Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Nation Where the Few Devour the Many


On April 9 of this year, the editorial board of the New York Times published one of the most insightful editorials I have read in many years,"The America We Need." It's a compelling argument for a progressive restoration that's long overdue in a country that once aspired to democracy but has, instead, become a nation where the many are at the mercy of the few.

Here are some excerpts:

“Liberty,” Roosevelt said at the Democratic Party’s convention in 1936, “requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.” His administration, working with Congress, enshrined the right of workers to bargain collectively, imposed strict rules and regulators on the financial industry, and created Social Security to provide pensions for the elderly and disabled.

...Over the past half century, the fabric of American democracy has been stretched thin. The nation has countenanced debilitating decay in its public institutions and a concentration of economic power not seen since the 1920s. While many Americans live without financial security or opportunity, a relative handful of families holds much of the nation’s wealth. Over the past decade, the wealth of the top 1 percent of households has surpassed the combined wealth of the bottom 80 percent.

...For those at the bottom, moreover, the chances of rising are in decline. By the time they reached 30, more than 90 percent of Americans born in 1940 were earning more than their parents had earned at the same age. But among those born in 1980, only half were earning more than their parents by the age of 30. 
The erosion of the American dream is not a result of laziness or a talent drought. Rather, opportunity has slipped away. The economic ladder is harder to climb; real incomes have stagnated for decades even as the costs of housing, education and health care have increased. Many lower-income Americans are born into polluted, impoverished neighborhoods, with no decent jobs to be found.
...The wealthy are particularly successful in blocking changes they don’t like. The political scientists Martin Gilens of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Benjamin Page of Northwestern have calculated that between 1981 and 2002, policies supported by at least 80 percent of affluent voters passed into law about 45 percent of the time, while policies opposed by at least 80 percent of those voters passed into law just 18 percent of the time. Importantly, the views of poor and middle-class voters had little influence. 
...“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence,” Roosevelt told the nation in 1944.
...Advocates of a minimalist conception of government claim they too are defenders of liberty. But theirs is a narrow and negative definition of freedom: the freedom from civic duty, from mutual obligation, from taxation. This impoverished view of freedom has in practice protected wealth and privilege. It has perpetuated the nation’s defining racial inequalities and kept the poor trapped in poverty, and their children, and their children’s children.

...If individual income had kept pace with overall economic growth since 1970, Americans in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution would be making an extra $12,000 per year, on average. In effect, the extreme increase in inequality means every worker in the bottom 90 percent of the income distribution is sending an annual check for $12,000 to a worker in the top 10 percent.

...The purpose of the federal government, Lincoln wrote to Congress on July 4, 1861, was “to elevate the condition of men, to lift artificial burdens from all shoulders, and to give everyone an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.”
It's an engineered disaster. As former World Bank chief economist and Nobel laureate, Joe Stiglitz, is always quick to remind us, the rampant inequality that brings America low is neither market- nor merit-based. It is legislated, enshrined in tax codes and ancillary legislation. 

Spiegel Slams Trump - Again


Here's the cover of Der Spiegel. Trump, Der Feuerteufel or Trump the Fire Devil.


It's not the first time Der Spiegel has gone after el Diablo Naranja. A trip down Memory Lane:











Believe it or not, there are more. I think these are enough to give you some idea of the esteem in which the German media hold America's mango mussolini.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

When Justice Dies



It was 1924. The case before the court was R. v. Sussex Justices ex parte McCarthy. That case is famous for the maxim that "Justice most not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done."  If the judgment delivered has that rancid smell of bias, it is not justice. When the fix is in, it is injustice, an abomination of the judicial process. The result shows that someone has his finger on the scale.

Such is the state of American justice in the era of el Diablo Noranja, the Orange Devil, president Donald Trump, and his personal Renfield, attorney general William Barr.

What is manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done in America today is the utter corruption of the judicial system in which Trump orders his underling to skew prosecutions, to fire uncompliant US attorneys, to investigate his political adversaries, even as the Orange Devil stacks every layer of the federal judiciary with reliable judges no matter how unqualified they may be and then, to display that Team Trump is above the law uses the presidential pardon power to take his friends off the hook.

Earlier this week an appeals judge, an unaccomplished Trump appointee with her eye on a slot on the Supreme Court, ruled that the trial judge must grant the DoJ's clumsy application to dismiss all charges against Michael Flynn. Charges demonstrably made out by the evidence. Charges to which Flynn has already confessed. Charges for which Flynn has already been convicted and awaits sentencing.

Just this morning Trump tweeted that he's planning on pardoning his longtime friend and political dirty trickster, ex-Paul Manafort partner, Roger Stone.  Two close criminals who, at the direction of Trump himself, may have committed the crimes that led to their convictions.


Add It All Up - the Real Costs of Covid-19



Things we know - people on holiday are also taking a holiday from Covid-19.  Many of them take a break from wearing masks or social distancing.  Whether gathering on some beach or strolling the streets of a resort town or downing a few beers at a tavern, they're likely to concentrate and, in the crowds they're mingling with, there is apt to be someone or a few someones shedding the virus.

We've got all the object lessons we need. Thanks Florida. Thanks Texas. Thanks to all the states that opened up and are now heading back into lockdown.  And special thanks to all those irresponsible people who have shown that exercising their "constitutional rights" can turn into an economy-wrecker even as it taxes healthcare systems to the breaking point.

Here on beautiful Vancouver Island we're starting to see another wave - the summer tourists. Some, it seems, have heard that for a period of several weeks we were sort of Covid-free. What a great place for a summer holiday.

For a number of these little, coastal towns, tourism revenue is the bread and butter of the local economy.  Many businesses make their real money between the beginning of June and Labour Day. If something goes wrong they may not be around next year.

Things change in the course of a pandemic. For the first few months people in my town were vigilant - masks, gloves, social distancing, hand sanitizer, hand washing, isolating at home.  The whole deal. And it paid off. We drove Covid-19 into the ground and many other similarly transmissible viruses disappeared with it.

Only the sun has returned here and, with it, those masks are disappearing as though they had reached some 'best before' date.  There's probably no way of knowing how many of those mask-liberated people are locals, how many are summer people but either way a return of Covid-19 seems inevitable. Everything we achieved may go straight out the window.

I wonder what that's going to cost?  How does the summer tourism revenue stack up against the prospect of another lockdown and another struggle for the healthcare system?

Time magazine looked at a Boston-area woman who developed Covid-19. Hers was not a severe case. She did not require hospitalization. She did, however, make three visits to the emergency ward, a bunch of tests, and medications that she took at home. Her final bill came out just shy of $35,000. That's a lot of money when you're between jobs with no insurance.  Remember that 'el Diablo Naranja' has chosen this auspicious moment to try to kill off Obamacare.

In Canada the costs are way less but still substantial.  Covid-19 cases require special wards and some patients wind up on ventilators in intensive care units. A day in ICU can cost between $5,000 and $14,000. Daily ward rates run from $3000 to $7000. Even that adds up pretty quick.

While those numbers are, for this discussion, plainly anecdotal, they demonstrate that every new Covid-19 case we may experience from summer tourism will inflict a hefty cost beyond the economic costs of a second possible lockdown.  How those costs would compare to whatever tourism revenue we receive over the summer is unclear. Then there's a question of  to whom that tourism revenue accrues and who picks up the tab for the costs in the aftermath.  Another example of "socialism for the rich'?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Are Climate Scientists Selling Us Down the River?


