Wednesday, December 13, 2017

USA Today Journalistically Burns Trump in Effigy

Don't sugar coat it, fellas.

The editorial board of USA Today decided to do a long overdue drive by on the Mango Mussolini that should be music to a lot of ears.

"A president who'd all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes: Our view"

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

This isn’t about the policy differences we have with all presidents or our disappointment in some of their decisions. Obama and Bush both failed in many ways. They broke promises and told untruths, but the basic decency of each man was never in doubt.

Donald Trump, the man, on the other hand, is uniquely awful. His sickening behavior is corrosive to the enterprise of a shared governance based on common values and the consent of the governed.

It should surprise no one how low he went with Gillibrand. When accused during the campaign of sexually harassing or molesting women in the past, Trump’s response was to belittle the looks of his accusers. Last October, Trump suggested that he never would have groped Jessica Leeds on an airplane decades ago: “Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you.” Trump mocked another accuser, former People reporter Natasha Stoynoff, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.” Other celebrities and politicians have denied accusations, but none has stooped as low as suggesting that their accusers weren’t attractive enough to be honored with their gropes.

If recent history is any guide, the unique awfulness of the Trump era in U.S. politics is only going to get worse. Trump’s utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office.

It is a shock that only six Democratic senators are calling for our unstable president to resign.

The nation doesn’t seek nor expect perfect presidents, and some have certainly been deeply flawed. But a president who shows such disrespect for the truth, for ethics, for the basic duties of the job and for decency toward others fails at the very essence of what has always made America great.

It Must be Wednesday. New Study. Arctic Permafrost. Worse Than We Imagined.

Not welcome news, especially in petro-pimp Canada, but NOAA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, has released a new report on Arctic permafrost, the repository of vast amounts of once safely sequestered methane. The permafrost is thawing faster than ever. Think of it as leaving the freezer door open on a hot day.

Permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever, according to a new US government report that also found Arctic seawater is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years.

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic; it affects the rest of the planet,” said acting NOAA chief Timothy Gallaudet. “The Arctic has huge influence on the world at large.”

Permafrost records show the frozen ground that many buildings, roads and pipelines are built on reached record warm temperatures last year nearing and sometimes exceeding the thawing point. That could make them vulnerable when the ground melts and shifts, the report said.

So why does this matter? There's a simple answer. This crosses the barrier  between man-made greenhouse gas emissions, primarily CO2, and the even more powerful methane greenhouse gas emissions from a natural feedback loop.  We're the trigger. We create the tipping point. However, once that tipping point is reached, and we've crossed a number of them, nature begins to release its own stored greenhouse gases creating what's called runaway global warming

We notionally strive to limit global warming to 2, if not 1.5 degrees Celsius by slashing man-made CO2 emissions, primarily by abandoning fossil fuels. We're not even doing a convincing job of that. Yet the rationale for cutting man-made emissions was, and supposedly remains, to ensure we don't trigger natural feedback loops, runaway global warming, just like that now underway across the Arctic.

Science is now scrambling to analyze how the loss of Arctic sea ice will affect the climate elsewhere. A report last week forecast a significant decline of rainfall and worsening of droughts in California due to Arctic changes. California supplies a significant part of America's food supply and it's the source for much of the fruit and nuts on Canadian grocery shelves. That's the insidious nature of climate change. Everything seems to have knock-on or ripple effects. Disruption of one kind in one place can trigger entirely different but equally or worse impacts thousands of miles away.

A Moore Too Far

Victory has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan.

So, who gets credit for the razor-thin victory in yesterday's Alabama Senate vote and who gets the blame for the loss?

You could say that the Republican candidate, Roy Moore, deserves most of the credit for the Democrat, Doug Jones' win. Moore exposed just how godawful bad a Republican has to be in Alabama for a Democrat to win and that's bloody godawful. It's a safe bet that had Trump's initial choice, Luther Strange, been on the ballot, Doug Jones would have joined the long list of Democratic losers.

Some credit also goes to Alabama women who, according to exit polls, went heavily to Jones. Same, same for the black vote. Both groups turned out in good numbers, good enough to eke out a win over the white male vote that was always pro-Moore, the "hell or high water" voters.

The losers include the lecher, Moore himself, with his rich history of chasing post-pubescent girls in his town while he was a district attorney. Eew, creepy, yuck. Banned from the local mall? Roy's probably lucky no one had come up with those TV sting shows back then.

Runner-up honours must go to anarchist/insurgent, Trump advisor Steve Bannon who was instrumental in helping Moore defeat his conventional Republican rival, Luther Strange.

Then there's the Republican National Committee and Congressional Republicans who, at first recoiled from Moore but then decided that throwing up a little bit in their mouths was okay and rallied behind Moore. That's a pretty powerful declaration of how low they will set the bar for entry into their ranks. The GOP is NAMbLA friendly or seems to have those leanings.

And also putting in a good showing was America's deviant in chief, beauty pageant Peeping Tom and groper extraordinaire, the one and only Mango Mussolini, Donald Trump. The Lard-Ass in Golfing Pants not only switched his support to Moore but urged voters to ignore the candidate's sordid past because, like Trump himself, Moore denied everything.

In other words, it's back to the boonies for Moore but the RNC, the Congressional Republican caucus and its leadership, and their deranged president, well they come out of this covered in shit, Roy Moore's to be exact. It's going to take a good long while for them to scrape off that filth. My guess is they won't even try. They'll just hope the voters eventually get used to the smell and don't even notice.

The one ray of hope for the GOP this morning is that they're still squared off against the Democrats.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Classic" As in Vintage

Canada has snubbed Boeing on the purchase of F-18 Super Hornets. Yeah! Instead we're going to buy Australian cast offs. Noo!

We're going to buy 18 Australian F-18's, the "Classic" model which is code for F/A 18A's, the clapped out warplane from the Pierre Trudeau era that served Canada throughout the Mulroney era, the Chretien era, the Harper era and, now, another Trudeau era.

It's a sweet deal for Australia which has already bought a supply of more modern Super Hornets to fill the gap while they await a transition to the F-35 joint strike fighter. They get to unload their high hour, less capable vintage F-18s, pocketing a good bit of change.

For Canada it's a "beggars can't be choosers" solution. We're still supplementing Canada's seriously aging fleet of vintage F-18s only it will be with more vintage hand-me-down F-18s rather than the costlier but far more capable Super Hornets. And we can still talk convincingly about replacing the lot with a brand new fighter in 2025 which will be at or near the expiry date of the Liberal government's 10-year shelf life.

It's shaping up to be another Liberal/Conservative kick it down the road problem.

Living In a Worst Case Scenario World

Close only counts in horse shoes - at least when attention turns to potentially existential questions. The more serious the issue the more important to have the most accurate, reliable information and analysis. Getting it wrong can invite irreparable consequences.

And so a new report published in the journal, Nature, demands our attention.

International policy makers and authorities are relying on projections that underestimate how much the planet will warm—and, by extension, underestimate the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to stave off catastrophic impacts of climate change.

"The basic idea is that we have a range of projections on future warming that came from these climate models, and for scientific interest and political interest, we wanted to narrow this range," said Patrick Brown, co-author of the study. "We find that the models that do the best at simulating the recent past project more warming."

