This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water ~ The Washington Post




ORCHARD CITY, Colo. — On New Year’s Day in 2018, Paul Kehmeier and his father drove up Grand Mesa until they got to the county line, 10,000 feet above sea level. Instead of the three to five feet of snow that should have been on the ground, there wasn’t enough of a dusting to even cover the grass.

The men marveled at the sight, and Kehmeier snapped a photo of his dad, “standing on the bare pavement, next to bare ground.”

Here, on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year. A few months after taking the photo, Kehmeier stared across the land his family had tilled for four generations and made a harsh calculation: He could make more money selling his ranch’s water than working his land.

Water from Colorado’s snowpack is distributed across the region through a complex network of dams, pipelines and irrigation canals.



A 20-year drought is stealing the water that sustains this region, and climate change is making it worse.

“In all my years of farming in the area, going back to about 1950, 2018 was the toughest, driest year I can remember,” said Paul’s father, Norman, who still does a fair share of the farm’s tractor work at 94.

Click any temperature underlined in the story to convert between Celsius and Fahrenheit

This cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48, a Washington Post analysis found.

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The average flow of the Colorado River has declined nearly 20 percent over the past century, half of which is because of warming temperatures, scientists say. With the region’s snowpack shrinking and melting earlier, the ground absorbs more heat — and more of the precious water evaporates.

On the Kehmeiers’ farm, like the rest of the area, just under two inches of rain fell between Jan. 1 and July 19. Less than half an inch has fallen since the farming season began on April 1, just 25 percent of the long-term average.

“The seasons where you don’t want to see the warming are warming faster,” said Jeff Lukas, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Western Water Assessment.

In the 2015 Paris accord, international leaders agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the Earth’s overall warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, on average. But global warming doesn’t affect the planet uniformly, and 10 percent of it is already at 2C, The Post found. These hot spots offer a window into what will happen as more of the planet warms: In New Jersey and Rhode Island, a 2C world has weakened winter’s bite; in Siberia, 10,000-year-old mammoths are being exposed by melting permafrost; and from Japan to Angola to Uruguay and Tasmania, changing ocean currents and warming water have decimated fisheries and underwater kelp forests.


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In Colorado, the rising temperature is forcing a reckoning in this conservative community. The Colorado River supplies water to 40 million people across the West and in Mexico. It nurtures everything from vineyards to cattle to peach trees on the Western Slope, and flows to Los Angeles’s water faucets and Arizona’s cotton fields.

Farming in America’s dry interior has always amounted to an act of defiance. Water has reinvented the landscape that Kehmeier’s ancestors began working on more than a century ago. A vast irrigation network of pipes, tunnels and dams steers melted snow into fields across the valley and has transformed this sagebrush terrain into a thriving agricultural hub.

“It would have to come about 16 miles from the top of that mountain down the creek,” he said, pointing toward Grand Mesa, “and the chance of getting it down the creek in a hot dry year when there’s not much water in the creek and a lot of thieves beside the creek, it was questionable. So, let somebody else deal with that.”

Kehmeier, who grows alfalfa and grass hay, didn’t agonize over his decision, but he didn’t like driving by his dried-up field every day. Call it a blessing or a curse, but farming is in his blood.

“And if it’s in your blood, you want to do it,” he said. “I want to go out kicking and scraping if I have to, but I don’t want to give up.”

He could always plant hay the following year, he thought. Surely, the snow would return.



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The Unraveling of America ~ RollingStone

Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era

BAYONNE, NJ - MAY 3: A wind blown American flag at the Tear Drop 9/11 Memorial flies over the skyline of New York City as the sun sets on May 3, 2020 in Bayonne, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

The COVID crisis has reduced to tatters the idea of American exceptionalism.

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images


Wade Davis holds the Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. His award-winning books include “Into the Silence” and “The Wayfinders.” His new book, “Magdalena: River of Dreams,” is published by Knopf.


Never in our lives have we experienced such a global phenomenon. For the first time in the history of the world, all of humanity, informed by the unprecedented reach of digital technology, has come together, focused on the same existential threat, consumed by the same fears and uncertainties, eagerly anticipating the same, as yet unrealized, promises of medical science.

