At climate talks, Canada steps up while the US steps down

During this week’s UN climate change conference in Bonn, Germany, Canada announced its plan to completely phase out the use of coal in power plants. This move runs in stark opposition to the US’ current official stance on coal, as the Trump administration pursues a revival of the industry. Canadian Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is… [Read more…]

Our Housing Crisis Is a Serious Infrastructure Problem

Section 8 housing in the South Bronx (Wikimedia Commons)

Our nation is facing a serious housing crisis, which is part of our infrastructure problem as a whole. We have recently learned of the infrastructure issues in Puerto Rico that are coming to light in the wake of the recent disasters. It ties back to our housing shortcomings and how our government fails to come through for its citizens so frequently in this regard.

In the wake of Hurricane Maria, parts of Puerto Rico have been decimated. What were already issues before the natural disaster struck the area have now been fully exposed. The housing crisis has been lurking beneath the surface of the territory’s dialogue for a while — rising foreclosure rates and failure to pay the mortgage means that already earlier this year, 14 families lost their homes every day and 17,000 homes were being foreclosed. Now with 45 percent of the population not even having access to drinking water, homes need to be created fast.

Up Close and Personal

Recently, Dave Dunn, director of the Olmsted County Housing and Redevelopment Authority in New York, put it to the Rochester City Council that the project to create affordable housing in Rochester has been unsuccessful. Dunn said it currently costs more to build accommodation in the area than what can be produced by cheaper rent without extra support.

Dunn said the only way to solve the housing crisis is to treat it like a part of the county’s infrastructure — to think about housing as one would about sewers and water — as necessities. The reason he believes this is the only option is due to his own first-hand experience of understanding just how many people are desperate for somewhere affordable to live. Dunn noted he receives calls every day from some of the 700 families who remain on a housing voucher waiting list.

In response, members of the council said they are willing to execute and reinforce affordable housing policies. One of these policies would define at which points certain developers would need to create more affordable accommodation. However, the proposals are not good enough, according to many community groups.

Housing Crisis Heroes

In terms of solutions to the housing crisis we are seeing everywhere, exacerbated by natural disasters or complacency, there are some contenders that look promising. The ready-to-go building idea holds great potential for use in areas where people need quality housing installed quickly. These programs are major investments in speculative properties and fully prepared sites. Companies will rapidly speed up the development of much-needed housing in places like Rochester that is otherwise bogged down by bureaucracy and in disaster-hit areas such as Florida and Puerto Rico.

Furthermore, no one is a stranger to the housing crisis in London. Students and workers are spending more and more on rent and being forced to live further and further away. The solution is prefab housing. Legal & General Homes is promising to build thousands of homes every year at their innovative and private factory in Leeds. The houses and flats will be prefabricated and then transported to London and places that need it the most to solve their housing crisis.

Richmond has already signed up to this, as an average semi-detached property fetches over £1m. The new L&G accommodation can be rented out at £600 per month. While they are only 26 square meters, this sponsored housing will go a long way to solving the housing crisis.

Housing is a sought-after commodity, particularly in disaster-hit areas, and is affecting people all over the world. Instead of tweeting and spending thousands of dollars to protest an NFL game, our government officials need to be paying attention to the issues that matter and continuing to work on finding actionable solutions to the very serious housing crisis.

A Muslim-American 4th-Grader’s Peace Appeal to ‘Our Father’ President

Tajuddin Millatmal of Spring Valley, CA with his daughter Hatsanda. Photo by Chris Stone

By Hatsanda Millatmal

An open letter addressed to “Dear my respected president, his Excellency Mr. Donald Trump” under the title “Mr. President! I Am Confused, Can You Help?”

I am very proud to be a U.S. citizen, and live in this God blessed country with abundant resources and great access to almost anything one may wish. I always hear from people around me at school and in the community so many great things about the United States of America.

They all tell me that America is a land of opportunity and was fundamentally founded to provide liberty, justice, equality and democracy to all who make it to this land.

America was set to be a role model for the rest of the world in the areas of democracy, justice, human rights and development. I am hearing from all around that Americans were and supposed to be well-respected by all people and nations throughout the world.

However, through my large community contacts as an Afghan descendant Muslim-American, I hear rumors and stories totally contradicting with what we as Americans believe and hear all around. I have seen hundreds of houses bombed, thousands of innocent villagers including children, women and elders being killed.

Isn’t this true that MOAB (Mother Of All Bombs) was used by America in a very small poor country, Afghanistan, which killed more innocent Afghans than the ISIS, who were miraculously evacuated just hours before bombing?

I hear rumors, which were partially confirmed by Mrs. Hillary Clinton as the secretary of state, that almost all of these radical Islamic groups, Jihadist, Taliban and ISIS have been produced, trained, armed, supplied and funded through Pakistan by the U.S. from time to time as a tool for obtaining American’s military and political aims.

These militant groups have been used by America to terrorize the innocent public in those countries, by sabotaging peace, killing innocent people and banning girls from going to school, etc.

Led and trained by Pakistani ISI, they train and brainwash the naive uneducated Muslims to become suicides, blow themselves and kill other innocent people in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Kashmir etc.

Our brave heroine, Malala Yousafzai, is a good surviving example. I am confused. Americans feel proud when they throw MOAB on ISIS (presumably) in Afghanistan, but they defend ISIS in Syria when Russian bomb them.

I have seen pictures of children blown to the air, women stoned, men hanged and schools and bridges destroyed by these vicious Jihadists with the direct or indirect support of America through Pakistan. This is what the public believes in those countries, which history proved that they are a lot smarter than we think of them.

I see so many pictures of the atrocities committed as war crimes by the American bombing. Those pictures make me sick and nauseated and disturbs my sleep and causes me nightmares for many nights any time I see them.

I wonder if you know, which you should know, where and how these militant groups are getting their funding and supplies from. Where do they have their training camps?

I heard that Osama Bin Laden was found in a military base in the capital of Pakistan, Taliban are trained in madrasas in Pakistan using the American funding, and they are still having their offices in Pakistan.

Lately, it was stated by CIA that the American and Canadian family recently saved and released by Pakistan were held in Pakistan for five years. With our great CIA and FBI, if the U.S. does not know where these guys operate from and get funded, then both CIA and FBI should be dissolved for not doing their job.

Otherwise, it proves that those rumors may be true. Therefore, overall conclusion from that side of the dilemma is totally contradictory to what you and other U.S. government officials are claiming.

This article is reprinted from The Times of San Diego which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

Australia’s Bad Flu Season Has American Health Officials Worried

Flu season is almost upon us — signs have started appearing in grocery store pharmacies advertising flu shots, and everyone has started stocking up on vitamin C and hand sanitizer. Australia, on the other hand, is currently in the grips of the worst flu season experts have ever seen. If what’s happening there is any indication of what’s to come, the United States better prepare itself for a potential pandemic.

What is happening in Australia, and what does that mean for flu season in America and the rest of the world?

Flu Season in Australia

Australia is experiencing more cases of influenza this year than it has recently — and earlier than normal. Flu season in the Northern Hemisphere usually starts around Halloween, when the weather starts to cool down. Australia and other areas in the Southern Hemisphere usually experience flu seasons earlier than their northern compatriots, which has experts concerned that many of the more vulnerable population sectors may not have taken precautions and gotten their flu shot yet this year.

The majority of the cases thus far have been detected in elderly patients over 80 and young children between the ages of 5 and 9. These individuals, along with those who have compromised immune systems, are at the most risk from viruses like the flu.

Currently, the strain being detected in Australia is designated H3N2, which is one of the four strains that this year’s vaccine was formulated to protect against.  If the strain has changed, even slightly, that may account for the increased number of cases appearing in Australia.

Flu Already Appearing in United States

While most areas in the United States won’t start seeing flu cases for a month or so yet, some areas have already started seeing confirmed cases of the flu. Pima County, Arizona, has had three confirmed cases since the beginning of August. These cases have been confirmed to be caused by this year’s strain rather than by leftover strains from previous years’ flu seasons.

Experts monitoring the cases in Arizona believe it is likely that flu season has started in the United States, based on these cases. In response, people should be taking precautions like getting their flu shot to lower their chances of becoming infected or spreading the virus to other individuals who may not have gotten their flu shot yet this year.

Bad News and Good News

The strain that is manifesting this year, H3N2, is well matched with this year’s vaccine, so experts suggest anyone who is vulnerable — elderly patients, young children, pregnant women, and those with compromised or weakened immune systems — get immunized as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, H3N2 is a strong strain of the flu virus. Vaccines are less effective against this particular strain, making it more likely that it will cause more severe cases of the flu than other strains might.

This is a good year for flu shots, because the vaccine formula matches the strain that is causing this year’s flu season. In previous years, there have been cases where a totally different strain becomes dominant, making it more difficult to protect the vulnerable elements of the population from the fury of the disease.

If Australia’s current flu season is any indication, we’re in for a rough year. The best thing you can do right now is to get your flu shot. It’s not a cure and it’s not a perfect way to prevent the flu, but it will likely help reduce the number of cases that occur this year. Individuals who are at the most risk should get their flu shot as soon as possible, because the flu season is already here.

photo credit: Sanofi Pasteur Influenza virus via photopin (license)

Trump’s fearsome and pretentious speech at the UN

President Donald Trump’s first speech at the United Nations today was fearsome.

It was also pretentious because Trump seems to think the he speaks for all Americans and that the US is the most respected voice at the UN. Neither of those thoughts is true since his rise to power.

His speech may deserve the term “historic” if world leaders, including long-time allies, now conclude that the US will definitely turn towards nationalism and away from cooperation and multilateral solutions for global problems.

Within America, the jury is still out on what Trump actually means by his unusual use of words and what actions he might contemplate on almost any issue.

His performance at the UN fueled similar perplexity. The speech suggested that the US may be an unreliable friend under Trump.

