Category Archives: International

Climate news quiz: What’s the difference?

Short two part news quiz:whatsdif3

What follows are two recent quotes about climate change that were in the news.

Step one: simply match the quote to one of these two prominent national Republicans: Vermont Governor Phil Scott or EPA Director Scott Pruitt. Part one should be easy if you have been following the news.

Quote # 1.) “We know humans have most flourished during times of what, warming trends. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100, in the year 2018? ”*

Quote #2.) “Climate change could be in some ways beneficial […] when we’re seeing some of the activity in California today, with the wildfires and so forth, and lack of water in some regions of the country, if we protect our resources we could use this as an economic boon, in some respects,” **

And- Step two of the test,explain: What’s the Difference?

 They both have staff that scrub and edited out references to climate change language from official documents. Both Governor Scott and EPA head Scott Pruitt have evolved the more skeptical language they  used about the issue. And now, by suggesting climate change might be beneficial, or even an “economic boon” for some and not a disaster for the planet, the threat seems not as threatening and the need to take action less immediate.

So what is the difference between them?

* Quote # 1.) source

** Quote #2.) source

FCC chairman Pai video gets in our face

According to all news reports the Republican FCC commissioners’ vote to end net neutrality will likely did go ahead today but chairman Ajit Pai may have jumped the shark.

Since becoming chairman Pai has been leading the charge to eliminate Obama era’s internet neutrality rules, becoming a real cut up in the past week. Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications, or websites you want to use. One application is that they can scuttle content from any selected service, like NetFlix, unless, of course that service chooses to pay an access fee to the telecom.

Despite a massive number requests from lawmakers, tech industry leaders, and the public to delay the FCC vote to end the rule, Pai has dismissed concerns. The New York Times reports that he called complaints “hot air and hysteria.” He denies he is doing the bidding of Verizon, his former employer, and sarcastically joked that his nightmare scenario would be refereeing a dispute between Verizon and Sinclair Broadcasting, another company he has been accused of helping with his policies.

Someone must have told him mocking his critics was a winning tactic because he made a video that, according to the avclub.com, he recently uploaded at the conservative site The Daily Caller, [more about Daily Caller here]  in which he pantomimes “all the things” we’ll still be able to do after he guts these regulations for sport. Things like “’gram food” or watch Game Of Thrones . Whew, he’s very cool, not some outta touch corporate tool, nah that man knows the price of bread ‘n’ milk. And,not that it cost that much but who paid for this video foolishness to be posted on The Daily Caller??

And the reviews are in and it’s not pretty. One describes Pai’s video this way: as a bit of textbook “smug asshole gloating,” it’s straight out of the playbook of his boss, Donald Trump, as we’re forced to watch this goofy jackass twist a fidget spinner and do the fucking Harlem Shake, even as he plots to strip protections from the most important technological advance of the modern era.

paiinface

However, most people probably saw this coming: the FCC chairman racing ahead to change the internet into something favorable to corporations, more akin to cable pay tee vee. But nobody wants Pai in our face with a video; that’s not even funny.

Governor Scott’s blue sky thinking on climate change

Vtdigger.com reports Scott sees potential ‘economic boon’ in climate change .

At his Thursday news conference Governor Scott was asked about the climate change issue. “I’m not sure that there’s a financial threat” to Vermont as a result of climate change, Scott said. And he suggested that with California experiencing rampaging wildfires it makes Vermont look pretty good.

Governor Scott has quite a sunny view of what climate change will do for Vermont it’s an opportunity, you see! This is kind of surprising as barely a couple days ago it was revealed that his administration was so loath to use the term “climate change” in a draft policy paper a plan for the future development that they edited the reference out.

But now Republican (Phil, not Rick of Fla.) Scott says, “Climate change could be in some ways beneficial to Vermont, when we’re seeing some of the activity in California today, with the wildfires and so forth, and lack of water in some regions of the country, if we protect our resources we could use this as an economic boon, in some respects,” Scott said.

climatetrends

A reporter asked whether Scott meant that if refugees fleeing wildfires and drought “have to relocate somewhere, they’d come to Vermont.”

“They’d come to Vermont, right,” Scott said.

What do you suppose those now “seeing some of the activity in California today […] wildfires and so forth, and lack of water” (also called having their homes destroyed and lives regularly threatened by massive wildfires) might feel about Scott’s remarks?

A recent study published by The Impact Lab titled, Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States, and reported in the Atlantic.com  one of the first to apply regional economic models to climate change found: Climate change will aggravate economic inequality in the United States, essentially transferring wealth from poor counties in the Southeast and the Midwest to well-off communities in the Northeast and on the coasts.

