Monday, August 31, 2020

In Parts of the United States, the Civil War is Still Unfinished Business

Colfax, Louisiana is what the New York Times calls a 'flyspeck' town. Today the town is remembered for the 'Colfax Riot' when, in 1873, white supremacists massacred scores of former slaves. In 1921 those killers who themselves lost their lives, three of them, were venerated by an obelisk erected in the town cemetery.

Two blocks off Main Street, a 12-foot marble obelisk is the focal point of the Colfax cemetery. An inscription carved into its base declares it was “erected to the memory of the heroes” who “fell in the Colfax Riot fighting for white supremacy.” On the north side of the present-day courthouse, a historical marker reads, “On this site occurred the Colfax Riot in which three white men and 150 negroes were slain” and added that the episode “marked the end of carpetbag misrule in the South.”
After the Civil War, Colfax became ensnared in a vicious political melee between abolitionist Republicans who supported Reconstruction and recalcitrant, pro-slavery Democrats determined to redeem the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment (ratified in 1865), the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment (ratified in 1868) promised to give Black Americans freedom, citizenship and the same protections and privileges afforded other citizens. 
But those promises vanished as Southern states not only refused to enforce these laws, but also passed new laws such as the so-called Black Codes intended to derail Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1865, joined other white terrorist groups devoted to the “better preservation of the white race and to see that white blood was handed down unmixed with the offensive globule of African blood.
The election mayhem spilled over into Colfax, seat of Grant Parish, where Republican candidates, sympathetic to Black freedmen, assumed their rightful offices in the parish courthouse. This provoked a homicidal revolt by supporters of the Democratic candidates. Several hundred heavily armed white supremacists from throughout Louisiana traveled to Colfax bent on taking control of the courthouse, prompting local freedmen to gather in the brick building and defend it from attack, even though they were vastly outgunned.
When the white mob advanced, the murderous frenzy of their assault prompted the Black men to raise a flag of surrender, but the berserk marauders ignored it. They set fire to the courthouse roof and slaughtered almost every freedman who emerged from the flaming building to surrender. Those who remained inside were burned alive. The exact number of victims was never determined.
There was a trial and a re-trial. One US Attorney for Louisiana had to prosecute the charges against 98 accused opposed by "an all star team of White Supremacist defense attorneys." Needless to say the outcome was a hung jury.

In a re-trial a federal jury convicted just three of the accused of violating the victims' civil rights. Fortunately for the convicted, the US Supreme Court still had a good percentage of anti-reconstructionist/anti-abolitionist judges. By the time they were through, every one was acquitted and the power of the federal government to prosecute crimes against the formerly enslaved was severely limited.
Given free rein by the Supreme Court, white supremacists continued their coordinated campaign of terror against Black people, hastening the demise of Reconstruction. By 1877, every Southern state had been “redeemed,” and they would remain under the control of their white redeemers for decades.
Here is what is inscribed on the base of the Colfax obelisk:

Those three men who died "fighting for white supremacy," Parish, Hadnot and Harris, are still venerated on that obelisk to this day.
A straight line can be drawn from Colfax and Cruikshank to the race riots in East St. Louis in 1917 and in Omaha, Chicago and other cities two years later; to the abhorrent crimes committed in the 1921 Tulsa race massacre; to the criminal brutality unleashed on African-Americans in Selma and Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s; to the present-day instances of police and white nationalist violence in Ferguson, Mo., Charlottesville, Va., and now Kenosha, Wis.; to the shameful, plain-sight attempts to suppress the Black vote in the 2020 elections. Lest we forget that white supremacy and racial injustice are still endemic in America, we need to remember Colfax and the lasting harm it wrought.
Trump is playing to a following steeped in this filth. Conspiracy theorists, racists, xenophobes, misogynists, Christo-fascists, collectively described as his "base."  For Trump and his 'deplorables,' the Civil War is still unfinished business.

I've been looking into civil unrest in the decade preceding the Civil War. The parallels to what is happening today are interesting and I hope to deal with some of them in future posts.

Some Good News? Ya Want Some Good News?

I just finished a telephone consult with my GP. I'm still not sold on over-the-phone medicine but these are unusual times.

Among other things I wanted to know about this year's seasonal flu situation. Is there a vaccine yet. What were they prediction in terms of severity and spread.

Apparently the medicos look to the Australian experience as their spring/summer begins and ours ends. The Aussie government reports there was an A-strain flu. There was a vaccine. Was the vaccine effective? Here's where it gets interesting. They can't rate the effectiveness of the vaccine because the rate of influenza infection was too low.

This dovetails with the current view of the medical profession on Vancouver Island.  The precautions we're taking on Covid-19 - hand washing/sanitizing, masks, social distancing, quasi isolation - should be equally as effective on other viral and bacterial contagions from influenza, strep throat and staph infections, measles and so on.

We still have to suppress the summer tourism/party outbreaks but at least there's another upside to these somewhat inconvenient protective measures.

People need to stop whining about how masks invade their democratic freedoms. STFU! It's not just Covid you may be spreading.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Christian Fundraiser Collects $220,000 for Kyle Rittenhouse's Defence.

What says "Christian" better than raising donations to defend a murderous little shit who gunned down three unarmed protesters?

Religion News Service reports an outfit called Give Send Go  has raised almost a quarter million dollars so far to fund Kyle Rittenhouse's defence costs.
As RNS reports. the fundraising site Give Send Go has been hosting the plea for money for Rittenhouse, reaching $223,000 by early Sunday morning — exceeding its goal of $200,000.

The Give Send Go campaign for Rittenhouse, titled “Raise money for Kyle Rittenhouse Legal Defense,” contains a statement reading, “Kyle Rittenhouse just defended himself from a brutal attack by multiple members of the far-leftist group ANTIFA – the experience was undoubtedly a brutal one, as he was forced to take two lives to defend his own. Now, Kyle is being unfairly charged with murder 1, by a DA who seems determined only to capitalize on the political angle of the situation. The situation was clearly self-defense, and Kyle and his family will undoubtedly need money to pay for the legal fees. Let’s give back to someone who bravely tried to defend his community.”
Give Send Go bills itself as the “#1 free Christian crowdfunding site,” with a mission statement that reads, “Outside the obvious funding for mission trips, GSG also can be used to raise funds for medical expenses, business ventures, personal needs, churches, nonprofits, ministries or any ‘God Adventure’ you embark on.”

Clinging to Hope. Hope for Hope's Sake - Thomas Homer Dixon

As Thomas Homer Dixon sees it, humanity's only hope is the power of hope itself.

THD, author of "The Upside of Down" (now in my 're-read' stack) has written a new book, "Commanding Hope: The Power We Have to Renew a World In Peril," to be released on Tuesday. I have pre-ordered a copy on Kindle.

