Tuesday, January 31, 2017

About that Bullseye on America's Back. Treason in the White House?

Donald Trump never said he would be a recruiting agent for the Islamic State and other jihadist groups. The American people can consider it a bonus for allowing the Great Orange Bloat into the White House.

Scientific American asks, "Is Trump Driving Recruits to ISIS?" The conclusion? Probably.

For starters, consider the fact that, when Trump announced his intention to ban Muslims from the U.S. on the campaign trail, ISIS promptly re-aired the announcement as part of its propaganda offensive. At the time, General James Mattis, now Secretary of Defense, said the proposed ban was “causing us great damage.” ISIS leaders also used news of Trump’s election victory as a rallying cry, celebrating it as heralding “the imminent demise of America.” And, although it is too early to gauge the full reaction to this latest escalation, jihadist groups have already hailed the “blessed ban” as proof the U.S. is at war with Islam—with one group going so far as to describe President Trump as “the best caller to Islam,” according to the Washington Post.

All the early evidence indicates that the seven-nation ban doesn't fight fire with fire—as President Trump contends—but rather adds fuel to that fire. The reciprocal dynamic here could not be clearer: Trump feeds off ISIS and ISIS feeds off Trump. This is part of what Douglas Pratt from the University of Waikato in New Zealand refers to as co-radicalization . Extreme actions and statements are used to provoke others to treat your own group as dangerous—and that helps to consolidate followers around those very leaders who preach greater emnity.


Trump's Executive Order is even more harmful than most overreactions. It is not even a response to some outrage. And it gives especially strong ammunition to those in ISIS and other groups who argue that Americans see Muslims as their enemy and hence act as the enemy of Muslims. Moqtada al-Sadr, a leader of the anti-American insurgency in Iraq, responded immediately to Trump's ban by arguing that Americans be thrown out of his country. Renad Mansour, a Middle East expert at Chatham House points out in TIME that Sadr and others can now say to those Muslim moderates who challenged their “apocalyptic ideology of hatred” (to reprise the words of McCain and Graham): "I told you so."

It might be that Trump, like many others, fails to recognize the impact of his own actions in spurring precisely what he aims to curtail. But there is another explanation, based on an old legal principle: if you want to solve a crime, simply ask cui bono—who benefits?

The fact is that President Trump stands to make enormous political gains among his base with the ordered ban, however counterproductive. A leader must be seen to be in control and capable of keeping his or her people safe; it is, as the classic political theorist Thomas Hobbes argued, the primary justification for any form of government. And this stance may be particularly important for someone like Donald Trump, who came to power by promising he is a man of action.

Also, extremist leaders gain credibility precisely because they accrue adversaries. In 2015, one of us (Alex Haslam) published a series of experiments in The Leadership Quarterly with Ilka Gleibs at the London School of Economics looking at how people choose leaders. One of our core findings was that people are more likely to support an extremist if their group is confronted by, and in competition with, another group that is behaving belligerently. As we argue in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (March/April 2017), Trump appealed to voters by presenting a polarized view of the world in which they were under threat from both external enemies (Muslims, Mexicans, the Chinese) and internal ones (the media, the liberals and the political establishment).

In short, Donald Trump needs enemies to validate his worldview as much as ISIS needs an American enemy to validate theirs. As long as Trump's provocative actions make him an effective recruiting sergeant to his own cause, we cannot expect him to stop doing things that make him an equally effective recruiting sergeant for ISIS.

There it is then,  A or B. Either Trump is too damned stupid to be America's president or else he's out to set his own Reichstag Fire, a smokescreen for greater outrages to follow. I find it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt, to write him off as a moron. There's a malevolence to this.

Oh Great, Now the Queen's Embarrassed

She probably wasn't expecting to see the Great Orange Bloat turn up on her doorstep and Her Majesty is going out of her way to let everyone know it's not her doing.

Britain's cadaverous prime minister, Theresa May, went ahead an invited Donald Trump to an all-out state visit. That means Trump gets to be greeted by the Queen and gets an all-expenses paid stay in Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace intervened in the row over President Donald Trump’s forthcoming state visit by asking the British government to make clear that the invitation had come from the Prime Minister, it was claimed Monday night.

...The Palace became concerned that the public would wrongly get the impression that invitations for state visits were the gift of the Queen, after May’s spokesman appeared to distance the prime minister from the decision to invite Trump.

...During a state visit, it is the queen who acts as personal hostess. In most cases, that involves lavish pomp and ceremony and a stay of several days at Queen Elizabeth’s official residence, Buckingham Palace.

Sources with knowledge of the conversations said the Palace raised concerns and Number 10 subsequently issued a clarification making clear the Prime Minister was “very happy” Trump had agreed to come to the U.K.

Charles weighs in.

At a time his mother finds herself at the centre of the state visit dispute, Prince Charles said he fears the lessons of World War II have been forgotten.

“The work of World Jewish Relief enables us to rally together, to do what we can to support people practically, emotionally and spiritually,” the prince said in speech at a Jewish charity’s dinner on Monday night. “Particularly at a time when the horrific lessons of the last war seem to be in increasing danger of being forgotten.”

The Sunday Times reported that if the visit went ahead, Charles planned to confront Trump over global warming.

The Lord Mayor - No Fan.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the first Muslim elected to that post, has called for the invitation to be rescinded. His office said he will call Trump’s travel ban “cruel, prejudiced and counterproductive” at a City Hall diplomatic reception Tuesday.

Could Trump be Snubbed by the Mother of All Parliaments?

Labour and Tory MPs moved to bar Trump from addressing Parliament when he comes to the United Kingdom. Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP, said the privilege should be “reserved for leaders who have made an outstanding positive difference in the world.”

Looks like Trump's ego could be in for another bruising. America's narcissist in chief floats on a sea of personal insecurities and this could be shaping up to be an extremely rough ride.

Monday, January 30, 2017

America's Mass Psychosis. It Takes a Nation Gone Mad to Elect a Madman As Their President.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan won re-election with a campaign theme of "It's morning again in America."

Well it's morning again in America but it doesn't feel the same. There's a mad man roaming the halls of 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. The American people are waking up with a massive hangover and brooding regret.

As the New York Daily News put it bluntly, Donald Trump is mentally ill.

But American voters had two years, an amazing amount of time, to watch this man's mental infirmity. It was on display every time Trump took to a podium. There was no mistaking it. What does that say for the tens of millions who voted for Donald J. Trump and the countless others who greased his path into the Oval Office.

Has American society fallen into a mass mental illness? Chris Hedges believes it truly has.

“The comparison between totalitarianism and psychosis is not incidental,” the psychiatrist Joost A.M. Meerloo wrote in his book “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing.” “Delusional thinking inevitably creeps into every form of tyranny and despotism. Unconscious backward forces come into action. Evil powers from the archaic past return. An automatic compulsion to go on to self-destruction develops, to justify one mistake with a new one; to enlarge and expand the vicious pathological circle becomes the dominating end of life. The frightened man, burdened by a culture he does not understand, retreats into the brute’s fantasy of limitless power in order to cover up the vacuum inside himself. This fantasy starts with the leaders and is later taken over by the masses they oppress.”

“Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality itself; in which, through sheer imagination, uprooted masses can feel at home and are spared the never-ending shocks which real life and real experiences deal to human beings and their expectations,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.” “The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda—before the movements have the power to drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world—lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.”

Meerloo wrote, “The demagogue relies for his effectiveness on the fact that people will take seriously the fantastic accusations he makes, will discuss the phony issues he raises as if they had reality, or will be thrown into such a state of panic by his accusations and charges that they will simply abdicate their right to think and verify for themselves.”

