU up a notch as shown in the illustration above. It means "Fu@ked Up Beyond All Recognition." FUBAR stories can be funny, bizarre, sad, infuriating - anything that depicts how our civilization is becoming FUBAR'ed.
First a mild one. Tigers. From The Guardian an account of how there are more tigers living in captivity in the US, often domestically, than there are in the wild around the world. Few of these captive tigers are sheltered in zoos. A lot of them are living in peoples' homes, sometimes in their backyards, a situation that often ends in gunfire.
Seven thousand of the big cats live in US captivity, whereas, despite increases, there are as few as 3,890 wild tigers worldwide. Most of the captive animals are kept in unregulated conditions, as the BBC reported last week. Only 6% are housed in zoos or facilities approved by the US Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The rest live in private breeding facilities, back yards, even urban apartments. In some states, it is easier to buy a tiger than to adopt a rescue dog.
In 2011, an owner of exotic pets in Zanesville, Ohio, released his menagerie into the community; 18 tigers and other animals were shot to protect people. In 2001, Texas was forced to pass a law demanding owners register their animals after a pet tiger ripped off a young boy’s arm. “Since 1990, there have been hundreds of dangerous incidents involving big cats in the US. Four children lost their lives and dozens of others lost limbs or suffered other often traumatic injuries. Nineteen adults have been killed and scores have been mauled,” says Debbie Leahy, the manager for captive wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States.
This one goes out to the guys at Burger King. As you may have heard, the FIFA World Cup is underway in Russia. To celebrate the great event the Russian branch of Burger King set up a great promotion - free burgers for life for any woman who gets impregnated by a participating soccer player.
On Tuesday the burger chain announced a promotion on VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, offering women 3 million Russian roubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers if they get impregnated by football players competing in the World Cup.
Shortly after announcing the campaign they pulled it due to backlash. Burger King posted a statement on VK apologizing and said it had removed all materials related to the promotion. However, evidence of the stunt lives on in screenshots.I was going to wrap this up with a report on how municipalities in the US (and some in Canada) are making their homeless disappear by giving them bus tickets to other cities, sometimes long-distance trips to other states and provinces. I think I'll pass. Domesticated tigers and Russian burger promotions is probably about all you - or I - can stomach in one sitting.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
This is one of those clips you really need to watch.
Now Hansen is back to warn that our leaders are "failing miserably" in responding to this existential threat. Guess what leader is close to the top of Hansen's "worst" list? C'mon, Liberals, you know who it is.
Since this time, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions have mushroomed despite repeated, increasingly frantic warnings about civilization-shaking catastrophe, from scientists amassing reams of evidence in Hansen’s wake.
“All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem,” Hansen told the Guardian. “We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again in Paris [at the 2015 climate accord]. We haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it. Promises like Paris don’t mean much, it’s wishful thinking. It’s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.”
Hansen’s long list of culprits for this inertia are both familiar – the nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry – and surprising. Jerry Brown, the progressive governor of California, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, are “both pretending to be solving the problem” while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.
Three decades of diplomacy has blossomed into an international consensus, albeit rattled by Trump, that the temperature rise must be curbed to “well below” 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times. But in this time emissions have soared (in 1988, 20bn tons of carbon dioxide was emitted – by 2017 it was 32bn tons) with promised cuts insufficient for the 2C goal. Despite the notable growth of renewable energy such as solar and wind, Hansen believes there is no pathway to salvation without a tax on carbon-producing fuels.
“The solution isn’t complicated, it’s not rocket science,” Hansen said. “Emissions aren’t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn’t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.”
...“Poor Jim Hansen. He’s a tragic hero,” said Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard academic who studies the history of science. “The Cassandra aspect of his life is that he’s cursed to understand and diagnose what’s going on but unable to persuade people to do something about it. We are all raised to believe knowledge is power but Hansen proves the untruth of that slogan. Power is power.”
That power has been most aggressively wielded by fossil fuel companies such as Exxon and Shell which, despite being well aware of the dangers of climate change decades before Hansen’s touchstone moment in 1988, funded a network of groups that ridiculed the science and funded sympathetic politicians. Later, they were to be joined by the bulk of the US Republican party, which now recoils from any action on climate change as heresy.
