Saturday, September 21, 2019

There's Not Much Sunlight Between Them. T-Rex Murphy and 'Liberal' Stalwart, the Legend, Warren Kinsella.

Just sayin'

It's Not Extinction, It's Extermination

It's all in the eye of the beholder. To environmentally conscious adults it may appear that we're driving Earth to the point of extinction. Young people can see the deeper malevolence in what we're doing. To them it's extermination. Our greed-fueled quest for growth is a policy that, for them, is a process of extermination.

What does that mean for Liberals and Conservatives? Ask the Guardian's Jeff Sparrow. He writes that the climate strike campaign is a rebellion led by the young against "generations of betrayal."
The ecological disaster that confronts us today extends way beyond climate. Some scientists speak of the “sixth extinction event” – but, as Justin McBrien argued, that phrase isn’t accurate. 
We might less euphemistically discuss a “first extermination event”. Nature is not dying so much as being killed, by people who know perfectly well what they’re doing. 
The need for protests could not be more urgent – and, at last, they’re happening. The global strike provides a perfect antidote to the despair so many of us have felt for so long. 
There’s a nightmarishness to the isolated experience of climate change: a sense of paralysis and horror at a world sleepwalking into disaster. By coming together on the streets, we shake that off, and we grasp something of our collective strength.
Atmospheric physics doesn’t care if we’re tired of marching or we feel that “done our bit”. Warming won’t be stopped by symbolism or fervent hopes: we need, as, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change argues, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. 
That’s no small task, especially given the vested interests in the status quo. It would be foolish not to expect difficult times ahead.
...All over the globe, people have rejected the sacrifice of nature on the altar of greed. That should inspire us all to redouble our efforts. We need a new movement, akin to those that shook the world in the 60s and the 70s, and we have very little time to build one.
I have probably heard every rationalization possible of Canada's fossil fuel economy. The most despicable is Justin Trudeau's claim that we must ramp up production and export of bitumen as the means of building a green future for Canada. Who says shit like that? Who swallows it?

At this point I want, with hesitation, to tread into dangerous waters by noting some similarities between our rationalization over bitumen and the contortions that Germans went through to justify their dictator's rise to power.  They're not the same. No one is saying our political leadership are Nazis. Nor is six million dead quite the same as six billion dead now is it?

A helpful book that explores how a people can rationalize monstrosity is Milton Mayer's 1955 book, They Thought They Were Free, The Germans, 1933-45. Mayer, an American Jew of German ancestry and fluency, traveled to Germany in the immediate postwar years and befriended 10 fairly ordinary Germans. He dedicated his book "to my ten Nazi friends." Only two of them were real, hardcore National Socialists. The others were more apt to accept it as an inevitability, almost with indifference, yet willing to look the other way when required. The reader can see as each was captured by the movement of the day although with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm.

We are not malevolent actors. Canada is not 1930s Germany. Yet, when it comes to our generation's poison pill, we do reveal widely varying degrees of enthusiasm. There is a worrisome indifference to it and we do demonstrate an easy willingness to look the other way.  We might even grudgingly concede our path to extinction but we'll never accept extermination even if that's what we're doing.

Gee, They Love to Walk in Parades. So, Where Were They Yesterday?

What politician, especially when running for election, can pass up a crowd?

Justin loves marching in parades, pressing the flesh. Andy is not as polished but he doesn't pass up opportunities either.

So where were they yesterday as terrified and angry young people demanding action rallied in major cities around the world, including our own?

Wouldn't that be a perfect opportunity to get up before the kids and let'em know that you've got their back, that you'll be there for them, and that ensuring they have a viable future is your top priority?

But what would they say? How would they explain pipelines and bitumen, their determination to rapidly expand the climate-wrecking petro-economy? That sort of candour might turn those kids feral.

No, yesterday's protest rallies were no place for any Liberal or Tory. Those parties are not, shall we say, "future friendly."

Friday, September 20, 2019

It's the Day of Global Climate Strike.

Another day on the hustings. Maybe it'll be a 'small town' day for the Conservative and Liberal leaders. That way they may be able to avoid embarrassing confrontations with Global Climate Strike protesters in major cities.

Every morning before I reluctantly drag myself out of bed I use an Amazon Echo Dot (the little one) to cycle through a few news summaries - CBC, NPR News Now, BBC World News. I like getting a preview of what the day may bring.

BBC had a discouraging report on the spread of coal-fueled power generation in China, especially in India, and in smaller countries where China loans its excess reserves, often for construction of coal-power plants.

India and China in particular are moving into renewable energy but that's not the same as abandoning fossil fuels. Even China is still building coal-power plants. And, yes, that is a major setback in the effort to avert catastrophic climate change.

Sparks will fly at next week's UN climate summit when each nation will be expected to present concrete proposals for slashing greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Climate Accord was non-binding, aspirational. Think of it as a global game of Liar's Dice.

The kids are watching.

The past year has seen a remarkable youth protest movement spread across the globe. The kids deserve a voice. It's their future we're destroying. Shout Out to the Trans Mountain pipeline. Our tax dollars invested in messing up our grandchildren's future.

So far the kids have been quite orderly. The measure of their civil disobedience has been restrained. How long will that last? They're watching but what are we showing them? What are they seeing?

I doubt they're seeing their future as a continuum of our own. There's really no reason they should. We are the engine of the climate catastrophe they're left to inherit.

Look at it this way. If our future over the next ten or twenty years was what their future will be in forty or fifty years, we would be treating climate change much differently. There would be no Jason Kenney or Scott Moe or Justin Trudeau or Andy Scheer holding court in our legislatures. We would, to use Theodore Roosevelt's phrase, have 'hunted them out of office.'

I think our indifference to their fate will radicalize those kids. They might just turn on us and what greater and lasting incentive can they have but their own survival, their right to some viable future?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Monbiot - Time to Declare War on Wealth

We are in a fight for life itself. The stakes couldn't be any higher.

Guardian enviro-scribe/activist, George Monbiot, is calling for a war on wealth. It isn't wealth itself that vexes him but the environmental havoc it creates.

Some time ago I did a rough calculation of how humanity's footprint had grown during the 20th century. I factored in population growth, increased longevity and the massive upswing in per-capita GDP representing extraction, production, consumption and waste. In my inelegant calculations it was around a 30-fold increase. There are vastly more of us, living vastly longer and steadily consuming ever more energy and resources, creating more waste of all descriptions, far more than the Earth can handle. It was growth that would be more typical of a malignancy which, in a way, is what we've become.

