Posts from our progressive community

Res ipsa loquitur

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 05:35
Obama, it seems, was not a credit to his race. By this logic, if we survive the next four years, we will not see a white President again. Ever.... Dr.Dawg

Res ipsa loquitur

Dawg's Blawg - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 05:35
Obama, it seems, was not a credit to his race.... Dr.Dawg

Restoring Character

Northern Reflections - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 05:34

God knows, governments are imperfect and the source of great frustration. Some suggest that the antidote is to run government like a business. On Friday, Donald Trump says that he will run the United States like a business. And, starting today, Kevin O'Leary is making the same pitch.

But, Mark Bulgutch writes, applying business principles to government doesn't solve the problems -- because business suffers from the same problems:

Volkswagen programmed its engines to control emissions only when they were being tested in labs. Once those engines hit the road, they emitted 40 times more pollution. Not to be outdone, Fiat Chrysler installed engine software to disguise the fact that illegal amounts of nitrogen oxides were getting into the air. To be clear, this wasn’t accidental. In the words of the California Air Resources Board, “A major automaker made the business decision to skirt the rules.”
Takata put faulty airbags in millions of North American cars. Then it prepared falsified reports to cover it up. At least 16 people have been killed by those airbags exploding violently.
The Walmart in Fort McMurray, Alta., has been hit with 174 charges of selling food unfit for human consumption after last year’s terrible wildfires. Walmart reacted to the charges with a carefully worded statement that doesn’t deny anything. It just says it worked closely with food inspectors. Those same food inspectors say they gave Walmart guidance in person and in writing and that what the store did was, “a direct and avoidable risk to the health of this community.”
The antidote to corruption in government or business is character, not technocratic expertise. And, these days, money seems to corrupt character:
Money is literally the bottom line for business. There’s no such thing as too much. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported this month that the 100 top CEOs in Canada made an average of $9.5 million dollars in 2015. The top earner was Michael Pearson of Valeant Pharmaceuticals. He made $182.9 million. That’s about 536 times more than our prime minister makes. Looks like the government made a good deal.
Politicians, who now raise money 24/7, are looking for a piece of that action. Take money out of politics and you just might restore the character of its participants. 
Image: Before It's News

chelsea manning will be free!!!!

we move to canada - Wed, 01/18/2017 - 04:59
This is the best news I've seen in a long, long time.
Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of the most prominent whistleblowers of modern times when she exposed the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

In the most audacious – and contentious – commutation decision to come from Obama yet, the sitting president used his constitutional power just three days before he leaves the White House to give Manning her freedom.

Manning, a transgender woman, will walk from a male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May, almost seven years to the day since she was arrested at a base outside Baghdad for offenses relating to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the website WikiLeaks.

Nancy Hollander, Manning’s lawyer, spoke to the Guardian before she had even had the chance to pass on to the soldier the news of her release. “Oh my God!” was Hollander’s instant response to the news which she had just heard from the White House counsel. “I cannot believe it – in 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It’s incredible.”

. . . Human rights groups welcomed Tuesday’s decision. Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.

“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”I could post about a million more links. I'm relieved and overjoyed that Chelsea Manning will finally be free.

The Ball is in Your Court Now, Assange

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 16:33

Chelsea Manning has received clemency from Barack Obama. Now it's time for Julian Assange to turn himself in to American authorities.

"If Obama grants Manning clemency," the WikiLeaks tweet read, "Assange will agree to U.S. extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case." Assange was referencing the case where — well, it's not exactly clear what case he's referring to. The Department of Justice has been investigating Assange and Wikileaks since 2010, but there's no evidence of charges having been filed.

Assange is currently living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden for sexual assault charges, so the U.S. isn't Assange's biggest problem. But in the U.S., Assange could face other challenges, like potential espionage charges for aiding a variety of U.S. government whistleblowers over the past decade.

Assange tweeted, without commenting on his offer: "Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning's clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible."

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 16:15
Companion cats.

