Monday, 14 November 2016

Toomas Karmo (Part A): USA Election, and the Hopeful Example of a Dissenting Wartime German Bishop

Quality assessment: 

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: Kmo had time to do a reasonably complete and (within the framework of the version 1.0.1, 1.0.2, .. process) reasonably polished job. 

Revision history:

  • 20161115T1435Z/version 1.2.0: Kmo improved his discussion of climate change, adding to the quotations from Mr Trump a pair of quotations from Mrs Clinton. Kmo reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubsantive, here-undocumented, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, ... . 
  • 20161115T1419Z/version 1.1.0: Kmo improved his quote from Dmitry Orlov. Kmo reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, here-undocumented, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.1.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.2, ... . 
  • 20161115T0001Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo uploaded base version. He reserved the right to make tiny, nonsubstantive, here-undocumented, tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 1.0.1, 1.0.2, 1.0.3, ... .  

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - The inappropriate underlining in the "Quality assessment" paragraph seems to be the result of yet another bug, whether in my own client-side browser or in the blogger server-side software.- Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me at] 

1. America's Twilight Deepens

Today I write comparatively little on the surprising and disappointing USA election. 

I do remind my readers that just before the election, I posted to this blog under the title "USA Election, and Government Generally /.../", and that by way of a possible resource for persons in public meetings, I included in the posting my "Peace Hymn of the Republic" ("We lived in ease and splendour" et cetera - one of my cousins, and her husband, are particularly fond of that phrase, citing it now and again, as when we meet for Chrismas dinner). 

Five further points - not made with sufficient emphasis in what I have had time to read from the mainstream media and the blogosphere - need to be made today.  

(1) Some depict Mr Trump's victory as a powerful political statement. These analysts read it as a signal from America's admittedly oppressed working class to America's admittedly well-heeled élites. In reality, however, Mrs Clinton has garnered more polling-booth votes, even while garnering fewer Electoral College votes, than has President-Elect Mr Trump. Final figures for the overall popular vote are not yet available. Doing what I easily can, I Google within a couple of minutes of UTC=20161114T194000Z. In this hasty work, I pick out what on a rapid inspection seems to be the most recent obvious news, at My rapidly chosen site looks harmless enough: "Alabama Local News, Breaking News, Sports & Weather". Here we have an update from "11:37 AM". (The meaning of this cryptic timestamp - the USA spans fully six timezones - is probably "UTC=20161114T1637Z".) The "Alabama Local News, Breaking News" figures give Mrs Clinton 61,350,758 votes and Mr Trump 60,583,838 votes. A pocket calculator reveals this to be a difference of 766,920 votes, in Mrs Clinton's favour. 

The only safe moral to draw from the ballot counts is that although Mr Trump is under the agreed-upon rules elected President, American opinion is divided. The unclarity recalls a witty remark from sometime engineer Dmitry Orlov's 2013 book Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects. Mr Orlov writes (admittedly, with regard to an earlier election, marked by the notorious "hanging chads", in which popular vote and Electoral College vote disagreed): The latest innovation is the photo finish election, where each party pre-purchases exactly 50 percent of the vote through largely symmetrical allocation of campaign resources and the result is pulled out of statistical noise, like a rabbit out of a hat. 

(2) Some have in recent weeks written of Mr Trump as a healthcare reformer. And indeed this appraisal of Mr Trump's political programme is corroborated by (at any rate as downloaded to my browser within a minute or two of UTC=20161114T195400Z):

Since March of 2010, the American people have had to suffer under the incredible economic burden of the Affordable Care Act - Obamacare. This legislation, passed by totally partisan votes in the House and Senate and signed into law by the most divisive and partisan President in American history, has tragically but predictably resulted in runaway costs, websites that don’t work, greater rationing of care, higher premiums, less competition and fewer choices. Obamacare has raised the economic uncertainty of every single person residing in this country. As it appears Obamacare is certain to collapse of its own weight, the damage done by the Democrats and President Obama, and abetted by the Supreme Court, will be difficult to repair unless the next President and a Republican congress lead the effort to bring much-needed free market reforms to the healthcare industry.

But none of these positive reforms can be accomplished without Obamacare repeal. On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare. 