Other sections of the U.S. will suffer alarmingly according to the report: The loss of human life dwarfs all the other economic costs of climate change. Almost every county between El Paso, Texas, and Charlotte, North Carolina, could see their mortality rate rise by more than 20 people out of every 100,000. By comparison, car accidents killed about 11 Americans out of every 100,000 in 2015.

From his remarks it sounds possible that our Governor Scott is familiar with this paper. And perhaps if the study’s predictions prove reliable and you want to think only regionally there might even be some advantage for Vermont, for now. The study does note: If climate change continues unabated into the 22nd century, the North will likely eventually “flip over” into much higher temperatures and more severe economic  damages.”

And critics of the study caution in the Atlantic.com about its predictions: But this emphasis on the observed [the impact study is modeled on previously observed data] means that the research omitted many serious risks of climate change — even those the researchers considered important — if the data describing them was too paltry. The estimates do not include “non-market goods” like the loss of biodiversity or natural splendor. In other words: Most people agree that dead polar bears have an economic cost, but there’s no consensus on how to approximate it.

The study also doesn’t account for the increased likelihood of “tail risks”—that is, unlikely events with catastrophic consequences. Many researchers believe that global warming will make social strife, mass migration, or global military calamity more likely, but those events are, by definition, hard to predict.

For now let’s everyone keep a sharp eye out to see how Phil Scott is directing his administration to plan for climate change [oops]. But it’s possible the Governor was just trying out a little blue-sky thinking at his Thursday press conference you know, B.S. for short.

Trump immigration plan like Canada’s? “You’d need to squint past major aspects of the plan”

Just before heading to his New Jersey Golf Course for an extended August vacation, President Trump previewed his immigration plan. The changes inspired, perhaps,  by the Canadian immigration point systemare found in the “Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy” (RAISE) Act. The legislation was originally sponsored in the Senate by Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.); reports suggested that if the measure is enacted it would slash legal immigration to the United States.

The Trump-endorsed plan will:

  • Reduce categories for family applications. Residents could still sponsor spouses and minor children, but not other relatives.
  • Abolish an existing diversity lottery.
  • Insist upon English proficiency to immigrate.
  • Redefine “immediate relative” to include children age 18 and under, down from the current age 21.
  • Deduct points for skilled workers whose spouses are less skilled.
  • Offer bonus points for select advanced degrees.
  • Give bonus points for applicants earning 150 per cent of the national average income.
  • Provide bonus points for some types of high achievers, but not others. Included would be certain categories of Nobel prize-winners and certain athletes, such as those who’ve won an Olympic medal.

Later at a White House news conference, Presidential advisor Stephen Miller repeated claims that the new legislation was inspired by Canadian immigration ruleswith some changes. The New York Times notes that while the Canadian immigration does rely on a points-based system, Canada’s approach, however, does not merely favor immigrants based on their skills but also uses a system that promotes a multicultural society. That, it must be noted, is something the RAISE Act would not do.  images 789

And Canada appears to have a much more compassionate attitude toward refugees. In fact Canadian officials are preparing a temporary welcome center for a surge of thousands of asylum seekers. Some of them would be refugees who found their way to the USA but are now fleeing north, fearful of what will happen to them at the mercy of Trump’s newly energized enforcers at ICE. These often desperate people took ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan seriously when he said undocumented immigrants “should be [more] afraid” under the Trump administration. As if undocumented workers in the U.S. haven’t always been afraid of family-busting raids by la migra, only now the raids are even more brutal and without rationale.

So, is the Trump-endorsed RAISE Act anything like Canada’s rules? Well, as one Canadian newspaper politely quips, it is: “[it] contains definite traces of Canadian influence — but to find them, you’d need to squint past major aspects of the plan.

Beyond the margin with Trump

Donald Trump started the week by continuing a prolonged twitter attack on his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Later he tweeted a ban on transgender people serving in the armed forces then made a widely criticized politically divisive speech to a national gathering of Boy Scouts. Soon came an on-the-record obscene and insane rant by his new communications chief Anthony Scaramucci. Quickly following the Mooch’s rant, Trump fired  his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, and replaced him with the DHS Secretary, former General John Kelly. Woven into all that  chaos was the dramatic GOP loss in the Senate on a series of ACA repeal bills Trump supported.margincenter2

In reaction to all this chaos, The Donald turned on his own party and tweeted that the GOP “looked like fools” and threatened not to follow the Obamacare (ACA) law and to stop mandated payments to insurance companies. He left Washington, traveled to an event on Long Island and suggested to a gathering of police officers that they “…don’t be too nice” to alleged immigrant criminalsa comment widely perceived as a presidential call encouraging police violence. Here’s a link to a rundown of most of the events from the Financial Times

Watching this numbingly frightful week unfold, I remembered whatwhen the shock of Trump’s victory was still newseemed a worst case prediction of what was to come .