And Then He Proved Us Right

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 15:11

Justin Trudeau was right when he said, "One of the things we inherited from the previous government was a high degree of mistrust by Canadians,” on pipelines.

It apparently hasn't dawned on Trudeau that he wasted no time proving how much that mistrust was justified.

It's like that farcical line he delivered with a straight face in Calgary when he said, "you can't chose between the environment and the economy." Of course he can choose. He chose the fossil fuelers when he approved the Site C dam. He chose the fossil fuelers when he approved BC's LNG fiasco. He chose the fossil fuelers when he approved the Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines.

It's unclear whether Trudeau can't think straight or he imagines that we can't. He plainly takes the Canadian people for fools. He's not man enough to accept responsibility for what he's chosen to do. He can't admit that he broke his word both to our First Nations and the greater community, especially the people of British Columbia.

But, wait, what about the Northern Gateway? He said no to that, right? Of course he did. With the Keystone XL going ahead and the Energy East line and Kinder Morgan flooding Vancouver's inner harbour with prime Athabasca dilbit, Northern Gateway was pointless.

Will Artificial Intelligence Target Women?

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 14:47

Think of a robotic Trump - racist, sexist, misogynistic. Some think those are the attributes we can expect to seep into artificial intelligence. The age of automation is not going to be kind to women.

Women are projected to take the biggest hits to jobs in the near future, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report predicting that 5.1 million positions worldwide will be lost by 2020. “Developments in previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology are all building on and amplifying one another,” the WEF report states. “Smart systems — homes, factories, farms, grids or entire cities — will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change.” These technological changes will create new kinds of jobs while displacing others. And women will lose roles in workforces where they make up high percentages — think office and administrative jobs — and in sectors where there are already gender imbalances, such as architecture, engineering, computers, math, and manufacturing. Men will see nearly 4 million job losses and 1.4 million gains (approximately one new job created for every three lost). In comparison, women will face 3 million job losses and only 0.55 million gains (more than five jobs lost for every one gained).

Forecasts like one from the consultancy McKinsey & Co. suggest that women’s weakening position will only be exacerbated by automation in jobs often held by women, such as bookkeepers, clerks, accountants, sales and customer service, and data input. The WEF report predicts that persistent gender gaps in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields over the next 15 years would also diminish women’s professional presence.

The article looks at an AI bot named Tay that Microsoft launched on the internet, a cyber millennial female. The pitch was that "The more you talk, the smarter Tay gets!" Enter the Trolls.
Tay’s designers built her to be a creature of the web, reliant on artificial intelligence (AI) to learn and engage in human conversations and get better at it by interacting with people over social media. As the day went on, Tay gained followers. She also quickly fell prey to Twitter users targeting her vulnerabilities. For those internet antagonists looking to manipulate Tay, it didn’t take much effort; they engaged the bot in ugly conversations, tricking the technology into mimicking their racist and sexist behavior. Within a few hours, Tay had endorsed Adolf Hitler and referred to U.S. President Barack Obama as “the monkey.” She sex-chatted with one user, tweeting, “DADDY I’M SUCH A BAD NAUGHTY ROBOT.”

By early evening, she was firing off sexist tweets:

“gamergate is good and women are inferior”

“Zoe Quinn is a Stupid Whore.”

“I fucking hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell.”


Artificial intelligence may soon look and sound far more sophisticated than Tay — machines are expected to become as smart as people — and become dangerously more sexist as biases seep into programs, algorithms, and designs. If thoughtful and careful changes to these technologies don’t begin now — and under the equal guidance of women — artificial intelligence will proliferate under man’s most base cultural norms. The current trends in machine learning augment historical misperceptions of women (meek, mild, in need of protection). Unchecked, they will regurgitate the worst female stereotypes. Sexism will become even more infused within societies as they increasingly — and willingly — rely on advanced technology.

Obama to Free Chelsea Manning

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 13:50

The New York Times is reporting that Barack Obama will commute the remaining prison sentence of Chelsea Manning. She is expected to be released in May.

No word yet on anything along the same lines for Edward Snowden.

