Monday, February 27, 2017
GREENLAND–The Ice-Packed Island Of The Arctic
|25 years of living in Norway made me a Norwegian. In fact I have spent equal time in Norway and in Germany. But aside of that I have always been interested in northern living and northern history. So when I came across a Facebook posting of my former colleague Svenn, who is living on Greenland now, married to an Inuit lady, I started reading this article of the Smithsonian Institute about Greenland. I am republishing a part of it, and if you want to read the entire story you can click on the link at the end of my posting. |
Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish?
Newly discovered evidence is upending our understanding of how early settlers made a life on the island — and why they suddenly disappeared
By Tim Folger
Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe
On the grassy slope of a fjord near the southernmost tip of Greenland stand the ruins of a church built by Viking settlers more than a century before Columbus sailed to the Americas. The thick granite-block walls remain intact, as do the 20-foot-high gables. The wooden roof, rafters and doors collapsed and rotted away long ago. Now sheep come and go at will, munching wild thyme where devout Norse Christian converts once knelt in prayer.
The Vikings called this fjord Hvalsey, which means “Whale Island” in Old Norse. It was here that Sigrid Bjornsdottir wed Thorstein Olafsson on Sunday, September 16, 1408. The couple had been sailing from Norway to Iceland when they were blown off course; they ended up settling in Greenland, which by then had been a Viking colony for some 400 years. Their marriage was mentioned in three letters written between 1409 and 1424, and was then recorded for posterity by medieval Icelandic scribes. Another record from the period noted that one person had been burned at the stake at Hvalsey for witchcraft.
But the documents are most remarkable—and baffling—for what they don’t contain: any hint of hardship or imminent catastrophe for the Viking settlers in Greenland, who’d been living at the very edge of the known world ever since a renegade Icelander named Erik the Red arrived in a fleet of 14 longships in 985. For those letters were the last anyone ever heard from the Norse Greenlanders.
They vanished from history.
“If there was trouble, we might reasonably have thought that there would be some mention of it,” says Ian Simpson, an archaeologist at the University of Stirling, in Scotland. But according to the letters, he says, “it was just an ordinary wedding in an orderly community.”
Europeans didn’t return to Greenland until the early 18th century. When they did, they found the ruins of the Viking settlements but no trace of the inhabitants. The fate of Greenland’s Vikings—who never numbered more than 2,500—has intrigued and confounded generations of archaeologists.
Those tough seafaring warriors came to one of the world’s most formidable environments and made it their home. And they didn’t just get by: They built manor houses and hundreds of farms; they imported stained glass; they raised sheep, goats and cattle; they traded furs, walrus-tusk ivory, live polar bears and other exotic arctic goods with Europe. “These guys were really out on the frontier,” says Andrew Dugmore, a geographer at the University of Edinburgh. “They’re not just there for a few years. They’re there for generations—for centuries.”
So what happened to them?
Thomas McGovern used to think he knew. An archaeologist at Hunter College of the City University of New York, McGovern has spent more than 40 years piecing together the history of the Norse settlements in Greenland. With his heavy white beard and thick build, he could pass for a Viking chieftain, albeit a bespectacled one. Over Skype, here’s how he summarized what had until recently been the consensus view, which he helped establish: “Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment and then they all die when it gets cold.”
Accordingly, the Vikings were not just dumb, they also had dumb luck: They discovered Greenland during a time known as the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from about 900 to 1300. Sea ice decreased during those centuries, so sailing from Scandinavia to Greenland became less hazardous. Longer growing seasons made it feasible to graze cattle, sheep and goats in the meadows along sheltered fjords on Greenland’s southwest coast. In short, the Vikings simply transplanted their medieval European lifestyle to an uninhabited new land, theirs for the taking.
But eventually, the conventional narrative continues, they had problems. Overgrazing led to soil erosion. A lack of wood—Greenland has very few trees, mostly scrubby birch and willow in the southernmost fjords—prevented them from building new ships or repairing old ones. But the greatest challenge—and the coup de grâce—came when the climate began to cool, triggered by an event on the far side of the world.
In 1257, a volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok erupted. Geologists rank it as the most powerful eruption of the last 7,000 years. Climate scientists have found its ashy signature in ice cores drilled in Antarctica and in Greenland’s vast ice sheet, which covers some 80 percent of the country. Sulfur ejected from the volcano into the stratosphere reflected solar energy back into space, cooling Earth’s climate. “It had a global impact,” McGovern says. “Europeans had a long period of famine”—like Scotland’s infamous “seven ill years” in the 1690s, but worse. “The onset was somewhere just after 1300 and continued into the 1320s, 1340s. It was pretty grim. A lot of people starving to death.”
Amid that calamity, so the story goes, Greenland’s Vikings—numbering 5,000 at their peak—never gave up their old ways. They failed to learn from the Inuit, who arrived in northern Greenland a century or two after the Vikings landed in the south. They kept their livestock, and when their animals starved, so did they. The more flexible Inuit, with a culture focused on hunting marine mammals, thrived.
