Despite Trump’s promises, US coal consumption continues to decline.

The New York Times reports: While President Trump has offered some regulatory relief to the industry, market forces still dictate a gloomy future — one largely shaped by the glut of cheap natural gas yielded by the drilling boom in shale fields near here and across much of the nation.

Last year, coal consumption in the United States fell by 2.4 percent, falling to its lowest level in nearly four decades. In the early weeks of 2018, national coal production has continued to decline from a year ago despite the frigid winter. A weather-related increase in exports last year yielded a modest gain in jobs, but it is not considered sustainable.

In addition there is a shift towards different sources of energy.

feb wesrbr

Has this message been lost in the Australian politicians?

coal

The recent antics of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Treasurer would suggest that Australian policy makers have a long way to go.

It is also a warning that government policy makers, however active and determined, and no one would argue that Donald Trump was either of these, can do little in the face of the relentless march of market forces.

 

Donald Trump and the problem of his tax returns

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump steadfastly refused to release his tax returns claiming that it would be inappropriate because he was under investigation by the IRS.

Now his excuse for not releasing his tax returns is that he won the election and clearly people don’t care about his tax returns.

9920f18e-ac5a-4dc6-87d4-5b0e545d037e

 The Trumpster gives his standard response to anybody who disagrees with him

It may be that people don’t care about his tax returns and the fact that he hasn’t paid any income tax for over a decade. But it does seem unlikely.

Certainly Trump has no basis for maintaining that the American public is not interested in his financial affairs and potential conflicts of interest they will create.

Not on the basis of the way the votes were cast.

The results from the US presidential election indicate that Hillary Clinton got 48% (65.9m) of the votes while Donald Trump got 46% (63m). Because of the gerrymander of the US political system this was enough to give Trump a majority of the Electoral College votes.

It would appear that the total turnout of the US electorate was around 56% of which the  two major candidates got roughly 26% each.

You can be pretty certain that the 26% voted for Hillary Clinton would all want to see the Trump tax returns made public.

There is also a possibility, however remote, that some of the people who voted for Donald Trump would also think that he should make his tax returns public.

As for the 45% who didn’t vote, it’s impossible to estimate what they think.

But there is no logic in Trump’s claiming that because he won the election, people are not interested in his tax returns.

It is highly that as his presidency continues and more information about his business dealings in Russia becomes public, interest in his tax returns will intensify.

The seeds of the problem are already being sown.

In his Senate hearing, James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense, told the Senate armed services committee that Russia has “chosen to be a strategic competitor, an adversary in key areas”.

While Mattis said he was “all for engagement” with the Russians, he warned of “increasing number of areas in which we will have to confront Russia”.

The American public has a right to know that the US president does not have business interests and obligations in Russia that will preclude him from doing this.

Donald Trump and the part-time presidency.

I can’t help myself.

Fellow bloggers will understand. There is a deep compulsion that drives us to write. Particularly in the face of overwhelming stupidity, mendacity, pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

So Donald PG Trump will be a source of irresistible inspiration. Please bear with me for the next four years.

In his most recent press conference, generally described as a train wreck, he said that

He has “no conflict of interest provision as president” and that he would be free to run the Trump organisation and the government at the same time if he wanted.

Nevertheless, he said he had decided against it.

images-2

It staggers belief. The man thinks that the job of President of the United States can be done on a part-time basis.

It makes you wonder if he has any idea what the task involves.

He has said he is handing control of the Trump organisation to his two sons.

(L-R) Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump attend the ground breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014. The $200 million transformation of the Old Post Office Building into a Trump hotel is scheduled for completion in 2016.   REUTERS/Gary Cameron    (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS REAL ESTATE) - RTR3ZUF0

Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., 

Was it me? Or did he appear to forget their names during the press conference?

There must be many people in the US who despair and think that they now have a President who will simply be incapable of doing the job.

 

Will the US presidency survive Donald PG Trump?

