Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and Donald Trump

Pierre Trudeau, Fidel Castro and Donald Trump


Howard Adelman

I planned this morning to return to writing about the economy and Trump’s possible or likely contribution to a new economic financial collapse. However, one of the many responses to my blog on Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro asked the following question:

“What would be the basis of the ‘love affair’ between the liberal PE Trudeau and the Marxist Castro? Their Jesuit upbringing? And that, literally in the shadow of the U.S. (for both) and during the cold war? This still sounds to me like defiance vis-à-vis the U.S. (but perhaps out of filial loyalty, rather than current calculations). Can you explain?”

I will add some partial notes to an attempted preliminary answer and explanation, in part because I want to draw out some comparisons between Pierre Trudeau and Donald Trump as a kind of introduction to the economic analysis I will undertake in my next blog. The comparison might seem very odd since Donald Trump, though he admires Putin, has only disdain for Fidel Castro and his brother, even though, when it was forbidden to do so, The Donald, in 1998 illegally under American law at the time, sent a team of his to investigate building a hotel and gambling casino in Havana, and this was well before this possibility of foreign investment in Cuba first opened up. His company spent $68,000 in Cuba illegally without the requisite U.S. treasury license.

Further, this offers me a chance to fill in some blanks. I had been intrigued about why Fidel Castro, a close personal friend of Pierre Trudeau and an honorary pallbearer at the latter’s funeral, had not granted Justin Trudeau an audience when Justin visited just a week or so earlier and when, just the day before, Castro had granted a visit to the leader of Vietnam. There had to be some serious explanation given Fidel Castro’s personal history with the Trudeau family. The explanation: Fidel was even sicker than anyone knew, for it is virtually impossible to imagine that he would not have wanted to see Justin given his personal connection to Justin’s father. After all, Fidel’s brother, Raúl, went out of the way to welcome Justin personally. Instead of a boring and very formal state dinner, Raúl took Justin and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau out to the Restaurante Café del Oriente in old Havana. It helped that Sophie was fluent in Spanish.

To demonstrate the close family connection, Justin Trudeau also met with three of Fidel’s sons where, as a present from the Cuban people and from the Castro family, Justin received a photo album of his father’s historic 1976 visit to Cuba and the adulation of the Cuban people for him. Remember, on that trip, Pierre had come with his wife, Margaret and his youngest son, Michel who was just under four months of age at the time. It was Michel who would years later die in an avalanche in British Columbia. The Justin Cuban visit had all kinds of nostalgia for Justin as it had in subsequent visits for his father. It just happened that many Cubans mistakenly thought that Justin was the grown-up Michel.

Professor Wright of Trent University (author of Three Nights in Havana) claimed that, “I had an impression that Justin was borrowing from his family’s history with Cuba to shore up the bilateral relationship.” I myself believe that the effort to pay “homage” to Pierre’s relationship with Cuba was not in service to advancing business interests, but was the real goal of the visit. Reinforcing family and the family connection came first. As Mark Entwistle, a former Canadian ambassador to and an expert on Cuba, opined, the Trudeau family connection with the Castros is a matter of deep affection, but it will have no effect on advancing Canadian business interests which will have to succeed or fail on their own merits.

This strength in the family connection, within and between families, is the first comparison I want to make between Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Donald Trump. Despite all the business that each of Pierre’s and Donald’s business and public lives required, both were very devoted to their children. Donald Trump remains so. And their children adored their own fathers in return as Pierre had respected his own father and as Donald Trump had admired his own father. Parent to child links were and are very important in both families. Justin replied to Tom Mulcair’s criticisms of his father, “Let me say very clearly, I’m incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son. “And I’m incredibly lucky to be raised with those Liberal values” According to Justin, Pierre taught his sons “to believe in ourselves, to stand up for ourselves, to know ourselves and to accept responsibility for ourselves.” Donald used very similar words in describing what his father, Fred, had taught him. All the children in the respective families were devastated at the death of their fathers. Pierre’s father died when he was only fifteen, and he was admittedly wracked by that death. In addition, both fathers bequeathed an inheritance on their sons, though Pierre’s was much less than Donald Trump’s and Justin’s was even smaller again (1.4 million). But the Trudeau boys were taught to be frugal while Donald Trump acquired a taste for ostentation.

Justin’s father’s Jesuit upbringing partially explains his lifelong attraction to dogmatic and absolutist rulers. Among those, Castro was his most important friend. Pierre was the first NATO leader after the Cuban revolution to visit Cuba. Pierre’s huge portrait hung at Havana airport when he arrived and a quarter million Cubans, who had been given the day off, packed the streets of Havana waving Canadian flags as the entourage made its way through the city. Unlike virtually all Central and South American countries, Canada along with Mexico were the only countries in North and South America not to break off relations with Cuba.

The largest source of tourists to Cuba comes from Canada, and that has always been the case through thick and thin. Currently Canada sends 100,000 tourists per year to Cuba but American tourism will soon overwhelm the Canadian contingent. But the big difference came when Pierre Elliot Trudeau was elected Prime Minister of Canada. He and Castro formed a lasting bond. Pierre often took his family for holidays in Cuba. Pierre used to travel privately to Cuba and see Castro when there was no government business to do there. At home, Justin was passed this adoration of the Cuban leader by his father. After Pierre retired from politics, he continued to visit Cuba as a private citizen. Castro was not the only dictator Pierre felt he could do business with. His last international initiative was a visit to Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania, the same dictator who was executed by his own people upon the overthrow of communism. Pierre in one of his flakiest efforts wanted to try to persuade Nicolae to partner with him in a joint effort to eliminate nuclear armaments totally.

Pierre first was elected Prime Minister of Canada on a wave of Trudeaumania. Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States, almost fifty years later, on a wave of Trumpomania, this time coming from the right reinforced by the so-called Reagan democrats. In the Canadian case, personality and not just populism – Diefenbaker had also been a quasi-populist – dominated the political scene in Canada. This is what just took place in America. In the case of Trudeau, an intellectual who was deeply devoted to ideas and abstract theory, reason presumably trumped passion. But not in the public arena. There, like Trump today, Trudeau made an instinctual connection with Canadians. They either loved or hated him. And Trudeau thrived in that public applause while, always at the same time demonstrating he was his own man and could flout convention. Does that not seem similar to Donald Trump?

John English, Pierre Trudeau’s biographer, also his admirer, credited Trudeau with holding Canada together against the forces of provincialism, separatism and disintegration. He made bilingualism official and it is impossible today to imagine that we would ever again have a leader who was not fluent in both official languages. But Trudeau overreached as was his want. The vision of most Canadians being bilingual or even being able to receive goods and services in French in British Columbia was a pipedream foisted on Canadians. Trudeau did repatriate the constitution, but only by alienating Quebec and without Quebec’s formal assent. Further, Canada in transforming itself into a country with a written constitution as its base also lost the flexibility of its informal foundations though, admittedly at a gain in clarity. As we move into the future, we will have to see whether the British historical foundations or the American legal foundations are more adaptable to the changing demands on a polity.

Trudeau also introduced the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but was the Prime Minister who most abused those rights and freedoms by imposing the War Measures Act in the face of two kidnappings and one murder by extremist Quebec separatists in the 1970 October Crisis. When Tom Mulcair in Parliament reminded Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister what his father had done, Justin became defensive and effusive in praise of his father just as he had launched his political career in 2000 with his emotional and very effective eulogy to his father at his father’s funeral. But in 1970, over five hundred Canadians were rounded up and imprisoned without charge or even the protection of Habeus Corpus. I could imagine Donald Trump doing the same. It is ironic, but perhaps not so ironic, that the terrorist killers were released from jail earlier provided that they accepted exile in Cuba.

In this regard, Pierre Trudeau is best known for his intellectual defence of federalism and the advantage of giving provinces semi-sovereign powers in areas that were closest to the desires and needs of the populace. But Pierre was a very strong defender of centralized power. Donald Trump is as well. He will not cede control of federal lands to states and believes that states cannot be trusted with administering federal lands. Their behaviour would be unpredictable. Pierre Trudeau alienated the West, and specifically Alberta by imposing federal control over the ownership and extraction of fossil fuels in his National Energy Policy (NEP). Donald Trump also sees energy policy as central to his administration and backs the continuation of drilling and fracking, including on federal lands, and rejects the efforts of some liberal states to promote renewable energy. Ironically, even in medical care, even with respect to Obamacare that he officially opposes, he would remove state barriers on insurance companies which, ironically, will allow a more centralized and unified medical care insurance system to emerge.

But isn’t Donald Trump an American firster – make America great again – and a hyper nationalist with isolationist propensities, while Pierre Trudeau was a cosmopolitan in support of free trade? I will go into that later when I deal with economic and foreign policy. But domestically, in terms of federalism, Donald Trump is a believer in a very strong central government. After security, the next two priorities for a Trump government will be education and health care, traditionally areas of state control. Even Pierre Trudeau never went that far in centralizing power in Ottawa. It will be ironic that the candidate most critical of the swamp in Washington will be the president that will most extend the reach of, and hence, bureaucracy in, the central government. On the issue of a federal state that shares sovereign powers with sub-states like provinces and American states, Trump will move even more power to Washington, perhaps more than any other president prior to his rule.

But Trudeau was a social democrat. Trump is a conservative Republican. But is he really? He is a populist primarily and will use the state to reinforce and strengthen his image in the eyes of the people. He may not pour his energies into a national energy policy – good for renewables – but he may very well throw money about on infrastructure, education and, ironically, even health. For though he denounced Obamacare as a bad system, he never denounced having a system that took care of the health of all Americans. A federal model of using money and spending to strengthen federal jurisdiction will make previous aims of former presidents seem totally modest in comparison.

Here again, Pierre was anti-nationalist and contended that nationalism evokes emotion and particularist obsessions, whereas cosmopolitanism builds its allegiances on a state serving and stressing the cohesion among all. For Trump, the all will be all Americans who follow and support him and thus a strong nationalism and a strong central government will be reinforcing. As with Pierre Trudeau, the rights of aboriginal nations will suffer under Donald Trump’s rule.

Pierre Trudeau undermined rather than advanced Canadian stability and its strength and presence in the world. While he ran as an intellectual federalist, he did more than any predecessor to undermine the federal nature of the Canadian polity. For Trudeau set a precedent for reducing the French role in the political life in Canada, not strengthening it. In terms of cultural presence, it was strengthened, but not in terms of political presence. Trump too will resist the tendency to advance multiculturalism through a political agenda and, especially resist the growth of the Hispanic community in the United States. After all, within two decades, America will have a larger percentage of Hispanics than Canada has of francophones. French may have been advanced under Trudeau but not the French political role. Culture is not politics. Trump too will more deliberately resist the growth of Hispanic culture as a political force. Of course, he will do the same for African Americans because he is a believer in the fact that an American is an American, full stop.

In foreign policy, Pierre Trudeau shuttled among many capitals to try to enhance Canada’s role and presence in the world continually shrank while he was Prime Minister even as he was cheered as a leader around the world in a way that Donald Trump will never be. I mentioned his flaky visit to Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania not long before his downfall to enlist his aid in dismantling the system of mutual deterrence using nuclear weapons. Pierre Trudeau was convinced that the Americans, and its president, were leading the world forward to nuclear destruction. But it was Ronald Reagan, openly despised by Trudeau, who made the treaty with the Soviets to get rid of 90% of the tools of massive nuclear destruction. Further, and more significantly in light of the current controversy over Justin’s eulogy to Fidel Castro. The latter was both the instigator for bringing nuclear arms into Cuba and believed that even if Cuba engaged in a nuclear war over Cuba, Cubans would gladly be incinerated to help destroy capitalism.

“First of all, Cuba would have burned in the fires of war. Without a doubt the Cuban people would have fought courageously but, also without a doubt, the Cuban people would have perished heroically. We struggle against imperialism, not in order to die, but to draw on all of our potential, to lose as little as possible, and later to win more, so as to be a victor and make communism triumph.” As Che Guevara put it, we are “a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that its ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. When an agreement was reached by which the atomic missiles were removed, without asking our people, we were not relieved or thankful for the truce; instead we denounced the move with our own voice.”

One major difference between Trudeau and Trump is that while the Soviet leaders ignored or at best patronized Pierre Trudeau, Donald Trump will be feted by the Russians. In the history of Canadian foreign relations, Pierre Trudeau was exemplary in undermining our commitments to our allies and we have never recovered from the political and defense devastation that he bequeathed to Canadians. NATO was weakened under Trudeau. So was the international Organization for Tariffs and Trade. Donald Trump will follow in Pierre’s footsteps in this regard and pay little attention to the consequences of his policies on traditional alliances, though, unlike Pierre Trudeau, Donald Trump is likely to go on a spending spree on the military, an area on which Trudeau was a skinflint. But as Pierre Trudeau demonstrated in the past, Donald Trump in the future will demonstrate an extraordinary indifference, not only to authoritarianism, but to totalitarianism and its spread in the rest of the world.
Pierre Trudeau avoided military service in WWII. Donald Trump managed to evade the draft and military service in the United States. While Donald Trump will spend lavishly on defence, he will not use that strength to really challenge Russia and China in their areas of prime interest. The Ukraine recognizes it is being abandoned further to the maws of the Russian bear. The Baltic states fear it. Signals have already been sent to Japan and Korea that they will be more on their own and cannot rely on Pax America.

Perhaps the closest resemblance between Donald Trump and Pierre Trudeau is their disdain for journalists and the media. Donald’s is so fresh in our memory, we need hardly be reminded of it. But we should recall that when Pierre Trudeau left office and rode off into the sunset in his antique convertible Mercedes, he turned Richard Nixon’s words on their head. Nixon, when he lost his campaign for the presidency in 1960, told the press that he would no longer be around to be picked on. Pierre when he left office chuckled and said that the media would no longer have him around to beat up on them. Asked if he had any regrets, Pierre replied, “Yes. I regret that I won’t have you to kick around anymore.”

But it is on the economy that Pierre Trudeau and Donald Trump really resemble one another most. Pierre was and Donald Trump is an economic ignoramus. Donald Trump will inherit an economy that is well on the path to recovery from the 2007-08 financial collapse, even though the recovery remains halting and far from setting the U.S. on a solid financial foundation. That was the case in Canada in the early sixties. Canada was then an economic powerhouse. But in Canada in 1979, a year when both the Tory and the Liberal governments provided extraordinary initiative in bringing refugees to Canada, the foundations for the 1979 recession were set in motion as well as for the disaster of 1989-1994 that was the worst economic period in Canada since the Great Depression. Pierre Trudeau bore the major responsibility. He increased the Canadian debt from 1968 to 1984 to $157.2 billion, a 738.7% increase. He would not introduce the requisite taxes to pay for the government’s expenditures, which tripled. Canada went through the worst period of inflation in its history. Interest rates became sky high. In fact, by 1993, Canada was even flirting with defaulting on our debt. As in the United States, the middle class was left with greater burdens as their effective salaries stagnated. Brian Mulroney, with all his faults, but mainly the Chretien government with Paul Martin as finance minister, brought Canada back from the brink.

