Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trumpelstiltskin

Once upon a time (November 2016, to be precise) there was a people, 99% of whom were poor, but who had beautiful children. Now it happened that they got into a conversation with the Federal Reserve, and to make an impression on them they said, "We have children who can make America great again."
The head of the Federal Reserve said to the people, "That is an art that I really like. If your children are as skillful as you say, then I will create mountains of debt and put them to the test."
When the children came of age, their parents encouraged them to get college degrees with the easy money dispensed by the Fed.  They were rewarded with mediocre jobs. The bankers said, "Get to work now. Work night and day, and if by the end of each month you have not spun straw into gold, so to speak, then you will have to die." Then the college grads were all alone.
The poor people's children sat there, and for their lives they did not know what to do. They had no idea how to pay off their student loans, much less make America great again. They became more and more afraid, and finally began to cry.
Then suddenly a tweet arrived with this avatar .
It said, "Good evening, poor children, why are you crying so?"
"Oh," replied the children, "We are supposed to make America great again, and we do not know how to do it."
The avatar said, "What will you give me if I #MAGA for you?"
"We will make you leader of the Republican party," said the children.
The avatar quickly took the Republicans, did a victory dance, and tweet, tweet, tweet, three big runs, and stocks were up 10%. Then he continued his victory dance all over the land - tweet, tweet, tweet, and consumer confidence was the highest in 15 years. So it went for two months, and then the year ended, and it looked like America was becoming great again.
In the new year, the bankers came, and when they saw the economic boom they were surprised and happy, but their hearts became even more greedy. They insisted on making the economy grow faster. After raising interest rates, they ordered the children to make America greater, if they valued their lives.
The children did not know what to do, and they cried.
Once again a tweet arrived, and the avatar appeared.
It said, "What will you give me if I #MAGA for you?"
"We will put you in charge of the country," answered the children.
The avatar took the country's highest office, and began once again to tweet. By mid-year he had abrogated all burdensome environmental regulations and treaties. The bankers were happy beyond measure when this happened, but they still did not have their fill of money.
They ordered the children to make America greater, and said, "You can dig yourselves out of your debt trap by fighting our enemies. If you succeed you shall become wealthy like us." They thought, "Even if they are only pawns in the great game, this new President knows how to make the most of them."
When the children had prepared themselves for war, the avatar tweeted again. He said, "What will you give me if I #MAGA this time?"
"We have nothing more, but our lives, that we could give you," replied the poor children.
"Then promise me, after I make America greater still, re-elect me to a second term."
"Who knows what will happen with this war," thought the poor children, and not knowing what else to do, they promised the avatar what he demanded. In return the avatar once again made America greater.
When, after the war, the bankers came and found everything just as they desired, they forgave the survivors' student loans with a retroactive GI Bill, and the college educated hero children began to enjoy a short-lived American dream.
A year later a new baby boom began. The people had come to despise the avatar and his harmful ways, but suddenly he tweeted to all and said, "Now re-elect me, so that I may have that which you promised."
Seeing their rapidly warming planet growing more inhospitable, the people took fright and offered the avatar a golden parachute if he would go away, but the avatar said, "No. I'm already richer than Vlad Putin. Domination is now dearer to me than all the treasures of the world."
Then the people began lamenting and crying so much that the avatar took pity on them and said, "I will give you three days' time. If by then you know my name, then you can have your country back."
The people spent the entire night thinking of all the names they had ever heard. Then they Googled to inquire far and wide what other names there were. When the avatar asked the next day they began with Donald J. Trump, TheDonald, RealDonaldTrump, and replied in order all the names they knew. After each one the avatar said, "That is not my name."
The second day they sent inquiries into Facebook as to what names people used. They replied the most unusual and most curious names to the avatar: "Is your name perhaps Drumpf? Or Dufuss? Or The Big Twit?"
But he always answered, "That is not my name."
On the third day one ingenious citizen tweeted, "'Trump Tower' on skyscrapers - Trumpelstiltskin, i.e. Spanglish for 'Trump [on] the stilt's skin.' It's what you are - just your name on a facade raised to the sky, grabbing everyone's attention - Trump-el-stilt-skin!"
"The devil told you that! The devil told you that!" tweeted the avatar, and with anger Trumpelstiltskin stomped his right foot so hard into the ground that he fell in up to his waist. Then with both hands he took hold of his left foot and ripped himself up the middle in two.
After a short-term failure by climate agnostic President Pence to gain the support of voters, the Green Party candidate was then elected President in 2020 with a mandate to turn the U.S. off its self-destructive path.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Greatest

The richest man in the world may be Vladimir Putin, according to financial executive Bill Browder. While the wealth of their country is siphoned off to secret Swiss bank accounts, everyone but the oligarchs struggle to scratch out a living, just as the Russians have throughout history.

Donald Trump would naturally admire the richest man in the world and, since he is taking over leadership of the richest country in the world, would naturally consider it quite appropriate that he would be the rightful recipient of that honor, given enough time to exact all of the tribute possible from his loyal subjects. Until he was elected President, all he had to work with were a smattering of resorts, hotels, a school, sundry consumer product lines, and the Trump Foundation. It turns out that he used the foundation to support anything Trump, just as the name implies.

If he is anything like his pal, Putin, the Trump Foundation was just a warm-up. At 71, he really needs to kick it into high gear in order to exceed $200 billion, but he seems unencumbered by scruples and has brought so many tycoons into his inner circle that his chances look pretty good. This is what making America great again means to Trump - great for him and his coterie of oligarchs.

We didn't think we'd end up like Russia after two centuries of democracy. Perhaps we won't if Trump can be forestalled by legalities like the proposed Presidential Accountability Act. Laws, however, don't seem to count for much in Trump's calculations, so we might all end up as subjects of the throne eventually.

