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"Remarkable Changes... That Are Challenging the Limits of Our Understanding of the Climate"

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 23:54

The World Meteorological Organization admits that it's struggling to comprehend the nature and pace of climate change now upon us.

“Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” said Jeffrey Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona in the US. “In general, drastically changing conditions do not help civilisation, which thrives on stability.”

The WMO report was “startling”, said Prof David Reay, an emissions expert at the University of Edinburgh: “The need for concerted action on climate change has never been so stark nor the stakes so high.”

The new WMO assessment also prompted some scientists to criticise Donald Trump. “While the data show an ever increasing impact of human activities on the climate system, the Trump administration and senior Republicans in Congress continue to bury their heads in the sand,” said Prof Sir Robert Watson, a distinguished climate scientist at the UK’s University of East Anglia and a former head of the UN’s climate science panel.

Our children and grandchildren will look back on the climate deniers and ask how they could have sacrificed the planet for the sake of cheap fossil fuel energy, when the cost of inaction exceeds the cost of a transition to a low-carbon economy,” Watson said.

Ah, Justin, I think that last bit was maybe pointed at you as much as Trump.

What Happened Today in Washington

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 15:39

The House hearings went on for four hours. These two videos should suffice

Thomas Homer-Dixon Looks at Trump - From Bones to Entrails

Sun, 03/19/2017 - 13:12
In today's Globe and Mail, author, historian and professor, Thomas Homer-Dixon tries his hand at vivisecting the Cheeto Benito, Donald Trump, to see what may lie in store for America and the world. Brace yourself.

The headline, "Crisis analysis: How much damage can Trump do? (A lot)" is a bit of a giveaway.

"Okay, here's what happened," wrote an American friend after the U.S. election. "Someone threw a switch, and now we're living in an alternative universe."

The big problem with alternative universes is that we don't know how they work. The assumptions, intuitions and rules of thumb we've previously used to anticipate events, and guide our navigation, suddenly don't apply. So we face an exploding range of possible futures, including many that once seemed crazy.

U.S. President Donald Trump's psychological characteristics make such uncertainty acute. It's clear, for instance, that Mr. Trump's lying is less a calculated political strategy than a reflection of his deep inability to distinguish fantasy from reality. He creates a make-believe world for himself and surrounds himself with people who, to advance their narrow ends, help him sustain that world. When Mr. Trump appears to be lying, he's simply reporting what he sees in his own alternative world, where fantasy and reality mush together.
Trump's Bill of Fare: Financial Crisis, Civil Violence, Authoritarianism and/or War.
"Moderate" authoritarianism could involve, for instance, use of federal resources to intimidate or constrain journalists and judges; substantially increased application of force to track, detain and deport immigrants; and criminalization of protest. Mr. Trump, or in the case of criminalization of protest, his acolytes at the state level are already checking some of these boxes, so I estimate the probability of this degree of authoritarianism in the administration's first year to be 70 per cent. "Severe" authoritarianism would involve actions like a declaration of a state of emergency, federalization of the National Guard, or suspension of key civil liberties. This outcome is much less likely; even after five years, I don't think it's higher than 30 per cent.

A "moderate" war crisis, by my definition, would include any regional conflict between the United States and an intermediate power like Iran, or a great power like China, say in the South China Sea. "Severe" war would involve use of massed military force against a great power like Russia. The category would also include any conflict, for instance, with North Korea, that carries a substantial risk of nuclear escalation. In part, because of Mr. Trump's expressed hostility towards Iran and China, and his tendency to see all international relations in zero-sum terms, I estimate the five-year probability of a "moderate" war crisis to be high, at 60 per cent.

The four crisis types are likely to be causally linked. In particular, civil violence or war could create conditions that Mr. Trump might use to justify an authoritarian crackdown. Financial crisis could also be a consequence of war. The administration's decision-making incompetence increases the risk of financial crisis, civil violence, and war. For instance, Mr. Trump's team of advisers contains little high-level economic expertise, so his administration could be out of its depth should serious trouble develop in financial systems overseas, say in China or Europe....
Yet the specific probabilities are less important than the overall analytical exercise of categorizing the types of crisis Mr. Trump might create and the causal pathways that might lead to them. It helps us see possible futures more clearly. In Mr. Trump's alternative universe, we need all the help we can get.