I suggest we can expect the same from Donald Trump and I will subsequently try to show why. But I want to add another note of comparison, this time applicable to both Pierre and Justin as well as Donald Trump. All gained power, in spite of being underrated as underdogs when they pursued the leadership of their own respective parties and then the leadership of the country. I end with one further remark. Pierre Elliot Trudeau at the rally in Cuba in 1976 that I referred to above, shouted out, “Viva Castro.” Justin in November 2016 was simply reiterating the sentiments of his father.

With the extraordinary help of Alex Zisman


Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro

Justin Trudeau and Fidel Castro


Howard Adelman

I just cannot leave this alone. Perhaps it is partly a relief valve for my depression at the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. I am reluctant to write this because I generally like and approve of Justin’s efforts to date. But Justin Trudeau’s statement on Fidel Castro’s death has so appalled me that it keeps going over and over in my head.

Here is what Justin said:

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.
“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.
“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante’.
“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

Why deep regret? Why did Justin say that Castro had served his people when he was such a disservice to them? He certainly gave extraordinarily long speeches, but his public effusions were manipulative and full of lies and deceit. To call Castro a controversial figure is a euphemism of the worst type. He was ruthless. Clearly all the people did not have a “deep and abiding affection” for “El Comandante”. His opponents did not recognize that Fidel Castro had a deep and abiding love for the Cuban people. Neither do I. So why did Justin subscribe to that propaganda? And why was Justin’s father proud to call Fidel a friend? Did he have such unworthy choices of friends? Pierre visited Cuba in the very same year that Fidel Castro went on a rampage of locking up civil rights leaders and instigating “disappearances”. In any case, if Justin wants not only to acknowledge but eulogize Fidel when he did, he has no right to do so on behalf of all Canadians. Justin did not speak for many and possibly most Canadians when he misspoke.

If Stalin was remarkable, if Hitler was remarkable, if Mussolini was remarkable, if Putin remains remarkable, so too is Castro. If remarkable means worthy of attention, astonishing and astounding, then certainly. But remarkable has the connotation of being worthy of notice, not only for the outlandish deeds done, but for very positive accomplishments on the scales of worthiness. Castro was conspicuous and larger than life and, thus, extraordinary in some sense. But not to spell out or qualify one’s praise about such a ruthless dictator after his death is to demonstrate great insensitivity to the people who have spent their lives critical of Castro’s oppression. While offering condolences to his supporters, what about his many victims?

When interviewed an hour ago to explain his tribute, Justin was asked whether he thought Castro was a dictator. Justin replied “Yes.” But he added, “Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting effect on the Cuban people but on the passing of his life I expressed my condolences…He was certainly a polarizing figure and I have always been concerned about his human rights abuses. However, a Prime Minster of Canada should show respect.” Respect, maybe. But a eulogy – certainly not. Justin had to know he was stepping on a landline and he certainly could have expressed respect for the Cuban nation without paying tribute and eulogizing a ruthless, manipulative and oppressive dictator.

Now some praise of Castro’s regime is in order, particularly his contribution to universal education and health care and his sending Cuban doctors all over Africa and South America. Canada, and Toronto in particular, has enormously benefited from the rich Cuban cultural tradition, particularly in music and jazz, that flourished under Fidel Castro. Finally, though he could be credited with bringing universal literacy and health care to all Cubans, that in itself has been at significant cost to quality. Further, I have always supported Canada retaining its diplomatic contacts and have applauded Barack Obama’s lifting of the sanctions regime which Fidel used as an excuse to be a brutal dictator; but look at the cost.

1) 1 in 5 Cubans forced into exile – massive class cleansing;
2) Though he opposed anti-Semitism and was protective of the rights of Jews within Cuba to remain Jews, he was homophobic and persecuted gays for many years;
3) As a dictator, he was a leading human rights abuser, not only incarcerating dissidents, but executing many under his draconian rule, not counting the harassment and intimidation that many Cubans experienced; for example, in 1976 Fidel cracked down on a flowering human rights movement and sent journalists, lawyers, trade unionists to jail and solitary confinement where they were beaten and tortured – I lost track of two friends who were arrested and never heard from them again – they were not among the destroyed souls who were released and went into exile in Spain ten years ago, thirty years after they were arrested.
4) The ICC, UN agencies and independent international human rights organizations were not permitted to monitor what happened;
5) Like Donald Trump, Fidel Castro was a populist, but of the left rather than the right. In his abuse of the rule of law and relegation of accountable institutions of governance to the sidelines, Castro left leftists and liberals with a bad brand by contagion; there was neither an independent judiciary nor an independent police force dedicated to serving and protecting civil society in Cuba.
6) The record of abuse, of surveillance, of citizen reporting on other citizens, of civilians organized on a block level to serve as the eyes of the state that would even surprise George Orwell, of arbitrary detentions, of suppression of individual initiative, of public shaming, though attenuated to a degree in recent years, still all remain an integral part of the Cuban polity.
7) Fidel ruled as a dictator, controlling the three most powerful positions of governance – president of the Council of State, president of the Council of Ministers, and first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party – and prevented any steps that might make political rulers accountable.
8) In his foreign policy, he helped export revolution and supported revolutionaries around the world in many countries where there may have been economic inequality, but there was no repression; look at what his support of revolutionaries in Colombia, and a populist repressive government in Venezuela has wrought, not to speak of Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador.
9) The only time fear of a worldwide apocalypse came near, before the current climate change danger, was in 1962 when Cuba arranged secretly with the U.S.S.R to bring nuclear-armed missiles into Cuba that instigated the Cuban missile crisis.
10) But the greatest damage to Cubans came from Fidel’s insistence on monopolizing and controlling ALL economic power.

I want to elaborate on the latter to show that his opposition was not just restricted to capitalists. When most of my friends, when my own brother, were strong Castro supporters, before Fidel revealed himself to be a Marxist-Leninist, when he had not yet been branded as an enemy of the U.S. and was still being courted by the State Department, Fidel made a speech to the annual meeting of the co-operative farmers of Cuba. Since I was then very active in the co-operative movement, I received a copy of that speech in translation. What he had told the meeting in a typical three-and-a-half hour speech was that Cuba had a shortage of seeds for farmers, and that since co-operative farms only represented the needs and concerns of their members while state collective farms represented all of Cuban society, he regretted that the state would only be able to distribute seeds to collective state farms. The co-operatives voted overwhelmingly to become state farms. Suddenly there were enough seeds for all the farms. But it was clear that Fidel Castro was a bully and would use any means to get total control.

I was not able to convince my brother who headed for Cuba immediately on completing medical school in 1961 before he was to start his internship. He became trapped by the embargo that was soon imposed and was only able to leave Cuba when a Canadian military aircraft flew him back to Canada. In the interim, he had served as part of the Cuban propaganda machine, working as a volunteer in the Cuban broadcasting organization. Of course, a few years later, he turned against the Fidel Castor regime, but not vocally or publicly. For him, it had been the exuberance of youth and a naïve faith.

Luckily, the apocalypse of the Cuban missile crisis was averted. But I could never forgive Castro especially, though also Kennedy and Khrushchev, with playing chicken with the lives of my children. I have never visited Cuba. It has been on my boycott list. One of my sons has been there a number of times. He described both the vibrant life of Cubans and their warmth and hospitality while appalled at the decaying buildings. I flirted with going but always decided not to while the Castros were in power.

I think I will wait until Raȗl leaves power before contemplating a visit, but that may not take place in my lifetime in spite of Raȗl’s advanced age. In the meanwhile, I will gripe loudly at the effusive expression of condolences that Justin Trudeau conveyed to the Castro family.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Don’t Marry a Shicksa

Don’t Marry a Shicksa – Parashat Chayei Sara פרשת חיי שרה
Genesis 23:1 – 25:18


Howard Adelman

The previous section, Vayeira, focused on the immigration experience. This section focuses on integration, more accurately, the refusal to integrate and the insistence on being a nation unto itself, a nation among other nations. This section links three stories: 1) the death of Sarah and the negotiations for her burial plot (chapter 23); 2) Abraham sending his servant back to the place of his birth to find a wife for his son Isaac, the identification of Rebekah and the return to Isaac with Rebekah; (chapter 24); and 3) the juxtaposition of Abraham taking a third woman as his wife, Keturah, her children, the death of Abraham and, most importantly, his leaving the bulk of his wealth to Isaac and not to Ishmael, the son of Hagar, or the sons of Keturah.

Let me begin with the previous Parashat, Vayeira, or at least the theme of immigration in that section. I wrote about it last Friday morning, but was interrupted with busy-ness and did not finish. (Yesterday, my failure to write a blog and fulfill my promise was a result of a totally unexpected emergency, oral surgery in which two of my implants were removed and I received a bone graft and eleven stitches.) I will deal with the theme of immigration first, but not with the full previous parashat.

For a religion that supposedly so reveres its past, that centres its services around the Torah and the study of Talmud, Judaism has a peculiar founding father, Abraham. He was an archetypal immigrant who set out into the world to forge a different path for his family and his children. He obviously rejected ancestor worship and the belief that the greatest wisdom had already been revealed. He so clearly rejected the premise that the past was superior to the future. Instead, he set out on a journey to the West in which neither the path nor the destiny were known in advance.

What forces impelled him to move – famine, economic collapse, civil war, conquest? None of these appear to have been factors. What vision impelled him to leave his immediate family? It did not seem to be riches, though rich he would become. It did not seem to be the vision of the explorer intent on discovering “undiscovered” lands. There was no impulse to prove the earth was round or that the torrid parts of the planet supposedly at the ends of the earth were actually habitable. Nor did his travel seem to be impelled by new transportation technologies – railroads or automobiles – since he still went forth in the traditional way of the nomad shepherd with his camels, walking and following his herds. For such a conservative, he was a very radical individual, though not radical enough to claim that the text in which he would be inscribed was written as a result of the dictation of a divine being. But there is a hint that Abraham could read and write for he entered into contracts.

We in the twenty-first century (at least, but not only, in the Reform movement in Judaism) read our sacred text, which provides the geography of our imagination and the story of the founding fathers, as a literary and not a divine document. But the Torah remains sacred. The preservation of the stories of the past, not just as oral memory, but as an inscribed written body of literature, was revered. But not as a product of the printing press – though copies were available this way – but as hand written scrolls of old. What has this to do with immigration?

Abraham did not leave his extended family in Mesopotamia to make a life better for himself – though he would do that – but to be the founder of nations. He was destined to have children as numerous as the stars in the heaven and as the dust on the earth. And he could not do that unless he had children. But Sarah was barren. Did Abraham have a low sperm count? Did Sarai have a problem with ovulation? The latter is the likely possibility since Hagar had Ishmael and his third wife, Keturah, had many children. So why will the “chosen” bloodline run through Isaac? If you wanted to guarantee that the Israelites would become as numerous as the stars, would you not choose a woman who would show a capacity to bear many children? But Abraham was promised that he would be a father of many nations, not just one. It seems there was no guarantee or even likelihood that the dominant one in terms of numbers would be the Israelites.

People immigrate, not for themselves, but for their children. We just finished an election where immigrants and refugees were a central theme of the campaign. Donald Trump railed against Mexican illegal immigrants and refugees from the Middle East being suspect as terrorists. As well, Donald Trump put down women and people with disabilities. He displayed the fine art of an alpha male as a menace to women. Donald Trump was the first presidential candidate since WWII to run on a platform to restrict immigration.

Further, he outperformed among voters who were concerned with these themes, along with related considerations, such as fears of terrorism and opposition to free trade. In the primary, voters, concerned about immigration and related cultural concerns were the core of his support. In Florida, for example, voters who cared about immigration outscored others by 38 points. In the general election, The Donald outperformed among white voters with no college degree. A huge turnout of this section of the population turned out to vote and won him the presidency in the rural and working-class areas of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, unless a recount reveals that these victories were offset by other votes.

Let us look at Abraham as an immigrant in a foreign land as perceived through his experience. Did he miss home? Did he miss his family? Did he fit in?

A week ago, Thursday, in the evening, we watched an excellent French comedy, The African Doctor. It was based on a true story of a Congolese man from Kinshasa trained in French medicine who takes his family to become the doctor of a small French village somewhere north of Paris. It is a hilarious comedy in which the new arrivals are initially ostracized, but eventually become heroes in this small town. It is a story about “fitting in” and the difficulties in retaining an inherited identity in a strange land.

If you are a Platonist or a neo-Platonist (Chabadniks for example), death is the ultimate immigration experience, for the migration of the soul is so much more important, and more difficult than leaving the habits of feeding and caring for the body behind. But if the experience of life and death on this earth is the primary concern, then the major issue about the life of the soul will be narrated through the life and death of the body and how that is handled. Caring for the dead body is as important as caring for the living. In terms of the latter position, what better way to illustrate the split in adaptation than with a doctor responsible for caring for the living bodies of native French women and men. Even as he cares for bodies, in his experience, it is his soul and that of the French small town that are at stake, even if cast within the construct of a hilarious French farce.

One message of the movie was that earthly migration is not Platonic. There is no preservation of the soul separate from the body. However, one does NOT forget one’s inherited physical life – food, singing, soccer. It is the opposite message of Platonism – we should not forget who we are as bodies, including being black or white, including whether we eat pickled herring or scones and cream when we migrate. We should and cannot leave our bodies behind, but must take our bodies with us when we migrate. And the body politic into which we move must adapt as well as accommodate us as we as immigrants adapt. The ideal migration is not a Platonic migration that separates body and soul, but one that integrates body and soul on both sides of the earthly divide, the immigrant and the native.

So it is not true that you must abandon your past to move into the future. The “old country” comes with you when you enter the new. Hineini –“Here am I” and not “I am here” – has to be the mantra. For the ‘I’ is a becoming, not an essence who is present. The emphasis is on the here and now without forgetting what the I had become and what the I wants to be.

