Thursday, November 30, 2017

Washington Post Conservative Columnist - Trump Must Be Removed

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn column for the Washington Post. The veteran conservative pundit has added her voice to the chorus demanding that Trump go.

It seems to be a given among those who know Trump best that he is out of touch with reality. ("Mr. Trump's friends did not bother denying that the president was creating an alternative version of events. One Republican lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Trump's false statements had become familiar to people over time. The president continues to boast of winning districts that he did not in fact win, the lawmaker said, and of receiving 52 percent of the women's vote, even though exit polls show that 42 percent of women supported him.") Rather than reveal the person with his finger on the nuclear button is disconnected from reality, his enablers work to conceal Trump's malady. ("Mr. Trump's journeys into the realm of manufactured facts have been frequent enough that his own staff has sought to nudge friendly lawmakers to ask questions of Mr. Trump in meetings that will steer him toward safer terrain.")

Some Republicans find this all amusing. "One senator who listened as the president revived his doubts about Mr. Obama's birth certificate chuckled on Tuesday as he recalled the conversation," the Times reports. "The president, he said, has had a hard time letting go of his claim that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States." Yup, a regular laugh-riot. A president so warped he holds onto racist conspiracy theories for years. A real knee-slapper. Think about that: He has a hard time letting go of an outright lie, a crackpot conspiracy theory that no one of sound mind honestly embraces.

To be blunt, the senator and Trump's other enablers are unpatriotic and irresponsible. Their obligation is to make clear, not conceal, that the commander in chief cannot process reality and is so emotionally damaged that he must cling to long debunked falsehoods or relapse into denial after an interlude with reality. This is not, as the unnamed lawmaker suggested from behind the skirts of journalistic anonymity, cause for merriment. And it's no trifling matter.

The Cabinet has an obligation to determine if the president is so impaired that he "is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office," as the 25th Amendment sets forth. Congress has an obligation to defend the Constitution and exercise oversight, to gather testimony and other relevant evidence to determine if Trump is dangerously impaired.

Now, it may be that Trump knows full well he is lying. He may take delight in horrifying aides and lawmakers, like a child relishing the shock on adults' faces when he uses foul language. If so, that makes him a moral abomination unworthy of his office, but not bonkers.

If, however, he actually believes that former president Barack Obama wasn't born in America, that Obama wiretapped him, that he (not Hillary Clinton) won the popular vote and the women's vote, and that it's not his voice on the "Access Hollywood" tape, then he's something far more problematic than a liar. In such circumstances, he would be mentally and emotionally incapable of performing his duties (which require one to grasp and process reality) and it would be long past time for him to go.

Foreign Policy - "This Is How Every Genocide Begins"

Foreign Policy's Daniel Altman on why Trump's most un-American outburst cannot be ignored.

A president can do many things that seem cruel, especially from the point of view of his political opponents, such as encouraging Congress to strip health insurance away from millions of Americans. He can also do many things to offend the moral sensibility of his constituents, such as talking about grabbing women by their genitals. He can even go so far as to call into question American values, perhaps by equating the actions of white supremacists and those who oppose them.

Each of these actions is abhorrent in its own way, but I would argue that none of them creates the same peril to the nation — and to humanity itself — as the president’s retweets. I know it may seem like an enormous exaggeration to pin such importance on the result of clicking a button on a webpage. But again, please bear with me.

Some of the greatest crimes in human history have begun with moments like this one. Social scientists agree that attacks on an entire class of people — whether identified by their race, religion, education, or any other distinguishing characteristic — do not happen spontaneously. First the mob has to be primed. The targeted group has to be demonized through a campaign of hateful misinformation, always presented as legitimate information by people in positions of trust. Then the signal for violence falls on ready ears.

Americans need only look to the historical case they probably know best: that of Nazi Germany. One of the precursors to the Nazi ascendancy was the immense popularity, in the painful aftermath of World War I, of a book purporting to disclose Jews’ plans for global domination: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The book was a forgery — no such plan existed or had ever been published by Jews — but it and similar texts cemented Jews as scapegoats for Europe’s economic and political ills years before the Nazis took power.

The analogy to the president and his retweets is striking. He has used populist rhetoric to gain sway with vast numbers of disadvantaged and disillusioned Americans, in part by appealing to long-held prejudices. The videos he shared purportedly portray outrages committed by Muslim migrants in Europe, yet in reality they may be nothing of the sort. And just as Adolf Hitler claimed that the mainstream media’s dismissal of the Protocols proved that they were true, the president has repeatedly switched fact for fiction, especially in his denouncements of “fake news.”

I am worried that the president has set us on this long and terrible path. I worry for Muslims, but also for everyone who believes in freedom and equal rights.

If our nation’s democratic institutions, including the office of the president, have been subverted to take us even one step closer to Nazi Germany, we have already gone too far. No tax reform bill or allegation of sexual harassment, however ill-conceived or despicable, presents a greater danger. And with the drums of war beating again, the chance to spread hate more widely in a wave of nationalistic fervor will soon beckon.

As a person of Jewish parentage, I feel the danger evoked by the president’s retweets especially keenly. When I was growing up, my mother would occasionally pull out a book of family photos from the former Czechoslovakia, where both of her parents had been born. The early pages were full of well-dressed Moravian urbanites from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Then there were photos of the smiling faces of their grown children, all people who were later murdered in the Holocaust.

The New York Daily News - Trump is Barking Mad

The gloves are off at New York's Daily News paper. Donald Trump is a madman. He's off his rocker.

After his latest spasm of deranged tweets, only those completely under his spell can deny what growing numbers of Americans have long suspected: The President of the United States is profoundly unstable. He is mad. He is, by any honest layman’s definition, mentally unwell and viciously lashing out.

Some might say we are just suffering through the umpteenth canny, calculated presidential eruption designed to distract the nation from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, or perhaps from unpopular legislation working its way through Congress.

Quite possible. But Occam’s razor, and the sheer strangeness of Trump’s behavior, leads us to conclude that we are witnessing signs of mania.

The editorial is as much a lament as it is a rebuke of this pathetic, deranged figure. It might even be a tragedy if Trump had somehow stumbled and fallen from some loftier, noble place only he's never been far from the bottom of the birdcage even before his mental mainspring snapped.

Christmas? Hell No. It's SpringTime in Greenland

As November gives way to December you might imagine it would be freezing in Greenland inside the Arctic Circle. You would be wrong. Here's a dandy graphic depiction of what's actually happening.

That scorcher that recently hit southern California has moved - a lot - all the way into the high Arctic
bringing balmy conditions to Greenland and most of the Canadian archipelago with temperatures reaching into the upper 30s Fahrenheit.

The heat wave began out west last week, with large parts of California sweltering in the 90s. As but one example, the National Weather Service Los Angeles tweeted on Nov. 22 that the 99°F reading at Camarillo Airport in Ventura County not only broke the record for that day (by 9°F), but broke the record for any day that month.
The heat wave moved east after Thanksgiving, and by Tuesday it was blanketing most of the country.

