Photoillustration by Surly1
“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
Saturday marked Earth Day 2017. Across the country, tens of thousands of people took proud part in hundreds of "March for Science" events. Out in force to protest the anti-science rhetoric and assertively ignorant actions wafting from thankfully-incompetent-but-still-malign trump Administration, a rat's nest full of climate change and science denier billionaires, they sent an unmistakable message of resistance.
In southeastern Virginia, there were four separate events. All well attended.
The President took time out of his busy Saturday grabbing photo-ops wherever he could (such as the one in which he "congratulated" an Army Sergeant who received a Purple Heart for wounds resulting in amputation). Such gaffes used to be politically disfiguring, but in an age without shame or accountability, our reality-show POTUS gallantly soldiered on with his propaganda show designed to change the subject to anything-but-Russia.
Neither shame nor evidence could staunch the borborygmus emerging from trump, as he issued a typically flatulent statement marking the occasion:
"Rigorous science is critical to my administration's efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection.
"My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.
This April 22nd, as we observe Earth Day, I hope that our nation can come together to give thanks for the land we all love and call home,"
Cue the laugh track. Trump made this statement as thousands of marchers filled the streets of DC and elsewhere directly in response to Trump's threats of budget cuts to agencies funding scientific research.
Protesters cared little and paid attention less to the movements of 45. They found themselves on the streets marching, here in the 21st century, in support of science, reason, evidence, the scientific method. Along with passion marchers brought incisive and wittily designed signs. Here's a non-scientifically selected sample from demonstrations across the country and from the march Contrary and I attended.
Science Day Marches Outdraw trump’s Inauguration.
The turnout at this event numbered at least five hundred, and long lines of peaceful marchers were provided with a police escort as they marched the length of Norfolk's Granby St. My wife Contrary could not resist having her picture made with some of Norfolk's finest. The reception from the authorities was markedly different from that which greeted Occupy in November of 2011. In September of that year, Occupy Wall Street sprouted up and gave birth to dozens of like-minded Occupy groups across the country, including Norfolk. In November of that year, the Bush administration's Dept. of Homeland Security coordinated a city-by-city crackdown and evacuation on Occupy encampments.
She noted the fine turnout with a certain amount of wistfulness, recalling the days when we might get 40 people for general assembly and far fewer for a direct action. I replied that Occupy was the tip of the spear, a catalyst that made a change in the political vocabulary of this country, and one that lit a fire of resistance that has spread to thousands of others. It was deeply gratifying to know that the resulting blaze was afire in dozens of cities around the country and the world.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 9, 2017
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
― Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor
It's been a week in which we took several steps toward our own Appointment in Samarra. We are expected to believe that the nation's Chief Executive, who heretofore has demonstrated absolutely no empathy for anyone, reversed his own stated foreign policy based on news pictures of children, ostensibly suffering from a Syrian government gas attack. Just the week before, said executive's Secretary of State had affirmed a new policy in which the US would be content to let the destiny of Bashar Al-Assad be settled by the Syrian people.
And who exactly are we fighting in Syria? Is it ISIS? Al Qaeda? Jabhat al Nusra? But Assad purchased oil from ISIS, yes? How did that work? And now we're bombing Assad? All of the Jihadis in opposition to Assad are Sunni, whereas Assad's regime belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, related somehow to the Shia branch of Islam. One needs a scorecard…
As difficult as this might be to sort out, when the newest atrocity pictures appeared on FOX News, they hit our non-reading president right in the feels. And like Xanadu, a military action was decreed. Meanwhile, trump's legions of right-wing zealots were discomfited that he had bombed Syria and thus had gone "full neocon." Great was the hue and cry therefrom. Meanwhile, in the West Wing, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon wrestled for primacy. If you're not the president's son-in-law, I don't like your chances. Mitch McConnell got clean away with the heist of a Supreme Court seat, and, oh yes, in spite of the Trump administration's decision to ban the phrase "climate change", the Arctic north is melting and we are awash in icebergs. Can global sea level rise be far behind?
The Rockets' Red Glare
We are told the short-fingered vulgarian "became president" by sending a volley of Tomahawk missiles, costing $1-1.5 million the each, to light up a Syrian airstrip, the assets of which had been moved by previously-alerted Russians and Syrians who, unlike Congress, had received prior notice. The air show on a virtually deserted airstrip avoided most of the runways, such that Syrian planes are reported to be flying missions as I write. Thus the US spent about $93,810,000, blowing up very little in order to show them that "we mean business."
The Palmer Report estimates that Donald Trump's ineffective Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through 2029.
The MSM, hot on the trail of #trumpRussia connections, were captivated. On MSNBC, which we are constantly reminded is the "left" news network, fake news parolee Brian Williams waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the rocket launches, if not the tumescence of the manhood which unleashed them. CNN's Fareed Zakaria proudly asserted Trump’s missile strike in Syria shows him emerging from the chrysalis and displaying the same bloodthirsty qualities as America’s past leaders. Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day," I stood openmouthed in astonishment as Zakaria said
“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”
Making this Zakaria's Van Jones moment, and exposing him as another to-be-ignored careerist. Neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham swooned, and were observed to have rare swellings in their crotches at the audacity of dope. If these last for more than four hours, they should call a doctor. Or a Capitol Hill reporter.
Leading papers published opinions like "Trump’s Chance to Step Into the Global Leadership Vacuum," "Trump Has an Opportunity to Right Obama’s Wrongs in Syria," "Syrian Opposition Leader: Trump Has a Chance to Save Syria" and "Syria Missile Strike Could Lead to Political Solution"–but no pieces opposing an unauthorized military attack against a sovereign nation. Dan Rather had a few choice words.
"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."
On other news, Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes, was rising in early stock trading Friday. In related news, Lockheed Martin, helps Raytheon make the Javelin missile launcher system, gained nearly 1%. We may be headed for the End Times, but we're creating some beautiful opportunities for profit in arms.
Trump's troll army was not pleased, and the alt-right crowd broke with the president over his perfidy. The web-savvy, anti-establishment "alt-right" neo-nazis at the passionate core of Trump’s online support last year, have become apoplectic over the strikes. This "America First" wing, which includes Milo Yiannopolis, Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, and the famously punched-in-the-face Richard Spencer, (he of the memes), as well as those basement dwellers on The_Donald subreddit and the /pol/ section of 4Chan, warn of a slippery slope to intervention in Syria.
As recently as last week, they believed Trump would keep the country out of unnecessary wars. Last Thursday on a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” And then came the news pictures of Syrian children being gassed. Whereupon, we are told, the president decided to "follow his heart."
Leaving aside for a moment the notion of how a Republican Congress or the American public would react did if a female president had decided to "follow her heart," and launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, we are left to marvel at 180° whipsaw-like change in the direction of American foreign policy.
Meanwhile, about those pictures, and who was responsible for them. Many on the fascist fringe scream that Trump has been duped into a war a "false flag" operation. "The Syrian gas attack was done by deep state agents," tweeted alt right agitator and Pizzagate auteur Mike Cernovich. And other marginal voices, including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as Ron Paul, Scott Adams and Michael Savage, have upped the ante, blamed the attack on George Soros, and condemned Trump for surrendering to "Republican hawks."
Plus, Julian Assange, believed to have sole control of the WikiLeaks Twitter account, shared a video from a Syrian activist in Germany on Thursday that said Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical attack, not the Syrian government. Even left-wing observers have opined that the chemical strikes may have originated with Syrian rebels. Assessing the truth is to walk in a hall of mirrors.
Speaking of a hall of mirrors, Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair does exemplary reporting on all things Trump, and made the following salient observation:
The missile strike came only hours after Bannon, the de facto representative of the alt-right in the White House, had been removed from the National Security Council Principals Committee, cutting off his access to military decision-making. His supporters quickly, and not without logic, blamed the Syria situation on the same people they believed were responsible for Bannon’s ouster and diminishing stature in the West Wing: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the leader of what a White House source described to Politico as the “West Wing Democrats.”
Few things gladden my heart more that a right wing circular firing squad, as headlines broke on Friday that Bannon had called Kushner "a cuck" and a "globalist." What the Bannon-Kushner tussle portends for the future, and for Trump's relationship with the reclusive Mercer family (which bankrolled his electoral victory) is anyone's guess.
It Stays Stole
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" and in 2017, he said, "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."
This week, McConnell invoked a parliamentary maneuver to end the filibuster opposing the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the stolen Supreme Court seat, thus clearing the way for Gorsuch to occupy said stolen seat. This legislative coup will ratify the primacy of the corporate state for the next 30 years.
In a related story, hypocrisy stocks were up 12 percent this week.
And in climate change news, which we no longer count anymore because trump, we learn that Greenland’s coastal ice has passed a critical “tipping point,” according to a new study. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the island’s ice.
The Greenland ice sheet, which covers about 80 percent of the island’s surface, is the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. The same processes that have caused the accelerated melting of Greenland’s coastal ice bodies could also influence the island’s massive ice sheet — with devastating results, lead study author Bryce Noël said.
“For now, the ice sheet is still safe,” he said. “Its tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. But if warming continues, it’s very likely that it will be crossed.”
If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would cause a global sea level rise of more than 20 feet.
In a related story, The Guardian tells of a swarm of more than 400 icebergs that have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, unusually large for so early in the season.
Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have “calved” off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the earth system science center at Pennsylvania State University, said it was possible climate change was leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns were also important.
US Coast Guard Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.
Another week in which we incrementally slip towards the doom which awaits us for our fecklessness and irresponsibility for failing to summon the will to be good stewards of what we have inherited.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on Peak Surfer on January 29, 2017
Discuss this article at the Newz & Multimedia Table inside the Diner
Jazz musician and iconoclast Harry Shearer observes that Donald Trump’s ability to openly lie and then deny he did and then move on to telling the same lie again is “profoundly transactional.”
This trait is not new in US presidents, merely less concealed in our era by the RealPolitik that kept it more discrete before. We could go back and find examples from the very first presidency, but let’s just retrace to Franklin Roosevelt who, besides concealing his infidelities, of necessity had to dissemble about wartime secrets, as did Truman and Eisenhower when the wars grew cold. Nixon was profoundly secretive, arrogating to his office a false claim of constitutional authority, that, while it cost him his job, was kept around for his successors to use, more liberally with each administration.
To dissemble lubricates a slippery slope. Nixon was impeached for lying about the Watergate cover-up. Clinton was impeached for dallying with an intern. Mountains of lies invite being tunneled into and mined, and mining tools are getting better all the time. Is it any wonder then, that ‘secret’ lying by Reagan, Clinton, Obama, The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC and others begat the baldface lying of Drudge, Fox, Trump and the new generation of fake news on steroids?
In the days before Christmas it easily escaped attention — certainly that of the mainstream echo chamber — that the US Lame Duck in Chief signed into law the LDNDAA (Lame Duck's National Defense Authorization Act) which legalized government propaganda — fake news — when deployed for national security against the citizenry of the US. The law gave the government sweeping powers to feed its minions — CNN, ABC, MSNBC — and covertly take down any competing news outlets that might dare to put out an alternative narrative or question the veracity of the fakes. RT Commentator Max Keiser called it a bailout for the bankrupt mainstream press.
If you can't maintain the dominant paradigm, at least you can subvert the emergent ones.
When our souls are mollified, a bee can sting.
[T]he Democrat / Prog coastal elite, hardcore Hillary, PC-and-unicorn crowd are moving through their post-election Kubler-Ross Transect-of-Grief from denial to anger….
Lately the Democratic Party in the US has adopted its own form of birtherism, which is using the “Russians hacked my homework” excuse for losing the last election. The evidence is flimsy, but that does not stop the handwaving, pompous haranguing, or other forms of smoke and mirrors. Lets look at the evidence.
According to the Obama spook estate, Russian hackers sent out volleys of phishing emails hoping someone would click. If you have email, you’ve seen this. They tell you that you won something, you qualify for a free trip, there is a bank error in your favor, or you have to upgrade some common piece of software like Java or Flash. Maybe, as in the case of a Russian hacker group that successfully phished Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party for 6 months in 2016, they’ll use un.org as their trojan domain. If you follow the link, they get your credit card info or your password. Maybe the password you are prompted for is the same one you use for gmail. That’s what happened to John Podesta.
He got a suspicious mail, sent it to an aide to look at, the aide thought it was legit and some lucky hackers in Moscow downloaded 60,000 messages from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s gmail account. So what do you do with 60000 messages if there is no money in it? Give it to Wikileaks.
At least one targeted individual activated links to malware hosted on operational infrastructure of opened attachments containing malware. APT29 delivered malware to the political party's systems, established persistence, escalated privileges, enumerated active directory accounts, and exfiltrated email from several accounts through encrypted connections back through operational infrastructure.
That was the normal part. Now comes the nasty part. Unnamed “security experts” in the employ of the Democratic National Committee but now cited by the White House and cyberwar apparatchiks within the beltway “believe two Kremlin-connected groups were behind the hack.” Take that apart: Two hyphen connected groups. For Kremlin, substitute Vladimir Putin, because surely nothing in the Kremlin happens unless he directs it (?). So boom: frontpage stories that Putin stole the US election and gave it to Donald Trump, and media cheerleaders go with that because, boy does that boost ad revenues. Soon to be a major motion picture. Saturday Night Live is having a field day.
The two groups were Moscow hackers known to Microsoft as APT (“advanced persistent threat”) 28, a.k.a. Fancy Bear, and APT 29 or Cozy Bear.
“We were shocked to find our names there,” Aleksey Gubarev [who alongside his IT company, has been listed in an FBI report as the cyberlink connecting Trump and Russian hackers, told RT-TV, saying he had “never met” anyone listed in the report. “Nobody from the intelligence agency contacted me about this story… to verify this information,” he said. Neither did any journalists reach out to him.
We are reminded of the Italian Memo. In a story for Vanity Fair in 2006, Craig Unger recalled:
Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year’s Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing—a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.
In his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush let this shoe fall: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” What came next is too horrible to recount, and it continues today, with each U238-mangled baby born in Fallujah. [Footnote: The new US Secretary of Defense is General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, who ordered his marine tank corps to put a depleted uranium shell in every house in the city. More than 300,000 DU rounds are estimated to have been fired. The uranium dust in the air turned sunsets green. Birth defects are now much higher than those recorded among survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.]
The British government, of course, had learned nothing of the sort, although Tony Blair jumped on the Cheney bandwagon, calling it the “Dossier of Doom.” Within months, polls showed 90 percent of USAnians believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Unger reported:
On the same day the “mushroom cloud” slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Specifically, the article [planted by White House Aide Scooter Libby] contended that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”
It was a clever hoax. Well, actually, not all that clever. Just repeated often, and loudly, from the bully pulpit. “That was their favorite bureaucratic technique —ruthless relentlessness,” Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell told Vanity Fair. The CIA had a mole inside Saddam’s war cabinet who told them there was no WMD program. The White House told the CIA that it no longer mattered and by the way they were the designated fall guy for the ensuing “intelligence failure.”
Disinformation of this kind was not new and the Italian bit players in the Niger ruse had entered the American political arena twice before. The first was during Reagan’s election campaign when embarrassing “facts” about Billy Carter, the President’s bubba brother, taking slush money from Libyan president Mohamar Khadafi to meet with Yassir Arafat. Never mind that Billy denied it, the news came out the last week in October, just before the election, and by then it was too late to track down the source: an Italian covert agency run by militant anti-Communists that had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world.
In 1981, the same covert network orchestrated a disinformation campaign saying Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing nut who shot Pope John Paul II, had been taking orders from the Soviet KGB and Bulgaria’s secret service. As Unger put it:
In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope’s homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.
When Nixon stepped down in 1974, two individuals ascended to positions of almost unlimited power in the Ford White House. Donald Rumsfeld was the sixth White House chief of staff. Dick Cheney was the seventh. Cheney was House Minority Whip during the Reagan years, Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee and later the Ranking Member of the Select Committee to investigate the Iran-Contra Affair. He became Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush and Vice President under Number 43.
Did Cheney and Rumsfeld pull the Italian strings in Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection? No one is telling. What we know is that stationary stolen from the Niger embassy was used for a forgery and ultimately combined with other papers that were already in Italian secret service archives. A codebook and a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents were delivered to Blair. Among the fakes, embassy stationery was used to forge a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year to Iraq.
The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou — even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou’s signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters—a spectacularly difficult feat.
* * *
Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.
A story by Seymour Hersh for The New Yorker suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney’s hawkish followers. If that was true it backfired. Never underestimate the gullibility of the press.
First Case in point: the fake National Guard documents that cost Dan Rather and Mary Mapes their jobs at CBS News.
Second Case in point: Russian hackers stole my election.
Another point we observe as we follow this thread was how language is used to frame subject. The “mushroom-cloud” and “smoking gun” visuals were so visceral they were repeated by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and became standard NeoCon talking points in the run-up to the Second Gulf War.
When RT says that President Obama leaves behind a “vast, unaccountable permanent warfare state,” or that levels of economic inequality in the West are “obscene,” or that Trump “terrifies European leaders,” it’s worth asking if it might be Russian disinformation. But it’s also worth asking if it might be true. Distrust but verify.
With the power to persecute and prosecute journalists, the American government is a dangerous media critic. Judging by the report on RT, it’s also a lousy one.
The Russian hacking story gets reframed to appeal to different echo chambers. For the left wing it assuages the cognitive dissonance that comes when you try to wrap your mind around President… Donald… Trump. Never mind that what is said to have bent the election at the 11th hour was the content of the Podesta emails, not their source. For the right, it’s a chance to blame Obama for the “Cyber Gap” and the anticipation of another wondrous pot of gold at the end of a forthcoming defense authorization rainbow. Of course, neither side questions the veracity of electronic voting machines.
Next week we will look at how the same genetic program that allows us to swallow a yarn like the Russian hacker tale keeps us from doing the right thing about climate change. Later, we will learn how to turn that gene off. In the meantime, the best antidote to fake news is to take yours from as broad a spectrum of opinions as you can find and make your own judgment.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on January 22, 2017
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Defeats are supposed to teach people how to do better; in theory. In practice, it often happens that defeats teach people how to become masters in blame-shifting. With some exceptions, this seems to have been the main result of the recent defeat of the Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, where we saw a truly spasmodic search for culprits: Putin, the Russian hackers, the Fake News, the Rednecks, the FBI, Exxon, the aliens from Betelgeuse, and more. Everything except admitting one's mistakes.
Even less soul searching has been performed by those who turned out to be among the major losers in this story: science and scientists. In particular, climate scientists saw their field wiped out from the White House Website minutes after President Trump took office. That may have been simply a question of protocol, but surely it is not a good omen for the future.
So far, scientists have reacted with appropriate outrage to possibilities such as Trump repudiating the Paris climate treaty. However, on the average, scientists seem to be completely unable to even imagine that there may be something wrong with what they have been doing. We may have here a good illustration of the principle expressed by James Schlesinger that "people have only two modes of operation: complacency and panic". Even though some scientists are starting to show symptoms of panic, most of them seem to be still in complacency mode.
Yet, for everything that happens there is a reason and if you invaded Russia in winter it is no good to blame the snow for the defeat. So, what did scientists do that led them to a situation that may turn out to be even worse than the retreat from Moscow for Napoleon's Grande Armée?
One problem, here, is that if scientists had wanted to present themselves to the public as a priesthood of acolytes interested only in maintaining their petty privileges, they succeeded beyond the rosiest expectations. Yet, I don't think that this is the problem. Overall, science is still a sane profession and very few scientists have been directly involved in financial scandals. The public perceives this and normally rates scientists as much more trustworthy than – say- journalists or politicians. And modern climate science, as part of the field of Earth sciences, is nothing less than a triumph of human knowledge. Truly a major advance of what we know on the way our planet and our ecosystem work.