The parashat on Sara begins with her burial, more accurately, with the purchase of her grave. Sarah is buried among strangers in a plot purchased from the Hittites among whom Abraham lived. Their leaders offered a plot to Abraham as a gift. Abraham refused the gift. He insisted on paying and agreeing in a contract to buy the land in Kiryat Arba, now Hebron. When Abraham initially proposed to pay for the burial site, the Hittite leaders replied: “Hear us, my lord: you are the elect of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places; none of us will withhold his burial place from you for burying your dead.” (23:6) This was an act of great generosity. But Abraham turned down the gift. “Let him (Ephron) sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns, which is at the edge of his land. Let him sell it to me, at the full price, for a burial site in your midst.” (23:9)

Ephron offered the site a second time. Abraham reiterates a second time: “Let me pay the price of the land; accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” (23:13) Ephron finally concedes: “A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between you and me? Go and bury your dead.” (23:15) Ephron must have been very exasperated and irritated by this point. What chutzpah of this stranger among us to refuse a gift when it is offered! Further, Abraham’s response was really an insult to the traditions of hospitality of the resident population among whom Abraham lived as a resident alien. Nevertheless, Ephron compromises and agrees to Abraham’s deal – 400 shekels, the market price for the land on which the burial cave is located.

So the story of Sarah’s death becomes, not a tale of weeping at the loss of the companion of his life, though there is a very brief mention of mourning, but about a contention between the peoples among whom Abraham had settled, their generosity of spirit and their act of gift-giving within a shame culture. Abraham insists on holding his own, on paying for the land and obtaining a deed of ownership. Abraham insists on contract law and the principle of guilt when one fails to uphold a contract rather than a reliance on shame characteristic of a culture of generosity.

Abraham adopts from the local population the principle of the spirit of generosity to strangers and incorporates that principle as a mainstay of his religion. At the same time, Abraham insisted on holding onto what would become a characteristic of one nation he was founding, the principle of the social contract and of guilt versus the practice of gift giving and of shame used to bind parties. It is a tale of accommodation and integration of strangers rather than of assimilation.

In that spirit, Abraham will not permit his son Isaac to marry “out”. He insists on sending his servant back to the “home” country to find a bride from his own tribe. And the servant locates a woman of high spirits and generosity, a risk taker willing to leave her family behind and join Isaac whom she had never met and knows virtually nothing about, to participate in this epic journey into the future and in a strange land.

This is a story of all immigrants. Immigration entails leaving one’s homeland behind and coming to a new land. It may even mean carrying into this new land a new spirit and a different set of values, such as that of legal contracts and a guilt culture rather than one of generosity, of gift giving in a shame culture. Abraham and the Israelites will accept the tradition of their hosts of generosity and welcoming the stranger as a central imperative. But they will also insist on founding a nation on the principle of a social contract in which legal contacts are the backbone of the economy.

All immigrants wrestle with the same dilemma – how to maintain one’s family ties and one’s traditions and how to live in the new world, how to adapt but not simply assimilate, and how to teach by example standards which the local population may choose to adopt as well. On the one hand, kith and kin, a kindred spirit and preserving one’s identity as an Iranian or Chinese, as an Indian or a Jamaican, are important to all immigrant groups to different degrees. But so too is adaptation. What values are crucial that you should not surrender to the dominant values of the host population? What values of the host should you integrate into your own culture? The dialectic of accommodation is never easy. But to be successful, a spirit of negotiation, of give and take, is crucial.

What about the third section of the parashat which tells about all of Abraham’s other children, to whom he was very generous in getting them established. However, in his will, he made Isaac his sole heir, Isaac whom he insisted marry from within his clan? And that becomes a crux of passing on one’s heritage. For if the males – and this is changing as females more frequently do so as well – go forth out into the world and marry “out” of the clan, not only does this weaken the family as the core of the body politic of a society for preserving a collective memory and a tradition of values and the means to practice them. It also leaves behind a surfeit of women of one’s own clan, women who will more likely remain barren through no bodily incapacity, though artificial insemination and surrogate fathers may help. A result: the numbers in the clan with ties and commitments to preserving those traditions both weaken and the numbers decline at one and the same time.

This is the dilemma not only of Jews but of all ethnic groups. One way of responding is turning inward, insisting on only marrying in and creating and preserving practices that clearly set one’s group apart. Segments of Jews, Hutterites and Mennonites, all adopt such a strategy. Other Jews turn their backs on all of that. They no longer wish to see the back of God and retain the collective memory of the past. They leave the tribe to become global citizens. Still others try to stand astride both worlds, the world of the new while respecting and preserving the old. They can meet the challenge by avoiding the Scylla of insisting only on inwardness or the Charybdis of opting for marching outward. Or they can try to integrate the outer into the inner by welcoming the stranger into the covenant of Israel while adapting into the dominant nation in which they find themselves.

After all, one of the greatest heroines of Jewish history, if not the greatest exemplar, was not a Jew-by-birth but a convert. Each one has a choice. Each family has to decide how and to what extent it will preserve its heritage. And the practices of burial of the dead, of marriage and of having children will be at the core in making such decisions.

A Historical Economic Overview

An Overall Sketch of the Economy: Part I A Historical Overview


Howard Adelman

This is my most ambitious blog series ever. I plan to do four things. First, I will offer a potted history of the global economy during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That alone might seem totally daunting, but, in fact, it will be a summary of an already potted history published by my eldest son, Jeremy, in an essay in Foreign Policy in this past Sunday’s issue (20 November 2016). His article is entitled, “Donald Trump Is Declaring Bankruptcy On The Post-War World Order,” and subtitled “The global system of peace and prosperity was already on life support before the U.S. president-elect decided to pull the plug.”

The article is well worth reading in its entirety and can be found online at http://foreignpolicy.com/author/jeremy-adelman/. Jeremy is a professor of history at Princeton University where he chaired the department for about a decade and now directs the Global History Lab there. He is an economic historian who holds the Charles Lee Chair as well as the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professorship of Spanish Civilization and Culture. You might also want to read his essay in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs entitled, “What Caused Capitalism.” If you are much more ambitious, you might also want to read his book, Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman which I reviewed over a number of blogs last year and which can be found under my name online at wordpress (https://howardadelman.com/).

The second goal I have is to offer a distillation of the current state of the global and the American-led economy, largely drawing on my reading on this issue over the past months and my attendance at two seminars on the current state of the economy. Third, drawing from those two sources, from Donald Trump’s economic pronouncements, promises and performance thus far, and from the general economic behaviour of most populists, I will try to adumbrate the effects of the latter on the current economy. Fourth, I will offer my personal plan for dealing with these expectations.
Jeremy’s essay starts off with a reference to Robert Graves (Good-Bye To All That) and the efforts after WWI to make Britain great again by restoring a bygone economic era of imperialism and British economic leadership through “throwing up trade barriers, turning currency into weapons, plunging the world into depression, and then deporting, or later exterminating, foreigners as well as their own citizens.” If it seems reminiscent of the situation we are now in, that is no accident. Donald Trump is on the verge of turning the post-WWII economic order in which the U.S. was the great stabilizer (generally) on its head; the U.S. is about to become the great destabilizer. Of course, the ground had been well prepared for Donald Trump as America’s role as the chief economic hegemon has faded.

That role began after WWII when the U.S. economy at the end of WWII was larger than the economies of Britain, and the rest of Europe, of Japan and the USSR combined. America was the postwar Leviathan, but a very liberal one that operated not primarily through coercion but through its intellectual and material influence. But Donald Trump has given voice to those nostalgic for this old role of leadership in a context where it is no longer possible. Nostalgia is perhaps the worst foundation upon which to construct an economic policy.

After WWII, America laid the foundations for the economic order that would rule the world over the following seventy years based on global cooperation versus the protectionism that led to the Great Depression combined. This international economic leadership combined with national policies that created safety nets for those negatively affected by the enormous economic dislocations of a co-operative international economic order. The latter half was intended to manage risks and shelter castaways though educational and welfare nets that caught the human byproducts of the enormous institutional, commercial and technological changes underway. The first half of that order depended on agreed upon norms, principles and rules for free trade. As Jeremy wrote, “The result was a boom. From 1950 to 1973, world per capita incomes grew by 3 percent per year — powered by a trade explosion of 8 percent per year. Cooperation triumphed; interdependence brought prosperity.” Borders were not only opened for goods and services, but for the movement of people as well.

According to Jeremy, both pillars of the new economic order gradually started to crumble and eventually collapse altogether. Trumpism is merely the wake following that collapse with all the dislocations and sorrow that such a tsunami will bring. The most significant victims are an era of tolerance and relative stability. The catalyst has been the decline in America’s leverage to allocate resources, co-ordinate the management of currencies, dismantling traded barriers and setting the standards for the post-WWII economic order. But success undermined that leadership role as competitors rose and America’s percentage of world activity fell. China today is responsible for 10% of world trade and has replaced America as the leading trade country. One of the consequences has been a trade imbalance in which the U.S. imports far more than it exports.

The 1979 recession was the first major blow to the system. But the deregulation of the banks with the consequent enormous increase in credit based on very inventive mechanisms for providing credit, offered a new lifeline. When combined with relatively cheap fossil fuels, the global economy received an enormous shot in the arm. But not in the feet. The upper torso would become too enormous for the spindly legs to support it. The most serious effects were the repercussions on this planet; the environment could not sustain the enormous growth. Further, no global system was in place to manage and offer a new foundation for badly needed leadership. The U.S. was not only no longer an economic hegemon, but was the repository of the largest number of climate change deniers in the world. What is worse, many of them occupied positions of power and the Trump election meant that they have reached the zenith of that power.

Why and How? The problem was not only the incapacity of the planet nor the system in place to manage a fossil fuel monetized economic order, but the welfare state had disintegrated alongside this development. As one protection after another fell for those negatively affected, as a whole class of citizens had their expectations and hopes crushed at the same time as the rug of security was snatched from under their feet, a large populist pool of discontent and barely simmering rage had been developed, one that could and would focus on the greatest symbol of the new immigration, the rising tide of minorities and the decline in the hegemony of white working class males.

The effort to continue to free up markets, the ability to coordinate various aspects of this economic system by the Reagan and Thatcher administrations came at great cost to the working class, which subsequently experienced 35 years of economic stagnation and, even more, a seeming indifference to this state of affairs by the political leadership of this new era of “greed is good.” The deregulators and privatizers had given a second boost to the new economic order, but it came with an enormous sacrifice by the working class. The social contract had been shredded. As Jeremy put it, “Public services and protections softened market risks before 1973; in the decades afterward they were replaced by the private comforts of combustion and monthly credit card bills.”

The carbon and credit economy got a further boost with the disintegration of its collectivist rival, the U.S.S.R., in 1989. America was once again the global hegemon. Instead of doubling down, deregulation under Clinton was accelerated. Then, under the Bush regime, America’s economic and moral leadership were sacrificed in the endless warfare in the Middle East. These events paved the way for a bankrupt casino operator coming into power. Barack Obama was merely a hapless intervener trying to hold back the tides of change and disintegration while assaulted within by a Republican-controlled Congress and challenged externally by the diminution of America’s role in the world.

The ground had been prepared for America to shift from a role as the great stabilizer to that of the great destabilizer. “The long cycle of integration and relative tolerance forged by U.S. leadership since World War II is now headed in reverse.”

With the help of Alex Zisman

Coherent Strategies in Combating Trump

Scattershot versus Coherent Strategies in Combating Trump


Howard Adelman

My seventh foil against which I want to put forth my own position is the advice that those opposed to Trumpism rely on the multiplicity of strategies that will emerge from the grass roots. Thomas Friedman responded to Trump’s victory by advocating and promoting “multiple strategies.” I disagree. Not because I believe this will not happen. It will. Many individuals and small groups will respond to their angst, their terror, their despondency at a Trump presidency, not by praying and hoping that the leopard will change his spots, not by hoping that he will self-destruct, for he surely will do that eventually (but at what cost to the rest, to America and to the world?), and some will escape into their inner selves, even if simply by stopping watching news and public affairs shows, and others by choosing exile. There are many who are considering leaving America, mainly but not just immigrants from Muslim countries. Some will even move.

However, none of these personal choices will deal with and confront the problem. They are illusory escapes, perhaps necessary to get some sleep at night. But some detached and unemotional analyses are equally escapist. Last night I broke my vow to stop watching news and public affairs shows. After all, they only churned my stomach, stoked my rage and enhanced my despondency. When a commentator moralizes and advises Trump what he should do, I feel like barfing. As Kant wrote, a belief in morality per se is a precondition of having a moral universe in the first place.

I watched Don Lemon on CNN. Without being present, Trump monopolized the show – his failure to denounce the alt-right, his tweet about the short speech the actors in Hamilton addressed to VP-elect Pence, who respected and defended the right of the actors to say what they did and did not take any personal offence. This was contrary to the president-elect’s denunciation of the speech, declaring it offensive, that it made the theatre an unsafe place and demanding an apology. I could just hear Pence’s brain cells working overtime and salivating at his personal prospects when Donald Trump finally explodes his narcissistic blimp of a body because he has such as thin skin. I believe Pence may be envisioning his succession as he foresees Donald being impeached. The discussion of Trump’s appointees on the Lemon show and of his conflict of interest because of his refusal to place his assets in a blind trust, offered grist to the mill of my indignation, but the moralizing or outrage of the commentators did little to enlighten me in contrast to the one panelist who spent his time to detail some of Trump’s legal and political vulnerabilities.

But I took a lesson from my masochistic self-indulgence. We must be disciplined and not allow ourselves to become obsessed with Donald Trump’s personality and his failings, which only have the effect of increasing his support and his popularity. It was the biggest mistake of the campaign. Donald Trump is not qualified to be president. Donald Trump does not have the temperament to be president. But he is. He won. His personality, however, must be taken as an unchangeable given rather than offer opportunities for moralizing and advising how Trump should behave. He won’t change so forget it. We must simply use whatever is at hand in strategic ways to undermine his hold on the office.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We must focus on alternative policies and programs that have broader and sounder appeal. Donald Trump gained the presidency legitimately according to the existing rules of the game. That must be respected. But not his personality. Not his policies. Not his practices. Focus on the issues and allow his character to be mocked by others.

My preoccupation with climate change and the challenge of Trump in promoting the destruction of the world stirred up in me both despair and desperation, apathy and self-pity. The despair was justified as I thought about how much more of our planet will be destroyed because of Donald Trump, how many fewer refugees would be helped because of Donald Trump, how many more millions would suffer from his policies, and, whereas in the short term his policies of lower taxes and huge infrastructure investments may spur a growth in the economy, the long term increased debt problem will be left to the next president.

But that is exactly what Trump’s pronouncements and policies were intended to do – induce despair. Analysis showed me there were other options. Trump is akin to a Machiavellian tyrant, indifferent to criticism and even hatred, as long as the tyrant or would-be tyrant sows seeds of fear and distrust, thereby preventing or inhibiting coalitions forming to oppose him. If problems are intractable, if we come to believe there is nothing we can do, we are defeated before the horses are out of the gate. Cynicism breeds passivity.

