Thursday, August 31, 2017

Canada's First Anti-Fascists

They went abroad to fight fascism. Half of them didn't live to come home. These were Canada's first Anti-Fa, the Mackenzie Papineau battalion of the International Brigade that fought with the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War.

The history of their ill-fated war against Franco and his German and Italian allies inspired Canadians at home. The Liberal government of the day would have happily thrown them in jail if it wasn't for the outpouring of support the MacPap veterans received on their return.

One Canadian who served the Republican cause was Dr. Norman Bethune of Gravenhurst.

Bethune went on to organize the first mobile bloodbank enabling Spanish Republican fighters to be treated in the field.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Lyin' Republicans of the Lone Star State

Texas senator Ted Cruz is squirming. Now that it's Houston that's underwater Ted is championing federal disaster relief. What has him squirming is that it was another devastating storm, Hurricane Sandy, that had every Congressional Republican in Texas vote against the relief bill.

Being highly-accomplished liars, Cruz & Co. are saying they voted against the bill because it was heavily larded with non disaster-related pork. It was those other evil congressmen and senators that shamelessly set out to exploit Sandy, that was the problem. All their fault.

Only, according to The Washington Post, Ted's tall tale is just so much convenient bullshit.

So was the $50 billion bill filled with pork — two-thirds of which was unrelated to Sandy?


The Congressional Research Service issued a comprehensive report on the provisions, and it’s clear that virtually all of it was related to the damage caused by Sandy. There may have been some pork in an earlier Senate version, but many of those items were removed before final passage. There were also some items that appear to have been misunderstood.

Ryan, for instance, referred in a statement to “non-Sandy expenses,” such as “sand dunes at the Kennedy Space Center, highway repairs in the Virgin Islands, and roof repairs in Washington, D.C.” But Sandy was a storm that stretched far beyond New Jersey and New York as it raced up from the Caribbean.

The Smithsonian Institution suffered roof leaks from heavy winds and torrential rain, resulting in a $2 million request. The shoreline near Launch Pads 39A and B at the Kennedy Space Center also suffered major erosion, leaving the ocean less than a quarter-mile away, so $15 million was added to deal with that problem and repair a NASA facility on Wallops Island in Virginia that also was damaged by Sandy. We couldn’t find a line-item for Virgin Islands highway funding, so it appears to have been relatively minor.

The bill did wrap in some other 2012 disaster funding, including disasters that had been declared over Alaska Chinook salmon, New England groundfish, Mississippi fisheries and American Samoa bottomfish. Those are the fisheries that the Cornyn spokesman referenced — but they were disaster declarations. So one would think it would make sense to include relief in a disaster bill.

Afghanistan May Not Have Oil Fields to Plunder. Mineral Wealth Might Have to Do.

Donald Trump used to raise a lot of eyebrows when he said America should have simply taken Iraq's oil in payment for toppling Saddam Hussein. He never got the chance.

Afghanistan may not be as lucky as Iraq. Trump very much intends to take a big bite out of Afghanistan's mineral wealth - not to buy it, to take it.

Trump, who last week announced that he would be sending more troops to Afghanistan, believes the country’s estimated $1 trillion in mineral resources can be used to repay the United States for what it has spent there. “As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us,” Trump said in an Aug. 21 speech at Fort Myer in Virginia.

In fact, Afghanistan doesn’t have a prime minister, but that wasn’t even the most concerning issue for veteran Afghanistan watchers.

One problem for American mining interests is just what you do with the ore when you dig it out of the ground. Where does it go? The two likeliest export routes are via Pakistan and Iran, neither of which is especially fond of Trump's America. You could go to Central Asia via the other Stans only to wind up at the Caspian Sea and that's land locked.  Maybe Vlad Putin would intercede on Trump's behalf. Maybe.

Because Nothing Says Disaster Awareness Like 6" Stilletoes

The Trumps stride out to experience the disaster that is Houston.

He's Got a Point. Monbiot Tackles Harvey

George Monbiot is angry, fed up. He's angry at the degree to which the media, especially America's mainstream media, are ignoring the role played by man-made global warming in the mega-flooding in Texas and other environmental calamities.

To talk about climate breakdown (which in my view is a better term than the curiously bland labels we attach to this crisis) is to question not only Trump, not only current environmental policy, not only current economic policy – but the entire political and economic system.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained – a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.

To claim there is no link between climate breakdown and the severity of Hurricane Harvey is like claiming there is no link between the warm summer we have experienced and the end of the last ice age. Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by about 4C between the ice age and the 19th century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1C of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, none is unaffected by it.


We were warned about this. In June, for instance, Robert Kopp, a professor of Earth sciences, predicted: “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

To raise this issue, I’ve been told on social media, is to politicise Hurricane Harvey. It is an insult to the victims and a distraction from their urgent need. The proper time to discuss it is when people have rebuilt their homes, and scientists have been able to conduct an analysis of just how great the contribution from climate breakdown might have been. In other words, talk about it only when it’s out of the news. When researchers determined, nine years on, that human activity had made a significant contribution to Hurricane Katrina, the information scarcely registered.

I believe it is the silence that’s political. To report the storm as if it were an entirely natural phenomenon, like last week’s eclipse of the sun, is to take a position. By failing to make the obvious link and talk about climate breakdown, media organisations ensure our greatest challenge goes unanswered. They help push the world towards catastrophe.

Hurricane Harvey offers a glimpse of a likely global future; a future whose average temperatures are as different from ours as ours are from those of the last ice age. It is a future in which emergency becomes the norm, and no state has the capacity to respond. It is a future in which, as a paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters notes, disasters like Houston’s occur in some cities several times a year. It is a future that, for people in countries such as Bangladesh, has already arrived, almost unremarked on by the rich world’s media. It is the act of not talking that makes this nightmare likely to materialise.

I agree wholeheartedly with Monbiot. Catastrophes like the Houston flooding are a devastating problem and not talking about what's really happening - not just the anthropogenic climate change element but also the political and economic dynamics at play - is to guarantee a very dark future for our grandchildren. It's not just knuckledraggers such as Trump behind this. Justin Trudeau is also on a quest for perpetual, exponential growth in GDP and deeper global integration. He'll go to Paris and make solemn promises and then betray his oath by approving bitumen pipelines. 

