Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Burning The House Down

Donald Trump has been mentally ill for a long time. But, Jennifer Rubin writes, he's getting loonier:

One does not need a medical degree or a therapist’s license to conclude that defeated former president Donald Trump’s nutty rant insisting that he be made president immediately or the 2020 election be rerun is the sign of an unhinged personality. Under pressure from the increasingly potent espionage investigation, he might be losing his grip. For a change, you don’t hear Republicans rushing forth to support his latest insane demand.

Trump’s posting of QAnon messages and implicit threats (in increasingly unintelligible syntax) suggests that he is losing the ability or desire to control his impulsive outbursts. This is the guy whom millions of Republicans want to nominate for president.

But Republicans have run out of defenses for Trump:

Since the redacted affidavit was released last week, the only two defenses from Republicans are no defenses at all. The first, courtesy of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), amounts to extortion: Prosecute Trump and there’ll be blood in the streets. The second is the laughable inquiry: Is that all? It’s not “all,” because the affidavit was heavily redacted. Moreover, the notion that we are talking “just” about documents ignores that most espionage cases are about documents (or equivalent material). That’s where the secrets are.

Trump defenders ignore at their own risk ample indications in the affidavit and news reports that documents were withheld even after a Trump lawyer represented that all confidential material had been returned, that the documents were in an unlocked storage area and that documents were moved. Any rational adult should be aware that evidence might show that Trump violated statutes the Justice Department cited in the affidavit (concerning obstruction and concealment/mutilation/removal). If so, aggravating crimes in addition to violation of the Espionage Act may be at issue.

Still, there is little to no sign that Republicans are ready to distance themselves from someone who risks an indictment in state and federal court and resorts regularly to incoherent rants that not even right-wing media dare repeat (lest they scare their viewers and listeners). Instead, they mutely march along, taking his advice on nominees and reiterating their support for another presidential run.

Their refusal to confront Trump’s current mental and legal status takes procrastination to a whole new level. Are they hoping that he’ll be indicted well in advance of 2024? Well, if past is prologue, then we shouldn’t discount the possibility that they would still nominate him. (Martyr! Deep state!). Hoping that another candidate comes along to point out that Trump is unelectable is peculiar given their own insistence, amplified by the right-wing media, that he’s the only one to lead the party.

If they are counting on the good sense of GOP primary voters to dump him, they might take a look at the MAGA loonies voters picked in primaries ahead of the midterms (e.g., Jan. 6 attendee and Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano; MAGA provocateur and election-denier Kari Lake in Arizona).

Just how they expect to rid themselves of someone like Trump is unclear. They have delegitimized law enforcement, the media and the few sane Republicans (e.g., Rep. Liz Cheney). So, figuring out who exactly is supposed to now convince the base that Trump is, after all this, too toxic and deranged to be the nominee may be a challenge.

When insanity goes viral, the whole house burns down.


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The Real Doug

Doug Ford is once again showing us who he really is. Bruce Arthur writes:

Ontario’s independent volunteer science table, an invaluable source of information and direction throughout the pandemic, has been told it will be dissolved.

It would be an abrupt and shocking move from Public Health Ontario, which had agreed to take the table of more than 40 scientists from its previous home at the University of Toronto, and negotiated terms of reference with then-co-chair Steini Brown over the summer.

The Ministry of Health denies the table will be shut down, saying “the work of the (science advisory table) would continue,” and when pressed, “the SAT is not being shut down.”

But according to a summary circulated among the science table and obtained by the Star, new PHO head Michael Sherar told the table on Aug. 18 that he would shut it down Sept. 6. The science table’s peerless pandemic dashboard would be eliminated, its access to data gone, its projects stranded. In its place, PHO would establish a hand-picked 15-person advisory group with no formal scientific director, limited independence from PHO or the chief medical officer of health — no ability to unilaterally choose topics of study, for instance — and far less clinical expertise.

Conversations with both PHO and table sources confirmed the contents of the letter, which painstakingly charts the past month’s negotiations.

Even if dissolution were a negotiating tactic, there does not seem to be a path here.

Ford is currently ramming a bill through the provincial legislature which would move patients from hospital beds to long-term beds up to three hundred kilometers from their homes without their consent. The bill will not go to committee and it will not be debated. 