German Opposition Leader Follows Trump's Lead

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 12:32

Sarah Wagenknecht, her name probably doesn't ring any bells. However she leads Germany's largest opposition party, the Left Party, and she seems to like what she's hearing from the Great Orange Bloat.

Wagenknecht wants two things. She wants NATO dissolved, broken up, dispersed. She also wants Germany to enter a "security union" with Russia.

"NATO must be dissolved and replaced by a collective security system including Russia," Wagenknecht told Germany's "Funke" media group.

Wagenknecht, who leads the opposition Left Party in parliament, added that comments made by the future US president "mercilessly reveal the mistakes and failures of the [German] federal government."

This is how complicated it could soon become. Wagenknecht doesn't like Trump, not one bit, but she likes his "wrecking ball" mentality.

In a Way, It's Kind of Fitting.

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 10:17

Somebody had to be first. Turns out it's America.

A new study finds that parts of the United States will reach the dreaded 2 degree Celsius climate change threshold faster than the rest of the planet.

The sad news it's the U.S. northeast where the early warming is expected to hit, not the climate change denyin', knuckle draggin' southern states.

Many of us want to know what’s going to happen to the climate where we live. How will my life be affected in the future?

This type of question is answered in a very recent study published by scientists from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The team, which includes Dr. Raymond Bradley and researcher Dr. Ambarish Karmalkar looked specifically at the Northeastern United States. They found that this area will warm much more rapidly than the globe as a whole. In fact, it will warm faster than any other United States region. The authors expect the Northeast US will warm 50% faster than the planet as a whole. They also find that the United States will reach a 2 degree Celsius warming 10–20 years before the globe as a whole.

So why does this matter? Well first, it matters because some of the effects people will experience are directly tied to the temperature increase in their region. For instance, we know that warmer air leads to more intense precipitation. In fact, we are already observing increases in very heavy rainfall across the United States (especially in the Northeast). Based on this new research, that trend will only get worse. It means that winters in this region will get warmer and wetter – more winter precipitation will likely occur as rain rather than snow. This affects the availability of water into the spring months. It also means that summers will have more intense heat waves which will lead to more severe droughts.

The summer condition described - heatwaves and severe drought - recently picked up a new name in American meteorological parlance, "flash drought." It describes what was experienced across eastern Canada last summer. That has always been a very productive agricultural region but it got hammered last year. Is that, as this study suggests, going to become Canada's new normal?

Next Stop - Imbecility

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 09:51

Gene warfare.

Apparently humans have a tricky little gene deficiency that works to make us a slight bit dumber, generation by generation.

Geneticists in Reykjavik find that certain genes that predispose people to "hit the books" are in generational decline.

They've also found that those who are inclined toward education also have lower rates of reproduction.

Great, more proof that Idiocracy isn't a satire. It's a documentary.

Trump's Next Ratings War

The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 09:23

Donald Trump thinks of people in terms of ratings. He's fond of tweeting that this critic or that is "grossly overrated." He couldn't resist taking a swipe at Arnold Schwarzenegger for this modest ratings as host of The Apprentice.

On Friday Donald Trump will be facing his own ratings war - the inauguration. His competition? That'll be the last guy, Barack Hussein Obama. He set the bar by which Trump will stand or fall.

I suspect you can still recall that inauguration celebration for the last incoming president eight years ago. In common parlance you could say that Obama "rocked" Washington and every other American city on January 20, 2009.

But this is Trump's January 20th and it's shaping up to be a lot different. His staff spent weeks trying but failed to get any  A-list talent to perform. They finally settled for Toby Keith.

The 2009 concert "Obama's We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial" had a list of performers so star-studded I'm shocked anyone was able to watch it without going totally blind. Brace yourself, because the list of performers included Master Sgt. Caleb Green, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Jon Bon Jovi with Bettye Lavette, James Taylor with John Legend and Jennifer Nettle, John Mellencamp, Josh Groban and Heather Headley, with Herbie Hancock and Sheryl Crow, Renée Fleming, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder with Usher and Shakira, U2, Pete Seeger, and, of course, Beyoncé.
Who needs people like them when you've got Toby Keith? Garsh.
Trump is hyper-sensitive to appearances, especially his own. This one is going to burn.

