Tuesday, October 30, 2018

But, Your Honour, I Vas Only Following Herr Trump's Orders.

"C'mon, judge, cut me a break. Trump made me do it."

Their militia was called the Crusaders and their mission was to slaughter Muslims living in Garden City, Kansas. They planned to wage a bombing campaign the day after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
That’s why the defense, arguing that the men on trial had been influenced by 2016 campaign rhetoric — though whose, they never spelled out — tried to pack the jury with as many Trump voters as possible. In a motion the judge rejected, they wanted voters from redder counties in western Kansas that went even more heavily for the president in 2016 included in the jury pool. 
And it’s why they cast the defendants as martyrs for free expression. James Pratt, a lawyer for Patrick Stein, who referred to Muslims as cockroaches and to himself as an “Orkin man” exterminator, put his free speech case this way: “We all have the right to hate.” 
Melody Brannon, one of Curtis Allen’s lawyers, even made it sound like the liberal FBI is against the Second Amendment. Allen “was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle. The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.” 
The attorney general sided with his own Justice Department, and with the jury, which found Allen, Stein and Gavin Wright guilty of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights.
But they're not done yet. Now they're arguing that the judge should show them leniency in sentencing because their poor minds were poisoned by rightwing media and Donald Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Lawyers for convicted domestic terrorist Patrick Stein, who had planned to bomb a Kansas mosque and apartment complex where Muslims lived the day after the 2016 election, are offering a charming argument in advance of his sentencing hearing Friday: They say he should get less than 15 years in prison -- instead of a potential life sentence -- because Donald Trump and rightwing media poisoned his brain against Muslims, so he honestly thought he was acting on the orders of his chosen presidential candidate.
Boy, lawyers that good don't come cheap. I'm only kidding, they do. Trying to pack the jury with Trump supporters, arguing in defence the First Amendment (martyrs for free speech) and the Second Amendment (exercising their Consitutional right to blow up Muslims?), takes a lot of balls and very, very little cranial power.

h/t Jay Farquharson

A Blast From the Past - Harry Truman

Donald Trump brings the past back to mind in so many ways. There are people out of our dark past that he closely resembles. There are people from the past to whom he bears no resemblance whatsoever. Of the latter, Harry Truman comes to mind:

"The Buck Stops Here" Harry Truman, the haberdasher from Kansas City, Missouri. His had his flaws, some of them more glaring in hindsight, but he accepted responsibility for his actions.

Could you imagine that sign atop Trump's Resolute Desk in the Oval Office? The buck never stops at Donald Trump's desk.


One other thing. This post is not an invitation to wax self-righteously about Truman's decision to nuke Japan in WWII. I believe he made the wrong call but, either way, that's off topic. Save your scorn for another day and another post.

Is He That Desperate or Just That Low?

Donald Trump, his latest wife, the Jewish kids and that guy, Mnuchin, descended on Pittsburgh to stage a personal appearance at Tree of Life Synagogue, the site of the Trump-inspired massacre that claimed 11-lives.

MSNBC's Howard Fineman sent this tweet:
Further: @realDonaldTrump WH called the top #PA and #Pittsburgh officials one at a time and lied to each that the others had agreed. WH did the same to #Schumer and #Pelosi. No one bit. WH also trying to push #Trump into hospital rooms of victims but most want no part of him.
Mein Gott. The White House called state and city officials with a misinformation campaign, lying to both that the others had agreed to the visit. They then tried the same "welcome mat" scam on Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Is there anything that's beneath these low-life assholes?

Timothy Snyder - How Trump Follows the Fuhrer's Playbook

Yale professor, Timothy Snyder, has drawn some eerie parallels between Donald Trump and, yes, that German fanatic who rose to power in the 30s and dragged the world into the worst war in human history.

Snyder, perhaps best known for his recent book, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century," has penned an op-ed for The Guardian in which he maps out how closely Trump and his minions seem to follow in the footsteps of that German monster (a guy he calls "Hitler").

The governing principle of the Trump administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims. As we see in the motivations of the terrorists themselves, and in the long history of fascism, this maneuver can lead to murder.
The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”. 
The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.
... The attraction of the Nazi conspiracy thinking is that we can feel like victims when we attack. Its vulnerability is that the world is full of facts. Hence Hitler’s hostility to journalism. In the Germany of the early 1930s, the newspaper industry was suffering after a financial crisis. Hitler and other Nazis used the idea of the “Lügenpresse” (“fake news”) to attack remaining journalists who were trying to report the facts. In Germany and Austria today, the far right once more speaks of the Lügenpresse, in part because the American president has made the idea respectable. The extreme right in Germany and Austria knows perfectly well that “fake news” is American English for Lügenpresse.

In the United States today, reporting was already in trouble for similar reasons before Trump, like Hitler, began to claim that the reporters who seek the facts are liars and enemies. Naturally, the president denies responsibility when people take him at his word and draw instead from the conspiracy thinking he himself spreads. Trump blames the press for attempts to murder members of the press. He seizes the occasion, as always, to present himself as the true victim. The facts hurt his feelings.

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out. 
If Trump is not a fascist, this is only in the precise sense that he is not even a fascist. He strikes a fascist pose, and then issues generic palliative remarks and denies responsibility for his words and actions. But since total irresponsibility is a central part of the fascist tradition, it is perhaps best to give Trump his due credit as an innovator.

But the Worst Part...

Pretty grim news today. Since the early 70s, the human species, has caused a 60% drop in the population of all other terrestrial species. And we have bumped that loss from 50% to 60% over just the past four years.

Bad, bad, bad, f#@king awful, a living nightmare but that's not the worst part. The worst part is there's nothing you can do to stop it. The people who are running the show, the people who could at least respond to this, our monarchs and our presidents and our prime ministers, aren't interested. They're still chanting the mantra of perpetual exponential growth, the contagion that brought us to this abyss.

The people who could respond to this won't. They're intent on making this plainly existential threat considerably worse. The ecosystem is coughing its lungs out and their response is to go from a two pack a day habit to three.

By sheer happenstance I wrote this yesterday:
Today, Hedges called for an overthrow of the existing order: 
"Our only hope is to organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump. Our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, are hostage to corporate power. They are no longer democratic. We must, like liberation movements of the past, engage in acts of sustained mass civil disobedience and non-cooperation. ...If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny." 
In mid-month, George Monbiot called for a people's rebellion because, 
"Our politicians, under the influence of big business, have failed us. As they take the planet to the brink, it’s time for disruptive, nonviolent disobedience." 
"This preparedness for sacrifice, a long history of political and religious revolt suggests, is essential to motivate and mobilise people to join an existential struggle. It is among such people that you find the public and civic sense now lacking in government. That we have to take such drastic action to defend the common realm shows how badly we have been abandoned." 
More recently, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, joined more than 90 other leading British academics in calling for mass civil disobedience
"When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The “social contract” has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself." 
These are not wild-eyed revolutionaries. They're not crazed anarchists. They all speak of the abandonment of the public welfare by a political caste that has chosen, instead, to throw in with the corporate sector to our and our children's mortal detriment.
As the Archbishop and his colleagues put it, when your government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it is not only your right but your moral duty to bypass your government's inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.