For Ford, this is democracy in action.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Political Arsonists

These days, some politicians -- like Pierre Poilievre -- have declared war on journalists. Michael Harris writes:

Populist politicians like Poilievre either don’t understand, or don’t care about, is that their own abusive actions against a journalist encourage the idiot fringe to take it a step further. One day a political leader attacks the media, and the next day journalists are not merely getting critiques, they’re getting death threats. A disproportionate number of those threats are aimed at women.

According to a UNESCO report from 2021, journalists from around the world are under “unprecedented” attack. The Guardian reported that of the massive number of hate comments left on their website in 2016, the top ten targets broke down like this: eight were women, two were Black men, and one of those men was gay.

And get this. As reported by The Guardian, just two female journalists—Maria Ressa of the Philippines, and Carole Cadwalladr in the United Kingdom—accounted for an astronomical number of threats. Ressa received 90 hate messages an hour on Facebook alone. Another female journalist, Ghana Oueiss, who works for Al Jazeera television, gets one death threat every day she is on air.

This kind of behaviour can't be tolerated:

Law enforcement needs to step into the picture in a big way when anyone’s life or safety is threatened. Social media platforms talk a good game about moderating hate messages, but the fact is a lot of women keep on getting them. The block button is no substitute for shutting the haters down. Twitter needs to give its head a shake and wake up.

It has been widely reported that Rodrigo Duterte, the former leader of the Philippines, publicly suggested that journalists are not immune from assassination. Former U.S. president Donald Trump routinely attacked specific journalists, including female media members, and told his followers that the press was the “enemy of the people.” He taught his followers to hate not only factual information, but the people who bring it to America’s television screens and newspapers.

And who can forget Trump’s stupefying attacks on Greta Thunberg as a know-nothing teenager? Or his comment about female presidential candidate Carly Fiorina as being too ugly for the job? “Look at that face,” he said in his inimitable, cringeworthy style.

His lies have been equally incendiary. He publicly presented the recent search of his Mar-a-Lago residence as a “raid,” and says authorities “broke into” his safe. His party magnified the hate. The FBI were goons or the Gestapo. Just words? Not on your life. 

They tell you who they are. They are political arsonists. Caveat Emptor.


Sunday, August 28, 2022

They're Still With Us

On Friday, residents of the Wild Rose Province gave Chrystia Freeland a hard time. CTV reports that:

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has responded to an incident of verbal harassment in Alberta after video of the encounter was widely circulated on social media.

The video, which was shared on Twitter, shows a man and two women waiting at the lobby of Grande Prairie, Alta.'s city hall when Freeland and her staffers enter the building and approach the elevator.

"Chrystia!" the man yells.

"Yes!" Freeland responds.

What follows is a barrage of insults and swearing from the man, calling Freeland a "traitor" and a "f---ing b----" as she steps into the elevator.

"Get the f--- out of this province!" the man can be heard yelling, while another woman tells her, "You don't belong here."

Freeland was born in Peace River and she went to high school in Edmonton. On Saturday, she responded on Twitter:

"What happened yesterday was wrong," she said in a statement posted to Twitter. "Nobody, anywhere, should have to put up with threats and intimidation."

"I'm proud to be from Alberta," she said. "I'm going to keep coming back because Alberta is home."

The morons are still with us.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

A Legal Firing Squad

Andrew Weissman -- a former prosecutor with the American Department of Justice writes in this morning's New York Times:

We always knew that whatever the information about the Mar-a-Lago search that would be released by a federal court, it would not help Donald Trump.

We know that not just because Judge Bruce Reinhart already concluded, based on seeing the unredacted affidavit used to obtain the search warrant, that there was probable cause to believe three federal crimes had been committed and that evidence of those crimes was at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida club-residence.

Mr. Trump knows the answers to the most important unanswered questions: What material did he take from the White House, why did he take it, what had he done with it, and what was he planning to do with it? There is nothing that prevented him for over a year from publicly answering those questions; he surely has not remained silent because the answers are exculpatory.

Above all, the redacted affidavit (and an accompanying brief explaining the redactions), which was released on Friday, reveals more evidence of a righteous criminal case related to protecting information vital to our nation’s security.