The author has written an opinion piece in the weekend Globe and Mail.  The Star has published an excerpt from the book, 'Hope has seen better days. But Thomas Homer Dixon has written a book for 'those who choose to fight'

From the Globe:
It seems hard to believe. Just 20 years ago a feeling of exuberance still animated many societies. After the Soviet Union collapsed and before the war on terror, political, business and intellectual leaders in the West told us that a fusion of capitalism, liberal democracy and modern science would create a future of near-boundless possibility for all humanity. Now, we’re at a perilous juncture. Problems such as economic and social inequality, climate change and the risk of nuclear war have become critical. COVID-19 has hammered societies around the world. International scientific agencies are issuing report after report declaring that a global environmental catastrophe is imminent. Meanwhile, reason and scientific fact seem impotent before entrenched vested interests, worsening social polarization and rising political authoritarianism. In country after country, freedom and democracy are under siege.
Anxiety about the future, detachment, self-deception, and feelings of resentment and helplessness – this is a perilous psychological state, the starting line of a fast track to the end of hope. It also makes the future we fear far more likely to happen, because the best way to ensure we’ll fail to solve our problems is to believe we can’t. 
To believe in the possible and to make the possible real, we must recognize that the right kind of hope can be a tool of change, and we must give our hope the muscle it requires in our present crisis. We need a potently motivating principle that’s honest about the gravity of the dangers we face and about the personal responsibility each and every one of us has to face those dangers; that’s astute about the strategies we can use to overcome those dangers, given the viewpoints, values and goals of people around us; and that’s powerful because it galvanizes our agency, our capacity to discern our most promising paths forward and choose among them.
A kind word for the Dark Mountain Project.
Today, as our future grows steadily darker, relinquishing hope and focusing on the present appeals to more and more people. The English writer Paul Kingsnorth wanted to help people relinquish hope when he co-founded the Dark Mountain Project – an international network of people trying to make better sense, through shared stories, of the emotional and moral import of humanity’s environmental crisis. Everyone wants hope, he notes. “Hope, all the time. Hope, like a drug. Do not look down – look away.” He and others began the Project because “we needed to look down, and not to flinch as we did so.”

Mr. Kingsnorth stresses that relinquishing hope can allow us to acknowledge our despair more completely. [American environmentalist Derrek] Jensen and Mr. Kingsnorth say that despair is an entirely reasonable reaction to the crises humanity faces, and I agree. I’d also say that we need to consciously recognize and accept this despair, because it’s unhealthy to bury emotional trauma deep in our psyches.
The place for hope, "Commanding Hope."
Our hope isn’t necessarily false because it rests on a belief in the mere possibility of a desired future. It becomes false when we ignore or select evidence to convince ourselves that the outcome is more likely than it actually is. And we can choose not to do this: We can have an exciting possibility in our mind but still be ruthlessly realistic about its likelihood, drawing on the best evidence and predictions we have available.

So while I’m sympathetic to the critics’ insistence on reason, realism and honesty about likelihoods, I also think they’re profoundly wrong when they imply that we should entertain in our minds only those future outcomes that seem highly likely, given what we see around us – that we should always seek certitude. ...If we adopt this approach, we won’t use our imagination to explore the broad range of less likely outcomes, some of which could offer us the chance of a much better future. Nor will we imagine how we might use our agency to make some of those positive but less likely outcomes real. And that just ensures those outcomes will stay less likely.
Rather than disdain hope, as these critics do, we should treasure it. Psychologists have shown that few of us can flourish physically and mentally without hope. Our reasonable and necessary despair mustn’t displace our hope, making despair the final stage of our response to the world’s crises. That would be capitulation – as if we’re kneeling before fate and baring our neck for its sword.
Where I think THD has strayed is in his suggestion that Dark Mountain is about resignation to our fate. That would make it something of a Doomsday cult. To the contrary it is about continuing to fight the good fight, continuing to work for change and a less gloomy future, liberated from "the lies society tells itself."

THD seems to believe his hope is the essential motivation for progress. I have children. I don't need hope to motivate me. I believe that we have both an opportunity and a duty to do what we can, today, to ensure a future for our children and grandchildren that is no more difficult and dangerous than that need be.

We are doing things today, many things, that will rebound on our heirs in the decades to come. We are, in some respects, today writing their future in ways that are indelible. In some ways we're robbing them of their future and by what right? We are placing our interests, in this closing era of ease and comfort, in conflict with theirs.

If we really care about our youngest and others who will follow them why, given how much we know today, are we building pipelines and coal ports to hasten and worsen what's coming for them?

To read more about THD's 'Commanding Hope' check out the excerpts in the Star linked above. It's a good read.

How Close is America to Falling Apart?

Is America at a breaking point?

Is this a nation in a pre-revolutionary moment?

Chris Hedges has been claiming for some time that America is heading for some redefining unrest, possibly revolution. He's not alone. America is in two camps and they both exude a "we can't go on like this" atmosphere. What if they're both right? What if the United States has become two irreconcilable camps stuffed within a common border?

My memory of American politics goes back as far as Eisenhower (fuzzy at best) but I cannot recall a national election fought so blatantly on tribalism and base instincts. The Republicans are clad in grey. They're the plantation party, the minority that seeks to preserve dominion over all. The Democrats are festooned in blue (most of them, anyway). They're those elitist northerners with their civil rights sending the country straight to Hell.

Trump has no platform to run on. His is not a record to stand on. His fallback is to wage a "dog whistle" campaign exploiting white insecurity with visions of the end of white privilege followed by an inevitable settling of scores, the same thing the Confederacy used to keep its troops desperately fighting an unwinnable war against the north.

One by one they took the podium at the RNC convention - Don Jr. and his Guilfoyle girlfriend, Eric, Ivanka - to be sure, and the other daughter, the one whose name is so forgettable. "Grifters R Us" They each blew the dog whistle. Republican America was about to be assassinated. Only Donald Trump could save the "real" Americans.  Jerrymandering and voter suppression might not be enough. Sterner measures were required and only Donald Trump could deliver.

The shooting last week of three BLM protesters by a 17 year old kid, Kyle Rittenhouse, exemplifies the rot in the fabric of America. To some, he's a murderer. On the other side he was just defending himself, caught up in an attack by this anarchist mob.

Here's something I've heard neither side mention. Take a look at the photo. There's plenty of photos and video of Rittenhouse. He maintains he was just there as a vigilante, to prevent the mob from sacking shops and such. He didn't go there to shoot anybody. Except that was very much on his mind. Look at his hands, the rubber gloves. There are two reasons for wearing disposable gloves. One, to ensure you leave no fingerprints on the weapon. Two, to prevent getting telltale gunpowder residue on your hands when you do fire.  Those gloves are evidence of premeditation, "malice aforethought." He anticipated that he might need to cover his tracks, to eliminate damning evidence that could be used to prosecute him.

Tucker Carlson defended Rittenhouse on FOX News arguing that he was only maintaining law and order where the authorities - municipal and state - had failed. The cops weren't doing their job so Kyle stepped in to do it for them. Carlson's outrageous defence of Rittenhouse has triggered the predictable outrage but what he said is what a lot of Americans believe or what they want to believe or what they're told, incessantly, to believe. Dammit, killing those people was a public service in defence of 'Ozzie and Harriet' America, the Stars and Stripes, and mom's apple pie. He did it for Jesus. Jesus versus the heathen mob.

Some pundits contend that this unrest is Trump's key to re-election. He's the tough guy who'll do the dirty business for his followers. He will crush these dangerous radicals, put his boot on their necks. None of that "I can't breathe" crap, either. Maybe the Army won't do his bidding but, no matter, Trump has his own legion, the combat troops he deployed in Portland.

Like the Reichstag fire, it shouldn't be difficult to fan the flames of unrest over the next two months. The BLM movement is the kindling. Provocation is the spark. Trump has, at his bidding, the nationwide white supremacists that the FBI label domestic terrorists and the gravest terrorist threat facing America. It's a volatile scenario.

