Saturday, July 14, 2018

What More Can Trump Do for Putin? How About Absolution?

Nothing Vlad Putin has done will deter Donald Trump from his one-on-one chin wag with his fellow despot in Finland on Monday. Nothing, not even Robert Mueller's forensic evidence showing that Putin meddled, probably fixed, America's 2016 elections will stop Trump. The Russians know it and they're already crowing "victory."

The mere fact that Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin will finally get his one-on-one meeting with President Trump in Helsinki on Monday is seen by the Russians as a validation of everything they have been up to in recent years. 
The hacking. The election meddling. The troll farms. The export of corruption. The support for xenophobic, extremist and all manner of disruptive movements in the West. The bullying of neighbors. The poisoning of U.K. citizens with a nerve agent. The kidnapping of an Estonian law-enforcement officer. And, of course, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the invasion of eastern Ukraine. 
And yeah, I get it — the Russians would never openly admit their responsibility for most of this. But that doesn’t change the fact that they view the summit as the United States giving them a pass on whatever they’ve done. 
Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, one of the more astute observers of the Kremlin’s thinking, succinctly summed up the conventional wisdom in a recent column: “This one decision — turning the page — will be an important victory for Putin, who so far has not given an inch and who has patiently waited for the U.S. to begin to restore relations.” 
The subtext of this narrative is simple: Extortion pays. The American and Russian presidents will meet as equals amid the trappings of superpower summitry. And from Moscow’s vantage point, that means bygones are bygones. Is this really the message the United States wants to send? Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov underscored the sentiment by stressing that any challenge to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea will be off limits in Helsinki. 
In Moscow they’re already gloating. The Russian propaganda machine is already preparing to spin whatever comes out of the summit. The Trump administration should be on its guard. 
One op-ed in the Kremlin mouthpiece Izvestia claimed that the famously hawkish U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, was forced to “step on his throat” — the Russian equivalent of “eat his words” — and take a more conciliatory public line during his recent visit to Moscow. 
Another, penned by Andrei Bystritsky, chairman of the Valdai Discussion Club and a leading Kremlin surrogate, gleefully noted that the current world order is in crisis, citing the migration problem, divisions within the European Union and the widening transatlantic rift. Russia, he added, now occupies “a unique position in the world,” and constructing a stable order without it is impossible. Well, that’s one way of putting it.

A more accurate one would be that Putin has turned Russia into a global protection racket that is prepared to wreak havoc and chaos until he gets what he wants: a free hand in the former Soviet space and an exemption from the rules of international conduct.

A Brace of Grifters
Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria has exacerbated Europe’s migrant crisis. Its disinformation campaign and support for extremist parties have undermined European unity and transatlantic solidarity. Its encouragement of corruption has established networks of influence across the West and undermined faith in democratic institutions. 
Given the Kremlin leader’s background, this should not be surprising. Putin cut his political teeth facilitating relations between the state and organized-crime groups when he was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg in the 1990s. Among other things, he helped the infamous Tambov group, a major crime syndicate, take over the city’s gaming and fuel distribution industries. 
Putin has since expanded. He now runs the biggest mafia syndicate in the world: the Russian government. And he has applied the skills he mastered in the St. Petersburg underworld — things such as extortion, blackmail and confidence tricks — and applied them to international politics. 
Sometimes this involves childish and disrespectful power plays, such as showing up hours late for appointments with other world leaders. Sometimes it involves thuggish stunts such as bringing his dog to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 
But Putin is most effective at playing the role of the international grifter. And his big con is getting his protection racket recognized as a “respectable business.”
One thing we know about Trump is that he recognizes his own. That much is manifest in Trump's warm embrace of other despots from Orban to Erdogan, Duterte to Putin. And we know from Trump's legendary business career that he has few qualms about dealing with sketchy characters, facilitating money laundering, and fleecing lenders, investors and even tradesmen. The man is a lifelong grifter. He and Putin can instinctively spot each other a mile off. They may not speak the same language but, then again, they do.

Theresa May, Donald Trump, and Nigel Farage

Was Donald Trump acting as Nigel Farage's beard when he gave a controversial interview to the Brit tabloid, The Sun, the evening before his meeting with Theresa May?

To Sun reporters, Trump sang the praises of May's bete noire, Boris Johnson and even said he'd make a fine prime minister for the UK. He then went on to attack the current prime minister's handling of Brexit negotiations with the EU, even saying they would wreck any prospect of a big trade deal between Britain and America.

The following day, when he stepped up to the podium alongside Theresa May, Trump was singing a much different tune. He backed away from just about everything he'd told the Sun, even accusing the rightwing tabloid of pitching "fake news."

How could he spin two such different tales in the span of less than a day and in another country as the guest of its government? Deutsche Welle thinks it knows the answer.

The real man behind Brexit — forget Conservatives like Boris Johnson and David Davis — is still the former, and perhaps future, UKIP leader Nigel Farage. That's the man who campaigned with Trump in the US at a time when politicians like Boris Johnson were still describing The Donald as "clearly out of his mind." (Johnson would later change his tune, calling the negative British coverage of president-elect Trump a "whinge-arama" just hours after his confident US election predictions flew out of the window.)

Prior to Trump's arrival, Farage had told anyone who would listen that the Conservative Party had issued a clear red line to Trump when negotiating the visit: Under no account was he to meet with Farage. The government has not disputed this claim, and no meeting is scheduled.

But Farage and Trump didn't need a face-to-face meeting;  a coordinated media offensive would serve their purposes far better.
Three lions on Theresa's tail 
Three hard Brexit lions went into the media fray, 24 hours after England's semifinal defeat, hunting as a pack.

The pride's alpha, Trump, took the fight to Britain's best-selling "red top" tabloid paper, The Sun.

