Category Archives: Perverts In History | Thatcher Reagan Bush Trump

If you’re not Driving an Electric Car you’re Losing Money

If you’re not Driving an Electric Car you’re Losing Money

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Guardian reports on a new study showing that right now, in 2017, owning and operating a purely electric car such as the Chevy Bolt or a Tesla 3 or a Nissan Leaf is cheaper than operating a gasoline/ petrol automobile. For the moment, the researchers said, government subsidies play a role in this outcome. But they expect EVs to outperform internal combustion engines in the very near future even without subsidies. Continue reading If you’re not Driving an Electric Car you’re Losing Money

The Era of Walls: Greeting Climate-Change Victims With a Man-Made Dystopia

The Era of Walls: Greeting Climate-Change Victims With a Man-Made Dystopia

(Photo: Alan Levine; Edited: LW / TO)

When I first talked to the three Honduran men in the train yard in the southern Mexican town of Tenosique, I had no idea that they were climate-change refugees. We were 20 miles from the border with Guatemala at a rail yard where Central American refugees often congregated to try to board La Bestia (“the Beast”), the nickname given to the infamous train that has proven so deadly for those traveling north toward the United States.

The men hid momentarily as a Mexican army truck with masked, heavily armed soldiers drove by. Given Washington’s pressure on Mexico to fortify its southern border, US Border Patrol agents might have trained those very soldiers. As soon as they were gone, the Hondurans told me that they had been stuck here for six long days. The night before, they had tried to jump on La Bestia, but it was moving too fast.

When I asked why they were heading for the United States, one responded simply, “No hubo lluvia.” (“There was no rain.”) In their community, without rain, there had been neither crops, nor a harvest, nor food for their families, an increasingly common phenomenon in Central America. In 2015, for instance, 400,000 people living in what has become Honduras’s “dry corridor” planted their seeds and waited for rain that never came. As in a number of other places on this planet in this century, what came instead was an extreme drought that stole their livelihoods.

For Central America, this was not an anomaly. Not only had the region been experiencing increasing mid-summer droughts, but also, as the best climate forecasting models predict, a “much greater occurrence of very dry seasons” lies in its future. Central America is, in fact, “ground zero” for climate change in the Americas, as University of Arizona hydrology and atmospheric sciences professor Chris Castro told me. And on that isthmus, the scrambling of the seasons, an increasingly deadly combination of drenching hurricanes and parching droughts, will hit people already living in the most precarious economic and political situations. Across Honduras, for example, more than 76% of the population lives in conditions of acute poverty. The coming climate breakdowns will only worsen that or will, as Castro put it, be part of a global situation in which “the wet gets wetter, the dry gets drier, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Everything gets more extreme.”

Talking with those farmers in the Tenosique train yard felt, in a way, like a scene from a sequel to the movie The Road in which a father and son walk across a post-apocalyptic North America devastated by an unknown cataclysm. In reality, though, I was just in a typical border zone of the Anthropocene, the proposed new geologic era characterized by human activity as the dominant force on the climate and environment. And these young, unarmed farmers with failing harvests are now facing the only welcome this planet presently has to offer for such victims of climate change: expanding border regimes of surveillance, razor-wire walls, guns, and incarceration centers.

As they keep heading north, they will have to be on guard against ever more army and police patrols, while enduring hunger and thirst as well as painful separations from their families. They will have to evade endless roadside checkpoints, which Fray Tomás Tómas González Castillo, director of a nearby shelter for migrants in Tenosique, told me were almost “impossible” to avoid, at a time when, he noted, “organized crime” controlled the trains.

Such a predicament is hardly unique to the Mexico-Guatemalan border region or even the US-Mexican version of the same. Think of the maritime divide between North Africa and the European Union or the Jordanian border where patrols now reportedly shoot at “anything that moves” coming from Syria — or so a Jordanian official who prefers to remain anonymous told me. And Syria was just one of the places where the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, migration, and tightly enforced border zones intersected. 

Now, homeland security regimes are increasingly unleashing their wrath on the world’s growing numbers of displaced people, sharpening the divide between the secure and the dispossessed. Whether in Mexico or on the Mediterranean Sea, as ever more human beings find themselves uprooted from their homes and desperate, such dynamics will only intensify in the decades to come. In the process, the geopolitics and potentially the very geography of the globe will be reshaped. It’s not just Donald Trump. Everywhere on Planet Earth, we seem to be entering the era of the wall.

The Displaced

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the “impact and threat of climate-related hazards” displaced an average of 21.5 million people annually between 2008 and 2015. The growing impact of the Anthropocene — of intensifying droughts, rising seas, and mega-storms — is already adding to a host of other factors, including poverty, war, and persecution, that in these years have unsettled record numbers of people. While many of the climate-displaced stay close to home, hoping to salvage both their lives and livelihoods, ever more are crossing international borders in what many are now calling a “refugee crisis.”

“Catastrophic convergence” is the term sociologist Christian Parenti uses to describe this twenty-first-century turmoil, since many of these factors combine to displace staggering numbers of people. As Camila Minerva of Oxfam puts it, “The poorest and the most marginalized are five times more likely to be displaced and to remain so for a longer time than people in higher income countries and it is increasing with climate change.”

Though the numbers are often debated, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees suggests that climate breakdowns will displace 250 million people by 2050. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre suggests that those numbers could actually range from 150 million to a staggering 350 million by that year. In reporting on how climate change is already affecting Mexico City, Michael Kimmelman, the architecture critic of the New York Times, cited a report suggesting that the number may be far higher than that, possibly reaching 700 million — and that, by 2050, 10% percent of all Mexicans between 15 and 65 might be heading north, thanks to rising temperatures, droughts, and floods.

“Although the exact number of people that will be on the move by mid-century is uncertain,” wrote the authors of the report In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement, “the scope and scale could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before.” And here’s the sad reality of our moment: for such developments, the world is remarkably unprepared. There isn’t even a legal framework for dealing with climate refugees, either in international law or the laws of specific countries. The only possible exception: New Zealand’s “special refugee visas” for small numbers of Pacific Islanders displaced by rising seas.

