Saturday, July 21, 2018

To Return To a Now Familiar Theme

The northern hemisphere is on fire and, where it's not, it is probably baking. Even the southern hemisphere is unduly warm in its mid-winter.

Forest fires are sweeping the west again. I'm noticing the odd waft of smoke and I'm well west of the interior fire zone on the mainland.

Even New York Magazine is sounding the alarm.

From Japan to Sweden, and Oman to Texas, a global heat wave is setting records, igniting wildfires, and killing dozens all across the world this week.
Triple digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures for most of the American southwest and Mississippi basin this week. Electrical grids straining to meet the demand for air conditioning.
...Across the globe in Kyoto, Japan, Thursday marked the seventh straight day of temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees, breaking all known records for the ancient capital city. At least 30 people have died in Japan during the heat wave, which has complicated rescue efforts following floods and landslides that killed more than 200 in western Japan earlier this month. 
On Thursday alone ten people died and 2,605 people were sent to hospitals in Tokyo due to heat, the Japan Times reports. The day before, Tokyo rescue workers set a record by responding to more than 3,000 emergency calls. 
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the Arctic Circle is on fire.
Temperatures recorded in Sweden above the Arctic Circle have broken 90F. For the Arctic Circle that's a summer heatwave. It's drying out the tundra and leaving the area vulnerable to wild fires.
The list of areas experiencing extreme temperatures keeps going: An Algerian city earlier this month broke the record for the highest temperature ever in Africa when it hit 124.3 degrees and a city in Oman recorded the highest low temperature — 108.7 degrees — ever recorded on Earth. In Quebec, more than 90 people were killed by extreme heat in early July. 
It’s impossible to talk about these extreme temperatures without talking about climate change. Heat domes — high-pressure areas that trap hot air and increase temperatures — are being blamed for these heat waves and they have become more common as the climate has warmed. Research has also repeatedly linked the warming climate to heat waves. 
As climate scientist Ben Santer, who linked the burning of fossil fuels to the intense heat waves, told the Los Angeles Times this week, “This isn’t a big scientific surprise.”
Of course it isn't a big scientific surprise. It's not a political surprise either. Our petro-pimp parliamentarians don't talk much about it but they've been told what to expect - precisely what's happening - and, in an astonishingly blatant dereliction of duty, they've buried their heads in the sand. They're working for somebody but it isn't you and it sure isn't your grandkids either. You, me, we - we're on our own.

The Damage Wasn't Done in Helsinki. It Happened in the Days Following Trump's Return to Washington.

It wasn't so much Trump's juvenile performance in Helsinki or the harsh rejection from Democrats and Republicans in Congress. No, it was how quickly Republican opposition switched back to again support an unhinged president who betrayed his country when the "base" didn't budge. Hey, that's how even decent people can become Nazis.

In the immediate aftermath of Helsinki experts weighed in on two issues: how disastrous it was and the seismic wave that would now sweep over Congress.

It was said that Trump, wittingly and unwittingly, betrayed his oath of office. He made the summit about himself. As for the aftermath it argued that Putin left Helsinki disappointed, realizing all he had gotten was a complete idiot not what he hoped for, a useful idiot.

Alexander Gabuev of the Carnegie Moscow Center wrote this:

In his July 19 address at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Putin warned that members of the U.S. establishment “are not miserable or wretched people. No, they are powerful and strong people who can shove … unbelievable and illogical stories in the face of millions of their citizens. Yes, they can really do this. I am not saying this to scold or commend anyone. … I am saying this so that we take this into account in our practical work in the American direction.” 
The problem, however, is that it isn’t only the Russophobic U.S. establishment that bears the blame for all the problems in the bilateral relationship. Rather, it’s Trump himself who has recently posed the biggest problem. Trump’s lack of discipline and inability to talk convincingly about even a moderately tough stance on Russia is again stirring up the hornet’s nest in Washington. That’s why, after watching Monday’s press conference, some wealthy and powerful Russians who know the West well have been exchanging text messages that have in common a variation on one phrase: “This moron is making things worse, and it’s going to end very badly.” Sooner rather than later, the Kremlin will come to regret its Helsinki triumph. 
Conventional wisdom held that Congress would unite, finally, to do the right thing and defy Trump. Yet, when it came to it, Trump opponents began bleeding off, increasing the numbers of Trump supporters. Then the base held. With that, patriotism and principle were thrown to the wolves. With mid-term elections barely four months away, there was little appetite among Congressional Republicans for offending the base.

And then, as if he were immune to rebuke and restraint, Trump doubled down, bitch-slapped the Republican Congress and invited Putin to a sleepover in the White House.

Putin has to be wandering the Kremlin halls asking WTF?  He was expecting Trump to have cut his own throat with Congress and the American people. There would be consequences, some worrisome. All that work down the drain.

But that didn't happen. Trump's base held. They didn't care. They don't mind Putin. They've got a thing for authoritarianism - so long as it's white.

That's bad enough in its own right. What makes it worse is that Vlad's people are watching this, dumbstruck, recording everything and putting it through the grinder of analysis and strategy.

I'm sure they can't believe what this unexpectedly large segment of the population was/is willing to abide/ignore. There's a mountain of intelligence in that one revelation. What a look into the modern American psyche?  Everything from the fracture of meaningful social cohesion, to the groups involved in penetrating and manipulating, even manufacturing informed consent.

There are ways to weaponize that sort of intelligence. This isn't over. Helsinki may have been a breakthrough after all.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Oh Momma, Momma

I think it's best you read this for yourself. They're talking about evidence of a mega-drought four millennia ago that triggered a mass, societal collapse.

Who knew?

SS/DD Where's the Beef?

It's now a rule of thumb in this Age of Nihilism: if it's going to kill us, we're fine with it.

With all the global warming already baked in from current levels of atmospheric greenhouse gas loading, we ought to be decarbonizing our economies and our societies just as fast as we can. Ain't gonna happen. You know it. I know it. The Petro-Pimps of Parliament Hill intend to see to it. They've got the filthiest, highest-carbon ersatz petroleum to flog and they're aiming to sell as much of it as they can just as fast as they can. Your little grandkids? Screw 'em.

Meanwhile the fast emerging economies are scouring the world for cheap energy wherever they can find it. Bitumen, sure. Coal, of course. Natural gas, if they can get it cheap enough. Doesn't really matter.  It doesn't matter that many of these rapidly industrializing countries are also in line for the worst impacts of climate change. Oh hell, they'll think of something, won't they? Sure "they" will.