"This Is What Empires Do When They're Getting Ready to Collapse."

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 16:40
You know it's happening. You see it, you feel it on a daily basis. It's inescapable. It's hard to grasp just what it really means or where the bottom is, assuming there is a bottom. Chaos is setting in across America.

US Army colonel and former chief of staff to state secretary, Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson says America is a sinking ship. Wilkerson says it's going to take seismic upheaval to prevent that. "Does that mean revolution? It might."

Canadians need to keep a close eye on events south of the line for our economy is so tightly lashed to America's that we're along for their ride.

Trump May Be the Final Step in the Evolution of the Predator State

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 14:19

Something twigged when I heard Trump budget spokesman, Mick Mulvaney, announce that this supposed president wouldn't be wasting a dime funding climate change research.

I quickly went to Trump's decision to take American car giants off the hook for fuel economy requirements introduced by Obama.

Then there was the proposal to gut the Affordable Care Act and reformulate it as a giant tax cut for America's richest of the rich while stripping 24-million Americans from healthcare coverage.

This morning there are reports that Trump plans to rescind Obama's embargo on "conflict resources," gold, tin and rare earth minerals used by Third World warlords to fund their wars.

Eventually it dawned on me. I was thinking of a passage from James Galbraith's, "The Predator State" and the transition that began to sweep America from the early 80s.

" power ebbed from the corporation in the late 1970s an d 1980s and became vested, once again, in free-acting individuals, the basis for collaboration between comparitively progressive elements within business and a broadly progressive state tended to disappear. Instead business leadership saw the possibility of something far more satisfactory from their point of view; complete control of the apparatus of the state. In particular, reactionary business leadership, in those sectors most affected by public regulation, saw this possibility and directed their lobbies ...toward this goal. The Republican Party, notably in the House of Representatives under Newt Gingrich and later Tom DeLay, became the instrument of this form of corporate control. The administration, following the installation of George W. Bush, became little more than an alliance of representatives from the regulated sectors - mining, oil, media, pharmaceuticals, corporate agriculture - seeking to bring the regulatory system entirely to heel...

This is the Predator State. It is a coalition of relentless opponents of the regulatory framework on which public purpose depends, with enterprises whose major lines of business compete with or encroach on the principal public functions of the enduring New Deal. It is a coalition, in other words, that seeks to control the state partly in order to prevent the assertion of public purpose and partly to poach on the lines of activity that past public purpose has established. They are firms that have no intrinsic loyalty to any country. They operate as a rule on a transnational basis, and naturally come to view the goals and objectives of each society in which they work as just another set of business conditions, more or less inimical to the free pursuit of profit. the Predator State the organization exists principally to master the state structure itself.

None of these enterprises has an interest in diminishing the size of the state, and this is what separates them from the principled conservatives. For without the state and its economic interventions, they would not themselves exist and could not enjoy the market power that they have come to wield. Their reason for being, rather, is to make money off the state - so long as they control it. And this requires the marriage of an economic and a political organization, which is what, in every single case, we actually observe.

Galbraith, son of Canadian-born John Kenneth Galbraith, is an economist who holds the chair in government/business relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas, Austin. Predator State was published in 2008 and a decade later as the world is roiled by the Trump regime and public purpose relentlessly subordinated to powerful corporate forces it seems more relevant than ever. It's a good read.

Oh Dear, Buyer's Remorse Already.

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 10:53

An article in The Guardian this morning about Trump voters who are coming to realize they were had. Like Jacques Parizeau's lobsters today they find themselves in a hot pot with no way out. Hard to be sympathetic. They chose to suspend disbelief and put their faith in the most pathological liar in the history of American politics.

Trump promised them a new healthcare deal - universal coverage, lower premiums, better health services. Instead Trump is pimping a big tax cut for the richest of the rich wrapped in the mantle of reformed health care that will see 24-million Americans lose their coverage entirely.

That's Trump's unmentioned policy, the real one that reads, "you play ball with me and I'll stick the bat straight up your ass." Oh you silly Gullibillies.