The only real preparations for such a world are grim ones: walls and the surveillance technology that goes with them. Most climate-displaced people travelling internationally without authorization will sooner or later run up against those walls and the armed border guards meant to turn them back. And if the United States or the European Union is their destination, any possible doors such migrants might enter will be slammed shut by countries that, historically, are the world’s largest greenhouse gas polluters and so most implicated in climate change. (Between 1850 and 2011, the United States was responsible for 27% of the world’s emissions and the countries of the European Union, 25%.)

A Booming Market in Walls

I have no idea what happened to those three farmers after our brief meeting in Tenosique. I did, however, think of them again a couple of months later when I was 1,000 miles to the north. Under a mesquite tree in northern Mexico, there was a lonely plastic bottle with a few droplets of water still in it. Somebody had left it as they crossed into the United States.

I was just east of Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora, a mere 25 feet from the US-Mexican border. I could clearly see the barrier there and a US Border Patrol agent in a green-striped truck looking back at me from the other side of the divide. Perhaps a quarter mile from where I stood, I could also spot an Integrated Fixed Tower, one of 52 new high-tech surveillance platforms built in the last two years in southern Arizona by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. Since that tower’s cameras are capable of spotting objects and people seven miles away, I had little doubt that agents in a nearby command and control center were watching me as well. There, they would also have had access to the video feeds from Predator B drones, once used on the battlefields of the Greater Middle East, but now flying surveillance missions in the skies above the border. There, too, the beeping alarms of thousands of motion sensors implanted throughout the US border zone would ring if you dared cross the international divide.

Only 15 years ago, very little of this existed. Now, the whole region — and most of this preceded Donald Trump’s election victory — has become a de facto war zone. Climate refugees, having made their way through the checkpoints and perils of Mexico, will now enter a land where people without papers are tracked in complex, high-tech electronic ways, hunted, arrested, incarcerated, and expelled, sometimes with unfathomable cruelty. To a border agent, the circumstances behind the flight of those three Honduran farmers would not matter. Only one thing would — not how or why you had come, but if you were in the United States without the proper documentation.

Climate change, increased global migration, and expanding border enforcement are three linked phenomena guaranteed to come to an explosive head in this century. In the United States, the annual budgets for border and immigration policing regimes have already skyrocketed from about $1.5 billion in the early 1990s to $20 billion in 2017, a number that represents the combined budgets of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During that period, the number of Border Patrol agents quintupled, 700 miles of walls and barriers were constructed (long before Donald Trump began talking about his “big, fat, beautiful wall“), and billions of dollars of technology were deployed in the border region.

Such massive border fortification isn’t just a US phenomenon. In 1988, when the Berlin Wall fell, there were 15 border walls in the world. Now, according to border scholar Elisabeth Vallet, there are 70. These walls generally have risen between the richer countries and the poorer ones, between those that have the heavier carbon footprints and those plunged into Parenti’s “catastrophic convergence” of political, economic, and ecological crises. This is true whether you’re talking about the Americas, Africa, the Middle East, or Asia.

As Paul Currion points out, even some countries that are only comparatively wealthy are building such “walls,” often under pressure and with considerable financial help. Take Turkey. Its new “smart border” with drought-stricken and conflict-embroiled Syria is one of many examples globally. It now has a new tower every 1,000 feet, a three-language alarm system, and “automated firing zones” supported by hovering zeppelin drones. “It appears that we’ve entered a new arms race,” writes Currion, “one appropriate for an age of asymmetric warfare, with border walls replacing ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles].”

India is typical in constructing a steel wall along its lengthy border with Bangladesh, a country expected to have millions of displaced people in the decades to come, thanks to sea level rise and storm surges. In these years, with so many people on the move from the embattled Greater Middle East and Africa, the countries of the European Union have also been doubling down on border protection, with enforcement budgets soaring to 50 times what they were in 2005.

The trends are already clear: the world will be increasingly carved up into highly monitored border surveillance zones. Market projections show that global border and homeland security industries are already booming across the planet. The broader global security market is poised to nearly double between 2011 and 2022 (from $305 billion to $546 billion). And, not so surprisingly, a market geared to climate-related catastrophes is already on the verge of surpassing $150 billion.

Climate Change as a National Security Threat (and Bonanza)

Don’t just take my word for it when it comes to predictions about this planet’s increasingly bordered future. Consider the forecasts of the US military and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). One of the first crude assessments of such a walled-in world appeared in a 2003 Pentagon-commissioned reportAn Abrupt Climate Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security, and it already had a distinctly Trumpian ring to it:

“The United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries because they have the resources and reserves to achieve self-sufficiency… Borders will be strengthened around [the United States] to hold back unwanted starving immigrants from the Caribbean islands (an especially severe problem), Mexico, and South America.”

That identification of the Caribbean as “an especially severe problem” almost a decade and a half ago was prescient indeed in this year of super-storms Irma and Maria that left Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in shambles and the island of Barbuda “extinguished.”

While the Trump administration is scrubbing government websites and policies clean of climate change, other parts of the government are still in the business of preparing for it, big time, rather than denying its existence. At both the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, global warming is seen as a “threat multiplier” that must be factored into any long-term planning — and that should surprise no one. After all, the future time frame of a national security planner can be as much as 30 years. It sometimes takes that long for a major weapons system to go “from the drawing board to the battlefield,” according to former Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, editor of Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change, a 2008 report coordinated by the Center for a New American Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Unlike the president and the present heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, US military and homeland security risk assessors aren’t likely to deny the 97% consensus of scientists on climate change. In Climatic Cataclysm, Campbell wrote that the “sheer numbers of potentially displaced people” are prospectively “staggering.” In one assessment of what a possible 2.6 degree Celsius rise in the global temperature by 2040 might mean, Leon Fuerth, a former security adviser to Al Gore, concluded that “border problems” would overwhelm US capabilities “beyond the possibility of control, except by drastic methods and perhaps not even then.”