It seemed to confirm German Angela Merkel’s earlier conclusion that each country should look out for itself in a Trumpian world marked more clearly by nationalism.

But it could also have been only Trump-style declamation draped in dramatic words that his actions and decisions will not match. That mismatch has happened on several highly-charged issues like Obamacare, infrastructure spending, tax cuts, refugees, immigration and the wall isolating Mexico.

Whatever his true intentions, the dozens of world leaders at the193-nation UN General Assembly cannot prudently dismiss his threats to totally destroy a UN member with 25 million people.

Nor can they set aside as a retrograde vision, his assertions about nationalism and sovereignty. His views echoed the 19th century system of nation states competing for self-aggrandizement and dominance over others, which engendered the two World Wars of the 20th century.

His thoughts sounded like the self-centered nationalism of Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and India’s Narendra Modi. They, too, are determined to vastly increase the nationalistic sovereign military and economic power of their countries.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a close ally in theaters where the US military is engaged, reacted quickly. He talked down national sovereignty in favor of more cooperation and pooled sovereignty to solve problems across national frontiers, such as terrorism and climate change.

Like Germany, another vital US ally, his country belongs to the 28-nation European Union (27 after Britain leaves in 2019), whose survival depends on collaboration across borders. EU members are bound by treaty to give priority to many EU-wide regulations over national laws.

UN secretary-general António Guterres, a fervent advocate of stronger global cooperation, warned that “Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide”.

Lamenting against “closed doors and open hostility”, he asked countries to treat refugees with “simple decency and human compassion.”

In contrast, Trump thundered in biblical tones that some parts of the world “are going to hell”.

“If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph… When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength,” he claimed.

His words on North Korea were radical. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he threatened.

Adding, “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”

He was uncompromising on Iran. “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into… Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, believe me.”

If he means what he says and acts accordingly, the world may be headed towards mayhem in the Far East and Middle East in the name of protecting the American people across the oceans.

That such words may be pretentious was signaled by Macron. He said the Iran deal was “solid, robust and verifiable”, and “essential for peace”.

About North Korea, he added, “France rejects escalation and will not close any door to dialogue.”

These views are likely to be echoed in coming days by almost all major leaders at the General Assembly.

In effect, that would leave Trump isolated and short of friends to carry forward the kind of nationalism towards which he may wish to lead the world.

Yet, all world leaders are forced to take his bellicose statements seriously. He is the freely elected leader of the nation with the world’s largest economy at $16 trillion and military capabilities to deliver awesome destruction anywhere.

They would be foolish to presume that he may not entirely mean what he seems to say. His many incredulous opponents during last year’s presidential campaign treated his words as going beyond his thoughts, and lived to regret it.

Both his opponents and his supporters, some of whom are disappointed by his backtracking on several issues, have the luxury of “wait and see”. They could even depose him at the next elections.

Things are very different when foreign leaders are involved. The UN General Assembly is not a US townhall packed with handpicked supporters who applaud on cue by campaign handlers.

There, serious leaders of their billions of citizens get together for a few days each year to find issues of common concern on which they can cooperate for solutions.

They may be democrats, dictators or tyrants but at the General Assembly, they try to assess how far they may cooperate with others without compromising their authority inside their own countries.

Trump’s speech has not reassured friends or discomfited enemies. Friends wonder whether his administration will push them in directions they do not want and enemies may be encouraged to prepare for divisions among long-standing friends of pre-Trump US foreign policy.

Ways of nurturing harmony despite divisiveness in America

At a time when divisiveness is increasing among Americans, an Iranian-born thought leader is raising a voice for harmony, including useful techniques to cultivate it step by step.

Kambiz Naficy, arrived in the US at age nine when his father was sent as a diplomat to Washington. Now, he offers solutions to truly making Americans great by enriching their hearts and minds.

India’s Mahatma Gandhi used to say, “Be the change you want to see”. Naficy changed himself from a Wall Street banker to an exponent of consciousness over twenty-five years. Now, with his Iranian-born wife, Shadi, he encourages other Americans to empower themselves.

America and the world can be better places if individuals unlock the emotions of harmony and togetherness inherent in them. The positive changes you nurture inside you will provide impetus for positive changes around you, in your family, community and nation.

Founder of the Joy of Life Foundation, Naficy says, “The sanctuary, the place of calm and love is inside. When you want to get rid of disharmony and fear, the wise thing is to do is to dive inside yourself.”

“The vaccine against disharmony and fear is the exercise and visualization of love.”

(Web site: www.joyoflifeorganization.com
(Email: joyoflife.international@gmail.com )

This may sound challenging but is easily begun through your natural breathing. “Follow your breath inside the heart while placing your right palm on the heart. This will spontaneously create a response opposite of fear,” he adds.

“Be aware of your breath and follow it to the center of your heart. Feel the pulse in the heart and merge with the pulse in your mind’s eye.

“Now incite the emotion of love as you inhale. The object of your loving thought can be anybody you love—your child, spouse, friend, sibling or even a pet.

“You will quickly discover that earlier feelings of disharmony or fear exit naturally. That’s because negative feelings related to fear cannot co-exist with love.”

The positive results happen because attention is directed inwards through an inward gaze instead of losing one’s center through endless external distractions and disturbances.

“Directing the attention inwards to your creative force through the actions of breathing and visualization, takes you to your own source of calmness—this is your center. Find your center, hang on to it, and you can radiate your sense of centeredness to the outer world. Your inborn sanctuary is inside and calmness is your natural inner landscape,” Naficy explains.

“Ancient scriptures of most cultures say that your creative force is a pulse made of love and consciousness. In turn, modern quantum physics attests that the creative force is at your sub-atomic level.

“Well known experiments show that an electron appears as a particle when a human scientist wants to observe it. As the scientist’s attention turns away, the electron returns to an invisible, unmanifest wave.

“In effect, these scientific findings attest that divine consciousness responds to human consciousness. You are playing solitaire with your consciousness and whatever your pay repetitive attention to, is what you manifest as your inner and outer-reality.”

“Feelings of disharmony show that we have no way of speaking the language of nature’s creative force which responds to human consciousness. Fear decreases when that language is reawakened inside each heart.

“The language that divine consciousness understands is oneness. Simply, acknowledging and visualizing that through each breath, the creative force enters you in oneness.”

Both modern string theory of quantum physics and practitioners of ancient spiritual practices point to a creative energy vibrating in space. All it takes is to say “hello” to this energy and ask it to breathe through you and fill your entire body. When you exhale, ask the creative force to take action in your life in partnership.

Disharmony and fear lose existence when love enters. The need is to let feelings of love enter as the creative force breathes through you.

This is how you unite the divine creative consciousness with your own consciousness. It is simple because the divine life-force always responds to attention from your human consciousness.

“Fill yourself with her and ask her to fill your life. That’s it! Your personal transformation towards joy has begun!” he exclaims.

“As you exhale, partner with this force to take joyful and sure-footed steps in your life. The external power of rockets and guns cannot match Nature’s awesome power, e.g. hurricanes. So, wisdom lies in acknowledging the only one authentic power and inviting this life-force into your life.”

Human weakness emerges from a mistaken identity. For instance, a woman may think she is only a person named ‘Nancy’ and be unaware of the creative force breathing through her. Once she breathes in the creative force with awareness of love, she exits that mistaken identity.

“In a sense, all her troubles arise from this mistaken identity of “Nancy” as the doer. Ask yourself, who was the conscious presence that put my cells together in the womb? Who is the conscious presence that breathes through me and acts through me?” Naficy counsels.

‘O Captain! My Captain!’

The Ship of State is rudderless, its once mighty sails shredded, and all the crew can do is look on in horror as the lifeboats are lowered.

Everything we had feared about the Captain — his malignant narcissism, inability to separate reality from fantasy and so much more — has come to pass. In these once proud United States, we cower in fear of a “leader” who is unable to feel compassion and when called out by the “fake” news media reliably doubles down. The world is flat because I say so, dammit to Hell!

First Mate Bannon is not the problem. His poisonous presence on the bridge is merely a reflection of a Captain who is unable to distinguish between a monument to George Washington honoring his visionary patriotism and one to Robert E. Lee erected in the service of maintaining white supremacy. Who sees a moral equivalence between Nazis and those who oppose Nazis. Who is blindered to the reality that Heather Heyer is dead because of the dystopian dream of her executioner to make Amerika great again — a white, fascist ethnostate.

But that moral equivalence thing can’t be right because the Ship of State has no moral compass.

And it seems like only a matter of time before the ship topples off the edge of that flat earth and into the abyss, Second Mates McConnell and Ryan desperately hanging onto the Captain’s coattails as they continue to defend the indefensible.

The Captain is ignorant of the waters in which he sails. And so besodden with grievance that he erupts into a spray of spittle-inflected rage when questioned about his hateful views and then in response tramples on Ms. Heyer’s freshly dug grave, Chief Navigator Kelly bringing neither order nor calm to the bridge, merely crossing his arms and staring at his shoes in impotent dismay as the Captain rages.

This is the point when we might reasonably ask, “So what are we going to do about it? How to get the Ship of State back on course when the crew shows no signs of mutinying?”

Weep, my friends. And then pray.

IMAGE © MARK BRYAN

N Korea threatens missile strike on US territory Guam

North Korea said on Wednesday it is “carefully examining” a plan to strike the US Pacific territory of Guam with missiles, just hours after US President Donald Trump told the North that any threat to the United States would be met with “fire and fury”. A spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, in a statement carried… [Read more…]

Tough new sanctions approved by UN could cost North Korea $1 billion in exports annually

NEW YORK—The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously approved a sanctions resolution that the United States said was the strictest imposed “on any country in a generation,” banning North Korea from exporting many of its most lucrative products, ranging from coal to iron ore to seafood and even some of its artwork. The tough new sanctions… [Read more…]

United and divided by history

NEW ORLEANS — During a week when we try to put aside our divisions to celebrate a shared love for our country, we should ponder that we are as badly fractured in approaching history as we are in confronting the present.

