Friday, December 15, 2017

The OJ Defence

Republicans have Robert Mueller in their sites. They plan to mount the OJ Defence. Michael Harris reminds his readers how it worked:

Instead of allowing the prosecution to try their client on the evidence, Johnnie Cochran and company managed to put LAPD investigators on trial. It was the judicial world’s equivalent of a Hail Mary pass. 
In the face of Cochran’s relentless attack on the police, buttressed by full courtroom theatrics, prosecutor Marsha Clark’s mountain of evidence against Simpson was obscured behind all the legal smoke.

An email from FBI investigator Peter Strzok has been uncovered which calls Donald Trump an "idiot." When it was brought to Mueller's attention, Mueller removed Strrzok from the investigation. Now the Trump propaganda machine is going after Mueller. Harris writes:

Given Strzok’s role in the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, they are now demanding that the Justice Department appoint a second special counsel to investigate Mueller. 
Their position is at once absurd and another example of obstruction of justice by the Republicans. For one thing, Strzok’s texts were discovered by an internal investigation conducted by the Inspector General’s Office of the DOJ. When Mueller learned of them, Strzok was removed from the investigation. Does that sound like Mueller has it in for the president? Isn’t it proof of the exact opposite — that the former FBI director wouldn’t tolerate even the appearance of bias on his team? 
Secondly, if the premise of Congressional Republicans’ argument is that Strzok’s political leanings mean that he is unfit to conduct a fair investigation, then what about others who have clearly expressed their political preferences? 
Robert Mueller himself is a lifelong Republican. Does that make him unfit to lead the investigation? At the time of his appointment, Senator Lindsey Graham and Republican kingpin Newt Gingrich raved about his stellar credentials. Now they say he’s “corrupt”?

Trump and the Republicans are all about distraction. They're desperate to change the channel away from the big picture -- which is getting darker:

It is all about obscuring the clearly visible mountain range of lies told by Trump and his people about their Russian connections. It’s all about the serial instances of Donald Trump trying to obstruct justice, from lying about the Russia connection to pressuring James Comey to let the case against Michael Flynn go.

A showdown is coming. And the OJ Defence is at the heart of it.

Image: You Tube

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Reckoning Is Underway

The Republicans claim they have a deal on their tax bill. And they're rushing to get it done -- before Doug Jones takes his seat. Why? Paul Krugman thinks that the main reason for their behaviour is that they've been living in a bubble:

Today’s Republicans are apparatchiks, who have spent their whole lives inside an intellectual bubble in which cutting taxes on corporations and the rich is always objective #1. Their party used to know that it won elections despite its economic program, not because of it – that the whole game was to win by playing on social issues, national security, and above all on racial antagonism, then use the win to push fundamentally unpopular economic policies. But over the years the party has seemed increasingly out of touch with that reality, imagining that if only it preaches the gospel of supply-side economics loudly enough voters will be won over.

More than anything else, however, they want to put points on the board. Barack Obama tried the same strategy:

I’m taking the phrase from Rahm Emanuel, who believed that Obama could gain electoral capital simply by racking up legislative victories. The idea is that voters are impressed by your record of wins, or conversely that they’ll turn away if you don’t win enough. 
The truth is that this strategy didn’t work at all for Obama, who won a lot of stuff in his first two years then got shellacked in the midterms. And think about the things that have been going wrong for Republicans in special elections: desertions by highly educated suburban voters, massive African-American turnout, weak turnout by rural whites. Which of these is likely to be improved by a massive, unpopular corporate tax cut? Still, the idea that you have to win something seems to have a grip on the GOP, and of course especially on our childlike president.

The stuff this bill does will hit the fan in time for the mid term elections. And the coalition which organized in opposition to Roy Moore will enter the polling booths of the nation.

The reckoning is underway.

Image: Scream Magazine

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Toughest Road

Donald Trump likes to think of himself as a winner. So does Steve Bannon. But neither man won last night in Alabama. Quin Hillyer reports in The New York Times:

Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are politically impotent. 
The president and his former grand strategist threw considerable weight behind Roy Moore, the polarizing Republican Senate candidate in Alabama. For the second time this year, the state that gave Mr. Trump crucial early support during the presidential campaign — and his first senatorial endorsement — has rejected the candidate Mr. Trump endorsed for the Senate.

That's because the people Trump has scapegoated -- and others Trump thought were on his side -- came out to vote for Doug Jones:

Extraordinarily high turnout among African-American voters pulled the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, a former United States attorney, to a narrow victory. Mr. Moore was held back by a significant resort to write-in ballots (some 1.7 percent of the total, a fact on which Mr. Trump quickly fixated) that presumably came from voters who ordinarily lean Republican — suburban professionals, especially women — along with tens of thousands fewer suburban Republicans voting at all. For example, in Shelby County, neighboring Birmingham, Mr. Trump earned 73,000 votes and a 51,000-vote margin, but it appears that Mr. Moore won 36,000 votes and a 9,000-vote margin.

The walls are closing in on Donald. And as Robert Mueller moves to indict members of his family -- his son-in-law chief among them -- Trump will increasingly become unglued. His next step will be to try and fire Mueller.

That will initiate a constitutional crisis. The toughest road is still ahead.

Image: History Asia

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Through A Glass Darkly

The future does not look bright. George Monbiot writes:

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.
Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from? 
The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. These predictions could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4C of warming in the US corn belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

Now consider that by 2050 there will be 2 to 3 billion more people occupying the planet, and you begin to see that we're in deep trouble. The solution, Monbiot believes, lies in changing how we use the land -- and that means no longer using it to grow beef:

The greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When all those mouths start asking, "Where's the beef?," try telling them no.