In 2009, the Obama administration declared climate change a top national security threat. This prompted both the Pentagon and the DHS to prepare climate-change adaptation “roadmaps” and action plans. In 2014, the DHS added climate change as a top threat to its Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, its main public mission document. During a 2015 congressional hearing, Thomas Smith, one of that review’s authors, testified that climate change was “a major area of homeland security risk,” and that “more frequent severe droughts and tropical storms, especially in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, could increase population movements, both legal and illegal, toward or across the US border.”

In other words, you don’t have to turn to climate-change activists and experts like Bill McKibben or Naomi Klein to understand why those Central American droughts are getting worse and why those three Honduran men were in that train yard. All of this was predicted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Those in the DHS, like those in the Pentagon, grasp what’s coming and they’re going to meet it with what they know how to do best, what Donald Trump himself would approve of if he weren’t ignoring the potentially most devastating phenomenon on this planet: hardened enforced borders, big brother biometrics, and high tech surveillance systems. In other words, they will face the victims of climate change with a man-made dystopia.

The Alternative Border Wall

Now, remember that water bottle under the mesquite tree near the US-Mexico border? I came across it while being taken on a tour by Juan Manuel Pérez, the project manager of Cuenca Los Ojos, an organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of biological diversity along those same borderlands. I was there to see a water-harvesting project. But first, Pérez took me to a spot where a portion of a barrier wall the CBP had once built across this part of the border lay wrecked like some ancient archeological ruin. It had been swept into Mexican territory in 2014 by a deluge of water, as the remnants of Hurricane Odile lashed the washes of the Chiricahua Mountains in Eastern Arizona. Now, planet Earth was devouring the carcass of that former wall, those hundreds of pounds of metal. Three years after it was deposited here, that wall fragment was already partially covered with soil. Purple flowers sprouted from its crevasses. When I got close enough, I could see spiders hanging from their webs on it. If the rest of that $20 billion in border infrastructure were left alone, in the end this is what would happen to it. This is how the earth would welcome it back.

From there, I could see where DHS had built a new barrier to replace the destroyed one. Near it, that same border patrol vehicle was idling and that same surveillance tower stuck up in the distance, all part of a desperate attempt to keep that “catastrophic convergence” at bay, to keep the world of such hurricanes and the climate-change displaced who will go with it, from the United States.

Nearby, I also saw what Pérez told me were gabions — steel cages filled with rocks embedded in the nearby streambed on the Mexican side of the border. They were there, he explained to me, to slow down the rushing rainwaters during the summer monsoon season so the soil could drink them in and be replenished. Remarkably, they had done their job. In this parched territory, in the middle of a 15-year drought, the water table had risen 30 feet.

It was, I said, a miracle.

Native grasses were growing back, as were the desert willows. The rising water, no respecter of borders or border patrols, had similarly begun to replenish the aquifers on the Arizona side and water was appearing in places that hadn’t seen anything like this before. Mind you, national security assessments stress that in Mexico and Central America water scarcity issues will be a factor driving climate breakdowns and increased migration. That was certainly the case for those three Honduran farmers.

Here, however, those gabions, embedded in the dry river, were bringing water back to places where it had become scarce. Remarkably, from my vantage point in that border landscape, the cages of rocks began to look like parts of some intricately carved stonewall. It was a strange illusion and it made me think that in a world of the grimmest sorts of walls meant to turn back everyone and offer greetings to no one, perhaps this was the real “border wall” that people needed, that planet earth needed, something that welcomed us to a better, not a desperately worse world.

The “Center-Left” Had Its Chance; It’s Time For Something New | By | Common Dreams

The “Center-Left” Had Its Chance; It’s Time For Something New

An ideology that has become complacent and complicit: complacent in its power, and complicit in its relationship to corporate power.

The once-proud political project known as “centrism” is collapsing around the globe, despite increasingly desperate attempts by billionaire backers to revive it.

The center-right’s implosion can be seen in the weakened state of Theresa May’s Conservatives in Great Britain, the recent setback for Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and the withering of the GOP’s Mitt Romney wing.

But what about the center-left, the “New Labour”/”New Democrat” phenomenon that once seemed to offer so much hope? Can it survive? More importantly, should it?

The Decline of the Center-Left

Political scientist Sheri Berman recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times that made the case for Western Europe’s failing social democrats. “Across Europe, social democratic or center-left parties are in decline,” Professor Berman writes, adding:

“In elections this year in France and the Netherlands, the socialist and labor parties did so poorly that many question their future existence… Even if you don’t support the left, this should be cause for concern. Social democratic parties were crucial to rebuilding democracy in Western Europe after 1945. They remain essential to democracy on the Continent today.”

Professor Berman correctly diagnoses one aspect of what ails these parties, noting that center-left politicians like Britain’s Tony Blair and Germany’s Gerhard Schröder “celebrated the (free) market’s upsides while ignoring its downsides.”

It’s worth lingering for a moment on those downsides: Economic inequality continued to skyrocket under Blair in Great Britain and Schröder in Germany, and Bill Clinton in the United States. The global economy was gravely damaged by the financial crisis of 2008, as Professor Berman notes, but that near-catastrophe wasn’t caused by impersonal forces. It was the result of widespread banker fraud, made possible by the active collaboration of politicians from both parties.

The center-left rarely even chastised, much less prosecuted, bankers for their criminality in the runup to the economic crisis, whose devastation is still felt around the globe. Instead, it left them in charge of their institutions and in possession of their freedom and their ill-gotten gains.

When faced with the global economic disaster these bankers caused, Blair didn’t name names. Instead he said things like this: “Look upon this crisis not as an occasion to regress in policy or attitude of mind; but as a chance to renew, as an opportunity to open a new chapter in humanity’s progress to a better future for all.”