In late November, a major heat wave is a welcome event in large parts of the country, with temperatures in the 60s in large swaths of the south and with Minneapolis hitting the upper 40s.

But in a place like Greenland, a monster heat wave this time of year pushes temperatures above freezing. It hit the upper 30s in many coastal towns — with rain forecast in some — which means actual melting over parts of the great ice sheet that should be adding ice right now, not losing it.

The Whiny Man Baby President Goes After Theresa May

With a skin as thin as Donald Trump's it is not surprising that the Great Orange Bloat took to twitter to fire back at Theresa May for her stiff rebuke this morning. The British prime minister took Trump to task for retweeting three videos put out by the racist, anti-Muslim group, "Britain First."

A statement from No 10 said: “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.

“British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

Decency, tolerance and respect, why the nerve of that Limey.

Donald Trump has publicly rebuked Theresa May over her criticism of anti-Muslim propaganda, opening an extraordinary diplomatic spat between the transatlantic allies.

“Theresa @theresamay, don’t focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom,” the US president tweeted on Wednesday evening. “We are doing just fine!”

The angry tirade, crowning one of the most wayward days yet of Trump’s presidency, earned a swift putdown from the US senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who met May at Downing Street last week to discuss terrorism threats to both countries. He tweeted: “PM @theresa_may is one of the great world leaders, I have incredible love and respect for her and for the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence.”

Pile On

The Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, described the retweets as “abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society.” He and several other members of parliament called for the state visit to be cancelled.

The Labour MP David Lammy posted: “Trump sharing Britain First. Let that sink in. The President of the United States is promoting a fascist, racist, extremist hate group whose leaders have been arrested and convicted. He is no ally or friend of ours. @realDonaldTrump you are not welcome in my country and my city.”

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, urged Trump to remove the retweets. And Brendan Cox, widow of Jo Cox, an MP murdered last year by a man reportedly shouting “Britain first” as she shot and stabbed her, told CNN: “I think we probably got used to a degree of absurdity, of outrageous retweets and tweets from the president, but I think this felt like it was a different order.

“Here he was retweeting a felon, somebody who was convicted of religiously aggravated harassment of an organization that is a hate-driven organization on the extreme fringes of the far, far right of British politics. This is like the president retweeting the Ku Klux Klan.”

Trump does indeed seem to be in some free fall mental meltdown. The guy is unhinged. When you couple his mental instability with his astonishing ignorance and impulsiveness, we, the world, have got a very dangerous loose cannon on the deck.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Razor Wire is for Prisons and Concentration Camps

This is the face of Kinder-Morgan that Trudeau's favourite company shows to British Columbians. A floating razor wire fence around its Burrard Inlet dock facility. That's the American company's way of telling British Columbians who's in charge on our waters.

It sure lets you know what side of the fence you're on and just who is on the other side. We're on the outside. Kinder-Morgan and Justin Trudeau, they're on the inside.

We know where we stand. Trudeau's resource minister, Jim Carr, made that plain when he suggested that his government might call the army in to deal with pipeline protesters. Nobody believed the lying weasel when, in the face of the predictable public outrage, Carr apologized and said he didn't mean to threaten pipeline protesters.

Leave it to Dogwood's Kai Nagata to refresh our memories of Justin Trudeau's perfidy.

During his election campaign Trudeau promised ad nauseum that “governments grant permits, but only communities can give permission.” He was talking, of course, about pipelines. But soon after winning power, his position shifted to “Father knows best”.

One year ago today, Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and oil tanker proposal.

By signing on to this desperate scheme, Trudeau put the lie to his own election promises and ignored the explicit lack of consent from First Nations communities disproportionately affected by pipeline construction, oil spills and climate risk.

This week the women of the Secwepemcul’ecw Assembly vowed to shut down any “Man Camps” Kinder Morgan tries to build in their vast North Thompson territory. As the Secwepemc declaration notes, a growing body of research is finding links between remote work camps and violence against women.

Farther south is the Nlaka’pamux village of Coldwater, whose leaders were barred from hiring lawyers when the first pipeline came through in 1952. The government handed over a lump-sum payment of $1,200 and told them to sign. The people have lived with an oil pipeline hissing over their water aquifer ever since. They don’t want to triple that risk.

Nor do the Tsleil-Waututh in Burrard Inlet, who have coaxed healthy, edible clams and other sea life to grow again in a waterway hurt for decades by industrial pollution. Or their neighbours the Squamish, who are reviving their language – a language born thousands of years ago from the very landscapes and ecosystems that would be obliterated by an oil tanker spill.

Days before Trudeau gave Kinder Morgan the green light, Tsleil-Waututh leaders flew to Ottawa to deliver, in person, their “informed withholding of consent”. What they didn’t know is the federal government was already setting up a website to announce the Kinder Morgan approval, before the leaders’ plane even landed.

What kind of self-professed feminist decides that “no” really means “yes”? In Justin Trudeau’s case, a Prime Minister who also fought to preserve discrimination against women in the Indian Act, and still refuses to provide equal health care or education funding for Indigenous children.

Okay, Junior, the Time For Excuses Is Over.

Justin Trudeau has done Canada a service by apologizing on behalf of the country for past wrongs. It was the right thing to do and, while it won't expunge the shameful past nor will it make anything right, it's a long overdue first step.

While I commend Trudeau for apologizing for the wrongs of others I can't help wondering who will apologize for his wrongs and his failures? Foremost among them will be climate change and the Trudeau government's inability and unwillingness to act on these gathering threats. Instead we have a prime minister who promotes pipelines and bitumen and, in an act of brazen sophistry worthy of Trump, tells us that is the key to a green future for Canada.

The National Observer today reminds us that Trudeau is on the wrong side of this issue. Worse yet, he's on the wrong side of 79 per cent of Canadians who believe we're facing catastrophe if we fail to do more, a lot more, to fight climate change.

And this “new normal” extends across party lines. 67 per cent of Conservative voters fear a looming economic disaster if we fail to do more, while 85 per cent of them believe we have “a moral responsibility” to act.

What about the hard politics of holding the federation together? Abacus asked residents of the oilsands provinces and found that, “More than 75% believe that the consequences of inaction will be severe or very severe or catastrophic, and most do not believe that acting to fight climate change will be bad for the economy or for taxes.”

It's clear that Trudeau is working in someone's interests. It's equally clear that's not the public interest. A narrower interest has Trudeau's ear.

McKenna remains as upbeat a booster for #climateaction! as ever, but the reception is souring. Canada’s largest source of carbon emissions — oil and gas production — is not just steaming along but expanding, the feds have approved major export terminals for fracked gas as well as oilsands pipelines to Vancouver harbour and the U.S. Midwest. Halfway through its term in office, Canada’s climate plans are still mostly proposals and agenda items for consultations and task forces — even before theory meets practice, the proposed plans would leave Canada millions of tons of carbon shy of meeting those Harper targets, which McKenna vowed would be the bare minimum, “the floor not the ceiling.”

It's time for Justin to put on the long pants and become the prime minister of Canada. A good place to begin is by scrapping fossil energy subsidies, direct and indirect, that the International Monetary Fund pegs at somewhere between  34 and 46 billion dollars each year.  