There are still lots of unanswered questions:

The key questions that remain include what precisely is the full scope of what Mr. Trump took from the White House, why he took the documents and did not return them all and what he was doing with them all this time.

The redacted affidavit does not answer those questions, and the usually loquacious Mr. Trump has not addressed them. But we do now know that the Justice Department is one step closer to being able to hold Mr. Trump to account for his actions, if it so chooses.

Under Mr. Garland’s leadership, only the facts, law and precedent will matter. Mr. Trump’s penchant for hyperbole and spin to his base will be ineffective in a forum where the rule of law governs.

Mr. Trump -- who weaponized the U.S. Justice Department against his enemies -- now faces a legal firing squad. And they know how to shoot straight.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Reducing Student Debt

A few days ago, Joe Biden announced a plan to reduce student debt. The Right went bonkers. It'll fuel inflation, they howled. Paul Krugman writes:

 What you need to have is a sense of scale. If you’re worried about inflation, the relevant number here isn’t the eventual cost to taxpayers, which might be several hundred billion dollars. It is, rather, the effect on private spending. And I just don’t see any way to claim that this effect will be large.

Consider the fact that before the Covid pandemic — that is, before the government paused required payments on federally held student debt payments — total receipts from the federal loan program were about $70 billion a year. Since most student debt is in the form of large loans, much more than $10,000, these payments will be reduced by much less than that total. At most, then, we’re talking about tens of billions a year in a $25 trillion economy. That’s basically a rounding error.

Unable to convince people with the math, they then made a moral argument. Free money corrupts people. Krugman takes on that argument, too:

The right is inveighing against debt relief on moral grounds. “If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period,” tweeted the House Judiciary G.O.P. On which planet? America has had regularized bankruptcy procedures, which take debt off the books, since the 19th century; the idea has been to give individuals and businesses with crippling debts a second chance.

And many people have taken advantage of those procedures. For example, businesses owned by a real estate mogul named Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy on six occasions. During the pandemic, many business owners received government loans that were subsequently forgiven.

Will this debt relief give many of these victims a second chance? To some extent, at least. There’s solid evidence that freeing former students from overhanging debt makes it easier for them to move to better jobs and increases their income. And since higher income will mean more future tax revenue, the true fiscal cost of debt relief will probably be less than the numbers you’re hearing.

But is this the best way to solve the problem?

As I said, the question is: Compared with what? Given the choice, I’d spend money on children rather than adults — and aid to families with children was, in fact, a big part of Biden’s original spending plans. But he couldn’t get those plans through Congress, while debt relief is something he can probably do through executive action.

And to Republicans whining that this plan does nothing for blue-collar Americans who didn’t go to college, a question: What are you proposing to do for such people — other than cut taxes on the rich and claim that the benefits will trickle down?

Once again, the Right has shown that it knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Image:Current Affairs

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Dougie In Paradise

Doug Ford is in the cat bird's seat. Linda McQuaig writes:

With our health-care system reeling, Ford is charging ahead with plans for further privatization — Ontario health care is already 40 per cent private — and selling this as a way to save the system through “innovation.”

This is just silly corporate-speak. The system’s problems have been thoroughly studied by countless commissions and the solutions do not involve privatization.

Certainly Ford’s plan to allow private medical companies to perform surgeries, paid for by government, isn’t the way to solve the medical backlog.

Ford's key maxim is that the private system works better than the public one. But that maxim doesn't apply to healthcare:

Ontario has lots of unused hospital operating rooms, idled after years of cutbacks. Instead of bringing them back into use, Ford plans to divert public dollars to private facilities. But these private companies will take 10 to 15 per cent in profits and pay high management fees, so they’ll cut corners to the detriment of patients.

That’s what corporations do — they devise ways to maximize profit for their shareholders. That’s their mandate, their reason for existing.

And when they’re allowed access to the public trough — where payment is assured and they don’t have to worry about competition — they’ve hit the corporate sweetspot. For all the hoopla about the rigour of the private sector, what businesses actually seek is a comfortable niche in a competition-free zone with a reliable source of revenue. Thank you, medicare!

It's called Disaster Capitalism. Milton Friedman proclaimed that situations  such as the ones we currently face are precisely the time to implement "market solutions."

And Dougie is just the man to do it.