The Final Humiliation of the Con Clown Joe Oliver

Montreal Simon - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 06:52

It isn't the biggest story in the world, compared to the coming of Trump, or for that matter any other story.

But like the ghost of Harper past, the old Con Joe Oliver is back in the news. And sadly for him not in a happy way.

For after losing his seat in the last election, now he's lost his chance to get back to power.

After falling off his shaky perch. Again.
Read more »

No Catharsis

Northern Reflections - Tue, 01/17/2017 - 06:14

Donald Trump is the new LBJ. That's Richard Cohen's conclusion in this morning's Washington Post. And, like Lyndon Johnson, his presidency is doomed:

But Trump ought to pay attention to [John] Lewis and what he represents. The president-elect will take the oath with a minority of the popular vote — a substantial deficit of almost 3 million votes. He enters the Oval Office with historically dismal poll numbers, lower now than right after he won the election. He has done nothing to woo the majority of Americans who rejected his candidacy and has, instead, adhered to his schoolyard habit of tweeting his every grievance, denigrating his every critic, making cameos with vaccine and global-warming doubters and, as if to show some versatility, rascals such as Don King and Kanye West. It is a “Gong Show” with no gong in sight.

Lyndon Johnson would no doubt warn Trump that he is already on thin ice and he will plunge through it the moment Congress takes the measure of his unpopularity. Johnson was a man of huge political abilities and experience, and his achievements in civil rights entitled him to greatness. Yet, when Vietnam went sour, so did the public, and it seemed, after a while, that his personal characteristics, scathingly caricatured by artists such as David Levine and Jules Feiffer, oozed out of him so that they obscured both him and his accomplishments. He was deemed capable of anything — of lying and perversion of all kinds. This is where Trump stands now.
Trump has a sense of self. But he has no sense of history. So don't expect him to take any lessons from that quarter. However, there are also lessons to be gained from Greek Tragedy:

Meanwhile, Trump will have his moment, that’s for sure, but when things go wrong he will be chased from office — just like Johnson once was. The ancient Greeks knew why: A man’s character is his fate. In that case, Trump’s presidency is doomed. 
 When the end comes, there will be no sense of catharsis.


Yes we are all going to die

Tattered Sleeve - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 23:01
NATO is not something that can be brazenly referred to as obsolete in a brief missive by the PEOTUS in the days before assuming office. The shockwaves of uncertainty generated from't (especially lacking any spark of contextualization) are far greater than the capacity of the planet to withstand. Geo-politically speaking, war has been declared on the very basis of international relations. The most extraordinary buffoon since Fyodor Karamazov now holds our collective fate in his ignorant, tweet-happy hands. And yet here we are.

Well, He Does Know a Thing or Two About Divorce.

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 15:45

Is the marriage over? For longer than I've drawn breath, Europe and America have been intertwined in a relationship that blossomed into a marriage in the aftermath of WWII.

Now, in a pattern that echoes his path from Ivana to Marla to Melania, Donald Trump seems intent on straining America's relationship with Europe, perhaps in favour of a new paramour, Russia.

Trump recently dissed both NATO and the European Union, dismissing America's oldest military alliance as "obsolete" while praising Brexit, predicting the departure of other member states from the E.U. and blasting Angela Merkel's migrant policy. These are not actions by which mutual confidence is sustained.

For a while the president-elect said he welcomed a nuclear arms race with Russia. Barely a week later he advocated a reduction in Russia's and America's nuclear arsenals, hinting that he might scrap U.S. sanctions against Russia in the bargain.

The Europeans know that Trump does not have the confidence of America's 17 national security/intelligence agencies. They know that because America's intelligence types have been telling their counterparts not to share anything they don't want Putin to know about. Again, not great for sustaining mutual confidence.