Perhaps one day, when enough of us are regularly taking refuge in stadiums, sleeping on cots and lining up for the porta-potties, we'll realize how devastating it was when capitalism was harnessed to neoliberalism in the 80s.  Chances are it'll be too late by then to do much about it, to undo the damage. Oh well.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Just What in Hell Is Going On in Houston

Houston, you have a problem.

From The New York Times, "Houston before and after Harvey."

Harvey, the storm that has hit the Houston area hasn't been a typical hurricane/tropical storm. It's really quite different. Unlike most hurricanes, it hasn't passed through and moved on. In fact the storm is stuck above the Houston and continuing to inundate the area with heavy rains.

Scientific American offers an explanation of the forces in play that have made Harvey one of a kind. The important question is whether Harvey is just a freak storm or the face of a new hurricane reality for the southern U.S.

Krugman - the Fascist State of America

"F-S-A, F-S-A, F-S-A."  How long before that's heard at Trump rallies or tractor pulls or gatherings of white supremacists, white nationalists, the alt-right and Ku Klux Klan?

New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, is finally ready to call it - the Fascist State of Amerika. He blames Trump of course and Trump's bigot-base but he reserves special condemnation for those Congressional Republicans who fail to stand against their rogue president, Trump's collaborators.

Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style. 

So how did we get to this point?

Trump’s motives are easy to understand. For one thing, Arpaio, with his racism and authoritarianism, really is his kind of guy. For another, the pardon is a signal to those who might be tempted to make deals with the special investigator as the Russia probe closes in on the White House: Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.

What makes it possible for someone like Trump to attain power and hold it is the acquiescence of people, both voters and politicians, who aren’t white supremacists, who sort-of kind-of believe in the rule of law, but are willing to go along with racists and lawbreakers if it seems to serve their interests.

There have been endless reports about the low-education white voters who went overwhelmingly for Trump last November. But he wouldn’t have made it over the top without millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who — despite the media’s orgy of false equivalence or worse (emails!) — had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. For whatever reason, be it political tribalism or the desire for lower taxes, they voted for him anyway.

Given the powers we grant to the president, who in some ways is almost like an elected dictator, giving the office to someone likely to abuse that power invites catastrophe. The only real check comes from Congress, which retains the power to impeach; even the potential for impeachment can constrain a bad president. But Republicans control Congress; how many of them besides John McCain have offered full-throated denunciations of the Arpaio pardon?

The answer is, very few. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, had a spokesman declare that he “does not agree with this decision” — not exactly a ringing statement. Yet Ryan did better than most of his colleagues, who have said nothing at all.

This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement with his actions if he does?

As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Do You Think They'll Get It? I'll Take That Bet.

It's not that hard to figure out unless you're a 21st century neoliberal, a group that's coming to resemble the anti-vaxxers. And, yeah, I'm lumping in that group the Dauphin and Andrew Scheer and the future leader of the New Democrats to boot.  All devout neoliberals, every one of them.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, - if the "ranch" was located in downtown Houston - the place is being inundated by a hurricane turned tropical storm that's expected to park itself over the city for three, possibly four days.  Remind you of somewhere else, closer to home? How about the Calgary floods of 2013?

Now nobody can say with any certainty that all or part of the ongoing Houston flooding is due to climate change. You cannot be heard to say that. Worse yet, you must not suggest that it's man-made, that human influences are driving this. That shall not be condoned. It's "natural variation", that's all. Move along, nothing to see here.

Sure, Houston is flooded today, but, once the flood waters recede to the point where there's enough usable air underground, all those heads are going to slam as deep as possible into the sand.


It's impossible to imagine a Secretary of State in the Obama administration or George w. Bush's or Bill Clinton's or George H.W. Bush's or Ronald Reagan's or Jimmy Carter's or Gerald Ford's or Richard Nixon's or Johnson's or Kennedy's or Eisenhower's or Truman's and certainly not Franklin D. Roosevelt's saying that their president "speaks for himself."

The president of the United States is, of course, supposed to be the voice of the nation. He is supposed to speak for America. But, in the view of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, his president, Donald Trump, "speaks for himself" after the alt-right, white supremacist, Klan rally in Charlottesville.  Donald Trump, implies Tillerson, doesn't share American values.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” Trump said. Both sides included “very bad people”, the president added, saying those gathered for the far-right rally, ostensibly to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, included many “fine people”.

Asked if such remarks made it harder for him to represent America abroad, Tillerson said: “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.”

“And the president’s values?” asked Chris Wallace, the Fox news anchor.

Tillerson replied: “The president speaks for himself.”

Will hyper-thin skinned Trump tolerate this insubordination from his state handmaiden. Is Tillerson making Trump his "cuck" in Bannonspeak? Who's next, the generals? How many limbs can Trump amputate from his administration before it collapses? Ultimately it's not a limb that needs severing. The head is the insurmountable problem. That has to go.

Then again, Tillerson should probably be keeping his thoughts to himself. With the New York State Attorney General and other state attorneys closing in on Tillerson/Exxon with a racketeering indictment, Rex might soon be in dire need of one of those Arpaio pardons.

Joe Biden's Call to Rise Up Against Trump And the Radical Right

A passionate appeal from former vice president Joe Biden writing in The Atlantic:

If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now: We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.

The giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America. Are we really surprised they rose up? Are we really surprised they lashed back? Did we really think they would be extinguished with a whimper rather than a fight?

Did we think the charlatans and the con-men and the false prophets who have long dotted our history wouldn’t revisit us, once again prop up the immigrant as the source of all our troubles, and look to prey on the hopelessness and despair that has grown up in the hollowed-out cities and towns of Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania and the long-forgotten rural stretches of West Virginia and Kentucky?

We have fought this battle before—but today we have a special challenge.

Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.

We have an American president who has emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.

A week after Charlottesville, in Boston, we saw the truth of America: Those with the courage to oppose hate far outnumber those who promote it.