I always took it as a given that climate scientists always spoke truth to power. Now I'm not so sure.

Kevin Anderson is a professor of energy and climate change. He contends that British climate scientists are failing to give their government the hard facts.
“Academics have done an excellent job in understanding and communicating climate science, but the same cannot be said in relation to reducing emissions,” said Anderson. “Here we have collectively denied the necessary scale of mitigation, running scared of calling for fundamental changes to both our energy system and the lifestyles of high-energy users."

“Many senior academics, senior policymakers, basically the great and good of the climate world have decided that it is unhelpful to rock the status quo boat and therefore choose to work within that political paradigm – they’ll push it as hard as they think it can go, but they repeatedly step back from questioning the paradigm itself.” 
“On mitigation, the academic community and the CCC [the UK government's Committee on Climate Change] have collectively failed the political realm and civil society by tailoring our conclusions to fit with what we judge to be politically palatable – all at the expense of scientific integrity.”
When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, Anderson points the finger at the real villains, the rich.
“Globally the wealthiest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions, the wealthiest 20% for 70% of emissions. If regulations forced the top 10% to cut their emissions to the level of the average EU citizen, and the other 90% made no change in their lifestyles, that would still cut total emissions by a third
If we were serious about this crisis we could do this in a year – if we were really serious we could do it in a month, but we are not and our emissions just keep rising.”

Lest We Forget


The coronavirus pandemic can sometimes take all the oxygen out of the room. Here's a reminder of what else is going on - video of Trump's kiddie concentration camps.

Yes, Mr. Trump. Remind Everyone What a Lousy President You Really Are.



Another brain fart from the Mango Mussolini.

Trump wants a fireworks extravaganza to usher in the 4th of July.

Not the 4th of  July, the evening of July 3rd.

Not in Washington, D.C.  No, in South Dakota. Pennington, South Dakota. Mount Rushmore to be precise.

The mountain that is surrounded by tinder-dry forest of ponderosa pines. That's pine as in resin as in extremely flammable.
"It's a bad idea based on the wildland fire risk, the impact to the water quality of the memorial, the fact that [it] is going to occur during a pandemic without social distancing guidelines and the emergency evacuation issues," said Cheryl Schreier, who served as the superintendent at Mount Rushmore National Park between September 2010 and May 2019, to The Washington Post
Bill Gabbert, the former fire management officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the region, told The Associated Press that shooting fireworks over the extremely flammable ponderosa pine forest should not be done. 
"Burning debris, the burning embers and unexploded shells fall into a ponderosa pine forest and ponderosa pine is extremely flammable," said Gabbert.
On the other hand it would remind the American people that they once had presidents of the stature of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. That should drive home the point of what a lousy president they're stuck with today.

This is a perfect moment to segue to Fintan O'Toole's take on America's Covid-19 president.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Donald Trump is no George Washington, but his descent from commander-in-chief to vector-in-chief is nonetheless dizzying. Trump’s narcissism, mendacity, bullying, and malignant incompetence were obvious before the coronavirus crisis, and they have been magnified rather than moderated in his surreal response to a catastrophe whose full gravity he failed to accept until March 31, when it had become horribly undeniable. The volatility of his behavior during the crucial weeks of February and March, when coherent action could have limited the subsequent loss of life—the veering between flippancy and rage, breezy denial and dark fear-mongering—may not seem to demand further explanation.
Actually, Fintan, it's not "universally acknowledged." Just ask Donald Trump how great a president Donald Trump is.






Thursday, June 25, 2020

Let's Keep Throwing Billions into LNG


Whether it's the Justin Trudeau memorial bitumen pipe or strongarming the Wetsuweten to drive the Coastal GasLink project through their sovereign territory, once these projects get underway they're almost unstoppable and it doesn't matter one bit if the economic case for them has collapsed.

There's bad news for British Columbia's LNG fantasy.  The global market for natural gas is tanking.


The natural gas future markets for August have fallen to a 25-year low.

Pandemic? Ah, Screw That!!




Scenes like this are being repeated across the Dorset coast as hordes of Britons have descended on the beaches of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
Phil Horton, 57, from Bournemouth, who works in the timber trade, said: “The number of people here makes me very nervous, and there’s absolutely no respect for social distancing. It seems like everyone has forgotten we are living in a pandemic. 
“What can the police do about it? There’s thousands and thousands of people here so they’re massively outnumbered. Good luck telling them to go home.”

Is America's Judicial System Irreparably Broken?



The image is from an ad for the RCA Victrola entitled "His Master's Voice."  Somehow it just keeps coming to mind when I watch the corruption of justice in America in the era of Donald Trump and his personal "Renfield," Attorney General Bill Barr.

Trump and Barr, together with a Republican controlled Senate, have worked methodically to subvert justice and the rule of law in the United States. They have stacked the judiciary with hundreds of pro-Trump judges chosen for their political reliablility, not their legal excellence. These men and women are awarded their lifetime gigs with clear strings attached.

At the same time Barr, at the direction of Trump, has transformed the Department of Justice into Trump's personal prosecution agency. They've sacked not one but two US Attorneys for the Southern District of New York. Why SDNY? That's the district where most of Trump's cronies reside, guys like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and Trump's former minion, Michael Cohen. They've even tried to put their "own" guy in, a SEC stooge with no prosecutorial experience whatsoever.

To Trump and Barr, prosecutorial independence means less than the integrity of the judicial system itself. Barr manipulated the prosecutors' sentencing submissions on Roger Stone, even as Trump was saying he'd pardon Stone, his personal lifelong buddy. That was pretty outrageous. Then another Trump minion got caught in a jam, Michael Flynn. Not only were Flynn's crimes obvious, he confessed to them. Convictions were entered. Sentencing was imminent. Not so fast. Barr, who works for the people of the United States, not Donald J. Trump, directed the DoJ prosecutors to apply to court to have the charges - plainly made out, to which Flynn had confessed his guilt, and on which convictions had been entered - dismissed, erased, wiped out. Think of it as Bill Barr's judicial time machine.

These outrages scream "obstruction of justice." They reveal a judicial system in which both the prosecutorial and the judicial bodies have become manipulated, where they have succumbed to corruption.  Left unchecked this will mean the end of American democracy or what faint vestiges of that still remain in the United States.

Still, it's not over yet. There is a glimmer of hope. Lately I've been following a retired former federal prosecutor, Glenn Kirschner. In the wake of yesterday's appellate court 2-1 decision directing the trial judge to be a good boy and take Michael Flynn off the hook, Kirschner says the trial judge isn't going down without a fight.




Wednesday, June 24, 2020

If This is a Dress Rehearsal, We've Got a Lot of Work to Do.


Across the West we're learning how ill-constituted our governments are to handle emergencies. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, they've hummed and hawed, wasted weeks or even months before acting, causing thousands of unnecessary deaths and suffering. Finally they ordered lockdowns but, even then, they were half-hearted about it, eager to lift the restrictions, usually erring on the side of incaution.

Now, after months of lockdown, Covid-19 is returning, with a vengeance, in places where the political caste chose that it should return. "Chose" to bring the coronavirus back? Yes, of course.
We're all deemed to intend the logical and foreseeable consequences of our acts. The medical types and the scientists said rushing to re-open businesses would likely blow up in our faces, advice that was in many jurisdictions ignored.