But hard-working people who suddenly find themselves with a little change in their pocket want to eat and they want to eat - meat.

A new report in the journal, Science, finds that meat is all the rage and it's killing us.
Meat consumption is rising annually as human populations grow and affluence increases. Godfray et al. review this trend, which has major negative consequences for land and water use and environmental change. Although meat is a concentrated source of nutrients for low-income families, it also enhances the risks of chronic ill health, such as from colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease. Changing meat consumption habits is a challenge that requires identifying the complex social factors associated with meat eating and developing policies for effective interventions.

The global average per capita consumption of meat and the total amount of meat consumed are rising (see the figure), driven by increasing average individual incomes and by population growth. Growth rates vary across different regions, with consumption in high-income countries static or declining and in middle-income countries moderately to strongly increasing, whereas in low-income countries, meat consumption is on average low and stable. There has been a particularly marked increase in the global consumption of chicken and pork. The consumption of different types of meat and meat products has substantial effects on people’s health, and livestock production can have major negative effects on the environment.

Meat produces more emissions per unit of energy compared with that of plant-based foods because energy is lost at each trophic level. Within types of meat, ruminant production usually leads to more emissions than that of nonruminant mammals, and poultry production usually leads to less emissions than that of mammals. Meat production is the single most important source of methane, which has a relatively high warming potential but a low half-life in the environment compared with that of CO2. Careful management of grassland systems can contribute to carbon storage, but the net benefits are likely to be relatively modest. Agriculture uses more freshwater than any other human activity, with nearly a third required for livestock, so meat production in water-stressed areas is a major competitor with other uses of water, including that required to maintain natural ecosystems. Meat production can be an important source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants and affects biodiversity—in particular, through land conversion to pasture and arable feed crops.
By now you're probably yawning. You're right, you've heard this all before. It's just another fine study recapitulating the warnings that we've so consistently ignored for years.

When it comes to meat and the environment, the survival of our and other species of life on the planet, it's like treating a diagnosis of lung cancer by going from a two pack a day habit to three or three-and-a-half. It's crazy but all nihilism is basically crazy. Our response is abject fatalism. 

Hey, You Can Finally Put Away the 12 Gauge

Some say the best part of your Golden Years is sitting on the veranda in your rocker yelling at the future to "get the f#@k" off your lawn. But, delightful as that is, and it truly is, it can get old after a while. That's why they invented Bug-a-Salt!! You sit in that rocker and, when you're not yelling at the neighbourhood kids, you can shoot flies. Hey, you're old. They're drawn to you. And, as the kids say, payback is a bitch!

That's a Lot of "Getting Used To."

Who can forget when Trudeau's finance minister, Morneau, told Canadians they're just going to have to get used to a future of "job churn" - living short-term job to short-term job, paycheque to paycheque. Welcome to the Precariat from a government that just doesn't give a shit.

Now the CBC says there's more we're just going to have to get used to - in the latest case it's extreme heat events. Like most extreme weather events they're increasing significantly in frequency, duration and intensity and we're only in the "early onset" stage. In fact it's hard to consider them all that extreme any more. They're becoming closer to our new normal.

"This is unfortunately our new normal," said Ahira Sanchez-Lugo, a physical scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information.

"When it comes to extreme heat, we can say the odds of extreme heat or heat waves have been significantly increased by climate change," said Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization. 
"We have to start getting used to it." 
On Wednesday, NOAA released its Global Climate Report for the month of June — the fifth warmest on record (1.06 C above the 20th century average).
...David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist, said across the country, the average summertime temperature has increased by 1.5 C above the 1961-1990 average. Winter is even more dramatic with a 3.4 C rise.  
Oh well,  I'm sure they'll think of something. Don't you?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

It's Wildfire Season - Within the Arctic Circle

The rapidly warming - and drying - Arctic Circle is a terrific feedstock for wildfires. Tundra = frozen peat. Peat = fuel. A bit of lightning - voila.
“This is definitely the worst year in recent times for forest fires. Whilst we get them every year, 2018 is shaping up to be excessive,” said Mike Peacock, a university researcher and local resident. 
There have been huge fires in the past in Sweden, but not over such a wide area. This appears to be a trend as more and bigger blazes are reported in other far northern regions like Greenland, Alaska, Siberia and Canada. 
The sparks come from a variety of sources: BBQs, cigarettes and increasingly lightning, which is becoming more frequent as the planet warms. 
Swedish authorities say the risk of more fires in the days ahead is “extremely high” due to temperatures forecast in excess of 30C. Much of the northern hemisphere has sweltered in unusually hot weather in recent weeks, breaking records from Algeria to California and causing fires from Siberia to Yorkshire. Ukraine has been hit especially hard by wildfires.
It strikes me that there is going to be a big and growing demand for the CL-415 water bomber, the iconic airplane built by Canada and then transferred to Bombardier, the rights to which were acquired two years ago by Viking Air of Sidney, B.C. on Vancouver Island.  Viking is currently working on upgrade kits for the world's fleet of these aircraft and, I'm told, is looking to restart the production line for new water bombers.

Would Impeachment Trigger a Breakdown of Civil Society in the US?

Insurrection has never been far from the surface since Donald Trump chose to seek America's presidency.  During the final stage of the election campaign he whipped up his Gullibillies with stories of how the election was rigged and warnings of Trump's crew taking to the streets should Clinton win.

Recent polls (there've been a few) show how grievously divided Americans have become about their president and the path on which he has steered their country. Some contend America has not been this divided since the Civil War.

Chris Hedges has warned that his nation has entered a "pre-revolutionary" state although he adds that there's no way of knowing just when upheaval may break out.

Foreign Policy surveyed a gaggle of national security experts whose "consensus opinion" suggested a 30% chance of full blown civil war within five years. Some individual respondents put the likelihood at between 60 and 95 per cent. That, of course, was in March. Much has transpired since then.

In going through these surveys of public opinion I found myself asking what sort of calamity would be needed to restore social cohesion to the American populace. It usually takes some sort of existential seismic event - a world war - to rally diverse groups around the flag.

After Trump's disastrous fiasco in Helsinki, I'm wondering what sort of event would be enough to fracture the already tenuous bonds between America's deeply divided factions.

Remember this is Donald Trump, a man with the scruples of a pit viper. This is the man who said he would refuse to accept the election outcome unless, of course, he won. Would he hesitate to incite his more rabid followers to stage some sort of putsch should proceedings be initiated to impeach him?

