Monday, July 31, 2017

Scaramucci Sets Record. 10 Days and Out.

John Oliver, you lucky bastard.  You take a month off and then come back last night to deliver the following take on Tony Scaramucci.

Talk about comedic timing. Tony "the Mooch" has set what must be a White House record. 11 days and gone. Word has it that Trump's latest chief of staff, retired Marine general John Kelly, gave Scaramucci the old heave-ho, sort of like what his wife dished up when she announced last week she was divorcing the weirdo.

Trump was deeply upset to see Scaramucci go. Trump? Nah, of course he wasn't. Instead, the Great Orange Bloat tweeted that it was "a great day at the White House." No reaction yet from Trump strategist, Steve Bannon. Then again, now that we know how Bannon spends his time his silence shouldn't come as a surprise.

About Assange. More Than Meets the Eye?

Julian Assange has fierce defenders on the Left. The WikiLeaks founder also has his fiercest critics on the Left. The first group insists Assange is on the up and up, the real deal. The second group suspects Assange has changed, he's bent, gone over to the other side.

"We already knew that Assange coordinated with Roger Stone and hates Hillary, but this is a whole other can of worms: Now WikiLeaks is trying to protect Trump from the man investigating him by attempting to discredit Mueller as some sort of deep-state criminal who sold nuclear weapons to the Russians.
"So, without further ado, here’s the lie of the day:
"Oh my god, what a startling revelation!
"… Oh, wait, what’s that?
"Ah, right, it’s total bullshit.
"It sure takes cojones to post the entire text of a document on your website, then lie openly about its contents. Or maybe it’s just stupidity and sloppiness. Or maybe it’s just the knowledge that a huge chunk of the American people will accept anything pro-Trump without question.
"Some background, since our alt-right friends don’t care to provide it: In 2006, the U.S. government cooperated with the government of Georgia to apprehend a Russian fellow who was trying to sell highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium (which he was keeping IN A PLASTIC BAG IN HIS JACKET POCKET — literally the most Russian thing I’ve ever heard anyone do).
"Afterward, the Georgian government authorized the United States government to share some of the material acquired in the sting operation with the Russians, who requested a sample for analysis. The three countries’ law enforcement cooperated together in the matter, with then-FBI director Robert Mueller ultimately delivering the sample to Moscow, as noted.  
"If you read right-wing media today — and I won’t give any of them the benefit of a link — you’ll see this story disseminated far and wide, with Mueller’s actions being implicitly (or explicitly) tied to Hillary Clinton by the right-wing “journalists” writing these stories. (Hey, remember that time Hillary sold a fifth of our uranium to Ukraine? Oh, wait, that’s another total lie.) When you see our brainwashed fellow citizens inevitably pushing this story now that their minds have been infected with it, show them how blatantly and willingly WikiLeaks and the right-wing media lie to them. Ask them how that makes them feel."

Bibi's Submarine Scandal. Will It Sink Him?

Will Israel's deal to buy German submarines torpedo Benjamin Netanyahu?

The Times of Israel reports that investigators have discovered how 20%, nine million dollars out of an overall 45 billion dollar commission, was to be steered to Bibi's lawyer.

Miki Ganor, a former agent for the German submarine company ThyssenKryupp, said David Shimron — who is also Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cousin and personal attorney — was to receive 20 percent of his own commission of $45 million, Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported.

Channel 10 reported that in exchange for his share of the commission, Shimron was tasked with ensuring that certain undisclosed clauses were inserted into the memorandum of understanding between Israel and Germany for the purchase of the vessels.

Ganor and Shimron are among six suspects brought in for questioning earlier this month as part of the investigation. They are suspected of attempting to sway deals in favor of ThyssenKrupp. Two other suspects are former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom.

The suspects were questioned under caution on suspicion of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, the Israel Police and the Tax Authority said in a joint statement.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case. However, police are planning to summon him to testify on what he knows about the issue.

America's "Post-Primacy" Era

Washington had no end of opportunities since the days of Reagan/Bush Sr. and Gorbachev/Yeltsin, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of American unipolar primacy. They took much for granted. Hubris set in exemplified by The Project For the New American Century mentality. Those fleeting opportunities were squandered. Today the world has moved on and even the massively powerful United States must acclimate to today's "Post Primacy" era.

The case for adapting to this new Post Primacy world is made in a new report, "At Our Own Peril, DoD Risk Assessment in a Post Primacy World."

Here are some highlights of this 140-page report:

For DoD, post-primacy is marked by five interrelated characteristics: • Hyper-connectivity and weaponization of information, disinformation, and disaffection; • A rapidly fracturing post-Cold War status quo; • Proliferation, diversification, and atomization of effective counter-U.S. resistance; • Resurgent but transformed great power competition; and finally, • Violent or disruptive dissolution of political cohesion and identity. 

While the United States remains a global political, economic, and military giant, it no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors. Further, it remains buffeted by a range of metastasizing violent or disruptive nonstate challengers, and it is under stress—as are all states—from the dispersion and diffusion of effective resistance and the varied forces of disintegrating or fracturing political authority. In brief, the status quo that was hatched and nurtured by U.S. strategists after World War II and has for decades been the principal “beat” for DoD is not merely fraying but may, in fact, be collapsing. Consequently, the United States’ role in and approach to the world may be fundamentally changing as well.

In short, most of the instruments, approaches, concepts, and resources that have historically either helped the U.S. defense enterprise generate advantage or adapt to change are likely not keeping pace with the strategic change afoot in the post-primacy era. Thus, American senior leaders and strategists will have to simultaneously design, build, and persistently adapt strategic responses to an environment where the one certainty is in fact uncertainty. The defining quality of that profound uncertainty is constant, meaningful change in strategic and operational conditions. Thus, DoD requires a nimble and adaptive risk assessment and management approach that rivals DoD’s exogenous decision-making environment in its inherent proclivity for adaptation and change.  

While the United States may still be the most important international actor in the state system, it can no longer count on the unassailable position of dominance, supremacy, or pre-eminence it enjoyed for the 20-plus years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Recognition of post-primacy is not a defeatist perspective. It is a wakeup call.2 The concept of post-primacy (explained in great detail in Section IV) is the basic recognition that global security affairs are much more competitive now than at any other time since the Cold War. 


The study team identified the following as a contemporary set of foundational enduring defense objectives: • Secure U.S. territory, people, infrastructure, and property against significant harm. • Secure access to the global commons and strategic regions, markets, and resources. • Meet foreign security obligations. • Underwrite a stable, resilient, rules-based international order. • Build and maintain a favorable and adaptive global security architecture. • Create, preserve, and extend U.S. military advantage and options.

