Friday, July 31, 2020

A Giggle for the Weekend

Jeffrey Epstein playpal, Alan Dershowitz,on Sex With Minors

Apparently, Alan Dershowitz has been a proponent for doing away with statutory rape laws. He argues in a 1997 op-ed in the L.A. Times that such laws should be reserved only for pre-pubescent kids.

Connie Bruck, in “Alan Dershowitz, Devil’s Advocate,” first renewed attention to Dershowitz’s op-ed in which he made a case for lowering the age of consent to 15: 
“Dershowitz has not shied away from provocative ideas about sex and the law. In a 1997 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, he argued against statutory-rape laws, writing, ‘There must be criminal sanctions against sex with very young children, but it is doubtful whether such sanctions should apply to teenagers above the age of puberty, since voluntary sex is so common in their age group.’ He suggested that fifteen was a reasonable age of consent, no matter how old the partner was.” 
Former George W. Bush chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter was one of many to take note of it. 
“Why is @AlanDersh trying to lower the age of consent in this op-ed? 15? Really?” he asked. Painter then quoted Dershowitz, tweeting, “‘Reasonable people can disagree about whether [the age of consent] should be as low as 14.’ Is @AlanDersh kidding (pun intended)? Does he really think that?” 
Dershowitz took notice of Painter’s tweets and responded: 
“I stand by the constitutional (not moral) argument I offered in my controversial oped: if a 16 year old has the constitutional right to have an abortion without state or parental interference, how could she not have the constitutional right to engage in consensual sex?” 
“I challenge my readers to distinguish the cases, as a matter of constitutional law. I did not suggest that it is moral to have sex with a 16 year old, but rather that the issue presents a constitutional conundrum worthy of discussion,” he continued. “I also pointed out that, statutory rape laws are applied quite selectively and often against young teenagers. That’s why I also say there are Romeo and Juliet exceptions. Lets debate not name call.”
Dershowitz, who previously represented accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, was accused by Virginia (Roberts) Giuffre that he knew about and participated in Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s alleged child sex-trafficking operation. 
Giuffree claimed that Dershowitz had sex with her while she was a minor and working for Epstein, although Dershowitz has repeatedly denied this.
In other Epstein-related news, you may recall an incident last week when a hitman, dressed as a Fed-Ex driver, gained access to a judge's house where he shot her husband and shot and killed her son.
The judge in question is Esther Salas. Earlier in the week, she was assigned to oversee a lawsuit brought by investors against Deutsche Bank over its involvement in the handling of financial matters related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein.
According to ABC News, the attack on Salas’s family occurred when her son, Daniel Aderl, or husband, Mark Anderl, opened the door to what appeared to be a FedEx deliveryman. The son, a student at Catholic University, was shot through the heart, while the husband is in the hospital.
This is becoming a cascade of coincidences. The fact that Epstein's two guards were AWOL when he supposedly hanged himself - coincidence. The surveillance camera monitoring his cell breaking down when he supposedly hanged himself - coincidence. Epstein's playpals, none of whom so much as laid a hand on Epstein's underage girls - a coincidence. Epstein's early history with Bill Barr's dad - a fluke, sheer coincidence.

You know who doesn't believe in coincidence? Homicide cops. They're trained not to believe in coincidence but, when you've got coincidence piled atop coincidence atop coincidence atop coincidence, you've got to get digging to find the truth.

It Still Smells to Me

The Royal Canadian Navy gave a gala welcome to its first Arctic patrol vessel, HMCS Harry DeWolf that, despite the claims of the federal government and the builder, Irving Shipyards, may be one of the worst deals in Canadian military procurement.

Canada's patrol vessels are modified versions of the the Norwegian Svalbard-class Arctic patrol vessels. The Norwegians build and sell those for $80 million apiece. Irving shipyards is promising to deliver six modified Svalbards for $4.1 billion.  That's roughly $667 million per ship.

Now, maybe I'm not great at maths but when I multiply $80 million times six, I come in at just shy of half of one billion dollars.  Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Canada's Svalbard clone is, in every respect, bigger and better, hence more costly. That would still be shy of one billion. One billion, not four billion. WTF?


Is this deal sketchy? The DeWolf is a design patterned on the Svalbard.  The Norwegians sold the designs to Canada for some $5 million. The Norse built the Svalbard, design costs included, for under $100 million. Ottawa, however, then paid Irving $288 million to rejig the design and a multi-billion dollar pork pie to actually build the damned things.

The good news for the Trudeau government is that it was the Harper government that hatched this boondoggle back when  the Maritimes' own Peter MacKay was defence minister.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay has suggested that Canada is prepared to pay a "premium" for its new ships in order to rebuild and support its domestic shipbuilding industry.
Mea Culpa.

Irving raced to defend the cost discrepancy between the Canadian patrol vessels and the ship on which ours is modeled. Irving vice-chairman, Ross Langley, said judging the two boats is like comparing apples and oranges.
In comparison with another 2007 program in Denmark where two fully built patrol ships were acquired for a total cost of $105 million (including the design), Langley pointed out that the ships are not the same: the one Irving is building is longer, wider, heavier and holds more crew members.

As for the Canadian vessel being considerably larger, our patrol vessel is 103 m. long, 19 m. beam, 6,600 tons displacement and is powered by four diesel generators. The Svalbard is 104 m. long, 19 m. beam, 6,375 tonnes displacement and is powered by four Rolls-Royce diesel generators. Range and speed are also comparable. Some apples, some oranges, eh?

Easy Meat?

As naval vessels go, the Canadian Arctic patrol vessel is seriously outgunned by Norway's Svalbard and by its only conceivable polar adversary, Russia's Type 23550.

The Svalbard has a 57mm. Bofors deck gun, and  Simbad surface-to-air missile system. Our ships sport a pair of John Moses Browning's venerable M2, 50 cal machine guns and a 25 mm. chain gun.

Russia's 23550 Ivan Papanin
Cruise missile launchers (blue) at stern.

Russia has produced its own clone of the Svalbard, the Type 23550.
The Russian Navy’s Project 23550-class polar icebreaker ships will be armed with one AK-176MA automatic naval gun system developed by JSC CRI Burevestnik.

Mounted on the bow, the [76 mm.] artillery gun will provide defence against sea, air and shore-based targets at a distance of up to 15.7km. It has a rate of fire between 120 and 131 rounds a minute. 
The armament also includes four Kalibr-NK anti-ship / anti-submarine / land-attack subsonic cruise missiles, which will be launched from two quadruple canister missile launch systems located at the stern of the ship.
Forbes welcomed the DeWolf with a mocking piece, "Nice New Patrol Ship You've Got There Canada - It'd Be a Shame If Somebody Sank It."

Britons Flock to Beaches


It's been a hot Friday in the UK. Temperatures in much of England were in the upper 30s. Some places hit 38.7 C.  A bit cooler to the north but not by much.

Even as Boris Johnson scrambles to put the genie back in its bottle, Brits have yet again swarmed the beaches along the south and southwest coast. Police are supposed to be enforcing social distancing but BBC reports they're mainly confiscating booze.