French president Francois Hollande made it clear today that he's heard enough from the Great Orange Bloat.

"Europe will be ready to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will based on its interests and values," Hollande said before awarding France's highest honour to outgoing US ambassador Jane Hartley. "It does not need outside advice to tell it what to do."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, two Chinese state newspapers have warned of trouble ahead.
China will "take off the gloves" and take strong action if US President-elect Donald Trump continues to provoke Beijing over Taiwan once he assumes office, two leading state-run newspapers said on Monday.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, Trump said the "One China" policy was up for negotiation. China's foreign ministry, in response, said "One China" was the foundation of China-US ties and was non-negotiable.

"If Trump is determined to use this gambit in taking office, a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves," the English-language China Daily said.
One recent analysis concluded that in a major trade war, China's economy might sustain a 50% hit. America's economy could take an unrecoverable 75% blow. China, being more manufacturing focused, has the more resilient economy that would recover in short order. A trade war could leave America's FIRE economy (and the economies of America's dependents) mortally wounded.
In what Angela Merkel has termed Trump's "thought environment," the incoming president imagines America's strength as perhaps much greater than it would prove to be if strained. That would, of necessity, reset America's relationships with rivals, adversaries and one faithful allies alike.

The View From the Tanks

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 13:32

Think tanks are a wonderful and often overlooked source of garnering perspective on world events. Some, such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute or our own Fraser Institute are ideological hack factories posing as legitimate think tanks but there are others - Chatham House, Brookings, the Carnegie Endowment, the International Institute for Strategic Studies and more that are balanced and a rich source of insight into today's and tomorrow's events.
With seismic events now unfolding, particularly this week in Washington, it's a fine time for a stroll down Think Tank boulevard.
Let's begin with my favourite, the venerable Chatham House, more properly known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs. A couple of items of interest. Chatham House director, Dr. Robin Niblett, writes of  "The Demise of Anglo-American Economic Leadership."
Niblett writes it may be game over for the era of neoliberalism ushered in by Reagan, Thatcher (and Mulroney), what he calls "the Anglo-Saxon model." Many of us will be open to that idea but it begs the question of just what will take its place and what sort of "place" will there be for us in that place? Uncertainty ensues.
More recently, Dr. Niblett wrote on "Liberalism in Retreat," exploring how, with democracy in decline, liberal democracies must find ways to co-exist with their ideological foes.
"In the past, as other political systems have crumbled, the liberal international order has risen to face its challenges. Yet so long as the economies of its leading members remain fragile and their political institutions divided, the order they have championed is unlikely to regain the political momentum that helped democracy spread across the globe. Instead, it will evolve into a less ambitious project: an international liberal economic order that encompasses states with diverse domestic political systems."
Over at the exquisitely American, Brookings Institute, Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy pose the question "What makes Putin tick, and what the West should do."They write of three camps - those who underestimate Putin and those who overestimate Putin and a good many who do both.
"...many in the West underestimated Putin’s willingness to fight, for as long and as hard (and as dirty) as he needs to, to achieve his goals. Vladimir Putin will use all methods available, and he will be ruthless. Second, Western observers misread his skill as a strategist. Putin is not, as some have said, a mere tactician. He thinks strategically, and he has great advantages over Western leaders in his ability to translate that thinking into action. What we often fail to appreciate, however, is how dangerously little Putin understands about us—our motives, our mentality, and, also, our values. Only by trying to appreciate how Putin sees us can we see the logic in his actions—the logic he follows—and therefore get some idea of what he wants, where he might be headed, in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe and Eurasia…."
"...Vladimir Putin needs to be taken seriously. He will make good on every promise or threat—if Putin says he will do something, then he is prepared to do it; and he will find a way of doing it, using every method at his disposal."
"In short, Vladimir Putin is a fighter and he is a survivalist. He won’t give up, and he will fight dirty if that’s what it takes to win. He didn’t give up as a kid in the Leningrad courtyards. He didn’t give up in Chechnya. He won’t give up in Ukraine or elsewhere in Russia’s neighborhood. Vladimir Putin’s rules for street fighting are essentially the same for his principles in domestic and foreign politics. Establish credibility and don’t back down until the advantage is yours and you’ve made your point. Once your opponent has capitulated and you have established your turf and terms, then you can patch things up and move on—until the next showdown comes along."
Doesn't that make you thank your lucky stars we've got Trump in the ring with Putin?
"In the domestic and foreign policy arenas, Putin constantly sizes up his opponents and probes for physical and psychological weaknesses. Putin’s adaptation of Nixon’s “Madman Theory” approach helps flush these weaknesses out—it helps gauge reactions: They think I’m dangerous, and unpredictable, how do they respond to this? Have I got them unbalanced and on the back foot as a result? Then Putin tests his opponents to see if they mean what they say—will they also be prepared to fight, and fight to the end? If they are not, then he will exploit their empty threats to show them up, intimidate, deter, and defeat them."
Over at Carnegie, Amr Hamzawy, examines the aftermath of the Arab Spring concluding the region has returned to square one. He argues the Arab world must forge a new social contract with its people.
Meanwhile, Carnegie senior fellow, Karim Sadjapour, explains why Trump is the favourite of fellow autocrats (and worse) everywhere.
"While Trump lacks bipartisan support at home, he has not only the support of the Shia Iran but the Sunni ISIS. In August, an article in Foreign Affairs noted that an ISIS spokesman wrote on an ISIS social media channel, “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump.” ISIS’s logic is simple: It believes that Trump’s erratic leadership will weaken America, and his abrasive style will alienate the Muslim world, in turn bolstering its efforts to recruit jihadists worldwide. In the words of a recent ISIS defector, “We were happy when Trump said bad things about Muslims because he makes it very clear that there are two teams in this battle: The Islamic team and the anti-Islamic team.”