And what if, Gawd forbid, Trump somehow engineered a win in November, what then?  Even before Covid was detected, he sabotaged federal revenues through corporate and high-bracket income tax cuts.  He tried and failed to tame the Chinese. He alienated all of America's historic allies. He allowed income inequality to deepen. He debased America before the world, especially in separating young children from their parents and confining them in what were/are dog kennels. He curried the favour of authoritarian thugs, kindred spirits, from the Middle East, South Asia, Asia Pacific and South America.  He infected the American people with a virulent tribalism, creating the "house divided against itself" that Lincoln warned of prior to the Civil War. And his base admire him for every bit of it.

What would he do for a second term? What can he do? He's a screw-up. One of his critics, Republican strategist, Rick Wilson, wrote a book, "Everything Trump Touches, Dies." He's right. Trump goes by his gut instincts and his instincts are awful plus they come with layers of cruelty and vindictiveness. This guy's an animal.

In 2016 Trump shook Washington by announcing that he might not accept the outcome if he lost the election. He's said the same thing for this election. This time, however, the rest of America might not accept another engineered win for Donald Trump.

How does this end?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Merkel - Hard Times Ahead

Trust Angela Merkel to lay it on the line.

The German Chancellor has warned her people that the Covid-19 pandemic is probably going to get much worse as summer turns to fall and that there'll be no return to normalcy until an effective vaccine is available.
"We have to expect that some things will be even more difficult in the coming months than in summer," she said at a traditional summer news conference in Berlin. 
"It is serious. As serious as it ever was. And keep taking it seriously," she said, adding: "We will have to keep living with this virus."
Merkel said her government would take measures to protect the worst-hit groups in German society, particularly children, who have seen their schooling interrupted amid school closures before the summer. 
The government would do "everything so that our children are not the losers of the pandemic. School and daycare need to be the most important things," she said.
She said efforts to keep the economy running and to preserve jobs would be made, adding that a spirit of social solidarity would be promoted to cushion the effects of the pandemic on other groups such as the elderly and low-income families.

Meanwhile, Berlin police broke up a protest by opponents of virus health and safety restrictions.
Out of the 300 arrests, at least 200 of them took place during a section of the protest in front of the Russian Embassy where some 3,000 right-wing extremists and members of the anti-state Reichsbürger movement (Citizens of the Reich) had gathered. 
Berlin police tweeted that the arrests were made due to protesters "throwing bottles, freeing people under arrest and other crimes." They added that conspiracy theorist, vegan cookbook author and self-declared member of the "ultra-right" Attila Hildmann was among those arrested.

The Deadliest Part of Covid-19 Isn't the Virus

In years to come we may rue allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to suck all the air out of the room. It's as though everything else that threatens humanity - on a scale dwarfing this pandemic to insignificance - was somehow put into suspension. From The Lancet.
We opened this year with the hope that 2020 could be a super year for the environment with major policy milestones on biological conservation and climate policy. Regrettably, much of that agenda has been blown out of the water by COVID-19. Media bandwidth has been almost entirely consumed by the pandemic, and its political and economic fallout. 
...The human impact of climatic extremes is ...complicated and in general worsened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing some 9·6 million people are swamped by monsoon floods in south Asia compounding the difficulties and human tragedy of COVID-19 in the region. As the season continues heat waves are likely to challenge pandemic prevention measures in many regions. In this issue Mahaveer Golechha and Rabindra Panigrahy outline some of the challenges extreme heat might pose to India’s COVID-19 countermeasures and how these might in turn impinge on heat action plans. Foreseeing similar challenges, the Global Heat Health Information Network have provided guidance designed to help administrators prepare for hot weather and heatwaves while managing COVID-19. The need for joined up policy has rarely been more apparent, but it will be challenging to deliver on short-timescales and in resource-constrained settings.
Living through a pandemic is complicating just about all of our societal problems and goals. Unfortunately, this additional drain on our resources and capacities changes little about the unfolding ecological and climate problems we face. The very real danger is that COVID-19 looms so large in our minds we miss the obvious writing on the wall about the other problems we must still address. Slipping progress, while very understandable is simply not a viable option, the climate will cut us no slack.

China Tastes the Lash But the Whole Neighbourhood Feels the Sting

Conventional wisdom holds that China will dominate the global economy in the 21st century. Maybe, maybe not.

While climate change has been bumped off the radar of public consciousness by the Covid-19 pandemic, China has been getting a taste of the lash, a sampling of what lies in store. In addition to man-made contamination of its soils and freshwater resources, China faces enormous challenges from greater-than-average sea level rise, heavy rainfall patterns in the south and widespread drought across the agricultural north.

China is one of those hot spots that is heating much faster than average. One impact of this is sea level rise that imperils coastal cities in the industrialized south.
From 1951 to 2019, China's temperature rose an average of 0.24 deg C every ten years, according to the Blue Book on Climate Change published this week by the National Climate Centre. 
The centre is China's top climate research centre and is affiliated with the Meteorological Administration. 
Average sea level rise near China's coastal regions was 3.4mm per year from 1980 to 2019, faster than the global average of 3.2mm per year from 1993 to 2019. Last year, the level rose 24mm from the previous year and was 72mm higher than the country's average from 1993 to 2011.
China has been one of the countries most impacted by climate change, with rising sea levels threatening to submerge coastal mega cities like Shanghai if action isn't taken to cut emissions.
Flooding due, in part, to a late monsoon also hammered southern China.

Scenes of devastation have played out across China, particularly in the central Yangtze River Basin, over the last two months as the summer monsoon has unleashed record rains and floods. Millions of lives have been upended this summer, but climate experts warn that China will face more frequent severe floods as the global temperature rises, driving up the number of intense rainstorms in the country.
China shares this fate with many nations: 70 percent of the world's population is expected to experience greatly increased river flooding if global warming goes unchecked. This summer alone, flooding along the Brahmaputra river has displaced about 3 million people in India, and one quarter of Bangladesh is underwater. Lower-income countries like India will have a higher mortality rate from flooding compared to China, according to a 2018 study, but China will also be greatly impacted.

Researchers project that, in terms of damage and the number of people impacted, China is the country most vulnerable to flooding if the temperature rises 4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, roughly the warming projected for the end of the century if action isn't taken to curb global warming.
China is responding with a "sponge city" policy whereby municipalities will construct reservoirs to capture monsoon rains instead of discharging that rainwater via storm sewers into already overloaded rivers.

Beijing is not only facing worsening threats from sea level rise and monsoon flooding, those are being compounded by worsening, severe droughts.

Food security is imperiled. China assures the public that the grain harvest was massive but then urges them to eat less. Meanwhile farmers are withholding their crops from markets.
The manager of one of two privately-owned “wheat purchase stations” in the town of Donghong – which encompasses Wang’s village – said his purchases had fallen by about 44 per cent this year due to a drop in output and reluctance among farmers to sell.

“Last year the farmers rushed to sell all the wheat they harvested,” said the man surnamed Zhu, while a large screen blinked behind him with closed-circuit television images of his storehouse. “This year they have generally chosen to keep more reserves under their own roofs.”

Wheat output in the area had fallen roughly 30 per cent to 40 per cent from a year ago, said Zhu, adding the “official figures may have been produced to assure the public”. 
Zhu’s claim is not supported by any official data and the Henan provincial government has said the summer harvest was at “an all-time high”.
It sounds like China is taking a page out of Donald Trump's playbook. Just say everything's fine.