The United States faces a range of fundamental hazards from across joint domains (including and increasingly most troubling—the cyber domain). Further, it faces new or growing challenges from and within the electromagnetic spectrum, on and from the bloodless battlefields of information and influence, and finally, from the leaderless forces of social disintegration and virtual mobilization and resistance.

Secure Access to the Global Commons and Strategic Regions, Markets, and Resources. 

The United States and its international partners rely on unimpeded access to air, sea, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum in order to underwrite their security and prosperity. Indeed, even states and actors with which the United States has substantial disputes also benefit from the free and open use of what have been universally recognized as international common spaces and resources. All five of the aforementioned domains or environments are increasingly vulnerable to the predations of malicious nonstate actors, as well as states seeking to extend their influence and exploit obvious competitor vulnerabilities. In the process, they are increasingly limiting or constraining American freedom of action as well.

Access for access sake is obviously not enough. Routes and connections between strategic markets, marketplaces, and resources in both the physical and virtual context run through common space virtually every international actor of consequence depends on. Goods and services are distributed via physical conveyance, as well as voice or data communications. There are obstacles or chokepoints along the way that also require constant security and maintenance to ensure they facilitate vice impede the legitimate political, economic, and security business of states.

Continued adherence to traditional U.S. security commitments, and attempting through engagement to expand the community of like-minded states will serve to bolster what many recognize as an increasingly compromised U.S. position. Further, to the extent that the United States leads its partners to find and enact workable solutions to common defense and national security challenges, the more likely the United States will return to a position of decided advantage vis-à-vis its competitors. If the United States remains prone to accommodate partners and reduce collective allied anxiety, the United States will regain some lost ground internationally and will do so with the wind of strong international partnerships at its back. Failure to do so, however, is likely to result in further erosion of American position and increased strategic-level risk.

Both inside and outside the United States, a great number of analysts and opinion makers are questioning the continued strength of U.S. commitment to its commonly recognized security obligations. At the same time, the study team found through extensive interactions with key defense stakeholders that the maintenance of the U.S. position as a dominant global power is untenable without both active maintenance and expansion of meaningful security partnerships worldwide.

The world has grown accustomed to U.S. leadership. Yet, there are real fears that a combination of effective counter-U.S. resistance and deliberate, unilateral U.S. hesitation and restraint have both diminished American leverage and eroded many of the key advantages essential to the United States maintaining and leading its historically strong network of alliances and partnerships.  According to General David Petraeus, “The paradox of the moment is that, just as the threats to the world order [the United States] created have grown ever more apparent, American resolve about its defense has become somewhat ambivalent.”

Since 9/11, however, U.S. perceptions of both the complexity of the contemporary order (or disorder) and its inherent hazards have grown more sophisticated, uncertain, unsettling, and confounding. While the United States still clings to significant political, economic, and military leverage, that leverage is increasingly exhibiting less reach, durability, and endurance. In short, the rules-based global order that the United States built and sustained for 7 decades is under enormous stress. The greatest source of stress lies in an inherent dynamism in the character and velocity of consequential change in strategic conditions. 

General Petraeus is instructive here as well. He recently observed: Americans should not take the current international order for granted. It did not will itself into existence. [The United States] created it. Likewise, it is not self-sustaining. [The United States has] sustained it. If [the United States] stops doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse.

American military power does continue to insure or underwrite stability in critical regions of the world. And, while the favorable U.S.-dominated status quo is under significant internal and external pressure, adapted American power can help to forestall or even reverse outright failure in the most critical regions.29 There is significantly more to effective solutions than military power. However, a broad front of hostile challenges and forces are in position to sweep the status quo aside and in the process, create conditions that are profoundly unfavorable to U.S. interests.

If the United States is to regain significant control over the most important international security outcomes, it will need to pursue a deliberate campaign that progressively re-seizes lost initiative and invests U.S. power in a remodeled but nonetheless still favorable post-primacy international order. Anticipating and adapting early to dynamic change will have a profound and positive impact on the U.S. global position. Further still, DoD will be a central player in both conceptualizing the character of and components of both the most compelling hazards to U.S. position, as well as American responses to those hazards.

In reality, decisive or definitive defeat of adversaries may not always be realistic, as it may simply exceed U.S. risk and cost thresholds. This is especially true when U.S. decision-makers come face-to-face with more organic and durable rejectionist hazards. Here, defense and military leaders will face the unsatisfying requirement to contain hazards at an acceptable cost to prevent strategic exhaustion or the fatal erosion of U.S. and partner interests.

While as a rule, U.S. leaders of both political parties have consistently committed to the maintenance of U.S. military superiority over all potential state rivals, the postprimacy reality demands a wider and more flexible military force that can generate advantage and options across the broadest possible range of military demands. To U.S. political leadership, maintenance of military advantage preserves maximum freedom of action. Further, it underwrites yet another bedrock principle of American defense policy—nuclear and conventional deterrence. Finally, it allows U.S. decision-makers the opportunity to dictate or hold significant sway over outcomes in international disputes in the shadow of significant U.S. military capability and the implied promise of unacceptable consequences in the event that capability is unleashed.

The United States and its defense enterprise are navigating uncharted waters of late. The potency, endurance, and resilience of once unassailable post-Cold War American reach, influence, and effectiveness are increasingly in doubt.

The United States has recently entered, or more accurately has freshly recognized that it is in the midst of what can only be described as the early post-U.S. primacy epoch. While jarring for strategists and policymakers who are accustomed to the assumption of primacy, they will need to adapt. This new reality has far-reaching implications for American defense policy, strategy, planning, and risk calculation.

From a defense strategy and planning perspective, post-primacy has five basic defining characteristics. • Hyperconnectivity and the weaponization of information, disinformation, and disaffection. • A rapidly fracturing post-Cold War status quo. • Proliferation, diversification, and atomization of effective counter-U.S. resistance. • Resurgent but transformed great power competition. • Violent or disruptive dissolution of political cohesion and identity.


Arguably, the most transformative characteristic of the contemporary environment is the sudden onslaught of threats emerging from the dark underside of hyperconnectivity.7 One can hardly exaggerate the degree to which hyperconnectivity enables: 1) hostile or disruptive virtual mobilization worldwide; 2) the collapse of privacy, secrecy, and operational security; 3) penetration, disruption, exploitation, and destruction of data storage and transmission, as well as the use of data and data-enabled systems; and finally, 4) the unfettered manipulation of perceptions, material outcomes, and consequential strategic decisions. That which is loosely identified as the information sphere—indeed often wrongly characterized exclusively as the “cyber domain”—has of late become the world’s most contested and congested competitive space. Indeed, while well-meaning strategists and planners work through the incredible complexity of cyber competition and conflict, the broader competitive space that revolves around information has rapidly transcended the challenges of 1s and 0s alone.

