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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Yes, It Is True!

The Demoralizing Reality of Life Under Trump
Every day is the same, but still awful.

It’s boring, at this point, to talk about the cost of living with Donald Trump as president—it’s the water we all swim in now, so it’s neither unique nor new nor surprising. And yet it’s still true, which is why it’s refreshing to read Matt Ford’s excellent piece in the New Republic, “Trump’s Tax on the National Psyche.” 
Ford’s formulation is a useful way to think about the massive toll, in terms of time and energy stolen from Americans forced to pay attention to inane tweets and half-baked policy, this presidency has had on all of us. As Ford observes, Trump, himself an inveterate squanderer of time, is wasting all of ours: “Trump’s haphazard style of governance,” he writes, “forces journalists, lawyers, and government officials to expend innumerable hours on doomed initiatives and errant tweets. His corrosive effect on American politics forces Americans to devote far more hours of their life to thinking about him than they should.” 
The problem is that we have no choice but to follow the inane tweets and oppose the half-baked policy. There are serious consequences that follow to transgender soldiers, DACA kids, green card holders, and, of course, families at the border when we don’t.As Ford further notes, the psychic costs of following and resisting all of this stupidity are not borne equally by all Americans: “A Gallup poll from April found that younger and less affluent Americans felt more daily stress in general. Women reported higher rates than men in the APS survey; black and Hispanic Americans also registered higher levels of anxiety about the future than their white counterparts.” And this stress, in turn, has marked health impacts, again borne unequally by communities with less power. Still, it’s not just that families are ripped apart in immigration raids and that Latina mothers suffer higher rates of miscarriages—everyone following along with the cruelty at home is suffering too. In the spring, Pew polled Americans asking them to describe how Trump’s comments and statements made them feel. The top seven responses, in descending order? They felt concerned (76 percent), confused (70 percent), embarrassed (69 percent), exhausted (67 percent), angry (65 percent), insulted (62 percent), and frightened (56 percent). In the Washington Post, William Wan and Lindsey Bever write that “Researchers have begun to identify correlations between Trump’s election and worsening cardiovascular health, sleep problems, anxiety and stress, especially among Latinos in the United States.” In other words, it’s not just that Trump is wasting our time and mental space; he’s also making us physically ill.

Buried in there is part of the answer to the age-old question of whether Donald Trump’s words—packed with lies and hubris and threats—really have any force. Given that those words are likely not to be truthful, we may not need to take them literally or seriously, as the formulation goes. But meaningless or gibberish or lies or all three, his words still make us anxious, worried, and stressed. As Ford notes, it’s not just the opportunity cost of what we could be doing with our time, though I could have learned to be a master baker in the time I’ve spent chronicling the outrages of this administration. The actual physical and mental toll being taken is even worse than what my family has missed out in chocolate amaretto soufflés.

The actual psychic toll on our mental health is crippling. The lost sleep, the grinding anxiety, the escalating fears don’t just represent squandered time. They start to chip away at your health and at your soul. The healthy response would be to tune it out altogether, but since actual people are actually suffering the brutal consequences, we cannot. And so here we are back in the narcissist’s loop, fueling his need to be at the center because, well, there he is at the center.
I have been writing about Trump burnout for a while now, but I confess that this summer has been harder, both because the cruelty we once dreaded and feared is manifestly occurring all around us every day and because vast numbers of our friends and neighbors are either exulting in it or sidelining themselves as a result of what Vox, waaaay back in 2017 once dubbed “Trump fatigue syndrome,” a kind of fugue state involving numbness, burnout, and a corresponding loss of reality. This is then doubly concerning, because in addition to being jealous of these people’s newfound freedom, as Nesrine Malik writes, for the Guardian, the real jeopardy of authoritarianism starts with fatigue. Moral seriousness seems to require being aware enough of the chaos everywhere that you accept being punched in the mouth with it every day.

he email I have received most often this summer goes something like this: “I am doing too much. I am not doing enough.” The same can be said for all of us. Self-care in the form of manicures and time with the kids isn’t making a dent in it. And if one stops to think about the cumulative effect of gerrymandering, election interference, vote suppression, and a president signaling that he will not concede even if he loses in 2020, pinning all hopes in the next election feels one notch more sanguine than we can afford to be.