Though I initially reacted emotionally, I eventually recovered and retained my cool. I must think strategically. I must think in positive ways, though I cannot think positively of Donald Trump given both his record, his willfulness and his determination to do what he does and hang the consequences. After all his followers would have elected him, as he claimed, even if he had shot and killed someone on Fifth Avenue in New York.

However, ideological condemnations without concerted action are a non-starter, even when the depiction of The Donald is correct. But so are wait-and-see approaches. One panelist adopted precisely that stance and was forcefully criticized by another panelist. After all, The Donald has not exactly hidden his identity. In fact, it is on constant display in his appointees, in his inclusion of his daughter who is charged with running his business in a meeting with the Prime Minster of Japan. An anarchic approach or a laissez-faire approach to resistance will also fail, with the opposition to Trump in more disarray after two years than now.

Thomas Friedman (TF) has offered another strategy. Let the many flowers of opposition bloom and the myriad of strategies emerge. TF argues that Trump will be more aware of the value of the optics if there’s a groundswell of outcry and opposition. However, and again, one of the data points we have on The Donald, and it’s a big one, is that his ego is the size of a blimp. He may be very thin skinned. But a fight, often ones he instigates, only energizes him. He is not a wilting flower who will leave the field at the outrages he perceives against his presidency. Rather than his not liking the bad press he generates, as long as the press covers him continually and constantly, he will feed off that.

TF advises Americans to continue to make bad press so The Donald will want to create a countervailing response. But look what happened when he responded to a very civilized short speech to Tom Pence with pretended outrage and how that shifted the conversation drastically away from the news that he had paid $25 million to settle the suits against Trump University. Did anyone comment on how cheap he got off, what a sweet deal he had negotiated? The participants in the class action suit will average $4,000 in recompense, a pittance compared to what they shelled out and the suffering they went through. It is no more than the legal fees Donald would have paid out and the expenditure is tax deductible. The amount not only would not come near to covering the plaintiff’s losses but would not even compensate them for the time spent on the suit and opportunity costs they suffered by enrolling in the fraud that was Trump University.

I agree that we need multiple strategies at the same time. But they must be given some coherence. They will need leadership and coordination. They will require a subdivision of labour and talent. They will require prioritization. We will have to decide what is most necessary, what is possible to change, and where our capacities can best be deployed. Most of all, unlike the election in 2016, we must always keep in mind what is at stake – our values and our world.

TF is correct in asking. “Where the leadership is going to come for all this is totally unclear. The Dems are in complete disarray and are going to be so for a while. And the lesson from Occupy is that bottom up won’t sustain itself.” The latter is true, but the former need not be. The Democrats have demonstrated in the past that they can pick themselves off the floor, dust themselves off and organize a comeback. There is no other potential for leadership. The myriad points of opposition will be too disaggregated and too contentious to offer direction.

Further, as the Berlusconi nine-year dynasty in Italy showed, the Italian President survived in office largely because of the incompetence and disarray in the opposition. As Luigi Zingales warned. “If you think presidential term limits and Mr. Trump’s age could save the country from that fate, think again. His tenure could easily turn into a Trump dynasty.”

“When the state entrusts itself with a cause – whether based around religion or ethnic identity [in this case, male white nationalism] – citizens are no longer individuals pursuing their own conception of the good life; they are part of a larger brotherhood, entrusted with a mission to reshape society.”

TF is correct on other grounds. “Liberals have a real problem with this, which is why they have trouble with the politics of meaning, especially the kind that served up neoliberalism techno-solutions that no one understands to large scale problems (and why Obamacare, despite the hopes when it passed, has proven so unpopular). No one actually feels the horror of climate change because Hillary dressed it as ‘belief in science.’ Actually, you could rescript it as belief in the planet, belief in your kids, belief in the beaches you like to walk on or belief that someone else’s village in Africa should not have to empty out just because we can’t think of another way of stopping the emptying out of West Virginia.”

But this tact fails because it repeats the tendencies to place the blame primarily on Hillary’s shortcomings when those shortcomings compared to her strengths were the least of the problems in opposing Trump. Further, if we shift the blame and the responsibility, in the end, the result will be more frazzled nerves, an inadequate and incomplete analysis and an inchoate and very vague counter-strategy stressing crying out and protests, the very methods that my first correspondent several blogs ago regarded as futile.

We must recognize the strength of Donald Trump. He may not read at all, he may have a concentration span of no more than fifteen minutes, he may be a fabulist far more prone to spreading myths than enunciating the truth, but his gut instincts are very strong. And Trump is magnetic, not only to his supporters, but to the chattering classes. After all, look at how few recognized his power while being sucked into being entranced by it, even its ugliness. Liberalism may be flabby, but it’s all we have. But Liberalism will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes, as it always has been, when confronted with that which threatens its very existence, our values and our political culture.

So where do we start? Not with Hillary. Not with the shortcomings of the Democratic Party. We have to start with recognising what we did wrong. We have to acknowledge that among the large cohort of committed people, most of us were complacent. I could offer the excuse that I am a Canadian and was only watching the election from a distance. But that is a cop out. If I thought the future of the world was at stake, why did I not volunteer and go work in the election. I went south in the sixties to help in the civil rights movement. And I had much less time then. After all, I am now retired. I have the time. I went to an Obama meeting in Princeton back in 2007. In this election, I contented myself with commenting and criticizing from the sidelines.

So I have to start by analyzing why I allowed myself to be fooled by the polls, why I slipped into squelching my fears and expanding my hope. The Obama doctrine had, as such ideas are wont to do, turned in on itself. And all of Obama’s and Hillary’s pleas about the urgency of turning out to vote, insisting that the outcome was now in our court, counted for too little. Hillary perhaps could not arouse our enthusiasm. But Trump did, but for the wrong goals and policies. Was that not sufficient reason to motivate ourselves? Why blame the leader?

Further, we must not substitute hope for a fear that we can bring that change about. We must believe in a better future and not simply hope for one. We must detour around despair and work out the solutions we must bring to bear on the myriad of problems.

After we faced up to and acknowledge our own failings – and the above just hints at my own – we have to create small communities of opposition and dissent where critiques, tactics, strategies and priorities can be considered. We have to share our thoughts. For politics in the end is always a communal and not an individual enterprise. Shared beliefs, convictions and practices are the foundation of politics and provide the glue to fight for change and the achievement of new goals.

Most important, though these initial suggestions are preconditions, we have to reach out and get to know those who voted for Trump. For many who supported him were correct in being angry at our indifference to and our sense of superiority over them. We have to go to the suburbs, go to the small towns and engage the other in conversation, learn who they are and the source of their discontent at the direction and speed of globalization and the threats they experience to the way of life they have and that they feel is under threat. We have to learn why one Trump supporter voted for the Donald because he spoke like him and shot from the hip in expressing his gut feelings rather than conclusions resulting from considered analysis of actual facts. We have to learn to listen and hear and to translate what we hear into workable policies.

In parallel, we must prepare for non-violent guerilla warfare. We know that Donald Trump will move to eviscerate policies and programs dedicated to combating climate change. Most targets have already been identified. We must look at the myriad of legal and political ways those attacks can be disrupted and slowed down. At the same time, we must recognize that some policies of Donald Trump may unintentionally favour the battle against human induced climate change, such as some approaches to deregulation. We must not assume that government regulation is an idol, the be-all and end-all of how to deal with climate change. And if private sector initiatives can help in the battle, then that help should be solicited. If the biggest oil and gas field in the U.S. has just been identified in Texas that is of excellent quality, then we cannot simply denounce fossil fuels. We must recognize their attraction, recognize the power of the interests behind their development, recognize that those who drive long distances to and from work want cheap fuel, and, most of all, we must identify the competitive advantage of recyclable sources of energy when operating on a level playing field and even identify to what degree and where existing fossil fuel stocks can complement the development of wind and solar energy.

This analysis must take place across the board. We know that Donald Trump will try, at the very least, to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. We must identify legitimate areas that need attention, try to determine what may be negotiable, clearly spell out a bottom line even if it means siding with the Iranians, and, most of all, recognize the threat of the Iranian deep regime, not only because of nuclear arms, not only through the use of conventional weapons and support of “terrorists” and insurrectionists, but the threat to Iran’s own citizens. When the militants in the regime can organize and arrest most of the participants in negotiating the deal as “traitors” while the government in power signed the deal, then you know you have a formidable foe.

The same applies to every other field, mainly free trade and immigration. Trump can certainly be expected to act against both. Further, there are some areas on which Trump initiatives may have the packaging of left initiatives – such as Trump’s plans to go on an infrastructure building program. Investments in public transportation, roads, bridges, sewers, clean water and sewage plants, will generate economic activity, increase productivity and provide an additional source for taxes.

But the infrastructure program is one in name only, and not even one necessarily designed to produce jobs. After all, Ronald Klain, who oversaw the implementation of Obama’s infrastructure initiative in 2009, dubs Donald Trump’s infrastructure program a sham and a trap. The infrastructure program is “not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors” by providing tax breaks for private-sector investors, even on projects already approved, even on ones already underway. Some of the most needed infrastructure will not be repaired under the program – obsolete sewer systems and water works with lead piping. Since taxes will be definitely cut to help the very rich, deficits will increase sending interest rates higher thus endangering home ownership for young recent buyers.

In undertaking such a task, we must forgive our compatriots their failings, and even forgive ourselves. We are all fallible. To some extent, we are propelled by self-interest making a communal effort very difficult. We will also make many mistakes. But we must learn from the dot.com firms and learn to understand that in politics, leadership should go to those with vision who can tolerate risk and participants in the enterprise must be nourished in a culture that respects and even encourages risk. Commitment is a visionary enterprise. And it is the best way to defeat despair even when the hurdles are many and the prospect of many failures must be faced.

At the same time, there must be a focus on underlying political structures. The American system with its democratic monarch in the form of a very powerful president that traditional checks and balances most often controlled, will be imperilled by Donald Trump “doing his own thing.” The opposition must become conservatives who uphold traditions that protect democracy and human rights and do not pave the way for a rise of tyrants. On this and other themes, dissension among Republicans can be fostered.

Trump’s narcissism can play into the opposition’s hands. Throw a spotlight on the fact that, whether it is his VP or his nominees for various offices, Donald Trump does not take the time to introduce them to the public in an expansive way, but does so casually and informally lest the sun shine on another. Use such opportunities to stage alternative introductory sessions with expert guests to comment on the qualities of the appointees. Senator Jeff Sessions was named with a four-sentence quote delivered by email and without any statement of vision for the Department of Justice. Trump attends rallies that will reinvigorate him, not formal sessions of introduction that will inform the public further about his direction and ideas. Trump can be supported in some areas that put him at odds with economic conservatives, such as the reinstatement of the Glass-Seagall Act separating commercial and investment banking.

There are other very tough areas, like Israel/Palestine, where the division of the opposition is at risk. In such areas, careful consideration of all possibilities, realist appraisals of each of them and the search for a solution that is both principled and practical in light of the changing circumstances must be sought. Develop global partnerships with like-minded Europeans, Asians and South Americans.
Fight on the ground and in the trenches – such as over the extensive areas of conflict of interest – where there are reams of opportunities for legal and political challenges, from the use of Trump hotels for meetings and hosting overseas guests in them to the risk to foreign policy decisions because of Trump’s interests in that state. Use technology and, particularly, social and free media, much more wisely. Democrats outspent Trump 2:1 in media advertising while Trump used free media and had much more television exposure than Hillary.

Finally, pick a leader earlier, much earlier before the next round of congressional elections two years hence. Pick the transition team early as well so that the election is a vote for a group and not just an individual. Learn the role of a shadow cabinet from parliamentary democracies.

And be encouraged that this is but one of many pieces of advice on offer.

Emotional Responses to Donald Trump’s Victory

Recap on the Donald Trump Victory and our Emotional Responses


Howard Adelman

I previously disparaged three options, first, relying on hope for Donald Trump to change his spots or be confined by Congress, second, hoping for failure for Trump, and, third, taking refuge and moving psychologically, and a few even physically, into exile. The main emphasis was on hope for change in Donald Trump.

When Obama says that he is “cautiously optimistic” that transitioning from candidate to president-in-waiting would force Trump to focus and get serious about “gaining the trust even of those who didn’t support him,” where is the evidence? As Obama said one test will be “not only in the things he says, but also how he fills out his administration.” Look who he has named initially to positions of power: Steve Bannon as chief strategist, though not an anti-Semite, is a man who is quite willing to play to the alt-right and promulgate conspiracy theories; Jeff Sessions (Sen. Alabama), nominated as Attorney General, has a habit of making racist remarks, though possibly not a racist, expressing a strong anti-immigration position and insisting that grabbing a woman’s genitals is not assault; retired General Michael Flynn has been nominated as Defense Intelligence Agency chief, an adviser who believes that fear of Muslims is rational, that Islam is a political ideology and not a religion, and, further, he is a distributor of “Flynn facts” to compete with Donald Trump’s mendacity; Mike Pompeo (Kansas Rep.) as CIA director had aligned himself with the Tea Party and reprimanded Muslims on their silence about terrorists. How can one still hope that Trump will not embrace torture methods and not fulfill his plan to turn towards Putin whom he so admires for his strength? How could Obama say, “my hope is that (moderation) that’s something he is thinking about.”?

Trump’s appointees, as well as himself, are men who live in a fabulist universe of their own making. Donald Trump provided a half hour interview with Alex Jones characterized as “the foremost purveyor of outlandish conspiracy theories.” Alex broadcasts his radio program in Austin, Texas, from which I recently returned. (As one example, and only one of very many, he insisted that the United Nations intends to release plagues; those plagues will kill off 80 percent of the people in the world and the remaining population will be pushed into crowded cities where they will be enslaved by the elite.) Trump told Alex that he had no intention of apologizing for promoting the story that large numbers of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated in the streets at the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Further, he told Alex that he liked and appreciated the number of T-shirts that Alex had produced and sold at his rallies that had inscribed on them, “Hillary for Prison.”