Image: Twitter

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

He's Heading For Lots of Pain

It's been a tough couple of weeks for Donald Trump. After the FBI retrieved government documents from his home, things got steadily worse for Trump. The New York Times reports that Trump was keeping over 300 documents in his basement. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The sheer number of documents previously recovered and their sources (from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency) raise the stakes considerably for Trump, undercutting his followers’ frivolous excuses and ludicrous accusations of an FBI plot to persecute him.

Even more incriminating, the Times reports, “Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021,” meaning he was clearly aware of the contents and could view the classification markings. If the FBI and Justice Department are looking for evidence of Trump’s direct knowledge of the materials and willful refusal to return all of them, this would fit the bill.

If, contrary to what Trump’s counsel said, the government did not previously get back all sensitive materials, the only logical conclusion would be that Trump refused to part with documents he falsely told aides were “mine." This might be the rare case when Trump lacks even a hint of plausible deniability (e.g., the ability to shift blame to his attorney).

If the facts are as damning as they appear, Trump’s risk of indictment is quite high. After the evidence is gathered, Attorney General Merrick Garland will need to decide whether to pursue an indictment from the grand jury. With a discrete set of facts that a jury can easily comprehend, powerful evidence of Trump’s willfulness and the clear interest in protecting the nation’s secrets, Garland will have every incentive to proceed — and surely not wait until the exponentially more complicated Jan. 6 investigation concludes.

And there are other indictments pending -- in New York, Georgia, and DC. There are consequences for fervently believing that you're the smartest guy in the room, particularly when you so obviously aren't.

Image: Vanity Fair

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Not A Recipe For Success

When it comes to climate change, the Conservatives just don't get it. Chantal Hebert writes:

There’s no lack of significant policy differences between the two leading contenders for the leadership of the federal Conservative party. But on the need for a radical shift in Canada’s climate change policy, they are on the same page.

The party — whether it is led by Pierre Poilievre or Jean Charest after Sept. 10 — would seek to dismantle the climate change infrastructure put in place by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals over the past seven years.

It would start by repealing signature pieces of legislation pertaining to the environmental assessment process of major energy-related projects.

Under a Conservative government led by Poilievre or Charest, the federal carbon levy would also be scrapped.

The problem is that, for the Conservative base, climate change is a non-issue:

The low profile of climate change as an issue in the leadership campaign reflects a long-standing disconnect between the conservative base that will be selecting the party’s next leader and Canadians in general.

While there is a wide consensus within the electorate that reducing the country’s carbon footprint is a priority, the Conservative party is the home of choice for the minority of voters who do not see mitigating climate change as urgent or even necessary.

Little more than a year ago, a majority of the delegates to the party’s last national convention refused to endorse a resolution to affirm that the issue of climate change needed to be addressed.

One can pinpoint the beginning of Erin O’Toole’s eventual demise as party leader to the day he pivoted on carbon pricing in the lead-up to last summer’s federal campaign.

Whoever leads the party will lead it backward -- not a recipe for success.

Image: YouTube

Monday, August 22, 2022

A Clear And Present Danger

No less than The Globe And Mail has warned us. Michael Harris writes:

In this country, The Globe and Mail did not refer to Poilievre by name in a long piece by its editorial board, but it warned that a “highly contagious” political virus is flooding over the border from the United States. Poilievre is the perfect carrier of that virus, based on what he has shown so far in the leadership contest, and more importantly, in his political career.

But Poilievre has no time for the Globe:

Like Stephen Harper and Donald Trump, Poilievre hasn’t got much use for the media. The trouble with preaching to the converted full-time is that you start to see questions of any kind as somehow illegitimate, the way dictators come to see journalists as enemies of the people. Poilievre’s crude treatment of Global News journalist Rachel Gilmore looked an awful lot like Donald Trump trashing reporters from CNN, something he regularly did in his effort to avoid accountability, and to turn the American people against a free press.

Gilmore’s questions were perfectly normal, but simply for asking them, Poilievre referred to her as a “so-called” reporter. That bit of nastiness earned him a rebuke from the president of the Canadian Association of Journalists. If he does that now, while running for his party’s top job, what will he do if he gets it?