They are the worst part as they gather in their caucus rooms in our Parliament and our legislatures and abrogate their responsibility to protect us and especially the generations that follow us. They're the very worst part.

But what if we do have a moral duty to rebel to defend life itself, what does that even mean? What are we supposed to do? Who, how, where, when? I don't have a clue.

The Extinction Barometer - 50% in 2014 - 60% in 2018

The 2014 Living Planet Report was - or it should have been - shocking. It reported that the world had lost fully half of all land-based life in just 40 years. The culprit? Humankind was to blame by seizing so much of the habitat for human needs.

To make a bit more sense of this let's go back to the early 70s. That's when the human population broke through three billion. That three billion mark had a lot of significance. It was the point at which one species, our very own, began to consume more resources than one planet, Earth, could replenish. It was the point of "Overshoot." The point at which humans breached the planet's ecological carrying capacity. Early 70s, 3 billion.

This graphic illustrates our predicament. The red line is our incredibly voracious consumption. The black dotted line is the Earth's finite carrying capacity (you knew it was 'finite,' right?) Today we're already at the point where the dotted line begins to fall marking Earth's degraded carrying capacity. It was recently estimated that Earth can now sustain a maximum human population of just two billion. That's what happens when the dotted line begins to dive.

It took us 40-45 years to whittle back the total numbers of terrestrial life by half. Now, in just four more years, we've bumped that from 50% to 60%. Animal life also gets hammered as Earth's ecological carrying capacity plummets. Here's what the 2018 analysis tells us:

The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe. It finds that the vast and growing consumption of food and resources by the global population is destroying the web of life, billions of years in the making, upon which human society ultimately depends for clean air, water and everything else. 
“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.” 
“This is far more than just being about losing the wonders of nature, desperately sad though that is,” he said. “This is actually now jeopardising the future of people. Nature is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is our life-support system.”
Our numbers have shot up over the past 45 years. We're now two and a half times as many as we were then when we first exhausted the planet's ecology.

Here's the worst part. Nobody is going to do a goddamned thing about this. Like the 2014 report, it'll be down the Memory Hole within a few days. No one is willing to stop this madness. We're told that our population could hit nearly 10 billion by 2050 (as if). The world is planning for it. Part of that planning is a prediction that our fossil energy consumption will soar by 40% or more by mid-century.

There is increasingly less room to doubt that we have become a self-extinguishing global civilization. We know the threats. We know the dangers posed by our fossil energy addiction. We know the risks posed by our rapacious over-consumption of the planet's finite resources. We know that we're breeding new mouths by the billions that this planet cannot carry.

What we don't know is where we'll find our breaking point, the limit of our already weakening resilience. We don't know the point at which our global civilization begins to shatter like breaking glass. We don't know the point at which we turn on each other.

Jared Diamond, in his book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail," writes when civilizations collapse it occurs when they're at their zenith and collapse occurs fairly rapidly. I emphasize the word "choose" because what's happening is our choice. This is the path we have chosen. It's a nihilistic path, to be sure, but we've chosen it.

Several months ago some wild-eyed science type suggested that we should agree to set aside half of the land on Earth for the habitat of other species - 'Mankind Prohibited' sort of thing. It was an idea that predictably went nowhere.

By the way, that 60% figure? Some argue that's unduly optimistic.
Many scientists believe the world has begun a sixth mass extinction, the first to be caused by a species – Homo sapiens. Other recent analyses have revealed that humankind has destroyed 83% of all mammals and half of plants since the dawn of civilisation and that, even if the destruction were to end now, it would take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover
The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife. Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “shocking truth”, said Barrett, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Netanyahu Chooses Trump Over Tree of Life

"Shameful." That's how the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, describes the response of Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his minions to the Squirrel Hill massacre.

Unfortunately, their message of sympathy is being undermined by the shameful effort of Israel’s top diplomats in the U.S. to absolve Donald Trump of any responsibility for fomenting an atmosphere of right-wing hate and, even more outrageously, to implicate anti-Semitism on the left instead. 
For many American Jews, Trump’s cardinal sin is the false equivalence he created between neo-Nazis and leftist demonstrators in the wake of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which Heather Heyer was killed. 
There are “fine people” on both sides, Trump said, infuriating Americans in general and American Jews in particular. This did not deter Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and New York Consul General Dani Dayan, however, from using the same odious analogy. 
Rather than focus on the neo-Nazi credentials of Pittsburgh perpetrator Robert Bowers or on Florida’s serial pipe-bomber Cesar Sayoc’s endless admiration for Trump, Dermer and Dayan opted to muddy the waters. The two senior diplomats emulated the U.S. president by obfuscating the clear-cut white supremacist backdrop of the Pittsburgh atrocity and, in Dermer’s case, by commending Trump’s statement after the attack.
... They conveniently ignore the fact that all – not most, but all – of Israel’s political violence in recent decades has emanated from the right, from the settlers’ Jewish Underground through Hebron mass murderer Baruch Goldstein to Rabin’s assassin Yigal Amir and many others in between. Like Netanyahu and his acolytes, the two diplomats intentionally conflate classic anti-Semitism, which Bowers’ exemplified in a particularly evil manner, with current anti-Israel agitation on campuses and elsewhere. 
Needless to say, Bowers did not shoot elderly Jews in cold blood because he rejects the occupation, supports BDS or opposes Netanyahu. On the contrary, his murderous rampage was sparked by the widespread American Jewish support for immigrants and refugees, which Netanyahu and others view as naive and self-destructive, in Israel as in the U.S. 
The two diplomats also reflected the converse view, widely held in the Israeli right, that Trump’s support for Netanyahu’s right-wing policies somehow absolves the U.S. president a priori of encouraging or espousing anti-Semitism. Trump’s anti-Semitic assertion in December 2015 that Jews only support candidates that they can buy with money; his loud anti-Semitic dog whistle in a political ad on the final day of the presidential campaign; his Charlottesville statements and his dogged refusal to clearly condemn white supremacist groups and other troubling incidents are all swept under the carpet by Israel’s official representatives.
Shameful? Yeah, that sounds about right.

Can We Please Free Our Minds of Magical Thinking?

It was over 20 years ago that Carl Sagan wrote, "The Demon-Haunted World." I've only just started reading but I'm already finding it delightful. There's something comforting in his observations and it's always good to come across corroborative beliefs from someone of Sagan's stature.