Bear in mind this rightwing phenomenon at play today that, despite a rightwing Supreme Court, and the Republicans firmly in control of both houses of Congress and the White House - all three branches of government - still considers Washington their enemy.

Would impeachment be their Harpers Ferry moment, a trigger for civil unrest?

A Sign of the Times - Water and Arsenic

There's your problem.

52 years worth of subsidence in California's San Joaquin Valley. And there's been another four decades of subsidence since this image.

Now the water-strapped Central Valley has another scourge - arsenic.

Towns across the Central Valley region of California have had tap water arsenic levels above the federal limit for almost two decades, levels that research suggests can raise the risk of a variety of cancers and lower IQ in children. During the same period, locals and scientists have noticed another odd phenomenon: the valley is sinking, at rates as fast as 25cm a year. Now it seems that the two problems are connected.

...Over the past century, groundwater levels in some places have fallen as much as 200 meters during drought conditions, according to the United States Geological Survey. The subsequent changes in water pressure alter underground architectures, leading to a sometimes-surreal slumping of land by as much as 10 meters.

...The same subsurface change in pressure can suck arsenic out of layers of clay and into groundwater, like a sponge being squeezed, said Dr Scott Fendorf, a professor of earth science at Stanford University and a co-author of a new study on the subject. “When we’re overdrafting the aquifer, the two things happen simultaneously.”
The article discusses the perils and tribulations of the people of the Central Valley in their pursuit of clean, consumable freshwater. What is not mentioned is what the arsenic is doing to the crops they're growing and selling. 

George Will: "This Sad, Embarrassing Wreck of a Man"

George Will takes his journalistic skinning knife to Donald Trump. It ain't pretty.
What, precisely, did President Trump say about the diametrically opposed statements by U.S. intelligence agencies (and the Senate Intelligence Committee) and by Putin concerning Russia and the 2016 U.S. elections? Precision is not part of Trump’s repertoire: He speaks English as though it is a second language that he learned from someone who learned English last week. So, it is usually difficult to sift meanings from Trump’s word salads. But in Helsinki he was, for him, crystal clear about feeling no allegiance to the intelligence institutions that work at his direction and under leaders he chose. 
...Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. 
The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on). 
Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant. 
The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not. Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.


Trump took to Twitter this morning to defend his terrific performance in Helsinki. 
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Well, It's a Start.

Adios, Canada.

It may not sound like much but when you can move 31,285 sq. kms. of rocks and Christmas trees the width of a pencil in a matter of a few months, that's something.

The land in question is Vancouver Island and the movement, away from the mainland, has occurred due to tremors that began in May and really picked up in June.

There have been hundreds of small tremors, 2-3 magnitude earthquakes, recently.

The Big One? No one seems too alarmed, just yet. Of course we probably won't be alarmed until we're tossed out of our beds in the middle of the night.

Mueller Seeks Immunity for Manafort Witnesses

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller has asked the judge who will preside over the fraud trial of Paul Manafort to grant immunity to five witnesses who may be called to testify against Trump's former campaign manager, the guy with the sketchy ties to Moscow.
Mueller didn’t identify the witnesses, who haven’t been charged. The five would invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and remain silent unless Judge T.S. Ellis III grants them immunity, prosecutors said Tuesday in a court filing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Their names will be made public only if they are called to testify, according to the filing. 
“Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals’ involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of undue harassment,” prosecutors wrote. “Such concern potentially would be heightened by the additional revelation that they have invoked their privilege against self-incrimination.” 
Prosecutors asked Ellis to seal five separate motions about the potential witnesses and unseal any of them if they are called to testify.
Manafort, 69, is accused of bank fraud and tax crimes in the Alexandria case. He would be the first of 32 people charged by Mueller to go to trial. He faces a Sept. 17 trial in Washington on charges of money laundering, obstruction of justice and acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine.
Immunity can be both carrot and stick. It can encourage cooperative witnesses to testify without fear of incriminating themselves. It can also be a way to coerce uncooperative witnesses to testify by exposing them to convictions for contempt or worse if they refuse to answer the prosecutor's questions.

Those Summertime Blues

Canada, like America (only a bit different), is heating up. Summer days are getting hotter. Summer nights are getting hotter still. Demands on power grids for air conditioning are soaring.

Climate Central has posted charts for major American cities that graphically depict what's going on across the States this year.

A ...way to measure the increase in heat is cooling degree days (CDD), which are used to determine how much cooling is needed to keep a building at a comfortable temperature. CDDs do not actually measure days at all. Rather, they measure the number of degrees that the daily average temperature is above 65°F. So if the average temperature for a day is 80°F, there were 15 CDDs in that day. Some of the largest increases in CDDs are also seen in the Southwest, however CDDs are increasing sharply in places that traditionally did not need air conditioning in the summer months. For example, the number of CDDs has nearly doubled in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon in the last half-century.
Accompanying that is a chart depicting the change in demand for cooling.

Cooling costs are rising as a result. Air conditioning already makes up the largest share of residential electricity use (17 percent) in the U.S., with Americans spending over $27 billion to cool their homes in 2015. The average annual cost for homes with air conditioning across the U.S. is approximately $250, but in the high use areas of the South, air conditioning costs are almost $450 a year. A 2014 Climate Central analysis of projected future summer temperaturesshows that by 2100, New England summers will be as hot as current summers in Florida, dramatically increasing the need for artificial cooling. 
Hotter days also increase the risk of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, and warming nights make it more difficult for the body to recover from the heat of the day. Heat waves are usually associated with stagnant air, which also increases air pollution and the vulnerability to respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
You can see that the heating and cooling trend is going one way, sharply up.

The good news is that eastern Canada is in for a break, at least a couple of weeks reprieve from another heatwave. The American south probably won't be so lucky.

Pot-Kettle Alert. The US is Taking Canada to the World Trade Organization.

They slapped tariffs on Canadian exports. Canada responded with countervailing tariffs on American exports. What? The nerve! So now the Americans are planning to haul Canada before the World Trade Organization, the same WTO that Trump despises.

The Trump administration ...called countermeasures aimed at the U.S. by Canada and other trading partners "completely without justification under international rules." 
The federal Liberal government introduced reciprocal duties earlier this month on some U.S. imports after the White House slapped Canada and others with tariffs on steel and aluminum. 
...Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called Washington's metal tariffs absurd and illegal because they've been applied on the premise that Canada represents a national security threat to the U.S. Ottawa's response has been $16.6-billion worth of countermeasures on imports of American steel, aluminum and consumer products. 
The U.S. took a fresh step Monday in the trade fight by filing separate disputes at the WTO against Canada -- as well as the European Union, China, Mexico and Turkey -- over each jurisdiction's set of counter-tariffs on imports of American goods.
As the old line goes, there's no end to those pricks.