Then a week after Boston, we saw the truth of this president: He won’t stop. His contempt for the U.S. Constitution and willingness to divide this nation knows no bounds. Now he’s pardoned a law-enforcement official who terrorized the Latino community, violated its constitutional rights, defied a federal court order to stop, and ran a prison system so rife with torture and abuse he himself called it a “concentration camp.”

You, me, and the citizens of this country carry a special burden in 2017. We have to do what our president has not. We have to uphold America’s values. We have to do what he will not. We have to defend our Constitution. We have to remember our kids are watching. We have to show the world America is still a beacon of light.

Joined together, we are more than 300 million strong. Joined together, we will win this battle for our soul. Because if there’s one thing I know about the American people, it’s this: When it has mattered most, they have never let this nation down.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

To Commemorate the Purge of Sebastian Gorka

Have a giggle

Another Nail in Trump's Impeachment Coffin?

What more can Trump do to demean the Rule of Law in America?

Trump did not consult Sessions or the Department of Justice before issuing the Arpaio pardon. Instead, Trump had decided to pardon Arpaio if convicted well before the errant sheriff stood trial.

As Joseph Arpaio’s federal case headed toward trial this past spring, President Trump wanted to act to help the former Arizona county sheriff who had become a campaign-trail companion and a partner in their crusade against illegal immigration.

The president asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions whether it would be possible for the government to drop the criminal case against Arpaio, but was advised that would be inappropriate, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation.

Trump’s Friday-evening decision to issue his first pardon for Arpaio was the culmination of a five-year political friendship with roots in the “birther” movement to undermine President Barack Obama. In an extraordinary exercise of presidential power, Trump bypassed the traditional review process to ensure that Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, would face no time in prison.

Trump’s pardon, issued without consulting the Justice Department, raised a storm of protest over the weekend, including from some fellow Republicans, and threatens to become a stain on the president’s legacy. His effort to see if the case could be dropped showed a troubling disregard for the traditional wall between the White House and the Justice Department, and taken together with similar actions could undermine respect for the rule of law, experts said.

Former White House counsel to president Obama and New York University law prof, Bob Bauer, anticipated the pardon in an op-ed in Foreign Policy. Bauer contends what Trump has done has the makings of a constitutional crisis.

While [Trump] has rejoiced over the “complete” scope of the pardon power, he might not know or fully appreciate the risks of his enthusiasm. One hopes that the White House Counsel, among others, sets him straight.

Any president considering a pardon in the normal course would solicit and make publicly available the recommendation of the Department of Justice. The Department, however — and here we are speaking specifically of Trump’s Department — secured the very conviction for criminal contempt that would be the subject of the pardon. Now, a president can ignore the departmental recommendation: The power is his, of course, and not the Attorney General’s. But presidents are sensitive to the Department’s recommendations, and for good reason. The pardon power sits uneasily with the belief that ours is “a government of laws, not of men,” and the DOJ’s participation is one check on the abuse of this extraordinary authority. In answering the call for public accountability President Trump would have every incentive to involve and obtain the support of the Department. His failure to do so, or his proceeding over the Department’s objections, would ring a loud alarm.


The White House Counsel preparing the pardon papers would also need to labor hard, and would inevitably fail, to bring this potential grant within the accepted norms for the grant of pardons. Among the more conventional considerations: the case is fresh, and with Arpaio’s lawyers readying the appeal of a decision issued in July, the president would be intervening in the middle of a legal proceeding yet to run its course. If Trump just jumps in and by executive fiat ends the matter, a pardon will have every appearance of being direct interference in the administration of justice. In his capacity as the Chief Executive, the President has already had exceptional difficulty grasping and respecting the independent and impartial operation of federal law enforcement. With this act, Mr. Trump dramatically escalates the assault on these limits.

Then there is the large and more basic question of the purpose behind a grant. It does make a difference why a president grants a pardon. It is an act for which he or she is accountable under the Constitution: As Justice Holmes stated almost a century ago in Biddle v. Perovich, the pardon power is “part of the constitutional scheme,” to be exercised in the advancement of the “public welfare. Or as Alexander Hamilton argued it in Federalist No, 74, it is a “benign prerogative” in the interests of the “tranquility of the commonwealth.” Like all of a president’s actions, its use is subject to the overall commitments entailed in his oath of office. Hamilton assured his Federalist readers that the individual occupying the Office of the President could be trusted to act on this extraordinary authority with a “sense of responsibility” marked by “scrupulousness and caution,” “prudence and good sense,” and “circumspection.”

Another nail in Trump's "Impeachment Coffin."

And while the president may well get away with the specific act of pardoning Arpaio, this action will not be without effect on future calls for impeachment. Unlike a pardon of himself, family members, or aides in the Russia matter, pardoning Arpaio would probably not result in the immediate demand for an impeachment inquiry. If, however, impeachment pressure increases, or a formal impeachment inquiry is launched on the basis of Russian “collusion,” obstruction, or on other grounds, an Arpaio pardon in the background will be highly damaging to the President’s position. It will immeasurably strengthen the hand of those arguing that Donald Trump does not have the requisite respect for the rule of law, or an understanding of the meaning of his constitutional oath, to be entrusted with the presidency.


Joe Farquharson sent this link so you can refresh your memory about Joe Arpaio. Sheriff Joe wasn't just some desert racist. In this and so much more this guy really is a poster boy for the alt.right and white supremacists.  And Trump is specifically playing to this crowd.

There's a Book In This.

Mike Duffy is suing the Senate and the RCMP for some $8 million in damages over the ordeal that saw him buried in scandal, expelled from the Senate and then charged and acquitted of no fewer than 31 criminal charges after a marathon 60 days, 12 weeks at trial.

There's a book in this, one that will probably never be written.

I won't try to elicit any sympathy for the Cavendish Cottager, then Conservative senator Michael Duffy.  He was more like the moth that flew too close to the flame.  Not entirely the author of his own misfortune, Duffy was set up and then put through what had all the makings of a political show trial.

Duffy lies at the center of the story but he merely anchors a saga of widespread corruption and manipulation that goes straight into the top tier of the then government, right into the prime minister's office, Harper's PMO, the Conservative Party and the Conservative leadership in the Senate. Atop that festering heap you can toss a thoroughly politicized national police agency and its own leadership. There's the real story,  pretty openly albeit obliquely at the heart of the trial judge's verdict and ruling.