Immense wealth translates automatically into immense environmental impacts, regardless of the intentions of those who possess it. The very wealthy, almost as a matter of definition, are committing ecocide.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from a worker at a British private airport. “I see things that really shouldn’t be happening in 2019,” he wrote. Every day he sees Global 7000 jets, Gulfstream G650s and even Boeing 737s take off from the airport carrying a single passenger, mostly flying to Russia and the US. The private Boeing 737s, built to take 174 passengers, are filled at the airport with around 25,000 litres of fuel. That’s as much fossil energy as a small African town might use in a year
Where are these single passengers going? Perhaps to visit one of their superhomes, constructed and run at vast environmental cost, or to take a trip on their superyacht, which might burn 500 litres of diesel an hour just ticking over, and which is built and furnished with rare materials extracted at the expense of beautiful places. 
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that when Google convened a meeting of the rich and famous at the Verdura resort in Sicily in July to discuss climate breakdown, its delegates arrived in 114 private jets and a fleet of megayachts, and drove around the island in supercars. Even when they mean well, the ultrarich cannot help trashing the living world.
...Perhaps the most radical thing we can now do is to limit our material aspirations. The assumption on which governments and economists operate is that everyone strives to maximise their wealth. If we succeed in this task, we inevitably demolish our life support systems. Were the poor to live like the rich, and the rich to live like the oligarchs, we would destroy everything. The continued pursuit of wealth in a world that has enough already (albeit very poorly distributed) is a formula for mass destitution. 
A meaningful strike in defence of the living world is, in part, a strike against the desire to raise our incomes and accumulate wealth: a desire shaped, more than we are probably aware, by dominant social and economic narratives. I see myself as striking in support of a radical and disturbing concept: enough. Individually and collectively, it is time to decide what “enough” looks like, and how to know when we’ve achieved it. 
There’s a name for this approach, coined by the Belgian philosopher Ingrid Robeyns: limitarianism. Robeyns argues that there should be an upper limit to the amount of income and wealth a person can amass. Just as we recognise a poverty line, below which no one should fall, we should recognise a riches line, above which no one should rise. This call for a levelling down is perhaps the most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse.
...If everyone is to flourish, we cannot afford the rich. Nor can we afford our own aspirations, which the culture of wealth maximisation encourages. 
The grim truth is that the rich are able to live as they do only because others are poor: there is neither the physical nor ecological space for everyone to pursue private luxury. Instead we should strive for private sufficiency, public luxury. Life on Earth depends on moderation.
Monbiot's views will be seen as heretical by a large segment of the population. Even the ordinary aspire to wealth some day, a dream instilled in us by our consumer theology.

Think of it this way. We, mankind, are using the planet's resources at wildly unsustainable excess. Every year we exceed Earth's resource carrying capacity by a factor of 1.75. We need almost two planet Earths to satisfy our ever growing demands. At the same time as our demand grows, the planet's carrying capacity declines.  This is a graphic depiction of our predicament.

The red line represents consumption. The dotted line is the Earth's ability to meet our needs. We are already past the point at which carrying capacity is degraded.

I can argue a couple of Monbiot's claims. I expect you might as well. That said, the path we are on bolsters his arguments.

Trade Unions Join the Children's Revolt Over Climate Change

The International Trade Union Confederation has pledged the support of its 200 million workers world wide to the global climate strike tomorrow.  General secretary, Sharan Burrow, says it's everybody's fight now.
Burrow said her members would strike alongside students in the streets where the local laws allowed, and where that was not possible trade unionists would take “stop work action” or stage other forms of protest and workplace campaigns to demand radical climate action. 
Strikes and supporting actions are being planned by unions in scores of countries from the UK to South Africa, Italy to Australia, Brazil to the Philippines. 
“You need to know that your stand is our stand,” she said. “This is the challenge of our future. For unions we have been saying for a very long time, there are no jobs on a dead planet.”
This should be the signature issue of the election campaign but both the Liberals and the Tories have chosen a petro-state future for Canada.  Give 'em enough rope....

Think of grains of sand pouring through an hourglass. With any luck when the sand runs out, so does neoliberalism.

What Are the Standards?

Kinsella is exorcised but, then again, he would be.  He's had it in for Trudeau for a long time and his indignation is theatrical-grade.

We live in an era of many things I don't fully understand such as cultural misappropriation. There seem to be shifting lines.

Malice and disparagement, those I can understand. To say or do something to mock or degrade another race or ethnic group is intolerable. That's the element that I don't see in Trudeau dressing up as a character from some animated movie. Where's the malice? Who was degraded?

Kinsella now claims there's a video of another blackface incident in which Trudeau is seen making simian gestures. If he depicted black people as apes then, yes, that's inexcusable.

Does that mean he should get a pass? I really don't know. If I had to slot this fiasco into my list of issues that I have with Justin Trudeau it wouldn't be near the top of the pile.

This does Trudeau no credit. It will, I'm sure, cost the Liberal Party votes. Not mine. I haven't changed.

It's not as though he was caught eating babies.

As for me, I'll just sit back and see how this plays out with the Liberal rank and file.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The United States Navy Now Says "Yep, They're Real"

They're no longer UFOs, unidentified flying objects. To the United States Navy, the craft captured by F-18 targeting sensors are UAPs, unidentified aerial phenomenon.

The Pentagon has admitted these mysterious frequent flyers have been entering American military airspace regularly for some time. They've been tracked on infra-red sensors. They've been tracked on radar. They've been seen by USN fighter pilots. They've been detected singly and in groups. They have no wings or control surfaces. There are no visible signs of propulsion, no exhaust, nothing. They can outperform any known aircraft and can maneuver in ways no human body could withstand.

They're real but even all the resources of the US military can't determine what they are or how to keep them out of US airspace.

Why Did the Liberals Choose to Stand on the Wrong Side of the Future?

It's mind-boggling. Around the world a strong majority of people are yelling 'do something, now' and  yet the Trudeau Liberals would rather build pipelines.

Eight countries, our own included, were surveyed to assess the public attitude on climate change. Let's put it this way, bitumen did not win.
A majority of the public recognise the climate crisis as an “emergency” and say politicians are failing to tackle the problem, backing the interests of big oil over the wellbeing of ordinary people, according to an eight-country poll. 
The survey, which comes before what is expected to be the world’s biggest climate demonstrations on Friday, found that climate breakdown is viewed as the most important issue facing the world, ahead of migration, terrorism and the global economy, in seven out of the eight countries surveyed. In the US it comes third behind terrorism and affordable healthcare. 
Nick Lowles, from UK-based anti-racism group Hope not Hate, which commissioned the survey, said the findings showed that the public were “way ahead” of politicians in recognising the scale of the climate crisis. “They understand the scale of the problem and want governments to take the strong and decisive action that this emergency requires.”
In case you're wondering, 'strong and decisive action' is not code for a paltry $30 per tonne carbon tax. It doesn't mean building pipelines to 'tidewater.' And it sure as hell doesn't mean adding another million barrels a day of bitumen into the holds of supertankers.

For decades I was proud to be a Liberal. I no longer understand how the Liberal  faithful can still stomach what their party has become. What's the best thing the Liberals have going for them? The Conservatives are worse. 'Vote for us because we're not as bad as them. We are the lesser of two evils.'

We're on the cusp of climate breakdown and the priority for Conservative and Liberal alike is to run roughshod over their opponents to drive through that gawdamned pipeline.

And now, with week one of the election campaign under their belts, the Liberals have got a morally compromised leader blurting apologies he himself wouldn't accept from anyone else.

How badly is he gored from his self-inflicted wound? Will this tip the scales in favour of Andrew Scheer? If so then Canada and all of us will be paying dearly for Trudeau's unconscionable decision to renege on his promise of electoral reform.

