Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Alt.White Veers Left



We used to think of these racist, fascist bastards as rightwing and, in fairness, so did they. Now, however, they seem to think their future lies in bringing in the anti-capitalist left.

The alt-right is looking to expand its ranks, and prominent leaders of the notorious white supremacist movement apparently believe that leftists are an ideal target for their recruiting efforts. This is according to a recent article in the Nation by Donna Minkowitz, who last month attended a white supremacist conference in Maryland organized by Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute. Minkowitz reports that leading members of the alt-right are currently strategizing how to appeal to leftists — white male leftists, that is — and their plan is fairly straightforward.

“We need to be explicitly anti-capitalist. There’s no other way forward for our movement,” declared Eli Mosley, one of the panelists at the event and former head of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa. “Twenty-eighteen is going to be the year of leftists joining the white-nationalist movement!” Echoing this sentiment were Mosley's co-panelists, including white supremacist blogger Mike Enoch, whose real surname is Peinovich. "We have to push a right-wing workers’ movement,” he opined, while blasting the culture of capitalism, where “everything” runs the risk of getting “corporatized and capitalized” and “everything is empty and fake.”

“One of the great struggles that everyone has in this corporate neoliberal world is for meaning in their life,” he continued. “Our struggle provides that for us. Everything else is empty … but our movement.”

When it came to identifying the enemy behind this culture of capitalism and corporate neoliberalism, the neo-Nazi panelists revealed their true colors, blaming “Jewish interests” like the fascists of old. “The left will not … name the people behind this … but we can!” proclaimed Enoch. “We can … speak for white Americans who don’t want to sacrifice any more of their children for Jewish wars!”

The alt-right’s “anti-capitalism,” then, is really just anti-Semitism wrapped up in an economic veil, devoid of any real critique of capitalism. Their economic turn is simply a means to further their movement and spread their racist ideology.

Gag Rule


The state government of Florida has been relentlessly mocked for forbidding civil servants to use the term "climate change." That comes straight from the governor himself, Slackjaw Rick Scott.

Well two can play that game. The other, sadly, happens to be the Mango Mussolini, Donald Trump. The White House has issued a list of words the Center for Disease Control is prohibited from using in any official budget documents.

The banned words are: "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based." Do I detect a certain bias in this?  We know Trump doesn't care for anything evidence-based or science-based. Even our own prime ministers, past and present, have not always cared for such things.

What's that line? Something about how "the truth will set you free." Maybe that's exactly what they can't stand.

Friday, December 15, 2017

It's Official - the Rich are Eating the Poor


Just in time for the Republican's "Bugger the Poor" tax reform, a study has been released that  US lawmakers have been raiding the poor to funnel wealth to the wealthiest. From the Washington Post.

Back in 1980, the bottom 50 percent of wage-earners in the United States earned about 21 percent of all income in the country — nearly twice as much as the share of income (11 percent) earned by the top 1 percent of Americans.

But today, according to a massive new study on global inequality, those numbers have nearly reversed: The bottom 50 percent take in only 13 percent of the income pie, while the top 1 percent grab over 20 percent of the country's income.

Since 1980, in other words, the U.S. economy has transferred eight points of national income from the bottom 50 percent to the top 1 percent.

That trend is even more remarkable when you set it against comparable numbers for wealthy nations in Western Europe. There, the bottom 50 percent earn nearly 22 percent of the income in those economies, while the top 1 percent take in just over 12 percent of the money.


The 2018 World Inequality Report, written by a team of leading international economists including Thomas Piketty of “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” fame, finds that the rise of income inequality in the United States is “largely due to massive educational inequalities, combined with a tax system that grew less progressive despite a surge in top labor compensation since the 1980s, and in top capital incomes in the 2000s.”Since the 1970s the price of higher education has skyrocketed, putting the price of tuition out of reach for many low-income students. Over the same time, the tax code became more generous to the wealthiest Americans — the top marginal income-tax rate fell from 70 percent in 1980 to 39.6 percent in 2017, taxes on capital gains fell by more than half from the mid-1970s to the mid-2000s, and the estate tax has fallen as well.