In Laudato Si, Pope Francis pointed out the error in this pattern of governance:
This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model are the ideals of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus. As he said of the powers of his own age: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mt 20:25-26).
A glimmer of the Christmas story shines through this passage: despite all the Caesars, Putins, and Trumps of the world, Jesus tells us, "It shall not be so among you." While they go high, we go low, and so become great in his kingdom.

Photo by Sampo Sikiƶ




Friday, December 23, 2016

Do and/or Die

Peter Wadhams has ample reason to believe that when a truck ran him off the road, it wasn't just an accident. The Cambridge professor is a recognized and outspoken Arctic sea ice expert who is calling for a dramatic curtailment in fossil fuel use, lest the arctic meltdown shift into a cataclysmic series of positive feedback loops. At one point, the professor speculated that oil industry or government agencies had hired the driver to kill him, just as three other sea ice scientists encountered suspicious demises in the past few years. Causes of their untimely deaths were ascribed to falling down stairs, lightning, and vehicular collision while biking.

Death threats and assassination are nothing new to climate and environmental activists. The least you can do when so threatened is to put it on record, prompting an investigation if you are killed. Professor Michael E. Mann, famous for the hockey-stick graph of global temperatures, recently leveraged his potential martyrdom in a push back against the rhetorical garbage that continually belches from Trump's craw. 

In August 2016, Dr. Wadhams sealed his testimony about our predicament in the form of a book titled, A Farewell to Ice, fortuitously published a few months before the canary in the Arctic began to swoon with temperatures now 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, high enough to melt ice in Winter. Wadhams sees 2017 as the first likely summer without a polar ice cap, which would remove the reflecting shield from the Arctic, causing more warming, which would allow undersea permafrost beds to disgorge greater amounts of methane stored there. He has identified ten positive feedback loops associated with Arctic warming.


Hope, nonetheless, springs eternal and Wadhams puts his hope in a radical shift away from fossil fuels and a Manhattan project scale effort to draw down atmospheric carbon. If we don't carry out this change before 2035, Wadhams fears it will be too late. Leaving out the geoengineering piece, the Green New Deal offered by the Green Party could bring the U.S. to 100% fossil-free energy by 2030. If Wadhams is right, there is little room for letting this timeline slip. Either we change our way of living, or our world will change intolerably. Or, maybe we will die from unnatural causes before that, because we were bold enough to point out the problem.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chasing Windmills

We know President-elect Trump finds wind power disturbing, especially when viewed from his golf resort in Scotland. He also fails to see the urgency of getting off fossil fuels, and seeks to exploit all manner of polluting and clean technologies to grow the U.S. economy. His pick for Secretary of the Interior, +Congressman Ryan Zinke (MT), seems to be less hostile toward climate-conscious measures, which is some relief since he will head the department which oversees offshore wind infrastructure.

The first U.S. installation of an offshore wind facility started regular operation last week with five big wind turbines supplying Block Island, RI. With its slow start, offshore wind must be added more quickly than land-based and other renewable technologies in order to become 19% of total electric capacity for coastal states by 2030 as proposed in the Green New Deal. The GND goes into some detail about the need for help from the government to overcome market impediments in order to allow scaling up offshore wind.

Trump and his appointees are going to make it harder to leave fossil fuels in the ground, but there is some hope that state governments will demonstrate enough wisdom to pass on continuing to burn them. Now that solar has become more economical than even land-based wind power in some countries, the need for regulatory and financial assistance for offshore wind is even more imperative to bring this component of renewable power up to speed. Assuming we do power down coal and gas generating plants, installing only solar and land-based wind facilities would make electrical power less abundant and reliable. Having a diverse set of power sources, including offshore wind, is necessary to address the intermittency problem of renewable energy.

The solar power industry is in a virtuous cycle of cost-effectiveness that could rationalize the move away from fossil fuels in many locales. Wind power (which temporally complements solar) is on par, but losing ground, making me wonder: Since we are literally losing ground in the littorals (with the dire likelihood of seeing leagues of ocean where there is currently solid ground), wouldn't it be most economical to just build a lot of seaworthy wind power on the shore and wait for the ocean to sweep over it?
Photo: CGP Grey






Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trump's Biggest Gamble

As the Trump team prepares to dismantle every U.S. mechanism for reducing climate change, there will be dramatic responses by those who understand the urgency of the problem. We are already seeing the early stages of war breaking out between climate savvy entities and the climate-ignorant Trump team. The Energy Department, NASA, NOAA, and the state of California are all resisting moves by the incoming administration to quash U.S. participation in the fight to save the planet.

Ignoring the problem in the U.S. for four years would make it ever more doubtful that humans and a multitude of other species will survive the century. As data is accumulated and analyzed, new positive feedback loops are seen to emerge in the developing drama of Earth's ecosystem. These include recent concerns that soil biota populate excessively in a warming environment and that lakes and chutes under the East Antarctic ice shelf could contribute to more rapid sea level rise. Another term for "positive feedback loop" is "tipping point," i.e. when something begins to fall over at an accelerating rate, without any additional help from external forces.

The Green New Deal can't wait four years if we don't want to pass more tipping points. The war against climate change may proceed apace elsewhere, but the U.S. is too culpable in contributing to the problem, and too vital in providing solutions to step out of the fight now.
Photo by NASA

Allowing climate change to proceed unimpeded is to, in effect, make war against the global south. It is a policy of culling humans, possibly with the justification that population growth is a worse threat than global warming. It kills U.S. populations, but others more immediately. It is also a gamble against the very existence of life and imposes unalterable changes on planet Earth's behavior. Are these high stakes not even more daunting than war?

In that case, it is appropriate to use the war metaphor for the struggle that should take place at home before we allow heedless policy reversal and gutted institutions to debilitate our climate warriors. Trump will probably take us to war with Iran, but the next World War might not be fought with bullets and bombs, but with smokestacks and wells, pointed South, leaving our world forever altered.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trump's Worldview

There is an urge many of us feel to attribute benevolence to our highest leaders. When Donald Trump says his job creation and economic performance is going to be a beautiful thing to watch, we want to believe that he is thinking of his people, like Santa working hard all year round so everyone down below will get to enjoy the surprises he has to bring.