Which brings to mind Churchill's line about how we deal with emergencies. He said "Sometimes it is not enough that we do our best. Sometimes we must do what is required." Emergencies are almost never overcome with half measures and weak resolve. Not every emergency comes with the luxury of second chances, do-overs.

When it came to wrestling the first wave of Covid-19 to the ground, in most cases we did not "do what is required" with predictable results.  How this will play out in the period before an effective vaccine arrives, no one, including you, knows. If the best medical and science minds don't know, you don't know either.

But my concern isn't about the persistence of the latest coronavirus, the lives it will claim, the scars it will leave in the hide of the global economy. My concern is what we have seen from our political leadership.  I think most of them have shown themselves "unfit for purpose."

What would they do if another plague, far more dangerous than Covid-19 reaches our shores? What would they do if (when) we are challenged by a cascade of overlapping emergencies - a plague, a military threat perhaps over resources, one of several climate-related disasters such as famine, internally displaced populations, migration? What have they done to build up our resilience, the rot in our economies from being locked into a global economy with its brittle extended supply chains and "just in time" mentality?

If Covid-19 is just a dress rehearsal, we are definitely not ready for opening night.

Flynn Walks


The corruption of America's judiciary proceeds apace.

A US appeals court has taken Trump cronie, Michael Flynn, off the hook for the various crimes he confessed to and was convicted and sentenced on.
A US appeals court ordered the federal judge overseeing the Justice Department's case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn to dismiss the prosecution on Wednesday. 
The decision is a major victory for Flynn, whose legal team has argued for months that the government unfairly targeted him for political reasons and that the FBI tried to entrap him into pleading guilty. 
The Justice Department abruptly moved to drop its case against Flynn last month, arguing that it did not have sufficient evidence to prove he was guilty, even though Flynn pleaded guilty three times.
So, in descending order, you become a buddy with Trump. Then you engage in criminal activity on behalf of Trump. Then you plead guilty to your wrongdoing. Then the court proceeds to sentencing. Then Trump calls up his lap dog Attorney General. That AG then twists the arms of DoJ prosecutors. Then they resign and the AG brings in a more compliant crew. Then the new team appear before the judge to ask that the charges, the confessions and the rest be magically erased. The judge says this is nonsense and refuses. Then the DoJ team goes to the appeals court and - Bob's your uncle.

More from CNN:
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered Judge Emmet Sullivan to dismiss the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, a surprise conclusion in a long-running political fight. 
Despite Flynn twice pleading guilty for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the presidential transition, the Justice Department moved last month to dismiss the case against him. Sullivan did not immediately act, instead asking for a review of the decision. 
If unchallenged with further appeals, the ruling exonerates Flynn after he sought to change his plea and claimed innocence. 
The three-judge panel on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decided the trial judge, Sullivan, didn't have enough reason to question the DOJ's prosecution decisions in this case. They also said Sullivan having a third-party attorney weigh in on Flynn's case, the former judge John Gleeson, isn't needed anymore.
The timing is amazing. The appeals court ruling came just as another DoJ prosecutor, Aaron Zelensky, is set to testify before the House judiciary committee that AG Barr also interfered in the prosecution of another Trump cronie, Roger Stone. Here's a piece  filed yesterday by retired, 30-year DoJ prosecutor,  Glenn Kirschner.



This has gone well past mere obstruction of justice. What we're seeing with Flynn atop Stone is the utter corruption of justice in America.

Sometimes All I Hear is the Sound of Heads Banging into Walls.


I've started to think of them as "prescription pieces" and there are plenty of them. These are the articles that pop up daily to repeat warnings of what we must absolutely do right now to avert unspeakably dire consequences in the not too distant future.

I can't criticize those articles. I agree with them. They're usually backed up by reams of scientific research and analysis, a mountain of knowledge that grows every day. Most of those who write these essays are well-credentialed individuals, top drawer men and women. They write with sincerity and passion. They want to even our keel, steer us away from the shoals that lie just ahead.

It would be amazing if we listened to these people, heeded their warnings, embraced their prescriptions and demanded that our leaders stopped skirting these building crises and finally dealt with them. Only that never quite happens.

Imagine if these articles and studies and papers ever got traction, if they ever lasted more than a few days before being flushed down the Memory Hole.  Imagine if our lawmakers strolled into the House of Commons, their minds seized with the awareness that they are, today, passing judgment on our young people and the generations to follow them. Imagine if they knew that the decisions they're taking now will translate into lives and deaths of Canadians in a decade or two. Imagine if they realized there are some options that are still available to us that will be foreclosed in just a few years. Imagine if they knew that we, today's voting public, would hold them accountable for their indifference and neglect.

None of that is happening. No, there is no epiphany among those to whom we entrust the power to safeguard us and  secure this nation's  endangered future. Imagine the dark farce of a Parliament proclaiming a climate state of emergency and then, less than 24 hours later, greenlighting a massive new pipeline to deliver high-carbon, low-value bitumen to world markets.

I still read those prescription pieces as they come in.  My habit is to start right at the end where there'll be listed the authors and their credentials. Then I wade into their essays, top to bottom. I dwell on them for a while but then I hear that Memory Hole beginning to slowly creak open, followed by the thudding sound of heads banging into walls.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

It's Ottawa's Call. Should Canada Release Meng or Detain Her? Is This Really About Justin Trudeau?


Former Liberal justice minister, Alan Rock, and former Supreme Court of Canada justice, Louise Arbour, agree - the Trudeau government has the legal authority to set Huawei's Meng Wanzhou free and show her the door.
The result is that two Canadians’ liberty, health and perhaps their lives are at risk in China, without Canada debating the legitimate option of relenting to Chinese pressure and freeing Ms. Meng, Allan Rock and Louise Arbour say. 
Canada needs “a full debate based on a legitimate foundation of facts, rather than an incantation of rubrics, like ‘rule of law’ and the ‘independence of the courts’ and the ‘sanctity of the judiciary,‘” Mr. Rock, who was justice minister and attorney-general from 1993 to 1997, said in an interview
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Justice Minister David Lametti say the court process must be allowed to unfold so as not to compromise the independence of Mr. Lametti’s ultimate decision on whether Ms. Meng should be surrendered to the United States for prosecution. In extradition cases, the justice minister first delegates to his officials a decision on whether a case can proceed; a court then holds hearings and decides whether the legal tests for extraditing a suspect have been met; and then the justice minister decides whether to surrender the suspect for trial. The Meng case is partway through the court hearings, and Mr. Rock says it may be 2024 before a judge rules
Rachel Rappaport, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lametti, said the government’s position is firm. “As this case remains before the courts, and the minister has a direct role in extradition proceedings, it would not be appropriate for us to comment. This has been our position from the beginning.”
Mr. Rock, Ms. Arbour and Vina Nadjibulla sought a legal opinion from Brian Greenspan, a Toronto lawyer with decades of experience in extradition cases, on Mr. Lametti’s authority to withdraw the case. ...Mr. Greenspan wrote a 10-page opinion saying that the Extradition Act has clearly spelled out since 1999 that the justice minister “may at any time withdraw” the government’s support from an extradition case, which triggers a court-ordered release of the extradition subject.
The SNC Lavalin Curse -  When the Attorney General is also the Justice Minister.
In Canada, one person holds the job of both attorney-general and justice minister. But the Extradition Act, Mr. Greenspan told The Globe, delineates the roles of each. The attorney-general acts on behalf of the requesting country, in this case the United States, in court; and the justice minister decides on Canada’s overall interests, which can include a consideration of international relations and political concerns.
Ms. Arbour said that she cannot understand the Canadian government’s claim that Mr. Lametti lacks the authority to free Ms. Meng right now, because the law is clear “on its face.” The government is “confused again, but the other way around, about the role of the minister of justice and the attorney-general. The dominant role clearly is of the minister of justice, not the attorney-general, who has a small, very visible, very public part to play – that’s the tail that shouldn’t be wagging the dog.”
Unfortunately this prime minister and his directing hand, yes you Mr. Butts, lack the skills required in this fiasco. This has become not about Meng, or the "two Michaels," or the rule of law. It is about how it reflects on Justin Trudeau, especially after he so botched the SNC Lavalin issue. And the prime minister would have a lot of explaining to do if he changed course now. People might want to know why, if he had a way out, he left the two Michaels to languish in Chinese jail cells for so long. And Trump is always looking for any excuse to trash Trudeau.