McKenna has proposed several important public policy mechanisms, but none are designed to galvanize the public imagination. Instead of vagaries about “clean growth,” why not put something compelling and tangible in the shop window? Major countries like the U.K. and China are setting dates to end the sale of fossil fuelled cars. That’s galvanizing.

On the rhetorical front, Trudeau and his ministers should engage Canadians in a more direct conversation about where we’re heading. Instead of mushy talking points about “transition,” let’s have an honest conversation about what we’re transitioning to. A zero carbon economy where fossil fuel emissions have been eliminated.

We need to eliminate fossil fuel emissions in a few short decades to avoid catastrophic impacts. That’s the point of the Paris climate agreement and the point of the climate summit underway in Germany. It’s time to move that conversation beyond the hallways of the U.N. and grapple with it as a truly national conversation at the dinner tables and coffee shops of the country.

Enquiring Minds Are Asking, "Has Donald Trump Lost His?"

It's a question that's being asked seemingly everywhere. Has the president of the United States lost his mind? Have Donald Trump and reality parted company? Is the Mango Mussolini mad, bonkers?

President Donald Trump has used his Twitter account as a platform to attack others, embellish his own accomplishments and mislead the public to a degree that makes it difficult to argue it's not deliberate. His deceptive Islamophobic tweets on Wednesday morning were no different.

The president retweeted three unverified videos posted to Twitter by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right ultranationalist political organization that is opposed to multiculturalism and campaigns against Islam.


If the videos weren't questionable enough, Fransen certainly would be. She was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment in November 2016, after abusing a Muslim woman who was wearing a hijab. Fransen was fined over $2,000 "for wearing a political uniform and shouting at Sumayyah Sharpe during a 'Christian patrol' of Bury Park in Luton," according to The Independent.

When she realized the president had retweeted her posts, she was ecstatic.


— Jayda Fransen (@JaydaBF) November 29, 2017

Fransen has since tweeted several articles about the news that Trump had spread anti-Islamic messages on his Twitter account.

Trump has often viewed himself as the arbiter of so-called fake news but has by and large been the most influential and consistent promulgator of it.

On CNN, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Trump's retweets were "bizarre and disturbing" and that they have "all kinds of ripple effects."

Former DNI Clapper calls President Trump's retweeting of anti-Muslim videos "bizarre and disturbing" and says it "has all kinds of ripple effects" — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) November 29, 2017

My hunch, and it's only a hunch, is that, with Mueller closing in Trump may be angling for a "Section 8" or the constitutional equivalent of it, the 25th Amendment whereby Pence and the cabinet would have him removed for incapacity and then Pence, like Gerald Ford, pardons his former boss only he'd also have to issue a blanket pardon for the rest of the Trump clan and their courtiers.

Say Goodbye to the "Hundred Year Storm" Say Hello to the new "Hundred Year Storm"

The "hundred year storm." What a quaint notion, so very Holocene. It's a term used to describe a weather event so severe that it would only happen once a century. Only that was the Holocene, this is the Anthropocene.  Now these really severe storms are more frequent. In fact, severe storm events  now occur with much greater frequency, intensity and duration.  And so the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, NOAA, is expected to reclassify the "100 year storm" designation.

What's interesting about this is that NOAA's approach will be to increase the amount of rainfall and flooding necessary to qualify for a once a century designation. What used to be really, really bad will now become "meh."

As Our Government Cuddles Up with China, It's Good to Remember This.

China's values are not our values and that's not going to change no matter how much Canadian prime minister suck up to the Boys from Beijing.

This message brought to you by Lee Ming-che.  The Taiwanese man has been sent to prison for five years for advocating democracy.

A court in southern city of Yueyang convicted Lee Ming-che, 42, of subverting state power. He had used social media to discuss democracy with users of a popular messaging service in China, his supporters say. Chinese state-run news outlets say the social media group was aimed at overthrowing the government.

Matt Lauer, Okay, But Garrison Keillor?

NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer is gone. Lauer was sacked over sexual harassment claims.

Lauer’s co-anchors on Today, the long-running morning show, announced his firing at the start of Wednesday’s programme.

Savannah Guthrie read a statement from the NBC News chairman, Andrew Lack, before then giving her own shocked but steadfast reaction to the news.

Lack said in the statement that NBC had a received a complaint on Monday and a review concluded that it represented a “clear violation of our company’s standards”.

Another little boy who couldn't keep his pee-pee to himself. Just desserts, etc., etc.

But Garrison Keillor? Lake Woebegone's Garrison Keillor?  Yep, Minnesota Public Radio  fired Keillor for inappropriate sexual behaviour.

After confirming the news in an email to the Associated Press, Keillor issued a follow-up statement saying he was terminated over “a story that I think is more interesting and more complicated than the version MPR heard.” However, he did not elaborate.

MPR issued a statement on its website Wednesday announcing it would “end its business relationship with Keillor’s media companies effective immediately.” That includes ending distribution and broadcast of The Writer's Almanac, a daily syndicated program that Keillor continued to write and produce, in addition to rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion. 

Jeez, at this rate, who'll be left by Christmas time?

2025. Think About It. That's Not Far Off For a Thirsty World.

Two big factors in the survival of humans in our overpopulated world are the availability of clean freshwater and basic sanitation, toilets. Right now we're desperately short of both. It's a sad fact that, in the Third World, more people have cell phones than have access to a toilet, even a pit toilet.

When it comes to clean, safe freshwater, the situation is equally dire and it's about to get a lot worse very soon.

About 800 million people world-wide will experience absolute water scarcity while two-third of the world’s population would also face severe water crisis by 2025. Besides, 1.1 billion people would be deprived of clean drinking water.

This is what water scarcity currently looks like:

This is what it's projected to look like in 2025.

It doesn't look good for North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia or a good part of China for that matter.  Some of the hardest hit nations are nuclear powers: Israel, Pakistan, India and China, the latter three of which all have competing demands for the Himalayan headwaters.

What makes the problem more difficult is that these water-stressed regions include the regions that have the greatest need for basic sanitation. Water and sanitation are inextricably linked. When clean water is not to be found, people will drink contaminated filth water. When water is in short supply, what is available is not wasted on sanitation. Perfect conditions for outbreaks of dysentery, cholera, typhoid, polio and a host of other contagions.

It will be a real test of the blue countries, the northern hemisphere nations, whether they will make the sacrifices needed to come to the aid of the populations of the red and yellow countries and, if they do, which ones.

The worst case scenario, it seems, would be for the north to pull up the drawbridges and allow the south to depopulate. Bear in mind that we are in uncharted territory. Many of the impacted countries will be dangerously destabilized. What a mess.

Theresa May Blasts Trump for Re-Posting Videos from Brit Hate-Monger

From the "And You Thought He Couldn't Get Any Lower" file, the Mango Mussolini has again shown his true colours and, once again, he's got the Brits mad at him.

Donald Trump has retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by the deputy leader of the UK far-right group Britain First, Jayda Fransen, prompting condemnation from Downing Street.