The lies create a climate in which everyone is assumed to be lying. The truth becomes suspect and obscured. Narratives begin to be believed not because they are true, or even sound true, but because they are emotionally appealing. The aim of systematic lying, as Arendt wrote, is the “transformation of human nature itself.” The lies eventually foster somnambulism among a population that surrenders to the magical thinking and ceases to care. It checks out. It becomes cynical. It only asks to be entertained and given a vent for its frustration and rage. Demagogues produce enemies the way a magician pulls rabbits out of a hat. They wage constant battles against nonexistent dangers, rapidly replacing one after the other to keep the rhetoric at a fever pitch.

To recover our mental balance we must respond to Trump the way victims of trauma respond to abuse. We must build communities where we can find understanding and solidarity. We must allow ourselves to mourn. We must name the psychosis that afflicts us. We must carry out acts of civil disobedience and steadfast defiance to re-empower others and ourselves. We must fend off the madness and engage in dialogues based on truth, literacy, empathy and reality. We must invest more time in activities such as finding solace in nature, or focusing on music, theater, literature, art and even worship—activities that hold the capacity for renewal and transcendence. This is the only way we will remain psychologically whole. Building an outer shell or attempting to hide will exacerbate our psychological distress and depression. We may not win, but we will have, if we create small, like-minded cells of defiance, the capacity not to go insane.

Where is Lee Harvey Oswald Now That We Need Him? Oddly Enough, He's Right Here.

But for Lee Harvey Oswald, America might be stuck with a deranged president - like the one they've got at the moment, the Great Orange Bloat.

In the wake of the assassination of president John F. Kennedy, the Constitution was amended to include Section 4 of the 25th Amendment:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

My guess is that, as Trump begins his second full week in office, plenty of Senators and Congressmen of both parties are familiarizing themselves with Amendment 25(4).

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mad As a Hatter.

David Letterman has known Trump for years, long enough to describe the man as a "badly damaged human being." Paul Krugman says Trump is "obviously mentally ill." Harvard prof Stephen Walt concludes Trump is "not a rational actor." This is not hyperbole, the 45th president of the United States is unhinged.

The New Yorker's Benjamin Wallace-Wells has a chilling look at what he calls "A Dangerously Isolated President."

The Presidential order that Donald Trump signed on Friday barring all refugees and citizens from seven Muslim countries from travel to the United States was reviewed by virtually no one. The State Department did not help craft it, nor the Defense Department, nor Justice. Trump’s Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, “saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized,” CNN reported. Early Saturday morning, there were reports that two Iraqi refugees had been detained upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport. When a lawyer for the men asked an official to whom he needed to speak to fix the situation, the official said, “Ask Mr. Trump.” This sounded like a sign of straight goonery and incipient authoritarianism; maybe it was. But it also may have been the only reasonable answer. Few people understood what was going on.

Trump's Rasputin - Steve Bannon?

On Saturday, the President announced three more executive actions, one of which changed the composition of his National Security Council. Trump reserved one seat on the Council for his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the former chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart News, who has no experience in foreign relations. Trump also limited the roles of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence, with a memo that said they will only attend meetings when “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed.” The erasure of the line between national security and Bannon’s politics, which have included an embrace of white nationalism, was deeply troubling. But the exclusion of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of National Intelligence was more surprising. The President can pick anyone he wants for those positions. Trump has nominated the former Indiana senator Dan Coats to be the director of National Intelligence; the term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, will expire this year. The President seems to be deliberately tightening the circle around him.

Did you get that? Trump strategist, Steve Bannon, gets a permanent seat on the National Security Council but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of National Intelligence are sidelined, downgraded to an "on call" status. Who does that except somebody plainly out of touch with reality?

The President’s isolation runs deeper than that. As the confusion around the immigration ban made clear, the vast government he oversees has little input on his actions. In an interview this week, Trump said that he reads the Times, the New York Post, and the Washington Post each day, but he seems to scan them as an actor does, for reviews of his own performance. His campaign made clear that he was not interested in the findings of scientists, social scientists, or the American government. Trump’s transition has alienated him from the American public. Gallup found on Friday that fifty per cent of Americans disapproved of Trump’s performance, the highest disapproval rating on record for any American President this early in his term.

President Donald J. Trump is barking mad. He must be removed from office.

Somebody Wrote WHAT??

Welcome to the apocalypse,  ye the doomed. This is one of those books where the title pretty much gives it all away, "Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, Reflections on the End of a Civilization."

The book is written by Roy Scranton - author, novelist, poet, sometime scribe for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Nation, Dissent, Los Angeles Review of Books and Boston Review.

Scranton's theory is astonishingly simple. If we still have a chance of surviving climate change it doesn't matter because we're not going to take it. We won't save ourselves because capitalism won't hear of it. Global decarbonization is "effectively irreconcilable" with global capitalism.

As far as I'm concerned it ain't over til it's over but, yeah, he's probably right. We're supposed to have a progressive, benevolent leader and even that guy is a petro-pol on steroids. Justin Trudeau is the poster boy for the irreconcilable clash between hydrocarbon capitalism and the survival of our civilization.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Say What, Stan? What's That, War? No.

If he hadn't been loose lipped in his criticisms of Barack Obama, Stan McChrystal might have made Chief of Staff of the United States Army. Loose lips sink generals even more assuredly than they claim ships.

Still and all, Stan has a bit of wisdom to pass along. Two points. Don't ever think a new European war isn't possible, and, be prepared to give up basic civil rights to the unstoppable progress of technology as the price of security.

Just like the old days when people did their lord's bidding to be able to live within the town's fortified walls.

Read the entire interview here.

On how we got Afghanistan wrong - from the get go.

Not only did we not understand the culture of Afghanistan, but we did not really understand the players in Afghanistan—the former warlords, the leaders that had fought against the Soviets—who had become such important players once the Taliban regime was defeated. Although we understood in very broad strokes the Pakistani and Iranian positions, we didn’t understand the nuances; we didn’t understand the long-existing issues and concerns that they have. So as we started to execute a policy that on a superficial level seemed very logical, we ran into pressures, forces, interests, and equities of people that are, I won’t say immovable, but very difficult to move. The entire western world was very surprised by that or at least unprepared to deal with it. Afghanistan in particular was a case of finding a problem of much greater complexity, much deeper roots, and much more difficult issues than we appreciated.

On Syria, America snagged on its own history.

In retrospect it’s clear that one of the things we are paying a high price for is reduced American credibility in the region. After 9/11 initially we responded very forcefully both militarily and diplomatically. But then we showed the region just how long the dog’s leash was. Once they saw not only all that we could do but also all we could not, or would not do, they saw the limits of American power and the limits of American patience. Suddenly our ability to influence the region declined. And as we started to show political fatigue and frustration, people in the region started to make new calculations. If you look at the behavior of the various countries—some former allies, the Saudis for instance—they have recalibrated their relationship with us and their role in the region, because they perceive that going forward the United States will have a different role than in the past. That has weighed very heavily in Syria. We have signaled very precisely all the things we will not do. Once you signal all the things you will not do, your opponent has the luxury of saying, “I know where my safe zone is.” That was probably a mistake. There needs to be some ambiguity about what we will and won’t do so that our foes are in doubt, and don’t know where we’ll stop.

What's that, Stan? Saudi Arabia is now a "former ally"? Did anybody send the memo to Justin?