In France, Covid infections shot up 54 per cent in one week.

The pandemic is triggering racist accusations in Britain where some are putting the blame on BAME (black/asian/mainly ethnic) residents, rather than the crowds flooding the beaches and packing British clubs.

Hong Kong is now dealing with its 3rd wave of the Covid pandemic.

Me, I'm still hunkering down and it looks as if  I will be for several months to come.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

If You Want a Scandal, Go For One That May Have Cost Lives.

When Pierre Poilievre and Warren Kinsella are chewing on the same bone it's time to look for something more engaging.  Is "We" the best they can come up with? Besides, we've got the making of a much bigger scandal, a true "life and death" screw up.

We know that Donald Trump stupidly dismantled his predecessor's pandemic response programme. Then, when Covid-19 arrived on America's shores, Trump let his "gut instincts" steer the US government's response and several tens of thousands of Americans paid for that with their lives.

Canada's auditor general is now exploring whether Justin Trudeau did much the same thing. Did the prime minister drop Canada's guard?
Sources close to the matter said the Auditor-General is planning to probe the government’s handling of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, or GPHIN, which was a central part of the country’s advance surveillance, early detection and risk-assessment capacity for outbreaks.

The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that a key part of GPHIN’s function was effectively shut down last spring, amid changing government priorities that shifted analysts to other work. According to 10 years of documents obtained by The Globe, the system went silent on May 24 last year, after issuing more than 1,500 alerts over the past decade about potential outbreaks including MERS, H1N1, avian flu and Ebola.

Several past and present employees told The Globe that the government had grown wary of GPHIN’s mandate in recent years, believing it was too internationally focused, given that pandemic events were rare. Analysts were given domestic projects to focus on that didn’t involve global surveillance, and the operation’s early-warning capacity soon suffered. Over the past decade, doctors inside Public Health also began to fear their messages weren’t being heard, or understood, on important topics, the employees said, which affected Canada’s readiness for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Auditor-General is also planning to look at Canada’s risk assessments during the pandemic, which may have affected the speed and urgency of mitigation measures, such as border closings, airport shutdowns and the use of protective masks. Throughout January, February and into March, the government maintained the risk the virus posed to Canada was “Low,” even as evidence of human-to-human spread became increasingly evident around the world. Canada didn’t elevate its risk rating to “High” until March 16, nearly seven weeks after the WHO declared the global risk was high and urged countries to start preparing.
If you're hankering for a scandal, there's a dandy. A government that was unprepared, that left the country undefended, that was slow off the mark to respond. A government derelict in its most fundamental duty, its obligation to secure the lives of its people.

"Boring" Thy Name is August.

If it wasn't for Covid-19, the climate crisis and the world generally spinning off its axis, this would be a painfully boring time in Canada.

August is traditionally a quiet time. People flock to the cottage, get outdoors, do the party thing. Not this year. Many of us are under some form of house arrest. Yeah, it sucks, but so what?

Even the latest Liberal scandal, this "We" business, is boring. If you still adore Justin Trudeau it's a lot of nothing. If you don't adore Justin Trudeau it's the worst thing ever at least since the previous worst thing ever or the two or three or six before that.

WGAS? Who gives a sh*t? I don't. I can't imagine why anyone should. It's like having to watch re-runs of a lousy sit-com because that's all the bunny ears will bring in up at your cabin.

Canadian politics is moribund. Boring. The Tories are on the verge of handing us a boring Conservative leader who will be a placeholder for a better leader who knows this is no time to make his/her move. Jagmeet is sinking in sincerity. The Greens? I don't know, what have you heard?

The Yanks are burying civil rights legend, John Lewis, today. Herman Cain (you, know the pizza guy who wanted to be president) will be settling for a far more modest sendoff in a couple of days. Covid-19 apparently.

Meanwhile the dumbest man on Capitol Hill, Louie Gohmert (as in 'Gomer'), is also down with Covid-19 giving Nancy Pelosi an excuse to demand masks be worn in the House.

Trump is talking about postponing the elections scheduled for November 3rd until he can get his poll numbers out of the toilet. That's a bit like inviting the condemned to set his own execution date. Even McConnell wasted no time telling Trump to forget it.

The climate crisis worsens by the month not that anyone is noticing. That's the really nice thing about nature. She goes about her business gradually, quietly, so as not to raise a fuss. That's not a good thing for a species as myopic and easily distracted as our own.

Well, August is upon us. Today is going to be our first hot day of the summer. It could hit 27 or 28 C today but a "strong onshore flow" developing Friday should bring us back to something more befitting our gentle coastal sensibilities.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Seth Rogen Has Had His Fill

Growing up in Vancouver, Seth Rogen learned a lot about Israel. His parents, after all, met on a Kibbutz.

Now he realizes much of what he was told about Israel, especially when it came to the Palestinians, was a pack of lies.
The Canadian-US actor, who attended Jewish camp and whose parents met on a kibbutz in Israel, said the fact that the Jewish state was created on land where Palestinians were living had always been omitted. 
“[As] a Jewish person I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life,” Rogen told the comedian and actor Marc Maron in an episode of Maron’s WTF podcast
“They never tell you that, ‘Oh, by the way, there were people there’. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the fucking door’s open.”
Asked if he would ever go to live in Israel, Rogen said no. Maron replied: “I’m the same way, and we’re gonna piss off a bunch of Jews.” 
Lahav Harkov, a senior contributing editor to the Jerusalem Post newspaper, criticised Rogen’s comments on Twitter, saying they were “made from a position of really, really great privilege – and ignorance - if he can’t understand why Israel makes sense to millions of Jews around the world”. 
Among Zionists, there is anxiety that North American Jews, who could possibly outnumber Israeli Jews, are becoming less supportive of the Jewish state, even as surveys often show the opposite
The debate has frequently reignited after high-profile figures, often Jewish, express views that are highly critical of Israel. 
Most recently, Peter Beinart, a prominent Jewish American political commentator, was both derided and lauded for commentaries in which he questioned whether he could remain both a liberal and also support the Jewish state while millions of Palestinians continued to be denied basic rights.

Where Did the Republican Party Go So Wrong? An Insider Casts the Bones and Reads the GOP Entrails.

There is an entire wing of the Republican Party today that blames the corruption of the GOP on Donald Trump as though the party wasn't rotting out from the inside long ago.  A veteran Republican political consultant, Stuart Stevens, writes a lot of these "old school" Republicans are wallowing in self-delusion.
I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.

I saw the warning signs but ignored them and chose to believe what I wanted to believe: The party wasn’t just a white grievance party; there was still a big tent; the others guys were worse. Many of us in the party saw this dark side and told ourselves it was a recessive gene. We were wrong. It turned out to be the dominant gene.