And yet this radical political programme is not obviously consistent with Mr Trump's remarks to the Wall Street Journal last week. Although I am too poor, and too impatient with business journalism, to pay for access to the WSJ, I do read that earnest jack-of-all-trades which is the BBC. The BBC coverage of the WSJ, at, looks full enough: 

Mr Trump, who has pledged to repeal the 2010 law, said he will keep the ban on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.

He told the Wall Street Journal that he also favoured allowing young adults to be insured on their parents' policies.

"I like those very much," Mr Trump said of the two pillars of the bill.

It was his meeting with Mr Obama on Thursday that had made him reconsider his calls for an all-out replacement of the Affordable Care Act, he told the newspaper.

(3) Several commenters on the one blog I read as a matter of unvarying weekly routine, Mr John Michael Greer's, have intimated that the chances of war would be lower under Mr Trump than under Mrs Clinton. 

To this I reply that while Mrs Clinton's State Department record admittedly inspires fear, to cite only Mrs Clinton in this peace-studies context is to cite selectively - in other words, to put a thumb onto the scales. We must indeed discuss Mrs Clinton's record at State. But we must also put onto our judicial scales Mr Trump's remarks concerning Article Five from the NATO treaty. 

Here is the relevant part of Article Five:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

And here is Mr Trump, in a 2016 July interview with David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman, of the New York Times, as transcribed at

SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?

TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.

SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated --

TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.

SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.

TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.

SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations --

TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.

HABERMAN: And if not?

TRUMP: Well, I’m not saying if not. I’m saying, right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.

It is true that in this New York Times interview Mr Trump is affirming, perhaps unwittingly, that he would support Estonia in a crisis. Estonia - Mr Trump may or may not have been aware of this fact in giving his interview - meets its NATO commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defence. 

Latvia and Lithuania have been falling short. A 2015 report at announces future commitments of 2.0 percent and 1.5 percent, from these two NATO members respectively. 

It is additionally true that Mr Trump is not here so reckless as to deny, outright, support to NATO states who may in future happen to fall short of that 2-percent threshold. 

But what matters is the general tenor of the unhappy interview. If Mrs Clinton is more likely than Mr Trump to raise tensions in the Middle East (by confronting Russia), Mr Trump is more likely than Mrs Clinton to raise tensions in the Baltics (by encouraging Russia in diplomatic adventurism). 

Before leaving the squalid topic of war, I must additionally quote Mr Trump's darkly comic remarks on nuclear weapons, both in the Middle East and in Europe, in a 2016 March "Town Hall" discussion between Mr Trump and MSNBC's Chris Matthews (at

TRUMP:  Don't take what?

MATTHEWS:  Nuclear weapons off the table. I have been trying to think of how we could conceivably use a nuclear weapon in the Middle East or in Europe in fighting ISIS.  Where can you - and why put it on the table or leave it on the table if you can't imagine where to use it?

TRUMP:  Well, I didn't say, "Don't take it."  I said I would be very, very slow and hesitant to pull that trigger.

MATTHEWS:  Well, why would you - why wouldn't you just say, "I don't want to talk about it.  I don't want to talk about nuclear weapons.  Presidents don't talk about use of nuclear weapons"?

TRUMP:  The question was asked - we were talking about NATO - which, by the way, I say is obsolete and we pay a dispropor...

MATTHEWS:  But you got hooked into something you shouldn't've talked about.

TRUMP:  I don't think I - well, someday, maybe.

MATTHEWS:  When?  Maybe?

TRUMP:  Of course.  If somebody...

MATTHEWS:  Where would we drop - where would we drop a nuclear weapon in the Middle East?

TRUMP:  Let me explain.  Let me explain. Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn't fight back with a nuke?

MATTHEWS:  No.  To drop a nuclear weapon on a community of people that are...

TRUMP:  No, no, but you can't say - first of all, you don't want to say, "Take everything off the table..."

MATTHEWS:  No, just nuclear.

TRUMP:  ... because you'd be a bad negotiator if you do that.

MATTHEWS:  Just nuclear.

TRUMP:  Look, nuclear should be off the table.  But would there be a time when it could be used, possibly, possibly?

MATTHEWS:  OK.  The trouble is, when you said that, the whole world heard it.  David Cameron in Britain heard it.  The Japanese, where we bombed them in '45, heard it.  They're hearing a guy running for president of the United States talking of maybe using nuclear weapons.  Nobody wants to hear that about an American president.