It seems I played a role in Duffy's eventual acquittal. Early on I discussed the case a few times at length with a mutual friend who was involved in Duffy's defence team. Through that I was able to have access to information concerning emails and other documents in the case. I mulled it over but simply could not see the bribery/breach of trust basis for the prosecution. That seemed nonsensical to me, not supported by the documents or the known facts. Somewhat timidly I ventured that this wasn't a bribery/breach of trust case at all. The crime was not bribery, it was extortion, and the party extorted was none other than the senator from Friendly Lane, Prince Edward Island. There was a conspiracy to extort or coerce Duffy into complying with the PMO and Harper's demands. My friends heard me out and agreed and that was argued at trial. That was also the finding of Mr. Justice Vaillancourt in paragraph 1231 of his reasons for judgment when he found that Duffy's failure was to capitulate to "extortion."

Any doubt that Justice Vaillancourt understood the real conspiracy is erased in paragraph 1239 of the judgment where the Court held:

[The Crown] stated that Senator Duffy's actions were driven by deceit, manipulations and carried out in a clandestine manner.  ...I find that if one were to substitute the PMO, Nigel Wright and others for Senator Duffy in the aforementioned sentence that you would have a more accurate statement.

There was a conspiracy here and it was multi-faceted. It ensnares the PMO, Nigel Wright, the Tory leadership in the Senate, the Conservative Party, the politicized RCMP and, by powerful implication, the prime minister, Stephen Joseph Harper.

Here's something that has never been explained. When was the last time that anyone short of a Mafia Don faced a 31-count indictment? Ordinarily the Crown sifts through potential charges, picks two or three, perhaps four or five, and proceeds to trial on that basis. 31 charges, 12 full weeks at trial?

How many people do you know who could afford to hire senior counsel for 60 days in court plus prep time (reviewing documents, taking minutes of evidence, researching law) and preliminary motions? I know two, perhaps only one.

How many could endure the psychological and physical demands of that sort of ordeal? I'll tell you from my experience you won't find many.

Now consider this. Harper/Wright knew all too well Duffy's vulnerabilities. They knew he was, for practical purposes, broke. If he wasn't, Nigel Wright wouldn't have wound up writing the cheque for Duffy's Senate tab. They also knew that Duffy was old, porcine and burdened with several serious medical problems including a heart condition and Type 2 diabetes.

Then recall the internal memoranda and emails, the discussion about how, if Duffy didn't play ball, they would simply bury him (under the weight of a 31-count indictment perhaps?) in costly litigation or that the ordeal might give Duffy a heart attack also conveniently clearing up a political problem.

Harper and Wright knew they had Duffy in the crosshairs, precisely where they wanted him and, when he wouldn't play ball, they saw to it that he was expelled from the Senate and left to face a trial that was a thinly veiled political persecution, one the veteran judge had  no difficulty seeing straight through.

Suzuki Asks If We Are Embarking On a New "Dark Age"?

I know that David Suzuki isn't alone in asking if we're entering a new Dark Age.

Lately it seems so. News reports are enough to make anyone want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers. But it’s time to rise and shine; to resolve the crises humanity faces, good people must come together.

It’s one lesson from Charlottesville, Va. It would be easy to dismiss the handful of heavily armed, polo-shirted, tiki-torch terrorists who recently marched there if they weren’t so dangerous, and representative of a disturbing trend that the current U.S. president and his administration have emboldened.

Racism, hatred and ignorance aren’t uniquely American. Fanatics acting out of fear — of anyone who holds different political or religious views, of losing their real or imagined privilege, of change itself — are everywhere.

The effects spilled into Canada, most notably with  the implosion of the far-right (and misnamed) media outlet The Rebel. The online platform, born from the ashes of the failed Sun News Network, is a good illustration of the intersection between racism, intolerance and anti-environmentalism.

Rather than learning from Sun News’s failure that racism and extremism are unpopular and anti-Canadian, Rebel founder Ezra Levant ramped up the bigoted and anti-environmental messaging, with commentators ranting against feminists, LGBTQ people, Muslims and Jews (Levant is Jewish), along with rejecting climate science and solutions to environmental problems.

Canada and the U.S. have checkered racist and colonialist pasts, but for all our faults, we’ve been evolving. Thanks to many people with diverse backgrounds from across the political spectrum who have devoted themselves to civil rights, feminism, Indigenous causes, LGBTQ rights, the environment and more, we’ve made many gains.

We have a long way to go, but we must keep on and not let fear, hatred and ignorance block our way.

If we, and our children, and their children are to survive and be healthy in the face of crises like climate change and terrorism, we must stand together — in unity and solidarity, without fear. Like the many who gathered in Barcelona the day after recent horrendous terrorist attacks, the people who stood up to racists in Charlottesville, those who reject the anti-human agendas of media outlets like The Rebel, and the many people worldwide who march and speak up for climate justice, we must come together to shine a light on the darkness.

We must use our voices, actions and humour to confront these anti-human undercurrents. We must confront our own prejudices and privilege.


Too Stupid to Understand an Eclipse

Here's an image re-tweeted by Donald Trump.  Created by Trump fan and raging anti-Semite, Jerry Travone, the four panels are supposed to show Trump, complete with shit-eating grin, gradually eclipsing his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The majority of top responses to Trump's retweet suggested he take the image down or asked why he felt inclined to retweet the image.

“This is unbelievably inappropriate. You are the president to all Americans. Stop egging racists on,” one Twitter user, @AngelaBritzman, replied.

The Daily Beast writer Erin Gloria Ryan wrote that Trump didn’t understand the science of an eclipse.

“So he's the smaller thing that temporarily blocks the much bigger & brighter thing.... please my god teach this man how analogies work,” Ryan wrote.

Gorka Booted, Arpaio Pardoned

Gorka and Arpaio. They're both obnoxious but only one drew the short straw.

Yesterday the White House announced that the odious Sebastian Gorka is no longer part of Team Trump. No word on how Gorka, England born and raised, but speaking English with a heavy Hungarian accent, took his leave - whether he quit or was shoved - but in the wake of the departure of Steve Bannon, it was not a red letter day for the radical right.  Who's next? Stephen Miller comes to mind.