Trump tore shreds out of Theresa May's Brexit plans, hitting all of Farage's key talking points: The deal "wasn't what the people voted on," it negated the chances of a bespoke US trade deal (not that one had ever been formally offered, at least not publicly), and it overlooked citizens' concerns about "cultural changes" initiated in Europe by EU immigration policies. Like Farage, Trump managed to steer inches clear of white supremacist territory while frantically dog-whistling to any and all attuned to that wavelength. The owner of The Sun, Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, got precisely the ammunition he wanted for his pro-Brexit paper. Even its writers expressed surprise at how far the president went.
... Meanwhile, two senior British hunter-gatherers within Trump's global populist harem — Farage and former newspaper editor and The Apprentice winner Piers Morgan — spent the evening talking to BBC viewers, who might be reading a more substantive and sober newspaper on Friday morning.

Morgan was on the Question Time panel, lamenting the protests against Trump's visit. He also spoke at length on Brexit, assuring the audience "I voted remain as well," before elaborating on how Theresa May's plan was unsatisfactory, and how Britain needed a Brexiteer prime minister who "believed in what they're trying to achieve." Perhaps it was a coincidence that Trump told The Sun how sad he was to see Brexiteer Boris Johnson go, and how he would make a great prime minister. Perhaps.

As for Farage, he appeared as the guest of honor on This Week, for the extended My Take Of The Week segment. He told viewers what a success Trump had made of his first 18 months in office, how noteworthy it was that Italy's new government seemed to be getting on with the White House, and that Britain was missing its chance to get in on the new world order at the ground floor.
Casual observers, including most of us, would never have been aware of Trump's real subterfuge but the British government, especially prime minister Theresa May, knew all too well that Trump had exploited her invitation to stab her in the back.

Truth Decay

Have we reached the point where truth becomes a belief-based construct liberated from the bounds of knowledge, fact and evidence? Have we entered the era of Truth Decay? Is this the harbinger of the end of democracy and freedom? This is canvassed in a new book by Michiko Kakutani, "The Death of Truth."

As Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (ie the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (ie the standards of thought) no longer exist.”
Arendt’s words increasingly sound less like a dispatch from another century than a chilling description of the political and cultural landscape we inhabit today – a world in which fake news and lies are pumped out in industrial volume by Russian troll factories, emitted in an endless stream from the mouth and Twitter feed of the president of the United States, and sent flying across the world through social media accounts at lightning speed. Nationalism, tribalism, dislocation, fear of social change and the hatred of outsiders are on the rise again as people, locked in their partisan silos and filter bubbles, are losing a sense of shared reality and the ability to communicate across social and sectarian lines. 
This is not to draw a direct analogy between today’s circumstances and the overwhelming horrors of the second world war era, but to look at some of the conditions and attitudes – what Margaret Atwood has called the “danger flags” in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm – that make a people susceptible to demagoguery and political manipulation, and nations easy prey for would-be autocrats. To examine how a disregard for facts, the displacement of reason by emotion, and the corrosion of language are diminishing the value of truth, and what that means for the world.
...For decades now, objectivity – or even the idea that people can aspire toward ascertaining the best available truth – has been falling out of favour. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s well-known observation that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts” is more timely than ever: polarisation has grown so extreme that voters have a hard time even agreeing on the same facts. This has been exponentially accelerated by social media, which connects users with like-minded members and supplies them with customised news feeds that reinforce their preconceptions, allowing them to live in ever narrower silos.
...Climate deniers, anti-vaxxers and other groups who don’t have science on their side bandy about phrases that wouldn’t be out of place in a college class on deconstruction – phrases such as “many sides,” “different perspectives”, “uncertainties”, “multiple ways of knowing.” As Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway demonstrated in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, rightwing thinktanks, the fossil fuel industry, and other corporate interests that are intent on discrediting science have employed a strategy first used by the tobacco industry to try to confuse the public about the dangers of smoking. “Doubt is our product,” read an infamous memo written by a tobacco industry executive in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” 
The strategy, essentially, was this: dig up a handful of so-called professionals to refute established science or argue that more research is needed; turn these false arguments into talking points and repeat them over and over; and assail the reputations of the genuine scientists on the other side. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a tactic that’s been used by Trump and his Republican allies to defend policies (on matters ranging from gun control to building a border wall) that run counter to both expert evaluation and national polls.
...The US’s founding generation spoke frequently of the “common good”. George Washington reminded citizens of their “common concerns” and “common interests” and the “common cause” they had all fought for in the revolution. And Thomas Jefferson spoke in his inaugural address of the young country uniting “in common efforts for the common good”. A common purpose and a shared sense of reality mattered because they bound the disparate states and regions together, and they remain essential for conducting a national conversation. Especially today in a country where Trump and Russian and hard-right trolls are working to incite the very factionalism Washington warned us about, trying to inflame divisions between people along racial, ethnic and religious lines. 
There are no easy remedies, but it’s essential that citizens defy the cynicism and resignation that autocrats and power-hungry politicians depend on to subvert resistance. Without commonly agreed-on facts – not Republican facts and Democratic facts; not the alternative facts of today’s silo-world – there can be no rational debate over policies, no substantive means of evaluating candidates for political office, and no way to hold elected officials accountable to the people. Without truth, democracy is hobbled.

For more on Truth Decay, check out Muiris Houston's essay from The Irish Times.
At times of great uncertainty and geopolitical turmoil, a collective increase in anxiety fuels its rapid online dissemination of false news. Climate change and vaccine safety are a particular focus for fake news in the 21st century. 
Social media is made for false health news. More than 60 per cent of adults source their news online.