Throwing In the Towel? Can America Still Rise to a Challenge?


Known Covid Cases - 12 June, 2020
John Hopkins Covid Tracker

The graphic indicates why we need to keep the Canada-US border closed for a good long while yet. Remember, this map was compiled more than a week ago and about half of the States have been witnessing one-day record infections since then.

Readers of this blog know I'm prone to harping about viral contagions and other challenges looming around the world in the context of resilience. How well can a nation or a society absorb these punches, how well can it recover? How well can it bounce back in time for whatever is coming next?

New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, touches on resilience when she writes that "America is Too Broken to Fight the Coronavirus."
Italy’s coronavirus catastrophe once looked to Americans like a worst-case scenario. Today, it said, “America’s new per capita cases remain on par with Italy’s worst day — and show signs of rising further.” 
This is what American exceptionalism looks like under Donald Trump. It’s not just that the United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths of any country in the world. Republican political dysfunction has made a coherent campaign to fight the pandemic impossible. 
At the federal level as well as in many states, we’re seeing a combination of the blustering contempt for science that marks the conservative approach to climate change and the high tolerance for carnage that makes American gun culture unique.

The rot starts at the top. At the beginning of the crisis Trump acted as if he could wish the coronavirus away, and after an interval when he at least pretended to take it seriously, his administration has resumed a posture of blithe denial.
I was talking with an old Conservative buddy last night. He was a Stanfield PC but shifted to the right when Harper infected Canadian conservatism. He even got to the point where the thought that Trump wasn't all that bad.

My friend, it seems, has had an epiphany.  During our long chat he let slip that we're not getting much if anything done on the major problems of the day because our politics has become so mired in partisanship. Everything becomes a political issue even problems that are medical or scientific matters. We wrap them in politics and then use them as ammunition to fight this insane culture war.  Politics renders existential problems insoluble. Politics has become a risk multiplier.

Paul Krugman touches on America's gaping wound in his column today:
...there’s a longstanding anti-science, anti-expertise streak in American culture — the same streak that makes us uniquely unwilling to accept the reality of evolution or acknowledge the threat of climate change.
We aren’t a nation of know-nothings; many, probably most Americans are willing to listen to experts and act responsibly. But there’s a belligerent faction within our society that refuses to acknowledge inconvenient or uncomfortable facts, preferring to believe that experts are somehow conspiring against them.
Trump hasn’t just failed to rise to the policy challenge posed by Covid-19. He has, with his words and actions — notably his refusal to wear a mask — encouraged and empowered America’s anti-rational streak.
Conservative leaders are beginning to resemble Confederate generals the like of Nathan Bedford Forrest. They don't shrink from carnage nor take any responsibility for the mayhem they leave behind.

As Ms. Goldberg writes, they have left America "too broken" to meet the challenges of the day and those that will follow in short order.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Meanwhile, Far Inside the Arctic Circle...


Vehrkhoyansk, Siberia sits inside the Arctic Circle.  Today the town of 1,300 set a new record, 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.  The town also holds a Guinness record of minus 68 Celsius. 

Vehrkhoyansk is located in the Sakha Republic where 275,000 hectares of forest are now burning.

Hmm, I wonder what's going on?

The Emerging Covid Threat - Young People



Medical authorities in the US are reporting on a shift in Covid-19 infections. It's summer time and, of course, that's party time.  The predictable result is an upswing in Covid infections in younger people and, just as predictably, they're bringing it home to their sibs, their parents and their grandparents.

The shifts in demographics have been recorded in parts of Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and other states -- many of which were some of the first to reopen. 
In Mississippi, where one health officer called adherence to social distancing over the past weeks "overwhelmingly disappointing," officials attributed clusters of new cases to fraternity rush parties.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that people under 30 made up a majority of new coronavirus cases in several counties. He said that increase in young infected people could be related to Memorial Day parties, visits to bars or other gatherings. 
And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that the median age was 37 for newly diagnosed coronavirus cases over the last week. In the state, 62% of new cases for the week of June 7 are under 45 years old, he said.
Gov. DeSantis said Saturday cases are "shifting in a radical direction" toward populations in their 20s and 30s. 
Those younger groups testing positive are mostly asymptomatic and don't require clinical attention, the governor said.
"It's a little bit of a disturbing trend, and what frightens me is not only that they are younger, the potential of them infecting other people, particularly parents and grandparents," Chief Medical Officer at Grady Health System Dr. Robert Jansen told the news station.
What next - inter-generational distancing?



Saturday, June 20, 2020

There's Obstruction of Justice, Then There's This.



Donald Trump has a problem with the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Why is that office singled out? Could it be that's where most investigations of Trump and his cronies are focused?

First Trump gave prominent prosecutor, Preet Bhahara, the hook. Apparently Bhahara's attorneys and his successor, Geoffrey Berman, didn't get Trump's "message." They kept investigating the crimes of Trump and his pals.

So what does Trump do? With the collusion of America's attorney general, Bill Barr, they decide to get rid of Berman. Not only that, they want to replace Berman with a stooge from the SEC who has no, zero, prosecutorial experience.

That is corruption writ large. It is obstruction of justice.  It is giving a fleeing bank robber the power to fire the cops in pursuit.  It is unspeakably corrupt. It rings the bell of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Gettin' Ready for the Tulsa Two-Step?




From CNN:  Six staffers working on President Donald Trump's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have tested positive for coronavirus, the Trump campaign said Saturday.

The Vichy GOP


History doesn't really repeat but sometimes it does rhyme.

Anne Applebaum has penned a brilliant essay in The Atlantic exploring the history of those who abandoned their principles and chose, instead, to go along to get along. Then she focuses on how Congressional Republicans went Vichy for Donald Trump.