Gorka, by the way, did not depart gracefully. That much is obvious from these excerpts from Gorka's resignation letter published at

“[G]iven recent events, it is clear to me that forces that do not support the MAGA promise are – for now – ascendant within the White House,” Gorka wrote. “As a result, the best and most effective way I can support you, Mr. President, is from outside the People’s House.”

“Regrettably, outside of yourself, the individuals who most embodied and represented the policies that will ‘Make America Great Again,’ have been internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months. This was made patently obvious as I read the text of your speech on Afghanistan this week…

The fact that those who drafted and approved the speech removed any mention of Radical Islam or radical Islamic terrorism proves that a crucial element of your presidential campaign has been lost

“Just as worrying, when discussing our future actions in the region, the speech listed operational objectives without ever defining the strategic victory conditions we are fighting for. This omission should seriously disturb any national security professional, and any American who is unsatisfied with the last 16 years of disastrous policy decisions which have led to thousands of Americans killed and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent in ways that have not brought security or victory.”

Bad news for the far right but tinged with good news for Trump's rabid right base.  The Cheeto Benito has delivered on his promise to pardon Arizona's racist sheriff Joe Arpaio.  The self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff" has been criticized and prosecuted for being a real rightwing shit.

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Picture For the Conservative History Books

Jason Kenney, Ezra Levant, and an auditorium full of empty seats.

Kenney, meanwhile, turned down k.d. lang's offer of two free tickets to Calgary Pride over the Labour Day weekend.  Hard to say whether Kenney is balking at partaking in a LGBTQ celebration or if he still holds a grudge against lang for asking Kenney, "You're gay, aren't you?" in a tweet last March.

Bombardier Bribery Bust

Bombardier execs are in hot water with Sweden's National Anti-Corruption Unit over alleged bribes to win a $340 million (US) contract with Azerbaijan.

Auditors of the World Bank's Integrity unit report that Bombardier used "collusion and bribery" to win the contract.

If convicted, Bombardier could be barred from competing on future World Bank projects.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Case for Ousting Trump

It doesn't have anything to do with money laundering or colluding with the Kremlin to rig the election. It has everything to do with the ruinous impact of a dysfunctional presidency on American governance. The New Republic's Jeet Heer that Trump's failed presidency has left a dangerous power vacuum at the top that Congress must address before the damage becomes worse, perhaps irreversible.  He argues that relying on the White House generals to keep Trump in line could easily backfire.

It’s understandable that some Americans are turning to the generals, since the alternative is watching Trump botch the final decisions of life and death that we usually trust a president to make. Still, the truth is that any rule by the generals that stretches beyond their established role can only be deeply anti-democratic. The military is supposed to offer policy choices to the president, not the other way around. Trump is ceding presidential power to his military advisers, and this subtle move toward authoritarianism is winning bipartisan support.

The rise of the generals is aided and abetted by Congress when it fails to do its constitutional duty and check the president. Congress has many remedies available for holding a president accountable, ranging from blocking his nominations all the way up to impeachment, but so far, under Republican control, Congress has been loath to exercise them. Instead of relying on constitutional measures, lawmakers too are putting trust in the generals, hoping that they’ll keep Trump from any truly reckless act.

What makes this situation truly dangerous is that the president seems intent on encouraging his own form of street theater. Post-Charlottesville, Trump is peppering his messages with winks and nods to some of the only people who still seem to be taking him seriously: white-nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the KKK. This is a recipe for more Charlottesville-style clashes, with Trump shoring up his base by stoking their fear of radical leftist protesters. He did just that in Phoenix, growling, “You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything—Antifa!”

Democracy does not work with a power vacuum for a president. As Trump makes a mockery of his office, he has left America to drift in two fundamentally anti-democratic directions, with the military exercising ever greater power as neo-Nazi street protesters form militias of their own. People of good faith around the country may be trying desperately to counter both, but this is fundamentally a political crisis that has to have a political solution. The president is unfit to serve, and until Congress comes to its senses and remembers its constitutional powers, this is what we can expect: a weakened president subservient to the military egging on armed fascists as they take to the streets.

Some Really Terrific Public Service Ads

Still Crazy After All These Years

Apologies to Paul Simon but the phrase, "still crazy after all these years," speaks perfectly of America's inability to either accept or learn from its past. The proof is manifest in the current administration's blustering posture over Afghanistan.

Trump has chosen to hit the reset button on America's Afghan War. He doesn't want to go down in the history books as the president who threw in the towel and handed the country back to the Taliban and so he's made the latest iteration of the war, Afghan War 3.0, his very own. Trump says he's going to win, he's been saying that since he ran for the Republican nomination, but he doesn't seem to have a clue, beyond tossing in another 4,000 troops, of how to go about it.

The US force in Afghanistan peaked in 2010 at around 100,000. Those troops, blended in with forces from NATO and other countries, formed the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, that totaled 140,000 in 2011. During most of this period another group, usually described as "contractors," often exceeded in total numbers the actual military force strength. These mercenaries during the Obama draw down at one point outnumbered American military forces by a 3-1 margin.

During Afghan War 1.0 and 2.0, our side had the Taliban massively outnumbered. Our side also had all the strike fighters, attack and transport helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery, drones and satellite reconnaissance and communications.  We had the professionally trained soldiers with their myriad, state of the art skills. We had all those mercenaries to boot. Our adversaries? They had a gaggle of illiterate Afghan farmboys equipped with Korean-war vintage assault rifles and light machine guns and a mountain of high explosive left over from decades of previous wars.

Now we have secretary of state Tillerson delivering a rather pompous sermon from the mount on the way things are going to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the era of Trump's Afghan War 3.0.

"This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory -- we may not win one, but neither will you," Tillerson said. "At some point we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end."

Rex doesn't get it. The Taliban isn't out to win a battlefield victory over the Americans. They know who has the jet fighter-bombers, the helicopters, the tanks and artillery, all the really good stuff and they know it's not them. But, to the Taliban, being outnumbered and massively outgunned doesn't much matter.  There are two wars going on, a military war and a political war. We've been fighting a military war since Day One but that's not the war that matters and they know it. The political war, the one we're not fighting, will decide the issue. 