This phenomenon has seen a blurring of the line between opinion and fact, with personal experience seen as more influential than fact, leading to less trust in usually respected sources of factual information. 
The granddaddy of fake vaccine news was the 1998 research alleging a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Disgraced gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield was guilty of research fraud and struck off the medical register. But the false news about MMR safety caused immunisation rates to plummet; its effects are still felt today, with current measles outbreaks in Limerick and Dublin linked to lower than optimal levels of vaccination.
And, for a more detailed, analytical look at Truth Decay, check out this article from the RAND Corporation.  When the Pentagon's own think tank, the RAND
Corporation gets into something like Truth Decay, there's a reason. It's a threat to the nation.
Is Truth Decay New? 
This report explores three historical eras — the 1890s, 1920s, and 1960s — for evidence of the four Truth Decay trends and compares those eras with the past two decades (2000s–2010s). Two of the four trends occurred in earlier periods: the blurring of the line between opinion and fact and an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion over fact. Declining trust in institutions, while evident in previous eras, is more severe today. No evidence of an increase in disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data was seen in the earlier periods. 
What Causes Truth Decay? 
Four drivers, or causes, of Truth Decay are described: cognitive bias, changes in the information system (including the rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle), competing demands on the educational system that limit its ability to keep pace with changes in the information system, and political, sociodemographic, and economic polarization. Various agents also amplify Truth Decay's trends. 
What Are the Consequences? 
The consequences of Truth Decay manifest in many ways. The most damaging effects might be the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty about U.S. policy. 
Unraveling the Complex System of Truth Decay Will Require Multifaceted and Interdisciplinary Efforts 
Interdisciplinary research and cooperation among research organizations, policymakers, educators, and other stakeholders will be necessary to shed light on the problem of Truth Decay and to develop a clearer understanding of the problem and devise possible solutions. 
There Are Four High-Priority Areas of Research 
Examine more closely how Truth Decay has manifested in the past at home and abroad, extracting lessons that can assist in the fight against Truth Decay. 
Further explore Truth Decay trends, including such areas as how media content has changed over time, the ways in which the speed and nature of information flow have evolved, developments in the education system and its curricula, the ways in which polarization and political gridlock have (or have not) worsened, the erosion of civil discourse and engagement, and changes in the severity of uncertainty about U.S. policy. 
Investigate the processes and mechanisms that connect Truth Decay to information dissemination, processing, and consumption; institutions, authorities, and intermediaries; polarization, engagement, and discourse; the benefits and challenges of technological advancement; and agency. Truth Decay as an interconnected system should also be explored. 
Finally, develop and evaluate potential solutions and mitigations to the problems caused by Truth Decay. Priority areas include educational interventions; improving the information market; institutional development and rebuilding; bridging social divides; harnessing new technologies; behavioral economics, psychology, and cognitive science; and organizational self-assessment.

And now, a What the Fuck? moment.  America's fundamentalist Christian cult has adopted the "Truth Decay" meme as its own.

It's a Fair Question, One Our Government Should Be Answering.

Fifty plus dead in Quebec. As many, perhaps more in Ontario (but who's counting?). And, around the world, no one knows for sure, not yet. It's a scorcher.

Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change. 
The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the rising temperatures were at odds with a global cyclical climate phenomena known as La Niña, which is usually associated with cooling.
...Even when the sun goes down, night is not providing the cooling relief it once did in many parts of the world. At Quriyat, on the coast of Oman, overnight temperatures remained above 42.6C, which is believed to be the highest “low” temperature ever recorded in the world. Downtown Los Angeles also saw a new monthly July minimum overnight record of 26.1C on 7 July. 
Globally, the warmest year on record was in 2016, boosted by the natural climate cycle El Niño. Last year, temperatures hit the highest level without that amplifying phenomenon. This year, at the other cooling end of the cycle, is continuing the overall upward trend. 
Swathes of the northern hemisphere have seen unusually persistent warmth due to strong, persistent high pressure systems that have created a “heat dome” over much of Eurasia. 
“What’s unusual is the hemispheric scale of the heatwave,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “It’s not just the magnitude in any one location but that high temperatures are being seen over such a large area.”
Just look at all the records we're setting and in consecutive years - highest El Nino year, hottest Enso-neutral year, and now, in what should be a cooling, La Nina year, another record.

The thing is, this is your new normal. Normal for now, at least. Who knows what normal is going to be in ten years, twenty years or more?

I'm so grateful our government is racing all out to wean us from fossil fuels and transition Canada into alternative clean energy. We're going to need a massive amount of clean energy just to cool ourselves in the summer and warm ourselves when those Polar Vortex fronts sweep through in winter.

What's that? We're not in a race to transition from fossil fuels? We're actually trying to ramp up the production and export of high-carbon bitumen - despite all the warnings of climate scientists? And our provinces - Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and now Prince Edward Island - are uniting to oppose even basic carbon pricing?

Why isn't Ottawa talking to us about what's in our short- and mid-term future? Would that make them look like monsters for their single-minded pursuit of bitumen exports? How many of us have to die before they change? And what about the people who already live in heatwaves well into the upper 40 degrees Celsius? How many of them have to die before we stop promoting the greenhouse gas emissions-rich bitumen?

Oh, relax. Justin Trudeau, with all the logical consistency he's displayed in the 18-year old groping matter, assures us that a green future awaits Canada just as soon as the Justin Trudeau Memorial Trans-Mountain pipeline has finished moving Athabasca carbon sludge to world markets.

Of course by the time Trans-Mountain is over, we may be too.

Friday, July 13, 2018

World Bank President Weighs In on Future of Work

Morneau and Trudeau may be fine with consigning young Canadians to a future of "job churn" and a precarious, paycheque to paycheque, existence but that's because they're not willing to look for anything better.

Canada's working classes are also facing employment upheaval arising out of automation, robotics. Nobel laureate economist, Angus Deaton, argues that robotics is a greater threat to working classes than globalization.

World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, however in an essay introducing a new bank report on the future of work contends that there is much that nations can do to position their workers to prosper from automation. The key is investing in human capital.
...the skills needed for work are changing, literally, every day. New jobs will require specific skills—a combination of technological know-how, problem solving, and critical-thinking skills, as well as soft skills such as perseverance, collaboration, and empathy. That means countries must invest much more – and more effectively – in their people to build human capital. 
Investing in human capital is the key mechanism to ensure that the next generation is ready for the changing nature of work; however, too many countries are under-investing in these critical areas—especially in the early formative years of childhood, when the ability to learn new skills quickly is decisively molded. When countries don’t invest to build human capital, it puts successive generations – especially the poorest – at a severe disadvantage, exacerbates inequalities that already exist, and threatens to create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of opportunity.
We should ensure that opportunity, like talent, is distributed equally throughout society. One of the primary ways we can ensure this is to protect people through social assistance and insurance systems that fit with the changing nature of work. The current model is broken in most developing countries and looks increasingly out of date for most advanced economies as well.