Well, boys and girls, I hate to have to tell you that there is no such thing as Santa Claus -- but there may be a Grinch. You can put aside any notions of Trump or his administration working on your behalf. He and many of his crew don't believe in that. They are objectivists, followers of the Ayn Rand philosophy that we should all be out to maximize our own happiness under laissez faire government with an economy in which "the lazy" fare not well at all.

Objectivism deplores the idea of sacrifice, so don't count on Trump or many of his cabinet to give up ongoing business interests in order to remain objective for the common good. (Putting your business affairs in the hands of your family hardly extinguishes conflicts of interest.)

The ideal government sought by objectivists is more like the much smaller one that Trump is hiring hatchet men like Rick Perry, Scott Pruitt, and Ben Carson to wind down. "The business of America is business," Calvin Coolidge said before it turned out there wasn't going to be much business in America when the Great Depression hit. Now, we can simplify it to, "America: it's just business," because government is to be largely run by businessmen with a keen sense of rational self-interest.

When all our President-apparent has ever known in his career is business, how could we expect that it would be any different? A petition to electors to hand the Presidency over to a more qualified candidate (whoever that may be) notes:
[Trump] has, unlike every previous Commander-in-Chief, never served in any public position, whether elected or appointed, civilian or military, thereby bringing no experience or proven judgement on behalf of The People, or evidence of a character suited to high office.
That's why Trump was elected - because he isn't tainted by political baggage, and can, therefore, be objective in his decisions. He will be so objective, in fact, that you and I are merely objects to him.

The Green Party values, though in favor of smaller government, stand in stark contrast to objectivism, particularly in the matter of economics. The Green Party advocates community-based economics:
We support redesigning our work structures to encourage employee ownership and workplace democracy. We support developing new economic activities and institutions that allow us to use technology in ways that are humane, freeing, ecological, and responsive and accountable to communities. We support establishing a form of basic economic security open to all. We call for moving beyond the narrow 'job ethic' to new definitions of 'work,' 'jobs' and 'income' in a cooperative and democratic economy. We support restructuring our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy – those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, and the like. We support restricting the size and concentrated power of corporations without discouraging superior efficiency or technological innovation. 
It comes down to a philosophy of  inter-being vs. one of separation. With his philosophy of separation, the only way the Big Twit will be able to hold the country together will be an existential crisis, e.g. war against a powerful opponent.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's Gonna Take a Lotta Love

Russia's treachery in the campaign of The Don (our Big Twit, not their big river) is forgivable when viewed in context of the way the U.S., mainly under Ronald Reagan, brashly drove the U.S.S.R. into economic ruin. Russians and citizens of its former republics were thrown into dire circumstances as their economies collapsed. For the most part, they recovered. Now it's our turn. While economic collapse is pending for us and the rest of the world, we are faced with the more present danger of navigating through a sea of lies spawned from previous lies and from a profusion of liars made to appear acceptable by our prospective Dissembler-in-Chief.

Little Brother

A culture of lying has brought us growing numbers of whack jobs like Dylan Roof and Comet Ping Pong Rambo, Edgar Welch - guys who latched on to fake news or warped values and became strategic corporals, taking abstruse memes off the Internet as statements of commander's intent. The establishment's reaction may favor more controls on information dissemination, so in spite of the threat from Little Brother, Big Brother must also be resisted in order to hold fast our liberty. 

The Big Twit applies his creative powers to generate a version of reality that other power-hungry souls readily latch onto. His word becomes the Brothers' parameter for acceptable narratives. Trump hiring a 50-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps to come in and take over a demoralized Department of Homeland Security offers little assurance that First Amendment rights will receive adequate protection. Big Brother will want to protect the rest of the family from Little Brother However, the more the Big Twit tweets his fantasies, the more Little Brother goes rogue. At some point, the combination of Little Brother police actions and Big Brother censorship presents a new politically correct space that the majority choose to abide within.

Big Brother can be resisted through political organizations such as the Green Party, white hat hacking, and investigative journalism. Little Brother (all of us, to some degree) must be resisted by taking the time to correct him in his infantile acts and rushes to judgment. Since the election, political discussions in my extended family have been more taboo than normal. In the interest of helping Little Brother understand, it's time we started pushing the political correctness envelope and showing those close to us that issues aren't as simple as demagogues and propagandists make them out to be. It's gonna take a lotta love to change the way things are. 


Friday, December 9, 2016

The Big Twit

Donald Trump is already beginning to measure up to one of his presidential models. Like Ronald Reagan before him, he adroitly falls back on the plea of ignorance, as in his Time "Person of the Year" interview in which he claimed that he did not believe that Russia interfered in the election. Where you stand depends on where you sit, and sitting in the cat-bird seat means that Trump doesn't have to take a stand on much of anything that doesn't comport with his own designs.

His designs appear to lean toward undermining democracy in America, just like the Russian cyber-warriors he tacitly defends. He and his party have nearly squelched the recount efforts aimed at reforming our election process to be more equitable and less prone to gaming. His high tempo tweeting habit gives him a special connection to a significant segment of the American public - setting him up to be some sort of Dear Leader, but undermining the traditional connection of lawmakers to their constituents. Twitter also gives him precision targeting capability against any person or other entity that inflames his ire. That comes with built-in laser designator capability for his followers to mount secondary carpet bombing attacks and kill verification.

Photo by Gian Luigi Perrella
Now that he will be in command of our nation's military, it's too bad Trump never served in it. There he might have learned the first principle of psychological operations, i.e. you don't conduct PsyOps against your own citizens. Instead, our future fearless leader borrows from his reality TV show experience where psyching out your opponents and teammates is all part of the game.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Truth Shall Set You Free

The disclosure of how Russian hackers have systematically undermined democracy in the U.S. by flooding the Internet with false or misleading stories has unmoored me. Not that I think the U.S. doesn't sometimes intentionally deceive Russians, but it would be hard to curate a portfolio of our blatant lies on the Internet as mendacious as that of the Russians. Besides, information fed to the Russian people weighs far less than that fed to the American public, since Russians are less empowered than U.S. citizens to influence or participate in their government. It's OK, though. I get it. Even if your country is defeated economically, information is one other means to conduct a cold war.

