In a tussle outside Trump Tower on Thursday, a member of Donald J. Trump’s security team responded to a protester, who had grabbed him from behind, by hitting him in the face.
The member of Mr. Trump’s security team had ripped a large blue sign reading “Trump: Make America Racist Again” away from protesters gathered outside Trump Plaza, where the candidate signed a pledge to the Republican Party that he wouldn’t stage a third-party candidacy were he to lose the party’s presidential nomination. The protester, identified by NY1 as Efraín Galicia, chased and grabbed the security guard. The guard then turned and swung. As Mr. Galicia was restrained, the security guard disappeared into Trump Tower with the sign.
After the altercation, which occurred under the gaze of multiple television and phone cameras, Mr. Galicia compared his treatment to that of the Univision reporter Jorge Ramos, who was escorted out of a news conference last week by a guard who looked like the man who was involved in the altercation Thursday. Mr. Trump had ejected Mr. Ramos for asking questions without being called on before eventually inviting Mr. Ramos back in.
The Trump campaign said that the security team member on Thursday was “jumped from behind” and that the campaign would “likely be pressing charges.” It did not say whether the security team member was the same man who walked Mr. Ramos out.
It obviously was the same man who McKay Poppins of Buzzfeed identified as Trump's personal bodyguard on Chris Hayes show last night.
Hayes has scheduled this protester for his show tonight. It should be interesting. Unfortunately, Trump's followers are undoubtedly cheering this. It works for him.
Bush Fails Quiz on Foreign Affairs
By Glen Johnson
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Nov. 4, 1999; 6:10 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON –– Texas Gov. George W. Bush was hit with a surprise quiz on foreign affairs and scored only 25 percent.
The Republican presidential front-runner sat down Wednesday with WHDH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Boston, and was asked to name the leaders of four current world hot spots: Chechnya, Taiwan, India and Pakistan.
He was able to give a partial response to just one: Taiwan.
The questions were put to Bush by political reporter Andy Hiller during a break in Bush's campaigning in New Hampshire. Hiller is known locally for asking sassy questions of political leaders.
Hiller asked: "Can you name the president of Chechnya?"
"No, can you?" Bush replied.
"Can you name the president of Taiwan?" Hiller asked.
"Yeah, Lee,'" responded Bush, referring to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.
"Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?" asked Hiller, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who took over last month in a military coup.
"Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?" replied Bush.
Hiller replied: "No, it's four questions of four leaders in four hot spots."
Bush said: "The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected – not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent."
Hiller persisted, saying "Can you name him?"
Bush said: "General. I can name the general. General."
"And the prime minister of India?" asked Hiller, inquiring about a man who was recently re-elected and who last year tested a nuclear bomb.
Bush said: "The new prime minister of India is – no."
At that point, Bush responded in kind to Hiller.
"Can you name the foreign minister of Mexico?" asked the governor, whose home state borders the Central American nation.
The reporter replied, "No sir, but I would say to that, I'm not running for president."
Bush said: "What I'm suggesting to you is, if you can't name the foreign minister of Mexico, therefore, you know, you're not capable about what you do. But the truth of the matter is you are, whether you can or not."
The base of the GOP does not care about this. In fact, it makes them want to have a lot of beers with Trump. He's their kind of guy.
And Hugh Hewitt, who posed the question to him, was just on my TV falling all over himself to explain that Trump is no less informed than any of the candidates on these questions and said that he truly wasn't trying to ask a gotcha question. He knows his audience.
Update: Greg Sargent points out that Trump's actually better on Iran than his allegedly "serious" rivals. He speaks in such gobbldygook that it shouldn't hurt him too much with his followers.
During an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius thoroughly debunked arguments that Hillary Clinton should be charged with a crime as a result of her use of a private email system while serving as secretary of state. When MSNBC re-aired the first hour of its program later in the morning, the bulk of Ignatius' debunking had been edited out.
In case you haven't read Ignatius' origibnal piece, here it is:
Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private e-mail server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this “scandal” is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it’s not something a prosecutor would take to court.
“It’s common” that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information, said Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who’s now a partner at Arnold & Porter, where he often represents defendants suspected of misusing classified information.
“There are always these back channels,” Smith explained. “It’s inevitable, because the classified systems are often cumbersome and lots of people have access to the classified e-mails or cables.” People who need quick guidance about a sensitive matter often pick up the phone or send a message on an open system. They shouldn’t, but they do.
“It’s common knowledge that the classified communications system is impossible and isn’t used,” said one former high-level Justice Department official. Several former prosecutors said flatly that such sloppy, unauthorized practices, although technically violations of law, wouldn’t normally lead to criminal cases.
Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state has been a nagging campaign issue for months. Critics have argued that the most serious problem is possible transmission of classified information through that server. Many of her former top aides have sought legal counsel. But experts in national-security law say there may be less here than it might appear.
First, experts say, there’s no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official “state.gov” account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information. Second, prosecution of such violations is extremely rare. Lax security procedures are taken seriously, but they’re generally seen as administrative matters.
Potential criminal violations arise when officials knowingly disseminate documents marked as classified to unauthorized officials or on unclassified systems, or otherwise misuse classified materials. That happened in two cases involving former CIA directors that are cited as parallels for the Clinton e-mail issue, but are quite different. John Deutch was pardoned in 2001 for using an unsecured CIA computer at his home to improperly access classified material; he reportedly had been prepared to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. David Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in April for “knowingly” removing classified documents from authorized locations and retaining them at “unauthorized locations.” Neither case fits the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails.
Clinton defended herself Aug. 18 with a carefully worded statement: “I did not send classified material, and I did not receive any material that was marked or designated classified.” Those may sound like weasel words, but they actually go to the heart of what might constitute a criminal case.
What happens in the real world of the State Department? Smith takes the hypothetical example of an assistant secretary who receives a classified cable from, say, Paris, about a meeting with the French foreign minister and wants quick guidance from the secretary. So he dashes off an e-mail — rather than sending a classified cable that would be seen by perhaps a dozen people.