The Taliban strategy emulates the same strategy that carried the day in Vietnam, Algeria and elsewhere including the Soviet foray into this same territory. They avoid the military war to the extent possible, carrying out skirmishes, IED and suicide attacks, at a level just sufficient to stay in the game while they focus on the political war, taking over territory, establishing alternative political, judicial and security structures and thereby displacing the central government.  They seek to outlast us in the military war by maintaining a minimal but credible presence and they can wait us out. If three successive presidents cannot win this war how long will the American public support this war without end?

Donald Trump has warned about "hasty withdrawal" from Afghanistan. The fact is Western forces have been withdrawing from Afghanistan since 1842 the year that ended Britain's first failed Afghan War. We're closing in on two centuries of showing Afghans our invincible military prowess and then hightailing it, often under fire.

Rudyard Kipling captured the essence of waging war against the Afghan tribesmen when he wrote:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Sorry, But You Did Have It Coming.

It's a phrase that lawyers are particularly fond of - "the author of his own misfortune."  It describes the common defence to those who make poor choices and then seek to hold others liable for all or part of the unwelcome consequences.

It may soon be heard from the denizens of America's "slave states," the type who flock to Trump rallies, see soshulists lurking behind every tree, get their reality via Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones, and absolutely reject the notion of anthropogenic global warming.

A new study reveals the economic shitstorm heading the way of the American south.  Fortunately for these folks global warming is a hoax.

There are a few takeaway messages. First, the color scale is not symmetric – that is the orange and red values represent pretty large economic losses whereas the green values are notably smaller economic benefits. Secondly, there are more regions that will lose than there are that will win. When interpreting an image like this, we have to be cognizant of the fact that more people live in the Southeast than in the central west. Robert Kopp, one of the authors of the study stated in a press release:

'In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities. Increasingly extreme heat will drive up violent crime, slow down workers, amp up air conditioning costs, and threaten people’s lives.'

This conclusion was echoed by Solomon Hsiang, the lead author:

'Unmitigated climate change will be very expensive for huge regions of the United States. If we continue on the current path, our analysis indicates it may result in the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich in the country’s history.'

I'm wrestling with how this fiasco will result in "the largest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich" in America's history especially after the already massive wealth transfer of the neoliberal era. There is, however, in this a warning for us all. Between sea level rise, severe storm events, saltwater inundation and other climate change impacts, there is going to be a retreat from the coasts and a migration out of the American south.  Those people, America's first major IDPs, internally-displaced persons, will have to relocate and there's only one direction for them to go.

I-M-P-E-A-C-H, I Quit

Daniel Kammen is a professor at UC Berkeley. Until recently he's also served as a science envoy to the US State Department.  It seems the good professor has had a gutful of Donald Trump, something that emerged from his letter of resignation delivered yesterday.

In his letter, Kammen also criticized Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord. The first letters of each paragraph spell out the word “IMPEACH.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

America's Backroom Revolution or Constitutional Coup?

It may be the ultimate expression of neoliberalism - revolution.  Only don't think of George Washington and his Continental Army. The generals in the neoliberal revolution will be billionaires and CEOs and their foot soldiers will be senators and congressmen and state legislators.

The neoliberal revolution is being fomented by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, where political hacks go to receive their marching orders from their corporate masters.

ALEC is now working to get the necessary number of states onside to trigger a Constitutional Convention. The last - and only - convention was held in 1787 with George Washington presiding.

Republicans control 32 state legislatures. 34 would be needed to trigger a second Constitutional Convention to amend the U.S. Constitution in more corporate-friendly ways.

Under Article V of the Constitution, there are two processes for amending it: amendments may be proposed by Congress, or two-thirds of state legislatures (currently 34 states) may call for a convention for proposing amendments. Using either avenue, any proposed amendments must then be ratified by the legislatures of 3/4 of the states (currently 38 states) before they take effect. Because extreme Republican fiscal austerity advocates have not been able to get a “balanced budget” amendment through Congress, they have been pursuing the state-based avenue for several decades, with little success.

Right-wing convention backers mounted a strong push in this year’s legislative season, but came up empty-handed in several of their target states and lost momentum when three states (Maryland, New Mexico, and Nevada) voted to rescind their balanced budget amendment convention calls.

Even Republican legislators are having doubts about the wisdom of launching another Constitutional Convention. Although there have been various proposals considered by states attempting to control the agenda, rules, and participants of any convention, there is nothing in the Constitution that limits what delegates can do once a convention has been called. The danger of a “runaway convention” has prompted right-wing groups and icons, like the John Birch Society and the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, to denounce the idea. Idaho Republicans voted down a Constitutional Convention resolution this year and a convention bill was tabled in Kentucky as well.

But this hasn’t dampened ALEC’s support for the notion. ALEC is continuing to pursue a highly partisan, highly political agenda to rewrite the Constitution primarily for pursuing a fiscal austerity amendment that would effectuate steep cuts in popular programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. ALEC has three model proposals and has held workshops at almost every meeting including its most recent meeting in Denver as Rep. Chris Taylor reported.

At the top of the agenda is a balanced budget amendment that would be aimed at slashing spending rather than raising taxes on the now largely tax exempt elite.  Another proposed initiative would empower states to ignore federal laws and supreme court rulings not to their liking. There are certainly more that haven't surfaced yet.

The overall effort being pushed by the hyper-partisan ALEC and its allies left law school professor David Super of Georgetown University shaking his head. “When you are pushing a narrow, partisan agenda for constitutional change, planning amendments when you can have the most partisan advantage, you do a lot of damage to the Constitution as a unifying force,” said Super. “Everyone has things they don’t like in the Constitution, but we should all agree that the Constitution is for all of us, bigger than any one political party.”

Dear Ezra. Do Let the Door Hit Your Ass On Your Way Out.

And I hope it hits you hard enough that you squeal.

The New Republic has a feature on Ezra Levant and his Rebel Media.