The cold war was plainly on again after Russia helped take down Malaysian flight MH17 over Ukraine. It was then that I noticed many of the websites that I was using to help make sense of current events accepted the Russian version of things with no hesitation. Regardless, I persisted for years in reading many of their views, dismissing their Russophilia as misdirected, but not malign. Now that the Russians' schemes are patent from investigative reports, I realize that these websites are, for whatever reason, beholden to the Russian disinformation apparatus and many are not worth visiting.

I dropped Club Orlov years ago, as I noticed Dmitry was not only too ardently defending Russian misdeeds, but also those of other U.S. enemies and denigrating our military. I first heard Orlov on James Howard Kunstler's podcast, whose Clusterfuck Nation blog this week pooh-poohs Russian hacking as an excuse mainstream news organizations are using for not noticing Trump's ascendancy among the electorate. To his credit, he doesn't deny the impact fake news may have had on the election, so I will keep him on my reading list. Another of my favorite writers, +Albert Bates, is too chummy with Dmitry and RT for me to trust his opinion as untainted, so I will have to stop reading his blog, too.

Photo by Sophie
A website that Kunstler put me onto, The Automatic Earth, has always helped me to wake up with a pessimistic view of the financial quagmire we are in. With its constant defense of Russian virtue and links to Zero Hedge and various other false news websites, I am glad to be rid of it. I will subscribe to the Washington Post again and get my morning news from the American media establishment rather than the apparatchiki. Another writer I located through Kunstler, John Michael Greer, has been mentioned in a few of my blogs as a fellow Marylander. He is on probation now, having soured me by a recent post in which he wondered why his blog wasn't on the list of 200+ websites showing evidence of heavy Russian fake news propagation. Come on, John! I know you think the best thing for us now is to have a million points of light shining in as many directions, but by toying with ideas from the heads of Russian hackers, you are just entering a hall of mirrors.

Jill Stein is doing something especially patriotic in fighting for vote recounts based, in part, on suspicions of Russian tampering. It is keeping the issue elevated long enough for us to realize that we need to all work harder at filtering information and that we need to protect our society from the effects of falsehoods at all levels of decision-making. I suspect that a lot of the push-back she received from fellow Greens was because many on the left became too invested in the narratives that originated in Moscow to the point that they subconsciously shifted their allegiance in favor of Russian tales to the detriment of their reliance on manifest truths.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Storm before the Calm

If you think that the suspicions of a Russia-hacked election are overblown, I'll go you one better - Trump is an unwitting Russian agent (or useful idiot, if you prefer) in their campaign to reclaim Eastern Europe. Not that I particularly care who has dominion in that part of the world (as long as they are civil), but Russia's prize is more valuable than the grave of civilization we are fighting for in the Middle East.
Photo by John Cooke

In the climax phase of the 4th Turning, we can expect a big war to occur. The trouble with Hillary's ken of going head-to-head with Russia over their jealous urge to retake old territory is that we would risk starting a major nuclear war. A major non-nuclear war in the Middle East is preferable, and that is the likely course a Trump administration will take. If the Trump's election is overturned, we might sooner find ourselves in a civil war, with all of our "well regulated" militias ready to stand their ground regarding who should run the republic.

Assuming we're stuck with Trump, the signs pointing to an escalation of our Middle Eastern military campaign are growing larger. Retired General James Mattis, as Secretary of Defense, could be the next manifestation of America's drift into a deep state controlled government of the military, by the military, and for the military. Mattis wouldn't be the first career military officer to take that position less than seven years after retiring (against the prohibition established when the DoD was created), but we aren't in a world war, either (yet). It is no coincidence that Mattis is the best we have to execute a war against Iran.

In committing ourselves to a major war against Iran, that would leave the door open in Europe, just as the EU is unraveling, for the Russians to take what they think they can. Europe, then could be dealing with a hot war at the same time we are bombing Iran. At that point, China may as well take whatever islands their own manifest destiny owes them. If each of those three powers can respect the imperial ambitions of the others, then we will, hopefully, avoid nuclear exchanges.

I don't know what Trump and Putin have been chatting about, but our man could be applying the art of the deal to grand strategy, using business argot and body language to make tacit pacts of non-interference. The pact might have included a clause for Russia's help with Trump's popularity going into the election, when the Russian PsyOp campaign may have equaled that of either major candidate. I guess Trump's win is better than raising the probability of nuclear or civil war, and I do think we need to eliminate the "revolutionary cause" posing as a nation-state in Iran, but then let's have our own green revolution.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump's Legacy

With a view toward resolving the Global War on Terror, Donald Trump looks like he could be a useful idiot after all, possibly for two terms. The fact that he is hiring a security team highly disposed to vindicating our fighting forces, along with his own evident interest in the Middle East, hints that he will redouble our efforts to stamp out Islamic radicalism like we did with Naziism seventy years ago.
Photo by Hamad Saber

If we undertake to defeat Iranian state-sponsored terrorism, the "simple" step of killing the theocracy from the top down seems to be an obvious objective. How different is that from taking out non-state actors like Anwar al-Awlaki? This would spark wholesale cultural upheaval in Iran and give popular democratic movements an opportunity to step in. In Arab countries, chopping off Shia's head would alleviate centuries-long tensions between Sunnis and Shia, giving radical Sunni groups one less reason to be so pissed off. I can picture A. Khamenei hunkering down like the Fuhrer deep in an underground five-star bunker, thumb-stomping his as yet unconnected Armageddon button, while his earthly kingdom is progressively destroyed by wave after wave of allied attacks until he realizes that he has been Trumped.