In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite ten thousand times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.

Our interventions to date have largely focused on mitigating the rate of spread, flattening the curve of morbidity. There is no treatment at hand, and no certainty of a vaccine on the near horizon. The fastest vaccine ever developed was for mumps. It took four years. COVID-19 killed 100,000 Americans in four months. There is some evidence that natural infection may not imply immunity, leaving some to question how effective a vaccine will be, even assuming one can be found. And it must be safe. If the global population is to be immunized, lethal complications in just one person in a thousand would imply the death of millions.

Pandemics and plagues have a way of shifting the course of history, and not always in a manner immediately evident to the survivors. In the 14th century the Black Death killed close to half of Europe’s population. A scarcity of labor led to increased wages. Rising expectations culminated in the Peasants Revolt of 1381, an inflection point that marked the beginning of the end of the feudal order that had dominated medieval Europe for a thousand years.

The COVID pandemic will be remembered as such a moment in history, a seminal event whose significance will unfold only in the wake of the crisis. It will mark this era much as the 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the stock market crash of 1929, and the 1933 ascent of Adolf Hitler became fundamental benchmarks of the last century, all harbingers of greater and more consequential outcomes.

COVID’s historic significance lies not in what it implies for our daily lives. Change, after all, is the one constant when it comes to culture. All peoples in all places at all times are always dancing with new possibilities for life. As companies eliminate or downsize central offices, employees work from home, restaurants close, shopping malls shutter, streaming brings entertainment and sporting events into the home, and airline travel becomes ever more problematic and miserable, people will adapt, as we’ve always done. Fluidity of memory and a capacity to forget is perhaps the most haunting trait of our species. As history confirms, it allows us to come to terms with any degree of social, moral, or environmental degradation.

To be sure, financial uncertainty will cast a long shadow. Hovering over the global economy for some time will be the sober realization that all the money in the hands of all the nations on Earth will never be enough to offset the losses sustained when an entire world ceases to function, with workers and businesses everywhere facing a choice between economic and biological survival.

Unsettling as these transitions and circumstances will be, short of a complete economic collapse, none stands out as a turning point in history. But what surely does is the absolutely devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the reputation and international standing of the United States of America.

In a dark season of pestilence, COVID has reduced to tatters the illusion of American exceptionalism. At the height of the crisis, with more than 2,000 dying each day, Americans found themselves members of a failed state, ruled by a dysfunctional and incompetent government largely responsible for death rates that added a tragic coda to America’s claim to supremacy in the world.

For the first time, the international community felt compelled to send disaster relief to Washington. For more than two centuries, reported the Irish Times, “the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.” As American doctors and nurses eagerly awaited emergency airlifts of basic supplies from China, the hinge of history opened to the Asian century.

No empire long endures, even if few anticipate their demise. Every kingdom is born to die. The 15th century belonged to the Portuguese, the 16th to Spain, 17th to the Dutch. France dominated the 18th and Britain the 19th. Bled white and left bankrupt by the Great War, the British maintained a pretense of domination as late as 1935, when the empire reached its greatest geographical extent. By then, of course, the torch had long passed into the hands of America.

In 1940, with Europe already ablaze, the United States had a smaller army than either Portugal or Bulgaria. Within four years, 18 million men and women would serve in uniform, with millions more working double shifts in mines and factories that made America, as President Roosevelt promised, the arsenal of democracy.

When the Japanese within six weeks of Pearl Harbor took control of 90 percent of the world’s rubber supply, the U.S. dropped the speed limit to 35 mph to protect tires, and then, in three years, invented from scratch a synthetic-rubber industry that allowed Allied armies to roll over the Nazis. At its peak, Henry Ford’s Willow Run Plant produced a B-24 Liberator every two hours, around the clock. Shipyards in Long Beach and Sausalito spat out Liberty ships at a rate of two a day for four years; the record was a ship built in four days, 15 hours and 29 minutes. A single American factory, Chrysler’s Detroit Arsenal, built more tanks than the whole of the Third Reich.

