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.

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