Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Whatever Happened To? The "Amoral Shysters" Who Rigged Brexit.

“If we allow cheating in our democratic process … What about next time? 
What about the time after that? This is a breach of the law. This is cheating.
 This is not some council race, or a by-election.
 This is an irreversible change to the constitutional settlement of this country.

With those words, former Cambridge Analytica research director, Chris Wylie, warned British lawmakers that the Brexit referendum had been rigged in favour of the Leave camp.

Since then further evidence has emerged that the Leave side freely and covertly broke campaign spending limits, giving them another means of skewing the results.

Echoing Wylie's take on the tainted referendum, the Irish Times' Kathy Sheridan wrote today:
What have we learned from the Brexit fiasco ? That we should take nothing for granted. That a small, well-funded band of determined, self-serving, amoral shysters can bring down a great country. That we are right to be fearful. That we should aim to do better but appreciate and loudly protect what we have. Because we now know up close what happens when a country grows complacent.
"Amoral shysters" such as Aaron Banks and Nigel Farage. In March of last year I took a cursory look at Mr. Banks.
In September 2013, the man who bought Brexit – Arron Banks – was in trouble. 
For the past two years, financial regulators in Gibraltar had been scrutinising his insurance under-writer, Southern Rock. They had discovered it was keeping reserves far below what was needed. 
This was a serious problem. Banks claimed he had already provided £40 million to plug the hole. He also told the regulator he would step down as a director, but has since been required to find an eye-watering £60 million in extra funding. 
A year later, these financial worries seem to have completely evaporated. Banks had begun buying diamond mines, investing millions into chemical companies and wealth management firms, setting up loss-making political consultancies, and most famous of all – funding the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).
Banks has claimed he was promoted and rose to lead his own sales team at Norwich Union – now part of Aviva. However, Aviva say they have no record of Banks ever having worked for Norwich Union. He has also claimed to have worked for Warren Buffett around this point in his career. We asked Buffett about this. He replied. "I have no memory of ever hearing of the name Arron Fraser Andrew Banks. He certainly never worked for me." Further checks across the Berkshire Hathaway group, made by Buffett’s office, yielded no evidence he had ever worked for any of his subsidiaries.
Just last November, The Observer reported that Banks was under investigation by Britain's National Crime Agency for millions of pounds he pumped into the Leave campaign.
It makes a complete mockery of our democratic system that Britain will, in all likelihood, have already taken the irreversible step of leaving the EU before the results of this investigation into Banks’s alleged criminal wrongdoing are known. And it is a travesty that the Electoral Commission has, more than two years after the referendum took place, only just concluded its inquiry, which only came about as a result of Cadwalladr’s reporting in the first place.

This is not the only dark cloud hanging over the conduct of the pro-Brexit referendum campaigns. Earlier this year, the Electoral Commission found that both Vote Leave – the official Brexit campaign – and Banks’s Leave.EU broke electoral law by significantly exceeding official spending limits. Yet there has been a complete absence of consequences for those involved, including the cabinet ministers who convened and sat on the committee that oversaw Vote Leave’s campaign. 
...All this should be sounding alarm bells in Westminster. Our electoral law is based not on tough regulation and enforcement but on openness, transparency and trust; it relies on people being honest and upfront, if only because any cheating will get found out, with consequences for their political careers. However, in a one-shot, high-stakes referendum campaign, there is far less to lose and it would appear that the key Brexit campaigns took advantage of that. They not only overspent, but made wildly misleading claims, for example, that leaving the EU would free up £350m in public spending every week, claims they knew they could not be held to account for.
Yet it's all for naught. The AggregateIQ/Cambridge Analytica vote manipulation, the flagrant and wanton spending irregularities, the fraudulent promises of "amoral shysters" such as Banks and Farage - all these things that gave Leave the narrowest of referendum wins - none of it matters. Westminster is going to proceed as though the referendum vote wasn't rigged again and again and again.

WEF - Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Next week the glitterati of politics, industry and finance will gather at Davos, Switzerland to ruminate over what ails our world and how to exploit fix it.

This year, the World Economic Forum will be gasbagging about our rapidly worsening environment. The lips they will be flappin'.

The most urgent problem, according to the WEF, is major power rivalries that are thwarting collective action to thwart climate change. No wonder Trump is giving this year's conclave a pass.
The WEF’s annual global risks report found that a year of extreme weather-related events meant environmental issues topped the list of concerns in a survey of around 1,000 experts and decision-makers. 
But with Donald Trump announcing protectionist measures aimed at Chinaand the European Union in 2018, the report said the international cooperation needed to limit further global warming was breaking down. 
“Global risks are intensifying but the collective will to tackle them appears to be lacking. Instead, divisions are hardening,” the report said, noting that nine out of 10 people polled said they expected relations between the leading powers to worsen in 2019. 
“The world’s move into a new phase of strongly state-centred politics, noted in last year’s Global Risks Report, continued throughout 2018.”
...Environmental risks continued to dominate the risks report, although there were also long-term concerns about the dangers posed by cybersecurity breaches in the years ahead. 
The report tracks five environmental risks: biodiversity loss, extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, man-made disasters, and natural disasters. All five are thought to be in the high-impact, high-likelihood category.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

But Only If We Want It Badly Enough

As the clock runs down on the time we have remaining to thwart catastrophic climate change we have to decide if we want that badly enough to do what we must for our grandkids and generations to follow them.

Then Potsdam Institute director, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, told the delegates to the 2015 Paris climate summit what it would take - nothing less than the "induced implosion" of the global fossil fuel industry. What he meant was that governments would have to shut down the coal mines, the oil and gas wells and the bitumen pits and in short order.  Nothing less than a rapid transition to alternative, clean energy would buy us a fighting chance at averting runaway global warming and climate mayhem.

The Guardian reports on research that says we can still probably do it if we want to choose life over ruin.
It shows that meeting the internationally agreed aspiration of keeping global warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is still possible. The scientists say it is therefore the choices being made by global society, not physics, which is the obstacle to meeting the goal. 
The study found that if all fossil fuel infrastructure – power plants, factories, vehicles, ships and planes – from now on are replaced by zero-carbon alternatives at the end of their useful lives, there is a 66% chance of staying under 1.5C.
Christopher Smith, of the University of Leeds, who led the research, said: “It’s good news from a geophysical point of view. But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could we possibly do. We are basically saying we can’t build anything now that emits fossil fuels.” 
Nicholas Stern, of the London School of Economics, who was not part of the research team, said: “We are rapidly approaching the end of the age of fossil fuels. This study confirms that all new energy infrastructure must be sustainable from now on if we are to avoid locking in commitments to emissions that would lead to the world exceeding the goals of the Paris agreement.”
From the study abstract:
"if carbon-intensive infrastructure is phased out at the end of its design lifetime from the end of 2018, there is a 64% chance that peak global mean temperature rise remains below 1.5 °C. Delaying mitigation until 2030 considerably reduces the likelihood that 1.5 °C would be attainable even if the rate of fossil fuel retirement was accelerated.
"Although the challenges laid out by the Paris Agreement are daunting, we indicate 1.5 °C remains possible and is attainable with ambitious and immediate emission reduction across all sectors."
What does that mean? No new fossil energy infrastructure. No new pipelines. No armada of bitumen-laden supertankers plying the British Columbia coast. The very survival of our civilization hinges on shutting down fossil fuel production and abandoning plans to expand fossil energy infrastructure.