The problem, in my opinion, is a different one. It goes deeper and it is not related to individual scientists or to specific scientific fields. It has to do with science as a whole and, in particular, with the inconsistent messages that scientists are beaming to the public. According to the results reported by Ara Norenzayan's in "Big Gods" (Princeton, 2013), people have a built-in "lie detector" in their minds that works by a heuristic algorithm: people will evaluate the truth of what they are told on the basis of consistency. Not only the message must be consistent in itself, but also the messenger must be consistent with the message carried. This is a fundamental point: people don't normally care about data and factual evidence: they care about the consistency of the message in their social environment; it is something that Dan Kahan has shown in a series of studies on the public perception of climate science.
So, if your local prophet tells you that you must be chaste, he'd better be chaste himself. If he tells you that you must make sacrifices and accept poverty, he'd better be poor himself. And chastity/poverty must be acceptable in your social environment. These are things that Francis of Assisi understood already long ago. Then, think of Donald Trump: why was he elected? It was, mainly, because Trump's political message was consistent with Trump himself. Trump was telling people that he would make America rich and powerful and that was perfectly consistent with the fact that he is rich and powerful himself. Because of this, Trump's message didn't trigger people's lie detector and Trump the unthinkable became Trump the unavoidable.
Getting back to science, the message of climate change is intimately linked to the need of making sacrifices. We are asking people to reduce their consumption, reduce waste, travel less, and the like. It is a perfectly legitimate message and many religious groups have been carrying similar messages successfully. Of course, it would never work if Donald Trump were to propose it; but why can't scientists propose it successfully? Scientists are not Franciscan monks, but normally they are not rich. I often tell my PhD students that they are exchanging three years of starvation for a lifetime of unemployment. I don't really need to tell them that: they know that by themselves.
The problem is that there exists another side of science where scientists are beaming out exactly the opposite message of that of the need of making sacrifices. It is the side of the "gee-whiz science" or, maybe, "Santa Claus Science", scientific research still operating along the optimistic ideas developed in the 1950s, at the time of the "space age" and the "atomic age". The message that comes from this area is, "give us some money and we'll invent some magic device that will solve all the problema." It is a message that's ringing more and more hollow and the public is starting to perceive that the scientists are making promises they can't maintain. Not only the various scientific miracles that were promised are not materializing (say, nuclear fusion) but many pretended scientific revolutions are making things worse (say, shale oil). Still, many scientists keep making these promises and a certain section of society accepts – even requires – them.
So, the name of the problem is inconsistency. Scientists are taking two different and incompatible roles: that of doom-sayers and that of gift-givers. And "inconsistency" is just a polite way to say "lie." White scientist speak with forked tongue. Ye can't serve God and mammon.
The result is that not just Donald Trump despises science; it is a consistent fraction of the public that just doesn't believe the scientific message, especially about climate. The fraction of Americans who think that climate change is a serious threat has remained floating around 50% – 60%, going up and down, but not significantly changing. It is trench warfare in the climate communication war. Things may get worse for science under the Trump presidency. It already happened at the time of McCarthy, why shouldn't it happen again?
At this point, good manners dictate that when you write about a problem, you should also propose ways to solve it. Of course, there are ways that could be suggested: first of all, as scientists we should stop asking money for things that we know won't work (the "hydrogen-based economy" is a good example). Then, science badly needs a cleanup: we should crack down on predatory publishers, fight data fabrication, establish transparent standards for scientific publications, provide for free results of science to those who pay for it (the public), get rid of the huge number of irrelevant studies performed today, and more. Personally, I would also like a science that's more of a service for the community and less of a showcase for primadonnas in white coats.
But, as we all know, large organizations (and science is one) are almost impossible to reform from inside. So, where is science going? Difficult to say, but it may need a good shake-up from the outside (maybe from Trump, although he may well exaggerate) to be turned into something that may be what we truly need to help humankind in this difficult moment. The transformation will be surely resisted as much as possible, but change is needed and it will come.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else. he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
Published on the Economic Undertow on January 30, 2017
Discuss this article at the History Table inside the Diner
Why man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves
— William Shakespeare
The Colosseum in Rome was named for a gigantic portrait statue of Nero commissioned by the emperor in AD 64 to commemorate … himself. It stood within the Domus Aurea, a 300 acre complexes of palaces, gardens and pavilions Nero ordered built at public expense not far from the old Republican Forum, between the Palatine and Esquiline hills. The Domus’ occupied what was previously a residential district for Roman elites adjacent to a marshy lowland. The grounds can be compared to another marshy lowland favored of the elites, the National Mall in Washington, DC. At 309 acres, the two compounds are not entirely identical: one was intended to be as a tourist attraction, the other, a playground for a single person,.
As for the Domus …
… Its size and splendor will be sufficiently indicated by the following details. Its vestibule was large enough to contain a colossal statue of the emperor a hundred and twenty feet high; and it was so extensive that it had a triple colonnade a mile long. There was a pond too, like a sea, surrounded with buildings to represent cities, besides tracts of country, varied by tilled fields, vineyards, pastures and woods, with great numbers of wild and domestic animals. In the rest of the house all parts were overlaid with gold and adorned with gems and mother-of‑pearl. There were dining-rooms with fretted ceilings of ivory, whose panels could turn and shower down flowers and were fitted with pipes for sprinkling the guests with perfumes. The main banquet hall was circular and constantly revolved day and night, like the heavens. He had baths supplied with sea water and sulfur water. When the edifice was finished in this style and he dedicated it, he deigned to say nothing more in the way of approval than that he was at last beginning to be housed like a human being.
The pond was supplied with water from an aqueduct built for the purpose and surrounded with its own colonnade. The rotating hall and other features were said to be powered by a water wheel. The 400 rooms were arranged on two floors as a kind of maze intended for banquets and entertainments, there are no signs of any sleeping quarters. Nero did not live there but in another palace on the Quirinal Hill.
Rooms were built with 30- foot vaulted ceilings, were lit with skylights and clerestories, decorated with frescoes, elaborate mosaics, fountains and grottoes. The complex was constructed largely of brick and Roman concrete then finished over with marble, alabaster and other colorful stones. Nero’s statue might have been the largest cast bronze artwork of ancient times, exceeding the by-then destroyed Colossus at Rhodes. By comparison, New York’s Statue of Liberty rises one hundred and fifty-one feet from her metal base to the torch. Lady Liberty was built like a car or a washing machine in a factory, assembled from hammered copper sheets riveted together onto an iron armature. Nero’s sculpture was cast in sections which were then braze-welded together and hoisted onto its base. It was a marvel of Roman artistry and craft; the techniques needed to make large castings were lost and forgotten for over 1,200 years until they were reinvented by Donatello in the early half of the fifteenth century.
Not content with showing his proficiency in these arts at Rome, he went to Achaia, as I have said, influenced especially by the following consideration. The cities in which it was the custom to hold contests in music had adopted the rule of sending all the lyric prizes to him. These he received with the greatest delight, not only giving audience before all others to the envoys who brought them, but even inviting them to his private table. When some of them begged him to sing after dinner and greeted his performance with extravagant applause, he declared that “the Greeks were the only ones who had an ear for music and that they alone were worthy of his efforts.”
While he was singing no one was allowed to leave the theater even for the most urgent reasons. And so it is said that some women gave birth to children there, while many who were worn out with listening and applauding, secretly leaped from the wall since the gates at the entrance were barred, or they feigned death and were carried out as if for burial. The trepidation and anxiety with which he took part in the contests, his keen rivalry of his opponents and his awe of the judges, can hardly be credited. As if his rivals were of quite the same station as himself, he used to show respect to them and try to gain their favor, while he slandered them behind their backs, sometimes assailed them with abuse when he met them, and even bribed those who were especially proficient.
As he grew into maturity, Nero was consumed by his insecurities, his crimes were many, there were no checks upon his viciousness and greed. The Domus was built in an area that had been ravaged the great fire of 64:
When someone in a general conversation said: “When I am dead, be earth consumed by fire;” Nero rejoined “Nay, rather while I live,” and his action was wholly in accord. For under cover of displeasure at the ugliness of the old buildings and the narrow, crooked streets, he set fire to the city so openly that several ex-consuls did not venture to lay hands on his chamberlains although they caught them on their estates with tow and fire-brands, while some granaries near the Golden House, whose room he particularly desired, were demolished by engines of war and then set on fire because their walls were of stone. For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. At that time, besides an immense number of dwellings, the houses of leaders of old were burned, still adorned with trophies of victory, and the temples of the gods vowed and dedicated by the kings and later in the Punic and Gallic wars, and whatever else interesting and noteworthy had survived from antiquity. Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he said, in “the beauty of the flames,” he sang the whole of the “Sack of Ilium,” in his regular stage costume. Furthermore, to gain from this calamity too all the spoil and booty possible, while promising the removal of the debris and dead bodies free of cost he allowed no one to approach the ruins of their own properties; and from the contributions which he not only received, but even demanded, he nearly bankrupted the provinces and exhausted the resources of individuals.
Nero was known to disguise himself then go out into the city at night and rob passersby, also break into houses and shops and steal the contents which he would later sell in the palace. These encounters were often violent so that soldiers were sent to follow behind at a discrete distance and rescue the emperor from those who fought back.
Then, it became notorious that the depredator was the Caesar; outrages on men and women of rank increased; others, availing themselves of the license once accorded, began with impunity, under the name of Nero, to perpetrate the same excesses with their own gangs; and night passed as it might in a captured town. Julius Montanus, a member of the senatorial order, though he had not yet held office, met the emperor casually in the dark, and, because he repelled his (Nero’s) offered violence with spirit then recognized his antagonist and asked for pardon, was forced to commit suicide, the apology being construed as a reproach.
Nero was suspected of conspiring with his mother to murder by poison his step-father, the emperor Claudius. It is possible the youthful Nero was not involved directly, but he became emperor as a consequence and was thereby an accessory. He later grew weary of his mother’s interference and had her put to death after a brutal ordeal; he also murdered his half-brother, also the daughter of Claudius by his second wife (Claudius had four wives); Nero also killed his own two wives along with the husband of the first so as to gain access to her; also a man who was his mother’s lover; also his first cousin and maternal second cousin along with that individual’s widow, children and father-in-law. Nero did away with many servants including long-time tutors and advisors, Seneca, and possibly Sextus Burrus, his military aide. Due to his insatiable need for funds he used the plot of Gaius Calpurnius Piso as an opportunity to murder hundreds of distinguished Romans; their wives, children, even their servants in order to confiscate their properties, he also murdered ordinary citizens.
Nero needed the money because of his stupendous wastefulness …
Accordingly he made presents and wasted money without stint. On Tiridates though it would seem hardly within belief, he spent eight hundred thousand sesterces a day, and on his departure presented him with more than a hundred millions. He gave the lyre-player Menecrates and the gladiator Spiculus properties and residences equal to those of men who had celebrated triumphs. He enriched the monkey-faced usurer Paneros with estates in the country and in the city and had him buried with almost regal splendor. He never wore the same garment twice. He played at dice for four hundred thousand sesterces a point. He fished with a golden net drawn by cords woven of purple and scarlet threads. It is said that he never made a journey with less than a thousand carriages, his mules shod with silver and their drivers clad in wool of Canusium, attended by a train of Mazaces and couriers with bracelets and trappings.
Nero gave himself over entirely to debauchery and vice.
Besides abusing freeborn boys and seducing married women, he debauched the vestal virgin Rubria. The freed-woman Acte he all but made his lawful wife, after bribing some ex-consuls to perjure themselves by swearing that she was of royal birth. He castrated the boy Sporus and actually tried to make a woman of him; and he married him with all the usual ceremonies, including a dowry and a bridal veil, took him to his house attended by a great throng, and treated him as his wife. And the witty jest that someone made is still current, that it would have been well for the world if Nero’s father Domitius had had that kind of wife.
All of this and more were paid for out of the Treasury then extracted with increased violence by the tax collectors.
In point of extravagance and notoriety, the most celebrated of the feasts was that arranged by Tigellinus; which I shall describe as a type, instead of narrating time and again the monotonous tale of prodigality. He constructed, then, a raft on the Pool of Agrippa, and superimposed a banquet, to be set in motion by other craft acting as tugs. The vessels were gay with gold and ivory, and the oarsmen were catamites marshaled according to their ages and their libidinous attainments. He had collected birds and wild beasts from the ends of the earth, and marine animals from the ocean itself. On the quays of the lake stood brothels, filled with women of high rank; and, opposite, naked harlots met the view. First came obscene gestures and dances; then, as darkness advanced, the whole of the neighboring grove, together with the dwelling-houses around, began to echo with song and to glitter with lights. Nero himself, defiled by every natural and unnatural lust had left no abomination in reserve with which to crown his vicious existence; except that, a few days later, he became, with the full rites of legitimate marriage, the wife of one of that herd of degenerates who bore the name of Pythagoras. The veil was drawn over the imperial head, witnesses were dispatched to the scene; the dowry, the couch of wedded love, the nuptial torches, were there: everything, in fine, which night enshrouds even if a woman is the bride, was left open to the view.
Nero was a coward, he never led an army in battle, nor was the Empire expanded during his rule. The Romans waged an on-again, off-again war against the Parthians in Armenia (eastern Turkey). An uprising by Boudica in Celtic Britain was triggered by oppressive taxation and cruel Roman administration …
To all the disasters and abuses thus caused by the prince there were added certain accidents of fortune; a plague which in a single autumn entered thirty thousand deaths in the accounts of Libitina; a disaster in Britain, where two important towns were sacked and great numbers of citizens and allies were butchered; a shameful defeat in the Orient, in consequence of which the legions in Armenia were sent under the yoke and Syria was all but lost.
The legions ultimately prevailed in both places, Boudica’s army was scattered and she committed suicide. The Parthians withdrew and Armenia remained a Roman client.
I may fairly include among his shows the entrance of Tiridates into the city. He was a king of Armenia, whom Nero induced by great promises to come to Rome; and since he was prevented by bad weather from exhibiting him to the people on the day appointed by proclamation, he produced him at the first favorable opportunity, with the praetorian cohorts drawn up in full armor about the temples in the Forum, while he himself sat in a curule chair on the rostra in the attire of a triumphing general, surrounded by military ensigns and standards. As the king approached along a sloping platform, the emperor at first let him fall at his feet, but raised him with his right hand and kissed him. Then, while the king made supplication, Nero took the turban from his head and replaced it with a diadem, while a man of praetorian rank translated the words of the suppliant and proclaimed them to the throng. From there the king was taken to the theater, and when he had again done obeisance, Nero gave him a seat at his right hand.
Given a little time it is likely Nero would have put on the bridal veil and wed the king of Armenia, the dowry was already paid. And yet, the ordinary Romans were satisfied with their emperor, whose outrages were directed toward others, whose vices were to them only rumors. The plots against Nero rose from the elites, whom he prosecuted with increased ferocity until he was undone by bad luck: besides pestilence, there were damaging storms and food shortages. Rome was entirely dependent upon grain shipments from the provinces particularly Egypt. Interruptions for any reason held serious consequences. As belts were tightened, Nero’s popularity with the ordinary citizens evaporated:
When another rebellion arose in the western provinces he ignored the warnings, seeming at first not to take them seriously. After a delay of some days, during which he was abandoned by his courtiers and bodyguards, he fled to the house of a servant in a nearby suburb. Declared a public enemy by the Senate, he committed suicide to avoid being beaten to death in the Forum. He was 32.
Nero was in office for fourteen years, which seems to suggest his reign was successful; he was not deified afterward which suggests it was not. Leaving aside the epidemic and famine, it is likely the better classes of Rome had grown anxious of his vanity and licentiousness; the constant demands of the tax collectors; also the debasement of the currency and persecutions and murders. Nero’s follies did not bring the empire to a end or even lead to it; ironically his vast money-waste stimulated the Roman economy … there were no other places for the funds to go outside of the empire. Over the course of the following year, Nero was succeeded by three mediocrities; Galba, Otho and Vitellius; the fourth, Vespasian, was at least competent.
The Domus was a public reminder of Nero’s excesses, within a decade it was stripped of its decorations and partly abandoned to the bats and wild dogs. Parts of the building were used as storerooms or as stables. The pond was drained to allow for the foundations of the enormous amphitheater built in its place. Other parts of the palace were built over or became dumping grounds for garbage and rubble left over from earthquakes and building demolition. It was this accretion of structures and material that preserved the remains of the Domus that can be seen today …
Vespasian removed Nero’s likeness from the Colossus and fitted it a new head representing the Roman sun god; later Hadrian moved the statue to allow construction of the new temple of Venus and Rome on the original site. The triumphal arch of Titus and the Bath of Trajan were built nearby along with warehouses, bakeries and apartments. Note: the temples of ancient Rome were not houses of prayerful worship and propaganda like churches today; the priests acted as notaries, mediators, fiduciaries, keepers of vital records and contracts; temples functioned as banks, law offices and trading rooms as these things did not exist as such during that time. The last mention of Nero’s statue was in a description of the city in a manuscript published 354 AD. It was likely broken up, perhaps toppled by an earthquake, with the remains sold off as scrap: Sic Semper Tyrannis.
– C. Suetonius Tranquilis, ‘The Lives of the Twelve Caesars’
– Publius Cornelius Tacitus, ‘The Annals’
– Furius Dionysius Filocalus / Unknown author ‘The Chronography of 354’
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 5, 2016
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
–Pastor Martin Niemoller
Our foreign policy requires an externalized enemy, as our economy requires a state of permanent war. Were peace to break out across the world, the US economy would shudder to a halt within 60 days.
Ever since Reagan announced "Morning in America" we have been tempted with the promise of returning America to the golden postwar era when white male colossi like Patton, Marshall and MacArthur strode like heroes astride a grateful world. And the corresponding postwar boom in which American industry sold everything it could make to a prostrate world. Who paid for it with money we lent them.
Trump's call to "Make America Great Again," prints nicely on red ball caps but is short on specifics. One example put in practice is the recently announced Muslim Ban, giving color of law to demonization of the Muslim "other." [Note: On Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart blocked the entirety of trump’s de facto Muslim ban from taking effect. His ruling, which applies nationwide, froze all relevant provisions of trump's executive order.]
In a recent Harper's article, Lawrence Jackson ruminates about the leaders of the Atlantic-facing victors, usually known as "the West:"
The most arrogant inhabitants of these nations …understood themselves to be the ordained directors of human beings across the globe, across space and time. They were committed to civilization by the sword. Yet not even Reagan was mighty enough to reinstall the American militants who ached to battle the Russians and the Chinese. Reagan took to politics for what he couldn’t achieve in his original profession, acting. He stood in the shadow of John Wayne, a cultural hero who… declared that the problem was that the values of white rule weren’t being exported vigorously enough. Wayne’s films gave audiences a steady dose of what historian Richard Slotkin calls “regeneration through violence.” Both civilization and capitalist bonanza depend on violent encounters and imperial expansion. If the country is to be healthy, it needs some frontier populated by some brand of enemy.
After 9-11, to forestall a "peace dividend" breaking out, America's best minds concocted the Global War on Terror, a concept plastic enough to permit many interpretations, and unwinnable enough to guarantee the Permanent War Economy. Having recently defined that enemy as brown people planet-wide coming for our golfs and guns, now they have infiltrated our borders! Clear and present danger! Wearing hijab! Sharia Law in our streets! Can female genital mutilation for Barbie be far behind?