How German News Covered Trump's NATO Visit

And who says the Germans have no sense of humour?

In My Dreams

Monday, July 16, 2018

Meanwhile in "New Normal" Weather News

I hear you eastern folks are roasting today. Apparently roads are buckling from the heat. Probably getting used to it, eh? There was a time these heatwaves would have been called "extreme weather" events only they're not so extreme anymore are they? They're the "new normal."

They're ripping it up pretty good down in California too. It's enough that the LA Times is asking, "Climate change is behind the global heat wave. Why won't the media say it?"

They're ripping it up in Japan including the same area where they're still trying to find all the bodies from last week's massive (new normal) flooding.  Ooh, decomposing flesh and high heat - not a good combination, eh? Heatwave toll, so far, eight dead, 2000 in hospital.

Britain and Ireland have been sweltering. They're getting a bit of a break for a day or two but their heatwave is expected to return and be around until into August.

Meanwhile, it's hurricane season and it's shaping up to be a ripper too.
As of Thursday, according to Grist’s analysis of available weather data, cyclone activity in the Pacific Ocean is running about 42 percent above normal; in the Indian Ocean, it’s about 40 percent above normal. But in the Atlantic, it’s a whopping 370 percent above normal. Some of this is just random chance, but at least in the Pacific, the early signs of El Niño have already arrived. 
All this has already led to several cyclone disasters in a season that’s just getting started. 
In May, Cyclone Mekunu struck Oman, bringing two years’ worth of rainfall in a few hours and creating a huge swath of temporary lakes in one of the driest deserts on Earth. This week, more than 600,000 people were evacuated in China’s Fujian province before Typhoon Maria made landfall. Meanwhile storm-weary Puerto Rico received a scare from Hurricane Beryl, before it fizzled shortly after reaching the Caribbean. 
Earlier this month, Typhoon Prapiroon kicked off a record-breaking torrential downpour in southern Japan. More than 70 inches of rain have fallen — about four-months worth in 11 days — a precipitation level on par with what Texas experienced during Hurricane Harvey last year. More than 200 people have died so far as a result, and the damage is so widespread that Japanese officials are comparing it to the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Oh, Well, This is Awkward. Trump's Apathy to "Unfair Trade" with Russia.

At the recent NATO summit, the Mango Mussolini tore into German chancellor, Angela Merkel, over her country's approval of a direct-from-Russia natural gas pipeline.

But what about the United States? We know the United States depends on imported oil. Canada is its major supplier. But what about Russia? This from Forbes.
The United States receives more of its imported gasoline from Russia than any other nation on Earth except our neighbor, Canada, which has a network of pipelines into the United States. 
And the gap between the two nations -- Canada and Russia -- is narrowing. Last year, 22% of our gasoline game from Canada, with 14% from Russia. So far this year, those perentages are separated by six percentage points, 19% to 13%. In May alone, the latest data available from our government, the spread is four points, 18% to 14%. 
In fact, the United States has imported more gasoline from Russia than all exports combined this year. Total imports of gasoline -- the category can include related fuels like propone and butane -- were $3.24 billion while all U.S. exports to Russia totaled $2.82 billion. Isn't that worth at least a tweet? 
Then there's trade deficits and the balance of trade. 
Throughout his campaign and his presidency, Trump has railed against nations with which the United States has a trade deficit, particularly China but including Germany and other nations. 
Needless to say, the United States has a trade deficit with Russia, though not nearly as large as with Germany and a number of other European nations. But that's only because overall U.S. trade with Russia is relatively small -- it ranks as the United States' 30th most important trade partner -- making it difficult for the deficit to "compete" with many other European nations. 
The U.S. trade deficit with Russia, which topped $10 billion in 2017 for the first time since 2014, is growing this year and will almost certainly top the 2014 total.  
...Five years ago, in 2012, 45 cents of every dollar in trade between the two nations was a U.S. export. Balance would be 50-50, of course. In 2017, the latest annual data, that figure is 29 cents on the dollar. So far this year, the perentage is down to 26 cents on the dollar. For the month of May alone, it was 23 cents. 
Among the 29 U.S. trade partners that rank ahead of Russia, no nation has registered such a rapid decrease in that balance over the last five years. China's trade with the United States is actually more balanced since 2012, although still terribly out of balance, having changed from 17 cents on the dollar to 20 cents. The U.S. average is 40 cents. When considering Russia, to Trump's way of thinking and in his parlance, we are getting ripped off.  

Lock Them Up. Lock Them Up. Lock Them Up.

Imagine Tony Blair and George w. Bush languishing the years away behind bars for their ginned-up war on Iraq. Imagine future "tough guy" leaders weighing whether to pound little countries senseless knowing the same fate would await them.

Starting tomorrow a new crime will enter the books of international law, the crime of aggression.

Tuesday is a red-letter day for international law: from then on, political and military leaders who order the invasion of foreign countries will be guilty of the crime of aggression, and may be punishable at the international criminal court in The Hague. Had this been an offence back in 2003, Tony Blair would have been bang to rights, together with senior numbers of his cabinet and some British military commanders. But if that were the case, of course, they would not have gone ahead; George W Bush would have been without his willing UK accomplices. 
The judgment at Nuremberg declared that “to initiate a war of aggression … is the supreme international crime”. But this concept never entered UK law (as the misguided crowdfunded effort to prosecute Blair discovered last year). International acceptance of it stalled until states could agree on an up-to-date definition. The crime was included in the ICC jurisdiction back in 1998, but was suspended until its elements could be decided (in 2010) then ratified by at least 30 states (in 2016). At last it is finally being “activated”. In the meantime, Iraq and Ukraine have been invaded and other countries threatened, while Donald Trump attacked Syria last year. Now, the very existence of the crime of aggression offers some prospect of deterrence, and some degree of certainty in identifying the criminals. 
The crime will be committed by those who direct the use of armed force against the “sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence” of another member state, in a manner which “by its character, gravity, and scale” amounts to a “manifest violation” of the UN charter (which prohibits such attacks, other than in self-defence). This allows some wriggle room – Trump’s attack on Syria lacked the “gravity and scale” required (it did little damage) but it might well apply to Russia for its incursions into Ukraine – the test is whether Vladimir Putin and his armed forces were “substantially involved”, whether secretly or by proxy, in the use of armed force. Self-evidently, it would have incriminated those who ordered the invasion of Iraq.