Justin Trudeau and most other Canadian politicians, federal and provincial, are on the wrong side of this. Their side is willing to gamble on the future of human civilization. It's not even conventional crude oil they want to pimp either. They're out to flood world markets with the filthiest, toxin-laden, high-carbon, ersatz petroleum sludge on the planet. That is the very definition of "pernicious."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Too Damn Dumb to Live

In recent years, British Columbia has been averaging somewhere close to 10 fatalities a year from avalanches. Many of the victims, it seems, are Albertans.

The latest to die are a 51-year old Calgarian and the man's 24-year old son who remains missing.

There have been plenty of avalanche warnings of late and there were warnings of avalanche hazards in the Purcell Mountains where the party of nine Albertans took their snowmobiles.  Despite the warnings the group was competing in "high marking" on Saturday when the avalanche claimed its victims.

This is what high-marking can lead to:

What in hell causes these people to ignore avalanche warnings and do the very thing most likely to trigger an avalanche? It can be perilous at the best of times but why court death?

Wishful Thinking? The World Economic Forum's Cure for What Ail's Humanity, Globalization 4.0

Acknowledging that the globalization associated with the neoliberal era led to enormous damage to the masses, the World Economic Forum will be launching the cure in Davos, Switzerland this month - more globalization, a.k.a. Globalization 4.0.

In case you weren't aware of Globalization 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, here's a quick primer.  1.0 was globalization prior to WWI (and it was substantial). 2.0 arrived in the immediate post-WWII era. 3.0 is what we've been living under since Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney decided that Hayek and Friedman knew what they were talking about - the age of neoliberalism and the quest for the GDP Holy Grail.

That leads us to Globalization 4.0.
In the dominant narrative of the last 40 years, GDP was king, and countries pursued deregulation, loosened capital controls, cut corporate taxes, and liberalized their labor markets.

The eruption of popular anger that has roiled many countries’ politics in recent years is rooted in the failure of that neoliberal model. But there is no economic law requiring globalization to be a race to the bottom. On the contrary, for humanity to have any hope at all, Globalization 4.0 must break with neoliberalism for good.
Yes, indeed. A break with neoliberalism. I'll get right on it. Should be finished by a week next Thursday at the latest.

"No economic law requiring globalization to be a race to the bottom." Brilliant. Wonder why no one thought of that years ago. Of course the "race to the bottom" has nothing to do with economic law and everything to do with greed and a political caste that long ago stopped working for the people who elected them to office. Marginal thinkers who saw the quest for ever greater GDP as their priority. Leaders like the current prime minister of Canada and the guy before him. Those two, what a pair.

If you're looking for specifics about this Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) well you're out of luck. There's a lot of Kumbaya talk but it's vague, touchy-feely stuff, heavy on bromides. If anything it sounds like an admission by the political, industrial and financial jetsetters winging their way to their mountain retreat that they've made a complete bollocks of it so far but one more shot, just one more, will surely rectify everything.  And there's the problem.

Getting into neoliberalism was easy. It's like driving into a ditch. The pull of greed is a powerful force. Getting out of the neoliberal ditch will be far more difficult than getting in. It's how so much of the world's wealth accumulated into so few hands.  How, short of confiscatory taxation, do you break that?

So what is this Fourth Industrial Revolution? It seems to be a vision of globalization purged of globalism.
Globalization is a phenomenon driven by technology and the movement of ideas, people, and goods. Globalism is an ideology that prioritizes the neoliberal global order over national interests. Nobody can deny that we are living in a globalized world. But whether all of our policies should be “globalist” is highly debatable. 
After all, this moment of crisis has raised important questions about our global-governance architecture. With more and more voters demanding to “take back control” from “global forces,” the challenge is to restore sovereignty in a world that requires cooperation. Rather than closing off economies through protectionism and nationalist politics, we must forge a new social compact between citizens and their leaders, so that everyone feels secure enough at home to remain open to the world at large. Failing that, the ongoing disintegration of our social fabric could ultimately lead to the collapse of democracy.  
Moreover, the challenges associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution(4IR) are coinciding with the rapid emergence of ecological constraints, the advent of an increasingly multipolar international order, and rising inequality. These integrated developments are ushering in a new era of globalization. Whether it will improve the human condition will depend on whether corporate, local, national, and international governance can adapt in time. 
Meanwhile, a new framework for global public-private cooperation has been taking shape. Public-private cooperation is about harnessing the private sector and open markets to drive economic growth for the public good, with environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness always in mind. But to determine the public good, we first must identify the root causes of inequality.
This is where it gets wobbly. Public-private cooperation is about the private sector and open markets working for the public good? It's about governments weaseling their way in the era of "everyday low taxes" by unloading their responsibilities on the private sector lured in by assurances of irresistible profits.
The "public good" may be there, somewhere, but, if so, it's pretty far down the ladder of the interests being served.
...while open markets and increased competition certainly produce winners and losers in the international arena, they may be having an even more pronounced effect on inequality at the national level. Moreover, the growing divide between the precariat and the privileged is being reinforced by 4IR business models, which often derive rents from owning capital or intellectual property.
...Globalization 4.0 has only just begun, but we are already vastly underprepared for it. Clinging to an outdated mindset and tinkering with our existing processes and institutions will not do. (Justin, did you get that?) Rather, we need to redesign them from the ground up, so that we can capitalize on the new opportunities that await us, while avoiding the kind of disruptions that we are witnessing today.

As we develop a new approach to the new economy, we must remember that we are not playing a zero-sum game. This is not a matter of free trade or protectionism, technology or jobs, immigration or protecting citizens, and growth or equality. Those are all false dichotomies, which we can avoid by developing policies that favor “and” over “or,” allowing all sets of interests to be pursued in parallel. 
To be sure, pessimists will argue that political conditions are standing in the way of a productive global dialogue about Globalization 4.0 and the new economy. But realists will use the current moment to explore the gaps in the present system, and to identify the requirements for a future approach. And optimists will hold out hope that future-oriented stakeholders will create a community of shared interest and, ultimately, shared purpose.
There you have it. Feel better now? This sounds like "world government" time, the very thing that plunges the Americans into apoplexy.
The changes that are underway today are not isolated to a particular country, industry, or issue. They are universal, and thus require a global response. Failing to adopt a new cooperative approach would be a tragedy for humankind. To draft a blueprint for a shared global-governance architecture, we must avoid becoming mired in the current moment of crisis management.