Social contracts are also about inclusion, which means that the wealthy have to pay their share of taxes. With insufficient tax revenues, governments can’t deliver the current social contract. Countries in every region must do more to stop tax avoidance, and the only way they can, in the words of leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, is to “put an end to the divorce between the location of profits and the location of real activities.”
The bank president's prescription makes eminent good sense. So, how do you think your government is doing to meet these stated requirements? 

Some Day Even You May Rise Up Against Your Government.

Imagine an army of outraged workers thrown out of work, their jobs taken over not by foreign labour but by automation - robots. Unemployed from a surprisingly broad spectrum of the workforce: unskilled, trades, even the professions. An economy that serves a shrinking elite and impoverishes the many. Democracy, long captured, inevitably succumbing to irrelevance, displaced by the rule of plutocrats, heralding a new era of feudalism. All for want of any viable vision of how to adjust society and the economy to continue to serve the population at large.

Governments, including Canada's run for cover whenever vision is most needed. During Harper's reign, his then BFF, Tom Flanagan told an audience on Saltspring Island that the Conservative prime minister utterly eschewed vision. He was focused on the present. The future held little currency for Stephen Harper.

Justin Trudeau is scarcely better than Harper. He acknowledges challenges such as climate change more freely but his gestural response, hopelessly inadequate, is strictly short-term. He is doing next to nothing to prepare this nation and our people for climate change impacts even in the near and mid-term.

Automation? That's not even on this government's radar. We've already had Trudeau's finance minister, Morneau, consign working class Canadians to a future of "job churn," membership in the 21st century precariat. In abandoning Canadians to a grim fate and doing nothing to avert this calamity, Trudeau and Morneau have pulled the pin on a very nasty grenade.

An essay in Foreign Policy argues that politicians must prepare their electorate for the onslaught of automation or allow their nation to succumb to opportunistic populism.

In 2016, there were already 309 installed industrial robots for every 10,000 manufacturing workers — a measurement known as robot density — in Germany, 223 in Sweden, and 189 in the United States. The use of robots had risen 7 percent in the United States, 5 percent in Sweden, and 3 percent in Germany in just one year. That may not sound like much, but at that rate, robot density would double in the United States in about a decade. And these numbers are only likely to grow because next-generation robots are already highly cost competitive. The average hourly cost of a manufacturing worker in Germany as of 2013 was $49, in France it was $43, and in the United States $36. The hourly cost of a collaborative robot — a machine that does not require skill to interact with — was $4, according to a recent study by Bain & Company.

That same Bain study estimates that advances in automation could displace up to 25 percent of the U.S. labor force over the next two decades. This would mean nearly 2.5 million Americans would have to find new work each year. By comparison, only 1.2 million Americans were displaced annually in the transition from agriculture to industry in the first part of the 20th century. Estimates for other countries vary widely, but all suggest significant displacement can be anticipated thanks to the rapid adoption of robotics and AI in both the manufacturing sector and, increasingly, the provision of services. 
To say that publics are wary of these impending technological changes would be an understatement. In Europe, 70 percent of respondents to a 2015 Eurobarometer survey agreed that “robots steal people’s jobs.” This included 89 percent of Spanish, 75 percent of French, and 72 percent of Germans. In the United States, according to a recent Gallup report, 73 percent of those surveyed worried that artificial intelligence would eliminate more jobs than it created.
... Three in 10 Europeans and roughly 4 in 10 Americans told the Pew Research Center in a recent survey that life was worse today than it was 50 years ago for people like them. As of 2007, 70 percent or more in Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, France, Germany, and the United States already said their traditional way of life was getting lost. And significant portions of the publics in Europe and the United States — 49 percent of Americans, 45 percent of French, 44 percent of Italians — say their country’s involvement in the global economy is a bad thing because it lowers wages and costs jobs. 
Popular reactions against globalization help explain the nationalist and populist currents in today’s politics. In contrast to widespread support in the past, only about one-third of U.S. Republicans today say trade agreements are a good thing for America, according to a Pew survey, echoing the oft-repeated sentiment of President Donald Trump. Those most critical of trade deals are white men over the age of 50, a demographic group quite likely to have lost manufacturing jobs because of globalization and who various polls show are among Trump’s strongest backers. 
Similarly in Europe, those who have a favorable view of populist parties — such as the National Front in France, the Alternative for Germany party, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and the Sweden Democrats — are much more likely than others to believe that life is worse today than 50 years ago. And they are also more likely to believe that involvement in the global economy is a bad thing.
Governments today respond to these destabilizing changes much as Morneau did with "job churn" - with a shrug of inevitability. They declare themselves powerless to stop or even alter these corrosive forces that spread anxiety, anger and disaffection. Indeed, they are powerless. They have surrendered that essential power to a no-longer-new order, neoliberalism to which they now respond not as instigators but as captives of the very system they implemented. It is people the like of Harper and Trudeau and Morneau that have placed our very democracy in very real peril.

They ought to be consulting the very best minds, the public intellectuals, the great progressive economists, on how to get out of this trap, how to steer another course, while there's still time.  Will they? Hardly and in their failure, their unwillingness to act with the vision needed in these rapidly worsening times, they betray the nation and our people.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Firing a Shot Across the Blowhard's Bow

EU president, Jean Claude Junker, delivered a one-liner to Donald Trump in advance of this week's NATO summit.
"Dear America, appreciate your allies. After all, you don't have that many."
That must have gotten under the Mango Mussolini's skin. As he boarded Air Force One, Trump boasted that America has loads of allies. Yeah, sure Don, and how many of them answered America's call after the 9/11 attacks and fought along side the US in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or elsewhere?

How many of these supposed allies joined America's PermaWars as the United States demonstrated, to friend and foe alike, that All the King's Horses and All the King's Men consistently failed to deliver successful military or political outcomes even when they were up against illiterate Afghan farmboys with Korean War vintage assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades?