Here's a passage from the first chapter I'd like to share:

I don't know to what extent ignorance of science and mathematics contributed to the decline of ancient Athens, but I know that the consequences of scientific illiteracy are far more dangerous in our time than in any that has come before.

It's perilous and foolhardy for the average citizen to remain ignorant about global warming, say, or ozone depletion, air pollution, toxic and radioactive wastes, acid rain, topsoil erosion, tropical deforestation, exponential population growth. ...Consider the social ramifications of fission and fusion power, supercomputers, data "highways," abortion, radon, massive reductions in strategic weapons, addiction, government eavesdropping on the lives of its citizens, high-resolution TV, airline and airport safety, fetal tissue transplants, health costs, food additives, drugs to ameliorate mania or depression or schizophrenia, animal rights, superconductivity, morning-after pills, alleged hereditary antisocial predispositions, space stations, going to Mrs, finding cures for AIDS and cancer.
Sagan is plainly right and yet we live in a world where, even in the advanced societies, people are succumbing to conspiracy theories and magical thinking, sometimes angrily rejecting knowledge, logic and observable fact. With powerful change overtaking us rapidly, we could pay dearly for ignoring this failing in ourselves and in our leaders.

Is Revolt an Option? What Choice Do We Have?

What do Chris Hedges, George Monbiot, the Archbishop of Canterbury and assorted academics have in common? They all argue that ditching our current order, the cult of neoliberalism, is our last best hope of salvaging civil society and providing a tolerable future for those who will follow us.

Today, Hedges called for an overthrow of the existing order:
Our only hope is to organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump. Our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, are hostage to corporate power. They are no longer democratic. We must, like liberation movements of the past, engage in acts of sustained mass civil disobedience and non-cooperation. ...If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny.
In mid-month, George Monbiot called for a people's rebellion because, "Our politicians, under the influence of big business, have failed us. As they take the planet to the brink, it’s time for disruptive, nonviolent disobedience."
This preparedness for sacrifice, a long history of political and religious revolt suggests, is essential to motivate and mobilise people to join an existential struggle. It is among such people that you find the public and civic sense now lacking in government. That we have to take such drastic action to defend the common realm shows how badly we have been abandoned.
More recently, Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, joined more than 90 other leading British academics in calling for mass civil disobedience.
When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The “social contract” has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.
These are not wild-eyed revolutionaries. They're not crazed anarchists.  They all speak of the abandonment of the public welfare by a political caste that has chosen, instead, to throw in with the corporate sector to our and our children's mortal detriment.

And, yes, we have the same affliction in Canada, a contagion within both the Conservative and Liberal ranks. They have made our Canada a petro-state in every sense of the term. The Fossil Fuelers continue to exact tens of billions worth of grants, subsidies, deferrals and other benefits from our federal and provincial governments every year, year in and year out.

They have abrogated their responsibility to protect us from harm and to secure the future for generations to come. They have knowingly and quite deliberately failed in their most essential duty of stewardship. They won't step away from neoliberalism, the irresistible force that draws us ever nearer to our environmental abyss. They remain its devout disciples, committed to perpetual exponential growth even though, in every corner of the world, we can see the loss and suffering this is inflicting.

The Glue That Binds. The Face of Violent Radicalism in America. It's Trump.

People like MAGAbomber, Cesar Sayoc; the Butcher of Squirrel Hill, Robert Bowers; and "whites don't shoot whites" killer, Gregory Bush; are routinely dismissed by Trump & Company as rogues, nutjobs, loners who have no connection to the Mango Mussolini. Trump prefers to blame the mainstream media for the rash of wanton mayhem.

Not so fast, lard ass.  At the epicenter of this maelstrom stands one man - Donald J. Trump. The Atlantic reports that an analysis of 30,000 online extremists finds that Trump is "the glue that binds."

America is caught in a wave of radicalization being driven from the top, by the toxic rhetoric Trump blasts almost daily from the biggest pulpit in the world, the U.S. presidency. His casual invocations of violence and consistent demonization of his political enemies have opened the floodgates of hate in communities where anger has long simmered.

...I recently analyzed about 30,000 Twitter accounts that self-identified as alt-right, or followed someone who did, for vox-Pol, the European academic network studying extremism on social media. The results were illuminating.

The alt-right is often described as a movement or ideology. It is better understood as a political bloc that seeks to unify the activities of several different extremist movements or ideologies. While it is international in reach, its center of gravity can be found in the United States. Because the alt-right is a bloc, it has to be understood by mapping its components and analyzing how they overlap and how they differ. (Not everyone who associates with the bloc online self-identifies as alt-right.)
While the author found the alt.right to be a collection of sometimes competing ideologies, he identifies three elements that unite them: opposition to immigrants and Muslims; conspiracy theories; and, above all, allegiance to Donald Trump.
Support for Trump: This, more than anything else, was the glue that held the alt-right social network together. Support for Trump was shared by virtually all parts of the network and was reflected in nearly every metric, including tabulations of the most-followed, most-retweeted, and most-influential accounts; the most-used words in Twitter profiles; and in the top two hashtags (#maga, which outperformed all other hashtags by a wide margin, and #trump).
The melting pot of violent, right-wing radicalism.
...While investigations are ongoing in all three of last week’s incidents, each terrorist appeared to take a different path toward violence. The alt-right bloc and the movements adjacent to it are just cohesive enough that those who enter their echo chamber can access an à la carte menu of ideological bullet points that are especially attractive to potential lone-actor terrorists. Adherents can pick and choose from a multitude of grievances and conspiracies originating with different ideological strains, and some will emerge with a set of beliefs and influences that may be hard to decipher. 
This can be seen most clearly in the case of Sayoc, the suspect in the mail-bomb spree. Sayoc was prolific on social media, but so far his online activity shows a general right-wing orientation, a love of conspiracies, and a baffling claim of nonwhite ethnic identity, while some who knew him offline said he identified as a white supremacist.  ...Sayoc appears to have availed himself of the à la carte nature of the American far-right landscape, picking and choosing conspiracy theories and hyperpartisan opinions from wherever he encountered them, without locking himself into a specific ideology, except, perhaps, “Trump superfan.”