That is what archaeologists believed until a few years ago. McGovern’s own PhD dissertation made the same arguments. Jared Diamond, the UCLA geographer, showcased the idea in Collapse, his 2005 best seller about environmental catastrophes. “The Norse were undone by the same social glue that had enabled them to master Greenland’s difficulties,” Diamond wrote. “The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.”
But over the last decade a radically different picture of Viking life in Greenland has started to emerge from the remains of the old settlements, and it has received scant coverage outside of academia. “It’s a good thing they can’t make you give your PhD back once you’ve got it,” McGovern jokes. He and the small community of scholars who study the Norse experience in Greenland no longer believe that the Vikings were ever so numerous, or heedlessly despoiled their new home, or failed to adapt when confronted with challenges that threatened them with annihilation.
“It’s a very different story from my dissertation,” says McGovern. “It’s scarier. You can do a lot of things right—you can be highly adaptive; you can be very flexible; you can be resilient—and you go extinct anyway.” And according to other archaeologists, the plot thickens even more: It may be that Greenland’s Vikings didn’t vanish, at least not all of them.
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-greenland-vikings-vanished-180962119/
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Being In The White House
I was a Muslim in Trump’s White House
A shocking account told by a former White House employee
When President Obama left, I stayed on at the National Security Council in order to serve my country. I lasted eight days.
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In 2011, I was hired, straight out of college, to work at the White House and eventually the National Security Council. My job there was to promote and protect the best of what my country stands for. I am a hijab-wearing Muslim woman––I was the only hijabi in the West Wing––and the Obama administration always made me feel welcome and included.
The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: CPACalypse Now
Like most of my fellow American Muslims, I spent much of 2016 watching with consternation as Donald Trump vilified our community. Despite this––or because of it––I thought I should try to stay on the NSC staff during the Trump Administration, in order to give the new president and his aides a more nuanced view of Islam, and of America's Muslim citizens.
I lasted eight days.
When Trump issued a ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all Syrian refugees, I knew I could no longer stay and work for an administration that saw me and people like me not as fellow citizens, but as a threat.
The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications adviser, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.
I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.
He looked at me and said nothing.
It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”
My whole life and everything I have learned proves that facile statement wrong.
My parents immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh in 1978 and strove to create opportunities for their children born in the states. My mother worked as a cashier, later starting her own daycare business. My father spent late nights working at Bank of America, and was eventually promoted to assistant vice president at one of its headquarters. Living the American dream, we’d have family barbecues, trips to Disney World, impromptu soccer or football games, and community service projects. My father began pursuing his Ph.D., but in 1995 he was killed in a car accident.
I was 12 when I started wearing a hijab. It was encouraged in my family, but it was always my choice. It was a matter of faith, identity, and resilience for me. After 9/11, everything would change. On top of my shock, horror, and heartbreak, I had to deal with the fear some kids suddenly felt towards me. I was glared at, cursed at, and spat at in public and in school. People called me a “terrorist” and told me, “go back to your country.”
My father taught me a Bengali proverb inspired by Islamic scripture: “When a man kicks you down, get back up, extend your hand, and call him brother.” Peace, patience, persistence, respect, forgiveness, and dignity. These were the values I’ve carried through my life and my career.
I never intended to work in government. I was among those who assumed the government was inherently corrupt and ineffective. Working in the Obama White House proved me wrong. You can’t know or understand what you haven’t been a part of.
Still, inspired by President Obama, I joined the White House in 2011, after graduating from the George Washington University. I had interned there during my junior year, reading letters and taking calls from constituents at the Office of Presidential Correspondence. It felt surreal––here I was, a 22-year-old American Muslim woman from Maryland who had been mocked and called names for covering my hair, working for the president of the United States.
In 2012, I moved to the West Wing to join the Office of Public Engagement, where I worked with various communities, including American Muslims, on domestic issues such as health care. In early 2014, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes offered me a position on the National Security Council (NSC). For two and a half years I worked down the hall from the Situation Room, advising President Obama’s engagements with American Muslims, and working on issues ranging from advancing relations with Cuba and Laos to promoting global entrepreneurship among women and youth.
A harsher world began to reemerge in 2015. In February, three young American Muslim students were killed in their Chapel Hill home by an Islamophobe. Both the media and administration were slow to address the attack, as if the dead had to be vetted before they could be mourned. It was emotionally devastating. But when a statement was finally released condemning the attack and mourning their loss, Rhodes took me aside to to tell me how grateful he was to have me there and wished there were more American Muslims working throughout government. America’s government and decision-making should reflect its people.
Later that month, the evangelist Franklin Graham declared that the government had “been infiltrated by Muslims.” One of my colleagues sought me out with a smile on his face and said, “If only he knew they were in the halls of the West Wing and briefed the president of the United States multiple times!” I thought: Damn right I’m here, exactly where I belong, a proud American dedicated to protecting and serving my country.