When America's Blowhard in Chief starts heaping scorn on  NATO members he needs to be reminded that, in the Alliance's history, NATO's beating heart, the Article 5 "mutual defence" provision, has been invoked just once - by America - and the NATO membership (old NATO mainly) answered the call. Yet it was Trump who undermined Article 5 by suggesting America might not come to the defence of other NATO members should they be attacked - you guessed it - by Russia.

Thanks to Trump, the Europeans have understandably come to see America as their less-than-reliable ally. Trump has also undermined the confidence of America's traditional allies in Asia Pacific.

Unfortunately Trump has a lengthy history of sketchy deal making and cheating those who trust or depend on him. That was the story of his business career and he's shown no sign that his presidency will be markedly different.

Trump is a grifter. He's always been a grifter. Now, at 72 years old, he's not capable of meaningful change. There's a reason, several of them, that explain why he gets along best with people named Erdogan, Duterte, Orban, Kim and, of course, Putin. They see enough in him that is their own.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The Most Obnoxious Nation on Earth

I caught a portion of a Trump performance at a recent rally that was unusually disturbing. Trump was regaling his followers with his version of the ubermensch pitch:
"We have more money and more brains and better houses and apartments and nicer boats. We are smarter than they are. They say the elite. We are the elite. You are the elite. "
That could have come from Nietzsche 150 years ago if Friedrich had lousy grammar and a grade school vocabulary.

The Gullibillies roared in approval at their fuhrer's words. 'Yes, we are smarter than they are.'

Trump has been running his mouth long enough that we know this: he may be lying but he says what he means regardless of whether it's true.

There is no jarring disconnect in logic when Trump moves on to instill an abiding sense of victimization in his followers. They're all ripping us off. They're all taking advantage of America. They're stealing your jobs.  Bad China. Bad Europe. Bad Canada. Bad Mexico. And the frothing crowd hump-danced as Trump played on.

Trump never lingers on just who was behind the theft of those jobs. Did China come over and steal them or was it an "inside job"? Was it Wall Street and America's plutocracy that chose to send those jobs offshore in pursuit of cheap labour? And aren't those the very same people, America's new aristocracy, the few (including Clan Trump) who bagged more than 80 % of the latest round of Republican tax cuts?  Golly gee, I guess it was, it is.

This was and has always been an inside job but the Gullibillies don't need to know that. They haven't spotted it yet so why bother telling them when you can blame it on "the other."

America is still by far the wealthiest nation on Earth. It has the highest per capita GDP. It consumes the lion's share of the planet's resources, especially per capita. The US dollar is the dominant world currency. The rest of the world props up America, reliably buying up its debt, year after year.

America is not a victim. It's f#@king spoiled.

MAGA - Make America Great Again. Many Americans, Trump's Gullibillies, see their country as sort of emaciated but they're only looking at their America. They don't realize there's another America that's prosperous as hell. Another America that has sucked the greatness out of their now impoverished remnant America. Another America that has sapped their economic strength and systematically dissolved their once formidable middle class, taking their former political power to boot. Another America that has fleeced them silly and for endless reasons has also destroyed the ladder of social mobility.

Trump is of that other America, the one that has robbed them blind. Look at his cabinet picks, current and former. They're all of that exclusive America. They don't break bread with the Gullibillies' America.

Hey numbnuts, wake up. Yes, your safety deposit box is empty, cleaned out. But the money is still there. It's still in the vault. Your money is now in someone else's safety deposit box and you're not getting it back. You've been MAGA'd. Oh look, the Chinese stole your money. No they didn't. It's those damned Mexicans. No, it isn't. That's not where your money went, dummy. That is where they want you to believe your money went, to the Chinese or the Mexicans, not where it actually went.

Until the Gullibillies realize that the predators they have to confront are home grown they will remain the lawful prey of people like Trump, people who can relentlessly play on their fears, their anger and their paranoia. Until they wise up, America will remain the most obnoxious nation on Earth.

Trump may tell them they're "the elite." He may even convince them they're the elite. Only he will never see them cross the foyer of Merde-a-Lardo.

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."
President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964.

Friday, July 06, 2018

This Doesn't Make the F-35 Obsolete but It's A Big Shove In That Direction.

Keep in mind that the F-35 is 20 year old technology.That's why it's an over-priced, overdue and under-performing bit of kit.

Lockheed sought a marketing advantage by labeling the F-35 a "fifth generation" fighter, as in a leap ahead of the competition's fourth generation warplanes.

The F-22 Raptor, the F-35, China's J-20 and J-31, Russia's Pak 50 and others such as Japan's new stealth fighter are all in the fifth generation category.

But there's a new kid on the block, a sixth generation fighter, expected to soon come out of Europe. It's a Franco-German venture that skips the fifth generation. One of the biggest differences concerns a little-mentioned blip in previous fighters - vertical tail surfaces. Vertical tails compromise the aircraft's stealth cloaking. They do tend to return radar pulses.

Aircraft like America's stealth drones or its B-2 bomber don't have vertical tails.

This video from Dassault indicates that the new Franco-German stealth fighter will be a twin engine delta wing, i.e. sixth generation.

Canada might do well to avoid following so many other countries that are taking the blind plunge off the F-35 cliff. In the meantime we can get by just fine with something less stealthy but much more affordable that the F-35.

Timothy Snyder - Is the Internet Making Us All a Bit Fascist?

Historian Timothy Snyder contends that the Gutenberg printing press was to the 15th century what the internet is to the 21st - a hugely disruptive force. And, just as the printing press transformed society of that day, leading to enormously destructive and protracted wars, so too is the internet changing us in our era, even making most of us just a little bit fascist.