A deeply flawed young man with a famous name he could never live up to.

The Butcher's Bill - Six Billion

Nobody wants to dwell on this. Fewer still are willing to talk openly about it. It's a chilling conclusion of what our petro-economy has in store for humanity this century.

Six billion dead.

Some project closer to seven, or more.

William Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology at UBC, has an analysis piece in The Tyee.

One thing the climate crisis underscores is that Homo sapiens are not primarily a rational species. When forced to make important decisions, particularly decisions affecting our economic security or socio-political status, primitive instinct and raw emotion tend to take the upper hand. 
This is not a good thing if the fate of society is at stake. Take “hope” for example. For good evolutionary reasons, humans naturally tend to be hopeful in times of stress. So gently comforting is this word, that some even endow their daughters with its name. But hope can be enervating, flat out debilitating, when it merges with mere wishful thinking — when we hope, for example, that technology alone can save us from climate change
...As much as a decade ago a climate symposium organized to discuss the implications of a 4 C warmer world concluded, “Less than a billion people will survive.” Here Schellnhuber is quoted as saying: “At 4 C Earth’s... carrying capacity estimates are below 1 billion people.” His words were echoed by professor Kevin Anderson of the U.K.’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change: “Only about 10 per cent of the planet’s population would survive at 4 C.” 
Similarly, in May of this year, Johan Rockström, current director of the Potsdam Institute opined that in a 4 C warmer world: “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that.... There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.” Meanwhile, greenhouse gas concentrations are still increasing. 
Keep in mind that a global temperature increase averaging 4 C means land temperatures would be 5.5 to 6 C warmer away from the coasts. Much of the tropics would be too hot for humans and many densely populated parts of the temperate zone would be desertified. A 4 C warmer world map suggests that as much as half the planet would become uninhabitable. (A ‘4 C world’ assumes business-as-usual or no new climate policies in coming decades. Note, however, that known and unknown ‘feedback’ mechanisms could make 4 C possible, even with new politically acceptable policies in place.)
Yes! Rees joins the ranks of an emerging number of top climate scientists and others to confirm that climate change is an existential threat but it is but one symptom of a much greater human affliction.
We could initiate any number of conversations that end with the self-induced implosion of civilization and the loss of 50 per cent or even 90 per cent of humanity. 
And that places the global community in a particularly embarrassing predicament. Homo sapiens, that self-proclaimed most-intelligent-of-species, is facing a genuine, unprecedented, hydra-like ecological crisis, yet its political leaders, economic elites and sundry other messiahs of hope will not countenance a serious conversation about of any of its ghoulish heads
Climate change is perhaps the most aggressively visible head, yet despite decades of high-level talks — 33 in al — and several international agreements to turn things around, atmospheric CO2 and other GHG concentrations have more than doubled to over 37 billion tonnes and, with other GHG concentrations, are still rising at record rates. 
In these circumstances, the only certainty is that the longer we deny reality and delay concerted action, the steeper and deeper the crash is likely to be
So, where does this leave us? Jonathan Franzen has a suggestion: “You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable.... Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.” 
Certainly hope is sterile if unaccompanied by vigorous action that reflects looming reality
This is an election year in Canada. Ask your candidates — sitting MPs in particular — just how much time they have spent contemplating these issues or debating them in caucus. 
What is their party’s plan for the coming great unravelling?
We know what the Liberals' and Tories' plan is for the 'coming great unravelling.' They don't have one. Both of them want to expand our petro-economy. Both are committed to the pursuit of perpetual exponential growth, disciples of GDP. They have us on a path that denies reality and delays action, ensuring a gruesome fate for our grandkids and an even worse fate for the peoples of the poorest and most vulnerable nations.

You will never hear Justin Trudeau discuss Canada's responsibility for death and devastation our petro-economy is already inflicting in distant corners of Earth. Add another million barrels of bitumen per day and they'll be falling like flies.

How does that $30 per tonne carbon tax sound now?

We Know What We Want. It's Not on Offer.

It speaks for itself.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Will the Coast Give Justin the Rough Ride he Deserves?

Bad news for Justin. Bad news for Andy.

A new survey shows the environment is the most important issue for Vancouver voters. It's also a close second concern for Vancouver businesses.

The report, compiled by the Mustel Group, FleishmanHillard HighRoad and the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, surveyed voters and businesses in Metro Vancouver. It found that nearly half of local residents polled cited the environment as a top election issue, followed by the economy and jobs (27 per cent), affordability (21 per cent) and various social issues (21 per cent).

The economy was the top issue among members of the business community, 45 per cent of whom listed it as the most important topic ahead of the environment (37 per cent), taxes (28 per cent) and affordability (21 per cent).
BTW, Libs who dismissively wrote off Jody Wilson-Raybould's prospects in Vancouver-Granville may be soiling their dainties at polls showing she has a narrow lead in the riding over the Liberal challenger. It seems she's drawn off a good segment of the Liberal party faithful who are no longer particularly fond of the Dauphin. Quelle surprise!

Communist Era Authoritarianism Never Really Left Illiberal States of Eastern Europe

It wasn't that long ago - December, 1991 - when the Soviet Union collapsed and, with it, the Warsaw Pact that once anchored the Soviets' hold over Eastern Europe.

One by one the Eastern European countries broke with Moscow, most of them beating feet for the warm embrace of the EU and NATO.  We thought they were coming to Jesus. Turns out not so much.  From the Irish Times.

Almost every post-communist state in the EU wears heavily the legacy of decades of authoritarian control. 
In recent years Poland and Hungary have been subject to an official EU procedure (article 7) to suspend certain membership rights over concerns they are violating core democratic principles. Values such as judicial independence and upholding the rule of law, that were once viewed as sacrosanct, are now subject to interpretation and debate. In countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania the links between corruption, organised crime and populist government have polarised societies, weakened trust in public institutions and fed a narrative that often places the EU as an external foe to national interests. Post-communist countries combine openly (and proudly) against the loudest advocates of the EU’s democratic principles. These are problems evident on both the right and left of the political spectrum. 
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. But this is why communism still matters in Europe
When the EU rushed to embrace the majority of these post-communist states in 2004 it was viewed, as the then German chancellor Gerhard Schröder noted, not as an expansion of Europe but as welcoming home “states that are part of Europe and have always seen themselves as Europeans; the new members have in fact returned to the European fold. Their accession was simply the next logical and necessary step in the unification of Europe.” It was to be a new dawn for freedom and peace in Europe.
The reality, however, is that the one true success of enlargement – rapid economic growth in central and eastern Europe – is being overshadowed by a corruption of the very democratic principles the EU was founded to protect
History always matters. In the case of many of those states marooned behind the Iron Curtain in 1945 the eerie echo of communism is reflected today in a politics defined by three characteristics. The first characteristic is the continuation of the archetypal “strongman” who shoulders the responsibility of protecting the national interest. Under the guise of saving the nation from external foes – migrants, the EU, old George Soros – this classic type of populist controls all the main levers of the state with the ultimate goal of sustaining a centralising, personalised power. This is illiberal democracy born of the embers of communist-style total control.
The second trait is the overwhelming corruption of power, whereby the axis of political control, big business (both legal and illegal) and state media forms a type of top-down power based on mutually beneficial outcomes. These outcomes – power, profit, prestige – are sustained no matter what the cost to the public. It is classic crony capitalism, with an eastern edge, restyled for the Netflix generation. It is also a wholly inclusive power supply – you are either “in” or “out”. 
Third has been the framing of these states as “victims”, as second-class citizens of the EU increasingly being bullied by an out-of-touch Brussels-based elite. Central and eastern Europe, this narrative goes, must be allowed to find their own way to further development. In reality, this strategy enables political leaders to target societal change (migrants, gay rights, perceived liberals) as a threat in the hopes of maintaining their conservative power base. Increasingly in states such as Poland, the real divide is now between urban and rural voters, between young and old.
The enlargement of the EU has thus resulted in a perverse set of circumstances. The billions of euro in EU financial aid that flows eastwards each year sustains national governments that care not a jot for Brussels’s core principles.