Recent events indicate that hyperconnectivity as it relates to unfettered manipulation of perceptions, material outcomes, and consequential strategic decisions may just be the most immediately consequential. Largely free-riding on the back a metastasizing global cyber superstructure, actors are increasingly weaponizing information, disinformation, and popular disaffection in order to by-pass the traditional defenses of target states and institutions. Furthermore, the incidental or accidental weaponization of the same is increasingly creating unguided and unintended collateral effects from the strategic to tactical levels of decision and action. There are myriad examples of both impacts in the contemporary environment.

As information now literally travels at light speed, it is very difficult to limit its adverse effects. Sometimes the exposure or exploitation of high-impact information is factfree. Sometimes it is fact-inconvenient. Still other times it is fact-perilous. Finally, there are times that it is fact-toxic.

The first proliferates in ways that undermine objective truth. In short, once fact-free information is deposited in or employed through the information sphere, the real story is lost in a sea of alternative realities. George F. Kennan was prescient in this regard when he observed, “the truth is sometimes a poor competitor in the market place of ideas—complicated, unsatisfying, full of dilemmas, always vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse.

Fact-inconvenient information exposes comprising details that, by implication, undermine legitimate authority and erode the relationships between governments and the governed.

Fact-perilous data gives away the keys to the castle—exposing highly classified, sensitive, or proprietary information that can be used to accelerate a real loss of tactical, operational, or strategic advantage.

In addition, finally, when exposed in the absence of context, fact-toxic information poisons important political discourse and fatally weakens foundational security at an international, regional, national, or personal level. Indeed, fact-toxic exposures are those likeliest to trigger viral or contagious insecurity across or within borders and between or among peoples.

Status quo forces benefit from and act as the self-appointed guardians of the U.S.-led post-Cold War international order and its components. Outplayed described status quo forces as international actors that “value the current order and actively work to secure it to their advantage.” The order and its constituent parts, first emerged from World War II, were transformed to a unipolar system with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and have by-and-large been dominated by the United States and its major Western and Asian allies since. Status quo forces collectively are comfortable with their dominant role in dictating the terms of international security outcomes and resist the emergence of rival centers of power and authority.

Revisionist forces benefit from the same basic international order but believe they have a rightful place at the table in the negotiation and determination of the precise terms of that order going forward. In short, they seek a new distribution of power and authority commensurate with their emergence as legitimate rivals to U.S. dominance. In the current environment, Russia and China are the most obvious examples of revisionist powers. Both are engaged in a deliberate program to demonstrate the limits of U.S. authority, will, reach, influence, and impact.

“[R]evisionists advocate and agitate for a more favorable redistribution of influence and authority . . . and demonstrate a willingness to act with purpose and volition to achieve it.”

Revolutionary forces are neither the products of, nor are they satisfied with, the contemporary order. They lie outside for a variety of political, cultural, and historical reasons. At a minimum, they intend to destroy the reach of the U.S.-led order into what they perceive to be their legitimate sphere of influence. They are also resolved to replace that order locally with a new rule set dictated by them. Iran and North Korea may be seen as the best current examples of revolutionary forces in action.

Rejectionist forces offer very little in the way of legitimate political alternatives. Rejectionism is just as it sounds—the outright violent or disruptive rejection of legitimate political authority regardless of who happens to exercise it. Rejectionists seek to destroy formal sources of political power, especially those perceived to represent existential threats to their freedom of action.

Of all the forces at play, the rejectionists are largely represented by various nonstate, sub-state, and transnational entities and movements that pray on the current vulnerability or rejection of contemporary political convention and tradition. They free-ride on hyperconnectivity to mobilize adherents around radical, criminal, or fundamentally unconventional sources of inspiration, and their reach is increasingly limited only by the number of disaffected willing to listen to and act on their various messages.

[Rejectionists] are largely destroyers not builders. . . . They self-identify as profoundly aggrieved, denied, or disenfranchised. Rejectionists are keen to confront what they perceive to be the unfair and illegitimate exercise of status quo political authority and they are loathe to accept a new, revisionist-led status quo that might also profit at their expense.

The study team concluded that the status quo that virtually all U.S. strategy rests on is, in fact, an artifact of a prior era. It lingers precisely because it comports well with the U.S. self-image of a matchless global leader. In reality, it is an increasingly flawed foundation for forward-looking defense strategy and risk assessment under post-primacy conditions.

A final implication rests in the fundamental uncertainty associated with post-primacy. Many states and peoples are operating under a renewed commitment to self-interest over any notions of collective common good. This more Hobbesian worldview makes alliance building and maintenance challenging. Further, to the extent this trend is operative in the United States relative to its relationships with the rest of the world, it will naturally appear more threatening to some and less attractive as a partner to others.

Indeed, the study team concluded that increasing trends toward what the current administration calls “economic nationalism” and its election on the back of a more inward looking brand of populism are themselves sources of pressure on the U.S.-led status quo.

The United States is in direct competition with revisionist great powers like China and Russia who have discovered complicated military and non-military work-arounds to limit U.S. freedom of action, drive up U.S. risk perceptions, and erode American reach. At the same time, mid-level revolutionary powers like Iran and North Korea present the United States with similar complex “gray zone” challenges. These manifest largely on a regional basis as both direct sophisticated military threats, as well as more destabilizing, surreptitious manipulation of fragile political balances within and between vulnerable states and peoples.

As each of these play out and on still other levels, the United States is buffeted by hostile, inhospitable, or uncertain networks, movements, and/or environmental disturbances manifesting as organized and purposeful resistance (e.g., Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] and al-Qaeda) on the one hand and leaderless instability (e.g., Arab Spring) on the other. The former threatens core U.S. interests and enduring defense objectives directly, the latter by implication. All are part of a generalized disintegration of traditional authority structures, fueled, and/or accelerated by hyperconnectivity and the obvious decay and potential failure of the post-Cold War status quo. While the most prominent of these forces currently emanate from the greater Middle East, it would be unwise not to recognize that they will mutate, metastasize, and manifest differently over time. Thus, it is imperative for the creation of an objective based vice threat-based risk model.

Go Gray or Go Home.

[The report explores what US military planners call the "gray zone " of military struggle. The term refers to "activity that is coercive and aggressive in nature, but that is deliberately designed to remain below the threshold of conventional military conflict and open interstate war." ... Gray zone challenges, in other words, are ambiguous and usually incremental aggression.]