The article focuses on how the Rebel Commander and his alt-right news outlet have fallen on precipitous and hard times in the wake of the Charlottesville fiasco that includes a list of prominent former Rebels who have parted company with Ezra and his enterprise.

TNR concludes that Ezra may have shot his bolt as far as Canada is concerned and may be unable to resist the fascist sirens' call from the U.S.

The Canadian Rebel is dying. But as the president of the United States fans the flames of racism south of the border, Levant’s toxic xenophobic website could still come roaring back, repurposed for an American audience. Both BuzzFeed and The Walrus have predicted that Levant will abandon his Canadian audience for good and align himself with the readers (and donors) of the American alt-right. If Levant chooses that path, he’ll follow in the ignominious footsteps of other right-wing Canadians who found greener pastures in the States, including Father Charles Coughlin, David Frum, Mark Steyn, and Richard John Neuhaus. Instead of a Canadian Breitbart, we may end up with an Americanized Rebel.

Go, Ezra, go. And do let the door hit your ass on your way out.

Today in Breitbart

A Steve Bannon fidget spinner.  The timing is perfect just as fidget spinners are going the way of Pogs in the 1990s.

Over at the re-Bannoned Breitbart News Network, the lead story is about how White House aides just can't stop leaking, this time in telling Politico that Trump's barking mad speech in Phoenix wasn't their doing but just Trump going right off script - again.

More White House leaks! Anonymous “aides” have rushed, right on cue, to disavow Donald Trump’s fiery speech in Phoenix, Arizona Monday night and tell establishment reporters that they had nothing to do with the red meat the president served up to his Deplorable supporters.

Breitbart also features a story critical of Trump's decision to double down on Afghanistan, a call Bannon finds offensive.  Maybe they should concentrate on moving that inventory of Bannon fidget spinners while they can.

Exxon Hoist On Its Own Petard

Petro-giant Exxon is facing a load of grief. Several US state attorneys-general are gunning for the company and a new report based on Exxon's own internal documents has produced what could be the smoking gun.

Harvard scientists Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes ...used a method known as content analysisto analyze 187 public and internal Exxon documents. The results are striking:

In Exxon’s peer-reviewed papers and internal communications, about 80% of the documents acknowledged that climate change is real and human-caused.
In Exxon’s paid, editorial-style advertisements (“advertorials”) published in the New York Times, about 80% expressed doubt that climate change is real and human-caused.

As Oreskes documented with Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt, tobacco companies and several other industries that profited from harmful products engaged in decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about the scientific evidence of their hazards. As one R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company 1969 internal memo read:  'Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public.'

The results of this new paper show that Exxon followed this same playbook. While the company’s internal communications and peer-reviewed research were clear about human-caused global warming, its public communications focused heavily on sowing doubt about those scientific conclusions.

Exxon was sowing doubt by raising questions in its advertorials that Exxon's own scientists had answered 10 even 20-years earlier.

This study comes as ExxonMobil already faces numerous investigations by state attorneys general and class action lawsuits. One lawsuit accuses Exxon of misleading its investors and inflating its stock value by making false statements about the value of its oil reserves (much of which must be stranded if we’re to meet international climate targets), and about how climate policies will impact the company’s finances.

The attorney general of the Virgin Islands is investigating Exxon for potentially violating the territory’s anti-racketeering law. New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman is also investigating whether Exxon lied to the public and its shareholders about the risks of climate change and the potential effects on the company’s finances. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey is pursuing a similar investigation to determine whether Exxon deceived the public and investors about climate change risks.

By showing that Exxon systematically misled the public by following the tobacco industry playbook, the new Harvard study will undoubtedly bolster these cases.

Big Tobacco was convicted of racketeering in the tobacco/cancer campaign. Hard to imagine that Big Oil isn't heading for the same reckoning.

The Essential Role of Perspective

The reports sound pretty awful - more than 800 dead in floods that are sweeping India, Nepal and Bangladesh.  But how to make any sense out of that?

I went to check out the live birth rate in just India. It's reported to be 32 a minute or just over 46,000 every day. That's 46,000 versus a death rate per day of about 14,400 for a net gain, per diem, of over 31,000. That's just for India. (Canada records 1,075 births and 570 deaths per day).

Can Liberal Democracy Survive Neoliberalism?

Externalities,  where would we be without them? In the Ponzi scheme we know as neoclassical economics, the sort still taught to our young in universities, externalities are impacts from economic activity that are borne by third parties and, hence, kept off the company's books. A common externality is pollution. Smokestacks, for example, can release all manner of toxic substances that can be bad for people living downwind but are rarely charged back to the emitter.  Fossil fuel giants have been playing the externality game forever.

But what about the externalities of neoliberalism?  Stephen Metcalf's brilliant essay, "Neoliberalism, the idea that swallowed the world," explores neoliberalism not just from its economic and political dynamics but also in its human dimension, the impacts it exacts from us on an individual level.

As I've mulled over Metcalf's essay, I've come to realize that, to both the corporate and political caste, the human impacts of neoliberalism are an externality, something best left unmentioned and very easily ignored. That's because you've been dealt out of the game.

The neoliberal order is, at its foundation, a pact between two powers, political and corporate. It is an accommodation based on the surrender of sovereign powers to the new, collaborative regime. The populace doesn't get to play. We're not in the game.

It's become standard these days for government to recognize "stakeholders" as having a seat at deliberations and policy-making. We, you and me, well we're not stakeholders. We're plebs. We're just along for the ride, that is provided we behave ourselves.  The government agenda and the public interest are not necessarily coterminous.

Metcalf alerts us to the human cost of neoliberalism.

the goal was to weaken the welfare state and any commitment to full employment, and – always – to cut taxes and deregulate. But “neoliberalism” indicates something more than a standard rightwing wish list. It was a way of reordering social reality, and of rethinking our status as individuals.

In short, “neoliberalism” is not simply a name for pro-market policies, or for the compromises with finance capitalism made by failing social democratic parties. It is a name for a premise that, quietly, has come to regulate all we practise and believe: that competition is the only legitimate organising principle for human activity.

It isn’t only that the free market produces a tiny cadre of winners and an enormous army of losers – and the losers, looking for revenge, have turned to Brexit and Trump. There was, from the beginning, an inevitable relationship between the utopian ideal of the free market and the dystopian present in which we find ourselves; between the market as unique discloser of value and guardian of liberty, and our current descent into post-truth and illiberalism.