Poilievre is a thug who allies himself with thugs:

When a gang of thugs in 18-wheelers took over the nation’s capital for three weeks, Poilievre took selfies with them and blamed the whole thing on Justin Trudeau. He also marched with anti-vaccine conspiracist James Topp, just as leader of the People’s Party of Canada Maxime Bernier did. Can you picture either of those two calling the shots during a pandemic? Poilievre’s political opportunism was stunning—and scary.

During the leadership race itself, Poilievre launched personal attacks against his centrist rivals Jean Charest and Patrick Brown (while he was still around), two men who could potentially tap into the two richest voter markets in the country: Quebec and Ontario.

Again, it was reminiscent of how Trump went after his opponents when running for his party’s presidential nomination. Senator Ted Cruz became “Lyin’ Ted,” and Senator Marco Rubio was “Little Marco.” Poilievre accused Brown of being a serial liar, and Charest of being a fake Conservative who made a bundle consulting for the Chinese. So much for the days when politics was the civil mediation of differences of opinion and policy, no matter how substantial.

And what kind of a candidate looking for the top job walks away from an official party debate, preferring to pay a $50,000 fine, rather than give party members a last chance to assess the leadership aspirants?

Come to think of it, Donald Trump skipped the second national debate in the 2020 presidential election. See a pattern here?

But, most importantly, Poilevre has a record:

The best gauge for assessing how Poilievre would behave in power is to look at how he acted when he had it. Apart from his tiresome role as a partisan hit-man under then-prime minister Stephen Harper, Poilievre almost never got close to real authority, other than during his stint as parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport.

But there was one big exception. In 2014, Poilievre was handed the cabinet-level job of reforming Canada’s election law, a particularly important task after the debacle of the robocalls affair back in 2011. Instead of strengthening the electoral process, the risibly named Fair Elections Act did the opposite.

Poilievre wanted to do away with the practice of vouching, which allowed a person without proper identification to vote, if someone who knew them, and held the proper ID, vouched for them.

While it was obvious that Elections Canada needed new powers to investigate electoral infractions, Poilievre did not give the Commissioner of Elections the authority to compel witness testimony. It was that lack of subpoena powers that prevented Elections Canada from getting to the bottom of the robocalls scandal.

Poilievre also denied Election Canada’s request to require political parties to provide receipts and other documentation about their spending. Without those records, it was impossible for Elections Canada to ensure compliance with spending limits.

We know who Poilievre is -- a clear and present danger.

Image: The Toronto Star

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Taking A Break

In the past, I've had problems with my back. They've returned, so I'll be taking a break from blogging. But I hope to be back soon.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Make Lying Expensive

Alex Jones has built a career on lying. This week, in a courtroom in Texas, he has met with a reckoning. Eugene Robinson writes:

The far-right radio host’s trial in an Austin courtroom has been almost enough to restore my faith in truth, justice and the American way. Jurors have been determining how much of his likely nine-figure fortune he must pay to the parents of a victim of the Sandy Hook school massacre for defaming them and their late son. Jones’s wildly successful business model has been based on concocting outrageous lies and shouting them at the top of his lungs to millions of listeners. But that does not work so well, it turns out, in a court of law.

“You are already under oath to tell the truth,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble admonished him. “You’ve already violated that oath twice today. ... Just because you claim to think something is true does not make it true. It does not protect you. It is not allowed. You’re under oath. That means things must actually be true when you say them.”

Like Donald Trump, Jones has made a fortune from a Big Lie:

What Jones did was unspeakably vile: He claimed repeatedly — and falsely, with absolutely no factual basis, since none exists — that the 2012 Sandy Hook killings never happened at all, that they were some kind of “false flag” operation that was “a giant hoax,” and that the 20 dead children ripped to pieces by rounds from an assault rifle were nothing but “crisis actors.”

Yesterday, the jury fined Jones $4.1 million. But that's just the beginning. They will now determine how much Jones owes in punitive damages.

The way to shut up people like Jones is to make lying very expensive. By the time the legal system is finished with him, Jones literally won't have a pot to piss in.

Image: PBS

Thursday, August 04, 2022

Wisdom And Common Sense

Jean Charest tried to make the case last night that he is the best person to lead the Conservative Party. Althia Raj writes:

The former Quebec premier and current Conservative leadership candidate hoped Wednesday’s third official debate would introduce him to more members and boost his chances of winning the party’s Sept. 10 contest, but his relatively calm performance may have failed to make the case that the perceived front-runner Pierre Poilievre, would be a disaster for the party and the country. It wasn’t until the final closing arguments — 25 minutes after a French exchange — that Charest got to the point.