In the case of the deadly synagogue shooting on Saturday, the perpetrator was much more clearly involved with anti-Semitism and the alt-right, maintaining a presence on gab.com, the social network popular with alt-right users because of its relatively permissive environment. Many alt-right members, white nationalists, and other extremists relocated their social-media activity to Gab after being suspended on Twitter or Facebook. Reflecting the à la carte menu of influences available to him, the shooter was cool on Trump (finding him to be too friendly with Jews) but extremely hot on Trump’s rhetorical target du jour: the immigrant caravan, which has increasingly dominated the far-right ecosystem in recent days. Trump’s perseverations on the issue have created a feedback loop driving still more coverage, in both mainstream and alternative outlets. Whether or not the Pittsburgh shooter was a Trump fan, he was influenced by the consequences of Trump’s rhetoric. 
In the case of the Kentucky shooter, little is known so far about his path to radicalization, although he appeared to target African Americans and had some history of violence against his African American ex-wife going back some years.
Another article in The Atlantic traces how, early in his administration, Trump defunded groups that had been working to counter violent extremism.

Republican America as a Cult. Trump as America's Jim Jones.

In Chris Hedges' view, Donald Trump's America is more a cult than a political movement. If he's right it spells trouble for America and Canada has no wall, no immunity, from the contagion next door.

Donald Trump has transformed the decayed carcass of the Republican Party into a cult. All cults are personality cults. They are extensions of the cult leaders. The cult reflects the leader’s prejudices, worldview, personal style and ideas. Trump did not create the yearning for a cult leader. Huge segments of the population, betrayed by the established elites, were conditioned for a cult leader. They were desperately looking for someone to rescue them and solve their problems. They found their cult leader in the New York real estate developer and reality television show star. Only when we recognize Trump as a cult leader, and many of those who support him as cult followers, will we understand where we are headed and how we must resist. 
It was 40 years ago next month that a messianic preacher named Jim Jonesconvinced or forced more than 900 of his followers, including roughly 280 children, to die by ingesting a cyanide-laced drink. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge and address the impending crisis of ecocide and the massive mismanagement of the economy by kleptocrats, his bellicosity, his threats against Iran and China and the withdrawal from nuclear arms treaties, along with his demonization of all who oppose him, ensure our cultural and, if left unchecked, physical extinction. Cult leaders are driven, at their core, by the death instinct, the instinct to annihilate and destroy rather than nurture and create. 
Trump shares many of the characteristics of Jones as well as other cult leaders including Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, the founders of the Heaven’s Gate cult; the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who led the Unification Church; Credonia Mwerinde, who led the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God in Uganda; Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong; and David Koresh, who led the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas. Cult leaders are narcissists. They demand obsequious fawning and total obedience. They prize loyalty above competence. They wield absolute control. They do not tolerate criticism. They are deeply insecure, a trait they attempt to cover up with bombastic grandiosity. They are amoral and emotionally and physically abusive. They see those around them as objects to be manipulated for their own empowerment, enjoyment and often sadistic entertainment. All those outside the cult are branded as forces of evil, prompting an epic battle whose natural expression is violence.
...George Orwell understood that cult leaders manipulate followers primarily through language, not force. This linguistic manipulation is a gradual process. It is rooted in continual mental chaos and verbal confusion. Lies, conspiracy theories, outlandish ideas and contradictory statements that defy reality and fact soon paralyze the opposition. ...The cult leader does not take his or her statements seriously and often denies ever making them, even when they are documented. Lies and truth do not matter. The language of the cult leader is designed exclusively to appeal to the emotional needs of those in the cult.

...The removal of Trump from power would not remove the yearning of tens of millions of people, many conditioned by the Christian right, for a cult leader. Most of the leaders of the Christian right have built cult followings of their own. These Christian fascists embraced magical thinking, attacked their enemies as agents of Satan and denounced reality-based science and journalism long before Trump did. Cults are a product of social decay and despair, and our decay and despair are expanding, soon to explode in another financial crisis.  
...Our only hope is to organize the overthrow of the corporate state that vomited up Trump. Our democratic institutions, including the legislative bodies, the courts and the media, are hostage to corporate power. They are no longer democratic. We must, like liberation movements of the past, engage in acts of sustained mass civil disobedience and non-cooperation.  ...If we fail to embrace this militancy, which alone has the ability to destroy cult leaders, we will continue the march toward tyranny.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Michael Harris - Why Andrew Scheer is Unfit to Become Prime Minister

In his latest piece for iPolitics, Michael Harris writes that "Scheer's promise to stand up to media an absurd and shabby fundraising ploy."
Does he think ‘Andrew Trump’ will sell in Canada? 
Last week the Toronto Star reported that Conservatives are set to go ‘for the jugular’ in the 2019 election. Nothing wrong with going for the jugular in politics. 
But the jugular ought to belong to the government of the day, not the press. It is the government that comes up with policies and passes laws. It is the media that reports and opines on them. Accusing the media of siding with the Trudeau Liberals is nonsense. 
Sounding like a spoiled brat rather than a political strategist, Scheer whined that everyone is in the prime minister’s pocket — media, pundits, academics. 
Apparently he doesn’t read the National Post, the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, or peruse the reports of the Fraser Institute. There is fawning aplenty for the Conservative cause in this country.
Scheer would drag Canada down Trump Alley.
On the merits, Scheer’s promise to “stand up” to the media is absurd — and nothing more than a shabby fundraising ploy. 
But his timing is a political abomination. Choosing to mimic Donald Trump’s war with the U.S. media in Canada, and to do it in the immediate wake of what CNN described as 72 hours of “American hate,” shows why Scheer should never be prime minister. 
In three short days, murder and mayhem took centre stage in America. Citizens there are less than two weeks away from voting in critical midterm elections that could bring profound change to Washington. 
But it is these emotional depth charges, these bloody events, not policy or congressional performance, that may drive the result. The U.S. is a democracy and a society in crisis because fear might win out over facts. Given his comments on the media, Scheer would try to take Canada in the same direction. 
And what a direction.
Aping the Odious Orange Orangutan is a stupid ploy for the Tory wannabe but it's also an important lesson for undecided voters. Scheer is a political bilge rat and he'd like to drag us all down there with him.

In Irish News, Sinead O'Conner Is Now a Hindu

You read it here first. Ireland's favourite bad girl has moved on.

Even Forbes Has Had Enough of "Trump's Psychology of Hate." Trump, the Terrorist President.

According to an article in Forbes, it's beyond doubt that Trump's psychology of hate was the MAGAbomber's inspiration. The article is penned by Forbes contributor, clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, Todd Essig,

Make no mistake, President Trump is responsible for the MAGABomber. Not directly like he told him to do it. But still fully responsible. I write that knowing that doing so increases the chances that the next Trumpian stirred-up by the president’s unprecedented incendiary rhetoric who happens upon my writing might try to hurt me. And I know that because that’s just how the psychology of hate works. 
President Trump has, intentionally or not, hit a trifecta of hate that foments terrorism, in this case domestic terrorism. At rallies and speeches his incendiary eloquence identifies opponents as enemies then motivates hatred and sanctions violence against them. Facts no longer matter. Nor do values shared with those he sees as horrible, terrible people. What matters is that it’s us versus them. And we can’t let them win. Never apologize, never back down.