TRUMP:  Then why are we making them?  Why do we make them?  We had (inaudible).

MATTHEWS:  Because of the old mutual assured destruction, which Reagan hated and tried to get rid of.

TRUMP:  (inaudible) I was against Iraq.  I'd be the last one to use the nuclear weapon.

MATTHEWS:  So can you take it off the table now?

TRUMP:  Because that's sort of like the end of the ball game.

MATTHEWS:  Can you tell the Middle East we're not using a nuclear weapon on anybody?

TRUMP:  I would never say that.  I would never take any of my cards off the table.

MATTHEWS:  How about Europe?  We won't use it in Europe?

TRUMP:  I - I'm not going to take it off the table.

MATTHEWS:  You might use it in Europe?


TRUMP:  No, I don't think so.  But I'm not taking...

MATTHEWS:  Well, just say it.  "I will never use a nuclear weapon in Europe."

TRUMP:  I am not - I am not taking cards off the table.


TRUMP:  I'm not going to use nuclear, but I'm not taking any cards off the table.

MATTHEWS:  OK. The trouble is, the sane people hear you and the insane people are not affected by your threats.  That's the trouble.  The real fanatics say, "Good.  Keep it up."

TRUMP:  I think - I think they're more affected than you might think.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Your call.

The audience, I would suggest, did well to lighten things up, through its laughter. 

(4) Bogeyman-under-your-bed though war is, many of us (I for one) would regard climate change as  a thoroughly pressing problem. 

In both cases, it must be conceded, we deal with probabilities. For let us briefly return to the topic of war. China has no recent record of invading the West. Although Russia's record is less happy, in its case we can draw some comfort from present-day population figures and present-day economics. I do my numbers work hastily, taking whatever I can quickly dig out of the Web, and for that reason mixing 2015 and 2016 and 2013 data. For a mere back-of-the-envelope calculation, such looseness with numbers is good enough: 

  • EU (pre-Brexit) 2015 population: 743.1 million
  • EU (pre-Brexit) 2016 GDP: 16.5 trillion EUR
  • Russia 213 population: 143.5 million
  • Russia 2013 GDP: 2.097 trillion USD, or at today's exchange rate (to just three significant figures) 1.95 trillion EUR
To one significant figure, as is appropriate in back-of-the-envelope work, the pre-Brexit EU (or the post-Brexit EU-with-UK) has 5 times Russia's population, and has 8 times its economic weight. 

Although these figures do have to be adjusted a little to account both for Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea (Crimea had a 2013 population of 1.967 million) and for possible refugee movements in the Donbass Ukranean-Russian conflict zone, the necessary adjustments cannot be large enough to alter these back-of-the-envelope conclusions. 

It is not clear what the EU, or EU-plus-Brexited-UK, could have to fear from China in military, as distinct from economic, terms. 

Further, it should be possible for today's EU (or for the post-Brexit EU, acting in concert with the militarily capable UK) to secure itself against any conventional-weapons land-and-sea-and-air military threats. In particular, it should be eminently possible for that grouping of nations to secure itself against any such conventional-weapons military ambitions which might now tempt, or might in future come to tempt, that rather low-population, and rather low-GDP, nation which is Russia - and this even should the USA, addressing its own financial straits as any de-industrializing nation must, choose to withdraw its protective umbrella from Europe.  

So much, then, for war among the major world powers, as a matter of probabilities.

Climate change, on the other hand, while in its evolution a matter of probabilities, is its early stages with us today. It is here today in the year-upon-year global mean temperature records (according to which 2015 was a record-breaker - and in which 2016 may, says the World Meteorological Association, prove still warmer). It is here today in the retreat of glaciers and the diminution of polar icecaps.

Since the Mauna Loa NOAA Observatory muti-decade curve for atmospheric CO2 concentrations not only rises, but is concave upward (making its rise grow steeper as time passes), the probability is that today's adverse climate trends will continue. 

What, in the face of this particular "real and present danger", are Mr Trump's policy ideas? 

Last week, I quoted Mr Trump's 2012-11-06 tweet, in which he called climate change "a concept /.../ created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive". I do today find that he has more recently dismissed his tweet as a mere "joke". 

But where is his articulated position? 