Trump is on a rampage trying to delegitimize everyone and everything except Donald J. Trump. He's attacking the judiciary. He's attacking Congress, even  his own Republicans. He's attacking the European Union and NATO. He's attacking America's intelligence and security agencies. He's attacking everything except himself.  It's perverted, it's nihilistic and that's just what Trump's puppeteer, Steve Bannon has declared he's after.

Reminds me of an Ottawa politician I knew many years ago. Back then he was the reeve of Gloucester township, "Doc" McQuarrie. One day Doc took me aside and said that the art of politics was in understanding that there's a difference between scratching your ass and tearing it all apart.  Trump pretty plainly doesn't understand that.

So far Trump hasn't gotten around to droit de seigneur or jus primae noctis, the right of the lord to shag brides on their wedding night but that's probably just oversight. If it was good enough for Mobuto Sese Seko, it should be fitting for a sexual goat like Trump.

As Trump's degeneracy ramps up it will be interesting to keep an eye on some early players such as Britain's cadaverous prime minister, Theresa May, who jumped the gun to fly to Washington to give Trump a lap dance in the White House champagne room before inviting him back to London for a stay with the Queen. Now that he's smeared her intelligence centre, GCHQ, accusing the Brits of spying on Trump and the Trumpettes at the behest of Obama, P.M. Terry, the Right Honourable member for Maidenhead, on whose watch this must have happened has surely got her knickers in a bunch. Oh dear, this is one of those blunders that could cost her, especially when Angela gave Trump a couple of smacks upside the head on her visit yesterday.

This is a story that still has no conclusion. Trump's just getting started, not even two full months under his belt at this point. Something has to give. Something is going to break. But there's no guarantee that America won't be left like Humpty Dumpty.

The Glass Half Full

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 10:02

The good news. Global CO2 emissions remained stable last year for the third year in a row despite an overall increase in GDP. That means our increased production of stuff is being met with alternative, clean energy resources. Good news for renewables and all that jazz.

The other news. 1, 2, and 3. We're still growing, we're still making more stuff and we're still not slashing our greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the Cheeto Benito in the White House is intent on wrecking his nation's commitment, perhaps the world's, to the fight against climate change. To Drumpf it's just a "waste of money."

As I've preached here for years, you can't fight climate change unless you're also willing to tackle overpopulation and overconsumption of our world's oh so finite resources. It simply can't be done. And we're not even beginning to address those other two crises.

It's great that we've held the line on GHG emissions but that's less than what we should be doing. We should be making serious emissions cuts by now, not holding the line.

A lot of people will like the idea that the global economy grew by 3.1% last year but that means a commensurate increase in our already ravenous over consumption of the world's resources, renewables and non-renewables. The problem with non-renewables is obvious. When you're out, you're out. The really insidious part, however, is our over consumption of renewables, everything from freshwater to biomass. Last year mankind's ecological footprint was 1.75 times greater than the Earth's rate of resource renewal, also known as the environment's "carrying capacity." Last year, it seems, we added another 5% or so to that overload.

I'm focusing on over consumption because it reveals the core problem we're having with all these existential crises - equity, as in "fairness." When resources are inadequate you could say it's unfair for 5% of the population to consume 40% of the pie. That's like the two society matrons in the bow of the lifeboat gorging themselves on the emergency rations before tossing the scraps to the plebs manning the oars.

We of the Developed World, especially we Norte Americanos, have grown fat and sassy by consuming the lion's share of the world's fossil energy but, in the process, sharing with the entire world all of our carbon emissions. Doesn't sound very equitable, does it?

We could atone for our sins, at least a bit, but that would mean two things - one, that we decarbonize our economies first and very rapidly; and two, that we voluntarily accept a huge reduction in our per capita consumption, our Rich Man's World environmental footprint. And now Donald Trump has served notice, plain as day, that these sorts of fairness arguments are dead on arrival as far as the White House is concerned. Yet before we heap too much blame on Trump let's admit that damned few of us would accept this sort of sharing sacrifice either.

Canadians have no right to be smug either, not after the Dauphin has cleared the way for massive expansion of Tar Sands production. Sure the crud will be burned overseas but that'll be 100% Athabasca CO2 and plenty of it wafting into the atmosphere.

It's good news that we seem to have arrested growth in CO2 emissions, however temporarily. Good news, let's just take that for what it is.