She contrasts how Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney, both fierce opponents of Donald Trump at the outset chose different paths - Romney remained intensely critical of Trump while Graham turned into Trump's lap dog and ardent defender.
“Let me put it very plainly,” [Romney][ said in March 2016, in a speech criticizing Trump: “If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished.” Romney spoke of “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.” He called Trump a “con man” and a “fraud.” Even after Trump won the nomination, Romney refused to endorse him. On his presidential ballot, Romney said, he wrote in his wife. Graham said he voted for the independent candidate Evan McMullin. 
But Trump did become president, and so the two men’s convictions were put to the test.
It was Graham who made excuses for Trump’s abuse of power. It was Graham—a JAG Corps lawyer—who downplayed the evidence that the president had attempted to manipulate foreign courts and blackmail a foreign leader into launching a phony investigation into a political rival. It was Graham who abandoned his own stated support for bipartisanship and instead pushed for a hyperpartisan Senate Judiciary Committee investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. It was Graham who played golf with Trump, who made excuses for him on television, who supported the president even as he slowly destroyed the American alliances—with Europeans, with the Kurds—that Graham had defended all his life. By contrast, it was Romney who, in February, became the only Republican senator to break ranks with his colleagues, voting to impeach the president. “Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office,” he said, is “perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
...To the american reader, references to Vichy France, East Germany, fascists, and Communists may seem over-the-top, even ludicrous. But dig a little deeper, and the analogy makes sense. The point is not to compare Trump to Hitler or Stalin; the point is to compare the experiences of high-ranking members of the American Republican Party, especially those who work most closely with the White House, to the experiences of Frenchmen in 1940, or of East Germans in 1945, or of Czesław Miłosz in 1947. These are experiences of people who are forced to accept an alien ideology or a set of values that are in sharp conflict with their own.
...The built-in vision of themselves as American patriots, or as competent administrators, or as loyal party members, also created a cognitive distortion that blinded many Republicans and Trump-administration officials to the precise nature of the president’s alternative value system. After all, the early incidents were so trivial. They overlooked the lie about the inauguration because it was silly. They ignored Trump’s appointment of the wealthiest Cabinet in history, and his decision to stuff his administration with former lobbyists, because that’s business as usual. They made excuses for Ivanka Trump’s use of a private email account, and for Jared Kushner’s conflicts of interest, because that’s just family stuff.

...Trump has governed according to a set of principles very different from those articulated by his original intellectual supporters. Although some of his speeches have continued to use that populist language, he has built a Cabinet and an administration that serve neither the public nor his voters but rather his own psychological needs and the interests of his own friends on Wall Street and in business and, of course, his own family. His tax cuts disproportionately benefited the wealthy, not the working class. His shallow economic boom, engineered to ensure his reelection, was made possible by a vast budget deficit, on a scale Republicans once claimed to abhor, an enormous burden for future generations. He worked to dismantle the existing health-care system without offering anything better, as he’d promised to do, so that the number of uninsured people rose. All the while he fanned and encouraged xenophobia and racism, both because he found them politically useful and because they are part of his personal worldview.

More important, he has governed in defiance—and in ignorance—of the American Constitution, notably declaring, well into his third year in office, that he had “total” authority over the states. His administration is not merely corrupt, it is also hostile to checks, balances, and the rule of law. He has built a proto-authoritarian personality cult, firing or sidelining officials who have contradicted him with facts and evidence—with tragic consequences for public health and the economy. The Change - In the wake of John McCain's funeral.

A year and a half into the Trump administration, it marked a turning point, the moment at which many Americans in public life began to adopt the strategies, tactics, and self-justifications that the inhabitants of occupied countries have used in the past—doing so even though the personal stakes were, relatively speaking, so low. Poles like Miłosz wound up in exile in the 1950s; dissidents in East Germany lost the right to work and study. In harsher regimes like that of Stalin’s Russia, public protest could lead to many years in a concentration camp; disobedient Wehrmacht officers were executed by slow strangulation.

...20 months into the Trump administration, senators and other serious-minded Republicans in public life who should have known better began to tell themselves stories that sound very much like those in Miłosz’s The Captive Mind. Some of these stories overlap with one another; some of them are just thin cloaks to cover self-interest. But all of them are familiar justifications of collaboration, recognizable from the past.

...If the Senate had removed the president by impeachment a month earlier; if the Cabinet had invoked the Twenty-Fifth Amendment as soon as Trump’s unfitness became clear; if the anonymous and off-the-record officials who knew of Trump’s incompetence had jointly warned the public; if they had not, instead, been so concerned about maintaining their proximity to power; if senators had not been scared of their donors; if Pence, Pompeo, and Barr had not believed that God had chosen them to play special roles in this “biblical moment”—if any of these things had gone differently, then thousands of deaths and a historic economic collapse might have been avoided.

...The price of collaboration in America has already turned out to be extraordinarily high. And yet, the movement down the slippery slope continues, just as it did in so many occupied countries in the past. First Trump’s enablers accepted lies about the inauguration; now they accept terrible tragedy and the loss of American leadership in the world. Worse could follow. Come November, will they tolerate—even abet—an assault on the electoral system: open efforts to prevent postal voting, to shut polling stations, to scare people away from voting? Will they countenance violence, as the president’s social-media fans incite demonstrators to launch physical attacks on state and city officials?

Each violation of our Constitution and our civic peace gets absorbed, rationalized, and accepted by people who once upon a time knew better. If, following what is almost certain to be one of the ugliest elections in American history, Trump wins a second term, these people may well accept even worse.

...In due course, historians will write the story of our era and draw lessons from it, just as we write the history of the 1930s, or of the 1940s. The Miłoszes and the Hoffmanns of the future will make their judgments with the clarity of hindsight. They will see, more clearly than we can, the path that led the U.S. into a historic loss of international influence, into economic catastrophe, into political chaos of a kind we haven’t experienced since the years leading up to the Civil War. Then maybe Graham—along with Pence, Pompeo, McConnell, and a whole host of lesser figures—will understand what he has enabled.

In the meantime, I leave anyone who has the bad luck to be in public life at this moment with a final thought from Władysław Bartoszewski, who was a member of the wartime Polish underground, a prisoner of both the Nazis and the Stalinists, and then, finally, the foreign minister in two Polish democratic governments. Late in his life—he lived to be 93—he summed up the philosophy that had guided him through all of these tumultuous political changes. It was not idealism that drove him, or big ideas, he said. It was this: Warto być przyzwoitym—“Just try to be decent.” Whether you were decent—that’s what will be remembered.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Right Wing Extremism On a Roll in Canada


This is certainly a wake up call.
On Friday, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a British-based think tank, released the findings in a 46-page report titled An Online Environmental Scan of Right-Wing Extremism in Canada. 
“We identified 6,660 right-wing extremist channels, pages, groups and accounts,” the study says. The Canadian activity reaches an audience of millions of people, it said, and includes a network of 6,352 Twitter accounts, 130 public Facebook pages and groups, and 32 YouTube channels. 
Researchers say they tried to track the internet presence of five far-right-extremist subgroups: White supremacists; ethnonationalists; anti-Muslim groups; militia groups; and misogynistic actors dubbed the “manosphere.”

The researchers also found that “the most common pattern of activity for more-active Canadian RWE [right-wing extremist] users on Twitter is “anti-Muslim conversation.” 
Unambiguous neo-Nazi messages can be found on fringe sites, such as 4chan, where administrators don’t police what people post. “We found that Canadians are highly active on forums associated with white supremacy, representing the third largest nationality using 4chan’s politically incorrect board after the U.S. and U.K.” the study says. 
More on this from Vice.com.

Maybe our prime minister might come to his senses and disband his CSIS/RCMP pipeline Stasi and put those personnel to dealing with a real threat to Canada.

Sweet, and Sweeter. Bolton Skewers Trump, Bolton Skewers Bolton.


The White House attempt to block publication of John Bolton's book, "The Room Where It Happened,"  has failed. The judge hearing the case said 'that horse is out of the barn.' There's nothing the court can do now to stop its distribution because copies of it are in the hands of too many reviewers, a lot of them offshore.