Racism is the original sin of the modern Republican Party. While many Republicans today like to mourn the absence of an intellectual voice like William Buckley, it is often overlooked that Mr. Buckley began his career as a racist defending segregation
In the Richard Nixon White House, Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips wrote a re-election campaign memo headed “Dividing the Democrats” in which they outlined what would come to be known as the Southern Strategy. It assumes there is little Republicans can do to attract Black Americans and details a two-pronged strategy: Utilize Black support of Democrats to alienate white voters while trying to decrease that support by sowing dissension within the Democratic Party.
How do you abandon deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy and the national debt in a matter of months? You don’t. The obvious answer is those beliefs weren’t deeply held. What others and I thought were bedrock values turned out to be mere marketing slogans easily replaced. I feel like the guy working for Bernie Madoff who thought they were actually beating the market.

Mr. Trump has served a useful purpose by exposing the deep flaws of a major American political party. Like a heavy truck driven over a bridge on the edge of failure, he has made it impossible to ignore the long-developing fault lines of the Republican Party. A party rooted in decency and values does not embrace the anger that Mr. Trump peddles as patriotism.

This collapse of a major political party as a moral governing force is unlike anything we have seen in modern American politics. The closest parallel is the demise of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, when the dissonance between what the party said it stood for and what citizens actually experienced was so great that it was unsustainable. 
This election should signal a day of reckoning for the party and all who claim it as a political identity. Will it? I’ve given up hope that there are any lines of decency or normalcy that once crossed would move Republican leaders to act as if they took their oath of office more seriously than their allegiance to party. Only fear will motivate the party to change — the cold fear only defeat can bring. 
That defeat is looming. Will it bring desperately needed change to the Republican Party? I’d like to say I’m hopeful. But that would be a lie and there have been too many lies for too long.

So, What's the Plan?

From what I'm reading it seems the kiddies will be heading back to school (or as I thought of it, 'the gulag') this fall. I'm not sure that's a great idea. Let's say, I have reservations.

It's not the schools. It's definitely not the teachers that concern me. It's this damned virus, its transmissibility, how around the world we're seeing that it ebbs and flows, returning to so many places that briefly thought the worst was safely behind them.

It's also the kids. I'm concerned about what awaits our kids.

Even Trump's farcical education secretary, Betsy "Amway" DeVos, says some of the kids returning to America's schools will carry/contract/transmit the Covid-19 virus and some, a very small percentage hardly worth worry about, will succumb to it. Fair enough. Betsy is from the land of "collateral damage." Someone, even kids, always has to take one for the team. That's progress.

Intellectually, it's best of you can stop the thought process at this point. If you keep going it may get very, very dark.

I don't know what they're naming kids these days (although I'm sure Betsy isn't high on the list).  I just looked it up. Big mistake. For girls, the "in" names are Luna, Maeve, Aurora, Olivia and Isla. For boys, Milo, Asher, Atticus, Oliver and Levi.

Let's say it's a grade 3 class just full of little Lunas and Maeves, Milos, Ashers and just one Levi. One day the kids notice someone is missing. It's Levi. There's no Levi but, instead, a bunch of strangers in hazmat suits wanting to shove extra-long Q-tips up all the kids' noses.  A couple of days go by and a couple of the Lunas, both Milos and an Asher are sent home into quarantine. Then teacher tells the rest that Levi, well he won't be coming back. Levi got the plague, went to hospital and, sadly, he didn't make it.

So now, even at a grade 3 level, you look around and wonder what in Hell you got yourself into? Are the other kids coming back? Who'll be next? Why did your mom and dad let this happen to you?

Here's another scenario, Levi gets Covid but, like most kids, bounces back only his mom and grandpa weren't so lucky. They got it from Levi. Mom's on a ventilator in ICU. Grandpa is pushing up daisies. Levi knows all too well that he brought the virus into their home. He passed it along to mother and grandfather. He might have some guilt issues, the deep-seated, embedded kind that no grade 3 kid should ever have to deal with.  Guilt feelings that few adults could handle.

So, before we herd our kids back into these classrooms, what's the plan? What do we do for Levi? Do we call in Mr. Johnson, the in-house grief counsellor/supply teacher? Do we move Levi to another school so he won't be an unwanted reminder to his former classmates? What do we do for Levi's former classmates? Do we send them to Mr. Johnson for a quick cheer-up? Do we send them home for the remainder of the term?  Do we redecorate the classroom - paint it a brighter, happier colour maybe, a few new lights?

There must be a plan. What is it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Krugman - America's "Cult of Selfishness" - Updated.

Paul Krugman writes that irresponsible behaviour is killing America.  He says Trump and Congressional Republicans fostered an attitude among many Americans, a sense of entitlement, that has and will continue to cost the U.S. and its people dearly.

America’s response to the coronavirus has been a lose-lose proposition. 
The Trump administration and governors like Florida’s Ron DeSantis insisted that there was no trade-off between economic growth and controlling the disease, and they were right — but not in the way they expected. 
Premature reopening led to a surge in infections: Adjusted for population, Americans are currently dying from Covid-19 at around 15 times the rate in the European Union or Canada. Yet the “rocket ship” recovery Donald Trump promised has crashed and burned: Job growth appears to have stalled or reversed, especially in states that were most aggressive about lifting social distancing mandates, and early indications are that the U.S. economy is lagging behind the economies of major European nations.
Krugman argues that the Republicans have spawned - and nurtured - a 'cult of selfishness' that is now playing havoc across America.
So what was going on? Were our leaders just stupid? Well, maybe. But there’s a deeper explanation of the profoundly self-destructive behavior of Trump and his allies: They were all members of America’s cult of selfishness. 
You see, the modern U.S. right is committed to the proposition that greed is good, that we’re all better off when individuals engage in the untrammeled pursuit of self-interest. In their vision, unrestricted profit maximization by businesses and unregulated consumer choice is the recipe for a good society. 
Support for this proposition is, if anything, more emotional than intellectual. I’ve long been struck by the intensity of right-wing anger against relatively trivial regulations, like bans on phosphates in detergent and efficiency standards for light bulbs. It’s the principle of the thing: Many on the right are enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other people’s welfare into account.

This rage is sometimes portrayed as love of freedom. But people who insist on the right to pollute are notably unbothered by, say, federal agents tear-gassing peaceful protesters. What they call “freedom” is actually absence of responsibility. 
Rational policy in a pandemic, however, is all about taking responsibility. The main reason you shouldn’t go to a bar and should wear a mask isn’t self-protection, although that’s part of it; the point is that congregating in noisy, crowded spaces or exhaling droplets into shared air puts others at risk. And that’s the kind of thing America’s right just hates, hates to hear. 
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that Republicans are selfish. We’d be doing much better if that were all there were to it. The point, instead, is that they’ve sacralized selfishness, hurting their own political prospects by insisting on the right to act selfishly even when it hurts others.

What the coronavirus has revealed is the power of America’s cult of selfishness. And this cult is killing us.