Angry Old White Dude Travels Light, Runs Out of Steam

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:56

American secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, cut short his visit to South Korea, reportedly citing "fatigue." Tillerson is on a 3-nation Asia tour that started in Japan and is supposed to finish in China.

Unlike previous state secretaries, Tillerson is traveling light - packing along a press pool of just one, reporter Erik McPike of the far right Independent Journal Review.

Tillerson lasted long enough in South Korea to threaten North Korea with war.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the political and diplomatic efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to the point of denuclearization have failed,” Tillerson said.

“Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict. But obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces then that would be met with an appropriate response,” adding, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe that requires action, that option is on the table.”

With that, Tillerson adjourned for a badly needed nap.

Did German Reporters School Their Cowed American Counterparts?

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 17:54

Trump probably won't be entertaining questions from the German press again anytime soon. Those attending the Merkel-Trump meeting didn't mince words when they got a chance to question the Cheeto Benito - and he didn't like it.

American journos later praised the German press for asking blunt questions they wouldn't dare raise.

It's too bad the American press is so gutless, especially when they've got this lunatic on a platter.

Like Shooting Fish In a Barrel - Apache Helicopter Gunship Attacks Refugee Boat

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 16:33

An Apache helicopter gunship has reportedly laid waste to a small boat packed with Somali refugees off the coast of Yemen. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, reports that 42 of the 140 Somali migrants aboard the boat were killed.

The boat, filled with refugees attempting to flee war-torn Yemen including women and children, had made it about 30 miles offshore when a helicopter swooped in and opened fire. A local coast guard official from the Houthi-rebel controlled coast of Yemen told Reuters an Apache helicopter attacked the boat, though it remains unclear who is responsible for the attack.

Saudi Arabia, which leads an Arab air campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, owns U.S.-made Apache helicopters. A spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition said the coalition didn’t operate in the region of the attack Thursday.

All of the dead were reportedly carrying U.N. refugee identity papers.

What a Churlish Prick

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 12:59

The handshake photo-op is an obligatory part of a foreign leader's visit to the White House. The Cheeto Benito already has a well-earned reputation for the vigor of his hand clasp.

Which is why it was so awkward today when German chancellor Angela Merkel sat down with Trump for the standard photo-op. As photographers repeatedly called "handshake", the Great Orange Bloat ignored them - and the chancellor.

What a churlish prick although it was good to see how uncomfortable Donald Trump can plainly look in the presence of a powerful woman unwilling to put up with his bullshit.

"We're a Very Powerful Company"

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:35

That little Freudian slip from the lips of the Cheeto Benito at the Merkel-Trump press conference just minutes ago. Trump was responding to a German reporter's question - to Merkel - about American isolationist leanings. Instead, Trump replied and, of course, ensured he got out the "fake news" response.

A weird press conference. Trump opened by praising Germany's job training programmes without connecting them in any way to German-American relations. He then launched into the standard "countries must pay the U.S. what they owe" as he portrayed America as a land much abused by the rest of the world. From there he moved on to radical Islam, ISIS and linked both to immigration security.

Merkel's remarks were challenging. The White House feed left her mic on full which meant that Merkel's remarks, in German, and the translator's delivery were canceled each other out.

In one clear moment, the German chancellor seemed to take a dig at Trump when she said, "It's much better to take to one another and not about one another," which seemed a response to repeated disparaging remarks about Merkel from the Great Orange Bloat.

Earlier today, Germany's economy minister took a more direct swipe at Trump over his threat to impose a 35% tariff on German cars.

"There are procedures laid out there because in the WTO agreements it is clearly laid out that you're not allowed to take more than 2.5% taxes on imports of cars," Ms Zypries told Deutschlandfunk radio - Mr Trump has suggested a 35% levy.

"It wouldn't be the first time that Mr Trump has lost in the courts," she added.

Merkel was also quick to point out that BMW's plant in the U.S. exported more cars to world markets than Ford and GM combined. Ouch, feel the burn Trumpy.

America's Islamophobia Industry

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 10:11

Hmm, why does the name Kellie Leitch come to mind?

Islamophobia has become a hallmark of Amerika's ascendant radical right. 90 years ago in Europe, it was the Jews. In 21st century Amerika, it's Muslims that are the firewood to fuel the very worst varieties of nationalist populism. Foreign Policy calls it "Islamophobia Inc."