So, Donald Trump, who just in the past two days refused to visit Denmark because it wouldn’t sell Greenland, tossed an anti-Semitic canard out to see how it landed on American Jews, retweeted a conspiracy theorist who claims Trump is the king of the Jews, reversed himself on gun policy and payroll taxes, and mulled ending birthright citizenship by way of executive order, just keeps on trucking. No check in sight. Don McGahn is not going to do anything to stop him, Congress is not going to do anything to stop him, Senate Republicans are not going to do anything to stop him, and Sean Spicer is on Dancing With the Stars. Cold comfort perhaps, but if you don’t feel that you are losing your damn mind, something would be profoundly wrong with you.

We are all doing too much. And we are all also not doing enough. And there is nothing wrong with you, beyond being a human being in categorically insane times.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Is America Beyond Hope?

When will you be giving up your gun rights?
How many more children, students and adults have to die a senseless death? Why are Americans killing each other?
Why are mass shootings so much more common in the US than in other countries?

These are questions which need to be answered. 

The answers to a lot of the deaths in the below list have to be addressed on the political stage. 

When mass shootings happen, government officials are reacting with words of "senseless cowardly act" and "thoughts and prayers". This seems to be all that American politicians are able to come up with. But governments have the duty to protect the lives of their country's citizens and residents. That is indeed the main purpose of having a government. In the US that task was never achieved. Since the early days of the American nation the US government has never been able to protect their people. America has always been an extremely violent nation.

Yet, the 2. amendment could have been reworked and adjusted to modern times. Or it could have been repealed all together. Will that ever happen? Are Americans willing to give up their antiquated gun rights in order to save the lives of thousands of their own people? When will the US Government stand up to the NRA and declare the NRA a terrorist organisation?

Meanwhile, the list goes on. Down below is the list for this year only. And as you know, the killing in Odessa won't be the last mass shooting. Get ready for the next condemning by your governor, the next "thoughts and prayers" session, the next public outrage in the press, and the next mass funeral.

Have a wonderful day in crazy-land.
August 31, 2019Midland–Odessa, Texas6[n 1]21272019 West Texas shooting: Six people were killed and twenty-one others were injured on the Interstate 20. One of the suspects was killed.
August 4, 2019Dayton, Ohio927372019 Dayton shooting: Nine people were killed and 27 were injured outside of a bar. The perpetrator was killed by police.
August 3, 2019El Paso, Texas2224462019 El Paso shooting: A gunman killed twenty-two people and injured twenty-four others at a Walmart. The gunman was arrested.
July 28, 2019Gilroy, California4[n 1]1519Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting: A gunman killed 3 people, including one 6 year-old boy, attending Gilroy's annual Garlic Festival; 12 more people were injured. The shooter killed himself.
May 31, 2019Virginia Beach, Virginia13[n 1]518Virginia Beach shooting: A gunman killed 12 people and injured five others at a municipal building. The gunman died at the scene.[9]
May 7, 2019Highlands Ranch, Colorado189STEM School Highlands Ranch shooting: A school shooting was reported at STEM School Highlands Ranch, around 1:50 p.m, two shooters targeted separate locations and killed one student and injured eight more before being arrested.[10]
April 30, 2019Charlotte, North Carolina2462019 UNCC shooting: Six people were shot, two fatally, on the last day of classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The student gunman was taken into custody after he ran out of ammunition.[11]
April 27, 2019Poway, California134Poway synagogue shooting: One person was killed and at least three were wounded by a shooter at the Chabad of Poway synagogue.[12]
February 15, 2019Aurora, Illinois6[n 1]612Aurora, Illinois, shooting: A 45-year old man opened fire at a Henry Pratt Company plant and killed five people and injured six others. He was a former worker at the plant and he was killed in a shootout with police.
January 28, 2019Houston, Texas246Pecan Park raid: Two people were killed and four police officers were injured during a drug raid at a home.
January 26, 2019Ascension Parish, Louisiana, and Livingston Parish, Louisiana505January 2019 Louisiana shootings: A 21-year old man killed five people, including his parents, in two parishes in Louisiana.[13]
January 23, 2019Sebring, Florida5052019 Sebring shooting: Five people were killed in a hostage incident and shooting at a bank. The suspect was taken into custody by police.[14]