Enter trump. In our empathy-free times, we think little and care less about what such reckless decisions mean to individuals. Today I am going to challenge you to care.
Several weeks ago, I listened to a Ted Talk by Deeyah Khan, raised in Norway by an Afghan mother and Pakistani father. Khan recounted the rejection and isolation felt by Muslim kids growing up in the West, and the way they get squeezed between two worlds. At a time when executive action careens towards an unconstitutional ban on immigrants fleeing the very countries we bomb, this talk opened my eyes—and ears.
Khan recounted the story of how she had to subsume her own dreams for her life and take on those given her by her father. To be famous, he said, “it's either got to be sports, or it's got to be music." So he threw away her toys and dolls at age seven, and was given a ratty Casio keyboard. She practiced music for hours each day.
Khan started singing and playing, and became good enough to perform before growing audiences. Let her tell it:
I became almost a kind of poster child for Norwegian multiculturalism. I felt very proud, of course. Because even the newspapers at this point were starting to write nice things about brown people, so I could feel that my superpower was growing.
Until one day, she was headed into a store for candy, and found her way blocked by a man intent on making sure she understood who really ran things in Norway.
There was this grown white guy in the doorway blocking my way. So I tried to walk around him, and as I did that, he stopped me and he was staring at me, and he spit in my face, and he said, "Get out of my way you little black bitch, you little Paki bitch, go back home where you came from." I was absolutely horrified. I was staring at him. I was too afraid to wipe the spit off my face, even as it was mixing with my tears. I remember looking around, hoping that any minute now, a grown-up is going to come and make this guy stop. But instead, people kept hurrying past me and pretended not to see me.
So she learned that when faced with persecution of brown people, white people tend to not want to get involved. But her fellow brown people would have her back, right? Not exactly.
Some men in my parent's community felt that it was unacceptable and dishonorable for a woman to be involved in music and to be so present in the media. So very quickly, I was starting to become attacked at my own concerts. I remember one of the concerts, I was onstage, I lean into the audience and the last thing I see is a young brown face and the next thing I know is some sort of chemical is thrown in my eyes and I remember I couldn't really see and my eyes were watering but I kept singing anyway. I was spit in the face in the streets of Oslo, this time by brown men.
The threats continued and the oppression, this time from her fellow Muslims, got worse. And it took the edge that we often hear that the Islamic world visits upon women:
The death threats were endless. I remember one older bearded guy stopped me in the street, and said, "The reason I hate you so much is because you make our daughters think they can do whatever they want." A younger guy warned me to watch my back. He said music is un-Islamic and the job of whores, and if you keep this up, you are going to be raped and your stomach will be cut out so that another whore like you will not be born.
Her family realized they could no longer keep her safe, so they sent her to London. She resumed her music career, but with similar results.
Different place, but unfortunately the same old story. I remember a message sent to me saying that I was going to be killed and that rivers of blood were going to flow and that I was going to be raped many times before I died. By this point, I have to say, I was actually getting used to messages like this, but what became different was that now they started threatening my family.
Eventually after transitioning to work as a maker of films, she moved again, this time to the US. She makes this point:
What most people don't understand is that there are so many of us growing up in Europe who are not free to be ourselves. We're not allowed to be who we are. We are not free to marry or to be in relationships with people that we choose. We can't even pick our own career. This is the norm in the Muslim heartlands of Europe. Even in the freest societies in the world, we're not free. Our lives, our dreams, our future does not belong to us, it belongs to our parents and their community.
So this lack of freedom to choose personal autonomy is what we decry in our conflict with Islam: "Islam is a death cult." "Look how it treats women." Yet compare and contrast with the policies announced and espoused by the current trump/pence regime.
Trump wants to completely ban abortion, with exceptions only for rape, incest, or when the life of the woman is in danger. He's backed this up by showing support for a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He has also said there should be "some sort of punishment" for women who seek abortion if outlawed.
He has said of Planned Parenthood, which provides low-cost family-planning services, cancer screenings, and other health care to millions every year, "It is like an abortion factory, frankly."
Mike Pence said he wants to see Roe v. Wade on "the ash heap of history", and has a long record of attacking reproductive freedom in his state.
Also on the books are rollbacks of all 25 of the grant programs managed by the Office on Violence Against Women, housed in Justice. The grants, established by 1994’s Violence Against Women Act, go to organizations working to prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, and elder abuse. Perhaps to be expected from an administration that featuresprincipal with a history of domestic battery.
Denying women reproductive freedom has long been the Holy Grail of Christian Dominionists who have never gotten over The Pill. The Pill gave women the ability to control pregnancy, and with it far more autonomy over their lives. Couple these efforts with the assault on programs that combat violence agaist women, and you begin to trace the outlines of a program to re-chattelize women that sounds positively… Islamist.
Consider in the singular example of Deeyah Khan how Islamists treat women, and realize that this story is re-enacted across the world millions of times over. Then compare with announced trump/pence policies designed to deny women access to services won over decades of activism and legislation. It would appear that the difference is merely one of degree. Policies to repress the rights of women stem from the same shrunken root: an insecure manhood and a need for control. Women, beware short fingered vulgarians and the men who serve them.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 29, 2017
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.”
The first full week of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump was both cruel and absurd. Nothing about this should be surprising. Trump is a singular example of the cult of personality, a manifestly unfit individual whose path to power has enabled a hidden phalanx of anti-democratic hedge-fund plutocrats and white supremacists to get their paws on executive power. These political apostates have funneled into the palaces where the wheels and gears of power are kept, like the mob storming Versailles, the better to finger the crystal and steal the silver.
The first week of the Trump administration marks the violent reassertion of the prerogatives of White Males against the legacy of Barack Obama and the Great Arc of History. This crowd's capacity for brutality is unimaginable by middle class Americans who grew up on the legacy of the New Deal and amidst the prosperity engendered by winning World War II. Truly, who among us ever thought we'd have to beat Nazis again in this lifetime?
The first realization of the coming kleptocracy dawned as Trump announced his cabinet choices, resembling nothing so much as the Dread Pirate Roberts naming the plunder all star team to crew a new pirate ship.
Now, the owners of this glittering casino and their gum-toothed spawn are clawing back their presumptive place at the top of a so-called "meritocracy" that rewards their gene pool with the sweet perks of "freedom" and "capitalism," which is political code for one class prospering off the suffering of another. The subsequent rewriting of laws then institutionalizes the grift and makes it like, official, dig?
If you've spent the week under a rock, here's a summary of week one executive actions:
An order to “ease the burdens” of the Affordable Care Act, "to the extent allowed by law". On Thursday, Trump cut all advertising to alert Americans that the ACA enrollment period ends on Tuesday.
He reinstated the “global gag rule,” a ban on federal funding for any international group provides abortion information to women. With NO exemptions for hospitals and clinics that don’t actually provide abortions, or for facilities that treat women with complications from abortions.
Trump issued executive memoranda to restart construction on the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
Trump signed an executive order taking action on immigration. He announced plans to build the border wall with Mexico, and insisted Mexico would pay for it with tariffs. He threatened “sanctuary cities” with federal funding cuts, and announced plans to build more detention centers.
Politico reports that the executive orders signed this week were composed by chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and were so hastily wrought they may be unenforcable or even illegal.
Trump removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation economic agreement supported by none of the presidential candidates, and against which candidate Trump campaigned.
Trump’s declared war on the press through his surrogates. At his briefings this week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on outlets that peddle fake news and praise Trump ahead of the AP and other mainstream outlets. Stephen Bannon suggested this week the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut.”
He announced an initiative to look into imagined "voter fraud" by which the three million votes by which he lost the popular vote were cast by "illegal immigrants." In a CNN interview, VoteStand founder Gregg Phillips said that he can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Clinton received at least 3 million “illegal” votes for president in 2016. Phillips stands accused of being a "revolving door hustler" and a state-level grifter dogged by controversy.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued an executive order halting refugee resettlement and suspending travel to the United States from the Muslim-majority countries Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As I write, refugees and immigrants are being detained at airports all over the world because of the refugee ban. This includes an Iraqi military translator detailed at JFK airport. Crowds of protestors gathered at JFK and other ariports across the country, chanting,
“No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!”
or a variant
“Say it loud and say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”
The order also bars legal permanent residents of the U.S. from returning home if they are now travelling overseas, even though they already went through "extreme vetting" procedures to get their green cards.
Late Saturday night, Federal Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction, halting the implementation of part of Trump’s executive order on immigration and blocking the deportation of travelers with valid visas detained at airports. This in response to a suit brought by the ACLU.
The judge further ruled that the government must immediately stop deporting travelers from the named nations, including refugees who already went through a rigorous vetting process, and provide a complete list of all those detained. The Intercept published an update.
Suffice it to say that when Michael Moore, Dick Cheney, and the Pope are all on the same side of an issue, and you're on the other side, you've crossed the line: you're an asshole.
Hours after Trump signed this executive order heralding this global descent into barbarism, a mosque in Texas went up in flames.
Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler told the Victoria Advocate he had no theories about the cause of the fire, but he is seeking assistance from state and federal fire investigators.
Just week one.
While Bannon writes, Trump tweets and Washington burns, the left continues to squabble about assigning blame for the Trumpenkrieg to various Hillbots or Berniebots or Steinswine. This endless circular firing squad, which obtains any time three of more "progressives" share the same space, is why we can't have nice things. And why we have Trump.
One of the great shortcomings of the age derives from late stage capitalism. It is the keenness of focus on measurement at the expense of all other values. Remember working in businesses when profitability was enough? No more: now profitability must be maximized. How it works: most American industries are mature indistries, which over time become less profitable. These mature industries exist at a time of little real growth and the end of cheap energy. In this environment profitability comes from two sources: 1) squeezing more out of your current operation, and 2) stealing share from your competitors. Our "business leaders" conjure results from these two foci though spreadsheet worship, and concoct strategies by which they can wring the last erg of energy out of a workforce, all in the name of "efficiencies." Enter automation, Amazon, and subcontractors.
American political philosopher Richard Rorty saw this coming. In his 1998 book “Achieving Our Country,” now much quoted in the New Yorker and around the internet, he observed our present circumstances:
"Members of labor unions, and unorganized and unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
"At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . Once the strongman takes office, no one can predict what will happen. "
No one can predict what will happen. But if Trump's first week is predictive of the future, the cruelty and absurdity of this week will continue until Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers determine he is too loose a cannon and needs to be impeached. Which will install President Pence. Remove Pence? There's Ryan. With Orrin Fucking Hatch in the on deck circle. Vote them out in 2018? Talk to your Republican governors about who will actually be allowed to the polls in 2018.
By 2020, don't be surprised if the franchise is not restricted to white male property owners with a net worth of $1 million. As God intended. And there are still assholes out there who will argue that voting doesn't matter.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He has squeezed out numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.
Published on 22 Billion Energy Slaves on November 21, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
"May you live in interesting times," says the old Chinese curse. The election of Donald Trump to president of the United States was the starting pistol for interesting times. From now on, not much will remain the same.
On the night of the election I had tried to stay awake to watch the whole thing unfold. Because of the time difference I knew there would be no clear results until early morning, and so I ended up going to bed at about 1am— at which point all the TV pundits were saying it was 'practically impossible' for Trump to win. So I went to be bed, but barely managed three hours of sleep due to fitful dreams. My phone was on the table next to the bed when I awoke, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it on and see all the "First Woman in the Whitehouse" headlines. I put it off and tried to snooze a while longer. Unable to do so I eventually reached over and turned it on with a 'better get this over with' attitude.
That was when I almost fell out of bed in shock.
It was like Brexit all over again. Brexit on steroids. The impossible had suddenly been proved possible. A spell had been broken and the world had been turned on its head. Donald Trump—a giant ego on legs—had pulled off the impossible. He had taken on the arrayed masses of media, celebrities, pundits, received wisdom and social inertia—and beaten them all. Thrashed them, in fact.
The stunned disbelief on social media rapidly turned into white hot anger. I felt a great disturbance in the force—it was as if a million voices cried out in terror; and then there was violence. Protestors rampaging around the streets, setting fire to cars and smashing window. Yes—the great hissy fit had begun.
From my perspective across on the other side of the Atlantic, I had one immediate cause for celebration: my family would not be nuked. Given Clinton's bellicose rhetoric about surrounding China with missiles and 'taking on' Russia, I had every reason to believe that she would willingly start a world war within months of taking office. With Nato forces building up on the border of Russia in numbers not seen since WWII, and the mainstream press squirting out anti-Russian propaganda from every orifice, and with Russia itself drilling its citizens for imminent nuclear war, I felt I had every reason to be concerned—especially as I live close to a couple of likely military targets. But on the morning on October 9th I got my geiger counter, my iodine pills and my copy of US Armed Forces Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Survival Manual, and put them away in my bottom drawer. For now.
But, of course, global nuclear war is a piffling matter for those more concerned with transgender bathrooms and the breaking of glass ceilings for power crazed career politicians. "But what about Pussygate?" scream the angry mob of social justice warriors. To which I would reply that there are plenty of places where presidential fingers don't belong, but frankly I'm more concerned about them being on the big red button.
So, yes, a large bubble has been popped. This is what the apocalypse looks like. The word 'apocalypse' means 'living the veil'. It's a consciousness thing. The apocalypse will happen at the level of human consciousness before it happens (if ever) on the physical plane. The fake doctrine of neoliberalism/neoconservatism/globalisation—that has made the world we see today, has been exposed for what it is. And all of those who happily went along with it feel a deep terror in their bones. They sense, perhaps correctly, that all of the horrors America and the West have unleashed on the world over the last four decades—horrors which they thought were safely locked away in the basement—have been awoken and are starting to walk up the stairs, feet shuffling, hands outstretched. Not even the soothing tones of Barack Obama can convince them to go back down again—they know they are done for.
So who are all these people who are so terrified? They are the ones who have fallen prey to the globalist controlling mindset. For them, it's all a matter of identity politics, victim statuses and the almighty ruling patriarchy. Status is conferred by your relative minority status, delineated along lines of race, gender, sexual orientation etc. By shifting the entire nature of politics into the realm of identity politics the globalist class have quite brilliantly— with the unflinching support of the mainstream media and Hollywood—cast a magic spell that almost succeeded in enslaving the entire world. And because identity politics so enfeebles people, it was easy to divide and conquer them and get them to conform to their idealised state of passive obedience. This idealised state is one where everyone is defined in a very narrow sense, there is no collective grouping outside of one's own little group, and anyone who objects to this state of affairs is called a 'racist' or a 'homophobe' or a whatever. With everyone so caught up in policing one another the globalists have been able to continue their destructive course of war profiteering and handing democratic sovereignty to corporations largely unchallenged.
The power of the spell is broken now, even if the socially-engineered, weak-minded apologists for the power set refuse to believe it. For what they don't realise is that the election of Trump—and Brexit before it—was the anguished howl of a people who had had enough and were unwilling to acquiesce to the madness any longer. In that respect, Brexit and Trump's election will go down as the most important historical events of Western civilisation in the 21st century. If you don't believe me, just wait.
Yet the people still entrapped by this spell believe in maintaining the status quo so vehemently that they are quite unable to function when their overlords are exposed as frauds and fakes. They are fine with their military raining death down on foreign nations so that they can plunder their oil (but don't turn away the refugees), fine with supporting a candidate who takes blood money from a nation that routinely kills gays and stones women for adultery (as long as we have freedom and equality) and fine with starting a nuclear war which would kill millions of innocent people (because Putin said something nasty about gays). They are also the ones who loudly insist that it is racist to be against globalisation, although they always assume that the benefits of globalisation will accrue to themselves, and if you find yourself living in a wasteland of drug addiction, crime and unemployment because of it, well then that's just your own stupid fault and you're probably a racist so there.
These people are all going to be swept away into history's compost bin, and they know it. It would be a good thing if they could be brought round to see reason—after all, some of them are good people and it's not their fault they've been brainwashed. But, alas, in most cases they are too far gone and it is impossible to reason with them. They belong to a superfluous unproductive class for which there will soon be no further need. They are the corporate PR flacks, the media, the overstuffed university faculty members, the fat layers of government who produce nothing but new regulations and rules to penalise everyday people, and the political hangers-on and other assorted medieval court fauna. As the global energy pie shrinks and the very real limits to growth assert themselves, these people will find themselves pushed out of the picture. No longer will they boast on Facebook about not being able to change a lightbulb as though menial, physical, useful skills are for the Untermensch classes—they'll be too busy fighting among themselves about whose fault all this was and forming circular firing squads.
For anyone who thinks they might detect a note of glee here, they'd be right. I would dearly love to see the likes of The Guardian, the Clintons and all the other warmongering, social engineering, psychopathically driven impediments to real human progress tossed into the fiery abyss. But, gratifying as that might be, it doesn't mean everything will then be all sweetness and light. Indeed how do we even know what to expect next? As has become abundantly clear to many people, the world of mass media, talking heads, opinion formers and politicos don't offer us any useful guidelines any longer. That's why the polymathically inclined turn to other areas where they might find better tools for human understanding—and one particularly useful area is the realm of mythology and psychology.
The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung noted the various archetypes manifest in human consciousness, and explained how we relate to these in our lives (although they exist on a subconscious level so usually we don't realise it). Joseph Campbell took this a stage further in his analysis of myths throughout human history, drawing out these archetypal figures to help make sense of such a widely diverse universe of stories. These archetypes are encoded in our minds and have been there from the time of our earliest ancestors. For the most part they lurk there unseen, only revealing themselves in times of need, when they help us to make sense of the world when everyday logic seems to fail us. This, of course, flies in the face of progress and scientism and the other pseudo-religions we like to insist are useful to us, and so many people choose to ignore the lessons of mythology. So it goes.
The archetype that should concern us today is the one they call the Trickster. The Trickster is a magician—someone who can conjure something seemingly impossible out of nothing. Magic, by the way, is the ability to take something from a non-physical realm and bring it forth into the physical one. It is the ability to change human consciousness through act of will. We all do it, usually without realising it, and politicians try to do it more than most of us (check out the Clinton team's disastrous experiments with Spirit Cooking). The Trickster is adept at this, appearing in times when civilisations have become stale and moribund, and when politics seems dead and insipid. The Trickster strides onto the stage and explodes the neat order of things, creating chaos and mayhem and collapse. Trickster is a disruptive intelligence. He laughs as he brings down elites, chuckles as he tosses political grandees into oblivion and cackles with mischief as he throws entire societies into turmoil.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 1, 2017
“History is as light as individual human life, unbearably light, light as a feather,
as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow."
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Every new year, pundits attempt to make sense of the events of the year past, or make bold predictions about what will happen in the next. Your scribe is neither motivated nor ambitious enough to do either. Our job here is to look at certain of the year's events through the jaundiced filters of collapse and doom, the purpose being to make sense out of what 2016 left at our doorstep like a burning paper bag filled with turds.
Much is been made of the political developments – Brexit, the coup in Turkey, Syria and the refugee crisis, the election of Donald Trump as president, with many thousands of tons of aggrieved punditry launched in a nearly 24–7 assault of PR artillery to try to "make sense of it all." There is simply no making sense of it within the confines of ordinary time and news cycles. Better to soar to the 50,000-foot level, unbearably light, to the vantage point of history, to discern larger trends.
This year's events are symptoms of an evil zeitgeist which is bad news for those of us on the left or so-called "progressive" side of politics. They are harbingers of a sweeping counter-revolution, made possible by a 40-year assault on the funding and functions of government and its efficacy, such that even ordinary people question the very legitimacy of government itself. An underfunded government rarely works.