There is, of course, a case for using the holiday to shelve our differences altogether. This would be a useful reminder that politics is not everything. People who can’t stand the views of friends, relatives and neighbors can and should love them anyway.

All across our country, people sharply at odds over the man in the White House nonetheless cooperate with each other to strengthen their communities, make their schools better, serve their religious congregations, coach teams and build businesses.

Especially now, we need to nourish this capacity for empathy, mutual assistance and shared endeavor. Politicizing all of life’s relationships can lead down totalitarian paths. This is a strong, Cold War-ish thing to say. But free societies really do need to nurture spaces far removed from power where people can build trust across all lines of division.

And shouldn’t we all be able to rally around the core idea of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal” with rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

But this is precisely where our disagreements about history start. We fought a Civil War over the question of who was included in the phrase “all men are created equal.” And we still have not come to terms with that fact.

I’m happy I’ll find myself celebrating the Fourth of July in a city whose mayor, Mitch Landrieu, received widespread and deserved national attention in May for a speech explaining why he took down New Orleans’ monuments to Confederate leaders. Landrieu’s exposition is worth revisiting because he underscored how important it is to see history accurately and not how we might wish it to be. “Alternative facts” and “fake news” can infect our understanding of the past no less than our view of the present.

“The historic record is clear,” Landrieu said. “The Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.”

“It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, they fought against it,” he continued. “These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”

And Landrieu performed a service that, alas, needs to be performed over and over by recalling that the main cause the Southern rebellion defended was slavery, not “states’ rights.” He cited Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ straightforward declaration that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Landrieu showed us how often we distort the past to serve the political interests of the moment. The Confederacy, brought back to life as a “noble cause” to rationalize the post-Reconstruction regime of white supremacy, can only be seen as noble if its essential character is ignored. We cannot fabricate new facts just because we like them better than the real ones.

As we celebrate our founding, we might notice that the Declaration is almost entirely a recitation of facts — offered in a contentious way, to be sure, but also with painstaking precision. Those who opposed independence could fairly respond that the “long train of abuses and usurpations” the Declaration put forward did not justify breaking our bonds with Britain. But the critics could not claim the Founders had ignored the obligation they took on by expressing “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.” They persuaded by citing verifiable truths.

This is the right standard for judging the past, as Landrieu insisted, and it’s the proper approach to the future. And if we must argue with friends on this holiday — thank God it’s a free country so we can — let’s try to do so lovingly, and on the basis of a shared commitment to truth.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

The risks of war in the Middle East, as the US confronts Syria and Iran

The US says it has put Syria “on notice” that it will pay “a heavy price” if it uses chemical weapons against its own people. The White House says Syria appears to be preparing just such an attack, the latest escalation in a multisided civil war in Syria since 2011. “A heavy price,” in this context,… [Read more…]

Trump and Paris agreement: World & domestic reaction ALREADY fierce

The Sierra Club just released this meaty press releaseon President Donald Trump and the Paris agreement on climate change. According to reports, the administration will soon announce the U.S. is pulling out of the agreement.

Fierce reaction is already coming from countries around the world and in states and cities across the USA ahead of Trump’s possible withdrawal of the US from the Paris agreement. It’s clear that if that happens, Trump will leave America alone and isolated, as we hand global leadership over to others. Many have noted that only war-torn Syria and Nicaragua have not signed–though Nicaragua actually wants the agreement to be even stronger.

Read much more about the broad and deep support for the Paris agreement by American voters, the business community, and other nations here.

INTERNATIONALLY:
Countries around the world are making their concerns loud and clear, and the implications could be stark for America’s role in the world.

G7 (Or should we call it the G6 now?): Trump’s climate denial resulted in the first ever separate G-6 statement at the G7, when the U.S. refused to join the other leading nations of the world in committing to honoring the Paris pact.

Germany: Today, the rift with other powers became even starker when, as reported by Politico Germany’s challenger for the chancellorship, Martin Schulz, vowed trade retaliation against Trump over a Paris pull out, including refusing to engage in transatlantic trade talks the administration has sought.

EU-China Cooperation: Just ahead of Trump’s decision, China and the EU have seized the leadership role once held by the U.S, forming a historic climate diplomacy alliance. EU climate commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete announced that “The EU and China are joining forces to forge ahead on the implementation of the Paris agreement and accelerate the global transition to clean energy.”

EU: The EU backlash has been swift and sharp. Yesterday, President of the European Council Donald Tusk directly challenged Trump on Twitter, stating, “please don’t change the (political) climate for the worse.” Tusk’s European Commission counterpart, President Jean-Claude Juncker also condemned Trump, while suggesting that he does not understand the agreement.

Canada: Our northern neighbors have also floated trade retaliation previously in others contexts, in the form of a ban on U.S. coal exports. Trump’s climate isolationism continues to undermine cooperation on all levels.

Mexico: In November, the New York Times reported Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, Mexico’s under secretary for environmental policy and planning, saying that “A carbon tariff against the United States is an option for us,” … “We will apply any kind of policy necessary to defend the quality of life for our people, to protect our environment and to protect our industries.”

France: Former President Nicolas Sarkozy previously suggested an EU carbon Tax on U.S. products in retaliation, and it is known that recently elected President Macron has made it very clear to Trump that this issue is a top priority of his.

DOMESTICALLY:
Meanwhile, here at home cities and states are making it known that they will lead if Trump fails to, communicating to the world that even if Trump buries his head in the sand our nation won’t do the same. Clean energy will keep growing without him. That’s true even, as the New York Times reports, in coal country.

In fact, since Donald Trump took office, Sierra Club has helped retire 7 coal plants across 6 states, including the the massive 2400MW Stuart coal plant in Ohio. Just yesterday, three coal plants shut down. Also since January, utility Xcel Energy announced the largest single clean energy investment in US history – $4B worth of new wind energy across 8 states.

Already, analysis of DOE data shows that, nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to 1; and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1. A full 41 states and Washington, D.C. (80% of the total) have more clean energy jobs than fossil fuel jobs from all sources.

Separately, WRI has shown that the U.S. states which have voiced support for the Paris Agreement represent, in combination, the world’s 5th largest economy, 6th largest emitter and 12th most populous country.

CITIES & STATES:

California: America’s largest state is picking up the slack in a big way, including partnering with nations like Canada on climate. Gov. Brown says: “Mr. Trump is not only up against California, he’s up against the rest of the world, not to mention science itself” … “And it’s very obvious who’s going to win.”

Orlando: Yesterday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced support for powering the City of Orlando entirely with clean and renewable energy by 2050. The Mayor’s support in this initiative further expands the City’s goal to achieve all municipal electricity coming 100 percent from renewable sources by 2030.

New York: Mayor De Blasio came out strong for climate action in the face of Trump. “President Trump should know that climate change is a dagger aimed straight at the heart of New York City,” the mayor tweeted on Wednesday. “We’ll take matters into our own hands.”

Chicago: “Chicago will not skirt our responsibility to act,” Mayor Emanuel said in a statement. “We will work with cities around the country to reduce our emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and urge President Trump to keep our nation’s commitment as well.”

Atlanta and Boston: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called Trump’s intentions an “assault on our future stability,” while Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said, “If this administration turns its back to the environment, cities like Boston will have to step up.”

Los Angeles: “If the White House withdraws from the Paris climate accord, we’re going to adopt it in Los Angeles,” Mayor Garcetti tweeted. There are more than 10 million people in Los Angeles county, and the city is the third largest metropolitan economy in the world, with a GDP of more than $700 billion.

Conference of Mayors: U.S. Conference of Mayors Vice President Mayor Steve Benjamin along with his Mayors for 100% Clean Energy co-chairs yesterday introduced a landmark resolution to the U.S. Conference of Mayors that would formally establish support from the nation’s mayors for the goal of 100 percent renewable energy in cities nationwide.

White Americans need to work more often (Guest Voice)



by Jordan Cooper

White Americans created the legal name for the sovereign land of the United States of America. Nevertheless, White Americans are the people that have the most applications, aid, and grants from food (formally now as EBT) stamps and unemployment. The racial group of Whites have the most immigrants according to the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement.

Half of our immigrants come from Mexico and most of the others are from Central America, South America, and Asia. The supermajority of these people could racially be classified as White. The private sector has a few trillion dollars in its bank accounts in America but the overwhelming majority of the people that have this wealth are not investing it into creating jobs.

There are about one hundred White American billionaires in America but there should be more than that because they were our country’s Founding Fathers.

Jordan Thomas Cooper is a 2015 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in History and a 2010 graduate of the RealEstate School of Success in Irmo. He is the first African-American to serve in both the governor and lieutenant governor’s office as an aide and first to serve in the Inspector General’s Office in S.C. (Haley) He is also the first person to serve in the top three offices in the gubernatorial line of succession in South Carolina (Haley, Bauer, McConnell). He says research shows he is the second black presidential campaign speechwriter in American history and the first for a GOP presidential campaign (Bush 2015). He also played football for Coach Steve Spurrier.

Germany to Trump on NATO: Nope. We don’t U.S. owe any money

Germamy to U.S. President Donald Trump: Nope. We don’t owe the U.S. Any money. That’s not the way NATO works.

Once again it appears that Trump’s bumpersticker/talk radio slogans are at varience with reality:

President Trump’s Saturday tweet accusing Germany of owing the United States “vast sums of money” for NATO might have been an attempt to put pressure on the European ally. But Berlin has rejected his claim while also questioning his understanding of NATO finances.

On Sunday, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen called the criticism “inaccurate,” without mentioning the president’s name.

“NATO does not have a debt account,” von der Leyen said, according to her ministry. In reality, NATO has only a small logistical budget, which relies on funding by all member states. The vast majority of NATO members’ total resources are managed domestically.