I have repeatedly described Americans today as "groomed." They are a people conditioned, skilfully divided, rendered too feeble to defend their Constitution or their society. Ralph Nader touched on this in 2018 in what sounded like a post mortem on America.
The U.S. has developed a society with an almost indeterminate absorptive capacity for injustice, abuse and degradation,” Nader said. “There is no civic education in the schools. They don’t know what the Constitution is. They don’t know what the law of torts is. They don’t know where the town hall is. They’re living in virtual reality, swinging between big screen TV and their cellphones. They’re wallowing in text messages. To an extent, they’re excited by the workings of the minds symbolized by Wall Street and Silicon Valley. That’s the young generation. Great changes start with people in their 20s. But look what you’ve got now. You’ve got 10 years of internet connection, cellphones available to any child. That’s one. The second is 24/7 entertainment. The third is the abandonment by the elderly generation. They’ve sort of given up. They don’t know the gadgetry. They don’t know the language. They have their own economic insecurity. They’re not extending any kind of historical experience to the young which contains severe warnings. Watch out. You don’t think it can happen again, [but] it can happen again and again. There’s no verbal, oral tradition between the generations. Less and less. Then you have the political system, which is deep-sinking the society. How are people going to mobilize themselves? Is there a strong union, a labor movement? No. A strong consumer movement? No. They’re losing their privacy.
Compounding the decay is the collapse of the legal profession, a problem exacerbated by Trump’s stacking of the federal courts with incompetent and far-right judges selected by groups such as The Federalist Society. The courts, Nader said, have already destroyed the freedom of contract and the law of torts. They have repeatedly revoked constitutional rights by judicial fiat, ruling, for example, that unlimited campaign contributions by corporations is a form of free speech and the right to petition the government.
Nader worries that as long as “10 to 15 percent of the American people are well-off” the elites will have enough support to continue the assault. 
“Societies have been repressed by far smaller members of well-instituted upper classes,” he said. “That’s what we forget. Eighteenth-, 19th-, 20th-century Europe. A tiny clique controlled them. When there’s any problem it flips over to dictatorship. As long as the contented classes are not upset, the system of control is in lock, like connecting gears.”
It should come as no surprise then that Krugman's 'cult of selfishness' should respond to the Covid pandemic as they have, plunging America into a public healthcare crisis. What could be more predictable? How will it manifest next?

Another Chapter in "The Great Die-Off"

It's not an auspicious time for life on Earth, especially for non-human species.

Human overpopulation and over-consumption has non-human species dying off at apocalyptic rates. And "the band played on" as far as humanity and our governments are concerned.

The latest episode in this saga is the decline in migratory river fish populations.
Populations of migratory river fish around the world have plunged by a “catastrophic” 76% since 1970, an analysis has found. 
The fall was even greater in Europe at 93%, and for some groups of fish, with sturgeon and eel populations both down by more than 90%. 
Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey. 
The migratory fish are also critical for the food security and livelihoods of millions of people around the world, while recreational fishing is worth billions of dollars a year. The causes of the decline are the hundreds of thousands of dams around the world, overfishing, the climate crisis and water pollution.
For the past decade reports have been pouring in about the precipitous collapse of terrestrial species - birds, mammals, insects, reptiles - and marine life - fish, mammals and sea birds - that have declined in raw numbers by well over half since 1970.  At the same time, species are falling extinct at hundreds of times the normal base rate.

You might have imagined our leadership, world wide, would have set aside their obsessive quest for perpetual exponential growth just long enough to ponder what this alarming collapse portends for humanity in the decades ahead, but that would be wishful thinking. If these other species are experiencing collapse, are we next? If not, why, how?

Even Trump's "Lender of Last Resort" Won't Touch the Tar Sands

Deutsche Bank has gained a reputation for channeling sketchy money to dodgy borrowers.  When DB turns its nose up at you, you have a real problem, probably more than one.
Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank is joining a lengthening list of European lenders and insurance companies that say they won't back new oilsands projects. 
The German bank said Monday its new fossil fuels policy will also prohibit investing in projects that use hydraulic fracturing or fracking in countries with scarce water supplies, and all new oil and gas projects in the Arctic region. 
It says its ban on oilsands financing, effective immediately, will include exploration, production, transport or processing, seemingly including oilsands pipelines and upgraders or refineries.
The Canadian Association of Oil Producers responded with threats to destroy the world.
"Attempts to stifle Canadian production by restricting financing can have only one effect; countries with lower environmental standards — and in many cases lower social, human rights and governance standards — will fill the void."

Monday, July 27, 2020

"Festung Trump" Gets a New Wall

What must Donald Trump see in his future that, with the elections just 100 days off, he's chosen to fortify Festung Trump with a brand new wall? What's next, a 'gator-filled moat?  Mortar pits, machine gun emplacements?
The days of leaning on the black barred fencing for a photo of the White House in the background are ending, with a massive "anti-climb" wall being built around the South Lawn. 
Plans for a new perimeter with an "anti-climb" component have been in the works since July 2016, according to the White House history website.

Meanwhile, a new report from the US Center for Strategic and International Studies finds that radical rightwing movements eclipse even jihadist groups as the biggest source of terrorism in both the United States and Europe.
"We see an increasing percentage of plots and attacks in the United States shifting over the past couple of years from jihadist motivations, increasingly, to far-right activity," said Seth Jones, who directs the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank. 
Jones defined right-wing extremists as "sub-national or non-state entities" with goals that could include ethnic or racial supremacy. They can also be marked by anger against specific policies like abortion rights and government authority, as well as hatred toward women, or they may be members of the "involuntary celibate," or "incel," movement. 
A report he co-authored recorded 14 terrorist incidents, including attacks and disrupted plots, from Jan. 1 to May 8. Thirteen of them were classified as right-wing, and the other was recorded as being religiously motivated in the context of jihadism.
The report found that the comparable figure for right-wing attacks and plots in 2019 was a little more than 60 percent, which itself was the highest level of such activity since 1995, the year of the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal building, which killed 168 people. And in both 2018 and 2019, right-wing attackers caused more than 90 percent of the terrorism-related deaths in the United States.

"There is a growing trend of right-wing extremism in the U.K., but it is not as significant as the rising right-wing extremism in America," said retired Maj. Gen. Clive Chapman, the former head of counterterrorism for Britain's Defense Ministry. 
He said that, in the almost two decades since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., more Americans — 335, according to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies — have been killed by adherents of a form of right-wing extremism than any other terrorist ideology. 
Trump, meanwhile, vilifies what he calls "leftist" protesters as the major threat facing America. I suppose that's because Trump knows the radical right consider him kith and kin. If anything they find inspiration in Trump to fuel their hatred and violence.

The String Pullers

Carole Callwadr's essay in The Observer on the weekend rekindled the unpleasant idea that the peoples of Magna Carta are losing ground in the struggle to defend liberal democracy.

In Canada we think it entirely in order that fewer than two out of five voters should be enough to elect a powerful majority government. Gone is the notion that democratic states govern with the consent of the governed. Three out of five have not consented to these majority governments. They are not governed, they are ruled. The fundamental tenet of democracy is not met.

Yet Canada remains the gold standard of today's tattered remnants of liberal democracy. Faint praise. In the United States, democracy is guarded about as well as Jeffrey Epstein was in his final hours of life. Ditto for the erstwhile mother of modern democracy, Britain.