Obama advised Donald Trump “to take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office of the president of the United States instead of hiding behind your Twitter account. … Show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in your White House.” Fat chance! All the indications, especially his initial appointments, are that Trump will govern in line with the populist, hardline positions of his election campaign. Mike Pence, the Vice-President-elect was in the audience of the hit musical, Hamilton. Halting the applause at the end, Brandon Victor Dixon, one if the actors, read out a statement directed at Mike Pence. “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

Brandon was applauded while Pence snuck out, though he evidently stayed in the lobby long enough to hear the full statement. In response, Donald Trump tweeted, “Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing. This should not happen! The Theater must always be a safe and special place. The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” A polite expression of hope interpreted as harassment? Insisting this expression of free speech “should not happen”! Suggesting that speaking out politely and with civility in this way made the theatre an unsafe place! The cast was not rude. Trump was when he asked for an apology. And Pence himself later said that he had not been bothered by the statement of the cast member.

And look at Mike Pence himself whom Trump chose to be his Vice-President and currently serves as the head of his transition team. Mike Pence is an ardent climate change denier. He opposes egalitarian treatment of women – he supports the repeal of Roe vs Wade and is one of the most extreme anti-abortion advocates in the country. He is homophobic. He supports lower taxes and relief from gun restrictions. He is a ‘get-tough-on-crime’ guy and erroneously believes that violent crime is on the increase, He does not trust drug rehabilitation programs. Three times, Pence voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that called for equal pay for women.

Donald Trump himself has not changed. On Friday, Donald boasted that he had persuaded “his friend, Bill Ford,” to keep the Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky and not transfer it to Mexico. However, Ford had no plans to transfer the plant there and, in any case, if it did, it could not implement such a plan because of its agreement with the Autoworkers Union. Only the production of the Lincoln, as previously announced, was to be moved, probably to Chicago, (only 21,000 per year are assembled compared to 259,000 Ford Escorts) to make room for increased production of the latter, their most popular model. There would be no loss of jobs. Further, Ford continues to implement its plans to move the assembly of the Ford Focus to Mexico as announced during the campaign, a move which Trump denounced, but one on which he is now silent. Carrier too is going ahead with moving its plant that employs 1,400 to Mexico. Trump is silent on both moves but is a master at practicing diversion.

The biggest danger by far is putting Climate Change Deniers in the White House. According to Reuters, during the campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump would take a “You’re fired” approach to the upper echelons of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even possibly “burrowing” and seeking Congressional approval to “clean house” at a much deeper civil service level than the usual pattern of a successive presidency from an opposite party. Whatever the extent and depth of blowing up EPA, Donald Trump will immediately rescind the Obama regulations to fight climate change, especially those on fossil fuel development.

Trump appointed Myron Ebell to head EPA. Ebell, like Trump, is a “sound-bite artist” and has been a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry insisting totally falsely that the scientific community is in disarray over whether climate change in its rate and direction has been overwhelmingly induced by human interventions. Ebell has insisted that human induced global warming is a myth not backed up by economic, scientific and risk analysis. The little global warming has been well within the range of natural cyclical climate variability. And northern climes, including Canada, will benefit disproportionately.

War will be declared on the “Clean Air Act,” which incidentally had overwhelming bipartisan support when it was passed in 1990. Then, the Act addressed acid rain, ozone depletion and toxic air pollution. Standards and enforcement procedures were imposed. Auto gasoline formulations were revised. Yet Donald Trump branded the Act as “Obama’s” Clean Air Act. But it was the Supreme Court in Bush’s term in 2007 that ruled that the anti-pollution legislation aimed at mercury and sulphur emissions could apply to greenhouse gases. Thus, the revised strict carbon reduction standards set by the EPA in the Obama administration in place of a cap and trade or carbon tax, which the Republican-controlled Congress would not pass, were legal as well.

As I have noted previously, Ebell is a notorious climate change denier. To him, the regulations on climate change were just an excuse to advance and expand government. The EPA will be deliberately and massively dismantled. Ebell will open more federal lands for fracking and permit long-stalled pipelines to be built. Ebell will advise Trump to opt out of the 2015 Paris Accord, advice which The Donald will accept. The Koch brothers’ investment in Ebell’s research institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will have paid off. But, as I wrote previously, the war will be against regulations and bureaucracy, not against the use of renewable energy. And, as I tried to argue, there is enough of a head of steam behind the development of renewable energy sources that it will, ironically, be able to compete on the economic level with fossil fuels, even more so if there is a level playing field and all the direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuel are removed.

The latter is unlikely. Nevertheless, even if still handicapped, the use of recyclables now has the economic advantage even in a political atmosphere promoting “energy independence,” which the U.S. has largely achieved already, There will be a spate of licenses issued for more onshore and offshore drilling. But fossil fuel developers are not stupid. They will tie up those licenses at the same time as they buy into the recyclable industry, not just to hedge their bets, but because that is where not only the future but the present development of energy is heading. Ironically, I expect deregulation to assist the recyclable fuel industry more than the fossil fuel one because of the current underlying economics. So although Trump has declared war on the environmentalists and virtually the entire scientific community in that field, and determined that, “America’s environmental agenda will be guided by true specialists in conservation, not those with radical political agendas,” this will in many ways be a setback for the environment, but in other ways will be an ironic godsend as firms working on applying recyclable technology will be freed up from the burden of an enormous number of environmental regulations.

Thus, I do not hope for any fundamental change in approach. I also do not hope for failure. Trump is a winner. Has he not demonstrated that sufficiently? His transition will not fall apart through infighting. Neither will his government, as much as bloodletting can be expected from among the victors. Further, he will in one sense succeed beyond anyone’s expectations. He will both lower taxes, impede free trade, and go on a binge of spending on massive infrastructure programs while cutting regulations. Trickle-down economics will be in the driver’s seat, but with a populist and very popular building program that will provide well-paying jobs while inflating economy enormously. Economists expect inflation to go back up to between 2.25 and 2.75 percentage points. It will get much higher than that, but more of that in another blog. Donald Trump might even introduce a universal child care program as advocated by his daughter and even fix Obama care – rebranded as Trumpcare – by introducing a single payer system alongside private country-wide insurance schemes. By the end of Trump’s term, the American debt will spiral towards the heavens. But so will the value of Trump’s assets. Trump will go from being a few billionaire to over a fifty billionaire, for inflation is always on the side of those who own property.

For the first few years, the Trump regime, like the one by Chavez in Venezuela, will be very popular and the Trump support will grow even if it is at the expense of refugees who will be largely ignored, the Arabs who will have lost any leverage over Trump, minorities, human and women’s rights and those caught up in a renewed law-and-order regime. Putin will be given carte blanche in the Crimea and possibly in other parts of Eastern Europe. Obama had begun to draw down America’s role as the world’s policeman. Donald Trump will send Pax America to death row. If Trump can stave off hug increases in inflation for four years, he will, at the age of seventy-four, be re-elected with an even larger mandate.

If this is true and if you oppose this agenda, why not withdraw emotionally from a huge investment in the public sphere and retreat into private concerns? Many will, both to avoid the threatening atmosphere as well as to keep one’s sanity. But to the degree there is a withdrawal – and there will be at least some – Donald Trump will accumulate more power in his hands than any previous president in U.S. history.
I already argued that our greatest fear – the cessation of the effort to replace fossil fuels by recyclables – will proceed ahead because, given the accelerating lower costs combined with a degree of deregulation, the conversion will proceed at an even faster rate in spite of the cackle of climate change deniers in positions of power in Washington.

Will we end up with WWIII? Highly unlikely. Trump is not a warrior president. He will pick on and pick off the little guys, the small fry – the terrorists – but he will not get into a military war with the powerful rivals of the U.S. even as he builds the American military force even more. Donald Trump will end America’s war as a protector of human rights and a challenger, however inconsistent and half-hearted, to the repression of rights and freedom for journalists. He will get along, not only with Putin, but with many other populist dictators around the world – Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) and will further prop up Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt. He will befriend the right wing governments popping up all over Europe as Trump progenitors –Beata Szydio in Poland from the Law and Justice Party, Viktor Orbán and János Áder of the Jobikk Party in Hungary, Rumen Radev (president) from the Independent Party and Tsetska Tsacheva (VP) from the GERB Party in Bulgaria. Trump may desert Netanyahu for an even more right-wing regime in Israel. The range of moves in this area is unknown, but the pattern can be anticipated. And the pattern indicates little likelihood of moving the minute hand on the atomic doomsday clock closer to midnight. I do not believe WWIII is on the horizon.

What is?

What to do? How to respond?

What to do? How to respond?


Howard Adelman

I begin with one sample of some of the emails I have received in response to my latest series on the victory of Donald Trump and the Threat of Climate Change. When I woke up to this morning and opened my email, I read this expression of despair and a plea for answers and guidance.

Number I – A Desperate Plea for Direction

I’ve been reading your blog more and more this election season, and I’ve been paying especially close attention since last Tuesday night. I’m enjoying the series on Texas, and enjoying the irony that my deep-blue state of California seems less environmentally prepared than redder-than-red Texas. I’ve also noted, with some sadness, that you seem to be as rattled about Trump as anyone else I know; yours is the blog I turn to when I’m looking for someone to calm me. I ran to my email again and again last week hoping (!) to hear from good ol’ Howard a reason why WW3 is terribly unlikely, but I haven’t found it yet.

In fact, it’s the blog post on hope from late last week that I want to ask you about. For the record, I agree with it all. “Hope for the best” cannot be the way any of us in this country (or anywhere else) spend the next four years. But … well, maybe it’s because my generation hasn’t really had to struggle for anything politically (compared to the previous two or three), but I’m at a loss about what to do now. I know what it isn’t – hope, a.k.a lie back and take it – but I have no clue what it is. The night of the election, hundreds of UCLA students spilled out into the streets at 2am to protest the election of the first racist, sexist block of cheddar cheese ever to lead our country. I sympathized with them, but it seemed futile at the same time. What the hell is protesting going to do against a man who can’t even pay more than five minutes’ attention to the people he ostensibly likes?

Was my reaction cynical? Should I have been out there, with them under the spotlight of the five or six LAPD helicopters sent to watch the scrum? I’m confused. What I really want to do is find a Democratic Party apparatchik, grab them by the collar, and yell at them for a good ten minutes. But of course, I’m as much to blame as any of them. I’ve been locked in my own little echo chamber for the last year or two (or eight!), happily discounting any rumblings of populist fervor that’d indicate that the man has a chance to win it.

Mid-terms, as well as the first rumblings of yet another presidential election, are in two years. The Democratic Party is a walking joke, and it doesn’t even seem to know it.

So, my question: If you were Gabe’s, or Dan’s, or my age, what would you be doing right now?

I offer seven additional possibilities other than despair and emotional collapse. They are as follows:

II Hope for Success
III Hope for Failure
IV Exile and Return
V A Sceptical Detached Wait-and-See Approach
VI Stress on Protest as a Source of Solace and Redemption but Not Salvation
VII Principled Engagement, Sceptical Resistance and a Smorgasbord of Tactics
VIII A Coherent Strategy for Victory

I will deal with II-IV in this blog, with V-VII in Sunday’s blog and with VIII on Monday.

II Hope for Success

I will not spend much time on this option as I already dedicated a full blog to brand this option as avoidance. Some of this is rhetorical, required by the customs of transferring power in America and of losing an election. The Donald, who referred to himself as Obama’s “worst nightmare,” labeled the latter as “a disaster as president” and “the most ignorant president in our history,” the man who became the lead in the birther movement and made such an enormous effort to delegitimize Obama’s presidency, reverted to form after he won and called Barack Obama “a very, very good man.” Barack Obama, who had previously labelled Trump a danger to the realm, unfit and inexperienced to hold the highest office, responded to Trump’s “newly” discovered tone of reconciliation by expressing his hope directly to Donald Trump in their meeting at the White House on 11 November 2016 that Trump would succeed. “We want to do everything we can to help you succeed, because if you succeed we all succeed.”

Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on the day after the election set the tone. “Last night, I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him on behalf of our country. I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans.” The general population lacks the restraints of democratic custom. Yet they frequently echoed the same anodyne tranquilizers. “I can only hope that Trump will emerge other than he appears to be.” I only hope that, since Trump’s philosophy is all over the place, that his handlers and moderate Republicans will initiate some hope and guidance.” “I can only hope that the American Constitution and its system of checks and balances can offer sufficient restraints on a Trump presidency.” There are a myriad of variations.

Trump has shown that he is who he appears to be – a narcissistic, megalomaniacal demagogue. Hoping he will change is akin to a woman marrying a misogynist and bully and counting on changing him. It is futile. Further, rather than having an inchoate ideology, his strategies and tactics have buried the opposition within the Republican Party and then the Democratic Party. He wants power. He wants to win. And he has the determination and the will to do so. Others have diagnosed what is wrong with America and the world; Donald Trump knows how to take advantage of those weaknesses for his own ends. Even though he does not sail – or evidently partake in many other leisure activities (an issue of suspicion in its own way, though he does golf for business reasons, and cheats on his scores because he loves to win) revealing a man of focused vision and effort – sometimes he tacks towards those who try to moderate his methods and goals, but sooner rather than later tacks back and runs over them. Finally, he has clearly signaled and demonstrated a willingness to breach any political norm that stands in his way, including any purported system of checks and balances. He openly states that he is not a servant of the American Constitution. He has also shown that he can compromise and recapture under his wing those who dare oppose him and then throw them out to the wolves when he no longer has any use for such lackeys.

III Hope for Failure

There are those who predict that Donald Trump will crash and burn, that he will implode when operating within the complexity and constraints of government. But there is no record to back such a hope. Professor Allan Lichtman from American University I Washington, D.C., one of the very few to predict a Trump victory based on his 13 indicators, a professor who has correctly predicted the outcome of one presidential election after another by ignoring polls and utilizing other factors rooted in the record of the party in power, now predicts that Donald Trump will be impeached. “I’m quite certain Trump will give someone grounds for impeachment, either by doing something that endangers national security or because it helps his pocketbook.” But this prophecy is not rooted in Lichtman’s record of scholarship, but on his gut feeling.

Other hopes for failure are more ephemeral. Alan Clarey (http://captaincapitalism.blogspot.ca/2016/10/why-donald-trump-is-doomed-to-fail.html ) wrote: “I remember the Jesse Ventura administration, but the executive branch does not stand alone. This isn’t a monarchy, it’s a democracy. And the executive branch (gubernatorial or presidential) has to deal with a legislature. And in the legislature, BOTH Republicans and Democrats hate Trump.” Who is he kidding? It is the same thinking that seduced conservatives and Republicans who allowed Donald Trump to capture the presidential nomination. Further, it is based on the illusion that the U.S. is not a monarchy but a democracy when the U.S. is really a democratic monarchy with a similar system of checks and balances that restricted the range of actions of the British monarch in the eighteenth century.