Obama is leaving his successor with unfinished work in Syria, another state sponsor of terrorism. Regime change is also appropriate for them. Knocking off the Ayattolahs to spark a new Iranian revolution would leave President Assad twisting in the wind.

Trump has made it pretty clear that he sees no purpose for staying in that region other than to take their oil. It's a safe bet that nation building and most reconstruction is not forthcoming, yet we risk forgeting the lesson from earlier petrocolonialism in Iran, which resulted in the last Iranian revolution and loss of control of oil infrastructure - the West's only national interest in the country then, as well.

It is likely, and would be better, that our actions to stomp out terrorism will staunch the flow of oil rather than accelerate it. War or no war, our economy is toast. More cheap oil only delays the inevitable crash and worsens our long term prospects as a species. The Trump effect will keep us going long enough to further dissolve tensions in the Middle East and accelerate the end of the oil age. By the late 2020's the world and U.S. economies will be vastly reconfigured, downshifted to the point that whatever idiot runs the country, some life can go on.



Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Possible End to The 4th Turning

Lately, Al Qaeda and it's more evil offspring, ISIS, have been the center of attention in the erstwhile named Global War on Terror. In terms of state-sponsored terrorism, however, no organization exceeds the Iranian Quds force record for defiance of the U.S. in the Middle East. All three networks must be defeated to extricate us from our current fourth turning. Expect a lot more U.S. military activity in the region under our next Commander-in-Chief.

According to an op-ed in the the New York Times
Mr. Trump’s immediate position on the Iran deal will be one of the first critical tests for his presidency. 
[If the treaty is abandoned,] because the international coalition that previously supported sanctions on Iran will not be put back together, America’s economic leverage on Iran will be much weaker, increasing the likelihood that Iran will ramp up its nuclear program, and in turn, increasing the risk of American military action.
Photo by Waiting for the Word

In addition to forestalling the Iranian nuclear program, other provocations could trigger an American military attack:
  • Iran attacking any other country
  • Takeover of Iraq by Quds force elements
  • Oil shipment disruptions in the Gulf
  • Terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Rather than satisfy himself with setting back Iran's nuclear and military capabilities for a couple of years, our future President would most likely follow through with an invasion of Iran by a coalition force to ensure regime change that favors U.S. interests in the Middle East. 

Along with Trump's expressed intention to hammer ISIS, regime change in Iran would be key to the resolution of our crisis, allowing us to proceed into the regeneration (Spring) phase of our secular cycle. If I were President, I don't know if I would choose a different course.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...

If you could blow up the world with the flick of a switch
Would you do it? 


If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich
Would you do it? 


If you could watch everybody work while you just lay on your back
Would you do it? 

If you could take all the love without giving any back                                               Would you do it? 

 And so we cannot know ourselves or what we'd really do... 

 
With all your power  

With all your power 

 With all your power 

 What would you do?     

 
- The Flaming Lips


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Nimrod in Winter

"Take a deep breath," says Maryland governor Larry Hogan, while we wait to see what The Donald does to calm the concerns that most Americans harbor over what our clunky process of selecting a President has cranked out. "But don't hold that breath," Hogan should have added, since the likelihood that a Trump presidency will succeed in assuaging those concerns is sadly dim, given the season we are in - Winter in the secular cycle of American history. 

Photo by Michael Taggart Photography
In their prophetic book, The Fourth Turning, Neil Howe and William Strauss, explain that Winter in the 80 - 100 year secular cycle always culminates in a climax of the crisis before moving us into Spring where rebuilding takes place. We have yet to endure the cathartic climax that will allow our country to put behind us the troubling period that began with the attacks of 9/11/2001, shaking our nation to its core. Only after we have emerged from the crisis will we be able to embark on a long-term rebuilding of our infrastructure and institutions. Crisis climaxes tend to be bloody and potentially devastating, lasting years, so Trump's Thanksgiving message encouraging America to come together to begin "a great national campaign to rebuild our country" is about five to ten years premature.   

More likely is a fight to the finish with countries who are not with us, and therefore, against us in the unresolved Global War on Terror. Iran comes to mind foremost. Alternatively, a financial crash or racial divisions could cause an internalization of the crisis, leading to a second civil war. Major war has historically been the venting mechanism for America's fourth turning crises. Each fourth turning war has been more vicious than those prior. If that trend continues, our nuclear arsenal may finally get its chance to shine.

That dreaded day seems more likely with a megalomaniac in charge. Strauss and Howe warn of the mistake of failing to align the country's efforts with the secular cycle. It is a waste of precious energy to attempt rebuilding at this stage, when there is currently no consensus on what we need or what is sustainable, just as planting vegetables in winter is a waste of time. Donald Trump, a modern day Nimrod, is the wrong man to take the reigns in this critical time. Perhaps he would have been a passable choice for post-war reconstruction, but what we need now is someone like Abraham Lincoln who can shepherd us through the storm, not someone who invokes Lincoln to calm the storm that he invigorated.

Monday, November 21, 2016

In or Out

Commentators have remarked on Donald Trump's tendency to select people for his cabinet who agree with him, by-and-large. These will be the public faces of his inner circle, circumscribing the value set insiders in the Trump administration will need to uphold. Cross that line, and you are liable to be blackballed.
Andrew Jackson (by Urban Bohemian)

Favor with the administration will mean a lot under President Trump. He does not easily deal with those he views as outsiders. A psychological profile based on writings, speeches, and behavioral history pegged Trump as a grandiose narcissist comparable to President Andrew Jackson, as well as in having anger as a primary driving emotion. Like Jackson, as a strong authoritarian figure, Trump will have a mandate to keep the good in and the bad out. Jackson gave an example of such abuse of power in the 1820's with the Indian Removal Act, deporting 45,000 native Americans to reservations, including 4,000 Cherokees that didn't finish the journey on the Trail of Tears.