Using that smaller group of models, the study found that if countries stay on a high-emissions trajectory, there's a 93 percent chance the planet will warm more than 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Previous studies placed those odds at 62 percent.

Four degrees of warming would bring many severe impacts, drowning small islands, eliminating coral reefs and creating prolonged heat waves around the world, scientists say.

Planning and allocating scarce resources to an overly-optimistic scenario, say 2 degrees Celsius of warming, can be next to useless if you wind up with 4C of warming.

Brown and his co-author, the prominent climate scientist Ken Caldeira—both at the Carnegie Institution for Science—wanted to see if there was a way to narrow the uncertainty by determining which models were better. To do this, they looked at how the models predict recent climate conditions and compared that to what actually happened.

"The IPCC uses a model democracy—one model, one vote—and that's what they're saying is the range, " Brown explained. "We're saying we can do one better. We can try to discriminate between well- and poor-performing models. We're narrowing the range of uncertainty."

"You'll hear arguments in front of Congress: The models all project warming, but they don't do well at simulating the past," he said. "But if you take the best models, those are the ones projecting the most warming in the future."

Nikiforuk Eviscerates Jim Horgan and Has Justin's Guts for Garters.

He's hands down the best journalist in Canada when it comes to fossil fuels. He's The Tyee's petro-scribe. And, as far as Andrew Nikiforuk is concerned, British Columbia's new NDP premier, Jim Horgan, is an environmental failure.

The astoundingly stupid approval of Site C, an over-budget mega-project with no demonstrable need and plenty of cheaper alternatives, marks a black day for B.C.’s NDP government.

The party that promised to deliver fiscal prudence and accountability instead bowed to special interests and insider views.

New Democrats swore to observe First Nation rights but now have trod on them.

They talked about leadership with courage but embraced cowardice.

Thanks to deceitful practices and the blocking of regulatory oversight, the previous Liberal government committed taxpayers’ money to a bad project with severe geo-technical problems.

So, Horgan said, we now must dig the financial hole even bigger and deeper.

That’s the approach of a drunk gambler at the casino for the damned.


The research on mega-dams, which the Horgan government ignored as stubbornly as Christy Clark, tells a truly human story about economic folly.

Researchers from Oxford University described mega-dams as “big bets gone awry.” The economic evidence shows that engineers “severely and systematically” underestimate the actual costs and schedules of large hydro-power dams, they found.


The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set out climate plans in the Mid-Century Long-Term Low-Greenhouse Gas Development Strategy.

The little-read document boasts that the nation can reduce carbon emissions and meet Paris Agreement greenhouse gas targets by generating massive amounts of hydro power, which the document falsely describes as “emission free.”

It describes Canada as “the second largest producer of hydropower after China” and adds that the country now “has the opportunity to increase its clean electricity exports.”

The report says more than10 gigawatts of hydro capacity have been proposed or planned in Canada, tapping the Churchill, Nelson, Slave, Athabasca and Peace river systems — the equivalent of more than nine Site C dams.

But to fully “electrify” a “decarbonized” and “innovative” economy, the country would have to build the equivalent of 100 to 130 dams the size of Site C or Muskrat Falls over the next 32 years.

David Schindler, a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and internationally celebrated water ecologist, has described the government strategy document as a fraud.

For starters, the necessary hydro capacity cannot be built over 32 years to meet the Paris Agreement commitments. (It takes, on average, about eight years to build a dam.)

Schindler adds that the document assumes erroneously that hydroelectric dam building produces no greenhouse gases.

“When the emissions from building, producing and transporting construction materials, clearing forests, and moving earth are added to emissions from flooded land, the GHG production from hydro is expected to be only slightly less than from burning natural gas,” he writes.

The catastrophic plan also ignores other bad impacts of dams, including elevated mercury in fish, blocked fish passage, destruction of fish habitat and downstream effects on river delta ecosystems.

Last but not least, the northern dam building proposed by the strategy “would violate the treaty rights of many First Nations by damaging the ecosystems upon which their livelihood depends.”

Justin Trudeau, a fraud? Oh, say it ain't so. Only it is. If there's one thing that Slick has shown us it's never to take his promises at face value. He's no Donald Trump but Trump lies about even frivolous things. When Trudeau lies, it's pretty much focused on serious things - social licence, First Nations consultation, cleaning up the corrupt National Energy Board, that sort of thing. Oh yeah and that nonsense about bitumen trafficking being the key to Canada's green future. The nice thing about Justin is that, when he reneges on his solemn promises and has to admit he's lied, he apologizes. He's awfully good at apologizing.

Monday, December 11, 2017

So It Was a "Hard Decision," So What? British Columbia's New Dems Will Finish What Christy Started.

I hate it when they grovel but that's exactly what British Columbia's NDP premier, Jim Horgan, did in announcing his government will complete the environmental catastrophe known as the Site C hydroelectric dam. Oh, wailed Big Jim, it was a vewy, vewy difficult decision, a real ball buster.

"At the end of the day, we've come to a conclusion that, although Site C is not the project we would have favoured or would have started, it must be completed," said Premier John Horgan in announcing the decision.

"This is a very, very divisive issue, and will have profound impact … for a lot of British Columbians. We have not been taking this decision lightly."

The NDP government had been debating whether to continue the construction of the dam — which will displace farmers and indigenous communities as it floods 5,500 hectares of the Peace River valley — or cancel the work midway through the job.

And, of course, it has nothing to do with the construction unions that were twisting Horgan's arm for the go ahead.

At least the BC Greens didn't capitulate along with Horgan.

"Today, Site C is no longer simply a B.C. Liberal boondoggle — it has now become the B.C. NDP's project. They are accountable to British Columbians for the impact this project will have on our future," said Green Party leader Andrew Weaver in a statement.

"We have seen what is happening to ratepayers in Newfoundland because of Muskrat Falls, a similar project, where rates are set to almost double. I am deeply concerned that similar impacts are now in store for B.C. ratepayers."

Weaver says the Site C dam was originally intended to provide cheap, subsidized electricity to encourage natural gas producers to deliver Christy Clark's economic miracle. Like most examples of magical thinking that LNG market never came to pass.

One thing about the Site C dam is its power to bring out the bootlicking turncoat in politicians including Trudeau's justice minister, Jody Wilson Raybould, seen here in her previous job as AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia.

What's Thirteen Times Two and a Half? It's 'Roy Moore America'.

That would be the respective popularity of the United States Congress (13 per cent) and America's "Bad Grampa" president (32 per cent). Trump's approval numbers are two and a half times greater than the Congressional score but they're still the worst for any president since approval numbers were first clocked.

Those numbers suggest that the American people are supremely pissed off with the ladies and gentlemen they themselves choose to govern them. Curiously enough, studies show that American voters tend to support their own representative but have a real hate on for all the others.

Congress just saddled the American people with tax reform. That American people hate it. It didn't take them long to figure out that this is just another handout to the richest of the rich, the Mango Mussolini and his clan included.

It's just a mess of insults atop injuries so why aren't the American people taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches? Truthdig's Paul Street has a few ideas and they mainly revolve around "magical thinking."

The forces and factors that have turned tens of millions of Americans into an inert mass are numerous and complex.