The United States faces new and meaningful opposition from at least two great powers who are bent on revising the contemporary status quo. China and Russia are engaged in purposeful campaign-like activities that are focused on the material reduction of American influence as the principal arbiter of consequential international outcomes. They seek to reorder their position in the existing status quo in ways that—at a minimum—create more favorable circumstances for pursuit of their core objectives. However, a more maximalist perspective sees them pursuing advantage at the direct expense of the United States and its principal Western and Asian allies.

Each possesses substantial conventional and nuclear military capability. Further, each is aggressively pursuing interests in direct contravention of international norms and in ways that are threatening to U.S. and allied interests. Finally, both have adopted complex “gray zone” approaches that to date have vexed U.S. national security and defense leadership.

These “gray zone” approaches exhibit three common characteristics: hybridity, menace to defense/military convention, and risk confusion. The latter—“risk confusion”—generates paralysis among U.S. defense and national security decision-makers in the face of this kind of opposition. Outplayed describes “risk confusion” this way: “threats emerging from the gray zone have a decidedly disruptive effect on strategic risk calculations. Often, the risk associated with action and inaction appears to be equally high and unpalatable.”

...Contemporary great power antagonism occurs principally in the “gray zone” where U.S. adversaries’ substantial military capabilities are sidelined, over the horizon, or only marginally employed, but deter more activist U.S. responses nonetheless. Meanwhile, the principal competition occurs in murkier, less obvious forms of state-based aggression, where “rival states marshal various instruments of influence and intimidation to achieve warlike ends through means and methods falling far short of unambiguous or open provocation and conflict.”

One expert engaged during the research aptly characterized these gray zone approaches as effectively deterring the United States with one set of methods and capabilities while operating against and securing objectives at the expense of the United States using wholly different methods and capabilities.


As the United States and its foreign partners adapted to a war with Islamic extremists in the aftermath of 9/11, and as insurgencies raged in Iraq and Afghanistan, the term “persistent conflict” or “an era of persistent conflict” grew popular in Pentagon lexicon. At the time, that phrase had a very particular meaning. It implied that the United States had entered an era where peace as it was previously conceived of—the complete absence of violent conflict—would no longer be the norm.

... Sources of pressure include aspects of all of the aforementioned post-primacy characteristics including hyperconnectivity, the weaponization of information and disinformation, rapid deterioration of the post-Cold War status quo, the proliferation and diversification of meaningful resistance, the emergence of gray zone methods, and the rise of distributed sources of allegiance and identity. Paraphrasing one SRG member, some are fighting globalization and globalization is also actively fighting back. Combined, all of these forces are rending at the fabric of security and stable governance that all states aspire to and rely on for survival.

...All states great and small are increasingly “wrestling on quicksand.” In sum, the nexus of hyperconnectivity, distributed sources of identity and allegiance, profound discontent, and political factionalism are merging with access to the means of meaningful resistance, harm, and disruption to dangerous effect. Therefore, while the United States and China compete for Pacific primacy, for example, they do so on a less stable political foundation than in the past.

The report depicts a world of wheels spinning within wheels, lapsing at times into chaos, and major superpower rivalries being fought out in the shadows with deadly yet bloodless weapons. Without mentioning the current regime the arguments reveal plainly how Trump and his minions are undermining America's "post primacy" resilience, in effect giving Russia and China ever greater foothold.

Hold onto your hat. It looks like a wild ride ahead.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Party's Over

Even the US military is finally facing facts. The party's over. American dominance, that anyone under 70 has spent their entire life taking for granted, is over. It's not coming back. America's only hope, according to the great minds of the US Army War College is to arrest the slide and that means ever more and better and more costly weapons and ever more soldiers to fire'em.

The only surprise in this report is that anyone could be surprised. Read between the lines in other Pentagon reports and, especially, the past two Quadrennial Defense Reviews and the warnings are all there. The latest report is available free in pdf. here.

We've known for over 15-years that mankind has driven Earth into "overshoot." It actually happened in the early 70s when we broke the 3 billion population ceiling.  What are we at now, 7.5 billion heading in just another two decades to 9 billion? How deep does your Catholicism have to run to think we can avoid one or more truly cataclysmic wars before we would ever get to 9? Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.

The Pentagon is pitching this more guns/more gunners campaign based on a new world order. The real focus, however, is to maintain America's preferred access to overseas resources that her new rivals also need and ultimately must contest. What they're really proposing  is a military response to the global dilemma of climate change, overpopulation, and rampant over-consumption. They want to try to fight their way out.

And if that doesn't scare the living shit out of you, it should.

This is what can happen when you sit around with your thumb up your butt. Your best options to act slip through your fingers, utterly foreclosed.  Year by year, one by one they're gone. Eventually it comes down to might is right and the military option.  The Pentagon just sent you your invite.

A Threat to Us All

The Observer takes down Donald J. Trump.

Like some kind of Shakespearean villain-clown, Trump plays not to the gallery but to the pit. He is a Falstaff without the humour or the self-awareness, a cowardly, bullying Richard III without a clue. Late-night US satirists find in this an unending source of high comedy. If they did not laugh, they would cry. The world is witnessing the dramatic unfolding of a tragedy whose main victims are a seemingly helpless American audience, America’s system of balanced governance and its global reputation as a leading democratic light.

As his partisan, demeaning and self-admiring speech to the Boy Scouts of America illustrated, Trump endlessly reruns last year’s presidential election campaign, rails against the “fake news” media and appeals to the lowest common denominator in public debate. Not a word about duty, service, shared purpose or high ideals was to be found in his gutter-level discourse before a youthful gathering of 30,000 in West Virginia. Instead, he served up a sad cocktail of paranoia and narcissism. It was all about him and what he has supposedly achieved against the odds.

Which, for the record, is almost precisely nothing. After more than six months in office, and despite full Republican control of Congress, Trump cannot point to a single substantial legislative achievement. The bid to repeal the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, which finally went down in flames in the Senate last week, was the most spectacular and telling of Trump’s failures. His executive orders, such as the racist ban on Muslim travellers and last week’s bigoted attack on transgender people in the military, have mostly run foul of the courts or been pre-emptively ignored by those charged with implementing them.

Trump has instead squandered the political goodwill that traditionally accompanies a presidential honeymoon, shocked and outraged many middle-of-the-road voters who initially gave him the benefit of the doubt, thoroughly alienated Republican party traditionalists, who had tried in vain to swallow their doubts, and undermined the authority of the office of the president. Trump, a supposedly ace chief executive, has now lost a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff, a national security adviser, a communications director and a press secretary in short order. To lose one or even two of his most senior people might be excused as unfortunate. To lose all five suggests the fault is his.