In the wake of the war, with Europe and Japan in ashes, the United States with but 6 percent of the world’s population accounted for half of the global economy, including the production of 93 percent of all automobiles. Such economic dominance birthed a vibrant middle class, a trade union movement that allowed a single breadwinner with limited education to own a home and a car, support a family, and send his kids to good schools. It was not by any means a perfect world but affluence allowed for a truce between capital and labor, a reciprocity of opportunity in a time of rapid growth and declining income inequality, marked by high tax rates for the wealthy, who were by no means the only beneficiaries of a golden age of American capitalism.

But freedom and affluence came with a price. The United States, virtually a demilitarized nation on the eve of the Second World War, never stood down in the wake of victory. To this day, American troops are deployed in 150 countries. Since the 1970s, China has not once gone to war; the U.S. has not spent a day at peace. President Jimmy Carter recently noted that in its 242-year history, America has enjoyed only 16 years of peace, making it, as he wrote, “the most warlike nation in the history of the world.” Since 2001, the U.S. has spent over $6 trillion on military operations and war, money that might have been invested in the infrastructure of home. China, meanwhile, built its nation, pouring more cement every three years than America did in the entire 20th century.

As America policed the world, the violence came home. On D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the Allied death toll was 4,414; in 2019, domestic gun violence had killed that many American men and women by the end of April. By June of that year, guns in the hands of ordinary Americans had caused more casualties than the Allies suffered in Normandy in the first month of a campaign that consumed the military strength of five nations.

More than any other country, the United States in the post-war era lionized the individual at the expense of community and family. It was the sociological equivalent of splitting the atom. What was gained in terms of mobility and personal freedom came at the expense of common purpose. In wide swaths of America, the family as an institution lost its grounding. By the 1960s, 40 percent of marriages were ending in divorce. Only six percent of American homes had grandparents living beneath the same roof as grandchildren; elders were abandoned to retirement homes.

With slogans like “24/7” celebrating complete dedication to the workplace, men and women exhausted themselves in jobs that only reinforced their isolation from their families. The average American father spends less than 20 minutes a day in direct communication with his child. By the time a youth reaches 18, he or she will have spent fully two years watching television or staring at a laptop screen, contributing to an obesity epidemic that the Joint Chiefs have called a national security crisis.



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Many hoped the Gold King Mine spill would bring change. Five years later, they’re still waiting. ~ The Colorado Sun


In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored yellow from a mine-waste spill. A crew supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been blamed for causing the spill while attempting to clean up the area near the abandoned Gold King Mine. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP, FILE)


Jesse Paul


It didn’t take long after the sludge settled five years ago for the calls for change to begin.

A congressional fix for abandoned mines remains elusive and clean up around Silverton has moved at a “snail’s pace.” Experts say the disaster shed light on problems, but didn’t drive change like they thought it would.

The Colorado Sun In fact, 3 million gallons of orange-gold water that poured out of the Gold King Mine on Aug. 5, 2015, was still flowing through the Colorado River watershed when discussions about the broader issue of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S. heated up.

Reporter’s Role In Exposing Hiroshima Cover-Up Explored In ‘Fallout’~ NPR ~ The New Yorker, Hiroshima


~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks with Lesley Blume about her new book, Fallout, which explores how reporter John Hersey uncovered the effects of the atomic bomb after the U.S. dropped it on Hiroshima.



Sunday Reading: Hiroshima

From The New Yorker’s archive: John Hersey’s celebrated work, and a selection of related articles.
The destruction of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped.
Photograph from Alamy