If It's Good Enough for Kinder Morgan, It's Fair Enough for the Liberal Government

Kinder Morgan dodged a bullet when it flogged the TransMountain pipeline to the Trudeau government for a handsome 640 per cent return. The bullet had been fired by KM's own shareholders.
A milestone in the investor-led revolution came at the May 9 annual general meeting of Kinder Morgan, the U.S. energy infrastructure giant that wanted to build the $7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to the company’s terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia, where the guck would be shipped to Asia (in June, the Canadian government nationalized the stalled project). At the meeting, shareholders delivered a wake-up call to the company by passing two environmental resolutions, both of which the company had strenuously resisted. 
The first simply demanded improvements in Kinder Morgan’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting, or sustainability reporting. The second was the biggie. The resolution requested that by 2019, Kinder Morgan produce a detailed report on the impact of its business on the internationally recognized goal of limiting the global temperature increase to two degrees Celsius (that was the main agreement of the 2015 Paris climate change accord, which was signed by most countries, including Canada). The so-called two-degree scenario (2DS) resolution also required Kinder Morgan to tell shareholders how it plans to transition to a low-carbon future.
So, if Kinder Morgan shareholders could tell their company to come clean on climate change and its impact on the 2C goal, isn't it time that prime minister Handy accounted to his shareholders, the Canadian public, about how TransMountain will impact that very same goal, especially since he signed Canada on to the programme? Not just the pipeline but the bitumen itself and all the carbon emissions and other contaminants that we're also exporting.

C'mon, Justin. You promised to be accountable. Do some accounting, dammit.

Is Britain the Miner's Canary of Climate Change?

British firefighters tackle wildfires with
ultra modern technology - scythe and flail.

When you see a photo from India of a pedestrian's flip-flops getting stuck in the melting asphalt as he's trying to cross a street, you might ask "isn't always hot in India?" Is this really a new thing or just something that freelance photographers can now flog to western newspapers? Sure they're roasting in the Middle East. Hey, it's the Middle East. You know, the place with all the sand.

Britain, however, is not the Middle East. It's not India. It's an island where weather was once called endless drizzle or Scotch Mist, autumn and spring, with a few sunny days in the summer and a few snowy days in the winter. Most houses, including the one I lived in, weren't insulated. Only that was then and this, as they say, is now.

Britain now experiences the gamut of extreme weather events: tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, even seasonal droughts sometimes in rapid fire succession. Then there are heatwaves, the Emerald Isle getting scorched. That's why I nominate Britain - not India, not the Middle East, nor any other place on Earth as the miner's canary of climate change.

In today's Guardian, Simon Lewis makes an appeal for political sanity in these troubled times.
Much of the world is in the grip of a heatwave. Britain is so hot and dry that we have Indonesia-style peat fires raging across our moorlands. Montreal posted its highest temperature ever, with the deaths of 33 people in Quebec attributed to the scorching heat. And if you think that’s hot and dangerous, the town of Quriyat in Oman never went below a frightening 42.6C for a full 24 hours in June, almost certainly a global record. While many people love a bit of sun, extreme heat is deadly. But are these sweltering temperatures just a freak event, or part of an ominous trend we need to prepare for? 
Earth’s climate system has always produced occasional extreme weather events, both warm and cold. What is different about now is that extra short-term warmth – from the jet stream being further north than usual – is adding to the long-term trend of rising global temperatures. The warming trend is very clear: the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that all 18 years of the 21st century are among the 19 warmest on record; and 2016 was the warmest year ever recorded. Overall global surface air temperatures have risen by 1C since the industrial revolution. It is therefore no surprise that temperature records are being broken. And we can expect this to become a feature of future summers.
...many aspects of society will require deep and difficult changes, including to our own mindsets. In the summers of the future, particularly in the south of England, we will regularly live in Mediterranean-type conditions. Adapting our national infrastructure, particularly around maintaining our water supplies, updating our housing stock as it is built to retain heat, and altering how we manage our land to avoid further catastrophic fires, will all be required. It is under-appreciated that climate change will transform the very fabric of the experience of living in the UK.
This coming new reality is not high on the political agenda. Climate change is a greater threat to the UK than EU directives, terrorism or a foreign power invading. Yet the scope of our political discussion on future threats is limited to Brexit and spending on defence. Instead of this blinkered view where the future is the same as the past, we need to step out of the intense heat and take a cool look at what we are doing to our home planet.

The development of farming and rise of civilisations occurred within a 10,000-year window of unusually stable environmental conditions. Those stable interglacial conditions are over. Human actions are driving Earth to a hot new super-interglacial state. What scientists call the Anthropocene epoch, this unstable time, is a new chapter of history. Today’s heat is a forewarning of far worse to come. To live well in this new world needs political action to catch up with this changing reality. Fast.
Those familiar with the "climate departure" theory that came out of the University of Hawaii in 2013 have probably been watching these record heatwaves hammering so many nations from Australia to the UK with special interest.

Climate departure could be the hallmark of irreversible global warming and it is predicted to arrive in just six or seven years, spreading across most of the world by about 2047.  It's a tricky concept to convey. It's an abrupt switch from what climate had been to a new climate, a new and hotter normal. It's sort of like flipping a light switch.

Once you're at climate departure, once that switch has flipped, every year following will be hotter than the hottest year before going back as far as 1960. That means no more cool, much less cold, years. Hot years only, very hot years, in endless succession. This graphic illustrates where climate departure will first set in and how it's expected to spread:

This doesn't mean that Reykjavik in 2066 will be as hot as Mumbai or Lagos. It will simply be hotter than Reykjavik was before climate departure which is still pretty moderate. Looking at Africa, however, you can see how climate departure will probably fuel mass migration toward Europe or a similar event out of Central America toward the US.

Another issue is how this super-heating is going to affect Atlantic waters off eastern US and across the central Atlantic to Africa, the area that spawns the hurricanes that now seasonally batter America and the Caribbean. Could something similar affect the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea?

We don't have much idea how much dislocation climate departure will cause - social, economic, political - as it sets in and slowly works its way ever poleward. We don't have much idea but we need to have at least some working idea of what's in store.

Britain is our miner's canary when it comes to climate change and that bird is definitely not chirping.

Hey, Warren. You Even Made It in The Guardian.

Our friend Kinsella has become the official critic of prime minister Handy. He's been given the nod by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Today he can claim credit for keeping the Trudeau grope story alive, this time in my favourite paper, The Guardian.