Those changes have made it easier for high-income Americans to grab more and more of the income pie in any given year.


When are the American people going to come to their senses and break loose from the rightwing conditioning that leaves them complacent to this abuse? By all rights they ought to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches and start stringing up their legislators from lamp posts where they can be properly appreciated.



Have the Greens Gone AWOL?



She used to be a firebrand, holding the government's feet to the fire, a burr under their saddle. but you don't hear much from Green Party leader, Elizabeth May, these days.

That led me to check out the latest at the party's web site. I wanted to see how the platform reflected the current state of the country under the Trudeau government. What a letdown.

I first went to the "sustainable economy" section to read this:

Canada is teetering on a recession for the second time since Stephen Harper became prime minister. His ill-advised political pledge to eliminate the deficit he created, just in time for this election, is now risking a deepening recession.

Two years and they haven't updated their platform on their own web site?  So I checked out another section, "a Canada that works together." Same bogeyman.

The Harper Conservatives have skewed and weakened the Canadian economy, focusing solely on higher polluting industries, instead of on creating good, stable, high-paying jobs. They have failed our communities by slashing funding to critical public services, instead subsidizing foreign multinational corporations and providing tax cuts to the wealthiest few. They have granted special privileges to foreign corporations and made us subservient to the interests of foreign investors. They have failed to unite us in the face of conflict and uncertainty, instead cynically opting to divide our nation for partisan gain. They have failed to act in the face of an ever-growing climate crisis, instead gambling our future on more pipelines, more fracking, and risky tankers on our coasts.

I went through the whole platform. Not a single reference to our current government or our current prime minister. No criticisms or even mention of the current government's policies. Zilch, nada, nothing.

I think Elizabeth May and her party have gone AWOL. There's nothing there. Certainly nothing to rally behind or vote for.


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas


If the Dems can hold onto these numbers, something seismic is going to happen to Congress.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Writing Trump's Obituary



He's got a thoroughly creepy tattoo of Richard Nixon's face on his back between his shoulder blades and he's got the sexual appetites of a goat although he describes himself as a "libertine." He's an old pal of Donald Trump and today a Trump loyalist. During the election campaign he undertook trips to London to liaise with Julian Assange.

Now dirty trickster, Roger Stone, is writing Donald Trump's political obituary.  From Vanity Fair:

One Trump ally is making plans to commercialize Trump’s downfall. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told me he is working on a book titled The Unmaking of the President as part of a multi-book deal with Skyhorse Publishing. (Last fall, Skyhorse published Stone’s campaign account, The Making of the President 2016.) “I’ve been writing it as we go along,” he told me.

Stone said he got the idea to write a book chronicling Trump’s removal from office after watching how the White House responded to the Robert Mueller investigation. “It’s painfully obvious Mueller will bring charges,” Stone said. “The theory is Mueller will indict him on some process-related matter” such as obstruction of justice. “The only people who don’t seem to know it are Ty Cobb, [John] Dowd, and the president.”

Stone also believes Trump could be removed from office because he has surrounded himself with disloyal Cabinet members and other top officials. “Nikki Haley stuck a knife in his back,” Stone said, referring to her comments about Trump’s accusers. According to Stone’s back-of-the-napkin tally, only two Cabinet members would vote against invoking the 25th Amendment, the provision by which the president can be deemed unable to serve (Congress would have to vote by a two-thirds majority to remove him permanently).

Stone made it clear he’s not writing the book because he wants to, he’s just planning ahead. “I hope it’s a book I don’t have to publish,” he said, expressing dismay at Trump’s political prospects. “I just don’t think Trump is being told the truth about how bad things are.”




The Backstory of Globalization, The One Not For Public Consumption.


Former World Bank chief economist and Nobel laureate, Joe Stiglitz, knows a thing or two about inequality. It formed the core of his PhD thesis and the son of a school teacher and an insurance salesman has been dealing with inequality and poverty ever since. He also backed Jeremy Corbyn for Labour leader. If you're interested, his Wiki entry runs to the length of a short book.