Good that the book is out but Bolton is still as odious as ever. That's where the 'sweeter' comes in. CNN legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, believes Bolton won't see a dime from that book. There's strong precedent that, where someone writes and publishes a book that hasn't been government cleared, the courts will require them to surrender any royalties or other income associated with the book.  You don't meet the technical rules, you don't get to keep anything, not a penny.

Anyone making coronavirus masks a "political issue is an absolute moron."


The Terminator and former Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is backing the current Democratic governor, Gavin Newsome, on the state's new measures requiring people to wear Covid-masks when in public.
"This is 100% the right move," Schwarzenegger tweeted. "This will help us beat this terrible virus. The science is unanimous - if we all wear masks, we slow down the spread and can reopen safely. It's not a political issue. Anyone making it a political issue is an absolute moron who can't read."
Unfortunately the United States of America is now under the boot of a president who is both an absolute moron and also can't read. Perhaps that's why Trump is almost never seen wearing a Covid mask.

It will be interesting to learn how many of Trump's flock will turn out to his rally this weekend without wearing masks.

However, Newsome and Schwarzenegger are right. So why are Canadian provinces not taking the obvious precaution of requiring people to wear masks when in public? You shouldn't be able to ride in a cab, on a bus or any conveyance without wearing a mask. You shouldn't be allowed to walk through a park, down a sidewalk, or into a store without wearing a mask. That's not too much to ask. Really, when you think about it, it's a piffle.

No, I Can Be Disappointed. You're the Prime Minister. The Bar Is Much Higher for You.


Justin Trudeau is fearful of China. He doesn't want to say anything, much less do anything, that might draw their ire.

We have two Canadians who have been held hostage in Chinese jails for two years. Today China has officially charged those captives with espionage - hey they couldn't leave them in their dungeon forever without some pretence.

So, what's our prime minister's reaction? He's "disappointed." We've been disappointed for two gawddamn years. How's that worked out? Beijing knows that China can work us over with blatant coercive measures such as blocking Canadian agricultural exports and we'll mutter how we're disappointed.

China is not our trading "partner." Partners don't abuse each other as China abuses Canada. A partner doesn't give the other partner one upside the head.

At some point Trudeau has to man up.  Whether it's our petro-economy, breakdown, kowtowing to thugs such as Netanyahu, Mohammed bin Salman, or Trump, he's so lame. It's no wonder the General Assembly considered Canada unfit for a seat on the Security Council. They wanted someone with a discernable spine.

The prime minister has presented Canada as a pushover and when you're a pushover you're going to get pushed around.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hard to Argue with Al Jazeera On This One



I missed this one yesterday. While Canada was still in the running for a seat on the UN Security Council, Al Jazeera explained why we didn't deserve it.
Not too long ago, Canada was considered a champion for human rights and international law. The North American country was often seen, in contrast to its southern neighbour, the United States, as a stalwart defender of the rights of the oppressed, as well as a faithful supporter of international humanitarian and refugee organisations. 
Canada's liberal legislation required that the executive branch impose sanctions against countries known to be human rights violators. Canada also had a supportive, welcoming policy on political asylum. 
These policies, however, were eroded under Stephen Harper's Conservative government. And, despite expectations to the contrary, this erosion has not been reversed in the last four years under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government.

Nowhere is Canada's retreat from liberal values clearer than in the case of Palestine.
For the last 20 years, Ottawa has been slavishly following the lead of Washington on issues related to Palestine at the UN. Since 2000, it voted "No" to 166 different General Assembly resolutions on Palestine. 
By contrast, the two countries that are competing with Canada for a UNSC seat in this rotation - Ireland and Norway - both have a consistently different position on issues pertaining to Palestine.
During Trudeau's time in power, Canada supported only one pro-Palestinian resolution at the General Assembly. It repeatedly chose to stand against nations' attempts to condemn Israel for its human rights violations and illegal settlements, and support Palestinians' struggle for rights and self-determination. 
In November 2018, during an official visit to Israel, Canada's then Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland openly said that she hopes securing a seat at the UNSC would allow Canada to serve as an "asset for Israel".
...The entire international legal system has been based on nations respecting national frontiers and rejecting any attempt by any country to change them unilaterally. Since the end of World War II, there have only been three attempts to violate this principle. The first was the attempt by Iraq to annex Kuwait as its 19th governate. The second was Russia's annexation of Crimea. And the third was Israel's annexation first of East Jerusalem, then the Golan, and now portions of the West Bank.

Until recently, these attempts were met with near-universal condemnation. But in the last few years, the Trump administration appeared to give the green light to such violations by Israel. This has opened a Pandora's box, and invited chaos to the international arena, as many countries across the world are in a position to claim historic rights, security interests or other needs to annex lands from their neighbours. 
The issue is not whether Canada is "pro-Israeli" or "pro -Palestinian". The issue is whether it continues to believe in international law, or whether it is now as openly disdainful and contemptuous of it as its southern neighbour.

Why I Switched Masks.



I've given up on those cloth or paper, over the ear masks.

I now sport a respirator mask. Not one of those Chinese knock-offs (I've already gone that route) but a quality American mask that is widely used in industry and by firefighters. It has a full face filter that seals surprisingly well and two, one-way exhaust vents that keep it from turning hot and damp.

I had a hard time getting one of these respirator masks. The company's web site usually shows them sold out. Same with the replaceable filters. You just have to keep going back until stock is available. They're usually sold out in minutes.

I feel a bit guilty wearing a respirator mask. That's because they don't work like the usual mask. The more common mask works to protect others, the idea being that if everyone wears one it will greatly reduce virus "shedding."  However, people have stopped wearing masks in my town. I suppose it's due to the warmish weather and the idea that the island has become Covid-free. It really hasn't. This won't last long.

June is the start of tourist season here and there will be visitors coming here some probably because they think the place is Covid-safe. Some of them will likely spread the virus here anew and, by what I'm seeing during my rare outings for groceries, we'll be wide open for infection.

The respirator mask doesn't protect others. It protects the wearer. Lab tests show the filters catch 99 per cent of particles as small as .1 micron. Covid particles are said to be .3 microns in size. It's not bullet proof but it's as close as anything I've found on the market.

When people stop wearing masks, it's every body for him/herself.



Except it doesn't have to be that way. California governor Gavin Newsome has done the right thing and ordered that everyone must wear a mask in indoor public places and outdoors when physical distancing isn't possible.
The new rules require face coverings when people are riding in taxis and rideshare cars, taking public transit, standing in line to enter a building or walking through common areas like hallways, stairways, elevators and parking garages. 
It also requires masks for people working in a building visited by the public even if no other people are present and at all locations where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution.

Masks are also required outdoors in spaces where people can’t maintain six feet of distance from one another.

Who Knew? There's an AIDS Vaccine! Donald Trump Says So.

One of the highlights of John Bolton's controversial book, "The Room Where It Happened," is the author's views of the seemingly limitless stupidity of his former boss, Donald J. Trump. Trump didn't know that Britain was a nuclear power. He thought Finland was somehow part of Russia.

It seems not a day goes by without something stupid coming out of Trump's mouth. Yesterday it was Trump's announcement that scientists developed a vaccine for AIDS.

Is America Coming Unglued?