This ought to be of real concern in a world where conspiracy theorists, natavists and xenophobes, white supremacists and bigots of all descriptions groomed through social media and propaganda agencies disguised as news outlets, can tilt elections to a person so morally, intellectually and temperamentally unsuited to high office as the pathologically narcissistic Donald Trump. Should that not be enough of a warning to us all that we should rise to the defence of our own democracy?

In Britain, half the populace knows that the Brexit referendum was rigged with shady money and outside forces. Government investigations have revealed a good measure of the criminality behind the "Leave" campaign to upend what Chris Wylie called, in his testimony, Britain's ancient "constitutional settlement."

As Callawadr puts it, democracy was subverted in America's 2016 elections and Britain's Brexit referendum, crimes were blatantly committed, "With no consequences. Nobody, no company, no individual or nation state has ever been held to account."
If it wasn’t for Facebook, there would be no Brexit. The future of our country – our island nation with its 1,000 years of continuous history of which we’re so proud – has been set on its course by a foreign company that has proved itself to be beyond the rule of parliament. 
Who in Britain understands that? Almost no one. The intelligence and security committee, perhaps, who reported their astonishment this week that no attempt had been made to investigate foreign interference in the EU referendum. And maybe Dominic Cummings, the man who sits in 10 Downing Street by Boris Johnson’s side. 
Dominic Cummings understands the role that Facebook played in Brexit. He wrote about it. In excruciating Cummings detail. He described the deliberate use of misinformation targeted at unknown individuals in an election operation the scale of which had never been seen before. He deployed more than a billion Facebook ads, he says. At a cost of pennies per view.
The fact is that we now know how the platform was systematically abused by the Leave campaigns. We know that loopholes in our laws were deliberately exploited. And we know that these actions were proved to be illegal and “punished” by “regulators” whose “regulations” have been exposed to be not worth the paper they are written on.
I was brought up believing that democracy was defended with armies and navies, aerial armadas of fighters and bombers overhead. It even got to the point that democracy was to be defended by strategic bombers and missile subs and hundreds of intercontinental ballistic missiles in silos topped with eight or ten "MIRV" nuclear devices, each warhead targeted to take out a different city. We had strategic nukes, tactical nukes, nuclear artillery, nuclear depth charges, nuclear anti-aircraft missiles. Nukes up the yin/yang. We were willing to extinguish life on Earth to defend democracy. Young people today may find that hard to digest but, hey, when I wore the uniform that was the bottom line. I remember going to "stores" and getting that first issue of regulation underwear, shirts, socks and a personal roentgen meter on a chain to wear around my neck.

It's pretty clear that governments no longer fret about defending democracy. Despite the evidence, the analysis and the warnings of every intelligence agency in the United States, the White House and Congressional Republicans have blocked every effort to fortify America against electoral interference this November. If you were running a company and your head of security did that you would probably figure out that he might have been in on it the first time you got robbed.

Why do you think we have dropped our focus on defending and bolstering democracy? Has neoliberalism made democracy less relevant? Has the invisible hand of the marketplace reconciled Western democracy with totalitarianism in China and elsewhere under the cloak of globalism? Are we all just "free traders" now? Do we, as a people, even care about this anymore or has it become an antiquated notion? Are we too docile, tamed, intimidated to stand up and demand better? Could it be all of the above? Are we just too comfortable to bother that others pull our strings?

Time for Taking Stock

As Canada tips into August, it's time for taking stock of how far we've come, where we're at, and what lies ahead over the next year.

I like to take this interval before Labour Day to recalibrate. It's a good opportunity to explore thoughts, pick up a bit new knowledge.

I thought I'd begin by sharing a passage from Yuval Noah Harari's book, "Homo Deus," that reflects  how our world is, in reality, largely what we imagine it to be.

Human cooperative networks usually judge themselves by yardsticks of their own invention and, not surprisingly, they often give themselves high marks. In particular, human networks built in the name of imaginary entities such as gods, nations and corporations normally judge their success from the viewpoint of the imaginary entity. A religion is successful if it follows divine commandments to the letter; a nation is glorious if it promotes the national interest; and a corporation thrives if it makes a lot of money.

When examining the history of any human network, it is therefore advisable to stop from time to time and look at things from the perspective of some real entity. How do you know if an entity is real? Very simple - just ask yourself, 'Can it suffer?' When people burn down the temple of Zeus, Zeus doesn't suffer. When the euro loses its value, the euro doesn't suffer. When a bank goes bankrupt, the bank doesn't suffer. When a country suffers a defeat un war, the country doesn't really suffer. It's just a metaphor. In contrast, when a soldier is wounded in battle, he really does suffer. When a famished peasant has nothing to eat, she suffers. When a cow is separated from her newborn calf, she suffers. This is reality.

Fiction isn't bad. It is vital. Without commonly accepted stories about things like money, states or corporations, no complex human society can function. We can't play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can't enjoy the benefits of markets and courts without similar make believe stories. But stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget that they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality. Then we begin entire wars 'to make a lot of money for the corporation' or 'to protect the national interest.' Corporations, money and nations exist only in our imagination. We invented them to serve us; why do we find ourselves sacrificing our lives in their service?

In the twenty-first century we will create more powerful fictions and more totalitarian religions than in any previous era. With the help of biotechnology and computer algorithms these religions will not only control our minute-by-minute existence, but will be able to shape our bodies, brains and minds, and to create virtual worlds complete with hells and heavens. Being able to distinguish fiction from reality and religion from science will therefore become more difficult but more vital than ever before.
The message seems to be not to reject fiction but to control it. We should be aware of the role they play in charting our future and be wary of those who craft them in our name yet not in our interests.

Our make-believe institutions are failing to keep up. Even one of the newest, the neoliberal order, now only serves the very few to the detriment of the great many. Democracy has atrophied into something less than democratic. I am constantly amazed at how loosely we bandy about the term "progressive" yet have a hopelessly vague grasp of what it means. Ancient religions rooted in ancient beliefs about invisible omnipotent gods are waning and yet we are still taught they're worth killing "the other" over. Does that make any sense?

lf there is one lesson we must learn from neoliberalism surely it is that "the next great thing" is apt to be anything but. It is quite likely to be a contrivance structured to suit the needs of a special interest on the promise of great benefits for the public interest.  As we are finally coming to realize, neoliberalism has been the engine of the greatest transfer of unearned wealth from the many to the very few.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Back to Square One for the Cheeto Benito

It seems that Hurricane Hanna isn't impressed with DJ Trump's new southern border wall.

This silly bugger just can't catch a break. Oh dear.

Will Facebook Be Trump's Ace-In-The-Hole in November?