The concerns ahead:

There are two characteristics of concern. First is the reemergence of great power nationalism; the rise of China, the reemergence of Russia, both with enough power and self-confidence to go back to traditional nationalist objectives. Russia is trying to move back into areas in Ukraine and perhaps even into the Baltic States, to try to reassert itself. That is a natural ebb and flow of power going back hundreds of years. I don’t think we saw the end of history in 1989; rather we are back on the track of history. Russia and China are major factors, and they are enough that we might not be in a post-modern period of history. A European war is not unthinkable. People who want to believe a war in Europe is not possible might be in for a surprise. We have to acknowledge great power politics; we can’t pretend they are gone.

The second area of concern is that technology and globalization have been great equalizers. Modern technology has given individuals extraordinary power. An individual with an automatic weapon can be extraordinarily lethal. An individual with a weapon of mass destruction, or a small number of drones or precision weapons can be extraordinarily lethal. Everyone now has precision strike capability; you can buy a cheap drone and put a hand grenade on it and you’ve got precision strike. It’s really difficult to defend against that. Suddenly the security situation has changed; anyone with a keyboard is a cyber warrior. The problem with the rise in power of these individuals—which really didn’t exist in the past—is that individuals in very small groups have a disproportionate ability to act. But they don’t have the vulnerabilities of a nation state. Nuclear power and nuclear strategy were always based on holding each other at risk. The problem is you can’t hold an individual or terrorist group at risk because you might not be able to find them—or they may not care. As a consequence, deterrence in its traditional sense doesn’t work. How can you prevent people from doing harmful things if you can’t deter them? In law enforcement it’s the risk of being caught and put in prison. A terrorist group might not care about being caught, or being imprisoned. They may not even care about dying. The only deterrents available are either massive protection—enormous amounts of security—or some way to identify and either persuade them or physically prevent them from acting.

We have never faced this challenge before. Technology has created the problem because it empowers individuals to do unprecedentedly destructive things. On the other hand technology empowers society to track and monitor people as never before. We are beginning an era in which our ability to leverage technology to track people and control populations is going to create a lot of tension; I think we are going to see a lot more population control measures. We are going to have to give up a lot more of our precious civil rights than most of us imagine because we want security. In other countries that haven’t had the freedom that we have, they may not notice as much, but we are entering a period where we will have to make those choices. And the choices are likely to go in the way of surrendering civil rights for security.

Thus endeth the sermon. Go and sin no more.

Another Professor Finds Trump Unhinged.

First it was Princeton economist and Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman, who used his Monday column in the New York Times to brand America's new president as a loon.

Now it's Harvard prof, Stephen Walt, who writes that Trump is "not a rational actor."

Never mind the irony of such a deeply corrupt and dishonest person accusing others of corruption; the odd thing is that he has been doing just about everything he can to unite key institutions against him. This may not matter if he and his lackeys can disseminate a squid-ink cloud of “alternative facts” and convince their many followers that down is up, black is white, 2+2=5, and what the president said on camera last week really never took place. As I’ve warned before, Trump & Co. seems to be operating straight from the Erdogan-Berlusconi-Putin playbook, and it remains an open question whether this approach will work in a country with many independent sources of information, some of which are still committed to facts.

... Get ready for a steady drip, drip, drip of leaks and stories emanating from dedicated civil servants who are committed to advancing the public interest and aren’t going to like being treated with contempt and disdain by a bunch of hedge fund managers, wealthy Wall Streeters, or empty suits like Energy Secretary Rick Perry, all led by President Pinocchio.

There’s also the broader question of his overall approach to foreign policy. As I’ve noted repeatedly, a few elements of Trump’s worldview make sense, such as his aversion to nation-building in the greater Middle East. But as Jessica Mathews points out in an important essay in the New York Review of Books, Trump and key advisors like Michael Flynn also believe Islamic extremism is a mortal danger and have promised to get rid of the Islamic State right away. But how do you do that, and how do you make sure the Islamic State doesn’t come back, if you aren’t busy invading, occupying, and nation-building in the areas where it and other extremist movements live and recruit? In fact, Islamic extremism is a problem but not an existential threat, which is why the United States does not need to try to transform the whole region. But Trump doesn’t seem to see things this way.

Even more important, Trump seems to be blithely unaware that the United States is engaged in a serious geopolitical competition with China, and that this rivalry isn’t just about jobs, trade balances, currency values, or the other issues on which he’s fixated. Instead, it is mostly about trying to keep China from establishing a hegemonic position in Asia, from which it could eventually project power around the world and possibly even into the Western hemisphere itself. It’s easier to favor “America First” when no other great power is active near our shores, but that fortunate position may not last if China establishes a position in its neighborhood akin to the one the United States has long enjoyed in its backyard. With its surroundings secured, China could forge alliances around the world and interfere in distant regions — much as the United States has done since World War II — including areas close to U.S. soil. This development would force Americans to worry a whole lot more about defending our territory, something we haven’t had to worry about for more than a century.

Trump and some of his advisors (most notably Stephen Bannon) may be operating from a broad, Huntingtonian “clash of civilizations” framework that informs both their aversion to multiculturalism at home and their identification of friends and foes abroad. In this essentially cultural, borderline racialist worldview, the (mostly white) Judeo-Christian world is under siege from various “other” forces, especially Muslims. From this perspective, the ideal allies are not liberals who prize tolerance, diversity, and an open society, but rather hard-core blood-and-soil nationalists who like walls, borders, strong leaders, the suppression or marginalization of anyone who’s different (including atheists and gay people, of course) and the promotion of a narrow and fairly traditional set of cultural values.

“Civilizations” are not political entities; they do not have agency and do not in fact act. For good or ill, states still drive most of world politics, and clashes within Huntington’s various “civilizations” are still more frequent and intense than clashes between them. Moreover, seeing the future as a vast contest between abstract cultural groupings is a self-fulfilling prophecy: If we assume the adherents of different religions or cultural groups are our sworn enemies, we are likely to act in ways that will make that a reality.

So where does this leave us? Way too soon to tell, but I’ll hazard two guesses. First, foreign and defense policies are going to be a train wreck, because they don’t have enough good people in place, the people they have appointed don’t agree on some pretty big issues (e.g., NATO), the foreign-policy “blob” will undercut them at every turn, and Trump himself lacks the discipline or strategic vision to manage this process and may not care to try. Even if you agree with his broad approach, his team is going to make a lot more rookie mistakes before they figure out what they are doing.

Second, get ready for a lot of unexpected developments and unintended consequences. If the United States is giving up its self-appointed role as the “indispensable nation” and opting instead for “America First,” a lot of other countries will have to rethink their policies, alignments, and commitments. Unraveling a long-standing order is rarely a pretty process, especially when it happens quickly and is driven not by optimism but by anger, fear, and resentment. I’ve long favored a more restrained U.S. grand strategy, but I also believed that that process had to be done carefully and above all strategically. That doesn’t appear to be President Trump’s approach to anything, which means we are in for a very bumpy ride to an unknown destination.

A Little Less Worse. Great.

I've about had it with Canadian politics. When I say that I mean I've had it with the last stop on the line, the Green Party of Canada and that goes for Ma May too.

My problem with Elizabeth May is that she's still acting as though she's building a political party that might make a difference. Sorry but the clock has run out on that whimsical idea.

May, like her BC counterpart, Andy Weaver, wants to play it safe. They don't want to risk alienating what they see as potential recruits to their self-eviscerated cause. They want to be seen as moderates. And where exactly has that got them?