“Technically, he has taken classified information and put it onto an unclassified system,” Smith said. “It’s the same as picking up a telephone and talking about it. It’s not right. But the challenge of getting the secretary’s attention — getting guidance when you need it — is an inevitable human, bureaucratic imperative. Is it a crime? Technically, perhaps yes. But it would never be prosecuted.”
Informal back channels existed long before e-mail. One former State Department official recalled the days when most embassies overseas had only a few phones authorized for secret communications. Rather than go to the executive office to make such a call, officers would use their regular phones, bypassing any truly sensitive details. “Did we cross red lines? No doubt. Did it put information at risk? Maybe. But, if you weren’t in Moscow or Beijing, you didn’t worry much,” this former official said.
Back channels are used because the official ones are so encrusted by classification and bureaucracy. State had the “Roger Channel,” named after former official Roger Hilsman, for sending secret messages directly to the secretary. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had a similar private channel. CIA station chiefs could send communications known as “Aardwolves” straight to the director.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton responded to reporters in Las Vegas on Tuesday over the controversy surrounding her personal e-mail server. Clinton reiterated that she did not send or receive any classified material from her personal account. (AP)
Are these channels misused sometimes? Most definitely. Is there a crime here? Almost certainly not.
MSNBC is giving Scarborough another hour to spread his Fox News level bile by the way.
Update: FWIW, here are Colin Powell's comments on how he handled his email:
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. So we'll cut back to you on that later on.
But I do want to ask you one final question on this Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy. Which, of course, put you back in the news a bit this week, as well.
You were secretary of State during the early days of e-mails. You were one of the first secretaries, I believe, to set up a personal e-mail account. And you pushed to modernize the State Department's system.
Based on your experience, what do you make of these revelations this week and what would you recommend that she do now?
POWELL: I -- I can't speak to a -- Mrs. Clinton and what she should do now. That would be inappropriate.
What I did when I entered the State Department, I found an antiquated system that had to be modernized and modernized quickly.
So we put in place new systems, bought 44,000 computers and put a new Internet capable computer on every single desk in every embassy, every office in the State Department. And then I connected it with software.
But in order to change the culture, to change the brainware, as I call it, I started using it in order to get everybody to use it, so we could be a 21st century institution and not a 19th century.
But I retained none of those e-mails and we are working with the State Department to see if there's anything else they want to discuss with me about those e-mails.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So they want...
POWELL: (INAUDIBLE) have a stack of them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- they've asked you to turn them over, but you don't have them, is that it?
POWELL: I don't have any -- I don't have any to turn over. I did not keep a cache of them. I did not print them off. I do not have thousands of pages somewhere in my personal files.
And, in fact, a lot of the e-mails that came out of my personal account went into the State Department system. They were addressed to State Department employees and the State.gov domain. But I don't know if the servers the State Department captured those or not.
And most -- they were all unclassified and most of them, I think, are pretty benign, so I'm not terribly concerned even if they were able to recover them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
"I will be so good at [blank], your head will spin." That's pretty much Donald Trump's answer to any question he doesn't know. It didn't work too well yesterday during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt:
At one point, Hewitt asked Trump if he was familiar with Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the Quds Forces. Trump said he was but then appeared to mistake the Quds for the Kurds, a Middle Eastern ethnic group.
"The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by," said Trump.
Hewitt corrected him: "No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces."
A little tougher question than, "What newspapers do you read?" Trump had no clue. He called it a gotcha question, saying "I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin." Donald will know what he needs to know when he needs to know it. Trust him. He's a good negotiator. A great negotiator. The best negotiator.
Hewitt asked if Trump knew "the players without a scorecard," players such as Hassan Nasrallah, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:
“The names you just mentioned, they probably won’t even be there in six months or a year,” he added.
Hassan Nasrallah has headed Hezbollah since 1992.
Hewitt pushed Trump on the question, asking him: “So the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?”
The old, "these aren't the droids you're looking for" bit wasn't working with Hewitt, and Hewitt will co-moderate the next Republican debate. Then again, Trump's supporters don't seem to care what he doesn't know. They're having too much fun watching him make a mockery of a mockery.
Nate Silver had an interesting piece today warning that we shouldn't take all the breathless coverage of various "game changing" events in campaigns too seriously. He goes back to the dullest race in my lifetime, the 1996 GOP primary, and shows some of the ludicrous reporting that made it seem as if something interesting was actually happening when it clearly was not. His point is that people should keep their wits about them and not get ahead of themselves.
I thought this was particularly revealing though:
The other big difference between the general election and primaries is that polls are not very reliable in the primaries. They improve as you get closer to the election, although only up to a point. But they have little meaning now, five months before the first states vote.
It’s not only that the polls have a poor predictive track record — at this point in the past four competitive races, the leaders in national polls were Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and Rick Perry, none of whom won the nomination — but also that they don’t have a lot of intrinsic meaning. At this point, the polls you see reported on are surveying broad groups of Republican- or Democratic-leaning adults who are relatively unlikely to actually vote in the primaries and caucuses and who haven’t been paying all that much attention to the campaigns. The ones who eventually do vote will have been subjected to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of advertising, had their door knocked on several times, and seen a half-dozen more debates. The ballots they see may not resemble the one the pollsters are testing since it’s likely that (at least on the GOP side) several of the candidates will have dropped out by the time their state votes.
Some reporters object to this by saying that the polls are meaningful to the extent that they influence the behavior of the campaigns: If Joe Biden enters the race because he reads the polls as indicating that Clinton is vulnerable, that could matter, for instance.
So reporters defend the breathless reporting of meaningless polls because their breathless meaningless reporting influences the behavior of campaigns, which they then dutifully report. Breathlessly. Can we see the problem here?
I think people sense the press puts its thumbs on the scale in a number of different ways in campaign coverage. They even admit it, as when USA Today's Susan Page told Chuck Todd that journalists were yearning for a Joe Biden candidacy. Now it may be that they don't have an ideological agenda but rather a bias toward drama, but the effect is the same. (And frankly, I do believe a sort of negative or positive group-think takes hold in the media that also tilts the playing field.)