The reporter who broke the story of how Cambridge Analytica swung the 2016 vote to Donald Trump, Carole Cadwalladr, is back and this time she's warning that Facebook could swing the November vote to Trump
This is Facebook’s world now. And we live in it. And if you’re not terrified about what this means it’s because you haven’t been paying attention.
 Cadwalladr writes that the wheels of election rigging are already in motion,

America, the idea of America, is on the brink. And at the cold, dead heart of the suicide mission it has set itself on, is Facebook. Facebook and America are now indivisible. Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, these are now the bloodstream of American life and politics. A bloodstream that is sick. 
And so the world is sick, because American capitalism has been the vector that has brought this infection across the globe. Algorithmically amplified “free speech” with no consequences. Lies spread at speed. Hate freely expressed, freely shared. Ethnic hatred, white supremacy, resurgent Nazism all spreading invisibly, by stealth beyond the naked eye. 
For Trump 2020, the band is back together. The chief data scientist of Cambridge Analytica, Matt Oczkowski has launched a new firm, Data Propria, which is working with the digital director of Trump’s 2016 campaign Brad Parscale. And Trump is testing his limits. Can he place ads that feature Nazi symbols? Yes. (Taken down but only after accruing millions of views.) Can he spread lies about mail-in fraud? Yes. Can he threaten Black Lives Matter protesters with violence? Yes. Will be he be able to use Facebook to dispute the election? Watch this space.
In a world without consequences, the bad man will be king. And an aggressive multinational company whose business model is threatened by the bad man’s opponent is, at best, conflicted; at worst, complicit. 
This week, Mark Zuckerberg was forced to deny he had a “secret deal” with Trump. “A ridiculous idea,” he said. It was an uncanny echo of the “pretty crazy idea” he cited in November 2016 when it was first suggested fake news on Facebook might have played a role in electing Trump. 
It wasn’t crazy. It was true. We know this because of the painstaking work the FBI and congressional committees did in investigating foreign interference in the US election.

Facebook is at the centre of this too. It’s Facebook that enables hostile nation states like Russia to attack us in our homes. A geopolitical war being fought in front of our noses, in our pockets, on our phones.

UK Govt. "Desperate" for Trump to Lose.

Apparently BoJo has had enough of Donald Trump. It seems he yearns for Biden to become America's next president.
The UK government is privately "desperate" for Donald Trump to lose the upcoming presidential election and be replaced by Joe Biden, according to a report by the Sunday Times.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is publicly one of Trump's closest international allies. 
However, his government has been privately trying to distance itself from the US president, in anticipation of a potential Biden victory in November, the Times reports.
One senior UK diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Insider earlier this month that a Biden presidency would bring a welcome end to the "venal corruption" of the Trump era. 
"A lot of stuff will change if Biden wins," the diplomat said. 
"The venal corruption of the Trump family and the nasty narcissistic aspects of his behavior — all that will go with a different sort of president," they said.
Well, in the Times of London of all places. The Sunday Times. Britain's "newspaper of record." That should suffice to send the Mango Mussolini into a rage. I expect he'll go beyond the "fake news" retort to smear America's BFF and her prime minister, the Queen and her surviving Corgi. "Desperate" no less.

Ooooh. Feel the burn. There are probably howls of outrage right now in the hallways of Mar-a-Lardo.

As for BoJo, the Brits must have concluded Trump is a Dead Man Walking  come November.  There's no way they would have leaked this to the Times otherwise.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

We Stand On Guard For Thee. There's An Idea.

It might be time for us to dust off that line about how we stand on guard for thee, Canada, at least until the American elections are called. Even that might be too soon to relax our guard.

There are many things going on, mostly unchecked, across the United States that could, if we're careless, spill across our shared border. We treat these contagions lightly at our peril.

Many of us have an image of the U.S. that reflects cross-border relatives and friends or wonderful holidays in Florida or California or Hawaii, the stuff of which memories are made.  My best friend, we've been pals for 50 years, is an American I met at university on his  discharge from the US Army. I absolutely love Hawaii and have many wonderful memories from trips running the Pacific Coast highway on a very powerful motorcycle at speeds that were often rash but indescribably exhilarating. Like most of us on the left coast I feel a true affinity for the people of Washington, Oregon and northern California. I have to remind myself that the America of these memories is not the America of today. I don't know an American relative or friend who disagrees with that.

America seems extraordinarily unstable right now. Social cohesion is rock bottom. It's commonly said that the American people have not been so deeply divided across so many fault lines since the Civil War. Conspiracy theories abound and their adherents exist in an alternative reality. Groups that have two realities, one grounded in fact, the other based on sensational social media drivel, have no common ground on which to debate and resolve their differences. Suspicion and hostility become their bonds.

In many ways America has descended into or stands on the cusp of fascism. The underpinnings of American democracy, which was always less than what most imagined, are/were anchored in their vaunted system of "checks and balances," in which three co-equal branches of government - executive, legislative and judicial - ensured that if one went rogue, wandered outside the strictures of the Constitution, the other two could rein it in. Today the executive branch, the presidency, is rogue. The ideologically groomed judiciary is rogue. The legislative branch, or a powerful part of it, is rogue. Again, America stands further destabilized.

There are two areas, other than industrial-strength killing power, in which America remains unparalleled - inequality and Covid-19 infections. The nation that routinely boasts it has the best healthcare in the world doesn't and it never did. Among the G-7 nations, America has the worst overall health outcomes. There is gold plated healthcare for some but no healthcare at all for many at the bottom ranks.  Meanwhile the American people stand exposed as disparate groups, some of which see pandemic precautions in terms of Constitutional rights and freedoms as infection rates soar.

America that once proclaimed itself the "land of opportunity" now has pulled up the ladders of social mobility and lags behind most European countries. In a healthy society, wealth circulates through social classes. In today's America it pools in the pockets of the elite, like lividity in a corpse.

America's rightwing media, propaganda mills barely disguised as news outlets, incite the spread of fear-stoked hatred of all descriptions - xenophobia, racism, white supremacy and every possible order of bigotry.

With all these destabilizing forces in play there is no end of ways to how the future of America, its economy, governance and its people may unfold, perhaps unravel, in the months ahead nor much chance of predicting where America is heading. I know that America's ills are too deep and many that they won't be healed by the man in Ray-Bans.

Canada is vulnerable. Lockdown or not, our economy is tethered to America's. In many ways Canada marches in lockstep with the United States.  America has unrivaled military might but, as a society, its resilience is lousy, an inevitable result of the breakdown of social cohesion.

Chris Hedges has repeatedly described today's America as having entered a "pre-revolutionary" state. He compares it to a pot of water just beginning to simmer yet you can never know quite when it will reach a full boil.

Much has been written over the past few years about the prospect of collapse both in American and some other nations' societies.  An article in Foreign Policy in March contends that "the real pandemic danger is social collapse." In January, 2018, with no notion of the looming pandemic, a piece in New Scientist questioned whether political strife, crippling inequality and climate change will herald the end of Western civilization. That same month, The American Conservative published an insightful opinion piece, "Underestimating American Collapse." In February, 2019, BBC Future presented a piece on factors currently in play that history shows can gut societies "from the nave to the chaps." The usual villains include climate change, environmental degradation, inequality and the rise of oligarchy, complexity and external shocks (i.e. plagues and pandemics).