I assume that they're reading the science that's been pouring in during the last few years. I have to assume they know what so many climate scientists have been screaming at the top of their lungs that there's a climate emergency underway in the Arctic, one that could literally kick off a series of events of existential dimension to human civilization. Yet they're acting as though they don't have a care in the world. They're acting as though their party's support for the BDS movement is a make it or break it issue.

My  discontent surfaced this week when I got a GPC solicitation asking that I "demand" Justin Trudeau reject the Keystone XL pipeline. WTF? I replied that, if we've failed to stop Trudeau rubber stamping the Trans Canada and Energy East pipelines what possible point was there in moaning about America's KXL pipeline. I added that belonging to the Greens had come to feel like I was wishing the house might burn down a little more slowly.

Milquetoast leadership renders the Green Party irrelevant. It's a waste of my time.


The Word From the Nerd

He's a nerd. He may just be the most nerdy climate scientist on the planet. And, he's Canadian. He works within a short walk from Justin Trudeau's office but, judging by the prime minister's Orwellian pronouncements on climate change, it's a safe bet Trudeau has never heard of Paul Beckwith of Ottawa U's department of paleoclimatology.

I follow Beckwith on YouTube. He's a big poster of videos, often 3 or 4-part series, on the latest in climate science news. In his own awkward style he discusses what science is uncovering and explains what it means to you and me.

Of late he's been focusing a lot on the mayhem underway in the Arctic which, for good reason, Beckwith calls a "climate emergency." He calls it that because, well, it is.

Of course Beckwith isn't some solitary voice in the wilderness. There's no shortage of climate scientists shouting the very same dire warnings. Yet there's no commensurate sense of urgency wafting down from Parliament Hill. No, we've got a leader up there who is positively giddy over Donald Trump's decision to drive through the Keystone XL pipeline.

Most recent offerings are a 3-part series on "Food Disruption, Climate Change, and Ocean Sources of Food."  There's another 3-parter on "Arctic Ocean Sea-Floor Methane Farts" that's a real gas (sorry, I'm sorry). Beckwith offers a 4-part series on global sea level rise. He also explains the significance of the recent Arctic Report Card and discusses ocean acidification. Be sure to check out "Our Climate Change Emergency and Three-Legged Barstool Survival."

The good news. Paul Beckwith is no Guy McPherson. The University of Arizona professor emeritus has been taking to YouTube and the lecture circuit with the message that the end is well and truly nigh as in within 10 years. Beckwith stops well short of that but his message is clear - we are in a grave climate emergency and doing what our prime minister is doing is not an option if we want a world for our grandkids to live in. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What's Not to Like? Trump Likes Comey, a Lot. He's Great. Absolutely Fantastic.

Some believe that his 11th-hour Hillary non-scandal did more to deliver Trump the White House than anything else. He's even under investigation by the Department of Justice for it.

It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump has chosen to keep James Comey as director of the FBI. What's not to like?

The Guardian Calls for Backup.

The venerable British newspaper, The Guardian, has sounded the call for backup. It wants to muster other leading newspapers to collaborate on investigating America's new president, the Great Orange Bloat, Donald J. Trump.

Openly targeting a president, imagine that.

The paper argues that it took a collaborative effort to break the Panama Papers story and nothing less has much chance of exposing the real Donald Trump.

Countless reporters are still shaken and stunned by how he singled out a CNN reporter, one of the most respected news outlets in the world, to attack and humiliate him during his first press conference since winning the elections. Worryingly, none of his fellow journalists in the room stood up for him at the time.

This wasn’t Trump’s first attack on the press, and it certainly won’t be his last. The first White House press briefing, held on Saturday, featured bullying, threats and unproven claims. That is why a new level of solidarity and cooperation is needed among the fourth estate.

American journalists should stop him from dividing their ranks – however hard their professional competition may be. They should do the opposite: unite, share and collaborate. Even if doing so would mean embracing something quite unfamiliar and new to American journalism.

The Panama Papers has showed that a formerly unthinkable project of collaboration can work. When we shared the data of the papers with a team of 400 reporters worldwide, we brought together a vast number of investigative reporters who typically compete which each other. The main reason why our newspaper, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, shared the story with competitors was simply that it was too big and too important to do alone.

Now, once again, we are faced with a story that is too big and too important to handle on our own: Donald Trump’s impact on the democracy of the United States of America.

The ultimate goal is nothing less than dredging up Trump's business ties and those of his cabinet to expose their conflicts of interest. The paper argues that, in keeping with the tradition of independent journalism and a free press, Trump is an entirely legitimate target.

Trump is now the president of the United States. He is the government. It has always been the noblest job of a journalist to check the power of government, the center of power. This seems even more important as the president acts like one of the oligarchs that journalists like the two of us, who work on international corruption, investigate again and again.

He threatened his Democratic opponent with jail, he is making promises no one can fulfill, he is mixing family and government, he is mixing business and government, he is obstructing control and he is fighting the freedom of press.

This government has decided to go down a new and hostile path. Now, it is time for us to change path, too. That’s not only just fair – it is absolutely necessary.

Assange Does the Weasel Dance. Quelle Surprise!

Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, is looking for payback from Donald Trump, a return of favours so to speak.

Julian Assange is hoping that President Donald Trump’s Justice Department will work out a deal so he can avoid extradition to the United States — even as Assange tried to blame former President Barack Obama for the PR faux pas that has put him in his current predicament.

“We had a major strategic victory in liberating Chelsea Manning,” Assange told Waleed Aly of The Project on Monday. “But, of course, saying I’m willing to accept extradition doesn’t mean I’m saying that I’m willing to be a complete idiot and throw all my lawyers away and so on.”

He added, “We are going to have a discussion with the DoJ about what that looks like. The ball is in their court.”

To me that sound a lot like, "I did my part, now pay up."

Although Assange had previously promised to accept extradition if Manning was released, he quickly reneged on that pledge.

In addition to claiming that Obama only granted clemency to Manning in order to “make life hard” for him, Assange told Aly that “in the end, Barack Obama – wanting, I guess, to look tough – said that my offer had nothing to do with Chelsea Manning being granted clemency, so there is no quid pro quo.”

Poor Julian. I think he crapped in his pants when WikiLeaks announced it wanted someone to leak Trump's tax returns  before Julian managed to cut his deal.

Where is Kevin Vickers Now That We Might Need Him?

Think about it. What are we going to do if Donald Trump takes a shine to our lithe, very attractive prime minister and decides to grab Justin by the pussy or, as it's known, the Trump Handshake.

We've seen this play out before.  Who can forget Tony Blair's bromance with Bill Clinton and how that morphed into something else altogether when Blair got into the leather stuff with Clinton's successor. That was the hardcore master-slave, no holds barred stuff that even led to a Middle East quagmire and major war crimes once Tony succumbed to Bush/Cheney.

We know that Justin can't stand up to anybody - First Nations, environmentalists, all British Columbians and most ordinary Canadians excepted. To the powerful, however, he's a pushover or, when it comes to Trump, a bendover.

Notice how Trump's inauguration had Trudeau and his cabinet gather up their crinolines and hightail it to Calgary as though General Sherman himself was about to march through Ottawa? They got to Calgary and hunkered down until Trump dispatched his son in law with a bag of Midol.

And now it begins. The Toronto Star headline says it all - Canada signals possible U.S. trade deal that excludes Mexico.

The U.S. and Canada are signalling most of the pain from reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will hit Mexico, with an adviser to Donald Trump flying to Calgary to tell Justin Trudeau’s team that commerce is balanced and running smoothly north of the border.