Part of the answer lies in the pervasively disseminated belief that we the people get meaningful say on the making of U.S. policy by participating in the “competitive” biennial major-party and candidate-centered elections that are sold to us as “politics”—the only politics that matter. Showing how and why that’s a false belief was the mission of my last Truthdig essay, titled “U.S. Elections: A Poor Substitute for Democracy.”

A second populace-demobilizing form of n thinking that is keeping people quiescent in the face of abject racist, sexist, ecocidal and classist-plutocratic outrage is the belief or dream that Russiagate special prosecutor Robert Mueller will save us and our supposed democracy by putting together a slam-dunk case for impeachment and removal on grounds of collusion with Russia and/or obstruction of justice.

A remarkable 47 percent of the electorate already supports impeachment less than a year into Trump’s first year. But so what? There is an outside chance that the malignant quasi-fascist tumor that is Donald Trump can be cut out this way. As liberal commentator Peter Beinart notes in The Atlantic, however, the odds of impeachment are poor. This is because “impeachment is less a legal process than a political one,” and the partisan alignment in Congress favors Trump in ways that appear unbreakable, given Republicans’ control of Congress and the dogged determination with which Trump’s white nationalist base is deplorably determined to stand by its man, no matter how low he sinks.

With his epically low approval rating of 32 percent, the orange-tinted bad grandpa in the Oval Office is getting ready to sign a viciously regressive tax bill that is widely rejected by the populace. The bill will be sent to his desk by a Congress whose current approval rating stands at 13 percent. It will be a major legislative victory for Republicans, a party whose approval rating fell to an all-time low of 29 percent at the end of September—a party set to elect an alleged child molester to the Senate.

The dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats, the party of “inauthentic opposition,” are hardly more popular. Their approval mark was 37 percent in a recent CNN poll, their lowest level in 25 years. Pervasive scorn for the party is richly appropriate, given its role as “the graveyard of social movements” and its long history of serving the nation’s financial, corporate and imperial ruling class. As the venerable progressive hero Ralph Nader recently told The Intercept:

There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. What’s happened in the last twenty years? They’ve gotten more entrenched. Get rid of Pelosi, you get Steny Hoyer. You get rid of Harry Reid, you get [Charles] Schumer. Good luck. … Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.


It’s surreal. An explosion of sex scandals, the interminable Russia madness, a bizarre embassy move in Israel, an Alabama freak show, a prolonged game of bizarre verbal-thermonuclear chicken between the insane clown president in Washington and the dear leader in Pyongyang combine with the National Football League, Netflix, online shopping and porn, endemic video-gaming, epidemic mass shootings and the mindfulness and happiness industries to run diversionary interference for the evermore drastic and dangerous upward concentration of “homeland” wealth and power. Meanwhile, the death knells of the coming environmental catastrophe Trump is dedicated to accelerating—with unmentionably climate change-driven “wildfires speaking apocalyptic destruction” across Southern California this week—ring across the land and the world, barely breaking into the presidentially obsessed news cycle.

Welcome to the de facto banana republic that is, as Noam Chomsky said, America’s “really existing capitalist democracy—RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked.’ ”

Revolution, anyone?

Brace Yourselves. Sin Tax on Meat, Coming Soon.

It may sound like a radical idea but it's not, not even remotely radical. An environmental tax on meat.

For close to a decade, soil agronomists have been warning that industrial agriculture, the conjuring act by which we made the planet able to grow the human population to 7.5 billion and beyond, was killing the soil itself.  Too many crops requiring ever increasing applications of agricultural chemicals (fertilizers/herbicides/pesticides) was depleting the stuff in the soil - the black stuff - that makes farmland arable. We were turning good soil into marginal soil and marginal soil into sterile, useless soil and on into desert.

Eventually in 2014 even the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization weighed in with a warning that mankind had about 60 harvests remaining. I suppose that's closer to 57 now.  57, your parents are probably older than that. Maybe you are too.  Like so many other existential challenges now threatening our survival our leaders pretend that it's not happening but, sorry, it is.

It's pretty obvious that we're going to have to take a harder look at what we do with our soil and what we get from it. And, as soon as you get into that, you plunge into the debate about livestock - meat.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China’s government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016.

The first global analysis of meat taxes done in 2016 found levies of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save half a million lives a year and slash climate warming emissions. Proposals in Denmark suggested a tax of $2.70 per kilogram of meat.

Meat taxes are often seen as politically impossible but research by Chatham House in 2015 found they are far less unpalatable to consumers than governments think. It showed people expect governments to lead action on issues that are for the global good, but that awareness of the damage caused by the livestock industry is low. Using meat tax revenues to subsidise healthy foods is one idea touted to reduce opposition.

“It’s only a matter of time before agriculture becomes the focus of serious climate policy,” said Rob Bailey at Chatham House. “The public health case will likely strengthen government resolve, as we have seen with coal and diesel. It’s hard to imagine concerted action to tax meat today, but over the course of the next 10 to 20 years, I would expect to see meat taxes accumulate.”

Meanwhile The Guardian's George Monbiot writes that we're staring at the very real prospect of mass starvation.

By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. These predictions could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4C of warming in the US corn belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how exactly do we accommodate it?

And then there's the hard question, the one that you and I will have to wrestle with.

The next green revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nuclear War - Just "A Tantrum Away."

You couldn't ask for two more mentally stable people than Kim Jong Un and his orange alter-ego, "Dementia Donald" Trump.

The world faces a "nuclear crisis" from a "bruised ego", the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) has warned in an apparent reference to US-North Korea tensions.

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on Sunday, Ican's executive director Beatrice Fihn said "the deaths of millions may be one tiny tantrum away".

"We have a choice, the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us," she added.

Tensions over North Korea's weapons programme have risen in recent months.

The open hostility between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership under Kim Jong-un has at times descended into personal attacks this year.

Speaking at the ceremony in Oslo, Ms Fihn said "a moment of panic" could lead to the "destruction of cities and the deaths of millions of civilians" from nuclear weapons.

Prior to presenting the prize on Sunday, Nobel committee chair Berit Reiss-Andersen offered a similar warning, saying that "irresponsible leaders can come to power in any nuclear state".

It's Not for Want of Money

If America's military is short of anything, it's not money. The United States provides its military with more money than the combined defence budgets of the next eight most powerful states.

The problem is that America doesn't get much bang for its defence buck. A lot of that money is pissed away, squandered. A lot of it is soaked up to maintain a powerful, permanent US military presence in every corner of the world. The last region to be brought into America's fold was Africa after the 2007 launch of AfriCom or, formally, the United States Africa Command. At first no African country wanted anything to do with AfriCom and it had to operate from Germany. Since then it's gotten a toe hold, shootin' and everything.

This is serious stuff for a nation that has chosen military force or the threat of military force in lieu of diplomacy as its principal instrument of foreign policy. Historian and retired US Army commander, Andrew Bacevich, argues convincingly that America's modern military juggernaut has become so deeply integral to the nation state that breaking its hold on the apparatus of government would require a fundamental restructuring of the state itself.

Sam Clemens, Mark Twain, is often credited with the line that, "to a man who has only a hammer, everything looks like a nail." The same could be said of America's hyper-militarism. In the 21st century era of Perma-War, the military/industrial/neoconservative/evangelical/commercial (for profit) warfighting complex is constantly scouting for new enemies, new places to attack. Fortunately the advent of "New War" or low-intensity conflicts embroiling state actors (host nations and supporting allies), quasi-state actors (militias/warlords) and a confusing bundle of non-state actors ranging from rebels, insurgents, terrorists, organized crime and garden-variety criminal elements, each pursuing often shifting and conflicting interests, virtually ensures that conflicts that will seemingly never end.