America, especially during the Bush/Cheney era, strong-armed Europe and NATO into hastily admitting these unproven democracies, anything to speed up the positioning of Western military forces right on Russia's doorstep. This, of course, was the same duo that embroiled America (and her allies) in unwinnable wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and, later, Syria. And, like their Middle Eastern follies, they've poisoned everything they touched.


For more on the Eastern millstone round the EU's neck, check out this piece from Politico.

Tim Flannery Admits Failure - Why That Should Bother You When Next You Vote

Cassandra. That's the mantle to be worn by anyone who regularly circulates the latest information from climate science. Chronicling a planetary-scale, slow-motion train wreck is not a cheerful pursuit. It makes for grim reading and it is getting demonstrably worse year upon year.

That said, I got a real body blow today from reading Tim Flannery's conclusion that his 20 years of climate activism have been a failure.

While I have followed climate science for a long time, Flannery's 2005 epic, The Weather Makers, was uniquely compelling.  Not only is it a great read but it just stitched everything together. It conveyed the enormity of the problem in a way that preserved hope that humanity might act in harmony in time to avert the worst.

Flannery is Australia's most prominent climate scientist.  He has several earth sciences degrees including a doctorate in paleontology. He's done it all - a professor, a research scientist, a prolific author with a gift for clearly explaining the living world to lay people, and various government posts including a stint as Chief Commissioner of Australia's Climate Commission.

So how can a guy who has done so much deem his career a failure?

In this age of rapidly melting glaciers, terrifying megafires and ever more puissant hurricanes, of acidifying and rising oceans, it is hard to believe that any further prod to climate action is needed. 
But the reality is that we continue to live in a business-as-usual world. Our media is filled with enthusiastic announcements about new fossil fuel projects, or the unveiling of the latest fossil-fuelled supercar, as if there’s no relationship between such things and climate change. 
In Australia, the disconnect among our political leaders on the deadly nature of fossil fuels is particularly breathtaking
Prime minister Scott Morrison continues to sing the praises of coal, while members of the government call for subsidies for coal-fired power plants. A few days ago, the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, urged that the nation’s old and polluting coal-fired power plants be allowed to run “at full tilt”
In the past, many of us have tolerated such pronouncements as the utterings of idiots – in the true, original Greek meaning of the word as one interested only in their own business. But the climate crisis has now grown so severe that the actions of the denialists have turned predatory: they are now an immediate threat to our children.
These political hacks are predatory, they are an immediate threat to our children, and Australia isn't alone. We have our own - Jason Kenney, Scott Moe, Andrew Scheer and, yes, Justin Trudeau, every one of them a tar petro-pimp.
Each year the situation becomes more critical. In 2018, global emissions of greenhouse gases rose by 1.7%, while the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere jumped by 3.5 parts per million – the largest ever observed increase
No climate report or warning, no political agreement nor technological innovation has altered the ever-upward trajectory of the pollution. This simple fact forces me to look back on my 20 years of climate activism as a colossal failure. 
Many climate scientists think we are already so far down the path of destruction that it is impossible to stabilise the global temperature at 1.5℃ above the pre-industrial average without yet to be developed drawdown technologies such as those that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. On current trends, within a decade or so, stabilising at 2℃ will likewise be beyond our grasp.
And on the other side of that threshold, nature’s positive feedback loops promise to fling us into a hostile world. By 2100 – just 80 years away – if our trajectory does not change, it is estimated that Earth will be 4℃ warmer than it was before we began burning fossil fuels.
Flannery has long had worrisome thoughts about Canada and our feckless federal governments. It caused him to speak out during the 2015 election, the one that saw Justin Trudeau rise to power.
"It's the last opportunity for Canada to present as part of the global negotiation a credible alternative—and to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem," Flannery said. "One of the great fears for the [upcoming] Paris meeting is that the coalition of the unwilling will really scupper an ambitious agreement."

Flannery, an Australian research scientist, was recently honoured with SFU's annual Jack Blaney Award for Dialogue. 
The scientist described the UN climate conference in Paris as "the last chance for Canada to engage constructively." 
"So I just think it's incredibly important," he said. 
In the interview, Flannery described Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper as an "identical twin" of recently ousted Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, whom Flannery accused of fomenting fear.
And weren't we bursting with pride when our newly minted prime minister, his environment minister at his side, strolled onto the floor of the Paris Climate Summit and declared "Canada's back."  We engaged constructively and then our government instead turned to the business of building a new, super-capacity pipeline to flood world markets with the dirtiest high-carbon, low-value, contaminant-laced oil/sludge on the planet.  Canada was back. Trudeau would do what Harper couldn't. He would push through a mega-pipe to 'tidewater' even if that meant rigging the approval process and buying the pipeline project itself.

In today's Guardian interview, Flannery addresses a matter I try to avoid raising - the big Die Off that's coming and the fate that today's leaders are bequeathing to our children and grandchildren.
That future Earth may have enough resources to support far fewer people than the 7.6 billion it supports today. British scientist James Lovelock has predicted a future human population of just a billion people. Mass deaths are predicted to result from, among other causes, disease outbreaks, air pollution, malnutrition and starvation, heatwaves and suicide
My children, and those of many prominent polluters and climate denialists, will probably live to be part of that grim winnowing – a world that the Alan Joneses and Andrew Bolts of the world have laboured so hard to create. 
How should Australia’s  [Canada's] parents deal with those who labour so joyously to create a world in which a large portion of humanity will perish? As I have become ever more furious at the polluters and denialists, I have come to understand they are threatening my children’s wellbeing as much as anyone who might seek to harm a child.

Update:  UU has mentioned Mark Jaccard's recent tribute to Justin. It's decidedly saccharine. Then again his field is energy economics. His is a pretty low bar to clear. Today a UBC professor emeritus of human ecology takes a more critical view on how we are being sold out by the Trudeaus and the Scheers of this world, a threat to our grandkids' wellbeing.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Is This Why Washington is Fingering Iran for Saudi Oil Depot Attack?