If it does, and it probably will, it will be in a greatly weakened form and disillusion with the US political system will have greatly increased.  A downward spiral has probably already begun even before his inauguration.

donald-trump

The content of the latest, breaking news is irrelevant but this is what is important is that it is being printed at all. And it’s getting coverage in the mainstream press.

Russia has evidence of ‘perverted acts’ committed by Donald Trump: unconfirmed reports

Russia cultivated Donald Trump for years before the 2016 election and holds compromising material on the President-elect’s involvement in “perverted sexual acts”, according to a series of explosive but unconfirmed memos made public today.

The memos, produced by a British intelligence operative, contain extensive details of efforts by Russia’s intelligence community, directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, to sway the outcome of the US election.

The reports suggest that he hired prostitutes to perform a sex act commonly known as a “golden shower” on a bed where the Obamas had previously slept.

Now it doesn’t really doesn’t matter whether this is true or not.

The problem is that it is now becoming increasingly common for the Office of the President, or at least the soon-to-be inaugurated incumbent, to be subjected to this type of ridicule and that such scurrilous material can be reported without any self-censureship by the media.

Another problem is that it is unlikely that there will be any change in his behaviours when he is President. In fact, exactly the opposite is likely to occur.

He will probably see his election as an endorsement of his actions and attitudes of the past.  Or at least that people don’t care what he does

“Grab them by the pussy” will probably become the mantra in the back rooms and dark recesses of the White House.

38D3AAB500000578-3808551-Donald_Trump_s_impeccably_dressed_family_stood_on_stage_with_him-a-12_1474949113044-1.jpg

The Trump women appear forewarned.

It is likely that the attacks from the left and liberal media will make the right-wing campaigns against Barrack Obama look mild by comparison.

Regardless of what you may think of the Trump presidency, the effect of this will be disastrous.

The US stumbles towards the new Dark Age

It is likely that the presidency of Donald PG Trump will be characterised not by what he does or is unable to do (building a wall, expelling Mexicans) but by what he will destroy.

donald-trump-grow-up.jpg

Scientific progress is, by its nature, necessarily slow. The gathering, testing and re-testing of evidence is as slow as it is painstaking. So it takes time to demonstrate that climate change is being caused by human beings. It takes time to demonstrate that vaccines do not cause autism.

 It takes only a tweet, particularly from someone who is one of the most powerful people in the world, to arm and encourage the opponents of science.

 If the president says that the jury is still out on the theory of evolution, the creationists gain strength. If he appoints a creationist as Secretary of Education, he weakens the teaching of evolutionary theory which in turn weakens the teaching of science more generally. But it also encourages the teaching of creationism, made all the more dangerous because it is taught as an alternative form of “science”.

We must be very clear that this represents a step back towards the Dark Ages.

 The same applies to the appointment of climate sceptics to agencies responsible for environmental protection.

 It also applies to the appointment of anti-vaxxers to scientific panels and health regulatory bodies responsible for ensuring the health of a nation’s children.

Trump taps vaccine sceptic to head panel

RFK.jpg

Robert F Kennedy jnr son Bobby Kennedy, a former United States Attorney General

Prominent vaccine sceptic Robert F Kennedy jnr, who will lead a panel on vaccine safety and scientific integrity, has linked some vaccinations to autism, a belief the President-elect appears to share.

Kennedy has been a notable proponent of nonmedical exemptions for parents who seek to prevent their children from being vaccinated, which is mandatory in most states.

He has argued that mercury-based additives in vaccines explain the link to autism. And he has alleged that government scientists, journalists and pharmaceutical companies have colluded to hide the truth from the public.

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said at the premiere of an anti-vaccination film screening in California in 2015. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

Appointments such as Kennedy’s are extremely dangerous because the damage that can be done to existing scientific thought and science-based policy can be well-nigh irreparable.