The subject of the article is Jonathon Brown, a convert to Islam and professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown.

Brown’s attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right. A flood of articles accuse him of being an apologist for slavery and rape. His family has received death and rape threats.

It all started with good intentions. Brown is one of the majority of Muslims around the world who believes the Islamic State practices a warped interpretation of Islamic thought that blesses slavery, rape, and other crimes. But Brown also knows that not all Muslims are so quick to dismiss the jihadi group’s theology. Certainly the hundreds of foreign fighters who have trickled into Syria and Iraq to join its ranks find its ideas seductive.


But Brown felt that he was called to try, hence his public lecture at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in Herndon, Virginia, on Feb. 7. In the first of what he intended as a three-part series, Brown addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.

That was when he encountered a cacophony of a different sort — America’s far-right, anti-Muslim ecosystem that has adopted the same twisted interpretations of Islam that the Islamic State promotes. After the lecture, Brown endured a cascade of online attacks from conservative and alternative-right heavyweights such as Ann Coulter, Robert Spencer, and Milo Yiannopoulos, who claimed that he had actually condoned the acts he had set about to condemn. His university department was flooded with demands that he be fired.

Brown is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam. The United States has powerful protections for speech and religious liberty that have allowed faith traditions to hammer out their theological debates in a free and protected environment. But a targeted network now seeks to deny Muslims that freedom and to treat Islam as a dangerous political ideology rather than a religion — and, like the McCarthyites of the 1950s, to silence and discredit any Muslims who disagree.
The United States once battled its own militant pseudo-state that invoked religion to justify institutionalized slavery. “[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God,” said Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America. “It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation … it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts.”

The Gettysburg Museum of History in Pennsylvania describes the Civil War as a “theological crisis” in American Christianity. One exhibit features an 1857 pamphlet called “Slavery: Ordained of God,” written by the Rev. Fred A. Ross of Huntsville, Alabama. Nearby is a painting of John Brown, the famed Christian abolitionist, holding a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other.
What Brown was attempting to do was build a bridge for American Muslims between their sacred scripture and their human rights sensibilities, as many Christian thinkers before him have done. For his efforts, he attracted the attention of an Islamophobic ecosystem designed to marginalize any Muslim who speaks out. Brown’s straightforward academic lecture was quickly transformed into fodder for a flood of unscrupulous articles painting him as someone who “justifies slavery and the rape of female slaves,” leaving him with a horrific online footprint that is likely to trail him for decades.

In the years after 9/11, a small but powerful network of funders and ideological activists has waged a major misinformation campaign, seeking to cast Islam as a diabolical threat that must be eradicated. Their concerted efforts have resulted in an influential infrastructure of websites, activists, lawmakers, and grassroots organizations that hold sway in municipal councils and state legislatures — and now have the ear of the president of the United States.

Between 2001 and 2009, seven charitable foundations donated $42.6 million to think tanks that promoted anti-Muslim rhetoric, as a 2011 report by the Center for American Progress revealed. These organizations include Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy; Stop Islamization of America, founded by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer; the website Jihad Watch, directed by Spencer; and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which hosts Jihad Watch. These organizations came up with several talking points about Islam that they promoted among lawmakers, grassroots networks, and the Christian right. Chiefly among these ideas was the belief that sharia, or Islamic law, is a totalitarian political ideology that presents the greatest domestic threat facing the United States today; that the Muslim Brotherhood, a loosely organized international Islamist movement, has infiltrated the U.S. government; and that Islam commands believers to lie about their motives. In other words, no Muslim can be trusted; you must infiltrate their private spaces to learn what they think.

This campaign has been wildly successful. Gaffney is now a senior advisor to the Donald Trump White House. Gaffney’s influence extends throughout the administration. Kellyanne Conway, who ran Trump’s campaign and now serves as counselor to the president, managed polling for the Center for Security Policy. Stephen Bannon, former head of the alt-right website Breitbart and now White House chief strategist, frequently invited Gaffney to appear on Breitbart’s radio show.

American Muslims are reacting to forces far beyond their control — a feverish paranoia that echoes the anti-Communist Red Scare in the decade after World War II. Virtually any Muslim who has chosen to speak out or to become active in politics has faced a torrent of similarly unscrupulous smearing.