But the prospect of other wars, "Old War," may be staging a comeback. "Peer on peer" warfare of the sort not really seen since 1945. The principals would be America, perhaps Europe, Russia and China. This is where having the most and best of everything should finally pay off, right? Perhaps but maybe not.

A new report released by the US strategic think tank, the RAND Corporation, contends that the United States can no longer take winning for granted if it locks horns with either Russia or China.

The document’s authors claim that at present, US armed forces are "insufficiently trained and ready," especially in terms of the active service components.

"In short, providing the military power called for by the United States' ambitious national security strategy, which has never been easy, has recently become considerably more challenging," the report reads. "The coincidence of this new reality with a period of constrained defense budgets has led to a situation in which it is now far from clear that our military forces are adequate for the tasks being placed before them."

"Put more starkly, assessments in this report will show that US forces could, under plausible assumptions, lose the next war they are called upon to fight, despite the United States outspending China military forces by a ratio of 2.7:1 and Russia by 6:1," the document continues. "The nation needs to do better than this."

According to analysts, NATO may face certain difficulties if Russia decides to move into Baltic states.

"In short, we concluded that, as currently postured, NATO cannot defend the Baltic states against a determined, short-warning Russian attack," the document says.

In case of China, the US will have tough times defending Taiwan if Beijing opts to retake the breakaway island republic. Besides, China studied previous US military campaigns to develop own strategies on this basis.

The RAND report, all 190-pages of it, is available free in PDF from the link above.

That post Cold War business is over, a glorious opportunity stupidly squandered. America now faces the return of strategic adversaries, rivals.  The US still has a technological lead but even that is being challenged, especially by China. There's something of a David and Goliath dynamic to this. America's rivals don't want to challenge the US in every corner of the world, only in their own neighbourhoods. That gives them terrific home field advantages including the ability to exploit gaps and weaknesses in America's deployments and technology.  We're simply not "all that" any more.

We've Done a Good Job at Pretending. Now We Have to Figure Out If the Liberals Deserve to Be Called "Liberal"?

It's a safe bet that Trump's announcement on Jerusalem as Israeli capital will likely bring a motion to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Harper/Trudeau machine has been in Israel's pocket for a decade.  Whenever there's a motion dealing with Israel and Palestine the vote comes down to this : The World versus the United States, Canada and a trio of bought and paid for South Pacific atoll states.  The World speaks with one voice. Us, we five (minus three), are the only support Israel still has.  A great relief when one of the two principals has a veto on the Security Council.

We'll know just what lurks inside Justin Trudeau when that motion is brought before the General Assembly. If we've become a nation of lickspittles we will see it then.  I hope Canada would find its once legendary decency and join "The World" to denounce Trump and support the Palestinians yet I doubt that's in the cards.

It's time we, the average guy, knew how this country came to be aligned under Harper and how little Trudeau has even slightly altered that alignment, our new normal.

We're no longer a country resembling the Canada as we knew it at its apex during Pearson and his immediate successor.  We don't get leaders of that calibre any more. We get technocrats who view national leadership as a management function to transactional accommodation. Now we have leaders who ignore what is right and just in favour of what is advantageous and expedient. And so they very quietly go about this nasty little business of ours hoping that people like you will be none the wiser.

While We're On the Subject of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians are once again on people's minds (sort of, briefly) due to Donald Trump's announcement that the US will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  It sort of confirms the idea that if a nightmare drags on for decades, half a century is plenty, we forget what really happened and we're prepared to swallow just about anything.

Most people I know have never read David Hirst's "The Gun and the Olive Branch." (You can get it here, free it seems, in PDF.) It's a long read but in it the veteran Middle East journalist shatters many of the myths we have come to embrace as the accepted narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There's probably no prime minister in Canada, sitting or past, who would want you to read it for it would not cast them in a flattering light.

But if you're not up for that sort of effort, you might to whet your interest with Dr. Shir Havir's account of the origins of this intractable conflict that has seen an entire people held in captivity for a half century, their lands occupied and annexed by a state that persistently flouts international law, a rogue state we proudly proclaim our ally.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Need a Giggle? From Russia, With Love.

I'm Guessing He Won't Be Invited Back

Who knows what the Greeks were thinking when they invited terrible-tempered Turkish despot, Recep Erdogan, to visit Athens.

The Ottoman boor wasted no time making the Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, regret the gesture.  Erdogan began by demanding a renegotiation of the 1923 Treaty of LausanneThat was a treaty between the Ottoman empire and the WWI allies - France, Britain, Japan, Italy, Greece and Romania. The Ottomans, who had thrown their hat in with the Kaiser, were the losers. The allies, who had emerged victorious were, well, the opposite of the Ottomans. The original treaty, the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, would have really carved up the Ottoman turf, allowing for the creation of a true homeland for the Kurds. The war-weary Brits and French, however, caved with the arrival of the Turkish nationalist, Ataturk, who rejected Sevres. Hence the Treaty of Lausanne which, apparently, no longer suits Erdogan.

Disputes that had lain dormant – not least the 1923 Treaty of Lausannedelineating the borders between the two nations – were prised open with brutal force on Thursday by Erdoğan on the first day of a historic visit dominated by the leader’s unpredictability.

Within an hour of stepping off his plane, the pugilistic politician was sparring with the Greek head of state, Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Athens, he said imperiously, would never have entered Nato had it not been for Ankara’s support. As an ally, it should seek to improve the religious rights of the Muslim minority in Thracewhich were enshrined in the Lausanne treaty, he insisted, sitting stony-faced in the inner sanctum of the presidential palace. “It needs to be modernised,” he said of the treaty, which has long governed Greek-Turkish relations and is seen as a cornerstone of regional peace.

A visibly stunned Pavlopoulos hit back, calling the treaty non-negotiable.

“The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and the sovereignty of Greece, and of the European Union, and this treaty is non-negotiable. It has no flaws, it does not need to be reviewed, or updated.”

After Pavlopoulos got the treatment, it was Tsipras' turn for an Erdogan lashing.

In subsequent talks with the prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, he chastised the Greeks for failing to look after Ottoman sites and provide a proper place of worship for Muslims. Cyprus, he argued, had not been reunified because Greek Cypriots kept turning down a “just and sustainable” settlement. He also attacked the “economic chasm” between Greeks, who earned on average €15,000 a year, and the Turkish-speaking Muslim minority in northern Thrace who earned around €2,200 a year.

Athens, he continued, should also return the eight Turkish officers who had escaped to Greece as the coup unfolded even if the country’s judicial system had blocked their repatriation on the grounds that they would not be given a fair trial. “It is possible to return them to Turkey, which is a country that has abolished the death penalty and is not a country of torture,” he told a press conference in the prime minister’s office.

Looking on in dismay – Greek ministers exchanging knowing smiles around him – Tsipras repeated that as the birthplace of democracy, where executive power was separate from the law, Greece respected decisions made by the country’s justice system.

Earlier, the 43-year-old had attempted to ameliorate the frosty atmosphere, telling his guest that respect for international law was the basis of solid ties between the two neighbours.