On the pathogen front, the Lancet reports on a rather nasty tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, that has spread from eastern Asia to become established in the United States.
H longicornis was found to be present in ten countries, predominantly in eastern Asia, the USA, Australia, and New Zealand. The tick was known to feed on a variety of domestic and wild animals, and humans. At least 30 human pathogens were associated with H longicornis, including seven species of spotted fever group rickettsiae, seven species in the family of Anaplasmataceae, four genospecies in the complex Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, two Babesia species, six species of virus, and Francisella, Bartonella, Coxiella, and Toxoplasma, which were mainly reported in eastern Asia. The predictive modelling revealed that H longicornis might affect more extensive regions, including Europe, South America, and Africa, where the tick has never been recorded before.
 China's neighbours are also worried that the same climate change impacts could upset the security balance across the the Indo-Asia Pacific region. That was the subject of an ASEAN virtual conference earlier this month.
As well as the immediate physical impacts, climate change will increase food and water insecurity, contribute to forced migration and displacement, and challenge disaster response and recovery capabilities. The unprecedented hazards it creates will compound a broad spectrum of conventional, unconventional, and hybrid security risks and challenges. These include increasing geostrategic competition, maritime boundary disputes, the expanding military capabilities of many countries in the region (three of which are seeking to develop nuclear triads), WMD threats from North Korea, ongoing conflicts linked to separatist movements and transnational violent extremist organizations, and piracy and serious organized crime. The interaction between climate change impacts and this complex and evolving regional security landscape is likely to give rise to new and potentially catastrophic risks, which will emerge in ways that are perhaps foreseeable, but difficult to predict.
Changes in the oceans are a particular focal point. The Indo-Asia Pacific’s coastal megacities and its far-flung island nations are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers. Rapid depletion of fish stocks is already impacting food security across the region, and ocean acidification and rising temperatures will accelerate the trend, further straining the international rules-based approach to fishing governance. This could in turn increase tensions, violent confrontations, and military brinksmanship over the multiple overlapping and competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The nuke circus, also known as South Asia, worsens under the weight of climate change.
Reduced or altered water flows in the Himalayas and Indus river basin could further degrade the already tense India-Pakistan relationship by stressing the Indus Water Treaty, or necessitating more silt-clearing dam designs. This creates the potential for bad-faith actions, misunderstandings, or scaremongering, for example around fears that India might intentionally release floodwaters, or that Pakistan may accuse India of doing so in the context of climate change-driven flooding. The Indus river system is particularly crucial to Pakistan’s economy and energy security, and a Chinese partnership to build a cascade of five dams in Pakistani-held Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province under the Belt and Road Initiative has already raised concerns in India over sovereignty. Such dynamics threaten to deepen distrust and increase tensions between states, and this is without the climate-driven threat to water supplies. The complex nature of the two countries’ joint dependence on the Indus river system creates a high-stakes situation where climate impacts could drive and compound tensions, which might easily lead to hostilities, or otherwise worsen the confrontation between the two countries. 
Chronic conflict has made countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan more vulnerable to climate stress, by eroding their resilience and coping capacities, and this in turn helps to create the conditions for continued violence. As the world’s top opium producer, Afghanistan’s drug trade may even stand to benefit from climate change, as it relies on a drought-resilient, water-efficient, and highly lucrative poppy crop which is well-suited for projected climate changes. The Taliban thrives on the opium trade, which may strengthen their negotiating position or further disincentivize pursuing a peace deal with the Afghan government. Farmers, armed opposition groups, and corrupt government officials might also see more advantage in opposing central government authority in drug-producing areas. The growing regional drug trade is already driving serious organized crime across the Indo-Asia Pacific. If climate change makes it easier to grow opium poppies, it could supercharge the effect.
You can read the IMCCS report here.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Is the US Navy Giving the F-35 a Pass?

The United States Navy's love affair with the Lockheed F-35 joint strike fighter has cooled. For all of its amazing technology, the F-35 simply is too flawed to be of much use to the fleet.

It doesn't carry much payload and, to be stealthy, it is limited to what it can stow in the relatively small spaces inside.

It is range-limited. If it is to remain stealthy it has to rely on internal fuel stores only. No underwing fuel tanks. One solution proposed is the development of an unmanned stealth tanker to refuel the F-35 as it approaches contested airspace. The problem is that hangar space on even the biggest aircraft carrier is at a premium and tankers will take up valuable space aboard the ship reducing the number of other aircraft that can be carried.

Fuel has become a critical issue because the adversaries against which the F-35 might be used, let's call them China, have developed a stand-off ballistic missile designed to keep the carrier fleet at bay. These 'carrier killers' mean the F-35 has to be launched far from its intended target. That's not good for an aircraft that already has a fuel capacity problem.

The Navy likes the F-35's electronic wizardry well enough it just doesn't like the shortcomings of the wrapper, the airframe Lockheed designed back when stealth was in its infancy. The Navy needs a better airplane, something that can allow its carriers to operate out of range of the Chinese ballistic missile wall.

This from Forbes:
The U.S. Navy quietly has stood up a program office to begin figuring out what the sailing branch needs in a new manned fighter jet. 
One leading think tank in Washington, D.C., has ideas. Whatever the Navy buys to replace today’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, it should “emphasize range and speed, with low-observability being a secondary concern.” 
In other words, it need not be a stealth fighter. Not as long as it can fly far and fast while carrying a useful payload.
They want more F-14 Tomcat, less F-35 JSF.
The Navy’s new fighter should be fast and maneuverable while also possessing a combat radius that’s sufficient to keep the carrier beyond the range of the deadliest enemy anti-ship weapons—1,000 miles or so, seems to be the consensus. That’s 400 miles farther than an F/A-18 or F-35 can travel with a useful weapons load and moderate refueling support. 
To help it defend itself, the Navy should equip the new fighter with “sensor-countermeasures”—that is, jammers—and self-defense weapons such as anti-missile missiles and lasers, CSBA recommended. 
The Navy reportedly already has decided its new fighter will be a brand-new design rather than a derivative of the F/A-18 or F-35. If the service follows CSBA’s advice, its future F/A-XX could look a lot different than the non-stealthy and short-range F/A-18 and stealthy and short-range F-35 do. 
Indeed, a fast, long-legged and reasonably maneuverable next-gen fighter could end up looking a lot like the Navy’s last fast, long-legged and reasonably maneuverable fighter did. 
We’re speaking, of course, of the legendary F-14.

Boeing already has underdevelopment a somewhat stealthy version of its long-ranger, the (McDonnell Douglas) F-15. The F15SE (Silent Eagle) features changes in shaping, canted tails, radar absorptive coatings, internal storage bays for missiles normally carried underwing. It also incorporates the latest and greatest electronics. And it remains a very long-range, Mach 2+ fighter.

The F-15SE isn't a contender for Canada's next fighter buy. That comes down to Boeing's even less-stealthy and massively less capable, Super Hornet; Lockheed's profoundly compromised F-35, and SAAB's new generation JAS-39 Gripen. I'm not sure that any of the shortlist contenders will provide what Canada needs but the Gripen seems the best of the lot.

Interpol - Half of World's Water Supply Stolen Every Year

We take water security for granted at our peril. It's vastly worse in places that are water insecure.
“According to Interpol, thieves steal as much as 30% to 50% of the world’s water supply annually – a big number. Compounding this problem is the fact that, as the scarcity of our most precious resource increases due to climate and other challenges, so too do the drivers for water theft.” 
In a paper published in Nature Sustainability, the researchers developed a framework and model which they applied to three case studies: cotton growing in Australia, marijuana cropping in the US and strawberry growing in Spain. 
Loch said the study found the drivers of water theft included social attitudes, institutions and future supply uncertainty.
Canada has been inexcusably negligent in protecting our water resources and ensuring that we recover the value of water taken by industry, notably the energy industry.