Never forget that it was the French revolution that gave us Napoleon. And that in 1933, The German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Adolf Hitler the power to enact laws without the involvement of the lawmaking body. Thus everything that Hitler would come to do was perfectly legal and achieved through parliamentary means. Consider this on the eve of a Trump presidency and a Tea Party Congress motivated by the most atavistic impulses ever to spring from a Koch brother.
(And if you find this comparison to Hitler overly hysterical and are moved to invoke Godwin's Law, allow me to refer you to the Tea Party Republic of North Carolina, where legislative Republicans enacted a putsch and passed new, restrictive legislation essentially stripping the newly elected democrat governor Roy Cooper of much of his executive power. Watch now for other states to start pulling the same shit. Feel free to join in a rousing chorus of, "It Can't Happen Here.")
When one considers who Trump has chosen for his own cabinet, the one common thread that seems to run through each is a prior career dedicated to opposing the regulations of said department. William Astore describes Trump's cabinet as "a Coup Waiting to Happen" and as a clique of warrior-generals ready to end the American democratic experiment by the time the limos are parked at the White House.
Yet 21st-century America is witnessing a new and revolutionary moment: the elevation of losing generals to the highest offices in the land. Retired Marine Corps general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, known as a tough-talking “warrior-monk,” will soon be the nation’s secretary of defense. He’ll be joined by a real mad dog, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn as President-elect Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Leading the Department of Homeland Security will be recently retired general John Kelly, another no-nonsense Marine. And even though he wasn’t selected, retired Army general David Petraeus was seriously considered for secretary of state, further proof of Trump’s starry-eyed fascination with the brass of our losing wars.
And why does this matter, you may ask? Didn't Truman appoint McArthur, and Bush appoint Powell? WTF?
A republic… founded on civilian control of the military needs true civilians as a counterweight to militarism as well as military adventurism. Recently retired generals are anything but that; they’re not even speed bumps on the road to the next set of misbegotten military “adventures.” They are likely to be only one thing: enablers of and accelerants to military action. Their presence in the highest civilian positions represents nothing short of a de facto military coup in Washington, a coup that required no violence since the president-elect simply anointed and exalted them as America’s security saviors.
Mattis is one thing; Flynn quite another. By most measures, he has a reputation for not playing well with others. Flynn is known as an ideologue with a virulent, irrational hatred of Islam and a penchant, like his boss, of unburdening himself on Twitter. Often wrong but never in doubt, he was forced from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, after which he became a harsh critic of Obama. Of Flynn, Astore observes:
Rising to prominence during the Trump campaign, he led the chant against Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) at the Republican National Convention in July. (His son recently helped spread the false rumor that Clinton was involved in a child sex trafficking ring involving a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.) Flynn, who sees Islam as a political conspiracy rather than a legitimate religion, is an angry warrior, a dyed-in-the-wool crusader. That Trump sees such a figure as qualified to serve as the nation’s senior civilian security adviser speaks volumes about the president-elect and the crusading militarism likely to be forthcoming from his administration.
One does not have to try hard to imagine a preference for military solutions to diplomatic problems being favored as part of "Making America Great Again." And with Twitler already composing 140-character love poems to nukes, it is a short leap to see the Doom Meter set a couple of clicks higher. Never forget that war is always a great way to balance the books.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, The New York Times
Military adventurism is bad enough. Meanwhile at home comes the Trumpenkrieg.
Look at what has happened over the past 40 years. Ever since Saint Reagan announced that "government is not the solution: government is the problem," tax cuts for plutocrats and trims to the social safety net to pay for them have been the order of the day.
In broad strokes , here's what has happened in the last 40 years: The Corporate State's agenda has been to oblige American labor to compete at global prices through an assortment of "trade deals" long on exporting American jobs but short on results: NAFTA, GATT, Fast Track, FTAA , the TPP. Corpstate has worked to privatize social benefits and social services, abolish negotiated benefits like pensions and health care, slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and has broken the power of unions. All against a background of massive deregulation: airlines in 1978, trucking in 1980, telecom in 1984 and 1996, electricity in 1992, oil and gas extraction in 1980, and finance, repeatedly between 1978 and 2000. I'm sure you've noticed the benefits "trickling down."
No? Maybe someone's been pissing down your back.
All of these consciously planned policies have led to the manifestation of what Spawn of Satan Allen Greenspan once defined as the "precariat," people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, decent retirement. This is by design.
If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. . . how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations.
Sound familiar? Don't blame the immigrants, don't blame the Mexicans: blame the plutocrats. By 2020, a study estimates more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. This constituency—notably white—is angry, and with good cause. Since 1998 white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. These are the people who, in anger and hopelessness, have chosen a billionaire builder who stiffs his subcontractors.
With Trump and the Tea Party foxes in charge of the henhouse, there is little question about the future direction of economic policy. The end game will be not only the dismantling of the New Deal, but also most of the 20th century. The only questions are whether and when the much anguished white working class (who voted for Trump) realizes how badly they have been played, and what they will do about it.
“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
— U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump
The assortment of oilmen, climate change deniers and other sociopaths that Trump has chosen to direct energy and environmental policy will exacerbate the greatest existential threat of the age. We are supposed to ignore the record of the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA, the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists placed in charge of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who will ratify whatever. This at a time when every sober observer of world climate is waving frantically signaling that we must do something NOW.
The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth's history. In a sobering article, Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to Exist, Robert J. Burrowes reviews the heinous toll of man's environmental dominion:
Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.
And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.
Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.
Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources.
When Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his thoughts on climate change, the president-elect responded,
“Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast.”
He’s not alone; according to Pew Research less than half (48%) of all American adults believe that the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity. They are wrong, if consistent; in 2016, news from around the world made climate change undeniable to anyone paying attention. And Trump has made certain noises about getting NASA out of the earth-monitoring business, the better to not confuse citizens with evidence that might interfere with worship of "growth."
As climate change becomes ever more observable and its effects more evident, half of Americans remain firmly in denial. Ecocide is an appropriate word. And in the view of cynics, earth will be just fine in the long run; it's humans that will have it tougher.
An impressive array of notable people left us in 2016: Prince, Mohammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Arnold Palmer, and Leonard Cohen. But 2016 left us Trump. Fuck us.
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on December 10, 2016
Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner
Google Trends shows a remarkable spike in the interest for the coupled terms "climate" and "hoax". Does that mean that people are becoming more skeptical about climate science? Or simply more interested in the subject? On this point, Google Trends tells us that there has been no special change in the level of interest in the general subjects of climate change and global warming. The interest is specific in the coupling of "climate" and "hoax." And, if we couple the terms "climate", "hoax" and "Trump" we see that there is a clear correlation.
So, it seems clear that the rise of Donald Trump has emboldened science deniers, who are more active than before. Qualitatively, it is a trend noted also by "DeSmog" and others. That doesn't necessarily mean a change in the distribution of the opinions on the danger of climate change, still deadlocked in what I termed "trench warfare in the climate wars". Instead, The election of Donald Trump may lead to an even sharper polarization of the US public opinion on climate. Most likely, the virtual trench warfare will continue for quite a while, and we can only hope that it won't become real warfare.
Published on the Economic Undertow on December 23, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
Santa came early this year, he left presents for all the children … whether they wanted them or not!
Hard to say what Santa will offer next year, Christmas may be cancelled … or Stukas might be dive-bombing Poland. In the twilight of ‘More’ anything is possible except ‘more’.
Americans who voted against Trump are feeling unprecedented dread and despair.
I have never seen anything quite like the grief being felt by the majority of American voters who did not vote for Donald Trump.
Back in 1980, there was disappointment among Democrats when Ronald Reagan won. In 2000, after the long Florida recount and the intrusion of the Supreme Court into the decision, there were plenty of upset people who thought Al Gore, not George W. Bush, deserved to be president. But the losing voters in those elections were not despondent. They were not breaking out in tears weeks later. They were not waking up each morning with feelings of dread about what was to come.
This time it is different … (David Frum):
“Construction of the apparatus of revenge and repression will begin opportunistically and haphazardly,” Frum wrote. “It will accelerate methodically.”
Do you mean the apparatus of revenge and repression aimed at Chelsea Manning, or the citizens of Boston? How about other ‘Brand X’ whistle blowers? (Justice Integrity Project):
OpEd News (OEN) Publisher Rob Kall, another speaker, has a different view. “Since Obama has taken office,” Kall reported in ‘RoughTime for Whistleblowers’, “most whistleblowers say his administration and his DOJ treat whistleblowers worse than any previous president.”
Kall quoted GAP Homeland Security and Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, a well-credential ethics advisor in 2001 at the Bush Department of Justice. It promptly ousted her from her job and tried to inflict harsh reprisals in her later career after she provided to superiors her opinion that FBI personnel committed an ethics violation in questioning American John Walker Lindh after he was caught with the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Obama,” she told Kall, “has brought more prosecutions against whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than any previous president and all presidents combined.”
Thank you sir, may we please have another! Everyone knows Trump is a Fuhrer who is making lists and identifying enemies, (WaPo):
Obama administration tries to shut down visitor registry program before Trump takes office
The Obama administration on Thursday took the unprecedented step of creating obstacles to a widely-anticipated but poorly understood plan by President-elect Donald Trump to establish a Muslim ban or registry — by dismantling the registry system that already exists.
In fact, almost every ‘crime’ the oafish Trump is being accused of in advance has been committed already by preceding administrations including Obama’s, starting illegal wars, snooping on citizens, raping the environment, cozying up to bankers, bankers, bankers and more bankers.
Don’t forget Obama’s ‘drone war’, suspension of habeas corpus, arbitrary imprisonment and torture in secret prisons. These programs took form under Bush but Obama did nothing to end them or much to rein them in.
Erratic, bullying, Nazi, paranoid … all are unpleasant to contemplate, but are hardly new. The issues that defines our new (gauche) president are matters of form rather than substance. The conflicts of interest, the ‘massive self-enrichment’ by office holders and ‘retaliation by means fair and foul’ are as entrenched in Washington as traffic jams. Our small-d democracy isn’t threatened, it vanished a long time ago, after people decided to let ‘experts’ tend to their affairs and for corporate marketing and PR to do everyone’s thinking for them.
Comparing Combatants in Syria – Iraq Theater
|COUNTRIES – INTERESTS||WHAT THEY INTEND TO GAIN||COST||WHAT THEY OFFER||GOVERNMENT: CURRENT | PROPOSED||ECONOMY|
|USA||Arms sales. To destabilize region to import consumption||Operational expenses & loss of influence||Transient tactical advantage for no one in particular||Corporate plutocracy / None||Capital destruction – consumption / Ponzi finance|
“Corporate Plutocracy / None” … that’s us!
So is Capital destruction – consumption / Ponzi finance!
This generated blind fury across the mediasphere; the suggestion is Trump is a nuclear madman.
Obama’s Russian Rationale for $1 Trillion Nuke Plan Signals New Arms Race
February 23 2016
The Obama administration has historically insisted that its massive $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program does not represent a return to Cold War-era nuclear rivalry between Russia and the United States.
The hugely expensive undertaking, which calls for a slew of new cruise missiles, ICBMs, nuclear submarines, and long-range bombers over the next three decades, has been widely panned by critics as “wasteful,” “unsustainable,” “unaffordable,” and “a fantasy.”
It’s okay as long as ‘our guy’ does it: it wasn’t Trump who ringed Russia with military bases, missiles and combat formations, it wasn’t Trump who sent spies and provocateurs to destabilize Ukraine or attack Russian clients Syria and Libya from the air. It wasn’t Trump who is engaged in questionable wars in multiple countries across the globe all aimed at driving energy- and resource consumption to the world’s largest energy hog. It isn’t Trump who made al-Qaeda into a defacto ally of the Pentagon and the CIA, who gave the militants arms and training, who enabled the rise of Turkish neo-Ottoman ambition alongside Saudi Salafism and state terror. It was Obama who did all these things and more, following in the footsteps of American presidents going back to Truman.
Or was it? Whoever is president doesn’t matter, he is irrelevant. Our managers (including Trump) are actors reading from scripts, performing at the direction of shadowy back-door men, employed strictly by how they conform to the public expectations created by corporate marketing. Conforming includes how they look, dress, speak, where certified and whom they ‘know’; where they live and work and how they travel. Trump himself acknowledges this reality by selecting as footmen those who are possessed of a certain je ne sais quoi, that is, they have the appropriate outward appearance. Activities that require labor, skill, difficulty or do not present a marketing opportunity are penalized with diminished status. There are no grimy proletarians, mechanics or farmers in the current administration or those set to come; nor in Congress or the Courts. Instead, there are neatly coiffed thievish mandarins. Because our Ponzi- economy is divorced from reality the scam managers are expected to be incompetent, they have to be even as they are fashionable. There is no penalty for stupidity in America.
Competence is unacceptable except where it allows for the proper internal functioning of the enterprise. Our ostensible Ponzi- masters are grasping buffoons while those tending the boilers (Goldman-Sachs) must know what they are about.
The conflict in America is not between ‘left’ and ‘right’, ‘liberal vs. conservative’ but between logic and illogic, between reality and denial. The establishment’s factions are parties to malfeasance and mis-communication. To tell the truth is to acknowledge that business as usual is bankrupt regardless of who is in charge, (Brooking Institute):
Another Clinton-Trump divide: High-output America vs low-output America
Last week, as my colleague Sifan Liu and I were gnawing on some questions asked by Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post, we happened upon a revealing aspect of the election outcome. While looking at number of influences on the presidential vote outcome, we found that in a year of massive divides, one particular economic split stands out.
Our observation: The less-than-500 counties that Hillary Clinton carried nationwide encompassed a massive 64 percent of America’s economic activity as measured by total output in 2015. By contrast, the more-than-2,600 counties that Donald Trump won generated just 36 percent of the country’s output—just a little more than one-third of the nation’s economic activity.
Candidates’ counties won and share of GDP in 2000 and 2016
Figure 1: US counties voting preference, (Brookings Intitute, click for big).
Here you can see very clearly that with the exceptions of the Phoenix and Fort Worth areas and a big chunk of Long Island Clinton won every large-sized county economy in the country. Her base of 493 counties was heavily metropolitan. By contrast, Trumpland consists of hundreds and hundreds of tiny low-output locations that comprise the non-metropolitan hinterland of America, along with some suburban and exurban metro counties, as Indeed Chief Economist Jed Kolko pointed out in a tweet …
The foundation of Brooking’s argument is breathtakingly false, yet is so fashionably rendered anyone looking at it uncritically would take the authors’ premise at face value: that the metropolitan areas who fell to Clinton ‘produced’ greater ‘output’ than the backwards redneck promised lands that supported Trump. By way of Brookings’ logic, the consumption that takes place in cities is ‘productive’ because the various banks magically output ‘money’ to pay for it.
Cities are sinks not sources, their actual output is little or nothing but waste. The backwaters of America don’t ‘produce’ either, they extract our nation’s wealth — our non-renewable resource capital — and speed it to its death. Soil fertility, water, oil, gas, coal, metallic ores along with the lumpishly unfashionable activities that require labor, skill, difficulty … all these and more are sucked out of our towns making stops at Hillary Clinton’s capital-annihilating colonias on their way to the landfill. Retail sales and speculation are measured as production by Brookings’ economists and the banks which fund the process, lending abstract ‘wealth’ into existence using the wasting processes as collateral. Given four- hundred-plus years of mechanized pillaging the flyover counties have been emptied out with the extractive returns captured by well-positioned rentiers. The locals cry, “where’s our cut?” The fact of the question itself reveals the answer …
Establishment whines about ‘fake news’; what is fake is denial of the onrushing consequences of resource squander and how these are making themselves manifest.
Figure 2: Fed Funds by FRED, (click for big). Immediately before president-elect Obama took office in ’09, Santa gave the children negative real interest rates, that is, yields below the rate of inflation. Bargain basement borrowing costs were the incentive for firms to borrow astronomical sums, to fund carry trades of all kinds, to become larger and more concentrated, to buy out competition, to overpay for the firms’ own shares. Tycoons borrowed to buy luxury real estate, yachts and fine art. This offered the impression of a recovery from the ’08 crash, everyone looked like geniuses for a little while including Obama, for whom it can be said it is better to be lucky than good …
Even without the Fed, rates would have been low. Because of the Great Recession, there was a ‘flight to safety’ and the bidding up Treasuries in the absence of real, non-financial returns elsewhere. Added was systemic moral hazard and the eagerness of banks to lend back-and-forth to each other. The outcome was dollar carry trades speeding US inflation around the world; ‘Lucky Obama’ able to enjoy interest rate tailwinds every single year throughout his term in office.
Figure 3: Chart by estimable Doug Short, (Click for big). Obama is jumping ship before the storm breaks: 10-year Treasury rates are galloping upward due to dollar preference which pressurizes foreign exchange and unwinds dollar carry trades. The ‘official narrative’ is future US inflation but the decline in bonds is the re-pricing of repayment risk and the forex depreciation that is certain to come. In developing countries, borrowers with cavitating currencies cannot repay their dollar debts. The incoming president promises (more) tax relief for overburdened tycoons, those expected to pick up the tab are the same developing countries already tapped to service and retire prior rounds of credit expansion.
Remember dollar preference? Don’t pick up that economics textbook, you won’t find it there! Just because Marshall or Keynes didn’t write about it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Dollar preference is what it sounds like: given the choice between accepting a dollar as payment or one- or more foreign currencies; between holding the dollar or spending it for shit or between holding the dollar or non-cash assets, people will choose the dollar. At issue is what determines the dollar’s worth. Conventional Lucas/Friedman economics suggests ‘efficiencies’ going forward discount future money: this and time preference ‘discovers’ present monies’ worth. The conventional narrative supports the rate-setting role of central banks and centrality of monetary policy. Debtonomics insists dollars and other currencies are priced by their exchange on demand for petroleum, something that takes place millions of times every day at gas stations around the world. Question for Donald Trump: millions of motorists vs. a handful of central bankers and corrupt politicians, who wins? The worth of the dollar is the fuel price bargain each one represents relative to other currencies, also what future dollars will be worth in a fuel constrained world. In this narrative, dollars are a proxy for fuel as dollars and other currencies were proxies for gold was during the periods of the gold standard. As such the dollar is a hard currency now becoming harder, to be hoarded out of circulation for the value it represents.
Put another way, dollar preference is the convergence between the value of the oil capital and the dollars that are exchanged for it. Fuel by itself is worth more than the real-world enterprises that make use of it regardless of what means are used to ‘adjust’ the price. By this way of reasoning, fuel in the ground in North Dakota is worth more than fuel wasted in a car stuck in traffic on an LA Freeway. Business (wasting) enterprises earn nothing on their own and are essentially worthless. They exist solely to borrow, gaining- and making use of credit is their primary product: other goods and services are intended to justify credit issuance in ever-increasing amounts. Part of this stream becomes the property of well-positioned ‘entrepreneurs’: enormous unearned borrowed profits are what drives the system. When debt = wealth, there is an incentive to take on as much debt as possible, keep what you can for yourself and to shift the retirement- and servicing burdens onto others.
Our economy as nothing more than a vast cost-shifting regime, our ongoing crisis is the shortage of ‘others’ able to bear the burdens of rapidly increased surplus-related costs.