“Obama was committed to action but couldn’t do much with the Congress he had,” Oreskes said. “To blame the Democrats and Obama is to misunderstand the political context. There was a huge, organized network that put forward a message of confusion and doubt.”
Climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who testified at the same 1988 hearing about sea level rise, said the struggle to confront climate change has been “discouraging”.
“The nasty anti-science movement ramped up and now we are way behind.”
“I’m convinced we will deal with the problem,” he said. “[But] not before there is an amount of suffering that is unconscionable and should’ve been avoided.”
I wish I could believe Oppenheimer's assurances but I cannot. For starters, he's committing the "original sin" of treating climate change as a stand alone problem. It simply is not. It is tightly interwoven with other major, man-made threats, especially overpopulation and our massively excessive consumption of essential resources.
Climate change is a global problem but, even if their impacts are not uniform, so too are overpopulation and over-consumption. Because these are global problems, each in its own right rising to the level of existential, they require global solutions, collaborative efforts by all nations. They are tightly connected, bonded in fact, that you cannot successfully deal with one unless you deal successfully with them all.
Because these are global threats demanding global responses we will have to ensure a high degree of global stability, especially among those nations that will be the "first and worst" impacted. These nations also tend to be the most impoverished and vulnerable. Not all by any means but most. A lack of global stability, the rise of chaos, may shred our prospects of dealing with this basket of existential challenges.
We must also recognize that the developed nations that have the greatest ability to respond to these challenges are also now receiving early onset climate change impacts. Our own resilience may be sapped, weakening our ability to respond and undermining our national and collective will to act even as the challenges multiply and worsen.
Trump has people in Canada, Mexico, Japan and Europe a bit worried about how we'll fare in a trade war with the United States. We're told we could be heading toward a recession, a drop in GDP of perhaps 2 per cent.
Trump's abuse of America's traditional allies is small potatoes. The Big Show is the Clash of the Titans, Washington versus Beijing. There's the one to watch because it's possible that could end in fireworks.
It would be much less worrisome if America had a mentally sound president. It doesn't. It has Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is in the White House and the reasonable people, the boys in the long pants, are pretty much gone. Trump has now surrounded himself with some pretty sketchy types like Pompeo, Bolton, Navarro and Haspel. They're the sort who can play on Trump's worst instincts, his deranged sense of grievance, his fears and every base instinct - they are legion. Trump embodies a malignant narcissism. He's extremely sociopathic, utterly lacking in empathy. He's impulsive and more than a little sadistic. These are the foundational attributes that Donald Trump has consistently exhibited his entire life. They're also America's Achilles Heel.
Trump may be attempting to restore America's dominance in the world. He can't. America's days as the world's industrial powerhouse are over. Trump blames that on foreign predators. Not hardly. It was America's industrial giants that, unleashed by globalism, offshored their manufacturing operations to low-wage, minimal-regulation regimes abroad. The United States quite deliberately transitioned to a "fire" economy - finance/insurance/real estate.
A few years ago I read a fascinating analysis by an American labour economist about the state of industrialism in his homeland and why so much of it was gone for good. He pointed out that manufacturing generates stable albeit modest returns on investment. Typically it's something in the range of 3 per cent. At the same time, the fire economy, Wall Street, was generating returns of 9 to 12 per cent. To encourage financial investment the feds began cutting capital gains taxes. The Triumph of the Rentier Class. Trump has no appetite for undoing that.
Do we imagine Chairman-for-Life Xi hasn't taken the measure of Trump and the box he's in? Do we think only Trump will ruthlessly exploit every opportunity, every vulnerability?
Could Trump's trade war be the very opportunity Xi has been looking for? This could be China's opportunity to cement its ascdendancy. History tells us that most of these superpower transitions lead to warfare. That was predictable when ships were made of oak, cannon were cast iron and fired grape shot. This transition will be the first we've seen in the Nuclear Age.
I would bet that Xi has a critical advantage. He can probably weather the domestic reaction to a recessionary trade war much better than Trump. Trump's base will be hit. The Gullibillies are quite vulnerable. But it will be the Kochs, the Coors and the Adelson's who will be gunning for him if they see he's launched a ruinous trade war without much chance of success. They're already incensed with Trump's trade wars. They'll be unforgiving if Trump loses his war with China or winds up groveling for terms. And let's remember who owns America's "bought and paid for" Congress.