The president’s decision to share the posts by Fransen, who is facing charges of causing religiously aggravated harassment, was described as “wrong” by the official spokesperson of the prime minister, Theresa May.

A statement from No 10 said: “Britain First seeks to divide communities by their use of hateful narratives that peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.

British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right which is the antithesis of the values this country represents, decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the president to have done this.”

Trump, who has 43.5 million followers on Twitter, retweeted three separate posts by Fransen on Wednesday, which all included separate, unverified, anti-Islamic videos.

One purported to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof. Another claimed to show a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and another claimed to show a Muslim immigrant hitting a Dutch boy on crutches. In the latter case at least the videos’ credibility was cast in doubt when it emerged that Dutch police and media never suggested the attacker was a Muslim immigrant in their coverage of the incident.

Banks Warned to Heed Climate Change Perils

Australia's financial regulator has put the country's banks, insurers and lenders on notice. They have to factor climate change risks into their financial dealings or the regulator will intercede.

Geoff Summerhayes from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (Apra) revealed it had begun quizzing companies about their actions to assess climate risks, noting it would be demanding more in the future.

Apra also revealed it has established an internal working group to assess the financial risk from climate change and was coordinating an interagency initiative with the corporate watchdog Asic, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) and federal Treasury to examine what risks climate change was posing to Australia’s economy.

In February, Summerhayes put banks, lenders and insurance companies on notice, urging them to start adapting to climate change and warning that the regulator would be “on the front foot on climate risk”.

Summerhayes said a shift occurring in the global economy was increasingly being driven by commercial imperatives – investments, innovation and reputational factors – rather than what scientists or policymakers are saying or doing.

“Apra is not a scientific body and I can’t say with 100% conviction to what extent scientists’ predictions of increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and more intense storms will impact the Australian economy,” Summerhayes said.

“But what I can tell you with absolute certainty is that the transition to a low-carbon economy is underway and moving quickly.”

The involvement of Asic in the initiative is interesting following advice from Noel Hutley SC last year finding company directors who do not properly consider the material impacts of climate change on their business risk personal liability for breach of duty.

“So whether due to regulatory action or – more likely – pressure from investors and consumers, Australia’s financial sector can expect to see more emphasis on discourse around climate risk exposure and management,” Summerhayes said.

Meanwhile the bond-rating company, Moody's, is putting American coastal municipalities on notice to prepare for climate change impacts or see their credit status suffer.

"What we want people to realize is: If you’re exposed, we know that. We’re going to ask questions about what you’re doing to mitigate that exposure," Lenny Jones, a managing director at Moody’s, said in a phone interview. "That’s taken into your credit ratings."

In its report, Moody’s lists six indicators it uses "to assess the exposure and overall susceptibility of U.S. states to the physical effects of climate change." They include the share of economic activity that comes from coastal areas, hurricane and extreme-weather damage as a share of the economy, and the share of homes in a flood plain.

Based on those overall risks, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi are among the states most at risk from climate change. Moody’s didn’t identify which cities or municipalities were most exposed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mission Accomplished-ish Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defended the gutting of top US State Department diplomats and staffers. His explanation - they're no longer needed, the Trump administration is on the verge of solving most of the world's problems.

The secretary of state presented this rationale for the budget cut at a time when he is under fire from former US diplomats for gutting his state department at a time of multiple crises around the world – an allegation Tillerson denied.

On Tuesday, the secretary of state said he was “offended” by suggestions that “somehow we don’t have a state department that works”.

And he offered a further rationale for the retrenchment, based on an assumption that the world would become more peaceful.

“Part of this bringing the budget numbers back down is reflective of an expectation that we’re going to have success in some of these conflict areas, getting these conflicts resolved and moving to a different place in terms of the kind of support we have to give,” Tillerson said.

Rex Tillerson is a perfect fit for the Trump administration. LikeTrump and several of the Mango Mussolini's aides, Tillerson also has prosecutors hot on his heels only in the secretary's case it's state attorney generals investigating his conduct as CEO of Exxon.

Spain - Beautiful, Modern and, Yet, Still Medieval.

"when we get there, we'll want to rape everything
 we set eyes on"

It wasn't that long ago that Spaniards were slaughtering each other in hundreds of thousands. That was going on, under Franco, less than a century ago. It can take generations to climb out of that sort of barbarity.

There's an interesting gang rape trial now underway in Madrid, the heartland of the rightwing monarchist government. It involves the Pamplona "wolf pack" or "La Manada," a group of five guys from Seville who, in 2016, went to the "running of the bulls" with one thing on their minds, raping women.

They're now standing trial for the gang rape of an 18-year old woman, or at least they should be. However, in a tribute to Spanish justice, it's the woman on trial.

That line about raping everything we set eyes on? That was a text that was circulated among the gang mentioning the need to procure date rape drugs and ropes. The trial judge has excluded those messages from the evidence. What the judge did allow into evidence was a private investigator's report into the victim, her social media activities and such. That was part of the defence plan to argue that the gang sex was consensual.

"In this trial, it seems that what is being judged is not the crimes, but this woman's honour," says Amalia Fernández, president of Themis, a Spanish organisation of women jurists.

"We live in a society with patriarchal attitudes. Courts reflect society leading to a double victimisation as in this case. In crimes against women, the victim is turned into a suspect, something that never happens to complainants in other crimes."

Ms Fernández questions how the judge could have considered a private detective's report on the student from Madrid to be of any value in evaluating her level of trauma, while describing the material from the accused's WhatsApp conversations as irrelevant in terms of their "preparations" for the alleged crime.

She also criticises the fact that the accused were not cross-examined until the end of the trial after hearing all the other evidence and the testimony of the alleged victim, an extremely rare exception to the norm in Spanish trials in which defendants are put on the stand first.


According to the police report on the case, the men surrounded the teenager in a small alcove, removed her clothes and had unprotected penetrative sex.

The men sent WhatsApp messages to friends celebrating the sex act, and promised to share videos they took on their phones. Those videos have been examined by the court frame by frame.

The police report on the videos says that the alleged victim maintains a "passive or neutral" attitude throughout the scene, keeping her eyes closed at all times.

"I just wanted it to finish as soon as possible," she said on the witness stand.

The woman was found in a reportedly distraught state by a couple in the street outside the scene of the alleged crime. She told the court she is still having psychological treatment to deal with trauma from the alleged attack.

Mice On the March

From The Japan Times of all places, a story about Canadian mice and climate change in the Great White North.

Mice in Canada are mutating and migrating farther north in response to climate change, according to McGill University research released Monday.

The study, published in the journal Evolutionary Ecology, found that “milder winters have led to physical alterations in two species of mice in southern Quebec in the past 50 years,” lead researcher Virginie Millien said in a statement.

It also adds to evidence that “warming temperatures are pushing wildlife north,” she said.

Over the past decade, researchers looked at two common species found in eastern North America — the deer mouse and the white-footed mouse.

As winters got milder, the white-footed mouse moved farther north at a rate of about 11 km (7 miles) per year, according to the study.