It was a Texas newspaper, however, that may have best captured the landscape of the United States, 2020.

In June, 2020, the Dallas Morning News, pondered the rise of 'anomie' - "the division, the economic upheaval, the loss of faith in institutions, the erosion of the rule of law, the collapse of social norms, and the despair so many of us feel."
Perhaps this explains the rising rate of suicides in America, up 35% in the past 20 years, according to the CDC, and in particular it may explain the mass shootings that end in suicide. Anomie might explain why this nation elected a president who has pledged to tear down many of our institutions, and it may explain why so many people consider street protests to be the best chance for change. It might be why many Americans embrace conspiracy theories and myths, to try to make sense out of the disorder. And it may explain why our elected officials, even the ones who are smart, decent people, cannot get a foothold in leading us. The ground keeps shifting.
Americans have lost faith in once-rock-solid institutions that bound us to one another and the world. From the local police department, school district, chamber of commerce and family doctor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Catholic Church, the Federal Reserve and the World Health Organization, there are few institutions left that have a deep level of trust among Americans.

So when COVID-19 began to spread rapidly, it was hardly surprising that many people refused to believe the news was serious or take precautions for themselves and others. In a few places people even showed up at open businesses armed, in protest against ordinances to stay at home.
...Where Americans once supported both freedom of speech and the rule of law, suddenly, those values seem to ebb and flow depending on the politics and color of the people involved.
Rather than healing the failing nation depicted by the Dallas Morning News, Trump seeks to exploit these dangerous divisions to bolster his chances in the November presidential election. He would gleefully wreck the nation, anything, if it might gain him a second term in office.

My point is that this is no time for complacency. It is no time to blithely assume America will somehow even its keel. The window of opportunity for that may have already lapsed. What we should focus on now are reasonable measures Canada can take to insulate this country in the event cataclysm befalls our neighbour. We need to be prepared to react. We need to be quick and agile.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Brett Kavanaugh's 30 Million Dollar Journey to the US Supreme Court

Thirty million dollars buys a lot of very reliable Conservative voting on the US Supreme Court.

Jacobin magazine reports that Brett Kavanaugh was funded to the tune of $30 million in support of his quest for a seat on the USSC. $16 million of that came from an anonymous donor.

When Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court was under fire, a dark money group called Judicial Crisis Network came to his aid. According to recently obtained documents, more than half of JCN's funding came from one mysterious, unnamed donor who gave $15.9 million towards the effort.

Kavanaugh’s confirmation was hardly a sure thing — he not only had what critics called an extreme judicial record, he also faced sexual assault accusations from Stanford professor Christine Blasey Ford, as well as questions about his personal finances. The well-funded campaign behind him was pivotal in overcoming those controversies and pressuring lawmakers to approve his nomination. 
Kavanaugh replaced swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy — and since he has joined the court, he has provided a reliably conservative vote on close 5-4 rulings. Most recently, he wrote the opinion for a 5-4 ruling that helps prevent workers from suing over allegations that Wall Street firms have bilked their retirement systems.

Some of that money was used to buy the endorsement of influential Republican groups such as the NRA that then came out in support of Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Where Are They Now? Who's Next?

The Guardian has published a rogues gallery of Trump administration alumni, some familiar, others not; most who were shown the door, some who just up and quit, during the turbulent administration of America's worst president ever. I was going to call it Trump's "first term" but, with any luck, it will be Trump's only term in office.

Who can forget Michael Flynn, James Comey, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Tony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Sebastien Gorka, Omarosa, Rob Porter, Hope Hicks, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, John Dowd, HR McMaster, Scott Pruitt, Don McGhan, Jeff Sessions, Nicky Haley, Ryan Zinke, John Kelly, James Mattis, Kirstjen Nielsen, Alex Acosta, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, John Bolton, Dan Coats, Gordon Sondland and Mick Mulvaney, among others.

A few of those who got out, such as Mattis, emerged relatively unsullied. Most will carry the stains and shame for many years to come.

But what of those who are still showing up to work every day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or other D.C. Towers of Power? Everyone who has ever worked for the Trump administration knows their tenure and fortunes are precarious. It's a day-to-day gig. If the ogre is hungry, he takes your head.

Things aren't going well for the master these days, not at all well. There's the pandemic fiasco and the tanked economy and fingers are being pointed at Trump on both counts. The polls are lousy and all signs point to a new guy in the Oval. Even the rats, the GOP's big money donors, are deserting the presidential campaign to try to shore up the Senate instead.

Trump's staffers also know that, when the going gets tough, Trump scapegoats. As though he's appeasing some angry Mayan god, Trump goes for human sacrifice. See the list above for details.

It's an awkward time for aides and staffers. Nobody but nobody wants to be groveling for work in the holiday season. If the ship is sinking better to get out while the getting is good. It's time to update that resume and try your luck.

Face it, this is not going to be a happy place to work for the next few months and beyond that looks even worse. It's not easy to go job hunting when it's Grand Jury season and you know some of those smiling faces above are more than eager to tell what they know.

How this unfolds nobody knows but it's time to keep an eye on the hired help.

The Next Wave - After Covid-19 is Gone

We've heard plenty about a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, perhaps even a third wave. Some suggest that the nature of how the virus spread globally and how easily humans transport it from one continent to another means there won't be distinct waves. It will blur into one regenerating wave. At least we seem to be learning, thank you America, that lockdowns work until they're lifted in haste and when they are recklessly lifted all the sacrifice and expense of 'flattening the curve' can be squandered in short order, putting society back to square one.

But this isn't about pandemic waves. The other "next wave" may be a wave in mass migration after the pandemic passes. The Red Cross contends that many in the hardest hit and most vulnerable nations have had enough. Places where people have had to endure the stark choice of exposing themselves to infection or watching their families starve. These people want out.
The head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Jagan Chapagain, said he was deeply concerned about the secondary effects of the pandemic, as border closures and Covid-19 restrictions have driven millions into poverty. 
“Increasingly we are seeing in many countries the impacts on the livelihoods and the food situation,” he said in an interview with Agence France-Presse. 
Many people are already faced with the choice of risking exposure to the novel coronavirus or going hungry, Chapagain said, warning that the desperation being generated could have far-reaching consequences.
“What we hear is that many people who are losing livelihoods, once the borders start opening, will feel compelled to move,” he said. “We should not be surprised if there is a massive impact on migration in the coming months and years.”
Our best option - help these people be safe and secure in their homelands.
Chapagain called for immediate support to relieve people’s desperation and warned that increased migration would result in numerous “tragedies along the way”, including deaths at sea, human trafficking and exploitation. 
“The cost of supporting the migrants, during the transit and of course when they reach the country of destination, is much more than supporting people in their livelihoods, education, health needs in their own country,” he said.

Has Trump's "Gestapo" Schtick Been a Desperate Attempt to Shore Up His Donor Base?

If so, it doesn't seem to be working.

The Godfathers of big political money seem to be taking a pass on Donald Trump's campaign this year.