Trump is no Simon Bolivar but he may wind up as America's Don Quixote. He cannot endure humiliation and he's now surrounded with people like Bolton, Pompeo, Navarro and Haspel. With those people steering Trump, it's Xi's advantages that I find truly worrisome.
Remember, America is flying solo this time. It has viciously turned on its allies.
Let's hope this doesn't get out of control.
Monday, June 18, 2018
Along the southern border, families with the will and the heart to flee misery and seek asylum are being torn apart — the parents charged and prosecuted and deported, rather than welcomed through open doors. Their children, alone and terrified, sit numbly in tent cities erected by ICE, Donald Trump's freshly empowered immigration enforcers, who keep visiting do-gooders away, even papering over windows to hide what's going on within.
A woman sent back to Guatemala without her son tearfully wonders if she will ever see him again.
A former Republican first lady compares the detention centres to the Japanese-American internment camps of the Second World War.
A former military general, and former CIA and NSA director, noted that other governments have separated children from parents, tweeting a picture of Auschwitz-Birkenau's railroad spur.
Most of the criticism has invoked morality, or Christian values. But this president is clearly uninterested in either, despite his closeness to evangelical Christian leaders and his own avowal of faith.
He's sensed that his voters, which are really what count, want ruthlessness, and that they can easily be persuaded to see it as patriotic: a notion he eagerly promotes.
Any criticism he treats as just politics, the easiest course of action in a country where even Supreme Court decisions are regarded as partisan.
The stated purpose of his policy is to make it clear to the world that having the "will and the heart" to get to the shining city on the hilltop will leave you in prison and your children at least temporarily orphaned. Trump wants to build an actual wall around the hilltop city, one with no doors, topped with concertina wire. Judging from his successes so far, he likely will.
Tearing Up the Neighbourhood
As for America's race issues, suffice it to say that white America has not had so bold a champion since George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Take a moment and look at Virginia's new Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, Corey Stewart, backed and praised lavishly by the president.
Which brings us to [Reagan's] hilltop city's free ports, humming with commerce. Trump is single handedly putting an end to that, too, making something else clear to the world: rules-based trade and commerce is for chumps.
To him, America's allies are weak fools – he actually taunts them publicly – who need to understand that what counts is American power, against which they cannot prevail. Either they accept his terms, or he crushes them. Already, he's labelled their exports a threat to America's national security.
Trump's War Against Truth and Democracy.
As journalism professor Jay Rosen has persuasively argued, Trump is clearly winning his war against the media, an institution Trump has described as a great danger to America.
Fact-checking, the essence of journalism, no longer matters much, says Rosen, because it carries no consequence.
Politicians, caught lying, used to at least stop repeating the lie, even if they wouldn't admit having lied. Being a proven liar was just too uncomfortable. No longer. Trump lies easily and overwhelmingly; he couldn't give a toss about fact-checkers, and neither do his supporters.
The brazen lie is now of no more consequence than serial philandering or consorting with foreign enemies who want to corrupt elections.
Donald Trump, who loves winning, is winning. He is beating America's allies, he is crushing America's media, he is demonizing and desiccating American law enforcement, and hinting that in the end, he might even use his pardon power to sweep away rule of law. He has in fact already done so.
In her op-ed for The Washington Post, Laura Bush asked for compassion, kindness and morality. This is not America, she argued.
Well, yes it is. Trump is America, and America, it turns out, isn't so exceptional after all.No good will come to Canada if we have political leadership that will not accept reality. America is no longer our ally or even our friend. It has fundamentally changed even if so many Americans have not. America's "bought and paid for" Congress won't stand up to their homegrown despot. Neither will America's ideologically compromised Supreme Court.
Ordinary, decent Americans are being subverted as much as anyone else. Today their own Supreme Court ensured they will still be electorally abused by gerrymandering.
The Western alliance needs to gather and figure out how we're going ahead against this new America. We have to cut ourselves loose from this ogre.
Canadians have always taken for granted our "special relationship" with the United States and the longest undefended border in the world, yada, yada, yada.