The point is that what the press chooses to report is just as important as the reporting itself. If they knowingly publish or broadcast information they know is suspect and they also know that it influences the way campaigns are forced to deal with this suspect information, they are knowingly influencing our politics in a direction it would not necessarily go if the coverage, which they admit is suspect, was different.
They have agency in this --- they are not potted plants. These polls can be presented in context and the analysis that flows from these polls can be presented in context. They can choose not to run screaming headlines about campaigns being in "free fall" or talking about dumb things like word clouds all day on cable as if they mean something real. The coverage is not some abstract thing that has a life of its own.
Bush and Cheney may have rhetorically opposed the Iranian nuclear program. In reality, they allowed it to blossom. As Marc Champion explained several months ago, “at the start of Bush's presidency, Iran had no operational centrifuge cascades and no stocks of enriched fuel, so it had no means of making a nuclear weapon.” Then things got bad:
By the time Bush left office in January 2009, Iran had just under 4,000 working centrifuges and an additional 1,600 installed. These had, to that point, produced 171 kilos of low-enriched uranium. Oh, and Iran had covertly built a new enrichment facility under a mountain at Qom.
Measured by results, rather than sound bites, Cheney was the greatest thing that happened to the radical regime in Iran since it took power. Michael Rubin, a former Bush administration Middle East policy adviser, has attempted to defend the administration’s disastrous Iran policy by blaming the failure on our feckless European partners, who continued to trade with Iran, undermining our sanctions. Rubin insists, “the problem was not too little diplomacy, but rather too much trade.” But why were sanctions so weak under Bush, and so much stronger under Obama? Because the Obama administration used the promise of negotiations to build strong support for sanctions. Without those negotiations, the sanctions regime would be just as weak as it was under the Bush administration. The notion that simply refusing to make any concessions whatsoever could prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear program is not a novel idea. Cheney’s administration tried it. It didn’t work.
Not that such facts matter in this debate which is really about politics and not national security.
And then too, there's always the completely cynical view that letting Iran edge closer to nuclear capability was actually a Cheney feature, not a bug. It is, after all, his favorite rationale for an invasion.
Latest from Rasmussen, (which is thought by many to have a conservative bias.) But depressing nonetheless:
58% Think There's A War on Police in America Today
With officers murdered in Texas and Illinois in just the last few days, most voters now believe the police are under attack in America and blame politicians critical of the cops for fanning the flames.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 58% of Likely U.S. Voters think there is a war on police in America today. Just 27% disagree, while 15% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Sixty percent (60%) believe comments critical of the police by some politicians make it more dangerous for police officers to do their jobs. Only 18% think those comments improve the quality of the police’s performance. Thirteen percent (13%) say the politicians’ comments have no impact.
While there is usually a wide racial difference of opinion on questions related to the police, most black voters (54%) agree with the majority of white (60%) and other minority voters (56%) that there is a war on police underway.
Blacks (36%) are far less likely than whites (66%) and other minorities (55%), however, to say the comments of some politicians are making it more dangerous for the police. There’s very little belief in any of the groups, though, that the comments are improving police performance.
Protests against the police have been growing since the killing in August 2014 of a black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, although a grand jury did not indict the officer for any wrongdoing. That incident followed by several similar ones around the country led to the establishment of the “Black Lives Matter” movement to protest perceived racist behavior by many police officers.
Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin disagree. Other minority voters are evenly divided.
(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on August 31-September 1, 2015 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Seventy-two percent (72%) of Americans have a favorable view of the police in the area where they live. Most (66%) also approve of the tactics used by their local police officers.
Those under 40 believe even more strongly than their elders that there is a war on police going on, but these younger voters are less likely to think politicians critical of the police are making it worse.
Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Republicans think there is a war on police now, compared to 48% of Democrats and 52% of voters not affiliated with either major party.
Twenty-six percent (26%) of Democrats believe political comments critical of the police are improving the officers’ performance, but just 12% of GOP voters and 15% of unaffiliateds agree. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Republicans and 62% of unaffiliated voters think these comments make it more dangerous for the police to do their jobs, a view shared by only 44% of voters in President Obama’s party.
Seventy-seven percent (77%) of voters who say there is now a war on police believe the critical comments by some politicians make it more dangerous for the cops. Among those who don’t think there is a war on police going on, 35% say the comments improve police performance; 30% say it makes things more dangerous, while 28% think the comments have no impact.
Only 17% of all voters believe politicians raise racial issues to address real problems. Seventy percent (70%) think they talk race just to get elected.
Americans are skeptical of the protests that followed white-on-black police incidents in Ferguson and in Baltimore, Maryland.
Just 13% think most deaths that involve the police are the fault of the policeman. Seventy percent (70%) of voters believe the level of crime in low-income inner city communities is a bigger problem in America today than police discrimination against minorities
Only 19% of black voters think the justice system is fair to blacks and Hispanics, however, compared to 50% of whites and 44% of other minority voters.
In other words, you can never say anything critical of police methods because someone might use it as an excuse to kill police officers.
And 70% of Americans think politicians don't really care about race, they just play the race card.
So Donald Trump and Ben Carson are rising in the polls because of:
The "brain-dead" ones in this ludicrous scenario are Clinton and Bush.
The guys who are talking about drone planes on the border and the yuuuge wall with a beautiful door for the "good people" and anchor babies and deportation and "politically correct wars" etc, etc are the smart ones.
Obama has been an exemplary first lady and is extremely popular with the public, having shown good humor and style throughout her tenure; so it’s been very difficult for the right to find anything to criticize.That hasn’t stopped them, of course. There is nothing even remotely controversial about her work with military families, a constituency they feel belongs to them, so anything they might pounce on there is an unlikely target for GOP ire. But this mother of two daughters having the temerity to initiate a program to encourage kids to eat healthy foods and exercise has sent them into fits of hysteria.
Think about that: Something adults have been doing since the beginning of time — telling kids to eat their vegetables and go outside to play — is a Marxist plot to destroy the fabric of our civilization.
LIMBAUGH: Michelle My Belle, minus the husband, took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation, and they were spotted eating and they were feasting on ribs, ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Now I’m sure some of you members of the new castrati: “This is typical of what you do Mr. Limbaugh, you take an isolated, once in a lifetime experience, and try to say that she’s a hypocrite.” She is a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we’re supposed to go out and eat nothing — if we’re supposed to eat roots, and berries and tree bark and so show us how. And if it’s supposed to make us fit, if it’s supposed to make us healthier, show us how.