Stiglitz has also written extensively on our prime minister's favourite pass time, globalization. He doesn't see it the way Trudeau the Lesser sees it. Not at all the same. Stiglitz writes that globalization has two stories, one not for public consumption.



...discontent with globalization has fueled a wave of populism in the United States and other advanced economies, led by politicians who claim that the system is unfair to their countries. In the US, President Donald Trump insists that America’s trade negotiators were snookered by those from Mexico and China.

So how could something that was supposed to benefit all, in developed and developing countries alike, now be reviled almost everywhere? How can a trade agreement be unfair to all parties?1

To those in developing countries, Trump’s claims – like Trump himself – are laughable. The US basically wrote the rules and created the institutions of globalization. In some of these institutions – for example, the International Monetary Fund – the US still has veto power, despite America’s diminished role in the global economy (a role which Trump seems determined to diminish still further).
To someone like me, who has watched trade negotiations closely for more than a quarter-century, it is clear that US trade negotiators got most of what they wanted. The problem was with what they wanted. Their agenda was set, behind closed doors, by corporations. It was an agenda written by and for large multinational companies, at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens everywhere.

Indeed, it often seems that workers, who have seen their wages fall and jobs disappear, are just collateral damage – innocent but unavoidable victims in the inexorable march of economic progress. But there is another interpretation of what has happened: one of the objectives of globalization was to weaken workers’ bargaining power. What corporations wanted was cheaper labor, however they could get it.

This interpretation helps explain some puzzling aspects of trade agreements. Why is it, for example, that advanced countries gave away one of their biggest advantages, the rule of law? Indeed, provisions embedded in most recent trade agreements give foreign investors more rights than are provided to investors in the US. They are compensated, for example, should the government adopt a regulation that hurts their bottom line, no matter how desirable the regulation or how great the harm caused by the corporation in its absence. 

There are three responses to globalized discontent with globalization. The first – call it the Las Vegas strategy – is to double down on the bet on globalization as it has been managed for the past quarter-century. This bet, like all bets on proven policy failures (such as trickle-down economics) is based on the hope that somehow it will succeed in the future.

The second response is Trumpism: cut oneself off from globalization, in the hope that doing so will somehow bring back a bygone world. But protectionism won’t work. Globally, manufacturing jobs are on the decline, simply because productivity growth has outpaced growth in demand.
...

There is a third approach: social protection without protectionism, the kind of approach that the small Nordic countries took. They knew that as small countries they had to remain open. But they also knew that remaining open would expose workers to risk. Thus, they had to have a social contract that helped workers move from old jobs to new and provide some help in the interim.

The Nordic countries are deeply democratic societies, so they knew that unless most workers regarded globalization as benefiting them, it wouldn’t be sustained. And the wealthy in these countries recognized that if globalization worked as it should, there would be enough benefits to go around.

American capitalism in recent years has been marked by unbridled greed – the 2008 financial crisis provides ample confirmation of that. But, as some countries have shown, a market economy can take forms that temper the excesses of both capitalism and globalization, and deliver more sustainable growth and higher standards of living for most citizens.

To his credit, Trudeau has at least been talking the Nordic talk in his pursuit of ever more free trade pacts, reaffirming the rule of law, reintegrating labour and environmental regulation, but it's not clear that it's going to sell, especially where that matters, NAFTA.

What if he can't deliver a 'Nordic' solution to our trade arrangement with our largest trading partner? Are we ready for drawing lines in the sand? Are we ready to tell Trump to shove NAFTA?




Are We Heading for Another 2008 (or worse) Meltdown?


The economic numbers are looking good. Confidence abounds. It sounds a lot like 2007 just before the US ran off a cliff taking the global economy with it.

Writing in The New York Times, Desmond Lachlan, former IMF deputy director of policy development now with the American Enterprise Institute, contends that the global economy is again riding on bubbles, most if not all of which are becoming high risk.



The so-called Great Recession, which had begun in late 2008 and would run until mid-2009, was set off by the sudden collapse of sky-high prices for housing and other assets — something that is obvious in retrospect but that, nevertheless, no one seemed to see coming.