I just watched a Twitter video of a BLM protest in the little town of Bethel, Ohio. It seems the town cops herded the protesters, about 100 in total, to get them away from armed and angry counter-protesters said to number perhaps 700.

Other clips show the protesters confronted by a swarm of counter-protesters besetting them with racist smears, even threats.  Some of the protesters left out of fear.

The video clip shows one of the protesters as he gets off the road and onto a sidewalk. A policeman is standing in front of him, clear line of sight, not more than six feet away. A counter-protester comes up behind the man and sucker punches him in the back of the head. The cop does nothing even when the protester complains about being punched in the head.

What's going on?  I know that press reports lack perspective and are provoking, sometimes deliberately inflammatory. That's been the bread and butter of FOX News since it was founded. I know that a lot of Americans find this repulsive and want nothing to do with this thuggery but even the cops aren't stopping it.

Abraham Lincoln, confronting a deeply riven America, cited scripture when he said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. America could now be almost as divided as it was during Lincoln's time. It is so deeply split and, worse yet, across so many fault lines.

Is this akin to the calving of a glacier? Is America fracturing? How does this end?

Could this be a buildup to a crescendo on November 3rd when Americans, some of them anyway, choose to keep or reject Donald Trump?  Will Donald Trump be the match to America's fuse? He has certainly built a legion of radicalized followers and the radical right has a lock on domestic terrorism in the United States.

--- UPDATE

Back in 2017, Foreign Policy had a "Civil War II" on their minds. What, they asked, might a new US civil war look like?

For starters, it won't be a neat, north versus south conflict. That stuff went out in the latter part of the 20th century.
For the United States, the shape of future homeland conflicts will be asymmetrical, distributed, and heterogeneous. A contemporary homeland conflict would likely self-compose with numerous dynamic factions organized by digital tools around ideological and affinity networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups and their counterparts engaging in light skirmishes along the overlapping edges of their networks, mixed with occasional high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they wield transgression. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less territorial than ideological. 
Furthermore, digital networks erode the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can browse the literature, claim allegiance in some far-flung burb, and start whipping up violence against their targets. Antifa and the Alt-Right are a hodge-podge of varying affinities loosely coupled under their respective brand names with local chapters coordinated across global networks. These are not top-down hierarchies. They’re agile and shapeless with the capacity to grow quickly then disappear. 
One simply cannot explain the speed and scale at which the Islamic State formed without that network effect,” Emile Simpson commented in another Foreign Policy article trying to augur the tremors of a new world war. 
Just as we risk missing the signs of networked violence, thinking in terms of a classic civil war can blind us to the many actors working to disrupt the U.S. from within and beyond our borders. 
Behind the extremists are often additional layers of benefactors and provocateurs: oligarchs, plutocrats, transnational criminal networks, and foreign powers wielding them on both sides towards their strategic goals. We’ve seen this with Russian-backed Facebook groups organizing right wing protests in the U.S., and in the increasing regularity of information warfare originating from Macedonian server farms, reclusive billionaires, and adversarial governments.
Not only has the state lost its monopoly on organized violence, powerful weapons of mass destruction have fallen within the reach of insurgencies. They don't need nukes to inflict mass mayhem. Several years ago there was a report on 60 Minutes about how vulnerable America's cities were to hit and run terrorist attacks on chemical storage yards often located just upwind of major urban centres. They simulated an attack by a few terrorists in a minivan who pulled over to the shoulder of an overpass, opened the door and quickly fired RPGs into the storage tanks just below them before hopping back in and driving off to safety.

Most of those sites are still not secured, the handiwork of lobbyists who successfully defeated efforts to pass legislation adverse to the chemical companies.  Just a handful of malcontents with a few Soviet-vintage rocket launchers could easily kill millions in a city such as New York. And if your goal was to destabilize a powerful government that would definitely do it.

Six Months to Avert Climate Disaster



We've got six months to change course or lose the battle to curb climate catastrophe.

Now, consider the source of that dire warning. That would be the executive director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Berol.

The world has only six months in which to change the course of the climate crisis and prevent a post-lockdown rebound in greenhouse gas emissions that would overwhelm efforts to stave off climate catastrophe, one of the world’s foremost energy experts has warned.

“The next three years will determine the course of the next 30 years and beyond,” Birol told the Guardian. “If we do not [take action] we will surely see a rebound in emissions. If emissions rebound, it is very difficult to see how they will be brought down in future. This is why we are urging governments to have sustainable recovery packages.”

In a report published on Thursday, the IEA – the world’s gold standard for energy analysis - set out the first global blueprint for a green recovery, focusing on reforms to energy generation and consumption. Wind and solar power should be a top focus, the report advised, alongside energy efficiency improvements to buildings and industries, and the modernisation of electricity grids. 
Creating jobs must be the priority for countries where millions have been thrown into unemployment by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. The IEA’s analysis shows that targeting green jobs – such as retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient, putting up solar panels and constructing wind farms – is more effective than pouring money into the high-carbon economy.
[Governments are] still targeting high-carbon investment, Birol warned. He pointed to IEA research showing that by the end of May the amount invested in coal-fired power plants in Asia had accelerated compared with last year. “There are already signs of a rebound [in emissions],” he said.
I know this is going to sting but why is Justin doing his part to help seal our fate? Why is Ottawa still pumping out subsidies to oil producers? Why is the Trudeau government still forging ahead, spending money we don't have, on a new and improved pipeline to carry high-carbon, low value bitumen to foreign markets?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

But What About the Free Celine Dion Tickets?


Canada won't be sitting on the UN Security Council. Norway, yes. Ireland, yes. Canada, oh Canada, no.

Maybe it's because of our disgraceful voting record on issues Palestinian and Israeli. Maybe it's because in a world about to catch fire we're still pimping low value, high carbon fossil fuels. Maybe it's because we're not the Canada we were pre-Harper.

Trudeau had said we pitched the Canadian values of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights. Let me get this right - we're better than Ireland and Norway, eh?

No, the votes weren't there for Canada. We didn't even come close.
Pro-Palestinian and other groups point to Canada's Middle East policies as a factor in the failure to secure a seat. Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) issued a statement saying the defeat "proves that Canada's failure to demonstrate leadership on human rights and international cooperation has isolated it from world opinion." 
"In recent months, Trudeau has also been relatively quiet on the threats of Israeli annexation, especially when compared to the vocal and long-standing condemnations from competitors Norway and Ireland," the group said.
It also didn't help that both Ireland and Norway have outdone Canada on peacekeeping and development aid.

Baking America


2020 is on course to be the hottest year since temperature records were first kept. It's been widely predicted by the science types that we're in for a steady succession of record heat years.

Heat kills. In already hot regions bordering already hot oceans and seas the heat and humidity combination is expected to become a lethal, one-two combination.

Even parts of the United States are now succumbing to the "new heat" of the Anthropocene.
Yearly heat-related deaths have more than doubled in Arizona in the last decade to 283. Across the country, heat caused at least 10,000 deaths between 1999 and 2016 – more than hurricanes, tornadoes or floods in most years. 
Scientists link the warming planet to a rise in dangerous heat in the US, as well as the spread of infectious diseases and other health conditions. Federal research predicts heatstroke and similar illnesses will claim tens of thousands of American lives each year by the end of the century. Already, higher temperatures pose lethal risks: the five warmest years nationwide have all occurred since 2006. In the last six decades, the number of annual heatwaves in 50 US cities has, on average, tripled. In contrast to a viral pandemic, this is a quiet, insidious threat with no end point.
There are measures governments can take to save the vulnerable - wellness checks, cooling centres, free cold water and ice - but they all take money that's increasingly hard to find in this era of "everyday low taxes." That's particularly true in a land where Social Darwinism has been elevated to the stature of a religion.