The allegation has dominated political discussion in Canada in recent days after it was highlighted by a political commentator last month. 
The reporter behind the allegation – who is also believed to be the author of the editorial – has not responded to interview requests from the Guardian. 
Trudeau addressed the allegation briefly on Monday, describing the day of the event as a “good day” and one in which he did not recall any “negative interactions”. 
After calls for an independent investigation into the claim and opposition criticism of his initial response, Trudeau addressed the issue at length on Thursday.

C'mon, Warren, be a sport.  You may be headed for greatness - the pundit who brought down the boy wonder.

Hiding Donald Trump

I know this quaint crofter's cottage up on Culloden moor.  That should do in a pinch.

Theresa May is scrambling for venues to keep the Mango Mussolini from boiling over when he visits Britain next week.  Brits are expected to demonstrate en masse and they're prepared to embarrass the hell out of the world's biggest narcissist.  That means May needs to get Trump in and the hell out of London just as quickly as possible.

Trump, who is to meet Theresa May and the Queen among others before spending two days in Scotland, will only spend the night in London on Thursday, the day of his arrival, staying at the US ambassador’s official residence in Regent’s Park, Winfield House.

Before that he will attend a gala dinner at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, and the following day he will hold talks with the prime minister at her Chequers country retreat in Buckinghamshire. Both are places where protesters can be kept out of sight and earshot. 
Later on Friday he will meet the Queen at Windsor Castle before heading to Scotland for the weekend. Details as to what he will do in Scotland will be released next week. 
Activists have promised to stage protests against Trump throughout his visit, with an event planned for London on Friday expected to be the biggest. 
While he is in the capital, a giant “Trump baby” balloon, caricaturing him as a nappy-wearing infant, will be flown in the sky over Westminster after the Greater London Authority (GLA) gave the creators permission to do so.
It was supposed to be a state visit, the sort of honour given important heads of state. That would have meant the Queen having to host Trump and wife at Buckingham Palace. It's rumoured that the ordinarily cooperative Queen instead invoked the "I'm way too old for that shit" protocol.

Did Big Oil "Get" to Trudeau on the TransMountain Pipeline

It sure looked curious at the time. Kinder Morgan was threatening to abandon the TransMountain pipeline project. That wasn't a surprise because the business case for the multi-billion dollar bitumen tube looked pretty wobbly.

The surprise was when Trudeau and Morneau put on their knee pads and raced to beat Kinder Morgan's ultimatum date. Morneau flew down to Texas and promised the feds would cover any losses from delays. That didn't work so Trudeau just up and bought the damned thing, allowing the sketchy Texans to pocket a nifty 675 percent return on investment.

Why did the Liberal government so completely knuckle under to Kinder Morgan's tactics? It didn't seem to make any sense. Why would Trudeau & Co. stick the Canadian taxpayer with this fiasco?

The National Observer suggests part of it was pressure from the Oil Patch during the last Ontario election.
Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby group ran a political ground war that targeted voters in 13 Ontario “Liberal swing ridings” with billboards in “high visibility locations” in the Toronto area and 400,000 pieces of pro-pipeline literature sent via Canada Post, an ongoing National Observer / Toronto Star / Global Newsinvestigation has found. 
The details of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ campaign appear in a flyer distributed at a government-sponsored summit in Vaughan, near Toronto, where the association had a booth. The flyer explained how the lobby group had engaged in a “ground campaign in Ontario targeting 13 Liberal swing ridings” between April 8 to May 29 — the period in which the federal government was deciding on the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
CAPP’s campaign included 13 rallies across the country, billboards, a huge social media push and mailing hundreds of thousands of letters warning the public about their struggle to compete and gain access to new oil and gas markets, the flyer said. The Calgary-based group also sent 24,000 letters to “key decision makers” including B.C. Premier John Horgan, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and federal National Resources Minister Jim Carr, according to the leaked CAPP document.  
The political implications of the campaign has prompted at least one political insider to call it “a warning shot” from one of Canada’s largest and most powerful lobby groups for the upcoming federal election.
With that, it seems, Trudeau's government folded like a lawn chair. The Bitumen Barons had humbled the King. There would be no further trouble from Justin during the runup to the 2019 federal elections.

And who says we don't bargain with terrorists?

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Could Climate Models Be That Far Out?

If there's been anything consistent in climate science it has been the errors in forecasts and projections. Climate science - the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), NASA, the Hadley Centre, National Academies of Science, Potsdam, the lot - keep understating what's coming, especially what's already "baked in" our shifting environment.

We were told that if we didn't sharply mend our ways a lot of stuff was going to happen by 2100 and a fair bit of that stuff did happen only 60 to 80 years sooner than predicted. I suppose you have some idea of what's coming next.

A new report published in Nature Geoscience says temperature increases could be double what has been predicted and, even if we do somehow, magically meet the 2 degree Celsius target for warming, sea levels could rise not a foot or two or even three but six metres. That's 19.685 feet.

The researchers say they increase the urgency with which countries need to address their emissions. 
The scientists used a range of measurements to piece together the impacts of past climatic changes to examine how a warmer earth would appear once the climate has stabilised. 
They found sustained warming of one to two degrees had been accompanied by substantial reductions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rises of at least six metres – several metres higher than what current climate models predict could occur by 2100.
Here's what 6 metres of sea level rise would mean to Florida. Adios Miami. Fairwell, Florida Keys. Good riddance, Merde a Lardo.

 Remember, what's shown here is calm weather inundation. It doesn't take into account severe storm events, storm surge inundation, etc. Heading west, the entire US Gulf Coast is in trouble. New Orleans will be gone. Houston could go too.

Keep this in mind. The latest report cited here is not some outlier.  It is not the first to predict six metres of sea level rise even if we keep warming below the 2C target. There have been others including this one from 2015.  These reports, then, may represent a building consensus of what we must prepare to accept. This is not going to go down well with the world's petro-states, including our own.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Themis, Wherefore Art Thou?

Themis. To the ancient Greeks, Themis was the goddess of justice.  Wiki offers this description:
She is described as "[the Lady] of good counsel", and is the personification of divine order, fairness, law, natural law, and custom.
Today, Themis is commonly depicted blindfolded, "blind justice." The blindfold was introduced during the Renaissance.