Graham’s hateful provocations weren’t new. Over the Obama years, right-wing websites spread an abundance of absurd conspiracy theories and lies, targeting some American Muslim organizations and individuals––even those of us serving in government. They called us “terrorists,” Sharia-law whisperers, or Muslim Brotherhood operatives. Little did I realize that some of these conspiracy theorists would someday end up in the White House.
Over the course of the campaign, even when I was able to storm through the bad days, I realized the rhetoric was taking a toll on American communities. When Trump first called for a Muslim ban, reports of hate crimes against Muslims spiked. The trend of anti-Muslim hate crimes is ongoing, as mosques are set on fire and individuals attacked––six were killed at a mosque in Canada by a self-identified Trump supporter.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, I watched with disbelief, apprehension, and anxiety, as Trump’s style of campaigning instigated fear and emboldened xenophobes, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes. While cognizant of the possibility of Trump winning, I hoped a majority of the electorate would never condone such a hateful and divisive worldview.
During the campaign last February, Obama visited a Baltimore mosque and reminded the public that “we’re one American family, and when any part of our family starts to feel separate … It’s a challenge to our values.” His words would go unheeded by his successor.
The climate in 2016 felt like it did just after 9/11. What made it worse was that this fear and hatred were being fueled by Americans in positions of power. Fifth-grade students at a local Sunday school where I volunteered shared stories of being bullied by classmates and teachers, feeling like they didn’t belong here anymore, and asked if they might get kicked out of this country if Trump won. I was almost hit by a car by a white man laughing as he drove by in a Costco parking lot, and on another occasion was followed out of the metro by a man screaming profanities: “Fuck you! Fuck Islam! Trump will send you back!”
While cognizant of the possibility of Trump winning, I hoped a majority of the electorate would never condone such a hateful and divisive worldview.
Then, on election night, I was left in shock.
The morning after the election, we lined up in the West Colonnade as Obama stood in the Rose Garden and called for national unity and a smooth transition. Trump seemed the antithesis of everything we stood for. I felt lost. I could not fully grasp the idea that he would soon be sitting where Obama sat.
I debated whether I should leave my job. Since I was not a political appointee, but a direct hire of the NSC, I had the option to stay. The incoming and now departed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had said things like “fear of Muslims is rational.” Some colleagues and community leaders encouraged me to stay, while others expressed concern for my safety. Cautiously optimistic, and feeling a responsibility to try to help them continue our work and be heard, I decided that Trump's NSC could benefit from a colored, female, hijab-wearing, American Muslim patriot.
The weeks leading up to the inauguration prepared me and my colleagues for what we thought would come, but not for what actually came. On Monday, January 23, I walked into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, with the new staffers there. Rather than the excitement I encountered when I first came to the White House under Obama, the new staff looked at me with a cold surprise. The diverse White House I had worked in became a monochromatic and male bastion.
The days I spent in the Trump White House were strange, appalling and disturbing. As one staffer serving since the Reagan administration said, “This place has been turned upside down. It’s chaos. I’ve never witnessed anything like it.” This was not typical Republican leadership, or even that of a businessman. It was a chaotic attempt at authoritarianism––legally questionable executive orders, accusations of the press being “fake,” peddling countless lies as “alternative facts,” and assertions by White House surrogates that the president’s national security authority would “not be questioned.”
The entire presidential support structure of nonpartisan national security and legal experts within the White House complex and across federal agencies was being undermined. Decision-making authority was now centralized to a few in the West Wing. Frustration and mistrust developed as some staff felt out of the loop on issues within their purview. There was no structure or clear guidance. Hallways were eerily quiet as key positions and offices responsible for national security or engagement with Americans were left unfilled.
Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous.
I might have lasted a little longer. Then came January 30. The executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries caused chaos, without making America any safer. Discrimination that has existed for years at airports was now legitimized, sparking mass protests, while the president railed against the courts for halting his ban. Not only was this discrimination and un-American, the administration’s actions defending the ban threatened the nation’s security and its system of checks and balances.
Alt-right writers, now on the White House staff, have claimed that Islam and the West are at war with each other. Disturbingly, ISIS also makes such claims to justify their attacks, which for the most part target Muslims. The Administration’s plans to revamp the Countering Violent Extremism program to focus solely on Muslims and use terms like “radical Islamic terror,” legitimize ISIS propaganda and allow the dangerous rise of white-supremacist extremism to go unchecked.
Placing U.S. national security in the hands of people who think America’s diversity is a “weakness” is dangerous. It is false.
People of every religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and age pouring into the streets and airports to defend the rights of their fellow Americans over the past few weeks proved the opposite is true––American diversity is a strength, and so is the American commitment to ideals of justice and equality.