Clarey continued: “I, sadly, predict this will go down very much like a Jesse Ventura administration and nothing long term, fundamental, nor genuinely hopeful will come of it. The truth is minorities are too brainwashed, people are too stupid, and congress is too corrupt to ‘get the government the WWII generation deserves.’ And while I know there may be some hope, perhaps wishful thinking, in the end you not only have to financially and physically prepare yourself for a decline with silver, guns, and overseas investments, you need to prepare yourself mentally for what’s about to come. Alas, I suggest you learn to enjoy the decline.”

There are other expressions of an anticipation of failure even though, as one who opted for hope for success, opined, “Wanting him to fail is like wanting the pilot to crash the plane we are all on.” Not quite! Just to crash his plane. But much of this is wishful thinking and does not arise from any analysis.

IV Exile and Return

Another reader wrote as follows:


I went to a service at an Interfaith Center on Sunday. The speaker was outstanding. She said that while Christ, Buddha, and other great spiritual leaders came here to show us the way, to be “way showers,” it is now WE who must show the way. We are our way showers, we are who we are waiting for and all must come forth no matter how raw or uncertain. She shared quotes from Facebook that were more inspiring than scripture. It was an amazing pep talk that gave vigor to Hirschman’s VOICE.

It was also “therapeutic” (to use your word) to be at that service with a full house where all had an opportunity to share personal thoughts. It was a time of “mourning” and “hoping.” I came home and announced I’m going to the Million Women March. And passing out safety pins. And going to escort kids to school if need be. The hate speech even in Ann Arbor is unnerving. Yesterday, I met a woman from Germany who reminded me that it took only 52 days for Hitler to dismantle the freedom to assemble. I keep waiting for the real therapeutic effect of your trip from the small blue dot in a big red state. I keep thinking (hoping?) you are going to tell us that the energy of commitment from the people you met to protesting Trump indicates he will not succeed in his tyranny. I keep hoping you share that you heard something, other than the cabbie’s remarks, that clue you in not to a deeper historical analysis of who Trump represents or how climate change progress is safe (for now) although these remarks are truly appreciated!, but a deeper forecast of the political climate to come. I’m hoping you’ll say the tyranny will not take effect because of what you saw or felt in Austin. I’m on the edge of my seat. Literally. Am I deluding myself?

I’m going to straight up ask: What would you do if you lived in the States right now? Would you EXIT and then give VOICE from out of the country? Would you give VOICE in the country and somehow Exit from within? Would you practice Loyalty to democracy and work from within the system to prevent the worst? A combination of these?

No. Exit at this time is NOT the answer. Too much is at risk and there is too little time. Leaving for Canada will not help. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, I gathered my wife and four children to make a break for the north with our storage of food and emergency supplies. But then I stopped. As a leader of the Nuclear Disarmament movement, had I not said over and over again that the world would be inhabitable if nuclear war broke out. The MAD doctrine at core was mad. There could be no escape from the devastation.

Exile within is also not a responsible option – though many will take it. Any such exile will simply expedite the rate at which Trump becomes an authoritarian. Inserting yourself within the system to wait another day is also futile. Mike Rogers was intelligent enough to discover this relatively early. He was an adviser on national security to the Trump campaign. Rogers became concerned about the direction. But he was forced out before he could bail and then made the customary polite statement of continuing support. “These past six months, it has been an honor to serve as National Security Senior Advisor to the Trump transition team. I look forward to continuing to provide advice and counsel as needed to the incoming Trump administration as they work to make America great again.” If you have integrity, working from within will be futile and frustrating, especially if you really want to help Trump. But if you want to subvert the Trump regime’s efforts, then that option offers a real possibility that I will explore.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Texas and Climate Change

Texas Positive Response to Climate Change


Howard Adelman

Texas is not like Bangladesh. Bangladesh has a huge population and is the state most susceptible to the impacts of climate change. Given its low elevation and severe tropical storms, irreversible processes already underway guarantee massive numbers of environmental refugees from Bangladesh. Given the endemic corruption in the state, one can expect political and economic destabilization and a breakout of riots. Texas, however great the crisis it faces, is far from a basket case.
Yesterday, I wrote about aquifers. Texas has a detailed state-wide map of its aquifers and of all the wells that tap into them, the amount of water each takes out and any problems with the quality of that water. California, in contrast, knows next to nothing about its aquifers. With a history of water wars within the state and against other states, well-drilling records are not accessible to the public. Texas has a system for regulating groundwater use; California, though it is considering such measures, lacks such regulations. I begin with aquifers, not simply because I discussed them in the last blog, but because the aquifer regime in Texas speaks to the issue of Texas being an anti-regulatory state rhetorically. But a system of regulations that address the issue of the consequences of climate change already exist even if successive Texas governments denounced the climate change thesis as a hoax.

With the exception of minor aquifers that supply 3% of Texas water, nine aquifers supply 97 percent of the groundwater used in Texas with different annual pumping rates, recharge rates and projected safe annual availability rates to ensure that water quality is not affected.

Pump Rates 1995
Pump Rates Annual Recharge Projected Safe Annual Yields
Ogallala 5.55 6.22 0.30 3.81
Edwards (Balcones) 0.53 0.47 0.44 0.44
Edwards-Trinity 0.19 0.25 0.78 0.78
Carrizo-Wilcox 0.45 0.49 0.64 0.85
Trinity 0.19 0.19 0.10 0.11
Gulf Coast 1.23 1.15 1.23 1.23
Others 0.32 0.39 0.43 0.97
TOTAL 8.56 9.16 3.92 8.19

One figure stands out. By far the largest aquifer source, Ogallala, has a projected safe level of extraction of 3.81 but a pumping rate twice that. This is an issue of concern to all Texans no matter what party or what their position on climate change. It is, I believe, the basis for cooperation on a number of resource issues that cross party lines. Further, it is an indicator that public policy on water as well as on energy sources will be based on pragmatic rather than ideological positions. Tough the state is ideologically anti-regulation, it has no trouble introducing regulations to handle issues on which there is consensus.

In a 2014 report (http://gov.texas.gov/files/ecodev/Renewable_Energy.pdf) on “The Texas Renewable Energy Industry, Texas is the No. 1 provider not only of wind energy, but of biofuel production, ranking number 6 in the world compared to all other countries as a source of renewable energy. Texas hosts the largest biomass power plant and the largest biodiesel plant in America and has the second largest number of workers of any state employed in the renewable energy industry. Texas is on schedule to have the largest solar PV R&D facility at Texas A&M and the nation’s largest 400 MW solar plant.

In terms of renewable energy, among American states, Texas ranks:
No. 1 in wind energy capacity
No. 1 in wind energy-related manufacturing
No. 1 in wind industry employment
No. 2 in total renewable energy employment
No. 1 in biodiesel production
No. 1 in solar potential
No. 6 in solar energy industry employment
No. 4 for clean energy-related patents.

How can a state governed by climate deniers be so advanced in renewable energy production and innovation? How can a state which has been so reliant on fossil fuel energy resources (it has the largest oil and gas industry in the country) also develop the largest capacity for renewable energy? In 2013, Texas ranked third in the nation by Ernst & Young in terms of the Renewable Attractiveness Indices, primarily based on its wind and solar energy production. Such a development seems counter-intuitive. Western Texas with its high plains and coastal winds was responsible for supplying 76% of renewable energy consumption in Texas in 2011. That percentage has continued to grow. Renewable energy industries, that began to take off in 2005, have experienced amazing growth, helped by a state-wide electrical grid that escapes any intervention of federal regulation since it exists solely within the state, reinforcing the state’s self-identification as an anti-regulatory state. With deregulation, competition increased as customers were allowed, even encouraged, to choose their electricity provider, even opting for companies that supplied electricity only from renewable energy sources. Costs have fallen and services increased.

There are several factors. Texas offers a low regulatory market for entrepreneurs. It takes at most 3 years to get approval for a project; the estimated time in California is 7 years plus. As a result, Texas, an anti-climate change state, has 2.5 times the production of renewable energy as California, a state steeped in incentives, regulations and programs to promote renewable energy. Secondly and perversely, Texas is not ideologically wedded to renewable energy. It is wedded to diversification and security in energy production. It couches these principles, not in terms of efforts to counter climate change, but in an ability to respond to changing economic and political conditions.

This does not mean that the state played no part in this robust environment for developing sources of renewable energy. Standards were set as well as targets with progress left to the private sector. Targets were surpassed in five years rather than the twenty years planned. Texas set up an investment fund to create jobs in the renewable energy field and a technological fund to invest in innovation in the renewable energy field. The state offered property tax exemptions and programs of renewable franchise tax deductions to provide incentives for renewable energy production. Texas now uses Smart Grid Technology to make energy distribution efficient.

In sum, money and profits rather than ideology have determined the extraordinary advances in renewable energy in Texas without the backlash of fears of job losses as renewable energy replaces and displaces fossil fuel energy sources. Most significantly, the cost of energy in Texas runs from one half to one-third of the cost of electricity in California while Texas has almost half as many employees as California employed in renewable energy companies. Further, the rural population of West Texas has been incentivized by rents for wind farms that are much higher than they could get from any other source. Further, there has been a spillover effect into manufacturing as companies engaged in wind energy production have become established to develop and improve the equipment needed for the extensive wind farms.

I have focused on wind sourced renewable energy rather than solar because it is in this area that Texas has a natural advantage. But solar sources are also being developed. In all areas of renewable energy, costs have dropped dramatically so that the only fossil fuel that is still competitive with efficient renewable energy production facilities is natural gas, and even here renewables are expected to overtake gas as the economic energy source in the very near future. I have also ignored the production of energy via nuclear plants. South Korea now gets half of its energy from such sources and the plants are considered to be among the safest in the world.

There is another factor that benefits renewables. Fracking to recover oil and gas uses water and water, if properly priced, should be more expensive than the fossil fuels obtained. Given the severe shortages of water, there is a strong collective incentive to shift to renewables without getting into a debate over the scientific validity of climate change. In some countries, like Israel, gas sources from the immense gas field off its coast will be used to make fresh water and help refill the aquifers, not only in Israel but in the West Bank and Jordan.

In sum, renewable energy sources have become very competitive in cost, are on route to displacing fossil fuels, have been a catalyst for innovation and at a time scale much shorter than anticipated ten years ago. Does that mean state regulations and incentives are not needed? Not at all. But they may not be needed as much as we previously believed. Research documenting progress in the development of renewable energy sources, in encouraging research itself, in attracting capital, in training labour and in fostering the development of renewable energy sources may be much more important than imposing carbon taxes. Far less regulation may be required, perhaps addressed to very different issues. Pull factors may be more helpful than push factors. If a carbon tax seems to still be needed, perhaps the rationale merely needs to be that fossil fuels pay the full cost of their employment and not just of their extraction.

Detaching indices of energy innovation and development, particularly in terms of renewable energy, from incentives for environmental innovation to counter climate change may be the best route. Uncoupling that which never really required coupling perhaps offers a route out of the climate change crisis.

Of course, Texas has had many natural advantages compared to California. Wind capacity is 45% greater than in California, so it is no surprise that Texas is the leading state for wind energy production. However, California (along with Oregon and Washington) remains the state which has been most innovative in both the environmental as well as the renewable energy sector. Perhaps in Texas, bolstering the research capacity may be a better way to deploy capital resources.

Thus, the fact that Donald Trump suffers from mindblindness about climate change may be beside the point. He described environmentalists as romantic tree huggers in his 2015 volume, Crippled America. But those battling climate change need not be ideologues or puritans in addressing the resolution rather than the depiction of the issue. If they are not, then they might be far more open to partnering with entrepreneurs and the private sector rather than relying on a government regulatory regime as the prime mode of making progress. If anti-tax, anti-subsidy and anti-regulation Trump decides to eliminate the two key tax credits, the renewable energy sector might be set back. But the sky will not fall in. There are enough incentives in place already. Enough players as well as enough momentum that the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables might be slowed down, but it will not be reversed.

The apocalypse will be avoided.

Is this true? Or is this just another expression of vain hope? After all, both wind and solar are not yet cheaper than gas. Remove the two U.S. federal tax credits and they will be even more expensive and make oil competitive. Inertia, however, is there, not the inertia of inaction but the inertia of continuous movement. If in Texas, just over 100,000 are employed in the renewable energy field, 600,000 are employed across America. (U.S. Energy and Employment Report) In equipment manufacturing and solar installation, “solar electric generation technologies employ about 209,000 workers across the nation; an additional 91,000 workers also spend some amount of time working with solar technologies. In the U.S., the solar sector has grown by just over 20% between November 2014 and November 2015, and employers expect to increase total employment by another 15% over the coming 12 months.” (p. 28)

“Wind generation firms employ just over 77,000 workers. The majority of employers reported difficulty hiring qualified workers over the past 12 months; about seven in ten reported hiring difficulty, while 18% note it was very difficult to find qualified applicants. The most cited reason for difficulty was lack of experience, training, or technical skills (44%), followed by insufficient qualifications, certifications, or education (33%) and competition or a small applicant pool (19%). Firms report the most difficulty in hiring for management positions (27%), as well as engineers (27%) and sales, marketing, or customer service representatives (16%).” So the most important impediment to growth in the industry may be skills shortages.

Skilled labour shortages are not only a problem for the renewable energy field but for the fossil fuel industry as well as construction and installation. “Over three‐quarters of construction and installation firms (77%) report hiring difficulty over the past 12 months; three in ten (32%) note it was very difficult to find qualified applicants. Almost half of all firms surveyed note that lack of experience, training, or technical skills (43%) was a significant reason for hiring difficulty, as well as insufficient qualifications, certifications, or education (33%). Construction firms encountered difficulties trying to find installation workers (30%), technicians or technical support (26%), and electricians or general construction workers (25%). “This is where government intervention is most important – in education and training.

And this does not touch the manufacturing and the distribution sectors as well as professional and business services connected to energy, particularly the renewable energy sector. Of course, renewables still represent only 10% of the energy market. Coal alone is 18%. Gas is over 27% and petroleum represents almost 35% of the market. The rate of growth of renewables, however extraordinary, may not be nearly sufficient to offset the fossil fuels within a reasonable time. This is why the renewable sector requires a quantum push. But if that push comes from demands and penalties, political resistance and insufficient and inadequately trained personnel might undercut any push. The changeover will take time no matter how it is accomplished. Encouragement of and impetus from the private sector may be the more reliable force for ensuring rapid change. In any case, at least in Texas, wind energy has become cheaper than coal or oil and this will soon be the case with even natural gas.