The problem is — and dare I say this — it doesn’t look like Michelle Obama follows her own nutritionary, dietary advice. And then we hear that she’s out eating ribs at 1,500 calories a serving with 141 grams of fat per serving, yeah it does — what do you mean, what do I mean?
What is it – no, I’m trying to say that our First Lady does not project the image of women that you might see on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, or of a woman Alex Rodriguez might date every six months or what have you. I mean, women are under constant pressure to look lithe, and Michelle My Belle is out there saying if you eat the roots and tree bark and the berries and all this cardboard stuff you will live longer, be healthier and you won’t be obese. Okay, fine, show us.
That’s right. Rush Limbaugh thinks Michelle Obama is fat.
Needless to say she’s not telling people to eat bark or that the unemployed and their kids should try to get some drips of papaya juice at the mall while she and her girls eat ribs. All the woman is doing is trying to do is raise awareness about childhood obesity and fitness. It’s really not revolutionary. In fact, one of Rush’s main squeezes , Arnold Schwarzenegger, made a whole career out of this stuff before he entered politics. It’s a sad comment on our times when the first lady can’t even promote child nutrition without the right wing treating her as if she’s fomenting a revolution in the streets.
Rush wasn’t the only one. Back when she was still a big GOP star and presumptive presidential candidate, Sarah Palin was very upset over a speech Obama gave in which she talked about how things were different when she was kid:
“In the afternoon, there was no way we’d be allowed to lie around the house watching TV. Our parents made us get up and play outside. As I tell my kids, dessert is not a right.”
That shocking comment, made by virtually every mother who ever lived on this earth, garnered this response from Governor Palin:
While making s’mores at one point during Sunday’s [reality show] episode, the former Alaska governor proclaims the marshmallow and chocolate treat is “in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”
It’s not the first time Palin has taken a jab at Mrs. Obama over her campaign to discourage fattening foods, especially from public schools. The former vice presidential nominee told conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham last month that “the first lady cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.”
Palin also hand-delivered cookies to a Pennsylvania school last month before delivering a speech there, saying: “Who should be deciding what I eat? Should it be government or should it be parents? It should be the parents.”
And that was the end of the first lady’s plans to deploy SEAL Team 6 to go door to door and confiscate every Ding-Dong and Snickers bar they could find, and then force feed the crying little children turnip cake and kale juice.
Those two puerile examples from Limbaugh and Palin illustrate the level of elite conservative commentary we’ve seen since Obama introduced the program. You don’t even want to imagine what the fever swamps have been saying.
Three north Georgia men pleaded guilty in federal court this week to conspiring to begin a revolution against the U.S. government.
Brian Cannon, Terry Peace and Cory Williamson met in an Internet chat room in January 2014 and bonded over their anti-government views, according to prosecutors. Within a month of meeting, Cannon and Williamson moved into Peace's Rome home and began planning an attack, to be carried out no later than Feb. 15, 2014.
"This case is a startling example of militia activists reaching true extremes," Acting U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a release. "While this level of extremism is fortunately rare, this case illustrates the threats to all our safety that arise from people who turn their hatred into actions."
According to information presented in court, the defendants discussed bombing infrastructure supporting certain government agencies, including the TSA, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. They chose infrastructure targets "because they believed this would reduce the amount of unnecessary casualties and make it difficult for the government to respond to their attack," prosecutors said.
Another person in the chat rooms reported the defendants to the FBI and agreed to assist in the investigation.
The informant made plans to give Peace 12 pipe bombs and two thermite devices. On Feb. 15, 2014, the defendants met the informant in Cartersville to pick up the items. They were arrested instead. Investigators said the three planned to use the thermite devices at a local police department.
I hadn't heard anything about this had you? But then they aren't Muslim.
Mass migration to Europe from Africa and the Middle East (click to enlarge; source)
I've said a number of times that climate chaos won't involve just drought, famine and a destroyed environment — all physical stresses and dangers to human life. Climate chaos will start with some of those physical stresses, but be coupled with human anticipation, which will result in social and political chaos first, and if we're really unfortunate, eventually with collapse.
The two sets of problems — physical stress on the one hand, social and political stress on the other — are intertwined, but because humans are an anticipating species, I think the social chaos will ramp up first, ramp to a greater degree in the initial stages, ultimately producing political collapse prior to full-on physical collapse of our support systems, like food production.
In fact, I think the social chaos is ramping up first, in front of our eyes. Let's connect a few dots.
ISIS and Climate Change
From Joe Romm, editor of ClimateProgress, the climate site at ThinkProgress:
The Link Between Climate Change And ISIS Is Real
... For three years now, leading security and climate experts — and Syrians themselves — have made the connection between climate change and the Syrian civil war. Indeed, when a major peer-reviewed study came out on in March making this very case, retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley said it identifies “a pretty convincing climate fingerprint” for the Syrian drought.
Titley, a meteorologist who led the U.S. Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change when he was at the Pentagon, also said, “You can draw a very credible climate connection to this disaster we call ISIS right now.”
From the Abstract of that study (my emphasis throughout):
Before the Syrian uprising that began in 2011, the greater Fertile Crescent experienced the most severe drought in the instrumental record. For Syria, a country marked by poor governance and unsustainable agricultural and environmental policies, the drought had a catalytic effect, contributing to political unrest. We show that the recent decrease in Syrian precipitation is a combination of natural variability and a long-term drying trend, and the unusual severity of the observed drought is here shown to be highly unlikely without this trend. Precipitation changes in Syria are linked to rising mean sea-level pressure in the Eastern Mediterranean, which also shows a long-term trend. There has been also a long-term warming trend in the Eastern Mediterranean, adding to the drawdown of soil moisture. No natural cause is apparent for these trends, whereas the observed drying and warming are consistent with model studies of the response to increases in greenhouse gases. Furthermore, model studies show an increasingly drier and hotter future mean climate for the Eastern Mediterranean. Analyses of observations and model simulations indicate that a drought of the severity and duration of the recent Syrian drought, which is implicated in the current conflict, has become more than twice as likely as a consequence of human interference in the climate system.