On November 29, 2016, only a few short weeks after the election, Rick Perlstein was interviewed by Sky News. Perlstein was a biographer of Nixon and a longtime observer of the American conservative movement, but his interview was cut short by the Murdoch-owned news channel. Although he never got the chance to make his comments on-air, Perlstein published his observations in the Washington Spectator.

None of these things [Trump’s unrealistic campaign promises], however, are possible.

So what happens next? His worshipful admirers cannot blame Trump for the stymying of this agenda: Trump is a god. It must be the people he told them to blame who are actually responsible. The lying media. The quisling Democrats. The sellout Republican establishment. Mexicans, of course. The more Trumpism fails, the more, and more violently, scapegoats will be blamed. And only some kind of stalwart resistance will stand between America and fascism.[emphasis added]

Remember, Perlstein planned to say these things in his on-air interview a mere 3 weeks after the election.

Here’s how he closed his piece: Maybe they [Sky News] didn’t like the direction I was heading; Sky News, after all, is owned by Rupert Murdoch, same as Fox. Or maybe I’m just being conspiratorial: Trump may soon be doing that to all of us. The margin has become the center. Paranoia strikes deep.

Looking back at this prediction from today’s perspective, six months further on in the Trump presidency, we have to say:  without a doubt, Perlstein called it. Except that we might say it’s the fringe, not the margin that is the center for now. If Trump was a flat-earther, we’d all be in danger of falling off the edge.

Just a “hoax” ? No,and it is as big as…

In addition to recently pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords, our own climate-denier-in-chief really has tweeted climate change skepticism 115 times. In 2012 Trump accused the Chinese government of promoting the “hoax” of climate change science in order to gain competitive advantage over the U.S.A.ahoax

Regardless of what Donald Trump might tweet or want to believe about climate change, this is not hoax: one of the largest icebergs ever recorded — 2,200 square miles — has broken off from Antarctica. For now, some scientists caution, it is too soon to determine if this is a direct result of climate change — but it certainly focuses the mind.

But how big is the giant iceberg compared to the size of something most people can comprehend? Well, if you are are familiar with Ukraine, it is half the size of the Transcarpathian region. The online news site Quartz.com has a regional rundown of what in the world something so large can be compared to so we can understand the magnitude of what just happened. asbigas

And should President Trump care to give the giant iceberg a second thought while watching a the Bastille Day parade and festivities in France this week he might find it enlightening to know that it is  55 times the size of Paris.

Wow, the ratings are in and the world swamped Trump!

It is well known Donald Trump, former reality TV performer, is obsessed with his own popularity in polls. He once called himself a ratings machine, but following a few short months in office, his worldwide numbers are in: a poll shows more than three quarters of the world has no confidence in President Trump.

According to a Pew Research Center survey of 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world. It is worth noting the survey was conducted before Trump’s widely unpopular decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords.

Pew Research found the biggest decline in worldwide public trust in Trump and his administration was with our closest allies in Europe and Asia.

Mirroring the numbers garnered by President Obama, the poll also showed that America as a country was popular then, and much less so now: In the closing years of the Obama presidency, a median of 64% had a positive view of the U.S. Today, just 49% are favorably inclined toward America. Only in two countries — Russia and Israel — out of the 37 polled, did Trump get higher marks than former President Obama had while in office.

Trumparrogant The resoundingly negative view around the world is an issue of the Trump character as well as policy. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader [a bully?]. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people.

Although the American people and popular culture are maintaining a reservoir of favorable opinion, the Guardian.com sees a troublesome trend developing, noting the Pew findings: […] also shows that the low level of support for the president is leading to a decline in support for wider American values. Just 49% expressed a broadly positive view of the US, compared with 64% in surveys carried out 2015 and 2016.

And Vermonters have only to look north to see what effect Trump’s “charm” has on our Canadian neighbors. For the first time in Pew Research history, most Canadians no longer regard America as a force for good in the world.

Just 43% of Canadians have a positive view of their neighbour.