And, once again, a Trump assertion is questioned by several experts:

The criticism echoed that of other experts, including former U.S. ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder. “Trump’s comments misrepresent the way NATO functions,” Daalder told The Washington Post on Saturday. “The president keeps saying that we need to be paid by the Europeans for the fact that we have troops in Europe or provide defense there. But that’s not how it works.”

Von der Leyen also indirectly criticized Trump’s plan to reduce funding for U.N. peacekeeping missions. German defense expenditure was not exclusively dedicated to NATO missions, she emphasized, and additional German funding would be used for U.N. peacekeeping missions, for instance. “What we want is a fair burden-sharing, and in order to achieve that, we need a modern understanding of security,” von der Leyen said.

The rather unusual rebuke of Trump by a German defense minister indicates growing concerns in Berlin over transatlantic relations. The percentage of Germans who view the United States as a trustworthy ally has dropped from 59 percent in November to 22 percent in February. In recent months, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s outspoken vice chancellor and foreign minister, has even called Trump a “threat.”

As the Washington Post notes, no matter what this has not deterred Trump & Co. from using this as a line to rally supporters:

Despite these critiques, this line of argument has been a near-constant refrain for Trump and his administration. Since the campaign, he’s argued that other countries aren’t contributing what they should for the defense alliance. NATO members are urged to contribute 2 percent of their GDP to defense spending. Germany pays 1.2 percent; the United States kicks in more than 3 percent. Four other countries — Greece, Estonia, Poland and Britain — also meet their obligation.

Those numbers, though, don’t tell the whole story.

Since World War II, Germany has intentionally kept its military small. The country defines itself by its pacifism and its commitment to the idea of “never again.” Germany’s defense spending — or lack thereof — has frequently been criticized and mocked in the past. In 2014, for instance, German forces made headlines when they were forced to use broomsticks instead of machine guns during a NATO exercise, exposing the state of its underequipped military.

And, as has been clear, Trump does not back down for an assertion — even one that could hurt a decades-long alliance vital to U.S. interests — in the face of facts that contradict political polemics.

A Bluelander in Redland, Part I of 3


A Bluelander in Redland, Part I
by Daniel Sherman

Even after years of travel, my heart joyfully skips a beat when the whine of a commuter jet’s engines picks up and we began trundling down the runway. Big planes are quiet and large enough that you’re just in a sort of filed into a mailing tube, being delivered to a place where by definition lots of other people are going.

Small jets and turboprops, on the other hand, take you to less-toured areas. Throw in a long drive on local roads, and even in the United States you begin to exit the repetitive “airspace” of hotels and restaurants all furnished with the same reclaimed wood and antique light bulbs, and start to see the sorts of places with wood and lighting that has actually aged in place. Diners and bowling alleys that are not “vintage,” they’ve just been there for half a century.

As we cleared the outer expanse of Chicago’s suburbia and gained altitude, I thought about what my leftie friends might expect me to see on a business trip through Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. An eschatological charnel-scape of incinerated meth houses being picked over by the Left Behind. Hoards of dentally-challenged racist thugs warming themselves around smoldering piles of coal. Swap meets where you can trade AR-15’s for Oxycontin. Prayer meetings thanking Jesus for having written us a Constitution.

How bad is it?

The plane had one flight attendant. Before take-off she gave an enchanting safety presentation coated with the light syrup of a Kansas accent. She embellished the demonstration of the floatation device with cute smiles, tosses of her blond hair, hands on her hips accenting a tight skirt. Eye contact and winks to the mostly male passengers.

I felt sorry for her and other Southern girls. In 2017 when every woman should be valued for her character and contributions, this poor lass was reduced by the pressures of the heteronormative capitalist machine to trafficking herself in binary-gendered terms. The blouse, stretched tight across her chest with one-less-button than one would expect, silver crucifix glimmering in her cleavage, the form-fitting jacket and skirt, and finally, black lacquered boots up to the knee, framing with the hem of the skirt a pale stripe of naked skin. The whole package said “Coffee, tea, or me?” I found it degrading and chauvinistic, a sign of Kansan’s un-enlightened state.

I wanted to ask her number or email, perhaps we could get on Facebook and I could send her some information about toppling the male patriarchy. You do see this all across the South, women using charm, eye contact, hips, arms, breasts, whatever it takes to survive their misogynist captors. It’s awful.

The plane landed in Kansas City, I didn’t find the courage to get her number. Minutes later I was outside and my colleague was there in the rental car. I got in and we headed off for Springfield, Missouri.

Missouri as seen from the Interstate is not much different than the rest of the Midwest, except you’ll never see a factory and there doesn’t seem to be much agriculture either. This became a recurring question on my tri-state tour: how do these economies even work?

We got to the hotel late. When the gentleman checking us in noted our accents he had a lot of friendly questions and welcome-to-Missouri information. I’ll sacrifice the suspense and tell you now that without exception, every person you’ll meet in this story is nice, decent, and welcoming. This is probably the most important fact that the un-traveled need to know: if you turn off your TV and get out and tour the United States, you never meet the sort of scary people you might imagine. Of course, if you go to a Klan march or Michigan militia or Portland Anti-GMO Cooperative, you’ll meet caricatures, but you’re skipping over the 99.8% of reasonable, approachable people. Even in New York City.

The hotel clerk told us there’s a lot of fun things to do in Missouri. “Yeew kin go off-roadin’, muddin’ and noodlin’,” he said. All activities that can only be described by dropping the final “g”.

I had never heard of “muddin’” before. One can intuitively guess that mud is involved, and since every interaction rural Americans have with their environment involves an internal combustion engine, a safe guess is that it involved driving around in the mud. I found it charming that this was a separate category from off-roadin’.

As a rule, city people go out in nature to see the stars, listen to the forest, observe wildlife. The people who actually live out there don’t seem to care at all, for them the selling point is you can drink beer while driving an ATV through mud puddles at 80 mph. If you think I’m making a judgement call you’re dead wrong, I’m trying to wangle a muddin’ invitation right now. Stay posted.

As for “noodlin’”, what the hell is that?

The clerk went on: “Missouri would be a great state if we could jes git the fedral gummint out of here.” This one was interesting. When I got to my room a quick Google search turned up a fact that would astound anyone’s educated guess: fedral gummint spending accounts for one-fifth of Missouri’s economy. That is actually lower than the national average: the US government accounts for 39% of GDP. But the point remains that getting Uncle Sam out of Missouri’s hair would be a devastating blow.

Why are people in poor Southern states so enamored of ideas that would be disastrous if fully applied to them? Why have they failed to develop complex, advanced economies, and get left to to scrape along with simple agriculture, mining, and low-added-value manufacturing? By the end of my tour I began to develop some ideas on this, and it has to do with the quality and motives of their leadership. Let’s look at quality: Republican leaders everywhere are douchebags, but in Northern states the doucheocracy is far more competitive and forces politicians to perform at least to someone’s interest with a modicum of cunning. New York and New Jersey are chock-a-block with highly educated rat-fuckers; a Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani had to fuck all those rat-fuckers to get to the top of the pile.

Compare with lightly-populated Maine: you get Paul Le Page, ranting into a microphone about black kids named “D-Money” coming to knock up white girls. Not the sharpest tool even in a backwoods, Yankee redneck shed. Louisiana gets you Bobby Jindal, pandering for the creationist vote and blinking like a deer in the headlights when asked to have a human conversation.

Texas, on the other hand, is a competitive market producing Presidential-grade pricks. If it weren’t for chance and fate, Ted Cruz would be sniveling and smirking in his snakeskin boots right now in the Oval Office. My theory is that the rural states’ small populations don’t produce a lot of winners, and the ones they do escape to the federal level when they can. A Bill Clinton was never going to stick around and improve Arkansas. Sam Brownback has enough wits to get a Kansan governorship but he’s never going to make the big time, so he just stays there and shtupps his own state.

The next day after visiting a client in Springfield, we started heading south towards Little Rock, Arkansas. The weather was gorgeous for February and we had plenty of time so we agreed to take the a scenic road through the Ozark Mountains.

As the terrain shifted from rolling hills to low mountains pocked with lakes, we stopped for coffee in what looked like a summertime resort town. The only place open was a cavernous diner/bowling alley. The sweet, chain-smoking, middle-aged lady who poured our coffee told us the bowling lanes didn’t work and hadn’t been used in years. A shame, I took a look: they were appointed with great Atomic Age brushed steel ashtrays, Sputniky stars on the walls, and molded plastic seats — the good kind with thick hard plastic that doesn’t flex even under wide loads.

Our collared shirts and Northern accents were a dead give-away, she had lots of questions on why we were passing through. If we could hang around for an hour there was a spaghetti special for lunch. We thanked her but wanted to get back on the road. When we tried to pay for coffee with a $50 but she said she didn’t have any change in the drawer. “Coffee’s on us today, y’all come back soon next time, y’hear?”

I did not see an AR-15 slung around her shoulder. If she was terrified of Mexicans or hated the coastal elite, it didn’t come up. I just remember her waving with a cigarette in her hand, sort of sorry we had to leave.

Next week: a trip through the Ozarks, searching for answers on “noodlin’”, a visit the Clinton Presidential Archives, and a girl named “Freaky”.


All images by Daniel Sherman.

Daniel Sherman is an entrepreneur in the import/export business. He divides his time between Italy and Chicago. He is developing a book, Good Enough, for adolescents on the topic of ethics.

GO HERE for Part II

What kind of democracy will Israel be?

WASHINGTON — The opportunity for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may already have expired. The question going forward, then, is what kind of democracy Israel intends to be.

The Obama administration’s frustration with the situation is understandable. The continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is indeed unhelpful, and the decision to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring the settlements illegal brought renewed focus and urgency to the problem. To what end, however, is unclear.