“Differences have always existed and [they exist] today,” the leftist leader said. “It is important … that we express our disagreements in a constructive way, without being provocative.”

The two countries came close to war 1996 over a pair of uninhabited isles in the Aegean Sea. Most recently, tensions have resurfaced over Greece’s frontier role in the refugee crisis, failed talks to reunify Cyprus and, according to officials in Athens, Turkey’s repeated violations of Greek air and naval space in the Aegean.

The defence ministry claims more than 3,000 airspace violations have occurred this year, more than at any other time since 2003. Erdoğan’s open questioning of the peace treaty that forged the boundaries of the two states has exacerbated friction even further.

The Greeks are also acutely aware that geography means they must coexist with Turkey and stand to benefit most if Ankara remains anchored to Europe.

They're both NATO partners and, as such, entitled to invoke Article 5 of the Alliance charter but, if it comes to a clash, I sure hope Canada and our allies side with one side and that's not Erdogan's.

Did Obama Just Compare Trump to Hitler?

Barack Obama appeared at a question & answer session last night at the Economic Club of Chicago. A reporter from Crain's Chicago Business attended.

Obama's comments came after a series of playful questions from moderator and Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson—in the great Batman vs. Superman debate, for instance, we learned Obama sides with Batman—before she eventually asked him what he's learned as a world citizen of sorts.

One thing he's learned is that "things don't happen internationally if we don't put our shoulder to the wheel," Obama said, speaking of the U.S. "No other country has the experience and bandwidth and ideals. . . .If the U.S. doesn't do it, it's not going to happen."

Obama moved from that to talking about a nativist mistrust and unease that has swept around the world. He argued that such things as the speed of technical change and the uneven impact of globalization have come too quickly to be absorbed in many cultures, bringing strange new things and people to areas in which "people didn't (used to) challenge your assumptions." As a result, "nothing feels solid," he said. "Sadly, there's something in us that looks for simple answers when we're agitated."

Still, the U.S. has survived tough times before and will again, he noted, particularly mentioning the days of communist fighter Joseph McCarthy and former President Richard Nixon. But one reason the country survived is because it had a free press to ask questions, Obama added. Though he has problems with the media just like Trump has had, "what I understood was the principle that the free press was vital."

The danger is "grow(ing) complacent," Obama said. "We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly."

That's what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolph Hitler rose to dominate, Obama noted. "Sixty million people died. . . .So, you've got to pay attention. And vote."

WTF? Winter Storm Warnings in Texas, Mexico. California on Fire. High Arctic Melting.

Think of it this way. You may not feel it but you are firmly in the grip of climate change. There's nothing you can do to make it go away. It has a firm grip and it is going to tighten. It may not have gotten around to you yet as it has to others but it certainly will and your government is not doing a damned thing about it.

A week ago I posted an item about Springtime in Greenland.  The high north, Greenland and the Canadian archipelago, were basking in temperatures 20 to 30 C above normal, well above the freezing mark.

Today there are winter storm and snowfall warnings across southwest Texas and into northern Mexico.

Jump a couple of states over and you're in fire swept southern California where, in some places, the only thing stopping the spread of wildfires is the Pacific Ocean.

Hmmm, above freezing conditions in December in the Arctic Circle, winter storm warnings in the Texas/Mexico border region, wildfires sweeping southern California.

There have been many victims of the ongoing wildfires in Southern California, the largest of which is the Thomas Fire, a 101-square-mile monster blaze north of Los Angeles. The L.A. Times reports that the fire jumped the 101 freeway and was stopped only by the Pacific Ocean, along the way burning 50,500 acres, destroying 150 structures, and forcing 27,000 people to evacuate. Californians are used to wildfires, but Miller says these ones are unseasonable. “We usually get crazy wildfires in October, and then the first rains come in November, and ground stays wet and more rains come, and there’s no wildfire threat,” said [climate change activist, R.L. Miller]. “It’s early December .... This is happening because there is no more winter rain. There’s not enough winter rain, ever.”

Climate science backs up Miller’s observation. The state’s wildfire seasons are lasting longer and burning stronger due to human-caused climate change, as rising temperatures make vegetation drier and causes states like California to whip between very dry and very wet seasons. These current fires are so bad because of a mixture of dry foliage and low humidity, but also because of hot, dry winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour. This seasonal high wind, known as the Santa Ana winds, is not unusual for this time of year, climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Verge. But some scientists believe climate change “may be making these strong winds drier,” according to the New York Times. 

Eventually everywhere in the United States, not just the coastal regions, will suffer from severe climate impacts. Climate scientists have documented how global warming stands will hit the rest of America, whether it be through more extreme precipitation in the northeast or crop failure in the heartland. But reality has shown it to us, too. Hurricane Harvey brought Houston, Texas, its worst rainfall and flooding in recorded history. The risks of sea-level rise in Florida was made more apparent by Hurricane Irma, which flooded city streets and destroyed sea-walls. This summer, in Oklahoma, the temperature reached 100 degrees in the dead of winter.

This year’s mind-boggling extreme weather has shown us that climate change will leave few Americans untouched. And yet, so many states refuse to do much about it. That angers climate scientist Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “The other states—Florida, Texas, Oklahoma—are under the control of climate change-denying politicians who continue to bury their head in the sand about climate change as they do the bidding of the fossil fuel interests who fund them, with the people they are supposed to be representing paying the cost in the form of devastating climate change-aggravated damage,” he said.

Here's one way to tell if your provincial and federal governments are serious about climate change. What are they telling you about what you and everyone else in your particular region can expect in the way of climate change impacts? What specific recommendations are they passing along to help you prepare for what's coming in the short range, 10 years, 20 years? Are you hearing anything out of them? Chances are pretty good that you're not.

I find it a little odd that my provincial government is so good at warning my community and my neighbours about the earthquake peril that hangs over our head, the mega-thrust subduction zone earthquake that could arrive any time between this afternoon and a century from now. I get detailed lists of what to have on hand, the best emergency foodstuffs, first aid gear, communications and such. I know the best places to take shelter in my home and the worst.  Yet the "Big One" may never hit in my lifetime or even my kids' lifetimes. 

Climate change impacts, however, are a lot more certain and far more predictable. Yet we hear nothing from the federal or British Columbia governments beyond banal injunctions and platitudes. Instead they mutter on about carbon taxes while Trudeau continues to pimp for the bitumen barons. Did the Dauphin even read about the wildfires we had this year, fires so extensive that they formed a high pressure zone that sent the smoke from fires hundreds of miles inland out into the Pacific to blanket Vancouver Island. Wildfires from Mexico to Alaska and what's the Dauphin's response to that? Sweet f#@k all. Carbon taxes - yeah, right. That'll git 'er done, sure.

I'm sensing a window of opportunity that is at risk. If the Liberals don't really come to grips with climate change - both adaptation and mitigation (carbon taxes, etc.) it's a safe bet that, when their time has come and gone, we'll wind up with another Conservative government that will do even less. It's time Justin began giving the country as much attention as he devotes to the economy.

"There Was No Rain"

Climate change refugees are on the march and they're coming not just from Africa or the Middle East or some low-lying atoll in the South Pacific, they're migrating poleward in the Americas too.

Todd Miller went to southern Mexico to interview climate migrants. Where are they from? Where are they headed? Given the dangers, why?

