Saturday, July 20, 2019

Last Call For The Late, Great, Planet Earth, Con't

Icelandic climatologists are mourning the country's first recordable glacier loss as the planet heats up and the Trump regime stands firmly athwart the globe as the world's biggest villain.

Iceland has lost its first glacier to rising temperatures. Now, scientists from Rice University and Iceland are planning to install a plaque near the sad pile of ice and snow formerly known as Ok Glacier. The researchers say it’s the first memorial to a disappearing glacier, but climate change ensures it almost certainly will not be the last.

laciers are more than just ice. They’re defined by receiving more mass from snow than they lose from summer melt, which allows them to slide down mountains and grind up rock. Climate change has, of course, changed the equation by causing more glacial melting, causing ice to recede around the world. An increasing number of glaciers have turned into stagnant, rotten ice patches or disappeared completely. The OK Glacier reached the latter status in 2014, making it the first glacier in Iceland to disappear. Researchers expect all glaciers to melt away by 2200 on the island, which led to them memorializing Ok.

The plaque will be installed on August 18 near Ok’s former stomping grounds in western Iceland. The plaque contains a melancholy message for future generations:

Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and know what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.

It also includes the figure “415 ppm,” a reference to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere recorded in May this year. Because the world keeps emitting carbon pollution, that record will be broken next year. But putting it on a plaque is perhaps the most poignant reminder of the choices we face. And this summer is a particularly somber atmosphere to do it.

The northern parts of the globe have borne the brunt of the rapid rise in carbon dioxide, warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. This summer has been one for the record books in particular, with Arctic heat helping drive this June to be the hottest June ever recorded. July is slated to follow suit and quite likely become the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. From Canada to Alaska to Siberia to Greenland, the impacts of the rising heat have become clearer than ever this summer. Installing an ode to a dead glacier in Iceland is the perfect eulogy to the increasingly imperfect world.

As the US east of the Mississippi broils under July heat this weekend, with temperatures in Cincinnati reaching the mid-90s today and tomorrow, the reminder is to get user to miserable summers like this, as they will be the new normal going forward.

We're not going to do a damned thing about it until it's far too late.

The Drums Of War, Con't

The military situation in the Strait of Hormuz just got significantly worse this week as Iran upped the stakes in retaliation for US sanctions by seizing a British oil tanker.

Britain on Saturday threatened Iran with “serious consequences” for seizing a British-owned oil tanker the previous evening as the government warned ships to avoid the crucial shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz.

The British government said in a statement after an emergency meeting that it had “advised U.K. shipping to stay out of the area for an interim period.”

The crisis has caught Britain at a singularly vulnerable moment. Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to resign on Wednesday. A leadership contest within the governing Conservative Party to determine her successor has all but paralyzed the government. And now the uncertainty about Britain’s internal direction is compounding the problem of forming a response to Iran’s seizure of the tanker.

The British defense minister, Penny Mordaunt, said in a television interview on Saturday that the ship had been intercepted in Omani, not Iranian, waters and called the seizure “a hostile act.” By Saturday afternoon, Britain had summoned the Iranian ambassador to register its protest, and a second emergency cabinet meeting was set to begin.

The capture of the tanker — two weeks after British forces impounded an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar — sharply escalates a crisis between Iran and the West after three months of rising tensions that last month brought the United States within minutes of a military strike against targets in Iran. A fifth of the world’s crude oil supply is shipped from the Persian Gulf through the narrow Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran, and oil prices spiked sharply on Friday even before the British warning.

But the next moves in the showdown over the tanker are likely to turn on the outcome of the British leadership contest, and the favorite, Boris Johnson, a flamboyant former mayor of London and former foreign minister, is famously unpredictable.

In other words, the odds of a joint US/UK operation against Tehran with the newly minted PM at the helm wanting to show strength (and Donald Trump definitely wanting to bury the Mueller testimony scheduled for this week on Capitol Hill) are significant.

I don't know for sure how this will shake out, but we already know Trump tried to attack Iran once and stood down for whatever reason.  A second such fake-out won't be in the cards, and when Trump does pull the trigger, all bets are off.

Trump's Race To The Bottom, Con't

What a surprise, as Donald Trump has now disavowed his disavowing of the "send her back" chant at his racism rally earlier this week, playing the village media for fools once again and laughing all the way home.

President Donald Trump has reversed his previous criticisms of a North Carolina campaign crowd that chanted “send her back” about a Somali-born congresswoman.

Trump on Friday defended the rally-goers as “patriots” while again questioning the loyalty of four Democratic lawmakers of color
. His comments marked a return to a pattern that has become familiar during controversies of his own making: ignite a firestorm, backtrack, then strongly reaffirm his original, inflammatory position.