Fiscal Responsibility

The political program Professor Berman eulogizes didn’t just fail to “offer a fundamental critique of capitalism.” It provided capitalism’s worst excesses with ideological cover. Instead of hewing to well-understood professions of left-leaning values like “equality,” it offered cliches about “equality of opportunity” that were indistinguishable from those of its center-right opponents.

Worse, when confronted with the economic damage that bankers caused, the European center-left turned against its supposed constituency by bailing out the banks and imposing strict austerity measures on working people.

The U.K. Labour Party, like its European and American counterparts, became obsessed with proving its “fiscal responsibility” — so much so that it was considered a major gaffe when party leader Ed Miliband failed to mention the deficit in an address. “No one should doubt our seriousness about tackling the deficit,” he said by way of apology.

Democrats under Clinton and Obama shared the European center-left’s deficit obsession, but were forced to back away from it somewhat under political pressure. European social democrats stuck to the austerity program and lost even more support than Democrats did from their core voters.

Then there’s foreign policy. Blair misled his country into war in Iraq — a deception which most Britons still find literally unforgivable, according to a 2016 poll — while centrist Democrats largely voted to support it here in the United States. That hurt both parties. One study showed that Donald Trump, who cynically ran as an anti-war candidate, gained a statistically significant level of additional support from communities with high military casualties.

The study shows that, without those votes, the election might have gone the other way.

The Left Nobody Knows

Professor Berman’s characterization of left leaders like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn and the movement they represent will be unrecognizable to anyone familiar with them.

Her characterization of them as “an anti-globalization far left,” without defining that label, repeats a canard that’s been articulated many times by figures like Blair and Clinton. In a 2009 speech, in the wake of the global financial crisis, Blair put it this way (in a speech that, oddly, recently disappeared from his foundation’s website):

“There is a myth that globalization is the result of a policy driven by Governments; and can be altered or even reversed by Governments. It isn’t. It is driven by people. Globalization is not just an economic fact. It is about the internet, its power to communicate, influence and shape a world whose frontiers are coming down. It’s about mass travel, migration, modern media. It is not simply an economic fact; it is in part an attitude of mind. It is where young people choose to be.”

Strip away the Soylent Green-esque language – “It’s people! Globalization is people!” — and this is nothing but airy-fairy gibberish. After all, who on the left is against migration, media, or some vaguely defined “attitude of mind”?

Barring an extraterrestrial electromagnetic pulse of unprecedented scale, the internet and modern media will carry on. The question Blair and his colleagues elide is this: The global trade deals they promoted have increased inequality, weakened labor rights, and ceded sovereign authority to an arbitration system that is heavily stacked in favor of the enormously wealthy.

People aren’t against globalization as Blair defines it. They’re against trade deals that hurt them economically in order to benefit powerful interests. The “globalization” the left opposes is something altogether different: the domination of multilateral decision-making by powerful financial interests. That’s worth opposing.

Practical Populism

Berman continues says the parties of the newly-risen left “generally offer an impractical mishmash of attacks on the wealthy, protectionism, increased welfare spending and high taxes.” Impractical? Those “attacks on the wealthy” and “high taxes” propose taxation rates that fall well below 1950s and 1960s-era levels.

Their “protectionism” would replace bad trade deals with better ones. These leaders are, if anything, overly conciliatory toward the “deficit” crowd, because they insist on offering “pay-fors” for their increased welfare spending.

“These policies may appeal to the angry and frustrated,” Berman writes, “but they turn off voters looking for viable policy and a progressive, rather than utopian, view of the future.” Leaving aside the question of viability, I would like to see some numbers to support that claim. There is growing support for bigger government and an improved social safety net in the US, while Corbyn’s proposals poll very well in Britain.

As for “the angry and frustrated” — yes, voters are both of those things. Why shouldn’t they be? For too long, the center-left ignored their needs in order to pursue the notion that government could be run by insiders from both parties, through that quiet process of back-room negotiation known as “bipartisanship.” Kenan Malik, also writing in the New York Times, accurately characterized the British and European center-left of recent decades:

“With the dismantling of the postwar political system has gone, too, the old division between social democracy and conservatism. The new fault line — not just in British politics but throughout Europe — is between an elite, technocratic managerialism, governing through structures that often bypass democratic processes, and a growing mass of people who feel alienated and politically voiceless.”

The same could be said of its counterpart in the United States. The consensus rule of political insiders across the globe, from center-left to center-right, has not responded to voters’ needs or wishes. As a result, it is falling. That’s not tragedy; it’s democracy. Europe’s center-left became complacent and complicit: complacent in its power, and complicit in its relationship to corporate power.

Professor Berman worries that, without, “populism will flourish and democracy will decay.” But the left’s populism is answering the unmet needs of people in Western Europe and the United States. That’s not decay; it’s progress.

Stand Up! for Main Street | Public Citizen

Stand Up! for Main Street

Public Citizen Presents an All-Star Comedy Benefit on October 29

Event Details

Sunday, October 29, 2017 • 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Writers Guild Theater • 135 South Doheny Drive • Beverly Hills, California

Join Us

Click the button below to purchase tickets. Tickets are $100 — with a reduced cost for students and public interest employees of $25. For five or more tickets or to sponsor the event, please contact Amanda Fleming at (202) 588-7734 or email

Featured Comedians

Laura Kightlinger

Writer and Producer, Will & Grace.
She also wrote for the 20th season (1994–1995) of Saturday Night Live, on which she was a featured performer and cast member.

Jimmy Dore

Comedy Central Star and
Co-host of The Aggressive Progressives on
The Young Turks Network

​Alonzo Bodden 

NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me 

Jay Mandyam

Feature film, “The Ali­wood Shuffle” and hit HBO TV show “Silicon Valley”

Jackie Fabulous

Last Comic Standing, OWN Network, NBC, CBS AND FOX.

                                     and many more to be announced. . .

Highlights from Past Events

Join Us

Click the button below to purchase tickets. Tickets are $100 — with a reduced cost for students and public interest employees of $25. For five or more tickets or to sponsor the event, please contact Amanda Fleming at (202) 588-7734 or email

Trump’s wall is big, beautiful and dumb — here’s a better way to control the border – LA Times

If the goal is to stop illegal immigration, I’ve got some advice for President Trump from here in California, which used to be part of Mexico and now has turned itself into a kind of sanctuary state.