This week marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. In 1946, William Shawn, who was then the deputy to Harold Ross, the editor of The New Yorker, asked John Hersey to travel to Japan and write about the horrific aftermath. Hersey’s report, “Hiroshima,” marked a radical departure from the conventional journalism of the day. In clear and supple prose, he described incomprehensible destruction on a human level. Hersey focussed on six survivors. (“Each knows that in the act of survival he lived a dozen lives and saw more death than he ever thought he would see.”) The magazine devoted its entire August 31st issue to the piece, and it was soon being read all over the world. Seventy-four years later, we’re bringing you Hersey’s celebrated work and a selection of related articles. In “Hiroshima: The Aftermath,” from 1985, Hersey revisits the survivors he profiled in his original report. In “Usher,” Eugene Kinkead encounters Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the colonel who piloted the plane that unleashed the bomb. (“When the bomb was dropped, everyone craned his neck to watch the enormous black cloud that rose over the city—an effect quite different from anything any of them had ever seen. Then they flew back to the Marianas, eating ham sandwiches as they went.”) In “Atomic John,” David Samuels writes about a truck driver from Wisconsin who deciphered the secrets of the first nuclear bombs. Finally, in “John Hersey and the Art of Fact,” Nicholas Lemann profiles the New Yorker reporter and explores how his work helped transform magazine reporting. Taken together, these pieces offer a bracing reminder of the power of journalism to bear witness to even the most incomprehensible historical events.

David Remnick



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For the Navajo Nation, a Fight for Better Food Gains New Urgency ~ NYT

As the pandemic has brought home the importance of the global movement for food sovereignty, members are planting and sharing.

Credit…John Burcham for The New York Times


THE NAVAJO NATION — When Summer Brown lived in Phoenix, she had no problem finding fresh produce. If the Sprouts supermarket near her home didn’t have what she was looking for, she would just drive somewhere else.

This winter, Ms. Brown, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, moved back to her childhood home in Cornfields, Ariz., to start a small business as a leatherworker. Now, healthy food is harder to find for her two children, Paisley, 6, and Landon, 7. The entire Nation, which stretches 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has fewer than 15 grocery stores.

“The pickings are kind of slim here,” said Ms. Brown, 31. “It’s a lot of processed foods, and I try not to feed my family that.”

Even before the coronavirus pandemic dealt an exceptionally brutal blow to the Navajo — who call themselves the Diné, which means “the People” — Ms. Brown wanted to grow her own food. She spent last winter collecting seeds from Indigenous seed banks and researching Indigenous methods. Her small garden is already feeding her family, and she is looking forward to the fall harvest.

Her backyard garden isn’t meant just to replace a trip to the grocery store. Ms. Brown is part of a movement for food sovereignty, a global effort to give people control of their food supply and nutrition. It is a public health endeavor, an economic reclamation, an environmental protest and for many, a spiritual quest. Gardeners aim to grow healthy foods that are connected to their traditions, and to revive old methods of cultivation.

Credit…John Burcham for The New York Times


“I want to show the whole Navajo Nation, and even off the reservation, that you can live with the earth and you don’t have to rely so much on the outside to feed yourself,” Ms. Brown said. “We have all this land. We should be able to just go outside and get our food.”

The small gardens and cornfields rising across the Nation (which the Diné call the Dinétah) are attempts to correct legacies of historical wrongs. Once, the Diné were prosperous gardeners, hunters and stewards of the land. Then the United States government colonized the land and displaced the Diné in the mid-1800s, during what is now known as the Long Walk, to an internment camp at Fort Sumner, N.M. Livestock were killed off. Fields were trampled. And some orchards were lost forever.

Those and other attempts to divorce the Diné from their land and ancestral foodways have also left them vulnerable to the pandemic. Across the United States, Indigenous nations have suffered outbreaks that often appear to be more devastating than those in surrounding cities. But data gaps, population fluidity and under-testing make the scope of infections hard to quantify.

America is Having the Mother of All Social Collapses ~Eudaimonia

If American Life Feels Frightening, It’s Because It’s Imploding — In Gruesome and Catastrophic Ways

umair haque

1*sYzjSRT0YBpFg2H0k7x9oAIt’s genuinely terrifying to be an American these days. And a baffled world is looking on in horror, shuddering and wondering: “What the? What have Americans let happen to their society? What if that happens here?”

What is “that,” exactly?

America is having is the Mother of All Social Collapses. It’s hard to put into words because it really is something strange, new, unprecedented, shocking, gruesome. It’s like a major earthquake — it’s going to redefine the world’s fault lines for generations to come.

I say that because Trump’s America, I noticed, was trending on Twitter. In response, people had written all kinds of funny, snarky, depressing, angry rejoinders.

But it seemed impossible, maybe, to encapsulate it all. The scale and scope of what America’s become, the bottomless depth and towering height of the failure of a society like this.