This is the "Beast of Kandahar." It is Lockheed Martin's super stealth RQ-170 drone. It was 'top secret' until it wasn't. In 2011, the CIA had one operating over Iran but, it seems, the Iranians were ready with a trap.  As the story goes the Iranians jammed the 170's communications links, overrode the system and force landed the drone at a military airfield.

The drone was hustled away to a location where, within days, it was unveiled to the public.

It doesn't look like the real deal to me, more of a mock-up. That's not to say the Iranians didn't have the goods safely sequestered somewhere else. What is known is that the US admitted it had lost a drone over Iran at the same time Tehran said they had snagged the RQ-170.

It wasn't long before Chinese and Russian experts visited Iran to delve into the secrets of the RQ-170 drone - it's design and shaping, radar absorbing coatings, and its electronics payload.  Bits and chunks were reportedly taken back for inspection, testing and reverse engineering.

Israel claims a clone RQ-170 flew into Israeli airspace out of Syria. Israeli gun video shows a swept-wing delta flying below a jet interceptor. Israel claims the fighter shot down the drone. Other accounts speak of a RQ-170 knock-off evading two Patriot missile launches and a subsequent air-to-air missile before returning, intact, to Syrian airspace.

Iran says it (more likely the Russians and Chinese) have unlocked most of America's super stealth technology from the RQ-170 and have developed workarounds for what they have not yet figured out. The Iranians also claim to have fitted the stealth drone to carry four precision-guided rockets.

Aerial photos of the bombed out plant leave little doubt this wasn't some random bombing. Strategic installations were targeted leaving most of the plant untouched. It has been reported that the Saudis failed to detect the drone and didn't know they were under attack until the rockets detonated. That suggests sophisticated stealth technology, RQ-170 grade.

Depression for the Masses - Everybody Gets Some.

The rise of authoritarian autocrats is giving people the downers.
Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) tracks hundreds of attributes of democracy for 202 countries, spanning more than two centuries. Its 2019 report found that "24 countries are now severely affected by what is established as a 'third wave of autocratization,'" an erosion of democratic rights "that has slowly gained momentum since the mid 1990s. ... Among them are populous countries such as Brazil, India and the United States."

“In America under Trump there is a population-based depression taking hold. It is a very subtle, smoldering, pervasive and serious condition that people in autocratic countries chronically live with,” physician and scholar Frederick "Skip" Burkle told me in a recent interview. Burkle has any number of academic credentials: He was founding director of the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Hawaii, and currently serves in advisory or research capacities at the Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutes, the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington and elsewhere.
Here's a new word for you - "Pathocracy."
For more insight, I turned to Elizabeth Mika, whose chapter in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” (Salon review here) explained that "Tyrannies are three-legged beasts": There are the tyrant, his supporters and the society as a whole — also known as the “toxic triangle.” That chapter stood out for its comprehensive perspective on the entire situation America finds itself in. Mika wrote:

The tyrant shows up in a society that is already weakened by disorder, blind to it, and unable and/or unwilling to take corrective measures that would prevent a tyrannical takeover. Once he and his sycophantic cabal assume power, they deepen and widen the disorder, dismantling and changing the society’s norms, institutions, and laws to fully reflect their own pathology.
When I reached out to Mika this time, she cited two concepts as particularly important for “understanding our sociopolitical situation” — both what’s driving the depression Burkle speaks of, and what points toward the way out.

“The first one is pathocracy,” Mika said. “which is the rule of pathological characters — specifically, people with entirely absent or severely compromised conscience — who, because of their character defect, are devoted pretty much exclusively to the pursuit of power by any means possible.”

Pathocracies spread into general populace like cancer, taking over and destroying organs of social and political life, along with individual human beings. People living under pathocracies become demoralized and despondent. Depression and despair, along with various social pathologies, are predictable consequences of being forced to adjust to immoral and inhumane socio-political systems based on lies and exploitation. 
Yet “just as pathocracy spreads in a populace, so does a healthy resistance to it,” she explained.
The way out is not a return to normalcy, since as Mika noted above, “The tyrant shows up in a society that is already weakened by disorder.” America is nowhere near as bad as communist Poland, where she grew up. But, she said, “The American pathocracy in place is in some ways more pernicious than the communist one, as Americans have retained their illusions of freedom, while there were none left under communism.”

...Ian Hughes, author of "Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personality Disorders Are Destroying Democracy," recently wrote about the toxic triangle here, where he describes individuals like Trump as “trapped within a narrow range of extreme thoughts, feelings and behaviors that focus on rage, arrogance, self-importance, denigration of others, scapegoating, disregard for the rights of others and a propensity towards cruelty and revenge.”
...The rise of these sycophants to positions of power in Trump’s administration is one key developments that has accelerated the craziness of late. William Barr’s appointment as attorney general was a watershed moment in this regard. His outright lying about the contents of the Mueller report profoundly misled the public about its basic findings, a state of affairs that persists to this day. That is arguably the driving reason Trump has not already been impeached.
...“The ease with which the sycophants and followers of a pathological leader fulfill their roles astounds us," Mika observed, "because the number of people with an impaired or absent conscience is always higher than we want to believe. We can see it most clearly when a conscienceless leader is given ultimate power, because he allows and legitimizes the most primitive drives and behaviors in others.”
...“They are testing the waters to see what and where they can get away with ... and pull back quickly if caught,” Burkle said. That uncertainty is just part of the overall pathocracy. Throw California’s homeless into privately-owned, government-backed concentration camps? Sure, why not?

...But the worldwide erosion of democratic rights in the “third wave of autocratization” tracked by V-Dem means the United States is not alone. As Mika pointed out, “pathocracies expressed in communism and rapacious capitalism have more in common than one may realize. Both are oppressive and exploitative, both are based on lies about human nature, and therefore both contain within themselves the seeds of their own destruction.”
This can be stopped but not until we're ready to fight.
Any organization, any system built on lies, oppression and injustice, and contributing to the growth of human suffering, is destined to collapse. It may take a long time for it to happen, and it may seem impossible, but eventually it will happen. Our individual and social evolution proceeds toward realization of our highest values, encoded in our deepest nature. Pathocratic systems, with the pain and suffering they produce, spur us to growth and change as they confront us with our lower nature, which they express.

Science Under Attack

There are those who want to derail action on climate change. They include powerful corporations and individuals with 'fossil fortunes' at stake. Now, as pressure for concrete action begins to mount, they're fighting back. It should come as no surprise they're weaponizing social media.