Anthony Scaramucci, the recently appointed, foul-mouthed communications director, has unfinished business with Steve Bannon, Trump’s top strategist. Trump seems determined to undermine his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Then there is the self-interested leverage exerted by Trump family lightweights Ivanka Trump, Donald Jr and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. On top of all that, Kelly must work out how to handle the ever-expanding investigations of special counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia. A good start would be to halt scurrilous White House efforts to dig up dirt on Mueller and his team.

Yet even if Kelly succeeds in cracking the whip, curbing the in-fighting and containing the Russia scandal, he still has to deal with Trump himself. He has proved far more interested in settling scores, berating adversaries and showing off than in advancing a coherent domestic policy agenda. The next prospective car crash, following the Obamacare pile-up, is a September deadline for a federal budget and linked tax reforms and increased military spending promised by Trump. A budget deal proved impossible last spring and may do so again. If there is no agreement, a government shut-down looms, an outcome in line with current Washington trends. Lazy, feckless Trump has no interest in the onerous business of lobbying Congress or working the phones. He wants quick, easy wins or else he walks away.

...Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, heads the realist, pragmatic group of leaders who are learning to deal with a post-Obama world where the word of the American president cannot be trusted. In this new world, longstanding US commitments and treaties may not be honoured and future collaboration on key policies, such as climate change, Russia and Chinese military expansionism, is held hostage to presidential whim and the blinkered perspectives of the Ohio bar-room.

...Having played Trump to its advantage, Moscow’s open hand is turning into a clenched fist as it threatens reprisals over a new Congressional sanctions package. It was not hard to see this tactical switch coming, once it was clear Trump could not deliver the sort of concessions on Ukraine Putin craves. Except, in his fecklessness and blind vanity and courting Putin to the end, Trump didn’t see it coming at all. You can almost see Putin’s lip curl.

The common factor in all these situations is Trump’s self-induced powerlessness and ignorance, his chronic lack of credibility and presidential authority and consequent perceptions of US and western weakness. And in the case of all three actual or potential adversaries – North Korea, Iran and Russia – these perceptions are highly dangerous. Precisely because US responses, actions and reactions can no longer be relied upon or predicted, by friends and enemies alike, the potential for calamitous miscalculation is growing. This uncertainty, like the chaos in the White House and the extraordinary disarray of the American body politic, stems from Trump’s glaring unfitness for the highest office. As is now becoming ever plainer, this threatens us all.

Blame Trump, Really?

A poll finds that more than half of South Koreans think their country should have its own nuclear arsenal.

North Korea's recent launch of a long-range ballistic missile seems to have rattled South Koreans and their government.

An aide to the south's president, Moon Jae-in, blames the shift in public opinion on Trump's "America First" policy. The president now wants an increase in the south's missile arsenal but has stopped short of calling for nuclear warheads.

The launch has also rattled Japanese, some of whom witnessed this from their rooftops.

Yeah, if I saw that from my backyard, I think that would piss me off.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Second Thoughts on Saudi Death Wagons?

Just what in hell did the Liberal government think Saudi Arabia was going to do when the upheld a multi-billion dollar sale of lethal weaponry to the radical Sunni state?

Word is that Ottawa is having second thoughts after reports that the Saudis are turning the weaponry on their Shiite population. Well, who'da thunk it? Who? Hell, anybody, it's the Saudis, jeebus. You knew that Saudi Arabia is the real state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and yet you kissed their ass and patted their bums when you were done.

Ottawa, yes Justin Trudeau's government, supported the Saudis while they created a humanitarian crisis in Yemen by destroying Houthi villages. No, it wasn't just supporting the Saudis. We, along with the Americans and the Brits, collaborated with the Saudis. I guess women and children in Yemen are fair game but women and children inside Saudi Arabia are off limits.

Media reports and social media posts from the town of Awamiya, which has been under siege by Saudi security forces since May, show government forces using what appear to be armoured personnel carriers (APCs) produced and exported to the oil-rich kingdom by Terradyne Armored Vehicles Inc., a privately owned company based in Newmarket, Ont.

Global Affairs spokesperson John Babcock says Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland is "deeply concerned about this situation and has asked officials to review it immediately."

"If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action."

And while you're checking into that, how about finding out what the Saudis have been doing with those made-in-Canada LAV armoured fighting vehicles? Maybe they're over in Yemen - out of sight, out of mind.

Nothing Ever Happens on Friday

See what can happen when you spend a few hours picking plums? Consigliere Reince Priebus fired by Donaldo "The Bloat" Trumpini. His capo, Tony "Tourettes" Scarmucci gets the pink slip from his wife, Diedre Ball, who can no longer stomach Trump's chimp. Homeland Security director, Gen. John Kelly steps up as new chief of staff. Jeff Sessions adds a second layer of sandbags to his office at DoJ. A promotion (sort of), a firing and and a divorce. Sounds like a perfect way to wrap up a week of chaos and failure at Trump Casa Blanca.

It makes an abattoir seem like a rest home compared to Trump's White House.

Think the right isn't falling apart?

Ding Dong, Christy's Gone.

Sounds like she's getting while the getting's good.  British Columbia's ex-premier, Christy Clark, has resigned as leader of the BC Liberal Party.

Farewell, Christy, and remember that "door/ass" thing on your way out.

Our "Post-America World"

Fareed Zakaria writes that the world is "over" America. The world has moved on.

In London last week, I met a Nigerian man who succinctly expressed the reaction of much of the world to the United States these days. “Your country has gone crazy,” he said, with a mixture of outrage and amusement. “I’m from Africa. I know crazy, but I didn’t ever think I would see this in America.”

A sadder sentiment came from a young Irish woman I met in Dublin who went to Columbia University, founded a social enterprise and has lived in New York for nine years. “I’ve come to recognize that, as a European, I have very different values than America these days,” she said. “I realized that I have to come back to Europe, somewhere in Europe, to live and raise a family.”

The world has gone through bouts of anti-Americanism before. But this one feels very different.

According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 37 countries, people around the world increasingly believe that they can make do without America. Trump’s presidency is making the United States something worse than just feared or derided. It is becoming irrelevant.

The most fascinating finding of the Pew survey was not that Trump is deeply unpopular (22 percent have confidence in him, compared with 64 percent who had confidence in Barack Obama at the end of his presidency). That was to be expected — but there are now alternatives. On the question of confidence in various leaders to do the right thing regarding world affairs, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin got slightly higher marks than Trump. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel got almost twice as much support as Trump. (Even in the United States, more respondents expressed confidence in Merkel than in Trump.) This says a lot about Trump, but it says as much about Merkel’s reputation and how far Germany has come since 1945.