Trump’s America is many things. Even I struggle to express the extent of the calamity in words by now. It’s a place where mass death is an everyday affair. Trump’s America is a plague state, wracked by illness and disease. Trump’s America is an economic trainwreck. It’s a society whose social bonds have been blown apart by hate and brutality and selfishness. It’s a budding police state — those “federal agents” are coming to your streets. It’s a collapsing nation — one imploding into authoritarianism, poverty, disease, and death.

Like I said, even I struggle to put it into words.

But the economist in me can express it much more succinctly and precisely.

When I say “The Mother of All Social Collapses,” I mean it. Trump’s America is a society that combines all the strands of social collapse that we know if — and then some. Yes, really.

Economically, Trump’s America is Soviet. Politically and socially, it resembles Nazi Germany. And culturally, it’s Taliban-esque, aggressively retrograde. That’s a lot of ruin for one country, which is why it’s so hard to put into words. It really is breathtaking and staggering when you think about it.

Let me begin with the economy — how Trump’s America is Soviet.

Its intellectual class seems incapable of processing much, or even any, of the above. As long as billionaires are getting richer, and the stock market’s rising — what’s the problem? Like the Soviet Union, America has a strange set of measures for the health and prosperity of a society, which don’t seem to account for anything that actually matters, whether happiness, wealth, stability, safety, or sanity. And like the Soviet Union, only paying attention to those self-created indicators of a kind of ideologically self-defined success has made America incapable of grasping the tiniest shreds of truth, like the fact that American life sucks for most people now.

Like the Soviet Union, Trump’s America is a place that can’t provide the basics for people anymore. Like decent jobs — 50% of Americans now work “low wage service jobs,” which is today’s jargon for: the menial work of servants to the rich. Like the basic good of public health — America has the world’s worst Coronavirus outbreak by a very long way, and it’s probably not going away…ever. Like decent food or water, which, if you’ve lived in Europe or Canada, are of a whole different league. Like public safety — think of how many kids get shot at school, or how many women and minorities get abused at work. Like money — 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Like hope and optimism for the future, which keeps a society confident, buoyant, gentle, working together — Americans now expect life to get steadily worse. They’re probably right. America can’t provide the most basic of basics for people anymore, from medicine to money to jobs to public health to safety. There’s no deeper way in which a society can fail.

Wait, let me correct that. There is one deeper way. The lights can go out. A society can turn dark.

That brings me to the next thing Trump’s America is. It’s also pretty, well, Nazi. Yes, Nazi. Look, before you react angrily to that, sputtering into denial let me say one thing: the entire world thinks this. I’m only sharing with you you what every single person who’s not American says to me every single goddamned day. From my friend Ben the grizzled London copper to my friend Art in Hong Kong to all my friends in Canada, Europe, and Africa. It’s the very first topic of discussion I have with a baffled and horrified world. Americans are the only ones who are still in denial about it.

Trump’s America is pretty Nazi. Come on — it’s not exactly hard to see.Concentration camps, kids in them, kids in cages in them, family separations, raids, bans, purges, hate, dehumanization, and so on. Who else does that? Accountants? Sure, sometimes, but when they do, they’ve become…Nazis.

We’re all taught about Nazism over and over again from the time we’re little kids, over and over again, so that it sinks into us. But while the entire worldis now like “Wow, America turned kind of Nazi, huh?” by and large, withinAmerica, that’s still somehow a controversial proposition. You get the blank look from Americans when you say the word fascism — the one that everyone who’s not American knows, when the mind shuts down, when a truth too dangerous to utter has been spoken. Of course, that’s also fascism.

Trump’s America is a place where the denial of the good people runs rampant. Nazis? What Nazis? Where? Denial is a crucial element is a society turning politically Nazi. When I say “America resembles Nazi Germany politically and socially,” I don’t just mean the Trumpists — I also mean the regular old American who’s the only person left on planet earth who’s still in denial about it, like the good German of the 1930s.

What Americans didn’t seem to understand is that these Nazi institutions would soon be used against them, too, if they didn’t speak up against them. And now here we are — where the shock troops who once hunted hated immigrants are now beating and abducting American Moms off the streets, and gassing Mayors of Cities. That’s what denial does: it enables.