Governments in Canada admit to subsidizing the fossil energy industry to the tune of between $2 to $3 billion a year. The IMF, the International Monetary Fund, works out the real cost of subsidies, direct and indirect, tax deferrals, grants and other benefits at $46 to 60 billion per year.  That includes the government's failure to fairly value the vast amounts of water consumed by the industry.   These off-the-books subsidies bring the real cost to $1,650 per year for every man, woman and child in Canada.

Hiding in Plain Sight. America Is Failing.

"Something's happening here,
What it is ain't exactly clear."

As you watch the goings on in America today, does that ever leave you feeling just a little unsettled? Do you wonder what's coming next?

Those who experienced the United States during the turbulent 60s and early 70s have a working knowledge of how America weathers the blows of social unrest and how real progress can be lost to the illusion of prosperity.

At my school the male students fell into two groups - those still eligible for the draft and the guys I often hung out with, guys in their early 20s a few of whom were already old men. I knew two who had volunteered. The others were all drafted. Some claimed they were gay. One guy, fearing the worst, put on about 40 pounds to convince the draft board he was too fat to be any use. It might have worked for some but not the guys I knew.  The fatty, Keith, was put through two rounds of boot camp and they burned that 40 pounds right off him.   A couple of years after his discharge - boom - it was back almost overnight.

The protests were real enough. The students who massed to demand an end to the Viet Nam war, they were real. The black folks (no, there weren't many whites with them) who turned out to demand their basic civil and human rights, they were as real as the pavement they walked over.

I'm convinced that the Viet Nam protests accomplished very little. It took years but, finally, the White House and the Pentagon realized there was no winning formula. In 1968 they were averaging 1,400 dead American soldiers per month - for nothing.  The civil rights movement was somewhat more successful - for a while - in some places but at least it was for something good, a worthy purpose.

Then came the late 1970s, a time of relative peace and prosperity. College campuses calmed the hell down as the focus reverted to jobs, careers, wealth. Some of the radical leaders wound up ensconced on Wall Street.

Meanwhile Black America still struggled for that elusive breakthrough.  The Civil Rights Act, "affirmative action," the Voting Rights Act became a resented normalcy for a big chunk of white America that seethed at the idea of a black guy who worked hard being promoted above their grade-6 dropout asses. No matter, their day would come.

Meanwhile, Black America endured a wave of unarmed black men executed by trigger happy white cops who, almost invariably, got away with it. The "I had a dream" rallying cry of 57 years ago gave way to "I can't breathe." Meanwhile domestic terrorism, usually affiliated with white supremacists, went largely unchecked by law enforcement.

America in the 21st century is really different from America as it was in the closing half of the 20th century. The past two decades have seen the cementing of corporate and political power unknown in the postwar era. The past two decades have seen the elite break away from mainstream America as wealth was drained out of the working classes and into the pockets of the emerging aristocracy.

Something is happening here and it is definitely not exactly clear.

Cornell law and government prof, Joseph Margulies, contends that "America Has Failed."  Margulies cites four new American realities as proof that the United States has become a failed state.

1. The Nation cannot feed its people.
According to the most recent report by the Department of Agriculture, more than 37 million people in the United States, including more than 11 million children, did not have access to sufficient food to lead a healthy life. And that was in 2018, well before the pandemic that produced the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression. Now it is much worse. Feeding America, a network of the nation’s largest hunger-relief organizations, estimated that 54 million people, or one in every six people in the country, including 18 million children—one in four—will go hungry at some point in 2020.
2.  The Nation cannot house its people.
Prior to the pandemic, nearly 21 million renter households—almost half the total—were “cost-burdened,” which meant they spent more than 30% of their household income on rent. Another 11 million renter households—roughly one in four—were forced to devote more than half their household income on rent, which predictably drove them to skimp on other essentials, like food, medical care, and insurance. Among renter households below the poverty line, the numbers are even more frightening. More than half these households spent over 50% of their monthly income on rent, and one in four spent 70 cents of every dollar they earned to fend off eviction. And that was when the economy was good.
Now, by contrast, the nation faces what may become “the most severe housing crisis in its history.” So warns a coalition of scholars and affordable housing advocates, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, the Aspen Institute, and the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. In a paper published earlier this month, the authors predicted that “in the absence of robust and swift intervention,” between 30 and 40 million people could be evicted from their homes by the end of the year.
3.  America cannot guarantee its people access to clean, safe water.
As of 2019, more than 2 million people in this country do not have access to indoor plumbing. Another 44 million are served by water systems that recently had health-based violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. No less serious is the matter of water affordability. A Boston economist recently completed a comprehensive study of water affordability in this country as of 2018. He examined conditions in 12 cities. ...His findings were shocking. For the poorest among us, water bills are universally unaffordable. In 11 of the 12 cities, 100 percent—and in the 12th, 99.9 percent—of the population that survived on incomes of less than half the federal poverty level lived in neighborhoods where water bills were unaffordable. 
In some cities, the depth of the affordability crisis is hard to fathom. In Cleveland, nearly 90 percent of the poorest residents pay at least 12 percent of their income on water, more than four times the amount that is considered affordable for that income bracket.
4. America will not protect wage earners.
What do you call a nation whose policymakers ensure that the wealthy will be protected while the poor will be left out?

Since the pandemic, the Federal Reserve has taken extraordinary steps to support the U.S. economy. The Nasdaq reached an all-time high weeks ago, and the S & P 500 returned to record levels just last week, making this the shortest bear market in U.S. history. ...Those whose money is in the market, in other words, have more than fully recovered, at least financially, from the crisis. ...In this as in most things, wealth rules. Eighty-four percent of all stocks owned by Americans are held by the wealthiest ten percent of American households. The poorest half of Americans—roughly 160 million people—own virtually no stocks or bonds. They simply do not have enough disposable income to become investors.

The stock market is booming, but as Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve recently said, “[t]he stock market isn’t the economy.” While the rich have more than recouped their losses, the poor continue to suffer. “Individuals and businesses are not going to make it through this unless they get grants, and only the federal government can do that.” But the federal government apparently won’t; Congress has left town, and most federal support has expired.

So what do you call a nation that cannot feed, house, and provide water for its poor, but can somehow manage to find the tools to support and enrich its wealthy?

You call it a failure.

What's That Dripping Sound? Oh, It's What Remains of Alberta's Petro-Prosperity Stream.

We can't say we weren't warned. The fossil energy giants warned us. The Europeans warned us. The investment and insurance giants warned us. They told us, by their words and by their deeds, that fossil fuels, especially the high-carbon/low-value stuff - bitumen and coal, were a lousy bet, some at risk of becoming "stranded assets."

Athabasca's bitumen pits are as popular as a leper colony. The big insurers won't cover the projects. Big investment houses such as BlackRock and Goldman Sachs are trying to unload whatever they still have, if they can. The fossil energy giants are taking their leave before government comes calling with the cleanup bill for those tailing ponds. Exxon has just written off 20 per cent of the company's fossil energy reserves as economically unviable. When a company cuts 20 per cent off its asset sheet, it's a drastic act. Drastic enough that after nearly a century, Exxon has been dumped from the Dow Jones to make way for a tech stock.