China’s leadership began taking advantage of Trump’s rhetoric and foreign policy right from the start, announcing that it was happy to play the role of chief promoter of trade and investment around the world, cutting deals with countries from Latin America to Africa to Central Asia. According to the Pew survey, seven of 10 European countries now believe that China is the world’s leading economic power, not the United States.

The most dismaying of Pew’s findings is that the drop in regard for America goes well beyond Trump. Sixty-four percent of the people surveyed expressed a favorable view of the United States at the end of the Obama presidency. That has fallen to 49 percent now. Even when U.S. foreign policy was unpopular, people around the world still believed in America — the place, the idea. This is less true today.

It May be 2017 But It's 1965 in Trump's Cave

US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has garnered considerable sympathy for the sadistic attacks  he's endured from Donald Trump lately but the little bastard really is a despicable low-life and not just for his overtly racist past.

Donald Trump/Jeff Session's justice department has just filed a brief claiming that, " the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not protect “homosexual” workers from discrimination. The brief says that discrimination based on sexual orientation is not sex discrimination—directly contradicting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which “makes it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity) or religion.”

“The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect,” the DOJ brief states.

The Trump/Session case boils down to this: "Nope, nosiree, look at that list. 'Homo' ain't even on that list."

While Title VII seems straightforward in protecting workers from discrimination based on sex, including pregnancy and gender identity, its lack of specific language in regard to sexual orientation has allowed for workplace discrimination against LGBT people. However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that handles civil rights disputes, has insisted for years that anti-gay discrimination is based on sex stereotyping and amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex.

The DOJ’s statements will not yet have concrete effects on actual workplace policy because the brief was in response to a court argument. But the comments set a dangerous precedent, given that the DOJ was not asked to participate or comment on the case—in addition to the fact that the department released the statement the same day President Trump announced a ban on transgender people performing military service.

Two things to bear in mind. This DoJ filing was gratuitous. The government was not obliged to nor asked to intervene. And Session's filing was made on the same day Trump banned transgender people from the American military.

Next up, it's time to repeal that pesky 13th Amendment.  If they'd done that a decade back, America'd been a different place.

Trump's Mini-Me

It's hard not to see Trump's new communications director, Tony Scaramucchi, as anything but the Cheeto Benito's "Mini-me."

"White House officials and outside allies say the President is revelling in Scaramucci's campaign against Priebus - undertaken through cable news appearances and a billow of tweets, some of which were subsequently deleted - and is thrilled to see a top staffer placing a publicly bombastic emphasis on White House leaks to the press, which consistently infuriate the President," the Daily Beast has reported.

One staffer told the Beast: "The President specifically gave him the green light to go after Reince."

He ended the call by saying: "Yeah, let me go, though, because I've gotta start tweeting some s--- to make this guy [Priebus] crazy."

Scaramucci's attack on Priebus was not only unprecedented, and perhaps unhinged, but often absurd.

He accused Priebus of leaking personal financial information, which actually appeared on Scaramucci's publicly available disclosure statement; he suggested that leaking was "treason"; he boasted he had called FBI contacts to encourage an investigation (a move that would be illegal) and finally he rang up a cable news network to deny the contents and context of his conversation and of a bunch of his own tweets.

If all this reminds you of anyone, well yes, Scaramucci is the embodiment of his boss. Like Trump, he has no experience in politics and no apparent understanding or interest in its norms and processes.

He appears to hold an unwavering faith that his own world view represents universal truth, at least until it changes over the course of the day.

"Privileged White Boy Beats Up Indian."

When I read that line beneath the photo of a bare chested Justin Trudeau standing beside a bare chested Patrick Brazeau, I thought, "oh no, not now." That was years ago. Why is it coming up now?

The answer - JT is drawn to publicity like a moth to a Coleman lantern. In his recent Rolling Stone interview the Dauphin was asked about his boxing match with the Tory senator.

It wasn’t random,” Trudeau told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview published this week. “I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy tough-guy senator from an indigenous community. He fit the bill, and it was a very nice counterpoint. I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.

The comments – part of a 6,800-word August cover story on the prime minister – sparked immediate reaction. “So ‘privileged white guy beats up Indian’ was the ‘right kind of narrative?’ Seriously?” wrote one person on Twitter, while another noted: “White guy in power & entitlement looks 4 an #Indigenous human to beat up so he looks like a strong white dude. How precious & colonial supreme.”

Others pointed to Trudeau’s much vaunted commitments to diversity and tackling the deep-rooted inequities facing many indigenous peoples in Canada. “What is up @JustinTrudeau after all your talk of inclusion you brag about beating up a guy with the issues you swore to address,” tweeted one.

Another said: “Trudeau literally using indigenous people as political props.”

Okay Cap'n Cuddly you stepped in it this time. They don't know that there's less to you than meets the eye. Why not just leave it that way?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Three Days on the Job and Scary Moochie Runs Amok.

Maybe Donald Trump is so depraved that he likes the deranged antics of his new-hire communications director, Tony Scaramucchi.

Enraged that a New Yorker reporter, Ryan Lizza, had tweeted that Scaramucchi, along with FOX mouthpiece Sean Hannity and Donald Trump were having dinner in the White House, Scaramucchi got on the phone to Lizza and began to unload.

Scary Moochie demanded to know who had leaked the information. Lizza refused. With that Trump's new coms guy launched into a tirade against the plotters, chief of staff Reince Priebus and strategist Steve Bannon.

He denounced Priebus calling him " a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” He then laid into Bannon. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c#@k,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President." 

He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. “He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President,” he said. “And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me.” His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form.

I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” he told me.

He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides. “O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” he said. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.”

“What?” I interjected.

“Well, the felony, they’re gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony.” He added, “The lie detector starts—” but then he changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms. I asked if the President knew all of this.

The "felony" the coms don referenced was the leak of his financial disclosure statement. However, as Politifact notes, Scaramucchi is as detached from reality as the man he worships, the Cheeto Benito.

First, it’s important to note that the financial disclosure was a public record, not secret information.

Second, Scaramucci’s financial disclosure form wasn’t leaked. It was available upon request from Scaramucci’s former employer, the Export-Import Bank, as of July 23, 2017, or 30 days after it was filed.

This is how Lorraine Woellert, the Politico reporter who broke the story, got it.

"My source for @Scaramucci financials was Ex-Im Bank. Period."

It's hard to imagine how a newly appointed top aide to a president would fly in a rage and make such vulgar, groundless statements to a reporter from a major news magazine from that president's own home town. Is the guy unhinged? Was he on something? Is he just way in over his head? Or is Moochie, not Priebus, the real "fucking paranoid schizophrenic"?