Specifically, this task will require two things of the international community: wider engagement and heightened imagination. The engagement of all stakeholders in sustained dialogue will be crucial, as will the imagination to think systemically, and beyond one’s own short-term institutional and national considerations. 
These will be the two organizing principles of the World Economic Forum’s upcoming Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, which will convene under the theme of “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Ready or not, a new world is upon us.
And that, kids, came directly from Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum. Are you starting to feel some seismic rumbling coming on? Relax, that was last night's burrito.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Let Them Eat Cake, Trump Official on Furloughed Federal Employees

White House economic advisor, Kevin Hassett, knows a thing or two. For starters, he knows that he's still getting paid while nearly a million federal employees are not. He also knows that those unpaid employees are actually better off.  Really, they've never had it so good.

 Let me see. Where did I put that guillotine?

This is What "Progressive" Looks Like

Yea, there thou mak’st me sad and mak’st me sin 

In envy that my Lord Northumberland 

Should be the father to so blest a son— 
A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue, 
Amongst a grove the very straightest plant, 
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride— 
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him 
See riot and dishonor stain the brow 
Of my young Harry. O, that it could be proved 
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged 
In cradle clothes our children where they lay, 

And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

Henry IV, Part 1 has always been my favourite of Shakespeare's plays and this my favourite passage from that play. It's from the first scene as King Henry laments upon taking the measure of his own son, the wastrel who becomes Henry V, against the magnificent achievements of Northumberland's son, Hotspur.

I suppose a lot of fathers wind up sharing Henry's worries about their own sons. Mine certainly did and I gave him no end of good cause for it.

Sometimes I share a similar dismay about our political leadership or what passes for leadership in the neoliberal era. Whether it's your guy or the other side's guy, they're all a bit dismal even if some are a notch worse than others.

What leads me to vent is a guy by the name of Jay Inslee, the governor of the state of Washington.  Inslee, the progressive governor of one of the most progressive states in the USA.

It was Jay Inslee who, when Rachel Notley grumbled about cutting off oil supplies to British Columbia, came out and said that, if necessary, Washington would ensure that BC had the oil it needs. It reminded us that British Columbia had a powerful adversary next door but it also had a powerful friend just downstairs.

Now, it seems, Jay Inslee is considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination and, if he runs, he intends to focus his campaign on climate change.
Inslee is looking to carry the lessons learned from a long career of incremental wins and heartbreaking losses on climate policy to the national stage as a possible presidential contender.

"I learned one of the key talents is persistence," he told NBC News in an interview. "Climate change is not going away, and neither are we."
As a generation of young activists, led by new voices like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., rise to the forefront, they may want to pull up a seat next to the 67-year-old governor and hear his stories. 
More than a decade before this year's rallies for a Green New Deal — a plan to spend big on a rapid transition to renewable energy — Inslee, in speeches, op-eds and a book, was calling for a "moonshot" federal project modeled on the Apollo space program to slash emissions. 
...His potential entry into the wide-open 2020 Democratic primary contest with a climate-focused campaign comes amid an intense debate over how to marry environmental sustainability with political sustainability, a question he's grappled with like few others. He believes the fate of the world depends on getting the answer right. 
"That's what's at stake here," Inslee said. "A fundamental continuation of life and civilization as we've become accustomed to."
I look around, from one end of Canada to the other, and I see no leader of the stature of Jay Inslee. I see no one - no prime minister, no federal cabinet minister, no premier - willing to acknowledge what Inslee states so plainly, that what is at stake here is nothing less than the continuation of life and civilization as we've known it. What in their priorities can possibly rise to that significance? Yet I hear none of them calling for a "moonshot" scale effort to salvage as much of our civilization as we still can.

What I hear is a prime minister, enfeebled by his betrothal to pipelines, arguing for a minuscule carbon tax amid the clamor of those who would rather do nothing. And that's when I have my own Henry IVth moment.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

And That's Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Imagine you have one of those "people movers," a three-row seat mini-van that's advertised to fit seven comfortably. So you put a bum in every one of those seats and then you load another ten people into the van. Then you set out to drive across country, all 17 of you.

Now, substitute humanity for the passengers and Earth for that van. You wind up with close to eight billion people on a planet that has room for about three billion. That's what accounts for most of the predicament we humans and most other lifeforms on this planet are now in.

There are loads of stories coming out exhorting us to change our diet. Meat is out, veggies are in. If you must have creature protein, go for the insect options. Put a little salt on them, a touch of cayenne, lightly fry them up and, voila, dinner.

With everything in short supply, the meat diet has to go. The livestock industry requires too much energy, uses increasingly scarce resources and those farts, don't get me started. That end product, if you get my drift, pure methane.

Why insects? Why not switch to fish?  Same story. Too many mouths, not enough fish to fill them. This leads the industry to "fish down the food chain." We're collapsing fisheries, species by species.  That can't end well.

Even our farmland isn't up to the population challenge. We have tried. We figured that with enough agricultural chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) and enough ground water for irrigation and plenty of energy for mechanization, we could produce bumper crops that would allow our numbers to increase threefold in just a single lifetime.  It was good while it lasted but now much of the world's farmland is seriously degraded, intensively farmed to the point of exhaustion. This brings on a double whammy - desertification and the loss of aquifers drained for irrigation. Think that's a Third World problem? Check out America's Ogallala aquifer.

Energy, you can't do much without it. Over at, you'll find a chart that shows how our appetite for energy has grown since 1800 and, especially, since 1950.  In the post-war era, global energy consumption has soared seven fold, about 700 per cent, and the International Energy Agency expects demand will grow another 30 per cent by 2050.  Most of that is fossil fuels, the energy that produces all those awful greenhouse gases. Crazy, man.

The weird part and, I promise, this is really weird, is that we're still all about growth. The planet can't support us. It's tapped out. We don't care.  Just like a malignancy, we cannot stop growing. We may understand the limits but we will not, repeat not, let them get in the way of our pursuit of growth.  We're not going to stop this train until we come to the collapsed bridge over that deep gorge.

And that, kids, is why we can't have nice things any more. There's just not enough to go around. It's becoming a net sum game. Some, a few, will get plenty. Some, a whole lot more, will get just enough or near to it. Some will be left out, left to fend for themselves.  The more we grow the uglier this is going to get but that's a decade or two off, maybe, and, for now, we really don't care.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Canada Grants Asylum to Saudi Teen

Rahaf-al-Qunun has left Thailand aboard a Korean Air jetliner en route to asylum in Canada.

A spokesperson for the UNHCR Canada said they could not talk about her case due to “protection reasons.” 
The Global Affairs Canada also said it had no comment on Qunun’s case.

Qunun arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry. She soon started posting messages on Twitter after barricading herself in a room in Bangkok’s airport hotel saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
The 18-year-old has said she was fleeing from her family out of fear they would kill her for renouncing Islam, something that is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. 
She also said her family abused her physically and psychologically, at one point locking her in her room for six months after she cut her hair and rebelled against wearing the hijab.
Justin Trudeau, to his credit, takes a sharp stick and pokes it right in the eye of the crown prince, Mohammad bin Sultan. Good for him and good on MbS.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that a wave of Saudi women are fleeing the country.
The phenomenon of women trying to flee Saudi Arabia is not new, coming to the world’s attention as early as the 1970s, when a Saudi princess was caught trying to flee the kingdom with her lover. The couple were tried for adultery and executed. 
But the number of young women considering and taking the enormous risk to flee Saudi Arabia appears to have grown in recent years, rights groups say, as women frustrated by social and legal constraints at home turn to social media to help plan, and sometimes document, their efforts to escape. 