Jason Kenney's UCP government just released a fiscal update that is reminiscent of a big black spot on a chest x-ray.
Revenue from the oilpatch is expected to be $1.2 billion this year, down from the $3.9 billion forecast and a far cry from better days in the sector, such as 2014-15 when those revenues were $8.9 billion. 
Revenues from the oil and gas sector haven't been this low since the early 1970s, according to government documents.

The oilsands are especially woeful. Bitumen royalties were expected to generate more than $3 billion this year, but instead could now provide just $686 million. 
Many oilsands projects are generating little to no positive returns this year, according to government documents, since many are unable to turn a profit. 
Projected corporate income tax revenue has been cut in half.
Omitted from this sob story is the environmental liability issue. The Alberta government's own in-house tally puts the remediation cost from the Tar Sands and the thousands of orphan wells at about $230 billion.  A $230 billion liability versus $1.2 billion in annual revenue. At that rate the government should break even in just under two centuries.

I know. Here's the answer. Let's build more pipelines. That's 'let's' as in "let us." The private sector won't touch these investments. These costs now have to be borne by the federal and provincial treasuries. Is that throwing good money after bad? Sure sounds like it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Paralysis of Polarized Thought

There's a thoughtful essay in today's South China Morning Post that touches on the trap that snares polarized societies. 

It begins with a passage attributed to John Maynard Keynes:

"When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do sir?"

It’s a good rule for people to follow in life. Unfortunately, I don’t always – because it’s actually very hard to. Often, I just block out new or contrary information and points of view I don’t like or share, without even thinking about it.

But if more people at least try to follow Keynes’ rule, there may be much less fanaticism and dogmatism in the world, whether in religion or even in science and academia, perhaps especially in university today.

But in the end, we all live in our own Matrix or Plato’s cave. The sunlight of truth outside is just too bright for me. It’s far more comforting to stay in the shade inside.

Keynes’ rule has its equivalent in statistics. It’s called Bayes’ rule or theorem. Thomas Bayes, an 18th century philosopher and Presbyterian minister, thinks you can strengthen your belief in something – increasing your “epistemic confidence” – by updating new information to your initial probabilistic belief that something is true or has happened. As a good Christian, he might have been motivated to develop the idea to defend the truth of miracles based on Biblical testimony against David Hume.

“Epistemic confidence” – towards which Bayes’ rule is supposed to move you – is the opposite of what the contemporary philosopher Gillian Russell has called “epistemic viciousness”, our inclination to hold false beliefs, despite new evidence or updated information. The latter is a natural human tendency; the former, though, takes serious mental discipline.

Bayes and Keynes tell us how to update previous beliefs in light of new evidence and in terms of probability. But their rules – whether quantitatively or qualitatively – can’t tell us what such beliefs to hold.

Say, you are a national security official in Washington and your previous belief is that most cyberattacks are carried out by state actors like China and Russia. This hypothesis could be tested in terms of Bayes’ theorem with new evidence. But suppose you are really committed to the hypothesis, like those who believed in the existence of weapons of mass destruction before the US invasion of Iraq, nothing will ever change your mind.
The columnist, Alex Lo, cites Hong Kong as an example where a society is so deeply polarized that neither side will allow nothing new to change their outlook. Isn't that what we're nervously watching occur in the States today, an impulsive tendency to reject information that contradicts dogmatic belief?

Maybe it's time we all became a little more Keynesian in our outlook. I know, I know, them first. Of course.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Your Pre-Election Reading List

The next two months will see the release of a slew of "tell all" books on Donald Trump, Trump's administration, a panoply of alleged crimes and grifting, and the Trump clan including Melania, Ivanka, Uday and Qusay.

The most recent books came from John Bolton and Trump's niece, Mary. Niece Mary has gilded the lily by releasing to the Washington Post recordings of her conversations with Trump's sister, retired federal court judge, Maryanne, who seems to think 45 is a real piece of shit.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and adviser, “taped the first lady” and plans to share the remarks in her book. 
They include “harsh comments about Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter and a senior adviser”, Ali wrote.
Wolkoff has an axe to grind with her former long-time friend, Melania, who recruited Wolkoff to organize the inauguration. Scads of money went missing, fingers were pointed at Wolkoff and Melania, who supposedly knew the truth, never came to her friend's defence.  Wolkoff is said to have tapes of Melania saying what she really thinks of Trump and his daughter/bride, Ivanka.  Revenge - cold - served.  "Melania and Me" is out next week.

September will also see the release of former Trump fixer, Michael Cohen's, tell all, "Disloyal - a Memoir." Cohen says he'll reveal where all the bodies are buried.  That should sell well to those with an insatiable appetite for the dirt on Dirty Don.

Bob Woodward is releasing his book "Rage" that examines correspondence between Trump and Kim Jung Un.  This follows Woodward's 2018 best seller, "Fear: Trump in the White House."
According to multiple sources, the book has explosive accounts of Trump's thoughts and actions on national security, the coronavirus pandemic, the economic collapse and the Black Lives Matter protests.
Low on the radar but another potential bombshell is a book by Mueller attack dog, Andrew Weissmann, the prosecutor that Team Trump so feared that the positively squealed. That could be the sleeper in all of these books.

Former Trump national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster is releasing his memoir of his days (weeks, months?) in the administration.

Welcome Aboard, Ensign O'Toole

He may not be much but Canadians, 38 per cent of them at least, consider Justin Trudeau their choice to handle the pandemic and engineer some sort of economic recovery.
Respondents to the poll, conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, were split about the prospect of a confidence vote triggering a federal election this fall, with 42 per cent opposed to an election and 38 per cent in favour. 
But if there were an election today, 38 per cent of decided voters said they’d support Trudeau’s Liberals, compared to 30 per cent for the Conservatives, 18 per cent for the NDP and six per cent for the Greens. 
The Bloc Quebecois were at 33 per cent in Quebec, statistically tied with the Liberals in that province at 32 per cent, with the Conservatives well behind at 16 per cent, the NDP at 12 per cent and the Greens at four per cent.
38 per cent shouldn't be breathtaking but this is Canada and in our deeply flawed iteration of democracy that's often enough to translate into a solid majority.

Bad news for Pudgy O'Toole and his social conservatism. He'll probably start backpeddling the tough talk before the week is out. After all this is not an auspicious moment to make Wexit your first priority on taking office. Silly bugger.

It's All About That Apple in the Garden of Eden

It's the Forbidden Fruit parable for the 21st Century.  Jerry Falwell Jr. brought low by an unfaithful wife who could not resist the devil's apple, a hotel pool boy. It's positively Biblical.

A faithless wife, easily seduced, who then drew her husband, her Adam, into a rebellion against the Lord. Together they are to be cast out of the Garden of Eden or at least the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. It all sounds so familiar.

Falwell need not deny it, any of it. He needs to admit everything for how else can he be redeemed? He has his temptress Eve, Becki, who set him against his Gawd but he can dump her now that all is revealed.

Isn't this America's fundamentalist morality play? Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, countless mega-church preachers, they're even popping up in Top Ten lists. The Boston Globe sees it as a rerun of the scandalous 80s. In their excellent book, "The Spirit Level," epidemiologists Wilkinson and Pickett, found that sexual peccadillos of all sorts were far more common in Bible Belt  red states than in any blue state. It seems they've got a knack for it.  Maybe that's why these guys can rebound so easily.