Figure 3: Emerging market currency ETF: carry trades have been unwinding since 2011 as the dollar becomes stronger. A dollar carry is a way to sell the dollar short; investors borrow in the US at low rates then ‘sell’ dollars for higher-yielding assets in another currency. Decline of dollar becomes profits to those holding the overseas assets. When the dollar strengthens as it is doing now, the deal is a bust. Any asset appreciation in an overseas currency is more than offset by foreign exchange losses. What this means is costs are more difficult to shift, that dollar debts held overseas cannot be retired. The export of dollars and the shifting of costs that have been the mainsprings of globalization; that and the petroleum trade. Resource depletion and dollar preference are undoing all three …
Figure 4: Polygon of Doom: since 2008, price peaks in oil markets are followed by sharp declines, the amplitude of peaks diminish as the world’s customers go broke, chart by TFC Charts (click for big). Unraveling of carry trades, currency depreciation, runs out of forex and generalized credit contraction ruins millions of customers at a time. This in turn strands oil drillers who cannot extract the cheap petroleum as our economy requires. In our over-financialized world, fuel shortages don’t manifest themselves as gas lines or odd-even days. Rationing takes place through the credit transmission channel. When oil price rises high enough credit vanishes and customers cannot buy. How high is too high? Last year $65/barrel turned out to be pricey enough to torpedo China’s currency; the diminution of Chinese consumption crushed the price of crude. The current barrel price of $55 appears to be too high with another predictable banking- and credit crisis unfolding in Europe.
Energy deflation occurs when shortages cause prices to fall instead of rise. This is another something not found in your macro textbooks, it’s real nevertheless and unfolding under @realDonaldTrump’s nose. Because shortages can’t make customers richer, they are unable to borrow in order to bid up the price. The drillers are stranded because they don’t have customers to sell products to. Ruined customers is the reason why oil prices have declined 60% since 2014, broke customers are why the entire oil extraction industry is insolvent.
Oil prices can only decline as there are diminished returns on each energy dollar invested … diminished GDP, diminished credit availability, diminished ability to meet ever-higher real extraction costs. Going forward, real energy costs will increase relative to the ability to meet them … even as nominal costs decline. The result is a net-energy death spiral or ‘energy deflation’ similar to Irving Fisher’s Debt Deflation. Whatever the fuel price happens to be at any given time it is too high. The price falls to meet the market, but fuel is removed from the market because of the drop in price, the ongoing shortage reduces the ability of customers to meet the price which is still too high … in a vicious cycle.
Energy deflation and dollar preference are large forces beyond the control of politicians, generals or central bankers. They are driving countries and events toward involuntary conservation. America’s new president is the product of economic failure; the inability of the economists to make correct analysis, a long grinding recession disguised as recovery; media falsehoods and the unwillingness of Americans and others to face reality, government policy failures and the headwinds of resource depletion. Trump and his cretinous gang of thieves represents the last gasp of a defunct industrial system that is sinking under the weight of its own costs.
Keep in mind, oil producing states like the US tend to be autocratic. The US, Canada, Mexico and others are on their way to becoming single-party police states like Saudi Arabia or Iran. Because of autocrats promise of access to energy, they gain ascendancy with their populations’ eager consent. What is at stake for Americans and the West is democracy itself: a choice between the right to have a say in our own affairs versus the false-promises of energy-driven ‘prosperity’ offered by autocrats … the choice between the (vague) promise of convenience or having a functioning republic.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on December 15, 2016
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Michael Klare has published an extensive comment on "Tomgram" about what appear to be the current policy choices by Donald Trump on energy and he correctly notes how contradictory they are. Basically,
The main thrust of his approach couldn’t be clearer: abolish all regulations and presidential directives that stand in the way of unrestrained fossil fuel extraction, including commitments made by President Obama in December 2015 under the Paris Climate Agreement.
In other words, Trump seems to be locked in a market-only vision of the problem, thinking that physical realities have no role in the extraction of fossil resources. On this, he is surely not alone, but the problem is that deregulation is not so important as Trump seems to think. It was not because the market was over-regulated that oil prices spiked up to $150 dollars/barrel in 2008 and kept hovering at around $100/barrel from 2011 up to late 2014. And it was not because oil production was suddenly deregulated that prices collapsed to below $40 in 2015. The oil market, as all markets, suffers from instabilities that may be, sometimes, cured by regulations. Eliminating all the regulations may well cause further price swings and wild oscillations, rather than increase production.
If oil companies are in trouble, right now, is because the oil prices are too low, not because oil extraction is over-regulated and Trump's policies – if they were to work – may damage the fossil fuel industry even more. That, in itself, would not be a bad thing – especially in terms of the effects on climate. The problem is that Trump's ideas to revitalize the fossil fuel industry may not be limited to deregulation, but could involve actively discouraging renewable energy, a policy that, for instance, the Italian government has been successfully applying during the past few years.
So, why does Trump want to do such a thing? Here, we can only imagine what passes in the mind of a 70-year old man who is not known to be especially expert in anything. Klare puts forward a possible explanation as:
To some degree, no doubt, it comes, at least in part, from the president-elect’s deep and abiding nostalgia for the fast-growing (and largely regulation-free) America of the 1950s. When Trump was growing up, the United States was on an extraordinary expansionist drive and its output of basic goods, including oil, coal, and steel, was swelling by the day. The country’s major industries were heavily unionized; the suburbs were booming; apartment buildings were going up all over the borough of Queens in New York City where Trump got his start; cars were rolling off the assembly lines in what was then anything but the “Rust Belt”; and refineries and coal plants were pouring out the massive amounts of energy needed to make it all happen.
And don’t forget one other factor: Trump’s vindictiveness — in this case, not just toward his Democratic opponent in the recent election campaign but toward those who voted against him. The Donald is well aware that most Americans who care about climate change and are in favor of a rapid transformation to a green energy America did not vote for him,
Given his well-known penchant for attacking anyone who frustrates his ambitions or speaks negatively of him, and his urge to punish greens by, among other things, obliterating every measure adopted by President Obama to speed the utilization of renewable energy, expect him to rip the EPA apart and do his best to shred any obstacles to fossil fuel exploitation. If that means hastening the incineration of the planet, so be it. He either doesn’t care (since at 70 he won’t live to see it happen), truly doesn’t believe in the science, or doesn’t think it will hurt his company’s business interests over the next few decades.
This interpretation by Michael Klare may or may not be correct but it underlies a basic problem: elections give power to people on the basis of their promises, but nobody really knows how they will behave once they have power in their hands. The world's history is full of leaders who had mental problems of all kinds or even just had a vision of the world that was completely out of touch with reality. The result was normally unmitigated disasters as leaders, in most cases, refuse to learn from their mistakes. And not just that, they tend to double down, worsening things.
Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on December 11, 2016
“In a hundred years time, perhaps, a great man will appear who may offer… a chance at salvation. He'll take me as a model, use my ideas, and follow the course I have charted."
–As quoted in “Der Führer als Redner,” Adolf Hitler, by Joseph Goebbels
On December 19 of this year, the 538 members of the electoral college will meet to cast their votes to actually decide the outcome of the election of 2016. Those people appalled or mortified by the election of Donald J. Trump as President are hoping that "Hamilton Electors" will rise up and in a fit of conscience serve as a deus ex machina to deliver the US from inaugurating a president who lost the national popular vote by somewhere north of 2.6 million votes.
What these people are hoping for is an electoral college revolt. I'm not liking their chances. We have to remember that the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy, period. The Electoral College is a fail-safe to protect the presidency from a candidate who’s popular but unfit for office. The name "Hamilton Electors" stems from Alexander Hamilton's explanation of the need for a check upon the popular passions. Writing in Federalist 68 , he said the body would consist of
A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
In other words, anything BUT a rubber-stamp for the popular will, a second level of discernment, to ensure that
"…the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."
In other words, a "break glass in case of emergency" device to prevent panderers, prevaricators and pussy-grabbers from ascending to the office of mountebank-in-chief.
To which I say, "good luck with that." I rank second to none in my loathing for Trump and the gaggle of foxes he has assembled to guard the public henhouse. Yet, in a recent article in The Atlantic on the subject, College of Charleston political science professor Claire Wofford explained
“there is no explicit federal or constitutional ban on electors selecting candidates as they wish, even if that means departing from the popular vote of the state.”
Past practice enables us to believe we have voted for a slate of electors who will faithfully deliver votes in the "winner take all" fashion followed by most states. In almost every other presidential election in history, members of the electoral college have voted in accordance with the popular vote. With notable exceptions. The election of Rutherford B Hayes over Samuel Tilden 1876 provides an instructive example of our nation's capacity for electoral skulduggery.
The 1876 election was a "reform" election. The administration of Ulysses. S. Grant was one of the most extraordinarily corrupt administrations of all time, even given low 19th century standards. In 1868 Grant was swept to electoral victories by a nation grateful for victory. But he made the mistake of appointing an assortment of military and business cronies to important offices in his administration at a time of unparalleled growth, western railroad expansion, booming manufacturing, and abundant opportunities for corruption.
The list of Grant era scandals is impressive: the "Gold Ring" and the Black Friday Gold Panic of 1869, (starring Jay Gould at the center of a plot to corner the gold market), the New York Custom House ring, the Star Route postal ring, a treaty breach to allow gold mining in the Black Hills, the Whiskey Ring of 1876 (a tax evasion scam) and many more. Grant appointed reformers, but the public had had enough. Grant's personal reputation remained untouched by scandal. Yet In 1931, authors Frederic Paxson and Christian Bach wrote that
personal scandal has not touched Grant in any plausible form, but it struck so close to him and so frequently as to necessitate the vindication of his honor by admitting his bad taste in the choice of associates.
In the conventions of 1876, the Rs nominated Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Ds nominated Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York, setting the stage for the most contested election in US history.
In a voting result that resonates today, Tilden outpolled Hayes in the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes to Hayes' 4,036,572. But Tilden's 184 electoral votes were still one short of a majority, while Hayes' 165 electoral votes left him 20 ballots shy.
These 20 electoral votes were in dispute in four states: in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and Oregon. Each party claimed its candidate had won the state: Democrats had won the state elections, and Republicans claimed the Democrats' used fraud, violence, and intimidation in the Southern states and "threw out" enough Democratic votes for Hayes to win in those states. Grant directed Congress to resolve the competing claims.
In January 1877 a 15 member Electoral Commission (comprised of eight Republicans and seven Democrats) met and voted to resolve the competing slates of electors. The result was the Compromise of 1877: the Electoral Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes, in return for which the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals. Quid pro quo: Hayes was awarded the White House with the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential for the survival of Republican state governments in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.
The departure of Federal troops meant Reconstruction was over. The net result was the abandonment of American blacks, civil rights, and the effect of federal law in the South. Political power in the Southern states devolved to the Democrats. Jim Crow was born, and hard won civil rights gained by blacks disappeared for generations. And to enforce the new order, "strange fruit" hung from southern trees.
So in the same way that George W. Bush a 5-4 vote of a stacked Supreme Court to stop the Florida recount in 2000, Hayes won a presidency having lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But he did win the 8-7 vote of the Electoral Commission. Proving that laws are as perfectly elastic as they need to be.
So absent Hamilton Electors, an alien invasion or proof that the Russians hacked the election, we will have to deal with the horror of a Trump Presidency and his Chamber of Horrors cabinet whose members seem chosen precisely for their opposition to the premises of the agency they have been chosen to lead. This ought to be good for the doom industry.
When Reagan's "Sagebrush Rebellion" looks like a polite exercise in manners in comparison, what will "normal" look like? These people have, in Charlie Pierce's phrase, "a sweet tooth for authoritarian solutions to the inconveniences of democratic government." The game will be to get the feds out of the regulation business and send responsibility back to the states, who will avoid the responsibility like cancer and force it onto already broke localities, where it will disappear for lack of money.
Want an abortion, too bad, so sad, goodbye. Not a choice you get to make. Freedom from government regulation only applies to corporate persons and their owners and does not apply to use of your private parts.
As Paul Ryan turns Medicare into a voucher system, and the voucher pays about fifty per cent of the premium, Trump-voting Uncle Fud will have to decide whether he can live on kibble and cat food in order to pay the premiums.
As Trump-voting rural whites on disability suddenly have to work and there is no work to be had because automation took their jobs, who will they blame? They didn't realize those moochers and takers they threw under the bus during the campaign were themselves. Time to start cooking meth again.
As Betsy DeVos gets that hated federal money diverted from your local district, and public schools become charter schools where the voucher covers a fraction of the tuition, they'll at least have a choice as to which religious affiliation they choose for their kids. Snapping the spines of public teachers' unions is just an added bonus!
As the roads stop being paved, streetlights stop being replaced, as trash collection becomes occasional, as the drinking water becomes a fetid hellbroth of god-knows-what (a la Flint), as the bills mount and when people lose their homes, as we "Make America Great Again" by rediscovering the family values of three generations living together in a two bedroom house, who will they blame?
Trump voters will savor the satisfactions of having "gotten the government off their backs."
Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and who, like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.
Published on Peak Surfer on November 20, 2016
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“Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us. And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”
Last week, we recalled the words of Hitler’s social architect Albert Speer, “One seldom recognizes the devil when he is putting his hand on your shoulder.” And yet, despite all the entreaties to slay the beast and make sure its dead — from Ralph Nader, Naomi Klein, Joe Brewer, whomever — we have to confess, after Paris and now after Marrakech, the only highway back to the Holocene that can support mammalian life such as ours is being constructed by and for monster corporations like Citibank and Monsanto.
At a side event in the business tent we sat down in a corner to have some local Arabica while we awaited the next session. We struck up a conversation with the elderly gent in the adjoining seat. He was John Scowcroft, Chief Credit Officer and Executive Managing Director at S&P. We showed him The Biochar Solution and the usual conversation followed. Turns out he is leaving S&P to start a CCS group to seize the profit potential in carbon management futures.
Later, at a side event called Beyond Paris: Investor actions to manage climate risk and seize low-carbon opportunities, we were listening attentively to James Close, World Bank; Erick Decker, AXA Group; Michael Eckhart, Citigroup; Pete Grannis, NY State Comptroller’s Office; Anthony Hobley, Carbon Tracker and others, when Rachel Kyte spotted our book, The Paris Agreement, and leaned over to ask, “Is that any good?”
“Fantastic!” we gushed.
A former Vice President of World Bank, she is Ban Ki Moon’s Special Representative to the business community.
Over the course of the two weeks in Morocco we had brief encounters like this too many times to catalogue. We tell you this not to suggest we are anyone special but to say that in this critical time we — you and I — have been given access.
Historically this is the rarest of moments. Crisis makes for strange bedfellows (ask James Comey and Julian Assange). Citibank, with branches in 160 countries, went from financing $12 billion in green project finance in 2013 to $24 billion in 2014 to $48 billion in 2015 and likely $100 billion this year. Deutsche Bank will tally $350 billion in investments aimed at decarbonization in 2016. More importantly, the big banks have dumped $500 billion in fossil asset portfolios since Paris and would have liked to dump much more if they only had a safe place to park it, even interest-free.
The board rooms have Trump-proofed the Paris Agreement and the whole paradigm shift that came with it. There is absolutely no way any clown show is going to hijack these negotiations now. Wall Street, the Illuminati, the Buddhist monasteries, NeoLib Academe, The Vatican, the Royals and the Chinese Triads are all 110 percent committed. They are shoulder to shoulder in the doorway.
Rachel Kyte told the crowd, “Carbon is an investment risk that is not yet priced in.” This situation is not likely to last much longer. We hovered longest in the venues that were looking at drawdown, and we could see that so much of the finance and political world is focused on technological fixes like geoengineering and CCS (carbon capture and storage) that putting a price on carbon and taxing the polluters is coming, Trump or no. It is the only way you can economically justify those uneconomical, harebrained, bait-and-switch schemes.
In a brief, airport encounter, an IPCC working group leader told us $45 per ton would be needed to make the 2-degree limit achievable with sequestered scrubber gas.
Of course, we know better. Putting carbon underground costs nothing and pays handsome returns if you do it by planting mixed species, mixed age, ecosystemically functioning, climate resilient and rainmaking forests and coppice, pollard and patch renew them periodically to derive food, fiber, building material and most importantly, biochar, to create cascades of products and services in a circular economy with no such thing as waste. That does not require a $45/ton price or even 4 cents. It will earn you vastly more. Real wealth.
The best way to raise land value is to increase its beauty with biodiversity, increase the organic matter in its soils, build humus, make biochar and be a contributing member of the local community. Just doing that reverses climate change and generates multiple revenue streams for any poor sod who stumbles into it.
The Secretary General of the British Commonwealth, Hon. Baroness Patricia Scotland, at the closing plenary of the Joint High-level Segment [COP agenda item 18 and CMP agenda item 14 and Item 4 of the provisional CMA agenda] uttered the word “permaculture” for the first time at a United Nations podium:
"Mr. President, I speak for the Commonwealth collectively, a family of 52 member states, among them countries in all continents and oceans that are highly vulnerable to climate change. Our priority is to move from agreement to action. Small islands threatened by rising sea levels and larger states vulnerable to flooding or desertification share the common advantages of a common language, common law, and closely related systems of governance. These similarities enable us to work together without distraction and get straight to the nub of issues.
"High on our agenda for 30 years has been the impact of climate change. This long-standing focus bore fruit a year ago when our Biannual Heads of Government Meeting assembled in Malta. Days before COP21, our member states, in their rich diversity, agreed to set ambition high and paved the way for the Paris Agreement. Our practical and distinctive Commonwealth contribution is technical support, offered by our Climate Finance Access Hub.
"A month ago, we convened a ground breaking and dynamic gathering on Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change. It brought together biologists, ecologists, oceanographers and regenerative development specialists to consider ways of reversing the human impacts of climate change. Our focus was on developing positive action for the living world to restore climate balance, including biomimicry, permaculture, ecological engineering, and circular economies. It is through such pioneering approaches, I believe, that as on so many occasions in the past, the potential for our Commonwealth networks’ meetings will be mobilized to lay the foundations on which progressive global consensus can be built to create a safer and more sustainable future for all."
Contrast this to the buffoonery of the apparently tipsy US Secretary of State, obviously winging it:
While the national commitments, or NDCs, that were pledged at Paris in 2015 bend emissions downward, they are still not on a course correcting trajectory. Our planet is moving out of the Neutral Zone, the one location we know of in this galaxy where you may find life. The UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, even while understating the risk, says we are headed towards 3.4°C warming by 2100 (we think will likely get there much sooner). To get back to a 2-degree "safe" zone (with 66% certainty) we would need 25% lower emissions in 2030 than there are today. And yet, incredible as it may seem, emissions are still rising.
When you are racing against extinction you cannot afford to fritter away time or forget the first rule of holes. 2016 will be the 15th record-breaking year this century in terms of heat, since measurements began. That is 15 new records in 16 years, a pattern any sports fan should recognize as extraordinary. Globally we are already up 1.2 degrees, although closer to 5 degrees near the poles. Humans have never lived on a planet with 400 parts per million CO2 in its atmosphere before.
2ºC is a vanished target now. But this isn’t a 2ºC or bust fight. It’s a fight to limit consequences. It’s a fight for every 1/10th of a degree. If we fail to hold to 2ºC, we have to fight for 2.1º; failing that, we battle on for 2.2º. With millennia of impacts at stake, we never get to give up, even if we end up in 4ºC. For future generations, 4º is still better than 4.1º.
It is useful to remember that in 2007 the Met Office produced a four-degree scenario on behalf of HM Government. Climate scientists from other institutions also contributed their most up-to-date research on climate impacts at the time.