For starters, the promised “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border of the United States doesn’t make much sense. If Trump doesn’t trust me, he should go to El Centro — as I did in March — and talk to Albert Garcia, the retired Border Patrol welder who spent 25 years fixing holes in the fence.

Continue reading Trump’s wall is big, beautiful and dumb — here’s a better way to control the border – LA Times

Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

Protesters dressed as Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel, Sicily, May 2017
‘Her performance has been a planetary disaster.’ Protesters dressed as Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni, Donald Trump and Angela Merkel, Sicily, May 2017.
Photograph: Angelo Carconi/EPA

Which living person has done most to destroy the natural world and the future wellbeing of humanity? Donald Trump will soon be the correct answer, when the full force of his havoc has been felt. But for now I would place another name in the frame: Angela Merkel.

Continue reading Who’s the world’s leading eco-vandal? It’s Angela Merkel | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian

Migration in Motion: Visualizing Species Movements Due to Climate Change – Cool Green Science

Migration in Motion: Visualizing Species Movements Due to Climate Change

As climate change alters 
habitats and disrupts ecosystems, where will
 animals move to survive?
 And will human development prevent them from getting there?

Now you can see those migrations in motion.

New research from Conservancy and university scientists revealed that only 41 percent of the natural land area in the United States retains enough connectivity to facilitate species tracking their preferred climate conditions as the global climate changes. As part of that study, scientists modeled the distribution and habitat needs of 2,903 vertebrate species in the Western hemisphere against land use and projected climate patterns.

Previous work mapped the geographic areas in the western hemisphere through which species will likely need to move to track their suitable climates. That study identified that the Amazon Basin, southeastern United States and southeastern Brazil are three areas with projected high densities of climate-driven movements.

Conservancy cartographer and analyst Dan Majka brought this data to life in a series of maps that show what corridors mammals, amphibians, and other animals will use as they move to new habitats under projected climate change. Inspired by wind maps of the United States, and using code from Earth global wind map, adapted by Chris Helm, Majka’s dynamic map allows scientists and the public to see the continent-wide impact of climate change on animals and visualize corridors they will need to move.

Check out the map above, and use the navigation tools in the upper-right to investigate migration patterns in both North and South America.

Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for ‘Moral Responsibility’ – The New York Times

Apple’s Tim Cook Barnstorms for ‘Moral Responsibility’

Tim Cook, center, the chief executive of Apple, visiting Capital Factory, a tech incubator in Austin, Tex., last week. Austin’s community college is the latest to offer a new curriculum that Apple developed for creating apps. Brooks Kraft/Apple

AUSTIN, Tex. — “The reality is that government, for a long period of time, has for whatever set of reasons become less functional and isn’t working at the speed that it once was. And so it does fall, I think, not just on business but on all other areas of society to step up.”

That was Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, across the table from me over breakfast here in downtown Austin late last week at the end of a mini-tour across the country during which he focused on topics usually reserved for politicians: manufacturing, jobs and education.

He had just spent the prior day in Ohio, where he toured CTS, a technology company that produces the equipment that Apple uses to test water resistance and dust protection for the iPhone and the Apple Watch. He then flew to Des Moines, where he announced plans to make a $1.3 billion investment in a 400,000-square-foot data center in nearby Waukee to help store and move giant amounts of information for its services like iCloud and FaceTime. And he arrived here to announce that Austin Community College will begin offering its 74,000 students a curriculum that Apple developed to teach them how to write code to create apps for iPhones. Austin is one of 30 community colleges that will offer the curriculum.

As Mr. Cook’s breakfast arrived — two scrambled egg whites, crispy bacon (they didn’t have his preferred turkey bacon), sugar-free cereal with unsweetened almond milk — he described his week, punctuated by a visit the night before to the L.B.J. Presidential Library, the museum of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“One of the things that hits you,” he said, is “all of the major acts, legislation, that happened during just his presidency.” His eyes widened as he listed some: “You have the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Act, you have Medicare, you have Medicaid, you have several national parks, you have Head Start, you have housing discrimination, you have jury discrimination.”

“Regardless of your politics,” he continued, “you look at it and say, ‘My gosh.’”

Mr. Cook’s comments weren’t a dig at President Trump so much as they were a critique of Washington’s seemingly perpetual state of gridlock.

And now Mr. Cook is one of the many business leaders in the country who appear to be filling the void, using his platform at Apple to wade into larger social issues that typically fell beyond the mandate of executives in past generations.

He said he had never set out to do so, but he feels he has been thrust into the role as virtually every large American company has had to stake out a domestic policy.

He was vocal, for example, in criticizing Mr. Trump after Charlottesville in a memo to his staff: “I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.”

Watching Mr. Cook over the years, I’ve been fascinated to see how he has become as animated when talking about big issues like education and climate change as he is when talking about Apple.

“I think we have a moral responsibility to help grow the economy, to help grow jobs, to contribute to this country and to contribute to the other countries that we do business in,” he said.

He added, “I think there’s still probably a more significant group that feels my sole responsibility is to Wall Street.”

His critics will, of course, say all this happy talk is a P.R. ploy for a company that makes its most popular products on the other side of the world and keeps nearly a quarter-trillion dollars abroad, untaxed by Uncle Sam. In fairness, Apple is one of the largest taxpayers in the country, paying $28 billion in federal taxes between 2014 and 2016 at an average rate of 26 percent, which is in the middle for big multinational American corporations.

And Mr. Cook is paid handsomely: On Thursday, as a result of the company’s financial outperformance compared with its peers, Mr. Cook was given nearly $90 million of stock as part of his previously agreed upon compensation plan. (He has said he plans to give away all of his wealth.)

But there’s a more nuanced version of Apple’s story — and Mr. Cook’s transformation of the company after taking over as its chief executive in 2011 — that has been lost amid the din of nonstop chatter about the company in Silicon Valley and Washington.