When everyone stops shouting, Israel will remain one of the United States’ closest allies — and, courtesy of President Obama, the recipient of a $38 billion aid package that will ensure the Jewish state’s military dominance over its neighbors. Palestinian leaders in the West Bank will remain wary of negotiating any sort of two-state deal from a position of weakness. And the passage of time will make facts on the ground — expanding settlements and the ongoing security threat — ever more stubbornly entrenched.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday on the conflict reflected his and Obama’s annoyance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stayed in power by indulging the Israeli far right and the settler movement. But why would Netanyahu listen to Kerry’s advice when Donald Trump is about to be inaugurated as president? “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!” Trump tweeted this week.

Kerry argued that Israel would never be able to improve relations with Arab states until it made peace with the Palestinians. But Israel and key nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt now have a common enemy in Iran, which is growing in power and confidence. The proverb about the enemy of my enemy being my friend is always relevant in the Middle East.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would restart peace negotiations if Netanyahu, in the wake of the Security Council vote, declared a freeze on further settlements. I see no reason to expect Netanyahu to comply, especially since doing so would cost him vital political support — and since the next American president is already encouraging him to “stay strong.” So the bitter stalemate continues.

What vexes Obama — and increasingly angers leaders in Europe — is that the map of a two-state solution was drawn years ago and is gathering dust on disappointed diplomats’ shelves. It involves swaps in which Israel annexes parts of the West Bank that are heavily populated by settlers and the Palestinians receive slices of Israeli land in return. Israel insists that a Palestinian state be essentially demilitarized, which would make it less than fully sovereign. Netanyahu also demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel not just as a state, but as a Jewish state.

Which raises the question of what Israel becomes in the absence of a two-state deal.

“Today, there are … a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea,” Kerry said. “They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states. But here is a fundamental reality: If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic — it cannot be both — and it won’t ever really be at peace.”

In several interviews with me over the years, Netanyahu has essentially countered that it is easy to make such observations from the comforts of Foggy Bottom, Whitehall or the Elysee Palace, far beyond the range of the deadly rockets that to
o often fall on Israeli towns and cities. He is right in this.

But Kerry was also right when he said that “the status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation.” And Netanyahu is dreaming if he does not think this has profound long-term implications for Israel.

How long will it take for the world to conclude that a de facto one-state solution exists? Another year? Five? Ten?

The moment will eventually come, and focus will shift to the political rights of the 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank. With Arabs constituting about 35 percent of the population living under Israeli government control (including 1.7 million who already live in Israel proper), how can such a huge minority be permanently denied full participation in the nation’s civic life?

Israel is a vibrant democracy that takes seriously the moral and ethical requirements of Judaism. These are incompatible with perpetual occupation of the West Bank and the denial of basic rights to those who live there. There is no way around this contradiction. Something has to give.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com (c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

How to Live Happily in a Buffoonocracy

Silvio Burlusconi

Silvio Burlusconi

How to Live Happily in a Buffoonocracy
By Daniel Sherman

To the long list of ways in which Italians can teach us to live better, let us add this: how to live a happy life when your nation’s leader is an utter buffoon.

First, expect it will happen from time to time. It is a widely held position of faith in the United States that whatever our leaders’ and governments’ shortfalls, somehow deep down inside The Right Thing is bound to come out and Virtue shall prevail. Inherent Goodness is woven right into the fiber of our Constitution.

From Italy’s view, this is a charming affectation of young empires: of course they all believe they’re special. But when a society continuously occupies an easily-invaded peninsula for several thousand years it is subjected to a long roster of charlatans, the mentally ill, the preening, and an occasional vainglorious psychopath. Italy was ruled for one-third of the 20th Century by two from that list, and yet at the end of it a resource-poor nation of 60 million was the 8th largest economy in the world. Most Italians believe that their politicians are thieving, cretinous, or at best hapless.

Yet every year grapes are made into wine and olives get pressed into oil. After a long Sunday lunch in the countryside, children play in the vineyard and adults shovel crumbs across the tablecloth and pour nips of grappa. Between memories of the last vacation and plans for the next, they reflect on the lack of a single good politician in Rome. And 20 years later, slightly grayer but improbably thin, they’ll be at the same table pushing crumbs around, drinking grappa and complaining about the incapable dolts in government.

Second, unless the World Cup is on, Italian patriotism and faith in government carries the sort of esteem generally reserved for financial audits and the boll weevil. In contrast, it is a matter of dogma to the American Left, long the stable of well-meaning marms, nags, and scolds, that robust patriotism and faith that government can work is what actually makes government work. Admittedly this seems logical: how can we improve our institutions if we believe they will fail?

Yet, by every measure that counts the people of Italy are treated far, far better by their government than Americans are theirs. To placate the perpetually displeased, Italy lavishes eight weeks paid vacation, generous family leave, guaranteed health care, robust privacy protection, and for half a century has avoided pointless wars of adventure. Step off the plane in any major city and note the sorry state of the Italian flag if you can find one: tattered, greased with diesel fumes, faded colors.

Arrive at any American city and you are welcomed by a proud row of starchy flags snapping in the breeze. Our car dealerships have better flags than their military bases do. In return for Americans’ unfailing patriotism and faith in government, we are executed at traffic stops, mustered into quixotic wars, tossed into the clink for decades on arbitrary and racist grounds, snooped and poked and prodded without due cause, then told health care sure would be nice but, shucks, all the money got spent. Maybe later. There is something of the abused spouse, insisting after beatings and maltreatment that deep down inside, they know their love wants the best for them.

Yes, but you don’t understand, Americans are serious and decent folk, Trump will make a mockery of us! What will the world think?

Perhaps that we should take ourselves less seriously. The descendants of Julius Caesar, Dante, and Galileo hardly cottoned to Silvio Berlusconi, a figure they had to watch cavorting about as Prime Minister for nine years. Nine years of massive corruption, bunga bunga parties, making obscene gestures behind a head of state to impress Boy Scouts, pushing through a raft of dangerous and regressive policies, alleged Mafia ties, ticking off his wife so much she had to publish a letter in a national newspaper demanding an apology, and finally, the cherry on top, paying an under-age, illegal immigrant prostitute for sex. He was convicted in a court of law for bribing a senator as well.

Berlusconi’s hair wasn’t coiffed as badly as Trump’s, but in the range of leaders with problematic hairstyling, he was up there with Kim Jong Un or a Boris Johnson. Rather than going tightly styled or keeping a messy shock, Italy’s prime minister fought a pitched battle for his hairline on the national stage, sometimes taking ground, sometimes forced into retreat, resorting to surgeries and mysterious colorants. The front advanced towards the brow, then fell back for total rout at the top of the cranium. The cycle repeated
.
How did Italians deal with that? They took vacations abroad and had a blast. As Italians do, they went around the world looking for what’s right and interesting about other places. I realize this is not an option for all Americans, but the college-educated segment that is most aghast at a Trump presidency is also most able to find the time and resources to leave. I’m willing to bet it was the population of U.S. passport holders that woke up November 9th to the deepest sense of dread and horror.

Let Trump invite Berlusconi to the White House, they can arrange a bunga bunga party in the Lincoln Room. Get a flight to a remote location, climb a mountain with a temple or castle on top, and for sure you’ll find Italians already there. You’ll spot them by their classy shoes, Invicta backpacks, and weather-regardless the men are wearing scarves. Perhaps you’ll make friends and wangle an invitation to visit them in Italy. You could wind up at that farmhouse table, enjoy a delicious meal, and hear a long recitation from your hosts about how Italy is subjected to leadership of the moronic and money-grubbing. Keep the friendship, twenty years and countless vacations later they’ll still be there.


Daniel Sherman is an import entrepreneur between his two concurrent lives in Italy and Chicago. His novel Good Enough is coming out next year.

Photo by Ricardo Stuckert/PR – Agência Brasil [1], CC BY 3.0 br, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4350519

Trump claims $50 billion SoftBank investment due to his election win

Man looks at the logo of SoftBank Group Corp at the company's headquarters in Tokyo

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Billionaire business tycoon Masayoshi Son said on Tuesday he would invest $50 billion in the United States and create 50,000 new jobs, a move President-elect Donald Trump claimed was a direct result of his election win.

The investment revived speculation that U.S. telecoms giant Sprint Corp <S.N>, 82-percent-owned by Son’s SoftBank Group Corp <9984.T>, might rekindle merger talks with T-Mobile US Inc <TMUS.O> that died under pressure from U.S. regulators.

The lack of details on investment timetable also prompted doubts whether the promise of money and jobs will be met, as Sprint is slashing staff numbers to cut more than $2 billion in costs this year.

Trump’s moves since the election to engage with individual companies, while turning his back on broader, years-in-the-works trade deals, show that the President-elect is leaning on the deal-making skills he honed in the boardroom.

Trump campaigned against the over-regulation of business and is expected to be more open to mergers than President Barack Obama.

The investment, announced jointly by Trump and Son in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, would come from the $100 billion investment fund the head of Softbank is setting up with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund and other potential partners, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Masa from SoftBank of Japan, and he’s just agreed to invest $50 billion in the United States and 50,000 jobs,” Trump said.

“He would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!” Trump later Tweeted.

Son, who wore a red tie and red sweater under his suit jacket, told reporters his company, a $68 billion telecommunications and tech investment behemoth, would create jobs by investing in startup companies in the United States.

“We are going to invest $50 billion into the U.S. and commit to create 50,000 new jobs,” said Son, adding that he expected a lot of “deregulation” under a Trump administration.

Trump and Son did not give a timeline for the investment. Trump’s four-year term will begin after his Jan. 20 inauguration.


SHARES OF SOFTBANK, SPRINT RISE

In October, prior to the election, SoftBank said Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) would be the lead partner in the fund and could invest up to $45 billion over the next five years. SoftBank expects to put in at least $25 billion.

Shares in SoftBank rose 3.8 percent early on Wednesday in Tokyo after jumping as much as 5.1 percent to their highest since August last year.

“Now the market sees SoftBank as a Trump-related stock and that’s because it reacted favorably to their meeting,” said Fumio Matsumoto, a fund manager at Dalton Capital in Japan.