Scientists, activists and politicians who are engaged in climate policy say they are being besieged by a surge of online attacks. It is difficult to divine whether the bursts of "climate change"-related Twitter activity are spontaneous or part of coordinated campaigns; some experts say that likely a small number of influencers are touching off postings by a far larger number of followers. But in a post-2016 world that is keenly aware of the role that social media played in the election of Donald Trump, the targets of climate attacks are concerned about the potential for online onslaughts to manipulate opinion and neutralize growing public support for climate action.
"I believe this is a concerted effort, likely by bad state actors and fossil fuel interests, to create disinformation, discord and division as we approach the all-important UN Summit and children's youth event later this month," said climate scientist Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a frequent target of attacks. 
...Bot Sentinel has become a tool for those trying to fight the spread of disinformation on Twitter. The platform uses an algorithm to identify accounts it labels as "trollbots"—those that frequently retweet known propaganda accounts, exhibit repetitive behavior or violate Twitter's terms of service by harassing other users. Following CNN's climate forum on Sept. 4, there was an unusually high 700 mentions of climate change in a 24-hour period from the 100,000-some accounts Bot Sentinel is tracking as trollbots.
Targeted Attacks.
Mann, the climate scientist, found himself on the receiving end of some of this activity after he posted a Tweet thanking CNN for a "full evening of informed, detailed climate change conversation." "Climate change is a hoax," replied @fdnymt, another account identified as exhibiting trollbot behavior by Bot Sentinel. 
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who traveled to the United States for the UN Summit, has been a frequent target of toxic online attacks. Soon after Thunberg started her two-week sailboat voyage across the Atlantic, British political donor and co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign Arron Banks tweeted, "freak yachting accidents do happen in August." Following the lead of figures like Banks, lesser-known Twitter handles have piled on.

We're being attacked. It would help if, at some point, we acted as people do when they're under attack.

The Petro-Python May Squeeze the Life Out of Athabasca.

I wonder if Morneau can still put a 'stop payment' on that $4.5 billion cheque to Kinder Morgan?

A new report from a major French bank, one of the world's largest, says oil prices are heading for the tank.
The report from French financial giant BNP Paribas estimates that the market price of oil will have to fall dramatically in the next decade or two, or the industry risks losing its entire ground transport customer base. 
“The oil industry has never before in its history faced the kind of threat that renewable electricity in tandem with electric vehicles poses to its business model,” wrote Mark Lewis, global head of sustainability research at the bank’s asset management division. 
He described his estimates as a “death toll for (gasoline).”
Lewis’ analysis found that within a decade or two, oil will have to fall in price to around US$10 to US$20 per barrel to be competitive as a transport fuel. For comparison: Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil prices, has been trading at around US$58 per barrel recently.

“If you can’t produce oil below $20 a barrel within 10 years, you’re going to have a big problem selling oil as a transportation fuel,” he said.
That's not good news for guys who've just bet the farm on bitumen pipelines or provinces have figure bitumen royalties mean they don't need a sales tax. Tough.

Justin, Jason - sorry boys but it sounds like there's a real constrictor coming your way and it might just squeeze the life out of your Athabasca tar pits. While you're waiting you might want to figure out how you're going to raise the nearly quarter trillion dollars needed to clean up those tailing ponds, the tar pits and those thousands of orphan wells. Just a suggestion.

"Don't Bring a Speech, Bring a Plan"

Climate activism is on a roll for the next week and a bit.  Next Monday marks the start of a UN Climate Summit where nations are expected to unveil concrete plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions. What are they going to do to help meet the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
Signed in December 2015 by every government on earth except North Korea and Costa Rica, the Paris Agreement stands as the strongest achievement of climate diplomacy since governments first debated the issue at the UN “Earth Summit” in 1992. In a shock to climate insiders, the agreement not only committed signatory governments to limit temperature rise to the relatively less dangerous level of 2 degrees Celsius. It also obliged governments to keep temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius and, in a major victory for the most vulnerable countries, to strive for 1.5 degrees. 
Trump has supposedly pulled America out of the pact only there's a snag.
Despite Trump’s bluster, the US withdrawal still has not happened. Precisely to guard against such capriciousness, the negotiators in Paris stipulated that every signatory was legally bound to remain in the agreement until four years after the treaty took effect, which would only happen after countries responsible for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. Thus, the Paris Agreement did not take effect until November 4, 2016. That means the United States cannot leave until November 4, 2020—which, not by accident, is one day after the US 2020 presidential election.
Trump is not expected to attend this week’s summit; the US delegation will instead be led by Andrew Wheeler, a former coal company lobbyist who is now the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Monday's summit is supposed to be a gathering to "name and shame" climate change slackers.
“Don’t bring a speech, bring a plan!” For months now, that’s what Secretary General Guterres has been telling heads of state and government. Instead of the endless blah-blah-blah heard at most UN meetings, Guterres wants this summit to be more like “show-and-tell,” a meeting where governments share concrete and replicable examples of how they are cutting emissions and boosting resilience to the climate impacts already unfolding. As such, the summit aims to address a glaring deficiency of the Paris Agreement. In part, because the agreement made emissions cuts voluntary, global emissions have continued to increase since 2015. On current trends, the earth is heading towards 3 to 5 degrees C of temperature rise—enough, scientists warn, to destroy civilization as we know it.
“The secretary general has very clearly demanded that all participants identify very concrete measures that can be implemented immediately,” Luis Alfonso de Alba, Guterres’s special envoy for the summit, said in an interview with Covering Climate Now, a collaboration of 250 news outlets around the world to strengthen coverage of the climate story. “What we need is for all actors to put in practice their commitments [and to] recognize that whatever they had in mind before, they need to do much more—because climate change is running faster than we are, the situation is much more serious than we thought.”
It makes you wonder what sort of dog and pony show Canada will be bringing to New York.  According to the Trudeau government's own Enviro-Can, we're not even on track to meet Harper's target of 30 percent cuts by 2030 and we're falling ever further behind even before Justin gets his new pipeline to 'tidewater.'
The climb remains very steep, however. Scientists with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared last October in their landmark “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC” that humanity had to slash emissions by 45 percent by 2030, on the way to net-zero by 2050, to hit the 1.5 degree Celsius target. Failure to do so would condemn many millions of people, particularly in poor and vulnerable countries, to destitution and death and make irreversible global warming more likely. Such dramatic emissions reductions, the scientists added, would require the transformation of the global energy, agricultural, transportation, and other sectors at a speed and scale without precedent in human history.
The UN can assess and verify and chastise but, beyond that, we're going to have to supply the muscle to hold our governments to their promises. That's especially challenging for the peoples of petro-states who normally have leaders very long on lofty talk but very short on action. Hmm, does that sound familiar?

If you want to Scheer and Trudeau that you mean business and they had better too there are global demonstrations planned for this week and next, a good chance to get some fresh air before the cold returns.  In Germany, an inter-city bus operator, Flixbus, will be offering free rides to protesters.

Maybe When We Start Dying We'll Care

You don't hear many Canadians concerned about how our plans to flood world markets with high-carbon bitumen will affect the little brown people of the Third World. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose.

Justin Trudeau, prime minister 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead' never mentions what bituminous energy may portend for those in the poorest and most vulnerable countries that are already getting hammered by climate change. Not a peep. He sure as hell isn't going to admit responsibility.