For the Sake of Canada and Our Grandkids, Justin, Deal With It.

It's hard to place much stock in the assurances of our prime minister. He says he wants to act on climate change but he's already thrown in the towel. Sure, he's waging what has been billed as a "do or die" battle to implement a carbon tax and that might sound impressive to some but, measured against the changes underway and the threats that our children will face in their lifetime, it's pathetically minuscule.

What exactly are we up against? What is the scope and magnitude of the threats that we're facing? Consider these excerpts from Dahr Jamail's soon to be released book, "The End of Ice."

Our planet is rapidly changing, and what we are witnessing is unlike anything that has occurred in human, or even geological, history. The heat-trapping nature of CO2 and methane, both greenhouse gases, has been scientific fact for decades, and according to Nasa, “no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response”. Evidence shows that greenhouse gas emissions are causing the Earth to warm 10 times faster than it should, and the ramifications of this are being felt, quite literally, throughout the entire biosphere.

Oceans are warming at unprecedented rates, droughts and wildfires of increasing severity and frequency are altering forests around the globe, and the Earth’s cryosphere – the parts of the Earth so cold that water is frozen into ice or snow – is melting at an ever-accelerating rate. The subsea permafrost in the Arctic is thawing, and we could experience a methane “burp” of previously trapped gas at any moment, causing the equivalent of several times the total amount of CO2 humans have emitted to be released into the atmosphere. The results would be catastrophic.
Climate disruption also brings with it extreme weather such as hurricanes and floods. For instance, a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, leading to an increase in the frequency of severe major rain events, such as Hurricane Harvey over Houston in summer 2017, which dropped so much rain that the weight of the water actually caused the Earth’s crust to sink by 2cm. 
Earth has not seen current atmospheric CO2 levels since the Pliocene epoch, some 3m years ago. Three-quarters of that CO2 will still be here in 500 years. It takes a decade to experience the full warming effects of CO2 emissions. Even if we stopped all greenhouse gas emissions, it would take another 25,000 years for most of what is currently in the atmosphere to be absorbed into the oceans
Climate disruption is progressing faster than ever, and faster than predicted. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2001. The distress signals from our overheated planet are all around us, with reports, studies and warnings increasing daily. Worst-case prediction made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about the rise in temperatures, extreme weather, sea levels and CO2 levels in the atmosphere have fallen short of reality. Countless glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests and species are already vanishing at a pace never seen before, and all of this from increasing the global mean temperature by “only” 1C above the preindustrial baseline. Some scientists predict it could rise by as much as 10C by 2100. A study led by James Hansen, the former director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warned that the rise we have seen so far has already caused unstoppable melting in both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.
...Modern life has compressed time and space. You can traverse the globe in a matter of hours, or gain information in nanoseconds. The price for this, along with everything we want, on demand, all the time, is a total disconnection from the planet that sustains our lives. ...The frenetic pace of contemporary life is having a devastating impact on this planet. Humans have transformed more than half the ice-free land on Earth. We have changed the composition of the atmosphere and the chemistry of the oceans from which we came. We now use more than half the planet’s readily accessible freshwater runoff, and the majority of the world’s major rivers have been either dammed or diverted. 
As a species, we now hang over the abyss of a geoengineered future we have created for ourselves. At our insistence, our voracious appetite is consuming nature itself. We have refused to heed the warnings Earth has been sending, and there is no rescue team on its way.
...Kanayurak had told me that he was a volunteer gravedigger. The permafrost used to be 10-12 inches below the surface, so it would take three days of chipping with an ice pick to dig a grave. Now the permafrost is several feet below the surface, and softer, so he can dig a grave in a few hours. 
Permafrost is a layer of ground that is continuously frozen for a period of two years or more. It contains dead plants that absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere centuries ago, and then froze before decomposing. When it thaws, microbial activity converts a large portion of that organic material into methane and CO2, which is released back into the atmosphere. According to a Nasa report, over hundreds of millennia, “Arctic permafrost soils have accumulated vast stores of organic carbon” – an estimated 1,400-1,850 gigatonnes, compared to 850 gigatonnes of carbon in Earth’s atmosphere.
...The changes in the permafrost happening across Alaska’s North Slope are due to some of the most dramatic temperature increases in the world. In 35 years of measurements here, the temperature at 20 metres below the ground has increased by 3C since Romanovsky’s first measurement, and at the surface of the permafrost one metre below the ground, the average temperature has increased by a staggering 5C since the mid-1980s. Even small increases bring the temperature of the permafrost closer to 0C. Crossing that line means the permafrost will start to thaw. 
Scientists used to believe the permafrost was stable across the North Slope, and that it would not begin to thaw this century. Romanovsky said: “If you look at our records, however, and extrapolate into the future another 30 years, assuming changes continue as they have been for the last 30 years, the permafrost on the North Slope will hit 0C by 2050 or 2060 at the latest. Nobody was expecting this, and most people would be surprised to see this happen so soon.”
...a leaked draft report from US scientists across 13 federal agencies warned of a worst-case scenario of 18F warming over the Arctic between 2071 and 2100. The report also noted that the Arctic was losing more than 3.5% of its sea ice coverage every decade, that the extent of the September sea ice had declined more than 10% per decade, that the land ice was disappearing at an increasingly rapid rate and that the severity of winter storms was increasing because of warming temperatures. 
The grim news seemed endless: the snow-free season on Alaska’s North Slope is lengthening. The year 2016 experienced the longest snow-free season in 115 years of record-keeping – roughly 45% longer than the average snow-free period over the previous four decades. The October temperature at Utqiagvik increased by a staggering 7.2C between 1979 and 2012. 
We are already facing mass extinction. There is no removing the heat we have introduced into the oceans, nor the 40bn tons of CO2 we pump into the atmosphere every single year. There may be no changing what is happening, and far worse things are coming. How, then, shall we meet this?

Like so many people, I have wondered what to do at this time. Each of us now must find our own honest, natural response to the conditions that we have brought upon ourselves.
...While western colonialist culture believes in “rights”, many indigenous cultures teach of “obligations” that we are born into: obligations to those who came before, to those who will come after, and to the Earth itself. When I orient myself around the question of what my obligations are, a deeper question immediately arises: from this moment on, knowing what is happening to the planet, to what do I devote my life?
Some may dismiss this as "disaster porn" but pornography isn't real. It's dark fantasy. There's no fantasy to climate change. It is science, a mountain of science, and it's as real as granite.

It is against this sobering reality that we are to measure the sincerity of our governments' responses to climate change and the threats it poses to us and to those who will follow us.

In the face of these dire threats, the Trudeau government remains unwavering in its pursuit of perpetual exponential growth which it sees, in great part, in the form of flooding world markets with high-carbon bitumen, the filthiest ersatz petroleum on the planet.