The Trump Trifecta of Domestic Terrorism.
For a leader to be responsible for the terrorism he incites they first have to identify opponents and critics as an enemy, an other. They are not just reasonable adversaries, a loyal opposition. They are a hostile enemy. And President Trump amply checks this box. Whether it’s the fact-based press, oppressed people of color, “globalists” (usually an anti-semitic code word), Hilary or Democrats in general, Trump brands critics and opponents as an enemy other, not “one of us.”

Second is taking these outsiders and making them objects of hatred, people against whom rage should be directed. It’s not enough to scorn, ridicule or shame them. They deserve your rage. And first as a candidate and now as president, Trump has shown a remarkable talent for making people feel good about hating others. (I previously wrote an academic article about how candidate Trump ran a campaign organized like a political porn site designed to gratify the pleasures of hate.) If you need evidence look no further than things like the naked fury directed towards the press at his rallies or the gleeful foot-stomping chants to imprison a political opponent.

Third is where most enlightened leaders stop: sanctioning violence. After creating a sense of belonging to a special group by emotionally positioning himself as an object of identification—be like me if you also want to be a rich pussy-grabber who only wins and never loses—Trump then takes the next step to license violence. In one infamous example he fully supported a rageful supporter sucker-punching a protester. An early version as president was his tepid response to Heather Heyer’s murder by a supporter in Charlottesville in 2017. Just a few days ago was a rally where he endorsed a congressman who had attacked a reporter saying “Any guy who can do a body slam … he’s my guy.”
...By leading with this trifecta of hate, President Trump is responsible for the pipe bombs sent by a supporter. Yes, early reports clearly show the MAGABomber was vulnerable to these messages of hate. But if someone throws a lit match into a vat of gasoline, they should not be surprised at the resulting fire. And they should be held responsible

The Professors' Revolt

94 prominent British academics, including the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, have signed an open letter condemning the British government for breaking faith with the British people.

...we will not tolerate the failure of this or any other government to take robust and emergency action in respect of the worsening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are incontrovertible, and it is unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making. 
We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, with about 200 species becoming extinct each day. Humans cannot continue to violate the fundamental laws of nature or of science with impunity. If we continue on our current path, the future for our species is bleak. 
Our government is complicit in ignoring the precautionary principle, and in failing to acknowledge that infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources is non-viable. Instead, the government irresponsibly promotes rampant consumerism and free-market fundamentalism, and allows greenhouse gas emissions to rise. Earth Overshoot Day (the date when humans have used up more resources from nature than the planet can renew in the entire year) falls ever earlier each year (1 August in 2018). 
When a government wilfully abrogates its responsibility to protect its citizens from harm and to secure the future for generations to come, it has failed in its most essential duty of stewardship. The “social contract” has been broken, and it is therefore not only our right, but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty, and to rebel to defend life itself.

There's not a sentence in that letter that does not apply every bit as much, if not more, to Canada's federal and many provincial governments. Ottawa has abrogated its essential duty of stewardship. Our social contract has likewise been broken.

November will see the launching of a group known as the Extinction Rebellion.
Those behind Extinction Rebellion say almost 500 people have signed up to be arrested and that they plan to bring large sections of London to a standstill next month in a campaign of peaceful mass civil disobedience – culminating with a sit-in protest in Parliament Square on 17 November.

Roger Hallam, one of the founders of the campaign, said it was calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a “citizens assembly” to devise an emergency plan of action similar to that seen during the second world war. 
On top of the specific demands, Hallam said he hoped the campaign of “respectful disruption” would change the debate around climate breakdown and signal to those in power that the present course of action will lead to disaster.
“The planet is in ecological crisis – we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced,” he said. “Children alive today in the UK will face the terrible consequences of inaction, from floods to wildfires, extreme weather to crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society. We have a duty to act.”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Domestic Terrorism on the Rise Across the Hateful States of America - and It's Mainly Right-Wing

The United States continues to experience domestic terrorism incidents that are Islamic-related but two-thirds of the country's terrorism attacks are homegrown and the product of right-wing extremism. Or, as we like to call them, Team Trump.
Researchers and journalists for the news site Quartz said they used data compiled by the Global Terrorism Database that has tabulated terrorist events around the world since 1970. The database is supported by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), affiliated with the University of Maryland. 
“A Quartz analysis of the database shows that almost two-thirds of terror attacks in the (United States) last year were tied to racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, fascist, anti-government, or xenophobic motivations,” its posting says.
Hmm, what a coincidence that America is currently in the grip of a racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic (selectively), fascist, anti-government and wildly xenophobic president, Donald J. Trump.
Quartz said the Global Terrorism Database annual report includes “cases where violence is used by non-state actors to achieve political, economic, religious, or social goals through fear and coercion.” 
For example, it said, the database “includes ideologically motivated attacks like the Charleston church shooting, but not ones such as the Aurora movie theater massacre.” 
The database also classifies cases according to attackers’ affiliations, such as the Ku Klux Klan. When an affiliation is unknown, the database lists the participant’s ideological identity if it’s known, such as white extremist. 
For further reading on right-wing extremist terrorism, check out Terror from the Right, the Southern Poverty Law Center's directory of major terrorist plots and right-wing political violence from 1995 to the present.
And honourable mention goes to the unindicted co-conspirators including the Tea Party branch of the Republican Party, the cast and crew of Congressional Republicans who shrewdly manipulate this malevolence and the ultimate dog-whistler, and exploiter-in-chief, Donald J. Trump.

"Screw Your Optics, I'm Going In"

Another incident of domestic terrorism in the Hateful States of America. This time a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eight dead plus about a dozen wounded. True to course, the killer was a right-wing extremist armed with an AR-15 assault rifle.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS, formed in 1881 to "assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe." Today the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill, a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, had recently hosted a HIAS national refugee Shabbat.