Our privileged indifference might change when climate change reaches grandma or the young ones, when it lands on our doorstep.  However that's the fate we invite. That's the future we bequeath to the grandkids.
The climate crisis is making people sicker – worsening illnesses ranging from seasonal allergies to heart and lung disease.
Children, pregnant people and the elderly are the most at risk from extreme weather and rising heat. But the impact of the climate crisis – for patients, doctors and researchers – is already being felt across every specialty of medicine, with worse feared to come. 
"There’s research suggesting that our prescription medications may be causing harm because of changing heat patterns,” said Aaron Bernstein, a pediatric hospitalist who is the co-director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. 
“There’s evidence that extreme weather events are affecting critical medical supplies so we can’t do things as we normally would do because IV fluids aren’t available. 
“And there’s evidence that extreme weather events are knocking out power more and more, and that is a huge issue for providing care in healthcare facilities.”
You didn't really think we were getting out of this scot-free did you?  No, sweetheart, sooner or later everybody pays.

How do I kill thee? Let me count the ways.

You really should read the article to get the full flavour of what awaits us but here are a few areas of concern, lethal concern.

Allergies; pregnancy and newborns; heart and lung disease; children under five; dehydration and kidney function; skin disease and cancer; digestive illness; infectious disease; mental health; neurologic disease; nutrition decline and trauma from severe weather events including smoke inhalation.

That sounds like a basket of fun, doesn't it? It's just one gawddamn thing after another, eh?

But our leaders, the petro-pimps? They won't take responsibility for this. It'll be treated as an 'act of god.' Only it's not. This an act of man. You can go back a generation or two to get your baseline. Pretty much everything since then, the difference, is rooted in fossil fuels. Sucks, eh?

Sunday, September 15, 2019

And That's Journalism For You

There was tragedy yesterday when a bus carrying U Vic students to a marine science centre in Bamfield on the western side of Vancouver Island somehow went down a ravine killing two of the students. It's a bloody awful logging road but the only way to get into Bamfield except by boat.

I was shocked when I read the first account by a CBC reporter who said that the critically injured were airlifted to hospital in Victoria. Others were taken to hospital in Port Alberni. Then he added that the "uninsured" were taken to a reception centre.

What, we weren't going to treat them because they had no insurance? Really? I thought we were better than that.

In a follow-up report he wrote that the critically injured were airlifted to hospital in Victoria. Other injured were taken to hospital in Port Alberni. Then he added that the "uninjured" were taken to a reception centre.

LA Times - Our Last, Best Chance

Today's LA Times editorial is grim - "Climate change is already here. 2020 could be your last chance to stop an apocalypse."

The changing climate is no longer an abstract threat lurking in our distant future — it is upon us. We feel it. We see it. In our longer and deeper droughts and our more brutal hurricanes and raging, hyper-destructive wildfires. And with that comes a new urgency, and a new opportunity, to act.

Climate change is now simply impossible to ignore. The temperature reached a record-breaking 90 degrees in Anchorage this summer and an unprecedented 108 degrees in Paris. We can watch glaciers melting and collapsing on the web; ice losses in Antarctica have tripled since 2012 so that sea levels are rising faster today than at any time in the last quarter-century. Human migration patterns are already changing in Africa and Latin America as extreme weather events disrupt crop patterns, harm harvests and force farmers off their land, sending climate refugees to Europe and the United States. 
It’s often difficult to attribute specific events to climate change but, clearly, strange things are happening. In India, entire cities are running out of water, thanks, scientists say, to a dangerous combination of mismanagement and climate change. In Syria, the civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than 11 million is believed by many scientists to have been sparked at least in part by climate-related drought and warming. Closer to home, two invasive, non-native mosquito speciesthat have the potential to transmit viruses, including dengue, Zika and yellow fever have recently been found in several California cities. 
According to NASA, 18 of the 19 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000. The last five years have been the hottest since record-keeping began in 1880. July set an all-time record.
...It is late — terribly late — for action, but with some luck, perhaps it is not too late to avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. In nations across the world, people finally recognize climate change as a top or very serious threat, according to the Pew Research Center. In the U.S., even Republican voters — and especially younger ones — are waking up to the realities and dangers of a warming planet.
...At this point, the mission is no longer to avert or reverse climate change, but to mitigate its worst effects (by continuing to reduce emissions and slow warming) and to adapt to others. Adaptation might mean retreating from coastal developments as the seas rise or elevating roads and installing flooding pumps (as the city of Miami is already doing), or creating carbon sinks to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, all while continuing to try to curtail further emissions.
The striking part of this editorial is that there's nothing remotely controversial about it. It's all demonstrably true. Our predicament is indeed as dire as the editorial board contends. We very much stand at the edge of something right here, right now. Ask yourself how this can be given what we're hearing from our political leadership in the election campaign now underway?

How big a priority is this for Andrew Scheer or Justin Trudeau? Do they have a sense of the urgency of our plight? What are they prepared to do about it - build pipelines? The contradictions, the inconsistencies, their words and deeds are irreconcilable. What does it mean to declare an emergency that you won't acknowledge? 

The American election is more than a year off. It's still more interesting than what's on offer here, now.

I'm not following the federal election. I do as much as I can to avoid it because, in a word, it's a "shitshow." Maybe that's two words. Does it matter?

I don't like Scheer but I don't like Trudeau either. They're both hustlers - Trudeau a bit more polished maybe, Scheer more of a Gomer.

One thing I do know is that the winner will be the better liar. Stephen Harper was the better liar when he toppled Paul Martin. He promised two things - transparency and accountability - and then, on assuming office, went very dark and very deep.

Justin was the better liar when he toppled Sideshow Steve. Oh Gawd did he ever lay it on thick. Social licence, first nations reconciliation, electoral reform and more. It was all bullshit but it worked.

I've kind of had enough of it. I'm not interested in electoral promises, party platforms, any more. It's funny that we remember Kim Campbell for saying that an election is no time for discussing serious issues. How dare she? And yet Justin and Andy must agree. An election campaign is no time for discussing serious issues - honestly. An election is something you bullshit your way through to the limits of your ability and hope for the best when the votes are tallied.

I'm also getting fed up with this 'Lord of the Flies' hyper-partisanship. It's rampant on both sides. It breaks us into camps that view each other with distrust, anger, even hatred. It is tribalism.  It undermines social cohesion and, in the process, presents a serious threat to democracy itself.  You can't play Hutu v. Tutsi and expect to get along. Eventually the machetes come out. It's almost laughable that these hyper-partisan extremists want to define 'Canadian values.'

I felt a bit down this morning when I found we're only at day five of this campaign. 35 more days to go, five damn weeks. Oh well this is probably a good opportunity to get caught up on some of my backlog of reading. Just go ahead without me.

The election I'm interested in is the one that's due in November of next year. What will be the defining issue of that campaign?  Robert Reich posits a fascinating possibility - the sanity of the president of the United States of America.

Reich has an op-ed in today's Guardian, "Trump is seriously, frighteningly unstable - the world is in danger."

Everybody except 85 per cent of registered Republicans get it. The Cheeto Benito, the Mango Mussolini, is a nutjob.
In retrospect, what’s most disturbing about “Sharpiegate” isn’t Trump’s clumsy effort to doctor a National Weather Service map or even his brazen move to get the same agency to lie on his behalf.