When I first talked to the three Honduran men in the train yard in the southern Mexican town of Tenosique, I had no idea that they were climate-change refugees. We were 20 miles from the border with Guatemala at a rail yard where Central American refugees often congregated to try to board La Bestia (“the Beast”), the nickname given to the infamous train that has proven so deadly for those traveling north toward the United States.

 When I asked why they were heading for the United States, one responded simply, “No hubo lluvia.” (“There was no rain.”) In their community, without rain, there had been neither crops, nor a harvest, nor food for their families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Central America. In 2015, for instance, 400,000 people living in what has become Honduras’s “dry corridor” planted their seeds and waited for rain that never came. As in a number of other places on this planet in this century, what came instead was an extreme drought that stole their livelihoods.

For Central America, this was not an anomaly. Not only had the region been experiencing increasing mid-summer droughts, but also, as the best climate forecasting models predict, a “much greater occurrence of very dry seasons” lies in its future. Central America is, in fact, “ground zero” for climate change in the Americas, as University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences professor Chris Castro told me. And on that isthmus, the scrambling of the seasons, an increasingly deadly combination of drenching hurricanes and parching droughts, will hit people already living in the most precarious economic and political situations. Across Honduras, for example, more than76% of the population lives in conditions of acute poverty. The coming climate breakdowns will only worsen that or will, as Castro put it, be part of a global situation in which “the wet gets wetter, the dry gets drier, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Everything gets more extreme.”

“Although the exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is uncertain,” wrote the authors of the report In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, “the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before.” And here’s the sad reality of our moment: for such developments, the world is remarkably unprepared. There isn’t even a legal framework for dealing with climate refugees, either in international law or the laws of specific countries. The only possible exception: New Zealand’s “special refugee visas” for small numbers of Pacific Islanders displaced by rising seas.

The only real preparations for such a world are grim ones: walls and the surveillance technology that goes with them. Most climate-displaced people travelling internationally without authorization will sooner or later run up against those walls and the armed border guards meant to turn them back. And if the United States or the European Union is their destination, any possible doors such migrants might enter will be slammed shut by countries that, historically, are the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluters and so most implicated in climate change. (Between 1850 and 2011, the United States was responsible for 27% of the world’s emissions and the countries of the European Union, 25%.)


I was just east of Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora, a mere 25 feet from the U.S.-Mexican border. I could clearly see the barrier there and a U.S. Border Patrol agent in a green-striped truck looking back at me from the other side of the divide. Perhaps a quarter mile from where I stood, I could also spot an Integrated Fixed Tower, one of 52 new high-tech surveillance platforms built in the last two years in southern Arizona by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Since that tower’s cameras are capable of spotting objects and people seven miles away, I had little doubt that agents in a nearby command and control center were watching me as well. There, they would also have had access to the video feeds from Predator B drones, once used on the battlefields of the Greater Middle East, but now flying surveillance missions in the skies above the border. There, too, the beeping alarms of thousands of motion sensors implanted throughout the U.S. border zone would ring if you dared cross the international divide.

Only 15 years ago, very little of this existed. Now, the whole region -- and most of this preceded Donald Trump’s election victory -- has become a de facto war zone. Climate refugees, having made their way through the checkpoints and perils of Mexico, will now enter a land where people without papers are tracked in complex, high-tech electronic ways, hunted, arrested, incarcerated, and expelled, sometimes with unfathomable cruelty. To a border agent, the circumstances behind the flight of those three Honduran farmers would not matter. Only one thing would -- not how or why you had come, but if you were in the United States without the proper documentation.

Climate change, increased global migration, and expanding border enforcement are three linked phenomena guaranteed to come to an explosive head in this century. In the United States, the annual budgets for border and immigration policing regimes have already skyrocketed from about $1.5 billion in the early 1990s to $20 billion in 2017, a number that represents the combined budgets of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During that period, the number of Border Patrol agents quintupled, 700 miles of walls and barriers were constructed (long before Donald Trump began talking about his “big, fat, beautiful wall”), and billions of dollars of technology were deployed in the border region.

Such massive border fortification isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. In 1988, when the Berlin Wall fell, there were 15 border walls in the world. Now, according to border scholar Elisabeth Vallet, there are 70. These walls generally have risen between the richer countries and the poorer ones, between those that have the heavier carbon footprints and those plunged into Parenti’s “catastrophic convergence” of political, economic, and ecological crises. This is true whether you’re talking about the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia.

As Paul Currion points out, even some countries that are only comparatively wealthy are building such “walls,” often under pressure and with considerable financial help. Take Turkey. Its new “smart border” with drought-stricken and conflict-embroiled Syria is one of many examples globally. It now has a new tower every 1,000 feet, a three-language alarm system, and “automated firing zones” supported by hovering zeppelin drones. “It appears that we’ve entered a new arms race,” writes Currion, “one appropriate for an age of asymmetric warfare, with border walls replacing ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles].”

India is typical in constructing a steel wall along its lengthy border with Bangladesh, a country expected to have millions of displaced people in the decades to come, thanks to sea level rise and storm surges. In these years, with so many people on the move from the embattled Greater Middle East and Africa, the countries of the European Union have also been doubling down on border protection, with enforcement budgets soaring to 50 times what they were in 2005.

The trends are already clear: the world will be increasingly carved up into highly monitored border surveillance zones. Market projections show that global border and homeland security industries are already booming across the planet. The broader global security market is poised to nearly double between 2011 and 2022 (from $305 billion to $546 billion). And, not so surprisingly, a market geared to climate-related catastrophes is already on the verge of surpassing $150 billion.

This is the world that Gwynne Dyer described a decade ago in his book, "Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival As the World Overheats." In it, the author describes how the Pentagon plans to militarize America's coasts and land borders (to the south anyway). He also notes that American military planners are looking at ideas such as robotic, free fire killing zones where, out of sight and out of mind, would be migrants will be slaughtered.

It's fair to say that many Americans, perhaps most, are already conditioned, pre-disposed to see the brown peoples to their south as a peril. Trump tells them these illegals are rapists and worse. The time-honoured steps to dehumanize a targeted group are well underway and they're finding a receptive audience.

Also bear in mind what is happening in American society. The nation is being fractured, left (or what passes for left down there) and right. Some claim the American people haven't been so deeply divided since the Civil War. Social cohesion is being undermined and, to some extent, deliberately. The US has the highest rates of inequality - of wealth, income and opportunity - among the developed nations. There is a gaping divide between the plutocracy on one side and the precariat on the other. Some see in this the emergence of a true aristocracy and the evolution of a state of neo-feudalism. White supremacists and fascists now march freely through America's streets. These shifts do not a welcoming society engender.

Another powerful factor that will come into play will be the climate change plight that will be experienced by the American people across the southern states. Climatically everything is worsening. Severe storm events, hurricanes and tornadoes of worsening intensity. Severe weather events, floods and droughts, of increasing frequency, duration and intensity. The depletion of once abundant groundwater resources. Worsening heat events and fires. Sea level rise, storm surges and saltwater inundation. America is facing the real prospect of dealing with an internally displaced population, IDPs. In a country with America's standard of living that can be a hugely costly burden on the state, especially one that is now in the process of being defunded through tax "reform" and other bleed off mechanisms. If the society has to struggle to resettle its own IDPs, how likely is it to be welcoming to climate migrants from other lands?