Despite the Economy-Killing Pandemic, Could 2020 Be the Hottest Year Ever?



The global pandemic has caused a drop in emissions with fewer vehicles on our roads, airliners grounded and idle, factories shuttered, etc. In heavily polluted cities the results have been dramatic. Some cities in India, for example, haven't seen the Himalaya mountains for years, decades, until recently. Now those peaks again grace their skylines.

While the drop in emissions is good, it's not enough to make a difference to the overall picture. Emissions are still increasing. We just set a record of 417 ppm of atmospheric CO2. Atmospheric CO2 hasn't been that high for three million years. 2020 is expected to be our hottest year since temperature records have been kept.

And now Siberia is adding to the problem.
A prolonged heatwave in Siberia is “undoubtedly alarming”, climate scientists have said. The freak temperatures have been linked to wildfires, a huge oil spill and a plague of tree-eating moths. 
Temperatures in the polar regions are rising fastest because ocean currents carry heat towards the poles and reflective ice and snow is melting away. 
Russian towns in the Arctic circle have recorded extraordinary temperatures, with Nizhnyaya Pesha hitting 30C on 9 June and Khatanga, which usually has daytime temperatures of around 0C at this time of year, hitting 25C on 22 May. The previous record was 12C.
The hand of man is behind it all.
Marina Makarova, the chief meteorologist at Russia’s Rosgidromet weather service, said: “This winter was the hottest in Siberia since records began 130 years ago. Average temperatures were up to 6C higher than the seasonal norms.” 
Thawing permafrost was at least partly to blame for a spill of diesel fuel in Siberia this month that led Putin to declare a state of emergency. The supports of the storage tank suddenly sank, according to its operators; green groups said ageing and poorly maintained infrastructure was also to blame. 
Wildfires have raged across hundreds of thousands of hectares of Siberia’s forests. Farmers often light fires in the spring to clear vegetation, and a combination of high temperatures and strong winds has caused some fires to burn out of control.
Fortunately Canada has declared a climate breakdown "state of emergency." Having taken that bold step, not 24 hours passed before that same federal government greenlighted the massive expansion of a bitumen pipeline. Go figure, eh?

With every decision like Trudeau's Trans Mountain we're terraforming Earth only in ways that are incompatible with life and our survival.

Aunt Jemima Being Shown the Door. Uncle Ben May Be Next.


PepsiCo is removing the image of Aunt Jemima from its line of pancake mix and syrup. Fair enough. Racist overtones? Of course. When we were kids we didn't think of it that way but, yeah, it's there. Uncle Ben? Pretty much the same problem. Old black dude with balding white hair looks like he's straight off the plantation. It's time the Ben thing was ditched.

Neither of those images holds a candle to what I discovered when I moved to London in the late 60s. I was no stranger to Robertson marmalade but I had no idea about the firm's UK mascot, Golly.


The Golly character, a black-faced minstrel doll with his natty red bow tie and trousers, flowing blue jacket and distinctive yellow waistcoat, danced his way across the label on pots for the best part of a century.
The company distributed Golliwog trinkets as promotional giveaways and most people I met admitted they had these toys as kids.  Yeah, right.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Think of the Pandemic as a Fire Drill


There is a lot of knowledge to be mined from how our nations - and their citizens - responded to the Covid-19 pandemic. That knowledge could be invaluable to us in preparing for other disruptive events that loom in the not distant future.
The coronavirus pandemic is “just a fire drill” for what is likely to follow from the climate crisis, and the protests over racial injustice around the world show the need to tie together social equality, environmental sustainability and health, the UN’s sustainable business chief has said. 
“The overall problem is that we are not sustainable in the ways we are living and producing on the planet today,” said Lise Kingo, the executive director of the UN Global Compact, under which businesses sign up to principles of environmental protection and social justice. “The only way forward is to create a world that leaves no one behind.” 
Human rights were “inseparable” from dealing with climate breakdown, she told the Guardian in an interview. “This horrible racism [seen in the killing of George Floyd] is about human rights. We have to make sure that we give the social part of the agenda equal focus.”
Social equality, environmental stability and health. That sounds simple enough and yet achieving these goals seem increasingly elusive.

Social equality sounds good but it means overcoming privilege. Here's the problem.
When he died in 2008, Ted Rogers Jr., then CEO of Rogers Communications, was the fifth-wealthiest individual in Canada, holding assets worth $5.7 billion. In his autobiography (2008) he credited his success to a willingness to take risks, work hard, bend the rules, be on the constant look-out for opportunities, and be dedicated to building the business. In many respects, he saw himself as a self-made billionaire who started from scratch, seized opportunities, and created a business through his own initiative.
Rogers, of course, was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He attended Upper Canada College, picked up a law degree at Osgoode Hall, rubbed elbows with the right people. He was "in."

Now compare Ted Rogers with an incarcerated aboriginal gang member.
In some respects the Aboriginal gang members interviewed were like Ted Rogers in that they were willing to seize opportunities, take risks, bend rules, and apply themselves to their vocations. They too aspired to getting the money that would give them the freedom to make their own lives. However, as one of the inmates put it, “the only job I ever had was selling drugs” (CBC, 2010). The consequence of that was to fall into a lifestyle that led to joining a gang, being kicked out of school, developing issues with addiction, and eventually getting arrested and incarcerated. Unlike Ted Rogers, however, the inmate added, “I didn’t grow up with the best life” (CBC, 2010).
Arguably, Ted Rogers started life with a privileged "habitus."
The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) defined ones habitus as the deeply seated schemas, habits, feelings, dispositions, and forms of know-how that people hold due to their specific social backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences (1990). Bourdieu referred to it as ones “feel for the game,” to use a sports metaphor.
Haven't we wrestled, or at least told ourselves we wrestled, with this for generations? How well has that gone?

Environmental stability. Our exaggerated petro-economy undermines our hopes of achieving environmental stability. What does that even mean at this point natural feedback loops, activated by man-made greenhouse gas emissions like some sleeping giant awakened, now are in play? Here I refer to the thawing of the permafrost and the release of massive volumes of greenhouse gases that, for millennia, were safely sequestered in ice or the seabed clathrates that now release CO2 plumes to the surface and onward into the atmosphere or our beleaguered forests, once massive 'carbon sinks' that are now transformed, by climate change, into 'carbon bombs.' We don't know the measure of these 'knock-on' effects or what other surprises may await.

The third element is health. Here the picture is less gloomy, at least marginally. We like to boast of universal healthcare but there's nothing universal in how it is accessed by Canadians in different parts of our country. As a rule, the further you are from the American border, the more difficulty you may have accessing healthcare facilities and providers. The further you have to travel for health services, the less likely you are to access help.

If achieving these goals domestically is difficult, achieving them on a global scale is nearly impossible. Nations vary enormously, region by region. Most of the world's wealth is concentrated in the relatively underpopulated nations of the temperate latitudes. The worst of the world's climate breakdown is experienced elsewhere, in the developing and Third World countries. I see no sign that the affluent Western world has much interest in notions of equality when it comes to the less advantaged countries.