This should end the "butwhatabout" horseshit (today, my favourite word) constantly raised by those who defend their leader of choice by pointing out the sins of a different leader. 'You can't fault Putin. The United States does the same. This guy bombs the snot out of helpless civilians, sure, but what about that other guy?'

Well, you'll never get your hands on these guys. Their countries would never turn them over to stand trial at the Hague. Of course. Try them in absentia if you must and convict them of war crimes, the crime of aggression. Let them know they can no longer travel freely outside their own country. Make them cower in perpetual disgrace and ignominy.

Hey, I guess that means, as of tomorrow, the House of Saud will be on Interpol's arrest on sight list. Those buggers love to live it up in Europe. Come to think of it, starting tomorrow, a lot of these thugs might be in trouble - Netanyahu, Trump, Erdogan, Putin (big time) and plenty of lesser miscreants.

What Do Trump's Base and Trudeau's Base Have in Common?

Not much, I hope, but there is this - both seem willing to either swallow their leader's nonsense or look the other way.

With Trump the examples are almost limitless. Trudeau, not so much, but still.

I'm not going to get into Grope-Gate. Warren's got that covered, ad nauseum. I want to focus on climate change and bitumen, something infinitely more important. Yes, ladies, I'm sorry but it's more important, infinitely more important.

Trudeau, unlike Trump, knows climate change is real. He knows the danger it poses around the world including Canada. He knows that bitumen is the most carbon-intensive, toxin-laden ersatz petroleum of them all. I'm pretty sure he knows that, next to soft coal, bitumen will probably wreak more death and devastation to the poorest, most vulnerable peoples today and to everybody's kids in generations to come.

Trudeau's attitude is "let's just give it a go but, don't worry, we'll fix it later." That's gold-plated horseshit. The emissions from that armada of dilbit tankers will be in the atmosphere, heating the planet for centuries to come. Think you had it hot last month? You can't begin to imagine what "hot" is going to mean to your kids and grandkids forty or fifty years from now.

Fix it later. How? A carbon tax, WTF? So far he's got Alberta (or its incoming premier), Saskatchewan, Ontario and even Prince Edward Island crying "no deal." We know when Trudeau gets into a costly political donnybrook he folds like lawn furniture. The only reason he's going ahead with the Justin Trudeau Memorial Trans-Mountain pipeline is to protect his political fortunes.  The premiers know that he's their bitch.

Do the Liberal rank-and-file really believe this "we'll fix it later" horseshit? Apparently so. Which brings me to the recent remarks of Lord Deben, Britain's climate change commissioner who argues that climate change is similar to the Black Death only worse because we know what it is yet choose not to prevent it.
“The thing that I want to bring home to policymakers is that this is increasingly urgent and that these things will be laid at your door if you don’t recognise that and act accordingly.” 
Deben compared the threat posed by climate change to the black death, adding: “With the black death, where one in three of the population died, we did not know how it happened, how it spread, so we were not responsible. 
“With climate change we do know and so we are responsible. So it is no good saying ‘oh well, it will all work out one way or another’. We are responsible, and if we don’t take on that responsibility we are shoving it on to our children and no parent should do that in any circumstances.”
Deben's remarks eerily mirror Trudeau's and his followers' approach. It will all work out one way or another. And, that mentality, ensures that you're "shoving it on our children."

Trump has a carefully nurtured herd of Gullibillies, groomed by years of nonsense from FOX News, Limbaugh, Jones, etc. Liberals pride themselves on being informed, rational people and yet they support Trudeau on this. Of the two groups, which is really worse?

Saturday, July 14, 2018

What More Can Trump Do for Putin? How About Absolution?

Nothing Vlad Putin has done will deter Donald Trump from his one-on-one chin wag with his fellow despot in Finland on Monday. Nothing, not even Robert Mueller's forensic evidence showing that Putin meddled, probably fixed, America's 2016 elections will stop Trump. The Russians know it and they're already crowing "victory."

The mere fact that Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin will finally get his one-on-one meeting with President Trump in Helsinki on Monday is seen by the Russians as a validation of everything they have been up to in recent years. 
The hacking. The election meddling. The troll farms. The export of corruption. The support for xenophobic, extremist and all manner of disruptive movements in the West. The bullying of neighbors. The poisoning of U.K. citizens with a nerve agent. The kidnapping of an Estonian law-enforcement officer. And, of course, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. 
And yeah, I get it — the Russians would never openly admit their responsibility for most of this. But that doesn’t change the fact that they view the summit as the United States giving them a pass on whatever they’ve done. 
Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, one of the more astute observers of the Kremlin’s thinking, succinctly summed up the conventional wisdom in a recent column: “This one decision — turning the page — will be an important victory for Putin, who so far has not given an inch and who has patiently waited for the U.S. to begin to restore relations.” 
The subtext of this narrative is simple: Extortion pays. The American and Russian presidents will meet as equals amid the trappings of superpower summitry. And from Moscow’s vantage point, that means bygones are bygones. Is this really the message the United States wants to send? Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov underscored the sentiment by stressing that any challenge to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea will be off limits in Helsinki. 
In Moscow they’re already gloating. The Russian propaganda machine is already preparing to spin whatever comes out of the summit. The Trump administration should be on its guard. 
One op-ed in the Kremlin mouthpiece Izvestia claimed that the famously hawkish U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, was forced to “step on his throat” — the Russian equivalent of “eat his words” — and take a more conciliatory public line during his recent visit to Moscow. 
Another, penned by Andrei Bystritsky, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club and a leading Kremlin surrogate, gleefully noted that the current world order is in crisis, citing the migration problem, divisions within the European Union and the widening transatlantic rift. Russia, he added, now occupies “a unique position in the world,” and constructing a stable order without it is impossible. Well, that’s one way of putting it.

A more accurate one would be that Putin has turned Russia into a global protection racket that is prepared to wreak havoc and chaos until he gets what he wants: a free hand in the former Soviet space and an exemption from the rules of international conduct.