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Canada = Soft on Israel, Soft on Trump

We don't have any reason to hold our heads high when it comes to Canada and Israel or Canada and Trump.

It was expected when Harper made Canada Netanyahu's willing rent boy. Those of us who remember Trudeau, the real one, were a little surprised when his namesake eagerly followed Harper's lead. For the past two years Canada's voting record on Palestinian measures in the UN General Assembly has been in sordid lockstep with the former Conservative government's.  Rent boys do as they're told. They don't cause trouble.

And so, while nations with a modicum of integrity, such as our allies France, Britain and Germany, didn't hesitate to criticize Donald Trump's announcement that the US would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trudeau the Lesser dummied up and went mute. There'd be no trouble from Trudeau.

"Canada is a steadfast ally and friend of Israel and friend to the Palestinian people. Canada's longstanding position is that the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. This has been the policy of consecutive governments, both Liberal and Conservative."

The department stressed the statement was issued in the name of spokesman Adam Austen, rather than Freeland herself. But after Trump's announcement Wednesday, Freeland re-issued essentially the same quote in her own name.

Austen explained Freeland's earlier silence this way: "The minister does not make statements about world events before they happen."

Of course, governments and foreign ministers often do make statements either calling for or warning against actions that have not yet been taken. After all, the window of opportunity to influence a decision closes once it is announced.

Other foreign officials not only commented but contacted their U.S. counterparts before the decision was announced, in an attempt to get the Trump administration to reconsider. French President Emmanuel Macron called Trump, as did British Prime Minister Theresa May.

"We believe it's unhelpful," May said after the announcement, adding that Trump has an obligation to "now bring forward detailed proposals for an Israel-Palestinian settlement."

"We all know the far-reaching impact this move would have," said German Foreign MinisterSigmar Gabriel. "Everything which worsens the crisis is counterproductive."

"We think it's an unwise step and a counterproductive step," said his Dutch counterpart, Halbe Zijlstra. "I don't think we can use another conflict in this very explosive region."

When it comes to pro-Israel/pro-Washington grovelling there isn't much the Liberals won't do.

At the United Nations, Canada under Trudeau continues to block resolutions condemning Israeli actions in the occupied territories — alongside the U.S., Israel and a small coterie of Pacific island nations that depend heavily on the U.S. and traditionally vote in lockstep with it.

Last December, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, China and 162 other nations all supported UN resolution 17/96, guaranteeing the protections of the Geneva Convention to Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories.

The Trudeau government joined forces with the United States, Israel, Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands to oppose it.

I get angry at those who make me ashamed of my country. That goes for Trudeau as it did for Harper before him. To some that makes me a "Trudeau hater." If it does, so be it, he deserves it. He's earned it.

Time Magazine's "Person of the Year." It's Not Trump But It's His Victims.

Donald Trump doesn't have to feel left out by Time magazine's choice of "person of the year." After all he's been very close to several of them - touching, fondling, groping-close.

This year's award went to "the silence breakers," women who have risked so much to come forward and speak out against the men who sexually abused them. By last count that would include 16 women who have leveled some pretty nasty accusations against the Mango Mussolini who boasted of his prowess at sexually abusing women and playing a Peeping Tom with you beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms.

There's a yuuge, Donald-sized difference between Trump and most of the other guys who have been brought down as sexual offenders in recent months. One difference is that Trump denies that he ever did the dastardly things he's been accused of. The other difference is that he's been recorded, on an Access Hollywood tape and on the Howard Stern show, boasting of doing the very sorts of things he so indignantly denies doing.

That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats. The Dems move quickly to clean house. They got Conyers to resign and now they're after Al Franken. The Republicans, by contrast, have an open door policy when it comes to their sexual predators whether it's the prowler, Roy Moore, or the groper, Donald Trump. And those born again evangelicals all dutifully line up to kiss their asses. Ain't life grand?

The Age of Gangster Capitalism

And then I grab 'em by the...

American public intellectual and McMaster prof, Henry Giroux, writes of how Trump is dismembering American democracy to clear the way for a fascist, gangster state.

Just one year into the Donald Trump presidency, not only have the failures of American democracy become clear, but many of the darkest elements of its history have been catapulted to the center of power. A dystopian ideology, a kind of nostalgic yearning for older authoritarian relations of power, now shapes and legitimates a mode of governance that generates obscene levels of inequality, expands the ranks of corrupt legislators, places white supremacists and zealous ideologues in positions of power, threatens to jail its opponents, and sanctions an expanding network of state violence both at home and abroad.

Trump has accelerated a culture of cruelty, a machinery of terminal exclusion and social abandonment that wages a war on undocumented immigrants, poor minorities of color and young people. He uses the power of the presidency to peddle misinformation, erode any sense of shared citizenship, ridicule critical media and celebrate right-wing “disimagination machines” such as Fox News and Breitbart News. Under his “brand of reality TV politics,” lying has become normalized, truthfulness is viewed as a liability, ignorance is propagated at the highest levels of government and the corporate controlled media, and fear-soaked cyclones of distraction and destruction immunize the American public to the cost of human suffering and misery.


As Hannah Arendt argues in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the erasure of truth, facts and standards of reference furthers the collapse of democratic institutions because it is “easier to accept patently absurd propositions than the old truths which have become pious banalities. Vulgarity with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories carried with it the worst … and [is] easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life.”

Trump’s authoritarianism cuts deeply into the fabric of both government and everyday politics in the United States. For example, despicable and morally reprehensible acts of collaboration with an emergent authoritarianism have created a Republican Party that echoes an eerie resemblance to similar flights of moral and political corruption that characterized the cowardly politicians in power in Vichy France during World War II.

Former conservative talk-show host Charles Sykes is right to argue that members of the current Republican Party are “collaborators and enablers” and as such are Vichy Republicans who are willingly engaged in a Faustian bargain with an incipient authoritarianism. Corrupted by power and willing to turn a blind eye to corruption, stupidity, barbarism and the growing savagery of the Trump administration, Republicans have surrendered to Trump’s authoritarian ideology, economic fundamentalism, support for religious orthodoxy and increasingly cruel and mean-spirited policies, which “meant accepting the unacceptable [all the while reasoning] it would be worth it if they got conservative judges, tax cuts, and the repeal of Obamacare.”


Trump is both a symptom and enabler of this culture, one that enables him to delight in taunting black athletes, defending neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and mocking anyone who disagrees with him. This is the face of a kind of Reichian psycho-politics, with its mix of violence, repression, theatrics, incoherency and spectacularized ignorance. Trump makes clear that the dream of the Confederacy is still with us, that moral panics thrive against a culture of rancid racism, “a background of obscene inequalities, progressive deregulation of labor markets and a massive expansion in the ranks of the precariat.”

In an age of almost unparalleled extremism, violence and cruelty, authoritarianism is gaining ground, rapidly creating a society in which shared fears and unchecked hatred have become the organizing forces for community. Under the Trump regime, dissent is disparaged as a pathology or dismissed as fake news, while even the slightest compassion for others becomes an object of disdain and subject to policies that increase the immiseration, suffering and misery of the most vulnerable.