He lambasted Poilievre — without naming him — for failing to show up and be accountable to members. He contrasted his values and numerous policy proposals — supporting law and order, introducing more private health care delivery and replacing the consumer carbon tax with a tax on large emitters — to his opponent’s offering.

“Anger is not a political program,” Charest noted. “A slogan isn’t going to do the job for us.”

Charest pointed to recent polls:

In a scrum following the roundtable exchange, Charest pointed to recent public opinion surveys by Ipsos and Angus Reid which suggest he has a better chance than Poilievre of winning across the country.

“There is a boulevard out there of Canadians who want a fiscally conservative government that’s going to have a real economic plan for the country,” Charest stated.

But what Charest failed to mention is that those polls also suggest the majority of Conservatives want Poilievre to lead them.

Charest finds himself in the same position that Donald Trump's challengers faced back in 2015. When a political party is taken over by the crazies, wisdom and common sense are locked away in the closet.

Image: The Toronto Star

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

The Last Debate

The format for tonight's Conservative leadership debate is somewhat novel. Stephanie Taylor reports that:

No audience, no podiums and appearances from only three out of the five candidates running to lead the federal Conservatives. 

These are the circumstances under which the party's last official debate of the race will take place tonight in Ottawa, before a winner is announced Sept. 10.

Those participating will be ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, rural Ontario MP Scott Aitchison and Roman Baber, a former provincial legislator who Doug Ford booted from caucus over his opposition to COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Rather than standing at individual podiums, the three will be placed around a table for the event, which is being billed as part debate, part roundtable.

Moderated by the party's president, the event will be split into two 45-minute rounds. Candidates will answer questions in English during the first section and then switch to French for the second half. 

While Charest applauded the party's decision to make the event bilingual, doing so no doubt poses a challenge to Aitchison and Baber, who are not fluent French speakers. 

But even more significant than the format is the fact that neither Leslyn Lewis nor Pierre Poilievre will be there:

The party's decision to organize a third debate after two official ones were held in May drew sharp criticism from some in the party, including the two candidates who have decided not to show: Pierre Poilievre and Leslyn Lewis. 

Poilievre's campaign issued a sharply worded statement after the party made the call.

It said the longtime MP and perceived front-runner of the race was going to stay focused on getting members to fill out their ballots, and slammed the earlier official English debate as an "embarrassment" for asking candidates personal questions about their favourite streaming shows and music. 

Lewis's campaign informed the party last week she wouldn't attend, saying despite trying to find out more details it lacked details around format or questions.

All this indicates that the Conservatives still haven't got their act together -- and they still haven't figured out why they lost the last two elections. 


Tuesday, August 02, 2022

The Endgame

It's time, climate scientists warn, to consider the endgame -- human extinction. Damien Carrington writes:

The risk of global societal collapse or human extinction has been “dangerously underexplored”, climate scientists have warned in an analysis.

They call such a catastrophe the “climate endgame”. Though it had a small chance of occurring, given the uncertainties in future emissions and the climate system, cataclysmic scenarios could not be ruled out, they said.

“Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst,” the scientists said, adding that there were “ample reasons” to suspect global heating could result in an apocalyptic disaster.

The warning isn't new:

Explorations in the 1980s of the nuclear winter that would follow a nuclear war spurred public concern and disarmament efforts, the researchers said. The analysis proposes a research agenda, including what they call the “four horsemen” of the climate endgame: famine, extreme weather, war and disease.

 The speed of climate change  and other factors are causing scientists to recalculate:

“There are plenty of reasons to believe climate change could become catastrophic, even at modest levels of warming,” said Dr Luke Kemp at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, who led the analysis. “Climate change has played a role in every mass extinction event. It has helped fell empires and shaped history.

“Paths to disaster are not limited to the direct impacts of high temperatures, such as extreme weather events. Knock-on effects such as financial crises, conflict and new disease outbreaks could trigger other calamities.”

The analysis is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was reviewed by a dozen scientists. It argues that the consequences of global heating beyond 3C have been underexamined, with few quantitative estimates of the total impacts. “We know least about the scenarios that matter most,” Kemp said.