Former Green Party candidate for POTUS, Ralph Nader, thinks Trump is unstable, therefore easily baited into launching the U.S. into more overreaching military expeditions beyond those we are already dealing with. He says Trump could "become a monster," suspending civil liberties and neglecting domestic needs while striving for every military victory that his megalomania demands.

After the election, Maryland author John Michael Greer encouraged everyone to take a deep breath and remember that we are a diverse nation. We don't all have to agree, in fact, a federal republic will vary widely in its customs and values, but still agree on core principles. The Green Party key values have this to say about decentralization of the federal government:
Centralization of wealth and power contributes to social and economic injustice, environmental destruction, and militarization. We seek a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system controlled by and mostly benefiting the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all.
Those aspirations are going to be more difficult to realize under an Executive branch constructed based on loyalty to one man who believes that winning is not everything, but the only thing. Once we realize that we need not a strongman, but millions of strong men and women to make America great again, we will be able to reclaim our government by the people and for the people.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Drawing the Battle Lines

Photo by Vision Planet Media
In the continuing protests, there has been a shift in emphasis from directing ire at the President-elect to protesting the principles that he brings to the office. The Green Party-supported rally to celebrate the death of the TPP sounded this chord - calling for a stop to Trumpism, not just Trump. This widens the field to include not only the cronies Trump is surrounding himself with, but also the emerging flock of haters that helped propel him to office.

The most popular rendering of "Trumpism" is the one that the University of Maryland students have raised their outcry against, i.e. the xenophobic aspects of the Trump agenda. Implicit in the slogan "Make America Great Again" is "We are Better than You." So by getting rid of non-citizens, we can instantly prove how much better we are without those encumbrances. The Green Party platform shows a much more diplomatic understanding of relationships with foreign citizens and includes the inspiring goal that we will someday live in
a world in which persons can freely choose to live in and work in any country he or she desires.
Beyond isolationism and xenophobia, Trumpism can be seen as the attitude and ideas that many Americans will take on in imitation of their newly elected leader. That attitude includes such qualities as pride, belligerence, insensitive criticism, competitiveness, lack of self-examination, and remorselessness. This is the order of battle that Trumpists bring to the fight. The campaign to fight Trumpism will have to be against the man, himself, and the attitude he imbues in all of his replicates throughout society. Similar to the "War on Terror," neither Trumpism or Terror can be completely vanquished in this life. Conquering Trumpism will take as many counterattacks of love as there are depths of narcissism in the Trump arsenal.

The millennials have a monumental task wresting power from the Trumpists, and the longer it takes to unseat Trump, the harder the larger task will be. One aspect of Trumpism is the need to win every time. For them, winning justifies the measures taken to achieve it. Expect Trumpists to fight ruthlessly for every piece of privilege they have attained under their pompous ruler. It will be bloody.

I don't hate Donald Trump. The two of us could be arms-length casual friends. I just don't consent to him being my ruler.  His illegitimate "success" as a businessman (tax evasion, discrimination, fraud) makes him unfit to be the President of the United States.  Trump may not equal Hitler (we shall see) but we, the people, can choose better and needn't be bound to this abomination of a head of state for four years.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Heroes Emerge

Nearly as shocking as the election victory of Donald Trump was the seemingly spontaneous emergence of high schoolers in the public arena to protest that victory. We didn't have any of that at the high school I attended in the early 1970's, though colleges were commonly besieged by protests against the Vietnam war. Back then, Trump had his own conflicts to deal with as he was being sued by the Justice Department over discrimination against black rental applicants. The Selma to Montgomery freedom marches of the prior decade probably made some impression on the young Trump, but not enough for him to allow blacks to rent from him. He will probably also too quickly dismiss the kids marching against his pending presidency as spoiled, unfair, and provoked by agitators, but miss the threat that they pose to his longevity in that position.
Photo by Matt Wagers

Many city high schools had walkouts yesterday by demonstrating students, including some in Silver Spring, Maryland. Some combined their numbers with nearby colleges. These high school and college students are largely from the millennial generation, which, according to Neil Howe and William Strauss, authors of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy, belong to the hero archetype:
Heroes come of age during a time of great crisis... [They are] "heroes" because they resolve that crisis, an accomplishment that then defines the rest of their lives. 
Our most recent previous hero generation was the one that fought and won World War II.

A comparable challenge faces the millennials. Many have been proving their hero designation in the wars in the Middle East. Those joining the campaign to reject Trump are going to be a formidable force on the home front. I would expect to see many more of these high-school walkouts in the coming days and weeks. If they succeed, they will also be the ones we rely on to consolidate the ideological victory and then to carry us through the transition to a more localized, earth-friendly society. If they don't succeed in dethroning Trump and his administration (and, perhaps, even if they do) that transition will be forced on us, at great cost, through cascading catastrophes.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The First Casualty of the Trump Presidency - The Trans-Pacific Partnership

After Trump's election win, the Green Party did not miss a beat. The leadership called for all members to resist Trump and the two-party system that excludes the left from American politics. You can take that only so far without crossing a line that would constitute a felony, but the end result may turn out to be the overthrow of the President.

The Green Party is calling for activists to support  Flush the TPP and Occupy Inauguration. All the while, protests are mounting all over the U.S., including Baltimore. We are close enough to Washington, D.C. to lend our presence to some direct action.

The first of these, a demonstration to warn Congress against passing lame duck legislation to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), starts on Sunday. Organizers advise activists to not be complacent with noises coming out of Congress and the White House about taking the TPP off the agenda, though it seems plausible that they would be reluctant to pursue the treaty with a President-elect steadfastly opposed to multinational trade deals.