Are we about to make the same mistake? All too likely, yes. Certainly, the American economy is doing well, and emerging economies are picking up steam. But global asset prices are once again rising rapidly above their underlying value — in other words, they are in a bubble.
...

While in 2008 bubbles were largely confined to the American housing and credit markets, they are now to be found in almost every corner of the world economy.

As the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan recently warned, years of highly unorthodox monetary policy by the world’s major central banks has created a global government bond bubble, with long-term interest rates plumbing historically low levels.

He might have added that this bubble has hardly been confined to the sovereign bond market. Indeed, stock values are at lofty heights that have been reached only three times in the last century. At the same time, housing bubbles are all too evident in countries like Australia, Britain, Canada and China, while interest rates have been driven down to unusually low levels for high-yield debt and emerging-market corporate debt.

One reason for fearing that these bubbles might soon start bursting is that the years of low interest rates and avid central bank government bond buying that spawned the bubbles now appear to be drawing to an end.
...

Other reasons for fearing that the bubbles might soon start bursting are the fault lines in a number of major economies. Italy has both a serious public debt problem and a shaky banking system. Brazil is experiencing political turmoil while its public finances are on a clearly unsustainable path. China has a housing and credit-market bubble that dwarfs the one in the United States at the start of this century. And both Brazil and Italy will be holding contested parliamentary elections next year.

This is not to mention the economic dislocation that could result from a termination of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or from the accentuation of other protectionist tendencies, whether by the United States or by another big country. Nor is it to mention the risk that events in the Korean Peninsula could spin out of control.
...

It is too late for policymakers to do much to prevent bubbles from forming. However, it’s not too early for them to start thinking about how to respond in a manner that might free us from the boom-bust cycles that we seem to be experiencing every 10 years.
It’s unclear, however, whether the world’s largest economy can take the lead this time. The Trump administration’s budget-busting tax cuts risk overheating markets even further and limiting the government’s ability to respond when the bubbles pop. This heightens the risk that when the bubbles burst, we’ll be forced to rely yet again on artificially low interest rates, which will set us up yet again for another boom-bust cycle.

Meanwhile, over at The Reformed Broker, Josh Brown has an item reminding us that the history of "unified Republican governments" in which the Repugs controlled the House, the Senate and the White House - as they do today - led to a financial crash.


In fact, the ONLY 3 PERIODS of extended unified Republican governments going back to 1900 ALL DIRECTLY led to banking crises….Arguably the 3 worst in US History. To be clear, I am defining ‘extended’ unified governments as anytime they control the House, Senate and White house for at least 4 years. This does not include short 2 year stints since it’s hard to screw things up that quick (FYI there was only 1 period of that anyway, 1953-1955). You can look up the periods yourself here and more detail here.

The list of Unified Republican Government crises include the Panic of 1907, The Great Depression, and the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008. Interestingly, the record of extended Republican control of Congress has also only led to crises. There have only been 4 periods of extended Republican control of Congress (3 of which overlap with the periods of full unified control just mentioned). However, the 4th period (I KID YOU NOT) ended in the 2000 DotCom Bust where the Republicans controlled the House and Senate from 1995-2001.

In short, full Republican control has NO history of making America great…let alone AGAIN. 

Ain't life grand.

How We Cope With the Unbearable


A friend recently mentioned a book she had read about how so many intelligent, educated people actively ignore the reality of climate change. Apparently many of them are aware of the science, even accept it, but isolate it and keep it out of their lives.

I confessed that I have that same syndrome or something closely resembling it. I read the science, almost daily, and I file blog posts on what I've read simply to keep readers informed, a bit more up to date. It's sheer drudgery and worse.

I recoil, almost instinctively, at much of what I read. That's especially true when the information suggests or confirms that we may be at a point of no return. I don't want to believe it but science is not as flimsy as belief. It's not a religion or an ideology. Science is based on a construct of knowledge and fact.

There's an old line about how the more you know the more you realize how little you know.  We thought we had global warming figured out ten years ago. We issued dire warnings about how we had to keep warming under 2C because, if we didn't, the Arctic might be ice free by 2100. Now we realize our projections were about 70 years out. Events that I once believed might not even occur in my children's lifetimes will now, it seems, probably come to pass in my own.