A Brace of Grifters
Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria has exacerbated Europe’s migrant crisis. Its disinformation campaign and support for extremist parties have undermined European unity and transatlantic solidarity. Its encouragement of corruption has established networks of influence across the West and undermined faith in democratic institutions. 
Given the Kremlin leader’s background, this should not be surprising. Putin cut his political teeth facilitating relations between the state and organized-crime groups when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Among other things, he helped the infamous Tambov group, a major crime syndicate, take over the city’s gaming and fuel distribution industries. 
Putin has since expanded. He now runs the biggest mafia syndicate in the world: the Russian government. And he has applied the skills he mastered in the St. Petersburg underworld — things such as extortion, blackmail and confidence tricks — and applied them to international politics. 
Sometimes this involves childish and disrespectful power plays, such as showing up hours late for appointments with other world leaders. Sometimes it involves thuggish stunts such as bringing his dog to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 
But Putin is most effective at playing the role of the international grifter. And his big con is getting his protection racket recognized as a “respectable business.”
One thing we know about Trump is that he recognizes his own. That much is manifest in Trump's warm embrace of other despots from Orban to Erdogan, Duterte to Putin. And we know from Trump's legendary business career that he has few qualms about dealing with sketchy characters, facilitating money laundering, and fleecing lenders, investors and even tradesmen. The man is a lifelong grifter. He and Putin can instinctively spot each other a mile off. They may not speak the same language but, then again, they do.

Theresa May, Donald Trump, and Nigel Farage

Was Donald Trump acting as Nigel Farage's beard when he gave a controversial interview to the Brit tabloid, The Sun, the evening before his meeting with Theresa May?

To Sun reporters, Trump sang the praises of May's bete noire, Boris Johnson and even said he'd make a fine prime minister for the UK. He then went on to attack the current prime minister's handling of Brexit negotiations with the EU, even saying they would wreck any prospect of a big trade deal between Britain and America.

The following day, when he stepped up to the podium alongside Theresa May, Trump was singing a much different tune. He backed away from just about everything he'd told the Sun, even accusing the rightwing tabloid of pitching "fake news."

How could he spin two such different tales in the span of less than a day and in another country as the guest of its government? Deutsche Welle thinks it knows the answer.

The real man behind Brexit — forget Conservatives like Boris Johnson and David Davis — is still the former, and perhaps future, UKIP leader Nigel Farage. That's the man who campaigned with Trump in the US at a time when politicians like Boris Johnson were still describing The Donald as "clearly out of his mind." (Johnson would later change his tune, calling the negative British coverage of president-elect Trump a "whinge-arama" just hours after his confident US election predictions flew out of the window.)

Prior to Trump's arrival, Farage had told anyone who would listen that the Conservative Party had issued a clear red line to Trump when negotiating the visit: Under no account was he to meet with Farage. The government has not disputed this claim, and no meeting is scheduled.

But Farage and Trump didn't need a face-to-face meeting;  a coordinated media offensive would serve their purposes far better.
Three lions on Theresa's tail 
Three hard Brexit lions went into the media fray, 24 hours after England's semifinal defeat, hunting as a pack.

The pride's alpha, Trump, took the fight to Britain's best-selling "red top" tabloid paper, The Sun.

Trump tore shreds out of Theresa May's Brexit plans, hitting all of Farage's key talking points: The deal "wasn't what the people voted on," it negated the chances of a bespoke US trade deal (not that one had ever been formally offered, at least not publicly), and it overlooked citizens' concerns about "cultural changes" initiated in Europe by EU immigration policies. Like Farage, Trump managed to steer inches clear of white supremacist territory while frantically dog-whistling to any and all attuned to that wavelength. The owner of The Sun, Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, got precisely the ammunition he wanted for his pro-Brexit paper. Even its writers expressed surprise at how far the president went.
... Meanwhile, two senior British hunter-gatherers within Trump's global populist harem — Farage and former newspaper editor and The Apprentice winner Piers Morgan — spent the evening talking to BBC viewers, who might be reading a more substantive and sober newspaper on Friday morning.

Morgan was on the Question Time panel, lamenting the protests against Trump's visit. He also spoke at length on Brexit, assuring the audience "I voted remain as well," before elaborating on how Theresa May's plan was unsatisfactory, and how Britain needed a Brexiteer prime minister who "believed in what they're trying to achieve." Perhaps it was a coincidence that Trump told The Sun how sad he was to see Brexiteer Boris Johnson go, and how he would make a great prime minister. Perhaps.

As for Farage, he appeared as the guest of honor on This Week, for the extended My Take Of The Week segment. He told viewers what a success Trump had made of his first 18 months in office, how noteworthy it was that Italy's new government seemed to be getting on with the White House, and that Britain was missing its chance to get in on the new world order at the ground floor.
Casual observers, including most of us, would never have been aware of Trump's real subterfuge but the British government, especially prime minister Theresa May, knew all too well that Trump had exploited her invitation to stab her in the back.

Truth Decay

Have we reached the point where truth becomes a belief-based construct liberated from the bounds of knowledge, fact and evidence? Have we entered the era of Truth Decay? Is this the harbinger of the end of democracy and freedom? This is canvassed in a new book by Michiko Kakutani, "The Death of Truth."

As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
Arendt’s words increasingly sound less like a dispatch from another century than a chilling description of the political and cultural landscape we inhabit today – a world in which fake news and lies are pumped out in industrial volume by Russian troll factories, emitted in an endless stream from the mouth and Twitter feed of the president of the United States, and sent flying across the world through social media accounts at lightning speed. Nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fear of social change and the hatred of outsiders are on the rise again as people, locked in their partisan silos and filter bubbles, are losing a sense of shared reality and the ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines. 
This is not to draw a direct analogy between today’s circumstances and the overwhelming horrors of the second world war era, but to look at some of the conditions and attitudes – what Margaret Atwood has called the “danger flags” in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm – that make a people susceptible to demagoguery and political manipulation, and nations easy prey for would-be autocrats. To examine how a disregard for facts, the displacement of reason by emotion, and the corrosion of language are diminishing the value of truth, and what that means for the world.
...For decades now, objectivity – or even the idea that people can aspire toward ascertaining the best available truth – has been falling out of favour. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s well-known observation that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” is more timely than ever: polarisation has grown so extreme that voters have a hard time even agreeing on the same facts. This has been exponentially accelerated by social media, which connects users with like-minded members and supplies them with customised news feeds that reinforce their preconceptions, allowing them to live in ever narrower silos.
...Climate deniers, anti-vaxxers and other groups who don’t have science on their side bandy about phrases that wouldn’t be out of place in a college class on deconstruction – phrases such as “many sides,” “different perspectives”, “uncertainties”, “multiple ways of knowing.” As Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway demonstrated in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, rightwing thinktanks, the fossil fuel industry, and other corporate interests that are intent on discrediting science have employed a strategy first used by the tobacco industry to try to confuse the public about the dangers of smoking. “Doubt is our product,” read an infamous memo written by a tobacco industry executive in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” 
The strategy, essentially, was this: dig up a handful of so-called professionals to refute established science or argue that more research is needed; turn these false arguments into talking points and repeat them over and over; and assail the reputations of the genuine scientists on the other side. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a tactic that’s been used by Trump and his Republican allies to defend policies (on matters ranging from gun control to building a border wall) that run counter to both expert evaluation and national polls.
...The US’s founding generation spoke frequently of the “common good”. George Washington reminded citizens of their “common concerns” and “common interests” and the “common cause” they had all fought for in the revolution. And Thomas Jefferson spoke in his inaugural address of the young country uniting “in common efforts for the common good”. A common purpose and a shared sense of reality mattered because they bound the disparate states and regions together, and they remain essential for conducting a national conversation. Especially today in a country where Trump and Russian and hard-right trolls are working to incite the very factionalism Washington warned us about, trying to inflame divisions between people along racial, ethnic and religious lines. 
There are no easy remedies, but it’s essential that citizens defy the cynicism and resignation that autocrats and power-hungry politicians depend on to subvert resistance. Without commonly agreed-on facts – not Republican facts and Democratic facts; not the alternative facts of today’s silo-world – there can be no rational debate over policies, no substantive means of evaluating candidates for political office, and no way to hold elected officials accountable to the people. Without truth, democracy is hobbled.

