Friday, November 10, 2017

Galatically Stupid Is Our Buddy

One Year

Before we begin, here's a perspective you might consider : The physical remains of a Bronze-Age human were found on a glacier in 1991. He was dubbed 'Ötzi The Iceman'. He had died in the mountain pass where his body was found (between current-day Italy and Austria) roughly 5,300 years ago. 

Use the link; go look at this man's reconstructed face. Let me repeat: He Died Five Thousand, Three Hundred Years Ago. He died at least 3,000 years before there was Greek civilization, or a Roman empire. 2,000 years before the Pyramids of Egypt were built.  

He lived and died four thousand years before the Buddha was supposed to be alive, and at least 2,300 years before either Jesus or Mohammed were supposedly doing their community service. Consider that.

Also consider: he was discovered because the glacier, which held and moved his body, was melting.
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Where we were, before November 10, 2016. Compare in your own minds with where we are now.
  • Climate Breakdown:  The effect of human life on the planet's ecosystem continued. There was no way to know if the Paris Accords, if put into action, would have a measurable effect on dampening trends in global temperature, precipitation and extreme weather. Some critics complained the accords did not go far enough; others that it was too late to reverse climate effects, no matter what we do. However, the planet's political representatives (including the United States) had committed themselves to an agreement, and that was no small feat. But, it's just a few paragraphs of language, unless and until legislated into action.
  • The upward flow of wealth, to Those Who Have from Those Who Don't, continued in 2016. Important people being paid large salaries released reports detailing what a bad thing this is, which were tut-tutted by many (Inequality; must do something about that). Anyone born in the United States in 1980 -- the generation which should be in its prime, income-producing years -- has a 50/50 chance of making less than their parents. The top eight wealthiest persons in the world have more collective net worth than 50% of the human race (See "Panama Papers" below). That's a ratio of  1 : 437,500,000,  if you're curious. Or, not.
  • North Korea and the Kim-Jong Un regime continued development of nuclear weapons, and an ICBM delivery system capable of hitting the United States. The North claimed to have successfully launched a submarine-based IRBM in August, 2016; two test launches of surface-based IRBMs/ICBMs in mid-October apparently failed.  North Korea had also conducted three underground nuclear weapons tests -- one in January, and twice in September, 2016.
  • China continued to spread its influence. Chinese companies made large acquisitions. Foreign currency reserve money (i.e., USD) flowed out of the country.  Development of the "one Belt, One Road" initiative begun in 2014 continued as a strategic direction. Tensions continued in the South China Sea with Japan and the United States over islands China had 'enhanced', expanding China's definition of territorial waters into what the U.S. sees as open shipping lanes. Encounters between naval vessels and aircraft were tense, and the possibility of an 'incident' seemed likely.
  • War in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen continued. Russian military support for the Al-Assad regime had allowed Syrian government forces to retake territory from rebel forces in the north of the country (in particular, the brutal retaking of the city of Aleppo), and from the so-called Islamic State. In Iraq, the IS still controlled large areas, but counteroffensives by U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces had begun in 2015, and by the fall of 2016 the Islamists were in retreat
  • In Turkey, a military coup in July 2016 against its increasingly authoritarian leader, Racep ("Kiki") Erdogan, failed, resulting in curbing of civil liberties, censorship, closing of any media critical of the Erdogan government; mass firings of civil service employees suspected of being sympathetic to the coup, and summary arrests. 
  • Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric who had long been critical of that country's Sunni majority in January 2016. One result were violent protests held at the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Iran (where the Shia are in the majority). The Saudis closed the embassy and severed diplomatic relations with Iran -- all this is related to the ongoing war in Yemen -- where since 2015, rebels backed by Iran have tried to overthrow a government supported by Saudi Arabia. 42,000 people have died. In August, 2016, talks to end the conflict collapsed, and Saudi airstrikes -- which have terrified local populations -- continued.
  • Great Britain's citizens voted for 'Brexit', 52% to 48% in June 2016. The Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron (who called the vote to silence critics, believing it would result in a victory to 'remain' in the Union) resigned. Implications for the rest of the EU weren't immediately clear, but weren't positive. Conservative Theresa May (a diehard 'Remain' supporter), was chosen as new PM and barely able to maintain a right-wing coalition in Parliament against tremendous pressure from the Labor Party and its leader, MP Jeremy Corbin.
  • France elected Emmanuel Macron, a Centrist, in a May 2016 election which pitted him against the far-Right Nationalist Marie LePen, 66.1% to 33.9%. This was seen as a bellwether of nationalist, anti-EU and fascist-leaning politics in mainstream Europe, and LePen's failure was seen as a defeat for those extremist viewpoints. What Macron as a 'centrist' would do with French internal and economic policy? well, that's a different matter, c'est non?
  • Roderigo Duerte was elected President of the Philippines in May, 2016. A populist candidate, Duerte instituted a ruthless campaign against drug dealing in the country, utilizing vigilantes and police, leading to reported thousands of murders. Duerte also hinted the Philippines' would be ending its long-standing relationship with the United States, and its troops would have to leave the country by 2018.  He made clear overtures to the government of China as a new ally, and made headlines by referring to then-president Obama in a public speech as a "son of a bitch".
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) had been in negotiation since 2009. It was an American-led vehicle, providing leverage for the U.S., and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, to determine how trade in the Rim would be conducted, and was clearly aimed at containing Chinese economic influence (that it would also become part of a network of prior, similar trade agreements which provide, uh, 'rewards' to the usual large financial interests was obvious but ignored). The TPP was not popular among many politicians in the U.S., Right or Left; even so, then-president Obama hoped it would be ratified by the Congress in lame-duck session before the end of 2016. Good luck with that.
  • In April 2016, the "Panama Papers" were released in the media,  over 11 million documents dating from the 1970's forward which detailed how a long list of wealthy clients of a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, used offshore shell corporations to move and protect income from taxation. The documents were copied by an anonymous whistleblowing employee of the firm, who initially provided them to a German newspaper. Almost no one was surprised, including the governments which had been potentially defrauded of tax payments.
Left out here are mass shooting episodes in America (the Orlando, Florida nightclub attack) and continued police shootings of unarmed people in urban cities. There were the July Bastille Day terror attacks in Nice, France, and also in Germany by lone attackers. There was resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. Anton Scalia died in his sleep ("Whales weep not").