Image: Snell Valley Ranch

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Assault On Mueller

Donald Trump's acolytes are waging a full court press on Robert Mueller. Randall Ellison writes:

Critics on the right charge that Mueller’s investigation is politically biased or worse. Some of the attacks are particularly vitriolic. Sean Hannity has called Mueller a “disgrace to the American justice system” and said his investigation is “corrupt” and abusive. Newt Gingrich, who effusively praised Mueller when he was appointed, now says Mueller’s probe is corrupt, dishonest and a “partisan hit.”

As Mueller closes in on Trump the Republicans are trying to deligitimatize Mueller -- who by all accounts is one of them. They do not understand -- or care -- how prosecuters work:

Such criticisms betray a profound misunderstanding of the way professional prosecutors and FBI agents do their jobs. Prosecutors and agents are human. They are allowed to have political views, belong to political parties and support political candidates. It is not a conflict of interest if a prosecutor who belongs to one political party is involved in an investigation of a politician from another party. We’ve never had a system where Republicans could be investigated only by partisan Republicans or vice versa.

In fact, trying to deligiimize their opponents is now standard Republican practise. On the day Barack Obama took office, Republicans doubled down on the lie that he was not born in the United States. Everything in the United States is now seen through a political lens:

We live in a hypercharged environment, where almost every move is seen through a partisan political lens. Many people don’t believe that a prosecutor such as Mueller could simply follow the facts and the law. But that’s exactly what happens. Prosecutors and agents set aside their personal politics when they work on investigations, and it’s essential that they do so. In this country, we don’t use criminal prosecutions to attack political enemies. That’s the stuff of despots and dictators, not the American justice system. For good prosecutors and agents, this principle is part of their DNA.

If the Republicans win this battle, the United States is doomed.

Image: Pinterest

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Democracy And Pipelines

Andrew Nikiforuk believes that Canadian democracy is in trouble. The most recent sign of that fact is the National Energy Board's approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline:

On Thursday the scandal-plagued federal agency ruled that Kinder Morgan, a U.S. pipeline company that’s the spawn of Enron (remember that tale of corporate corruption) doesn’t have to comply with City of Burnaby bylaws. 
The board effectively ruled that there are two classes in Burnaby: those who have to follow the rules and a U.S. pipeline company that doesn’t. 
With Trumpian flare the NEB added that it will explain this injustice when it feels like it.

The residents of Burnaby have made it clear that they have no wish to be the terminus of the pipeline. But they have simply been ignored:

Burnaby has been dragging its feet on the Trans Mountain pipeline because its citizens have opposed a project they feel will irrevocably change their community and the province. 
The city would be the unfortunate terminus for the $7.4-billion project to triple the capacity of the existing 63-year-old oil pipeline from Alberta. 
The NEB heightened public discontent with a string of injustices during public hearings on the pipeline. 
The dysfunctional agency did not consider the pipeline’s full impacts on climate change through offshore and upstream emissions. 
It failed to examine the full impact of diluted bitumen spills on B.C.’s coast, although the pipeline would bring a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic. 
It failed to assess the full economic need for the project. 
It failed to even analyze the impact of stress corrosion cracking and its causes and consequences on an aging pipeline. 
And it restricted the narrow review to “applied capacity” of 540,000 barrels a day as opposed to “designed capacity” of 780,000 barrels and failed to access the full costs and benefits of the project in a volatile global oil market.

And then, to add insult to industry, the Trudeau government rubber stamped the NEB decision:

In so doing Trudeau broke election promises and once again ignored the impacts on climate change and First Nations. 
Why? To please the totalitarian Chinese government. 
The Chinese told Trudeau that they won’t consider a new free trade deal without the removal of investment restrictions and the construction of a bitumen pipeline to the coast. 
Canada has become the rarest of democracies: one willing to surrender its sovereignty for a pipeline ferrying a junk crude.

Money -- domestic  and international -- calls the shots.

Image: CBC

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Worse Things Await

Michael Harris' contempt for Justin Trudeau keeps growing. He's particularly ticked at Trudeau's response to the bonfire Trump has set in the Middle East:

Issuing timorous platitudes in response to Donald Trump’s disastrous decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is not leadership. It’s abdication.
Everyone understands the need for expediency, diplomacy and practicality in geopolitics. No government sticks its nose into another country’s affairs on a whim.
But for his government to offer nothing more on Trump’s catastrophic political decision than a promise that our embassy is staying put — along with an anodyne statement that the Israelis and Palestinians are our friends — is decaffeinated politics at best and, at worst, a disgraceful cop-out.

It's not easy living next door to the United States. But Donald Trump is not a normal American president. And sometimes neighbours have to deliver unpleasant truths to those who live across the yard:

President Trump reversed seventy years of U.S. foreign policy after consulting his belly-button and Steve Bannon. According to CNN, American evangelicals were informed of this reckless and self-interested political move before the State Department.
In the end, Trudeau will gain nothing by molifying Trump. The shear number of people who have left his employ during the last year should make that clear. And those who stay on  -- like Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson -- merely serve as punching bags fro Trump. In the end, Trump must be confronted -- certainly not a pleasant experience.

Justin needs to remember his father's response when the Watergate tapes revealed that Richard Nixon had called him a "son of a bitch." The elder Trudeau's response was, "I've been called worse things by better men."

Worse things await Justin the longer he remains silent about a man who most assuredly deserves the qualifier "worse."

Image: The National Post