Trump Unleashes Psy-Ops on America

We saw a hint of this in the runup to the 2016 presidential election when then candidate Trump hinted that he might not accept the election results - unless they went his way.  Thanks to a perverse electoral system, Hillary won the popular vote by a 3 million margin but Trump won where it mattered, the Electoral College.

It was a bizarre period back then. Donald Trump, his kids and the rest of his team had no expectation of winning. They didn't even bother filling in the mandatory disclosure statements in anything but the most cursory manner, reluctant to reveal the truth for a campaign they felt sure to lose. Some, like Kushner, spent months "amending" information dozens of times. Not one was prosecuted for what was, essentially, perjury.

For a while it seemed that, if he lost, Trump might stir up unrest among his base, the radical right. The menace certainly dripped from his words.

The Electoral College handed Trump the White House, the Democrats dutifully fell into line, and the astonishingly ill-prepared* Donald Trump was inaugurated the 45th president of the United States of America.

* Just a few weeks before taking over, Trump met with Obama in the White House. Trump indicated he thought he inherited the lot - even the staff. Obama had to tell Trump he had to find his own staff. After all why would a Republican want a staff of devoted Democrats? Trump didn't have applicants being screened, people lined up to undergo the transition.

Much has transpired over the past four years, a lot of it sordid, perhaps even criminal. At times it seems Trump's main focus has been on successfully corrupting the Department of Justice which he achieved by the appointment of William Barr, as partisan an attorney general as any in recent memory.

But Trump's main focus was on the office of the US attorney for the southern district of New York, the DoJ office where Trump's dealings are/were under investigation. He got rid of two "meddlesome priests" who seemed to be doing their job not to his liking.

Why does any of this matter to the current election campaign? Easy. The best defence Trump has against prosecution is his presidential tenure. That new inner wall he had built around the White House reinforces his Festung Trump mentality. He is conveying the message, true or not, that he'll defend his turf.

Once Trump is out of office, once he is stripped of the protection of a corrupt attorney-general, once he reverts to "citizen Trump" he, his family, and the Trump Organization are easy meat for state and federal prosecutors and he becomes just another Ferdinand Marcos on the run. 

A former Trump administration insider, ex-DHS chief of staff, Miles Taylor, warns that Trump will go to almost any lengths to cling to power even if he loses.

Taylor's warning is consistent with Trump's efforts to delegitimize the November vote. His cudgel of the moment is his completely unsubstantiated claim that mail-in votes will be rigged against him. Trump has also been rallying the radical rightwing groups, even QAnon included, to his side against what he presents as a Democratic coup.  These groups - the Boogaloo Bois, the Klan, QAnon and the remaining gaggle of rightwing lunatics are heavily armed and susceptible to Trump's incitements. They hear his apocalyptic vision of war in the streets.

This is unprecedented but what makes it vastly worse is the Republican Party's refusal to stand against it. There is no opposition, in the party, in the Congressional caucus, at the convention, to Trump's incendiary menace.  What for so long undeservedly called itself the "party of Lincoln" now offers fealty to Trump. They are his vassals. They see in Donald Trump their best, perhaps last, hope.

What Trump is doing is waging a campaign of psy-ops on the American people.
Psychological operations are operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.
It appears to be working.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Washington State Posties Give Trump a Big "Up Yours."

Wexit Is a Shakedown And the Tories Are Blackmailing Canada

Erin O'Toole could hardly wait to get his ass in Andrew Scheer's old chair before he was on the phone to Justin Trudeau to raise that gravest threat facing Canada, Wexit.
By midday, O'Toole had already spoken to his main rival in Parliament, a call both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office and O'Toole's described as cordial and covered topics both personal and political, including western alienation. 
According to a statement from O'Toole, the party wants to see a plan in Trudeau's upcoming throne speech to directly address the issue. That the Tories would advocate for more action from the Liberals on that front was a key ask by Alberta MPs during the leadership campaign.
This is Culture War 101 bullshit at its finest.  Separation - Alberta, Saskatchewan - really?  Them and whose army?

Ottawa isn't denying them their Gawd-given bountiful future. They're fossil fools if they think there's a future in high carbon, low value coal and bitumen. Day by day it's worsening. Those are becoming stranded assets in a world awash in cheap, relatively clean carbon energy. Northern Alberta is a giant Love Canal.

In a recklessness befitting a back alley drunk, Alberta "pissed away" its wealth, its future and its political clout. They did everything Peter Lougheed warned them to avoid and now they're reaping what Lougheed said awaited the Wild Rose if they acted recklessly.

The whole Wexit business hinges on British Columbia ignoring both instincts and self-interests for the sake of the poxed-up cutie next door. What do they have to offer British Columbia to throw in with them? Nothing.  What, is BC going to pick up $80 billion or more as our share of cleaning up the environmental catastrophe of their profligate ways? These are the same people who repeatedly threatened us with dire consequences if we refused to submit to their will and now we're supposed to look kindly on them and their hair-brained scheme?

These Wexit scammers, O'Toole now included, know they're holding a dead hand. They got nothin'. It's time to call their bluff and shut them up for good. Do they think the capital that's still propping up their economy, Canadian and foreign, won't head for safer ground in a heartbeat. They would be travelling an already well-trodden path.

Another Roller/Trump Buddy Bites the Dust

Life is not going smoothly for Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the late Talibangelist, Jerry Falwell Sr.

Junior was recently suspended from his job as president of Liberty University, a fundamentalist Christian school in Lynchburg, Virginia, after a risque photo was circulated of Jerry Jr. on a yacht with his pants undone and an arm around the bare waist of a woman who definitely was not his wife.
JJ tried to foist an improbable explanation on the university governors but they weren't buying it and sent him packing.

How could it get any worse for Jer-Jr. It began this morning when Falwell broke the news that several years ago his devoted wife played a little lap tango with the poolboy at some resort and now the Falwells were being blackmailed by the guy.

The guy, a Mr. Giancarlo Granda, concedes that he and Mrs. Falwell indeed did the nasty - apparently a lot - but says that not only did Jer-Jr. know about it, he liked to watch.

The Miami native is now speaking out against the explosive accusations, denying any involvement in extortion, according to Reuters. Granda says he was “preyed” upon by Falwell, one of “the most influential figures in the American Christian conservative movement, ” and his partner, Reuters added.
Partner? It seems Granda got into a business not just with Jer-Jr. but with the missus to boot.
Although he “willingly” entered into a 7-year sexual relationship with the couple, he now feels like he was taken advantage of, he told the outlet. 
“Whether it was immaturity, naïveté, instability, or a combination thereof, it was this ‘mindset’ that the Falwells likely detected in deciding that I was the ideal target for their sexual escapades,” Granda expressed. 
When their relationship soured, Granda said he sought to “negotiate a buyout” from a business arrangement he had with the pair, Reuters reported.
Here's Granda pressing the flesh with Donald Trump during a 2012 meet and greet at Liberty University with Jer-Jr. in the background. The dark haired woman just behind Trump looks a lot like Mrs. Falwell.

As these evangelical scandals go, this one is way more sordid than most. There's even a recorded 3-way phone call between the Falwells and Granda where she complains that he upsets her by telling her of his latest tinder conquests.

Trump and Falwell Jr. have been allies for years. Here's a photo of the Falwells in Trump's office in 2016 after Jer-Jr. had introduced Trump at a Religious Leaders Summit.

You never know with these characters. Their ability to rise from the dead time after time would put Jeebus to shame. Only this time I think that the Falwell dynasty might have run its course. The sanctimonious bastard deserves it.