Son had hoped to merge Sprint with T-Mobile US to take on U.S. market leaders AT&T Inc <T.N> and Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N>.

Shares of Sprint briefly reached their highest level in 2-1/2 years, soon after Son’s comments. They closed up 1.5 percent to $8.17 in heavy trading, ending well below session highs. Shares of T-Mobile US were up 1.8 percent at $55.99.

It was not immediately clear how much of SoftBank’s investment had been disclosed before. Softbank said on Nov. 7, the day before the U.S. election, it planned to make future large-scale investments via the $100 billion tech fund, rather than on its own, to avoid growing already-bloated debt.

Whether or not Trump’s election led to SoftBank’s planned investment, the billionaire’s victory has been a boon to stock investors. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at another record level on Tuesday, its 11th new high since the Nov. 8 vote.

Should the SoftBank fund grow as large as $100 billion, it would be one of the world’s largest private equity investors and a potential kingpin in the technology sector.

SoftBank, a diverse firm that also holds stakes in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba <BABA.N>, has been stepping up investment in new areas, as Son aims to make the firm the “Berkshire Hathaway of the tech industry.” It purchased U.K. chip design firm Arm Holdings for $32 billion this year in Japan’s largest ever outbound deal.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Eric Walsh and Malathi Nayak; Additional reporting by Iga Daiki in TOKYO; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Nick Zieminski; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lincoln Feast)

History v Now – US Near World Monopoly 1945 – 1970

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We often hear things like, wages have not risen appreciably since 1976 and we want our old jobs back. We often look back at the past to look forward. I thought I would look at history and where we are today to determine what is possible. This is a look at what started it all. Then we will move forward in time, probably tomorrow.

By 1976, the United States had experienced 30 years of unique economic advantage. From World War I through the end of World War II in 1945, the rest of the relevant industrial world had managed to all but destroy its industrial capabilities. WWII effectively dismantled European and Asian industry. In 1945, the US was the only world economy left standing, not only unscathed, but expanded and strengthened by the new US war machine.

It took over 20 years for much of Europe and Japan to rebuild. It took some years before they managed to build enough product to cover their internal needs, while importing a great deal from the US. Meanwhile, China and Russia (along with all of Eastern Europe) removed themselves almost completely from international competition.

From 1945 to about 1970, the US was essentially the only, and certainly the major, industrial producer in the world. Businesses grew exponentially, enjoying nearly monopolistic profits. Labor demanded its share and got it, because US businesses could afford it and had no choice at the time. By the 1970’s, with no competition from international producers or foreign low-cost labor, US wages and US companies were at their height relative to the rest of the world.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that European and Japanese competitors began to make significant inroads into US markets. Made in Japan was new, and not an emblem of quality. VW Beetles invaded the US, the first step in upsetting years of Big 3 dominance. I remember playing “punch-bug” with my siblings and friends in the back seat in the late 60’s. It was hard to get a Mercedes in this country in the 50s and 60s. I remember when the first Mercedes dealership opened in town. It was a huge deal. Then small, cheap Japanese cars arrived in droves. The Big 3 were in panic mode. This happened across the spectrum of manufactured products.

In the 40 years since 1976, the world has changed. Baby Boomers like me remember these glory days well, and most want to get back to them, but the underlying reasons for US world industrial dominance are long past. World War II recovery was just step 1. More to come.

The 2016 election has held up a mirror to America, and she is not beautiful

Patrick Chappatte, The International New York Times

Patrick Chappatte, The International New York Times

WASHINGTON – A timely visit to the American capital is a reminder that, unique among functioning democracies, Americans lavish kingly privileges on their presidents in a manner that is so extravagant, it would make actual monarchs blush. So when the nation prepares to anoint a knave or a joker as the new sovereign, it causes understandable… [Read more…]

Book Review: Nguyen’s ‘Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam And The Memory Of War’

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Every American generation, it seems, has its own war. My grandparents had the Great War, my parents had the Good War, and I had the Vietnam War, with the Forgotten War in between. My children had the Iraq War and, at the rate things are going, my grandchildren with inherit the War in Afghanistan, which at 15 years and counting, is far and away the U.S.’s longest overseas military adventure.

This bloody roll call tells you a few things about America: Protestations to the contrary, we are a bellicose people who will never run out of wars because, after all, they’re good for business, if not the mortality rates of young men, and remind us of how much better we are than everyone else, especially people who look and dress funny. Wars also distract us from problems on the home front and help prime the old patriotic pump.

The narratives we hand down about our wars invariably summon memories of heroism and sacrifice. After the tide of public opinion turned against LBJ on Vietnam, a popular catchphrase was “Even if you don’t support the war, you can support the troops,” a semantic trap if ever there was one, and the narratives invariably overlook the enormous suffering of the armies and peoples of the lands we vanquish, which always is for the greater good, of course. Our greater good.

Nothing-Ever-Dies-cover

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which contains 58,000 names of American ward dead, is 150 yards long. Do you know how long a comparable monument to Vietnamese war dead with a similar density of names would be? (No, I didn’t think you would.)

It would be nine miles long.

§

Wars are fought twice over — once on the battlefield and once in our memory — and that is the subject of Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, a scholarly, profound and challenging but hugely readable new book by Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Nguyen cites the works of philosophers, historians, journalists, filmmakers and artists who have plumbed the murky depths of the psychological impact of war on combatants and civilians, but to my mind Nothing Ever Dies is nothing less than the paradigm exploration of the subject as it applies to war in general, but especially my war.

He writes:

“The problem of war and memory is . . . first and foremost about how to remember the dead, who cannot speak for themselves. Their unnerving silence compels the living — tainted, perhaps by, a touch or more of survivor’s guilt — so to speak.”

Nothing Ever Dies arguably is the nonfiction underpinning of his magnificent The Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. (Click here for my review.) This debut novel explores the post-Vietnam identity and politics of America through the eyes of a Vietnamese army captain and spy whose loyalties are deeply divided between East and West.

I wrote:

“The analogy is imperfect, but will suffice: The Sympathizer . . . is a terrific bookend to Fire In the Lake, the Frances FitzGerald classic. While one book is fiction and the other nonfiction, both tell the story of the Vietnam War, its aftermath and legacy from a Vietnamese point of view. And both, in their genre different but similarly powerful ways, are reminders to believers of the cocked-hat notion the U.S. could have ‘won’ the war if the politicians had only butted out, that it was a fool’s errand from start to ignominious finish. And while there was a surplus of fools on all sides, the biggest were the brass at the American Central Command in Saigon.”

Nguyen was born in Vietnam and raised in the U.S. He is harshly critical of American conduct in the Vietnam War and the amnesia that has conveniently enabled many of us to forget what a humbling defeat it was for our self-aggrandizing imperialist selves. But he is no apologist for the Vietnamese, who called the decade-long conflict the American War and considered it a resounding victory, which it was not. He writes that both countries “have not lived up to their revolutions.”

§

In Nothing Ever Dies, Nguyen references Apocalypse Now, the epic 1979 Vietnam War film starring Marlon Brando as the insane Special Forces colonel who commands his own Montagnard troops as a sort of demi-god. The Sympathizer has numerous indirect references to the Francis Ford Coppola masterwork, including the character of a megalomaniacal Hollywood director who hires the captain-spy to critique his war movie and share his expertise during filming in the Philippines, which happens to be where Apocalypse Now was shot.

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Apocalypse Now is an important work of art,” Nguyen told an interviewer in the run-up to publication of Nothing Ever Dies, “But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to bow down before it. I’m going to fight with it because it fought with me,”

Nguyen first saw Apocalypse Now when he was 10, a Vietnamese refugee who spoke fluent English, and says he was devastated.

“People just like me were being slaughtered,” Nguyen told the interviewer. “I felt violated. It was an antiwar movie about the war in Vietnam, but the movie was about Americans. The Vietnamese were silent and erased.” Thus began his scholarly, decades-long pursuit of war and memory.

He is referencing both the U.S. and Vietnam, and for that matter any other nation, when he writes:

“The problem of how to remember war is central to the identity of the nation, itself almost always founded on the violent conquest of territory and the subjugation of people. For citizens, garlands of euphemism and a fog of glorious myth shroud this bloody past. The battles that shaped the nation are most often remembered by the citizenry as defending the country, usually in the service of peace, justice, freedom, or other nobles ideas. Dressed in this way, the wars of the past justify the wars of the present for which the citizen is willing to fight or at least pay taxes, wave flags, cast votes, and carry forth all the duties and rituals that affirm her or his identity as being one with the nation’s.”

In the end, Nothing Ever Dies is a powerful meditation. It is a book to be read in small sips and not big gulps. It is worthwhile alone for revealing the intellectual roots of The Sympathizer, but even more so for confirming in compelling and passionate terms how we choose to remember and how we choose to forget, most notably for me that America is indeed fighting a forever War.

Cross-posted from Kiko’s House

Learning from Britain’s unnecessary crisis

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WASHINGTON — Elites are in trouble. High levels of immigration are destabilizing our democracies. Politicians who put their short-term political interests over their countries’ needs reap the whirlwind — for themselves but, more importantly, for their nations.

Citizens who live in the economically ailing peripheries of wealthy nations are in revolt against well-off and cosmopolitan metropolitan areas. Older voters lock in decisions that young voters reject. Traditional political parties on the left and right are being torn asunder.

One of the few good things about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is the rich curriculum of lessons it offers leaders and electorates in other democracies.

History is unlikely to be kind to British Prime Minister David Cameron. Last week’s referendum was not the product of broad popular demand. Cameron called it to solve a short-term political problem and get through an election. His Conservative Party was split on Europe and feared hemorrhaging votes to the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant UK Independence Party.

Cameron figured that kicking his troubles down the road by promising a future plebiscite on Europe could make them go away. Instead, he turned a normal electoral challenge into a profound crisis that could lead to the breakup of his country while threatening Europe’s future. The devastating complaint of Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament: “A whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory Party.”