That apparently was enough for Robert Bowers.
The person identified as Robert Bowers on Gab.com posted this morning that "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in." 
On or around Oct. 10, the same person wrote, "Why hello there HIAS! You like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us? 
...In recent days, Robert Bowers vigorously posted anti-Jewish posts and wrote several of his own. He did not favor Donald Trump, endorsing posts suggesting that the president was controlled by Jews and writing that he "is a globalist, not a nationalist. There is no #MAGA as long as there is a kike infestation." He also wrote that he was "glad the overwhelming jew [sic] problem has been solved so we can now fight with each other." 
He wrote a week ago that he "noticed a change in people saying 'illegals that now say 'invaders' I like this." He also called one poster a "deceptive little oven dodger" in response to a post debunking a rumor that trucks marked with the Star of David were bringing Central American migrants to the U.S.
Equally disturbing were the follow-up posts on Bower's favourite social media site, Gab.com:
People on Gab vigorously responded Saturday to news that the suspect may be one of their own. 
"So Robert Bower hated Trump and Jews. Such a low life," wrote one. 
"Robert Bowers went in because he has the time preference and impulse control of a Subsaharan African, and because anonymous faggots on social media who would never stand with him in battle got him all gassed up," wrote one poster. 
"Robert Bowers went in because Whites are being displaced by Jewish immigration groups," another responded. 
Jewish Family and Community Services is listed on the HIAS website as a partner of the organization. The website indicates that JFCS and three Pittsburgh congregations were participating in the group's awareness campaign last week: Beth Shalom, Dor Hadash and Makom HaLev.
Dog-Whistle Trump naturally weighed in, volunteering that this massacre had nothing to do with gun control and apparently blaming the synagogue for not having a squad of armed guards on duty.

"A Smog of Complacency"

It used to be something that was mainly self-inflicted, smoking. Now it's available to everybody through the magic of breathing.
Air pollution is the “new tobacco”, the head of the World Health Organization has warned, saying the simple act of breathing is killing 7 million people a year and harming billions more. 
Over 90% of the world’s population suffers toxic air and research is increasingly revealing the profound impacts on the health of people, especially children. 
“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director general. 
“No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.” 
“Despite this epidemic of needless, preventable deaths and disability, a smog of complacency pervades the planet,” Tedros said, in an article for the Guardian. “This is a defining moment and we must scale up action to urgently respond to this challenge.”
...In the UK, most urban areas have illegal levels of air pollution and ministers have lost three times in the high court after challenges over the inadequacy of their action. The latest government action plan, called “pitiful” by environmental lawyers, revealed air pollution was actually much worse than previously feared.

Globally, with smoking on the decline, air pollution now causes more deaths annually than tobacco. However, researchers think the harm known to be caused by air pollution, such as heart attacks and lung disease, is only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Bummed Out? Join the Crowd.

We seem to be experiencing a bit of change. Not "we" as in Canadians. No, "we" as in the human race.

Did you experience worry during a lot of the day yesterday? Did you experience anger during a lot of the day yesterday? Did you experience physical pain during a lot of the day yesterday? 
These are some of the questions Gallup asked 154,166 individuals from 140 countries and areas across the globe for its recent 2018 Global Emotions report, which are intended to gauge the global prevalence of negative emotions.

Spoiler alert: Negative emotions reached a new high. 
The negative emotions scores collected during 2017 (published in the new 2018 report) were the highest ones reported since Gallup began asking these questions in 2005.  
...“Collectively, the world is more stressed, worried, sad and in pain today than we’ve ever seen it,” Gallup’s managing editor, Mohamed S. Younis, said in a letter in the report. 
The survey’s respondents represent more than 99 percent of the world’s human population age 15 or older, which means the factors potentially driving these negative emotions are diverse. (Gallup published more details about the survey respondents on its website.) Psychologists say there are some important lessons though for anyone looking at the numbers from world leaders to individuals who identify with the increased negativity reported in this year’s numbers.
Nancy Molitor, PhD, clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern says it's more than a passing case of the downers.
“Globally there’s upheaval,” Molitor says. There’s migration crises (“and a lot of suffering involved in that,” she says), instability in government (with Brexit happening in Europe, infighting in the U.S., unrest in Turkey, crises in Yemen, and many other places), and dire climate warnings. 
There’s a lot of uncertainty, which drives stress, worry, and all of the emotions that go along with that, she says. “And whether you’re politically aware of it or not, it’s kind of in the zeitgeist.” 
Molitor says her patients (who are notably in most part middle and upper middle class individuals) are feeling very anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless. “They are feeling under siege,” she says.
I get it. Recently I've been trying to put together an index of trends underway in recent years. There have been some positive trends such as advances in medicine, science and technology - some really good stuff there. Then there's everything else, much of it arising from humankind's relentless abuse of our planet, our one and only biosphere, Spaceship Earth. Once you get into that list you might be tempted to ask, "Holy crap, why are we in such a hurry to kill ourselves off?"

I've been asking that question for a long time and I've concluded that we just can't help ourselves. We exist to consume and, in the process, despoil whatever we can. We do things because we can with scant regard to whether we should. Caution be damned. That's the story of the human species post-WWII.

What could be more obvious than this? When I was born the global population had reached an all-time record of 2.5 billion. Today we've passed 7.5 billion. By 2050 we're expected to hit 9.9 billion, 10 billion on a rounding error. How much has the Earth grown over that time? How much more atmosphere have we accumulated since 1950?

It took almost the entire history of human civilization, 12,000 years to grow our numbers to one billion. Another century to double that. And now, in less than 70 years, we've tripled it again. Before that post war century is out we'll have swollen our numbers fourfold - because we could with almost no regard to whether we should.

So, if you're feeling bummed out, it's not a case of the downers. There's a reason for it, a bundle of reasons why you might be getting those negative vibes.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Trump's Going to Have Trouble Disavowing This Guy

Here's Trump's very own bomber-boy at, you guessed it, a Trump rally.

Another Trump rally.

Here's Sayoc's headshot without the lovely MAGA hat.

Then there's his van. Note the cheery message in the bottom right corner of the passenger window.

This silly bastard is pure, 100% Trump Gullibilly.

That's What I'm Talkin' About...

I found this delightful graphic on a fellow Progressive Blogger's FaceBook page. It pretty much sums up where we are today - at "Oops."

h/t - JK

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Canada's Kabuki Climate Policy

"Kabuki theatre" has become a synonym for political posturing and, when it comes to federal and provincial politics and climate change, it's pure Kabuki theatre all round.

Andrew Scheer has a magical climate change policy that's so obscure even he can't explain it. It's apparently based on bringing manufacturing back to Canada where it can all be done much more cleanly than it is now. They don't call him Chuckles for nothing.

Jagmeet Singh has some climate change ideas but, hey, it's Jagmeet Singh and the NDP so no one's really listening.

Then there's Justin, who is loosening his tie, rolling up his sleeves, and preparing to unleash carbon taxation on Canada. That too is mainly political posturing. Why? Because it's a token tax, a minuscule fraction of the taxes necessary to make a meaningful impact. A little smidgen. And certain big emitters are being exempted. (You must do those sleight-of-hand things if you really need to pretend bitumen trafficking is a profitable enterprise.)

Is Justin's heart even in this? I don't think so. If it was, why would Trudeau be making Andrew Scheer's argument for him?