More from Romm, in lay terms:
We know that the Syrian civil war that helped drive the rise of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) was itself spawned in large part by what one expert called perhaps “the worst long-term drought and most severe set of crop failures since agricultural civilizations began in the Fertile Crescent,” from 2006 to 2010.
That drought destroyed the livelihood of 800,000 people according to the U.N. and sent vastly more into poverty. The poor and displaced fled to cities, “where poverty, government mismanagement and other factors created unrest that exploded in spring 2011,” as the study’s news release explains.
The March 2015 study, “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” found that global warming made Syria’s 2006 to 2010 drought two to three times more likely. “While we’re not saying the drought caused the war,” lead author Dr. Colin Kelley explained. “We are saying that it certainly contributed to other factors — agricultural collapse and mass migration among them — that caused the uprising.”
Here's a timeline from Romm's article:
Fertile crescent drought and refugee crisis — timeline and numbers (click to enlarge; source)
So the journey, from dot to dot, starts here — climate change in Syria
and the "greater fertile crescent" helps produce "political unrest" and the movement of refugees and "internally displaced persons" (IDPs).
Mass Migration — African and Asians Fleeing to Europe
It's not just Syria and Iraq, though those crises are currently foremost. There is political, social and climatological crisis all throughout Africa, the Middle East and south Asia. From a Huffington Post report on the "immigrant crisis" in Europe:
In the last few years, fleeing from conflict has become the main cause of migration to Europe, says Brulc: "We have had the conflict in Syria going for years now, the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq is still not secure: people feel under threat. Then we have the situation in Eritrea.”
What is happening in Calais is just one manifestation of these Middle Eastern and African crises, says Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency. 59.5 million people are currently displaced around the world, a phenomenon he describes as "global displacement unprecedented since the World War II era."
Migrants at Calais are no longer likely to be seeing a 'better life', in the UK, he says, but to be escaping violence and abuse.
"In the years before, it could have been characterised mostly as a migratory movement driven by other reasons, such as ambitions to improve somebody’s life, and get opportunities. But clearly [migrants are coming from] the countries where there is a situation of conflict, where the push is incredibly strong. This is not a crisis driven by smugglers, it is driven by these massive push factors in the Middle East and Africa.”
Of the 100,000 refugees who have arrived in Greece this year, 61% are Syrian and 21% are Afghans, Mahecic says. “These two nationalities make up 82% of all arrivals, which speaks of the changed nature of the movement.”
The map at the top shows what that migration looks like. There's another map, produced by Europol, here:
The influx of migrants via the Mediterranean Sea has been exponentially rising, with 220 000 migrants crossing in 2014. Apart from putting intense immigration pressure on countries such as Greece and Italy, before the migrants arrive they have often taken very risky journeys across the Mediterranean to get there.
Intelligence shows that organised criminal groups are actively facilitating the transport of these irregular migrants across the Mediterranean, and these groups have also been linked to human trafficking, drugs, firearms and terrorism. The migrants are exploited by the criminal groups who give them false promises and set them out to sea on vessels that jeopardise their lives. More than 3000 people drowned in the Mediterranean en route to Europe in 2014 and there have been 1000 deaths in 2015 alone. This problem features high on the agenda of Europol, the European Commission and concerned EU Member States, who recognise that a more balanced strategy is required to combat this irregular migration as well as the refocusing of law enforcement resources to disrupt the organised crime groups involved. Shifts in volumes using different routes demonstrate how organised criminal groups are very apt at responding to law enforcement initiatives.
The intelligence-led, European response to this problem is the establishment of the Joint Operational Team (JOT) Mare, which launches today. Hosted at Europol headquarters in The Hague, JOT Mare will tackle the organised criminal groups who are facilitating the journeys of migrants by ship across the Mediterranean Sea to the EU.
First, note that this is a strategy to "combat this irregular migration," already defined in defensive terms. Also, don't let the "organised criminal groups" aspect distract you. These groups are just exploiting the crisis; they're a "free market solution," if you will, to a market need. And of course, an increase in crime is always a consequence of social chaos as well as a cause of it (American cities, take note).
So dots one and two, social chaos and mass migration. Now for the third dot — the climate component of that migration is only getting worse.
Climate-Induced Chaos Won't go Away Until We Make It Go Away
This is just the beginning, this mass migration. There's a climate component, as we've seen, and — until and unless we're completely off of carbon as an energy source — that component is going to get stronger. The Washington Post:
July was the hottest month in Earth’s hottest year on record so far
NOAA, NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) have published data that show that it was the hottest July on record. Since July is on average the planet’s hottest month, temperatures this past month likely* reached their highest point in the history of instrumental records. NOAA calculates that July’s average global temperature of 61.86 degrees was 0.14 degrees warmer than the previous warmest month on record, July 1988.
NASA’s map of July temperatures shows the planet lit up in orange and red, signifying vast areas covered by above-normal warmth.
“The average temperature for Africa was the second highest for July on record, behind only 2002, with regional record warmth across much of eastern Africa into central areas of the continent. Record warmth was also observed across much of northern South America, parts of southern Europe and central Asia, and the far western United States,” NOAA reports. ...
* For a technical discussion of why July was likely the hottest month in recorded history, see this post by blogger Tamino: “Hottest Month“
That has global implications, not just European ones. For example, in California:
California can blame about a fifth of the state’s record drought on climate change, scientists say.
Underground water supplies have been evaporating faster than they would have without the higher temperatures caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The sixth annual release of Maplecroft’s Climate Change and Environmental Risk Atlas reveals that 31% of global economic output will be based in countries facing ‘high’ or ‘extreme risks’ from the impacts of climate change by the year 2025 – a 50% increase on current levels and more than double since the company began researching the issue in 2008.
According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), which forms a central part of the Atlas, this includes 67 countries whose estimated combined output of $44 trillion will come under increasing threat from the physical impacts of more frequent and extreme climate-related events, such as severe storms, flooding or drought.