Ultimately we have to choose.  Will it be the economy now or the environment now and for generations to come? There are compelling reasons for not acting on climate change beyond gestural responses such as a carbon tax. Many, perhaps most of us will be long dead before life on Earth turns truly harsh, or at least we hope so. Why should we sacrifice our current prosperity for the sake of generations as yet unborn? Besides, would it really do any good?

What is the line? What side are we on? To my mind, the line is the margin of nihilism. You either commit to the present and essentially condemn the future or you accept reasonable measures to cause as little damage and suffering as necessary to those who will inherit this country.

There is one truth that I know. We may not be able to bequeath to future generations a Canada that resembles the nation we have known and enjoyed. They may have to live in a degraded environment in a even more degraded world. Even if that is so, we still have a choice. We must choose how much worse we will make their future, how much worse than necessary.

Our government is making that choice on our behalf every day. This madness of sending an armada of bitumen-laden supertankers to foreign markets is an integral part of that choice.  That same government's failure to marshal resources needed for the Herculean chore of adaptation, especially climate-proofing our essential infrastructure, is part of that choice.

I get accused, in some circles, of being a Trudeau "hater" for making these arguments. Often these same critics find references to science unwelcome, needless and even alarmist.  Yet these aren't my predictions. They aren't my warnings. These are what we're being told by the best scientific minds of our day. What they're saying is being ignored by our governments and that dereliction I do hate.

Is This the Oceanic Time Bomb We've Been Warned About?

Even the Globe and CBC are now reporting that the world's oceans set an all-time heat record in 2018, sending marine life reeling and fleeing for colder waters. Fleeing for their survival.  Out here where I live we're seeing all manner of these climate change refugees. They cover the aquatic gamut - fish, marine mammals, and sea birds. Pelicans resident in Victoria, imagine.

2018 was a record. Guess when the previous record was set. You got it, 2017. And, par for the course, the results were worse than had been predicted by the unreliable Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.

“The deep ocean reflects the climate of the deep and uncertain past,” Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and a co-author of Thursday’s study, told Reuters. 
Among effects, extra warmth can reduce oxygen in the oceans and damages coral reefs that are nurseries for fish, the scientists said. 
Warmer seas release more moisture that can stoke more powerful storms. 
Warmer ocean water also raises sea levels by melting ice, including around the edges of Antarctica and Greenland.
...New measurements, aided by an international network of 3,900 floats deployed in the oceans since 2000, showed more warming since 1971 than calculated by the latest UN assessment of climate change in 2013, they said. 
And “observational records of ocean heat content show that ocean warming is accelerating,” the authors in China and the United States wrote in the journal Science of ocean waters down to a depth of 2,000 metres.

As I wrote on Wednesday, a massive amount of heat energy has been building in the ocean depths. This is heat energy, much of it from man-made greenhouse gas emissions, that the ocean absorbs. It's estimated that 90 per cent of the heat from global warming is stored in our oceans.  Scientists have been warning us for years that this heat energy at some point will be returned to the atmosphere triggering an abrupt spike in surface temperatures.

What an irony. We're charting record temperatures in our oceans across which our federal government, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, is determined to sail an armada of bitumen-laden supertankers hoping to flood world markets with toxin-laden, high-carbon fossil energy.  He won't be deterred, not by a mountain of scientific research and reports, not even by this ongoing marine migration that he could, if he chose, see with his own eyes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Unbelievable. Excluding LGBTQ from Anti-Lynching Law

Some people go out of their way to be in-your-face ugly. One such group is the American  evangelical non-profit, Liberty Counsel, a group fiercely opposed to gay rights.

The U.S. Senate last month unanimously passed a bill that would explicitly make lynching a federal crime. Not everyone, however, is pleased with passage of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act. 
Liberty Counsel, an evangelical nonprofit that opposes gay rights, and its chairman, Mat Staver, are taking issue with the bill’s inclusion of LGBTQ people. 
"The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can't stop them from coming the rest of the way in," Staver said in an interview with conservative Christian news outlet OneNewsNow. “This is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the juggler [sic] at some time in the future."

Staver told OneNewsNow that his organization, which has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is lobbying lawmakers in the House to have them remove the bill’s “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language before taking a vote. 
Similarly, the group encouraged Congress in November to remove language about "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" discrimination from a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
In 2016 Ass-hat Mat and his gang pulled their support from the First Amendment Defense Act when they realized it not only protected their bigotry but also the rights of the LGBTQ community.  The bill was just not hateful enough for Liberty Counsel.
Liberty Counsel explained why it abruptly stopped supporting the sweeping federal legislation. As it turns out, the anti-LGBT legal nonprofit that represented antigay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis and a host of other right-wing dissenters wasn’t all that worried about religious freedom. It appears the group was instead primarily concerned with making sure individuals, businesses, and federal contractors could discriminate against LGBT people without “punishment” from the government.

“For the first time, the federal government under the proposed FADA will formerly [sic] recognize and condone same-sex marriage on par with the natural marriage,” read Wednesday’s press release. “Liberty Counsel can no longer support FADA unless the proposed amendment is abandoned and FADA returns to its original language of marriage being between one man and one woman.” 
Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver went on to “urge all members of Congress to reject the proposed amendments to the First Amendment Defense Act that include same-sex marriage,” promising that “pro-family” organizations will not be able to support the legislation unless it singles out same-sex couples for legalized discrimination. The antigay language in FADA is “necessary to protect people of faith,” Staver concluded.
In Canada, Liberty Counsel articles are a staple on Canada Free Press.

Oh, That "National Emergency."

Apparently the Mango Mussolini today proclaimed that he has an "absolute right" to declare a national emergency.  And, in the Great Bloat's mind, the threshold for declaring an emergency is if he can't make a deal with Congress that's to his liking.

Put it another way, Donald Trump is America's "national emergency." If he doesn't get his way that's a national emergency. No one may defy the divine right of Donald Trump to have it his way.

Those Other Tipping Points That Go Unnoticed

It's become customary in climate change reports to mention "tipping points." Anyone who has learned to handle a canoe knows there is a point at which the vessel lists far enough left or right that water begins to pour in over the gunwale at which point the canoe tends to go right over.  In the context of climate change, tipping points usually refer to natural feedback loops that take many forms including the loss of Arctic sea ice, the melting of ice caps and the retreat of the glaciers, the thawing and release of once safely sequestered CO2 and methane. The whole idea about holding man-made global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, 1.5C if possible, is to avoid triggering too many of these feedback loops that could lead to runaway global warming and utter catastrophe.

Rarely do we think of our oceans, that cover 70 per cent of the Earth's surface, in the context of tipping points.  Yet oceans are the repository for much man-made warming and man-made CO2. The oceans absorb half of our greenhouse gas emissions and 90 per cent of the heat they generate.  That leads to two changes - ocean acidification and ocean warming.

Ocean acidification is a tipping point we don't talk about in polite company. We know enough to deeply worry some scientists because the past few decades have taught us that climate changes are not linear. They can be abrupt and very fast in their onset triggering other changes (knock-on effects) that can catch us unprepared.