Trudeau’s cabinet gathered in the nation’s oil hub to weigh Trump’s impact, as Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. said he would consider bilateral measures with the U.S. in talks about the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The comments — which came as Trump signed an executive order that abruptly ended the decades-old U.S. tilt toward free trade — suggest the new administration is splintering the continental pact as the president prepares to meet Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto later this month.

“I don’t think he should be enormously worried because Canada is held in very high regard,” Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive officer at Blackstone Group LP and head of the president’s strategic and policy forum, told reporters after speaking to cabinet. “We have balanced trade between the U.S. and Canada, and that’s not the kind of situation where you should be worrying about the kind of issues you are.”

David MacNaughton, Trudeau’s ambassador in Washington, said upon arrival in Calgary that his focus is on avoiding Canada being “collateral damage” in trade actions aimed at China and Mexico. “We will co-operate on trilateral matters when it’s in our interest and we’ll be looking to do things that are in our interest bilaterally also. Some of them may be within NAFTA, some may not be,” he said Sunday night.

The message is pretty clear. What Donald Trump wants, Justin is all too willing to deliver. We will go along to get along. We've already told Trump what he most wants to hear - that we're terrified of him.

Monday, January 23, 2017

"A Giant Gift to China."

It makes you wonder about the Giant Orange Bloat's "thought envirnoment."

Today in TrumpLand, the order of the day was the presidential decree withdrawing the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership.

A Japanese news service reported China is stepping into the vacuum with a new trade deal,  a lot like the doomed TPP, only this time the odd man out will be the United States.

Foreign Policy has voiced the same opinion, from an American perspective of course.

Now the Australians are calling Trump's blunder the same way:

As the Trump administration retreats from the region by ending US participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China's Communist leaders are ramping up their globalisation efforts and championing the virtues of free trade.

In an address last week to the World Economic Forum at Davos, Chinese president Xi Jinping likened protectionism to "locking oneself in a dark room" and signalled that China would look to negotiate regional trade deals.

China is advocating for a 16-nation pact called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that excludes the United States and lacks some of the environmental and labour protections Obama negotiated into the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Xi and other Chinese leaders are also looking to fill the US leadership vacuum, taking advantage of Trump's protectionism to boost ties with traditional US allies like the Philippines and Malaysia.

"The US is now basically in a position where we had our horse, the Chinese had their horse - but our horse has been put out to pasture and is no longer running in the race," said Eric Altbach, vice president at Albright Stonebridge Group in Washington and a former deputy assistant US Trade Representative for China Affairs.

Senator John McCain railed against Trump's stupidity.

US withdrawal from the pact "will create an opening for China to rewrite the economic rules of the road at the expense of American workers," McCain said. "And it will send a troubling signal of American disengagement in the Asia-Pacific region at a time we can least afford it."

Obama saw TPP as "much more than an agreement that would increase international trade," according to Jack Thompson, a senior researcher at the Centre for Security Studies in Zurich.

But Trump's withdrawal "directly undermines all of this careful work and gives China yet another opportunity to demonstrate that it represents the future of the security and economic system in East Asia, and that the US is in decline and can't be counted on to stick around," Thompson said.

China's 16-nation RECP would include southeast Asia countries, as well as Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

It's said that RECP won't force member states to rejig their economies, impair labour or environmental regulations or surrender control of intellectual property rights. It sounds a lot like TPP only a lot less offensive.

Leaders from Australia, Malaysia, and other nations who had championed TPP quickly signalled, following Trump's election, that they would shift their attention to the RECP.

Too Good Not to Share. Zondag Met Lubach on Trump. Brace Yourself, This is Hilarious.

This is one I think you're going to want to pass around.

The Birth of a New World, Possibly Our Last.

From Deutsche Welle, "Hate Is In the Air":

"The old world of the 20th century is over for good" - Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the current German foreign minister and probable next head of state, is certainly not the kind of person to blurt something out without thinking, and here he has put things in a nutshell. And, of all people, Marine Le Pen, the head of the French Front National, agrees with him. "We are witnessing the end of one world and the birth of a new one," she told an assembly of 800 European right-wing populists in the western German town of Koblenz on Saturday. The fact can be lamented, but this does little to remedy the situation: Whining has never solved anything. Brexit is real, as is Trump. A political metamorphosis is underway in the West. Populism is in, and nothing will remain as it is. And soon, other major Western countries will also hold elections: France, the Netherlands and Germany.


It is as though almost all the lessons the West learned after the end of World War II are being held up to ridicule: alliance policies, the principle of solidarity, economic aid. Admittedly, the Brexit vote was a close one; EU opponents were the ones who allowed themselves to be mobilized, while the others stayed at home, confident in the belief that they were not needed. Trump, for his part, benefited from the Electoral College; in absolute numbers, he represents less than half of Americans. And the German AfD and French National Front are still in the opposition. But what makes the political shift to the right, the readjustment of values and the overall mood in the USA and Europe extremely dangerous is the populists' open or latent hate toward the state, democracy, societal elites, everyday multinationalism and the media.

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty

Yet from Washington to New York, Boston, Sydney, Paris - and, yes, Koblenz, too - the past weekend also reflects another reality: that of protest - massive protest against simplemindedness, simplistic worldviews and vile rabble-rousers. If democracy is to remain more than an academic term in school lessons, then it must prove itself now, everywhere: in parliaments, in the media and on the streets.

Even though democratic restoration is nowhere on Trudeau's priority list - he won't even mention the first step, tearing down the corporate media cartel - Canadians can not afford to be as supidly complacent as our prime minister. Trudeau, an avowed neoliberal, is on the wrong side of history. The path he wants to follow, the path blazed by his predecessor, Harper, will not serve Canada, especially our future generations. Canada is not immune to this authoritarian rightwing contagion. Let's never forget how the Brits lost Brexit.

Der Spiegel offers a similar and equally ominous take calling for an international front against Trump.

We need to prepare ourselves for the following: From now on, the most powerful person on the planet, along with his entourage made up primarily of billionaires like himself, will be regularly stomping on that which the international community has spent decades negotiating with effort and care. Who thinks, for example, that Trump's troupe will feel bound to the Paris Climate Agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases? That anybody in the White House will still care for the protection of animals, oceans or forests? That Trump could have any priority other than maximizing his own profits? Does anyone think he will support culture? Strengthen women's rights? Show consideration for minorities? That he would be willing to think about the limits of capitalism? Of course he won't.


It's Time to Defend Our Principles

This won't be fun. It reflects a new American desire for the survival of the fittest -- in a world where the U.S. is still the strongest. Trump's government won't strive for global compromise, opting instead to try to get the most it can out of negotiations with individual nations. This president will do everything he can to weaken international organizations like the UN, the EU or the G-20 in order to make space for bilateral deals -- just like his counterpart in the Kremlin. Maybe this will allow him to achieve a small American economic miracle, but a great many will pay the price: more global inequality, unchecked climate change and, in his own country, an even more jittery society with marginalized minorities.

...the rest of the world needs to get to work to block American machinations against international standards, to ward off unfair American economic greed and to protect global agreements. What's needed is a front against Trump.

The UN will need to show that it can be a countervailing power in the civil sphere and an advocate for its especially vulnerable members. The European Union should see Trump as a new justification for its existence and make the best of it. It's very possible that previously unthinkable constellations might emerge -- that Europe and China, for example, could act in concert on some issues. Impossible? That's what we thought. But in the now-dawning Trump world, it's not about believing or about hoping. We have no choice but to forcefully defend our interests and our principles.