The Boy Scouts of America Apologizes for a President Who Knows No Decency

America's pervy president was in fine form when he appeared at the annual Boy Scouts jamboree to deliver high praise for - for America's pervy president. So far beyond the pale were Trump's self-congratulatory remarks and his smears of everyone else he could mention, that the Boy Scouts  had to apologize for him.

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.

While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day.

Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop – in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

"Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery" indeed.  So sad that they had to invite a despicable president utterly bereft of those very same qualities.

M'aidez, m'aidez

A plea for help from the Council of Canadians. Reproduced here in its entirety:

Did you know that most lakes and rivers in Canada are no longer protected from harmful development like dams, mines, powerlines and fish farms?

As someone who loves to kayak, I am deeply worried about how the federal government is eroding the public’s right to navigate lakes and rivers and the impacts this will have on lakes and rivers in our communities.

I bet you share similar concerns about the welfare and protection of our cherished lakes and rivers.

In fact, tens of thousands of people like you joined the Council of Canadians in flooding the Trudeau government and federal committees with heartfelt letters urging that protections be restored on the 99% of lakes and rivers that were left unprotected at the hands of the former Harper government.

But the Trudeau government didn’t listen. Instead, in a shocking move it decided to leave protections stripped off of nearly 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers in Canada.

This means that dams, pipelines, mines and fish farms can be built on 99% of lakes and rivers in Canada without scrutiny. These projects can threaten people’s navigation rights and lead to contamination.

Without question, the pipeline industry drove these changes. And now industry representatives are fighting to ensure the Trudeau government keeps protections off.

If Trudeau won’t listen, we have to put the pressure on individual MPs to step up. Will you join me in calling on your MP to urge the Trudeau government to stand up to Big Oil and immediately restore protections of every lake and every river?

The time to act is now. Until August 28, the Trudeau government is holding public consultations on a discussion paper about Canada’s key environmental laws. This is the time to make our voices heard loud and clear.

Please take a moment now to add your voice. You can have an even bigger impact by asking five of your family members or friends to join you in taking action!

Thank you for all you do to protect every lake and every river in Canada.

Donald Trump Is A.. (Your Word Here)

My word for this depraved, degenerate is "asshole."

Donald Trump is an asshole, maybe the biggest asshole of the 21st century. The Republican Party, that supports and empowers Trump, is a party of assholes. Those Americans who resolutely back Trump no matter how many hollow promises he fed them, no matter his degeneracy, no matter his endless outrages, well, they're assholes too.

Most Americans are not assholes. Most Americans do not think highly of their Degenerate in Chief. Most Americans yearn for the day when their national disgrace, their nightmare will be over. When you begin to lose faith in America, remember those Americans and not just the assholes.

There's Your Problem

100 km.Traffic Jam Approaching Beijing.

It's encouraging that leading climate scientists are coming to view global warming/climate change as part of a greater challenge confronting the survival of our civilization. One by one they're adding overpopulation and over-consumption of natural resources to the mix, recognizing that we really can't solve any of them unless we find effective solutions to them all. The big emitters have to sharply reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The most heavily overpopulated nations have to sharply reduce their populations. The affluent, privileged nations have to sharply reduce their demand on global resources.

They know what they're asking. That's why they're openly calling for "radical" change in the way we're organized - socially, economically, industrially, geopolitically.

The biggest consumers on the planet are North Americans. Per capita we consume the most energy, the most minerals, pretty much the most everything. We set the bar for peak middle class aspirations.

The US population now approximates about 325 million. China and India are in the 1.3+ billion range. Both of those emerging economic superpowers host a rapidly expanding "consumer class." There's your problem.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that China's middle class is set to grow by 850 million from 2009 levels by 2030. 850 million middle class Chinese versus around 300 million middle class Americans. Can you feel the squeeze?

It was presented in a 2010 OECD working paper by Dr Homi Kharas, now co-director in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. His prediction was that by 2030 Europe would add only 16 million to its middle class. Small stuff, and North America's middle class was set to shrink by 16 million. In this context, 850 million more middle-class Chinese dominate world economic prospects. That means the Chinese middle class will grow from 12 per cent of its population in 2009 to 73 per cent in 2030. By middle class, Kharas means household income equivalent to between $US16,000 ($20,254) and $US160,000 per year, a widely used definition.

...Kharas has released a new report, this one for Brookings. He has had access to more accurate data. For that first survey, China had provided price data for only 11 cities or provinces. The latest was able to cover all provinces. This has enabled a more accurate mapping of the middle-class explosion.

The new report confirms China's middle class growth is on track.

Kharas has, however, updated one essential: the spending of this expanded middle class is already much greater than in his original study.


Kharas says that in North America and Europe, the middle class is being "squeezed between two ends, growing even slower than overall population growth. Some households are falling below the middle-class threshold, while others are escaping and becoming rich".

This latest update confirms China's re-emergence as the world's biggest economy.

Kharas said: "The change in China's global market share of income as a percentage of the world's economy is happening much faster than it did for any country ever – faster than the UK in the industrial revolution, than the US in the 1920s, than Japan in the 1950s. When you add the disruption of China to that of India you are looking at change six to 10 times faster than these other historic transformations."

Which brings us to "Overshoot." Earth Overshoot Day 2017 falls on next Wednesday, August 2nd. That marks the day by which it is reckoned that mankind uses up a full year's supply of our planet's natural resources. From that date to the end of the year we're consuming our environmental reserves, "eating our seed corn." To add a bit of perspective, in 2006, overshoot occurred on October 9th. It has crept up, year by year, a few days at a time.

This diagram illustrates our problem:

That red line, consumption? We're already well into Overshoot, far beyond the dotted line, carrying capacity. With Overshoot falling mid-week next week, we are at roughly 1.7 times Earth's resource carrying capacity. That carrying capacity is substantially degrading. [As the red line begins to nose dive, that's the collapse of civilization as we've known it. Eventually it falls below carrying capacity but the damage, at that point, is irreversible.]

This is not hypothetical. It is visible to the naked eye from the International Space Station viewing port. It can be seen in desertification (dust plumes rising over China and crossing the Pacific), deforestation, rivers that no longer run to the sea, dry lakebeds, and algae blooms in our rivers and lakes and along our coasts. It is evident in the collapse of global fish stocks as the industrial fleet savages our oceans, fishing down the food chain. At the same time, climate change impacts such as sea level rise, severe storm events, heatwaves, droughts and floods begin to take their toll. These things are palpable, tangible, easily measured. They're undeniable and they're worsening.