While ocean warming and the effects that may have on everything from sea level rise to ocean currents and circulation, ENSO (the el nino southern oscillation) and PDO (the Pacific decadal oscillation), the "Blob" of unduly warm water in the North Pacific are far better understood today than they were in the not distant past there's an enormous amount yet to learn.

Atmospheric temperature rise generally mirrors atmospheric greenhouse gas loading. Oceans, however, have a more complex warming pattern. Surface heat energy behaves much differently than the heat that reaches the deep ocean. What we've discovered in recent years is that a lot of the heat the oceans have been absorbing lately has gone to the deep ocean.

The reason global warming has been relatively tame over the past two decades, despite all the severe weather events of increasing frequency, intensity and duration, is because so much of the heating has gone into the ocean depths. It's not gone for good. The first law of thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy, holds that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely transformed from one form to another. Put simply, that deep ocean "heat bomb" is waiting for a change in surface wind patterns to come back to the ocean surface and be released back into the atmosphere.

The oceans may be reaching a saturation point. Science has found that the oceans are losing their capacity to absorb atmospheric carbon and heat. They're getting full. That's physics.

A new report finds that, for the past 150 years, the heat energy from global warming absorbed by oceans has been the equivalent of 1.5 nuclear bombs per second. That's averaged out over the last 150 years.
A Guardian calculation found the average heating across that 150-year period was equivalent to about 1.5 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs per second. But the heating has accelerated over that time as carbon emissions have risen, and was now the equivalent of between three and six atomic bombs per second. 
“I try not to make this type of calculation, simply because I find it worrisome,” said Prof Laure Zanna, at the University of Oxford, who led the new research. “We usually try to compare the heating to [human] energy use, to make it less scary.” 
She added: “But obviously, we are putting a lot of excess energy into the climate system and a lot of that ends up in the ocean,. There is no doubt.” The total heat taken up by the oceans over the past 150 years was about 1,000 times the annual energy use of the entire global population.
There are big questions, plenty of them, and few concrete answers, at least at this point.  The heat energy we're putting into the ocean systems is going up while the capacity of the oceans to absorb heat energy is declining.  What happens when the oceans absorb less of our atmospheric heat? What does it mean for the atmosphere if, instead of 90 per cent, the oceans are able to absorb just 80 per cent or 70 per cent of the heat we're pouring into the atmosphere? And what happens to that deep ocean heat energy when/if it is returned to the surface and released into the atmosphere?

Humans, of course, are terrestrial creatures and it is only natural that we tend to see climate change in the context of its terrestrial impacts - tornadoes and hurricanes, sea level rise and coastal erosion/salination, heatwaves, droughts and floods. Yet our wellbeing, even in the most landlocked areas, is more dependent on the health of our oceans than most of us imagine. And so the oceanic tipping points go generally unnoticed and what's out of sight is indeed out of mind and off the political agenda.  Hell, we can't get past our squabbles over a penny ante carbon tax. As Professor Zanna remarks, it's "worrisome."

Monday, January 07, 2019

Too Good Not to Share

The F-35. What Use Will It Be in the Next War?

When the next big scrap comes, as eventually it must, all the high-tech wizardry that we find so beguiling may turn out to be useless.

Our last peer-on-peer war ended in 1945. Yet that's still the model that informs the consciousness of today's military planners.  After a couple decades of fruitlessly raining death and destruction on little brown people wielding Korean-war vintage assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades on behalf of uppity, corrupt and unreliable regimes in the Middle East, the Pentagon figures that All the King's Horses and All the King's Men should return their focus to the Big Nasties, Russia and China.

The United States Air Force has even war-gamed a first-strike, stealth sneak attack on China. The idea seems to be that, by turning China's air defences - it's radar networks, surface to air missile batteries and its airfields - into smoking ruins, the Chinese would cry "uncle" and promptly do America's bidding. Only that's not very likely to ever happen.

The fall edition of Foreign Policy focuses on "the future of war."  It observes that we're being overtaken by technology so rapidly that the strategy of dropping weapons from stealth bombers or stealth strike fighters may already be obsolete.

The purpose of warfare is to achieve a political end by breaking an adversary's will to resist. It's about forcing the other guy to capitulate.  Nuclear weapons are one way but there's too much risk of both sides obliterating each other. Conventional weapons just drag everything out and lead to the risk of nuclear escalation.  The opponent's civilian population may be far more useful to you alive than dead.

Who needs mass slaughter when you can wage cyber-war against your adversary's economy and essential infrastructure?
Anxious discussions about the future of war and the destabilizing impact of novel weapons are hardly new. So why would Foreign Policy wade into the debate again now? The reason is that this is one of those moments when technology is moving so fast that the old, settled ways of fighting wars are rapidly being overturned. And nobody knows what, exactly, will follow. 
But we can start by asking the right questions. That’s what Tarah Wheeler of Splunk and New America does in “In Cyberwar, There Are No Rules.” Her sweeping overview of the rising threat of cyber conflicts shows where the real dangers lie: not in cutting-edge technology but in badly maintained infrastructure that’s so outdated it can’t be hardened against even primitive cyberattacks. 
Of course, cutting-edge technologies also pose new dangers. In “A Million Mistakes a Second,” Paul Scharre—a former U.S. Army Ranger who now works at the Center for a New American Security—looks at the race to build autonomous weapons systems and warns that as we cede authority to machines that can act and react far faster than we can, we increase the risks that accidental conflicts could spin out of control. 
But artificial intelligence is just one reason emerging technologies are hard to constrain (as Pope Innocent II learned back in the 12th century). Wheeler points out that countries today can’t even agree on what, exactly, constitutes an act of cyberwar. Hard as it is to get governments to behave, private actors are even harder to wrangle. Yet as the Israeli journalist Neri Zilber (“The Rise of the Cyber Mercenaries”) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Michael C. Horowitz (“The Algorithms of August”) bring up, that’s just the problem we now face with cybersecurity and AI, since both involve general purpose technologies largely developed by corporations—with their own private agendas.
The changes, and problems, aren’t just limited to high-tech. In “Food Fight,” Kate Higgins-Bloom of the U.S. Coast Guard argues that the explosive growth of the global middle class is creating an insatiable demand for middle-class food—namely protein—which is why the next great-power war is likely to be waged not for territory or treasure but for fish. And FP’s Robbie Gramer travels north to the Arctic, where disappearing sea ice has opened up a vast new territory primed for accidents and conflict.
Keep these things in mind if you're looking harshly on the Trudeau government's reluctance to empty the federal treasury for a few dozen costly yet less than reliable and unproven stealth light bombers. Under what scenarios would we ever use them that might justify the costs and other sacrifices these stealth vehicles demand?

Another issue about cyber warfare is that it breaks the states' monopoly on martial-grade violence. Warfare has traditionally been the exclusive preserve of nation states because they alone could afford battleships and bombers and armies of troops and machines in the field. Who needs any of that when there are new, much less lethal means of compelling a civilian population to demand their political leadership sue for peace?