What happened in Nazi Germany was what political scientists politely call a “silent majority.” Today, America has one. And for some baffling reason, Americans seem to think a silent majority is a good thing. That a polite majority who say nothing is proof of some kind of civilized nature. Nothing could be more wrong. “Silent majority” is not a compliment. It’s an insult! It’s a disappointment, a condemnation. You don’t want a silent majority in a society. A silent majority paves the way for every kind of authoritarian implosion under the sun, from fascist to theocratic to kleptocratic to all of them put together.

In the Islamic World, the silent majority is what let the fundamentalists and fanatics take over, and wreck societies that were once democracies. In Nazi Germany, the silent majority is what let the Nazis seize power, and then abuse it. In the Soviet Union, the silent majority is what let the communist machine wreck everyday life and society.

Let me say it again, because I think it’s important. Americans seem to have been taught that a silent majority is a wonderful and noble thing, like some kind of sleeping dragon, who’ll suddenly awaken, and defend the land from the barbarians. It’s not. A silent majority is not a good thing for a society to have. It’s a terrible one. It’s a patient on life support having a stroke.

It’s what we call that part of a society who is too scared, frightened, weary, or willfully ignorant to live up to their responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.

A silent majority is a bad thing, not a good one. It’s a negative. It’s not a sleeping dragon, it’s more like one that’s passed out, drunk, while the barbarians set fire to the citadel. It’s a sign that a society has one of the final elements necessary to implode, which is…acquiescence, cowardice, or indifference, or maybe all three.

That brings me to the next thing Trump’s America is. Fanatical. While the good people are a silent majority — and again, that’s not a good thing — the American Idiot apparently wants to make America look, ironically, a lot like the Islamic world he purportedly hates. The American Idiot has flourished into a kind of weird Taliban of its own, demanding everything from control over women’s bodies to refusing vaccinations to not teaching kids science.

Nowhere else in the civilized world can you go and find the kinds of bizarre “debates” you do in America — over things for which there really is no debate. Should people wear masks? Does evolution exist? Should women not be objects and possessions? Are minorities human beings? Is it OK for a society to be a place of constant abuse, cruelty, aggression, and violence? Should people have no healthcare? How about kids — should we teach them superstition, not science, and then arm their teachers, in case a mass murderer shows up?

What the?

Americans don’t quite get it, but nowhere else in the world is like this. The closest analogue I have is the Islamic world, where people also tend to debate poppycock and superstition intensely and seriously, as though teaching a kid that human beings evolved was somehow going to seal their fate in the afterlife. But even in the Islamic world, America’s levels of everyday cruelty and aggression are hard to find — kids there aren’t getting shot at schools, they’re just getting turned into idiots.

The American Idiot has turned America into a society where idiocy of every kind flourishes. That’s how the Islamic World imploded, too, by the way. It wasn’t always like this — despite what you’ve heard. It used to be a literate, civilized, artistic, learned place. Then the mullahs arrived, the majorities fell silent — and the rest is history.

The American Idiot’s story is much the same. He’s pushed a kind of line of incredible cultural idiocy that rotted and broke the American Mind. Science was replaced with superstition, human decency with aggression, thoughtfulness with unthinking cruelty, knowledge with the ignorances of racism, misogyny, hate, and greed. Trump’s election was the triumph of the American Idiot, and since then, stunning leaps in idiocy have been made.

Because the American Idiot has successfully made every kind of superstition and regression into a “debate,” the result is that American can’t…go anywhere. It’s so busy trying to debate the American Idiot that it doesn’t have time or energy left to learn. From a world that is now far more successful. Why is it that Europeans enjoy such vastly higher standards of living? Why don’t they have to choose between their lives and their life savings? Why is it that Canadians have good healthcare and decent pensions? But when you’re busy “debating” whether, say, teachers should be armed or whether that secret police abducting moms and gassing mayors really is one…where can you go? Not forwards — only less backwards.

It feels frightening and surreal to live in Trump’s America these days for a good reason. Because it is. America is having the Mother of All Social Collapses.