For more on Truth Decay, check out Muiris Houston's essay from The Irish Times.
At times of great uncertainty and geopolitical turmoil, a collective increase in anxiety fuels its rapid online dissemination of false news. Climate change and vaccine safety are a particular focus for fake news in the 21st century. 
Social media is made for false health news. More than 60 per cent of adults source their news online.

This phenomenon has seen a blurring of the line between opinion and fact, with personal experience seen as more influential than fact, leading to less trust in usually respected sources of factual information. 
The granddaddy of fake vaccine news was the 1998 research alleging a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield was guilty of research fraud and struck off the medical register. But the false news about MMR safety caused immunisation rates to plummet; its effects are still felt today, with current measles outbreaks in Limerick and Dublin linked to lower than optimal levels of vaccination.
And, for a more detailed, analytical look at Truth Decay, check out this article from the RAND Corporation.  When the Pentagon's own think tank, the RAND
Corporation gets into something like Truth Decay, there's a reason. It's a threat to the nation.
Is Truth Decay New? 
This report explores three historical eras — the 1890s, 1920s, and 1960s — for evidence of the four Truth Decay trends and compares those eras with the past two decades (2000s–2010s). Two of the four trends occurred in earlier periods: the blurring of the line between opinion and fact and an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion over fact. Declining trust in institutions, while evident in previous eras, is more severe today. No evidence of an increase in disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data was seen in the earlier periods. 
What Causes Truth Decay? 
Four drivers, or causes, of Truth Decay are described: cognitive bias, changes in the information system (including the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle), competing demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep pace with changes in the information system, and political, sociodemographic, and economic polarization. Various agents also amplify Truth Decay's trends. 
What Are the Consequences? 
The consequences of Truth Decay manifest in many ways. The most damaging effects might be the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty about U.S. policy. 
Unraveling the Complex System of Truth Decay Will Require Multifaceted and Interdisciplinary Efforts 
Interdisciplinary research and cooperation among research organizations, policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders will be necessary to shed light on the problem of Truth Decay and to develop a clearer understanding of the problem and devise possible solutions. 
There Are Four High-Priority Areas of Research 
Examine more closely how Truth Decay has manifested in the past at home and abroad, extracting lessons that can assist in the fight against Truth Decay. 
Further explore Truth Decay trends, including such areas as how media content has changed over time, the ways in which the speed and nature of information flow have evolved, developments in the education system and its curricula, the ways in which polarization and political gridlock have (or have not) worsened, the erosion of civil discourse and engagement, and changes in the severity of uncertainty about U.S. policy. 
Investigate the processes and mechanisms that connect Truth Decay to information dissemination, processing, and consumption; institutions, authorities, and intermediaries; polarization, engagement, and discourse; the benefits and challenges of technological advancement; and agency. Truth Decay as an interconnected system should also be explored. 
Finally, develop and evaluate potential solutions and mitigations to the problems caused by Truth Decay. Priority areas include educational interventions; improving the information market; institutional development and rebuilding; bridging social divides; harnessing new technologies; behavioral economics, psychology, and cognitive science; and organizational self-assessment.

And now, a What the Fuck? moment.  America's fundamentalist Christian cult has adopted the "Truth Decay" meme as its own.

It's a Fair Question, One Our Government Should Be Answering.

Fifty plus dead in Quebec. As many, perhaps more in Ontario (but who's counting?). And, around the world, no one knows for sure, not yet. It's a scorcher.

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change. 
The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.
...Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July. 
Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend. 
Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia. 
“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”
Just look at all the records we're setting and in consecutive years - highest El Nino year, hottest Enso-neutral year, and now, in what should be a cooling, La Nina year, another record.

The thing is, this is your new normal. Normal for now, at least. Who knows what normal is going to be in ten years, twenty years or more?

I'm so grateful our government is racing all out to wean us from fossil fuels and transition Canada into alternative clean energy. We're going to need a massive amount of clean energy just to cool ourselves in the summer and warm ourselves when those Polar Vortex fronts sweep through in winter.

What's that? We're not in a race to transition from fossil fuels? We're actually trying to ramp up the production and export of high-carbon bitumen - despite all the warnings of climate scientists? And our provinces - Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and now Prince Edward Island - are uniting to oppose even basic carbon pricing?

Why isn't Ottawa talking to us about what's in our short- and mid-term future? Would that make them look like monsters for their single-minded pursuit of bitumen exports? How many of us have to die before they change? And what about the people who already live in heatwaves well into the upper 40 degrees Celsius? How many of them have to die before we stop promoting the greenhouse gas emissions-rich bitumen?

Oh, relax. Justin Trudeau, with all the logical consistency he's displayed in the 18-year old groping matter, assures us that a green future awaits Canada just as soon as the Justin Trudeau Memorial Trans-Mountain pipeline has finished moving Athabasca carbon sludge to world markets.

Of course by the time Trans-Mountain is over, we may be too.