At the Gault Nature Reserve on Mont Saint-Hilaire, about 40 km east of Montreal in the Saint Lawrence valley, 9 out of 10 species caught in the 1970s were deer mice, while only 10 percent were white-footed mice.

Those proportions are now reversed as more white-footed mice have crossed the Saint Lawrence River, northbound.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Wit, Wisdom, and Humour of Will Rodgers.

Whether it's Charles Dickens or George Orwell, there are some who impart wisdom that is truly timeless. Another is American humourist, Will Rogers. Enjoy.

See they conducted experiments on convicts ... I don't know on what grounds they reason a man in jail is a bigger liar than one out of jail ... The chances are telling the truth is what got him there ... It would be a big aid to humanity, but it will never be, for already the politicians are up in arms against it ... It would wreck the very foundation on which our political government is run ... If you ever injected truth into politics you'd have no politics.

You can't say that civilization don't advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.

The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickled down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the dryest little spot. But he dident know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands. They saved the big banks but the little ones went up the flue.

This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer

Sure must be a great consolation to the poor people who lost their stock in the late crash to know that it has fallen in the hands of Mr. Rockefeller, who will take care of it and see it has a good home and never be allowed to wander around unprotected again. There is one rule that works in every calamity. Be it pestilence, war, or famine, the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The poor even help arrange it.

Our constitution protects aliens, drunks, and U. S. Senators. There ought to be one day (just one) when there is open season on senators.

Personally, I have always felt the best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can't ask his patients what is the matter — he's got to just know.

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.

What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.

Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can't buy enough to eat.

I have no Politics. I am for the Party that is out of Power, no matter which one it is. But I will give you my word that, in case of my appointment, I will not be a Republican.

We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.

I am not a member of any organized party — I am a Democrat.

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

There are three kinds of men: The ones that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

That's one thing about Republican Presidents. They never went in much for plans. They only had one plan. It says "Boys, my head is turned. Just get it while you can."

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.

There are two theories to arguing with a woman. Neither works.

All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that's an alibi for my ignorance.

The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.

A fool and his money are soon elected.

Lead your life so you wouldn't be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.

Wanna Catch Tax Cheats? You Can Do Better. Let Me Help.

A story in the CBC has the Canadian Revenue Agency in hot pursuit of tax cheats focusing on Canada's richest neighbourhoods.

"Comparing someone's lifestyle — cars, boats, houses — to their reported income helps us identify people who are non-compliant," said CRA spokesperson Zoltan Csepregi.'

Hey, Zoltan. I know where you'll find some rich pickings. Go to my old neighbourhood, the Arbutus area of Vancouver, once home to vast swathes of neat-as-a-pin, 40s vintage, two-bedroom bungalows each with a single-car detached garage. 

Those houses are all gone, replaced by lot line to lot line McMansions where a bare lot now starts at 2.2 million and more. Properties there can  fetch up to four mill but here's the best part. The average household income in that neighbourhood comes in at a minuscule $32-thou. Now how many of your relatives can buy a four million dollar house on a 32 thousand a year gross income? How many of those low wage earners can buy that house and just let it sit there empty?

You go to that neighbourhood, Zoltan, and you're going to be a busy boy. Odd you didn't think of that years ago.

Let's Talk Nukes

Donald Trump wonders why have nukes if you can't use them. Vlad is furiously deploying new warheads and delivery systems including new nuclear subs and ultra-long range cruise missiles.  Team Trump is working on developing a new generation of warheads that are more user friendly. American nuclear nonproliferation expert, professor Avner Cohen, is scared shitless.  But where do we really stand?

Between them, Russia and the US have about 14,000 nuclear warheads, about 5,000 of which are retired and awaiting decommissioning. Overall they maintain about 4,000 nuclear devices ready to go.

For the rest the tallies are: France, 300; China, 270; UK, 215; Pakistan, 140; India, 130; Israel, 80; and North Korea, 60.

Let's ballpark it at 10,000 nukes all in.

What kind of mayhem do you get for that sort of investment?

According to the British newspaper, The Telegraph, there is less to nuclear warfare than we imagine.

According to Telegraph research, it is estimated that the US and Russian arsenals combined have power equating to 6,600 megatons. This is a tenth of the total solar energy received by Earth every minute.

A 2014 study published in the American Geophysical Union Journal contends that even a small exchange, say between Pakistan and India, of just 100 warheads would be civilization-as-we-know-it ending.

A limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan in which each side detonates 50 15 kt weapons could produce about 5 Tg of black carbon (BC). This would self-loft to the stratosphere, where it would spread globally, producing a sudden drop in surface temperatures and intense heating of the stratosphere. Using the Community Earth System Model with the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model, we calculate an e-folding time of 8.7 years for stratospheric BC compared to 4–6.5 years for previous studies. Our calculations show that global ozone losses of 20%–50% over populated areas, levels unprecedented in human history, would accompany the coldest average surface temperatures in the last 1000 years. We calculate summer enhancements in UV indices of 30%–80% over midlatitudes, suggesting widespread damage to human health, agriculture, and terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Killing frosts would reduce growing seasons by 10–40 days per year for 5 years. Surface temperatures would be reduced for more than 25 years due to thermal inertia and albedo effects in the ocean and expanded sea ice. The combined cooling and enhanced UV would put significant pressures on global food supplies and could trigger a global nuclear famine.

"Global nuclear famine." Hmm, never had one of those.

Will the Fossil Fuelers Be Next?

Big Tobacco is coming clean in newspapers and on TV screens across the US. It's not voluntary. A court is holding a gun to their heads.

The parallels between Big Tobacco and the Fossil Fuel Giants are remarkable. Will Big Fossil and its political collaborators get the same treatment?

What's the "Word of the Year" for 2017?

I suppose it makes sense. According to, the most commonly looked-up word this year is "complicit."

Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300 percent over last year as "complicit" hit just about every hot button from politics to natural disasters, lexicographer Jane Solomon told The Associated Press ahead of Monday's formal announcement of the site's pick.

"This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit," she said. "Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent."

I just ran a Google image search for "complicit." What came up more than anything else were photos of Ivanka Trump.  Go figure.

The first of three major spikes for the word struck March 12. That was the day after "Saturday Night Live" aired a sketch starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump in a glittery gold dress peddling a fragrance called "Complicit" because: "She's beautiful, she's powerful, she's complicit."

The bump was followed by another April 5, also related to Ivanka, Solomon said. It was the day after she appeared on "CBS This Morning" and told Gayle King, among other things: "I don't know what it means to be complicit."

Is Tesla a Death Sentence for Conventional Power Utilities?

Elon Musk wagered he could build s 129 megawatt battery in Queensland within 100 days or it was free. Tesla built and installed the battery with plenty of time to spare and, with it, just might have served a death warrant on fossil energy electricity.

Alternative clean energy, solar and wind, is already cheaper than coal, oil or gas generated power. The hangup has always been the need for some affordable means to store that power when the sun isn't shining or the wind stops blowing. That's where Tesla and others have come in.