Finally, after months of rumours, Trump's biggest 2016 donors, Robert and Drucilla Mercer, have confirmed they'll not be floating the Great Orange Bloat's campaign boat this year.  That according to Business Insider this morning.  The New York Times reported earlier this week that other megadonors such as Sheldon Adelson also haven't been cutting cheques to Trump's PAC.  The focus seems to have shifted to defending Republican control of the Senate.
The private discussions about whether to shift resources toward imperiled Republican Senate candidates reflect a mix of factors: a lack of confidence that Mr. Trump will beat Joseph R. Biden Jr.; fear that the president is already a drag on down-ballot candidates; desire to maintain a G.O.P. “firewall” on Capitol Hill if Mr. Biden prevails; and the belief that money is not among Mr. Trump’s myriad problems. 
A series of national polls last week showed Mr. Trump stuck double digits behind Mr. Biden, who now tops 50 percent in many surveys. The president has more than three months to rebound, of course, and he is flush with cash and continues to raise large sums online. But the trend on the Republican political landscape is toward erosion, not growth.
On Monday, new campaign filings showed that the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife contributed $25 million to a super PAC dedicated to electing Senate Republicans in June, his biggest contribution of the 2020 cycle so far. Mr. Adelson has yet to contribute to Mr. Trump’s main super PAC.
GOP insiders, meanwhile, fret that an abandonment of Trump by his donor base could have spillover effects in the Senate.
A total collapse at the top of the ticket, Republican strategists and donors agree, would only make holding the Senate harder. But maintaining the Senate is an imperative for the G.O.P.: A Democratic Senate could offer a glide path for liberal Supreme Court nominees from a President Biden, or block Mr. Trump’s judges if he won a second term. And right now, Senate Republican incumbents and candidates are losing badly in the money chase not just in the top Senate battlegrounds — states like Maine, Arizona, Colorado and North Carolina — but also in conservative states, such as Montana, where seats are now increasingly up for grabs.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Gutless Bastard. Trump Cancels Covid Convention

He wants American kids back in school in September but Donald Trump doesn't want to put Republican party faithful in harm's way in August.

Trump pulled the GOP nomination convention that was to be held in North Carolina because the authorities insisted on social distancing requirements. Instead he decided to move the convention to Jacksonville, Florida.  Now, fearing the optics of conventioneers on ventilators in the aftermath, Trump has cancelled the convention in Florida.

This will give the Republican National Committee a giant brown hemorrhage.  They sunk a fortune of donated money into the Charlotte, N.C. venue before Trump nixxed that, money they couldn't recover. Big donors were reluctant to pony up again for a second-rate venue like Jacksonville. It seems they did. Now that money is also up in smoke as the RNC scrambles to come up with an alternative - digital balloting, mail-in ballots - the stuff Team Trump endlessly criticizes? And who is going to pay for it?
The surprise announcement threw one of the tent-pole moments of Mr. Trump’s re-election effort into limbo, with the president describing in vague terms how the Republicans would hold his renomination in North Carolina and do “other things with tele-rallies and online.” It was an ill-defined sketch of an August week that Mr. Trump once envisioned drawing huge crowds and energizing his struggling bid for a second term.

The convention efforts in both Jacksonville and Charlotte, N.C., which have preoccupied some G.O.P. officials and donors for months, now stand as an object lesson in chaotic planning for a party that prizes its ability to raise money and execute splashy displays.
The president’s sudden focus on health concerns Thursday came after months of playing down the virus. He predicted only three weeks ago that it would “just disappear,” and pushed party officials to proceed with convention plans despite the alarming spike in virus cases in Florida this month. As of this week, Republican officials were still meeting in the state to make the convention a reality.
Now Trump is talking about Charlotte, N.C. again. Some sort of gathering to approve the party platform. I think were I a donor I might want him to retake that dementia test again, this time with scrutineers present to make sure Trump doesn't hire someone to take it for him.

Portland Dads Now Backing Up Portland Moms

They're the nemesis of Trump's "little green men." Portland's Wall of Moms, decked out in yellow t-shirts stood between the Trump Thugs and BLM protesters thwarting violence.

Finally Team Trump used tear gas on the Moms. They've even gassed the mayor. Now the Moms have backup - Portland Dads - and they've turned up with a brilliant, totally non-violent weapon of their own - leaf blowers. If you've never seen these modern leaf blowers, trust me they're crazy powerful.

The Thugs fire tear gas you just blow it straight back at them.

Another Iconic Picture

It's freshly reprieved Roger Stone and fellow racists flashing the white power sign.

Another Pipeline Defection

It was barely two weeks ago that insurance giant, Munich Re, announced that it was no longer willing to provide coverage to the Justin Trudeau Memorial Pipeline, a.k.a. Trans Mountain.

Now there's been another defection.
Zurich Insurance Group has decided not to renew coverage of the Trans Mountain pipeline, according to a media report. 
The news comes roughly a year after the large Swiss insurance company declared it would reject companies that operate “purpose-built” transportation infrastructure for oilsands products, including pipelines. 
The Trans Mountain pipeline, owned and operated by a federal Canadian Crown corporation and its subsidiaries, transports a heavy tar-like substance called bitumen and other petroleum products from Alberta’s oilpatch to a terminal in Metro Vancouver.
In what sounded a bit like whistling past the graveyard, a spokesman for Mr. Trudeau's pipeline venture said, "There remains adequate capacity in the market to meet Trans Mountain’s insurance needs."

It's kind of sad to watch the financial, investment and insurance sector treat the Tar Sands and its infrastructure like some dodgy communicable disease.  Even Norway's sovereign wealth fund, built on North Sea oil revenues, has divested its Tar Sands holdings.

The Loons and Their Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories

Think of it as a marriage made in dementia - a pandemic and a group of people who have persuaded each other that anything and everything bad is the sinister handiwork of the Illuminati.

Judge Springs Cohen

Like Peas in a Pod

Manafort is out. Stone is out before he ever went in. Trump is fighting claw and fang to see that Michael Flynn never has his day of reckoning. Now, despite Bill Barr's best efforts to keep him locked up and muzzled, former Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, is getting out, again.
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release of Michael Cohen to home confinement, agreeing with his lawyers that he was wrongly sent back to prison after making public statements critical of President Donald Trump. 
Cohen should be released by Friday at 2 pm, the judge said. 
Cohen's lawyers said during a telephone hearing that prison officials violated his constitutional right of free expression on July 9 by ending his home confinement and returning him to the federal penitentiary in Otisville, New York, after longtime Trump fixer and confidant Cohen said a book about his experiences working closely with the president would be published in the fall.
The judge hearing the motion to release Cohen saw straight through the Trump administration's ploy.
A week after tweeting that he was finishing a tell-all book about Trump, Cohen was told by a probation officer that he would have to agree to a complete ban on speaking in public, including by publishing a book, as a condition of continued home confinement, according to court documents. He was asked to sign a form that included this provision: "No engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news. Prohibition from all social media platforms." 
The form said it was intended "to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community." 
"I've never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people," said federal District Judge Alvin Hellerstein. "How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?"