Integrating our economy with America's seemed like a no-brainer. Hey, they're just next door. They're our only "next door." One thing led to another and eventually we integrated other aspects of our national identity such as our foreign and military policy. In many ways we were the dutiful branch plant to Washington's Head Office.
For years I've been questioning if we hadn't lashed Canada's boat too tightly to America's leaky ship. Were we making ourselves unduly vulnerable to the vagaries and fortunes of the American state?
Before Trump I never imagined that an American president could exploit this "special relationship," weaponize it and turn it against us. However this sadistic son-of-a-bitch has spent his entire life discerning and then exploiting the vulnerability of others. He's a predator, always has been. He's left a mountain of devastation in his wake - investors, lenders, creditors - anyone who gets within range.
Before Trump I don't think any of us imagined we would be where we are today but here we are. Our willing integration with the United States is our Achilles' Heel. If America turns schoolyard bully, we have to hand over our lunch money or take a pounding.
Yeah, but surely that's just Trump. He might be gone in a couple of years. Only it's not just Trump. Congressional Republicans, other than a few who aren't seeking re-election, are doing nothing to defend this "special relationship." Any idea that the "bought and paid for" legislative branch is Trump's co-equal, capable of independent action and holding Trump in check, is now a dark farce.
This isn't a trade dispute. It's an attack. That "special relationship" business is nonsense. You can't have a relationship, special or otherwise, without two parties.
Canada needs to re-align dramatically but it may already be too late for that. At least we can come to our senses and realize America may no longer be our friend.
Nesrine Malik has seen this all before just like anyone who grew up in the Arab world.
To those of us who grew up in the Arab world, where Islam is often invoked by “secular” regimes in order to stem political opposition, and who are accustomed to this charade of piety, there is something chilling yet comforting in observing the authoritarian evolution of the Trump administration. There is a reason why some of those regimes will not do away with blasphemy laws, so handy are they in purging political opponents. It is chilling to see religion used this way in a supposedly sophisticated, liberal democracy, and in particular this element of it, which reduces politics to mere compliance. But it is comforting, in a macabre way, to have it proved that nowhere in the world have humans evolved beyond instrumentalising religion to justify tyranny. The most bewildering thing about US dictator creep isn’t that it’s happening: it’s that it is happening with such predictability.
The terror of the Trump doctrine is not in its innovation but in its imitation. The last few months are a testament to the fact that history is not past, that the passage of time does not necessarily imply progress. The words Sessions quoted were used in the 1840s and 50s to justify slavery. When abolitionists argued that slavery was cruel, and that separating families was a violation of religious ethics, they were met with the argument of religious compliance with the law. John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post: “Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and 19th century – and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity – it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda.”
The invocation of piety is also familiarly threadbare when the behaviour of this holy sovereign, allegedly with God’s will vested in him, is taken into account. Trump is a man mired in allegations of infidelity committed across the course of his three marriages. His church attendance was summed up in his statement that he had “never asked God for forgiveness”, and he referred to communion as “my little wine” and “my little cracker”. Yet he received 80% of the white evangelical vote. Of his unlikely Christian support base, Amy Sullivan, in the New York Times, says: “Decades of fearmongering about Democrats and religious liberals have worked. 80% of white evangelicals would vote against Jesus Christ himself if he ran as a Democrat.”
This is the most sinister and most powerful element of the dictator’s playbook: the pact with the base. Every policy, every utterance, becomes about what it signifies to its target audience rather than what it objectively means.
Where others see panicked children and parents mad with distress when ripped away from their offspring, Trump supporters decipher the scene in terms of what Trump is projecting: your fears are real, your will is done, and I am its executor. Once this line of communication has been established, there is little that can disrupt it, no appeal to emotion or logic that is fruitful. It is a feedback loop that is not about values or religion or even conservatism. It is about prejudice against the other and anger at liberals, the perceived enablers of the other.
To those Americans shocked that ancient biblical texts preaching obedience to the law are being uttered by senior White House officials, those of us who have gone through the anguish of holy texts being used to justify crimes against humanity can extend much empathy but no comfort – and the certainty that there is more to come.