If Trump promotes infrastructure, that means renewing the electrical grid to better accommodate solar and wind energy sources and the distribution of that energy from areas of economic production. What if Trump cancels the Production Tax Credit, the subsidies on costs of renewables for the first ten years, or the Investment Tax Credit subsidizing both consumers and manufacturers of renewable energy? The Investment Tax Credit will not phase out until 2019 and the Investment Tax Credit not until 2023. The subsidies are probably sufficient to get renewables over the hump so that they become more than competitive across the board in most areas of America, especially true if the subsidies for coal, oil and gas are also phased out at the same time. In any case, cancellation would meet strong resistance from Congressional Republicans since these two measures were introduced in the two Bush regimes.

As the report by Maggie Koerth-Baker on renewable energy published two days ago, and sent to me by my eldest son, pointed out, climate change is politically contentious, but energy change is not. 73% of Americans favour renewables replacing fossil fuels, including a majority of Republicans. Is that report naïve, as some ecologists contend? Those critics tend to be the puritans and the ideologues who only have faith in government initiatives and are suspicious of the private sector providing a significant impetus. But Texas suggests otherwise.

One of my other sons sent me another article by Michael Webber published yesterday in The New York Times arguing convincingly that “The Coal Industry Isn’t Coming Back” in spite of The Donald’s promises that he made to the West Virginia ex-coal miners. To repeat, natural gas beat coal, not Washington. And it is illusory to believe that Trump can and will resist these market forces. As in many other areas, expect Donald Trump to rely on lying and circus entertainment to distract the many West Virginians that voted for him.

Donald Trump may bring the American economy to its knees. Donald Trump might even instigate World War III or at a minimum expand violence around the world. But it is highly unlikely that he will now be able to impede the momentum behind enormous growth in renewable energy sources, even if he wanted to try. And there is little reason for him to make that effort.

One of my readers, who appears to be a critic of tree huggers, wrote, “in the field of climate science there are no eloquent scientists that speak intelligently or regularly as experts on this subject in North America.” This is blatantly false and reinforces the climate change deniers. He wrote, “Howard, where are the people who are proving their scientific theories in mass media? Up until now, the load is left on the inferior shoulders of politicians and now philosophers.” However, all recognized scientific associations endorse the enormous danger of climate change and link it with the use of fossil fuel. “Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (2009) The American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2006 issued a bulletin that stated that, “The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.” In 2012, the American Meteorological Society proclaimed that, “It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide.”

The conclusions are unequivocal. Climate change deniers simply live in an alternate universe that is a fool’s paradise. Nevertheless, the forces underway are sufficient to get around troglodytes and self-deceivers like Donald Trump. That same correspondent wrote that the hole in the ozone layer and its growth proved to be a fiction. It was not. The banning of freon (R-12, R-22 and CFC-122 refrigerants) in 1995 reversed the process. My correspondent also wrote that, “Strangely though, carbon usage to create energy to create electricity will vanish soon. New solar science in Saudi Arabia is so revolutionary that the Saudis believe their solar energy creation will allow them to generate enough electricity that petroleum will cease to be the Saudis largest export. Bell Laboratories is leading a plan to have the world’s arid areas to create massive solar electrical plants, sufficient to stop usage of carbon in the whole world of creating electricity.” The only fault with this statement is that it is not strange but becoming the new norm.

What about my claim that the private sector initiatives already underway with sufficient momentum will prevent Armageddon? No guarantees. Of course, Donald Trump would not agree with this. He is a climate change denier. This does not mean that his business model will not threaten to bankrupt America because of greatly reduced taxes alongside enormous increases in public expenditures. His economic policies will accrue to his associates, the media interventions he proposes and his new bankruptcy laws will create enormous distortions. Renewable energy replacement may not proceed at the same pace as if it had enormous government backing. But deregulation may, in certain ways, help such developments if Texas is any indicator, in spite of climate change deniers. My only claim is that there is enough momentum that I for one do not have to despair about Trump reversing the replacement of fossil fuels by renewables. I may despair about Donald Trump in a myriad of other ways, but the fact that he is a climate change denier says more about his persona than it does about impeding significantly changes underway in the energy sector.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Climate Change Denial in Texas

Climate Change and Texas Therapy


Howard Adelman

Yesterday’s blog on climate change clearly hit a nerve. So did the fact that I had gone on too long to provide an answer. Look at a few selections:


As for THIS latest blog you just wrote?…………………damn………..I need the therapy. And I need it now. I am still bummed by that doofus. NOT just because of the obvious reasons but also because he has shattered all my moral and ethical constructs. It is like he is the little old man of OZ as yet undiscovered. Just wind and special effects but weaker than hell. He blew away Tinkerbell and all my Disney foundations. Good, it seems, has no chance against lies and corruption, theft and cheating. Dumb wins. Hell, dumb and evil won.

Admittedly, HC was undeserving but that does not excuse or legitimize Trump in any way. If Disney was right, the USA would have voted Obama back in despite the two-term limit….as a write-in.

Please, HA, save me………………….I’ll take a magic feather……whatever……….


Not sure why Texas would be therapeutic here…What’s missing in your analysis is Trump’s model of economic growth, which is debt and carbon-led. He doesn’t have anything else in his head. We can analyze the China card or Putin’s mailed fist all we want, but it really comes down to the model of accumulation.


Our daughter, an expert for Standard and Poor’s on utilities, currently finishing 6 months of being seconded to Canary Wharf but returning home by December 1 says: the individual states will continue to implement anti-climate change policies. Colorado, Arizona, Texas and California have huge investments in green energy (and this I know due to in my role as expert witness in hearings re wind turbines). So I am predicting tomorrow we will read that you have learned about massive green energy projects in Texas. Am I right? Bloomberg news is a good source about the implementation of green energy everywhere. Further word from my daughter. She is not concerned about Trump and climate change. She is concerned about Trump starting World War III.

Dead on in the third, though also the second. So how can Texas serve as a model for dealing with climate change? My thesis, absorbed from my nephew who is a professor of Environmental Law in Austin, is precisely that – the investment in the private sector in renewable energy is so advanced and now more than competitive with fossil fuel sources of energy. That economic edge will mean that the market, and not government regulation or intervention, will now assume the leading edge in fighting climate change and do so in spite of Donald Trump’s proposed irrational economic policies. Tomorrow we will see whether this thesis has any validity. (My apologies to my first respondent above, but I have offered you a bone to chew on while you eagerly await tomorrow’s contribution.) Today, I want to offer a portrait of why Texas seems like the least likely political environment and the most needed physical environment to implement measures to impede and reverse climate change.

However, before I plunge into economics, let me discuss a sociological and political lesson that I received upon my arrival in Austin, Texas. I took a cab from the airport to my nephew’s house upon my arrival. As it turned out, the cab driver had voted for Trump. Though I was unable to ascertain or learn which Middle Eastern country he was from – he dodged my queries though he was unhesitating in telling me about how he voted even though he quickly learned that I was critical of the election of Donald Trump. Why did he vote for The Donald? In his words, Donald did not talk like all the other experts, media people and rich guys. He talked like he was one of us. As he put it, “He talked like we do.” Crass. Opinionated. Straight from the hip rather than the brain. Trump may have been a billionaire, but that simply made it more significant that he was not an elitist member of the establishment.

Until that conversation, I had come to believe that the election of Trump was a right-wing populist revolt against democratic responsible government and urban elites in general. There is some truth in that conclusion, but it is far from the whole truth. Donald Trump is the first American presidential candidate in the history of that country to openly assert, in effect, that America was and still is structured as a democratic monarchy and that he was running to be the elected monarch of the American people. Though he is very wealthy, he claimed to be running against the well-endowed who use their wealth to enrich themselves. And who should know that better than he who spent a career buying the favours of politicians. Donald Trump was also running against career politicians; he claimed Hillary Clinton was an exemplar who may have said that she worked for all the people, but Trump accused her along with many others of using their positions in political office to enrich themselves at the expense of that citizenry. Donald was running against the plutocracy of the rich and the would-be rich.

Trump made his wealth in the private sector. Now he has used his private wealth to achieve public office ostensibly to work on behalf of the citizens. And on behalf of the state of which those citizens are members to make that state “great again”. Trump is not viewed as a monarch who becomes a tyrant to benefit himself financially. He presents himself as a man of property and leisure purportedly dedicated to serving the citizenry and the state. He is neither a tradesman nor a labourer, neither a craftsman nor a professional who still has to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. He is an individual who portrays himself as a plutocrat, but one now opposed to the plutocracy of wealth, privilege and power. He is the American Moses who, though raised in a palace, would lead his people to freedom and glory. Though not quite articulated in this way, this is how that cab driver saw The Donald. And the cabbie was born in some Middle East country.

A plutocrat uses wealth (ploutos, πλοῦτος) to acquire power (kratos, κράτος). Trump was perceived as using wealth to exercise power on behalf of the citizenry who felt excluded from the centres of power and were looking for a champion. They had no illusions that the United States was a country that inherently was run by the people and for the people. Rather, it was a country that required an elected monarch who served all effectively disenfranchised citizens. The use of Greek is important because it was Aristotle who, 2,500 years ago, articulated the various possible forms of government.

In Book V, Part X of his Politics, Aristotle pointed out that in one form of monarchy, aristocrats chose the king from among their number to protect the interests of the better class against the people. That monarch could and might seize absolute power from his fellow aristocrats; in doing so, he would become a tyrant. But there is another form of tyranny which marries oligarchy to democracy to create a system of governance ostensibly to work on behalf of the people against the plutocrats. As Aristotle wrote, “a tyrant is chosen from the people to be their protector against the notables.” He went on to write, “History shows that almost all tyrants have been demagogues who gained the favor of the people by their accusation of the notables.” Tyrants can arise from aristocrats who turn against their own class after being chosen from that class, or begin as demagogues ostensibly acting on behalf of the people and becoming a tyrant via this route.

America is headed towards tyranny, make no mistake about it. The system of checks and balances will be used to consolidate power not check it. From the conversation with the taxi driver, I saw all my fears validated. But what about my fear of this demagogue and would-be tyrant who is deeply embedded in conspiracy theories and is a denier of the aristocracy of science and particularly those scientists who documented climate change? Those scientists have warned the populace of the dangers of climate change. One cannot expect Trump to be the one who advances the environmental policies needed. Instead, he is expected to exacerbate the problems associated with climate change.

Rick Perry, the past Republican Governor of Texas, was one of America’s most outspoken climate change deniers. At the same time, he declared a drought emergency in 200 counties of Texas over five years ago. In his proclamation, he stated, “Record high temperatures, preceded by significantly low rainfall, have resulted in declining reservoir and aquifer levels, threatening water supplies and delivery systems in many parts of the state.” So in the face of extreme weather and its acknowledgement, the governor doggedly refused to accept climate change as a reality. His successor two years ago, Governor Greg Abbott joined other climate change deniers from Texas to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Clean Power Plan” and new EPA regulations.

The governors are not the only ones opposing regulations to reduce fossil fuel emissions. They are backed by a cohort of Republicans who agree that climate change is a hoax. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the lower 48 states. The NOAA linked extreme events in Texas and drought to climate change. How did the legislatures react? Not by combating climate change, but by putting band-aids on the effects. One might argue, as Abbott did, that EPA regulations interfere with Texas sovereignty and will certainly result in higher energy prices for Texans. In other words, Abbott possibly may not be a fanatical climate change denier but a believer in state’s rights and an opponent of increased regulation. After all, his statements on climate change have been somewhat equivocal.

“As a matter of historical fact, the climate changes. Long before fossil fuel was ever discovered and used on a large-scale industrial basis, the earth’s climate changed substantially on numerous occasions. However, many scientists believe that certain human activities impact the climate. Others dispute the extent to which any activity has a particular level of influence on the climate, which is why this matter needs to continue to be investigated. We must be good guardians of our Earth, but we must base our decisions on peer-reviewed scientific inquiry, free from political demagogues using climate change as an excuse to remake the American economy.”

A coalition has been formed led by former banker and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr., former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire hedge fund manager-turned-environmentalist, Tom Steyer. The three lead a bi-partisan 20-member governing committee of mostly former presidential Cabinet members. They commissioned a report – “Come Heat and High Water: Climate Risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas.” In the absence of any steps to reverse the process, that report singled out Texas as one of the states most negatively impacted by climate change. By mid-century, Texans could expect a sharp increase in heat-related deaths (4,500 per year in the next 5-15 years) and storm-related losses ($650 million/year), and a decrease in worker productivity and crop yields. Extreme hot weather days with temperatures in excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit would increase from 43 to 106 days per annum, almost 30% of the year. Further, the sea can be expected to rise in Galveston by 2 feet and global warming was already identified by climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon as the major cause of the devastating floods that recently hit Texas.

But these are just the visible consequences of climate change. There are invisible ones as well, that is, ones we cannot see with the naked eye. All of them are not only negative effects of climate change, but also instigators of more climate change to different degrees. They affect the air, the oceans and the regions below the surface of the earth. The most important of them is the CO2 thrust into the atmosphere. It is viewed as the major catalyst for climate change responsible for the so-called greenhouse effect. At the beginning of the twentieth century, scientists hypothesized that lower levels of CO2 in the atmosphere had been responsible for the ice ages. They began to speculate and then prophecize about the reverse effect. Higher levels of CO2 has resulted and would continue to result in increased global warming.

In the year I was born, 1938, a scientist, G.S. Callendar, pointed out that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was climbing and raising global temperatures. The overwhelming number of scientists, though not quite climate change deniers, were certainly climate change sceptics. But as the evidence mounted, as measurements year after year documented the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, correlated that with accelerating rates of climate change, conducted lab experiments to verify the hypothesis, between 1960 and 1990, virtually all scientists accepted climate change as a reality and CO2 as the principal cause. But this was also a consequence as desertification spread and there were fewer trees to convert the gas back into oxygen. And these are just illustrations.

The coral in the sea and the huge fish populations in the oceans have been devastated by relatively minor fluctuations in the temperature of the ocean. More heat produced goes into the oceans than into the atmosphere, considerably more. While the atmosphere absorbs 2.3% of the additional heat produced and the continents almost as much and the glaciers and ice sheets about the same amount, 93.4% of additional heat is absorbed by the oceans. Admittedly, oceans are huge. But not nearly huge enough for the huge volumes of heat produced. The temperatures of the oceans began a steady rise since the 1970s at the same time that CO2 in the atmosphere was clearly having noticeable effects. From 1970 to 2010, the global ocean heat content has risen dramatically. That has been correlated with coral bleaching and the decline in the prevalence of fish stocks. That has in turn resulted in further increases in ocean temperatures and more and more widespread heat anomalies. These changes in turn affect our weather patterns and produce more violent extremes of weather. The droughts and the forest fires unleashed in turn accelerate the rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 and ocean temperatures.