The economic impacts of climate change will be most keenly felt by Bangladesh (1st and most at risk), Guinea-Bissau (2nd), Sierra Leone (3rd), Haiti (4th), South Sudan (5th), Nigeria (6th), DR Congo (7th), Cambodia (8th), Philippines (9th) and Ethiopia (10th), which make up the 10 most at risk countries out of the 193 rated by the CCVI. However, other important growth markets at risk include: India (20th), Pakistan (24th) and Viet Nam (26th) in the ‘extreme risk’ category, in addition to Indonesia (38th), Thailand (45th), Kenya (56th) and, most significantly, China (61st), all classified at ‘high risk.’
Again, that's "31% of global economic output," so the crisis will spread from manufacturing and producing countries to consuming countries. There's a region-by-region map and table at the source.
Mass Migrations and Political Collapse
Which brings me to my last dot — this is not the first time Europe has endured mass migration of peoples. Look at the map in the middle of this piece (here it is again; click to open in a new tab). Then look at the map below:
Mass migration of Germanic peoples into and through the Roman Empire, 100–500 CE (click to enlarge;source).
The ancient migrations accelerated after the Roman loss at Adrianople in 376 CE, but they occurred throughout the specified 400-year period.
Thus ended the long civilization of antiquity, the more than 1500-year-old civilization of the Greek and Roman world, stretching from Homeric times to the symbolic deposition of Romulus Augustulus (ironic name) in 476 CE. Imagine that migration happening, not in 400 years, but compressed into 50. Now imagine it happening worldwide. I don't think "collapse" is too strong a word for what happens if this plays out to the end.
Bottom Line — "Stop Now" Is the Only Solution
This is why we need to end the burning of carbon now, and not by using "free market solutions." Why not the free market? Because "free market solutions" aren't free (markets are always controlled), carbon-emissions "markets" aren't markets (they're government-enabled monopolies), and "free market solutions" to emissions aren't solutions at all, just delays while our billionaires pad their already overstuffed nests.
The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.
The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.
They come to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia. The flood of refugee/immigrants has governments scrambling to cope and resentments building. On the rural border between Hungary and Serbia, refugees are numerous where outsiders were once considered exotic:
As Europe’s leaders argue over how to tackle its worst refugee crisis since the Yugoslav conflicts of the 1990s and perhaps since World War II, Bajtai and his neighbors find themselves on what he calls the continent’s new front line, where, he said, the fields and orchards they rely on are being ravaged by the hungry travelers.
The rail track running through Horgos has become the main path to the EU for refugees — more than 150,000 so far this year — taking the Balkan route from the Middle East to what they hope will be a safe and prosperous future in Europe.
On the edge of the fields that surround the village and along its entire 109-mile border with Serbia, Hungary has unfurled three layers of razor wire and intends to construct a 13-foot-high steel security fence in the coming months.
Just how great the challenge is doesn’t become clear until one speaks directly with the refugees and the helpers. I learned that we have talked too long only in technical and administrative terms about coping with the flood of refugees. And yet much more is at issue here; it is what defines our society, what defines Europe, namely the concept of freedom, justice and solidarity. Or, simply put, human brotherhood.
The people coming to us are seeking freedom and security. They are hoping for a better society in which justice and solidarity are real. For all of what we in Germany have agreed upon with our European neighbors, after many wars and battles, to be the foundation of living together. Given our relatively high degree of prosperity, we Germans, in particular, occasionally tend to take peace and security for granted. The refugees remind us of the treasure we possess. We should learn to share it.
Here we are in America, safely buffered by an ocean (for now), and hanging on Donald Trump's every insult and pronouncement about deporting millions like them, only dimly aware of the humanitarian crisis our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan unleashed on Europe. Even as George W. Bush paints bad pictures and Dick Cheney tries to rehabilitate the image he can't see reflected in a mirror. And for comic relief, former CIA director, General David Petraeus, one of the architects of that disaster proposes throwing more gasoline on the fire we set. To fight ISIS, he proposes "arming members of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an offshoot of al-Qaida and a designated terrorist organization." Trevor Tim writes in the Guardian:
History could not matter less to war planners, as the dangerous cycle of arming dangerous factions in the Middle East and escalating US involvement is about to start anew. The CIA armed the Mujahideen in the 1980s in their guerilla fight against the Soviets, many members of the Mujahideen would end up forming the core of al-Qaida in the 1990s.
This analysis of the Trump phenomenon by Thomas Edsall in the NY Times very deftly synthesizes all the polling and other studies that explain just what in the hell is going on with this. Basically a bunch of white people are getting very nervous now that their majority and the privileges that come with it is slipping away. They believe that everything's going to hell in a handbasket (although that's not really true) and it's all because of the "others" who are taking over.
Edsall's piece thoroughly and accurately surveys these attitudes and the hay the Republican Party has been making of them for the past 50 years but doesn't really delve into whether or not it's actually true that these people are losing something they had to immigrants and other people of color or whether it's just a perception. And he also doesn't ponder whether some of these people might be afraid that this imminent change in our racial and cultural make-up might result in a little "pay-back" for centuries of white mistreatment of people of color, which I doubt it at the forefront of these people's minds but is undoubtedly in the sub-conscious of many of them.
But what he does say in his dry, analytical way is chilling:
The current prominence of an anti-immigrant wing of the Republican Party is part of an international phenomenon. The Trump campaign represents the American iteration of hostility to third world immigration now visible across Europe, where overwhelmingly white right-wing parties are flourishing from Greece to Britain. European opposition to immigration, and the strength of this opposition on the political right, was demonstrated in a Pew Research Center study of voters in seven countries — Italy, France, Britain, Spain, Poland, Greece and Germany – that showed that voters on the right were 18 points more likely than voters on the left to agree that “immigrants are a burden because they take jobs and social benefits.”
Donald Trump, in other words, is part of a movement gaining momentum among whites across the Northern Hemisphere. The Trump campaign will serve as a measure of the strength of this movement in the United States.