American history is not without stumbles, which have proven that the nation is only made more prosperous and resilient through struggle, compassion and inclusiveness. It’s why my parents came here. It’s why I told my former 5th grade students, who wondered if they still belonged here, that this country would not be great without them.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Deplorables Feeling Entitled “Helping” Trump
There has been a steady increase of hate crimes since Trump taking office, and there can be little doubt that Trump’s rhetoric and his hate towards immigrants, whether being in the country legally or not, has made these people feeling entitled to “help Trump” getting rid of everyone who does not happen to be a white American. Hate towards immigrants is also the major reason for Trump’s election result.
This “helping Trump” phenomenon has resulted in various types of crimes, from simple harassment to murders. The latest example was reported by the BBC.
Here’s the story:
Olathe shooting: Murder charge after Indian man killed in bar
Police are investigating whether the fatal shooting of a man in the US state of Kansas was racially motivated.
Three men were wounded in the shooting at a bar in Olathe on Wednesday night and one of them later died.
A barman told local media a man used racial slurs before opening fire. Two of the victims, including the deceased, are Indian, the BBC has learned.
Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with murder and the FBI is investigating motive.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, died while his friend Alok Madasani, 32, remains in hospital in a stable condition.
The two men were engineers at Garmin and studied in India, according to their social media profiles.
The other injured man, Ian Grillot, 24, had apparently intervened to stop the violence, according to witnesses.
Speaking from his hospital bed, he told KBMC: "A lot of people are calling me a hero and this and that and the other - and it's not like that.
"I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It's not about where he's from or his ethnicity. We're all humans. So I just felt I did what was naturally right to do."
Mr Purinton is accused of shooting customers at Austin's Bar and Grill as they watched the University of Kansas basketball team play on television.
Purinton has been charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. His bond has been set at $2 million. It's unclear whether he's retained a lawyer or entered a plea.
Witnesses say Purinton told the men to "get out of my country" before he shot them, the paper reported.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Federal Appeals Court Just Issued A Major Ruling On The Second Amendment
POSTED BY JEFFERSON ADAMS · FEBRUARY 22, 2017
The “so-called judges” are at it again. Yesterday, the US Appeals Court, 4th Judicial Circuit, ruled that Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013, does not violate the Second Amendment. Reuters reported this morning that the court ruled 10 – 4 that it has “…no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war”.
There is no doubt we will hear much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the gun lobby and their blood-thirsty constituents. They will cry that the court is overstepping its authority. They will insist the Founders intended for the people to be well-armed and able to repel, and if necessary, defeat a tyrannical government.
No. That’s not what the Founders meant.
The government the Founders feared was a government propped up by a standing army. The men who devised, debated, and finally delivered our Constitution, feared the idea of a large and powerful military. Control of the army provided the way for strong men to usurp power and make themselves king. Madison argued during the Constitutional Convention that standing armies were a threat to liberty.
A Look at the Second Amendment
The first phrase in this sentence includes the word “regulated.” Case closed. The Constitution allows for regulation of arms. In fact, it demands regulation. The early American militia is today’s Reserve and National Guard units. They gather at appointed times and places to practice, drill, and otherwise be prepared for call up to service when needed. The Militia Act of 1903 dictates that the militia is the National Guard. It also sets out the specifics for funding by the Federal government and the details of training. Those are our citizen soldiers of today, not Bubba and the boys at the hunt club.
The Court is correct that the Second Amendment does not cover weapons of war. We don’t let folks play with hand grenades or rocket launchers. A citizen can’t go down to the gun shop and order up an Abrams Tank or an F-18.
Common Sense Gun Laws
Our laws have to make sense in our modern society. We cannot, nor should we be bound to laws and norms of two centuries ago. Our Founding Fathers knew that self-government was an experiment. That’s why they provided legal ways to amend our laws and our government in the Constitution. Also, they realized that as people progressed in knowledge and as society changed to adapt to that knowledge, our laws would have to change with them. Inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial are the following words.
Civilized Society or Barbarians?
There may be some legitimate question as to whether or not America is a “civilized society.” A civilized society doesn’t tolerate the mass murder of children such as we saw in Newtown, Conn. A civilized society does not allow the mentally deranged to purchase deadly weapons, but the Republican controlled Congress does. Every Town for Gun Safety has some sobering statistics. On an average day, 93 Americans die by gun violence. Seven of those Americans are children or teenagers. America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times that of other high-income nations. Our perverted love affair with violence and war is not indicative of a civilized society.
It is likely this case will end up in the Supreme Court. Let’s hope those brilliant legal minds are not clouded by the gun smoke that lingers over our beloved nation daily. Will they have the political courage to stand with an America that strives to be civilized, or will they keep us under the deadly regimen of our barbarous ancestors?
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A Swedish View
Peter Englund: With Donald Trump the US has acquired its most dangerous leader ever
UPPDATERAD 11:49 PUBLICERAD IGÅR
With Donald Trump the US has acquired its most dangerous leader ever. Swedish author and historian Peter Englund looks for the story of the president in a time that is characterized by modern media's incessant flow.