For all the Union Jacks hoisted at Leave rallies, the nationalism behind this was English, not British. England voted to get out of the EU, Scotland overwhelmingly to stay. Northern Ireland also favored Remain, while Wales split narrowly for Leave, its more English parts voting like England.

Suddenly, for Scots who want their country to be independent, their nationalism becomes a form of pro-European internationalism. To stay in Europe, they have to escape Britain. Northern Ireland’s status is now also in doubt.

Don’t trash democracy or the voters. Where complicated choices are involved — and Brexit defines complexity — leaders in representative democracies need the guts to make hard calls and submit themselves to voters afterward. They should not use referendums purely to evade responsibility.

In fact, now that this road has been opened, real democrats should demand a second referendum on the terms of an exit deal. On Thursday, voters bet that the unknown would be better than the known. They should get to vote again on the full implications of what they set in motion.

The European idea was killed in part by right-wing Tories who think they can turn their island into a free trade, low-regulation paradise. But it was also battered in traditionally Labour-voting industrial areas far away from a happy and generally prosperous London that voted overwhelmingly to stay. A partial tally of the discontent: 68 percent Leave in Barnsley; 70 percent in the authority that includes Grimsby; and 62 percent in South Shields’ borough.

Emma Lewell-Buck, the Labor parliamentarian who represents South Shields and supported Remain, was right to say that UKIP leader Nigel Farage “whipped everyone up into a frenzy with his hateful language.”

Ethno-nationalism is on the rise across Europe and this vote will only intensify the trend. But in so many nations, including our own, technological change, globalization and financialization force the left-out to stare at prosperity from a great distance. In their justified frustration, they often see immigration as of a piece with the other changes in the world that they deplore.

Responsible officials should always be ready to denounce racism. But their job description also requires them to provide realistic policy answers to quell the rage. If center-right and center-left politicians fail to do this, their parties will remain suspect.

Yet if Britain’s vote is understandable, it’s also a cause for sadness. It’s a vote against a more open world and a rejection of the idea that democracies can actually gain power by pooling sovereignty and seeking goals in common.

The Leave campaign used slogans very familiar to Americans, including variations on “Take Our Country Back” and “Britain First.” These resonated with older voters who backed Leave by big margins. Younger Britons, who voted strongly to stay in Europe, will be shackled for many years to a result their elders imposed on them.

Friends of open societies have been slapped in the face by citizens who are themselves retaliating for having been knocked around and ignored for too long. Across Europe and in the United States, politicians can either respond to these cries of protest or face something worse than Brexit.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Is the United States “a hellhole”?

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“A hellhole” is how Donald Trump describes the United States.

I have lots of criticisms of my country, but according to Trump, the country is sliding into Third World status and is militarily and economically impotent.

Is that true? No, says Washington Post columnist and CNN host Fareed Zakaria. Even though we live in a more complicated world and the United States will have to continue to work with international partners, the country is still the world’s preeminent military, economic, and innovation power. A sampling:

In fact, it is increasingly clear that the United States has in recent years reinforced its position as the world’s leading economic, technological, military and political power. The country dominates virtually all leading industries — from social networks to mobile telephony to nano- and biotechnology — like never before. It has transformed itself into an energy superpower — the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas — while also moving to the cutting edge of the green-technology revolution. And it is demographically vibrant, while all its major economic peers (Japan, Europe and even China) face certain demographic decline… 

…there are nine global tech platforms (Google Chrome, Microsoft Office, Facebook, etc.) that are used by more than 1 billion people. All dominate their respective markets — and all are American. The dollar is more widely used for international financial transactions today than it was 20 years ago… 

…China is the closest the United States has to a rising rival but only on one measure, gross domestic product… 

…The United States’ inclusive wealth totaled almost $144 trillion in 2010 — 4½ times China’s $32 trillion.

China is far behind the United States in its ability to add value to goods and create new products… 

In 2013, China took in less than $1 billion, while the United States received $128 billion. In 2012, America registered seven times as many “triadic” patents — those granted in the United States, Europe and Japan. 

In the military and political realm, the dominance is even more lopsided. There are many ways to measure this, but take just one: the most potent form of force projection, aircraft carriers. The United States operates 10. China has one, a secondhand Ukrainian ship that it had to retrofit. In the realm of high-tech warfare — drones, stealth — Washington’s lead is even greater. And perhaps most important, the United States has a web of allies around the world and is actually developing new important ones, such as India and Vietnam. Meanwhile, China has one military ally, North Korea.

Military and economic power aren’t end games for the human race, of course. You can, as Jesus tells us, gain the world and lose your soul.

And we do have major problems in this country that need to be resolved.

[To read the rest of the post, go here.]

[Blogger Mark Daniels is the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church, Centerville, Ohio.]

Obama injects himself into contentious debate over whether Britain should exit the EU

LONDON — President Barack Obama made a forceful case Friday against Britain severing its relationship with the European Union, arguing that such a move could diminish the United Kingdom’s global standing and even potentially imperil its “special relationship” with the U.S. The president’s comments, while welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron and other leading officials who… [Read more…]

Beef Up Conventional Forces; Don’t Worry About A Tactical Nuke Gap

Russian Iskander tactical nukes in Kaliningrad Credit: militaryphotos.net At the end of this week, thousands of experts in one of humanity’s most terrible possibilities — nuclear war — will meet here in Washington to discuss how to avoid what they have spent their careers planning to do, in hopes they never will. Michael Krepon, one of… [Read more…]

“The enemy is us”

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Donald Trump had reminded us of the old saying “We have met the enemy and he is us”. He can deny that he is the match sparking the powder keg at his rallies. He can deny that encouraging his supporters to hit protesters and offering to defend them if they are arrested has escalated the violence. He can deny that his words about “the good old days” when protesters “would be taken out on a stretcher” has anything to do with what happened in Chicago after his rally was cancelled. But he can not hide from the truth. He can not run from what he has done. But then again, neither can anyone of us.

We cannot hold Mr. Trump entirely responsible for the climate of hate we find ourselves living in today. We must hold every politician, news commentator and radio personality accountable for speaking in ways that are designed to stir up hatred and encourage, if not directly incite, violence. Freedom of speech is a precious right meant to guarantee that opinions and thoughts can be expressed without fear of reprisal from the government. But with that right also comes a responsibility to not use our free speech to cause or advocate harm to others who disagree with us.

We also, each and every one of us, must accept responsibility for what has happened and is happening in our country. We find it easy to blame others. Easier to say it’s not our problem. And even easier to say someone else will fix the problems. So we have stood by while the rhetoric increases, while the divide widens and we return to a “wild wild west” mentality of guns for all and shootings become commonplace and accepted.

We play the blame game and blame the rich, the corporations, the politicians, and even God. We always ask why? Why does God allow this to happen? Why don’t the politicians do something about this? Some of us even believe that whatever happens “must be God’s will” as though God would will such violence. But we seldom if ever ask why am I not doing something? Why am I not saying something? Why am I not trying to stop this?

Abraham Lincoln, in a speech entitled “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” more commonly known as the Lyceum Address, said “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

We are inching ever closer to destroying ourselves. But we can and must stand up, stand together and stop the hate speech, stop encouraging violence and move forward together on the path of progress, not backward on the path of destruction.

graphic via shutterstock.com

Will Americans Go Over The Cliff?

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Yesterday, Donald Trump careened closer to the Republican nomination for president. Andrew Bacevich writes that Trump possesses an ugly ingenuity :

There is a form of genius at work here. To an extent unmatched by any other figure in American public life, Trump understands that previous distinctions between the ostensibly serious and the self-evidently frivolous have collapsed. Back in 1968, then running for president, Richard Nixon, of all people, got things rolling when he appeared on Laugh-In and uttered the immortal words, “Sock it to me?” But no one has come close to Trump in grasping the implications of all this: in contemporary America, celebrity confers authority. Mere credentials or qualifications have become an afterthought. How else to explain the host of a “reality” TV show instantly qualifying as a serious contender for high office?

For further evidence of Trump’s genius, consider the skill with which he plays the media, especially celebrity journalists who themselves specialize in smirking cynicism. Rather than pretending to take them seriously, he unmasks their preening narcissism, which mirrors his own. He refuses to acknowledge their self-assigned role as gatekeepers empowered to police the boundaries of permissible discourse. As the embodiment of “breaking news,” he continues to stretch those boundaries beyond recognition.

The United States has become deeply narcissistic and, like Trump, it is infatuated with its own voice, increasingly absurd though it may be. But that doesn’t matter, because Americans now see their presidents as demigods:

With Americans assigning to their presidents the attributes of demigods — each and every one memorialized before death with a library-shrine — who better to fill the role than an egomaniacal tycoon who already acts the part? The times call for strong leadership. Who better to provide it than a wheeler-dealer unbothered by the rules that constrain mere mortals?

What does the future hold? Nothing less than the republic itself is at stake:

Should Trump or a Trump mini-me ultimately succeed in capturing the presidency, a possibility that can no longer be dismissed out of hand, the effects will be even more profound. In all but name, the United States will cease to be a constitutional republic. Once President Trump inevitably declares that he alone expresses the popular will, Americans will find that they have traded the rule of law for a version of caudillismo. Trump’s Washington could come to resemble Buenos Aires in the days of Juan Perón, with Melania a suitably glamorous stand-in for Evita, and plebiscites suitably glamorous stand-ins for elections.

graphic via shutterstock.com

Will Americans go over the cliff? We shall see.