When Mr. Cook announced, for example, the new data facility in Waukee, he said it would run fully on renewable energy. But he slipped in another fact that has largely gone unnoticed: Over the past several years, Mr. Cook has gotten all of the company’s corporate facilities in the United States to run on wind and solar energy — in their entirety.

“We’re running Apple a hundred percent on renewable energy today” in the United States, he said over breakfast, “and we’ve now hit that in 23 other countries around the world.”

That’s not to say Mr. Cook, 56, is running an altruistic institution. Apple received $208 million in tax breaks from Iowa to locate its data center there. The state has aggressively recruited technology companies, including Facebook and Microsoft, with deep subsidies. A Los Angeles Times columnist criticized the state as a “first-class patsy” for making the deal with Apple, which will create 1,700 construction jobs but only about 50 long-term jobs. Apple agreed to donate “up to $100 million” for local infrastructure, including a youth sports complex, offsetting part of the tax break.

Mr. Cook is most passionate when he talks about education, which led the company to create the curriculum for developing apps, estimated to be a $1.3 trillion part of the global economy.

He is hoping the curriculum turns into jobs. Last year, according to Apple, 150,000 new jobs were created through the App Store. Apple paid out $5 billion directly to app makers.

He said he had chosen to focus on getting the curriculum to community colleges, rather than four-year colleges, because “as it turns out, the community college system is much more diverse than the four-year schools, particularly the four-year schools that are known for comp sci.” He noted that “there is a definite diversity issue in tech, in particular in coding and computer scientists.”

Apple has already rolled out the curriculum in Alabama, Ohio and Pennsylvania, among other states. “You want it to increase the diversity of people that are in there, both racial diversity, gender diversity, but also geographic diversity,” Mr. Cook said. “Right now, the benefits of tech are too lopsided to certain states.” (Like California.)

Students who take the classes learn the Swift language, which is used to make apps on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. Admittedly, Mr. Cook is not helping students learn how to code in languages for his competitors, but he said, “I think it’s significantly transferable.”

He continued, with a laugh: “We know that people making a mobile app, many of them are going to make iOS apps and Android apps. And I wish they wouldn’t, but they’re probably going to.”

He added: “It’s not like I’m trying to make money on it. It’s a gift.”

As for Mr. Cook’s coding skills? “I might fail a little bit on that.”

As we finished up breakfast before we headed over to Austin’s Capital Factory, an incubator for tech start-ups where he would announce the new curriculum, I mentioned a question that some in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have asked: Is his focus on jobs and speeches in front of American flags a hint at something bigger? After all, Mark Zuckerberg’s name is now regularly bandied about in discussions of potential presidential candidates.

“I have a full-time job,” Mr. Cook said. “I appreciate the compliment,” he added with a wry look, “if it is a compliment.”

Whatever Will The Terrorists Do Without A Country To Host Their Monkey Bars? The Biggest Afghanistan Lie Of All, Repeated Now By Trump.

We took a break in our Afghanistan analysis, having shared with you 2 parts out of 3, to comment on Trump’s escalation of his endorsement of lawlessness, by pardoning someone with total and unrepentant contempt for the law. This will be the most important and 3rd of the Afghanistan speech break down.
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OK, we had already pointed out the hypocrisy, which has certainly not escaped anybody else on the continent, of complaining about Pakistan allowing foreign fighters to operate from their territory and attack Afghanistan, while at the same time WE have bases everywhere, launching strikes in EVERY other neighboring country, including Pakistan.
But this truth still does not fully reach the biggest lie of all, the lie they told us day one to even get us to invade Afghanistan in the first place, namely that the terrorists even need a safe haven country from which to plot their attacks.
Remember the grainy video of training camps with monkey bars?
Terrorists no longer need to work out on monkey bars, presuming they ever did. Nor do they need a place to set them up.
All the training they need now is about how to rent a truck and point the steering wheel at as many pedestrians they can run down, or how to hit a gun show in the US to buy freely available assault weapons, courtesy of the militant 2nd Amendment purist fanatics with the NRA. With information widely propagated over the internet any hate-filled, disgruntled person can set up a bomb factory in their apartment, with or without a special traveling bomb-making trainer there in person.
Our occupation of Afghanistan in all of 16 years has not impeded or stopped a single terrorist attack here at home. Not one.
Instead, all it has done is put our own people there at constant risk of LOCAL terrorist attacks and IED ambushes, with a steady stream of casualties directly proportional to the number of people we have there, including so-called “friendly fire” from inductees into the army we are supposed to be getting to stand up so we can stand down.
In 2001, there was a handful of bin Laden’s people in Afghanistan. Now there are, by the words out of Trump’s own mouth in his big speech last week, 20 terrorist groups operating there. That’s not progress, that’s a slippery slope configured as a sheer cliff.
Morever, if you bought into the lunacy that we had to invade Afghanistan because there were terrorists hiding there, then you must also be advocating for invading Pakistan now, for the same exact reason, as if they could do something our own cruise missiles have not already accomplished there.
We cannot bomb our way to regional stability. It’s about as strategically effective as bombing cockroaches with food garbage. They just keep multiplying.
And tomorrow, we will return to critical domestic policy, and break down why buying health insurance across state lines, which the Republicans keep pushing as the magic cure for our health care problems, is nothing but snake oil.
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FBI pushes private sector to cut ties with Kaspersky

FBI pushes private sector to cut ties with Kaspersky

The FBI has been briefing private sector companies on intelligence claiming to show that the Moscow-based cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab is an unacceptable threat to national security, current and former senior U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell CyberScoop.

The briefings are one part of an escalating conflict between the U.S. government and Kaspersky amid long-running suspicions among U.S. intelligence officials that Russian spy agencies use the company as an intelligence-gathering tool of global proportions.

The FBI’s goal is to have U.S. firms push Kaspersky out of their systems as soon as possible or refrain from using them in new products or other efforts, the current and former officials say.