All stories are written in retrospect. Not only does that mean that in retrospect events can get a different meaning than they had to begin with, it also has the simple but frustrating consequence that stories cannot be written until what they want to tell has already come to an end. The alternative is the chronicle, in its original form: The on-going reporting of occurrences, great and small, where unfortunately a lot of details will appear irrelevant, while other matters, which in hindsight appear crucial, were never even recorded.
In Swedish: Peter Englund: Med Donald Trump har USA fått sin farligaste ledare någonsin
With modern media we find ourselves in that kind of flow, and it is stronger and more confusing than ever before. While we are living through things in chronicles we interpret them in stories. And as no stories have been made yet, we look for parallels, analogies. This is not an infallible way of going about things. Parallels can be shallow, analogies wrongly chosen. The randomness or unpredictability, which is inherent in all that is human, can throw even the most well informed prognosis. But a lot of the time we have no choice. Also: what would otherwise be the point of the story?
With Donald Trump, the US has acquired its most dangerous leader ever. Could he become Hitler? That is questionable, for the US in 2017 is not Germany in 1933, and ”the Donald” lacks the destructive intelligence of ”der Führer”. But he does have other things. Trump has the aggressiveness of Hitler and also the same lack of interest in the practical side of politics. He has the self-control of Mussolini, the truthfulness of Stalin, Kaddafi’s modesty, Mugabe’s disinterest in money. He has Mao Zedong’s burning greed for facts and Homer Simpson’s concentration span. It is rewarding to talk about the new president’s vices. Mockery can only be welcomed, as something is obviously seriously wrong with him. But at the same time it is crucial to go beyond. People found it hard to take Hitler seriously when he began propagating on Germany’s political stage.
Historical analogies are often only meaningful in their detail. Many have pointed to the risk of a ”Reichstag fire” on American soil, meaning an extraordinary event, like a terrorist attack, which Trump the demagogue – just like Hitler in 1933 – would use to restrict those democratic principles that he has already shown a distracted interest in. The reactions to 9/11 show how such an event can short-circuit reason in people – if at some point in this age we have experienced anything like the hysteria of August 1914 it was in connection with 9/11. Such an event could help Trump circumvent what is and remains his most serious weakness: the fact that the base of his power is so fragile. The popularity he enjoys is a kilometre wide and five centimetres deep. Trump’s TV-personality is a fraud. All those who thought they voted for the smart and talented businessman in ”The apprentice” have instead found themselves with a Twitter troll lumbering around in a bath robe, firing one confused decree after another. Even if his fans in the working community are still on his side, one might question whether in the long run they will continue to cheer further tax cuts for the very rich, a government swarming with billionaires and the dismantling of what is left of social security in the US. They turned to him as a saviour, just like many Germans did to Hitler in 1933, but contrary to Hitler, he will not be able to give them a fraction of what they hope for.
Except for a ”Reichstag fire” there is one other event that could cement the power of Trump, which is already wavering, and elevate him to the status of national saviour. That event is an international conflict. There is a big risk that we could see a great war during the next four years. Several paths lead that way.
If Trump is serious about his isolationism, the danger is that we might experience a parallel to what happened the last time the US withdrew from the stage of world politics, during the 20’s and 30’s. Then the path was cleared for great wars in both Europe and Asia. The fact that we can also forebode the horrendous contours of a new Ribbentrop pact, where Trump, helped by the power of Putin, the murderer and crypto fascist, gives his benefactor the go ahead to fulfil his plan of taking back parts of the former Soviet union ”heim ins Reich”. In that case darkness is upon us here in Scandinavia.
What frightens me even more is that it is entirely possible to couple passivity in Europe, over for example a Russian blitzkrieg, with the contrary in Asia. It’s no secret that the new administration, while praising Russia and showing contempt for international cooperation founded on anything but club law, has drastically raised its tone against China.
Trump’s left hemisphere and evil genius, Steve Bannon, is, as we all know, an extreme right-wing apocalyptic, who beside his Islamophobic hallucinations fantasises about a war with China. (Bannon seems corroded by the same whims that contaminated so many people in Europe prior to 1914, namely the belief in war as a cathartic power). The fact that Trump has given a major post to a Sinophobe by the name of Peter Navarro, might be less known. The new president reads no books, he barely reads anything – he has ordered summaries not to be longer than a page, and with no more than nine bullet points. But one piece he has really familiarised himself with, and publicly cited, is Navarro’s alarmist ”The Coming China War” from 2006, where the view on trade is close to feudal. A picture where one either wins or loses – and where a global confrontation over commodities is pictured as more or less inevitable. This brings us back to 1914, or 1941, where similar ideas about interests that could not be paired, helped to ignite great wars.
It is important to note that the dictatorship of China is neither Serbia nor Poland, a little country stuck between super powers. It is a super power in its own right, the second largest economy in the world. And the people in power in Beijing have, for the last few years, behaved more and more aggressively. This has been shown by their provocative behaviour in the South China Sea, where not only have they hijacked an ever bigger part of the area but also started to build artificial weapon strewn islands. If a shooting war between the US and China starts it will probably start there. (Here we oversee a totally different threat, the one from North Korea, where the megalomaniac Kim Jong-Un continues his deadly game with nuclear weapons.)