The CBC's Don Pittis has an article today on how solar power is driving down the cost of electricity to levels once unimaginable.

The new price, described by the news site Electrek as the cheapest electricity on the planet, was less than 2 cents per kilowatt hour, "part of a pattern marching to 1 cent per kWh bids that are coming in 2019 (or sooner)," the site declared.

The record was not set in a place where energy is traditionally cheap. Nor is it from a traditional electricity source.

The new low price of 1.7 cents per kilowatt was part of a contract between the Italian multinational ENEL Green Power and the Mexican government agency that administers the country's electricity wholesale market.

Fossil energy bad boy Alberta may be the first to step up in Canada.

Alberta is on the leading edge of an energy experiment that is turning global — and Canadian — markets upside down.

Within weeks, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), which manages and operates the province's power grid, is expected to announce the results of a bidding process to create "5,000 MW of renewable electricity generation capacity connected to the Alberta grid between now and 2030."

The power will come from wind, not solar, and the prices will be more than double the record prices set in Mexico. But for the first time in Canada, the Alberta agency will use the same market auction system for creating green power that has helped push electricity prices down in Mexico and other places around the world.

Some experts say the prices set in the Alberta bidding process could be as low as 5 cents per kilowatt hour. That's in the same range as the gold standard combined cycle natural gas power plan and just the beginning of a process that will use market forces to stimulate new efficiencies in Canada's electricity market as technology improves.

In 2014 the world's largest private bank, UBS, warned its moneyed investors to steer clear of conventional power utilities.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale centralized power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible and are "not relevant" for future electricity generation. Instead the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.

"Solar is at the edge of being a competitive power generation technology. The biggest drawback has been its intermittency. This is where batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) come into play. Battery costs have declined rapidly, and we expect a further decline of more than 50% by 2020. By then a mass [produced] electric vehicle will have almost the same price as a combustion engine car. But it will save up to 2,000 euros a year on fuel cost, hence, it will begin to pay off almost immediately without any meaningful upfront "investment." This is why we expect a rapidly growing penetration with EVs, in particular in countries with high fossil fuel prices.

These rapidly emerging technologies will show the true colours of our political leadership in the Canadian petro-state.  Trudeau has shown he can always be counted upon to say the right thing and then do something else or simply nothing. Cognitive dissonance is no problem for the diminutive son of Pierre. That apple may not have fallen far from the tree but it rolled all the way down the hill.

Kid Pipeline has broken every promise to commit the federal government in support of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. What is the justification for that pipeline set to carry the world's highest carbon and toxic ersatz oil in a world on the brink of transitioning to much cheaper, far cleaner alternative clean energy? If bitumen goes bust, becomes a "stranded asset" then the fallout will land squarely on Trudeau. He broke his promises. He made his choice. 

Re-Thinking Disaster Bailouts

One of the now outdated vestiges of our former geological epoch, the Holocene, is disaster relief where governments federal and state or federal and provincial disburse large sums of cash for people devastated by severe weather events, notably floods.

The old policy made sense when these were "once in a century" events. However that was the Holocene and now we've moved into a geological epoch of our own making, the Anthropocene. One of the features of the Anthropocene is a new climate in which severe storm events of all descriptions of greater frequency, intensity and duration become commonplace, not rarities, not freak events.

Americans, especially in the hurricane, tornado, drought and flood ravaged south, are coming to face this new reality, their "new normal." An article in The Chicago Tribune illustrates their predicament.

There is a house in Spring, Texas, just outside of Houston, that has achieved a certain distinction for being flooded again and again. Over the years, reports The New York Times, it has been repaired no fewer than 19 times, costing the federal flood insurance program $912,732. Its actual value? Just $42,000.

But that’s not such a rare distinction. A house near Baton Rouge, La., worth $56,000 has flooded 40 times, according to The Washington Post, racking up $428,000 in claims. A property near St. Louis assessed at $90,000 has sopped up $608,000 in payouts.


The National Flood Insurance Program is under enormous strain right now because of the devastation wrought by hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. But it was in trouble already — nearly $25 billion in debt and obligated to provide coverage in places and on terms that guarantee more heavy losses.

The federal program was established in 1968 to provide coverage that private insurers had abandoned. It serves the important purpose of saving property owners hit by unforeseen disasters from financial ruin. But it has failed to protect taxpayers from endless unnecessary claims in areas prone to flooding, notably along the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River.

Unreasonably low rates mandated by Congress are one problem. Another is the eligibility of policy holders for repeated payouts. “Repetitive loss” properties account for 1 percent of those covered but nearly a third of reimbursements.

Climate change may be a theological issue in the United States but the worsening of severe storm events is not in dispute. Dollar tags don't lie. And so Congress is looking at reforms. One proposal is to set a cut off whereby aggregate payments will be capped at three times a home's value. After that you'll be on your own.

The article questions whether Congress will have the spine to act.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Sympathy for the Devil?

"An organization with a sterling reputation for providing the public with accurate information about secret government and corporate activities was used to launder conspiracy theories that helped elect a racist, sexual predator president of the United States."

To some, Julian Assange is a martyr in the cause of free speech. To others, those who have watched his antics over the past two years, he's the grand corrupter of his own creation, WikiLeaks.

For years I backed WikiLeaks and Assange but, in the last presidential election, it became apparent, in fact brutally obvious, that Assange was bent and WikiLeaks with him. I did easily eight or ten posts about my growing doubts about Assange, his credibility and what he was really up to. Most of those elicited angry criticism from people on the Left who rallied to his defence, accusing me of being pro-Hillary. Just search the blog for "Assange" if you're interested.

Since then emails have emerged leaving no doubt that Assange colluded, collaborated with the Trump campaign to influence the outcome of the election. It proved, as I had argued, that Assange was bent through and through and no "honest broker" of journalism. I can only wonder what my critics think now that the truth is out.

The Intercept's Robert Mackey has written an interesting expose, "Julian Assange's Hatred of Hillary Clinton Was No Secret. His Advice to Donald Trump Was." It's not an exhaustive account of Assange's interactions with Team Trump but it lays out the gist of Assange's deceit and his betrayal of his own creation, WikiLeaks. Here are some excerpts.

Before his private messages to Trump Jr. were leaked, Assange himself had categorically denied that he or WikiLeaks had been attacking Hillary Clinton to help elect Donald Trump. “This is not due to a personal desire to influence the outcome of the election,” he wrote in a statement released on November 8 as Americans went to the polls.

Even though Assange had by then transformed the WikiLeaks Twitter feed into a vehicle for smearing Clinton, he insisted that his work was journalistic in nature. “The right to receive and impart true information is the guiding principle of WikiLeaks — an organization that has a staff and organizational mission far beyond myself,” Assange wrote. “Millions of Americans have pored over the leaks and passed on their citations to each other and to us,” he added. “It is an open model of journalism that gatekeepers are uncomfortable with, but which is perfectly harmonious with the First Amendment.”