What any person acquainted with history sees as the necessary bulwarks against tyranny and exploitation – a thriving middle class and civil sphere; free institutions; universal suffrage; freedom of conscience, congregation, religion and press; a basic recognition that the individual is a bearer of dignity – held no special place in Hayek’s thought.


the application of Hayek’s Big Idea to every aspect of our lives negates what is most distinctive about us. That is, it assigns what is most human about human beings – our minds and our volition – to algorithms and markets, leaving us to mimic, zombie-like, the shrunken idealisations of economic models. Supersizing Hayek’s idea and radically upgrading the price system into a kind of social omniscience means radically downgrading the importance of our individual capacity to reason – our ability to provide and evaluate justifications for our actions and beliefs.

As a result, the public sphere – the space where we offer up reasons, and contest the reasons of others – ceases to be a space for deliberation, and becomes a market in clicks, likes and retweets.

We fashion ourselves and identities on the basis of our capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy. When we provide reasons for our actions and beliefs, we bring ourselves into being: individually and collectively, we decide who and what we are.

According to the logic of Hayek’s Big Idea, these expressions of human subjectivity are meaningless without ratification by the market – as Friedman said, they are nothing but relativism, each as good as any other. When the only objective truth is determined by the market, all other values have the status of mere opinions; everything else is relativist hot air. But Friedman’s “relativism” is a charge that can be thrown at any claim based on human reason. It is a nonsense insult, as all humanistic pursuits are “relative” in a way the sciences are not. They are relative to the (private) condition of having a mind, and the (public) need to reason and understand even when we can’t expect scientific proof. When our debates are no longer resolved by deliberation over reasons, then the whimsies of power will determine the outcome.

Every day we ourselves – no one has to tell us to anymore! – strive to become more perfectly like scattered, discrete, anonymous buyers and sellers; and every day we treat the residual desire to be something more than a consumer as nostalgia, or elitism.

I find much that's familiar in Metcalf's observations. For some time I've written about how many societies, especially America's, seem to have been groomed or conditioned, evident in such things as a rejection of knowledge, logic and critical thinking and the ready acceptance of faith and belief as substitutes.  This is certainly manifest in the die-hard supporters of the current president, a group I often call the "gullibillies." It's this grooming, this conditioning that makes that group so susceptible to manipulation by those playing on their fears, insecurities and prejudices. To even such a grotesquely flawed charismatic as Trump they're putty in his hands.

But what of us, our society? Have we been similarly conditioned? I believe we have although not to the same extent as our southern cousins, not yet at least. Part of this is pre-ordained in the emergence of our corporate media cartel that served Harper so well and  which Trudeau ignores at our peril, not his own.

Our capacity for reflection is tamed or otherwise subdued, by any name suppressed. Modern politicians eschew vision lest it rekindle our appetite for reflection and reasoning and intrude on their whimsies of power. As Metcalf put it so well: "We fashion ourselves and identities on the basis of our capacity for reflection. The use of one’s individual reflective powers is reason; the collective use of these reflective powers is public reason; the use of public reason to make law and policy is democracy."

What we lose - our individual powers arising out of reflection, reason, knowledge, logic and critical thinking - all of these thing so fundamental to the continuation of a healthy liberal democracy are either undermined or heavily discounted in this neoliberal order. These are but quaint notions, relevant to a time before neoliberalism but now an impediment to market-driven politics and corporate interests. Stripped of these individual powers, we must eventually slip into a post-truth world populated by misinformation, distraction, delusion, conspiracy theories creating the societal chaos from which deeply flawed individuals such as today's American president can, like all scum, float to the top of the cauldron.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Uniquely American Approach to Discussing Sea Level Rise

Americans know the sea is rising. A good many wealthy Americans own rather expensive waterfront abodes. They've come to "get" the reality of  sea level rise, storm surges and saltwater inundation. They're willing to talk about it. They're willing to plan for it, even to pay for protective measures. But there's one condition. There must be no talk about climate change, especially man made global warming. That sort of talk is a deal-breaker.  From Yale Climate Connections:

To film director Roger Sorkin, talking about sea-level rise – and more importantly, how to adapt to it and build more resilient, forward-thinking communities – without talking about climate change is a well-considered strategy.

For the record, Sorkin is no climate change contrarian. He acknowledges that carbon emissions are responsible for sea-level rise. And that we humans are responsible. But he also believes in meeting folks where they are. That’s why, he explains, his audiences do not hear the words “climate change,” “global warming,” or “carbon” in “Tidewater,” his documentary film about sea-level rise in Hampton Roads.

“Stories matter to us,” Sorkin says. “And the building blocks are the words that you use to tell stories. Certain words press peoples’ buttons and produce visceral reactions.”

When stories about sea-level rise are framed around a narrative “that leads with ‘look at what humans have done this to the planet,’ for a lot of people, that puts their guard up. So, we’re just being conscious of the way the message is crafted,” he explains.

Sorkin's is not an isolated experience. Legislators in Florida, for example, have stated they're willing to engage on sea level rise and responses, provided there's no attempt to link that and anthropogenic global warming.

Bannon Bites Back

That didn't take long. With Steve Bannon booted from the White House last Friday and back at the helm of Breitbart news the same day, it didn't take long for the first attack on Donald Trump.  The subject was Afghanistan and the man/baby president's announcement that he would follow in George w. Bush's and Barack Obama's footsteps to keep the war rolling. It was a perfect opportunity for Bannon/Breitbart to attack Trump and Bannon's mortal enemies, Trump's in-house generals, especially H.R. McMaster.

The headline said it all - "His McMaster's Voice."

Today’s Afghanistan speech by President Trump may be equally alien to his electoral base, though it was not difficult to figure out whose influence led to the speech’s neoconservative bent.

HR McMaster’s voice was clear to hear. It’s a voice that appears to have been carried over from the George W. Bush administration, and even the Obama White House.

This isn’t about changing his perspective on the war. POTUS is a remarkably astute and stubborn individual. This was about the swamp getting to him.