I did a couple of online courses in global food security a while back. Part of the assigned reading was a chapter in a report written by three leading Chinese economists. It was so fascinating I had to read the whole paper. They foresaw the same growth dynamics mentioned by Brookings' Dr. Kharas. Yet they carried the issue a little further to address the planet's finite and declining resource base. They accepted that China would see a rapid expansion of what's now called its "consumer class" that would be thwarted by resource shortages. Their conclusion was that Communist China would have to develop a clear class structure, the 'haves' and the 'have nots.' Those who were most essential to the state would have to be rewarded with something akin to a North American standard of living. They envisioned this group as an island of affluence floating on a sea of poverty. They also foresaw great social upheaval that would have to be forcefully suppressed by the central government.

China has a lot of people but it doesn't have adequate clean freshwater reserves. It is dependent on imports of food, energy and other resources. The economists focused on China's burgeoning market for cars in the context of how much freshwater is required to produce a set of tires or build a car. Who is going to have to forego water for drinking, cooking or sanitation to meet the factory's needs?

This poses a serious future predicament for countries like Canada. Do we revert to hewers of wood and drawers of water for a foreign market, essentially an economic colony of an already resource destabilized China? Or do we recognize that our resources are strategic and vital to our own populace, essential to maintaining our own social cohesion and resilience? That recognizes a value much greater than market price. Yet this is where the world is going and there's no way to stop it.

This is our children's and our grandchildren's world. We had better figure this out and soon.

Think about this. Think about this burgeoning 'consumer class' coming out of China and, to a lesser extent, India.  Keep that in mind the next time you hear a politician spout rubbish about growth. That growth pitch is their admission of betrayal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Another Reason Canada Should Steer Clear of Trump's Call to Return to Afghanistan

If it can be rigged, it'll be rigged. If it can be corrupted, it will be corrupted.

You probably remember when Donald Trump said that America's biggest failing in the Iraq war was that it failed to take Iraq's oil. Not pay for it, take it. It was only fair that Iraqis pay for America's uninvited invasion of their country. That had such a lovely, medieval ring to it.

Having buggered up Iraq with nothing to show for it save two or three trillion in debt, the current majordomo seems interested in helping Afghanistan to rid itself of its pesky mineral resources. New York Times article here.  NY Mag article here. Gizmodo here.

The Trump White House has been consulting with high-profile war profiteers who have argued that the way forward in Afghanistan is to further privatize military operations in the country. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and senior advisor Jared Kushner reportedly "recruited" both Feinberg and Blackwater founder Erik Prince to lay out a war plan for the president.

Critics denounced this development as a step toward "colonialism," and commentators had similar words for Trump's apparent attraction to Afghanistan's mineral wealth.

Law professor and former White House lawyer Andy Wright concluded that the Times report lays bare Trump's "British Empire thinking," which places plunder over "threat-based security."

Canada, yes Justin Trudeau's Canada, is already collaborating with Saudi Arabia's rampant campaign of war crimes in Yemen. Enough. If we didn't already have good reason to steer clear of Afghanistan, we've got compelling reasons now.

Is Somebody Sending Us a Message?

Well there's news, in a way, and there's bad news, in a worse way.

The news is that sperm counts are plummeting in the Western world. A 50% decline over the past 40-years.

The analysis did not explore reasons for the decline, but researchers said falling sperm counts have previously been linked to various factors such as exposure to certain chemicals and pesticides, smoking, stress and obesity.

This suggests measures of sperm quality may reflect the impact of modern living on male health and act as a "canary in the coal mine" signaling broader health risks, they said.

The bad news is that the decline is occurring in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand but not in the overpopulated and population bomb countries of Asia and Africa.

Ralph Klein's Sabotage

I used to sort of like Ralph Klein, until he quit drinking. Then he turned into a real son-of-a-bitch.

While he may be largely forgotten today, he's left Alberta a lasting legacy and it's going to cost the people of the Wild Rose province countless billions.

In the June 12, 1991 decision, a panel of Court of Appeal of Alberta judges unanimously ruled that "abandonment of oil and gas wells is part of the general law of Alberta enacted to protect the environment and for the health and safety of all citizens."

The responsibility to properly abandon a well was binding on all who became licensees of oil and gas wells, even in bankruptcy.

The ruling came to be known as the Northern Badger case.

The anxiety it triggered was profound, but it was replaced with a newfound confidence after an unexpected boom in oilpatch activity and Ralph Klein's swearing in as Alberta premier in December 1992.

Under Klein, the Orphan Well Association was established. Wells are called “orphans” when there is no solvent entity to carry out abandonment and reclamation responsibilities. This industry-funded organization saw the already enormous problem of old wells multiply.

With Klein calling the shots, the oilpatch effectively escaped accountability for billions of dollars in reclamation obligations in exchange for merely plugging some wells after companies disappeared. In fact, the Orphan Well Association has only reclaimed about 700 sites in more than 15 years.

And today, Klein's environmental liabilities are about to blow up in the face of Albertans.

Legislative and Regulatory Capture Writ Large

A joint government/industry committee reported in 1992 that new companies with “inadequate financial resources to meet future well-abandonment liabilities” were taking responsibility for wells from established companies. In some cases, “well-licence transferors have disposed of valuable assets, leaving only liabilities within a corporate shell and thereby generating future orphan wells.”

And regulators weren’t duped; they didn’t just look the other way while these environmental liabilities were passed around like hot potatoes; they actively sabotaged their own regulatory programs to further facilitate this downloading of risk.

The only program that even began to address abandonment and reclamation with any real enforcement was the Long Term Inactive Well Program (LTIWP) launched, after considerable delay, following the 1997 election. With enforcement provisions that scaled up to legal action, the LTIWP was a five-year plan to safely plug wells that had been inactive for more than a decade.

It had some success in its first year, but as enforcement escalated in the second year, regulators lost their nerve. A second progress report was never produced and a dramatic change was announced in the third year. The Base Well Count assigned to each producer was supposed to be unchangeable. Regulators then let it be manipulated so companies could shift wells to smaller and smaller companies.

The rule change completely undermined the program’s objectives and allowed industry to game the program and loot it of deposits companies paid for well abandonment costs that could otherwise be left to taxpayers. Outrageously, regulators actually demonstrated to companies how to do so.

Read the National Observer report in its entirety. It's a fascinating but disturbing account of how governments can collude with industry at the direct expense of the public. It's an illustrative tale of legislative and regulatory capture, how industry can corrupt government into working for its interests and against the public interest. It also demonstrates how our complacency fuels their perfidy.

Ralph Klein was a lot of things to Albertans but first and foremost he was the oil industry's man.