As we mull (or bemoan) the average intelligence of Republican presidents, we recall that it was Group Captain James Stagg, also of the MetOffice, who changed the nail-hard mind of Dwight D. Eisenhower and got him to postpone D-day by 24 hours, despite Operation Neptune being already well underway. The MetOffice is not an outfit whose predictions should be trifled with.
- Heat changes will not be the same everywhere. Mid-continent North America and Europe and parts of Africa will be 6-7 degrees warmer. Most of Russia and Africa will be 8 degrees or above.
- In densely populated eastern China hottest days of the year are 11°F warmer. In Toronto, Chicago, Ottawa, New York and Washington DC, make that 22°F hotter. Europe is somewhere in between.
- The permafrost is gone across vast regions of Canada and Russia. Atmospheric methane, 100 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, spikes, inexorably pushing temperatures towards 5 and beyond.
- Half of the world’s population has inadequate access to water.
- Half of all Himalayan glaciers are significantly reduced, 70% of the water supply to India and China.
- In South America, many glaciers disappear completely, taking 75% of Peru’s water with them.
- Fish populations crash from acidification and coral loss.
- Forested areas burn, including a large area of the United States, Mexico, South America east of the Andes, Southern and East Africa, the Sahel, eastern and southern Europe and Australia.
- Maize and wheat yields reduced up to 40% at low latitudes. Soybean yield decreases in all regions. Rice yield declines up to 30% in Asia.
- Water supplies to rivers drops up to 70% in many regions.
- The loss of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet contributes 3.3 meters to sea level rise. Greenland ice losses add 7 meters globally.
- The Netherlands and Southeastern England are inundated. Seychelles, Miami Beach and the Hamptons have disappeared. The San Francisco Bay extends almost to Sacramento. Most of those displaced, however are in India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia.
So, at four degrees, who would be left to fight for 4.1? What possible good would it do?
|Real world tracks scenario RCP 8.5|
As we left Marrakech we felt ambivalent about the outcome. Paris had sent the high benchmark and these follow-on COPs are supposed to fit the nuts to the bolts. There was still a very uncomfortable level of pushback amongst the underdeveloping, with India and Indonesia, both big coal users, saying that economic growth had precedence over near-term emissions cuts. Turkey is planning to build 70 new coal plants. These errors assure the already underdeveloping will continue digging a deeper hole for themselves. New Zealand, which talks a good disinvestment game, plans to increase petroleum exports from $3 billion to $30 billion per year by 2025.
All countries’ leaders need to take stock, a point that was made poignantly clear by this slide from the MetOffice:
It shows that the world cannot begin atmospheric carbon drawdown later than 2020 — three years from now — or the two degrees red line will be broken.
Clear next steps emerged from discussions: end fossil fuel subsidies (including fracking); phase out coal and then ban it; cancel all new fossil fuel infrastructure orders (including supertankers, arctic exploration and DAPL); set higher efficiency standards; subsidize agroforestry and renewables (down to zero cost); enforce LDN (Land Degradation Neutrality — no net land loss to sprawl, desertification or deforestation — 102 countries have signed on); and reform agriculture to an organic, no-till standard.
These next steps got no farther than discussions, however, and what emerged from Marrakech was more palliative statements and promises that next year will be better. Tick tock. Clown show. Tick tock. "Time is not on our side." (John Kerry) Tick tock. (Donald Trump) Tick tock.
Published on Cassandra's Legacy on Noveber 16, 2016
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Scenarios are a quite common tool used by the United Nations and other international agencies to look at the future of humanity, they are used to group their reflections around coherent visions. We call Scenario 3 one of these archetypal visions that create the international agencies1 and we used in our studies that compare the available fossil fuels subject to peak oil with the expected demand of energy2.
Scenario 3 describes a future of regional competition and return to national sovereignty. It assumes that regions will focus more on their self-reliance, national sovereignty, and regional identity, leading to tensions between regions and/or cultures. Countries will be concerned with security and protection, emphasizing primarily regional markets (protectionism, deglobalization) and paying little attention to common goods, international environmental agreements, and cooperation for development. Scenario 3 describes a future of deglobalization and conflict, it and is, to a large extent, Trump's conservative discourse.
Other scenarios, such as Scenario 1, talk about economic optimism and high growth. The humanity is focused on achieving competitive markets and free trade that would, eventually, benefit everyone by correcting social inequalities and environmental problems. Scenario 1 is the scenario of globalization. There is also a Scenario 2, the one of green capitalism, a friendly version of Scenario 1, which gives priority to protecting the environment and reducing inequality, using technological advances, dematerialization, and the economy of services and information.
There is a fourth scenario at stake,Scenario 4, which consists of a friendly version of Scenario 3. In Scenario 4 there is a major change in values: society reacts against nonsense consumerism and disrespect for life. Citizens and countries decide to assume their responsibilities by being a green example for the rest. Although barriers to trade of goods are rebuilt, barriers to information tend to be eliminated. The emphasis is on finding regional solutions to social and environmental problems, usually by combining drastic changes in lifestyles with decentralized governance styles. Scenario 4 is the ecologist scenario, the one of local autonomy, cooperation and open-source, the closest to the utopias of the Degrowth movement.
The problem is that Scenarios 1 and 2 require a lot of energy, while Scenario is the one that needs less energy because it has less trade and less economic growth. Scenario 4 is also a low energy one. The bad news is that Scenario 3 is blind to environmental problems and leads to the war for resources because there is no lifestyle change towards an austere society based on renewable energy. Only Scenario 4 could be a minimally sustainable one because is the only one that invests in the energy of the future and does not grow a lot.
Trump's victory, like so many other things, shows us that the business as usual options are no longer what we used to call business as usual. We can no longer choose between neoliberal globalization or a slightly more social globalization of sustainable development. In a world where the energy is getting more and more difficult to obtain those scenarios that minimize energy consumption are the ones that have more probabilities of becoming true. Now the only possible options are Scenario 3 (neocons, right-wing) or those that could arise from Scenario 4 (anti-consumerist movements and ecosocialism).
The traditional political left parties should wake up and stop pursuing futures that resemble Scenario 2 and seek a slightly more friendly or greener globalization. Only the political options that are well aware of the planet's ecological limits can be a solid discourse against neoconservatives. In this moment we need to develop a political alternative based on anti-consumerist values, on the defense of the land and on the values of cooperation. Only this alternative can compensate self-destructive neoconservative tendencies that lead us to a dangerous competition for the resources in a planet that is going on a trend of constant ecological degradation.
Margarita Mediavilla teaches at the School of Industrial Engineering of the University of Valladolid and belongs to the research group of Energy, Economy and System Dynamics (GEEDS) She is also engaged in the EU research project MEDEAS dedicated to modeling the energy transition in Europe.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 10, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
The election of 2016 is over, and the mood in the country is that the People Have Spoken. A majority of voters have soundly rejected Business As Usual, as personified by Hillary Clinton, and voted for what they perceive as Change, with a Capital T, as in Trump.
The truth is that there was never a better poster child for crony capitalism and corruption than Clinton. The thousands of leaked emails and the revelations about shady deals with foreign despots funneling money to her through her non-profit front disgusted anybody who took the trouble to read during the election cycle….and for those (most Americans) who don't bother to read, Mr. Trump was happy to Tweet about it and call her a criminal day after day on the campaign trail.
I expected Ms. Clinton to win, not because she was a good candidate, but because she was a very savvy politician with a well-established constituency among the black and brown urban poor and the educated liberal elites, and because the Big Money was behind her. She knew how to play the game, as it has always been played.
But this election threw a monkey wrench into the gears of electoral politics. For the first time in history we have seen an election shaped by social media. Mr. Trump, himself a TV personality with lots of name recognition, was able to shape the election by saying things that most political observers would have called political suicide, and he made it work to deliver the Presidency of the United States.
For the past several years, Republican candidates had courted the same people who turned out to vote Mr. Trump into office, with some success. But they never delivered on their promises, and this time that group, the high school educated working class whites, showed their dissatisfaction by abandoning the Republican Establishment in the primary, and further demonstrating their anger and frustration with BAU by sweeping Trump into the White House.
I don't think Trump will deliver the goods either, because declining energy resources dictate that the pie will keep getting smaller, and because the ship carrying the US industrial economy set sail for China long ago now, and it won't be coming back. Never mind the widespread effects of global climate change, which Mr. Trump and most of his base don't believe is even real.
Mr. Trump will have to depend on his bombast and charisma to keep his support. The figure he most reminds me of in recent history, is Hugo Chavez. Poor Venezuelans still love Chavez, even though he threw their country into total economic chaos. I'm sure Trump will be able to keep some of his base behind him for the next four years, or longer. But it won't be because he was able to make America great again.
I think it would be good to examine Mr.Trump's coalition of support, and Ms. Clinton's, because even though she lost the election, her base still exists, and it is outgrowing Mr. Trump's support base over the long haul. In other words, they will be back with a new candidate, who might appear in four years to completely dismantle whatever Mr. Trump creates. They might even come back with a vengeance. Time is on their side, as long as the country can rock along without a complete systemic collapse.
It's easy to understand Clinton's support. At the bottom are the extremely entrenched have-nots in our society. They can't get along without a SNAP card and Medicaid. There is a very large group of Blacks and Hispanics (and a even a few whites) who have, for nearly three generations, benefited from free food and free medical insurance and subsidized rent. They are motivated to AVOID making much money in the mainstream economy, and they are motivated to AVOID being legally married, to qualify for the benefits they depend on. These benefits are almost always restricted to being doled out to single mothers with children. Families have to avoid the appearance of being a family when social workers come around, and any significant income has to come from the black market economy.
The black and brown Americans who pull themselves up above poverty still identify politically with this group, and largely vote with them, although some of the most successful do abandon ship and turn conservative. The black working class remains firmly behind the Democratic Party, which always gives lip service to taking care of "the unfortunate". The Hispanic component favors open borders and free immigration, because a large number of them are from immigrant families, many of whom arrived here illegally.
To that bloc (which is growing by leaps and bounds because of the Hispanic component with their Catholic religion and large family size), the Democrats add a much different demographic group,which are the liberal whites, who have been brought up to believe in policies of racial and gender equality, and who feel sorry for those at the bottom. These whites are not all rich, but they are,as a group, well educated, and they have jobs in government, education, and technology that allow them to achieve a measure of financial success. Enough to keep them from being angry, and make them in favor of a diverse society, which they've been taught to value anyway.
The Trump constituency, examined in hindsight of the election, appears to be a coalition too. The base is the white working class, the people who once constituted the bedrock of American society, not college educated, but who managed to make decent livings in our industrial manufacturing sector. Union workers and unskilled and semi-skilled laborers. At one time a man could make a reasonable living in this country if he was just willing to get up in the morning and go to work and give a reasonable effort. Jobs were plentiful, and if one didn't work out you could always get another one.
These people are now strongly anti-immigration, because they perceive that new arrivals take away employment that is their birthright. It is a little more complicated than that, but they don't see the fine detail of how technology just eliminates the need for so many working stiffs.
They accuse the Democratic party of bringing in more and more immigrants in order to build the liberal welfare state political base, and that makes them angry too. They happen to be right about that one.
The other part of the coalition, which includes some of the above group, and some other, better educated white people, is the Religious Right, the very same people who brought you the likes of Ted Cruz and even Marco Rubio (who wasted no time last night in giving all the credit for his re-election to Jesus Christ his personal savior. I don't know if Jesus was listening, but the Evangelicals were, and gave Rubio a huge round of applause when he said it. Little Marco knows which side his bread is buttered on.)
This group is motivated by their shared agenda of ending abortion in any form for any reason, making birth control difficult, and bringing public prayer (Christian prayer, that is) back to public schools. Ending sex education is another issue. They want kids raised like mushrooms, kept in the dark, and fed on a diet of horse shit. They are people who have been conditioned to believe that our society's decline is due to moral decay, and who see nothing wrong with making America into a Conservative Christian theocracy.
The working white poor, as a demographic group, are in decline, but the Religious Right keeps growing. Their churches have turned into huge mega-arenas that put thousands under one roof on Sunday morning, where preachers skilled in hypnosis techniques drive home the message. The Religious Right doesn't love Trump, but they were willing to hold their noses and vote for him in droves, because he comes from a Catholic family background and has been careful to (at least in recent years) give lip service to the Christian Conservative agenda.
Both the Democratic base and the Republican base are motivated primarily by emotion, and neither one is willing to understand that the decline of our country and Western Civilization has to do resource depletion, overpopulation, and climate change.
They cling to their own particular emotional lifeboats, and have no interest in hearing that all of us are going to be living on less energy, less money, and less complexity in the near future, and that many of us will simply not be living at all, as our ability to use technology to produce more and more food and labor from less and less effort, goes away forever.
They deny climate change, because they don't live on waterfront property. Or if they do, they'd like to flip their house before it becomes worthless. The city just needs to build more storm drains and do a little more backfill. All those storms are just normal climate variation. Floods and droughts have always happened. Watch your step, there, don't get your feet wet.
That's my view. Pardon me if I'm not excited by the wave of change sweeping the country. I see another kind of wave coming, one that will give both of these groups of willfully ignorant Americans a reality check they aren't looking for.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 9, 2016
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Not Alright, ALL RIGHT.
The Repugnant Party has at last gained control of both Houses of Congress and the Executive branch, and will likely get 2 or 3 new SCOTUS picks too. You can kiss goodbye Obamacare for a start here and say Hello to more tax cuts for the rich. Kiss off environmental controls and drill baby drill. And on and on with the right wing agenda.
What promises he made to the white working class will all be broken. We won't be getting any jobs back in manufacturing for a start. A thousand mile wall with Mejico is not gonna get built, maybe an electrified fence. We're not going to be deporting all Muslims, although it will probably be harder for new ones to immigrate. We're not going to pull out of NATO and stop bombing MENA back to the stone age. He's not going to get Amerika out of debt, it will skyrocket even further until the inevitable Global Bankruptcy occurs.
On the positive side here, we're finally rid of the Clintons, at least unless Chelsea runs for office at some point. Her last name isn't Clinton anymore anyhow. I wonder how many contributions there will be to the Clinton Foundation now?
Insofar as a Left Wing goes, the FSoA hasn't had one of those pretty much since the McCarthy Era. The only thing the Democratic party is left of is the far right. The current democratic party is pretty much a complete failure having sold out to the banksters with the Clintons, although at least they had some window dressing of "concern" for the environment, which didn't do all that much good when you look back at the Deepwater Horizon, the water in Flint, the fracking ongoing every time the price of oil springs back up above $50 and the Dakota pipeline.
The infrastructure across Amerika is still decaying, and it will continue to rot until the bridges start falling down and the lights go off for good. The All Right Goobermint is not going to fix any of that. All of which indicates that at some point, a new and more Radical Left will emerge. Nature abhors a vacuum.
Millenials are now becoming the largest demographic, and by far they are the ones most screwed by the crowning of The Donald as POTUS. Also screwed though are any late stage Boomers coming into retirement years, because SS will be eviscerated along with medicaire. That probably will take a little while to play out though, hopefully I will buy my Ticket to the Great Beyond before it disappears completely. If I'm still above ground when it does die, I'll punch my own ticket and get on with a career of pushing up daisies.
For the millenials though, an early exit from the game of life generally is not the welcome relief it is for an old and broken down body. There's going to be a lot of very unhappy folks in this demographic, and when (not if) The Donald fails to "make Amerika GREAT Again" but makes it instead a whole lot WORSE, at the very least they will kick his ass out of office in 4 years, assuming the system holds together that long.
From the anti-establishment side, the one big winner in this was Julian Assange, because Wikileaks really did prove its power and swung this election by the non-stop release of e-mails demonstrating the extreme level of corruption embodied by the Clintons. Whether this gets him out of his prison in the Ecuadorian Embassy or not remains to be seen though. He's supposed to be meeting with Swedish "officials" next week on the one remaining rape charge, and even if they still want to try him on that likely Trumped up charge, I can't see Trump approving an extradition of him either for Rape or for leaking classified information. So he might as well just face it down now, and hopefully at some point jump bail and get whisked off to Mother Russia by some of Vlad the Impaler's KGB operatives. He can join Edward Snowden and they can head up the Hacking Department in the Kremlin.
Besides Putin who The Donald appears to get along with as a fellow narcissist and megalomaniac, he doesn't appear to be very well regarded by many of the other "leaders" out there, certainly not by any south of the border down in Texas all the way to the Straights of Magellan. It should be entertaining to watch as he practices the fine art of diplomacy and the "art of the deal" with these folks. One also has to wonder how often he will be hitting the "you're fired!" button on his own staff, he already axed his campaign manager on the way to the top here.
He can't fire Paul Ryan and the rest of the Repugnant establishment that don't like him too much though, so one can expect a decent amount of fireworks to occur as he uses his new position of power to try to bully through aspects of his agenda which aren't part of the Party Line, like backing out of NAFTA and making nice with Mother Russia. In general though besides those things, he's a fairly typical Repugnant, so with both houses of CONgress with these douchebags in the majority, the whole Repugnant agenda should go through pretty easily. Demodopes currently in CONgress might as well not even show up for work, nothing from their agenda is going get passed, or even make it out of committee. They're just taking up space at taxpayer expense for the forseeable future.
Anyhow, for the Kollapsnik, this is all just a show, just another manifestation of Collapse. Neither The Donald or Killary, nor Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or even Bernie Sanders could do anything to stop the inevitable collapse, although perhaps there might have been a more equitable spin down with Bernie or Jill at the helm. The Titanic is already holed though, and half the ship already under water. It's just a matter of the timeline on how fast it sinks. It probably will sink faster with The Donald steering the ship, but we'll never know that for sure. Killary probably would have sunk it pretty quick exchanging Nukes with Vlad the Impaler herself.
So, for now we can stop focusing on the sham of electoral politics we run here in the FSoA, and get back to our regularly scheduled program, the Collapse of Industrial Civilization.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 8, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolics Table inside the Diner
The Big Day has arrived at last! Millions of Amerikans are streaming to the Polls to vote for the Imbecile of their Choice. We *MAY* have a POTUS Elect by some time late tonight or tomorrow morning. If we do, you'll hear it here first on the Diner, at least unless you are monitoring one of the same sites I am to get the latest results and who is calling a victory (or tie) in the popular vote.
I say may, because as we all know by now between Pussy Grabbing by The Donald and further Email crimes by Killary, the polls have been swinging wildly toward both sides, and WTF really knows what anybody will actually do when they get inside the booth and press the touch screen on the rigged voting machine which will be hacked by Vlad the Impaler? Besides, even if the polls were not bouncing up and down like a Yo-Yo on Steroids, polling lately in all of these major popular contests has been notoriously wrong by a large margin, the BREXIT vote a prime example of that.
The possibility here also exists that neither major party candidate will get the required 270 votes from the Electoral College, thus throwing the election into CONgress to decide the final outcome. Also possible is that vote tallies will be challenged as having been rigged, as was the case in Florida when Gore ran against Bush and the Supreme Court got in the act to make a final decision. In that one, Gore did win the Popular Vote pretty handily, but by the time the SCOTUS got through with it, Bush got more Electoral votes.
As we go into this, I am currently of the opinion that the election will get thrown into the House, and then numerous fistfights will break out as some Repugnants Jump the Trump ship to vote for Killary. Other Diners seem to think Killary still probably has more ways to win than The Donald, so it's a total tossup here.
If it does end up going to the House, whoever the LOSER is here is not going to be a happy puppy, especially if the loser actually got a plurality of either the popular vote or electoral college vote. If the LOSER has a plurality of BOTH of those, but CONgress picks the other Imbecile as Puppet-in-Chief, then you'll really see post-election fireworks.