A thorough risk assessment would consider how risks spread, interacted and amplified, but had not been attempted, the scientists said. “Yet this is how risk unfolds in the real world,” they said. “For example, a cyclone destroys electrical infrastructure, leaving a population vulnerable to an ensuing deadly heatwave.” The Covid pandemic underlined the need to examine rare but high-impact global risks, they added.

Particularly concerning are tipping points, where a small rise in global temperature results in a big change in the climate, such as huge carbon emissions from an Amazon rainforest suffering major droughts and fires. Tipping points could trigger others in a cascade and some remained little studied, they said, such as the abrupt loss of stratocumulus cloud decks that could cause an additional 8C of global warming.

The researchers warn that climate breakdown could exacerbate or trigger other catastrophic risks, such as international wars or infectious disease pandemics, and worsen existing vulnerabilities such as poverty, crop failures and lack of water. The analysis suggests superpowers may one day fight over geoengineering plans to reflect sunlight or the right to emit carbon.

“There is a striking overlap between currently vulnerable states and future areas of extreme warming,” the scientists said. “If current political fragility does not improve significantly in the coming decades, then a belt of instability with potentially serious ramifications could occur.”

There were further good reasons to be concerned about the potential of a global climate catastrophe, the scientists said: “There are warnings from history. Climate change has played a role in the collapse or transformation of numerous previous societies and in each of the five mass extinction events in Earth’s history.”

It's worth repeating that old saw: The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind. Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, we have a hard time concentrating.

Image: Goodreads

Monday, August 01, 2022

Is This It?

Donald Trump has almost always escaped the consequences of what he has said and done. Michael Harris writes:

Donald Trump has always been too rich, too powerful, and too lawyered up to ever get the comeuppance he richly deserves for a lifetime of lying and cheating.

The most recent example was the decision by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office not to prosecute him for alleged tax fraud, even though Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, laid out exactly how it had been done.

As a result of putting the investigation on ice, two top prosecutors involved in the investigation of the Trump organization resigned. It’s hard to work in a place where you can smell a rat, especially when you are supposed to be in the truth business.

This time around, the evidence of Trump's crimes would seem to be insurmountable:

Americans now know that Trump knew about the deadly threat to hang Mike Pence. Did he step in? Did he call his own vice-president, who came within 40 feet of the rioters out for his blood? Did he call in the National Guard, the Defense Departent, or his attorney general? Did he make a public appeal for the rioters to go home?

Another thing Americans now know is that Donald Trump was well aware that he had lost the election, but refused to listen to anyone, including his own White House counsel, who told him that. He also refused to make any public statement until it became clear that his coup was not going to work.  Even his own daughter begged him to stop the violence. He kept watching television, taking time out to send out a tweet calling Mike Pence a coward.  That put a target on the VP’s back in the middle of a riot.

Most importantly, people died as a result of the riot that Trump fomented. So, is this it? Will Trump finally be held accountable?

Don’t bet the farm on it. For one thing, Americans tend to mythologize the presidency, and hence the person holding the office. Call it the divine right of commanders-in-chief, or presidential infallibility. Richard Nixon put it best when he said that if your president does it, it isn’t a crime. Trump is still, to some extent, clothed in the same aura of office that persuaded Nixon he was above the law.

Trump also has the advantage of the clock. With criminal investigations underway both by the Department of Justice and at the state level in Georgia, it is doubtful if any of these investigations would be concluded before the mid-term elections, let alone any legal proceedings.

If the Republicans win back the House of Representatives on Nov. 8, as most pundits are predicting, not only will the Jan. 6 Committee be disbanded, some of its members may find themselves under investigation by vengeful members of the GOP.

The last thing in Trump’s favour is pure politics. Remember, this is a one-term president who survived two impeachment trials because of partisan support in the Senate. Should Trump officially announce his bid for a presidential run in 2024, it could have a chilling affect on those who might otherwise be willing to indict a former president.

Tennessee Williams' Blanche Dubois claimed that she relied on the kindness of strangers. Trump relies on the cowardice of many. This is an existential moment for the United States. If Trump is not convicted for what he has said and done, the Americans will lose their republic.

Image: Chicago Sun Times