One of the pet arguments of climate denialists, Fossil Fuelers, and conservatives alike is that it's nonsense. Canada doesn't matter. We're too small to make a difference. Nobody will even notice.
Trudeau has been grilled by the NDP for failing to raise emissions targets previously set by the Conservative government under Stephen Harper. The prime minister told the studio audience in Montreal that bumping targets would make a negligible difference. 
"Even if Canada stopped everything tomorrow, and the other countries didn't have any solutions, it wouldn't make a big difference," he said in French. Trudeau contrasted the Liberals against the Conservatives, suggesting a price on pollution is better than offering no ideas on the environment.
It wouldn't make a difference even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow. Andrew Scheer should send an honorary CPC membership for that one.

The problem with Trudeau's admission, other than it plays straight into the hands of his Conservative challengers and the fossil energy giants, is that it is the type of sophistry that invites other nations to play.

Sure, we're just 0.5% of the global population. But what Trudeau's backpeddling argument omits is that our meagre half percent produces 1.6% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We are pigs at the carbon trough and when Trudeau says who cares, we're justifying every other nation saying "me too."

It's not that Trudeau misspoke. I found this very same argument alive and well on Environment Canada's web site last week. I had trouble grasping how a Liberal environment ministry would perpetuate this supremely Harper-esque argument but there it was on my computer screen. Same, same.

It all adds up. This specious argument, the paltry amount of proposed carbon tax, the industry exemptions and the government's absolute refusal to consider a carbon export tax on filthy fossil fuel we ship overseas, leave little doubt that, while they may not be climate change deniers, they are climate frauds. This is Kabuki theatre for the Liberal rank and file.

And, if you still don't get it, ask yourself just what our governments are doing on climate change adaptation? What are they doing to bolster the nation's resilience to withstand climate change impacts that have already arrived and the much worse stuff that's looming? What are they doing to prevent us from being overtaken, unprepared by catastrophic climate events? Just what economy will we have when our outdated, decaying but critical infrastructure meets climate change that it was never engineered or constructed to withstand? And how many billions of grants, subsidies and other benefits are they still bestowing on the Bitumen Barons year in and year out? The IMF has pegged it as somewhere between $34 billion and $42 billion for Canada alone. What would $42 billion a year in infrastructure overhaul look like?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

My Reading List

Many of us like to discuss the latest books we've read and what we've learned. I've read a lot of new stuff, books that you'll find cited in newspaper and magazine articles. However I've started to drift back into the past. I find it the best way of making sense of the present.

I'm still working my way through Horne's 1907 work, "The Meaning of Modern Life," a bible of Progressive thought at the turn of the last century. (I scored a good condition, first edition for just $15.) It's a weighty tome that runs to about 600 pages but, at the end, instead of an index it has scads of quizzes - and they're not easy.

I'm also getting through JK Galbraith's 1958 classic, "The Affluent Society," in which he explores the meteoric rise in public wealth concurrent with the impoverishment of the public sector.

Subject to Canada Post's rotating strikes I'm looking forward to delivery of two other books. First is Berton's 1982 book, "Why We Act Like Canadians," and then Carl Sagan's 1995 book, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark."

It can be hard to keep track of the pace of change that's upon us now. It was when I revisited books that I had bought a decade ago and longer that this rate of change became clear. Alarmingly clear.

I'm looking forward to Berton's book as a time capsule revealing what it meant to be a Canadian 35-years ago. How have we changed, collectively and individually? How do today's 'Canadian values' reflect our values of that earlier time? Remember, Berton's book was published at the beginning of the Reagan era, just before Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney ushered in the neoliberal order.

Sagan's Demon-Haunted World interests me because he focuses on the need to imbue Americans with the skills of critical and skeptical thinking so vital to enabling people to distinguish between valid science and pseudoscience. This, I hope, will provide insights into the mess today in which belief-based thinking so often prevails over knowledge-based thought.   I touched on this recently in a piece on Oliver and Wood's new book, "Enchanted America: How Intuition and Reason Divide our Politics."

There's little that's pleasant or inspirational in going back to what we were, to what we once had. It's like taking inventory and finding much of the stock is gone and much of what remains is fast degrading. Yet without benchmarks, we're deprived of any meaningful measure of the changes that have overtaken us and those other changes that are looming. Without these metrics we're pretty much reduced to looking the other way and no good can come of that.

Hey, Mohammad, Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus
"Produce the Body"

The Saudi government's lies about how they murdered Jamal Khashoggi put Trump to shame.  One explanatory scenario has given way to another in blurring succession. They just cannot get their story straight.

Supposedly it was the unfortunate outcome when Khashoggi and some loyal son of Saud resorted to fisticuffs inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. A spontaneous thing. Couldn't be helped. Most unfortunate.

Who you gonna trust? My money is on David Hirst who cut his teeth on all things Middle Eastern when he was sent to Egypt and Cyprus as a conscript (national service) in the 50s.  In the 60s he became the Guardian correspondent for the Middle East until 1997, staying on as a contributor until 2013. The Arabs don't like him. The Israelis don't like him. He's been banned from various Arab states six times and kidnapped twice. If you want the real skinny on the underpinnings of the endless Arab-Israeli conflict and you're ready to work for it, his book, "The Gun and the Olive Branch," is a must-read. When it comes to Western journalists and the Middle East, Hirst is the "pro from Dover."

Hirst maintains Turkish tape recordings suggest that Khashoggi died of repeated stab wounds as he was thrown across a large table inside the consulate. He says one of the team of 15-Saudis flown in for the murder was a doctor known for his dissection skills. This doctor, apparently, sliced and diced Khashoggi into manageable chunks that were then hauled away and buried.

Another interesting point raised by Hirst is that the consulate's Turkish staff were sent home for the day 45 minutes before Khashoggi was to arrive. That one doesn't square very well with the 'spontaneous fist fight' narrative.

The Saudi government's blundering excuses are incredible, unbelievable. Any cop knows that, when a murder suspect begins shifting his story, you can assume he dunnit, especially when none of the stories comports with the facts.

If Mohammad bin Salman wants off the hook, he has to produce Khashoggi's body. Whether intact or in pieces, the corpse has to be autopsied. Until then, the crown prince cannot claim the presumption of innocence.

"We're Screwed" - A Lot of Meaning in Just Two Words

I don't follow Alberta politics. I'm not sure there's a world of difference between the parties - NDP, UCP or, for that matter, the Alberta Party.

Yet I was interested to read the telling remarks of Alberta Party leader Stephen Mandel in the Edmonton Journal. It's an exercise in reading between the lines that reveals how warped their idea of reality has become.

Mandel laments that the province is broke. "We have no cash to pay for anything," he whines. Fair enough, true enough.