For those of us with a Collapse Focus (pretty much anyone who reads the Doomstead Diner), one does have to remember that regardless of which Imbecile gets installed in the Oval Office, Collapse will still proceed onward. No worries that either of these clowns can possibly resolve the problems of resource depletion and population overshoot. The only differences are perhaps in what the trajectory of the collapse will be and which one can make it go faster.
Besides the POTUS election, numerous seats are up for grabs in the House & Senate, and the possibility exists that the majority party there could change also, so we'll keep watch on these races too.
To conclude for now, unless a clear victory comes to one side or the other in the results coming down the pike here through Wednesday morning, the excitement and drama of human competion, the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat in the Wide World of Sham Democracy will not be over that fast.
At the moment it looks like The Donald will be the new POTUS, and not only that the Repugnants will control both House and Senate, so the FSoA willbe full on Fascist-Righty as we spin down here. Wall Street is currently unhappy, but likely will become happier when The Donald slashes Medicaire and Social Security.
It's not OVAH yet though, and because all these races were so tight I'm not sure it will be ovah by tomorrow morning either. I think you can count on challenges to the vote counts, especially if Killary won the popular vote.
Not gonna stay up all night on this one. Another nap is in order. Perhaps when I wake up we'll have a better idea here on who the next POTUS will be,
It's looking ever more likely that we will have a Pussy Grabber for POTUS instead of a psychopathic liar and war criminal. Is this a good thing? Apparently the markets don't think so…
As the votes roll in across the U.S. and Donald Trump's chances for an upset win in the tight presidential election increase, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 700 points in volatile futures trading and investors moved their money into safe havens like gold as as traders reacted to the possiblility of a Trump presidency.
Global markets were wildly volatile, with stocks, currencies and bonds swinging wildly as investors reacted to the possibility that the Republican businessman could best Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On the upside for the Kollapsniks, maybe this will be the straw that broke the camel's back and the TBTF Banks will finally go tits up?
7:45 PM Alaska Time
The Donald is now projected to WIN Florida, Ohio and North Carolina by WaPo! I am looking forward to the fistfights on the House Floor! 🙂
The presidential race was extremely close on Tuesday evening, with Republican Donald Trump — who entered the night as an underdog – seizing the advantage over Democrat Hillary Clinton in a series of battleground states.
By 11 p.m. Eastern time, voting had ended in 49 states, everywhere but Alaska. Together, they represented 535 of the country’s 538 electoral votes.
Trump was on track to prevail in Ohio, a key bellwether state that has backed the losing presidential candidate only once since 1944. The GOP nominee appealed directly to the sense of economic grievance in the Buckeye State, which has been buffeted by a declining manufacturing industry. Locking up the state’s 18 electoral votes boosts his options to getting to 270 electoral votes.
6:30 PM Alaska Time
According to CNN, Slate & Votecastr got this ALL WRONG and in their reality The Donald is out in front in FL by 150K Votes, and this is an"Epic Battle" in the swing states!
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting an epic battle over the swing states that will decide who becomes the next president.
Trump has a narrow edge in Florida, a state he likely needs in his column to have a viable path to the White House. He leads by 140,000 votes with 93% of the vote counted. Trump is also leading in Ohio and North Carolina, though significant numbers of votes remain to be counted. The GOP nominee is running a surprisingly close race in Virginia, home to Clinton's running mate and a state that Democrats had felt was safely in their column.The mood in the Clinton campaign has shifted dramatically as they frantically try to understand what's happening in Florida. A senior adviser conceded the campaign's modeling was off, but still believed Clinton has enough votes still out to take the state.
The tight contests suggest Trump has an increasingly possible path to the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.So far, Trump has won 17 states, including Texas. Clinton has come out on top in New York and nine other states and the District of Columbia. Trump has come out on top in 17 states, including Texas. Trump has 136 electoral votes compared to 104 electoral votes for Clinton, according to CNN projections.
Slate & Votecastr on the other hand made their FINAL PREDICTION on the outcome of the swing states they are following:
VoteCastr’s Final Vote Estimates in All the States We’re Tracking
VoteCastr’s trackers have now submitted their final reports from the field in all seven states they were tracking today, so the numbers you see in our interactive shouldn’t change for the rest of the evening. For posterity, then, here are VoteCastr's final estimated vote totals in all seven states. We’ll be comparing these numbers to the official returns once they come in, at which point we’ll be able to draw some conclusions about this grand Election Day experiment.
Estimated votes in Florida as of final update:
Estimated votes in Iowa as of final update:
Estimated votes in Nevada as of final update:
Estimated votes in New Hampshire as of final update:
Estimated votes in Ohio as of final update:
Estimated votes in Pennsylvania as of final update:
Estimated votes in Wisconsin as of final update:
Slate appears to believe Killary will WIN just about every swing state, whereas CNN's numbers appear to indicate The Donald is in the Driver's seat!
Meanwhile, in the Senate race the latest is that the Repugnants have taken the Lead, and now are 44-42 over the Demodopes.
This is going to be a long night.
6 PM Alaska Time
WaPo has a significantly different take on this so far than Slaate does, and has The Donald leading in FL by about 100K Votes
As the polls closed Tuesday, anxious Americans awaited an indication of who would prevail at the end of a historically bitter presidential contest — whether Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would hold on to her narrow pre-election lead or Republican Donald Trump would secure a stunning upset.
By 9 p.m. Eastern time, voting had ended in more than three dozen states that together represent 429 electoral votes.
Trump was showing surprising strength in the early battleground states, especially in Florida – where he held a lead of more than 100,000 votes with 90 percent of precincts reporting. That state remained too close to call.
Who to believe here?
The GOAL IMHO is to make the election as CLOSE as possible, so that just a few votes can swing it whichever way TBTB want it.
5 PM Alaska Time
The Senate Battle currently still has the Demodopes in the lead, 40 to 38, according to WaPo. Goobernators and CONgress Critters appear to be leading in those races though.
Not sure what happens if you get a perfect 50-50 split in the Senate though? Which party gets to have the Senate President Pro-Temp in this case?
Whatever the case is here, we are certain to have legislative lockup on about all issues. Well, except the issue of Bank Bailouts. Regardless who wins here, they'll keep doing those.
4 PM Alaska Time
Wrong place, wrong time to cast your ballot!
1 dead, multiple people shot near Azusa polling station; active shooter heavily armed, officials say
3 PM Alaska Time
While the POTUS election is getting the most dominant coverage, the battle for control of CONgress is really more interesting, and more important too. As far as the Senate goes, the Demodopes have 37 Senators not up for reelection this round, the Repugnants have 30. Senate total is 100 2 per state, so that leaves 33 Seats up for grabs in this election. Nothing has been called in this battle so far.
On the current best guess that Killary is going to win POTUS, if she can get a majority for Demodopes in the Senate, this will make it much easier for her to push through her agenda, including getting who she wants for the new SCOTUS position approved. No idea yet of course who that person will be, although I would like to see Liz Warren in that spot. Liz did a lot of work for Killary as Chief Attack Dog on Twitter against The Donald, so she might get that juicy reward. On the other hand, Killary' backers at Goldman might not like that.
We'll be following the Senate battle through the night I expect. The POTUS decision should come much sooner.
2:15 PM Alaska Time
Latest numbers from the Votecastr Tracker show Killary leading across the board in all the key battleground states. Turnout has already surpassed Obama-sama from 2012. The only reason not to call the election now is Votecastr system is new and probably weighted toward the Demodopes since Slate is a partner. If it's a good system though and they're being honest, Killary has this in the bag. No fistfights in CONgress. 🙁
2PM Alaska Time
Guess where the most problems voting are coming from?
Tens of millions of Americans descended on the polls today as election watchdogs reported hours-long lines, sporadic equipment failures and confusion about polling places — but few signs so far of violence or vigilantism.
Problems cropped up Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other key battleground states that could decide whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins the presidency. Most involved election administration issues that have plagued the polls for decades, however, rather than incidents of voter fraud or intimidation fueled by Trump's warning of a "rigged" election.
You guessed it, the poor neighborhoods. It's not fraud you see, it's just that poor people are so disorganized. This is why the game is set up so the voting is so close. Only a few votes have to be "lost" or not counted in order to swing an election one way or the other. The easiest place to do that is in poor counties, with the cheapest people to bribe. This general favors Repugnants in winning, although in this cas may be favoring the Demodopes.
1PM Alaska Time
According to the latest exit polls from Slate, Killary is leading the horserace in FL, 48.6% to 45.2% for FL. FL is supposedly a "must win" for The Donald, so not looking too good for the pussy grabber at the moment. It certainly is ironic that one of the first states to sink under the rising sea level will likely decide our next POTUS!
9AM Alaska Time
OK, I need a nap. The stress is wearing me out. lol.
By the time I wake up, should be near poll closing times on the East Coast of the Lower 48 and the REAL MARATHON BEGINS! This sucker was just a warm-up in the Bullpen!
8AM Alaska Time
If you want to overload on video and have plenty of bandwidth, here's the livestream from Votecastr
7AM Alaska Time
Now we got the issue of "down ballot" voting. You know, all those state legislatures, Goobernators and of course CONgress Critters subsidiary to the POTUS. At least according to this map of the Down Ballot folks, I can't figure out HTF Demodopes have any say at all and how they managed to get Obama-sama elected when at the SAME time they manage to elect Repugnants everywhere else???? Here's a map from WaPo.
Based on this map, the majority of the FSoA ia Repugnant, by a LOONG shot. Yea OK, the blue states have higher populations, but I STILL can't account for this one on the national level. OK, honestly I know how it is done, through gerrymandering of districts and all of that, but then I ask myself, WHY are all these plebes Repugnant?
Then I read Joe Bageant and I know why.
6AM Alaska Time
From the WaPo, here is some more to convince you that YOUR VOTE IS IMPORTANT! This gives you some clue as to how the statistician geniuses come up with these odds:
With a national election coming up, and with the publicity at its maximum, now is a good time to ask, is it rational for you to vote? And, by extension, was it worth your while to pay attention to whatever the candidates and party leaders have been saying for the past year or so? With the chance of casting a decisive vote that is comparable to the chance of winning the lottery, what is the gain from being a good citizen and casting your vote?
The short answer is, quite a lot. First the bad news. With over 100 million voters, your chance that your vote will be decisive in the presidential election is, at best, 1 in a million in a battleground state and much less in a noncompetitive state such as New York. The calculation is based on the chance that your state’s vote will be exactly tied, along with the chance that your state’s electoral votes are necessary for one party or the other to secure an electoral vote majority. Both these conditions are necessary for your vote to be decisive. So voting might at first not seem like such a good use of your time.
But here’s the good news. If your vote is decisive, it will make a difference for 300 million people. If you think your preferred candidate could bring the equivalent of a $100 improvement in the quality of life to the average American — not an implausible hope, given the size of the federal budget and the impact of decisions in foreign policy, health, the courts and other areas — you’re now buying a $30 billion lottery ticket. With this payoff, a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive isn’t bad odds.
Excuse me? Payoff? What Payoff? Whoever you vote for, unless you happen to be a member of the .01%, you're not gonna be PAID OFF here, you're going to be RIPPED OFF! You got a 1 in a BILLION chance of making a difference in which POTUS candidate will fuck you up the ass and shift whatever money you still have left to the TBTF Banks, but either way, you still get fucked!
Have you ever seen ANY return on the Investment of your Vote in ANY election, regardless of which candidate of whatever party you voted for?
ROI on Voting is very low.
5AM Alaska Time
More subtle spin doctoring. What happens if the LOSER doesn't "concede"? According to NBC:
As Election Day begins, some are asking what would happen if Trump loses and declines to concede.
The answer is: Nothing.
There is no legal or constitutional requirement that a losing candidate publicly concede, experts told NBC News.
A refusal to concede in the face of a clear loss would certainly be unusual — and probably controversial — but it would not impact the formal results in any way.
"The act of conceding is not a legal act," political scientist Rick Hasen said.
"It doesn't have any legal effect as to whether or not someone is declared a winner," added Hasen, who runs the Election Law Blog.
Notice the spin here. The assumption is that it is The Donald that is the Sore Loser here and pouts refusing to concede defeat. But what if it's Killary that loses and won't accept defeat? In either case, how long can the LOSER make hay and get coverage in the MSM that he/she REALLY won the election and deserves to be POTUS?
How about the LOSER declaring him/her self the TRUE WINNER here and setting up an Interrnet Election for a NEW CONgress and Senate, and declaring THEY are really the new Goobermint of the FSoA? They can then appoint an entirely NEW SCOTUS to cover the legislative branch of Goobermint and have all the "checks & balances" that the Founding Fathers of the FSoA deemed necessary for a stable and representative Goobermint! Then we can have the "Battle of Da Goobermints" as each Goobermint tries to prove they are REALLY the best Goobermint!
4AM Alaska Time
According to the Mathematicians-Statisticians Pierre Antoine Kemp and Andrew Gelman courtesy of Slate, here are the chances your vote will decide the POTUS Election:
WTF was the algorithm they came up with to generate this map? Regardless of that, if you live in one of those bright YELLOW states, why are you going out to vote? While you are at it there, buy a few Powerball Tickets! You got a better chance of winning the Powerball and becoming an instant Billionaire than making a difference in this election. If you are in a RED state, by all means, go out and vote! You have a 1:1,000,000 chance of making a difference!
Notice Alaska & Hawaii aren't even considered on this map. That's because the chances of anyone living in these states can make a difference is 1:10100. I worked that out scientifically.
Even IF your vote makes a difference in whether Killary or the Donald is the Winner, does this make a difference as far as whether Industrial Civilization will collapse or not? OF COURSE NOT! We are going down the toilet regardless of which Imbecile is Crowned as Marionette-in-Chief!
3AM Alaska Time
According to the NYT, there are 2 Paths by which the Election Might Proceed. I think this is because the editors at the NYT can't count past 2. Apparently though, we will need to wait quite a while, if ever for Killary to win the Popular Vote.
A Long Wait for the Popular Vote
If Mrs. Clinton wins the presidency, she might not take the lead in the national popular vote for hours. If she barely wins the popular vote, it could be weeks before she retakes the lead.
WEEKS! ACCCKKKKK! It could be WEEKS before we kow what this bullshit and manipulated result is! Fucking Climate Change happens faster than this!
2AM Alaska Time
Early spin doctoring on Google Newz top headline has the Democraps "supremely confident" of a Killary victory. Is this good or bad spin doctoring? Does it inspire more Killary voters to go out to the polls or more Donald voters? Democratic insiders near-certain of Clinton win.
Reuters has now put the odds of a Killary victory at 90%. " With hours to go before Americans vote, Democrat Hillary Clinton has about a 90 percent chance of defeating Republican Donald Trump in the race for the White House, according to the final Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project."
Divide and Distract: If Donald Trump Wins the Election He Loses, But if He Loses the Election He Wins (part 2/3)
Published on From Filmers to Farmers on November 7th, 2016
Try it and I'll bop you over the head with a metal chair!
(photo by Gage Skidmore)
For some time now I've been toying with the idea of Donald Trump as future triager-in-chief – instead of "you're fired!", "you're triaged!" I nonetheless couldn't help but think that said interpretation was likely the result of seeing the world through triage-coloured glasses and that I was perhaps missing out on some other underlying story. So I decided to err on the side of caution and avoided writing a post for a post's sake.
While then listening to the third debate, and upon hearing Trump's reply to Hillary Clinton's accusation of his making light of a physically disabled reporter – "Wrong!" – for the umpteenth time I couldn't help but burst out laughing at the inanity of it all. (Not to say that I'm some insensitive clod – the audience itself laughed [and was rebuked] upon Trump's declaration that "Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody.") In fact, I laughed so hard and in such a way that it reminded me of how I used to laugh at the behaviour of an old friend of mine of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) notoriety, which then reminded me of Donald Trump's involvement with the WWE over the years. As I then mulled over (and explained in part 1 via my conception of World Electioneering Entertainment [WEE]), could it be possible that Trump's antics are actually a big act? Or more specifically, and to really go down the rabbit hole with this one, could it be possible that Trump already knows he's going to lose the election, and not simply so that the presidency can be handed to Clinton but to create a grandiose distraction? Yes, that's pretty far-fetched, but what's more zany – thinking this has all been real, or to think that a fair amount of what's been going on has been contrived?
Débutante Melania Trump is introduced to the WEE
(photo by Disney | ABC Television Group)
Anyway, for quite some time things have seemed slightly fishy to me about WEE 2016. Although I'd yet to make my WWE/WEE analogy, upon hearing that portions of Melania Trump's speech at the GOP convention lifted from a previous speech by Michelle Obama I immediately smelled the whiff of fishy #1 and called BS, recalling WWE-owner Vince McMahon's assertion: any attention is good attention. And while some journalists pondered the following:
Did Hillary Clinton's team point out the glaring similarities of the two speeches? I'd suppose so. It would be the smart thing to do, to call reporters and make the case.
I again screamed to myself "BS!" If it was Trump that concocted it all then it would make sense that it was Trump's team that called it in (or tipped someone off), not Clinton's. Wanting a way to make a spectacle out of the entrance of Trump's wife, discovery of the parallels in speeches certainly wouldn't have been left up to chance. For let's not forget Trump's assertion, motive, and uncanny ability:
I'm going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I'm going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.
And suck he did. For following revelation of the parallels in speeches, the Trump campaign actually turned the tables and tried to shame the Democrats (much as how Trump actually demanded an apology from the New York Times for condemning his impersonation of its physically disabled reporter). Trump's campaign manager stated that
Once again, this is an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks to demean her and take her down,
while his spokeswoman stated that
This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.
Granted, I did realize that even just thinking that Trump and company manufactured the plagiarism drama was quite the stretch to make, and not just because the eventual fall-person would have to be sacrificially fired over it all and then secretly paid off, right? Right? Well as it turns out, not quite. As the junior aide who apparently inadvertently lifted part of Michelle Obama's speech put it,
Yesterday, I offered my resignation to Mr. Trump and the Trump family, but they rejected it. Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences… I am honored to work for such a great family.
(image by Cass Anaya)
I mean really, who knew Trump had such a mushy-gushy heart? ("There's nobody that has a mushier-gushier heart than me. Nobody.")
Anyway, and much like the aforementioned retort given to Clinton, it doesn't need to be pointed out that Trump has been spewing out a ridiculous amount of completely obvious fabrications and absurdities this entire election. ("You know what my favorite [book] is? The Bible!", "I have the world's greatest memory", [which he then (hilariously!) stated half a year later that he couldn't recall having said that], etc.) This hasn't seemed to matter in the slightest though to legions of Trump supporters, people whose prolonged dismissal by the establishment as being expendable has resulted in their complete willingness to brush off all of Trump's fabrications if – and I'm now thinking that that's a dubious "if" – the purpose of those lies have been to bully government predators who have been bullying them for years on end. And Trump surely knows this.
Moreover, and not that I think that Trump likes to spend lazy Sunday afternoons reading up on semiotics any more than I do, but if we take a look at the late French philosopher Roland Barthes' 1957 essay on wrestling, "In the Ring", one can just about see a blueprint for this entire election.
As Barthes states in his first sentence, "The virtue of wrestling is to be a spectacle of excess." Hello! Or as Trump put it in The Art of the Deal,
The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people's fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration – and a very effective form of promotion.