We look in vain today at for climate change as a topic heading. 

The BBC did have this to report, on 2016-05-16 at

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he would "cancel" the Paris climate deal in his first major speech on energy policy. 

More than 195 countries pledged to reduce carbon emissions in a landmark agreement last year.

The billionaire businessman has said before there is no evidence that humans are responsible for climate change. 

He called for more drilling, fewer regulations and the approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. 

"Any regulation that's outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped and scrapped completely," Mr Trump said.

"We're going to do all this while taking proper regard for rational environmental concerns."

Much the same set of policy proposals (with silence, however, regarding acceptance or rejection of the Paris agreement) emerges from the "Energy" heading at - at any rate in the version I get when downloading to my browser within a minute or two of UTC=20161114T215300Z.

These inadequacies and silences from Mr Trump contrast with the clearer language of Mrs Clinton, at, where where climate change is called "a defining challenge of our time", and where it is asserted that Mrs Clinton's policies "will deliver on the pledge President Obama made at the Paris climate conference." 

(5) Mr Trump's proposals for mass deportations or detainments of illegal immigrants, his proposal for special "values"-based screenings of immigrants, and his musings on the need for special surveillance of Muslims have no place in a properly Catholic conception of civil tolerance. (These astonishingly novel things lack parallels in the more traditional, admittedly unacceptable, rhetoric regarding "bigotry", "rednecks", a "basket of deplorables", and the like, which I believe has been emanating from unacceptably rude sectors in Mrs Clinton's campaign: the egregious phrase "basket of deplorables" indeed comes from Mrs Clinton herself.) To those who, like me, are Catholic, and yet unlike me find Mr Trump sitting somewhere within the bounds of acceptability, I say (on the strength of some reading in the comments on Mr John Michael Greer's blog this week): how does your position differ from the position of Argentinean Catholics who in recent decades backed their local intolerant populists - their Perons, their Galtieri, their Kirchners? 

I cite Argentina as a specially lurid example from this hemisphere, and yet am in my sketchy way aware of others. Even Canada, I gather, witnessed odd things in the hyper-Catholic Québec of Maurice Duplessis (1890-1959). How far in this unhappy direction, I ask, can the socially conscientious Catholic go? 

[I hope to continue and  conclude this essay next week, with initial upload at some point in the four-hour UTC interval 20161122T0001Z/20161122T0401Z. I am intending to make the rest of the essay into a new section, tentatively headed "Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen as a Beacon in the Night".] 

1 comment:

  1. Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20161116T165045Z

    Dear P***H*****,

    Thanks so much for writing, by submitting a comment through the server-software comment mechanism.

    Should I now post your comment? My procedure here is a little contrary to what has become common in the blogosphere. I explain my procedure in my blog posting of 2016-04-14, heading "Background FAQ". The relevant part of my 2016-04-14 writing is the following:

    Contrary to normal blogosphere practice, anonymous comments will be deleted by Kmo. For a comment to pass moderation, the comment may be made under some blog-software login name (for instance, "NightWatchman" or "I.B. Citizen"), but must be accompanied within the body of the comment, as the last points in the comment (1) by the commenter's first name and surname (for instance, "Pat Smith"), and (2) by an e-mail address sufficient for contacting the commenter (for instance, ""), and (3) by an adequately clear indication of the commenter's municipality and country (for instance, "Paistu vald, in rural Viljandi County, Estonia"; or "Debert village, near Truro in Nova Scotia, Canada"; or "Calgary, in Canada"). Kmo reserves the right, in cases where he suspects identity spoofing or some similar abuse, to contact the would-be commenter via the offered e-mail address, as a first step in the possibly multi-step process of verifying that the would-be commenter has supplied his or her correct name, and has additionally supplied one of his or her correct e-mail addresses, and has additionally been accurate in specifying his or her municipality and country. - Call this the "Tripartite Identity Requirement".

    You might now feel that you wish to post again, now incorporating in the body of your posting the points called for under the "Tripartite Identity Requirement". If you do this, then I will put your posting through, and it will appear on the blogspot server.

    You might, on the other hand, wish me to proceed in some different way. In this case, it will be easiest for you to give me directions via "Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com", rather than via the blogspot server.




All comments are moderated. For comment-moderation rules, see initial posting on this blog (2016-04-14).