“The lights will be going out all over America, we may not see them lit again in our life-time.” ( apologies to Sir Edward Grey)

grey-bal.jpg

 

Diplomacy Trump-style: Nothing more complicated than a tweet.

The Age reports: US President-elect Donald Trump and US chief diplomat John Kerry have taken explosively different tacks on Israel, further fuelling a war of words over the country’s future.

18watching-kerry03-master315

John Kerry will see his diplomatic legacy dismantled under Trump

Trump tweeted that he could no longer allow Israel to be treated with disdain and urged Israel to “stay strong” until he takes office on January 20.

Now after a remarkable confrontation with Israel, the Security Council has passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law.

Politics in the Middle East as a minefield for Western politicians. The situation requires nuanced responses to the eons of mistrust, double-dealing and rabid nationalism.  During the Obama administration, John Kerry endeavoured to bring such an approach. His one major accomplishment, the Iran nuclear deal, is roundly condemned by the Trump.

1040053172

With Trump’s support, Netanyahu, not a man given to compromise, will further harden his line on Israeli settlements.

Ramat Shlomo

It would appear that the building of Israeli settlements is a permanent barrier to the “two state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Trump appears to be adopting a position that will make the removal of the Israeli settlements in Palestine impossible and with it a solution to a problem that is festered now for over 60 years.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Trump appears to be determined to demolish everything that previous administrations have established. The problem is going to be whether he can re-establish the diplomatic, economic and social structures he is destroying if his policy responses are always going to be limited to 140  characters in a Twitter post.

 

Welcome to life on Planet Trump

Family Trump Inc is clearly planning to cash in bigly on Donald P. G.’s presidency (or should that be precedency?)

gettyimages-477329460-2

 The Trump family: a lot of mouths to feed

Time reports: A new Texas nonprofit led by Donald Trump’s grown sons is offering access to the freshly-minted president during inauguration weekend — all in exchange for million-dollar donations to unnamed “conservation” charities, according to interviews and documents reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

(L-R) Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump attend the ground breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014. The $200 million transformation of the Old Post Office Building into a Trump hotel is scheduled for completion in 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS REAL ESTATE) - RTR3ZUF0

Eric Trump and  Donald Trump Jr. – two fine young men

 The way that charitable trusts operate in the US is that they don’t need to disclose who donors are or who they donate the money to.  More importantly, they don’t need to disclose the fees paid to directors.

Offering photo opportunities with President and Trump memorabilia is to for many US systems their 15 minutes of fame (banana not included).

andy-warhol-andy-315094

Last week, Ivanka pulled out of an auction for invitations to a coffee date with her. Too tacky, apparently.

38a886cdfe0b491803eaa24755450b54

 Move over Kim Kardashian

Things like this are relatively small beer, but they are an indication that the new president  and his family will have their eyes firmly fixed on the main chance.

It may be a while before the voters of the midwest realise that Trump’s election is not going to benefit them economically and wake up to the fact that they have been conned.

My bet is that it will be around the time of the mid-term Congressional elections.

Bankers, billionaires, climate sceptics and creationists, Trump builds a cabinet to make America great again.

Wall Street wins again as Trump picks bankers, billionaires

After Donald Trump ridiculed Wall Street on the campaign trail, the President-elect tapped former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. Trump even met with Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn inside Trump Tower.

untitled-5

Mnuchin gathered billionaires including George Soros and John Paulson and assembled a $US1.6 billion bid to buy IndyMac. They rebranded it OneWest and sold the bank in August 2015 for $US3.4 billion.

It carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures during Mnuchin’s reign, according to the nonprofit California Reinvestment Coalition, which accused OneWest of shoddy foreclosure practices and avoiding business in largely black or Latino neighbourhoods, claims the bank has denied.

So much for “draining the swamp”. More than half of Trump’s nine key appointments to date are considered to be accomplished insiders from Washington and Wall St.