Friday, July 13, 2018

World Bank President Weighs In on Future of Work

Morneau and Trudeau may be fine with consigning young Canadians to a future of "job churn" and a precarious, paycheque to paycheque, existence but that's because they're not willing to look for anything better.

Canada's working classes are also facing employment upheaval arising out of automation, robotics. Nobel laureate economist, Angus Deaton, argues that robotics is a greater threat to working classes than globalization.

World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, however in an essay introducing a new bank report on the future of work contends that there is much that nations can do to position their workers to prosper from automation. The key is investing in human capital.
...the skills needed for work are changing, literally, every day. New jobs will require specific skills—a combination of technological know-how, problem solving, and critical-thinking skills, as well as soft skills such as perseverance, collaboration, and empathy. That means countries must invest much more – and more effectively – in their people to build human capital. 
Investing in human capital is the key mechanism to ensure that the next generation is ready for the changing nature of work; however, too many countries are under-investing in these critical areas—especially in the early formative years of childhood, when the ability to learn new skills quickly is decisively molded. When countries don’t invest to build human capital, it puts successive generations – especially the poorest – at a severe disadvantage, exacerbates inequalities that already exist, and threatens to create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of opportunity.
We should ensure that opportunity, like talent, is distributed equally throughout society. One of the primary ways we can ensure this is to protect people through social assistance and insurance systems that fit with the changing nature of work. The current model is broken in most developing countries and looks increasingly out of date for most advanced economies as well.

Social contracts are also about inclusion, which means that the wealthy have to pay their share of taxes. With insufficient tax revenues, governments can’t deliver the current social contract. Countries in every region must do more to stop tax avoidance, and the only way they can, in the words of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, is to “put an end to the divorce between the location of profits and the location of real activities.”
The bank president's prescription makes eminent good sense. So, how do you think your government is doing to meet these stated requirements? 

Some Day Even You May Rise Up Against Your Government.

Imagine an army of outraged workers thrown out of work, their jobs taken over not by foreign labour but by automation - robots. Unemployed from a surprisingly broad spectrum of the workforce: unskilled, trades, even the professions. An economy that serves a shrinking elite and impoverishes the many. Democracy, long captured, inevitably succumbing to irrelevance, displaced by the rule of plutocrats, heralding a new era of feudalism. All for want of any viable vision of how to adjust society and the economy to continue to serve the population at large.

Governments, including Canada's run for cover whenever vision is most needed. During Harper's reign, his then BFF, Tom Flanagan told an audience on Saltspring Island that the Conservative prime minister utterly eschewed vision. He was focused on the present. The future held little currency for Stephen Harper.

Justin Trudeau is scarcely better than Harper. He acknowledges challenges such as climate change more freely but his gestural response, hopelessly inadequate, is strictly short-term. He is doing next to nothing to prepare this nation and our people for climate change impacts even in the near and mid-term.

Automation? That's not even on this government's radar. We've already had Trudeau's finance minister, Morneau, consign working class Canadians to a future of "job churn," membership in the 21st century precariat. In abandoning Canadians to a grim fate and doing nothing to avert this calamity, Trudeau and Morneau have pulled the pin on a very nasty grenade.

An essay in Foreign Policy argues that politicians must prepare their electorate for the onslaught of automation or allow their nation to succumb to opportunistic populism.

In 2016, there were already 309 installed industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers — a measurement known as robot density — in Germany, 223 in Sweden, and 189 in the United States. The use of robots had risen 7 percent in the United States, 5 percent in Sweden, and 3 percent in Germany in just one year. That may not sound like much, but at that rate, robot density would double in the United States in about a decade. And these numbers are only likely to grow because next-generation robots are already highly cost competitive. The average hourly cost of a manufacturing worker in Germany as of 2013 was $49, in France it was $43, and in the United States $36. The hourly cost of a collaborative robot — a machine that does not require skill to interact with — was $4, according to a recent study by Bain & Company.

That same Bain study estimates that advances in automation could displace up to 25 percent of the U.S. labor force over the next two decades. This would mean nearly 2.5 million Americans would have to find new work each year. By comparison, only 1.2 million Americans were displaced annually in the transition from agriculture to industry in the first part of the 20th century. Estimates for other countries vary widely, but all suggest significant displacement can be anticipated thanks to the rapid adoption of robotics and AI in both the manufacturing sector and, increasingly, the provision of services. 
To say that publics are wary of these impending technological changes would be an understatement. In Europe, 70 percent of respondents to a 2015 Eurobarometer survey agreed that “robots steal people’s jobs.” This included 89 percent of Spanish, 75 percent of French, and 72 percent of Germans. In the United States, according to a recent Gallup report, 73 percent of those surveyed worried that artificial intelligence would eliminate more jobs than it created.
... Three in 10 Europeans and roughly 4 in 10 Americans told the Pew Research Center in a recent survey that life was worse today than it was 50 years ago for people like them. As of 2007, 70 percent or more in Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, France, Germany, and the United States already said their traditional way of life was getting lost. And significant portions of the publics in Europe and the United States — 49 percent of Americans, 45 percent of French, 44 percent of Italians — say their country’s involvement in the global economy is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs. 
Popular reactions against globalization help explain the nationalist and populist currents in today’s politics. In contrast to widespread support in the past, only about one-third of U.S. Republicans today say trade agreements are a good thing for America, according to a Pew survey, echoing the oft-repeated sentiment of President Donald Trump. Those most critical of trade deals are white men over the age of 50, a demographic group quite likely to have lost manufacturing jobs because of globalization and who various polls show are among Trump’s strongest backers. 
Similarly in Europe, those who have a favorable view of populist parties — such as the National Front in France, the Alternative for Germany party, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and the Sweden Democrats — are much more likely than others to believe that life is worse today than 50 years ago. And they are also more likely to believe that involvement in the global economy is a bad thing.
Governments today respond to these destabilizing changes much as Morneau did with "job churn" - with a shrug of inevitability. They declare themselves powerless to stop or even alter these corrosive forces that spread anxiety, anger and disaffection. Indeed, they are powerless. They have surrendered that essential power to a no-longer-new order, neoliberalism to which they now respond not as instigators but as captives of the very system they implemented. It is people the like of Harper and Trudeau and Morneau that have placed our very democracy in very real peril.

They ought to be consulting the very best minds, the public intellectuals, the great progressive economists, on how to get out of this trap, how to steer another course, while there's still time.  Will they? Hardly and in their failure, their unwillingness to act with the vision needed in these rapidly worsening times, they betray the nation and our people.