"Trump’s most well-documented foreign enthusiast is Vladimir Putin, whom he has implied is a stronger leader than Obama. Putin has reciprocated, calling Trump “lively” and “talented” and “the absolute leader in the presidential race.” Former CIA chief Mike Morell called Trump an “unwitting agent” of Putin, and 17 U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russian cyber hackers have attempted to tilt the election in Trump’s direction. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many Americans hoped Russia could emerge as an economically prosperous, socially tolerant democracy. Putin not only helped thwart attempts to make Russia more like America, but he found in Trump an opportunity to make America more like Russia."

Sadjapour ends with this chilling observation:
"The 14th-century North African philosopher Ibn Khaldun famously observed that empires are built and destroyed over the course of three generations. The first-generation founders are hungry, determined, and vigilant. The second generation inherits and manages what they witnessed the first generation build. By the third generation, the ruling elite are self-entitled, palace-reared elites who had no reason to develop the grit necessary to maintain what their grandparents built.

"Donald Trump is a third-generation American who never experienced life without freedom and privilege, running on a campaign projecting power rather than principles."

At the Council on Foreign Relations, there's a reprint taken from The Diplomat arguing that Trump may drive Japan and China closer together.
"Tokyo has always wanted American support against North Korea, but even a “hawkish” cabinet such as Abe’s will think twice before supporting operations that could lead to a new war in Korea. Japan Inc. would be the first collateral damage of a U.S. trade war with China should Trump follow campaign promises. And, obviously, Tokyo does not relish American Japan-bashing in the auto industry.

"Beijing has almost as many reasons to be concerned as Tokyo. An America weakened by a tweeter-in-chief with no attachment to U.S. core alliances and the international liberal order built by previous American administrations is good news for Xi Jinping. But enormous tariffs on Chinese goods, a national security advisor (Michael Flynn) who thinks China supports the Islamic State, and a president who seems regret that nuclear bombs aren’t used is not what the Communist Party of China (CPC) wants. Even if on balance Trump is likely to undermine America’s relative power in the world, there’s a significant risk that in doing so he could seriously hurt the interests of the Party in a negative sum game."