Carl Sagan Foresaw Today

Astronomer Carl Sagan left a vacuum with his passing. Fortunately, he also left behind a great deal of timeless wisdom. Consider this in the "alternative fact" world of Donald J. Trump.

“I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudoscience and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us - then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.

The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”

Good News? Trump Has Rejected the Trans Pacific Partnership

The New York Times is reporting that Trump has said "no" to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP.

With Junior in trail that presumably takes Canada off the TPP hook. We'll see.

Are global trade deals now dead? Depends on who you listen to. There's one school that thinks Trump's bullying may spur the rise of defensive trade pacts, deals that don't include the United States, but seek to offset any trade damage that Trumpland chooses to inflict. We'll see.

Now it's rarely mentioned by TPP friends or foes but the Trans Pacific Partnership is about much more than trade. Look at the countries who are "in" the deal and the nation that is decidedly "out." The omission is glaring. It's China.

The TPP was always intended to isolate China, to contain China, to ostracize it from its neighbours.

This "Pacific century" seems to boil down, so far, to enforcing an already embattled TPP. Bantarto Bandoro, from the Indonesian Defense University, seemed to get closer to the real picture when he told the Jakarta Globe, "this could be the beginning of the end of American global dominance."

Not for nothing did this impassioned plea for the TPP come from a retired, four star US Navy admiral, Jim Stavridis who likened a defeat of the pact as akin to an American Brexit.

The case for the TPP is economically strong, but the geopolitical logic is even more compelling. The deal is one that China will have great difficulty accepting, as it would put Beijing outside a virtuous circle of allies, partners, and friends on both sides of the Pacific. Frankly, that is a good place to keep China from the perspective of the United States, and the treaty thus brings together not only Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other Asian partners, but also Chile, Mexico, Canada, and Peru. 

Stavridis argument for the TPP is threefold: 1. China is on the march in Asia. 2. This is a moment of real vulnerability for many Asian nations. 3. Sending US aircraft carriers into the region is not enough.

Over 2,500 years ago, during the Zhou dynasty, the philosopher-warrior Sun Tzu wrote the compelling study of conflict The Art of War. There is much wisdom in that slim volume, including this quote: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” The United States can avoid conflict best in East Asia by using a robust combination of national tools — with the TPP at the top of the list. Looking across the Atlantic to the Brexit debacle, we must avoid repeating the mistake in the Pacific.

The clear winner if the United States rejects the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be China, and an increasingly authoritarian and regionally dominant President Xi Jinping will be cheering the loudest.


We may be witnessing the Troubled Teen's first major foreign policy debacle. Reader Chris has sent a link to an item from the Japanese news service, NHK World.

Officials of the Japanese and Chinese governments have agreed to move forward with talks on another economic partnership as the prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are unclear.

The officials met in Tokyo on Wednesday, with Japanese Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Keiichi Katakami and Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Gao Yan attending.

They agreed on advancing talks on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP. The 16 member countries include Japan, China, and Southeast Asian countries, but not the United States.

Trump may have just dealt America straight out of Asia. Boy, if Beijing inks the right deal we may be seeing the emergency of a new "reserve currency," the yuan.

Update #2

Michael Harris of iPolitics nailed it when he wrote:  "As speeches go, Donald Trump’s inaugural address had fewer grace notes than a death threat."

Continuing with this theme, Foreign Policy's Hunter Marston writes  that "Trump has nothing to offer Asia but threats."

Donald Trump’s executive order ending America’s commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership has left U.S. allies like Japan and Australia aghast at the waste of time and effort on what was once a signature — and effective — policy in the region. His “America First” refrain in his inauguration speech, with all its suggestions of a widespread retrenchment of U.S resources from the Pacific, was equally disturbing.

But they should be at least as alarmed by the contrary indications that Trump is intent on a newly assertive foreign policy in Asia, one more reliant on hard power. That latter vision, especially in combination with the former, is no less dangerous for America’s friends in the region.

...By preemptively eliminating tools like economic statecraft from its foreign-policy toolbox, the Trump administration will be leaving itself with only hard power to counteract China’s ambitions. That would probably mean an attempted military blockade against the Chinese navy in the South China Sea.

But that raises a host of other questions: Is the Trump administration prepared to risk major conflict with China? What costs would they be willing to suffer in a clash far from American shores in Beijing’s backyard? And would America’s allies welcome such a clash?

American credibility rests on its ability to follow through on economic and security commitments. As Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “If at the end of it all you let [Abe] down, which next Japanese prime minister is going to count on you — not just on trade but on security?” Lee also noted the implicit connection between American trade and security commitments: “If you are not prepared to deal when it comes to cars and services and agriculture, can we depend on you when it comes to security and military arrangements?”

...Without economic statecraft, the United States is a less attractive competitor for Asian countries, which will join alternative trade deals like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which does not include the United States.

All too pleased, China is reaping large gains as the United States pulls back. Though not diametrically opposed to the TPP (both deals include Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Vietnam), the RCEP is nearing completion with some nudging from Beijing.

Although America’s friends in Asia might not be as enthusiastic about the comparatively modest RCEP, they support the developing trade architecture out of pragmatism. Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore, warned of this outcome in 2013 when he told a journalist from the Atlantic, “Without an FTA [with the United States], Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the ASEAN countries will be integrated into China’s economy — an outcome to be avoided.”

What a mess and it's of Trump's own, sophomoric making. Just as admiral Stavridis warned, he's reduced American foreign policy in Asia to a military option. Could Trump back America into a war with China? In a word, yes. He's that arrogant, that clumsy, that myopic. Worse, as Mark Urban writes in "The Edge," we in the West have developed a fanciful notion of warfare. 

"This stems from a belief that selective military action against some of the symptoms of growing global disorder, such as air strikes against Islamic militants, involves state killing and is therefore 'war.' Well, it may be, but only in the sense that buying a chocolate bar or a private jet can both be called shopping. Campaigns such as those against the Islamic State or Somali privates involve taking life on the scale of industrial accidents, and below that of road traffic smashes. This type of action is not, critically, a struggle between two or more societies in which a nation is mobilised and asked to make sacrifices. Those countries that plan seriously for war between states, from Russia to China or Israel, almost all have national service."

2016 Was the Hottest Year on Record. So What?

2016 is in the books on the hottest year on record - since this data was recorded. 2016 stole the crown from the previous hottest year on record, 2015, which, in turn, displaced 2014 which had itself been the hottest year on record.

We seem to be getting a lot of this record breaking business and it can be hard to keep it in perspective. Well, relax, Dana Nuccitelli has it all laid out in a dandy (and brief) video. Check it out:

World War II was a real bugger but it was a world war after all. Lots of fossil fuels, lots of fires, lots of mayhem.  Then followed a 35-year hiatus until we entered a record-breaking churn in 1980 that continues today.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

He's Right. Yanis Varoufakis on Why Liberal Democracy Must Jettison Neoliberalism.

He's the most interesting fellow that the Greek Syriza movement produced, its former finance minister until his resignation in July, 2015.

Now, Yanis Varoufakis is warning of two insurgencies underway.

A clash of two insurgencies is now shaping the west. Progressives on both sides of the Atlantic are on the sidelines, unable to comprehend what they are observing. Donald Trump’s inauguration marks its pinnacle.

One of the two insurgencies shaping our world today has been analysed ad nauseum. Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and the broad Nationalist International that they are loosely connected to have received much attention, as has their success at impressing upon the multitudes that nation-states, borders, citizens and communities matter.