When reporters at the White House asked if he was unhappy with the Wednesday night crowd, Trump responded: “Those are incredible people. They are incredible patriots. But I’m unhappy when a congresswoman goes and says, ‘I’m going to be the president’s nightmare.’”

It was another dizzying twist in a saga sparked by the president’s racist tweets about Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who moved from Somalia as a child, and her colleagues Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

The moment took an ugly turn at the rally when the crowd’s “send her back” shouts resounded for 13 seconds as Trump made no attempt to interrupt them. He paused in his speech and surveyed the scene, taking in the uproar, though the next day he claimed he did not approve of the chant and tried to stop it.

But on Friday, he made clear he was not disavowing the chant and again laced into Omar, the target of the chant.

“You can’t talk that way about our country. Not when I’m president,” Trump said. “These women have said horrible things about our country and the people of our country.”

Two observations: First, I really hope somebody in Congress makes an issue of the overtime Donald Trump is directly causing while Capitol Police will beef up protective services around these four Democratic Congresswomen.  The potential for someone to get hurt here is massive.

Second, if Barack Obama had ever directed the words "You can’t talk that way about our country. Not when I’m president" to a white Republican in Congress, he would have been impeached and removed from office by the end of the week.

But as you all know by now, the racism is the selling point to the racist who voted for Trump.

Sugar Coats-ing The Problem

Last week Donald Trump made it clear that he not only wanted to fire Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, but eliminate the office Coats is occupying entirely as well.

President Donald Trump is reportedly planning a shakeup of his national security team. The news site Axios reported Friday that Trump is planning to oust Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and, along with several other outlets, identified the president’s preferred replacement as Fred Fleitz, John Bolton’s former deputy and a former CIA analyst best known for his association with a far-right, anti-Muslim think tank.

If appointed, Fleitz could play a key role in reducing the importance of the office itself—further empowering Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the process. A source told Axios that Trump wants to “downsize” the office and considers it “an unnecessary bureaucratic layer,” an argument identical to the one Fleitz made in a 2016 op-ed for the National Review. “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has developed into a huge additional layer of bureaucracy,” he wrote, “with far too many officials, that has made American intelligence analysis and collection less efficient and more risk-averse.”

With the Pentagon lacking a permanent leader since December and the National Security Council being remade in Bolton’s hawkish image, the intelligence community remains one of the few areas of the national security establishment that thus far has maintained some independence from Trump, (who compared intelligence analysts to Nazis just nine days before taking office). And that may be one reason Trump is eager to shake things up. He has long marginalized Coats, a former diplomat and Republican senator from Indiana, who leads the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies and serves as the president’s senior intelligence adviser. Trump “doesn’t listen to” Coats anymore, Axios reported, though their apparent lack of communication has been evident for quite some time. At the Aspen Security Forum last year, Coats acknowledged that he was unaware of Trump’s invitation for President Vladimir Putin of Russia to visit the White House and would have advised against it. A Senate hearing in January, in which Coats and other intelligence leaders exposed several contradictions between the views of the intelligence community’s and that of the President, provoked a series of angry presidential tweets. In them, Trump derided Coats and other intelligence leaders and told them to “go back to school.”

A big clue as to why Trump suddenly want Coats and the Director of National Intelligence position gone came up yesterday when the notoriously independent Coats decided to actually do something about the fact nobody was protecting US election systems against foreign hackers.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has installed a new czar to oversee election security efforts across the spy world, he announced on Friday.
A veteran agency leader, Shelby Pierson, has been appointed to serve as the first election threats executive within the intelligence community, or IC, Coats said.

"Election security is an enduring challenge and a top priority for the IC," said Coats.

"In order to build on our successful approach to the 2018 elections, the IC must properly align its resources to bring the strongest level of support to this critical issue. There is no one more qualified to serve as the very first election threats executive than Shelby Pierson, whose knowledge and experience make her the right person to lead this critical mission."

Pierson has served within the intelligence world for more than 20 years. She was "crisis manager" for election security for the 2018 election within the office of the DNI and also has served in top roles in the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, according to one official biography.

Her appointment isn't the only change Coats announced on Friday. He also is directing other agencies within the extended family of spy services to appoint their own executives responsible for election security efforts.
"These agency leads will work with the [election threats executive] to help ensure IC efforts on election security are coordinated and prioritized across all IC elements," Coats said.

Needless to say, with both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell openly sabotaging an efforts to beef up election security, this move by Coats almost guarantees that Trump will fire him and replace him with Fred Fleitz very soon.
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