Why bomb a nuclear power plant when a few lines of malicious code can cause it to self-destruct? What happens to a major city that one morning finds itself without functioning sewers or water?  How long does society function without satellite communications, GPS, etc.? How much good will those squadrons of F-35s be, their critical software scrambled, unable to leave the hangar?

Terraform Mars, What Then?

Ever wonder if you're a pessimist? I spotted this on the innerwebs the other day.

To hear Elon Musk tell it, he might even be among the first to emigrate to Mars within the next decade or so.  It's hard to think of Mars travel as emigration but, if you realize the odds of ever making it back to Earth are stacked against you, it's emigration.  You would become, for all intents and purposes, a Martian.

As I read the sardonic quip about being miserable on multiple planets I wondered what would happen if human beings did manage to terraform a planet like Mars?  How would the Martian population view the exploitation of their resources by Earthlings? How would they like taking orders from their distant relations 40 million miles removed?

Then the big question hit:  how long before Earth and Mars would be at war?  After all, isn't that what humans do? Since we figured out how to tie a rock to a stick, pillage and plunder is what we've always done. If the Martians wanted dominion over their planet, it's a safe bet we'd damn well make them fight for it.

Yeah, okay, I suppose I am a pessimist.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Take It From Katherine.

She's possibly Canada's best known climate scientist even if she is from Texas.  I have mentioned Katherine Hayhoe a number of times over the years. She's quite intriguing. For starters she's a devout evangelical. Even married an evangelical preacher.  The Toronto-born Hayhoe proves that her Christian faith and climate science are not mutually contradictory, inconsistent or irreconcilable.  She is the director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

Hayhoe prudently hedges her bets when it comes to what awaits humanity as we wrestle with climate change.  Logic suggests there will come a moment, a relatively brief period, where we "get it," where we understand that climate change must be our priority eclipsing all others.  Here's her take:

I’d put my money on a gradual bend away from a higher scenario, which is where we are now, until accumulating and worsening climate disasters eventually lead to a collective “oh shit!” moment, when people finally realise climate impacts do pose a far greater threat than the solutions. At that point, I would hope the world would suddenly ramp up its carbon reduction to the scale of a Manhattan Project or a moon race and we would finally be able to make serious progress. The multitrillion-dollar question is simply when that tipping point in opinion will come, and whether it will be too late for civilisation as we know it. I hope with all my heart that we stay under 1.5C, but my cynical brain says 3C. Perhaps the reality will be somewhere between my head and my heart at 2C.
On the media and how it impedes action on climate change or Katherine Hayhoe disses Rex Murphy.
There was significant coverage [of the latest IPCC report and the US National Climate Assessment] but a lot of media survive by generating controversy so they bring on opposing voices rather than explaining the scientific facts. Climate change shouldn’t be fodder for commentators who represent the interests of the fossil fuel industry by muddying the science. As a human and a scientist, this focus on controversy is frustrating. A thermometer is not liberal or conservative.
On wresting power from the fossil fuel industry.
The most important thing is to accelerate the realisation that we have to act. This means connecting the dots to show that the impacts are not distant any more: they are here and they affect our lives. It also means talking about solutions. The technology and knowledge are there. The economics already make sense. ...And finally, it means weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, which is challenged by the fact that the majority of the world’s richest companies have made their money from the fossil fuel economy – so the majority of the wealth and power remains in their hands.
On treating the patient, Earth.
Climate change is a long-term trend superimposed over natural variability. There’ll be good and bad years, just like there are for a patient with a long-term illness, but it isn’t going away. To stabilise climate change, we have to eliminate our carbon emissions. And we’re still a long way away from that

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Here's a Term We've Come to Ignore - "Proportionality"

Why does Canada support war criminals? Why does Ottawa support regimes that routinely commit war crimes and crimes against humanity?

Saudi Arabia is a blatant example with its slaughter of Houthi civilians in Yemen who now have two choices of premature death - bombs or starvation.  It's easy to pick on the Saudis. Nobody really likes them. We do, however, very much like their money especially when it comes to selling them a shitload of armoured death wagons.  It seems you can overlook an even bigger shitload of war crimes when there's 15-billion dollars worth of weapons trade in the balance. (Remember when Justin called those armoured vehicles "Jeeps"?)

But, in fairness, maybe the Saudis figured we were okay with their butchery in Yemen. After all, aren't we very, very accommodating when Saudi's neighbour, Israel, lays waste to the Palestinian citizenry? Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

You don't believe we're backing Israel? All you need do is look at our voting record in the UN General Assembly on any motion to sanction Israel or support the Palestinians. That's when you'll realize that Justin Trudeau, just like Stephen Harper, is in the bag for Benjamin Netanyahu.

What Israeli war crimes? What crimes against humanity? I'm glad you asked.

This came to mind whilst I was paying my New Year respects to Chatham House, the prestigious British think tank more properly known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs. There I stumbled across a very good research paper by Emanuela-Chiara Gillard on "Proportionality in the Conduct of Hostilities."

Gillard's paper provides the context by which we are to measure Israel's periodic slaughter of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. The Israeli policy has been given the name of the Beirut neighbourhood that, in 2006, Israeli jets bombed into rubble, Dahiyeh.

The focus of the Israeli policy is to target civilian populations and their essential infrastructure with intentionally disproportionate devastation.

What you see above is late-stage Dahiyeh. The opening attacks targeted Beirut's infrastructure - the power stations, the water system and, that all-time favourite, the sewer system. The second stage is to go after schools and hospitals. Then, with your leftover ordinance, you carpet bomb the areas where the civilian population lives.  Think of it as Guernica revisited.  Or, as Picasso rendered it:

Israel, doing pretty much what the Nazis did? You're damn straight. Only we didn't look the other way when that scrap ended.

It was WikiLeaks that outed the Israelis in a leaked US government cable referencing a conversation with general Gadi Eisenkot, then Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defence Force.
6. (8) Eisenkot labelled any Israeli response to resumed conflict the "Dahiya Doctrine" in reference to the leveled Dahiya quarter in Beirut during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He said Israel will use disproportionate force against any village that fires on Israel, "causing great damage and destruction." Eisenkot made very clear: this is not a recommendation, but an already approved plan.
In Gaza, as in Beirut, Israeli jets have destroyed the sewage system, the water system and the power grid.  The Lebanese managed to rebuild Beirut. No such luck for the Gaza Palestinians. Their homeland is a prison camp. Nothing gets in unless Israeli forces allow it in. And, for the people of Gaza, that's a death sentence.  It's not accidental, it's not inadvertent, it is deliberately and intentionally disproportionate. That's the very point of it. It is barbarism at its finest.

In 2010, former Supreme Court of Canada justice, war crimes prosecutor at the ICJ, and then chief of the International Crisis Group, Louise Arbour, slammed the international community for turning a blind eye to the brutal suppression of Gaza.
For years, many in the international community have been complicit in a policy that aimed at isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas. This policy is morally appalling and politically self-defeating. It has harmed the people of Gaza without loosening Hamas's control. Yet it has persisted regardless of evident failure.
That, of course, was back when Ignatieff joined Harper in pre-absolving Israel for flattening Gaza on the "they had it coming" rule of international law.  We weren't just ignoring these war crimes, we were supporting them. We were complicit. We remain complicit.