The previously mentioned fact, that Trump will not be able to fulfil his vague and generous promises from the campaign, could be an aggravating circumstance. We want to believe that the disappointment will lead to his supporters turning their backs on him. (His ratings are down to 40 per cent already, which is an all time low: it took another unsuccessful president, Richard Nixon, four years of fumbling to reach the same ratings). At the same time history has taught us that this type of frustration can also be transformed into a hunt for scapegoats, internal or foreign. These dark energies will always find an outlet.
Maybe there won’t be a confrontation with aircraft carriers and robots ”Live on CNN”, but ”merely” a trade war? Trump’s whim – putting penalty customs of 45 per cent on Chinese goods – could definitely start one. And then the risk is particularly high of a downward spiral for international trade, as was the case when the protectionist reptile brain impulses of the 30’s were allowed to govern. This resulted in a world depression. But maybe we can put our faith in the Chinese leaders? Compared to Trump and his aides they are close to wonders of competence and ability: and with all of their villainy they have shown themselves capable of understanding what a catastrophe any of the events mentioned above would be.
The main brake for the adventures with external policy can be found in the US, in the form of an ever-growing opposition both inside and outside of the political and bureaucratic system. We must also remember that Trump’s party is not really his. (Again in sharp contrast with you-know-who in 1933). Republicans both in the Congress and in the Senate, now caught in their own cynicism and cowardice, will stand by him as long as he is useful and keeps the stock market value somewhat intact, but many of them despise him deeply. And when he threatens to pull them down with him in his own Armageddon – he will be sacrificed. Sticking to Germany-analogy: just as the elites of Germany did with their emperor in 1918.
All stories are written in retrospect. How the story of Donald Trump’s time in the Oval office will be formed we obviously cannot know. But we do know that it will end badly, in some way. Either for him: maybe we will be saved by the many vices of the new president, which could make his time in office short. (Such a development would also be a setback for right wing populists in other countries.) Or for the world: The new administration’s unique combination of incompetence, impulsivity, aggressiveness and ideological blindness does point in that direction.
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Let’s Talk About The Truth, Shall We?
Little did I know that an email from my brother in Germany would make me gasp for air. That’s right, I was running seriously short of breath. I laughed and laughed and laughed. It was just way too funny.
The email he sent was just a link. It referred to the latest evening news from the 2 main German public TV-Channels. The link was about a certain American pretending to know the truth and speak the truth and at the same time calling main-stream media liars and fake news and the enemy of the American people. The story he invented was so hilarious that the whole world started laughing about it.
Translation from German:
The "Massacre of Bowling Green", which has never been held, is not fully digested, as the US government presents new "alternative facts". This time it was Trump himself who said in connection with terrorist attacks in Europe: "Look at what happened last night in Sweden." Yes what?
With the "Bowling Green Massacre", Kellyanne Conway recently astonished the world. Now, Donald Trump added: "We need to secure our country," he said at a Florida rally, referring to the entry ban of people from seven Muslim countries, an executive order which had previously been condemned by courts.
"Sweden, would you believe that?"
The problem: On Friday night in Sweden this and that happened - but there was certainly no terrorist attack or other attacks. It was just one of those long Scandinavian winter nights, in which one or the other Swede had the leisure to “enjoy” the Trump speech, for the mocking was not long in coming. Under the hashtag "LastNightInSweden", people from all over the world are posting what has NOT happened - such as ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) correspondent Andreas Kynast reported:
The former Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, asked: "Sweden, terrorist attack, what did he smoke?
And the newspaper Aftonbladet responded with an English message on their website. Under the heading "This happened on Friday evening in Sweden, Mr. President" was quoted as: "In the north of Sweden a storm warning was issued." Or what about these “exciting” events:
Translation of above text:
FRIDAY NIGHT IN SWEDEN:
18:42 The famous singer Owe Thörnquist has technical problems under a rehearsal for a music festival
20:46 Because of storm and snow ´will highway E10 between Katterjåk and the border remain closed
00:17 Police in Stockholm pursues a motorist. He is accused of drunk driving and has stolen the car.
Trump had started his speech in Florida by saying, "We are here to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
And here is what Trump tweeted once he realized the BS he had told:
Bland de som inte förstod fanns Sveriges regering, som via ambassaden i Washington krävde en förklaring från amerikanska utrikesdepartementet på söndagen.
På kvällen, svensk tid, svarade Trumps administration.
– President Trump talade i allmänna ordalag om ökande brottslighet och händelser i närtid, inte om en specifik händelse, sa Sarah Sanders, Vita husets biträdande pressektreterare till nyhetsbyrån Reuters.
Strax innan 23 kom en förklaring från presidenten själv.
