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.

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