Some take refuge in the idea that we'll come up with something to sort this all out. We'll find some fix. That's a belief-based idea bordering on magical thinking. Maybe aliens will land and hand us some suitcase-sized machine that will solve all our problems. Maybe.

The idea that we've been swept up in a mass extinction event of our very own making, humanity's doing, is almost unbearable. How could we do something as monstrously nihilistic? What have we allowed ourselves to become? What's on NetFlix? Neville Shute's "On the Beach"? No, not that. Anything but that.

My guess is that, as a society, we'll probably adopt something akin to Andean fatalism, a cultural feature of the mountain tribes who grow to accept the prospect of death by sudden landslides, driving off treacherous roads, etc. It's a somewhat higher odds version of the "when your number's up" coping device. You sort of give up fantasizing about a rosy tomorrow. How better to cope with the unbearable?

(When I wrote this I thought it so dark I wasn't sure I wanted to post it. Finally I realized that, while it's grim, these are grim times we are in. Ignoring reality, succumbing to Andean fatalism, won't help in any way. Yes, it's possible we've already gone too far to tame this beast but that cannot be our rationale for approaching the future. We have to shake free of this torpor. We have to realize that, while we may not be able to avert a darker tomorrow, our complacency can ensure that tomorrow will be far worse for those who follow us than it need be. We today can make their future harder, more perilous. And that's the path we and our government are on.)



Somebody Made the 'Precariat' and They Did It With the Power of the Vote



We have come to believe that our governments no longer control capitalism. What ails us economically is beyond Ottawa's command and, hence, not to be blamed on our federal governments. Everything from inequality (of wealth, income and opportunity) to precarious employment in the "gig economy" and so much more, it's someone or something else's doing, not our elected representatives'.

That's all nonsense, utter self-serving crap. Nobel laureate Stiglitz in "The Price of Inequality" illustrates how most inequality is neither market- nor merit-based but, instead, is legislated. It springs out of obscure policies that lavish tax breaks and deferrals, grants and subsidies, and the delivery of public assets either free or at far below market value to very narrow but powerful interests. It is the triumph of the private interest over the public interest.

In today's Guardian, the paper's economics editor, Larry Elliott, explores how governments in developed nations have played a bit of economic subterfuge on the public.


Humans have ...this predator-prey model. It is best demonstrated by the workings of the labour market, where there is a constant struggle between employers and employees over the proceeds of growth. Unlike the world of nature, though, there is no self-righting mechanism. One side can carry on devouring its prey until the system breaks down. Over the past 40 years, employers have been the predators, workers the prey.

Consider the facts. By almost any measure, the past decade has been a disaster for living standards. Unemployment has fallen from its post financial-crisis peaks across the developed world but workers have found it hard to make ends meet. Earnings growth has halved in the UK even though the latest set of unemployment figures show that the jobless rate is the lowest since 1975.

The reason is not hard to find. Unions are far less powerful; collective bargaining in most of the private sector is a thing of the past; part-time working has boomed; and people who were once employed by a company are now part of the gig economy.

These changes in the labour market are by no means confined to the UK or US. European countries that were at the sharp end of the financial crisis – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus – found that the cost of help was a programme of wage cuts, austerity and privatisation.
...

Seen in the simplest terms, the story of political economy over the past four decades is a class war between capital and labour, which capital has won hands down. The battlefield is littered with evidence of labour’s defeat: nugatory pay awards, precarious work, the collapse of collective bargaining, and cuts in public spending.

And to the victors have gone the spoils: higher profits and dividends; lower personal tax rates; a higher share of national income. Life for those at the top has carried on much as before, even as the average worker has experienced the worst decade for wage growth since the 19th century. Unsurprisingly, it sticks in the craw for those whose living standards are going down to see the 1% whooping it up. Nobody likes to have their nose rubbed in it.

There was a time when parties of the centre-left would have been the beneficiaries of this resentment. Yet the German Social Democrats have just had their worst electoral result since the second world war; the French Socialist party has been reduced to a rump; the Greek socialist party Pasok has been wiped out; Hillary Clinton managed to lose the race for the White House to Donald Trump. In Spain and the Netherlands the story is the same. Everywhere there is palpable unhappiness about what is seen as a rigged system; but other than in the UK, it has not translated into support for parties of the mainstream left.