Slow motion genocide or will it be ethnic cleansing instead?

There's something uniquely abominable in destroying a society's water supply.

Ten years ago we were warned that Gaza was on a death watch.

The Gazans too are surrounded, cut off - by Israel - and the siege is strangling the public's access to drinking water. From the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs office: 
Unless urgent action is taken, the supply of water fit for human use in the Gaza Strip will be depleted in 5-10 years, according to the Gaza Coastal Municipal Water Utility (CMWU) and UN agencies working there. Only 5-10 percent of groundwater - the most important supply source for human use (domestic, agricultural and industrial) in Gaza - yields potable water, according to CMWU. 
...The poor quality of groundwater is due to over-extraction from the aquifer and this has allowed seawater intrusion - hence the high salinity of Gaza’s groundwater. Much of it is unfit for human use.

Tap water in Gaza is known to be very salty and undrinkable. Poor groundwater quality can also be attributed to pollution from wastewater seepage and the infiltration of agricultural fertilizers, according to a World Bank report released in April.
Over-extraction, there's your problem. Only there's more to it than that. A significant factor in the depletion of Gaza's aquifer are the 28 "trap wells" Israel established along the Gaza border that drew freshwater out, allowing sea water to be drawn into the aquifer.

That terrorist sympathizer, the World Bank, issued a pretty thorough report.

Israel has Gaza by the throat and has prevented the Palestinians from getting the equipment and materials needed to repair and rehabilitate the water and sewage systems. As a result sewage flows into lagoons from which it seeps into the water supply. It's the Kiss of Death.

In 2015 the UN warned that Gaza would become uninhabitable by 2020.  Three days ago PBS ran a feature of Gaza's water crisis that supports the UN assessment five years ago. There's an interesting video if you can stomach it.

The following day, January 2nd, PressTV reported that the Israeli navy has "almost completed" its sea barrier off Gaza.
The situation has severely restricted fishing activities off Gaza, where staples are scarce. The overall blockade also threatens to render the territory uninhabitable by 2020, according to the United Nations. 
The Israeli navy has blocked all attempts at bringing humanitarian aid to the territory by international activists. One such confrontation led to the death of 10 activists on board a Turkish-flagged ship in 2010.
This is a humanitarian crisis, one of Benjamin Netanyahu's calculated making. That's the same guy Canada backs every time something to do with Palestine comes up for a vote in the General Assembly.

2020, Gaza's death knell, is pretty close only our general election is just a little bit closer and demanding that our "ally" promptly lift the siege of Gaza isn't a great priority for our Liberal government or its Tory rival.

How will Gaza end? What happens to civilians living in a place that has become uninhabitable, a place where they're confined, ringed by lethal force and an enemy unhesitant to put civilians to the sword?  Some believe we're about to witness the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their Gaza homeland.

Louise Arbour was right. A succession of craven federal governments, Liberal and Conservative, has made Canada complicit in this.  This is not the Canada of Laurier, St. Laurent, Lester Bowles Pearson or Pierre Trudeau. This is the Canada of Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau. It is not the Canada that I once loved.

Why Doesn't Trudeau Take a Page From His Father's Book?

Justin Trudeau has been promising a carbon tax for ages. For the past several months a gaggle of provincial leaders, sitting and soon to be sitting, has been raising a stink, claiming such a move would be unconstitutional.  Trudeau, they claim, is stepping on their toes, meddling where he's not welcome.

There's an easy way to sort this out, one that doesn't depend on Jason Kenney bumping off Rachel Notley. It's the same option the real Trudeau, Pierre, used in 1976 - a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada.

1976 was the year that Pierre Trudeau quelled the troubled waters over his government's Anti-Inflation Act.

The carbon tax is still going to be a political football. Hey, it's an election year. That can't be helped. What Trudeau could do is remove a major arrow from his opponents' quiver.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

"More Mad Than People Think."

Why, with Trump, is it always the Russians?  His latest stunt - absolving the Russians/Soviets of any wrongdoing for staging a military intervention in Afghanistan in support of its then Communist regime.  From The Washington Post:
Afghan officials on Thursday denounced President Trump’s praise of the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of their country, which he described this week as a fight against terrorism, breaking with decades of Republican anti-communist tenets.

According to the revisionist historical account Trump delivered during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, “the reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia.” He added: “They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight.”

The comments marked a surprising split with U.S. conservatives dating back to President Ronald Reagan, who saw the invasion as an attempt to spread communism and aided insurgent forces fighting Soviet troops.

The remarks also raised eyebrows among officials in Afghanistan at a time when Kabul has voiced frustration with Trump’s sudden announcement of a plan to withdraw up to half of U.S. troops as peace talks with Taliban insurgents continue without Afghan government involvement.

A statement from President Ashraf Ghani’s office described the battle against the Soviets as a “national uprising for gaining freedom” and noted that the Soviet invasion was condemned by the United Nations and the United States at the time.

“All presidents of America not only denounced this invasion but remained supporters of this holy jihad of the Afghans,” read the statement, which added that the government would be seeking clarity from the United States.

Foreign Affairs Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said the Soviet occupation violated Afghanistan’s national sovereignty.

...Saleh Mohammad Saleh, a lawmaker representing Konar province, also noted that the United States funded the rebels fighting the Soviets. To now hear Trump justifying the invasion was “really strange,” he said. 
“Our war against the Soviets was righteous. The international community stood by us. We gave more than enough sacrifices,” Saleh told The Washington Post. “This man proves to be more mad than people think.

...Sayed Ikramuddin Masoomi, a lawmaker representing Takhar province who also fought the Soviets, said their occupation “was crystal clear and was specifically for supporting [Moscow’s] puppet communists in Afghanistan.” 
Trump’s invitation for Russia and India to join the fight against the Taliban — along with Pakistan, where the militants have enjoyed safe haven — further complicated matters, Masoomi told The Post. 
Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of the Afghan intelligence agency, blasted Trump in a string of tweets. 
Even Russia no longer says that or tries to justify it,” he said about the invasion and occupation. “Those that fail to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it; hopefully you are smart enough not to make the same mistake when it comes to abandoning [Afghanistan].”
So the most ignorant president in American history now thinks that Russia and India - plus Pakistan - should enter the war against the Taliban.  Trump displays a near total lack of understanding of the deep enmity and simmering conflict between Pakistan and India and how Afghanistan could become as dangerous as their standoff over Kashmir ever was.

As usual, there is someone cheering Trump's words - his pal, Vlad Putin.

Meanwhile, the Post's Jennifer Rubin confirms that, after two years in the Oval Office saddle, Trump is indeed more ignorant on foreign policy than ever.

The result of Trump’s inanities and the world view it represents will be more aggressive foes (both nation states and terrorist groups); the decline of friendly, liberal democracies as belligerent authoritarian regimes emerge; a world economic system dominated by China; a less dynamic American economy; the re-creation of ungovernable havens for terrorists (as was the case before 9/11); nuclear proliferation; and unabated climate change. It’s not a world any of us should want to live in.