Well, what about doing what other provinces and states do to pay their bills, a sales tax? Slash and burn?
However, if his party wins power in 2019, he plans to talk to Albertans about their fiscal options. 
“Albertans are frustrated with the level of spending we have right now … so we need to find a way to evaluate and gain control of those expenses,” Mandel told media Saturday. 
“This is not a dictatorship. We want to talk to Albertans and ask what they want to prioritize.” 
Party members also passed a motion to remove barriers to small and large businesses and develop an “entrepreneurial ecosystem reflective of Alberta’s strengths and natural assets.”
Of special note was when Mandel turned to the TransMountain pipeline.  If that doesn't go through, he said, "we're screwed."

To me that sounded like a guy moaning that, "if we don't start getting more free money, we're screwed." And they are. Oil money is windfall wealth. The energy giants dig it out of the ground, ship it out of the province and hand the government a royalty cheque.

Mandel's "we're screwed" is an admission that Alberta doesn't have its financial house in order and has no plans to do that except perhaps to cut government expenditure to the bone.

Here's a question. Just what do these petro-morons have in mind if/when the Carbon Bubble bursts and they have to fend for themselves? Have successive governments so neglected the provincial economy that they're screwed without free petro dollars?

Think of it this way. Alberta has had a number of oil booms and yet, as the bumper stickers say, they've "pissed it all away." All that wealth and they've got squat to show for it except for toxic, leaky abandoned wells and those massive tailing ponds, ticking time bombs threatening the northern watershed.

They have been on Easy Street, utterly derelict in their duty to the people of Alberta to the point that today, they're screwed, a pipeline away from collapse.

"We're screwed." You can thank yourselves for that.

Friday, October 19, 2018

What Side Are You On?

It's come to this. I didn't want this anymore than anyone else. Perhaps I saw it coming a little more clearly, a little sooner than some others but that's about it. That distinction is meaningless now.

What was once something that had to be read between the lines has been boiled down to a direct warning now. We know what the problem, the threat is. We know what we have to do if we're to avert that problem. We know the consequences that will, not may but will, befall us if we don't heed this warning.

How much more blunt do you need? We either rapidly decarbonize our economies and our societies or your kids and especially your grandchildren are going to take it in the neck.  They're smack in the middle of the crosswalk, you're in the car, are you going to take your foot off the gas and hit the brake or are you just going to see what happens?

Let's complicate that horrible scenario. You're not at the wheel. You don't have your foot on the gas. The person you elected is at the wheel. That person has their foot on the gas, pedal to the metal, and that person you elected doesn't know your grandchildren from Adam. That person you elected brushes you off, saying, "oh, they'll think of something; they'll  get out of the way." What are you going to say, "you know best"?

Right now Justin Trudeau is at the wheel. His gas pedal is the TransMountain pipeline and he's just itching to floor it.

Trudeau's environment minister, Cathy McKenna, recently awoke from her slumber to state the obvious. She said ours is the first generation to experience the impacts of climate change and the last that will be able to do anything about it - before nodding off back to sleep.

So, you've got the dire but typically soft-pedaled warning from the IPCC that we have just 12 years to effect a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions or we'll trigger runaway global warming and you've got an environment minister who points out that ours is the last generation that will be able to do anything about it and you have a government bent on flooding world markets with the highest-carbon ersatz petroleum on the planet, bitumen. The prime minister is failing even to meet his climate-denier predecessor, Stephen Harper's lame emission cuts promises.

I once thought that Trump supporters were Gullibillies - ignorant, bone-headed saps who would gleefully swallow whatever Trump spoonfed them. These are people who are belief based and freely reject fact and knowledge. When it comes to climate change and the urgent threat it poses I think we've got plenty of Gullibillies of our own. The Liberal and Conservative ranks are chock full of them.

We're under threat. Real, urgent threat. We're on the defensive whether we like to admit it or not. Military leaders when thrown onto the defensive normally organize lines of defence. You don't want the bad guy breaking through your front line and driving unopposed straight to the steps of your parliament.

When it comes to climate change, what are our lines of defence? Where's the depth? Our front line should be our governments, federal and provincial. The problem is they haven't deployed to that front. They haven't even mobilized. That front line is not even manned. But what about defence in depth? What about the other lines? What other lines? There aren't any. There are no reserves. Our defence begins and ends with our governments and they are not moving to defend us.

This occurs to me when I ponder George Monbiot's latest column in which he points out the dreary obvious. We cannot rely on our governments to act. We can't trust our governments with the future of our children and grandchildren.  They are not on our side.

We have been brought up to trust these people or at least obey them but now that could be our ruin. They're working for somebody else. They're not working for you, much less your grandkids.

Even if we could organize a sufficient segment of the population to spark some sort of disruption, there's scant time for that. We need our federal government to change course, to recognize and fulfill its duty to the public interest, not special interests.

We need to act now. Fortunately we have an election next year, the one time that our political caste at least pretend to serve the public. This is where they're vulnerable. This is where they need to be hit. It's time to twist their arms and keep increasing the pressure until they squeal.

I am no longer averse to Monbiot's call for disruptive, non-violent disobedience. What forms that would take is unclear but, with an election looming, there should be a broad spectrum of options. It's time to connect with like-minded people willing to take tangible steps to defend our children's future.

There's no longer time to mess about. We all must decide what side we're on.


When speaking with people who have given up, figuring we're doomed anyway so why change, my response has always been that we can't give up the fight. Yes the future our grandchildren will face will be more difficult and dangerous than anything we have dealt with and some of that we can no longer undo but, and this is a big consideration, what we do, individually and collectively, from today onward can make whatever they face far worse. We can flood world markets with bitumen. Future generations will pay the environmental price for that. But what kind of people does that make us?

I was encouraged today to read a brief interview with climate scientist, Michael Mann, on CBC's web site.  His message echoes what I just wrote. It's not too late. We can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change if only we choose to.
There are some things that may be lost, but much else that can be retained, too. Often, we allow the conversation to become binary, as if we either succeed or fail. But what it's really about is degrees of success or degrees of failure. We can still prevent many of the worst impacts of climate change from playing out, but some bad things will happen — indeed, already are. If you are Puerto Rico, or Bangladesh, or Tuvalu, or Miami Beach or California, you have already witnessed dangerous climate change impacts. It's simply a matter of how bad we're willing to allow it to get.

The main challenge is defeating the juggernaut that is the fossil fuel industry. They have used their tremendous wealth and influence to block all meaningful efforts to limit carbon emissions and accelerate the transition underway from fossil fuels toward renewable energy. The only way that we will defeat them is by turning out to vote and electing politicians who will act in our interest over the special interests.
This is what Schellnhuber meant when he told the delegates to the 2015 Paris climate summit that limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could still be achievable but it would require the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. Governments have to euthanize the fossil fuel giants. They have to choose - do they support the carbon energy industries or their people? They too have to choose sides and, if they're not on our side, we need to send them packing.