WHILE WIKILEAKS HAS undoubtedly facilitated the release of information that is both true and important, it is Assange’s Trump-like willingness to traffic in such unsubstantiated rumors, conspiracy theories, and innuendo not supported by evidence that undermines his claim to be a disinterested publisher, not a political operative.

This willingness to traffic in false or misleading information was very much in evidence during his work on behalf of Trump, and it is a consistent feature of Assange’s advocacy for other people and causes.

In the final months of the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed promoted not just its new publications, but also frequently referred to tabloid rumors — like old chestnuts about Hillary Clinton’s supposed “role in the death of White House counsel Vince Foster” — and wild conspiracy theories about her campaign chair taking part in bloody satanic rituals.
Despite the constant claims from Assange and the Trumps that the emails stolen from Democrats implicated Clinton in scandal and corruption, it is important to keep in mind that the WikiLeaks method of encouraging Trump supporters and Reddit trolls to scour the documents for evidence of malfeasance did not, in fact, uncover any such evidence.

Instead, the hacked emails were used to reverse-engineer preposterous conspiracy theories, like the imaginary pedophilia scandal called Pizzagate, which WikiLeaks was still treating as real two months after the election.

...This is the real tragedy and menace of the public and private collaboration of WikiLeaks with Trump. An organization with a sterling reputation for providing the public with accurate information about secret government and corporate activities was used to launder conspiracy theories that helped elect a racist, sexual predator president of the United States.

That might be a terrific result for people like Julian Assange, who see a dysfunctional, discredited White House as a way to undermine what they see as the real evil empire. For Americans condemned to live under Trump, particularly the most marginalized who, as Noam Chomsky has observed, will suffer the most from his cruelty, it is a far more troubling outcome.

Why Are We Backing the Beast?

Canada's Middle East policy, whether Conservative or Liberal, is shameful. We back Israel on everything (just look at our voting record in the UN General Assembly if you don't believe that) and, on the Muslim side, we support the Saudis and their underlings, the Gulf States. Why?

The Saudis represent the cornerstone of Sunni Islam which, to Israel, is the lesser of two weevils, the worst being Shiite Islam represented by Iran. Hence we too side with the Saudis and villify the mullahs of Tehran.

Sunni, Shia, Salafi, Wahhabi, Sufi - to a Westerner it can be so confusing.

In the wake of a murderous attack on a Sufi mosque in Egypt, Deutsche Welle published a very helpful examination of the parties to the turmoil rocking the Middle East and it's a perspective that lays bare Canada's hypocrisy in denouncing Iran while giving the Saudis a convenient pass.

First of all, a quick look at the recent terrorist targets, the Sufi, known in some corners as the "whirling Dervishes."

Sufism is a mystical and acetic Islam practiced by tens of millions of Muslims. Known as "Tasawwuf" in the Muslim world, in the West it is often erroneously thought of as a separate sect.

Sufism is more prominent among Sunnis, but there are also Shiite Sufi orders, or "tariqa."

Followers of Sufism believe they can become closer to Allah through inner purification and introspection. They do this by meditating and receiving guidance from their spiritual leaders, or "murshid" (guide).

Adherents of Sufism follow the five pillars of Islam just as other practicing Muslims. They declare faith in one God Allah and Mohammed as his messenger, pray five times a day, give to charity, fast and perform the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Sheikh Esref Efendi described Sufism for DW.

"The Sufis are Muslims and live Islam in perfection with body and soul. The body of Islam is Sharia, the law, and soul of Islam is Sufism, spirituality. For Sufis, Sharia is indispensable, because law provides order in life and Sufism provides for joy in life. The daily remembrance of God in the dhikr and the different forms of meditation in the community, strengthen the conscious feeling of closeness to God and the charity for the other."

He continued: "Sufis adhere to the prophet's tradition of loving every creature for the sake of the Creator's love. So they overlook the mistakes and blemishes of the people they encounter and only look at the light of God in them. By recognizing the light of God, the Sufis practice forgiveness of mistakes of man."

And then there's the Muslim bad boys, oddly enough our allies, the devotees of Sunni Wahhabism which just happens to be the state religion of Saudi Arabia.

The 18th Century saw the emergence of a new puritanical Islamic ideology and movement on the Arab peninsula that would later give birth to violent extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and IS.

Wahhabism sought to purge Sunni Islam of accretions and innovations such as the widespread Sufi practice of venerating saints and visiting tombs and shrines. The goal was to create a "pure" Islam.

The Wahhabi movement allied with the House of Saud, which eventually established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

From the 1960s onward, Saudi and Arab Gulf oil wealth helped fuel the global expansion of Wahhabism ideology, which is often associated with hardline Salafism.

Salafist jihadists have repeatedly targeted Sufis, deeming them heretics. They have also targeted Christians, Shiites and others they deem apostates.

Al-Qaeda linked militants in 2012 destroyed ancient Sufi shrines in Timbuktu, Mali, drawing international condemnation. But IS that has taken the jihadist violent ideology further.

Earlier this year, an IS suicide bomber killed more than 70 people at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan.

WTF, why are we backing these guys?

Wahhabism vs everything else

For centuries, most of the Muslim world has accepted Sufism, a stance that has been supported by leading mainstream Sunni Muslim scholars and centers of learning.

"The current disputes in the Middle East are not really between 'Sufism' and 'extremism,' but between Wahhabism and everything else," said Winter, adding that mainstream Sunni Islam advocates tolerance and peace.

As Sheikh Esref Efendi explains, IS only sees perceived violations within Islam and "not the people and the light in the people, and therefore call Sufis traitors of Islam."

"IS thinks that any wrong must be punished. They think and commit even the greatest sin of Islam: They declare themselves Gods who can decide on life and death and use violence to kill."

As they say, "lest we forget." Let's remember a few things. The terrorists behind the "embassy bombings" were Sunni Islamist radicals, Wahhabists. The gang that bombed the USS Cole, the same bunch. al Qaeda, al Nusra, Isis, Boko Haram and whatever bunch next crops up, yeah Wahhabists. The 9/11 bombings, of course. Every major terrorist attack across Europe these past several years, radical Sunni Islamists.

So why haven't we gone for the head of the snake and laid waste to the Saudi princes and the Gulf State sheikhs and emirs? We might also ask why our other ally, Israel, is siding with these guys. We might ask but I'm damned sure we won't.

It's All Our "New Normal"

Every day without fail Google Alerts delivers to my inbox summaries of the latest news reports on selected subjects including climate change, sea level rise, droughts and floods, NASA, NOAA and the Hadley Centre, and more.

At first they were a treasure trove of material for blogging. That's no longer the case.  What used to be attention-catching, sometimes alarming, is now our "new normal." It has almost become mundane.

How concerned might you be if I told you about the latest research that finds Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than we had foreseen even just a couple of years ago? How many consecutive months of that very same report can you endure before it all becomes just a blur? Even I am coming to react with "oh no, not again."

Creeping normalcy has set in. We've become inured to these reports. Ho hum. We tune out. We direct our anger and indignation to some petty political squabble or other distraction.