Call it the MASC if you want an (unintentionally ironic) acronym.

The social collapse Trump’s America is having is a supercollapse. It combines the worst elements of all the social collapses that we know of. Hence, the Mother of All Social Collapses.

Economically, America is a weird mirror image of the Soviet Union — a society that’s unable to provide basics for its citizens anymore, leaving them to battle each other for whatever morsels of a decent life they can, in a perpetual, daily, desperate, bitter battle for survival. Just like in the Soviet Union, negligence and irresponsibility has led to economic stagnation, the implosion of the middle and working classes into mass poverty and mass hopelessness…and now, finally, to mass death.

Politically, America resembles Nazi Germany — right down to the silent majority, not just the concentration camps and secret police. The silence of that majority baffles the world — while Americans seem to think a silent majority is a good thing.

Culturally, America is a cousin of the Islamic World, where crackpots and theocrats want to organize a nation as a crusade for salvation, not as a modern, functioning society, where an Army of Idiots that’s an overly powerful minority has rendered any kind of social progress flatly impossible.

America’s collapse is a real one, and a special one. It isn’t just a Nazi collapse. It isn’t just an authoritarian collapse. It isn’t just an economic collapse. It isn’t even just a cultural collapse into hate and backwardness and superstition. It’s all those things put together.

The world hasn’t really seen all that put together before. The Soviet Union didn’t want to be a theocracy, and neither did the Nazis. The mullahs of the Islamic World wanted to provide basics for all — they weren’t capitalists — mistaken as they were as to how go about it. And so on. America combines all the strands of social collapse that we know of, and then adds some of its own — like the idiocy of the non-mask-wearer or the anti-vaxxer or the Fox News addict.

It’s honestly terrifying to be American these days. The world is closing its doors to us. The bodies are piling up. You can’t have a decent life, it seems, no matter how hard you work — you’ll never pay off those “debts.”There’s an Army of Idiots, led by a Psychopath-in-Chief, who think being able to carry a gun to Starbucks is a basic human right — but healthcare isn’t. Where will you go? What will you do?

Welcome to Trump’s America.

You’re living through the Mother of All Social Collapses. It might just last another four years —but if you don’t do something, it might last for much longer still.

July 2020

‘Stay away.’ ‘Biggest petri dish in the world.’ The view from Canada, of us, isn’t so nice. ~ Seattle Times

Like, say, after America had invaded the wrong country. People here, especially liberal Seattle people, would vow: “That’s it, I’m moving to Canada.”

Well it turns out we need a new joke. Because Canada isn’t having it anymore. They don’t want us there — at all, no laughing matter.

“We regard the United States right now as the biggest petri dish in the world,” reports George Creek, from Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Creek has been leading a group of volunteer watchdogs to monitor marine traffic, looking for Washington state boaters who have sneaked across the border into Canadian waters. They then report them to Canadian officials to try to keep them from docking and coming ashore. No hard feelings, he told me cheerily by phone this past week. But every American is seen as a loaded vector of disease.

“You need to get the pandemic under control. You need a rational person to take the helm of your country. Until then, all we’re saying to Americans is: Stay away. When you come against our wishes, pardon the expression, it pisses us off.”

Ouch. You know you’re becoming a pariah country when the Canadians go all “pardon the expression” on you.

Earlier this month, three local members of Congress — Democrat Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor and Republicans Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane and Dan Newhouse of Sunnyside — joined some of their colleagues in sending a seemingly benign letter to the Canadian government. It suggested we talk about reopening our shared 5,500-mile-long border, which remains closed to most travel due to COVID-19.

The letter was fluffed with flowery, binational niceties — such as a call to “restore the social bond that unites our two nations.” But hoo boy, not since the 1859 “pig incident,” when we nearly went to war in the San Juan Islands over one slaughtered hog, have our friends to the north gotten quite so prickly.

“Hard pass on opening the border — we’re a healthy nation with big plans, and you’re a failed society,” one Canadian replied to the congressional letter on Twitter.

“That border stays CLOSED,” wrote another. “Canadians may be polite but we aren’t CRAZY!”

And another: “There’s no reason to believe Americans will care about the health of Canadians, given that relatively few seem to care about the health of other Americans.”