An explanation for this is provided by William Mitchell and Thomas Fazi in their book Reclaiming the State: the left has given up on the politics of class and concentrated on the politics of identity. And while this has led to some worthy victories, none of them has actually challenged turbo-charged capitalism, which has had the field to itself.

...

It is a big – and debilitating – modern myth that the neoliberal revolution of the 1970s and the 1980s weakened the power of the state. What actually happened was that parties of the right refashioned and repurposed the state to undermine the power of labour and strengthen the power of capital. The enduring power of nation states was highlighted in the 2008 financial crisis, when it was only the willingness of governments to wade in with public money and taxpayer guarantees that prevented the entire global banking system from going bust.

So here are the options. Parties on the left can carry on believing that capitalism can be tamed at a transnational level, even though all the available evidence is that this is not going to happen. They can seek to use the power of the state for progressive ends, even though this will be strongly resisted. Or they can sit and watch as the predators munch their way through their prey. Even for the predators, this would be a disastrous outcome.


All this talk of "class war" sure sounds like the ravings of a socialist firebrand. When Elliott mentions it, perhaps, but not so much when the same warning crosses the lips of one of America's wealthiest tycoons, Warren Buffett. The investor king didn't pull any punches when he said, "There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning."

And, while they've been winning, the people we elect to protect our interests, Parliament, have spent decades looking the other way. After all, we keep returning them to power and paying their considerable pensions, what have they got to lose?

Think Trudeau's Liberals aren't in on this? Think again. Think back to October, 2016, when Trudeau's multi-millionaire finance minister, Bill Morneau, told Canadian plebs that they would simply have to get used to a future of "job churn." 

With that crude dismissal, Morneau was serving notice that the Trudeau government, like the Harper government, was abrogating its democratic responsibility to the Canadian people. It was on the side of the other side. As Elliott points out, we've lost sight of just what the Trudeaus and the Morneaus are supposed to be doing, who they're supposed to represent. You would have to go back to the pre-Layton NDP to see our political caste truly fighting for the Canadian people.

But just to refresh memory, perhaps to help you recalibrate your political compass, I will again call on the progressive thinking of such legendary Americans as Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.

Let's begin with Abraham Lincoln who declared:

“I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.”

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

If it is, indeed, man's duty "to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind," how is he to do that when his government consigns him to the precariat and tells him to "get used to it"?

If Labour is "the superior of capital" how is it that your government chooses to stack the deck so that capital prevails at the direct cost and damage to labour and our society?

Now let's turn to Teddy Roosevelt who observed:

"In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows."

At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth."

"Practical equality of opportunity for all citizens, when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled."

"There is a wide-spread belief among our people that, under the methods of making tariffs which have hitherto obtained, the special interests are too influential. Probably this is true of both the big special interests and the little special interests. These methods have put a premium on selfishness, and, naturally, the selfish big interests have gotten more than their smaller, though equally selfish, brothers. The duty of Congress is to provide a method by which the interest of the whole people shall be all that receives consideration."

"The right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted. Let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor, which is the chief element of wealth, directly in the interest of the common good. The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible contribution to the public welfare.  ...No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load. We keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them."

"The object of government is the welfare of the people. The material progress and prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens. Just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest, capable of sound judgment and high ideals, active in public affairs, — but, first of all, sound in their home, and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well, — just so far, and no farther, we may count our civilization a success."

Like Warren Buffett's class warfare warning, these passages from Lincoln and Roosevelt aren't the ravings of radicals. These are two of America's greatest presidents. Their faces are carved into Mount Rushmore. 

They're not radical. Buffett isn't. Lincoln and Roosevelt weren't radicals. Yet in this cesspit of degraded democracy we endure today, this parliamentary dung heap of Harpers and Trudeaus and Morneaus, those words sound utterly radical and that can only be the measure of our democratic degradation. Think about that, mull it over.








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.