The existence of gravitational waves, created by the collision of two black holes trillions of miles from Earth, was confirmed. Hundreds of the oldest footprints of our ancestors (in fossilized mud, some 19,000 years old) were found in Africa. People found Ube on their doughnuts, Poke holding their veggies and fish, Raclette scraped on their eggs, and "fairy bread", in the year since November 9, 2016. 
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After the 2016 election: I'm going to agree with Ian Welsh on this one. It is no bed of roses, but
... I say that we are moving out of an era where problems could only be solved if they made someone a billionaire and are moving to an era where we will be able to start actually fixing problems that matter. This is a high-risk period ... But unlike in 2009... we now have some real reasons to hope along with all the baked-in catastrophes we’ve had handed to us. 
Oh, yes, Trump. Yeah, he’s bad, and he’ll be bad for a lot of people, but I am not worried when it comes to the big picture because he’s ... far too incompetent.... Someone competent, running on actual right-wing populism, say, Bannon with charisma, could well have turned America into a fascist state for two generations... [Trump's] failure provides a clear warning of the danger and may discredit those policies.
Trump's behavior, which we can count on to be consistently erratic and polarizing, is an important factor in how near-term events (say, three to seven years) could play out. Put simply, Trump is his own worst enemy.  He's already proven it.

His behavior galvanizes opposition and identifies alt-Right extremist conservatism with his own Batshit-Crazy, galatically-stupid incompetence. A more competent mendacious person might do real damage to America, and the rest of the world -- so in a way, we got lucky with Wonderboy. His inherent nature is our best friend, just now.

This isn't to say that if he were about to be indicted for -- treason, perhaps -- Trump might not do something which had maximum Shiny Object value in the media as a distraction. And his target(s) would be (like immigrants, like the Dreamers, like the women he bragged about groping) someone who couldn't really hurt him, couldn't really fight back.

It's important to remember that Trump's closest political advisors, his go-to guys, are all general officers, whether they wear a tie and a blazer or not (Rex Tillerson isn't part of that team, but they seem to get along). Someone made the observation that we've already had a military coup, and no one noticed; if we're lucky, it's only half-wrong.
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Our old-order politics in America, with the two parties serving the Usual Suspects, is no longer viable. Something will replace it -- the what, how and when, we don't know. It may be pretty and joyous, or not.  Change will continue -- and, we're only one year into the Occupation, and haven't yet seen how crazy it can get. We need to remember the past, and we need to remember the future.
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Things, in their relative way, abide: Here's my only solution, just now. Imagine standing in some specific place in the world, one you hold close to your heart. One you can close your eyes and all your senses light up at the memory; see, smell, feel, hear that place. Imagine being in that spot for one year.

The wind blows; birdcalls come and go; clouds appear, thunder and rain, and then pass; night falls; the great bridge of stars appears and twists on its axis above you, until the next sunrise -- and all of it 365 times, passed in an overarching quiet which ignored your presence, as if you were simply an element in that landscape. A rock, a tree, a lost Quarter.

Now open your eyes again and remember that during the year since last November, in all it's terrible beauty; despite everything; your place stood, full of change but rooted, exactly so. Consider that.
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