However, the hidden result that I want to point out is the effect on the aquifers, in particular the aquifers in Texas. Aquifers are a critical part of the eco-systems method of recirculating fresh water. They are the storage chambers of many varieties that exist below the surface of the earth, unseen but not untapped. An aquifer is rock or sediment of different degrees of permeability (in contrast to clay and shale) that transports water underground in sufficient volume and quality to be used by humans. Aquifers have recharge and discharge areas. The recharge areas are shrinking and the recharge ability has sunk below sustainability. Our aquifers are being drained. Trump wanted to drain the swamp in Washington, but there is a real and present danger that his policies might accelerate the rate at which our aquifers are being drained with just the enhanced use of fracking to recover gas and oil beneath the surface, though there are many other causes.

In Texas, aquifers provide more than half the water supply, 2.5 trillion gallons. 90% of the state’s groundwater comes from only nine major aquifers. Some of those aquifers as they are being drained are becoming increasingly saline (the Lipan aquifer). The most prolific aquifer of all and one of the largest in the world is the Ogallala aquifer of the Southern High Plains that provides water for Midwest states (Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico) and, in particular, West Texas. When there is drought, and there has been now year after year, conflict between agricultural and domestic pumpers increase. 27% of land irrigated in the U.S. takes place because of aquifers like Ogallala. That aquifer is at clear risk of over-extraction and pollution. Since 1950, because of agricultural use to feed water hungry crops like corn, the size of the aquifer has been reduced by almost 10%. “The depletion between 2001 and 2008, inclusive, is about 32% of the cumulative depletion during the entire 20th century.” The rate of use has clearly become unsustainable.

This is but a sideward glance into the problem. Texas may cumulatively be the most affected area in the United States by climate change. Yet it is home to the most vociferous climate change deniers. In the face of these disasters in 2015, Ted Cruz (Republican Senator from Texas in the U.S. Senate), already a contender for the Republican presidential nomination, and a prominent climate change denier, dodged all efforts to link these devastating events with climate change. In other words, on both the state and the federal level, Texas was both a hotbed of climate change effects and of climate change deniers who buried their heads in the sand to retain an irrational set of beliefs. Yet it is in Texas, in this oil-rich state with a plethora of offshore oil platforms, that we have witnessed the most innovative steps to combat climate change, not because of public policy but in spite of it.

Texas would appear to be the state least likely to respond to the challenges of climate change given the politicians in charge. Texas is also a state where it is imperative that the challenges of climate change be tackled. So how and why has the reversal taken place in Texas and what is the extent?
Tomorrow: The Texas Inversion and Its Causes

Trump and Global Warming

Trump and Global Warning


Howard Adelman

I went to Austin, Texas to attend a Bat Mitzvah of the daughter of my nephew. It turned out that the trip to Texas was one of the most therapeutic sessions I have ever had.

I had left in despair, despondent at the Trump victory, but primarily on the role his climate changing denial regime would have on the prospect of combating global warning. After all, it was already two minutes after midnight and much of the change wrought by the use of fossil fuels was already underway. Most of the impetus already seemed irreversible. Gore had possibly been cheated out of being elected in 2001 and we had eight years, I believe, in which the policies to combat climate change had been set back. President Obama reversed course and began to implement key policies. But he was stymied and blocked for much of his term on many fronts by a Republican dominated Congress that was populated by a plethora of recalcitrant climate change deniers. Would we now be faced with a presidency combined with a Congress in the leading economic power in the world that would not only block but reverse a great deal of the progress to reverse climate change?

After all, to use a cliché, time was of the essence. We were already behind the eight ball – it is a morning for mixed metaphors and clichés. With four and possibly eight more years of policies dedicated to undermining and even reversing efforts to resist and reverse the forces propelling climate change, climate change would not only be irreversible but would carry us well beyond the benchmark of a two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures.

Donald Trump had blamed the belief in global warming as a propaganda coup fostered and propelled by the Chinese government to help cripple the American economy and give the Chinese economy a boost. As he saw it, even if there was a degree of climate change, it would just mean that frosty days would become more pleasant. Never mind the prognosticators who predicted that much of Florida would be underwater. They were as useless (and corrupt) (and wrong) as the pollsters dealing with the presidential election. Never mind the scientists who warned of more violent weather patterns and increased devastating storms in some areas and drought in others. Never mind the 97% of environmental scientists who insisted that the ecosystem of the earth, which was delicately balanced, was on course to becoming unbalanced to the degree that life on earth would become precarious. After all, Donald Trump could declare not only that he knew more about ISIS than the generals, he could also proclaim that he knew more about climate than scientists and forecasters.

The fringe fanatics denouncing climate change doctrines as a hoax, the nutcases regarded as such in the vast majority of countries in the world, had now won the keys to the government institutions in the most powerful country in the world. These true believers insist that human activity does not underpin climate change. Climate change has nothing to do with the burning of fossil fuel. Climate change was not a man-made disaster, but a natural shift in climate that has taken place over the life span of the planet. And many of them believe that the cosmos was only created less than 6,000 years ago.

Currently, the Marrakech Climate Change Conference is underway in Morocco under the auspices of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. We already know about Donald Trump’s repeated assertions that he will tear up many of the treaties entered into with respect to many spheres of international policy, including efforts to set back the forces for climate change. This is the 22nd year since the Conference of the Parties (COP) initiated their work on reversing climate change and the twelfth annual session of the parties committed to the Kyoto protocol in 2004. The conference underway started just the day before the American elections. A reported heavy pall hung over the conference after the results of the American election were announced as the conference entered its third day. The conference continues until the 18th of November. Do the participants know more than I did? How have they avoided sinking into despair? Will they fall back and rely on imagined hope?

After all, it looked as if the policies required to resist the forces of climate change had finally been given a boost to the momentum for change. On 5 October 2016, the threshold for entry into force of the Paris Agreement had been achieved and on 4 November 2016, four days before the American election, the Paris Agreement went into force. The parties to the Paris Agreement would move on to meet in Marrakech. Much other work had been scheduled to adopt and advance international policies designed to impede the forces of climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had been put in place which recognized there was a present enormous danger 22 years ago on 21 March 1994. 197 countries had ratified the Convention. Would The Donald now withdraw the U.S. ratification since he personally denied that the danger existed? The UNFCCC, along with the UN Convention of Biodiversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, had been adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio the year before and was subsequently reinforced by the Convention on Wetlands.

The goal of all these meetings and the subsequent agreements was to prevent and even reverse dangerous human interference with the climate system of which the greatest danger by far was the dependence of our economy not just on energy – that was not a problem in itself – but on fossil fuels for that energy, fossil fuels the burning of which had been found to be responsible for increased temperatures around the world, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the increasingly rapid melting of the ice caps at the North and South poles. If Donald Trump and his Republican cohorts in Congress refused to recognize there was even a problem, how could the climate agenda be advanced? But a man had been elected president of the United States who disagreed with the consensus among climatologists. When the UNFCCC was agreed upon in 1994, there had been some degree of dissent and uncertainty about climate change. There was virtually none anymore. But a man had been elected president of the United States who disagreed with the consensus among climatologists. Donald Trump still claimed that man-made climate change was a hoax and, even if it wasn’t, all it would mean would be that he could build his golf courses in the Arctic and Antarctic.

The UNFCCC had defined a clear goal: to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system” and (this is very important) to do so to achieve a level of change “within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.” We are already well behind that envisioned timeline. Would the Trump administration smash it to pieces effectively dooming the earth’s eco-system?

After all, the Convention required developed countries to lead the way since the onus was on them; the industrialized economies were responsible for producing most of the pollutants over the last 150 years. They would have the greatest responsibility for cutting emissions as well as the responsibility for helping developing countries reduce their emissions. Emissions were to be reduced to 1990 levels, now considered by many already to be an unachievable target. The best part of these agreements from the UNFCCC forward to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement has been the creation of a monitoring network to track both the threat and the efforts underway to counter the threat with a reporting mechanism in place.

Would Trump eliminate the American tracking and reporting system because he both does not believe in the danger of climate change and wants to cut government programs so he can cut taxes? Would he undermine the incentives and the policies in place to develop alternative clean sources of energy as prescribed in the Kyoto Protocol (11 December 1997 followed by the 2001 rules for implementation in 2001) in order to achieve internationally binding emission reduction targets? We are all very well aware that these have not been achieved. We also suspect that had Al Gore won the presidency, there would have been a far greater chance that they would have been achieved, or, at the very least, we would have been much closer to those targets.

The Marrakech meetings were intended to mark the inflexion point, the point at which the trend lines towards disaster were, if not reversed, the point in time in which policies and programs were introduced to implement concrete climate responsible programs on the ground and begin the process of reversal to reinforce international collaboration in order to shift to a more sustainable economic development model. In Morocco, they hoped to reinforce the momentum and to celebrate successes. Then, on the third day, the delegates learned that Donald Trump had been elected president of the United States. One could presume that virtually no one in the conference hall was not suffering from despair and frustration. The nemesis of all their fears had achieved power.

The despair went far beyond the fears of a nuclear war. The last time I personally felt this degree of fear for the world was at the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, over fifty years ago. That same fear, but in spades, engulfed me now. I was worried for my six children. I was worried for my ten grandchildren. I was worried for my colleagues and friends. I was worried for every inhabitant on this planet, including men like Donald Trump who believe their convictions trump scientific evidence.

How did the delegates in Morocco respond? They fell back on hope. After all, Donald Trump had been very inconsistent in the policies he advocated. Now he was backtracking on a number of them. Perhaps those policies had been advanced for political advantage in the election with no depth of belief behind them. But as the reports indicated, as the delegates at the conference tried to put on a brave face to the news, the anxiety level had risen considerably. After all, how could his years of climate denial not be defining? Further, it may be impossible even for him to unwind the Paris Agreement.

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the delegates to the congress that, “If the U.S. pulls out of this, and is seen as becoming a rogue nation on climate change, that will have implications for everything else on President Trump’s agenda when he wants to deal with foreign leaders. And I think he will soon come to understand that.” Tim Roberts, Professor of Sociology at Brown University, expressed the hope that deep down Donald Trump was not necessarily an anti-environmentalist. It was perhaps a pose. In any case, if he planned to invest in infrastructure, what better direction to give to that funding that investments in renewable energy?

The only problem with these fall backs onto hope is that they do not accord with Donald Trump’s history. He has promised investments in roads and bridges, in inner cities and in the devastated regions of the rust belt. He had set aside the traditional patterns of dealing with other world leaders and especially the bureaucracies of the UN which he cannot sufficiently disparage. Most important, as offered, Trump’s policies on energies would lead to a roasted planet. He promotes “clean” coal and the revival of the coal industry in West Virginia. He has promised to increase initiatives in fracking that have made the U.S. independent in its need for oil and gas over the last ten years. Is the best one can hope for is that he will opt for “dirty” and cheaper gas over coal that would still pour loads of CO2 into the atmosphere? After all, gas killed goal, not Washington. But most of all, the loss of U.S. leadership in the world will be felt and will have a profound negative effect on the momentum already in place.

So where do these committed individuals now rest their hopes? On Trump’s inconsistencies? On his unpredictability? How will that deal with the U.S. brief tenure as a climate change leader in the world? Could Britain take up the mantle of leadership, a Britain that is bogged down in dealing with the threat of Brexit? Could the Europeans almost totally pre-occupied with the “invasion” of refugees and illegal migrants? Could Canada with its huge investments in the tar sands in Alberta and the oil wells off Newfoundland?

Mariana Panuncio-Feldman of the World Wildlife Fund is betting that the U.S. will want to retain its international leadership role. “If the U.S. wants to remain a relevant global player in the economic arena, it is going to have to recognize that it needs to face the climate crisis and address it. And we expect the new administration to do that. Other countries are not waiting.” In this case, false expectations reinforce hope and blind us to likely outcomes. Trump did not surprise the world with his election because deep down he really was not a climate change denier. He surprised us because, in spite of the wayward and independent course he took to win the presidency, he achieved victory. If he was victorious in spite of the advice of his “handlers”, why would he now surprise anyone when he accedes to the presidential office and suddenly become a supporter of policies promoting efforts at setting back the momentum for climate change?

Could Russia be an alternative nexus for leadership on climate change? Given its significant dependence of oil and gas both for its own domestic economy and for earnings from the export of oil and gas, Russia is least likely to take up that leadership role. What about the vaunted leadership provided by the agreement between Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping? Both leaders were determined to leave behind an enduring legacy of action on climate change and a record of a partnership between China and the United States in resisting the forces of climate change. This was to be accomplished through the use of public resources to finance and encourage the transition toward low carbon technologies as a priority as well as putting in place multilateral standards for coal-fired power plants? The G-20 Summit in Hangzhou this year advanced the program through fostering innovation and implementation to advance renewable and clean energy outcomes.

The Americans and Chinese had put in place bilateral agreements to advance the Paris Agreement. They would undergird the resistance to climate change with financial support to carry forward their historic and very ambitious climate change agreements. Would the hard-headed Chinese leadership now fall back on hope in the face of an election of an American president who seemed deliberately to mispronounce the name of their country and to threaten China with economic sanctions for alleged currency manipulation? Not very likely. And the evidence is already in that China will simply use the opportunity of Donald Trump’s election to succeed the U.S. as the leader of the world, though no longer of the free world.

Look at the evidence. Even before the election, facing a possible Trump victory and sensitive to the Chinese public reactions to the insults thrown in China’s direction, China ordered its news media not to provide any extensive or prominent news coverage of the election. Websites, news outlets and TV and radio networks were instructed NOT to provide live coverage as the election results poured in. What did they cover instead? The meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Vladimir Putin. China never phoned and congratulated Trump on his victory, but simply issued the bland statement that, “China is closely following the U.S. presidential election, and expects to maintain healthy Sino-U.S. relations with the new government.”

China had already focused in its reporting on the “dark side” of the election and characterized the election as a “meaningless farce,” a choice between Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. The conclusion: the status of Western democracy had been seriously weakened and America would lose its leadership role sooner rather than later. China would be in a position to replace America. Using the climate change agenda among a plethora of additional options, China would become more powerful as it took advantage of this heaven-delivered opportunity.

The democrats in China had been undermined by the Trump victory. As Fangsi de qingchun opined, “I think Trump is the tragedy of the American people. How did he win? It must be a scam. Now I think cats and dogs can be president!” And depression swept through the Far East as its stock markets fell dramatically, as memories of Trump’s promises to abandon the nuclear umbrella and his demands that Japan and Korea pay their “fair share” were recalled. Praying that President-elect might change seemed a chimera.

Is there an alternative to this black cloud over the most important issue of our time?

With the help of Alex Zisman