Ouch again. On it went like this, with more than 6,000 tweeted responses to the members of Congress, in what was the social media equivalent of being battered by the wings of a flock of angry Canada geese.

Also this month, in response to news that U.S. boaters were flouting the border closure, the B.C. premier, John Horgan, joined in the stay away chorus.

“Our government fought hard to get the border closed, and it needs to remain closed until the US gets a handle on this pandemic,” he tweeted on July 15. “This is not the time for Americans to be here on vacation & anyone abusing the rules should be penalized accordingly.”

A recent poll of Canadians showed 89% want to keep the border with the U.S. closed through 2020, with the pollster saying they regard America’s mishandling of the virus as “a cautionary tale.”

Remember that election we had, in 2016, when the winner talked about closing our borders to the world? The world ended up closing its borders to us.

It isn’t just the virus. On Wednesday, a Canadian court ruled that a 16-year-old agreement with the U.S. governing refugees and asylum is invalid because the U.S. no longer qualifies as a “safe” place for refugees. The way we treat them is a human rights violation, the court said.

Canada, he said, is averaging fewer than 500 new COVID-19 cases and five deaths per day, in the entire country — yet is scrambling to tamp that down with contact tracing, calling it a “surge.”

“You had 71,000 new cases and more than a thousand deaths today,” he said. “American tourists are normally the most welcome, but we look at all this and we just shake our heads.”

Pompeo’s Surreal Speech on China ~ The Atlantic


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave one of the most surreal speeches of the Donald Trump presidency at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California, on Thursday. In his speech, titled “Communist China and the Free World’s Future,” he declared the failure of 50 years of engagement with China and called for free societies to stand up to Beijing.

I am sympathetic to the argument. I wrote a book in 2017 about how Western hopes that China would converge with the liberal international order have failed. I haveargued for almost two years that when Trump leaves office, the United States should put the free world at the center of its foreign policy.

Unfortunately, Pompeo, like his targets in Beijing, is engaged in doublespeak whereby he offers win-win outcomes, but his words are at odds with his actions. He says the U.S. will organize the free world, while alienating and undermining the free world; he extols democracy, while aiding and abetting its destruction at home; and he praises the Chinese people, while generalizing about the ill intent of Chinese students who want to come to America.

Pompeo is also ultra-loyal to a president who cares not one whit for democracy, dissidents, freedom, or transparency overseas. Trump’s long track record on this is well documented, and it has defined his personal approach to China.

In his book, the former national security adviser John Bolton wrote that on two separate occasions, Trump told Xi that he “should go ahead with building the [concentration] camps in Xijiang, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.” Pompeo said nothing about these revelations, although he called Bolton a traitor.

And in January and February of this year, Trump infamously praised Xi’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, even though the World Health Organization was privatelyalarmed by Beijing’s actions and its lack of transparency (it praised China publicly in the hopes of coaxing it into cooperation). The Trump administration would have known this and could have built a coalition to increase pressure on China, but instead it ignored the behavior.

For three and a half years, senior members of the administration have tried to downplay Trump’s words as if they don’t make policy. But they do, especially if consistently expressed. His serial dismissal of the values of the free world has a real impact. Pompeo has some nerve to now claim that what is upside down is right side up.

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Homeland Security Was Destined to Become a Secret Police Force ~ The New Yorker

Since early July, federal agents in military-style uniforms have waged battle against protesters in Portland, Oregon, using tear gas and nonlethal munitions. Photograph by Mason Trinca / NYT / Redux

In a press conference on Tuesday, Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, responded to media reports that unidentified federal agents using unmarked vehicles have been arresting protesters in Portland, Oregon. Since early July, men in military-style uniforms have waged battle against protesters there, using tear gas and nonlethal munitions; video and photographs coming out of Portland have shown scenes of urban warfare, with what looks like a regular army moving on unarmed protesters night after night. On behalf of the D.H.S. and its uniformed services, Wolf claimed responsibility for the armed presence in Portland. He asserted that his agency was doing exactly what it was created to do. He was right.

Democrats hope clash resonates with key bloc: Women ~ The Hill