So, if the people who voted for Donald Trump were amongst those who are affected by mortgage foreclosures and lost their houses and were angry at the bankers who tossed them out onto the street, the Trumpster has now appointed one of the people who benefited from their misfortune to his cabinet.

9920f18e-ac5a-4dc6-87d4-5b0e545d037eDonald Trump’s message to the people who voted for him

untitled-3

 Because he is a neophyte politician, Donald Trump does not yet realise that many electors do expect person they voted for to keep the promises, no matter how outrageous or unachievable they may be.

Will Trump usher in a new Dark Age?

Trump to scrap Nasa climate research in crackdown on ‘politicized science’ 

Bob Walker, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said there was no need for Nasa to do what he has previously described as “politically correct environmental monitoring”.

RobertWalkerPA.jpg

Mr Trump’s decisions will be based upon solid science, not politicized science.”

Trump has previously said that climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese,

Walker, however, claimed that doubt over the role of human activity in climate change “is a view shared by half the climatologists in the world. We need good science to tell us what the reality is and science could do that if politicians didn’t interfere with it.”

The Guardian

Walker’s statement is alarmingly anti-science and anti-intellectual.

He regards environmental monitoring as “politically correct.”

Presumably, he means by this that there is some politically-based orthodoxy that dictates the results of environmental monitoring.

No, Bob, environmental monitoring is about measuring stuff: changes in temperature, changes in sea levels and amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scientist use machines to do it.

It’s a dangerous fallacy because it equates the formation and development of scientific theories with political correctness. This scientific orthodoxy is a view that everybody agrees with because of a desire to conform with some politically, but not scientifically, correct view.

What is more dangerous is that this particular approach allows politicians to criticise any scientific findings that they’re not happy with because they don’t conform with their particular ideology.

So, the argument goes the theory of revolution is just “politically correct science”  as distinct from politically incorrect science whatever that might be. That no serious scientist now disagrees with Darwin’s theory is, according to people like Walker, simply an act of conformity.

The Dark Ages will begin when people like Trump and Walker are free to decide what is “solid science” and what is  “politicised science.”

Solid science will be what Donald Trump and Bob Walker agree with and politicised science will be what the scientific community has established through painstaking and exacting research.

donald-trump-grow-up.jpg

Nothing that Donald Trump has done or said indicates he has any understanding about the nature of scientific enquiry.

Sex and power: the sexual predator in art and politics

This is an update that I did given the election of Donald PG Trump

In recent months, we have been treated to the unedifying spectacle of seeing one of Australia’s most popular entertainers convicted of sexually molesting underage children.

History is full of men in positions of power who have exploited women.

The sexual pecadillos of politicians are a constant source of outrage, amusement and amazement. But it is also true that some women are drawn to powerful men and many politicians are tempted to take advantage of this. In some cases, the relationship is consensual, in some cases it is not. Henry Kissinger famously said that power was the ultimate aphrodisiac. Henry was a bit of a ladies’ man, which is surprising because he was not the best looking bloke on the block but his track record was impressive.

Henry had som pretty good looking girlfriends. You might recognise some

Henry had some pretty good looking girlfriends.

Given that politics is the greatest source of power, particularly for men, it’s not surprising that men in positions of power will take advantage of this and are frequently drawn into sexual relationships that are politically damaging when discovered. Bill “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” Clinton is one of the better known examples of this and JFK was certainly a notorious pants man and probably with better taste than Clinton. He certainly didn’t suffer any public fallout from his relations with other women, most spectacularly Marilyn Monroe.

JFK and Munroe

JFK and Munroe

Anyone who was ever in doubt about the relationship between Kennedy and Munroe should watch the famous “Happy Birthday, Mr President” video clip. Certainly, Jackie Kennedy was in no doubt and reportedly stormed out of the function after Munroe’s singing solo.