I wonder how long before Trump goes "Full Epstein" on Falwell putting as much distance between himself and the disgraced preacher as he possibly can.   You will remember that Trump did the Epstein on Steve Bannon this week after his former election guru was charged with fraud. In the next post we'll visit Trump's connection to Bannon's wall. There's more to it than Trump wants the voting public to know.

Manhattan D.A. Shelves Demand for Trump's Tax Returns

It was a long and hard-fought battle against the legal legions of Trump but, finally, Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., triumphed. He could get Donald Trump's tax returns.

At the very moment of victory, Vance has decided to take a breather.
Cyrus Vance Jr., the Democratic district attorney for Manhattan, had the legal right as of this Friday to enforce a New York grand jury subpoena to obtain a lengthy financial paper trail that includes Trump’s corporate and personal tax records.

But Vance instead has agreed to temporarily shelve the subpoena against Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. The delay allows for another round of litigation, which will prolong the nearly year-long court battle over the subpoena in which Trump has lost every bout, including a landmark decision last month at the Supreme Court. 
The deal between the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Trump’s lawyers comes after a federal district judge in New York last week denied President Trump’s latest bid to invalidate the subpoena.
As a result of the deal, Trump has at least one more opportunity to argue in court that the subpoena for his tax records is unlawful. The 2nd Circuit will hear arguments Sept. 1.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

It's Not Like They Had Much to Choose From

Canada's Tories, like their Republican cousins to the south, are old, white and increasingly irrelevant. Both parties have to pander to an aging demographic that is becoming more xenophobic and bigoted with every passing year.

That's good news for the Liberals who themselves are bereft of the calibre of talent that once filled their front benches to overflowing.  With the Tories setting the bar so low the Liberals can slide through on mediocrity. And so they are.

So it seems that Erin O'Toole becomes the new leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition in place of the part-time, summer help, insurance agency counter clerk, Andrew Scheer.

To me, it doesn't matter. Canadian politics is becalmed in a political Sargasso Sea. As the problems facing our country rapidly increase our political caste become ever less useful, ever more irrelevant. There are no Pearsons, no Diefenbakers, no Lewises or Broadbents, no Pierre Trudeaus or Lauriers or St. Laurents on offer.

Kelly Anne Says Adios, Donaldo

Trump apologist extraordinaire, Kellyanne Conway, is leaving the Trump administration - and there's no two-week notice either.

Kellyanne is clearing out at the end of the month. Her husband, George, a fierce Trump opponent is also quitting his post at the Republican anti-Trump, Lincoln Project. Both are doing it "for the family."
Conway called her time in the White House "heady" and "humbling." She thanked Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Pence and second lady Karen Pence, and offered praise for their work during the administration's first term.

Stranger Things - Election Eve Edition

Will Americans go to the polls as scheduled on November 3rd? Probably.

However there is a 1 in 200 chance of an asteroid hitting Earth the day before.

NASA says it is an asteroid but nothing to write home about. It's only 6.5 feet in diameter. If it does hit our planet it could cause a local problem but it won't end the current iteration of 'Life on Earth.'

But, let's look on the bright side. It might hit. It's a long shot but it might. And, if it does, it might hit America. It might hit that part of America where Donald Trump will be wrapping up his campaign. It might be the Perfecta. Not likely but not impossible either.

A 0.41 per cent chance isn't all that encouraging but we must always live in hope. Besides, wouldn't that be something to share with the grandkids years from now?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Sturgis, the Results Start Coming In

It's only been a week since the 80th annual Sturgis motorcycle rally wrapped up and, as expected, the Covid-19 pandemic results are beginning to flow in.

So far Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota are reporting in.

A company, Tectronix, has prepared a map of the revelers from their cellphone tracking. 

The Latest in Mod-Cons, a Wildfire Smoke Tracker

California Redwood burning

What will they think of next? Canadians now have a website devoted to wildfire smoke. A quick click shows you where the smoke is coming from and where it's headed. It also shows the pm 2.5 particulate density in the smoke heading your way.

So far this year it hasn't been too bad, save perhaps for Calgary. Out my way the winds off the Pacific have kept us clear of smoke. I suppose we need some reward for our dreary, cold and damp summer.

The western United States have not fared so well.  California, already dealing with a fresh outbreak of the Covid pandemic, is being swept by wildfires caused by the lethal mixture of tinder dry forests and lightning. What began in the south now threatens the Bay Area, even (heaven forbid) Napa. The majestic redwood forests are said to be in peril. Meanwhile Californians endure the worst air quality in the world.

Think of it as Climate Breakdown 101.

There’s an idea that when the climate crisis begins, we will know it. Movies present it as a moment when the world’s weather suddenly turns apocalyptic: winds howl, sea levels surge, capital cities are decimated. Climate messaging can bolster this notion, implying that we have a certain number of years to save the day before reaching a cataclysmic point of no return.

Living in expectation of a definitive global break can blind us to the fact that gradually, insidiously, the climate crisis has already arrived. 
In few places is this as clear as California, where extreme wildfires have become the new abnormal. There is currently a “fire siege” in northern California, with wildfires burning in every one of the nine Bay Area counties except for San Francisco, which is entirely urbanized. Tens of thousands of residents have evacuated and people are choking on smoke.
In the last decade, amid drought and searing heat, California has entered the “era of megafires”. Our new book, Fire in Paradise, tells the story of a town that was almost entirely wiped out by a fire of unheralded speed in 2018. It killed 85 people, making it the deadliest ever fire in California. Other notable blazes include a 1,000-ft wide fire tornado that churned through the town of Redding a few months before the Paradise catastrophe, and fires in California’s Wine Country that killed 44 people.
All of this is why, as we scan the headlines for the planetary shift that will mark the true arrival of the climate crisis, we risk losing sight of the fact that places like California are already experiencing it.

This is not entirely surprising. According to the ecological theory of “shifting baselines”, we do not notice the degradation of the natural world because little by little we get used to it, like a frog in hot water. We think that it has always been this way.
What the writers are referring to is more commonly called "creeping normalcy" and it has been bringing civilizations to collapse at least as far back as the Mesopotamians. The Mesos saw what was happening. They looked the other way. They destroyed the 'fertile crescent' of the Tigris and Euphrates by using too much brackish water and then their crops failed. Slam, bam, thank you Ma'am.

For a couple of decades we've been talking about 'global warming.' In the early part of the last decade research came out predicting the arrival of something more insidious, more immediate - global heating. Studies emerged warning that in this current decade, the 2020s, we would see heating on scales never experienced by mankind. Never, as in not ever. Guess what? It's here.

It takes many forms including the loss of Arctic sea ice, wildfires in the Tundra, the accelerated melting of the major ice caps and major glaciers, the massive and usually unnoticed migration of marine life (fish, mammals and sea birds) poleward to escape warming oceans, the wildfires sweeping our forests, pest infestations, flash droughts, on and on  and on.

Climate breakdown has arrived and there's no grace period. You either meet it, stay ahead of it, or you fall behind and take your lumps. At the moment we're opting for the lumps. Sucks to be us, I suppose.
When it comes to California wildfires, the ground has been moving under our feet for decades, as heat rises, snowpacks shrink, and plants dry out. The baseline has shifted. How long before we forget that it was ever otherwise?
How long? Not very long. We've got this place called a Memory Hole.

Just be grateful you live at such a temperate latitude. Be even more grateful no country lies between you and the pole.