However, the other insurgency that caused the rise of this Nationalist International has remained in the shadows: an insurrection by the global establishment’s technocracy whose purpose is to retain control at all cost. (See here and here) Project Fear in the UK, the troika in continental Europe and the unholy alliance of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the surveillance apparatus in the United States are its manifestations.

The era of neoliberalism ended in the autumn of 2008 with the bonfire of financialisation’s illusions. The fetishisation of unfettered markets that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan brought to the fore in the late 1970s had been the necessary ideological cover for the unleashing of financiers to enable the capital flows essential to a new phase of globalisation in which the United States deficits provided the aggregate demand for the world’s factories (whose profits flowed back to Wall Street closing the loop nicely).


Thatcher’s and Reagan’s neoliberalism had sought to persuade that privatisation of everything would produce a fair and efficient society unimpeded by vested interests or bureaucratic fiat. That narrative, of course, hid from public view what was really happening: a tremendous buildup of super-state bureaucracies, unaccountable supra-state institutions (World Trade Organisation, Nafta, the European Central Bank), behemoth corporations, and a global financial sector heading for the rocks.

After the events of 2008 something remarkable happened. For the first time in modern times the establishment no longer cared to persuade the masses that its way was socially optimal. Overwhelmed by the collapsing financial pyramids, the inexorable buildup of unsustainable debt, a eurozone in an advanced state of disintegration and a China increasingly relying on an impossible credit boom, the establishment’s functionaries set aside the aspiration to persuade or to represent. Instead, they concentrated on clamping down.


The only weapon we have to defend liberal democracy against the nationalist and technocratic insurgencies is a restoration of progressivism, progressive democracy.

It was against this insurgency of a cornered establishment that had given up on persuasion that Donald Trump and his European allies rose up with their own populist insurgency. They proved that it is possible to go against the establishment and win. Alas, theirs will be a pyrrhic victory which will, eventually, harm those whom they inspired. The answer to neoliberalism’s Waterloo cannot be the retreat to a barricaded nation-state and the pitting of “our” people against “others” fenced off by tall walls and electrified fences.

The answer can only be a Progressive Internationalism that works in practice on both sides of the Atlantic. To bring it about we need more than fine principles unblemished by power. We need to aim for power on the basis of a pragmatic narrative imparting hope throughout Europe and America for jobs paying living wages to anyone who wants them, for social housing, for health and education.

Only a third insurgency promoting a New Deal that works equally for Americans and Europeans can restore to a billion people living in the west sovereignty over their lives and communities.

Trump's New War to Subdue the Press

America's newly minted president or, as Scotian calls him, TrumpleThinSkin, has unleashed some remarkably mangy dogs on the White House press corps. The most parasite riddled of the lot, press secretary, Sean Spicer, and Trump aide, Kellyanne Conway.

Spicer summoned the press to the White House yesterday to attack them for their scandalous coverage of the Trump inauguration. True to the standard set by his commander in chief, he attacked them with lies. He made shit up and then blamed them for it.

Then Trump's Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer, telling NBC's Chuck Todd that the press secretary was simply presenting "alternative facts."

And notice that Conway began with a threat that, if the press is going to do its job and point out deliberate falsehoods, "we're going to have to rethink our relationship."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

And So It Begins

Trump's press secretary, Sean Spicer, bitchslaps the White House press corps.  Listen to this loon rattle on.

Then again, maybe the inauguration turnout was greater than the press corps understood. Only the crowds weren't all there to welcome their new pres.

"Ve told you ve drew ze largest inaugural crowd, EVER. Zis you veel report, Schwein."

Hmm, One of these Is Not Like the Other.

One photo was taken in 2009. The other in 2017. Can you guess which?

Trump Pledges to Restore American Wealth. I Know Where He Can Find It.

El Presidente Trump has made a vow to restore America's wealth. Of course that's not what he intends to do at all. It's the Big Lie, Day One.

What he actually intends to do is to take a page out of the playbook of Roman emperors and extract "tribute" from other nations. Think of it as a global shakedown. It's the sort of thing that history shows doesn't work out that well for long.

The fact is that he doesn't have to restore America's wealth. It's still right there under his nose. He just has to look for it and, once he finds it, decide what should be done with it.

America's wealth has shifted. It's gone from the Rust Belt. It's been lost by the nation's blue and white collar working classes. It has been moved, quietly shifted. It's a few blocks away from Trump Tower. It has "trickled up" to Wall Street and the 1%.

Big Lie 2, Day One. He says he wants to restore American manufacturing, its former industrial powerhouse. You can't do that where the money sits at the moment.

Manufacturing, even in good times, produces stable but modest returns in the range of a respectable 3 to 4% per annum. Manufacturing revenue is dispersed into many places - wages and salaries, communities, suppliers, all levels of government.

Manufacturing grade revenue is of no interest to Wall Street. There they focus on far greater returns not for making things but for moving paper. And it works in places where the government embraces Taliban-grade laissez faire capitalism which rules out any notion of direct or indirect wealth redistribution. It's the sort of dog eat dog world only in which the really big dogs eat all the little dogs. Lovely.

Trump promises to restore America's manufacturing sector. Can't do that without capital. America has lots of capital but it wants nothing to do with manufacturing. Gotta change that. It's easy enough to do. Tax the rich. Impose punitive taxes on "dead" money that sits idle. Use taxation to redirect that money into investment in preferred targets - employment-intensive industries such as, why of course, manufacturing.

Only that's not going to happen. It's a low-wage world now and Trump is not going to mess with that. He can't risk it. And so he'll continue what he knows his gullibilly base already believes. He'll stay with the xenophobic notion that others, foreigners have stolen American wealth. Trump's addled base love that idea.

We know those outsourced, offshored jobs aren't coming back. It's cheaper to build robotic factories that don't need those redundant American workers and their First World wage scales.

Trump isn't out for restoration. Kim Jong Don's game is extortion and a great many, grievance-fueled Americans are all for that.

Tuning Up the Proles

You can't have a totalitarian state without a suitably "tuned up" population. North Korea is a perfect example.  Germany or Italy in the 30s were fine examples. The Soviet Union, ditto.

Today it's America's turn. A segment of the American population, a sufficient fraction, has been conditioned to accept utter nonsense, the stuff their new president force fed them and they so willingly swallowed. Many of them don't care that it's shit, it's an acquired taste.

But what about the shining city on the hill that Reagan spoke of,  American democracy? Matthew 5:14 -  "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." Well, that's pretty much over, for the near future anyway.

Trump left no doubt yesterday that, from here on in, it's Amerika Uber Alles. I've been criticized for saying as much in recent months but, this time, I wasn't the one saying that. That came straight from the mouth of the first Amerikan  president. You don't like it, take it up with him.

American essayist, Marilynne Robinson, wrote in The Guardian:

We have inaugurated a president whose mental life is a thing of television ratings, beauty pageants and egoistical make-believe, who threatens and gloats and holds grudges and wants everyone to know it, whose impulses are alarming and alarmingly incoherent. He lacks the kind of knowledge of history and civic life and decent manners most adults have acquired by paying at least glancing attention.

Populism isn't a means to serve a nation's people. It's a vehicle to control them and to suppress those who see through it and dare to dissent.

Trump's inaugural speech utterly ignored the fact that a majority of the voting public supported his opponent. It ignored the fact that his inaugural approval rating was the lowest by an order of magnitude in the history of inaugural polling. It was the speech of a man who considers his power absolute, who will treat his nation as he alone sees fit. It was the speech of a thug, a despot.