Presidential peccadilloes had a nasty habit of surfacing every now and then. Bill Clinton was also a notorious pants man.  Things got really serious and very messy with Monica Lewinsky.bill-clinton-and-monica-lewinski

And there were always stories flying around about other women.

untitled

There is also a sly dig at Clinton in the immensely popular film Love Actually where the American president, played by Billy Bob Thornton, propositions one of the British PM’s staff.387368-4d43d21a-45b2-11e3-b6cf-917abbb54065

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Professor of economics at Sciences Po, Minister for Economics, Finances and Industry IMF Managing Director and contender for the French presidency was the unacceptable side of this strange dynamic and his chickens came home to roost when allegations that he had sexually assaulted a hotel maid sank his political career and shone a spotlight on his other sexual peccadilloes

Nafissatou Diallo and Tristane Banon: To the women who have accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping them

Nafissatou Diallo and Tristane Banon: Two the women who have accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of raping them

And then most recently we have President-elect Trump who has defined his presidency by saying: ” I just grabbed him by the pussy”, “When you’re a star they let you do it, you can do anything” as well as bragging about using his fame to try and “fuck” women and groping them without waiting for their consent.

donald-trump-iowa-reuters-800x430

Why are we surprised?

Such behaviour stretches back to time immemorial and one of the earliest accounts is from the 13th chapter of the Book of Daniel.

Two Elders, probably judges but certainly powerful and influential members of the community, watch the beautiful young Susannah bathing in her garden. They accost her and threatened to accuse her of committing adultery, for which the penalty is death, unless she has sex with them. She refuses and is brought to trial.

At the trial, the young prophet Daniel cross-examines the two Elders who contradict each other about which tree the act was performed under. Susannah is acquitted and the two elders are put to death.

There are more than 80 extant paintings of the story. Some artists, such Tintoretto and Rubens, painted it a number of times Nearly all of the artists who have painted it have chosen moment when the two elders proposition Susannah.

The elders are shown as wealthy, powerful, respectable and persuasive. In her 1963 book on Adolf Eichmann, Hannah Arendt wrote of the banality of evil. Here we have another aspect, the respectability of evil.

 Bonaventura Lamberti (Il Bolognese)

Bonaventura Lamberti (Il Bolognese)

Susanna and the elders-Ottavio Mario Leoni

Susanna and the elders-Ottavio Mario Leoni

Susanna and the elders1588 Paulo Veronese

Susanna and the elders Paulo Veronese (1588)

Another group of artists paint a different picture. Here the Elders are less respectable and more menacingly evil.

Jacob Jordaens Susanna and the Elders

Jacob Jordaens Susanna and the Elders

Jordaens’ Elders are grotesque caricatures, a personification of evil lechery, while Rubens’ are the personification of anger, presumably at being frustrated by Susannah’s innocence. The veins standing out on the neck of the elder in blue indicates the vehemence with which he is putting his proposition.

Peter Paul Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens

Sisto Badalocchio

Sisto Badalocchio

Badalocchio’s elders are sneeringly contemptuous of their victim and the brilliantly luminescent painting by van Honthorst shows the two elders feigning concern lest Susannah draw attention to them.

Gerrit van Honthorst

Gerrit van Honthorst

In all the versions of the story, there is an undertone of violence in the portrayal of the two elders. In some cases, it is made explicit in the painting. In Alessandro Allure’s work, the physical threat is palpable, with the indignant Susanna already in the lecherous clutches of the Elders.

Alessandro Allori

Alessandro Allori


Similarly in Claude Vignon’s painting one of the elders is already beginning to man-handle Susanna.

Claude Vignon

Claude Vignon


The sense of violation is palpable in both of these paintings and it is a common theme in all of the others. In some, the sexual violence is implied and most audiences would know the back story to the paintings. But one thing that stands out in all the paintings is the sense of violation inherent in the mere presence of these splendidly dressed men in the company of a near naked women. In many of the paintings, Susannah shrinks away from her tormentors, ashamed to have been discovered naked. It’s a powerful depiction of the commonly held view that such situations are somehow the woman’s fault.