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

How Global Warming Changes Canada

This article was published in the TAZ, a German magazine. It was translated from German. Terms and comparisons pertinent to a German audience only have been left out.
As we lived 6 years in Alberta, we have partially experienced similar conditions as stated in the article. Our own experiences date from 2002 - 2008. 

Alberta is like a smokehouse
Smoke and smog instead of clear cool air: Climate change destroys the idyll of the Canadian West. And  it's killing people there.

Can we be rescued? The world as we know it, is drowning. Even more so than in Germany, one can currently experience it in Canada, what kind of dramatic consequences the climate crisis can have in everyday life. In the vast country whose northern territories reach far into the Arctic, global warming happens twice as fast as in the rest of the world.

Suddenly, the country experiences tornadoes. Drought periods are created drying up entire rivers. On the other hand, there are also floods, such as in 2013 in Calgary, the city in the western Canadian province of Alberta, where I have been living and worked for several years. The historic flood flooded the entire city center, causing $6 billion in financial damage. 80,000 people had to be evacuated and some lost their entire belongings.

Founded in 1875 on the territory of the indigenous people of the Blackfoot, the Tsuut'ina and the Stoney Nakoda, this pioneering settlement is often a vague term for most Germans, who are old enough, to remember the 1988 Winter Olympics. Today it is a rapidly growing metropolis with well over one million inhabitants.

Passing through two crystal-clear mountain streams, the Bow and the Elbow, Calgary lies on the border between the vast Canadian prairie to the east and the Foothills and the Rocky Mountains to the west, which are easily accessible from the city in just under an hour's drive.

The summers are usually moderately warm here, the winters long and hard. Temperatures of minus thirty degrees are not uncommon from autumn to far into spring. The climate is extremely dry. Almost all year round, the sky is bright blue. Calgary is the sunniest city in Canada.

So far the earlier rule. Recently, however, 

nothing is here as it once was. The cold phases become harder and longer, followed by heat, heavy rain and dry periods. The glaciers in the Rockies are thawing off. But that's not all. In Alberta, people joke that there are now only two alternate seasons - winter, smoke and winter. Forest or prairie fires suddenly appear to an extent that the locals can not remember from the days of their childhood and youth.
In 2016, such a gigantic fire with fire walls over 100 meters in height threatened to cremate the entire city of Fort McMurray, an area surrounded by vast forests, a community located 700 kilometers north of Calgary, owned by the oil sands industry. 88,000 people were evacuated then, thousands lost their homes.

It is no longer just a historical case, but a harbinger of coming normality. In 2017, 2018 and 2019, large areas of the province once again burned down. Its getting warmer and warmer. In August 2018, an absolute new heat record was recorded in Calgary on a day at 36.4 degrees Celsius.

The tranquility with which the Canadians are waiting for their fate is astonishing.

In the far north, it is now heating up even earlier every year and it is warmer than in the south of the province. Between March and the end of July 2019, 803,393 hectares of land were burned in Alberta by 644 fires, mostly in the vicinity of the northern small town of High Level. By May this year, about 10,000 people had to be evacuated there.

The calm with which the affected Canadians are waiting for their fate, is astonishing.

Imagine that in Germany, a whole city would be told that all residents would immediately have to sit on packed suitcases and promptly vacate their houses at any time and camp out in gymnasiums and keep quiet to wait and see if their own house burns down or not. In Alberta, this is now everyday life.