Ideologues are seeking to marginalize Muslims by making their speech and their activism relating to their religion come at a very high price. They believe that Muslims are malevolent, duplicitous, and dangerous, and these Islamophobes will bend the truth to fit their claims. In the process, they are denying Islam the same functional rights that Christianity enjoys and silencing the very people best poised to reconcile Islam with modern American life.
Which may be the very point.

A Crime Against Humanity

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 00:24

Trump budget director, Mick Mulvaney, announces that the Trump regime will no longer fund action to thwart climate change. It's a "waste of money."

With Trump already having relieved the auto industry of Obama's targets for emissions reductions and his actions to accelerate the production of all fossil fuels, including coal, America has officially turned on humanity.

Trump's Lethal Budget

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 10:49

Anyone who has worked for a large organization has seen them. They're the old hands, the keepers of the keys, and you're likely to find them neither at the very top nor at the very bottom but dispersed throughout all the strata in between. They are the "institutional memory." Collectively they're the irreplaceable repository of  the facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge essential to the proper functioning of the organization. If all goes well they groom their successors, pass along their knowledge, so that there's a continuum. Yet, if they're taken down suddenly, it can create disorder, even chaos.

Donald Trump may be about to inflict chaos on the U.S. federal government. Today he'll send a "slash and burn" budget proposal to Congress that may inflict lasting damage on the functioning of the bureaucracy.

The budget would cut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 31 per cent, the State Department by 28 per cent and Health and Human Services by 17.9 per cent. Funding to several smaller government agencies that have long been targets of conservatives - like the Legal Services Corporation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts - would be axed entirely.

The most significant cuts would be at the EPA, which the Trump administration has accused of overreach. The president wants to trim $US2.6 billion from the agency's budget, in part by cutting about 3,200 positions, about a fifth of the department's work force.

If enacted, the proposal would cut the agency's budget to its lowest level in 40 years, adjusted for inflation. That would mean eliminating funding for climate change research, closing state environmental programs and ending regional projects like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has bipartisan support.

Mr Trump would also cut funding to the United Nations for its climate change efforts, and curb contributions to its peacekeeping efforts. Contributions to the World Bank would be cut by $US650 million, and economic and development assistance would be "refocused" to countries of greatest strategic interest to the United States.

The brunt of the cuts at the Department of Health and Human Services would be at the National Institutes of Health, the country's medical research hub. The $US403 million currently used for training nurses and other medical professionals would also be eliminated.

Mr Trump's team also proposed a wide array of cuts to public education, Amtrak and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including eliminating the $US3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds popular programs like Meals on Wheels, housing assistance and other community assistance efforts.

Guns, Not Butter.
Much of the money saved by these cuts would go to national security programs.

Besides the military, the Department of Homeland Security would also receive an infusion of cash. An additional $US2.8 billion would go largely to pay for a wall along the border with Mexico and the hiring of 500 Border Patrol Agents and 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers next year. The budget also calls for the hiring of 20 lawyers in the Justice Department who would work to obtain land along the border for the wall.

The Exodus is Already Well Underway
In several federal departments, the Old Hands have been taking their leave since Trump was inaugurated. The Washington Post reported on an exodus from the State Department just a week after Trump was sworn in.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s job running the State Department just got considerably more difficult. The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.
A demoralized public service is not going to attract A-List talent. There's too much uncertainty, too much of a learning curve in a chaotic administration. When you see that the best and the brightest have bailed out en masse that's a pretty big disincentive. 

Wilders Fended Off (for now) But the Real Winner Is

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 09:30

Radical right wing populist Geert Wilder's PVV party failed to achieve the breakthrough win that many had feared. Yet, as he says, the genie is out of the bottle and he hopes they'll fare better in future elections.

Mark Rutte's liberal VVD party held on and now proceeds with the usual Dutch grind of forming a coalition.

While Dutch voters plugging the dyke to hold back radical, anti-Muslim populism is the big story, the big winner in yesterday's elections was the GreenLeft party that went from just 4 seats to 14. It's believed the GreenLeft, led by second runner-up in the Justin Trudeau lookalike contest, Jesse Klaver,  may now hold the balance of power in Rutte's coalition government.