It’s how utterly petty his motive was. We’ve had presidents trying to cover up a sexual liaison with an intern and a botched burglary, but never have we had one who went to such lengths to cover up an inaccurate weather forecast. Alabama being hit by a hurricane? Friends, this is not rational behavior. 
Trump also cancelled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting was to have been secret. It was scheduled for the week of the anniversary of 9/11. He cancelled it by tweet. 
Does any of this strike you as even remotely rational? 
Before that, Trump cancelled a state visit to Denmark because Denmark wouldn’t sell Greenland to the US. Hello? Greenland wasn’t for sale. The US no longer buys populated countries. The state visit had been planned for months. 
He has repeatedly told senior officials to explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes hitting the US. He believes video games cause mass shootings. He thinks climate change is no big deal. 
He says trade wars are “good and easy to win”. He insists it’s Chinese rather than US consumers who pay his tariffs. He “orders” American firms to stop doing business in China. 
He calls the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy”. He retweets a comedian’s sick suggestion that the Clintons were responsible for the suicide of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Reich points out the obvious. A lunatic president is a danger to the United States and the rest of the world to boot.

Now the interesting bit.  You may have read reports this week that, in some states, Republicans are cancelling presidential primaries this time around.  DJT will go unchallenged. Why? Let Reich explain.
Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld recently tweeted that Trump is “a clear and present danger” to the US, with the hashtag “#25thAmendment”. Former Illinois representative Joe Walsh says the amendment should be “looked at”.
Can you imagine giving Weld and Walsh podium time to challenge Trump's sanity in a Republican primary? A Republican presidential nomination contest in which the contestants delve into the front runner's lunacy.

That has piqued my interest. As for what's going on here, let me know when it's over.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What a Crappy Thing to Do.

Someone nicked the 18-carat loo from Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill's birthplace.

The golden lavatory, named America, drew large crowds when it was exhibited in New York. It had been installed in a wood-panelled chamber opposite the room where Churchill was born. 
Blenheim palace is the ancestral seat of the Duke of Marlborough.
Ahead of the toilet’s installation, the duke’s half-brother, Edward Spencer-Churchill, founder of the Blenheim Art Foundation, said last month the lavatory wouldn’t be “the easiest thing to nick”. 
“Firstly, it’s plumbed in and secondly, a potential thief will have no idea who last used the toilet or what they ate,” he told the Times. “So no, I don’t plan to be guarding it.”
The toilet, designed by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, had been plumbed in and was available for visitors to use.
I'm familiar with the phrase, "farting through silk," but this is ridiculous.

The palace's chief executive, Dominic Hare, is quoted as being 'relieved' no one was hurt in the burglary. I'll bet.

Embarking on the Era of "Climate Barbarism"

It has been foretold for years, at least two decades. Gwynne Dyer has written of it. Now, Naomi Klein says it's upon us, an era of "climate barbarism."

Klein's has released a new book, a compendium of essays, "On Fire: The Burning Case For a Green New Deal."  Some excerpts from a Guardian interview:
I don’t think I placed enough emphasis on the challenge climate change poses to the left. It’s more obvious the way the climate crisis challenges a rightwing dominant worldview, and the cult of serious centrism that never wants to do anything big, that’s always looking to split the difference. But this is also a challenge to a left worldview that is essentially only interested in redistributing the spoils of extractivism [the process of extracting natural resources from the earth] and not reckoning with the limits of endless consumption.

In a North American context, it’s the greatest taboo of all to actually admit that there are going to be limits. You see that in the way Fox News has gone after the Green New Deal – they are coming after your hamburgers! It cuts to the heart of the American dream – every generation gets more than the last, there is always a new frontier to expand to, the whole idea of settler colonial nations like ours. When somebody comes along and says, actually, there are limits, we’ve got some tough decisions, we need to figure out how to manage what’s left, we’ve got to share equitably – it is a psychic attack. And so the response [on the left] has been to avoid, and say no, no, we’re not coming to take away your stuff, there are going to be all kinds of benefits. And there are going to be benefits: we’ll have more livable cities, we’ll have less polluted air, we’ll spend less time stuck in traffic, we can design happier, richer lives in so many ways. But we are going to have to contract on the endless, disposable consumption side.
There was a time when Klein led from the front, back in the days when she challenged consumerism. Her shift into climate change came across like someone who had just discovered what countless others had been writing about and warning about for many years. Her book, "This Changes Everything," was a jumble of recycled thoughts.

As I've written on this blog for years, the existential peril to humanity is a basket of scourges from climate change to overpopulation to our rapacious exploitation of the world's very finite resources. It's not much use setting out to 'fix' one or two. If you don't resolve them all you have almost no prospects of fixing any of them.

While Klein's Leap Manifesto failed to get any meaningful traction, she now embraces the Green New Deal which, in my view, has about as much chance of success.
I feel a tremendous excitement and a sense of relief, that we are finally talking about solutions on the scale of the crisis we face. That we’re not talking about a little carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme as a silver bullet. We’re talking about transforming our economy. This system is failing the majority of people anyway, which is why we’re in this period of such profound political destabilisation – that is giving us the Trumps and the Brexits, and all of these strongman leaders – so why don’t we figure out how to change everything from bottom to top, and do it in a way that addresses all of these other crises at the same time? There is every chance we will miss the mark, but every fraction of a degree warming that we are able to hold off is a victory and every policy that we are able to win that makes our societies more humane, the more we will weather the inevitable shocks and storms to come without slipping into barbarism. Because what really terrifies me is what we are seeing at our borders in Europe and North America and Australia – I don’t think it’s coincidental that the settler colonial states and the countries that are the engines of that colonialism are at the forefront of this. We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism. We saw it in Christchurch, we saw it in El Paso, where you have this marrying of white supremacist violence with vicious anti-immigrant racism.
Klein raises the straw man of white supremacy, presumably to duck the issue of overpopulation. It's not polite or politically correct to discuss such things, apparently. That's just privileged white man's talk. Except that it's not.

She embraces what is essentially "steady state" or "full earth" economics, a theory of a 'no growth' civilization that is decades old and may even have its intellectual roots in Adam Smith's 1776 classic, "The Wealth of Nations."

I bought "This Changes Everything." I won't be buying "On Fire." It's not that what she's advocating isn't good or necessary. Of course it is. It's that we have already chosen a different path and, yes, it leads to climate barbarism.  Averting that will take a wholesale change of the fabric of Western society and, daunting as that prospect obviously is, we're running out of time to build multi-decadal movements.

Friday, September 13, 2019

It's California - Again

California has just prohibited private prisons, including ICE detention centers.
California just passed a bill banning all for-profit prisons and immigrant detention facilities in the state, the Guardian reports — and some of these facilities could be gone as early as next year. 
Bill AB32, passed Wednesday and heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for signing, would shut down private facilities that hold inmates with criminal convictions. More than 2,200 people were held in such facilities as of June, according to data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics data reviewed by the Guardian. It would also shutter privately run facilities for immigrants, who are considered civil detainees despite being held in prison-like conditions.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, who introduced the bill, said in February that the inclusion of immigrant detention facilities wasn’t meant as a jab at President Trump or his immigration policies. Instead, he told the San Francisco Chronicle, it was a stand against companies that “only care about the almighty dollar.”