Maryland's own Margaret Flowers, former Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, has been on this issue for 5 years. She is also a big player with the Popular Resistance movement - a follow-on network to the Occupy protests.
Photo: Backbone Campaign


The Green Party opposes the TPP, as do I, despite the jobs that it may support, based on the belief in more local and regional trade and less corporate power. From the Green Party platform:
Greens support strong local economies and regional trade. The best model of economic security is for a community and region to be largely self-sufficient in the production of its necessities. We support not the corporate control of "free trade" — which, through the machinations of the World Trade Organization places the enrichment of multinational corporations above the level of national laws — but "fair trade," which protects communities, labor, consumers and the environment. Local economic vibrancy and regional trade keep more money in the community and the region, rather than going to distant corporate headquarters. This is the most sensible model for economic security.
One of Ms. Flowers' other campaigns, It's Our Economy, has a similar take on the construction of international trade agreements:
Remake international trade from corporate trade to people’s trade.  The current rhetoric calls trade agreements “Free Trade” but in reality they are trade agreements that favor corporations over the interests of labor, the environment and consumers.  Trade agreements need to be redesigned so they serve the interests of people and the planet rather than the interests of corporations.  Further, institutions like the World Trade Organization need to become more transparent and more democratic.  They can no longer be giving power to corporations to overturn democratically enacted laws by making corporations more powerful than governments.
My own concern for the environment (global warming, in particular) overrides concern for the economy. In fact, these two appear to be contrary now, to the point that an economic crash may be necessary to prevent runaway global warming. Encouraging more international trade, in order to bring about economic growth, means more stuff and more fuels being burned, leading to further environmental degradation. In any case, I believe a global economic crash is in the offing, so trying to arrange trade deals with optimistic assumptions about world trade will result in many of those assumptions being shattered and the deal losing much of its purported benefits.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Carbon Profligates Should Share the Wealth

At the Conference of Parties (COP) 22 in Marrakesh, Morocco, the question of reparations for climate damage by developed countries may come up again after it became a sticking point in Copenhagen and was finessed out of the agreement in Paris. The Green Party of the U.S., while it embraces environmental justice, doesn't take it that far. Nor is it necessary. To begin with, pushing for countries to compensate others for their losses doesn't get at the source of the emissions at a level that will incite prompt remedial action. It is also questionable justice if parties are retroactively punished for lawful actions.
Dr. James Hansen by Global Justice Now

At COP 21, Dr. James Hansen made it clear that the treaty would not be enforceable and that putting a fee on emissions would be a preferable approach. Rather than exact transfers from one country to another, the carbon fees would be collected internally and distributed to the respective citizens of the country of the carbon profiteering corporation. The fee would thus become revenue neutral with regard to each country's treasury. It would also be an opportunity to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor, as countries would pass the money on to those with lesser emissions. Economist Thomas Piketty would approve. The Green Party echos Hansen in their 2016 Platform statement:
Enact a Fee & Dividend system on fossil fuels to enable the free market to include the environmental costs of their extraction and use. These fees shall be applied as far upstream as possible, either when fuel passes from extraction to refining, distribution or consumption; or when it first enters the United States' jurisdiction. The carbon fee will initially be small, a dime per kilogram of carbon, to avoid creating a shock to the economy. The fee will be increased by 10% each year that global atmospheric carbon dioxide content is greater than 350 ppm, decreased 10% each year it's less than 300 ppm, and repealed entirely when it falls below 250 ppm.
The beauty of this approach is that it could address two dire problems - greenhouse gasses and widespread indebtedness - with a single mechanism. It also places the burden of payment where it belongs - with those who are at the root cause of the additional carbon emissions. Those people are relatively wealthy, and the principle way that wealth has become so divergent in this age is through leveraging of fossil energy resources. Thus have the rich become richer, and the poor, poorer. Without fossil fuels, the wealth effect would still apply, however economic growth would be much slower or nil in the long run, making the absolute differences between rich and poor much smaller.

Yesterday, the state of Washington failed to pass a ballot initiative to tax carbon in a revenue neutral arrangement. The old guard environmental movement there seems to have gotten mired in the intricacies of Washington's tax system. The state that should be leading this movement is the one with the most millionaires per square mile - Maryland. It might be surprising to see how easily we can achieve our goal of 40% reduction by 2030 without targeting specific industries, and instead, putting the burden on individuals and companies that turn out to be carbon intensive. As one of the few states that voted decisively against D Trump, perhaps we will manage to turn Green by the next round and gain a proud legacy for posterity by leading on this issue.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Green - The Party (You Didn't Know) You Want

Do you think it is any coincidence that the richest state in the country sits on the north side of the repository of all of your federal U.S. tax dollars? Maryland is the wealthiest state in terms of per capita income and millionaires per square mile, so it would appear that the capital in The Capital is being leveraged for private gain not too far away. The rising tide has also kept 90% of boats from grounding, keeping Maryland ahead of most states with respect to poverty rates. This privileged position makes it improbable that any Green Party candidate would succeed in winning an election in Maryland, especially when the Maryland Green Party platform is that of the parent Green Party of the U.S.

One of the reactions that the idea of the somewhat socialist Green Party provokes is that wealth would disperse to the undeserving masses, but why should it, instead, concentrate in the hands of those closest to the halls of power? Is the ability to direct the affairs of a democratic society so rare that it can be vouchsafed to only a very few who have elbowed their way into luxurious appointments clustered incongruously around the nation's most polluted river? The Green Party wants to spread prosperity and governance throughout the land, rather than keep it in the firm grasp of the mighty.

Take a look at their solutions for local economic development and see if they don't fill you with excitement. The list of imperatives under this section of the Green Party platform return much decision-making power and revenue to local governments, businesses, and workers. Would that not be vastly better than abdication of decision-making over the business character of our communities to the faceless, heartless bureaucracy in Washington, DC? Local jurisdictions would not be compelled by economies of scale or federal agencies to accept dominance by major corporations, because the Greens have plans to cut down those corporations' political and market power, too.