In his comparison between pro wrestling and boxing (neither of which he sees as morally superior to the other), Barthes then points out that
[The] public… is quite aware of the distinction between wrestling and boxing; it knows that boxing is a Jansenist sport, based on a demonstration of excellence; one can bet on the outcome of a boxing match; in wrestling, that would make no sense. The boxing match is a story constructed under the spectator's eyes; in wrestling, just the contrary, it is each moment which is intelligible, not their sum… The rational future of the combat does not interest the fan of wrestling, whereas on the contrary a boxing match always implies a science of the future. In other words, wrestling is a sum of spectacles, none of which is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which suddenly rises straight up on its own, without ever extending toward the consummation of an outcome.
(photo by Ted Eytan)
I admit that I'm not the sharpest when it comes to this semiotics stuff (I'm getting flashbacks from film school / university of the futility behind trying to not get bored out of my skull while being taught about all that signs and symbols stuff), but from what I gather, the gist is that for the pro wrestler it's all about energy. In other words, the wrestling fan isn't so much concerned with what is going on – a logical progression of events – so much as they're interested in the fact that something is going on. While Trump's opponents have been vainly attempting to fight a prim and proper boxing match, Trump is the pro wrestler who has been running circles around his opponents, bopping them over their heads with metal chairs. And the more passion he shows the more the audience eats it up.
As Barthes explains further,
Wrestlers are good at flattering the crowd's powers of outrage, going to the very limit of the concept of Justice, this farthest zone of confrontation, where it takes only a trifle to open the gates of a frenzied world. For the fan of wrestling, nothing is finer than the vengeful rage of a betrayed combatant who passionately attacks not a successful adversary but the stinging image of foul play.
Otherwise put, Trump generates the passion the audience seeks via crusading against, and serving justice upon, the evil forces – "crooked Hillary" and her email scandal, et. al.
Although correlation certainly doesn't imply causation, sometimes the comparisons even get cut and paste. Barthes explains that in boxing "the most conventional sign of propriety [is] shaking hands." In pro wrestling however, "foul play exists here only by its excessive signs:… refusing to shake hands with a partner before or after a match" – and yes, the media dutifully lit up the Twitterverse upon Clinton and Trump's refusal to exchange the accustomed pleasantries before the third debate. (This media of ours really has no shame.)
Not to belabour this all too much, but two more quotes of Barthes' provide a bit more food for thought. Firstly,
at this pitch, it no longer matters whether or not the passion being expressed is authentic. There is no more a problem of truth in wrestling than in theater.
That is, it doesn't matter whether what's going on is real or not. Imagine what might happen if somebody ran into the middle of a Wrestlemania ring and yelled out "it's all fake!" Similarly, what's happened when Trump has been called out for being an "entertainer" and/or host of a TV show? As every single one of Trump's opponents have found out, absolutely nothing. And more importantly, the audience loves it.
(photo by torbakhopper)
Finally, Barthes points out that "the wrestler's function is not to win but to perform exactly the gestures expected of him." By this Barthes means the two wrestlers in a match, but in this particular match there is one wrestler and one boxer, and they're both supplying their respective audiences with exactly what they want. Clinton's backers have observed the election from the point of view of a boxing match and so have seen her meticulous denunciations of Trump's antics as crowning her the clear winner. Conversely, Trump's supporters have been seeing it all through the prism of a wrestling match and so inevitably see his non-stop rambunctiousness as crowning him the clear winner.
Having conveyed all that, I don't necessarily mean to suggest that Trump has donned the wrestling persona with the impression that it'll win him the election. For starters, and to go along with all the rest of Trump's fabrications, might it be possible that Trump isn't as racist as he's lead us to believe (as others have questioned as well)? Might it be possible that Trump is "simply" an amoral sociopath that doesn't care either way, one who says whatever is expedient to rile up the audience?
Continuing with the hypotheticals, and as Michael Moore has suggested, might it be possible that Trump entered this election simply because he wanted a raise from NBC for hosting The Apprentice, and that he's been trying to find a way out after being immediately fired by NBC thanks to his incendiary remarks about Mexicans? I'm not so sure about that. Not only has Trump already lost plenty of business (and thus money) in the Middle East and other parts of the world, but he even stated himself that
If I lose some businesses overseas, it doesn't have any impact on me whatsoever. What I'm doing right now… is far more important than any single business that I own.
Which is, of course, hard to interpret as being anything else but another fabrication. But it's also hard to take somebody's ambitions for the presidency seriously after hearing them state that
I've given up a tremendous amount to run for president. I gave up two more seasons of Celebrity Apprentice.
(image courtesy of Derek Chatwood – All Rights Reserved)
If this is all mere nonsense, could it then be possible – as Jeb Bush and other Republicans have stated, and as even some Democrats have stated – that Trump is a plant by the Clintons in order to guarantee a GOP loss? I suppose so, but as we've readily seen, Trump's absurdities and insults have only worked to make his candidacy stronger and stronger. (Until, that is, the revelation of his comment made to Jeb and George Bush's little cousin that one should "Grab them by the hoo-ha". [Jeb: “Hey Billy, know of anything that could tank Trump’s campaign?” Billy: “Nope, nope, nothing at all.”])
Nonetheless, and supposing things are on the up and up, Trump could conceivably pull off an upset win in less than two days' time, and not simply because of diehard supporters and the FBI's recent reopening of the investigation into Clinton's email saga (which I'll get to in a moment), but due to the amount of closet Trump supporters (from gay Muslim students to countless others) and legions of ex-Sanders supporters who would "prefer chaos to stagnation." That is to say, if the fix is in and Trump's supposed to be blowing this election, he's not doing a very good job of it.
But what if it were a different kind of fix? To return to Michael Moore, his first film, Roger & Me, was based around the premise of attempting to score an interview with Roger Smith (CEO of General Motors at the time), an interview which Moore didn't get. But kind of did get. As Moore was forced to admit years later, yes, he did actually interview Smith, but that was apparently before work had started on Roger & Me. Which, I suppose, is plausibly possible. And as Moore then stated in response,
If I'd gotten an interview with him, why wouldn't I put it in the film?
(photo by Josh Jensen)
Why? Because – and as I'm sure Moore the entertainer and showman is well aware – if the "bad guy" gets caught then the chase – the spectacle – is over. And if the chase is over then the audience can't be strung along anymore. Trump, the student-excellente of the WWE and now media savvy performer in the WEE, is well aware of this. Unless you have explicit plans for there to be no further sequels, or you want to end the franchise, or you do not want to start a television show and career as a professional rabble rouser, then you certainly don't want to "win" (or catch the CEO).
It's for this reason that I'm not so sure about Moore's statement that
[Trump] cannot and WILL NOT suffer through being officially and legally declared a loser – LOSER! – on the night of November 8th. Trust me, I’ve met the guy. Spent an afternoon with him. He would rather invite the Clintons AND the Obamas to his next wedding than have that scarlet letter ("L") branded on his forehead seconds after the last polls have closed on that night, the evening of the final episode of the permanently cancelled Donald Trump Shit-Show.
This is possibly seriously underestimating Trump, presuming that he's nothing but a small-time, small-picture thinker whose mind doesn't go beyond that of money and winning or losing. Because what's been recently going through my mind is, What if Trump is a plant – not to simply lose the election, but to provide a distraction?
For starters, not only do we know that Trump adores attention, but we also know that he's going nowhere after this election, win or lose. First off, and as he stated in the third debate in response to whether or not he'd concede the election were he to lose,
What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense, okay?
Secondly, by making repeated claims that "millions of people… are registered [to vote] that shouldn't be," Trump is effectively laying the groundwork to contest a "stolen" election. As put by Salon, all he has to do is "get close enough to Clinton that he can plausibly claim that someone hacked a few voting machines or stuffed a few ballot boxes." Whether or not he then files lawsuits alleging voter fraud, the adoring crowds will eat it up, and who knows how long it can be drawn out for, even if just in unofficial manners (like all the birther stuff but at a whole different level).
To be more specific, this email scandal is likely to supply a perpetual amount of fodder for Trump, and it's here that I smelled fishy #2. Much like I said "oh come on!" to myself after the Melania Trump speech "scandal", I once again couldn't help but think the same thing after reading that Bill Clinton had chatted with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac just before the FBI released its findings on the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Because really, in this day and age when a cell phone call would do just fine, why would you do such a thing – in broad daylight for all to see – unless your purpose was to either laugh in people's faces at how little you care about their recognition of your corruption, or, that you wanted to antagonize the opposition and supply them with more fodder, knowing full well that your (wife's) supporters will automatically give you all a free pass? Mentioning this to a friend I then said, "you know, now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if this email scandal thing wasn't somewhat pre-planned and manufactured from the get-go." A minute after he said "but why would anyone actually do that?", I of course couldn't help but think "because Trump advised them to!" That is, Trump and company were going to need a never-ending story that could never actually get Clinton in trouble (like Obama and the birther thing) but which could provide a limitless supply of ammunition. And now FBI director James Comey re-opens the email investigation 11 days before the election, which said nothing and which nothing then came from? For real?
Suffice to say, and I don't know about you, but I can't help but now think that Trump is absolutely brilliant, and that somewhere out there Vince McMahon is laughing his arse off while occasionally shedding a few tears that only a proud father could.
(image by James Gill)
Anyway, and supposing there's plausibility to any of that, what is it that Trump could provide a distraction for? Well, like (not too many) others, for some time now I've wondered how cognizant the United States government, or at least certain parts of the United States government, are of peak oil and the collapse of industrial civilization (or in this specific case the decline and fall of the United States). For example, the German military released a report back in 2010 pointing out that social chaos could emerge once peak oil is reached. Surely other governments, including the United States government, are aware of this possibility as well. Having said that, I don't mean to suggest that we should hold our breaths in anticipation of federal governments (as opposed to local governments) engaging the public on these issues. If, as I've written on earlier, the bail-in in Cyprus and the triaging in Greece are to be taken as any kind of indication, then obfuscation is going to be the name of the game. Could it be possible then that Trump has moved up from the WWE and The Apprentice to provide a prolonged (and perpetual?) distraction from the underlying factors causing industrialism's collapse, thus morphing the notion of divide and conquer into divide and distract?
Because make no mistake about it, although Trump is (knowingly?) advocating what are essentially false hopes, he is nonetheless giving voice to many legitimate concerns of the marginalized, none of which can be dismissed due to Trump's repeated racist comments (be they genuine or not). How is that? Well put it this way: The Trump family sells a wine whose label shares their name (of course). Meanwhile, I don't doubt many Trump supporters like to imbibe every now and then. However, to then say that the only reason why anybody would support Trump is because they're a drunkard would be utterly ridiculous. Regardless, this is exactly the logic used when people dismiss all of Trump's supporters as being driven by little else than racial prejudice. (While questioning the sincerity of Trump's racist comments, I'll point out that while the Trump family may sell wine, Donald Trump is actually a teetotaller himself.)
So when Amanda Marcotte, a white affluent female liberal writer at Salon states in her article "The Mystery of Republican Women Backing Sexist Trump: They're Female Misogynists Who've Grown to Accept Oppression" that
Women are judged more by their sexuality or their submissiveness than their actual character. So someone gets more points for being a virgin or being a doting housewife than they do for being smart and talented at their job
– and then states in her article "Donald Trump’s No Leader — He’s Just the Voice that the Ugliest Americans Have Been Dying For" that
Trump is a big, orangey object that’s fun to look at… He’s the end result of years of conservatives growing angrier and angrier… about the diversification of America
– on top of being abhorrently condescending and falling directly into Trump's trap with "ugliest Americans" and "orangey object that's fun to look at" (thereby fortifying his appeal to the portion of the public he's reaching out to), what she is partaking in are dog whistles no better than the ones Trump has partaken in. And the code that Marcotte's dog whistles stand for is "wage class American". Firstly, it's a massive generalization to state that (doting and non-doting) housewives – particularly those that haven't kept up with the Joneses and all their progress – don't do their work smartly or aren't performing a job, any more than husbands (be they doting or not, and whose Norse origin of their namesake means house-bound) who don't work in offices and such aren't to be valued either. Secondly, let's not presume that some journalists (like some of those writing for Salon) aren't submissive to the status affluent quo of performing their progress-laden duty of pulling in decent enough salaries to help keep the economy growing in order to support the Ponzi scheming predation of the fractional-reserve and interest-bearing-debt banking system.
The steep increase over the past decade is due to fracking. Unlike
other sources of oil, fracked supplies increase quickly, but then crash
hard — coming soon to a country possibly near you (data: EIA)
In other words, what Marcotte and other writers of her ilk (read: strong Clinton supporters) often partake in is classist bigotry. In John Michael Greer's excellent interpretation, the American public can be generally understood as belonging to one of four groups: the investment class, the salary class, the wage class, and the welfare class. The investment and welfare classes have pretty much stayed where they are for decades now, although not so for the salary and wage classes, the former only maintaining its way of life at the expense of the latter. Reason being, in the period following the United States' peak of oil production in 1970, foreign markets were increasingly able to out-compete American production, putting a crimp into those middle and upper-middle class lifestyles. As Greer then puts it,
The only way for the salary class to maintain its lifestyle in the teeth of those transformations was to force down the cost of goods and services relative to the average buying power of the salary class. Because the salary class exercised (and still exercises) a degree of economic and political influence disproportionate to its size, this became the order of the day in the 1970s, and it remains the locked-in political consensus in American public life to this day. The destruction of the wage class was only one consequence of that project…
Specifically, the only way that the salary class could maintain their accustomed to ways of life was via measures such as the offshoring of wage class jobs, which then allowed for overseas slave labour conditions to keep the prices of their consumer products low. In effect, the wage class ("the ugliest Americans" and "doting housewives") has been progressively triaged from the economy by the salary class, and when Trump talks about Making America Great Again, this is what the naïve portion of his supporters believe is actually possible – that the United States can be returned to some former state where one full-time working class job was enough to pay for the upkeep of an entire family, something that even two working class adults going full-time today find hard to accomplish.
However – and here's the kicker – there's no way that the United States can be returned to its pre-1970 way of life. The majority of the oil supplies that once enabled America to be Great are gone forever and aren't coming back – unless Trump and the naïve portion of his supporters have plans to wait a few million years or so for some new oil wells to appear, a fossil fuel supply which would allow for another quick binge. Similarly, many of those getting university and college degrees are finding out that a lack of available jobs means that their graduating papers are about as valuable as one-ply toilet paper, and that the loans required for their education have saddled them with one-way tickets to debt serfdom. (If you don't believe me, just check out the subreddit r/lostgeneration.)
And it's precisely all that that makes me wonder. Are those such as the Clintons and Trump(s) and whomever else truly that daft regarding all this? Is it really a case of the blind leading the blind, or might those "in charge" actually have a grasp on the implications of peak oil and the limits to growth – namely, the protracted collapse of industrial civilization? Could keeping the people stupefied be their attempt to maintain some kind of (futile) grasp on control as things unwind?
For if it's not mere blindness at work here, then the shrewd play would be to drive a wedge between the boxing Amanda Marcotte's of the world and the wrestling Joe six-packs, all of which could keep them thoroughly clueless via incessant bickering (and even worse) with one another. Or in short, divide and distract.
Rob Ford arm wrestling Hulk Hogan… Eat your heart out internet pic.twitter.com/qxoj45dawg
— William J. Upton (@wupton) November 8, 2013
Therefore, were Trump to win the election he (or whomever he assigned) would have to preside over the country, and the wrestling/boxing feud – the distraction – would be largely nullified. However, were he to lose (I don't trust voting machines one iota), then the distraction could go on for who knows how long. Because much like Toronto's late-mayor and wannabe-wrestler Rob Ford, Trump likely isn't going anywhere unless he too is pushing up daisies. This is why, obfuscation-wise, a loss for Trump is quite possibly a win for the status quo of ignorance regarding collapse.
Regardless of whether any of my far-fetched musings are true or not, millions of working class Americans who have had no political outlet for over half a century currently have the (false) impression that they've finally been given a voice. But when Clinton wins this election in less than two days' time, the group in the United States that has been hit harder by globalization and automation than any other – the white working class in the Rust Belt and the South – will be faced with the fact that the utopian visions and populist aims that they've been clinging to throughout WEE 2016 aren't going to happen. And whether the failure of the delivery of those (false) promises results in some of the aggrieved taking matters into their own hands remains to be seen.
That's been the second third of this story. I'll finish this off next week with a clarification on the obfuscation that Hillary Clinton is about to make regarding a ceiling that's about to have its glass shattered.
Published on The Doomstead Diner on November 4, 2016
Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner
If there is a place this election got stolen, it was in the Democratic primary.
Wikileaks has revealed a whole slew of dirty tricks the Clinton campaign played on Sanders during the primary campaign. I won't bother to try to list them all, but the evidence is there, for anybody who wants to look.
Maybe it was nothing illegal, but it certainly reinforced what I already thought, which was that the Sanders campaign was squashed using the muscle of a well-oiled party machine run by professional electioneering sharks, using the cooperation of a willing media, who were always willing to do what it took to discredit the honest socialist.
If Bernie had gotten the Democratic nomination, we'd be having an election with a clear choice, and one that would allow most ordinary Americans to find a comfortable position in one camp or the other, because Sanders and Trump were the real peoples choices, for sure. Many Republicans don't like Trump, but he IS the conservative people's choice. And much to Paul Ryan's chagrin, the Republican Party was not as good as the Democratic Party in preventing the people from getting the candidate they wanted.
A few clueless Democrats are as happy as a clam about Hillary. She's a woman, after all, and we haven't had a woman President, so obviously we should have one. Because diversity. It's the Correct choice. And she likes black people…at least in public. Those people are unaffected by Wikileaks. You can probably spot them out and about this week. They are the ones with their fingers in their ears, chanting La-la-la-la-la-la and smiling a nice Prozac smile. Most of them voted early, out of sheer joy.
But there are a whole bunch of really disappointed younger Americans, and a few older ones too, who were really happy to see a man with integrity and decent principles take a shot at it, and so what if he was a self-proclaimed Socialist. America is a socialist country already, just an extremely perverted version that can't own it's real feelings.
The younger generation embraces the idea of a social welfare state, for better or worse. The older generation is in denial, like that old queen Senator Lindsey Graham, who can't admit he's gay, even to himself. Don't try to take our Medicare, or our Social Security benefits. But we hate Obamacare. Did you hear about those Death Panels? Shocking.
The biggest gripe most people have about Obamacare is that somebody forced them to assume responsibility for a premium toward their medical bills. They had to pay money. I heard some Trump supporter on the radio the other day crowing that he'd have an extra $200 in his pocket every month if it weren't for Obamacare. The same guy, if he went in the hospital, would be happy to stick the rest of us for his million dollar hospital bill. That's socialism too, of a slightly different variety.
Me? I'm stuck between a rock and hard place on election day. I see one candidate whose picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of sociopath…whose track record is one of decades of slimy graft and corruption. Not to mention a history of poorly considered meddling in the affairs of other sovereign countries. The kind that end up with missiles and drones and bullets and human misery on a global scale. I see another candidate who knows how to pander to the lowest common denominator in our society. A clever bullshit artist who couldn't possibly deliver the goods on his promises. One whose one and only recommendation is that he isn't a part of the party machine.
I read today that Trump, if elected, intends to put his campaign money man in as Treasury Secretary. A money man whose credentials include a stint at…you guessed it. Goldman Sachs. And he used to work for the Soros fund.
Something tells me that six months after the election, Trump and Clinton will be pals again, just like they used to be, before The Donald decided to run for President. Maybe sitting down together at some charity event, sharing a nice bottle of Pinot noir.
I miss Bernie.