The headlines for the Washington Post's "most read" list -

- A Most Dreadful Inaugural Address
- Is This What We've Come To, America?
- Donald Trump Has Assembled the Worst Cabinet In American History
- Donald Trump's Inauguration Was a Gothic Nightmare
- Trump's Inaugural Speech Was Strikingly Radical

Hmm, I wonder what that's all about. Oh yeah, it's about Amerika's new leader, its commander in chief. Perhaps he's not even a president for that implies an acceptance of constitutional restraint and basic human decency. High moral attributes hold no currency for this serial sexual deviant.

I didn't watch the inauguration, not a minute of it. What I know of it is what I've read, the written record of Trump's tirade. 

Tomorrow I'll make a point to catch Fareed Zakaria's 360 programme on CNN. India-borne Zakaria, a practising Muslim, educated at Harvard and Yale, has been the keenest observer of the rise of illiberal democracy around the world and, in particular, within the United States.

Twenty years ago, in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs, Zakaria foretold America's descent into illiberal democracy. He's been warning about it ever since and, now, it has become America's governmental default operating system.

The American diplomat Richard Holbrooke pondered a problem on the eve of the September 1996 elections in Bosnia, which were meant to restore civic life to that ravaged country. "Suppose the election was declared free and fair," he said, and those elected are "racists, fascists, separatists, who are publicly opposed to [peace and reintegration]. That is the dilemma.

My, my, my.

It's impossible to know, in particulars, what lies ahead as Trump ploughs through the global china shop but we know we're all in for a wild and periodically dangerous ride. The era of the Big Lie has descended on Washington and most Americans will either support it or look the other way. They've been well and truly tuned up for this day.

What was that line? Something about Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein... something or other.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trudeau Has Dug a Grave for the Paris Climate Accord. Thanks, Justin.

Trudeau has put paid to any notion of restraining global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Tyee's Andrew Nikiforuk writes that a new study by Oil Change International shines a hard light on Trudeau's approval of new pipelines, the key to Tar Sands expansion. This prime minister has single-handedly put the Paris targets out of reach.

Canada can’t increase tar sands production or build more pipelines if the world is to achieve the targets on global carbon emissions set by the Paris Agreement on climate.

That’s the central conclusion of a new report by Oil Change International(OCI), a U.S. research and advocacy group dedicated to exposing the full costs of fossil fuel extraction.

“There is no scenario in which tar sands production increases and the world achieves the Paris goals,” says the report.


The majority of Canada’s oil exports consist of raw bitumen, a cheap refinery feedstock, which is then upgraded at U.S. refineries for local consumption or export.

“Eighty per cent of the climate impact of tar sands oil,” says the report, “comes from releasing carbon wherever the fuel is burned — thus the most important impact of tar sands expansion is global.”

But the unrestricted approval of pipeline projects such as Trans Mountain and Line 3 could drive the expansion of bitumen production by nearly two million barrels a day over the next two decades, says the report. Current oil sands production is 2.5 million barrels a day and accounts for 60 per cent of Canada’s oil production.

That means that Canada could be adding more new oil production to global markets than Brazil and Libya combined.

As a result, emissions from Canadian oil could eventually gobble up 16 per cent of the world’s total carbon budget if it is to keep global temperature increases below 1.5 degree Celsius, or seven per cent of the two degree Celsius global carbon budget, the report found.

“Without action, Canada could become one of the fastest growing extractors of new carbon pollution over the next 20 years through the expansion of long-lived tar sands production,” adds the report.

It's been awhile since I placed much stock in anything Trudeau promises. We heard enough of his empty promises out here to know that much. However he did pledge that his government would be guided by science. The government has a raft of capable scientists on its payroll. Presumably Trudeau must have sought their scientific assessment of the Trans Canada and Energy East pipeline impacts on global warming and climate change. Why doesn't he show us that professional advice that he must have sought? I'm guessing that's not in the cards.

Figures Don't Lie But Liars Figure

As of today it's best you remember that phrase and keep it in mind. You'll find that, over the next four years, you may need it daily.

Around the time of the Carter presidency, pollsters began logging incoming presidents' popularity numbers. How does the citizenry perceive their new boss when he takes up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Even George "hanging chad" Bush showed up for work with a 61% rating. Obama had a powerful 84%. Some polls have the Great Orange Bloat at a record 32% approval rating. This is before he puts presidential pen to paper.

Here's the thing. That "fresh out of the box" popularity wanes pretty quickly. The honeymoon period passes. The bloom is off the rose.

Presidents do as much as possible to preserve that opening day popularity but they don't succeed. How hard is Trump going to have to work to shore up his 32%?

This is not to say that Trump doesn't have loyal followers. Of course he does. They were the tailgate barbeque and beer gang that were foolish enough to believe his magical promises. Hillary was heading to jail. A 30 foot wall would spring up stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. Factories just full of $30 an hour jobs would spring up everywhere. And the swamp - that swamp - well that was in for a draining. They're why I coined the term "gullibillies."

There was a study done recently that found a significant percentage of Trump supporters want Obamacare gone. However they don't want the axe to fall on their Affordable Care Act privileges. Somehow, it never reached the depths of their minds, that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is Obamacare.

The original Republican idea was to replace Obamacare with something "better." The public would simply transition from Plan A to Plan B. Trump, however, wants Obamacare rescinded, 20 million Americans denied health insurance, and then, if they're in the mood, the Republican Congress can maybe come up with something to replace it, provided the new president approves.

20 million. Those are the sort of numbers that guarantee mayhem and horror stories and there'll be plenty of front page space for that.

The coal mines? Oh yeah. Let's see how Trump gets that going again without massive government handouts.

Unlike any president before him, there'll be no honeymoon for Mr. Trump. No, he's starting off with his numbers in the crapper and he lacks anything approaching a coherent policy to guide his administration and his nation.

As Richard Wolffe writes, the future doesn't look rosy for Trump.

[Poll numbers] are the white blood cells of the circulatory system that flows through Washington. Good poll numbers can inoculate a president when Congress opposes him. Bad numbers reveal a president vulnerable to outside attacks and embolden his many rivals both inside and outside his own party.

Those numbers are about to get a lot worse. In his first year in office, Obama lost more than 15 points on his job approval. If Trump follows the same track, he will be polling in the mid-20s by this time next year. To put that into context, Richard Nixon’s job approval on the day he quit the Oval Office was 24%.

And no Mr President, these aren’t rigged polls.

The polls just reflect what people think of you, and they all rate you poorly both on a personal and professional basis. Here’s what’s rigged: an election you can win after losing the popular vote by more than 2 oints, as the polls correctly forecast. 

What could drive Trump’s poll numbers so low? Unlike Obama, who inherited the worst economy in two generations, the incoming president cannot blame external forces. The greatest threat, both to his presidency and the republic, comes from Trump himself.

Wolffe offers a catalogue of the scandals that are moving into the White House today with its new resident. The Great Orange Bloat hasn't been able to break free of them. No, not the Christopher Steele "dossier." This isn't about hookers taking a pee break in fancy Moscow hotel rooms. This is about the other scandals. A couple involve the Kremlin to be sure. Others involve the apparent corruption and manipulation of the US government's most trusted agencies, the FBI and possibly the CIA. Couple that with a new president beginning his term with one foot in the political grave, weak beyond belief, and you've got the formula for an exciting first term.

Such is life when a minority of voters and a majority of the Electoral College hand the brass ring to a narcissistic deviant with significant psychological problems.