Oh, and that scary adjective I used in describing the Green Party ("socialist") - the platform provides a concise glimpse of how that would look in the section on Work and Job Creation (italics mine):
To begin a transition to a system providing sustainable livelihood, we support:
  1. Creating alternative, low-consumption communities and living arrangements, including a reinvigorated sustainable homesteading movement in rural areas and voluntary shared housing in urban areas, i.e. homeless people outside of cities would be helped into low cost homesteads, and those in the city into shared housing.
  2. Universal health care requiring coverage for all.  (Single payer system, like that in many other countries, e.g. Canada, parts of Europe) 
However socialist the Green Party of the U.S. is, the adjustments that involve shelter and care for all residents are hardly radical. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party provide additional background on the changes sought for the sake of economic justice:
We call for moving beyond the narrow "job ethic" to new definitions of "work," "jobs" and "income" in a cooperative and democratic economy. We support restructuring our patterns of income distribution to reflect the wealth created by those outside the formal monetary economy – those who take responsibility for parenting, housekeeping, home gardens, community volunteer work, and the like.
It's not welfare we're talking here, it's compensation for socially valuable contributions that are currently devalued by capitalism.

When we have two main parties with candidates that espouse right and far-right policies vying for the top job, it should prompt us to look for alternatives that offer more left-leaning views. The Green Party is a step to the left that would help the U.S. revisit democracy.

Don't just vote your ticket, vote for what you believe.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Green is Good

Intentionally, or not, the new, fascinating CBS TV series "Bull" made a subtle contribution this week to promoting Hillary Clinton's election. The episode featured a female commercial airline pilot on trial for alleged pilot error resulting in the fiery death of 70 passengers. The defense's closing argument was capped with a picture story that asked the jury to identify the hero among a group of children being accosted by a bully. The hero, to the surprise of some of the holdout jurors, was a girl who snitched on the bully. In spite of the odious character opposing her, Hillary Clinton must still overcome the same unconscious bias that some of the jurors harbored.

In my first ever casting of an early vote, I had my ballot scored in less than a minute, not for Hillary, but for two women, nonetheless. Jill Stein and Margaret Flowers, both doctors, were my picks for President and Senator. My Green Party affiliation steered me to these choices, though I know much less about either of them than I do about Clinton or Trump. On the other hand, I know more about the Green Party platform than I do about the Democratic or Republican. I don't have a full grasp of it, and disagree with some of it, but I also see the parties of the 1% mismanaging our affairs, first in the handling of financial matters, but on multiple other issues, too.

Though the Green Party seems to espouse extreme left views compared to the norm, there are other reasoned viewpoints that would make Jill Stein look fairly moderate. Realizing that Jill is highly unlikely to win the election (this video shows that the Greens realize this will be a long, hard slog), it may be necessary for me to become a more active Green Party member or even take on some of the more radical views and approaches of the anarchist movement in order to see improvements made before too much is lost.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Caveat Empty: The National Flood Insurance Well is Dry

One reason not much gets done about climate change and sea level rise is that government has coddled communities affected by climate-driven storm surges. Understanding that there are numerous cases which have been left to wallow and others compensated meagerly, it appears that some are nonetheless satisfied, shifting the burden onto their fellow taxpayers for their risky decision to perch themselves on the edge of a sea containing melting ice cubes.
Photo by Richard
A coddling case in point is the nearby Cove Point neighborhood, Calvert County's most flood-prone community, which is receiving federal grants to allow homeowners to elevate their homes. The same community is also up in arms over the (ill conceived) efforts to make the Cove Point LNG plant export-capable. Their NIMBY campaign stems from concerns for their safety, but the Cove Point plant has been there for some forty years, handling LNG imports, why weren't they protesting then? They bought their homes with full awareness of the plant's and sea's presence, but now they expect to be protected from both. An inflated sense of entitlement and lack of responsibility for personal decisions seems common to both grievances.

The moral hazard of rewarding recklessness has brought the National Flood Insurance Program to be $23 billion in debt, with more possibly coming in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. As claims go unpaid, or as more debt is incurred, FEMA will be loath to give money away to communities like Cove Point who choose to ignore the obvious risks.




Friday, October 28, 2016

Canoe U - Who Knew?

Consciousness of global warming will rise with the seas. Other parts of the world, particularly the Far East, will gain consciousness earlier than America, but the truth will become clear to those of us on the east coast faster than you might expect. Studies modeling climate change often select the turn of the next century as the datum for reporting outcomes, leading casual readers to think that the interim won't pose a major problem. In the case of sea level rise, it is important to understand that there is no escape - we are already locked in to being driven back by the sea in many littoral areas regardless of how much we mitigate carbon emissions. The more salient question is: how quickly will the seas continue to rise?

Recently, scientists have found that there is a strong possibility that previous estimates of the inextirpable rate of sea level rise are short by half if the West Antarctic ice shelf calves off into the drink. A study done this year looks at what that could mean for east coast U.S. military bases. It also includes a scenario for the case that Antarctica doesn't fall apart. Either way, bases on the east coast will struggle to adapt to the sea's encroachment on their territory.

The Navy will gain awareness more quickly than other services as a result of port visits in Japan, the Philippines, and other countries where sea level rise is having a more dramatic effect. Several coastal military bases will also find themselves surrounded by communities suffering from increasingly flooded homes and businesses. As storm intensity increases, the rise in mean sea level can also be magnified by storm surges, so natural disasters will convince many more military leaders of the problem sometime in the next two decades.

Annapolis, though hardly the most severely impacted, has a recent litany of incidents that serve to raise awareness of not only the Navy community, but also Maryland lawmakers who convene about half a mile up the street from the frequently flooded dock area. Even without the new alarm over Antarctica, projections are for an increase of flooding events to 180 times per year by 2030. The Naval Academy has already seen an increase in flooding and can expect to lose all of its athletic fields along with several buildings over the long term.
Isabelflooding
Photo: Bill Taylor 
There will probably be those from the "ships at sea" school who try to capitalize on the expansion of their nautical domain, but they will be outnumbered by sand crabs who won't appreciated being flooded out of their secure nooks. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increasing number of midshipmen being steered into oceanography or other new environmental majors in the coming years.

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