The FBI’s counterintelligence section has been giving briefings since beginning of the year on a priority basis, prioritizing companies in the energy sector and those that use industrial control (ICS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems.

In light of successive cyberattacks against the electric grid in Ukraine, the FBI has focused on this sector due to the critical infrastructure designation assigned to it by the Department of Homeland Security.

Additionally, the FBI has briefed large U.S. tech companies that have working partnerships or business arrangements with Kaspersky on products — from routers to virtual machines — that touch a wide range of American businesses and civilians.

In the briefings, FBI officials give companies a high-level overview of the threat assessment, including what the U.S. intelligence community says are the Kaspersky’s deep and active relationships with Russian intelligence. FBI officials point to multiple specific accusations of wrongdoing by Kaspersky, such as a well-known instance of allegedly faking malware.

In a statement to CyberScoop, a Kaspersky spokesperson blamed those particular accusations on “disgruntled, former company employees, whose accusations are meritless” while FBI officials say, in private and away from public scrutiny, they know the incident took place and was blessed by the company’s leadership.

The FBI’s briefings have seen mixed results. Companies that utilize ISC and SCADA systems have been relatively cooperative, one government official told CyberScoop, due in large part to what’s described as exceptional sense of urgency that dwarfs most other industries. Several of these companies have quietly moved forward on the FBI’s recommendations against Kaspersky by, for example, signing deals with Kaspersky competitors.

The firms the FBI have briefed include those that deal with nuclear power, a predictable target given the way the electric grid is increasingly at the center of catastrophic cybersecurity concerns.

The traditional tech giants have been less receptive and cooperative to the FBI’s pitch.

Earlier this year, a U.S. congressional panel asked federal government agencies to share documents on Kaspersky Lab because the firm’s products could be used to carry out “nefarious activities against the United States,” Reuters reported. That followed the General Services Administration removing Kaspersky from an approved-vendors list in early July and a congressional push to pass a law that would ban Kaspersky from being used by the Department of Defense.

Kaspersky, which has long denied ever helping any government with cyber-espionage efforts, reiterated those denials.

“If these briefings are actually occurring, it’s extremely disappointing that a government agency would take such actions against a law-abiding and ethical company like Kaspersky Lab,” a company representative told CyberScoop. “The company doesn’t have inappropriate ties with any government, which is why no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization to back up the false allegations made against Kaspersky Lab. The only conclusion seems to be that Kaspersky Lab, a private company, is caught in the middle of a geopolitical fight, and it’s being treated unfairly, even though the company has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyber-espionage or offensive cyber efforts.”

The U.S. government’s actions come as Russia is engaged in its own push to stamp American tech giants like Microsoft out of that country’s systems.

Russia’s Quid Pro Quo

In the briefings, FBI officials also raise the issue of Russia’s increasingly expansive surveillance laws and what they charge is a distinct culture wherein powerful Russian intelligence agencies are easily able to reach into private sector firms like Kaspersky with little check on government power.

Of particular interest are the Yarovaya laws and the System for Operative Investigative Activities (SORM), among others, which mandate broad, legally vague and permissive Russian intelligence agency access to data moving inside Russia with retention periods extending to three years. Companies have little course to fight back. U.S officials point to the FSB, the KGB’s successor, as the cryptography regulator in Russia, and say it puts an office of active agents inside Russian companies.

A Kaspersky spokesperson emphasized that all information received by the company is “is protected in accordance with legal requirements and stringent industry standards, including encryption, digital certificates, firewalls and more” and insisted that “the company is not subject to these laws and other government tools” like SORM.

The law unquestionably does, however, impact Russian internet and communications providers, which Kaspersky uses. And, after all, it’s the Russian “legal requirements” that raise so many eyebrows.

“If it comes to the case of Kaspersky being induced to do something which is undocumented and illegal, it’s only then we’re in a slightly different domain [than in the West] and yes, you can assume the Russian government would have ways to induce private industry to do what it wants,” Keir Giles, a Russia expert with the British think tank Chatham House, told CyberScoop. “This is extremely hard to pin down because by this very nature this official encouragement is clandestine.”

They show up, say ‘You’re already breaking the law, now what are you going to do for me?’”

By design, there is little visibility and public understanding of this opaque world. Many of the accusations pointed at Russia are met — by Kaspersky’s defenders as well as by civil liberties activists and technologists critical of what they view as gross U.S. government overreach — with fingers pointed right back at U.S. military and spy agencies.

Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes Western intelligence agencies are engaged in many of the same tactics and must be similarly criticized but that “the legal and political landscape in Russia is very different.”

“The Yarovaya laws and many of the other internet-related laws in Russia were never meant to be implementable,” she told CyberScoop. “They were always meant to be overbroad, overreaching and impossible to comply with because this gives the Russian government a place to start whenever they come calling for your data. They show up, say ‘you’re already breaking the law, now what are you going to do for me?’”

Galperin’s observations on the Russian legal and political landscape mirrors what U.S. officials say in private about intentionally vague laws allowing intelligence officers to have broad abilities and authorities to conduct what U.S. officials see as malicious activity.

Throughout Kaspersky’s leadership ranks, including CEO and founder Eugene Kaspersky, the company is populated with Russian former intelligence officials, some of whom are accused by Western intelligence agencies of continuing in all but name to work for the Kremlin. This is a major point of contention, because Western cybersecurity firms are largely populated by ex-intelligence community employees as well.

While much of the public focus has understandably been on Eugene Kaspersky, the U.S. intelligence community places great focus on other executives, including Chief Legal Officer Igor Chekunov. Prior to joining the company, Chekunov was a KGB officer. A Kaspersky spokesperson stressed that Chekunov’s time was “obligatory military service” equivalent to “working for customs and border protection (CBP), which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” U.S intelligence officials say in briefings they believe the list of individuals within Kaspersky cooperating with Russian intelligence is far longer, but they’ve offered no public evidence as proof.