Angry America and the 2016 version of ‘Hope’ (Guest Voice)

I was waiting in a checkout line the other day and I overheard a funny conversation. A newspaper had a big picture of a Republican presidential candidate on the front page. There was a little boy standing in front of me with his mother. He couldn’t have been more than five or six years old. He… [Read more…]

Trump is the darkness within America’s past (Guest Voice)

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Last week in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich gave what many considered a gracious speech. He had just finished second, keeping his dim campaign hopes alive. The Ohio governor congratulated Donald Trump on his victory and then went on to talk about his own vision for America. It boiled down to the fundamental conservative… [Read more…]

Syria war: Powers agree on ‘cessation of hostilities’

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World powers have agreed on a “cessation of hostilities” that could serve as a bridge towards the resumption of genuine Syrian peace talks later this month. Emerging from a marathon meeting that stretched late into the night in Munich on Thursday, United States Secretary of State John Kerry said the powers had agreed on a plan… [Read more…]

Forget what Trump says – America’s still great (Guest Voice)

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America was once a great nation and is great no longer. That’s the theme running through Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. His T-shirts and ballcaps cry out, “Make America Great Again!” He’s speaking to an audience that already agrees with him. Republicans believe their formerly great country has been mired in failure during… [Read more…]

Global Warming- Are We Out of the Woods?

shutterstock_155265725The Earth warmed more in the last three decades of the 20th century than in the previous 1400 years with rising temperatures accelerating at the start of the 21st century. Human activity has been mainly responsible. Changes in weather patterns, areas of drought, and heightened ocean levels can all be anticipated as atmospheric warming increases further. This will result in inundation of low lying portions of the Earth, with the possibility of numerous deaths from hurricanes, typhoons, and floods. And as the surface is flooded, more people will seek higher ground, crowding areas of perceived safety. There will also be less arable land available to produce food as heat and droughts are commonplace, with the likelihood of hunger and even famine stalking the Earth.

The vast majority of climate scientists (97 percent) agree that most of the planet’s warming is of man-made origin, primarily through the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as industrialization and the growth of the middle classes has spread everywhere. Climbing wealth in Third World countries has led to greater consumption and use of electricity, appliances, automobiles, air conditioning, and so forth. The burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil which releases CO2, along with the discharge of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are the two major factors responsible for the current scenario. Putting the climate genie back in the bottle will not be an easy task, but must be accomplished if the Earth as we know it is to survive.

China contributes the most to global warming with a dependence on coal for much of its energy, with the United States second. However, on a per capita basis and in total emissions over the years, the U.S. is first. China, Russia, India, Brazil, Germany and the U.K. make up the rest of the dirty seven. India is also coal dependent like China and with a soaring population may soon surpass China in polluting. In fact, New Delhi’s air may already be the dirtiest in the world. Unhappily, an Indian minister has stated that the growth of its economy and lifting its populace out of poverty is more important than dealing with global warming.

However, the Conference on Global Warming that took place in Paris recently provides some hope. In a landmark accord, the representatives of 195 countries, including China, the U.S. and India, committed their nations to cut greenhouse gases enough to moderate the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, this pact did not have mechanisms to enforce its provisions and is dependent on voluntary adherence to the limitations to which countries signed on. And past deals to control the use of fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gases have not been successful, as many nations disregarded the agreements. Perhaps because of greater urgency and the epic pollution occurring now in China, India, and other developing states, this program will be followed.

There also remains the question, however, whether the accepted cuts in emissions will be sufficient to meet the goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius above the prevailing temperature prior to the industrial revolution. Keeping it below 1.5 degrees would be the preferred limit. It is believed by scientists that atmospheric temperatures above that level will cause enough destructive effects to impact hundreds of millions of people. European democracies in general are already taking steps to reduce their production of carbon dioxide by using more renewable energy. (Though after the Fukushima nuclear accident, Germany has been abandoning nuclear energy.) But alternative energy sources are more expensive than coal. India and other developing countries have been reluctant to drop cheap coal and have been pushing for the developed nations to subsidize alternative energy for them. Greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, such as methane, must also be reduced if the rate of climate change is to be altered significantly.

In addition to the above measures, deforestation must be halted since it is a major factor in global warming. Harvesting of trees and clearing of land for farming and grazing pastures must be ended and forests replanted as sinks for absorbing carbon dioxide. Brazil, Indonesia and other nations with large forested areas must be encouraged to keep them intact and even start to enlarge them.

A report issued by an international commission in September 2014 entitled The New Climate Economy, suggested that the cost of lowering greenhouse gases might be much less than had been estimated previously. Some other credible international groups have even claimed that efforts to restrict carbon emissions would not hurt economic growth and might even act as a stimulus. What these scientists and economists say is that the cost of curbing carbon in the atmosphere would be offset by the benefits that would occur. This is partially because of the steep drop in solar and wind energy prices, along with the use of nuclear power and carbon recapture. Either cap-and-trade or a carbon tax could be used to drive the reduction of fossil fuel use, or any other path that was shown to work. One of the offsets would be greatly improved health, survival, and productivity of the population with the most exposure to “dirty air” and carbon particles.

The surprising drop in fossil fuel prices at the end of 2014 may cause more difficulties convincing underdeveloped nations to lessen the use of carbon-based fuels and increase alternative energy. And the election of a Republican president in the U.S. in 2016, who reverses Obama’s steps on the environment, could “heat” up the atmosphere further. Unfortunately, most Republicans in Congress deny the dangers of global warming and are unwilling to take action to curb greenhouse gases. In fact, Senator Jim Imhofe of Oklahoma, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, has said that climate change is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” God, not humans, controls the weather. How do you deal with such ignorance, since it is likely Imhofe’s constituents agree with his statements.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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Is Syria The Next Vietnam?

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For more than a year, numerous comparisons have been made between the U.S.’s involvement in the war in Vietnam and its involvement in Syria. After U.S. President Barack Obama announced Friday that the United States would send up to 50 special troops to Syria, the first time that the U.S. would put boots on the ground… [Read more…]

Canadian View: Jeremy Corbyn? Donald Trump? Rob Ford? How can it have come to this?

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Jeremy Corbyn’s upset win as Labour Party leader in Britain looks like a disaster for all concerned. But something can be salvaged if it also serves as a salutary shock. The victory is, first and foremost, a disaster for Labour. They have given themselves a leader who is unelectable, not for an occasional unguarded word or… [Read more…]

History Lessons Forgotten

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shutterstock_181590425 A quote from the philosopher George Santayana’s writing- “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”- is frequently used when someone is trying to make a point for or against war, or halting a nation’s aggressive behavior. One of the reasons for this is the ambiguity of the quote, as it can be interpreted to support different positions. Yet, there is truth in what Santayana wrote. National leaders tend to ignore the lessons of history except when it suits them, as their actions can look foolish at times when examined in the context of past events. Neville Chamberlain and the Munich pact he signed with Hitler in 1938 are also often employed as admonitions of history, to demonstrate that appeasement of dictators does not work. After Chamberlain had ceded a portion of Czechoslovakia to the Germans to avoid war, he returned to tell the British public he had secured “peace with honor…and peace for our time.” Of course, Hitler’s appetite was merely whetted by his annexation of the new territories and perceptions of British and French weakness. World War Two started shortly afterwards.

Western nations are currently facing three major threats to the order and stability that undergirds the world’s prosperity expected after the end of the Cold War. Leaders of the industrial democracies do not appear to be reacting in a manner that suggests an appreciation of history and instills confidence that Western ideals and values will be protected. The threats of course are from Putin’s Russia, the Iranian nuclear program, and radical Islam manifested by ISIS and Al Qaeda. In these conflicts, Western nations look to the United States to project its power to defend them, if agreements with Russia do not hold, or if ISIS and Al Qaeda are not defeated, or if Iran proceeds with the development of nuclear weapons.

Currently, the European Union, led by Angela Merkel of Germany and Francois Hollande of France, are hoping to limit Putin’s expansion in Ukraine by the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. But though the Russian economy has been damaged by these sanctions (and the low price of oil), it is Putin who continues to speak (and act) from a position of strength. The military power is in his hands and his control of the media has guaranteed backing from the Russian people. There is also the European dependence on Russian energy as part of the equation and the volume of trade between the E.U. and Russia that sustains businesses in the E.U.

In addition, the Ukrainian armed forces are weak compared to Russia and Europe provides little in the way of military back-up. Germany spends only 1.4% of its GDP on its military, France 2.2%, compared to 4.1% for Russia and 3.8% for the U.S. (However, in actual dollars, the U.S. spends more on its military than all of Europe and Russia combined.) European powers do not want a direct military confrontation with Russia and Putin is using this knowledge to expand the territory he controls. It should be remembered that Putin backed separatists in Georgia (as he is doing in Ukraine) and still controls Georgian territory (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). Part of Moldavia is also under Russian occupation (Transnitria). Eastern Ukraine and these other areas have ethnic Russians residing there. But so do the Baltic states, Kazakhstan, and other countries that were once in the Soviet orbit. If Putin is not blocked in Ukraine, what will stop him from fomenting revolts in other states and grabbing more territory?

Radical Islam is obviously a major threat to the Middle East, but also to Europe as well as the United States. Yet European nations have done relatively little militarily or economically to aid in the fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda, aside from dealing with their own nationals who might pose a danger to them. Though the total GDP of the E.U. is similar to that of America, E.U. states are reluctant to fund the build-up of their armed forces or engage in military conflict. Combat seems like such an uncivilized way to solve problems in the 21st century.

The E.U. (and Russia) along with the U.S. are involved in the nuclear talks with Iran, imposed sanctions appearing to have brought Iran to the negotiating table. The question is what action the E.U. will take (along with the U.S. and Israel) if Iran is unwilling to halt its nuclear weapons program. In addition to increased sanctions, will the E.U. be prepared to bomb Iran or take any other military steps?

Before the European Union (and Japan) can be partners with the U.S. in the confrontations against bad actors who threaten to upset world stability and order, they must increase the size of their military forces and acquire greater amounts of modern arms. The United States cannot be and does not want to be the world’s policeman. Other Western democracies must be willing to ramp up economic sanctions when necessary, and the use (or at least the threat) of force if nothing else works in halting aggression and attempts at intimidation of free nations. If one appears weak and vulnerable, a bully will not back down.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

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