Vancouver courthouse

The blindfold represents impartiality, the ideal that justice should be applied without regard to wealth, power, or other status.
Order, fairness, law and impartiality are all cornerstones of true justice today, in those countries where true justice is still dispensed. Sadly, the United States is not among the ranks of countries that bother with true justice.

The American judicial system is corrupt, by design. Trump is about to drive another nail into the coffin of justice in the next few days when he will announce his "pick" to replace retiring Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court. The goal is to stack the deck with reliable conservative judges.

Trump is working through a short list of candidates cherry-picked by the Federalist Society. This arch-conservative/libertarian organization has culled the herd to a select list of reliable arch-conservative prospects. What that means is that deliberately excluded from the Federal Society's list will be any great legal minds, no matter how brilliant or deserving, that don't meet the ideological standard.

That means that America's Themis has no blindfold. To the contrary, the American supreme court can be counted on to dispense justice through an ideological filter. If your leaning matches the court's, you're in good hands. If, however, you're of the same perspective as the majority of Americans, you're screwed by a rigged system.

It's not as though there's anything underhanded in this. People like Trump don't even pretend to want an unbiased court, the only court that can dispense real justice. They have their priorities and fairness and justice aren't on their list.

What Trump is doing isn't particularly alarming. That a Republican Congress will rubber stamp his choice isn't alarming. What is really alarming is the body of American lawyers and their law societies that allow this corruption to continue, unchallenged, without a protest.

I think of lawyers in Pakistan who risked their careers, even for some their lives, to take to the streets in defiance of their government's attempts to corrupt their judicial system. Their American counterparts, by contrast, have succumbed to complacency, accepted the corruption.

You cannot obtain justice from an ideologically compromised court. You cannot have a fair court by choosing justices for their ideological bias. The American people, their political leadership, their lawyers and their judges think that's just fine.

The bottom line is that the rule of law, the cornerstone of democracy, is defeated when the judicial system is compromised.

It's Easier When You Think of It as a Form of Retardation.

One of the side effects of becoming a petro-state, a purveyor of fossil energy whether oil, gas and/or coal, is the political retardation factor. Since climate change became a recognized threat, every Canadian government, Tory and Liberal alike, has succumbed to carbon-retardation. It has made them imbecilic, even moronic.

And, yes, Justin Trudeau has carbon-retardation. He's neck deep in it. Gotta move that bitumen and that natural gas and all that coal. Sure, it's destroying the environment and it's probably already claiming lives but, hey, we'll deal with that later, eventually, long after we've squandered all those petro-bucks. Sure.

An interesting and timely article in The Guardian looks at how we can harvest the power of the moon. It focuses on tidal power - reliable, effectively unlimited and, best of all, free.

I like to head down to the beach when we're having a particularly low tide. As I gaze over the exposed sand flats I'm struck by the power of the moon to draw away all that water.  Moon power. That is energy that traces back 4.5 billion years to the collision between a Mars-size planet and Earth. It created a lot of debris, enough to form our moon, that was captured by Earth's gravitational force and has been circling the planet ever since. These tides reflect energy that's 4.5 billion years old. That is so cool. And every watt of that energy for the past 4.5 billion years has been absolutely free of charge.

The left coast is blessed with an abundance of free, renewable energy, ours for the taking.

Prevailing winds from the Pacific bring moisture laden clouds. This is where our several mountain ranges come into play.  Those clouds, trying to head eastward, wind up dumping their moisture as rain on those mountains. Mountains, being high, a few thousand feet or more, concentrate that rain into gullies. That rain water has potential energy that is transformed into kinetic energy as it races downhill. It creates the energy needed to drive turbines for electrical generation. Rain, being intermittent, the mountainous terrain facilitates the construction of reservoirs that can then run power plants. There are several environmental problems associated with these dams. Yet it is a major source of renewable, non-carbon energy. That's really good energy when you're recharging your electric car.

In other words we've got abundant hydro-electricity. And we've got wind energy. If you've ever driven (ridden) the California coast you will have seen wind turbines arrayed along ridge lines. Winds get pretty good at higher elevations. Folks who fly sailplanes (gliders) understand the power of "ridge lift." In other words, so long as Earth continues to rotate and the sun warms the seas, we'll have loads of wind power that still is untapped.

So, we've got vast untapped hydro power and wind energy. What else?

The Guardian article focuses on moon power, tidal power. It addresses the incredible tidal bore on the Bay of Fundy. Huge energy there, twice a day like clockwork.

British Columbia has plenty of tidal energy but it's not as focused as the Bay of Fundy. That said, we've got something else. Take a look at this map of Vancouver Island and the mainland.

Look at that stretch of the island between Kokish down to Campbell River. It's a natural Venturi tube, about 150 miles long as the gap between the island and the mainland sharply narrows.  As that gap narrows the currents accelerate the flow rates along that passage. That's all free energy. Free, reliable and clean energy. It's as reliable as the ocean currents themselves.

So, we've got tidal energy, hydro energy, wind energy, and the concentrated energy of the Pacific Ocean current.  Anything else? Why, of course.

There are advantages and a few drawbacks associated with any mountainous territory and British Columbia is mainly mountainous. We are part of the Pacific Rim, a.k.a. the Ring of Fire. Volcanoes and other features bring the heat from the Earth's magma to or near the surface.

 It is estimated that tapping the best sites, about 16 in total, would produce upwards of 3,000 megawatts of constant, free, clean energy.

So with all this near limitless natural, clean, renewable energy waiting to be harnessed, what's holding us back? It's that carbon-retardation thing again and our governments have it bad, really bad. We can meet our needs with clean energy, easy peasy, but we can make money (supposedly) by flogging high-carbon fossil fuels. That's the way Justin Trudeau rolls. That's the way Stephen Harper rolled. That's the way the next prime minister of Canada will roll.

That's what you call "captured" government. And if you don't believe that our federal government has been captured ask yourself why it continues to shower massive amounts of money and in-kind benefits to the Fossil Fuelers, worth upwards of $34 billion a year according to the IMF, while it doesn't invest even a tiny fraction of that into developing our abundant clean energy resources.