"The Trump presidency could thus be bad for both Japan and China. One country would turn out to be marginally worse off. But it’s a good bet that neither Xi nor Abe would be too pleased if their country’s economy went down 50 percent, even if their adversary’s collapsed by 75 percent. Moreover, neither Xi nor Abe know which of them would end up the bigger loser. This provides an opportunity for some imaginative diplomacy for Beijing and Tokyo to agree to a sort of cease-fire in their undeclared hostilities."

At the IISS, Nigel Inkster, director of future conflict and cyber security, takes a look at what may develop in the weeks and months ahead.
As to the wider geopolitical implications of Trump’s relationship with Russia, it is still far too early to make any judgements. The Trump business empire may have significant interests in Russia. But it also has significant investments in China, where it owns over 70 patents and is in the process of filing for 40 more. It has been suggested that a Trump administration may be drawn to some kind of strategic alliance with Russia based on racial and cultural affinity, and aimed at China. It is certainly the case that some elements in the emerging Trump administration harbour white supremacist inclinations. But there is no indication that Trump has any such ideological leanings – or indeed any leanings at all beyond the pursuit of self-interest.

While Putin’s Russia may welcome the prospect of a less fraught relationship with the US, it is far from obvious that a deal can be reached. A bigger worry may be what happens if efforts to yet again ‘push the reset button’ with Russia come to naught, as they may well do.

Meanwhile Beijing, though concerned about Trump’s suggestion that the One China policy may be up for negotiation, is keeping its powder dry and waiting to see what Trump actually does. At the same time, China is adroitly seeking to position itself as the prime guarantor of free trade and global leadership, a message President Xi Jinping will be looking to promote during his forthcoming visit to Davos. It remains to be seen, however, whether Xi can transcend the default Chinese Communist Party language to present a vision that resonates and carries conviction with the wider world.

The long and the short of it? No one is sure what to make of Trump. Opinions vary widely, perhaps wildly. One point of consensus. If it comes to horsetrading between Trump and Putin, it won't be Putin who goes home with empty pockets. Trump may, however, be sent packing with the trappings of victory for domestic consumption.
Great, just great.

Simon Says

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 11:11

I don't want anyone to miss Montreal Simon's great take on what some consider the Twilight Zone's scariest and most memorable episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Simon really nailed it, especially if you remember that episode.

An Inauspicious Start

The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 01/16/2017 - 08:32

Whether he lasts a full term in office, Donald Trump is sure to provide no end of firsts in the presidential history books.

Here's one. He will become the first incoming commander in chief utterly distrusted by his intelligence and security agencies. He doesn't trust them but far more importantly they don't trust him.

The Israeli news service, Ynet, reports that American intelligence types have warned their Israeli counterparts against telling the US anything they don't want Putin and Iran to know. It's "mum's the word" at least for the immediate future while Trump's and his cabinet's true relationships with the Kremlin are sorted out.

Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration as the next president of the United States is causing Israeli intelligence officials to lose sleep as well. Discussions held in closed forums recently raised fears of a leakage of Israeli intelligence top-classified information, clandestine modus operandi and sources, which have been exposed to the American intelligence community over the past 15 years, to Russia – and from there to Iran.

The Americans implied that their Israeli colleagues should “be careful” as of January 20, Trump’s inauguration date, when transferring intelligence information to the White House and to the National Security Council (NSC), which is subject to the president. According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted – Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians.

If Israel’s secrets are indeed not kept confidential, this is a serious danger to the state’s national security: Since the early 2000s, the cooperation between the Israel and US intelligence communities has been intensified. It was led by the head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate (AMAN) at the time, Aharon Ze’evi Farkash (who even received a citation from the NSA Chief General Michael Hayden), late Mossad chief Meir Dagan and his successor, Tamir Pardo, who served earlier as the commander of one of the secret operational units that cooperated with the Americans.

British intelligence reportedly considers itself in the same boat as the Israelis. If his own intelligence experts don't trust president Trump no one else will either - Vladimir Putin possibly excepted.


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