The air pollution of the fire catastrophes resembles that of huge CO2 bombs, which further aggravate the climate heating. Depending on the wind, Calgary's air quality can fall within 10 minutes of the Air Quality Health Index's 10+ rating, an extreme warning of acute health hazards and long-term consequences, especially for children, the elderly or the sick. Thousands have already died from these climatic conditions, and the trend is rising.

Constrained tourists from Vancouver on the Pacific coast in British Columbia across the Rockies to Calgary were facing a single dense smog wall in August 2018,. The mountains were nowhere to be seen from Calgary.

For me, too, these experiences were dramatic. They made it clear to me what it feels like to have no control or escape in the face of such conditions - unless you sit in a plane and fly far away to another country.

The dense smog covered all of Alberta, a province into which Germany would fit twice. The smoke is just everywhere. It pollutes the offices on the university campus, the library, the shopping mall, his own apartment. Without the installation of special air filters, which are nowhere to be found, you can not create a retreat with breathable air. Turning the air conditioner on, only worsens everything. It pumps the smoke from the outside to the inside.

Looking out of the window, the air has a brownish-yellowish color. It acts like a dense fog, swallowing even nearby buildings. It smells like a cold fireplace. The whole city is like a monstrous smokehouse. If you ride a bike to work, you have to put on a breathing mask. But such physical activities outdoors are strongly discouraged anyway. Jogging or walking makes no sense, because it would be the consumption of several packets of cigarettes.

Nevertheless, people vote for the oil industry

You sit around indoors, breathing shallow - knowing that this does not help, because the toxic carcinogenic CO2 agents from the air gets into your own bloodstream anyway. The respiratory system is irritated, the eyes burn, you get a headache.

The strong sun and the blowing winds in the Canadian redneck state number 1 calls for alternative energy sources

Despite all this, human ignorance of such threats is hard to overcome. 

In 2019 Albertans voted the New Democratic Party (NDP) out of office and instead gave power to the United Conservative Party (UCP). Their prime minister Jason Kenney completely ignores the climate crisis.
With pithy promises and aggressive slogans he wants to fight for the flagging Albertan oil economy to come to fruition - even if the strong sun and the hair blowing winds in Canada's Redneck state number one call for alternative energy sources.

Soon, the political situation across Canada could change dramatically. On October 21 2019, the general election will take place, in which Andrew Scheer's Conservative Party of Canada, which is very close to the US Republican Party, could replace Justin Trudeau's liberal government, battered by internal scandals. In the polls, both parties are currently on a par.

It's like in the USA. Instead of acting, the majority of Albertans voted against their own interests, for a conservative climate policy backlash à la Donald Trump. The voters finally want more jobs and no CO2 tax in order to continue driving their large pick-up trucks along the countryside.

In the end, they will hardly get the promised work and, moreover, have lost their health as well. Nowhere does this sad spectacle make it as desperate as here, in the middle of one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world.

If you're planning a holiday in the Rockies, you should definitely take a look at first, and maybe stay away from the area.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Little Boy Is Offended, Takes His Ball And Goes Home To Mummy.

I could almost have predicted the outcome. 

After Danish authorities dismissed Trumpi's talk of buying Greenland, as ABSURD, Mr. President decides to "punish" Denmark by cancelling his scheduled visit to the country. His approach of "if you don't let me do what I want, I'm not gonna come over anymore" is the reaction of that little boy who takes his ball and goes home to mummy.

Again Mr. Moron has shown the world his childish behavior and discredited the United States once more.

Honestly, I got a good laugh out of this.

What Trumpi probably doesn't realize is that he did Denmark a big favor by not showing up there. I grew up only 40 miles south of the Danish border and actually lived 2yrs. half a mile way from that border. I know that the people of Denmark would never appreciate a visit of this American abomination.

Matter of fact, no western European nation is appreciating getting visits from Trumpi. We all wait until the majority of Americans have spoken in 2020 and removed this outcast of human society from Washington.