Always looking for something fresh, I was pleased to stumble across a new description of the Anthropocene, the man-made geological epoch. See if this doesn't put it in a more helpful perspective:

“Anthropocene” as “the new epoch of geological time in which human activity is considered such a powerful influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the planet that it will leave a long-term signature in the strata record.”

We are living in an epoch defined by nuclear tests and plastic pollution, and having the right terminology to describe this unique, and uniquely horrifying, time feels important. Macfarlane reminds us in no uncertain terms that “among the future fossils of the Anthropocene might be … shampoo bottles and deodorant caps”

Macfarlane continues:

The idea of the Anthropocene asks hard questions of us. Temporally, it requires that we imagine ourselves inhabitants not just of a human lifetime or generation, but also of “deep time” – the dizzyingly profound eras of Earth history that extend both behind and ahead of the present. Politically, it lays bare some of the complex cross-weaves of vulnerability and culpability that exist between us and other species, as well as between humans now and humans to come. Conceptually, it warrants us to consider once again whether – in Fredric Jameson’s phrase – “the modernisation process is complete, and nature is gone for good”, leaving nothing but us.

Is this our new normal? If it is then why do we cling to structures that would have been relevant a century ago but no longer?

It's said that we're transiting from a former steady state, the Holocene, to a new steady state, the Anthropocene, only we're not there yet. For some reason I'm fixed on the image of people going downhill on a roller coaster with their eyes shut.

Yet we cannot simply shut our eyes but neither can we convey our new reality, our new normalcy, with words from a time past. Macfarlane writes that we need new words, a new lexicon that descrbie "just what it is we have done."

Yet as the notion of a world beyond us has become difficult to sustain, so a need has grown for fresh vocabularies and narratives that might account for the kinds of relation and responsibility in which we find ourselves entangled. “Nature,” Raymond Williams famously wrote in Keywords (1976), “is perhaps the most complex word in the language.” Four decades on, there is no “perhaps” about it.

Projects are presently under way around the world to gain the most basic of purchases on the Anthropocene – a lexis with which to reckon it. Cultural anthropologists in America have begun a glossary for what they call “an Anthropocene as yet unseen”, intended as a “resource” for confronting the “urgent concerns of the present moment”. There, familiar terms – petroleum, melt, distribution, dream – are made strange again, vested with new resilience or menace when viewed through the “global optic” of the Anthropocene.

Last year I started the construction of a crowdsourced Anthropocene glossary called the “Desecration Phrasebook”, and in 2014 The Bureau of Linguistical Reality was founded “for the purpose of collecting, translating and creating a new vocabulary for the Anthropocene”. Albrecht’s solastalgia is one of the bureau’s terms, along with “stieg”, “apex-guilt” and “shadowtime”, the latter meaning “the sense of living in two or more orders of temporal scale simultaneously” – an acknowledgment of the out-of-jointness provoked by Anthropocene awareness. Many of these words are, clearly, ugly coinages for an ugly epoch. Taken in sum, they speak of our stuttering attempts to describe just what it is we have done.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Yes, Dorothy, He Really Can Nuke the World

Donald Trump is unique in so many ways, none of them good.

Mental health professionals have proclaimed him a nutjob, a malignant narcissist with sociopathic instincts. There's not been a lot of experience of American presidents in the throes of mental illness. Nixon under impeachment, yeah, but a lot of that was the booze talking. Still Henry Kissinger saw to it that Tricky Dicky could not get his hands on the nuclear launch codes and take the world down with him.

Recently there's been worries about the Mango Mussolini. That has prompted some senior US commanders to make reassuring statements about how they would not accept an illegal order to nuke the world. Gwynn Dyer writes that we should not believe the military brass.

Trump doesn’t have to consult ...any of his own military advisers before ordering a nuclear attack on North Korea , Iran or anywhere else. He just puts the launch codes into the “football” an aide always has nearby.

As Blair pointed out, it would only take a couple of minutes for the launch orders to cascade down the chain of command and reach the “commanders of the underground launch centers, the submarines and the bombers.”

It’s even possible that none of the people on duty who would have to execute the orders would be generals.

The generals would also get the order, of course, but as Blair said: “If they felt that it was a really bad call or illegal, and they wanted to try to override it, they could try to transmit a termination order, but it would be too late.”

Trump really could make a nuclear-first strike on North Korea all on his own. On this vital issue, there is no adult supervision.

This bizarre situation dates back to the early days of the Cold War, when both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had launch-on-warning policies because they feared an enemy first strike could destroy all of their own nuclear weapons and leave them helpless.

Later, both countries buried their ballistic missiles in underground silos or hid them in submerged submarines so they could not lose them in a surprise attack. They no longer had to launch on a warning that might be false: if there really was an attack, they could ride it out and retaliate afterwards.

But the U.S. never took back the president’s instant-launch authority, which is an oversight that needs to be rectified.

It would be a simple matter to restrict Trump’s unilateral launch authority to situations where there is hard evidence a nuclear attack on the United States is underway.

That is simple in legal and technical terms, but difficult, if not impossible, in political terms.

The Shamrock in Theresa May's Knickers

Theresa May is crazy. If she wasn't, why would she be fighting so hard to barely cling to power?

The PM's nemesis is, of course, Brexit. She's determined to drag Britain out of the European Union but she's facing a two-front battle. To the east she's locked in what seems to be a losing struggle with Brussels, the EU. To the west she's confounded by Ireland, north and south. And, as it happens, Ireland may be the most devilish challenge. It could also bring down May's government. The Guardian's Simon Jenkins explains May's conundrum.

If Theresa May agrees special status for Northern Ireland to remain in a trading union with Ireland it will effectively “move the border” to Belfast. Her fragile Unionist coalition collapses. If the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, fails to win such special status and sees a border installed, his coalition collapses. There is no way round this. It is the Schleswig-Holstein question of the age.

There can be no iron curtain across the Irish countryside. Not 10% of the British public would want that. Even the fiendishly complex use of electronic tags would still leave in place the fact that leaving a customs union would mean monitoring different tariffs and regulations north and south of the border. It would be a licence to smuggling and piracy.

Most of Ireland’s trade passes through Northern Ireland, to the UK and on to Europe. Any sort of border – physical or regulatory – would mean massive distortion. British firms would decamp to Dublin to get inside the EU. Foreign and Irish firms would decamp to Belfast to get to the outside world. Any compromise such as special “free port” status for Northern Ireland, which would give it a foot in both camps, would be furiously opposed by governments across the EU. They could not tolerate a corner of the EU free of harmonised standards or with separate external tariffs.

So what is supposed to happen? The answer is easy. It is for the British government to announce it will remain in a customs union with Dublin. Since Dublin’s Varadkar means to stay in the EU, that means no trading barrier between Northern Ireland and the EU. But since May must retain Unionist support, she cannot admit any trading barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Ergo, there can then be no trading barrier between the UK and the EU.

Britain has to remain in the customs union with the rest of Europe. That is what should be on the Brussels negotiating agenda next month. And that is two-thirds of the way to remaining in the single market. That is what polls show the overwhelming majority of parliament and British public opinion, including those who voted Brexit, actually want.

Where is democracy?