“Once you serve in the [Russian] intelligence services, you’re always kind of linked to them,” Zachary Witlin, a Russia analyst at the Eurasia Group, told CyberScoop. “Kaspersky is an interesting case though. Eugene built this entire company there, he and plenty of other Russians want it to succeed as a global cybersecurity company because it showcases that Russia does have the talent to have world-class software products. I don’t think they would be immune from the same sorts of oversight that incredibly powerful Russian intelligence agencies have on the rest of the country, but they would have to make a calculation about whether or not they would be putting a major company like that at irreparable risk. In a situation like this, I’m not so sure.”

Purely Political?

In closed congressional hearings, senators have responded with some punch to the FBI’s work. The chief criticism from Congress, which is anxious to take legislative action, is that the U.S. intelligence community didn’t speak up sooner about the problem. Earlier this year, senior U.S. intelligence officials slammed Kaspersky in an open congressional hearing; Eugene Kaspersky blamed it on “political reasons” rather than any wrongdoing by his own company.

In the years since suspicion has crept up against Kaspersky, the firm has repeatedly denied that it poses a threat to U.S. security or that it cooperates with Russia or any other government to spy on users. Efforts to reach out to American authorities have repeatedly been ignored or dismissed, the company told CyberScoop.

“CEO Eugene Kaspersky has repeatedly offered to meet with government officials, testify before the U.S. Congress and provide the company’s source code for an official audit to help address any questions the U.S. government has about the company, but unfortunately, Kaspersky Lab has not received a response to those offers,” a company spokesperson said.

“The company simply wants the opportunity to answer any questions and assist all concerned government organizations with any investigations, as Kaspersky Lab ardently believes a deeper examination of the company will confirm that these allegations are completely unfounded.”

The issue of a code audit was dismissed as a “publicity stunt” earlier this year by Jake Williams, an ex-NSA employee who has called the U.S. government’s efforts against Kaspersky “purely political.”

Beyond Kaspersky, U.S. intelligence officials see a problem that encompasses all of Russia and which, more broadly, impacts relations with tech firms from other countries, most notably China. As with so many other Washington, D.C., conversations of late, however, Russia has taken nearly sole possession of the spotlight that might otherwise be spread more globally.

Update: A Kaspersky spokesperson’s comments on the nature of Chief Legal Officer Igor Chekunov’s KGB service was added.

Lives of Women and Children at RISK – Union Rescue Mission

Lives of Women and Children at RISK

For nearly 18 months, Union Rescue Mission has experienced an unexpected, unprecedented spike in need on Skid Row and throughout Los Angeles County.

To be exact, Union Rescue Mission is serving 55% more women than this time last year. They’ve stepped up to the need, determined to keep their promise to the community to never turn away a woman or a family with children.

But the severe hit on an already shoestring budget is backing them into a corner—where the only solution is budget cuts to services.

Union Rescue Mission CEO, Andy Bales, says, “We’re the only organization in downtown Los Angeles providing immediate emergency shelter for single men, single women, moms with kids, dads with kids, and two-parent families with children. If we can’t raise $1.75 million by September 30, we’ll be forced to shut down our year-round shelter for single women and men, and put a cap on the number of families with children we serve.”

Continue reading Lives of Women and Children at RISK – Union Rescue Mission

This is the real story behind the economic crisis unfolding in Qatar | The Independent

This is the real story behind the economic crisis unfolding in Qatar

The Qatar crisis proves two things: the continued infantilisation of the Arab states, and the total collapse of the Sunni Muslim unity supposedly created by Donald Trump’s preposterous attendance at the Saudi summit two weeks ago.

After promising to fight to the death against Shia Iranian “terror,” Saudi Arabia and its closest chums have now ganged up on one of the wealthiest of their neighbours, Qatar, for being a fountainhead of “terror”. Only Shakespeare’s plays could come close to describing such treachery. Shakespeare’s comedies, of course.

Continue reading This is the real story behind the economic crisis unfolding in Qatar | The Independent

Trump’s claim that a general dipped bullets in pigs’ blood is fake news – but the US massacre of Moro Muslims isn’t | The Independent

Trump’s claim that a general dipped bullets in pigs’ blood is fake news – but the US massacre of Moro Muslims isn’t

Pershing had left the islands and the Philippine-US war was officially over when the Americans slaughtered the Moro Muslims in their hundreds – men, women and children. With Trump-like enthusiasm, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt congratulated the US commanders on their ‘brilliant feat of arms’

Continue reading Trump’s claim that a general dipped bullets in pigs’ blood is fake news – but the US massacre of Moro Muslims isn’t | The Independent

Massacre in sanctuary | The Independent

More Blast from the Past – What got us here

Massacre in sanctuary

Qana, southern Lebanon – It was a massacre. Not since Sabra and Chatila had I seen the innocent slaughtered like this. The Lebanese refugee women and children and men lay in heaps, their hands or arms or legs missing, beheaded or disembowelled. There were well over a hundred of them. A baby lay without a head. The Israeli shells had scythed through them as they lay in the United Nations shelter, believing that they were safe under the world’s protection. Like the Muslims of Srebrenica, the Muslims of Qana were wrong.

Continue reading Massacre in sanctuary | The Independent

A Tiny Revolution: Report: Top Israeli Politician Naftali Bennett Played Key Role in 1996 Massacre That Motivated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to Attack U.S. on 9/11

Blast from the Past…so to speak…to coin a phrase…

Report: Top Israeli Politician Naftali Bennett Played Key Role in 1996 Massacre That Motivated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to Attack U.S. on 9/11

Naftali Bennett is Israel’s Minister of the Economy and leader of the ultra-right wing religious party Jewish Home. He’s also a leading candidate to be Israel’s next Defense Minister, and as the New Yorker describes it, his ambition to one day become Prime Minister is “as plump and glaring as a harvest moon.” Continue reading A Tiny Revolution: Report: Top Israeli Politician Naftali Bennett Played Key Role in 1996 Massacre That Motivated Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to Attack U.S. on 9/11