Trump’s vitriol expresses the degree to which the American debate over immigration has grown ugly, even hideous. At the same time, Trump’s followers are motivated, and enraged, by what they see as a breakdown of law and order and the erosion of norms and standards they believe should be upheld. They are frustrated by the poor performance of the public schools their children attend, by cities and suburbs they believe to be under siege, by a criminal justice system they perceive as dysfunctional, and by a government they view as incompetent.
Earlier this week Trump added a new campaign commercial. It begins: “JEB BUSH’S THOUGHTS ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS” and displays a film clip of Bush saying “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love.” Interspersed are three mug shots: “Francisco Sanchez: Charged with Murder,” “Santana Gaona: Convicted of Murder,” and “Brian Omar Hyde: Charged with Murdering Three People.”
“LOVE?” the next screen reads. “Forget Love. It’s Time to Get Tough!”
To voters who see the world this way, Trump offers the promise that he can restore a vanished America, that he can “make America great again,” as his campaign puts it. Trump clearly finds this endeavor personally gratifying, even as his odds of winning the nomination remain slim. To his followers, the letdown of defeat could be brutal, leaving them stranded, without a candidate who can successfully capture the intensity of their beliefs.
They think Donald Trump’s ideas are “disgusting.” They think he is making a mockery of the American political system and that even he doesn’t take his own candidacy seriously. And that is exactly why they say they plan to vote for him.
Meet Trump’s protest voters.
People who in the past might have gone to the polls only to register their disdain for politicians by writing in “Mickey Mouse” — or perhaps even “Donald Trump” — now have a Republican front-runner to rally around.
Like many sincere Trump supporters, they believe the system is totally screwed up. But instead of viewing Trump as the solution, they view him as the embodiment of the problem. And they say they’re prepared to vote for him to prove it.
“This is the candidate America deserves,” said Jeff DeFlavio, 29, a small-business owner registered as an independent in the nearby town of Lebanon. He said he plans to vote for Trump in the primary, but adds, “His immigration policy is disgusting to me. It’s absolutely revolting … I really don’t want him to become president ever. Ever. He would destroy the world, which is what’s so wonderful about him.”
DeFlavio said he has enjoyed watching Trump exploit a presidential-selection process that rewards celebrity more than substance. “There is this kind of wonderful irony in it, which I feel myself wanting to partake in,” he said.
And not just in New Hampshire. “I don’t think there necessarily is a best candidate for president,” said David Portnoy, an independent and the Boston-based founder of the popular sports blog Barstool Sports. He endorsed Trump in a post last week in which he wrote, “I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it.”
“I think politics is kind of a joke in this country. I don’t think it matters who will get elected president,” said Portnoy, who described Trump’s candidacy as “a real-life political mock-umentary.”
“Everything Trump says I don’t agree with, like building a wall around the country, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said. “But I don’t think anything anybody else says is going to happen, and I’d rather have the guy who brings entertainment value.”
Portnoy said he has heard from readers across New England who feel the same way.
I'd be tempted to dismiss this as a small, irrelevant group of immature pranksters and nihilists except for one thing. Remember this guy?
The only time I ever stood in line to vote in my precinct was the day he won the election for Governor. And many of the people in the line were laughing and having a great time that day talking about how it was great joke to vote for The Terminator.
On election day, 61% of registered voters cast ballots. The figure surpassed turnout in every nonpresidential statewide election since 1982 and was 10 points higher than in the 2002 gubernatorial contest... Using data from the statewide voter file, we find that the recall brought younger, less partisan, and less politically experienced voters to the polls.
Ed Kilgore says Iowans don't really care about the corruption of their process:
Remember that bizarre scene in Season 3 of The Sopranos, where a psychopathic hood who murdered his pregnant girlfriend in the parking lot of Tony’s gangster retreat the “Bada Bing!” strip joint, comes hat in hand to Tony to apologize? He apologizes not for the murder, but for “disrespecting the Bing.”
That’s what Iowa commentary on Sam Clovis’ high-profile defection from the Perry to the Trump campaign last week reminded me of.
In the Iowa Daily Democrat, veteran political reporter Mike Glover made it clear in the lede that what concerned him about Clovis’ action is that it might make outsiders doubt the pristine integrity of the Iowa Caucuses. He even uses the word “pristine:”
There’s yet another episode which could dent the pristine nature of Iowa’s precinct caucuses and could be used by critics to launch a new assault on Iowa’s treasured leadoff status in the presidential primary season.
“States around the country do not like the position of Iowa and they give a lot of reasons,” said Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford. “This would be just one more issue.”
Priorities, people. It's vitally important that lily white Iowa be the first state to (sort of) vote for president because well, there's a lot of money and prestige at stake. The corruption of the whole thing is fine, but nobody gets away with disrespecting the bling.
He's not just a jerk, he's a liar as well. #notTrump by digby
During an August 4 meet and greet in Manchester, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was filmed telling Granite State voters that “breathing” contributed to climate change. This weekend when a NextGen Climate volunteer asked Christie whether he stood by those comments, Christie called the statement “ridiculous,” denied ever making the comments, and then touted his record of supporting solar energy in New Jersey.
he didn't just tout his record, he touted "public-private" investment in solar energy.
Trump has shown that his candidacy is immune to the types of attacks that can bring down normal Republican candidates. He’s on record mocking a war hero and praising Nancy Pelosi, he’s advocated for higher taxes, donated to Democrats and called for single-payer health care. None of that has mattered. But does his golf history provide opponents with the opening they need?
They have totally accepted the fact that calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, proposing to deport millions of people (including American children), talking about women like dirt, starting trade wars and real wars isn't something that would bring down "normal" Republican candidates. That's just par for the course these days. Praising nancy Pelosi, however, would "normally" bring down any candidate.
Villagers reassure us that the Republican Party isn't extreme
One of the scary aspects of the Trump candidacy is the fact that he's moving the goalposts so far to the right that the beltway media, in their unending quest to portray the Republican Party as Real Americans who represent the great middle of the country, is redefining GOP "moderate" to mean people who don't think we should start a mass deportation program:
Newly released numbers from the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll reveal not only the very clear differences between Iowans who back Donald Trump and those who support any of the other 16 GOP presidential candidates, but also how the real estate mogul's call for a hard-line immigration policy has resonated with a certain sector of the electorate.