*When I wrote that American evangelicals now "worship" the least Christian president in their nation's history, I used the word deliberately. No matter how odious Trump is, no matter how immoral, no matter how persistently devilish the man-boy is in feeding them a steady diet of lies after lies, they have reverence for Donald Trump. They venerate him. They extend to him their faith-based stupidity, suspending disbelief, even abandoning the powerful teachings of their Christ for this anti-Christ. They are, as I noted at the start of this post, wilfully "fucked up."
Sunday, June 17, 2018
The remarkably accurate McClatchey News claims to have learned what Cohen's really looking for in his new counsel - somebody really good at plea bargaining.
And at least one wealthy friend was recently asked by Cohen to consider buying a pricey New York apartment that the embattled embattled Trump "fixer" with over a decade of business ties to Donald J. Trump is attempting to unload amid mounting legal bills, according to a source who spoke with the potential buyer. Cohen, his father Fima Shusterman and other family members own numerous properties in the New York area.
A lawyer who turned down overtures from Cohen’s camp said he did so because he wasn’t experienced in plea deals, which he said was one of the areas of strength Cohen had been seeking in new legal representation.
If Cohen agrees to cooperate with federal investigators in return for leniency, legal experts say, it could mean huge trouble for Trump, since the lawyer straddles both the political and business empires of the real estate mogul. While the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York has reportedly been investigating Cohen's personal business dealings including a once-thriving taxi company, Cohen could become a star witness against the president if he became a government witness and had information pertinent to Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller's broad investigation into Russia's 2016 meddling in the U.S. election. It was Mueller's office that referred certain information about Cohen to New York prosecutors.
CBS News is reporting that Sarah Sanders Huckabee or Huckabee Sanders, whatever, and her understudy, Raj Shah, are looking to bail out of the asylum known as Donald Trump's White House.
Several other lower-level positions in the communications department left vacant in recent weeks are likely to remain unfilled, with more departures expected in the coming weeks, according to a former official.
Numerous staffers have left the White House over the last several months, some voluntarily and others having been forced out. Those departures include Hicks; Jared Kushner's top communications aide, Josh Raffel; homeland security adviser Tom Bossert; National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton; Trump personal aide John McEntee; director of White House message strategy Cliff Simms; communications aide Steven Cheung; congressional communications director Kaelan Dorr; assistant press secretary Natalie Strom; and deputy director of media affairs Tyler Ross.
Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has studied turnover dating back to the Reagan administration, published a report that tracks senior-level departures of the Trump administration compared to previous presidencies. She told CBS News that the sheer number of top-level exits indicates a troubling inconsistency in the ranks of those who see the president on a regular basis.
"So many people haven't even stayed in these jobs to master the learning curve," Tenpas told CBS News. "You don't hear much about the importance of expertise. This is a White House that doesn't seem to value that or understand the consequences of it. It's kind of one of those things where we may not know the vulnerability of lacking expertise unless there is a crisis -- or a crisis that may have been averted had a person been in the room."
...Sources close to the administration fear that while Mr. Trump has been able to bring in a handful of senior, high-profile replacements like national security adviser John Bolton, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, there aren't many more qualified people willing to sign up for such an unpredictable high-wire job.
..."Nobody wants to come in," a source close to the administration said. "So they've gone through two rounds and now they're at third tier of people who are just lucking out -- battlefield promotion ends up promoting people who aren't qualified for the position."
Ever notice how nobody says "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" in a flattering, positive sense. But if your kid, just once, is on the run from the cops, you'll never hear the end of it.
Happy Father's Day!!!
Saturday, June 16, 2018
An Ipsos poll released Friday finds that 70 per cent of Canadians intend to boycott American goods.
Seventy per cent of Canadians say they will start looking for ways to avoid buying U.S.-made goods in a threat to ratchet up a trade dispute between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump, an Ipsos Poll showed on Friday.
The poll also found a majority of Americans and Canadians are united in support of Trudeau and opposition to Trump in their countries’ standoff over the renegotiation of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
...Canadian respondents also signalled approval of the united front their politicians have shown, with 88 per cent saying they welcomed the support of politicians from other parties for the Liberal government’s decision to push back on tariffs.
The Ipsos Poll of 1,001 Canadians and 1,005 Americans – including 368 Democrats, 305 Republicans and 202 Independents – was conducted June 13-14. It has a credibility interval of 3.4 percentage points.