In the past, racist Democrats and Republicans did everything they could to cover over any naked expressions of their racism. This is no longer the case. Under Trump, both racist discourse and the underlying principles of white supremacy are both encouraged and emboldened. In the midst of the collapse of civil society and the public spheres that make a democracy possible, every line of decency is crossed, every principle of civility is violated, and more and more elements of justice are transformed into an injustice. Trump has become the blunt instrument and Twitter preacher for displaying a contempt for the truth, a critical citizenry, and democracy itself. He has anointed himself as the apostle of unchecked greed, unbridled narcissism and limitless militarism.

Wedded to both creating a culture of civic illiteracy and the plundering of the planet for both his own personal gain and that of his corporate cronies, Trump has done more than assault standards of truth, verification and evidence. He has opened the door to the dark cave of moral depravity, political corruption and a dangerous right-wing nationalist populism that, as Frank Rich observes, threatens to have “remarkable staying power” long after Trump is gone.

Gangster capitalism under Trump has reached a new stage, in that it is unabashedly aggressive in mounting a war against every institution capable of providing a vision, a semblance of critical agency or a formative culture capable of creating agents who might be willing to hold power accountable. The American public is witnessing a crisis not merely of politics but of history, vision and agency, or what Andrew O’Hehir more pointedly called the acts of a domestic terrorist. This is a politics of domesticated fear, manufactured illusions and atomizing effects. Trump is the product of a culture long in the making, one fueled by the triumph of finance capital, the legitimation of a rancid individualism and a crippling notion of freedom. In this age of precarity, infantilizing publicity machines and uncertainty, a sense of collective impotency and fear provides the breeding ground for isolation, the corporate state and the discourses of inscription, demonization and false communities.

God bless save America.

The Morbid Curiosity Aroused by America's WTF President

The New York Times' Frank Bruni performs an autopsy on the bloated body of America's WTF president only to discover that Trump is empty inside.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone with little if any talent for generosity, which is a muscle built through interactions with those who have no biological or legal claim to you but lean on you nonetheless.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone who can't see the world through another's eyes. A novel or movie gets you only so far down the road to empathy; to go the distance, you need more intimate, immediate experience of hurts and aspirations not your own. You need friends.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone with no adequately moderating influences on his whims, no sufficient cushion for his moods. I'll show you a full-blown narcissist or full-throttle paranoiac or some combination of both.

I'll show you the President of the United States.

In October, The Washington Post published a fascinating profile of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire real estate investor described as "one of President Trump's oldest friends." The profile's author, Michael Kranish, wrote that Barrack often wonders how he has lasted 30 years with such a tempestuous, egomaniacal man.

His conclusion? "I've never needed anything from him," Barrack told Kranish. "I was always subservient to him." That's obviously how Trump prefers the people around him. On bended knee. In full genuflection.

The Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio told me, "He has hangers-on and he has employees and he has other dependents, but I don't think he has friends." He's too twitchily suspicious. Too vain. And so that twitchiness and vanity go unchecked. They metastasise.

"He had no friends in his military academy who stuck," D'Antonio said. "He had no friends in college who stuck. He was a USFL owner, and all the other owners wound up hating him."

Is he all that much different with his kids? When Ivanka and the crew sat with CNN's Anderson Cooper last year to give testimonials about Trump's presence and parenting back in the day, they repeatedly (and perhaps inadvertently) noted that for quality time with him, they went to his office, his construction sites. They met him on his terms and terrain.

Everyone does, and that's anathema to decency and good governance. He gathers and discards allies at will. He acts to sate his own needs, unworried about the impact on others. For him they don't fully exist. There's no space for them, because he has never forced himself to carve it out.

"I think of it as an absolute void," D'Antonio said. It's no way to live, and it's no way to lead.

About Jerusalem

Trump has broken with previous administrations to announce that the United States will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The question on everyone's lips is "why?" He wasn't compelled to do it. If anything the decision seems ill-thought out, even capricious. It threatens to set the region on fire. The Guardian is calling it "diplomatic arson."

The history of Jerusalem is vast and full of turmoil. The name, Urusalima, was bestowed by Mesopotamians around 2400 BC abut 1500 years before the Israelis first turned up.

"During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times.[8] The part of Jerusalem called the City of David was settled in the 4th millennium BCE.[9] In 1538, walls were built around Jerusalem under Suleiman the Magnificent. Today those walls define the Old City, which has been traditionally divided into four quarters—known since the early 19th century as the Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Quarters.[10] The Old City became a World Heritage Site in 1981, and is on the List of World Heritage in Danger."

According to the Israeli version of the Great Book of Murderous Myths and Fatal Fantasies (as opposed to the slightly different Christian and Islamic versions), it was God herself who bestowed Jerusalem on the Israelis for all time or at least what remains of time. God means for them to have it. God doesn't want anyone else to have it. God has spoken. God is great. God is good. As an outsider it strikes me as curious how anyone who picks up any of the versions of that book gets so f#@ked up.

Now we know Donald Trump doesn't read books and I'm pretty sure he hasn't squandered a lot of time studying his Bible. I'm sure he still thinks Amos was a black guy on the radio who had a partner named Andy.

So if Trump isn't acting on some deeply held religious conviction, why is he going to such lengths to ruffle feathers? If there's one discernible trait in this presidency it's been Trump's predilection for doing things that will piss someone off, often a lot of someones. He has repeatedly offended and alienated America's allies, even the closest. He has embraced the Thuggees, anti-democratic authoritarians such as Putin, Orban, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Poland's Duda, even the murderous Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. He's like a bull in the china shop of decency. Why?

I may have stumbled across the answer in my most recent negotiation with my beagle, Buddy.  A long time ago someone tipped me off. When you ask a beagle to do something, the hound's first reaction is, "What's in it for me?" If the beagle doesn't like the deal as he sees it, he just looks the other way. If he sees what you're asking is a sweet deal - for him, he's with you. I don't mean to disparage beagles with comparisons to Trump, but...

What if Trump sees the presidency primarily as a business opportunity? He gets to dole favours out of the public purse with an expectation of future accommodations of the the Trump business empire for his kids. The Mango Mussolini has always talked in the context of "deals." He's proud of his ghost-written book, "The Art of the Deal." That was pretty much the entire curriculum of his faux college, Trump University. He promised his supporters, the Gullibillies, that he would make "the best deals" for America, renegotiating everything.

Trump has always put his personal interests ahead of all others. He's legendary for screwing those who risk dealing with him, put trust in him. He monetizes their confidence and trust and often leaves them empty-handed and bitter. That's all he knows how to do. Mentally the man is not well. Intellectually he's every bit as infirm. His greatest, perhaps only real skill, is to shamelessly exploit opportunities especially in perceived weaknesses.

Why then would he not exploit the presidency? By zigging where his predecessors all zagged, he can make some people beholden to him. He can accumulate markers to be called in at another time.

Look at what he has done in his first year in office. Everything from rampant deregulation, gutting the EPA, defunding government and the social safety net, tax relief for the richest of the rich (including familia Trump), it's all been to benefit a class of people, the sort who know to repay favours.

It's not a reach, not at all, to see Jerusalem as another example of Trump's modus operandi in action. Sure it will set back if not destroy any chance of Middle East peace and it's almost certain to result in a lot of deaths for years, perhaps generations to come, but it's an opportunity that can be monetized by the empire in years to come. The old bastard is in it for the deal.