Asked whether rounding up the 11 million people in the country illegally and deporting them is a good or a bad idea, almost three in four Trump backers said it was a good idea. By contrast, just four in 10 Republicans who are supporting another candidate said the same.
See? Only 40% of Republicans who don't back Trump think we should be deporting millions of people! Huzzah! Sanity reigns!
Republicans who say they’re with the real-estate kingpin and former reality show star were also substantially more supportive of changing the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to all American-born children regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
About half of GOP voters told the survey they would support amending the Constitution to bar the children of undocumented immigrants from claiming “birthright” citizenship.
Only half of Republicans think the nation is threatened by babies born in America being citizens. It's all good.
It's just Trump, the crazy kooky guy whose entertaining everybody. It's not serious. No need to worry that the party itself is becoming a far-right extremist political faction. Nothing to see here.
I wrote about Ben Carson's rise in the polls today for Salon and how it tells us something about Trump and the GOP electorate. Here's an excerpt:
There has been a lot of talk about why Trump is so popular, and the conventional wisdom at the moment is that it’s because voters are mad as hell and they are looking for an outsider to articulate their rage. Trump shakes his fist at the establishments of both parties and lays it all out on the line. This, it’s assumed, is the key to his success. Indeed, an entire beltway cottage industry has grown up around explaining the Trump phenomenon as an expression of America’s id.
Carson’s personality, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite of Trump’s. Where Trump is a bombastic narcissist, Carson is quiet and self-effacing. Where Trump rudely takes on all comers, Carson is polite and well-mannered. Trump is a street fighter, Carson a gentleman. So the fact that these two polar opposites are sitting at number one and two in the Republican primary polls right now must indicate that they represent two different strains in the GOP, right? If the histrionic Trump’s popularity is simply an inchoate expression of rage, then Carson’s support might be assumed to be based upon a yearning among other Republican voters for a more thoughtful, polite approach to politics.
But what if neither Trump nor Carson are popular because of their personalities? What if the beltway consensus that Trump’s success isn’t based upon issues or ideology is wrong and voters are actually attracted to his crazy ideas on the merits? The fact that Carson is closing on him certainly lends credibility to that possibility, because despite his mild-mannered persona, Carson’s ideas are even more extreme than Trump’s.
The two top contenders for the Republican nomination have nothing in common in terms of style, but among a very big field they are the two with the most radical agendas, and, as Salon’s Simon Maloy pointed out recently, a common disdain for what they term “political correctness.” As uncomfortable as it may be to think about, maybe Republican voters aren’t just looking for someone to express their rage. Maybe they really are extremists.
“They have great money because they have oil. Every place where they have oil I would knock the hell out of them. I would knock out the source of their wealth, the primary sources of their wealth, which is oil. And in order to do that, you would have to put boots on the ground. I would knock the hell out of them but I’d put a ring around it and I’d take the oil for our country.”
“Our military needs to know that they’re not going be prosecuted when they come back, because somebody has said, ‘You did something that was politically incorrect. There is no such thing as a politically correct war. We need to grow up, we need to mature. If you’re gonna have rules for war, you should just have a rule that says no war. Other than that, we have to win. Our life depends on it.”
So, the two most popular candidates in the Republican race for president are as different as can be when in comes to personality and style. One is a monumental blowhard billionaire and the other is a diffident brain surgeon. But it’s not the way Trump and Carson speak or the style with which they present themselves that has the base so dazzled. These voters agree with the substance of what these two are saying. And they are both certifiable extremists. Maybe it’s time for the political establishment to reconsider their view that this phenomenon doesn’t amount to anything more than a political tantrum and take these people seriously.
"Alaska is the only state in the union besides New Hampshire without sales or income tax," writes Alana Semuels in The Atlantic. The Granite State funds itself with one of the highest property taxes in the country, through excise and corporate taxes, and through fees. Lots of fees. The Last Frontier has $50 billion in its savings account and cannot pay its bills.
Alaska has funded nearly 90 percent of its operations for years with oil revenues, but, "For every $5 drop in oil prices, the state loses $120 million, according to Randall Hoffbeck, Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue." Now, things are getting tight:
“People are used to paying little or nothing for their government services,” Hoffbeck said. “It’s just going to be a change of mindset.”
But don't expect that to happen without much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Facing a roughly $4 billion dollar deficit this year on a $6 billion annual budget leaves lawmakers in quite a pinch. To use an outdated phrase, shaving silver off the edges of quarters won't solve the problem. There are only so many places to save pennies, and pennies don't add up to billions. Touching the Alaska Permanent Fund that writes dividend checks to every state resident each year is a non-starter:
To an outside observer, it might be obvious that a state that doesn’t ask its residents to pay any taxes and is now experiencing a giant budget deficit should just stop writing residents checks, or at least use some of the earnings from its $50 billion in the bank to pay its bills. Since the Permanent Fund is projected to continue to make more and more money from its earnings, the state could still spend a portion of earnings and keep the reserve fund well-endowed. Or the state could put a cap on the yearly amount of Permanent Fund dividends (the amount of the dividend is currently calculated by a formula based on the average of the Fund’s income over five years).
But Alaskans are fiercely protective of their checks, and of their state’s savings. This might be the most tight-fisted state in the union.
Citizens of this proud, conservative state like getting something for nothing. And politicians don't dare ask them to start paying for that no-fee lunch. “At some point in time, we’re going to have to have broad-based taxes,” says Hoffbeck. “We’re going to have to fund ourselves like everybody else does.”
Except everybody doesn't. We seem prepared to strip America to the walls looking for places to cut pennies before we'll own up to our responsibility and tax ourselves for what we get and to maintain it. Highways, water systems, good schools, endless wars. We expect them. We demand them. We just refuse to pay for them, and then blame the deficits on the poor. Or else on waste, fraud, and abuse, the inexhaustible zero-point energy of conservative pseudo-economics.
Or to clean up after ourselves. Barack Obama is in Alaska this week talking about climate change and the need to do just that:
I have come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second-largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the personal responsibility crowd to accept any.