”Mitt uttalande om vad som hände i Sverige syftade till ett tv-inslag som jag såg på Fox News om invandring i Sverige”, skriver han på Twitter.
Svenska ambassaden i Washington skriver till Dagens Nyheter att man därmed anser frågan besvarad. Den uppfattningen delas inte av utrikesdepartementet i Stockholm.
– Vi får avvakta och se om vi får ytterligare svar i morgon, säger Elin Holmström på UD:s presstjänst.
Translation from Swedish:
Among those who did not understand was the Swedish Government, via the embassy in Washington demanded an explanation from the US State Department on Sunday.
Good luck in getting answers from Trump!
Seceding From The United States?
|The election of Trump as the 45th President of the U.S. and his subsequent threats which already is undermining democracy and threatening a free press, has led to massive protests not only in the United States but worldwide. Among the states most opposed to the new administration is California. As California represents the 6th. largest economy in the world it would be fit to stand alone as a separate country.|
Several weeks ago I said I would not be surprised if California is mounting efforts for secession.
This morning, The Washington Post was reporting that a group http://www.yescalifornia.org
is already at work to gather signatures for a vote on seceding from the United States.
If a secession vote would be successful it could quickly lead to the states of Oregon and Washington joining California.
If the 3 western States would leave the Union, the U.S. would lose access to the Pacific. It would be a devastating blow to the National U.S. economy.
History teaches us that all world powers have ended in demise. Whether it was the Arab, the Greek, the Romans, the British or the Germans, they all ended in destruction and inner split. Whether this is going to happen to the United States as well, we will have to wait and see.
A lot of signs are already pointing into that direction.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
Even though we still have winter and right now tons of snow in the yard, this is the time we are looking forward to and enjoying the sunny days. The sun is already showing her power to warm up our soul and our surroundings. And it was very well noticeable today when the temps again crept up above the zero mark. And lo and behold, tomorrow it’s gonna climb to +6C (43F).
And since it is Saturday (again) I was listening to my 3hr-long favorite CBC French music program with titles from days long, long gone.
And there it was: California Dreamin, one of my favorite songs from my younger days.
But truth be told, actually I am NOT dreaming of California, especially not now, when storms and torrential rainfalls are battering the state. No, I am perfectly happy where I am. Life is good and we are enjoying these peaceful days towards the beginning of spring
https://youtu.be/N-aK6JnyFmk (enjoy the music)
All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
California dreamin' (California dreamin')
Stopped into a church
California dreamin' (California dreamin')
All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
Friday, February 17, 2017
Greetings From The Big White North
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The Deplorable Result When Deplorables Are Electing The Wrong Guy
Trump promised “to drain the swamp”, which was aimed at the political scene in Washington DC.
However, after less than one month in office the “swamp” has morphed into a quagmire of confusion, scandals and disorder, let alone the dubious reputation of Mr. Trump for being and talking disrespectful of
women. During his election campaign Trump harped about that he would jail Hillary Clinton for her negligent handling of her emails. I wonder what would have ensued if a Clinton administration would have had to deal with only half of the scandals and irregularities Trump has to deal with now. I think the GOP would have crucified her.
‘Unbelievable Turmoil’: Trump’s First Month Leaves Washington Reeling
WASHINGTON — The resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser caps a remarkably tumultuous first month for President Trump’s White House that has burdened the early days of his presidency with scandal, legal challenges, personnel drama and questions about his temperament during interactions with world leaders.
Mr. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, lasted only 24 days before his tenure was cut short by an admission that he had misled the vice president and other White House colleagues about the contents of a phone call with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
The resignation on Monday night and the continuing turmoil inside the National Security Council have deeply rattled the Washington establishment.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, railed against the administration on Tuesday, decrying the “dysfunction” of the country’s national security apparatus and accusing the White House of being a place where “nobody knows who’s in charge and nobody knows who’s setting policy.”
Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House. “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday.
Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”
But Mr. Flynn’s late-night departure just added to the broader sense of chaos at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In record time, the 45th president has set off global outrage with a ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, fired his acting attorney general for refusing to defend the ban and watched as federal courts swiftly moved to block the policy, calling it an unconstitutional use of executive power.
The president angrily provoked the cancellation of a summit meeting with the Mexican president, hung up on Australia’s prime minister, authorized a commando raid that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL member, repeatedly lied about the existence of millions of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 election and engaged in Twitter wars with senators, a sports team owner, a Hollywood actor and a major department store chain. His words and actions have generated almost daily protests around the country.
“I’ve never been so nervous in my lifetime about what may or may not happen in Washington,” said Leon Panetta, a Democrat who served as chief of staff, secretary of defense and C.I.A. director during a 50-year career that spanned nine presidents from both parties. “I don’t know whether this White House is capable of responding in a thoughtful or careful way should a crisis erupt,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. “You can do hit-and-miss stuff over a period of time. But at some point, I don’t give a damn what your particular sense of change is all about, you cannot afford to have change become chaos.