I recall Trump’s 2016 New Hampshire primary victory speech when he promised: “And the world is going to respect us again. Believe me.”

Well maybe it’s time to cancel his show due to low ratings. Not so good Donald … sad, believe me.anvil3

Trump: A uniquely unwelcome visitor

Immediately after the latest horrible terrorist attack in London President Trump impulsively burst through the headlines, in form of a twitter storm. Trump attacked London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a self-serving way, promoting his own proposed immigration ban, by twisting the Mayor’s statements out of context — and all this before offering any condolences to the victims and families.

This is the second time he picked a feud with the Mayor following a terror attack. Kahn, a Muslim and a forceful Trump critic (he warned: “[Trump’s] ignorant view of Islam could make both of our countries less safe”), was the target of an earlier tweet storm, raising questions that anti-Muslim sentiment may motivate Trump.trumptweets2

About Trump’s latest the Washington Post writes: Before British authorities detailed exactly what happened on the London Bridge, before they blamed Islamist extremism and even before they publicly concluded it was an act of terrorism, President Trump fired off a tweet to his 31 million followers: An unconfirmed bulletin from the Drudge Report.

This outburst may only serve to complicate beyond precedent a presidential state visit to the UK in October which was already drawing serious opposition. As of January, 1.8 million Britons had signed an online petition objecting to President Trump’s visit. Reportedly Trump wants to forego his armored limousine and has demanded a ride through London to Buckingham Palace in the royal golden carriage, an expensive security nightmare because its so much easier to tip over.

On Monday Mayor Khan suggested that the Trump trip should be canceled: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the U.S.A. in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for. When you have a special relationship it is no different from when you have got a close mate. You stand with them in times of adversity but you call them out when they are wrong. There are many things about which Donald Trump is wrong,”

Can’t say I disagree: no country needs an unwelcome guest who can’t control himself to meet the standards of common decency, much less those of diplomacy.

Here’s to our French allies!

In a sweeping rejection of her nationalist and xenophobic message, French voters have chosen Maria LePen’s rival and opposite, Emmanuel Macron as the next President of France.

Preliminary vote counts give Macron something like 65% of the vote, while LePen could only manage 34%.

This is a victory for progressive values that we can ALL celebrate, and it has been a while since we Americans have had much of anything to be glad about.

It seems that Donald Trump’s antics have provided just the cautionary tale that French voters needed in order to sober up and see the writing on the wall/.

Too bad the Brexit vote came too soon to benefit from the same dose of cruel perspective.

Tomorrow morning’s 3:00 AM tweets from King Donald will no doubt deliver angry rebukes to former President Obama for “interfering” in the French election.

Maybe the “coincidence” that Macron’s party headquarters was hacked will somewhat dampen his inclination to shoot off his twitter mouth, since it does simply add more credibility to the ever thickening tissue of evidence that his own inner circle may have colluded with Russia in undermining the 2016 U.S. election.

But never mind all of that for today. Let’s relish the moment with a toast:

“Liberte, égalité, fraternité!”

Donald wants a carriage ride to visit the Queen

President Trump will be going to the UK and Buckingham Palace this October.  And he wants to do it in style. However…tipping donaldIn typical TRUMP® fashion he’s causing others great expense. Only da biggest, best, and shiniest for Donald: The White House has made clear it regards the carriage procession down the Mall as an essential element of the itinerary for the visit currently planned for the second week of October, according to officials.

Security sources have warned, however, that the procession will require a “monster” security operation, far greater than for any recent state visit.

The UK was spared some of this expense when Obama visited Buckingham Palace because he chose to go by motorcade rather than golden carriage. Xi Jinping, in 2015 did ride in a carriage (closed rather than open) to see the Queen, but that cost is expected  to dwarf what it will be for TRUMP® to have his open carriage ride.

A British security official notes that the U.S. presidential limo is formidable and: designed to withstand a massive attack like a low-level rocket grenade. Unlike the Royal coach, although it can be protected with bullet proof glass:

[…] In particular it is very flimsy.

“It would not be able to put up much resistance in the face of a rocket propelled grenade or high-powered ammunition. Armour-piercing rounds would make a very bad show of things.”

Other than his well documented attraction to shiny golden baubles is it any wonder why Trump may be insisting on the carriage? VladPutin

Well, his BFF Vladimir Putin (a.k.a. Vlad the Elector) had an open carriage ride when he went to visit the Queen. So, of course it’s an “essential” element for Donald too. Here’s his game in musical parody, insecurity and all.