Mr. Trump’s allies note that the president has moved forward in areas that are more typical of the early days of a first-term administration. Mr. Trump nominated a Supreme Court justice 12 days into his tenure, and has issued a dozen executive orders, including ones to limit the influence of lobbyists, reduce regulations, pare the Affordable Care Act, move forward on pipeline construction, end trade deals and speed up deportations.
Those accomplishments are catnip for the president’s most fervent supporters across the country, said Sarah Fagen, who served as a senior aide and political director for former President George W. Bush. The perspective on the White House is very different far outside the interstate freeway that rings Washington, she said.
“If you’re someone inside the Beltway, you think it's been really rocky,” she said. “If you are outside the Beltway, you think, ‘That’s why we sent him there.’ There has been a lot of chaos and a lot of growing pains, but they have gotten a lot done.”
Still, half of the president’s cabinet has yet to be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, and several other key White House aides have become lightning rods for daily mockery by late-night comedians.
It all has official Washington reeling and exhausted as it tries to make sense of — and keep up with — the nearly constant tornado of activity swirling around the president and his advisers.
Michael T. Flynn, center, lasted only 24 days as national security adviser. CreditHilary Swift for The New York Times
“If you had no-drama Obama, you’ve got all-drama, all-the-time Trump,” said John Feehery, a veteran Republican strategist, who compared the last several weeks to the chaotic start to Newt Gingrich’s tenure as speaker of the House in 1995.
“Newt never settled down. It was always one crisis after another,” Mr. Feehery recalled. “This might be the new normal. People will start getting used to the new normal, but will also be exhausted by it.”
As a candidate, Mr. Trump promised to move quickly to stop illegal immigration, bring jobs back, end trade deals and reduce crime. Central to his campaign agenda was his pledge to be a disruptive force in Washington — and he has certainly done that.
Since winning the election, Mr. Trump and his closest aides have embraced the turmoil, viewing it as evidence of their aggressive efforts to fundamentally reorient the government.
The West Wing also uses the chaos as a tactical weapon, believing that the flurry of early-morning presidential tweets, controversial statements during the afternoon briefing and surprise executive actions work to keep their adversaries, the media and others off balance.
On Tuesday, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, happily kept reporters waiting while he did “a quick recap of the president’s activity,” proceeding to offer a long list of meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders, female entrepreneurs, local officials and educators.
Yet the disruptions have come at a cost: the president has so far made little progress on legislation that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. The White House has not proposed a promised infrastructure bill to repair deteriorating roads, bridges and tunnels. And the president’s aides have not yet drawn up plans for an overhaul of the nation’s tax code.
“It’s pretty predictable,” Mr. Feehery said. “This guy has never been in government before and he promised to be disruptive.”
It may also have consequences for Mr. Trump’s ability to help Republicans win in the 2018 midterm elections. And Republican campaign experts acknowledge that his chances for winning re-election may hinge on his ability to contain the White House frenzy.
“You are processing so much information in a day now. This stuff would have doomed anyone else, just one or two of them,” said Thomas M. Davis, a former Republican member of Congress from Virginia. “They have got to produce something. If all you’ve got is a bunch of executive orders and a Twitter feed, you don’t want to go into an election like that.”
Kevin Madden, who served as a senior adviser to Mitt Romney during both of his presidential campaigns, said Mr. Trump’s voters in 2016 wanted him to overhaul an establishment in Washington, which they view as long on promises, long on process but short on action.
“Voters certainly asked for change. They certainly wanted to see disruption,” Mr. Madden said. “But if change begins to look like confusion and disruption morphs into disorder, you risk losing a certain level of confidence with voters.”
Thomas Kaplan and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Snow Up To The Gills
|When Tuesday morning rolled around the snowing had stopped, and the wind was down to normal. Looking around, we had to realize that tons of hard labour was waiting. A snow drift has settled 2m in front of our garage door and the driveway was blocked by 1.6m of hard-packed impenetrable snow, pushed up there by the road plow. So, after breakfast we started shoveling a path from the house to the driveway, but there was now way we would be able to work through the barrier onto the road. So I called a guy I know has a tractor with a front loader. At 11am he showed up, starting to remove the “wall”. At the same time another neighbour came with a pickup truck and a plow. After the worst of the hard-packed stuff was gone, the pickup took over. He cleaned up the whole driveway all the way to the top. None of the guys wanted any money for the job. Talk about outstanding neighbours.|
Now, just before the snow storm, I had accepted a job for looking after the Welshpool Wharf as Harbour Master. Part of my job is snow removal on the dock. Only a few days after I started that job I had also taken on snow removal at the library.
At Welshpool Wharf
Both places we had to go today and shovel snow. Needless to say, we both felt pretty “done” after all that work today. The blizzard remained the main topic between islanders and we actually learned that a total of around 80cm (32inches) of snow had come down within 24 hrs.
The bad news is, supposedly there is more to come tomorrow.